Tag Archives: walnuts

Recipe: Walnut and Chocolate biscuits and a fundraiser

Every year, I organise a team of colleagues to do the Global Challenge, a pedometer-based challenge where you have to get a certain number of steps per day.  My team of seven has changed every year, but there are three people who have been in it every time, and more who have taken a year or two off and come back.  This year, we have my three regulars, someone who is back from last year, someone who is back from four years ago, and two newbies.

During the Global Challenge, there are certain weekends where we have ‘mini-challenges’, that encourage us to beat our personal best, or reach some arbitrary number of steps as a group, etc.  Traditionally, I try to organise long walks for these challenges – we’ve walked from Black Rock to Saint Kilda, up along Merri Creek to Fawkner for doughnuts, from Parkville to Williamstown to go on a ghost tour, from Brunswick to the CBD to go on a chocolate walk, and all the way from the mouth of the Moonee Ponds river up to Pascoe Vale, where we got caught in a thunderstorm. 

I was looking for some activities for us this year, and after getting a hard no on my belly-dancing plans, and establishing that several of our walkers couldn’t do really long walks this year for health reasons, I started looking around for more sensible options.  Which is when I spotted the ad for the Cancer Council Relay for Life… which just happened to fall on one of our challenge weekends.

This is a 24-hour relay to raise money for the Cancer Council, but it’s also about remembering people lost to cancer, and it has a fair bit of symbolism attached, in that nobody walks for 24 hours straight, but teams try to have someone on the track at all times.  If one person can’t continue, someone else will carry on for them.

I suggested this, only half-seriously to my lot. (Fine.  You don’t want belly-dancing.  How about a 24-hour relay, then?)  They were in.  And I mean, IN.  I was… appalled.  But also the team captain, so I got us signed up, and went recruiting for more team members.  My feeling was that we wanted two people rostered on at all times, in case someone needed a break, and ideally, I wanted the shifts to be offset so that someone was always fresh.  Fortunately, I was able to recruit 13 people, with two more joining us on the day, which meant that we each did two 2-hour shifts, and most people stayed on a bit before or after their shifts to help out.

Teams are encouraged to have costumes, themes, etc.  I was still recovering from the conference I’d just finished organising, so I was pretty much planning to just make sure people showed up and leave it at that, but I organised a bake sale to fundraise, and during the bake sale, our team plan evolved.  We would wear lab coats!  We would Engage With The Community!  We would have a science fair booth, with experiments that people could participate in!  We have a purple and yellow dragon onesie which is the same colours as the Cancer Council’s logo!

And we did.

I have to say, the day was a lot more fun than I had expected (I had not expected it to be any fun at all – I have dodgy knees which were playing up that week, so I knew it was going to be painful, and that’s about all I knew).  Cancer Council was delighted to have medical researchers participating.  The other participants – especially the children! – were delighted by our activities.  There was a silent disco overnight, which was hilarious to watch – between the people singing along and the people dancing to music only they could hear as they went around the track, it was quite something.  The lab coats turned out to be both warm and highly visible.  We realised early that we wouldn’t be winning the 4x100m sprint activity, so we turned it into a onesie costume relay with the costume having to be worn by each successive participant – and lost convincingly, dramatically, hilariously, and to sustained commentary from the organisers, who found the whole thing hysterical. 

Me, pretending to be a scientist. You should see me pipetting!

There were also some serious moments – the carers and survivors lap at the start, and the candlelight ceremony in the evening, which remembered people who were fighting cancer and people who had passed away from cancer recently.  It was very moving.

And I was very proud that, while other teams slowly shrank in size over the course of the event (I felt bad for one team where almost everyone went home at 9pm, leaving three people to carry the subsequent 13 and a half hours alone), my team mates all turned up on time, full of energy and enthusiasm, and walked, ran or danced their shifts, no matter what hour of the day or night. 

You probably didn’t come here for an extended report on Relay for Life, and I promise that the recipe is coming up next.  But while you are here… if you are currently feeling inclined to support a really good cancer charity in Australia, I’d love it if you’d sponsor meOr my team, who really were fantastic.

My awesome team, who totally deserve your sponsorship

And now for the recipe!  Which is linked, tenuously, to this post by the fact that I invented it for our fundraising morning tea.

This was a bit of a pantry special – I needed something for the people who couldn’t eat lactose or fructose or gluten (of which I have quite a few at work), and I needed something that was quick and wouldn’t require me to go to the shops.  I had half a packed of crushed walnuts and half a packet of cashews.  I had cocoa, and cinnamon.  And I had leftover vegan chocolate ganache from making Sachertorte cupcakes.

So that was easy.  This is basically my almond biscuit recipe in yet another iteration, but I found that without almonds, it made a pretty sticky, sloppy dough, so I added some rice flour to help hold it together.  I did find that I needed slightly damp hands to shape it, even so.  But the results were really delicious, so it was worth the minor hassle.

Very few pictures, I’m afraid – I was too busy trying to make the biscuits in time after a very long day at work – but if you scroll down to the bottom I *will* tell you how to make a rainbow carnation. 

Your shopping list

100 g walnuts (crushed is fine, you will be pulverising them anyway)
100g cashews (ditto)
50 g cocoa
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
75 g caster sugar
1 egg
1-2 tbsp rice flour, if needed
1/4 cup soy milk
125 g Lindt 70% chocolate
30 ml maple syrup Continue reading

Recipe: Super Nutty Snickerdoodle-doos (Gluten-Free)

What sort of word is Snickerdoodle, anyway?  A silly one, that’s what.  And these are silly biscuits.

No, actually, they aren’t all that silly.  In fact, as biscuits go, they are quite responsible.  They are not too sweet, a little bit chewy, and have a nice, nutty, cinnamon sort of taste that begs to be paired with a nice glass of milk.  I don’t actually like walnuts very much, but these biscuits somehow sneak around that, despite being really rather walnutty, and convince me that I want to eat more.  This is perhaps less responsible biscuit behaviour, but then, it is probably unfair to blame the biscuit for the fact that I want to eat it, don’t you think?

The mix of nuts is based purely on how much was left in a bunch of open packets of nuts that I found on my kitchen bench.  I think walnuts, pecans and cashews make a nice mix, and have the sort of dark nutty taste that pairs well with spices (I think of pistachios or almonds as having a lighter nutty taste.  Cashews are somewhere in the middle and could go with either) but the proportions could easily be varied, as could the nuts themselves.

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Your Shopping List (or leftovers list, as the case may be)

100 g walnuts
60 g pecans
40 g roasted cashews
1 tbsp cornflour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
100g caster sugar
1 egg
cinnamon sugar to sprinkle

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Recipe: Raw Zucchini Spaghetti with Sicilian Nut-Meat Balls

Oh, God, it’s hot.  It’s hot, it’s hot, it’s hot.  I hate this weather.  I had this enticing introduction all planned to tell you about how I came up with this recipe and why I think it is just too unutterably clever for words and why you should make it right now but my brain has melted in the heat, and basically all I want to do right now is sit in front of the air-conditioner and eat ice-cream.  I just went to the supermarket to get groceries for tomorrow, and I nearly curled up in a corner and built a little house there, because it was so blessedly, wonderfully *cool* and even if it isn’t full of books, at least it’s cold enough that I can breathe.

Anyway.  This is a slightly fiddly, but entirely worth it, raw pasta dish.  It doesn’t involve turning on the stove, and it’s actually even nicer if all the components are kept in the fridge until you are just about to combine them.  The tomato sauce is fresh and light and sweet and the nut-meat balls are rich and full of flavour with sudden bites of caper or currants to keep them interesting.  Also, it looks really cool.

And that’s all I’ve got.  Sorry, I really am melting right now.

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Your shopping list

6 tomatoes
a handful of basil, or a squeeze of basil from a tube
1 fresh date
salt, pepper
125 g sun dried tomatoes
80 g pistachios
40 g almonds
80 g walnuts
80 g cashews
15 g dried mushrooms or 100 g fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup water (optional)
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
15 g capers
30 g currants
30 g pine nuts
3-4 small zucchini or two ginormous ones

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Recipe: Upside-Down Plum and Walnut Cake, with Cardamom

It’s January in Australia, and you would be within your rights to expect that the weather would be swelteringly, painfully hot and sticky.  But you’d be wrong, because this is Melbourne we’re talking about, so it’s cool and drizzly, and pretty much the perfect weather for staying inside with a book.  Or several books.   Like the ones I accidentally bought when I went looking for calendars today.

But that really wasn’t my fault.  I mean, nobody could seriously expect me to pass up a book about Richard III and finding his grave.  Or Gail Carriger’s newest YA offering, Curtsey and Conspiracies.  And really, if you had just discovered that Joan Aiken wrote Jane Austen fanfic, wouldn’t you be heading straight for the nearest bookshop to find out exactly what it was like?  (Very good, as it turns out – she has the voice down just about perfectly, and while I found that it did have a certain amount of Victorian sensibility and wish fulfilment, Aiken definitely wasn’t taking liberties with the characters.)  And I may possibly have bought a cookbook, too.  I have no self-control when it comes to bookshops.

(You will note that actual calendars are conspicuously missing from this list.  There’s a reason for that.)

But I digress.  And also spend a lot of money in bookshops.

Do you know what’s really great about this weather, though?  It’s summer, so all the most beautiful stone fruits are in season, but it’s cold, so you can bake with them.  And baked, stewed, roasted and caramelised stone fruits are one of the great joys of life.  I am a very happy Catherine right now.

I am also a Catherine who has been baking upside-down plum cake, and this is a kind of weird cake for me, because I love plums, and in fact I grew up with a plum tree in the back yard, so stewed plums are a bit of an emblem of summer for me, but I really hate walnuts, and especially walnut cakes.  So when I started making up this cake, it was going to be an almondy sort of cake, but some part of my cooking-self was *positive* and *certain* and really *very sure* that plum cake required walnuts, not almonds, and in the end I had to obey.  I couldn’t quite bring myself to make it all with walnut meal, so I went half and half.

In retrospect, I think it might actually have been better with all walnuts, which is sort of unnatural, really, but true nonetheless.  The walnuts have an earthiness that goes well with the plums.  But I have no idea how my cooking-self figured that out, frankly.  And I’m still deeply suspicious of the whole idea.

It’s a good cake, though.  Nice and afternoon tea-ish, and it should keep for several days, assuming it lasts long enough to do so.  And it is really perfect for a Melbourne summer.

Look at me with my arty photo composition!

Look at me with my arty photo composition!

Your Shopping List

9 plums
10 g butter
3 tbsp vanilla sugar
75 g walnuts
75 g almonds (or more walnuts)
175 g caster sugar
200 g self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1/2 tsp cardamom
pinch of salt
2 eggs
150 ml olive oil
250 g Greek Yoghurt

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Recipe: Raw Baklava Truffle Balls, and a trek along Melbourne’s South-Eastern coastline

truffles2It hurts to write this.  No, literally, it *really* hurts to write this, mostly because in a feat of macho stupidity, I walked more than 23 kilometers yesterday, and now even sitting at my computer hurts.  My whole body is complaining about *everything* just now…

I’ve mentioned before that my workplace is doing the Global Corporate Walking Challenge, in which teams of seven wear pedometers for four months, obsessively record every step or other bit of activity, and log this into a website which informs us just how far we’ve walked (we spent all of last week in virtual Yellowstone National Park.  The park itself is probably gorgeous and fascinating, but trust me, the virtual version is not an exciting place to spend a week). 

This week, we have been challenged to walk 100,000 steps each over seven days, so we decided to give ourselves a head start yesterday by walking from Cheltenham station to the coast, and then along the coast all the way back to St Kilda.  There’s a Coastal Art Trail that runs from Beaumaris Bay around to Eltham, with plaques and illustrated information boards showing the points at which local artists painted famous landscapes along the coast.  We figured that Eltham was all very well, but St Kilda has cake *and* trams to take us home again, and it’s only a few more kilometers…

Of course, any long walk deserves suitable energy snacks (which take priority in my packing over a spare pair of shoes – possibly not my best ever decision).  I decided to make not one but three kinds – a sort of rice bubble, sour cherry and almond butter slice of my own invention (OK, but nothing stunning), Amber Shea Crawley‘s lemon and coconut curd, formed into little balls of lemony evil (delicious, but they would *not* set), as well as her raw chocolate truffles, given a jaffa-ish tang with the addition of freeze-dried mandarins and tangerine oil.

But none of these were really enough, in my rather bizarre worldview in which five people seriously need four kinds of energy snacks for one day-long trek, so I had to make something else.  Something that wasn’t chocolatey or citrussy.  Then my eye fell on Amber Shea Crawley’s raw baklava slice recipe, and I was inspired!  Amber’s baklava slice is a very classic set of baklava flavours, and I love the idea of brushing it with agave nectar to simulate the honey syrup, but I wanted something that would roll into a ball and wouldn’t be unduly sticky. Also, I’m a Sydney Road girl, and I have Opinions about baklava.  My favourite kind is, I suspect, from the Turkish or Iranian end of the world, rather than the Greek, being full of cardamom and cinnamon, studded with cloves and drenched in a syrup infused with lemon juice, rosewater and honey.

Could this work in a raw truffle, without making it all too wet to stick together?  As it happens, it really can, and I’m extremely pleased with the way these little baklava balls turned out – they really do taste like the baklava I make, minus the filo pastry.  Healthy baklava!  And I’m finding I don’t even miss the pastry that much.

(Oh God, I shouldn’t have written that down, because now I am possessed by a craving for the baklava they make down at Zaatar… which I DO NOT need, since my house is still full of truffle balls of various flavours…)

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Recipe: Raw-ish Vegan Sachertorte Pistachio Truffle Tart

chocolate tartI know, I know, that’s a terrible title, but what else could I call it?  It has a raw nut-and-fruit crust, heavy on the pistachios and the apricots, it has a vegan chocolate mousse filling, with more apricot jam to give it a bit of a lift, and the whole thing is rich, rich rich.

But (mostly) good for you!

I mean, think about it – the nuts and dried fruit are full of protein and vitamins and iron.  The bitter, dark chocolate is full of anti-oxidants and happiness.  The tofu has more protein and is undoubtedly healthy in other ways that I’ve forgotten.  It’s practically a tonic!  You should eat it for breakfast!

OK, maybe that’s taking it too far, but I am ridiculously proud of this tart.  You see, it was my turn to bring cake to our monthly admin meeting this week, and, as you might possibly have intuited, it has been fiendishly hot around here.  I really couldn’t face baking anything, but I couldn’t do something sensible like cheesecake, because my admin group also includes a couple of people who can’t eat lactose or gluten.  At this point, a sane person would have given up and gone and bought something for the meeting, but, as we have previously established, I’m not a sane person, at least when it comes to food.

So I crossed a chocolate mousse recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World with a whole lot of different raw truffle and raw cheesecake recipes from people like Hannah at Wayfaring Chocolate and Kiri at Bite Sized Thoughts, and came up with this – a decadent dessert that takes less than an hour to make.  It may be more like half an hour if one is organised and not wandering around the kitchen foraging for likely ingredients.

Incidentally, it tastes amazing…

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Your shopping list:

1/2 cup cashews
1 cup pistachios (plus a handful more to garnish)
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup pumpkin seed meal, or ground pistachios, or almond meal
1 cup fresh dates, pits removed
1/2 cup dried apricots (plus a handful more to garnish)
20 ml maple syrup, plus 60 ml for the filling
750 g tofu (a firm one with a fairly silky texture would be good here)
125 ml orange juice
60 ml apricot jam
5 ml orange flower water
650 g dark, dark chocolate, oh yeah.

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Recipe: Strawberry, Lemon and Walnut Balls

Just a quick post today – I have a whole bunch of things in the works to write about, but I somehow wound up spending a lot of the afternoon making the aforementioned elaborate pasta bake for friends who are coming to dinner this evening and have no idea of the overcatering in store for them (and these are friends who have been at my Shakespeare Feasts, I might add).  Since they will be arriving pretty shortly, and I still need to make the orange and fennel salad and the olive toasts and the balsamic strawberries, and also to clear the table, today is clearly the day for more raw truffles.

I made these raw truffles for Rhiannon and Reed’s recent wedding.  They were actually a last-minute, made-up-on-the-spot recipe, after a different one failed dismally, so I don’t really know for sure what I put into them.  It was all a bit of a haze.  They were rather imperfect – walnuts do seem to release a lot of oil in my food processor – but very popular, and I was asked for the recipe.  This is my best-guess reconstruction, still imperfect, but nonetheless tasty.

Your Shopping List

100 g walnuts
zest of one lemon, and a teaspoon or two of juice
100 g dried strawberries, preferably reasonably fresh ones, because if they are too dessicated they will never stick together
a tablespoon of agave nectar or honey (may not be needed, depending on the stickiness of strawberries)

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