I recently had a hankering for polenta chips, and was disappointed to find I was out of polenta. I did, however, have a lot of dried legumes, so I consulted Google to see what recipes I could find to scratch my itch. I quickly stumbled upon countless recipes for fries made from all kinds of ground, dried beans. The ones that caught my eye were the recipes for chickpea fries, because they were repeatedly described as having the delicious, creamy inside texture of a polenta chip, whilst the outside was crunchy perfection.
Inspired by my recipe hunt, I made a batch, using dried chickpeas that I milled into flour. I think I have tinnitus as a result, so I created a simplified, quieter version, using besan flour.
The end result was chip perfection. Crunchy, hot, salty snack heaven!
Serves 4 as a snack
(Note: The mixture needs some time to set in the fridge before you cut it into batons. An hour is fine, or even up to 3 days.)
4 cups water
2 cups chickpea (besan) flour
2 tsp vegetable or chicken stock powder
1 tsp each salt and pepper
3 tbsp olive oil plus extra to cook
1-2 tsps za'atar
Dip of choice (optional)
PART 1 - PREPARE THE MIXTURE
Grease a baking pan and put it aside.
Bring the water to the boil in a pot or large saucepan, then reduce the heat to a simmer and gradually add the flour and whisk it into the water. Then whisk in stock, salt and pepper.
Continue whisking for approx 8 minutes, until the mixture is thick and velvety. Stir in the olive oil. (Don't worry if there are a couple of lumps, it won't affect the final result at all.)
Pour the chickpea mixture into the greased baking sheet and spread out into an even layer. Once it has cooled slightly, cover it well and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight.
PART 2: MAKE THE FRIES
Pre-heat your oven to 210°C (190°C fan forced). Line a large baking tray with baking paper or silicon baking sheet.
Slice the now firm mixture into batons, about the size of a thick potato chip.
Line them up on the baking sheet, and brush generously with olive oil.
Bake for 10 minutes*, then turn to the other side, brush again, and replace in the oven to bake for another 10 minutes. They should be golden and crunchy.
Remove from the oven, salt generously and sprinkle za'atar over them. Serve with greek yoghurt, tahini, hummus or the dip of your choice.
*For an even crunchier chickpea fry experience, try shallow frying instead of baking. They take about 5-7 minutes over a medium heat - remember to turn them halfway through.
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Add some spices or herbs to the mixture, at the same step that you add the stock and seasoning to the mixture while it's simmering. For instance, a tablespoon of fresh herbs like finely chopped rosemary, oregano or parsley. Or a teaspoon of dried herbs. A teaspoon of dried spice blends like baharat or za'atar works beautifully.
We have another no-bake goody for you; this one to add a bit of fanfare to lunchboxes and comfort to afternoon tea.
The humble chocolate crackle can be traced back to an advertisement in the Australian Women's Weekly, in 1937. The ad and accompanying recipe were created by the company behind COPHA, which is a solidified, hydrogenated coconut oil.
That's right - COPHA is coconut oil! All these years I thought it was some kind of chemical margarine-type creation.
But before you go running to the supermarket to stock up on COPHA, pay heed to an important word in its description: hydrogenated. Hydrogenated coconut oil helps keep the oil solid in warm temperatures but also increases the amount of trans fats, which is not good for us.
Our recipe uses untreated extra virgin coconut oil instead. The crackles still set and are transportable and don't have to be eaten with a spoon.
Makes 24 small or 12 regular
2 cups Crispy Rice Puffs
1/4 cup Rapadura Sugar (or sweetener of choice)
1/2 cup Desiccated Coconut
1/4 cup Alkalised Cocoa Powder*
1/2 cup melted Coconut Oil
Combine first 4 ingredients in a mixing bowl, then pour in the coconut oil. Stir gently to combine.
Place spoonfuls of mixture into mini baking cups and pop in the fridge. They'll take about 30 mins to set.
Chocolate crackles will keep in the fridge, in a sealed container, for 3 days, or for up to 6 weeks in the freezer.
*alkalised cocoa powder and raw cacao powder are interchangeable in this recipe.
When the weather heats up and I fancy making a sweet treat, I inevitably turn to raw desserts. The benefits: no oven needed, and the recipes are quick and simple.
These are my family favourites: Peanut Butter Cups. Half an hour and a bit of stirring is all it takes to make these delicious morsels.
Makes 12-16 small cups
EQUIPMENT YOU'LL NEED
I use a silicone ice cube tray to set my peanut butter cups, any shape or size will do. If you use a tray meant for standard sized ice cubes you'll get 12-16 peanut butter cups from this recipe. If you have chocolate molds feel free to use them. I have also successfully used a small square container lined with baking paper; doing it this way means you'll have 1 large peanut butter cup slab, which you can then cut into squares when frozen.
For Chocolate layer:
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
3 tbsp raw cacao or alkalised cocoa powder (or more depending how rich you fancy it)
2 tbsp rice malt syrup, honey or maple syrup
For Peanut Butter layer:
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp rice malt syrup, honey or maple syrup
Pinch of salt
Step 1. CHOCOLATE LAYER: Combine chocolate layer ingredients in a small saucepan and melt over low heat for a minute, just to enable the blending of ingredients smoothly together.
Using a teaspoon, spoon chocolate mixture into your silicone tray/container of choice. You'll use about 2 tsp of mixture per peanut butter cup.
Place the silicon tray in the freezer so it can freeze while you make the peanut butter layer
Step 2. PEANUT BUTTER LAYER: Combine peanut butter layer ingredients in a small saucepan and melt over low heat for a minute, just to enable the blending of ingredients smoothly together.
Retrieve your silicone tray from the freezer. Use a teaspoon to spoon peanut butter mixture on top of the now set chocolate layer. Return tray to freezer.
In 15 mins your peanut butter cups are ready to devour! Remember to keep uneaten ones in the freezer - any desserts made with coconut oil rely on being frozen to keep their form.
Tip: spray measuring cups, measuring spoons and silicon mould with oil. It makes the syrup and nut butter behave much better, and you leave no residue behind.
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*Use almond butter instead of peanut
*add a few drops of vanilla to the chocolate mixture
*instead of cocoa powder, use 2-3 tbl chocolate drops. They will take a bit more melting but the result is deliciously decadent.
Combine ingredients in a bowl along with 1 cup water and any additional flavourings from the suggestion list. (If using our Jar mix - add 1/2 jar (150ml) water at this step.)
Leave for 15 minutes for the seeds to soak up the water. Give everything a good stir. (It should feel like very thick batter.) If necessary, add a splash more water before stirring again. Then spread the mixture thinly over a lined baking tray The ideal thickness is about 3-4mm. Too thin and the crackers will be too fragile, too thick and they won't be crunchy enough.
Bake for one hour or until golden and crisp. If they don't feel crunchy after an hour, return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes.
Remove from the oven, allow to cool, then break into shards. Store in an airtight container for up to 8 weeks.
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Additional, optional flavourings - pick 1 or pick many:
1 tsp salt or smoked salt
1 tsp Dried rosemary
1 tbl Nutritional yeast
½ tsp Chilli flakes
½ tsp Fennel seeds
1 tsp Italian herbs
½ tsp Smoked paprika
2 tsp Vegetable stock
2 tsp Falafel mix
CANNELLINI BEAN DIP
2 cups cannellini beans
4 cups water, for soaking
4 cups water, for cooking
1 brown onion, peeled and halved
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Zest from ½ a lemon
1 teaspoon salt
Few grinds black pepper
1 tsp stock powder of choice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus some to drizzle over finished dip
1 tsp smoked paprika to dust on top
Cover beans with four cups of water and soak the beans for a full 24 hours in fridge. Drain and rinse under cold water.
Place beans, another 4 cups of water, bay leaf and onion in a large sauce pan and bring to a boil covered. Lower to a simmer with lid partially covering the pan and simmer for about an hour or until soft and tender.
Drain but reserve the cooking liquid. Discard the bay leaf and onion. Cool the beans and the reserved liquid completely before next step.
Place the cooled beans and ¼ cup of the cooled cooking liquid in a food processor with all remaining ingredients (olive oil, garlic, lemon, stock, salt and pepper). Process until well blended. You may need to add more cooking liquid while blending to reach desired consistency - you're going for a creamy dip. Taste, then adjust seasoning if necessary.
To serve, drizzle some olive oil and a sprinkle of smoked paprika over the top. Serve with seed crackers.
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*try adding fresh herbs like parsley or thyme
*change the flavour profile by using different spice blends - z'ataar, dukkah, bay seasoning and Italian herbs are a few ideas.
*add some cayenne pepper, chilli or ground Tasmanian pepperberry for an extra kick.
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
Cannellini Dip also makes an excellent, nutrient-rich stand-in for mashed potato or rice. I swear it's true!
Popcorn has to be the most underrated treat around, and these recipes are all about taking popcorn to the next level.
TIKKA MASALA POPCORN
1 dessertspoon of olive oil or melted butter
2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground pepper
In a large bowl, combine all the spices.
When the popcorn is just popped, pour it over the spice mix, then tumble it about in the bowl to coat the popcorn.
SWEET CHAI POPCORN
This one is the perfect use for the fine, powdery spices at the bottom of your chai tin.
1 dessertspoon chai tea
1 tbl butter, ghee or your favourite cooking oil
2 tsp honey or sugar
In a small saucepan gently heat butter or oil with chai tea and honey or brown sugar. When its just hot, let it sit for a few minutes to let the chai flavours infuse, before pouring it over some freshly popped corn and mixing through. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over if desired.
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What other flavours do you like to spice up your popcorn? Mexican seasoning, cinnamon sugar, spicy chilli? Go crazy, and please share your popcorn adventures in the comments below!