Hola! Long time no see. In the last year or so, I’ve been busy learning life lessons as I progress through the clinical part of my degree. It turns out that you never really get on top of things completely, and a lot of it comes down to self care and setting priorities. I still have a long list of recipes and topics (eg nutrition advice from GPs. Are we doing it right? Do you find it helpful?) that I’d love to write about; but for now, here’s a simple recipe for something I’ve been making a lot lately. It’s a raw chocolate oat slice. Because we all need a recipe in our back pocket (or in my case, on the fridge door) for last minute bring a plate situations – or let’s be real, the I Need Chocolate Now situations. And these days, I’m trying to centre my cooking around more unrefined produce.
This slice originates from the delightful dessert known as Raw Brownie. At its simplest; it’s dates, walnuts, cocoa powder and sea salt combined in a food processor and pressed into a container. No baking. No sugar. No flour. Still very much a treat, but delightfully squishy (the thing that gives brownies their enduring appeal) and involves much less time washing dishes and staring forlornly at your oven. My first encounter with the Raw Brownie came courtesy of the much loved My New Roots blog from Sarah Britton (recipe here).
Soft, ooey gooey Medjool dates are a delight in this kind of slice – if you can get them at a reasonable price. In which case, it’s best to keep things simple and the let the dates do the talking as in the My New Roots recipe. I also love Teresa Cutter’s take (recipe here), which uses a 2:1 ratio of nuts to dates and adds almonds. As lovely as the caramel like Medjools are – the odds are that if you have dates in your pantry, they’ll be the the little dried ones. Much kinder to your budget, and they also work just fine for raw slices.
Above: a batch of Sarah Britton’s Raw Brownies from a couple of years ago.
It doesn’t have to be just dates and walnuts. This kind of slice is much like granola – once you have the basic ratios down, you can swap and substitute to your heart’s desire. Not into chocolate? Try adding a tablespoon or two of dried ginger and a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg. You can use literally any dried fruit, although do bear in mind the water content. For example, prunes go incredibly well with chocolate – but you might not want to use just prunes for the fruit content, or alternatively just use less – dropping prunes into your food processor one at a time until your mixture has just enough moisture to hold together when pinched. Similarly, you can use a variety of different nuts and seeds. You can even add some some coconut or oats. Go, err, nuts.
These days, my own take on the raw brownie is more of a firm slice using stuff I routinely have on hand in my pantry – oats, coconut, almonds, walnuts, seeds, dried oats and sultanas. I’ve deliberately gone for a dry stuff to fruit ratio just under 2:1 This results in a few things: 1) less sugar, and more protein/fats/fibre. 2) not as sticky, and so removing the need for fussing around with coating the slice in cocoa and the like.
Also – yes, 3/4c cocoa is a fair bit. But really, it works out to be approximately equivalent to a 70% chocolate bar. I quite like the hit of chocolate, as it slows me down… But if you’re a milk chocolate person, feel free to knock the cocoa back to 1/2c. Fine, maybe 1/3c.
Final note – you could roll the mix into little balls like the ‘energy balls’ you see all over Instagram and at every hip cafe. But only if you can be bothered. Pressing the mix into a container and slicing it up is so much easier.
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup shredded dried coconut
1 1/2 cups nuts/seeds of your choice (I like to use 1/2 – 2/3 cup of an oilier nut like walnut, and top up the remainder with almonds and sunflower seeds)
1/4 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup sultanas
1 1/3 cup dried dates
2 tbsp water
1. In a food processor, blitz your oats, coconut, nuts and seeds, salt and cocoa powder until the mixture resembles very fine crumbs. On average, this takes about two minutes in my machine.
2. Add the sultanas, 1 tbsp of the water and switch the food processor on. With the motor still running, now drop the dates in – a few at a time – through the chute in the lid.
3. Remove the lid, and dig out a bit of the mix with a teaspoon. It should stick together nicely when pinched. If not, add that extra tablespoon of water and blitz.
4. Tip the mix into a plastic container (it fits perfectly into a generic Decor 12x19x3 cm plastic container) and press down firmly. It will look like way too much. Keep prodding and shoving. The end result will be dense and sliceable. Especially after popping the container in the fridge for an hour to firm up. But have a piece first. Because who can wait that long?
5. To serve, slice into squares after chilling. You could dust the tops with cocoa powder if you want. But rolling them in stuff like sesame seeds or coconut isn’t necessary as the mix isn’t as wet and sticky as other raw fruit and nut slices.
Makes 20 squares.
Note: trying to add the dates all at once tends to be too much, even for powerful food processors such as mine. The dates stick to the blades, causing them to whir awkardly, kinda like a turtle on its back. So not going anywhere very fast.
Tip: if your food processor’s motor isn’t real gutsy, you might like to soak the dates in hot water for half an hour in advance, and not add the 2 tbsp of water in the recipe. But I’m rarely that organised: in the days sans Powerful Food Processor, I just made a half batch.
Variation: bump up the coconut to 1 cup and reduce the oats to 1 1/2 cups for more of a coconut hit.
PS. Ever been told by your doctor that you needed to change your diet? Did it help? Do you prefer advice on the spot, a pamphlet, a recipe book, a website, a referral to a nutritionist or dietitian etc? Do you just want the facts about what you need to eat? Do you want practical tips? Nutrition advice is a really important part of preventative health care – and I’m keen to learn about how to do this well, because doctors need to be able to work with nutritionists and dietitians on this. More on this later, but I’d love to hear your thoughts for now. Comment below or shoot me an email at nerdygastronome[at]gmail.com