Pumpkin cake with lime and almonds

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I have been fucking remiss! Doubly so, since despite not blogging for a couple of months now, I have in fact had a recipe photographed and stored up since August. And it’s SUCH a perfect August cake. Not that you can’t eat a delicious citrus-frosted vegan pumpkin cake in spring, just that it’s so much more an autumn/winter thing. Luckily, it’s October – month of the pumpkin! Well, just ignoring the whole Halloween is supposed to be in autumn deal. In any case this cake is still – despite all the flaws of its maker – perfect!

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August is my mum’s birthday and so to commemorate the day my family all came over to my place to crash on the floor for a night and eat cake. Actually, Tom was supposed to be in charge of cake, but I received a text message from him the day before saying he accidentally got day drunk instead.

So proud.

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Actually though, I understand that sometimes you need/want to get day drunk. Sometimes you also have to make emergency cake as a result of someone else’s day drunk. Is cool.

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Anyway, the cake turned out pretty lovely. It’s based on a recipe for pumpkin slice I’ve been using for so many years I’ve forgotten where it came from. The icing I made up myself. The original slice uses just lemons and icing sugar for frosting, but I sincerely believe limes > lemons. For guacamole, for gin, for everything. Pfft, “lemons”.

(Shh. No, Actually I like lemons too, but limes rule so much more)

Anyway, now it’s October (month of pumpkins! – sort of) and since I last blogged I’ve done a huge presentation for uni, participated in a writer’s festival and moved house. And on Halloween it’s my birthday. Which is both horrifying and sweet. So here is a cake that I dare you to not want to eat right now. Along with a promise to be less remiss next time something like this is lurking in my to do list.

IMG_0762IMG_0755❤ These dorks.

Ingredients:

Cake:
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups cooked pumpkin
1 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
4 cups S.R. Flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp ginger
1 tsp salt

Icing:
1 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup coconut oil

For on top:
slivered almonds

Combine sugar, pumpkin, oil and vanilla then add remaining ingredients. Cook in moderate oven 1-1.5 hrs OR until middle of cake springs back when touched. Combine coconut oil and icing sugar. Stir until smooth. Then add lime juice. Allow cake to cool. Ice cake. Dry fry almonds or roast in oven. Arrange on top of cake. Eat cake.

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Spanish-spiced split chickpea soup

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I’m in recovery this week. Recovery from last week’s bout of tonsillitis, recovery from various related ailments (hi there, blood test bruising), and recovery from an epic weekend of MURDER. That’s right: last weekend three carloads of my friends road-tripped down to the Southern Highlands to stay in a farmhouse (nay, The Farmhouse), sample some delicious local wines and participate in a murder mystery party.

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It was ridiculous fun. Everyone went all-out with costuming and some of us even went all-out staying in character. I was supposed to be a gossipy French woman married to one of the heir’s to a dukedom – the previous Duke being the murder victim. Turns out, I was also a gold-digging call-girl who unsuccessfully attempted murder with a bowl of poisoned strawberries. (My poisoning skills are about as good as my French accent.)

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Dinner was pretty amazing: three kinds of meat provided by the murder host, seemingly endless bottles of Southern Highlands red, and a whole heap of vegetables prepared by me. Unfortunately I’m not here to share my murder veggies with you (I didn’t really get the chance to photograph them). Instead I’m sharing my recovery food, and surprise, surprise if it isn’t our old friend soup.

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This is the kind of recovery soup that isn’t just about comfort. Not your oh-so-soothing chicken or savoury lentil concoction that you consume at the start of a malady. Nay. This one has a little kick to let you know that, yeah, you’re still a delicate flower, but you also deserve a bit of excitement once in a while.

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I call it “Spanish” because I took inspiration from a vegetarian tapas recipe, but really it’s not of any particular origin. It uses chana dal, which are split chickpeas often used in indian food. These are smaller (obviously) than full chickpeas, so quicker to cook. Also, they are hella delicious. Fortuitously this dish goes down way-too-smooth with a glass of Joadja Cabernet Sangiovese, which Patrick happened to pick up half a case of on our murderous weekend away. The warm berry and chocolate flavours of the wine taste even better with the soft spice of the cumin seeds and the slightly sour tomato and lemon. In lieu of the roaring fire and fur coats that kept us warm all Murder Weekend long, this combination is a pretty appealing way to keep winter at bay.

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Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 cup chana dal (or yellow split peas if you can’t find them, I guess)
2 onions
2 cups grated pumpkin
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp chilli flakes
1 can  tomato puree
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper

Directions:
Soak chana daal for 4-6 hours. Discard excess water and rinse. Dice onions and sauté on medium to low heat. While those cook dice garlic and grate pumpkin. Add pumpkin, spices and garlic and heat until pumpkin starts turning to mush. Add tomato puree, then fill puree can up with water. Add 4-6 cans of water to pan and let simmer until chickpeas are tender – about half an hour. Add salt and pepper and juice of half a lemon (or to taste). Can be served plain, with a drizzle of olive oil, a handful of cheddar or some other delicious topping. Yoghurt or goat’s cheese, perhaps?  Maybe you’re neither vegetarian nor lazy and you want some chorizo with that? Good idea.

Pumpkin Pie Porridge

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I’m sorry. This isn’t really even a recipe. Just a suggestion, I guess, of how to make porridge even more delicious. And I’m sure there are plenty of other examples out there on the internet of similarly pumkiny oaty goodness. But this is the only thing I’ve been eating lately that isn’t some all-in soup concoction designed to ward off a virus that in the last two weeks has transformed my house into a den of dirty tissues.
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It was the autumn last week, and so the celebrate – and also to use up the last bit of pumpkin in the fridge – I whipped up this for breakfast. It turned out great! Warm, spicy and utterly satisfying.

Aside from using a fancy kind of “cereal” to make this, I think the pumpkin, maple syrup and spices really balance this meal. About once a year I get waaaay excited about cooking up a pot of oats every morning for breakfast, before realizing (on roughly the third morning) that it kinda just tastes like a big bowl of glue.
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But not these: no, Sir. The sweetness of the syrup is just delicate and complex enough for morning time and the pumpkin itself, though again not particularly strong, blends in perfectly to give the cereal extra dimension. I’ve enjoyed other fruits in porridge before, but it’s always been in contrast to the oats, never working together like this.
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Anyway, one reason I decided to share this one, aside from how much I enjoyed both making it and eating it, was that despite the plethora of sweet pumpkin recipes all over the blogosphere most of these recipes are American/Canadian. This means that (a) they get posted at the wrong time of year for Australian consumption; and (b) they often use canned pumpkin, which isn’t widely available here and, to be honest, doesn’t seem like my kind of thing. Fresh pumpkin all the way, baby!
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So, here’s to embracing all things Aussie autumn: cardigans, the only-occasional deciduous tree, and seasonal breakfast treats sans canned goods. Oh, and apparently none of these things. Apparently 30 degree days. Maybe wait it out til it actually is cardigan weather, but definitely, definitely try this.
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Ingredients:
1 cup oats/”cereal mix”
3 cups boiling water
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
200g roast pumkin
¼ tsp nutmeg
3-4 tbsp maple syrup
¼ cup sultanas

Directions:
The night before, or whenever you have time, roast 200g of pumpkin in the oven until soft. In saucepan combine salt, cereal, and boiling water. Heat on medium for ten minutes or until thickened. While cereal is cooking puree roast pumpkin (or mash as well as you can) and add to mixture. When mixture has thickened add spices and sultanas. Serve warm with extra syrup, sultanas or some nuts.