Vegan Pandan Cake

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Pandan. Amazing. Smells and tastes like nothing else I’ve experienced, and the colour is something else! It is used in so many desserts in many asian countries, but also works beautifully in savoury dishes like curries and rice. Fortunately lots of Asian grocers in Australia now stock Pandan leaves, and will definitely stock the Pandan essence I used for this cake. The Cassava flour turns the cake into more of a pudding texture, it is unusual but delicious. I iced this cake with condensed milk that was simmered and reduced with Pandan essence to form a sort of caramel. But if you want to keep the cake vegan, I would suggest using a simple icing of icing sugar, lemon juice and pandan essence.
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Recipe

Ingredients

4 cups cassava flour

1 1/2 cups palm sugar

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp salt

3 cups coconut milk

2 tsp chia seeds mixed with 2 tbs water

1 tsp pandan essence

1/4 cup white vinegar

Method

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease and line a 30cm cake tin.

In a large bowl combine the flour, palm sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt.

Add the coconut milk, chia, pandan essence and vinegar. Stir to combine.

Spoon into prepared pan and bake for about 40-50mins or until risen and springs back to the touch.

Cool in pan.

Turn out and ice as you please.

 

Balsamic Fig and Lemon Cheesecake with Walnut Crust, Candied Walnuts and Fresh Figs

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These little organic figs I found in the local market on the weekend reminded me of a beautiful holiday to Lagos, Portugal, with one of my dearest friends. We would go for a jog along the harbour every morning and pick wild figs from the sides of the road on our way back to our hostel. They were small and dodgy looking and we had to be sure to cut them open and check for maggots before eating them (speaking from experience). But, the good ones were delicious and perfect with some greek yoghurt and berries before a day at the beach.

This is a different kind of baked cheesecake, not so heavy, creamy and cheesy, and a little lighter and fresher. It would be lovely served with some greek yogurt or vanilla ice-cream on the side. You could replace the figs with strawberries if you like.

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Recipe

Ingredients

Base

150g digestive biscuits

30g walnuts

1 tsp cinnamon

Big pinch of salt

80g butter, melted

Balsamic Fig Jam

12 small figs, roughly chopped

2 tbs balsamic glaze (click for recipe)

1/2-3/4 cup water

Filling

200g cream cheese

125g caster sugar

zest of 2 lemons

2 eggs

400g crème fraîche

4 tbs plain flour

To serve

4 fresh figs quartered

2 handfuls walnuts

3 tbs balsamic glaze

Extra balsamic glaze, to drizzle

Method

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease and line a spring form cake tin or slice tin.

Place the biscuits, walnuts, cinnamon and salt in a food processor. Process until fine crumbs. Add to a large bowl with the melted butter and mix to combine. Press into the base of the cake tin, using the back of a spoon to smooth it out. Place in the oven and bake for 10mins. Remove and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, for the balsamic fig jam, in a small saucepan, add the chopped figs, balsamic glaze and some of the water. Over medium heat, bring to the simmer, reduce to low and cook, stirring for about 20mins or until jam like in consistency, adding extra water if necessary. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the cream cheese with the caster sugar and lemon zest. Use electric beaters to beat until combined and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition, until combined. Add the crème fraîche and flour and continue to beat until combined and fluffy.

Spread the balsamic fig jam over the base. Top with the filling and spread out evenly. Place in the oven and cook, for 45-50mins. Until golden and firm on the edges.

Remove from oven and allow to cool. Place in the fridge and allow to cool for at least 4 hours.

To serve, heat the oven to 180 degrees celcius. Combine the walnuts with the balsamic glaze, spread onto a baking tray and bake, for about 10mins. Allow to cool.

Top the cheesecake with the balsamic walnuts, fresh figs and drizzle with extra balsamic glaze. Decorate with edible flowers if you like.

Enjoy!

 

Lemon, Thyme and Goat’s Milk Yoghurt Cake with Lemon Glaze, Golden Plums and Red Currants

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We’ve just returned to Amsterdam after a three week, whirlwind road trip through Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain and France. We were so lucky and grateful to be able to join our friends in their van for the amazing journey. As well as staying in a few funny little campgrounds along the way we were also able to find some free-camping spots in the most magical settings; amidst mossy pine forests, in the valleys of the snow capped Alps, next to rushing glacier rivers lined with wild thyme and oregano, and nestled (hidden) amongst the vineyards in Tuscany. We were also shown some beautiful hospitality by friends in Germany and Italy and stayed in some cute little apartments in Rome and Paris, where I was grateful to do some cooking on a real chopping board, with a real knife, rather than on a plank of wood with a pocket knife (although I do really love camping cooking).

After three weeks in the van, we arrived in Paris, in the midst of a heatwave, and in dire need of a good shower, a soft bed, and some clean clothes. It was too hot during the day to wander the streets of Paris for more than a couple of hours at a time so I resided in our tiny apartment’s kitchen and did some cooking. With a glass of wine and some french radio playing, I couldn’t help but feel I was getting a better Parisian experience than the hoards of people lined up to go up the Eiffel Tower.

If you can’t find goat’s milk yoghurt for this you can use regular natural yoghurt instead. You could also replace the lemon zest with orange or mandarin and change the plums and red currants to whatever fruit is in season in your area.

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Recipe (adapted from Delicious Magazine UK)

Ingredients

175g butter, softened

350g caster sugar

Seeds from 1 vanilla bean

Finely grated zest of 2 lemons

3 large free range eggs

350g plain flour

200g natural goats milk yoghurt, plus extra to serve

1 tbs baking powder

2 tbs fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped

6 small golden plums

250g fresh red currants

Icing

175g icing sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tsp boiling hot water

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

Method

Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees celsius. Grease a 24cm bundt or ring shaped cake tin with butter (use a regular cake tin if that’s all you have).

With electric beaters, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla together, for about 5mins, or until light and fluffy. Beat in the lemon zest and then beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a tablespoon of flour with the second and third egg.

Spoon half the yoghurt into the mixture, sift over the baking powder with a pinch of salt, and half the remaining flour, then fold in. Repeat with the remaining yoghurt and flour, along with the thyme.

Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake, for about 50-55mins, or until golden brown and springs back to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin for 5mins and then turn out onto a wire rack over a baking tray.

For the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl, add the lemon juice and water and mix until smooth. While the cake is still slightly warm, spoon over the icing, letting some run down the sides. Sprinkle with the time leaves and leave to set.

Slice the plums and fill the middle of the cake with them, allowing them to spill out and over. Add some currants on top and around the cake. Serve with the extra yoghurt.

Enjoy!

Strawberry, Apple and Sour Cream Cake

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We’re off to Berlin tonight, an overnight bus that I hope I will get some sleep on as tomorrow we will be going to a music festival with a friend and I feel it might be a bit of a big day….

I made this cake the other day, with the abundance of strawberries we’ve been getting form the local farms here. I wanted to make something for the beautiful people we’ve been staying with, to say thank you. It’s really been so enjoyable and such a great insight into German life. There is nothing like staying with locals to really discover a place. I’m so appreciative and i can’t wait to have them stay with us one day in Australia.

My Mum used to make this cake all the time, in the form of a slice, and just with apples. It was the highest selling slice in the little cafe we owned and ran at the time. I don’t know what made me think of it the other day but I wanted to re-make it with the addition of strawberries. As you will see in the recipe, there is a bit of a shortcut. At first I wasn’t going to do it, but then I thought, hey, it was always so good when Mum made it, why change a good thing? In Australia we used to use the Homebrand Butter Cake Mix, but I couldn’t get that here in Germany so I had to tweak it a little by adding an egg and a little extra butter. The recipe here is how you would make it in Aus, but if you can’t get that Butter Cake Mix, then just use what you can find and add what you feel. You just want a kind of dry biscuit base dough, not a runny cake batter. Good luck!

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Recipe

Ingredients

1 packet Butter Cake Mix

1 cup desiccated coconut

150g butter, melted, plus 25g

2 apples, peeled and chopped into 1cm cubes

750g strawberries, halved

2 tbs spiced rum (optional)

6 tbs caster sugar

400g sour cream

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Method

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease and line a spring form cake tin.

In a large bowl, combine the cake mix with the coconut and the 150g melted butter. Mix well to combine. Press mixture evenly into the base of the cake tin and place in the oven. Bake for 15-20mins or until lightly browned. Remove and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt the 25g butter and add the apples, along with 4 tbs of the caster sugar and the rum. Cook, stirring, for about 5mins or until just starting to soften. Add 500g of the strawberries and continue to cook, stirring, for a further 5 mins. Remove from heat.

Using a slotted spoon to leave the liquid behind, spoon the apple and strawberry mix on top of the cake. Evenly distribute the fruit and then top with the sour cream, smoothing with the back of a spoon.

Combine the remaining 2 tbs caster sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle on top of the sour cream.

Return cake to the oven and cook for a further 25-30mins, or until sour cream has set.

Allow to cool in the pan.

Meanwhile, set the leftover fruit cooking liquid over medium heat. Bring to the simmer and turn heat to low. Simmer for 5mins or until reduced and thick. Allow to cool and then mix with the remaining 250g strawberries.

To serve, remove cake from pan and top with the strawberries and syrup.

Enjoy!

 

Strawberry, White Asparagus and Chèvre Bruschetta with Balsamic, Black Pepper and Basil

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After spending a week at our friend’s house here, in Germany, with a big comfy bed to sleep in, a kitchen to cook in, beautiful forest trails to explore, access to fresh, local produce and, of course, the amazing company, I’m not sure how I’m going to feel when we hit the road with our backpacks again. I could really get used to this life. Seriously, I’m typing this as I lay in the best bed I’ve slept in in nine months, sipping a coffee and waiting for the others to wake up so that we can jump in the car and head over to France…for lunch….

The bakeries here are amazing too. They don’t even sell white bread. Just brown, or dark brown, or dark brown with seeds, etc. The spelt and linseed bread I used for this bruschetta worked perfectly with the sweetness of the strawberries. Beautiful strawberries and asparagus from a farm down the road, and basil from the garden. JOY!

We ate this bruschetta for brunch, but you could also serve it as an appetiser on smaller pieces of bread. If you can’t find white asparagus, I wouldn’t recommend using green, just omit it and use more strawberries. Some walnuts sprinkled on top would also be nice.

Also, sorry for the ridiculous amount of photos, too hard too choose.

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Recipe

Ingredients

200ml balsamic vinegar
2 tbs caster sugar
8 slices dark spelt and linseed bread (or other dark bread such as rye), halved
3 tbs olive oil
200g chèvre (goats cheese)
1 clove garlic, halved
2 cups fresh strawberries, tops trimmed off and quartered
1 cup peeled and cooked white asparagus, cut into 3cm lengths
1/2 cup small fresh basil leaves
1/4 tsp ground black pepper, plus extra for sprinkling
Pinch salt

Method

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, add the balsamic vinegar and the sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved, bring to the simmer and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 10mins, or until reduced by half and is thick and syrupy. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10mins.
Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celsius. Line a baking tray and spread with the slices of bread. Place in the oven and toast, for 5mins. Turn the slices and drizzle with 2 tbs of the olive oil. Return to the oven and toast for a further 5mins or until lightly browned. Remove form oven and rub the toast with the halved garlic. Divide the chèvre among the slices of toast and return to the oven for 3 mins, or until cheese is starting to melt. Remove from the oven.
In a large bowl, combine the strawberries, asparagus, 2 tbs of the balsamic reduction, pepper and salt. Gently stir to combine.
Top the slices of toast with the strawberry mixture, top with the basil and sprinkle with a little extra pepper and a drizzle of the balsamic reduction.
Enjoy!

 

Tropical Easter Pavlova Mess

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Happy Easter everybody! Whatever it means to you, I hope you have a lovely long weekend, relaxing and enjoying the company of your friends and family, cooking, eating and trying not to freak out about the fact that nearly a third of the year has flown by already!

Here’s another one of those experiments I was talking about the other day. It may not be as pretty as it could possibly be, but considering it was the first time I’ve made a pavlova, let alone a meringue, it’s not too bad. It was a fun experience and the taste was way better than I was expecting!! The meringue was never going to look amazing, considering the temperamental oven, but, by leaving it in the oven overnight (after it’s been switched off), the outside was super crunchy and the inside soft and gooey and perfect, without tasting eggy, which is something I’ve noticed in large meringues before.

If I had kids I’d definitely be using this idea to save them eating so much chocolate at easter time. The little chocolate covered grapes look just like mini easter eggs, but in my opinion, taste even better, with the fresh grape burst in the centre.

You could use any fruit you like, but I love the tartness of the passionfruit against all the sweetness.

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IMG_3736Recipe

You will need to start this recipe the day before

Serves 8

Ingredients

6 egg whites

pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups caster sugar

2x170g can passionfruit pulp, strained, seeds discarded

2 tins coconut cream, chilled overnight in the fridge

300ml thickened cream

1/4 cup brown sugar

6 fresh passionfruit

A few handfuls of seedless purple grapes

300g white chocolate, melted

150g dark chilli chocolate, melted

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 120 degrees celcius.

Add the strained passionfruit pulp into a small saucepan and bring to the simmer over medium high heat. Simmer, stirring, for about 5mins, or until thickened and reduced. Cool and place in the fridge until cold.

Place egg whites and the pinch of salt in a large dry bowl. Using electric beaters, beat until stiff peaks form, about 4mins. Add the sugar, one spoonful at a time, beating constantly (you can continuously add the sugar, no need for beating between spoonfuls). Once all the sugar has been added, beat for a further 2-3mins or until thick and glossy. Do not over-beat. You can test whether the sugar is dissolved by rubbing a little of the mixture between your fingers, it should be smooth, not grainy. Using a spatula, gently fold through the passionfruit syrup, you just want to create a marbled effect.

Spoon the mixture onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, into a 20cm circle, swirling and lifting the spoon as you go to create texture and peaks.

Place in the oven and bake for 20mins. Reduce the heat to100 degrees celsius and continue to bake for another 11/2 to 2 hours. Turn the oven off and allow to cool in the oven for about 6 hours, or overnight. Keep in an airtight container until needed.

To make the chocolate covered grapes, make sure they are cold and dry each with a paper towel before dipping into the melted chocolate. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Using a teaspoon, dip one grape at a time into the white chocolate, place on the lined tray to set. (your first few will probably be a bit ugly, but don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it). Place in the fridge to set. Once set, drizzle with the melted dark chilli chocolate.  Place in the fridge to set.

When ready to serve, prepare your coconut whipped cream. Remove each tin of coconut cream from the fridge, keeping it upright so as not to deserve the separation that will have occurred. Open each can and into a large bowl, spoon out the top layer of very thick cream, leaving the coconut water at the bottom (you can keep this for another use). Add the regular cream and the sugar and, using electric beaters, beat until thick and soft peaks form.

Spoon the cream onto the meringue and top with the fresh passionfruit pulp. Decorate with the chocolate covered grapes.

Enjoy!!!!

Banana, Coconut and Date Loaf, Banana, Carob and Walnut Muffins and Banana Jam (All Vegan. Yeah, we had a lot of bananas to use…)

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If you could see where I am sitting whilst writing this, you would surely laugh.

In two weeks time I’ll be swimming in the ocean and drinking ice cold Bintangs in Bali, but in the meantime, I’m sitting here, in my camping chair, in the searing heat, on the side of the free way, with a For Sale sign on the car. This better work….

Once this car is sold, my whole life will be back in my backpack, and man am I looking forward to that feeling! It’s been great having this big car, all equipped to live anywhere on this great brown land, but I’m ready for the backpacker life again! Beaches, jungles, hostels, beers, new friends, old friends, culture, food, art, adventure…the list is long!

Anyway, back to reality for a moment. We found ourselves with a huge bag of bananas last week, all going black very quickly. The chickens don’t seem to be laying as many eggs as they were a few months ago so I decided to try and make some vegan banana treats. They turned out so beautifully, I don’t think I will ever make a banana loaf with eggs again!

Not so sure about the banana jam though, it tastes a little (lot) like something you might feed your baby. But hey, why would you feed your baby something gross!

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Recipe

Vegan Banana Bread

Ingredients
3-4 over-ripe bananas, plus 1 to decorate
75g coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g raw sugar
125g white or wholemeal self-raising flour
100g wholemeal plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
50g shredded coconut
70g dates (or other dried fruit or nuts), chopped

Method
Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees, celcius. Grease and line a loaf tin (banana leaves work great!)
In a large bowl, mash the bananas (reserving one to decorate). Add the coconut oil, vanilla and sugar, and mix well to combine.
Sift the flours, baking powder and cinnamon into the bowl with the banana. Add the coconut and dates and mix until all combined.
Pour into prepared loaf tin. Peel and cut the remaining banana in half, lengthways. Place, cut side up, on top of the batter and slightly press into the batter.
Bake for 40-50mins. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the tin.
Serve warm with banana jam, or topping of choice.
Enjoy!

Variation
Vegan Banana, Carob and Walnut muffins.
Replace 50g of the wholemeal plain flour with 60g of carob powder. Omit the coconut and the dates and add 80g of chopped walnuts, reserving some to sprinkle on top. Bake in a muffin tin for about 20mins.

Banana Jam

Ingredients
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
4 cups bananas, diced
2 1/2 cups caster sugar
2/3 cup water

Method
Combine the diced banana in a bowl with the lime juice.
In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and the water over medium high heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved and bring to the simmer. Cover and let it simmer for 2mins.
Uncover and add the bananas with the lime. On medium heat, bring to the boil. Cook, uncovered and stirring often, for about 30mins. At this point, if you want a smooth jam, use a stick blender to blend until smooth, otherwise, just keep cooking.
Cook for another 20-30mins or until jam is nice and thick.
Pour hot jam into sterilised jars.
Allow to cool at room temperature, undisturbed for 24hours before using.

Dragonfruit and Banana Tart (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

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Thirty sleeps. Can I make it through thirty more sleeps in this heat without an ocean to swim in…. with the promise of Indonesia, looming so close, I think I’ll survive.

I’m lucky enough to be spending our last month in a house with another foodie, just as crazy (or maybe even a little more crazy), about food and cooking as me. Check out her blog Taste of the Top End, she’s a clever cookie. So I’d say I’ll be able to keep myself pretty busy, as well as cooking and creating with the local produce, we’ll be helping out with renovating and gardening this little patch of rainforest in the city. It’s actually the first house we housesat in Darwin, back in January/Febuary, since then, we have become great friends with the owners and their puppies. I’m really happy we get to spend our last month in Darwin here (just install that air-con in our room when your ready guys ;-)…. )

This tart is deliciously unusual, and dramatically beautiful! For me, making it vegan wasn’t  so much about it having to be vegan but rather, wanting to use all natural ingredients to accentuate the flavours of these beautiful tropical fruits. I didn’t want them to be hidden away with overpowering flavours of butter, cream, chocolate etc. Not to say that those flavours are bad! I also had a friend in mind when creating this dish. A beautiful, colourful, spiritual woman who has two of her daughters giving birth to their first babies this year. She asked me if I’d be around to cater their baby showers, and unfortunately I won’t. But if I was, I’d be cooking something vibrant like this tart, to celebrate two new babies being born into a wonderful, vibrant family.

If you live in an area that doesn’t grow dragon fruit, I would recommend replacing it with kiwifruit, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or passionfruit. And you can decorate it any way you like. Because it is so warm up here, I set mine in the freezer, and brought it out of the freezer about 15mins before decorating and serving. But if your in a cooler climate, the fridge will be fine.

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IMG_2590 IMG_2629_2Recipe

Ingredients

Base

1 cup roasted almonds

1 cup dates

1/3 cup desiccated coconut

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbs maca powder

1 tbs coconut oil

1 tbs maple syrup

Filling

1 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight, stained, rinsed and dried

3/4 cup coconut oil, melted

1/3 cup coconut cream

3/4 cup coconut sugar (or raw/brown/caster)

200g chopped banana (2-3 bananas)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

200g chopped red dragonfruit flesh (about 1 1/2 dragonfruit)

Zest of 1 lime

2 white flesh dragon fruit, hard, outer skin peeled, cut into thin slices, to decorate

Toasted coconut chips, to decorate

Method

Grease and line a springform cake tin.

Combine all ingredients for the base in a food processor and process until well combined. Press into the base of the prepared tin and place in the fridge.

For the filling, in a clean food processor, place the cashews, coconut oil, coconut cream, and sugar. Process until very smooth. (if your processor doesn’t manage to get the mixture to a super smooth consistency, I recommend finishing it off with a stick blender)

Divide the filling evenly into two bowls.

Process the dragon fruit and strain through a sieve to remove the seeds. Add this, along with the lime zest, to one of the bowls, stir to combine and spread on top of the base. Return to the fridge/freezer, to set.

Add the banana and vanilla to the other bowl and process until smooth. Spread this on top of the set dragon fruit mixture and return to the fridge/freezer to set. Minimum 6 hours.

When ready to serve, remove from the fridge/freezer, to allow it to soften a little. Decorate as you like.

Enjoy!

 

Banana, Coconut and Chocolate Surprise Muffins (Gluten and Dairy Free)

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These muffins are to die for, especially when warm from the oven. As with most muffins, they are best eaten on the day they are made, but, due to the coconut and the moist chocolatey centre, these guys are more like little cakes, and will stay moist and delicious for up to five days. Ha! As if they will last that long!

This recipe was created for a new Australian company that contacted me regarding recipe development for one of the products that they send out to their subscribers every two months, along with their magazine ‘Provenace’; including recipes and information on the Australian producers. The company is called Spiced Fig, and I highly recommend subscribing to their tote, when I received mine I was overwhelmed with the beautiful products inside. In fact, I’ve got a Moroccan Chicken Curry simmering away on the stove right now, the sauce being one of the products in the tote. It smells pretty fantastic!

So, the product I ‘had’ (damn!) to develop recipes for was Nuibella, a certified organic, coconut and chocolate spread. It is seriously delicious, and, all natural, fair-trade, gluten free and vegan friendly. This muffin recipe wasn’t chosen for the magazine, my other, even more special recipe was chosen, but you will have to subscribe to find out what it was!

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Recipe

Ingredients

125g coconut oil, melted

165g raw sugar

3 large, very ripe bananas, roughly chopped

2 eggs

1 tsp coconut essence

300g gluten free, self-raising flour, sifted

50g desiccated coconut

12 heaped teaspoons of cold Nuibella

Chipped coconut to sprinkle

Method

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius, grease and line a 12 hole muffin tin.

Process oil, sugar, banana, eggs and coconut essence in a food processor until smooth. Combine the flour and desiccated coconut in a large bowl, then fold in banana mixture. Do not over mix.

Evenly distribute half of the batter into the muffin tray and gently place a heaped tsp of cold Nuibella into the centre of each, making sure that you have enough batter in each hole so that the Nuibella is not touching the bottom of the tin. Then, carefully and evenly spoon the rest of the batter around and on top of the Nuibella (spooning the batter around the Nuibella before on top of it will ensure the Nuibella stays in the middle of the muffins whilst baking). Sprinkle with the chipped coconut.

Bake for about 15-20mins or until muffins are golden and spring back when touched.

Cool in pan for 10 mins and then cool on a wire rack. Or eat one while it’s lovely and warm!