This is the second time Bettina McILwraith and I are getting together to play with colours, textures and food. It is so exciting to contribute to Bettina’s series FEED THE MINDS. This time around we chose our favourite colour black.
Anyone who knows me, can testify that I usually rock up in black or white or a combo of them. I am a black ‘n’ white – in or out – love it or leave it kinda gal 😉
Black is technically not a colour but the absence of colour. Still it is: timeless, elegant and sophisticated and in clothes easier to wear than any other colour and it makes everyone look good. It adds a bit of mystery and is needed to give other colours depth and variation in hue. Black is the colour that has the most contrary meanings as it can stand for power, strength, death, rebellion as well as being prestigious, sexy and therefore boosting confidence.
Black foods are linked to the kidneys and bladder and therefore the element of water in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). Kidneys are the powerhouse of the body, supplying reserve energy to any organ running low on Qi (life force energy). The kidneys have our adrenal glands sitting on top of them which are the source of extra energy when we need it from a more western herbal medicine viewpoint. During periods of stress we switch into “fight or flight” mode and adrenalin is pumped into our system. Our current lifestyle in most ‘civilised’ cultures forces us to be on high alert for most of the time which leads to symptoms that are summed up under the term adrenal exhaustion.
When it comes to anti-oxidant content – darker fruits and vegetables usually contain higher amounts of phytochemical that are associated with anti-proliferative ( inhibiting cell growth) effects. Most of these phytochemical belong to so called flavonoids and polyphenols. Flavonoids have been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory, antithrombogenic, antidiabetic, anticancer, and neuroprotective activities through different mechanisms in cell-signalling cascades.
Scientists have started to measure antioxidant content in foods and it is expressed in the ORAC value. ORAC stands for oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC). You might have heard of SUPERFOODS – those are foods that have exceptionally high ORAC values.
Dark colours such as dark brown and black in plants and animals are linked to melanins, tannins, quinones – these are considered to be anti-inflammatory, protect against UV radiation and oxidation especially of lipids in general. Tannins, which are a subgroup of polyphenols, are even able to chelate metal ions which can be beneficial but may also lead to mineral deficiency especially iron if consumed in high amounts (e.g. black tea & coffee). To reduce this effect enjoy your tea and coffee at least 1-2 hours apart from food.
There is one more phytochemical worth mentioning: PEA (2-phenylethylamine). It is found in many algae, fungi, bacteria and some other plant species. PEA is the decarboxylation product of phenylalanine, a protein that is turned into a neurotransmitter in our body. Therefore, PEA has also been found in the brains of humans and other mammals. PEA has stimulant effects, like amphetamine, which lead to the release of so called biogenic amines, including dopamine and serotonin. All of these don’t sound to appetising still? Well how about I tell you that cacao is really high in PEA too? How about I tell you that PEA is also called the love hormone? It has an effect that is similar to the activity of the natural endorphins, an effect that is known as a “runner’s high”, “an immediate shot of happiness, pleasure, and emotional wellbeing”. So no wonder that everybody loves chocolate! For us women these little chemicals and the high mineral content especially magnesium is the reason why chocolate becomes our best friend every month.
Ok…..I might have gotten a little carried away with so much information on all the goodness in black foods. GEEK ALERT!
But I did not forget to actually make food. Here are some delicious recipes incorporating all the goodness of black foods.
Recipes for body & soul
Miso Eggplant Sushi topped with Seaweed salad and crunchy Wakame
makes about 25 pieces of sushi
1 ½ cups sushi rice, well rinsed, add 1 ½ cups water
½ cup Shiro Miso
¼ cup toasted sesame oil
¼ cup warm water
1 ½ medium sized eggplants, washed and cut into longitudinal stripes about 1cm thick (width of a finger), turn around and cut into 2cm wide rectangles similar to fish fillets on sushi
Seaweed salad, small bag from asian market
Dried laver sheets (Sushi sheets)
Dried wakame (dried seaweed often used for Miso soup)
Umeboshi Plums as condiment
Let the sushi rest for 30 min in water, cook on high heat until it boils. Once the rice has boiled turn the stove back onto low heat and let it simmer for about 20 min. Remove the pot from the stove let it stand covered for about 15 min. Put rice into a bowl and add ¼ cup of sushi vinegar to the rice and fold it under.
Let the rice cool off completely.
Make the miso sauce by blending all ingredients with a stick blender or whisk by hand.
Put the cut eggplant onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake on 200 degrees Celsius for 20 min. DO NOT SALT to avoid it from getting soggy. After 20 min flip the eggplant fillets and add about ½ tsp miso sauce on each piece and put the eggplant back into the oven on 220 degrees celsius for another 10 minutes.
Shape cooled rice into sushi rice and add a little more miso sauce on top. Cut dried laver into thin stripes. Place a piece of baked miso eggplant on top of the rice and tie it down with the laver. Top the sushi with a small amount of seaweed salad and a sprinkle of dried wakame.
Serve leftover miso sauce on the side as extra dip and remaining seaweed salad as side too. Enjoy with tamarin or soy sauce and umeboshi plums.
Black Sesame Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes with Sakura frosting
makes 20 small or 10 big cupcakes
1 cup dark chocolate, melted in water bath (available at bulk buy stores such as Scoop Wholefoods)
1 cup coconut flour
1 cup blanched almond meal
1 cup dates, soaked for 2 hours and pressed dry
½ cup soaking water from dates
½ cup brown rice syrup – if you like it a bit sweeter replace with coconut nectar
½ cup black tahini
½ cup coconut oil
2 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup deseeded fresh cherries
½ cup dried cherries
½ cup coconut butter, soft
1 TBSP coconut oil, melted
1 cup coconut cream, chilled overnight
20 deseeded fresh cherries
¼ cup dried cherries
Sakura essence (Cherry blossom essence) to taste – only put 2 -4 drops and try first before adding more as it is really strong.
Start with soaking dates, and putting the coconut oil and coconut butter into hot water.
In a high speed blender add all icing ingredients and blend into a thick creamy icing. Fill into an icing (patisserie) bag with your favourite nozzle and keep in the fridge until semi set (2-3 hours).
Combine all ingredients of the dough in a food processor apart from the fresh and dried cherries. After all other ingredients are a nice thick dough fold the fresh and dried cherries under by hand.
Shape round balls and place them into paper muffin cups in a muffin tray.
Bake on 180 degrees Celsius for 40 minutes. The outside of the cupcakes should be slightly crunchy whereas the inside should be still soft and moist. Leave the cupcakes in the muffin tray in the switched off oven until cool.
Check if the icing is set enough to decorate your muffins. But make sure the muffins are cold enough before putting the icing on. Add an extra fresh cherry on top and sprinkle with black sesame seeds. The muffins can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
Creative Direction, Styling Mentorship: Bettina McILwraith
Copy, Recipes, Styling & Photography: Rita Ince
Ceramics: A selection from Marie-Helene Clauzon & Milly Dent
Set and flowers: The Nest Creative Space & Missy