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.
When I was a kid, sundays were the days I used to dislike. I didn’t really adapt well to the kindergarten, and in the late afternoon of every sunday, I’d feel quite sad about the fact that Monday morning I had to go there. As a child, I was indeed a pretty unsocial human being: I didn’t speak much, and I’d most likely run away when other children would come to talk/play with me – fortunately, I’d overcome this extreme shyness as I was growing up, even though some of it has remained throughtout the years and I’m afraid to assume it still remains as part of my adult personality.
It might sound weird, but I do think my photographic obsession with still lifes has a lot to do with my childhood and those distressed sunday afternoons. Still lifes are always melancholic, quiet, and perhaps also a bit enigmatic. On the same hand, their classical concept involves the presence of food and some other elements (such as sheets of paper, hardcover books, feather pens, and so on) that, when combined together, almost always make for bucolic, serene scenes.
It’s also surprising that usually, in still lifes, food and writing tools are placed together. It’s as if the first couldn’t live with the latter. Food isn’t dissociated from writing, and that’s also the reason why I find, in the still life, the basis of food writing.
So today is Sunday, seven o’clock in this part of the world – unlike some years ago, there’s no drama involved as I don’t have to go to school tomorrow. My afternoon, as many of my sunday afternoons, was spent in the kitchen, making a big pot of pea soup and a couple other things to be enjoyed throughout the week. It’s not a traditional pea soup the one I’ve prepared today: sweet apples were used as well as a good amount of freshly grated ginger. The end result: you have sweetness from the peas and apples, freshness from a couple leaves of mint, and a light heat from the ginger. Both flavor and texture are well balanced – almost as every still life composition seems to so effortlessly be – contributing for a subtle, yet tasty, outcome.
Pea, Apple and Ginger Soup
(makes 4 servings)
1 large onion (180 grams), finely cut
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup freshly grated ginger
2 medium-sized sweet apples, such as Starking and/or Red Delicious, peeled, cored, and cubed (about 230 grams)
400 grams frozen peas
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
4 cups (1 liter) light stock
1 small handful (10 grams) fresh mint, finely chopped, plus a few leaves, for garnishing
100 ml oat cream (optional)
1. In a large pot over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it starts to soften. Add the ginger, fleur de sel and apples and cook for additional 2 minutes.
2. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the peas and let the mixture boil for 2 to 3 minutes, after which you should reduce the heat and let the soup simmer for 10 minutes, or until the peas and apples are cooked.
3. Remove the pot from the stove. Transfer the soup to a food processor (you can also use an hand blender) and process for 2 minutes or until the soup is creamy and totally smooth. Serve immediately, garnished with a few mint leaves and a couple tablespoons of oat cream, if desired.
Recipe remotely inspired by The Millenium Cookbook
Note: The still life pictures shown here were taken by me and are part of personal projects.
Lately, I’ve been eating lots of roasted vegetables and bakes, mostly because they are comfort food at their best and have that sort of magical effect of keeping me warm. Also, these are usually dishes that are made in one single pan, meaning there’s minimal work involved in dish washing after dinner, which is also a great advantage. I tell you what I do: often, I make a lentil/vegetable pie and make sure there are enough leftovers for me to enjoy for a couple more meals. Not having that much time to cook lately, this is a method that allows me to have homemade food at hand almost everyday. Anyway, there are also times when I manage to prepare dishes that are done in less than twenty minutes, require minimal effort, are packed with proteins, and taste good. These Herbed Tofu Cakes are one of those no-recipes that I tend to prepare when I don’t feel that much like cooking.
I grab the herbs I have on the refrigerator – this time around, lemon thyme, rosemary and chives were what I had on hand, but you could use any others of your liking -, some tofu and a couple other ingredients, and the cakes are done in no time. The curried apples are a great topping for these protein-packed patties, but you could replace it for some chutney or a simple salsa made with fresh vegetables – they’d be equally good options. To finish things off, serve the dish along with some cooked grains (I can’t get enough of basmati rice cooked with a couple spices such as cinnamon, cloves and cardamom), and there you go.
Herbed Tofu Cakes with Curried Apple
(makes 5 cakes)
for the tofu cakes:
370 grams firm tofu, drained, pat dry and crumbled
1 ½ tablespoons shoyu
1 tablespoon vegan mayo
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
1 ½ tablespoons lemon thyme, finely chopped
1 ½ tablespoons chives, finely chopped
2 teaspoons rosemary, finely chopped
zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
for the curried apple:
1 large apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
½ teaspoon curry powder
¼ teaspoon sugar
a pinch of salt
a good squeeze of lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
chopped coriander, for garnishing
1. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients for the tofu cakes, except the olive oil. Mix well until thoroughly combined.
2. Divide the mixture into 4 to 5 equal portions. With your hands, shape each portion into patties.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan, over medium-heat. Shallow-fry the patties for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
4. Once the tofu cakes are done, transfer them to a plate and keep them warm in the oven. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the same frying pan you used for cooking the cakes and, once hot – but not smoking – add the apple slices, sugar, salt and curry powder.
5. Cook for 5 minutes or until the apple slices are tender and slightly caramelized. Turn off the heat and add a good squeeze of lemon juice to the pan.
6. Serve the tofu cakes with the curried apple slices on top, and garnish each serving with plenty chopped coriander. Serve with basmati rice or any other grain of your liking.
This recipe is what I had for lunch today, alongside some grilled tofu and toasted bread slices. It’s one of those recipes that you can put together in a matter of minutes, and is really tasty. What is important in here is to slice both apple and zucchini as stated in the directions, so that they cook thoroughly in the amount of time I’ve specified. The point is to just slightly overcook the zucchini, while the apples retain some of their crunchiness (one of the reasons why I haven’t peeled them). Also, you don’t to use tart apples such as, for instance, Granny Smith, but sweet and crisp ones, as a way of balancing the addition of lemon and ginger juices to the dish. For me, Starking apples work the best in here, but if you can’t find them, I bet Red Delicious would make it as well. For some of you who don’t really know what else to do with zucchini, give this recipe a shot – I’m almost sure it won’t disappoint.
Curried Zucchini and Apple
(serves 4, as a side)
540 grams zucchini (3 medium ones)
200 grams Starking apples (2 small ones)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed ginger juice
1 and ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus a bit more
1 tablespoon lemon zest
¼ cup toasted almonds, coarsly chopped
1 small handful of chopped coriander
salt and pepper to taste
1. Quarter the zucchini lengthwise. Then, cut each quarter into two halves. Finally, cut each half crosswise into sticks about 8 centimeters long. Set aside.
2. Quarter the apples and remove their core. Slice each quarter into 3 equal pieces, about 0,5 centimeters thick. Transfer the apples to a bowl, and add a squeeze of lemon juice to them, to prevent oxidation.
3. In a large sautée pan over medium heat, add the olive oil, garlic cloves, and curry powder, and fry for 1 minute. Add the zucchini and the 2 tablespoons of water, cover, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the apples to the pan and cook for additional 5 minutes. In the last minute of cooking, add the lemon and ginger juices, the lemon zest, and season well with salt and pepper.
5. Remove from heat and divide among 4 deep plates. Add the almonds and chopped coriander on top of each serving and serve immediately.
inspired by Vegetarian Cookery, published by Dorling Kindersley, 1991 (I believe the book is now out of print)