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Food: Aam papad as a culinary fad

If your childhood was spent craving aam papad, the city’s new obsession with fruit leather — made of pulp, sugar and lemon — will leave you wanting more

Whether it was your grandmother’s kitchen that you raided, or bought them with your dwindling pocket money from the hawker outside your school, aam papad and jackfruit papad have been fun snacks for kids.

Pomegranate and goat cheese salad. Pic/Predeep Dhivar
Pomegranate and goat cheese salad. Pic/Predeep Dhivar

Sweet from the sugar, acidic from the fruits and lemon juice, chewy in texture, fruit leathers add a dramatic element to a dish, and are quite easy to make. They remind Chef Irfan Pabaney, of The Sassy Spoon, of jackfruit papad. “I used to love them as a child. But, the eater today is not going to be happy with the simple mango-jackfruit leather. And, aren’t we in experimental times?” he quips.

Kelvin Cheung places a piece of fruit leather made of date for his dish, Date with Bacon. PIC/Sayyed Sameer ABbedi
Kelvin Cheung places a piece of fruit leather made of date for his dish, Date with Bacon. PIC/Sayyed Sameer ABbedi

So, during a food and drinks trial, he picked up some tamarind chutney, added jaggery and chilli powder to it. “I wanted to add this fruit leather to my martini. The first batch was a bit soft, but when I added it to the martini, the fine strips of leather froze just a tad bit, taking on a crunchy texture,” says Pabaney, whose mixologist introduced the drink, Tart, to the menu when they opened in 2013.

“It is a very simple technique and chefs across the city are trying it in a very subtle way. It stands out when it is well paired. However, add it to your main course, where there are already too many elements, it will be overpowered. So, in our Tart martini, it stands out as a surprise element,” he adds.

Pina colada cookies by Ayushi Shah of Icing On Top. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
Pina colada cookies by Ayushi Shah of Icing On Top. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

In their red velvet dessert, The Sassy Stack, he makes beetroot biscuits out of fruit (or, should we say vegetable) leather. “It is a take on the leather. Guava cheese, too, is fruit leather,” Pabaney points out.

Fancy chaat
Fruit leathers are making it to sweet as well as savoury dishes. At a recent food festival in Dubai, chef Sanjeev Kapoor made a chaat with leathery elements. “I chose tamarind chutney and pomegranate pulp to give it a chatpata twist. When you roll fruit leather and place it on dishes, it adds a lot of drama.” The combination, he says, worked like magic with all diners asking him for the recipe. “Fruit leather demands attention, as you have to give it chewing time,” says Kapoor. One must understand how sugar reacts to heat and act accordingly, he advises. “Sugar crystallises and one should add enough acidity to invert that process. Acids in fruit and lemon take care of it,” he adds.

Sanjeev Kapoor
Sanjeev Kapoor

In your cookies
Last month, when Ayushi Shah, owner and head chef, Icing On Top, was experimenting with flavours for her bite-sized cookie range, she thought pina colada. “For this, I paired pineapple fruit leather and coconut cream, which is nothing but dried fruit pulp, sugar and natural fruit juice.

My cookies are really small, so I chopped the leather into really tiny pieces,” says the 27-year-old who added them to her cookie dough. “Due to the small size, they melt in the oven while retaining their texture — gummy, rubbery, chewy,” she explains.

For other flavours, she uses candried fruit like orange and cranberry. That’s a far off cousin, and one must not mistake it for leather fruit.

“Leathers are different from slices or pieces of fruit cooked in syrup. The leather needs concentrated fruit essence in a puree while manipulating the sugar content. The dehydrated texture is what makes it chewy, and fun to eat,” says the consultant chef at One Street Over, Khar.

“When we were creating the menu six months ago, I wanted to do a modern take on a old-school bar food called bacon wrapped dates. Mine’s called Date With Bacon. I braise a homemade bacon slab with whiskey and maple syrup. We make a lot of in-house cheese, and this one is filled with ricotta cheese. We serve this with bacon, strawberries, and date leather because it adds a creamy richness and balance to the dish,” says Cheung.

Do-it-yourself
You don’t need to be a masterchef to ace this one — Combine fruit and sugar (as per your taste) in a blender
Add lemon juice to taste and blend till you get a smooth puree.

Transfer this into a saucepan and simmer over medium-high heat.
Reduce the heat and stir till you are left with a thick mixture.
Line this on a baking sheet and spread into a thin layer. Bake for 3-4 hours at 200ºC.

Let the fruit leather cool and peel off.

Cut it into strips on the paper. Roll up the strips.

They remain edible for one week, if refrigerated.

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