I used to be intimidated of my oven once upon a time, so I know how daunting the task of putting dessert on the table can be. Does 200 degrees ever really mean 200? Centre rack, bottom rack, how do I tell? Fan or no fan? My oven has warm and cold spots, you say? If you’re not confident about your baking skills but still need to impress fam with some cool desserts for a dinner party, you’ve come to the right place. I wont bore you with recipes for trifles and no-bake cheesecakes because let’s face it- even your neighbour could pull a great trifle out of her hat, but you have got to be better.
A Tahini panna cotta might sound like an acquired taste at first but think about that sesame flavour for just one minute. Now put it together with cardamom, vanilla and sweet maple syrup, and you’ve got yourself a showstopper pud on your hands. I make this with regular gelatine powder on the hob and it turns out fantastic. Serve with shards of white chocolate, or just plain ol’ shavings using your vegetable peeler and some puffed rice, puffed amaranth or even popcorn.
Tahini Panna Cotta
Yield 6 servings
The flavours of sesame, vanilla and cardamom come together in this luxurious panna cotta that acts as a base for a variety of toppings like popped grains, popcorn and white chocolate shards
Tahini 1/4 cup (if using a tahini with a darker roast you want to reduce the tahini to 2-3tbsp depending on how much you love tahini)
Maple syrup 4-5tbsp or an equal amount of honey
Gelatine powder 3 tsp
Cardamom powder 3/4 tsp
Vanilla essence 1/2 tsp
Lemon zest 1/2 tsp
Take a medium sized saucepan and add all the above ingredients to it bringing it up to a boil while whisking constantly. As it comes up to a boil, check that everything has dissolved.
Reduce the heat to a medium low and simmer for 3-4 minutes whisking constantly. Pour into moulds to set the panna cotta and refrigerate for three hours at least. Serve with popcorn or a popped grain of your choice.
Serve your guests rice kheer like they’ve never experienced it before. Make it with arborio rice, fold through whipped cream after the kheer risotto is ready to lighten it, and finish with an array of toppings, or just brûlée it. I’ve helped you with a handy guide.
For the toppings:
- You could top it with Dulce de leche. Find the recipe for that here. If you’re squeamish about making your dulce de leche in a pressure cooker, make it in an oven in one of those square glass Pyrex baking pans. Add the condensed milk to the pan. Cover with foil and fit the whole pan into a Bain Marie as you would for a cheesecake. Bake at 160 degrees for about an hour and refill the hot water if it starts to dry out. Finish with sea salt. Pour it on top with ready custard and finish with storebought peanut chikki.
- Cook plums or another seasonal fruit with sugar and vanilla and top the riz au lait with the compote.
- Brûlée the top of the riz au lait with brown sugar and a blowtorch before serving.
Riz Au Lait With Toppings
Yield 8 servings
Perhaps the fanciest way to serve kheer, this jazzed up pudding is rice kheer made with arborio or risotto rice and whipped cream folded through to lighten it. It is then topped with anything from ready custard to cooked plums or just brulee it.
Arborio rice 1/2 cup
Milk 2 cups, plus more as necessary
Vanilla bean 1/2, split and seeds scraped out (reserve the other half for creme anglaise if making it)
Caster sugar 2 1/2 tbsp
Non-dairy Whipping cream 1 2/3 cup (I used Rich’s)
Add the milk and vanilla to a medium sized saucepan and bring it up to a simmer. Stir in the rice and let it continue to simmer watching it closely for signs of drying out. You don’t want it to dry out and stay runnier than a regular risotto or a loose khichdi. Add in the sugar, let it come to room temperature and refrigerate it. Remove the vanilla bean pod. Whip the cream to stiff peaks with an electric mixer and add the rice to the bowl of whipped cream little by little folding through to lighten it and make it creamy.
Originally published in the Mid-Day a few days ago, this Skillet Apple Pie made with breadcrumbs cooks on low till bubbling on the sides. I macerate the apples for at least half an hour before treating it with browned butter and very good quality cinnamon to bring out the autumnal notes in this pud.
Skillet Apple Pie
This simple-to-make but enormously gratifying dessert is a cross between a spiced apple pie and a bread pudding. A simple assembly job and fast cooking on the grill or a stovetop makes this an instant winter favourite that just happens to be eggless. If you’re out camping, throw this on the grill covered for 10-15 minutes and dig into layers of apple, caramel, ginger, cinnamon and vanilla.
Apples 6-8, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 inch slices (a mix of Gala and Granny Smith yields best results)
Sugar 1/2 cup
Cinnamon 2 tsp (treat your apples to good quality cinnamon always)
Ginger 1 tsp freshly grated, or 1/2 tsp ground
Lime 1, juiced
Vanilla essence 1 tsp
Bread 1/2 loaf, pulsed into coarse breadcrumbs and toasted if you have the time
Salt a pinch
Butter 4 tbsp melted + 2 tbsp extra at room temperature for dotting over the top (if you have the time, add an extra layer of flavour by browning the 4 tbsp of butter in a pan over medium high heat till it smells of toffee and is golden)
Brown sugar 2 heaped tbsp
Ready custard or whipped cream to serve
Mix the apples together with the sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, lime juice and set aside for 30 minutes for the flavours to marry each other.
Mix the 4 tbsp of melted butter (or browned butter) into the breadcrumbs with the brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Add 1/4 of this mixture to the marinating apples and mix briefly.
Grease the inside of a round shallow skillet and add about 3 tbsp of breadcrumbs to the bottom. Assemble a layer of apples on top and alternate with the remaining breadcrumbs. Keep doing this as you would for a lasagne. The top layer should be breadcrumbs. Press down on this mixture using a flat spatula to make an even layer. Cover with foil and set aside till ready to cook. You can do this well in advance.
If using a charcoal grill, cook in the skillet covered with the aluminium foil lid on over indirect heat or around the edges of the grates for 10-15 minutes till you find the juices of the apple bubbling around the corners. If making at home, cook on a stovetop over medium to low heat for 15-30 minutes. Serve hot with ready custard, whipped cream or ice cream.