Blueberry & Orange Cheesecake

This kind of vegan 'no cheese' cheesecake has been around for a while, and whilst there are many variations on flavour, most rely on a nut/date base and cashew top.  The good thing about this cake, apart from it tasting delicious, is that it’s impossible to get it wrong as long you follow the measures. I am using blueberries. They are in season for a few more weeks and it is a classic combination. But if you are out of blueberry season, use any other berries you can get.  Mango works really well, and also chocolate or vanilla.  You can use frozen berries, but make sure they are fully thawed beforehand.

250g cashews
80g almonds
80g pecans
150g dates
3 TBSP coconut oil
1 TBSP of maple syrup (or honey)
120g blueberries
juice of 1 orange
zest of 1 orange
juice of 1 lemon

Soak the cashews overnight or for at least 5 hours.

Whizz almonds, pecans and dates in a blender for few minutes or until the mixture is easy to mould between your fingers. It can be as coarse or smooth as you like. I prefer to see more nut bits so that it’s crunchier.
Scoop the mix out and press on the bottom of the spring form cake tin.

For the ‘cheese’, drain cashews and put in a high-speed blender together with coconut oil, maple syrup, orange and lemon juice and the zest. Blend for few minutes or until very smooth. Take half of the mixture out of the blender and spread evenly over the crust.

Add blueberries to the remaining cashew mixture and blend for 30seconds. Scoop it out and cover as the third layer of your cheesecake.

For the best result, put the cake into the freezer for 30mins, Take out and wait for 5mins until removing the spring and serving. This cake tastes best (to me) when cold and should keep in the fridge for few days.


Eating in Season

Not too long ago people only ate food that was close to them, within reach and in season. Nowadays, a stroll through a supermarket isle does not reveal which season we are in. Fruit and vegetable sections look identical, be it January or July. Tomatoes, mangoes, strawberries, cabbage are all proudly displayed, any given time, all looking shiny and completely without faults. With new technology and transport means, we can have any food we want (or that supermakets want to sell to us)  any time we want it – tomatoes in January, watermelon in March, peppers in December. But this doesn’t come without its flaws. Not only is eating fruit and vegetables out of its growing season not good for us, it is also bad for the environment.

In my local supermarket right now (end of September) they are selling apples that are imported from New Zealand. These apples that have travelled thousands of miles were picked green. They were also, most probably, heavily sprayed with pesticides. Fruit and vegetables, like tomatoes, bananas and pears, are picked so green that they need to be ripened using Ethylene gas before being displayed on supermarket shelves. Most were sprayed with pesticides and preservatives in order to make them look fresh and appealing. These fruit and vegetables have been handled very harshly and they are harsh for our bodies too. Pesticides are not good for us, that much everyone knows. Out of season food doesn’t have the same nutritional value as the in season food. Grapes that have been picked unripened, as well as heavily sprayed, don’t have the same antioxidant value as those that grow in season. Spinach loses much of its goodness, found in the form of folate and carotenoid, after being stored. Levels of vitamin C found in broccoli are twice higher when eaten in season. And so on...

But most importantly, there is a reason why we eat certain foods in their seasons. Our bodies need different foods, depending on time of the year. According to Elson Hass, author of Staying Healthy with the Seasons, "the basic message of seasonal nutrition is to balance and protect ourselves from the external climate. When it is cold, we are naturally attracted to warm drinks and food, focusing on cooked meals.. During hot weather, it is the opposite... Spring is the cleansing and healing season…"  Eating melon in winter, which is a summer fruit, is not only unbeneficial because of its reduced nutritional value, but also it can become stressful to the body's digestive system.

Fruit and vegetables that were picked out of season are not good for our bodies – and also have a massive impact on the environment. Eating seasonally supports local farming communities and in turn the local economy,  and is good for the environment.

for the interactive version of this map go to:

Autumn is the harvest season and the season of plenty. It is a time to prepare for the coming cold winter by supporting and building up the immune system. The cooling temperature will call for more complex protein like grains and beans combined with root vegetables. Berries, such as blackberries and blueberries, provide a good source of antioxidants for the upcoming winter months.

This is the time of conserving energy, of warmth and reduced activity. There is less available at this time of year.  The focus should be on root vegetables and cooked stews with bone stocks. This kind of food takes longer to digest which in turn keeps up the body temperature warm and the blood sugar stable.

Spring is the season for awakening and cleansing. It is a time to cleanse toxins accumulated over the winter months.  Newly green vegetables, rich in chlorophyll, have the strengthening effect on the blood and are cleansing for the liver. We should be eating light and green.

Food consumed during the summer months should cool and hydrate the body, as this is the time when our physical activity is increased. Eat lighter, drink lots of freshly prepared juices and water and avoid caffeinated drinks that have a dehydrating effect on the body.


Plum Cake

When I was in France recently we had very sweet green plums growing in the neighbour's garden and we picked them daily.  I made a few cakes but the sponge wasn't quite right.  And when I did get the sponge right I used small red plums, also from the neighbour's garden, but they were too sour and I kept pouring maple syrup on it to compensate.

Now, I am so pleased that this one worked out. I used blue 'empress' plums, sometimes called Italian prune plums. You could use 'everyday' english red plums but, sadly, I couldn't find any that were ripe enough - and they do need to be very ripe for this recipe.

100g maize (fine polenta) flour
100g gluten free flour (or rice flour)
1tbsp baking powder
3 eggs
100g butter
2 tbsp honey
3 plums

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.
Separate the eggs. Beat together the yolks, butter and honey until creamy. Add this to the flour and mix together. Add 2 tbsp of water so the texture is not too thick.
Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold them into the egg yolk mixture gently, this will ensure that your cake is light and fluffy.

Pour the mix into the baking dish. I used a fairly small one which makes 6 large plum cakes. Halve the plums, remove the stone and arrange over the cake. They will sink in as the cake cooks. Sprinkle over some cinnamon and cook in the preheated oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes


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