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.

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