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.
It’s week 11 of my epic attempt to cook from each issue of Guardian Feast and it’s beginning to feel as if we’re on a bit of a roll. Which is apposite. After all, who could resist the Ottolenghi kitchen’s chocolate and coconut mochi roulade pictured on the front of Feast Issue No.165 and shared liberally on Insta by Yotam and Ixta? I couldn’t. And neither could the eldest daughter who declares she’s always wanted to make mochi. And, let’s face it, this roulade is a GIANT mochi.
The mochi roulade is what my mum termed a ‘dinner party dish’. She used to make Delia Smith’s chocolate roulade as one of the obligatory five choices of pud when she and Dad entertained in the 60s and 70s. I always remember the anxiety over ‘cracking’ as Mum rolled up the cake slathered in its cream. Also, the sheer amount of time and effort it took to create the thing. I feel I might be in for a similar ride – I’ve never seen 400ml of cream and some coconut flakes put through so many processes! Anyway, I rush ahead. Mum’s roulade always tasted fabulous – and to us it always looked amazing, cracks and all. So, that’s all I’m hoping for: Fabulous!!!
In fact, finding a way (a way to make mochi) is even more challenging than anticipated. Glutinous rice flour is a very particular ingredient – and not one to be substituted easily, if at all. There’s none on our high street in this far corner of north eastern England. So, desperate to get on, we order from the online supplier who we usually try to avoid, hoping for next day delivery. Turns out that even the God of Amazon cannot deliver glutinous rice flour to Berwick-upon-Tweed on Sunday (although it can to most other parts of the country). So, Monday is mochi day.
No matter, I prepare the caramelised coconut flakes and infuse the cream overnight as recommended (the kind of thing I’m never usually organised or patient enough to do). I decide that kitchen Ottolenghi must have industrial-sized baking trays and ovens – there’s no way I can spread 200g of dried coconut flakes across one tray – so I use two. I also decide that anything mixed with maple syrup and condensed milk is impossible to make ‘not clumped together’ no matter how much you mix them. Hey ho, they taste so sublime that I take the 50g of leftover coconut flakes from my packet and give them the same treatment so that we can snack on them while we await the full event. As for the coconut and cream journey, it seems a bit counterintuitive to tip a pile of crispy flakes into cream and infuse, but I do as I’m told.
Overall, the mochi cake itself is incredibly easy to put together. I realise too late that my tin of coconut milk is 50% coconut extract rather than 70%. I whisk by hand to begin with ‘until all the ingredients come together’ and then use a hand whisk because my processor only has blades. The batter’s quite runny and a good fit for the tin. After 25 mins in the oven, I can see some quite large bubbles ballooning off the top of the cake, when I take it out they fall and it feels ‘set but springy’ to me. When it’s cooled, it does sink a bit in the middle leaving a slight ridge around the outside, so maybe I should have left it for a couple of minutes (actually the ridge is quite a good guide when it comes to smearing on the coconut crisp sludge and cream!). I crack on (it’s a Monday night, after all!).
As the cake cooks, I reheat the cooled cream and coconut flakes, press them through a sieve and hoick them into the processor with cocoa powder and – ingredient of the moment – maple syrup. Weirdly, they begin to smell and taste like cornflakes to me. The eldest daughter, cruising the kitchen on a work break for sniffs and licks, dismisses this as motherly foolishness. Nevertheless, the ‘coarse paste’ tastes a bit like posh cornflake crispy cake mix to me. Bish, bash, bosh! I hurtle through the rest of the prep and the moment of mochi rolling truth arrives. I’m hoping the solid stretchiness delivered by glutinous rice flour will prevent cracking. I’m right.
The end result is everything we’d hoped for in its chocolatey, crunchy caramel-topped, coconutty creamy, chewy, mochiness. The ping of salt from the caramelised coconut is a stroke of genius. There’s no doubting it’s rich licks. The daughter and I agree that a little goes a long way. The Husband begs to differ. He thinks a lot is just right.
Even though we had to wait for our mochi roulade, we were able to indulge ourselves for Saturday cocktail hour. It was such a chilly, bright and glorious March evening, that we took our ‘good mixer’ apple martinis from Anna Haugh at Myrtle down the garden and enjoyed the sunset. Just lovely.
Through a glass brightly. What could be more perfect than a Berwick sunset viewed through an apple martini?