When life gives you apples…and a tree. Apple Blackberry Cake, Fish Tacos and a Parsnip Apple Soup.

Have you ever experienced Nature at such close range that it almost becomes overwhelming..in a comforting sort of way? Walked on a carpet painted red by none but Nature itself? Tasted a juicy, sun-ripened fruit picked straight off the tree?

I have not…..

 Until now..

 A drive to the beautiful countryside with breathtaking views. Signs of an approaching autumn. A lovely weekend afternoon spent in the company of good friends, lots of sunshine and …apple trees. The kids danced with joy, running through the orchard. They set themselves to work, plucking apples and racing back to show their precious little pick. We loved their enthusiasm.

I am over the moon as I share some sweet news with you. We are now the owner of an apple tree. Sounds weird..? Its true! We adopted our little tree.. a  small step to support the Australian farmers, our way of acknowledging our gratitude for food and where it comes from.. Most importantly we did it for the boys…to teach them to appreciate God’s beautiful creation, to learn to care for the environment. Apple lovers, you are now assured of a number of of apple recipes coming your way in forthcoming posts.

I knew what I was going to bake that evening.

A apple and blackberry cake has been on my mind for a while. I couldn’t have got a better opportunity than this.

We had a Parsnip and Apple soup and Fish Tacos with Apple and Avocado salsa for dinner. Light and easy.

The soup is our current favourite. The earthy flavor of parsnip along with the tart- sweet apple makes a lovely pairing. Plus onion, garlic..cannot go wrong. Some fresh chives and cinnamon croutons. A hearty comforting dish to sit together and enjoy.
I did think of a carrot, ginger, apple soup. But I would be accused of posting ginger recipes every time. I hope to post that soon for another wonderful variation.

The fish tacos were easy to put together. A few spices, red chillis and lime. I love Mexican food but am not a fan of Guacamole. In fact I don’t like anything that is mashed up. I enjoy having food with different textures hence a avocado-apple salsa sounded great. And tasted great too. Spicy fish..a sweet-sour salsa..a dollop of sour cream and chopped cilantro.

The kids kept talking about the apple trees till they fell asleep while I went through the pictures over and over again. I wanted to pick up the phone and call family and friends to share our beautiful experience. But then i realised, they could live the entire experience on the blog. Yes, I am a blogger now..and a proud one.

Sometimes, simple things in life bring you the biggest pleasures. 
Apple tree, I can’t wait to go back to you!

Apple-Blackberry Cake (adapted with a slight variation from Martha Stewart)
Yields a 8 inch round cake

Granulated sugar, for pan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
2 apples (I used Red delicious), peeled, cored, and cut into 8 wedges
1 cup blackberries
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Whipped cream, for serving (optional)
Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Butter a 8-inch springform pan, and dust with granulated sugar. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together melted butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar, the milk, and eggs in another bowl. Whisk into flour mixture.
Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Arrange apple wedges over batter, and sprinkle with blackberries. Gently press fruit into batter. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar and the cinnamon, and sprinkle over fruit. Dot with remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Bake until top is dark gold, apples are tender, and a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes. Let cool. Serve with whipped cream if desired
Parsnip and Apple Soup
Serves 4
3 medium Parsnips
1 tart-sweet apple
1/2 Onion
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoon Butter
750 ml milk (I used whole milk)
1/2 cup single cream
Ground white pepper
To serve
Fresh chopped chives
Cinnamon croutons (recipe below)
Grated Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Peel and quarter the parsnips, ensuring you remove any woody centres. Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic, then peel, core and quarter the apples.Heat the butter in a heavy-based saucepan until it starts to foam. Add the onions and garlic and cook gently without browning for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the parsnips and apples and continue cooking for a further 5 minutes .
Pour in the milk to cover the ingredients and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes, until the parsnips are tender.
Remove the parsnip and apple soup from the heat and pour in the cream
Purée the parsnip and apple soup in a liquidizer, then pass it through a fine sieve. Season to taste with salt and pepper then serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese,chives and Cinnamon croutons. Add a dash of olive oil.
Cinnamon Croutons
2 slices wholegrain bread
1 tablespoon ground Cinnamon
1 tablespoon olive oil
Slice the bread into cubes, drizzle with cinnamon and olive oil. Toast in the oven.


    Spiced Ginger Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream. Nostalgia all the way!

    My very first blog post! In many ways i feel like it is my first day at school. Shy, nervous, anxious, nostalgic, emotional, excited, eager, all at the same time. But above all, happy to have embarked on this journey…a journey that begins straight from the heart. I cant wait to step into this new world, make new friends, learn and grow.. one experience at a time.

    I love cupcakes, for the diversity that they have to offer. Colours, flavours, textures…they open up a world of imagination. Frost them, glaze them, store them, pop them into a lunchbox or eat them straight out of the oven..these pretty little things are so versatile. Sprinkles, liners, toppers and there you have it…they are ready to be called your very own. If you are a cupcake addict like me, you know what i am talking about…extra cupboard space to fit in all your little accessories and pans.
    And i love Ginger. It is possibly one of the first ingredients i have cooked with. ‘Balance of flavours’  Grandma would say carefully adding a small amount of grated Ginger into the pan of boiling water. I have so many fond memories of our bonding-over-morning tea-making ritual. A little container of grated ginger is definitely a must have in my Mother’s refrigerator. Over the years i think i have used it extensively across cuisines and it tops my list of no-fail flavours ….desserts couldn’t be far behind.

    I chanced upon these cupcakes when i was about to bake a ginger cake from GoodFood Magazine and ran short of the appropriate sized cake pan. The extra batter landed onto my muffin pans and what resulted was the most wonderful, sticky, moist, caramely, melt in your mouth cupcakes. I varied the proportions to suit myself and played around a bit with the spice mix each time i made them. And finally i think found what i was looking for. I have combined the cupcakes with various frostings but Salted Caramel pairs the best. Treacle lends a unique flavor but if not available at hand, can be substituted with molasses.
    The cupcakes are delicious even without frosting and can be stored at room temperature for 4-5 days. If eating them plain,they taste best when warm.



    While i was taking pictures of the cupcakes, changing angles, adding & removing them from focus, my little boys placed a cup of M& M’s on the table. Mama couldn’t be playing this game alone! I was about to remove them, then realised how much colour they added to my pictures. I couldn’t help but keep them.


    Spiced Ginger Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream.

    For the Spiced Ginger Cupcakes
    Yields 18

    125 g butter (about 1/2 cup)
    125g dark brown muscavado sugar (about 2/3 cup)
    125g black treacle (about 2/3 cup)
    150 ml milk (about 2/3 cup)
    1 egg
    180 g all purpose flour (about a cup and a half)
    1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    1/3 cup glace ginger, finely chopped
    1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    1/2 tsp all spice

    Preheat oven to 160C. Butter or line two muffin tins with muffin cases or cupcake liners. Put the butter, sugar and treacle into a saucepan and heat gently for about 5 mins until the butter and sugar have melted. Stir in the milk. The mix should be just warm to the touch; if not, leave to cool a little longer, then beat in the egg.
    Mix the chopped ginger and dry ingredients together in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour the melted mix into the well, then gradually draw the dry ingredients into the wet with a wooden spoon, until you have a thick, smooth batter. Pour the batter into the prepared tin, then bake for 15 to 20 mins or until a skewer inserted comes out clean and the surface is firm to the touch.

    Salted Caramel Buttercream (adapted from Chow)
    Yields about 2 cups
    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    4 tablespoons water
    1/2 cup heavy cream
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1stick salted butter , at room temperature
    1 1/2 cup icing or powdered sugar
    To make the frosting, first you must make the caramel.
    Briefly stir together granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking, without stirring, until the mixture turns dark amber in color, about 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla, stirring with a wooden spoon until completely smooth. Set aside until cool to the touch, about 25 minutes.
    In an electric mixer or with a hand mixer, cream the butter until smooth and well blended. Add the vanilla extract.With the mixer on low speed gradually beat in the sugar and mix until completely incorporated. Turn mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add caramel. Beat frosting on medium-high speed until airy and thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until stiff, about 45 minutes, before using. The frosting is ready to be piped onto the cooled cupcakes.