Monday, January 2, 2012

Carrot & Zucchini... cake?

Yesterday one of our friends surprised us with a call to say that he was back in town and, as any person who hasn't seen a dear friend for an extended period of time would do, my dad invited him over to shoot the breeze over a couple of beers. Similar to other South Americans I have encountered, Pasquali is one of a kind, not to mention a total character; I don't remember the last time I laughed so hard and so earnestly at someone's stories. His experiences of chef-ing all around the world have left the limbic system of his brain cradling an array of colourful, exciting and sometimes downright unbelievable adventure tales. After a night of far too much beer (the boys) and kombucha tea (me), too many gyoza, bowls of rice, slices of rich chocolate cheesecake and warabi mochi (done my way with dollops of honey on the side - my Japanese ancestors would be horrified), I decided to harness my inner chef - yes, despite the incriminating evidence I still like to believe that it is hiding deep inside me somewhere - to make a light and healthy recipe I have been wanting to try for a long time: carrot cake. Yes, a HEALTHY carrot cake. Healthier, anyway. I mean, it is sugar-free!

It turns out that there WERE carrots in the fridge. However, there was also a truckload of zucchinis that were crying out to be used. So I decided to combine the two and see how it went! Unfortunately I didn't have any fresh dates so I soaked dry ones for a couple of hours, before draining and wringing them out to use. It turns out I didn't wring them out enough which, combined with the watery yellow zucchs I had, yielded a rather soggy carrot and zucchini... thing. I'm yet to try it cooled as I ate it hot straight out of the oven with my morning coffee so hopefully it firms up a bit once it has cooled off and been let stand at room temperature for a bit longer.

*** Edit: I tried it again cool and it was actually quite good! The middle had firmed up and the sweetness of the dates and bananas seemed to have used the extra time to penetrate the cake and make it a little bit sweeter than it was, which is no bad thing.***

*** Edit - take two: Ok, maybe it tastes a little better than 'quite good'... Mmm yum. I think I will most definitely be making this again. Although I'm keen to try it with just carrots as well. The flavours are subtle and absolutely lovely.***

Regardless, I think I'll stick to what the recipe says next time. Although it's all Pasquali's fault - he told me that swapping the carrots for zucchinis would work fine. And he's a chef so I should be able to trust him, right?


Wrong. 

Never trust anyone who is a) a man, b) a chef and, c) a friend of my father's. 

I adapted the recipe from Green Kitchen Stories, an absolutely gorgeous family who blog from their home in Stockholm. They have been my inspiration and beacon of hope in times when life was quite tough. One thing I love about this blog in particular is that it is relatively clutter-free; Blogs that have photograph after photograph of the same sort of thing tend to annoy me and hence I end up closing the window without making it down to the recipe. It doesn't matter whether or not the photos are pretty... it's still visual pollution as far as I'm concerned (I already know that this statement will come back to haunt me - maybe 'visual pollution' is a little bit too harsh). Green Kitchen Stories is the first blog I have ever been remotely interested in reading and I have so much for which to thank David, Luise and darling little Elsa.

Carrot & Zucchini Cake (adapted from 'A "healthier" carrot cake' from GKS) 
Serves 6-8

I made this in one 3 x 7 and one 3 x 6 loaf pan because they are the only pans that will fit in my little 9L toaster oven... and it's easier to cut when it's in a loaf shape rather than a round cake. 

Ingredients:
3 eggs
1-2 bananas
20 dry dates, soaked for a couple of hours and drained thoroughly
6 tbsp olive oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1-2 zucchinis (medium size, grated)
1-2 carrots (medium size, grated)
½ cup coconut flakes
½ cup walnuts (roughly chopped)
1/2 cup raisins or sultanas 

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Whisk the eggs in a medium sized bowl. Using a hand blender, mix bananas, dates and oil into a thick cream in a mixing bowl. Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg and fold it into the eggs and the banana-cream. Add grated zucchinis, carrots, coconut flakes, walnuts and raisins and stir until just mixed.

2. Pour the batter into a cake pan or loaf tin and bake for 45-50 minutes. It is ready when a toothpick stuck into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let rest on wire rack to cool.

Enjoy it with a cup of tea or coffee, knowing that it's full of natural sugars and probably contains at least one of your recommended serves of veg for the day! 

Matilda 

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