Matcha Coconut Adzuki Bean Tart

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The week in a nutshell?

Well.

Perhaps an abundance of small happenings and details that cumulated to form the realisation that the smallest changes can indeed lead to drastic changes. Things like goal setting and reading affirmations out loud (even if just in a whisper) have a tremendous impact on how you start and go through your day. Meditation. Another thing I’ve gotten into again, more recently. So many things which, just 2 years ago, I may have scoffed at, brushed aside as heeby-jeeby, loco, substance-less stuff. An amazing Harry Potter exhibition at the British Library, and finally becoming a member of the Wellcome Library. Delicate, lasting pleasures.

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I here conclude that centre of mind should be centre of gravity. Slip-ups happen, a day isn’t always that great, and that’s ok. Walk off the woes. Write. It’s about returning to those small, good things, and staying confident in their life-giving properties which may only be discovered upon closer inspection. Like pouring tea into your teacup, or savouring your first bite of dinner, or reading without your phone buzzing. There is a secret bonhomie even in the most inane things, or inanimate objects.

So I made this tart on Monday, and there is one last slice in the fridge. Waiting there for me, as I sit here typing in Waterstones. Stiffened just to the right degree, with a thin blanket of coconut cream gently melted before the drizzle, and lovingly homemade sweet red adzuki beans. Can you tell Japan is still on my mind?

With matcha, coconut, black sesame and adzuki bean, there’s a lot going on, but there’s a lot going on well. Ecstasy possessed me upon my finding these beans in a health shop near where I stay. They take quite a while to cook but the result is so worth it. These rigid, dark beans are harder, darker and smaller than your normal red kidney beans, and add a nice firm texture to any soft, sweet dessert. Dense and more earthy in flavour. In fact, you could throw these guys into your lunchtime salad or pasta and it probably wouldn’t be half bad (here’s to a new idea for tonight). The filling is not too rich, achieved by mixing coconut cream, coconut yoghurt and plant milk in the right ratio. You could do it all just with coconut cream, but that would totally overwhelm the addition of matcha. The light blend ensures all the flavours come through at the same time. As I wrote in my journal that day, it is ‘so sweet, matcha-y and creamy…!!’ Clearly I was too excited to English properly. Also, no baking needed! Just a little fridge hibernation, so make this the night before to enjoy the next day, or in the morning if you’re the sort who has time at home, and enjoy later on.

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A creamy matcha coconut tart with a black sesame crust and sweet adzuki beans (Japanese red bean)

Matcha Adzuki Bean Coconut Tart (makes one 7/8-inch tart)

Ingredients

For the crust:

35g roasted black sesame seeds

2 tbsp (50g) tahini

8 large medjool dates (120g)

100g raw cashews

 

For the filling:

2 tbsp matcha powder

150g coconut cream, from a package or scoop out the solid bits from a tin of coconut milk, and save some extra to drizzle on top

150g coconut yoghurt or any other plant-based yoghurt of choice, e.g. soy/almond etc

120ml almond milk (or any other plant milk)

50ml (45g or 3-4 tbsp) maple or agave syrup

4.5g (about 1 tbsp) agar powder or vegan gelatin

half a teaspoon of fine salt

 

For the bean topping:

100g adzuki beans (pre-soaked for 2-3 hours, or you can soak them while your tart is setting in the fridge)

5 tbsp granulated/coconut sugar

water

Directions

Using sesame oil or any other oil/margarine (sesame works well here because it matches the flavour of the crust but you don’t have to, really), liberally brush the base and all corners and crevices of your tart tin. Your tin should have a removable bottom. The liberal oiling is important because it’s easy for the sticky crust to stick to the sides! Now in a food processor, blend together all the ingredients for the crust. Wet your hands to stop so much of the batter sticking to them, and press the mixture evenly into your tart tin. Use the bottom of a glass to help, if you want. Set aside for now.

In a saucepan, whisk together the ingredients for the filling. Place on high heat and bring to boil. Once it is boiling, immediately reduce heat to low, let the mixture simmer for 30 seconds, then take off the heat. Pour this on top of the prepared black sesame crust and spread evenly. Place the tart into the fridge to set nicely.

Meanwhile, make the adzuki beans. Wash your saucepan. Take your pre-soaked beans and place them in the saucepan. Fill with water until the beans are just covered, then cook on medium-high heat for an hour. Now go read something, chat with your mum or watch an episode of Friends. When you come back, the beans should be relatively soft. If not, cook for another 10 minutes. There should still be a little resistance when you use a wooden spoon to break a few beans. Now add the sugar and stir until everything is dissolved. Take off the heat and set aside.

Finally, drizzle some extra coconut cream on the tart, then top with the cooked beans. Et voila! Serve cold from the fridge and enjoy with some green tea or coffee.

And to end on an inspirational quote…

‘Consistency is the playground of dull minds’

Black Sesame Waffles and Lemon Curd

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Do you feel the same emotional high as I after creating a meaningful breakfast? Such that it ceases to be a shallow acquaintance in the morning, disappearing as fast as it appeared– head to table, then head to door. It’s so much more than that. It’s a tuning into the senses, savouring a myriad of plant-based foods that nourish and lighten the soul, the abundance of classic and sometimes unexpected flavours colouring the rest of your day with creativity and comfort.

Just as how some people have shaped and supplied your existence over x number of years, food too mirrors this truth. In clashing flavours, harmony is found.

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There’s no ‘right’ time to treat yourself. Lately I’ve been re-focussing once more on the importance of routine, which really does free up a lot of creative head space during the day. Suffice to say that, upon the first moments of rising, after a cleansing elixir of which recipe I modified from various parts of the Internet  (1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, juice of half a lemon, top up the rest of my 750ml glass with filtered water, mix mix mix), meditation, a short workout and mini journalling session, a generous, flavourful, exotic breakfast is always welcome.

Black sesame, matcha, red bean. These are the flavours which still call to be delivered on an almost-daily basis. The magical trip to Japan was bookmarked with earthy flavour, soil and icy freedom etched in the wintery grey skies. These waffles are a throwback to some charcoal waffles I used to travel far for back in Singapore, though are richer in traditional goma flavour instead of being just, well, black. The use of activated charcoal here helps the colour, though that is optional. What makes it special is a black sesame paste made of finely ground black sesame, maple syrup and sesame oil. The ratio of the paste is much more coarse than that for the actual waffles, but as long as you get a relatively coarse, all-black paste then you’re set and ready to go.

And this lemon curd! Ah lemon curd, something I have unconsciously craved for so long and have failed to substitute with various tangy yoghurts and the morning lemon wash, has finally made a sturdy comeback. All vegan, all delicious, creamy and silky. I used agar powder since I did not have vegan gelatin on hand, but use the latter if you do have it. The agar promotes a more jelly-like flavour so use much less of it. Another great thing is that you can make both waffles and curd at the same time, and not waste time making one thing after the other. If lemon curd isn’t really your thing, these waffles would pair well with most anything else– this morning I coupled a toasted one with tahini, frozen fruit and maple syrup, the white pasty sesame-y tahini (yeah, to think I speak and type English) amping the roasted, toasted flavour of the black sesame paste in the waffles. The lemony curd cuts through this pastiness, a sunny break.

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Crispy, chewy black sesame waffles with lemon curd (makes 6 medium, or 5×6-inch waffles)

Ingredients

90g all-purpose flour

90g oat flour (store-bought or process 90g oats in a food processor; alternatively substitute with another flour of choice, be it plain, spelt, or perhaps a gluten-free option)

35g cornstarch

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp sugar of choice– I used coconut, you can use plain/brown/maple/golden caster

Optional: 1 tbsp activated charcoal powder (you can get this in powder form, or cut open the capsules to release the powder inside)

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the black sesame paste: 65g roasted black sesame seeds+ 2 tbsp each of maple syrup and sesame or vegetable oil

2 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice

1 tbsp melted vegan butter

350ml plant milk of choice (I used almond; you could use soy/cashew/oat)

For the lemon curd:

The juice of 1 lemon

3 tbsp cornstarch

1 tbsp agar powder, or 2 tbsp gelatin powder

a light pinch of turmeric, for colour (literally just the tiniest smidgen)

a pinch of salt

3 tbsp maple syrup (or agave nectar)

3-4 tbsp plant-based yoghurt (I used soy)

240ml plant milk of choice (I used almond)

 

Directions

First, make the black sesame paste. In a food processor, process the black sesame seeds until fine. This will take quite a while, perhaps at least a couple of minutes (well it took a while for me, at least). Once they look quite fine, add the maple syrup and oil and pulse again until everything is well combined. The paste should be dark and sticky.

In a separate bowl, weigh out all your dry ingredients and mix together well. Add the charcoal powder, then all the wet ingredients. Mix everything together until just combined. The mixture should be moderately thick, dark, and have speckles of the black sesame paste. Heat up your waffle iron according to its instructions and ladle in your glossy, dark batter. Do not put too much or the batter could seep over the sides once you close the lid. Wait for at least 3-4 minutes before opening the lid and checking. Mine does not need flipping over so I only had to close the lid for a couple more minutes again.

While the waffles are cooking, you can combine the ingredients for the lemon curd except for the yoghurt in a small saucepan. Mix everything together well then bring the contents to a boil. Once boiling, take the pan off the heat. This part is important! It may look as though the mixture is still very liquidy, but that’s how it should be. Leave it to cool while you deal with the waffles. After half an hour, take a spoon and mix the curd. It should be a little jelly-like, or at least thick. Add the yoghurt and mix to lighten the colour and smooth the flavour (otherwise its a little too intense).

The waffles and curd will keep for up to a week in your fridge, or you can freeze both and heat up either whenever you want. Serve with each other, with maple syrup and fresh fruit. Bliss, at its true finest.

Black Sesame Cinnamon Rolls (easy, eggless)

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I never expected a single public holiday to represent such freedom. Quite loving this mind shift, this change of tide, in the sense that I now savour small things like this. Like a short breather in between a long-range marathon. After all this time, I still get excited about writing blog posts for you guys, and creating different, easy-to-make (usually) recipes on all things breakfast and sweets. So it feels good to finally getting round to blabbering a little bit more in the morning. Indeed, I wouldn’t mind some pipette work in the lab, mind to matter, but days away from its calming sterility call for things I love most– drawn-out bouts of journalling, reading, watching, feeling, thinking, loving. With lots of coffee and tea, of course.

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Back in my first term at college, I modified a recipe for eggless cinnamon rolls out of pure circumstance. I didn’t wish to make them specifically for a vegan friend, though these turn out to be quite the treat if you do wish to make it vegan (simply change the milk and butter you use), and one wouldn’t be able to tell the difference anyway. The crunch of the black sesame pressed into a cinnamon-sugary-sweet filling is heaven in this one. The dough itself is satin and fluff, easy to tear and almost melt-in-your-mouth.

Black sesame cinnamon rolls, stuffed with a cinnamon sugar sesame filling, topped with a classic cream cheese frosting. 

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I’ve talked about these already in my first post on the recipe, so do go check it out, especially for some side profile sass and another cute flavour approach. The black sesame in this one elevates the humble bun’s sophistication, and adds several health benefits to something that’s not exactly the most healthful breakfast (ha). Rich in iron, calcium, zinc and B vitamins, just a sprinkling of the seeds lends quite a boost to your day’s nutritional profile. I’m not trying to deceive myself or any of you into thinking these are actually good for you, but hey, the sprinkle is still something, and it’s intriguing and fun to think about, at least to me.

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Black Sesame Cinnamon Rolls (makes 9 mini rolls)

Ingredients

For the dough:

2 1/4 tsp instant yeast

1 cup (240ml) milk– I used a mix of almond and whole

45g (3.5 tbsp) butter

250g (around 1 3/4 cups) plain flour, plus more for sprinkling on counter before kneading

3 tbsp black sesame powder, which you can usually buy from your local oriental store

pinch of salt+1 tbsp sugar

Vegan version: use a plant-based milk (almond/rice/soy) in place of regular milk, and vegan butter (Earth Balance)

 

For the filling:

45g (3.5 tbsp) butter, softened to room temperature

3 tbsp black sesame powder

large handful black sesame seeds

7 tbsp sugar mixed with 2 tbsp ground cinnamon

 

For the glaze:

50g icing sugar, sifted

25g cream cheese, softened

2-3 tbsp cream

 

Directions

Dough: In a microwave-safe bowl or in a saucepan over low heat, heat together the milk and butter until the butter has melted and the mix is warm (not scalding) to touch. Pour the mix into a larger bowl, then sprinkle on the yeast on one side of the bowl, and the salt and sugar on the opposite side. Wait 5 minutes, then add a half cup of flour at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon between each addition, followed by the black sesame powder. Once the dough is too thick to stir, transfer to a lightly floured counter and knead for 2 minutes. The final result should be a smooth, rather taut ball of dough, so you may need slightly more or less than the aforementioned quantity of flour. Briefly grease the same bowl, pop the ball of dough in and let it rise until it doubles in size–around an hour. At this point, preheat your oven to 176C (350F) and liberally grease an 8×8-inch pan.

After the dough has risen, lightly flour your counter again and turn the dough out onto the counter. Roll it out into a half-inch thick rectangle. Brush on (I just used my hands here) the butter that’s softened to room temperature, then sprinkle on the cinnamon-sugar mix, black sesame powder and black sesame seeds. Tightly roll the dough from the long end, so you end up with a long, pale tube of dough. Place the roll seam side down, and using a serrated knife, cut your tube into 8-9 rolls, each around 1.5 inches thick. Place them into the greased square pan. Cover the pan with foil to avoid over-browning and place inside your preheated oven. Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes.

While they’re baking, mix together the ingredients for the glaze in a small bowl. Once the rolls have finished baking, leave to cool for 10 minutes, then go ahead and glaze the heck out of them. Sprinkle on some black sesame seeds to top. These rolls are best eaten immediately or at least the day they’re made, however you can keep them for the next day and microwave them to revive a bit of tenderness.

No-Bake Vanilla Bean Cheesecake For One with Black Sesame Brittle

Sweet, tangy vanilla cheesecake with a crumbly crust, topped with shards of black sesame brittle. 

So much goodness in a 4-inch tart pan. The addition of black sesame? Almost unprecedented, perfect.

A few days ago I had the pleasure of attacking a bought cheesecake in a jar, with a delightful crumbly crust, topped nicely with passionfruit. The first bite made me realise, and later lament, how much I adore cheesecake sometimes. It was my favourite sort of cake thing aged 5 upwards; hot, cold, plain or with something swirled in, I liked it all. The addiction pash waned a few years ago, but recent encounters with good, solid cheesecakes rekindled that familiar joy and pleasure.

Ah, speckles.

What I love about this is that it’s totally customisable, depending on the ingredients you have in stock. Save for the main component of cream cheese, of course. You see, the main base is cream cheese and icing sugar, but the ‘lightening’ components are needed for lift, volume and better distribution of flavours. Now these can be altered. I state whipped coconut cream as one component, but not many people have a can of coconut milk or cream lying around, so whipped cream (or whipped topping) would work just as well. A milder flavour suits the majority, too. And the vanilla bean? Well, life doesn’t end here. Vanilla extract would work as well, but if you’re the sort who doesn’t like to compromise on taste and scent, I strongly suggest going all out, and remember that these beans will always come in handy, for instance in your sugar and in a myriad desserts.

Vanilla bean and black sesame work like a dream together. The latter component is optional, but to spoon a bit of cheesecake onto a small shard of crisp, sweet brittle? Joie de vivre. The actual process of making the brittle isn’t half as hard as it sounds. I know, words like ‘brittle’ might as well be replaced with ‘croissant lamination’ or ‘flambée’. But the only hard thing about this is waiting, and perhaps spreading the brittle into a thin enough layer before it hardens completely. On a side note, things like sesame and flax have compounds called lignans which help to regulate metabolism and weight, and that’s always a plus, right?

No-Bake Cheesecake For One With Black Sesame Brittle

Ingredients

For the cheesecake:

25g biscuits (I used Nice biscuits, but you can use graham crackers/ oreo cookies/ anything you have on hand)

10g melted butter

70g cream cheese, at room temperature

20g icing sugar (no need to sift)

1 heaping tbsp nut butter such as peanut butter or almond butter/ tahini (I used tahini)

2 tbsp whipped coconut cream/ whipped cream

the insides of half a vanilla bean or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of salt

For the black sesame brittle:

200g (1 cup) white sugar

60ml (1/4 cup) water

4 tbsp black sesame seeds

30g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter

pinch salt

Directions

If you’re using coconut cream in your cheesecake base, then start prep the night before. Take a can of coconut milk/coconut cream (the label can be either) and place in the fridge overnight. The next morning you should have a thick, firm white cream. If you’re using normal whipped cream, whip up a batch the night before and let set in the fridge so it’s more stiff the next morning when ready to use.

Place your biscuits in a small ziploc bag and zip the top tightly. Take a rolling pin and bash the biscuits until you get fine crumbs. Pour in the melted butter and incorporate well with your fingers (on the outside of the ziploc bag, of course). Pour into a small tart (should be 3-4 inches wide), or a small jar/cup, and press into an even layer with your fingers. In a medium bowl and with a metal whisk, whisk together all the ingredients listed above needed for the cheesecake.  The bowl needn’t be anything larger than medium since there’s not much volume to work with anyway (hoorah for a cheesecake all to yourself!!). Scrape the mix into your tart/jar/cup and place in the fridge to firm up. It’s ready for consumption in just 30 minutes, but you can eat it whenever.

Black sesame brittle? Easier than it sounds. I based the recipe off Joanne Chang’s Flour recipe for cacao nib brittle, and though I would have preferred a thinner, lacier texture, this still worked fine by me and the rest of my family. Grease and line a large baking sheet and set aside (the top of the baking sheet should be well greased too). In a medium saucepan, add the sugar and water. Place on high heat and let come to a hard boil. Let the mixture continue to boil for 5-8 minutes, or until you get a light brown colour. At this point, pour in the black sesame seeds and swirl pan in a circular motion to distribute, or do so gently with a wooden spoon. Let mixture continue to boil until the colour deepens to a deeper, richer amber-gold colour. Then, whisk in the butter and salt. Take off the heat and pour onto the baking sheet and spread into a thin layer with a spatula or wooden spoon. Work quickly because the mixture hardens with time. A couple of minutes later you can break the layer of black sesame brittle into shards, or pieces as big or small as you like.

Stick shards into the cheesecake and eat both components together. I like to spoon the cheesecake onto the sharp, sweet bits chockfull of black sesame seeds. YUM.

Black Sesame French Toast (with a twist)

If there’s one sort of breakfast I have to live off for the rest of my life, as long or short as it may be, it’s french toast.

And yes I like the good old classic stuff, whereby all you have to do is whip together eggs and milk and cinnamon and voila, you get a comforting, nourishing plate, eggy and soft and saturated, and now I use the word ‘and’ too much. Well. One of my personal favourite french toast recipes is actually eggless, and I implore you to check it out here.

But twists are welcome. Despite the familiarity of routine, twists and little leaps off of a classic theme are necessary to uphold the graciousness of the central perk. In this case, that perk is normal french toast. I love normality in that sense, all tried and true. But the addition of black sesame here, the little flick of the pen at the end of story, is the enhancement factor, serving not to distract, but uplift.

I’m a flexible eater, but I’m also the sort who thinks that if you’re going to enjoy something, you must enjoy it well. This might not be to everyone’s taste, but I do love dousing my french toast in whole milk, well accompanied by frigid coffee, because the sogginess factor makes my heart the same consistency. It all sounds a bit absurd, I know. But do what you do best, right? Adjust to taste. It’s all delicious in the end, anyway.

Black Sesame French Toast (For 1)

Directions

In a shallow bowl, whisk together one egg, a dash of cinnamon, a large splash of milk (whatever sort you prefer, I used whole) and a tablespoon of honey. Into another bowl or plate, sift 2 heaping tablespoons of black sesame powder.

Take 2 slices of sourdough/ brioche/ baguette and soak each side in your eggy batter for 10-20 seconds. Whilst waiting, preheat your pan to medium heat, and ready some butter. Once the pan is hot, butter it, making sure you hear a good sizzle upon first contact. Cook your french toast as you usually would, around 2 minutes on the first side and a little less on the second, just so it’s not rendered dry. You want a fair bit of eggy saturation in the middle (yes, even if you like drowning your french toast in milk like moi).

Once your french toast is cooked, generously slather the tops with the black sesame powder, which will go moist and a bit sticky upon contact with the heat and moisture from the toast.

*variation: To serve, place the toast on a plate, top with almond butter, chopped strawberries, a drizzle of coconut cream and, if you wish, coconut chips. The black sesame with fruit and coconut here is a divine combination!