The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

chocolate and smoked salt tart with bay leaf ice cream

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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.

dried bay leaveschocolate and salt caramel tartsliced chocolate and salt caramel tartbay leaf ice cream

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

110 g organic dates, pitted
200 g organic almond kernels
10 g organic unsweetened cocoa powder
45 g extra virgin coconut oil, melted
pinch smoked sea salt

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.

Categories: dairy free, gluten free, vegan

Tags: , , ,

30 replies

  1. Inspiring Saturday morning reading. (Amazing looking flavours too…)

  2. WOW, you never cease to amaze and delight!! Thankyou

  3. Oh you devil. I brushed my teeth about 15 minutes ago and then I come upon this recipe. Guess I’ll have to dream about it tonight. Will also be dreaming of the superb meals we had in March last year when we were in Sikkim.

  4. Cool story. I hope someone has been monitoring pollinators before the switch so they can see if they fare better in an organic state. The desserts look and sound delicious!

  5. Gosh this chocolate tart looks amazing, great combination of flavours, Chloe.

  6. Definition for a new world dictionary: “Sikkim – a beacon, a signal, a bright star in a dark sky, an exemplar. noun, adjective as in “I want you all to look at what Jack has made. It’s a real sikkim. Now see how many of you can make something as good.”

  7. Thank you so much for sharing a posititive situtation. I would like to recommend a book to everyone who hasn’t already seen it called Hungry Planet. The people who live in Bhutan live a very simple life but are among the happiest. I’m also thinking about some vegan ice cream made with Sikkim’s organic cardamom and oranges. May be just a dream here in the US, but still a pleasant possibility.

    • Hi Mary, thank you for your interesting comments. I remember reading an extract from ‘Hungry Planet’ in the UK’s Guardian newspaper a couple of years back. It was humbling to see how little food some families survive on. What also struck me was how much more natural some of the more frugal diets seem when compared to the over-packaged, highly processed foods underpinning the diet of families in the developed world.
      I like the sound of your orange and cardamom ice cream flavour!

  8. Bay leaf ice-cream.. What a fantastic idea.. Thanks for the cool recipe

  9. This is inspiring me to have a go at making my own ice cream! Looks delicious

  10. Looks fantastic and make me hungry! Bye. K

  11. That bay leaf ice cream is so intriguing. I’ll definitely have to give it a try!

  12. Total newbie to your blog here and I LIKE what I’m seeing!! Just a question: what is smoked salt?

    • Hi Karen

      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting.

      Smoked sea salt is simply sea salt which has been smoked with wood bark to impart a smoky flavour. It is fairly widely available. Usually used in savoury dishes, it also happens to work well with chocolate, as in this recipe. 🙂


      • Thanks Steve, I’ll see if I can find some. By the way, it’s sugaring off season here in Quebec so I’m wondering where your maple syrup comes from. You do know we make the best, right? 🙂

  13. I always use organic Canadian maple syrup. 🙂

  14. Hi there – at the risk of showing myself up – what size tart tin are you using?

    I love your blog – looking forward to trying this out :)))

    • Hi Kate. That’s an entirely reasonable question! I used a tart tin 23 cm/9 inches in diameter. Thanks for the kind comments about the blog. I hope you do try this one. I was really pleased with the way it turned out. Steve 🙂

  15. Bravo Sikkim! Off to pick bay leaves and now have another use for Drootwich smoked salt, thanks!


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