Roasted Cobnut Banana Bread

IMG_0049 smaller adjusted 2

Banana bread has been one of my go-to things for years when I’m feeling like a bit of squidgy, gooey comfort food. I usually used a recipe which was literally just bananas, flour, eggs and a bit of spice if you wanted it – so great because it’s totally sugar free, with the only sweetness coming from the bananas themselves. But I thought it was time I experimented and made banana bread with a bit of panache and a unique flavour, and so came up with this roasted cobnut banana cake. And it really tastes divine, if I’m allowed to say so myself! What’s even better is that it’s vegan, gluten free and uses a seasonal, local, very English ingredient – cobnuts.

Cobnuts are very similar to hazelnuts and you can find cobnut trees over much of the countryside in Britain. Lots of cobnuts are grown and cultivated in Kent, so you might have heard the term Kentish cobnuts, which some greengrocers and supermarkets offer at this time of year. But you can pick cobnuts straight off the tree (if you beat the squirrels to them) and the best thing about picking them yourself is that they’re free. Wild food is something which seems to have been completely forgotten about in the modern western world – it’s as if people are afraid that if it doesn’t come from a supermarket it can’t be safe or edible. But that’s just not true at all. There’s an abundance of wild food out there for us to gorge on and enjoy, from berries and nuts to mushrooms, herbs and flowers.

IMG_0022 smaller adjusted

You can eat raw cobnuts but roasting them really brings out a delicious, toasted flavour. And by combining them with hazelnut oil, it turns this banana bread into something else. Both hazelnuts and cobnuts are packed with protein, and they’re very high in energy so they’re great for providing an energy boost either in the morning at breakfast or as a snack in the mid afternoon lull which many people suffer from. They’re also a rich source of vitamin E and a load of minerals such as manganese, potassium, iron and zinc. The last thing I’ll say about this banana bread is that it’s super easy to make, so there’s no reason not to like it.

IMG_0060 smaller adjusted

Makes one loaf:

  • 6 medium to large bananas (overly ripe is best)
  • 1 cup (150g) of brown rice flour
  • ½ cup (50g) of ground almonds
  • 3 tablespoons of hazelnut oil (if you don’t have any sunflower oil works too)
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • ½ cup of almond milk
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons of yacon syrup/date syrup (optional – I don’t feel the bread needs it but most people seem to have a sweeter tooth than me!)
  • A large handful of cracked and shelled cobnuts (if you can’t lay your hands on any use hazelnuts)

IMG_0139 adjusted 2

Start by preheating your oven to 150°C. Then, crack and shell the cobnuts until you have enough to make a large handful. Simply lay these on a baking tray and roast for about 45 minutes, turning half way through to make sure they roast evenly.

While they’re roasting, mash the bananas and set aside. Then place the flour, ground almonds, hazelnut oil, coconut oil, almond milk, baking powder, cinnamon and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Mix this all together before adding half the squashed banana. Stir this in then add the other half and stir again to make a batter.

When the cobnuts are roasted, remove them from the oven and turn it up to 170°C. Place all the nuts in a pestle and mortar except about 3 for use later. Bash them up into small chunks and then add to the bread batter and stir in until everything’s combined.

Grease a loaf tin with coconut oil and then line the bottom with greaseproof paper before greasing that as well. Then pour in the mixture. At this point crush the 3 remaining cobnuts in the pestle and mortar and then scatter the pieces over the top of the mix.

Bake the bread in the oven for an hour or until a knife comes out clean. You may want to lay a piece of foil over the top about 45 minutes in to stop the top from burning. Finally, remove it from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes before slicing and enjoying!

IMG_0031 smaller adjusted

Advertisements

Blackberry, Sunflower Seed & Chlorella Smoothie

IMG_5833 smaller adjusted

Blackberries are still in season in Britain, so I couldn’t resist creating another recipe with them. It’s amazing that they’ve been growing in hedges all round the countryside for almost a month and a half now, and whenever I go running with my loony little dog (happily named Bramble – sometimes I sneak her one of her namesakes) I always pause momentarily to pluck a few off.

Bramble 2  Bramble 1

There’s nothing better than freshly picked fruit and vegetables – honestly. They’re full of flavour and nutritional goodness, their vitamin and mineral content as potent and nourishing as can possibly be. Compare this to vegetables and fruit you buy in the supermarket, which are almost always at least five days old, probably flown in from a country on the other side of the world, and so their beneficial nutrients will have deteriorated and been lost – if you’re lucky you’ll be getting about 40% of available nutrients and 40% of what your body actually needs. So the more local, seasonal and fresh fruit and vegetables you can eat the better.

IMG_9535 smaller  IMG_9550 smaller

Smoothies are such a great way to wake up in the morning. They’re full of energy-giving goodness, and are so satisfying and delicious. Even better – they’re so easy to make, you just throw it all into a blender and you’re done, which is ideal for all of us who are on-the-go and need a quick brekky before we dash out of the door to start the day. A creamy smoothie is hard to beat, with the combination of banana, blackberries and cashew milk creating a thick, sweet consistency. However, by adding oat flakes, sunflower seeds and chlorella, this smoothie is given that extra health boost, making it a protein-filled superfood treat.

Chlorella really is one of the world’s most amazing foods – it’s a microscopic freshwater plant and is one of the most nutritionally dense foods in nature, containing key vitamins, macro-minerals, trace minerals, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, proteins, nuleic acids and much more. It is 58% protein which is so great for vegetarians and vegans – I have to make sure I get enough protein in my diet and stirring chlorella into water or whizzing it into a smoothie is one of the best ways. Chlorella is also packed with readily bio-available chlorophyll and is an alkaline food which counters the over-acidity of all the processed food stocked on supermarket shelves. It does have a slightly funny, grassy flavour which many people don’t like but mixed into this smoothie you can barely taste it – promise!

IMG_5828 smaller adjusted 2

Serves 1:

  • 1 small banana
  • ½ cup of blackberries (either frozen or fresh – I’ve got loads frozen from my last picking spree)
  • ½ cup of cashew milk (look out for a post on the easiest way to make your own nut milks soon!)
  • 2 tablespoons of oats (porridge or jumbo)
  • 1½ tablespoons of sunflower seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of chlorella

IMG_5835 adjusted smaller

Simply peel the banana then place all of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Then pour into a glass, pop in a straw if you like, and enjoy!

Chestnut Pancakes

IMG_9301 adjusted smaller

The best thing about Christmas markets is chestnuts roasted on a smoky barbecue, holding the warm paper bag of them in your hand as you carefully peel their charred skins off to reveal the soft nut inside, which you then pop into your mouth. Now, obviously it’s a little early for Christmas talk, but the wait until December for chestnuts is a bit of a long one. Furthermore, it’s an unnecessary wait because chestnuts are in season now. Sweet chestnuts (not horse chestnuts – they’re poisonous) start falling from trees from September onwards, and they’re hard to miss, with their bright lime green, viciously prickly shells (a bit like a porcupine). I went out walking a few days ago and came across a chestnut tree with its nuts sprinkled around the trunk, spiking my palms as I gathered a few up.

Given all this, I just had to make something chestnutty. And these pancakes are chestnut heaven. Vegan, gluten free and refined sugar free, you really just don’t miss the milk, eggs or wheat. They’re both mushy and fluffy, and the combination of chestnut flour, chestnut purée, almond butter and banana is a creamy, autumnal treat. Chestnuts are low in fat (they’re largely made up of starch) whilst also being a good source of mono-unsaturated fatty acids such as linoleic acid and a rich source of fibre, with even more fibre per 100g than walnuts and pistachios. As well as this, chestnuts are rich in the B vitamin folic acid, which is required to synthesize DNA and repair DNA, and helps produce healthy red blood cells and prevent anemia.

These pancakes are pretty good for you, tasty and so easy to make – you can whip them up in ten minutes for a delicious breakfast or an afternoon snack. They’re rich and nutty, without being overly sweet, which to me is ideal.

IMG_9336 adjusted smaller 2

Makes about 16 small pancakes/serves 2-3:

  • 130g/½ cup of chestnut flour
  • 3 tablespoons of chestnut purée
  • 1½ tablespoons of almond butter
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup of almond milk
  • ½ cup of water
  • 1½ teaspoons of baking powder (I like to use this)
  • Coconut oil for frying

IMG_9318 adjusted smaller 2

Simply mash the banana until there are no lumps left then place in a mixing bowl along with all the other ingredients and mix with a whisk until a batter forms. It should be fairly runny, but not too much.

Next place a large frying pan on a medium heat and add a teaspoon of coconut oil. Once the oil has melted and the pan is hot pour about two tablespoons of the batter into the pan to make one pancake. It should run out and form a circle. Wait about twenty to thirty seconds, until it starts bubbling a little and you can see it cooking around the edges. Then carefully slip a turning spatula underneath the pancake and flip it over, letting it cook for another twenty seconds.

Add a little more coconut oil to the pan and repeat this until all the batter is used up (I usually do two pancakes at a time). Then make a pancake stack, topping it with your favourite things – I recommend banana, raspberries, chestnut pieces, almond butter and raw honey – and serve!