Matcha Protein Breakfast Shake

Matcha Protein Breakfast Shake

I like to think of myself as a pretty easy eater. ‘I will pretty much eat anything’ I will self-righteously declare to all and sundry. But if you dare to serve me breakfast then you’ll generally find I throw a sudden and unpleasant temper tantrum.

You see in my opinion breakfast is the worst. An amalgamation of all my least favourite things to eat; some because I am intolerant – gluten, oats and to a lesser extent dairy and some because I outright think they are heinous devil foods – eggs, mushrooms and baked beans.

Matcha Protein Breakfast Shake

So I have this horrid dichotomy of always waking up starving but delaying my body food until a more palatable meal comes my way, say lunch (although I am not averse to having lunch or even dinner for breakfast if I am feeling especially wanton).

Then, as the adverts say, I discovered protein shakes. Not smoothies, with endless helpings of fruit which dive me headlong into a sugar crash before 9am, but a less sweet and more nutrient packed shake. These take mere moments to prepare, just slam everything into the blender and whizz up, which I then consume whilst feeding Cole, clearing up his breakfast and getting him dressed. They are the ultimate fast food and don’t contain any ingredients that make my body want to heave – which can only be a good thing.

Matcha Protein Breakfast Shake

Whether you already have all these ingredients to hand depends on your love for health food shops. I am a bit of a health food junkie, in direct contrast to my cake obsession, and relish every nutrition fad going which means these shakes certainly don’t wuss out on that front. They are full of avocado, kale, banana, almond butter, chia seeds, hemp powder, flaxseed and of course matcha green tea powder and what made them an absolute winner for me was when I doused the whole lot in coconut water for liquidity. The result is creamy and refreshing and has been the perfect start to my day for a few weeks now.

Every ingredient in these Matcha Protein Breakfast Shakes has their place and are each filled with the most excellent health benefits, which you can google all about, plus because I have based the shake around protein, which you can find in the almond butter, chia seeds and hemp powder, it is so filling and satisfying.

Matcha Protein Breakfast Shake

The star ingredient in this breakfast shake though is the matcha green tea powder which I have been experimenting with as an ingredient, mainly in my baking, for a while now. It has such a unique flavour that becomes quite addictive. I have found though that various brands have different strengths and at the moment I seem to have quite a strong one in my larder. So I only used one teaspoon of matcha powder here but certainly feel free to add more if you are not getting enough matcha through for your tastes. Or if you haven’t had matcha before then one teaspoon is certainly a good place to start. If you’re not sure where to get this or any other of the ingredients in the list start with amazon which stocks everything you need. The only other endorsement I can give this recipe is this – it has definitely made breakfast time a much happier place for me to be; meaning less temper tantrums.

Matcha Protein Breakfast Shake

Matcha Protein Breakfast Shake

1 large shake

1 banana
½ avocado
25g kale (1 large handful), blanched
1 tablespoon almond butter
1 tablespoon chia seeds
2 teaspoons ground flaxseed
3 teaspoons hemp protein powder
1 teaspoon matcha green tea powder
250ml coconut water
3 ice cubes

  1. Bung it all in the blender, blitz until smooth and away you go!
Matcha-Protein-Breakfast-Shake

Amaranth, Butternut Squash and Cavolo Nero Burgers

Amaranth, Butternut Squash and Cavolo Nero Burgers

I’ve rekindled my love of veggie burgers recently. And I’m not referring to the dry, floppy and brown discs of god-knows-what that lurk in the deepest depths of the supermarket only to emerge in June as an insulting offering to the vegetarians during BBQ season. Yuk, no. I’m talking about thick patties bright with fresh vegetables, perhaps creamy with legumes or nutty with wholegrains and crisp from the frying pan.

Amaranth, Butternut Squash and Cavolo Nero Burgers

A few weeks ago I had a sandwich from Max’s Sandwich Shop, one of Stroud Green’s proudest offerings to the food scene. Max, as well as being a great bloke who gave me a celebratory bottle of wine when I popped in for lunch just after the birth of Cole, I think it may have been the first sip of wine I had in at least nine months and tasted blissful, also won The Observer Food Monthly’s Best Cheap Eat last year and indeed does an incredible sandwich. They are mammoth beasts packed to the rafters inside homemade focaccia like his Ham, Egg ‘N’ Chips, stuffed with slow cooked ham hock, a fried egg, shoestring fries, piccalilli, and malt vinegar mayo or my favourite What Is Neil Gill’s Beef All About which is braised beef, sauerkraut with beetroot parsley and caraway, cassava chips, horseradish and creme fraiche. Yum-ola.

Anyway, this time round I went totally off piste for me and plumped for his veggie sandwich. I’m sorry to say that I don’t remember what was in it except that it was made with borlotti beans and it’s not on the menu this week for me to check, but it was amazing, so flavourful and satisfying. It harkened me back to my first few years working in Soho when I would frequent Mildreds and stuff myself with their veggie burgers made with things like feta, beetroot and sweet potato. Or perhaps it took me even further back to my time in Ghana, in my early twenties, when I would live off veggie burgers from the local sports bar. I always vowed I would try and recreate those burgers in my own kitchen, they seemed so simple and healthy (if you ignore the obligatory side-order of chips), just good for you vegetables married together, but I never got round to it.

Amaranth, Butternut Squash and Cavolo Nero Burgers

Amaranth, Butternut Squash and Cavolo Nero Burgers

Until now! Although I might be overdoing it a little these days as variations on the veggie led burger seem to be all I’m ever cooking, due to… yes you guessed it since all paths lead back to him – Cole. I have been having such fun coming up with delicious, nutrient packed dinners which tick off all the food groups and that he can eat himself with his fingers. This means making him lots of mini patties, fritters and burgers. Not all of them are totally veggie since we’re not, but sweet potato and quinoa burgers have been a firm favourite, always packed with chopped greens or any other veg that’s lurking in the fridge. However, for variety’s sake I was on the lookout for some alternatives, and then Luke on a whim brought back some amaranth from our local organic shop on Stroud Green Road.

Amaranth, Butternut Squash and Cavolo Nero Burgers

Amaranth, Butternut Squash and Cavolo Nero Burgers

He had been totally unaware that I had been reading about amaranth a lot recently, basically how it’s super trendy and due for quinoa like celebratory status any day now. It’s another ‘ancient grain,’ popular with the Aztecs and Mayans, but put into italics as it’s technically a seed, like quinoa, and therefore really rich in protein which is what makes quinoa so cool. Not only that but it’s also full of fibre, iron and calcium. This all spelled good things for the next addition to mine and Cole’s culinary adventures.

Amaranth, Butternut Squash and Cavolo Nero Burgers

Then I cooked with it, and quinoa it ain’t. Pre-cooking, the grains are miniscule, getting everywhere very fast, especially if you’re a bit fast and loose with pouring them into a saucepan. However, during its half hour cooking time the grains lump together producing a gelatinous and sticky…well, mush, if I’m honest. However, this only meant it had a completely natural home in the next addition to my veggie burger repertoire.

Amaranth, Butternut Squash and Cavolo Nero Burgers

The texture of the amaranth is pretty terrific inside the burger, its little seeds popping in your mouth and the nutty flavour giving it such backbone. The amaranth is mixed with mashed butternut squash, pre-roasted with baharat spices (which include paprika, pepper, cumin, cassia, cloves, coriander seed, nutmeg and cardamom but I used a mix from Steenbergs) and sweetly roasted garlic. Then blanched and finely chopped cavolo nero adds its earthy goodness to the proceedings. Finally eggs and flour are mixed in to bind the whole thing together in scrumptious harmony. It’s a pretty good feeling eating something so deliciously healthy, heartening and happy-making.

Amaranth, Butternut Squash and Cavolo Nero Burgers

Cole and I have been loving them. A lot. So much so that imbued with confidence in them I then served them up in homemade flatbread with salad and tzatziki for Luke for supper and he has insisted I share the recipe here so impressed was he. So here we are, baby approved, hungry husband approved and veggie burger obsessed me approved!

Amaranth, Butternut Squash and Cavolo Nero Burgers

Amaranth, Butternut Squash and Cavolo Nero Burgers

Makes 8 burgers

200g amaranth
1 butternut squash
2 tablespoons coconut oil + 1 more tablespoon for cooking the burgers
1 tablespoons baharat spice mix
4 whole unpeeled garlic cloves
200g cavolo nero
3 eggs
50g rice flour (or gluten-free plain flour blend or regular wheat flour)
½ teaspoon salt

  1. Toss the butternut squash with the baharat spices, garlic cloves and pre-melted coconut oil then roast for 35-40 minutes at 180°C. Remove from the oven, squeeze the garlic from their cloves then mash. Set aside to come to room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile bring a large saucepan of 500ml water to the boil, then pour in the amaranth. Bring back to a boil, then turn down to simmer with the lid on for 25-30 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat, cover with a lid and leave to stand for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork then set aside to come to room temperature.
  3. With a sharp knife, remove the stalk out of the centre of the cavolo nero leaves then roughly chop. Bring another large saucepan of water to a boil and toss the leaves in, bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes. Drain the leaves, squeezing out all the excess water then finely chop.
  4. Mix the amaranth, mashed butternut squash and cavolo nero with the eggs, rice flour and salt until thoroughly combined.
  5. Heat a large flat bottomed frying pan with a tablespoon of the coconut oil. To achieve the perfect burger shape pour the mixture into chefs rings placed inside the saucepan. Fry for 4 minutes on the first side or until golden brown then carefully remove the chefs ring from the burger, flip each one over and cook for another 4 minutes on the other side, the burger will feel firm to the touch and be golden brown.Note: The chefs rings are totally optional, if you don’t have them the burgers will be a little flatter as the mixture will spread further and look a little rougher round the edges, but still delicious. They also won’t need to cook for as long, so keep watch for the golden brown colour.

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Enchiladas Suisa

Enchiladas Suisa
There is a little happy dance that is dusted off whenever I mention that I’m making enchiladas for dinner. If you want to try it at home, it’s performed in a little hopping motion from foot to foot whilst waving your hands high in the air chanting ‘Enchiladas, enchiladas.’ Imagine a super happy and joyful rain dance but in the kitchen.

Ever since I stopped eating pasta enchiladas now reign supreme where once lasagne lorded over all. They both involve meat encased in some sort of carbohydrate, in this case corn tortillas, with a rich tomato sauce and lashings of cheese. They are an absolute favourite in our house. However, recently I have been pushing the boat out where my enchiladas are concerned and going all Suisa. Enchiladas Suisa replace the tomatoes and red chillies involved in the more standard enchilada recipe with a tomatillos and green chillies for a beautifully green sauce which is then finished off with plenty of sour cream before being weighed down with a mountain of cheese. You may remember that I’m a huge advocate of the green pepper and I would much rather go for the fresher slightly bitter taste of green than the lip puckering sweetness of red any day so you can imagine that Enchiladas Suisa suits my palette completely plus the addition of the sour cream makes it so much better than your run-of-the-mill enchiladas.

You can get tomatillos in the UK, they look a bit like small green tomatoes but unlike their un-ripened cousins they are encased in a husk if bought fresh and are fully ripe. They are also much tarter than a green tomato and are celebrated in Mexican cooking where they are often cooked down into salsa and enchilada sauces, just like here. This time of year tomatillos are way out of season but I don’t let that bother me as tinned tomatillos are a very good substitue. I’ve never seen them in a supermarket but it’s very easy to buy the tinned versions from Sous Chef, which is where I buy all my specialist ingredients.

Corn Tortillas

It is perfectly acceptable to make enchiladas with the flour tortillas you can get just about anywhere but corn tortillas are the traditional option. They hold together much better than a flour tortilla underneath the weight of the sauce and provide good robust flavour. The best ones are from the Cool Chile Co. as they are gluten-free and taste deliciously corny.

If you have access to good Mexican cheeses then by all means use those here to make the meal truly authentic but I’m pretty sure you will need to substitute which is what I did and I think a good British cheese like Wensleydale fits the bill perfectly. It’s also what Thomasina Miers uses in her Enchiladas Suisa recipe in Wahaca so if it’s good enough for her, then it’s good enough for us. To accentuate the full-on cheesiness of the dish I’ve also added some slices of mozzarella so that the strings of goodness pull away from each other upon serving, always guaranteed to make your mouth water.

Enchiladas Suisa

This is a Mexican dish but the full impact of the chilli heat depends on you. When we made it a few weeks ago we left all the seeds from the green chilli in the mix and it was eye wincingly powerful but if you take all the seeds out then the sauce can be too bland. A happy medium usually works by discarding half of the seeds but each to his own.

Ancho Chilli Powder

Enchiladas are a fantastic use of leftover chicken, run through with a bit of cumin and ancho chilli powder (use ordinary chilli powder if you can’t get hold of ancho chilli powder, but again you can order it from Sous Chef), then wrapped into the corn tortillas before being topped with sauce. However, I often make this with fresh chicken as I have done here. Of course, by using chicken breast there is the worry that it could go dry but I find if I just lightly cook the chicken in the pan it will finish cooking in the oven once encased in their tortillas and protected by the sauce retaining it’s tender texture.

Enchiladas Suisa

Enchiladas Suisa
Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 green chilli, diced
800g tomatillos (tinned or fresh)
½ teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
½ teaspoon cumin
25g fresh coriander, including stalks, roughly chopped
175g sour cream
125g mozzarella
100g Wensleydale cheese
About 8-10 corn tortillas

For the chicken filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 garlic clove, crushed
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon chilli powder
1 green pepper

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  2. First make the tomatillo sauce by heating the olive oil in a large saucepan and adding the onion, crushed garlic and green chilli. Sauté for about 10 minutes until soft.
  3. Drain the tomatillos if using tinned or remove from their husks if using fresh and chop them up roughly. Add to the saucepan along with the paprika, cumin, coriander and seasoning. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 20-25 minutes, stirring through occasionally.
  4. Remove the sauce from the heat then blitz up in the saucepan using a hand held blender until smooth. Pour in the sour cream and put back on to the heat, stirring in thoroughly until hot. Set aside whilst you prepare the chicken.
  5. Heat up the olive oil in a wide bottomed saucepan and add in the onion. Cook gently for about 10 minutes until softened.
  6. Add the chicken, garlic, cumin, chilli powder and green pepper along with some seasoning and cook on a medium heat until the chicken has begun to colour. Remove from the heat.
  7. Take a tortilla and warm it through in a small saucepan for about 10 seconds each side, then remove from the heat, fill with the chicken and tuck into an ovenproof dish. Repeat with each tortilla until all the chicken has been used up and the dish is full.
  8. Pour the tomatillo sauce over evenly then dot the top with crumbled Wensleydale and the sliced mozzarella.
  9. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until bubbling and the cheese has begun to colour.

Chipotle Braised Brisket

Chipotle Braised Brisket

I love living in London for the simple reason of choice. We have a few brilliant butchers within walking distance from my house which I frequent on a weekly basis. Or if we liked we could get our meat from the farmers’ market. Our closest one is the one at Ally Pally and is the one we go to most often, but if we fancy making a bit of a trip then we sometimes go to Broadway Market over in Hackney on a Saturday.

Chipotle Braised Brisket

The grand choice of butchers and farms pretty much on our doorstep doesn’t always mean I can quite manage to leave the house though and once in a while I like to treat myself and buy our meat from Turner & George, an online butcher who deliver around London. The joy of this obviously being that it gets sent directly to my front door and I don’t even have to change out of my pyjamas. Turner & George prices are extremely reasonable and they do things like preserved bone marrow, boneless chicken legs and an absolute plethora of gluten-free sausages. Best of all, when it arrives, the order explains the provenance of each animal so you feel you know exactly what you are eating and where it came from. I don’t prefer either option, the butchers, the farmers’ market or an online delivery but it is fun to mix it up.

A few weeks ago after receiving my bounty from Turner & George after a particularly indulgent spree I found I had two beef briskets in my package. After checking with my original order it appeared that I had clicked on the item twice which was a bit of a pain. Brisket is a bit special occasion meat in our house, not due to its expense, as really it’s incredibly economical, but due to the longevity of its cooking time. Whereas your usual stewed meat might be done in 3 or 4 hours, to reach its optimum succulence brisket requires a good 8 hours of cooking time. I have tried whacking up the heat, slicing it thinly but have always been disappointed when I try to rush the process. As you can imagine, not every day allows for the level of organisation required to assemble your evening meal at 10am, and guarantee you are going to be in the whole day to monitor proceedings.

Chipotle Braised Brisket

Also, our household only consists of two hungry souls, well there are six but I don’t think I’ll count Willow, Wesley, Billy Buddy (and Little Bean yet) as far as portioning out the brisket is concerned. So a 1.5kg cut of brisket sees us through the week and then some. Two briskets then, wasn’t necessarily welcomed as good fortune, especially since freezer space is limited due to my ice cream obession.

The first brisket I prepared the day it arrived, I cooked it low and slow with plenty of onions, tomatoes and garlic and served it with a hot and spicy barbecue sauce. It wasn’t the prettiest affair but it was delicious. After working our way through that for a week I didn’t feel enough enthusiasm to repeat the meal so soon so I managed to squeeze the other brisket in the freezer, which called for a couple of tubs of ice cream to be promptly removed and eaten, and waited for inspiration to hit.

Chipotle Braised Brisket

I have been meaning to write about beef tacos on my blog for a while. We eat them a lot, they always feel like a bit of a treat as they come loaded with all the best things in life, cheese, sour cream and guacamole plus I have an excellent recipe for the cooking spices which I’ve been honing throughout my cooking years. When I decided that I would make tacos again this week I suddenly realised this was exactly what my extra beef brisket had been sent to me to achieve. A smokily spiced extravaganza but still packed with a mountain of onions and peppers just like my normal beef taco recipe. But here, the meat would be melting into the juices and softly scooped into the taco before being loaded with all its accoutrements.

Chipotle Braised Brisket Tacos

Needless to say it worked out particularly well, otherwise I wouldn’t be sharing it with you. I used both dried chipotle and chipotle in adobo for the chilli hit, then added sweetly smoked paprika, warming cumin and coriander to round out the spices. I piled sliced onions into the bottom of the casserole dish so that they became a sturdy thicket for the brisket and I added a litre of stock around the meat, as I have paid the price before for not adding enough cooking liquid to my brisket. Over the course of the 7-8 hour braise most of the stock is reduced to an aromatic syrupy gravy, sparky with lime and spices and cushioned with caramelised onions and the sliver of peppers which are added in the last half hour of cooking so they don’t disappear into oblivion.

I have eaten my Chipotle Braised Brisket two meals in a row in soft and warmed corn tacos but this evening I plan on rustling up some spicy coriander rice to accompany my next incarnation of this most delicious of briskets.

Chipotle Braised Brisket Tacos

Chipotle Braised Brisket

1.5kg beef brisket, unrolled
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, roasted and crushed
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, roasted and crushed
1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika
1 teaspoon smoked garlic powder
1 litre hot beef stock
1 dried chipotle
1 teaspoon chipotle in adobo
2 tablespoons malt vinegar
juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon sugar
5 cooking onions, sliced
1 red pepper, de-seeded and sliced thinly
1 green pepper, de-seeded and sliced thinly
1 yellow pepper, de-seeded and sliced thinly

Serve with guacamole, sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, spring onions and warmed soft corn tacos

  1. Take the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, paprika, garlic and seasoning and rub all over the brisket. If you have time you can leave the rub to permeate the meat for up to eight hours.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C.
  3. Soak the dried chipotle in the hot stock for 15 minutes. Take the chipotle out of the stock, then remove stalk and the seeds and chop finely.
  4. Put the chipotle back into the stock, then add in the chipotle in adobo, malt vinegar, lime juice and sugar and stir well until the sugar has dissolved.
  5. Take a huge casserole dish and arrange the sliced onions in a heap at the bottom, then place the brisket on top. Pour the stock around the brisket, but not on top of the meat. Place the lid on and
  6. Cook the brisket for about 7 hours but do check every hour to make sure the meat isn’t going dry.
  7. After 7 hours, remove the brisket and cut into slices, the knife should melt into the meat.
  8. Stir the sliced peppers into the oniony chipotle gravy at the bottom of the casserole dish, then add the brisket on top, submerging it into the gravy so it doesn’t go dry.
  9. Place the lid back on the casserole dish and put back in the oven for about half an hour until the peppers are cooked and the brisket is pretty much falling apart.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free and Fructose-Free Coconut Brownies

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free and Fructose-Free Coconut Brownies

We had an utterly inspiring talk at our Women’s Institute meeting last night by one of our members, Alison Graham, about how to get the best out of your sugar. I have to confess I am an absolute sugar junkie and anything to help me curb the cravings but not obliterate cake and chocolate from my life is worth looking into.

Quitting sugar is one of the latest fads that diet gurus seem to be peddling which is all well and good but is it really practical? I’m sure most of us simply want to understand our bodies better from an informed perspective and enjoy the odd treat without being slaves to our 4pm sugar crashes. These days we are becoming more aware of what we eat, what triggers our eating habits and the science behind it. There seems to be new information to guide us all the time as nutritionists and scientists learn about how our bodies react to natural substances like gluten and processed substances like everyday cane sugar. All we can do is take the information on board and decide how it can work for us so that our food is giving us energy and not taking it away.

keep calm and no sugar

The ordinary cane sugar we buy for baking or using in our tea and coffee is made up of half glucose and half fructose. Glucose is in all foods and is the good sugar which our body needs to make and store energy. It’s glucose we crave when we need a sugar fix and our bodies recognise it and use up every calorie of it. Fructose is the interloper. That’s not to say all fructose is bad and if you eat it in the form of a piece of fruit then you’ll be fine, thanks to the fibre in the fruit which helps your body digest the fructose. It’s when fructose is not in its natural state though that you will have a problem. Even if you do a simple thing like blitzing your banana to make a smoothie or juicing your apple, then you are breaking down the fibre before you eat it. Without its fibre bond, your body cannot recognise the fructose so it doesn’t provide an insulin response, it moves to your liver unaided to form fatty acids which swim around your body until they are deposited as body fat.

Not only that but because your body hasn’t recognised the fructose you might as well have not eaten it in the first place, your body will still crave the glucose it wanted in the first place and will insist you try and get yourself more. So instead of having just the one glass of apple juice or one chocolate bar, you will crave another then another. If you stick to just the glucose in the first place you are giving your body what it needs and you should feel fully satiated.

So basically fructose, when not found in whole fruit, is not a good thing to be eating. It was surprising to me though that many of the sugars we consider as natural and healthy like honey or maple syrup are also just fructose so has the same effect within our body. This is also not to mention the obvious fake sugars out there like sweeteners and corn syrup which again are just fructose. There is a whole bunch more reading that I need to do on this subject as I’ve only had a taster and I have found it fascinating. Alison recommends reading Sweet Poison by David Gillespie for more information and I’ve already bought it for my Kindle.

IMG_6309

In the meantime to celebrate this fascinating talk and enthused by this new way of looking at sugar I wanted to bake something using pure glucose which is the good sugar our bodies need for energy. I saw these amazing looking Extra-Fudgy Coconut Oil Brownies from Pinch of Yum last week and knew this would be the recipe I would use as a base as I’ve been desperate to make them.

Lindsay had already done the hard work and made them dairy free since she uses Coconut Oil instead of butter in her brownies. However, I adapted it a bit by substituting the sugar in the form of rice malt syrup, which is a blend of glucose and maltose. Then to really get on board the health wagon I made it gluten free by adding coconut flour which also amped up the coconutty taste and added cocoa to boost the intense chocolateness. I couldn’t just leave it there though and topped the brownies with a rich ganache made from dark chocolate and a smidgen of coconut milk to thicken it. The coconut milk I use, as I’ve advocated before, is from Pride and is very thick with almost no liquid. The thinner your coconut milk the thinner your ganache will be so it might not be so easy to spread. I then sprinkled a liberal amount of unsweetened desiccated coconut on top to finish them off. The end result wasn’t overwhelming coconutty but definitely had a delicious hint and I have to say these are one of the best brownies I have ever made. They are dense and fudgy but also light without making you feel all stodgy inside after you have eaten them. They feel like a decadent treat but also wholesome like you are doing your body a favour by eating them.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free and Fructose-Free Coconut Brownies

Although I’m not sure I could tear myself away from all different types of sugar entirely, I love baking and cooking too much to restrict myself, I have certainly come away from these brownies and Alison’s talk by knowing that this way of living would be completely achievable if you still want to indulge in your treasured treats. The brownies were nice on day one, delicious on day two and then days three and four the brownies were absolutely sublime. These started off being just an experiment but they have ended up being firm favourites of mine.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free and Fructose-Free Coconut Brownies

125g 70% dark chocolate
160g coconut oil
200g rice malt syrup
3 eggs, lightly beaten
100g coconut flour
25g cocoa
½ teaspoon salt

For the ganache:
100g 70% chocolate
1 tablespoon coconut milk
3 tablespoons unsweetened desiccated coconut

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C and line and grease a 9 inch square baking tin.
  2. Place the chocolate and coconut oil in a bain-marie and melt together.
  3. Transfer to a bowl and pour in the rice malt syrup, stirring until thoroughly combined.
  4. Sift the flour, cocoa and salt together in a separate bowl then stir into the chocolate mixture and pour into your baking tin.
  5. Bake the brownies for 20 minutes then remove from the oven.
  6. Leave the brownies to cool in the tin for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight to set before removing from the tin and topping with the ganache.
  7. To make the ganache melt the chocolate and coconut milk together in a bain-marie.
  8. Once the chocolate has melted and the mixture has thickened you can immediately use it to adorn the top of your brownies.
  9. For the final touch sprinkle on some unsweetened desiccated coconut then cut into squares.

Spiced Pear Butter and Hazelnut Praline Cake

Spiced Pear Butter and Hazelnut Praline Cake (gluten-free)
This cake has become one of my favourite cakes of the season and is an absolute winner on my cake stall on a Sunday. It’s one of those all-rounder cakes which is good any time of the day; for breakfast, elevenses or a tea-time treat. It’s also elevated by the fact that it is gluten-free and dairy-free so it is perfectly amenable to the most common of food intolerances. I even had a lady come to my stall on Sunday who couldn’t eat any fat and this one perfectly ticked the box for that dietary requirement too. And did I mention that it’s deliciously moist, packed full of spicy fruity flavour and gilded with a crunchy golden praline too? Well it is.

Spiced Pear Butter and Hazelnut Praline Cake

Although my experiments with gluten-free flour and gluten substitutions are ongoing, I have found that my most successful gluten-free cakes are the one that are created without any thought at all in the direction of flour. I know of one cake company that specialises in ‘accidently gluten-free’ cakes which I think is a lovely way of describing that their cakes were never intended to go anywhere near gluten in the first place. These cakes have an identity of their own, without feeling like inferior substitutes of the real thing.

The secret ingredient of this cake, well actually it’s not so secret as I’ve put it right there in the title of the recipe, is a spiced pear butter. You may recall a couple of weeks ago I was waxing lyrical about the apple butter I used as the main ingredient of my Toffee Apple Cupcakes, well this pear butter is made in much the same way and is just as delicious. It feels almost criminal to take the pear butter and use is solely for this cake, despite how wonderful the cake is, but don’t worry I’ve amped up the quantities of the butter in the recipe below so it should be enough to make two cakes, or you can use the rest to spread on a crumpet, dollop on your granola with a bit of yoghurt or even serve with your Sunday roasted pork joint. These are round and about the same uses I suggested for your apple butter, if the ideas were good the first time then I have no problem in recycling them.

The pear butter replaces the fat in the cake and is whizzed up with egg yolks and sugar to form the base of the batter. Ground hazelnuts, which I ground myself by whizzing up roasted and blanched hazelnuts in the food processor, are used to thicken the batter and give it body. Then finally, whisked and stiffened egg whites are folded in to aerate the batter and to ensure the height of the cake is kept during the bake.

Spiced Pear Butter and Hazelnut Praline Cake

Now this cake cannot help but sink a little in the middle during the end of the bake, do not fear this is natural, and once it is decorated with the hazelnut praline and icing then it’s not noticeable at all. However, I have found a way of slightly counteracting how much the cake sinks by, and this is a new trick that I have incorporated into a lot of my cakes recently, including my brownies and my loaf cakes. To ensure an even bake you want to forget about the ubiquitous 180°C that is bandied around in recipes. In fact I went to a culinary salon with Rosie Lovell who suggested that 180°C is entirely too high and when she submitted her first book to her publishers she had to fight with them to maintain all her recipes at 170°C. It seems that the food industry is reticent to change but I agree entirely with her. In fact, for some of my cakes, like this one, I would even take it further. I like to bake this cake at 150°C for the first 10 minutes, then turn the temperature up to 160°C for the next 40 minutes until the cake is risen, is golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. There is nothing wrong with low and slow as far as baking goes, not all our cakes have to be in and out of the oven in half an hour. The only thing I would say about this method is to check the cake after the first 20 minutes and you’ll probably notice that it’s reached its colour peak. So just cover the top of the cake with a bit of domed tin foil for the rest of the time to ensure that it doesn’t burn.

Spiced Pear Butter and Hazelnut Praline Cake

200g pear butter (recipe below)
6 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
175g golden caster sugar
250g ground hazelnuts
1 tablespoon baking powder

For the hazelnut praline:
2 tablespoons caster sugar
50g roasted and skinned hazelnuts

For the glaze:
125g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons almond milk

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 150°C and line and grease a 20cm round cake tin.
  2. Whisk up the egg whites until they hold a stiff peak and set aside.
  3. Beat the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla until pale and thick.
  4. Mix in the pear butter.
  5. Add the ground hazelnuts and baking powder. Mix until thoroughly incorporated.
  6. Stir a third of the whites into the batter to slacken it off, then gently fold in the remaining whites.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 10 minutes, turn the oven up to 160°C and continue baking for around 40 minutes until firm to the touch and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Once the cake is ready, remove from the oven and let the cake cool in the cake tin before removing.
  9. To make the hazelnut praline heat the caster sugar in a medium sized saucepan, without stirring, until it has all melted and is turning a golden brown. Very quickly add the hazelnuts, turning in the melted sugar, then pour out onto baking parchment.
  10. Leave the praline for about 5 minutes until just cool enough to handle then pull the nuts apart so that the caramelised sugar is pulled into strands. Then roughly chop some of the hazelnuts. Sprinkle the whole nut praline and the chopped nuts onto the top of the cake.
  11. To make the glaze mix the icing sugar with the vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of the almond milk. Add some more almond milk if needed until the icing is just runny enough to drop over the cake. Decorate the cake with the icing any way you would like.

Pear butter
6 soft conference pears
200ml perry or pear cider
2 tablespoons of brandy
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon allspice

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients, and stir to combine. Cover the saucepan, and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes until the pears are soft.
  2. Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 170°C.
  3. Once the pears are soft, then blend the pears and cooking liquid together until completely smooth.
  4. Pour into a deep roasting tray and place in the oven.
  5. Bake for about 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes with a fork until the butter is dark and as thick as clotted cream.
  6. Allow to cool then place in the fridge to chill until needed.