Carob Fudge - a wickedly nutritious winter treat

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A few months ago after a period of intense work, long days and not a little stress had ended, I noticed that I felt permanently on edge. It was a kind of excitable, nervy, thrilled feeling - the kind you get on Christmas eve. Sleepy tea seemed to help and I always felt better after a run - elated and spent enough to sigh from the bottom of my lungs and flop down in a chair for a few minutes.

So I checked in with myself - what on earth was going on? I had no worries of any sort; book done, roof over head, lovely husband and son, work that I adored, friends a plenty. I went to bed early, ate well, exercised regularly and contemplated the fat pigeons in the garden tree just as often as ever. Yet some internal itch had me dancing the tarantella and shallow breathing.

Eventually of course, I worked it out - caffeine! I don't drink tea or coffee any more, preferring a smooth cup of rooibos, or soothing chamomile tea. But what I have been eating daily - almost as a religious habit, is dark, dark chocolate of the 90% variety. I checked out the caffeine content and it's not even that high - much like a cup of tea, or very small cup of weak coffee. However, the theobromine in cocoa can affect the body just like caffeine, in much smaller amounts. The two combined can set some people's pulses racing as effectively as a shot of espresso. I cut it out and hey presto! My serenity returned.

Chocolate is an old friend of mine, I love her bitterness and melting smoothness. Without her I started to crave dark flavours and longed for something cool to sink my teeth into and melt with the heat of my tongue. I went searching in the health food shop for something to appease my longing and amongst the sickly sweet halva and fruit leathers I chanced upon a carob bar - an old friend from my youth, when it was sanctioned by my hippy mother as an alternative to the tooth rotting sweets of the 1970s. Commercial carob bars are unfortunately full of ingredients like soya flour, agave syrup and damaged vegetable fats. So I grabbed a pot of raw carob flour and started to experiment with my own fudgy freezer treats. I find that a tray of these can last a week, just popping a couple out when I feel the need for a little something - the high fat content and lack of sweetness makes them satisfying without leading to a Cookie Monster style episode in front of the freezer.

Carob is not chocolate. It has some similar flavour notes - dark, nutty, slightly bitter - but it has a totally different identity with caramel, dried figs, coffee, molasses and salt coming through to make something altogether less bitter and more fruity. It is almost completely caffeine and theobromine free and packed with lots of minerals, particularly calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. It also contains anti-inflammatory gallic acid and is reputed to lower cholesterol. Carob is naturally sweet and if you have a penchant for bitterness like me, you can reduce or even eliminate the honey from the recipe below. Luckily for me, I love the flavour of carob and am fully aware that it is not chocolate and never will be. When I eat some carob, my brain is not looking into the cupboard and hoping to find chocolate there - it's happy to find some carob! Some people dislike it intensely and make the same face as our cat whenever we tempt her to eat a chilli king prawn - know yourself and only eat carob if it brings you joy.

Carob Fudge

This fudge is not cooked, has no refined sugar in it and will require only the most modest of kitchen skills - you can make it with your toddler if they are a carobophile. You can flavour your carob fudge with a few drops of mint essential oil, ground cardamom seeds, finely grated orange zest or chopped roasted hazelnuts. I also like to swap a teaspoon of the honey for one of blackstrap molasses to add treacly depth to the flavour.

60g coconut oil or soft unsalted butter
40g raw carob powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-4 tsp raw honey or date syrup
tiny pinch of fine sea salt

A silicone ice-cube tray or 15cm square tupperware container
  • Put carob powder, vanilla, honey or date syrup and salt into a mixing bowl.
  • Put the coconut oil or butter into another bowl over some gently simmering water (bain marie) and allow it to partially melt. Don't melt more than half way, or your carob fudge will separate.
  • Pour the partially melted fat into the carob mixture and stir until you have a smooth mixture with no oily or buttery lumps. If you can't get the mixture to become smooth, return the bowl to the bain marie and allow to melt a tiny bit more before mixing again.
  • Spoon into the ice-cube tray and set in the freezer for about an hour. Allow your carob fudge to come up to room temperature for a few minutes before you bite it, or you might take a front tooth out. I like mine pretty chilled - you'll soon work out how you like yours. If you use a tupperware container, mark into squares with a sharp knife after the fudge has been in the freezer about 20 minutes.
  • Store in the freezer.