Tasty strawberry tarts

I understand how challenging it can be to adjust to dietary restrictions, especially when it comes to beloved foods. It’s completely normal to feel upset about such a significant change. The good news is that there are many delicious dairy-free desserts that can satisfy your sweet tooth.

Indeed, good things can come out of necessity – my love of desserts was one of the main reasons I created The Sensitive Foodie. So not all was lost! The more I explored dairy-free delights, which soon became fully plant-based, the more I realised how much I was gaining rather than missing out.
My new found enthusiasm for creamy plant-based desserts was reigned in again after my multiple sclerosis diagnosis. I had been using coconut products as a replacement for cream and butter. Coconut milk, cream and oil contain high levels of saturated fat that  was not doing my brain any good. It wasn’t just the coconut – chocolate is also highly saturated and detrimental to brain health. Both had to go.

All is not lost as there are other alternatives. Cashew nuts and other nuts have lots of fat to create creamy textures. They contain more polyunsaturated fat including omega 3 fatty acids, which is better for brain cells compared to the stiff saturated fat found in coconut.

And whilst chocolate is off the menu, cocoa powder is not. It still contains fat, including some saturated, but in much lower amounts. Plus anti-inflammatory compounds that actually support brain health and can help reduce fatigue for some people with MS (bonus!).

As strawberry remains my favourite fruit, I love to make desserts which showcase them whilst they’re in season. Full of healthful anti-inflammatory compounds, there’s something rather magical about these bright red, heart-shaped berries. Unfortunately, there are also issues with them, particularly when it comes to farming methods that use high amounts of pesticides and other toxic chemicals. You can read about this here.

Pastry is another food that can be tricky on a plant-based diet without coconut or other refined oils. Vegan pastry is now readily available in the supermarkets but if you look at the ingredients it’s a long list of highly refined oils and fats, many of which are saturated or trans fat. Best avoided at all times if you are using food as medicine. These products also contain wheat flour, no good if you are also gluten free.

I have a couple of pastry recipes on the website – you can find them here and here. The one I use for these delicious tarts is slightly different. It’s fully gluten free, contains cocoa powder to give a yummy chocolaty flavour and is surprisingly easy to make.

The cream base is best with cashew nuts. However, if you are nut free, sunflower seeds can be used as an alternative. It’s a bit more ‘rugged’ than cashews but still tastes delicious. And once covered by lovely ripe strawberries, not really on show.

Whether using cashews or sunflower seeds, the key to this ‘cream’ is to take care with how much water you add to the blender. Less is definitely better to start otherwise you will end up with a runny cream that just won’t work for this recipe. Add the minimal amount then add small amounts at a time until you have a thick cream that can be dolloped rather than poured. It’s worth the effort, I promise!

If you’re not a strawberry fan, use raspberries, blueberries, peaches or whatever fruit you enjoy. These tarts will keep in the fridge for 3 days (I’m not sure why you wouldn’t eat them more quickly!) but the pastry bottom will become softer the longer the cream and fruit rest on it.

This recipe takes a little time to complete but doesn’t have to be done at the same time. The pastry cases can be made earlier in the day or the day before and kept in an air-tight container. As long as the cashews have been soaked for a good few hours, it takes moments to create the cream and top with lovely ripe strawberries.

If you miss those decadent desserts, then do give these luscious strawberry tarts a try. You won’t regret it, I promise!

 

Strawberry tarts

Delicious tarts with cocoa pastry, rich cashew cream topped with sweet strawberries. Gluten free and OMS friendly.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Soaking time 2 hours
Course Dessert
Servings 4 tarts

Equipment

  • 4 10cm wide loose bottomed tartlet tins
  • Silicon mat and non-stick baking paper
  • High speed blender

Ingredients
  

For the pastry

  • 50 grams oats gluten free if needed
  • 25 grams ground almonds or sunflower seeds, ground into a powder
  • 50 grams rice flour
  • 20 grams cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar optional
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • Pinch salt
  • 80 mls water

For the cream filling

  • 75 grams cashew nuts or sunflower seeds
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla paste
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 100 ml creamy dairy free milk or water

For the strawberries

  • 200 grams strawberries
  • 1 tbsp sugar optional - only if not ripe and sweet
  • handful mint or basil leaves for garnish optional

Instructions
 

Preparation:

  • Place the cashew nuts or sunflower seeds into a bowl and soak in water for at least 2 hours (nuts) or 4 hours (seeds)
  • Place the oats in the jug of a high speed blender and blitz for 10 seconds until ground to a flour. Do the same for the almonds or pastry sunflower seeds if needed.

Make the pastry

  • Add the ground oats, ground almonds, rice flour, cocoa powder, coconut sugar, ground flaxseed and a pinch of salt to a large bowl. Mix well to combine.
  • Pour in the water and mix together with a spoon to form a soft dough. Form a ball with your fingers and put to one side for 5-10 minutes.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Lay 4 loose-bottom tartlet tins out on the worktop.
  • Once the dough has firmed up, separate into 4. Place a silicon mat or piece of greaseproof paper on the worktop and place the dough on top. Cover with another piece of greaseproof paper and roll out to approx 1 ½ cm thick. Remove the top layer of greaseproof paper, flip the silicon mat upside down over one of the tartlet tins and carefully peel off the dough into the tin. Press lightly into the base and sides and trim with a knife.
  • Repeat the process for the other tins. Place on a baking tray then transfer to the middle shelf of the oven. Bake for 10 minutes until firm. Remove from the oven then leave to cool.

Make the cream

  • Drain the soaking cashew nuts or sunflower seeds and throw away the soaking water. into the jug of a high-speed blend. Add vanilla paste and just cover with water – top up with dairy-free milk to cover completely. Blend until smooth.
  • Tip the nuts or seeds into the jug of a high-speed blend. Add vanilla paste, maple syrup and two thirds of the dairy free milk or water. Blend on high, adding more fluid as needed to create a smooth, thick, spoonable cream. You will probably need to scrape the mix off the blender jug sides a few times before it gets the right consistency.
  • Place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Construct the tarts

  • Prepare the strawberries by cutting into bite-sized pieces. Add a little sugar if they are not super sweet and leave to macerate for 15 minutes or so.
  • Remove the 'cream' from the fridge. Place 1 heaped tablespoon in a pastry case Arrange strawberries on top. Garnish with basil or mint as desired. Repeat and serve.
Keyword gluten free, low saturated fat, OMS friendly, strawberry tart, vegan pastry

 

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