Any nuts and seeds work in these delicious bars. I’ve made them with just hazelnuts before for a lovely praline flavour. You might like to swap the vanilla extract for a dash of peppermint or orange extract, or add a bit of rum and a few raisins or some toasted coconut flakes. You could also top with dried rose petals for a beautiful gift. Or add a little pinch each of ground cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg and ground or candied ginger with dried cranberries for a festive touch at Christmas? These are best served straight from the fridge for the ultimate chewiness!
Makes 16 bites
Photography: Lizzie Mayson
150g mixed whole walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds, roughly chopped
200g dark (50%–70%) chocolate, broken into squares
5 tbsp coconut oil
240g pitted Medjool dates
200g ground almonds
2tsp vanilla extract
0.5tsp sea salt
80g roughly chopped pistachios (or pumpkin seeds), for topping
Start by toasting the whole nuts (not the pistachios) for 5 minutes in a large frying pan on a medium heat until fragrant and just going golden. Toss them in the pan as they cook and watch them like a hawk after 3 minutes!
Next, set up a bain-marie: place a heatproof bowl on top of a small. saucepan of simmering water (making sure the base of the bowl does not touch the water), add the chocolate and 2 tablespoons of the coconut oil and leave to melt until smooth, stirring from time to time. Once melted, set aside to cool slightly.
Add the dates, ground almonds, vanilla, remaining coconut oil and salt to a food processor and pulse until combined and dough-like. Add 50g of the toasted nuts (roughly a third, it doesn’t need to be exact) and pulse again briefly until roughly ground but still with some slightly larger bits, and then turn off the machine and stir in the pistachios or pumpkin seeds to make a nice balance of squidgy dough and crunchy nuts and seeds.
Line a rectangular tin about 25cm × 20cm and 4cm deep – and transfer the mixture from the food processor to the tin. Press down really well with your hands to make a nice and flat, compact layer.
To finish, pour the glossy melted chocolate mix on top to create a thick layer, using a spatula to get every last lovely drop out of the bowl. Scatter with the rest of the toasted nuts and the chopped pistachios and pop in the fridge for 3 hours, until the chocolate layer is nice and hard, which makes it easy to slice and lovely to chew. Bring the tin out of the fridge for 10 minutes before slicing into 16 squares. Keep stored in the fridge. These will last for a few weeks in a sealed container.
If Mel’s food does one thing, it’ll make you feel good. Fortunately, it does so much more than that too. It’s delicious, simple and often just uses the kinds of ingredients you’ll have lying around in the cupboard – no faff, and exactly what you want from a cookbook. EXTRACTED FROM FEEL GOOD BY MELISSA HEMSLEY (EBURY PRESS, £22) Photography by Lizzie Mayson.