Sweet summer peas are an absolute joy. Ideally eaten straight from pod to mouth on a warm morning with nothing to rush for, nothing to do but burst the little spheres and savour the texture and flavour. Does anyone have the luxury of empty time? Will I ever have it again?
You could stare into the distance blissfully eating peas, listening to songbirds and relishing the moment, or you could rush indoors and bake a cake. A pea cake with vanilla and a lemon frosting. Decorated with a halo of pea shoots like the cider queen at a village fete. We all know the sweetness of peas, and in this cake the pea flavour fades beneath the vanilla, marrying nicely with the zing of the lemon buttercream. In its wake the peas leave their moist green vegetable goodness, nutrients and vitamins. Wrapped in a blanket of cake.
Two weeks without broadband. This is the horror that has befallen me. There is nothing I can do but muster my energy, stiffen my upper lip, raise my chin and cope. With wartime spirit I make do, eyes squinting at mobile screen. It’s barbaric.
This week I was thrilled to be on Sorted Food as well as interviewed in Cook Vegetarian Magazine.
Yeah, you read that right: cauliflower. No cream, no milk, not even an avocado. This creamy frozen treat is… pureed cauliflower. Cauliflower makes a nice, fairly neutral base (as we all know from cauli rice, cauli pizza etc…), and it’s flavour pairs well with cinnamon and chocolate. So here I’ve turned it into a sweet chocolate popsicle with a hint of coffee and cinnamon, plus a hard chocolate shell sprinkled with pistachio dust. Use milk, dark or vegan chocolate if you wish.
You’re intrigued, perhaps skeptical. But I urge you to give it a whirl: the flavours mask the taste of cauliflower and it’s a portion of veg in a frozen dessert. Yup.
I made these in my Froothie Optimum high speed blender, but you could also use a hand blender and make it in stages.
The house echos. Memories are in boxes. The carcass of my empty house no longer feels like home. We are moving across the country and new adventures await. But for now I’m exhausted and I broke my toe on a box. Popping bubble wrap has lost all of it’s pleasure. Adieu old town, old life.
Cauliflower and Chocolate Ice Lollies with Pistachio Dust
For the popsicles:
250g (2 cups) cauliflower
75g (½ cup) chocolate, chopped or chips
1 teaspoon strongly brewed coffee, cooled
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of cinnamon
35g (¼ cup) chocolate, melted
50g (¼ cup) pistachios
Boil or steam the cauliflower until just soft, then rinse and drain under cold water to stop it cooking. Blitz the cauliflower with all of the popsicle ingredients in a high speed blender until smooth. Pour into moulds and freeze until solid.
Alternatively, puree the cauliflower with a hand blender until smooth, melt the chocolate and add, along with the other ingredients, and puree until smooth. Pour into moulds and freeze until solid.
To decorate, melt the chocolate and set aside to cool very slightly. Whiz the pistachios in a high speed blender, or in a food mill or coffee grinder, until fine. Dip the frozen popsicles into the melted chocolate and sprinkle with the pistachio dust.
Chia jam. Oh my. So easy, so quick, so healthy. I’m never going to buy a jar of fruit flavoured sugar again. Seriously. This is so much easier to make and is actually good for you. And the taste? Amazing. If I do say so myself.
Beetroot and raspberry go fabulously together and the beets give an earthiness to the sweet/sharp taste of the raspberries. This jam is thickened with nothing but chia seeds and for sweetness I added a little agave and a dash of vanilla extract. That’s it. No kilos of sugar. No pectin. No checking temperatures and setting points.
I pureed the raw beetroot and raspberries in my new toy. My amazing new toy. I’ve lusted after a high-powered blender for ages. I’ve watched infomercials and I’ve trawled blender websites. Then, at long last, I opened the box and before I even cleaned the packaging from the kitchen floor I had made a green smoothie, a milkshake for my husband and a bottle of almond milk. Almond milk that was destined for overnight oats with cardamom and coconut. Delicious.
Then I made chia jam. Wonderful, fresh, raw, vegan, vegetable-laden chia jam. Beetroot and raspberry jam for toast, cookies, porridge, pancakes, nut butter and jam sandwiches. You could even mix it with some vinegar for a salad dressing or spread it on slices of apple…
How about fresh radishes dipped in butter and salt and eaten in the garden on a warm day? The dark pink, the white crispy interior, pinching off the little root tail between thumb and forefinger. A peppery, salty, buttery snack that evokes freshness and lazy pleasure. Sometimes there is true beauty in simplicity: the children laughing together, a perfectly crafted final sentence in a beloved book, a phone call with words of love. Radishes.
But what else to do with radishes? Dessert. Ice cream. Super-healthy vegan banana ice cream with a warm pinch of cinnamon, topped with sliced radishes drizzled with maple syrup and roasted so that they get sweeter, milder and absolutely magical.
This dessert couldn’t be easier to make. Which is good because life is rather hectic at the moment. There are goodbyes to be said. Too many. Promises of staying in touch. Too few hellos. There are boxes to pack and memories to wrap. Cupboards to clean and papers to sign. There is much worrying to be done. Excitement to be had.
So I leave you with a simple dessert. A healthy, sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan dessert. A portion of fruit, a portion of veg, a portion of magic.
The sun shines and we cook over flame. It is tradition. There is a certain ceremony. Thick black lines impart their char upon the food as the smoke curls into the air and wafts its scent upon the neighbour’s washing. We barbecue meat like paleo cavemen. Or maybe halloumi, peppers, skewers. We make bowls of salad, place multiple bottles of coloured sauces on the table, smile. Dessert is an afterthought or a grilled nectarine. But how about cake? Grilled cake. A friend told me about barbecued cake long ago, and I only just now got around to making it. Why, oh why, did I wait so long? The white hot metal grid sears across the sweet cake and gives it a crispy sweet smokey taste and texture as it caramelizes the sugars. The celeriac (celery root) adds mildly earthy notes against the tart apple in the cake.
A warmed, barbecued, cake topped with cold apple ice cream and drizzled in a sweet-salty butterscotch booze sauce. That, my friends, is how to finish a barbecue meal.
There is a pox upon my house. My two-year-old daughter smiles up at me with her spotty face. She scratches, she moans, she is bored out of her tiny mind. We are quarantined. Banished from preschool and playgroups. Libraries and the park. Not for lack of trying, her brother has not yet caught her plague, yet he must join in the confinement. Our little colony must make our own entertainment within the prison of the house and garden. Staring out of the window, the children watch wistfully at the freedoms of others that have cruelly been taken from them. I rack my brain for ideas on how to amuse the little ones. We’ve had a rather over-the-top birthday party for their favourite teddies. We’ve turned the garden into a water park. Today is the Great Baby Bake Off.
The unmistakable scent of the thick pink lotion wafts through the house on the summer breeze, making them feel fine, blowing through the jasmine of their minds. Manicures are performed daily. Baths contain socks full of porridge oats. Nights are restless.
And so, as the sun beats down upon the garden of our little bubble-world, we barbecue. We barbecue cake.