We spent the last couple of weeks visiting Portugal, Porto and Lisbon to be exact, by way of Spain. One of the first things I noticed upon arrival was the thriving food culture; hip cafes, and artisanal markets on every corner. To be honest, Lisbon felt like a little slice of Brooklyn located all the way in the Iberian Peninsula. Organic cafes and grocery stores were easy to find and served up the most delicious array of goodies and new and exciting products (like the tastiest vegan yogurt ever). Once the evening came rolling along, Adam and I would hit up an all-day (and pretty much all night) food market to sample sandwiches, rices, stews, and burgers – and probably one of our favourite Portuguese dishes so far, a sandwich on carob flat bread. Yes, that love-it or hate-it, not-quite-chocolate, chocolate impersonator. But first things first, carob isn’t chocolate and there’s no pretending it is.
So what is Carob, exactly?
The powdered carob that many of you will be familiar with comes from the seed pods of the evergreen Mediterranean tree know as carob, St. John’s-beard, or locust bean (commonly found as a thickener or ‘gum’ in processed foods). Once the pods of the tree have been dried and roasted, they are ground into a ‘flour’ (that can be used to make delicious breads and buns) which is commonly known as carob powder. Although it may resemble cocoa in colour, carob powder has a unique earthy flavour, which is mildly sweet and caramel-like, and all-together its own. And guess what? It’s good for you! Carob is packed with soluble fibre which helps clean out your digestive tract of waste (hello natural detox). Beyond that, carob is low in fat, free of caffeine, and high in iron and calcium, which are pretty much always welcome.
While carob has historically gotten a bad wrap as just another hippie food, those claims often come from people who either mistook it for chocolate, or tried to use it to replace chocolate. But to be fair, that’s like giving a carnivore tofu and saying it’s steak. Tofu is tofu, and carob is carob.
Now that I’ve expounded on all the wonders of carob for carob’s sake, I’ll have to admit that this recipe can be made with cocoa, as well (although I still hope you give carob a chance!). For this recipe I combined the carob with peanut butter, but any nut butter would do (hazelnut would be amazing!).
Peanut Butter Fudge Slice
Recipe: (Makes 8-12) Print it Here
1 Cup Almonds
1/2 Cup Pitted Dates
2 Tbsp. Ground Flax
1 Tbsp. Water, or as needed
A Pinch of Sea Salt
1/4 tsp. Vanilla
6 Tbsp. Natural Peanut Butter, or nut butter of choice (If you want your bars to be raw, be sure to choose a raw nut butter)
1 Cup Pitted Dates
2 Tbsp. Coconut Oil, melted
4 Tbsp. Coconut Oil, melted
4 Tbsp. Carob Powder (or Cacao Powder, if I didn’t sway you towards carob)
1 Tbsp. Liquid Sweetener or Choice
A Pinch of Sea Salt
1. Firstly, pulse the dates, almonds, flax, salt, and vanilla until the mixture is ground. Add a splash of water if needed to help the base hold together. Press evenly into a parchment lined loaf pan. Set aside.
2. For the filling, puree the dates with the peanut butter until smooth. Add the melted oil and combine. Spread this mixture over the base, making it as smooth as possible.
3. Finally, melt the oil with the carob powder, sweetener, and salt, and pour over the filling. Set the pan in the freezer to set. Once firm, sliced the bars with a hot, dry, knife. They can be enjoyed right away or transferred to a airtight container and kept in the freezer for several weeks. If you can, let the bars soften up for a few minutes before digging in. The flavours come out so much more when room temp!