Its Christmas eve and I peer outside the glass windows of the store.Bells chime at the neighborhood Church and beautiful mistletoe wreaths adorn every door down the street. The snowflakes cascade down the clear blue sky,soft and white.As I walk past one of the houses, Rudolph the reindeer seems to wink at me mischievously ,hidden deep beneath a pile of snow in the garden with Santa manning the sledge - such a heart-warming sight!The nook above the keyhole on my main door has snow perched on it.It crushes at the slightest touch into a zillion shimmery splinters when I slowly prod the door ajar.The chill of the snow sears my now un-gloved palms. A thick layer of crunchy snow settles in a blanket on the fence outside my living room window.
Once inside the comfort of my home, I put the heater on and start embellishing my prized Christmas tree.I string up the lights and dangle them on the branches.A tiny stuffed bunny,boxes in cerulean blue with big yellow bows strapped across,shining stars and lovely tinkling bells strewn with silver tinsel looking like Moroccan Henna lamps adorn my coveted Christmas tree.A cake gets baked in the oven of my kitchenspace - a heady cinnamony aroma drifts through the house,peaking around the kitchenspace and then swirling about my decked up Christmas tree. It finally settles heavily in the Christmas air.
I put the television on and hear Doris Day melliflously sing 'Let it snow,let it snow,let it snow'. And what a lovely feeling it is!
I whiz back to the present and yes its Christmas time again - sans the snow,sans Doris Day!Yup I'm back to the city where I actually belong - the city of Bongs.And the city is celebrating Christmas in full glory.The lovely lights along Park Street, Harry Belafonte belting out Christmas tunes at Peter Cat, the bells toll at St.Paul's Cathedrals at the stroke of twelve,heralding the Midnight Mass.Christmas bells and carols reverberate throughout the city, drenching her in unadulterated Christmas fervor.
Christmas has always been a time for 'spic-and-span' fun.Everything feels so warm,cozy and lovey-dovey.For me,it was always a much-awaited entourage that would come with my music teacher tapping on the piano keys at school to Christmas carols and lovely feasts enjoyed with friends in the hallowed ambience of my alma mater.Not that I could make out much of the religious seriousness attached,but it would be a purely fun-filled time replete with the luxury of longers hours under the warm quilt in the morning, granted without furrowed eyebrows from my folks! An erstwhile 'study table' almost overloaded with paperbacks.Enid Blytons, Archie comics and Nancy Drews ruled the roost.The Hardy boys would not have my whole-hearted patronage at that point coz they proved to be too daring and frivolous for my standards. It was more Nancy Drew who kept me tamed and engrossed,almost subserviant for hours together.
And of course there would be Maa's piping hot Chicken Stew on Christmas day! As typical of Bongs,every delicacy for almost every celebration round the year revolved more or less around rice and curries.But for Christmas,it would be different.
Maa would cut up the potatoes into half-moons, cube up the juicy carrots.The onions would be diced up and shards of garlic,slivered ginger along with the onions and diced green chillies would be lightly sauteed in a heated wok.The chicken pieces,lightly dusted with salt and a pinch of turmeric powder,would next make way into the wok along with the potatoes and Maa would them put on the lid to let it simmer away.When almost cooked,Maa would sprinkle a pinch of black pepper on top and serve hot in large bowls.A loaf of freshly-baked bread would make way to the table and would be sliced up deftly as we looked on with gluttony eyes!And then we would dip in fat pieces on bread into the soup and gorge to our hearts' content,slurping off even the last piece of veggie dwindling at the bottom of the bowl!Ohh what heavenly peace!
The years have rolled by now,and we have crossed oceans to travel to different lands.But wherever we might be, the heart still harbors the lovely Christmassy memories from those childhood days of yore.I have managed to put together a very simple yet slightly rich orange and whipped cream sponge cake infused with the striking bitterness of dark chocolate for Christmas this year.Would love to share the recipe with you!
Have a Merry merry Christmas and wish everyone lovely Holidays ahead!:)
Orange and whipped cream sponge cake
You will need:
All-purpose flour - 1 and half cups
Sugar (castor or otherwise) - 1 and half cups
Baking soda - Half a teaspoon
Cinnamon powder- Half a teaspoon
Ground Ginger powder - Half a teaspoon
Ground almond powder - Half a cup
A small bar of good quality dark chocolate
A pinch of salt
Eggs - 2 large
Butter - 1 cup(melted)
Whipped cream - 1 cup
Sweetened Orange juice - 1 cup
Cooking oil (preferably Canola or vegetable oil)- 1 Tablespoon
Vanilla essence - 1 teaspoon
How to prepare:
1. Take a bowl full of water and put on the gas.Place the bowl on the gas and allow it to heaten up.In the meantime,break up the bar of dark chocolate into biggish pieces and place them in a bowl atop the bowl of water.Allow the dark chocolate to slowly melt into a thick glossy river of smooth dark chocolate while you tend to the others.
1.In another clean bowk,sift together the flour,baking soda,cinammon powder,ground ginger powder,almond powder and salt.Generally I use a sieve to sift all my dry ingredients for a relatively even distribution. You could even blitz it up in the blender with one or two quick whirls.
2.Next, beat the eggs well for a couple of minutes with a beater or a fork until they become fluffy and thick.Next add the sugar, melted butter and melted dark chocolate and give it another round of quick beat.
3.To the beaten egg mixture,start adding the flour mix a ladle at a time and keep mixing.Once the whole flour mixture is in, add the sweetened orange juice and the vanilla essence and give it a good stir.Do take care to mix using a spatula or a flattened spoon so that air gets incorporated nicely in the mixture.
5.At this point, add in the cupful of whipped cream and fold it well into the mixture.Take care not to beat it any more since the cream is already whipped.Once folded well,add the canola oil and sprinkle the orange zest on top.Lightly mix with everything and the batter is ready to go into the oven.
6.Take a cake or loaf tin and brush the insides either with butter or margerine.Sprinkle a pinch of flour on the butter and quickly swivel around to spread it out.Slowly and gently, shift the decadent cake batter into the baking tin and let it settle down well.
7.Pre-heat your oven to 325 F for about 5 mins before putting in the baking tin.Place the baking tin in the pre-heated oven and let it bake for 35-40 mins.Since the time mark tends to vary from oven to oven, my advice would be to check at a time mark of about 30 mins.The texture at that point should give you an idea.
8.Insert a clean toothpick at 2-3 points throughout the cake and when it comes out clean,your cake is ready!Take out the tin,loosen out the cake and let it cool down completely before you start serving.You may put icing on the cake but since it is quite rich as such, I let mine be just the way it was!Try your hand and baking yours and do let me know if it tasted good!Happy Holidays and Joyeux Noël!!!