an adventure into my cookbook collection: soul-searching, doing things differently & the truths I learn along the way...

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Tuesday, 23 July 2013

‘Raw’ Chocolate Coconut Cups

This is my second foray into the world of raw chocolate, and so far I really love it. They are such a joy to make, stunning to look at and taste completely incredible. For me it feels just like it felt when I first started making macaroons – I’m not just cooking, I’m creating something really special that you can’t just buy in the supermarket. I know this might sound a bit over the top, or even a bit arrogant, but to be honest, it is so rare for me to feel a real sense of achievement or pride, that I just don’t really know what to do with it.

When I first posted about raw chocolate, I wrote about its magical, intense bitterness. I didn’t realise until I tweeted the recipe how much raw chocolate actually divides people. Seriously – I have never received nasty tweets before, and I certainly wasn’t expecting them from anyone as ‘fluffy’ as a chocolate blogger. I suppose it is a bit like marmite – either you love it or you hate it. If you are a fan of the super-sweet, milky, galaxy-like chocolates, this probably isn’t for you. But if you like your chocolate intense, dark and a bit bitter, it definitely is.

Makes 10-14


60g raw cacao butter, grated or finely chopped if the lumps are really massive, and divide it in half
50g raw cacao powder, divided in half
Approximately 3tbsp agave syrup (use more if you want them to be sweeter)
60g creamed coconut (the kind that comes in blocks in little cardboard packages)
12-14 mini cupcake cases – obviously the total yield from this will depend on what size case you use – I used little silicone ones from M&S (currently on sale) and it made 11 chocolates.
Diced dried apricot, 2 bits per chocolate (or ginger, pineapple, or goji berries, or something else)


Arrange the mini cupcake cases in one layer on a tray or in a freezable container. You will be very grateful for this level of practicality further down the line. I didn’t bother with this stage initially, and regretted it.

Put the first 30g of cacao butter in a heatproof bowl and melt slowly and carefully using a bain-marie or microwave.

Once it has melted, mix in 25g of cacao powder – this is really incredible the first time you do it, and you see and smell proper chocolate forming in front of your eyes. Add sweetener to taste – I used about one and a half tablespoons of agave syrup. While agave is super sweet, even in such a small quantity of chocolate this doesn’t actually make it taste sweet, it just takes the edge off the bitterness inherent in the cacao. If you have a really sweet tooth, use a tiny bit more agave but not too much – part of the magic of these is the incredible bitterness of the chocolate together with the richness of the coconut and sweetness of the dried fruit.

Fill the cases with the melted chocolate mixture using a teaspoon. You should be able to work out from this how many cases your mix will stretch to, it could be anywhere between 10 and 14.

If you remembered to keep all your little cases on a tray or in a box, you will now be able to move them to the freezer (or fridge) without wobbling them and disturbing the mixture – part of the elegance of these chocolates is the incredibly straight lines. Freeze or refrigerate the first layer of the chocolates until completely set. This will take about 10 minutes in the freezer, at least 30 in the fridge.

While the first chocolate layer is setting, wash and dry all the bowls you were using if you need to use them again.

Prepare the coconut layer by grating or finely chopping the creamed coconut.  Melt it carefully using a microwave or bain-marie. When the first layer of chocolate is set, use a teaspoon to share the melted coconut cream over the top of each case.  Place back in the freezer for another 10 minutes to set.

Prepare the final chocolate layer by melting the remaining 30g of cacao butter and mixing it with the remaining 25g of cacao powder and agave syrup. When the coconut layer is set, share the chocolate equally between the cases, and dot with the dried apricot pieces.

Return to the fridge or freezer, and turn the chocolates out of the cases when they are completely set. Store them in a cool place, in the fridge in the summer.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Summer Rolls with Pineapple-Chilli Dipping Sauce

These Vietnamese/Thai-inspired summer rolls are much more than just a raw greaseless spring roll – fresh, healthy, crunchy, totally delicious and perfect for summer. There are a lot of different recipes for these, and this one is my own invention, based a little bit on a Nigella Recipe, and a little bit on a Nigel Slater recipe.

Rice noodles, coriander and mint form the basis of the summer roll, and on top of that I chose to just use simple green and white things, but you can use whatever you want really. Other commonly used fillings include little lettuce leaves, shredded carrot, radish, or cooked prawns (so I hear). As the summer rolls are transparent, all I would advise is to make sure that you choose fillings that are pretty.

I bought the rice paper wrappers in Wing Yip on my epic trip with the wonderful Debbie and had been looking forward to making summer rolls ever since. They were so much fun to make – fiddly, but very satisfying.

Quantities are going to be a little hard for me to describe – it totally depends on how many you want to make. I made 14 summer rolls with this amount of filling, with enough veggies and dipping sauce left over to make a bowlful of salsa.


Rice paper wrappers – you get millions of them in a packet.
Thin rice noodles (vermicelli). We used about half a big packet. Soak them in hot water until soft, refresh under cold water and drain. They will stick together, but it doesn’t matter.
Cucumber – take out the seeds and slice into thin batons.
Beansprouts – pick off any icky stringy tail bits.
4 spring onions, sliced into strips.
Half a bunch fresh coriander leaves – wash and dry thoroughly, and pick leaves from the stems.
Fresh mint leaves – wash and dry thoroughly, and pick leaves from the stems. We used 3 mint leaves per roll, so I can categorically say that we used 42 little leaves!

For the dipping sauce:

1 small can pineapple pieces, drained – I’m sure it would be better to use fresh pineapple, but I didn’t have any at the time.
1 red chilli – remove the seeds if you want and dice finely.
The juice of 1 lime.
2 tbsp fish sauce. (For vegans and vegetarians, use extra rice vinegar and 1tbsp miso)
½ tbsp rice vinegar.
½ tbsp sesame oil.
Freshly ground black pepper.

Make the dipping sauce first so that it has time to settle and mellow.

Put the pineapple in a bowl with the lime juice and use a hand/immersion blender to blend about half of it. You want to end up with some liquid, some lumps of fruit, and some goop that is halfway between the two. Then add the rest of the ingredients, stir well and set aside until ready to use. Don’t be scared of the quantities of fish sauce – it is a little stinky straight out of the bottle, but it really is perfect for this, and other Southeast Asian-style salad-y things. If like me you keep kosher, most brands of fish sauce are made exclusively from anchovies - just check the label.

Make sure that all of your vegetables, herbs and noodles are completely dry – the rice wrapper will disintegrate if it is soggy on the inside.

To make these summer rolls you will need to work quite quickly, so it is best to have a really well organised workspace. Arrange your workspace with your prepared veggies, a bowl wider than the wrappers full of hot (not boiling) water, a plate for rolling, and a plate to put the rolls on.

Soak the wrappers in the hot water for about 3 seconds, place on your rolling plate and start building. I started mine with 3 mint leaves in a line (facing outwards to be prettier), a clump of noodles and then a few shards of the other green and white things. Wrap carefully into a little parcel and carry on! The wrappers get very sticky and fiddly to use, but I promise, you will get the hang of it very fast.

Sunday, 14 July 2013


So the weather finally seems to have sorted itself out, and everyone seems to be pretty happy about it. Truth be told though, I’m not really much of a summer person. I spend most sunny days searching out shade, repeatedly sunscreening and running away from wasps. But the incredible abundance of delicious, seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables makes it all worthwhile.

Gazpacho, a simple, cold, tomatoey soup, is one of my absolute favourite things about the summer – seriously. There are many different ways to make it, and this is how I make mine.


500g passata (1 carton)
6 large tomatoes
1 red pepper
½ small white onion
1 cucumber
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp sherry vinegar (or cider vinegar if you don’t have it)
½ tbsp lemon juice – more depending on how acidic you like it.
Salt and pepper

Toppings and additions:

Delicately diced vegetables like tomato, cucumber, yellow pepper, red onion, spring onion.
Crunchy things like toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, garlic croutons, crunchy fried onions.


Boil the kettle. Use a sharp knife to score the skin of the tomatoes, and place them in a bowl with hot water from the kettle for about 5 minutes to blanch. Peel the skins from the tomatoes when they are cool enough to handle.

Roughly dice all of the vegetables and place in a big bowl with the passata. Fill the empty passata carton about halfway full with cold water and add that to the bowl too.

Use a hand/immersion blender to blend everything together. I don’t like using a food processor or blender because I think it pulverises everything much too fine – I prefer it with a bit of texture. Apparently blending it totally smooth also destroys a lot of the fibre in the vegetables, so all in all it is better to use a hand-blender.

Add in the olive oil, vinegar, lemon, salt and pepper, stir well and taste. Adjust seasoning if needed and add a little more water if it is too thick.

The soup needs a little bit of time for the flavours to develop, so leave for a few hours, or preferably a day before serving with a selection of fresh and crunchy toppings.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

‘Raw’ white chocolate raspberry hearts

Adapted from:

I found this recipe on the website ‘healthy supplies’, which is where I buy all my freeze-dried fruit and various other exciting things. They call these chocolates ‘Snow blossoms’, which is beautiful if a little pretentious, but too similar to my fennel and pink pepper white chocolates, which really did look like blossom on a tree. These little things are definitely stunning – my rubbish phone photo doesn’t really do them justice.

I don’t really think that eating an entirely raw diet is the most necessary or practical of choices – we evolved to eat cooked food a very very long time ago. BUT, on the subject of chocolate, and a lot of other dessert-y things, it is a very good idea.

I love chocolate, both eating it and messing about with it, but raw chocolate is something else entirely. It is intense, sometimes bitter, and known to cause the occasional ‘braingasm’. It also contains no dairy, rubbish e-numbers, strange preservatives, or refined sugar. When I am on my period, I have found that one little Booja Booja Raspberry Ecuadorian Truffle has the same effect as about 200g of Cadburys Dairy Milk.

These chocolates are not bitter at all as they contain only cacao butter, not cacao powder. I’m not usually a ‘heart-shaped’ kind of person, being far too cynical. But the heart shaped silicone chocolate moulds where the cheapest to buy on Amazon, and so the raw white chocolate raspberry heart was born. 

This mixture made exactly enough to fill my 15-heart chocolate mould


50g Cacao Butter, grated. Cacao butter is magical stuff – after grating it I didn’t know whether or not to wash my hands or rub the buttery residue into them! You can buy it online or in health food shops.
50g finely ground unroasted cashews. Grind them using a food processor, coffee grinder or mortar and pestle.
2 tbsp agave syrup (use a little more or a little less, depending on how sweet you want them to be).
2 tsp Lucuma Powder. Lucuma is a Peruvian ‘superfood’, which tastes a little bit like cookie. You can buy it online or in health food shops.
1 tsp vanilla extract (I didn’t use this because I don’t like vanilla, it would make them taste much more like white chocolate though)
approx 10g freeze-dried raspberry powder, or with another freeze-dried fruit powder.


Make sure that your mould is completely dry. Use a teaspoon, or the tip of the handle of a teaspoon to put a tiny amount of the raspberry powder in each heart of the mould – I tried to keep the raspberry in one side, for aesthetic reasons. And then accidentally knocked it with my elbow so it went everywhere.

Melt the Cacao Butter in a heatproof bowl placed into a saucepan of simmering water - make sure the water does not touch the base of the bowl.

Once melted, remove the bowl from the heat – it can help if you put a tea towel between the bowl and your work-surface. Add the lucuma powder, agave syrup, vanilla extract if using and ground cashews nuts and stir well.

Now pour or spoon the white chocolate mix carefully into each of the hearts. Once you have finished tap the sides to help any trapped air bubbles rise to the surface. Set aside to cool on a flat surface or in the freezer – these chocolates will take longer to solidify than dark raw chocolates because of the high proportion of Cacao Butter.

Store them in an airtight container somewhere cool or in the fridge.