Silence of dawn is shredded by the coooo ooooo of the cuckoo. The spotted female joins in  by her “kik kik kik and the duo fly away chasing each other. We are at the thresh hold of summers or already into it.
A large number of bees lie dead in pathways. My daughter collects them in a leaf and wonders if they have completed their life cycle. She is aghast to learn that the culprit is the medicine- the better name for pesticide spray being used in the mango orchards. How will we have fruits and veggies in our plants if we exterminate the very agents of pollination?
Charles Darwin once said that “The life of man would be made extremely difficult if the bee disappeared.” Bees are responsible for pollinating 70 per cent of the world’s horticulture and agricultural crops, so without them we simply would not have fresh fruit and vegetables — in fact, we would all starve within five years, because nothing could be pollinated. We need to ponder over that.
Some traffic our bird bath.
Red Vent Bul buls
A Dove and a Magpie Robin

April also marks the beginning of new session in the schools. Having been homeschooled for the last two years, my daughter is all excited to join the school. When I think of her lunch box, I remember my school days. We used to be so excited about lunch time. If our box had goodies, that seemed to be the sole motive of going to school and that, would be the “best day” irrespective of other activities. Simple jam bread would be such a treat sometimes, breaking the monotony of everyday lunch of chapatti with veggie.  And when it comes to Jams, it feels nice and happy to have a variety of them in the pantry.  I am always eager to add a new bottle of jam to my existing ones. Having made Guava Jelly and Black Grape Jam, I wanted to make jam from Cape gooseberries. The seeds in the fruit add a lovely crunch to the jam.
We bought half kg of Cape gooseberries to make jam.

This is how I made Cape gooseberry Jam
Cape gooseberry Jam
500g Cape gooseberries
500g sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Remove the outer husk from the berries. Wash them. Put them in pressure cooker with water just enough to cover them. Turn off the heat after the first whistle.
Transfer the cooked fruit in a thick bottom steel wok. Add sugar. Mash the fruits with a ladle against the sides of the wok. Add lemon juice. Cook on high flame stirring constantly till it come to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat and cook till it becomes thick and attains jam like consistency.
While the jam cools, 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.

Linking to Vegan Thursdays

Late vernal phase witnesses profusion of blooms. Trees laden with inflorescence, branches weighed down with flowers , wild flowers making appearance in every inch of the ground… seems, like, waking up from a phase of dormancy to survive the harshness of winters, each is trying to outdo the other in the grand show of colours  and fragrances. Morning air blissfully laden with the aroma of mango blossom and orchestrated by the bird songs is the ultimate food for the soul – so heavenly, so divine.

The soaring temperature is also affecting the avian fauna. Most of the migratory birds have left their winter abode. We spotted a pair of  wagtails yesterday. What agile creatures they are…flitting from branch to branch whole day. It took almost an hour of hiding under the gooseberry tree to get a shot of the beauty.

Beet season is almost at the fag end.  Trying to make the most of it, I baked a Whole Wheat Beet Chocolate Cake. 
Moist and fudgy, it is a delicious cake, almost guilt free.
No worries now when the kids shout “We are hungry…….!”

This is how I made Whole Wheat Beet Chocolate Cake
Whole Wheat Beet Chocolate Cake (Egg less)
1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup muscovado sugar
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup boiled peeled and pureed beets
¼ cup cocoa powder
¼ cup butter
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease, dust and line one 8 inch round cake pan.
Whisk together whole wheat flour, cocoa powder (pass cocoa powder through a strainer to remove lumps), baking soda, baking powder and salt.
Beat butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add buttermilk and pureed beets. Mix well.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix gently. Do not over mix.
Pour the batter in the prepared cake tin. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or till the top turns brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from cake tin after 10 minutes. Run a knife along the edges and remove the cake. Cool in the rack. Slice next day. Sprinkle icing sugar before serving.

With just one day left for Holi and sensing no activity in the kitchen, my daughter asked me, “Aren’t we making Gujiyas mom?” “Well, let’s see if I have time”, I replied. This was more like telling her “sorry dear! We aren’t making any”. How do I tell her that I am not too fond of Gujiyas that are deep fried and rich. “Please…., let’s make some”, she pleaded. “Ok, we will try to make in the evening”, I replied, more to procrastinate the issue. Then, I remembered my mom making baked gujiyas last year.

 Baking makes them healthier. Rest, the filling can be made healthy by cutting down on khoya (dried milk) and adding loads of nuts and raisins.

  Great idea to make Gujiyas guilt free and healthy!

Here is how I made Baked Gujiyas following my mother’s instructions.

Low Fat Baked Gujiya
1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
A pinch of salt
Cold water to knead dough
½ cup Khoya/mawa (dried milk)
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
3 tablespoons desiccated coconut
1 tablespoon semolina (roasted on low heat till a pleasant aroma emanates)
5 cardamom seeds powdered
1 tablespoon raisins
2 tablespoons pistachios chopped
2 tablespoons cashews chopped
2 tablespoons almonds chopped
Flour paste
Mix 1 tablespoon of all purpose flour in 1 tablespoon of water  to form a thick paste.
Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a kneading plate. Add water and knead stiff dough. Cover and keep for at least half an hour.
Take khoya in a thick bottom steel wok. Cook on low heat. Khoya will become soft. Keep stirring and use ladle to break lumps. When it becomes lump free, turn off the heat. Let it cool. Add remaining ingredients of the filling. Mix well.
 Preheat oven to 210 degrees C.
To make gujiyas, take small balls of dough and roll out small thin chapattis. Do not dust with flour.  Cut it into a round with a bowl. This gives uniformly sized gujiyas. Put 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons of filling and apply the flour paste on half part of the rolled dough.  Fold one side of the round over the other and seal the edges. Cut the edges with a fluted gujiya cutter or twist the edges to seal.

Arrange them on the baking tray. Bake till the top turns golden. It will take about 10 to 12 minutes. Turn and bake the other side. Remove from the baking dish and spread on the wire rack to cool.

Peach blossoms, golden mustard fields are all harbingers of spring. Bunches of Semal (silk cotton tree flowers), mango blossoms, busy bees and rhapsody of birds are the indicators that we are heading for summers. Yes! The festival of colours- Holi is not far away, one can sense the excitement, the zest and zeal that marks this festival. There is something about this festival which is so soul uplifting. Bright weather, verdant green fields, bright of colours of nature ……..everything looks so fresh, so new, so full of life.

Peach Blossom
Mustard fields
Semal Tree
Sudden warmth in the weather has been extremely encouraging to bake with yeast. 

With Holi round the corner, I thought of baking a colourful bread to celebrate the occasion.

 I used beets and spinach from our garden. I have known so many breads where the nomenclature has been based on specific  occasion when they must have been baked - like holiday bread, festive bread, happy bread to name a few.  I christened my bread- “Holi Bread”  that aptly justifies its colours and the occasion .

This is how I made Whole Wheat Beet and Spinach Swirl Bread | Holi Bread
Whole Wheat Beet and Spinach Swirl Bread | Holi Bread (Vegan)
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons instant dry yeast
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons beet puree (boiled, peeled and pureed)
4 tablespoons spinach puree (I medium bunch spinach washed steamed and pureed)
4 tablespoons sugar
¾ to 1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon oil to oil the bowls and bread pan
1 tablespoon cornmeal to dust the bread pan
Combine the first five ingredients in a big size kneading plate thoroughly with hands.
Dissolve 2 tablespoons of sugar in ¾ cup warm water. Use this water to knead the white dough and coloured dough if needed.
Take beet puree in a bowl, add one tablespoon sugar and leave for sometime till sugar dissolves.
Take spinach puree in another bowl and add 1 tablespoon sugar and leave till sugar dissolves.
Measure 1 cup of the flour mix and transfer to a plate. Add beet puree and knead. Add warm water if required. Knead for 5 to 6 minutes till a soft supple dough forms.
Take 1 cup of flour mix in another plate, add spinach puree and repeat the same. I did not require to add water in this. Add warm water if needed.
Knead dough from the remaining 2 cups of flour mix. The dough should be soft and supple.
Take dough in three different oiled bowls and turn around the balls of dough so that they are well coated with oil. Cover and keep in a warm place for 1 hour to rise (or till doubled).
Punch the three doughs; knead them again for 5 to 6 minutes, separately. Wash hands after handling beet and spinach dough so that the colours don’t mix.
On the working counter sprinkle some flour. Divide white dough into two parts and roll the doughs separately into four rectangles about 12 ½ x4 inches each.
Place them one over the other in this order- white, green, white, pink. Spatter some water between each layer. Beginning at short end, roll up tightly.
Pinch seams and ends to seal. Place the loaf in the greased loaf tin (dusted with cornmeal) with seam sides down. I used a 9x4 1/2  inch pan.
Cover and leave to rise in warm place for an hour or till doubled in size.
Bake in a pre heated oven at 190 degrees C for 30 to 25 minutes or till the top turns golden and bottom sounds hollow when tapped. If the top browns too fast, tent loosely with a foil.
Remove from the oven and transfer to the rack to cool.
Slice next day.

Submitted for Yeastspotting

There are certain wild bushes and small plants that used to show up in the fields during Spring. In fact we used to associate them with the arrival of Spring. Dainty purple flowers, small white petals with a yellow center and some like small daisies used to dot every inch of the wet ground. With the passage of time as fields gave way to unplanned colonies and the meandering brook asphyxiated, these wilds flowers too vanished or, botanically speaking, became extinct. For the last few years, we have been growing veggies in our vegetable patch the natural way. We have been following Masanobu Fukuoka’sThe One Straw Revolution” where he demonstrates how we look at farming, he joins the healing of the land to the process of purifying the human spirit and proposes a way of life and a way of farming in which such healing can take place. Following his tenets, we let the weeds and wild varieties thrive with the cultivated ones. The produce is healthy and sufficient to supply us for our small needs. We also noticed that the extinct varieties, have made a comeback……there is some connection which I am yet to discover….but it is a source of great happiness.

Harbingers of spring

Coming to the recipe, here is how I made a very simple Cake with Semolina and Yogurt.

The cake was delicious. Semolina adds great texture to the cakes. The cake was juicy and orangee!

Orange Semolina Yogurt Cake with Orange Syrup
½ cup semolina
½ cup all purpose flour
¾ stick butter (about 75 Gms)
½ cup yogurt
¾ cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
A pinch of baking powder
Zest of two oranges
Orange Syrup
Juice of two oranges
¼ cup sugar
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Grease and dust a 7x7 inch square cake pan. Line with parchment paper.
Beat the white of the eggs till stiff.
Beat butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add yolks, zest and yogurt. Mix well.
Whisk together semolina, all purpose flour, baking soda and baking powder.
Add flour mix to butter mix and stir gently till just combined. Add egg whites and mix.
Pour the batter in the prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or till the cake shrinks from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Run a knife along the edges and remove from the pan after 10 minutes. Cool in the rack
To prepare orange syrup, combine juice and sugar in thick bottom steel pan. Bring it to a boil.
Poke hole on the cake with a toothpick. Pour warm syrup over warm cake. Let the cake cool completely.
(Semolina will absorb the syrup and become soft and juicy).

Linking to Bake fest hosted by Priya

We went to see off my sister today. Every time she leaves, there are emotional scenes enacted …it  happens naturally. My mother is the torchbearer and we follow suit. This time, as always, we had promised to part on a happy note. But heart rules over the head - quietly and definitely. There were smiles with tears rolling down in perfect symphony…..the more we feigned smiles the greater was the velocity of the tears and, in the process of hiding our emotions from each other, we ended up crying and laughing at the same time quite till the train whistled and slowly chugged out of the station.

On our way back, there were fresh fruits being unloaded in the fruit mart. It was a treat to the eyes …such beautiful colours of nature. Oranges, kinnows, black and green grapes, red strawberries, cape gooseberries, apples, bananas et al.  My son loves grapes. And we bought both, the green and black ones.  The reports of indiscriminate use of pesticides sometimes dither us from buying these lovely fruits and we generally end up buying the ones with thick inedible skins where it feels (at least mentally) that the dangerous chemicals must have penetrated minimally. I washed the grapes in running water, soaked them in saltwater and later soaked them in water with white vinegar.

I used the black grapes to make a small batch of Black Grape Jam.

Black Grape Jam


  • Black Grapes
  • Sugar 
  • Oranges
  • Lemon Juice


  1. Wash the grapes thoroughly.
  2.  Measure them in a standard 240ml cup. For every cup of grapes, add juice of an orange. Blend them with the juice.
  3. Measure the grape and orange mixture. The black grapes are very sweet. For every cup of this mix, add ¾ cup of white sugar and one tablespoon of lemon juice.
  4. Cook this mixture in a thick bottom steel wok. Let it come to a rolling boil. Now cook on medium heat till it becomes thick and coats the ladle thickly. Keep stirring the the jam to avoid burning. Turn off the heat when it reaches jam-like consistency. The jam will keep thickening after you remove it from heat.
  5. While the jam cools, 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. 
  6. Ladle hot jam into the jars leaving ¼ inch headspace. Secure the lids tightly.

Love for Beets and love for baking bread had to result in this!

Beet festival has been going on in our home this season. Beets are regular in soups and salads. Recently we made beet wine for which fresh crunchy beets were bought from the market. Having kept the wine for maturing, the remainder was used to make an egg less beet cake. 

  I wanted to make beet bread but the drop in the temperature due to rain and hail here thwarted the plan.  Yesterday, I adamantly went ahead to bake a Beet Swirl Bread. A lot of tricks were applied to help the dough rise. I put the bowl with dough over hot water, then also heated the oven at 100 degrees, let it get cold a bit and placed the dough inside. Eventually the dough rose well and a lovely bread came out of the oven. And when it was sliced…..I had a reason to smile.

Here is my recipe of Whole Wheat Beet Swirl Bread
Whole Wheat Beet Swirl Bread

1 ½ cup whole wheat flour (atta)
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
1 cup warm water
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons instant dried yeast
1 ½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons boiled and pureed beet roots
½ teaspoon sugar
Take warm water in a bowl and dissolve sugar and add yeast. Keep aside for 15 minutes till frothy.
Whisk together both the flours and salt. Add oil and mix well.
Divide dry flour mix into two separate parts (1 ½ cups each) and keep them in separate plates.
Add 1/2 teaspoon sugar to yeast mix and stir till it dissolves
Add this water to the first plate and knead a soft dough. Keep adding water till the dough gets supple and elastic. It will take about 6 to 8 minutes. Keep it in an oiled bowl and turn the dough to around to coat it with oil on all sides. Cover and keep in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.
To the second plate, add 4 tablespoons of beet puree. Now add water and repeat the process (as with the first dough)
Grease one 9 inch x 4 ½  inch loaf pan.
Now we have two types of dough- the white and the pink. Remove white dough from the bowl to the working counter. Sprinkle some all purpose flour, punch and knead for 3 to 4 minutes. Now Roll out the dough into a rectangle ( about 12 inch x 5 inch) not bigger than the width of the pan you are using. Repeat  the same with the pink dough.
Place pink dough over the white dough. Dip your hands in warm water and spatter some water on the white dough (just to make it moist). Press gently.
Roll the dough towards you, tightly. Pinch seams to seal. Place the roll in the greased loaf tin with the seam side down. Cover and keep it to rise for 1 ½ hours in a warm place.
Bake in the preheated oven at 190 degrees C for 30 to 35 minutes or till the top turns brown and the bottom of the pan sounds empty when tapped. If the loaf is browning too quickly, tent the loaf loosely with a foil.
Remove from the loaf tin after 10 minutes. Cool in the rack.
Slice next day.

Linking to Vegan Thursdays and  Yeastspotting and Bake fest hosted by Priya

It was Great Backyard Bird Counting Week last month (February 14 to 17). The participants observe birds in their surroundings and record their observations. An event greatly enjoyed by the ornithologists all over the world. To participate in this event every year, we visit the serene surroundings around our town where kids are let loose to play while we observe the birds. I always bake some quick bread or cake and we have a picnic. This year too, as always, we had a great time. We went to two villages and had good time watching birds, walking on narrow bridled paths in the fields, buying fresh vegetables and walking for miles to compensate for the lack of it here where dirt and maddening traffic makes walking a dangerous affair.
This year we observed 20 species!

Here is the recipe of Zucchini Quick Bread I made for our picnic.  Zucchini, also known as Courgette has a bland sweet taste with no distinct flavor. Its skin is not removed before grating. It makes the bread or cake to which it is added moist without lending any flavour. 

Adapted from Joy of Baking 
I have made some changes in the adapted recipe. I have taken ½ cup each of whole wheat flour and all purpose flour in place of 1 cup all purpose flour. I have avoided ¾ cup chocolate chips. In place of ½ cup oil, I have taken 1/3 cup of oil. The bread was moist, flavourful and chocolaty.

This is how I made Chocolate Zucchini Quick Bread
Low Fat Chocolate Zucchini  Bread (With Whole Wheat Flour)
½ cup all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ cup shredded raw zucchini
1 cup muscovado sugar (or, ½ cup each of brown sugar and white sugar, or 1 cup white sugar)
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup olive oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line the base of one 9x5 inch pan with a parchment paper. Grease and dust the sides.
Grate zucchini, measure and set aside.
Whisk together both the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
In another bowl, whisk the eggs. Add sugars and oil. Mix well, add vanilla essence. Fold in grated zucchini. Now fold in the flour mix and stir gently till well combined. Do not over mix. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 55 to 65 minutes until the bread has risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from the pan after 10 minutes. Cool in the rack. Slice next day.

It  seemed that the Spring had arrived ….almost. A trip to a village in the periphery of the town offered lovely vistas of birds, butterflies, wild flowers, peach blossoms, mustard fields and tomato picking. But weather again reiterated its unpredictability. It rained and rained for two days…. almost incessantly with some welcome intermittent breaks where kids ran to the terrace to spot fresh snow in the hills almost as if participating in some kind of sport where the one who would spot the white peaks first would be entitled to some bonus points or a reward.

Being home bound for two days gave an opportunity, or, to be honest, a forced opportunity to take a stock of things in the fridge and pantry. 

A box of fresh Strawberries in the fridge needed to be used. Now who would eat them with temperatures dipping? All I could think was to bake a cake with fresh strawberries. Studded with fresh strawberries, the cake turned out great!

Adapted from Martha Stewart
I used one cup all purpose flour and half cup whole wheat flour in my recipe.
This is how I made Fresh Strawberry Cake
Fresh Strawberry Cake  
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar for sprinkling on the cake.
6 tablespoons butter, softened
½ cup low fat milk
1 egg
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
½ teaspoon salt
450 Gms Strawberries hulled and halved lengthwise
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, line, grease and dust one 8 inch cake tin.
Beat butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add egg and milk. Mix well. Add vanilla essence.
Sift together flours, baking powder and salt.
Add flour mix to wet ingredients in two shifts. Mix gently.
Transfer the dough to the prepared pan. Level with a spoon. Arrange halved strawberries with cut sides down on top of batter as close as possible. Sprinkle sugar on top.
Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 165 degrees C and bake for 50-55 minutes or until the top turns brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the cake tin for 10 minutes. Remove and cool in the rack. Slice next day.

Linking to Bake Fest started by Vardhini and  hosted by Priya

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