Marian Finucane

    Saturday, Sunday, 11 - 1pm

    Marian Finucane Saturday 20 December 2014

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    Almond, coconut & date cake with rose water & cardamom

    This cake came together one winter evening when Mrs. B asked for a cake that we could indulge in while watching a film. I made the most of leftover ingredients at the time, but after a little subsequent tweaking, this supremely moist cake is now the most popular of all my cakes.

    For the cake:

    200 g/11⁄3 cups whole almonds

    100 g/11⁄3 cups desiccated coconut

    100 g/2⁄3 cup stoned/ pitted Medjool dates

    3 eggs, beaten

    150 g/3⁄4 cup coconut palm sugar

    150 ml/2⁄3 cup sunflower oil

    50 ml/3 tablespoons coconut milk

    8 cardamom pods, shells removed, seeds ground to a powder

    zest of 1 unwaxed lemon, finely grated

    1 teaspoon baking powder

    1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt

    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

    1 teaspoon rose water

    For the syrup:

    1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted

    2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

    50 ml/3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

    To serve:

    4 tablespoons/1⁄4 cup coconut chips, lightly roasted

    2 tablespoons dried rose petals (optional)

    250 ml/1 cup soya or Greek yogurt mixed with 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup and 1 teaspoon rose water

    Serves 8–10

    Line a 20-cm/8-inch loose-bottomed cake pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 170°C (325ºF) Gas 3. 

    Place the almonds and desiccated coconut in a food processor and blitz until the almonds are very finely chopped, but not a paste, remove to a bowl. Add the dates and eggs into the processor and blitz until the dates are finely chopped and mixed into the eggs. Add into the bowl with the almonds and the rest of the cake ingredients and mix thoroughly until well combined. Pour into the prepared cake pan and level out. Bake in the centre of the oven for 40–45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove and leave to cool for 10 minutes, then turn out of the pan onto a cooling rack.

    Chocolate & nut butter tart

    When I lived in New York, I used to indulge in a killer chocolate and peanut butter tart. Here is my natural (but no less indulgent) version.

    25 g/3 tablespoons whole almonds, roasted

    1 tablespoon coconut palm sugar

    100 g/31⁄2 oz. dark/bittersweet chocolate, sweetened with natural sugar

    For the base:

    80 g/1⁄2 cup pecans

    110 g/4 oz. oat cakes/biscuits

    90 g/3 oz. dried stoned/pitted dates    

    1 tablespoon coconut oil

    4 teaspoons cocoa powder

    1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

    pinch of sea salt

    For the nut butter layer:

    175 g/11⁄4 cups stoned/pitted Medjool dates

    5 tablespoons rice milk

    200 g/3⁄4 cup smooth nut butter

    2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

    2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

    For the chocolate layer:

    200 g/61⁄2 oz. avocado

    3 tablespoons cocoa powder

    41⁄2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

    pinch sea salt

    2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

    Serves 10–12 

    Grease a 20-cm/8-inch loose-bottomed cake pan with vegetable oil. Lightly roast the pecans at 180°C (360°F) Gas 4 for 3–4 minutes or until they are a shade darker and aromatic. Leave to cool. Place all the base ingredients in a food processor and blitz until it sticks together when pressed between your fingers. Press firmly into the cake pan so you have an even and smooth base. Place in the fridge to set for 30 minutes or the freezer for 15 minutes.

    For the nut butter layer, blitz the dates and rice milk to a smooth paste in a food processor. Add in the nut butter and blitz for a couple of seconds until just combined. Pour in the coconut oil and maple syrup and blitz for another few seconds until incorporated. Don’t blitz for any longer as the coconut oil will split away from the oil in the nuts. Maple syrup also causes nut butter to seize and become thicker, so don’t worry if it becomes firm. Add this to the base of the cake pan and level out with the back of a spoon dipped in boiling water. Cover and place in the freezer while making the chocolate layer.

    To make the chocolate layer, add the avocado, cocoa powder, maple syrup and salt to a food processor. Blitz until smooth then pour in the melted coconut oil and blitz briefly to combine. Take the cake pan out of the fridge or freezer and spoon on the chocolate mixture and level out. Return to the fridge or freezer.

    Place the roasted almonds in a dry pan/skillet with 1 tablespoon coconut palm sugar, heat through until the sugar melts and coats the nuts. Leave to cool and roughly chop.

    To make chocolate curls, melt the chocolate and spread out in a thin layer on a large flat baking sheet. Leave aside until just set, but not solid, and check regularly as it is important it does not set completely. Using a flat-edged spatula, scrape the chocolate from the baking sheet, pushing away from you. You can use

    a hairdryer to get it back to the right consistency if it is too firmly set. Place the curls in the fridge to set and then tumble onto the tart with the almonds. Keep the tart in the freezer and remove 30–45 minutes before serving.

    Bang bang chicken salad

    Apparently this salad, which has its origins in the Sichuan region of China, got its name from the sound of street traders pounding the cooked chicken in order to shred it. It is such a crowd pleaser – perfect for picnics and BBQs as you can keep the sauce separate until everyone is ready to eat.

    500 ml chicken stock

    30 g ginger, peeled and chopped

    1 teaspoon Sichuan or black peppercorns

    2 star anise

    450 g skinless chicken breasts

    100 g pak choi leaves, finely sliced

    1 large carrot, peeled and julienned or grated

    1 small cucumber, halved and deseeded

    4 spring onions, cut into thin strips

    handful fresh coriander leaves

    2 limes, cut into wedges

    For the sauce:

    150 almond or peanut butter (crunchy)

    1 tablespoon sesame seed oil

    1 tablespoon soy sauce

    1 fresh red chilli, deseeded, finely sliced

    1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

    1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

    1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed

    1⁄2 teaspoon finely grated ginger

    Serves 4–6

    Place the stock, ginger, peppercorns, star anise and 1 teaspoon salt in a pot and bring to a boil. Add in the chicken, reduce heat a little and simmer for 10 minutes until cooked through. Leave to cool for 20 minutes, then remove the chicken, drain and leave to cool completely. Reserve 120 ml of the cooking liquid and discard the rest. When the chicken is cold shred it with your hands, or slice very finely.

    In a bowl combine together all the sauce ingredients (apart from the red chilli) and slowly mix in the reserved cooking liquid a tablespoon at a time until you have a sauce the consistency of pouring cream.

    Peel the cucumber halves into long thin strips and cut into 7.5-cm lengths. Combine together the pak choi, carrot, cucumber, spring onions, shredded chicken, most of the coriander leaves and the sauce. Serve in a large dish with the remaining coriander leaves and red chilli on top and the limes on the side to squeeze over.

    Pan-fried chickpea fritters

    Simple and quick, these are perfect for a light lunch, or as a casual appetizer. You can also experiment a little, by adding in or substituting your favourite herbs or spices. Corn and little chunks of chorizo are a delicious alternative to the chickpeas.

    2 teaspoons cumin seeds

    1⁄2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes

    250 g soy or Greek yogurt

    1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

    sea salt

    120 g spelt flour (white or wholegrain)

    1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder

    170 ml rice, soy or dairy milk

    1 egg, lightly beaten

    400-g chickpeas, drained and rinsed

    100 g red onion, finely chopped

    1 small handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

    1 small handful coriander, finely chopped

    olive or vegetable oil, for frying

    1 spring onion, finely sliced diagonally

    extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

    Makes 16

    In a dry frying pan, gently fry the cumin seeds over a medium heat until aromatic. Pound 1⁄2 of them to a powder using a pestle and mortar, and keep the other 1⁄2 to one side. In a bowl, combine together the ground cumin, chilli flakes, yogurt, maple syrup and a good pinch of sea salt. Set to one side.

    Place the flour and baking powder in a large bowl, slowly whisk in the rice, soy or dairy milk and beaten egg, until well combined with no lumps. Add in the chickpeas, red onion, almost all of the herbs, remaining cumin seeds, 3⁄4 teaspoon sea salt and a few grindings of black pepper. Stir together to combine.

    Place 1 tablespoon of olive or vegetable oil in a large, non-stick frying pan and set over a medium-high heat. Once hot, add 2 level tablespoons of batter for each fritter and flatten into little rounds. Fry in batches, without overcrowding the frying pan, for about 5 minutes, turning once, until they are golden brown and cooked through.

    To serve, pile the fritters up on individual plates and scatter over the sliced spring onions and extra parsley. Serve with a green salad. Finally, drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil. Spoon the set-aside yogurt mixture over the top or serve it in a bowl on the side.

    Beetroot, cherry tomatoes and soft boiled eggs

    Beetroot is in season right through the winter months and into January when its earthy, clean flavour is wonderful for people who want to be a little more virtuous, but don’t want to miss out on flavour. This salad is a great all rounder, filling enough to be served on its own for brunch, or it could also work as a small appetizer.

    300 g large beetroot, topped, tailed and cut into 2 cm wedges (skin-on)

    2 teaspoons olive oil

    300 g new potatoes (I like the red-skinned roseval variety)

    3 eggs

    1⁄2 small red onion, thinly sliced

    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

    1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard

    sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    4 slices rye bread, cut lengthways

    1 garlic clove, peeled and halved

    handful of rocket

    12 cherry tomatoes, halved

    1 spring onion, finely sliced

    Serves 4

    Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F) Gas 4. In a roasting tray, toss the beetroot wedges with the olive oil and season. Roast for 30–35 minutes or until tender and the skins are beginning to blister. Turn the oven off, but leave the beetroot in to keep warm.

    In a saucepan, cover the potatoes generously with cold, salted water. Bring to the boil and simmer briskly for 10 minutes. Add the eggs to the pan and simmer for another 6–7 minutes. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and plunge into ice-cold water. Cook the potatoes for a further few minutes until tender. Drain, then roughly cut in half while still warm. Combine the potatoes with the red onion, 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and the wholegrain mustard; season and set aside.

    Toast the bread and while still hot rub generously with the cut side of the garlic, almost grating it against the rough surface of the toasted bread. Divide the toasted rye bread between plates and then drizzle over another tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. 

    Place a few leaves of rocket on top of the toast, then tumble over some potatoes, beetroot and tomatoes. Finish with the soft-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into wedges and the spring onions, scattered over. Season again, if needed and drizzle over a little more extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately.

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    Marian Finucane

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