Travelogue | Jaipur… a trip down memory lane #India #travel #Jaipur

Atithi Devo Bhawah” Maharaja Jai Singh II

Jaipur, IndiaWriting about my trip into Old Delhi not so long ago evoked considerable interest. India has such a diverse and vibrant map, that it’s fun to talk about what the country has to offer. Sometimes getting off a recipe allows me to pursue something I enjoy otherwise, travel through India. I’ve done a fair bit of travel across the length and breath of this beautiful land. It’s a wonderful feeling to share a few bytes!Srinagar March 2014 We spent precious days in Srinagar in March last year, probably our most memorable trip in a while as we flew into the beautiful valley. Srinagar was truly ‘Paradise on Earth’. Soon after, bitten by the travel bug yet again, we headed for Leh, another absolute gem but so different from anything you can think of. We couldn’t get enough of it, and will hopefully go back there someday!Leh, Kashmir 2014

Leh, Kashmir 2014India is as diverse as diverse can be. Every nook and corner has something special to offer. Living in the NCR makes travel to cities like Agra, Jaipur and Amritsar quite easy to visit. Just a road trip away, it’s time to dive into one of my favourite cities to explore – Jaipur. With good expressways that lead to a city ready for international tourists, if you drive to Jaipur, make sure you take a breakfast or tea break at one of the dhabas en route!En route Jaipur, November 2014Winter is generally high season and even though there are a number of budget hotels in Jaipur, getting a reservation is quite difficult. Book in advance if possible, especially if you plan to be there during the festival season.  We visited Jaipur a couple of months ago as guests of the JW Marriott. While this might cater to slightly high budget guests, there are a number of affordable hotels in Jaipur as well.

Jaipur MarriottWith festivals like the Jaipur Literature Festival held annually since 2006, there are a plethora of hotel options available. If on a shoestring budget like friends of mine who visited in November last year, the best option would be bed and breakfast hotels in Jaipur.  Once comfortably settled in, the city is yours to enjoy.

Jaipur Marriott, O2 SpaWe had a really nice tour guide and taxi that the hotel provided. What ensured was two days of fun, fun and more fun. Jaipur is a beautiful city with the awe inspiring architecture, so well looked after too. Heritage around every corner, it is really well planned. The Pink City as Jaipur is also called, is truly ready for the global tourist, and is a photographers delight!

Jaipur , the Pink City courtesy Jaipur MarriottSpots not to be missed … to begin with , the City Palace. It can knock your breath away. Beautifully maintained, clean, embellished  doors in the central courtyard for every season, puppet shows, some souvenir shops too. Interesting bric a brac, old buggeys, family trees all delight the visitor.

Jaipur IndiaJust outside the city palace is Hawa Mahal, an architectural marvel. Dated in history, it’s a beautiful facade that has hundreds of small balconies and windows that allowed women in purdah to sit within and watch processions in the days of yore. The Hawa Mahal has a fascinating facade, while interesting shops dot the street around. Clothes, quilts, leather, silver, accessories, souvenirs … but don’t forget to bargain as you can get easily fleeced!Jaipur IndiaYour next stop should be Amer Fort sitting atop a hill. Just the drive up to the fort will amaze you. Precision of architecture, huge bolstered walls made of heavy rocks, beautiful landscape. One is filled with wonder at how something so gigantic and perfect could have been constructed so many hundred years ago. Yet another well maintained historical building, and it is heartening to see so many local tourists visiting the fort over weekends.

lunch @ Okra, Jaipur MarriottHow can you visit a city and not eat? If you are looking for fine dining, head straight for the JW Marriot. With four classy restaurants, there is something for everyone there. The 24 hour coffee shop will leave you wishing your stomach was an endless pit. The choice blows you away, with the freshest best food. If it’s Indian you crave, the Saffron is highly recommended. Make sure you try a signature smoked butter chicken, silky smooth saffron paneer, finger licking good maa ki dal and garlic naan. Also make time to stop by the Jaipur Baking Company at the hotel as it churns out the best freshly baked goodies money can buy!

Spice Court JaipurIf you are out in the city, and would like a quick meal stop then the Spice Court will not disappoint. We had the best famous Lal Maas at the beautiful Spice Court. The restaurant has a colonial feel to it, and offers a nice laid back atmosphere. No one seems to be in a hurry. For the sweet tooth, just alongside is a patisserie which offers the great desserts. Enter it and for a moment you get transported to a Parisian cafe.

Jaipur, IndiaWe hit the best local food joints too, and we couldn’t get enough of them. Must tries include pani poories, local word famous ghewar and of course the kachoris. Go with an appetite because the kachoris in Jaipur cannot be found elsewhere. Rawat ki Kachori has the best {read BEST} kachoris in town. Eat a couple, pack a few …you will not regret carrying back ‘the taste of Jaipur’. It one of the only ways to keep the holiday alive after you leave the Pink City!

Don’t miss a post Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

Baking | Wholewheat Almond Buttermilk Pound Cake … delicious topped with almond cream & fresh strawberries

“The great thing about cake is it doesn’t feel like work. You forget about work. Kids, adults, they all get the same look in their eye when they’re decorating cakes… That’s the magic right there.”
Duff Goldman

 Wholewheat Almond Buttermilk Pound Cake Wholewheat Almond Buttermilk Pound Cake … made on the trot the other day before dashing off to Bangalore. There was a young, enthusiastic photographer coming over to shoot my profile for a newspaper feature on The New Indian ExpressIt’s a Feast For the Eyes. How could I not bake a cake?

Photoshoot for New Indian Express There was plenty of stuff baked as I was going to be away for 2 days. Some Coffee Shortbread Cookies which I quickly turned into Coffee Shortbread Nutella Sandwich Cookies {absolutely divine}. Also on hand some recently baked Amaranth Oat Walnut Ginger Cookies {gluten free and eggless}, and a batch of Wholewheat Dark Chocolate Walnut Brownies. Of course, there is  always GF Multigrain Granola at home too …Photoshoot for New Indian ExpressYet, what’s a food porn photo-shoot sans cake? It was a mad rush that day so I had to keep it simple. Short on time, I reached for one of my most trusted recipes, a buttermilk pound cake which has evolved over the years. It’s a basic recipe that works with infinite combinations; a recipe never short on ideas!

Whole Wheat Pound CakeI’ve made a buttermilk pound cake a million times in many avatars, my to-go recipe that lives in my head! Some of my favourites versions are the Buttermilk Chocolate Pound Cake, Whole Wheat Coffee Dark Chocolate Pound Cake and the Tres Leches Wholewheat Lemon Pound Cake.

Wholewheat Almond Buttermilk Pound Cake This one turned out to be a hit too. Light, full of flavour with a silky almond whipped cream topping. Fresh sweet strawberries added the right oomph to it; a burst of colour too. You can use any seasonal berries, actually any seasonal fruit for that matter. Mangoes, litchi, kiwi, oranges, plums … all fruit pair well with almond and vanilla!

Photography is sacrosanct and as vital as the written content for Deeba Rajpal, a celebrated food blogger from Gurgaon, who churns out scrumptious recipes and snaps their exquisite replicas for her website Passionate About Baking.

“We eat with our eyes first cannot be understated in today’s increasingly visual and dynamic world. The photographs should complement the recipe and build a food connect with the reader,” says Deeba, who banks on her aesthetic sense, eye for detail and Canon camera for desired captures. read the rest of the feature on TNIE

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

Baking | Bittersweet Fallen Chocolate Gateau with Crème Patisserie & Balsamic Vanilla Strawberries … my feature in Mail Today #mailtoday #thecocoatrees

“What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate.”
Katharine Hepburn

Bittersweet Fallen Chocolate GateauA Bittersweet Dark Chocolate Fallen Cake adapted minimally from an Alice Medrich recipe. This gateau is like an ugly duckling, almost flourless cake, which gets dressed up to go out. Reminds me of a shakespearean tragedy as it bakes ; the rise and then the tragic collapse. Left ‘undressed’, it’s a moorish, rustic sunken cake, beautiful in my eyes. Barely any flour makes this cake more special.

Bittersweet Fallen Chocolate Gateau The Mail Today, a daily in India, invited me for a photoshoot with some selected women home bakers in the National Capital  Region. I was asked to carry something I baked for the shoot. It was a last minute thing, and I was all set to go out for an Old Delhi trek with my girlfriends, something we had long planned.

Old Delhi TrekConsidering I was the only ‘non commercial‘ home baker amidst all these very talented girls, the oldest among them too {dinosaur age…blah blah blah}, I thought I’d make something different. The Bittersweet Fallen Chocolate Gateau was it! It’s an adaptation of Alice Medrich’s earthy rustic style of baking. It really appeals to me.

Mail Today featureOne look and I thought it would be good; Alice Medrich never fails. Baked within an hour, it was done as I raced off to catch the metro into Delhi. On the train, I made mental plans on how to dress up the cake as I’d be home late, and the shoot was early the next morning. { Also made a teenie cake for home just we knew if it tasted alright}.

Balsamic Vanilla Basil StrawberriesI had a batch of crème patisserie in the fridge.  It’s always handy to have on hand. A L W A Y S! Fold in whipped cream to sandwich a cake with, pipe it into eclairs or profiteroles, serve it over cake or fruit, or then just make it into ice cream. So versatile, and so fun!

Bittersweet Fallen Chocolate Gateau And there was also a nice little jar of balsamic vanilla basil strawberries in the fridge from the day I made Strawberry frozen yogurt. That would be UPLIFTING and would contrast nicely with the chocolate and crème patisserie. A few fresh strawberries on top, and a sprinkling of mint leaves and I knew I was set.

Bittersweet Fallen Chocolate Gateau So simply constructed that I had time to spare the next morning. Thats when I got ambitious and made a dark chocolate lace border to embrace the cake. Once done, the hour drive into Delhi at 30C was not something I had taken into mind. Fortunately for me, the gateau survived.

At Shiro, Samrat, New Delhi. Mail Today shootMail Todays ‘femail magazine’ editor is the very young and sweet Lipla Negi. Bubbly, energetic, considerate she effortlessly brought the group together. We were meeting each other for the first time, and within half an hour had hit it off.

At Shiro, Samrat, New Delhi. Mail Today shoot It’s always nice to meet like minded folk. It doesn’t get better than a bunch of women home bakers I tell you! {The shoot took place at the beautiful Shiro, Samrat Hotel, New Delhi.With it’s signature high ceilings,  majestic statues, stone and water interiors, an aura of splendour hits you as you enter.}

Bittersweet Fallen Chocolate Gateau As for my  Bittersweet Fallen Chocolate Gateau, it was special.  Bittersweet chocolate is my first love, and into this gateau went a beautiful Belgian dark 72% chocolate from The Cocoa Trees. It’s one of 40+ varieties of premium chocolates they have on offer. They sent me a variety of dark chocolates to sample – Chocoholic Dark, Belgian dark 72%, Fry Extra Dark 85%, Cadbury Old Gold Dark Original & Old Gold Dark Peppermint. Chocolate heaven I tell you.

The Cocoa Trees is a chocoholic’s dream come true offering over 40 plus varieties of international chocolate brands which include the fine cocoa filled mouse from Ritter Sport, dark smooth chocolate of Anthon Berg, the unmistakable heavenly crunch of Ferrero, chocolaty pralines from Sorini, and many more. The Cocoa TreesA Singapore based chocolate boutique store, The Cocoa Trees, offers a delicious spectrum of branded chocolates which cater to a variety of individual needs. Since its launch in 2011, the boutique store has expanded its presence with its launch of its two new stores at Nature’s Basket, Bandra and R City Mall, Ghatkopar. You can also find one at the Domestic Terminal {T3}, IGI Airport, New Delhi.

Each bar was of premium quality, and divinely delicious. The Cadbury’s Old Gold collection true to it’s name … exquisite. I enjoyed each one of them, deeply satisfying. I also enjoyed the quality it leant to my gateau. Your bake will only taste as good as what goes in.

Bittersweet Fallen Chocolate Gateau Thank you The Cocoa Trees for sending me this fine selection of dark chocolates. The promise of dark chocolate marries really well with strawberries. The Bittersweet Fallen Chocolate Gateau reflects my love of baked desserts, bittersweet chocolate and including fruit in almost everything I do. Thank you Mail Today for the generous feature. Last but not the least, thank you Urban Dazzle for the Cake Plate. I love it and use it often!

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India