turkish chocolate torte

turkish chocolate torteWithout a doubt this is my favourite cake. It also becomes the favourite cake of anyone who tries it when I make one.

the cake:
6 egg whites
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
1 cup (125g) almond meal
500 g halva, roughly chopped
150 g pitted dates, chopped
Grated zest of 2 oranges
120 g dark chocolate, finely chopped
¼ cup (60ml) brandy

chocolate ganache:
100 ml pure (thin) cream
150 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

decorations to serve:
2 tablespoons edible dried rose petals (optional)
2 tablespoons slivered pistachios
4 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
Small mint sprigs

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease and line a 24cm springform cake pan with baking paper. Beat egg whites with electric beaters until stiff peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating constantly, then beat for 5 minutes or until thick and glossy.

Fold in almond meal, halva, dates, zest and chocolate until just combined. Spoon mixture into the cake pan, then bake for 1 hour 20 minutes or until dry and firm to the touch (the cake will still be moist in the centre when tested with a skewer).

While hot, poke several holes in the top of the cake with a skewer. Pour brandy over cake, then cool completely in the pan.

Meanwhile, for the glaze, place cream and chocolate in a pan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and stand for 30 minutes or until a thick pouring consistency.

Remove the cooled cake from the pan, transfer to a platter and pour over the chocolate glaze, allowing it to drip down the sides. Decorate with rose petals, nuts, pomegranate seeds and mint.

Recipe: Valli Little

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cauliflower and roast almond soup

cauliflower and almond soup

½ head cauliflower, florets
1 leek, white, chopped
1-2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
½ tbsp butter and/or 1 tbsp oil
about 700 ml water
1 tsp vegetable stock (use a light one or less than usual, you don’t want it to over power)
1 cup blanched almonds, dry roasted
salt and pepper, to taste

Dry roast almonds in the oven for about 10 mins at about 180c or until just turning golden brown.

In a soup pot, add the chopped leek and saute with butter and/or oil.
Add cauliflower florets, potatoes, stock, almonds and water.
Simmer for about 25 mins or until cauliflower and potatoes are soft, then (carefully, if hot and transferring liquids to a blender) blend to smooth.

Portion into approx. 250 ml capacity containers and freeze ready for work lunches.
At lunchtime, reheat in the office microwave.

Thermomix:
Add chunks of leek to bowl, chop on speed 5/5 sec. Scrape down sides, add butter/oil and saute 3 mins/speed 1/100c. Add cauliflower florets, potatoes, stock, roast almonds and water.
Set to 20 mins/speed 1/100c. Check cauliflower is soft buy pressing a floret against the side of the bowl (cook for 10 more mins if needed to ensure potatoes are soft), then puree on speed 6, gradually moving to speed 9, for about 40 sec or until smooth.

almond pulp: chocolate fudge

You won’t believe this is healthy sweet treat – it’s so yummy. These chewy chocolate fudge balls are a great use of left over almond pulp.

healthy fudge balls

2 cups almond pulp (leftover from making milk)
1/2 cup cashews
1 cup dates (fresh), pitted
4 tbsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp shredded coconut
2 tbsp honey
pinch salt (omit if you are using salted cashews)
1/2 tbsp coconut oil

Place cashews, almond pulp, dates, cocoa, salt, coconut and coconut oil in your food processor to combine. Thermomix: speed 8/20 sec. The texture will be like a moist, reasonably fine crumble.
Add honey and process to combine until the mixture sticks together turning a dark chocolatey brown. Stop processing before it gets too fine and buttery. Thermomix: speed 2/15 sec scrape down and speed 2/15 sec. 
Line a freezer-proof small dish or baking pan with baking paper.
Press the mixture into dish with a spatula then freeze overnight.
Cut the block into small treat sized slices or roll into fudge balls.
Store in a ziplock freezer bag  and eat without defrosting.

nut fudge

scallop, apple and radish salad

scallop salad

This is a lovely little starter to a candlelight night dinner in with your loveliest friend. It’s light and fresh and oh so tasty. He’ll think you’re a closet kitchen dynamo… as opposed to a kitchen closet dynamo which I’m sure would be a hand vacuum.

12 scallops (roe removed if you prefer)
2 tbsp butter
1 green apple, sliced very thinly (or julienned as pictured)
2 tbsp lemon juice (squeeze the lemon juice on the sliced apple to keep it looking fresh and stop it browning)
2-4 radishes, julienned (if not serving immediately, place in an ice bath to keep crisp)
4 chives, snipped or torn
chive flowers (if you happen to have them in your kitchen garden)

dressing:
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Mix the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
Prepare the julienned apple and radishes.
In a hot pan, fry the scallops in butter. Scallops don’t take long to cook – about 4 minutes each side.
Arrange the apple and radish on small plates, top with scallops, chives and a drizzle of dressing.

wild rice with pecan and orange

wild rice with chicken

A long time favorite in our house is this wild rice side dish. We love that its a little bit spicy, a little bit nutty, a little bit fruity and a little bit crunchy. More recently I’ve learnt that wild rice is also high in fibre, high in protein and a good source of B vitamins. Double whammy!

1 cup wild rice, cooked
1 cup brown rice, cooked
2 tablespoons orange zest
½ orange, juiced
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 tbsp olive oil
pinch salt
½ cup currants/raisins
½ cup pecans, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons fresh coriander (or parsley), finely chopped

Combine orange rind, orange juice, clove, salt and olive oil in a large mixing bowl to make the dressing.
When the rice is cooked, add remaining ingredients (minus the pecans) to the bowl of dressing and gently combine to dress.
Top with pecans and serve as a side dish.

wild rice salad

Some ideas to serve with this walk on the wild rice side include:
– tofu steak, marinated in soy, lemon zest and garlic, then grilled
– chicken, marinated in lemon juice, thyme, pepper and olive oil, then grilled*
– white fish, grilled or poached with lemon wedges
– duck breast a l’orange and steamed green beans

*Serve with 1 tbsp soy mayo, 2 tbsp water, 1 tbsp lemon juice, whisked to combine and used to drizzled over the plate as chicken breast tends to be a bit drier.

(apple) cider (sorbet) spider

Remember being a kid and making soda spiders? Remember filling the glass ’til it overflows and then sucking the bubbles off the bench before someone saw you? Well, here’s the adult version and the best bit is, no one can tell you not too suck the bubbles off the bench now you’re a grown up!

Apple cider (I used Dirty Granny for this one but any nice cider will work wonderfully)
Mixed berry sorbet (mine was homemade but quality store bought will work perfectly)

Pour a nice tall glass of apple cider to about 3/4 full then add a scoop of berry sorbet. Slowly top up the glass if you want to avoid the frothy overflow. Or pour it in fast if you want to see the volcano.

This cider spider is sure to impress those who also struggle to grow up.

apple cider sorbet spider

dark chocolate and raspberry brownies

I’ve passed a significant mothering milestone: I baked for the school fund raiser. I’m a little bit proud of myself … don’t tell anyone that these brownies are super easy to make.

brownies choc raspberry

125g unsalted butter
200g dark chocolate melts
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup frozen raspberries

Preheat oven to 180°C and grease then line a 20cm x 31cm baking tray with baking paper.
In a small saucepan melt butter and chocolate over a low heat (or microwave gently).
Once melted (but not so hot as to cook the eggs), add eggs and vanilla essence and beat to combine.
Add sugar, flour and baking powder, stir well to combine.
Add the raspberries and gently mix through, then pour into the baking tray.
Bake for 30 minutes. Ideally your brownie will have a crackling top with a fudgy middle.
Remove from oven and let cool for 15 mins in the tin before cutting into portions and leaving to cool on the rack.

I don’t bother with dusting with icing sugar, when you are eating something this yummy, you don’t need to be worrying about making a mess.

red ginger refresher

raspberry detailThis mocktail (or with vodka optional) is a very refreshing sunny-day-sitting-on-the-lawn drink. Serve it in a big tumbler full of ice or in a champagne glass, it’s pretty enough to make any glass look impressive. If serving in a champagne glass, combine in a jug over ice and strain out the ice cubes as you pour into glasses decorated with raspberries and a mint leaf.

2 parts ginger beer
1 part cranberry juice
ice
frozen raspberries
mint
vodka (optional 30 ml per person)

when life gives you green tomatoes … make relish

green tomaotes

1 kg green tomatoes
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 green apple, quartered and cored
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp ginger, grated
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground mixed spice
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
¾ cup malt vinegar

green tomato relish jars

Use a processor to chop ingredients. Then, simmer all ingredients in a large saucepan for 60 minutes. Stir regularly.
Carefully pour hot relish into jars, secure lid and invert jar for 5 mins.

Thermomix:
Add ingredients to the bowl, blend speed 6 for 5 sec. You may need to add half, blend and then add the rest so as to not overfill the bowl.
Set to 45 mins, ‘spoon’, 100c.
Carefully pour hot relish into jars, secure lid and invert jar for 5 mins.

rob roy: the cocktail

This is an ode to the Scottish Robin Hood, Robert Roy MacGregor. Well actually, the drink originated much after that in honour of a musical operetta based loosely on some of the key points of a select few years of the man’s life. With such an intro, it’s only appropriate to garnish this drink with a cherry for ol’ Red MacGregor.

Rob Roy cocktailAs far as drinks go, you could call this a Manhattan made on scotch and you’d be pretty right. Similar to the Manhattan and Martini, you need to do a bit of experimentation to find your perfect balance of dry and sweet, you do this with sweet and dry vermouth combinations. The starting point is this:

30 ml scotch
15 ml sweet vermouth
angostura bitters
maraschino cherry to serve

Add the scotch and vermouth to a well iced cocktail shaker, shake or stir to chill, then pour into a chilled martini glass that has been rinsed with bitters and garnish with a cherry.