It was their time maybe 11pm; our time 4:30am. We'd been up all night revelling under blue lights, watching James Bond fall off trains on someone else's screen, drinking orange juice that was more concentrate than anything else. We were so tired we could barely stand, pale faced, red eyed, static hair. We sat on the back seat of that airport transfer bus and we couldn't stop laughing, neither my sister nor I can remember what it was, but it was that strange buzzy euphoria. A heady cocktail of jetlag, stale air, tingling excitement. Traveller's high.
Midnight in Mumbai. There is something about that subcontinent that is - addictive. The most powerful feeling is the one after you get off that long flight, you test those jelly legs again, onto the dingy carpeted shoot. It hits you in a wave of warm night air. Suddenly you're no longer half conscious but fully present, you've joined the one billion who call this place home. The runway is darkened and you can see over the high airport walls and into the shanty towns adjacent where life rolls on. It's black out but there's an assault of colour, activity. Girls in cheery saris fetching water from wells, garish plastic buckets in hand; boys wear spin-off Sahara cricket shirts and ride bikes; a cow under the yellow glow of a streetlight. The baggage handlers and ground staff sleep on the carts, piles of leather flip flops lining the concrete. It's the same as years ago, when we used to visit, we sit in the domestic terminal waiting for another flight. We sit with the priests in white robes, faces dotted in sandalwood; with the MacBook-toting businessmen back from the States, with the extended families complete with four generations all dressed for a wedding. Sleep, my mum tells us. How can we, when we're in the one city that never does?
How is it that my earliest memories of travels are flecked with the incessant ringing of Nokia mobiles? Of the sweet Air India air hostesses who'd pinch my cheeks and give my sister and I extra yogurt? Of straining my neck on cold airport benches, watching a shop assistant eat a chapati out of a polystyrene container? How is it that the country manages to get itself so deeply under your skin?
India often comes up in conversation. The good, the bad, the ugly. I talk about the good, talk about the bad, drift off by the ugly. Drift to the place where life never stops moving, where the country is a living breathing organ, each jammed road a pulsing vein. Thousands of cells in each fancy high rise, each concrete village house, each intricate temple. What's the greatest problem for India, people ask me, hearing I've lived there. The corruption? The poverty? Neither, I think. It's greatest problem is that you keep going back. Once you try it the first time, you need that high, the buzz that comes from walking off the plane into a hot night. Of taxis that drive into the central reservation, of painted cows and painted trucks. Where people throw color at you and bless their new cars, where they drown their gods and celebrate light . It's been 3 years, it's time for a hit. 5 weeks and I'll be back, back for my fix. Once India's in your blood, you just can't get it out.
Yes, 5 weeks till the Christmas break and our trip to India for 3 weeks of sun! Also, the irony, I know, writing about India and then making blondies. Probably should've been a post about Stockholm or something. Anyways, blondies are, um, blonde brownies. The almond butter in this recipe makes all the difference to using something like coconut oil: in the toffee color and the fudginess of the squares. (Fun fact: did you know that the fats found in nuts and similar foods - the 'healthy' fats - help balance blood sugar?) Light muscovado sugar also adds to the toffee-effect but if you can't find it, you can use an equal amount of brown sugar instead. They surprisingly hold up well for being gluten-free, so I may freeze the rest for our trip. If they last that long, 'cause these suddenly looked a lot more fun than kale and eggs for dinner Hope that an adventure is on the cards for you and blondies either way. Big hugs xo
(CHOCOLATE CHUNK) ALMOND BUTTER BLONDIES
makes 9 regular or 12 minis // gluten & dairy free
gluten & dairy free blondies: soft and fudgy from the almond butter, with a little vanilla and plenty of chocolate chunks. Muscovado is an unrefined sugar (it retains natural minerals) and adds a hint of caramel which goes so well with these squares of goodness
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons brown rice flour (140grams)
1/2 cup oat flour, certified gluten free if necessary (90g)
2 tablespoons flax meal (14g)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup almond butter* (160g)
3 tablespoons milk of choice (45ml)
2/3 cup light muscovado sugar (100g)**
2 free range eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup coarsely chopped dark chocolate (75g, 2.65 ounces)
preheat the oven to 180’C/350’F. Line an 8x8inch square pan with parchment paper, leaving some overhang
in a medium bowl, combine the two flours, flax meal and baking powder. Set aside
in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) add the almond butter and milk. Using an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat until milk and almond butter are combined
add the two eggs and continue to beat till silky and smooth; add the vanilla and sugar and continue to beat again till smooth.
add the flour mix to the almond/egg mix and use a spatula to gently combine, scraping down the sides. Gently fold in the chocolate chunks so they’re evenly distributed.
pour the batter in to your lined pan, it will be very thick and sticky and will stick to utensils, so scrape and go with it. Refrain from eating all the batter before it’s baked (note to self)
bake for 18-20 minutes, the top will be light golden. You’re going for a fudgy effect so err on the side of underbaked: allow to cool in the pan ten minutes, then allow to continue cooling on a rack and they will firm up. blondies teach you patience, who knew
for a clean cut, allow them to chill in the fridge for a bit and clean the knife as you slice, they will be firm enough to cut. Cut into 9 normal squares or 12 minis would be cute.
the blondies will keep in airtight container in the fridge for 3 days but will freeze well. Brownie people, decide: do blondes have more fun?
*almond butter is becoming easier to find in most supermarkets, or online. I think in a pinch you could use natural peanut butter, but the taste would change completely. You can make your own by grinding almonds in a food processor. If nut allergies are an issue, I’ve heard sunflower seed butter has a similarly neutral taste.
**as I already said, I like muscavado sugars for their complex flavor and also since they are less processed (the molasses is never removed – in normal brown sugar, the molasses is removed, then ‘painted’ back for the color). I think you’ll find them in most supermarkets, or online (gotta love amazon). For sure, feel free to substitute brown sugar in the same quantity whenever you see muscavado listed, and vice versa.
PS. They’re sticky customers at first, don’t panic, they need some time in the fridge.