The Masala Dabba #3“Each spice has a special day to it. For turmeric it is Sunday, when light drips fat and butter-colored into the bins to be soaked up glowing, when you pray to the nine planets for love and luck.”
The Mistress of Spices

The Masala Dabba #3. We enter month #3 of our collaborative spice journey exploring or rather ‘shooting’ spices, a fun interaction with DolphiaSimi,  Meeta and me. The spices we cover for The Masala Dabba #3 are cardamom, whole pepper and turmeric. I think I love the spice journey best. March is synonymous with Spring, new beginnings and a whole lot of colour. Thandai This March also had holi, the festival of colour, which inspired me to shoot several times through the month. I did a fun version of Thandai for KitchenAid, one you can play around with endlessly. The recipe included a bit of pepper and cardamom.Thandai for HoliI’m just a little badly organised, procrastinate a lot, so I didn’t get down to editing the images for The Masala Dabba #3. Now I’m rushing to post on the last day of the month!TurmericWinter in North India means a lot of fresh turmeric root, and the colour it yields when it hits the grinding stone is amazing. Ground fresh turmeric makes for a fabulous turmeric milk. You can find the recipe for warm soothing turmeric milk on Dolphia’s blog.Turmeric RootOur recent trip to Banaras actually brought alive and to the forefront the Indian love for spices and everything colourful.Banaras 2016The play of spices ruled the roost. And if there are spices, can colour be far behind? Do read about Banaras and it’s beautiful culture if you find a moment. We had the most fun time ever!

Banaras 2016March was a busy month. I haven’t been blogging too much, but I made a mean Gajar ka halwa, Rich Indian Carrot Pudding adapted from Delectable Platter. The Indian dessert, delicately laced with green cardamom, was absolutely delicious. Green cardamom is an interesting spice and works equally well in savoury and sweet recipes. I use it a lot in kormas, a delicate Awadhi lamb/chicken curry.

Gajar ka halwa, Rich Indian Carrot PuddingNot so much black cardamom. It’s a larger, more robust almost rustic spice, and you would often find it in a lamb curry or as part of garam masala, a baghar/tadka/tempering maybe, also in rice pulao. I haven’t ever heard of it in a sweet preparation ever. Have you?

The Masala Dabba #3

Kormas, curries, pulaos and garam masalas also use a lot of whole back pepper. The Thandai interestingly had some too. There are several colours in whole pepper, though the black is most widely available, and perhaps the cheapest. There is a controversial pink pepper, actually they are dried berries I hear, and it is said to be toxic. However, it is used often in the West. I use it sometimes to sprinkle over wholegrain bread, very sparingly, just for visual appeal.Pink Pepper Rosemary BreadAnd that pretty much covers the spices for March. Spices are addictive to shoot. I can’t barely wait for time to shoot in April. All I know is that it’s going to be another colourful and fun month!The Masala Dabba #3

The Masala Dabba #3

The Masala Dabba #3The other Spice Girls have been amazing with their spices this month.
Do stop by Story of Cooks and Turmeric n Spice. Meeta has yet to blog spices this month.

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The Masala Dabba #2“He who controls the spice controls the universe.”
Frank Herbert

The Masala Dabba #2. February 2016. It’s strange how often we connect spices to savoury foods, often in India spice is synonymous with a curry! Delightfully enough, as we blog on, reading more, breaking new ground and exploring our palettes, ingredients take on new meaning. For instance, there is always so much more you can do with spices, enough to make them leap out of the masala dabba or spice box!!

The Masala Dabba #2Yes I’m back with the second version of our collaborative spice journey with exploring or rather ‘shooting’ spices, a fun interaction called by the ever sweet Dolphia, seconded enthusiastically by my soul sister Simi and yours truly. We’ve collected a new spice girl along the way. Meeta joins us this month as we delve into the fascinating world of spices. It’s only about styling and shooting spices, yet for me, the inspiration often goes a step further. It’s impossible to just shoot spices without following my nose to the simmering pot, hence a recipe is born now and then!

Gur Panna Cotta With Candied WalnutsIt began with shooting spices, and eventually turned into a winter inspiration. I desserted with spice! The three found their way into this absolutely smooth and delicious Gur Panna Cotta With Candied Walnuts. Talk about flavours that compliment each other! If panna cotta is not divine enough on it’s own, this version turned out to be sublime, a recipe I contributed for my column on askme.wellness.com.Sangria MocktailI couldn’t just stop there so I then drank or sangriad with it! The Sangria Mocktail was great fun to shoot. You could go down the red wine way with this of course. I mean, after all a recipe is often a springboard for further creativity. Sangria Mocktail With cinnamon it’s difficult not to think of warming, comforting wafts of sweetness in the air. I plan on making bite sized cinnabons some day soon. They really call my name. I think the mini dessert trend happening now, along with my recent spice overdrive, might well be the culprit!The Masala Dabba / Indian Spice Box #2Our spices of choice for the first month to challenge us – Cinnamon + Cloves + Star Anise. Three spices, cinnamon I use often, cloves a little rarely, and star anise possibly never. While I love how star anise looks, one of the prettiest spices ever, the flavours are often overbearing. Yet, surprise, surprise. Spiced Strawberry Wine JamI used star anise in a the trio of spices to make a Spiced Strawberry Wine Jam for this Chocolate Berry Wine Fallen Gateau and I was rewarded with beautiful lilting flavours. As I begin to use star anise more often, or rather infuse it, keeping it at a minimum, the gentle undertones are rather endearing.

Chocolate Berry Wine Fallen Gateau, Big Banyan Wines

The Masala Dabba #2Cinnamon
The inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree, harvested during the rainy season when pliable and then dried into curls sold as sticks or ground into a powder.With its warm, sweet flavor, cinnamon is one of the biggest workhorses on the spice shelf. Cooks often use it to flavor baked goods and drinks, but cinnamon also works wonders in stews and sauces.
Matches: apples, berries, chicken, chocolate, coffee, custards, fruit, lamb, oranges, pears, rice

The Masala Dabba #2Cloves
Native to Indonesia, cloves are small nailed shaped flower buds that are dried and have a sweet, somewhat penetrating flavor. They can be bought whole or ground. Ground cloves are commonly used in baking.
Matches: apples, beets, game, ham, lamb, pumpkin, sausage, tea, tomatoes, walnuts, wine

The Masala Dabba #2Star Anise
A star-shaped, dark brown pod that contains a pea-size seed in each of its eight segments. Native to China, star anise comes from a small evergreen tree. It’s flavor is slightly more bitter than that of regular anise seed. Asian cooks use star anise to give a licorice flavor to savory dishes, particularly those with pork and poultry.
Matches: duck, eggs, fish, leeks, pastry, pears, pork, poultry, pumpkin, shrimp.

The Masala Dabba #2Do stop by our other spice girls as well as we share this charming journey from one month to the next! Hope you enjoy it as much as we are.

Dolphia @ Story of Cooks
Simi @ Turmeric & Spice who has a spicy giveaway this month
Meeta @ Whats For Lunch Honey

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

Wholewheat Garlic Oat Soda Bread 1
“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.”
M.F.K. Fisher

Wholewheat Garlic Oat Soda Bread. Bread I baked after ages. Each word of the title appeals to me, yes, even the soda bit! I’ve read about this quick baking bread with no proofing/time for the dough to double for years. For some insane reason, I never baked one. The baker in me was always mesmerised by the challenge of yeast breads, also the joy of seeing the dough rise seemed exciting. Well as they say, been there, done that several times over, the yeast monster well tamed. That was 5 years ago, when the net wasn’t exploding with information and social media was still maturing! Soon one realises that yeast just needs to be alive. It works wonders if you give it enough time in a cuddly warm draft free place! It is quite piffling; there is truly no monster there.

Wholewheat Garlic Oat Soda Bread Now baking bread is fun, therapeutic and stress free. Grab some good yeast and you are in safe hands. This is why when I saw the image of the soda oat bread that shared by Laura of My Little Honk Kong Kitchen on Instagram, it was love at first sight. Her loaf adapted from BBC Good Food looked rustic, moorish, earthy and so me! Also baking bread with soda was new for me. I had to have a go ASAP!

Instagram Passionate About BakingOooh, did I tell you that Instagram is my most fave to be at? It used to be Pinterest earlier, but I am currently addicted to insta!

Soda bread is a variety of quick bread traditionally made in a variety of cuisines in which sodium bicarbonate (otherwise known as baking soda) is used as a leavening agent instead of the more common yeast. The ingredients of traditional soda bread are flour, bread soda, salt, and buttermilk. The buttermilk in the dough contains lactic acid, which reacts with the baking soda to form tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide. Other ingredients can be added such as butter, egg, raisins, or nuts. Ireland, Scotland, Serbia, Australia are some countries that have their own version of this quick baking bread.

Wholewheat Garlic Oat Soda Bread It’s strange that a bread can come together so easily and yield such a moorish loaf on the other side. The Wholewheat Garlic Oat Soda Bread almost sang to me as it stepped out of the oven. Such a pretty bread. Pretty, pretty, pretty. Turned out to be darned tasty too. I had to play around with the ingredients a bit since I was out of plain flour, well almost. With only a few tablespoons in the bag, I used pretty much of whatever else I had on hand. Of course I grated some garlic into the dough. For me, savoury bread should must have garlic. Must!

Wholewheat Garlic Oat Soda Bread A splash of extra virgin olive oil in the dough too added to the overall texture and flavour of this near wholegrain bread. Fresh rosemary, pink Himalayan salt, maybe even pink pepper all add nice touches to bread.  Slice it warm, drizzle with more EVOO, scatter some smoked mature cheese, some toasted walnuts, maybe capers, rocket too. Sit back and enjoy!!

Recipe: Wholewheat Garlic Oat Soda Bread
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Summary: Wholewheat Garlic Oat Soda Bread is possibly the quickest bread you can bake. From almost a no knead shaggy dough that is quick to throw together, it’s our current favourite bread. Try this near wholegrain version to see how good quick bread can be. Recipe adapted from My Little Hong Kong Kitchen. Makes one 6″ round loaf.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

  • Dough
  • 200g wholewheat flour
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g oatmeal
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 15g extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 250ml cultured buttermilk {approximately}
  • Topping
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs, Himalayan pink salt, garlic slivers, drizzle of extra virgin olive oil {with more to serve}


  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Lightly grease a heavy baking sheet, or line with parchment.
  2. Place both flours, oats, soda and salt in bowl of stand mixer {or in a large bowl} and stir to mix. Add the garlic, rosemary and extra virgin olive oil and stir again.
  3. Gradually add the buttermilk to make a soft dough. {You might not need it all, or you might need a spoon or so more}. Just knead the dough until it comes together; don’t overwork it or the bread will get tough.
  4. Shape into a round loaf, approximately 6″ in diameter, cut the top 2-3 times with a very sharp knife.
  5. Drizzle over with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle fresh rosemary, garlic and Himalayan pink salt.
  6. Bake for approximately 30-35 minutes until the bottom makes a hollow sound when knocked. If it doesn’t, turn over and bake for a further 10 minutes.
  7. Take out of oven, cool on a rack for 15-20 minutes. Slice and serve with loads of sweet butter or flavoured olive oil, mature cheese, walnuts etc.

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