Most of the recipes I publish on my blog are preceded by a rant about some aspect of the food industry that I find objectionable (and, believe me, there are many). So it’s refreshing, once in a while, to change the tone and use this platform to applaud and bring to your attention a positive development in the world of food production.
Sikkim is a small Indian state in the north east of that country, nestling in the Himalayas between Nepal and Bhutan. Back in 2003, Sikkim’s legislative assembly passed a resolution calling for the state to become completely organic.
Twelve years later, in December last year, the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, officially announced that Sikkim is now free of chemical pesticides and fertilisers. Mr Modi said that what Sikkim had achieved was the feat of “living in harmony with nature” and he lauded it as “a model of development”.
The poorly controlled prevalence of pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilisers has been a major problem in India for many decades, but particularly since the country’s agricultural industry was subjected to a package of “liberalising reforms” in the 1990s. These reforms were imposed upon the country by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in exchange for international loans. The reforms opened the door to global agrochemical industries and led to an influx of agricultural chemicals as well as genetically modified crops (GMOs).
Over the years India has witnessed many instances of mass poisonings and serious illnesses attributed to these harmful chemicals. Drinking pesticide is also a common method of suicide amongst India’s poverty stricken farmers.
After Sikkim’s legislative assembly passed its resolution to go organic, the state immediately banned the sale of these agricultural chemicals. It then ran a series of workshops to educate and train farmers in the science and practice of organic growing.
Sikkim is well-known for producing cardamom, although it produces other important crops such as ginger, corn and oranges. So far, the switch to organic practices has brought only positive benefits, with demand for the state’s organic produce booming. This in turn is providing a higher profit margin for Sikkim’s farmers. It is also predicted that tourism in Sikkim will increase as a result of the state’s new organic credentials.
What Sikkim has managed to achieve is an example not only other Indian states, but to other countries across the world.
On to the recipe, which I have created in association with Suma Wholefoods Cooperative. Under the terms of our arrangement, I select products from the Suma Wholefoods range which Suma provide free of charge. From these I create an original recipe which appears on the Suma website as as well here, on the Circus Gardener’s Kitchen.
So here it is.
Bay leaves have been used in cooking for thousands of years. Although usually associated with savoury dishes such as soups and casseroles, they add a delightful perfumed flavour to this unusual vegan ice cream: a lovely, light counterbalance to the rich, salty and smoky chocolate tart.
chocolate and smoked salt tart with bay leaf ice cream
for the bay leaf ice cream
400 ml organic coconut milk
160 ml organic coconut cream
100 ml organic maple syrup
8 dried bay leaves
for the base
for the filling
300 g dairy free dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
320 ml organic coconut cream (in liquid form)
60 ml organic maple syrup
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
1 tsp smoked sea salt
1. For the ice cream, pour the coconut milk into a saucepan. Add the coconut cream, maple syrup and the bay leaves. Stir and place over a low heat. Bring to simmering point and then immediately remove from the heat. Leave to infuse and allow to cool to room temperature.
2. When the mixture has cooled, strain through a fine sieve into a bowl or jug to remove the bay leaves. Put the strained liquid in the fridge to chill for at least one hour, then pour the chilled ice cream mixture into an ice cream maker and churn. Once it has begun to set, tip the ice cream out into a freezer proof container. Cover the container with a lid and freeze for at least 4 hours. Remove the ice cream from the freezer and leave to stand at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before serving.
3. For the base, place the almonds, dates, smoked sea salt, coconut oil and cocoa powder in a food processor and blend until the dates and almonds have broken down and the mixture has come together like a loose dough. Press this dough firmly into the base and sides of a tart tin.
4. For the filling, pour the coconut cream into a pan and place over a very low heat. Break up the chocolate and add to the pan, along with the maple syrup and vanilla extract. Whisk together until the chocolate has melted, then pour onto the tart base. Leave to cool for fifteen minutes then scatter the smoked sea salt over the surface. Leave the tart to cool to room temperature then then refrigerate until ready to serve.
5. Serve the tart in slices, accompanied by a scoop of the bay leaf ice cream.