Come winters and its Citrus boom. Limes, Lemons, Oranges, Kinnows,  Pomelos and all the local varieties of Citrus flood the market. And this is the best time to make Marmalade. Nothing beats homemade marmalade that is chunky and bittersweet. And even when the citrus season is over, you can savour the citrusy deliciousness from the bottle!

In North, our very own local citrus Malta reaches the market in early winters. Malta (Citrus sinesis) is the most commonly grown tree in the Kumaon hills. It fruits during winter season. Malta is called sweet orange. It is a hybrid between Pomelo (Citrus maxima) and Mandarin (Citrus reticulate). Malta is highly medicinal and has an intense citrusy flavour too. Local varieties are the best for marmalade as the skin is not sprayed with pesticides unlike the commercial varieties that are sprayed and waxed for an attractive look and longer shelf life.

Marmalade can be made with any local variety of citrus or oranges.  

Classic Malta Marmalade
8 Maltas (oranges or  any citrus)
2 lemons
4 cups water
You will also need
A hand juicer, a sharp knife, kitchen scissors, muslin cloth, a plate kept in freezer and jars.
Wash and wipe the fruits.  
Slice all the fruits into half. Juice the Maltas and lemons. Separate flesh and seeds.
Collect all the seeds.
With a sharp knife, scrape out the white membranes and keep them aside.
Scrape out as much pith as you can from the juiced fruit. Discard pith.
Cut peels (Malta and Lemon) into fine shreds with scissors. Collect all the seeds and membranes and tie them in a muslin cloth.
In a large steel wok/container, take juice, flesh, peels and water. Place muslin bag in the side. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cook till the shreds become tender. Keep pressing muslin bag from time to time. Seeds and membranes are rich in pectin. Whitish gel from muslin bag is pectin. It will help the marmalade set well.
Turn off the heat. Discard the muslin bag. Cool the mixture and refrigerate overnight.
Next morning, measure the mixture. For every one cup, add ¾ cup sugar. Boil.
Keep boiling till it becomes thick. To test for doneness, drop a spoonful on frozen plate. Push with a finger. If it has slight a film and collects, then it is done. If it spreads out thin, it needs to be cooked more. Repeat the frozen plate test.
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 Marmalade into warm sterilized jars, leaving ½ inch space.

She climbs up the monkey ladder and reaches the top. She moves forward with a bottle in her hand and balances herself precariously between the rods. Then, gently empties water in the bird bath. Next, she climbs up again with a handful of millets and scatters the grain on a stone slab which serves as food table for birds. While descending, a squirrel’s call gets her attention and she spots one in the Mango tree. She looks up and gestures, seems, some kind of communication has taken place between the two….she opens the refrigerator and takes out an apple and cuts it into half, and places it on the slab. She hides behind the door. Soon a squirrel scampers down and starts nibbling the piece. My daughter smiles.

Oven timer tinkles. We check cake for doneness. A vegan Chocolate Orange Cake is out of the oven. 

It’s my daughter’s birthday. She wanted a vegan cake.

 The cake is cooling on the rack. She plans to dress it up with ganache and sprinkle some chocolate chips on top.

 An ardent animal lover to the core, she keeps one slice each for the cat and the dog.

Fresh Orange juice, zest and marmalade do magic in the cake. The cake is whole grain, low fat and delicious.

Vegan Chocolate Orange Cake


  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ¾ cup fresh orange juice
  • ¼ cup olive oil or any neutral vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon marmalade (mixed fruit jam will also do)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • Finely grated zest of two oranges or two tablespoons candied peels.


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
  2. Grease the sides and line the bottom of one 8 inch round cake pan.
  3. Whisk together first five ingredients in a large bowl.
  4. Mix the remaining ingredients in another large bowl.
  5. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix till combined.
  6. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Invert on the rack and cool.
Next day, Pour 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.)
 and sprinkle some chocolate chips. 

A row of Ficus plants line up the edge of our garden. The have been grown as hedge and they also conceal the concrete wall behind them. This is where we spot most of the leaf birds flitting from branch to branch, picking insects from the underside of leaves, letting out a constant chirrup that is sweet, sonorous and soothing to the ears. Last time when we were in our backyard, we noticed a subtle movement in the forked branches of a Ficus. A movement almost imperceptible but noticeable occasionally, a faint jerky bobble every now and then, got us intrigued. On getting closer, we discovered a giant spider suspended in a superbly made web.

 We marveled at the intricacy and the beauty of the whole system she had spun around her.

The bird bath is full and a Himalayan Bulbul is enjoying an afternoon splash.

Our dinner rolls are out of the oven and are being brushed with butter. 

Butter trickles and seeps into the perfectly round contours. The aroma is heavenly.

Golden Buttery Pull Apart Buns

Recipe source -


  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons milk powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon mashed potato or potato flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter + 2 tablespoons for brushing baked rolls
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • ½ cup warm milk


  1. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and knead for 6 to 8 minutes till you get a smooth and soft dough.
  2. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl. Turn around so that it is evenly coated with oil. Cover and leave to rise for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until double.
  3. Deflate the dough and transfer to the counter.
  4. Roll out a thick rope and cut into half. Divide each half into further half and so on to get eight pieces from each half. Roll out each piece into a smooth ball.
  5. Grease two 8 inch cake pans. Arrange eight balls in each pan. (You may use pans of your choice)
  6. Cover and keep to rise for 1 hour or until double in size. Towards the end of rising time, preheat oven to 180 degrees.
  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes till the buns turn golden brown. Remove buns from oven and brush with melted butter. Remove from the pan after 5 minutes and transfer to the rack.
  8. Serve warm.

It’s a misty morning. Air is nippy and the Sun is mellow. A flock of Grey Hornbills perched on the old Banyan Tree let out shrill calls. Our cat is curled up on the dry patch of lawn. Dog, too, looks languid and walks to the sunny end of garden and almost falls flat on a muddy patch. Winters have arrived. It is comforting to sit in the Sun and enjoy the warmth while reading out a chapter or a story to the kids.

After a chapter is read,  daughter wants a break. She runs inside and gets Malta- the local citrus from the hills.

Malta (Citrus sinesis) is the most commonly grown tree in the Kumaon hills. It fruits during the winter season. Malta is called sweet orange. It is a hybrid between Pomelo (Citrus maxima) and Mandarin (Citrus reticulate). Malta has great medicinal value. 

The orangey aroma fills the air as Maltas are peeled. Endless Maltas are eaten and some reserved to bake a cake- A Vegan Malta Cake.

I have baked this cake several times. It comes out very well. It is moist and juicy. Enjoy it with a hot cuppa or drizzle warm custard and serve as dessert.

Vegan Malta Cake


  • 1 ½ cup  whole wheat flour 
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unrefined  sugar
  • 1 cup malta juice  
  • 1/3 cup oil (any vegetable oil)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
  • ½  teaspoon vanilla essence
  • Finely grated zest of one Malta  


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease one 8 inch round cake pan. Line the bottom.
  2. Whisk together the first five ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. In another bowl, mix the next four ingredients.
  4. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients. Mix till well combined. Do not over mix.
  5. Fold in zest. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
  6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or till the top turns brown and shrinks from the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Remove from the oven after 10 minutes. Run a knife around and invert on a cooling rack. Slice the next day.
Note: If you prefer a lighter crumb, feel free to use all-purpose flour in place of whole wheat flour.

I have tried this recipe using oranges. There is a great difference in colour. Flavours, however, are the same. You may also add candied orange peels besides zest for a more intense orange flavour.

Vegan Orange Cake
Same as above. Replace Malta juice with orange juice and Malta zest with orange zest.

Same as above

Note: if you are really keen to get a golden colour in the cake, add a tablespoon of vanilla custard powder to the batter.

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