Monthly Archives: August 2012

Chocolate beetroot cake

I recently consulted a herbalist to help improve my overall health. The recommendations included staying away from chocolate, coca and coffee, and increasing the amount of root vegetables I eat. I must have a real stubborn streak, because as soon as somebody tells me I shouldn’t have something I crave it so much more, so skipping my morning flat white and avoiding chocolate has been hard.

Tracking down carob buttons to take the place of my chocolate consumption has also been hard, even a couple of the health food stores and co-ops I tried don’t stock them. I did eventually manage to track down some carob powder and carob buttons, I think the last time I ate carob buttons was in primary school when they came in a packet of 10 in a twist of grease-proof paper.

To try and satisfy my chocolate cravings and increase my root vegetable intake (it still counts if it is in a cake doesn’t it?), I made a carob and beetroot cake. In the recipe below I’ve included details for a chocolate option for those of you that aren’t being deprived. The cake turned out to be deliciously moist with an extra depth of flavor thanks to the beetroot. When you are checking to see if it is cooked it may still feel a little squidgy, as long as the middle of the cake springs back when you touch it and / or a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean it is cooked. Carob powder is not as strong as coca powder so you need to use a bit more if you are substituting in recipes. You may want to wear plastic gloves when grating the beetroot so that you don’t end up with stained hands. You can use any vegetable oil you like, I used rice bran oil which had a neutral taste and is good for baking. I used edible red glitter to decorate my cake, but feel free to get creative with your decorating.

Chocolate beetroot cake

* This recipe was adapted from a carrot cake recipe in Leiths Baking Bible by Susan Spaull and Fiona Burrell. I have modified and adapted it to come up with the below reincarnation.



  • 250ml vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 225g brown sugar
  • 200g raw beetroot, grated
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g coca powder or 80g carob powder


  • 200g dark chocolate or carob buttons
  • 50g coca powder or 80g carob powder
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 50g butter


  1. Heat oven to 180°C.
  2. Grease 2 x cake tins (I used 20cm round tins).
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the oil, eggs, vanilla extract, sugar and beetroot.
  4. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and coca or carob powder into the bowl.
  5. Mix the dry and wet ingredients until combined.
  6. Divide the mixture between the 2 tins and bake in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes or until cooked.
  7. Remove cakes from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
  8. To make the icing, sift the icing sugar and coca or carob powder into a heat proof bowl. Add the chocolate or carob buttons and butter to the bowl.
  9. Place the bowl over a saucepan of hot water so that the bowl is not touching the hot water but is suspended above it.
  10. Stir the icing mixture occasionally until the chocolate and butter are melted and everything is incorporated.
  11. Remove the icing from the hot water.
  12. Once the cake is cool, place one cake on your serving plate, add half of the icing to the top of the cake, spreading until almost to the edge and place the other cake on top.
  13. Use the rest of the icing to ice the top and sides of your double-decker cake.
  14. Allow the icing to set. Your cake is ready to serve. Enjoy.

What is your favourite chocolate recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?



Filed under Baking, Beetroot, Cake, Caramel, Carob, Chocolate, Custard, Orange, Recipes, Sweet, Vegetarian

Curry in a hurry

This week’s post is a twist on a recipe by Madhur Jaffrey, who is well-known in the UK for her expertise in Indian cooking. Following Madhur’s recipes helped me to build up my confidence in cooking with spices.

The cooking of the curry sauce is a little different to other curry recipes, in that you don’t fry off the spices in oil and there is also no onion which is unusual.

To dry roast your whole spices, cook them without any oil over a low to medium heat – be careful to keep the spices moving so they roast evenly and only cook until lightly toasted and the aroma is released, don’t let the spices burn, then grind to get maximum flavour into your dish. Spices can be ground in a blender, coffee grinder or a with a pestle and mortar.

Feel free to experiment and add extra vegetables to this recipe, you could add some chopped zucchini or baby spinach leaves when you add the prawns to cook. If you have a coriander aversion, I would recommend leaving out the coriander root and stalks in the curry sauce ( and leaves to garnish), but still using the coriander seeds which have a different flavor to fresh coriander.

The curry can be served with some rice or rice noodles cooked according to the instructions on the packet.

Prawn and Pumpkin Curry

Serves 4


  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds, dry roasted then ground
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, dry roasted then ground
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste
  • 1 x 400ml can coconut milk
  • fresh coriander, 2 roots and about 5cm worth of the stalks finely chopped, and leaves to garnish
  • 500g pumpkin
  • 500g peeled raw prawns


  1. Dry roast the coriander and cumin seeds until fragrant. Transfer to a blender and grind seeds.
  2. Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, cayenne pepper, paprika, tamarind, coriander root and stalks and coconut milk to the blender. Blend until smooth.
  3. Pour the coconut spice mix into a saucepan.
  4. Peel and de-seed the pumpkin. Chop into small cubes and add to the saucepan with the coconut spice mix. You may end up with not quite enough liquid to cover the pumpkin. If this is the case, bring the sauce and pumpkin to the boil then add a little hot water until all the pumpkin is in contact with some liquid, but be careful not to dilute the sauce too much.
  5. Cook over a medium heat until the pumpkin is tender, approximately 15 – 20 minutes depending on how big the pumpkin pieces are. Stir occasionally to make sure the pumpkin cooks evenly.
  6. Add the prawns, stirring occasionally and cook for a few minutes, until just cooked through. The prawns are cooked when they change colour from a translucent grey to an opaque pink and white.
  7. Your curry is ready to serve. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves. Enjoy.

What is your favorite curry? Has this post inspired any new ideas?


Filed under Lentils, Pumpkin, Recipes, Savoury, Seafood, Spices

Banoffee pie

Thanks largely to the Olympics, the world seems to be fascinated with all things British at the moment. In keeping with British mania, I wanted to share with you a British dessert I discovered when I was living in London – let me introduce you to the wonders of Banoffee Pie. Banoffee pie refers to banana toffee or banana caramel pie.

I know that the sound of caramel out of a can is extremely unrefined, but using the pre-made caramel does away with the need to boil a tin of condensed milk for hours to end up with the same result. If you wanted to take even further shortcuts, you could use pre-prepared pastry cases or a biscuit crumb base.

I have added an Australian twist to the recipe by including ground wattle seed, a native Australian spice. Wattle seed provides a flavour profile similar to chocolate and / or coffee and is available from Herbie’s Spices. I’d been looking for an excuse to use my ground wattle seed for a little while and this recipe created the perfect opportunity. If you don’t have ground wattle seed you could substitute 1/2 a teaspoon of ground nutmeg in the pastry.

How many pies you get out of this recipe depends on how big your pie tin(s) are, or you could use a muffin or cupcake pan to create mini pie cases. Any leftover uncooked pastry can be frozen for use at a later date. You may want to prepare the individual components and leave assembly until the last minute to prevent your pastry cases from going soggy.

Banoffee Pie


  • 125g butter, softened
  • 50g raw sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 teaspoons ground wattle seed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 x generous pinch of salt
  • 380g can Nestle top’n’fill caramel
  • Bananas
  • 300ml Cream
  • 50g Dark chocolate
  1. In a food processor mix the butter, flour, a pinch of salt, ground wattle seed and sugar until it resembles fine breadcrumbs [or you could do this by hand by rubbing small cubes of cold butter into the dry ingredients]. Add vanilla and mix to combine.
  2. Add the beaten egg a little at a time and combine until the mixture just comes together as soft dough. If the mixture is still a little dry after adding the egg, add a little cold water until the mixture just comes together.
  3. Wrap the pastry in cling film and place in the fridge to rest and chill.
  4. Once the pastry is chilled, roll batches of it out, and line your greased pastry tin(s).
  5. Bake pastry in a 180°C oven until crisp. The time will vary depending on what sort of pie tin you are using, but as a guide allow approximately 20 minutes. Allow your pastry cases to cool.
  6. Transfer the caramel to a bowl. Add 25mls or 1 tablespoon of the cream and a generous pinch of salt. Whip until the caramel is smooth with no lumps.
  7. Whip the remaining cream in a separate bowl until thick.
  8. Grate chocolate and add the extra teaspoon of ground wattle seed. Mix to combine the two ingredients.
  9. Fill your pastry case with slices of banana, add caramel, then whipped cream – sprinkle with the chocolate wattle seed mix. Your pie is ready to serve. Enjoy!

What is your favourite British recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?


Filed under Baking, Caramel, Pastry, Recipes, Spices, Sweet, Vegetarian


This dip is great served as part of a Mexican inspired feast, with corn chips, vegetable crudités, or even pita or flat bread ‘chips’.

I’ve used roast garlic in this recipe. As roasting removes the harshness from garlic, roast garlic is perfect for use in dips or mashed potato.

I love gutsy lemon flavours, so this recipe is quite tangy. If you prefer things subtler, use just the juice, or add a little zest at a time until you get your desired taste.

Roast garlic: Remove any excess outer skin from a whole bulb of garlic. Cut the bulb of garlic in half, so that all the cloves inside are exposed. Place halves in a small baking dish, drizzle with a little olive oil and cover with foil. Cook in a 200°C oven for approximately 1 hour, or until the garlic bulbs are soft and golden. I tend to cook roast garlic when I already have the oven on for other things. Roast garlic cloves removed from their skin can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. You can experiment with flavours by adding herbs such as rosemary or a splash of balsamic, but for the Guacamole dip recipe below, I keep it simple.

Pita chips: Take your favourite flat bread, it could be Lebanese bread, pita, or your favourite wrap. For a gluten-free option, use a gluten-free wrap or flat bread. Cut the bread into chip size triangles and spread on a baking tray. If you want to crank up the flavour of your flat bread chips, spray your cut bread with a little olive oil spray, sprinkle with salt and smoked paprika or feel free to experiment with other flavour combinations. Cook in a low 150°C oven until crisp and dry, tossing occasionally to prevent those chips on the outsides from burning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Avocado tips: For me buying avocados can be a bit of a lucky dip. I tend to buy avocdos while they are still hard and allow to ripen on my window sill, then if I am not quite ready to use, I transfer the ripe avocado to the fridge crisper. To test if your avocado is ripe, when you squeeze it gently it should have a little give to it, and not be too firm in any spots. Cut your ripe avocado length ways around the stone. Twist the 2 halves of the avocado and the halves will come away from each other. You will end up with one half with no stone, the other half still with the stone still attached. To remove the stone from the remaining half, take the avocado half in one hand, tap the long blade of a knife onto the stone (I suggest not stabbing it with the tip of a knife or you may end up cutting yourself). Twist the knife with the attached stone and remove the stone from the avocado half. Your avocado halves are now de-seeded and ready to scoop out or peel and dice or slice. If you do happen to have some brown bruised areas, discard these sections, but you may be able to salvage any remaining green parts of the avocado. If you are not serving your guacamole straight away, reserve a stone to put in the bottom of your serving bowl to help prevent the avocado oxidizing and turning brown.



  • 2 large or 3 small avocados
  • 1 large or 2 small tomatoes, finely diced
  • 1 small shallot or 1/2 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 small lemon, or 2 limes, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • tabasco, or other chilli sauce, to taste
  • 1 or 2 cloves of roast garlic, mashed
  • Salt, to taste


  1. Halve and de-seed your avocados. Scoop out the avocado flesh from the skins and roughly mash.
  2. Add the mashed roast garlic, finely diced shallot, tomato, paprika, mix to combine.
  3. Add lemon or lime juice and zest if you are using it, tabasco or chilli sauce and salt to taste. Mix and adjust flavours until you are happy with the balance, when to stop depends on how spicy and tangy you like things.
  4. Transfer to a serving bowl (with an avocado stone in the bottom if you aren’t serving straight away). Enjoy.

What is your favourite dip? Has this post inspired any new ideas?


Filed under Avocado, Dip, Lemon, Recipes, Savoury, Vegetarian