“Rocky: A Dog’s Life” Tribute for Charity

Rocky: A Dog's Life

If any of you follow me on social media, then you know I had a dog named Rocky who’s been my constant companion and an internet superstar in his own right ever since I rescued him in April 2012. I am sad to report that dear Rocky passed away last week following a (fortunately short) battle with liver disease.

Rocky was already coming on in years when I adopted him, so I’ve always felt that every moment we had together was precious, which might explain why I’m finding his passing particularly tough. Still, I’m grateful that we had as much quality time together as we did, and  I’m also grateful that I took so many pictures of him (upward of 1,000!) to remember him by.

I’ve decided to pay tribute to wonderful Rocky by creating a photo book to celebrate his life. The book will be for sale in soft cover and hard back, priced to cover my costs plus a few extra £££ to be donated to Hope Rescue, the rescue center where I found Rocky.

I hope to have the book finished in the next week or so, in time for Christmas printing which means you can be uber generous this Christmas by helping out all those loving animals who haven’t yet found their forever homes for the holidays. You can pre-order the book via Paypal below:


Cover type


  • The book will be a 7×7 in (18 x 18 cm) square book of approximately 40 pages.
  • Each purchase will see ~ £5 go to Hope Rescue.
  • If I get LOADS of pre-orders, I will be able to save with bulk printing, which means more money for Hope Rescue.
  • If you want to donate even more, or make a donation in lieu of a book, click on the Donate Now button below.
  • I am also thinking about creating a more economically priced calendar option. If this is of interest please let me know in the comments!


 

 

Rocky: A Dog's Life

Rocky: A Dog's Life

Mom’s Pumpkin Pie with Oatmeal Crust

Pumpkin Pie with Oatmeal Crust

One of my all time favorite family recipes is mom’s pumpkin pie. She’s been bringing this dessert to Thanksgiving and Christmas parties for as long as I can remember. My version of the pumpkin pie with oatmeal crust is just a slight tweak on the original, because you really shouldn’t mess around too much with a good thing.

Mom’s method follows a pretty classic pumpkin pie recipe, with all the usual ingredients you’d expect: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, eggs, evaporated milk and if you want to be super American about it, Libby’s tinned pumpkin puree.

Pumpkin Pie with Oatmeal Crust

Of course, you can make your own pumpkin puree, but there is something special about Libby’s - they use a strain of Dickinson Pumpkins, with especially creamy flesh, that the company developed themselves. This variety is actually closer to a butternut squash than the pumpkins we’re used to, so if you are going for DIY pumpkin puree, you could just as easily use butternut squash.

I’ve riffed on the family recipe with the pastry, where I’ve used a pretty standard shortcrust amped up with some rolled oats for amazing texture that works really well with the custardy pumpkin pie innards.

Oatmeal Pie Crust

I’ve also been playing around with drink pairings for pumpkin pie. Sweet oloroso sherry and sweet reisling are amongst the recommended pairings, but I maintain that pumpkin pie, already quite sweet, needs to be balanced by something with a bit more oomph. For this reason, Maker’s Mark bourbon is ideal - the bourbon mellows the pumpkin pie, while the pie brings out the caramel flavours of the bourbon. It’s astounding, and about as American as it gets.

Maker's Mark: Perfect with Pumpkin Pie

Mom’s Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients

  • 16oz pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 eggs
  • 13oz evaporated milk
  • 1 oatmeal pie pastry (see recipe below) or plain pastry
  • whipping cream
  • icing sugar

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400F / 200C.
  2. In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, brown sugar, salt and spices. Blend in eggs and evaporated milk.
  3. Pour the mixture into the pie crust. Bake for 45 minutes or until knife inserted into the middle of the pie comes out clean. Let cool.
  4. Just before serving, whip the cream (add a little icing sugar for a touch of sweetness). Slice the pie and serve each slice with a big dollop of whipped cream.

Oatmeal Pie Pastry Crust

Makes 1 crust.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1/2 cup jumbo rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into about 8 pieces
  • 3 tablespoons ice water, plus more if necessary

Method

  1. Combine the flour, oats and salt in a food processor and pulse once or twice. Add the butter and turn on the machine; process for about 10 seconds, until the butter and flour are blended and the mixture looks like cornmeal.
  2. Put the mixture in a bowl and add the ice water; mix with your hands until you can form the dough into a ball, adding another tablespoon or two of ice water if necessary. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic, and freeze for 10 minutes or refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle a clean countertop with flour, put the dough on it, and sprinkle the top with flour. Use a rolling pin to roll with light pressure from the center out. If the dough is hard, let it rest for a few minutes. If the dough is sticky, add a little flour. Roll, adding flour and rotating and turning the dough as needed.
  4. When the diameter of the dough is about 2 inches greater than that of your pie plate, drape the dough over the rolling pin to transfer it into the pie plate. Press the dough firmly into the plate all over.
  5. Trim the excess dough to about 1/2 inch all around, then tuck it under itself around the edge of the pie plate. Decorate the edges with a fork or your fingers. Freeze the dough for 10 minutes (or refrigerate it for 30 minutes) until you are ready to bake.

Pumpkin Pie with Oatmeal Crust

Induction Seduction

Induction Seduction

Today I’m talking about hobs, otherwise known as “cooktops” or “stovetops” to my American friends. My hob of choice is gas, but as I rent, I have been stuck with the electric hob that my landlords have provided me with… until now…

Two weeks ago, said hob began to crack and so needed replacing. Surprise! My landlords installed an induction hob. Now none of my pans work (in particular, my beloved omelet pan which I use almost every day). THANKS, guys!

But all was not lost. I managed to get hold of some excellent induction pans, including a non-stick frying pan and a sautepan from Judge Cookware, whose Continental Range is optimised for induction. All of their induction pans are stainless steel, have a thermic base for even heat distribution and, importantly, are dishwasher and oven safe to 180 C.

So with my new induction frypan and sautepan, I was able to test the merits of this induction hob business.

Broccoli, Potato, Feta and Dill Frittata

Here’s the story with induction: induction works by transferring an alternating current through a ferromagnetic coil, creating a magnetic field beneath the ceramic top of the hob and transfers heat directly to the pan. Induction only works when the pan is placed within this magnetic zone, so that energy is directed where it is needed.

Here are some cool stats and facts about induction hobs that I learned from thecaterer.com:

  • When using an induction hob, more than 90% of every pound spent on energy goes straight to the pan. Gas delivers less than 50% and traditional electric less than 60%.
  • The pan itself is turned into the heat source so the hob remains cool, thus, heat doesn’t build up and no carcinogenic fumes are given off – which reduces or eliminates the need for extraction units or air conditioning.
  • Induction is fast and efficient – you can boil four pints of water in less than a minute on an induction hob! You also have precise control of temperature so that foods such as soups and stews can be cooked over long periods of time without the risk of burning.

I definitely noticed the responsiveness of the induction hob straight away; it’s a huge improvement verses my previous electric hob and seems to be the next best thing to gas. And the pan issue isn’t such a scary one – many pans will work on an induction hob, as long as they are magnetic (you can use a fridge magnet to test this).

If you are on the hunt for some quality induction pans, I definitely recommend checking out the Continental range from Judge Cookware. They are stylish, functional, durable and right at home with induction. The small frypan in particular is perfect for a single-serving frittata – and because it’s oven-safe, you can finish your frittata in the oven – no frittata flipping required. Imagine the possibilities!

Broccoli, Potato, Feta and Dill Frittata

11 Immediately Gratifying Things You Can Do Right Now To Improve Your Health

Goals are hugely important and I’m a big fan of dreaming big and aiming high. But the thing about goals is that they involve time, and let’s face it, sometimes those goals seem so out of reach that it feels daunting to even get started. For that reason, it’s important to do little things on a daily basis that offer immediate gratification while also edging us closer to the self we dream of becoming.

Here is a list of things I do on a daily basis that help me keep my head on straight by reminding me just how good it feels to treat myself well. All of these things offer near instant gratification. They are also easy and inexpensive.

Morning ritual: hot lemon and water. And a groovy mug to put it in.

1. Start the day with hot lemon and water.

There’s already loads of hype around hot lemon and water – it aids digestion, stimulates the liver, boosts the immune system… this may all be true, but in terms of immediate gratification, I find a mug of hot lemon and water first things is refreshing, boosts my energy and seems to kick-start my digestion, thus keeping me regular (TMI?). You can still have your teas and coffee, but have the hot lemon water first and then move on to the hard stuff.

2. Go for a walk every day.

Fresh air, folks – we could all do with a bit of that on a daily basis. I find walks especially helpful if I’m feeling tired or ho-hum.

“I try to walk minimum 1/2 hour after school run, & second walk about 1pm for 30-40 mins…The walk itself is good though, fresh air, nature & lots of other dogs & there walkers, so social too:-)” – Jude McGee, A Trifle Rushed

3. Buy flowers instead of junk food. 

This is my friend Claudia’s idea and I love it. If you’re at the shops and you want cookies, instead buy some fresh flowers – they’ll be nice to look at and remind you how awesome you are.

4. Start the day with a bit of exercise. 

Walk, run, bike, skip, yoga… it doesn’t matter really. A bit of exercise first thing is totally energizing and starts the day with an immediate success that you can feel good about all day long.

5. Contain your drinking to three days per week max. 

Not so much a “daily activity” but a good guideline for keeping the booze in check. For me this rule is less about calories than it is about good sleep – I just don’t sleep as well if I have alcohol. Good sleep = energy and motivation to do the other stuff on this list, and everything else you want to do. Again, immediately gratifying. I never regretting NOT drinking. Think on that!

6. Limit sugar to one day per week. 

Do I really need to explain this one?

7. Do something every day to connect yourself with nature.

The aforementioned daily walk is a good place to start.

Get outside. Sounds silly but even 30 mins on my allotment puts me in an amazing mood and emotional health is just as important as physical.” – Urvashi Roe, The Botanical Baker

Sunday morning walk

8. Garnish.

Garnish your food with nourishing deliciousness. For smoothies, I like seeds, nuts, coconut flakes, oats and bee pollen. For soups, I like more seeds, boiled eggs, diced vegetables and of course, avocado. They make your food more interesting and tastier too. It doesn’t get more immediately gratifying than that!

Coming soon to the blog (I swear): my recipe for my go-to breakfast smoothie as of late. It involves lots of lime and greenery. And garnish!

 

9. Visualize Success. 

Spend a few minutes every day visualizing your desired outcomes, be it fitness, financial, professional or anything else.

“As we routinely and intentionally visualize a desired outcome, and step into the belief that it is possible, our brains increase the motivation to make it happen. We become more and more determined to do whatever it takes to achieve our goals.” – Marla Tabaka, Inc.com

10. Reflect on daily achievements.

While I’m doing my visualizing, I also try to work in a little reflection on the prior day’s successes. This is way more better for morale than focusing on what you didn’t do. Cuz really, all of the smart people I know have so many goals and dreams and ideas and ambitions, none of us have time to do it all. But as long we’re doing something, we’re ahead of the pack – so let’s remember what it is we HAVE achieved (it can be something as simple as having that hot lemon and water!) and wear a smile on our face because we’re so damn awesome.

11. Focus on gratitude.

When temptation strikes, respond to this feeling by thinking about what you CAN have. The fact is you can have anything you want, but you choose to have the nourishing stuff and leave everything else for an occasional treat.

“If you say ‘I want but can’t have’ – you will suffer. If you say ‘I can but I don’t want to have’ – you won’t… An ‘attitude of gratitude’ moves you from the ‘I can’t have’ child-like mental tantrum to one of empowerment and fulfillment.” – Jason Vale

So that’s MY list. What would you add to it?

Abby’s Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chilli

Sweet potato and black bean chili

This week’s Riverford vegbox contained two rare treasures: sweet potatoes and jalapeños, two foods that form the basis for one of my all time favorite veggie chili recipes: sweet potato and black bean chilli.

This recipe is a total blast from the past. My friend Abby made it for her boyfriend (now husband) and I on a cold snowy winter’s evening in Milwaukee several years ago. We’d spent the day cross country skiing in the bitter cold. It was amazing, but very hard work (it was my first time skiing ever!), and coming home to a big pot of piping hot chilli (and a few bottles of VERY cold beers) was hugely rewarding.

P1000568.jpg

I haven’t changed the recipe much from the original – Abby herself said she likes to “play around with the spices”, so I did that, too, adding a bit of cinnamon and Mexican oregano (Abby likes to add Herbs de Provence).

Such is the awesomeness of veggie chili. It’s hugely adaptable and it’s hard to go wrong. But one thing you do need is good ingredients, and on this particular occasion I felt very grateful for having beautiful organic sweet potatoes to work with. Their flavor really came through against the cocoa and cinnamon, making for some serious comfort food that feels very much needed as the weather turns truly autumnal.

Sweet potato and black bean chili

I like to serve this chili with loads of garnishes: fresh cilantro, lime, raw onion, my homemade pickled jalapeños and lots of avocado. You could also add cheese or sour cream if you’d like, or a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds for a bit of crunch. And to really make it special, serve with a big wedge of cornbread and a bottle of good beer (I recommend Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale) on the side.

Beer Tasting

Abby’s Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 to 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tins diced tomatoes
  • 3 tins black beans, drained
  • 1 jalapeno chili pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp brown sugar (or more to taste)
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro leaves, washed and dried

Method

  1. Warm the oil in a large pan over medium heat and add the onion, red pepper, green pepper, carrots, garlic, and salt. Saute until soft, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add the sweet potato and lime zest, and cook 10 to 15 minutes more, continuing to stir occasionally.
  3. Add the jalapeno, cumin, chill powder, cinnamon, cocoa and oregano, stir and cook for a minute or two.
  4. Add the tomatoes, black beans, lime juice and sugar. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20-40 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are very soft.

Sweet potato and black bean chili

This chilli is so memorable that I’ve written about it before.

Also memorable, the moustache on the ski rental dude at Wheel and Sprocket:

P1000577.jpg

And my friend Matt on skis.

Matt on skis

Now go make some chilli!

Sweet potato and black bean chili

Also seen on Great British Chefs.

Goals 2015: The Original Mountain Marathon

In the last few years, my fitness goals have largely revolved around fixing injuries, but now I’m feeling pretty “fixed” for the most part (hurray!) and ready to set myself a challenge that will actually make use of my fitter better self and push me to, well, keep on pushing.

My friend James recently completed the Original Mountain Marathon (aka ‘the OMM’) and posted a video montage of the experience. I totally want to do this!

The OMM is a 2-day Mountain event, held in a different region across the UK every year (and other courses held in other countries throughout the year). It was first held in 1968 and continues today. Gerry Charnley, a skilled mountaineer and orienteer, designed the course to test orienteering skills in extreme circumstances; the full-length KIMM course is a double-marathon length race (there are shorter options).

There’s an OMM in France 19th-20th July which is appealing and well timed for my birthday. I’m looking forward to seeing when they set they 2015 UK date. It’s a little daunting and I’m not sure I’m capable of it – yet! – so all the more motivation to keep on CrossFitting, swimming, eating well and most of all: get out into the world and walk up some big hills and see some amazing places!

So, anyone want to be my OMM buddy?

Late Summer Vegetable Salad with Tomatillo Dressing

Summer Veg Salad with Tomatillo Dressing

It’s worth making this salad for the tomatillo dressing alone. Tomatillos are a rare treat here in the UK – I totally took them for granted when I lived in Austin and Chicago. Now they’re far more tricky to come by (and my attempts to grow them have been literally fruitless).

Tamale Party with Jane, Jimmy and Steve

When the season’s right – late summer, early autumn – they’re available on order from Riverford (my vegbox scheme) and Cool Chile Co (a UK-based supplier of Mexican goodies). So this season I’ve been shelling out some cash on tomatillos so I could experiment a bit with this funky green tomato (which is actually a relative of the cape gooseberry). This tomatillo dressing is my favourite creation thus far.

Tomatillo Salad Dressing

Most of what I know about tomatillos comes from Mexican cheese enchiladas verde, one of my favourite Mexican dishes which consists of corn tortillas wrapped in cheese, smothered with tangy green tomatillo “verde” sauce, topped with more cheese, then baked to perfection. Not exactly heart-healthy, but incredibly delicious. My other favourite tomatillo memory is the spicy tomatillo salsa from Trudy’s Restaurant in Austin, Texas – I have ruined many a dinners overeating corn chips and salsa at this place (not that I’m complaining; their salsa is some of the best I’ve ever had).

With this salad, I wanted to do something to celebrate the tomatillo’s natural aptitude for tart tangy salsas, but without the artery-clogging qualities of excessive cheese and fried corn chip accoutrements. So I turned the tomatillos into this zesty salad dressing that really knocked my socks off and even surpassed some of the verde sauces I’ve had in Texas. The key steps are broiling the tomatillos until they are well-charred, and adding just a bit of olive oil to the blended salsa to give it a nice creaminess and turns this salsa into an excellent salad dressing. Here I used it with the green beans and sweet corn that came in my vegbox, but you could just as well use it to dress a green salad or even grains and beans (black beans and rice come to mind). The tomatillo dressing also goes nicely with fish – I served this salad with sea bream, steamed with lime and cilantro, and I ended up using some of the dressing on the fish after it came out of the oven – superb.

The only downside to all of this is that tomatillos are so rarely available, but that rarity adds to my appreciation of them. And now I know that when I am lucky enough to have tomatillos, I have a reliable and healthy recipe to turn to that does them justice.

Summer Veg Salad with Tomatillo Dressing

Late Summer Vegetable Salad with Tomatillo Dressing

Serves 2-3.

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 lb tomatillos
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (about 1/2 lime)
  • 20 cilantro sprigs
  • 1/2 small red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

For the salad:

  • 2 ears of corn
  • 2 big handfuls of green beans, trimmed
  • 1 tomato
  • handful of chives
  • salt and pepper
  • feta cheese

Instructions

      1. Pre-heat the grill and put your tomatillos in a roasting tray. Put the tray under the grill and cook until the tomatillos are charred, then flip them over and let them char on the other side.
      2. Combine the tomatillos and any juices in the pan with all of the other dressing ingredients and blend until smooth. Taste and add salt as needed.
      3. Steam the corn and green beans for 5 minutes then rinse them under cold water.
      4. Halve the green beans and slice the corn kernels off of the cob.
      5. Combine the beans and corn in a bowl with the tomato, chives and a couple spoonfuls of the dressing. Season with salt and pepper.
      6. Serve in a bowl, drizzled with a little more dressing and garnished with crumbled feta cheese.

Tomatillo Salad Dressing

For more tomatillo inspiration, check out

Also seen on Great British Chefs.

No Churn Zabaglione Ice Cream

Zabaglione Ice Cream

This recipe emerged after a stint of tiramisu making while I was visiting my family for Christmas in 2012. We made the entire tiramisu from scratch, including the ladyfingers, and it was a bit of a mission. The adventure left us with a lot of leftover marsala wine and whipped cream, which led me to this ice cream creation.

Zabaglione Ice Cream

Zabaglione is an Italian custard whose core ingredients are egg yolks, sugar and a sweet wine (usually Marsala). Effort-wise, this ice cream version of Zabaglione is the complete opposite of tiramisu. There are only four ingredients and you don’t need an ice cream maker to achieve a scoopable, almost fluffy ice cream (you can thank the whipping cream for that). Sure, there’s some double boiler action going on and a little cream whipping, but trust me, you can do this!

Zabaglione ice cream in progress. #bsfic

I made this at least twice while I was visiting home, largely because my mom was kind of obsessed with it. So there you have it folks, a mom-approved ice cream that’s easy to make and just as good as tiramisu (stick a lady finger in it and enjoy it with a hot espresso if you don’t believe me!).

Zabaglione Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 150ml dry Marsala
  • 150ml whipping cream
  • crushed amaretti biscuits (optional)

Method

  1. Put the egg yolks into a large bowl that will fit over a saucepan. Add the sugar and whisk until the mixture is pale and thick and leaves a trail when the beaters are lifted.
  2. Whisk in the Marsala, then put the bowl over (not in) a pan of simmering water and continue whisking until the mixture has thickened and coats the back of a spoon.
  3. Remove from the heat, stand the bowl in cold water and whisk until cool (or put it in the fridge for a few hours).
  4. Whip the cream until it just holds its shape. Add to the cold zabaglione and whisk together.
  5. Pour into a container and freeze for about 1½-2 hours or until firm. Serve in small glasses or bowls, garnished with crushed amaretti biscuits if you’d like.

Zabaglione Ice Cream in progress

Zabaglione Ice Cream
I am submitting this to Kavey’s Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream challenge. Trust me, you will totally scream for this one!

Plum Upside Down Cake

Plum upside down cake

I have recently been the grateful recipient of a large quantity of Damson Plums thanks to the generosity of nature and my friend Gloria Nicol. Some of these plums have been turned into Damson Vodka, others were made into Gloria’s recipe for Dumpsideary Jam from her book 100 Jams, Jellies, Preserves and Pickles. But the first thing I did was turn some of these plums – super soft, ripe and sweet – into a cake.

Plum upside down cake

I was inspired by my friend (and pastry chef) Kathy (aka stresscake) to go for an upside down cake. She did something very similar with her plums last August and aptly pointed out that a recipe like this will help you get through a pound and a half or so of plums in an extremely delicious way (very handy if you have a lot of plums to get through).

Damson Plums

Upside down cakes are really easy to make, but usually the reserve for pineapples (and if you’re going that route, Kathy’s got a classic Pineapple Upside Down Cake Recipe, too). Plums offer a nice twist on this, with a hint of spice in the cake complimenting the autumnal plums. If you don’t have a cake pan that is large enough to fit all of the batter called for in this recipe, you can make smaller mini upside down cakes in ramekins which are really fun.

Plum upside down cake

I really love this plum upside down cake served with creme fraiche or Greek yogurt, but vanilla ice cream or whipped cream would go equally well.

Plum Upside Down Cake

For the plum layer

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed golden brown sugar
  • 12-15 damsons (or other plum), halved and pitted
  • Blackberries or blueberries (optional)

For the cake

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup milk

To serve

  • Whipped cream, creme fraiche or ice cream

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F. Put 4 Tbsp of butter in a 9-inch-diameter skillet or cake pan. Put the pan in the oven and leave it until the butter has melted. Remove the pan and swirl the butter around so its distributed evenly. Sprinkle over 3/4 cup of brown sugar. Lay the plums on top of the sugar in a single, tightly-packed layer, skin-side up. If you’d like, fill in any gaps with blackberries or blueberries.
  2. Now make the batter. Mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl. Beat the remaining 6 Tbsp butter in large bowl with an electric mixer until light. Add sugar and beat until creamy. Add eggs and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and almond extract.
  3. Add the milk and the dry ingredients to the mixture and mix with a spatula just until blended. Spoon batter evenly over plums. Bake  until golden and a toothpick or knife inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean (this will take about 50-60 minutes). Transfer to a wire rack; cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Using a knife, cut around the pan sides to loosen the cake. Place a plate on top of the cake pan then invert the cake. Let it stand with the pan still on for 5 minutes, then gently lift off the pan. Serve cake warm with whipped cream, creme fraiche or ice cream.

Plum upside down cake

Raw Double Chocolate Brownies

Raw Vegan Brownies

Here is a brownie that ticks all the right boxes – raw, vegan, gluten-free, paleo… – and they taste delicious too. The classic raw brownie is made by blitzing dates, nuts and cocoa in a food processor and mushing the mix together into a ball or bar. Though tasty, those raw brownies are also very dense and usually very sweet because it takes a lot of dates to hold the mixture together. These raw brownies are a slightly different breed. Made with coconut flour, ground almonds and apple puree, they have a texture that’s much more like a traditional brownie.

I was inspired to make these by Emma Potts of Coconut & Berries who posted a recipe for Raw Berry Cream Brownies which totally got my attention. I used a similar method for the brownie base, but instead of a berry cream topping, I went for chocolate ganache – it was a double chocolate kind of day.

This recipe uses cacao powder, which you can readily buy at health food shops or online. I make my own cacao powder from Naturya Cacao Nibs which I blitz to a powder in my blender (I use a Froothie Optimum 9400 which has a jug specially made for grinding dry ingredients). You could do the same to make almond flour, too.

Raw Vegan Brownies

Alternatively, if you’re not fussed about the raw aspect, you can use regular cocoa powder (cocoa powder is made by roasting cacao at high temperatures, which destroys some of the enzymes, and makes it no longer raw – snap!).

Another bonus to these brownies is they give me an opportunity to use my retro vintage nut grinder! Perfect for sprinkling walnuts on top of the brownies! (Of course, you could just use a knife and a cutting board instead.)

Raw Vegan Brownies

Raw Double Chocolate Brownies 

Makes 6 brownies.

For the brownies:

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-4 Tbsp maple syrup or agave (add more or less depending on how sweet you like your brownies)
  • 1/3 cup apple puree or mashed banana
  • 1/3 cup raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder if you aren’t worried about the raw thing)
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1/3 cup ground almonds or almond flour
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
  • pinch of salt

For the ganache:

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar (or other liquid sweetener of choice)
  • small pinch salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Method

  1. Line a small baking tin or container with parchment paper.
  2. Mix all of the brownie ingredients together with your hands or in a food processor. You should get a very thick mixture.
  3. Spread the mixture into the prepared container and smooth out the top. Refrigerate or freeze.
  4. For the ganache, melt the coconut oil over low heat in a medium pot. Remove from heat and whisk in the cacao powder, agave, salt, and vanilla until combined and smooth.
  5. Pour the ganache over the brownies and spread out evenly. If you’d like, dust the top with cacao powder and/or chopped walnuts. Put back into the refrigerator to chill.
  6. Remove from the refrigerator, slice and enjoy!

Raw Vegan Brownies

There are lots more people out there grinding their own flours and powders to make awesome snacks. Check out Nazima’s Fig and Blackberry Crumble using her own quinoa flour, and Emma’s Flatbread made with almond and oat flour.

Also seen on Great British Chefs.