Sweet Potato Brownies

Sweet Potato brownies

I am firmly in the camp that believes as much butter and sugar as humanely possible should be shoved into brownies. My favorite brownie recipe – from the one and only Nigel Slater – requires a whole block of butter and an eye-watering amount of sugar. The resulting brownies can only be eaten one at a time (unless things really are getting tough) as they are so rich.

Cocoa

I thought this was my brownie recipe of choice for life, until I stumbled across this these sweet potato brownies. This recipe is from the queen of vegan smugness, Ella Woodward, who writes the blog Deliciously Ella. Once you get past her insufferable writing style, waxing lyrical about how ‘awesome’ quinoa is, the recipes on her blog are actually pretty inspired. This recipe uses sweet potato and dates to give the sweetness to the brownies, and, to add to their virtuousness, they don’t contain any butter. Ella calls them ‘gooey bites of heaven’. But she would.

Brownie

The texture is not quite what you’d expect from a brownie, and they don’t have that melting ooziness that copious amounts of butter provides. But they are pretty convincingly brownie-like in taste, and if you need an excuse to eat a whole batch of brownies in one go, these might just be the ones.

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Blueberry Scones with Coconut Cream

Blueberry Scones

My friend Ruby has recently moved to Australia. One of the things on the to do list before she left England was to have the quintessentially English experience of a cream tea. Unfortunately, this presents a slight problem when you are allergic to dairy. So I took on the challenge of making a dairy-free cream tea.

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The scone part was easy – I just replaced butter with margarine – then added some blueberries to jazz things up a bit. However, trying to make something that vaguely resembles clotted cream without using anything that comes from a cow was more challenging. In the end, after lots of trawling through vegan food blogs, I stumbled upon the suggestion of using coconut milk. This, as it happens, makes relatively successful cream-like substance, when whipped and combined with margarine and more sugar than I would like to admit.

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I ended up making two ‘creams’ – a one flavoured with vanilla, and a chocolate one, in an attempt to mask some of the coconut taste. The chocolate worked well with the blueberries, and with the plain Even though I’m devoted to clotted cream like only a Devonian can be, this cream tea was a much lighter, and I think equally delicious, alternative.

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Almond Butter

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I have little restraint when it comes to food that I can convince myself is healthy. This includes dates, malt loaf and pistachio nuts. Oh and yoghurt-coated apricots. That’s just yoghurt and fruit, right? I recently realised I’ve been spending a small fortune on tiny jars of cashew nut butter, as I scoff down the calorie-dense paste by the spoonful, straight from the jar. I’ve toured round all the different nut butters, including the slightly bizarre apricot kernel butter, and decided that my top two are definitely almond and cashew. But the fact remains that to buy them is horrendously expensive. So I found a recipe and decided to have a bash at making some.

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Making my own almond butter wouldn’t be financially viable without Scoop Away, which is an amazing wholefood shop where you literally scoop everything into bags, which is then priced by weight. When I first discovered the shop, I went a bit over the top, buying lots of random things that I had never seen before, such as yoghurt coated honeycomb, in industrial quantities. Even now I visit the shop weekly, and have to reign myself in when faced with the yoghurt- coated section. So I scooped what seemed like a reasonable amount of almonds into a bag, later realising that I had bought over double the quantity needed for the nut butter, having lost all sense of proportion when scooping.

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Making almond butter is ludicrously simple. You need a powerful food processor to get the creamy consistency, and simply roast the nuts in the oven for a few minutes, then put them in the food processor and leave them to it. I was convinced that it wasn’t going to work at first, as I just had ground almonds whizzing round the processor bowl for the first ten minutes. But then, suddenly, the oil is released and the almond powder mushes together to form the butter. One of my favourite things to do with the butter (other than eat it straight from the jar) is to stuff pitted Medjool dates with a spoonful, then put them in the fridge to set. In my experience, it’s impossible to eat less than five of these in one sitting.

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Vegessential: Quinoa Porridge with Roasted Beetroot, Apple and Ginger

Quinoa Porridge

My friend Paris has started a food and lifestyle website called Avocado Please. She writes interesting and informative articles on all manner of topics, from muesli to nail varnish. We decided to ‘collaborate’ by writing some recipes together, then making, styling and eating the food. I have recently started trying to incorporate much more veg into my diet, and have therefore been thinking more outside the box when it comes to using vegetables in a variety of different ways. The idea is to make vegetables a more essential part of our diets, hence Paris coining the genius ‘vegessential’ to describe our project. We decided to focus on one ingredient and experiment with how it can be used in a variety of dishes, both savoury and sweet. After much deliberation, considering among others avocados, sweet potatoes and kale, we eventually settled on beetroot. It’s pretty versatile, and has been reliably tested in cakes. It’s also cheap, and, as anyone whose ever grated a raw beetroot will testify, seems to go on forever.

beetroot montage

The idea is to demonstrate how you can get more out of one ingredient- focusing on how it can be used throughout the week, to reduce waste and get us all thinking more creatively about using vegetables. Beetroot usually comes elastic-banded together in a group of at least 4, and just grating them into salads can get a bit tedious. So, beetroot on your porridge anyone? Quinoa porridge, made by cooking the grain slowly in milk, is something that I’ve heard of on the grapevine (and seen on Instagram) but never tried. Something that might cause a frown among the less open minded of cooks. But I was prepared to go in with an open mind. We also added stewed apple and fresh ginger, to liven the proceedings up a bit.

Ingredients montage

Quinoa. However it’s pronounced – my Dad still insists on ‘keenoya’, even though I repeatedly insist that it’s ‘keenwa’ – it seems to be taking the health food world by storm. Usually the preserve of salads and the like, but rarely used in sweet dishes. The result, despite trying to go in with the aforementioned open mind, was…interesting. Pleasantly creamy and nutty, which was helped by the almond milk. But it was oddly savoury – maybe because quinoa is a taste and texture that I associate with savoury food. I think my mouth was slightly confused at being presented with quinoa and having to process that it was sweet. We roasted the beetroot in rice syrup, adding to the sweetness, but overall the dish was still too savoury for my liking. After all, I’m not one of those strange individuals who puts salt on their porridge – for me it’s got to be a sweet thing.  We could have equally made these ingredients into a salad, omitting the almond milk. A worthwhile experiment, but I think I might add more sugar next time.

Porridge

 

For the recipe and riveting beetroot-related facts, visit www.avocadoplease.com.

Chocolate and Chestnut Bars

choc

Many of my friends seem to have some sort of ‘dietary requirement’, whether it is a matter of ethics, such as being vegan or vegetarian, or an allergy to certain foods – I have one friend who is allergic to dairy, cinnamon and tomatoes. My friend Clare fits into the latter category, as she is lactose intolerant. This allergy cuts out a surprising range of things – even some brands of the contraceptive pill.

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There is a vegetarian café in Exeter called Herbies, which is something of an institution. It has been running since my parents lived in Exeter some twenty years ago. It became a favourite back in the day (at school), as it was easy to find something nice that didn’t contain meat or dairy.

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So when we met up a few weeks ago for a reunion of sorts, deciding where to meet for lunch didn’t take long. The main courses were of the usual salad and falafel variety, but it was the puddings that really stood out. We shared several and galloped them down, fighting over the last pieces, with cries of ‘it can’t POSSIBLY be vegan!’.

choc chestnut

One pudding that I vowed to try and replicate was the chocolate chestnut terrine. When I asked what was in it, they cagily mumbled something about chestnut puree being the secret. So, lo and behold, here is my take on a chocolate chestnut terrine. I made mine with a biscuit base to add a bit of textural variation, and added eggs and baked it, to make it more like a brownie. It’s not vegan, but it is Clare-friendly, and she seemed to like it.

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