Today morning while watering the various plants dotting our balconies, I suddenly felt as if my grandfather was standing besides me. Instructing me to take note of the leaves and flowers. Judge the soil and decide the correct level of watering. I was transported back 20 years in time. To another summer when you could be in your shorts, sit in the mud and talk to plants all day long.
And then go up on the terrace, take a big slice of watermelon and hog it down. Staining your clothes pink and spitting the seeds all over. A time which seemed to go on, and day which seemed like one chunk of time. Not divided in morning, afternoon or evening. Because you could eat breakfast for lunch, take a shower in the afternoon and have an ice-cream whenever you wish. It was the summer vacation time. At my grandparents house with my cousins.
Every year, we would have such uninterrupted vacation for at least 15 days or even more. The hot blazing sun overhead did not matter, neither did the bruises on the knees. I was more acquainted with G.I.Joes and fighting techniques than Barbie dolls, because my cousin and his best friend were both guys. Who loved fighting. With each other, with the armored figurines or with me. He-man – The master of the Universe came into my life way earlier than dolls and dresses. I learnt to brat my way through, to get the maximum number of mangoes or to be the last one to take a shower.
I remember getting lots of candies then, which we would deposit with my grandpa in his big jar of candies. And every day we got to put our hand in the multi-colored candy jar and pick out the biggest candy. And then scare the world with our newly colored red green or blue tongues. The jar never ran out of candy, and our minds out of things to do. At the end of every exciting activity was a turn which led to another activity. So we would wake up and go out to pluck flowers for the daily pooja (a daily prayer ritual), then eat breakfast teemed up with a lot of fruits, make mud castles, go swimming, play with the dog, then a mandatory break for lunch, eat ice-cream(s), make origami animals, paint (sometimes books and sometimes walls), wait on the porch for my uncle and aunt to return from work and then go to the Appughar – local Disneyland, come back sweaty and itchy, take a shower, and then relax while listening to some historical stories and some fairy tales. And then dream. Dream of Shivaji Maharaj and dreams of being Rapunzel.
That was a time when there were no video games or Ipads. We played with Lego and doll houses and sand castles. We read from books which were made of paper and real pages which had to be turned to know what comes next. With our little hands and big thoughts, we were planting seeds of what would become of us. Those were the long uninterrupted days filled with possibilities. Of spotting a new bird or sucking the honey from a flower bud. Or just lying down and viewing the sun from our tin kaleidoscopes.
Pistachio Chocolate Chip Cake
This cake is as simple as childhood dreams. Nothing fancy, just some ground pistachios, ground almonds and chocolate chips which will melt in your mouth. I had seen this recipe in a magazine in Paris, inspired from a cake served in Rose Bakery, Pigalle. Try it, you will love the distinctive pistachio flavor.
What you will need:
- 225 gm sugar
- 200 gm butter
- 4 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 100 gm toasted pistachios, finely ground and sieved
- 100 gm toasted almonds, finely ground and sieved
- 200 gm all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt (if using unsalted butter)
- 200 gm chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
What to do:
- Butter and line a loaf pan or a 10 inch round cake pan. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C.
- In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together till creamy and light in color.
- Then add the eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating it before adding the next one.
- Add in the vanilla extract.
- In another bowl mix together pistachio powder, almond powder, flour and baking powder.
- Gently fold in the dry ingredients with the egg mixture till it all comes together. Mix in the chocolate chips.
- Spoon the batter into the loaf pan.
- Bake for 50 minutes (for the bigger loaf) , or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
- The pistachio flavor is over-powering the almonds, but the almond powder keeps the cake wonderfully moist.
- Be careful to not let any pistachio shell get ground. It will be a nightmare to bite into a piece with the pointy shell in the cake. Hence i recommend sieving the pistachio powder.
- I used almonds with the skin to give it a slightly golden brown color. Feel free to use skin-less almonds if you prefer a greener color from the pistachios.
- You can use un-toasted nuts, but toasting releases the oils, and hence the flavors.