In the week before returning to university, I had so much work to do that I decided the best course of action was to do none of it. Better to have a week to properly switch off, rest and relax, than continue to work constantly without achieving much, getting frustrated and bored and tired without being productive. Illogical, yes, and I probably shouldn’t encourage such a lax attitude to work and responsibility, but it works for me.
Instead, I enjoyed lazy days of late starts, big breakfasts, fresh coffee, travel magazines, baking, lounging, wine-drinking, film-watching, and nights of long deep sleeps uninterrupted by alarms. This tart was a product of that week, and I enjoyed a large slice (or two) whilst watching Casablanca with my mum one evening.
I’ve had to make up for it since returning, of course, but I’m far more productive when I’m well rested, physically and mentally, and set fully to work mode once more. I don’t like merging work and rest. One or the other please. Exhaust me now so I can rest later. I’d rather early starts and long days within confined periods of time than an endless state of low intensity working, as it were.
My attitude is slightly at odds with the concept of “balance” which seems to be the latest fad in the world of healthy living, but what even is balance? Life is inherently unbalanced. You can’t have everything all the time, so why try to? Some days will be better than others, or more productive, or healthier, or more fun. Maybe a better idea is just to not obsess over any one aspect of your life – including whether or not it’s “balanced”.
If I could make “balance” into something material – and meaningful – I think it would be this chocolate hazelnut tart. It’s vegan and gluten-free if you’re into that, but mainly it’s rich and tasty and feels indulgent without the stodge and crash of sugary, fatty traditional versions, so you can feel light and energised while you lie on the sofa watching films all day long. Win-win, really.
A note on the ingredients: I’m aware that these are pricier than traditional alternatives — sadly that is often the way with healthier items — but the coconut oil could be replaced with butter if necessary, and maple syrup could be agave nectar or other liquid sweetener instead (though I can’t say how these adaptions might change the taste). Equally, if you can afford raw cacao and want to make this totally raw then feel free to use that, but be aware you will need less than the amounts stated below.
- for the base
- 300g hazelnuts, plus an extra handful or two for decorating if desired
- 300g dates, pitted (I use dried dates as they're cheapest)
- 100g fairtrade cocoa powder
- 2 tbsps coconut oil
- 60ml water
- optional:1-2 tbsps maple syrup (depends how sweet you want it -- I didn't need it but those with sweeter teeth may!)
- for the filling
- 400ml can of full-fat coconut milk
- 100g fairtrade cocoa powder
- 125g coconut oil, melted
- 75ml maple syrup
- 1tsp vanilla essence
- Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C (200 fan). Lay out the hazelnuts, including the ones for decoration, on a large baking sheet, and put in the oven for around 5 minutes so that they are toasted but not burnt. Meanwhile, grease a 9 inch round tart dish well with coconut oil.
- Once they're toasted, leave to cool for a few minutes then place the 300g (not the ones for decoration) into a food processor and pulse for a few minutes until finely ground.
- Add all the other ingredients and pulse until it's all combined and holding together in a dough-like way. Press the dough into the dish so that it covers the bottom and sides in a thin, even layer. This takes a bit of perseverance but it is possible! Put in the freezer to set whilst making the filling.
- Stir together the coconut milk, melted coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla essence until well combined. Gradually add the cocoa powder and mix well so that there are no lumps and everything is evenly incorporated.
- Remove the dish from the freezer and pour in the filling over the base, then transfer to the fridge. Leave for several hours until the filling is set. You can put it in the freezer for faster results, but make sure it doesn't freeze over completely because it is much nicer slightly soft.
- Finely chop the reserved toasted hazelnuts (I added some walnuts, pecans andcoconut flakes too) and sprinkle on top of the tart before serving. I enjoyed mine with full-fat Greek yogurt as that's what I had in the fridge, but I imagine it would also be lovely with coconut cream, regular cream, ice cream or just as it is!