So my schedule is going to be crazy busy the next 30 days. I will not have any access to the net on most days, and I will be hopping from one city to the other in the coming days, covering a total of 8 cities in 30 days.
While writing this post I am in Allahabad, the land of the famous Kumbh mela. Kumbh started on 14th Jan and will continue for the next 56 days. The festival got its name from the mythological “kumbh” or pitcher of nectar, over which gods and demons fought and which would give them immortality. Devotees smear ash on their body before taking a holy dip (shahi snan) in Sangam or the confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati during the Kumbh Mela. Hindus believe that by doing so, one is freed from the sins committed in this lifetime and also attains freedom from the cycle of birth and death and rebirth.The first day shahi snan saw 82 lakh people taking a dip. The crowd on the main days is large enough to be visible from space satellites and if that still doesnt grab your attention then this would. The estimated number for the next shahi snan on 10th Feb is close to 3 crores! In fact certain Hollywood personalities are also expected to attend the Kumbh (the rumors include names of Richard Gere and Catherine Zeta Jones).
I then leave for Kolkata, the city of Joy and the once capital of India during the British rule, on 17th night, where two of my grad school friends are tying the knot with each other. After a brief 2 day stay at kolkata and hopefully a quick trip at Kookie Jar and Flurry’s, I fly to Lucknow, where my undergrad college friend is getting married. I swear I did not threaten everyone to get married while I am here in India. This is just by pure coincidence. From there I head to Agra, only as a transit visit while on my way to Jaipur.
After the fun filled days of wedding food, dressing up and quality time with friends, I will be observing Noble silence for ten days at the Vipassana Meditation Centre in Jaipur. Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion. It is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It was taught in India more than 2500 years ago as a universal remedy for universal ills, i.e., an Art of Living. The technique of Vipassana Meditation is taught at ten-day residential courses during which participants learn the basics of the method, and practice sufficiently to experience its beneficial results. There are no charges for the courses – not even to cover the cost of food and accommodation. All expenses are met by donations from people who, having completed a course and experienced the benefits of Vipassana, wish to give others the opportunity to also benefit. I have wanted to do this for a long time now, ever since my B-school days where a friend told me about it. Since this time I am here for a substantial time in India, I decided to register for it and go ahead with it. The schedule is rigorous where one has to observe Noble silence- no talking at all, even through gestures for ten days! Will fill you in with my experience once I get back and have access to the internet.
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Ugh. I was so pissed off with myself yesterday. I was all set on making this loaf, and had all the necessary ingredients for it. I made the batter, and that’s where the first slip up happened. Instead of keeping the batter plain vanilla and then adding espresso and cocoa to the other half of the batter to get the marbled look, I added cocoa to the plain vanilla batter, and as a result spoiling the marble effect that the end loaf would have. Realizing my mistake, I let the batter be a little cocoa-ish and still divided the batter and added the espresso water to the other half. I managed to get a slight marble effect even if it wasn’t as distinct. The second slip up happened when, while baking I decided to check on the loaf. Since I was working with a new oven and my mom thought that the cake looked done, I took it out much before its baking time, and somehow managed to let the pan slip and fall on the ground batter side down (Murphy’s law at its best). I did scoop up the batter that was not touching the ground and baked it again. Of course the results are not spectacular. Or even close. I did add the glaze and somehow it is still edible. But the disaster has left me extremely irritated with my clumsy self.
Anyway. Coming to the recipe I am sharing today.
January 12th was my mom’s birthday. A woman who without a doubt is one of the nicest persons I know. And I do not say that because she is my mom. I know a lot of people who can vouch for her goodness. Committed to a fault to her work, even though she doesn’t get paid for it- it’s all volunteer work. Always there with a smile on her face. Amazing cook. Impeccable taste in interior decorating. Extremely creative and hard working. She is definitely the best in all that she does. And I love her a lot.
So of course for this special lady I had to make a cake on her birthday. On being asked, my mom requested for a fruit based cake and I decided that is what she will get.
I narrowed on a sponge layered cake with a strawberry filling. For the sponge cake I used a recipe from allrecipes.com, which had a high rating. Taking the advice of reviewers, I used almond extract and lemon juice in the recipe.
For the filling, I made homemade mascarpone cheese (since you don’t get commercially made here in Allahabad) and used it to make a cream filling based on the recipe here. In it I mixed some roasted strawberries, the recipe for which I adapted from here. Instead of using balsamic vinegar, I used wine and champagne oil that I had got from $250 chocoley Daring Bakers’ win.
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