We are in the middle of the spring but not completely out of winters yet. The spring manifests its magnificence in the flower laden bushes and plants. Mustard blossom and Semal (Silk Cotton) flowers are the sure show stoppers.

Our Amla tree is laden with fruit. The fruits need to be harvested lest they fall and rot.

 A recipe is discovered and it turns out to be a wonder. Amla toffee! We get down to making it. And when it is ready, it is hard work truly rewarded. 

Soft, juicy and chewy Amla toffee is really addictive.

We all loved it and another batch is being planned. What better use of nutrients rich Amla ….

Amla Toffee | Indian Gooseberry Toffee | Soft Amla Candy

Recipe source – Shweta Vikas

10 medium size amla
White sugar
A pinch of salt
2 teaspoons ghee (clarified butter) or plain butter
2 teaspoons powdered sugar
Grease one 7x7 inch square cake pan or a steel plate.
Wash amla and wipe them dry.
Put them in a pressure cooker. Add water just enough (about 100ml) to prevent amla from burning at the bottom. Pressure cook for two whistles. Remove the amlas and keep them to cool. Reserve water.
Remove the seeds. Place the amla pieces in a blender, add amla water  and puree them. Strain the puree.  This will remove the fibrous strands.
 Measure the puree and transfer it to a thick bottom steel wok. Measure the same quantity of sugar. ( I had two cups of puree and I added two cups of sugar). Add salt and ghee.
Cook the mixture over medium flame. Once it comes to rolling boil, reduce heat. Cook it on low flame stirring continuously. It will begin to thicken. The colour will change from greenish yellow to brownish orange. Keep stirring and cooking till the mixture becomes gel like and begins to leave the sides. Grease a small plate. Drop some mixture. Cool it and roll it between thumb and index finger. If it rolls neatly into a ball, it is done, but if it sticks to finger, it needs more cooking.
Empty the mixture into the prepared pan/plate. Tilt the pan/plate so that the mixture spreads evenly. Keep it in a dry place to cool. Remove from the pan/plate, cut into bite size pieces.
Toss the pieces in powdered sugar and store in an airtight container.

It was a restless night. Tossing and turning in the bed, inundated by the memories of the past, the fractured slumber was not taxing, rather, it was pleasing in its own way. It is was Dad’s birthday the next day. Memories of how he surprised us on our birthdays, how he baked the first cake in the pressure cooker in the sand collected from the brook flowing through our land, the aroma of jams and jellies made at home, his garden that he tended with utmost love and care, his craze for cactuses, his love for music and his being a strict disciplinarian kept playing in the canvas of mind. He has been a simple man all his life with few needs and minimal desires. He never liked being flooded with presents. Simple thoughtful gestures appeal him. Being his birthday, a cake had to be baked and a simple cake would definitely please him.

 We decided on baking a Coffee Cake with toasted walnuts.

The Cake was a hit. We loved the soft crumb with sweet coffee flavoured frosting, showered with 
crisp toasted walnuts that added the crunch and enhanced the flavour too!

We are midway between spring and summer. Mornings are beautiful and pleasant. 

Few days back, we spotted a Long Tailed Shrike in the countryside.

Coffee Walnut Cake
Recipe adapted from www.taste.com
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick butter (100 g)
¾ cup brown sugar or plain sugar, powdered
2 eggs
 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
1 tablespoon boiled water
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
½ cup sour cream*
¼ cup walnuts toasted (take walnuts in a baking tray, bake at 180 degrees for 8 minutes or until fragrant and brown)
*Sour cream – Sour cream is a cultured cream. It can be made at home.
¼ cup milk and ¾ teaspoon white vinegar or ¼ cup buttermilk
1 cup heavy cream
Combine milk and vinegar and let stand for 10 minutes. Pour heavy cream into a jar. Stir in the milk mixture (or buttermilk), cover the jar and leave it at room temperature for 24 hours. This is sour cream. Refrigerate and use.  This recipe gives 1 cup sour cream.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line the bottom and grease the sides of one 6 inch round cake pan.
Whisk together first three ingredients. Keep aside.
Beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix coffee powder and boiling water, let it cool. Add this to butter sugar and egg mix. Add vanilla essence. Mix well.
Add flour and stir until just combined. Add sour cream and stir until just combined.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Level with a spoon. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven after 5 minutes and remove from the pan after another 5 minutes. Cool in the rack.
Coffee glazing
3 teaspoons instant coffee powder
1 tablespoon boiling water
1 cup powdered sugar
20g butter, softened
Combine coffee and boiling water in a bowl. Add powdered sugar and butter. Stir until smooth. Pour over the cake.

Sprinkle toasted walnuts on top.

We woke up to the mellifluous chimes of the nearby temple bells. It is Shivratri today. The devotees have started visiting the ancient temple under a more than 100 year old Banyan Tree. One peep outside the window confirms a bright day. The hills show clearly against the orange sky. The Sun is about to rise. Good weather infuses verve and enthusiasm into life and even ordinary chores seem so exciting.

My daughter gestures me to stop. She points at the bird bath. A Brown Headed Barbet is perched on the stone slab. She looks around to assure that that there is no danger before she plunges into the water, splashing it all around. She comes out and then goes in again. 

We enjoy her antics till she has her fill and flies to the branch of Magnolia tree and begins to preen herself.

There is some buttermilk in the refrigerator. I purposely reserved it for bread. The weather is warm and perfect to bake a Bread. The much awaited Buttermilk bread is being baked for dinner. One slice with Black Grape and Orange Jam in the end would be the perfect way to a simple dinner.

Buttermilk Bread
Adapted from - www.cooks.com
½ cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
½ cup warm water (really warm)
1 ¼ teaspoon instant dry yeast
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 pinch baking soda
Scald the buttermilk. It will begin to curdle. Add butter, sugar and salt. Stir. Let it rest till lukewarm.
Add yeast to warm water, stir. Add it to lukewarm buttermilk mix.
Whisk together flour and soda.
Add flour to wet ingredients. Stir till thoroughly mixed and you get a shaggy dough. Transfer the dough to a floured counter and knead for about 5 to 6 minutes. The dough should become really soft and supple.
 Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl. Turn the dough so that it is coated with oil on all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel and keep in a warm place until it doubles in size. Punch the dough and knead for another 2 to 4 minutes. Shape into a loaf.   Place it into a 8 ½ inch x 4 ½ inch greased loaf tin. Cover and keep it to rise for another one hour or until doubled.
Bake in a preheated oven at 190 degrees C for 30 -35 minutes till the top turns brown and the pan sounds hollow when tapped at the bottom. Tent with a foil if the bread browns too early.
Remove from the oven. Remove from the pan after 10 minutes. Cool in the rack. Slice next day.

Submitted for Yeastspotting

A hectic day ended on a sweet note. 

My weekend baking was a pleasure. It was relaxing, exciting and very rewarding. We baked two batches of cookies. Apricot cookies and Tutti frutti cookies Left over apricots from Apricot Walnut Tea Cake couldn’t have found a better use. The cookies were very crisp and loaded with chewy apricot and tutti frutti bits. My initial apprehension of there being no baking powder in the recipe disappeared once we bit into them. We loved the cookies.

The original Italian version, called Arlecchini- or little harlequins, also sometimes called Tutti Frutti use bright red and green candied cherries. 

I divided the dough into half. Added tutti-frutti to one part and added chopped dried apricots to another. 

This dough can be made and kept in the freezer. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.

Harlequin CookiesApricot and Tutti Frutti Cookies

Adapted from www.kitchenfrau.com

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 to 2 tablespoon water or rum (to get the right consistency of dough)
½ cup soft dried apricots chopped coarsely, or tutti frutti

Beat butter and sugar till fluffy.
Add vanilla essence. Add flour. Mix until it is moistened and crumbly.
Add 1 tablespoon of water/rum and mix with hands. Add another teaspoon of water/rum if the dough is hard or dry and cracks while kneading. The dough should be soft but not sticky.
Add chopped apricots or tutti frutti to the dough.
Roll the dough into two logs about 14 cms long each. Wrap it in a cling film. Shape the logs into a smooth cylinder. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Remove from the refrigerator and slice into 1/3  inch slices. Arrange the cookies in a baking sheet. If the edges of cookies break, press them gently into place.
Bake in a preheated oven at 165 degrees C for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden underneath. Cool in the tray for 5 minutes, then remove to rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

It’s a relaxed Sunday today. The Sun has been kind and shinning with all brilliance. It now seems as though we are in spring. A strong breeze rustles the trees tops and bushes. The tall grass in the fields, stroked by the breeze move like giant waves from one end to the other. The leafbirds chirp continuously as they flit from flower to flower sucking nectar from our climber that is overladen with orange flowers.

Last week, we spotted huge Indian Pied Hornbills in a mulberry tree. It was an ecstatic moment. We were flabbergasted to see the giant birds swooping down for insects and getting back to their perch.

Market is flooded with black grapes. This weekend I baked an Egg less Cake with black grapes.

 It was sumptuous, moist and studded with juicy grapes that burst in mouth in every bite. 

Black Grape Cake (Eggless and Butter free)


  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup milk at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup jam (any flavour) or else, add ¼ cup powdered sugar more
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice or white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 cup black grapes washed* and wiped dry
*Grapes are sprayed with pesticides. It is important to clean them well. Take two cups of water. Add two tablespoons of white vinegar and soak for ten minutes. Rub skin with hands. Rinse.


  1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees C. Grease the sides and line bottom of one 8 inch round cake pan.
  2. Whisk together first four ingredients in a big bowl. Keep aside
  3. In another bowl mix next five ingredients.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix till you get a smooth batter.
  5. Fold in grapes. Pour the batter in the prepared cake tin.
  6. Bake for 35 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Remove from the oven after 5 minutes. Remove from the pan after another 5 minutes.
  8. Cool in the rack. Slice the next day.

We were strolling in the countryside. There were scattered clouds in the sky. The sunrays beaming through the clouds in some clear patches in the backdrop of the hills looked majestic. 

We walked on the empty road bordered by unending stretches of verdant  fields, we walked past cows and calves sunning themselves, we noticed some movement in a pole by the side of the road. “Look!” shouted my daughter. We spotted a shikra perched atop an electricity pole keeping an eye on us.

I made some Coconut Brittle yesterday. 

Crisp, delicious, simple and above all easy to make.

Nariyal Chikki |Coconut Brittle (Vegan)
1 ½ cup shredded unsweetened dry coconut
1 cup crumbled jaggery (Gur)
2 teaspoons coconut oil (or clarified butter) + 1 teaspoon more for greasing the plate
Roast coconut on low flame. Stir continuously and turn off the flame when it begins to change colour. Let it cool.
Grease a plate with coconut oil.
Dissolve jaggery in ½ cup water and pass through a fine sieve to remove sediments. Take the syrup in a thick bottom steel wok, add coconut oil and cook it over a low flame till it caramelizes. Add a drop of jaggery in cold water. If it forms a hard ball, it is caramelized.
Add roasted coconut and stir well till coconut shreds are well coated with caramel.
Pour this mixture in the plate and roll it into thin sheet with the help of greased rolling pin.
Allow it to cool for some time and then cut into square pieces.
Store in an airtight container.

A cloudy warm morning was followed by mild showers and hail. By evening the sky was clear and azure. Cold but mild breeze made the evening really pleasant. The Sun looked like a red orb as it prepared to sink into the horizon, turning to a huge gray ball as it finally did behind the clouds. A group of White Cheeked Bulbuls caught our attention. It was a large group flitting from tree to tree, branches to branches, playing, frolicking, chasing each other, swooping down to lunge at some insect and raising an alarm collectively as our cat emerged out of a bush and slinked indoors sheepishly. The Bulbuls were a sight to watch.

 They kept us amused by their antics till darkness pervaded and the show stopped.

Few days back we spotted two Red Vent Bulbuls in our food table.

Last week we spotted a group of Black Crested bulbuls in a tree eating wild berries.

Last week I made Apricot Walnut Tea Loaf. 

A simple cake that is delicious, substantial and low calorie.

 A cake that does not leave you feel guilty as you tuck in piece after piece.

Apricot Walnut Tea Loaf – Low Calorie, Wholegrain and Egg less
1 ½ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar (powdered)
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
25 g butter (approx. ¼ slab)
170 ml orange juice
1 flax egg*
Finely grated zest of an orange
¾ cup finely chopped soft apricots (you may substitute apricot with figs or dried cherries)
½ cup toasted walnuts
*to make one flax egg take 3 tablespoons water in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of raw flax meal. Whisk with a fork.  Refrigerate. This step is important. Refrigerate for about an hour. This gives it the consistency of an egg white. Add it to the recipe. It acts as a binder and makes the cake soft.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and dust the sides, line the bottom of one 9x4 ½ inch bread pan.
Whisk together first five ingredients in a deep bowl. Add softened butter and mix with hands till it is thoroughly incorporated into the dry mixture.
Take orange juice in another bowl. Add flax egg. Stir. Add zest.
Pour the wet mixture into dry mixture. Stir well till the batter is smooth. Add more juice if the batter feels dry. Fold in apricots and walnuts. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for about 1 hour or till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Tent loosely with a foil if the top it turning too brown. Remove from the oven after 5 minutes. Remove from the pan after another 5 minutes. Cool in the rack.
Slice next day.

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