Life Table Talk

Thursday 28 August 2014

The acai berry: Truly food for the Gods

The acai berry is a brilliant partner for smoothies and hot cocoa and it's good for you too

Susan Jane White

Published 08/06/2014 | 02:30

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Acai berries can look like a swollen blueberry at first.
Susan Jane White

Acai, and it's pronounced "ass-sigh-eee", darlings, is the latest Brazilian bomb. This small Amazonian berry is so nutrient-dense that Coca-Cola has started sniffing for a slice.

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Acai berries grow in clusters on tall palm trees native to the Brazilian rainforest. Deep purple in colour, they may appear like a swollen egotistical blueberry at first, but, in fairness, they weigh in twice as potent and five times as expensive.

Sadly, these beauts are highly perishable, so we can only taste them in pure freeze-dried form or in manky sweetened beverages. I found some powdered acai last week in Cork, by a small Irish company, called Iswari, which delivers nationwide.

Apparently, Cork is a massive market for this berry. No wonder they are all so mirthful and merry down there. Sea air, my arse. You can expect to taste a confusing hybrid of deep blackberry and renegade chocolate.

This makes it a brilliant partner for fruity smoothies or hot cocoa. Recipes for acai chocolate ganache are already doing laps on the food blogosphere.

In truth, acai's nutritional purchase excites me more than its weird flavour – heart-healthy plant sterols, inflammatory-reducing anthocyanins and boisterous antioxidants. That's a jolly fine combo. No, it won't lower cholesterol, like some dodgy websites promise, nor will it cure Pram Brain.

It is, however, another nourishing berry to introduce to your culinary playground, but not necessarily your medicine cabinet. It certainly beats snacking on boiled sweets any day.

One thing we can be sure of is that scientific evidence consistently proves that eating well is good for body and mind. Eating poorly will short-circuit your system. Once you taste these acai-laced truffles, I promise you'll never cavort with the vending machine again.

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Acai Truffles

Makes approximately 30 servings.

Practically humming with energy, the sesame and chia in this recipe will deliver a cargo of minerals to service your mojo.

These seeds are also crammed with B vitamins to nourish frayed nerves and low batteries.

And, just two truffles will deliver 100 per cent of the vitamin E recommended daily allowance (RDA). Phoo-argh!

Vitamin E is hailed as one of the most powerful antioxidants in the fight against free radical damage (that's fancy speak for ageing skin). Think of vitamin E as the Patron Saint of Eternal Youth. These truffles are fit for a god.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons acai powder

60ml (2fl oz) tahini

Pinch of sea salt flakes

60ml (2fl oz) maple syrup

45g (1½oz) milled chia seed

4 tablespoons ground almonds

2 tablespoons (plus extra to dust) cocoa powder

Method

With a fork, beat the acai powder, the tahini, the sea salt flakes and the maple syrup together until sumptuously glossy. Then measure in the milled chia seed, the ground almonds and the cocoa powder, and encourage them to samba.

Taking a cherry-size ball of mixture, roll between your palms to form a soft truffle. Drop into the cocoa powder, roll to coat, and set on a cold plate.

As soon as 30, or so, are made, refrigerate. Keep hungry fingers busy while the truffles set. One hour should do the trick.

No need to stick to acai powder. Try ground ginger for a cheaper alternative, or dust the truffles in beetroot powder for Barbie-loving toddlers.

Susan Jane's next cookery demo, 'The Extra Virgin Tart', is scheduled for Sunday, June 22, at the Dalkey Book Festival. For tickets and information, see www.dalkeybookfestival.org

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