OK, 2 of my favourite things at the moment are Maple Syrup and Walnuts, so I thought I'd do some recipes that higlight their MAGNIFICENCE! The beauty of Pure Maple Syrup (not to be confused with Maple Flavoured Syrup - which is just sugar water & of no benefit whatsoever) is that it is a naturally occuring sugar (the sap from maple trees) that is not altered or processed in any way (however it is not considered raw as the sap is boiled to evaporate off the water & leave behind the maple sugar)- meaning the body can digest it easier and it has a lower GI (than cane sugar & honey) so that it does not give your body as fast a sugar rush. It contains essential fatty acids, zinc & manganese which are known for their antioxidant powers, and for boosting immunity and protecting your heart. It is a lot sweeter than sugar so, you can use it as an alternative to sugar, and use less, which is a good thing, as sugar has absolutely NO nutritional value and also because maple syrup is expensive!
Walnuts are similar in that they also contain omega 3 fatty acids & plenty of manganese too - once again a very good anti-inflammatory, and helpful in protecting you from heart disease and high blood pressure. The trick of the ole walnut is, however, that once toasted, a lot of it's benefit is lost. Most of my recipes call for the walnuts to be toasted, and I do try to only do it lightly so that not all the goodness is killed. More importantly, tho, once you have a taste for them, you'll find it very easy to snack on a few raw ones a day, or grind up a few to sprinkle on your salad - it really takes it to another level.
My favourite salad ever: Rocket, Pear, Parmesan & honeyed Walnut Salad
Roughly chop a bag of big leaf rocket, and slice a firm pear (or Nashi) into thin slivers, and dress them in 2 tbsp of lemon juice so they don't go brown. Using a vege peeler, create shards of parmesan to cover the rocket. Drizzle over a good amount of olive oil. In a saucepan lightly toast 1/2 cup of halved walnuts, add 2 tbsp of raw honey and coat walnuts. Turn off heat and let cool. Using a fork, fish out the walnuts and stud the top of the salad with them. Place pear on top, season with S & P, and give a very gentle toss, making sure there is enough oil and lemon juice to dress the salad. Eat and Enjoy!
The next 2 recipes have been slightly adapted from the latest Donna Hay magazine which does a mouth-watering feature on maple Syrup:
Maple and Date Syrup Cake
1 cup fresh pitted dates, chopped (I used dried)
1/2 cup chopped sultanas (I used dried pears, I think you could use any other dried fruit, sultanas are just one of the sweetest)
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup boiling water
Place these ingredients together in a bowl and allow to sit for 10 mins. Using a hand-held blender, blend the mix till smooth.
1 1/2 cups S R Flour (I used 1 cup gf sr flour & 1/2 cup almond flour wtih 1/2 tsp bak soda - def think you could do 1/2 and 1/2 with this recipe)
3/4 cup brown sugar ( I used 1/3 cup coconut palm sugar and then doubled amount of maple syrup)
150g butter melted
2 tbsp maple syrup (I used 4 tbsp)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Mix dry ingredients and then all other ingredients and mix well to combine. Pour into greased 20cm round tin and bake for 50 mins till cook (test with a skewer). Allow to cool in the tin for 10 mins then turn out to cool completely.
At the end of the recipe it says to boil down 2 cups of maple syrup till thick to pour over top, but maple syrup is WAY too expensive to do that for 1 cake so all I did was poke holes all over the cake (with the skewer) while it was still hot, and drizzled more maple syrup over the top so it soaked into the cake and made it amazingly moist and very more-ish. I served it with a ribbon of cream and some toasted chopped walnuts - mmmmmmmmmmmmmm........ def a kiddy favourite.
And now for something a little different but equally as delicious:
Speck & Maple Beans
Place 1 tbsp vege oil, 200g speck trimmed and chopped ( I used nitrite-free bacon), and 1 chopped brown onion and cook for 1-2 mins till golden and tender.
Add: 1 tsp mustard powder
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tbsp worcestshire sauce
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup beef stock (I used home-made chook stock)
1 cup tomato puree
1 & 240g can each of butter beans, cannellini beans, borlotti beans & kidney beans (rinsed and drained) - good way to get rid of the backlog of cans in yr pantry!
S & P
Stir till well-combined. Cover with tight-fitting lid, reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 mins or until thickened. Yummy, and perfect for winter's night vegetarian dish on it's own, or as a side to some grilled meat or with some toasted sourdough. It's quite hard to find baked beans in the supermarket that are actually genuinely nutritious (without sugar & additives) and this is just so much more flavourful then any tin!
OK, and some more sweet delights: Simple Baklava (thanks to Giada de Laurentiis)
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup chopped apricots
1/4 cup bread crumbs (I just used almond meal!)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
Process all of the above ingredients till fine crumbs. Empty into a little bowl and add 4 tbsp honey & mix in. Melt 125g butter and then start brushing 12 sheets of filo pastry individually, and divide into 2 stacks of 6 sheets. Slice each stack into 12 squares (3 down, 4 across). Place each square into the bottom of a greased muffin mould (on a muffin tray). Place tablespoonfuls of the nut mixture into each pastry and then fold over the rest of the pastry to form a little sachet. Brush with a little extra butter on top and bake in mod oven for 20 - 25 mins till golden and crispy.
This is an amazingly simple baklava and a fab crunchy sweet. Yes, it has pastry and I have not investigated a gf solution but this is a nice little sugar-free treat. And my philosophy with baking is - if you've made too much for one day (as in there is a chance you will go overboard gutzing them all down yourself), then make sure you bestow a few on a friend as a little treat. I am blessed with a lovely friend who loves baklava, so I made sure I made some the day before I saw her so after I had my two, I passed the rest on!
And for a very easy nutty sweet cake there's Flourless Maple Walnut Cake.
Grease and line the base of a 9 inch cake pan. Preheat oven to 180C.
Toast 1 1/2 cups of walnuts and process till fine meal. Separate 4 large eggs and mix egg yolks, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/4 cup of maple syrup, 1/2 baking soda, and 1/2 tsp salt. Add walnuts and beat on low till combined. Whip egg whites till doubled in size but not stiff. Gently fold into nut mix until just combined; and pour into cake pan. Bake for 25 - 30 mins till skewer comes out of cake clean. Drizzle a little extra maple syrup over top if you want.
And there ends this delicious foray! Wish I'd taken a few more photos to show you how great they were but you'll know how great they are when you cook them YOURSELVES!