Wednesday 31 August 2011

Coconut brittle, leftovers and a week of eats

I had a good reaction to my sharing of a week of eating, a few weeks back so I am going to do it again.  It is useful to reflect and gives me a chance to talk about some of the highs and lows and leftovers.  Ironically both my best and worst dish came from a favourite blog, Diet Dessert and Dogs.  But first, let me give a rundown of meals from last week:

Saturday - Leek, roots and walnut soup
Sunday - Leftovers
Monday - Bangers and mash
Tuesday - Tofu nuggets and Tahini lemon rice with spinach and chickpeas
Wed - Leftovers
Thurs - Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup
Friday - Pizza with both Leftover Soup and Tofu nuggets!

You will see that we did quite well with leftovers last week.  Leftovers help me retain some sanity in a busy week.  While the sun shone, we suffered a week of Sylvia having a nasty cold.  She wasn't eating well so I made tofu nuggets for her on Wednesday.  She usually loves them, but barely touched them last week.

For myself I made a sweet potato and red lentil soup.  It was a recreation of an old favourite recipe that I have lost.  As well as being dinner one night, it provided many lunches - I even still have a few tubs of it in the freezer - and then was part of our pizza on Friday.  I mixed some soup with tomato paste to spread on the base.  The topping was chopped tofu nuggets, mushrooms, green capsicum, cheese and smoked paprika.  I used bases from The Colour of Earth.  The pizza was substantial but might have benefited from the sweetness of pineapple to counter the intense flavours.

We haven't had a lot of desserts lately but after the pizza we had a crumble with custard.  It wasn't quite what I had planned.  This had started life on the Saturday as Apple Pumpkin Crumble Slice from Diet Dessert and Dogs.  It was intended as a gluten free vegan dish to take to a potluck at Cindy and Michael's place.  It all went a bit pete tong.  I substituted brown rice flakes for oats.  Maybe this was the reason that the crumble mixture seemed just far too wet.  It was a shame, given that the apple pumpkin filling was lovely.

I was poorly on Sunday afternoon and spent it in bed rather than sharing my slice at the potluck.  I was a little relieved not to have to take my slice along.  It wasn't great.  Too damp and dense.  Instead we put some in the freezer and some in the fridge.  So far I have only had one serve warmed in the oven and drowned in custard.  It was good but I loved the filling so much that I think this slice deserves a second chance, maybe with oats as Ricki intended!  Which is the reason that I have recorded what I did below.

I have had a few failures from Ricki's recipes.  It struck me that I have had a few disasters from some of my favourite bloggers.  It seems a terrible thing to confess.  Yet I have also had heavenly dishes from these bloggers too.  That is the nature of being inspired by cooks who push my boundaries with new ingredients, diets and methods.  (Especially when I am gung-ho about changing the ingredients according to what I have, which doesn't always work.)  The upside is that when it works it is brilliant.  As demonstrated by my subsequent success with Ricki's Coconut Brittle.

These above pictures are of the before and after version of cacao nibs and chia seeds.  Exotic ingredients that now grace my pantry, thanks to blogging inspiration.  They went into the coconut brittle.  As soon as I saw the recipe I wanted to try it because the ingredients interested me so much.  Then I decided to try it one night and discovered it needed 2 hours in a very slow oven.  It had to wait until I had time during the day.

I made it last week when my friend Kathleen came for lunch.  Sylvia and I got the mixture together before Kathleen arrived and it cooked while we ate and chatted.  I made us salad sandwiches with grilled and sliced leftover tofu nuggets.  (Sandwich filling: tofu nuggets, mashed sweet potato, baby spinach, grated carrot, sliced tomato and vegan mayo on my olive oil bread, made with chia seeds, wholemeal and rye).  They were great.  For afters, we had chopped apple and a nibble of the coconut brittle when it came out of the oven.

I loved the coconut brittle.  It was barely sweet, tasted slightly of fruit from the apple sauce but mostly tasted of coconut and sesame, two textures and flavours that I love.  I was surprised that it tasted a bit sweeter before baking than after.  Ricki says that it is great for travel.  I loved taking it to work for lunches. 

The last thing to say about last week is that I finally got my Skype account on my computer up and running with my first video call to my sister Fran.  I have used it at work where we regularly meet with remote colleagues by Skype.  Using it at home seems quite an achievement for me - a Luddite at heart - in coming to terms with all the new technologies of our world.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: MLLA Weekday stew, Weekend feast
This time two years ago: Accidental Plastic Tart
This time four years ago: Ruby Crumble of rhubarb and raspberries!

Coconut Brittle
adapted from Diet Dessert and Dogs

2 tablespoons raw cacao nibs
2 tablespoons whole chia seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons almond butter
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons agave nectar (mine was a dark agave)
1 tbsp coconut sugar
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Grind cacao nibs and chia seeds in a coffee grinder or blender (I used an attachment for my hand held blender). Place ground cacoa nibs and chia seeds in food processor with remaining ingredients and blend. I found that I needed to stir mine at the end because the food processor was struggling a bit. Spread paste into a lined lamington tin (13 x 9 inch). Cook at 120 C (I put mine on fan forced so it was slightly warmer) for about 1 hour or until dry and starting to brown. Cut into four and use an egg flip or spatula to flip over. Cook another 30-60 minutes, keeping an eye on it for when it gets golden brown. Cook and break into chunks.  Keep in an airtight container for at least a week (but don't store with cupcakes or it will soften).

Sweet potato and red lentil soup
Serves 6-8
my own recipe

2 large sweet potatoes
1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot chopped
2 litre water
3 tsp stock powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
400ml red lentils

Bake sweet potatoes whole in their skin for about an hour or until they feel mostly cooked (if not quite cooked, they will cook in the soup).  I think I did this while cooking the coconut brittle in a low oven but the temperature doesn't matter too much - just keep an eye on them every now and again so they don't burn.

Fry onion, celery and carrot in olive oil in a large stockpot for about 15 minutes until vegetables have softened. While vegetables cook, peel and chop sweet potatoes (mine had cooled which is optional but makes peeling them far easier).  Add remaining ingredients and check seasoning.  Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes or until lentils are cooked.  Blend.  Check seasoning (the soup gets sweeter when blended due to the sweet potatoes).  Serve hot.  Can be frozen.

Apple Pumpkin Crumble Slice - Work in Progress
Adapted from Diet Dessert and Dogs

1/3 cup melted coconut oil
3 Tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp coconut sugar
1 Tbsp finely ground linseeds (flax seeds)
3 tbsp LSA (ground linseeds, sunflower seeds and almonds)
1/3 cup soy milk
zest of one lemon
3/4 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup raw almonds (with skin)
1 cup brown rice flakes
1/3 cup coconut flour
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 pinch of fine sea salt

350-400ml pumpkin puree
3 medium sweet apples, peeled, cored and grated
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp rice malt syrup
1 tbsp chia seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F). Greased and line a 22cm (9 inch) square cake tin.

Mix together the melted coconut oil, maple syrup, coconut sugar, linseeds, soymilk and lemon zest in a large bowl. Set aside.

Pulverise walnuts, almonds, oats and coconut flour in food processor until mixture resembles course breadcrumbs. Add cinnamon, ginger and salt and blend until just mixed.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture in the bowl and toss with a fork until it comes together in a "very moist yet crumbly dough". (This is where I had problems - mine was very moist, even very wet, but didn't crumble at all - maybe I should have followed Ricki's instruction and used a fork instead of a spoon but it also looked a lot darker than hers.) Set aside while you prepare the filling.

To make the filling, mix together the pumpkin, apple, lemon juice, rice syrup and chia seeds (if using).

Press about half the crumble in the prepared tin. Spread filling across the crumble and then sprinkle the rest of the crumble on the filling. Gently press down the crumble topping.

Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until browned. Serve warm with custard or cool in tin and cut into 8 or 9 large squares. May be frozen.

On the stereo:
Breakfast of Champions (Soundtrack) - Martin Denny


  1. Johanna, thank you for the links back to the tahini lemon rice and for having a go at this coconut brittle! Both are recipes I mentally tagged to try. Just gotta find time! :S

  2. coconut brittle sounds fantastic! I wish I could try it, but mo point in investing in the exotic ingredients as we leave again for travels in a couple of weeks. One for our return. On the playing around with dessert recipes; I am often tempted too and have had a few surprises. I think savory is easy to be creative with, but baking one just needs to follow...

  3. You always have such great dinner ideas. Tomato and lentil soup is one of my favourites but your sweet potato and lentil one sounds even better! Its getting cooler here now so will try this out.

  4. Great minds think alike! I have lentil soup on the menu for tonight's dinner!

  5. beautiful dishes. So healthy as well johanna!

  6. I am all for leftovers too! They help me regain my sanity and I don't even have a little one! :D

  7. Aww, man! I've been thinking about pizza all week. You're making me hungry!

  8. So sorry about the crumble!! I'm not sure why it came out that wet, but I suspect the rice flakes might have been the issue. . . also, your pumpkin is not the same as our pumpkin--possibly has a higher water content? I would go with sweet potato next time to see if it makes a difference. Glad you liked the brittle, though. ;) I often have successes/failures with the same person's recipes. It really is a mystery why some things work for some people and yet not for others!!

  9. Friday night sounded particularly good :)

    I hope both you and Sylvia are feeling better - I'm amazed you made as much as you did with her and then you being unwell. The soup sounds perfect though, and the brittle and slice both sound great, even if the latter wasn't quite there.

  10. I'm with Katie, that soup sounds mighty fine. Love the coconut brittle too. Hope Sylvia is feeling better now.

  11. Thanks Hannah - wee reminders of past recipes always help - now you just need the time - if only it was that easy

    Thanks Adam - I think you are right that savoury is easier to adapt than baking - but I am foolishly fearless sometimes - highly recommend the coconut brittle for travel snacks if you had time before you head off - enjoy the trip!

    Thanks Katie - it is a great combination - with a wonderful velvet texture - hope you try the soup

    Thanks Lisa - indeed - it is still lentil soup weather at night despite some sunshine during the day

    Thanks Anh - am trying to eat a bit more healthy food - though not always succeeding

    Thanks Lorraine - leftovers keep us sane in lots of situations

    Thanks Appetite Affliction - now you are making me remember the pizza

    Thanks Ricki - I think it was a little foolish to try a challenging recipe and then substitute an ingredient that I had never used before - the filling was fine - loved the pumpkin - but I need to get the crumble right - sometimes I wish I had a blogger with me looking over my shoulder

    Thanks Kari - luckily only sylvia was unwell but I have had a shadow of her cold this week - and she has got better but is still not quite 100% - the idea was there with the slice even if it didn't quite work for me

    Thanks Chele - highly recommend the soup - was so easy to make as well as yummy - coconut brittle was more of a challenge but worth it - and sylvia is almost better now

  12. It sounds like a delicious week of eats! I think it's only right that you say when things don't work, it's sometimes the way, and at least you have a clue why with the ingredient substitutions! I'd rather know if something I made didn't work for someone else - but there are so many variables in ingredients time and temperatures even if you follow a recipe to the letter, plus personal taste - too sweet/savoury/sharp etc!

  13. I'm totally with you on the leftovers helping retain sanity!! :) I cherish having leftovers. I saw that coconut brittle on Ricki's blog and really need to try it as I'm a coconut fiend. I love how you put some of the soup on a pizza! Some of the yummiest pizzas I've had were based off of whatever was in the fridge versus a recipe.


Thanks for dropping by. I love hearing from you. Please share your thoughts and questions. Annoyingly the spammers are bombarding me so I have turned on the pesky captcha code (refresh to find an easy one if you don't like the first one)