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Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Carrots

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I found this recipe in a fabulous cook book of mine, the Silver Palate Cookbook. This book, plus the follow up The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, are treasure troves of stunning recipes; some hearty, some fancy, some healthy, some decadent!
The carrot cake recipe is unusual is that it contains cooked carrots. These give the cake a deep, slightly caramelized, flavour.
I have added ground ginger as well as cinnamon, as ginger works well with carrot. You can omit the walnuts, as I did in the pictured cake, for your nut free friends.
The candied baby carrots were my addition, and they looked really pretty and tasted great!
Ingredients
Carrot Cake

3 cups plain flour
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tbl bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp each ground cinnamon and ground ginger
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 large free range eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbl vanilla extract
1 1/2 walnuts, chopped
1 1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 1/3 cup pureed cooked carrots
3/4cup drained crushed pineapple

Cream Cheese Frosting

250gms cream cheese, at room temperature
100gms reduced salt butter, at room temperature
3 cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla pate
Juice of 1/2 lemon (optional)

Method

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Grease two 23 cm springform tins.

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Fold in the walnuts, coconut, carrots and pineapple.

Pour the batter into the prepared tins. Place on the centre rack of the oven and bake until the edges have pulled away from the sides and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean, about  50 minutes.

Cool on a cake rack for 3 hours. Fill and frost the cake with the cream cheese frosting.

Cream together cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl. Slowly sift in the icing sugar and continue beating until fully incorporated. Mixture should be free of lumps. Stir in vanilla, and lemon juice if desired.

Decorate with candied carrots and sifted icing sugar.

Candied Carrots

Take 6 baby carrots, trim, leaving some green tops.
Keep smaller carrots whole and slice larger carrots in halves or quarters through the length of carrot.

In a small saucepan, combine 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of water. Place over high heat, and bring to a boil, brushing the sides of the saucepan with cold water to prevent the sugar from crystallizing. Add carrots, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until carrots are translucent, about 25 minutes.

In another small saucepan, combine 1.5 cups of sugar with .5 cup water. Place over high heat, and bring to a boil, brushing the sides of the saucepan with cold water to prevent the sugar from crystallizing. When the sugar has completely dissolved, remove from heat. Use a slotted spoon to transfer candied carrots from the syrup in which they boiled to this new sugar syrup. Let stand until completely cooled; discard the old syrup.

Transfer carrots to some baking paper, gently pat dry with kitchen towel. The carrots can be used to decorate the cake or stored for a couple of days in an airtight container.

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Fresh Fig, Taleggio and Walnut Pizza on the Grill

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Another pizza on the grill using autumn produce. Figs were plentiful, relatively cheap in Sydney and delicious, during the Indian summer and early autumn.

I added my current favourite cheese, taleggio, with walnuts. Taleggio and walnuts are a match made in heaven, in ravioli, in salads, grilled on cape seed bread and of course on pizza.

The grilled pizza is my usual recipe, featured several times on this blog.

Ingredients
Dough

2 ¼ tsp dry yeast
1 cup warm water (40.5 – 46 degrees C)
2 to 2 ½ cups bread (strong) flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp sea salt
Extra-virgin olive oil

Toppings

2-3 fresh figs,sliced
100-150g taleggio cheese, torn into chunks
1 tablespoon chutney or sweet onion relish, or to taste
A handful of walnut pieces, roughly chopped

Method
Pizza
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a large bowl and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in most of the flour and the salt, stirring until smooth. Continue adding the flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until the dough comes away from the bowl but is still sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead with lightly floured hands. Knead the dough until it is smooth, elastic and soft, but a little sticky, about 10 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to bowl lightly oiled with extra virgin olive oil, turn to coat. Cover with cling wrap and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in volume, about 2-3 hours. Press it with your finger to see if it’s done; an indent should remain.

Remove the dough from the bowl, divide in half and shape each half into a ball. This quantity makes 2 small pizzas. Or leave as 1 ball for 1 large pizza.

Brush with more oil and set aside for 30 minutes.

Heat your barbecue to very high.

Stretch and shape the ball/s of dough into a rectangle or round – or any rustic shape! Brush the top/s with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let rest for 15 minutes. Place on the grill directly on the bars, oiled side down, and grill until lightly golden brown, about 1 minute. Flip over and grill for 1 minute longer.

Place the pizza/s on a baking tray and apply your toppings:

Scatter over fresh figs, taleggio cheese, chutney or sweet onion relish and walnut pieces.

Return to the barbecue, turn down the heat  to medium, close the cover and cook until the cheese has melted and the pears are heated through, about 5 minutes.

Serve with a scattering of greens – rocket, baby spinach or similar and fresh herbs.

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Ravioli with Thyme, Taleggio and Walnuts and Ravioli with Pecorino and Sundried Tomato

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Last weekend I decided to make fresh pasta. I hadn’t made pasts in ages, and I was a little apprehensive about setting up the pasta machine and actually using it again.

Of course I had forgotten how easy it was…even if I had to be reminded how to to use it via a YouTube video…

I followed faithfully a recipe from Jamie Oliver ‘s Cook with Jamie. I am a huge fan of Jamie Oliver and have every cookbook. I think that Cook with Jamie is a really great book with its no nonsense approach to basic cooking skills.

I will therefore refer the reader directly to the link for the recipe: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/pasta-recipes/a-basic-recipe-for-fresh-egg-pasta

This recipe makes quite a lot of pasta dough. I suggest halving the quantities to make about 12 large ravioli.

I mixed in fresh thyme leaves to half of the dough before the kneading stage to make the Thyme, Taleggio and Walnut Ravioli.

For each kind of ravioli, use the pasta machine to roll the dough so you have 2 thin sheets. It’s important to roll the pasta sheets so they are very thin; I didn’t quite get the sheets thin enough so the pasta was a little thick.

Thyme, Taleggio and Walnuts Ravioli

Combine a small handful of fresh thyme leaves,100 gms or so of taleggio and a dozen or so walnuts chopped.

Ravioli with Pecorino and Sundried Tomato

Combine 100 gms or so of pecorino and a small handful of chopped sundried tomatoes.

For each kind of ravioli, place 6 small spoonfuls of each mixture on one pasta sheet, allowing for a border when you come to cut the ravioli. Moisten the exposed pasta and put the other pasta sheet on top. Press down to divide the sheets into 6 and, making sure you don’t trap any air with the filling, seal the ravioli edges.

Cut pasta into shapes using a pastry cutter or a sharp knife. I dusted the ravioli with a little flour to help them keep their shape as I wasn’t cooking them for an hour or so.

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Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and put the ravioli in. Cook for 5 minutes until al dente.

For a quick sauce, heat a little butter in a frying pan until the butter foams; pour over both kinds of ravioli and serve with additional shaved pecorino.

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Plum, Raisin and Walnut Jam with Lemon Slices

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Raisins and walnuts make this plum jam sticky, sweet, and crunchy – almost a paste, and wonderful with sourdough, whole grain toast or crumpets. Great with butter or creme fraiche – I had the jam on Sonoma sourdough with creme fraiche.

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I make lots of jams all year round but summer is great for berries and stone fruit. Strawberries, raspberries, apricots and plums all make fantastic jam and conserves.

Plums are so full of pectin that setting point is easily reached. Blood rums, with their ruby red colour, make beautiful jam. This jam is based on a plum jam from Jams, Jellies and Marmalades by Margaret O’Sullivan. Her recipe uses orange slices but being “orangeless” today I substituted lemon slices instead – equally delicious!

Ingredients

500 gms blood plums
Sugar
100 gms raisins
Half a lemon, cut into very fine slices, then quartered
100 gms walnuts, chopped


Method


Chop the plums and remove the stones. Measure the plums and raisins and lemon slices and add sugar equal to 3/4 of the amount. 
 You will need to boil the lemon slices for about 10 minutes in water to soften  – if you don’t mind a little crunch, just add as is to the plums and raisins.

Put plums, raisins, lemon slices and sugar  into a preserving pan and cook slowly for about 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently, until setting point is reached.

Test for a set by placing a little jam on a saucer in the freezer for a couple of minutes. The surface should be set and wrinkle when pushed with a finger. If the jam is not set, return the pan to the heat and cook for a further few minutes until setting point is reached.

Stir in the chopped walnuts. Pour into sterilized jars and seal.

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Quick Mix Citrus Cake

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This cake is based on Annabel Langbein’s Orange Lightning Cake from her recent book Simple Pleasures. It’s an easy cake where most of the ingredients are combined at the same time.

The original recipe calls for an uncooked whole orange. I substituted candied cumquats and lemon for the orange, as I had a jar of cumquats from winter bottling in the store cupboard which I though would be quite piquant. The cumquats were cooked. I added half a lemon (uncooked) as I thought the cake might be a little sweet. I cut down on the sugar in the recipe for the same reason.

I used a fluted tin for presentation.

Ingredients
1 orange (unpeeled)*
1 tsp bi-carbonate of soda
125 gms softened butter
1 cup sugar#
2 eggs
1 tsps vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 cup sultanas or raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Method
Preheat oven to 160 degrees C. Grease a 20cm diameter cake tin or fancy tin and line the base with baking paper.
Cut the orange or other fruit into segments, remove the seeds and whizz in a food processor until finely chopped.
Dissolve bi-carbonate of soda in 1/2 cup water and add to the food processor with butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and flour. Whizz to combine. Add sultanas or raisins, and walnuts if using, and stir with a spoon or pulse several times to just combine.
Pour into prepared cake tin and bake until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean 50-60 minutes.
Cool for 5 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a cake rack. Serve with a dusting of icing sugar, or fresh berries, or lemon or orange water icing.

* I substituted 1/4 cup candied cumquats and half a lemon.

# If using cumquats use 3/4 cup sugar.

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Cherry, Raisin and Walnut Muffins + Cumquat and Almond Muffins

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I wanted to make muffins recently and couldn’t decide on the flavour. What was in the store cupboard led to the design of a couple of new flavour combinations.

I think the cherry is my favourite – great for morning or afternoon tea. If you like a tarter, more “breakfasty” muffin – the cumquat one is delicious warm with butter.

The base mixture is the same before dividing the mixture into two for each combo.

Ingredients – Base Mixture

1 and 1/2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bi-carbonate soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup rapadura sugar* (or dark brown or brown sugar)
1/cup melted butter
2 beaten eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Cinnamon sugar for dusting

*Rapadura sugar has a lovely dark, treacly taste. Available from health food stores and bulk food stores.

Cherry Mixture
1 cup walnuts (1/2 cup walnut meal, 1/2 cup walnut pieces)
1/2 cup whole black cherries (tinned)
1/4 cup large raisins

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Cumquat Mixture
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup cumquat jam (any citrus jam or marmalade would do)
1/4 cup almond flakes

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Method

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with muffin papers. Lightly spray papers with cooking spray.

For some reason I only managed to make 7 muffins from this mixture – I could have squeezed out 8 at a pinch. I think you should expect to make 8 good sized muffins or 10 smaller ones from these quantities.

Mix the dry ingredients for the base mixture with a spoon in a bowl until well combined. Divide into two bowls. In another bowl mix the butter, beaten eggs, milk and vanilla extract.

For the cherry muffins, add the walnut meal which you have ground in the food processor to the dry ingredients in one bowl. Add half the butter/egg/milk/vanilla liquid, stirring until barely mixed. Gently fold in the walnut pieces, cherries and raisins.

For the cumquat muffins, add the ground almonds to the dry ingredients in the other bowl. Add the other half of the butter/egg/milk/vanilla liquid, stirring until barely mixed. Gently fold in the cumquat or similar jam.

Spoon each mixture into the muffin papers. Sprinkle almond flakes on the tops of the cumquat muffins. Bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean.

Remove from the oven, and dust the tops of all the muffins with cinnamon sugar.

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