If someone had said to me a year ago that I would bake a vegan muffin that tasted ‘just like the real thing’ I would have given a derisory snort of disbelief. But in my new wholesome existence, thanks in no small part to becoming friends with Paris (the founder of the lifestyle website called Avocado Please, nonetheless), I have opened my mind to the possibility that you can bake something delicious without butter. Yes, some things will always need dairy – cheese scones for example – but muffins, I have recently discovered, are not one of them.
For our last Vegessential recipe using beetroot, we opted for the well-known and loved combination of chocolate and beetroot. We used a combination of ‘Beyond Dark’ 85% chocolate chips and melted chocolate, for a double whammy of the good stuff. The beetroot gives a deep, rich flavour and provides the moistness that is so essential for a good muffin. There is a ‘secret’ ingredient that flummoxed everyone who tried to guess it: avocado. This binds the mixture together, and gives the muffins a smooth, buttery texture. Paris sums the muffins up rather well, describing them as combining ‘a vibrant purple complexion, an earthy aroma and nutritional brilliance’. Well said, Paris.
The styling team (me and Paris) had great fun creating ‘muffin chaos’ shots on my bedroom floor, arranging bits of muffin haphazardly in amongst chocolate chips and beetroot leaves. The chocolate drops melted in the sweltering July heat, leaving shiny little circles on the slate that we gleefully scooped into our mouths once we’d finished the shoot. That thing that is slopped on the side of the muffins is a rather remarkable banana and cashew ice cream (recipe coming soon.)
I wanted to make something to stave off the inevitable hunger pangs that reliably hit around 4pm everyday. I have started eating fruit when this happens, which helps to a certain extent, but I inevitably also follow it with random handfuls of dried fruit, nuts and seeds. So I decided to combine these into a snack that would give me energy, whilst also being substantial enough to keep me going until dinner. It is also a desperate bid to get rid of a jar of ground mixed seeds that I have hanging around, which I am not particularly fond of – I end up finding small pieces of hemp seed painfully lodged in my gums after sprinkling them on my morning porridge.
I tipped pretty much the entire contents of my food cupboard into these – beginning with oats and mashed banana, then joyfully pouring in the ground seeds, tahini, peanut butter, cashew nuts, ground almonds, and anything else that needed finishing off. I also found some dried sour cherries hidden behind the pasta that I had bought on a whim several months ago, then completely forgotten about. I opened them and discovered, after chomping down on one rather hard, that they still contained their stones. So I spent a rather tedious hour soaking the cherries in boiling water, then popping out each stone individually.
This sort of thing is all the rage among the nutrition and exercise obsessed, who see them as the perfect ‘post-workout’ snack. There are numerous versions of homemade ‘energy bites’ and ‘high-protein snack bars’ out there, with increasingly ridiculous names – the best one I found was ‘healthy almond joy protein bars’. No joke. This version is raw, which gets a whole host of people on board. ‘Raw’ food is seen as superior by its advocates, as cooking is thought to ‘denature proteins’ amongst other evil things. I’m not prepared to jump on that bandwagon just yet (well, never), but I simply wanted to see if everything would stick together without the need to cook it, more out of laziness than health concern. Turns out it did, although they were much easier to shape into balls than press into bars, leading to the dubious name of ‘seed balls’.
There is a reason for my slightly sporadic blog posts over the last month or so. I’ve started a new job, as the marketing manager for a group of cafes in Bristol. A big part of this job is food photography, and I’ve been photographing the (large amount) of dishes on their new menu. It’s quite a different thing photographing food for a business and to a brief, rather than just on my bedroom floor for the blog, but I’m enjoying the challenge. This job unites all of the things I’ve been doing over the last few years in a pretty miraculous way. Aside from the photography, I’m managing all the social media and marketing schedules for five cafes. It’s a lot to take on, but I’m really enjoying it.
Hopefully things will resume to normal regularity in the next few weeks, once everything has settled down a bit. I have always been militant about putting up a blog post every week, and then realised that people probably don’t really mind if they’re a bit irregular. These things are always a lot more important in your own head than in anybody else’s. In the meantime, keep checking the website and Facebook to
One of the many good things about this collaboration is working with someone who knows the perils of trying to fit a food blog around a full time job. I’ve been doing lots of food photography for my new job (more on that in a later post), meaning that I’m finding it difficult to summon the energy to also do it in my spare time. Paris and I decided to fit in our next Vegessential session one evening after work. We were both knackered, and were seriously contemplating not bothering, but we ploughed on. It was then that we realised that there being two of us makes the whole process much easier.
One of the many up-sides of doing a post together is you’ve got someone to help you make all the decisions. It made me realise the sheer amount of decisions involved – about ingredients, quantities, cooking methods, camera angles and styling. It’s great to have someone to offer their opinion on the exact placement of a piece of torn pitta, or an errant pomegranate seed. In fact, we spent the majority of the time precisely arranging the pomegranate seeds to look artfully scattered.
Armed with our trusty beetroot once again, we set about making beetroot falafel. I’ve never had this before, but Paris has, and assured me that it’s delicious. It was. Basically, you just whack everything in a food processor and whizz briefly until it comes together, then roll into balls and fry. We seriously contemplated leaving them raw, as we had to restrain ourselves from eating all of the mix before it was fried. But in the end went for a shallow fry in sunflower oil, until the outside edges began to crisp up. The real winning ingredient was the dates, giving the falafel a sweetness that complemented the beetroot really well. Have a look at Paris’ post on Avocado Please here.