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

 

Radicchio, courgette and goats cheese cauliflower pizza

So in the fridge you have a small chunk of cauliflower, a courgette, some radicchio and some stray basil. Not enough to make a mean veggie bowl filled with grains and a killer dressing, and we’d eaten pasta the night before so that was off the books. My mum isn’t the biggest fan of cauliflower unless I completely mask it with loads of spices, and no avocado is just real sad. You see come Friday it’s the end of the week and the day when I always like to cobble the leftover contents together, and miraculously make a veggie meal for my mum and I. Thank god it’s also the day when my dad goes out to the dirty beer shop (AKA the pub) so doesn’t eat with us, meaning less panic on my behalf due to the lack of meat.

(That’s not to say that I don’t eat meat, im not vegetarian or vegan I just prefer to eat plant based the majority of the time)

I kept wandering to the fridge that day, back and forth racking my brain for what to make for dinner that will use up the odds and ends, but obviously still taste really good. Peeking into the corners and behind the drawers in hope that something had fallen and become lost, no luck there, and if it had, probably would be from a few weeks back and starting to digest itself. Only one thing was on my mind, it had to be pizza. Cauliflower pizza that is. I’m not one to say that this is better than the real thing and you would never know it doesn’t contain gluten, as A. it’s not and B. you would. A proper pizza when done well, a slow risen dough to produce a thin crispy crust, puddles of mozzarella, fresh herbs and a smatter of a tomato sauce, if that’s what you’re expecting cauliflower pizza will never live up to that standard. It’s pretty shameful to even compare it to pizza, it shouldn’t be a substitute for when you’re on a ‘health kick’ or ‘detox’, both should be eaten with enjoyment because they both taste pretty fabulous. It’s same same, but different!

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I’ve made this pizza many times, for a Friday night, shared with my mum over a glass of wine. I make a thick tomato sauce spiked with a heavy helping of garlic and fiery chilli along with some oregano and a squirt of tomato purée for some depth. Sometimes I’ll whizz up a pesto with fresh herbs, masses  of lemon and a handful of nuts and some oil, lovely drizzled over before serving for that fresh and zingy hit. The toppings are completely adaptable. This time we had roasted courgettes, radicchio and tomatoes, but try a selection of peppers, mushrooms, roast aubergine, artichokes, capers, olives and sweetcorn (which caramelises and goes slightly crispy, we fight over those bits). Then a good scatter of cheese, feta is always a guaranteed pleaser, but some goats cheese is rather good too. Then just before serving a large handful of some vibrant greens like watercress or rocket, drizzle with oil and a squeeze of lemon. Simple, full of veggies, uses up odds and ends and most importantly tastes really very good.

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Radicchio, courgette and goats cheese cauliflower pizza

Adapted from Hemsley and Hemsley’s Flower Power pizza

Ingredients

Pizza base

  • 140g cauliflower
  • 1 egg white
  • 50g gram/chickpea flour
  • 40g buckwheat flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Tomato sauce

  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1/2 tin plum tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Big pinch of chilli flakes
  • Salt and pepper

Toppings

  • 1 courgette
  • 1/2 radicchio
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cheese, I used a hard goats cheese, but feta, soft goats cheese or mozzarella would also work nicely
  • Pine nuts, toasted
  • Fresh basil
  • Salad leaves, I had a mix of rocket, watercress and spinach
  • Lemon
  • Olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan. Chop the courgette into rounds, drizzle with oil, place in a roasting tin in the oven for around 20-30 minutes until golden and caramelised
  2. Next make the base. Put the cauliflower in a food processor and blitz until it looks like couscous. Add the other ingredients and whizz until you form a damp dough.  If you don’t have a food processor you can grate the cauliflower on a box grater then mix with the other ingredients in a bowl, this will just take a little longer.
  3. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and grease lightly with oil. Spoon the dough on the sheet and spread out thinly, leaving a slightly raised edge. I like to keep it circular for aesthetic reasons (we do eat with our eyes) and around 25cm diameter is a good size to aim for.
  4. Bake in the oven for 15 mins, flip over and bake for 5 mins more.
  5. Meanwhile for the tomato sauce, add some oil to a saucepan and place on a low heat, finely chop the garlic and add to the pan and sizzle until it starts to turn slightly golden.
  6. Squeeze in the tomato purée and cook it for a few minutes, then tip in the tinned tomatoes mush them up with a fork, fill the tin halfway with water and add to the pan also. Add the oregano and chilli flakes and simmer until thick and spreadable, check for seasoning and set aside.
  7. Flip the pizza base so it’s the right way up and spread in the tomato sauce, leaving a rim around the edge.
  8. Slice the radicchio thinly and the cherry tomatoes in half, and place on the pizza along with the roast courgette and some chopped fresh basil if you have it.
  9. Grate the cheese (if it is a hard one) or crumble as much as you like over the pizza, then place back in the oven for 10 mins.
  10. When it’s cooked, serve on a board with a drizzle of oil and a handful of salad greens.

I’d love to hear what your favourite way with leftovers is, or your favourite pizza toppings. And it is true that leftovers make the best meals, always far better the second time round  (especially if paired with a nice glass of wine).

Happy munching my lovelies

X

It’s here. IT’S HERE

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So it’s here. The official beginning of the lead up to Christmas. Possibly better than the day itself, yes I think so.

Filled with mince pies (never enough of them), carols, alcohol (too much of that), chocolate (too much of that too), Christmas markets and twinkly lights.

So this time last year I was in Mumbai, living there for three months, up until December the 20th. In a majoritively (Urban dictionary definition: ‘A word used by stupid people to seem smart instead of mostly or mainly’) Hindu city, who obviously don’t celebrate Christmas as we Brits do, I was feeling pretty low to say the least about missing out on the festive run up. However I was so pleasantly surprised to see brightly rainbow coloured decorations decking the stalls along the roads and Christmas carols in the cafes, it managed to fill that void in my heart.

But still no advent calendar, or mince pies (I really do love them and have created so many variations, brownie mince pies being the latest), and living with a Russian who also doesn’t celebrate Christmas in a similar fashion, it just wasn’t the same.

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When I finally arrived home, (YES FINALLY) Christmas dinner was one of my first proper meals, hot warmth swimming in gravy not a bowl of salady crunch.

BUT minus the sprouts. I KNOW. It was indeed a travesty. So this year I am making up for it going through at least a packet a week and giving the little cabbages the love they require.

So it’s a big deal this year to celebrate Christmas properly, I’m making up for the lack of festivities last year. Is it possible that I started my Christmas planning in September/October. Why of course? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Christmas chutney jarred up and ready for for its party outfit packaging, mincemeat made twice because I’ve nearly used up the first batch, Christmas cards made and decorations being crocheted as we speak.

I really am that girl (or should I say granny?)

Speaking of mincemeat, there’s two types that I like to make. First a traditional one. I used both of these recipes this year from the queen Mary Bezza herself and Barney Desmazery from the Good Food team. The former is almost all used up and the latter is steeping in its brandy bath for a couple of weeks before the lids are popped open. I do reduce the sugar by around a third in the traditional recipes-considering the sheer amount of dried fruit it can stand a little less  teeth-aching sweetness. The second is a mincemeat aimed towards me, using completely wholefoods, no suet, no candied peel (that stuff is of the devil), and absolutely no added sugar.

I found the recipe from the Hemsley sisters, make up a batch or even double and store in the fridge as there’s no sugar to act as the preservative. It’s brilliant stuff, and of course it finds its way into my porridge annually as a Christmas eve festive brekky.

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Get some mincemeat in there, your porridge will thank you

Now onto the casing, the pastry. I have been playing around with pastry recipes for a good while, never quite happy. Sometimes too bland, others too sweet, too hard and not crumbly and short enough. I like to bite into a mince pie (preferably still warm from the oven) and it disintegrates into a dreamy roof-of-the-mouth scorching buttery loveliness. YA FEEL ME?!?

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To add to my Christmas collection and slumping shelf of cookbooks, I bought the new offering from Gizzi Erskine, Gizzi’s Season’s Eatings. Not just Christmas recipes, full of new and inspiring ideas for Halloween all the way through to NYE and what to do with those pesky leftovers as SOMEBODY bought too large a turkey and no one can ever cook it properly (Brine it people!!).

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So flicking through, a recipe for mince pies obviously caught my eye. New flavour combinations always cry out for a test run but these will be on repeat. I always make my pastry with white spelt flour rather than plain flour. 1. Its saves me time from making two different pastries because nobody has time for that, and 2. spelt has a much lower gluten content than wheat therefore no chance of overworking and hello short crumbliness.

So get making a batch of this pastry, maybe two to keep one in the freezer for a later date, and then get those mince pies in the oven. Of course a mince pie should be a treat but as we only eat them for one month of the year I think a couple more is allowed. Still warm out the oven and doused in some cold cream, it’s Christmas for gods sake.

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Mince pies with an earl grey and orange pastry

I’ve reduced the sugar by quite a mile in these mince pies, and by making everything from scratch you can alter it to your own tastes. As I’ve said already it is Christmas so allow yourself a break and enjoy the festivities, a little too much sugar won’t do you any harm at all. Compared to the shop bought mince pies these have more of an adult flavour letting the dried fruits shine through and of course the brandy. And if there’s not enough tummy warming liquor in the pies, have a little tipple on the side. Sherry is my choice, Harvey’s Bristol Cream, it wouldn’t be Christmas without it.

Ingredients

Mincemeat

Adapted from Hemsley and Hemsley

  • 2 eating apples
  • 160g dried fruit, I like a combination of raisins, sultanas, cranberries, apricots, prunes (whatever you have in your cupboards)
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 an orange
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 25g butter or coconut oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 1/2 – 5 tbsp brandy

Earl grey and orange pastry

Adapted from Gizzi’s Season’s Eatings: Feasts and Celebrations from Halloween to Happy New Year

  • 3 tbsp boiling water
  • 1/2 tsp loose earl grey tea
  • 2 tbsp orange juice (I use the orange that I’ve zested)
  • 1 free range egg
  • 225g white spelt flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • 125g fridge-cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • Coconut sugar (or caster sugar) for sprinkling

Method

First make the mincemeat

  1. Leaving the skin on the apples finely chop them so they are the same size as the raisins.
  2. Place the apples in a large pan and cook on a medium heat with the lid on until they start to soften slightly.
  3. Add all the other mincemeat ingredients except the brandy and cook with the lid on for a further 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. When the apples are soft, and the dried fruit plump, take the pan off the heat and leave to cool.
  5. When cool add the brandy, depending on your taste. I like to add more because I like the boozy flavour.
  6. Spoon into sterilised jars and store in the fridge.

Second make the pastry

  1. Pour the boiling water over the tea leaves and leave to infuse until cool, then store in the fridge.
  2. Beat the orange juice with egg and set aside.
  3. Put the flour, salt and orange zest in a food processor and whizz for a few seconds. Then tip in the butter and whizz to form a breadcrumb-like consistency.
  4. Add 1 tbsp of the egg mixture and all of the cold tea, and pulse until the pastry is forming large clumps. You may need up to 3 tbsp of the egg, but it should feel like it is on the drier side and needs slightly more liquid, when the texture is right.
  5. Tip onto a floured side and bind into a ball, being careful not to knead it.
  6. Squish into a flat round, wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Will keep in the fridge for around 5 days, also can be frozen to be used another time.

The mince pies

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan
  2. Roll the pastry on a floured surface to around 3mm thick. Using an 8cm fluted cutter, cut around 12 circles and place them in a bun tin.
  3. Put around 1 tbsp of mincemeat in the pastry cases, try to get in as much filling as possible without mince pie eruptions.
  4. Then using a 6.5cm round cutter, or a star cutter, cut 12 tops out the rest of the pastry. If you run out, roll up the scraps and re-roll to finish cutting out the lids.
  5. Brush the edges of the tarts with the remaining egg and orange mixture, then top with the lids. If you have a full lid, squeeze the rims together and cut a little hole in the middle to let out the steam.
  6. Brush with more orange and egg mixture and sprinkle with a little coconut sugar.
  7. Place the tin in the oven for around 15 minutes, or until they are bubbling and golden brown.
  8. Leave to cool if you can resist, if you can’t and you burn your mouth, don’t blame me!
  9. Eat with gusto, a sherry in one hand, mince pie in the other. Aaaand repeat!

 

Merry Christmas my loves

X

 

 

Want some crumble? I’ve got you covered.

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I’ve still got that autumnal vibe. Walks around my local park, romping through the crunchy leaves leaving a trail of my wanderings behind me. Walking to the green grocers and picking up squashes, beetroots, multicoloured carrots all ready to roast up for a heart warming dinner or snack.

These rich and toasty flavours are spreading into almost everything I am craving and making recently. A morning doesn’t go by without a generous sprinkling of cinnamon in my porridge or on my toast (no change from the rest of the year there then). I’m feeling a need for warming cooked food instead of my regular salad for lunch. Baked sweet potatoes topped generously with dahl or veggie chilli, big bowls of soup and a huge hunk of sourdough bread and butter. Bread, potatoes, rice, CARBS, more bread, I think it’s a sign of the foreboding winter. My body stock piling the energy to keep my fingers and toes warm for the next few months, or more likely that a new bakery has opened up where I live, and a week doesn’t go by without a loaf or two of sourdough for us to devour (add in a couple of pastries too).

I’m not complaining. Bread and butter has always been one of my favourite things to eat, and ultimate comfort food. Back in the days of me only eating bread and butter, ham, chips and sweet corn, and by bread I’m talking white thick sliced Hovis and the ‘butter’ was some plastic margarine crap, I think freshly baked sourdough and organic salted butter isn’t going to do any harm.

Another winter comfort always has to be crumble. Any fruit is welcome here. As long as it’s tart and juicy in contrast to the crispy, but gooey underneath and slightly sweet crumble topping. And then drown that in custard. DONE. But only one spoon please, I’m not sharing with anyone!

On a lunch out for my mums birthday the other weekend, we went to a favourite of ours in Manchester. We’ve been before and dreamed of munching on their spicy Korean fried chicken once more. However I’d also heard about their apple crumble. Proper stuff, no deconstructed or single serving nonsense here. I’m talking bring the whole dish to the table, serve out a hearty portion and drown it with creamy custard. No creme anglaise we’re English! So obviously after enough to drink, the crumble was obligatory for some alcohol absorption (so we told ourselves).

Since that weekend, crumble has been on my mind.

But I wanted a snack that wasn’t overly sweet and would keep in the fridge, ready to be packed into a Tupperware for those hungry travels. Flicking though the cookbook from My New Roots, I spied some walnut and fig crumble bars. That fits the brief quite nicely.

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They’re ever so simple to whip up, a mixture of oats, walnuts, chia and apple sauce for the crust, and blended dried figs for the filling. No added sugars, maple syrup, honey or anything. All real ingredients from Mother Nature herself. And yes they are even acceptable for breakfast.

Now figs are not the most popular of the fruit world, but a real treat for all the foodies amongst us. Come September, Instagram fills up with pictures of juicy figs topping everything from porridge to toast and gracing savoury dishes, cheese boards and desserts. (NOTE a pud I had recently, white chocolate pannacotta with figs honey and walnut, unctuously creamy and sinfully good). For the rest of the year we have to turn to our dried friends for that figgy fix, and if you’ve ever tried dipping one in peanut butter or tahini, you will be hooked.

They are wonderful little creatures, providing you with calcium, which in this day and age is a very important mineral due to many people cutting dairy out of their diets. Alongside iron, potassium, magnesium and vitamins A, E and K, you get a lot of bang for your buck.

Also as some of you will well know if you have eaten a few too many figs or prunes, they are high in fibre, and you probably will not want to eat a high amount again due to the consequences. The government recently have upped our required fibre intake here in the UK to 30g, which doesn’t sound much but I’m sure many of us aren’t reaching that goal daily. Fibre is so important boasting many health benefits such as reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and keeping weight under control due to it keeping you fuller for longer. But it’s also vital for your digestive health, acting as the food for your gut bacteria which we all need to learn to love and look after, and bulking up stools to prevent the C WORD, yep constipation.

TMI!!!

But it’s so important, I’m not going to beat around the bush, I’m getting straight to the point!

3 dried figs give you 2.4 g of fibre, so chop them up and mix into porridge with some ground flaxseeds and peanut butter, and you’re well on your way to that 30g a day.

 

Or have one of these bars with your afternoon cup of tea, or as a dessert with some yogurt and berries. Lightly sweet, spicy, crunchy and wholesome. It’s not a bowl of apple crumble and custard but that’s not for everyday, save that for special occasions. These are to enjoy for those times in between, satisfying your sweet tooth but with the knowledge that they are doing you and your gut some good. And we all need to give our guts a bit more loving!!!

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Fig and walnut crumble bars

Recipe adapted from the My New Roots cookbook

A dairy free recipe, no added sugar and can be gluten free if you use gluten free oats. A note on the applesauce, I buy applesauce from the baby food section because it contains no added nasties. Make sure there’s just apples on the ingredients list and no sugar. I used both this and this brand.

Ingredients

Base and crumble topping

  • 1 1/2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 280g walnuts
  • 200g rolled oats
  • 60g applesauce
  • 2 tbsp nut milk (can use maple syrup as stated in the original recipe but didn’t want them that sweet)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Figgy filling

  • 300g dried figs
  • 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 125g applesauce
  • Grated zest 1 small or 1/2 large lemon or orange
  • Pinch salt

Method

  1. For the crust: whisk the chia seeds with 1/4 cup of water in a small bowl. Leave for around 15 minutes until it has formed a gel.
  2. Set your oven to 180C/160C fan. Put 140g of the walnuts on a baking tray and put in the oven, leave until lightly golden and they smell toasty. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  3. In a food processor, blend 100g of the oats until you have a flour, add in the toasted walnuts and pulse until they are all chopped up and you have a sandy mealy texture.
  4. Add the chia gel, applesauce, nut milk (or maple syrup if you prefer), coconut oil and vanilla extract. Blend again until a moist dough is formed.
  5. In a bowl, mix the remaining 100g of oats with a pinch of salt and the baking powder. Tip the sticky dough mixture in the bowl and mix well either using a big spoon, or your hands, which is much easier.
  6. Line a 20cm square baking tin with greaseproof paper, then put about a third of the dough mixture in. Press with the back of a spoon, or damp hands, fairly firmly to make an even base layer.
  7. To make the filling: In the food processor, there’s no need to wash it, snip the stalks off the figs and blend together with the cinnamon, ginger, applesauce, orange/lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Blend till either chunky or smooth depending on your preference, then spread the filling in an even layer over the base.
  8. Drop the remaining oat mixture in clumps so it resembles a crumble topping. Chop the remaining 140g of walnuts so they are still chunky and sprinkle over the topping. Press lightly so they stick.
  9. Place the tin in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the topping is lightly golden. Leave to cool before cutting into 16 pieces. Keep in a Tupperware or tin in the fridge for around 5 days, or pop in the freezer for those times when the sweet tooth needs to be satiated.

I know in this changing of the seasons, our bodies are adjusting. You may be feeling more tired than usual, I definitely am! So whenever there’s a chance take the rest and treat yourself. We all deserve a bit of me time and self love.

X

Peanut butter, sour cherry and oat bars

Making decisions for me is one of my biggest bugbears. If someone just handed everything to me without any choice I’m sure it would cause a lot less stress in life. Buuuttt considering I am also quite the control freak, that’s not going to happen. Good mix I have going on there, making life super easy for myself.

Honestly I don’t know what it is about deciding between two things (two if I’m lucky) that’s so difficult. And then if you throw being hungry in there whilst trying to decide what to eat, well that’s the end of the world. Of course I know that next time you can choose the other option, and if the decision you make ends up being the wrong one, that most definitely shouldn’t  = day ruined. But it always does.

One of my biggest problems with decision making comes to choosing a recipe to make. Life before the Internet must have been so much simpler, from your couple of cookbooks you either had the recipe you wanted or you didn’t. No such thing as Pinterest and Google, or the ever expanding ‘whole wall of the kitchen’ shelf of cookbooks that I have at home.

The process is always the same: I get an idea in my head or see something I want to make, then I flick through all my books to find something similar, then an endless scroll through Pinterest to check out other people’s techniques maybe some wacky addition I hadn’t thought of. Then I get confused having spent the last hour or so looking at countless recipes centred around the same idea I no longer know which one to choose. Eventually I choose one, cook it, ends up not working out or not tasting as good as I expected. Obviously I chose the wrong one. End up crying into an under baked mess of cake goo. Fml.

On the very odd occasion I see a recipe and automatically know that I have to make it. There’s no searching around for better options, my minds made up and we’re avin’ it!

This was one of those -extremely rare- occasions. I got an email about a new post from The First Mess. Yes she’s a vegan, but don’t let that turn you away. You will never be asking, ‘where is the meat?’. Expect plant-centric wholefoods, flavour pairings you would never dream of, luscious drinks for a bit of me time, and a few pictures of her dog slipping in there.

I opened the email and read the title no-bake oat bars with sour cherries, hemp and chocolate. *Mental post-it-note*, THAT is what I am baking at the weekend.

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This recipe was for something a bit devilish. Definitely devilishly delicious (that’s hard to say, hard enough to type!). I have a bit of a thing for a good oat bar. Many baked ‘flapjack’ style things have been tested in my kitchen and usually end up dry and cardboardy. Bleugh. So no bake definitely seem the best route to go down and stick with, ooey gooey and utterly moreish. Laura writes how she followed the recipe down to a tee. Now I’ve altered it slightly, as that was what I had in my cupboards, so if you wish go back to the original recipe. Whichever you decide to do, make sure its a quick decision and start devouring these ASAP.

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Hang on..there seems to be something missing
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Someone say a drizzle of chocolate?

Peanut butter, and squidgy dates mixed with toasted oats, seeds, cacao nibs, sour cherries, AND chocolate flecked with sea salt. I’ve got you interested now, even if I hadn’t before.

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On a quick note, this is something that I will go into more detail about another time. Sugar. I am very cautious of how much sugar I put into food, whether it be white caster, honey, maple or from dates it’s all the same to our bodies. Remember these are a treat. Yes they do contain wholesome ingredients, but there’s still quite a lot of sugar from the dates and fat from the peanut butter and dark chocolate, so don’t go thinking you can eat the entire tray . Well you can, but you will feel well and truly stuffed and I’m sure pretty sick, so it’s not the best idea. These little delights are rich and filling, enjoy them with a good cup of tea, share with loved ones or keep in the freezer for a rainy day.

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Peanut butter, sour cherry and chocolate oat bars

Recipe taken from The First Mess, originally from the book Alternative Baker by The Bojon Gourmet.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter (I used a brand called Meridian)
  • 1/2 cup dates (the squidgier the better) soaked in some boiling water for 5-10 minutes
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (please not essence)
  • A good pinch of sea salt
  • 2 1/2 cups of rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs
  • 50g dark chocolate (my favourite is Green and Blacks 85%, the darker the better)

Method

  1. Line a 8×8 inch tin (20cm x 20cm) with cling film and set to one side.
  2. Take dates out of their soaking liquid (but reserve the liquid for later) and blend in a food processor until they form a paste. Add the peanut butter, vanilla extract and salt and blend again to form a big sticky clump.
  3. Mix together the oats, seeds, dried cherries and cacao nibs in another bowl then tip all the peanut butter mixture into the bowl.
  4. Now it gets messy. Get your hands in there and squidge it all together until well combined. It should feel sticky, but if it’s on the dry side add some of the reserved soaking water until it’s moist and holding together.
  5. Put into the prepared tin and press down firmly with your hands or a spoon so that the bars are an even thickness all the way across.
  6. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over some simmering water, or in the microwave, then drizzle all over the bars, either spreading it out to create an even layer or leaving it ‘informal’ (as Mary Berry would say) as I have here.
  7. Sprinkle with extra cacao nibs and a good sprinkle of sea salt.
  8. Put in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or the freezer for 30 mins if you’re desperate, until firm and the chocolate is set.
  9. Slice into 16 squares and store in the fridge for a couple of weeks or the freezer for a couple of months. But what am I kidding, that’ll be completely unnecessary they will all be gone way before then.

 

I must add, these are dad approved. Now my dad pulls a face at anything I make if he thinks it’s too ‘healthy’. I’m talking about the porridge I make for us all on a Saturday morning. He pulls a face unless its got A LOT of honey added. As he keeps telling me, “I don’t have a sweet tooth”, obviously honey doesn’t count dad. BUT, he loved these bars, I went away from home for only a couple of days and they were all gone. Is that proof enough? I think so.

Happy rainy day (no) baking

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