The Food of Spain: Marquesas

MarquesasSome times life asks you to start with dessert and these little Marquesas on pg 494 called my name as I flipped through ‘The Food of Spain’. I’m sure I’m not the only one who, with a cup a tea and new cook book in hand skips to the back page first, and reads the book in reverse order!

These little marquesas (Almond Cupcakes) are bites of soft almond goodness. It’s a safe bet that if you have nuts and eggs lurking in your pantry, every Spanish dessert that Claudia Roden shares in her book is only a mixing bowl and whisk away from landing in your oven before you can say ‘Barcelona’.

Scented with lemon zest, I’ve adapted this recipe a few ways using coconut sugar (yes!) and increasing the zest. Coconut sugar has distinct caramel undertones, making it a great match with almonds and lemon.  Claudia’s marquesas are served dusted with icing sugar, but once these beauties came out of the oven I topped them with some desiccated coconut & whipped coconut cream.


Makes 30 small or 15 average size cupcakes

3 large eggs, separated

1/4 tsp lemon juice

200g coconut sugar

Another 2 large eggs, separated

grated zest of 2 lemons

50g of cornflour (make sure it’s Gluten Free)

300g ground almonds

2 Tbsp unsweetened desiccated coconut

1 can of coconut cream

Extra lemon zest for decorating.

In Advance:

Place the can of coconut cream in the fridge for least 12 hrs before baking. It needs to be properly chilled to make the whipped coconut cream.


Preheat your oven to 180C.

In a large bowl, beat the first three egg whites with 4 tablespoons of coconut sugar and lemon juice, until stiff. Have patience as the coconut sugar takes a while to incorporate to the egg white. It will happen. Keep your beater on high and you will end up with shiny latte’ coloured egg whites, stiff enough that they will hold their shape if you turn the bowl over your head.

In a separate bowl, beat the 5 egg yolks and one of the remaining egg whites with the left over coconut sugar till creamy. (You will have one egg white remaining, put it in the fridge to use later, omelettes are always an easy option). Then add the lemon zest and cornflour to your creamed sugar and beat thoroughly. Mix through the ground almonds until you have a thick paste, it won’t hurt to add a splash of water if the mixture is too dry or crumbly.

Fold the whipped egg whites very gently into the almond base and drop small spoonfuls into paper baking cups. Fill them 3/4 full as the mixture will rise a little. If using mini paper cups, bake for 10-13 minutes. Bake for 20-25 minutes if using average size paper cups, and cover with foil if browning too quickly on top while cooking.

They will be very soft when taken out of the oven but will firm up as they cool.

To decorate, pulse the desiccated coconut in a food processor till powdery and sprinkle over the warm cakes. While cooling make the whipped topping. Open the chilled coconut cream and scoop out the firm layer risen to the top (save the separated coconut water below to add to smoothie). Beat the ‘cream’ with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Dollop spoonfuls of cream onto cooled marquesas and sprinkle with some extra lemon zest.


Gluten Free/Dairy Free


Back Story

Being a bit of a history buff, when I love a book I also want to know the author….

Follow this link to a fascinating article by Jane Kramer on Claudia Roden.

Feature Book: The Food of Spain

Claudia Roden, how classic – she inspired me to cook when I didn’t even have a kitchen. At the time I was half way through my degree, living in a bungalow where my ‘kitchen’ consisted of a two burner electrical hot-plate that gave me heat options of ‘on’ or off’ and a tiny little toaster oven. My claim to fame was baking muffins in that thing. Needless to say I invested in an oven thermometer and literally sat in front of the toaster playing with the temperature dial to keep a steady 180 C while my mini muffins incubated inside.

On loan from the library I devoured Claudia’s book ‘Arabesque‘ introducing me to Moroccan, Turkish and Lebanese food. Addicted, I managed to scrounge enough loose change to photocopy some recipes and hand wrote out the rest. I never did buy myself a copy of Arabesque, I love my hand written notes too much.

But now I’ve fallen in love again.


This book! The Food of Spain: A Celebration.

Daydreaming about traveling Spain is my new past time. While I bide my time saving for a one way ticket, I’m getting my taste buds ready, savoring some of Claudia’s recipes. Doesn’t ‘Tarta de Chocolate con Nueces’ just make you wish you spoke Spanish? That’s Chocolate and Walnut Cake for those of us who can’t. Yep, this book has a dangerous amount of gluten free desserts. Hello!

Sweets aside, I’ve stocked up on smoked Spanish paprika and I’m hanging out to share some tapas with you. As always, I won’t share the recipes as they are in the book, (that would be unfair to Roden’s hard work) but I will share my adaptations. I’m going to try and keep the rule that Claudia shares in the first few pages of her book, “… that there should be a balance between the effort of making a dish and pleasure of eating it.”


Dipping back into Blogging


It’s night duty and I’ve got garlic breath. Thankfully my two patients are sleeping, I have no need to lean over their beds, startling them from their sleep with garlic emanating from my pores. With two staff down on sick leave this could be a bad night, but for now the maternity ward is quiet.  I’m propped up with homemade Haydari, a Turkish dip made of strained yogurt, feta cheese and garlic and I’m certain I tucked a pack of mints in my bag.  Dip- check,  pile of crackers- check, olives- check! Thus far the night is smooth sailing and will definitely be vampire free.

Night duty produces strange behaviour, my prime example – happily eating banana and peanut butter for almost every meal, and needing to complete bedtime rituals in a certain order.  I will say no more except that my husband finds ‘Night Shift Laura’ a strange woman indeed. So while in night duty limbo with a family gathering at our place I made not one but three Turkish inspired dips from Silvena Rowe’s book ‘Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume’, which is why a day later I’m at work sharing the leftovers with colleagues, and subsequently sharing my mints.

At the family dinner my niece proceeded to show us how it was done: pick up cracker, shove cracker into dip, eat, repeat. Only just learning how to ‘dip’, Claire in true toddler fashion ate the dip off the cracker and proceeded to double dip. The Pumpkin Za’atar ‘Hummus’ was polished off before all of my large family had arrived. The others, Haydari and Avocado Sumac Whip had strikingly contrasting flavours but worked well together, the avocado being soft with a hint of cinnamon and nutty tahini, while the Haydari was total garlic punch.

All three recipes were uncomplicated and I’d make them again. The Haydari would be easy to adjust as it’s essentially crumbled feta combined with strained yogurt. Silvena’s recipe recommends mixing through mint and garlic, with a sprinkle of sweet paprika, walnuts and olive oil on top. I think it would be grand with za’atar, dukka, olives or any combination of fresh herbs mixed through. Because I made Silvena’s recipes without adjustments I will not post them here but the base of the Haydari is as follows:

Haydari Base:

100g crumbled fetta

300ml strained yoghurt

Follow the link ‘how to strain yoghurt’ to get a quick tutorial and how to.


Three things

I’m grateful for

  • fresh flowers in my home
  • sunshine to eat my lunch in on the back deck
  • a husband who said he’s going to cook me dinner

photo (6)

The real deal

This is it! A super green smoothie. After reading a few recipes I decided to bite the bullet and try, just try, a smoothie with avocado and spinach as key ingredients. My taste-buds weren’t quite jumping for joy a the prospect but I plopped all the ingredients in my blender and it actually tasted great. So great in fact that I would go make another right now but I am simply too full after my first.

The Green Thing

Juice of one lime

Green grapes, a small handful 

Frozen blueberries, a small handful

A sprig of mint leaves, torn up

Half an avocado

A cup of fresh spinach leaves

1/2 c. coconut water (add more to make the smoothie to a consistency you like)

1 tsp of chia seeds

Blend together, adding the chia seeds once the smoothie is at your required consistency. Let the smoothie stand for 5-10 minutes to allow the chia seeds to absorb and swell. Drink and enjoy!

photo (5)

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.