For dessert?

I think almost every food blog out there has a post on brownies. I’ve tried out a number of different recipes using a variety of ingredients, even using beets (really good recipe, stay tuned for future post). While most recipes call for butter, I often substitute oil. There is a difference of course and it depends on what texture, feel and taste you’re looking for.
Now, this may seem strange, but I use olive oil. There is a debate about using olive oil in baking as it has a strong flavour, but my philosophy is that using several strong flavours can work really well and prevent any one taste from overwhelming the palate. So if you plan on using olive oil in baking, simply also use spices and/or more grainy tasting flour. Of course, olive oil isn’t the best choice for all recipes – for example, in my carrot cake recipe I used neutral tasting canola oil – but it does complement certain flavours.
For these brownies I added toasted hazelnuts and one teaspoon of cayenne powder – another ingredient I love. The little bit of heat imparted by the chili paired well with the rich dark chocolate and the crunchy hazelnuts. The tastes reminded me of nutella (but more like a nutella party in your mouth). I also happened to have some leftover strawberries and decided to make a compote to go with the brownies.
Compotes sound complicated but they are basically made either by macerating fruits in sugar and liquid (alcohol/water) or by cooking gently until thick and syrupy (that’s all I did!). I whipped some fresh cream and folded in some compote. Try it out and I promise you won’t be able to eat just one.
olive oil brownies
makes 15 pieces
adapted from a recipe posted on spoonfulblog

100g dark chocolate (I used 85%)
1/4 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil
2 organic eggs
1/2 cup raw sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk (can use any type)
1/2 cup organic plain flour
1/4 sea salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2/3 cup toasted hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 175 degrees C/350 degrees F
Prepare the tin - I greased a rectangular pan and lined it with baking paper

To melt the chocolate: place bowl of chocolate over pot of simmering water (don't let the bowl touch the water). Once melted, remove from heat and add olive oil - mix and leave aside to cool.
Next, toast hazelnuts in oven for 5-6 minutes, take out and remove skins. Chop roughly and leave aside.

For the brownies: beat sugar and eggs together until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes), add in vanilla extract and milk and fold in cooled chocolate mixture.  In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt and cayenne powder. Fold in dry ingredients to wet ingredients and then fold in chopped hazelnuts.

The batter should be thick and not too wet. Place batter into prepared tin and bake 15-20 minutes. Remove and cut into squares. You can keep in fridge up to one week. Enjoy.

Spanish flavour

As a celebration of the one beautiful day of summer we’ve had so far I wanted to make something special for dinner. Given the heat, the dish had to be light and fresh, but still full of flavour. That’s when I remembered a recipe for an Andalusian gazpacho (take from Skye Gyngell’s recipe found here). I substituted the more special ingredients (marcona almonds and aged sherry vinegar) with natural almonds and red wine vinegar.
I often use bread to thicken the gazpacho (try something crusty like a ciabiatta and then soak it in water to make it soft and spongy). But this time I happened to see fresh green almonds being sold at the grocer and thought it would be great to use them as a garnish for my soup. Using nuts in cooking is often a great idea. Nuts are a healthy way to thicken up sauces and soups - for example, a lot of vegetarian Indian dishes use cashews, peanuts and almonds to create creaminess and add protein.
The soup was crunchy, sweet and tangy. Just perfect with a glass of white wine and some fresh crusty bread. The perfect – and first – summer evening.

spanish gazpacho soup
Serves 6 (or 4 with leftovers)

2 kg (4lbs) Tomatoes – vine ripened are the best –
1 red chili, deseeded
1 red onion
2 red peppers, deseeded
1 large english cucumber, deseeded
1 clove garlic (if you’re afraid of raw garlic you can blanch it first)
1 bunch fresh basil
1 handful of lightly toasted almonds (I used natural but you can use marcona if you can find them)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red-wine vinegar           
1 cup of tomato juice (you might not use all of it, use to thin the soup out)
good pinch of sea salt and black pepper
This recipe is simple to make since everything gets blitzed together in a food processor. First chop everything (ensure deseeded) into a relatively small rough chop. Add in tomatoes, red chili and onion, pulse a few times and so on with the rest of the items, making sure to pulse/mix after adding few ingredients. Add tomato juice last – and use enough until you reach the right consistency and taste. Make sure it’s well seasoned since you will serve it cold. Blend well but note you can leave it a little rough as it adds great texture.  Refrigerate well (3-4 hrs) and serve chilled. The soup is best served the day of making but will keep for a few days in the fridge. Enjoy.