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From the Tree to Me – Crispy Caramel Cups

Do you ever get caught up in an imaginary story in your head? Well no surprises to you guys I guess, ‘cos I do!

There I was, slowly walking the aisles of Wiffins at the Fyshwick markets, a market place I have visited almost every weekend since I arrived in Canberra nearly 20 years ago, gathering ingredients I needed for a special feast I was preparing for my health conscious foodie friends that featured raw, vegan dishes and delicious crispy caramel cups to finish.

Almost absent minded, I bagged some button and Swiss brown mushrooms, picked a bunch of hydro lettuce, found the kale and cavolo nero, sampled a couple of Thompson seedless grapes from the awesome “Market Criers” – love those guys, before continuing on my journey of sniffing the rockmelons, mangoes, pineapples and figs for ripeness.

Gently cradling the figs to avoid breaking their tender skin, I stood in front of a pile of coconuts shaking a couple and listening to the water swish around inside, which got me to thinking about the journey my food makes before it meets me.

Silly perhaps, but as I waited my turn at the register to pay for my bounty, I entertained myself on the adventures this coconut had taken to get to my market place. Before I’d even reached the cash register to pay, I’d indulged in my inner world of story making and named my colourful coconut character “Kenny”, so I thought I’d let him tell you his story.

Woah, talk about scoring the dream job Kenny man, you’ve been chosen by a Chef! I’d heard stories about other coconuts ending up in factories, torn apart by machines, shredded, coated in preservatives and sold off barely resembling the coconut they once were… terrible end, but its not my fate that’s for sure! Me? I’ve led a blessed life.

As a wee coconut, I spent my days hanging about with the fam in heaven on earth, North Queensland, every day was a perfect 28-degrees with rolling turquoise clear seas to gaze at, nestled in the lush greenery of dense plantation overflowing with fruits and vegetables, sheer abundance I tell you. It was pure magic. 

By the time I hit my 1st birthday and was a mature lad with a thick meaty flesh, I was plucked from my tree, assigned a distribution number and allocated a comfortable crate and together we boarded a giant road train bound for one of the world’s largest fresh fruit and vegetable markets, the Sydney Markets. Hawt Dang!

Fair dinkum, arriving in Sydney was incredible, this little beach kid got welcomed to the big smoke with a bang, before I knew it my mates in the crate and I were up for auction with grocers from across NSW and ACT bidding on us, we brought a fine price too, let me tell you! The best ride of my life was at the Sydney Markets, man, you’ve gotta just hang on for your life when one of those crafty fork lift drivers picks up your crate and tears off at break neck speeds weaving their way past trucks and vendors and people coming and going in all directions, but before we knew it, we were parked into a chilly container truck with produce this fella had never even heard of, let alone seen.

Getting to know my fellow produce companions on the truck to Canberra was ace let me tell you! I found out we were bound for Wiffins Premium Green Grocers at the Fyshwick Fresh Food Markets. In just a few short hours and a bit more shuffling I found myself sitting on the shelf with a couple of my buddies from home, but all around me it was like being at a carnival, a parade of colors from the fruit and vegetables, flowers and people. 

I heard the Chef was keen to make a great many things from me; chicken curry, crispy caramel cups, raw vanilla coconut fig slice, vegan strawberry bliss balls, cranberry and coconut granola and coconut vanilla matcha smoothie to name a few, it sure sounds pretty rad. I can’t tell you how proud I felt to be here after my whirlwind trip from my beachy beginnings, sometimes a lad can be lucky alright.

Wiffins has always been my ‘go to green grocer’ not just for home, but a key supplier in many of the commercial kitchens I worked at back in my cheffing days too. In my opinion Wiffins is the best of the bunch, their fruit and vegetables are mostly from Australian farms, the produce is top quality and lasts a long time, the staff are more than happy to answer any questions about what’s in season or where they sourced their product from, and they stock a great range of groceries too, like Long Paddock eggs and Maggie Beer pasta sauces, but really it’s the atmosphere of the markets that draw me back each week. Oh, and I heard the original owner Mr Wiffen grew oranges in Griffith NSW – just so happens that was where I was born.

I’d love to know, do you bond and create stories about your fruit and vegetables like I have with Kenny the coconut? And please do tell me about your favorite green grocer? Crispy Caramel Cups – Recipe adapted from The Foodie’s Colouring Book

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Crispy Quinoa

  • 1½ teaspoon extra virgin coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup (90g) cooked quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon shaved fresh coconut

Date Caramel

  • 6 Medjool dates, pitted
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla powder
  • 1 tablespoon shaved fresh or desicated coconut
  • ½ teaspoon coconut oil
  • Pinch of sea salt

Raw Chocolate

  • 1/2 cup (125ml) extra virgin coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup (60g) raw cacao powder
  • 1 tablespoon maple or rice malt syrup
  • Pinch of sea salt

Step 1: Preheat oven to 180c / 350f and line oven tray with baking paper.
Step 2: Mix the melted coconut oil through the cooked quinoa and fresh shaved coconut and evenly spread on the lined baking tray. Bake for 20 minutes, keep an eye on it and stir if needed. Once the mixture is crispy, remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Step 3: Prepare the caramel by soaking the dates in boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain and add the pitted dates to a food processor with the vanilla powder, coconut oil, shaved fresh coconut and sea salt. Blitz until a smooth caramel coloured mixture forms.
Step 4: Prepare the raw chocolate by whisking the coconut oil, cacao powder, maple or rice malt syrup and sea salt together in a bowl until combined.
Step 5: To make the cups, lay out mini patty pans on a tray or plate. Use a tablespoon to pour the base layer of chocolate into each patty pan. Place the tray in the fridge for 5-10 minutes to harden.
Step 6: Remove the tray from the fridge and add 1 teaspoon of the crispy quinoa and coconut, and 1 teaspoon of the date caramel to each patty pan. Use the back of the teaspoon to push down the caramel and create an even layer. Use the remaining chocolate mixture to pour over the top of the caramel.
Step 7: Return the tray to the fridge for 5-10 minutes to set the top layer of chocolate.
Step 8: Store in fridge until ready to eat.

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