Sunday 11 December 2016

Anyone can be a saint

Best-selling cookbook author Susan Jane White gives LIFE readers a sneak peek at some delicious sweet treats from her latest tome, which will keep guilt out of your kitchen

Published 14/09/2015 | 02:30

BBQ KALE CRISPS

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Serves 1-6 mouths.

Kale is unforgivably trendy. During London Fashion Week, kale ice-pops were on the menu. I imagine one levitates with virtuousness after horsing into such a lolly.

Every glossy magazine on the circuit seems to have a kale smoothie recipe by an equally glossy celebrity. I fear what's next. Cauliflower juice?

Truth is, kale is almost celestial. One leaf of this supergreen would have an acre of broccoli blushing. For a start, it has more antioxidants than the much-coveted blueberry.

We like antioxidants for their special-agent moves against the damaging free radicals loitering in our system. Think US Navy Seals in the bloodstream. Gram for gram, kale has almost twice the vitamin C of an orange. This vitamin is hailed as our skin's greatest ally against ageing and dodgy office bugs. And kale's stock of iron is even higher than spinach. Hard luck, Popeye.

I'm still trying to make friends with this super veg. It's not easy, but here's one way it canters on to my dinner table.

You will need:

500g curly kale

½ tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

½ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon sea salt flakes

Crank up your oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F.

Tear the kale leaves from their tough stalks any old way - it doesn't matter - and put the leaves into a large bowl.

Massage a little olive oil into the kale leaves. The less oil, the better, I find.

Roast the kale on your largest baking tray for 8-10 minutes, until crispy. If the leaves look a little crowded, give them space by using two roasting trays. They'll be crunchier as a result.

While the kale is doing its thing, add all the spices and sea salt flakes to an empty jam jar and shake it up.

Remove your crispy kale chips from the oven and sprinkle over the spices.

Taste. It's like magical fairy dust.

BIRCH SUGAR GRANOLA

Makes 25 portions.

For the candida warriors and diabetics among us.

You will need:

Under ½ cup (100g) xylitol

1 cup (250ml) melted coconut oil

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 cups (180g) oat flakes

1 cup (100g) quinoa flakes (or more oat flakes)

2 cups (150g) nuts, chopped

½ cup (70g) sunflower and pumpkin seeds

½ teaspoon sea salt flakes

3 egg whites (optional, to make clusters)

6 tablespoons goji berries

6 tablespoons raw cacao nibs

6 tablespoons desiccated coconut

Fire up your oven to 170°C/150°C fan/340°F. Line two baking trays with good non-stick parchment.

If your xylitol is rather grainy, you'll need to whizz it in a coffee grinder or high-speed blender until it looks more like fairy dust. Then scoop it into a large saucepan with the coconut oil and cinnamon. Let them relax together on a low heat for 5 minutes.

Once the oil has melted, add the oat and quinoa flakes. Parachute in your favourite nuts (I love hazelnuts and pecans for this recipe), a scattering of seeds and the sea salt flakes.

Whisk the egg whites (if using) in a spotlessly clean, dry bowl until soft and droopy. They don't need to stand in stiff peaks. Fold into the granola mix. I don't always do this - it depends on my mood. Egg whites help to make soft clusters in the granola, but if you prefer it dead crunchy, leave the egg whites out.

Spread the granola over your lined trays. Roast for 18-22 minutes, removing from the oven before the oats turn brown and bitter. Leave to cool entirely before adding the goji berries, cacao nibs and coconut. They all tend to burn in the oven, so they're best left until last.

Store in a massive glass jar and your sleepy taste buds will backflip every morning when you catch sight of it.

CHOCOLATE SEED SOLDIERS

Makes 20 generous portions.

These seed soldiers are excellent allies in the war against afternoon slumps. Practically humming with energy, they will deliver a cargo of essential minerals to service your mojo alongside battery-boosting B vitamins.

Goji berries are total beauts. Rich in iron, protein, super carotenoids and vitamins C, E and A (seriously!), these dainty berries are patently potent. We love carotenoids and vitamins C and E for their immune-pumping qualities.

Think of these vitamins as ammo against the sniffles and dodgy office viruses. A deficiency in these vitamins can also make our skin look as dull as a tombstone. This is why the Chinese like to call goji berries 'red diamonds' - a girl's best friend.

Scientific evidence consistently proves that eating well is good for body and mind. Eating poorly will short-circuit your system. Once you taste these, I promise you'll never cavort with the office vending machine again.

Try sneaking a tray into the staff fridge. They'll help extend deadlines.

You will need:

1 cup (140g) pitted dates, chopped

1 cup (120g) milled sunflower and pumpkin seeds

½ cup (140g) cashew nut butter

½ cup (75g) raisins

½ cup (65g) coconut flour

½ cup (125ml) maple syrup (not honey)

3 tablespoons raw cacao nibs

2 tablespoons goji berries

Up to 1 tablespoon tamari or raw coconut aminos

130g 75pc dark chocolate

Extra goji berries, to decorate

In a food processor (a simple fork and a temper will also work), combine everything except the dark chocolate and decorative gojis.

Spread it out over a parchment-lined shallow tin. The perfect size tin is a 20cm x 25cm rectangular one, a little larger than the traditional 20cm x 20cm square brownie tin.

I place another piece of parchment paper on top of the base mixture, pressing down firmly with my fingers. Once the base is smooth, you can ditch the top piece of parchment. Chill in the fridge.

Meanwhile, slowly melt the chocolate in a bain-marie. This is basically a pot of simmering water, 2.5cm in depth, with a heatproof bowl sitting on top, where a lid might otherwise have gone.

The contents of the bowl will gently melt from the steam of the water underneath. The trick is not to let the water boil or let the bottom of the bowl touch the water underneath.

Smother the chilled base in melted chocolate and parachute a couple of goji berries on top for colour.

Refrigerate overnight. I doubt you'll need an alarm clock to wake you up in the morning.

HIPSTERIA - PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE SHAKE

Serves 2-4.

Raw cacao is the new kale. The difference between cacao and cocoa is simple. Cacao is raw, while cocoa is heat-treated. Both come from the same plant, and even the same pod. That's not to say one is good and the other is bad. Let me put it this way: Lisa Hannigan is the cacao of pop stars - raw, husky and unadulterated - to Rihanna's refined, cosmetic vibe. One is artisan and delicate; the other manufactured to excite every population on this planet. Which is more important? That's for you to decide.

You will need:

1 banana, peeled and cut into discs

2-4 medjool dates, stones removed

2 cups (500ml) plant-based milk (almond, oat, hazelnut)

2 tablespoons pure peanut butter

1 tablespoon raw cacao or cocoa powder

This is exceedingly good, so begin by blessing yourself. (I'm not religious and enjoy misplacing my reverence.) Freeze the banana slices on a piece of parchment or non-stick paper for a minimum of 40 minutes. Make sure the pieces aren't touching each other. Frozen banana is the ultimate trick for making creamy non-dairy smoothies, but you can replace it with half a ripe avocado if you're trying to cut down on sweetness.

Next, plug in a high-speed blender and add your dates, plant-based milk (I use almond milk), peanut butter and cacao or cocoa powder. Whizz on full power until sumptuously smooth. Serve in a tall glass and genuflect.

LEONARD COHEN FLAPJACKS

Makes 30 flapjacks.

If you think you need to bridle your jaw around chocolate, it might be worth scrolling through your iPod. Research shows that sad music encourages us to overeat.

Participants in a recent trial were split into two groups: one exposed to upbeat ballet, the other to the sombre tones of Prokofiev (it was a toss-up between Prokofiev and Leonard Cohen). Then both groups were shown how to obtain chocolate buttons by pressing a keyboard linked to a dispenser. Those exposed to Prokofiev clicked their computers almost three times more than those who listened to the ballet.

We hardly need science to solve this phenomenon. Some of us are programmed to regulate our moods with industrial quantities of chocolate. It's written in our constitution, innit? Nevertheless, it did get me dissecting my lists on Spotify with the nervous expertise of a first-grade surgeon employing a scalpel.

So I got thinking. What if you could turn your sugar calling into a nutritional slam-dunk? That's when I came up with this beaut, with hidden vats of quinoa. He and I have been best friends ever since.

You will need:

‡ cup (160ml) extra-virgin coconut oil

º cup (80ml) honey (not maple syrup)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 medjool dates or presoaked regular dates,

stones removed

3 cups (270g) regular oat flakes (not jumbo)

¬ cup (90g) quinoa flour

º cup (50g) pumpkin seeds, chopped

1 ripe banana, mashed

Handful of chocolate chips (optional)

½ teaspoon sea salt flakes

A few snoresome but important housekeeping notes: use extra virgin coconut oil rather than regular or odourless oil. Something gross happens to the latter. A palmful of chocolate chips is advised for the fuss artist in the family.

Quinoa flour can be replaced with ground almonds if you don't dig this groovy grain. And standard oats work much better than jumbo ones. Confused? Me too.

But who cares about the science when they taste so freakishly good?

Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/340°F.

Line a 30cm x 20cm baking tin (the size of an A4 page) with non-stick baking parchment. I swear by the If You Care brand and find most others to be imposters.

Start by gently warming the coconut oil and honey in a deep, large saucepan over a low heat until they look happily ensconced. Add the cinnamon and vanilla.

Meanwhile, roughly chop the dates and toss them into the syrupy mix before adding the remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

Press into your prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes, before the oats have a chance to turn brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the tin before attempting to hack off a few slices.

I store mine in the fridge to keep them from crumbling, but they will survive perfectly in children's lunch boxes.

MILF MUFFINS

Makes 12 muffins.

Well, I wasn't going to call them millet and teff muffins. Maybe MILF muffins have been invented before, but I ain't brave enough to google it.

Check out this recipe's armament: chickpeas, teff, raspberries, millet, psyllium, olive oil and almond milk. A ballistically good way to foxtrot some goodness into your system.

In theory, these muffins don't keep longer than two days. In practice, they won't keep longer than two minutes.

For the plant-based buttermilk:

1½ cups (375ml) almond or other plant milk

½ cup (125ml) extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons psyllium husks

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

You will need:

Up to 1 cup (100g-140g) coconut sugar or jaggery

½ cup (75g) teff flour

½ cup (55g) sorghum (sweet millet) flour

½ cup (55g) chickpea flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1-2 teaspoons ground ginger

½ teaspoon salt

Palmful of dried mulberries (about 30 berries) or 20 fresh raspberries

Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/375°F. Line a 12-mould muffin or fairy cake tin with cupcake cases.

To make the 'buttermilk', whisk the plant milk, olive oil, psyllium and vanilla with a fork, then leave to rest while you get jiggy with the other ingredients.

In a food processor (or with a whisk and tenacity), blend all the dry ingredients - except the berries - together so that the baking powder is distributed evenly.

Add the plant 'buttermilk' and beat or puree until smooth. Avoid tasting the batter - wet chickpea flour tastes and smells like cat's pee.

The cooked result is awesome though, so do persist! Stir in the berries (mulberries are magnificent).

Divide the dough between the 12 cupcake cases and bake for 28 minutes. When the muffins spring back to the touch, they're ready. Remove from the oven, turn the muffins out of the tray and let them cool on a wire rack. These are best eaten on the same day, but slather on some chia jam to resuscitate them after a few days.

'The Virtuous Tart' by Susan Jane White is published by Gill & Macmillan on September 18

STRAWBERRY AND BASIL CHEESECAKE

Serves 8.

By loading more fresh veg and nuts into us ladies, we'll arm our bodies against the ageing process and give Laura Whitmore some competition. This cake should help.

Avocados and almonds are drenched with helpful fats and nourishing minerals needed to keep our toes tapping and skin glowing. Remember, the skin is your largest excretory organ. If you're eating garbage, you'll end up wearing it in your face.

For the base:

1½ cups (180g) walnuts

6 medjool or other sticky dates, stones removed

Touch of sea salt flakes

For the creamy centre:

3 ripe avocados, stone and skin removed

25g packet of fresh basil, leaves only

Juice of 3-4 limes

4-6 tablespoons raw honey

3 tablespoons unscented coconut oil, melted

For the topping:

1 punnet of fresh strawberries

To make the base, blend the walnuts, dates and sea salt in a food processor (not a blender) with a splash of water. When it starts clumping together into a cookie dough ball, you're good to go.

Press into a 20-25cm loaf tin. Bring the dough up the sides like a posh flan, making sure you support the elbow of the base - the part where the base meets the sides. Freeze.

Meanwhile, get going on your 'cheesecake' filling.

Puree the avocado flesh, basil, the juice of three limes, 4 tablespoons of honey, the melted coconut oil and some Frank Sinatra at full speed until savagely smooth. I use my blender for this bit.

Taste. If it needs more zing or kick, add another squeeze of lime juice to the mix. If you prefer more sweetness to rock your taste buds, then add an extra bit of honey.

Spoon the filling over the frozen base and chill in the fridge for one hour.

It will last for three days in the fridge like this.

Just before serving, slice a handful of fresh strawberries and scatter them over the top, along with any stray basil leaves you find loitering.

Sunday Independent

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