Dear friends I have something excitng to share with you. A little while ago, my new blogger friend Aurelie at Pause Gourmande (a lovely French blog) asked me to participate in an interesting blogger project. She was going to put together an online magazine and asked me to share a few photos and recipes.
Here is the link to the magazine’s spring issue. I think it looks great and that Aurelie did a fantastic job of turning this project into a beautiful magazine. I love the compositon of her photographs and the light and subject is always gorgeous.
The magazine and all the recipes (spiced chocolate date cakes and red wine braised lentils) are in French. I adore the French language and encourage you to try my recipes out! For those who don't read French – no worries – I’ve posted everything about the recipes below…
A common dessert here in Australia is sticky date pudding – a velvety rich date cake topped with a buttery rich caramel sauce. Not that I don’t love indulging in creamy, heavy desserts (they definitely have a place in my kitchen!), but the warm and sunny weather here often inspires me to make something lighter yet still rich and generous. These spiced chocolate cakes are moist and have a great natural sweetness provided by the dried dates. I use warming and fragrant spices like cinnamon, cardamom and ginger to add a kick to the subtle flavours of dark chocolate. This may sound a little heavy but these little bundt cakes require only a small amount of flour, which makes them moist, light and airy - just perfect for a lovely sunny day! Once cooked and cooled I keep them in the fridge because I love the texture of a cooled spongy cake. You can serve the cakes on their own, dusted with cocoa or with some vanilla whipped cream and/or ice cream. Try making them and you won’t be disappointed.
spiced chocolate date cakes
recipe makes 4 smallish bundt cakes
*use organic ingredients where possible
180g dates (pitted)
280 ml water
1 tsp baking soda
60g dark chocolate – broken into small pieces
60 g butter, softened
20g raw sugar
100g self raising flour (if using plain flour make sure to add baking powder as a raising agent)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cardamom
pinch sea salt
Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
Place a small pot with dates and water on medium heat and bring to the boil. Once at boiling point, turn off the heat, add baking soda and let sit 10 minutes to cool – then blend mixture until reaches puréed consistency and stir in chocolate pieces. In the meantime, in a separate bowl beat butter and sugar until creamy, add in eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Add date mixture to bowl and stir well. Sift in flour, ground spices and pinch of sea salt. Pour thick batter into greased bundt moulds and bake on centre shelf in oven 30-40 minutes until knife inserted comes out clean. Take out and let cool on racks. To finish dust cakes with dark cocoa powder and enjoy.
Lentils are a common dish at my house – they are not only inexpensive but they are also wonderfully versatile and can carry lots of different flavours. A lot of Indian cooking is based on the use of lentils: it not only adds protein and heartiness to vegetarian dishes but also thickens soups and sauces. There are many varieties of lentils but one of my favourites (which actually isn't that common in Indian cooking) is the Puy lentil or French green lentil. Since puy lentils hold their shape during cooking, they keep their lovely toothsome texture. The small little discs of speckled green lentils are not only useful for salad type dishes but they are also beautiful to serve on a plate. The flavours in this dish aren’t complicated – I sautéed onions, garlic and carrots, deglazed with red wine, used lots of fresh herbs like bay leaf, rosemary, thyme and basil and finished it with a splash of balsamic vinegar for an added richness and sweet tang. I served my lentils with sautéed chicory greens and pan fried halloumi cheese.
red wine braised lentils with fresh herbs
recipe serves 4
1-2 tbsp olive oil
½ red onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 fresh bay leaves
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig thyme
1 cup Puy lentils, rinsed
½ cup red wine (I used a full bodied wine like Cabernet Sauvignon)
3 cups water or stock
sea salt and cracked black pepper
1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup fresh cherry tomatoes
sprinkle of dried chili
Place a Dutch oven or sauté pan with high edges on medium heat. Once pan is hot, add oil and onions, carrots and garlic to sauté for 5 minutes. Add bay leaves, rosemary, thyme and lentils – stir for a few minutes. Add red wine to deglaze pan and cook off alcohol – about 1-2 minutes. Add 3 cups of water or stock and simmer until lentils are just cooked about 20-25 minutes. Make sure to add more water if needed to finish cooking lentils. Season lentils well with sea salt and pepper, add balsamic vinegar and stir 1-2 more minutes. Once off the heat, add a little extra virgin olive oil and stir through fresh cherry tomatoes and a sprinkle of dried chili.
Serve lentils on their own or with sautéed chicory and pan fried halloumi as I’ve done. Of course, this dish must be enjoyed with glass of delicious red wine.