Manali. Just saying the word instantly transports me to Himachal’s breathtakingly beautiful hill station, set amidst snow-capped mountains and pine trees. There’s always this sense of calm, and even with hours spent watching the gentle swaying of the pine leaves or the playful sunrays, there’s never a minute of boredom. I have made life-changing decisions sitting on a mountaintop, filled with positivity and newfound courage to brace it all. But that we shall save for another story.
If you happen to fit in a Sunday in your Manali itinerary, an absolute must-do is making your way to Martin’s for Sunday brunch. Our Airbnb host seemed so assured with his recommendation that we decided to head to Shanag village, about 5 km from Manali, to savour the Austrian Chef’s No. 1 selling item – the Roast Chicken, which needs to be pre-booked a day before.
Sunday meal at Martin’s is almost like a ritual for the locals, where family and friends sit together to enjoy roast chicken, creamy pastas, thin crust pizzas, farm salads, nourishing soups, sinful desserts and other European treats along with beer. Such is its popularity now that finding celebrities drop in for a meal is no surprise. Tourists too flock this al fresco eatery to get a bite of Martin’s legendary roast chicken with perfectly crisp skin on the surface and moist and juicy meat inside. It’s hard to push it aside. During our visit, we pre-booked half a portion thinking that would be enough for three, as we also wanted to explore other dishes in the menu. Little did we know that greed always takes over, and good food is never enough.
Martin Kiener, the Austrian chef, runs the eatery along with his family, which is only open on Sundays. You can head over for a sunny lunch or a candlelight dinner with bonfire, but a point to note is to head early to get a table. The menu constantly keeps changing based on seasonality and availability of ingredients.
We went overboard and ordered a range of dishes to indulge in – Creamy Mushroom Alfredo Pasta, Caesar Salad, Chicken Sandwich, Roast Chicken and Strawberry Jello Cake. While all the dishes were packed with lip-smacking flavours, a dish that instantly struck a chord with me was the Strawberry Jello Cake. It was light, refreshing and with just the right amount of sweetness. The taste has stayed glued to my memory ever since.
So on a winter morning in Delhi, many months later, as I picked a packet of fresh strawberries I instantly knew what I needed to make with it. This cake makes for a great teatime snack as well as a satisfying dessert. It’s sure to be an all-time favourite. Here’s the recipe:
1 cup castor sugar
1 cup melted butter
1 cup eggs (fill up the same cup with eggs till it’s filled)
1 ½ cup refined sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 packet instant strawberry jelly
Fresh strawberries, sliced thinly + 1 cup chopped strawberries
1. Beat the butter and sugar until nice and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and lemon juice until mixed well. Don’t overbeat.
2. Fold in the flour and baking powder into the egg mixture, a spoon at a time, until well combined. Add the chopped strawberries and fold again.
3. Pour into a 7 inch baking dish and bake in a pre-heated oven at 150 degree C for 40 minutes or until a stick inserted at the centre of the cake comes out clean.
4. In the meantime, make the jelly following the packet instructions. You can reduce the amount of water slightly to make the jelly thick.
5. Once the cake is cooled and the jelly is set, place the sliced strawberries neatly on the surface of the cake and pour the jelly on top of it. Press the jelly slightly to make it cover the cake top completely. Let the cake cool in the refrigerator for 1 hour before serving.