I had such a fabulous weekend. Friday night I was at a friend’s house (Hi Amy!) and she mentioned that she was going to some farmers markets on Sunday. I was super excited, I have been longing for Sunday farmers markets for ages, but the only farmers markets I knew of nearby were on Saturdays. Argh! But not only were these markets on Sunday, but they were super close to home. Yay!
So, I happily took up Amy’s offer to take me.
Of course, Gareth knows me all too well and knows that I am just a wee bit obsessed by markets. Of all descriptions. Especially Christmas markets in Germany and anything related to food. So he mysteriously had other plans.
At any rate, we got to the markets and I was in heaven. I was pretty happy to see all the fresh and local produce, but what really got me was the stalls that sold fresh olives, cold pressed macadamia oil, natural spiced preserved prunes, glass flagons of apple juice, an organic veggie stall and my favourite local brand of olive oil.
I had a silly grin on my face the entire time and just wanted to jump up and down with excitement. It was fabulous.
When Gareth saw how much I bought, he probably wished he’d gone with me to calm down my craziness, but then he tasted the olive oil and freely admitted it was awesome and thought it was probably just as well I bought as much as I did. Phew.
Anyway. After my morning at the farmers markets I cooked up a storm, candied orange, homemade body butter, dairy free cocoa ice-cream and carrot cake. I feel like I achieved so much in a day.
So here’s the recipe for the carrot cake. Carrot cake has always been a favourite of mine as it’s so hard to get wrong. It’s generally moist and can be eaten any time of the day. Plus I always felt it was a little more healthy than other cakes. My favourite recipe growing up had juicy chunks of pineapple mixed through the batter. So. Good.
But this recipe takes it to a whole new level. It tastes… expensive. It uses such lovely quality ingredients that all really contribute to its overall flavour and texture. The citrus zest just ties all of that together and brings it to perfection. The cake is moist, flavoursome and quite light for an almond meal cake, probably due to the whipped egg whites.
The cake is gluten, grain free, dairy free and paleo. The almonds are high in protein and healthy fats that lower bad cholesterol in the blood. They contain lots of other trace nutrients that we need in our diet like magnesium, zinc and potassium. The eggs are packed full of protein, they contain all 9 essential amino acids and they are good for the eyes. They also contain vitamin D (which you normally get from sunshine, but it can be hard to find in food sources for people that are stuck inside offices all day). I think we all remember hearing that carrots are good for your eyes, but the vitamin A they contain can also protect us against sun damage. Yay! That’s good news for someone as sun paranoid as me. Carrots can help detoxify the body too and they contain beta-carotene, a powerful natural antioxidant.
So make these delicious cakes. I’ve made mine for breakfast for the week to have a break from cereal. Best breakfast idea ever! Plus it makes three cakes, so you can either adjust the recipe to suit yourself, or make one for now, one to freeze and one to share! If you can bear to part with them, they would make such a lovely and thoughtful food-gift. Maybe you could give one to me.
Italian carrot and almond cake
Makes 3 decent sized loaves (depending on your loaf pan size you may make more or less), Adapted from Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion
5 1/2 cups almond meal
8 carrots, peeled and grated
zest of 1 orange (lemon or grapefruit)
8 eggs, seperated (preferably free range)
3/4 cup honey or maple syrup (or a blend)
pine nuts, to sprinkle (or slivered almonds or walnuts)
1 tsp bicarb soda
Preheat the oven to 175ᵒC/ 350ᵒF and line and grease 3 loaf pans. In a very large bowl beat the eggs whites until they form stiff peaks (the cake will work without doing this but won’t be as light and fluffy, I’d recommend not skipping it, but thought you would like to know). Beat all other ingredients together with the egg whites except the carrots and almond meal, ensuring you don’t squash too much air out of the mix. Quickly mix through the carrot by hand and then the almond meal. Pour in to prepared pans and then sprinkle with the pine nuts. Bake for around 45 minutes until browned and a skewer comes out clean. Let it cool in the pan then serve slightly warm, with double cream. Or store until breakfast. Or pack some as a snack for the next day. You get the idea!
Notes and suggestions: try different zest options, or sprinkle with different nuts. Change some of the carrot for some grated zucchini (just squeeze out any excess moisture from the zucchini). If you can’t have almonds, try swapping the almond meal with a different nut flour. I don’t think it needs it, but if you want it for a special occasion cake, try icing it with a cream cheese frosting. Try add some pineapple chunks. Make them into cupcakes, they would probably take around 20-25 minutes (but make sure you use cupcake liners or line the pans as the mix is really sticky).
Do you have farmer’s markets near you? What’s your favourite thing to buy from farmer’s markets?