Thursday, 19 September 2013

Chocolate Brazil Brownies- vegan

You can just about make out the crust-like top and chewy insides.

Today's bake is experimental: one of those times when you write down what you want to put in and roughly how much and just rock with it and see how it turns out. I was wondering if these brownies would be sweet enough, or fudge-y enough, or rise too much- but actually these factors did come out just about right. So right, in fact, that I instantly regretted not making a double quantity! Yesterday was full moon- the Harvest Moon, in fact (and we were also celebrating the disappearance of one our saints, Srila Haridasa Thakura- an associate of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhuaround five hundred years ago). Any excuse for cake...
 I have now finally accepted that Summer is over and I am embracing Autumn: instead of putting the fading leaves back on the trees with coloured clothes pegs and photographing them (yes I really did do that once!) I am picking them off the trees and using them to decorate plates of food- and I am happily wearing a jacket most days rather than freezing in a cardigan in the hope that it will get warmer again in a minute. 
... But now I'm rambling. If you like the look and sound of these brownies, here's the recipe:

(Makes about 9)
2 1/2 cups (1 cup=250ml) wholemeal flour
3/4 cup soft dark brown sugar
1/2 cup brazil nuts, chopped
3 rounded tabs cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsps seasalt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 cup chopped dried dates with 1/2 cup water
2 flax eggs (1 flax egg=1 tab ground flaxseed:3 tabs water, whisked together)
1 cup liquefied coconut oil
1 cup of your favourite plant milk (we used soya this time)

  • First, whisk up the flax eggs and leave to stand.
  • Then make the date paste by gently heating the chopped dates with the water until they are soft and the water has been absorbed. Use the back of a spoon to mash them until fairly smooth.
  • Mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, baking powder and bicarb together in a bowl.
  • In another bowl, whisk up the oil and the flax eggs. Add this to the bowl of dry ingredients and stir in the date paste too.
  • Gradually add the plant milk until the mixture is soft enough to spoon into a prepared square cake tin or silicone mould. Spread it about 1/2" deep as it only rises a little.
  • Bake in an oven preheated to 180C for 20-ish minutes (I forgot to time it as I was busy cooking other stuff), until a thin skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven when done, cut into squares or rectangles and leave to cool on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar if you like. (But if you do, use a brand like Silver Spoon which is made from beet sugar, as they filter cane sugar through bone charcoal to make it white- ugh!)
So do you dread the darker days and falling leaves, or do you embrace Autumn? What foods are your favourites at this time of year?

PS: We have a couple more brownie recipes:

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Blackberry Icecream- vegan, sugar free, gluten free, soya free

Perfect alone or garnished with a fresh lemon balm leaves  (or even chunks of dark chocolate!)
Last Saturday was a gloriously sunny day, so we went to our allotment to cut grass, water the polytunnel and pick runner beans, courgettes, beetroot, potato and some early parsnips. When I had finished picking I decided to forage around the hedges surrounding the site for blackberries. I was rewarded with some of the plumpest, sweetest blackberries I'd ever seen, so straight away they were earmarked for something special... and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them. Icecream. Sweet, fruity and Autumnal- who said icecream is only for Summer? We polished off this icecream in one sitting, sharing the 800-ish ml between five of us (one scoop each.)

1 cup (250ml) chopped dried dates
2 cups whole blackberries
100-150ml water
400ml (1 can) coconut milk
2 tsps Orgran "No Egg" (or tapioca starch, or even custard powder)
  • First make the puree by simmering the chopped dates with the water until you get a paste- I helped this along by using a hand blender once all the water had been absorbed. 
  • Add 1 cup of the blackberries to the date paste and continue to simmer until they have broken down and the whole thing is a thick puree.
  • Optional but worth it: Rub the puree through a fine-meshed sieve to get rid of those annoying little blackberry seeds. This will take quite a few minutes, and you have to make sure you don't lose too much volume. You should end up with about a cup of puree, maybe a little less.
  • Now pour your coconut milk into a saucepan and bring it to a gentle simmer. Use a balloon whisk to blend in the puree. Continue to simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and whisk in the No Egg, then stir in the other cupful of blackberries.
  • Pour the liquid into a bowl and let it cool down.
  • Put it in the freezer. Remove and beat when partly frozen to keep it soft. Return to the freezer, but don't let it freeze too hard. Or, if you are lucky enough to own one, use an icecream maker.
  • If you don't mind about eating sugar: Serve with chunks of dark chocolate, or even mix in some when you add the whole blackberries. Yum!

Note: If you are foraging blackberries or any other wild plant or fruit, make sure you do not pick them near a roadside however tempting they may look, as they will have absorbed toxins from the car fumes. When picking blackberries choose firm, unbroken, clean, ripe and shiny fruits. Avoid dull ones, and those with a grey or white bloom (this is mould). Check carefully for flies, grubs and other creepy-crawlies. To ensure they are as clean as possible, only pick berries growing higher up than a couple of feet, especially in places where people walk their dogs. Wash your blackberries carefully by rinsing gently with cold water, and store in the fridge.

If you like the sound of this, you might want to take a look at some of our other vegan icecream recipes... 

Sunday, 15 September 2013

How-To 16: Make Almond Milk-raw, vegan

Almond milk is a versatile and simple to make alternative to dairy or soya milk
For the sake of variety and not relying too much on any one food, it's good to have something other than soya milk on hand for cereals, smoothies, baking and shakes. If you don't like to buy too much commercially-made stuff in packets (which often has lots of unwanted extra ingredients and can be expensive) making your own plant milks is the solution. This month we show you how to make almond milk, one of the creamiest-tasting plant milks.  If you get your almonds in bulk from a company like Suma, that's a great way of being able to afford organic too. Bear in mind though, that it is lower in protein than dairy or soya milk so adjust your diet accordingly. (For babies, it is not a substitute for breast milk, either.) Almond milk is often thought of as a modern vegan invention, but in fact it has a long history of use stretching back to Medieval times from Southern Europe to the Middle East. (It became popular amongst Christians as a Lenten food). The method we use here to make almond milk is the most commonly used, but you can also make almond milk from almond butter, by simply blending it with water. You will need a food processor or good blender/ grinder to make your own almond milk, but apart from that it's really simple. There are no quantities given in these instructions, but for a very rough rule of thumb, one cup (250ml) of soaked almonds plus one cup of water make just under a cup of almond milk.

1: Soak the almonds in water overnight.

2: Roll them together between your hands and the skins should rub off fairly easily. You don't want the skins as they have a slightly bitter flavour. This job can be tedious if you have a lot of almonds, but it's worth it. Get a friend to help!

3: The skinned and soaked almonds.

4: Put your almonds in the food processor and grind until as fine as possible- a lot finer than this picture shows, in fact. The idea is to get them so that the oil is just beginning to come out of them, like when you make peanut butter. When ready, they will mostly be a paste made of fine powder, some moisture and some oil.

5: Gradually add cold water as you blend the almonds. How much is up to you. Use a little and you get "cream"; more and you get a liquid milk. Just keep checking for the consistency you want.

6: You can press the almonds and water through a fine-meshed seive...

7: ...Or squeezing through a muslin cloth, if you have one, is even more efficient. You can keep the solid pulp in the fridge and use it in pates, burgers etc. Add a natural sweetener of your choice (pureed dates are good), or a little vanilla if you like, but we keep ours plain.
Keep your almond milk refrigerated in a glass jar or jug, and enjoy using it however you like! If you would like some ideas, click on these links: