My wonderful sister-in-law gave me a very cool book called The Flavor Thesaurus. Equipped with a flavor wheel for reference, this book runs through the spectrum of flavors making suggestions on pairings. I am reading it cover to cover but I also frequently reference it when I am creating recipes and need guidance on knowing whether an unusual pairing would actually work.
One flavor I happen to love is cardamom, so when it was suggested to pair chocolate and cardamom I jumped on the idea and incorporated it into this raw chocolate tart. Cardamom has spicy citrus and floral notes and is quite strong, so a little goes a long way. Just enough is added to the tart to suggest a subtle brightness, though you won't be able to place the flavor. It blends in nicely because, like coffee or vanilla, cardamom also adds depth to the chocolate. Though by all means, if you don't have cardamom the tart will still delicious.
This tart is not for the faint at heart. In fact, it is a dark-chocolate lover's dream; intensely rich and decadent, almost ganache-like, but not too sweet. Though you can of course tweak the sweetness to your liking. The walnut base is buttery, slightly salty, and with a hint of coconut, flavors which meld together nicely on their own (I would have actually eaten this by the spoonful if I hadn't pressed it into the tart shell!) but also offset the rich chocolate filling beautifully. And this is subjective, but I thought the sweet and tangy kiwi sauce was a welcome fresh counterpart to cut through the richness of the chocolate. I could also see a mango puree with mango chunks stirred in at the end or mashed blackberries going well with this.
I served this tart recently when I had girlfriends over for an afternoon. It's harder to meet and develop friendships with the Swiss, but there is quite a nice group of us expats forming now. I am very happy to find fellow foreigners with whom I can laugh over shared experiences struggling to understand the culture and learn the language. And I hope this tart enticed them to come back for another get-together soon!
Yes, raw food can be trendy but it is also smart. Many nutrients and enzymes are compromised during the cooking process, so raw food gives you more nutritional bang for your buck and is an incredibly creative and enlightening way of cooking and eating. But there are a few techniques that maximize the nutritional value of raw food, one of which is soaking nuts and grains. Soaking breaks down the phytic acid coating, making it easier to digest and the nutrients more available for absorption. For this recipe soaked nuts should also be dehydrated so the crust is not soggy. However, if you're simply looking for a tasty treat, soaking and dehydrating are not essential steps for making this recipe successfully. Either way, make sure you buy raw nuts (not roasted or salted).
Raw Chocolate Tart with Cardamom
Serves a lot!
Notes: This filled two shallow tart pans. Because it's so rich the portions are smaller, so this recipe goes a long way. Next time I will make it in a deeper spring form pan (no larger than 10 inches in diameter) so there is enough depth to have a thicker crust while also holding all of the filling.
Walnut Coconut Crust
3 cups (300 g) raw walnuts
Scant 1 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 cup coconut flakes, unsweetened
1 cup (200 g, weighed with pits) medjool dates
Adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (River Cottage)
4 medium sized ripe avocados (have a few extra on hand in case some are not good)
Scant 3/4 cup (150 g) virgin coconut oil (just melted over very low heat)
1 tsp. vanilla paste or extract
1 1/2 cups (200 g) raw cacao powder (or good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder if you cannot find cacao)
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
Pinch of fine salt
2/3 cup - 1 cup (200-300 g) agave nectar, coconut blossom sugar, or a combination (if you have extra dates leftover, you could add a handful in to replace some of the other sweeteners)
Walnut Coconut Crust
In a food processor, blend the walnuts for a few seconds to break them up. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until the mixture begins to stick together and form a ball.
Press this mixture into the bottom of a springform pan or tart pan(s). Cover in plastic wrap and let set in the freezer until the filling is ready to pour in.
Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Taste and adjust sweetness. Then pour onto the base, re-cover with plastic, and freeze for 1 hour before serving. It can be kept in the freezer for up to a one week.
Remove the tart from the freezer 10 minutes before slicing. It will still be firm but easier to cut.
Serve with kiwi sauce or other fruit sauce, if desired.
In a medium bowl, use a fork to mash 5-6 peeled, ripe kiwis with a squeeze of agave or honey to taste.