For dessert?

I think almost every food blog out there has a post on brownies. I’ve tried out a number of different recipes using a variety of ingredients, even using beets (really good recipe, stay tuned for future post). While most recipes call for butter, I often substitute oil. There is a difference of course and it depends on what texture, feel and taste you’re looking for.
Now, this may seem strange, but I use olive oil. There is a debate about using olive oil in baking as it has a strong flavour, but my philosophy is that using several strong flavours can work really well and prevent any one taste from overwhelming the palate. So if you plan on using olive oil in baking, simply also use spices and/or more grainy tasting flour. Of course, olive oil isn’t the best choice for all recipes – for example, in my carrot cake recipe I used neutral tasting canola oil – but it does complement certain flavours.
For these brownies I added toasted hazelnuts and one teaspoon of cayenne powder – another ingredient I love. The little bit of heat imparted by the chili paired well with the rich dark chocolate and the crunchy hazelnuts. The tastes reminded me of nutella (but more like a nutella party in your mouth). I also happened to have some leftover strawberries and decided to make a compote to go with the brownies.
Compotes sound complicated but they are basically made either by macerating fruits in sugar and liquid (alcohol/water) or by cooking gently until thick and syrupy (that’s all I did!). I whipped some fresh cream and folded in some compote. Try it out and I promise you won’t be able to eat just one.
olive oil brownies
makes 15 pieces
adapted from a recipe posted on spoonfulblog

100g dark chocolate (I used 85%)
1/4 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil
2 organic eggs
1/2 cup raw sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk (can use any type)
1/2 cup organic plain flour
1/4 sea salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2/3 cup toasted hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 175 degrees C/350 degrees F
Prepare the tin - I greased a rectangular pan and lined it with baking paper

To melt the chocolate: place bowl of chocolate over pot of simmering water (don't let the bowl touch the water). Once melted, remove from heat and add olive oil - mix and leave aside to cool.
Next, toast hazelnuts in oven for 5-6 minutes, take out and remove skins. Chop roughly and leave aside.

For the brownies: beat sugar and eggs together until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes), add in vanilla extract and milk and fold in cooled chocolate mixture.  In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt and cayenne powder. Fold in dry ingredients to wet ingredients and then fold in chopped hazelnuts.

The batter should be thick and not too wet. Place batter into prepared tin and bake 15-20 minutes. Remove and cut into squares. You can keep in fridge up to one week. Enjoy.

Spanish flavour

As a celebration of the one beautiful day of summer we’ve had so far I wanted to make something special for dinner. Given the heat, the dish had to be light and fresh, but still full of flavour. That’s when I remembered a recipe for an Andalusian gazpacho (take from Skye Gyngell’s recipe found here). I substituted the more special ingredients (marcona almonds and aged sherry vinegar) with natural almonds and red wine vinegar.
I often use bread to thicken the gazpacho (try something crusty like a ciabiatta and then soak it in water to make it soft and spongy). But this time I happened to see fresh green almonds being sold at the grocer and thought it would be great to use them as a garnish for my soup. Using nuts in cooking is often a great idea. Nuts are a healthy way to thicken up sauces and soups - for example, a lot of vegetarian Indian dishes use cashews, peanuts and almonds to create creaminess and add protein.
The soup was crunchy, sweet and tangy. Just perfect with a glass of white wine and some fresh crusty bread. The perfect – and first – summer evening.

spanish gazpacho soup
Serves 6 (or 4 with leftovers)

2 kg (4lbs) Tomatoes – vine ripened are the best –
1 red chili, deseeded
1 red onion
2 red peppers, deseeded
1 large english cucumber, deseeded
1 clove garlic (if you’re afraid of raw garlic you can blanch it first)
1 bunch fresh basil
1 handful of lightly toasted almonds (I used natural but you can use marcona if you can find them)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red-wine vinegar           
1 cup of tomato juice (you might not use all of it, use to thin the soup out)
good pinch of sea salt and black pepper
This recipe is simple to make since everything gets blitzed together in a food processor. First chop everything (ensure deseeded) into a relatively small rough chop. Add in tomatoes, red chili and onion, pulse a few times and so on with the rest of the items, making sure to pulse/mix after adding few ingredients. Add tomato juice last – and use enough until you reach the right consistency and taste. Make sure it’s well seasoned since you will serve it cold. Blend well but note you can leave it a little rough as it adds great texture.  Refrigerate well (3-4 hrs) and serve chilled. The soup is best served the day of making but will keep for a few days in the fridge. Enjoy.

An education on food

Last week I was lucky enough to spend some time with the lovely Lyndey Milan.  Lyndey is a well-known food and wine person and has a wealth of knowledge on all foodie topics. I not only got to help her prepare for her weekly food segment on a daily morning show but also got to join her when she spoke to kids about food as part of the 'week of tastes' campaign.
The 'week of tastes' is an interesting program dedicated to changing the way children relate to food. As part of the larger Sydney International Food Festival, and amidst growing concerns about obesity and poor nutrition, it tries to raise awareness about the diverse and exciting world of food. I feel quite strongly about food education and think it’s vital for a society to know where its food comes from (not the grocery store!), whose labour goes into growing it and how it makes its way to kitchens.
As part of the program Lyndey did a demonstration on the versatility of carrots, showing them that this vegetable could be used in a variety of ways. Changing taste and texture allows you to create new foods. We started with (grated) carrots with a little freshly squeezed orange juice, and then moved onto a (purée of) cumin carrot dip, (creamed) carrot soup, and we finished with a (baked) carrot cake.
While the kids tried everything (with Lyndey’s encouragement) they couldn’t get enough of the cake! So I thought I would make one myself. This cake was full of carrots, sooo moist and had the perfect cream cheese icing. Try it out for yourself.

carrot cake with cream cheese icing

serves 10-12 large slices or if cut into bars makes 24 pieces
adapted from Lyndey Milan’s recipe

3 eggs
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/3 cup flour ( I mixed plain and wholemeal)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp vanilla bean/extract
2 cups (3-4 carrots) grated raw carrots
1/2 cup walnuts

cream cheese icing

150g cream cheese
100g icing sugar
lemon zest and 1 tbsp juice (1/2 lemon)
1 tsp vanilla extract/vanilla bean seeds

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C (150 for fan forced)
Grease and line cake tin (I used a round one)

For batter: beat eggs and sugar until fluffy and then add in oil and vanilla. In a separate bowl mix flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices. Add dry ingredients to wet and fold in carrots and nuts. Pour batter into prepared tin and bake approx. 40 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool on rack.

To make icing: beat together cream cheese, icing sugar, lemon juice/zest and vanilla until light and fluffy. Ice cake when cooled down. The cake should keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.

A new take

I wanted something sweet to eat the other day and, as I mentioned in an earlier post, cookies are a new joy of mine since moving to Australia. Not wanting to leave my house, I searched the cupboards to see what they would lead me to. I found a LOT of oatmeal (my dad was visiting and since about half of his diet consists of this hearty grain we had stocked up on it). This naturally made me think of its most famous use – the oatmeal raisin cookie.  I wanted the cookies to be chewy and not too sweet. So I tried to find a good recipe but also one that I could easily adapt in order to reinvent the traditional oatmeal raisin cookie.

My search for recipes led me to one by SmittenKitchen – an amazing food blog with lots and lots of tested recipes. The ingredient list sounded good but of course I wanted to change a few quantities and types of products to test out my new take on the classic: I used 1/3 cup sugar, ¾ cup millet flour (instead of plain flour), ½ cup raisins, handful of walnuts and I had to add some chocolate (50g) – always dark. 
The millet flour made the cookies taste quite different. Instead of the classic, crispy exterior normally created by the baked oatmeal, the cookies ended up more soft and chewy, and almost a little crumbly (ie messy). The mess they made was well worth it – they turned out delicious! The strong taste of the millet worked to make the cookie seem grainy without the heaviness usually imparted by wholegrain flour.  The chocolate added that little extra touch!

Da best pizza

I know a fair number of die-hard junk pizza lovers. For them, a real pizza is the kind you find swimming in oil and oozing with cheesiness. For me that isn’t pizza. The best kind of pizza is the homemade kind: not mass-produced, and so fresh that the smell of yeast in the dough remains in the air, even after baking.  That is my kind of pizza.
There are a number of pizza recipes to choose from – my mom had a great recipe, my sister too. The other day I was reading Saveur ( best foodie magazine ever and seriously impossible to afford in Australia – thank you public library) and found an interesting pizza recipe. Of course I still had to change a few things...
Making the dough is easy but be careful not to mix too much sugar, salt and oil with yeast, because that way it won’t bloom. I added honey instead of sugar (this is what my sister does and I find it adds more flavour) and used half plain flour and half wholegrain. In the tradition of the Italians I use a few simple ingredients to make my pizza. It may sound strange to some but one of the tastiest pizzas I make has grapes, rosemary and red chili. Of course, I wouldn’t forget the parmigiano reggiano – a classic Italian cheese.
The fresh crisp pizza holds well with tomato sauce: otherwise known as a reddish concoction of goodness. I basically puree tomatoes and add sea salt, some crushed garlic and parsley.  If you don’t have time to make sauce, simply crush a few roma tomatoes in a bowl, that will do. Seeing as it’s wonderful to have some choice, I made a other few pizzas; one with sautéed mushrooms with gai lan (Chinese broccoli), and one with cherry tomatoes and bocconcini – all homemade, warm and gooey. Buon appetito!

pizza with grapes, rosemary and red chili (or other ideas)
serves 2-4 depending on hunger
adapted from Saveur No.127

1 cup water (tepid/room temperature)
1/2 package dry yeast (7g or ½ tbsp)
1 tsp honey
½ tsp sea salt
2-3 tbsp olive oil
3 cups organic flour (I used half plain and half wholemeal for a heartier crust)
3/4 cup tomato sauce (as mentioned above just use crushed tomatoes and cook if desired)

topping ideas
red or green grapes
fresh rosemary
red chili
steamed Chinese broccoli/broccolini
cherry tomatoes
Saveur’s recipe used squash blossom and burrata - yum.

For the dough: first bloom* the yeast by placing water in a bowl, adding yeast and honey, let sit until foamy (10 mins). Mix flour and salt and stir in water and oil to make dough. Transfer dough to floured surface and knead 8-10 minutes (and no less!) Create two balls and place into bowl – add a little oil to ensure they don’t stick. Cover and let sit in warm place to rise – about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 225 degrees C (use a pizza stone if you have one as it helps increase the heat/surface for a crustier pizza)
To make pizza: take small ball of dough and using fingertips stretch out to size preferred. Cover dough with tea towel and let rest 15 mins. To prepare pizza, spread sauce over dough and add ingredients. Bake for about 10-12 minutes depending on size and taste. Enjoy.

*If I forgot to mention, bloom refers to a chemical reaction -- when yeast is activated carbon dioxide is created and therefore the dough will rise.

Snack time

I am not one to resist the temptation of snacking. In fact I prefer to eat small amounts of a few different items over the course of the day. But I am not drawn to these light-in-between-meal-treats solely for hedonistic reasons: snacking is actually very healthy ... seriously it is. That's in any case what all the health gurus say; having small snacks and meals is supposed to be better than just eating large meals.
My father has been visiting from abroad. And while he is a man who enjoys his merlot, he’s not known for a huge appetite: he eats like a bird. He doesn’t really think about food nor does he really enjoy it. Which has often made me wonder if he is really my father...
In an attempt to sway him towards eating, and knowing he doesn’t eat much, I thought it best to make a delicious snack that he couldn’t resist. Sometimes there is nothing more inviting than a table full of snacks with different flavours -- sweet, savoury, spicy, tangy --  just sitting there asking to be munched on. My mission was to make spiced nuts ... very easy and too delicious to eat just one.  This recipe was passed onto me by my sister but I changed it a little.
You could serve the spiced nuts alone or with some cheese and grapes - or any other fruits as the sweetness balances perfectly with the heat of the mixed nuts. This is a perfect and easy snack to have for parties. It takes no time at all to make and your guests will be left wanting more. Even my dad ended up eating quite a bit!

Thanks for the pumpkins

This coming weekend is a little holiday in Canada called Thanksgiving. Since moving to Australia I find I feel more Canadian now than I ever did. That must have to do with holding onto nostalgic symbols of ‘home’ and the people you miss. So this week I decided to make pumpkin tarts.

My first experience with thanksgiving foods came in grade 7, when my teacher assigned a few of us to bake pumpkin pie. Initially, as a child of Indian parents, I had no idea what pumpkin pie was; nor did I have any interest in eating a vegetable for dessert (Australians seem to feel the same way about pumpkins in their puddings). But I was quickly won over. We used canned pumpkin puree, and while I frown on such things now, at the time it was incredibly delicious: sweet and creamy, hints of spices like cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. It was vaguely savoury but sweet enough not to be mistaken for anything but dessert.
For my present-day version of pumpkin tarts I use wholewheat sweet pastry and fresh kent pumpkin (you could also use butternut). Pastry is one of those things that seems quite daunting, but don’t be afraid – it’s incredibly easy to make. I use my hands to make the pastry but using a food processor works just as well – and saves with the mess!
A few tips on working with pastry: don’t touch it too much as the heat from your hands melts the butter almost instantly; let it rest in the fridge as much as possible; and if it falls apart, don’t worry as you can press it into the casing and then bake it (it will miraculously stay together).

pumkin pie tarts
makes 4 medium sized tarts
If pastry still scares you then just buy the sweet pastry (available at any grocery store) and use my pumpkin filling recipe.

wholemeal sweet pastry (I use organic as much as it produces a better result)
200g wholemeal flour
125g butter (not too cold)
50g sugar
1 egg

Set oven to 180 degrees C
To make the pastry: make sure all ingredients are room temperature. Cut up butter into smallish squares and leave aside. Sift dry ingredients into large bowl, add butter and crumble with hands until pastry texture resembles sand. Add in slightly beaten egg and mix gently until pastry comes together into a smooth ball. Cover and rest in fridge 30 mins. Once rested, roll out with little flour on surface and place into cases. If it falls apart – try placing pastry back into fridge or press together in case - it will still work!  Dock* the pastry and bake blind*  Take out of oven and let cool in cases.

pumpkin filling
800g kent pumpkin
1 egg
½ cup milk (you could also use alternatives like soy, almond)
2 tbsp yogurt
¼ cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp clove
pinch nutmeg

Set oven to 180 degrees C
Wrap pumpkin in foil (leave skin on as it’s easier to clean after baked) and bake 40 mins or until flesh is soft. Remove and cool. Process pumpkin with all ingredients but add egg last and mix well. Pour mix into tart cases and bake at 170 degrees for 40-50 mins until set. Cool and serve with extra maple syrup and/or whipped cream. Enjoy.

* docking refers to using a fork or sharp object and gently pricking the pastry so that it doesn’t rise.
* blind baking means baking without the filling in order to pre-cook pastry so it doesn’t remain raw. Often beans/beads/rice is used to act as a filling so that pastry doesn’t rise.

The end of winter

Winter is ending in Sydney – I guess officially it has already ended but the mornings are still fresh and chilly. With winter leaving us, we have to say goodbye to all those comforting, heavy winter foods. As one last hooray to winter I wanted to cook a winterish vegetable that is often overlooked: the cauliflower.
I wanted to cook it tandoori-style and with a lot of spice (since cauliflower is a vegetable that can carry heavy flavours). An Indian ‘tandoor’ is basically a very hot clay oven that gives food the most amazing flavour. It’s a little bit like a wood-fire oven, in that the high temperatures cook the food quickly and impart a smoky quality. Like most people, I don’t have a tandoor but luckily I do have a barbeque grill. Try my recipe for spicy ‘tandoori-style’ cauliflower with mint raita.

tandoori style cauliflower with mint raita
(serves 3/4 as a side)

½ head cauliflower
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic crushed
½ tsp tumeric
1 tsp garam masala
2 red chilies
2 tsp paprika
2 inch piece of ginger – grated
sea salt – pinch
freshly ground black pepper
½ lemon

Chop the cauliflower into florets and pour oil over making sure it gets on every piece. Add all spices, garlic, ginger, salt/pepper and mix. Place onto pre-heated grill at medium heat (if you don’t have a bbq use a hot oven). Cook for 10-15 minutes depending on how soft you like your cauliflower. Once cooked add juice from ½ lemon.

To make the mint raita: take 1 cup of yoghurt (I use an organic low fat yoghurt), add ½ bunch of fresh mint leaves (pick and chop finely), small handful of chopped coriander and salt/pepper to taste. The raita helps cool the palate from the spicy heat of the cauliflower.

A cheesy favourite

Of the desserts out there – pies, pastries, ice cream/gelato, pudding and a whole slew of other yummy treats - there is a favourite in my house: the cheesecake. Thanks to my husband, I too now love this delicious dessert. So I had to find a recipe that wasn't too indulgent. Instead of heavy, cream-laden, need-a-forklift-to-eat-it cheesecake, I like baking cakes that are light and smooth and melt in your mouth. I use a simple biscuit and almond meal base rather than a rich pastry and I don’t use cream or artificial thickeners (I only want unadulterated cheesiness in my cheesecake).
This cheesecake is a fruity one. The strong yet subtle flavours of lime and blood orange produce an interesting taste. I also use some blueberries - just a few for colour and added sweetness. I find that the bold bright colour of blood oranges and the tangy flavour of the limes match well with the cold creaminess of the cheesecake. If you’d rather use the fruit for decoration instead of baking it into the cake, just leave it out of the recipe and it will still work just fine. Often I bake a plain cheesecake and then add lemon juice and zest for a little freshness.

blood orange and lime cheesecake
(this recipe makes about 8-10 smallish pieces)

12 biscuits (I use wholemeal but you could use granita (Australia) or graham crackers (Canadian)
1/3 cup almond meal
1 tbsp melted butter
125g cream cheese
1 lime juice and zest
1 blood orange zest and 1 tbsp juice
225g ricotta cheese
1 organic egg
1/8 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp yoghurt
2 tbsp honey
¼ blueberries

Set oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

To make the base: in a food processor crumble biscuits until the texture is like sand (or just bash a bag with biscuits with a rolling pin). Add almond meal, melted butter and mix, press into a small square or rectangle pan – making sure the base is at least 1/8 inch thick. To set the base, bake for 10 mins (watch it so it doesn’t brown too much). Take out and let cool.

For the filling: mix/blend the cheese with salt, zest, juice, honey, yoghurt and egg. Mix well but don’t overbeat. Add in blueberries.

Pour mix onto cookie base – it may seem watery but don’t worry it will thicken once baked and cooled. Place into oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. If it’s browning on the top, cover with foil and resume baking. Take out and let cool. Refrigerate before serving and enjoy!

A strange sweetness

Right now it’s winter in Sydney. Yes, winter. I get confused by the strange feeling of waking up with cold fingers and toes and then the realization that it’s July. I know winter asks for warming foods like soups and slowly braised stews but sometimes, just sometimes, I still need to have something cold and sweet.
Since I’m a big fan of mixing sweet with salty or spicy ingredients, and dark chocolate with chilli is one of my favourite treats, I thought of making a dark chocolate and pink peppercorn sorbet. Pink peppercorns have a different taste and texture from the everyday black peppercorns you find in stores. Unlike black pepper, these little pink berries taste much sweeter, smell fantastic (like a flowery perfume) and the texture is soft and hollow so that when pressed they break apart easily. They are perfect for using in desserts and even in cocktails, and they add an extra hint of warmth – much needed for a cold winter evening (well, it’s not that cold in Sydney).

dark chocolate sorbet with pink peppercorns
this recipe makes a creamy sorbet, a little like an ice cream but not as rich

2 cups milk (non-fat or whole depending on richness desired)
½ cup cocoa powder
6 oz (about 170g) good quality dark chocolate
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ cup sugar –  demerara sugar or something less refined
seasalt – pinch
1 tbsp pink peppercorns (crushed)

In a medium sized saucepan on medium heat, add milk and whisk in cocoa powder, sugar, and salt. Heat up until whisked in smooth. When milk is warm add in chocolate (chopped). Once all chocolate has melted, take off heat and strain. If it doesn’t look smooth enough, blend 15 seconds. At this point, mix in vanilla and crushed pink peppercorns.

Chill the mix and then churn in ice-cream/sorbet maker. If you don’t have an ice cream maker you can check on the mix every ½-1 hour and mix around with a fork. It’s not the best way to achieve a frozen product, but it will work.

For a rainy day

What else is there to do on a rainy day but stay at home and cook something that will comfort your soul. For me, there can be nothing better than spending a few hours behind a warm stove, chopping vegetables and stirring things together to create something simply delicious. Of the many warm and hearty dishes I like to cook on wet and soggy days, soup is one of my favourites. My pea and mint soup with freshly grated grano padano cheese is a really easy recipe. I use frozen peas – yes, you read it correctly: frozen peas!

Some folks may wonder about using frozen vegetables when freshness is the most important aspect of good food. But peas are very temperamental: if you don’t consume them right away you risk that they’ll lose their sweetness and become starchy and just plain boring. So when they are harvested they need to be either consumed right away or flash-frozen.  This is true of many vegetables, but peas mature much faster than the average vegetable so you have to be quick!  Therefore, cooking with frozen peas allows you to enjoy the pea at its peak.

pea and mint soup
serves 4

500g frozen peas (about 2 cups)
1 green onion
a few sprigs of fresh mint
750 ml water or stock (I use vegetable stock or 1 tbsp miso paste mixed in the water)
½ cup grano padano cheese – use parmesan if you can’t find this one…any sharp cheese or even fresh would work

In a medium sized pot, place peas and water/stock and bring to boil. Add in chopped green onion and salt and pepper (sometimes I also add some dried chili flakes for heat). Cook 5 mins and turn off heat. Add 2 tbsp of chopped mint leaves – leave roughly chopped as you will need to blend. Take off heat. Once mix is slightly cooled, blend mix and return to pot. Add cheese (add more if you love cheese) and then season to taste with salt and fresh ground pepper. That’s it!

The origins of the muffin

The other day I decided to bake some muffins. As I was reaching for the flour in the pantry I found myself wondering where muffins come from. They are not cakes or biscuits, and even the name sounds interesting. So how exactly is it different from other baked goods like cupcakes?
After some research I found out a few interesting facts about muffins. Muffins date back to the early 18th century. The Merriam-Webster dictionary suggests that the word derives from Low German: muffen (muffe) and it is defined as “a quick bread made of batter containing egg and baked in a pan having cuplike molds”. The Joy of Baking adds that the muffin originates from the French moufflet, meaning a type ofsoft bread. While European in origins the world has done what it wants with muffins and for most it’s a cross between cake and a bread. I do appreciate the way we have taken this simple traditional item and made it into something else entirely.

At my house, muffins are a staple, not only because they provide the perfect accompaniment to a hot cup of tea or a frothy cappuccino, but because they are little carriers of goodness. A muffin, whether sweet or savoury, holds all the delicious ingredients of your choosing. For example, carrots, cinnamon, chocolate, walnuts, poppyseeds… and the list goes on. I like muffins because when I’m hungry and don’t want to eat something processed and greasy from cafes or stands, I can reach into my bag and pull out my homemade treat. They can be rich andsatisfying and so simple to make. Now after all my rambling on muffins, aren’t you hungry? If so, try out my spiced carrot muffins with lemon cream cheese.

spiced carrot muffins (with lemon cream cheese)
makes a dozen

1-1 ½ cups milk – soy or regular milk
1/3 cup oil – I use vegetable but you can use any other non-flavoured oil
1 organic egg
2 large carrots grated
1 tsp vanilla bean extract
200g wholemeal flour (about 1 ½ cups)
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of baking soda
2 tbsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp sucanat (short for sugar cane natural – you can get it at health foods stores, use something sweet if you can’t find it)
pinch cardamom
pinch cinnamon
pinch salt (helps the baking process and brings out flavour)  

Lemon cream cheese
½ cup cream cheese
1 tsp lemon zest
1-2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp maple syrup/honey

For muffins
Preheat oven to 190 degrees. Start by mixing all the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl whisk egg and milk together with oil. Add in wet ingredients (keep grated carrots aside) to dry ingredients to form batter. Batter should be wet like a cake and still lumpy (don’t overmix as you will lose air). If it’s not wet enough, add more milk, a little at a time. Incorporate carrots at this point and spoon into muffin tin. Bake for around 20 mins (check to make sure baked throughout).

For icing
Mix all ingredients together, adjust with less or more lemon juice if you want it thicker/thinner. Pipe or spread over muffins. Enjoy.

A time for love and a time for cookies

I never really understood the love people had for cookies – until now. When I was little I truly could not understand the obsession that my friends had with cookies, either homemade or store- bought. Moms baked (a lot) or they stacked cupboards with all kinds of cookies from oreos to chips ahoy to teddy grahams (remember those?). Every time I went over to people’s homes snack time meant cookies. Even at school when someone wanted something sweet to eat they would bring out their little snack pack of cookies. They even left Santa Claus milk and cookies! I think this love affair is a very North American thing. Now that I’m not around all those cookie- obsessed folks, I have had the chance to develop a love of cookies.
Now I adore them – not the oreo or (I hate to say it) tim tam (sorry friends!) kind – but more the type of cookies that have interesting, sometimes unusual ingredients. Here is an adapted recipe for gluten free chocolate cookies. I used tahini in the cookies as well. Tahini is a smooth, nutty paste made from sesame seeds. It’s used a lot in Middle-Eastern cooking and often you find it used in savoury dishes like hummus. I use it like a peanut butter in both sweet and salty dishes. Enjoy.

Chocolate and tahini cookies (gluten free but you can substitute all-purpose/wholemeal flour)
(makes about 12 cookies)
adapted from savoury sweet life recipe for bittersweet chocolate decadence cookies

¼ cup gluten-free flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon organic unhulled tahini
2 large organic eggs
¼ cup molasses and/or demerara sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½  cup walnuts

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.  In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together, set aside.  In order to melt chocolate, place chocolate and butter in a bowl and melt it in a bain-marie (a double boiler). To do this, set the bowl on top of a pot of simmering water (don’t let the bottom of bowl touch water and don’t not leave on for a long time, just until it melts). Once melted remove and then in another bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, and vanilla and set the bowl over the same pot of simmering water. Continue to whisk everything until the mixture is lukewarm.

Making sure that each mixture is not too hot, combine the two carefully. At this point, add in the tahini and mix. Add the flour with salt and baking powder. This batter will look like thick cake batter.  Don’t worry they will look and taste like cookies once you’re done baking them. Scoop dough with tablespoon onto silicon or parchment sheets. Bake 12-14 minutes. The outside might look dry but it’ll be moist and gooey on the inside. Yum.