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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put me out to pasta

chilli soup breakfastThere was time when I would travel through Asia eating bowls of chilli. I would slurp chilli soup for breakfast. The steaming bowl of fire would fizzle my nose hairs and make me weep. I was in my own little burning hot heaven.

More recently I have developed a digestive sensitivity that has changed my eating habits. I still test the boundaries but often regret it later, “whoa, Fajita-repeater!!”

The list of foods that my body tells me to avoid grows… spicy foods, fried foods – pretty obvious so far but then add, pepper, oranges, salt, some meats, capsicum, onion, garlic…

On a recent trip to Indonesia I realised that my burning-by-the-seat-of-my-pants travelling days are numbered. This change to my eating habits may have a significant impact on my travelling style of mixing with the locals over a shared plate.

Gone are the days of Chinese Miscellaneous Animal-product Soup in a village where you are clearly the minority. Each spoonful was a game of “what part of a chicken is that?!”.

Gone are the days of plates piled high with stir-fried chillies in an alley restaurant. I recall a dish described to me as “corn with chilli” where the corn kernels were used as the garnish.  

It’s pushing 40 degrees in this little café off a dirty street in Indonesia. The humidity isn’t high today; there isn’t enough moisture in the air to settle the dust churned up by passing scooters. My order of ‘grilled chicken with vegetables’ is served to me as pepper crusted chicken pieces, with a side of mostly raw capsicum, garlic and onion. There is a garnish, a slice of carrot cut into the shape of a flower sits on the side of the plate. I poke at the carrot that has been recycled from the previous diner’s plate wondering statistically how many people may have handled this piece of carrot and if they washed their hands. I pick at the chicken to try to extract some of the inner pepper-less meat.

My husband scoffs down his lovely looking lemongrass and chilli curry. He’s telling me how wonderful it is. Sweat is dripping off his cheeks. I’m hungry. I start fantasising about a bowl of pasta. I think about a trip to Italy where I could eat salads without fear.

It has become clear to me, I’m not what I used to be. It’s time I was put out to pasta.

In another time, I look around the room searching for clues and then back to my Miscellaneous Soup. The bustling people around us have the benefit of knowing the local language. I look down at my spoon, “…maybe that’s not even a part of a chicken…”

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.

almond milk: homemade

I don’t eat much dairy these days. I find that if I divert too far from goat milk cheese and natural yoghurt I feel worse off. Yellow cheese rarely makes an appearance on my menu. To add to my fussiness, soy milk is expensive and it tends to curdle in my coffee. So with the help of my fan-dangled new kitchen tool (a thermomix), I decided to make my own milk – almond milk – and it was surprisingly quick and easy.

1 cup almonds (I used blanched but you can use raw almonds).
About 3 cups of water to soak almonds overnight (this will make them easier to blend).
In the morning, drain the almonds and place in the thermomix (or equivalent quality blender) with about 700ml clean water.
Blend almonds (gradually move from speed 6 to speed 9 for 40 sec) to achieve a fine grind of the almonds.
Place a nut milk bag* into a jug or line a sieve with muslin and pour the almond milk through the bag/muslin.
With clean hands, squeeze the milk out of the muslin into the jug.
You’ll be left with a jug of almond milk and a bag of almond pulp/meal.

Your homemade milk will last 3 -4 days in the fridge. Shake before use.
Adjusting the water content down will make a creamier milk.
Uses for almond pulp/meal to follow.
*nut milk bags are available from some health food shops and online.

almond milk coffee

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.