Both our dogs contain a generous sprinkling of Border Collie, a breed known for its patience. As a working breed, BCs were meant to guard sheep all day; and since sheep are not exactly what you’d call wild and crazy guys, the BCs must be willing to sit still for a very long time. Moreover, they exhibit what’s known as the “Border Collie Stare”–that steely gaze that bores right through you and makes even the most obstreperous mutton acquiesce to their wishes.
I’ve been the object of that stare, more times than I can tell you. You see, the house we live in is an “open concept” design, so the living room opens on to the kitchen, which opens on to the rest of the house. After many hours of sweat (mine) and a lot of practise (theirs), I’ve trained The Girls to “stay out of the kitchen” on command. Basically, this means they are not allowed to put paws to tile (but wood or carpet–the floor coverings of the living room–are acceptable) while I’m cooking.
Chaser learned fairly quickly by emulating Elsie that, if Mum’s cooking, it’s time to “take up the position.” Situated at the border between living room and kitchen, they are willing to lie for hours–literally–until I finally finish my culinary experiments and reward them with a morsel of whatever I’m cooking, or a treat, depending on what’s in my pot or pan (no chocolate or onions, obviously, for them). Now, that’s what I call patience.
And what has all this talk of breeds and patience to do with food? Well, when I started my Week of Chocolate Asceticism, I knew it would take no time before I craved something sweet and soothing. And since I’ve also vowed to avoid added sweeteners–or pretty much anything baked or sweet–my options are severely limited. But then I remembered: Raw Pudding! Cashews and carob and dates–oh, my!! And for this recipe, despite its matchless simplicity (only 3 ingredients), patience is definitely required. The Girls, however, never mind waiting for this one. (“Oooh, Mum, is this that date and carob thing you make?? We love that thing!! Can we have some?? When will it be ready? Now? WHEN???”)
Even though my One True Love will always be chocolate, I am a big fan of carob as well. And I have nothing but admiration for fellow bloggers like Deb at Altered Plates and Veggie Girl, who regularly choose to bake with carob instead of chocolate. In fact, carob even made a chance appearance this week over at another blog, Have Cake, Will Travel. So I felt it only fitting that I grace the blog with Raw Carob Cashew Pudding. (“Oh, it IS that carob-date thing you make! Is it ready yet, Mum? Can we have some? When??”).
I was first introduced to carob years ago when I was a Teaching Assistant, at a university English Department party. Another one of the TAs, a quintessential Child of the ’60s, brought along two hippy-dippy dishes, quinoa salad and brownies made with carob. She was one of those graceful, ethereal women who seems to glide effortlessly just above the ground as she moves, skirts undulating softly behind her (quite a feat, actually, since she was wearing a miniskirt, as I recall).
Ms. Flower Child also spoke with the lilting, velvety voice of FM radio, the kind of voice that causes you to crane your neck and focus intently on her lips so you won’t have to repeat, “Pardon?” after every sentence she utters. So when I asked about the recipe for the brownies, and what was in them, I never quite caught the entire answer. All I knew was that they tasted good, and I liked this newfangled ingredient, and I’d be using it again.
I ate quite a bit of carob over a two-year span several years ago, when I followed an ultra-strict, sweetener and fruit-restricted diet. I discovered that carob is naturally sweet (it’s also low in fat and surprisingly high in calcium). At a local organic grocery store, I happened upon whole, dried carob pods. Resembling brown pea pods, they conceal diamond-hard (inedible) carob seeds inside. But if you gently warm the whole pods in the oven for about 5 minutes, they soften, become pliant and chewy, almost like fruit leather. Delicious!
So, back to the pudding (see, I told you you’d need patience for this recipe). This is actually a variation on a simple cashew cream, a vegan cream substitute that’s perfect over pies, cookies, fruit, or other sweets. I’ve taken the concept just a step further, using raw cashews (which produce a creamier product) as well as dates for sweetness, carob, and optional vanilla. Three main ingredients–four if you add the vanilla–and the result is so rich and creamy, you’d swear it took hours to make. (Oh, wait. It sort of does take hours to make–but only the soaking part).
Oh, and The Girls like it, too. (“Okay, so does that mean we can have some now? Can we? How about now? MUM??”)
Raw Carob-Cashew Pudding or Mousse
The hardest part of this recipe is having enough patience to blend the mixture thoroughly, until it’s sufficiently smooth and creamy. When I’m feel that gnawing impulse for something sweet, I’m tempted to dig in early, but I’m always sorry if I do. So don’t skimp on the blender time with this recipe–you’ll be rewarded with a truly rich and celestial pudding.
1 cup raw cashews, soaked in room-temperature water overnight (if soaking for more than 10 hours, place in the refrigerator)
12-14 dried dates, soaked in room temperature water overnight (if soaking for more than 10 hours, place in the refrigerator)
2 tsp. carob powder
water or soymilk, as needed
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract, optional
After the nuts and dates have soaked for at least 6 hours, drain the nuts but not the dates. Pour the cashews, dates and soaking water, and carob into a blender. Blend over low speed until combined.
If the mixture seems too thick to blend, you can either blend smaller batches or add more liquid, a small amount at a time, to encourage the mixture to whirl round. Stop every few seconds and scrape down the sides, then blend again, continuing to blend at progressively higher speeds, until you have a perfectly smooth and creamy pudding. This may take 5-10 minutes. Unfortunately, a food processor isn’t going to get the mixture quite smooth enough, so you’re just going to have to wait.
Once smooth, add vanilla if desired and whir just to blend. Makes 2-4 servings, depending on your self restraint. Any leftovers can keep, refrigerated, up to 3 days (it will thicken more once kept in the fridge).
[The Girls, finally rewarded for their patience.]
WOCA Update: Well, it appears the crisis has passed, and I am happy to say that I haven’t succumbed to the chocolate cravings. Despite my (attempt at a ) humorous spin on this issue, I’d like to clarify: I truly believe that chocolate addiction can be just as tenacious as addiction to cigarettes or heroin (actually, I once read that cigarettes are MORE addictive than heroin!–but that has nothing to do with chocolate). So even though I joke about it, I really do consider this to be a very serious problem, and one that far too many people have trouble dealing with.
That said, I want to send out a heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who left words of support or encouragement here–it really does help! And knowing that I’ll have to write about it on the blog (well, okay, technically I don’t HAVE to, but I would) if I slip has actually kept me on the WOCA straight and narrow these past few days. Bloggers are awesome!