One of my all-time favourite cooking shows in Australia would have to be The Cook and The Chef that aired on the ABC. Sadly, it came to an end after four fabulous seasons. But the scrumptious vegetarian recipes still remain as a lasting legacy. My friend Kris gave me this nut bar recipe a couple of years ago, and I have been going nutty for its nutritional splendour ever since.
This is one of the many phenomenal recipes whipped up by renowned cook Maggie Beer and gorgeous gourmet chef Simon Bryant; as they celebrated gorgeous Australian fresh produce; and the love of good story telling and entertaining in South Australia’s magnificent Barossa Valley. What I loved about this cooking show was how it celebrated the power of food to bring people and ideas together. This particular recipe was Simon’s recipe, and it would seem that he lives his life by this philosophy of sharing.
When I contacted the ABC network to gain permission to post Simon’s recipe, they kindly forwarded me onto his agent, who was extremely helpful in forwarding my request to Simon; who then generously offered to test this gluten free adaptation in order to make sure it would work s’blendedly for all of you! I was so bowled over by his generosity of spirit! Recipes are meant to be shared; and they are so much sweeter when they are handed on with such love and kindness. It almost gives you the magical kitchen karma that ensures success for every recipe reader! But alas, we all know that little fairy doesn’t visit the kitchen every day! I have had the all too familiar snout pout on many occasions when my efforts did not even closely resemble what Martha made!
I almost didn’t want to admit that I had trialed his recipe with great success, and didn’t need to take him up on his kind offer. I was sure he would add that little something extra that would turn this s’blended treat into something that would make you all go nuts! But the honesty in me prevailed and I politely declined. But wow, did it restore my faith in the kindness of strangers; and my admiration for all chefs and cooks.
What Simon was concerned about was the fact that these bars often didn’t set completely. He offered this disclaimer: using good quality fresh almonds is really critical or the mixture will be too sloppy and will not bind. Bad almonds only absorb half the liquid and will mess up the nutty party! So go nuts and splurge on the good ones! Having said that, I like these bars chewy and not rock hard. I don’t like having to coat-check my teeth before I indulge, as can be the case with so many sesame bars! Play around and you will reach your perfect blend.
I have never had a problem with this recipe if you use quality ingredients and measure exact quantities. You could add in some blackstrap molasses into the mix in order to get a richer flavour. But I like them just the way they are -- savoury and sweet with all that nutty goodness; and just a bit seedy! You can add the chocolate for variety. A little dip in the chocolate trough is always a good idea. But my mum prefers them without the chocolate. So the batch I photographed were left naked.
Either way -- these bars bring out the seedy nutty side of me!
Thanks Simon and Jade. You ROCK!