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All posts tagged fall

Getting Creative in the Kitchen: Fabulous Fall Salads

Published October 15, 2014 by The Feminist

yotam

These past few weeks I’ve been very creative in the kitchen and I have two men to thank for that. The first one is world famous and a master of multicultural food blends, whereas the other is one of Belgium’s up-and-coming chefs with a Michelin star under his belt. I’m talking about Yotam Ottolenghi and Michaël Vrijmoed. I’m sure all foodies out there will have heard from the former (no matter which country you live in), so I will start with the latter, for I’m guessing you will probably have never heard of him (unless you’re either Belgian –like me- or a total wacko foodie – like me.)

Vrijmoed is a young Belgian chef (who also does TV cooking shows once and a while), who opened his own first restaurant “Vrijmoed” a couple of years ago, which was awarded a Michelin star last year. I had been yearning to go there for quite some time, because his restaurant also offers an entire vegetarian menu, which is incredibly rare among gastronomic restaurants. My wish finally came true last weekend when my family was looking for a special restaurant to celebrate my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary at.

Needless to say, I was in seventh heaven. Vrijmoed truly is a genius when it comes to pairing vegetables, spices and textures. I even daresay that the five course “pure vegetables” menu was the best food I have EVER tasted in my ENTIRE life. And coming from me, that means a lot! Not just because I’ve eaten my way through plenty of delicious meals in my life and therefore tend to shy away from making pompous statements like that, but also because I used to think that Michelin Star restaurants were the prime example of style over substance. Lots of money, but tiny portions.

Well, I take that all back. Vrijmoed was worth every damn penny! And after a five-course meal with plenty of booze you definitely don’t feel the need to go to the chippy afterwards.

So if you ever find yourself in  Ghent and are looking for a really really really nice place to eat –and you’ve got some money you want to spend- this is the place to be!

Inspired by all the bold flavour pairings, I conjured up this marvelous salad:

Marinated Beetroot with Yellow Plum, Feta, Peppery Cress and COFFEE AND COCOA CARAMELIZED NUTS

There is a reason why I went all “CAPs Lock” crazy on the nuts. The sweetness of the caramel works brilliantly with the bitterness of the coffee and cocoa and trust me when I say that these nuts are a true sensation in combination with the earthy sweetness of the beetroot, the sour-sweet plum, the tangy sharp cheese and the peppery cress.

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Ingredients:

For the nuts:

  • Handful of nuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • ½ tsp instant espresso coffee powder
  • ½ tsp cocoa powder

For the beetroot:

  • 2 small to medium beetroots, peeled cut into slices
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp sumac
  • Lime juice
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Salt and pepper

For the salad:

  • Cress
  • 2 yellow plums, stone removed and cut into chunks
  • 50gr feta cheese

Method:

  1. Blanch the beetroot slices for a couple of minutes. Drain and put the slices into a large bowl with some salt and pepper, sumac, olive oil, honey and a good squeeze of lime juice. Set aside for half an hour and let it marinade.
  2. Make the caramelized nuts. Roast the nuts in a small pan. Add the honey, cocoa and coffee and let is fry for a minutes. Add a splash of water to make sure the nuts don’t burn. Let the nuts get all sticky and crunchy.
  3. Dress the beetroot on a plate together with the plum, cress and feta cheese. Finally sprinkle over the delish nuts and serve.

Now let’s move on to Ottolenghi. He’s the master of Middle Eastern cuisine who taught me all about za’atar, tahini and hummus and who has been teaching the world, book by book and recipe by recipe, that vegetarian food is the future. His new cookbook “Plenty More” is the epitome of yumminess and demonstrates that cooking without meat and fish is anything but boring. This book has become my culinary Bible. It has given me so much inspiration these past few weeks  that I’m in a constant state of utter foodie brain activity.

The following recipe is based on one of his recipes:

Caramelized Figs with Pink Grapefruit, Feta, Pink Pepper and Rocket Salad

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Ingredients:

  • 3 figs, halved
  • 1 pink grapefruits, peeled and cut into slices
  • Rocket leaves
  • 80gr feta cheese, crumbled
  • ½ tsp pink pepper corns
  • ¼ tsp star anise
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar

Method:

  1. Heat the sugar in a large pan and let it caramelize. Add the figs, cut-side down, and let them fry for a couple of minutes on a medium heat. Add a splash of water to make sure the caramel doesn’t burn. Add the pink pepper and star anise. When the figs are starting to get tender, turn off the heat and add the slices of grapefruit. Be careful not to overcook the figs, they should be soft, not mushy and the grapefruit should still hold its shape and be lukewarm.
  2. Put the rocket leaves on a plate. Add the figs and grapefruit and sprinkle on the feta cheese and some extra pink pepper corns.

The Bold & the Butternut

Published October 9, 2014 by The Feminist

butternut

The weather is really awful this week. It’s raining cats and dogs, the wind is blowing all those wonderfully golden brown leaves of the trees and it is all making me bloody depressed.

Seriously. Why do I have to live in Belgium and not live in a tiny hut on some deserted island in the Pacific? The latter sounds much more appealing right now. Yes, a sunny beach on a deserted island my not offer WIFI, but who needs WIFI when you can spend your days tanning on the beach and drinking out of a coconut?

Anyway, needless to say that I could use some comfort food. And what could possibly be more comforting than the sweet flavour of the butternut? Butternuts and pumpkins of any kind are probably one of the only things that prevent me from packing my bags and embracing my inner Robinson Crusoe. (No butternuts on a deserted islands, obvs.)

And although many people still ignorantly think that recipes with butternut do not sound very bold, or may not look very beautiful, it is actually quite the opposite. Because, dear fellow Belgians, you can do so much more with a butternut than just turn it into soup!

In fact, the humble butternut is as versatile as Daniel Radcliffe’s latest film choices! (and that says a lot, trust me)

With one large butternut, I created 3(!) amazing one-person dishes just for me. They may not all look beautiful, but trust me: they are always bold in flavour!

Middle Eastern Saffron-Scented Butternut with Harissa Yoghurt and a Mint and Dill Salsa

Butternut will have never tasted this good: the sweetness of the saffron and the sultanas together with the zing and freshness of the salsa and yoghurt is a match made in heaven.

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Ingredients:

For the butternut:

  • 1/3 butternut, cut into large chunks
  • Handful of sultanas
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • Pinch of saffron
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • Pinch of chili powder
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tbsp honey

For the harissa yoghurt:

  • 100gr Greek yoghurt
  • ½ tsp harissa paste

For the Mint and Dill Salsa:

  • 2 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp dill, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of ½ lime

Method:

  1. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan. Add the butternut chunks and let it fry for a couple of minutes. Add the spices, sultanas and honey. Add a splash of water to make sure it doesn’t burn. Let it fry until the butternut is just tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add the poppy seeds.
  2. Mix the yoghurt with the harissa and a pinch of salt.
  3. Mix all the salsa ingredients and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Serve the butternut with dollops of yoghurts and drizzle the salsa over the top.

Stuffed Butternut with a Blue Goat’s Cheese “Soufflé”

Sounds fancy, but it is actually really easy to make. The reason why I call this a “soufflé” is because it contains eggs and cheese and puffs up all so beautifully in the oven, but don’t be alarmed by this French word, it’s just a chic way of saying “fluffy omelet” 😉

You can use plain blue cheese or goat’s cheese for this recipe, but a blue goat’s cheese really is the best of both worlds.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 “bottom” of the butternut, seeds removed but skin still on
  • 2 eggs
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 80gr blue goat’s cheese

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Put the butternut bottom in an oven-proof dish and season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Put in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the butternut is al dente.
  2. Mix the eggs together with salt and pepper and nutmeg and pour in the butternut. Drop the chunks of cheese into the eggs mixture and put the butternut back into the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the skin and flesh of the pumpkin is soft and eggs are cooked through and have puffed up.

Butternut with Nigella & Mustard Seeds and Barbecue Tempeh

It may not look very attractive but the sweet and sour taste of the marinated tempeh (I luvvv tempeh!) works so well with the mellow butternut that is spiced up with some amazing nigella and mustard seeds.

Serve with some even more unappealing (but very yummy) black rice

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Ingredients:

For the butternut:

  • 1/3 butternut, cut into chunks
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 cm piece of fresh ginger
  • Fresh herbs to finish (dill, coriander or mint)

For the tempeh:

  • 100gr tempeh, cut into chunks
  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tsp miso paste
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • ½ tsp sesame seeds
  • Pinch of Chinese five spice

Method:

  1. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and add the butternut, spices and ginger. Let it fry, stir regularly and season with salt and pepper, until the butternut is tender.
  2. Mix the marinade ingredients together. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and add the tempeh. Fry until golden brown. Pour in the marinade, turn down the heat and let the marinade form a sticky coat around the tempeh.
  3. Serve the butternut with the tempeh and sprinkle some fresh herbs over the top. Serve with rice.

What to eat on a Rainy Sunday Afternoon: Chocolate and Pear Frangipane with Poire William’s

Published October 27, 2013 by The Feminist

frangipane

When I woke up this morning, I had this eerie feeling that today would not be a good day. I’m not a psychic and neither do I possess the rare quality to observe the unobservable, but from the moment I opened my curtains I immediately knew that this awful hunch was a perfectly acceptable prediction of today’s weather. Looking outside it felt as if I had just stepped into a Harry Potter novel and I half expected to see a pair of dementors flying through the air. There was a stiff wind blowing, the sky had a menacingly dark colour and …Was it just me or were there really an awful lot of crows squawking like crazy?

Anyway, given my frighteningly correct prediction, I wanted to put a stop to this gloomy feeling before it got really out of hand. I baked a frangipane pie( the sort of thing one does when the dreadful weather represents how one feels on the inside). In my humble opinion a frangipane filling is the best way to smother those bad feelings with a golden layer of gooeyness. In the blink of an eye- with just one bite- your mood is immediately transformed from “I want to crawl back in bed and never come out” to “I am totally awesome. Let’s have fun and revel in so much awesomeness.”

Add to that wonderful frangipane filling an insanely decadent amount of chocolate and heavenly sweet pears soaked in boozy Poire William’s, and what you end up with is a total package of comfort. I took a large slice of this pie, snuggled down on my cozy couch and watched some Hart Of Dixie…

Poof!

My eerie bad feeling was gone and all I was left with was a warm and fuzzy heart filled with glee. Admittedly, eating this delicious frangipane comes at a calorific high price, but who cares? This pie is what I call an emotional investment: once you’ve experienced the sheer happiness it brings, the calories will all be worth it.

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Chocolate and Pear frangipane with Poire William’s

Ingredients:
• One sheet of puff pastry
• 150gr butter
• 150gr sugar
• 50gr plain flour
• 125gr ground almonds
• 25gr cocoa powder
• 3 eggs
• 75 dark chocolate
• 2 large pears
• 4 tbsp Poire William’s

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and grease a 26cm loose-bottomed pie tin.
2. Peel the pears and cut into thin wedges. Remove the cores and discard. Toss the pears with the Poire William and let them soak for at least half an hour in the fridge.
3. Lift the puff pastry carefully into the tin, pressing firmly into the corners and sides. Prick the base lightly with a fork. Trim the edges with a sharp, horizontally held knife.
4. Put the butter, ground almonds, sugar, flour, cocoa powder and eggs in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric whisk until smooth and fluffy.
5. Melt the dark chocolate au bain marie until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.
6. Spoon the frangipane mixture into your puff pastry tart. Drop spoonfuls of the melted chocolate on top and draw the tip of a knife through the mixture to lightly marble.
7. Arrange the pears around the tart, cut-side down, with the pointy ends towards the middle, pressing gently into the chocolate frangipane batter. Drizzle the remaining Poire William’s over the top.
8. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 180°C and loosely cover the pie with a piece of foil to prevent the pie from overbrowning. Bake for further 15 to 20 minutes.
9. Cool in the tin for at least 10 minutes and then carefully transfer to a board or serving platter. Sprinkle with sifted icing sugar.

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Double Trouble, Twice as Nice: Two very cute dried fig, rosemary and honey muffins

Published October 20, 2013 by The Feminist

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Before I start, let’s all do a quick experiment. Take one of your cookbooks and go to the baking chapter. My guess is that you’re looking at recipes for giant cakes, huge pies and an enormous batch of cookies. They all require ludicrous quantities of flour, sugar and butter and most of the time it feels as if you will be baking for an entire army…

Although I won’t deny that these recipes are ravishingly decadent and an ideal treat on family gatherings, sometimes you just want to bake for … well… you. Admittedly, you could easily indulge in a pristine-looking pie all by yourself and yes, you could finish that enormous batch of cupcakes on your own, but let’s face it, ladies: Doing so would neither be to the advantage of your butt-size nor would it be beneficial to your blood sugar level.

So in an attempt to steer clear from giant cake tins and pie molds, I decided to bake muffins. As in, two muffins. One for me and one for my mom. I wanted to show her that I really appreciate everything she does for me. To let her know that she is the backbone of this family and that –by far!- she is the most special woman on this planet. She is a real everyday superwoman!

I have to admit that I should probably say that more often to her. So there I was, in my kitchen, trying to figure out how to express my sincere respect and then I came up with these two cuties. Two utterly perfect and joyously delicious muffins. The fact that there are just two of them- instead of an entire batch of twelve- makes it even more special. It is an intimate token of affection. A small gesture of gratitude. From one person to another. These weren’t just two muffins. These muffins represented the bond between me and my mom: the fig stands for sweetness, the honey for warmth and the rosemary for depth, each twig embodying a shared memory…

gleesue

Jeeeeez, my apologies for the cheesy symbolism and corny metaphors. You have permission to hurl. This goes to show that there is a lurking bad poet in all of us. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe we should all try to be more of a bad poet and less of a perfectionist cynic?

glee sue

Just a thought.

Anyway, back to the food. Figs, rosemary and honey are a winning combination of flavours! They are a delicious accompaniment to a venison stew or some roast meat, form the perfect topping for pizza and are simply the best served with some goats’ cheese, walnuts and rocket…

And when you throw them in a cake batter, the end result is out of this world. Full of flavour. Full of warmth. Full of Love.

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Don’t you wish everything could be like that? 😉
Ingredients (makes 2 muffins)
• 58gr plain flour
• 27gr caster sugar
• ¼ tsp baking powder
• ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
• 62ml milk

2 tbsp egg
• 15gr butter or soy spread
• 35gr honey (plus some extra to decorate)
• 2 dried figs, chopped
• 1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped (plus two extra rosemary twigs)

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and grease 2 cases of a muffin tin.
2. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of sugar and butter in a bowl and mix until you get a sandy consistency.
3. Pour in the milk and egg and mix well until everything is incorporated.
4. Stir in the honey, chopped figs and rosemary.
5. Pour in the muffin cases and drizzle some extra honey over the top. Finish with a sprig of rosemary and bake into oven for 22-25 minutes.
6. Share with a special person.

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Lessons from a Baking Queen: More Is More! Pecan Streusel Cheesecake Swirl Carrot Bundt Cake

Published October 14, 2013 by The Feminist

carrot

Do you need me to repeat that? A Pecan Streusel…. Cheesecake Swirl… Carrot… Bundt Cake!

I just know that at least some of you are lying on the kitchen floor right now, drooling over the thought of so much baking magnificence, but get a grip people!

cameron

Don’t waste your precious baking time on drooling over these pictures – how beautiful that baking hallucination may be- but run to the grocery store, buy the ingredients and get baking!

Because if there is one thing you should be baking this fall, it has got to be this one! I invented this cake in a spur of ultimate culinary intelligence and I must say that I am incredibly proud of the end result.

Once you cut into the crunchy streusel, the aroma from the cinnamon fills you with joy and laughter …. The moist carrot cake is an intense kiss of earthy goodness … and the creamy cheesecake coats your tongue in a blanket of sweet and sticky loveliness.

Remember when Julia Roberts said she was having a relationship with her pizza?

pizza

Well, I’m having a relationship with this Bundt cake, and I have to say: me and this cake were made for each other. Inseparable. Like Yin and Yang. Or Belgians and Beer. Or Miley Cyrus and Parent Complaints.

If you want to experience the beauty of this romance yourself, here is the recipe.

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Ingredients

For the pecan streusel:
• 25gr muscovado sugar
• 40gr plain flour
• ½ tsp ground cinnamon
• 22gr butter
• 50gr pecans, finely chopped

For the Carrot cake:
• 280gr carrots, grated
• 30gr yoghurt
• 1 egg
• 100ml vegetable oil
• 140gr caster sugar
• 180gr plain flour
• ½ tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
• ½ tsp ground ginger
• ½ tsp cinnamon
• 40gr pecans, chopped
• Pinch of salt

For the cheesecake:
• 250gr cream cheese
• 1 heaped tbsp caster sugar
• 1 egg yolk

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and generously grease a bundt cake tin.
2. Make the streusel by rubbing all the ingredients together between your fingers until you get a sandy, crumble-like consistency. Put the streusel at the bottom of your bundt cake tin.
3. Make the carrot cake. Whisk together the oil, sugar, yoghurt and carrots until well combined. Stir in the egg. Sift in the dry ingredients in two separate batches. Mix until everything is smooth and shiny. Stir in the chopped pecans.
4. Now spoon in 2/3 of the mixture on top of your streusel. Leave the rest for later.
5. Make the cheesecake mixture by mixing all the ingredients together. Put the cheesecake batter into a piping bag and pipe the cream cheese in the center of tin. When it bakes this will spread slightly, but it will still create a lovely cheesecake swirl.
6. Now top the entire thing with your left-over carrot cake batter and bake into the oven for 50 minutes.
7. Leave to cool completely in the tin before turning it out onto a wire rack

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“I don’t pop Molly, I rock Tom Ford”

Published October 12, 2013 by The Feminist

When Jay-Z starts writing musical odes about your clothes, you just know you’re doing something right. I can only imagine how flattered Tom Ford must have been after hearing Jay-Z’s praise in a song dedicated to the designer, but on the other hand, it cannot have come as a total surprise since everything Tom Ford touches turns to gold. No scratch that. It turns into a magical world of fashionable extravaganza, in which the only rule is that there are none.

Those of you who regularly visit my little blog here, will know that I have a huge soft spot for Tom Ford Suits. Yes that’s right: Suits with a capital S, because Ford’s creations make every other suit look like a pile of garbage. He is the fashion icon par excellence; groundbreaking on every possible fashion level. Just when I thought he couldn’t get any more brilliant, he launched his FW13 campaign and needless to say… it is THE BOMB!

It is glamourous, cool, visually perfect and completely out of control. I love how he created a whole ‘cross cultural multi ethnic’ theme for his womenswear collection with a trinity of ethnicities: a black, white and Asian model. The hot pink make-up is explosive, the prints are bold and beautiful and the eyewear is drool-worthy.

tomford print

 

tomford eye

And those bags! I want those bags!

tomford bag

Tom Ford, of course, wouldn’t be Tom Ford if he didn’t have an explosive menswear collection as well, with an even more explosive campaign! The male models are super duper sexy (woohoo!), the campaign with the guys wearing black clothes in front of a stark white background is super duper mesmerizing ( double woohoo!) and the models are wearing super duper outfits (triple woohoo!)

tomford man

 

tomford men

I hereby hope Tom Ford’s campaign will inspire all of you men (yeah, you there!) to wear a crazy-ass stylish black fur jacket this winter. Come on! You know you want to!

Passionate about Pumpkin: Curried pumpkin soba noodles and spiced pumpkin cake with nougat

Published October 8, 2013 by The Feminist

pumpkin duo

Take a look outside your window, dearest reader.
Do you see that?

Fall has arrived.
The foliage is changing colours, the sun is standing incredibly low on the horizon- transforming the air in a parade of golden sunbeams- and Christmas decorations are starting to pop up in shopping windows everywhere. Although I think that the latter is the epitome of bad taste and dreadful commercialism, I do love every little thing about this season. (yes, even the freezing toes and bloody rain showers)

But if there is one thing about the fall that I truly and utterly adore, it most definitely is the great… the humble…the magnificent… pumpkin! These strange looking fellas have the brightest orange hue –it would even make Tan Mom blush!- and their taste is just a heavenly combination of sweet, slightly honeyed bliss and earthy, fiber goodness.

Besides the obvious health benefits ( say hello to lots of vitamins and minerals!), this humble winter squash is also incredibly versatile! Yes, I’m not joking! There is actually more to pumpkins than velvety pumpkin soup or –the horror!- Halloween lanterns.

In order to prove my point, I conjured up a two-course meal for 4 that truly captures its unique and yummy character. Enjoy!

Asian curried pumpkin soba noodles

This is the ultimate vegetarian comfort food dish. Creamy coconut milk, sweet pumpkin, aromatic spices and –last but not least-very slurpable noodles!

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Ingredients:
• 250gr soba noodles
• 300gr pumpkin, cut into 1cm dices
• 1 can of chickpeas
• 200gr cherry tomatoes, halved
• 500gr spinach
• 3 cloves of garlic, minced
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 5cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
• ½ tsp chilli powder
• ¼ tsp nigella seeds
• ¼ tsp cinnamon
• ¼ tsp fenugreek
• ¼ tsp mustard seeds
• 2 tbsp garam massala
• 2 tbsp ground turmeric
• 400ml coconut milk

Method:
1. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a heavy-based cooking pot and add all the spices, garlic, onion and ginger. Sauté for a couple of minutes until your kitchen smells like an Indian take away (in a good way, of course)
2. Add the diced pumpkin and fry for a couple of minutes before adding the coconut milk. Let it simmer for 15 minutes until the pumpkin is soft but not mushy. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Meanwhile cook your noodles according to the instruction on the packet and blanche the spinach.
4. Add the tomatoes, drained chickpeas, blanched spinach and cooked noodles to the pumpkin curry and season with salt if necessary.
5. Dig in!

Spiced pumpkin cake with soft nougat and nuts

(I repeat: pumpkin! Spice! Nuts! SOFT NOUGAT!!) This cake has the rare quality of being both incredibly light and airy, and at the same time staying lusciously moist and fudgy. The soft nougat turns into a sticky chunk of sugary honey and makes this already yummy cake a one-in-a-million showstopper! Don’t say I haven’t warned you!

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Ingredients (makes 6 really big squares, or 8 regular ones)
• 2 eggs
• 125ml sunflower oil
• 100gr caster sugar
• 80gr muscovado sugar
• 275gr pumpkin, cut into small chunks
• 170gr plain flour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
• ½ tsp cinnamon
• ¼ tsp nutmeg
• 100gr soft nougat, cut into chunks
• 50gr of nuts, roughly chopped

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and line a flat cake tin with baking parchment.
2. Cook the pumpkin in some boiling water until it starts to fall apart (Add a cinnamon stick, a star anise and some crushed cardamom pods to the water to give extra flavour.)
3. Drain the pumpkin and mash it all up until you get a smooth puree. Let the puree cool slightly.
4. Add the oil and sugar to the pumpkin puree and mix well. Stir in the eggs and whisk until combined.
5. Sift in the dry ingredients until you get a smooth batter and finally stir in the chopped nougat and nuts.
6. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
7. Get ready to go to warm, gooey and fuzzy pumpkin heaven !