Treat me: Fairtrade choc banana cake

This week two extremely important women in the world of food visited Wellington. One attracted loads of attention while she filmed an advertisement for Whittakers chocolate; the other could have walked down Lambton Quay without attracting a second glance from anyone.

I’m not saying Nigella Lawson’s Wellington sojourn didn’t deserve all the fuss, but it’s a shame that the equally gorgeous Rose Boatemaa Mensah wasn’t as feted. Rose was in town as part of Fairtrade Fortnight – as well as being a teacher she is a cocoa farmer in Ghana. Some of the beans grown by Rose and her family end up at Whittakers, where they are turned into my favourite chocolate (and the husks even end up on our garden).

I didn’t get to catch up with Rose (or Nigella) this week, but to celebrate all things Fairtrade I’ve whipped up this utterly lovely cake. It combines the two Fairtrade things we eat most in this house – chocolate and All Good Bananas. It’s even inspired by a Nigella recipe – how circular is that?

Fairtrade Chocolate Banana Cake
If you can manage not to gobble this the minute it comes out of the oven, glistening with nuggets of melting chocolate, then it keeps really well. And I’m sure your mum would love it for Mother’s Day (that’s this Sunday, in case you’d forgotten).

400g ripe bananas (peeled weight) – about 3 large ones
250g ground almonds
250g caster sugar
6 eggs
grated zest of two lemons
1 tsp baking powder
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Heat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 23cm springform cake tin.
Put the bananas in a food processor and whiz until pureed. Add all the other ingredients, except the chocolate and whiz again until well mixed. Pour into the prepared tin and scatter the chocolate on top.
Bake for 35-45 minutes – it will be damp and sticky but a toothpick plunged in should come out cleanly. Let cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then turn out to cool on a rack.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Treat me: Double ginger apricot balls

I know what you’re thinking: ‘Please, no, not another raw energy/bliss ball recipe. Save me, please!’
While it’s true that the world probably doesn’t need another set of instructions on how to pulverise dried fruit and nuts into a lunchbox-friendly treat, I think this one – my latest flavour combo – is worth sharing.

Apricot And Ginger Bliss Balls

Double ginger apricot balls
Don’t even think about making these with those flabby, flavourless dried apricots – you want the really tangy, chewy, intensely apricot-y ones. If you don’t have crystallised ginger, the stem stuff would work well here too. And if you really want to push the boat out, try dipping these in white chocolate instead of coconut…

150g dried apricots, cut in half with scissors
150g raisins
50g crystallised ginger
50g walnuts or almonds
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp orange blossom water
60g (3/4 cup) fine desiccated coconut

Put everything except the coconut in a food processor and whiz until it forms a lump. Put the coconut in a bowl. Take teaspoonfuls of the mixture, roll into balls and then roll these in the coconut. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Makes about 20.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Treat me: Raw raspberry lamingtons

You might think I married my husband for his wit, good looks and charm, but there’s more to it than that. What sealed the deal is was that his mother makes the best lamingtons in the world. Once I realised he was the heir to a freezer full of chocolate-dipped, cream-filled spongy delights, there was no turning back. 

Raw Raspberry Lamingtons

More than a decade down the track though, I’ve come to realise that there are other lamington-makers out there. In fact, there are hordes of them, all of them making exotic lamingtons like there’s no tomorrow. They’ve been whipped into a coconut-dusted frenzy by an adorable English flight attendant by the name of Peter, who is no slouch himself in the lamington department.

Peter is such a champion of lamingtons that for the last four years he has devoted himself to reinventing them every February. Don’t tell my MIL, but I think he could give her a good run for her money. In the meantime, he’s thrown down the gauntlet to the rest of us. And so without any further ado, I bring you my raw raspberry lamingtons…

Raw Chocolate Gluten Free Lamingtons

Raw raspberry lamingtons

These are not your ordinary lamingtons – there’s no sponge, no eggs, no sugar and – gasp – no cream. These are lamingtons, 2014 style. They’re raw, gluten and dairy-free, and contain no refined sugar. But there’s plenty of coconut, chocolate AND raspberries – for those of you who can’t decide whether a lamington should be brown or pink. I was inspired by this recipe, but took it in a completely different direction. The ultimate test was when I asked my brother-in-law to try one. “These,” he said, “are dangerous. Is the recipe going on your blog?”

100g ground almonds

120g dessicated coconut

4 Tbsp coconut oil

3 Tbsp real maple syrup or honey

60g (about half a cup) frozen raspberries

Line a small plastic container (like a takeaway container) with plastic wrap and set aside.

Put all ingredients in a food processor and whiz until it clumps. Press this mixture into the prepared container and leave in the fridge for at least an hour, until firm. You can leave it for a day or so if you like, it won’t come to any harm, though you may accidentally eat some of it.

When you are ready for stage two, remove the coconut mixture from the fridge and cut into small bars. Gently melt 120g dark chocolate with 1 tsp of coconut oil (I do this in a heatproof bowl in a warming oven, but you can use a microwave on low or a double boiler) and set aside to cool slightly.

Put the coconut in a small bowl and line a tray with baking paper.

Dip the bars into the chocolate, then roll them carefully in the coconut. When you have finished, put them in a lined, lidded container and put them in the fridge before someone comes by and gobbles the lot. Makes about 12-15, depending how much gets eaten along the way.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Treat me: Frozen yoghurt iceblocks

This recipe – if you can call it that – is direct from the ‘I can’t believe I didn’t think of this earlier’ files. If you’ve ever wondered how to make your own nutritionally sound, outrageously simple and utterly delicious popsicles/ice blocks/ice lollies/freezer pops/icy poles, I have the answer.

But first, here’s a beach scene to put you in the mood…

Worser Bay, Looking Towards Cook Strait And Seatoun, Wellington

This photo, taken last night, is meant to distract you from the fact that while my amazing homemade frozen yoghurt popsicles are genius in icy form, I have been unable to take a decent photo of them. Try as I might, they just turn out looking wrong. So if you really want to see what they look like, you’ll need to make them yourself. And, as I’m about to show you, it’s probably the easiest thing you’ll do all weekend. Here’s how.

Frozen yoghurt iceblocks
You need four things to make these frozen treats: Greek yoghurt, good jam (or a variation thereof), iceblock moulds and about two hours. My iceblock moulds are Tupperware ones and, to be frank, they are weird. The shape is good, but the supposedly clever handle thing makes them hard to hold. I’d say that was a design flaw, wouldn’t you? I’ve seen some much simpler looking ones at the supermarket for about $5 – I’m thinking of trading up.
My first attempt was made with the last spoonful of some gorgeous apricot and vanilla jam made by my lovely sister. Since then I’ve made them with some not-homemade but still good blackcurrant jelly, lemon curd, and a sprinkle of chopped nuts and chocolate. There are no limits – just stick to the quantities I’ve outlined below.
My iceblock moulds take about 60ml (roughly 1/4 of a cup) each – so these quantities are to suit. But you can scale them to fit your needs (and any leftover mixture can be frozen in a little plastic container or eaten on the spot).

1 cup/250ml full-fat Greek yoghurt
1/4 cup/60ml high quality jam (or lemon curd, or chocolate/nuts as detailed above)

Stir the yoghurt and jam together until well combined. Taste – remember that some of the sweetness will be lost in the freezing process – and swirl through a little more jam if desired. Pour into iceblock molds (this amount will fill five or six) and freeze for one to two hours.
Unmould – dipping them in just-boiled water usually helps – and enjoy.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Treat me: Rum and raisin ice cream

This week, in between re-telling the story of the nativity (“but Mum, why was the baby Jesus a boy? Can he be a girl!”), I have been reading The Man Whose Mother Was A Pirate. In case you’re not familiar with this Margaret Mahy classic, it tells the story of a buttoned-down chap who is enticed away from his dull, everyday life by his sea-faring mother. It’s such a good read. Put it on your Christmas present list. I wouldn’t say the same for another book that was on high rotate here a couple of weeks ago – a flimsy yarn that saw the hapless Captain Pugwash in a standoff with a bunch of pirates over some chocolate smuggling. If your child makes a beeline for this at an op shop, point them in another direction.

Anyway, thinking about pirates and mulling over the December We Should Cocoa challenge, in which Choclette has sensibly chosen alcohol as the key ingredient, led to this ice cream. It’s not so alcohol-soaked that one scoop will send you off into paroxysms of piratical rumbustification, but I’d advise against giving it to children (even if their mothers are pirates).

Easy Rum And Raisin Ice Cream

Rum and raisin ice cream
No need for a fancy machine to make this ice cream – why, you could even make it in the galley of a galleon (as long as it had a freezer). If you’re not a fan of traditional Christmas puddings, this is a great do-ahead dessert. Freeze it in a large lined loaf tin (or even a cake tin), then serve slices with little tots of rum and chocolate sauce. If you are a fan of proper Christmas pudding – or even Christmas mince pies – then a dollop of this on top is a delectable alternative to brandy butter.

1/4 cup dark, smoky rum
1/2 cup raisins
2 egg yolks
1 egg
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup golden syrup
500ml cream
70g dark chocolate, roughly chopped into pieces no bigger than a raisin

At least two hours before you’re ready to make the ice cream (and therefore at least eight hours before you want to eat it), put the raisins and rum in a small bowl. Cover and set aside.
When you’re ready to make it, beat the egg yolks, egg and sugar until pale and thick. Use electric beaters unless you have the arms of a sailor.
Drain the rum into the egg mixture (reserving the raisins), then add the golden syrup and beat again. Pour in the cream and beat until soft peaks form. Scatter over the raisins and chocolate and fold in. Pour into a plastic container and freeze for about six hours before eating. Makes about 1.3 litres.

Have a wonderful weekend, me hearties x