'Did you know that during the first World War the British had an airship base in Yorkshire that housed more than 80 airships?,' I said to Peter. 'No,' he replied, clearly intrigued, taking off his glasses and putting his book down. 'It was in a place called Howden and apparently at one time there were more airships there than cars,' I told him, reading from a BBC News page online. 'One of the largest, the R38, was 695 feet or 212 metres long 85 feet or 26 metres high!,' I added. 'Gosh,' said Peter. 'It was huge, wasn't it, and that reminds me,' I said leaping out of my chair, 'I have to go and check on the zucchinis in the kitchen garden.' As I headed for the back door, I heard him call out, 'Hey, what's that got to do with airships?'.
We'd had a day of good rain, followed by two or three warmer days, you see, and I knew that if I didn't pick the zucchinis soon they'd quickly turn into zeppelins. And sure enough, I found that a couple of them had! But what to do with these massive specimens? I couldn't give any more to my lovely neighbour, she'd already taken several mini zeppelins off my hands last week, which I delivered (along with a handful of birds eye chillies and a huge bunch of spinach) as we left for our trip to the coast. Time to call on two of my deliciously reliable old recipes: savoury zucchini slice and chocolate walnut zucchini cake. The receipt for the cake was written out by a friend who'd copied it from an Australian Women's Weekly Cookbook about 25 years ago and it became a firm favourite with my family. Over time I've adapted it to suit my taste buds and always juzz it into a more decadent offering by topping it with a generous drizzle of melted white, dark and milk couverture chocolate. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. I'll share my recipe for the savoury zucchini slice in the fullness of time.
CHOCOLATE WALNUT ZUCCHINI CAKE
100g unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon finely chopped blood orange zest
2 free range eggs
1 cup self raising flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2g ground vanilla bean
1/4 cup buttermilk or soured milk
1 cup grated zucchini (skin on)
1/2 cup walnuts
For the chocolate topping:
1 tablespoon dark chocolate buttons
1 tablespoon milk chocolate buttons
1 tablespoon white chocolate buttons
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease a loaf tin and line the base and sides with baking paper. Pound the walnuts to small pieces in a mortar and pestle (or chop with a sharp knife). Mix the flour, cocoa, vanilla powder and cinnamon in a pyrex bowl and run a balloon whisk through the ingredients to break up any lumps. Combine the butter, sugar and orange zest in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Add one egg, beat the mixture, then add the second egg and beat until well combined. Using a large spatula, fold in the dry ingredients together with the grated zucchini, buttermilk or milk and the walnuts. Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for 30-45 minutes (dependent on your oven) until the top springs back when touched lightly. Allow to cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack that has a sheet of baking paper on it. Place the cake onto a board, or lined baking sheet. While the cake is cooling, melt the chocolate buttons (which you have separated into three little dishes) in the microwave, one at a time. Working quickly, drizzle the melted chocolate criss cross over the top of the cake. Once the chocolate has set, transfer the cake to a serving plate. The cake will keep for 2-3 days in an airtight container.
Incidentally, Peter has been researching his family tree over the last few months and has managed to trace his origins back to Norman England and even earlier! We're both deeply interested in the history of the world and, in particular, the war years during the 1900s. Particularly as my parents lived through WWII in Europe, as did Peter's family in Britain.
Tell me dear readers, have you ever found that your home grown zucchinis have turned into zeppelins? How do you use them in your kitchen and what do you do with the flowers? Oh, and are you as fascinated by history as I am? Do tell!
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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- Liz Posmyk
NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.