In the last year or so, the Happy Pear have gradually seeped into my consciousness. I’d heard them mentioned by Riverford, Jamie Oliver, in the press and through various food bloggers, but I’d never seen any of their recipes. I’m now the happy owner of their latest book The World of the Happy Pear, to be published soon, on 2nd June. To celebrate National Vegetarian Week, I’m excited to say, I also have two copies of the book to giveaway.
One of the many fascinating things about food is that there are so many ingredients and combinations in the world, that providing we are able to access them, the adventure never ends. Here are some of the food products that have landed on the kitchen counter at Tin and Thyme recently.
As some of you will know, smoothies are a regular breakfast item in the Tin and Thyme household. They are a tasty way of packing in a lot of healthy nutrients and generally keep us going for hours. It was not until I had a conversation with some fellow food bloggers yesterday, however, that I heard about the smoothie bowl. As soon as the concept was explained, I realised that smoothies in a bowl were quite a different thing to smoothies in a glass.
After all those amazing layer cakes in March, I thought something a little simpler might be in order this month. No bake chocolate treats it is. Think chocolate cornflake nests for Easter, tiffin to use up all those Easter chocolate leftovers or raw energy balls for a healthy post Easter detox.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I am having such fun with my Froothie super speed blender. Mostly, I’ve only used it so far for making smoothies, but smoothies I’d never have been able to make in my old blender. I’ve already posted about my kefir raw cacao and goji berry smoothie. Today I thought I’d try nettles.
Well I know it’s very hard to make brownies healthy, but I have done my best to make these brownies with cashew nut butter as healthy as possible whilst still retaining their essential sweet fudgy brownieness. I used coconut oil and cashew nut butter instead of butter and rapadura instead of sugar. And to top it off, my flour of choice was freekah. Freekah, Rapadura? Read on.
Having been sent eight large ripe Peruvian Hass avocados, I didn’t have a great deal of time to use them up. Following on from the avocado chocolate chip cookies I made a few weeks ago, I wanted to continue with the avocado baking theme. Leafing through the accompanying booklet, I found a recipe for Peruvian Hass avocado brownies. With my well known love of all things brownie, I didn’t need to cogitate further.
Of course, I made a few adjustments with the recipe. For a start I thought a hint of chilli and a soupçon of cinnamon would be appropriate flavours to enhance the South American feel of the brownies. Sadly I didn’t have any Peruvian chocolate to hand but made do with using up three partly used bars which were making my cupboard look untidy; as it happens one of them was from Ecuador, so at least it was from the right neck of the woods. As well as the spices I added a little cocoa powder for extra richness and used mostly brown sugar for fudginess. As I was using duck eggs which are quite large, I added a little bit of extra chocolate too.
Whilst the avocado by no means replaced all of the butter, it did have less saturated fat than many brownie recipes, so it could be argued that they are slightly better for you!
This is how I made:
Spicy Peruvian Avocado Brownies
- Melted 150g unsalted butter in a pan over low heat with 270g chocolate (I used a mixture of 70& plain, 53% dark and 37% milk). Stirred to combine, then left to cool a little.
- Beat 100g dark brown sugar, 50g golden caster sugar together with 3 duck eggs (large hens eggs will be fine) using electric beaters for about 3 minutes
- Mashed 1 large Peruvian Hass avocado and added it to the eggs. Beat the mixture for a further minute.
- Poured the chocolate mixture down the side of the bowl and folded the mixture in as gently as possible.
- Sifted in 60g self-raising flour, 1 scant tbsp cocoa powder, ¼ tsp cayenne pepper and ¼ tsp ground cinnamon.
- Folded this in until just incorporated.
- Scraped the batter into a 9″ sq. silicone mould and baked at 180℃ for 25 minutes.
- Left in the mould to cool then cut into 16 pieces.
These are real melt in your mouth brownies – sort of light but fudgy and unctuous at the same time. The touch of spices was just right, a catch at the back of the throat and a hint of something warming, but nothing that overpowered the deep rich chocolateyness of these brownies. You can eat several of these and your palate is left feeling quite clean at the end of it – I should point out that eating several at a time is not really recommended. The taste of avocado could barely be detected. None of the taste testers (other than super taster CT) noticed it, even after I told them what the brownies contained. Not being able to taste avocado in your brownies, when all’s said and done, is for most of us, a good thing.
This month’s theme for Love Cake over at JibberJabberUK is all about Back to School – Something New. These brownies fit the bill perfectly. They are delicious treats for the school lunch box, but slightly healthier than your average brownie. They are also new to me as I’ve never made brownies with avocado before.
I have to come clean here: making avocados into a smoothie seems a bit of a waste of a good avocado to me. I love the texture and flavour of this princely fruit but actually like them best just as they are, on toast or with slices tossed into a salad or mashed up in guacamole or this avocado and egg dip. But when an octet of Peruvian avocados winged their way to me it seemed like an ideal time to experiment.
Intuitively a dairy-free option seemed like the way to go. Ideally I would have used coconut water as the liquid, but I didn’t have any to hand. I had a look at coconut and almond milk options, but they were all full of sugar, vegetable fats and other additives. If only I’d read Janie’s post on making your own almond milk before going ahead, but I didn’t. In the end I resorted to a tin of coconut milk. To keep things as Peruvian as possible I used maca and raw cacao powder both grown in Peru. The maple syrup, oats and banana may have come from a different continent, but honour, I felt, had been served.
Talking of serving, how did the smoothies turn out? Really rather well. Thick and creamy, rich and chocolatey, healthy too; we had them for breakfast and they kept us going for several hours. Result.
- 1 large Peruvian Hass avocado
- 1 large banana – peeled
- 2 tbsp rolled oats
- 1 tsp maca powder
- 1 tbsp raw Peruvian cacao powder from Indigo Herbs.
- ½ tin coconut milk (fresh would be best)
- 2 tsp (or to taste) maple syrup
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 large or 4 small glasses
If there was one crop other than lemons I wish we could grow easily in the UK, it would be avocados. I would have an orchard full of them. Not only are they buttery and delicious, but they are also quite good for you. High in potassium, the unsaturated fats are said to be healthy ones and they are relatively low in calories.
When I was sent a basket of ripe Peruvian Hass avocados, to say I was pleased was an understatement. I hadn’t known such bounty since CT and I worked on an avocado farm during our antipodean travels many years ago. We ate the fruit for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So in remembrance of times past, we cut into one almost immediately and had it spread on toast, just as we used to back on the farm when we used it as a butter substitute. Oh, how delicous. These avocados were particularly tasty with a gimme more creamy texture.
Guacamole has long been a favourite of mine and makes for a very tasty vegan dip and accompaniment to all sorts of dishes. But I also find avocados have an affinity to eggs – maybe it’s the shape. One of my favourite party dips is an egg and avocado one and as I hadn’t made this for ages, I thought it was about time it was resurrected. What better accompaniment than some homemade bread, juicy sweet homegrown tomatoes and some crisp lettuce.
The pitta pockets exhaled a chocolate fragrance on opening and were resileint enough to hold the contents. They had a soft and inviting texture and although thick were not in the least bit leathery – way better than any shop bought pitta breads I’ve had. The chocolate pitta also did a grand job of mopping up the juices of a vegetable stew. The avocado and egg dip was as delicious as I remember it. We both felt we could eat this again and again.
Cooking with Herbs over at Lavender and Lovage is all about chives this month, so although I’ve already sent one entry, I couldn’t resist sending this one too.
- 250g strong white flour
- 250g wholemeal spelt flour
- 1 scant tsp Himalayan pink rock salt
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tsp dried yeast
- 1 tsp golden caster sugar
- 330ml warm water
Total time: Yield: 8
- 2 large boiled eggs
- 2 large avocados – stoned and peeled
- half a small onion – finely chopped
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tbsp mayonnaise
- a good grinding black pepper
- 4 stalks chives – snipped
Yield: 8 servings
Whilst not quite at the forefront of raw food consumption, it does make up a part of my diet and I don’t just mean salad leaves. I’ve been a fan of raw chocolate since long before I started this blog; the concept of raw chocolate and other sweet treats that are actively good for you is one I find most appealing. Unlike cheap chocolate bars, I find these satisfy quite quickly and I’m unable to gorge myself on them.
The UK has a long tradition of coconut use, one of the advantages of a global empire I suppose. However our usage has been somewhat limited to desiccated coconut and whole coconuts, usually found as a target in fairgrounds and often past their best. In recent years the products have become much more diverse and coconut has now gained the status of a superfood. I’ve always been a fan and use coconut in a number of ways. However, when I was sent a bundle of coconut products from Cocofina to try out, the coconut oil was the only item I was familiar with.
Cocofina, meaning fine coconuts, was conceived with the idea of selling a healthful drink that was naturally sweet and would need no added artificial colours or preservatives. Starting off in 2005 selling 100% pure coconut water, the company has now branched out into other coconut products. There are over 100 varieties of coconut and they have many uses. Harvested young they are best for water and the mature ones are best for oil. I was pleased to see that all Cocofina products are organic and certified by the Soil Association. The company also supports Action Against Hunger, vowing to raise at least £5,000 a year.
Once again, I roped CT in to help out with some of the tasting. As coconut is one of his favourite foods, he was not averse. After tasting all of the products, I set to and baked this coconut chickpea chocolate cake using the nectar and oil.
Coconut Water – 100% filtered coconut water from green coconuts.
A multi award winning drink, this claims to refresh, reenergise and rehydrate; it is full of vitamins and minerals and is naturally isotonic. I was expecting it to taste like the water you get when cracking open a mature coconut, but it was noticeably different. It was sweeter with a slightly smokey taste, pleasant but not quite as nice. I was really rather excited to find you can buy coconut water, as a natural alternative to dairy is hard to find. This came in a 500ml plastic bottle. I know plastic is the modern way, but I would prefer to see a healthy drink put into a glass one. After sipping it to see what I thought, I decided it would make a great base for a tropical breakfast smoothie. It did. See recipe below.
It has the look and feel of runny honey, but the scent and taste of light molasses. We both really liked it and had to restrain ourselves from spooning it directly from the jar into our mouths. It made a really tasty chocolate glaze which I used for the coconut chickpea cake and a subsequent vegan cake I’ve made. The nectar has a low GI so is a healthier option than sugar and would also make a great vegan substitute for honey. I was pleased that this product did come in a glass jar. It contained 350ml.
I’m a big fan of coconut oil and have written a fair bit about it on this blog already. It is a particularly healthy oil and is good spread on toast, used in baking and for frying as it has a high smoking point. This one is cold pressed extra virgin and organic. It smells and tastes deliciously of coconut. Like the nectar, it came in a 350ml glass jar.
Coconut Snack Bars
All of the bars weigh 40g and are organic, dairy free, wheat free and have no added sugar.
Organic Coconut & Cocoa Bar – raisins (containing sunflower oil), dates, coconut, cocoa nibs, cocoa powder.
Described as a pre-workout snack, this is toothsome bar that in my book could be eaten at any time. Coconut and chocolate is one of those combinations that just work: the flavour here is well balanced with the coconut being dominant and the cocoa enriching the flavour and reducing the sweetness. Both chewy and crunchy from the coconut and cocoa nibs, the texture encourages you to savour at length. Hello Cocofina, goodbye Bounty, quipped CT.
Organic Coconut & Date Bar – raisins (containing sunflower oil), coconut, dates, oats.
It’s nice and coconutty with shards of dried coconut which make it particularly chewy; in CT’s own words “it’s fun to carry on chewing and squeeze out every last bit of flavour”. It is quite sweet with an almost honey like taste and very enjoyable. CT suggested that a Levantine merchant would stock up on these in preparation for a long camel train trip.
Cocofina Macaroon Bar
I’m guessing this is a recent addition to the range as the wrapper is plain and has no information on it other than the name and best before date. Firmer in texture than the other bars, it tastes of coconut and honey. It’s quite sweet, but due to its firm and chewy texture, it gives the jaws a good work out. It reminds me of the sweets I used to eat and enjoy in Egypt. Sweet is the operative word; it feels more like an item of confectionary than an energy bar, but is nonetheless delicious.
Brownies by Rawness
Based in Richmond, Rawness is a company that started making 100% raw desserts for local consumption. Take a look at their website if you need to be convinced as to the allure of raw cakes and chocolates. They have recently introduced a range of brownies that are more robust and can be sent by post and thus distributed more widely. Despite the name, these didn’t really resemble classic brownies which, in my opinion, should be soft, fudgy and uba-sweet with a crusty top. These were in two layers and whilst the top was indeed fudgy, the bottom was decidedly chewy. Forget the name though and you have one very tasty and satisfying piece of confection which I defy anyone not to enjoy.
As I read the list of ingredients, I got more and more excited; they sounded both exotic and luxurious. I was intrigued by the Medicine Flower mentioned, so went off to investigate. It turns out they are an American company offering a range of concentrated extracts using a cold pressed extraction method. They have some very unusual flavours and are certified organic. The brownies, though small, are quite substantial and weigh 55g each. Sitting in their little wooden trays and encased by protective plastic, they would make ideal picnic fare. I was sent three flavours to try. CT helped me out in the task. We found sharing three between us was more than enough to satisfy us after a long session of gardening.
Hazelnut Caramel Brownie – hazelnuts, hazelnut butter, dates, Peruvian cacao powder, Peruvian cacao butter, heather honey, lucuma powder, extra virgin olive oil, vanilla, Himalayan crystal salt.
Whilst hazelnut is dominant and caramel notes are obvious, other complex flavours weave their way around the palate. We were hard pressed to describe them, but how about this: slightly floral, heathery taste and an elusive whisky tang.
Cherry & Walnut Brownie – walnuts, almonds, walnut butter, dates, Peruvian cacao powder, Peruvian cacao butter, honey, sour cherries, sour cherry powder, lucuma powder, extra virgin olive oil, vanilla, Medicine Flower Cherry Extract, Himalayan crystal salt.
Crikey those cherries are sour. Eat this if you are flagging in front of your computer and you’ll soon be woken up. We really liked the contrast between the sweet chocolate, crunchy walnuts and tart cherries. This is less complex in flavour than the previous one, but unusually for a brownie it is quite refreshing.
Banana Pecan Brownie – pecans, almonds, pecan butter, dates, Peruvian cacao powder, Peruvian cacao butter, honey, banana pieces, banana powder, lucuma powder, extra virgin olive oil, vanilla, Medicine Flower Banana Extract, Himalayan crystal salt.
Decorated with a piece of dried banana and a pecan nut, there is no doubt what this brownie contains. The banana is very much the dominant flavour here, but it somehow tastes fresh and quite pleasant. And that is the opinion of two banana sceptics. Like the others, the nuts provide plenty of crunch which encourages you to keep right on chewing.
The brownies can be bought direct from Rawness, but I don’t think their site has been updated to reflect this yet.
Heavenly Cacao with cacao & red berries – sultanas, dates, cranberries, goji berries, oats, vegetable glycerine, cacao powder, cacao nibs, cacao butter, maca powder.
Described as a cold pressed cacao and goji berry flapjack, this is a 38g bar which is packed full of goodness. The cacao is cold pressed making it additionally nutritious. The texture is complex and interesting with crunchy cocoa nibs, oats and chewy dried fruit which makes it virtually impossible to wolf down. It is rich in cocoa and quite filling, but also has a slight tartness which I found particularly refreshing. Not only did it taste nice, but with added goji berries and maca powder I was sure it could only be doing me a power of good. This is just the sort of pick-me-up bar I love to have with me when out walking the Cornish moors and coast paths. The only thing missing for me was the fact it was not organically certified.
Indigo Herbs of Glastonbury
I’ve recently been sent a raw chocolate kit with a host of other organic goodies from Indigo Herbs of Glastonbury, so my exploration of raw foods will continue for a while longer yet. So far I have used the organic mango and banana they provided to make the smoothie recipe below and some coconut flakes to decorate the coconut cake I made last week.
- 500ml coconut water
- 1 banana
- 1 mango
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 scant tsp maca powder
- 1 heaped tsp raw cocoa powder
Total time: Yield: 4 x 220ml glasses