Gooseberry Wisecake

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I almost feel sorry for gooseberries. It seems like they’ve been forgotten about whilst the western world obsesses over other berries like strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Granted gooseberries aren’t quite as sweet and juicy as those just mentioned, but they have a charming sour-sweetness and their own distinctive flavour. They’re also one of the easiest things to grow – the little fruity balls for this cheesecake came from four bushes we have in our garden which produce hundreds of gooseberries year after year with almost no human effort required, save for the odd pruning. They’re little local wonders.

Picked gooseberries

Gooseberries are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A and potassium, and they offer variety which is vital in any diet. Their season is from July to August, and I steadily stripped our bushes over the past few weeks whilst thinking of an interesting way to make use of them. The only pudding anyone’s probably ever heard of that features gooseberries is gooseberry fool – a mouse-syllabub type thing which has that wartime vibe and is overloaded with cream and refined sugar. So I thought I’d swing the dial the other way and create a modern ‘cheesecake’ that’s vegan, gluten free and refined sugar free. Or, as another way of looking at it, create something smart for our bodies which also tastes divine. And this really does; the biscuity base crumbling into the thick gooseberry mouse-cream (amazingly like cream cheese but with no cows involved) in a really satisfying way.

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It would be mad not to make use of the array of late summer berries available to us all, and if you can’t get your hands on any gooseberries you can try any other berry such as blackcurrants, redcurrants or blackberries. Go berry wild!

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Makes 1 cheesecake (6-8 servings)

For the base:

  • ½ cup/70 g oats
  • ½ cup/90g brown rice flour
  • ⅔ cup/70 g ground almonds
  • 8 dates
  • 2 teaspoons raw honey/agave nectar/maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla powder or extract

For the gooseberry cream:

  • 2 cups gooseberries
  • ½ cup/90g cashews
  • ½ cup/90g almonds (soaked for at least 3 hours)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1-3 teaspoons of raw honey (depending on how sweet you like it)

For the topping:

  • A large handful of fresh gooseberries

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Preheat the oven to 170°C. Starting with the base, place the oats into a food processor and blend until they’ve broken down into a rough flour. Then add all the remaining base ingredients and blend until a biscuity dough forms. Grease a flan dish with coconut oil and then press in the dough mixture, smoothing it down with the back of a spoon, making sure it rises up the sides and dips down in the middle in a curve. Place this in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes until it starts to turn a golden brown and has firmed up.

While the base is cooking making the gooseberry cream. Clean out your food processor and add the cashews and almonds along with the water and blend for about 5 minutes until the nuts have broken down and are starting to turn into a creamy consistency. At this point add in the gooseberries, coconut oil and honey and blend for another couple of minutes to make the most amazingly naturally pink, thick gooseberry cream.

Remove the base from the oven and allow to cool for at least 5-10 minutes before scooping the gooseberry cream on top and smoothing it down into the curve until the whole tart’s filled. Finally, place the fresh gooseberries (or any other berries!) over the top as a garnish and serve immediately. If not all gobbled straight away this will keep in the fridge for at least 3 or 4 days.

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Apricot Tart

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Pudding is one of the best things. I’ve always been a sucker for that old English pub staple – sticky toffee pudding. It’s the gooey, syrupy sauce which gets me. But there’s no denying that it’s probably the unhealthiest pudding out there, maybe bar cheesecake. Not surprising when its core ingredients are butter, double cream and sugar. But pudding can so easily be amazingly delicious and healthy without animal proteins and refined sugar, and arguably it can taste better, if not have more distinctive flavours.

This apricot tart hits that spot. The biscuity, nutty base has a wonderful crumbly texture which blends perfectly in the mouth with the cashew cream middle, and the juicy apricots add a raw freshness to top it off. This tart is brimming with cashews, which are packed with protein, as well as being a rich source of essential minerals and vitamins such as copper, potassium and various vitamin Bs. They contain loads of magnesium which is good for bone health and also ‘heart-friendly’ monounsaturated-fatty acids like oleic and palmitoleic acids. The tart is sweetened only with apricots, dates, pure date syrup and raw honey, all unrefined and with health benefits that refined sugar completely lacks.

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Apricots are one of the yummiest fruits, and I look forward to them all through autumn, winter and spring until I can gorge on them over the summer. Apricot jam is probably my favourite, although blueberry jam is a strong competitor. When fresh and raw apricots are rich in vitamin C, along with health-promoting phyto-chemicals and vitamin A, which aids good vision, healthy mucus membranes and skin. Spain is a great grower of apricots, but I’m lucky enough that apricots are grown on the Isle of Wight, just a little bit south of where I live, and my local greengrocer stocks them. They are so fresh and the epitome of local, seasonal food, which makes me very happy.

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For the base:

  • ½ cup of cashews
  • ½ cup of ground almonds
  • 1 cup of brown rice flour
  • 3 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons of date syrup
  • 10 dates

For the filling:

  • 1 cup of cashews, soaked in water overnight for at least 6 hours
  • 3 tablespoons of water
  • 2 tablespoons of raw honey
  • 5 apricots
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil

For the topping:

  • About 5 apricots

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Start by pre-heating the oven to 180°C. Then, to make the base, place the cashews in a food processor and blend for about a minute until a kind of nut flour forms. Add the ground almonds, brown rice flour, coconut oil, date syrup and dates and blend for a further 2-3 minutes until a sticky biscuity dough forms. Grease a 10 inch flan dish with coconut oil to prevent sticking before putting the dough in and pressing down so that the centre dips down and there is mixture up the sides, reaching the top edge of the dish. Bake this for about 15 minutes until the top goes a golden brown and has firmed.

While it cooks make the filling, which really is so easy. Drain your cashews (it is vital that they’ve been soaked) before adding them to the food processor along with the water and blend for a good 3 minutes until the nuts have really broken down and begun to form a cream. After this, de-stone and roughly chop the apricots and add them to the blender with the honey and coconut oil. Blend again for a couple of minutes until all the ingredients and flavours have come together to make a thick, soft cream.

Once the base is cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool. When it has completely cooled spread the cashew apricot cream over the middle and place the tart in the fridge for about 30 minutes to allow it to set. To finish, slice four of the apricots in half, chopping the remaining one into small pieces for decoration, and push gently into the cream. Then you’re ready to slice and serve!