I am sitting in front of my laptop and staring at an empty word document, not knowing where to begin; it is one of those times, when my mind is overwhelmed with myriad memories, of beautiful mountains, snow flecked pine trees, glorious food (will get to it in detail soon) and several cups of piping hot ginger tea – it was funny how the steam was so vivid, almost tangible, but the tea was just about tepid as I drank it , pardon my fascination, I was a winter virgin. This was my first escapade to the North of India, at winter that too, so I was excited about snow, woolens, boots, bonfires and um, making little heart doodles on a misty window.
Much like most of you, I’ve fallen prey to the comforts of a flight, it was over eight years since I went on a long train journey and I’d almost forgotten how romantic they were. Miles and miles of emerald fields sparsely speckled with tiny houses, long muddy pathways that dwindled into some place I will never see, anonymous rocky hills that nobody cares to claim – India is best seen through a window of a train, it is like a natural slideshow, images changing every split second. I was conversing with the mustard fields and the derelict houses over a cup of railway tea, I mean, teabag, hot water, creamer and paper cup; don’t feel sorry for me, it wasn’t all that bad.
I vacationed at Mashobra, a small hill station slightly higher than Shimla, high enough that I could see the silver silhouette of the Himalayas above and beyond the sprawling Himachal. Pavan and I were marooned in this breathtaking villa, Mahasu House, every minute of which I felt like I was part of Downton Abbey, because of its Victorian ambiance, of teakwood staircases, velvet drapes, gigantic chandeliers and unconditional hospitality. Every meal was filled with rotis, hot, off the stove (not that it mattered at zero degrees), copious bowls of dal (lentils) and sabzis made from freshly picked vegetables from their garden. There is nothing better than good food, a cozy bed and a TV remote, believe me, it is vastly different when you are faced with deafening silence in a mountain in the middle of nowhere.
We stopped at Delhi on our way back, which I am thankful for, because I got to see many likeminded people there– the gluttonous part of India that only thinks and talks about food. I have never seen a city that has such a seamless love affair with food – you would hardly find a road corner without a cart selling chole kulche. From dal vada bathed in mint chutney, garnished with crunchy, grated white radish to boiled sweet potato seasoned with lemon juice and chaat masala, I tried five varieties of street food in a stretch of 2 kilometers. There was even a man selling rice papads that reminded me of the ones that my grandmother used to make from scratch.
The one thing I didn’t do, which is rather unfulfilling, is drinking hot chocolate. Perhaps I am cliché-stricken, but there is something about winter and a mug of hot chocolate. So in honour of an opportune missed, today I shall give you a recipe for hot chocolate or should I say le Chocolat Chaud? This is no cocoa powder mixed with milk nonsense, it is the real deal, it’s how the French drink it.
And if you ever want to get a taste of Delhi, hit the streets! I probably wouldn’t say that even for Bombay, because in Delhi, these food carts are what the city is made of, they lend a soul to the city that is irreplaceable.
Ps: While I was away, I woke up to this one morning. My vacation got seriously better! 🙂
- 180 g dark chocolate ( 60 % cocoa solids and above), chopped
- 500 ml whole milk (full fat)
- 10 g instant coffee powder
Yields six mid sized cups
Bring the milk and instant coffee powder to boil. Pour the boiling milk into the chopped chocolate through a sieve. Keep whisking the milk till the chocolate melts into the milk. The more you stir the thicker the hot chocolate will get. Add a pinch of sugar if you desire more sweetness.