Chocolate Sweet Potato Brownies

Beetroot chocolate cake, courgette cake, sweet potato brownies… I love the idea of baking vegetables into sweet treats that you can’t see or taste! I was so excited to try my hand at sweet potato brownies but, unfortunately the recipes I tried produced mushy not fudgey brownies, or just didn’t resemble a classic brownie/cake consistency at all.

After going through a few recipes, I realised a couple of tricks were required to work with this type of mixture (you’re not working with a regular brownie mixture, after all!):

My first tip would be to bake the sweet potato. Boiling or even steaming the sweet potato will generate too much liquid, resulting in an overly-wet batter.

Second, the final batter really needs to resemble a stiff cookie dough-like texture before you bake it. So continue to add more ground nuts until you achieve this consistency.

Finally, I’ve found this recipe to be pretty versatile. You can switch out the types of nuts, fats, and sweetners you use, depending on what you have on hand. (At the moment, my favourite key ingredients are walnuts, manuka honey, and rice bran oil). And, as per usual, I’ve kept the sugar and fat to a minimum, so you can enjoy this as a regular snack!

Ingredients

1 medium orange kumara (sweet potato)

1-2 cups walnuts or almonds or nuts of your choice

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

pinch of salt

1/4 cup cacao powder

1/4 cup manuka honey or coconut sugar or maple syrup

1/4 cup almond butter or coconut oil or rice bran oil

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

100g dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks

Icing sugar or frosting to finish

Method

  1. Cut the sweet potato into 3cm x 3cm cubes and bake at 180 degrees celsius, until tender. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a food processor, ground 1 cup walnuts with cacao powder, baking soda, and salt. Tip the ground dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.
  3. In the food processor, blend the sweet potato, almond butter, manuka honey, and vanilla essence together.
  4. Add the blended wet ingredients to the mixing bowl and combine with dry ingredients. (At this stage I advise blending the mixture in a bowl as it may be too stiff for your food processor to process!). The final consistency of the batter should be like cookie-dough, so add more ground walnuts until you achieve this dough-like consistency.
  5. Stir in chocolate chunks.
  6. Press the dough evenly into a greased 21cm x 11cm loaf tin and bake for 40-45 minutes at 180 degrees celsius, or until a skewer comes out with moist cooked crumbs attached. (Cooked batter will look dark brown and uncooked batter will appear pastel brown).
  7. Leave to cool in tin before turning out.
  8. Once the brownie is completely cool, dust with icing sugar or frost if you wish. Slice into squares.

*You can cook the brownie in a square tin, just adjust the cooking time. I prefer using a loaf tin as I like a ‘taller’ brownie.

Oat Flour Banana Bread

Banana bread

I’m always thinking of how I can maximise both the nutritional value and flavour in my day-to-day baking. I’d made banana bread for years using wholemeal flour, but as I’ve grown older, it’s been important to increase the nutritional value of my meals even more. So I came up with the idea of putting oats in a food processor to make ‘oat flour’. Making oat flour only when you need it also means you don’t have to buy a specialty product at a high price that you’ll only use part of, leaving the rest to go to waste…

Here’s the recipe. This banana bread is great for an evening treat, or as I show you later, fantastic for healthy work snacks. It’s also freezable, so you can have some now, and save some for later!

 

Ingredients

1 cup oats

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoons baking soda

pinch salt

1 ripe banana, chopped roughly

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla essence*

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a loaf tin** with oil.
  2. Place the oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a food processor. Blend until the oats resemble a floury texture.
  3. Add the banana, eggs, and vanilla essence to the dry ingredients and blend until just incorporated.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes, or until the loaf bounces back when touched and a skewer comes out clean after inserting it.

Variations

*Flavour. For a spicy banana bread, substitute the vanilla essence with a teaspoon of cinnamon. Sometimes I’ll also add walnuts, blueberries, chia seeds, or coconut.

**Shape. This recipe is also great for work snacking. For convenience, use a muffin tin in place of the loaf tin. Add another half cup of oats for a firmer batter.

 

Ash Reshteh: Iranian Noodle Soup

Ash resteh 2

This Iranian noodle soup is an absolute delight. I was first introduced to ash resteh by Yotam Ottolenghi’s legume noodle soup recipe. This tangy soup often comes with several layers of texture (using different types of legumes), but Ottolenghi goes a step further. He also layers up the flavours. The tangy notes draw from sour cream, limes, and vinegar and the buttery notes from butter and butter beans. As my sister once said, he is a genius.

I was recently reminded of this delicious dish when I saw Nigel Slater’s noodle soup with lentils and soured cream recipe. Slater’s version uses brown lentils, rather than yellow split peas, which Ottolenghi uses. I was curious to try this dish with brown lentils, as I thought they would provide an interesting texture. On the otherhand, I really loved Ottolenghi’s layering of flavours. Each recipe has its merits, and in the end I blended the parts I loved most from the two of them, and added a couple of tweaks of my own. The recipe below is what I came up with.

Serves 6

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
4 onions
3 cloves garlic
2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 x 400g tin chickpeas
1 x 400g tin butter beans
1 x 400g tin small brown lentils
1-2 litres vegetable stock
40g butter
100g linguine or Iranian reshteh noodles
200g baby spinach
30g parsley
20g coriander
15g mint

200ml soured cream
1½ tablespoons white wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime

Method

  1. Peel all four onions. Roughly chop two and thinly slice the other two. Peel and crush the garlic.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over moderate heat. Add the two chopped onions and fry for 10-15 minutes until soft and translucent. Stir in the garlic and turmeric and cook for two minutes more.
  3. Drain the butter beans, chickpeas, and lentils and stir them into the onion mix with one litre of the stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 30 minutes, stirring the pan occasionally.
  4. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pan, then add the sliced onions and cook slowly over low to medium heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are a rich, caramel colour.
  5. Add the linguine or noodles to the bean soup and cook for four minutes, or until soft. Once you add the noodles, you’ll notice the soup thicken; if it’s too dense for your liking, add more of the stock until you’re satisfied with the soup’s viscosity.
  6. Stir the spinach into the soup.
  7. Roughly chop the herbs and stir most of them into the soup.
  8. Stir the vinegar, lime juice, and most of the soured cream into the soup.
  9. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the reserved sour cream, herbs, and caramelised onions.

Enjoy!

Gnocchi with Tomatoes and Chilli Tuna

This gnocchi dish is so simple, yet so rewarding. For those in a hurry, it’s easy to put together with pre-fabricated pasta and sauce, but if you have time to make this from scratch, you’ll easily achieve melt-in-your-mouth pasta and a rich, full-bodied sauce. I used Ginny Grant’s gnocchi recipe, replacing the Agria potatoes with dutch cream, and steamed the potatoes in quarters to save time. The brand of tuna I prefer is Sirena’s tuna in chilli oil, but you can use whichever brand suits. Gnocchi

Serves 6

Ingredients

Tomato sauce

1 tablespoon ricebran oil

3 large garlic cloves, crushed and peeled

1 onion, peeled and diced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 x 400g diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup red wine

 

Gnocchi

1kg potatoes

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 egg yolk

150g flour

 

6 x 95g or 4.5 x 125g tins chilli tuna

A few handfuls of baby spinach

Parmesan cheese to serve

Cracked pepper to taste

 

Method

Tomato sauce

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and saute until the onion is golden and translucent.
  2. Stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and wine. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and leave to cool for a few minutes.
  4. Transfer sauce to a food processor and process until smooth.
  5. Transfer the processed sauce back to the saucepan.

Gnocchi*

  1. Wash, peel, and quarter the potatoes.
  2. Steam the potatoes for 15 minutes, or until tender.
  3. Mash the potatoes until smooth.
  4. Mix the salt and egg yolk into the potatoes.
  5. Mix the flour through the potatoes.
  6. Turn the dough out on to a clean floured surface. Knead the dough for a few minutes until smooth. Divide the dough into quarters.
  7. Bring 1.7L of water to boil in a large saucepan.
  8. While the water is boiling, roll each dough quarter into a long sausage (about 30cm long and 1.5-2cm wide). Cut the length of dough into 2cm bites.
  9. Once the saucepan of water has come to a boil, cook the gnocchi in batches: Add one layer of gnocchi to the water at a time, ensuring there is space between each piece. When the gnocchi have floated to the top, scoop out with a slotted spoon.

To serve

Reheat the tomato sauce if necessary. Gently stir through the gnocchi, followed by the spinach and tuna. Transfer to bowls and serve with parmesan and pepper.

Enjoy!

*A couple of pointers on making gnocchi that I’ve picked up along the way: Make sure the potatoes aren’t too laden with moisture or too processed. So to cook them, either microwave, bake, or steam them – don’t boil them. And to mash them, stick to a hand potato masher – don’t use a food processor.

 

Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

These walnut chocolate chunk cookies are gluten-free, low in sugar, and will add to your dose of omega-3! The resulting texture is a cross between a soft-chewy cookie and an amaretti cookie. I was originally inspired by Chocolate Covered Katie’s vegan recipe but used walnut flour to boost the protein and reduce the carbs. If you preferred to keep it vegan, you could also replace the egg with oil and milk as Katie does.

Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Makes 20 cookies

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups walnuts

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup coconut sugar

1 egg, whisked

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

100g 70% dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Line a 39x27cm cookie tray with baking paper.
  3. Process 2 cups of the walnuts, baking, and salt in a food processor until the walnuts are finely ground.
  4. Tip the walnut mix into a large mixing bowl and add the sugar, egg, and vanilla essence. Blend until incorporated.
  5. Stir in chocolate pieces.
  6. Shape cookies from the dough: Begin by shaping one tablespoon of dough into a ball and flatten to about half a centimetre on your lined cookie tray. At this point, if the mixture is looking a bit wet, add in more ground walnuts bit by bit until you get a drier consistency. Continue shaping cookies from the dough until finished.
  7. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the cookies are browned to your liking.
  8. Transfer to a tray and cool.
  9. Enjoy!

 

Combi

IMG_4110

A luxurious escape to many good things raw, organic, and somewhat vegetarian, Combi has no trouble attracting visitors. As welcoming as sunshine, this island hideaway is a few minutes from the Elwood canal.

IMG_4101

Cocktail-esque and exotically dressed, you’ll find it hard to resist smoothies like “velvet cacao”, “mango shack”, and “liquid passion”. Almond milk is also available in chocolate, espresso, and chai options.

IMG_4375Adding to a multitude of sensory pleasures, a raw pizza, chia seed ‘parfait’, and raw organic zucchini spaghetti are also on the menu.

IMG_4369

On this suburban oasis, fresh, raw, organic treats are so tasty it’s a delight to eat what’s good for you. As the menu items are raw, most will manage only a couple of items per visit, so be prepared take away.

Shop 1 / 140 Ormond Road, Elwood, Melbourne, VIC 3184

http://wearecombi.com.au/

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies

IMG_4719

Many (good) gluten-free recipes require expensive almond meal, quality gluten-free flour, or a myriad of ingredients like brown rice flour, sorghum flour, xanthan gum, potato starch … not ingredients found in your average kitchen pantry!

So when the request came to make a gluten-free treat, I turned to this peanut butter cookie recipe from Joy the Baker’s blog. With my own addition of dark chocolate chunks, this recipe uses only six ingredients: peanut butter, brown sugar, white sugar, an egg, baking soda, and chocolate.

They taste delicious – and you can’t even tell they’re gluten-free!

Recipe: http://joythebaker.com/2009/04/flourless-peanut-butter-cookies/

 

Ginger hazelnut tarts with maple ricotta and banana

IMG_3865 new

Over the weekend I hosted my first crafternoon, with my version of a crafternoon being: making stuff (in this case dream catchers), hanging out with friends, and treats. Heaven in an afternoon.

Leading up to the weekend, I had a recipe in progress for the treats part … which turned out to be for heart-shaped banoffee tarts: as delicious as traditional banoffee pies, but subtle enough for seconds. I used low-fat ricotta instead of cream and maple syrup in place of a traditional caramel. To make things interesting and flavoursome I used ground hazelnuts and crushed Ginger Nuts biscuits in the bases.

Here’s the recipe:

Ginger hazelnut tarts with maple ricotta and banana

Tart shell

The Roaming Kitchen’s Nectarine Hazelnut Tart recipe (substituting the Digestive biscuits for Ginger Nuts).

Filling

500g low-fat ricotta

1/4 cup maple syrup

1-2 bananas (green at the tips)

Topping

30 walnuts

1/3 cup maple syrup

extra crushed Ginger Nuts to sprinkle

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease or line 12-14 tart moulds of your choosing. I used heart-shaped moulds, but you could just as easily use a standard muffin pan.
  2. Prepare the tart mix using the The Roaming Kitchen’s recipe above. Line the tart moulds with the mix and bake for about 10 minutes. If the tarts brown quickly, you can lower the heat or turn off the oven in the last minute to avoid burning. Cool completely.
  3. Toss the walnuts in maple syrup and toast under the grill until golden. Cool completely.
  4. When ready to serve, combine the ricotta and maple syrup. Pipe the ricotta mix into the tarts.
  5. Slice the bananas and top each tart with a banana slice.
  6. For each tart, prop two walnuts against each slice of banana.
  7. Sprinkle the tarts with the extra crushed Ginger Nuts.

Makes 12-14 tarts.

 

 

 

“Tacos, breads and Good Times in Fitzroy North”: El Chino

Image

I have a soft spot for El Chino. Cute and kitsch, it’s a Mexican cafe but also a bakery! A party of two worlds, customers can indulge in a slow-cooked pulled pork taco and an almond croissant in one visit. Food envy and FOMO vibes, be gone!

Over brunch and lunch, the menu offers a range of ‘just-enough’ and ‘manly’ meals. Nachos, tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and tostadas are available in drooling options such as slow-cooked pork, pan-fried prawns, and even sunny-side up eggs with avo and beans … Traditional horchata, mexican hot chocolate, and granita are also on offer. Bakery items to eat in or take away include a changing selection of home-tasting dense breads, doughnuts, and pastries.

The staff are also the loveliest, in a soft and open Northcote-kind-of-way. Good times indeed, in Fitzroy North.

214 St Georges Road, North Fitzroy, VIC 3068

https://www.facebook.com/elchinomexican

Aka Siro

IMG_3387

Since moving to Melbourne, it’s taken me a while to find good Japanese food. Aka Siro is perfectly Japanese – from the clean, wooden interiors, to the gentle, decorous service, to the sticky, swollen grains of rice.

Menu-wise, there is an array of options, most of which are teishoku dishes (set meals). I ordered the chan-chan-yaki: grilled salmon with vegetables in a sort of broth, served with rice. It tasted deliciously nourishing, home cooked, and full of fresh, quality ingredients. And there was enough to feed two to three.

IMG_3389

My lunch date ordered the higawari, three dishes in one, and also highly recommended it.

IMG_3390

Other menu items include traditional and fusion flavours such as: kara-age, pan-fried pork belly with Korean pickles, soba salad, scotch fillet steak, and fried tofu.

Aka Siro is a gorgeous find and I look forward to trying the rest of the menu items!

 

106 Cambridge Street, Collingwood, VIC 3066