BEETROOT BROWNIES

I know the name is intriguing and yes the main ingredient is beetroot. This is a guilt free treat – just five ingredients and plant based. It is easy to make so definitely give this recipe a try. Boiling the beetroot does take time and the brownie is only as nice as the quality of your chocolate. Buy the best you can afford with at least 60% cocoa.

Beetroot Brownie

INGREDIENTS

450g beetroot

200g dark chocolate

½ cup plain flour

½ cup ground hazelnut powder

½ cup brown sugar

METHOD

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a shallow 22 centimetre square baking tin with baking paper.

Top and tail the beetroot. I like to boil beetroot (whole), uncut and unpeeled so the colour does not run. Once boiled, cool and peel. Cut into pieces and puree well using a blender.

Melt chocolate in a microwave safe bowl.

Mix the pureed beetroot in to the melted chocolate. Add the remaining ingredients. Pour mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Switch the oven off and let it sit in the oven for a further five minutes.

Allow to cool in the tin before slicing. You can serve with cream or ice-cream or I love it on its own.

STRAWBERRY JAM

Store bought jams are a far cry from homemade jams. The strawberries I made jam with were farm fresh bursting with flavour and sweetness, so I was able to reduce the amount of sugar. This jam has only three ingredients – fruit, sugar and a couple of teaspoons of butter to set. A tip – don’t use overripe fruit.

Strawberries hulled and cut ready for jam

INGREDIENTS

1.5 kilograms strawberries (rinsed and hulled)

1 kilograms jam setting sugar

2 teaspoons (10g) butter

METHOD

Place a plate in the freezer for the set test.

Cut the large strawberries into halves or quarters. Coarsely crush with a potato masher.

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MANGO PHIRNI

The history and origin of Phirni (sometimes spelt Firni) is not confirmed but often believed that the Mughals enjoyed rich milk based puddings. This milk pudding tradition is common in Persia so it is likely that the dish has origins there.

The main difference between phirni and kheer is that rice is ground in the former whereas kheer is rice pudding and you cook it whole.

Mango Phirni

INGREDIENTS

50g Basmati rice

2 tablespoons water

1 litre milk

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DIWALI SWEETS – THIYYA GAVALLU

Thiyya Gavallu literally translate to sweet shells. Store bought ones pale in comparison to homemade ones. This is an Andhra sweet and is like a sugar dipped dough nut. My grandmother used to make them and I have her shaping device but if you don’t have any such contraption, you can use the back of a fork.

Thiyya Gavallu

INGREDIENTS

2 cups all-purpose flour or standard flour

2 tablespoons ghee

Oil to fry

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DIWALI SWEETS – COCONUT BARFI

This is a traditional Indian sweet that I made for Diwali a few days back and it was well appreciated by the family.

Around Diwali, I reminisce about my own childhood memories of this festival with a huge smile. Diwali is about wearing new clothes, decorating the house with as many oil lamps as you can manage, eating a feast and then fireworks. A month prior to Diwali, the preparations for making our own rockets, flower pots and pencils would start. We had a real chemistry lesson patiently delivered by my father. We lived on a University campus and would always have competitions with neighbours. Now we all know better and it is good everyone is keeping away from fireworks because of pollution. The spiritual significance of Diwali is to try to distinguish the truth from lies, illumine our minds from darkness with light and realize the oneness of energy in all living beings. It is believed that the spirits of our ancestors return on the night of Diwali and the fireworks are an offering to their spirits.

There isn’t ever a dessert course in a traditional Indian cuisine. Sweets and other sweet things are served alongside and in some regional cuisines they are eaten at the start of a meal. It is good to have some of these sweet treats as part of your repertoire so you can create an authentic Indian dining experience.

Coconut barfi

INGREDIENTS

1 and a ½ cups sugar (frozen is fine)

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PRUNE, PUMPKIN & HAZELNUT CAKE

I can say that I loved cooking and collecting recipes from a very young age. I still have the note book where I hand wrote family favourite recipes and subsequently made additions in the nineties. I think this recipe is my version of such a recipe – I love it because it is a generous cake and has spicy flavours to complement the pumpkin and prunes. The cake is easily serves 12-15 people so make it for a family get together.

Prune, pumpkin and hazelnut cake

INGREDIENTS

1 kg peeled pumpkin

300ml sunflower oil

1 and ¼ cup soft brown sugar

4 eggs

¾ cup chopped prunes

1 cup hazelnuts

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BEETROOT CAKE

I tend to sway towards savoury dishes and kind of play second fiddle when it comes to desserts or sweet things. I tend to create and choose recipes that are not too finicky, use fewer ingredients and sugar and fat are somewhat reduced.

I can’t take credit for this recipe – I was inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s beetroot, ginger and soured cream cake in his book “Sweet”. I of course modified to suit my family’s taste buds. The cake is rich and moist suitable to make as a birthday cake or for a cake and coffee morning.

INGREDIENTS

75g pecan nuts

200g plain flour

150g caster sugar

2 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

¼ teaspoon salt

250g raw red beetroot, peeled and coarsely grated

Finely grated zest of 1 large orange

100g crystallized ginger

2 large eggs

60g sour cream

125ml sunflower oil

For the Icing:

150g cream cheese, at room temperature

60g icing sugar, sifted

70ml cream

6 centimetre piece of fresh ginger, grated on a fine mesh and the flesh squeezed to extract all juices about 4 teaspoons

METHOD

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin and set aside.

Spread the pecan nuts on a baking tray and roast for ten minutes. Remove from the oven and chop in half or smaller if you prefer. Set aside. Increase oven temperature to 195 degrees Celsius.

Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large mixing bowl and mix to combine and aerate. Add the beetroot, orange zest, pecan pieces and crystallized ginger, but do not stir.

Place the eggs and sour cream in another bowl and whisk to combine. Add the oil and whisk again. Pour over the beetroot and flour mix, and using your hands or a large spatula, mix well to combine.

Pour the mix into the cake tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 50-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool in the tin for 30 minutes or so before removing from the tin and cooling on a wire rack completely.

To make the icing, place the cream cheese in a bowl. Use a wooden spoon and beat for 10 seconds. The time may vary, but you want cream cheese relatively smooth. Add icing sugar and beat until well incorporated with an electric whisk. Add the cream and beat for about a minute, until the icing is thick and smooth. Add the ginger juice, beat for a final few seconds. Use a palette knife to spread over the top of the cake and serve.

SPICED RHUBARB WITH SAGO CUSTARD

Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable but it is cooked like a fruit! When you think of rhubarb and associate with a pie, you are not wrong because the red stalks (part used) are generally paired with sugar, butter and flour!

Rhubarb, with its attractive pinkish red hue is a heavy weight in terms of nutrition value. It is high in fibre, Vitamin K and also has more antioxidant punch than kale! Some people therefore consider rhubarb as super food. I personally wouldn’t say that because it only becomes palatable if you add sugar to it so I would go as far as saying that it is a healthyish dessert choice!

Spiced rhubarb with sago custard

This is a lovely dessert and it is vegan! I guess you could also try sub rice for sago.

INGREDIENTS

For the custard:

400ml tin of coconut milk

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RICH BROWNIE

A Canadian colleague of mine gave me this recipe a few years back. I have modified it (reduced butter, sugar and made it gluten free) and managed to retain the taste integrity. When the kids were younger and had to take something for a bake sale or whatever, I used to make these brownies and they were a big hit. They are good enough to be served up slightly warm for dessert with a scoop of ice cream and a bit of chocolate sauce.

INGREDIENTS

200g butter

½ cup white sugar

1 cup dark brown cane sugar

¾ cup cocoa

3 eggs

½ cup oats, powdered

¼ cup ground linseed (flaxseed)

1/3 cup ground almonds

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Icing sugar for dusting

METHOD

Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Butter a 23cm x 33 cm (9 x 13 inch) baking pan.

Melt butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Add sugar and cocoa, stirring constantly. The mixture should look glossy. Remove from heat but keep stirring to cool slightly. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating before adding the next one in.

In a separate bowl, combine the oat powder, ground almonds and linseed (flaxseed) and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the mixture in the saucepan. Stir in vanilla.

Pour mixture into the prepared tray. Bake for 30 minutes or 35 minutes or until the crust is firm and resistant to pressure. Check about every minute after 30 minutes as brownies easily overbake.

Remove from oven and let cool completely in the tray. Once cool dust with icing sugar and cut into squares.

BANANA CHOCOLATE CAKE

I buy a big bunch of bananas every week – some weeks everyone wants to use it for a breakfast smoothie and some weeks they just get riper and riper. What do you do with over ripe bananas – I make tofu puddings (great as a start to the day or end the night on a slightly sweet note) or this banana cake with over ripe bananas. This is a bit different in the sense that I have used a combination of stone ground wholemeal flour and buckwheat flour. Cocoa and LSA (linseed, sunflower and almond powder) added to the richness. If you don’t have LSA, use just linseed powder. Do try this recipe and let me know how you go.

Banana Chocolate Cake

INGREDIENTS

150g soft butter

1 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons dark brown cane sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 over ripe bananas, mashed

½ cup plain yoghurt, whisked

¾ cup wholemeal flour

¾ cup buckwheat flour

½ cup LSA

¼ cup good quality cocoa

1 teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon baking soda

METHOD

Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Butter a 23cm round spring form cake tin.

Cream the butter and sugar, and beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the vanilla.

Combine the flours and the baking powder plus soda. Sift and mix in with the dark brown cane sugar, LSA and cocoa.

Fold the flours into the egg mixture, a third at a time, alternating with the mashed bananas and the yoghurt.

Bake in the oven for 45 -50 minutes. You know that the cake is done when a knife pierced in comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to rest in pan for 15-20 minutes before turning it upside down onto serving platter.

You can jazz this up by icing with chocolate or keep it plain by dusting with icing sugar. You can serve with whipped mascarpone or crème fraiche or unsweetened natural Greek yoghurt.

Makes 10-12 wedges