Because Life is a blend of flavours…

Well Naturally Chocolate+ A Spiced Chocolate Lassi + Giveaway

by Sugar et al

I often come across people who associate weight loss, health and fitness with some kind of food deprivation, cut-downs and fad diets. I am certainly not an expert in this area but the word ‘deprivation’ does not exist in my culinary dictionary. Food is a gift..it is one of the greatest pleasures in life that we deserve. What we don’t deserve are the pangs of guilt we feel after consuming a big slice of chocolate cake or a cup of hot chocolate that we have craved for and have been refusing as it comes in the way of our fitness goals or our summer-ready bodies. On many occasions I find myself thinking if there was a better way to deal with this. Why can’t I eat chocolate cake and still look fab in my swimwear?. I guess the key is to eat mindfully, understanding what we eat and not taking away the pleasure from eating our favourite food. Mindful eating balances health and pleasure.

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Well-Naturally has been doing that for over a decade. They have been producing high quality, sugar-reduced and better-for you goods that Australians have been enjoying minus the guilt. Their mission statement ‘Well Naturally helps you achieve your wellness goals – the delicious way!’ sums it all up. The Well Naturally No sugar added range just as the name suggests is made without any added sugar. They are sweetened naturally with Stevia, a plant-based ingredient which has zero calories and no impact on blood sugar levels.  Isn’t that fabulous? You can check out the Well Naturally website for more information.

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Well Naturally No Sugar Added Dark and Milk Chocolates comes in an array of delicious tempting varieties

Well Naturally  No Sugar Added Dark Chocolate Rich Dark (RRP $5.20 for 90 g)
Well Naturally  No Sugar Added Dark Chocolate Mint Crisp (RRP $5.20 for 90 g)
Well Naturally  No Sugar Added Dark Chocolate Acai (RRP $5.20 for 90 g)
Well Naturally  No Sugar Added Milk Chocolate Creamy Milk (RRP $5.20 for 90 g)
Well Naturally  No Sugar Added Milk Chocolate Fruit and Nut (RRP $5.20 for 90 g)
Well Naturally Dark Chocolate Melts For Baking (RRP $6.95 for 200 g)

I liked the Dark Chocolate Min Crisps the most while my husband liked Acai.

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If you know me, I went straight for the Baking Melts (70 % cocoa) as soon as I received the pack. For me the real test of good chocolate is when I use it in my recipes. I was pleased with the product. Despite being a no-added sugar product I could substitute it easily for my regular chocolate. Minus the extra calories of course.  The melts had a rich, intense chocolate flavour and a smooth texture and they melted easily. So they are obviously perfect for people with diabetes and those who intend to reduce their sugar intake. They are also gluten free with no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.

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Here are some facts about sugar consumption and how Well naturally steps into the picture:
Australians consume approximately 54 kilograms of sugar per year – the equivalent of 37 teaspoons per person, per day. The World Health Organisation recently released guidelines for sugar consumption, recommending only around 6 teaspoons a day A regular chocolate bar contains about 55% sugar; 100 g of regular chocolate equates to 11 teaspoons of sugar.

How much sugar is in Well Naturally No Sugar Added Chocolate?
Dark Chocolate :No added sugar, sweetened naturally with Stevia, 0.7% sugar
Milk Chocolate : No added sugar, contains around 9% sugar (which originates from the lactose in the milk component of the chocolate recipe)

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With the weather warming up on our side of the world, here is my absolute favourite summer drink with a chocolate twist. A healthier substitute to Chocolate Milkshake or for that matter even Hot Chocolate. Lassi is a sweet, yoghurt based Indian drink that is easy to make and is outright delicious. It is creamy, refreshing yet not as heavy as a cream based beverage. Traditionally, this is made using mangoes or just left plain but I have been dreaming of adding chocolate to it for quite some time now. With Well Naturally No Added Sugar Chocolates, I found a way to keep the health aspect intact while also making it indulgent. The spice gives the drink a little warmth and with the forthcoming Holiday season, this is a great drink to serve up to your guests.

 

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Now for the fantastic giveaway. Not one but two lucky readers of Sugar et al. (courtesy Nuffnang and Well Naturally) will be winning a pack each of Well Naturally No Sugar added Products (priced at $35). For a chance to win, all you need to do is leave a comment below telling me what recipe you would create using the Well Naturally Dark Chocolate Melts?

The giveaway closes on 28th October, 2014, midnight. Please do not forget to leave your email behind for me to contact you if you win. The giveaway is open to Australian residents only. Wish you luck!

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Disclaimer: Sugar et al. would like to thank Nuffnang and Well Naturally for the opportunity to try out Well Naturally No Added Sugar Chocolate Packs and develop a recipe using the same.. As always, the opinions expressed in the post are entirely my own.

Spiced Chocolate Lassi
Serves 2-3

1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp powdered nutmeg
100 g Well Naturally Dark Chocolate Baking Melts
11/2 cups Greek yoghurt (cold)
2 tbsp maple syrup
Ice cubes (optional)

1 tsp cocoa powder, to serve
1 tsp ground cinnamon, to serve

Place the milk and spices in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add the chocolate and stir until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Cool to room temperature.

Place the Greek yogurt and maple syrup in a large bowl. Add in the milk-chocolate mixture into the bowl. Using a stick blender blend till smooth and slightly frothy. Alternatively, you could do this in your food processor.

If using ice cubes, divide ice cubes between serving glasses. Pour the lassi into serving glasses. Sprinkle with cocoa powder and powdered cinnamon. Serve chilled or at room temperature.


Split Red Lentil and Pumpkin Soup

by Sugar et al

Split red lentils mean pure and simple comfort to me. They are the reminder to me of how a simple meal of dal and rice can appease my hunger instantly, even though I have eaten them all my life. They also stands for convenience when fresh vegetables are not available at hand and a quick meal is what I want to put together in the middle of the week. I’ve probably eaten them in dal/dahl form since the time I started on solids as a baby, a good few decades ago.. Only recently I discovered that using it in a soup is not uncommon. As you know, unlike many of you I have not been a big fan of pumpkin but I’ve started enjoying it lately when I pair it with my favourite ingredients.

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This is one soup I have not just enjoyed but totally loved and made several times in the past one month.Since it is quick and easy to make and nutritionally wholesome, it ticked all the right boxes for me. The creamy texture and mild sweet flavour from the pumpkin appealed to my kids so it was a win-win all throughout. Admittedly, it is really the dal we eat with pumpkin added to it which is blended in the end to give it a soup like texture. Onion, garlic and ginger always makes it for me. They are power ingredients that if used in the right measures can pack so much flavour into your soup base. I’ve used ground cumin to spice up the soup, even curry powder would work. To include a bit of heat, you could garnish with finely chopped chillies.

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The temperatures on our side have been so fluctuating followed by heavy downpour that we are unable to put away our wollies yet. It leaves me impatient to see a change in the fresh produce at the markets. I cannot wait to get hold of plums and peaches and of course heaps of raspberries. Hope you all have a great weekend.

Split Red Lentil and Pumpkin Soup
Serves 4

I tbsp olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp powdered cumin
500 g butternut pumpkin, peeled, deseeded, chopped into cubes
1/2 cup split red lentils, rinsed
3 cups vegetable stock
salt, to season
Greek yoghurt or sour cream, to serve
fresh coriander, to garnish

Heat oil a large saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and cook till softened (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a minute till aromatic. Add the cumin and tomatoes and cook for a further minute
Add in the pumpkin, lentils, and vegetable stock. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the pumpkin and lentils are soft. Set aside to cool.

With a stick blender or in a food processor (in batches), blend the mixture until smooth .Season with salt and pepper.
To serve, warm up the soup and ladle into serving bowls.  Top with the yoghurt or sour cream and garnish with coriander.


Golden Apple Tart

by Sugar et al

I believe that names of most (if not all) people have a meaning. Most likely in their own language. When I found out that I was expecting twins I was faced with the exciting but quite complicated task of finding names for them. For a first time Mum, it can be quite daunting going through the multiple permutations and combinations. Two little personalities you are just starting to know and you are about to give them an identity for life. My children were born in my native land, India, where sex determination is a crime. So you can imagine my plight when I was in the dark till the very last-minute if they were going to girls, boys or one of each. I had 3 spreadsheets worth of names on my laptop that I continued to update as days came closer. Finally when they were born, quite premature I did not even look at those spreadsheets that I had been filling up so religiously. I did not have the time nor the stamina. Their names just happened. My own name has no meaning in the English language but going back to my roots, it means golden.

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In real life I have no yearning for gold…neither literally nor figuratively. However, when it come to food, golden to me spells ‘delicious’. Whether a golden brown crust, gold dust on a cake or dessert, liquid forms like caramel, dulce de leche, honey or just golden syrup, the lustre in my eyes go up by 10 folds.

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Remember my Chocolate Treacle Tart? Apparently, you guys loved it and so did I. So it was time to recreate the magic whilst tweaking things a little bit. This one has the golden syrup again with a hint of spice and fresh apples to adorn the top. In the filling, I have used breadcrumbs, almond meal, dessicated coconut along with golden syrup. The amazing thing about the filling is that it tastes quite like frangipane, actually better but is easier to put together. The flavours are lovely, almost like toffee apple. If you have used golden syrup before you know what I mean. If you haven’t, I highly recommend giving it a try. You may fall in love with it like me. If you ask me, it is quite easy to put together a gorgeous tasting dessert with golden syrup if you (partly or wholly) substitute it for sugar in a recipe. The pastry has a bit of nutmeg added to it so you can smell all those warm comforting flavours as the tart is baking.

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So tell me now, do you believe that names have anything to do with one’s personality? Did you ever wish you could change your name or are you pleased with it?

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Golden Apple Tart (slightly adapted from here)

Serves 8-10

For the pastry
1 2/3 cups plain flour
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup icing sugar, sifted, plus extra, to dust
125 g cold unsalted butter, finely chopped

For the tart filling
400 g golden syrup
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
150 g fresh white breadcrumbs (about 4 slices of bread)
1/2 cup almond meal (ground almonds)
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1 tsp cinnamon

Place flour, nutmeg, sugar, butter and a pinch of salt in the bowl of your food processor and process until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add egg and 1 tablespoon chilled water and process until mixture just comes together. Shape dough into a 1.5cm-thick disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface and line a greased 23 cm tart pan. Trim sides and refrigerate for 30 minutes

Preheat oven to 190°C. Line tart shell with baking paper, fill with rice or beans and bake for 15 minutes. Carefully remove paper and beans, then bake for a further 10 minutes or until pastry is dry and golden. Cool.

For filling, place golden syrup, zest and juice in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until just liquefied. Whisk in remaining ingredients. Pour into tart shell

Quarter apples, core and cut into 2-3 mm-thick slices. Starting at the edge of the tart, arrange slices in concentric circles. Bake for 35 minutes or until firm to the touch (cover loosely with foil if pastry is over-browning). Cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature dusted with extra icing sugar.

 


Chocolate Beetroot Cake + Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting + Candied Beetroot Leaves

by Sugar et al

In my previous workplace, I had two awesome friends. We were a group and since we always hung out together, most of the other colleagues called us ‘The Three Musketeers’. Perhaps for lack of a creative or better expression. I guess if there’s three of you, that is the most likely thing that comes to one’s mind. Nevertheless, going to work was fun and so were the long lunches, group meetings, gossips and just being able to connect with two people who were completely different personalities and you still got on like a house on fire. So even though the nickname wasn’t cool, our friendship was. Let me tell you what else is cool when three personalities come together. This cake.

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Gingerbread meets chocolate cake meets beetroot. Sounds complicated. Well, it really isn’t. This is hands down the best chocolate beetroot cake I have ever tasted. You don’t taste the beetroot. What you taste is rich chocolate flavour which is intensified by the addition of treacle. Golden syrup and maple syrup will work too but treacle gives it strong flavour and rich colour. It is truly a treat! You know by now that my kitchen is nothing short of a test kitchen and I am constantly trying out different things. But in this case the stakes were high. I mean sky-high. I made this cake for my husband on his birthday who is not a big fan of sweet things. The only sweet treats he would like are the ones that have bittersweet chocolate, not overly sweet. Once he had a taste of my ginger cupcakes and asked me ‘What’s in there? Something strong that I cannot quite figure out but it tastes good’ He was obviously referring to treacle. So this was the excuse for me to combine the two. But I also needed an extra something to complement the two that would give body and moisture to the cake. The ginger cakes/cupcakes I make are quite moist and sticky and I didn’t want a sticky birthday cake.

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The cake was everything I wanted and more. Luscious, moist, chocolate-y and now it was time to try out a gorgeous frosting that was not going to be buttercream. I love liquid and whipped ganache but I am beginning to get a bit bored with it. Enter this 2-ingredient, 5-minute chocolate frosting which I was dying to try out since months. I had come across something similar on Epicurious. I made a few changes and it worked. Wow! A fabulous addition to my frosting repertoire. I know this is one recipe I am going to use over and over again. It is not too sweet and has a great consistency. Spread or dollop or sandwich between your creations.

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The man loved the cake. He was surprised when I told him there was beetroot in it. I decorated the cake with berries and candied beetroot leaves. Isn’t the colour amazing? I love candying things..it makes them look and taste lovely. I was a bit concerned if the beetroot leaves would bleed into the egg whites and spoil everything but they didn’t. In fact they were irresistible. We kept munching on them even before I put them on the cake.

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Do give this cake a try with the frosting, candied leaves et al. It cannot get simpler than this. You are going to love it.

Notes :Please do ensure that you use a Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder or else the colour and flavour will not be the same. Do not grate the beetroot too finely or it would just get lost in the batter. While candying the leaves ensure that all the excess egg white is scraped off or they will take forever to dry up.

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Chocolate Beetroot Cake + Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting + Candied Beetroot Leaves (minimally adapted from here, here and here)
Serves 8-10

For the cake
1/2 cup (125 ml) vegetable oil
1 cup (220 g) firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (125 ml) treacle (can be substituted with maple syrup)
60 g dark chocolate (70%), chopped
250 g (around 2 cups) raw beetroot, coarsely grated
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups (225 g) self-raising flour
1/4 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
Chocolate sour Cream Frosting, to frost
Fresh fruits or berries, to decorate
Icing sugar, to dust
Candied beetroot leaves, to decorate

For the Chocolate-Sour Cream Frosting
150 g dark chocolate (semi-sweet)
50 g milk chocolate
1/2 cup sour cream (do not use the lite version)

For the Candied Beetroot Leaves
1 egg white
1/4 cup castor sugar
12-15 small beetroot leaves

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Grease and line the base of a 18 cm round cake tin with baking paper and set aside.
Warm the oil in a medium size sauce pan on very low heat. Add the brown sugar, treacle and chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted. Remove from heat. Add the grated beetroot. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl and then add them to the sauce pan. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together and stir into the beetroot mixture. Pour the batter into the tin and bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool for 5 minutes in the tin, before turning out and cooling completely.

Once cooled, dollop the frosting (recipe below) on top. Decorate with fresh berries/fruits. Dust with icing sugar and decorate with candied leaves.

Make the frosting: Melt the two chocolates in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat. Cool for 2 minutes. Add the sour cream and mix till smooth. The mixture thickens as it cools. If it sets faster than you want, warm slightly again before using.

Make the candies leaves: Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place the egg white in a small bowl and the castor sugar onto a small plate. Make sure the leaves are dry before you start. If not pat dry with a kitchen towel. Working one at a time, dip each beetroot leaf into the egg white (scrape off excess against the bowl) and then dip into the plate of castor sugar, turning it to ensure an even coat on both sides. Lay the leaves in a single layer on the tray lined with baking paper to dry out. Leave aside for 24 hours, turning once in between.

 

 


Upside Down Chocolate Trail-Mix Cake

by Sugar et al

Life is not always magical and not all days are the same. There are days when you will run out of brown sugar by as little as a quarter of a cup when you have every other ingredient to make your favourite chocolate cake. You will then make your way to the shops to get some as the cake has to be made that day and you don’t want to compromise. (Please don’t tell me that you will substitute with castor sugar…that doesn’t make me happy!) Then just when you think that everything is going well, the cake sinks in the centre leaving you wondering where you went wrong.. There are days when you will swear that your bathrooms scales are inaccurate and your mobile network will tell you ‘you are not connected’ when you so want to see the response to your latest post on Facebook. There are days when you will splurge for a little ‘feel good’ and end up regretting every purchase you made. Everyone has these days. Perhaps changing perspective helps or even better a bar of chocolate. Then why not cake! Yes, cake all the way for me.. So here is a cake to turn your frown upside down. An upside down chocolate cake!

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There are no fresh fruits in this cake unlike the usual upside down cakes. But there are dried ones along with nuts. You can pick any nut of your choice or leave out the dried fruits. I found it very easy to use Trail mix as the assortment is prepped, mixed and ready to pour into the cake pan. Mine had whole almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, cranberries and raisins. I experimented with this cake without cocoa, the first time. My family liked it and I took photos. But for some reason, the urge was too strong to give it another shot for a chocolate version.

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I love the simplicity of this cake. So delicious like a good chocolate nut cake. Fabulous texture, rich chocolate flavour and a caramelised nutty topping. Coming to think of it, you can achieve the same look my topping a regular chocolate cake with trail mix. But there is a difference. The toffee sauce in the bottom of the cake pan gives the nuts a luscious caramel like flavour and much of the sauce is soaked up by the raisins and cranberries that become plump with toffee.
Making the cake is a breeze but you will need to ensure the cake is thoroughly cooked at the bottom and centre before turning it upside down.

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Upside Down Chocolate Trail Mix Cake
Serves 8

For the topping
75 g butter
1/3 firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup trail mix (or nuts and dried fruits of your choice)

For the cake
1 cup self-raising flour, sifted
2 tablespoons plain flour, sifted
1 1/3  cups, firmly packed) brown sugar
3/4 cup milk
125 g butter, cubed
1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, sifted
3 eggs, lightly whisked

Preheat oven to 160 degree C. Grease the base and sides of a 18 cm round cake pan and line the base with non stick baking paper. Heat the butter and brown sugar over low heat in a small saucepan till mixture is smooth. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle trail mix over the mixture to evenly cover the base of the pan.

Place the two flours together in a bowl. Place the sugar, milk and butter in a large saucepan. Add the cocoa and bicarbonate of soda into the pan. Place the pan over medium-low heat and use a whisk to stir until the mixture is smooth (don’t boil the mixture). Remove the pan from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly.

Add the flour mixture in slow additions gradually whisking to mix. Add the eggs and continue to mix till well combined. Pour slowly on top of the trail-mix mixture in the prepared pan. Smooth surface with the back of a spoon. Bake in the oven for 45-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Set aside for 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on the side..

 


Chocolate Covered Lemon Meringue Truffles

by Sugar et al

The best weekends for me are those that I wake up with more than one recipe in mind and run around my kitchen with chocolate on my clothes and fingers. Is there ever a thing called chocolate stain? Chocolate doesn’t stain. It’s too special. It glorifies, it dignifies..the Midas touch, perhaps?

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I have had plenty of fun with chocolate recently and have come up with a few creations that make me love it all the more. This one has a double dose of chocolate. I have used white chocolate and crushed meringues (you know how much I love meringue) in the filling along with some lemon zest. To complement the sweetness and slight tangy citrus flavour, there is bittersweet dark chocolate. These truffle balls are big on flavour and texture. A complete blow-away treat that doesn’t need a lot of time or effort and they look so festive. You can use home-made meringues or store-bought. It would not really matter as you are crushing them anyway. However do make sure to crush them gently so you are left with big and small pieces. I was bit worried if they would turn out too sweet but the bittersweet dark chocolate took care of the required balance. Needless to say, using a good quality dark chocolate is important here.

 

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I am already thinking of the holidays and cookie and truffle season. I guess, since chocolate overrides the seasons, why wait till the end of the year!
Our long weekend is still not over and I have another favourite ingredient to work with. Beetroot and chocolate!
Please excuse this short and impromptu appearance. Short and sweet! I was a bit too excited to share this treat with you.

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Chocolate Covered lemon Meringue Truffles
Yields 12 medium-sized truffles

250 g white chocolate (roughly chopped)
1/3 cup thickened/heavy cream
1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup meringue (home-made or store-bought), crushed
200 g good quality dark chocolate (Lindt 85% cocoa), roughly chopped
sugar flowers/sprinkles to decorate.

Place the white chocolate and cream in a medium heatproof bowl that is placed over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water over medium heat). Use a metal spoon to stir the mixture gently till the white chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth..

Carefully remove the bowl from the pan and stir in the lemon rind. Let the mixture cool down to luke warm before adding in the crushed meringue. (If the mixture starts to set before adding the meringue, put it back on the saucepan to warm up and loosen slightly). Stir to mix. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.

Line a tray with baking paper. Remove the lemon-meringue mixture from fridge and scoop out balls with the help of a teaspoon and then quickly and gently roll out between the palms of your hands. (You will need to do it swiftly as the warmth from your hands could melt the chocolate). Place the truffle balls on the baking paper. Refrigerate again for 30 minutes.

Melt the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat and leave aside to cool slightly. Dip the lemon-meringue truffle balls in dark chocolate (allowing the excess to drip off) and place them quickly back on the tray lined with baking paper. Place the sugar flowers or coat them again in sprinkles. Refrigerate till chocolate is set.

 


Prawn and Eggplant Hoisin Stir-Fry

by Sugar et al

My sister and me are soul mates. It would still remain an understatement if I said it over and over again, which i think I have, quite a few times in this blog. But we are polar opposites in terms of personality, habits, and preferences. We see things differently but we mostly agree on anything so as not to hurt the feelings of the other. I think that happens when you get to see your loved ones after long periods.  When it comes to food, I am the more passionate cook, my sister is the smarter one. In the treasured times that we are together, I think of the most delicious things to cook and feed her. She on the other hand,would return with packets of instant noodles, soups, canned veggies, purees and such if she went grocery shopping. She would scan the entire store and nothing would escape her sharp eyesight if it defines ‘quick’ and ‘smart’ cooking.
‘Cooking is secondary, let’s chat’ she would insist.

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In such scenarios when time is limited, great food matters and conversations with your loved ones are dearer, a fabulous stir-fry is the answer. It tastes a lot better and is fresher than the takeaway and is ready in moments. I have realized over the years that Asian sauces make this happen quite easily. They are easier to store as they don’t always need place in the refrigerator.

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Hoisin is brilliant as it is quite thick. It coats itself nicely on meat and vegetables. You can throw in whatever vegetables you have at hand. Prawns can be easily replaced with chicken, fish or beef. I always have a pack of frozen, cleaned prawns in my freezer as it cooks the fastest and the prep time is zero. The flavours are authentic and vegetables are crunchy which is the true essence of Asian cooking. You can eat this as a starter or serve with steamed Jasmine rice to make a meal.

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Prawn and Eggplant Hoisin Stir-Fry (inspired by this recipe from Taste.com)
Serves 3-4

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 Lebanese eggplants (ant kind of eggplant will do)
1 cup frozen prawns (peeled, deveined and cleaned)
2 garlic cloves. finely sliced
3 cm ginger, finely sliced (or grated if you don’t like pieces of ginger in your mouth)
1 bunch baby bok choy, leaves separated
10-12 snow peas, trimmed
1/2 cup Hoisin sauce
1 tbsp soya sauce
1/2 tsp palm sugar/brown sugar
salt for seasoning
red chillies, finely chopped, to serve
a handful chopped chives, to serve
a handful fresh coriander leaves, to serve

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok or large frypan over medium-high heat. Add eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes until softened and lightly browned. Add  prawns, garlic and ginger to wok. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until prawns have changed colour. Reduce heat to medium, then add bok choy, snow peas and cook, stirring, for a minute.
Add Hoisin, soya sauce, sugar, and salt and stir fry for 2 minutes or until the bok choy is just wilted and the mixture is coated with sauce. Garnish with red chillies, chopped chives and fresh coriander. Serve with steamed rice.

 

 


Parmesan and Blueberry Pound Cake with Lemon Icing

by Sugar et al

For many years, on the last day of September I partied hard. I put on my brand new outfit, painted my lips, let my hair down and danced. Well actually, I did no such thing. Yes, I partied. With all my favourite people. I woke up to deep love, the sort of selfless affection that can come only from family. I got to hear familiar voices on the telephone that I wouldn’t normally hear all year round. I came back from work with flowers and presents that would fill up the entire backseat and boot of my car. I ate my favourite breakfasts, splurged on lunches and dinners were a thing to commemorate in the precious folders of my memory forever. I expected…and I received. Basically, I was spoilt.

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In the last few years, since I became a mother, so much has changed. Yet a lot hasn’t. My birthday is still a day I start with the brightest of faces, the warmest of hugs, fewer phone calls but more heartfelt wishes. I eat what we all love as a family. My brand new outfit, matching shoes and lip colour have been replaced with comfortable wear that allow me to chase two little boys around the house. Instead of flowers, the backseat of my car is occupied by car seats where the two of my most precious beings sit, loudly singing ‘Happy Birthday’ for me in the cutest of voices. Thanks to technology, messages flow in from various different apps. I make sure I have checked all of them and replied. Some of them need an upgrade which I realise only at that instance. I still feel very celebrated, pretty overwhelmed and reflective in the last few hours of the day. But there is a difference. I don’t expect. I understand..appreciate and acknowledge. I feel gratitude more than ever, with each passing year. Quite a few times I tell my husband ‘I don’t believe it’s the same ‘me”. He nods understandingly.

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There is no birthday without a cake. Though this really wasn’t the cake I ate (I mean, my birthday cake), I made it because I’ve been meaning to for a long time. This was my second attempt at making a parmesan cake. The first time, the flavour wasn’t strong enough and I baked it in a bundt cake pan. So I increased the parmesan, added blueberries, a lemon icing and honey drizzle this time. This is a fun cake. Quite easy to make but the flavours are a play on your senses…sweet…savoury…sweet…savoury..tart! Parmesan adds an extra something which is hard to describe. A hint of cheesy goodness and a slight acidity to the cake. If you are a fan of the sweet-savoury combination in food, this is a must-try. The lemon icing and honey drizzle balances out the acidity. You may want to cover the entire cake in icing if you don’t enjoy the saltiness in the cake. Overall, it is a delicious cake and best enjoyed warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice-cream on the side.

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Parmesan and Blueberry Pound Cake with Lemon Icing
Serves 6-8

11/2 cups plain flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
75 g parmesan cheese, finely grated
180 g unsalted butter, room temperature, roughly chopped
3/4 cup castor sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (I used a mix of both) Lemon Icing, to drizzle
Honey, to drizzle

Lemon Icing 1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted (another 1/4 cup if you want a thick icing)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Butter and line the base the of a 19 cm round cake pan with baking paper. In a medium bowl, place the flour, baking powder and parmesan cheese and mix gently together. In the bowl of your electric mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the butter till soft and fluffy. Add the sugar, little at a time till fully incorporated. Add the vanilla essence and eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and beat on medium speed till mixture is smooth and well blended. Gradually fold in the frozen blueberries with a wooden spoon. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with the back of the wooden spoon. Bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove carefully from the oven. Stand in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely. Once the cake has cooled down, drizzle or ice with lemon icing (recipe below). The icing thickens on cooling.

To make the Lemon Icing, place the ingredients together in a bowl and stir until combined.


Double Chocolate Sticky Date Pudding

by Sugar et al

The only thing better than a sticky date pudding is a sticky date pudding with a double dose of chocolate. Spring is starting to set in and it’s filling my life with many new excitements. Spring for me, is the time to take a good look at life and remark ‘Yes, it’s time to detox..its time for change!’. Normally what people would do at the start of New Year. Somehow leaving winter behind gives me a burst of energy. I wake up with a list of things to do pretty much every morning. One of the resolutions I had made for this Spring was to improve my photography and pick up some new skills. I have been working hard in doing so. If you follow me on Instagram, you would know that I was very excited when I shared my first ever ‘pour shot’ recently. As a lover of all things sweet, nothing spells ‘food porn’ to me than a sauce dripping dessert.  I chose the sticky date pudding with chocolate chips to be the subject of my pour. Again, raising the bar to my creativity is one more journey I have embarked on. I have to admit, I have always been a bit fearless in the kitchen. It is a very spontaneous thing for me. Rarely have I entered the kitchen with a fixed outcome in mind or followed a recipe to the T. This time around I have decided to fuel this passion and try my hand at as many things as possible. You may get to see a lot of pouring, drizzling, sprinkling and such on the blog in future.

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The sticky date pudding is such a gorgeous thing to share with friends and family. Especially on a special get-together when comfort and pleasure over-rides any form of calorie induced guilt. I wanted to make the pudding a centrepiece. There is already a recipe for individual sticky date puddings in my blog archives which is quite luscious with a butterscotch sauce. But chocolate is different, it just  works with everything. It gives an extra oomph to anything and everything. This version of the pudding has chocolate chips and toasted walnuts inside the batter, on top and dressed up in a rich, bittersweet chocolate sauce. Frankly, there is no major innovation in this, just that you want to convince yourself if you really want to play around with a dessert that is already so beautiful to taste and look at. Yes, you want to! Trust me, you will love to eat it and share it.

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If this is the first time you are going to make a sticky date pudding, there is very little date-like taste in your mouth. I know quite a few people who don’t enjoy dates in desserts. This is far from being chewy or munchy and all the textures you associate with dates. The dates are broken down right at the start and what you get is actually a rich caramel like sauce that flavours the pudding. You can make this recipe in 8 individual cups instead of one large. As you can see, the pudding holds shape beautifully, almost like a cake. It is very gooey inside however and the centre might sink a tad bit. Which actually formed the base to catch my chocolate sauce during the shoot. I could not take pictures of the insides like I normally do as I was jumping with excitement when I blew up the image on my screen. I wish I could show you the number of images I had with sauce hanging in mid-air and of course the blurry ones. Kind of spooky!
We just had to celebrate and all we wanted was a mouthful of the Sticky date pudding.

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Double Chocolate Sticky Date Pudding
Serves 8

180g dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1 1/4 cups (310ml) water
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3/4 cup (165g) firmly packed brown sugar
60g butter, softened chopped
2 eggs
1 cup (150g) self-raising flour
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup toasted walnuts

For the dark chocolate sauce
100g dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup pouring/single cream
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (160 degrees C fan-forced). Lightly grease an 18 cm round cake pan and line base with baking paper.. Place dates and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a high heat. Remove from the heat. Add bicarbonate of soda, stir until dates start to break down, set aside to cool, stirring occasionally.               
Place the chocolate chips, walnuts and flour together in a bowl. Beat butter and sugar in a bowl using a hand beater, gradually add eggs one at a time, beat until light and fluffy. Add date mixture, stir to combine. Carefully fold through the flour and chocolate chip mixture, pour into prepared cake pan. 

Place cake in a baking tray, carefully pour water in tray until it comes up 1/3 of the sides of the pan. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until golden and skewer comes out clean. Leave in pan for 10 minutes. then carefully turn out pudding onto a serving plate or tray. Serve warm with Chocolate Sauce, extra chocolate chips and toasted walnuts.

Make the Dark Chocolate Sauce :  Combine chocolate, cream and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool. To store, pour into a cup/jar, cover and store in the refrigerator till needed. Warm up before using.


Red Kidney Bean and Pumpkin Stew

by Sugar et al

I think we all have heard the story. Cinderella, her step-sisters, her fairy Godmother and the pumpkin carriage. To be able to transform into the most glamorous carriage, I couldn’t love the pumpkin more!  But I literally couldn’t love it more than that. My parents love pumpkin and so do my children (how?). I couldn’t get past the mushy texture. As a colour-driven individual I love the way it looks and so last year, I made a few genuine attempts to start cooking with it. I did not fall in love. Nope. I know my readers love it too, gauging by the responses to my posts in the past. And since I love my readers, I decided to lock my eyes with pumpkin again. This time around I thought I would add it to recipes that are big on flavours and pumpkin is an addition. Non-pumpkin loving souls (if you exist?) could benefit from removing them, enjoying the rest of the dish if they wanted to. As it turned out, I actually liked the dish, along with the pumpkin. I did not have to remove any.

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The stew is inspired by an Indian dish from my childhood.,’Rajma Masala’. The red kidney bean is the star here. We moms have a natural tendency to add ‘things’ to the meals we feed our children, so the addition of pumpkin is a no-brainer. What is great however, is the way the ingredients work together! The contrast in textures and flavours, makes the stew really delicious. And filling. A quick and hearty weeknight meal. Whilst being equally healthy.

Feel free to increase the heat in the stew by adding either a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, powdered chilli or chopped green chillies.

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Red Kidney Bean and Pumpkin Stew
Serves 4

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1/2 inch ginger, finely chopped
11/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
3/4 cup canned, diced tomatoes
3/4 cup vegetable stock/chicken stock
1 can red kidney beans (400 g)
400 g butternut pumpkin, chopped into 3 cm cubes
salt, to season
fresh sprigs coriander, leaves picked, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and wait for 30 seconds. Cook the onion, stirring, for 2-3 mins or until softened. Add the garlic, ginger and spices. Cook, stirring, for 1 min or until fragrant.

Add the tomato and stock. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 mins. Add red kidney beans and simmer a further 10 mins or until pumpkin is just tender. Season with salt. Garnish with coriander. Serve warm


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