Grown Up Nutella

Homemade Nutella

Nutella?  That’s for kids right?  And you can just pick up a jar in any food shop so why on earth would you want to make your own?

These are good and valid questions but I think I also have some good and valid answers to them.

First of all no.  Just no.  Nutella is NOT just for kids – why should they get all the good stuff?  Call it hazelnut and chocolate spread and it already sounds more grown up.  And don’t pretend you don’t eat it yourself.  By the spoonful.  When no one is looking.

So, that brings us to the next question “why would you make it yourself?”.  Well, when I started seeing lots of “make your own Nutella” recipes on Pinterest I asked the same question.  Then I looked at the ingredients in the original:

The main ingredient is sugar, lots of sugar, nearly 57% to be exact.  That’s more than half the jar.  That’s followed by Palm Oil.  Lots of people have a problem with palm oil because demand has led to large areas of deforestation across Indonesia which, in turn, has destroyed the habitat of the orangutan.  Both species of orangutan are now endangered, the Sumatran orangutan is listed as critically endangered.

Next on the list are hazelnuts and cocoa (as you might expect) followed by skimmed milk powder and whey powder (which you might not), lecithin (a stabiliser made from soya) and finally vanillin (a synthetic vanilla flavouring).

Well, I guess you never thought it was a health food – nothing that tasty ever is.

My next question was “can I make a version that is tasty and a little healthier?”  So I started looking for recipes.  I found about 12.  All of them were different.  Some used sugar, some used maple syrup, some added milk powder, some added condensed milk, some used plain chocolate, some used milk chocolate, some used raw cacao, some added vegetable oil, some didn’t bother.  They all used hazelnuts though!

I started thinking about what I wanted from my nutella.  I wanted it to be simple and I wanted it to be grown up.  I decided to start with the simplest of recipes knowing I could add to it later if necessary.

So I started with hazelnuts and plain chocolate in a 2:1 ratio. It was rich and bitter (in a good way) and I loved it.  However, I decided that it could be improved bythe addition of a little sea salt and some vanilla.  That made it perfect for me.  If you want yours to be a little sweeter add some honey, or maple syrup or maybe some agave.  If you want it to be a little runnier (and sweeter) try adding some condensed milk (a tablespoonful at a time until it suits you).  If you want it to be vegan use vegetable oil instead.  If your kids don’t like the bitterness of plain chocolate try making it with milk chocolate.  Experiment, it’s worth it.

However you make it you will need a a really good food processor / blender.  Mine is a little on its last legs and it left the nuts slightly grainy.  I don’t actually mind a bit of texture but if smoothness is important to you just be warned.

In the interests of fairness this is still a high calorie, high fat (nuts are always high in fat) product but the sugar content is significantly reduced – just 10% in this recipe.

And it is perfect for putting in your pancakes on Tuesday!

Grown Up Nutella

Ingredients

200g Hazelnuts

100g Plain Chocolate (75% cocoa solids)

A pinch of Sea Salt

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Method

Roast the hazelnuts for 10 minutes at 180 C until lightly toasted.

If you bought blanched hazelnuts you can blend them straight away, if not you will need to remove the skins by rubbing the nuts vigorously in a tea towel whilst still hot.  They don’t need to be perfect but the effort is worth it as the skins can be bitter.

Place the nuts in a food processor or power blender and turn it on full.  After a few minutes you will have ground hazelnuts – keep going.  After a few more minutes you will have a thick paste which clumps around the blade (you could turn this into hazelnut butter) – keep going.  Eventually the paste will become more liquidy – be patient – it’s worth it.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bowl does not touch the water).

When the nuts have reached the desired consistency pour in the melted chocolate and the vanilla and add a pinch of salt.  Blitz until well blended.

Taste before you take it out of the food processor.  If it’s not quite to your taste add some more stuff (see above) until it is.  Pour into a sterilised jar and keep in a cool dark place.  The fridge is too cool and it will get a bit too stiff to spread*.  Just remember that it contains no preservatives so it won’t last more than a week.

Good luck!

*nb – if you add dairy products such as condensed milk it is probably best to keep it in the fridge.

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Spicy Moroccan Carrot Salad

Moroccan Carrot Salad

This simple recipe takes the humble carrot and turns it into something significantly less humble.  It’s as if the carrot has had counselling and found itself a huge dose of self-esteem and no-one is EVER going to put carrot in the corner!

Ok, I may have indulged in a little hyperbole there but this really is a wonderful salad.

Please don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients, most of them are spices and you probably have them in your cupboard already.  If you don’t it is worth buying them because they are staples that crop up time and time again in tasty recipes and they really help to lift even the most mundane meals.  Try cinnamon in your porridge, or ginger in a smoothy.  Cumin and Coriander go well in savoury pancakes or winter stews.  If you keep your spices in sealed containers in a cool, dark place they will last for ages so it is worth the (modest) investment.

Preserved lemon is a little more unusual but you could always make your own!  Recipe here.

The otriginal recipe is from Plenty by Ottolenghi.

Ingredients

Serves 4

1kg Carrots

80ml Olive Oil

1 Onion

1 tsp Caster Sugar

3 Garlic Cloves (crushed)

2 Green Chillies (finely chopped)

1 Spring Onion

1/4 tsp Ground Cloves

1/4 tsp Ground Ginger

3/4 tsp Ground Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Ground Coriander

1 tsp Sweet Paprika

1 tsp Ground Cumin

1 tbsp White Wine Vinegar

1 tbsp chopped Preserved Lemon

40g Chopped Fresh Coriander

120ml Greek Yoghurt

Salt

Method

Peel and slice the carrots.  I cut them lengthways but you could cut them into cylinders or semi-circles depending on the size of the carrots.

Put the carrots in a saucepan and just cover with water, add salt and bring to the boil.  Simmer for around 5 to 10 minutes (depending on how you cut them) until just tender but with some crunch left in them.  Drain in a colander and set aside to dry out.

Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the onions over a medium heat until soft and slightly brown.  Add the cooked carrots to the onions with the rest of the ingredients except the yoghurt and fresh coriander.  Stir well, season with salt and remove from the heat.  Leave to cool.

Before serving stir in most of the coriander, serve with a dollop of yoghurt, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of the reserved fresh coriander

 

 

Beetroot and Orange Salad

Beetroot & Orange Salad

Sometimes, when I am cooking for the blog, I will have tried the recipe out a few times then, when I am happy with it, I will make it for the photo.  Then I will faff about with it a bit, taking shots, pretending I know what I am doing.  Then I’ll download the photos onto my laptop only to find that (if I am lucky) I have one or two acceptable photos out of the 200 or so that I took.  Then I’ll clean up the kitchen.  By time I have done all this the last thing I want to do is eat the food.

Not so in this case.  I couldn’t keep my hands off it!

I love the beautiful colours, the fresh, zingy flavours, the textures, everything.  I love everything about this salad and I hope you do too.

I have made variations of it in the past (beetroot and orange are a classic combination) but this is definitely my favourite.  It comes from Plenty by Ottolenghi and if you like this salad you should definitely check out the book (your local library may have it).

I admit to cheating.  I only cook beetroot from scratch when I have grown them.  If I am buying beetroot I buy it pre-cooked and vacuum packed; it is much less messy and I think it tastes fine – just make sure you don’t buy pickled beetroot!

Ingredients

Serves 2

400g Raw Beetroot (or a 250g pack of pre-cooked beetroot)

2 Oranges

1 Red Endive (chicory)

1/2 small Red Onion (thinly sliced)

3 tbsp Chopped Parsley

40g Black Olives

3 tbsp Rapeseed Oil

1 tsp Orange Blossom Water

1 1/2 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar

Salt & Pepper

Method

If you are using raw beetroot you will need to cook them first.  Put them, whole, into a saucepan, cover with cold water, bring it to a boil and then simmer for 1 – 2 hours until tender.  Leave them to cool down in the water.  Once cool remove them from the water and peel them.

Cut each cooked beetroot in half and then each half into wedges about 1cm thick at their base.  Put the wedges into a mixing bowl.

Segment the oranges.  Peel them with a sharp knife and, holding each orange over the mixing bowl, remove the segments by slicing between the membranes.  Let the segments and juice fall into the mixing bowl.  Discard the membrane.

Cut the endive vertically into 2cm thick slices.  Break them up into individual leaves and add them to the bowl.

Finally add the rest of the ingredients, toss together and adjust the seasoning, then serve.