Saturday, 26 April 2014

Easter coconut and chocolate tart

Hi everyone! Hope you all had a fantastic Easter break last weekend! Luckily for me, I also had the week off from uni, although somehow, what with all the errands and catching up on study and assignments, it went by incredibly quickly. 

This year (like every year!) Easter was celebrated with much feasting and indulgence.  Mr Duckie and I were particularly looking forward to eating meat and chocolate again! I'd had chocolate on my mind for weeks, as I was thinking and researching ideas for what chocolate dessert would be best to celebrate with. My mind first turned to some chocolate mousse and cream type cakes, and the recipes I saw did look incredibly delicious. However, as the years pass, Mr Duckie and I find that our digestion is not as strong as it used to be (sigh...old age...), and I wasn't sure how our stomachs would cope with the sudden onslaught of indulgence.

Then my mum brought home an old magazine from her work. It was a health focused magazine, and best of all had a "Guilt-free Desserts" section showcasing vegan desserts! There were pages and pages of sumptuous looking desserts, and from these recipes I chose this delectable chocolate tart. Ingeniously, instead of cream, coconut cream is used to make the chocolate filling, and the butter in the tart shell is replaced with coconut oil. This was the perfect recipe as I already had most of the ingredients at hand, and with all the non-dairy substitutions, I hoped it would be a little easier on the tummy!

And indeed this tart did not disappoint. Even though the filling was dairy-free, it was so very creamy, velvety and rich. In fact, my mum and my mother-in-law both thought I had used cream cheese to make the filling! The filling tasted intensely chocolately, whilst the crust had a mild coconut aroma and taste. The original recipe used ground hazelnuts for the crust, however, I replaced these with plain sweet biscuits so that Anita could eat it. I think it would taste quite nice though with hazelnuts -perhaps even a half-and-half mixture of nuts and biscuits would be good!

Overall, it was a satisfyingly delicious chocolate dessert, without all the usual heaviness! I decorated the top with Easter eggs, but of course you could use berries or your favourite fruit instead, or just enjoy it as is!

Coconut and chocolate tart

Adapted from Nourish magazine, July-August 2013, p 82.


220g plain sweet biscuits (I used Shredded Wheatmeal biscuits - which I subsequently discovered are quite tasty on their own or with a cup of tea!)
30g shredded coconut
40g cocoa powder
2 tbsp honey
3 tbsp coconut oil
1 can (400ml) full-fat coconut cream
280g 85% dark chocolate, broken
Easter eggs, fresh berries or fresh fruit, to decorate

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
2. Lightly grease a 20cm round springform tin with coconut oil. Line the base with baking paper.
3. Crush sweet biscuits into a fine powder - you can do this in a food processor, or put the biscuits into a zip-lock bag and crush with a rolling pin (lots of fun!). Place the crushed biscuits into a bowl, then add coconut, cocoa powder, honey, and coconut oil. Stir to combine

4. Press mixture into tin and bake for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

5. In a small saucepan, bring the coconut cream to a gentle simmer. Remove from heat and add broken chocolate. Stir continuously until smooth and velvety and pour into tart crust.

6. Refrigerate for two to three hours, then top with desired decorations and serve.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Chewy fig and coconut cookies

As I may have mentioned before, Mr Duckie often travels for work. He has flown with quite a few different airlines, but this week was his first time on Virgin Australia. We caught up with an old uni friend on the weekend (also a frequent flyer) who told us about his experiences flying on Virgin, including how they were now giving out a complimentary snack on the flight. Mr Duckie looked puzzled. "Don't they normally give food?" he asked. When we explained to Mr Duckie that in fact, there was no in-flight meal, he looked horrified. "But what am I going to do for food!" he cried.

Luckily I had already planned to make these cookies. I have been rather intrigued by the coconut oil phenomenon for quite some time now. We even had a small discussion in class about whether coconut oil is in fact healthy! The main concern surrounding coconut oil is that it is high in saturated fat - in fact, according to the label on my jar of coconut oil, it contains 93.5% saturated fat. According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines 2013, saturated fats are linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and as such should be limited. However, proponents of coconut oil argue that most of the saturated fat in coconut oil is in the form of lauric acid, which is a a medium-chain fatty acid. It is claimed that lauric acid can improve blood cholesterol, assist in weight loss, and has antibacterial  and antiviral properties. Coconut oil is also promoted as a useful moisturiser for skin and hair.

At the moment, it appears that more research needs to be done in order to clarify and confirm the benefits of coconut oil, especially given that there is such strong evidence on the need to limit saturated fats. Whilst I would be happy to use it as a moisturiser (in fact, I did try some on my hands and it smelt very nice!) I don't think I'd start using coconut oil as a replacement for olive oil or canola oil.

In any case, I was very curious to find out whether coconut oil did in fact smell and taste of coconut. I was not disappointed! As I opened the jar, I got a waft of fragrant coconut. I then tried tasting some of the oil on its own (as I saw a well-known celebrity chef do on TV - although I only had a tiny dab of oil, rather than a whole spoonful!), and I found that the coconut oil had a pleasant, mild coconut flavour and smooth texture.

A spoonful of coconut oil straight from the jar

These coconut cookies are doubly coconutty from the combination of the coconut oil and the shredded coconut. Luckily for me, there was a special on figs at the supermarket, so I was able to add them into my cookies. I think you could easily replace this with dried figs or any other dried fruit of your choice.

Yay fresh figs!

My kitchen was filled with a delicious coconut aroma as these cookies were baking, which helped to cheer up a dreary, rainy morning. These cookies were also very easy to make - I pretty much just mixed everything in one bowl, then dolloped the dough onto trays! The cookies were crisp on the edges and soft in the middle whilst warm (I couldn't resist trying them straight away!), and they became more chewy once they had cooled. The diced figs also provided bursts of flavour and softness throughout.

So, although I am not yet convinced of the health benefits of coconut oil, I do have to say that the coconut oil was the winning ingredient in this recipe, as it added a distinct coconut flavour to the cookies!

Just a note: don't put your coconut oil in the fridge like I did, as it will go very hard and it will be very difficult to spoon it out of the jar! If you do find your coconut oil is too hard, try putting it into a bowl of hot water and this will soften and liquefy the oil and hopefully let you spoon it out!

Chewy fig and coconut cookies

Adapted from


1 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup shredded coconut
2 figs, diced

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Line two baking trays. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, beat coconut oil, raw sugar and caster sugar until combined. Beat in egg and vanilla until fully combined. Sift over the flour mixture, add shredded coconut and mix to combine. Stir in diced figs.

3. Drop teaspoonfus of dough onto prepared trays. Bake for 15-20 min or until golden. 

4. Leave on trays for 5 min then cool on wire racks.

Makes approx. 24 cookies

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Ginger and spring onion sauce

A few weeks ago, I was talking to Mr Duckie about his favourite kinds of food. He thought for a while, and then said "I really like the green sauce, the one that your Dad makes." This left me rather confused - I thought at first that he meant something like salsa verde or chimichurri, but my Dad has never made either of these sauces!

I questioned him further, asking him what the sauce was normally served with. He replied, "It usually comes with the white boiled chicken." And then I realised what he was talking about! Except that my Dad doesn't actually make either of these things - he simply buys the white cut chicken and the accompanying sauce from our local Chinese barbecue meat shop!

So what is this magical sauce? It's actually a very simple mix of spring onions, ginger, salt and oil. Despite the simplicity, the sauce adds that special extra lift to whatever it is served with. As Mr Duckie and I are not eating meat at the moment, I served the sauce with some poached salmon. And to make it really like a Chinese barbecue style meal, I also added some rice and bok choy.

The recipe made quite a bit of sauce for two people, but Mr Duckie and I managed to finish off a fair amount of it! I kept the rest in the fridge and had it again a couple of days later with some rice and a boiled egg - and again the sauce made my simple lunch quite delicious!

I hope you enjoy trying this sauce with your favourite meat, or even simply with some rice or noodles!

Ginger and spring onion sauce

Adapted from Cook, Snap, Savour


4 spring onions, finely chopped (both the green and white parts)
Approx 50g or two thumb sized pieces of ginger, peeled and finely grated
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 cup canola oil

1. Mix spring onions, ginger and salt in a heatproof bowl.
2. Heat the canola oil for about 1 minute. Pour over the spring onion and ginger mixture (it is best to place the bowl on a tray or in the sink in case the oil splatters everywhere, or your bowl breaks!).
3. Stir to combine and then serve with your favourite meat!