one wedding, two cakes

When two wonderful people get married I get the feeling that all is right in the world. All of the world's drama disappears just long enough to feel that the universe has a clever way of making things work out. I get the sense that all is as it should be and that I should celebrate by giving lots of hugs, high-fives, and by making a cake. So when I found out that good friends were getting married this spring, there were lots of hugs, high-fives and talk of a cake.

Well, two cakes actually. One cake was to be vegan and the other cake was to be full of dairy (read: butter and cream cheese). The latter was a carrot and spice cake with layers of fruit and cream cheese dressing, similar to a cake my friend Alice and I made a few years ago. But it was the vegan cake that Alice (my partner in cake making who conveniently is in Europe for all weddings it seems, including royal ones) and I were excited about making. Instead of cream cheese, it has cashews. The cashews supply a neutral and smooth flavour that makes the cake taste anything but vegan. We made it with agave nectar, but if you want to make a less vegan version, use honey instead. Don't be afraid to use lots of sea salt for the crust; the salty crust complements the creamy filling.

Mango and Blueberry Cashew Cake

adapted from My New Roots' Raw Cashew Dreamcake



1 cup almonds, roughly chopped
1 cup walnuts
1 cup Medjool dates, roughly chopped
2 tsp sea salt, or more or less to taste


4 1/2 cups cashews, soaked overnight
juice of 6 lemons
3 tsp ground vanilla
1 cup coconut oil
1 cup agave nectar
1 1/2 cups frozen mangoes, thawed completely
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries, thawed completely
fresh fruit for topping

The night before you make the cake, soak the cashews in water and thaw out the frozen fruit in the fridge.

In a blender or food processor, pulse the walnuts until they resemble a fine flour. Add the dates and then pulse until the walnuts and dates hold together. Remove from the blender and then mix with the roughly chopped walnuts and sea salt. Press the mixture firmly into a 7" spring-form pan. Make sure that the mixture is even and that the edges are covered. Cover with plastic wrap and then place in the fridge while you clean the blender and make the filling.

In a saucepan, over low heat, melt and warm the coconut oil and agave. Stir well.
In the blender, blend together the cashews, lemon juice, vanilla, coconut oil and honey. This will take a while and depending on the size of your blender, you may have to do this in batches. However, be patient and blend until smooth. Remove half of the mixture and put it in a bowl. Blend the mangoes with the remaining filling until smooth. Remove the crust from the fridge and pour the mango filling into the pan. Return the second half of the filling to the blender and add the blueberries. Once smooth, pour on top of the mango filling. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until solid.

Remove from the freezer 30-60 minutes before serving (depending on how cold your freezer is).

Before serving, decorate with fresh fruit.


postcards from glasgow II


the seriousness of sweets

Northern Europe has taught me to really love sweet things. It must have something to do with the short days in winter or the force of the wind in spring because my love for cakes, tarts and pies has increased while living in the North. In Copenhagen I was lucky enough to work in a restaurant which meant that I spent days snacking away at dark chocolate cakes with sour cream for free. In Berlin I learned to take kaffee und kuchen seriously and to plan my meals around it and in Gothenburg I have learned that fika is not just serious, but an essential part of the day. Many afternoons I can be found sitting with a piece of carrot cake and a coffee. Sometimes these sweets fall under "the healthy or healthier" category (with ingredients such as coconut oil instead of butter, ground walnuts instead of flour and dates instead of sugar) and sometimes these sweets fall under "the unhealthy, but delicious" category. I figure that a good balance includes both.

This pear tart falls under the latter; however, it is the perfect ending to a rainy afternoon.

Pear Tart with Whiskey Cream

adapted from Feasting on Art's recipe for Design Sponge


1 cup flour
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp water

3 large pears
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp butter, melted
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp whiskey

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp whiskey
a pinch of ground vanilla bean

Cut tiny pieces of butter and add to the flour. With two butter-knives, cut the mixture until it clumps together and resembles small pebbles. Add walnuts, salt and sugar. Add water and mix until it forms a ball. Knead slightly and then form into a round disk. Cover with flour and baking paper and then refrigerate for one hour.

Take the dough out of the fridge and roll onto a floured cutting board until it is about 1cm thick. Butter a pie dish and then transfer the dough to the dish. It helps if you place the pie dish upside down onto the dough and then turn the cutting board over. Trim excess dough and make sure that the dough is evenly spread across the dish. Press down edges with a fork. Place in the freezer.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350F/180C. When the oven is ready remove the dough from the freezer. Place a piece of parchment paper over the dough and then cover with baking weights (dried beans work well). Bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and then remove the pie weight. Pierce the dough with a fork. This releases steam.

While the crust is baking, slice the pears so that they are medium thick. Toss the pears, brown sugar, maple syrup, melted butter, cinnamon, ginger and whiskey together in a bowl. Arrange the fruit in a circle in the baked crust. Cover with aluminum foil and return to the oven to bake. After 15 minutes remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes or until the crust is golden and the fruit is soft. Let cool slightly.

When ready to serve, whip together the whipping cream, sugar, whiskey and vanilla. Serve warm with a generous topping of whiskey cream.



tis the season

By season I mean asparagus season of course. After blood orange season, I think that it is my favourite. With only about two months of prime growing time (note: I am not talking about the stuff from Peru that is sold year round for a premium at grocery stores), it means that I am taking advantage of it while I can. To say that I can (and sometimes do) eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner is not an exaggeration. Roasted asparagus with a poached egg for breakfast. Peeled asparagus with arugula and pecans for lunch and then for dinner I eat it in risotto or in pasta or with prosciutto. What a season asparagus season is!

Because I believe in the power of breakfast, I have been favouring roasted asparagus as of late. Plus, I never turn down the opportunity to poach an egg. Omit the egg if you want to serve it as a side for dinner. Or, add another egg if you want a bigger breakfast. This recipe serves one. Double or triple it if need be.

Roasted Asparagus with a Poached Egg


4 stalks of asparagus
a drizzle of olive oil
a handful of roughly chopped almonds
sea salt
grated parmigiano reggiano or pecorino romano
the zest of half a lemon, plus a squeeze of its juice

1 organic egg
white vinegar, optional

Preheat oven to 350C/180F. Wash asparagus well and chop off the ends. Place in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add the salt, chopped almonds and grated cheese. Bake for about 5-7 minutes until the asparagus is cooked, but still slightly firm and the cheese has melted. Remove from the oven and add the lemon zest.

While the asparagus is baking, bring a small saucepan of water to boil. Once the water reaches a boil, add a splash of white vinegar if you wish. Add the egg and stir the water with a spoon so that the white part of the egg gathers above the yolk. Cook for three minutes and then remove with a slotted spoon.

Serve the poached egg on top of the asparagus. Season with salt and pepper plus an extra serving of grated cheese.



postcard from glasgow I

Museum gift-shops hold many surprises.

Who knew that Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum sold postcards of a young Bill and Hillary?


a little bit of montreal

Montreal is an easy city to love. Every night of the week one can see good live music and every hour of the day one can buy fresh bagels. Those are just two among many attractive qualities. Because they both hold so much appeal, I don't think that I even have to mention things like poutine, bakeries from Northern France, Jean Talon Market, or Mount Royal. In short, it is easy to become spoiled in Montreal. I blame the city for the fact that whenever I am out past 2am I develop a craving for either poutine from Chez Claudette or Le Nouveau Palais, or freshly baked bagels from Fairmount Bagel. Right now I am going to focus on the latter.

When discussing Montreal bagels, there are two important points to raise. The first is about how Montreal bagels differ from their rival: the New York style bagel. The second is about the rivalry between two bagel shops in Montreal: St-Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel. Let's start with the first. I used to work at a Bed & Breakfast and on each table was a card explaining the difference between Montreal and New York style Bagels. The Montreal bagel is sweeter. It has a bit more sugar and, most importantly, it is boiled in honey. The traditional Montreal bagel is then cooked in a wood-burning oven. It is often an imperfect circle compared to the perfectly round and fluffier New York Bagel.

Now the rivalry: named after streets in Montreal and one block apart are St-Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel. If you ever live in Montreal (or even just visit) you will be pressured to pick one over the other. You are either a St-Viateur or a Fairmount bagel person; there is no grey zone. Both bakeries are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and both make delicious Montreal style bagels. I am a Fairmount bagel person. I can't tell you why exactly, I just am. I just like their bagels more. I can't describe the difference between St-Viateur and Fairmount in words, it is just intrinsic.

Living away from Montreal makes me miss bagels. A lot. When I was living in Berlin, the craving got to be too much. I decided to make them. Although I did not have a wood-burning oven, they tasted like Montreal bagels. They tasted like the city of Montreal even though I was eating them far away. Since that first batch, I have gotten a lot better at rolling them. Each time I make them they look more and more like the bagels at Fairmount. I feel comforted knowing that I can have Montreal bagels whenever I please (or when I have some honey and sesame seeds to spare).

Montreal Bagels

adapted from BigOven


1 1/2 cups warm water
3 tbsp unrefined sugar
3 tbsp sunflower oil
8 grams fresh yeast, or 1 package dry
1 organic egg, beaten
1 tbsp maple syrup
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup sesame seeds
3 quarts water
1/3 cup honey

In a large bowl dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Once dissolved, add the sugar, oil, egg, maple syrup and salt. Mix well and add one cup of flour. Gradually add the rest of the flour to make a soft dough. Knead dough for 10 minutes. Add extra flour if needed. Once the dough is smooth and firm, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into 12 balls. Roll each ball into a long rope. Once the ends start to taper you have the right length. Curve the dough into a circle so that the ends overlap. Press the ends together. Brush with a few drops of water to help the ends stay together.

Let bagels rise for 30 minutes on a baking sheet or plate lined with parchment paper. Alternatively, put them in the fridge (brush them with oil and then cover them with plastic wrap first) over night to rise and then remove them in the morning. If you put them in the fridge, let them warm up to room temperature. To check if they are ready to cook, put one bagel in a bowl of cold water. If it floats it is ready. If not let it rest for another 10 minutes and try again.

When ready to cook the bagels, fill a large pot with water. Stir in the honey and bring to a boil. Preheat the oven to 425F/220C and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Once the water is at a boil, drop four bagel in. Let boil for 45 seconds, flip, and then another 45 seconds. Carefully remove and pat dry with a clean tea towel. Sprinkle both sides with sesame seeds (black or white) and then place on the parchment paper.

Bake for 8 minutes, flip, and then another 8 minutes. However, keep an eye on them because this depends on how hot your oven is. Let cool and then enjoy with cream cheese.



another shade of pesto

A few years ago I started making sun-dried tomato pesto. I found the recipe on 101 Cookbooks and as soon as I made it once I found myself making it over and over again. It is one of my recipe staples. If I am too hungry or tired to cook, I make it. If I have not been grocery shopping in a while, I make it. If you have been over for dinner within the past few years, I probably made it. And, if I am craving something comforting, I make it.

In fact, I hardly ever make pesto with basil anymore. It is a classic that I will forever love, but I just cannot commit to one kind of pesto. Plus, only occasionally do I find myself with enough fresh basil to spare. Beetroot pesto is a colourful alternative to the other green pesto I make (kale pesto). Try it on whole wheat spaghetti, or as a spread on sourdough.

Beetroot Pesto

adapted from Rigetta Klint's Design Sponge recipe


3-4 beets, roasted and peeled
1 garlic clove
a handful of walnuts
2 -4 tbsp grated pecorino romano
a pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
a splash of lemon juice

Roast the beets until soft. Let cool slightly, then peel and roughly chop them. In a blender, mix together the beets, garlic, walnuts, pecorino romano and sea salt. Mix longer for a smoother pesto, or for less time for a chunkier pesto. Slowly add the olive oil with the blender running. Finish with a splash of lemon juice.



bouquets in the sky

Spring means cherry blossoms that arrange their branches to look like bouquets in the sky. It means eating asparagus salads and then walking barefoot through freshly green grass. It means starting days with coffee on a balcony and ending them with long evenings and rhubarb crisp.


ground chickpeas

Looking back, I am amazed that I used all-purpose flour unquestioning for so long. I still use it if a very decadent cake is involved, but flour is so incredibly diverse that it is boring to stick to just one kind. I mean, pretty much anything can be ground into flour. Seriously, anything: lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, almonds, spelt and so on. The best part is that it is cheaper to do at home (not to mention more fun - perhaps it is just me, but I consider food being transformed in a high speed blender a great form of entertainment). All one requires is a good blender.

Chickpea flour is full of flavour, as far as flours go. Use it to make socca, chickpea fries, falafel, pakora and so on.

Chickpea Flour


1-2 cups dried chickpeas

In small batches, throw the dried chickpeas into a blender. Blend until completely smooth. To remove any large chunks that did not blend, sift through a sieve. It is best if you use the flour immediately.

2 cups of dried chickpeas yields about 1 1/2 cups of chickpea flour.



postcards from edinburgh

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

About This Blog

  © Blogger template Shush by 2009

Back to TOP