Yet another slaw recipe!

How many different types of slaw can a girl come up with? I guess I could describe this as a salad with dressing, but it really is another type of coleslaw. Still crunchy, still yummy and just slightly different.
Since first writing about making almond butter, I’ve made a whole host of nut butters – cashew nut, peanut and tahini (which I know is from a seed not a nut!!). The tahini is a particular success, and much better than anything I’ve ever bought in a shop. It never solidifies, has an amazingly intense flavour and is as unadulterated as you can get – not a preservative or colour in site.
In case you didn’t know, tahini is just sesame seed paste, traditionally used in North African, Middle Eastern and Turkish or Greek cooking. Sesame seeds are a great nutritional addition to a plant based whole food diet as they contain a fabulous amounts of calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron and zinc, all essential minerals to keep us healthy. Not only that, but sesame seeds also pack a punch with vitamin E (fabulous skin!), B1 and other phytonutrients and anti-oxidants. Sesame seeds have an ancient history, going back to prehistoric times and are connected to many early tales about ancient Gods. They are even mentioned in early Hindu legends where they symbolise immortality. They must have known how good they were even then!
I lightly toasted my sesame seeds before grinding them down to make tahini – this does release more of the natural oils, but these have omega 3 healthy oils in them, so it’s good fat that’s released. I think this makes it easier to break the seeds down in the processor and form a paste.

A main ingredient for my old favourite, hummus, I also use tahini for a light, refreshing dressing that packs a punch of flavour – stirred into fresh, crisp veg, it really does make a wonderful type of slaw that’s pretty unusual. As I eat dairy free, I use soya yoghurt.  There are a few brands on the market, most of which have added sugar which is most disappointing as it really doesn’t need it. So I either make my own using my trusty Lakeland yoghurt maker, or try to buy Sojade, a lovely, light make of soya yoghurt that somehow isn’t too heavy on the soya flavour (wish I knew how they did it!).
This slaw tastes amazing with hummus and flat bread, or on a simple baked potato. So give it a go and see what you think – and add this to your own slaw collection!
Tahini and yoghurt slaw
2 carrots, grated
1/8 red cabbage finely shredded
1/8 green cabbage finely shredded
2 sticks celery, finely sliced on an angle
flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons dairy free yoghurt
1 clove crushed garlic
lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
Prepare your vegetables and pop in a large bowl together. Admire the colours all mixed together! Combine the dressing ingredients in a separate bowl, taste and add more juice or seasoning to get the flavour you want. Then stir into the veg, mix together and sprinkle the parsley over the top. Enjoy!

If you’re watching your refined oil intake, omit the olive oil. It will still taste great.

Home-made almond butter

Eating a dairy free, whole food plant based diet is becoming less labour intensive as more products become available in the shops. This is great for convenience, but does carry a pretty hefty price tag, especially if that tag is headed ‘free from’! And because of the need for an extended shelf life, products may not be as whole as they should be, with added extras – sugar, salt and oil are added to not only improve flavour as the natural taste fades over time, but also to act as preservatives. There are many other natural preservatives, and colours, many of which are now grown on yeasts, so are a no no for someone with a yeast intolerance.

My daughter has recently developed a passion for almond butter. Always declaring an innate dislike of peanut butter (despite never tasting it!!), I bought a jar of almond butter one day which she tried under protest. To her surprise, she loved it and has be adding it to her food in imaginative ways ever since (baked sweet potato with almond butter topping?). The jars found at the supermarket are pretty small and don’t last long. They are also not cheap. I tried to make it myself, my ever reliable food processor working hard, but just ended up with a dry powder. I could have added oil, but then it wouldn’t be a whole food, so never tried again.

Until recently that is. Browsing on the internet one day, I ended up on a discussion forum about making almond butter (it continues to amaze me what you can stumble upon on the web). According to this chat, almond butter was easy to make, only requiring whole almonds but needed one vital ingredient – patience!

I realised the dry powder I had created was only the middle stage of the butter making process. If I have let my processor continue for another five minutes or so, the nuts would have broken down enough to start releasing the natural oils which change the ground nuts from a dry paste into a beautifully rich, moist spread. And not only is the flavour remarkable, you know exactly what is in your almond butter. If you roast the nuts before hand, you don’t even need to store it in the fridge, although I do, although more out of habit than necessity, because to be honest, it gets eaten up pretty quickly.

Almonds are amazingly healthy. They do contain lots of fat, but it’s healthy monounsaturated, the type which has been proven to help lower the ‘bad’ cholesterol in your body and improve heart health. They also contain fabulous amounts of vitamin E, and anti-oxidant that helps in heart health, but also in your whole health, and is great for your skin and helps slow the ageing process. Almonds also have a shed load of fibre, a good amount of magnesium, which is also essential for heart and general health, B vitamins and phytonutrients essential for overall health, so what’s not to like?

And of course, this process is applicable to any nut or seed. So I’ve made my own tahini, which is way more tasty and powerful than anything in a jar, plus the oil doesn’t separate from the solids, which always seems to happen with shop bought. I also made peanut butter, which is seriously intense! So if you have a few spare minutes and fancy experimenting, give this a go and revel in the extraordinary flavours you’ll create.

Almond Butter
1 1/2 cups almonds
a food processor
a small jar, cleaned and rinsed with boiling water
Heat your oven to 180oC. Place the almonds on a baking tray and roast for 5 minutes. Take them out the oven, check they’re not getting burnt and pop them back for another couple of minutes. You don’t want to over roast them otherwise they become too dry and you won’t get a good butter. Remove
from the oven and leave to cool.Once cool, pop in your food processor and blitz on a medium speed until the nuts are broken down and stuck up the side of the bowl. Stop, get a spatula and scrap down to the bottom again. Resume processing. Repeat this process until the nuts eventually start  releasing their oil and stay at the bottom of the bowl. Increase the speed slightly and leave on until a beautifully unctuous butter is created. This will take about 10 minutes in total. Stop the processor and check the texture – continue until you get a smooth texture. Then spoon out into the clean jar and enjoy!

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

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!!!