Carrot Ginger Almond Cake

This recipe is inspired by a homey-cozy cake Nigella prepared during the Season 10 of my favourite cooking show Masterchef Australia. I substituted the original walnuts with almonds and made some adjustments, but the cake is nonetheless very similar to the original. If you want to have a more refined result, you can even the round top after baked and use a sac a poche for spreading the icing more accurately. But the essence of the cake is rustic, and rustic, in my opinion, has to be maintained.

Serves 4/6

For the cake:

  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda  
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger 
  • ¼ tsp sea salt 
  • 200 gr plain flour

  • 175g brown sugar  
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 100ml peanuts oil
  • 100 ml olive oil, + extra for greasing
  • 250gr carrots, peeled and grated
  • 100gr almonds, roughly chopped
  • 75g  crystallised ginger, finely chopped

For the icing:

  • 100 gr burro, at room temperature
  • 100 gr icing sugar
  • 100 g  cream cheese 

 

Peel, wash and coarsely grate the carrots. Combine the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Beat the sugar, eggs and oil in another large bowl until creamy, then gradually add the flour mixture. Add the carrots, almonds and crystallised ginger and mix well, until everything is evenly combined.

Preheat the oven to 170°C, fan,  and line the sides and the base of a 20 cm cake tin with wet parchment paper.

Transfer the mixture into the tin, even the top and bake for 55 minutes. Let the cake cool in its tin.

When the cake is completely cold, whisk the butter and icing sugar together; beat in half the cream cheese. Once the icing is smooth and creamy, add the remaining cream cheese and whisk thoroughly.

Unmold the cake, spread the icing on top and decorate with some almonds and crystallised ginger.

 

Sweet or savory? An Intriguing Créme Caramel

When you eat this flan you get a peculiar feeling: together with the pumpkin cream, the sweetness of sugar arrives first while the saltiness of the parmesan comes at the end,  leaving your senses a little disoriented.  Then all flavors magically balance themselves in a spectacular result which will make you very, very happy.

Serves 4
300 gr pumpkin (peeled and deseeded)
170 ml double cream
80 gr parmesan, grated
100 gr caster sugar
3 free range eggs
30 gr corn starch
12 sage leaves, washed and drained

Heat the double cream with the sage leaves in a small saucepan over a low heat and remove from heat before coming to a boil. Cover with a lid and let cool at room temperature.
Dice the pumpkin and steam for 10 minutes, or until soft, let cool and reduce to a purée using a stick blender.


Beat 2 whole eggs and one egg yolk in a small bowl, add the parmesan, pumpkin purée, corn starch and the double cream (leaves removed and filtered).
Caramelize the sugar and thoroughly coat a cake tin of your choice. When the caramel is set pour the mixture in the mold and prepare a bain-marie. Place the cake tin in the hot bain-marie, that you will have prepared in a large pan that fits your tin, and bake in the oven, static, at 150° for one hour.

Rest in the fridge for 12 hours before serving: unmold the crème caramel on a serving plate and voilà, let your senses be surprised.

 

Roasted Fennel with Pomegranate and Tahini

Make the most of the plump fennels Mother Nature offers in this time of the year! This recipe is a luxurious version of the humble roasted fennel and boasts the bulbs with an explosion of colour and flavour from the Middle East.

  • 4 medium fennels, trimmed
  • 3 tbsp extravirgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp pomegranate molasses
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds
  • 2/3 tbsp tahini sauce
  • bunch of parsley, coarsely chopped

Divide each fennel bulb in 8 wedges, steam for 8 minutes and line on the baking tray covered with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine the oil, balsamic vinegar and pomegranate molasses, and mix well.

Brush the fennels wedges with the emulsion, heat the oven at 160°C and bake for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature at 140°C and continue baking for further 40 minutes: you should leave the fennels in the oven until a second before they get burnt.

Transfer the baked fennel on a plate, season with some sea salt and sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and parsley. Drizzle the tahini on top and serve.

 

 

Chestnut Gnocchi with Blue Cheese

Winter is at its peak, and with its cosy atmosphere we all are craving for a little more comfort food. Chestnuts are in season and are the key ingredient of this dish, and the recipe only entails a few others. The quality of the potatoes is crucial for quality of the gnocchi: choose the old and mealy ones, which contain the least amount of water.

 Serves 4/6

  • 1 kg mealy potatoes
  • 150 gr chestnut flour
  • 150 gr plain flour
  • 1 whole free range egg, lightly beaten
  • 25 gr butter + 25 gr for the sauce
  • 120 gr Italian Bleu cheese (regular blue cheese will also work)
  • 120 ml whole milk

 

Place the potatoes in a large pot, unpeeled, and pour enough water to cover at least  by 4 centimeters. Add a pinch of salt, 1 tsp white vinegar and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Cook for 30/40 minutes, depending on the dimension of your potatoes. The potatoes must be completely tender and easily pierced with a skewer.

Meanwhile pass both  flours through a sieve and place directly over a chopping board. Melt 25 gr butter, beat the egg in a small bowl and set aside.

Drain and peel the potatoes while still hot and pass them through a ricer directly over the flours.

Knead rapidly, add the egg and butter and form a homogeneous dough, but do not overmix the dough or the gnocchi will become unpleasantly tough when boiling: the dough should  feel smooth and delicate to your hands.

When you have reached a uniform dough, set aside and clean the chopping board.  Dust with some flour:  in general,  remember that the more flour the dough absorbs the tougher the gnocchi will be.

Wash your hands and take a piece of dough the  size of an apple, covering the remaining dough with cling film so it won’t dry out. Roll the dough with your palms over the dusted surface and form a sort of rope about 1 ½ centimeter in diameter. Using a knife cut the rope every 2 centimeter in order to form the gnocchi, then lay on parchment paper dusted with flour. Proceed until you have used all the dough. You can  leave the gnocchi to sit on the counter  for maximum 2 hours, covered with a clean towel and dusted with some more flour.

To prepare the sauce, melt the Bleu cheese (or blue cheese) in a bain-marie, stirring constantly. Incorporate the remaining butter and keep warm.

When ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and delicately transfer the gnocchi to boil. Let boil until they  float to the top, drain well and season with the sauce. Scatter with parmesan and black pepper and serve hot.