Monday, 30th October 2017

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Dessert storm

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By Traditional sweets get a makeover with ingredients like mustard, chilli flakes and even nigella seeds . By Rahul Verma PHOTOGRAPHS BY RASHBEHARI DAS
  • Published 20.11.11

I can state with some certainty that this is the season when we all put on weight. And for this, we can happily blame the festive season — and all the sweets that we can’t say no to. We start gorging on sweets before the Pujas, continue till Diwali, and then don’t give up till Christmas. Some of us carry on till the New Year, and then we resolve not to touch a sweet ever again.

If you’ve done all this, you are probably as tired of the same old sweets as I am. Just how many rasgullahs and kaju barfi can you eat? After you are done with sandesh and the rasmalai, what do you do? I know there are hundreds of different kinds of sweets in Bengal — but most of us have spent a whole lifetime eating them. It’s a dilemma that many of us face — we love sweets but isn’t there anything new to try out?

Well, now I believe we can breathe with ease. Traditional sweets are getting a makeover. And chef Joymalya Banerjee, who used to be with Oh! Calcutta and is now running his own restaurant called Bohemian, has zeroed in how to prepare old sweets in new ways.

The chef — remember, he is the one who likes his Grateful Dead — has come up with a whole lot of creative dessert recipes. What’s interesting about him is that he is always pushing the envelope just a wee bit more. Take for instance, his mustard and tender coconut mousse. Inspired by Bengal’s daab chingri, he has created a mousse of green coconut cream. And here he shows his fondness for experimenting with tastes by adding a little mustard to it. “This dessert has a marginal perception issue, for accepting mustard as a dessert ingredient is a hurdle to cross,” he admits. “But it’s gaining quite a following.”

Yoghurt and kalo jeera brûlée

I can believe that. Food after all is not just about the stomach but the mind as well. If you’d told me when I was a little kid that I’d grow up liking raw fish and meat, I would have been most surprised. If you can have — and like — chilli chocolate, there is no reason why you won’t like the flavour of mustard in your sweet.

Likewise, nigella seeds don’t just have to adorn our nimkis and fish curries — they can enhance your pudding as well. The chef has conjured up a dish of sweetened yoghurt crème brûée enhanced with nigella seeds and topped with a burnt sugar crust. He calls it the yoghurt and kalo jeera brûée.

If you like to tread the path not taken, I think you’d enjoy mixing the unthinkable with the ordinary. Chef Joy is like that. So he serves warm rice flour dumplings stuffed with Alphonso mango and coconut on a bed of mango coulis with crispy fried milk. He enhances the flavour further with red chilli flakes. And he calls it mango puli with mango coulis.

I think his recipes are most innovative. This January, when the pithey season begins, I would suggest that you try out his medley of patishaptas. He makes mini sweet pancakes with the traditional Bengal batter but stuffs it with different kinds of fillings. To the coconut filling, he adds kashundi. He flavours the kheer filling with crushed black pepper. And roasted jeera enhances the chhena filling. The fillings go into the pancakes, which are served with fruity dips.

I think I now know why Bohemian — barely a few months old — tops the list of restaurants in Tripadvisor’s Calcutta list. Knowing the chef’s fondness for music, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s been humming The Bohemian Rhapsody to himself.

Malpua Cheesecake


• 100g flour • 30g suji • 30g rabri • 450g sugar • 100ml milk • 10g fennel seeds • 5g crushed black pepper • 250g chhena • 50ml condensed milk • 200ml whipped cream • 25g gelatin • refined oil to fry la pinch of star anise powder


Prepare a moderately thick batter with flour, suji, rabri, fennel, black pepper, 1/4th sugar and milk. Let this rest for 30 minutes. Boil the sugar in 100ml water to prepare the sugar syrup. For the malpuas, heat oil in a non-stick pan, spoon a portion of the batter and fry till golden, soak in the sugar syrup for 20 minutes. Drain and keep aside. Repeat the process till the batter is finished.

Sprinkle gelatin over water in a small saucepan. Let it stand for a minute. Stir over low heat just until the gelatin dissolves. Remove from heat. Beat chhena in a large mixing bowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in condensed milk. Stir the gelatin into the mixture. Fold in the whipped cream and star anise powder.

Arrange a malpua on the base of a ring mould. Pour a portion of the cheesecake (chhena) mixture. Repeat the process and make four layers. Chill for about three hours or until set. Run a spatula around the edge before removing from the ring.

To serve, cut the cheesecake into wedges and garnish with slivers of almonds and roasted cashew.