Nearly No Fruit Carrot Cake

It's no secret that I have a sweet tooth, and I have something of a long term affair going on with Carrot Cake.  From my childhood curiosity of this apparently strange creation to conversations with fellow bakers about whether it should contain fruit or nuts, or both; I'll always find myself deeply satisfied when I'm enjoying a slice of it.

There are many variations of Carrot Cake, and mine doesn't feature any Dates or Figs as I've never liked them.  Instead, I load up on good old walnuts and of course plenty of carrot.  I also bake mine with added mashed banana because there's nothing more depressing than a dry Carrot Cake; it has to be soft and moist IMO.

- 225g self-raising flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 150g soft light brown sugar
- 100g chopped walnuts (plus a handful for the top)
- 2 large carrots, grated
- 2 small very ripe bananas, mashed
- 2 eggs
- 125ml sunflower oil
- 175g soft cream cheese
- 175g icing sugar, sifted

How to:-
1.  Lightly grease an 18cm round cake tin, ideally with a loose, springform bottom.  Cut out a circle of baking or greaseproof paper and place it inside.  Preheat the oven to 180C / Gas 4.
2.  Mix together the flour, baking powder, chopped walnuts and brown sugar in a large bowl.
3.  Squeeze out as much water from the grated carrots as possible (using your hands is easiest) and add them to bowl, then mix in the mashed bananas.
4.  Beat the eggs and oil together and then pour them into the mixture, beating well with a wooden spoon.
5.  Spoon the mixture into the cake tin, making sure to level it out.  Cook for around 1-1/4 hours, until a skewer pushed in the middle comes out clean.  Carefully remove cake from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.
6.  Beat the cream cheese and icing sugar together, and spread evenly over the top of the cake.  Sprinkle on the extra chopped walnuts and pop into the fridge for about an hour to allow the topping to set before serving.


Vegan Singapore Vermicelli

Today I'm helping with the cooking for a friend's birthday bash which has an asian buffet theme.  I decided to do a big batch of Vegan Singapore Vermicelli as one of the sides that people can help themselves to.  It's easy to do and absolutely delicious, plus there's none of that extra fat and greasiness that comes in the takeaway versions!

Serves around 4 as sides

- 300g pack of fresh rice noodles
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 & 1/2 tbsp mild yellow curry powder
- 1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce 
- 1 tsp granulated white sugar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 large red pepper, deseeded and sliced
- 2 carrots, finely sliced
- 100g broccoli florets
- 200g pack of mixed mushrooms
- 4 spring onions, trimmed and sliced
- large handful of peas
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped

How to:-
1.  Cook the rice noodles to packet instructions, drain and set aside.
2.  In a small bowl, mix 1 tbsp of the toasted sesame oil and all the mild curry powder into a smooth paste.  Then mix in the sweet chilli sauce, sugar & soy sauce until everything is combined.  Mix all of this sauce with the cooked rice noodles, coating it evenly, and leave for 5-10 minutes.
3.  In a large wok, heat the remaining toasted sesame oil and add the pepper, carrots, broccoli, garlic and ginger.  Fry over a high heat for around 5 minutes and then add the mushrooms, spring onions, peas and rice noodles, making sure to add any excess/leftover sauce to the wok.
4.  Fry everything together, stirring quickly for another few minutes (a good indicator is to stop when you can see the mushrooms are cooked), and serve immediately.  Season with extra soy sauce if desired.


Bruschetta with Garlic Mushrooms & Feta

Being a serious lover of carbs, few things fill me with more pleasure than a hefty chunk of quality bread.  I had some ciabatta left over this week, so I decided to use it up for this simple bruschetta lunch today.

- 2 thick slices of ciabatta
- 2 or 3 small mushrooms, sliced
- a few chunks of feta cheese
- half a glove of garlic
- olive oil
- mixed herbs

How to:-
1.  Drizzle a little olive oil over each ciabatta slice and then gently rub the garlic all over into the bread.
2.  Pop the ciabatta slices under the grill for a couple of minutes until lightly toasted.
3.  In a small pan, fry the sliced mushrooms with the garlic until cooked, and arrange them on the ciabatta slices.
4. Top them off with the chunks of feta and sprinkle over some mixed herbs.  Enjoy alone or serve with salad.