Apr 16, 2014

The Shirazine Summer Soy Fish

I haven't planned this year's summer menu for The Shirazine as yet! The weather's been fairly kind so we're still tucking into roasts and pies and eating way too much red meat! But I know it's coming, the sweltering days, most obvious in the kitchen! Andy used to do this adorable thing that I find too tedious to do for myself, he would turn on the air conditioners in the living room and dining room and then use his studio backgrounds to make a shaft that drives cold air into the kitchen, it was genius! He isn't a mushy guy at all but he's got this inherent goodness that I hope Ally has inherited. Yes, those days are coming and for some reason it doesn't affect our appetites, so it's not like I can serve cold cuts and grilled watermelon and get away with it, it won't satisfy the family and it certainly won't satisfy me. So this summer I've planned a lot of one pot/casserole meals that come either from a wok or an oven. No stirring, flipping, fretting! I want to use more of fish and chicken and throw in lamb over the weekend, I do plan to stay away from red meats and seafood for a bit but I doubt it's going to happen! The oven is my best friend in summers, one casserole goes in and a meal comes out. This particular fish recipe is one of my favourites, I got inspired by a variation I saw on television, I forget who the chef was but I think he was Chinese. He used a whole fish, dark soy, ginger, fish sauce and lemon rind and he steamed the fish perched on upturned ramekins which rested in a water bath, all stove-top and very cool! He covered the top and steamed the fish for about 15 minutes and it flaked perfectly. My version is slightly revved up, I need to pack in veggies for the family and they're more 'garlic' people than 'ginger', also I can't do the whole fish game on weekdays because each member dines at different times. This is a super quick meal and all you need is steamed rice or boiled noodles, if you want to spice it up, I suggest you keep fresh ground Chinese chilli paste on the side to top the rice or noodle bowl you make of this meal.

The Shirazine Summer Soy Fish

Serves: 2

1/2 kg 1/2" thick Singhara filets, you can use any firm, white fish like sole, surmai, bekti or sea bass.
1/2 cup Dark Soy, I use natural Kikkoman, check out Yamoto Ya Japanese store in HUDA market, Gurgaon
1 cup Bell pepper slivers, I use only red and yellow because I want the sweetness to come out, the green is more for colour :)
2 tbsp Lemon Rind, fine slivers
4-6 Garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1 tbsp Ginger, fine slivers
1 tbsp Fish Sauce, I use Real Thai, if you like the flavour, add another dash
1 tbsp Sesame Oil
1 tsp Red Chilli Paste, you can use as little or as much as you like
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Brown Sugar, just to offset the soy and fish sauce
Salt, if need be, soy is salty


Wash and dry the fillets, you can make one large or cut into 2, one large cooks faster and stays moist if you don't overcook it. Place the fish in a pie deep baking dish and drizzle with the olive oil. Mix together the soy, fish sauce, sesame oil, chilli paste and brown sugar. Top the fish with the bell peppers, ginger, garlic and lemon rind, pour the sauce mix over it, the fish should be half submerged. Give it a little shake so everything settles in together. Cover with foil and bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C for 15 minutes. Remove and check to see if the fish flakes easily, it shouldn't be all 'white', it should be moist looking. Cook for another few minutes if need be. Serve with white rice or boiled noodles. As condiments you can keep fresh coriander sprigs, dried fish, prawn crackers or chilli paste to change the flavour of your portion of the meal! There is another variation I love, but more in winters, the mixed mushrooms version. I use button, Enoki and Shiitake and the sauces, that's it! It's fantastic! Enjoy!

Apr 12, 2014

The Shirazine's Cheats Arancini!

I love ideas for leftovers and summers is when leftovers hassle me most. Over the years I've learned to cook for the family size we have which helps minimize leftovers considering this is one family that wants a new meal every day, some times twice a day!! But food like rice and ready dough always harangue me in summers, rice spoils super fast and you can't always tell, which is scary when you have a kid and a senior in the house. So a lot of my leftover recipes are rice based. We are big rice eaters, especially when Andy visits. I personally prefer breads, Indian, Arab, French, you name it but rice ends up getting cooked every day because the kid loves her 'dal-chawal' on most afternoons. Dinners are what I like to call 'home kitchen gourmet'. We had orange glazed pulled lamb in homemade pita, quiche lorraine and apple glazed pulled baked 'bao' this past week and I'm desperately looking for pinecones for a smoked fish recipe I want to do. This particular post is The Shirazine version of 'Arancini', crumb coated, risotto balls, sometimes with a filling of Ragu or served with Marinara sauce. I make these with regular, leftover boiled rice though it's only fair to say that the risotto ones are more moist and definitely more flavoursome!

These Italian delights are deep fried but you can flatten them a bit and bake them too. I don't like substitutions when it comes to ingredients and cooking methods but if baking is a more viable option for your dietary needs, then brush lightly with olive oil and bake at 200C for 6-8 minutes or till the Arancini is crisp and light brown. Typically the stuffing for Arancini is mozzarella cheese but you can use cheddar too, it melts beautifully. If you are sticking to mozzarella, then go for a more aged one versus fresh, fresh mozzarella has too much moisture and it can interfere with the composition of each Arancini. I love the wholeheartedness of Italian cuisine, it's satisfying like Indian or Chinese food. It is also a very familiar cuisine because the basic combinations of onions, garlic, tomato exist in our food culture too. The difference lies in treatment, the Italians never overcook vegetables, so every bite is fresher, crunchier and of course has more flavour of the said vegetable. They also use a lot of strong flavours like olives, anchovies, cured meats, which is why I sometimes make this Arancini with a pitted olive in the centre, it's such an amazing burst of flavour. I've had Arancini filled with mushrooms, bacon and even pistachios, so it's entirely up to you, how you want to play with this recipe!

The Shirazine's Leftover Rice Arancini

Makes: 8-10

2 cups cooked White Rice
1 large Red Onion, finely chopped
4-5 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh Parsley, chopped
1 large Egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup chopped Pork Ham
6-8 tbsp. Parmesan, grated, use a hard, aged cheese if you need to substitute, processed cheese has a lot of moisture and melts very runny, it can disturb the consistency of the Arancini mix
1 tbsp. dried Mixed Italian Herbs, I use the 'Keya' herbs, so far the best, locally
1 tsp. Pepper powder
1/2 cubes of Mozzarella, small cubes to put in the centre of the Arancini
1 cup Breadcrumbs, keep a little extra in case you get a lot of Arancini out of this mix.
Oil for frying


Use your hands to mash together the rice, egg, parmesan, onions, garlic, fresh parsley, seasoning, half the breadrcumbs and herbs, mix it all up, nice and gooey, it should be able to come together into a ball. Add the chopped ham and gently fold it in, you don't want the mixture mashed, just well mixed. Heat the oil to a point where a drop of the Arancini batter, sizzles nicely. Spread out the breadcrumbs on a plate, season lightly with salt and pepper. Moisten your hands with water and form golf ball sized Arancini balls with the ham, cheese and rice mix, flatten on your palm and place a small cube of mozzarella in the centre, close the ball over the cheese. Roll gently over the breadcrumbs, the Arancini should be evenly coated, shake off the excess crumbs and drop into the hot oil. Each Arancini will cool the oil further so fry small batches, that way they won't lie in the oil long enough to become 'too oily'. Once the Arancini is lightly browned and crispy cooking, drain on kitchen towels. Serve hot with Marinana sauce or our family favourite Garlic Aioli mixed with chilli sauce, it's indulgent but worth it! Enjoy!

Apr 2, 2014

Mastering the Classic BBQ Sauce!

"I been a bad bad blogger! Apologies for the absence for those of you who noticed it! The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of fun, food, family and fitness (somewhat!) and I have been in the kitchen every day but doing nothing new, sadly! Andy was here for a break and it was delightful, we spent the week at The Westin Sohna (more on that on CALDRON...soon!), Ally went back to school to start grade III and we were actually in tears. Yes, that's what happens when you have just one kid, everything they do is magnanimous! Considering her dad visited just to start her off for a new school year and will most likely be back by the time summer vacations start! Our move is looking more and more imminent and though I am extremely excited about it, I'm happy I get to keep my work/kitchen here! So I'm back with a summer post for BBQ Chicken, that's pan grilled and the BBQ sauce is homemade, no oddly smokey tasting bottle stuff anymore!"

The baby chops at Khubchand in Yusuf Sarai, New Delhi are a steal, at 300 bucks a kilo, you get about 6 nice, plump chops, less fat and a slimmer bone. So we have indulged three times this month already and since this is one spoilt family, they want a different variant every time. My mother in law's classic pork chops are crumb fried but then she buys really petite ones for it, these aren't all that thin, so crumbs aren't an option. I've done the garlic/sweet chilli Asian version which wasn't received with as much gusto as expected, but then the BBQ one I have been doing lately is quite the hit! The thing is, we collectively hate the BBQ sauces that are available in bottles and jars, they all have a distinctly chemical after taste and the smoked versions are even worse. If you go by food labels then be prepared to be totally disgusted by what actually goes into these things, I always wonder how those chemical actually behave in our bodies and it concerns me. The homemade BBQ sauce I do is also made with bottled sauces but you can control the quality of that you buy to prepare this. For ketchup, we either use homemade ketchup or a commercial one that has fewer preservatives or if you have access to organic, then nothing like it. When it comes to ingredients like honey or Dijon mustard, I buy organic, pure mountain honey and the best French Dijon I can get my hands on. These are potent flavours and if you're thinking economics then you will see that you don't have to use a lot to make a good dish. This BBQ sauce is so easy that you can make it fresh every time you need to use it, no need to bottle it and have it lazing in the back of the fridge. I also feel that strong, fresh garlic and good Dijon create a flavour of subtle smokiness, maybe from the pungency but it's way better than adding an artificial smoke flavouring.

You can tweak the measures to suit your taste, I sometimes up the garlic to make it a Garlic BBQ sauce, I have tried adding more Dijon but then you have to balance the sweet with more honey, else it is too pungent for a absorbent and fleshy meat like pork. That would probably work better on a beef steak!

The Shirazine Grilled Pork Chops


Serves: 2 (or 4, if you can stop at one chop each!)

2 tbsp Olive Oil
3 tbsp Soy Sauce (I use Kikkoman natural, it's awesome!)
4 tbsp Apple Juice, you can add a little lemon or orange if you want it a bit more tangy
4 tbsp Tomato Ketchup, here too you can do half and half with tomato chilli sauce or add a dash of Tabasco to make the sauce spicier.
4 tbsp Honey
1 tbsp Garlic paste, pound it fresh, makes all the difference
1 tbsp Dijon Mustard, you can use a Kasundi mustard if you like the tart pungency of Kasundi


4 Baby Pork Chops


Mix all the ingredients together to make a marinade, taste to check the balance, use honey or soy to check sweet and salt, go easy on the mustard if you want to check the pungency, add as you create the balance. Marinate the pork chops in the BBQ sauce for an hour or so, preferably in the fridge. I use a meat mallet to pound down the chops a bit, just so they cook a bit faster, once they are sizzling on the pan, no one can wait too long! I have a lovely, weathered grill pan with grill lines, I use that to sear these chops, heat a smidgen of oil, since the chops aren't too fatty, and pat them on while the grill is hot. Sizzle on high to sear the meat and keep in all the flavours, about 2-3 minutes on each side, then the excess moisture is gone too. Lower the flame and let them grill for about 10-12 minutes more, good quality, non-frozen chops cook faster, so you have to cut off a piece to check done-ness. Use the leftover BBQ sauce in the platter to baste the chops and keep adding more flavour. Serve hot with bread, mashed potatoes, buttered peas, corn on the cob, coleslaw or even wedges and rice with Mexican red beans! Enjoy!

Jan 26, 2014

Savoury Winter Cheese Muffins

I love the aroma of good parmesan, it's so comforting, it's like how good coffee makes me feel! Parmesan would qualify as my favourite cheese to cook with, like Brie is my favourite cheese to have just as is. Andy got me amazing Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano, both of which have been used often albeit sparingly! This is also a time when we have a lot of casseroles, pastas and baked meals, so Parmesan serves me well. This is a hard and hardy cheese, if stored correctly, cling wrapped in the fridge suits me. Aged Parmesan is also very sharp, so you can't really overdo it, I remember a time when Ally's didi made an omelette with it and Ally found the flavour a bit too much. You shouldn't overcook this cheese, as in, I avoid gratinating with it, it can be in the casserole but not on top. Like Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Parmesan is awesome just as is, grated on top of a platter of piping hot pasta or even as a garnish for a soup or stew. When you get a wedge cut from a wheel, a part of the wedge will have the rind, toss the rind in a stew when the cheese is all grated and done. Parmesan is made with cow's milk unlike other Italian cheese like mozzarella and bocconcini which is made with buffalo milk, Parmesan is best when it's aged over a year or more. It is an expensive proposition in India but since you can't overuse a flavour like this, you will end up using it in more meals than you think.

As you can see we are huge 'cupcake' people and it peeves my father no end, mainly because he isn't big on cakes, cupcakes or muffins, he's more of a 'mithai' or 'pudding' kind of guy. So the other day he gave me an ultimatum, make savoury muffins or he will buy them from a bakery, now a threat like that really works on someone like me. I am very wary of store bought foods and I am very fussy about the bakery's I buy from, so much so that when he raved about Cheese straws from Wengers, I tried and tried, till I made better ones! So this was a challenge for me, savoury cupcakes... I had oven dried tomatoes, gorgeous black olives, a lovely wedge of parmesan and I knew that The Shirazine Savoury Muffins would have all of these ingredients. I went through couple of my All American cookbooks and a few Italian ones to0, only to find that Parmesan muffins are pretty common, I just had to get the dry and wet ingredients balance right and I could make savoury muffins with exactly the ingredients I had in hand. The first time around, I found the batter too thick and sticky and the muffins turned out nice but heavy, after adjusting the milk, I was way happier with the result. However, this muffin or savoury cupcake doesn't have the crumb of a cake, its more dense because of the cheese that melts and makes the inside a bit gooey, even though this should be baked till a skewer comes out clean. Give these a go, they're lovely for breakfast or tea, I would even pair them with a steak and sauce, instead of serving garlic bread!

The Shirazine Savoury Muffins


Makes: 10

75 gms Butter
50 gms Spring Onion, finely sliced
4 tbsp Black Olives, sliced, you can use green also but I prefer the flavour of black after baking
4 tbsp Oven Dried Tomatoes, chopped into large bits. Line thick slices of tomatoes on a olive oil greased baking tray, roast in the oven at 150C for 45-60 mins,  I add a pod of garlic to this and use the roast garlic for these muffins
6-8 Garlic Cloves, minced, unless you roast 'em with tomatoes, then you can just squish them into the batter
2 tbsp Mixed Herbs, I use Keya's Mixed Italian Herbs or even the Garlic Bread seasoning
160 ml milk, you can use up to 20 ml more if you feel the batter is too thick and sticky, it should be thick and sticky but still the consistency where it drops from a spoon into the cupcake liner
1 egg
 2 tbsp Tomato Puree
200 gms flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup Grated Cheese, I used a combination of Parmesan and Cheddar, you can use processed also, if you want to mix, then use cheddar, parmesan and processed together to make 1/2 cup portion
4 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese for topping


Sift the flour with the baking powder and set aside. Melt the butter, just 10-20 seconds in the micro, it shouldn't be cooked. To make the muffin mix, blend the milk, egg and tomato puree in a large mixing bowl then stir in the mixed herbs, melted , butter, spring onions and olives, then add the oven dried tomato bits and the garlic. Use a wooden spoon to fold in the flour, salt and the cheese, keep the Parmesan for the topping aside. Don’t use a hand mixer for this batter, just fold it all in gently. Check the seasoning, adjust the salt if need be. Pre heat the oven at 180C, line a cupcake tray with paper liners and spoon batter till almost the top. Sprinkle a bit of Parmesan on each and bake for 20-25 minutes or till risen and firm, it will be golden on top. Enjoy with butter, garlic aioli, cheese spread or just as is, if you want a twist of flavours then try this with marmalade, its awesome! My friend Poorna tried it with The Shirazine Strawberry Jam and LOVED it! Enjoy.

Prashad: Food for the Soul

Prashad, the cookbook by veteran Chef Jiggs Kalra was a textbook for me and a bible for my mom as far back as the early nineties. My mother had a fantastic collection of cookbooks and food magazines, many of which she gave away while guests ate the food she had cooked from them! She had a huge heart that way, if a niece or a friend or even an acquaintance liked something she had, she would either source it for them or give the one she had, away. After her, there were very few left but I knew, more than her copies of the Time Life food series and Woman & Home compilations, she loved her copy of Prashad the most. I still have it, worn and stained, but it has her fingerprints, it's eerie to use it and so I haven't in years. Till the other day, when I dined at the fantastic, Made in Punjab, Chef's Kalra's son, Zorawar's new Indian restaurant at the spiffy Cyberhub. I brought up the book with him and I think that's what broke the ice because we went on to have a fantastic dinner over talk of beautiful food and love of it. You can taste the true flavours of 'real' food in Chef Kalra's recipes, for a book this old, it is very well researched and the measures are all bang on. How exciting it must have been to gather standardized recipes from A-class Chef's, in a time when chef's were not famous or even people a guest met. My mother treated these recipes like hidden gems, she added so many to her own little version of 'Prashad', she got the recipe for Chicken Khaas-e-Kalinga from a Chef at Qutab Hotel, sometime in '94, I remember because she made it so often when I visited from college. She scored the recipe for Paya from a Chef at Frontier, The Ashoka, sadly, I have no clue where she wrote it. What really brought me back to Prashad was a very thoughtful gift from Zorawar, a brand new, signed copy. This was 2 weeks ago and I have made 5 of the dishes already, so far my most favourite is the 'Dahi Ka Keema', it's so darned good, hearty, spicy yet subtle (the dahi!) and topped with fried green chillies, is such a fantastic touch, so as my tribute to the joys of Prashad, which you can buy here, I say, try the Dahi Ka Keema over the weekend, pair it with hot naans and pyaaz ka lacchha and you will be transported to the bylane's of Jama Masjid.

Whenever I make keema, I buy 200 gms etc. for kebabs, any Indian keema curry goes so well with these Parsi kebabs. I had these at my roommates house in Bombay, she had this senior Parsi couple that were their maid and cook, and he made these with almost every meal, they are fantastic with Dhansak. I never asked him for the recipe but I remember asking him what all it had and it was so simple, though to be honest, his were so much better but these are a close second. My mother used to call cooking like this - 'barkat', which means 'abundance' in Urdu.

Dahi Ka Keema


 500 gms Lamb Mince/Keema
75 gms Ghee

Whole Masala: 5 green cardamom, 1 black cardamom, 4 cloves, 1 stick cinnamon, 1 bayleaf and a pinch of mace

100 gms Onion, finely chopped
2 tsp Ginger paste
2 tsp Garlic paste
2 tsp Red Chilli powder
150 gms Yoghurt, whipped
1 tsp Cinnamon powder
1 tsp Clove powder
4 tbsp fresh Coriander, chopped
8 Green Chillies, deseeded
2 tbsp Oil to fry green chillies


Heat the ghee in a wok/kadhai, add the whole masala's and saute over medium heat until it begins to crackle and is fragrant. Add the onions and saute till they brown, mix the ginger and garlic paste in 30 ml of water and add to the onions and cook for a minute, add the red chillies and stir for another minute. Then add the mince and 'bhuno' or roast until dry (on low heat) and the liquid has evaporated. Now put in the yoghurt, to which the cinnamon and clove powders have been added. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer, until the mince is cooked and the oil separates. Adjust the seasoning, garnish with the fresh coriander. Fry the green chillies in the oil till they begin to become crispy. Top the bowl of keema with the green chillies. Enjoy!

Parsi Kebabs


Oil for shallow frying
200 gms Mutton Keema
4 medium Potatoes, boiled and mashed
1 Egg
2 slices of White Bread
2 tbsp Flour
1 tsp fresh Ginger paste
1 tsp fresh Garlic paste
2 tsp Zeera powder
1 tsp Coriander powder
1 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 Green Chilli, minced
4 tbsp Fresh Coriander, finely chopped


Mash the potatoes, add the keema, the spices, flour and salt, crumble the bread sliced over the mixture, rub between the palms of your hand. If the bread is too soft, just leave on the counter for 15 minutes, it will dry out a bit. Add the ginger, garlic paste, green chillies and fresh coriander, now dig in and knead it all together nicely, season with salt, taste to check the seasoning, I know it's raw meat and all, just lick the tip of your finger, nothing will happen! Roll it all up into a well blended dough, wet your hands and form lemon sized balls, flatten on your palm and shallow fry in hot oil. Fry for 2-3 minutes on both sides, till crispy and brown, drain and serve with Keema curry and naans! Enjoy!

Jan 23, 2014

Asian Comfort Bowls of Yum!

I make Asian Comfort Bowls through the year, in winters to warm up, so they're usually spicy and piping hot, in summers, with lemon leaf or rice wine to keep it cool and light and in the monsoons with Ebi fried prawns to satiate the craving for fried foods. These bowls are super versatile, you can do them with noodles, white rice, brown rice or even sticky rice, though we're big fans of just plain white rice tossed in a little garlic butter and sometimes egg. The whole idea is to huddle or cuddle up with a bowl each and catch a good movie, no mess eating. The weather here these days is godawful, it's been gloomy and grey and raining too, so tonight we wanted something that was a cross between a winter and monsoon bowl and all I had were 3 filets of fish to work with! I found catfish at the fish guy yesterday and missed the way Malayalee's make it, called 'thedu' in Kerala, they make a curry of it that I absolutely love. They make it with 'kudampuli' or pot tamarind, which is a souring agent and the curry is red and fiery, since I was out of tamarind, the fate of these filets were to become Asian Comfort Bowls! This is a simple recipe with just a few ingredients, the fish is fried in shallow oil with a basic coating of dry cornflour and the sauce is ready in minutes.

The Shirazine Soy Chili Fish Bowls


3 Filets of Fish, use a firm, white fish, these were about an inch thick, thinner is as good.
1 Lemon
Salt & Pepper
1/2 cup cornflour


1 Red Onion, thinly sliced
1 Spring Onion, thinly sliced, with greens
6-8 Garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
1 tsp Ginger, crushed
1 Dry Red Chilli, cut into four pieces
2 tbsp Olive Oil
45 ml Dark Soy, I use Kikkoman, I love the natural one
2 tsp Chilli Vinegar
2 tsp White Sugar
2 tbsp Ketchup
1 tbsp Red Chilli Sauce, I use a Thai one but I wish I could get hold of fresh schezwan peppers to make a paste at home
2 tbsp Cornflour
1/2 cup Cold Water

Garnish: Finely chopped spring onion greens


Use the juice of the lemon to marinate the fish filets, season with salt and pepper. Lemon juice is acidic and starts the cooking process of the fish, since catfish tends to dry out fast when cooking, don't marinate the filets for longer than 10 minutes that it takes you to prep the sauce. Best is to pat them in the seasoned cornflour, coat well and start frying in shallow oil, as the sauce starts. Fry for 3-4 minutes on both sides, till the crust browns lightly, it's cornflour so it will remain blonde/light brown. Depending upon thickness, you can cut a piece from the side to check done-ness, the flesh should be cooked through, taut and white. Drain and keep aside.

For the sauce,  heat the oil and fry both the types of onions, as they become transparent, add the red chilli pieces, the ginger and the garlic, fry for a few minutes till fragrant. In bowl mix the soy, vinegar, sugar, ketchup and chilli sauce, add to the onions. Mix the cornflour in the cold water and add to the bubbling sauce, blend it all together and let it thicken, we don't like it too thick or gooey, just about shiny but still runny. To assemble the bowl, put a portion of white rice, place a filet of the fried fish over it and top with the soy chilli sauce, garnish with greens and serve hot. Enjoy!

Jan 20, 2014

Tales of a Custard Craving

I had a fantastic brunch the other day and what really clinched the deal was the dessert station, it was by far one of the best. This was easily my 20th Sunday brunch in the last year and the first in 2014 and the dessert experience gave me such a sense of hope! The Salted Caramel Ice Cream was stellar but that's something I will try in the summer. The coolest part was it had all the robust, maltiness of caramel and none of the 'gooey' texture. The other dessert I loved was the Caramel Custard, so simple yet so darned good. While growing up, I traveled a lot with my aunt's family, her husband was a Major General in the Army back in the 80's, back when it was super big deal. So between the ages of 5 - 15, I tasted every conceivable version of Caramel Custard, in every mess, fellow officers home and of course at my aunt's home. It was in Culinary school that I first tasted Creme Brulee and learned the difference. Both have the same ingredients and similar cooking methods, but Caramel Custard is demoulded and served while Creme Brulee is served in the ramekin or baking dish and has a thin crust of caramelized sugar or even praline. This particular Caramel Custard took me back to the one I had at Eest, The Westin, Gurgaon. It was a Thai coconut caramel custard called Bahn Gan and the Chef (who could barely speak English) was kind enough to explain how similar it was to the original and how there is a Continental take to many an Asian dish! This by the way has been the storing of a 'craving', my craving for Bahn Gan and today was sunny day, no reason why can't have a fridge cooled dessert!

The Shirazine Bahn Gan


175 gms Brown Sugar
3 Eggs
200 ml Coconut Cream, I use a Thai canned variety, it's rich and creamy, but if you want to go lighter, then substitute with coconut milk
180 ml Whole Milk, here too you can use toned
2 tbsp Fresh Cream
1 tsp vanilla essence


100 gms White Sugar
30 ml Water

I make the custard first because the caramel always sets by the time I'm done, so that's happening later. Whisk the eggs with the brown sugar, just a bit. Heat the milk, coconut cream and cream and bring to a boil. Use a whisk to blend the hot milk mixture with the eggs and brown sugar, the trick is to use one hand to pour the milk slightly high up and use the other hand to keep whisking/blending. This way the eggs won't cook and the mix won't curdle, you should however always strain a custard before setting it.  Pre-heat the oven at 160C. Now make the caramel. Melt the white sugar in the water in a saucepan, let it melt on a low flame, once it's melted, raise the flame and let it bubble and boil. Be super careful of sputters, this is pure magma! It will lightly brown in about 2-3 minutes, no need to stir, just turn off as it browns. Put a tablespoon or bit more in each ramekin, it will cool and harden, that's fine, pour the custard mixture over and fill each ramekin 3/4th full. Place the ramekins in a large baking dish filled with water, the level should be till the half point mark of the ramekin. Place the baking dish and bake the custard for 45-55 minutes. You can check when 45 mins are up and if the top is firm, you're good to go. Remove from the oven when done, use a fine knife, to separate the sides and demould when it cools a bit. I refrigerate the custard after demoulding because if I don't, the caramel hardens at the bottom! Refrigerate for about an or two. Garnish options can be strawberries, mango, shredded coconut or just lemon rind, any tropical flavour will do. Enjoy!

*If you don't have baking dish to fit 4 ramekins, use a loaf tin and make two at the a time.
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