Eats, Shoots and Leaves: Brain-boosting chia seeds
Chia seeds are packed with omega-3 and also make a scrumptious cake
When you need to recharge your superhuman powers, or your bridge skills, try chia seeds. These weensy seeds are members of the omega-3 plant squad. Why such excitement? Omega-3 is a good fat – the kind that nourishes your noggin and not your waistband.
Our brain cells are primarily composed of fat. So, too, are many of our neurons (think of an internal electricity grid that lights up our thoughts). There is strong scientific evidence linking good brain health with omega-3-rich diets. Most research involves controlled studies, using omega-3 supplements. But what's the point in necking expensive pharma-bullets when you can be merrily tucking into chia jam every morning?
Find black or white chia-seed varieties in your local health-food store and in savvy grocers. Chia seeds may, initially, seem expensive, but these tiny seeds swell to eight times their volume as soon as liquid touches their orbit.
Apart from being a tasty insurance policy against brain drain, chia seeds deliver a surprisingly generous dose of calcium and iron, too. Great food for mum and bump.
Victoria Sponge with chia jam and coconut cream
Not the traditional butter, cream, sugar and bleached-flour variety, this Victoria sponge will make your taste buds fist-bump and your health insurer applaud. Make it for a group of Brits, and you'll have friends for life.
For the chia jam filling, you will need:
125g (5oz) frozen raspberries, defrosted
1-2 tablespoons chia seeds
3 dates, pre-soaked and stones removed
For the sponge, you will need:
50g (2oz) coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
25g (1oz) ground almonds
½ teaspoon mineral-rich salt, such as Pink Himalayan
4 medium (not large) eggs
2 tablespoons natural soya yoghurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
120ml (4fl oz) unscented coconut oil, melted
125ml (4fl oz) light agave or honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
75g (3oz) CoYo coconut milk yoghurt or lightly sweetened cream cheese
To make the chia jam, make sure the raspberries have defrosted, then whizz them in a food processor, or with a hand-held blender, along with the chia seeds and the licky-sticky dates. Allow the chia seeds to swell and thicken the jam for 40 minutes before using it.
For the sponge, oil a 20cm x 20cm (8in x 8in) brownie pan, or a 25cm (10in) circular tin, and set it aside. Preheat your oven to 170°C, 325°F or Gas 3. Take out two large bowls. In the first bowl, sift the coconut flour and the baking powder together. Stir through the ground almonds and the salt.
In the next bowl, whisk the eggs and soya yoghurt together, adding a splash of vanilla extract. Then pour in the melted coconut oil and the light agave or the honey, whichever you're using, stirring vigorously to prevent lumps.
Gradually drizzle in the lemon juice, whisking all the while. Scrape this sumptuous mess into the prepared tin and bake for about 20 minutes, depending on the circumference of your tin (I use my 8in x 8in brownie tin). The deeper the tin is, the longer the cake will need in the oven to cook – but don't leave it in longer than 30 minutes.
Remove the sponge from the oven. Let it cool for 60 minutes, before ejecting it from the tin. Then carefully slice the sponge in half.
Smother great big clouds of coconut yoghurt or lightly sweetened cream cheese, whichever you are using, over one half. Parachute a little chia jam on top of this. Then crown with the other half of the sponge. Serve on a plate with many napkins and giddy fingers.
Sunday Indo Life Magazine