It is a cloudy evening. Cloudscapes meld into a thick gray cover looming over the sky. A soothing warmth pervades. At night, we smell the scent of wet Earth. It is raining. Another cold day in store we assume, clutching our quilts tighter. The next morning, it is cloudy and foggy as expected. A movement in the dry bushes catches our attention. 

It is a Taiga Flycatcher hopping in the branches and returning to her perch after catching insects from the ground. 

She is all fluffed up, letting out a sonorous light pitched note periodically.

Our kitchen smells heavenly. Marmalade Cake is almost baked. 

An Orangee aroma and the flavour of spices is intoxicating. We have added a generous amount of homemade candied orange and lemon peels.

The cake is sliced the next day. Everyone relishes it and gets over the same evening.

Marmalade Cake - Wholegrain and Eggless


  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • ¾ cup brown sugar or unrefined sugar or powdered  sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon each of powdered green cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and dried ginger
  • ½ cup (100 gms) butter softened
  • ½ cup mixed dry fruits (candied orange peels, apricots, cherries, etc.)
  • Finely grated zest of an orange
  • Finely grated zest of a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 160 ml milk, plus more if needed
  • 1 heaped tablespoon marmalade
  • ½ tablespoon fine sugar to sprinkle on top (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease one 6 ½ inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together the first four ingredients in a big bowl.
  3. Cut butter into small cubes and add to ingredients in the bowl. Mix with hands till the mixture resembles bread crumbs.
  4. Add dry fruits and zest.            
  5. Mix well. Add milk, a little at a time followed by a little vinegar.
  6. Stir well till the ingredients mix well. Stir in marmalade. The batter should be of dropping consistency. Add more milk if required.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle sugar evenly on top. Bake for 55-60 minutes till the cake shrinks from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven. Let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the sides. Invert in the rack. Cool.
  9. Slice next day. This is important. The cake really tastes beautiful after a day.

Forest is enchanting, intriguing, mysterious sometimes cold and scary. A row of Sagwan trees (Teak, tectona grandis) stood between forest and fields. Tall majestic trees looked like a part of the forest in thickness and growth, unhindered and untouched- away from human intervention. Broad leaves of Sagwan fluttered and quivered as a mild breeze passed through them. We perceived some movement in the top branches. A distinct movement caused by the repeated motion of some kind. The Sun was bright and getting into the eyes making it difficult to ascertain and guess the cause of it. We zoomed the camera and discovered a Jungle Owlet

Perched on the topmost branch under a tuft of leaves, it looked at us intently. We were lucky to spot one during daytime. And we immediately left its territory intending not to disturb it.

One recipe that has always come to my rescue whenever I have to bake a cake in a short time and with basic ingredients is this Wartime Cake. Also called Cake Pan Cake, it requires simple ingredients that are always there at home.

 It is butter free and egg less, yet dark moist and delicious. It can be put together in the pan it is baked in.
It is an easy recipe.

Wartime Cake/Cake-Pan Cake (Butter free and Eggless)

Adapted from 
I have added 1 teaspoon of coffee powder. The original recipe asks for ½ teaspoon. Wrap the cake in a foil and slice it cake on the second day, or even later. The flavours develop fully and the cake also becomes softer.


  • 1 ½ cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup sugar (powdered)
  • ¼ cup cocoa
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon coffee powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup milk


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line the bottom and sides of one 6 inch round cake pan.
  2. Whisk together all the dry ingredients (pass cocoa through a sieve to remove the lumps if any) in a wide-mouthed pan.
  3. Make three holes in the pan. Pour vanilla essence into the first hole, vinegar into the second and oil into the third.
  4. Take cold milk and pour it over everything in the pan. Stir everything with a fork until the ingredients are well blended. Pour the batter immediately into the prepared pan.
  5. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven after 5 minutes. Remove from the pan after another 5 minutes. Cool in the rack.
  7. Pour Ganache over the cake (optional). Slice and serve.


  1. 100gms dark chocolate
  2. 4 tablespoons low fat cream
  3. Heat the chocolate and cream in a double boiler. Stir constantly till the chocolate melts. Take off the heat and stir briskly until it becomes smooth and shiny. It will thicken as it cools.
  4. Pour Ganache evenly on the cake.

 The Sun was kind and benevolent today. It showered all the warmth and brightness and it was a pleasant day after heavy fog and mist that had made life sluggish and dull.

 We spotted a White Breasted Kingfisher sunning on one of the logs used for barbed fence.
The festival of Makar Sankranti is a day away. Makar Sankranti entails great celebrations all over Kumaon. We celebrate Kumaoni culture, music, traditions and art. Fairs are held in all the towns where local artists showcase their talents. Plays and music shows exhibit the richness of our culture. Stalls are put up where the farmers from interior hills sell their produce that comprises mainly of pulses and rare Himalayan herbs. People brave the cold and attend the festivities with great élan.

Sweets made of sesame seeds are made in every house hold and are offered to the Gods. Come winters and sesame sweets are made and relished all over the hills. Sesame seeds (Sesamum indicum) are an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, phosphorous, Vitamin B1 (thiamine), healthy protein and fiber. Half a cup of sesame seeds with hull contains three times more calcium than half a cup of whole milk. Jaggery is rich in minerals and iron. Roasted sesame seeds in caramelized jaggery make til chikki a delicious and healthy treat.

Sesame Chikki| Sesame Brittle|Til Chikki


  • 1 cup white sesame  seeds (Til)
  • 1 teaspoon ghee (clarified butter) + 1 teaspoon ghee for greasing
  • ¾ cup Jaggery (Gur)


  1. Roast the sesame seeds in low flame till they turn golden in color. Keep aside.
  2. Take a pan. Add ghee and crumbled jaggery.
  3. 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.
  4. Turn off the heat and now add the roasted sesame seeds to jaggery and mix thoroughly.
  5. Grease the plate with ghee and then pour this mixture and roll it into a thin sheet with the help of greased rolling pin.
  6. Allow it to cool for some time and then cut into square pieces.
  7. Store in an airtight container.

Few days ago we got some Pomleos from our friends’ farm. It is the coldest time of the year with temperature dropping to lowest and the fog looming most of the time. No one wanted to eat the humble citruses that were lying in the counter pretty ignored. We love making jams, and, marmalade is our favourite. But I have never made orange marmalade solely because the pesticides and sprays that are used unscrupulously in oranges is intimidating, especially in marmalade where the peels are used. I have made Malta marmalade with Malta from the hills. Pomelos had to be used and using them for marmalade was the best way of doing justice to the fruit given to us lovingly and also the fact that they had not been sprayed with any pesticide.

A Pomelo is a citrus fruit native to several countries in Southeastern Asia. It is also known as Chinese Grapefruit. In Hindi, Pomelo is called Chakotra. Pomelo is the largest fruit in the citrus family. The peels of ripe Pomelo are pale green or yellow in colour and very bitter. The inner fruit is usually white, pink or even red. It is mildly sweet.

I followed my dad’s recipe in making Pomelo Marmalade. Bitter sweet chunky marmalade lashed on butter drenched warm toast is pure heaven!

While I was taking pictures, a bee came and sat on the bottle. It felt like a  compliment!

Chunky Bitter Sweet Pomelo Marmalade
4 Pomelos
2 lemons
Sugar depending on the quantity of juice and peel mixture (approx. 1 kg + 1 cup sugar)
Other Ingredients
A muslin cloth
A steel plate
Wash the pomelos and lemons thoroughly with hot water. Peel the rind of one pomelo and one lemon with a sharp peeler. Take care not to get the pith (white portion underneath the rind). Cut peels into thin strips. You may peel the other pomelo and cut peels into thin strips if you want a chunkier marmalade.
Cut the pomelos into quartets. Remove the flesh (juicy hair) collect in a bowl. Collect the pips and the white membranes of Pomelo. 
Cut lemons into half. Juice the lemons and add the juice to Pomelo flesh. Collect pips and white membranes of lemon.
Take juice and flesh in a steel wok. Add peels and add enough water to cover the fruit completely. Make sure that the quantity of water is on the higher side and not less.
 Take all the pips and white membrane in a muslin cloth. Tie a knot tightly. Add this muslin bag to the steel wok. Cook in medium flame. Stir the mixture and keep pressing the bag. Pips and membranes are rich in pectin. Try to extract as much as possible. It will give marmalade a jelly like consistency.
Turn off the heat when the peels turn mush. Press the muslin bag for pectin. Discard. Measure the juice–peel mixture in cups. Add equivalent quantity of sugar or more if you want a sweeter marmalade.
Freeze a small steel plate.
Cook on medium heat. Bring it to rolling boil, then cook on low heat. Keep stirring. Cook till mixture becomes thick. Drop some marmalade onto the plate and push back with the index finger. If it wrinkles and collects, it is done. If it spreads thinly, it needs to be cooked more.
While the marmalade cools, sterilize the 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.
Ladle warm Marmalade into hot sterilized jars, leaving ½ inch space. 

It is late afternoon. The rain is lashing against the window panes. It is stormy outside. There are flashes of lightening followed by deafening roar of the thunderclap. The kids get scared - sometimes genuinely and sometimes feigning. It is the second day of the New Year and the festive mood is still on. No one is prepared for a routine dinner. It has to be something “different”. After several rounds of discussing different ideas that came up, everyone agreed in unison on making pizzas for dinner. Luckily we had some basic ingredients required for making Pizzas.

Immediately the family got together and started kneading dough, chopping onions, slicing mushrooms, zucchini, baby corns, grating cheese and preparing Pizza sauce. The dough was kept in the warmed oven while other preparations were on. We had an early dinner of hot, fresh home baked pizzas with wholegrain base. The start of the year seems really good :)  !

Pizza (with wholegrain base)

Ingredients for dough (Makes enough dough for four 10-12 inch thin crust pizzas or two 10-12
inch thick crust pizzas)
1 ½ cup whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons instant dry yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 ½ to 1 ¾ cup warm water

Ingredients for Pizza topping
Mozzarella cheese, grated
Cheddar cheese, grated
Zucchini, thinly sliced
Baby corn, thinly sliced
Mushrooms, thinly sliced
Onions, chopped finely
Pizza sauce (click here for homemade pizza sauce)
Dried oregano or pizza seasoning
Olive oil
Cornmeal (makki ka atta)
Preparing Pizza dough
Take 1 ½ cup warm water in a bowl. Add sugar and dissolve. Add yeast and cover. It will foam after 10 minutes ensuring that the yeast is working.
Whisk the flours along with salt and oil. Add yeast mix. Knead for 5 to 6 minutes till you get a smooth dough. Add more water if the dough feels hard or dry, knead again for another 5 minutes till the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
Grease a bowl with some oil. Place dough and turn it around so that it is coated with oil on all sides. Cover with a cling film and let sit in a warm place for 1 ½ hours or until it double in size.
Preparing Pizzas
Remove the plastic film. Punch the dough down. Divide the dough in half for two thick pizzas. Or else, divide into four parts for thin crust pizzas. Cover the balls with a kitchen cloth and let sit for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, grease a baking tray, sprinkle some cornmeal.
Preheat oven to 220 degrees C.
Work on one dough ball at a time. Flatten it with hands on a floured surface. Use a rolling pin to get a pizza of 10-12 inches. Let the dough relax for 5 minutes. It will shrink a bit. Stretch with hand starting from center and working outwards to get the right size.
Brush the top of the dough with olive oil. It will prevent the top from getting soggy from the toppings. Make dents with fingertips on the surface of the dough to prevent bubbling. Let rest for another 5 minutes.
Repeat with the remaining balls of dough.
Transfer the prepared flattened dough to the prepared baking tray (bake one pizza at a time).
Add about 1/3 cup of pizza sauce. Sprinkle 1/3 cup grated cheese (mozzarella and cheddar mixed)
Add your desired toppings (onions and mushrooms, mushrooms and baby corns, zucchini or plain onions).
Slide the baking tray in the middle slot. Bake for 15-20 minutes till the base becomes golden from the edges and the cheese on top turns golden.
Slice and serve hot.
My Notes – We prepared pizzas with the basic ingredients we had in our pantry. You may add Parmesan cheese in place of Cheddar cheese. You may also use thinly sliced bell peppers and other toppings.

This is the basic recipe of Pizza sauce. Use it to spread on Pizza base before adding toppings of your choice.

Pizza Sauce
10 medium to large red tomatoes
1 bud garlic
3 to 4 teaspoons dry oregano
4 – 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt, pepper and sugar according to taste
Wash the tomatoes. Chop them finely. Keep aside.
Clean and Chop garlic.
Heat vegetable oil in a thick bottom steel wok. Add chopped garlic. Saute for 10 seconds on low flame.
Add tomatoes. Cover and cook till tomatoes are cooked. Mash them on the side of the wok with ladle.
Add salt and sugar. Keep sugar on higher side. The sauce should taste slightly sweet. Add pepper.
Cook till thick. Add oregano. Turn off the heat.
Once cooled, use for topping on pizzas.

My Notes – You may puree half the tomatoes and chop the rest. We love thick chunky sauce so we did not blend the tomatoes. Keep the sauce slightly thick and sweet. If the sauce is runny, it will make the pizza soggy. And yes, spread it on toasted and buttered bread….its YUM!

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