WELL BEING & OTHER STORIES

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STUFFED MEDJOOL DATES WITH CASHEW CHEESE AND BACON

Snacks, Sugar Free, Brunchdanielle coppermanComment

This recipe is a winner for anyone catering a festive event this time of year. These dates are real crowd pleasers (you can omit the bacon for an equally delicious vegetarian version, and even replace it with wilted chicory leaves). With so many flavours in just one small mouthful, people take a good few minutes to finish one, masticating on each element more than they realise, before commenting on its tastiness. The sweet, chewy texture of the medjool dates, combined with the creaminess of the cashew cream cheese and topped off with a smoky saltiness from the meat is a taste sensation like no other. Perfect as a lunch box snack (easy to pack and easy to transport), served on platters at a canapé event, served as snacks, starters or sides at an informal Christmas gathering or enjoyed as ‘afters’ - part of the cheese board or a cheeky evening snack.

+ I’ve also done this recipe with chestnut cream fillings instead of cashew cream which has worked really well. Simply blend 200g soft chestnuts with 1/2 tin solid coconut milk and a little coconut oil, until smooth. Add salt, tamari, garlic and nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavour, or leave as it is for a subtly sweet, creamy alternative.

INGREDIENTS

20 Dates, pitted
3/4 Cup Cashews, preferably soaked for 2-4 hours
1/4 Cup Macadamia Nuts or Brazil Nuts (optional - or just another 1/4 cup cashews)
1/4 Cup Water
Pinch of Himalayan Pink Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1-2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
1/2 Teaspoon Fresh Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon Tahini, optional
Fresh Herbs of Choice
200g Organic Bacon or Good Quality Ham (use bacon if you want to cook the dates, and use ham if you want to keep them cold and uncooked).

Optional:
1-2 Shallots or 1 Tablespoon Onions (raw or cooked, either with work)
1 Small Clove Garlic (caramelised with blend better - bake in the oven for 25 minutes until the clove becomes soft)

METHOD
Start by slicing your dates lengthways down the middle, careful to score them and not to slice the whole way through. You want them to open at a hinge, rather than cutting them into two separate halves. Place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper and prepare the cashew cheese. 

Place the cashews, water, macadamia or brazil nuts, salt, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice into a blender and blend on the highest speed. Stop to scrape down the sides, reduce the speed slightly and blend for another minute. Add the nutritional yeast, tahini and shallots if using and blend for a final time, for 1-2 minute, until the mixture is completely smooth. There’s nothing wrong with it being a little lumpy, it will resemble a feta or goats cheese sort of texture, especially once cooked, but i like the cheese to be as smooth as possible. Now, take a teaspoon of the cheese mixture and fill the dates with it. Depending on the size of your dates you may want to use more, or less. 


Now prepare the bacon or ham. You can either wrap the bacon or ham around the stuffed dates, or you can dice the meat and add that to the cheese stuffing too - this works best in larger dates which you are able to almost close. If you are wrapping the dates, slice the bacon in half lengthways, take a date and place it on one end of the meat. Then carefully roll the date along the bacon, wrapping it up neatly until it is covered. Place it back onto the baking tray and repeat with the other dates. This method creates a much smokier flavour in the dates and the cheese as they catch and absorb the smoky flavour of the meat during the cooking process. If you decide to add the meat to the stuffing, simply dice it into tiny pieces, spoon it onto the cheese mixture and mix it in slightly to combine. Return to the baking tray and repeat with the other dates.

When each date is nicely stuffed and wrapped, place them under the grill for 10-15 minutes, until the bacon is fully cooked. Turn the dates over after 5 - 10 minutes so they cook evenly. The dates and cashew cheese don’t need to be cooked through, so as soon as the bacon is done, remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly. Either serve warm on a sharing platter or as canapés, piercing a cocktail stick into the middle of each one to make them easier to eat, or serve as part of a cold buffet, with cranberry chia jam or homemade christmas chutney.

+ Store in the fridge for up to 4 days.

CHESTNUT, QUINOA AND BRUSSELS NUT ROAST

Vegetariandanielle coppermanComment

I am no vegetarian, but this nut roast… it’s quite something. Something - perhaps not something to replace the turkey and ham that’ll sit atop my table this christmas - but something never the less. I have never made or even eaten nut roast, so this was quite a blind baking session for me. I didn’t really know what it was supposed to taste like, or even look like, and it certainly isn’t the most beautiful thing you will ever make, but it is delicious. At least, this version is, even if i do say so myself. 

Nut roast doesn’t look or sound particularly appealing, and although it is a traditional vegetarian option when it comes to roast/christmas dinner, it is very underrated in my opinion. It is just as delicious and flavoursome as stuffing is, and isn’t dissimilar in taste or texture, but the beauty of this nut roast is that it is crammed full of vitamins, nutrients and plant-based protein. Most nut roasts (and stuffings for that matter) are bulked out with breadcrumbs and flour, which can be strenuous on your digestive system, especially if you suffer from a wheat or gluten intolerance. These ingredients make the nut roast extremely bland and stodgy, so I wanted to rework this vegetarian crowd pleaser into something that would actually please a vegetarian, and a non-vegetarian for that matter. My recipe uses cooked quinoa and ground almonds instead to bind the vegetables, nuts and seeds, which are not only easier to digest but also exceptionally higher in protein, fibre and valuable nutrients. As the name suggests, nut roasts involve a lot of nuts. However, although nuts are incredibly nutritious and a great source of protein (particularly for vegetarians who can sometimes find it hard to get enough protein from their food), too many can also cause complications within the gut. For that reason, I have reduced the amount of nuts in this recipe, and increased the amount of vegetables.

+ You can experiment with your own combination of vegetables, nuts, seeds and herbs in this recipe, and the great thing is that the more you add the better it tastes. I’d recommend prioritising the sweet potato, chestnuts, ground almonds and as many herbs as possible, as these are the foundations that make it all come together, but other than that, add what you like!

Serve this as a vegetarian main, a vegetarian stuffing alternative or as a side to accompany meat dishes if you are feeding meat-eaters. It also makes the perfect starter as it isn’t dissimilar to seed & nut bread, so is brilliant with chutneys, soups, cheeses or as part of a canapé spread. I baked mine in mini loaf tins, serving one per person alongside the mains.

INGREDIENTS

1 Cup Quinoa
1/2 Large Sweet Potato, baked
20g Apricots or Dates, chopped
60g Brazil Nuts, chopped
30g Pine Nuts or Pistachios (any nuts will work), chopped
1 1/2 Cup Ground Almonds
3 Cloves Garlic, chopped
1 Tablespoon Tahini 
1 Red Onion
40g Chickpeas, optional
1 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/4 Teaspoon Himalayan Pink Salt
2 Tablespoons Tamari
1 Egg
250g Chestnuts, chopped
A Few Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary
A Few Sprigs of Fresh Thyme
1 Cup Brussels Sprouts, shredded
1/2 Cup Pumpkin Seeds
1/3 Cup Sunflower Seeds
3 Tablespoons Linseeds
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon or All Spice
1 Teaspoon Sumac
1 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
1 Teaspoon Cumin
1 Tablespoon Fresh Sage, chopped

Oil of choice, for frying/greasing

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 170c. 

Start by blending the sunflower seeds, half of the pumpkin seeds, the herbs and the chickpeas in a blender or food processor until they resemble a bread crumb consistency. Transfer them into a large bowl and set aside.

In a frying pan, sautee the onion, garlic, brussels and chestnuts in ghee, olive oil or coconut oil. Add the tamari and lemon juice and sear until the vegetables are completely soft. Place in a bowl then add the ground almonds chopped nuts eggs etc all flavours. mash and knead into a ball. press into a tin and bake. 

Meanwhile, measure all of the other ingredients, apart from the egg, into the bowl with the ground seeds and herbs. When the vegetables are soft, add them to the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon, mashing the ingredients with the back of the spoon to combine them. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and then stir it into the mixture thoroughly.

When all of the ingredients are combined, press into a greased loaf tin, mini loaf tins or a muffin tray, to make individual single serving portions. Alternatively, to make canapés or to make vegetarian stuffing, form into 2 inch balls.

Bake for 45-65 minutes, depending on whether you are baking a large loaf, or smaller individual ones - which will take less time to cook.

RECOMMENDED CONDIMENTS

PARSNIP APRICOT GINGER CHUTNEY

1 Large Parsnip
1/2 Large Cooking Apple
1 Inch Chopped Ginger
1 Cup Water
Juice of Half an Orange
1 Teaspoon Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 Cup Chopped Apricots
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Teaspoons Agave or Coconut Palm Sugar
2 Tablespoons Chia Seeds
1 Tablespoon Baobab or Maca, optional

METHOD
Place all of the ingredients apart from the chia seeds into a large saucepan, and simmer on a medium heat. Once the chopping and dicing is out of the way, chutney is easy work. Leave it to simmer and soften, checking occasionally to make sure there is enough water in the pan. Keep topping it up with cold water if the fruit begins to stick to the bottom of the pan. After about 20-25 minutes, check the fruit to see if it is soft enough. Add a little more water, then remove from the heat, transfer to a blender and blend for 5 seconds. If you prefer your chutney chunkier, don’t blend it. Pour into a bowl, jar or airtight container and stir in the chia seeds. Let sit for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, and when the chia seeds have swelled slightly, seal the container and store in the fridge. 

Serve with the nut roast, or spread an even layer over the top and sprinkle with herbs or crushed chestnuts to garnish.

TRUFFLE TAHINI DRIZZLE

INGREDIENTS

1-2 Tablespoons Truffle Oil
6 Tablespoons Olive or Avocado Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Tamari
2 Tablespoons Tahini
1/2 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
1 Clove Garlic, crushed
Water, to thin (optional)

METHOD
Simply mix the ingredients together in a small bowl, or use a blender for a smoother result. Serve as a dip, or thin with a little water and serve as an optional dressing to drizzle over the nut roast.

+ This dressing is wonderful on salads too, and instantly transforms tasteless salad leaves and vegetables, making them creamy and delicious.

Serve with Celeriac Brazil Nut Slaw.