No-fuss Tahini Bars

There is always something therapeutic about making bars. It’s pretty easy to do, for a first, and also hard to mess up, even if you miss a few tablespoons of an ingredient here or there. These tahini bars are quick, simple, and you will want to make them more than once. The perimeter is more cakey than chewy, and the middle holds a fudgy consistency. Delicious.

I have made tahini bars before, but these are extremely no-fuss, and simple substitutions (for example, using just brown sugar or vegan egg in place of the normal eggs here) suffice. I don’t know when I will get sick of tahini, but until then, I’ll be making these bars.

No-Fuss Tahini Bars (makes 9 medium bars)

Ingredients

130g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

70g butter, melted (in a microwave)

1/2 tsp fine salt

1 egg

150g light brown sugar

90g tahini (around 1/3 cup)

Directions

If you haven’t already, melt your butter in a microwave by placing it in a microwave-safe bowl and microwaving on high in 30-second increments or until completely melted. Preheat your oven (no-fan setting) to 180C and line a square 8×8-inch or 9×9-inch pan with baking parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. In a separate, larger bowl, whisk together the melted butter, sugar, salt, egg and tahini. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients using a rubber spatula. Pour the batter, which should be quite runny, into the prepared pan, and bake for at least 25 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle comes out with moist crumbs. If the batter is still wet, bake for 5 more minutes. Take the pan out and leave it to cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into squares and consuming .

Peanut Butter Sand Cookies

On today’s episode of ugly delicious, I welcome the peanut butter sand cookie.

Soft, crumbly cookie with hard edges and a distinct peanut flavour

Pretty much a peanut butter crumble in a cookie. I think I cracked these cookies the second time. The first time, I deemed them too dry, although a friend told me that they were just to her taste. The second time, they retained the typical chew of your denser peanut butter cookie, but also had a soft, almost melt-in-your-mouth crumbly consistency. I couldn’t help but think they resembled sand somehow, hence the name.

You can use processed peanut butter here, but the natural oils of natural peanut butter, when blended into the rest of the liquid part of the batter, makes for an extra smooth and delicious result. Definitely go ahead and use chunky peanut butter too, if that’s your preference.

It’s all about the texture here. My go-to cookie is rich and chewy with hard edges, but this is quite something, too. When you bite into the cookie, you get a pure peanut butter flavour dispersed through large, fluffy crumbs, and then as your teeth sink in, all that strong flavour concentrates into a grind of chew at the end of the bite.

Another one-bowl wonder!

Peanut butter sand cookies (makes 6-7 large cookies)

Ingredients

110g peanut butter (preferably natural peanut butter but use any sort you like)

110g unsalted butter

1/2 tsp fine salt

90g brown sugar

1 egg

135g flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

optional: 100g chocolate chips, and flaky sea salt for sprinkling on top

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350F (180C) and line a baking tray with baking parchment.

If your butter or peanut butter is hard, place them in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds or until soft to touch, not melting. In a medium bowl and using a whisk, whisk together the butter, peanut butter, salt and brown sugar until it looks light and fluffy, at least 2 minutes. Beat in the egg and whisk that in too.

Add the flour, baking soda and optional chocolate chips. Use a spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet, bringing everything together until you get a sticky, thick batter. Use an ice cream scoop or your hands to scoop large golfball-sized clumps of batter onto your prepared pan. Sprinkle on the optional coarse salt on top. Bake for 10 minutes, then take them out and let cool and set for another 10 before eating. These cookies keep well for up to 3 days in an airtight container at room temperature, but you can also freeze them. Take out and microwave one for up to 2 minutes with a break after a minute, for a warm cookie. Best eaten with vanilla ice cream, or with a steaming cup of milky coffee!

Banana Cake with Toffee Sauce

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Where has the consistency been? This week has been a flurry of priority questioning and it’s taken until now, April, to finally feel as if things are getting back on track. I’ve forgotten how effective blogging is at re-wording my sense of self and re-aligning priorities. More and more I’m realising it’s an outlet, to help me more than just others, and it feels good. If others indeed benefit from my own vulnerability in words as well as my recipes, then the ultimate goal is reached. Further, although Instagram, that occasionally fun and bright little platform, nicely links to this blog, I have to say that words flow a little more naturally here in prose. I can write all the long captions I want on every Instagram post, but that would ruin the point of this blog, and rarely does one go on Instagram to read paragraphs anyway.  There’s no limit here, just freedom of thought as my hands hurry across the keyboard. And doing it even just once a week is such a great relief, a comfort, away from other pressing worries.

Life is supposedly about work and play, but I realised there must be a couple of concrete things in place, done on the daily or weekly, that help reinforce my work ethic and everything else that comes in this sphere of daily living. Namely, blogging like this, fitness and health, and words. There are some practical ways in which these can be enforced, ways which in previous years I may have been too nervous to talk or even blog about. In the points below I’m more specific in methods that help my human relations (this is the one thing I think I’ll always be private about), body, life and general goals.

read and write a little everyday: words are assuagement, trailing between my teeth and lips and hands, giving meaning to the smallest overlooked things on the daily, resetting focus and slowing down my (usually too fast to the point of no return) brain. So a little everyday goes a long way. I’ve been journalling almost every day since I was 7, so I’m happy that that’s a natural habit in place, but my reading of books could seriously be upped, and my German is still incredibly poor so I must drastically improve my practice, with this blogpost keeping me accountable.

On this note on words, here’s an interesting quote to fluff up your day: ‘Science is one way of connecting with the mystery of existence. Atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method because atheism is a declaration of nonbelief, but there are not really any declarations in science.’–Marcelo Gleiser, winner of the Templeton Prize 2019. Funny to read this as I constantly question where I am on the spirituality spectrum. That was something complex compressed neatly into a few keen sentences, something to think about more often.

cardio and strength training: movement is another meditation. I’ve been trying to alternate between these two 4 times a week, and I’ve found my general focus and memory to have improved significantly. Yoga, spinning, bodypump classes, and walking daily. I have pretty crap stamina so aiming to get stronger with time, as I zone out and tune in, and to improve insulin sensitivity. Anyone else have a strict fitness routine?

food: I’ll repeat myself every day if I have to– this blog is my fairytale place. It makes me happy to write about sweet things, made slowly and pleasingly with jazz music in the background, but it’s by no means what I eat on a daily basis. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m pretty health-conscious, given what I study (human nutrition, gut health and how it links to brain health), but good at pretending I’m not. I will happily visit the newest bakeries and indulge my sweet tooth, but that probably goes as far as once or twice a week, and I’m apt to look out for the other sugary things I enjoy slotting into my meals: sweet chilli sauce, oat mochas (I’m having one right now, guilty), maple syrup, etc. I never can, or will, be too militant because this in itself is a set-up for failure and a very UNfun life. So here’s to more protein in my protein-lacking diet, slow-releasing carbohydrates, more whole fruit and veg, and less sugar overall to keep me feeling sluggish.

And with that said…

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Cake. A cake for the weekend, or a midweek pick-me-up. This banana cake has olive oil in it, which I find readily complements the ripe banana flavour, but if you so happen to not have that on hand, then any other oil (sunflower, rapeseed or even coconut) would work. Maybe not sesame. There’s not much oil in the cake anyway, so you should be safe in any case.

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Banana, chocolate, olive oil. A serious, yet light-hearted, harmony. I experimented with the vegan version of this using ground flaxseed to make the flax eggs, but really this was The best part of eating this cake, in my humble opinion, is the drizzling of hot toffee sauce and cold cream (plain or coconut) on the cake, making it a squidgy, moreish mess, dry and wet in all the right places, before digging in. The hot and cold and bit of banana on top of the cake come together in a cute waltz that intensifies into a crazy textural orgasm. So hot.

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Ingredients (makes one 9-inch cake)

For the cake:

188g (1+1/2 cups) plain, all-purpose flour

1.5 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

handful of chopped chocolate (milk/dark)

230g (around 1+1/4 cup, unpacked) light/dark brown sugar

4+1/2 bananas, 2 whole and 2+1/2 mashed

3 eggs or 4 flax eggs (made by mixing 4 tbsp ground flaxseed with 7 tbsp water and leaving aside for a while to gel)

120ml (1/2 cup) olive oil, or sub with melted butter/vegan butter/another oil that’s more neutrally flavoured

Handful of chopped chocolate

For the toffee sauce:

113g (1/2 cup) butter/vegan butter

3 tsp fine salt

135g (2/3 cup, unpacked) light or dark brown sugar

120ml (1/2 cup) heavy cream or coconut cream

Directions

For the cake:

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Grease a standard 9-inch round cake pan. It would be easy if you use a springform pan, in which case you can easily take the cake out, and I don’t bother lining the tin. If you do use a normal pan then make sure to line your tin with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon and baking powder. In another medium bowl, whisk together the mashed bananas (2+1/2), brown sugar, eggs, oil and salt. Add the wet mix to the dry mix and fold everything together until you get a nice homogenous batter. Some banana lumps are fine. Pour the cake batter into the pan. Next, cut each of the remaining 2 bananas in half, and then cut each half again in half, lengthwise this time. You end up with 8 short banana halves. Place each banana piece cut side up in a wheel formation (or however you like) on the cake, then sprinkle on the chopped chocolate on top, then place the cake into the preheated oven to bake for 35 minutes exactly.

Meanwhile, make the toffee sauce. Add the brown sugar and butter to a saucepan, bring the heat up to the highest and wait for the mixture to come to a boil, helping the brown sugar and butter to dissolve faster by nudging the mixture with a wooden spoon. Once it starts to sizzle, let bubble for 2 minutes, then add the cream and whisk. It will sputter a little, but that’s normal and good. Cook for a couple more minutes, then bring the heat down, cook one more minute until everything is smooth and caramel-coloured, and take it off the heat.

Once the cake is baked, take out of the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes. Serve with the toffee sauce and some extra cold cream or coconut cream. Store the toffee sauce in the fridge, and the cake at room temperature for up to 4 days in an airtight container.

Matcha Scones

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First, yet late, post of the new year. Ready to make some changes and start anew despite a slightly rough start, such as being more regular on this platform…! I realised that, despite how much I love Instagram and how such a platform exposed me to like-minded, passionate individuals, it’s this more personal, open space that, on occasion, does feel more like a space that induces more openness and lengthy talks about nothing and everything. How a simple matcha scone can offer so much pleasure, how a bleak future and more job losses thanks to AI actually may create more jobs, how my screen now has a small but rather obvious crack, how Thursdays may be better for starting new habits than Mondays… you know, that sort of thing. Everything and nothing. Instagram isn’t made for excessively long captions, and the algorithm has blinded me to some of my own dear friends’ posts. That’s annoying. So here’s to not panicking over these silly minutiae of daily life, and start embracing what truly makes us happy, even if it seems as if no one is looking or listening. I don’t know where I’m going with this, but isn’t that the point? Here, I don’t have to care.

 

Matcha scone, oh matcha scone. I haven’t made something so simple and delicious in a while. These quite literally are effortless, so if you do have an oven, there is no excuse not to at least try. Yes, I know matcha powder can be quite unnecessarily pricey, especially here in London, so experiment with whatever other bold flavour you may have hanging around in the house. An element of bitterness or tanginess will add a unique aftertaste, hence I used matcha powder, but mix in a cluster of frozen berries, or cocoa powder, and you will still end up with a similar effect, embodied in something especially flavourful and special.

 

The beautiful thing about this batter is that the vegan butter, which is naturally soft on its own, doesn’t have to be left out for a while to get to room temperature. Simply scoop however much you need right from the tub, and dump it straight into the dry mixture. Of course, use normal butter if you already have that on hand. You will first be enraptured by the smell of these baking, and there’s no going back once you sink your teeth into the soft flakiness of the scones. You can go the extra mile and up the flake level by cubing your butter first and putting it in the freezer for at least 10 minutes before mixing it into the dry mix, but I was, well, lazy, and still had incredibly flaky yummy scones. These are too perfect right out of the oven with a cup of tea or coffee. If storing them in the freezer, leave to thaw before consuming. I recently discovered that cutting one scone along its length and toasting each half made it feel and look as if the scone was fresh out of the oven.

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Ingredients

For the scones:

245g plain flour (alternatively, use half whole-wheat and half white)

115g sugar (white or coconut)

1 tbsp baking powder

½ baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 tbsp ground flaxseed

2 tbsp water

2 tbsp matcha powder (I used the one by Matcha Reserve, which is my favourite brand so far)

120ml (half a cup) plant milk of choice– I used almond

90g (6 tbsp) vegan butter (alternatively, use normal butter)

 

For the icing:

60g (a half cup) of icing sugar

1 tbsp plant milk of choice (I used almond again, you can use whichever you prefer– coconut/oat etc)

 

 

Directions

In a little saucer, mix together the ground flaxseed and 2 tbsp of water and set this aside to form your flax egg.

Preheat your oven to 220C (425F) and line a baking tray with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, matcha powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Then add the butter and milk, and mix with your fingertips until the dough comes together. Don’t overmix this scone batter otherwise you will get rubbery dough once it’s baked. The batter should not be too dry– the butter should make it slightly moist to the touch but not slippery or wet. Once everything has roughly come together, place the mass of dough onto the parchment paper and slightly flatten it into a rectangle mimicking the shape of the baking tray, about 2 inches thick. Use a knife to cut the dough into 6 triangles. They may or may not be equal in size. Keep it rustic, right? Place the tray into the preheated oven and bake it for 25 minutes, or until you see the tops go slightly golden-brown. While the scones are baking, make the icing by whisking the icing sugar and milk with a fork in a bowl.

 

Once the scones have fully baked, leave them to cool for 10 minutes before drizzling on the glaze. These are best eaten once straight out of the oven, but they can be stored for up to 3 days in an airtight container.

Classic Crepes (gluten-free option)

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Fall, friends! It’s here, and I don’t know about you but I’m ready. Hello, excessive amounts of anything with pumpkin and apple pies. Hello, my favourite season.

The term has once again started, and with it comes a sense of both excitement and dread. To be intellectually stimulated is one thing, but it’s important to not let the intimidation of new, bright faces obfuscate any goal, be it professional or personal.

Enough with my obsession with pancakes. I let crepes take over this time. Sometimes a change of breakfast routine is all you need to feel excited about a new season, a new beginning, a new.. anything. These crepes can be made with any flour you wish, however buckwheat or spelt does result in a fluffier crepe with a more interesting flavour dimension. I never was a buckwheat gal, but decided to experiment with the rather wholesome-looking grain after a friend of mine whipped up a delicious buckwheat veggie dish for me last year, and since it’s free of gluten, it’s worth a try for my increasing number of gluten-free peeps. What’s more, more buckwheat, barley, brown rice and basically anything not scarily white is a good way of reducing intake of refined sugar and carbohydrate, for as much as I (and most of us) love the stuff, it does nothing for the brain or body, and can possibly trigger terrible eating habits.  Furthermore, it’s exciting just knowing that buckwheat:

  • is full of the bioflavonoid rutin, which contains quercetin (also abundant in apples), and is thus of higher nutritional value than many other grains. Rutin helps with blood circulation and lowers cholesterol, to name just a few things.
  • is full of magnesium (supports respiratory health and helps restore normal sleep patterns), copper (helps the body absorb iron), and manganese (can improve bone health and reduce inflammation)

Makes it all a bit more exciting to put together. So you just whisk a few ingredients together, smack a quarter-cup of batter each time onto a hot pan, spread it out a little, flip to cook the other side for a short while, and there you have it– incredibly soft, tender crepes. The uniqueness of this dangerously delicious breakfast lies in its versatility– there’s a lightly toasted nutty flavour that can be combined with almost any flavour topping, although my personal favourite is coconut yoghurt and plenty of frozen but thawing summer berries on top.

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Crepes (makes 4-6, enough for one hungry person, scale up as necessary)

Ingredients

65g buckwheat flour (sub: plain or spelt flour)

pinch of salt

200ml plant milk of choice (I used oat)

1/2 tbsp ground flaxseed

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp vegetable oil/melted vegan butter (sub: normal butter)

Directions

In a medium mixing bowl, mix together all the ingredients well. The batter should be pourable but not too wet, so if it seems too thick, add a tablespoon of milk, and if it seems too thin, add a little more flour. Heat your pan (add a little oil if it’s not a nonstick pan) on medium heat. Flick a splash of water on it to see if it sizzles, to check if the pan is hot enough to use. Once it is hot enough, add a quarter-cup of batter to the pan and use the back of the cup measurement to spread the batter out into a thin circle. Be careful here– you don’t want the batter to be too thin, as this will lead to easy breakage afterwards when you try and flip the crepe.  Cook the first side until you see the edges of the crepe firm up, then slide your spatula carefully underneath and flip the crepe. Cook the second side for a little shorter, about a minute or so. Place the cooked crepe on a paper towel and roll it up before placing on a serving plate. Continue to do this for the remaining amount of batter. Serve with thick coconut yoghurt, tahini, berries and maple syrup!