Thursday
Jun052014

Carrot and Citrus Cake (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Vegan)

When times get tough and life seems a bit of a slog there are always a few things you can do.  I know we each vary greatly but in my experience I know of few ills that aren’t at least lessened by a)  walking the hills until you feel cleansed by fresh air and exercise (dog for company optional but preferable) b) disappearing into a book, a cup of tea in hand c) phoning your best friend, putting the world to rights and lamenting that not enough people think just like you (note: you can only do this with your best friend, everyone else will think you’re an idiot) d) cooking up a storm, more specifically, baking up a treat and even better if you’re baking for someone special.  If there is one thing I feel sure of is that a gift of cake never goes down badly and bringing pleasure to other people is a sure fire way of making your own day better.  Cake making is a methodical, meditative practise and whether it’s baking, decorating or eating them, there’s always a stage of the process that just feels lovely.  Personally, I enjoy the slow, steady progression of making cakes the best, though I’m not adverse to a cup of tea and a bite of something sweet, really the joy is in the mixing, spooning and that unbeatable sweet/spice fragrance that wafts around your kitchen.  For all of these things and more this cake is the winner: grated apple and carrots, caramel syrup and brown sugar and a delicate ripple of mixed spice make it deliciously aromatic and moist – the lemon icing is just the proverbial cherry on top.  Despite a bit of melting, grating and folding it is incredibly easy to make and keeps really well (I opt for an airtight tin or if pushed, a big freezer bag clipped over a plate) making it a real cut-and-come-again type bake, ideal for a friends and family do or a weekend when you know lots of people will be coming by, or if necessary, ready for a quiet moment when you want to slow down, take stock and think of the happy things in life.

CARROT AND APPLE CAKE WITH LEMON ICING

Serves 8-12

You will need an 8 inch/20 cm cake tin with removeable base for this recipe

150g dairy-free margarine

100ml golden syrup or agave syrup

200g soft light brown sugar or coconut sugar

250g carrots

1 eating apple

100g apple puree

250g gluten-free self raising flour

3 tsp baking powder

½ tsp mixed spice

25g ground flaxseed

 

For the icing

150g icing sugar

2-3 tbsp lemon juice

The grated zest of 1 lemon and orange

 

Preheat the oven to 180c and lightly grease and line the cake tin.

Place the margarine, syrup and brown sugar (or coconut sugar) into a saucepan and heat gently over a low heat, stirring every now and then, until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Take off the heat and pour into a large mixing bowl and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Trim the ends from the carrots and core the apple, finely grate both – I don’t worry about peeling either the apple or carrots (though I do give them a good scrub first) but please, feel free to peel both if you want to.

Spoon the apple puree into the syrup mixture and stir together, sift over the flour, baking powder and mixed spice and fold together.  Next, add the grated apple, carrot and the ground flaxseed and fold together until completely combined and fragrant.  Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin and then bake in the oven for 1 hour – 1 hour 10 minutes or until risen and golden and firm to the touch.

Leave the cake to cool in its tin for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Place the icing sugar into a mixing bowl and add the lemon juice, bit by bit, until the desired consistency.  Spread over the cake and scatter over the lemon and orange zest.

Wednesday
May212014

Raw Chocolate Fudge (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Vegan, Sugar Free)

If you are even vaguely interested in healthy eating then you will be hard pushed to have not heard of the raw food movement.  Ostensibly aimed at getting maximum nutritional bang for your buck, raw foodists are notorious for their evangelical belief in the benefits of eating only raw.  I’ve long been fascinated by it all, but being a slightly soft and obsessed-by-things-just-out-of-the-oven kind of girl, I know that eating a completely raw diet is just not for me.  Fortunately it seems a lot of other people feel the same way too and so eating raw as part of your diet – rather than the sole focus of it – has joined the new vanguard in healthy eating. 

Raw tends to also mean vegan and so is pleasingly suited to those of us having or choosing to go dairy and egg free.  Now there’s totally a place in my heart for the mother of all salads and raw does that better than any, note also the loose limbed artistic use of spiralisers, totally the way forward for those looking to lower their carbs and oomph up their veggie intake – if you’re looking for inspiration then Susan Jane White’s book, The Extra Virgin Kitchen, is packed full of glorious things to do with spiralised veg as well as a host of other delicious treats to choose from.  But for my education into raw food I always turn to my friend Jo, who also just so happens to the creative force behind Nectar Cafe and a gloriously clever raw food whizz who has yet to make me anything that I’m not then immediately and totally addicted to!  Step forward this raw chocolate fudge which is one of Jo's creations: made from a simplicity (three is the magic number) of ingredients this is literally the best tasting chocolate around.  Delicious, simple and good for you, I can’t give it higher praise than that but I implore you to make some, it will delight you at every step.

Note: to be truly raw you must obviously use raw cacao powder to make the fudge, but by all means use 'normal' cocoa powder (I recommend Green & Blacks) it will taste just as good but just won't be officially raw.

RAW CHOCOLATE FUDGE

Makes 24 ‘chunks’

150g pitted dates soaked in 75ml of boiling water for 1 hour (or cold water overnight)

125g cacao butter

120g cacao powder

You will need to pre-soak the dates overnight or use boiling water to soften them an hour before you begin – either way, they should have absorbed most of the liquid and feel soft.  Next, line a shallow dish (I used a 7 inch square tin) with enough clingfilm that it covers over the side of the dish and can be folded over the top.

Next, place the cacao butter into a ban marie or a bowl over a pan of hot water and very gently, over a low heat, melt the cacao – if the bowl becomes too hot the butter will separate and your fudge won’t work. Once melted, pour the butter into a blender or food processor along with the soaked dates – discarding any remaining water.  Blitz until you have a smooth and golden ‘caramel’.

Add the cacao powder to the blender or food processor and blitz again until you have a smooth, thick and creamy mixture. You will need to stop scrape down the sides of the blender or food processor to make sure the whole mixture becomes smooth.

Once you have a smooth consistency use a spatula to scoop the mixture into the dish, smooth the surface down and cover with the overhanging clingfilm. Place in a freezer for 30 minutes to set.

Remove from the freezer and peel off the cling film. Pop the fudge out of its dish and carefully break into chunks. Once made store in an airtight container in the fridge, kept like this it will last for weeks.