“We have so much, too much, that we can buy, yet the basic labor of doing, the making with our own hands, is what enlivens us and makes us feel human." Dan Lepard

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Lemon Squash

It is midafternoon. The Sun is mercilessly spewing heat with all belligerence. The ground is parched and littered with dead leaves. Trees look listless, their leaves are withered. Our squash bottle has been sitting atop a pillar in the Sun for the last ten days. As I open the door to fetch it, a thirsty Cuckoo looks at me from the food table. 

She drinks water but that too does not seem to quench her thirst.

 She is soon joined by a male cuckoo who drinks water too, and, the two fly away to the higher branches of Jamun tree.

Soon kids arrive from the school. Sweating and panting. A glass of chilled lemon squash does the magic. It is soothing and calming. Some goes into the popsicle moulds to be enjoyed later as lemon bars.

Summer is here and it is the time to indulge in juices, drinks, sherbets and squashes of choice. A plethora of options are available in the market. A variety of fruit juices in tetra packs and bottles in different flavours and colours vie for attention in the stores. An unlimited array of instant squashes and coolers too compete with each other. You never seem to have enough of them. But, nothing beats homemade squashes and sherbets. Homemade drinks ensure the quality and purity of ingredients.
Here is a simple recipe for Lemon Squash. Indulge in the lemony sweetness and freshness without colours or preservatives. This squash can last up to one year.

Lemon Squash
1 kg fresh lemons
650 grams sugar
Sterilize a wide mouthed glass bottle along with the lid. To sterilize the bottle, place it in a large pot. Fill up the pot with water covering the bottle. Bring the water to rolling boil. Boil for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Place the lid in the pot. Remove from water after 15 minutes. Dry.
Squeeze juice from lemons. Pass it through a strainer with large holes to remove the pips.
Fill up the sterilized bottle with sugar. Add lemon juice. Secure the lid.
Keep the bottle in Sun for 12 days. Shake the bottle every day.
Sugar will dissolve by keeping the bottle in the Sun. The squash will be ready by the end of 12 days.
Take ¼ glass of squash. Fill up the glass with cold water. Serve with chopped mint leaves and lemon slices.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Remembering My Dad

The waves of Ganges lapped on the shore softly and rhythmically. Our feet soaked in the coolness.  The touch of water was calming and comforting. Blaring music spewed by the loudspeakers just passed by and did not enter the system. There was a lull inside – an emptiness, a void. A barrage of memories stormed every now and then,   flooding the mind, heart and eyes. The crowd and the chaos outside was ineffective in causing perturbation of any kind. Glow of a clay lamp sitting atop flowers in a handmade leaf bowl broke the trance. It had been released in the river in memory of some dear departed. The man looked sad and somber as he folded his hands in obeisance and watched it bobble up and down in the waves till it disappeared. The truth hit once again. Our dear dad had left…..forever.

Losing my father was my worst nightmare. I had woken up in the midst of the night many a times -sweaty and shivering by the very thought of it. And when it happened, we were cataleptic, frozen - a weird state of indescribable nature. Slowly, the truth seeped in, the reality was accepted. Through misty eyes, we looked at his serene face. This is the way he had always been - in life and now in death- calm, peaceful, tranquil and unruffled – in words, thoughts and action. 

An ardent nature lover, gardener, writer, sitar player, and an avid reader, simple, non-egoistic, unpretentious, humble, compassionate, humane, down to earth, ever smiling, saintly and above all a great human being,  he was loved by all those who knew him. A true follower of Gita, he led a Spartan life with few needs and fewer desires.

He was a wonderful father. Together, we had great fun making food table for birds and buying clay pots to keep water. Together, we spotted birds during the morning walks and fed strays on the way. We tended the garden together and together we grew seasonal vegetables. The swing on the mango tree and the bridge on the brook that he made for our amusement every summer are the beautiful memories to cherish. The first cake in our home was made by dad on sand in a pressure cooker. The aroma of the cake still lingers. Jam was made from every seasonal fruit growing in our orchard. Guava jelly and Guava cheese were his favourite. Every winter he made boxfuls of chikki (brittle) for us. He played sitar to unwind and we had music sittings at home very weekend. Such beautiful memories is the stuff our childhood is made of.

The wheel of time moves on …..Dad has completed the journey of life. His favourite chair is now empty. So is his bed. His Sitar is silent forever and his pen ceases to write.  Wish we could have spent more time together, wish we had hugged him more told him more often how much we loved him. Wish we could have served him more………

 Forgetting your loved ones is not easy. They come in your thoughts, in your dreams, you feel them around you feel them everywhere. 

“For one who has taken birth, death is certain and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore you ought not to lament for an inevitable situation”, says Gita Chapter 2 verse 25.
Goodbye Dad…..till we meet in heaven.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Yogurt Spice Loaf Cake

It is the last weekend of the holidays. Kids are excited as their cousins are coming over in the evening. A lot of games and activities have been planned out. And loads of fun, frolic and merriment is anticipated. My daughter takes charge of making sandwiches and begins to slice cucumber and tomatoes. Son, who is younger of the two, contributes by sprinkling salt and pepper on the buttered slices. A cake has already been baked.

Daughter goes out to throw the peels, suddenly, stands still as she reaches our backyard. A Blue Whistling Thrush is bathing. It splashes water all around and enjoys herself. Soon she flies away.

By late evening laughter, screams, animated conversation and commotion resounds. The games go on endlessly. Soon all the rules are broken and there is boisterous buffoonery. The kids are forced to call it a day, tired players settle down. Sandwiches and cake is served. Everything vanishes in no time. Everybody loved the cake. It was moist and aromatic. The leftover pieces were savoured by us after dinner.

Your home will  smell sweet when the aroma of spices from the cake will waft through while baking. It is a moist, soft and delicious cake with the heavenly flavour of spices in every bite. This is a must bake cake for special evenings when you want to enjoy tea with your loved ones.

Yogurt Spice Loaf Cake
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
A pinch of salt
1 ½ teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon freshly ground cloves
3 large eggs
1 cup castor sugar
½ cup thick yogurt
½ cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of an orange 
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line the bottom and grease the sides of one 9x5 inch loaf pan.
Whisk together first five ingredients in a large bowl.
Beat white of eggs till frothy.
In another bowl, mix together sugar, yogurt, vanilla extract, zest and beat till smooth. Add yolks. Add melted butter. In the end, fold in egg whites.
Add dry ingredients in three shifts, mixing well after each addition to get a smooth, lump free batter.
Pour batter into the prepared pan. Level the top with a spatula.
Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or till the top turns brown and the cake shrinks from the sides. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Baked Chocolate Gujiya


It is late spring and nature is celebrating the festival of colours.

Rhododendrons are blooming in the hills.

Roadside bushes are full of flowers.

A group of Cosmos lights up the barren patches in the fields

Hibiscus too  paints the landscape red.

Festival of Holi is round the corner and some Gujiyas are to be prepared. This time we plan to give a twist to the traditional recipe.

 We plan to make chocolate Gujiyas and then dip them in Ganache.
To make them low fat, the Gujiyas are baked. Gujiyas are delicious and guilt free.

Baked Chocolate Gujiya


2 cups all-purpose flour (240 ml cup)
4 tablespoons ghee + some for brushing
¼ teaspoon salt
A pinch baking powder
250 grams khoya / mawa (dried milk)
½ + 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
¼ cup desiccated coconut
¼ cup chopped raw pistachios
¼ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup chopped almonds
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
Flour paste
Mix 1 tablespoon of all- purpose flour in 1 tablespoon of water to form a thick paste.
100 Gms dark chocolate
4 tablespoons low fat cream
Whisk together all-purpose flour, salt and baking powder. Rub in ghee. Add cold water and knead soft dough. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest for 15 minutes.
Take khoya in a thick bottom steel wok. Roast on low flame stirring continuously till it becomes lump free and begins to turn pink. Let it cool.
Add sugar and desiccated coconut. Mix well. Add cocoa powder. Mix well. Add nuts.
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. Brush the top with some ghee. 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.
To prepare ganache, take chocolate and cream in a very thick bottom vessel. Gently simmer over low heat stirring constantly till the chocolate melts. Stir briskly. Let it cool. Dip half gujiya in ganache and sprinkle some finely chopped pistachios.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Classic British Marmalade Cake

It is early morning and the room resounds with the bird songs. Automatically, and with great precision my hand reaches the bedside table and dismisses the alarm. Post alarm, the sleep is always the sweetest, sound, deep and very soothing.  The alarm goes again. It is a Sunday, but it doesn’t irk. We have to get going early for a day outing that has been planned.
In no time, the kids are busy packing food, water fruits and other paraphernalia for the trip. We are going to a nearby village and since the days are hot, we decided on early morning trip till the time the Sun is tolerable.

Countryside is beautiful. As we walk on a muddy track, a baby monkey looks at us curiously and hides in the branches. 

A group of buffaloes and some cows are chewing cud in unison and letting out “moos” every now and then. Kids click their tongue to get their attention but they pay no heed.

Some chicks and hens are foraging in the fields. Our kids rush towards them and in no time, they are comfortable with each other. Kids should be made to interact with animals. It makes them humane, loving and sensitive.

Back home, we are expecting some guests for tea. A cake has been prepared and waits to be dressed. Marmalade and butter are whisked and warmed. Shiny glaze is poured over the cake. Soon, over tea and animated conversation, the cake is relished by all.

Misty winter evenings and a hot cuppa with a slice of very orangy and moist Marmalade cake makes the day!

Classic British Marmalade Cake

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoons salt
1 stick (½ cup) butter
¾ cup caster sugar
3 teaspoons finely chopped candied orange and lemon peel or
2 teaspoon grated lime zest and ½ teaspoon grated orange zest
1/3 cup marmalade
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
½ tablespoons butter
1/3 cup marmalade
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line one 9x5 inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together first three ingredients.
In a deep bowl, beat butter and sugar till pale and fluffy. Add candied peels or zest. Beat. Add eggs, one at a time. Beat well till the mixture becomes uniform. Now add marmalade and orange juice.
Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients till well combined. Do not over mix.
Pour batter into the prepared pan. Level the top. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or till the cake shrinks from the sides and turns golden. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.
Remove from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool in the rack.
For glaze, take marmalade in a thick bottom vessel and melt over low heat. Add butter and whisk until smooth. Pour warm glaze over the cake and spread evenly. Slice and serve when cold.

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