Ah, a beautiful, juicy fig… and sunshine. And saltwater hugs. It was so good to be back in South Africa, spending time with family and friends. The kids loved every moment (especially the fact that they could wear shorts most of the time) and I enjoyed the slightly more relaxed pace. On our way from Hermanus to Plettenberg Bay, we stopped at a fig farm and bought a whole box of figs for £3.50! We were all salivating in the car the rest of the journey. We enjoyed them in so many different ways: gobbled up whole, sliced into salads, in smoothies, smashed on buttered toast. And then there was the cake, of course. The first piece eaten very quickly with a dollop of mascarpone. The second piece nibbled a little more slowly, savouring its crumbly texture and delicious flavour.
125g unsalted butter, room temperature
65g (1/2 cup loosely packed) light muscovado sugar
3 medium eggs
160g (roughly 1 cup) whole raw almonds
80g (scant ½ cup) spelt flour or gluten-free flour blend
½ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
zest from 3 large organic lemons
12 figs, stalk removed and quartered
- Preheat oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a medium sized ovenproof dish (or cake tin).
- Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for another minute or two.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Process the almonds in a food processor until they resemble a coarse meal. Add this, as well as the flour, baking powder and salt to the mixture and stir until just combined. Stir in the lemon zest.
- Spoon the mixture into the greased dish, flatten the top with a spatula and press the fig quarters into the batter.
- Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden and crunchy-looking, and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Do not overbake, as it will dry out.
This rhubarb galette with gingerbread spices is delicious, straight from the oven, served with vanilla ice cream or slightly sweetened whipped cream. It is easy to make and you can replace the rhubarb with any fruit in season, but remember to take into account how quickly the fruit cooks when deciding on how large to slice or chop it. Slice apples or ripe pears very thinly, pile berries on top, or try chopped pineapple – they all work fantastically well.
Ingredients for the pastry
225g wholemeal spelt flour (I used buckwheat, which works too, but makes the pastry slightly more fragile)
pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder (usually made by grinding the whole dried vanilla pod) or the seeds from one pod
100g cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
40 – 60ml (2 1/2 – 4) tablespoons ice cold water
Ingredients for the fruit topping
5 cups chopped or sliced rhubarb (or other fruit of your choice)
1 cup light muscovado sugar or coconut sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
a few tablespoons ground almonds
- In a food processor, pulse the flour, salt, vanilla and butter until it resembles wet sand. You can also do this by hand, by rubbing the butter into the dough with your finger tips.
- Now add the cold water little by little until the dough just comes together into a ball.
- Remove the dough from the food processor and knead briefly until smooth. It shouldn’t be sticky or crumbly – of too sticky, add more flour, if too dry, add a few more drops of ice water. Shape it into a flat disc.
- Roll the dough out between two sheets of baking parchment – you are aiming for a thin sheet about 3mm thick, either round or square’ish, and refrigerate on a baking sheet until firm (about half an hour).
- Remove the firm dough from the fridge and place on a large baking sheet (still on the parchment paper). Allow to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F.
- Mix together the fruit and spices and as soon as the pastry has reached room temperature. Scatter the ground almonds in a circle in the centre (this will prevent the juices that escape during cooking from making the pastry soggy), and spoon the fruit on top.
- Fold over the edges, pinching the pastry here and there to keep it in place, and bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until the pastry is golden and crunchy, and the fruit tender. Allow to cool sightly before serving.
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!
Chocolate bark with macadamia nuts, dried banana and sea salt
Makes enough for 2 – 4 little bags
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
- 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.
- Pour the melted chocolate onto a large piece of greaseproof paper and quickly spread out to about 1/4” thickness with a spatula.
- Quickly scatter over all the toppings evenly.
- 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.
- Peel away the paper and snap into pieces.
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.
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.
Gluten-free buckwheat and oat granola
Makes 6 cups
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
- 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.
- Preheat oven to 160°C.
- Add the oats, quinoa and roughly chopped hazelnuts to the bowl with the buckwheat.
- Whisk the melted coconut oil (or butter) with the maple syrup (or honey), salt, spices and citrus zest.
- Pour this over the dry ingredients and mix well to coat.
- 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.
- Allow to cool completely before mixing in the cranberries and storing in an airtight container. Will keep for several weeks.
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!
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
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (370°F).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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, red currant and butternut squash cake
Makes one 20cm cake
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
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/360°F, and grease a 20cm spring form.
- In a blender, whisk together the eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla pod pieces (or vanilla seeds, if not using a strong blender).
- 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.
- Stir in the butternut and half the red currants, then scrape into prepared tin.
- 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.
- 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.
- Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
- Serve with whipped cream and toasted macadamia nuts.
If you have never tasted a slice of red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, you may not understand what all the fuss is about. Its intriguing name refers partly to its smooth and velvety texture, and partly to the sensual red colour, which is achieved in most modern recipes by adding (lots of) red food colouring to a chocolate cake batter.
Both these features were, however, originally due to the reaction of an acid (like vinegar or buttermilk) with the cocoa powder in the batter, which not only created bubbles and aeration, but also enhanced the red anthocyanin in the cocoa, a compound (also found in foods like red cabbage) that gets more red in the presence of strong acids. However, these days most cocoa powder undergoes Dutch processing, where an alkalizing agent is added to neutralise its acidity. Hence the need for (lots of) red colouring was created amongst bakers, and expertly fulfilled in the US by Adams Extract, a Texan company with good marketing sense.
But now for the really interesting bit. For our purposes today, at least. During the Second World War, bakers used reduced beet juice to enhance the colour (and texture) of their cakes, including the infamous Red Velvet cake, and give otherwise cheap bakes a dramatic appearance. Ah ha! As you know, adding vegetables to any kind of dish is my forte, so I present to you: the very beet-y red velvet ice cream sandwich.
Red velvet ice cream sandwiches
These sandwiches are a beguiling mix of earthy, sweet, cool and chewy. I used buckwheat flour to keep it gluten-free, but if you are not a fan of the taste, use stoneground spelt flour instead. Be sure to freeze the sandwiches until firm, or else you will end up with more ice cream on your shirt than between your biscuits!
Makes 8 sandwiches
Ingredients for the ice cream
200g roasted beetroot (about 500g peeled, raw beetroot)
1 whole vanilla pod
1 can coconut milk, gently warmed to melt the fat
60ml (1/4 cup) raw honey, plus a little extra to taste
flesh of 1/2 ripe avocado (about 50g)
15g (2 tablespoons) organic unsweetened cocoa powder
7g (1 tablespoon) arrowroot powder, dissolved in 15ml (1 tablespoon) water
Ingredients for the cookies
1 tablespoon ground golden linseeds (flax seeds)
60ml (1/4 cup) milk of your choice
60ml (1/4 cup) melted coconut oil
60g (1/2 cup) coconut blossom sugar
1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
30g (1/4 cup) organic unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of sea salt
160g (1 cup) buckwheat flour
- For the ice cream: put all the ingredients, except 2/3 of the coconut milk and the arrowroot powder slurry, in a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside. (If you do not have a high speed blender, scrape out the seeds of the vanilla pod and only use these – pop the pod in your coffee or sugar pot.)
- Whisk the arrowroot slurry into the rest of the gently warmed coconut milk. As soon as it thickens, remove from the heat, and once cooled, add the beetroot mix and whisk. Refrigerate until cold.
- For the cookies: whisk the ground linseeds and milk together. Set aside for a few minutes to allow it to swell.
- Whisk the oil and sugar together until light and frothy. Add the vanilla & linseed mix, then sift the dry ingredients into the wet. Mix together briefly until you have a ball of dough.
- Using a small ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, scoop 16 dough balls onto a baking sheet (no need to grease) and flatten each ball (I use a small palette knife to do this).
- Bake for 10 minutes at 180°C/360°F. Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack.
- For the sandwiches: churn the refrigerated ice cream mixture in your ice cream maker.
- Transfer the soft ice cream to a shallow container that will yield a slab of ice cream 3 – 4 cm thick. Pop it in the freezer until almost solidly frozen, then use a cookie cutter the same size as your cookies to cut out ice cream rounds and place between two cooled cookies. You could also remove the ice cream slightly earlier and use an ice cream scoop to place one scoop between two cookies and press down lightly.
- If you would like to make these ahead of time, put the sandwiches in a container in the freezer and remember to take them out at least 5 – 10 minutes before eating.
To roast the beetroot, scrub clean, peel and cut into medium dice. Toss lightly in melted coconut oil and roast at 180°C/360°F until tender (about 1 hour), turning every so often. Be careful not to let them burn.
If you do not own an ice cream maker, you can make the ice cream by freezing the mixture and whisking it every 30 minutes or so, to prevent the formation of ice crystals.
It doesn’t really matter when you make these, but you should! They are rather easy to throw together and definitely hit the spot when you need a little something to cheer up your darling (or yourself!). If you can’t find matcha powder, use a few drops of beetroot juice instead, to colour the chocolate pink.
Chewy almond and fig thins
50g unsalted organic butter (or coconut oil)
50g coconut palm sugar (or you could use demarara sugar)
Pinch of sea salt
65g orange marmalade, very finely chopped
100g soft dried figs, finely chopped
80g flaked blanched almonds
30g shelled hemp seeds (also called hemp hearts)
25g brown rice flour
For the chocolate drizzle
100g organic white chocolate, broken into pieces
matcha powder (roughly 1 teaspoon)
freeze-dried raspberries or additional hemp hearts
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F and line two baking trays with parchment paper.
- Melt the butter and palm sugar in a small pan over a medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the salt, give it a stir and set aside.
- Put the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and using a tablespoon, press everything against the sides to mix thoroughly and evenly distribute the flour. Add the butter and sugar mix and repeat the process until you have a lovely dark golden ball of deliciousness.
- Place this ball between two large pieces of parchment paper and roll it out until it is quite thin (how thin will depend on your preference, but I have found that 4mm is just about perfect). Slide onto a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes before removing from the oven.
- Now cut out shapes with a cookie cutter (press any offcuts together and roll them out again) or for a lot less effort, use a large knife to cut the cookie dough into rectangles. Place on the lined baking trays and return to the oven for another 8 – 10 minutes, rotating the trays half-way. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- When cool, melt the white chocolate in a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water!) and stir every now and then. As soon as the chocolate has melted, add enough matcha powder for a lovely green hue.
- Dip each cookie in the melted chocolate half-way and sprinkle with freeze-dried raspberries or additional hemp hearts. return to the cooling racks and store in an air-tight container when set. You could also spread chocolate on the underside of each cookie and let it cool upside down. You will need more than 100g of chocolate, but it is more traditional. And reeeeeally good.
Note: If you are not a fan of white chocolate, feel free to use dark chocolate instead.
Some mornings I just need things to happen a little quicker than usual. Avocado on a slice of rye sourdough will always be a favourite, but for something different try baking this loaf the day before. It was born out of my eternal quest to incorporate more vegetables into our daily eating and the kids love it with raw lightly salted butter. As a special treat (and to keep it dairy-free), slather it with the apple coconut butter below. This gorgeous spread keeps well in the fridge for a week or so and is equally delicious stirred into hot porridge, as a topping on pancakes, or on crunchy toast.
Sweet potato loaf
5 medium organic free range eggs, lightly beaten
520g (about 2 cups) mashed cooked sweet potato
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
100g (just over 3/4 cup) coconut flour
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
50g (about 1/3 cup) dried cranberries, soaked in juice from 1/2 an orange for at least 2 hours
60g (1/2 cup) pecan nuts, roughly chopped
some coconut sugar to sprinkle over, optional
- Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F (or 160°C in a fan oven).
- Grease a medium sized loaf tin and line with parchment paper, allowing the paper to overhang on the long sides.
- Beat together the mashed sweet potato and the eggs until smooth, light and fluffy.
- Sift in the baking powder, add the salt, coconut flour and grated ginger, and mix well.
- Stir in the soaked and softened cranberries, any remaining orange juice and chopped nuts.
- Let the batter sit for 10 minutes to give the coconut flour time to absorb the liquids.
- Pour the batter into the prepared tin, sprinkle over a little coconut palm sugar if using, and bake for 50 minutes or until the top begins to brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre of the bread comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before slicing. Store covered for a couple of days at room temperature or in the fridge for several days. You could also freeze it. Like most gluten-free breads, it is quite fragile and can’t really be slotted into a toaster, but I do sometimes toast it in a medium hot pan in some butter or coconut oil.
Apple and coconut butter
This will only really work if you have a high-speed blender, as the coconut butter is quite solid in anything other than very hot weather and you will end up with a lumpy mess. But if you don’t own one, try gently heating the coconut butter and then stirring in the apple sauce. It won’t be as spreadable, but still pretty darn delicious as a topping.
160ml (2/3 cups) home-made or store-bought apple sauce
70g coconut butter (also called coconut manna or creamed coconut) at room temperature
squeeze of lemon juice
- Pour the apple sauce into the blender, then cut the coconut butter into small chunks and add. If the fat has separated and formed a layer on top of the more crumbly coconut component, make sure you include some of the fat when adding to the apple sauce.
- Blend until smooth. Scrape down the sides once or twice.
- Add lemon juice to taste, blending in between additions.
The memories of my primary school years are punctuated by gloriously colourful events, much-loved traditions, lessons learnt the hard way, meaningful moments… And Maike’s mum’s weekly apricot tray bake. It will forever crop up in my mind as the most delicious treat anyone could wish for. It perfectly captured the balance between soft and chewy, tart and sweet. And it looked and tasted like the summer sun.
Rather than being a cake, this recipe really is more of a nutritious snack that I happily give my children after school and help myself to during busy mornings catching up on admin and work. The end result relies to a large extent on the taste and quality of your fruit, but even so, it is a good way to use up over-ripe, squooshy apricots and plums.
Stone fruit slices
3 medium eggs, at room temperature and separated
80ml (1/3 cup) oil (coconut oil, macadamia nut oil or melted butter)
80ml (1/3 cup) honey
1/2 teaspoon good quality almond extract
pinch of sea salt
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
230g (about 2 1/3 cups) ground almonds / almond flour
750g large apricots and small’ish plums (about 6 of each), halved, stones removed and sliced into eighths
- Whisk together the egg yolks, oil, honey, almond extract, salt and lemon zest.
- Stir in the ground almonds and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/360°F.
- Whisk the egg whites to firm (but not stiff) peaks, and gently fold into the almond mixture.
- Spread this mixture out in an even layer in a greased ovenproof baking dish (about 30 x 20 cm).
- Place the fruit slices skin-side up as close together as possible in the thin layer of batter – alternating the fruit as you go along. You could also use apricot halves only, which would be much quicker and easier, but not as pretty.
- Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, then turn the oven off and leave the cake in the oven for another 15 minutes, before removing and allowing to cool.
- Cut the cake into squares in the dish, then carefully slide an offset spatula under each row to carefully lift them out.
- Store in the fridge for several days or freeze.