Coconut oil makes for a great base to homemade chocolates. The texture and flavour are perfect for that most decadent of treats – truffles. Tahini might seem like an odd addition too but trust me when I say, it emphatically works! To put an extra festive spin on proceedings I’ve added orange extract and zest, and loaded up on pistachios and dried fruit … my preference is cherries but you could easily use raisins or cranberries. Once rolled and dusted, they can be wrapped in parchment paper or placed in a cellophane bag, ready for unexpected guests to take home with them. When it comes to gifts, I always think the personal touch goes a long way in impressing – even if they happen to be ridiculously easy to make. Merry Christmas!
1 ½ tbsp. *vita coco coconut oil
150g dark chocolate (min. 70% cocoa solids)
3 tbsp. light tahini
1 tsp. orange extract
Zest of 1 orange
2 tbsp. agave
Pinch of sea salt
50h roughly chopped
50g dried cherries
2 heaped tbsp. raw cacao powder
50g pulverized pistachios
Place the coconut oil in a small saucepan and melt over a low heat.
Break the chocolate in small pieces and add to pan. Gently melt, using a spatula to incorporate the oil and chocolate.
Take the saucepan off the heat and add the tahini, orange extract, zest, agave and salt. Whisk vigorously to combine. Return to the heat for a few seconds to ensure the tahini is thoroughly incorporated and the mixture is silky smooth.
Fold in the dried cherries and chopped pistachios before transferring to a small lined loaf tin. Refrigerate for at least 6hrs until solid.
Pulverise the remaining pistachios until they resemble a fine dust. Transfer to a shallow dish, ready for rolling. Place the cacao in a separate bowl.
Once solid, remove the chocolate slab from the fridge and let it soften for 5mins before scooping out approx. ½ tbsp. worth of chocolate – a melon baller is handy. Tip the ball into the cacao to lightly coat before rolling into a smooth ball. Transfer the truffle to the pistachio dish and gently roll to coat, gently pushing the truffle into the nuts for maximum coverage.
Repeat until all the chocolate mixture is used – you should get about 20 balls from each batch.
Refrigerate until needed.
Alternatively, line a muffin tin with baking parchment and divide the mixture between each mould. Refrigerate for at least 6hrs before using the baking parchment to carefully remove the chocolates from the tin – this will render 12 large discs. Similarly, refrigerate until needed.
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I read a blog post recently on food bandits that really resonated with me. If you’re a freelancer like myself and have frequent, crushing episodes of ‘self-doubt’ then I think it might be worth taking a peek … I’ll leave the link here. Go have a gander. It got me thinking … in this current social media focused climate, we are often tricked into thinking everyone’s else lives are so much better than ours. More organised. More fun. More whatever. And we buy it. We take those proclamations of perfection and hold up our own meager life offerings up in direct comparison. Same goes for work. I know I have periods when I feel like my efforts are totally redundant – it’s not rational on any level but I can’t say I don’t have a continual worry that I’m failing.
Failure and success are such strange concepts really. Even when my career is going well I can’t help but feel I could be doing more, creating more, achieving more. At what stage do we actually allow ourselves to think ‘I have succeeded’. When our books are selling well and work prospects seem bright? Maybe. Or, if you’re me, you might constantly looking for the negative in any given situation … my inner monologue swings from ‘how long will this last?’ to ‘you can’t rest on your laurels’ to ‘what if they next book isn’t as popular!’ and on and on it goes.
I said to my Husband just the other night that I wished we lived in a simpler time. Yes, I’m probably one of those people that views the 90s and early noughties through rose tinted glasses but I pretty sure I was more content without having a phone attached to me at all times. Whilst it’s wonderful to be ‘connected’ to so many people, I often wonder if that’s such a good thing? The wheel turns faster now than it ever has done, leaving very little time for actual living.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for instagram and twitter, and most of the time get pleasure out of posting but sometimes, sometimes, I’d like to hop off the merry-go-round for a while just to catch my breath. Does this make any sense? Perhaps my lonesome freelance lifestyle really has propelled me one-step closer to the loony-bin. With that said, I honestly wouldn’t change any of it … where I am currently, how I got here and what the future holds. Of course, I’m going to have ‘off’ days but it’s comforting to know that other creatives are going through the same thing. We really are a self-critical bunch, aren’t we? Sheesh.
For me, I know it’s important to step away from the chaos for a bit and do something for myself. Today, I finished off a little bit of work in the morning before allowing myself a bit of playtime in the kitchen. There’s was limited light in our already quite dark living area but I think I just about got away with it – and even though it’s not the most festive of dishes, my mood required something bright and cheerful. Now I feel totally ready to shake off the week and enjoy (savour) the weekend. Hope you have a good one planned too.
what you’ll need
1 large garlic clove
1/2 vegetable stock cube
250g frozen peas
1 heaped tbsp. coconut cream
1 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
for the roasted veg
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
30g toasted almonds
handful of pea shoots
1 tbsp. chives
what you’ll need
pre-heat the oven to 200c.
halve the radish and cut the celeriac into cubes. Place in an ovenproof dish, add the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Season generously and toss to combine. Roast for 30mins, shaking the pan from time to time.
place the almonds in an ovenproof dish or baking tray and pop in the oven for 10minutes, giving them a good shake about half-way through.
heat the olive oil in a small saucepan. slice the leek and add to pan. season and sweat for several minute until it softens.
add the stock cube, cover with water … about 350ml – and pop in the garlic clove, no need to peel.
bring to the boil, add peas and then simmer gently for a few minutes until the peas are just cooked through.
drain the peas, reserving the broth, and transfer to a food processor. Unpeel the garlic clove and add to processor along with the coconut cream and a little more seasoning. Pulse until it forms a coarse, nubbly puree. Return to pan and heat through.
divide the puree between two plates and top with the roasted veg, toasted almonds and some chopped chives. Spritz the pea shoots with a little lemon juice and place a handful on each plate.
December is upon us and I am really ramping up the hygge factor in my kitchen. Being a die-hard crumble fan, I tend to make one a week during these crisp, cold winter months – nothing beats a warming bowl of this doused in soya cream, custard or in this instance a dollop of zingy coconut yoghurt. This is a bit of a sweet ‘n’ savoury affair … not too sweet with just the right amount of herb and vinegar action to make you raise an eyebrow. I adore the granola topping so much I think I might be reluctant to go back to the traditional variety – the nutty crunch is seriously moreish and would make a terrific granola in of itself. In you are so inclined, simply lay the mixture flat on a baking sheet and bake in a pre-heated oven (150c) for 20mins before giving it a gentle mix – return it to the oven for a further 10-15mins. Bingo, you have a wondrous breakfast at the ready. Truth be told, I would happily chow down on this crumble first thing without so much as a single guilt pang – hence my coconut yoghurt suggestion.
I have a lot of cooking lined up this season. I’m determined to perfect my mince pie recipe (happy with my filling but my pastry needs work) and am having a strange cracker obsession presently … so sick of buying of buying shop bought ones that are almost always ‘meh’. A bad cracker lets down a great ‘cheese board’ and now that I’ve nailed my ultimate cashew cheese recipe (all in good time) pairing it with a sub-par ‘gary’ vehicle would be a travesty. Even though this Christmas is going to be lacking in festive cheer, I’m using food as a much welcome distraction. Luckily I’ll have many willing mouths on hand to hoover up whatever I put in front of them. This crumble will most likely make a number of appearances too.
What you’ll need
for the filling
9 plums, stoned and sliced
handful of dried cherries
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
50ml maple syrup, agave or other liquid sweeneter
for the oaty topping
30g ground almonds
30g flaked almonds
sprig of lemon thyme
pinch of salt
2 heaped tbsp. light tahini
30ml maple syrup or agave
1 tsp. almond extract
juice 1/2 clementine
30ml olive oil
What you’ll do
Pre-heat the oven to 175c.
Toss the sliced plums with the dried cherries, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, balsamic and sweetener. Set aside while you make the topping.
Whisk the tahini, maple syrup, almond extract, clementine juice and oil together until smooth.
Transfer the plums to an ovenproof dish.
In a separate bowl, lightly mix the oats, ground almonds, flaked almonds, thyme leaves and salt together before adding the tahini mixture. Stir to combine, ensuring everything is coated.
Spoon the granola mixture over the plums, ensuring it is pressed reasonably flat to avoid it charring too much on top before the fruit is cooked through.
Bake for 20mins. Remove from oven and lightly fork through the topping to ensure the granola topping is evenly cooked. Return to the oven for a further 10-15mins or until the plum juice begins to bubble and the top is golden and crisp.
Let it cool briefly before serving. Adorn with lemon thyme and add a dollop of fresh coconut yoghurt to each bowl.