cacao

Barcelona on toast(ados)

Saffron Poached Pear & Dark Chocolate Frangipane Tart

I’m not sure what part of my brain thought that a ‘quick trip’ to Barcelona, while I was in Bangkok for this year’s San Pellegrino Awards, would be a clever plan. Once we arrived though, it was clear my stomach had orchestrated the trip all along. The food. Oh my Lordy, the food. And the beautiful shops, catwalk-ready locals, and effortlessly cool design. I would have happily spent a month there, but 4 days were all we had, and considering how many times per day we ate across that time, I’m kind of glad we didn’t have any chance to linger (or rent the apartment I had my eye on by mid afternoon on the first day).  A quick list of what we got up to if you’re keen to jam-pack a Barcelona trip with food, shoes, restaurants, food, architecture, food, amazing bars, sleeping in bakeries and eating really good food. Don’t eat too much on the plane is all I’m saying!

We stayed at Praktik Bakery which as the name suggests, is a bakery. Really cute design, great location and the aroma of freshly baked bread ducted through your room. I’m not kidding.

On the first morning, I downloaded an app called Shopikon Barcelona, ridiculously helpful for fast tracking your way through each area of Barcelona along with food shops, bars, clothing, museums, espadrille makers and markets. And because each place is a link on maps, it means you just click on where you want to go and let your phone talk to you on route, so you don’t look (as much) like a tourist but just someone who checks their phone a lot. Which is everyone really.

From Shopikon I found the most amazing old-school handmade espadrilles shop, La Manual Alpargatera, seriously beautiful clothing store, Coquette and a whole shop dedicated to the olive called Olive Delicatessen.

Every day we ate at Flax & Kale. Everyday. And because we couldn’t get enough of the plant-based goodness, we also ate at the big sister outlet and namesake restaurant, Teresa Carles. So good.

Drinks amongst the glamour of corner gin bars and the ever gorgeous Boca Chica, where I went to the bathroom twice in a half hour, and not due to a weak bladder. That bathroom is too beautiful to take in in one visit!

But my favourite, favourite meal in all of Barcelona (the 4 day version) was at Mano Rota, where chef Bernat, whipped up an 8 course (plant-based) degustation for me and I couldn’t stop saying, ‘Oh my God’ and ‘this is amazing’ on high rotation. My exclamations would have been so much cooler in Catalan, but no less heartfelt. Seriously delicious food.

And if anyone ever says that the Sagrada Familla is ‘too touristy’, or ‘not worth the line ups’, please, please ignore them. I was completely gobsmacked by the incredible collision of symbology and Gaudi’s wild imagination made manifest in architecture. And that was before going inside! It is too, too mind-blowing to even consider wrapping words around something of this scale, it has to be felt to be believed. Buying tickets online beforehand is an excellent tip, but even if you don’t, the time spent lining up is all forgotten when you walk into that profoundly beautiful space.

I came home with a veritable Spanish delicatessen of my own; saffron of course, grassy green olive oil, more chocolate than is reasonable for any one person to consume, saffron salt, smoked olive oil and some amazing little toffee coated almonds set between sheets of rice paper, can’t remember what they were called – whatever ‘crazy good’ translates to in Catalan!

 

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Anyway, once home again, and never ready to let go of being somewhere I’ve fallen in love with, I wanted to make something that reminded me of how Barcelona tasted. Chocolate and saffron had to be part of things. Add that to the fact I’ve been dying to figure out how to do a vegan version of a frangipane tart, and here’s where things ended up after dinner on the weekend…

 

Saffron Poached Pear & Dark Chocolate Frangipane Tart 

Chocolate Pastry for 1 x 28cm tart

1 cup spelt flour

1/4 cup raw cacao powder

3 teaspoons rapadura sugar

1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt

1/3 cup cold coconut oil

60 ml iced water

Saffron Poached Pears

3 pears, peeled, halved and cored

good pinch of saffron threads

2 cups water

1 cup natural sugar (not rapadura as it will make the colour too dark)

Dark Chocolate Frangipane

2 1/4 cups almonds

3 tablespoons raw cacao powder

100g dark chocolate, shaved

1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt

200g rapadura sugar

150g coconut oil, at room temperature

3 tablespoons egg replacer* in 6 tablespoons of water

2 teaspoons vanilla powder

To poach the pears, simply bring the saffron and sugar to a boil in the water and then add the pear halves. Simmer for about 8-10 minutes until the pears are soft but not falling apart. Remove the pears onto a plate to cool and reduce the poaching liquid to about 1 cup. This will be the saffron syrup to brush over the tart when serving.

To make pastry, prepare a fluted tart tin with removable base, by greasing it with coconut oil and a dusting of flour. I always line the base with a cut out round of baking paper too.

  Add flour, sugar, salt, raw cacao and dark chocolate to a food processor. Blitz. Add coconut oil and blitz again, until you have a crumbly mixture, then with the processor still going, add in the iced water from the top until the dough pulls together.

You won’t need to chill the pastry at this stage. Roll the dough into a circle about 33-35cm and about 3-4mm thick. I always use a sheet of baking paper to roll pastry out and then it’s an easy transfer to flip it into the tart tin and peel away the paper once it’s in place. Press the edges into the sides of the tin and neaten any extra bits with a sharp knife. Prick the base with a fork and place the tart tin into the freezer while the oven preheats to 175C. 

Bake the pastry case (no need for weights) for about 20 minutes, until it is set but not cooked through completely. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack while you prepare the filling.

Increase the oven to 180C.

To make the frangipane, into a food processor, add the almonds and blitz until you have almond meal. Then add the cacao, salt, sugar and shaved chocolate. Blend until you have a crumbly ‘meal’ and add the coconut oil, egg replacer mix and vanilla.

Pour the frangipane mixture into the cooled pastry case and smooth with a spatula to even it out. Place the pear halves, cut side down, in a circle across the top of the tart and gently push each half into the mixture a little bit.

Bake the tart at 180C for 45-55 minutes, until the frangipane is nicely puffed around the pears.

Brush the saffron syrup reduction across the top of the tart before serving.

*I make this egg replacer when I want something lighter than flaxseed, but feel free to use 3 flax eggs if you don’t have the ingredients to make a batch of this powdered form of egg replacer.  This will make a batch that you can store to use beyond this recipe. To make it, mix together 1 1/4 cup arrowroot powder, 1/4 cup baking powder and 1/2 tablespoon xanthan gum. Store it in a glass jar for up to 6 months.

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hola 2013!

Cacao Mole with Borlotti Beans & Charred Capsicum

I had a thought about jetlag when we arrived home from Mexico last week. Perhaps the icky feeling is because your heart isn’t quite ready to let go of the experience you’ve had on your adventure away, rather than the idea that sitting in plane for nearly 3o hours has anything to do with it. This is clearly not a logical explanation, but I ran with it regardless, and brought as much of the Yucatan to the farm as possible.

We have a new year’s tradition that involves spending the evening with some of our very favourite people, sharing beautiful food, watching the stars and being grateful for more things than I could possibly list. This tradition only started last year, but it feels like there is no other way to see in the new year now, like it’s what we have always done, so tradition it is, despite its infancy. I have always loved the ‘new’ part of new year’s eve; that feeling that anything is possible, a distinctive connection to now, in the shiniest way possible. Ambrosia. Or whatever the Mexican equivalent might be.

My heart was definitely not done with our time in Mexico, so to aid the ‘jetlag’ we filled our tummies with the smells and tastes of the Yucatan. It was a fragile thread to hold on to, but you can never underestimate the power of a good mole.

I hope 2013 is filled with every mystery and beauty for you, completely raw and real. Surrender to the ride! Feliz Año Nuevo!

 

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Cacao Mole with Borlotti Beans & Charred Capsicum

serves 6-8

 

375g dried borlotti beans, soaked overnight and cooked until only just tender

2 organic yellow capsicum

1 tsp organic cinnamon powder

1 tsp organic smoky paprika

1 tsp organic sweet paprika

3 black peppercorns

3 organic cloves

1 organic star anise

40g organic raw almonds

40g organic raw sesame seeds

3 – 4 organic dried chillies

1 organic red onion

2 cloves organic purple garlic

1 tbsp organic raw cacao

1 tbsp organic panela sugar

300-400ml organic vegetable stock

350g organic tomatoes, chopped

organic raw coconut oil

 

To char the capsicums, place them whole, without cutting, over a direct flame and continue rotating until all sides are evenly charred and the capsicum is cooked through. This will take about 10-15 minutes. Don’t worry about how blackened they get, you will be peeling the charred part off completely.

When cooked and thoroughly blackened, place in a paper bag and seal to let them sweat a little. This helps the skins to slip off far more easily. After 10-12 minutes in the paper bag, remove the capsicum and peel off the charred skin. Rinse under water and put aside while you make the mole.

To make the mole, dry roast the peppercorns, star anise, cloves and almonds in a frypan over high heat. Keep the spices and nuts moving in the pan so they don’t burn. After about 3-5 minutes add the sesame seeds and chillies and continue to cook for a further 2 minutes until the sesame seeds start to crackle. Remove from heat and either place into a mortar and pestle or a food processor, along with the smoky and sweet paprika, cinnamon, cacao and panela sugar. Grind to a fine powder.

Dice the onion and finely chop the garlic. Add a heaped tablespoon of coconut oil to a pan and fry the onions for about 10-15 minutes until caramelised. You will need to stir them occasionally so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and continue cooking for a further 3-4 minutes. Add the spice mixture and stir to evenly distribute the onion, garlic and spices. Add the vegetable stock, tomatoes and the cooked borlotti beans and continue cooking over low heat for another 30-45 minutes to allow the flavours to really meld together.

Season to taste.

Serve with strips of the charred capsicum on top and lime wedges on the side. We had ours with corn and buckwheat polenta, tortillas and grilled corn on the cob. Oh, so good.

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with love from mexico

Raw Marzipan in Cacao

If you’ve ever found yourself standing in front of any of the Mayan pyramids with the warmth of the sun on your back and a level of gratitude that threatens to break your heart in half, you don’t need me to ramble on about how unbelievable that experience is. Unbelievable on every level. How was this done, what happened here and what happened to us in the process? Enormous questions that end up so big, you forget about wanting to have them answered, in favour of just sitting on the earth and letting wonder take over. Sacred sites indeed.

We really couldn’t have imagined how extraordinary this trip would be. We have been humbled by the magic of open hearted people again and again. There is so so much more. But all I have right now is the phrase I seem to have repeated over and over these last 2 weeks in the Yucatan – “I have no words.”

Thank goodness there’s raw chocolate coated marzipan. With everything the Yucatan is famous for.

Every joy to every one for this beautiful time of year, for this beautiful time in time.

With a heart full of love from Mexico.

 

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Raw Marzipan In Cacao

 

This is more a nudge in the direction of raw marzipan than a recipe, so feel free to mix things around, add dried fruit, spices etc.

 

1 cup raw organic almonds

organic cold pressed almond oil

1 vanilla bean

4 tbsp raw agave or maple syrup

pinch salt

1 teaspoon real almond essence

raw chocolate

 

To make the marzipan, you can either blanch the almonds to remove their skins for a super smooth, white paste, or leave them on like I did for a little speckle and some texture.

Blitz the almonds in a food processor until you have a fine flour. Add the vanilla bean, salt and almond essence. Blitz again. Add the agave and as much almond oil as you need for the flour to pull together in a ball.

Roll the marzipan out with a rolling pin to about 1 1/2cm thick.

Cut into squares and put in the freezer to harden.

Make the raw chocolate and when the marzipan is nice and cold, dip each piece into the chocolate and sprinkle with a little extra almond flour.

Perfect with a pot of tea. At a sacred site. Come on.