I always love to watch people cooking, specially to see how their process is – not only in terms of what ingredients they choose to cook with, but also in terms of how they organize things and manage the time they spend preparing a meal. I’m not sure if I’ve told you this before, but I’m not (really) an organized cook. Firstly, I spend way too much time preparing things, and secondly, I tend to be messy. I know some people who are always cleaning up and arranging the ingredients they’re working with on the kitchen counter, and even though I try to be like them, it seems I can’t achieve such level of method. Pans, plates and bowls are left on the kitchen sink, waiting for the meal to be done to get washed; ingredients remain on the counter even though I might have already used them; t-shirts and sweaters get stained with tomato sauce, cake batter, and so on, because most of the time I forget to put the apron on. I don’t mean to scare you – in fact, if you’d come over for dinner, I’d do my best to hide the evidences of my messiness.
Things tend to get worse when I bake – flour all over the place, packages of sugar and margarine clearly out of their natural environment, dirty bowls and cups pilled up on the sink. You get the scenario. As I was thinking about this the other day, I thought it’d be great if I could come up with a cake recipe that would require minimal effort and the use of only a few kitchen utensils.
The recipe for the Apple Cake I’m sharing with you today, even though requiring the use of a food processor, can be pretty much considered a clean-up-friendly type of cake. It’s also gluten-free and (almost) fat free, meaning that a second or third slice won’t hurt. The fact that it’s a fat free cake doesn’t compromise its flavor, which is delicate, yet full of warmth, for which the addition of a generous amount of ground cinnamon definitely contributes.
And finally last, but definitely not the least: I’m really (really!) excited to be a contributor for Honest Cooking, a brand new online food magazine that has launched just yesterday. My very first article can be found here, but please do check out the website, it’s really well worth it!
Simple and (almost) Fat Free Apple Cake
(for one 20 cm – 8 inches – round pan)
1/2 cup (73 grams) buckwheat flour
½ cup (80 grams) brown rice flour
1/3 cup (35 grams) oat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons agave nectar
½ cup (65 grams) light muscavado sugar
½ cup (125 ml) apple juice
½ cup (125 ml) soy milk
100 grams (one medium sized) banana, peeled
250 grams (2 medium sized units) sweet apples (such as Starking or Red Delicious)
1 tablespoon light muscavado sugar
1 tablespoon cold vegan margarine, cut into very small pieces
a good pinch of ground cinnamon
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180º.
2. Grease a 20 cm (8 inches) round baking pan with melted vegan margarine and dust it lightly with flour.
3. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the dry mixture. Set aside.
4. In a bowl of a food processor, combine the agave nectar with the muscavado sugar. Process, at medium speed, until creamy. Add the apple juice, soy milk and the banana and process for additional 2 minutes, or until totatlly smooth.
5. Slowly pour the wet mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients, mixing everything with a spatula. Even though you shouldn’t overmix the batter, make sure it doesn’t have any lumps.
6. Transfer the cake batter to the prepared pan.
7. In the meantime, peel and core the apples and cut them into thin slices. Then, arrange the apple slices evenly on top of the cake. Sprinkle it with the remaining tablespoon of muscavado sugar and a pinch of ground cinnamon. To finish things off, evenly distribute the margarine pieces on top of the cake.
8. Bake the cake in the preheat oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Let it cool for 10 to 15 minutes in the pan, after which you should transfer it to a wire rack or large plate to cool down completely. To do this, carefully flip the cake onto a large plate (it will be upside down), and then use another plate to flip it again. Serve warm or at room temperature.
I’m not sure why, having already tried some recipes from Plenty, I haven’t wrote about the book in here before. Plenty is strictly vegetarian (no meat, no fish) but, on the other hand, isn’t particularly vegan-friendly (a large number of the recipes call for dairy and eggs). Anyway, that isn’t really a disavantadge, as I usually find a lot of inspiration in dishes that aren’t vegan already, as part of the fun is to actually try to veganize them – that both mental and practical exercise on how to substitute non-vegan ingredients for plant-based ones, is one of the things I enjoy the most about the process of recreating recipes.
Back to the book: it is filled with amazing dishes from cover to cover (the photography is also great, and there’s an image for every single recipe on the book too) – next on the list, is the Soba noodles with aubergine and mango, already mentioned here – but this one in particular – saffron cauliflower – not only is really tasty, but also couldn’t be simpler (and require fewer ingredients) to make.
I’ve already shared with you my love for cauliflower – one of the vegetables I like the most to work with – and with this recipe on hand, I assure you, there’s no reason why not to eat it more often. I also haven’t modified the recipe that much, so my version only includes some minor tweaks: I ommited the bay leaves the original recipe called for (actually because I forgot them on the counter and only realized that a few minutes before the cauliflower was done roasting), subbed saffron strands for the powdered version (as it was what I had on hand), and added ¾ teaspoon of sea salt. Although the book features a very slightly different version of this dish, you can find its first version online, published on The Guardian’s column the new vegetarian.For a tasty, unusual, side dish, this is it.
Surprisingly enough, yesterday – with an outside temperature of 35 degrees -, I found myself sneezing and coughing all the time. I knew I was about to get sick, and started craving a comforting soup and toasted bread, no matter how hot was outside and how sweaty I’d get right after eating those foods. I had some seasonal veggies sitting on the fridge that would make for a good pot of soup, and it didn’t take me long to get my hands at preparing them (peeling, slicing and all), although I must confess I was about to give up a few times during the process and go for a nap. I’m usually very determined when it comes to satisfy my cravings, and the idea that, in the end, I’d get a huge pot of soup that would make my lunches and dinners for the rest of the week, worked out as the main motivation factor.
I ended up following (although not stricktly) Jamie Oliver’s recipe for a Spring and Summer Minestrone, that I’ve bookmarked from his book Jamie Does. I adapted the recipe to fit what I had on hand, and I guess that’s the spirit of minestrone anyway – use whatever vegetables are in season and that would go well together for a hearty, filling soup. The original recipe for the pesto calls for Parmesan, but as I don’t do cheese, I’ve just ommited this ingredient and had not problems at all. Just bare in mind Parmeasan is quite salty, so use a good pinch of salt in the pesto to work as a substitute and to balance things out.
200 grams carrots
300 grams zucchini
3 garlic cloves
1 large leek
1 large tomato
a bunch of parsley
2 handfuls watercress
1 cup frozen peas
150 grams short pasta
1 small cabbage
2 liters good tasting stock
salt and pepper
for the pesto:
a bunch of basil
60 grams pinenuts
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 small garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
a pinch of salt
1. Start by preparing the carrots and zucchini: slice each vegetable into quarters, and then slice each quarter into cubes of aproximadetely 0,8 to 1 centimeter thick.
2. Then, thinly slice the leek and garlic cloves.
3. Heat your largest pan on medium heat, add a few glugs of olive oil, the leek, garlic, carrots and zucchini. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes.
4. Roughly chop the tomato, parsley, and watercress. Slice the cabbage into halves, remove the hard core, and finely shred each half. Add the veggies to the pan.
4. Now, add the peas, pour in the stock, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and salt and pepper to taste. Lower the heat to low-medium, and let the soup simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.
5. To make the pesto, add the basil, pinenuts, garlic cloves, a pinch of salt and the olive oil to a food processor, and pulse everything for 1 minute, or until the mixture starts coming together into a paste, but isn’t totally smooth. Have a taste and adjust the flavors (adding a bit more of one or another) if needed, bearing in mind you want to find a balance between all the ingredients.
6. Divide the soup among deep plates and top each serving with a good tablespoon of pesto. Drizzle over a little olive oil and add some fresh basil leaves.
recipe inspired by Jamie Does, published by Penguin Books