Vegan ‘Torta di Mele’

Now, I don’t consider myself a recipe developer. But, much to my husband’s eye-rolling amusement, I do like to experiment in the kitchen. I am always changing and adapting tried and tested recipes based on what I have in the cupboard and what I want to achieve (most frequently converting non-vegetarian dishes into vegetarian ones) with mixed results.

So when I couldn’t find the perfect Vegan recipe for ‘Torta di Mele’ – a classic Italian apple cake made lovingly by Italian nonnas for decades, I decided to invent one myself!

Its not that there aren’t recipes for vegan apple cakes around. A quick google search produces plenty to choose from. My problem is that I wanted that homely and cozy feeling that comes from a freshly baked cake that is fluffy and oh-so-deliciously buttery. But all the vegan recipes I found were….healthy. Now, I’m all for simple substitutes to improve my diet but sometimes you just want an indulge! 

I wanted to bake a cake that if served to a non-vegan, they wouldn’t be able to taste the difference. And so I enlisted the help of a secret ingredient ~ silken tofu. I know if you are not familiar with using this ingredient for vegan cakes and sweets it may sound wacky, but it works incredibly well.

And now that I have this successful vegan cake recipe it is easily adapted to make other types of vegan cakes….even more healthy ones. Just replace the brown sugar with a vegan sweetener of your choice and change the flour too if you want. I made a delicious Vegan Banana & Blueberry Cake based on this recipe, subbing out the apple sauce for half a banana (the other half I used to top the cake along with the blueberries and shredded coconut). The possible combinations are endless! 

  

Vegan ‘Torta di Mele’ – serves 6

(Adapted from recipe found in ‘La Mie Ricette con Bimby’ – the Italian version of the Thermomix Everyday Cookbook)

Ingredients

  • 3 apples
  • 75g silken tofu
  • 50g apple sauce/mousse
  • 30g coconut oil (melted)
  • 90g coconut cream
  • 130g brown sugar
  • 30g Brandy (optional)
  • 200g plain flour
  • 15g yeast
  • a pinch of salt

Method

1. Peel apples, cut into quarters removing the seeds and stems. Then using a sharp knife make parallel cuts on the exterior of the apple (like scoring). Put aside

2. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees and grease a cake tin with coconut oil

3. Insert the butterfly into TM bowl

4. Put the silken tofu, apple sauce, coconut oil, coconut cream and Brandy (if using) in the TM bowl and mix – 20sec/speed6, scrap down sides

5. Add the flour, yeast, brown sugar and salt. Mix  – 20 secs/speed6

6. Pour batter into cake tin and arrange the apple quarters on the surface, with the cut/scored exterior facing up.

7. Bake in oven for 30-40mins or until a toothpick comes out clean

 

A Snowy Saturday Morning Surprise – Vegan Banana, Coconut & Walnut Cake 

I awoke this morning to quite a surprise. Yup, you guessed it snow. Maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise, it was forecast. But snow has been forecast many times before and I get my hopes for a winter wonderland that never arrives. And considering the Spring-like weather we’ve had this week, I was sure it was a false alarm. But I was wrong and it’s been snowing quite heavily since the wee hours of this morning.

So what’s a gal to do with such an unexpected event? Bake with my Thermomix of course!

Vegan Banana, Coconut & Walnut Cake – serves 5

(Adapted from Paola Galloni’s recipe in the March edition of Cucina Naturale)

Ingredients

  • 1 banana
  • 60g cornstarch
  • 30g coconut flour
  • 30g self raising flour
  • 50g walnuts
  • 75g vegan sweetener of your choice (maple syrup, agave syrup etc)
  • 10g chia seeds
  • 3g vanilla
  • 50g coconut milk (or other plant based milk)
  • 30ml (2 tblspoon) water
  • Pinch of salt
  • Icing sugar and/or cinnamon to decorate

Method

1. In a small bowl add the 30ml of water to the chia seeds, mix and put aside (for 15 mins)

2. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees

3. Grease a cake tin with coconut oil

4. Put the walnuts in the TM bowl and mill – 10sec/speed6, scrap down sides

5. Add the cornstarch, coconut flour, self raising flour, vanilla and salt. Mix with blades off – 10 secs/speed4

6. Add the banana, milk and sweetener and mix – 10 secs/speed5

7. Add the amalgamated chia seeds and mix with blades off – 10sec/speed 3.

9. Pour batter into cake tin. If the batter is dense, wet your fingertips with water and use them to evenly spread the batter around the cake tin.

10. Bake in oven for 30mins or until a toothpick comes out clean

11. Allow to cool completely before decorating with icing sugar and/or cinnamon

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

  
Poet, philosopher, illustrator and author Theodor Giesel better known as Dr Seuss would have celebrated his 112th birthday today. 

Famous for his children’s books like Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham and The Grinch who stole Christmas, Giesel created whimsical and timeless worlds and characters that sparked the imagination and ignited joy and laughter in all who read or saw them, both young and old. 

In his rhyming way he was also a master of words with his extensive works providing a plethora of inspiring and wise quotes about life and love.
Being a big fan of quotable as well as imagination and creativity, Dr. Seuss’s words have always had a huge impact on me, never failing to bring a smile to my face with their simplicity and proud insight. 
Below you will find a collection of my favorites in honor of Dr Seuss:
// “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory”
// “Today I shall behave as if this is the day I will be remembered”
// “The more that you read the more things you will know, the more that you learn the more places you’ll go”
// “Be what you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind”
// “Today you are you and that’s truer than true, there is no one alive who is you’re than you.”
// “You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself in any direction you choose”

Do you have a favourite Dr. Seuss quote? I’d love to hear it.

Pink Wall Art Finds for Your Valentine on Etsy

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. As always Etsy provides some adorable and alternative options that not only support talented makers but stand out from the crowd of typical gifts for your valentine.

Here’s just a small collection of super cute pink wall art finds all available on Etsy.
// Penguin and Heart Balloon Wall Art by studioQgallery

 

// Bicycle Photograph by AmyTylerPhotography

 

// Je t’aime Heart Print by Sweet Peony Press

 

// Pink Magnolia Photograph by LilyShihPhoto

 

// XO Typography Art Print by alphonnsine

// London Portobello Road Pink Car Photo by TarynStMichele

What surprise have your organised for your Valentine?????

Australia Day Lamingtons

From what I hear (and read) Australia Day created some controversy this year with some people instead referring to it as ‘Survival Day’ and others suggesting the date of the national holiday should be changed to an appropriate day that ALL Australians, including the first, indigenous Australians can celebrate. Even Google put in their two cents by using artwork depicting the ‘Stolen Dreamtime’ as their Google Doodle for the day.

But whats an Australian ex-pat living in Italy to do with such a holiday? It certainly doesn’t feel like Australia Day, as rather than hitting the beach I’m rugged up against the cold. And without getting involved in the controversy surrounding the holiday, it is a day that calls for some sort of commeration. And what makes you feel more like home than FOOD!

So, I made Lamingtons. I made them for the first time with my new Thermomix and they turned out pretty good. Of course, you can make Lamingtons all year round, but they went down a treat yesterday (and today and I’m sure they still will tomorrow) and reminded me of home.

  

Lamingtons – Makes 12

Ingredients

Sponge

  • 100g brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 50g unsalted butter, melted
  • 120 self raising four

Icing

  •  25g unsalted butter
  • 160g milk (I used plant based)
  • 70g icing sugar
  • 50g cacao
  • Shredded coconut to coat

Prepartion

  1. Pre heat oven to 190 degrees C
  2. Grease rectangular cake/loaf tin and set aside
  3. Place brown sugar in mixing bowl and mill – 10 seconds/speed 10
  4. Add eggs and insert butterfly
  5. Whip  – 7min/50C/speed 3
  6. Slice vanilla pod in half and scrap out seeds. Add to bowl
  7. Add butter and stir – 5 seconds/speed 4
  8. Remove butterfly and add flour. Mix – 10 seconds on dough setting
  9. Pour batter into pre-greased tin.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and springy
  11. Cool in tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto rack to cool completely
  12. Place cooled sponge in freezer for 15 minutes
  13. Place butter and milk into mixing bowl and combine –  2 minutes/80C/speed 2
  14. Add icing sugar and cacao and mix – 25 seconds/speed 4
  15. Pour mixture into a bowl
  16. Scatter coconut on a plate or flat tray 
  17. Remove sponge from freezer and cut into approximately 12 squares 
  18. Carefully coat each square completely in icing then roll in coconut
  19. Place on a tray lined with h baking paper until icing sets

(Recipe adapted from one found on the Australian Thermomix Recipe Community website)

    Bookshops to visit around the world

    After publishing this post about my love for Atlantis Books in Oia, Santorini I got to thinking about other bookshops around the world I would love to visit. And so, I have put together a list of my top choices…for your reading pleasure!

    // Shakespeare & Company – Paris, France

    Paris was the very first European city I visited (after landing into London from Australia) on my very first holiday in Europe and so it will always hold a special place in my heart. But in such a beautiful and famous city with so many sites to see, it can be easy to make the same mistake I did and miss this bohemian refuge on the Left Bank. But at least we have a good excuse (like I need one?! In the words of Audrey Hepburn – Paris is always a good idea, right!) to return.

    Shakespeare & Company is undoubtedly the most famous English-language bookshop in Paris, and quite possibly the world. This quirky, ramshackle independent bookshop  is stuffed with books on crowded and crooked shelves in the shadow of Notre Dame. Original founder George Whitman once described it as a ‘social utopia masquerading as a bookshop’ – what more motivation do you need to visit this little gem!

     
    (📷 – http://instagram.com/shakespeareandcoparis)

    // Keibunsha Books – Kyoto, Japan

    Kyoto has long been on my wish list of places to visit and when I finally do make it there, I’ll be making a beeline to this all-in-one bookshop, art gallery and gift shop. Famous for its unique and thoughtfully curated collection, hand selected by trusted staff I can’t wait to roam aimlessly through the series of three rooms, also enjoying the shop’s welcoming aesthetic with rich lighting and dark wood paneling. I will probably also stock up on gifts for myself and my family and friends from Keibunsha’s selection of japanese art, stationary and vintage items.

     
    (📷 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/thinksilly_bebop/)

    // Cafebreia El Pendulo – Mexico City

    There is nothing better than when a bookshop is combined with a successful cafe and Cafebreia is one of those examples. And on weekends their breakfast in served with a side of live classical music. This bookshop also hosts open architecture and real green trees. Being located in one of the world’s largest cities, I can imagine that Cafebreia is a  welcoming escape from the heat, and I can see myself kicking back with a coffee in one hand, book in the other in the shade of a tree, happily whiling away the afternoon while my husband has a siesta in the hotel.

     
    (📷 – http://sequelmagazine.org/bookstore-appreciation-cafebreria-el-pendulo/)

    // Boekhandel Domincanen – Maastricht

    If there is one place in the world to come to worship words, literature and books its Boekhandel Domincanen. This 1,1000 square metre gothic space was originally a Dominican church built in the 13th century which underwent a radical refurb in 2006. With a in-house cafe (more coffee + books!) Boekhandel Domincanen also holds several literary events every year, really making it a temple of books.

     
    (📷 – http://www.dezeen.com)

    // El Ateneo Grand Splendid – Buenos Aires

    Picture a beautiful old theatre complete with painted heigh ceilings, ornate carvings, balconies and private boxes. A large stage and heavy rich stage curtains. Now picture the seating area filled with rows and rows of books, the stage area fitted out with a cafe and the private boxes turned into reading rooms and you have the El Ateneo Grand Splendid, one of the best known books stores in Argentina.

     
    (📷 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/m4caque/)

    // Scarthin Books – Derbyshire

    Perhaps this hidden quirky bookshop is a surprise inclusion on this list, but for me, it ticks off so many items on my ‘bookshop favs list’. A bookshop that sells both new and second hand books and has done so since the mid 70’s – tick! An in-house vegetarian cafe with many vegan options – two BIG ticks! All in a beautiful setting – another tick! I can just picture myself ducking into this hidden little shop to escape the famous English drizzle and warm up with a nice cup of hot tea and english scones before roaming the huge selection and purchasing some of my favourites titles.

     
    (📷 – http://forreadingaddicts.co.uk)

    // Livraria Iello – Porto, Portugal

    Quite possibly the most beautiful bookshop in the world, the purpose built Livraria Iello has been selling books since 1881. Featuring neo gothic architecture, a wood panelled ceiling, stain glass windows and a sweeping staircase known as ‘the staircase to heaven’ this bookshop is worth visiting for its beauty alone, while also being home to hundreds of beautiful books.


    (📷 – http://blog.webook.pt/2015/03/10/foto-da-semana-livraria-lello/)

    Have you visited any of these bookshops? Or have you visited some gems that I should add to my list. I would love to hear from you =)

     

    Finding authenticity in Dubai’s Old Town


    Those days between Christmas and New Year are usually spent considering eating and drinking less, contemplating what the new year will bring and just generally enjoying a welcome respite from the daily grind.

    This year I even found some time to tackle an item on my perpetual ‘to-do’ list…my mission to free my travel photos from my hard drive!

    2015 was filled with so many amazing experiences, both travel and otherwise, and my latest photo story on Steller is just one of those (and thanks to the editors at Steller how included it in their ‘Places’ collection =P).

    Back in February my then fiancé (now husband) and I went to Dubai to catch some winter sun. Unfortunately they had an unseasonal cold snap while we were there but we still had the opportunity to explore and catch up with some dear friends.

    One of my favourite outings during our visit was to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi (you can read all about it here). The other was an afternoon we spent in Dubai’s Old Town.


    The Spice Souk while touristic was worth a visit even if only for the onslaught of colour and aroma. And the traditional cargo boats and ferries still used on Dubai Creek are completely charming and provide an interesting juxtaposition with the ultra modern high rises of Dubai in the background.

    Take a traditional ‘arba’ for just AED1 to cross the creek for an authentic Dubai experience.