Easy Lemon Yoghurt Syrup Cake

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“Mma Ramotswe sighed. ‘We are all tempted, Mma. We are all tempted when it comes to cake.’

That is true,’ said Mma Potokwane sadly. ‘There are many temptations in this life, but cake is probably one of the biggest of them.”
~ Alexander McCall Smith, In the Company of Cheerful Ladies


This is a cake that eats well on the first day it’s baked, and keeps eating well up to a week later. It’s a dense cake, like a lemony mud cake, but it isn’t heavy or overly rich. The lemon syrup gives the cake a zesty tang, and it’s the perfect cake for travelling. I baked this early on the morning I was going to my writers retreat, whipped it out of the oven, poured the syrup over it, wrapped the whole tin in foil and carried the fragrant and still hot cake up into the mountains.

It is delicious served warm, but for our four-day retreat I stored the cake in the fridge, and served it cold. There were no complaints!

This cake can easily be made gluten-free, by substituting your favourite gluten-free flour mix. Do use fresh lemons – they make all the difference.

Cake Ingredients:

250g soft butter, 3/4 cup caster sugar, 3 eggs, finely grated rind of two large lemons (about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons), 1/4 cup of lemon juice, 1 and 1/4 cups plain greek-style yoghurt, 1/2 cup almond meal, 1 and 1/2 cups self raising flour (self-rising for my USA friends or 1 cup of all purpose flour, 1 and 1/2 x teaspoons baking powder and a pinch of salt, sifted together)

Syrup Ingredients:

1 and 1/3 cups caster sugar, 1/2 cup lemon juice, finely shredded zest of one large lemon



Preheat your oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).

Line a loaf tin (23cm x 12cm – 9 inch x 5 inch) with baking paper. (You can use a round or fluted tin if you prefer – just shorten the cooking time a little.)


Cream the butter, sugar and lemon rind together until creamy and light.

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Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Then add the remaining wet and dry ingredients and fold through gently with a spoon.

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Transfer the batter to a baking-paper lined loaf tin, and smooth the top.

Bake for around 60 minutes. Test for doneness by insert a skewer into the centre of the cake. If mixture still clings to the skewer bake a little longer.

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Check your cake after 40 minutes. If it is browning too fast place some foil on top of the cake to prevent it taking on any more colour. Don’t be too fussy with the foil, just place it gently over the top.

I was away from our farm and cooked this cake in a gas oven that is temperamental and doesn’t hold a consistent temperature, often getting too hot, or not quite getting up to temperature. Sigh. So I used foil (I usually don’t need it) and my cake also split slightly on top. Was that a drama? NO! It’s cake, people. It still looked lovely and tasted absolutely delicious. :)

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You can leave the cake in the pan if you are not serving it immediately. If you wish to serve while warm, wait ten minutes for cake to cool slightly and then remove from pan and place on serving plate.

Once the cake is out of the oven, make your syrup. Place the lemon juice, lemon zest and sugar in a pan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar melts. (Note: Don’t boil the syrup or it will end up tasting like marmalade and will loose its lovely zestiness!)

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Use a fine skewer and pierce holes all over the cake.

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Then pour at least half of the hot syrup over your still hot cake. I generally use all of it because I love syrupy cakes, but some of my friends prefer to keep some syrup aside in a little jug so that it can be poured onto the individual slices at serving time.

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Serve the cake in small slices, with a little cream, ice-cream or yoghurt on the side.

At the writers retreat we ate our cake with vanilla yoghurt, good coffee and lots of words.

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Here’s a piece of cake that I carried out under the wisteria in order to get a photo with natural light. I couldn’t help myself and ate some before I could even get a good shot!

The wind blew a couple of little flowers down onto my plate. I’d love to take credit for being so artful, but actually, it was nature, just doing its thing.

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Persian Love Cake Recipe #glutenfree

persian love cake

“You’ve got this life and while you’ve got it, you’d better kiss like you only have one moment, try to hold someone’s hand like you will never get another chance to, look into people’s eyes like they’re the last you’ll ever see, watch someone sleeping like there’s no time left, jump if you feel like jumping, run if you feel like running, play music in your head when there is none, and eat cake like it’s the only one left in the world!”
~ C. JoyBell C.


I wanted to make a special cake to mark my 30 Year Anniversary of having Lyme disease. I’m celebrating all that I have learned, all that I have survived, and all that is now unfolding in front of me. Plus… cake! Do you ever really need a reason?

This is a simple cake to make, but it looks and tastes fancy. Perfect for a celebration! It has those beautiful Persian spices – including cardamom and orange blossom – which give a distinctive exotic flavour, and it is gluten-free. The base is sugary crisp, and the filling is light and not too rich. With a few easy substitutions this cake can also be made dairy-free if needed.

If you don’t have orange blossom water, you can omit or substitute for rose-water. It will still taste delicious. You can buy orange blossom water at many supermarkets, delicatessens, Asian or Indian grocers and even health food stores.

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3 cups of almond meal, 1 cup of raw (demerara) sugar, 1 cup of soft brown sugar – lightly packed, 1/2 cup (125g) soft unsalted butter, 2 eggs, 1 cup of natural yoghurt, 1 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1 teaspoon orange blossom water, 1/2 cup pistachio nuts

1 x baking-paper lined 26cm springform (10 inch) pan.


Preheat oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit). Prepare your cake tin.

Place the almond meal, sugars and butter in a large bowl.

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Rub the butter through the dry ingredients until it resembles soft crumbs.

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Press half of the crumb mixture firmly into the bottom of the springform pan. You could use the back of a spoon but I think that clean hands work just as well!

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Lightly beat the two eggs. Add the beaten eggs, spices, orange blossom water and yoghurt to the remaining crumb mix. Stir together well.

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Pour onto the crumb base. Sprinkle roughly chopped pistachios around the outside of the cake.

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Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Cake will not be quite firm. That’s okay – it will firm up as it cools. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before removing from tin.

To serve, accompany the Persian Love Cake with some more yoghurt or a good ice-cream.

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Variations: If you are following a dairy-free diet, this can also be made with a vegetable spread substitute for the butter. You could use a soy or coconut yoghurt too. I’ve made these variations before and they were still delicious, although the coconut yoghurt adds an additional flavour which changes the taste of the cake (but not in a bad way!)

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Baked Apple Maple Custard #dairyfree #sugarfree

apple custard

“I hope there’s pudding!”
~ J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix


This is a comforting, warm, easy-to-digest pudding that tastes delicious. It only takes a few minutes to throw together, which is also a nice bonus. I’ve long been a fan of baked custard, and I’ve modified my grandmother’s original recipe so that it is dairy free and refined sugar-free too. You are welcome to experiment with different kinds of non-dairy milk for this recipe. I’ve tried most, and they are all good.

Being a high-protein dessert, there’s no reason why you couldn’t have this on its own as a meal. When I’m feeling tired or poorly I often do.



2 medium apples – peeled and cut into small chunks or slices, 6 eggs, 1/2 cup coconut cream and 2 cups of your choice of soy/almond/rice milk, 3 tablespoons maple syrup or to taste, 1 teaspoon vanilla, a little coconut oil to grease dish, grated nutmeg, cinnamon.

* Note – I have also made this with 2 1/2 cups of coconut milk instead of the coconut cream and milk of your choice. If you need this recipe to be completely sugar-free it works just fine with an equivalent amount of natural sugar substitute. I use Natvia- a form of stevia – and it tastes brilliant! 



  1. Preheat your oven to 150 degrees celcius or 300 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Grease a four cup capacity dish, and find a baking tray large enough for it to sit within.
  3. Beat eggs, coconut cream, maple syrup, vanilla and milk together with a whisk or fork.
  4. Place apple in bottom of dish and sprinkle with a teaspoon of cinnamon. Pour egg mixture into the greased dish. Don’t panic when the apple rises from the bottom. It’s meant to!
  5. Grate or sprinkle nutmeg over the top of the custard. (I am a firm lover of fresh nutmeg – once you’ve tried it you’ll never go back to the packaged stuff!) maple custard
  6. Fill baking tray with cold water so that it comes halfway up the side of the custard dish.
  7. Place carefully into oven and bake for 40 to 60 minutes or until set.  Custard will be firm under your touch, although it may still be a bit wobbly in the middle.  It will firm more as it cools.

*Note: Oven temperatures vary widely. You need to cook this slowly to be rewarded with a thick, well set dish. If it is cooked at too high a temperature you will have lots of bubbles in your custard. Unless you have used low temperatures in your oven before, you need to check your custard after thirty minutes. After thirty minutes, if the custard has not picked up some colour and begun to set, your oven is too slow and you will need to adjust the temperature up a little. When I cook this at my farm in my Falcon Oven which is fan-forced electric, it takes 40 minutes to bake my custard. When I cook this dish in the city, my old gas oven takes 60 minutes.

Serve hot or cold. The apple will now be soft and moist with a little caramelisation on the top of your dessert. Beneath a light fluffy layer will be a dense rich egg custard that is velvety smooth. Scrumptious!

eating custard

Easy Nutella Cheesecake Recipe

nutella cheesecake

“….I can dream away a half-hour on the immortal flavor of those cheese cakes we used to have on a Saturday night.”Mary Antin, ‘The Promised Land’ (1912)


This is probably the easiest cheesecake I have ever made. It only requires a few ingredients, and it is seriously yum. Not too sweet, not overpoweringly Nutella flavoured, and it makes the perfect end to a meal. It’s also the kind of cheesecake you can dress up or down, depending on the occasion.

I first ate this cheesecake at a friend’s place. My friend is a chef and when I asked about the recipe they were embarrassed. “You don’t want that. It’s so easy,” she said. “It’s barely even a recipe!” Turns out, her eleven-year-old son had made it all by himself from a recipe given to him from a friend’s mother after he’d eaten this cheesecake at their house.

All the better. If a child who doesn’t cook can manage this, anyone can!

I made this for Saturday night dinner, when our friends from the city came to stay. It took just a few minutes to whip up, and not much longer to devour.

Why don’t you try it, and you’ll see what I mean…



250 grams sweet plain biscuits (I used a packet of caramel pecan cookies and the caramel and pecans gave a lovely texture and flavour!), 75 grams (5 tablespoons) of butter, 1 x 400 gram jar of Nutella (which is a chocolate hazelnut spread in case you don’t know!), 500 grams of cream cheese, 75 grams (1/2 cup) of icing sugar (confectioners’ or powdered sugar)

I also used a punnet of fresh strawberries and an extra tablespoon of icing sugar for decoration.


Place the biscuits in the bowl of a food processor and whizz until they are crushed. Then add the butter and a tablespoon of Nutella. Whizz again until it begins to form clumps.

making the crust


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*Note – if you don’t have a food processor, place the biscuits into a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. Tip into a bowl and add the butter and Nutella and mix well with a wooden spoon.

Tip the biscuit mixture into the bottom of a 23cm / 9 inch springform tin, pressing down firmly over the bottom and slightly up the sides of the tin. Place into the fridge to chill.

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Now cut the cream cheese into cubes and add to the bowl of the food processor with the icing sugar. Whizz until it softens and combines. (Can you spy a few biscuit crumbs on my cream cheese? Yes, that’s right. I didn’t bother to wash out the food processor bowl before I used it again. I promise it won’t matter.)

cream cheese and sugar

Spoon the rest of the jar of Nutella into the bowl, and process again until smooth and completely mixed together. (Can’t see those crumbs now, can you?)

nutella mix

Remove pie crust from fridge and carefully spoon the cheesecake mix over the base, smoothing the top. Place back into the refrigerator to set. This will take four to six hours, but it will be even better if you can leave it overnight.

smooth cheesecake into tinIn emergencies, the freezer will help chill things down quickly too. I understand – sometimes you need to make and eat that cheesecake FAST!

Carefully unmold the cheesecake from the springform tin, removing the sides first and then easing the cake from the bottom tray using a knife and a spatula or egg slide. Removing the cheesecake from the springform base stops you cutting through the non-stick coating with a knife when you slice pieces of cake and helps your pan last much longer.

nutella cheesecake 2

To Serve:

It’s perfectly good served plain. But I like to garnish my cheesecake with sweet fresh strawberries and a little dusting of icing sugar. It’s also super yummy with the following variations:

  • whipped cream and a drizzle of salted caramel
  • whipped cream and fresh berries
  • whipped cream and mandarin or orange segments
  • lashings of shaved or grated chocolate
  • tiny chocolate truffles and chocolate sauce

You might also like to make individual cheesecakes, or even put your mixture into teacups or cocktail glasses for something a little fancier.

However, in the end, what matters is the eating. Our visiting campers, Hannah and Mitchell, gave this dish their stamp of approval.


happy faces

Easy Vanilla Cupcake Recipe

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“I’ve never met a problem a proper cupcake couldn’t fix.” 
~ Sarah Ockler, Bittersweet


Don’t you love Bert’s sweet little face sneakily captured in the cupcake photo above? He was seriously hoping that I would turn my back for just one moment…

That’s how much everyone wants one of these cupcakes!

This is a standard, moist vanilla cupcake that will decorate well. The icing(frosting) I made for these cupcakes has a sweet caramel-maple flavour which is rich without being overpowering. Best eaten within 24 hours of making, and they do freeze well too, but honestly, they won’t last that long.

Ingredients to make 12:

125g softened butter, 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste or essence, 3/4 cup caster sugar, 2 large eggs, 1 and 1/2 cups self raising flour (self-rising for my USA friends or make with these ratios: for every 1 cup of all purpose flour add 1 and 1/2 x teaspoons baking powder and a pinch of salt, sifted together), 1/2 cup milk


*Preheat oven. For a smooth top cook at 190 degrees celcius (375 degrees fahrenheit) and for a peaked top cook at 210 degrees celcius (410 degrees fahrenheit)

Line a 12 hole cupcake tin with cupcake papers.

Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together until the mixture is pale, light and creamy in texture. The sugar should be completely dissolved. Make sure your butter is soft, or this step will take all day.

Now add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Lastly, fold in (that means add to the mixture and gently mix with a spoon, rather than beating madly) half the flour and milk, and the repeat with the other half of the flour and milk. Folding the flour and milk in gently will keep the mixture light and fluffy.

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Spoon the mixture into the cupcake papers.

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Bake for 15 minutes. Lick spoon and bowl clean while you wait. (The best bit!)

Remove from heat and cool cupcakes on a wire rack.

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Brown Sugar and Maple Syrup Buttercream Icing Recipe


125 grams softened butter, 2 cups of icing sugar, 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, 1/3 cup of soft brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of boiling water.

Note: For a plain vanilla icing, omit brown sugar and maple syrup and add one teaspoon of vanilla and a few drops of colour of your choice.


Beat butter until whipped and then gradually add icing sugar, 1/2 a cup at a time, beating well after each addition. If mixture becomes too thick, add up to a tablespoon of boiling water, beat well and then continue adding sugar. You may not need all of the boiling water. When the icing is very thick and creamy add the brown sugar and maple syrup and continue to beat until icing is very thick and smooth. Spoon or pipe onto top of cupcakes.

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You can also decorate these cupcakes with small candy decorations, sprinkles, nuts or choc-chips. We used pirate decorations today, because… well… PIRATES! :)

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Chocolate Beetroot Cake Recipe – Gluten Free

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“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” 
Charles M. Schulz


Although at first this might sound like a strange flavour combination, I can assure you that this cake tastes sublime. The beetroot adds an earthy sweetness to the chocolate cake, giving a moist but surprisingly light cake with good keeping qualities.

And this recipe is so simple that even non-cooks or the kids can whip it up!

You can enjoy the cake plain, but the cream cheese frosting really does compliment the cake well. If you’re feeling truly decadent, double the quantity of frosting! 2014-05-01 15.30.01 Ingredients: 1 cup raw grated beetroot, 3 eggs, 1 cup of plain gluten-free flour (you can use ordinary flour too), 1 cup of almond meal, 1/2 cup of soft brown sugar or your favourite sugar substitute, 3 teaspoons of baking powder, 250 dark chocolate, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 1/3 cup of oil, 1/3 cup of your favourite milk (I’ve used cow, soy, almond and coconut and they have all worked out fine!)

Method: Preheat oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit) and prepare a large 9 inch/22 centimetre round or an 8 inch/20 centimetre square tin by lining it with baking paper.

Place the flour, almond meal, cocoa and baking powder in a bowl and stir well to combine.

Then wash and peel the raw beetroot and grate a generous cup full. 2014-05-01 12.30.55 Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over low heat, or microwave on low until melted. Cool slightly.

Combine the eggs, oil, beetroot, milk, sugar, and melted chocolate in a large bowl, beating well. You can do this with a whisk or wooden spoon. No need for fancy equipment for this recipe.

Tip in the dry ingredients and mix to combine, and then pour into your paper-lined tin.

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Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until cooked. You can tell if cake is done because it will spring back when touched in centre, or a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake will come out clean, with no mixture clinging to it. Cool in tin for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cake can be served plain, with icing sugar sifted over the top, or with a good dollop of cream, yogurt or ice-cream.

I also like this caked iced with cream cheese frosting. (Ignore that my cake looks tiny and my spoon humungous – I somehow skilfully gave it that perspective using my iphone one-handed for an action shot…)

See frosting recipe below.

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Frosting ingredients: 2 tablespoons butter, 125g softened cream cheese, 1 cup icing sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla. Chocolate sprinkles or grated chocolate optional.

Method: Beat the butter, cream cheese, icing sugar (powdered sugar or confectioner’s sugar) and vanilla until thick and creamy. Spread over top of cooled cake. Add sprinkles or grated chocolate if desired.

I would have used grated chocolate on top of my cake BUT someone seems to have eaten my stash. I’d always used the vegetable crisper as a safe hiding place.  Looks like I’m going to have to come up with somewhere new. :) Still, the sprinkles are yummy and give a celebratory feel.

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Zucchini Bread Recipe – Gluten free, dairy free, sugar free

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“When I pass a flowering zucchini plant in a garden, my heart skips a beat.” ~ Gwyneth Paltrow


I should have titled this post The Great Zucchini Loaf Challenge! I have a friend who is always telling me that they positively hate zucchini. This friend last ate zucchini thirty years ago at boarding school. They tell me often that it is a waste of a vegetable, that it tastes like soggy watery nothing and that no-one in their right mind should enjoy it. Boarding school ruined many culinary experiences for my very food-unadventurous friend.

However, I have witnessed this same friend gorging on stuffed deep-fried zucchini flowers with no idea what they were eating! They maintain that they positively hate beetroot but once gobbled down almost an entire chocolate beetroot cake I’d made. When I explained that beetroot was the main ingredient they just shrugged their shoulders and smiled as they stuffed the last crumbs into their mouth. I knew they’d eat zucchini in a cake, so I decided to bake some zucchini bread to prove my point.

But I’m back on my Lyme drugs, and following a fairly strict diet. It seemed so unfair that I would make a delicious cake that I then couldn’t eat! So I have modified the ingredients so that this cake is healthy, delicious and suitable for people like me who are on restricted diets. Let me assure you that the modifications in no way limited the yumminess.

Some people don’t like the taste of gluten-free flours, but the spices and flavourings I’ve added totally mask them. This cake is moist, flavoursome, full of nutritional value and so scrummy that people who cringe at the words ‘gluten-free’, let alone ‘sugar-free’, shall chomp it all up in happy oblivion.

As predicted, my zucchini-loathing friend adored this recipe and even asked if I could make it for them again once they knew what was in it!

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1 cup of plain gluten-free flour mix, 1/2 cup of almond meal, 3 teaspoons of baking powder (I use Wards, which is gluten-free),1 cup of grated raw zucchini, 1/2 cup of finely chopped walnuts, finely grated zest of one lime and 1 tablespoon of lime juice (a lemon can be substituted), 3 heaped tablespoons of Natvia or your favourite sugar substitute (if you are happy to use sugar use 2/3 to 1 cup of raw sugar – to your taste), 2 large eggs (vegans – use your favourite egg substitute or 1/2 cup of mashed banana), 1/3 cup of oil of your choice (olive, coconut, rice-bran, vegetable etc), 1/4 cup of coconut milk (or soy, almond etc), pinch of good quality salt (I like pink Himalayan), 1 heaped teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 heaped teaspoon of turmeric powder, 1 level teaspoon of ginger powder, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or paste.

Notes: If you need this recipe to be tree-nut free just use more gluten-free flour instead of the almond meal, and omit the walnuts. A nice variation would be to replace the walnuts with finely chopped dried apricots.

The lime tang is quite prominent in this recipe. If you don’t like a citrus flavour swap the lime or lemon out and use an extra tablespoon of coconut (or your favourite) milk.

You can also make this recipe with conventional wheat flour if you prefer.


Preheat your oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).

Line a loaf tin (23cm x 12cm – 9 inch x 5 inch) with baking paper.

Place the flour, baking powder, almond meal, walnuts and spices in a large bowl and mix well to combine.

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Put the grated zucchini in some paper kitchen towel and gently press the liquid out of it, then place it into another large bowl. Add the natvia or sugar, the two eggs, the oil, vanilla, lime zest and juice, and the coconut (or other) milk. Stir until well combined.

Now add the wet mix to the dry mixture and stir well to combine. The mixture will look quite wet. Don’t panic.

The picture below shows my wet mix BEFORE I added turmeric, which was a last-minute flash of inspiration.

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Pour the mixture into your prepared tin. (See what a gorgeous colour the turmeric gives the batter!)

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Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake springs back lightly when pressed in the centre, and a skewer inserted in cake comes out clean.

Cool in tin for five minutes, and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

Serve with a mug of your favourite beverage. The bread will keep for about a week (if it lasts that long) and toasts well after it is a day old.

You could get fancy and ice or glaze the zucchini bread, or serve it buttered (or use your usual non-dairy spread). It is also lovely served slightly warm with a dollop of yogurt or coconut cream. Enjoy! :)

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