Almond Milk Round Up

Almond Milk Chia PuddingAfter enjoying a few straight glasses of my chilled Almond Milk last week, I began wondering what else I could use it for. A lot, it turns out! If you’ve made almond milk and now have a large container of the stuff staring at you from the fridge asking to be used, here are a few ideas of what to do with it – have a look and drool at these links:

Superfood Chia Breakfast Bowl
Salted Almond Milk Caramel Brownies
Banana Almond Milk Ice Cream

I polished mine off for breakfast with a variety of chia puddings, so good!

 

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The Food of Spain: Nutty Chocolate Ginger Cake – Gluten & Dairy Free

Nutty Chocolate Ginger Cake

Sometimes you need cake.

My lovely friend Ruth is getting married soon. The ladies gathered to celebrate last week and we all   ‘brought a plate’. Making certain I could join in the eating; this Nutty Chocolate Ginger Cake was born. Chocolate and ginger go hand in hand, and I find using grated root ginger gives a distinct fresh flavour over ground ginger, bringing the cake spicy, almost tropical, undertones. I used very dark chocolate with 85% cocoa mass. It keeps the cake from being overly sweet, with a very moist torte texture. I topped it off with coconut cream chocolate frosting.

Inspiration hit after reading through a number of nut and egg based cake recipes in The Food of Spain. These nut cakes are made mostly with whipped egg-whites creating a super soft crumb.

And even better, this recipe is gluten free and dairy free.

‘Dairy free?’ you say, ‘But it has chocolate in it!’
Yes, it has chocolate in it  –  damn.good.chocolate.

I use dairy free chocolate from Alter Eco. It’s utterly decadent and worth every cent. Hunt for it at your local health food store, but if you can eat dairy with abandon use whatever chocolate you prefer. I’m a fan of dark bitter chocolate, but if you’re not, take a step down from 85% dark and use something a little lighter in the cake. The coconut cream frosting is suited to a less bitter chocolate, I suggest using 60% or less.

To keep ginger a primary flavour, I used ginger liqueur in the cake batter. Our little bar cabinet happens to contain a bottle of Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur. I’m a sucker for awesome bottles! From my research it seems to be gluten free. ‘Stones Green Ginger Wine’ would also work well. If you skip the liqueur all together, add extra grated root ginger for more kick.

Nutty Chocolate Ginger Cake – Gluten & Dairy Free

Serves 12

6 large eggs
4 Tbsp of Domaine de Canton (Ginger Liqueur)
150g coconut sugar
100g dark bitter chocolate, broken into pieces (dairy free eg Alter Eco)
2cm long chunk of ginger root, finely grated
100g walnuts
100g macadamias
coconut oil to grease the pan
cocoa to dust the cake tin
preserved ginger to decorate

Begin by preheating your oven to 180˚C. Prepare a 25cm spring-form cake tin by greasing it with coconut oil, and dusting generously with cocoa.

In a large bowl beat the egg yolks with the liqueur, coconut sugar and grated ginger, until well combined the coconut sugar is fully dissolved.  Carefully melt the dark bitter chocolate in a double boiler over low heat, and mix into the egg mixture.

Using a food processor, coarsely chop the walnuts and macadamias. The ground nuts should be similar in texture to chunky bread crumbs, you want some finely ground nuts mixed with some coarse pieces. Fold them into the chocolate egg mixture.

In the clean bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites till stiff and fold them very gently into the cake batter. Spoon the batter into the pre-prepared cake tin and bake for 45 minutes till firm. Watch carefully that the cake top does not colour too deeply. Cover with foil if need be. Once done, leave the cake to cool completely in the tin before attempting to turn it out.

Top with coconut chocolate frosting (recipe below) and garnish with slices of preserved ginger.

Coconut Chocolate Frosting

400g can of full fat coconut cream
60g of 60% dark chocolate (dairy free)

Note: Use a good quality, organic brand of coconut cream without additives. For the frosting you want the coconut cream to separate in two separate layers, a rich creamy top layer, leaving the coconut water behind. It helps to put the can into the fridge beforehand. Coconut cream with added emulsifiers will not separate, so read the ingredient label carefully.

For the frosting scoop out the top layer of coconut cream from your chilled can into a small saucepan (You should have approximately 200g worth of top cream from a 400g can, save the remaining coconut water for a smoothie). Warm the coconut cream gently over low heat till almost boiling. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate broken into pieces, stirring till the chocolate has melted. Place in the fridge to chill and thicken to frosting consistency. Spread generously over the cooled cake.

Nutty Chocolate Ginger Cake

The Food of Spain: Salmon in Salsa Verde with Asparagus

Salmon Salsa Verde

 

I was known as ‘the child who ate anything’. Curry, cabbage, lentils. But honestly the truth is, I was a pro at fibbing; wanting to please everyone I hid my dislike of pickles, corn, eggs and marshmallows like my life depended on it.  A little sprig of curly-leaf parsley perched on top of a dish always sent shivers down my spine. It conjured up thoughts of eating fluffy grass. Strangely, I’d happily devour long thin blades of actual grass, but parsley was the frilly monster, set to get stuck in my teeth and cause all range of riot in my mouth.

Parsley and I finally got acquainted, I don’t know what quite helped me turn the corner but it might have had something to do with meeting his flat-leafed friend. Thankfully my childhood taste buds with a love of real grass didn’t fall off the face of the earth when the rest of my palate morphed into a parsley, pickle, corn, and egg  loving adult. I still enjoy grass on a summer afternoon, swiping the odd blade, feeling a little like my childhood cat that lay in the sun nibbling grass from her paws. But I still pass on the marshmallows, every time. They involve too many flashbacks from childhood party games, mouths being progressively filled with sickly sweet miniature pink and white pillows while having to say idiotic sentences like, “I love marshmallows” – it couldn’t have been further from the truth!

Back to my new found friend Parsley – he plays the starring role in this adapted recipe from The Food of Spain by Claudia Roden. Claudia describes parsley as ‘the Basque herb’.  The sauce, Salsa Verde, makes this dish. It’s a surprisingly soft blend of parsley, garlic, olive oil and the flavoursome juices released by the salmon as it cooks. Traditionally this recipe calls for hake, but being a lover of salmon and Spain being a lover all fish in the sea, salmon it was.

Salmon in Salsa Verde with Asparagus

1 bunch of asparagus
salt
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tsp gluten free cornflour
2 Tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 salmon steaks, on the bone

Trim the asparagus of its woody ends, and place in a saucepan with just enough water to cover, adding a pinch of salt. Boil for a brief 3-4 minutes and remove, reserving the cooking water separately.

Warm the extra virgin olive oil in a large frypan over gentle heat with the garlic. Do not let the garlic brown.  Once the garlic is aromatic add in the cornflour and stir for a minute. Toss in the parsley and slowly add 250ml of the reserved cooking water from the asparagus. Add a little bit a time, stirring well between each addition to incorporate the fluid into the sauce. Increase the heat under the pan to medium, add a little salt and simmer for about 8 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened.

Place the salmon steaks into the pan with the sauce. Gently swirl the pan to move the fish through the sauce, this will help the fish juices released during cooking to mix into the salsa verde, creating a slightly jelly like texture.

After 5 minutes turn the salmon over, and return the asparagus to the pan. The second side will take approximately 3 minutes to cook. Serve with freshly boiled baby potatoes and generous spoonful’s of sauce ladled over the fish.

Old Pages

Grandma's cookbook

 

Her handwriting runs across the page, a delicate but rambling scrawl. It reminds me of stumbling over my own hand written notes from long ago, where I need to pause a moment to make out the haphazard pen marks hastily scratched on the page without a thought to neatness, and as I recall the place and time belonging to the note, the indecipherable word becomes clear like a memory. Even with its familiar shape and style, my Grandmother’s handwriting feels like reading a language I’m only beginning to learn. Those flourishes and tightly packed letters are comforting, reminding me of year upon year of sweet birthday cards containing little love notes in squiggly script.

I’m reading her recipes, noted down in a teal covered Invicta Diary from 1981 held together by masking tape.  At times I can make out her instructions easily, but then a narrowing letter and hastily written string of words leaves me searching the recipe for clues, sleuthing to work out how to bring together the ingredients, battling against oil stains, cocoa and faded ink.

The diary takes me by the hand, leading me to childhood; her strawberry mousse light on my tongue, hot little Queen Cakes all buttery in their paper wrappers leaving crumbs on my lips and  eating cream and fruit in delicate glass bowls with teaspoons used mostly at Christmas. The tried and true favourites are marked clearly with ticks and flourishes, ‘Lumberjack Cake’, ‘Best Lemon Cake’ and ‘Plum, Nectarine and Fig Compote’. Transported, I’m sitting in the kitchen watching her wooden spoon beat sugar and butter, licking the bowl and in general watching in awe as she rules her kitchen. My Grandmother would never consider herself a great cook, I know the particular chuckle she would give me if I told her so. But, as I hold her recipe book broken at the seams, I know it all boils down to love. You can’t go wrong when love as your key ingredient, that… and a little bit of cocoa.

First time for every thing!

My first green smoothie was a great success! But after having a bit of a read around I think I’m going to have to go a little more ‘green’ and decrease the percentage of fruit. These ladies have a great description of a true green smoothie.

My plan was to photograph the smoothie to give this place a bit of colour, but it looked so good before taking the shot that I took a small sip and then couldn’t put it down. The recipe for my first smoothie is as follows:

 

The Green Friend:

2 frozen bananas slightly thawed

A small hand full of frozen raspberries

A large cube of frozen spinach

Blend together until smooth. The frozen components give it a thick, smooth but icy texture!

 

I’m keen to try some smoothies with coconut milk and coconut water, and I know somewhere at the back of my cupboard I’ve got some chia seeds lurking asking to be mixed into blend of green goodness.

 

Night shift reality

A good percentage of my life is spent at work. Shift work, as a midwife. I love it! But this week has been a week of night shift and that means it’s “easy food week”. Eating at random hours, going to bed at 8:30am waking up at 4pm (if I’m lucky, the lawn mowing guy doesn’t come over, the phone doesn’t ring and it’s not 40 degrees C). It really plays around with the inner wiring of knowing when and what my body even wants to consume.

Yesterday my cooking creativity consisted of heating up leftover rice with salt,pepper, butter and cheese. Eating cucumber sticks, and a frozen yogurht paddle-pop icecream (Not together mind you). A fried egg for breakfast on toast.

But tonight is my last night shift, and then a beautiful stretch of days off. So when my body has reached equilibrium again (and my computer decides to start working properly) I will return with a little more creativity.