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.

 

Apple Sauce-Based Brownies

No milk, no eggs, no fats: if you are sceptical like I am when trying “healthier” versions of consolidated myths, you will be stunned by these low cal brownies, which use the creamy consistency of the apple sauce to become as good as the classic type. It really is an option for the weight watchers.

Serves 6

  • 800 gr Golden Delicious apples
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • juice of a half lemon
  • 40 gr cocoa powder
  • 100 gr self raising flour
  • 1/2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 60 gr caster or brown sugar
  • 100 gr dark chocolate, knife sliced
  • 70 gr walnuts, chopped
  • 250 ml coconut milk

Prepare the applesauce: peel, deseed and quarter the apples, place in a heavy-based pot with the lemon juice, cinnamon, a pinch of salt and 2 tbsp of water. Cover with a lid and let cook over low heat for around 30 minutes, occasionally stirring. When the apples are almost reduced to a puréè the apple sauce is ready. Let it cool to room temperature, then weigh 250 gr and transfer in a bowl.

Spinkle over the flour and cocoa powder (using a sieve), sugar, bicarbonate of soda, sugar, chocolate, walnuts and coconut milk.

The mix should be on the running side; if you have a particularly thick apple sauce, add some water or extra coconut milk. Be careful to not overwork the dough, or the brownies will be tough once ready.

Line a square cake tin with non-stick baking paper and spoon in the mixture. Bake in the oven at 180° for  15-18 minutes until the surface is set but the inner is still a little soft. Let cool on a rack, then cut into squares and serve.

 

Super Crunchy Fig and Ricotta Cheese Gratin

What is better than figs dipped in a sea of creamy ricotta cheese mix and surprisingly, deliciously crunchy? Either prepared the day ahead and refrigerated or eaten lukewarm, this is a cake you will treasure.

Serves 8

  • 500 gr fresh ricotta cheese
  • 800 gr figs, ripe but not too soft
  • 200 gr caster sugar
  • 40 gr brown sugar
  • 4 free range eggs
  • 6 amaretti biscuits (optional) or 50 gr almonds, skin on, coarsely crushed
  • 50 gr butter

In a large bowl mix the ricotta, egg yolks and caster sugar working with a fork.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff and glossy, then incorporate into the ricotta mix.

Grease a ceramic baking dish with some butter, scatter with a few breadcrumbs discarding the excess, then pour the batter. Place the figs halfway in the batter, forming a circle.

Scatter the butter flakes on top, sprinkle the brown sugar and bake in the oven at 190°C for 15 minutes. Now sprinkle the amaretti, crushed with a mortar and pestle, or with the almonds, and bake for an additional 30 minutes. If the gratin becomes too golden, cover with aluminum foil.

Aubergine and Coconut Millefeuille Cake

 If you like it different, try this recipe! It is an unusual dessert, with a very festive Sicilian touch in the combination of chocolate and aubergines (did you know that the original Caponata included some cocoa as well?)  and besides, it is perfect for summertime when aubergines have the best flavour and colour.

Serves 4

  • 2 round aubergines
  • 1 tbsp fresh grated or sliced coconut
  • 150 gr dark chocolate (70% cocoa), better if flavoured with red chilli pepper, chopped with a knife
  • 150 gr double cream
  • 1 tin coconut milk (400 ml)
  • 125 ml whole milk
  • 50 gr rice flour
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • peanuts oil for frying

Wash, drain and dry the aubergines, then slice them thin. Fry in hot oil and place over kitchen paper and pat dry in order to eliminate any exceeding oil.

In a saucepan pour the two milks, whisking well with the sugar and flour. Cook over low heat,  always working with your whisk, until as thick and smooth as a béchamel. Cover with cling film, placed directly on the surface so that the cream won’t crack.  Let it reach room temperature, then rest in the fridge for 2 hours.

In another saucepan pour the double cream and bring to a boil over an extremely low heat: be careful not to burn the cream.  Incorporate the chocolate and  mix thoroughly until the ganache is glossy and any chocolate lumps are perfectly melted. Set aside.

Start composing the millefeuille cake: place one slice of aubergine onto a serving dish, scoop some coconut cream over (see above) and repeat until you reach the height you like. At the end pour the ganache, scatter the fresh coconut on top and serve immediately.