Blueberry Yogurt Cupcakes

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I know that berry season is technically over, but I have two issues with that: firstly, frozen varieties are available pretty much year-round and frozen berries are perfect for baking, which means the end of summer is really no excuse to stop putting them in cakes and cookies. And secondly, I baked a lot this summer but never got around to posting about the recipes I tried, and now I don’t want perfectly good blog content to go to waste.

Maybe it’s time we broke down the barriers that dictate that summer-acceptable food suddenly becomes taboo during the fall? I, for one, would not be the least bit offended if someone fed me a blueberry cupcake even in the dead of winter. If anything, it would cheer me up immensely and I really think you should give it a shot.

These blueberry cupcakes are absolutely delicious, ridiculously easy to make and as a bonus – they’re healthy. There isn’t a pat of butter in there (it’s substituted with olive oil, which I’m told is better for the heart?) and the recipe calls for yogurt in the batter, making them light and springy. I loosely adapted this recipe to make the base, and added a few flavors to complement the berries.

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Ingredients

(Makes 15 cupcakes)
250 g frozen blueberries
2 cups flour
1 cup olive oil
1 cup sugar + extra for sprinkling
250 g yogurt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 pods of cardamom

Method:

In a large bowl, beat together the olive oil, sugar, vanilla essence and cardamom until everything is combined. Add the eggs one at a time and beat the mixture until it’s pale and silky.

Scoop the yogurt into the mixture and beat for another two minutes.

Sift in the flour in three batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating in between each to make sure everything is well incorporated.

Grease the cupcake tins well and place the blueberries at the bottom of each. You should get around 5-6 blueberries in each tin. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar on top of the blueberries.

Spoon the batter over the blueberries (about a ladle-full per tin). Bake for about 20 minutes at 180 C (350 F). The cupcakes will be pale even when they’re done, but you can insert a toothpick into each to check whether they’re firm all the way through.

Allow it to cool completely before inverting them.

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Breakfast Pie

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There are few ingredients that don’t benefit from being tossed irreverently into a perfectly-flaky pie crust but for the life of me, I can’t think of what they are right now. As a general rule of thumb, I think mostly everything is better in pie form. Cheese? Check. Berries? Check. Meat? Check. Potatoes? Do you really have to ask?

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The great thing about this theory is that it’s also a god-saver for when you need something respectable on the table, pronto. Take this humble little breakfast pie, for instance. If you were to be served plain spinach and tomatoes, with a side of eggs for breakfast – meh. But in a pie crust? Popped into the oven and baked until the spinach is crisp, the eggs are just done and the cheese is golden? I think you’d be impressed.

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In terms of prep work, this pie is fairly low on the scale of one to tearing your hair out. Tomatoes are diced and cooked for a few minutes with onions and chopped garlic, spinach is briefly sauteed with butter and egg crumbs and flour is kneaded with butter to make a quickie crust. Everything is poured into the shell, crack a couple of eggs and some cheese over it and you’re 15 minutes away from having an honest-to-god healthy breakfast pie.

Ingredients

For the pie crust (these amounts make enough for an 8″ pie dish):8 tbsp of unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups of flour
4 tbsp of iced water
1/2 tsp salt

For the filling:
3 tomatoes
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 bunch spinach
2 or 3 eggs
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped/grated cheddar
Salt to taste

Method:

Prepare the pastry dough: whisk together the flour and salt in a bowl. Make sure the butter is cold (I popped it into the freezer for 10 minutes before using it) and chop it into tiny chunks. Add this to the flour mixture and mix with your hands until the flour feels silky and the butter is reduced to pea-sized bits.

Add the iced water one tablespoon at a time, kneading the dough as you go. Pat it into a ball, wrap it in cling film and refrigerate it for half an hour.

In the meantime, turn your attention to the filling: finely chop of the tomatoes and the onion, and mince the garlic. Heat a little butter in a pan and sautee the garlic until fragrant. Add the onions and cook until softened and translucent. Add the tomatoes and 1/4 cup of water. Cover the pan and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes.

In another pan, boil some water and blanch the spinach. Don’t let the spinach cook for more than about 30 seconds: you don’t want it too soggy. Set aside.

Check the tomatoes and onions – they should have reduced to a thicker, sauce-like consistency. Add the red pepper flakes and salt and cook for another minute, before taking the pan off the heat. Stir the spinach into it and set aside.

Grease the pie dish. Take the pie dough out of the fridge and roll out on a flour-dusted surface till it’s around 1/4 inch thick. Roll it around a rolling-pin and then flip it over the pie dish. Trim the edges.

Pour the tomato base into the pie shell. Crack the eggs over the top and add the chopped or grated cheddar. Bake at 180 C for 20 minutes. Start checking in on the pie at the 15-minute mark to judge when the eggs are done. Once they’re cooked, take the pie out of the oven and let it cool before slicing.

Oatmeal Brown Butter Bars

DSCN2502 Full disclosure: I don’t like oatmeal. I really don’t understand why so many people automatically categorize it in the breakfast-of-champions category (my first and only choice for breakfast of champions? Beer.) Most supposedly healthy and nutrient-packed bowls of oatmeal just translate to cold, lumpy spoonfuls of goop in my mouth and it seems to me that nothing – absolutely nothing – can distract me from the fact that it essentially tastes like soft brains with a smattering of sugar on top (as the metaphor should imply, I am not a fan of eating brains). DSCN2515 But apparently there is a way to make oatmeal a touch more palatable and that is by incorporating it into a baked good. The funny thing is, what I hate most about oatmeal is its texture (or lack thereof – didn’t the brain reference tip you off?). But when you bake it into cakes, cookies or bars, that’s exactly what it lends to the entire affair: a lovely, chewy texture and slight nuttiness in taste. I know there’s this huge, healthy, get-on-the-nut-oils bandwagon thing going on, but most of the time I think oatmeal goes best with brown butter: smoky, dark, caramel-colored brown butter, which – in this recipe – you stir into a base of oatmeal and wholewheat flour. The whole thing is topped off with some sugar, spices and pecans and then baked. When you slice bars off the finished product, they will crumble slightly and smell really fragrant because of the spices – not in the lush, decadent way that some desserts do but as a sweet, snacking option that isn’t altogether too unhealthy. DSCN2480 DSCN2488 Makes: One 9 inch-by-6 inch baking dish of bars Time:
Prep (20 mins) + Cooking Time (15-20 mins)

Ingredients
1 cup of wholewheat flour
1 cup of raw oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp powdered cinnamon
1 tsp powdered nutmeg
1 egg
1/2 cup pecans (whole or chopped)

Method
Pre-heat your oven to 350 and grease a 9 inch-by-6 inch baking dish.

In a shallow pan, heat the butter until it melts. Continue heating until it turns a dark shade of brown, bubbles slightly and smells nutty. Keep this aside to cool.

In a large bowl, sift together the wholewheat flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the oats and keep aside.

Pour the cooled brown butter into a bowl and add the egg and vanilla extract. Beat until all three are well combined. Make a little well in the bowl with the dry ingredients and pour the butter-egg-vanilla mixture into it in three batches, beating in between.

Empty the batter into the greased cake pan – it shouldn’t be too runny. In fact, it should be fairly on the dry side. Press the pecans on to the surface of the batter and bake for 15-20 minutes, until done. Once it’s out the oven, let it cool before slicing off bars.

Perfect for late afternoon snacking and maybe even a picnic?

Carrot Cake

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How do you guys feel about carrot cake?

Growing up, I was not a fan. I simply didn’t understand the point of mincing and baking carrots into a flour-butter-sugar combination that could just as easily be packed with, oh, I don’t know, shall we say chocolate or mocha? – both much more acceptable flavours to the below-13 palate? My mother made carrot cakes on and off but the lack of hit-you-in-the-face sweetness and rich frosting put me off completely.

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When I first started baking, I was too enamoured by all the pretty possibilities that cakes presented – has anyone seen this, or this? Stunning – and didn’t really bother with earthy, carroty goodness. For some reason, carrot cake does not, in my mind, represent glamour. If anything, it represents mild weather and perhaps a game of Rummy over tea.

All of this changed when I came across this blog post, which sort of elevated the definition of carrot cake in mind. Yes, carrot cake can be sexy – it just needs the necessary trimmings. I adapted the recipe to include some of my favourites – dried figs, which work wonderfully with the chewy carrot base, handfuls of currants, walnuts and pecans, a dash of toasted coconut – and the result were three layers of some pretty good cake.

Which I left out on the kitchen counter to cool. When I returned half an hour later, it turned out that our dog had been as appreciative of carrot cake as me and all that was left were a few crumbs and the empty cake pan.

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Obviously, I was too lazy/tired/disgruntled to bake up another one right away but I did manage to do so after a couple of weekends and the result was everything you’d want in a carrot cake – one that’s undeniably sexy. This one is packed with flavour from the oils, nuts and touch of coconut, has a moist, dense crumb and is topped with a rich cream-cheese frosting that manages to seem more creamy than sugary. It’s a favourite as a not-too-sweet dessert, an accompaniment to tea, and with dogs.

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Ingredients

(I halved the below recipe and got a two-layer, 8-inch cake that was more than enough for five of us).

Carrot Cake:

2 cups wholewheat flour
1 cup toasted and shredded coconut (follow this recipe if you want to make your own)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 pound carrots
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried currants
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup coconut oil
4 eggs
1 banana, mashed
1 cup dried figs

Frosting: (refer to original recipe)

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease 4 8-inch pans.

Line the dried figs at the bottom of one of the pans (this will be the top-most layer). You can also sprinkle some dried currants on the base.

This cake follows a regular wet ingredient + dry ingredient approach. Start with the wet ingredients: finely shred your carrots, with a grater (if you have the willpower and knuckles of steel) or with short pulses in a blender until they are torn into shreds. Keep aside.

Whisk together all the wet ingredients (olive oil, coconut oil, banana and eggs) with the sugar until well-combined and fluffy.

Add in the dry ingredients (wholewheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg) and give the batter a brisk beating to combine the two. Then, stir in the nuts, dried currants and coconut.

Divide the batter into four greased 8-inch pans (or two, if you’re halving it) and bake for around 45 mins. You might need to keep it in the oven for an additional five minutes (I did) – you can check whether the cake is done with a toothpick.

Prepare frosting as per original recipe (halving if you are halving the cake batter) and slather it between the layers – it isn’t too sweet, so too much shouldn’t be a problem although carrot cake-enthusiasts might find it detracts slightly from the earthiness of the actual cake.

Keep well away from dogs, please.

This is one well-fed, carrot cake-stuffed labrador

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Spicy Pumpkin Loaf

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Am I the only person who got sick of the influx of pumpkin-infused recipes that took over the web this winter? Because there were A LOT – I know that everyone has to do at least one pumpkin pie over the holidays, but surely we don’t have to ram pumpkin into our coffee, cupcakes, frosting, buns, cinnamon buns, breakfast bowls and oatmeal? What really got to me was that most of the recipes followed the same format: take a lot of pureed pumpkin, add a lot of cream, top with a lot of cinnamon and brown sugar and voila! – you’re done.

Yes, it really irritated me.

Which is why I’m mildly ashamed to show you this. It is, I will admit, pumpkin, and there’s no getting around that. But I suspect that in this case, you won’t mind.

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This isn’t one of those overloaded-with-caramel pumpkin dessert recipes. In fact, this is a savory loaf. A deceptively light savory loaf that you can slice and enjoy with a bit of butter at breakfast, or tea time. It isn’t made with pumpkin puree or stuff from a can, but honest-to-god fresh pumpkin that is diced, sprinkled with olive oil and herbs and roasted for the better part of an hour, until it is tender and aromatic and altogether delicious.

This is then mashed with the back of a fork (or, if you’re super enthusiastic, a blender) and mixed with some flour, herbs, a smattering of cheese and crushed red peppers for a bit of a kick. This recipe (which is adapted from one of my mother’s passed-down recipes for a cheese loaf) is beautifully simple, does not require any finicky steps and produces a thick, chewy loaf that’s a nice palate cleanser from all the over-sweet pumpkin dishes we’ve been eating the last few months.

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Ingredients

3 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/4 of a large pumpkin (should reduce to a cup of mash after being roasted) + 1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup grated or crumbled cheddar

2 cups whole wheat

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tbsp dried sage

1 tsp dried oregano (or any other herb of your choice)

1 tsp crushed red peppers

1/2 tsp salt + more to taste

Method

Dice the pumpkin into square-inch cubes and lay it out on a well-greased/sprayed baking tray. Sprinkle a tablespoon of olive oil and some salt on it, then add the oregano/herb of your choice and bake at 150 C for around half an hour to 45 minutes. If you bake it for longer and at a lower temperature, the flavours should intensify best. When it’s done, the pumpkin should be a rich, golden-orange shade and tender.

Let the pumpkin cool, and then mash it with a fork or in a blender. Once it’s pulpy and as smooth as you can get it, whisk together the eggs and milk and pour it into the pumpkin mash, beating to ensure everything combines well.

Sift together the dry ingredients: the whole wheat, baking powder, sage, crushed red pepper and salt, and then add the pumpkin mixture in three batches, beating in between. Once it’s holding together, stir in the crumbled cheddar.

Pour the batter into a greased/sprayed loaf pan and bake at 180 C until it’s well done, around an hour. Test with a toothpick to make sure it’s done (the top should be golden-orange and puffy), and then allow to cool before slicing. Tastes best with a knob of butter.

Notes: this recipe, while it had a lovely crumb and held together beautifully, was a touch on the eggy side. If this isn’t your style, you can reduce the number of eggs to 2 and it still works out perfectly (I tried it the following week).

Creamy Cilantro Rice

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I love risotto but so far, all my attempts at making it have not been entirely satisfactory. By which I mean the rice did not end up creamy enough, the entire affair had a bit too much bite in it and I spilled a ladle of stock on myself and got burned. On the whole, it’s a process that requires patience and dedication which I’m sure I will acquire in spades someday. But till then, I have discovered a cheat – a shameless, should-I-even-be-talking-about-this cheat that will probably send any Italian chef worth his salt into palpitations. I called it cilantro rice, to avoid any accusations or unfair comparisons but it’s basically a poor-chef’s-version of risotto.

The base, of course, is white rice (I used Basmati – poor, poor Italian chefs) but I pre-steamed it until it was about three minutes away from being done to perfection. Then, it is topped with an explosion of flavors – fresh, minced cilantro, which adds a herby brightness; pureed spinach, lending it an earthy tone; heaps of garlic, because I am obsessed like that; white onion for sharpness; judicious sprinklings of pepper; a bit of stock for body and cream because – well, cream.

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All of this flavorful goodness is stirred in through the steaming, fluffy rice and then cooked in a covered pot for about five minutes. This is about the right amount of time – it all comes together nicely but the rice isn’t overcooked.

I sort of loosely based this recipe on a version of mint rice my grandmother makes, but keeping in mind the consistency of risotto. So I was pretty surprised that it vaguely resembles an actual Mexican dish called arroz verde. The texture is pretty different, but it looks absolutely delicious so this is probably worth a shot as well.

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Ingredients

1 cup white rice

500 g spinach

200 g cilantro

1 white onion, chopped finely

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1/4 cup cream

1/2 cup vegetable stock

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Steam the rice for about 10-15 minutes. It should be just a couple of minutes away from being fully cooked, with a slight bite.

Finely chop the white onion and mince the cloves of garlic. Puree the spinach and cilantro together and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large, shallow pan and sautee the garlic and red pepper flakes until slightly brown. Add the onion and cook till it turns soft.

Add the pureed spinach and cilantro, cover and let it cook for 4-5 minutes. Then add the rice and the stock. Stir for about 3-4 minutes, until the rice absorbs the stock and is fully cooked. Then add the cream, salt and pepper and sautee for another 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

Strawberry Cream Biscuits

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Every time someone says they’re coming over for tea, my imagination promptly creates a situation that is undoubtedly ripped off from one of the many Enid Blyton books I read as a kid: a table set with a pretty checked cloth, a china teapot and a selection of dainty, sweet eats that would put a Downton Abbey tea table to shame. This obviously rarely happens, but every once in a while I like to bust out a snack that makes people believe I spend most of my time flitting around in the kitchen. And one of the easiest ways to do this is to bake up a batch of biscuits – not the nasty, sugar-filled variety that you can buy at a department store but fluffy, light homemade biscuits that crumble when you bite into them and go perfectly with a cup of sweet tea. What’s more, they’re easy to make, don’t use any fancy ingredients and you can have them out of the oven in 15 minutes as long as you don’t spend too much time snacking on raw dough (bad habit, I know).

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While I’m a huge fan of plain biscuits, a little flavouring can go a long way. These strawberry cream biscuits, very slightly adapted from this genius recipe, are very faintly sweetened, with the tart, fruity strawberry flavour occupying centre stage. Beaten cream is stirred into the dough and the raw cookies are brushed with a few teaspoons of melted butter, so that they puff up and flake with each bite. They aren’t particularly healthy, but are an indulgent addition to any evening meal and a great option for gifting.

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Ingredients

2 cups flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tbsp sugar

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

3 tbsp melted butter

2 tbsp strawberry jam

Method

Sift together the flour, sugar and baking powder and set aside.

Beat the cream for about 5 minutes, until it turns pale and fluffy. Add the strawberry jam and beat again until it’s well combined. Fold the cream into the flour mixture and combine to form a dough.

Roll the dough to a thickness of 3/4 inch, and cut out biscuits. The original recipe called for a 2 1/2 inch-diameter cutter, but I used a 2 inch one. Brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter and bake at 425 F for 10-15 minutes. When they’re golden-brown, with the faintest champagne-pink tinge, take them out of the oven and let them cool before serving.

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Notes

I cut down on the sugar used in the dough because of the slight added sweetness of the jam. If you prefer your biscuits on the sweeter side, you can a full tablespoon of sugar instead.

The jam I used was organic and had whole stewed strawberries, which gave the biscuits a more natural flavour. I’m guessing artificially-sweetened jams won’t have the same effect. Alternately, you can puree strawberries and add them to the cream before beating for a more tart, but authentic, flavour.

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Rich Honey Cake

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Apparently, I am honey illiterate. When I first decided to make a honey cake (for my grandparent’s anniversary, no less), I had no clue about the true potential of honey. I envisioned something like a slightly spruced-up sponge cake, with a light texture and a faint undertone of molten sweetness. What I did not imagine was a moist, rich cake that combined a whole bunch of ingredients, each adding a wonderful complexity to each bite while still allowing that straight-from-a-beehive goodness to shine through.

Obviously, I did not think it through.

But thankfully, we live in an age when even extreme stupidity can be corrected through the internet. A little bit of browsing turned up this gem of a recipe, which fascinated me because of the rather odd (but surprisingly perfect) combination of flavors. Honey and orange juice? Weird. Orange juice and coffee? Even weirder. All of that drowned in whiskey? Okay, that makes sense.

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The beauty of the finished product – I adapted the recipe based on personal preference – is exactly this. All the flavors come together in a sort of triumphant medley, with a boozy kick. I topped it off with a thin sheath of honey and a generous sprinkling of flaxseed, which adds a bit of crunch to the whole deal. It’s a pretty rich cake, but not cloyingly so and it’s absolutely perfect for the holiday season.

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Ingredients

3.5 cups flour

1.5 cups brown sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 cup olive oil

1 cup honey

3 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup fresh brewed coffee

1/2 cup orange juice

1/4 cup whiskey (woohoo!)

1/4 tsp salt

3 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground clove

2 tsp all spice

2 tbsp flaxseed

Extra honey for drizzling on top

Method

The list of ingredients might be a little fussy but preparing this cake is a breeze – simply sift together all the dry ingredients, make a well in the centre and then pour in all the wet ones. In other words: sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, clove and all spice. Then add the olive oil, honey, eggs, vanilla, coffee, orange juice and whiskey. Pour it into a well-greased pan (I used a 9 inch circular one) and bake at 170 C for 55 minutes to an hour.

When the cake is done (you can carry out the usual rigmarole with the toothpick to check if it is), let it cool for at least half an hour before trying to tip it out. The final texture should be rich and dense, but not sickeningly so. The syrupy-sweet honey flavor is predominant, but all the other ingredients – especially the whiskey – have their own part to play.

Baked Eggplant

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I have been an absolutely awful person, I know, with no sense of dedication or commitment since I haven’t updated a recipe since August (August! I KNOW). In my defense, I’ve had a ton of things going on – college applications, and work and all these little freelance projects (including an absolutely amazing research project in Tanzania, where I spent two weeks. And yes, I did get my teeth into some Tanzanian food and yes, I will be blogging about it soon). I’ve been cooking and out of sheer habit, I’ve been taking photos as well. But when it comes to actually sitting down and keying out a post and then adding the pictures and clicking the ‘Publish’ button, I’ve been inexcusably lazy.

Still, I hope to make it up with this recipe – an absolutely delicious and painfully easy baked eggplant affair, which is loosely based on this concoction from one of my favorite food bloggers. I grew up with a strong aversion to eggplant and anything that looked, smelled or tasted like it, but I’ve recently come to like it – which I take as a strong sign that I have finally, irrevocably grown up. In fact, I’m pretty sure the first piece of eggplant I liked was a lot more emotional for me than, say, paying rent for the first time or my first job.

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Either way, this recipe takes time to come together but it isn’t labour intensive. It takes time because to get a really creamy, stuff-of-the-gods texture, you need to roast eggplant slowly and gently for the better part of an hour, preferably slicked over with olive oil and some herbs. When it’s done, it should be like a little purple cup of cream – rich, delicious, eggplant-y cream that begs to have a spoon dug into it immediately.

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Then, to make it even better, you heap that eggplant with hung curd that has minced raw garlic stirred through; chopped up tomatoes and jalapenos that have been tossed in lemongrass essence; and a final drizzle of olive oil just so that it doesn’t come across as too healthy (who are we kidding?).

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Ingredients (serves 2)

For the eggplant:

1 large eggplant

1 tbsp olive oil

Pinch of rosemary

Salt as needed

For the curd topping:

200 g curd (the fresher the better)

4 cloves of garlic, minced (this is for the garlic enthusiasts – you can cut it down if you don’t want too much sharpness)

Pinch of salt and white pepper

For the tomato topping:

1 large tomato, chopped fine

1 tbsp chopped jalapeno

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp lemongrass essence

Method:

Prepare the eggplant first: you need to slice it in half, slice a hatched pattern into the open sides with a knife and then rub salt on to it. Cover it and set it aside for half an hour. This sucks out an trace of bitterness from the eggplant.

While the eggplant is resting, hang the curd and let the excess whey drip off.

Wash the salt off the eggplant and brush it with olive oil. Sprinkle the rosemary on top. Place it upside down on a greased baking tray, and bake away at 160 C for 45 minutes to an hour. When it’s done, there should be some caramelization on the surface but the flesh should be tender and creamy. Keep aside to cool a little.

Squeeze out any excess whey from the curd, and then stir in the minced garlic, salt and white pepper.

Toss the tomatoes and jalapeno in a combination of olive oil, lemongrass essence and a pinch of salt. You can add other herbs or flavorings according to your personal taste.

Assemble the eggplant just before serving – scoop the yogurt over the open end, and then a generous heaping of the tomato topping over this. Eat immediately and then lick your fingers for a prolonged period of time.

(Another option is to mince some mint leaves and add it to the yogurt – I tried this later, and it was absolutely lovely).

Red Wine Chocolate Cake

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I have a secret to share. It isn’t very professional, but I love to cook (or read, or – I don’t know, work?) with alcohol. There’s nothing quite so therapeutic as cracking open a chilled beer before getting into the hot, steamy mess that is my kitchen. Sometimes, when I’m feeling super fancy, I take it a step further and pour myself a glass (or two?) of red wine.

When I’m in a particularly indulgent mood, I complement the wine with some chocolate. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know much about either wine or chocolate – from an expert’s point of view, that is. What I do know is that I my wine red and full-bodied; that I like chocolate that is dark and has a slightly salty aftertaste; and that the combination of the two is absolute perfection.

Not surprisingly, when I came across this recipe I was determined to try it. In fact, I tried it the very same afternoon that I stumbled across it and I couldn’t have been happier with the result. I tweaked it very, very slightly by cutting down on the sweetness and amping up the chocolate/saltiness and the result was a cake made of dreams, sunshine and possibly a bit of heaven. It was moist and rich without being too heavy, crammed with all the bittery-chocolate taste in the world and finished off with a boozy kick. Perfection.

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Ingredients

2 cups flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate (the darker the better)

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

225 g unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups red wine (preferably dry)

Method

Cream together the butter and sugar until it turns pale and fluffy. Crack the eggs in one at a time, whisking to ensure that everything is well-incorporated.

Stir in the vanilla and red wine. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the egg-butter-sugar mixture in three batches, beating to ensure that everything comes together well. Then, add the chopped dark chocolate for an extra kick. The batter should be rich and velvety.

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Bake at 170 C for around 45 minutes, checking to see if the cake is done by sticking a toothpick in the centre. Give it around 15 minutes to cool before turning it over. Top it with grated dark chocolate and a light dusting of sugar.

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