Raw Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cups

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (Summer 2017)

The heavenly combination of peanut butter and chocolate is always decadent, and the unprocessed versions of both ingredients are wonderfully nutritious, say Melissa Sharp and Lindsay Stark in Modern Baker: A New Way To Bake (Ebury Press, £26).  This is their take on the peanut butter cup – and they make fab individual desserts, too.

Makes 12 standard cups or 24 mini cups

For the Peanut Butter Base:-

200g peanut butter
180g pitted dates
100g oats
100g ground almonds
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tblsp coconut oil

For the chocolate topping:-

100g coconut oil
30g raw cacao powder
2 tbsp date syrup

Step One: Grease 2 x 12 hole mini-muffin trays or a 12-hole standard muffin try with a neutral flavoured oil, such as sunflower oil (not coconut oil as this will go solid and won’t prevent the mixture from sticking).

Step Two:  In a food processor, blend together all the peanut butter base ingredients until they come together in a smooth mass, with no lumps of date.

Step Three:  Divide the mixture evenly among the holes in the tray and press down firmly.  Place the tray in the freezer while you make the topping.

Step Four:  For the chocolate topping, place all the ingredients in a small pan and warm over a gentle heat until the coconut oil is melted.  The date syrup can sink to the bottom, so make sure that you stir the mixture well.

Step Five:  Pour the chocolate over the peanut butter mix and return the tray to the freezer for at least 1 hour.  These lovely cups keep really well in the freezer for up to a month, or in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.  Defrost for 1-2 hours in the fridge before eating.

Nutrition note:  Dates are rich in minerals, vitamins and fibre.  The humble peanut is often eclipsed these days by more ‘fashionable’ nuts, but it can punch its nutritional weight alongside all of them.

Almost-A-‘Snickers’ Bar

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (April 2018)

There’s no eating these nutty bars politely!  Taken from Kate Bradley’s ‘Bliss Bites’ (Hardie Grant, £8.99), they will be inhaled quicker than you can save that ‘mindful eating’ quote on Pinterest.  They’re just so good.

Makes:  12   Prep time:  15 minutes    Setting time:  About 1 hour

Base Ingredients:-

155g activated or raw cashews
45g desiccated coconut
2 tbsl maple syrup

Caramel Ingredients:-

13 medjool dates (about 260g), pitted
60ml maple syrup
90g peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt flakes
65g activated almonds or peanuts, roughly chopped

Chocolate Coating Ingredients:-

150g raw or dark chocolate (at least 70 per cent cocoa solids), melted and cooled

Step One:  For the base, place all the ingredients in your food processor or blender and pulse together until combined.

Step Two:  Line the base of a 20 x 15cm baking tin with baking paper.  Transfer the mixture to the tin and press it firmly and evenly over the base.

Step Three:  Place it in the freezer for about 30 minutes, or until firm.  To make the caramel, combine all the ingredients in the cleaned food processor and process until smooth.

Step Four:  Remove the base from the freezer and spread the caramel layer evenly over the base.  Scatter with the almonds, then return to the freezer until set.

Step Five:  Line a tray with baking paper.  Once frozen remove the ‘Snickers’ mixture from the tin and slice into 12 even-sized bars.

Step Six:  To coat, dip each one in the melted chocolate, allowing any excess to drain off, then place the bars on the tray.

Step Seven:  Refrigerate or freeze until they are set.  Keep these in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer and eat when you need a sweet treat.   They’ll keep for two weeks in the fridge, and two months in the freezer.

Chestnut and chorizo soup

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (February 2016) and taken from the book River Cottage Gluten Free written by Nutritionist, cook and River Cottage teacher Naomi Devlin.

Roast chestnuts have the starchy quality of baked potato, with a smoky sweetness that is fantastic with chorizo.  You can also use pre-prepared chestnuts here, for something that is almost as good.  If you need more protein, a poached or fried egg is a great addition.

Chestnut Chorizo soupServes:  4


400g fresh chestnuts (in shells)
125g chorizo or spicy salami, skinned
1 tsp butter or duck fat
Pinch of fennel seeds (optional)
4 carrots, roughly diced
1 large onion, roughly diced
1 celery stick, roughly diced
150g Swiss chard or rainbow chard
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
1 tbsp tomato puree
large pinch of saffron threads
Greek yogurt and Turkish dried chilli flakes, to finish

Step One:  Preheat the oven to 220oC / Fan 200oC / Gas 7.  Make a cut in the top of each chestnut, place on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes until tender.  Leave until cool enough to handle, then peel, halve or quarter and set aside.  (It’s a lot quicker to use pre-prepared chestnuts, but you won’t get the same smoky flavour).

Step Two:  Cut the chorizo or salami into small chunks.  Heat a saucepan over a low heat and add the chorizo chunks with the butter or duck fat and fennel seeds, if using.  Cook gently for a few minutes until the chorizo oil starts to run.  Add the diced vegetables and cook gently for at least 20 minutes until they have taken on a deeper colour and smell sweet.

Step Three:  While the vegetables soften, slice the white stalk from the chard leaves and cut it into chunks; set aside.  Shred the leaves finely and set these aside too.  Add the garlic to the pan with the thyme leaves and tomato puree and cook for a couple of minutes until the tomato smell rises from the pan.  Add the chopped chestnuts, chard stalks, saffron threads and enough boiling water to cover everything by 2-3 cm.  Bring to a simmer, put the lid on and lower the heat.  Simmer gently for about 15 minutes until everything is soft.  Taste for seasoning.

:  Either leave the soup chunky or mash it a bit, leaving some texture – you’re not aiming for a smooth result.  If it’s too thick, add a little water; if too thin, uncover, turn the heat up a bit and let it bubble to reduce slightly.  Finally, add the chard leaves to the soup and bring back to the boil; this will be enough to cook them through.  Serve each portion topped with a spoonful of Greek yogurt, if you like.  If the chorizo is mild, you may want to put some chilli flakes on the table.

Honey and Fig Semifreddo Cake

Honey and Fig SemifreddoRecipe Courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (Jan 2016) and taken from a book called Special Delivery by Annabel Crabb and Wendy Sharpe.

Serves:  8

Ingredients:  200g hazelnuts, or half hazelnuts and half almonds; 7 dried figs, hard stems snipped off, chopped; 3 good-quality dates, pitted and chopped; 2 tbsp coconut oil; 2 tbsp sesame seeds; honey and fresh figs, to decorate.

For the Semifreddo:  1 whole egg; 6 egg yolks; 150g (blue gum (eucalyptus) honey, or whatever substitute you can muster; 300ml whipping cream; 150g Greek-style yogurt

Step One:  Preheat the oven to 180oC and toast the nuts for 5-10 minutes, or until most of them look golden-brown.  Rub the skins off the hazelnuts by wrapping them in a tea towel and agitating furiously.

Step Two:  Place the cooled nuts in a food processor and pulse until finely crushed, but not completely ground – there should still be plenty of chunks left.  Tip the nuts into a bowl, then add the figs and dates, coconut oil and 1 teaspoon of water and pulse until the mixture is like sticky glue.  Return the nuts to the food processor, along with the sesame seeds, and pulse until it looks like gravel.

Step Three:  Take a loose-bottomed 23cm round tin and cut out a circle of baking paper to fit the base, then place the lined base on a large sheet of plastic wrap.  Lift up the plastic wrap and base then drop it back into your tin, so the base is lined with baking paper and the sides are lined with plastic wrap.  Press in the gluey nut mixture and freeze for at least half an hour.

Step Four:  For the Semifreddo, put the egg, egg yolks and honey in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  As the heat makes its way through, whisk until you have a frothy-textured sabayon – it should take about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.  Whip the cream to stiff peaks.

Step Five:  When the sabayon is cool, gently fold in the yogurt, then the whipped cream.  Pour over the base and freeze for at least 4 hours.  About half an hour before serving, transfer the cake to the fridge to soften a little.  Drizzle with honey and serve with wedges of fresh fig.

Apple Bourbon Pecan Cake

Apple bourbon pecan cakeThis recipe is courtesy of Easy Living Magazine.

Serves: 8-12   –   Prep time: 20 mins   –   Cook time: 70 mins

Ingredients: 225g (7oz) unsalted butter, softened; 220g (7oz) plus 1 tblsp caster sugar; 220g (7oz) plus 1 tblsp dark brown soft sugar; 3 eggs; 280g (9oz) plain flour; 1 tsp baking powder; ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda; 1 tsp ground allspice; 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon; 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg; ¼ tsp ground cloves; ¼ tsp ground ginger; ¼ tsp ground cardamom; ½ tsp salt; 3 tblsp bourbon; 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks; 120g (4oz) shelled whole pecans, toasted and roughly chopped

  1. Heat the oven to 160oC (gas mark 2-3).  Grease a 20cm (8 in) round cake tin and line the base with greaseproof paper.  Using an electric mixer with paddle or beater attachment (or an electric whisk), beat the butter and both sugars until the mixture is almost light in colour and fluffy in texture.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until thoroughly combined before adding the next. Scrape down the side of the bowl and mix again for 1 minute.
  2. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, all the spices and salt and sift twice. Add one third of the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix until well incorporated.  Repeat with another third of the flour mixture, then the rest of the flour mixture and mix until just combined.  Pour the bourbon over the apples in a bowl and mix.  Fold the apples and pecans into the cake mixture.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin.
  3. Bake in the hot oven for 55-70 minutes.  A wooden skewer inserted in the middle should come out with almost no crumbs attached, and the middle of the cake, when pressed, should spring back slightly instead of sinking.  Bake for an additional 5-10 minutes if necessary.
  4. Remove from the oven and let cool in the tin for 10 minutes.  Slide a table knife all around the edge to loosen the cake, then remove from the tin. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 1 hour.

Cake tin:

Recipe taken from this book:

Skate with Hazelnuts

Cook Time: 20 mins

Ingredients: 125g (4oz) butter; 2 tsp hazelnut oil; 750g (1 1/2lb) skate wings, cut into 4 pieces; 30g (1oz) flour; 2 tbsp chopped parsley; 60g (2oz) hazelnuts, roughly chopped; 2 tbsp white wine vinegar.

  • Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan. Dust the skate pieces with flour on both sides and fry in batches for 2-3 minutes on each side, according to the thickness of the skate. Remove from the pan and keep warm on individual plates.
  • Add the parsley and the nuts to the frying pan, turn up the heat and cook until the nuts brown. Add the vinegar, stirring it in well, then pour the nutty sauce over the fish. Serve immediately.

* Accompaniment: Continue the nutty theme by serving this fish with a green salad tossed in a hazelnut oil dressing.

Strawberry Custard Meringue

Hazelnut meringues are sandwiched with a custard filling for a memorable dessert

Prep:  40 mins;  Cook:  35-50 mins baking, plus cooling

Serves:  8

Ingredients:  3 eggs, separated; 175g (6oz) caster sugar; 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar; 75g (3oz) ground hazelnuts

Filling and topping:  1 1/2 tsp custard powder; 1 tbsp sugar; 300ml (1/2 pt) milk; 350g (12oz) strawberries, hulled and halved; 284ml (1/2 pint) pot of double cream, whipped

  • Preheat the oven to 190oC/375oF/Gas 5.  Line 2 baking sheets with non-stick baking paper.  Draw a 20cm (8in) circle on each.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff but no dry. Gradually whisk in the sugar.  Whisk until very stiff and shiny.  Whisk in the vinegar.  Fold in the ground hazelnuts.
  • Divide the meringue equally between the circles on the baking sheets and spread evenly.  Bake for 35-40 mins, or until crisp on the outside.  Swap the baking sheets halfway through to ensure even cooking.
  • Ease the meringue off the paper and leave on a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Mix the custard powder, sugar and 2 tablespoons milk.  Heat the remaining milk until boiling, pour onto the custard and stir well.  Return to the pan.  cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring until thick.
  • Beat a little custard into the egg yolks.  Return to the pan and heat gently, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes to cook the yolks.  Remove from the heat, cover with wet greaseproof paper and leave until cold.
  • Invert one of the meringues onto a large serving plate.  Spoon over the custard.  Top with half the strawberries, two-thirds of the cream and the remaining meringue.  Decorate with the rest of the strawberries and cream.

Hazelnut Torte

Serves:  10;  Prep:  25 mins;  Cook:  30-35 mins;  Cals per portion:  297

This very moist nutty torte is similar to a mousse – it will rise during cooking and then sink but don’t worry!

Ingredients:  5oz/150g caster sugar; 5oz/150g butter, softened; 5 eggs, separated; 5oz/150g ricotta cheese; grated rind and juice of 1 lemon; 6oz/175g hazelnuts, finely chopped and toasted; 1 1/2oz/40g plain flour; 5tbsp/75ml apricot jam; icing sugar for dusting; 9in/23cm cake tin.

  • Preheat oven to Mark 5 / 375oF / 190oC.  Grease and line base and sides of tin.  Cream together 4oz/125g sugar and the butter until soft.  Stir in the egg yolks.  In a separate bowl, beat together the cheese, lemon rind and juice and 5oz/150g of the hazelnuts.  Stir into creamed mixture with the flour.  Whisk egg whites until stiff.  Gradually beat in remaining sugar.  Using a large metal spoon, fold a quarter of the egg whites into the creamed mixture, then carefully fold in the remainder.  Turn into tin and level the surface.  Bake for 30-35 minutes until risen.  Cool slightly then turn onto a plate.
  • Heat the jam and 1 tbsp/15ml water, then brush the sides of the cakes and cover them with the remaining 1oz/25g of hazelnuts.  Lay equal-sized strips of greaseproof paper on top of the cake, sieve icing sugar over the top and remove paper.

Apricot and Almond Tea Loaf

Makes:  16 slices;  Prep:  15 mins;  Cook:  1 ¼ hours;  Cals per slice:  254

Ingredients:  225g (8oz) ready-to-eat dried apricots, chopped; 75g (3oz) almonds, chopped; 250g (9oz) plain flour; pinch of salt; ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda; 90g (3 ½ oz) butter; 200g (7oz) caster sugar; 2 large eggs, lightly beaten; finely grated rind of 1 orange; ½ tsp orange flower water; 100ml (4 fl oz) milk.  Syrup:  juice of 1 orange; 4 tbsp granulated sugar

  • Mix apricots, almonds and 45ml (3 tbsp) flour.  Sieve remaining flour with salt and bicarbonate of soda.
  • Beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, orange rind and orange flower water.
  • Gently fold in alternating spoonfuls of flour, milk and apricot mixture until evenly mixed.  Spoon into a greased and lined 1 kg (2lb) loaf tin.  Bake for 1 ¼ hours.
  • For syrup, gently heat juice and sugar until sugar dissolves.  Boil for 2 minutes.  Pierce cake in several places with a fine skewer and spoon over hot syrup.  Leave to cool in tin.

Coffee and Walnut Cake

Makes: 12 slices; Cals per slice:  365

  • Sift 225g (8oz) self raising flour and 5ml (1 tsp) baking powder into a large bowl.  Add 225g (8oz) each caster sugar and soft margarine or butter, and 30ml (2 tbsp) coffee essence or strong black coffee.
  • Beat with an electric whisk until mixture is pale and creamy.  Divide between 2 20cm (8 in) round, greased and base lined cake tins.  Level surfaces with a palette knife.
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 190oC, 375oF, Gas 5 for 25-30 mins until risen, golden and firm to the touch.  Leave in the tins for 5 mins, then turn out on to a cooling rack and leave to cool completely.
  • To make the icing, place 175g (6oz) unsalted butter in a bowl and beat until soft.  Gradually beat in 350g (12oz) icing sugar and 30ml (2 tbsp) coffee essence or strong black coffee until smooth.
  • Sandwich the two cakes together with a quarter of the icing and spread the remainder over the top and sides of the cake.  Decorate with walnut halves.

Tip:  To freeze cake in slices, place greaseproof paper between each slice, then wrap whole cake in foil or place in a freezerproof container.  Each slice will take about 40 mins to defrost.