Cheers to chai!
I’m celebrating my love of the food columns and supplements in The Guardian by trying to cook at least one recipe from each issue of Guardian Feast in 2021. Find out a bit more about that here.
I’m on crutches and have to keep my foot up, so no cooking for me for the next few weeks. Fortunately the eldest daughter is still on her Covid staycation here in Berwick. Tamal Ray’s chai-spiced mousse with caramel pecans in Feast Issue No.162 took her fancy. I always think of Angel Delight when the word mousse crops up – those pink, beige and yellow sloppy whips were such a thrilling part of my childhood. However, Tamal’s recipe sounds a lot more grown-up than Angel Delight and conjures a different memory.
The daughter and I both remember falling in love with the flavour of chai spices on a trip to New York 20 years ago. In my memory we get a chai latte from a Starbucks by a subway station. In hers it’s from a boutique coffee house. I prefer her memory! The other reason I’m impatiently listening to her endeavours in the kitchen is Tamal’s lemon crumble cookies from Issue No. 157 a few weeks back. Tamal’s play on flavour balance and texture has me hooked – and the idea of crunchy caramel pecans alongside a smooth chai-infused whip-up… Be still my beating heart.
The daughter and I are both intrigued by the idea of 15 bay leaves to infuse the caramel sugar – fortunately I have a branch tucked in a cool dark corner. She’s a bit anxious that three gelatine leaves will deliver rubbery mousses – only time will tell.
Mostly, she’s humming happily as she potters – infusing the pud with good vibes as well as chai spicing. There’s a slightly hairy moment when she overwhips the cream. She takes Tamal’s advice to: ‘just stir through a little more fresh cream until the mix is liquid again’, and Bob’s your uncle she’s humming again. The caramel syrup tastes intensely of bay and takes ‘ages longer’ than Tamal’s allotted 6-8 minutes to turn amber. The bay flavour dissipates or, you could say, blends with the cooling and setting of the caramel. The Husband declares it gives the mousses a ‘grown-up’ taste – phew, not Angel Delight, then!
In truth, the finished articles look stunning and taste sublime. They are pleasantly scoopable but in no way rubbery. The pecan crunch is literally a cracking crown. I’ve had all sorts of chai thises and thats. Trust me, Tamal’s spice combo in this mousse is the most flavoursome I’ve tasted since my New York initiation. Thank goodness the recipe makes six and we can have another one tonight!