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Chocolate bark with macadamia nuts, dried banana and sea salt

Another delicious topping for chocolate bark is a combination of toasted macadamia nuts, dried bananas and flaked sea salt. Drizzle everything with melted milk chocolate and ta-dah!

Choc bark blog 1

Chocolate bark with macadamia nuts, dried banana and sea salt

Makes enough for 2 – 4 little bags

Ingredients

150g dark chocolate (minimum 60% cocoa solids)

large pinch of sea salt flakes

30g (1/4 cup) macadamia nuts, toasted for 5 minutes at 180˚C pre-heated

30g dried bananas, finely chopped

5g popped quinoa, optional

20g milk chocolate

Method

  1. Melt 2/3 of the dark chocolate in a double boiler until just melted, stirring continuously. As soon as it has melted, stir in the rest of the chocolate until all has melted.  You could also melt the chocolate in a microwave in 15 second bursts, stirring after each, until just melted. Do not let the chocolate get warm.
  2. Pour the melted chocolate onto a large piece of greaseproof paper and quickly spread out to about 1/4” thickness with a spatula.
  3. Quickly scatter  over all the toppings  evenly.
  4. While the bark is cooling, melt the milk chocolate in the same way as the dark chocolate.  Either drizzle this over the bark with a spoon or use a small sandwich bag (or piping bag) to pipe the melted chocolate onto the bark. Set aside to cool completely.
  5. Peel away the paper and snap into pieces.


Gluten-free buckwheat and oat granola

Home-made granola is one of the loveliest gifts to give! It doesn’t have to be eaten straight away, you can add many different spices and ingredients to suit the occasion or mood (here I’ve added a gingerbread spice mix and tangerine zest to my gluten-free granola to give it that Christmas vibe), and it can be packaged beautifully.

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In this recipe for gluten-free buckwheat granola I suggest soaking the buckwheat groats overnight, to increase digestibility. Grains, pulses, legumes, nuts and seeds generally contain phytic acid, which binds to minerals in the gastrointestinal tract and may lead to mineral deficiencies. By soaking in warm water with added Lactobacilli cultures (found in yoghurt, kefir, whey etc) or an acid, the digestive enzyme (phytase) is activated that helps to break down the phytic acid in as little as 12 hours.

Granola 2 Tangerines

Gluten-free buckwheat and oat granola

Makes  6 cups

Ingredients

100g (1 cup) raw buckwheat groats

300g (3 cups) rolled oats

100g (1 cup) quinoa flakes

70g (1/2 cup) blanched hazelnuts

80ml (1/3 cup) melted coconut oil or butter

80ml (1/3 cup) honey or maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

heaped 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

zest from 4 tangerines

70-80g (1/2 cup) dried cranberries

Method

  1. Rinse the buckwheat groats, then soak overnight in enough water to cover with an inch. Add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, yoghurt, kefir or lemon juice, as an acidic solution. The next morning drain the buckwheat and tip into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Preheat oven to 160°C.
  3. Add the oats, quinoa and roughly chopped hazelnuts to the bowl with the buckwheat.
  4. Whisk the melted coconut oil (or butter) with the maple syrup (or honey), salt, spices and citrus zest.
  5. Pour this over the dry ingredients and mix well to coat.
  6. Spread the granola mixture out in an even layer on two lined baking sheets. Use a spatula or a large metal spoon to compress the mixture, then bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Carefully flip pieces over half-way through baking time, as the bits on the edges may burn otherwise.
  7. Allow to cool completely before mixing in the cranberries and storing in an airtight container. Will keep for several weeks.


Cashew butter truffles

After a rather busy year (yes, sorry, I know…) the last thing you need is someone suggesting you actually MAKE your Christmas presents from scratch. Except… taking the time to create a gift for someone you love (like these cashew butter truffles or perhaps matcha and cacao pinwheels) is wonderfully festive, therapeutic, and probably also a lot more meaningful than anything store-bought.

Truffles 1

I encourage my children to make their own cards and find ways to bring joy without spending a penny in a shop and they love the challenge of coming up with the perfect gift. They also love making chocolate truffles with me – ha! These are so easy – cashew butter, melted cacao butter, honey and salt – and keep very well for several weeks.

Cacao Butter is the edible fat extracted from the raw cacao bean. It looks like white chocolate in solid form (at room temperature or colder) and turns into a beautiful amber liquid when heated. The higher the cacao butter content in a chocolate, the more luxurious and smooth it will be. You can buy it from most leading supermarkets and specialist confectioners these days. If you want to keep the truffles vegan, use maple syrup instead of honey, and be sure to use a vegan white chocolate or pure cacao powder for coating.

Cashew butter truffles

Makes 80 very small truffles

Ingredients

110g (1/2 cup) raw cacao butter
75g (1/4 cup) raw honey or maple syrup
80g (1/4 cup plus one heaped tablespoon) crunchy cashew nut butter
1/4 teaspoon fine grain rock salt
30g good quality white chocolate, grated for coating

Method

  1. Melt the cacao butter in a small saucepan over a gentle heat.
  2. Whisk the melted fat, honey, cashew nut butter and sea salt until well mixed.
  3. Set aside to firm up at cool room temperature for a few hours, or in the fridge for an hour or so.
  4. Roll half teaspoons full between your palms until round, then roll in the grated white chocolate. Repeat until you’ve used up all your mixture.
  5. If you do refrigerate it, it will have to stand at room temperature for a while, before you are able to roll it.

Note: If you can’t find crunchy cashew butter, use smooth and add a handful of chopped roasted cashew nuts.

Truffles 4



Rhubarb and apple crumble

It’s rhubarb season! The word “forced” used to lead me to believe that this kind of rhubarb is somehow inferior, but I have since come to love this delicious late winter treat. Lifting sections of the rhubarb roots and bringing them under the cover of a greenhouse or other warmer place, shutting out all light, creates stems that grow pale. This means the light-starved plants desperately reach out in search of light and thereby produce smooth, bright crimson stems (rather than green ones created post photosynthesis). The Rhubarb Triangle in West Yorkshire produces some of the world’s finest. Forced rhubarb is less bitter than the traditional, non-forced stalks and needs less sugar to balance the tartness. Pretty in pink and less astringent – perfect!

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Rhubarb and apple crumble

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients for the fruit filling

500g rhubarb, washed and sliced into 1/2 cm pieces

2 apples, cored and thinly sliced

zest of 1 orange

juice of 2 oranges

40g dark muscovado sugar

1 cinnamon stick, broken into 2 or 3 pieces

Ingredients for the topping

85g cold unsalted butter (preferably organic) or ice cold coconut oil, cut into little cubes

50g mixed nuts, roughly chopped (I used a combination of almonds, pecans and walnuts)

30g demerara sugar

70g muesli base (mine is a mix of oat, rye and quinoa flakes, but you can use any combination)

70g wholemeal rye flour (or use wholemeal spelt or you favourite gluten-free mix)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (370°F).
  2. Mix all the ingredients for the filling in a large bowl, then transfer to a medium ovenproof dish and cover with a lid or foil. Bake for 45 minutes (or until the fruit is tender when tested with a sharp knife), stirring carefully half-way through the cooking time.
  3. In the meantime, place all the topping ingredients apart from the butter in a bowl and mix well. Now add the butter (or coconut oil) and quickly rub into the dry ingredients until it comes together and you are able to form large clumps. Spread the clumps out on a baking sheet and place in the oven with the fruit. The crumble topping should be ready after about 30 minutes, but use a spatula to turn the pieces over gently half way.
  4. To serve, divide the fruit amongst 4 – 6 bowls, spoon over the delicious juices, scatter the crumble over the fruit and serve with vanilla-sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream of your choice.

Note: If you use coconut oil and gluten-free flour, your crumble will be a much finer texture, but still crunchy and delicious.

crumble 1

crumble 2

 



Bergamot and cucumber salad

I only recently discovered my love for Earl Grey tea. Not the regular kind, mind you. It was the combination of Redbush tea from my homeland with the intoxicating aroma from the Bergamot oil that swayed me. The Bergamot orange (sometimes mistakenly referred to as a lemon) was created more than 300 years ago in Southern Italy when a sour orange was crossed with a citron/lemon/lime/Palestine sweet lime. No one is quite sure. The oil is extracted from the rind and used in Earl Grey teas, as well as fragrances, aromatherapy and to flavour dishes. Here I’ve put them to good use in a refreshing salad dressing with cucumber and blueberries. But the options really are endless…

Bergamot lemons (1)

Bergamot lemon cucumber salad

If you cannot find Bergamot oranges (in season from December to February) try a combination of lemon, grapefruit and orange or tangerine, although the distinctive floral, slightly bitter flavour is difficult to replicate.

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients for the salad

2 English cucumbers, peeled if not organic

1 punnet blueberries (about 125g), washed and halved if you prefer

a large handful of pistachio nuts, roughly chopped

Ingredients for the dressing

zest of 2 Bergamot oranges

juice of 1 Bergamot orange

80ml thick Greek yoghurt (or coconut yoghurt)

45ml (3 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

large pinch of unrefined rock or sea salt

1 – 2 teaspoons raw honey (or maple syrup), or to taste

small bunch of dill, leaves only, finely chopped

Method

  1. Thinly slice the cucumber on the diagonal and gently toss with a pinch of unrefined salt. Place the cucumber slices in a colander over a bowl or in the sink and allow to drain for at least half an hour.
  2. Put all the ingredients for the dressing in a jar, screw on the lid and give it a good shake until the honey is dissolved.
  3. Add the rest of the salad ingredients, toss with the dressing and serve immediately.

Bergamot lemon dressing

Cuke salad

 



Sweet potato rösti with Caesar kale

My biggest gripe with classifying something as an of-the-moment superfood, is that it inevitably leads to that food going “out of fashion” at some stage. It is such a shame, as many so-called superfoods really are fantastic, nutrient-dense foods that have a lot to offer. It was kale this and kale that for quite some time, but this wonderful veg seems to have fallen out of favour. Don’t be a fashion victim! Add this brunch dish, that I developed for the M&S Super Brunch Campaign, to your Boxing Day brunch, and rediscover an old favourite.

The Caesar-style dressing is delicious with the astringent greens and complemented by the sweet potato pancakes. I used the tiny copper pan from the new M&S chef range to make perfectly shaped individual portions.  rosti-2 rosti-1 rosti-4

 

This is a fantastic meal, be it for breakfast, brunch or a light supper. Like most things in life, it tastes even better with an egg on top.

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients for the rösti

4 medium (about 800g) sweet potatoes, peeled

2 spring onions, finely sliced

2 medium eggs, lightly whisked

40g (about 1/4 cup) wholemeal spelt flour or flour of your choice (I use a gluten-free mix)

butter or ghee for frying

Ingredients for the kale

5 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained and chopped

1 small garlic clove, peeled and chopped

small pinch of coarse salt

60ml (1/4 cup) mayonnaise, preferably home-made

15ml (1 tablespoon) freshly squeezed lemon juice

15g (1/4 cup loosely packed) finely grated Parmesan

Freshly ground black pepper

300g kale, thick stalks discarded and torn or chopped into bite-sized pieces

 

Method

  1. For the kale: make the dressing, by placing the anchovies, garlic and salt in a mortar and pounding them together until you have a paste.
  2. Stir in the mayonnaise, lemon juice, Parmesan and pepper, and set aside.
  3. For the rösti: boil two of the sweet potatoes in a little water until they are just tender around the outside (do not let them get too soft!). Remove from the pot and allow to cool.
  4. In the meantime, coarsely grate the other two sweet potatoes and mix with the spring onions, eggs and flour.
  5. Finally, coarsely grate the slightly softened sweet potatoes and carefully combine with the rest of the ingredients.
  6. Heat a little butter or ghee (or coconut oil) in a frying pan until hot (but not smoking), then add enough batter to make a patty shape. Press down on the batter to ensure it is compact and will hold together.
  7. Fry for roughly 5 minutes on each side, or until golden and crispy. Carefully remove with a spatula and keep warm while frying the rest.
  8. Whilst your final rösti is frying, gently wilt the kale in a little water over a medium heat. As soon as it is tender, drain, return to the pan and stir through the dressing.
  9. Serve the dressed kale on top of the rösti with or without eggs.

rosti-3

*This blog post was written in collaboration with M&S. All content and photos my own.



Turmeric poached pears with macadamia nut cream

I love brunches so much, that I centre most of my social engagements around them (click here and here for some easy recipe ideas). Not too early, with an array of delectable foods to choose from, most often vegetable-heavy, and no rush to leave, it is by far my favourite kind of meal. I especially like being creative and pushing boundaries when it comes to menu ideas, so I really enjoyed collaborating with M&S on their Super Brunch campaign using their new Chef range cookware.  The products are well-designed, solid and beautiful to look at, and being part of a brunch initiative has me smiling from ear to ear. These pears would make a great addition to any brunch spread, but would also be a spectacular dessert, perhaps with a few candied macadamia nuts scattered over the top.

A lot has been written about curcumin, an active compound in turmeric believed to have many health benefits since they are powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial agents. But interestingly enough, turmeric is not that easy for our bodies to assimilate, as most of it is metabolised by the liver before being absorbed. Studies have now shown that eaten with even just a tiny amount of black pepper, absorption of the curcumin is a lot higher, because the chemical compound “piperine” in the pepper inhibits this metabolisation. Bioavailability of curcumin is also higher when eaten with a fat, as it can then be directly absorbed into the bloodstream through the lymphatic system thereby in part bypassing the liver.

ms-pears ms-pears-plate

 

Turmeric poached pears with macadamia nut cream

Serves 6

Ingredients for the pears

6 – 7 ripe but firm pears

5cm (2”) piece of fresh turmeric, scrubbed cleaned (or peeled if not organic) and thinly sliced

thumb-sized piece of ginger, scrubbed cleaned (or peeled if not organic) and thinly sliced

a few gratings of coarse freshly ground black pepper

500 – 600ml dry white wine

40ml (2 1/2 tablespoons) maple syrup

 

Ingredients for the macadamia nut cream

140g (1 cup) macadamia nuts, soaked in filtered water for 2 – 4 hours

80ml (1/3 cup) reduced poaching liquid

unrefined salt

 

Method

  1. Peel the pears, taking care to leave the stalk in tact. Place the pears, turmeric, ginger, black pepper and white wine into a medium, deep saucepan like this one I was recently sent by M&S, and set over medium heat.
  2. Cut a circle out of greaseproof parchment paper just large enough to fit into the saucepan and lay over the pears in the wine (this is called a cartouche and prevents the liquid from evaporating too quickly whilst the fruit is poaching).
  3. As soon as you see tiny bubbles form under your cartouche, turn the heat down very low and allow the pears to poach for 15 minutes. Test with a sharp paring knife – the pears should be tender, but not too soft.
  4. Remove the pears carefully with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  5. Turn the heat up high and boil the wine with the flavourings until it has reduced by about two thirds to three quarters. You will need about 160ml (2/3 cup) of reduced liquid.
  6. Now add the maple syrup, whisk and set aside to cool slightly.
  7. To make the macadamia nut cream, rinse the soaked nuts and place in a blender with roughly half (about 80ml) of the reduced poaching liquid and a small pinch of salt. Blend until the cream is very smooth – if you do not own a high speed blender, you might have to keep going a bit longer.
  8. Serve the pears with the cream and remaining poaching liquid.

ms-syrup

*This blog post was written in collaboration with M&S. All content and photos my own.



Roasted pumpkin with green sauce

I spent some time in beautiful Hamburg in my early 20’s. My neighbour opposite was also a keen cook and I remember chatting to him about his favourite local dishes (his was Steckrübeneintopf). When he asked me whether there were any particular South African specialities I loved, it took about 1 second for “Pumpkin Fritters” to leave my mouth, a little more loudly than I had intended.  He was horrified. “Pumpkin? That is what the pigs eat here in Germany…” Say what?! Naturally I rose to the challenge and, once I had finally sourced a pumpkin, made him some Pampoenkoekies. I believe he was a converted man.

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This dish is a lovely make-ahead option for the colder months. Use whatever squash or pumpkin you have, but it is particularly delicious with sugar pumpkin. The green sauce is very moreish and good with any type of grain or pulse-based salad. It will thicken in the fridge, but just give it a good whisk and it should be pourable.

roasted-pumpkin

 

Roasted pumpkin with green sauce

 

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients for the sauce

80ml (1/3 cup) coconut milk (if using organic, stand the tin in warm water to melt the fat)

30ml (2 tablespoons) lime juice (about 2 medium limes)

1/2 teaspoon unrefined salt

1/2 small avocado

Juice of 1 tangerine

1 spring onion

large bunch (100g) fresh coriander, leaves and stalks

medium bunch (50g) fresh mint, leaves only

1 teaspoon raw honey

1 green chilli (more or less to taste), seeds removed if you prefer it less spicy

 

For the rest

1 fennel bulb, the tough outer layer peeled (or a couple of stalks celery)

1 spring onion, finely sliced

3 cups cooked lentils and/ or quinoa

unrefined salt

crumbled goats cheese

roasted pumpkin (I used kabocha squash, but for an extra delicious option, try sugar pumkin)

toasted pumpkin seeds

 

Method

  1. Put all the ingredients for the dressing in a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Separate the layers of the fennel bulb, then chop into small squares. Sauté in a little coconut oil until tender.
  3. Combine the fennel with the rest of the ingredients, dress with the dressing and serve.

 



Beet and butternut “fasagne”

I love this time of year, just before the clocks go back. It is sometimes frosty, but mostly bright and often sunny. The Boston ivy cascading over the garden wall has embraced its beautiful autumnal coat of reds, yellows and oranges, while the climbing rose is fighting the change of season with a last few brave blooms. The produce at the farmer’s market is now distinctly different from the offering even a month ago. And our appetites have definitely veered towards more warming, comforting dishes. This fasagne (my son’s name for “fake” meat-, gluten- and (mostly) dairy-free lasagnes) is a delicious way to feed a gathering. It does involve a few steps, but nothing is too complicated or time-consuming. I often double the quantities and freeze one.

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Beet and butternut “fasagne”

Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients for the cauli-béchamel

2 medium cauliflowers, florets steamed until tender (about 1.2kg cooked weight)

30g (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter (preferably organic and grass-fed), omit if vegan or dairy-free

1 teaspoon good quality unrefined salt

2 1/2 teaspoons nutritional yeast flakes (available at health stores and most good supermarkets)

heaped 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

 

Ingredients for the beet & tomato sauce

extra virgin olive oil

400g red onions, finely chopped (300g chopped weight)

1.4kg (about 14) tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and roughly chopped (or use tinned if you prefer)

500g beetroot, peeled and coarsely grated

1 teaspoon good quality unrefined salt

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

 

Ingredients for the rest

1 large or 2 medium butternut squashes, peeled

extra virgin olive oil

350g (roughly 2 medium) leeks, washed, cut in half length ways and finely sliced

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

400g chard, washed, stalks finely chopped and leaves finely shredded

1/2 teaspoon good quality unrefined salt

large handful of finely grated Parmesan, optional

 

Method

  1. In a blender or food processor, blend all the ingredients for the béchamel and set aside.
  2. For the tomato sauce, sweat the onion in a large heavy bottomed saucepan in a glug of olive oil over a medium heat until soft an translucent. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has a chutney-like consistency (about 30 minutes).
  3. While the tomato sauce is simmering, prepare the rest of the layers. Cut the butternut squash(es) in half just above the rounded end. Set aside the half with the seeds for use at a later stage (try the Pumpkin Pie smoothie in my book Good Better Green). Slice the other half into thin slices, roughly 0.5cm/1/4” thick. These will form your lasagne sheets. Place the “sheets” in a large saucepan and boil in a little water until just tender when tested with a sharp knife. Be careful not to let them cook too soft. Carefully remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  4. Pour the water from the butternut saucepan and add a glug of olive oil. Gently sweat the leeks and garlic until soft. Add the salt and chard stalks and continue to cook over medium heat until tender. Finally add the chard leaves and cook until wilted. Set aside.
  5. You are now ready to assemble the lasagne. In a large ovenproof dish, place a layer of butternut squash “sheets”. Spread half the tomato sauce on top, then half the béchamel followed by all of the chard and leek mix. Repeat the process, ending with a layer of béchamel.
  6. For an extra-delicious end result, sprinkle grated Parmesan over the top, then bake for roughly 1 hour at 180°C/360°F. It should be bubbling around the edges and the butternut “sheets” should be very tender when tested with a sharp knife. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving with a large green salad.

 



Apricot, red currant & butternut cake

I absolutely love cooked apricots, whether in a cake, jam, compote, tart or savoury dish. I find that they offer the perfect balance of flavour, and the vibrant colour is always a treat. This cake has a firm texture and is not very crumbly, so makes for an ideal dessert to take along on a picnic. Use frozen red currants if you can’t find fresh.

apricot cake (2)

Apricot, red currant and butternut squash cake

Makes one 20cm cake

 

Ingredients

3 medium eggs

150ml (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) macadamia nut or extra virgin olive oil

140g (1 cup) palm sugar or dark muscovado sugar

1 vanilla pod, cut into smaller pieces (or just the seeds if you are not using a high-speed blender)

130g (1 cup) wholemeal spelt or buckwheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of sea salt

165g (1 1/2 cups) grated peeled butternut squash

150g red currants, stripped from the stalks

8 small apricots, halved and stone removed

Toasted macadamias, optional

 

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/360°F, and grease a 20cm spring form.
  2. In a blender, whisk together the eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla pod pieces (or vanilla seeds, if not using a strong blender).
  3. Mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the centre and add the egg mix. Stir until just combined.
  4. Stir in the butternut and half the red currants, then scrape into prepared tin.
  5. Place the apricot halves, cut sides down, onto the cake batter and scatter the rest of the currants on top. Use the back of a large spoon to gently press the fruit into the batter.
  6. Bake for about 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean or with a few dry crumbs.  It may need a little longer, depending on your oven.
  7. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
  8. Serve with whipped cream and toasted macadamia nuts.