Firstly I am not a vegan.
Secondly, and more importantly, I do not wish to offend anyone that is, by suggesting we can choose to "go vegan" when it suits our fickle palates. I am guilty of this flip-flopping and even my vegan-phobic (or perhaps merely misinformed) hubby is known to succumb to the lure of a decadent raw-treat and the vegan dinners I sometimes whip up, as long as I promise not to "turn". Apparently divorce would soon follow but that's another blog altogether! Seriously though, I do embrace the multitude of different dietary preferences out there and I certainly enjoy experimenting in the kitchen and that is what inspired this blog.
Yesterday it was my turn to host our monthly Cook Club gathering (yes, I must write about that too) and one of our fellow foodies is vegan. Now, hold on, I can imagine the default definitions some of you may come up with, "one of those fussy, self-important, annoying hippies" - let them BYO you say! No way - not all vegans are like that, in fact I don't recall meeting anyone who fills that flippant description, not in person anyway and our lovely Lauren never has any expectation that we specifically cater to her dietary requirements, we just choose to do so and it opens us up to a fabulous new world of culinary learning.
I digress, back to the fact that I am in a state of mild euphoria when planning any foodie soiree - it's right up my 'gravel driveway' (or down as the case may be) and it's common for such a task to be undertaken in a caffeine-fueled frenzy with a pile of favorite food-stained cookbooks and my trusty notebook at hand.
Well, that is, when I'm not full of a cold and in big-time procrastination mode! After an epic fail based on a tart tin I thought I had (turns out it was my daughters and off it went to her new flat last week), hours pawing over 'said' cookbooks for inspiration and finally admitting I'd left it too late to refrigerate coconut cream, soak dates and make my own nut butters, I came across this...(which, incidentally I am woofing down a leftover chunk of, by the fire, with a cuppa, while I write - jealous? You should be!)...
Sticky Date Olive Oil Cake With Chai Poached Pears.
Oh my lordie, it's vegan and, wait for it, it's from the super talented Hetty McKinnon of Arthur Street Kitchen fame, whose cookbook "Community" we used for our Cook Club this month! Happy-clappy dancing all round!
I was under the impression Hetty only did savoury dishes but good old google to the rescue and Cook Club dessert disaster averted. Side note: I wouldn't recommend washing Coldrex down with coffee, followed by a lunchtime tipple if getting over a head cold is of paramount importance. Me, well, it was worth it.
So, without further narrative dribble, here's the recipe (thank you Hetty McKinnon).
May you enjoy the creation, salivation and satiation it brings, preferably over lunch with some of your favourite humans.
Sticky Date Olive Oil Cake with Chai Poached Pears
Chai Spiced Poached Pears:
2 cups (500ml) water
1/2 cup (100g) brown sugar
2 chai tea bags
4 small firm pears (Beurre Bosc work well)
extra virgin olive oil for serving
Sticky Date Olive Oil Cake:
1 1/4 cup (200g) pitted dates (I used Medjool), roughly chopped
2 tbsp flaxseeds
1 1/4 cup (300ml) unsweetened almond milk
7 fl oz (207ml) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
175g (2/3 cup) brown sugar
1 2/3 cups (200g) self-rising flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 180 C. Grease and line a 9 inch (22cm) spring form tin
In a medium saucepan (big enough to fit four pears), add the water, sugar, tea bags and place on medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil, and then simmer on low heat until the sugar has melted. While simmering, peel the pears (leave the stems), and slice a 1/2 inch strip off the bottom so the pears sit flat. Remove the core with a melon baller or small teaspoon and scoop out the pips from the bottom of the pear. Place the pears in the poaching liquid, cover with a lid and poach on gentle rolling heat for 15-20 minutes until a knife easily inserts into the pear. Set the pears aside to cool in the liquid. Discard the tea bags.
Place the dates, flaxseeds and almond milk into a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the dates are soft. Place the date mixture into a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth. Add the olive oil and whizz again to combine. Set aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, add the brown sugar, self-rising flour, baking soda, spice and salt and whisk to combine and to get rid of any lumps. Add the olive oil date mixture and stir well. Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake tin, smoothing out the top with a spatula. Nestle the pears to stand upright into the batter (the bottom half of the pear should be covered), in a circular formation so the pears are evenly spread out. Bake for 35-40 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Set aside to cool for 8-10 minutes.
While the pears are baking, bring the pear poaching liquid back to the boil and simmer on high heat until reduced and thick, about 5-6 minutes. While the cake is still warm, brush or spoon the syrup over the cake, allowing the liquid to absorb into the cake before adding more. Keep a little syrup aside for serving.
To serve, serve slices with a scoop of ice cream (vegan if you prefer) and finish with a tiny drizzle of olive oil over the ice cream.
According to the very talented Hetty, this cake is characterised by it's bold flavours. It is moist without being gooey or dense (well, mine had the goo-factor as I took it out of the oven way too soon!). The addition of olive oil (which I thought may have been over-powering due to the large quantity) delivers an irresistible savoury and ever so slight peppery undertone, which pairs (no pun intended) with the aromatic, chai spiced pears. The cake is dark and bursting with intriguing flavours.
It is a bit of a show-piece with the pears sticking out the top and if our Cook Club foodies are anything to go by, everyone will love it, vegan or not. I say it's best served with coffee or even better, a wee glass of full-bodied Shiraz!