I’m sure there’s a Chinese proverb about disaster being the mother of invention, or danger being the signpost to opportunity, or something like that. I’m not sure that it’s often successfully applied to baking, but there’s a first time for everything.
Earlier this week I stumbled upon Nicola Galloway’s recipe for chocolate chickpea cookies and pretty much decided I had to make them on the spot. We got through them really quickly and I figured I could whip up something quite similar, but with pumpkin instead of chickpeas, and prunes instead of dates. So this is the result – something inspired by, but completely different to, those cookies. And it’s every bit as delicious.
Pumpkin, prune and chocolate bars
These soft, slightly chewy bars are very addictive – trust me, I’ve consumed several in the course of writing this post. The mix of ingredients means they’re a perfect fit for October’s We Should Cocoa challenge, this month hosted by Hannah at Honey and Dough. The slightly random nature of how this recipe came to be also means it’s a strong contender for the October edition of Random Recipes – you can find out more about the criteria for this month here.
You do need to have some cooked pumpkin lying about for this recipe – do what I do and just throw a piece in the oven the next time it’s on and let it bake away untended. Then scrape the soft flesh into a container and freeze it to make yourself feel super organised when recipes like this come along.
1 cup prunes
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup mashed pumpkin (or – if you must – canned pumpkin puree)
100g butter, melted
1 tsp pure vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Tip the prunes into a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside while you get everything else ready.
Heat the oven to 180C and line a small brownie pan (measuring about 27 x 20 cm) with baking paper, leaving some overhang.
Put the rolled oats into a food processor and whiz until finely ground. Tip out into another bowl.
Drain the prunes, then tip them into the processor, along with the pumpkin, melted butter and egg. Whiz until smooth, then add the ground oats, cinnamon and baking soda and whiz again until well mixed. Add the chocolate and pulse until mixed.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, until set and slightly springy to touch. Let cool, then cut into bars. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Have a great week, everyone x
Yesterday, someone asked me ‘how do you fit everything in and still maintain your blog?’ I realised, with a sinking feeling, that she obviously hadn’t been reading along lately.
The Kitchenmaid has been sadly neglected this month while I have been attending to lots of other things – including a super-secret special project that I haven’t been able to talk about.
|What is this man doing with a bunch of asparagus, a big camera and a white umbrella? All will be revealed, soon…
Quite aside from the secret project, I have been spending a lot of time in the kitchen (having six different sets of houseguests in 24 days will do that to a person). And I’ve been eating a lot of asparagus, a sign that spring is truly here.
And I’ve been reading this heartbreaking food memoir by Wellington writer and food blogger Anne Else.
The Colour Of Food is an eloquent look back at Anne’s life through food – brace yourself for the last chapters, in which she writes movingly about adjusting to living – and eating – without her beloved partner, Harvey McQueen. It was first published as an e-book last year but did so well that it’s now in print form. It might seem a bit early to get your Christmas stocking list sorted, but you’d do well to add this to it.
What have you been up to this month?
It’s spring! Proper spring – with balmy temperatures, early rising birds and new buds appearing in the garden. Well, it was like that a few days ago. Now we’re back to tempestuous winds, lashing rain and that horrible greyness, but I’ve got high hopes.
It’s too soon for asparagus and the little lambs arriving in paddocks near you are too small for the cooking pot, but there are lots of other spring-y things to eat. Here are five easy spring dinners to add to your repertoire…
1. Superfood Salad: It’s got quinoa, broccoli and other spring-y, crunchy things to make you feel like frolicking in the sun. What more do you need?
2. Tray-baked Lamb and Potatoes: This is really good for those ‘I can’t think what to have for dinner’ evenings, which occur in our house at least once a week. Everything goes in the oven in one dish and there’s minimal cleaning up (even the non-cooks can make this one).
3. Spring Cauliflower Soup: Cauliflower has had a bit of a renaissance of late, thanks to the craze for turning it into a pizza crust, but I think it’s unbeatable in this simple and healthy cauliflower soup.
4. Simple Smoked Fish And Rice: This is another one-pot wonder, handy when you’ve been out in the garden tackling six months’ worth of weeding.
5. Little lamb burgers: If you’re blessed with a beautiful spring day, cook these outside on your (long-neglected) barbecue. If it’s ‘sit inside by the heater weather’, they can be baked or pan-fried indoors.
What are your plans for this spring?
T. S Eliot was wrong. April is not the cruellest month – at least not in the southern hemisphere, where it means a slew of public holidays, Easter and settled autumn sunshine. April is all about chocolate and hot cross buns and house guests and ‘is it drinks o’clock yet?’. At least, that’s how it was at our place.
First, the chocolate. As well as the gorgeous gilded bunnies I made with my pal Agnes (I was allowed to do the gilding, she did everything else), the single best Easter chocolate that passed my lips was a dark chocolate bunny filled with cinnamon-infused salted caramel from my local chocolatier, Bohemien Chocolates. I ate it in about three bites, then lay on the sofa in a state of complete satisfaction.
I made two huge batches of hot cross buns – the ones pictured above are made to the Little & Friday hot cross bun recipe, though I found the recipe in the book itself to be rather counter-intuitive and fiddled with it a bit to be sure it would work. I’ve found this to be true of several Little & Friday recipes and I think it’s more to do with editing than anything else. But it’s not very helpful to first-time bakers, is it? Anyway, these were good, but pretty heavy going to eat. I made a mega-batch of the Dan Lepard spiced stout buns the next day and they were much better. A little fiddlier to make, sure, but with better flavours and a much lighter texture.
As for the houseguests – they were of the very best kind. They performed magic tricks, provided high quality childcare, filled the fridge with exciting foodstuffs and good wine and cooked lovely dinners. The house hasn’t been quite the same since.
Instead, I’ve been cheering myself up with this – quite possibly the BEST peanut butter I’ve ever tasted. I didn’t think anything could top Pic’s Peanut Butter (the one with a poem written inside the label, if you can ever soak it off in one piece), but Fix and Fogg Peanut Butter is incredible. The super crunchy is so crunchy you need to spread it in a thick, chunky layer. Essentially, it’s peanut butter made for eating out of the jar. I am addicted. If this keeps up the only thing keeping me from the debtor’s prison will be that I’ll be too wide to fit through the doors…
What helped you get through April?
It is inky-dark outside and the hail is lashing the windows. It’s not late, but it feels like the middle of the night. Suddenly, a quarter of 2014 has disappeared already. I feel like it won’t be long before I’m panicking about the approach of Christmas. Is this happening to you too?
If you feel stressed by the pace of life, then you need to sit down with a calming cup of camomile tea. In fact, you need to sit in the sun for an hour and harvest some camomile for best results. This is a very relaxing task, even if you spend it in the company of a child who thinks it gives her carte blanche to decapitate every flower in the garden.
Then (if you’re me) you need to come inside and admire your lovely new Owen Bartlett bowl. Isn’t it lovely?
I found it at the Martinborough Fair, along with a vintage duvet and various other gems. It was a biting cold day and I had an appalling head cold, which was improved greatly by a hot cup of this cider vinegar and honey concoction (nicer than it sounds) and a steaming plate of masala dosa, eaten sitting in the gutter outside a pub (also nicer than it sounds).
When I wasn’t in the garden, snipping at camomile or treasure hunting, I spent a lot of time with my nose in a series of books. One was The Luminaries, the other was Fuchsia Dunlop’s Every Grain Of Rice, which is a no-less brilliant exploration of Chinese home cooking. It’s not particularly new, but it’s brilliant. The day I carried it home from the library I made this very elegant spinach in a soy-ginger sauce and made a mental note of about 20 other recipes (including chao fan, a sort of fried rice that was my number one favourite when I was a child). I’m dreading having to return it to the library.
I’ve also spent a lot of time eagerly awaiting Emma Galloway’s first book – My Darling Lemon Thyme: Recipes From My Real Food Kitchen – which is officially released on April 1 (no joke!). I’ve been a fan of Emma’s for ages and her book is completely gorgeous. All but a tiny handful of the recipes are brand-new (so I still have to keep that bookmark to her excellent sushi instructions) and they look amazing. A lot of so-called ‘wholesome’ cookbooks (and food, for that matter) are so preachy and disconnected from real life – this one is totally on the money. Even if you don’t have food intolerance issues, you should get this book, it’s a game-changer.
I must have achieved other things this month, but I can’t recall them for the life of me. But a little gardening, a little cooking and a lot of reading isn’t a bad way to pass the time, is it?
What have you been up to?