Date and Tahini Fudge Blondies 

You reckon you’ve officially gone woo woo when your idea of a sweet treat, an indulgent one at that, is a squidgy medjool date stuffed with some dark tahini and a sprinkle of cinnamon? I would believe so.

This my friends is me. I have become that lentil eating, hippie-dip person, who sprinkles turmeric in everything within reach and always has snacks in my bag for those often moments when nothing except crisps is available. You’d wish you were my friend when it comes to those desperate times!

Snacks! That is what we’re all here for.

Something high in protein, full of healthy fats, a hint of sweetness, nourishing and well and truly tasty. Come the 3/4pm afternoon slump the biscuit tin sure becomes appealing. A Digestive, Custard Cream, Chocolate Hobnob, ooh perhaps even a Fruit Shortcake (dead fly biscuit anyone?) or a Nice, always a good pairing to that brew. It’s true, but biscuits aren’t necessarily going to keep you powering on till the end of the work day or your commute home, and stopping at just one isn’t even an option.

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So, bring on the blondies.

I’m a fan of a homemade snack. Putting aside an hour at the weekends to mash, pour and mix up the ingredients, not only is it preparing you for the week ahead for those busy work days and long commutes, think of it as an act of self care. Doing something for yourself, with the knowledge that your emergency snack stash is nourishing and will prevent you prowling the kitchen come 8pm eating anything and everything you can lay your hands on.

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These blondies don’t contain the expected ingredients, a blondie is the blonde sister to the chocolate brownie. No chocolate or cocoa powder, think a brownie/cookie hybrid sometimes studded with addins like pecans, cranberries and white chocolate. Sounds pretty scrum right? Ok that is not what I have for you today, and there is one particular ingredient maybe you weren’t expecting?

The beauty that is the chickpea. The versatile legume made famous for its use in hummus, high in protein and low in fat, lending it’s qualities to create a dense and gooey blondie. I’ve been thinking recently about making a sweet hummus, a dip to eat with apple or carrots, spread on toast for breakfast or a snack. A change up from the regular peanut or almond butter, as there can be too much of a good thing (even peanut butter!). Tahini, dates and chickpeas along with some almond flour, coconut oil, and a flax egg in there too to help stick it all together. You can adjust the amount of dates depending on how sweet you would like, but there is no added sugars. That’s no maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar etc. just dates for some of that HELLA fibre action. And talk about the caramelly toffee flavour!

 

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They definitely won’t last long!

 

Tahini is, as you well know if you’ve read my blog before, one of my desert island foods. There’s something about its bitter depth that lends itself to all manner of foods and I honestly cannot get enough. However if you are averse to the stuff (seriously?how?) add any other nut butter you like. If you don’t have any dates available switch them out for other dried fruits, figs and cashew butter, apricots and almond butter or even raisins and peanut butter.

Date and tahini blondies

Makes 12 bars

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed/linseeds
  • 1 tin chickpeas, drained
  • 1/2 cup dates
  • 1/3 cup dairy free milk (I used almond)
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup tahini (light or dark, my favourite is dark)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp of almond flour
  • 1/2-1 tsp cinnamon (depending how much you like it)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan.
  2. Mix the ground flax/linseeds in a small bowl with 3 tbsp. of water. Leave to gel for 10-15 mins. This makes a ‘flax egg’.
  3. Line a 20cm square tin with baking paper and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile add the chickpeas and the dates to a food processor and blend until smooth.
  5. Melt the coconut oil in a small pan, add to the food processor along with all the other ingredients including the ‘flax egg’.
  6. Blend well, scraping down the sides if necessary, until everything is combined. Tip into the tin and spread out until level.
  7. Bake in the oven 25-30 mins until firm. Leave until cool and store in the fridge in a Tupperware for up to 1 week.

 

Beans, not just for hummus!

Let me know what you think, and if you have any other sweet ways with lovely legumes I’d love to hear!

Love and hugs

X

 

Butterbean, macadamia and rosemary hummus

I remember my first time seeing hummus, having never eaten it or it being featured in our fridge, my thoughts weren’t leaning the same way as they are now. I remember being at my friend’s house, much younger, and seeing a tub of something  besides a bag of carrots. Now dips weren’t a part of my life as they are now, that does indeed mean no guac, hummus, baba ganoush, muhammara, salsa, tahini (I know it’s scandalous) perhaps the odd sighting of a sour cream and chive or some tzatziki. So coming across hummus, when I first tried it there was no convincing me. For young tastebuds only just developing away from chips and bread and butter, the savoury, garlicky tang of hummus didn’t do it for me.

I tried again possibly in my early teens, we had just bought a new blender and I found a recipe for homemade hummus. I thought, what could possibly go wrong, had a go, and remember it tasted a bit rubbish. Bland, chalky and just a bit meh. I’m sure that happened a few times, determined as I was to make it like the one you buy in shops, as I kept being told: ‘homemade is ALWAYS better than shop bought’. In my case that wasn’t true. A couple years later again, after week on week buying shop bought hummus (I had bought into the hype), I gave it one last shot. A simple cupboard raid recipe to use up that tahini after thinking it would be nice on porridge (another thing which hadn’t yet found a place in my heart) so in it went with all other common ingredients. Chickpeas, garlic, lemon, salt (lots of that), tahini, olive oil, a pinch of cumin and water to thin it out. Easy.

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Since that day as few years back, I’ve been making it to the same recipe ever since. I’ve had friends comment having the same experience as me, ‘I had a go at making hummus and it just wasn’t that great, so I gave up and bought some’.  Completely understandable, and you’ll probably think, as I did, that buying one is so much more efficient. Guaranteed it will taste right and no fiddly washing up. However shop bought dips contain so much more salt and fat than when whizzed up in your own food processor. If hummus is a daily thing on your plate or for a snack, changing it up a bit will benefit your pocket, tastebuds and waistline.

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Just make sure to keep a form of beans and any nut or seed butter in your cupboards, then you’re just two minutes away from a satisfying lunch or dinner or a friend for the lonely carrot in the bottom of your veg drawer. Even on Christmas morning, I was providing the starters for our dinner, and had a mini panic that I hadn’t made enough. I had prepared a salmon rillettes with mini toasts and crudités, but with the addition of a vegetarian to our family, a big bowl of hummus was surely on the cards. It always goes down well with a crowd and they will be really impressed if you’ve made it yourself.

Don’t get me wrong, when I’m travelling or away from home I can’t make my own so I always buy a shop bought. The best that I can afford. Look for one made with extra virgin olive oil or rapeseed oil rather than sunflower oil, and fresh garlic (not the powdered version), make sure it contains tahini and opt for organic if it’s within your price margin. Even in India I managed to buy hummus, it had lumps of black olives in and on first encounter I thought it had gone off, and it wasn’t that great but we all need that fix. And when in Greece, don’t expect to find any because hummus is most definitely not Greek. Fava will be your hero item on the menu, and a very good one too.

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Every time I make a batch, it lasts easily for a week in the fridge, but is usually licked clean within a few days. I also tend to change the type of bean and added flavours each time to keep things a bit new and exciting. If you want a traditional hummus, swap the butter beans for chickpeas and omit the Rosemary adding around 1/2 heaped teaspoon of ground cumin instead.

I had just used the food processor to make some roasted macadamia nut butter, so instead of washing the bowl I left some around the sides, stuck all the hummus ingredients on top and added another dollop for good measure. It made it even creamier than usual with a nice toasty flavour from the nuts. Of course they are expensive ingredients so feel free to use tahini, light or dark to your preference.

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Butter bean, macadamia and rosemary hummus

Ingredients

  • 1 tin or carton of butterbeans
  • 2 small cloves of garlic
  • 3 heaped tbsp macadamia nut butter (or tahini)
  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • pinch of ground cumin
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Drain the butterbeans and rinse well, tip into a food processor along with all the other ingredients.
  2. Add a BIG pinch of salt
  3. Whizz up until it forms a paste and is completely smooth. Taste for seasoning then drizzle in cold water to thin the hummus out. Transfer to a bowl or Tupperware and serve.

 

May your hummus problems be for forever resolved, when you get it right it really does taste better than shop bought. Next time try mixing up the flavours, a swirl of harissa there, some turmeric and curry powder here, lemon zest and finely chopped coriander, pureed beetroot and some finely chopped dill, or some roasted carrots and cumin seeds. Hummus is such a great source of fibre from the beans, healthy fats, calcium from the tahini and antibacterial properties from the raw garlic. A real deal SUPERFOOD.

(Disclaimer, superfoods is just a selling ploy used by brands and supermarkets, hummus isn’t scientifically proven to be a superfood, it’s not going to bring you back from the dead or anything. However it is a food and it tastes pretty super so…).

 

Much love and happy dipping

X

Beet tahini balls

When I was little, toast or cereal was the only thing on the cards for breakfast. Well thinking about it, it was almost always a big bowl of cereal. Toast was one of those things that sounded great beforehand, crisped and bronzed, slathered well with salted butter and a thin slick of ruby jam, BUT in reality a soggy piece of white loaf spread with flora and overly sweet strawberry jam. Nah never did it for me.

So bowl of cereal it was to break the fast. My eyes always shone at the sight of some Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, Shreddies, Rice Krispies or come winter warm Shredded Wheat or Weetabix with a sliced up banana. Now my mum was always a Sugar Puffs gal. If you’re new to the British cereal aisle, you’ll find them under the name of Honey Monster Puffs, a puffed wheat sweetened with sugar and honey. IN FACT, looking at the nutritional breakdown on the packet, containing 5 types of sugar, there are certainly better options out there.

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(On tasting these bars, my mum remarked how they are similar to Sugar Puffs, I’m hoping on a much more wholesome scale, but I will definitely take that as a good thing.)

Between me and my mum we’re both BIG fans of a good muesli bar (I’m not including my dad here because it’s near impossible to tempt him with a healthier treat, he’s only down for proper brownies and chocolate). I’ve attempted many in the past, and it really is hard to find a good one. Some granola bars are just way too dry, other ‘no-bake’ muesli bars too crumbly and fall apart, some using way too many dried dates or a big glug of maple syrup. I always return to the Muesli Bar from Green Kitchen Stories (on their desserts apps), they keep really well in the freezer and transport without turning into a mass of crumbs. If you fancy a baked bar, this Feelgood flapjack is lovely, just on the right side of sweetness, dipped into a cup of milk, crumbled on top of some yogurt or spread liberally with nut butter. Totally satisfying and moreish.

Now this recipe from Golubka Kitchen has been on my radar for quite a while now. Remember Rice Krispies Squares? The Rice Krispie snack glued together by a mass of marshmallows, this is slightly reminiscent of them. Gloriously magenta in colour, they use blended cooked beetroot to lend a slight earthiness as well as the mega hue. Oats and puffed brown rice make them more sustaining as a snack, and tahini and hazelnut butter lend a richness as well as a good dose of plant based protein. I added a handful of raisins for chewy nuggets, another of sunflower and pumpkin seeds for crunch and some cacao nibs for that 4pm much needed cacao hit.

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Note: The bars are best kept in the freezer and will keep there for a good few months, just take them out a few minutes before serving to soften. I have eaten some straight out the freezer but at room temperature is the best way to enjoy them. They are sticky and gooey and everything you want in a little snack bar. If you’re feeling fancy, drizzle with a little dark chocolate or some raw chocolate, i just rolled mine in whizzed up coconut flakes. The choice is yours.

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Beet Tahini Balls

Ingredients

  • 1 small beetroot, cooked (I roasted mine whole in its skin in foil, then peeled. However use vacuum packed if you can’t get fresh beets)
  • 1/2 cup soft dates, pitted
  • 1-2 tbsp plant based milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups wholegrain puffs (I used brown rice, try buckwheat, quinoa)
  • 1/2 cup tahini (try to use a brand such as Meridian, its much thicker)
  • 2 tbsp other nut butter (I used hazelnut sunflower seed butter but anything else will work)
  • Handful cacao nibs
  • Handful sunflower seeds
  • Handful pumpkin seeds
  • Handful raisins
  • Large handful of desiccated coconut or coconut flakes

 

Method

  1. Make sure the beet is peeled, then chop up and put in the food processor with the dates, 1 tbsp of milk, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Whizz up to form a smooth paste, and add more milk if it is struggling and still lumpy.
  2. Tip into a large mixing bowl and add all the other ingredients except the desiccated coconut.
  3. Mix well to form a sticky mixture, if it’s too wet add another handful of oats or if i’ts too dry add a little more milk. It needs to come together in one big clump.
  4. Form into little rounded mounds, akin to a coconut macaroon. I find this easier by wetting my hands with water first. Sprinkle the coconut out on a plate and roll the balls in the coconut until evenly covered.
  5. Place on a few plates in the freezer for at least an hour to set, then transfer to a Tupperware where they will keep in the freezer for a few months.

I hope these will brighten up your snacking or on-the-hoof breakfasts.

With love

X

 

Can I tempt you with some tahini

Many years ago now I first fell in love with peanut butter. I was quite late to the show, but think I have made up for it ever since. Yes it was packed with sugar and refined palm oils, and probably rhymed with ‘hippy’, I’m sure it was the exact same one that lured us all in in the first place. Gradually I discovered almond butter and cashew buter, then started making my own nut butters  (if you want a real treat make some macadamia buter, it will blow your mnd!).

A favourite foodie of mind, and I’m sure he features on most peoples’ cookbook shelves, Yotam Ottolenghi, now he was the one who led me to discover tahini. I’m going to have to admit, I wasn’t much of a fan. Eating peanut butter by the spoonful, now there’s no need to ask. However tahini, I found it too bitter. Sesame seeds have this rich smokiness that you grow to love.

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A jar of golden goodness

 

As I scrolled through Instagram, seeing countless posts from nutritionists and dietitians smothering tahini on EVERYTHING. Toast, spread it with tahini. Roast sprouts, dip ’em in tahini. Porridge, drizzle with tahini. Medjool dates, stuff them with tahini. Your arm, dip it in tahini (I definitely made that one up, please don’t go dipping your arms in tahini, I cant imagine it would be the easiest thing to clean up). But I just couldn’t do it.

Determined as I was, I made a vow to myself to learn to love it. And love it, now I do.

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I’ve been buying either the dark or light tahini by a brand called Meridian for a while and then making my own nut butter, but never made my own tahini. God knows why, it’s so flippin’ easy.

So here’s a recipe, kinda not recipe, for tahini. There’s not much to it. All you need is a fairly strong food processor, preferably a Vitamix (oh a girl can dream). But I have an old Kenwood food processor, it’s older than me (and I’m 20) and that does the job just nicely. Just expect to leave it running for up to 20 minutes. It gets bloody noisy, just grin and bear it, the end product is so so worth it!

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And here’s the beauty shot

 

 

The type of sesame seeds you use here will affect the flavour, black sesame seeds are sweeter, perhaps the colour is slightly off putting for some. The ebony black hue makes me love it even more, as they say black foods are the ultimate superfoods. The unhulled sesame seeds will make it slightly darker coloured, slightly more bitter (maybe just for the tahini aficionado), and the hulled will have the flavour you’re used to when bought from the supermarket. Half and half is a good route to go down, and that’s what I did here.

 

Ingredients

  • At least 1 cup Sesame seeds (hulled, unhulled or black)
  • salt

Yep that’s it, I haven’t forgotten to type out half the recipe. The food processor does all the magic.

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan.
  2. Put your sesame seeds in a metal tin and place in the oven, leave until they are lightly golden and they smell toasty. Keep checking and stirring to make sure they colour evenly.
  3. Tip into your food processor, pop on the lid and start whizzing. The seeds like to crawl up the sides of the processor, so keep going back to it every few minutes and scrape down the sides.
  4. The sesame seeds will look like they’ll never get there but keep on going, suddenly the oils will release and you’ll have some liquid sesame lusciousness.
  5. When the tahini has formed a paste, the same texture as nut butter, add a good pinch of salt and blend for a minute longer.
  6. Pour into a jar and keep in the fridge, and there it will be waiting for those spoon dunkings.

It may seem a lot more effort than it’s worth when you can buy a jar without any of the hassle. But a bit of DIY always ends up cheaper, and what else would you rather be doing on a lazy sunday, Netflix can wait!

X

 

 

Black truffle and chilli hummus

No matter how much I love cooking and want to cook at home, there comes a time when it’s necessary to let your palate experience new flavours, and also myself get inspired. Recently my imagination hasn’t been too wild. Usually I have ideas springing up left right and centre. New concepts I’ve seen on blogs, or on restaurant menus, ways of preparing ingredients I’ve not tried before. I have my little notebook for the MUST COOK things, and dishes to also recreate. 

At the moment, there seems to be nothing happening in that creative side of my brain. Maybe it’s a change in season,but I seem to be stuck on the same day to day bandwagon. Typically one that involves, avocado, sweet potato, hummus, tomatoes, salad, quinoa. Peas if I have them, because they are just the tastiest little morsels. Neither my mum nor my dad like peas so I was never fed them as a child. There was a pea ban in our house. How very wrong. I like to think that now I’m making up for that over the past few years by eating them possibly everyday. (Aaaandddd sneaking them into the food I cook for my parents, mum no longer ‘hates’ them, RESULT!!) 

Don’t get me wrong, that situation ain’t too bad. Anything that involves hummus just gets elevated to, ‘that’s what I’m talking about’, flavour town!!

Guilty!! I’m having to declare that i dont always make my hummus. But who can carry a food processor round in a suitcase? If there’s anyone out there willing to show me how I’m open for ideas. Until then, bought it is. I always try to buy the best quality one I can find, preferably organic, using rapeseed or extra virgin olive oil and no added nasties. The ingredients list should say: chickpeas, tahini, garlic, salt, olive oil. And not much else. 

‘Is that all that goes into hummus?!?’ I hear you cry. Why yes. It’s so simple, can be whizzed up in minutes and by adding different spices, herbs, vegetables you can change the flavour up. Not getting bored of it now are we!

I was having a good scrolling marathon on Instagram the other day, when I saw a post from a cafe I’ve recently visited in London called Saladpride. I’m always racking my brains and Pinterest trying to think of new combinations, hoping for that winner. I think I may have found it.

Not from my mind, so maybe I shouldn’t be taking full responsibility, but I’m sure it’s not a world first, everyone takes ideas from other people that’s how we develop and expand.

Truffle and chilli hummus. 

I love how your attention was swiftly diverted back to this post. 

After spending my weeks holiday in Croatia, obviously I picked up a jar (or two) of truffles. One black and one white. Mixed with other mushrooms, the black one with olives and capers too and the white with cream and Parmesan. Anyone else thinking spread the White one on avo on toast, or is it just me?!?!

I added a good few dollops of the black truffle paste into my hummus, it gives a deep earthy flavour, and a good pinch of chilli flakes for a nice warmth. You’ll want to add this to your hummus flavour rotation, even if you only ever make it plain, please change that today. Get your your food processor and give it a whizz!!

I’ve realised that we probably don’t all collect food items from abroad and truffle paste might not be something you can find on your bog standard supermarket shelf. Perhaps substitute some of the oil with truffle oil instead. Don’t overdo it though, truffle is powerful stuff!
Black truffle and chilli hummus

Ingredients

  • 1 can chickpeas (preferably organic and the can bpa free)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 heaped tbsp of tahini 
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 5 tbsp rapeseed oil or EVOO
  • 1 – 2 heaped tsp of black truffle paste
  • Good pinch of chilli flakes
  • Cayenne to sprinkle on top

Method

  1. Drain your chickpeas and rinse them before putting in the food processor
  2. Peel the cloves of garlic and put in with the chickpeas and the tahini
  3. Blend until everything is fully combined and no longer chunky
  4. Add all the other ingredients and blend again till really smooth. Add water a little at a time until it’s at a dollopy consistency and add a couple of pinches of sea salt, more truffle and/or chilli if you wish. 
  5. Scrape into a bowl to serve, sprinkle on extra chilli flakes and some cayenne if you like a kick and a drizzle of some more oil
  6. Serve as a dip with crudités, crackers, pitta, roast sweet potato wedges, with your salad, on a burger, sandwich, or as I do eaten with a spoon. 

I really do hope you make this one. I’ve made many a variety of hummus (is there a plural, hummi???) but this one beats them all hands down.

Happy dipping!!

X