Monday, December 31, 2012

Baba Ghanoush


A change of holiday plans has seen me back home from Japan early and as much as I love it over there, it is nice to sleep in a proper bed. However the festive season has meant the amount of food I am being fed hasn’t decreased and after a week of overeating, my family has decided that we need to tackle our respective Christmas tummy bulges. Of course activities such as exercise should also be included in the schedule to achieve this goal but the Boxing Day Test meant three solid days lazing around on the couch, in front of the television.

In between the Christmas lunches and dinners, we have managed to sneak a couple of light meals (well, at least one anyway). After a heavy lunch and an afternoon of beer and snacks, I thought it might be nice to use some of the few kilos of eggplant we’ve harvested over the past week and make my first ever baba ghanoush.

The recipe I used is from Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion cookbook, which I mention in this post. I should have made some flatbread (recipe also in this book) to serve with it but I was tired so opted to toast some sourdough bread and cut it up to serve alongside the dip. It was my first time grilling eggplants and I couldn’t contain my delight when I was able to easily peel the skin off the charred aubergines. I am sure the New Year will bring many more “firsts” as I head into my post-graduate degree and I am looking forward to the challenge.

Happy New Year!!



Baba Ghanoush (adapted from the Kitchen Garden Companion)

1kg eggplant
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ cup Greek yoghurt
½ cup tahini
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Juice of 3 lemons, to taste
Sourdough toast, warmed flatbread, rice crackers, etc

1. Heat a barbeque grill-plate until hot. Roast eggplants, turning 2-3 times so they roast evenly; it will take approximately 15 minutes for the skin to char and the eggplants to feel quite soft. Remove with tongs, leave to cool slightly and  peel away charred skin. Cut the eggplants  lengthways and put into a colander resting over a bowl. After 10 minutes, put the drained eggplant into a clean cloth/paper towel and gently squeeze. Chop the flesh quite finely and put it into a large mixing bowl.

2. Put cumin into the mixing bowl with the chopped eggplant.

3. Whisk yoghurt with a pinch of salt until creamy. Add yoghurt, tahini, garlic and half of the lemon juice to the eggplant before mixing together. Taste, add more lemon juice if needed, season with salt and pepper.

4. Serve alongside carbohydrate of choice. If using flatbread, place the baba ghanoush in a plate or shallow bowl so it is easy to dip the bread into it.


- Matilda  


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Pudding & One Year Anniversary


I’ll be well into my trip to Japan when this post goes online, hopefully having just caught up with two of my best friends (twins) in Kyoto. The last two years went by in such a blur that I feel that I haven’t been able to be the best friend to these two as I could have – possibly should have – been. I hope our time together in Japan was experienced with me being fully present so as to be able to enjoy the precious time together. Family and friends are, however clichéd, the rocks in our lives and I suppose the festive season is a chance to reconnect before the next year begins.

The recipe I’m sharing today doesn’t use a single ingredient from the community garden but it is a recipe that presents itself around this time of year, year after year. I call it “Mum’s” plum pudding because that is what I call my grandmother and this is her recipe. Well, technically it’s a recipe my great-grandmother acquired from the wife of the mechanic my great-grandfather relied upon but that doesn’t sound quite as traditional so we’ll skip over that. My cousins used to joke that I had a problem childhood since I don’t call Mum “grandma” like the rest of them do. I suppose I just heard my parents calling her Mum and so it made sense for me to do so as well. And yes, I always get asked so what do I call my actual mother… the answer is usually a variety of things, ranging from Okasan (‘mother’) to Obaba (‘old hag’). Obaba is of course used in an affectionate way at all times! :-)

I made this pudding for the first time a few days before I left for Japan, as an early birthday present for Dad (he absolutely adores this pudding and is usually what he asks from my grandma each year as a present). Apparently Mum (grandma) dropped one off the other day and I wish Dad had taken a photo to send me because mine is a disgrace. The pudding’s skin came off when I unwrapped the cloth and it looks terrible… but it tastes fabulous! So once I discover the secret to keeping the pudding skin on I will definitely post it. Especially since, in my opinion, the skin is the tastiest part of the whole pudding!!


Mum’s Plum Pudding (adapted from my grandmother’s cookbook)

1 cup plain flour
1 cup plain wholemeal flour
2 tsp bicarbonate soda
½ cup sultanas
½ cup raisins
1 cup currants
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
¾ cup sugar or honey 
2 cups filtered water

Directions:

1. Sift flour, bicarbonate soda, nutmeg and ginger into a large bowl. Mix the remaining ingredients in, cover with a tea towel and stand mixture overnight.

2. Dip cloth in boiling water and wring out and pat down with flour.

3. Use bowl/colander to support mixture as it is poured into the middle of the cloth. Ensure the top is completely closed, tie with string and dab flour on top (over the gap).

4. Place plate in saucepan before placing the pudding in (otherwise the pudding will burn) and pour boiling water over the pudding.

5. Close the lid and boil pudding for 4 hours (if doubling the ingredients, boil for 6 hours).


6. After the pudding has cooked, remove it from the cloth and place on a plate. Let cool or serve immediately with brandy custard. 





Finally, thank you to those of you who read my blog; It has been a year since I started it and it is a bit of fun to document my road to country bumpkin life. I’m quite a bit away as of yet but hopefully I’ll get there one day – I just have to make it out of university alive first!

So, until next time…  Merry Christmas everyone!  And a happy New Year :-)

- Matilda 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Schoolies Week and Permaculture Design

My introduction to the world of Permaculture occurred just over two years
ago in 2010, when I volunteered as a WWOOF-er (willing workers on organic
farms) during my then September school holidays. I then backed up that visit
to the Permaculture Research Institute with another that November. Except
this time, I went there as a student.

The owner of the place was away at the time and so we had Canadian
permaculturalist Jesse Lemieux out here in Australia acting as farm manager
and taking the classes that otherwise would not have taken place. He is
probably more of a temperature climate specialist and maybe lacked some
familiarity with sub-tropical issues, but those two weeks of classes were
just so intriguing and an eye-opening experience. I went away having helped
compost a deceased calf (poor thing had tumours growing through it so it was
put down), completed an original design for a local property, milked cows
and chased a pregnant goat around the paddock in an attempt to get her back
in her pen. I milked her as well.

I am reminded of my two week experience just as the Gold Coast is flooded
with schoolies, school-leavers at the same point in their lives as I was
this time two years ago; Schoolies is a huge one-week "get off your face"
party in Surfers Paradise. It is sometimes referred to as a 'tradition' or a
'transition' to adulthood. Unfortunately, it seems that most people continue
to "get off their faces" in adulthood so it does not seem to be a very
intelligent transition. I also can't help but think that there are better
ways to celebrate the end of one's high school life. I suppose it is not for
me to comment on the decisions of others but events like these make me
wonder what has happened to society.

My musings here refer mainly to the use and abuse of alcohol. Back in the
good old days (I'm talking about 30-40 years ago - the golden years of my
parents' generation), apparently people would go out for a drink but they
wouldn't go out to get drunk. Call me old fashioned but I really don't see
the point of sculling box upon box of goon, particularly if the taste of the
alcohol is disguised by orange juice/coke. I'm told that it's not possible
to "have fun" without being totally off one's face but my [albeit limited]
experience in clubs and the like have proved to me that this assertion is
definitely not true. It is just a matter of trying it out.

On my Permaculture Design Certificate course, I also had a great time. That
was instead of going to Schoolies and I have never regretted the experience.
What that two weeks did was really infuse into me my already bubbling desire
to live on the land.

It truly was a unique experience and is certainly one that made me crave the
country more than ever. There is nothing better than going to sleep away
from the city lights and noise apart of course, from frogs and cicadas which
is very peaceful noise and under the bright stars. Then, to rise early and
throw yourself into the dam for a lazy morning swim; porridge with fresh
milk/cream from the cows also kicks off a day of great food with zero food
miles.

Bliss!!








Matilda

Monday, November 5, 2012

Spinning into the Future


For some reason, I have always wanted to live in Denmark. Even before I discovered Green Kitchen Stories, I was semi-obsessed with Scandinavian countries and considered applying for exchange to either Denmark or Sweden during my undergraduate degree. It turns out that unless I magic some credit points out of somewhere, my degree doesn’t really lend itself to exchange. When I first realised this I was disappointed but, as a result, I’m even more excited than ever for when the opportunity for travel presents itself.

I think one of the things that attracted me to Denmark in particular was not the Lego (for 5 years all I wanted for Christmases and birthdays was the newest Harry Potter Lego set) but the quaintness of riding bikes everywhere. However, by no means am I a cyclist… I have a theory that I am genetically predisposed to be slow and awkward on a bike, a theory which I began to develop at the age of 10 when I went on my first training-wheel-free ride and promptly crashed into a car that was parked 2m from the entrance of our driveway. Nearly a year before this, I had attended a road safety information session at a bike place of sorts as part of a school excursion. Of the 90 grade 4s, I was one of two who still had training wheels. I think it was this outing that inspired me to ask my parents for a bike and request lessons from Dad. They bought me a metallic purple Malvern star and a dorky red and black helmet, both of which I still use to this day; I love the bike but really wouldn’t mind a new helmet.

Whenever I hop on my bike to do a bit of shopping or to visit my grandma who lives a couple of kilometres down the road, I can’t help but think “WHY”. Each turn of the pedals hurts my legs and I still hobble for a good 5 minutes after getting off, no matter how short the ride. So why on Earth do I like the idea of riding bikes everywhere as they do in Copenhagen, Denmark? I have absolutely no idea! :-D

Social class, weather, dress code and destination are irrelevant for Copenhageners – apparently 50% of them commute on two-wheelers every day. There are even more bikes in the city than residents. Australian cyclists would surely turn green if they heard that. In the capital city alone, there are 400km of bike lanes with assigned traffic lights, including the world’s busiest which hosts up to 40k cyclists a day. This is all part of the city’s goals of becoming the first carbon neutral capital city in the world by 2025.

Some useless trivia about Copenhageners and their bikes:

  • 63 % of all members of the Danish parliament commute daily by bike
  • 50 % of all Copenhageners commute to work or study by bike.
  • 35 % of all who work in Copenhagen, including people who live in the suburbs and neighbouring towns but work in Copenhagen, commute to work by bike.
  • 25 % of all families with two children in Copenhagen have a cargo bike they use to transport young children to kindergarten, for grocery shopping, etc
  • In total Copenhageners bike 1.2 million kilometres a year, i.e. two trips to the moon and back (this is in contrast to the 660,000km travelled by Copenhageners by Metro)
  • The busiest biking lane in the world is Dronning Louises Bro in Copenhagen
  • Copenhagen was elected Bike City 2008 – 2011 by ICU.

Before I read the article from which I obtained these figures, I don’t think I had heard of a cargo bike before. You might even accuse me of living under a rock, for it seems as though they are becoming quite a big deal internationally.  I can’t say I’ve seen any being ridden around my neighbourhood but maybe that will change in the future. They certainly look like a lot of fun, not to mention convenient!




Without beating around the bush, let me just come out and say that I’m terrified. Terrified of the future and what the world is going to be like in 10 years time. I have been terrified since I was 10 years old, when I started to research the topic ‘weather’ for a school science project. Probably, only three or four years ago, I became 100% convinced that I need to find some land somewhere and bunker down before climate change seriously impacts the world we currently live in. The Mayans may have been wrong about the end of the world coming in 2012, but I’m sure they’re not far off it; I’m sure they are more accurate than the episodes of Doctor Who depicting the human race in the year one hundred trillion AD. It may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things but I really believe that the Danes and their goal for carbon neutrality through bicycle transport is a step in the right direction. The future is full of unexpected things. Maybe the survival of the human race will be one of those?

- Matilda


Sources: 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fairies' Chocolate Zucchini Cake


I discovered Tumblr a few of months ago, two nights before an Immunology mid-semester exam. It probably wasn’t the best timing but I needed something to distract me from the world of T cells, B cells and cytokines - and everything else that goes in the immune system. I can confidently say I’ve nearly forgotten everything since my final exam for the subject in mid-June!

I’ve found the best part about Tumblr to be the inexhaustible number of nerdy blogs and the equally inexhaustible amount of science-related news.

Being a nerd is something of which I’ve always been proud and when I sit down in front of the computer with a coffee in the morning, I can be guaranteed to be entertained with medical stories, the latest discoveries in genetics, photos of symptoms of rare diseases, human tissue samples, etc, etc. Of course, I also follow a few Doctor Who and Lord of the Rings blogs too - they’re my guilty pleasures ;-)

One of the first things I came across on this totally addictive social media site was a photo of a fairy ring. Somehow, this photo manages to remind me of my childhood; most of it seemed to be spent under the bed covers with a torch, reading Enid Blyton books until the wee hours of the morning...

Source: Geneticist
“A fairy ring is a naturally occurring ring of mushrooms. They are also known as pixie’s rings, faerie circles, or elf circles. The English believed that fairy rings were where fairies came to dance and celebrate; the mushrooms of the rings were used as stools for the fairies to recuperate during the evening’s festivities.”

It makes me sad to realise that the level of Enid Blyton’s books (e.g. The Famous Five and Secret Seven series) is now a little low for someone of my age.

The storylines are entertaining enough but it’s impossible to be as immersed in those worlds as I was when I was younger. It also makes me sad to realise that there isn’t as much time - at least we feel as if there isn’t - to devote to reading the printed word. I miss snuggling down at the end of each day, book in hand, under the covers. It’s just not the same as a big thick physiology textbook :-( Although, those can be quite soporific so are quite useful if I’m struggling to get to sleep..

However, Enid Blyton’s world of fairies is never very far away.  One of my family’s regular haunts is a wee coffee shop down the road that doubles as an art space. There is no cooking done there (though they make marvellous coffee!), but they sell a variety of baked goods, all of which - pastries, cakes and macaroons alike - are divine. Any attempt to wheedle the recipe out of Steph (owner and artist in residence) is always met with “the fairies made it.” Some of you may think it’s a silly response coming from a grown woman, but when you consider she has a young daughter and she is a
crazy artist, it seems a little bit more acceptable.  

I received the fairy response when I asked her if there was a recipe for the chocolate zucchini cake that I had with my coffee last week. It was a beautiful cake - not overly sweet, not too dry yet not too moist and light - yet rich where chocolate chips had lodged themselves. Unfazed by her reaction, I kept munching away until I had demolished the very last crumb.

Then it was time to go home and try to recreate it for myself!!

The recipe for the chocolate zucchini cake below is based on the original recipe I made nearly a year ago, with the first ever zucchini harvest from the garden. After completing that summer and coming nearly a full circle (it’s spring but it may as well be summer as it’s so darn hot!), it’s zucchini time again and it seemed fitting that I should welcome it with a new kind of cake to eat on spring afternoons with a cup of tea or coffee.

It’s a little bit more moist than the one I had at the coffee shop but I’m very happy with it nonetheless (as are my parents who also like to indulge).

Chocolate Zucchini Cake (adapted from So Good & Tasty) 
Makes one 8” cake or two 5x9 loaves

Ingredients:

3 eggs
½ cup coconut oil
1 cup honey
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 cups grated zucchini
3 cups whole wheat or all purpose flour
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
¾ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
2/3 cup dark chocolate chips  (or ~120g block of chocolate, roughly chopped)
1 cup walnuts, chopped (I didn’t have any on hand so didn’t  put them in but it’s sure to be delicious!)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 180˚C. Line the cake tin or two loaf pans (mine were 3 x 7 and 3 x 6 due to my oven situation) with baking paper and set aside.

2. In a large bowl mix eggs, oil, honey and vanilla. Stir in grated zucchini.

3. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet.
Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts (if using).

4. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin (or equal parts of the batter into each loaf pan). Bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let cool on wire rack, dust with extra cocoa/icing sugar if desired, slice and serve.


Also, you may have noticed that quality of the photographs is considerably better than any of my previous posts… I had a visit from a couple of fairies myself you see. They (Mum and Dad - yeah, let’s not go there) happened to present to me a brand spanking new Canon EOS as a combined Christmas and birthday (probably for the next five years) + graduation present. Oh my parents are silly, but I love them for it nonetheless.  It is going to be an amazing piece of equipment to take with me when I go to Japan at the end of November!! I just have to learn how to use it first… I couldn’t even get it to snap half the time when I was trying to take photos of this cake :-|  It didn’t help that it was a dreary overcast day and the light was terrible - ok, so maybe now I’m just making excuses!

- Matilda

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Juicing Honey


All the way back in April, I wrote about using a potato masher to crush honeycomb in order to extract honey out of it and I also posted a link to Milkwood Permaculture’s method of doing the same thing, but with a fruit press. Inspired by this method of Milkwood’s, as well as the introduction of Warré hives across the board at the community garden, the crew at Gold Coast Permaculture ordered their very own contraption.

Honey flowing out of the fruit press


The fruit press is indeed an effective method for extracting honey: it squeezes nearly every last drop of the stuff out of the wax. The only problem (if you can call it that) we have found with it is that it takes a painstakingly long time to complete. Although, you’re able to leave it on the bench/floor and let it do its thing so it’s not as if you have to be there for the whole time.  You do have to go back and screw it down some more though. As I’ve said before, the advantage of crushing the honeycomb rather than spinning it is that it allows the nutrients from the hive (pollen, etc) to become part of the honey you eat. It also gives the bees an opportunity to reconstruct the wax every extraction, thereby reducing the chance of disease occurring in the hive from the recycling of old wax and also takes pressure off the bees in terms of honey production. It's a busy time of year for the bees and there have already been a couple of swarms that have had to be collected this Spring. 
  
All in all, the fruit press is  a nice new toy that we’ve had fun playing with and will be used many times in the years to come (all those bees swarming in the photos above have to go somewhere - and that somewhere is new beehives!). We probably won’t be using it to make fruit juice though… honey is messy enough, let alone fruit pulp! We've also introduced selling a "new" product - honeycomb! As well as being great fun to munch on for a sugar boost, it will hopefully also decrease the amount of work we need to put into the fruit press! :-P 
 
On a side note – Gold Coast Permaculture holds workshops at the community garden on most Saturdays and last weekend (13 October) there was a soap-making workshop followed by a cheese-making one. They guy who runs cheese-making is seriously fantastic and I was a little bit disappointed I wasn’t able to drag myself out of bed (had a late night at a symphony orchestra concert – I apologise for not being you’re stereotypical Gen Y) . We did however reap the benefits of it with 4L of fresh, raw milk. Mmmm. The best part is using the cream that floats to the top for a rich hot chocolate! I often get an upset stomach from the rubbish in the supermarket but I could seriously drink this raw stuff forever. 

- Matilda

P.S. After straining the honey into large buckets, there was still some honey stuck in the wax and to the sides of the honey sieve. So, we brought it home for the balcony bees! It was absolutely amazing to watch them feed... 





Sunday, October 14, 2012

Indian Chicken Curry



Spring hit us fast and hard this year, with Brisbane city recording temperatures in the very high twenties from early September, with the weather creeping up into the thirties as we progress through October. The last couple of days however have seen a sudden dip and I’ve had to drag a couple of extra blankets out from the cupboard where I had packed them away, hoping it would be nearly another 12 months until we saw each other again.

As always, the food on the dinner table changed quickly to try and suit the climate and we went from craving salads with fresh sourdough bread to hearty curries with comforting Japanese-style rice to go with it.

 Mum learnt this curry at a cooking class run by an Indian couple, who had lived in Japan for a good number of years, nearly ten years ago. They were both fluent in Japanese and had chosen recipes they thought would suit the tastebuds of arguably the fussiest eaters in Asia. Even so, apparently Mum was the only one who loved the spices and enthusiastically ate their creations … the other mothers were the wives of rich retirees and apparently decided they possessed finer taste buds.  For example, this recipe was made in the class using cabbage; the rest of the class was horrified at the mere thought of serving such a cheap dish to their respective husbands and families! Luckily for me, my own mum is the ultimate stinge (she’s one of those people for whom “feed your family for under $10” recipes are written for) and she embraced it. So here we are, still eating this delicious curry a decade down the track.

As well as being cooks who were the source of centuries’ worth of traditional family recipes, both the husband and wife were yoga teachers and naturopaths. Unfortunately the only piece of information that Mum can remember with regards to naturopathy is that it’s bad for your body to fry onions until they go brown… so I had this hammered into me the first time I made this curry, nearly a year ago now.  I’ve lost count of how many times Mum has made this curry for us but the first time she did so at the cooking class, it (the curry) was whisked off to the local hospital where the son-in-law of the Indian couple was waiting for the arrival of his first child. I find it amazing that we become briefly entangled in the lives of people we don’t even know and then, as quickly as we become a part, we are a part no longer. Mum may have helped in making this new dad-to-be dinner and attended his parents-in-laws’ cooking class but that was as far as it went. I suppose that there seven billion of us here on this earth after all and it is of course impossible for us to know everyone. But the sheer number of people, and in particular all of whose stories we will never know, simply overwhelms me.

The discovery that komatsuna (or Japanese mustard spinach, a turnip relative ) is perfect in this curry was made by one of the other mothers (obviously one who saw the light) who went to this particular class. Komatsuna is currently bouncing out of the ground at the community garden.

Indian Chicken Curry (from my mother’s cookbook)

Ingredients:

Chicken thigh cutlets with bones and/or chicken drumsticks (skin removed)
45ml oil
5ml sugar
1 brown onion
1 heaped Tbsp of each of cumin, coriander and turmeric, all dissolved in 600-800ml water
3 big bunches Komatsuna (or half a cabbage), cut into bite-sized pieces
~2 cups beans (the more the merrier!), cut in half
15ml chilli powder
1 or 2 tsp salt (start with 1 and add to taste if necessary)
15ml tomato puree or 1-2 tinned tomatoes (nicer with lots of tomatoes – can reduce water if adding more tomatoes)
Coriander leaves, extra (add at the end if desired)

Directions:
 
1. Fry onion in oil without browning; add chicken and fry until surface is white.

2. Add spice mixture (dissolved in water), then add vegetables, chilli powder, salt and tomatoes.

3. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and veggies are tender.

We eat this with medium-grain rice cooked to perfection in a rice cooker but that choice of carbohydrate might be frowned upon in this recently-and-increasingly health conscious society. I’m sure it would be equally delicious with a side of quinoa or black rice.

- Matilda

Monday, October 8, 2012

Dream Birthday Date

Only now do I realise how odd that middle candle looks... to justify my choice of candle arrangement: candles above the "Happy Birthday" sign are in the 'tens' column, the random lone candle is in the 'ones' column! 
I write this smiling at the memory of the grins on my friends’ faces as I presented them with a  plastic takeaway container holding six slices of cake at uni this morning. It is one of the things I love most about my group of close friends: they appreciate the little things in life. Sure, we get caught up in the hype surrounding the release of a new piece of technology, we wish we had this, we wish we had that… but in the end, it’s the newest episode of Downton Abbey or a gift of free food that makes life worth living for us as second year university students.

This cake was made to belatedly celebrate Mum’s birthday upon her return from a school trip to Japan and the recipe comes from… My New Roots. So I only really adapt recipes from a grand total of three blogs. Yes, I am adventurous. Yes, you are probably better off simply reading the original sources because let’s face it – their photos are awesome!! By the time I made this cake, I had the normal compact camera back so no longer had to rely on my phone camera but Dad took the photos... so that’s probably just as bad ;-) The original cake is tinged with the flavour of oranges and uses apple sauce but the lack of such ingredients in our house resulted in the outcome being more of a banana date cake. However I loooove banana cake (who doesn’t) so didn’t mind in the slightest.

Mum insisted she looks old and ugly in this photo so I'm not allowed to show anyone.... but Pond looks cute so I had to stick it in!







Sarah B from My New Roots starts her post on this cake with the following:
“What dream indeed…wheat free, dairy free, sugar free! Does it actually taste good?! Well, you know it wouldn’t be here if it didn’t. You can have your cake and eat it too.
Mmmm. She had me hooked from the title and the first photo – no need to promote the relative healthiness of this cake when compared to others out there! I needed no further encouragement.

Dream Date Banana Cake (adapted from My New Roots)

Ingredients:

2 ¼ cups soft, fresh dates (soaked overnight if necessary)
1 ½ cups raw almonds, (plus more for garnish)
5 Tbsp coconut oil
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
Generous pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
1 packed cup mashed banana
2 organic, free-range eggs

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 160C.
2. Prepare an 8” round or spring form cake pan. 
3. Put all ingredients apart from the mashed banana and eggs in a food processor and blend until rather uniform, leaving some almond chunks in the mixture.
4. Slowly add the mashed banana (~quarter cup at a time) while the blender is running. Add the two eggs in the same manner as the banana, one at a time. Add applesauce slowly, ¼ cup at a time while blender is running.
5. Pour batter into the prepared pan and spread until even.
6. Bake for 40-45 minutes until a knife inserted comes out clean. 
7. Let cake cool completely before removing it from the pan, chop up some extra almonds and scatter them on top (which I didn’t do because I’m lazy). Serve. And eat.

My family cut 13 slices out of this cake, which is part of the reason I was willing to give some away – usually Dad and I simply eat the maximum total of six gigantor slices ourselves. Our usual strategy of eat-a-cake-in-one-sitting failed on this occasion due to this one’s rich nature. It is super dense and super moist and, as the original recipe warns, nearly like a pudding. It was a weird concept to not have a huge chunk of sweet stuff on my plate but a small slice really does go a long way… not only is it filling, it is satisfying and heart-warming, particularly if eaten accompanied by a cup of Earl Grey tea. 


- Matilda


P.S. I wrote the directions for the making of the cake in the order in which they were intended. However… I must admit, I did the unthinkable… I broke one of the two MOST important rules* of baking: follow the order of instructions (the other being put the exact amount of ingredients in as the recipe instructs). I felt absolutely terrible for doing so but my poor food processor simply couldn’t handle the load! So instead I took three quarters of the mixture produced in step 3 out of the food processor and then proceeded to step 4. After adding the banana and the eggs, I slowly added the date and almond paste back in. The baking gods must have been feeling kind that day though, for they allowed my cake to turn out fine nonetheless.



* Whovians out there will know that these are not in fact the most important rules… Rule number one: the Doctor lies. Hope all of you lovelies have gotten over the Ponds’ heartbreaking send-off xx 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Raw Choc-Berry Shakes

I have been obsessed with the raw chocolate milkshake from My New Roots for a long time now.

The milkshake was the first recipe I tried from Sarah B’s (who just celebrated her 30th birthday - check out the cake she made; it’s absolutely stunning!!) gem of a blog and it may not be surprising to hear that I heard of it through Green Kitchen Stories… apparently David showed it to Luise one day and she has been in love ever since. The first of the two recipes I’m sharing today is Green Kitchen Stories’ take on this shake. The second is Earth Sprout Elenore’s raw chocolate-strawberry milkshake deluxe… Mmmm.

Milkshake: romanticised by good ol' instagram 
 Both of these recipes use strawberries as a feature ingredient, giving your basic chocolate shake a little bit of a kick. Moving into summer, it’s so nice to be able to harvest fresh fruit such as strawberries and it just makes recipes like these even more special. I threw a couple of freshly picked mulberries in as well, just for giggles. Even though mine were consumed by the beach, my dream location for this would be in a hammock, looking out of a dam, farmhouse behind me and surrounded by an over-productive fruit and veggie garden on a block of land somewhere that is not here. Maybe one day it will happen and, when it does, I think it may just be pure bliss.


Raw Chocolate Shake (Adapted from Green Kitchen Stories)
Serves 2

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp raw cacao powder
1 Tbsp raw cacao nibs
1 avocado
1 very large frozen banana
5 fresh strawberries
2 Tbsp raw honey
Pinch of sea salt
1 cup water
5 ice cubes


Directions: Blend all the ingredients until smooth, adding water if you are wanting a thinner shake. Pour into serving glasses and, if your desire to consume this can be suppressed for a minute or more longer, chop up some strawberries and use them to garnish the milkshake.


Raw Chocolate Milkshake Deluxe (Adapted from Earth Sprout)
Serves 2 (the glasses pictured are about a third to half of a serving each) 

Ingredients:

3/4 cup banana, frozen and sliced
2 cups milk of choice (it can still be raw and full of dairy if you use raw, unpasteurised milk… more later!)
Handful of strawberries and/or mulberries
3 Tbsp raisins
4 Tbsp raw cacao
Dash of pure vanilla essence

Directions:  Blend everything together, adding more cacao or sweetener (such as raw honey) if desired. I generally like thicker shakes so I start with 1 cup of milk and work my way up to reach whatever consistency of shake I feel like drinking at the time :-)



Elenore also suggests that, before pouring the shake into the glass, pressing a slice of lime around the edge of each glass and putting the glass face down on a plate dusted with raw cacao to create a lime-cacao rim. It looks – and sounds like it would taste – beautiful but I didn’t want to do the extra washing up…. 

Unfortunately I won’t be home for the most of the summer as I’ll be in Japan visiting my grandparents again, before they fade from me . I feel like these two milkshakes act as my TARDIS (Time And Relevant Dimensions In Space,  for those of you who are not Doctor Who fans), transporting me into the future so I can enjoy some of the sun and heat before I head into the northern hemisphere winter.  I will miss the sweltering days spent in flip-flops (I would say thongs but would probably offend non-Australians by doing so) but I suppose I will have many more years of that to come … Let’s drink to summer!! Cheers!

- Matilda 



P.S. Speaking of the TARDIS (and therefore Doctor Who), I was absolutely heartbroken by the mid-season finale. I have adored Amy and Rory from the beginning and it was devastating to see them go...  It was a bit like last season's finale where I laughed, cried and nearly wet my pants in fear, all in the space of 45 minutes. However I think I caused my parents to be legitimately concerned about my mental health by bawling like a baby at my computer screen; it was just too sad. You have got to hand it to Steven Moffat though - he writes mind-blowing scripts. Now to wait for the Christmas special... 



Illustration from tumblr

Photo from tumblr



"Raggedy Man, Goodbye." (photo from tumblr)