Cinnamon Rolls

Makes 9 rolls; 2 ½ x 2 ½ inches, each

Pssst! Have you heard about the perfect cinnamon rolls? You know. Sticky bottoms swathed in melted butter and fused together with treacly cinnamon-sugar? Golden-brown crusty tops scored by pale intersections where the rolls are standing cheek to cheek? Tender, just-about-baked-fluffiness all along the coiled length of the inner scrolls? These homemade cinnamon rolls are all that and much more! Perfectly soft, humming with cinnamon through and through, and slathered with our buttery cream cheese icing, they’re best enjoyed with a shot of strong black coffee, or a steaming mug of hot chocolate. 


At a glance

– This recipe comprises cinnamon rolls + vanilla cream cheese icing.
– You will need an 8 inch square baking pan (a brownie pan will work) and 2 ramekins.
– This recipe has been broken into 2 stages for ease and comprehension. Please read the entire recipe from start to finish before beginning.

Stage 1: cinnamon rolls

Ingredients
For the dough:
1. 325 gm all purpose flour plus more for dusting
2. 75 gm castor sugar
3. ¾ tsp salt
4. 1 ½ tsp instant yeast
5. 1 tbsp. cinnamon powder* like this
6. 1 large egg (in-shell weight 58 gm) at room temperature
7. 90 ml UHT milk or whole milk boiled and cooled
8. 90 gm sour cream
9. 65 gm unsalted butter
10. ¾ tbsp. pure vanilla extract 

For the filling:
11. 60 gm unsalted butter at room temperature and very soft
12. 100 gm dark muscovado sugar like this
13. 1 tbsp. cinnamon powder* like this
14. 1 tsp vanilla bean powder like this
15. 1 tbsp. corn flour
16. 1/8 tsp salt

If you’re not using UHT milk, you must boil your milk first. Certain whey proteins in milk can weaken gluten formation—preventing doughs from trapping gasses and rising properly. What you’ll get is a dense and heavy crumb. When you boil the milk, you effectively deactivate (denature) the whey proteins—allowing for maximum gluten formation, and a light and airy crumb. *When using cinnamon in this recipe, please look for Ceylon Cinnamon (true cinnamon) powder. Ground Cassia chips (dalchini/darchini) should not be substituted, as they’re not the same thing. Cinnamon is made from the trunk of the tree; and is very fragrant, tastes sweet, and is milder than Cassia. On the other hand, Cassia is made from the bark of the cinnamon tree—and is much coarser, harder, and spicier—making it unsuitable in this dish. Cassia is best used sparingly or as whole chips; to lend a warm note to curries, stews, and more. Plus, because it’s so hardy, you’ll never be able to get a really finely ground powder using cassia chips, no matter how powerful your home grinder. This will make your cinnamon rolls gritty, unpleasant, and really hard to swallow. 


Method
1 – To a medium bowl, add the flour, salt, and cinnamon powder. Whisk together well to combine. This is the dry mixture. Transfer ¼ cup of the dry mixture to a small bowl and set both bowls aside. 

2 – To a microwave safe bowl, add the milk, butter, vanilla extract, and sour cream. Microwave in 30 second increments until all the butter has melted and the mixture is warm to the touch (about 44OC).

3 – Now add the sugar and the yeast to the warm milk mixture and give it a quick stir to make sure all the yeast is submerged. 

4 – Lightly whisk your egg and then add it to the warm milk mixture. 

5 – Pour the entire warm, wet mixture into a large bowl. Add the larger portion of the dry mixture to the wet mixture, about ¼ cup at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon to incorporate each new addition. Hold the spoon straight down into the bowl and rotate your arm in a cranking motion (almost as if your arm is the dough hook in a stand mixer). Use a scraping motion, gathering any big bits of loose flour into the dough and pressing them in. Your dough will be shaggy and very tacky.

6 – Remember the ¼ cup of dry mixture you had set aside? Tip it onto your work surface. Now transfer the dough to your work surface. It will be very wet and hard to manage. Do not panic! It will come together as you progress.

7 – Incorporating the rest of the dry mixture a little at a time as you’re kneading, knead the dough for 8-10 minutes on your counter. To knead; fold the dough over itself towards you, push it down, and then give it a quarter turn. Scrape in flour whenever it gets too sticky to handle. Repeat until all the flour has been incorporated and the dough is smooth, elastic, and bounces back when you lightly press your finger in.

8 – Grease your mixing bowl with vegetable oil. Form the dough into a neat ball and place it in the bowl. Lightly coat the dough ball in the oil and then cover the bowl with cling film. 

9 – Place the bowl in the fridge and allow the dough to ferment for 8-24 hours. If you want to bake the rolls on the same day, ferment the dough in a warm place for 90-120 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size. I have done both types of fermentation with equal success, but I prefer working with a refrigerated dough as it’s a lot easier to handle and shape.

10 – After the dough has had its proof, transfer the chilled dough onto a lightly floured surface. Let it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. This will make it easier to roll out. If you didn’t ferment your dough in the fridge, you will need to deflate the dough by pressing out the extra air before transferring it to your floured work surface. 

11 – Butter the bottom and sides of your 8-inch square baking pan as well as two ramekins. Keep aside.

12 – Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the dough into a flattened rectangle, roughly 18 inches long, 12 inches wide and to a thickness of ¼ inch.

13 – Ready your filling; mix all the ingredients listed in ‘for the filling’ into a thick, spreadable paste. 

14 – Dollop bits of the filling all over the surface of the rectangle and then use an off-set spatula to spread the paste in a thin, even layer, leaving a 1-inch strip untouched on the 18-inch side of the dough that’s further away from you.

15 – Starting from the 18-inch side that’s closer to you, roll the dough up into a tight log (without squishing down), ending with the 1-inch strip of untouched dough. The tighter you roll, the more domed your rolls will be. If you want rolls that bake flat, don’t apply pressure while rolling up your log. After rolling, my log was about 20 inches long. If your log feels very soft and difficult to manage, carefully roll it onto some parchment paper and place it on a baking sheet. Chill it in the fridge for 20 minutes or the freezer for 5 minutes and then move to the next step.

16 – For 9 perfect rolls, you will need to even out the sides of the log. Get a 1-foot long strand of sewing thread. Place the strand under the left side of the log, and then bring both ends to the top. Pull them together to slice off a perfect round. This will cut the dough perfectly without smashing it down. Repeat for the uneven right side of the log. Place each of these side rolls into their own buttered ramekin.

17 – At this point, your log should be roughly 16 inches long. Using the blunt side of a knife, score the log every 1.7 inches to get 9 equal segments. Now use the sewing thread to divide the log into 9 rolls. As you cut each roll, pick it up and place it into your buttered pan. Place the first roll bang in the centre of the pan and use it as a guide to position all the other rolls. You need to leave equal space from the pan’s edges as well as between the rolls to give the rolls room to expand. I like to arrange my rolls so that all the ‘tail’ ends are pointing in the same direction. .

18 – Cover the pan and ramekins with cling film and leave them to proof in a warm place for 60-90 minutes or until the rolls in the pan have expanded by half their original size (not double their original size) and are just touching each other. If you didn’t ferment your dough in the fridge, your proofing time may be shorter.

19 – When you have 20 minutes remaining on your proofing time, start pre-heating your oven to 180OC.

20 – Place your pan of rolls and the ramekins in the lower-middle rack of your oven and bake at 180OC for 20-24 minutes or until the tops of the rolls just start to brown. If your tops start browning too quickly, cover the pan and ramekins loosely with a square of aluminium foil. I used a ceramic baking dish, so my 9-batch of rolls took 27 minutes and my ramekins with the smaller rolls took 24 minutes. While your rolls are baking, move on to Stage 2 and make your icing.

all the ingredients for the cinnamon roll dough
prepping the wet ingredients
wet and dry ingredients ready
adding dry ingredients to the wet mixture in batches
mixing mixing
batter will get thicker as you add more flour
scrape and gather all the dry bits. btw, the dough has been tinted brown by the cinnamon!
transfer the very wet dough to your bench with the remaining dry ingredients
incorporate the remaining dry ingredients
knead for 8-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic, and then leave it to proof
roll the dough at least this wide, making sure it’s uniformly 1/4 inch thick
roll the dough at least this long, making sure it’s uniformly 1/4 inch thick
all the ingredients for the filling
filling ready
dollop small amounts all over; this makes it easier to spread
spread filling in a thin layer, leaving 1 inch free at the top-edge
roll up the dough (keep rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ rollin’, yeah)
fully rolled and ready to be cut
side ends cut off and placed into buttered ramekins
slightly over 16 inches
scoring the 16 inch log for 9 equal rolls (I didn’t do a very consistent job)
here’s how to cut the rolls; the sewing thread should slide easily under the log
draw the two ends of the thread together and pull to cut each roll
all the rolls, ready for proofing
post proofing; rolls have expanded by 50% of their original size and are just touching each other
baked cinnamon rolls
look for surface browning and the dough to puff up

Please note, if you use a metal brownie pan, your bake time will be about 20-24 minutes. If you use ceramic or glass bakeware, it will be anywhere from 24-30 minutes. This is because of the relatively short bake time wherein your non-metal baking dish will take a while to get hot. If you want to prep the cinnamon rolls and bake them the next day, follow the recipe all the way up to Step 17 and then cover the pan tightly with cling wrap, and place it in the fridge overnight. The next morning, take the pan out of the fridge. If the rolls have already expanded by 50% of their original size, let them sit on your counter for 30 minutes to take the chill off, and then bake them. If they did not rise in the fridge overnight, place them in a warm environment until they expand by half their original size and are no longer cold, and then bake them. To prep your cinnamon rolls waaaaay ahead of time, follow the recipe all the way up to Step 17 and then cover the pan tightly with cling wrap as well as aluminium foil. Place the pan of unrisen rolls in the freezer for up to 3 months! The next time you’re craving cinnamon rolls, transfer the pan from the freezer to the fridge and let the rolls thaw in the fridge overnight. Then place the pan in a warm environment so that the rolls can expand by 50% of their size, and only then proceed to bake.


Stage 2: vanilla cream cheese icing

Ingredients
1. 100 gm full fat cream cheese at room temperature
2. 45 gm unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3. 100 gm confectioner’s sugar
4. 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (optional)
5. 1 tsp lemon juice
6. 1/8 tsp salt

If you prefer a pure cream cheese flavour, omit the vanilla extract. We love it both ways.

Method
1 – Begin by whisking the cream cheese and room temperature melted butter until you have a smooth and creamy mixture. You can use a manual whisk for this.

2 – Next, add the confectioner’s sugar a little at a time and whisk until fully blended with the cream cheese mixture.

3 – Finally add in the vanilla extract (if using), lemon juice, and salt, and whisk everything together. The icing should be smooth and thick, somewhere between scoopable and pourable. 

4 – As soon as the cinnamon rolls are done baking, remove your pan and ramekins from the oven and place them on a wire rack.  Spoon half the glaze onto their tops while they’re fresh out of the oven and hot. This layer of glaze will slightly melt and soften rolls. If you prefer the tops of the rolls to stay crispy, don’t glaze them.

5 – After they have cooled for at least 10-15 minutes, pour the remaining glaze onto the rolls or glaze the individual rolls as you serve them. Devour them while they’re still warm. Now eat!

all the ingredients for the icing
melted and cooled butter and cream cheese whisked together
incorporating the confectioner’s sugar a little at a time
smooth and creamy icing
topping the rolls with half the icing as soon as they come out of the oven
hot cinnamon rolls ready!
add more icing when serving individual rolls

Cinnamon rolls taste best fresh and hot out of the oven and are best enjoyed the day they are made. Much like croissants and doughnuts, they don’t stay tasty for too long, and quickly lose their fluffiness and signature aroma. In fact, with every passing hour, they get drier and gummier, so try to polish them off within a few hours of baking them (as if you weren’t going to do that anyway).


Tips & Tricks

How cut your cinnamon rolls with floss or string


Meat & 3 Veg Tapas

Makes 4 servings.

Fried sausages, roasted potatoes, caramelised onions, and sautéed peas snugly sit together in this tapas-inspired, family-style spread, served not with gravy, but with an entire wheel of oozy Camembert cheese! For this dish, I cook all the elements in cast iron, except for the baked cheese dip. That way, the outsides of the potatoes get properly crispy, the onions break down evenly and take on deep, umami notes, the peas retain their sweetness and texture, and the sausages get that perfect sear. And while you do not need cast iron cookware to make this version of Meat & 3 Veg, I guarantee it will taste heaps better if you do.


At a glance

– This recipe comprises roast potatoes + caramelised onions + sautéed peas + baked camembert + fried sausages.
– You will need a 5 litre steamer basket and pot, some large cast iron skillets, and some baking pots.
– This recipe has been broken into 5 stages for ease and comprehension. Please read the entire recipe from start to finish before beginning.

Stage 1: Roast potatoes

Ingredients
1. 1 kg starchy potatoes 
2. Enough water to fill  your 5 litre pot by 1-2 inches
3. 1 ½ tsp salt 
4. ½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
5. 1 kg steamed potatoes
6. 10-12medium garlic cloves, whole
7. 10 cm sprig of rosemary
8. 2 tbsp. vegetable oil/neutral flavoured oil or pork fat
9. 50 gm garlic butter*

*To make garlic butter, mince 1 small clove of garlic and combine it with 50 gm softened, salted butter, and ¼ tsp dried oregano.

Prep
1 – Peel and cut your potatoes into 4 cm wide chunks. Then keep them soaked in cold water.

2 – Make your garlic butter. Keep it in the fridge until ready to use.

3 – Remove the leaves from your sprig of rosemary and give the leaves a rough chop.

potatoes cut into 4 cm chunks
quick garlic butter

Method
1 – Set your steamer to boil; fill a steamer pot with enough plain water to come just below the steamer basket, and bring it to a boil with the lid on.

2 – Once the water comes to a boil, place the peeled and cut potatoes on the steamer rack. Lower your steamer basket with the potatoes into the pot. Immediately put the lid on and steam on medium heat for 18-20 minutes or until you can easily pierce through the potatoes with a fork.

3 – The instant the potatoes are cooked (fork-tender), transfer them from the steamer to a large bowl with a lid and secure the lid tightly.

4 – Using moderate force, shake the bowl of steamed potatoes while they’re still hot. I do about 10 good shakes; this roughs up the surface of the potatoes, making them ‘fuzzy’ and ensures their outsides get crispy while roasting.

5 – Remove the lid (be careful, a gust of steam is about to blast out), add the salt and black pepper, secure the lid and toss the potatoes in the seasoning.

6 – Remove the lid again, and set the potatoes aside.

7 – Place a heavy skillet (cast-iron is perfect) on your stove-top and begin heating it on medium. When the pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons of oil and wait a few seconds for it to heat up.

8 – When the oil is hot and shimmering, toss the steamed potatoes into the skillet.

9 – Pan-roast the potatoes on medium heat for 25-30 minutes or until the outsides are crispy and golden. Toss the potatoes every 3-4 minutes for even browning, or go nuts and keep some sides pale and some sides super brown (that’s what I like to do).

10 – After 20 minutes, add the cold garlic butter and all the garlic cloves to the skillet. Continue roasting on medium heat until the garlic is golden and crispy, 5-7 minutes. Toss the potatoes and garlic frequently for even browning. Garlic burns very quickly, so keep your eye on the skillet.

11 – Finally, add the roughly chopped rosemary to the skillet, and continue cooking and tossing everything together for a further 5 minutes. The rosemary will become very aromatic but shouldn’t brown. If not serving immediately, cover the potatoes loosely with some aluminium foil so that they don’t ‘sweat’. They re-heat really well in the same pan, so if they get cold, simply warm them up on low heat till they’re lovely and crispy again.

4 cm chunks of potato, ready for steaming
shaking up the steamed potatoes to ‘fuzz up’ their surfaces
fuzzed up potatoes seasoned with salt and pepper
ingredients prepped for the potato-roasting stage
potatoes added to the hot skillet
potatoes after 25 minutes of roasting
adding the garlic and garlic butter
adding the rosemary
roasted potatoes, ready!

There’s something deeply satisfying about properly made roast potatoes. I have been making roast potatoes this way for years now and it’s never let me down! When cooked to perfection, each chunk should offer up just the right amount of golden crispiness on the outside and warm fluffiness on the inside. When cooking your raw potatoes before roasting them, steaming is always preferred to boiling so that the taste and nutrients are not discarded with the boiled water. Additionally, steaming makes the interior of the roast potato fluffier. I like to roast my potatoes on the stove as it’s faster and gives me more control over the browning and crisping than if I were to use the oven. Try to follow this recipe to the tee. I promise you, these roast potatoes will become a family favourite!

Stage 2: caramelised onions

Ingredients
1. 5 large red onions or 500 gm equivalent
2. 1 tbsp. cooking olive oil
3. 30 gm salted butter
4. 1 tsp sugar (brown or white)
5. ½ tsp salt
6. 100-150 ml water
7. 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
8. ¼ tsp freshly cracked black pepper


Method
1 – Peel and then cut each onion in half down the middle from root to stem. Place the cut side down on your work surface and then slicing along the length of the onion, make ½ cm cuts into the onion, angled towards the centre of the onion (like thin, orange segments). Chop off the stem and root and then separate the segments of sliced onion.

2 – Begin heating a wide, heavy-bottomed skillet (like cast-iron) on the stove over medium heat until hot, and then add 1 ½ tablespoons oil and the butter. Be careful! The butter will sizzle in the hot pan! 

3 – Lower the heat and add all the sliced onions into the skillet. Toss them in the fat to coat, and then spread them out as much as possible for maximum surface area contact. Stir the onions and spread them out again evenly, every 2-3 minutes.

4 – After 10 minutes, add the salt and sugar to the onions, and stir once again. The sugar helps with the caramelisation process as well as enhances the taste of the onions. 

5 – Cook the onions for the next 30 minutes repeating the following sequence every 2-3 minutes; wait for the onions to start sticking to the pan, let them stick for 10 seconds or so (to lightly brown, but not fry), then add a tablespoon of water to the pan to deglaze it, and finally stir the onions and spread them out in the pan. The key to caramelising onions is to leave them be long enough to get some colour and brown, but not so long so that they fry or burn. 

6 –After 30 minutes, stop adding water to the pan and continue cooking the onions for a further 30-40 minutes. From this point on, the onions will start to brown faster. As the onions lose more and more moisture while cooking down, you will need to scrape the pan every minute, instead of every 2-3 minutes. Continue to caramelise and scrape, caramelise and scrape, until the onions are a rich, brown colour and fully glossy and translucent. 

7 – When the onions are completely caramelised (my entire cook took 75 minutes from start to finish), turn off the stove and add the red wine vinegar to the pan. This will deglaze it as well as add a fruity-sweet note to the onions. Add the black pepper and mix. 

8 – Set the onions aside until ready to use. They will need to be gently warmed before serving.

cut the onion in half
½ cm cuts into the onion, angled towards the centre of the onion
1/2 cm slices of onion
ingredients prepped for the caramelisation step
sizzling butter alert!
adding in the sliced onions
onions at 0 minutes; coated with oil + butter
onions at 10 minutes; losing their purple
onions at 20 minutes; softening up and going from purple to pink
onions at 30 minutes; softening further and losing their pink
onions at 40 minutes; almost white and translucent, with browning about to begin
onions at 50 minutes; slippery as hell, with browning underway
onions at 60 minutes; getting brown and sticky
onions at 70 minutes; getting brown and roasty
onions at 75 minutes; totally caramelised and ready!

Caramelised onions can be prepared in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days. They taste amazing cold and hot, and I like to like to make a big batch and keep it ready for anytime grilled cheese sandwiches! Caramelised onions are not just brown-looking onions. While fried onions taste sweet and get their brown colour fairly quickly (caused by actual caramelisation of sugars at high heat), caramelised onions get their colour and flavour by way of the ‘Maillard reaction’, which is a gradual browning caused by proteins reacting with sugars. See this to know more. To make proper caramelised onions, you must cook them low and slow to break down the sugars, soften them, and bring out their savoury, umami notes. How long this will take depends on the type of pan you use (non-stick will take aaaaaages).

Stage 3: sautéed peas

Ingredients
1. 200 gm frozen peas
2. 1 tsp cooking olive oil
3. 30 gm salted butter, cold
4. 1 tsp sugar
5. 2-3 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice according to taste
6. 1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
7. ½ tsp salt
8. ½ tsp sweet paprika
9. ¼ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
10. 1 tsp whole pink peppercorns* like this

*Pink peppercorns are actually a variety of dried berry. And while they do pack some heat, their sweet, fruity flavour takes them closer to a fresh chilli than a dried peppercorn. Think of them as berries with a fiesty attitude. Their unexpected fruitiness plays well with cheese, which is why we’ve used them in this recipe.

Method
1 – Begin heating a wide, heavy-bottomed skillet (you guessed it, cast-iron) on the stove over medium heat until hot, and then add 1 teaspoon oil. 

2 – Once the oil is shimmering, add the frozen peas, sugar, lemon juice lemon zest, and butter to the skillet and cook on medium heat until the butter has melted and the peas have defrosted and are heated through, about 2-3 minutes. Stir occasionally to evenly cook the peas.

3 – Turn off the heat and add the salt, paprika, black pepper, and pink peppercorns to the skillet. Toss together to combine. Set aside until ready to use. They will need to be gently warmed before serving.

ingredients prepped for the sautéed peas
frozen peas straight into a hot pan with butter, lemon juice and zest
cooked peas tossed with the seasonings and spices
sautéed peas, ready!

When it comes to cooked peas, I prefer the taste and texture of packaged frozen peas over fresh peas—which take longer to cook and often turn out dry and mealy. Frozen peas are harvested and flash-frozen during peak ripeness, so they tend to be uniformly sweet. In some instances, frozen peas are first flash-steamed before they’re frozen—they’re essentially ready to eat—so you only need to cook them until they’re fully thawed and just warmed through to maintain their slight bounce and vibrant colour.

Stage 4: baked camembert

Ingredients
1. 2 x 200gm wheels of Camembert cheese* like this or 400 gm equivalent
2. 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (divided)
3. 2 tbsp. honey (divided)
4. 2 x 10-cm sprigs of thyme
5. 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt (divided)
6. 12 pink peppercorns like this divided
7. 4 green peppercorns like this or 1/16 tsp freshly cracked black pepper, divided

As mentioned before, pink peppercorns are actually a variety of dried berry, so their spicy-fruitiness goes very well with cheese. Do try to get your hands on it! Green peppercorns are simply under-ripe black peppercorns. They have a mild peppery flavour and a bright aroma. Feel free to substitute them with black peppercorns. *We used this locally made, locally sold (made in Mumbai) Camembert style cheese, which only sells them in 200 gm wheels. Feel free to use whichever brand of cheese you can source. If you use a 400 gm wheel, add all the ingredients to that wheel without dividing them up.

Method
1 – Place a baking tray in the middle rack of your oven and begin preheating your oven to 180OC. 15 minutes should suffice.

2 – Remove any plastic or paper packaging and place the wheels of Camembert into individual baking pots, that are just a tiny bit bigger than the wheels themselves. Don’t use wide or flat containers, else the cheese will flatten out while baking and you want them to hold their shape. I used these super cute baking pots for each 200 gm wheel.
3 – Using a sharp knife, score a crosshatch pattern (think tic-tac-toe) on the top-side of each rind of cheese. 

4 – Cut the sprigs of thyme into fours and insert them into the crosshatch cuts. Then drizzle the honey and extra virgin olive oil onto the crosshatch pattern.

5 – Place the pots of Camembert on the pre-heated tray inside the oven and bake them for 12 minutes at 180OC. When they’re ready, the wheels of camembert will puff up, feel soft under the rind, and jiggle like jelly when you jostle them.

6 – While they’re baking, crush your peppercorns. Pink peppercorns are fragile and cannot be ground in a regular pepper mill. Use a knife or the back of a spoon to squish them. Green peppercorns can be pounded in a mortar and pestle. Proceed with Stage 5 so that everything is ready to serve at the same time.

7 – As soon as they’re baked, take the pots out of the oven, and immediately sprinkle their tops with the coarse salt, and crushed pink and green peppercorns. They should be served right away while hot, molten, and oozy. If you’re not ready to serve everything together just yet, keep them in the hot oven to stay oozy. 

ingredients prepped for the baked camembert
locally made camembert-style cheese
cutting the crosshatch pattern
deliciously cheesy tic-tac-toe
thyme insertion
olive oil and honey being poured on top
baked camembert, ready!

The next time you stress about making a gravy or sauce to serve with your meat and veg, consider a baked cheese into which stuff can be dunked! If you use a 400 gm wheel, up the bake time to 14-15 minutes. Keep an eye on it and take care not to overbake it, as it goes from molten and creamy to hard, and there’s no returning from that. While we used our baked camembert to dip our sausages and roast potatoes, it also pairs amazingly with so much more. Serve it hot with a variety of crudités, fruits, and breads.

Stage 5: fried sausages

Ingredients
1. 500 gm sausages* (2-3 sausages per serving)
2. 2.5 tbsp. cooking olive oil

* The wonderful team at Zorabian sent us these Chicken Cheese n Onion Sausages, around which we designed this entire recipe. The sausages came frozen, so as per the package instructions, we had to thaw them fully before using. Check out Zorabina’s complete range of products here.

Prep
1 – Cut your sausages into 3 cm-wide rounds, on the dias.

chicken cheese n onion sausages from Zorabian
cutting the sausages into 3 cm rounds, on the dias

Method
1 – Begin heating a wide, heavy-bottomed skillet (cast-iron for the win!) on the stove over medium heat until hot. Then add 2 tablespoons of oil.

2 – Add the cut sausages to the pan and fry them for 9-10 minutes until cooked through and evenly browned. Use this time to re-heat your roast potatoes, caramelised onions, and sautéed peas. Check on your baked Camembert, it should be ready by now!

3 – Serve all your hot components straight from stovetop and oven to table with some big fat red grapes on the side to balance out all the salty elements. We like to serve this meal family-style with little tapas plates, so that everyone can help themselves and graze at will. Now eat!

sausages hitting the hot skillet
fried sausages, ready!
Meat & 3 Veg Tapas, ready!

While we have used pre-cooked chicken sausages in this recipe—a variety of fresh (raw) and processed sausages(pre-cooked/fermented/cured/smoked) will pair wonderfully with the rest of the elements in the dish. Try to find continental cheese sausages that mirror or complement the flavours used in the other components; anything with a little rosemary, thyme, garlic, and black pepper will work. Avoid sausages that contain Indian or Mexican spices and herbs, as their flavours will clash with everything else. Some sausages need to be cooked for a long time, some need to be removed from their casing before being cooked, some are better kept in their casing, whole. Depending on what sort of sausages you use (breakfast, frankfurter, cocktail etc), always follow the cooking instructions on the package. All the cooked elements are heavy and savoury, so you definitely need to add some fruit to counteract the fat and salt. Red grapes are perfect.


Brown Butter Wedding Cake

Makes a 3-tiered, stacked mini wedding cake.

Usually a feature of Christian nuptials, today, the cutting of the wedding cake is a part of popular wedding culture, irrespective of faith. We got married in 2016, way before the world changed. Back then, we chose a bitchin’ Star Wars themed cake, over the traditional white wedding cake #noregrets. To celebrate our 5-year anniversary in these irregular times, I decided to stick with tradition! Featuring layers of nutty brown butter sponge, a fresh pear filling, and a silky vanilla bean buttercream, this cascading wedding cake is for all of us at home, celebrating by ourselves. A wedding cake with all the works, scaled down for two.

At a glance

– This recipe comprises brown butter cake + peach filling + vanilla bean buttercream.
– You will need one 10 inch round cake pan, three round cookie cutters (5 inch, 4 inch and 3 inch), parchment paper, a 6 inch cake board, some piping bags, and a 2 mm round piping tip.
– This recipe has been broken into 4 stages for ease and comprehension. Please read the entire recipe from start to finish before beginning.

Stage 1: brown butter cake

Ingredients
For the brown butter
1. 225 gm unsalted butter to give 170 gm brown butter

For creaming:
1. 170 gm brown butter
2. 100 gm dark brown sugar
3. 200 gm castor sugar
4. 3 large eggs (60 gm/egg in-shell weight) at room temperature

For the dry mixture:
5. 300 gm cake flour (or 255 gm all purpose flour + 45 gm corn flour)
6. 3/4 tsp baking powder
7. 3/4 tsp baking soda 
8. 1/2 tsp salt

For the wet mixture:
9. 210 ml buttermilk (or 1 tbsp. lemon juice + 195 ml milk) at room temperature
10. 115 ml neutral flavoured oil
11. 1 ½ tbsp. pure vanilla extract

Cake flour has a lower protein content than all-purpose flour. This makes for a more tender cake crumb. However, sometimes it’s hard to procure, which means adapting and making your own cake flour substitute. Whenever you make homemade cake flour – measure out 1 cup of all purpose flour, and then remove 2 tablespoons. Then, add 2 tablespoons of corn flour to the all purpose flour. Sift them together three times. This is your cake flour substitute. It’s not quite the same as store bought cake flour, but it does give a lighter, more tender crumb than if you were to use all-purpose flour only. Cultured buttermilk is another ingredient that’s often hard to procure. Luckily, soured milk can work as a substitute. To make your own “buttermilk” – put 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice or white vinegar into a liquid measuring cup with volumetric markings. Thereafter, top the cup up with whole milk till you reach the 240 ml mark. Stir gently and set it aside for 5-10 minutes to thicken. It’s then ready to use. In baked goods, this buttermilk substitute adds sourness and moistness like cultured buttermilk, although it lacks the same ‘yoghurt’ like taste.

Prep
1 – Make your brown butter. Place 225 gm unsalted butter in a stainless steel or light-coloured saucepan. Begin melting the butter on medium heat, whisking it ever once in a while. Once the butter has melted, it will begin to foam and bubble up. Keep whisking and cooking the butter on medium heat until it goes from deep yellow to a toasty brown colour. This will take about 4-5 minutes. The butter goes from melted and bubbling to brown and toasty in a flash, so keep your eye on it throughout the cook. When it’s ready, you will be able to see some dark brown solids in the pan and the butter will smell gorgeously nutty. Immediately remove the butter from the heat and transfer all of it (brown milk solids and all) to a heat proof container to stop the cooking process. You will have lost about 50-55 gm in water weight during the cooking process. The butter now needs to be cooled to room temperature so that it reaches a scoopable consistency (think apple sauce). To speed things up, you can place the hot butter it in the fridge for about 60 minutes.

2 – Sift the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl and give them a very good whisk to aerate. This is your dry mixture. Set aside.

3 – Combine your buttermilk, oil, and vanilla extract in a jug and give it a whisk. This is your wet mixture. Set aside.

4 – Grease and line the bottom of your 10-inch round cake pan. Then grease the parchment and sides of the pan. Keep aside.

heating the butter
cooking the butter; foamy stage
cooking the butter; bubbling stage
perfectly cooked down with bits of browned milk solids
measuring out the brown butter
brown butter fully cooled and ‘scoopable’
cake ingredients laid out; brown butter, dry mixture, wet, mixture, sugars, and eggs.
prepared 10-inch pan

Method
1 – Start preheating your oven at 175OC.

2 – Add the room temperature brown butter to a medium bowl. Using a handheld mixer, beat on high speed for 1 minute or until pale and creamy.

3 – Sprinkle in both varieties of sugar. Now beat the brown butter and the sugars together on high until pale and fluffy, roughly 4-5 minutes or until the sugar has all but dissolved.

4 – Add in the eggs one at a time, and beat on high speed for roughly 10 seconds with each new addition. Do not add them all at once, as the mixture could separate. Remember to periodically scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure that everything is being mixed properly. Turn the mixer off.

5 – Grab the bowl of dry ingredients and the glass of wet ingredients. Now turn your mixer on at the lowest speed. You could also use a large hand whisk for this step. Add the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients to the batter in thirds; starting with the dry, alternating between the two, and ending with the wet. After each fresh addition, mix on low until just incorporated. This is a pretty thick batter, so go slow, and ensure that its properly mixed. Once combined (you should see no floury pockets or liquidy pools), stop mixing the batter! Overmixing will result in a dense, stodgy cake. 

6 – Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan and then level it out with a spatula. Finally, gently tap the pan on your counter 3-4 times to pop any air bubbles. 

7 – Place your cake pan inside your preheated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes at 175OC. This is a large cake, so the edges will cook a lot faster than the centre and may even brown just a bit. Don’t stress about that, since we’re going to be trimming it. At around the 35-minute mark, the cake’s edges will start pulling away from the sides of the pan, and you should check it for doneness; that is if the top springs back when you touch it, or a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean, it’s done.  Mine took exactly 35 minutes.

8 – Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for about 10-15 minutes. Once the pan is comfortable enough to handle, run a knife around the edges of the cake and invert the cake onto a wire rack to completely cool. I used a springform pan, so removal was very easy, and I didn’t have to flip my cake.

9 – When it’s completely cool to the touch, wrap your cake with cling wrap and store it in an airtight container in the fridge to chill overnight. This is a crucial step because we have to torte and trim our cake, and a cold cake is easier to handle. It will be trimmed, layered, and frosted straight out of the fridge. 

10 – When you’re ready to portion out your cake, take it out of the fridge, remove the cling wrap and get torting. If the top of your cake is uneven, level it with a large serrated knife. Now measure the height of your cake. My cake was 1.5 inches tall.

11 – Using your 5-inch cookie cutter, cut out a 5 inch circle from the cake.

12 – Using your 4-inch cookie cutter, cut out a 4 inch circle from the cake.

13 – Using your 3-inch cookie cutter, cut out a 3 inch circle from the cake. Set the scraps aside for a moment.

14 – Using a large, serrated knife, split each cake into two even layers. All in all, you should have two 5-inch layers, two 4-inch layers, and two 3-inch layers; where each cake layer is about ¾ inches tall. These are your stackable cake layers. Wrap each one up individually in cling wrap, place them inside airtight containers and store them in the fridge. 

15 – Gather all your cake scraps and store them inside an airtight container in the fridge and eat at leisure. Don’t waste even a crumb! Move on to Stage 2.

beating the brown butter until until pale and creamy
beating the butter and sugars until pale and fluffy
batter after adding the eggs; thick and creamy mixture, no separation
thick batter after all the wet and dry ingredients have been incorporated and mixed
cake batter smoothed out in the pan
fully baked cake, fresh out of the oven
a smooth, flat top is a sign of even cooking at the correct oven temperature
cutting out the 5-inch, 4-inch, and 3-inch cakes
checking for correct tier width
the ‘skirting’ or edge around each stacked cake should be half an inch
splitting each cake into 2 layers
two 5-inch layers, two 4-inch layers, and two 3-inch layers
cake scraps aka cook’s treat!

Brown butter is like butter but better. Nutty, with notes of toffee and caramel, it gives dishes a depth of flavour and richness that can’t be achieved with regular butter and oil. Similar to clarified butter and ghee, it can be substituted in any cake recipe that calls for regular butter. Make a giant batch and keep it in the fridge for up to a month; it can be used in sweet baked goods or added to savoury dishes as a last-minute flavour enhancer. Always strive for even heating with cakes. My oven has both top and bottom heating sources, so I always place my cakes on the middle rack, unless a recipe specifies otherwise. If you’re serious about baking, get to know your oven, and all its “hotspots”. This is essential to evenly cooked baked goods. If your cakes tend to rise unevenly, or get cracks, or dome rapidly and then sink, their spot in the oven is too hot. To compensate for these irregularities, you’ll need to lower the temperature and/or move your pan around during the baking process. Keep in mind, if your oven has a convection mode, avoid using it for cakes if you can. Although it may speed up your overall bake-time, it will also dry out your sponge, and you definitely don’t want that. 

Stage 2: peach filling

Ingredients
1. 2 medium, ripe peaches (roughly 250 gm) to give 200 gm peach flesh
2. 20 gm white granulated sugar
3. 2 tsp honey
4. 1/4 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
5. 1/2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
6. Cornflour slurry; 1/2 tsp cornflour + 2 tsp water
7. 1/8 tsp citric acid
8. 1/8 tsp salt
9. Optional; 1 drop peach flavour like this

You could make the filling with the same amount of frozen peaches, but you will get a completely mushy filling, and I prefer something with a little more texture.

Prep
1 – To remove your peach flesh, you will first have to skin and de-stone your peaches. First cut an ‘x’ at the bottom of each peach. Don’t cut deep, simply score the flesh. Now bring a medium pot of water to a boil. As soon as the water is boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and then submerge your peaches into the water. Let the peaches steep for 30 seconds and then turn off the heat. Using a slotted spoon, immediately transfer the blanched peaches to an ice bath to stop the cooking process. The skin where you marked the ‘x’ will be peeling back. Simple tug the skin back to remove it. Watch this video to see how. Once the skin is done away with, segment your peaches into slices and discard the stone. You will get 200-210 gm peach flesh after discarding the skin and stones. 

x marks the spot
blanching the peaches in boiling water
‘shocking’ the peaches in an ice bath to stop the cooking process
de-skinning the peaches
segmenting the peaches
weighing out 200 gm peach flesh

Method
1 – Place the peach flesh in a small saucepan. Cook the peaches over medium heat until they just start to stick to the pan, roughly 1 minute (this will take 6-7 minutes if you’re using frozen peaches).

2 – As soon as the peaches are sticking, add the sugar, honey, lemon juice and lemon zest, and cook for another 1-2 minutes until all the sugar has dissolved and peaches soften slightly. At this point, I like to lightly mash the peaches, keeping some parts whole and some parts mushed.

3 – Dissolve ½ a teaspoon of cornflour in 2 teaspoons of water. Mix well to combine and ensure there are no lumps. This is the cornflour slurry.

4 – Add the cornflour slurry to the pan and cook the peach filling for another minute or until the mixture thickens.

5 – Turn off the heat, add the citric acid, the salt, and the peach flavour, and give the mixture a stir. Let the peach filling cool down to room temperature. Thereafter store it inside an airtight container in the fridge until it’s ready to use. Proceed to Stage 3.

all the filling ingredients; peaches, sugar, honey, citric acid, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, corn flour slurry
adding the ingredients when the peaches start sticking to the pan
thickening the filling with corn flour
peach filling just about ready

This makes about 178 gm of filling and you will need about half of that for the filling. I served the leftover filling along with the slices of cake. When making this filling, try to find the ripest peaches possible; or leave your peaches to ripen until there is some “give” when they are gently squeezed. In India, peak peach season is early April to late June (sometimes early July), so that’s the best time to make this dish if you live here.  Always taste the raw peach before you begin cooking; a ripe peach will taste sweet and juicy and have deep-yellow coloured flesh. Unripe, hard, or sour peaches lack natural flavour and sweetness and you’ll have to increase the amount of sugar in the recipe to make it taste nice. Here’s how to quickly ripen peaches at home. If you’re using the peach flavour, be really stingy with it. A hint too much and it will taste ‘soapy’.

Stage 3: vanilla bean buttercream

Ingredients
1. 100 gm high ratio vegetable shortening at room temperature
2. 100 gm unsalted butter at room temperature
3. 450 gm icing sugar + 50 gm extra if needed
4. 1-2 tsp heavy cream (full fat) at room temperature
5. 1 tsp pure vanilla extract like this
6. 1 tsp vanilla bean powder like this
7. 1/4 tsp salt

It’s super important to use real vanilla extract and not essence or flavour for this buttercream. For that speckled vanilla look and genuine taste of vanilla, you could also scrape out the seeds from a fresh vanilla pod and add it to your buttercream. Since I didn’t have any, I used readymade powdered beans. In an ideal world, a buttercream would be all-butter. But thanks to temperatures fluctuating between 35-40OC during Summer months here, there’s no way such a buttercream would hold up. The addition of high ratio shortening is purely to make it stable in this hot and humid weather. Please feel free to replace all of the shortening with butter of the same weight, i.e. 200 gm butter, total.

Prep
1 – Bring your butter to room temperature (18-22OC). It should be firm but soft to the touch (and never melted).

2 – Sift your icing sugar. Set it aside.

Method
1 – Place the butter and vegetable shortening in a large bowl. Using a hand held mixer, beat them together for 2-3 minutes on medium speed until very smooth and creamy. Scrape the bowl down as needed to ensure even mixing.

2 – Add in the vanilla extract, vanilla bean powder, and the salt. Beat on medium for 60 seconds to combine. You will see flecks of vanilla evenly visible throughout the buttercream.

3 – Add in the icing sugar, ¼ cup at a time, beating on low speed for 30 seconds with each addition. Repeat until all the icing sugar has been incorporated and is well-combined. I added 450 gm in total. Scrape down the bowl as needed to make sure the sugar has been incorporated properly and fully. Beat for an additional 2-3 minutes until the mixture is smooth and thick. 

4 – Transfer ¼ of the buttercream to a piping bag and place it in the fridge for 15 minutes before you move on to Stage 4. This thick consistency buttercream will be used for piping our ‘dams’ when we’re constructing the cake tiers. 

5 – Now we will thin out the remaining buttercream in the bowl. Add the cream in 1 teaspoon increments, beating on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition. The more cream you add, the wetter and runnier your buttercream will become. I added just 1 teaspoon, as the weather was quite humid. 

6 – After you add all the cream you want, beat for an additional minute until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Cover the bowl with cling wrap, making sure to push the plastic down against the surface of the buttercream to prevent a crust from forming. Place this thinner consistency buttercream in the fridge for 15 minutes before you move on to Stage 4.

buttercream ingredients; confectioner’s sugar, vanillas, heavy cream, salt, high ratio shortening, and butter
creaming the butter and shortening together
adding both the vanillas and the salt
adding the confectioner’s sugar, 1/4 cup at a time
thick consistency buttercream ready
thinning out the rest of the buttercream with heavy cream
thick consistency buttercream on left, thin consistency buttercream on right

Just so you know, even with the minimum amount of sugar needed for optimum stability ( i.e. 450 gm), this is a very sweet buttercream. If your buttercream is too loose, keep adding icing sugar, a teaspoon at a time until you achieve the desired consistency. If it becomes too thick, add a teaspoon of room temperature milk or cream. This buttercream can be made up to 3 months in advance and stored in the freezer, or up to 5 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Before using chilled buttercream, take it out of the fridge and rest it on your counter for 15-20 minutes. If you’re using frozen buttercream, thaw it in the fridge first. If it looks a little seized up, re-beat the buttercream for a few seconds so that it’s light, airy, and creamy again. This amount of buttercream is more than enough to generously layer, frost and decorate your entire cake, and have about 1/4 cup left over.

Stage 4: Finale; cake construction & assembly

click on image to enlarge

40 steps? What? Before you start panicking, keep in mind that most of the steps will be repeated for each cake tier. Click on the image below to see the overall scope of work. 

Components
1. 2 x 5-inch brown butter cake layers (trimmed and chilled)
2. 2 x 4-inch brown butter cake layers (trimmed and chilled)
3. 2 x 3-inch brown butter cake layers (trimmed and chilled)
4. Peach filling (chilled)
5. Thick consistency vanilla bean buttercream
6. Thin consistency vanilla bean buttercream
7. To decorate; small artificial flowers and leaves. I got mine from here
8. To serve; leftover peach filling

Materials
1. 6-inch cake board
2. Baking parchment
3. Small offset spatula
4. Small bench scraper
5. Cake turntable
6. 2 medium bowls to hold any scraped-off buttercream
7. A piping bag fitted with a 2 mm round tip

Prep
1 – Take your piping bag of thick consistency vanilla bean buttercream and your bowl of thin consistency buttercream out of the fridge and bring them to piping consistency (about 15 minutes).

2 – Ready your decorating surface. Place the cake board in the centre of your turntable. 

3 – Cut 2 squares of baking parchment; a 5 inch square, and a 4 inch square.

Method

1 – Grab your piping bag of thick consistency buttercream and snip the tip about 1 cm wide. Pipe a 2 cm blob of buttercream on the centre of your cake board. This will be the glue that holds the first 5-inch cake layer in place.

2 – Place the bottom 5-inch cake layer on the buttercream ‘glue’, cut-side up.  Pipe a 1 cm ring of buttercream around the top circumference of the cake keeping a 1 cm gap from the edges. This will function as a ‘dam’ that holds in the filling.

3 – Grab your bowl of thin consistency buttercream. Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of buttercream on the centre of the cake and then spread it evenly inside the ring, coming ¼ up the height of the ‘dam’. This layer will prevent the filling from soaking into the sponge.

4 – Fill the ring of buttercream with 1-2 tablespoons of peach filling, making sure to spread it in an even layer and keep it just below the height of the ‘dam’. Do not overfill. I repeat, do not overfill.

5 – Place the top 5-inch cake layer atop the pear layer, cut-side up. Lightly press down to secure. Is filling oozing out? You’ve overfilled! Fix asap by removing some.

6 – It’s time to create the ‘crumb coat’, which is basically a layer of buttercream that will seal in any loose cake crumbs. Use an offset spatula to generously dollop thin consistency buttercream right on top of the cake. Then generously lop thin consistency buttercream all around the cake, starting at the base, and moving upwards. 

7 – Use your palette knife to evenly spread the buttercream all around the outside of the cake (sides and top) and then use a bench scraper to remove the extra buttercream. Place this extra buttercream in a fresh bowl.

8 – Place your crumb-coated 5-inch tier in the fridge for 30-60 minutes to firm up, and proceed with the 4-inch tier.

9 – Place your 5-inch parchment square on the cake turntable. Pipe a 2 cm blob of thick consistency buttercream on the centre of the parchment. This will be the glue that holds the first 4-inch cake layer in place.

10 – Place the bottom 4-inch cake layer on the buttercream ‘glue’, cut-side up. Pipe a 1 cm ring of thick consistency buttercream around the top circumference of the cake keeping a 1 cm gap from the edges. This will function as a ‘dam’ that holds in the filling.

11 – Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of thin consistency buttercream on the centre of the cake and then spread it evenly inside the ring, coming ¼ up the height of the ‘dam’. This layer will prevent the filling from soaking into the sponge.

12 – Fill the ring of buttercream with 1 tablespoon of peach filling, making sure to spread it in an even layer and keep it just below the height of the ‘dam’. Do not overfill. I repeat, do not overfill.

13 – Place the top 4-inch cake layer atop the pear layer, cut-side up. Lightly press down to secure. Is filling oozing out? You’ve overfilled! Fix asap by removing some.

14 – Create the ‘crumb coat’ (re-use the scraped off buttercream for this purpose). Use an offset spatula to generously dollop thin consistency buttercream right on top of the cake. Then generously lop thin consistency buttercream all around the cake, starting at the base, and moving upwards.

15 – Use your palette knife to evenly spread the buttercream all around the outside of the cake (sides and top) and then use a bench scraper to remove the extra buttercream. Place this extra buttercream in the bowl containing the previously scraped-off buttercream. 

16 – Place your crumb-coated 4-inch tier in the fridge for 30-60 minutes to firm up, and proceed with the 3-inch tier.

17 – Place your 4-inch parchment square on the cake turntable. Pipe a 2 cm blob of thick consistency buttercream on the centre of the parchment. This will be the glue that holds the first 3-inch cake layer in place.

18 – Place the bottom 3-inch cake layer on the buttercream ‘glue’, cut-side up. Pipe a 1 cm ring of thick consistency buttercream around the top circumference of the cake keeping a 1 cm gap from the edges. This will function as a ‘dam’ that holds in the filling.

19 – Spoon ¾ tablespoon of thin consistency buttercream on the centre of the cake and then spread it evenly inside the ring, coming ¼ up the height of the ‘dam’. This layer will prevent the filling from soaking into the sponge.

20 – Fill the ring of buttercream with 1 teaspoon of peach filling, making sure to spread it in an even layer and keep it just below the height of the ‘dam’. Do not overfill. I repeat, do not overfill.

21 – Place the top 3-inch cake layer atop the pear layer, cut-side up. Lightly press down to secure. Is filling oozing out? You’ve overfilled! Fix asap by removing some.

22 – Create the ‘crumb coat’ (re-use the scraped off buttercream for this purpose). Use an offset spatula to generously dollop thin consistency buttercream right on top of the cake. Then generously lop thin consistency buttercream all around the cake, starting at the base, and moving upwards.

23 – This is the hardest past, because this cake is so tiny and fiddly! Use your palette knife to evenly spread the buttercream all around the outside of the cake (sides and top) and then use a bench scraper to remove the extra buttercream. Place this extra buttercream in the bowl containing the previously scraped-off buttercream. If there are a lot of crumb particles in this batch, you won’t be able to use it for the final coat. Save it to serve along with the cake and grab a fresh bowl for the final coat! If the buttercream is devoid of crumbs, feel free to use it for the final coat.

24 – Place your crumb-coated 3-inch tier in the fridge for 30-60 minutes to firm up. 

25 – After its crumb-coat has set, get back to your chilled 5-inch cake, to apply the top-coat of buttercream. Place your 5-inch tier back on the turntable. Going in a circle from the inside out, spread a generous layer of thin consistency buttercream, right on top of the cake. While rotating your turntable, spread a generous layer of thin consistency buttercream all around the cake, starting at the base, and moving upwards.

26 – Use the bench scraper and the offset spatula to completely smoothen the buttercream on top and around the sides of the cake. Place scraped-off buttercream in a new bowl. Place the fully-coated 5-inch tier back in the fridge to chill for 30-60 minutes.

27 – After its crumb-coat has set, get back to your chilled 4-inch cake, to apply the top-coat of buttercream. Place your 4-inch tier back on the turntable. Going in a circle from the inside out, spread a generous layer of thin consistency buttercream, right on top of the cake. While rotating your turntable, spread a generous layer of thin consistency buttercream all around the cake, starting at the base, and moving upwards.

28 – Use the bench scraper and the offset spatula to completely smoothen the buttercream on top and around the sides of the cake. Place scraped-off buttercream in the new bowl containing the previously scraped-off buttercream. Place the fully-coated 4-inch tier back in the fridge to chill for 30-60 minutes.

29 – After its crumb-coat has set, get back to your chilled 3-inch cake to apply the top-coat of buttercream. Place your 3-inch tier back on the turntable. Going in a circle from the inside out, spread a generous layer of thin consistency buttercream, right on top of the cake. While rotating your turntable, spread a generous layer of thin consistency buttercream all around the cake, starting at the base, and moving upwards.

30 – Use the bench scraper and the offset spatula to completely smoothen the buttercream on top and around the sides of the cake. Place scraped-off buttercream in the new bowl containing the previously scraped-off buttercream. Place the fully-coated 3-inch cake tier in the fridge to chill for 30-60 minutes. 

31 – At this point your 3 tiers should be chilling in the fridge getting ready to be stacked. The hard part is over! Transfer any remaining ‘clean’ buttercream (thick and thin) to the piping bag fitted with the 2 mm round tip and place it in the fridge. Leave your scraped-off buttercream in its bowl. 

32 – Once all your cake tiers have chilled and the top-coat of buttercream has fully set, it’s time to get stacking. Place the 5-inch tier on your turntable. Get your bowl of scraped-off buttercream and spread a 2 cm blob of buttercream on top of the 5-inch tier, bang in the centre. This will act as a glue.

33 – Get your 4-inch tier. Very carefully, slide your offset spatula between the cake and the baking parchment it’s sitting on. In a scraping motion, drag the spatula under the cake to release it from the parchment. Now gently mount the 4-inch tier on top of the 5-inch tier, making sure that it’s centred. Press down lightly to secure.

34 – Spread a 2 cm blob of scraped-off buttercream on top of the 4-inch tier, bang in the centre. This will act as a glue.

35 – Get your 3-inch tier. Very carefully, slide your offset spatula between the cake and the baking parchment it’s sitting on. In a scraping motion, drag the spatula under the cake to release it from the parchment. Now gently mount the 3-inch tier on top of the 4-inch tier, making sure that it’s centred. Press down lightly to secure. Place the stacked cake in the fridge to chill for 60 minutes or until fully-set.

36 – After your stacked cake has chilled for 60 minutes, it’s ready for decorating. Take your piping bag of buttercream fitted with the 2 mm round tip out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes or until pipeable. Now take your stacked cake out of the fridge and place it back on the turntable. 

37 – Pipe a string of 4 mm dots all along the seam between the bottom tier and your cake board, as well as along the seam between each stacked tier. To do this, hold the piping bag at a 90-degree angle over the spot on which you want to pipe, and squeeze a 4 mm dot onto the spot. Then stop squeezing the bag and swipe right and pipe another dot. Repeat all around the cake, for all 3 tiers. Watch this video to see how. 

38 – Zhuzh up the cake with whatever you like. Great options are sugar flowers, edible flowers, or even fresh or artificial flowers. We decorated ours with artificial ranunculases and leaves from Ikea, because even these have been designed to be modular! You can actually pull the flowers off their stems, insert toothpicks into their cavities, and plant them into the cake. When you’re done, you can remove the toothpicks and reattach the flowers to their stems! Additionally, you can dismantle the larger flowers and re-assemble them to be the size you want (which is particularly helpful when you want your flowers to be proportional to a mini wedding cake).

39 – Now place the cake back in the fridge for 30-60 minutes to fully set the flowers into the buttercream before serving. 

40 – Stand the fully decorated cake on your serving platter. Take a bow! You’ve just made an 8 inch tall, 3-tiered, stacked mini wedding cake! When serving, cut through all 3 stacked layers to see every gorgeous layer. Serve with extra peach filling on the side. Now eat!

ring of thick consistency buttercream to create a dam
layer of thin consistency buttercream to prevent filling seepage
layer of peach filling
top layer placed on filling, cut-side up
crumb coat
final coat
stacked tiers
buttercream dots to hide the seams between each tier
fully constructed cake!
adding some flowers to decorate the cake
notice the toothpicks for easy (and sanitary) application and removal
remember to remove any decorations (if you’ve used inedible decorations) and skewers before serving
I’m very new at stacking cakes, so for extra stability, I went overboard with my final coat of buttercream. Feel free to apply a thinner final coat to reduce the amount of sweetness in each slice of cake.

The nemesis of stacked cakes is overfilling. If your filling oozes out when you press down to sandwich your cake layers, you won’t be able to apply a ‘secure’ coat of buttercream. Too much filling will also cause the individuals layers to slip about inside and compromise the overall stability. Always under-fill your cakes and serve extra filling on the side. Since this is such a small cake, there’s no need to reinforce the individual tiers with cake boards and dowels. However, if you’re a nervous ninny like me, you might want to push 3 bamboo skewers down into all 3 tiers, just to be super safe! When transferring your cake from the fridge to a room temperature environment, you’ll want to first place the cake in an air conditioned room to prevent condensation from appearing on the cake (which always happens when it goes from a very chilled to a warm environment). Gradually increase the AC temperature over an hour, until it’s about the same as room temperature. Because the buttercream has been stabilised with high-ratio shortening, the cake will hold up relatively well at room temperature for an hour or so. Do not keep it under any hot lights or direct sunlight, as the butter in the frosting will start to melt! For best results, cut yourself a slice whenever you get a craving and store the rest of the cake, covered, in the fridge. This is narrow tall, tapering cake, so cutting a clean slice can be a bit challenging. I find that a large, sharp serrated knife is the best tool for the job and cutting a slice is easiest when the cake is a bit cold. 


Tips & Tricks

How to torte a cake


How to trim cakes for even layers


How to ripen peaches fast


How to peel peaches the easy way


How to fill cake layers


How to pipe buttercream dots


Tiger Prawn Rolls

Makes 4 larger-than-average sandwiches

This isn’t your regular hot dog using any ol’ hot dog bun. Featuring made-from-scratch New England style buns, this salad-sandwich is our take on the esteemed Maine Lobster Roll! In our recipe, we’ve swapped out the lobster for jumbo tiger prawns, which are locally available and just as meaty. And while the protein component may not be 100% true to the rolls’ origins—served with homemade fries and fresh coleslaw on the side—these Tiger Prawn rolls are 100% seafoodelicious! 


At a glance

– This recipe comprises New England hot dog buns + tiger prawn filling + coleslaw + French fries.
– You will need an 8×8 inch metal brownie pan and some thick aluminium foil for the buns, a 5-litre steamer pot & basket to steam the tiger prawns, as well as a 2-litre saucepan to poach them, and a 3-litre wok/deep fryer for the fries.
– This recipe has been broken into 5 stages for ease and comprehension. Please read the entire recipe from start to finish before beginning.

Stage 1: New England hot dog buns

The New England style hot dog bun aka split-top or top-loading bun is unlike a regular hot dog bun. Not only do they stand upright, but because they are made in a special pan that bakes them as one large loaf, the individual buns have tender white walls rather than browned sides, which can be buttered and toasted. Much like dinner rolls, these buns are made with an enriched dough—which means lots of fats and dairy to make them soft.

Ingredients
1. 350 gm all purpose flour
2. 1 tsp bread improver powder
3. 20 gm milk powder
4. 1 ½ tsp instant yeast
5. 85 ml UHT milk at 43OC or whole milk boiled and cooled to 43OC
6. 85 ml warm water (43OC) + 60 ml extra if required
7. 1 medium egg (50 gm) at room temperature 
8. 1 tsp fine sea salt
9. 1 ½ tbsp. granulated sugar
10. 40 gm unsalted butter, softened
11. Baking spray to grease the bowl and baking pan
12. Egg wash; 1 whole egg + 1 tbsp. water
13. Butter glaze; 1 tbsp. softened salted butter

Prep
1 – To make a DIY New England hot dog pan using a 8×8 inch brownie pan, see this guide and follow all the steps. See the images just below for what your aluminium foil mould should end up looking like.

rectangle of alumimium foil shaped into a New England hot dog mould
rectangle of alumimium foil shaped into a New England hot dog mould
DIY New England hot dog mould nested inside 8×8 inch brownie pan
DIY New England hot dog mould nested inside 8×8 inch brownie pan

Method
1 – In a large bowl, combine the flour, bread improver, and milk powder. Whisk well to combine. These are your dry ingredients.

2 – Add the warm milk to a medium bowl and sprinkle the instant yeast onto the milk. Whisk to dissolve the yeast into the warm milk. Now add 85 ml warm water and the egg, and whisk once again to combine. This is your wet mixture. Reserve the leftover warm water in a separate bowl in case it’s needed later. 

3 – Add the wet mixture to the large bowl of dry ingredients. Using your bench scraper, fold the mixture together until you no longer see any dry, floury bits and you have a cohesive, shaggy dough. I added an extra 10 ml of warm water. Cover the bowl in cling wrap and leave the dough to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. This will allow the dough to fully hydrate and develop the gluten.

4 – After 30 minutes, use a bench scraper to tip the dough out onto your work surface. Your dough will be incredibly sticky. Don’t panic by adding more flour.

5 –  Using your hands, shape the dough into a rough rectangle. First sprinkle the sugar and salt onto it and then place globs of softened butter onto the rectangle of dough.

6 – Grab your bench scraper and begin cutting and pressing the sugar, salt, and butter into the dough.

7 – Using the heel of your hand, stretch and spread the dough outwards and away from you, and then gather it back towards you in a single mass with the bench scraper. Repeat this for the next 5 minutes. This hands-on technique, known as ‘fraisage’ will fully blend the sugar, salt, and butter into the dough.

8 – Start slapping and folding the dough; Pick the dough up and slap it down on your counter so that it sticks. Then grab the dough and stretch/pull it towards you, and then fold it over itself and away from you. Now lift up the dough, give it a quarter in the air and slap it down on your counter again. Repeat this sequence until the dough is smooth and very elastic. When it’s ready, it will no longer stick to your hands, and will come clean off the surface. This can take anywhere from 10-30 minutes depending on your brand of flour and how humid it is. Don’t panic if it’s still slightly sticky after 30 minutes and don’t be tempted to add extra flour. Trust yourself and the process. Keep slapping and folding the dough until it is at the correct consistency. The first time I made these, my dough took the entire 30 minutes to come together. The second time, I used a different brand of flour and it was done in 10!

9 – Grease your big mixing bowl with vegetable oil. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl. Lightly coat the dough ball in the oil and then cover the bowl with cling film. Place the bowl in the fridge and allow the dough to ferment for 8-24 hours. If you want to bake the buns on the same day, ferment the dough in a warm place for 60-90 minutes or until the dough doubles in size. I have done both types of fermentation with equal success.

10 – After the dough has had its proof, transfer the chilled dough onto a lightly floured surface. If you didn’t ferment your dough in the fridge, you will need to deflate the dough by pressing out the extra air before transferring it to your floured work surface. 

11 – Grease your brownie pan with non-stick spray. Place your DIY New England hot dog mould into the pan and then spray the surface of the aluminium foil.

12 – Weigh your dough and then cut it into 4 equal portions. My dough was 640 gm, so I got 4 portions, weighing 160 gm each.

13 – Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out each portion into a flattened rectangle, roughly 8 inches long and 5 inches wide.

14 – Rolling from the 8-inch side, tightly roll up each rectangle into a log, 8 inches in length. Pinch the seam to seal it. Now fold up the left and right edges of the roll and pinch to seal the seams. The sealed seams should all be on one side. Your log will be about 7 inches long and 1 inch thick at this point.

15 – Place the rolled up log, seams-side down into one of the crevices in the prepared pan. Repeat steps 13 & 14 with the other 3 portions of dough.

16 – Cover the pan with cling wrap and let the dough proof in a warm place for 60-90 minutes or until the logs are touching each other as well as the edges of the pan. Mine took the full 90 minutes.

17 – When you have 20 minutes remaining on your proofing time, start pre-heating your oven to 180OC.

18 – Just prior to baking, make the egg wash. Lightly beat 1 egg with 1 tablespoon of plain water. Using a pastry brush, very gently brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash.

19 – Your oven should have been preheating for 20 minutes now. Place your pan in the middle rack of your oven and bake at 180OC. for 20-22 minutes or until the tops of the buns are glossy, golden brown, and sound hollow when lightly tapped. Mine took exactly 22 minutes. Depending on your oven, you might need to turn your tray at the halfway mark for even heat distribution and browning. 

20 – Remove your tray from the oven and place it on a wire rack. While the buns are fresh out of the oven and hot, generously brush the tops with softened butter and leave to cool.

21 – When the rolls have cooled down completely, carefully flip the pan onto your work surface and lift the pan away. Pull the aluminium foil layer off and discard it. The base-side of the buns will be joined together as a single loaf.

22 – Gently pull each bun apart from the base-side. Store them in an airtight container until ready for use. Use your new England hot dog buns when they’re completely cool for the softest texture and best flavour.

dry and wet ingredients for the dough
shaggy dough stage
sugar, salt, and unsalted butter being added to the hydrated dough
cutting the butter into the dough
‘fraisage’ step 1 – using the heel of your hand to push the butter into the dough
‘fraisage’ step 2 – scraping the dough back towards yourself
‘slap & fold’ step 1 – slap the dough onto your counter so that it sticks
‘slap & fold’ step 2 – grab the dough and stretch it towards yourself
‘slap & fold’ step 3 – fold the dough over itself and away from you
‘slap & fold’ step 4 – lift the dough up
‘slap & fold’ step 5 – give the dough a quarter turn in the air and then slap it down on your counter again
smooth, elastic dough after slapping & folding for 10-30 minutes
after 24 hours of fermentation in the fridge – cutting the dough into 4 equal portions
rolling each portion into a rough rectangle measuring 8 inches x 5 inches
rolling up the rectangle into an 8 inch long ‘log’ and pinching the seam shut
folding over the left and right edges of the log, and pinching both seams shut
rolled logs placed into New England hotdog pan, seams-side down
rolled logs after 90 minutes of fermentation
fully fermented buns brushed with egg wash and ready to be placed in the preheated oven
fully baked New England hot dog buns, right out of the oven
hot dog buns brushed with softened, salted butter
hot dog buns flipped over
peeling away the DIY aluminium foil New England hot dog mould
New England hot dog buns, base-side
pulling apart the hot dog buns from the base side
four 8-inch New England hot dog buns, top-side
don’t cut all the way down the middle of the bun for this recipe; this is just to show you the beautiful crumb!

Baking bread from scratch is definitely challenging, and you could simply buy regular hot dog buns. However, you just won’t get the full Maine Lobster Roll experience. Give it a go once, just for the joy of homemade bread! A standard New England hotdog pan like this measures 14 x 6 inches and yields 10 buns, roughly 6 inches long and 1.5 inches wide. My oven can’t fit such a pan, and I wasn’t about to buy yet another baking dish, so I fashioned my own! My recipe has been written for an 8×8 inch pan, which yields 4 buns, roughly 8 inches long and 2 inches wide. This makes them bigger than normal. If you do own a New England pan, I recommend following this recipe instead, for appropriate dough quantities. While these taste amazing fresh out of the oven, I recommend letting them rest overnight to soften a bit. I made the buns a day in advance and stored them at room temperature in an airtight container. You can refrigerate them for a few days as well, and toast them straight out of the fridge right before serving. You needn’t make these only when you’re making this style of sandwich! Feel free to use them instead of regular hot dog buns. They’re also perfect to hold any kind of cold or hot sandwich filling.

Stage 2: Tiger Prawn filling

Like lobster, Tiger Prawns (Bengali; Bagda Chingri) live in brackish water and are sea-farmed. I chose to use Tiger Prawns instead of lobster for three reasons. Firstly, the kind of lobster found in a Maine Lobster Roll is True Lobster (French; Homard), which is quite large and has huge claws. In fact, the claw meat is the prized element in a Maine Lobster Roll. This variety of lobster is not readily available in India, and what’s locally sold here as lobster is actually Spiny Lobster or Rock Lobster (French; Langouste), which has no claw meat to speak of. Secondly, the Tiger Prawn—while being pricey—is a more familiar shellfish to cook with in India than Spiny Lobster. And thirdly, even though it’s smaller than the Spiny Lobster overall, a jumbo tiger prawn comes closest to size when deshelled, and therefore offers a similar textural experience. For a prawn meat that’s closest in texture AND flavour to lobster, I highly recommend getting your hands on Giant Freshwater Prawns (Bengali; Golda Chingri). It really is just like lobster, but it comes with its own set of limitations. It’s hard to procure outside of Bengal. Moreover, since this dish only utilizes flesh from the abdomen and tail, you will lose a lot of mass when you remove the large head, which is often as large as the body itself and an integral part of the Giant Freshwater Prawn eating experience.

spiny lobster flesh vs tiger prawn flesh – raw size comparison
spiny lobster flesh vs tiger prawn flesh – poached size comparison

Ingredients
1. 1.5 kg whole fresh jumbo tiger prawns to give 750 gm meat (get shell-on, tail-on, headless, and deveined tiger prawns) I got 12 prawns in this amount.

For cleaning:
2. Enough plain water to submerge all the prawns
3. 1 heaping tsp baking soda

For the steaming liquid:
4. Enough water to fill a pot by 1-2 inches
5. 1 tbsp. salt

For the butter poaching liquid:
6. 60 ml lemon juice
7. 1 tsp salt
8. 2 large cloves of garlic
9. 10 whole peppercorns
10. 350 gm unsalted butter, very cold, cut into 1 inch cubes

For the dressing:
11. 100 gm mayonnaise
12. 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
13. ½ tsp celery salt like this
14. ½ tsp sweet paprika
15. ½ tsp mustard powder
16. ¼ tsp freshly cracked black pepper

1.5 kg fresh whole tiger prawns = 975 gm headless, tail-on, shell-on prawns
or 750 gm pure meat. I cannot stress this point enough—because there’s no hiding behind punchy spices—you must use super-fresh tiger prawns in this recipe. By super-fresh, I mean the prawns should not smell fishy or have any sort of unpleasant odour, as this will leech into the dish
. If you cannot get shell-on, tail-on, headless, and deveined tiger prawns, buy whole tiger prawns, twist off the heads and devein them yourself. Here’s how to devein prawns with the shell still on. Remember to keep your prawns on ice while you’re prepping them, as they can go bad very quickly in warm weather. After removing the heads, freeze the heads to make stocks or flavoured oils.

Method
1 – To clean your prepared tiger prawns, dissolve 1 heaping teaspoon of baking soda into a large bowl of plain water. Submerge all your prawns in the solution and let it soak for 5 minutes. Thereafter rinse the prawns well in running water and then pat them dry.

2 – Place your prawns inside a steamer basket. Fill a steamer pot with enough plain water to come just below the steamer basket, and bring it to a boil with the lid on.

3 – As soon as the water starts to boil, add the salt to it and wait for the water to come back to a boil.

4 – Once the water’s boiling again, lower your steamer basket with the prawns into the pot. Immediately put the lid on and steam your prawns for exactly 3 minutes. The smaller the prawn, the shorter the cook. If you have about 14-18 prawns in your 1.5 kg batch, that means your prawns are smaller than mine and will steam for a shorter length of time. Steam them for 1-2 minutes only, depending on size.

5 – After 3 minutes, remove the steamer basket from the pot and allow the prawns to sit for a few minutes until cool enough to handle.

6 – Peel the shells from the body and gently tug off the tail shell. Do it gently to avoid tearing the meat off the tail. Place the fully-deshelled prawns in a bowl. Freeze the shells to make stocks or flavoured oils.

7 – Lightly smash your garlic and then add it to a 6-inch deep, 2 litre saucepan. Now add 60 ml lemon juice, one teaspoon of salt, and all the peppercorns. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer over low heat.

8 – Add the cold butter to the saucepan, 1 cube at a time, adding the next cube just as the previous cube has almost melted and whisking gently to emulsify each addition of butter. You want to melt the butter, not split it; so make sure the mixture is never boiling/simmering, but only ‘steaming’ (between 75-80OC). This amount of butter poaching liquid is just enough to fully submerge 4 jumbo tiger prawns at a time. If your prawns are smaller, you’ll be able to poach 5-7 at a time.

9 – Add the steamed and de-shelled prawns to the butter poaching liquid in batches (I did 3 batches of 4) and cook for 4-5 minutes or until the prawns have curled into a loose “C” shape, their outer flesh is pink with bright red accents, and the inner flesh is white and fully opaque (internal temp 49-50OC). Remember, smaller prawns will cook for a shorter length of time, so look for the tell-tale signs instead of going by the clock. Once cooked, use tongs to immediately transfer the prawns to a bowl to cool down fully. 

10 – Once cool enough to handle, cut each prawn into 3 pieces. This is the best time to check if each and every prawn is cooked through. If you see any translucent or grey sections of flesh, chuck them back in the butter poaching liquid and continue cooking until the inner flesh is white and opaque. Take care not to overcook the prawns as this will make them rubbery and unpleasant to eat! After you’re done, transfer the butter emulsion to an airtight bowl and store it in the fridge or freezer. You can add it to seafood dishes for extra flavour or re-use it to poach seafood.

11 – Prep the dressing; mix together all the ingredients listed in ‘for the dressing’. Toss the chopped prawn meat in the dressing and refrigerate the mixture for at least 6-8 hours.

steamed tiger prawns, in-shell
removing the shells from the steamed tiger prawns
steamed and de-shelled tiger prawns
butter emulsion
tiger prawns being poached in butter emulsion, 4 prawns per batch
butter-poached tiger prawns
chopped up tiger prawns
dressing for the tiger prawn filling
chopped tiger prawns tossed in the dressing

I purchased 1.5 kg whole jumbo tiger prawns which got me 12 very large tiger prawns. After deveining and head removal, the prawns weighed about 975 gm. Then, after steaming and de-shelling, the prawns weighed about 750 gm. That gives roughly 187 gm of cooked meat per sandwich. Always buy prawns with the shell on, as this protects the tender flesh during steaming, as well as retains flavour. Obviously, this recipe totally works with actual lobster. I never (nor will I ever) work with live seafood, so I cannot give any instructions on how to cook with it. If you can get your hands on de-shelled, fresh lobster meat; procure 750 gm and skip the steaming step altogether. Butter-poach the meat until the internal temperature is about 60OC and proceed with the rest of the recipe as normal. 

Stage 3: Coleslaw

This is a classic accompaniment to a Main Lobster Roll. Crunchy, fresh and palate-cleansing, coleslaw plays a stellar supporting role without stealing the show.

Ingredients
1. 1/2 a medium green cabbage (roughly 250 gm)
2. 1 large carrot (roughly 250 gm)
3. 4-5 sprigs flat leaf parsley
4. 2 tbsp. dried cranberries

For the dressing:
6. 80 gm mayonnaise
7. 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
8. 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
9. 1 tsp. honey.
10. 1/4 tsp celery salt like this
11. 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper 

Method
1 – In a medium bowl, add all the ingredients listed in ‘for the dressing’ and whisk well to combine. Taste the dressing and add more acid, sweetness, and seasoning if desired. Place your dressing in the fridge to chill while you prep your veg.

2 – Remove the core from your half-cabbage. Cut your cabbage into quarters and then place each quarter flat-side down and finely shred it with a sharp knife. Transfer the shredded cabbage to a large bowl.

3 – Peel your carrot and then coarsely grate it using a vegetable grater (large holes). Transfer the grated cabbage to the bowl with the shredded cabbage.

4 – Coarsely chop up your parsley leaves and add it to the bowl of veggies.

5 – Add the dried cranberries to the bowl of veggies.

6 – Take your cold dressing out of the fridge and pour it into the bowl of veggies. Toss very well to ensure everything is well-coated.

7 – Serve the coleslaw right away or place it, covered, in the fridge for 10 minutes to 2 hours, depending on how tender you want the cabbage to become or how chilled you like your slaw.

coleslaw dressing
shredded cabbage
grated carrot
dressing, parsley, dried cranberries, cabbage, and carrots
veggies tossed into the coleslaw dressing, ready to be chilled

The vegetables can be prepared 1-2 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge. The dressing can be made well in advance and stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks! If you prefer the crunch of the cabbage as well as its raw pungent flavour, mix the dressing into the shredded veg just prior to serving. We like to soften and mellow it out a bit, so we mix ours and set it in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Remember, the longer the cabbage sits in the dressing, the softer it will become.

Stage 4: French fries

I personally could not leave out this classic accompaniment to the Maine Lobster Roll. Anyone who knows me, knows that I will sell my soul for good potato chips (not to be confused with potato crisps, although I would do the same for those). To me, it doesn’t get better than McDonald’s, so this is my homemade, from-scratch attempt at making those golden pillars of potato perfection. Feel free to order your fries from McDonalds or your favourite French fries outlet, but it’s important to have them on the side!

Ingredients
1. 1 kg starchy potatoes (4 large potatoes weighing 250 gm each)
2. 1 litre canola oil  for frying
3. ½ tsp salt for seasoning

For the brining liquid:
4. 1500 ml chilled water
5. 90 ml corn syrup (or 50 gm sugar)
6. 2 ¼ tbsp. salt
7. 1 tsp white vinegar

Prep
1 – Peel your potatoes and then cut them into slightly wider than ¼ inch thick slices. Now cut the slices into slightly wider than ¼ batons. Then wash the batons very well to rid them of extra starch.

2 – Mix together your brining liquid in a large bowl. Soak the potato batons in the cold brining liquid for a minimum of two hours, or for best results, overnight in the fridge. Prolonged soaking removes the extra starch, which results in crispier fries.

Method
1 – When you’re ready to get frying, drain off the potato-brining liquid and then thoroughly wash the potato batons again to remove any residual starch.

2 – Spread out the batons on some absorbent kitchen towels and pat them dry. I like to lay them out under my kitchen fan for ten minutes.

3 – While the potato batons are drying, heat up your frying oil. Fill a 3 litre wok or deep fryer with 1 litre of canola oil. Heat it up on the stove until the oil reaches a temperature of 150OC.

4 – Then add half the potato batons and fry them for 4-5 minutes, flipping occasionally, until they are pale and softened. The fries will tell you when they’re done! They’ll rise to the surface of the oil and float there. Do not be tempted to add them all in, as overcrowding the pan will cause the temperature to drop and result in too much oil absorption. Once the fries come to the surface and have been floating in the oil for about 30 seconds, it’s time to remove them from the fryer.

5 – Using a slotted spoon, transfer the semi-fried batons from the pan to a plate lined with kitchen paper to soak up any extra oil.

6 – Check the temperature of the frying oil and make sure it is 150OC before adding the second batch of batons. Once again, fry them for 4-5 minutes and then place them to drain on the kitchen paper. 

7 – Now, increase the setting on the stove and heat the oil to 180OC. Fry the semi-fried potato batons in two batches, for 30-60 seconds per batch, or until they are golden and crispy. Watch the colour of the batons like a hawk, as the oil is very hot and they will cook very rapidly. Drain each batch on fresh paper towels and season with salt as soon as they come out of the hot oil. These fries taste best straight out of the fryer. In case your fries get cold while you’re assembling your Tiger Prawn Rolls in Stage 5, reheat them in the oven at 180OC for 8-10 minutes or until hot and crispy.

1/4 inch batons
all the batons ready for brining
brining ingredients; white vinegar, corn syrup, salt, and water
brining the batons
drying the batons
semi-frying the batons
semi-fried batons
double-frying the batons
double-fried batons
copycat McDonald’s French fries!

I know this seems like a lot of work for plain o’l fries, but the brining, the drying, and double-frying steps are the difference between a limp greasy chip, and one that’s fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside. To make French fries in advance, complete Steps 1-6 and then let the fries cool completely. At this point, you can freeze the semi-fried fries. To do this, lay them out on a tray in a single layer and flash-freeze them for about an hour. Thereafter, transfer to them to a freezer-safe container and freeze them for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to serve, fry the frozen fries in batches at 180OC until golden brown, roughly 4 minutes.

Stage 5: Finalethe assembly

So apparently, there are rules about what’s acceptable in a Maine Lobster Roll. Purists would want the filling to be served cold, tossed in mayonnaise with just a little salt and lemon, and wedged inside a buttery, lightly toasted bun. Chives and lettuce? Sacrilege! But we already done did heresy with the lobster-tiger prawn switcheroo, aiight? Chives are gentle and pair well with the pure prawn flavour. The lettuce adds freshness and texture and also prevents the filling from making the bun soggy. 

Components
1. 40 gm softened salted table butter for toasting
2. New England hot dog buns from Stage 1
3. Cold tiger prawn filling from Stage 2
4. Cold coleslaw from Stage 3
5. Hot French fries from Stage 4
6. 40 gm softened salted butter for buttering
7. 6 butter lettuce leaves
8. 1 tsp finely chopped chives
9. 1 large lemon
10. Ketchup to serve with the fries

Prep
1 – Finely chop up your chives and cut your lemons into 4 wedges, lengthways.

2 – When ready to serve, heat up a large skillet. Butter the soft, pale outer sides of each bun and then toast the buns butter-side down for 1 minute on each side or until golden-brown.

3 – Place each toasted bun on your work surface, top-side facing up. Using a sharp bread knife, carefully cut down the middle of each bun to create a top-split bun. Do not cut all the way down.

4 – Butter the insides of the slit buns.

buttering the outer, pale sides of each bun
toasting the buns, butter-side down (both sides)
slicing the buns to create a top-split bun; be careful not to cut all the way down
buttering the insides of the slit buns

Method
1 – Lay 4 lettuce leaves inside each toasted bun; 2 on the left half, and 2 on the right half.

2 – Fill each bun with ¼ of the cold tiger prawn filling. 

3 – Sprinkle ¼ tsp chives onto the filling of each Tiger Prawn Roll.

4 – Serve your Tiger Prawn Rolls immediately with the hot French fries, cold coleslaw, and some extra wedges of lemon and ketchup. We liked our rolls with loads of lemon squeezed on top of the filling. Now eat!

This is a very seafood-forward dish with very strong flavours of prawn. This can be a bit overpowering for those palates unaccustomed to seafood prepared via this cooking method and/or using minimal ingredients. In India, seafood is typically prepared with robust spice blends that literally temper the ‘fishiness’ and make it more appetizing to our Indian taste buds. In Bengali cuisine particularly, seafood is nearly always shallow-fried before it is added to curries. The frying step further reduces the ‘fishy’ aroma and taste. If you are familiar with poached seafood or enjoy clean seafood flavours, you’ll love this. Here’s the doozy – neither my husband nor I have even eaten a Maine Lobster Roll! This recipe happened because my husband saw a picture and said, “omg, please make this.” We do know what butter-poached lobster tastes like though, so that’s always been our palates’ North Star. And while it has a more ‘prawny’ flavour than lobster (which is subtler and sweeter) these Tiger Prawn Rolls will no doubt delight avid seafood lovers from Maine to Mumbai.

Tips & Tricks

How to knead an enriched dough by hand

How to do the slap and fold technique


How to devein prawns with the shell still on


Mmmmango Cupcakes

Makes 12 standard-sized cupcakes.

If you grew up in India, you may have squandered all your lunch money on Mango Duet or Mango Zap creamsicles. Vanilla ice cream coated with frozen mango pulp? Yes please! That’s what this dessert tastes like, only better! We baked 48 cupcakes before we were finally happy with the recipe! The results of our manic testing is a moist-for-days mango flavoured sponge, filled with fruity-fresh mango coulis, and topped with a melt in your mouth vanilla mascarpone frosting. All of it comes together, in a cool mouthful of what can only be described as mmmm mmmm mmmm!


At a glance

– This recipe comprises vanilla & mango cupcakes + mango coulis + mascarpone frosting + fresh mangoes.
– You will need standard cupcake liners, a standard 12-cup cupcake pan, (or individual moulds) and some piping bags.
– This recipe has been broken into 4 stages for ease and comprehension. Please read the entire recipe from start to finish before beginning.


Stage 1: vanilla & mango cupcakes

Ingredients
For the dry mixture:
1. 200 gm cake flour (or 165 gm all purpose flour + 35 gm corn flour)
2. 1 tsp baking powder
3. 1/4 tsp baking soda 
4. 1/8 tsp salt

For the wet mixture:

5. 180 ml milk at room temperature
6. 80 gm sour cream or unflavoured yoghurt
7. 3/4 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
8. 1/2 tsp mango flavour like this
9. 4-5 drops orange-yellow gel food paste or colour like this

For creaming:
10. 50 gm unsalted butter, melted and cooled
11. 60 ml neutral flavoured oil
12. 200 gm white castor sugar
13. 2 large eggs (57 gm per egg, in-shell weight) at room temperature

Cake flour has a lower protein content than all-purpose flour. This makes for a more tender cake crumb. However, sometimes it’s hard to procure, which means adapting and making your own cake flour substitute. Whenever you make homemade cake flour – measure out 1 cup of all purpose flour, and then remove 2 tablespoons. Then, add 2 tablespoons of corn flour to the all purpose flour. Sift them together three times. This is your cake flour substitute. It’s not quite the same as store bought cake flour, but it does give a lighter, more tender crumb than if you were to use all-purpose flour only. 

Prep
1 – In a medium bowl, sift in all the dry ingredients and give them a very good whisk to aerate. Set aside.

2 – Add all your wet ingredients to a jug. Give them a thorough stir to combine. Set aside.

3 – Melt your butter over low heat and then bring it to room temperature.

4 – Line your cupcake pan or individual moulds with cupcake liners. 

Method
1 – Start preheating your oven at 175OC.

2 – Place the melted butter, the oil, and the sugar in a large bowl. Using a handheld mixer, cream the fats and sugar together on high speed for 1-2 minutes or until pale and creamy. 

3 – Add the eggs and beat everything together on high speed for roughly 1-2 minutes or until fluffy. Remember to periodically scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure that everything is being mixed properly.

4 – Turn your mixer down to the lowest speed and add the dry mixture in thirds, alternating with the wet mixture. Beat together until just combined (you should see no floury pockets or liquidy pools). Take care not to over-mix the batter, or you’ll end up with dense, stodgy cupcakes.

5 – Spoon the batter evenly into your 12 cupcake liners. Fill each only two-thirds full (roughly 3 tablespoons of batter per cupcake liner).

6 – Bake for 18-22 minutes at 175 OC. For perfectly even heating, rotate your pan at the 10 minute mark. Be sure to check for doneness at the 18 minute mark; that is, if a bamboo skewer inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean, they’re done. Mine took exactly 22 minutes.

7 – Remove the pan from the oven and cool it on a wire rack. Don’t remove the cupcakes from the pan till they come to room temperature. Thereafter, your cupcakes are ready for the next stage. Store them in an airtight container while you move on to Stage 2

filling each liner with 3 tablespoons of batter
cupcakes ready for the oven
cupcakes right out of the oven

These cupcakes are so moist and tender, it’s kind of ridiculous. You’ll want to eat them immediately, straight out of the oven, but please resist! If you don’t plan on filling and frosting your cupcakes immediately, keep them in an airtight container in the fridge. They will stay fresh(ish) for 3 days, although you will lose some moistness. Bring them back to room temperature before proceeding with any of the other stages. Always strive for even heating with cakes. My oven has both top and bottom heating sources, so I always place my cakes on the middle rack, unless a recipe specifies otherwise. If you’re serious about baking, get to know your oven, and all its “hotspots”. This is essential to evenly cooked baked goods. If just a few of your cupcakes tend to rise unevenly, or get cracks, or dome rapidly and then sink, their spot in the oven is too hot. To compensate for these irregularities, you’ll need to lower the temperature and/or move your pan around during the baking process. Keep in mind, if your oven has a convection mode, avoid using it for cakes if you can. Although it may speed up your overall bake-time, it will also dry out your sponge, and you definitely don’t want that.

Stage 2: mango coulis

Ingredients
1. Enough ripe Ratnagiri/Devgad Alphonso mangoes to yield 120 gm mango pulp (I used 1 medium mango, weighing roughly 260 gm)
2. 1 ½ tsp. castor sugar
3. 1/4 tsp lemon juice (from 1/4 of a small lemon)
4. 1/8 tsp citric acid
5. 1/16 tsp salt

If the mango is the king of fruits, the Aphonso (aka Hapus) mango is arguably the king of mangoes. Further, the Ratnagiri Alphonso and Devgad Alphonso variants are the Kings of Alphonso! Grown on the West Coast of India, just north of Goa—these two varieties are available only from mid-April to late May. If you have the privilege, please try to source Alphonso mangoes only for this dessert. Why? Thin skin, small seed, non-fibrous, orange coloured flesh, firm but buttery texture, silky mouthfeel, sweet and juicy pulp, heady aroma, unmatched flavour. Phew! And while Himsagar and Langra mangoes can vie with the Alphonso for best-tasting mango, they’re not as suitable for desserts as the Alphonso. For best results, use ripe and fresh Alphonso mangoes. If you cannot source this variety locally, or they’re simply not in season when you’re making this cheesecake, I recommend using canned Alphonso like this over using any other variety. For the mango puree, wait till your mangoes are super ripe, as this will ensure maximum flavour and sweetness. When you press the fruit, it should be firm but have a little give (but not be squishy). It will also be super fragrant near the stem. Additionally, if you’re using Ratnagiri Alphonso mangoes, the skin will be juuuust a tad wrinkled. Once cut open, the flesh will be sunset yellow-orange and not pale yellow. I sourced 2 dozen fully ripe Ratnagiri Alphonso mangoes in mid-May and immediately made and froze a batch of puree to use for desserts. To freeze mango puree, mix 2 tablespoons of sugar per 250 gm puree and then freeze it. Frozen puree will keep for at least 6-9 months if stored correctly! Thaw the frozen puree inside its container and then bring it to room temperature before using it in the recipe. Once thawed, it should not be re-frozen. Store thawed puree in the fridge for up to a day. If using frozen puree, thaw it before making the coulis. Don’t leave out the citric acid. It really boosts the mango flavour as well as prevents the sugar from crystallising later.

Method
1 – Weigh out 120 gm thawed/canned mango puree or extract 120 gm mango pulp from your mangoes. I like to cut off the cheeks and then scoop out the flesh with a spoon. To remove the flesh from around the seed; peel off the skin, cut off the flesh around the seed, and then squish the seed along the grain. This method lets you extract all the pulp without pulling off the fibres attached to the seed.

2 – Place the mango pulp into the jar of a blender and puree until completely smooth.

3 – Now place the mango puree in a medium bowl, add the rest of the ingredients listed, and whisk together until smooth and homogenous. That’s it! Taste and add more sugar and lemon juice if desired. You’re looking for a bright, fresh mango taste.

4 – Transfer the coulis to a sterilised airtight container and store it in the fridge until ready to use.

Ratnagiri Alphonso mangoes directly from the farm
slicing off the mango cheeks
scooping out the mango flesh from the cheeks
mango coulis ready

This super simple coulis is fresh and intensely mango-ey and amazing as a dessert topping. I make a batch when I want instant mango flavour in ice creams, yoghurts, and the like. The amounts mentioned here are just enough to fill 12-14 cupcakes. If you want leftovers or more to drizzle over your cupcakes, you can easily double or triple the recipe as needed. If you use fresh mango puree to make your coulis, you can store the coulis in the freezer for 6-9 months. If you use frozen mango puree for your coulis, it must be made and used up within a day or two and stored in the fridge (refreezing thawed products results in spoilage).

Stage 3: mascarpone frosting 

Ingredients
1. 400 gm full fat mascarpone cheese, softened but still cool (16-18OC)
2. 80 gm confectioner’s sugar
3. 1/4 tsp salt
4. 1/4 tsp fresh lemon juice
5. 1/4 tsp clear mango flavour like this
6. 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
7. 2 tsp powdered freeze dried mango like this

Prep
1 – Bring your mascarpone cheese to temperature so that it creams to the correct consistency. Too cold and it will lead to a chunky frosting. Too warm and it will make for a soupy frosting! Mascarpone softens very quickly in warm weather. I take my mascarpone out of the fridge 10-15 minutes before using it so that it softens just a bit, but is still cool. 

2 – Sift your confectioner’s sugar. Set it aside.

Method
1 – Place your softened mascarpone in a mixing bowl. Using a spatula or a wooden spoon, cream the mascarpone until it is smooth and homogenous.

2 – Add the confectioner’s sugar in ¼ increments and cream by hand with each addition, until fully incorporated and smooth.

3 – Now add the salt, the lemon juice, the mango flavour, and the vanilla extract, and continue creaming by hand until fully combined.

4 – Sprinkle the freeze dried mango powder onto the mascarpone and fold it into the mixture until you can see little yellow streaks in the frosting. Do not over mix or the whole frosting will be tinted yellow.

5 – Transfer the frosting to a piping bag and place it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes before using. Get ready to assemble your cupcakes in Stage 4.

This frosting tastes like a delicious, custardy vanilla ice cream! iThe quantities mentioned here yield 1 ½ cups of frosting which is more than enough to decorate 12-14 cupcakes. After it is piped or spread onto your cupcakes, it will hold its shape, but will soften significantly in warm weather. Keep frosted cupcakes in the fridge or somewhere cool for best results.

Stage 4: Finale; cupcake construction & assembly

Components
1. Vanilla & mango cupcakes
2. Mango coulis (chilled)
3. Mascarpone frosting (slightly chilled)
4. 1 medium ripe Alphonso mango
5. 1 tsp. powdered freeze dried mango like this

Special equipment
1. Apple corer/cupcake corer

Prep
1 – Cut the mango into 1 ½-2 cm cubes. Watch this video to see how. Set aside.

2 – Transfer your mango coulis to a small piping bag. 

3 – Using an apple corer, go 2 ½ cm downwards into the cupcake and remove its core. Take care not to go in too deep. Repeat for all 12 cupcakes. Don’t discard the cored-out cylinders! They’ll come in handy in a bit.

Method
1 – Snip the tip of your mango coulis piping bag about ¼ cm wide. Squeeze about 1 teaspoon of mango coulis into each cupcake cavity, or until the filling comes up ¾ of the way to the top.

2 – Plug the cupcakes with the cored-out cylinders.

3 – Take your piping bag of mascarpone frosting out of the fridge and snip the tip about 1 ½ cm wide. Hold your piping bag perpendicular to the top of the cupcake with the tip suspended 1 cm above the cupcake. Keep the tip steady and squeeze frosting onto the cupcake. As the frosting spreads outwards and upwards, it will submerge a bit of the tip. Let this happen, don’t be tempted to lift the bag. Once you’re happy with the diameter of the frosting, slowly lift the piping bag to let the frosting dome get a little taller, then stop squeezing and lift up. Repeat for all 12 cupcakes.

4 – Place a single cube of fresh mango on top of each frosted cupcake.

5 – Finally, sprinkle each cupcake with 2-3 pinches of freeze dried mango powder.

6 – Place your cupcakes in an airtight container and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving. This will allow the mascarpone to fully set (plus, it tastes better cold).

7 – Serve your chilled cupcakes with extra mango coulis and fresh mangoes on the side. Now eat!

coring-out the cupcakes and keeping the cored-out cylinders handy
filling the cupcakes with mango coulis
all cupcakes filled with mango coulis
plugging the cupcakes with the cored-out cylinders
piping the mascarpone frosting
frosted cupcake
frosted cupcake topped with a fresh mango cube
assembled cupcakes being dusted with freeze-dried mango powder

Fully constructed, these don’t do well, sitting around for hours, either on your counter or inside the fridge. You don’t want the water content from the mango coulis and the mascarpone frosting to leech into the sponge and make it gloopy. Plus, fresh mango begins to oxidize and blacken when exposed to air. Be sure to core, fill, frost, and decorate only the cupcakes you’re going to eat immediately.

Tips & Tricks

How to core and fill a cupcake


How to pipe a simple dome of frosting
https://vib.by/v/7JORNuqri


Roast Chicken & Potato Salad

Makes 4-6 servings.

Roast chicken needn’t mean hours in the kitchen, especially during Summer. By opting for drumsticks, you can cut down on cook-time and still cook up heaps of flavour. Marinated simply with fresh herbs, common pantry spices, and good quality EVOO, this chicken is quick to make and delicious to eat. Now, everyone has their go-to potato salad recipe—tangy, smoky, creamy and topped with a crunchy bacon crumb—ours might just become yours! Here it is. Our ugly-delicious (and dare I say, no-fuss) way to enjoy these two picnic-friendly classics, featuring crusty garlic bread on the side. 

At a glance

– This dish comprises potato salad + roast chicken drumsticks + garlic bread.
– You will need a steamer, a 5-litre cooking pot, some medium cooking pots, some roasting trays, aluminium foil, and a large skillet.
– This recipe has been broken into 4 stages for ease and comprehension. Please read the entire recipe from start to finish before beginning.

Stage 1: potato salad

Ingredients
1. 1 kg waxy potatoes (new potatoes work well)
2. 1 ½ tsp table salt
3. 100 gm asparagus spears
4. 6 medium eggs

For the cook
5. 1 litre water for steaming
6. 3 litre water for boiling
7. 1 litre water + ice cubes for an ice bath

For the dressing
8. 100 gm mayonnaise
9. 100 gm sour cream
10. 50 gm relish
11. 1 ½ tsp apple cider vinegar
12. 1 tbsp. American mustard like this
13. ½ tsp yellow mustard powder like this
14. ¼ tsp white pepper powder
15. 1 tsp smoked paprika like this
16. ½ tsp celery salt like this
17. 1 tsp dried dill
18. 5 gm fresh chives

For the topping
19. 75 gm streaky bacon
20. 50 gm brown bread, roughly 2 large slices (stale is best)
21. 1/8 tsp salt

I don’t like the taste and texture of readymade relish, so I always make my own. To make 1 ½ cups of relish, finely chop up some bottled gherkins/cornichons, until you have 1 cup’s worth. Then finely chop some red onion until you have 1/4th cup’s worth. Place the chopped gherkins and onions in sterilised heat-proof jar and shake it about until they’re evenly mixed. Next, bring 60 ml white vinegar, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt to a boil in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Then boil for an additional 2 minutes until slightly reduced. Pour the hot pickling solution into the jar of chopped gherkins and onions and then put the lid on. Once the jar comes to room temperature, transfer it to the fridge and leave it to pickle for at least 5 days for best results. After it’s ready, you can use it with hot dogs or mix it into chicken/egg salads for some tangy, crunchy pops of texture. 

Prep
1 – Peel and cut your potatoes into 5 cm wide chunks. Keep the chunks submerged in cold water to prevent oxidation. Set aside.

2 – Clean your asparagus spears. Then, using a peeler or a sharp knife, trim away the tough, fibrous layer of each asparagus spear and then cut off the hard woody bottom ends. Now cut the asparagus spears into 8 cm batons. Set aside.

3 – Combine all the ingredients listed in ‘for the dressing’ and stir them together until well-mixed. This is your dressing. Place it in the fridge until ready to use.

Method
1 – Pour about 1 litre of water into your steamer pot and set it to boil. Once the water comes to a boil, place the peeled and cut potatoes on the steamer rack. Pop the lid on and steam your potato chunks on medium heat for 20-22 minutes, or until you can easily pierce through the potatoes with a fork.

2 – When the potatoes are cooked (fork-tender), transfer them from the steamer rack to a large bowl. Discard all the water.

3 – While the potatoes are hot and steaming, sprinkle in ½ teaspoon of table salt and toss the potato chunks to season them evenly.

4 – Now, grab the cold dressing from the fridge, drizzle it onto the hot potato chunks. Toss everything together once again to dress evenly. Set the bowl aside while you quickly boil your asparagus spears and eggs.

5 – Fill 2 medium pots with 1 ½ litres of water each. Bring both pots to a boil. 

6 – As soon as the water’s boiling, throw 1 teaspoon of salt into a pot and place your asparagus batons in it. Also fill a bowl with 1 litre of cold water and add some ice cubes to it. Boil the asparagus batons for 2 minutes and then immediately transfer them to the ice water bath. This will stop the cooking process and lock in the lovely green colour.

7 – Gently lower your eggs into the other pot of boiling water. Boil them for 8 minutes and then turn the stove off. Let them sit in the hot water for another 2 minutes, before removing them from the pot to cool.

8 – Using tongs, lift the asparagus batons out of the ice water and drain them on some kitchen paper.

9 – Peel the cooled eggs and then cut each one in half down the centre.

10 – Add the blanched asparagus batons and halved, boiled eggs to the potato salad. Gently mix everything together with a large spoon, taking care not to cut into the eggs.

11 – Cover the bowl of potato salad and place it in the fridge to chill for 8 hours to overnight. Potato salad tastes best when thoroughly chilled. 

12 – To make the topping, chop your bacon rashers into little chunks. Place them in a cold skillet and then begin heating it on low. Cook the bacon bits on low heat for 15-20 minutes until the fat completely renders and the meaty bits become crispy and brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove the crisped-up bacon and place it to drain on paper towels. Don’t throw away the stuff in the skillet! We’re about to use all that rendered fat. Place the skillet back on low heat. Crumble your bread slices into coarse crumbs and add them to the skillet. They will fizz in the fat! Fry the bread crumbs on low heat, tossing frequently, for 5-7 minutes until they are browned and crunchy (you’ll hear them ‘scraping about’ in the pan). Transfer the fried bread crumbs to some paper towels to drain, and immediately sprinkle them with the salt. Once both the bacon and bread crumbs are cool, transfer them to a bowl, toss them together and that’s it. Your salty, crunchy potato salad topping is ready! Give it a taste and add more salt if desired. Thereafter, place it in an airtight container and store it in the fridge. Since your potato salad needs an overnight chill, now’s the best time to proceed with Stage 2.

ingredients for the dressing + eggs
steaming the potato chunks
hot potato chunks being tossed in the dressing
asparagus spears cut into batons
boiling the asparagus batons
asparagus batons cooling in the ice water bath
boiling the eggs
halved, boiled eggs
bacon chunks and bread crumbs
frying off the bacon chunks
crispy bacon bits ready
frying the bread crumbs in the rendered bacon fat
crunchy bread crumbs ready
crunchy potato salad topping ready

Steaming potatoes is the best way to cook them without losing moisture or nutrients. We use the same cooking technique when we’re making mashed potatoes, as steaming prevents the potatoes from absorbing too much water and becoming gluey. Check out our mashed potato frosting recipe in our Meatloaf & Mash Cake. Avoid using lean bacon when making the topping, as there’s simply not enough fat to render out, and it tends to become chewy rather than crispy . While we’ve used asparagus to add some green crunch to the salad, you could just as well use French beans or broccoli if you prefer. Leave out the bacon and the eggs and use a vegetarian mayo to make this a completely vegetarian potato salad!

Stage 2: roast chicken drumsticks

Ingredients
1. 12 skinless chicken drumsticks 

For the marinade
2. 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary (2-3 sprigs)
3. 1 tbsp. fresh thyme (8-9 sprigs)
4. 1 tbsp. fresh oregano (5-6 sprigs)
5. 1 tbsp. onion powder
6. 1/2 tbsp. garlic powder
7. 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
8. 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
9. 1 tsp salt

Garlic butter for the roast
10. 200 gm salted butter (softened to room temperature)
11. 4-6 medium garlic cloves
12. 1/2 tsp salt

If you can’t get fresh rosemary, thyme, and oregano, you could use the dried variants, but they won’t be as nice. If using dried herbs, reduce the amounts to half tablespoon each. I don’t like cooking an entire chicken. Firstly, it’s a pain to prep, and then you have to baby sit it constantly so that the breast pieces don’t overcook while the legs are waiting to catch up. By using only the drumsticks, the time and effort is slashed. Plus, the legs are the juiciest, most-flavourful cuts, so there’s no fighting over the best pieces.

Method
1 – Clean, and then pat the chicken drumsticks dry with some paper towels. 

2 – Remove the leaves from your sprigs of rosemary, thyme, and oregano. You should be left with roughly 1 tablespoon of each type of fresh herb. Roughly chop up the herbs.

3 – Transfer the chopped herbs to a large bowl. Now add the onion powder, garlic powder, cracked black pepper, salt, and the extra virgin olive oil. Give it a good mix. This is your marinade.

4 – Pour the marinade over the chicken drumsticks and rub it very well into all the pieces. Marinate the chicken drumsticks for at least 2 hours or overnight in the fridge for best results.

5 – Make your garlic butter; use a garlic press to crush all the cloves of garlic. Then stir the minced garlic into your softened butter. Add the salt and mix once again until fully combined. Store your garlic butter in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.

6 – The following day (or at least 2 hours later), take your marinated chicken pieces out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 230OC.

7 – Line a roasting tray with aluminium foil and place you chicken pieces in the tray in one single layer.

8 – Take your garlic butter out of the fridge and cut twelve 2 x 2 cm squares, about ½ cm thick. Keep the rest of the garlic butter aside. It will be used in Stage 3.

9 – Place a square of garlic butter on each chicken drumstick. 

10 – Place your roasting tray on the highest rack of the oven. Roast the chicken drumsticks for 20 minutes at 230OC, upper heating only, turning the pieces over at the halfway mark. If you’re worried about undercooked chicken, insert a meat thermometer into the flesh next to the bone; fully cooked chicken will give a reading of 73-75OC.

11 – Take the chicken out of the oven. Heat up a large skillet on the stove on high until it’s nice and hot. 

12 – Transfer the chicken drumsticks to the hot skillet along with any residual roasting tray juices. Fry the pieces until you get a golden-brown sear on all sides, roughly 1-2 minutes per side.

13 – Your roast chicken drumsticks are ready! Remove them from the hot skillet and keep them on a tray to rest for 10 minutes – which is just enough time to whip up some garlic bread in Stage 3

If you don’t have an oven, you can cook and fry the pieces on the stove as well. You will need to add about 50-80 ml of water to the pan and cook the chicken covered, before pan-frying it at the end. Chicken cook-time depends on the size of the pieces. If you’re finicky like me, check the internal temperature of the biggest piece in the pan. It should be 73-75 OC or 165OF. Don’t worry if the temperature is higher than that. The beauty of chicken drumsticks is that they’re very forgiving and remain juicy even if slightly over-cooked. 


Stage 3: garlic bread

Ingredients
1. 2-3 baguette loaves ( 1 foot long, each) 
2. Remaining garlic butter made in Stage 2
3. Fresh flat leaf parsley (1-2 sprigs)

Crusty on the outside and fluffy on the inside, the baguette is the perfect vehicle for this punchy garlic butter. You could use any type of bread you like, but since both the chicken and the potatoes are soft-textured, we like a bread with a bit of crunch and bite.

Method
1 – Begin preheating your oven to 200OC, upper heating element only.

2 – Using a bread knife, saw your baguette loaves down the middle, lengthways, to get 1-foot long halves. 

3 – Generously butter the cut-side of each half with the garlic butter.

4 – Finely chop your parsley leaves. Scatter about 1/4 teaspoon of chopped parsley on the buttered-side of each loaf.

5 – Line a roasting tray with aluminium foil and place your garlic bread in the tray in one single layer, buttered-side up.

6 – Place your baking sheet on the highest rack of the oven. Bake the garlic bread for 10-15 minutes at 200OC, upper heating only, until the aroma of roasted garlic fills the air, and the buttered-side is golden brown.

7 – Take your garlic bread out of the oven and get ready to serve everything up.

8 – Serve the garlic bread while it’s hot, along with the rested, roasted chicken drumsticks, cold potato salad, and some chilled beer on the side. Remember to sprinkle each serving of potato salad with a generous amount of the bacon and breadcrumb topping. Now eat!

Both the potato salad and the roast chicken drumsticks transport really well and make for perfect picnic food. The garlic bread should only be toasted right before serving, else it gets chewy and difficult to eat. To make the garlic bread on-site, simply toast the prepared loaves on a barbeque grill until the buttered side is golden-brown and the garlic smells cooked and fragrant. We love the roast chicken drumstick hot or cold, so how you eat them outdoors depends on your preferences and circumstances. If you like them hot ‘n’ fresh and have access to fire, take your raw, marinated chicken drumsticks with you and make them on-site, barbeque-style! 


Tips & Tricks

How to trim asparagus


Baked Mango Cheesecake

Makes one 8 inch round cake.

Since it’s so hot here, attempts to whip up a delicious no-bake mango cheesecake were made. But after countless taste tests, our palates have come to a conclusion. No matter how well-set or cold – unbaked cheesecake tastes like mousse and is never as good as its baked counterpart. This cheesecake heroes the best thing about an Indian summer – the glorious Aphonso mango. Possessing a rich, creamy mouthfeel and bursting with fruity-fresh sweetness – it is totally worth the effort of turning on the oven. 

At a glance


– This cake comprises a biscuit crumb base + mango cheesecake filling + milk crumbs + mango coulis.
– You will need a blender, a 8 x 3 inch round springform pan, a deep roasting pan/baking pan that can contain the springform pan, a baking sheet, and baking parchment paper.
– This recipe has been broken into 6 stages for ease and comprehension. Please read the entire recipe from start to finish before beginning.

Stage 1: Master mango puree

Ingredients
1. Enough ripe Ratnagiri/Devgad Alphonso mangoes to yield 620 gm mango pulp (I used 6 medium mangoes, weighing roughly 240 gm each)

For the master mango puree, wait till your mangoes are super ripe, as this will ensure maximum flavour and sweetness. When you press the fruit, it should be firm but have a little give (but not be squishy). It will also be super fragrant near the stem. Additionally, if you’re using Ratnagiri Alphonso mangoes, the skin will be juuuust a tad wrinkled. Once cut open, the flesh will be sunset yellow-orange and not pale yellow.

1 – Extract 620 gm mango pulp from your mangoes. I like to cut off the cheeks and then scoop out the flesh with a spoon. To remove the flesh from around the seed; peel off the skin, cut off the flesh around the seed, and then squish the seed along the grain. This method lets you extract all the pulp without pulling off the fibres attached to the seed.

2 – Place the mango pulp into the jar of a blender and puree until completely smooth. This is the master mango puree. 

3 – Weigh out 120 gm of the master mango puree for the mango coulis.  Store it in an airtight container in the freezer until ready to use in Stage 5. 

4 – Set aside the remaining 500 gm for the mango cheesecake filling. Untreated mango begins to oxidise and blacken at room temperature and in the fridge. If you’re not going to make the cheesecake straight away, mix 4 tablespoons of sugar with the puree, then transfer the puree to an airtight container and store it in the freezer. To use it in Stage 3, keep the frozen mango puree in its container, place it on your counter to first thaw and then come to room temperature.

Ratnagiri Alphonso mangoes directly from the farm
slicing off the mango cheeks
scooping out the mango flesh from the cheeks
weighing before pureeing
puree for the cheesecake filling
puree for the mango coulis

If the mango is the king of fruits, the Aphonso (aka Hapus) mango is arguably the king of mangoes. Further, the Ratnagiri Alphonso and Devgad Alphonso variants are the Kings of Alphonso! Grown on the West Coast of India, just north of Goa—these two varieties are available only from mid-April to late May. If you have the privilege, please try to source Alphonso mangoes only for this dessert. Why? Thin skin, small seed, non-fibrous, orange coloured flesh, firm but buttery texture, silky mouthfeel, sweet and juicy pulp, heady aroma, unmatched flavour. Phew! And while Himsagar and Langra mangoes can vie with the Alphonso for best-tasting mango, they’re not as suitable for desserts as the Alphonso. For best results, use ripe and fresh Alphonso mangoes. If you cannot source this variety locally, or they’re simply not in season when you’re making this cheesecake, I recommend using canned Alphonso like this over using any other variety. I sourced 2 dozen fully ripe Ratnagiri Alphonso mangoes in mid-May and immediately made and froze a batch of master puree to use in this cheesecake. If you’re going the frozen puree route, mix 2 tablespoons of sugar per 250 gm puree and then freeze it. Frozen puree will keep for at least 6-9 months if stored correctly! Thaw the frozen puree inside its container and then bring it to room temperature before using it in the recipe. Once thawed, it should not be re-frozen. Store thawed puree in the fridge for up to a day.

Stage 2: Biscuit crumb base

Ingredients
1. 200 gm Shrewsbury biscuits (about 11 ¼ biscuits)
2. 1 tbsp. castor sugar
3. 50 gm unsalted butter, melted and cooled.

Prep
1 – Preheat your oven to 180OC.

2 – Grease a 3 inches tall, 8-inch round springform pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom and inside edges with parchment paper. Your parchment should stick up ½ an inch taller than the pan’s height.

Method
1 – Using a food processor, combine the Shrewsbury biscuits, castor sugar, and melted butter. Pulse until the mixture has the appearance and texture of wet sand.

2 – Press this crumbly mixture into the base of your prepared springform pan, using a flat-bottomed glass/cup to compress it into an even layer.

3 – Bake the base for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove it from the oven and let it cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Thereafter, store the pan it in the fridge if you live in a hot and humid location.

greased and lined springform pan
weighing out the biscuits
biscuit crumb mixture
pressing the biscuit crumb into a tight disc for the base

The reason the base is baked, is to prevent the liquidy filling from making it soggy. If you skip this step, you won’t get that great biscuit texture on the bottom. It’s so hot and humid in Mumbai, that I have to refrigerate the pan as soon as the base has come to room temperature. This is to prevent the butter content from separating from the crumbs. You won’t need to do this if you live in a cooler climate. If you cannot get Shrewsbury biscuits, you could use Scottish shortbread, French sable biscuits, or basic butter cookies. If you use the second two, leave out the sugar in the crust as they’re sweeter than shortbread. What you’re basically looking for is a mild-flavoured, buttery crumb, so don’t use graham crackers or digestive biscuits, or any sort of cookie that will compete with the mango flavour. This amount of biscuits will line an 8 inch round cake pan, or two 6 inch round cake pans. The bake time remains the same.


Stage 3: Mango cheesecake filling

Ingredients
1. 500 gm master mango puree
2. 500 gm full fat cream cheese like this (not cream cheese spread or the whipped stuff)
3. 300 gm good quality couverture white chocolate (30-36% fat content)
4. 120 gm sour cream
5. 2  tbsp. all purpose flour (20 gm)
6. 3 large eggs (171 gm in-shell weight, total)
7. 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
8. 3/4 tsp mango flavour like this
9. ½ tbsp. freshly grated lemon zest (from 3-4 small lemons)
10. Pinch of salt
11. 30-50 gm of castor sugar (if your mango puree is not as sweet as you’d like)
12. 1 ½ ltr water for a water bath or baine-marie

The high dairy-fat content in this recipe is what makes it so delicious. If you use cream cheese spread (which is whipped, lighter, and has more water content than plain cream cheese) or low fat cream cheese, you will compromise the taste AND stability of your cheesecake. Look for cream cheese with at least 33% fat and a moisture content of no more than 55%. If you have blonde chocolate on hand, all you need to do is melt it using your microwave or a baine-marie. Otherwise, like the rest of us mortals, you will need to “caramelise” white chocolate until it becomes blonde. Why have I put caramelise within double quotation marks? Because chocolate can’t actually be caramelised. Caramelising involves high heat, which would flat out burn it. In truth, white chocolate becomes caramel coloured & flavoured due to the ‘Maillard reaction’. So, it would be more accurate to say we’re “Maillarding the chocolate”! See this to know more. In this step, you’ll subject your chocolate to prolonged heating. That’s why it’s essential to use high quality couverture chocolate. Compound chocolate or candy melts will not work, as they will get dry, chalky, and burn. Clueless about “caramelising” chocolate in the microwave? Watch this video for a quick tutorial.


Prep
1 – Before beginning, ensure that all your ingredients are at room temperature (roughly 22OC).

2 – Wrap the outside of your springform pan with heavy duty foil. Do three layers for good measure. 

3 – Preheat your oven to 160OC.

4 – Zest your lemons.

5 – Chop the white chocolate into small shards. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl and set your microwave’s power to 900 watts. Microwave your chocolate for 60 seconds. Pull out your bowl and give it a stir. Your chocolate should be completely melted. Keep returning the bowl of melted chocolate to the microwave for 30 seconds at a time; stirring between each additional 30 seconds. What you’re aiming for is a colour and texture akin to very smooth and runny peanut butter. I had to return my bowl to the microwave 60 times to get the desired colour and consistency! That’s 60 x 30 second bursts. Depending on your microwave, you may be able to do it faster/slower. As your chocolate gradually browns, it will go through some massive textural changes; thickening, catching, drying out, become grainy and eventually re-emulsifying. Do not panic, this is perfectly normal. As long as you use top quality chocolate, heat it for just 30 second increments, and stir well after each increment, nothing will burn and all will be well. When your melted chocolate is the colour of peanut butter, at pourable consistency and no longer hot to the touch, it’s ready to be used in the batter.

6 – Fill your kettle with 1 ½ litres of water and set it to boil

Method
1 – In a large bowl, add the cream cheese. Using a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese until soft and smooth (about 1 minute).

2 – Add the sour cream, the all purpose flour, the vanilla extract, and the mango flavour, and beat to combine (about 30 seconds).

3 – With the mixer on the lowest setting, add the eggs, one at a time, beating in each one until combined. As soon as the last egg has been combined, stop beating. Scrape your bowl down to ensure everything has been mixed in. The mixture should be smooth and creamy, but you must not over-beat it, as this will result in air bubbles and cracking.

4 – Pour 500 gm master mango puree and the cooled and melted blonde chocolate into the bowl. Then add the lemon zest and the salt, and beat the mixture until combined, smooth, and homogenous. Do not over-beat. Scrape your bowl down to ensure everything has been mixed in.

5 – Now, taste your batter, if you feel it’s not sufficiently sweet, add 30-50 gm of castor sugar and mix once again. I added no additional sugar.

6 – Pour the mango cheesecake filling into your springform pan. Gently tap the pan on the counter a few times to level the surface and bring any hidden air bubbles to the top. Don’t be alarmed if the batter comes up higher than the tin, that’s what the extra parchment height is for.

7 – Place the wrapped pan inside your roasting pan/baking pan. Fill the roasting pan/baking pan with hot water, about 1 ½ inches up the sides of the springform pan. This is our water bath or baine-marie.

8 – Lower the oven temperature to 155OC. Carefully place the entire roasting pan/baking pan (containing the springform pan and hot water) into the oven and bake for 90-100 minutes at 155OC. The sides should be just a teensy bit puffy and centre should still have a decent wobble when you jiggle the pan.

9 – Turn off the heat, and keeping the oven door closed, let the cheesecake rest inside for 1 hour. Do not open the door before the hour is up. This is crucial to a flat cheesecake without any sinking or cracking.

10 – Thereafter, remove the baking pan containing the springform from the oven. Take out the springform pan from the baking pan and place it on a wire rack. Your cheesecake needs to come to room temperature before you can refrigerate it. Discard the water bath.

11 – While it’s still warm to the touch, gently run a paring knife around the outside of the cheesecake to loosen the parchment from the sides of the pan. This prevents pulling, which can cause cracks as the cheesecake cools. 

12 – Once sufficiently cool, remove the aluminium wrapping, cover the entire pan with plastic wrap, and transfer it to the fridge. The plastic should not touch the surface of the cheesecake. Chill it overnight or for 48 hours for best results.

springform double-wrapped in aluminium foil
creating the baine-marie (water bath)
baked mango cheesecake
perfectly flat
minimal cracking

When you’re pouring your cheesecake filling into your 8 inches wide x 3 inches tall springform pan, don’t be alarmed if the batter comes all the way to the top – it won’t rise, and the extra parchment lining will give your pan additional height. Because you’re using a water bath, your cake will cook evenly and gently, and sport zero cracks. Once it’s baked, don’t open your oven door for an entire hour. This will set your cheesecake fully and prevent it from sinking in the middle. When you do finally pull it out, it should look perfect. This amount of batter will also fill three 6 inch round cake pans that are 2 inches high. If you’re making smaller cheesecakes of this size, revise the bake-time to 70 minutes. You could stop right there. But. Your cheesecake needs 1-2 days to chill. Rather than idly waiting by the fridge, why not busy yourself with the little extras that will make this mango cheesecake extra? Scroll on!


Stage 4: Milk crumbs

Ingredients
1. 60 gm milk powder; divided into 40 gm and 20 gm
2. 40 gm all purpose flour
3. 15 gm corn flour
4. 25 gm castor sugar
5. ½ tsp salt
6. 55 gm butter, melted and cooled
7. 80 gm good quality couverture white chocolate (not chips)

Prep
1 – Preheat the oven to 110OC.

2 – Melt and cool your butter.

Method
1 – In a medium bowl, combine 40 gm milk powder, the all purpose flour, the corn flour, castor sugar and salt.

2 – Pour in the melted butter and stir together until you get a crumbly mixture with some wet clusters.

3 – Transfer the crumb clusters to a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 110OC for 45-55 minutes (or until they look mostly dried out). They will go from white to deep beige, but should not become brown. Remember to rotate the tray at the half-way mark for even cooking.

4 – Take the tray out of the oven and let it cool on a wire rack.

5 – While the crumb clusters are cooling, cut your white chocolate into small shards and place in a microwave safe plastic bowl. Microwave at 450 watts for 20 seconds. Stir briefly with a spatula and then microwave it for another 10 seconds. Thereafter, keep heating the mixture in 5 second increments until the chocolate has completely melted, making sure to stir briefly each time. The temperature of the white chocolate should reach no more than 29OC. It’s ready when most of it has melted and you can still see a few lumps, which will melt in the residual heat on stirring. Leave aside to cool. The chocolate should be pourable but not hot.

6 – Transfer the cooled crumb clusters to a bowl and break apart any that are larger than ½ inch chunks.

7 – Sprinkle the remaining 20 gm milk powder on top of the dried crumbs and toss together until evenly coated.

8 – Pour the melted white chocolate over the crumbs and toss with a spatula until evenly coated. They will now resemble pebbles.

9 – Toss the mixture with a spatula every 5 minutes, until the chocolate is completely cool and no longer sticky. If you live in a humid and hot location like I do, the chocolate will not set at room temperature. In such a situation, you will need to transfer the coated crumbs to a parchment-lined tray and let them firm up in the fridge. Using a fork, I fish out the largest crumbs and space them out on a tray to set in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. I also tip the smaller residual pasty crumbs into a makeshift mold and spread them into a thin layer. It sets as a thin block in the fridge, which can then be broken into shards #hotweatherhacks.

10 – Once they’re set, transfer the crumbs to an airtight container and keep it stored in the fridge until ready to use.

salt, castor sugar, unsalted butter, milk powder, all purpose flour, corn flour, white chocolate
wet milk crumb mixture
milk crumb mixture ready for baking
baked milk crumbs
cooled milk crumbs ready to be tossed in more milk powder and coated in white chocolate
milk crumbs tossed in milk powder
milk crumbs coated in melted white chocolate
coated milk crumbs laid out individually to set because of the hot weather
smaller, pasty crumbs transferred to a makeshift aluminium foil mould
both get placed in the fridge to set
milk crumbs ‘bar’ cut into shards
milk crumbs shards. Perfect to top desserts or just eat as a snack!

We first tasted ‘milk crumbs’ when we ordered the baked mango cheesecake from Bastian. Holy deliciousness Bastianman! Officially our favourite “mango cheesecake” (that you can buy in Mumbai), it’s actually a New York style cheesecake topped with fresh mango and something called ‘milk crumbs’. The malty-sweet crumb paired with the fresh mango flavour elevated the classic cheesecake to another level. I wanted to recreate that crumb for our cheesecake because it added so much texturally and flavour-wise. Although it doesn’t have the same depth of ‘maltiness’ as the Bastian milk crumb, please don’t leave it off! It takes very little effort and brings huge rewards. The quantity mentioned here is perfect for this cake. If you want to make more to top other desserts, simply scale up the amounts and store the extra crumbs in the fridge for up to 1 week.


Stage 5: Mango coulis

Ingredients
1. 120 gm master mango puree
2. 1 ½ tsp castor sugar
3. 1/4 tsp lemon juice (from 1/4 of a small lemon)
4. 1/8 tsp citric acid
5. 1/16 tsp salt

Thaw the frozen puree before making the coulis.  If using fresh mango, simply pulp 1 medium Alphonso mango and weigh out 120 gm. Don’t leave out the citric acid. It really boosts the mango flavour as well as prevents the sugar from crystallising later.

Method
1 – Place all the ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk together until smooth and homogenous. That’s it! Taste and add more sugar and lemon juice if desired. You’re looking for a bright, fresh mango taste.

2 – Transfer the coulis to a sterilised airtight container and store it in the fridge until ready to use.

This super simple coulis is fresh and intensely mango-ey and amazing as a dessert topping. I make a batch when I want instant mango flavour in ice creams, yoghurts, and the like. The amounts mentioned here are just enough to top each slice of mango cheesecake. If you want more or leftovers, you can easily double or triple the recipe as needed. As it is made with fresh fruit and has very little sugar and contains no preservatives, it should be made on the day you plan to serve your cake and used up within a day or two. 


Stage 6: FinaleUnmoulding, decorating & serving

Decorating components
1. 8-inch mango cheesecake, cooled for 24-48 hours
2. 3-4 large milk crumbs from Stage 4
3. Mango coulis from Stage 5
4. 1 ripe Alphonso mango
5. 3 white chocolate truffles like this
6. 4 white chocolate crispies like this
7. 5 baby spearmint leaves

Serving components
8. More ripe Alphonso mangoes, to serve (½ a mango per serving of cheesecake)
9. Milk crumbs from Stage 4
10. Mango coulis from Stage 5


Prep
1 – Keep the cheesecake in the fridge until you’re ready with all your components.

2 – Transfer your mango coulis to a piping bag for easy application.

3 – Slice off the cheeks from the mango. Thereafter use a round teaspoon measure to scoop out half-spheres of mango from the cheeks. I got 4 scoops per cheek, or 8 scoops per mango.

Method
1 –  When you’re ready to serve, take the cheesecake out of the fridge and release the springform. Very gently transfer the cake onto a serving platter/cake stand and carefully peel off the parchment from around it.

2 – To decorate, pour a 2-inch wide ‘river’ of mango coulis down the centre of the cake, letting it drip and pool down one edge.

3 – Arrange 8 mango half-spheres on top the coulis river.

4 – Stick the baby mint leaves into some of the mango half-spheres. They will look like mini mangoes!

5 – Dot the white chocolate truffles, the white chocolate crispies, and some milk crumbs between the mango half-spheres.

6 – Pop your cheesecake back in the fridge for half an hour. In the meantime, cut your mangoes into cubes. Watch this video to see how.

7 – Slice your cold mango cheesecake and serve each slice with fresh mango cubes, a generous drizzle of mango coulis, and some milk crumbs on the side. Now eat!

On its own, a baked mango cheesecake does not possess the bright flavours of fresh mango. It has the taste and texture of ‘bhapa aam doi’ (steamed mango-yoghurt pudding), where the mango flavour becomes somewhat dulled and muted (much like fresh strawberries baked into batters). To counter this, it absolutely essential to add some good quality mango flavour into the batter. Additionally, this baked mango cheesecake demands a generous topping of fresh Alphonso mango, to restore the pure mango flavour. If you’re not a fan of the baked mango taste, and prefer a classic cheesecake with a fresh topping, I recommend making our glorious New York Cheesecake, and topping it with our mango coulis and a generous heaping of fresh mango. That way, you can enjoy all the richness of a baked cheesecake as well as the flavour of fresh mango. To achieve the perfect cheesecake (taste-wise and visually), do try to follow this recipe to the tee. Make minor adjustments only if your oven runs hotter/colder than normal, or you’re using a 9 inch pan. To serve perfectly clean slices, dip your knife’s blade into a tall container of hot water, dry it off, and then cut downwards in one smooth motion. Wipe off the cake residue after each cut. Again; dip, dry, cut, wipe, repeat.

Tips & Tricks

How to line a springform:

How to cut a mango into cubes

How to slice a cheesecake:


Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Makes 15 large rolls

When it’s hot outside, there’s nothing worse than standing in front of a hot stove or oven. Enter Vietnamese spring rolls, which call for rice paper and minimal cooking! This recipe takes you through 5 types of spring rolls; 3 non-veg and 2 vegan. Cooling, refreshing, light, yet satisfying – each type is a nutritionally complete meal! Make all the types, or a permutation and combination of whatever appeals to you. Served with our homemade peanut dipping sauce, every flavour-packed roll is a perfect parcel of healthy protein, crunchy veggies, leafy greens, and sprightly herbs. 

At a glance

– This dish comprises 5 types of spring rolls + fried shallots & peanuts mix + peanut dipping sauce
– You will need a 22 cm wide frying pan, a deep frying pan, a tray/dish slightly wider than your wrappers, and a lint-free tea towel.
– This recipe has been broken into 3 stages for ease and comprehension. Please read the entire recipe from start to finish before beginning.


Stage 1: spring rolls


If you plan on making all 5 types of rolls, prepare all the filling elements ahead of time and keep them refrigerated until you’re ready to wrap and roll. A 100 gm pack of 22 cm round rice paper contains 9-10 wrappers, so if you buy this product, you will need to source at least 2 packs to make 15 rolls.

type 1; omelette spring rolls

Ingredients
for the omelette:
1. 3 large eggs (in-shell weight 57 gm)
2. 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
3. ¼ tsp salt

other elements:
4. 15-18 small edible flowers (we used pretty blue Borage flowers)
5. 15 fresh Thai basil leaves
6. ½ a yellow bell pepper
7. ½ a medium cucumber
8. 100 gm purple cabbage
9. 50 gm sunflower microgreens
10. 3 readymade rice paper wrappers (22 cm) like this
11. Enough plain water to dunk the rice paper wrappers

This amount fills 3 x 22 cm rice paper wrappers. If you want to make only this type, multiply the quantities by 5 to make 15 omelette spring rolls.

Prep
1 – To make the omelette, whisk together 3 large eggs with ¼ teaspoon salt. Then heat one tablespoon of oil in a non-stick frying pan over low heat. Pour in the beaten egg and swirl it around the pan until the egg is almost set. Allow to gently cook on the heat until the top of the omelette is just set. You don’t want it to brown at all. Touch the surface with your finger, it should no longer be tacky. Transfer the omelette to a cutting board and trim the edges to form a rectangle. My rectangle was roughly 16.5 cm x 13.5 cm. Now cut this rectangle into 3 equal strips measuring 5.5 cm x 13.5 cm each. Set aside. 

2 – Julienne the yellow bell pepper and cucumber into matchsticks, roughly 8 cm long and 2 mm wide. Finely slice the purple cabbage into thin strands, roughly 8 cm long and 1 mm wide. Set aside.

3 – Fill a shallow bowl (that’s a bit larger than the size of your wrapper) with an inch of plain water. Keep a lint-free tea towel next to the bowl. Make sure your prepared fillings are within reach.

cooking the omelette
cooling the omelette
cutting off the sides to get a rectangle measuring 16.5 cm x 13.5 cm
portioning the rectangle to get 3 equal strips, each measuring 5.5 cm x 13.5 cm
mise en place for omelette spring rolls
rice paper wrappers at the ready

Method

1 – To assemble the rolls, place a sheet of rice paper into the bowl of plain water. Count 2-3 seconds, lift the paper, and shake it off. Each brand has a differently soaking time, so you’ll learn to go by feel here. The soaked wrapper should still feel firm when you lift it out of the bowl, as it will continue to soften with the addition of fillings. Lay the dunked wrapper flat on a clean, lint-free tea towel. 

2 – Leave 3 cm on the left and right sides at all times for wrapping. Leaving a 6 cm gap from the top, arrange 5 edible flowers in the upper section of the wrapper, placing them face-downward. Then lay one strip of omelette on top of the flowers. Then place 5 basil leaves on top of the omelette. 

3 – Leaving a 6 cm gap from the bottom, arrange all the following on top of each other, in the lower section of the wrapper just below the strip of omelette; 1/3 of the purple cabbage, 1/3 cucumber, 1/3 of the yellow bell pepper, and 1/3 sunflower microgreens. 

4 – To roll, fold in the left and right sides of the wrapper. Then lift the bottom edge of the wrapper and fold it over the fillings in the lower section.  Now fold this “wrapped section” over the fillings in the upper section. Finally, roll up the entire parcel into a tight, neat cylindrical shape. Repeat for the other 2 omelette spring rolls. 

5 – Set aside and proceed to make the other types of rolls, or jump to Stage 2 and make the peanut dipping sauce.

dunking of the rice paper wrapper
dunked rice paper wrapper placed on a lint-free tea towel
How to wrap a spring roll; click image to enlarge

The rice paper wrappers tend to dry out with time or once chilled, so the rolls should be assembled shortly before serving. If you’d like to keep them fresh for an hour or so, wrap them up individually in cling wrap so that they stay moist. If you want to prepare them 4-5 hours in advance and store them in the fridge, wrap each roll individually in cling wrap and store them in an airtight container in the fridge. 


type 2; chicken spring rolls

Ingredients
for the boiled chicken:
1. 170 gm boneless chicken thigh
2. Enough water to submerge the chicken
3. ¼ tsp salt

other elements:
4. 3 long romaine lettuce leaves
5. 12 baby spinach leaves
6. ½ a medium carrot
7. 12 fresh spearmint leaves
8. 6 sprigs of fresh coriander
9. 3 readymade rice paper wrappers (22 cm) like this
10. Enough plain water to dunk the rice paper wrappers

This amount fills 3 x 22 cm rice paper wrappers. If you want to make only this type, multiply the quantities by 5 to make 15 chicken spring rolls.


Prep
1 – To make the chicken, simmer the chicken thighs in water for 10-12 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 75OC. Remove the chicken thighs and then shred into fine strands and season with salt. You will get about 100 gm shredded chicken. Set aside. (Reserve any leftover chicken stock for soups or gravies or in our case, catses!)

2 – Julienne the carrot into matchsticks, roughly 8 cm long and 2 mm wide. Set aside.

3 – Fill a shallow bowl (that’s a bit larger than the size of your wrapper) with an inch of plain water. Keep a lint-free tea towel next to the bowl. Make sure your prepared fillings are within reach.

boiled and shredded chicken
mise en place for chicken spring rolls
rice paper wrappers at the ready

Method

1 – To assemble the rolls, place a sheet of rice paper into the bowl of plain water. Count 2-3 seconds, lift the paper, and shake it off. Each brand has a differently soaking time, so you’ll learn to go by feel here. The soaked wrapper should still feel firm when you lift it out of the bowl, as it will continue to soften with the addition of fillings. Lay the dunked wrapper flat on a clean, lint-free tea towel.

2 – Leave 3 cm on the left and right sides at all times for wrapping. Leaving a 6 cm gap from the top, arrange 1 romaine lettuce leaf in the upper section of the wrapper, ensuring that the stem is horizontal to you. Then place 1/3 of the shredded chicken on the lettuce leaf. 

3 – Leaving a 6 cm gap from the bottom, arrange all the following on top of each other, in the lower section of the wrapper just below the shredded chicken; 4 baby spinach leaves overlapping the tops with the bottoms, 1/3 of the carrots, 2 coriander sprigs, and 4 spearmint leaves.

4 – To roll, fold in the left and right sides of the wrapper. Then lift the bottom edge of the wrapper and fold it over the fillings in the lower section.  Now fold this “wrapped section” over the fillings in the upper section. Finally, roll up the entire parcel into a tight, neat cylindrical shape. Repeat for the other 2 chicken spring rolls. 

5 – Set aside and proceed to make the other types of rolls, or jump to Stage 2 and make the peanut dipping sauce.

dunking of the rice paper wrapper
dunked rice paper wrapper placed on a lint-free tea towel
How to wrap a spring roll; click image to enlarge

The rice paper wrappers tend to dry out with time or once chilled, so the rolls should be assembled shortly before serving. If you’d like to keep them fresh for an hour or so, wrap them up individually in cling wrap so that they stay moist. If you want to prepare them 4-5 hours in advance and store them in the fridge, wrap each roll individually in cling wrap and store them in an airtight container in the fridge. 


type 3; prawn spring rolls

Ingredients
for the seared prawns:
1. 9 medium prawns, shelled and deveined
2. 1 tbsp. gochujang paste like this
3. ½ tbsp. Sriracha like this
4. 2 tsp soy sauce
5. 1 tbsp. vegetable oil

for the noodles:
6. 50 gm rice vermicelli like this
7. 1 litre just boiled water to soak
8. 1 litre ice water to rinse
9. 1 tsp vegetable oil

other elements:
10. 6 small Thai basil leaves
11. 6 butter lettuce leaves
12. Fresh garlic chives
13. 3 small kaffir lime leaves
14. 3 readymade rice paper wrappers (22 cm) like this
15. Enough plain water to dunk the rice paper wrappers

This amount fills 3 x 22 cm rice paper wrappers. If you want to make only this type, multiply the quantities by 5 to make 15 prawn spring rolls.


Prep
1 – To make the prawns, whisk together the gochujang paste, Sriracha and soy sauce in a medium bowl. Add the shelled and deveined prawns and coat them with the marinade. Heat the vegetable oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Shake off the marinade from the prawns and add the prawns to the hot pan. It will splutter! Cook them for 2 minutes on each side or until they’re fully cooked. Then transfer them to a plate and cool to room temperature. Set aside. (After I fry the prawns, I like to fry the leftover marinade in the same pan for about 2-3 minutes. I then transfer this ‘sauce’ to a bowl. It’s intensely flavourful and can be added to stir fried veggies or noodles, or even slathered on any already cooked proteins. Do not waste it!)

2 – To make the noodles, place the rice vermicelli in a medium bowl. Pour 1 litre of just boiled water on top of the noodles to fully submerge them. Let the noodles soak for 3-4 minutes. Then using tongs, transfer them to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. As soon as the noodles are cool to the touch, pull apart 3 separate portions, and gently squeeze out the water from each portion. Drizzle 1/3 teaspoon vegetable oil on each portion of noodles and toss gently to coat. Arrange each portion on a plate. Set aside.

3 – Cut the garlic chives into 8 cm long blades and portion out 4 blades per roll. Remove the thick stems of the kaffir lime leave. Then roll each leaf into a tight cigar and slice it very finely (this herb slicing technique is known as ‘chiffonade’). You could also use sharp scissors for this. Set aside.

4 – Fill a shallow bowl (that’s a bit larger than the size of your wrapper) with an inch of plain water. Keep a lint-free tea towel next to the bowl. Make sure your prepared fillings are within reach.

marinating the prawns
cooking the prawns
sauce from the collected pan drippings of the cooked prawns & leftover marinade
soaking rice vermicelli in recently boiled hot water
cooling hydrated rice vermicelli in ice water
squeezing out excess water from hydrated rice vermicelli
oil-coated and portioned rice vermicelli
mise en place for prawn spring rolls
rice paper wrappers at the ready

Method

1 – To assemble the rolls, place a sheet of rice paper into the bowl of plain water. Count 2-3 seconds, lift the paper, and shake it off. Each brand has a differently soaking time, so you’ll learn to go by feel here. The soaked wrapper should still feel firm when you lift it out of the bowl, as it will continue to soften with the addition of fillings. Lay the dunked wrapper flat on a clean, lint-free tea towel.

2 – Leave 3 cm on the left and right sides at all times for wrapping. Leaving a 6 cm gap from the top, place 3 cooked prawns in a single line in the upper section of the wrapper, maintaining a 1 cm gap between each prawn. Now place a small Thai basil leaf, face-downwards in each of the gaps between the prawns. 

3 – Leaving a 6 cm gap from the bottom, arrange all the following on top of each other, in the lower section of the wrapper just below the prawns; 1 portion of the rehydrated vermicelli noodles, 4 garlic chives, 1/3 of the kaffir lime leaves chiffonade, and then 2 butter lettuce leaves overlapping each other to fit.

4 – To roll, fold in the left and right sides of the wrapper. Then lift the bottom edge of the wrapper and fold it over the fillings in the lower section.  Now fold this “wrapped section” over the fillings in the upper section. Finally, roll up the entire parcel into a tight, neat cylindrical shape. Repeat for the other 2 prawn spring rolls. 

5 – Set aside and proceed to make the other types of rolls, or jump to Stage 2 and make the peanut dipping sauce.

dunking of the rice paper wrapper
dunked rice paper wrapper placed on a lint-free tea towel
How to wrap a spring roll; click image to enlarge

The rice paper wrappers tend to dry out with time or once chilled, so the rolls should be assembled shortly before serving. If you’d like to keep them fresh for an hour or so, wrap them up individually in cling wrap so that they stay moist. If you want to prepare them 4-5 hours in advance and store them in the fridge, wrap each roll individually in cling wrap and store them in an airtight container in the fridge. 


type 4; mushroom spring rolls (vegan)

Ingredients
for the button mushrooms:
1. 6 medium button mushrooms/shiitake mushrooms
2. ½ tbsp. vegetable oil
3. 1 tsp soy sauce
4. 1/8 tsp salt

for the enoki mushrooms:
5. 100 gm enoki mushrooms
6. ½ tbsp. vegetable oil
7. 1 tsp soy sauce
8. 1 tsp kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)

other elements:
9. 1 green bell pepper
10. 50 gm Chinese cabbage
11. 9 small fresh Thai basil leaves + 15 regular sized leaves
12. 18 cm green onion stem
13. 3 readymade rice paper wrappers (22 cm) like this
14. Enough plain water to dunk the rice paper wrappers

This amount fills 3 x 22 cm rice paper wrappers. If you want to make only this type, multiply the quantities by 5 to make 15 mushroom spring rolls.

Prep
1 – To make the button mushrooms, cut each down the middle. Then heat ½ tablespoon of oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushroom halves and the soy sauce and fry them for 3-4 minutes on each side. Then transfer them to a plate, season with 1/8 tsp salt and let them cool to room temperature. Set aside.

2 – To make the enoki mushrooms, cut off the bottom 4 cm of the mushrooms (where they’re attached) and discard. Gently separate the individual strands of mushroom and give them a quick rinse. Then heat ½ tablespoon of oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the soy sauce and the kecap manis to the pan. Then add the mushrooms and stir-fry them for 1 minute. Then transfer them to a plate and cool to room temperature. Set aside.

3 – Julienne the green bell pepper into matchsticks, roughly 8 cm long and 2mm wide. Finely slice the Chinese cabbage into thin strands, roughly 8 cm long and 1 mm wide. Finely slice the green onion stem along the dias (into thin diagonals). Set aside.

4 – Fill a shallow bowl (that’s a bit larger than the size of your wrapper) with an inch of plain water. Keep a lint-free tea towel next to the bowl. Make sure your prepared fillings are within reach.

stir-fried button mushrooms
stir-fried enoki mushrooms
mise en place for mushroom spring rolls
rice paper wrappers at the ready

Method

1 – To assemble the rolls, place a sheet of rice paper into the bowl of plain water. Count 2-3 seconds, lift the paper, and shake it off. Each brand has a differently soaking time, so you’ll learn to go by feel here. The soaked wrapper should still feel firm when you lift it out of the bowl, as it will continue to soften with the addition of fillings. Lay the dunked wrapper flat on a clean, lint-free tea towel.

2 – Leave 3 cm on the left and right sides at all times for wrapping. Leaving a 6 cm gap from the top, place 4 mushroom halves in a single line in the upper section of the wrapper, maintaining a 2 cm gap between each prawn. Now place a small Thai basil leaf, face-downward in each of the gaps between the mushrooms. 

3 – Leaving a 6 cm gap from the bottom, arrange all the following on top of each other, in the lower section of the wrapper just below the mushrooms; 1/3 of the green bell pepper, 1/3 stir-fried enoki mushrooms, 1/3 of the sliced Chinese cabbage, 5 Thai basil leaves, and 1/3 of the green onion diagonals.

4 – To roll, fold in the left and right sides of the wrapper. Then lift the bottom edge of the wrapper and fold it over the fillings in the lower section.  Now fold this “wrapped section” over the fillings in the upper section. Finally, roll up the entire parcel into a tight, neat cylindrical shape. Repeat for the other 2 mushroom spring rolls. 

5 – Set aside and proceed to make the other types of rolls, or jump to Stage 2 and make the peanut dipping sauce.

dunking of the rice paper wrapper
dunked rice paper wrapper placed on a lint-free tea towel
How to wrap a spring roll; click image to enlarge

The rice paper wrappers tend to dry out with time or once chilled, so the rolls should be assembled shortly before serving. If you’d like to keep them fresh for an hour or so, wrap them up individually in cling wrap so that they stay moist. If you want to prepare them 4-5 hours in advance and store them in the fridge, wrap each roll individually in cling wrap and store them in an airtight container in the fridge. 


type 5; tofu spring rolls (vegan)

Ingredients
for the baked tofu:
1. 200 gm firm or extra firm tofu
2. 1 tbsp. unflavoured vegetable oil
3. ¼ tsp toasted sesame oil
4. 1 tbsp. Sriracha
5. 1 tbsp. soy sauce
6. 1 tbsp. honey
7. 1 tbsp. corn flour
8. 1/8 tsp salt

for the pickled onion
9. 1 large shallot
10. 1 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice from a green lime
11. 1/8 tsp salt
12. 1/4 tsp white granulated sugar

other elements:
13. 3 long/6 small radicchio leaves
14. 6 sprigs of fresh coriander
15. ½ a red bell pepper
16. 1 tsp freshly grated lime zest from a green lime
17. 1 tbsp. white sesame seeds
18. 3 readymade rice paper wrappers (22 cm) like this
19. Enough plain water to dunk the rice paper wrappers

This amount fills 3 x 22 cm rice paper wrappers. If you want to make only this type, multiply the quantities by 5 to make 15 tofu spring rolls.

Prep
1 – To make the tofu, first press your tofu for 60-90 minutes. Click here to see how. Your tofu will have significantly shrunk (weighing about 140 gm) after losing most of its water weight. Thereafter, slice the tofu into 8 cm x 1 cm rods. Then preheat your oven to 200OC and line a baking tray with parchment paper. In a flat dish, mix together the vegetable oil, sesame oil, the Sriracha, the soy sauce, and the honey. Lay the tofu rods in this mixture and toss them in it. If you’ve correctly pressed your tofu, it will soak the mixture up completely. Now sprinkle 1 tablespoon of corn flour onto the rods and gently toss once again. Arrange the rods on the parchment-lined baking sheet, maintaining a 2 cm gap between each rod. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 200OC. Then take out your baking sheet and flip each rod over. Bake for an additional 10-12 minutes or until the tofu is browned, crispy, and dry. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with salt and cool to room temperature. Set aside.

2 – Cut your shallot down the middle and then finely slice each half crosswise. Drizzle the slices with 1 tsp of freshly squeezed lime juice. Sprinkle the salt and the sugar and gently toss. Leave it to steep for 20 minutes or until the raw taste disappears. Keep the romaine lettuce leaves whole. Set aside.

3 – Julienne the red bell pepper into matchsticks, roughly 8 cm long and 2 mm wide. Set aside.

4 – Zest your green lime. You may need to zest 2-3 to get 1 tsp worth. Set aside in an airtight container.

5 – Toast the sesame seeds in a pan for 5-7 minutes until lightly golden and they smell nutty. Set aside.

6 – Fill a shallow bowl (that’s a bit larger than the size of your wrapper) with an inch of plain water. Keep a lint-free tea towel next to the bowl. Make sure your prepared fillings are within reach.

tofu rods
tofu rods marinating
tofu rods tossed with corn flour
half-way baked tofu rods
fully-baked tofu rods
pickled shallots
toasted sesame seeds
mise en place for tofu spring rolls
rice paper wrappers at the ready

Method

1 – To assemble the rolls, place a sheet of rice paper into the bowl of plain water. Count 2-3 seconds, lift the paper, and shake it off. Each brand has a differently soaking time, so you’ll learn to go by feel here. The soaked wrapper should still feel firm when you lift it out of the bowl, as it will continue to soften with the addition of fillings. Lay the dunked wrapper flat on a clean, lint-free tea towel.

2 – Leave 3 cm on the left and right sides at all times for wrapping. Leaving a 6 cm gap from the top, arrange 2 radicchio leaves one overlapping the other, in the upper section of the wrapper. Then place 4 tofu rods on the radicchio leaves. 

3 – Leaving a 6 cm gap from the bottom, arrange all the following on top of each other, in the lower section of the wrapper just below the tofu rods; 1/3 of the red bell pepper, 1/3 pickled shallots, 2 coriander sprigs, 1/3 of the lime zest, and 1/3 of the toasted sesame seeds

4 – To roll, fold in the left and right sides of the wrapper. Then lift the bottom edge of the wrapper and fold it over the fillings in the lower section.  Now fold this “wrapped section” over the fillings in the upper section. Finally, roll up the entire parcel into a tight, neat cylindrical shape. Repeat for the other 2 tofu spring rolls. 

5 – Set aside and proceed to make the other types of rolls, or jump to Stage 2 and make the peanut dipping sauce.

dunking of the rice paper wrapper
dunked rice paper wrapper placed on a lint-free tea towel
How to wrap a spring roll; click image to enlarge

The rice paper wrappers tend to dry out with time or once chilled, so the rolls should be assembled shortly before serving. If you’d like to keep them fresh for an hour or so, wrap them up individually in cling wrap so that they stay moist. If you want to prepare them 4-5 hours in advance and store them in the fridge, wrap each roll individually in cling wrap and store them in an airtight container in the fridge. 


Stage 2: fried shallots & peanuts mix (vegan)

Ingredients
1. 200 gm shallots
2. 1 ltr vegetable oil or canola oil
3. 100 gm raw peanuts (skinless)
4. 1/4 tsp salt
5. 1 tsp red chilli flakes

Please use shallots and not regular onions for this mix. Intensely flavourful, fried shallots are a lot sweeter than fried onions (aka birista). Although both are prepared in a similar manner, birista is more suited to Persianate pilafs and meat dishes, and doesn’t quite work in this dish. Check out my recipe for birista here.

Method
1 – Peel your shallots. Cut them in half lengthwise, and then cut each half into fine slices (roughly 2 mm wide). 

2 – Grab a deep frying pan. Heat up the vegetable oil in it. The depth of the oil should be at least 9-10 cm so that the shallots can deep fry. 

3 – When the oil reaches 180OC, add the sliced shallots, lower the heat to medium-low and deep fry them for 15-20 minutes or until they’re a deep golden colour and crispy. Frequently stir the shallots as they’re frying for even browning. When they’re done, they will stop ‘fizzing’ and sort of float up to the surface of the oil. 

4 – Immediately remove the fried shallots from the pan and spread them out to drain on kitchen paper for 5 minutes. They will continue to cook after they’re out of the oil. Immediately season the shallots with ¼ tsp salt. You will have about 70 gm fried shallots.

5 – In the same hot oil, deep-fry the raw peanuts until golden-brown. This will take roughly 5-8 minutes. 

6 – Remove the peanuts from the oil and spread them out to drain on kitchen paper. Let them cool fully. Then transfer them to a mortar and pestle and begin pounding until you have a mixture of rough chunks and smaller crumbs. Do not powder.

7 – Place the peanut chunks, fried shallots, and red chilli flakes inside a plastic releasable bag. Close the bag and then squish it about to crush and mix the ingredients together. Fried shallots & peanuts mix ready. Keep it stored inside an airtight container in the fridge until you are ready to make your peanut sauce. 

fried shallots left, fried peanuts right
pounding the fried peanuts into rough chunks
mix mix mix

This makes about 175-180 gm of the mix. You will need only 2 tablespoons for one serving of peanut sauce, so keep it stored in the fridge for up to a week for whenever you want to use it. We sprinkle it on South East Asian stir fries and salads and even use it in peanut butter sandwiches! 

Stage 3: peanut dipping sauce (vegan)

I don’t normally claim “this is the best ever” version of anything, but I promise you, this is the yummiest peanut dipping sauce we have ever had. Better than anything we’ve tasted in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and even Thailand. Please do give it a try!

Ingredients
1. 4 tbsp. creamy peanut butter
2. 2 tbsp. hoisin sauce like this
3. 2 tbsp. Sriracha like this
4. 2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
5. 1 tsp honey
6. 3 tbsp. thick coconut milk
7. 2 tbsp. fried shallots & peanuts mix
8. 1/8 tsp salt (if required)

Method
1 – In a small bowl, add all the ingredients listed in except for the salt and the fried shallots & peanuts mix. Whisk well to combine. Then taste the sauce and add salt to taste. We didn’t any extra salt.

2 – Top the sauce with 2 tbsp. of the fried shallots & peanuts mix.

3 – Serve the dipping sauce alongside your prepared spring rolls. Now eat!

Most peanut dipping sauces call for 1-2 pods of minced garlic. However, we (well, I) cannot abide by the taste (and hours of aftertaste) of raw garlic, so I leave it out. Feel free to include it in the recipe, but since Sriracha contains garlic, this sauce is sufficiently garlicy as is. You can make this sauce ahead of the rolls and store it in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week. Simply bring it to room temperature and give it another quick whisk, and top with the fried shallots & peanuts mix before serving.


Stickylicious Blondies

Makes 9 blondies; 2 ½ x 2 ½ inches, each. 
If my Fudgilicious Brownies are a bitter-sweet indulgence for adult palates, my Stickylicious Blondies will straight up appeal to the sweet-craving child in you. Moist with butterscotch and sticky with caramel, each bite brings the warmth of cinnamon, the sweetness of vanilla, and the crunch of coarse sea salt. With its crusty top and squishy insides, these blondies are chewy, gooey, and totally scrumdiddlyumptious. Bring napkins. This could get messy.


At a glance

– You will need a medium, heavy-bottomed steel saucepan, an 8 inch square metal brownie pan, and baking parchment.
– This recipe has been broken into 3 stages for ease and comprehension. Please read the entire recipe from start to finish before beginning.


Stage 1: make the cinnamon-caramel goop

Even though blondies have a distinct caramel-like taste, they’re actually made with brown sugar and melted butter, which is the base for butterscotch. Read about the difference between butterscotch and caramel here. In my blondies, I have added a caramel layer for extra flavour and stickiness. Because no one should have to choose between butterscotch and caramel, right? 

Ingredients
1. 110 gm white castor sugar
2. 30 ml corn syrup
3. 15 ml water
4. 45 ml heavy cream, at room temperature
5. ½ tsp vanilla extract
6. 10 gm butter, at room temperature
7. 1 tsp coarse sea salt
8. 1 tsp cinnamon powder

Method
1 – Combine the vanilla and heavy cream in a small jug and set it aside. 

2 – Take a medium, heavy-bottomed steel saucepan. Place the sugar, the corn syrup, and the water inside, and give it a stir.  

3 – Place the saucepan on medium heat. You can stir the mixture at this point to encourage the sugar to dissolve. Once the sugar has dissolved, stop stirring and pop the lid on. This is the easiest way to prevent your mixture from crystallizing, as the condensation formed will drip down and melt any stray sugar particles on the sides of your pan. If you’re worried about uneven heating, swirl the entire pan on the hob. Do not stir wet caramel. Ever.

4 – Watch your saucepan like a hawk, lifting the lid to peek at the mixture every now and again. Once the water has completely boiled away, and the remaining sugar is a pure, clear liquid (160OC), lower the heat to minimum and take the lid off.

5 – As soon as the caramel turns amber (170-173OC), start paying close attention.

6 – Once the caramel is a nice medium-dark amber, (174-176OC) take the pan off the heat. Whisking continuously, very slowly and carefully trickle in the cream, leaving about a tablespoon’s worth in the jug. Continue whisking, until you have a smooth, homogenous, velvety sauce.

7 – Once the mixture has stopped bubbling and steaming, add the butter, the coarse sea salt, and the cinnamon. Whisk until the butter has fully melted and emulsified into the sauce. Let the sauce cool for about 5 minutes.

8 – Finally, stir in the remaining cream. Bring the goop to room temperature or just warm before using. Cinnamon-caramel goop is ready. Set it aside.

If you’ve never made caramel before, read this and thisBecause this cinnamon caramel goop will be baked into the batter, it is waaaaaay thicker in consistency than my Salted Caramel Sauce, which is ideal for pouring over desserts. This component can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the fridge. When you’re ready to bake your blondie, gently warm the goop in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time to bring it back to a ‘scoopable’ consistency.


Stage 2: make the blondie batter

Blondies have the same richness and chewiness as a brownie, but the dominant flavours are vanilla and caramel rather than chocolate. While you can definitely fold in any kind of chocolate chips into the batter, you would never incorporate cocoa powder or melted chocolate into a blondie.

Ingredients
1. 200 gm all purpose flour
2. 1 tbsp. corn flour
3. 1 tsp baking powder
4. 1 tsp salt
5. 1 tbsp. cinnamon powder
6. 140 gm unsalted butter
7. 280 gm dark muscovado sugar
8. 1 large egg (57 gm in-shell weight) at room temperature
9. 2 egg yolks from large eggs at room temperature
10. 1 tbsp. vanilla extract

Prep
1 – Grease your brownie pan. Line it with parchment all the way up the height of the pan and then grease the parchment. Keep aside.

2 – In a medium bowl, place the flour, the corn flour, the baking powder, the salt, and the cinnamon powder. Whisk together well to combine and then set it aside. This is your dry mixture. 

3 – Start preheating your oven to 170OC. 15-20 minutes should suffice.

Method
1 – Add the butter to a large pot and begin melting it on the stovetop over low heat. Simmer the butter on low for a minute and then turn off the heat. The butter should be hot and sputtering, but not browned. 

2 – Immediately add the dark muscovado sugar to the pot of hot butter and keep whisking together until the mixture comes together as a paste and is no longer hot. This will take roughly 5-8 minutes. You should be able to dip your finger into it and it should feel just warm. Don’t worry if the sugar separates from the oil, as the eggs will bring the batter back together.

3 – Add the egg and egg yolks one at a time and and whisk them into the barely warm mixture until thoroughly combined. The batter will become homogenous with the addition of the eggs.

4 – Then add the vanilla and whisk until combined.

5 – Add the dry mixture to the pot. Using a rubber spatula, stir it into the wet mixture until you no longer see any floury pockets and the batter looks homogenous. This is one occasion where it doesn’t matter if you overmix, as you actually want to encourage gluten formation so that you get a fudgy blondie texture. Once you’re done mixing, the batter will be really thick, and fairly tough to stir at this point. Blondie batter is ready, set it aside momentarily while you get ready for the next and final stage.

A blondie is as flavourful and moist as the brown sugar you use, so if you cannot find dark muscavado sugar, then the next best thing is dark brown sugar. Light brown sugar simply doesn’t contain as much molasses—so it won’t impart as much moisture or yield the same degree of fudginess. For richness and gooeyness, you want 1 whole egg and two egg yolks. Separating eggs can be a pain, but if you decide to go with 3 whole eggs instead of leaving out the whites, your blondies will be airy and cakey. Save the spare egg whites and use them to make macaron shells in my Parle-G Xmas Macarons or vanilla chiffon cake in my Strawberries & Cream Cake. While there’s no place for baking powder or corn flour in a brownie, these heavy duty blondies need a little bit of lift and lightness owing to the cinnamon-caramel sauce layer. Without these, your blondies will be too heavy. Once your batter is mixed, you can fold in anything you like; butterscotch bits, chocolate chips, toasted nuts etc. We like our blondies without all the bells and whistles for an unadulterated blondies flavour.


Stage 3: construct the blondie

Components
1. Cinnamon-caramel goop
2. Blondie batter
3. ¼ tsp coarse sea salt
4.  Topping; ½ tsp castor sugar + ½ tsp cinnamon powder

Method
1 – Transfer half the blondie batter into your prepared brownie pan. Spread and smooth it out with an offset spatula so that it sits in an even layer. 

2 – With the help of two spoons, dollop the cinnamon-caramel goop on top of the blondie batter, staying within ½ an inch of the edges of the blondie batter. It will level out on its own.

3 – Evenly sprinkle ¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt on this layer.

4 – Get the other half of the blondie batter and dollop it as evenly as possible over the cinnamon-caramel goop layer. Make sure to spread it all the way to the edges of the pan if it doesn’t level out on its own.

5 – Place the castor sugar and the cinnamon powder in a small bowl. Whisk together to combine. This is your topping. Evenly sprinkle it onto the surface of the blondie.

6 – Place the pan inside your preheated oven. Bake at 170OC for 23-25 minutes, rotating the pan at the halfway mark. 

7 – At 23 minutes, feel the surface of the blondie; the surface should spring back when you gently apply pressure. Check the corners with a bamboo skewer; you should see some crumbs and gooeyness because of the caramel layer and the ultra-moist batter. Unlike a cake, you’re not looking for the skewer to come out clean. A clean skewer means a cakey, over-baked, dry blondie. Now, taste the batter on the skewer. If it doesn’t taste raw, your blondies are done and should be pulled out of the oven. Remember, it will continue to cook on your countertop as it cools, so it’s better to slightly under-bake than overbake them.

8 – Take your pan out of the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool. Let it cool completely (for at least 2 hours) before cutting into the blondies, as this helps them to set up. If you attempt to do this while they’re warm, they will simply fall apart.

9 – To serve, take hold of the parchment and lift the blondies out of the pan. Cut the blondies into 9 equal squares measuring 2.5 x 2.5 inches. Your knife will be smeared with sticky caramel with each cut if you’ve got the cook just right. Store leftover blondies in an airtight container at room temperature. Now eat!

All ovens are different. Like me, you too will have to experiment and see which settings will give you the best results.  If you use the convection mode, you’ll have to lower the temperature accordingly. If you have only top heating rods, you’ll have to adjust for that. In my oven, the middle rack at 170OC (upper and lower heating, non-convection) for a total bake time of 24 minutes yields the best blondies. I also turn my pan around when I put it back in for the final bake, to account for any potential uneven heating. 


Tips & Tricks

How to line a square baking pan with parchment:


Salmon Salad & Solkadi

Makes 4 servings

Summertime in Bombay is a heat-stroke waiting to happen. Thankfully the folks in these parts have found a way to beat the heat. Behold, nature’s twin coolants—coconut and kokum! Blitzed together, they form ‘Solkadi’ a magic potion that is 99% cold beverage and 1% spicy curry. In this episode of How I Hate the Stove in Summer, I’ve made a light entrée—where I’ve treated this chilled, tangy concoction as a dressing to accompany a quick pan-seared salmon, raw salad components, and some very cool home experiments with molecular gastronomy. Intrigued? Scroll on!


At a glance

– This dish comprises pan-seared salmon solkadi + coconut water caviar & mango juice caviar (optional) + fresh fruit, veg, greens and herbs.
– You will need a blender, some muslin/cheesecloth, a large fine-meshed sieve, a large non-stick frying pan, some tall glasses, and some squeeze bottles.
– This recipe has been broken into 5 stages for ease and comprehension. Please read the entire recipe from start to finish before beginning.

Stage 1: Solkadi


Consumed during Summertime in Maharashtra (and all along the Konkan coast), Solkadi/Kokum Curry/Goan Sol/Kokum Kadhi is the ultimate cold brew. Seasoned with cumin and black salt, it works like a digestif and can be served with or after a meal.

Ingredients
For the freshly extracted coconut milk:
1. 300 gm grated coconut flesh (from 1 medium-large mature coconut weighing 1-1.5 kg)
2. 500 ml plain water

For the kokum concentrate:
3. 15-20 wet kokum petals
4. 250 ml plain water 

To mix with the concentrate:
5. Freshly extracted coconut milk (roughly 650-700 ml)
6. 1 tsp cumin powder
7. 1 tsp sugar
8. ½ – ¾ tsp black salt
9. 150-250 ml plain water
10. 1 medium green chilli, slit in half
11. ¼ cup fresh coriander, finely chopped

For the tempering:
12. 2 tsp. vegetable oil
13. 1 tsp black/brown mustard seeds
14. 1 tsp cumin seeds
15. 10 fresh curry leaves
16. 1 medium clove of garlic, finely sliced

For this recipe, I use 50% thick milk (first extract) and 50% thin milk (second extract). When extracting coconut milk, always use room temperature water, as hot water will cook the coconut milk and neutralize the fresh taste. Watch this video to see how to extract fresh coconut milk. I can buy freshly grated coconut in my location, but if you cannot, you’ll have to break your coconut open, cut out the white flesh and then grate it. Here’s how. Remember to break the coconut open over a bowl to catch all the delicious coconut water. Drink it up immediately as a reward for your coconut-cracking skills. A medium-large coconut can weigh anything from 1-1.5 kg and yields anywhere from 280-380 gm coconut flesh, so buy your coconut accordingly. Keep in mind that freshly extracted coconut milk spoils very quickly and should be stored in the fridge and consumed within a day. Do not use packaged coconut milk to make solkadi as it is heat-treated to extend its shelf life, so it doesn’t taste fresh (or very nice) when consumed raw. Save the UHT or non-homogenised canned coconut milk for cooking! Most importantly, when sourcing your kokum, make sure the petals are of the wet variety and very fresh. Old petals will lack flavour and sourness—and they won’t import much colour eitherresulting in an insipid Solkadi.

Prep
1 – To extract your coconut milk, place 300 gm grated coconut and 250 ml plain water to a blender jar. Blitz on high speed for 1 full minute. Transfer the blitzed coconut to a muslin-lined strainer, placed on top of a large bowl. Gather the 4 edges of the muslin, twist until you have a little bundle, and squeeze out as much liquid as is physically possible! This is your first extract or thick milk. Now, transfer all the grated coconut from the muslin bundle back into your blender jar and add another 250 ml plain water. Blitz once again on high speed for 1 full minute. Transfer the re-blitzed coconut back to the muslin-lined strainer. Gather the 4 edges of muslin and squeeze for all you’re worth for a second time. This is your second extract or thin milk. You should have roughly 650-700 ml coconut milk in total depending on how ‘juicy’ your coconut is and how much elbow grease you put in!

2 – To make the kokum concentrate, add 250 ml plain water to a pot and heat it on high, until small bubbles just begin appearing. As soon as you see small bubbles, add 15-20 kokum petals to the pot and wait for the water to reach a rolling boil. The more you add, the tarter the taste will be. Once the water comes to a boil, use a wooden spoon to mash and squish the petals to extract their pulp. Stir and continue boiling for 5 minutes. Thereafter, turn off the heat and allow the concentrate to come to room temperature. Once it’s cooled down, Strain the kokum concentrate through a muslin lined strainer placed over a large bowl. Then gather gather the 4 edges of muslin and squeeze as hard as you can to extract as much juice as possible.    

Method
1 – In a large bowl, add all the freshly extracted coconut milk, the kokum concentrate, the cumin powder, the sugar and the black salt. Stir the mixture together, it will turn a gorgeous pink!

2 – Now taste the mixture. Because every coconut has a unique level of sweetness, every solkadi will taste a bit different. If you’re happy with the intensity of coconut flavour and the tartness of the kokum, don’t add any water. If the flavours are too concentrated, then add anywhere from 150-250 ml plain water until you’re happy with the taste.

3 – Now add the finely chopped coriander and both halves of the green chilli.

4 – To make the tempering, heat up 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a small frying pan. As soon as the oil starts to shimmer (not smoke), add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, and garlic slices. Be careful, it will sputter. As soon as all the ingredients have been added to the pan, turn off the heat.

5 – Add the hot tempering to the coconut milk mixture and stir to combine.

6 – Do a final taste of the mixture and add more black salt and/or sugar if desired.

7 – Place the bowl in the fridge covered, and chill the mixture for at least 2 hours before serving. Solkadi ready!

8 – Before serving, take the solkadi out of the fridge and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Because it’s made with fresh coconut milk with zero emulsifiers, the mixture will be ‘split’ where the fattier coconut cream collects and floats on top and the thinner coconut milk sinks to the bottom. Whisk the mixture very well to re-emulsify it. While pouring into individual glasses, strain the chilled solkadi through a fine meshed sieve to catch all the herbs and whole spices. Garnish with more chopped coriander if you like.

grated coconut + 500 ml water
blitzed up coconut in the muslin-lined strainer
squeeze like your life depends on it
after both extractions, you’ll be left with some very dry, tasteless coconut flakes; add it to your compost bin
gorgeous, freshly extracted coconut milk
boiling the kokum petals
mashing the kokum petals
kokum concentrate with the discarded pulp
coconut milk with the kokum concentrate, salt, and spice powders added
with the green chilli and fresh coriander added
with the tempering added
solkadi, ready to be chilled for 2 hours

Kokum (also known as aamsol) is a fruit indigenous to the southern states of India and is widely used for its culinary and medicinal properties. Typically used in Konkan, Maharashtrian, and Goan cuisine, it can also be found in dishes from Karnataka, Gujarat, and Assam. It is not the same as mangosteen, although both belong to the same family. When you buy kokum petals in the market, what you’re getting is the outer covering of the ripe fruit that has been dried. In this form, it can be used as a souring agent, akin to tamarind. However, rather than out-and-out sourness, kokum also brings a sweet, fruity-floral note to a dish. Additionally, it imparts a gorgeous purple-pink hue to any light-coloured liquid it touches. 


Stage 2: coconut water caviar & mango juice caviar (optional)

This element is totally optional, but if you do leave it out, you’ll be missing out on some cool science – spherification through molecular gastronomy. It’s way easier than it sounds and if you’ve ever made snow globes or lava lamps, you’re already familiar with spherification. Generally, oil and water don’t mix. By adding agar agar to a water-based liquid, you give it gelling properties – or the power to turn from a liquid into a solid.  When agar agar solution is dripped into cold oil, it gels up into little spheres. Science, bitches! Whichever caviar you make first, ensure that you don’t leave the 2nd solution around to cool at all. It should be hot when you’re pouring it, else the caviar won’t hold its shape.

Ingredients
for the coconut water caviar:
1. 100 ml coconut water from a tender coconut (packaged is fine)
2. 1 tsp. sugar
3. 1.5 gm (3/4 tsp) agar agar powder

for the mango juice caviar:
1. 90 ml packaged mango juice
2. 1 tsp water
3. 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
4. 1.5 gm (3/4 tsp) agar agar powder

to set the caviar:
1. 1 litre freshly boiled hot water
2. 1 litre very cold unflavoured vegetable oil
3. 2 litre lukewarm water
4. 2 litre chilled water

Materials
1. 2 large tall glasses (freezer proof)
2. 2 small glasses/bowls (heat proof)
3. A wide tray or dish (heat proof)
4. A small saucepan
5. A whisk
6. A squeeze bottle
7. A metal tablespoon
8. A fine-meshed sieve
9. 5 large bowls
10. Some absorbent kitchen paper
11. 2 small containers with airtight lids

Prep
1 – Pour 500 ml unflavoured vegetable oil into each of the two tall glasses. Then place the glasses in the freezer for an hour. The oil must get very cold (1.5OC). You’ll know when the oil is cold enough when it turns cloudy. Keep the oil in the fridge until you’re ready with your coconut and mango solutions.

2 – Chill 2 litres of water in the fridge for about an hour. Keep in the fridge until called for.

3 – Warm up 2 litres of water until 43OC. You should be able to dip your finger into the water without flinching. Keep covered and set aside until called for.

4 – Line two small containers with some absorbent kitchen paper.

5 – Pour 1 litre of freshly boiled water into a wide tray/dish or until the water level is at least 1 inch deep. Set aside.

6 – Make the coconut water solution; add the coconut water, the sugar, and the agar agar to a small saucepan. Whisk to blend, and then bring the mixture to a boil, whisking continuously. Pour the hot solution into a small heat proof glass and place the glass in the tray/dish with the hot water. This will keep the coconut water solution from setting. Wait 2 minutes for the mixture to slightly cool.

7 – Make the mango juice solution; add the mango juice, the lemon juice, the water, and the agar agar to a small saucepan. Whisk to blend, and then bring the mixture to a boil, whisking continuously. Pour the hot solution into a small heat proof glass and place the glass in the tray/dish with the hot water. This will keep the mango juice solution from setting. Wait 2 minutes for the mixture to slightly cool.

preparing the coconut water-agar agar solution
preparing the mango juice-agar agar solution
keeping both solutions hot

Method
for the coconut water caviar:
1 – Transfer the hot coconut water solution to a squeeze bottle. If the bottle is uncomfortable to handle, use gloves.

2 – From a height of about 8 cm, drip the solution 1 drop at a time into a glass of chilled vegetable oil.  The drops will drip down from the surface and form into little caviar like spheres as the make their way down the oil to the bottom of the glass.

3 – Every 20 ml or so, gently give the oil a stir with a tablespoon to keep the spheres from clumping together.

4 – Repeat steps 1-3 until you run out of coconut water solution.

5 – Grab a large bowl and place a fine-meshed sieve on it. Tip the glass of oil with the spheres into the sieve. Gently shake the sieve and let the oil drain from the spheres for about 5 seconds (the oil is totally reusable. Transfer it to a bottle later and reserve it for cooking).

6 – Pour 1 litre of lukewarm water into a large bowl. Keeping the spheres in the sieve, dunk and swirl the sieve in the lukewarm water to rinse off the oil.  

7 – Pour 1 litre of chilled water into another large bowl. Keeping the spheres in the sieve, dunk them in the bowl of chilled water to give them a final rinse and rid them of any residual oil.

8 – Tip the spheres onto some paper towels to briefly drain and then transfer them to one of the containers lined with kitchen paper. This will soak up any excess water. 

9 – Cover the container with an airtight lid and place it in the fridge until needed. Coconut water caviar is ready! Set it aside and proceed with the mango juice caviar.

dripping the hot coconut water solution from a height of 8 cm
coconut water caviar collecting at the bottom of the glass
coconut water caviar collecting at the bottom of the glass
drained and rinsed coconut water caviar
coconut water caviar ready

for the mango juice caviar:
1 – Transfer the hot mango juice solution to a squeeze bottle. If the bottle is uncomfortable to handle, use gloves.

2 – From a height of about 8 cm, drip the solution 1 drop at a time into a glass of chilled vegetable oil.  The drops will drip down from the surface and form into little caviar like spheres as the make their way down the oil to the bottom of the glass.

3 – Every 20 ml or so, gently give the oil a stir with a tablespoon to keep the spheres from clumping together.

4 – Repeat steps 1-3 until you run out of mango juice solution.

5 – Grab a large bowl and place a fine-meshed sieve on it. Tip the glass of oil with the spheres into the sieve. Gently shake the sieve and let the oil drain from the spheres for about 5 seconds (once again, the oil is totally reusable. Transfer it to a bottle later and reserve it for cooking).

6 – Pour 1 litre of lukewarm water into a large bowl. Keeping the spheres in the sieve, dunk and swirl the sieve in the lukewarm water to rinse off the oil.  

7 – Place 1 litre of chilled water into a large bowl. Keeping the spheres in the sieve, dunk them in the bowl of chilled water to give them a final rinse and rid them of any residual oil.

8 – Tip the spheres onto paper towels to briefly drain and then transfer them to the other container lined with kitchen paper. This will soak up any excess water. 

9 – Cover the container with an airtight lid and place it in the fridge until needed. Mango juice caviar is ready! Set it aside and proceed with Stage 3.

dripping the hot mango juice solution from a height of 8 cm
mango juice caviar collecting at the bottom of the glass
mango juice caviar collecting at the bottom of the glass
drained and rinsed mango juice caviar
mango juice caviar ready

Together, this amount makes about 200 gm caviar. You will need 50 gm per serving. There are spherification recipes that use gelatine, but I haven’t tried them, so I can’t attest to them. If you’ve ever wondered why vegetarian jelly has such a different mouthfeel to non-veg jelly, the reason is agar agar or some other plant-based gellant. Solutions set with agar agar are texturally very different from gelatine-set solutions; the first melts on the tongue, while the second one bounces and jiggles. So, even though this caviar looks bouncy, it doesn’t have awesome jiggle-properties. The mango juice caviar tastes just like mango juice in gel form. The coconut water caviar, while it looks a treat, doesn’t possess much flavour. Now that you know the ratios and science, go ahead and make whatever flavour you like! Any water-based liquid will work with spherification, so try making caviar from different fruit juices, energy drinks, carbonated beverages, flavoured milks, condiments like ketchup, sriracha barbeque sauce, etc. Just add a little more water to thin out viscous liquids. You also want to ensure that you use a liquid with a pronounced flavour such as espresso coffee, cranberry juice etc. Once you’ve made your caviar, store it in a kitchen paper-lined airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, and add it to any drink or dish for a beautiful visual treat and some extra pops of flavour.


Stage 3: pan-seared salmon

For this part, we’re going to up our salmon game by brining it first. Why? Fish contains a protein called albumin. As it cooks, the flesh contracts, leeching albumin onto the surface. Brining your salmon fillets significantly reduces (if not eliminates), that slimy, unattractive white albumin. This is because the salt in the brine solution breaks down some of the muscle fibres around the surface of the fish. When it’s getting cooked, the fibres don’t tighten as much as they normally would, so, less albumin is pushed out. Moreover, brining results in a moister piece of fish and a uniformly seasoned fillet.

Ingredients
1. 4 x 100 gm salmon fillets with the skin on (cut into 11 x 5 cm fillets)
2. ½ tsp salt
3. ½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper

For the brine:
1. ¼ cup table salt
2. 4 cups plain water

Prep
1 – Take a deep container and pour in 1 litre of plain water. Dissolve ¼ cup salt in the water. This is our brining liquid.

2 – Fully submerge the salmon fillets in the brine and cover the container. Leave it to stand covered at room temperature for 15 minutes.

3 – After 15 minutes, remove the fillets from the brining liquid and pat the fillets dry with some paper towels. Discard the brining liquid. 

Method
1 – Place a non-stick frying pan on the stove. Do not put the heat on yet. Evenly sprinkle ¼ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper on four sections of the pan. The fillets will sit on those four sections.

2 – Place the fillets on the beds of salt and pepper, skin-side down. Now sprinkle the tops of the fillets with ¼ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper.

3 – Begin heating the pan on medium-high heat and cook the fillets untouched for 5-6 minutes. Get ready to flip when the fats from the skin have rendered and are sizzling, and ¾ of fillet has turned opaque from the skin-side going upwards.

4 – Using tongs, immediately flip the fillets and continue cooking them untouched for another 1-2 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 51-52OC.

5 – Transfer the fillets from the pan and place them on a plate, skin side up. Rest the fillets for 5 minutes before plating up. Do not cover the cover the salmon to keep it warm because it will steam and the skin will lose its crispiness. If you don’t like fish-skin, simply remove it after cooking, but I do not recommend searing the fillets without the skin, as the skin adds tonnes of flavour and helps to keep the fillets moist.

Brining (soaking in a salt-solution) for at least 15 minutes or up to overnight is all it takes to ensure a great cook on your salmon. To brine any amount of salmon, you need only water and table salt, mixed in a ratio of 1 tablespoon of salt to 240 ml plain water. Always use cold water, and make enough brining liquid to fully submerge the fillets.

components for salt brine – only 2 portions of salmon pictured
brining the salmon fillets
drying the salmon fillets
pan-searing the salmon fillets


Stage 4: mise en place 

While your salmon is resting, quickly prep the salad components.

Ingredients
1. 2 baby radish
2. 1 shallot
3. 100 gm ripe Alphonso mango (from 1 medium Alphonso mango)
4. 50 gm coconut flesh ( from half a medium coconut)
5. 80 gm radish microgreens
6. 80 gm sunflower microgreens
7. 40 gm mustard microgreens
8. Fresh coriander leaves from 4 sprigs

Method
1 – Finely cut the radish into wafer thin slices. A mandolin is helpful for this. Set aside.

2 – Finely slice the shallot into ¼ mm rings. Set aside.

3 – Finely dice the mango into 1 cm cubes. Set aside.

4 – Finely dice the coconut into ½ cm cubes. Set aside.

5 – Clean the microgreens and then toss them together. Set aside.

6 – Remove the coriander leaves from their sprigs. Set aside.

radish, shallots, coconut, and mango, components
sunflower microgreens, radish microgreens, mustard microgreens, and fresh coriander


Stage 5: assembly & serving

Components
1. Chilled solkadi from Stage 1
2. Cold coconut water caviar and mango juice caviar from Stage 2
3. Hot and rested pan-seared salmon fillets from Stage 3
4. Sliced baby radish from Stage 4
5. Shallot rondels from Stage 4
6. Cubes of mango from Stage 4
7. Cubes of coconut flesh from Stage 4
8. Mixed microgreens from Stage 4
9. Fresh coriander leaves from Stage 4
10. Salt to season

For the sake of a pretty picture, I was very restrained with the plating, but in reality, the plate is a lot more generous! When you’re plating up, please do follow the proportions mentioned in the recipe, rather than going by our website/Instagram images.

Prep
1 – Stir the solkadi well, and then strain 200 ml into a gravy boat. Strain the rest into 4 glasses. Discard the whole spices and herbs caught in the strainer.

Method
1 – Place ¼ of the mixed microgreens onto the centre of a plate. Lightly sprinkle about 1/8 tsp salt to season.

2 – Place one salmon fillet, skin-side-up on the bed of microgreens.

3 – Arrange ¼ the radish slices on the plate.

4 – Scatter ¼ of the shallot rondels on the plate.

5 – Arrange ¼ of the cubes of mango and coconut on each plate.

5 – Spoon ¼ of the coconut water caviar and mango juice caviar on top of the fish and scatter some on the microgreens.

6 – Arrange ¼ of the fresh coriander leaves on the plate.

7 – Pour about 50 ml of solkadi onto the dish.

8 – Serve the salmon salad with glasses of solkadi. Now eat!

Even though salmon is a fatty fish, as a whole, this dish eats as a really light summer entrée and shouldn’t be served as a standalone meal (unless you convert 4 portions into 2). Please remember, I was very restrained with the plating, but in reality, the plate is a lot more generous! This merits repeating; when you’re plating up, please do follow the proportions mentioned in the recipe, rather than going by our website/Instagram images.

Tips & Tricks

How to break open a coconut and remove the flesh

How to extract coconut milk