Dark, Moist Chocolate Quinoa Cake

Dark Moist Chocolate Quinoa Cake   serves 12 to 15
by Maria Middlestead, Registered Clinical Nutritionist, author of
The Shape Diet

Paleo – with no gluten, grain, dairy or cane sugar; options for soy

Yes, you can have your cake and your high-protein, high-fibre diet too. Several times I have served this to acclaim by conservative types, keener on Edmonds Cookery-style tradition than health-factors. My grandchildren loved it too.

This keeps wonderfully well, even when refrigerated during hot weather. It is substantial, so serve in small slices. The chopped chocolate on top adds an extra taste-hit and pleasing texture.

Quinoa is technically a high protein seed, but gets cooked and used like a grain. I cook extra for this cake. Then use the rest for lunch with salad and nuts. Or mix with egg, herbs and onion and cook as patties. Cooked quinoa is also delicious for breakfast. Mix with linseed, coconut, cinnamon, almonds and raisins. Add enough Milk Option to cover and chill for one hour or overnight. Serve with fresh fruit, or top with date syrup.

1 ½ cups cooked quinoa*
¾ cup rinsed dates
3 large free-range eggs
6 Tbsp (90 ml) coconut oil*
6 Tbsp honey (90 ml) or maple syrup
¼ cup Milk Option*
3 Tbsp cold-pressed oil, such as extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract*
6 Tbsp cocoa powder*
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp sea salt
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup raisins, or chopped prunes

Chocolate Icing
½ cup rinsed dates
½ cup mild nut butter such as almond butter, or hulled tahini, or use half and half
6 Tbsp Milk Option*
6 Tbsp maple syrup
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract*
3 Tbsp chopped vegan chocolate bar such as Wellington Coconut-Milk Chocolate* (no cane sugar)

Oil a deep 23 cm cake pan. Purchase pre-cooked quinoa, or prepare as below*. This can be done days in advance. Cooking ¾ cup dry quinoa will provide enough for the cake plus about 1 cup extra for lunch, breakfast or other uses.

In a food processor, place the quinoa, eggs, dates (rinse to soften), oils, honey, milk and vanilla. Whizz until mostly smooth. Add the dry ingredients: cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whizz until well mixed (no need to clean the food processor).

Add the raisins and chopped walnuts. Either stir in or pulse briefly to retain their textures. Pour batter into the oiled pan. Bake at 180°C for 35 to 45 minutes until a skewer in the centre tests dry. Cool thoroughly on a wire rack before icing.

In the food processor place the dates (rinse to soften), nut butter/tahini option, Milk Option, maple syrup, cocoa powder and vanilla. Whizz until smooth. Spread over the cooled cake. Sprinkle with chopped chocolate.

Shopping and Preparation Tips*

  • Chocolate: that is dairy/gluten-free is available in supermarkets, but does contain cane sugar (eg Whittaker’s Dark Ghana). Also at supermarkets is vegan and cane sugar-free, artificial sweetener- and additive-free chocolate (eg Panna, Wellington, Zimt); usually sweetened with coconut sugar.
  • Coconut oil: white, solid and available in jars from health stores and most supermarkets. Best quality is virgin or cold-pressed and organic, such as Ceres brand. Flavour and aroma should be mild. Less prone to oxidation and damage by heat than most other cooking oils. Can use to replace oil or butter in many recipes.
  • Milk Options: organic cow, goat, soy, oat, almond or hazelnut milk is available in supermarkets. Or use rice milk – to each cup add 1 Tbsp coconut cream or mild cold-pressed oil for more body. Use options in same quantity as regular milk called for. Check packets for added sugar; ensure soy milk is made from the whole bean (less processed). Pure Harvest is a good organic brand.
  • Quinoa: (pronounced ‘keen-wah’) is a seed from Peru: high protein and fibre, low-starch; good source of manganese, magnesium, folate, flavonoids, some Omega 3 and other anti-inflammatory factors. It has a mild nutty taste; resembles and is used like a grain such as rice. Many people who are grain-sensitive can do well on quinoa as it is not a member of the grass family. Whole quinoa (looks like millet) is in most supermarkets, as is pre-cooked. Use 1 part rinsed quinoa to 2 parts water (or stock for savoury dishes). Cover, boil and cook like rice for 12-15 minutes.
  • Tahini: is a paste – like runny peanut butter – made from ground sesame seeds and possibly added oil. It is available in jars in supermarkets. Referring to the processing of the seeds, it may be labelled ‘unhulled’ which has a bitter taste (traditionally for East Asian cooking), or ‘hulled’ which has slightly lower nutrient levels but a milder flavour (this is a Middle Eastern staple such as used in hummus). Try on crackers, toast and baked vegetables. As with nut butters, store in the refrigerator.
  • Vanilla and other Extracts: use top quality vanilla without artificial additives; it and other real flavours such as almond are often termed extract (as opposed to faux essence, often labelled ‘vanillin’). Good brands available locally and overseas are: Heilala Vanilla and Equagold. These are in most supermarkets and health stores.

Quinoa ‘Rice’ Pudding

Serves 2

Vegan; no gluten, dairy, egg, cane sugar; with options for soy

My daughter grew up as I did with a fondness for homemade rice pudding. More recently, my baby granddaughter tried this dessert quinoa-style and gave her approval. Versions of rice pudding are found in most cuisines. Possibly first developing in Persia, it was mentioned by the Romans, Confucius, Shakespeare and the Buddhist sutras. Sometimes different grains were used but the principle was the same.

This version is just as sweet and delicious as one using white rice and highly refined sugar. Quinoa is high in protein and along with dried fruit and cinnamon creates a relationship between parts that helps regulate blood sugar. Any left-overs make a great breakfast served hot or cold. Read more

Israeli Chermoula (sort of like pesto) with Chermoula Stuffed Vegetables and Quinoa ‘Tabbouleh’ with Chermoula

Makes about 1 cup of chermoula
Vegan and Paleo; no gluten, dairy, egg, soy or other legumes, potato or tomato

No wonder the people of the Mediterranean have such great health statistics – as well as so many diners eager for their classic dishes.

Chermoula is an Arabic word used to describe a North African fresh herb, lemon, olive, nut and spice mixture used as a marinade or topping for fish, meat or vegetables. My hearty version was inspired by reading the sigh-inducing and internationally popular cookbook Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. The book is also a touching memoir by these two men who lived in the western and eastern parts of the city and met later in London. These districts have been embattled with each other, but the authors say the food and hospitality practices, culturally unify them.  Read more

Italian Polenta and Quinoa “Polenta”

Serves 2-3 as a main
(No gluten, dairy, legumes, egg, or nightshades)

Polenta is the Italian word for coarse cornmeal and also the dishes made from it. This is made with maize, which grows like corn on the cob, but is chosen for its starchiness – rather than sweet eating properties – and mostly ground into flour. Traditionally, yellow maize is seasoned and cooked in stock like a savoury porridge. It is then served as a side dish similar to a vegetable mash.

Or the porridge is poured into an oiled square or round dish and chilled until firm. Immaculate golden slices can then be sliced and baked or fried, forming a satisfyingly crisp, toast-like crust with tender interior. These are consistently popular. Some restaurants slice polenta into baton shapes and serve them like chips. Read more

Quinoa ‘Risotto’ and Quinoa Pilaf

Serves 3

No gluten, dairy, nightshades or legumes

Quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wah’) is a seed from Peru. It is high in protein and fibre while low in starch; a good source of manganese, magnesium, folate, flavonoids, some Omega 3 and other anti-inflammatory factors. It has a mild nutty taste; resembles and is used like a grain such as rice. Many people who are grain-sensitive (often to the gluten-containing grains) can do well on quinoa as it is not a member of the grass family. Whole quinoa (looks like bird seed) and flaked quinoa (resembles rolled oats) are in most supermarkets.

Read more