The end of April brings the dream of warm breezes that carry the faint scent of spices with every current… the dream of faraway places where tall coconut trees blow to and fro in the wind, where vines cling stubbornly onto thickly knotted tree trunks, and where one can delight in freshly gathered papayas and exotic guava fruits… the end of April brings the dream of that far off land called India…
I was lucky enough to visit India in April, where my family and I were invited to a traditional indian wedding… one of those magical moments in your life when reality is confused with dream and dream with reality.
As I walked along the peaceful pathway leading up to the hotel where we were staying, I couldn’t help but wonder if what I was experiencing was simply a figment of my imagination or if every bit of the journey so far, had been real… As we rode the 55minute trip to our hotel in Goa (India), we’d spotted water buffalos grazing in a large, deserted field, with only a handful of elegant, white herons to keep them company. We could hear birds cheerfully chirruping in the tall, knotted trees over head and saw wild bores wondering into peoples gardens, silently foraging for food.
So exotic and different was this experience, that it almost seemed like we’d stumbled head on into an adventure story, where we were the main protagonists, playing out the tale as we went along…
The wedding was a three day event, where different ceremonies were held each day. The first day started off with a welcome lunch near the poolside, where an explosion of beautiful colours took place: flamboyant cloth banners were beautifully intertwined around the palm trees that overlooked the turquoise coloured swimming pool, pretty flowers of every kind were set on wooden tables, and attention to detail was at its most exquisite!
That evening the traditional Sangeet* took place in the Unicorn Ballroom of the Zuri White Sands hotel. Small twinkle lights lit up the gardens and as we made our way to the ballroom we had the distinct feeling that we’d stumbled into one of Enid Blytons enchanted wood novels, almost expecting to see fairies and pixies dance about in the moonlight. Beautifully decorated tables were set with large bouquets and flickering candles. The gardens were illuminated and in the center was a marquee made entirely from twinkle lights, underneath which you could see soft cushions and a small wooden table for those who preferred a starlit dinner…
(* The Sangeet is a Punjabi wedding tradition where there is a dinner hosted for close friends followed by singing and dancing).
The following day, the traditional Haldi* was held in the Oyster rooms of the Zuri White Sands Hotel. As we entered the rooms, we saw yellow and pink flowers draped abundantly over the doorway, and elegantly decorated tables were set with small bouquets and gifts for the guests. In the center of the room, a wooden platform was adorned with bowls of ointments and bright satin cushions… the beginning of another exciting adventure!
(Haldi*: this traditional ceremony is a special one, where the bride and groom are covered in a paste made from turmeric powder and mustard oil. The family also call upon the gods to bless the couple in matrimony).
We then made our way to the Chess lawns, for the Baraat Assembly and Sehra Bandhi, which was one of my favourite events: while the men were being fitted for orange and red turbans, the women were given hand painted parasols and different coloured fans so as to keep cool while they waited in the hot sun. The groom arrived along with his many groomsmen, adorned from head to toe in a majestic white and gold brocade sherwani. He wore a beautiful gold turban bedecked with gold jewelry and white slippers on his feet. His father and groomsmen danced around him to the sound of the drums as he made his way to a large grey elephant bedecked in red and gold, which he rode imperiously along the cobble stoned pathway, towards his bride to be… She was stunning in a white and gold brocade lehenga, adorned with red flowers and heavy gold jewelry. She wore a transparent, net veil over her blond chignon and beautiful gold jewelry hung from her forehead. A more handsome couple one could not find, as they looked like they’d sprung right out of a conte de fées…
Note: Elephants are considered to be extremely sacred animals and are the symbol of good luck and prosperity.
The guests followed the bride and groom down to the beach, where the wedding ceremony was to be held at sunset.
Facing the beach was a large white marquee entirely bedecked with red roses. The isle was covered in rose petals and as we sat in awe stricken silence waiting for the bride to appear, we could hear the soft crashing sound of the waves as they hit the sandy beach…
The bride made her entrance under a canopy of roses, held up by the groomsmen, and followed by her bridesmaids, who were all dressed in red lace saris, and bejeweled in red and gold. The scene was breathtaking. Then followed a series of different rituals and chants, involving little dances, floral water and blessings from the gods which were performed in hindi, followed by an explosion of colourful fireworks…
What struck us the most was the true happiness that radiated from the bride and groom and their respective families and their ability to let go, enjoy life and all its simple yet magical pleasures…
It was a truly magical experience, and one I shall never forget.
Because inspiration comes from the places and people that mark us the most, I have decided to make this turmeric, lemon and orange cake in memory of the magical moments we spent in India at the end of April – As you bake this deliciously light and airy cake, let the scent of spices and lemon & orange peel warm your hearts and bring a smile to your faces… You will delight in the tangy sweet zing of this cake which will keep you wanting more!
So dream of faraway places where the sound of the waves crash gently upon the shores, where red sunsets light up the skies and the fragrance of spices bring a smile to your face… dream of India as you bake this heavenly cake and enjoy a slice with a cup of refreshing Jasmin green tea.
- 180g flour
- 3 eggs
- 180g caster sugar
- 180g melted butter, still warm
- 1 and a half teaspoons of ground turmeric
- 1 lemon + zest of 1 lemon
- 1 orange + zest of 1 orange
- A pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- A pinch of powdered vanilla extract
- A few spoons of powdered icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 180°C ( 365°F). Grease a rectangular cake mould (25cm x10cm).
In a large bowl, beat the eggs one at a time then add the sugar and whisk until frothy and light. When the mixture has doubled in volume, sift the flour and salt then add the melted butter.
Mix vigorously until smooth and lump free. Toss in the turmeric, orange and lemon zest as well as the freshly squeezed juice of both fruits. Mix again until completely combined. Lastly, gently incorporate the baking powder. Pour the cake batter into the baking tin and bake for 35- 40 minutes or until the tip of a knife comes out clean.
Once the cake is done leave to cool for 30minutes before removing it from its baking dish. Sprinkle a few spoons of icing sugar over it before cutting it into thin slices. Serve it still warm, accompanied with a cup of Jasmin green tea and a slice of lemon.
I hope to see you here again next time for more exciting recipes, have a lovely week !