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

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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!

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

 

 

 

Low-fat Manuka Honey Banana Bread

Low-fat Manuka Honey Banana BreadThe smell of baking coconut, manuka honey, and banana wafting from the oven was too heavenly to resist. I had to share this recipe. I had half a carton of buttermilk left over, so I decided to bake a banana loaf for the week’s snacks. The buttermilk, combined with baking soda would produce a nice, light loaf.

Always thinking of how to make food healthy, yet full of deliciousness, I added coconut oil, manuka honey, and walnuts to the mix. Manuka honey packs a nice punch in flavour, especially in low-fat baking. And nuts are always a treat!

Low-fat Manuka Honey Banana Bread

5 ripe bananas, mashed

2T Manuka honey

1T coconut oil (you can also use butter or oil)

1 egg, beaten

1 cup buttermilk

2t baking soda

1t baking powder

1 cup wholemeal flour

1 cup plain flour

1t cinnamon

1/2t nutmeg

3t ginger

10 crushed walnuts

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease a 12cm x 22cm loaf tin.
  2. Combine the bananas with the honey and coconut oil. Then mix in the egg.
  3. Combine the buttermilk and baking soda. Add this to the banana mix.
  4. Next add the flours and spices. Mix until the wet and dry ingredients are just combined.
  5. Stir in the walnuts.
  6. Transfer the mixture to the prepared loaf tin.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the loaf bounces back when lightly touched and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

 

Yotam Ottolenghi’s ‘Plenty’: Mushroom and Herb Polenta

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My sisters bought me Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty for my birthday this year and I finally cooked from it last week. Plenty is a compilation of the most delightful recipes, which happen to not include meat. In the book’s introduction, Ottolenghi makes the point that he is not vegetarian, but the drive behind his vegetarian interest is the increased availability of old and new vegetables, and the ethical growing and sourcing of them.

This has given birth to an array of unique and delightful recipes which appeal to both carnivorous and herbivorous palates, without seeming to lack in “meat”. The deep and interesting flavour and texture combinations are also highly influenced by his European upbringing in the Middle East. A mingling of cultures that has clearly brought forth amazing results.

Well, it was finally time to try cooking from this cook book. And last week provided the perfect occasion. I’d invited a friend over for lunch, but only remembered days prior, that my friend’s father was a Parisian chef. No pressure! I had to find a dish to impress. And it had to be vegetarian. And I knew I would be short on time that day. As it turned out, Ottolenghi’s Plenty had a recipe that ticked all these boxes: Mushroom and Herb Polenta. It took about 40 minutes all up to make – and my friend loved it! Plenty, definitely a home-entertaining winner.

Recipe: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2006/dec/16/foodanddrink.recipes1

Camembert and Broccolini Frittatas

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So I went to my first Victorian farm party on the weekend. A barbecue was on the menu, however I’d been trying – very, very hard to remain vegetarian for Lent. But I was determined not to announce this at the party – I didn’t want to appear precious! Nevertheless, I wanted to bring a substitute that was more interesting and substantial than a salad, something that I would enjoy. So the decision was made: camembert and broccolini frittatas. Here’s the recipe …

Camembert and Broccolini Frittatas

Small bunch broccolini, chopped into bite size chunks

6 eggs

300mL cream

2 spring onions, chopped

1T tarragon, chopped

1t rosemary, chopped

handful of grated parmesan

salt and pepper

100g camembert, sliced into 12 pieces

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C fan bake.
  2. Grease a 12-hole muffin tin.
  3. Steam or microwave the broccolini until al dente.
  4. Whisk eggs in a large bowl. Then whisk in the cream.
  5. Stir in the spring onions, tarragon, rosemary, and parmesan. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin.
  7. Top each frittata with a slice of camembert.
  8. Bake about 18 minutes, or until set.

When ready, remove from the oven, cool slightly, and turn out to serve. New tip for tricky removal of frittatas from non-stick bakeware: Use a silicon spatula to scoop your cooked treats out. This will help preserve your bakeware, and your baked treats!