You know how certain things develop in a way that you didn’t prepare for, but which was better for you in the end?
I believe in that.
I believe that we can’t see what’s prepared for us, but that somehow things work out for the better. And I’m praying hard and crossing every finger and toe possible that that’s the case.
You see, I’ve had my hopes raised up and let down over and over again in the past few weeks.
As the search for an apartment continues, I find it hard to remain as enthusiastic as I was at the beginning.
No longer do I feel excited to search on the same real estate websites; I’ve seen the same apartments being advertised so many times that I already know their specifications by heart; and I can feel the weight of my heart, as it falls down over and over again.
For those who have house-hunted before, whether you were buying or renting a place of your own, you’ll understand the excitement and agony that seems fused together in the search for a place.
I’ve called so many agents that my Spanish is now getting more and more fluent; I now know how to reassure them that while I’m essentially a foreigner living in Buenos Aires, I’m also a temporary resident that has a proper job and a registered salary “en blanco”. I can rattle off the general per-requisites necessary to rent a place; and I know when an advertisement is asking for too much, or whether it’s a good deal.
But as usual, photos are such deceptive liars; a flat could look clean and nice and modern in pictures, but the awful smell that hits you when you walk into it is just disappointing. And then the stains on the walls and the thin film of dust on the kitchen table and the parquet floor stare back at you, laughing in your face. There have been so many houses that we’ve walked in, stayed two minutes to let the agent finish with her pitch, and then walked right back out, thankful to escape the place.
After finding what seemed like the perfect flat, but then losing it because we couldn’t afford to rent at that price, I feel like it might take almost forever for us to find another flat that we can fall in love with, for a price that doesn’t actually burn a big hole in our relatively small pockets.
But then, as I’ve said upfront, I believe that things will work out.
When and how, I don’t know yet, but faith is one thing I’m have quite a lot of, and optimism is my innate forte. So I keep searching and I keep right on believing.
I also believe that there are foods that we may not have liked so much before, or that we were simple not exposed to, but somehow these foods, like unexpected friendships and unforeseen events, find their way into the kitchen, into our stomachs, and eventually into our diets.
Meet quinoa – my new found best ingredient friend.
The first time I ate quinoa was sometime last year – I mixed it with a roasted vegetables salad and found the nutty taste pleasant but nothing special. I waited almost another year to eat it again, stir-frying it with sausages and eggs. Later, after being inspired by Min’s mango quinoa salad with shrimp, I taste-tested another quinoa salad, this time with spinach and tomatoes and chicken, and found I liked it much more this time.
Suddenly, I was struck by the urge to explore ways of eating quinoa, and found, to my surprise, that while most people incorporate quinoa in salads, it is also becoming very popular as an ingredient in desserts like cookies and cakes and muffins.
I almost fell off my chair when I saw that quinoa could be used to make cakes, I mean CAKES??
Up till then, I had only seen quinoa as a seed, that inflated to three times its size after cooking, and that was eaten as part of salads.
I was so intrigued by this new method of cooking with quinoa that I had to test it out for myself.
So there I was, on one Saturday afternoon, armed with quinoa, butter, cocoa powder, icing sugar, milk, eggs, and some other ingredients, and staring at the recipe, trying not to miss out a single step.
I’ve realized that recipes, even if they are long, can be easier to understand and digest when you break them down into smaller parts, and tackling each part at a time simplifies it a lot.
This is one of those long, scary looking recipes whose bark is louder than their bite.
It’s really much simpler than it looks, trust me.
And you know what? The results are simply incredible. I’ve never eaten chocolate cake that is so moist and feels so good that I’m reaching for the second piece even before the first is finished.
Really, you just have to trust me on this one.
I’ll take you through it, step by step. I’ll even hold your hand, every step of the way!
You’ll first have to cook the quinoa, and if you’ve never cooked quinoa before, don’t worry. It’s really not so hard. (For step-by-step picture instructions, see this recipe.) Once the quinoa is cooked, let it cool, while you blend the eggs, milk, vanilla extract in a blender. Later, add in the cooked quinoa and pulse until the ingredients and well-combined.
You might get worried when you see a grainy looking mixture at this point, but relax, that’s what you’re supposed to get. In a bowl, mix together sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and a pinch of salt, then pour the blended ingredients in, and mix until homogeneous. This is the batter that goes into the oven, and once cooked, remove from oven, allow it to cool and then remove it from the tin.
While waiting for the cake to cool, prepare the glaze which really can be done in one minute flat. Your ability to be quick and nimble comes into play right now – you’ll have to spread the glaze all over the cooled cake as soon as you can; and spread out the chopped walnuts before the glaze has dried.
After that, all you really need is patience, for the cake to chill before you proceed to devour it, piece by piece, as I did.
Chocolate and quinoa, ingredients which seem to be on opposite ends of the food spectrum, and whose placement together seems too much like an oxymoron gone weirdly wrong, surprising won me over.
There’s really nothing better than a large, thick slice of chocolate quinoa cake, freshly chilled and sprinkled with a generous amount of chopped crunchy walnuts. There is a rich, luxurious texture that almost melts in your mouth; so moist because of the cooked quinoa and still so tasty because of the cocoa powder.
If heaven ever was a flavor, it would be called chocolate quinoa cake.
This was really so, sooo good. Please, do me a favor and make it, won’t you?
For the Chocolate Quinoa Cake:
1) ¾ cup of uncooked quinoa
2) 1 ½ cups of water
3) 1/3 cup of milk
4) 4 large eggs
5) 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6) 180g butter, melted and cooled
7) 1 ½ cups of sugar
8) 1 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
9) 2 teaspoons of baking powder
10) ½ teaspoon of salt
For the Glaze & Walnut Topping:
11) 4 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
12) 30g of butter, melted
13) 1 cup of icing sugar (powdered sugar)
14) ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
15) 3 tablespoons of hot water
16) 1 cup of walnuts, chopped (or you could also use slivered almonds)
For the Chocolate Quinoa Cake:
1) Rinse uncooked quinoa until water runs clear, then drain the quinoa. Combine both the ¾ cup of quinoa with 1 ½ cups of water in a small pot, and bring to a boil. Once the water starts boiling, reduce to low heat and cover, allowing to cook for 15 minutes, or until the water has evaporated. Once 15 minutes is up, switch off the fire, and allow the quinoa to sit for 5 minutes with the cover on. After sitting for 5 minutes, remove cover and fluff quinoa with a fork, then set aside to cool.
2) Pre-heat oven to 180 deg Celsius, and grease a round cake pan
3) Combine the milk, eggs and the vanilla extract in a blender of food processor, pulsing until ingredients are combined. Add 2 cups of cooked quinoa and melted butter to the blender, and pulse well until smooth.
4) Whisk the sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt together in a mixing bowl. Add the blended contents from the blender and mix well.
5) Pour batter into the greased cake pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cake to cool for 15 minutes before removing from pan
For the Vanilla Glaze & Walnut Topping:
6) Chop the walnuts into small pieces (as small as you can)
7) Combine the cocoa powder, melted butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and hot water in a small bowl
8) Mix well until homogeneous
9) Spread the glaze quickly over the cooled cake (if glaze starts to harden a bit, add another ½ tablespoon of hot water)
10) Before the glaze cools, spread the chopped walnuts evenly over the glaze in a large circle in the middle of the cake (or whichever way you please)
11) Allow the glaze to cool completely and chill the cake for at least 1 hour before serving
Combine the milk, eggs and the vanilla extract in a blender of food processor, pulsing until ingredients are combined. Add 2 cups of cooked quinoa and melted butter to the blender, and pulse well until smooth:
Spread the glaze quickly over the cooled cake (if glaze starts to harden a bit, add another ½ tablespoon of hot water). Before the glaze cools, spread the chopped walnuts evenly over the glaze in a large circle in the middle of the cake (or whichever way you please). Allow the glaze to cool completely and chill the cake for at least 1 hour before serving: