Biscuits have been a trusted pantry staple that have satiated all of us, from breakfast to dinner, on good and bad days, in equal measure. From fighting for your favourite biscuit treat with your siblings to munching on packets for breakfast or lunch and even dinner in your college hostel to a quick fix for your hunger pangs in office and even, a go-to snack that has helped you sail through the current lockdown, biscuits are ubiquitous, delicious and a bang for your buck.
But the thing about growing up in India is that some biscuits are more than food – they’re eternally entwined with our sepia-tinted childhoods and so very deeply ingrained in our culture, that it’s hard to not reach out for a packet while out on a grocery run. Be it the humble Parle-G, one of the oldest and most popular biscuit brands, which recently announced that it recorded its highest sales in company history during the COVID-19-induced lockdown, so much so that it went missing from store shelves, or the slightly more indulgent ones, like Jim Jam, Oreo and Milk Bikis, and no-nonsense versatile biscuits like, Marie, Horlicks and Cream Cracker, every Indian has their favourite.
So, we reached out to four young and up-and-coming chefs and challenged them to re-imagine some of the most popular desi biskoots. The idea was to see what one can achieve with a seemingly simple ingredient and a little creativity (if there’s one thing our quarantined kitchens have taught us, it’s that ‘less is more’). And the result is a list of lip-smacking treats, savoury and sweet, that you can whip up to give your tea-time a gourmet upgrade!
1. Chilli Cheese Cream Cracker Pakoda
By Rajat Mendhi, Founder, Bombay Picnics
Of the many things we imagined the Cream Cracker biscuit to be – from a base for all kind of toppings like butter and sugar and cheese to spreads – we never thought of pakodas. But Rajat Mendhi, founder of Bombay Picnics, a unique pop-up concept in Mumbai, can truly create imagery with food. After we poked him for a savoury recipe, using a desi biscuit, Mendhi returned a day later with these truly ingenuous pakodas. “There is something about the rains that makes me crave fried food. And spicy bread pakoras are top of the list. For me, this chilli cheese cream cracker pakora with a tempura coating is a bread pakora on speed. It hits the spot and all you need with it is some garam chai,” he shares.
10 cream cracker biscuits
110 gms mix of low moisture mozzarella and cheddar cheese or any cheese you have, grated
1 green chilli, chopped
1/4 tsp honey
1/2 tsp chilli oil, more for serving
A generous pinch of salt & pepper
1 egg, beaten
1 cup cold water
1/2 cup flour/maida
1/2 cup corn starch
A generous pinch of salt
Oil for deep frying
1. To make the chilli cheese stuffing, mix the chopped green chillies, honey, chilli oil, salt and pepper into the grated cheese. Taste and see if the seasoning is right. The stuffing should be a little more salty than normal to compensate for the blandness of the Cream Cracker biscuits.
2. Make the cream cracker sandwiches. Spoon 1 tsp of the cheese stuffing over 5 crackers. Spread them to the sides as best you can, and sandwich the stuffing using another Cream Cracker.
3. Make the batter: mix cold water, flour and corn starch into the beaten egg. Do this until it’s just combined. Lumps are good.
4. Make the pakodas: set the oil in a kadhai to heat. When it hits the right temperature, give the cream cracker sandwiches a quick dunk in the batter. Drop them carefully into the hot oil and fry until golden brown. As they come out of the oil, sprinkle some salt over them. Fry the leftover batter by dropping it into the hot oil and fry them until golden brown.
5. Arrange the tempura pakodas, and the crispy tempura fried batter on a plate and drizzle it with chilli oil.
6. Serve hot.
2. Nice Biscuit Tiramisu
By Divesh Aswani, Chef
Chef Divesh Aswani, formerly with Magazine Street Kitchen, would often find himself thinking about Nice biscuits while eating tiramisu in Australia. Aswani spent a couple of years in the country while studying culinary arts at Le Cordon Bleu, Sydney. “Whenever I tasted the traditional Savoiardi biscuits, it reminded me of Nice biscuits, especially because of the sugar topping on them and their crispness. They are a good way to cheat while making traditional tiramisu, since they’re available locally and easily,” he shares.
For the coffee soak:
1 cup brewed espresso/ instant black coffee
30 ml brandy
30 ml dark rum
1/2 tsp Almond essence
For the masacpone cream:
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla essence/extract
1/3rd cup caster/ powdered sugar
1 packet of nice biscuits
Cocoa powder, to dust as garnish, as per liking
1. For the coffee soak, add all ingredients to a bowl and mix. Traditionally, Marsala wine is used in a tiramisu, but both brandy and dark rum are easily available and can be used. You can also substitute with any other liquor or completely omit the alcohol.
2. For the mascarpone cream, add all the ingredients into the bowl and place over ice to ensure the mixture remains cold. Using an electrical whisk, beat the mix until it forms firm peaks.
3. To assemble, take a glass/container in which
you'd like to set the tiramisu. Break the pieces of the nice biscuit to fit the
container evenly. Soak for a brief 5 seconds in the coffee soak and place at
the bottom of the setting container. Top up with a layer of the mascarpone
cheese mix. You can add more if you like your tiramisu creamier or less if you
love the flavour of coffee. Repeat building a layer with the soaked nice
biscuits and cream until you reach the top of your container. Set it in
the fridge for a minimum of 6 hours and dust with a sprinkle of cocoa powder
using a tea strainer. Serve chilled.
3. Monaco with Mango Salsa
By Tejashwi Muppidi, Chef
An old time favorite, Monaco biscuits served as the perfect foil for homemade snacks back in the '90s. From Monaco canapes to bites and fun hors d'oeuvres, the salty taste of Monaco biscuits is a perfect match for tea-time snacks. “For as long as mangoes are available in the local markets, every chef tries to incorporate the king of fruits into their menu or as a special dish to highlight the unique flavour of the fruit. I have done a variety of special dishes each year with mango – pairing it with seafood or fresh salads. So, whenever I need to add zing to a dish, I resort to this fruit,” admits Tejashwi Muppidi, the head chef at Le15 Café in Colaba, which only recently downed its shutters due to the lockdown. Our challenge inspired Muppidi to come up with a strangely delicious dish – Monaco with totapuri hummus and mango salsa!
For the raw mango hummus:
1/3 cup raw mango peeled and boiled
1/2 cup chickpeas boiled and strained
1 small clove of garlic
1/2 tsp jeera powder
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste
For totapuri mango salsa:
1 tbsp onion, chopped
2 tbsp Totapuri mango, peeled and chopped
3 tbsp tomato, chopped
1 tsp lime juice
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp green chilli, seeded and chopped
1 tsp coriander or parsley chopped
Salt to taste
10-12 Monaco biscuits or savoury crackers
1 tsp sesame seeds, roasted
1 tsp almonds roasted and chopped
Chilli powder, to sprinkle
1 sprig coriander
1. For the hummus, blend the ingredients except olive oil into a smooth paste. Add water or more boiled chickpeas to achieve the consistency of a thick paste. Check the seasoning, adjust salt or sourness with additional boiled raw mango if required. Transfer the purée to a bowl and top it with olive oil and refrigerate.
2. For the mango salsa, combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Check the seasoning; adjust the salt and lime juice accordingly.
3. Make a quenelle of the raw mango hummus and place it on the biscuit.
4. Top it off with a spoonful of your Totapuri mango salsa.
5. Garnish with sesame seeds, chopped almonds coriander sprig and a dusting of chilli powder.
4. S'mores Grilled Cheese with Marie
By Nuzha Ebrahim, Founder, The Fromagerie
“Nothing is more reminiscent of childhood camping than a s'more. This grilled cheese dessert is a grown-up s'more, best enjoyed in the rainy weather with a steaming mug of hot chocolate,” shares Nuzha Ebrahim, the young entrepreneur behind Fromagerie, a gourmet grilled collective that has taken snacking to a thrilling level in Mumbai. Ebrahim’s s’more grilled cheese draws from a classic s’more and combines it with the comfort of a grilled cheese sandwich, while incorporating what is ostensibly India’s favourite biskoot – Marie! Admittedly, Marie is most versatile when it comes to desserts and we’re sure you must be having a pack lying around.
2 slices of Brioche, Pain de Mie, Hokkaido Milk Bread or any other bread you may have
2 tbsp mascarpone cheese
50 gm dark chocolate
120 gm whipping cream
Mini marshmallows (as many as you like!)
50 gm Marie biscuits, powdered
2 tbsp butter
1. Heat up your whipping cream in a bowl in the microwave till it's just about simmering (30 seconds to 1 min in bursts). Add the chopped dark chocolate and whisk till you have a smooth and shiny ganache.
2. Take a slice of bread, spread a layer of butter on one side and press into the powdered Marie Biscuit. Repeat with the other slice of bread.
3. On the side that hasn't been crumbed with powdered biscuit, generously spread the mascarpone on one slice of bread and the ganache on the other slice.
4. Arrange the Mini Marshmallows around one of the slices and then shut the sandwich with the other slice of bread with the Marie-biscuit crumbing on the outside.
5. On a low to medium hot tawa, toast the sandwiches on both sides till its golden brown on the outsides and the marshmallows have melted. Dig in.
Images: Fromagerie, Rajat Mendhi and Shutterstock.com