Salted chocolate almond peanut butter cups. With a twist.

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We’ve just received almonds from Lizzie’s farm in Andalusia, and I was keen on baking something festive and delicious with them right away. These delicious cake bites don’t need cooking, and have no flour, eggs or butter in them.
 
Makes 9 cups

INGREDIENTS
for the base:
6 handfuls of almonds
A handful of oats
2 tsp coconut butter
3 tsp molasses (I used date molasses)
3 tsp peanut butter
for the topping:
200g dark chocolate
2tsp coconut butter

Fleur de sel (regular salt is acceptable too!)
cocoa powder (for dusting)

METHOD
In a food processor, add almonds & oats and pulse multiple times until you have a light, finely ground texture much like semolina. Add coconut, molasses and peanut butter one at a time and pulse in spurts. I finished by hand with a fork to mix it all in thoroughly. Put cupcake liners in a cupcake tray and spoon the mixture, dividing evenly. Use the back of the spoon (or the bottom of a glass) to press the mixture and compact down in each case. Refrigerate whilst you make your chocolate.
Break chocolate into chunks and place over heat in a bain-Marie (which is how you should melt chocolate – using a pot of water into which you place another pot with the chocolate – chocolate doesn’t like direct heat). Stir occasionally until chocolate is melted, then add the coconut butter. Spoon the chocolate evenly onto the almond-cups and refrigerate again for a few hours. Then sprinkle with salt and dust with cocoa powder to serve.

Optional yumminess:
Before pouring the chocolate over the almond base, I made a small hole in each base and added a filling of my choice: I tried Nutella, peanut butter, and green tomato jam which were all a success. I even tried one with the delicious “Il Caviale de Belzebu” – a lemony chilli jam – and that one was my favourite.

 

 

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Pear and Apricot chutney

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Chutney doesn’t last long in my house because I eat it with almost anything – even since I’ve stopped eating meat, I have it with vegetables, rice dishes, couscous Tajine dishes, homemade fries and use it as relish on sandwiches. Chutney definitely gets better with age as it rounds off the vinegar’s bite, and tastes the best after about two three months. I try hard to keep mine up to a year, when I usually make a new batch. Last year’s Pear and Cranberry was an all-time favourite so this year I’ve made Pear and Apricot. I used un-sulfurised apricots as my sweetheart mentioned he doesn’t digest the regular ones, and I prefer to use ingredients with less chemicals. The fresh grated curcuma adds a lovely yellow ochre colour and a hint of flavour adding to the richness of the tastes.

The result is delicious, I made these a month ago and have already gone through one-and-a-half jars!

Makes about 12 180g-jars

INGREDIENTS
10 (1.8kg) pears, diced
2 apples, diced
200g dried apricots, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
14 shallots, chopped
Handful of sultanas
1/2 bio lemon – rind + juice
1 thumb ginger, finely chopped

400g sugar
400ml cider vinegar
1 tsp. soy sauce
Rosemary, finely chopped
Mustard seeds
1/2 tsp grated Curcuma

METHOD
Lightly fry the mustard seeds with chopped apricots in butter (or oil) to release aroma and “relax” the apricots whilst very lightly caramelising them. This releases the flavours in both ingredients.

Add chopped fruit, shallots, lemon, sultanas, garlic, ginger, curcuma and rosemary with fried mixture, sugar and vinegar, bring to the boil and then let simmer until it’s chutneyed! This usually takes about two hours,

The Meetup

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We’ve decided to start a Meetup group on Urban Agriculture and Local Food Production and see where it goes, partly from the frustration that such a group didn’t already exist. Personally, I want to meet more like-minded people and keep my finger on the pulse of people who are interested in urban agriculture and local food production, but not necessarily actively involved in it. Plus it will be fun to organise seed swaps, talks and small gatherings around the theme of local food production.

 

Aquaponics workshop

In early October I attended an Aquaponics workshop so that I could get my hands dirty and wrap my head around the simplicity of the concept. I also wanted to meet some of the people involved and see the farm lab that Top Farmers is running in the August-Sander-Berufsschule. It was organised in partnership with the Roof Water Farm, represented by Anja and Grit who are both informative, engaged, lively and very warm women.

The workshop started with an exchange of ideas about aquaponics and urban water systems, introducing and explaining some of the research in water treatment technologies for rainwater, greywater and blackwater undertaken at the Roof Water Farm. You can see some of there results

Markus from Top Farmers then took us around the greenhouse where different plants are grown and watered with their aquaponic system. This is their lab and they have the freedom to experiment; this year they are growing exotic plants and the banana tree is apparently even getting a bit too big. The fish in their aquaponic system are African Catfish, and, as at the ECF Containerfarm, you can have 80-100 fish in 1,000 litres of water. Once again, we are assured the fish actually even like this, as this species feels safer closer together but it’s counter-intuitive to my human brain and I find myself bothered by the idea.

(side note: Marcus also runs Chido’s Mushrooms, which grows mushrooms which grow mushrooms on recycled coffee grounds, and has been on my radar for a while. It was lovely to discuss with him the ins and outs of local food production.)

Finally we made a working model of an aquaponics system, and even though I opted out of coming home with goldfish in it, I look forward to trying it out in the near future and seeing how long it will last and if I can keep the plants alive.

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Berlin Food Week. Figuring out the next mission.

What a great weekend. I participated in a Food-Swap organised by Berlin Tidbits at Berlin food week, where I offered five packs of Candied Quince and five jars of the Green Tomato Jam and came back with all of these goodies. The Food Xchange usually takes place at Markthalle IX and I’ll definitely be going there again.

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On the Sunday we went back to the Food Week and watched the guys from BioLüske carve a pig from head to tail. When I was little my mother always said if they didn’t know what to do with me they’d sell me to the Butchers’ because I was fascinated when we went to buy meat – the visuals, the food, the variety, the pink packaging, the sawdust on the floor, the drawings of large animals segmented into dotted lines to show the cuts, the over-sized utensils and meathooks, big men in bloodied aprons – I was intrigued by the feeling that all of this was larger than life – now I understand this was also true in a philosophical way. An odd mix.

So naturally I was in for a treat and we watched the carving of the pig for a while. The sausage-making also grabbed my attention; I’ve always wanted to make sausages you see, but lately I’ve been dreaming of making them out of vegetables. Not vegetarian sausages – I am a vegetarian as I have opted-out of the meat trade by choice – but I have no problem eating quality, respectful, local meat once in a while and using well-sourced local sausage casings or animal fat. I’m just not convinced by the cellulose options of casings and I’m not going to make concessions. The point is to make a delicious tasting vegetable-based sausage with integrity, not to be a purist. Anyways, thoughts for another day.

I then chose to eat a generous Arepa from Maria Maria Arepas had a glass of wine and wandered home thinking about my next mission: figuring out a way to source more local produce.

 

Green Tomato and Ginger Jam

Here’s the recipe of the Green Tomato Jam I cooked for the Food Swap on Saturday at the Berlin Food week! Easy to make and delicious. Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 16.18.39And it won best entry for the “sweet” category!  Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 16.20.20 Ingredients 1.6 kg green tomatoes 800g sugar Two big thumbs of ginger Half a lime juice Recipe

  • Dice the tomatoes and place in thick-bottomed pot.
  • Peel the ginger, slice it and chop into fine pieces.
  • Add together with the tomatoes, half a lime juice and the sugar.
  • Cook over a low heat for about one to two hours, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.
  • To check if the jam is cooked: use the spoon to put a few drops onto a cold plate and watch the drop: if the drop “breaks” or runs when you tilt the plate then your jam isn’t ready, if they hold and don’t flatten, then it’s ready!
  • Pour into sterilised jars, close the lid and let them cool upside down to create a vacuum-seal.

Europe’s largest Aquaponic farm is underway in Berlin

Last Friday I visited the ECF Containerfarm, an urban aquaponics farm situated at the Malzfabrik in Berlin. It falls into the category of “shipping-container farms” which are cropping up all over Europe, I’ve even found a map to see the various projects. The ECF farm is topped by a greenhouse, and is the Aquaponic Farm prototype they used to bring their larger project to fruition. The container houses the fish as well as the filtering system, and the greenhouse grows all sorts of plants in a hydroponic system.

The founders pitched their project at Silicon Valley Clean Tech Open in December 2013 and won as best international Start-Up, which I assume secured them funding for what is currently being built: the largest aquaponics farm in Europe.

The visit started with an explanation of the fishtank and how their filtering systems work. Everyone’s observation was susprise at how small the fishtank was: 1,000 litre tank (which in effect is about four full bathtubs) for 80 fish – perch I think, or trout. We were assured that the fish were not stressed out by this, you can tell by the level of stress-hormones.

Their filtering system, ASTAF-PRO (Aquaponic system for emission-free tomato and fish production), developed by a team at IGB, The Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries. You can read more about it by downloading the pdf (check out page 19), the system is under patent but they seem to be happy to share their knowledge.

We then had some freshly picked melon from the greenhouse which was delicious, and went over across the Malzfabrik to have a look at the construction site, which is impressive and exciting – but tous itself as “intensive farming”. It opens in Spring 2015 and I’m curious to see what happens. I’m not a fan of anything intesive, I think automating processes and trying to be too efficient can often be at the detriment of the product, even if it is based on the wonders of aquaponics. So, we shall see, perhaps I’ll have the chance to visit again when it opens.

(Apologies for the poor quality of the photos, my iphone camera broke so I can only use the front camera.)

Fish and filters in the container, greenhouse on top
Fish and filters in the container, greenhouse on top
The containerfarm is positioned on old rails at the Malzfabric - I assume the wagons used to be able to turn as you can see by the rails, by deduction the farm can turn? I didn't get to ask.
The containerfarm is positioned on old rails at the Malzfabric – I assume the wagons used to be able to turn as you can see by the rails, by deduction the farm can turn? I didn’t get to ask.
lemon grass growing in hydroponic system - only water
lemon grass growing in hydroponic system – only water
Melon growing in the greenhouse
Melon growing in the greenhouse
they even had a huge healthy aubergine. All bio - Insects fought via sticky traps
they even had a huge healthy aubergine. All bio – Insects fought via sticky traps
beetroot growing in substrate (forgot name it's on the tip of my tongue)
beetroot growing in substrate (forgot name it’s on the tip of my tongue)