No-bake Chocolate Coconut Bars

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Treats. They right a lot of wrong in the world.

Exactly this time last week I had the privilege of eating alone during my lunch break in between working hours, and I wrote down a few realisations:

  • Eating alone is a thing to be celebrated
  • Korean is possibly favourite cuisine (this may change in a couple of weeks)
  • I need to travel more when its pretty parts and cultures still exist
  • Talks with old friends who still ride on the same wavelength, energy and compassion are incredibly underrated and never dull. These are the occasions which one should be happy to steal away time. The world needs more Real People Conversations. This world should thrive on that bravery,
  • At the lab where I’m undertaking an internship, it is invigorating to tend to the invisible. To pipette precisely, up and down, take exact volumes. This precision forces me to think about things in detail, making me aware of my surroundings and in awe of the big picture that is the Earth’s beauty and mysteries. Detail is a meditation.
  • Some people never go through an awkward tween phase
  • Some pairings like coconut and chocolate are meant to be, like the zip on my Laurice pencil case and removable cap of an ink pen.

To accompany solitude and writing is my iced black cuppa, the one thing that has stayed true to my lifelong affair with breakfast, foam from Nespresso dispensing interrupted by crushed ice.

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An old friend returned from studying overseas and, upon sampling one, two and three, could not believe they were vegan. The chocolate mousse layer is of the perfect consistency- a small finger press gives way to a tender indent, holding firm without being flimsy. These bars are sticky, sweet and devilishly good, but the opaque richness of the coconut cream provides a slight bitterness to offset and ripen the other flavours instantaneously on your tongue.

No-bake Chocolate Coconut Bars (Adapted from this delightful raw tiramisu recipe)

Ingredients

For the base:

8 pitted dates (medjool dates are ideal; I typically freeze a stock and microwave the necessary amount when needed)

210g cashew nuts

pinch of salt

3 tbsp water

4 tbsp liquid/melted coconut oil

1/2 tsp instant espresso powder

For the chocolate mousse layer:

420g cashews, pre-soaked and strained (simply soak them the night before in enough water to cover them in a bowl)

8 pitted dates

120ml almond/cashew milk

100ml maple syrup

7 tbsp cacao powder

7 tbsp liquid /melted coconut oil

2 tbsp white tahini

2 tbsp instant espresso powder

pinch of salt

For the coconut cream:

2 cans coconut cream, left in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight

Directions

In a food processor, blend together the ingredients for the base. Line a 9×9-inch pan with parchment paper and press the mix down with your knuckles until you get an even layer. Place the pan in the fridge to stiffen while you make the chocolate mousse filling.

Make sure the food processor has all the remnants scraped out, but you don’t have to clean it. Put the ingredients for the chocolate mousse layer into the processor and blend until you get a smooth and even filling. Take out your pan from the fridge and smooth the mousse layer on top. Take your cans of coconut cream and open them– there should be thick, spoonable white cream on top. Take it and spread a thin layer on top of the coconut mousse layer. Save the liquid left behind for things like curries! Put the pan in the freezer to stiffen.

Put the pan in the fridge an hour before serving to soften the layers a little and to make it easier to cut.

 

Blueberry Oat Breakfast Crumble

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The forgotten satisfaction of a textural orchestra first thing in the morning.

A crisp blueberry oat breakfast crumble. A warm middle, roasted and earthy, bleeding with blueberries, crying golden, glistening. 

Different mornings must heed to different needs. It’s like lunchtimes away from the office, discovering the magical brilliance about the combination of eggplant (qie zi), lotus root (lian ou), overcooked white rice, tofu (dou fu) and broccoli (xi lan hua). But mornings are the best. Sometimes it’s a dripping bowl of warm oats with a cold splash of almond milk. Other times it must be crunch-and-cream action, like crispy brown toast dipped into thick coconut yoghurt, opaque and lustful. Just this morning I indulged in the simple pleasure of crispy brown toast topped with tahini and marmalade. Nowadays I’ve tended to be more inclined to a scene of willing sogginess, dipping toast into coffee or letting my cereal and granola soak for a little too long in milk, sugars seeping out to sheen the white pool.

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It bubbles and glistens. This crumble offers it all. There is no need for time to drag crunch to sog like in the case of morning cereal.

As I dug into the gooey bottomed crumbled with a crisp, sugared top, creamy coconut yoghurt glazing all edges of my spoon and crumble, it occurred to me once again how much I adore the solitude and satisfaction of breakfast.

When I know breakfasts like these are good for me and the planet, there is simply no loss. It’s good to be a little aware, you know, of what you put inside yourself and how you feel about every bite. I used to think it so stupid and time-wasting to care so much. But you only start to care when you question. Which is more eco-friendly– the paper towel or blast dryer? These are actually very important questions.

I therefore take no shame in vaunting this one.

Blueberry Oat Breakfast Crumble (makes one or two small servings)

Ingredients 

3.5 tbsp coconut/oat/plain flour

3.5 tbsp whole rolled oats

pinch salt

1.5 tbsp maple syrup

120ml plant milk of choice (almond/rice/coconut/hemp etc, I used almond!)

handful of fresh blueberries

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C. In a large ramekin (or two smaller ones), mix all the crumble ingredients together with a fork. Bake in the oven for 20-22 minutes. Once out let cool a while before digging in with some coconut yoghurt or ice cream!!

Fudge Brownie Waffles

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I had the pleasure of being interviewed earlier on in the week by the lovely Rachel Loh, the name behind lifestyle blog Willow. Working on the theme of disconnection, it boasts a bevy of detail I would not typically reveal online, even in my instagram posts or elsewhere. It was so much fun answering and I would love for you to check it out here.

 

So last Saturday I came back from a rather disappointing visit to a relatively new café, and needed a fresh pick-me-up in the sweltering heat. But the heat also means light, and I’ve found great solace in my mornings alone journalling, the light yellowing the pages, coming and leaving of its own accord.

As it appears, flowers still grow in the dessert. This recipe was borne out of angry determination; I oft find myself thinking about veganism and how it should be made approachable or the norm to more people around me, and figured introducing classic favourites is the way to go. Who in their right mind would refuse a good, gooey brownie? Forget about it being ethical or healthy or whatnot, it tastes good, right? Food opinions are volatile, changed by taste alone. The line between veganism and sin-like lusciousness and satisfaction must be blurred. I never wanted to go vegan for the longest time because my idea of vegan food was worms and cardboard. That’s what some vegan cakes really taste like, anyway. But this is never always the case. Surprise yourself, and surprise others.

 

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Simply put, the highlight of anyone’s day.

The theme is approachability, guys. This is the sin everyone is looking for in an acceptable form. Double chocolate brownie waffles studded with chocolate, crisp-edged with a tender, gooey middle.

It’s not just a one-bowl wonder, it’s a time-saving wonder. If you’re like me and typically have to rush off to work by 8.30am in the morning, simply make the batter in less than 5 minutes the night before, let rest in the fridge overnight and scoop out batter for the waffle-maker the next morning. You could even just bake these for fudge brownie cookies in a 180C oven for 10 minutes. I say that like I actually did it, but do tell me if they work, because I can’t be the only one to have fun while making some (necessary) mistakes, right? The batter is like unexpected cash, you can do way more with it than you might initially think. For example, I made a fudge brownie waffle sundae by sandwiching two waffle bits with coconut ice cream (I love Luna and Larry’s!) and drizzling it with some chocolate sauce, which I made just by mixing some cocoa powder, icing sugar and almond milk together. How wonderful is experimentation. How life-giving and meditative.

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Ingredients (makes 6-7 medium-sized waffles)

125g all-purpose (plain flour)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

30g cacao/cocoa powder

1 large mashed banana (125g), or two small mashed ones. Alternatively, you could use the same weight of applesauce.

40g (a large handful) of vegan chocolate chips, I used these

40g white/coconut/maple sugar

 

Directions

Simply put all ingredients in a bowl and mix until everything comes together. Turn your waffle-maker on and let it heat up according to its instruction manual. Grease it well! Take a heaped tablespoonful of the chocolate batter and put it in the centre of your waffle maker and let cook on a medium-high heat for at least 5 minutes. This is important in making sure your waffles turn out as crisp as possible, You can check after 3 minutes– if the waffles still feel soft to touch then leave it for another few minutes.

Separate your waffles with paper towels to absorb any condensation. You can freeze these waffles for future consumption or leave at room temperature in an airtight container for 1-2 days. If eating the next day and the waffles are left out on the counter, toast them for those crisp edges once more; they would’ve softened within the day.

And now for some fun!

If you’re making a waffle sundae (as pictured above), simply sandwich two waffles or waffle halves with some dairy-free ice cream and drizzle with some chocolate sauce. I did this by mixing a heaped teaspoon of cocoa powder, 3 heaped tablespoons of icing sugar and a couple teaspoons of almond milk. Play around until you get a relatively thick, dribbling consistency.

 

 

Berry Pillow Pancakes

It feels so good to be back. Writing on this platform. Gone are the heavy-duty library mornings, scrambling to memorise any and every little exam-related detail. Content- too much of it. Second year is over!!

Though I am back in a work routine once more, the sudden overwhelming heat and humidity equating to occasional brain fog and angry lethargy, there’s a prevailing zest for life and all there is to offer here at home. Tuesday demanded my favourite classic– a recipe that’s been tested and loved by so many friends and plenty of family members. It’s what my sisters scream for whenever I am back, what defines their Sunday mornings.

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My classic pillow pancakes, stuffed with warmed berries, topped with thick coconut yoghurt, crushed frozen raspberries (like granita!) and homemade granola given to me by a kind friend. 

My favourite part about making these never gets old. You ladle tablespoonfuls of batter onto a hot pan, let it spread. Once you see a few bubbles around the edges and on the surface, you flip and watch the whole pancake rise a little, like a soft inhale. The ratio of dry ingredients means that even if the batter turns out slightly thinner than what you would like, which has happened a couple of times to me, the pancakes still turn out perfectly fluffy and well-risen every single time.

Tender, fluffy rounds of perfect. The berries in here lend a nice tang in each bite. Highly recommend eating with coconut yoghurt and maple syrup, for a symphony of stodge and creaminess (sans any guilt of course), and something with a bit of crunch for textural variety.

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Berry-stuffed Pillow Pancakes (makes around 11-12 medium pancakes)

Ingredients

188g all-purpose flour

2 tbsp white sugar (I like to use coconut or maple sugar here)

generous pinch of salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 banana, mashed

50g frozen mixed berries

50g unsalted vegan butter (or 45g canola/vegetable oil)

1 tsp vanilla extract, or the insides of half a plump vanilla bean (or a skinny meek one)

240ml plant milk– almond/cashew/soy/rice

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt and leavening agents). Take out your berries from the freezer and leave to thaw while you prep the rest of the ingredients. In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter in a microwave and set it aside, letting it cool. In another medium bowl, whisk together the mashed banana, plant milk, vanilla (or insides of a vanilla bean) and melted butter. Pour the wet mix into the dry mix and mix briefly with a wooden spoon or a normal dinner spoon. Continue to mix until everything is just combined, which means there will still be a few lumps, but no more streaks of flour. The batter will be thick and somewhat lumpy.

Preheat your pan on medium heat and ready some butter. You know the pan is hot enough when you flick a little water onto its surface and there’s a clear sizzle. At that point, generously butter the pan and ladle tablespoonfuls of batter. I didn’t have to wait for bubbles to pop before flipping; the batter is thicker than usual and there’s no need to wait. Flip the pancakes when you notice the edges stiffening a little, or when you can slide your spatula whole underneath the bottom of the pancake. It will rise a little upon flipping, as if that action gives it life, and hence, breath. The surface should have a brown mosaic thanks to the hot butter. Once the second side is done (will take no more than 20 seconds), let cool on a paper towel. As mentioned above, these freeze wonderfully, so you can make a whole batch, have a small stack and stash the rest in a ziploc bag in the freezer. Easy!

Serve with more frozen berries, coconut yoghurt and maple syrup.

 

Proud East– Pop Up Japan

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I miss Japan. That much I can say. So upon invitation to check out ProudEast’s new Japanese-themed popup, I could quite literally feel my belly slowly move upwards. Not that belly-lurching could be any good, in any which way or form, it’s just that I knew all those juices were undeniably angry,  screaming for some oriental nosh. And you can indeed get that sort of thing here in London, little miss dressed-up International, though at hard-shelled prices pasted on seaweed I could get for two cents at my local oriental store back at home. Eat Tokyo (of which there are several outlets here) is pretty worth most bites of sweetly-vinegared rice, but there’s a certain degree of delicacy, an intricacy lacking that, to me, is so intrinsic to Japanese cuisine. Of course culinary chains aren’t meant to be all whimsy, but I can’t help it. Even the most chain-like places in Japan were more like fanciful culinary arenas, where sumo wrestlers gracefully dance and jiggle. But London is London and some things don’t change. Here was a chance to put my worn tastebuds to good use.

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Seated along the blossom-lined path of Regent’s Canal, Proud East describes its pop up as ‘fusing Tokyo’s dynamic cultural hub with century old customs’. True enough, I was greeted with rich reds splashed amongst a contemporary monochrome palette. Lanterns. Clean wood. Sharp lines. Now if only there was a Japanese lady, but you can’t have it all, right?

I started my little self-made food sequence with their Aki Ban Cha, a light and fragrant green tea (though the lady who served it didn’t know what it was). They have a selection of three teas on offer, and mine stayed warm and life-giving for the hour I was there. There had to be some sort of meditation in case anything else went awry.

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Shimeji and shiitake hiyashi (cold) ramen

The star, the silver, the gold. The Hiyashi Ramen, which I chose to eat with shimeji and shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots and homemade kimchi (hit the jackpot here! Not overwhelmingly spicy, delicately sour). Commending the traditional cooking method of soaking in cool water; the noodles turned out cold, bouncy and firm. A tender bite, mildly sweet and lusciously dressed in that supple, slippery ponzu (soy and yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit like a light yet more bitter version of your typical orange). Though I keep eating eggs, dairy and meat to a minimum, hats off to the bright orange yolk tenderly cooked to perfection. A wobbly and ready-to-burst onsen egg would’ve fared even better, especially on this cool base. Well-cut, lovingly-marinated vegetables rounded up the savoury notes with an innate fresh and tangy zeal. I took it all quite seriously as the flavours were almost mesmerising, crisp silhouettes in my head. Almost as good as Tonkichi back at home in Singapore. I liked how they provide free chilli oil and white vinegar too on the side. The noodle volume was a little overwhelming for someone like me, but so worth it when priced at £9.50.

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Salted caramel miso ice cream sandwiched between two layers of chocolate guinness cake (unwrapped)/ upstairs gaming and lounge area

I wasn’t expecting this to be wrapped up and sealed with ‘Happy Endings LDN’, which did sound a bit weird for obvious reasons but compelling all the same. The ice cream alone is its saving grace, for I did taste miso streaked through the marshmallowy fluff of ice cream. Sweet and pillowy. The easy sort of eating, say if you want to grab something unusual (albeit fast-melting) on the go.

The whole concept is cute– you also get to play games upstairs, watch some arthouse Japanese films and indulge in some sushi and sashimi making classes. As they mention, ‘Proud East’s open plan kitchen will be taken over by one of the finest London restaurants, Tonkotsu, with a tantalising menu including fresh Gyoza, Crab Korokke, Chicken Kara-age and Tonkotsu’s signature dish, their intensely flavoursome and creamy Ramen’. Some serious immersion going on here and this spot will satisfy your Asian tooth for as long as you like, just until it ends in about 10 weeks. So get your butts here guys.