Food

Rachel Goenka gives traditional sweets a contemporary makeover

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Her first cookbook, Adventures with Mithai, has recipes ranging from ras kadam cheesecake to kaju katli truffles

The foundation of Rachel Goenka’s first cookbook, Adventures with Mithai, was laid seven years ago when she started European restaurant The Sassy Spoon in Mumbai.

Talking over phone with MetroPlus, the Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, says, “Every Diwali, I would come up with a specific festive menu. The desserts would be predominantly Indian with a contemporary flair to them, similar to the recipes you see in the book. But the recipes I had at The Sassy Spoon were plated desserts and you can’t expect a home-baker to do that. It was a challenging yet rewarding process, adapting Indian ingredients, especially sweets, to a Western palate and balancing those flavours.”

The book is aimed at those who want to re-purpose the boxes of sweets they received or bought during the festive season, or those who want an unconventional yet traditional dessert table, or even just want to introduce mithai to others in a more familiar way.

Comprising 50 recipes, the book is sorted into desserts, cheesecakes and cakes, truffles, macarons, ice creams, kulfis and sorbets. The book has a lot to satiate the adventurous pastry enthusiast: from the lemongrass panna cotta with vermicelli kheer, and Mysore pak and tender coconut domes to the ras kadam cheesecake, kaju katli truffles and rasmalai ice cream.

Rachel Goenka gives traditional sweets a contemporary makeover

On how she decided on which mithai would find a place in her book, Rachel says, “The book actually had to be a representation of India. It couldn’t just be sweets that were predominantly, say from Kolkata or Gujarat. I purposely didn’t use something like a jalebi because it’s overdone. But I tried to cover as much of India as possible. Obviously, there was so much more I could do, but [the question was also] could those sweets actually translate into a contemporary dessert. There was a lot of trial and error. I also looked at which mithai was easily available to people.”

This means that not only is there an rasmalai and elaneer (coconut) pudding from the South, there is also a bitter chocolate nap naang (a black rice pudding from Nagaland).

Rachel Goenka gives traditional sweets a contemporary makeover

On whether one needs to have some level of skill to follow the recipes in her book, Rachel clarifies, “Not really. Someone who has baked a cake two or three times can easily execute any of these recipes. Keeping in mind that the book is for a home baker who is interested in playing around with mithai and doing something with it.”

But is the book only for those who like their sweets… well, sweet? Or can calorie watchers also enjoy them? Says Rachel, “I have a recipe for a granola bar. The nap naang is extremely healthy too with black rice and dark chocolate.”

While Rachel states that Mysore pak is her favourite, there is also an ode to childhood in the form of the Jim Jam macaron. She laughs, “People love the Jim Jam macaron. But my favourite is the Kashmiri Kahwa tea macaron because it actually tastes like a cup of Kahwa tea.”

(Rachel Goenka’s Adventures with Mithai is priced at ₹899)

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 9:22:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/rachel-goenka-gives-traditional-sweets-a-contemporary-makeover/article30287530.ece

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