If you’ve read The Great Steak Post (where I don’t only talk about steak), you’ll hear about Yerba Mate — the national drink of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Southern Brazil. It is known to have antioxidant properties, is caffeinated and is consumed 6 to 1 over coffee.

When I was visiting Argentina, I would pass by dozens of passerby drinking yerba mate from the traditional gourd known as guampaporongo or mate in Spanish, through a metal straw called bombilla in Spanish. It is also not uncommon to see the guampa being shared amongst friends, with constant refilling from a thermos. The Yerba Mate ‘kit’ can be found in any traditional store, marketplace or souvenir shops.

I myself am a big fan of tea and for that reason, I love to find ways to use it in baking, marinades, smoothies and cocktails. I was lucky enough to come across Love Tea, a Maltese Tea company that stocks a wonderful variety of quality teas. I was super, SUPER excited to find their product Green Yerba Mate Matcha in powder form because I’ve only ever come across Yerba Mate as tea leaves.

I thought hard what it would pair well with.  Eventually, I settled on the idea that citrus flavours would balance the essence of yerba mate nicely, due to their acidic sweetness. As we can’t get enough of blood oranges at home, I thought that it would be a fine contender for my bundt cake.  And the good news is, I had leftover Green Yerba Mate Matcha for a cuppa or my morning smoothie.

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Serves:  12 large pieces

Time: 2 hours

Difficulty: Easy

***I N G R E D I E N T S***

For the Cake Mix

  • 400g flour
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 tbsp. yerba mate powder
  • 100g coconut oil, softened
  • 170g butter, softened
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 4 eggs
  • 170g greek yoghurt
  • Juice of one small blood orange
  • a little butter and flour for the pan

For the Icing

  • 1 small blood orange, juiced
  • 200g icing sugar

***M E T H O D***

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C and grease and flour a bundt pan
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl: flour, baking powder, salt and yerba mate.
  3. In another bowl, cream together the softened butter and the coconut oil with a mixer until well combined and then add the sugar and cream together, until the mixture is fluffy.
  4. Add the vanilla, juice of blood orange and eggs and stir to combine until mixture is homogenous.
  5. Alternately add the yoghurt and flour in batches and combine after each addition and mix until the dough is smooth.
  6. Fill the prepared bundt tin and bake for 60 to 90 minutes or until an inserted stick comes out clean.
  7. As the cake is baking, prepare the icing. Add the juice of blood orange to the icing sugar and mix well.
  8. Once the cake is baked, leave to cool for about half an hour before turning the cake out onto a plate and adding the icing.

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Marzipan has always been something I’ve associated to travel. I have two distinct memories: one related to when I had my first Mozart Chocolate truffle which I remain devout to (and bought swats of in Vienna); and another associated with Brussels, because it’s not uncommon to come across marzipan chocolate cigars.

Whilst my experience has been somewhat limited, I’m still a huge fan of the sweet, almond paste. And you couldn’t have imagined my excitement when I discovered how easy it is to make.

Makes: 24

Time: 45 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

***I N G R E D I E N T S***

  • 300g ground almonds
  • 50 ml maple syrup
  • 40 ml amaretto
  • 1 tsp lemon zest form an unwaxed lemon
  • 175 g dark chocolate
  • topping such as crushed, almond flakes, lemon zest, melted white chocolate (optional)

***M E T H O D***

  1. Mix the ground almond with the lemon zest in a bowl.
  2. Mix amaretto and maple syrup in a separate bowl.
  3. On a clean surface, empty the ground almond mixture onto the surface and create a well. Slowly add the liquid to the almond mixture and begin to knead. Once all the liquid has been combined with the almond mixture, knead until compact. Wrap in a piece of cling film and chill in the fridge.
  4. Break chocolate into small pieces and melt it gently over a bowl of boiling water (bain marie). Make sure the water does not touch the bowl with chocolate.
  5. Take the marzipan out of the fridge. Pinch small pieces of marzipan and roll them into equal size balls. They should weigh around 15g each before dipped into the chocolate.
  6. Dip the marzipan balls in melted chocolate and place them on a drying rack for the chocolate to dry. Place in the fridge if you want to speed up the drying process.
  7. Add the toppings before the chocolate dries. If you are adding melted chocolate, wait for the dark chocolate to set first.

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I have many fond memories of Christmas thanks to my loved ones. I always find myself thanking my lucky stars for the wonderful people that surround me.
The Maltese Christmas log symbolises the start of Christmas celebrations as I remember I wasn’t allowed to eat any until my mum decided it was near enough to Christmas. Now that I’m an adult, I’ve broken the rules a few times and have made my own Maltese Christmas Log earlier than I should have. I’m talking beginning of December so I don’t think my mum would be too disappointed in me.
The beauty of the Maltese Christmas Log is that it takes very little time to make. It doesn’t require any baking but you would need to let it set in fridge overnight. You can also get creative with the filling. I omitted on having too much dried fruit and added chestnuts instead. You can either buy the chestnuts fresh and cook them or you can buy them prepared as I did.
It’s deliciously nutty, fruity, with a hint of booze (which is optional). I would choose this over Christmas pudding or mince pies any day.
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INGREDIENTS
  • 800 grams condensed milk
  • 2 packets tea biscuits
  • 200 grams mixed nuts. I used chopped hazelnuts, pistachios and walnuts
  • 200 grams chopped glaced cherries
  • 100 grams chopped dates
  • 100 grams of cooked chestnuts (you can buy these already prepared)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons liqueur of choice (I prefer bourbon or whiskey)
  • ½ bar chocolate grated
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon ground cloves
  • One packet of cooking milk or dark chocolate to cover the Christmas logs
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Finely crush one packet of biscuits in a food processor.
  2. With the other packet of biscuits just roughly crush by emptying the biscuits in a plastic bag using a rolling pin to break them apart.
  3. In a large bowl mix all of the ingredients together except for the condensed milk and the packet of cooking chocolate which will be used to cover the logs.
  4. Now pour over the condensed milk and using your hands mix with all the other ingredients.
  5. Now divide the mixture into 5 parts and form each into a round cylindrical log shapes.
  6. Cover in cling film and place into the refrigerator overnight or at least twelve hours.
  7. Remove from the refrigerator and cover with melted chocolate. Decorate as you wish or leave as is.
  8. Wait until the chocolate has set and then serve by cutting into slices.

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Yes, yes. I know what you’re all wondering. No, this isn’t THE hash cake as we know it. The only thing you’ll be OD’ing on is pistachios.  At least it’s green. And makes you happy. 

Inspired by The Barbary’s Hash cake, this cake is not too different to a frangipani – an almond-based pastry filling, except this recipe, favours pistachios. Atypical I know, but green does win.  

Did you know that pistachios grow in clusters, similar to grapes?

However, unlike vines, they grow on bushy branches atop a narrow trunk. Whilst pistachios grew favourably in Central Asia, they had been introduced to Europe. You can find a concentration of pistachio trees in eastern Sicily, (the western slopes of Mount Etna volcano). The Sicilian districts known for their pistachio cultivation are called Bronte and Adrano (Catania Province).

Although not ABSOLUTELY necessary, I used 100% pure pistachio paste from Bronte (no, I wasn’t frolicking under the pistachio trees in Bronte – I purchased this online). The rest is pretty straightforward in terms of ingredients. The pastry and the filling together only amount to six ingredients: Butter, sugar, eggs, flour, almonds and pistachios. Baking this is going to be a piece of cake! Enjoy! 

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Serves:12

Time: 1hr 30 minutes, plus 1 hr resting time 

Difficulty: Easy

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***I N G R E D I E N T S***

 Pastry

  • 125g of butter
  • 75g of sugar
  • 1 eggs
  • 25g of ground almonds
  • 200g of plain flour, sifted

Filling

  • 200g of butter
  • 150g of brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 75g of pistachio nuts, blitzed
  • 50g whole pistachios
  • 75g of ground almonds or 25g pure almond paste 
  • 75g pure pistachio paste (this would contain no extra sugar)
  • 1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out (or equivalent in vanilla paste)

Decoration 

  • Icing sugar, sprinkled 
  • A dollop of cream (Optional)

***M E T H O D*** 

    1. To make the pastry, place the butter (cold) and sugar in a mixer and cream together. Mix in the eggs, then slowly add the flour and ground almonds, mixing slowly until it comes together into a thick crumb – do not over mix
    1. Tip out onto a work surface and lightly bring together into a dough with your hands. Wrap the pastry in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 1 hour
    1. Meanwhile, make the pistachio filling. Beat the butter and sugar together until light in colour, then beat in the eggs. Add the blitzed pistachios, paste, almonds and  vanilla, and mix until incorporated. Refrigerate until needed
    1. Preheat the oven to 180°C
    1. Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out until big enough to line the loose based tin. Carefully lay the rolled-out pastry over the tart ring and gently press into the edges, leaving a slight overhang of pastry all the way around. Any leftovers can be wrapped and stored in the freezer for 3 months
    1. Prick the pastry all over with a fork, line with a sheet of baking parchment and add a layer of baking beans. Blind bake in the oven for 8–10 minutes, then remove the parchment and baking beans and place back in the oven for a further 6 minutes. Decrease the oven temperature to 160°C. Take out and trim the excess pastry from the edges.
    1. Add the pistachio filling, filling only half the tin, spreading out evenly with a palette knife or spatula. Add a layer of pistachios and top with the rest of the pistachio filling. Make sure to even it out. 
  1. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until just cooked, then remove and allow to cool. Remove from the ring. Serve with sprinkled icing sugar and a dollop of cream. 

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