Colours, flowers, blossoms, and celebrations mark Spring which is the most resplendent and sensuous of all the seasons. A short holiday in a small village Dhikuli on the periphery of the Corbett National park got us face to face with the beauty of the nature in the county side which was mesmerizing and soul lifting, calming and inspiring. The myriad colours of nature were spellbinding. Blooms, blossoms, birds, and bees all seemed to be a part of revelry that reaches a crescendo during this time of the year as the transition takes place from spring to summer.

Early morning, we saw a flock of migratory birds flying in a queue. 

The forest was lush and the trees seemed to reach for the sky.

There was a group of cormorants by the riverside either sunning themselves or waiting to catch fish.

The sweet fragrance of Mango inflorescence permeated the air.

A White Throated Kingfisher sat on the bank.

Colourful vegetation dotted the landscape.

A White Browed Wagtail sat on a stone in the river.

With colours everywhere, there ought to be colours in food too to celebrate the festival of colours.

We baked some Beet Cookies.
We had homegrown beets.
These are healthy cookies with a pleasant beety flavour. I have baked them many times and we always love them

You can also prepare some ganache and decorate the cookies.

Beet Cookies


  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal (powdered oats)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup of raw unrefined sugar (adjust to taste)
  • 1 stick (100 grams) butter
  • 1 medium-size boiled and pureed beetroot


  1. Whisk together whole wheat flour, oatmeal, and salt.
  2. Beat butter and sugar until light, fluffy and pale
  3. Add flour mixture and mix well.
  4. Now add 1 tablespoon beet puree. Mix with hands and try to bring the mixture together to bind into a dough.
  5. Add more beet puree and knead till you get a very smooth and silky dough. The dough will be a beautiful pink colour.
  6. Bring the dough together and shape like a ball. Wrap with a cling film and keep in the refrigerator till hard. It would take around 20-25 minutes
  7. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
  8. Divide dough into two with a sharp knife. Keep one-half back into the refrigerator.
  9. Dust your counter with some flour. Roll out the dough evenly, keeping it 1/4  inch thick. Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out cookies.
  10. Arrange cookies on a greased baking tray. Bake for about 15-20 minutes. Remove immediately when the sides begin to change colour. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  11. Leave the cookies to cool. Serve                    

On Sunday, our part of the world woke up to an overcast sky, cool breeze followed by an unexpected but very welcome downpour that settled the dust, glistened the leaves and the Earthy scent lifted up the spirits. Everything looked so clean, fresh and pure! There is something magical about the rain. An ecstasy pervades the soul every time clouds rumble and rain.
Since the morning started on such a beautiful note the day had to be good. In the happy state of mind, I wanted to bake. There was a special cake that I wanted to bake since long but never really went ahead with it and there couldn’t have been a better occasion to try it out. I knew my kids would love it….. It was a Zebra cake! 
The magic lies in arranging the batters!

(Adapted from here )
2 cups all purpose flour
4 eggs
1 cup sugar (powdered)
1 cup milk
1 cup oil
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line an 8 inch round cake tin.
Beat eggs and sugar till light and fluffy.
Add oil, mix well. Add milk (reserve two tablespoons of milk for chocolate batter) and vanilla extract. Mix till well blended.
Sieve together all purpose flour, baking powder and salt.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients mixing well till the batter is smooth.
Divide the batter into two parts. In one portion, add cocoa powder dissolved in two tablespoons of milk. Keep the other portion plain.
Ladle the batters. This is the most important step. Use two separate ladles for the two batters. First pour a ladleful of the plain batter in the middle of the cake tin. Then pour a ladleful of the chocolate batter in the center on the top of the plain batter. Repeat this process till the batters are over.
Do not tilt the pan. The batter will spread itself and fill the pan.
Bake for 40 minutes or till a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool and slice.

My daughter squealed with joy when she saw a slice of stripy cake in her plate. She was thoroughly amused by the stripes. And I was so enamoured by the beauty of the cake that the very next day I made the egg less version keeping in my mind my parents.

ZEBRA CAKE (Egg less)
(Adapted from here)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 ¼ cups warm water
½ cup canola oil
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
A pinch of salt
(To be added to the chocolate batter)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
½ teaspoon instant coffee
¼ cup warm water
Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line an eight inch round cake pan.
Mix sugar, oil, milk, water, lemon juice and vanilla extract.
Sieve all purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients mixing till smooth.
Divide the batter into two parts. Keep one part plain.
To prepare chocolate batter, add cocoa powder, coffee powder and sugar to warm water. Add this to the other part of the batter. Mix well.
Ladle the batters. This is the most important step. Use two separate ladles for the two batters. First pour a ladleful of the plain batter in the middle of the cake tin. Then pour a ladleful of the chocolate batter in the center on the top of the plain batter. Repeat this process till the batters are over.
Do not tilt the pan. The batter will spread itself and fill the pan.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or till a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool and slice.

Summer is knocking at our doors. Gently, but surely. The call of the cuckoo, the blossoming of the Rhododendrons in the hills and silk cotton in the plains, the enchanting aroma of mango blossoms infused in the fresh morning breeze, the blooming of the lilies, foraging bees, the sprightly gait of the early morning walkers are all harbingers of summers. The changes of the season are visible in seasonal vegetables and fruits too. And yes, our food preferences are also showing a shift.
Rhododenrons in full bloom in the hills 

Yesterday my mother got a bunch of fresh green mint (pudina) from the mart – perhaps the first of the season. Mint is always associated with summers. Its refreshing flavour is so soothing and calming and whichever dish it is added to, it has a cooling effect on the system. I wanted to use the mint fresh. I made mint paranthas. Here goes the recipe-

Folding the parantha

2 cups whole wheat flour (atta)
½ cup mint leaves (cleaned, washed and chopped fine)
½ teaspoon Bishop’s seeds (ajwain)
Salt to taste
Warm water to knead flour
Oil to make paranthas
 Dry flour to roll paranthas

Mix whole wheat flour, mint leaves, salt and bishop’s seeds (ajwain).
Add warm water and knead well to get soft dough.
Cover the dough and let it rest for about 30 minutes.
Take small balls of the dough; roll out a small chapatti sprinkling dry flour if needed.
Spread oil all over the chapatti. Fold the chapatti from the left and from the right to meet in the center. Fold the top more than half way down and fold the bottom side up to get a square. Roll out evenly to get a square parantha.
Cook in a hot griddle till golden specs begin to appear on the lower side. Apply oil and cook till crisp and brown. Repeat on the other side.
Serve hot.

If Beet roots are not a part of your everyday platter, then you are missing out on great health benefits that this colourful root vegetable has to offer. Beets have received a lot of positive reviews in the recent past because of their great nutritional value. Beets have been termed a super food because of its immense health benefits. Health experts recommend adding a portion of beetroots in everyday meals.
As long as beets are available in the market, I have been making every effort to make it a part of our everyday meals. The outcome of one such endeavor is Beet Cake with Ganache Glaze. Yes! Kids love cakes. When I added Beetroot to the cake, they could not figure out the healthy ingredient and relished every bite of it. The final product is amazing as there is no flavour or colour of the beets only a moist cake with loads of taste!

It was fun grating beets, with hands coloured purple, we played holi by painting each others’ faces with beet juice after all Holi is already knocking at doors and the spirit of Holi is seeping in!
In goes the pink batter!

Out comes a golden cake!
Beet shreds peeping out!

Beet Cake With Ganache Glaze



  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup boiled peeled and grated Beets
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup yogurt
  • ¾ cups brown sugar (packed)
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt


  • 100 gms dark chocolate
  • 4 tablespoons low fat cream



Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line one 8 inch round cake tin.
Beat together butter, brown sugar and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time beating well each time.
Add vanilla extract.
Sieve together all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Beat yogurt till smooth. If yogurt is very thick, add 2-3 tablespoons of water.
Add flour mixture to butter-egg mixture in two shifts. Add yogurt while mixing.
Mix well and ensure there are no lumps.
Fold in grated beets. Stir until well combined.
Bake for 35-40 minutes till the top turns golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. While the cake cools, prepare the ganache.



Heat the chocolate and cream in a very heavy bottom pan on low flame. 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.
Pour Ganache evenly on cake.

Sending this cake to Vardhini"s Bake Fest  hosted by Sayantani

The villages bordering our town are vegetable growing belts of the foothills. The fields fed by the river and mountain springs are rich agricultural belts. During weekends we often make a trip to the villages to buy vegetables. It is a good practice to be a locavore. It ensures that the vegetables that reach your platter are fresh and seasonal, the farmer earns directly without parting with middleman and the biggest thing -  you reduce your carbon footprints.
And of course, picking and choosing your own vegetables is so pleasurable!
Last month we got tomatoes from a nearby village. I wanted to make ketchup at home. Tomato picking was on when we reached there. There were piles and piles of tomatoes in the fields. Tomatoes were being packed in the baskets. Men, women and children were all contributing their bit in the work. We went to a father son team who were packing tomatoes. They let us choose and we got red, ripe juicy and choicest tomatoes just perfect for making ketchup. Here goes the recipe-

2 ½ kgs ripe tomatoes
200 g (1 cup) sugar (can be adjusted according to taste)
½ cup(120 ml)  malted vinegar (can be adjusted according to taste)
1 ½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ginger paste
1 teaspoon garlic paste
2 sticks cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon whole black peppers
½ cup water
You will also need a muslin cloth

Peel the tomatoes. (A lot of insecticide is sprayed on tomatoes before ripening. It is advisable to remove the skin) In case the tomatoes very ripe and soft, put them in boiling water for a few minutes and remove the skin.
Cut the peeled tomatoes into small pieces and cook in a pan with half cup water for fifteen minutes.
Cool the tomatoes and blend. Strain the mixture, discard the seeds.
Transfer the blended tomatoes to a thick bottom non aluminum vessel. Add sugar, vinegar, salt and ginger garlic paste to it.
In a muslin cloth, tie cinnamon sticks, cloves and whole peppers. Place the muslin bag in the blended tomato mixture and cook on medium flame. Cook till the mixture becomes thick and attains the thickness of ketchup.
Fill in the sterilized bottles. (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.)
Refrigerate and consume early.

“What is this mom?” asked my seven year old girl astonished to see a purle - pink parantha on her plate. She sniffed, she smelt, she inspected and took a very small bite reluctantly more to find a reason for not eating it. “ummmmm …..hmmmmm……chomp, chomp, chomp … wow! Tastes good. Can you keep it in my lunch box?”  Yes! Mission accomplished.
Getting children to eat healthy things at times becomes really challenging.
Generally a non fussy eater, my daughter has been showing a dislike towards proper meals and is ever willing to have bread, stuffed aaloo paranthas, pasta and noodles. I wanted my kids to have beets. After failing to convince them to have BEET YOGURT DIP (BEET ROOT RAITA), I wanted to incorporate beets in food in other ways.  And thus, Beet Paranthas were invented.
While she was enjoying the paranthas I told her that beets will turn her cheeks red. This is what out dad used to tell us to make us eat slices of boiled beets with our food.
Beet root Parantha has lovely colour of the beets and great flavour imparted by fenugreek and bishop’s seeds (ajwain).

2 cups whole wheat flour (atta)
½ cup fenugreek leaves chopped fine
1 medium size beet root
½ teaspoon bishop’s seeds (ajwain)
Salt to taste
Warm water to knead flour
Dry flour to roll out paranthas
Vegetable oil to cook paranthas

Pressure cook beet root till just tender. When cold, peel and grate.
Add grated beet root, chopped fenugreek leaves, bishop’s seeds (ajwain) and salt to the flour. Mix well.
Using warm water, knead soft dough.
Cover and let it rest for at least half an hour.
To make paranthas, take a ball of dough, flatten between palms and using dry flour roll out a parantha.
Cook the parantha on a hot griddle. When golden specs begin to appear on the underside, apply oil and cook till parantha becomes golden. Repeat on the other side.
Serve hot.

Come winters and we have a whole lot of migratory birds in the foothills. It a pleasure to spot and watch them. Most of the birds migrate to the foothills during harsh winters. They stay here from autumn to spring and then as temperature begins to rise, they journey back to the higher climes. This year we have a flock of Himalayan Bulbuls (white cheeked bulbuls) in our area. They are a regular visitor in our kitchen garden. They are such social birds that they have become our pets- almost!. The moment they see food in their food table, they descend from the jamun tree and start gorging. They prance, they preen, they feed and they bathe. It is a pleasure to watch them.

Coming to the recipe, I made Strawberry Bread (almost a cake) last week. Strawberries have arrived in the market. Fresh strawberries always beckon me to bake something with lots of lots of  fruit which is a visual delight and busting with lovely flavour too!
Here goes the recipe-

2 cups whole wheat flour (atta)
1 ½ cups fresh strawberries chopped
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup butter (1 stick)
½ cup yogurt
½ cup cashews chopped
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Pre-heat the oven at 180 degrees C. Grease and line a 9x5 inch pan.
Sieve together whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon powder and salt.
Beat butter till soft. Add sugar and beat further till fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla extract. Beat well.
Add flour mix to wet ingredients alternately with yogurt (in two additions). Mix till just well combined.
When the batter becomes smooth, fold in strawberry pieces.
Pour in the cake pan. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes or till the top turns golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven after five minutes. Remove the lining carefully and transfer to the rack to cool. Slice when cold.

Whenever I would see sweet potatoes I would always wonder what could be made from these tubers. I also thought that the misshapen tubers had least culinary worth. All I knew was that they were boiled or roasted, sliced and had with black salt or chaat masala. However my perspective changed when I had sweet potato halwa and kheer prepared by my grandmother. She would make these preparations on festivals and also when she used to fast. She would prepare Sweet potato kheer on Shivratri.
This Shivratri, I also made sweet potato kheer and we liked it very much. Here goes the recipe-
½ liter low fat or skimmed milk
1 medium sweet potato
Sugar (to taste)
6-7 green cardamoms
10-12 almonds (blanched and chopped)
2 tablespoons milk powder

Peel and grate sweet potato. Transfer to a thick bottomed wok.
Add milk and cook. Cook till the kheer thickens and reduces in volume. It will take about fifteen minutes.
Sweet potato lends natural sweetness to kheer. Taste and then add sugar as per your taste. Add milk powder. It makes the kheer creamy. Avoid if using full cream milk.
Cook for another ten minutes. Turn off the heat.
Powder the cardamom seeds and add to the dish. Add chopped almonds. Serve.

These cookies remind me of my grandmother. Those days there weren’t too many ready made snacks available in the stores. There wasn’t too much variety in biscuits too.  She would get atta biscuits made in a local bakery. She would give them atta, butter, sugar and cardamom and collect the biscuits next day. The biscuits were made in a clay oven. They had a nice aroma of cardamom and butter.
These biscuits were for the ever hungry kids and for the guests and also for tea time. She would store them in a canister and hide the canister. We would always find it and steal the biscuits. Those simple atta biscuits tasted so good.
Sometimes when we are forced to buy full cream milk from the market due to non availability of toned milk, I boil the milk and keep it in refrigerator. Next morning the cream (malai) is collected from the top and then the milk is used.
Yesterday, I made atta cookies with the cream for kids and they loved the cookies. With a lovely aroma of cardamom, these crisp cookies are worth giving a try!
¾ cup milk topping (cream/ malai)
1 ¼ cup atta (whole wheat flour)
¾ cup granulated sugar
10 green cardamoms
10-12 almonds halved

Mix cream and sugar.
Powder the seeds of the cardamom and mix to cream sugar mixture.
Add atta. Mix with hands to get soft dough.
Pre heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
To make cookies, take a marble size ball of the dough and press it between palms. Place a half almond and press it.
Arrange on a greased baking tray keeping some gap between cookies.
Bake for 10 minutes or till the cookies turn golden from the edges (it takes 8 to 10 minutes).
Store in an air tight container when cookies turn cold.

With summers approaching, yogurt is again back as an accompaniment to meals. There are several ways of making interesting dips with yogurt. One of such interesting dips is Beet Yogurt Dip. This is also a tasty way of incorporating Beets in everyday meals. Beet Yogurt Dip has such appealing colour imparted by boiled beets that even kids are tempted to try without being forced to. Mustard, asafetida and curry leaf tempering imparts a unique flavour to the dish.

2 cups yogurt
1 medium size beet root
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt (to taste)
1 pinch asafetida
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves.

Pressure cook beet root till tender. When cold, peel and grate.
Beat yogurt till smooth. Add salt and sugar.
Add grated beet root. Mix well.
Heat oil in a wok, add mustard seeds. When mustard seeds begin to splutter, add curry leaves and asafetida. Turn off the heat. Add this to yogurt. Mix well.

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