Dark Chocolate Brownies with Medjool Dates and Almond Butter

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Over the last few years, healthy eating has suddenly become fashionable. Cold-pressed juice places are popping up in all major cities, there are restaurants specialising in porridge or greek yoghurt and healthy eating cookbooks are turning into bestsellers. Yet at the same time there seems to be a backlash against healthy eating. Whenever I check my twitter feed there will be at least one person having a go at the healthy eating trend, ridiculing any recipe that purports to turn classic dishes or treats into healthier versions of their former selves. Frankly, I am finding this absurd.

The main supporting argument against the healthy eating trend is usually that everything in moderation is fine and that it makes more sense to eat sugar and butter-laden treats once in a while than to come up with alternative recipes that we can enjoy ‘guilt-free’ but that are bound to fall short of our tastebuds’ expectations. Yet we only need to look at how much portion sizes have increased and how little most people move in their day-to-day life to know that moderation alone may not be enough to stop (let alone try to reverse) the obesity pandemic. At the same time, I think we should also acknowledge just how far healthy eating has come over the last 20 years. Thanks to blogs like Green Kitchen Stories, Sprouted Kitchen or 101 Cookbooks, just to name a few, it is easier than ever to find inspiration and recipes for dishes and treats that are as healthy as delicious.

I am the first to admit a certain weakness for cake (when people ask me why I go running, my standard response is “So I can eat more cake”). And there is little I look forward to more when staying with my parents than a slice of my mum’s sourdough bread slathered with lots of butter. And I love pizza and pasta. But I also happen to really like courgetti. Of course it is not the same as pasta. No one claims it is. But it is delicious nonetheless. And Sprouted Kitchen’s lentil ‘meatballs’ most definitely don’t taste like meatballs. But I keep on making them anyway. Because they taste so damn good. At least once a year I even give them a North African twist, using the same spices my brother uses to make his famous Kofte, so my vegetarian nephew and niece can also enjoy the Kofte that form part of our Christmas Meze spread with the rest of the family. I also think that homemade almond milk tastes better on granola than cow’s milk. And I happen to like these brownies, made with medjool dates, almond butter and ground almonds, as much as their butter-, sugar and refined flour-laden cousins.

I think there must be a middle ground. It is most certainly better for us to enjoy certain dishes and treats in moderation. But I also think there is nothing wrong with generally making small tweaks to our diet to try and eat better. We can certainly do that by limiting our intake of some foods. But maybe, sometimes, we can also try and replace those foods that aren’t good for us in the first place. I also don’t believe that this requires any real sacrifice. I have had dairy-free cashew cheesecake that tasted so good I would happily give up eating any other kind of cheesecake. Wholemeal pasta or gluten-free pastas like chickpea flour pasta are delicious in their own right and thanks to a rougher texture sauce clings to them much better than to pasta made from refined flour. The fact they are also more nutritious is just a great side effect. And baking citrus cakes with grassy olive oil will actually make them taste better than making them with butter – it just amplifies the citrus’ bright flavour. As for my middle ground? Right now, it is one of these brownies, ideally still warm from the oven, topped with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream that is definitely neither refined sugar nor dairy free.

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Dark Chocolate Brownies with Medjool Dates and Almond Butter

Note: While I have not yet tried this I am confident the recipe would work equally well with other types of nut flours and nut butters. The one ingredient I would not substitute with anything else though are the medjool dates – their sweetness and soft texture is what makes this recipe. 

Ingredients
150g pitted medjool dates (depending on size, this should be 6-9 dates)
200g dark chocolate (at least 70 per cent cocoa solids)
75g almond butter
3 eggs
1/4 tsp sea salt
75g almond flour

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a brownie pan with parchment paper.

Soak the pitted medjool dates in boiling water.

Chop the dark chocolate and melt it by placing it in a large bowl placed on top of a pan of simmering water.

When the chocolate is melted, turn off the heat and take the bowl off the saucepan. Drain the water from the dates and puree the dates using an immersion blender or a food processor until no lumps remain.

Whisk the almond butter into the melted chocolate. Fold in the date puree. Beat in the eggs one by one, waiting for each egg to be completely mixed in before adding the next egg.

Lastly fold in the salt and the almond flour.

Pour the brownie batter into the prepared pan and bake the brownies for ca. 20-25 minutes or until just set. Leave to cool completely in the pan. For clean edges on your brownies, cut with a very sharp knife, cleaning the knife between each cut.

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Bookmarks – 11 April 2015

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Carbs et al.

Like most years, Alessandro and I spent the Easter bank holiday weekend staying with his parents in a small village not far from Rome. Spending most of the weekend eating (or talking about eating) reminded me again how good Italians are with carbs. Of course there is Pizza, thin and crispy Roman style, or thick and pillowy like they serve it in Naples. But then there are also the thick slabs of sourdough bread to start a meal, slightly charred and topped with a fresh tomato salsa or thin slices of rosemary flecked lardo or even just drizzled with olio nuovo (the beautifully grassy first olive oil of the season), thin strands of homemade tagliatelle like the ones you can see in the picture above (beautifully yellow as Alessandro’s dad made them with duck eggs) – cooked not too long so they retain some bite (al dente) before being thrown into a pan of funghi porcini, or the torn pieces of bread used to swipe your plate clean (fare la scarpetta). And we cannot forget about Italian sweets either, the almost chewy yet flaky dough of sfogliatelle, syrup-drenched baba, pan brioche buns split in half and served with a generous scoop of gelato for the fluffiest (and most decadent) ice cream sandwich you can imagine or the crunchy anise flecked ciambelline cookies rich with olive oil and wine that Alessandro’s sister and aunt prepare in industrial quantities.

Talking about carbs and all things Italian food, this is my go to recipe for Pizza. I sometimes play with the type of flour I use.  I like using a mixture of half all purpose spelt flour and half wholemeal spelt flour (adding a 1-2 tablespoons more water if the dough seems dry) for a heartier pie. The recipe is fuss-free (aside from the 24h wait while the dough slowly proves in the fridge) and has never failed me – in fact, I prepared a batch of dough on Thursday night in time to have pizza for dinner last night, using the leftover dough for a small boule in time for lazy weekend breakfasts.

As much as I have a weakness for bread and all type of pasta, I also have a weakness for dumplings – whether steamed, fried or boiled, I have yet to meet a dumpling I did not like. And while somewhat fiddly to make at home, I love making my own potstickers or steamed dumplings like momos. Mine are never picture-perfect but that does not seem to impact their flavour in the least. And ever since I started improvising both with the dough and the fillings (yes, there may have been rye potstickers filled with both lardons fumes and Chinese chives the other week), I can basically have a plate of dumplings on the table in just over an hour no matter what the contents of my fridge. And that is a very good thing indeed. When I am looking for inspiration for my fillings (or if I just want to ogle at perfectly folded dumplings and feel I need to up my lunch box/plane snack game), I head to Heidi’s blog – she has quite a few dumpling recipes on her site, including these Green Curry Momos which look and sound divine.

Talking about dumplings, if you ever find yourself in Brussels craving steamed buns and dumplings AND a  seemingly never-ending tea menu, you should seek out this place on Rue de Baillie, near the Chatelain market. I took a new colleague there for lunch this week and we both loved it. You can either order a la carte or opt for the lunch option (available vegetarian if that is your preference) – this gives you a set of 4 steamed savoury dumplings, a steamed bun and a couple of steamed sweet dumplings, all washed down with a tea of your choice (and the price you pay depends on just how expensive your taste for tea is).

As for what I have been reading lately, I loved this excerpt from a book about life in a Parisian Pâtisserie that my friend Mehrunnisa shared with me, not just for an insight into what life is like in a Pâtisserie but also for the observations on language – and how much and how little we need verbal language to communicate. I am also still working my way through Joanna Blythman’s Swallow This. Although I already try and avoid processed food as far as possible, it has been an absolute eye opener to learn more about what some of the terms on food labels these days mean (and what information does not even need to go on a label!). Stuck at Fiumicino airport for a few hours earlier this week on my way back to Brussels also made me realise how tricky it is to avoid processed and additive-laden food at airports – there was not a single piece of fresh fruit in sight and all the prepared food was suddenly looking even more unappealing than normally.

And while I don’t do a whole lot of German baking or cooking, I am super excited for Luisa‘s new book. I have a few German baking books already, but they mainly cover mainstream recipes. Yet, from what I can tell thanks to Luisa’s instagram, her book also include recipes for lesser known German cakes and biscuits, such as, for example Russisch Brot (which, albeit simple to prepare, I have never come across other than in a store-bought bag) or German Lebkuchen made with dough that has been aged several months rather than the short-cut recipes that most people use these days.

Barley Chocolate Chip Cookies


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no longer remember why my friend Michelle and I settled on late November for our trip to New York. It seems a bit nuts looking back. Sure, the week of Thanksgiving is a great time to go to New York if you want cheap flights and low hotel rates. But you will soon discover why there are less than average number of tourists per square meter: it is bloody cold!

Walking around all day in sub-zero temperatures while worrying about the forecast snow meant frequent coffee breaks were needed just so we could escape the cold for a bit, warming up with our hands wrapped around multiple mugs of coffee and our winter coats draped over our knees like woollen blankets. It also meant that a bowl of ramen for dinner one night at Ivan Ramen in Clinton Street totally hit the spot.

The only reason I decided to wash down my steaming bowl of ramen with iced (!) tea was that Ivan Ramen’s drinks menu offered a new to me tea: Iced Roasted Barley Tea. I knew that roasted teas are very common in Japan. There is Genmaicha (a green tea flavoured with roasted rice). Then there is roasted Buckwheat Tea. And, Hojicha – roasted green tea. Apparently, there is also a Roasted Barley Tea (also known as Mugicha). Made from roasted barley grains (sometimes with the addition of roasted corn to offset the barley’s slight bitter flavour), Roasted Barley Tea is popular year round not just in Japan, but also in China and Korea.If you want to make your own Mugicha: here is a recipe.

If you like Genmaicha and Hojicha over ice, then I reckon you will like Roasted Barley Tea as well. It has quite a concentrated flavour, malty and chocolatey, and absolutely delicious, even without any milk and sugar. The more I drank my tea, the more I became intrigued by its flavour. So much so that when I spotted some barley flour in the supermarket on my trip to Copenhagen in December, 1kg of it immediately went into my carry-on with future plans for these Barley Chocolate Chip Cookies.

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Barley Chocolate Chip Cookies

Note: Chocolate chip cookies really do improve with the age of the dough. So if you can be patient, try and let the dough rest at least overnight. If you have more willpower than I do (which, to be fair, isn’t all that much to begin with), you could even try and let the dough rest for 24 or 36 (and up to 72) hours. 

Makes 24 cookies 

Ingredients
125g butter, at room temperature
125g caster sugar
125g rapadura (or light brown sugar)
1 egg
225g barley flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
200g 70% dark chocolate, chopped coarsely

Optional: a pinch of sea salt flakes to sprinkle on the cookies before baking

Directions

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter with the caster sugar and the rapadura sugar until light and fluffy (this should take ca. 5 minutes). Add the egg and beat to combine.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the barley flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir into the wet ingredients. Lastly, fold the chopped dark chocolate into the cookie dough.

Wrap dough in cling film and place in the fridge for a minimum of 12 hours and up to 72 hours.

When ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 24 equal-sized chunks  and roll each chunk into a ball (I like to weigh my cookie dough to ensure I get similar sized cookies and can ensure they bake evenly – here each cookie weighed approx. 35g).

Place 6 cookies on the sheet pan. If using, scatter some extra sea salt flakes on each cookie. Bake for ca. 6-8 minutes until the cookies are puffed up in the middle and have just started to colour. Leave to cool on the tray for 5-10 minutes before carefully removing them with a spatula and placing them on a cookie rack to come to room temperature. Repeat with the remaining batches of cookies.

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Bookmarks – 20 March 2015

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When I first started writing this blog I used to do monthly ‘inspiration’ posts and I have decided to bring them back. As much as I enjoy reading other people’s recipes, some of the posts I love the most tend to be the various weekly or monthly link round-up ones, pointing me towards intriguing recipes I have not yet seen or enjoyable articles that have not yet crossed my path. There might not be a ‘Bookmarks’ posts with links to other blogs, recipes or stories every week but there will be new posts regularly. Here is the first set of bookmarks I wanted to share with you:

Ashley’s photos of Morocco are stunning and looking at them had me dreaming back to my own trip around the country with Alessandro a couple of years ago. Ashley’ post is also the reason I chose the photo above to accompany this post – it shows a woven basket hanging off the wall of one of the Kasbah’s we visited on our trip in Morocco. When I took the photo the little pieces of colourful fabric were dancing in the wind making it look as though a colony of butterflies was clinging on to the basket. I took a single shot just as I was walking through the Kasbah and it turned out to be one of my favourite photos from the trip.

This orange and cardamom ice cream sounds heavenly. I am thinking a scoop of Kate’s ice cream and a shot of espresso would make a wonderfully fragrant affogato.

Tara’s book. And Heidi’s new book. And Amy’s book. After keeping them in my amazon basket for weeks, one day I just decided to order them and I cannot wait to get started cooking from them.

This article about how rice is grown is fascinating – who knew there are rice polishing stations dotted all around rural Japan?

This piece by Chad Robertson about sourdough pizza had me day-dreaming about trips to Naples, tracking down the best pizza closest to our flat in Rome and introducing my friend Michelle to our go to pizza place in Turin.

I am trying to track down fresh coriander (no mean feat in my neighbourhood in Brussels it turns out) just so I can make this Somali bizbaz.

Tamarind Pate de Fruit – Goes Well With Coffee – 7th Edition

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As much as I like cooking food  at home, I actually adore going out for dinner. Growing up as one of four kids, meals at restaurants were few and far between and mostly happened during the summers we spent in the South of France. Visits to restaurants are more frequent for me these days, yet having dinner at a restaurant still feels special. And I would actually like to keep it that way. I much prefer to eat at home as a general rule and save those restaurant visits for special occasions (and very special meals).

And when I do go for dinner at a restaurant, I love the entire experience. A glass of bubbly while I peruse the menu, ideally already accompanied by a few small bites ‘courtesy of the chef’. If I am lucky, the menu is one that leaves me struggling to decide what to eat thanks to the myriad of enticing options: dishes composed of ingredients I (i) either don’t know, (ii) have yet to try; (iii) struggle to track down myself or (iv) find too laborious to prepare in my own kitchen, ideally combining all of the above. And there are rules. No single dish is ordered more than once. So my dinner companion(s) and I can try as many dishes as possible. And there has to be dessert. There always has to be dessert. And coffee. And if I am really lucky the coffee is as good as the meal itself. And as a final hurrah before peeling ourselves off our chairs and waddling home, our bellies and hearts full, a plate of petit fours arrives – minuscule madeleines and financiers, a chocolate truffle or two or a couple of cubes of pate de fruits, just like these tamarind ones.

While I like something sweet alongside my post-dinner coffee (or that 4pm coffee in the office to get me through the afternoon slump), that something sweet does not need to be particularly big. In fact, a one-bite affair is perfect – a square of bitter chocolate with flecks of sea salt, a beautifully plump date, a single piece of shortbread or indeed a small cube of pate de fruit.

This Tamarind Pate de Fruit recipe came about as I was brainstorming other recipes to make with tamarind, well before I even started gathering recipe ideas for this Goes Well With Coffee series. While I love using tamarind to make Agua Fresca or to Pad Thai and have even made a Tamarind Curd before, it was about time I expanded my repertoire of tamarind recipes – especially as each packet of tamarind pulp typically contains far more tamarind pulp than a single recipe will ask for.

Why a Tamarind Pate de Fruit? You can make Pate de Fruit with almost any fruit – the exact formula you use will depend on whether you are using high or low pectin fruit, but other than that the basic recipe does not change much. And tamarind just happens to be a flavour I adore. Not only is tamarind mouthpuckeringly sour but it also has this really complex flavour which reminds me of dried fruits that are naturally a bit tart, like dried cherries or dried barberries. Tamarind pate de fruit also goes rather well with coffee. In fact, one of the other coffee flavour wheels I came across while reading up about the flavour profiles of coffee explicitly lists tamarind as one of the flavours you might detect in your cup of coffee. The SCAA’s flavour wheel does not list tamarind as a flavour but does list ‘candy-like’ as one of the aromas you might detect in coffee. And so I could not think of a better candy to enjoy alongside a post-dinner cup of coffee then a piece of tamarind pate de fruit!

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Tamarind Pate de Fruit

Note: This recipes makes a lot of pate de fruit – about 40 pieces (more if you cut them smaller). While you can half the recipe, I would only do so if you have an instant read sugar thermometer or a saucepan small enough to allow for a proper reading on your thermometer so you know when the pate de fruit has cooked long enough. Sadly my kitchen lacks both so I used a medium-sized saucepan and my trusty thermometer my sister gave me. In any event, stored somewhere cool in an airtight container, the pate de fruit will keep for a few weeks. As an alternative to serving the pate de fruit alongside coffee, you can also serve it with cheese, similar to the way you eat membrillo or chutneys with cheese (if so, skip the part where you roll the pate de fruit in sugar). 

Ingredients
500ml Tamarind water*
500g 2:1 preserving sugar
100g sugar for dusting

Directions

Line a sheet pan with silpat or parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan combine the tamarind water with the preserving sugar. Bring to a boil. As soon as the mixture starts boiling, reduce the temperature and continue to cook the mixture, stirring frequently so it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the saucepan, until the mixture reaches a temperature of 108 degrees Celsius – this should take between 30 to 45 minutes.

Pour the pate de fruit onto the prepared sheet pan and leave to dry (uncovered) at room temperature for 1-2 days (the pate de fruit will be softer if you only wait for 1 day – personally I prefer the slightly chewier pate de fruit you get after waiting an additional day).

Using a sharp and well oiled knife, cut the pate de fruit into small cubes (alternatively you can use a small cookie cutter). Roll in the sugar.

Stored in an airtight container the pate de fruit will keep for a couple of weeks.

*To make the tamarind water soak 100g of seedless tamarind pulp in 500ml of hot water. Set aside to soak for 1 hour. Strain and measure out 500ml. The rest of the tamarind water can be used for salad dressings, added to iced tea or sweetened and mixed with sparkling water for tamarind lemonade.

Butternut Squash Cakes with Ras El Hanout and Pistachios

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When I used to tell people I lived in London (and then in Rome), people would tend to squeal in excitement and tell me how lucky I was. Now that I live in Brussels, I don’t get quite the same reaction when I tell others where I live. Brussels is a good place to live, but it is certainly not the most exciting capital city Europe has to offer (heck it isn’t even the most exciting city Belgium as a country has to offer). Yet after growing up in Germany and having lived in a tiny village in Austria, London and Rome, there are plenty of things I really appreciate about Brussels. Rents are low, the city is very walkable, there are plenty of green spaces and the airport is within easy reach from the city centre. But you know the best part about living in Brussels? The markets.

Sure, I used to go to the farmer’s market in London too, but if I did, I usually only went on weekends. Many of the markets were only open a few days a week and none was in a location that meant I could do my food shopping there during the week. It wasn’t much better in Rome, where frequent trips out of town made it hard to seek out markets on the weekend. That all changed when I moved to Brussels.

Here in Brussels, I am truly spoilt. On Monday nights there is the market by the Parvis in Saint Gilles. On Wednesdays there is the market in Chatelain, conveniently located a mere 10 minute walk from my office – meaning that most weeks I manage to either buy food during my lunch break or on my way home from work. And then there are the weekend markets, whether in Place Flagey or the one by the Gare du Midi, as well as several smaller neighbourhood ones. The only downside to being able to buy all my fruit and vegetables at the market is that I frequently buy far too much. So much so that last week I found myself with not 1 but 2 large butternut squashes taking up precious real estate in my fridge. While one butternut squash was turned into a vegetarian Madras curry for me to take to work, part of the remaining smaller butternut squash found its way into these little spiced cakes.

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And while the days are getting longer and there have been days so sunny that I am certain spring is finally on its way, the temperatures are still just about cold enough in Brussels for me to get away with sharing this recipe for butternut squash cakes spiced with Ras El Hanout with you. I have a fondness for all spiced cakes, whether it is a traditional cinnamon laced carrot cake with cream cheese frosting or a sticky ginger and treacle loaf. However, the more my spice cabinet has grown over the years, the more I have been interested in developing recipes around spice mixes not typically used for sweet applications. And while I have played with Garam Masala before, this was the first time I have baked with Ras El Hanout.

While there is no definitive list of ingredients for Ras El Hanout it typically includes cardamom, cumin, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, all spice; ginger, pepper, coriander, pepper, paprika, fenugreek and turmeric. It is earthy with a little bit of a kick – something I have found pairs well with butternut squash in savoury applications (I like roasting wedges of butternut squash drizzled in olive oil and dusted generously with Ras El Hanout). As I have discovered making these small cakes, Ras El Hanout works equally well in sweet applications it turns out.

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Butternut Squash Cakes with Ras El Hanout and Pistachios

Notes: While I like to grate carrots for carrot cake very finely, I prefer grating butternut squash quite coarsely when baking with it – butternut squash can get soft pretty quickly as soon as some heat is applied to it and grating it coarsely ensures the butternut squash does not disappear into the cake but gives the cake a bit of bite. While the rose blossom water in the glaze is optional, I like how its floral flavour stands up to this otherwise earthy and spicy cake.

Yields 6 individual cakes using a medium-sized muffin tin

Ingredients

For the butternut squash cakes
2 eggs, separated
90g sugar
110ml vegetable oil
125g brown rice flour
1/2 tsp ras el hanout
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
50g butternut squash, grated coarsely
50g pistachios, chopped coarsely

For the glaze
60g icing sugar
1 1/2 tbsp milk
1 tsp rose blossom water

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius and grease 6 holes of a medium sized muffin tin.

In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and the sugar using an electric whisk. While beating, slowly drizzle in the oil. Once all the oil has been absorbed, add the egg whites in one go and beat until combined with the egg yolk mixture. 

In a separate bowl whisk together the brown rice flour, ras el hanout, baking powder and baking soda. Stir into the egg mixture.

Lastly, fold the grated butternut squash and the chopped pistachios into the batter.

Distribute the batter evenly among the holes of the muffin tin.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cakes are well risen and a wooden skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean.

Leave the cakes to cool for 5 minutes in the muffin tin before carefully removing them from the tin and placing them on a cooling rack to come to room temperature.

Whisk together the ingredients for the glaze and drizzle a couple of teaspoons on top of each cake.

 

Financiers with Almonds and Argan Oil

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Thanks to a nasty throat infection I spent most of last week in bed with a temperature close to 40 degrees Celsius. Prior to last week, I had not taken any real time off work for being sick since a hernia surgery back in 2012. While surgery is never pleasurable, I remember I quite enjoyed being off sick at the time. I had my surgery in Germany and stayed with my parents for the 2 weeks afterwards. Despite my initially somewhat limited mobility my recovery proved to be a wonderful opportunity to catch up with my parents over long conversations, something my quick weekend trips back home don’t leave enough room for.

In some twisted way, lately I had begun thinking that it might actually be quite nice to be off sick again some time, naively thinking it could be a nice opportunity to catch up on some sleep and trashy TV. Little did I know that I would spend most of last week confined to my bed, with a pounding headache from the high fever and too ill to read or watch any TV. Thankfully at least sleep came easily – I must have slept over 14 hours on average those days. And while I am not quite fit enough yet to go on my morning runs or go to yoga, I have been back at work for a few days now and my voice is slowly starting to sound normal again. That also means I thought it was about time I told you about these Argan oil financiers.

As I will have mentioned a few times by now, my parents spent a couple of years living in Morocco before I was born and I grew up eating Moroccan food quite regularly. Yet it was not until a visit to an Argan oil cooperative during a whirlwind your of Morocco a few years ago that I first came across Argan oil. Touring the cooperative I not only learned how Argan trees are grown, the sheer amount of fruit needed to produce 1l of the precious oil, but I also learned about the important role the Argan oil cooperatives have in supporting local communities in providing paid employment to many women in rural Morocco.

Intrigued by its nutty flavour, I picked up my first bottle of Argan oil on that same trip and have been using it to drizzle over soups and salads ever since. Recently, I started experimenting more with Argan oil, including trying to incorporate it into cakes and desserts. One of my favourite recipes so far is to make financiers with Argan oil. And yes, Argan oil is expensive, but so are pistachios and spices like saffron and vanilla. And I would much rather bake financiers with Argan oil than have a bottle of Argan oil go rancid while using it ever so sparingly.

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Financiers with Almonds and Argan Oil

Note: Financiers are small French cakes made with no more than 4 ingredients at their most basic: egg whites, ground nuts, sugar and butter. While financiers can be very rich given the generous amount of butter their preparation requires, they lend themselves perfectly to variations – not only can you use different types of nuts and seeds in place of the more traditional ground almonds, but you can also replace the butter in part or in its entirety with different fats such as Argan oil, which will give your financiers a unique nutty flavour and delicate sweetness. And I might be biased here, since my dad often made coffee this way, but these financiers are wonderful alongside a small glass of cardamom-laced stove-top brewed coffee. 

Yields 6 financiers using a financier mould (alternatively you can use a medium-sized muffin tray)

Ingredients

3 egg whites
75g light muscovado sugar or caster sugar
60g ground almonds
60g spelt or all purpose flour
60ml Argan oil
30g melted butter

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and lightly grease 6 financier moulds.

Add the egg whites to a large bowl and whisk until frothy with a balloon whisk or a handheld mixer. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk briefly to incorporate.

Distribute the financier batter evenly among the 6 moulds.

Bake the financiers for ca. 25 minutes or until they are well risen, golden brown around the edges and springy to the touch.

Leave the financiers to cool in their moulds for a couple of minutes before carefully removing the financiers from their mould.

While financiers are best eaten the day they are made, they will keep for a couple of days if stored in an airtight box at room temperature.

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