Frank Sinatra once said that “orange is the happiest colour” while Ralph Waldo Emerson compared New York City to a sucked orange.
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Wickedly indulgent, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth, decadent – these are not words that I usually associate with vegan food. The words wholesome, nutritious and healthy are more likely to spring to my mind in association with this particular dietary regime – and don’t the latter descriptors actually preclude the former? Read on, dear friend, because I might just have been wrong! To be perfectly honest, I have always found the concept of veganism (or any restrictive form of diet) a little confronting – cutting myself off from entire food groups is not something that this greedy girl could ever contemplate. So when a copy of Wakefield Press “Divine Vegan Desserts” found it’s way into my inbox for reviewing I was a little unsure how to approach it.
Well, it turned out that was simple. It seems that finishing off a meal with a sweet treat is not out of the reach of those who are endeavouring to make a switch to a healthier lifestyle (and even those who aren’t) and after a quick flick through these lavishly illustrated recipes I was making a list of what I would make first! Many will be relieved to know that vegans don’t proscribe chocolate and the recipes, all dairy and egg-free, with many gluten free, low sugar and nut-free choices, are enough to lift the spirits of any dessert-lover and go a long way towards redeeming the reputation of the dessert course.
Apparently, most vegan recipe books are from overseas and contain ingredients which can be difficult to source here in Australia. Author Lisa Fabry avoids the use of these and explains clearly and simply how to make brilliant dairy free desserts with ingredients many of us will already have on hand – or at least be able to source easily. Fabry originates from London, but now lives in Adelaide indulging her two great passions – food and yoga. She shares her own dishes, plus a selection of vegan desserts being created by chefs in cafes, restaurants and cooking classes from around the world.
The book begins with a guide to the key ingredients in vegan baking, some baking tips and how to substitute natural colours for artificial in your cooking. It is divided up into chapters covering baking, tarts, pies, puddings, fruit dishes, ice creams and sorbets, custards and creamy desserts and small treats, with each dish beautifully photographed. The range of desserts is extensive and covers everything from wickedly indulgent Double Fudge Pecan Brownies, to decadent melt-in-your-mouth Banoffi Tarts and a traditional creamy, custardy trifle. I challenge anyone to resist these dishes – they look, er, divine!
I road tested a couple of the recipes – the Las Vegan Sour Cherry Muffins and (in a diversion from my usually predictable preference for chocolate) the refreshing Lime Tart. The muffins rose perfectly and were deliciously moist and sticky, without being too sweet, but the Lime Tart was the absolute winner. It was so quick to make, with at-hand ingredients and has a delicious zesty zing to it. I’d happily serve it to anyone as a dinner party dessert – even those who are cynical of raw foods. This would certainly change their minds.
I can’t say this book would convert me – I still find veganism far too restrictive and just a little confusing – but it certainly is proof that a vegan diet can have plenty of indulgence in it. Divine Vegan Desserts is perfect for those who are interested in pursuing a healthier diet, but reluctant to give up on their sweet tooth.
- 1 cup (140 gms) brazil nuts
- ½ cup (50 gms) dessicated coconut
- ⅓ cup (70 gms) medjool dates, chopped
- ⅔ cup (90 gms) raw cashews, soaked for 1-2 hours
- 1 medium avocado (about 120gm flesh)
- pinch of salt
- seeds of 1 vanilla bean
- ⅓ cup (80 mls) agave nectar
- 1 tsp lime zest, plus extra for garnish
- ⅔ cup (160 mls) lime juice or lime/lemon combined
- ⅓ cup (80 mls) coconut oil
- Grease 4 individual tartlet pans or one 23 cm fluted pan.
- For the base, place all ingredients in the food processor and blend until you can pinch the mixture together and it sticks. Press firmly into the pan and refridgerate for at least one hour.
- For the filling blend all the ingredients, except the lime juice and coconut oil, in a food processor until very smooth and creamy.
- Melt the coconut oil.
- Gradually pour the lime juice and then the coconut oil into the processor while the motor is still running.
- Pour over the crust and refridgerate for at least 3 hours, or place in the freezer for 1 hour.
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The food blogging world is a very noisy place – both aurally and visually. There are a lot of us out here in the ether and we’d all quite like some of your attention. Some of us are prepared to go to great lengths to attract that attention with flashy themes and cleverly designed websites, glitzy photographs, amazing recipes and over-blown prose – not that there’s anything wrong with any of that. However, others take a quieter, more measured approach to their writing, food and life. They are not carried by trends, the drive for traffic or passing food fads, preferring instead to genuinely engage with their passion and those they meet through it.
Barbara Harris was a food blogger of the latter type. As she wrote in her seventh anniversary blog post, Wino’s and Foodies was a diary of Barbara’s days – “a place to leave my memories of family and recipes for my children.” It was the place where she shared her food and photo’s, and the place from which she reached out to other bloggers with warmth, support and sincerity – no matter how she was feeling. She was one of the first in the blogging world to reach out to me when I started this little piece of silliness, encouraging, including and supporting me. I valued her insight, friendship and kindness and I will be forever grateful that we were able to spend some time together briefly last year.
Barbara recently lost her battle with cancer, after quietly and courageously living with her diagnosis for some years. Her struggle was not easy, but she carried herself with inspiring dignity, grace and warmth and she will be missed more than she could possibly have imagined, by people whose lives she touched all around the world.
LiveSTRONG With a Taste of Yellow was Barbara’s creation, timed to coincide with Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong Foundation Day to raise awareness of cancer. As an indication of the esteem in which she was held, this month’s Monthly Mingle event (created by Meeta of “What’s for Lunch, Honey“), hosted by Cook Sister is dedicated to Barbara’s memory and “A Taste of Yellow” so all who knew her and loved her can eat yellow one more time.
- 2 cups SR flour
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 good pinch salt
- ¾ cup choc chips
- grated rind of one lemon
- ¾ cup milk
- ¼ cup oil
- 1 egg
- 1 large pear, grated
- Preheat oven to 180C.
- Grease and line muffin pan with paper cases.
- Place dry ingredients in a large bowl, whisk together with a fork.
- Place liquids and egg in smaller bowl, mix well with a fork.
- Add the grated pear, stir to combine.
- Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir with large spoon to JUST combine. Do no over-mix.
- Spoon into prepared, lined muffin pans.
- Bake 20-25 minutes until golden.
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Whenever anyone asks me what were the high points of our recent trip to Europe I always answer with two simple words – the food. We happily indulged ourselves whenever possible, knowing we would be walking it all off within days and I was pleased to note that I came home carrying no more extra baggage than my shopping.
I was having a conversation about our foodie finds with my friend Kris Lloyd, the hugely talented and multi-award winning Woodside Cheese Wrights, not long after we got back and was waxing lyrical about some butter made from clotted cream (cultured butter) which we had bought on our last day in London. It was part of a significant haul that we took home from London’s Borough Markets (more about that later) for a final feeding frenzy and had made quite an impression. Kris commented that she had recently been “playing around” (her words) with cultured butter, including one which she had washed in whiskey. With the taste of the delicious, golden London lipids still lingering, to say I was eager to try Kris’ efforts would be something of an understatement.
Cultured butter is something of a recent discovery for many Australians, but has been in use for 100’s of years in Europe. The butter which we are used to is what Europeans refer to as sweet cream butter – delicious, but lacking in the depth of flavour of cultured butter. Cultured butter is made in exactly the same way as ordinary butter, but a live culture is added to the cream which is allowed to ripen for some time before being churned, salted (or not) and rinsed. Kris adds the culture to her cream 24 hours before she uses it to make butter, giving the cream time to “clot”. Cultured butter has a richer, deeper flavour which some find somewhat tangy and also comes with a little probiotic boost from the addition of the live culture.
Kris gave me three different batches to play around with – an almost unsalted butter, salted butter and the remarkable whiskey-washed version – and I’ve had a very happy day or two getting to know them. They are all truly delicious and definitely add an extra facet to the dishes I used them in – a Mushroom and Almond Bruschetta with Chevre and Vanilla Poached Oranges with Pikelets. I kept these recipes fairly simple in order to let the ingredients do the talking – there’s no point in using outstanding produce and then smothering it with other flavours and fancy techniques – good food doesn’t need to be tricky. The mushrooms I used came from Marco the Mushroom Man in the Adelaide Central Market and the sublime oranges were in our CSA box from Jupiter Creek Farm – all fresh, local and fabulous. I couldn’t help adding some wonderful Beerenberg Caramelised Onions to the mushroom dish – they finished it off perfectly.
- 500 gms Portobello mushrooms, sliced
- 30 gms toasted almonds, ground as fine as your food processor will allow
- 100 gms Woodside Cheesewright chevre
- 80 gms Cultured butter
- 1 tbsp chopped thyme
- 1 good pinch of salt
- Beerenberg Caramelised Onions
- 2 large slices sourdough bread
- Melt the butter in moderately hot pan, add mushrooms and salt, cook gently.
- When mushrooms begin to soften add the ground nuts and the thyme, continue cooking until mushrooms are cooked to taste.
- Slice bread and toast. (At this point you may/may not choose to butter it with more of the cultured butter. I'll leave you to guess what I did.)
- Pile the cooked mushrooms on the toasts, sprinkle each with a teaspoon or two of the caramelised onions, then crumble the chevre over the top, serve.
The whiskey washed butter was used in an even simpler dish of pikelets with vanilla poached oranges, but the combination was absolutely stunning and much appreciated by the guests to whom I served it yesterday for afternoon tea. My good friend Meg is very partial to a wee dram or two of whiskey and her eyes glazed over just a little while eating these.
I’m sure everyone can work out how to make basic pikelets. As for the vanilla poached oranges – the oranges were simply peeled, making sure all of the pith was removed, sliced about 10mm thick and gently poached for ten minutes in a syrup made of 1 1/2 cups of white sugar, 1/2 cup of water and one vanilla bean, split open and scraped – hardly a recipe at all! I cooled them slightly in the syrup, buttered the hot pikelets with the whisky washed butter and layered the oranges and pikelets, topping with a dab of the precious butter. Eat, then swoon.
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Unlike the rest of my family, I’m not a huge fan of ice cream. The rest of them, especially The Husband, would crawl over broken glass for a good bowl of ice cream – or even a mediocre one if that was all on offer. When they were very young two of my children had major, reconstructive abdominal surgery and were unable to eat solids for some weeks as a result. Finding nutrient and calorie-dense, appetising, varied soft foods was something of a challenge to me in those pre-Thermomix days, but one of the absolute favourites was always home made, egg based ice creams. It was never difficult to convince fussy toddlers to eat it and making it from rich cream, fruit and egg yolks meant it was as intensely nutritious as it was delicious.
Thankfully, those times are well behind us and home made ice cream is not something that I think to make very often at all these days. Now that my son has his driving license the emergency post-prandial dashes to the local shops can be shared between him and his father whilst I remain blissfully undisturbed once my stint in the kitchen is done. However, I did overhear a pathetic little conversation between our youngest and her father a couple of weeks back. Reminiscing, The Husband was waxing lyrical about my ice cream making skills and expressed his dismay over the sad state of affairs they face as it is a joy now seldom experienced.
As most things tend to fly out of my brain with alarming immediacy, it can’t have been too long after overhearing their plaintive discourse that the lemon theme for the current Sweet Adventures Blog Hop was announced. Some of my few remaining neurons managed to spark to life and dim corners of my brain began to glow as connections between the Blog Hop, the current spate of unseasonably warm weather, a glut of lemons on our splendid tree and ice cream began to form. This resulting ice cream is not egg based, but is altogether quite rich enough with an exclusively cream base. I used rosemary simply because I have extensive rosemary hedges planted in my garden, but I suspect you could play around with other aromatics very successfully. It is utterly simple to make and if you don’t have an ice cream churn, just freeze it for a few hours, remove from the freezer and beat it – doing this at least twice before it freezes completely. This will break up any forming ice crystals and give you a smooth, creamy result.
I was very pleased with this ice cream and The Husband thinks it worthy too, but the horror on the faces of my family when told they couldn’t actually eat it until the next day, when I had a chance to photograph it in daylight, was truly priceless.
- 600 mls pouring cream
- Grated rind and juice of one lemon
- 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- ¾ cup caster sugar
- Place cream, lemon rind, rosemary and bay leaf in a saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Turn off the heat, cover and leave to cool.
- Beat sugar and lemon juice together until sugar dissolves.
- Strain cooled cream to remove lemon and herbs, then beat in with sugar and juice.
- Pour into ice cream churn and churn until soft frozen, then place in sealed container in the freezer.
- Alternatively, place cream in freezer for 2-3 hours, remove and whisk. Repeat this once or twice more then freeze until firm.
Details here for how to join the blog hop. Check out the other luscious lemony lovelies from this month’s blog hop here –
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It’s been pretty hysterical in this house for the last couple of weeks as those of you who follow my Facebook page may be aware. The 21st birthday is all done and dusted, my youngest eventually made it to Vancouver and the last of the year 12 examinations was held this morning (I’m not expecting to see my son for the next day or two). Admittedly, the hysteria surrounding all of this activity was mostly on my part as looming over all of the above-mentioned I was looking at the prospect of some quite unpleasant dental surgery. (Hmm, possible oxymoron – is there any pleasant dental surgery?) Ten days ago they strapped me down in the chair, filled me full of happiness-inducing medication and spent two and a half hours doing unspeakable things to teeth and jawbones. Unfortunately the happiness induced by the magic medication only lasts as long as the surgery – after that I was on my own with antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics and what they termed a soft-soft diet. Shudder.