chocolate and coconut cupcakes

chocolate coconut cupackesIt’s always a treat to catch up with friends, especially if you’re friends who haven’t seen everyone together in a while. To be honest, not having a drivable car since February has been a massive drag on our social life (my new car – irresistibly sitting in the drive way, I might add – is a manual, and silly me doesn’t have a manual license). But progress shall be made! I go for my test on Wednesday – wish me luck.

But I’m getting off-track. Not being able to drive has made catching up with people a bit tricky, so I jumped at the chance to have a group of old uni friends over on Saturday for afternoon tea. Naturally, I treated this as an occasion to bake all the things. Ever. There was this caramel-swirl apple cake. Peanut butter cookies topped with leftover caramel sauce. And these chocolate and coconut cupcakes I’m sharing with you today.

Everything was gobbled down (the apple cake was a big hit), but I couldn’t go past these cupcakes (originally based off this recipe). The icing is pretty decadent and luxurious, but honestly, it’s the cake here that I’m totally in love with. This is my idea of chocolate cake (I think it’s most people’s too). Soft, moist crumb. Chocolately. Velvety almost? I don’t even know how to describe it to you. It’s probably my favourite chocolate cake, ever. A BIG call. But I think these little guys deserve it.

cupcakes and proteas cupcakes

proteaAlso, aren’t these proteas just insane? They are so vibrant. Australian natives are the longest-lasting flowers too – I expect to get at least 3 weeks out of these babies!

This recipe truly is delicious, and I hope you like it too! Next time, I’m going to try baking it in a square cake tin, and serving it with vanilla-spiked cashew cream. Don’t get me wrong, the coconut-chocolate icing is divine, but a bit on the rich side. If you’re aiming for a lighter dessert, cashew cream is a great alternative. Or, you could definitely just eat the cakes by themselves.

proteas and cupcakes

Chocolate and Coconut Cupcakes

makes 12

Recipes notes:

  • Use a good quality coconut milk here. I use Ayam brand. Just make sure that whatever you use, it’s free of emulsifiers and stabilisers.
  • To make one flax egg, combine 1 tbsp flaxseed (linseed) meal with 2 tbsp boiling water. Whisk with a fork and set aside for 10-15 minutes before using.

For the cupcakes:

  • 100 g (1 cup) almond meal
  • 100 g rice flour
  • 60 g cocoa powder
  • 150 g raw sugar
  • 2 flax eggs
  • 400 mL coconut milk
  • 1 tsp bicarb soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • a few drops of almond essence

Preheat oven to 180 C (no fan). Line a muffin tray with 12 cupcakes papers. In a large bowl, combine almond meal, flour, cocoa, sugar, bicarb and baking powder. Whisk with a fork to thoroughly combine. In a separate bowl, combine flax eggs, coconut milk and almond essence. Add wet to dry, whisking to combine. Spoon mixture into cupcakes papers (they should be about 4/5 full). Bake for 20 mins (a cakes tester should come out clean). Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then remove from tin and allow to cool completely before icing.

For the icing:

  • 270 g coconut milk, refrigerated for at least 8 hours (or overnight)
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tbsp maple syrup or golden syrup

Scoop out coconut fat from the top of the can, and place in a large bowl. Reserve the coconut water (the clearer liquid in the bottom of the can). Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl with the coconut fat, with 1/2 tbsp of the coconut water. Beat with a standing mixer or by hand until the icing is fluffy and smooth.

Ice each cupcake with a heaped tablespoon of the icing, top with toasted shredded coconut if desired. They are best served at room temperature, however can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days.

banoffee pie

banoffee pie 2Well, three posts this week! I promise I’m not on crack – I’m probably just avoiding reworking a massive paper that’s due soon. So maybe there’s been a little bit of procrasti-baking going on. But, I digress from my purpose in this post:

Happy Birthday, Ma!

Today is my very special Mother’s birthday. Look! Here we are at my graduation a couple of years ago.

ma and meIsn’t she snazzy? (Please ignore my bad hair day – graduation hats are impossible). My Ma is probably the strongest, most determined woman I know – she’s had a rough ride (scoliosis, breast cancer) but instead of being broken down, Ma has used these things to build her up. We don’t always get along 100% (I like to think I’ve inherited her passion), but she’s my biggest fan and a massive support. And it’s her birthday!

So I made her banoffee pie.

making the pastrybanana array

cashew cream and caramel sauce blind baking

cashews and coconutslice of banoffee pie

banoffee pie

This is a seriously good banoffee pie. I hope you like it. It’s a recipe that’s a little more involved than I normally post, but I hope you give it a try all the same, most of the preparation can be done in advance (you could even make the cashew cream and caramel sauce a few days before). I used this wonderful caramel sauce recipe. It’s luscious and gooey and tasty. Who doesn’t love coconut, banana and caramel thrown together?

This is an individual banoffe pie, a little-ish treat just for one. But because my mum is great, when she and Dad came over for tea this morning, we split it in three. Happy Birthday Ma! X

Banoffee Pie for One

serves 1

Recipe notes:

  • I used a 10 cm circle spring form tin here, but if you have a deep-dish tartlet pan (again about 10 cm diameter), you could use that just as easily.
  • You will make much more cashew cream and caramel sauce than you need for one pie. My advice: make another pie (for yourself, because you’re amazing?) or, the caramel sauce and cashew cream will keep in the fridge for about 1 week. Mix with granola for a sweet breakfast (or snack), serve over fresh fruit, or just eat with a spoon.
  • Don’t fret about getting every scrap of cashew cream out of the blender. Get as much out as you can, then add 750 mL fresh water, and blend on high. BAM! Vanilla-flavoured cashew milk (and your blender is easier to clean). Cashew milk will store in the fridge for 1 week.
  • If you don’t have baking beads, use dry rice.
  • You need a well-separating coconut milk here. For those in Australia – don’t use Trident brand (it has stabilisers added which prevent separation). In this case, the cheaper brands are usually better. Check for stabilisers on the label.

For the pie shell:

  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • a pinch of raw sugar
  • 2 tbsp vegan butter
  • 2-3 tbsp ice cold water

Place the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Add the butter, and using a fork, cut the butter into the flour, until the mixture is ragged and looks (sort of) like clumps of rice. Add 2 tbsp ice cold water and mix with your hands to bring it together. Add a touch more water if required. Knead for a minute, wrap and cling film and place in the freezer.

Preheat the oven to 180 C (no fan, please). When the oven is ready (usually about 15 minutes for me), remove the pastry from the freezer, and roll out to about 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) thick. Place in your tin of choice. Thoroughly prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork. Cover the pastry dough snugly with aluminium foil and fill with baking beads (or rice). Bake for 15 minutes, then remove foil and beads, returning to the oven to bake for another 15-20 minutes. (You’re aiming for cooked but not coloured.) Remove from oven and allow to cool.

For the caramel sauce:

  • 1 tin full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar

Open the tin of coconut milk and scoop out the cream from the top and set aside. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, place 1/4 cup coconut water (the clearer liquid in the bottom of the tin) and sugar. Bring to a boil and boil for 5-6 minutes. Whisk in 1 cup of the coconut cream (if you have more or less, don’t stress – just boil until you’ve reached the right consistency). Boil for a further 5-8 minutes, until it is very thick and rich. Allow to cool off the heat for a few minutes, then pour into a glass jar and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before using (it thickens more as it cools).

For the cashew cream:

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight in water
  • seeds scraped from 1/4 vanilla pod
  • 2 tsp maple syrup or honey

Scoop the cashews into the blender and retain the soaking liquid. Add the other ingredients to the blender with 1 tbsp of the soaking liquid. Blend slowly, then stop and scrape down the sides, blend again on a higher speed. Repeat until the cashew cream is silky and smooth. Remove from blender and refrigerate until needed. Don’t forget to make the cashew milk as I suggest in the recipe notes!

To assemble:

  • pie shell
  • caramel sauce
  • cashew cream
  • 1/2 tbsp shredded coconut, toasted
  • 1/2 banana, sliced

Fill the pie shell with 2-3 tbsp caramel sauce (it should come about half way up). Arrange banana slices on top of caramel sauce. Spoon over cashew cream (about 2-3 tbsp). Sprinkle with toasted coconut. Serve. Enjoy!

food crush: dates

Welcome! Today I’m introducing a new series to the blog: food crush. Once or twice a week, I have these moments where whatever I’m eating at the time suddenly becomes the most amazing and delicious foodstuff in the whole fucking universe. I’m sitting at my desk, and suddenly I’m like, “Holy Shitballs, <insert food here> is the most amazing thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. Ever.”

And then I proceed to swoon over said food for a good five minutes, fantasising about the ways in which I’m going to cook and eat it next. Adam has borne the brunt of many a food crush, as they appear seemingly at random – striking with such a force that it requires immediate, effusive, and loud vocalisation. BAM! Suddenly I need to talk about the majesty of a date, or broccoli, or sweet potato or mint.

So, now, instead of pouring my food crush obsessions into Adam’s ears (actually, I probably still will – sorry A!) I’m going to share my food crushes with you. I’ll aim to provide a recipe for a favourite way to eat my food crush, with links to several of my other favourite recipes.

dates

Now for today’s food crush: dates. Holy crap, guys, have you ever eaten one of these things?! (And not the weird dried out ones, I’m talking Medjool.) Of course you have, and if you haven’t, please, please do! Eat them, and be swept up into a swoon of caramelly, chewy, soft (can something be chewy and soft at the same time? I think dates can!), sweet, rich, and moist. Procure one as soon as possible, put it in your mouth, and that way we can crush on dates together.

date

My love for these little suckers knows no bounds. Not only because of they amazing flavour by themselves, but you can do so much with them. Raw desserts? Baked desserts? Sweetener? Snacks? Dates can do EVERYTHING. Plus, PLUS: all that fiber’s gotta be good for you.

ready for the freezer

The most frequent ways I eat dates are: by themselves as a snack (perfect for afternoon sugar cravings!), or in raw desserts (or snacks, no judgment here!). The recipe I’ve included here is for raw cacao chip brownie balls (a hybrid of recipes from My New Roots and oh, ladycakes). Make them, shove them into your mouth and relish their chewy, truffle-y goodness – brought to you by the magical properties of dates, of course. I should note the truffle-i-ness is offset by crunchy cacao chips, which is just about as good as it gets in my books. Perfect for emergency sweetness and chocolate cravings – pull one out of the freezer and BAM! date-y goodness for you to enjoy.

A few of my other favourite date-licious recipes:

A few more ideas for using dates:

  • Bake them into banana bread, or banana muffins.
  • Like in this recipe, use them to replace sugar.
  • Add them to savoury Morrocan tagines (spicy, tomato-y sweet potatoes with dates?! DIVINE).
  • Remove the seeds and stuff them with almond paste.
  • Pop them into smoothies for natural sweetness and toothy texture.

stirring in cacao chips cacao chip brownie balls

Raw Cacao Chip Brownie Balls

makes about 30

Recipe notes:

  • You could press the dough into a brownie tin, freeze, then cut it into slices. But, I really prefer the tablespoon and roll method. The tin method is good, but I can never cut the brownies into the right size.
  • Use any combination/amount of nuts you like (as long as you’ve got 2 cups total): almonds, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, etc.
  • If you like, reserve 1/4 cup of any nut, chop them and stir them back into the dough at the end with the cacao nibs.
  • If you’ve got half a vanilla pod lying around, scrape the seeds in, for extra flavour.
  • For an extra cacao hit, you could roll the balls in more cacao before you put them in the freezer.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw almonds or raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raw hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao powder
  • 8 medjool dates
  • 2 tbsp water
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs

In a food processor, blend the almonds/cashews (I used cashews in this version), walnuts, hazelnuts and cacao powder into a fine meal. Add the dates, water and salt, blend for a further minute or so, until the dough forms and sticks together when pressed. Stir through the cacao nibs. Using a tablespoon measure, scoop level tablespoons of dough onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper, rolling them into balls. Place them in the freezer for 30 minutes, and they’re ready. Stored in an airtight container in the freezer, they should keep for ~ 6 months.

photos: sydney

Last weekend, we were lucky enough to take advantage (again) of my Dad’s apartment in Sydney, while he was away in New Zealand with my Mum. I’m fairly notorious for taking lots of photos at the start of a trip and then forgetting that my camera exists shortly after. So – here are a few of the photos I took in Sydney. (I managed to take quite a few more photos on instagram – if you’d like a few more snaps.)

It’s such a great city – I highly recommend a visit – I’ve outlined a few of our favourite places below.

These photos were taken mostly around The Rocks and Circular Quay (with a few of Adam thrown in). I promise we went to other places as well (see below) but I always forget to grab out my camera.

sydney harbour bridgeadam 1 alley in the rocksautumn colour in the rocks shadows in the rocks mcathe bridge from jessie st gardens more colour adam 2

A few Sydney favourites:

Bourke St Bakery, 633 Bourke St, Surry Hills: Amazing coffee, bread, and bakery treats. We visit every time we’re in Sydney. This time Adam had a ginger brûlée tart, which he said was divine.

Berkelouw Books, Paddington & Newtown: A beautiful bookstore which combines new and secondhand books. The Paddington store has a great cafe, and the Newtown store has a vegan cafe downstairs, which operates Saturday and Sunday, and a cafe and ramen bar upstairs.

The Fine Food Store, The Rocks: A new discovery! Great coffee and menu (avocado toast with vincotto is delicious!). Lots of vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options. Also a fantastic food section (urban honey from Bondi, anyone?).

Sappho Books and gleebooks, Glebe: Two great bookstores, side by side! Sappho is a wonderful secondhand bookstore. gleebooks, right next door, has a great selection of books (especially art, philosophy and history). A few blocks down is their secondhand store, which is also worth a look. Also: make sure you go to the gelato store the next block down from gleebooks (towards the city): their coconut sorbet (aka vegan-iced-dessert-heaven) is the best.

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, The Rocks: Such a beautiful building, which has recently been renovated, with an addition to the Art Deco building (which was originally built for the Maritime Services Board). We managed to see an exhibition of Jeff Wall’s photographs this time (last time, they had an Anish Kapoor retrospective). Their cafe on the rooftop is sensational too (again, lots of veg, vegan & gluten free options).

We really do love Sydney, it’s always so special to visit. An added bonus: getting to spend a weekend away with Adam, spending time doing things we love together, which is much more fun that doing the same things at home (there’s something so invigorating about a different city).

It makes me so much more excited for our honeymoon in Melbourne (in only 7 weeks!!!). If you’ve got any favourite places in Sydney (or Melbourne, for that matter) to suggest, I’d love to hear them.

photos: kitchen tea/bridal shower

A few Sundays ago, my mum threw a ‘kitchen tea’ for me – which is sort of like a bridal shower, I guess, except that you’re given gifts for the kitchen, and there aren’t any games. It was such a nice afternoon! Most of the women in my family, the women from Adam’s family, and my women-friends – it was so special to have them all in once place. Usually I’m not one for gatherings of more than 6 people (haha) but this was great. Thanks to everyone who came and all the amazing presents you gave me. And to my mum for organizing everything – she did such a marvellous job (check out the spread we had!).

kitchen_tea1 kitchen_tea2 kitchen_tea3

kitchen_tea4 kitchen_tea5 kitchen_tea6 kitchen_tea7 kitchen_tea8

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moroccan quinoa stuffed pumpkin

IMG_1529Apologies for the iPhone photos with this post – I wasn’t going to write it up, but a friend saw my instagram photos and asked me for the recipe. So iPhone photos it is!

IMG_1527As soon as our German instructor, Jana, gave us this little pumpkin (homegrown by her father-in-law!) I knew what I wanted to do: stuff it. And then roast it. And then destroy it, with my mouth. It was the perfect lunch for a drizzly and cool Saturday. We had it as is, but a green salad wouldn’t hurt the arrangement at all.

It’s been very hectic here lately – I’m sorry if I haven’t posted for a while – I had my bridal shower last weekend, we’re going to Sydney next weekend, and the wedding is only 8 weeks away! (And did I mention that massive deadline I have at uni?) But, I’ve been feeling really inspired in the kitchen lately, so hopefully I’ll have some more recipes (and better photos, I promise!) to share with you soon.

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Recipe notes:

  • I used quinoa as the stuffing, but you could also use brown rice, or if you’re able to eat it, cous cous. Make more of the grain than you think you’ll need, because it would be better to have left over stuffing that you can’t stuff into your pumpkin, than not enough stuffing at all. The amount of quinoa I give below was the amount I estimated given the cavity I excavated in my pumpkin. Judge your pumpkin for yourselves.
  • I went for a middle-eastern/Moroccan flavoured stuffing, but you could take this in SO many directions. Sundried tomato, basil and olive, anyone? Or how about coriander and lime? Or za’atar instead of dukkah? Or pine nuts or pepitas instead of sunflower seeds – you see where I’m going, I know.
  • Don’t be tempted to take the pumpkin out of the oven until you’re 100% convinced it’s done, uncooked pumpkin is no fun!

Moroccan Quinoa Stuffed Pumpkin

serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side

  • 1 small pumpkin – I used a jap – approximately 500-600 g
  • 1 cup (150 g) cooked quinoa
  • 2 tsp dried currants
  • 1 tbsp dukkah
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp sweet paprika
  • pinch of chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp toasted sunflower seeds
  • sea salt, to taste
  • lemon wedges, to serve

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C (make sure there’s no fan on).
  2. Using a small, sharp knife, cut around the stem of the pumpkin. Remove the pumpkin ‘hat’ (as Adam calls it), and set aside.
  3. Using a spoon, scrape out the seeds from inside the pumpkin.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine the quinoa with the remaining ingredients (except for the lemon) and season with salt to taste.
  5. Spoon the filling into the pumpkin, pressing down firmly as you go (this is important! you want a well-packed pumpkin). Place the pumpkin’s hat back on.
  6. Place the stuffed pumpkin on a baking tray, and place in the oven. Depending on the size of your pumpkin, it will take 1.5 – 2 hours for your pumpkin to cook. Check after the 1.5 hr mark by inserting a cake tester through the skin, if you encounter no resistance after you’ve pierced the skin, your pumpkin is probably done. At this point, I’d give it another 10-15 minutes, just to be sure.
  7. Remove from oven, and let sit for 5-10 minutes (it will be super hot on the inside!). Remove the hat, and slice in half with a sharp knife. Serve with lemon wedges and cracked black pepper. Enjoy!