‘Inch by inch I conquered the inner terrain I was born with. Bit by bit I reclaimed the swamp in which I’d languished. I gave birth to my definitive being, but I had to wrench myself out of me with forceps.’ – Fernando Pessoa, an excerpt from The Book of Disquiet.
Today marks my birthday, twenty-two on the twenty second. That’s eight thousand and thirty days lived. And a further million ways to have grown. There are a hundred things I fear. Least of all age, most of all myself. And a thousand ways to be loved and left. The only thing I know for sure is that life’s reliable in its unpredictability. And all I’ve ever desired is that I continue to feel it’s warmth. To hear the rustle of fallen leaves during the autumn eve. To inflame under the heat of sun. To wilt beneath the blanket of night. I demand to be in accord with the highest of feeling, to drink poison from the fragmentations of moment that re-assemble themselves into new day.
I don’t celebrate birthdays. For I don’t consider myself born and belonging to one, sole, date. It’s through slumber each night that I die and become re-born with the arrival of morning. Like the spider lily that after drowning in darkness, meets the virginal dawn with the greatest reverie. Pessoa once wrote that the worlds are switched around in our eyes. That we’re dead when we think we’re living and we start living when we die. And for the most part, I believe it true. After existing in consummation with both life and death, the only times I’ve ever felt truly alive have been in dreams. Not coated in blankness, in the stagnant well of fathomless dark, but rather like water returning to the ocean from which it once came. Fluid consciousness, a drug of the most natural, precious, intoxication.
The one thing I do wholeheartedly endorse is sweet things to celebrate. And this Fresh Mint Ganache Tart is a demonstration of my commitment to that belief. It’s vegan, semi-raw, naturally sweetened – and all the other things good for your soul. I left the labels off the title. I don’t want this tart to be defined. It’s pure deliciousness. The kind of deliciousness that shouldn’t be understated. The base is a roughly textured mixture of cashews, cacao, coconut and espresso. Over the top is the most dark, rich and chocolatey filling, ever. I mean it on the ever. It’s a cross between ganache and mousse. And made with cacao, not chocolate – so you get those good, good, antioxidants and the deep, dark, flavour. There’s a little fresh mint whipped coconut cream over the top too, which perfectly cuts through all the intensity below the surface. All things cold, dulcet and intensely rich, possess my heart. And it doesn’t get much better than this. I wish I could share a slice with you all.
– For this recipe, you will need a highly powered food processor to blitz the base and to create a perfectly smooth and aerated filling.
– I use raw, natural, cacao powder for this recipe. Please do not use cocoa The difference between the two is incomparable when it comes to flavour and depth.
– I’ve found that different brands of cacao powder vary slightly on the intensity. I suggest tasting the filling as you go and adjusting the sweetness with a tablespoon of maple syrup at a time, if necessary. The filling should be dark, smooth and with a hint of bitterness. An overly sweet chocolate filling is not what we’re after here!
– The whipped coconut cream topping can be difficult to stabilise. I place an unshaken and unopened can of full-fat coconut cream in the coldest part of my refrigerator overnight. The next morning, the solids should have separated from the liquid at the top of the can. Use the firm coconut solids and discard the liquid. Additionally, keep in mind to not whip the coconut cream in a slightly warm bowl, and be very careful not to over whip it. Coconut cream loves to melt, so watch it closely.
For the topping:
1 x 400 ml (13.6 fluid oz) can of coconut cream
5 fresh mint leaves, thinly chopped
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
Begin by chilling the coconut cream for the topping first. Place the can of coconut cream un-opened in the coldest part of your refrigerator. Do not shake it. Let the can sit in the refrigerator to chill overnight and until needed.
Just before you’re ready to serve the tart, whip the coconut cream. Open the can and scoop out the white and thick coconut solids that have formed at the top, separating the liquid. Place the solidified coconut cream, mint leaves and vanilla bean seeds in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk, on medium-high speed, until the coconut cream resembles a texture similar to that of thickly whipped cream, about 3 minutes. Be careful not to over whisk as the cream will melt as it continues to heat, which will cause it collapse. Spread the whipped coconut cream over the top of the tart (recipe follows) then chill until firm.
For the base:
135 g (4.8 oz) almonds
2 tablespoon desiccated coconut
1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
½ teaspoon finely ground espresso powder
¼ teaspoon salt
6 dried dates
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
Grease and line a 23 x 13 cm or 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with non-stick parchment paper. Let the paper slightly overhang the sides. Set aside.
To make the base, place the almonds, desiccated coconut, cacao, espresso and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Blitz, until a rough crumb begins to form, about 15 seconds. Add in the dates, maple syrup and coconut oil. Blitz, for a further 30 seconds, or until the dates have finely disintegrated and the entire mixture is evenly moistened. The ingredients should not come together in a unified mixture, rather they should form a moist crumb that can easily be pressed into the base of your pan. Remove the mixture from the food processor and place it in the base of the loaf pan. Use your fingers or the back of a metal spoon to gently spread it into an even layer, making sure to push it all the way to the corners. Place it in the freezer to chill while you prepare the filling.
For the filling:
125 g (4.4 oz) dried dates
100 g (3.5 oz) raw cacao powder
350 ml (11.9 fluid oz) full-fat coconut cream
60 ml (2 fluid oz) maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract
½ teaspoon salt
160 ml (5.4 fluid oz) coconut oil, melted
Place the dried dates in a medium sized bowl. Pour enough boiling water over them, making sure that they are covered completely. Let the dates sit in the boiling water until they have completely softened, about 5 minutes.
Once the dates are soft, drain the dates from the water then place them in the bowl of a food processor. Blitz, until the dates form a rough but smooth paste, about 2 minutes. You may need to pause the processor occasionally to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add in the cacao powder, coconut cream, maple syrup, vanilla bean extract and salt. Blitz on medium speed, until a smooth and thick mixture has formed, about 3 minutes. Lower the processor speed and slowly stream in the coconut oil, until it is all incorporated. Set the processor speed back to high, and continue to blend until the mixture is glossy and very smooth, 3 more minutes.
Remove the loaf pan from the freezer. Pour over the filling, then using a rubber spatula or the back of a metal spoon, evenly spread it over the base and right to the edges. Set the loaf pan in the fridge. Let the tart chill until completely firm, about 2 ½ to 3 hours. You could also place it in the freezer to help speed up this process. Once firm, carefully unmold the tart from the pan and set it out and onto a serving plate or cake stand then spread over the whipped coconut cream topping. The tart should be served cool and kept in the refrigerator at all times, when not being served. Let the slices sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes, before enjoying.