a beetroot in a chocolate cake

August 3, 2013 § 2 Comments

is as soulful as having a garden in the kitchen. Any root vegetables would give the same humble earthiness, but this passionate red plant gives plenty of warmth and moisture. I had the kids fooled. They ate the entire cake before even realizing there was some added zinc goodness.  There is no “once bitten twice shy” value in this, just go for it!


Prior to this, I had made some chocolate beetroot muffin. This cake is a little more decadent and luxurious. I am testing out a vegan version so more soon!

Adapted from Nigel Slater, with some adjustments.

225g self-raising flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 heaping tbsp cocoa powder
180ml sunflower oil
225g light muscovado sugar,
3 eggs
150g raw beetroot
juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup of chopped dark chocolates

Set the oven at 170C. Lightly butter a 9″ rectangular loaf.

Grate the beetroot coarsely, set aside.

Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cocoa powder and cinnamon. Beat the oil and half of the sugar in a food mixer until well creamed then introduce the beaten egg yolks one by one, reserving the whites for later.

Fold yolks and flour together, then gently fold in the beets.

Beat the egg whites till light and almost stiff. Fold gently everything together but thoroughly into the mixture (He suggested using a large metal spoon, a wooden one will knock the air out). Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 40-50 minutes. Once it is done, allow it to cool for 20 minutes before indulging.

It’s been a trying week. The exhaustion from many personal events collided into one and I find myself detaching again. I’m catching up with the workload at the cafe as well as rest. It’s already August. Last year this time, I found Henry. Sure is a ride, but I shall save that post for another time.

there is no real secret to an amazing meal, just simple & fresh ingredients.
there is no real secret to an amazing life, just simple things & good company.

why all the fancy schmancy?

happy birthday to the lady

May 22, 2013 § 6 Comments


She loves antiques. She loves junk. She loves anything she does not need but gets them nevertheless. She loves the idea of a hand me down, a good thrift store, a good bargain, a good steal and even more so, a fantastic car boot sale.

We would be forced to wake up at dawn, whist the moon barely set and dreams are just beginning to climax. Lifted from an innate zeal, she will get dressed eagerly and be at the door without haste. Layered in three/four winter clothing, she manages to look divine under the dim bedroom light. As we drive down the country side with beaming car lights shining along the hedges leading the way, I wonder if my stomach had completely digested the buttery apple pie from last night.

The cars lined up in a row and their things are laid unkempt with much order. It’s as disheveled as a lovely afternoon tea with the Royalties. You can get anything least likely to imagine. A box of jewelry from a recently deceased old lady, century old stamps, to a barely used camera. It’s a shopaholic haven. For mum, it is her nirvana.

I have fears of her stepping onto the wet field. Her heavy purse will be emptied and her grocery bags filled with unnecessaries.

For her birthday this year, I got her three brass bowls from an antique store. For what need, I do not know. The stubborn elderly man who runs the shop, could not have a better pair of eyes for collectable items. If anything, it would be his cranky personality that helps his memory. I ponder for a moment whether my mum should open her own antique store. The house is one itself.


Her all time favourite dessert is a simple apple pie. This year, I had decided to make a gluten free version as she has gotten slightly unfriendly with wheat.

Thank you for being the best mother and friend. Happy birthday mum!

pie dough
300g Bob’s Mill all purpose gluten free flour
1/2 tsp salt
130g vegetable oil
20g non-dairy milk
1/2 cup ice water, perhaps less depending on the weather

apple pie filling
3 green apples, sliced thinly
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

130g Bob’s Mill all purpose gluten free flour
30g sorghum flour
30g walnuts, chopped
15g brown sugar
30g vegetable oil

1. Preheat oven to 200C, coat 8 inch pie tin with a light layer of oil.

2. Slice apples and combine brown sugar until well mixed, set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, mix pie dough ingredients except for ice water. With your hands kneed the dough until it comes together, add the ice water slowly until it forms a ball. If the weather is humid, add a little more ice in the water. Set the dough aside.

4. For the crumble, add all the ingredients together with a fork or get messy with your fingers. I like the later better.

5. Place the pie dough on the pie tin and spread it with your fingers, make sure to get an even layer on the sides. Lay apples evenly and sprinkle the crumble on the top.

6. Bake for 20 minutes at 200C and then, 25-30 minutes at 180C.


May 17, 2013 § Leave a comment


Finally a recipe post! This should be a regular go-to recipe as it is so simple to make. I have been approached by a few vegan/gluten-free home bakers on what to use for substitutions. While I have no fix gluten-free flour mix nor foolproof methods, I had managed to bring this lovely chocolate delight to the table just in time for tea.


Baking with gluten free flour is not as challenging as you think it is. I have failed and succeed; threw and sold many gluten free vegan cupcakes/brownies/cookies/shortbread. One thing, I have learnt is to never stop baking/cooking until you find the right fit. It is a journey for you to discover your own tastebuds and explore the wonders of different ingredients.

1 cup 70-80% dark chocolate, melted
1/2 cup fruit puree (apple, papaya, pear or any fruit you enjoy)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
50g rice flour
50g sorghum flour
30g tapioca flour
30g brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp guar gum/xanthan gum
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1/4 vanilla pod

1. Preheat the oven to 180C and lined an 8-inch baking pan with a layer of oil.

2. Melt dark chocolate over the bain-marie or one minute medium heat in the microwave. Do not worry if the chocolate bits are not completely melted. Some bites are always welcomed. Puree fruit in the processor and set aside.

3. Combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Once chocolate is melted, add in fruit puree, oil, milk and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients and mix until very well incorporated.

4. Pour it into the pan and even the top with a spatula. Bake it for 25-30 minutes. It will come out soft and very moist. Let it cool for at least 15 minutes before indulging.

And more to say, this is not available at the bakery/cafe I work in, but I am more than happy to share it with anyone.

*After leaving it for a day or two, it tends to get very dense. So best consume within the day of.


November 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Did November just pass without a trace? It’s hard to miss with all the beards and mustaches around. Along with Movember, I try my best to take it all in at once since the cafe has been very busy. Sporadical quiet moments, were either to catch a deep breath outside or read a short article.

At home, I have been rather blasé with stepping into the kitchen. At the very least, I will make pancakes on my days off. But, yesterday, for the very first time in 6 months, I turned the oven on.

My heart grows with excitement as the oven heat rises. Slicing two crimson beetroots into quarters, lightly rubbing some sea salt with my pink hands, laying them out on a cast iron pan, drizzling olive oil and cracking black pepper. The whole gesture made me fell in love with baking again.

I forgot how salt can be magically transform bitterness to sweetness. I forgot the sound of the ticking oven timer. I forgot how hot the kitchen can get. I forgot the loveliness of seeing the sides of a vegetable go from glaring smooth to golden brown crisp.

All of these were irreplaceable, despite baking everyday at work. I held on to the time as it stood still, with me staring into the oven glass watching them baked and day dreaming of light-hearted banters with customers. When it was time to indulge, I joyfully put some garnish on and tossed a few more fresh greens with roasted beets. Relishing the moments of getting my fingers dirty, appreciating wholesome vegetable and sharing it with the family.

beets, halved or quartered
salt, a pinch or two
black pepper, cracked
a whole garlic, broken into pieces

Preheat oven at 220C. Season the beets. Pop into the oven for 20 minutes, take them out, shake it, pop it back in for another 10-15. Yes it is that simple.

chocolate beetroot muffin

May 17, 2012 § 6 Comments

perhaps, the combination might throw one away, but it is much similar to carrots in a wholesome carrot cake with thick cream cheese frosting. I’d always been fond of beets for their juicy sweetness, earthy flavours, smooth texture and vibrant red colour. Their lovely colours, in particular, add a certain peppiness to a regular pan of roasted vegetables or bowl of green salad.

These muffins are more moist, less sugary and packed with magnesium. It calls for cocoa powder but feel free to melt a decent bar of dark chocolate instead. I got too greedy one evening and cleared the dark chocolate stash. An additional robust touch of hot coffee is added, as it goes so lovingly with chocolate, I always believe that at some point (well,centuries ago), coffee and cacao shared the same bean.

recipe adapted from Zizi’s

makes about 6-8 muffins

1 cup beets, steamed, skinned, cubed & pureed
1 cup whole meal flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup soy milk
100g dark chocolate or 45g cocoa powder
1/3 cup of freshly brewed coffee
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp mixed cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 170C. Prepare muffin pans by lightly greasing paper cups with oil spray.

2. In a food processor, puree soft beetroots. Gradually add soy milk and vanilla extract until it looks like baby food, and set it aside.

3. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt in a dry bowl.

4. In a mixing bowl, add melted chocolate or cocoa powder with hot coffee and whisk well, until there are no lumps. Add in the oil, vinegar and beet puree, continue evenly mixed.

5. Add dry ingredients into the wet mixture, until there are no more white mixture to be seen. The batter is now smooth and silky,and ready to be scooped.

6. In greased & lined muffin pan, fill cups until 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until skewer comes out clean when inserted. Allow them to cool, don’t fret when it sinks, and sprinkle with some icing sugar, if desire.

peanut butter

March 1, 2012 § 7 Comments

“Can you please get a jar of peanut butter from the grocery store please?”, asked mum kindly via text message.

I stumbled and thought to myself after years of making cashew butter with cashews from a local nuts supplier, why don’t I make my own?

Thought it is March, we still have plentiful salted peanuts from Lunar New Year, siting in a red container. A handful taken here or there, between meals, while watching television with our feet up, and amongst friends with beer or wine. Yet the amount never seem to detoriate.

So I took the vita mix out from the deep closet and put it to full use. It’s easy. Work with your food processor, start slow and as the nuts become smaller increase the speed (don’t try a hand blender, it takes just about forever to get the consistency you like). Slow and steady wins the race.

Another reason I like making my own nut-butter is also because I can alter it to my own consistency. Often crunchy is my favourite, though different brands’ texture varies.

two cups full of unsalted roasted or un-roasted peanuts
olive oil, enough for your prefered consistency
pinch of salt
honey or agave, to taste (optional)

In a blender, pour two cups of peanuts into processor and blend under the lowest speed. Slowly increase the speed. Stop. Scrap the sides and continue blending. Continue to increase the speed, stop and scrap the sides until it has been fully crushed. Drizzle in olive oil by the teaspoon and continue blending to desire consistency. Season the peanut butter to taste.

Store in a jar in room temperature away from the sun. Served with your favourite bread.

super bowl

February 6, 2012 § 2 Comments

This was a first for me. First time making vegan and gluten free mac & cheese and watching the NFL game. It was a close call as we all saw, which made it even more electrifying.

A friend of mine has a gluten and dairy free diet. So when she discovered my specialty, she urged me many a time to make her a full dietary friendly meal. Though, already a brilliant cook herself, I believe this was part of making her own meal more approachable to others. The verdict was cheerful, and I had to share it.

recipe adapted from daiya
8 ounces gluten-free pasta
3 cups daiya, cheddar
3 tablespoons vegan butter
2 cups non-dairy milk
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
¼ teaspoon cajun spice mix
a handful of chopped carrots

Cook pasta according to package, strained and set aside. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a small pot, melt butter, throw in chopped carrots, stir a little until they are almost but not cooked. Season with salt and cajun spices.

Stir in the milk, cheddar, and cook over low/medium heat for about 2-3 minutes. Stir with a wooden spoon until cheese is melted.

While waiting for the cheese to melt, pour pasta on to a casserole. Once cheese mixture is done, pour sauce over the pasta. Sprinkle some more cheese for extra richness. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until it is slightly brown on the sides.

Served with your favourite condiment.

A bunch of girls watching American football, eating grilled vegetables, mac & cheese, homemade coconut chocolate peppermint ice cream and enjoying commercials. What a lovely evening.

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