Have A Little Faith Chocolate and Zucchini Fudge Cake


The day started off well enough. The weather was sunny and crisp, my hubby home from an overseas trip and nothing to worry about other than our endless house renovations. My two beloveds, Ruben and Ella were booked into the vet for a teeth clean. No biggie.

By the afternoon, however, Ruben was being kept overnight at the vet with acute renal whatever. My baby. My gorgeous velvet slug whose nocturnal snoring always lulls me into my own slumber. Ruben, whose garbage breath wakes me in the morning as he yawns in my face, “get up, it’s breakfast time.”

As a fussing puppy mother, I wanted my boy home with me. Surely no-one would take care of him as I would. BUT, sometimes you have to have a little faith. Faith that someone else can do the job and may indeed, be better equipped than you.

And so, my boy is home. Someone else nursed him back to us. Faith.

You’ll need a little of that faith for this recipe. It will work out. You won’t even know there’s zucchini in it and you will love it. Enjoy.

On the playlist, a little nostalgia. Hands – Jewel, Venus as a Boy – Bjork, The Wolves – Bon Iver, Cannonball – Damien Rice. I admit, there is no rhyme or reason to this selection. In my defence, I spent the day fussing, so…

2 cups of plain flour

3/4 quarters cup cocoa

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups natural sugar – if you don’t have it, use white, I just prefer natural

1 1/2 cups rice bran oil – canola is fine

a pinch of salt

3 cups of grated zucchini (I used 2 large zucchinis and that was more than enough)

1/2 cup pecans (optional) You can use walnuts if you like, I find them a little bitter for my taste

4 whole eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 170 C. Grease a cake pan – I used an 8 x 3 inch round cake tine. If you have another, a slice pan would do, you may have to adjust your cooking time.

Sift together your dry ingredients, excluding the nuts in a large bowl. Add your eggs, vanilla and oil and nuts, if you are using them, mix to combine. Add grated zucchini and again combine. The batter is thick and a little sticky – a little like a brownie batter.

Pour your batter in to your cake pan and bake for around 1 hour. At this time, check the middle with a skewer. It may need a little longer. I baked my last cake for 1 hour and 15 mins, but it was a deep tin.

This cake is moist, chocolatey and so delicious it doesn’t need icing. BUT, if you must, as I always do…

1/2 can sweetened condensed milk

1 big handful of chocolate bits – I don’t measure, sorry – I just use as much as I can get in my mitt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

a pinch of salt

Wait until the cake is cooled to begin.

Heat sweetened condensed milk and chocolate together in a saucepan on low heat, stirring to combine. After a few minutes it will begin to thicken slightly. Take the pan off the heat. At this point, add salt and vanilla and stir. Leave for about 3 minutes to cool slightly and you will have a decadent, thick icing. Slather. And I mean slather. This stuff is from the gods.

No-one will ever guess that the secret ingredient in this cake is zucchini. Cut a HUGE slice and run to the couch. Remember, the last one there does the dishes.

Warm Me Up Beans (slow cooked baked beans)

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It is a cold, blustery day and the wind has chilled this little black duck’s bones to the marrow. We’ve been chased inside by the rain so there is nothing to do but slow cook some beans. Why not, I say.

My canine kitchen companion today is Ella. Named for Ella Fitzgerald, our “Elllie May” is scared of her own shadow but when she works up the courage to give you a hug…well, it’s just like a big bowl of baked beans. Warm and delicious.

On the playlist, there is only one. Stevie Wonder. Old school. “As,” “Lately,” “Overjoyed” and “Isn’t She Lovely?” Press play. Ahhhh, there it is.

400 grams of black eyed beans. You can also use black beans, haricot beans, white beans, Northern beans.  Whatever beans you can get your mitts on really.

1 ham hock or a chunk of smoked ham (smoked ham looks like uncut bacon and is available in most supermarkets)

1 can of chopped tomatoes

Water

1 teaspoon of chilli flakes (optional)

1 heaped tablespoon of Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon of maple syrup

1 chorizo sausage sliced

Salt and Pepper

I have another ingredient I use called Liquid Smoke. You can buy this online or at The Essential Ingredient in Melbourne.  Liquid Smoke is optional and if you can’t get your hands on it, a smokey BBQ sauce will do. I like the smokey, chicory flavour it provides.

Rinse your dried beans and pull out any anomalies, i.e. funky ones. Place the beans in a bowl or pot, cover with cold water and soak overnight. Don’t blame me, it is the rule of the bean. They must be soaked. Having said that, I have been known to begin soaking at around 8 in the morning and cooked them just after lunch.

After you have soaked them, drain and put them in a heavy pot. Again cover with water, pop in your ham hock or smoked ham – don’t bother chopping it up, just chuck it in. It will sit on top of the beans and give of its delicious smokiness. Put the pot on your cooktop at a low to medium heat and cook on a simmer for about an hour and a half.

After this time, take out your ham and set it aside. Drain the beans again but this time keep the water.

In the same pot as before (this is a one pot wonder), add a little oil and fry the chorizo for about 2 minutes. Toss in your beans, the tomatoes, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, chilli flakes and the water we kept aside. Stir together and cook over low heat. We are going to leave it bubbling away at a low simmer for another hour and a half. The liquid will reduce and become saucy. Naughty beans.

Test a bean. It will be a little springy on the outer but soft inside. If you aren’t happy with them, add more water and simmer for longer. No problem. As with all things cooking, the time may vary depending on the beans you have used.

Towards the end of the cooking time, chop up the ham and pop it into the pot. Add the maple syrup and salt and pepper to taste. This is when I add my liquid smoke (a goodly glug). Stir and give it another 10 minutes to infuse.

This recipe is a base for your slow cooked baked beans. When you are tasting your sauce for seasoning, add what you need. If you want them sweeter, add a smidge more maple, if you like a bit of smoke add more Liquid Smoke or BBQ sauce. They’re your beans.

Eat IMMEDIATELY. It is too cold to dawdle. Enjoy.

As always, last one to the couch does the dishes.

Feelin’ Sorry Sweet Potato Soup

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Everyone has these days – feelin’ sorry days. My husband and I are renovating a big old 1890s guesthouse and I spent the better half of the day moving furniture out of one room and into another. We are doing the room by room dosey – do. My hands are sore and my back aches. So, it is one of those days. A boo-hoo, wah-wah, woe is me day. There’s only one thing for it…Feelin’ Sorry Sweet Potato Soup.

On the playlist?  Ooh Child – Nina Simone, HoloceneBon Iver, After the StormMumford and Sons, Falling, CatchingAgnes Obel and another J Tillman, Earthly Bodies. Oh, and I think Bat for Lashes is needed…Sad Eyes. OK, sorted.

Feelin’ Sorry Sweet Potato Soup is simply a spiced sweet potato soup. It is simple as can be, soothing as a warm cardigan and, thanks to it being cream-free, guilt free.

1 large sweet potato (kumara)

1 large brown onion

1 400g can of cannellini beans

1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds

1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (less or more, depending on how hot you like your food)

1 litre vegetable or chicken stock

Natual yoghurt – to garnish and refresh

Wash your sweet potato and chop it roughly – no need to peel – we’re feeling sorry for ourselves, remember? Roughly chop onion. Rinse cannellini beans under cold water to get the goop off.

Put a soup pot or heavy based saucepan on medium heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat for 30 seconds or so. Add caraway seeds and chilli flakes and heat until slightly fragrant. Add onions and sweet potato. Stir to coat the onion and sweet potato in your spiced oil. Add cannellini beans and stock. Turn up Nina – no one sings the feelin’ sorry like Nina. So, that’s kinda it for a while.

I like to cook my soup for about an hour on a medium heat. By this time the sweet potato is well and truly cooked, but I’ve allowed enough time for all the flavours to enhance and my stock has reduced by about half. Turn off the heat and let the soup cool a little.

When you can manage it, ladle your soup into a blender and blend until smooth. To serve, add a big dollop of natural yoghurt and a slab of fresh, crusty bread. In keeping with its healthiness, slightly warmed flatbread works with this soup too.

OK, I’ll race you to the couch. Last one there has to do the dishes.

Flourless Margherita Muds

If you like a little quirk with your quinoa, then you’re in the right place. If you must have music while you mix, great! Me too.

Before starting, get your tunes sorted. Baking always makes me feel slow and dreamy so, to this end, I offer the following. ChrystalStevie Nicks, A Case of YouJoni Mitchell, Crosswinds – J Tillman, Blood – The Middle East, Science of the Heart – Falloe.

Flourless Margherita Muds 

These little puppies are ridiculously moist and what’s more…your gluten free friends will love you. Press play. You may commence swaying while you bake. Oh, if you have a black dog to sit in your kitchen while you bake, I find it adds to the whimsy of it all. My black dog is Ruben. He is a 12 year old Labrador cross and is the soul in soul food.

2 lemons

280 grams (10 oz) ground almond meal

230 grams (1 cup) caster sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 teaspoon tequila

pinch salt (you see where we’re going, right?)

6 eggs lightly beaten

1. Wash lemons before them placing them in a pot with enough water to cover. Place a saucer on the top to keep them submerged. Gradually bring the water to the boil and then reduce heat to a low simmer. Leave for about 40 mins or until the lemons are tender. Remove from pot and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C (350F,  I think). Lightly grease muffin tray. I use a texas muffin tray, but I’m greedy so…If you want to use a cupcake tray, you can also line your tray with cupcake liners. It’s an aesthetic thing, up to you.

2. When you can easily handle the lemons, cut them into quarters and take out all pips. Now, this is up to your tastebuds – I personally don’t like too much rind flavour in my cakes, so I discard the rind of one of the lemons but keep the flesh. Up to you. Anyhoo…blend the lemons to a smooth pulp.

3. In a mixing bowl, combine your ground almonds, sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla and tequila. Pour in your lemon pulp and 6 lightly beaten eggs. This will make quite a wet cake batter.

4. Spoon into muffin tray and bake for about 40 mins.

VARIATION

Swap Lemons for Oranges – if you do, swap Tequila for Cointreau.

This cake also rocks with toasted coconut. In a dry frypan over medium heat, toast about a cup of desiccated coconut. Keep watch – coconut has a neat trick of looking like nothing’s happening and then boom – burned. You are looking for a nice golden colour (color, for my American friends). Add the coconut to the dry ingredients.