Lowering Blood Pressure through Diet

The oddest thing, totally unexpected…

I think I had better start this story at the beginning.

My once moderately high blood pressure is now “normal.” It was never worryingly high, but it was higher than what doctors like to see in a reading.

This was consistent – every doctors visit. It got to the stage, and I am not proud of this, where I refused to allow my (very lovely) GP to do my blood pressure. I just felt hopeless, and stressed when that above average reading came in.

I attributed the high readings to depression, carrying excess weight, and insulin resistance, and I did make efforts to address diet and lifestyle factors.

As you know, dear reader, my diet has changed over the years, and I blogged about it because I have felt so much better, both emotionally, and physically, after incorporating some changes.

I lost weight, my moods are more stable, my skin is looking great, and my energy levels have increased.

The most significant changes to my diet have been:

consistent use of fish oil, magnesium, calcium, and Q10

I have increased my water intake to 3 litres a day, and start every morning with a 300ml glass of room temperature water, with 1/2 a lemon squeezed into it. The lemon half goes into the glass with more water, which I continually top up for lemon infused water throughout the day.

I swapped liquid vegetables oil, including all cooking oils, butter spreads, and foods containing these products for coconut oil, organic butter, lard, and duck fat. I consume around 1-2tbsp of coconut oil, per day, usually in a smoothie.

I tripled my fruit consumption. This is a strange one, as I initially started my new regime by adopting the Atkins diet. Now, Atkins considers fruit too high in sugar and carbs for regular use, but I missed fruit so much, and I knew that they abounded in valuable macro and micro nutrients. So, I added them back into my daily diet. In fact, I added them and then I added some more!

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As I mentioned, I have at least one smoothie each day, and that smoothie always contains a banana, and at least 2-3 serves of other fruits. The research has confirmed that foods rich in potassium, and bananas are up the top of  that list, can actively help manage high blood pressure.

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I stopped eating refined carbohydrates; white bread, biscuits, and the like, and sharply decreased my consumption of white potato and rice. Ideally, most meals now consist of lots of green salad, usually spinach based, and protein, meat or chicken.

I reduced my consumption of dairy milk, and swapped over to nut milks, for my smoothies at least. I, like a lot of people, found too much dairy milk caused very bad tummy bloat, and sometimes an upset tum.

Anyway, back to my blood pressure story.

This past weekend I had the misfortune to come down with a virulent stomach bug, most unpleasant for everyone concerned…

It escalated to the point where there was no choice but to call in the locum.

I sat there, with my bucket between my knees, all stinky, and droopy, and miserable, while this guy checked my temperature and (without permission hahaha), took my blood pressure.

Truth be told, I felt so wretched, he might have said anything, and possibly did, couldn’t care. BUT, my ears perked up, and I had a moment’s jubilation through the fog, when he said, “yep, blood pressure normal.” 

Gotta wonder! Really, you do! I haven’t heard those words in years! Could it be the changes I made? Well, something has changed everything, and combining that piece of news with all the other positives that I am certain about, the weight loss, my skin, my energy levels, all that mean those changes I made are here to stay.

I wish you good health and happiness.

’till next time,

sweetrosie

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Chia Banana Cinnamon Smoothie with Coconut Oil

 So special, on a Sunday, to put together a very special weekend brunch smoothie.

Adding chia to my smoothie gave me a thicker drink, well, it was halfway between a pudding, and a drink, just delicious. Drinkable still, but lushly thick, and filling. 

Sunday Smoothie

This is what I used:

1 cup of macadamia milk

1 small banana

1/2 cup frozen peach

3 teaspoons of chia seeds

3 tablespoons of coconut yoghurt

2 teaspoons of raw honey

2 teaspoons of virgin coconut oil

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon – make sure it’s fresh. You don’t want to hold on to ground spices and herbs for too long, they lose their valuable properties, along with their taste and fragrance.

Whizz it all up – I only have a little, low-price ,”bullet”-style blender, works fine for me. I should confess…I have broken the motor on one of these by enthusiastic blending, but I was nonchalant! I went to K-Mart, gave them $15.00, and they gave me another! Yep, the $15.00 whizzer works just fine for all my smoothies.

Chia: high in protein, healthy fats and antioxidants. When added to liquid, these power-house seeds swell, and turn “pudding like.”

A word of advice. When you consume chia, please also increase your water intake, as you would with the consumption of any other high fiber food.

I usually just buy my chia seeds from the supermarket. At first glance, they can seem a little pricey, but honestly? You use 1-2 tablespoons at a time, and the health benefits are so compelling, it’s all worth it.

So much nicer, for your spirit, and for your body, to spend your money on food that offers you real nourishment. That little bowl of homemade chia pudding, or that chia smoothie, made to suit your tastes, and requirements for health and wellbeing, they offer you so much more than factory made breakfast fare.

According to THIS SITE

One 28g (around a tablespoon) of chia seeds offers:

Fiber: 11 grams.

  • Protein: 4 grams.
  • Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are Omega-3s).
  • Calcium: 18 percent of the RDA.
  • Manganese: 30 percent of the RDA.
  • Magnesium: 30 percent of the RDA.
  • Phosphorus: 27 percent of the RDA.
  • They also contain a decent amount of Zinc, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Potassium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Vitamin B2.

Banana: Another nutrient dense food, with so many reasons to eat it, beyond the fact that they are wonderfully portable, easy to eat, and delicious. Include bananas in your diet, and your body will thank you.

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Banana adds a luxurious creaminess, and a certain luxury to your smoothies, AND banana combines beautifully with other fruits, honey and coconut.

Cinnamon: regulates blood sugar levels and addresses insulin resistance. Read more about this fragrant, powerful spice HERE.

Coconut Oil: the internet is awash with testimonies to the benefits of virgin coconut oil, and I am here to add to them!

I use coconut oil in my smoothies, when I’m cooking, on my face, with raw honey as a nourishing, hydrating mask, and as a leave-in hair conditioner.

From personal experience, I also believe it has a positive effect on belly fat, and insulin resistance. Friends, I’ll admit, it WAS hard to get used to, at first. My biggest breakthrough came when I stopped using a lower cost supermarket brand, and found one, I personally liked, in my local health food store.

Loving Earth Cold Pressed Coconut Oil

The one above, in the photo, is the brand I have used, ever since the first time I tried it. It suited my tastes, and has a pure, refined texture, and a delicious, smooth, coconutty flavour.

I love my smoothies. When I was trying the Atkins eating regime on for size, the one thing I really missed was fruit.

I decided then, to formulate my own eating regime, picking, mixing, and choosing diet philosophies that suited my unique needs. Doing this offered a freedom to experiment and discover, for myself, the foods that suit my body, and lifestyle. I urge you to do the same, try everything!

Keep eating the foods that feel “right”, dismiss the foods, and the eating regimes that  prove unsustainable, and/or wrong for your own, unique, and very special self.

’till next time

sweetrosie x

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A Good Soup, a Nourishing Soup

During the course of my work, I meet clients who purpose me with a desire to exceed their expectations of the services I offer. Now, I am naturally detail oriented, and being of service is at the core of my work, so when I meet someone who inspires me to go beyond, I am grateful for the opportunity to offer more of who I am.

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For these people, the menu must be more tempting, the range of food perfectly suited to all participants, the care and attention to detail even more evident.

Today was such a day, when my path crossed with someone who always makes me feel good, and who makes the work day brighter, and the effort more worthwhile.

This soup was on the menu today. Originally made to be vegan-friendly, it proved itself to be popular with everyone who attended. This recipe is for you, you know who you are.

 This nourishing soup is warmly, but gently spiced, extraordinarily wholesome with grains, beans, and vegetables, and superbly savoury. Even if you’re not vegan, try it, I think you’ll like it.

Brown Lentil, Chickpea and Vegetable Soup

To make approx. 10 serves, you will need:

1 cup of washed brown lentils

1 cup of washed chickpeas

2 litres of water

3 stalks of celery, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

2 large carrots, washed and chopped

1 medium, orange sweet potato, chopped

3 cups of baby spinach

1 cup of frozen or fresh sweetcorn

5 peeled and chopped tomatoes – very ripe and flavoursome, or 1 tin crushed/diced tomato

400ml coconut milk

1 tablespoon very finely chopped ginger

1 tablespoon very finely chopped garlic

red chilli, finely chopped to taste

1 tbsp. of curry powder (more, or less, according to your taste)

powdered, or gelled vegetable stock, to taste. Start with around 3 level teaspoons of powder, taste the soup, and add a little bit more, tasting as you go, until it tastes perfect to you. If you prefer not to use commercially stocks, just omit.

Salt and pepper to taste. Follow the same guidelines offered above.

Get out a nice big pan and put everything, except the coconut milk, the stock powder, and the salt and pepper into the pot.

VERY important not to add any form of salt at this stage, it toughens the skins of the grains and legumes, making them almost impossible to soften.

Bring to the boil, cover with a lid, and turn down the heat. Simmer for around 2-3 hours, longer if possible. The long, slow cooking beautifully tenderizes the grains and legumes, and allows the vegetables to somewhat “melt”, and infuse the soup with rich, complex flavour.

Around half an hour before you plan to serve your soup, add the coconut milk, your stock powder/gel, and your salt and pepper. Taste as you go, until you reach that perfect savoury pinnacle of deliciousness.

Dear friends, if, while cooking your soup, you think it is looking too thick for your tastes, don’t hesitate to add more water. Likewise, if it’s all looking like it needs bolstering up a bit, feel free to add more vegetables, or even to turn up the heat for a while, so that some of the excess liquid evaporates.

I hope you’re cheered and nourished by the soup you have created.

’till next time

sweetrosie

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Japanese Sponge with Home Made Lemon Curd

Sunday afternoon tea is a ritual that demands something new and delicious every week.
These afternoon soirees are absolutely a reflection of love for my beautiful mother, and a tribute to the love of food, and the appreciation of beauty, that she passed on to me.
Quiet, humble beauty : art, and music, flowers, a listening ear, gentle colour, and soft, caressing weather.
We both of us wilt and falter under hot days, shouty people, and clashing chaos.
This cake celebrates mum using the sunny lemon, and the genius that is Japanese sponge cake.

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First, make a batch of lemon curd. It needs to chill in the fridge.
The juice and zested rind of 2 lemons
2 egg yolks
90g unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
Put everything in a heatproof bowl, and set the bowl over a pan of simmering water.
Stir, just about constantly. The butter will melt, and the sugar will dissolve.
It will slowly, but surely change colour and consistency.
Don’t let it come to the boil, whatever you do.
I generally use a sugar thermometer, and at around 75 F, my curd is ready.
Don’t be worried, it’s ready when it coats the spoon. Just keep stirring, and waiting.
Chill in the fridge.
I also make the stabilised whipped cream at this stage.
This week I added 1tsp of agar agar powder, and 2 tbsp of Icing sugar to 300ml thickened cream. Whip it up, and chill (you, and the cream)
Japanese Sponge Cake
4 large eggs, separated.
1/2tsp cream of tartar
140g caster sugar
170g self raising flour. I use a soft, cake flour for this sponge.
3/4 cup milk
1/2 melted butter or vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 160C
Grease, and flour 2 10″, or thereabouts, cake tins, and line the bases with baking paper.
Whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they form soft peaks.
Add the sugar in 4 separate lots, and whip until a glossy meringue forms.
In a separate bowl, whisk up the egg yolks, the milk, oil/butter, extract, flour, and salt. It looks quite gluggy, and stiffish, all is fine.
Now, take one third of your meringue, and beat it into your yolk flour mix. This slackens the whole thing up, and allows easier incorporation of the rest of the meringue.
This bit is tricky, kind of. You need to thoroughly incorporate the meringue in, without losing air and volume. Just take it slow. I use a spatula, some use a metal spoon. Just cut and fold, gently swazzle about, cut and flop the mixture from bottom to top.
Slow and steady.
Divide between your cake tins, and bake for around 30 minutes. The top of the cake will spring back when you touch it, if it’s ready. If it’s not ready, your finger will leave an imprint.
Cool the cakes in their tins for at least 20 minutes before turning out onto a cake rack.
If you tip them straight out, they tend to collapse a bit, and get an unattractive bulge in their sides…
Once cool, fill with the lemon curd and cream, and dust with icing sugar.
I also dipped lemon slices in sugar, and grilled them to decorate this week’s cake.

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Have a happy, and blessed week.
’till next time
sweetrosie

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Indian Lime Pickle

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Two, no, three things came together, and prompted me to have a go at making lime pickle.
1) I adore (Pataks) lime pickle with an Indian curry.
I know it divides curry eaters, but for me, a Rogan Josh or beef Madras just isn’t complete without lovely blobs of mango chutney and lime pickle. Lime pickle is also scrumptious on a toasted cheese sandwich.
2) I have a lime tree, that every winter and spring, produces lots and lots of small, highly fragrant key limes. It seems a shame not to use as many as possible.
3) Making lime pickle intrigues me. I’ve never made anything like this before. It was quite a long, but fascinating process, doing the research for this project.

I can’t even guess if my pickle is going to taste like my beloved supermarket choice, but, it has to be attempted!

Less of a pickle, and more of a fermented condiment, this is what I’ve done so far.

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I gathered 10 limes, and chopped each into 8 pieces, discarding the seeds.
I then mixed the chopped fruit with 100g of salt, 15g of dried chilli powder, and 20g of dried garlic.
The mix was transferred to a glass bowl, covered, and steamed over a pan of boiling water for 2 hours.
The smell is strong, you might want to keep the exhaust fan on!
Citrus peel is tough, the steaming process softens the rind, making it more palatable.
The mix went into the sterilised jar you see in the photo.
It will be left on a sunny windowsill for 4 days. I’ll stir it every so often.
After this time is up, it’ll be time for the next step.
I’ll be frying Indian spices,  like mustard, cumin and coriander in oil, and adding this to the mix.
It’ll then get another rest in a sunny place.
I will fill you in as each stage happens. I’ll be sure to offer exact ingredients and quantities too, just in case you’re thinking of making some yourself.
To my mind, my pickle is very much like kimchi at the moment. Limes, not cabbage, obviously, but salt, chilli powder, and a fermentation period – very interesting!

’till next time
sweetrosie x

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Making Marmalade : Part 2

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Today was the day to turn my soaked citrus peel into sunshiny marmalade.
The ruby grapefruit, orange, and lemon peel had soaked, along with the flesh and juice overnight, to start the softening process.
I tipped the lot into my preserving pan, covered with a lid, and gently simmered until the peel was soft.
This took about an hour. Don’t scrimp on this step, adding the sugar will retard any further softening.
Some jam makers measure their cooked fruit by the cup,  I prefer to weigh it. Less mess and bother.
I ended up with 1.2kg of fruit, so I added the same amount of white sugar to the fruit, and stirred, over a low heat until the sugar dissolved.
The heat was turned up, and the mixture allowed to boil, stirring often, until it reached 105C on my candy thermometer.
My thermometer hasn’t failed me yet. I have had beautifully set jams, ever since I started relying on it.

Your marmalade will look runny at this stage, but it absolutely will set once cooled.

Take the pan from the heat, and allow the marmalade to cool for 10 minutes.
If you bottle your marmalade when it’s very hot, the peel will not be evenly distributed through your jar.
Have your hot, sterilised jars ready, and carefully spoon, or pour the marmalade in. Fill to the  top, it will contract a little as it cools.
Wipe the jars clean, put the lid on, and label.
I don’t water process my jam and marmalade, but I do store the jar in the fridge once opened.
Best used within six months : if it lasts that long!
The verdict? Very, very nice!
Just the right amount of citrus bitterness, sweet, tangy, and very nostalgic. Bread and butter, with marmalade, it made me feel like I was in a John Betjeman poem…

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’till next time
sweetrosie  x

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Making Marmalade

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There is something very therapeutic about making marmalade .
The fresh smell of citrus fruits creates such a positive energy, it fills the kitchen, and the benefits don’t end there.
I have just spent a few very pleasant hours slicing citrus peel, ready for a batch of ruby grapefruit, orange and lemon, and I had to let you know how lovely it was, almost meditative!
I do like my marmalade to have long, very thin shreds of peel, suspended in as clear a jelly as possible. This necessitates slow, careful peeling and slicing.
I scrubbed the fruits, and then set to work with the veggie peeler. I set myself the goal of no white pith on the shreds.
Then, it was time to shred.
I tried out a couple of knives, before settling on a small paring knife, I’ve had it for years, it’s familiar and feels good in my hand.
I did start off stacking some peels and then slicing, but they slip about too much for my liking. Two strips of peel together is the absolute maximum for me.
After the peels were all done, it was time for another wonderfully meditative precision task.
It was time to get all the juicy flesh, leaving behind the white pith, seeds and membranes.
All of the peel, juice and flesh has gone into a bowl, to soak in water overnight.
This helps soften the peel, ready for the initial cooking process.
I love marmalade! So delicious on toast and crumpets, and a wonderful addition to a rich fruit cake, or citrus syrup cake.
’till next time
sweetrosie x

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Quandong, Dried Apricot & Vanilla Bean Jam

Quandong Fruits

Quandong Fruits

The quandong, also sometimes know as a wild or native peach is an intriguing Australian fruit.

The ripe fruit is a beautiful red colour, with the thin, rather firm flesh surrounding a large, hard, round, single stone. The birds love them, especially the parrots, so you can imagine, when they’re ripe, it’s a race against the birdies to collect the best fruits for cooking.

I have used the fruit. stewed, in tarts and crumbles, and it is a delight. Tangy, fruity, reminiscent of peach, dried apricot and maybe passionfruit. As with many arid/semi arid grown Australian fruits, the flavours are intensified due to the relatively low moisture content.

My wild peach, dried apricot and vanilla bean jam, in my mind, made perfect use of all the qualities of the fruit. The distinctive quandong is perfectly complemented by the dried apricots, and the vanilla bean smooths out the flavours and adds fragrance.

Wild Peach Dried Apricot & Vanilla Bean Jam

Wild Peach Dried Apricot & Vanilla Bean Jam

This jam was a pleasure to make. Quandongs are easy to cut and pit, and I snipped up the dried apricots with kitchen scissors.

 I do believe this jam would also be delicious made with “regular” peaches or nectarines.

I used my usual jam making method. Stewing the chopped fruits with lemon juice and a minimal quantity of water, along with a split vanilla bean, before adding an equal weight of sugar to the cooked fruit.

The candy thermometer was used, to ensure a perfect set. The delicate flavours of this jam definitely would not be improved by overcooking. Overcooked jam takes on caramel notes as the sugar cooks more, I don’t like the guess work of continuously chilling the cooking jam on a saucer to test it, so, the candy thermometer is my jam making best friend!

The cooked jam was allowed to cool a little before bottling. This prevents all the fruits rising to the top in the jar. I also slipped a half vanilla bean down the side of each jar. Extravagant, but the bean will gently release flavour over time (plus it looks pretty…) The bean can be rinsed and reused after the jam is eaten.

It is such a lovely jam, maybe my favourite so far.

I wish you happy jam making!

’till next time

sweetrosie x

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Strawberry & Wild Hibiscus Jam

I love to make jam. There’s something very satisfying in the whole process. I even love choosing my jars and labels.

I have just a few jam making tips to pass on. Just things I’ve learned along the way.

  •  Always sterilise your jars. I wash mine in hot soapy water and then put them in a 300F oven for 20 minutes. I put a teatowel in a baking tin and put the jars on that. I love to use recycled jars when I can, but I always buy new lids. They’re cheap and it’s just nicer, especially if the jar once had pickled onions in it! I boil my lids in a pan of water for 10 minutes. Be very careful when you get your jars out of the oven, they are hot, hot, hot. Leave them to cool, just a little minute before you put your hot jam in, if you don’t, the jam will bubble and boil!
  • Invest in a candy thermometer. It takes the guess work out of making jam (and caramel, sugar syrup and toffee) There will be a mark on your thermometer that will tell you when the jam has reached the right temperature for the perfect set.
  • Stir your cooking jam well, and often. If, by chance it does stick and catch on the bottom, DON’T stir the caught bits back into the jam.
  • Always add some lemon juice. As well as adding valuable pectin, for the perfect set, the acid helps cut through the sweetness, adding a nicer balance of flavour.
  • Always use a nice, big pan, maybe even bigger than you think you’ll need. Boiling sugar is scalding hot and jam bubbles and splatters. Safer and less anxiety all round if your pot is a nice big one.
  • Cook your fruit/s to your desired consistency before adding the sugar. The sugar, once added will, for the most part prevent the further breakdown of tougher skins like apple, plum and peach.
  • I use a 1/1 fruit sugar ratio for my jams. For example, 1 kilogram of cooked fruits get 1 kilogram of sugar added to it. I am happy with the flavour and set this gives me, plus, this sugar/fruit ratio affords a nice degree of preservation.
  • Store your opened jam in the fridge, just to be on the safe side.

Just lately, I’ve been concentrating on developing a small range of jams using Australian native ingredients. Native fruits and spices often deliver an intense, unique flavour note to dishes, and with judicious use, offer the cook a range of flavours that can’t be replicated with regular ingredients.

I’m very fortunate in that other people seem to like my jam too, so I get to make lots and lots of jam AND then I get the added pleasure of having others enjoy the end result.

This one was the first to be trialled: a beautiful, ruby red blend of strawberry and wild hibiscus. The wild hibiscus flower, or Rosella, is available in jars, in syrup, and I believe people love to add them to a glass of champagne, where they open up for a visual and taste treat.

I used around 6 flowers, and all the syrup in the jar for my kilogram of jam, the “shards” of flower became suspended in the jam, it was lovely. The flavour is subtle and distinctive, and was beautifully complemented by the strawberry.

Happy jam making!

’till next time

sweetrosie x

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Gluten-free Super Healthy Chocolate Cake

Why “super healthy?” It’s a big claim, especially when we’re talking about a chocolate cake.
Well dear reader,  in lieu of any kind of flour,  the base of this cake is cooked kidney beans.

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I must say, when I first read this recipe, I was skeptical. Kidney beans in a cake? Surely not.

But, I made it, and it works!
This gluten-free cake has the added bonus of being ridiculously easy to make and bake.
If you have a food processor and an oven,  you can have this cake out of the oven and ready to serve in less than an hour.

The original version,  called  The Magic Bean Cake, came from the ABC website,  abc.net.au.
I used the original as a starting point, and adapted it a little.
Here is what you need.

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400g of cooked kidney beans. I used canned.
5 eggs.
3/4 cup coconut sugar, or the sugar of your choice, or equivalent sweetener of your choice.
3/4 cup raw cacao, or good quality cocoa.
1/3 cup sunflower oil,  or liquid coconut oil, or oil of your choice.
1 tablespoon vanilla extract.
1/2 teaspoon salt.
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda.
1 teaspoon baking powder.
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Put the beans, 2 of the eggs,  the vanilla, oil and sugar into a food processor.
Process on high speed until very smooth.
Add the remaining eggs,  the cocoa,  the salt,  bicarbonate soda and baking powder,  and blend very well.
Your mix will be quite liquid, and this is good.
Pour into a greased, and lined loaf tin.
Bake at 180C  for around  30-40 minutes.
The edges of the cake will feel quite firm,  while the middle feels softer,  more wobbly.
Cool in the tin for 10 minutes,  before turning out to cool.

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To serve,  dust with icing sugar.
For an indulgent treat,  or for a special occasion,  I think a chocolate ganache frosting would be divine.
So nice! And I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t tried it for myself.
Till next time
sweetrosie x

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