Rich like the Maharaja

Quick! Let's storm the palace!
Quick! Let's storm the palace!

I'm kidding, of course! The poor man was asleep in the heat of the day inside the City Palace of Jaipur, the capital city of the Indian state of Rajasthan. Rajasthan is India's largest state and most of it is desert. As it is in the desert, days are hot and nights are cool. In winter, days are hot—even if the local folks wear their woolen finery during the day—and nights are cooler, with temperatures dropping below freezing in parts of the state.

They must have been really tall people. Not!
We tried to announce our arrival but who can reach those door knockers?

Sawai Jai Singh II, the Maharaja of Jaipur, built the City Palace in the mid-1700s using Rajput, Mughal and European styles of architecture.

If you're wondering which architectural style places door knockers that high up, I would hazard a guess and say it would be Rajput or Mughal. Visitors usually arrived on elephants and their mahouts used long sticks to beat those door knockers. Or maybe they had monkeys who were trained to...I jest!

Part of the palace complex is open to the public, with a "foreigner fee" and a "domestic fee." We flashed our Indian passports and paid much less.

Living quarters
Chandra Mahal: the royal family of Jaipur lives here

See those screened windows on the bottom left of the picture above? These lead to various parts of the palace complex, including downtown Jaipur. Women used these to move freely between the palace and the city, while still in purdah.

There is an Armoury housed in one of the buildings with an impressive array of swords, daggers, rifles, and guns. We did not go inside the Mubarak Mahal which is a museum of regal wear, textiles and other costumes. Our excuse was that we were hot, tired and did not care what the royals wore. We did overhear many tourists marveling at the high level of craftsmanship on the clothing they saw inside. We saw others posing in their newly acquired almost-royal wear.

If you're hearing an irreverent tone in this post, it is because it is very much there. I was not enamored of this palace and would have been happy to skip it entirely. Anything inspiring in the architecture had been painted over in loud colors. The decorative work around windows and ornate doors took away from those structures and left me wondering what they were thinking. But it is their palace and they can paint it any which way they want. Or perhaps we just needed a tall, cold glass of water!

Ornate Door
Ornate doors

There were four ornate doors leading into the courtyard of Chandra Mahal, each representing one of the seasons.

Ornate Door
Green Gate; Leheriya or waves; suggestive of spring

The Peacock Doorway
Peacock Gate, representative of autumn

The visit to the City Palace of Jaipur was not in vain. I finally figured out why rich people in Bollywood movies of yore had terrible decor in their homes. They modeled it on palaces such as this!

I tried very hard to get into the history of the royal family of Jaipur, especially Sawai Man Singh II, the last ruling Maharaja, but the number of wives and their respective children, along with very long titular names left me feeling even more exhausted. I am sure it is fascinating, given the right weather and libations. Suffice it to say that the current Maharaja of Jaipur is a 13 year-old young man, who may or may not see most of his family's $550 million wealth.

You and I will definitely not see any of that wealth but we can indulge in these rich shortbread cookies that are reminiscent of nankatais in a modern avatar. This recipe is based on Jen's macadamia shortbread cookies.

Cardamom Cashew Cookies

Cardamom Cashew Cookies
Cardamom cashew shortbread cookies

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 - 3/4 tsp cardamom powder, freshly ground
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cashews, coarsely chopped
  • 4 oz. dark chocolate
  • 1/8 cup butter, melted

Cashews and cardamom
Cashews and green cardamoms

  1. Cream the butter until smooth. 
  2. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until combined. 
  3. Toss coarsely chopped cashews with cardamom powder and 1 tbsp flour.
  4. Slowly add the rest of the flour to the creamed mixture. 
  5. Beat until the flour is mixed in, scraping down the sides as required.
  6. Mix in the cashews.
  7. Put dough in a gallon ziploc bag and roll out to a quarter inch thickness. 
  8. Refrigerate for 2 hours or freeze for 20 minutes, if you are in a hurry.
  9. Heat oven to 300F.
  10. Remove dough from refrigerator, cut away the ziploc bag and using a sharp knife slice the dough into squares or rectangles. I cut them into rectangles that were 1in by 2.5in. 
  11. Place slices an inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes or until golden. 
  12. While the cookies are baking, warm the dark chocolate with butter in a microwave or in a double-boiler over a stove until just melted but mixed well.
  13. Remove cookies from the oven when done and cool on a cooling rack.
  14. When the cookies are completely cool, drizzle chocolate over cookies using a ziploc bag. Allow chocolate to harden for at least an hour or two.

These shortbread cookies are easy to make and clumsy as I am, I was able to drizzle chocolate over them. If you look closely at the pictures, the chocolate drizzle is slightly smooshed. That's because I did not let the chocolate harden adequately. It makes no difference to the taste or texture, of course!

Cardamom Cashew Cookies
Crunchy buttery goodness of shortbread with cardamom and cashews

  • Do not use store-bought salted cashews. Preferably, buy cashews from an Indian grocer near you. There is no need to buy whole cashews as they are more expensive and unnecessary as the cashews need to be coarsely chopped.
  • If your green cardamoms are less fragrant, use 3/4 tsp cardamom powder.


Kulsum said...

I remember seeing Jaipur as a kid but don't remember much about it! I think those doors are fascinating specially the one thats about spring. For me personally, when you go to a city where the architectural and structural designs are quite repeated, you really want to get over it after some time. And the tiring sun of Rajasthan - I don't blame you! And those modern from on nan khatai are phenomenal!

Kulsum said...

Form of nan khatai*

Shruti said...

i love your trip description....all the info you write is great ! every aspect of the acrhitecture is so amazing and beautiful.

Indu said...

I actually thought the green gate looked very nice :)

Priya Sreeram said...

nice write up on the city & the short-bread looks stunning !

Panfusine said...

those doors... amazing!! lovely photographs as usual!

Unknown said...

wow, beautiful and gorgeous pictures. Love all that. And, wow on delicious looking cookies as well :)

Lessa said...

I making this tonight! Minus the cashews though, I don't have any right now. I am thinking about adding toasted coconut though

Desisoccermom said...

I remember visiting Jaipur and Udaipur as a teenager. I think I was probably Medha's age or slightly older. I have always been a sucker for historical places but I remember even then, I was exhausted visiting this palace. It was crowded and hot and our whole family was just going through the motions of visiting a tourist point.
On the other hand, you photos make it look much more exciting. Love the pictures of all the gates, tall ones and short but beautiful ones as well as the ornate ones.
As to shortbread cookies, as delicious and easy to make they are, I am going to restrain myself once again from baking anything of buttery, sugary, floury goodness.

john k.Tas. said...

interesting photoes, Manisha. loved the funny narrative. regards

Indian Food Rocks said...

Kulsum, thanks! I wish I knew more about different styles of architecture to be able to identify it as soon as I see it. I started getting the hang of it but I'm still very much a novice. And, best wishes to you for your exams!

thepickyeater, thank you! I wish we had been more in the mood to enjoy this palace. Unfortunately, it was too hot and a little too crowded, too!

Indu, glad you liked it! My tastes veer towards the understated so this was a tad bit much for me!

Priya, thanks! Have you been to Jaipur?

Niv, I did not pull my big camera out at this palace at all. I loved the doors too! Just not the artwork around them!

Priya, this palace must be a familiar sight for you!

Lessa, how did it go? I like the idea of toasted coconut. I might try it one of these days!

Desisoccermom, ha! Make them for the little guy! And the big guy! Both might enjoy them. And your experience was very like mine. Maybe the next time we go, I might be more enthusiastic. A cousin told me that he could arrange a private tour. Now, that would be very interesting, I think!

John, thanks! Good to know you aren't bored yet!

Anita said...

I love the artwork as well, especially the green leheriya gate! You have been living in the sophisticated West too long! Vibrant use of colour, it is called. :-) (Actually, I do really love the green gate...Maybe the bright colours have something to do with the need to contrast with the starkness of the desert? To celebrate green, and blue?)

Bong Mom said...

I loved that green gate Manisha and the name too. It is beautiful, come on. Medha looks very refreshed in spite of the heat, were promises of cashew cookies around the corner ?

Indian Food Rocks said...

For those of you who love the Green Gate, here's the complete picture.

Anita, I think it is jarring. Especially when you look at the whole thing. I don't think it has anything to do with living in the west or for too long. My tastes have always been biased towards the muted except when it comes to the color red. ;-)

Bong Mom, to each his own. I would not decorate my palace like this! Medha battled the heat pretty well. There were promises of Chokhi Dhani around the corner!

Michele said...

Love the pics Manisha, and the cookies look divine.