Spring has arrived with fresh green shoots and an abundance of flowers. Simple, seems suddenly very appealing. This spring lettuce & pea soup with new potatoes is super simple, both in the making and in the eating. The flavours taste fresh and clean. There are only six ingredients involved, seven if you make your own stock from the pea pods, eight if you add croutons. As a bonus, it’s also vegan and fat-free (excluding croutons).
There seems to be a sudden spate of black beans being used in chocolate cakes. I first came across the phenomenon with a cake I spotted on What I Cooked This Weekend and then these brownies from Hungry Hinny and then I just saw them everywhere. The idea is that the black beans, as well as giving a bit of extra fibre, can reduce the amount of fat in the cake without making it taste less delicious. I was sceptical, but wanted to try it for myself. It’s taken me a while because getting hold of black beans was the hardest part. I adapted my recipe from one I found on Joy the Baker, who in turn got it from Martha Stewart – and so it goes on!
This is how I did it:
- Rinsed 1/4 cup cooked black beans (from a tin) & blitzed with my hand-held blender.
- Melted 2oz unsalted butter in a pan over a low heat with 5oz 85% dark chocolate and left to cool slightly.
- Beat 3 eggs and 1 1/3 cups vanilla sugar (caster) until thick and creamy.
- Stirred in the cooled chocolate carefully with the beans.
- Folded in 1 cup spelt flour, 1/8 cup cocoa, 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt.
- Poured mixture into a 9″ sq cake mould.
- Placed 16 walnut halves in the middle of the future brownie pieces and scattered with some course Cornish sea salt.
- Baked for 22 minutes, (making sure they were slightly underdone) at 180C & left to cool – err, slightly!
I couldn’t wait for these to go cold before trying them, so I had my first one warm from the oven. All scepticism instantly disappeared as I bit into this most delicious, dark and moist brownie. The crunch of toasted walnuts and spike of salt, made for a great contrast in texture as well as flavour. The salt was a bit of a surprise, especially for CT who was “ambushed by my own expectations” but once he got used to it, thought it was good. As for the beans, it was nigh on impossible to detect them. Despite the small amount of butter, these brownies kept really well, in fact they got fudgier with age and we managed, with commendable restraint, to make them last the week – nearly!
What could say love and romance more than brownies? I could think of a few things, but brownies certainly say it for me. With this in mind, I am entering these into Tea Time Treats – fun filled monthly tea parties hosted by Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Kate of What Kate Baked. This month Kate has chosen Romance as the theme.
As some of my regular readers will know, I try to ensure that most of my baked goods contain mostly healthy ingredients. Indeed they are a good vehicle for nuts, fruit, seeds and various super foods. I generally use at least half wholemeal, spelt or other healthy flours in my baking. I use organic eggs where possible and properly free ranging hen and duck eggs when it’s not. I believe organic butter where the cows have been grass fed is also nutritious (in moderation). Chocolate, it goes without saying is good for you 😉 My main concern is sugar – I haven’t managed to convince myself on this one. I use raw sugars in the main and do use other sweeteners such as Rapadura and agave syrup sometimes. But these substitutes are expensive and I do have rather a sweet tooth. I just hope, the other nutritious ingredients counteract the bad of the sugar. For more information on Rapadura and other ingredients I use see ingredients are the key – ties in very nicely with this month’s healthy theme.
But when Chele announced that the theme for this month’s We Should Cocoa was healthy eating, I thought I’d go the whole hog and produce something that was properly good for you. One of my Christmas presents from CT was a packet of chia seeds. Chia seeds are said to be super healthy: they contain omega 3, vitamin B, complete protein, anti-oxidants and fibre. It is also claimed they can replace half the conventional fat in any recipe with no discernible effects on taste and texture. The secret is to soak the seeds in water for 15 minutes before using. They form a gel, which is then ready to be used. This seemed to be a good opportunity to put these claims to the test.
So for added nutrition, I rather nervously thought I’d create a muffin recipe using wholemeal spelt and oats, some of the pumpkin butter I made back along, Rapadura rather than sugar and of course, chia seeds. I also had a jar of raw chocolate and almond spread that I hadn’t yet used and thought this would be suitable for the chocolate element.
This is what I did:
- Spooned 1 level tbsp of chia seeds into a jug.
- Topped it up with water to 50ml and left to soak for 15 minutes.
- Beat 2 eggs with 120g rapadura and 35ml sunflower oil for a few minutes until well incorporated and bubbly.
- Beat in 2 heaped tbsp pumpkin butter.
- Stirred in the chia seeds (which had indeed turned to gel)
- Sifted in 200g wholemeal spelt, 2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda.
- Folded this into the egg mixture together with 50g rolled oats.
- Spooned this into 12 muffin cases.
- Placed a small teaspoon of raw almond and chocolate spread on top and scattered over a few oats.
- Baked at 180C for 23 minutes.
These had a nice flavour with a rich aroma of molasses, but they weren’t overly sweet. They were firm, substantial and chewy and had a crunchy top. CT’s comment was “it tastes like it’s probably good for you”. They’d be ideal as a breakfast muffin, but I think I’d feel a bit short changed if I got these as a tea-time treat. The chocolate spread was really good and I’m not sure why I haven’t used it before.
PS 18 February – Nearly one month after making these, I’ve just found two muffins hidden in one of my cake tins and amazingly they are not only still edible, but really nice – I shall have to rename these indestructible muffins!
We had friends over for a Nut Roast dinner on New Year’s Day and one of the dishes that I did was a squash gratin. To make this we broke into one of our enormous Boston Marrow squashes. This meant, of course, we had tons left over. We roasted and mashed some for the freezer, made squash curry, squash scone and squash soup. We still had some left over, so it seemed like an ideal ingredient to use up in this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge.