As I sit writing this I’m listening to the food programme on Radio 4. The subject is comfort food and the increase in our love for it during times of personal strife, and, nationally, times of austerity. Comfort food is accessible food; food that no one needs to teach us to love. Sure, we grow to enjoy the salty tang of capers and anchovies and we can develop a passion for curly kale and smoked salmon, but true comfort food comes naturally to our palates, it makes us feel safe and reminds us of a time when all was well with the world. Some of the best meals to share with friends and family are comfort based: a glorious Sunday roast with all the trimmings, a slow cooked casserole, a hearty soup with crusty bread, a celebratory cake, light and fluffy and rich with icing, even a ladleful of baked beans over crisp toast, they each bring pleasure and comfort equally. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner thoughts of loved ones are hard to ignore. I for one am not interested in the frills and fancies of Valentines, I’d rather show my love consistently instead of through the fuss and schmooze of plastic hearts and flowers. That being said, I love to give gifts, to find or make the perfect card for someone and most of all, I love to cook for people.
This Valentine’s I plan to cook for my loved one: Blood Orange Champagne Cocktails, a Chorizo and Prawn Tomato Stew with Homemade Olive Foccacia and, if we have room for it, a slice of sweet, indulgent and delicious Chocolate Brownie with a little shot of espresso to finish. It’s a simple but indulgent menu and preparing and cooking it may well be my favourite part! I say, take your pleasures where you can, and so this Valentine’s make something you love for the people you love and let bringing them pleasure be the ultimate treat.
I like to serve these brownies squares as they are with a cup of strong black coffee but you could easily up the pleasure levels and offer it with a creamy chocolate sauce. Quite simply, melt 100g dark, dairy-free chocolate in a bain marie and, once smooth and melted, stir in 200ml of oat cream and mix gently until combined and warmed through. Pour the sauce over the warm brownies and serve.
Makes 12 brownies
You will need a 7 inch square baking tin for this recipe
3 tbsp cocoa powder
170g soft light brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp ground flaxseed
230ml rice milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 tbsp sunflower or rapeseed oil
A very small pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 180c and grease and line the baking tin. Sift the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the brown sugar and flaxseed until evenly mixed. Pour over the oil, vanilla extract and rice milk and stir together until smooth and glossy. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake in the oven for 25 minutes until just firm on top. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool for 10 minutes before serving or transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
You can also find this recipe at Cybele Pascal's Allergy - friendly Friday.