Castagnaccio (Italian Chestnut Cake)


It’s Friday! Hurrah!

It’s been a pretty grey and dreary week here so I’m looking forward to what’s hopefully going to be a sunny weekend. Despite the lack of sunshine, a few things have made me feel more cheerful today- some lovely readers trying and enjoying my recipes (Do let me know if you make anything from Coconut and Berries. Both positive and negative feedback are always welcome); Getting some rather exciting news; and seeing Carlos Acosta in person last night. If you don’t know him then do yourself a favour and look him up- he’s an incredibly talented ballet dancer with probably the most amazing bottom known to mankind! I’ve also got Castagnaccio now, so more to be happy about!

Castagnaccio (Italian Chestnut Cake), Vegan & Gluten-Free

I imagine most of my readers aren’t familiar with Castagnaccio. I certainly wasn’t until a couple of years ago. It’s a traditional Italian dessert/snack, common in Liguria and Tuscany. It’s made from chestnut flour and olive oil and has no raising agents so is dense and rich, rather than fluffy like the cakes you’re probably used to. It’s also very subtly sweet with most of the sweetness coming from the nuts and dried fruit added to it.

Castagnaccio (Italian Chestnut Cake), Vegan & Gluten-Free

I was introduced to Castagnaccio by a lovely friend, Giovanni: a charming seventy-something year old Italian who lives very near our family home. As a retired psychologist he spends most of his time reading and cooking, and his great joy is feeding people delicious food! He started bringing us little food parcels- coffee-soaked dates and Italian chocolate cake, a divine Caponata along with a white bean dish (fagioli all’uccelletto), sesame snaps, crunchy cookies (whose name I’ve forgotten), and of course Castagnaccio. I fell in love with this naturally-vegan treat and wanted to learn to make it myself.

Castagnaccio (Italian Chestnut Cake), Vegan & Gluten-Free

With being rather busy studying for my finals earlier this year I didn’t have a lot of time for cooking (Giovanni provided me with snacks hand-delivered to my university pigeon hole!) but took a couple of welcome study breaks to spend some time with my friend and cook with him at his house. As a typical Italian his approach to cooking is rather laidback, sort of a “little of this, a little of that” kind of affair. I did make a mental note of everything though and now have the details perfected so I can pass the recipe on to you.

Castagnaccio (Italian Chestnut Cake), Vegan & Gluten-Free

I decided to make two small cakes this time- one the traditional way with rosemary, walnuts and raisins, and one my own way replacing the walnuts and raisins with hazelnuts and chocolate chips.

Castagnaccio (Italian Chestnut Cake):

1 1/2C Chestnut Flour
1T Coconut Sugar (or other granulated sweetener)
Pinch of Salt
1 1/2C Water
2T Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/4C Raisins OR Chocolate Chips
1/4C Walnuts OR Toasted, Peeled Hazelnuts (I made two small ones so used half the amounts of dried fruit and nuts in each)
1 Large sprig of Rosemary, leaves removed from stem

Preheat oven to 200C/400F, lightly oil the edges of a pie dish (or 2 small ones)

Whisk together chestnut flour, sugar, salt and water until smooth and runny.

Add the olive oil to the prepared dish/dishes and place in the oven to warm up for a minute. Remove from oven, pour in the castagnaccio batter, swirl the olive oil through the mixture and scatter with the dried fruit/choc chips, nuts and rosemary. Return to oven and cook for 15-25 minutes until the surface is dry and cracked. Cooking time will depend on the size of dish you used.

Enjoy warm or cold. I like it as is but it’s sometimes served with ricotta and a drizzle of honey, so for a vegan version you could try non-dairy yogurt or cashew cream, and a drizzle of agave nectar.

Serves 6-8

Castagnaccio (Italian Chestnut Cake), Vegan & Gluten-Free

Now, I know chestnut flour isn’t exactly something you see everywhere but it can sometimes by found in health food stores amongst the other gluten-free flours.

If you’re in the UK you can also order it online from, where I tend to buy a lot of my flours, grains, beans, nuts etc.
If you’re elsewhere you can buy it through Amazon.

I’ve used it in the crust of my Herby Courgette Galette for a pleasant nutty flavour and think it would make a batch of rather special cookies. I also have a very vivid memory of a delicious chocolate brownie I had in a restaurant in Paris, which I was told was made with chestnut flour too.  Lots of room for experimentation!

Have you had Castagnaccio before? Or other dishes made using chestnut flour?

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Review & Giveaway: Super Healthy Snacks and Treats

Raw Mint Chocolate Tartlets

“More than 60 easy recipes for energizing, delicious snacks free from gluten, dairy, refined sugar and eggs”. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?

Well it is! “Super Healthy Snacks and Treats”, published earlier this year by Ryland Peters & Small, was written by Jenna Zoe, the founder of Foods to Love, the nutrition and recipe blog and online healthy products store. I discovered Jenna and her book via Instagram and was really excited to get my hands on a copy. It’s especially fantastic to see a UK-authored book of this kind. It seems the plant-based, healthy living scene is finally catching on here!

Super Healthy Snacks and Treats, Jenna Zoe

Facing nutrition information overload, I’m sure something a lot of us can relate to, Jenna set out to find a simple way of eating which left her feeling good. Her criteria for the foods she was going to eat were that:

- They had to be natural, whole foods that were minimally processed
- She had to love how they tasted.
- They had to suit her system. She paid close attention to what made her feel best.

The result of the experiment is this book! Jenna hopes to inspire us to make our own healthy eating guidelines and feel empowered to take the best care of ourselves.

All the dishes in the book are packed with nutrition, not to mention taste, colour and fun!

Most of the recipes are very easy to make with a few longer ones which look a little extra fancy, ideal for special occasions. I was familiar with almost all the ingredients and don’t think any listed are particularly uncommon, especially if you already avoid dairy and refined sugars and flours and are used to alternatives.

Raw Mint Chocolate Tartlets

As well as the recipes there’s lots of useful information in here: a guide to essential ingredients and substitutions, tips and tricks, a how to use the book feature and Jenna’s “principles of healthy snacking”.

The recipe chapters are divided into Breakfasts, Power Snacks, Party Snacks, Dips & Dippers, Sweet Bites & Cookies & Bakes so there’s something for any time of the day.

Each recipe is accompanied by a little intro, where you’ll find more nuggets of useful info, and beautiful pictures which will make you want to get in the kitchen pronto!

Raw Mint Chocolate Tartlets

This here is one of the insanely delicious Raw Mint Chocolate Tartlets. I don’t need to tell you again of my love for raw desserts but this one is honestly one of the best I’ve had. Even better is that they take less than 10 minutes to put together and only need 15 minutes to set. They are very rich so I’d recommend sharing one!

The publishers have generously allowed me to reprint this recipe here for you all to try immediately:

Raw Mint Chocolate Tartlets:

(Makes 4)

145g/1C Almonds
135g/3/4C Dates, stoned
2T Unsweetened Desiccated Coconut, OR more almonds
a pinch of salt
2t Coconut Oil

Mint Chocolate Filling

(to fill 2 tarts) *Note, the book also lists a key lime filling to fill the other 2 tart shells. Either double the filling for 4 tarts or halve the crust mixture for 2)

1 Large Banana
60ml/1/4C Coconut Oil
60ml/1/4C Pure Maple Syrup
40g/1/3C Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
6 Fresh Mint Leaves OR 1/2t Mint Extract

Put the almonds in a food processor and blitz until crumbly. Add the dates, desiccated coconut, salt and coconut oil and pulse until a smooth mixture forms. Remove the dough from the processor and divide it into 4. Press each portion into a tartlet mould so that it neatly lines the base and sides of the mould. Ideally you want the tartlet cases to be about 1cm/1/2inch thick all the way around, with plenty of room for the filling. Don’t worry if you have a little extra dough- you can roll this into bite-size energy balls and save for a healthy snack later on.

For the filling, make sure the coconut oil is liquid. If it isn’t put it in a saucepan over low heat and allow to melt. Allow to cool completely, otherwise the hot oil will start to cook the other ingredients in the filling,

Place the filling ingredients in the food processor, one set at a time, and blitz until smooth. Divide each filling between 2 tartlet cases and freeze for at least 15 minutes to set.

Raw tarts will keep, in the freezer, for up to 2 weeks, so they’re a great make-ahead option for tea and dinner parties.

Vegan Protein Pancakes

Next up, Protein Pancakes. If there is a pancake recipe in any new cookbook I get then that will most likely be the first I try! These are made from gluten-free flour and a dose of vegan protein powder and were light and fluffy but very filling too. I’ll be making these regularly.

Zucchini Hummus

I like to cover a range of sections when reviewing a cookbook so thought I’d make something savoury to complement my sweet choices. A batch of some kind of dip in the fridge is always useful and there are several in the book to choose from. I opted for the Zucchini Hummus which is rich and satisfying, despite not having chickpeas in. It’s also a good alternative for those who have trouble digesting beans.

Almond-Flax Crackers

Along with the hummus I served some veggies and another one from the book, the Almond-Flax Crackers. These are so so scrumptious and put conventional cardboard-like crackers to shame. They’re completely grain-free so very nutrient-dense and with lots of flavour so I’d happily eat them on their own instead of crisps. I would definitely recommend doubling the batch as there’s no way this recipe serves the 8 specified!

There isn’t one recipe in the book that doesn’t appeal but I’ve somehow shortlisted a few for my “must try very soon” list! The Breakfast Salad, Creole Cauliflower, Sticky Carrot Bites and Baby Gem Lettuce Wraps with Homemade Sweet Chilli Sauce.

I hope you’re as excited about this book as I am and I’m thrilled to have one copy to GIVEAWAY to a very lucky reader. To enter, do any one or all of the following things and leave a comment for each letting me know that you have done so. The more you do the more chances to win you have! I am sending the book personally so this giveaway is open WORLDWIDE!

1. Leave a comment on this post
2. “Like” Coconut and Berries on Facebook
3. Subscribe to Coconut and Berries by email
4. “Follow” me on Twitter
5. “Follow” @FoodstoLove on Twitter
6. “Follow” @RylandPeters on Twitter
7. Tweet about the giveaway and post the url in the comments.

Giveaway ends Thursday 4th December 12am GMT. Winner will be picked randomly and contacted by email within 48 hours of the closing time.

“Super Healthy Snacks and Treats” is available from and as well as through Jenna’s site “Foods to Love”

Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes, but, as always, all opinions are my own.

If you’re new to Coconut and Berries, Please sign up for email updates and join me elsewhere: I’m on FacebookPinterest, Instagram (@coconutandberries), Google + and Twitter!

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends for tomorrow!

Chili-Lime Crusted Tofu with Creamy Herbed Rice

Chli-Lime Crusted Tofu with Creamy, Herbed Rice

I typically rely on beans and lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds for the bulk of my protein needs and am more than happy eating this way most of the time. Every now and again though I get a hankering for a good chunk of tofu or tempeh- perhaps the vegan equivalent to an omnivore’s steak cravings?!

Chli-Lime Crusted Tofu with Creamy, Herbed Rice

If you’ve cooked with tofu before it’s almost inevitable that the first few times it was verging on inedible. Learning to cook tofu well is definitely something that took me some time. For the weekly @veganrecipehour chat on Twitter last week (Thursdays 8-9pm GMT #veganrecipehour) we were talking about all things tofu, sharing tips and recipes and so I dug out a few of my favourites from the archives:

Cauliflower Fried “Rice” with Grilled Asian Tofu

Nutty Crusted Tofu, Mediterranean Israeli Couscous Pilaf & Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Cheesy Tofu Scramble & Chipotle Sweet Potato Tacos

The key to good tofu almost always comes down to pressing and marinating. You need to first squeeze out the watery liquid in the tofu so it can soak up your marinade and give it the flavour it doesn’t have on its own.

Chili-Lime Crusted Tofu with Creamy, Herbed Rice

I used a recipe similar to my simple Asian grilled tofu, then added a crunchy cornflake topping spiked with lime zest, chili and herbs before putting it in the oven to get nice and chewy.  In the pictures It’s shown cut into two but I would actually recommend cutting the rectangles in half again to get thinner slices for a better texture.

The tofu is quite spicy but the creamy, herbed rice is a lovely cooling contrast and will soothe your tingling lips!

Chili-Lime Crusted Tofu with Creamy, Herbed Rice

Chiil-Lime Crusted Tofu with Creamy Herbed Rice:

1/2 400g/14oz pkg Firm Tofu, Pressed and sliced into 2 (or 4) rectangles
2T Mirin
3/4T Tamari
1/2T Lime Juice
1/2t Toasted Sesame Oil
1/3C Crushed Cornflakes OR Breadcrumbs
1 Small Chili, deseeded and minced
Zest of 1 Lime
1T Chopped Fresh Basil
1T Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

For the Rice:

1/2C Long-Grain Brown Rice
1/2T Olive Oil
1/4 Red Onion, diced small
1/2 Red Pepper, diced small
Large Handful of Spinach (approx 50g/2oz)
2T Chopped Fresh Basil
1/2C Unsweetened Non-dairy Yogurt
1T Lime Juice
Salt & Pepper

Combine mirin, tamari, lime juice and sesame oil, place tofu rectangles in a dish and pour over this mixture. Leave to marinade for a minimum of 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 180C/350F

Combine cornflakes ( use a food processor or a rolling pin to crush them), chili, lime zest, basil and oil and season well with salt and pepper.

Transfer tofu to an oven-proof dish and top with the cornflake mixture.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Cook brown rice according to pkg instructions. I use the absorption method.

Sauté onion and pepper in the oil until soft (5-10 mins) then stir through the spinach just to wilt.

Add the vegetables to the rice along with the yogurt, basil and lime and again season well with salt and pepper.

Serve alongside the baked tofu.

Serves 2

I’m submitting this recipe to the weekly link-up, Wellness Weekends.

Chili-Lime Crusted Tofu with Creamy, Herbed Rice

If you liked the dish I brought along to the Virtual Vegan Potluck- Vegan Crepes with Date & Orange Compote & Cinnamon Ice-Cream-I’d really appreciate you voting for Coconut and Berries in the dessert category. You can select your favourite for each of the 8 course categories here. Thank you!

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Chocolate Pumpkin & Cranberry Muffins (GF)

Chocolate Pumpkin & Cranberry Muffins

Congratulations to Nicola who is the winner of the “tibits at home” cookbook, selected via a random number generator. Thanks to everyone who entered! There are more giveaways coming up, so hold tight and you might get lucky next time.

Chocolate Pumpkin & Cranberry Muffins

There’s a festive feel in the air! While the Americans are gearing up for Thanksgiving, here in the UK we’re jumping ahead and getting ready for Christmas already. It’s not much more than a month to go! The Christmas lights were turned on in Bath last week, mince pies and advent calendars are appearing and late night Christmas shopping has begun.

These muffins felt rather in spirit to me. Pumpkin is of course a seasonal classic, well not really here but I read a lot of blogs where there’s a bit of a craze for all things pumpkin (!).  After making Dreena’s fantastic Pumpkin Pie I’ve decided we definitely need to work pumpkin into our Christmas traditions somehow.

Everything’s been about chocolate for me lately so I added a dose of cocoa along with a handful of chocolate chips to the batter and studded them with fresh cranberries for that sparkly touch.

Chocolate Pumpkin & Cranberry Muffins

I don’t usually bake gluten-free as I don’t have any issues with gluten and tend to favour gluten-free grains and low-gluten spelt flour for baking anyway. All the same, you know I like to challenge myself in the kitchen and I’ve been learning more about gluten-free baking from Ricki Heller’s “Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free”- a gorgeous vegan baking book whose recipes are exclusively gluten-free (as well as free from refined sugars).

When I saw that Ricki was holding a recipe contest to find 5 recipes to be included in a a special winter supplement to the new cookbook I jumped at the opportunity to try something new. In keeping with the recipes in the book, submissions had to be vegan, gluten-free and use only lower glycemic sweeteners.

Chocolate Pumpkin & Cranberry Muffins

I did some research and then got to work.  I used an all-purpose gluten-free flour mix along with psyllium husk as a binder and the muffins came out lovely and soft with a nice springy crumb and decent rise. They were no harder to make than typical gluten-filled baked goods either.

Chocolate Pumpkin & Cranberry Muffins (GF):

1/2C Pumpkin Purée
3/4C Non-dairy Milk
2T Psyllium Husks
3T Sunflower Oil (or other neutral oil)
1/3C Coconut Sugar
1/4t Liquid Stevia (optional, for extra sweetness)
1/2t Vanilla
3/4C All-Purpose Gluten-free Flour Mix
3T Cocoa Powder
1/2t Baking Soda/Bicarbonate of Soda
1/2t Baking Powder
1/8t Salt
1/4t Cinnamon
1/4C Dairy-free Chocolate Chips OR Unsweetened Carob Chips
1/3C Fresh or Frozen Cranberries (If using frozen do not thaw first)

Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Lightly oil a 6-hole muffin tray or line with paper cases.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the first seven ingredients, pumpkin through to vanilla.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir just to blend. Do not over-mix. Gently fold through the chocolate chips and cranberries. The batter will be very thick.

Using a lightly oiled cookie scoop, distribute batter evenly between the muffin cups about 3/4 full. Smooth tops a little if necessary.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Allow to cook completely before removing from the pan.

Makes 6 medium-sized muffins

Chocolate Pumpkin & Cranberry Muffins

Are you an experienced gluten-free baker? Any tips to share with the rest of us?

What’s putting you in the festive spirit right now?

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Vegan Pumpkin Pie & Guest Feature on Plant-Powered Kitchen

Pumpkin Pie (& Guest Feature on Plant Powered Kitchen)

I know I don’t usually post consecutive days but this one will be brief.

I’m sure any plant-based foodies or those into healthy eating will be more than familiar with Dreena Burton, blogger and cookbook-writer extraordinaire!

"The Great Pumpkin Pie" (Dreena Burton)

Today she’s sharing a gorgeous Vegan Pumpkin Pie recipe with a little feature on Coconut and Berries since I had the pleasure of photographing the pie Smile

Even if you’ve already got a tried and tested pumpkin pie recipe I urge you to give this one a try-Its soft and creamy filling and wholesome oat crust are simply irresistible. Serve it with non-dairy vanilla ice-cream to seal the deal!

Now go get that pie!