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1st Anniversary Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake and A Giveaway!!

18 Oct

It’s my one year blogging anniversary this month so I decided to bake a cake. I actually made a loaf and some cupcake type muffins out of the same recipe and topped them both with a heavenly chocolate ganache.

You may have noticed that I don’t make a lot of sweet things, mainly because I would end up eating them so I try to steer clear as much as possible. This little beauty however is vegan. Can you believe it? Continue reading

My 7 Links Challenge, Pass it on…

21 Aug

There’s a challenge going around the blogosphere at the moment called The Seven Links Challenge. I have been nominated by four different bloggers over the past few weeks and I am very honoured, if not a little apprehensive, to be thought of for this.

I would like to say a massive thank you to the lovely ladies who passed this on to me, starting with E from Legally Blissful, who has just started law school and is following her bliss. Tiffany from Como Water a kindred spirit with a positive soul, Tanya from Chica Andaluza my fellow guiri living the dream in Andalucia, and last but by no means least Sawsan from Chef in Disguise my Middle East meets West kitchen guru.

This is the Challenge:

THE GOAL

To unite bloggers (from all sectors) in a joint endeavor to share lessons learned and create a bank of long but not forgotten blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again.

THE RULES

1)     Blogger is nominated to take part

2)     Blogger publishes his/her 7 links on his/her blog – 1 link for each category.

– Your most beautiful post
– Your most popular post
– Your most controversial post
– Your most helpful post
– A post whose success surprised you
– A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved
– The post that you are most proud of

3)     Blogger nominates up to 5 more bloggers to take part

So here are my “7 links”

Most Beautiful Post…

Chocolate, Fig & Almond Rosewater Brownies….

Or Beautiful Almond Blossom & Amaretti Biscuits

Are you noticing a theme here? I like pink flowers….

Most Popular Post….

Chargrilled Broccoli & Beans with Garlic, Chilli & Sweet Soy Rice Noodles…..

This was featured on Freshly Pressed, the front page of WordPress and had 45oo hits in 2 days. Very exciting!

Most Controversial Post…..

Mint Julep Peaches Via Iran….

This was featured on Foodpress and got quite a lot of hits. I didn’t think this was controversial but I received a comment saying that the book I was reviewing “Reading Lolita in Tehran” was considered by most Iranians to be“baloney”.

I’d just like to point out that all the opinions on this blog are mine and mine only and the last time I looked freedom of speech and expression were legal, at least they are here.

Most Helpful Post…..

Thai Squash Wonton Soup & Spring Rolls….

I don’t know how helpful it is but there’s some pictures of how to fold wontons and spring rolls. And the filling is delicious!

Most Surprisingly Successful Post….

Spanish Onion Soup on the Beach…..

I was really surprised when this made the Foodbuzz Top 9 and ended up at number one. It was the first time I had been featured anywhere. It’s my Spanish take on the classic French Onion Soup.

Or Indian Lentil Dhal with Potato Stuffed Parathas

This one of my really early posts but it still get loads of traffic now through search engines. It must be something to do with the way it’s titled or something, I don’t know.

The Post That Didn’t Get The Attention It Deserved……

Halloumi Tikka Kebab with Turmeric & Cardamom Risotto & Tamarind Syrup

This is definitely one of mine and the The Washer Up’s all time favourite dishes. The texture of the halloumi that has been marinated in yoghurt & spices is a revelation and the complex balance of  flavours makes it a real winner.

The Post I am Most Proud Of……

Definitely Grandad’s Pickled Onions..

They’re amazing and so is he….xx

Okay so now I have to pass this challenge on to 5 other bloggers. I have chosen these five because they are blogs that I enjoy following that are quite new to me and I am really interested to see what they come up with from their archives.

Beth Michelle

Pease Pudding

The Sometimes Zoo

Sunshine & Smile

Crumb

Beloved Green

That’s 6, I know. If you get a chance you should check out their lovely blogs, if you don’t know them already.

And I look forward to seeing your gone but not forgotten posts…

Chocolate, Fig, Almond and Rosewater “Brownies”

16 Jun

There are roses everywhere here at the moment. I am slightly obsessed and take photos every day as you may have noticed. I love all the different colours. I run past these roses most mornings with the dog. There is one particular garden that has loads of different varieties and the lady of the house takes great care of them. She must be so proud, they are all beautiful.

So all these roses made me start thinking about making something with rosewater. Just to celebrate the rose and so I would have an excuse to show a you all the pictures I have been taking.

Following on from the success of my Date, Walnut & Coconut Energy ” Truffles”, I wanted to make something similar using figs instead of dates. There are fig trees where we run too, the figs are not quite ripe yet but it it got me thinking about fig and rosewater together, a classic Arabian combination.

Rosewater is the flavouring in Turkish Delight. When I was little there was a chocolate bar called Fry’s Turkish Delight. It may still be out there, I don’t know. It had a very exotic advert and a bright pink metallic wrapper. Inside, the rose coloured Turkish Delight was coated in chocolate. At the time it seemed very mysterious and grown-up probably because my dad used to eat it all and not give me any (only joking dad)!

So I definitely wanted to use chocolate with the figs and rosewater.  I found a recipe for chocolate, cashew & almond energy bars  that I adapted to suit my requirements,very successfully indeed.

I am positive that my dad (my biggest fan) will approve. In fact I know he will be making them as soon as he can. The date, walnut and coconut energy truffles are now the “petit fours” of choice on all the best dining tables in Cape Town thanks to my dad. He has little production line going. People are requesting them.

I have to say that, in his version, rather than soaking the dates in water for an hour he soaks them in Frangelico or Amaretto. That could definitely be part of the reason for their popularity, it sounds amazing. So feel free to do that with the figs in this recipe too. I know of two food bloggers who will approve wholeheartedly of this little  “twist”. (Rufus & Caroline!)

These “brownies” are in fact, raw, vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free and totally delicious. Please don’t be suspicious of their virtue. They have all the chewy, stickiness of a brownie with none of the bad things. Never has healthy tasted so naughty. Dad, I think you’re going to need a bigger kitchen…!

Chocolate, Fig, Almond & Rosewater “Brownies”

makes about 16. Adapted from Sea Salt With Food

  • 300 gr (2 cups) dried figs, soaked in water (or Frangelico/Amaretto) for an hour
  • 250gr (2 cups) almonds (no skin), roughly chopped
  • 60 gr (1/2 cup) hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 75 gr (3/4 cup) pure unsweetened cocoa powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 40 gr (1/2 cup) dessicated coconut
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4-6 tbsp rose water 
  • cold water

Remove the figs from the soaking liquid after about an hour and put them in a food processor with the roughly chopped nuts, cocoa powder and a pinch of salt.

Process until it starts to come together then add the coconut, process again then add the vanilla extract and the rose water a tablespoon at a time. The amount of rosewater you add depends on how strong the flavour is so taste as you go and stop when you are happy with the flavour.If you need to add more liquid to get it to a sticky mouldable dough consistency add a tablespoon of water at a time.

Line a brownie pan or baking tin with baking paper and tip the dough mix in and press it out evenly with a rubber spatula. Put another piece of baking paper on top and use a book or ice cream tub to press it down and make it flat. I made mine about 1 cm thick but you can make them thicker if you like.

Put in the fridge for about an hour before cutting into about 16 pieces. Store in an airtight container in the fridge layered with baking paper.

Serve some after dinner with coffee as elegant petit fours or take them to work as an afternoon snack bar. Or do like my dad and take them as a gift for the host of a dinner party. They also keep really well in the fridge. If they should last that long…

Buen Provecho!

Honey, Apple, Date and Walnut Olive Oil Cake

1 Apr

There are so many bees around at the moment busy collecting pollen. They reminded me of a visit I made to a local honey producer about a month ago that I haven’t blogged about yet. I have been waiting for the perfect honey recipe to come along which is deserving enough to feature the delicious honey that I bought, and this is definitely THE one. More about that later, first the visit then the recipe…

You had to drive through a river to get there but I doubt all that water is still there now with all the hot weather we have been having. It looks worse than it is….

Miel is “honey” in Spanish and Fuente del Sol means “Fountain (or Source) of Sun”.

There is a slightly unattractive warehouse and a very well hidden little shop with a small sign outside….

Inside the shop they sell lots of different types of honey. There’s orange blossom, rosemary, thyme, eucalyptus and wild flower honey and they sell it in the squeezy non-drip bottles as well as glass jars. They also sell pollen and royal jelly products as well as a range of  natural soaps and cosmetics made using aloe vera and olive oil. 

I bought some thyme honey which is really lovely. I have been having it on toast for breakfast with my local goat’s ricotta (requeson) it’s so good. If you’ve never tried ricotta and honey on toast you should, and so much better when they are both local. You could even make your own ricotta, it is really easy unless you’re my dad, but that’s another story…..He had a bit of a drama making my spinach & ricotta gnocchi!

I’ve been trying recently to use olive oil instead of butter whenever possible in my cooking. The delicious extra virgin olive oil in the picture above we helped to harvest back in November and I’ve used it to make some banana & coconut muffins that tasted great.  We store it in empty wine bottles because plastic bottles are not good – for your health or the health of the oil.  I’ve seen quite a few Italian recipes for olive oil cakes and wanted to give it a try. I was thinking local olive oil and local honey it’s got to be good. I wasn’t wrong….

Honey, Apple, Date & Walnut Olive Oil Cake

makes 16 squares, vegetarian

  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 130 gr brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • 165 ml good olive oil
  • 260 gr runny honey (coat the measure with a little olive oil so the honey slips out easily)
  • 375 gr wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 – 2 apples, peeled,cored and roughly diced. I used 1 1/2 large fuji apples you need something crisp.
  • 100 gr walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 100 gr dates, stoned and roughly chopped, plus a few extra for garnish
  • a small tub of mascarpone/creme fraiche
  • extra honey

Preheat the oven to 180 C and line a 9×13 inch cake/roasting tin with baking paper, base & sides. Beat the eggs, brown sugar & vanilla (if using)in a large bowl with an electric mixer for about 5 minutes until light & fluffy. Slowly add in the honey and oil bit by bit, beating until well blended.

Into another bowl sieve the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt then tip in the whole-wheat bits left in the sieve as well. Stir to combine. Add the flour mixture, apples, walnuts and dates to the wet ingredients and fold together gently until just blended (Don’t overmix you will get a tough cake).

Pour the mixture in to the lined baking tin and spread out evenly. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes or until the top is firm and golden brown. Leave to cool in the tin.

Cut into 16 squares and serve with coffee and a pot of mascarpone drizzled with more honey and some more dates or walnuts for the top.

Spoon some of the honey mascarpone on top of your piece of cake and top with a date half. It was all looking quite healthy up until then wasn’t it. Oh well it’s only a suggestion…..

This cake is so moist and delicious with the apples, honey and olive oil, you need to make it and then invite people round for an afternoon tea or coffee. Otherwise you might just have to eat it all. It keeps really well too, if it should last that long…..Enjoy!

Desert Island Banana and Coconut Breakfast Muffins

14 Mar

This is the perfect pick me up after all this rain. I wanted something tropical to remind me of the sun that seems to have disappeared for good. Banana and coconut, such a classic combination that takes me back to Caribbean holidays when I was younger. One holiday to Antigua in particular springs to mind. I had the amazing banana bread for breakfast every day for three weeks, it was that good. I’ve never found a banana bread to match it since. That might be something to do with waking up to a view of the turquoise sea and pinky white sandy beach though, it makes everything taste better.

So if muffins grew on palm trees this is what they would taste like. Banana, coconut & honey. So, go with me on this one and imagine yourself stranded on a desert island and all you have to eat are muffins that grow on trees. It wouldn’t be so bad would it? And if the rain is throwing your fantasy off just imagine it’s a tropical thunder-storm, they only last for an hour and it means you can shelter in the bar with an over-garnished tacky cocktail. Or is that just me? Oh yes, this desert island has a bar and a hammock. Well, it’s my fantasy I can have what I like…..

These delicious little fantasy muffins are made with wholemeal flour and olive oil rather than butter. So you can eat as many as you like. In fantasy world that is…..

Desert Island Banana & Coconut Breakfast Muffins

makes 12, vegetarian

  • 250 gr self-raising wholemeal flour
  • 175 gr brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • a pinch of salt
  • 100 ml milk (I used goat’s milk)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 ripe bananas, quartered lengthways and chopped
  • 50 gr toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 50 gr desiccated coconut
  • about 12 tsp honey (a squeezy bottle is easiest)

Preheat oven to 180 C. Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl, mix in the sugar, cinnamon & nutmeg and make a well in the centre. Mix together the egg, milk & oil in a jug and pour into the well in the flour. Mix together with a wooden spoon until just incorporated. Don’t over mix or your muffins will be tough. Then carefully fold in the banana, walnuts & coconut.

Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases and spoon (or use and ice cream scoop) the mixture into the paper cases about 2/3 full.  Make a hole in the top of the muffins with the back of a teaspoon and squeeze in about a teaspoon of honey (see photo above) don’t worry if it overflows.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes until golden brown & cooked. Remove from the muffin tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

You could add whatever you like to these muffins, some dates would be nice and follow on from the palm tree theme. Or maybe some chopped apples would be good with the cinnamon & nutmeg.

Just keep the fantasy going by imagining yourself on that tropical beach somewhere. You know what, I think the sun might be coming out!  That’s the power of positive thinking for you. I’d better take the dog out before it starts raining again……

Mini Orange and Almond Wholemeal Bread Cakes

1 Mar

The inspiration for this recipe came from Denise at Bread Expectations. She made cute little sweet bread cakes using Panko breadcrumbs rather than flour and topped them with berries and sugar. This idea really appealed to me as I had just made a huge amount of wholemeal breadcrumbs in my new food processor. I save the ends of the wholemeal bread that I buy and freeze them. My food processor broke ages ago and I have only just replaced it so I had a huge bag full of bread waiting to made into breadcrumbs.

So what do you do with three, one litre ice cream tubs worth of wholemeal breadcrumbs? Well, I used some to make my Veggie Burgers, froze a load and I just had to try these breadcrumb cakes. It seemed like fate. I didn’t have any berries to use but what I do have is oranges. At times it seems like I have the whole of Andalucia’s orange harvest in my kitchen. Not that I’m complaining…..

The trees are beautiful to walk past every day and the oranges I have at the moment that were given to me by Rhian are so sweet and delicious. I want to make the most of them. The other trees that always seem to be growing side by side with the oranges are almonds. They obviously like to be around each other so I need no more inspiration than that……

Also Denise’s recipe called for vanilla extract. I have run out and you have no idea how difficult it is to get vanilla here. You can’t even buy that nasty vanilla essence. So I used almond extract instead and added in some ground almonds for good measure.

These little cakes are made with yeast. Now, me and yeast have issues. As in, it never does it’s thing for me. I called these cakes “mini” because they didn’t rise but I still wanted to share them with you because they are really moist, light & delicious. Denise thinks it may be because of the wholemeal breadcrumbs having less gluten than the white Panko. So, feel free to use panko or homemade white breadcrumbs if you want a rise. (Not the fine store bought kind). Whether they rise for you or not these little sweet bread cakes are definitely worth the risk…..

Mini Orange & Almond Breadcrumb Cakes

makes 12, vegetarian. Adapted from a Bread Expectations recipe

  • 1oo gr soft butter
  • 100 gr caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 oranges
  •  a few drops of almond extract
  • 100 gr wholemeal breadcrumbs (or Panko)
  • 50 gr ground almonds
  • 1 packet dried yeast 7 gr
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar mixed with 1/4 tsp ground ginger

Butter/oil a muffin tray or use muffin cases. Zest 1 orange. Segment both oranges over a small bowl to catch any juices. First peel the oranges with a knife on a board by cutting off the peel & pith from top to bottom all the way around. Hold the orange over the small bowl and segment the orange by cutting out each segment  in between the membranes. When you have cut out all your segments  and set them aside, squeeze the remaining membranes to release the juice into the bowl.

Add the yeast to the orange juice (there should be about 6 tbsp juice) stir it around and leave for 10 minutes to froth. Cream the softened butter, caster sugar and salt together until light & creamy then beat in the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated each time. Add a few drops of almond extract, 3/4 of the orange zest, the breadcrumbs, ground almonds and the yeast mixture when it’s had 10 minutes. Mix everything together well until you have a sticky, porridge like batter.

Half fill the 12 muffin cups with the mixture, top each with 2 orange segments and sprinkle over the brown sugar and ginger mix. Finally put some of the remaining orange zest on top. Leave the muffin tray in a warm place for an hour or until almost doubled in volume (Hopefully)!

Preheat the oven to 190 C. Bake for 15 -20 minutes until golden.

Leave to cool slightly then remove from the muffin tin and cool on a wire rack.  These little cakes are perfect for afternoon tea. So get out your best china tea set dust them with icing sugar and invite your friends round for a chat..

You can ask them how they get on with yeast……..!

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