Madua/Raagi/Finger millets is a staple food of the people of the hills. Their robust health and longevity can definitely be attributed to this cereal. In Kumaon, it is incorporated in the diet in a number of ways. Madua chapattis are part of the everyday meals. Madua chapattis are also eaten with ghee and jaggery. It is also had in soups and gruels. Is a warming grain and keeps the body warm in winters. Madua is highly nutritious. It is rich in calcium, iron, and protein. It is non-glutinous and not acid-forming food. It is least allergenic and most digestible grains available.
Madua is grown extensively in Kumaon. Besides adding it to chapatti flour, I have also been using in bread and biscuits. I always wanted to bake a cake with madua flour. Using the basic recipe for the chocolate eggless cake, I added madua flour and honey to the batter and the result was a beautiful, delicious and healthy Finger Millet honey Chocolate Cake.

Edited on 21.7.13
I make this cake quite often. Over a period, I have made small changes in the recipe. The cake is soft, moist and chocolaty.

Finger Millet and Whole Wheat Chocolate Cake (Eggless)


  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup madua/ Raagi / Finger millets flour
  • ¾ cup thick yogurt
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1/4  cup olive oil (or any neutral oil)
  • 1 cup brown sugar or unrefined cane sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • ½ cup toasted and chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • A pinch of salt


  1. Sieve together whole wheat flour, finger millet (madua) flour,  baking soda, and salt.
  2. Add ¼ cup milk to yogurt and beat well till smooth. Add sugar and cocoa powder. Mix well.
  3. Mix together yogurt mixture, oil, honey, and vanilla essence.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to wet and mix till just well incorporated.  Do not over mix.
  5. Add chopped walnuts tossed in flour and gently stir the batter.
  6. Pour into the greased and lined 6-inch cake tin. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for 35-40 minutes or till the top turns brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Remove from the oven after 10 minutes, remove the lining and transfer to the rack to cool.

Chocolate Sauce


  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 tablespoons unrefined sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla essence


  1. Mix together milk, sugar and cocoa powder to a smooth lump-free mixture.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and cook over medium heat till it starts boiling.
  3. Reduce the heat and cook till it thickens. Stir constantly.
  4. When it reaches the sauce-like consistency, turn off the heat. Add butter. Mix.
  5. Add vanilla essence and let it cool.
  6. Pour warm sauce over the cake.

My notes  -This cake is very chocolaty and kids love it. It is dense and very filling. Great with a cup of tea in the afternoon or anytime time when hunger pangs trouble you. It is healthy and absolutely guilt free.

Weekends are so welcome. Procrastination in leaving the warmth of the quilt does not result in running around to catch time. Many rounds of ginger cardamom tea and endless discussions … time just flies by and then you discover that its time for breakfast. While kids still enjoying the bliss  of extra naps its time to plan out a little elaborate and healthy breakfast that the family can enjoy together.
Here goes one of my favorite weekend breakfast recipes – Oats and spring onion Parantha.

1 cup whole wheat flour (atta)
½ cup white oats powdered
5 to 6 spring onions (green and whites) chopped
¾ teaspoon salt or to taste
2 teaspoons oil
Warm water to knead flour
Dry flour to roll out paranthas
Oil to make paranthas

Mix whole wheat flour and oats flour. Add salt and oil and mix well. Add spring onions. Knead a smooth dough using warm water. Cover the dough and let it rest for at least half and hour. Take a lemon size ball of the dough and using dry flour, roll out a parantha. Cook on a hot griddle. When golden specs begin to appear on the lower side, smear oil and cook till golden. Repeat on the other side.
Serve with green chutney or ketchup.

I had been planning to make Date rolls for a long time but never really got into it. Last week my sister got a box of date rolls from a famous sweet shop in Mumbai. We relished the sweets very much. This gave me an impetus to make my own Dates rolls.

Dates are full of vitamins and minerals. 100 Gms of dates contain about 7.6 g of dietary fiber, 572mg of potassium, 124mg of calcium, 74.4mg of sodium, 21.2mg of Vitamin C and 8.8mg of iron (approx. values). When combined with nuts, it becomes healthier and more nutritious.
Dates are chopped and cooked with some ghee/coconut oil. If the dates are hard, soak them in hot water prior to this step. Chopped toasted nuts are added to the mixture. The mixture is shaped into logs and rolled in toasted poppy seeds and kept in the refrigerator to firm up. The logs are cut into discs

This is sugar-free, gluten-free recipe. Vegans may substitute butter with coconut oil.
Date Rolls also make a  guiltfree dessert to satiate sweet cravings the healthy way!

Date  Roll


  • 500 Gms dates
  • ½ cup almonds
  • ½ cup cashew nuts
  • ¼ cup pistachios
  • ½ cup poppy seeds
  • 2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or coconut oil (vegan option)


  1. Soak the dates in hot water. 
  2. Drain. Remove the seeds and chop the dates finely. 
  3. Place the almonds on a baking tray. Toast the almonds till fragrant and browned (Set the oven temperature to 100 degrees and set the timer to 10 minutes.). 
  4. Chop the nuts coarsely. 
  5. Transfer the chopped dates to a thick bottomed wok or a non-stick pan.
  6.  Add ghee/coconut oil and cook on a low flame. In about fifteen minutes, the dates will become soft. Mash them with the ladle. 
  7. Cook till the mixture becomes smooth and uniform. 
  8. Turn off the gas. Add nuts and mix well. 
  9. Make rolls of one one-inches diameter each from this mixture. 
  10. Place these rolls in a plate containing poppy seeds. Coat the rolls with poppy seeds. 
  11. Keep the plate in the refrigerator for an hour. The rolls will become hard. With a sharp knife, cut out discs about of 1mm thickness. 
  12. Store in an airtight container.

Oregano (Origanum Vulgare) is a member of the mint family. It is one of the most popular culinary herbs. Oregano is a native of the Mediterranean region. It is also grown in Italy, Turkey, Mexico and Greece. In India, it is cultivated in Kashmir, Himanchal, Uttarakhand and in the Nilgiris. Oregano has strong aromatic camphor like flavour. It is piquant, warm, pungent and slightly bitter in taste.

Oregano has a several health benefits. It has a high content of phenolic acids and flavonoids. This makes it a very good antioxidant. It is also believed to have antimicrobial properties. Oregano is said to be “nature’s natural antiseptic”. Because of high thymol content, the leaves are a strong antiseptic. A paste of the leaves is applied on the wounds to prevent infection and for fast healing. Oregano is very helpful in colds, sore throat, bronchitis and sinusitis. It is an expectorant and a mucolytic. It is diaphoretic and cures mild fevers. Oregano tea is traditionally had to stimulate digestion. It eases bloated stomach and is a carminative. It also gives relief in painful menstruation. Oregano tea is also a strong sedative. It has soothing effect and aids in sound sleep. However, it should not be taken in large doses. Oregano also has antiviral and anti fungal properties. It has shown positive results in psoriases and other fungal diseases. It also controls certain allergies and hay fever. It is also anti spasmodic, anti inflammatory and diuretic.
Besides health benefits, Oregano is the most popular kitchen herb. It is a pleasantly flavourful herb and is most popularly used in pizza seasoning. It is also popularly known as “pizza herb”. It adds flavour to pasta, soups and sauces. It is an essential ingredient of the Italian dishes.
Oregano grows very well in Kumaon. Villages have been given incentives by some NGO’s to cultivate oregano with a special buy back facility. Villagers are growing Oregano in their fields and selling it and more and more farmers are switching to oregano cultivation. One can see the locally processed oregano packets in the shelves of the departmental stores in the region. They are much cheaper than the branded products. Oregano can be easily grown at home. It is a hardy plant, needs well drained soil and plenty of sunshine. It can be grown from the seeds, by stem cuttings or root division. It grows very well in the pot also. The plant has reddish stem, the leaves are slightly hairy and the flowers are pale purple. The leaves, stalk and the flowers, all constitute the spice. The crop should be harvested in full bloom for maximum flavour and aroma. The harvested parts should be shade dried and stored for use.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It has to be balanced, wholesome, nutritious and nourishing to give a good start to the day. A good breakfast is good for the brain and bodily health. On weekdays, mornings are hectic with no time for elaborate breakfasts. Here is my recipe for power packed breakfast of Oats Porridge with dry fruits and nuts.

2 tablespoons white oats
1 ½  teacups soy milk
1 teacup water
Crumbled jaggery / brown sugar to taste
10 almonds
10 pine nuts
6 pistachios
6 cashew nuts
4 dry figs
4 dates
Kernels of two walnuts
A pinch of salt

Chop all the nuts and dry fruits. Roast oats on low flame till the colour begins to change. Add a cup of water and a pinch of salt. Cook till oats become thick and almost transparent. Add milk and cook for another five minutes. Add nuts and fruits and crumbled jaggery. Serve hot.

My notes- Keep the quantity of jaggery or sugar on lower side as dates and figs lend natural sweetness to porridge. Soy milk can be substituted with normal toned milk. Quantity of milk can be changed to get desired consistency.

We have a small kitchen garden where we grow our vegetables organically. We have compost pits where garden wastes and vegetable wastes from our kitchen are settled. Our kitchen garden caters to most of our needs of winter greens. Our vegetable garden is open to all insects and birds. Most of the times tiny leaf birds and magpie robins can be seen rummaging for caterpillars and other pests. During harsh winters, birds even peck the tender leaves of spinach or fenugreek to satiate their hunger. Working in the vegetable garden is healing and therapeutic and every harvest of vegetable gives a great sense of fulfillment.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and paratha is the most popular breakfast preparation in the north Indian kitchens. There are a number of ways in which parathas can be made nutritious and wholesome. Last Sunday I made parathas using Fenugreek from our garden. I added oats flour, Soya flour and gram flour to it. Here goes the recipe-

1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup white oats powdered
1 cup fenugreek leaves plucked at two leaf stage
2 tablespoons Soya flour
2 tablespoons coarse gram flour (besan)
1 teaspoon olive oil
Salt to taste
Warm water to knead flour
Oil for making parathas
Dry flour for rolling out parathas

Mix whole wheat flour, oats flour, Soya flour, gram flour and salt. Add oil and mix evenly. Chop Fenugreek leaves finely and add to the flour. Knead soft dough using warm water. Cover the dough and keep for about 30 minutes. The dough becomes a little tight. Add a little water and knead again. Take lemon size balls of the dough. Roll out parathas using dry flour. Transfer the parathas to a hot griddle. When golden specs appear on the lower side, apply olive oil and cook till golden. Repeat on the other side. Serve hot with chutney, ketchup or curd. Ideal  for breakfast and great as tiffin snack.
Click here to read health benefits of   FENUGREEK

Moist and buttery and loaded with dry and candied fruits, Buttermilk Spice Cake has a lovely flavour of the spices. It is a perfect tea time cake for winters and also a quick Christmas Cake.

 Sun finally peeped through the thick fog that had haunted the region for days leaving us wondering if we were ill-equipped to face the cold or was it age factor or was it global warming leading to extreme weather conditions. While the latter looks the most likely reason, the appearance of the Sun definitely lifted the spirits and finally the layers of woolens that had almost concealed the identities were reduced.

We spotted a Rufous Sibia on a tree

The hills enjoyed good sunshine while the foothills shivered and shuddered at the wrath of the winters. In hills where modern amenities are almost nonexistent, people resort to natural ways to keep themselves warm. Villages have houses with thick stone walls plastered with mud that retains the heat inside. The use of firewood for cooking also keeps the insides warm. Kumaonis (people living in Kumaon region of Uttrakhand) also incorporate a lot of madua (ragi or finger millets) in their diet. Tea is had with lots of fresh ginger and ajwain (Bishop’s seeds). Piping hot tea is had with a loud whoosh sound. A lot of warming spices are incorporated in food in different ways.

Recipe edited on 15.12.19

We baked a cake with loads of warming spices.
 The flavour and warmth of spices and the sweetness of fruits made a great combination.
This is also an easy Fruit cake recipe for Christmas. It is Eggless.

If you do not have buttermilk, take 240ml milk, add a tablespoon of white vinegar. Stir and let it stand for 10 minutes. Milk will curdle. Use.

If you wish to get a lighter crumb, use 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour in place of whole wheat flour.

Adding candied orange peels give a great flavour to the cake. I have added homemade candied peels.
Click here for the recipe.

The Cake has a beautiful combination of flavours that come from the spices and peels. Every bite is loaded with dry fruits and peels.

Buttermilk Fruit And Spice Cake (Eggless)


  • 1¼  cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk (240 ml)
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  • ¾ cup unrefined sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger powder
  • ¼ teaspoon clove powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda.
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup glace cherries or dry apricots
  • ½ cup black currants
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ½ cup chopped figs
  • 3 tablespoons candied orange peels
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla essence


  1. Preheat the oven at 165 degrees C. Grease and line a 9 x 5-inch pan or grease and line one 8 inch round cake pan.
  2. Take flour in a deep bowl. Add salt and soda and pass it through a sieve 3 times.
  3. Add spices.
  4. Now add all the chopped fruits and mix well.
  5. In another deep bowl, melt butter. Add buttermilk, vanilla extract, and sugar. Mix well.
  6. Add dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Level with a spoon.
  8. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the top turns brown and just starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. A  toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.
  9. Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
  10. Remove from the pan and cool on the rack.
  11. Slice the next day. The flavours will develop fully.

Garlic (Allium Sativum) is a member of the onion family. It is called Lehsoon in Hindi. The bulb of the plant has several fleshy sections called cloves. The cloves have both medicinal and culinary uses. Garlic has a peculiar pungent smell and flavour. It has great medicinal properties. The bulb contains alliin and alliinase which is an enzyme, vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, and C. It also contains calcium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, zinc, magnesium and selenium. Garlic is believed to be very beneficial in preventing heart diseases. Garlic prevents clotting of platelets. It disintegrates fibrin, a protein that forms blood clots. It is recommended for people suffering from thrombosis and blockage of artery. It decreases the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood. Regular consumption of garlic regulates the blood sugar levels. It also normalizes the high blood pressure. Garlic contains allicin . It is a powerful anti- biotic. It also has anti viral and anti fungal properties. Garlic kills the harmful bacteria in the intestines and promotes the growth of the intestinal micro flora. It is helpful in diarrhea, gastroenteritis, colitis, intestinal infections and flatulence. It promotes the overall well being of the intestines and prevents the formation of malignant tumours. Regular consumption of garlic also prevents bronchitis, cough, cold and asthma. It prevents the occurrence urinary tract infections. Garlic activates the defense mechanism of the body. It helps the body to destroy the cancerous cells. Regular consumption of garlic kills the worms in the intestines.

Besides medicinal uses, garlic is also very popular around the world as a flavouring herb. Garlic is used immensely in the Chinese and Thai cuisines. In Indian dishes, garlic is used along with ginger, tomatoes and onions to make gravies. Garlic chutney is made by blending 7-8 cloves of garlic along with a bunch of fresh coriander, 2-3 green chilies, dry mango powder, salt and sugar. It is an appetizer. It tastes excellent in sandwiches. Garlic toast can be made by melting butter and adding raw garlic paste along with a little salt and heating for a while so that garlic flavour is released into the butter. Garlic is also put in the soups. Garlic pickle is available in the market. Garlic pills of some very well known pharmaceutical brands are available. But the best way to get maximum benefits of garlic is to have 1 to 2 raw cloves of garlic on an empty stomach in the morning.

Garlic can be easily grown in the garden. The plants can be bought from the market or the cloves can be sown in the moist soil. The plant grows well in dry and sunny areas. The plant is hardy and is not attacked by the pests. The stems or the leaves are often cut or tied so that the garlic bulbs grow bigger. The stems and leaves also have a distinct flavour and are eaten as a vegetable. When the leaves start drying up, the bulbs are ready to be taken out. The bulbs are dried in the sun and stored for use.

Bishop’s seeds or carom seeds (trachyspermum ammi) are called Ajwain in Hindi. Ajwain has been an integral part of the Indian cooking and an important ingredient of the kitchen cabinet remedies since ancient times. It belongs to the apiaceae family. Ajwain is a small erect annual shrub. It has thin tender feather like leaves. The fruits are small and oval. The fruits taste hot and bitter. The fruits are dried and used as medicine and spice. 

 Ajwain contains protein, fat, minerals, fiber, carbohydrates, iron, calcium, phosphorus, carotene, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. Ajwain is an appetizer. It is carminative, digestive, expectorant, laxative, diuretic, antihelmenthic and an aphrodisiac. Ajwain is a tonic for the stomach and is good for all the stomach related disorders. It gives relief in stomach ache caused due to flatulence, indigestion or infection in the intestines. A teaspoon of ajwain with hot water expels gas and gives relief in discomfort caused by the   bloating of stomach due to flatulence. It stimulates appetite and aids digestion. A teaspoon of ajwain with a pinch of rock salt gives relief in symptoms of indigestion. In case of dyspepsia, a teaspoon of ajwain can be soaked in water and left overnight. This water can be sipped in the morning. This also improves digestion. Ajwain is also used in herbal formulations for treating constipation. Ajwain is very effective in opening the clogged nasal passage and relieving congestion in acute cold. Add a teaspoon of ajwain to water. Boil and inhale the vapours for instant relief. For small children, ajwain can be crushed and put in a small cloth bag. This bag can placed around the pillow so the fumes can be inhaled by the infants. The fumes open the nasal passage and reduce congestion in the chest.  Boil the seeds in water and add a pinch of salt. Use this to gargle for relief from sore throat, chest congestion and acute pharyngitis. Ajwain tea is also very good to cure colds. Drinking a little hot water after chewing ajwain also gives relief from cough. A teaspoon of powdered ajwain added to buttermilk is an excellent expectorant to remove dry phlegm in acute bronchitis. Ajwain water controls    vomiting in the early stages of diarrhea. Essential oil is obtained by the steam distillation of ajwain. It is colourless and has a strong aroma and a sharp hot taste. It contains thymol. Thymol is a powerful germicide and an antiseptic. It is used in many syrups and formulations for treating sore throat and cough.  The essential oil is also very effective in rheumatic pains and neuralgia. It can be massaged to the affected area. In case of insect bites, ajwain paste can be applied to get relief from pain and to prevent any poisoning and infection.

Ajwain has always been used in Indian cooking for its strong flavour and taste. It is used in daals and vegetables. It is put in the beans and lentils that have a tendency to cause flatulence. Ajwain gives delectable taste and flavour to pooris, paranthas, matharis and other snacks.
The severity of  winters has thrown life out of gear. It is common to see rickshaw pullers huddled around a fire made by burning tyres and plastic bags collected from the road. Most of them are poor migrants with just a tattered sweater on.  Little do they know about the toxic effects of the fumes they are inhaling but they certainly seem to be getting some relief from the biting cold. For the lucky ones like us, blowers, heaters and geysers are helping to face the onslaught of the weather. With mercury mayhem continuing, it is difficult go outdoors and daily routine has also been disrupted. With so much time and nothing to do, I have been arranging the wardrobes, cupboards and completing all the pending jobs at home. I also involved my daughter in sorting out her clothes and in selecting a lot of woolens which were not fitting her any more for our helper’s daughter who is always playing in mud, has rough hands and red cheeks and a perpetually runny nose. She would value the woolens as she has only one sweater that too oversized.
For me baking is a very beautiful way of utilizing time. It is comforting. With a heap of carrots lying at home I baked a CARROT CAKE recently with whole wheat, brown sugar and olive oil. Here goes the recipe-

1 cup whole wheat flour (atta)
1 cup brown sugar powdered
1 ½ cups grated carrots
½ cup olive oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda

Sieve together whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon powder. Beat white of the eggs till stiff. In a bowl mix together powdered brown sugar and oil.

Add yolks and mix well. Add grated carrots to the flour and toss well. The carrot shreds should get coated with the flour mixture. Add beaten egg whites to sugar, oil and yolk mixture. Now add carrot and flour mixture. Pour the batter in a greased and lined cake tin about 6 inches in diameter. Bake in a pre heated oven at 150 degrees C / 350 degrees F for one hour. The top should turn brown and the tester should come out clean.

 Remove the cake from the tin when cold. Slice and serve next day.

If you liked this recipe and tried it, do write to me.

   Another fresh year is here, another year to live!
To banish worry, doubt and fear, to love and laugh and give!
This bright New Year is given me, to live each day with zest,
To daily grow and try to be, my highest and my best!
I have the opportunity, once more to right some wrongs,
To pray for peace, to plant a tree, and sing more joyful songs!”
                                                                          - William Arthur Ward

Few episodes in the fag end of the year 2012 stirred our souls leaving us shocked and grieved. When there is so much turbulence and chaos in the external world how can there be peace inside…. after all we all are a part of this world and the world is a part of us. The world did not come to an end in 2012 and the New Year will definitely be a new beginning….. With hope in our hearts and a prayer on our lips let us welcome the New Year.

Yes! With a lot of enthusiasm and hope, we welcomed the New Year. And a WHOLE WHEAT EGGLESS PINEAPPLE UPSIDE DOWN CAKE was made for the occasion.


  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (atta)
  • ½ tin (about 200 ml) condensed milk
  • 60 Gms butter (about ¾ stick)
  • ½ cup and 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 tablespoons sugar (for preparing caramel)
  • Tinned pineapple slices
  • Tinned cherries (I used dried cranberries)
  • About 10 almonds soaked, skin removed and halved
  • 5 drops of pineapple essence


First, prepare the tin. Grease one 7-inch cake tin. Arrange pineapple slice, almonds and cherries as shown in the picture.

Prepare the caramel by heating sugar in a heavy bottom wok. Tilt the wok from side to side till sugar melts and turns golden. Pour evenly on the prepared tin covering the base completely.

Beat butter and condensed milk. Add essence.
Sieve together whole wheat flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add half of the flour to condensed milk butter mixture. Add half the quantity of milk and mix till smooth. Add remaining flour and milk and mix well. Pour the batter in the prepared tin.

Bake in a pre heated oven at 150 degrees C for 40 minutes. The top should turn golden brown and the tester should come out clean.

Invert the cake on the rack to cool.

My notes: I first made this cake with all-purpose flour.

There will be a slight change in the recipe. When using all-purpose flour, take 1 and ¼ cups all purpose flour. Quantity of milk will be ½ cup only. Rest of the ingredients will be the same.
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