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Diwali Special: Have your mithai and eat it too, says Rachel Goenka

  • What can you do with those leftover boxes of ‘kesar peda’?
  • Goenka’s ingenious new book tells you not just how to make contemporary ‘mithai’, but also repurpose the old

Anjeer Barfi Tart
Anjeer Barfi Tart (Photo: Adventures with Mithai)

There’s no such thing as a failed experiment. Especially if it’s to do with a cookbook that deals with breaking the norm with traditional Indian mithai. When Rachel Goenka, founder and CEO of hospitality company The Chocolate Spoon Factory, launched her book, Adventures With Mithai, on 14 October in Mumbai, I attempted a recipe from it.

Goenka’s debut book is a contemporary take on Indian sweets—think cardamom-infused mousse paired with crumbled motichoor and flavours of kehwa tea captured in macarons. The recipe for trial was Shahi Tukda Cinnamon Rolls with Rabri Cream. In the book, Goenka writes that it’s a “spin on the Hyderabadi fried-bread dessert, these rolls are super easy to make, and lighter and crispier than churros".

It had the magic words “fried bread" and seemed deceptively simple with five ingredients, not including the rabri. The bread needed a cinnamon-flavoured buttercream spread, and that’s where things went awry. While mixing caster sugar with unsalted butter, I heated the butter over warm water without realizing that this process would split it.

Adventures With Mithai: By Rachel Goenka, HarperCollins India, 128 pages,  <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>899.
Adventures With Mithai: By Rachel Goenka, HarperCollins India, 128 pages, 899.

Defeated, I flipped the pages of Adventures With Mithai several times for doable recipes and realized that the underlying subtext is really about repurposing ingredients. So, instead of discarding the non-creamy butter with sugar and cinnamon, I used it. The result was crispy bread rolls that looked nothing like the gorgeous recipe photographs in the book—but all the flavours were intact and compliments followed.

“We get mithai boxes as gifts during Diwali, and there are a lot of leftovers. These recipes are a way to convert them into innovative desserts that you can gift, or even have a dessert spread for your Diwali dinner," says Goenka. She points out that the easiest recipes in her book are in a segment called Truffles. The ice-cream section, with recipes ranging from kopra pak and coconut ice cream with imarti, is somewhat “technical" because it requires an ice-cream machine.

A number of recipes in the book are a classic case of repurposing ingredients. Kaju katlis and kesar pedas can be reinvented as truffles with just four ingredients in under 15 minutes.

Adventures With Mithai took a little more than two months to be written and published, but Goenka started her journey with innovative mithai recipes seven years ago. As the founder of the trendy resto-bar Sassy Spoon in Mumbai, now six years old, she would plan the dessert menu for Diwali every year. “They were complex plated items and not exactly home-chef friendly. To adapt those recipes for this book was challenging and to create 50 recipes was a very sweet nightmare," she laughs. Sassy Teaspoon, which opened in 2016, is the patisserie arm of Sassy Spoon.

Goenka, who tells me her favourite mithai is Mysore pak, sampled several traditional Indian desserts to analyse their flavour notes, pairing them with ingredients such as chocolate, whipped cream and cream cheese. Some popular choices, like the Bengali rosogolla or Agra’s petha, are conspicuously missing from the final list. Largely, however, easy availability was key while shortlisting mithai. She let go of region-specific varieties that are not widely sold, though she did include ghevar from Rajasthan, Mysore pak from Karnataka, aamras from Gujarat and even a black rice preparation from Nagaland.

Goenka’s father, Viveck Goenka, is the chairman and managing director of the Indian Express Group, which might explain why she studied journalism at Pennsylvania State University, US. She discovered her love for cooking while experimenting in the kitchen for her then boyfriend and now husband, Karan Khetarpal. It led her to a patisserie course in Le Cordon Bleu in London and a training stint with celebrity chef Rachel Allen. It comes as no surprise then that her book is also aimed at Indians living overseas who intend to introduce mithai to friends.

“We constantly borrow influences from the West but I don’t see Indian food having that kind of reach," she says. With recipes as her tool for creative expression and a debut book, she attempts to unite multiple cultures with mithai makeovers.

Kesar Peda Truffles
Kesar Peda Truffles

Kesar Peda Truffles

Goenka gives the innocuous peda an innovative spin with this recipe.

Makes 12 pieces


200g kesar peda

10g cream cheese

10g icing sugar


100g powdered sugar


Mash the kesar peda in a bowl using the back of a spoon or a fork. Ensure the mithai is at room temperature so that it mashes easily.

Add the icing sugar and cream cheese and mix till it forms a paste-like consistency. Refrigerate the filling for approximately 30 minutes.

Measure 15g of filling for each truffle and roll into balls. Store the truffles in an airtight container in the fridge till you are ready to serve.

To serve, bring the truffles to room temperature and toss them in powdered sugar. Toss a few strands of saffron into the powdered sugar .

These truffles can keep for a week in the fridge.

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