Mumbai Food: City chefs give Christmas goodies a modern spin
What's Christmas without its sugary goodness? Here's a taster of how city chefs are giving everything from kulkuls to guava cheese a zany modern spin
If age is just a number, and months are merely pages of a calendar, how is it that December is so special to us? It's hard to tell because it is so intangible and transient; like the smells and memories that you can only hope to store in the form of gingerbread cookies in a ridged glass jar.
That your great grand-aunt tiptoed into the sprawling living room of your ancestral home on balmy winter afternoons many moons ago, to steal cookies from that canister, is something only you will know. Stories cannot be encased, they can only be told. We got four pastry-chefs who are attempting to re-tell their Christmas stories through contemporary desserts that celebrate holiday sweets, to speak with us.
Peppermint bonbon. Pic/Sneha Kharabe
Shake your bon-bon
Striped candy canes remind Sharmeen Indorewalla of beautiful window displays at traditional sweet shops. Now, the owner and head pastry chef at The Parfait Co has combined it with the toothsome chocolate bonbons for a unique Christmas offering.
"I went to a Catholic school and my earliest memory of the festival is of standing in the assembly and singing carols, followed by a party filled with festive sweets like coconut macaroons and candy canes," she tells us. For the peppermint bonbon, a mint-flavoured-parfait-filled chocolate sphere, Indorewalla has attempted to recreate the holiday spirit by transforming the fresh and sweet flavours of the candy cane into a frozen pate.
TIME: 12 pm to 11 pm
AT: Desi Deli Central Kitchen, Khar West (delivery only).
COST: Rs 1,100 (per box with six flavours)
Nog it off
"The first time I heard about eggnog was when I was in Australia in 2011. It was during Christmas and a lot of the restaurants and bars were serving it," says Amit Sharma, pastry chef and partner at a patisserie. Seven years down the line, the rich and milky punch has been re-imagined as a delish and aromatic cheesecake, redolent with ginger and cinnamon notes.
"It's funny how experiences shape one's thinking. I tried the drink seven years ago, but its rich taste stayed with me. When we sat down to chalk out the Christmas menu this year, it came back to me out of nowhere," Sharma shares, adding, "The challenge for us every year is to find unique flavours that fit with our brand as well as those that patrons will love."
TIME: 8 am to 12 am
AT: Poetry by Love and Cheesecake (all outlets).
CALL: 9819932810 (Lower Parel)
COST: Rs 170 (slice); Rs 1,000 (500 gms); Rs 1,800 (1 kg)
A la kulkul
December holds a special place in chef Vivek Swamy's heart because it takes him back to the time when he feasted on Christmas sweets with abandon. "None of them were overly sweet like Diwali offerings," he points out. Couple this with his flair for combining different culinary aesthetes such as Indian, French and Italian, and you have what became the inspiration for the salted caramel kulkul gnocchi with pop rock meringues at Deli by The Blue. Prepared with flour, milk, salted caramel reduction and cinnamon sugar, this dessert seeks to highlight the similarities between kulkul, traditional fried flour dumplings, and gnocchi, an Italian variant of the dumpling usually made with semolina and potato. "They are similar, except that gnocchi is savoury. However, Italians do have a version of it that resembles kulkul, and they bake it instead of frying. That is exactly what I have attempted with this dessert," he reveals.
TIME: 9 am to 4 am
AT: Le Sutra Hotel, 14 Union Park, Khar West (delivery only).
COST: Rs 375
Is it guava, is it a cake?
Heena Punwani, head pastry chef at O Pedro and The Bombay Canteen, remembers the grand Christmas celebrations while growing up in the bustling streets of Marol, a Christian-dominant locality.
"It is my favourite month," she says. Platters of sweets being exchanged among neighbours, caroling with friends down the alleys around her home and waiting expectantly for her share of marzipan and guava cheese are all part of Punwani's year-end reminiscing. Now, the pastry chef has translated the memories into a tart and light guava cheesecake that uses the cheese in three different forms - cubes and jam that are mixed with the filling to give the dessert a marble-like texture, and a syrup that is offset with rock salt and drizzled on top of the treat.
"At both our restaurants, it isn't important for the dessert to simply taste good, but to also have a story, such that it celebrates local produce and seasonal offerings. A lot of people are experimenting with cheesecakes, but they are often layered with canned berries, when we can simply use Indian fruits," she reasons, speaking about how the dessert serves as a dual homage to the holiday sweet as well as the seasonal pink guava.
TIME: 12 pm to 1 am
AT: Unit No 2, Plot No C-68, Jet Airways - Godrej, BKC.
COST: Rs 450
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