March 24, 2010

Verrine: Savoury Pumpkin Coconut Mousse With Herbed Mascarpone

Last month, four of us fellow food bloggers and tweeps happened to get together by chance, and decided to each explore how we could make a good Red Velvet Cake without artificial colour. We even called ourselves the Velveteers (since our mission was a Velvet Cake).

We enjoyed doing that so much that we decided we would make this a regular affair, exploring food and techniques that we were all interested in.
After a lot of brainstorming and a whole lot of e-mails going up and down, what came up to be explored this month was verrines!

So what is a verrine?
The word “verrine” comes from the French word for glass which is “verre”. A verrine can be sweet or savoury and is an attractively layered appetizer or dessert, which is served in very small glasses. The glasses are usually unstemmed and can range from shot glasses or miniature parfait glasses to small glass bowls.

So a verrine is not only about visual impact, but also about the textures, flavours, colours and even temperatures which all add up to a complete whole. There can be any number of layers to a verrine, but I should think fewer layers would mean no confusion between the various elements.
Verrines are very popular not just because they look good. They’re easy to make, can be made ahead and refrigerated if necessary. They’re excellent to serve at parties and even better when you realize verrines are perfect for portion control!

I knew all of this when we decided to make verrines but what had me stumped were the ingredients. The four of us decided to make the challenge a bit more exciting for ourselves by each of us suggesting an ingredient and then making our verrines with those 4 ingredients.
Alessio chose chocolate, Asha chose squash, Pamela chose salmon (and zucchini for me as I’m vegetarian!) and I chose cheese.

As you can imagine, it wasn’t easy coming up with a verrine with this combination. Now I know, this would be as familiar as the back of your hand for many of you, but for me this was like being asked to translate something from Greek or Latin.
First of all, we’re not really used to eating our savoury stuff layered in a glass! Chocolate is a wonderful ingredient but in a savoury dish with squash, zucchini and cheese?

The nearest thing to squash I can get here is pumpkin so a quick trip to the market and I got the pumpkin and some zucchini. I rarely out of chocolate or cocoa powder so that was taken care of.
I had some home-made mascarpone in the fridge that needed to be used up so it had to go into the verrine.

I just have to ask this question here. Have any of you ever cooked pumpkin and zucchini together, or have recipes to do so? I would appreciate suggestions or recipes. Thanks.

After much thought and research into the matter (about 3 weeks of it) I finally came up with a savoury pumpkin and coconut mousse topped with creamy herbed mascarpone, garnished with semi-sweet chocolate curls and a crisp zucchini chip.
I had no other brilliant ideas on how to use the chocolate in a savoury dish and pair zucchini with the other 3 ingredients!


about 6 to 8 tbsp semi-sweet chocolate curls

6 crisply fried zucchini chips

For the pumpkin coconut mousse:

1 1/2 cup fresh pumpkin purée

1 tbsp butter

1 small onion, minced

1/4 tsp garlic paste

1/2 tsp ginger paste

1 small carrot, chopped

1 tsp chopped celery

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

1 tsp garam masala

1/2 cup cream (25% fat)

15 gm coconut milk powder

salt to taste

For the herbed mascarpone:

1 cup mascarpone (mine was home-made)

1 tbsp chopped celery

2 to 3 tbsp finely chopped spring onion greens

salt and black pepper to taste


For the pumpkin coconut mousse:

In a pan, melt the butter and sauté the onion, ginger, garlic, carrot and celery. Add the chilli flakes and the garam masala. Stir a couple of times and add the pumpkin puree. Cook for another minute and take off the heat. Allow to cool and then put the mixture into the blender and purée till smooth and creamy.

Whip the cream till almost stiff. Add the coconut milk powder and continue to beat till the coconut milk powder is well mixed and the cream is stiff.
Fold the coconut milk powder- whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture till well blended.

For the herbed mascarpone:

Beat together the mascarpone cheese and the other ingredients, with a spoon, till smooth and creamy. Refrigerate till ready to use.

Assembling the verrine:

Spoon or pipe the pumpkin coconut mousse equally into 6 small verrine glasses. Spoon the herbed mascarpone over this in a smooth layer. If not serving immediately, chill the verrines till required.

Just before serving, sprinkle the chocolate curls over the mascarpone and garnish with a crisp zucchini chip and some celery.


The flavours were interesting and I would say they did quite well together, and surprisingly, the chocolate was a nice contrast to the savoury taste of the other layers.

The words “pumpkin” and “zucchini” decided it for Akshaya that there was no way this verrine could taste good! Not even “chocolate” would make her change her mind. The word “mascarpone” made her take a second look at the verrine, but after a taste she decided that she most definitely liked her mascarpone in sweet stuff.
My husband and I felt that this savoury verrine wasn’t quite to our taste. This is a personal opinion and like I mentioned before, it’s probably because we’re not used it.

I would take the mousse layer and turn it into a pumpkin-coconut milk soup and it would be fantastic. The herbed mascarpone would make an excellent dip or a spread for bread/ toast.
Zucchini is really not a vegetable we like very much anyways, so I’d give it a miss, and I guess I don’t have to say anything about the chocolate!
I love the idea of a verrine, and shall definitely make them a lot but my verrines shall be of the sweet/ dessert kind.

Please visit my co-conspirators in this venture, to see how they used the same 4 ingredients in their verrines.
Alessio created some Fresh, Zingy Richness in a Clear Glass.
Asha came up with a Zucchini-Cocoa, Lime-Ginger and Smoked Salmon Mousse Verrine.
Pamela concocted a 4 Velveteers' Verrine.

The four of us will be exploring (velveteering, as we like to call our monthly kitchen adventures!)) a new dish/ style of cooking/ cuisine every month. Each of us will share our recipes, experiences and verdicts on our blogs.
Do visit our blogs and if you would like to join us, please leave a comment here and we will get back to you.


Madhuri said...

Wonderful. Never tried this. must awesome presentation too.
Food looks from a star hotel

Ria Mathew said...

All I can do is to imagine how it would taste like :) The pics are beautiful!

Pavithra said...

Wow thats one yummy and mouthwatering dessert..

Rambling Tart said...

What a fun adventure! :-) It looks scrumptious even if it wasn't quite up to snuff regarding taste. :-)

Priya said...

Absolutely delicious....awesome Mousse..

jayasree said...

Thats fun as a group,experimenting a new dish. Lovely clicks.

Trissa said...

Hi Aparna! Go Velveteers! The pumpkin coconut mousse is just inspired! Am going to copy the lovely mousse soon!

Barbara GF said...

That is sheer culinary magic, Aparna. What a combination of flavors; and I love how you used mascarpone for the topping.

sra said...

Nice! Was it heavy?

Justine said...

wow this looks absolutely amazing. you're so creative!

Alessio Fangano said...

Aparna, I quite liked your interpretation of our Verrine challenge :) The pumpkin mousse is quite interesting indeed! though I'm not sure I can find powdered coconut milk here :( (is it the one coming in kinda block?).
I am also glad you enjoyed the touch of chocolate on it ;) I know, I made things more difficult but it wouldn't be a challenge otherwise eheh

For the pumpkin-zucchini recipes; you may try to roast them together and dress them with herbs and garlic for a nice salad. Or use fried/grilled zucchini to counterpoint a pumpkin cream soup. If u extend the pumpkin part to its seeds, you may try doing a cured zucchini stripes salad with pumpkin seeds and citrus zests :)
I hope these suggestions will inspire u.

Tasty Eats At Home said...

These certainly look pretty, even if they weren't your favorite dish. What a creative thing to make!

Happy Cook said...

I love this, a real tea party hit.
And i am in love with the picture. Are you using any special programme to get them so bright.
My pics are sometimes dull as there is no sun, or you using any lights.

Aparna said...

Thanks! :)

Would love to see what you do with that mousse. A little bird told me you might join us? :)

Yes, Sra it was quite filling, bit I wouldn't say it was heavy. Almost a meal in itself (well we managed dessert too) but mascarpone is quite rich.

Thanks Al. my powdered coconut milk comes in a small 25 gm packet. You could use thick coconut cream instead. Coconut milk would thin the mousse unless you use agar/ gelatin.
Yes, it was quite a challenge for me. :D
I might just become friends with zucchini with these suggestions.

HC, I'm not using any special program, though sometimes I use the camera software to adjust brightness and contrast a bit.
I get a lot of sun here. If you don't get sun, use artificial light and adjust your white balance, ISO and exposure levels.

Cynthia said...

Seems as if I have not been here in ages! My, my, my, those are some outstanding pics!

Happy Cook said...

Aparna thankyou, i shuold do that, zdjusting WB, i do have trouble with that, but not si techy i am.
Maybe end this winter i might buy the lights, have not yet decided, still there is months to go as spring is just here :-)

Chitra said...

so inventive and looks just so delicious.

bake in paris said...

It looks good as an overall, but I agree with you that though the taste could be in fact delicious, but we might not be used to it. I would suggest maybe keeping the pumpkin coconut mousse with accompanying chocolate mousse or ganache layer, and just make it sweet dessert altogether. Anyway, just a thought :-)

Sawadee from Bangkok,

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

I love verrines, they are so pretty. I would love to learn how to make nice ones one day. What a list of ingredients! You did a great job with the challenge.