JWB Brings To You A Diwali Delicacy From The Lalit’s Kitchen
- JWB Post
- November 7, 2015
How often do you get the chance to march right into the kitchen of a five-star hotel and see for yourself, what’s cooking? Or better still, how is it cooking?
Rarely, right? As a part of the #PerksOfMyWork phenomenon, I got to visit the kitchenette of The Lalit, Jaipur. Not only that, I got to meet the Chef De Cuisine of the hotel – Sunil Kumar Jajoria, who taught me an unusual but mind-blowingly scrumptious delicacy for Diwali.
I must admit, I am craving the munchy taste of that Almond and Cashewnut Crunch as I am writing this article. And the beauty with which it was presented literally made it a feast for the eyes (and for the tummy)! Have a look!
Have these pictures teased your taste buds?
For the Biscuit-base: 110 gm unsalted butter, 200 gm biscuit crumb
For the filling: 200 gm broken almonds, 200 gm broken cashewnuts, 40 gm honey, 50gm liquid glucose (optional), 10 gm cardamom powder, 60 gm unsalted butter, 150 gm sugar, 50 gm milkmaid.
Chef Sunil: Let us begin by making the base. I’ve taken crumbled parle-g here, but you can take any biscuit of your choice.
Me: Parle-G be the best! G for genius!
Chef Sunil: Haha! Yes! And the good thing with using parle-g is that it adds natural glucose and that it has a neutral taste. People tend to not be allergic to it.
Me: Correct! What’s the next step?
Chef Sunil: We have to add unsalted butter to these crumbs and mix it well. Now, we will use this as the base, and likewise will set it on our greased baking mould. Quickly cover it with a cling wrap and keep this aside.
Me: Okaay… *scribbles dribbles*
Chef Sunil: Now let us prepare the filing! Heat sugar in a heavy bottom pan and keep stirring. Reduce the flame once the sugar starts melting.
Me: *Pops on the toes to peek in. If only Khalli had lent me a few inches of his height…*
Me: Ummm, quick query! Can’t we use powdered sugar here?
Chef Sunil: With powdered sugar you cannot control the color and the flavor. So, it is advisable to use normal sugar crystals. Now we will add liquid glucose, honey, butter, and cardamom powder and mix them well.
Me: Earlier you told me the liquid glucose was optional…
Chef Sunil: It is something not everyone has in their kitchen. If you have it, you should put it. It enhances the elasticity and the binding with fat.
It is in my kitchen owing to my mom’s fancy for cooking. Just Saying.
Chef Sunil: As you may see, the mixture now has a nice color and boil.
Me: …and a lovely fragrance.
Chef Sunil: It is time to pour the nuts. Stir well and turn off the flame. Now quickly pour this mixture into the baking mould. If you wait too long to pour and set the mixture, it will solidify.
Me: The lazy and clumsy ones like me will pay extra attention to this point. Is this mould of deliciousness ready? Can I gobble it up?
Chef Sunil: Haha! Not yet! This will go into the oven now. Bake it for 25 to 30 minutes at 150 degree Celsius till a golden color appears.
Me: Heyyy! I just realized that this delicacy resembles our Indian chikkis in a lot of ways.
Chef Sunil: There is a major difference. This is baked, chikkis are not. Other than that, this dish has more nutritional and storage value. And the biscuit base adds to the crunch. Also, the dish has a European origin.
Me: Oh yes! I can’t wait to taste it.
Chef Sunil: Also you can substitute the nuts with tooty-fruity or rice puff or dates if you wish. Now, let me show you how to present the dish.
Me: Thaaaat I believe is the part that people usually ignore while preparing a dish.
Chef Sunil: And that is also what makes a huge difference. The way you present a dish speaks volumes to the guest.
Chef Sunil: These days, a lot of platters of varied colors are available in the market. We are going to use them.
Chef Sunil: … Then there are chocolate wheels, fruit crushes, these colored glucose pieces…
Me: There are made of glucose?! Wow! They really look like actual glass.
Chef Sunil: People think all this decoration and garnishing is very complicated, but in actuality, it is very easy. This glass-like piece that you mentioned is made by baking liquid glucose for ten minutes.
Me: Really? That’s it? Tell me more about it.
I am going to try making these. And I will not procrastinate. Promise!
Chef Sunil: Put some liquid glucose on a baking tray, sprinkle some edible colour, and bake it at 220 degree Celsius for ten mins. When you take it out of the oven, you’ll see that the liquid has expanded and turned into these glass-like pieces. Now cut them into whatever shape you like.
And just as he finished saying this he pulled out the almond and cashew crunch from the oven. The aroma of the freshly baked dish was such that even my messy bun fell for it.
Chef Sunil: *neatly slaughters, umm, I mean cuts the crunch into half a quarter piece.*
Me: *Gobbles up the served piece without further ado* *Between mouthfuls* This is amazing chef! Aptly titled: Crunch!
Chef Sunil: *Smiles* Thank you! This dish can also be used as a Diwali gift, primarily because it is very high on nutrition, and can be stored for up to a month.
Me: And with all the adulteration that happens during the festive season, it is definitely a better option to prepare sweets at home.
Chef Sunil: Yes! People should steer clear of milk products like paneer and mawa at least 7 days before the festival.
Me: Oh why?
Chef Sunil: Take for example paneer. Due to the excessively high demand, a lot of shopkeepers and mithaiwalas adulterate the process by using cornflour. Here’s how to check: if the paneer develops patches when you put it in warm water, it signifies the presence of cornflour.
Me: And how to check if the sweets are adulterated?
Chef Sunil: There is a little tissue test for that. In sweets which involve syrups… kesar jalebi for instance, what you should do is dip the tissue in the syrup and then dip it in water. If the tissue still retains color, that means there is adulteration.
Me: Wow! I’m carrying a bunch of tissues on my next visit to the mithaiwala!
Chef Sunil: And in case of other sweets, you’ll have to taste them to find out if they are fresh or not. Here’s the trick: Keep the sweet in your mouth. Swirl it. If there is any fat that sticks inside your mouth, it shows that the sweet is not fresh. Also, you will notice a bad odor and sourness in texture.
And just then my phone blinked. It was later that I saw that our photographer Pallav had sent me a snap of me and the Chef talking, with the caption ‘The chef is giving some useful tips.’ Well, true that!
Chef Sunil: … One thing that people do wrongly when they prepare sweets at home is that they pack them in colored transparent wrappers. That is a big NO! Those things can sour your sweet and make it poisonous. You should use only and only cling wrap. Even aluminum foils are a no!
Me: Okay, okay! Noted! Tell us some 5-star tips and tricks to adopt a healthy lifestyle in terms of cooking.
Chef Sunil: I personally refrain from using packaged and cold-storage products. Here’s why: Firstly, notice the number of times these products are heated in their journey towards consumption; that reduces the nutritional content of the product substantially. Secondly, to preserve the products for a long time, a lot of stabilizers are added to them which are again not very good for health.
Me: *Sadly* Oh!
After maggi, now I will have to say goodbye to frozen chili garlic shots and chicken sausages. This is what pure unadulterated sadness feels like.
Me: Some tips for the working women who cannot spend much time in the kitchen… and now cannot rely on packaged food?
Chef Sunil: They, in fact everyone, should drift from pan fried cooking towards baking and steam-cooking. Other than that, you can always keep things half-ready in your kitchen. So that it will save time on busy days such as festivals.
Me: Thank you so much Chef! You have been a very kind and considerate guide for me and for the women of Jaipur, I’m sure.
Chef Sunil: The pleasure is all mine! I hope my recipe and tips come in handy for you all.
And my adventures of the day weren’t limited to just that rendezvous in the kitchen. The humble chef offered to show us around and we happily accepted the tour of the luxurious hotel. Gosh! It is beyond beautiful! Such plush and lavish surroundings that overwhelmed our heart just as much as the Almond crunch overwhelmed our tummy!
JWB hopes that this recipe will mystically draw you towards your kitchen. For cooking, that is, not eating.
Picture Courtesy: Pallav Bhargava