Monday, July 7, 2008

Just for Fun - Orange Gogi Cacao Bliss and Mini Carrot Cakes

Most people are used to having what you call "weekends" - two consecutive days off from work, usually Saturday and Sunday. But in the hospitality biz, other people's weekends are our busiest work days. So we take our days off when we can get them. Last week an amazing thing occurred: I actually had two days off in a row! So what did I do with all this luscious free time?

I played in the kitchen, of course.

And when I say "played," that is exactly what I mean. I was like a child, making only cakes and candies and licking every bowl spotlessly clean.

I've been wanting to experiment with raw cacao butter for ages, and I finally gave it a try. This is the cold-pressed oil of the cacao bean, the same little miracle that gives us chocolate (and is also the basis of white chocolate). It is solid at room temperature, so the challenge is to melt it without heating it above 45 Celsius, and then work with it quickly enough to prevent it from hardening up again before you finish. This was a bit tricky for me in the cold Adelaide winter, but I managed. I probably won't try my hand at cacao again until it warms up here though.

I decided that while one can never have enough chocolate, I wanted to try some less traditional flavors with the cacao butter. So I used Sheryl Duruz's recipe for Orange Gogi Berry White Chocolate, which I found among the culinary delights of The Sunny Raw Kitchen. This dessert is a raw foodist's dream! Not only is it bursting with sweet gogi and orange flavors, creamy mouth-pleasing cacao and cashews, and a bit of cacao nib crunch, but most of the ingredients are energizing antioxidant superfoods.

Chocolate making is a fine art, and I've only just discovered the tip of the iceberg. My first attempt wasn't pretty, but it tasted out-of-this-world. I know I have a long way to go with my chocolate making. But hey, I'm happy to eat my way there.

Orange Gogi Berry White Chocolate
1 cup gogi berries, divided in half
1/2 cup cacao butter
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup cacao nibs
zest of 1 orange

Grind 1/2 cup of the gogi berries in a spice mill or coffee grinder to achieve a kind of sticky powder. Set aside.

Melt the cacao butter, either in a dehydrator or over a double boiler (place a metal bowl over pot 1/3 filled with water, bring water to rolling boil, and let cacao butter melt, stirring constantly to avoid it getting too hot).

In a food processor, process cacao butter, raw cashews, reserved gogi powder and agave nectar until you achieve a really smooth texture. It will probably have to run for several minutes. Remove mixture to a bowl, scraping out food processor thoroughly (don't forget to lick the bowl!).

Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup whole gogi berries, cacao nibs, and orange zest. Lightly rub a glass pie plate or dish with coconut oil, then spread the chocolate mixture evenly. Place in freezer until firm. When ready, cut into squares.

*Note: This doesn't completely harden, but rather has a slightly sticky, fudgy texture. I needed to use a metal spatula to remove it from the pie plate, and I stored it in the fridge in a container lined with parchment paper.

My other big cooking adventure of my "weekend" (it was a Thursday and a Friday, but it was a weekend to me) was the carob carrot tamarillo cake which I posted recently. While making it, I had some extra carrots, and decided to try the original carrot cake recipe posted by hannah.hunnicutt on But instead of making a cake, I thought it would be fun to make little cupcakes. Well, wouldn't you know, I couldn't find my cupcake/muffin tray anywhere (where on earth could a tray disappear to?). But I did find an old friand tray, and I used that to mould little individual carrot cakes. So cute! And just the right size for a snack. The orange icing is a perfect complement, too.

Make sure you use good, juicy raisins. I used organic muscatels and walnuts (instead of pecans, in the original recipe) and they were so lovely. I also had to double the quantities originally given in order to fill a tray.

Honestly, these taste just like cooked carrot cake, but they're totally raw. And they don't have any sugar, flour, oil, butter or cream cheese. Once again, I have discovered a small raw miracle.

Mini Carrot Cakes

1 1/2 cups grated carrots, as much moisture squeezed out as possible
1/2 cup dates, pitted
2 Tbsp ground flax seeds
8 Tbsp dried shredded coconut
2 tsp vanilla
4 Tbsp agave nectar
4 Tbsp ground cashews or sunflower seeds
1/2 cups raisins
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt

In a food processor, puree the dates to a smooth paste (this works best with soft California dates, if you're using drier dates you might want to soak them for an hour first). Add all of the remaining ingredients except for the raisins and nuts. Process until combined.

Stir in the raisins and nuts by hand. Rub a muffin or friand tray with a little coconut oil. Evenly distribute the cake batter to make 12 muffins or little cakes. Alternatively, you can mould the cakes by hand on parchment paper. Dehydrate for 4 hours. Remove from tray, flip over, and dehydrate 2 more hours with the other side facing up. Delicious plain or topped with:

Orange Icing
1 cup cashews, soaked 2-3 hours and drained
2 Tbsp agave nectar
2 Tbsp orange juice (from about 1/2 orange)
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp orange zest
pinch of salt

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and let it run until you achieve a smooth texture. Spread over carrot cake using a rubber spatula.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Giving Tree

One day, while strolling in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, I happened upon a large tree heavy with golden fruit. No, this is not the beginning of a fable, but rather my introduction to the tangy tree tomato, or tamarillo. Being a curious and fearless raw foodist, I went ahead and plucked a ripe fruit for tasting. Beneath a slightly bitter skin lay a sweet, juicy interior with a pleasant hint of tartness - a flavor and texture like a cross between a passionfruit and a tomato. I simply couldn't let this bounty go ungathered, so I returned the next day with a sack and a lookout and picked myself enough tree tomatoes for hours of culinary experimentation. This was urban foraging at its finest.

While it has many traits in common with its vine-grown namesake, such as an abundance of seeds and classification as a fruit, the tree tomato is actually much sweeter and better suited to desserts and chutneys. Hence its 1967 rechristening with the much sexier name "tamarillo" by the New Zealand Tree Tomato Promotions Council. Though the fruit is native to the South American continent, it is cultivated commercially for export in New Zealand, and also widely grown in a dozen other countries scattered through the globe. The fruit's new name is actually more than a cosmetic image boost; it is an expression of the globalization of one humble foodstuff. It reflects its South American origins by incorporating the word "amarillo," meaning yellow, its significance in New Zealand with the word "tama," meaning leadership, and its similarity to the word "tomato."

A lot of my fruit gets eaten whole, as a snack, or mixed into smoothies. But I found the outer flesh of the tamarillo a bit too bitter to enjoy it by itself, and the occasional hard seeds unsuited to smoothies. So it was time for me to get creative.

First off, I took its South American origins as inspiration and created a salsa. Not a traditional vegetable salsa, but a tangy-sweet fruit salsa, that could be eaten as a condiment or a side salad. Pear was my choice as a subtly sweet counterpoint to the tamarillo's tartness, and I dressed the combination up simply with fresh flavors of coriander, red onion, and apple cider vinegar. This recipe is simple, versatile, and delicious. What more can you want?

Tamarillo and Pear Salsa

2 large red sensation pears, cut into 1/4 inch dice
8 tamarillos, cut into 1/4 inch dice, hard seeds carefully removed
1/2 bunch fresh coriander, minced
1/4 red onion, minced
1/2 tsp dried coriander
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
dash of Himalayan salt

Chop pears and tamarillos into 1/4 inch dice, being careful to remove the hard seeds from the tamarillo (located in the flesh along the sides). Mince coriander and red onion and toss with fruits. Add dried coriander, vinegar, and salt, and toss to coat. Serves 6-8 as condiment, 4 as a side dish (shown here with Mexican corn salad - a post for another day).

My next idea was to make a chutney, inspired by tomato-ginger chutneys I've enjoyed in the past alongside Indian food. This was made to accompany my caulibroc curry, and it served as a sweet flavor counterpoint to the spicy curry.

Tamarillo Chutney
1 cup tamarillos, finely chopped and hard seeds removed (approx. 6-8 tamarillos)
2 Tbsp minced or grated fresh ginger
1/2 bunch fresh coriander, minced
1 tsp fresh chili, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp clove
1/4 tsp dried coriander
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp oil (olive, safflower, sunflower, or other mild oil)

Finely chop tamarillos. Add minced ginger, coriander, chili and spices. Mix thoroughly. Whisk together honey, vinegar and oil. Toss with tamarillo mixture coat. Stir chutney until it becomes paste-like, and allow to rest for at least 1/2 hour before serving for flavors to develop. Serve with vegetable curry. *Variations: if your curry is very spicy you may wish to omit the chili in the chutney. The chutney can be made sweeter, to taste, by adding more honey. Or add one minced clove of garlic if you dare!

Happy with my salad and condiment experiments, I wanted to try using the tamarillo in a dessert to really highlight its sweet, gooey interior. This time I looked closer to home for my inspiration. Since the fruit grows so well in Australia and New Zealand, why not draw upon the world of Kiwi and Down Under desserts? And why not use the tamarillo seeds like passionfruit? My first thought was of the ubiquitous passionfruit-topped pavlova, but creating a raw version of the meringue-like cake baffled me. Scrapping the pavlova idea, I decided that carob would be a good flavor match for the tamarillos, if I could find the right platform. My next thought was to create something reminiscent of a self-saucing carob pudding, topped with tamarillos. Again, I just didn't know how to create a raw cake with a hard exterior and soft interior.

Finally, I saw this carrot cake recipe posted at Eureka! The moistness and natural sweetness of a carrot cake was exactly what I was looking for. With a few changes and the addition of carob powder, I had my cake base. In between cake layers and for a beautifully tempting top, I added a simple cashew cream icing and lots of tamarillo seeds. This is a pretty special cake: very raw, very Australian, and very serendipitous.

Carob Carrot Tamarillo Cake

3 cups grated carrot
1 cup pitted dates, preferably California (if not the soft Cali kind, soak them in water for an hour to soften)
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
1 cup shredded dried coconut
4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup ground cashews
6 Tbsp carob powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups cashews, soaked in water to cover at least 2 hours and drained
2 Tbsp agave nectar
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
water as needed
15 tamarillos

Grate or shred carrots (I use the grater attachment on my food processor for this - saves time and your knuckles compared to the old-fashioned hand grater). Place grated carrots in a fine mesh seive and press out as much liquid as possible. Pour the carrot juice into a glass and drink up (you need your energy while unbaking!). Alternatively, if you're a juicer, save the pulp from juicing carrots and use that instead.

Place dates in food processor and process into a paste. Add all of the remaining cake ingredients and process until well mixed. You will probably need to do this in 2 batches unless you have a really huge food processor.

Rub 2 springform cake pans with a little oil (I like coconut). Divide batter evenly between pans and spread smoothly using a rubber spatula. Dehydrate at 45 celsius/115 farenheit for 4 hours (this can be done in large tray dehydrator or oven, if your oven can be set at low temps). Remove sides of springform pans and invert cakes onto plates. One at a time, slide a large blunt knife or pie serving utensil along edges and under cakes to remove them from the bottom of springform pans. Place cakes, plate and all, back into dehydrator for another 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make your icing. Place soaked and drained cashews, agave, lemon juice and vanilla in food processor. Process until smooth and creamy, adding water as need to achieve a rich yet light consistency.

Cut the tamarillos in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds, making sure to avoid the hard seeds in the fleshy lining. Place the seeds into a bowl and set aside.

Remove both cakes from the dehydrator. Spread 1/3 of the icing over one cake with a knife or spatula. Top with 1/2 of the tamarillo seeds. Carefully place the second cake over the first. Top with another 1/3 of the icing. Spread the remaining 1/3 of the icing around the sides of the cake. Top with cake with the other 1/2 of the tamarillo seeds. Cut as desired and serve!

Have a square, or three! I brought this cake to a raw potluck so we cut it into squares for easy sharing. Good thing I took a photo of it before I left home (in dismal nighttime lighting), because it was consumed quickly! Thank you, tamarillo tree.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Nothing says winter like a big, hearty bowl of chili. And since winter has wrapped it icy tenticles firmly about me, it's time to take the chili challenge. Now I know what you're thinking: a gurgling pot of beef, beans, and spices, perhaps topped with a dollop of sour cream and some shredded cheese. Delicious, yes. Warming, yes. Stodgy, yes. Raw? Most emphatically no.

But as my friend and fellow gastronome Leena of Leena Eats has proven with her chili cookoff, there is more than one way to cook a chili. According to Leena, a chili must contain chili peppers, liquid, veggies or meat, and may or may not contain beans. Her cookoff featured traditional three bean chili, Asian style super-hot chili, Aussie-fied chili (kangaroo, golden syrup and vegemite, anyone?), chocolate chili and white chicken chili, to name a few. The one thing all of these diverse chilis have in common, aside from the presence of spice? They are all cooked.

Leena's many chilis inspired me to take the chili challenge myself: a personal chili un-cookoff. I wanted to create a base that had the substantial texture of meat, and would also absorb the spices and flavors of the sauce. So I went with a one-two punch of eggplant and mushrooms - the "meats" of the veggie world. The key is to soften the base vegetables by marinating for several hours. A hit of fresh corn adds color and texture contrast, and sundried tomatoes provide a rich flavor for the spicy sauce.

All raw, all veggies, all satisfying. Truly a chili to warm my raw soul.

Winter Chili
1 eggplant, cut into 1cm (1/4 inch) dice
5 swiss brown mushrooms, cut into 1cm (1/4 inch) dice
1 ear sweetcorn, cut off of cob
5 cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 cloves garlic minced
1/4 red onion, minced
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 tsp Himalayan salt
1 cup sundried tomatoes, soaked in water to cover
6 cherry tomatoes, or one regular tomato, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp fresh oregano, or 1/2 tsp dried

In a large container with a lid, mix the diced eggplant, mushrooms, sweetcorn, cherry tomatoes, garlic and onion.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Pour over diced vegetables and toss to coat.

Let the vegetables marinate at room temperature for at least 6 hours (longer is okay).

Just before serving, combine the sundried tomatoes, half of the soaking liquid, the cherry tomatoes or chopped tomato, olive oil, garlic and spices in a food processor. Process until you achieve a thick sauce, adding more soaking liquid if necessary.

Toss the sauce with the marinated vegetables and serve.

*For really deep, dazzling flavor, make the chili the day before and let all the flavors mingle. You could then gently warm it in a pot, being careful not to let the temperature exceed 45/115.
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