My son wants a tortoise as a pet. Ever since he saw one at a farmhouse, he is intrigued by the humble creature lugging leisurely with a huge shell on its back. 

We were mesmerised by the avian fauna at the farm 

We spotted some Grey Tits pecking the grains from the fields and from the granary by stealth till they were spotted and shooed away by the owner.
By the time we reached home, it was almost late afternoon. A bread had to be baked for dinner. With less time at hand, I baked a whole wheat bread. 

A simple no-knead bread that rises very well and has a soft spongy crumb. 

It can be veganised easily. Replace honey with maple syrup or agave nectar.

Enjoy with peanut butter, or, homemade jam or toasted and slathered with butter.

No Knead 100% Whole Wheat Bread


  • 3 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons honey / maple syrup / agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (1 tablespoon  for dough, 1 tablespoon for greasing the pan and hands)
  • 1 ½ teaspoon instant dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons cornmeal


  1. Grease one 8 ½ inch x 4 ½ inch bread pan. Sprinkle cornmeal.
  2. Take water in a deep bowl. Add honey / maple syrup / agave nectar. Add yeast.
  3. In another bowl whisk together whole wheat flour and salt.
  4. Add flour mix and oil to the first bowl. Mix vigorously with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes till a shaggy dough forms. Cover the bowl with a cling film and leave in daft free place for 1 ½ hours or until doubled.
  5. Stir the dough vigorously again with a wooden spoon for 1 to 2 minutes. Cover and leave to rise for another 1 ½ hours or until doubled.
  6. Stir the dough for about 1 minute and empty the dough into the prepared pan. Apply some oil in your palm and level the dough.  Keep the pan in plastic bag ensuring that there is enough room for the dough to rise. Keep for 40 to 45 minutes or till it crests above the lip of the pan. The dough has high water content. It may spill over the sides of the pan. If it does, take the edges of the dough and stretch it over the loaf on the other side. It will keep the loaf in proper shape as it bakes.
  7. Bake in a preheated oven at 190 degrees C for 40 to 45 minutes or till the top of the bread turns golden brown. Tent the loaf with a foil if it browns early. Remove from the oven after 5 minutes and remove from the pan after another 5 minutes. Cool in the rack. Slice when cold.


A trip to a nearby village in the foothills was planned long ago but the trip materialized only this weekend. Sometimes when the monotony of the work inside and stress of the work outside gets too much, a date with nature restores normalcy. It is a great balm for the jangled nerves.

We watched a herd of cows raising a thick cloud of dust and disappearing in the hillocks. After a while only the bells around their necks, tinkling rhythmically were faintly audible. Through thickly foliaged Saal forest, we could see the setting Sun and the endless stretch of tomato fields bordered with marigold imbued in the golden hue.

 Some fields were being ploughed and the cattle egrets were inspecting the freshly turned earth for their catch of insects and worms.

 Some hens too, were ambling around kicking hay occasionally.   Life had its own placid pace………everything looked so tranquil….so beautiful.

We packed our lunch and I baked a Vegan Orange and Dates cake the previous day for the trip. 

The cake had moistness and flavour of oranges and sweetness of dates.

Vegan Orange and Dates Cake (Low Fat, with Whole Wheat Flour)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 ¼ cups all- purpose flour
½ cup sugar (powdered)
1/3 cup olive oil
25 soft dates pitted and chopped
1 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
A pinch of salt
Finely grated zest of 3 oranges
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and dust the sides and line the bottom of one 7 x 7 inch square cake pan.
Whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Blend dates and 1 cup orange juice to get puree. Add white vinegar, sugar and oil and mix well. Add zest.
Mix dry ingredients to wet ingredients till well incorporated. Add some more  orange juice only if the batter feels thick.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or till 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 and slice next day. The cake tastes better next day and best after two days.

Autumn is melting into winter. After the burst of russet and gold the leaves are falling off, leaving the branches bare. Winters flowers are yet to bloom. Early morning chill prompts us to soak in the Sun before embarking on routine chores. We spotted some Bulbuls yesterday. After pecking from the food table the flock flew noisily and perched in the big Jamun tree flitting from branch to branch preening themselves. 

One of them stayed back and bathed for a very long time. It seemed to be enjoying the cold water in the warmth of the Sun.

The season asks for early and light dinner and we find thick soup with homemade bread an ideal combination. Yesterday, we had green pumpkin soup with Cornmeal Semolina Bread. Semolina always gives breads a great texture. This bread asks for kneading for a long time with addition of water in small quantity till the grains drink water, swell up and become soft. In the beginning, the dough is hard and gritty but by the end of kneading for 6 to 8 minutes, it turns soft and elastic.

Cornmeal Semolina Bread

1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup semolina
½ cup corn meal
2 teaspoon instant dry yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil 
2 tablespoons honey
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups warm water
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds
2-3 teaspoons olive oil for greasing pan

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients (use only 1 cup water). Stir till the ingredients come together evenly and the dough begins to leave the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a greased kneading plate, oil your hands and knead for 6 to 8 minutes. Keep adding water. Semolina grains will absorb water and become soft. Knead till dough becomes smooth and supple.
Transfer the dough to a grease d bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise for 1 hour.
Grease one 8 ½ inch x 4 ½ inch loaf pan. Dust with cornmeal.
Transfer the dough to a greased surface and form it into a loaf. Place the loaf in the prepared pan. Cover the pan and keep in warm place for I hour or until it crowns over the lip of the pan.
Bake the bread in a preheated oven at 190 degrees C for 30 to 35 minutes or till the top turns brown.
Remove from the oven after 5 minutes and from the pan after 5 minutes. Cool in the wire rack.
Slice when cold.

Sumitted for Yeastspotting

Early morning the realization dawned that it was a Sunday. Amongst a lot of odd jobs that were lined up for the day, baking an orange cake was on top of the agenda. My daughter wanted to have one and wanted keep some to take to the school the next day. The freshness and aroma of the orange juice and a generous amount of zest makes it really flavourful. I baked it early in the morning and we sliced it in the evening. Half of the cake vanished in no time. Being low in fat makes it guilt free too!

Low Fat Orange Loaf Cake
Recipe adapted from happyhomebaking 

2 ½ cups all- purpose flour
70 grams butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 eggs
1 cup low fat yogurt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Zest of two oranges
3 to 4 tablespoons orange juice

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. grease and line one 8 ½ inch x 4 ½ inch loaf pan.
Sift together all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a bowl beat yogurt till smooth, add vanilla essence and orange juice.
In another bowl beat butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Beat the eggs lightly and add to butter sugar mixture. Add orange zest.
Add half of the flour mixture to butter sugar and egg mixture. Add half of the yogurt mixture. Mix well. Add remaining flour mixture and add the remaining yogurt mixture. Mix well to get a smooth batter. Add more orange juice if the batter is thick.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or till the cake turns golden brown and 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.

Slice next day

Peanut Chikki is the winter favourite in North India. Made with the fresh seasonal jaggery, it is sold by  the vendors in every street along with peanuts and other winter goodies. But, nothing beats a homemade batch of Peanut Chikki. It is vegan and gluten free and a healthy snack.

Peanut chikki invokes many beautiful memories. Memories of simple childhood, memories of cozy winters, oranges, aroma of marmalade being made at home, eating peanuts sitting in the Sun and a whole lot of winter sweets and candies being made at home. My father loved making chikkis and peanut chikki was our favourite. He would make lots of it but the chikki would never last long. He would make it every weekend and we never had enough of it.

Peanut chikki is made every winter in our home.

It is a simple recipe. It is a healthy winter snack. Jaggery is full of iron and minerals. Together with nuts, it makes a healthy combination.

Peanut Chikki | Peanut Brittle


  • 1 cup peanuts (roasted and skin removed)
  • 1 cup crumbled jaggery
  • 1 teaspoon ghee or oil  

  1. Generously grease one big size plate. Or, grease one large parchment sheet
  2. Take jaggery in a steel wok and cook on low heat. Stir till jaggery melts completely. Cook further till the jaggery starts bubbling. Keep stirring.
  3. Keep a bowl of cold water for testing jaggery for doneness. When the colour of the jaggery turns deep golden, put a drop of it in the bowl. If it feels hard and crackles in the mouth, it is ready. Turn off the heat and add peanuts. Mix well so that the peanuts are all coated with caramelized jaggery.
  4. Spread the mixture on the prepared plate. Grease a rolling pin and use it to spread the mixture evenly in the plate. 
  5. If using parchment paper, Spread chikki in one side of the sheet. Cover with the remaining sheet from the top. Use a rolling pin to spread the mixture evenly.
  6. While the chikki is warm, cut with a serrated knife. Or, When the chikki becomes cold, remove from the plate and break into bite size pieces.
  7. Store in an airtight container.

Cold evening melting into misty night…scattered light of yellow lamp…..transistor playing a popular Bollywood number….rustle and crackle of peanuts being roasted in sand in a huge iron wok on smouldering logs….cloudy packets of peanut chikki and murmura ladduthela (cart)….a crowd around the thela to buy the goodies, some relishing goodies right there in the warmth of fire while others tucking into their pockets for their loved ones and disappearing in the darkness of approaching night. This was my town of the yesteryears. Today, it hard to find such sights and sound, the nostalgic aroma and the rustic goodies.
hanging in the

Yesterday, puffed rice laddu in a departmental store caught my attention. Perfectly made, neatly stacked and overly charged laddus did not have any charm as the ones that were sold in every nook and corner of the streets.

 I had to make my own batch. We love the crunch of the laddus and love the fact that they are low in calories. Jaggery makes them healthy.

Murmura Laddu | Puffed Rice Balls


  • 3 cups murmura (puffed rice)
  • 1 cup crumbled jaggery
  • 1 teaspoon ghee (clarified butter) or coconut oil (for vegan version)


  1. Roast puffed rice in a thick bottom steel wok for 3 to 4 minutes on low flame. Transfer roasted puffed rice to a plate.
  2. Put ghee in a thick bottom wok. Add crumbled jaggery. Stir and break lumps if any. Keep stirring till jaggery melts completely. Add puffed rice and stir till it is evenly coated with melted jaggery. Turn off the heat.
  3. Take cold water in a bowl. Dip your hands in cold water. Take a handful of the mixture from the wok and make balls from the mixture. Press the mixture tightly to get walnut size laddus. (Apply water in your hands once and make 2 to 3 rounds of laddoos. Apply water again only when the mixture starts sticking to your hands.
  4. If in the end mixture becomes cold and hard, heat the wok on low flame, the mixture will become soft and easy to mould.
  5. Keep the laddus in the open for 1 hour.
  6. Store in an airtight container.

An unanticipated holiday brought a surge of excitement. At first, an outing to a nearby village was decided with long walks and bird watching being the main charm of the trip. But then practicality dawned and it was decided that a lot of pending chores would be finished. We shopped for kids’ winter wear and bought some more Pansy and Dahlia plants from the nursery besides a lot of other odd jobs.

Market is flooded with apples. A bookmarked apple cake recipe was waiting to happen. There couldn’t have been a better occasion to bake one. I baked an Apple Cake with whole wheat flour. 

The cake turned out delicious, loaded with apple chunks, toasted walnuts and juicy raisins. Cinnamon added a lovely flavour. The cake tasted really delectable and flavourful the next day.

Apple Cake
Recipe adapted from 
1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour (replace with 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour for a lighter crumb)
¾ cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
2 eggs
3 large apples
¾ cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup golden raisins
 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease, dust and line one 7 inch square cake pan.
Place walnuts on a baking tray and bake for 8 to 10 minutes till walnuts turn brown and a pleasant aroma emanates. Cool and chop coarsely.
Peel, core and chop the apples into small bite size pieces. Pour lemon juice on the pieces.
In a large pan whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
In another pan mix melted butter, eggs, vanilla extract and milk. Beat till smooth.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix till you get a smooth batter.
Fold in walnuts, raisins and chopped apples.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Level the top.
Bake for about 35 - 45 minutes or till the top turns golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in the rack. Slice next day.

A lot of lopped branches piled in our backyard has become a haven for the birds. I have often noticed birds perched in the drying branches sometimes even removing and carrying dead leaves to make their nests. Yesterday we noticed a group of Babblers in their usual noisy self. A family of three was rummaging in the pile of leaves, throwing leaves with their beaks, presumably hunting for the insects that lay hidden underneath the mammoth pile of leaves. The baby bird looked as big as the parent birds. Parent birds would shove some food inside the baby’s mouth and baby greedily gulped down the mouthful creating ruckus again for food. 

The Baby

This continued for quite some time till the threesome flew to the adjoining field and we could just hear the little one’s clamour for food.

Yesterday, I baked a Spiced Walnut Cake. 

The cake does not have butter. The sugar too, is on the lower side. The spices give a lovely aroma to the cake.

Spiced Walnut Cake
Recipe originally from “Orange -Pistachio-Glazed Spiced Muffins" recipe in the "Food & Drink" Magazine (spring 2011 edition)

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
 ½ cup powdered sugar
1 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup olive oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease, dust and line one 8 inch round cake pan
In a bowl whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.
In another bowl beat yogurt, powdered sugar, eggs and oil till smooth.
Combine flour mix and wet ingredients. Mix till well combined. Do not over mix.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle walnuts on top of the batter. Lightly pat walnuts into the batter. Sprinkle sugar evenly on top of the batter.
Bake the cake for 40 to 45 minutes till the top turns a beautiful brown or till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool the cake completely. Slice next day.

It is Sunday today. A bright and sunny morn peps us for the day. We are happy and celebrating. We are happy because we discovered that our fish pond is teeming with baby fish and we are celebrating their arrival. We’ve always abhorred the idea of keeping fish in cramped aquariums where everything is artificial. We got our fish some three years ago. After giving them feed for a while, we stopped as they started scraping algae from the stones and from the walls of the pond. This year, we had babies. 

Our fish are happy for sure.
The kids are excited as a Pizza is being baked in our kitchen for the first time. They peep into the oven and squeak with happiness as the cheese is melting, spreading over and concealing the veggies beneath it and sometimes bubbling. Yeasty aroma fills up the nook and crannies of our home as the pizza crust turns golden.  A fudge cake in the refrigerator waits to be tasted. No doubt Sundays are fun!

Sometimes we wait for bigger reasons to be happy. There is so much around to be happy. Happiness is a state of mind. 

Happiness is home baked Pizza (even if it is not round)……..

Happiness is a bunch of flowers in the courtyard……..

Happiness is when you discover a  dove watching you curiously………
Happiness needs to be cultivated.

Here is the recipe of Fudge cake that I baked this weekend
Fudge Cake
Recipe adapted from 
Read more about preparing Ganache here
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup butter (100 grams) melted
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ¼ cup mineral sugar powdered (ordinary sugar will also do)
2 eggs
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup hot water ( not boiling)
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.)
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line one 8 inch round cake pan.
Sift cocoa powder. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
In another bowl mix melted butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla essence.
Add flour mix and stir till just moist. Pour hot water over the mix and stir till you get an even consistency and the batter gets smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40 -45 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven and remove from the pan after 10 minutes. Cool in the rack.
Pour warm ganache over the cake. Spread ganache with a spatula. Let it set for an hour.
My notes : Though it is a fudge cake, but I did find it fudgy. It is just a chocolate cake. Pour warm ganache over the cake. It makes it soft and fudgy to some extent.

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