Last week, our part of the hills received the heaviest snowfall of the season. When we got the news of snowfall, we decided to take our kids out for a “white picnic”. Since we are home schooling our kids, we take them out every weekend to nearby places, farms and hill stations for long walks and picnics that are enjoyable, fun and educative.
Having decided to go to the hills the next day, I wanted to make something simple and filling. With a zucchini and few oranges lying in the kitchen, we baked zucchini and orange marmalade tea cake.
We had travelled barely five kilometres from Bhowali towards Mukteshwar; the Earth had donned a blanket of white, soft, virgin snow. There was snow on the slopes, on trees, on rooftops and the white splendour spread as far as the eyes could reach. The branches of the trees were creaking under the weight of snow and crashing down. It was spellbinding.
Kids made a huge snow man and played to their heart's content.
On our way back, we parked our car on the road and walked to the Organic tea factory which is 500m off the road. Freshly pruned tea bushes stood on the carpet of snow against the backdrop of a forest. A huge bunch of Daffodils stood in a corner of tea garden and wisps of clouds were gliding past the valley. I am sure, William Wordsworth must have penned down my favourite poem Daffodils in some similar settings, as the opening lines of the poem says-
I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o’er vales and hills
When all at once I saw a crowd, a host of golden Daffodils-
The beauty of valley clad in white was mesmerising. It was peaceful and tranquil. It was a comforting silence that nourishes the soul and calmness that soothes the mind. We were savouring the beauty and serenity undisturbed……
For me, the trip was great as I spotted some rare Himalayan birds that added to my list of birds for the Great Backyard Bird Counting week (Feb 15 to 18).
We stopped at a small tea shop in the village and had zucchini orange bread and sandwiches with steaming ginger tea. It was an outing to remember.





Zucchini And Orange Marmalade Tea Cake


  • 1 and ¾ cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup orange marmalade
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup toasted and chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup candied peels


  1. Grease and line a 9x5 inch loaf pan. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C.
  2. Sieve together whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  3. Beat eggs and sugar until light and frothy. Add oil and marmalade and mix well. Add grated zucchini.
  4. Add dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
  5. Stir in walnuts and candied peels. Pour the batter into the loaf pan.
  6. Bake for 60 – 70 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Slice when cold.

My love and fascination for beetroot that began in my childhood is still very much a part of me. I would always wonder how from the same Earth radishes were snow white, carrots orange and beetroots so purple. And each of them so different in taste and flavour. During winters, our Dad would boil a beetroot everyday and give us a slice each, to eat with meals. He would tell us that our cheeks would become red by eating it. This is now being followed in my family.
Beetroots have been termed as a super food because of their many health benefits. Experts recommend adding a portion of beetroot in everyday meals because of their many health benefits. Beetroot is a store house of Vitamin C. It boosts body immunity, improves texture of skin and eliminates toxins from body. It is good for the liver. It lowers blood pressures and prevents coronary heart disease. Beet root has natural sugars.It is a good source of Calcium and iron.
On my previous trip to vegetable market, I saw freshly harvested beets – robust and juicy. I immediately bought them and decided to make jam.

2 Beet roots
1 cup sugar
Juice of two oranges
Juice of one lime

Pressure cook the beet roots. Turn off the gas after a whistle.

Peel and chop into small pieces.

Puree the pieces in a blender.
Add sugar and juice of oranges and juice of a lime.
Cook in a thick bottomed non aluminum vessel till the mixture attains jam like consistency.
Turn off the gas.
While the jam is getting cold, sterilize the bottles.
Place the washed and dried bottles with the lids in the oven. Set the temperature to 100 degrees and set the timer to 10 minutes. Remove the bottles and their lids from the oven. Ladle hot jam into the jars leaving ¼ inch headspace. Secure the lids tightly.

My notes: With the above quantity of the ingredients, you get a small bottle of jam. Refrigerate and consume early.

Yellow is the colour of the season. Vasant Panchmi has arrived, heralding the end of winters and arrival of Spring- the season of blossoms, fertility, birds and bees.
Vasant Panchmi is India’s spring festival. It is celebrated in Kumaon with √©lan. Saraswati – the Goddess of intellect and wisdom is worshipped.  Colour yellow holds a special significance on this day. Yellow signifies the brilliance of nature and vibrancy of life. On Vasant Panchmi, white hanky is dyed in yellow colour, offered to goddess Saraswati and gifted to near and dear ones along with sweet rice which is made with saffron, which imparts a beautiful yellow colour to the dish.
In schools too, cultural programmes are held and Saraswati is worshipped. In my daughter’s school, the children were asked to dress up in yellow and bring something yellow in their lunch box.
I made Bombay Halwa or Karachi Halwa for her lunch box.

Arrival of Spring!
½ cup corn flour
2 ½ cups Water
1 ½ cups Sugar
2 tablespoons Butter
1 tablespoon melon seeds
1 tablespoon chopped cashews
1 pinch food grade yellow colour
1 teaspoon pineapple essence

Mix corn flour with 1 cup of water. There should be no lumps. Add yellow colour. Mix well.
In a heavy bottom vessel or wok, add sugar and 1 ½ cups of water. Bring it to a boil till the syrup becomes thick. Turn off the heat.
To the syrup, add corn flour mixture. Mix well. Turn on the heat.
Cook on medium heat. Keep stirring constantly. The mixture will keep becoming thick. When it becomes quite thick and translucent, add butter and essence. After sometime, the mixture becomes almost transparent and glossy and will start leaving the sides of the wok, and ladle will feel heavy, at this stage, turn off the heat.
Add cashews and melon seeds and mix evenly.
Grease a plate and spread the mixture on the plate. Level the mixture and spread evenly by applying a little butter on your palms or with the help of a greased butter paper (I always keep the inner wrapper of the butter for leveling burfis and sweets).
Slice when the halwa gets cold.
My notes: it is very important to turn off the heat when the mixture starts leaving the sides and ladle feel heavy. If you want thicker slices, set the mixture in a square cake tin.

Eggless semolina cakes are our favourite. We bake them in different avatars. Low in fat and filling, a slice of semolina cake pairs well  with a cup of tea.  Hungry kids love to gorge on the big slices.
We have baked semolina cakes many times.

Version One

This cake is our favourite. The crust is a bit hard. When you pour citrusy honey, it becomes soft and flavourful. A pinch of turmeric goes into the batter to give that beautiful golden colour. 

Orange Semolina Cake (Eggless and Low fat) Drizzled with Citrusy Honey 


  • 2 cups Semolina
  • 1 cup Yogurt
  • 1 cup fresh Orange juice
  • 1 ¼ cup unrefined cane sugar (boora)
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric or 1 tablespoon vanilla custard powder (optional, for colour)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sliced raw pistachios
  • Zest of two oranges

Citrusy Honey

½ cup honey and juice of an orange mixed well


  1. In a large bowl, whisk together semolina, salt, and turmeric/custard powder.
  2. In another bowl, beat yogurt until smooth. Add sugar, oil and vanilla extract. Add orange juice and zest.
  3. Add semolina to yogurt mixture. Stir well, cover and keep for 15 minutes. The batter will thicken a bit.
  4. Grease, line, and dust a 9 inch round cake tin. Preheat the oven to  175 degrees C.
  5. Add baking powder and baking soda to the batter. Mix well.
  6. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle pistachio slices on top.
  7. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the top turns golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven, cool on the rack.
  9. Pour citrusy honey evenly on top with a spoon while the cake is warm.

Version Two  

This cake is special to me. Special because the recipe is mine. Last year when I baked SEMOLINA BANANA CAKE, I forgot to add 2 tablespoons of oil which was a part of the ingredients. I assumed that the cake would not bake well. Quite contrary to my assumptions, the cake came out beautiful. It rose well and tasted great. It was Eggless and fat less cake.
Since long I was toying with the idea of baking an orange cake on similar lines. After finalizing my recipe, I baked it yesterday. The cake came out very well. Fragrant and delicious with every grain of semolina becoming juicy and bouncy. To enhance its flavour and to make it moist, I poured honey mixed with orange juice on the cake. It was just out of the world. You have to make it and  believe that it is fatless. 

Orange Semolina Cake (Eggless and Low fat) Drizzled with Citrusy Honey 


  • 2 cups Semolina
  • 1 cup Yogurt
  • 1 cup fresh Orange juice
  • 1 ¼ cup unrefined cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of two oranges

Citrusy Honey

½ cup honey and juice of an orange mixed well


  1. Roast semolina on low flame till a pleasant aroma emanates and it begins to change colour. Keep it to get cold.
  2. Beat yogurt until smooth. Add sugar, orange juice, vanilla extract, and zest.
  3. Add semolina to wet ingredients and mix well. Keep it for half an hour. The semolina grains will become soft and the mixture will thicken a bit.
  4. Grease, line, and dust a 9 inch round cake tin. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C for 15 minutes.
  5. Add baking soda, baking powder and salt to the mixture and mix well.
  6. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 35-40 minutes till the cake shrinks from the sides, the top becomes golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Remove from the oven after ten minutes. Invert on the rack and remove the lining carefully.

When the cake gets cold, poke the top with a fork or skewer, pour honey and orange juice mixture evenly.

My notes: I used store-bought curd. If you are using the curd set at home, start with  ¾ cup. Add more if the batter is thick.  

Last week my brother in law visited us. Knowing our love for fruits, he got us a huge Pineapple. The pineapple was ripe and it flooded our kitchen with its heavenly aroma. Since the weather was very cold, no one really looked excited to eat the fruit. I made Pineapple jam.

Pineapple is a tropical fruit that has several health benefits. It contains a proteolytic enzyme called bromelain. Bromelain helps in the digestion of protein. Bromelain is anti inflammatory; it helps in acute sinusitis, conditions of sore throat, arthritis and gout. Pineapple is also a very good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B1, calcium and manganese.

1 ripe Pineapple
Sugar (depending on the quantity of fruit pulp)
Juice of limes

Peel the pineapple deeply. Grate the flesh. Measure. Put the pineapple in a heavy bottom non aluminum vessel and add water just enough to cover the pulp. Cook over medium heat till the pineapple is soft.
Add sugar. Add one cup sugar for every one cup of pulp. Add juice of one lime for every one cup of pulp.
Cook till the jam thickens. Ladle the jam into the sterilized bottles. (Place the washed and dried bottles with the lids in the oven. Set the temperature to 100 degrees and set the timer to 10 minutes. Remove the bottles and their lids from the oven. Fill the jam in the sterilized bottles while the jam is hot.)

Red lentils or masoor daal is made in our kitchen quiet often as this humble daal is fast and easy to cook and light on stomach. However, adding a dash of spices and a bunch of spinach along with garlic and ginger can transform simple daal into a mouth watering dish at the same time making it nutritious too!

1 cup whole masoor daal (red lentils)
2 medium size onions sliced
1 medium ripe tomato chopped
2 cups chopped spinach (a bunch)
3 cloves garlic
1 inch piece of ginger
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoons amchoor powder (dry mango powder)
2 tablespoons oil
Salt to taste

Pressure cook daal with salt and turmeric powder.
Grind garlic and ginger into a paste.
Heat oil, add cumin seeds. After a few seconds, add onions, fry for two to three minutes. Add ginger garlic paste, fry for another two to three minutes. Add coriander powder, amchoor powder and chopped tomatoes. Cook till tomatoes are tender.
Add cooked daal and chopped spinach. Cook for ten minutes. Serve hot with rice.

Malta Marmalade is bittersweet, citrusy and chunky. It has a lovely flavour of Malta. It makes a delightful treat on warm buttered toast.

Malta (Citrus sinesis) is the most commonly grown tree in the Kumaon hills. It fruits during the winter season. Malta is called sweet orange. It is a hybrid between Pomelo (Citrus maxima) and Mandarin (Citrus reticulate). Malta has great medicinal value. The fruit is rich in Vitamin C, the fresh rind is used as a carminative, blood purifier and as a tonic. Fresh peel is rubbed on the skin to treat acne, the dried peel is used to cure cold and cough and powder prepared from the peels is used for dissolving kidney stones.

Malta rules the market during winters. Bursting with juice and great flavour, it is ideal to make  marmalade. The membranes between the segments are rich in pectin. I have made marmalade with Oranges and Kinnow also, but nothing beats Malta Marmalade.

You may use the local citrus or organic oranges to make marmalade. 

Himalayan Malta Marmalade


  • 10 Maltas
  • 2 Oranges
  • 3 cups boiling water for every 1 cup of peel
  • 1 cup of sugar for every cup of peels and juice mixture
  • 2 teaspoons butter
You will also need
  • A hand juicer
  • A muslin cloth


Wash the Maltas and Oranges

Cut them in half. Squeeze out the juice from the fruit using a hand juicer. Transfer the juice to a heavy bottom non-aluminium pan. Save peels. Collect the seeds; reserve.

Scrap out the pulp completely from the juiced fruits and place the pulp and seeds in a muslin cloth.

Using a spoon or a knife (whichever way is convenient), scrape out the pith (white pulp) from the peels and discard. With a sharp knife or scissors, cut the peels thinly. (about 1/8 inch thick). Measure the peels. Add the measured peels to the juice.

For every cup of peel, add 3 cups of boiling water to the pan containing juice and peels. Cover and leave to soak overnight.
The next morning, tie the reserved pulp and seeds in a clean muslin cloth and add to the pan.

Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it cook for about 1 ½ hour till the peels become soft. The membranes and seeds in the muslin bag are rich in pectin. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible from the bag.  Discard bag.
Measure this mixture and transfer it to a thick bottom (preferably a steel) wok.
For every cup of this mixture, add one cup of sugar.
Freeze a steel plate.
Cook on high flame stirring continuously. Cook till the Marmalade gets thick. To test for doneness, drop a spoonful of Marmalade on the frozen plate. If you see a slight film when pushed with a finger, it is done. If it spreads out thin, it needs to be cooked more. Repeat the frozen plate test. When done, add butter and stir.
To sterilize the bottles, Place the washed and dried bottles with the lids in the oven. Set the temperature to 100 degrees and set the timer to 10 minutes. Remove the bottles and their lids from the oven.
Ladle the marmalade into hot sterilized jars, leaving ½ inch space.

My notes: the procedure is a little elaborate but worth the effort. Malta can be substituted by oranges and two oranges can be replaced by two lemons.

Winter is waning at last. The Sun is getting brighter day by day. Around this time of the year, the citrus harvest from the hills reaches here. There is a variety of citruses in the fruit mart. Most popular is the Malta from the hills. Generally sweet and sour and sometimes very sweet, always juicy and bursting with great flavour. Malta is more popular than the oranges.  This is the time when I make all the recipes that ask for oranges. Last week I made Orange Cranberry Bread with walnuts.
I used orange juice but I did not use orange zest. The sprays and pesticides used in oranges makes it intimidating to use the zest. I used Malta zest instead.
However, you can use Orange zest after washing it throughly in hot water. Then soak the oranges in water containing a tablespoon of salt and 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1 tablespoon baking soda.

1and ¾ cups whole wheat flour
1 cup granulated white sugar
50 Gms (half stick) butter
1 cup fresh orange juice
½ cup walnuts
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup mixed candied peels
1 egg
1 tablespoon Malta zest
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Place walnuts in the baking tray. Set the oven temperature to 100 degrees and timer to 10 minutes. Toast till walnuts become fragrant and brown. Chop into small pieces. Sieve whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add zest. Cut butter into small pieces and add to the flour mixture. Blend well using hands or a spoon. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Add sugar. Beat the egg till fluffy. Add orange juice and vanilla essence. Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Add chopped nuts, candied peels and cranberries. Bake in the pre heated oven at 180 degrees C in a greased and lined 9” x 5” loaf tin for 50 minutes or till the top turns brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven. Remove from the loaf tin after 10 minutes. Carefully remove the lining and place on the rack to cool. Slice and enjoy next day.

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