The Miraculous Flour-Less Chocolate Cake

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In 1996 my mother bought me a cookbook.

The book titled ‘YUM’ by Terry Durack, a well known Australian food writer and critic, still commands prime position on my now heavily laden shelf, 20 years on. There are several reasons for this. The most important one being the recipe for his Miraculous Flour-Less Chocolate Cake.

The binding of the book has long fallen from its cover. There are smudges of chocolate over its pages. The paper it was printed on is looking a dull shade of white yellow, but still this book remains on my shelf. Why? Because it’s the best darn chocolate cake I’ve ever baked!

I practically know the recipe off by heart, (I’ve baked it so many times), yet I still take the book out each time and savour those smudges, those faded pages, and the reminiscing it invokes of all the times I’ve cooked and eaten this cake from this cookbook.

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I was a third year apprentice chef, learning the ways of the kitchen, and how to thrive in (at the time) a male dominated industry, when I was given this book. Lets say it has sentimental value. ‘Yum’ reminds me of long hard days working in professional kitchens, being young and free, learning to cook, and what makes a good recipe. And my Mother, it reminds me of my Mother.

But the Miraculous flour-less chocolate cake recipe, lets talk about that! I think it’s the fudge like consistency that I’m most attracted to. It’s never dry like some flour based chocolate cakes can be. The blending of melted chocolate, butter and almond meal feels strong, and then the folding of whisked egg whites makes it light. 

For me, the importance of good cook books are the memories they can invoke. We’ve all been exposed to many an average cookbook. You know the ones. Someone gains a little celebrity status and they then write a cookbook book full of over saturated recipes trying to make us believe they are experts in the felid of cooking. Those cookbooks leave me feeling uninspired.

‘Yum’ on the other hand is of a different era, where cookbooks were peoples life work; recipes they’d been cooking for years. Recipes of substance and worth.

To quote Terry Durack, in reference to his Miraculous Flour-Less Chocolate Cake recipe he says ‘I borrowed it from Jill Dupleix, who borrowed it from Elizabeth David, who borrowed it from the French. It taught me the value of borrowing recipes’.

And his words in turn taught me the value of sharing recipes. Enjoy!

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The Miraculous Flour-Less Chocolate Cake

(Adapted slightly from ‘Yum’ – Terry Durack)

200g 70% cocoa dark chocolate

150g caster sugar

150g butter, diced

100g ground almonds (almond meal)

5 free range eggs, separated

To Finish

Dutch cocoa or icing sugar 

Cream or ice-cream 

Pre heat oven to 175C Line a 20cm cake tin with baking paper.

Melt the chocolate, sugar and butter in a bowl sitting on a pot of simmering water.

Remove from heat, stir thoroughly to combine. Mix in the ground almonds, then beat in the egg yolks one by one.

Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, and stir a couple of spoonfuls into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, before gently folding in the rest.

Pour into the cake tin, and bake for 40 minutes.

Leave to cool slightly before removing from tin. Dust with cocoa, or icing sugar, or eat as is. Serve with cream or ice cream.

 

Parsnip And Pear Soup With Crispy Sage And Brown Butter

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The humble parsnip, in all its creamy-white glory, benefits immensely from being cooked with something naturally sweet. I think of parsnips roasted with honey, yes please! Parsnips grated and baked into a cake, sure why not? Even this parsnip soup benefits from a little sweet kick.

This addition of a natural sweetener to parsnips makes perfect sense to me. Apparently if parsnips are picked before they receive a night or two of a cold frost the natural sugars don’t develop properly and then the parsnips lack the sweetness they deserve. I can only assume the parsnips I bought fell to this fate. But that’s where a little kitchen intuition and a piece of fruit – in this case pear – can come to the rescue.

Now! Enter the burnt butter with crispy sage.

Are you familiar with that moment when fresh sage hits foaming butter in a hot pan and it begins to froth and splatter, the sage crisping in front of your eyes? Or when the butter begins to turn to a shade of golden nuttiness and you just know it’s time to add a squeeze of lemon juice? Sigh! I love those moments. They don’t happen too often in my kitchen but for this soup it was the crowning glory, the finishing touch, the necessary addition. I imagine you’ll think so too.

 

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Parsnip and pear soup with sage and brown butter

Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil

1 brown onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, chopped

3 sticks celery, diced

2 tbsp chopped fresh sage

600g parsnips, peeled and sliced into rounds

1/2 cup white wine

1 large pear, peeled and cut into large pieces

1.5 litres chicken or vegetable stock

1/2 cup Greek style yoghurt

For the burnt sage butter

75g salted butter

handful of picked fresh sage leaves

squeeze lemon juice

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan; add the onion, garlic, celery, parsnip and chopped sage, season with salt and pepper and cook gently for 5 minutes.

Turn the heat up, add the white wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the chopped pear and chicken stock, bring to the boil then cook on a medium heat for 25 minutes.

Remove the soup from the heat, add the yoghurt and blitz the soup with a stick blender or food processor till smooth. Check the seasoning.

For the burnt butter, place a fry pan on a high heat, once heated add the diced butter, swirl the pan. As the butter melts and starts to froth throw in the sage leaves, swirl the pan as they crisp. Right at the moment the butter looks like it can’t froth any more, and before it turns too dark, remove the pan from the heat, squeeze in the lemon juice and swirl a final time.

Ladle the parsnip soup into 4 bowls and drizzle the crispy sage and burnt butter over the top.