Come winters and its Citrus boom. Limes, Lemons, Oranges, Kinnows,  Pomelos and all the local varieties of Citrus flood the market. And this is the best time to make Marmalade. Nothing beats homemade marmalade that is chunky and bittersweet. And even when the citrus season is over, you can savour the citrusy deliciousness from the bottle!

In North, our very own local citrus Malta reaches the market in early winters. Malta (Citrus sinesis) is the most commonly grown tree in the Kumaon hills. It fruits during winter season. Malta is called sweet orange. It is a hybrid between Pomelo (Citrus maxima) and Mandarin (Citrus reticulate). Malta is highly medicinal and has an intense citrusy flavour too. Local varieties are the best for marmalade as the skin is not sprayed with pesticides unlike the commercial varieties that are sprayed and waxed for an attractive look and longer shelf life.

Marmalade can be made with any local variety of citrus or oranges.  

Classic Malta Marmalade
8 Maltas (oranges or  any citrus)
2 lemons
4 cups water
You will also need
A hand juicer, a sharp knife, kitchen scissors, muslin cloth, a plate kept in freezer and jars.
Wash and wipe the fruits.  
Slice all the fruits into half. Juice the Maltas and lemons. Separate flesh and seeds.
Collect all the seeds.
With a sharp knife, scrape out the white membranes and keep them aside.
Scrape out as much pith as you can from the juiced fruit. Discard pith.
Cut peels (Malta and Lemon) into fine shreds with scissors. Collect all the seeds and membranes and tie them in a muslin cloth.
In a large steel wok/container, take juice, flesh, peels and water. Place muslin bag in the side. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cook till the shreds become tender. Keep pressing muslin bag from time to time. Seeds and membranes are rich in pectin. Whitish gel from muslin bag is pectin. It will help the marmalade set well.
Turn off the heat. Discard the muslin bag. Cool the mixture and refrigerate overnight.
Next morning, measure the mixture. For every one cup, add ¾ cup sugar. Boil.
Keep boiling till it becomes thick. To test for doneness, drop a spoonful on frozen plate. Push with a finger. If it has slight a film and collects, then it is done. If it spreads out thin, it needs to be cooked more. Repeat the frozen plate test.
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 Marmalade into warm sterilized jars, leaving ½ inch space.

She climbs up the monkey ladder and reaches the top. She moves forward with a bottle in her hand and balances herself precariously between the rods. Then, gently empties water in the bird bath. Next, she climbs up again with a handful of millets and scatters the grain on a stone slab which serves as food table for birds. While descending, a squirrel’s call gets her attention and she spots one in the Mango tree. She looks up and gestures, seems, some kind of communication has taken place between the two….she opens the refrigerator and takes out an apple and cuts it into half, and places it on the slab. She hides behind the door. Soon a squirrel scampers down and starts nibbling the piece. My daughter smiles.

Oven timer tinkles. We check cake for doneness. A vegan Chocolate Orange Cake is out of the oven. 

It’s my daughter’s birthday. She wanted a vegan cake.

 The cake is cooling on the rack. She plans to dress it up with ganache and sprinkle some chocolate chips on top.

 An ardent animal lover to the core, she keeps one slice each for the cat and the dog.

Fresh Orange juice, zest and marmalade do magic in the cake. The cake is whole grain, low fat and delicious.

Vegan Chocolate Orange Cake


  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ¾ cup fresh orange juice
  • ¼ cup olive oil or any neutral vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon marmalade (mixed fruit jam will also do)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • Finely grated zest of two oranges or two tablespoons candied peels.


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
  2. Grease the sides and line the bottom of one 8 inch round cake pan.
  3. Whisk together first five ingredients in a large bowl.
  4. Mix the remaining ingredients in another large bowl.
  5. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix till combined.
  6. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Invert on the rack and cool.
Next day, Pour 1 cup warm Ganache (Heat the 200 grams dark chocolate in a double boiler. Add 5 tablespoons cream. Stir constantly till the chocolate melts. Take off the heat and stir briskly till it becomes smooth and shiny. It will thicken as it cools.)
 and sprinkle some chocolate chips. 

A row of Ficus plants line up the edge of our garden. The have been grown as hedge and they also conceal the concrete wall behind them. This is where we spot most of the leaf birds flitting from branch to branch, picking insects from the underside of leaves, letting out a constant chirrup that is sweet, sonorous and soothing to the ears. Last time when we were in our backyard, we noticed a subtle movement in the forked branches of a Ficus. A movement almost imperceptible but noticeable occasionally, a faint jerky bobble every now and then, got us intrigued. On getting closer, we discovered a giant spider suspended in a superbly made web.

 We marveled at the intricacy and the beauty of the whole system she had spun around her.

The bird bath is full and a Himalayan Bulbul is enjoying an afternoon splash.

Our dinner rolls are out of the oven and are being brushed with butter. 

Butter trickles and seeps into the perfectly round contours. The aroma is heavenly.

Golden Buttery Pull Apart Buns

Recipe source -


  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons milk powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon mashed potato or potato flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter + 2 tablespoons for brushing baked rolls
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • ½ cup warm milk


  1. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and knead for 6 to 8 minutes till you get a smooth and soft dough.
  2. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl. Turn around so that it is evenly coated with oil. Cover and leave to rise for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until double.
  3. Deflate the dough and transfer to the counter.
  4. Roll out a thick rope and cut into half. Divide each half into further half and so on to get eight pieces from each half. Roll out each piece into a smooth ball.
  5. Grease two 8 inch cake pans. Arrange eight balls in each pan. (You may use pans of your choice)
  6. Cover and keep to rise for 1 hour or until double in size. Towards the end of rising time, preheat oven to 180 degrees.
  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes till the buns turn golden brown. Remove buns from oven and brush with melted butter. Remove from the pan after 5 minutes and transfer to the rack.
  8. Serve warm.

It’s a misty morning. Air is nippy and the Sun is mellow. A flock of Grey Hornbills perched on the old Banyan Tree let out shrill calls. Our cat is curled up on the dry patch of lawn. Dog, too, looks languid and walks to the sunny end of garden and almost falls flat on a muddy patch. Winters have arrived. It is comforting to sit in the Sun and enjoy the warmth while reading out a chapter or a story to the kids.

After a chapter is read,  daughter wants a break. She runs inside and gets Malta- the local citrus from the hills.

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 orangey aroma fills the air as Maltas are peeled. Endless Maltas are eaten and some reserved to bake a cake- A Vegan Malta Cake.

I have baked this cake several times. It comes out very well. It is moist and juicy. Enjoy it with a hot cuppa or drizzle warm custard and serve as dessert.

Vegan Malta Cake


  • 1 ½ cup  whole wheat flour 
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unrefined  sugar
  • 1 cup malta juice  
  • 1/3 cup oil (any vegetable oil)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
  • ½  teaspoon vanilla essence
  • Finely grated zest of one Malta  


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease one 8 inch round cake pan. Line the bottom.
  2. Whisk together the first five ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. In another bowl, mix the next four ingredients.
  4. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients. Mix till well combined. Do not over mix.
  5. Fold in zest. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
  6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or till the top turns brown and shrinks from the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Remove from the oven after 10 minutes. Run a knife around and invert on a cooling rack. Slice the next day.
Note: If you prefer a lighter crumb, feel free to use all-purpose flour in place of whole wheat flour.

I have tried this recipe using oranges. There is a great difference in colour. Flavours, however, are the same. You may also add candied orange peels besides zest for a more intense orange flavour.

Vegan Orange Cake
Same as above. Replace Malta juice with orange juice and Malta zest with orange zest.

Same as above

Note: if you are really keen to get a golden colour in the cake, add a tablespoon of vanilla custard powder to the batter.

It is early morning post Diwali. Cacophony of birds in the mango tree catch our attention. Magpie Robin, Sunbirds, a group of Oriental white eye and a tree pie are all letting out shrill calls. There must be a snake or a cat or a mongoose we presume. The alarm calls reach a pinnacle and we are forced to go out and check. Our eyes scan the area but we see no snake, no cat or mongoose. Birds keep hopping from branch to branch and are joined by some more. As we look up, we spot a Jungle Owlet staring at us. It rotated its head, looked around and again fixed its gaze on us.

 It remained there for twenty minutes till birds made it difficult for it to stay perched. Soon it flew away with all the birds chasing it.

It is post festival time and we might have some guests over. Since everyone is satiated with sweets, we decide to bake a very simple low fat orange cake that would be just ideal with a steaming cup of masala tea.

It is a simple recipe and comes together in no time. Soon the wonderful aroma of cake wafts through, announcing that it is done.

A delicious orangey moist, butter free cake is sliced and enjoyed by all.

 Low Fat Orange Yogurt Cake

Recipe source –


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • ½ to ¾ cup  unrefined sugar  
  • ½ cup thick creamy yogurt
  • ¼ cup  oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons candied orange peels chopped fine (or finely grated zest)


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line one 8 inch round cake pan.
  2. Whisk together first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Keep aside.
  3. In another large bowl, take next five ingredients and beat well till you get a uniform mixture. You may use a hand blender for mixing.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix till you get a lump free smooth batter. Do not over mix. Stir in candied peels or zest.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 -30 minutes or till a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the rack.

Festivities and frenzy is palpable in the air. Festive spirit is infectious and seems to imbue everyone. Diwali is soon arriving. Nature seems to be donning brightest colours for the occasion. Though it is the fag end of autumn but the blossoms are still dazzling  and beautiful. We saw a thicket of wild dahlia.

Every kitchen is busy and the sound of the pots and pans is indicative that sweets and delicacies are being prepared. A medley of aromas suffuse the air. There is excitement and happiness galore.  In my kitchen, batter for Singhal is resting. Singhal is a traditional Kumaoni sweet made during festivals and all the important occasions. It is made in advance and has a good shelf life. Soft, spongy and flavourful Singhal is a healthy delicacy made with semolina, banana, curd, milk, sugar and cardamom.

You may serve it with rabri (thickened milk) as dessert.

Singhal – A Kumaoni   Delicacy
2 teacups semolina (sooji)
1 teacup thick  curd
1 teacup sugar
½ - 1 cup milk
2 tablespoons malai (milk topping,  optional)
1 medium or 1 ½ small overripe banana (mashed)
5 to 6 green cardamoms
Vegetable oil for frying
Beat curd and malai till smooth. Powder cardamom seeds.
Take semolina in a large bowl. Add sugar, curd, cardamom, mashed banana, and ½ cup milk. Mix well to get a smooth batter. Add more milk if the batter is too dry. The consistency should be like cake batter.
Cover and keep for 2 to 3 hours.
Heat oil in a wok.
Take a clean a plastic bag. Make a cut in the end. Fill the bag with batter and press the bag so the batter reaches the point where the bag has a cut. Drop batter in the oil gently making a spiral (like a jalebi, but, round).
You may also take handful of batter and drop it in oil in a spiral shape.
Fry till golden. Flip and repeat.
Serve with tea as snack or serve with pista rabri as   dessert.                        

Shrill calls of a Rufous Treepie pierce the serenity of the autumn morning. The sky is heavy with clouds and the Sun is yet to make an appearance. The bird goes on calling continuously and her shrill notes draw our attention. We spot her in the Jamun tree. 

 A dove drinking water from the birdbath scurries and flies away to the lower branches of Magnolia tree as the Treepie settles on the birdbath. 

Treepie  drinks water to her heart’s content and then dives into the saucer, splashing water around.

It is the festive season. Ingredients are being measured to bake a cake. My daughter helps me in slivering the pistachios for Pistachio Cardamom Cake. We spoon the batter into the pan and lovingly arrange the sliced pistachios on the batter spacing them evenly. 

As the cake bakes, a lovely aroma of orange zest and cardamom wafts through. The cake turns out moist, flavourful and delicious. It is very festive in appearance as tiny bits of green pistachios peep out from the soft crumb. It is rich in taste and flavour.

Pistachio Cardamom Cake


  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup raw pistachios ground coarsely
  • 5 to 6 green cardamom seeds powdered
  • 1 stick (½ cup) butter
  • 1 cup (scant) sugar, powdered
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup warm milk (not hot)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • Finely grated zest of two oranges
  • 8 to 10 pistachios slivered, for topping


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line the bottom,   grease and dust sides of one 8 inch round cake pan.
  2. Whisk together the first 5 ingredients in a large. Keep aside.
  3. Beat butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Add vanilla essence and zest, mix well.
  6. Add flour mix in three shifts. Add milk every time you add flour mix. Mix till well combined.
  7. Pour into the prepared pan. Level the top. Sprinkle slivered pistachios evenly on top.
  8. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or till the top turns brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven after 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edges, invert onto the rack and cool.
  9. Slice the next day (the flavours develop fully). Serve with whipped cream.

The sky is azure and cloudless. It rained heavily a day ago. We are in the fields and the Sun is pleasantly warm. Birds and bees are at work. There are a million wild flowers around. Butterflies are flitting from flower to flower. Most of them are hovering around Lantana flowers. The amalgamation of nippy air and warm Sun is lassitude inducing, the ambiance is heavenly. 

We spot a large number of butterflies.

 The colours, the hues and the patterns on their wings fascinate us.

For evening, a special pull apart bread is being planned.  I decide on baking a cluster of tiny bread rolls in a regular loaf tin. 

The bread rises, so does our excitement. As the bread browns, our home is flooded with the lovely aroma and   garlic and herb cluster bread is ready for dinner. This is the basic recipe for garlic and herb bread. You may also shape it as a regular loaf.

Garlic and Herb Pull Apart Cluster Bread | Garlic and Herb Pull Apart Bread
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons milk powder
1 ½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons dry herbs (mix of oregano, thyme, rosemary)
5 to 6 buds of garlic (minced)
2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
¼ cup boiled and mashed potato
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter for dough + 4 tablespoons more
2/3 cup warm milk
¼ to ½ cup warm water.
Mix together milk, yeast, sugar, butter and mashed potato.
Whisk together first five ingredients.  Make a well in the center. Pour liquid ingredients. Mix with hands to get a shaggy dough. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes or till dough becomes smooth. Keep adding water till you get a smooth and elastic dough. Cover and let dough rest for 20 minutes.
Grease one 4 ½  x 8 ½   inch bread pan.
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a bowl.
Pinch dough into walnut size balls. Roll between palms to get a round ball. Dip the balls in the butter and start arranging dough balls in the pan. Once the base layer is done, start second layer and so on. Each layer should have less dough balls than the previous layer. Try to arrange dough balls evenly so that you get a pyramid shape in the end.  Cover and keep in a warm place for 1 ½ hour or till bread crests above the rim of the pan.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for 40 to 45 minutes or till the top turns brown and the tin sounds hollow when tapped at the bottom.
Remove the bread from the oven, and after 5 minutes turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool.

Autumn is adding more and more colour to the landscape.  

A cart loaded with fresh red apples passing by our lane was stopped. We chose to pick the fruit and the vendor allowed us to do it without any signs of uneasiness as we examined the lot and gathered the seemingly best apples. We applauded his generosity as he smiled accepting money and carrying on further.

 Kids loved snacking on them. I saved some for baking a cake. Incorporating fresh fruits in the cake gives a good feeling. Cake gets a great texture and the recipe feels healthy too. Having baked and enjoyed whole wheat apple cake and easy apple cake earlier, an egg less version was in mind.  I grated a large apple and added to the batter. Since apples do not have any distinct flavour, I added vanilla essence. Cinnamon would also give a great flavour.

Egg less Apple Snack Cake


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour (Atta)
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • A pinch of salt
  • ¾ cup sugar (powdered)
  • ½ cup thick curd
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (or any vegetable oil)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 medium size apple grated

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line and grease one 8 inch round cake pan. Dust the sides with flour.
  2. Whisk together first five ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. In another bowl, mix curd and sugar. Add oil and vanilla essence. Stir until smooth mixture forms. Add grated apple.
  4. Add dry ingredients. Stir till well combined. The batter should be of dropping consistency. If your batter is thick, add 1 -2 tablespoons of water.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 40 -45minutes till the top turns golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  6. Remove from the oven after 10 minutes. Cool on the rack. Slice next day.


 It is early morning.  The air is nippy. Pole star dazzles with all brilliance in the east. It appears above the banyan tree that is presumable 100 years old and its   silhouette seem to be dancing as a strong breeze tosses its boughs. I have grown up watching this wonderful spectacle from our window almost every day without fail. Soon the dawn breaks in the hues of ochre that transform into undertones of pink and finally orange as the Sun peeps from behind the hills. The wheel of time moves on. The tranquility of the early morning is broken by the sound of the vehicles that start racing on the road, roaring and screeching madly for no apparent reason.

A  butterfly glides past Clerodendron vine.

 Autumn is the season of butterflies. 

There are many more in our backyard hovering around wild flowers. We spend some time in comforting warmth of the morning Sun till the timer of oven goes and we get the aroma of chocolate marble cake that has risen beautifully.

The cake has a great texture. It is chocolaty, moist and delicious. Makes an excellent dessert cake with ice cream or chocolate sauce.

Chocolate Marble Cake (Vegan) | Egg less Chocolate Marble Cake

Chocolate Batter
1 ½ cups All-Purpose flour
1 cup sugar (powdered)
¼ cup cocoa (pass cocoa through a sieve to remove the lumps if any)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coffee powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup warm water

Vanilla Batter

1 ¾ cups All-Purpose flour
1 cup sugar (powdered)
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup warm water


Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line the bottom and sides of one 8 inch round cake pan.
Prepare the batters in two different pans.
Whisk together all the dry ingredients.
Make a well in the center of the pan. Pour vanilla essence, oil, water and vinegar.
Stir everything with a fork until the ingredients are well blended.
Pour the batter alternately  into the prepared cake pan starting with vanilla batter in four rounds.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.
Remove from the oven after 5 minutes. Remove from the pan after another 5 minutes. Cool in the rack.
Slice next day or even later. The cake slices well and the flavours develop fully.
Serve with ice cream or chocolate sauce as dessert.

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