Five fab vegetable cake recipes

The 2014 edition of Wellington On A Plate’s Bake Club (‘like a book club, but tastier’) is underway and next week’s challenge is to make a cake that includes vegetables as a star ingredient. I was shocked when one of my fellow bakers remarked she’d never heard of a vegetable cake before – if you’re in the same boat, here are my own top five fab vegetable cake recipes. 

1. Chocolate Potato Cake: To be sure, this is not some kind of Irish joke, but a moist, dense cake slathered in a Baileys-laced cream cheese icing. It’s addictive (and it doesn’t use much Baileys so there’s plenty for the cook to knock back afterwards).

2. Kumara and Cardamom Cake: For something a little more refined and subtle, with complex flavours and a great texture, this cake can’t be beat. It’s also gluten-free (but don’t let that put you off if you’re a gluten fan).

3. Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake: Does cheesecake count? I think so – and this one will convert the most reluctant pumpkin eater. My idea of a good night in is one of these cheesecakes, a sofa and a spoon.

 

4. The Ultimate Carrot Cake: I know carrot cake is a bit ubiquitous, but this is one of my all-time favourites, with lots of carrot, fruit and nuts in a dense, spicy batter.

    5. The Best-Ever Beetroot Cake: This is another winner, not least because the beetroot turns it pink. I’m not normally a fan of pink food, but somehow it works with cake. Anyway, this scores highly on the unusual-ness score (I’m sure that’s one of the judging criteria).

Do you have a favourite vegetable-based cake? Let me know in the comments below – now that I’ve shared my favourite recipes I’m going to have to dig out something pretty special to win!

Have a great weekend everyone x

Treat me: Chocolate marmalade bars

I’m calling it now: I think marmalade is about to have a moment. I’ve reached this conclusion via a highly scientific process involving the fact that the Paddington Bear film (starring Colin Firth!) is out later this year and marmalade is sure to be a key marketing tool.

Paddington, in case you’re not familiar with the tale, is passionate about marmalade and never goes anywhere without a marmalade sandwich about his person. If the thought of marmalade sandwiches leaves you cold, then I think one of these chocolate-studded, marmalade-filled bars might persuade you that the bear from Peru was onto a good thing.

Marmalade Chocolate Bars Easy Recipe Recipe/Photo: Lucy Corry

Chocolate Marmalade Bars
With rolled oats, butter and marmalade all key ingredients, you could just about get away with calling these sticky, chewy bars breakfast if it weren’t for the nuggets of dark chocolate and crystallised ginger. This recipe is inspired by these jammy flapjacks, created by the ever-talented Choclette. The combination of thin-cut orange marmalade and chocolate makes these taste like a more wholesome Terry’s Chocolate Orange. If you’re a grapefruit marmalade fan, try some white chocolate chunks instead.

120g butter
400g thin-cut orange marmalade
220g rolled oats
50g dessicated coconut
150g crystallised ginger, cut into small dice
150g good quality dark chocolate, chopped into chunks

Heat the oven to 180C and line a brownie tin (measuring around 19cm x 27cm) with baking paper.
Put the butter and marmalade into a large saucepan and set over gentle heat,  stirring occasionally until the butter has melted. Set aside to cool for five minutes, then stir in the oats, coconut, ginger and half the chocolate until well mixed.
Press into the prepared tin, then scatter the remainder of the chocolate over the top.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Leave to cool completely before cutting. Makes about 20 small bars. Store in an airtight container in a cool place.

This easy recipe is exceptionally timely – not only does the Wellington On A Plate Bake Club kick off next week with a slice challenge, but Karen at Lavender and Lovage, along with Janie of The Hedgecombers, have put a call out for flapjack and traybake recipes for this month’s edition of Tea Time Treats. Check out Janie’s link for more great traybake recipes if you’re needing some #BakeClub inspiration.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Random recipe: The Bees Knees

This time last year I was idling around Soho, hoping to have a drink with Mr Belleau Kitchen. Alas, our schedules did not allow it, but we’re finally managing a kind of virtual cocktail hour through this month’s Random Recipes challenge.

Cocktail Recipe For The Bees Knees

For July, Dom has asked us to delve deep into our drinks books and come up with a cocktail recipe. I didn’t have to try very hard – when I lifted a notebook off the shelf in my office a tiny slip of paper with this recipe on it fluttered out. It’s for a Bees Knees, a honey, lemon and gin cocktail that I last made for my father in a tiny flat in Hampstead in 2008. That flat has long gone from my life and, sadly, so has Dad, but shaking this up in a jam jar took me back there in an instant. If gin makes you maudlin – look, even writing about it makes me a bit blue – then rest assured you can make it with vodka too.

The Bees Knees
I remember cutting this recipe out of the Observer Food Monthly several weeks ahead of my parents’ visit, chiefly because honey and gin were two of Dad’s great loves. (Cigars, red wine, steak and chocolate were harder to fit in a cocktail glass.) I’ve rejigged the quantities a little and this amount is enough for two – or one very thirsty person. To me, this is the perfect cocktail; it’s short, punchy and not too sweet.

50ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 Tbsp honey syrup – made by stirring together 1 Tbsp honey and 2 Tbsp water
100ml best quality gin (or vodka)
ice

Put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake to combine. Strain into two martini glasses and garnish with a strip of lemon rind. Serves two.

Are you a fan of the cocktail hour? What’s your poison?

The perfect chocolate smoothie

I don’t want to jinx things, but we are having the best winter ever. There are tomatoes growing in my garden, despite heavy frosts and gusts of wind that feel like they’ve blown straight from Antarctica. A work colleague whose house is hooked up to solar panels says they have more battery power now than they did in mid-summer. It’s not exactly t-shirt and jandals weather, but the sun is out and the days are crisp and clear.

The weather is so good that on Monday, to celebrate the start of the school holidays, we had chocolate smoothies for breakfast. On Friday, to celebrate the last day of term, we had chocolate porridge. I’m a strong contender for Mum Of The Year, don’t you think?

Dairy Free Chocolate Smoothie No Refined Sugar

The perfect chocolate smoothie

The ingredients for these smoothies came from The Big Fair Bake, a Fairtrade initiative designed to showcase the many wonderful ways you can a) support Fairtrade and b) use Fairtrade ingredients. Supporting Fairtrade seems like a no-brainer to me – it’s getting easier all the time to find fairly traded and produced things all the time and I like the idea that I am (in a tiny way, admittedly) helping other families while doing something nice for my own. While The Big Fair Bake is, as the name suggests, all about baking, this is a so-hot-right-now option that doesn’t require you to turn on the oven or even the elements. Now that’s what I call the perfect holiday breakfast.

400ml coconut milk (the Trade Aid one is delicious!)

3 Tbsp good quality cocoa powder

1 Tbsp honey (or more to taste, if you like things really sweet)

3 very ripe bananas, peeled, cut into chunks and frozen

Put everything in a blender and blitz to form a smooth and frothy mixture. Divide between two tall glasses and serve. Pink straws optional, unless you live in my house.


Treat me: Brown bread icecream

“Unlike Justice, hospitality should not be seen to be done!”

Easy Brown Bread Ice Cream

So begins ‘Dining In And Dining Out In New Zealand’, an absolute treasure in my cookbook library. This book, gifted by a friend with a strong sense of the absurd, has survived many cookbook culls and house moves. Written in 1973, it has stayed a strong favourite. I’m unsure if the author, Patricia Harris, is still alive, but I’d love to meet her. I imagine her as one part Margot Leadbetter, one part Fanny Craddock and two parts Delia Smith. 

Like the title suggests, the book is part-dedicated to catering at home and part-dedicated to New Zealand’s 1970s restaurant scene. While none of the restaurants she recommends are still in existence, many of her recipes remain in vogue. I’m not sure I agree with her dictum that vichyssoise (first take your homemade chicken stock) is the answer to the busy hostess’s woes, but the intention is well meant.

My fondness for Mrs Harris’ means her book has never been relegated to my office (the staging post for cookbooks that need new homes), so it’s getting a moment in the sun this month for Belleau Kitchen’s June Random Recipe challenge. We were supposed to pick the recipe on page 40, but since I couldn’t see myself acquiring ‘five dozen rock oysters or four dozen Stewart Island monsters’ for the seafood starter, I went for page 41 instead. 

Easy Brown Bread Ice Cream Recipe

Brown Bread Icecream

This comes from the ‘Dinner At Home’ chapter, which is full of helpful suggestions. My favourite refers to the carving of the loin of lamb: “persuade your husband to carve it as neatly as possible (if your husband is one of those “joint wreckers” I advise you to invite an experienced surgeon among your guests)”. Mrs Harris suggests serving this unusual, but delectable, icecream with caramel sauce and praline, but I reckon it’s fine by itself or served between two very thin slices of toasted baguette in a kind of literal icecream sandwich. No husband or surgeon required.

170g brown sugar

60g butter

125ml water

4 egg yolks, beaten

60ml milk

700ml cream

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups wholemeal bread crumbs, lightly toasted

Put the egg yolks in a bowl that will fit over a medium saucepan in a double-boiler arrangement. Put a couple of cms of water in the saucepan and set over medium heat.

Put the sugar, butter and water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until it reaches boiling point.

Pour this syrup over the eggs and beat well, then add the milk. Set the egg mixture bowl over the water in the saucepan and stir well until it thickens (about five minutes).

Remove the bowl from the saucepan and put in the freezer to chill (about 20 minutes should do it).

When the egg mixture is cold, whip the cream and vanilla together until it is just before the soft peak stage. Fold in the egg mixture and the toasted breadcrumbs, then scrape into a plastic container. Cover and freeze for at least four hours. 

Let ripen at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. Makes about 1.3 litres.

Have a great weekend, everyone x