Raw chocolate brownies

One of the main themes threading through my courses and workshop is the importance of eating a rainbow every day – a fresh produce based one not a skittles one (as on that rather surreal advert)! People are sometimes surprised when I include brown on the rainbow, but in the world of powerful, colourful phytonutrients, brown is good, especially when it comes in the form of chocolate.

Before you jump for joy, that’s not all types of chocolate, sorry! For the more chocolate, or cacao, is refined and processed, the more it loses its magical properties and can end up as harmer not healer. Raw, unrefined cacao powder is packed with a group of helpful phytonutrients called polyphenols. There’s been a lot of research recently about this group as they appear in many of our favourite ‘treats’ like coffee and red wine, and supplement companies are researching the best ways to capture their magic and put it in pill form. I still believe the best way of getting them is through eating a wide range of wonderful, fresh plants (but then I would!).

It’s the flavanols in cacao which are particularly good, working together as a team. It appears they have some anti-inflammatory effects, soothing the body which can only be good in our hectic, stressful lives. Flavanols also improve blood flow, are good for heart health and possibly for brain health too, for better blood flow in the brain means more oxygen and nutrients get delivered and harmful by-products whisked away more rapidly before they can get up to mischief.

Heat reduces the beneficial flavanol content by up to 60%; cocoa powder is heated and refined as are most chocolate products. Adding sugar, refined fats and dairy products changes it again, each step making it less helpful. But it also tends to make it more palatable, and a sugar/fat combo hits our pleasure centres, which is why a chocolate bar tastes so good!

Raw cacao powder can be quite bitter; these chocolate brownies solves that problem by mixing it with dates and nuts, making it super rich and delicious instead. And because there’s no baking involved, the cacao keeps its nutritional properties, and gains a few more along the way from the other ingredients. I love it when cake is a health food!

A word of warning – these chocolate brownies are not cheap to make nor low in calories, but because they are so dense and packed with fibre, they’re incredibly filling and you can only manage a small amount at a time. They also freeze well, so you can make a batch and pop some away for another day. If you don’t have any cacao nibs, feel free to leave them out. They add texture and a little extra chocolatiness, but are not essential.

So if you feel like indulging in some chocolate loveliness, why not give these a go? Your body and your tastebuds will be delighted! And don’t forget to let me know how you get on.

Raw chocolate brownies

Deliciously rich chocolate brownies, raw and packed full of amazing nutrients.
Prep Time10 mins
Chilling time2 hrs
Total Time10 mins
Keyword: chocolate, dairy free, plantbased, raw, vegan
Servings: 12

Ingredients

  • 300 grams dates soaked in warm water for 10 minutes
  • 110 grams hazelnuts
  • 140 grams almonds
  • 60 grams cacao powder
  • 2 tablespoons cacao nibs
  • pinch salt

For the topping:

  • 30 grams cacao powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • handful chopped nuts, desiccated coconut or freeze-dried raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon cacao nibs optional

Instructions

  • Drain the dates but keep the soaking water. Line a small square baking tin with non-stick baking paper.
  • Place the nuts into a food processor and blitz them to a course powder. Tip out into a bowl then add the soaked dates to the processor and blend them to a thick paste. Return the nuts to the processor along with the cacao powder and salt. Blend until the mix comes together into a ball – you may need to add a little of the date soaking water if it’s too dry. Remove the dough from the processor bowl and mix the cacao nibs into the dough by hand.
  • Press the mix into the base of the prepared baking tin – you may not cover the whole base, so work from one side and fill as much of it as you want, depending on how deep you want your brownies to be. Pop the tin the fridge whilst you make the topping.
  • Mix the cacao powder, vanilla essence and maple syrup together in a bowl to form a thick paste. Check the flavour and add extra cacao or syrup if needed. Grab the brownie tin from the fridge, pour the mix over the top and spread it out equally to cover. Sprinkle chopped nuts, desiccated coconut, freeze-dried raspberries or cacao nibs over the top to decorate, then return the tray to the fridge to set for two hours.
  • To serve, remove the tray from the fridge, lift out the brownies by the baking paper and cut into 12 equal squares. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge.

Raw gingerbread balls

Gingerbread is synonymous with Christmas, but sometimes it’s good to have something a bit different to the norm. So for day 7 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent calendar, I bring you raw gingerbread balls.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m a bit partial to a tasty energy ball. I’ve posted a few different ones over the years including yummy carrot cake balls and last years raw Christmas cake balls. 

Energy balls are great, especially if you have a sweet tooth as they hit the spot with sweetness but are free from shedloads of refined sugar. That’s not to say they’re sugar free, far from it! But the sugar is still bound up with the fibre in the whole foods so they give a slower, more sustained release. Much less stressful on your body and helps to avoid sugar lows.

I always see energy balls as a wonderful benefit of eating a whole-food plant-based diet. The flavours are intense and they’re just so enjoyable. But I know some people find them too much of a faff, or haven’t got the right equipment to make them. If that’s you, then let me introduce you to Charlotte of Frog Hollow Catering. 

I met Charlotte a few years ago through The Mumpreneurs Networking Club (MNC) and she then came along to my Eat Well Live Course. As with many trained chef, she had previously thought that rich, animal-based food was the best way of eating, until she had serious health problems. She discovered the benefits of eating whole, plant food and started to use her skills in a different way. She now has a fabulous business making energy bites and delicious raw cakes. And I mean delicious! 

Charlotte has a range of products you can check out on her website here, but if you want something super special for Christmas, she makes these gorgeous raw chocolate truffles that are dairy-free, vegan and contain no refined sugar, just lots of fabulous nutrients and deliciousness. Last order date before Christmas is 18th December, so don’t delay if you want some. Btw, I’m not on commission here, I just love what Charlotte does!

Right, back to the gingerbread balls. Ginger is an amazing ingredient to include in your cooking, particularly at this time of year with all the colds and viruses going around. It contains an array of phytonutrient compounds that help with all sorts of things including nausea and pain. It can also help support the immune system and reduce inflammation. 

Ginger can be a bit perky on the flavour side of things though; I certainly find it more fiery than other members of my family. One of the benefits of making your own gingerbread balls is that you can get the flavour to your own liking. I’ve set it at a moderate level, but if you prefer more of a ginger hit then feel free to increase the amount of ground ginger.

These balls do contain almonds; if you have to eat nut-free, replace them with sunflower seeds. The flavour will be slightly different, but still works really well. And don’t forget that if you are strictly gluten-free, please use gluten-free oats. 

I’ve coated some of these with sesame seeds; they’re not essential but add even more nutrients and make them slightly less sticky to pick up. Feel free to omit if you so desire.

These are also great fun to make with the kids as they can get their hands in and fully sticky. If you give them a go, let me know how you get on!

Raw gingerbread balls (makes 18 )  

  •  75g dates, stone removed 
  • 50g oats
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • 50g raisins
  • 100g almonds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)                                                   

Soak the dates in hot water for 10 minutes if they are very dry, then drain, retaining the water. Place all the ingredients apart from the sesame seeds into a food processor and blend until combined and sticky. Add a little soaking water if it’s too dry to bind.

Take a heaped teaspoonful of the mix out and roll it into a ball in the palm of your hand. Roll in sesame seeds if using. Repeat the process until all the mix is used up.

These balls will keep in an air-tight container for up to 7 days, or can be frozen. 


Raw salted caramel cheesecake

I’ve never had a dairy-based salted caramel cheesecake – I was dairy free before salted caramel was a bit thing! But if it takes anything as good as this, then I can see what the fuss is about.

This lovely alternative is a delight, and can be eaten in the safe knowledge that all the ingredients are whole food and plant based, and therefore good for your body as well as your tastebuds. The caramel is rich and deep, not too sweet, but definitely hits the sugar receptors. This sweetness comes from the dates – and there’s a lot of them in this recipe! So I am never going to claim this is a low calorie number (it is dessert after all!), but it is packed full of fibre and nutritional benefits – minerals like iron and zinc, phytonutrients that are particularly good for gut health and a reasonable smattering of B vitamins. The type of fibre contained in dates also help keep beneficial bacteria happy; a happy gut = a happy body!

You may notice that I use Himalayan salt in the recipe – that’s my preference, but feel free to use whatever type you like or have in the house at the time. Don’t decide you can’t make this if you’re missing the salt I’ve specified, that would be too sad!

There’s lots of claims and counter claims on the internet about the benefits or otherwise of Himalayan salt. Having read around the subject, I’ve decided in favour of the pink salt as it is less refined and contains slightly more natural balance of sodium chloride with other trace minerals. As for the claims about energy levels, health benefits and potential elemental toxins, that’s for everyone to decide for themselves (I do, however, have my Himalayan salt lamp next to the modem in the house – it looks pretty in the hall and if it helps manage EMF in the house, why not?).

Back to the recipe. There are a lot of stages in this cheesecake, but each stage doesn’t take too long so don’t be overwhelmed. It really needs making the day before, but you can always make it a few hours before hand and pop it in the freezer if needed. Or prepare in advance and freeze, ready to pull out when you have the need for a salted caramel cheesecake! I would advise leaving the chocolate layer off if you are planning on freezing, and adding it just at the end once it’s defrosted with the decorations. Or you can omit the chocolate layer altogether, it will still taste wonderfully delicious and indulgent. Enjoy!

Raw salted caramel cheesecake (serves 10)

For the base:
140g oats (gluten free if needed)
80g ground flaxseed
130g dessicated coconut
240g dates (soaked in hot water if dry)
good pinch of Himalayan salt

For the caramel:
180g dates (soaked in hot water if dry)
60-80ml water or dairy free milk
4 tablespoons of almond butter
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt

For the cheesecake layer:
260g cashew nuts (soaked for at least 2 hours)
80g dates (soaked in hot water if dry)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
125ml coconut milk (the thick part is best)
good pinch of Himalayan salt

For the chocolate topping:
1 tablespoon coconut oil
3-4 tablespoons maple syrup
2-3 tablespoons raw cacao powder
To decorate:
Frozen black/red currents, freeze dried strawberries

You will need a 23cm springform cake tin.

Unless you are using super sticky and expensive Medjool dates, you will probably need to soak your dates in hot water for 10 minutes or so to make them easier to blend. Weigh out the dates for each component in separate bowls and soak them whilst you’re getting everything else ready. Don’t forget to drain them before you start!

For the base layer: Place all the ingredients into the food processor and blitz until combined and sticky. Add a little of the date soaking water if it doesn’t come together, but not too much as you don’t want it too wet. Press the dough into the base of the springform cake tin and up the sides slightly using your hands. Try to spread it out equally and firmly. Place the tin in the fridge to chill whilst you make the next layers. Remember to clean the processor bowl before moving on!

For the caramel: Place all the ingredients into the food processor and blend until a thick, creamy caramel is formed. Check the flavour and add a little more salt if needed – remember this is salted caramel so you need to use more than feels normal. Pour out into a bowl and try not to eat it all whilst you make the next layer!

For the cheesecake: Wash the food processor bowl again then add all the ingredients for this layer and blend together until thick and creamy. This may take a few minutes, depending on how long you have soaked the cashew nuts for. Carry on until the mix is smooth and not grainy (means you have to keep tasting it!)

To construct, remove the tin with the base from the fridge. Pour in the caramel to cover the bottom equally, then cover it with the cheesecake mix. Grab a thin spoon or chopstick and gently swirl it around in the mix to slightly combine the two levels – you should see a little caramel swirl appear on the top. Place in the fridge to set for at least 6 hours, or cover and pop in the freezer.

For the chocolate topping and decoration: Melt the coconut oil so it is liquid. In another bowl, mix the cacao and maple syrup together – it takes a little hard stirring to get them to combine. Add the coconut oil and stir well. Taste. If too thick or not sweet enough, add more maple syrup. If too thin or not chocolatey enough, add more cacao powder. Pour the chocolate sauce over the top, spread out equally to the edges, decorate with scattered berries and freeze-dried strawberries and return to the fridge to set.

To serve, release the clip on the side of the cake tin and very carefully push the cheesecake up and away from the sides. Leave on the base of the tin to serve (it’s safer!). Cut into slices with a sharp knife. Decorate each serving with an extra sprinkle of freeze dried strawberries or fresh berries. Enjoy!

 

 

Carrot cake balls

If you love carrot cake, then have a look at this vlog I made last year on how to make these raw carrot cake energy balls. The ingredients are listed below. Enjoy!

50g oats (gluten free if needed
2 smallish medium carrots, grated
75g dates, soaked if dry ones
70g raisins
1 -11/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt

Chocolate refrigerator chunks – dairy free of course

There are times when only chocolate will do. But when you’re eating dairy free, you can’t just grab the first bar you find. Then if you’re eating gluten free and want to cut out the junk and eat more whole food, then things get even more complicated. By the time you actually find something that meets the criteria and hits the spot, life has moved on and you don’t really want it anymore! Which is great for the waistline, but frustrating for the tastebuds! Or worse, you succumb and eat something that makes you feel dreadful.

There are more and more dairy free chocolate brands available to buy, usually in the supermarket free from section or a health food shop, but they can be expensive and you don’t really know what’s in them.

You could make you’re own chocolate of course – something that I do want to do. I even have a friend who teaches it, but still haven’t made it to a class. Fortunately, I have an easy solution to chocolate bar frustration that’s really quick to make and tastes amazing – chocolate refrigerator chunks.

The recipe of these came together after I was bought a solid chocolate ‘cake bar’ from a healthy food stall – a long, mars bar sized chunk filled with nuts and dried fruit. Having not consumed a decent chocolate bar for a number of years, it was quite a revelation, but so rich and filling that I couldn’t finish it all, despite a seriously concerted effort. Having made great changes to the way I eat, it really was just too much for me – shocking!

Whenever I munch my way through a new food or dish, I’m always analysing it’s make up and trying to decide how to recreate it myself. Realising that this would be simple, I grabbed the dairy free chocolate drops and got to work.

The actual content of the bar is totally up to you – whatever combination of dried fruit, nuts or seeds you like. These little goodies bring in the healthy bit by introducing fabulous fibre as well as an assortment of essential fatty acids, minerals and phytonutrients. You could even add puffed rice or buckwheat, or some gluten free granola to give it another dimension.
So why not give this a go and create your own individualised chocolate chunk that just hits the spot!

Chocolate refrigerator chunks
250g dairy free chocolate
2 tablespoons coconut oil
250g of chopped nuts, seeds and dried fruit
(my favourite combo is pecan, raisin, cranberry, pumpkin and flaxseed)
Pop the dairy free chocolate and coconut oil in a medium sized bowl. Place it over a small pan of simmering water and stir whilst it melts to combine. Remove from the heat and stir in the nuts, seeds and fruit combo you’ve chosen – mix well.
Tip the mix into a prepared tin (*see below), cover with a freezer bag and place in the freezer for a couple of hours to set hard. Remove from the freezer, tip out of the tin onto a board and chop into chunks (careful of your fingers though as it’s pretty hard). Place chunks into a pot and leave in the fridge until you’re ready to eat them (if you manage not to eat them all during the chopping process). Enjoy!
*I have found that disposable flan dishes are the best mould to use, and as it’s easy to remove when frozen, you can reuse them a number of times. If you don’t have any, just line any tin with foil to help you remove it later – don’t use cling film though, unless you want it as part of your chocolate chunk

Amazing Banoffee Pie – part 2

Slightly later than planned, here is the second half of the banoffee pie recipe – and you’ll see it was worth waiting for!

This raw banoffee pie does contain a lot of dates, and a good helping of nuts. Some may put some off by this as both are renowned for being high in calories – dates with sugar and nuts with fat. Whilst this is true, not all calories are equal. A whole nut contains much more than just fat, and a whole date is more than just sugar. We are so used to having refined products in recipes, such as granulated sugar or oil that we forget about where these ingredients come from.

The great thing about eating a whole food plant based diet is that the recipes include everything you find in a fruit, vegetable, pulse or cereal. If dates are refined to produce some form of glucose or fructose syrup, that’s all you will get. But a whole date is packed full of complex carbohydrates, so it takes some time for it to be broken down into fructose and glucose (which your body needs for as it’s base energy source) rather than provide one immediate sugar rush. Alongside the sugars, dates are also packed full of potassium, essential for all cell processes, magnesium, vitamin A, phytonutrients and anti-oxidants and fibre. Fibre is essential in our diets to help maintain a healthy gut as well as clear out all the excess waste that builds up, including unhealthy fats and cholesterol. Dates fill you up – refined carbs and sugar don’t.

The same goes with nuts. Walnuts for example are one of the few plant foods that contain omega 3 essential fatty acids which are proven to promote healthy hearts, brains and protect against certain forms of cancer. Walnuts also contain vitamin E and other antioxidants as well as minerals such as manganese and iron. And don’t forget the fibre!

This is why eat foods whole – or in this case starting them off whole and chopping them up without taking anything away – promotes health and vitality.

So now I’ve finished my little soap-box moment, here’s the rest of the recipe. First the base.
Pie Base
1 cup cashew nuts
1 cup walnuts
1 cup pitted dates (plus a few extra if needed)
pinch of salt
Place the nuts and salt in a food processor and blitz until they resemble bread crumbs. Add the dates and process until you have a sticky dough. If your dates are a bit dry, you will  need more to produce the right stick. Take a bit out of the processor and press together with your fingers – if it sticks in a lump, it’s ready. Take the dough out and press firmly into a loose bottomed flan tin – 18-20 cms wide. You need to press hard and try to make it equal. Put it in the freezer for an hour or so.

Now is the time to make your caramel if you haven’t already. Recipes for the raw caramel and whipped coconut cream are here http://foodiesensitive.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/amazing-banoffee-pie-raw-and-dairy-free.html

Putting it all together
1 pie base
1 portion of raw caramel
1 portion of whipped coconut cream
3-4 bananas
lemon juice
cocoa powder
Take your pie base out of the freezer and spoon on the caramel layer. Put back in the fridge for a while whilst you whip up your coconut cream. Slice the bananas. Put half of the bananas into the cream and cover the rest with a little lemon juice to prevent discolouration. Take the base out of the fridge, spoon on the banana cream, scatter the remaining banana on top and sprinkle lightly with cocoa powder. Eat immediately, or pop back in the fridge until you’re ready (otherwise your cream will lose it’s structure). And there you have it. Be amazed by the flavours and enjoy – remember it’s good for you too!!!

Amazing Banoffee Pie – raw and dairy free! Part one.

I love pudding. It’s no secret. I have a sweet tooth that loves to be satisfied. Unfortunately, most traditional puddings and desserts are packed full of dairy – dollops of butter, lashings of cream and of course bundles of fat and calories to go with it!! It’s not a wonder that when I finally banished dairy from my diet, I lost weight without trying!

So  now I am on a continual quest to find puddings that I can eat – dairy free and delicious of course – without falling back onto too many fake alternatives which are often packed full of chemicals and nasties that I really don’t want to consume. I want real food in my pudding. I do want to have my cake and to eat it!

One of my favourite puddings of all time is Banoffee Pie. I’m not sure if it’s the deep rich caramel flavour or the sumptuous cream and banana mix which makes it so tantalising on the tongue – or maybe all the flavours together is the key. Banoffee Pie is a Sussex creation, first found on the menu of the Hungry Monk back in the 1970s, and being a Sussex girl, it’s only right that I should indulge and support our local cuisine. But that combination of caramel made from condensed milk and the thick creamy topping means that, sadly, my banoffee pie days are over.

Or so I thought until my lovely husband, knowing how much I miss my scrumptious puds, found a recipe for, and made me, Raw Banoffee Pie. What a man!! Made from whole foods, no added sugars at all – and it tastes absolutely wonderful.

As a dish, it’s not too complicated to make, but has a few component parts, so this recipe is being split into two posts (what a tease!!) but if you can’t wait, then check out the whole thing on this wonderful site http://www.gluten-free-vegan-girl.com/2013/04/no-bake-vegan-banoffe-pie.html
So this dish has three component parts – the crust, the caramel and the cream. Each one can be used to  make other yummy dishes, hence why I want to break them down for ease of reference. Today, I’m focusing on the caramel and the cream. Next time the base and bringing the whole recipe together. It doesn’t take up loads of time, just needs a little planning ahead.

The raw caramel is amazing, and is one of the things I demonstrated at my first Sensitive Foodie cooking demo the other week. It went down really well, and we have all be devising other uses for it ever since!! The coconut cream is so easy and absolutely gorgeous and can definitely be used as whipped cream for other puddings. It tastes gorgeous and it’s hard not to eat it all straight from the bowl.

First, the caramel. Made from whole dates and vanilla, the flavour is influenced by two things – the type of dates used and time. Richer dates, like medjool, produce a deeper caramel flavour. I’ve used these and Halawi dates and the flavour is lighter with the Halawi. Still gorgeous though! The texture is also slightly smoother with the medjool dates. As for time, the flavours mature over a few days, so if you can, make this caramel and keep it in a pot at the back of the fridge where no-one will find it (otherwise they will eat it!!) for a few days before you want to use it. If you can’t, don’t worry, your caramel will still be good, just not quite as deep as it might be. Finally, I use vanilla paste rather than vanilla essence, just because I found it produces a better flavour. If you only have essence, then use it, but check your flavour as you may need to add a bit more.

Raw caramel
3 cups pitted dates
1 cup of almond milk (or other non-dairy milk – not soya milk)
1 tsp vanilla paste
a pinch of salt (be careful!)
Place your dates into a food processor and blend until all mushed up. Add 3/4 of the milk, vanilla and a tiny pinch of salt and blend until smooth. Add more milk to get a thick, creamy texture, as needed. It will take about 5 minutes on a medium speed. Taste and add more vanilla or salt to balance the flavour (the salt counterbalances the sweetness. It’s needed but its easy to add too much!). Once you’re happy with the flavour, stop eating it or you’ll have to make more, put in a pot and hide!

Whipped coconut cream
1 tin of full fat coconut cream
vanilla essence
pinch of salt (optional)
This is where you have to plan ahead for sure. To be able to whip your cream, you need cold coconut milk, so pop it in the fridge to chill over night. When you open the tin, most of it will be of a creamy, thick consistency. Carefully scrap out all the thick stuff and put in a bowl. There may be a little thin coconut water left at the bottom – keep separate and use for another recipe. I’d actually had my tin in the fridge for a week (never got around to using it when I’d planned to) and the whole tin was solid. Perfect for whipping. Then all you need to do is add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence to the coconut and whisk until you have a smooth cream. It takes about one minute with an electric hand whisk. Taste and add more vanilla essence if you need to and a tiny pinch of salt if you feel it’s required. It really does taste like whipped cream!! The cream needs using pretty quickly, so if you’re not ready to use it there and then, pop the bowl in the fridge so it keeps it shape (the fat in coconut changes consistency with temperature).
So there you have it – two components of the pie that can be used elsewhere. Earlier I started discussing banana splits and chocolate sundaes with my daughter…….watch this space! And the rest of the banoffee pie recipe will come next time!


Dairy and yeast free pizza – it’s tasty, honest!!

Having a dairy and yeast intolerance, I’ve got used to not eating my favourite foods, often just admiring them from afar. There is one though, that tortures me – pizza! I love it – that crunch of a crisp base, the fantastic combinations of toppings that may your tongue tingle in appreciation and the beautiful soft, gooey cheese on top that just brings all three elements together. But for me, no matter how much I may love it, it does not love me – devil food!

All the vegan cheese I have tried in the past just doesn’t do it for me, there’s always a strange tang which puts me off. And over here in India, I’ve never seen it on the supermarket shelves in Bangalore. So I was delighted at the last cooking demo I attended that one of the things they made was a soft ‘cheese’ that had a flavour similar to strong cheese – ie: stinky sock flavour! When it was passed round the room, I was not convinced as to be honest, it smelt and tasted like off cream gunge, but later on when they made pizza, the flavour and texture just worked, and it browned slightly on top.  I couldn’t eat the pizza, but they cooked some for me separately on some vegetables, so it was half way to a pizza but not quite there!

I had a few attempts at making this cheese myself; the first was too dry and took a long time to ferment and just wasn’t quite right. The second, my hand slipped when adding water, so was too runny. Thankfully, in the tradition of the 3 bears, the third attempt was just right! I wasn’t sure how to make a non-yeast pizza base from scratch, so cheated and used Orgran pizza base mix. This is a gluten free, dairy free, yeast free, everything you can think of free product which is has a pretty reasonable taste and easy to make up. As it’s the gluten that gives dough it’s elasticity and mouldability, gluten free flours can be dry and crumbly, but this Orgran mix didn’t have that problem.

I made the ‘cheese’ 2 days before making the pizza so it was suitably stinky! After making up the base according to the packet instructions, I rolled out the dough, smothered it with tomato puree and chopped herbs, sprinkled crisp red pepper, onion, mushroom, sliced tomato and basil, then spooned on a few dollops of the ‘cheese’, then left it to the oven gods to do some magic!

For the pizza aficionado, it probably wouldn’t taste so good, but to me it was delicious and I enjoyed every mouth-watering bite. One to make again that’s for sure!

Raw sour cheese
1 cup cashew nuts (I only used 1/2 cup as only making for 1)
1/3 tsp salt.
Soak the cashew nuts in water for a minimum of 2 hours. Drain out the water and blitz in the food processor to a smooth paste.  You may need to add a little water. Place in a bowl or container, cover with a close and leave to ferment for 24-72 hours (it depends on how warm the room is). Once it starts to smell sour, and the texture changes, add a little salt to taste and it’s ready. It will keep in the fridge for up to 10 days.

Sweet treat – raw and dairy free!

Last month, I disappear off with a friend for a few days to visit Auroville, an alternative community nestled in the countryside near to Pondicherry on the Tamil Nadu coast. Auroville is a fascinating experiment in human unity and focuses on sustainable living as well as the environmental, social and spiritual needs of mankind. We spent a lovely few days relaxing under immense banyan trees, participating in yoga, pottery and a lot of chatting! The food was amazing, much of it organic and locally grown, and of course they had a wide choice which included dairy-free and vegan options, so I, and my stomach, were happy!

One evening, we found ourselves at a farm house within the settlement, in a group gathered around a big bonfire singing ‘mindful’ songs – it was a truly hippy experience! We arrived a little late, and the vegan spread provided must have been delicious, as the only thing left were a few small dark balls scattered on a plate, covered in white flecks. Someone said they were pudding; unconvinced, I tried one as I was so hungry and discovered much to my surprise and delight that they were little balls of sweet heaven! Looks were very deceiving! The host told me they were raw date and nut balls – that was it!  How can that taste of chocolate though?

I know that many people believe that we should be eating mostly or all of our food raw. There is a great film called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead about a guy juicing his way to health, which is really worth watching, if only for the people watching experience. Check out http://www.jointhereboot.com to find out more.

But I digress! So I do include lots of raw veggies in my diet, but I’m not a complete raw foodie, so hadn’t come across these raw date balls before.  Doing some research on the internet, I found a guideline recipe on Yummly.com, but then changed it a little to suit what we have available here in Bangalore. If you’re a committed calorie counter, then all these nuts and dried fruits might freak you out a little, but do note there is no added sugar. A handful of nuts is the same amount of fat as a teaspoon of refined oil, plus you get all the extra nutritious goodies such as vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and fibre, but that’s a whole posting in itself. My husband and son love these balls and they’re difficult to binge on; they are really filling!

Vegan choco-nutty-fruity balls
1 cup/120g of nuts, raw and unsalted – I used almonds, walnuts and cashews
1/2 cup/120g organic pitted dates, chopped
1/2 cup/ 120g dried cranberries or apricots
1/2 cup raisins
2 tbspns cocoa powder
1 tbspoon fresh orange juice
few drops almond essence
for coating:
1/2 tspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup/30g fresh or dessicated coconut
Place nuts, dates and rest of dried fruit in a food processor along with cocoa powder and almond essence. Blitz until everything is ground together – add orange juice a few drops at a time until the mixture binds together – you probably won’t need all of it. On a plate, combine the cinnamon and coconut. Roll small portions of the mix into balls, then roll them in the coconut mix until covered. Once all done, place in a container and refrigerate. Then enjoy over a relaxing cup of tea, after a workout or at any time you fancy a sweet nibble!