Not Just Masterchef Australia, India’s Baking Salty Desserts too!
The Masterchef Australia way? Creative Indian chefs are whipping up salty and savoury desserts like never before!
Who had ever heard of a prawn cocktail ice cream, a dessert made of creamy mustard, bacon and crispy french fries or a gazpacho ice lolly? Not me – not until I saw contestants of MasterChef Australia Season 8 whip these up as a part of the ‘savoury ice cream challenge’ set by super chef Heston Blumenthal.
With lines blurring in the world of gastronomy between a puritanical way of cooking and post-molecular innovation, savoury ingredients are slowly inching their way into dessert menus. Blumenthal himself has been at the forefront of this change when he created a scrambled egg-and-bacon ice cream (!) at his restaurant, Fat Duck, a couple of years ago.
Indian chefs too have caught on to this trend.
While most are not creating 100 per cent savoury desserts, they are experimenting with vegetables, greens and spices to add a new dimension to their dishes.
More and more pastry shops and restaurants are infusing traditional desserts with savoury ingredients to create salty, tangy and unexpected pairings.Anees Khan, founder and chef, Star Anise Patisserie, Mumbai
Khan makes avid use of veggies, seeds, cheese and spices in desserts – such as goat cheese ice cream with microwaved olive sponge and tomato compote, smoked watermelon with stilton cheese bavarois and blood orange caviar, and a savoury chia seed pudding with parmesan brown sugar crisp.
Of Yeast Ice Creams and Beetroot Cakes
The idea is to balance out a dish and not make use of such ingredients just for the heck of it or to grab eyeballs on social media.
The usage has to make sense and has to be in the right amount. I don’t use savoury ingredients as the main component – I use them only to bring a ‘wow’ element.Girish Nayak, pastry chef, Olive Beach, Bangalore, and Toast & Tonic
Sometimes, one doesn’t get the complexity of sweet-and-sour or bitter with the usual ingredients. Hence, chefs introduce unconventional pairings to add layers to the flavours. At Toast & Tonic, for instance, Nayak does a brownie with an yeast-flavoured ice cream!
Brownie is heavy and one needs flavours which would cut out that heaviness. The yeast ice cream adds sourness and lightness so that the customers don’t feel full.Girish Nayak
Then, in another dessert, he has used potato chips.
Aptly titled, Birthday Party, it draws inspiration from the parties we attended as kids where cake and chips were the highlight of the menu.
“Potato chips don’t just bring in a salty element but also break the monotony with a crunchy texture,” he explains. And then, when it’s winter, he does a dessert with citrus, which is in season, and candied coriander seeds, which when treated have a unique citrusy profile.
Who doesn’t love popcorn? Salty popcorn in a dessert, however? Probably not something you’d try everyday. Yet the idea seems to be working really well at Olive Qutub, Delhi, where Chef de Cuisine Chef Sujan S has created popcorn panna cotta with different textures.
We’ve used beetroot puree in the red velvet cake. We’ve also created a roasted barley ice cream, which was not entirely sweet, and came out very well.Sujan S, Chef de Cuisine
He has worked on a kohlrabi tart with orange and vanilla ice cream with a black olive tulle, and an olive oil and celery jelly in the past as well.
Sujan is not alone in the use of popcorn in desserts. Chef Himmat of Monkey Bar, Delhi, has used it delightfully in the Chocolate Pot De Creme, along with sea salt and olive oil.
Meanwhile at Fatty Bao, unique elements like green tea moss and black sesame sponge rocks can be seen in the signature Zen Forest dessert.
Indian Desserts are Going Savoury too
Why stop at just Western desserts? Pastry chefs are creating unique pairings within the Indian dessert panorama as well. No one had attempted a spinach halwa till Meghnesh Salian, founder and chef, 3 Wise Monkeys, Mumbai came up with one.
“I used nutmeg and cardamom to flavour the spinach while blanching,” says Salian, whose guests inspire him to play around with new recipes. Meanwhile, at the recent Goan Chefs Conclave, Jeneva Talwar – brand chef, The Artful Baker – experimented with Recheado, the hot Goan spice, and dodol, a rice flour-and-jaggery sweet from the coastal state.
We were asked to do a Goan take on French desserts. So, I did a Recheado macaroon with a dodol filling.Jeneva Talwar, brand chef, The Artful Baker
Talwar has also created a Jalapeno dark chocolate cake at her cafe-patisserie-boulangerie in Delhi.
Clearly, savouries in desserts aren’t just a MasterChef Australia phenomenon anymore.
(Avantika Bhuyan is a freelance journalist who loves to uncover the invisible India hiding in nooks and crannies across the country.)
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