When you need to recharge your superhuman powers, or your Bridge skills, try chia.
These weensy seeds are members of the omega-3 plant squad. Why such excitement? Omega-3 is a good fat, the kind that nourishes your noggin and not your waistband.
Our brain cells are primarily composed of fat. So too are many of our neurons (think of an internal electricity grid that lights up our thoughts). There is strong scientific evidence linking good brain health with omega-3-rich diets.
Most research involves controlled studies using omega-3 supplements. But what’s the point in necking expensive pharma-bullets when you can be merrily tucking into chia jam every morning?
Find black or white varieties in your local health food store and savvy grocers. Chia may initially seem expensive, but these tiny seeds actually swell to eight times their volume as soon as liquid touches their orbit.
Apart from being a tasty insurance policy against brain-drain, chia seeds deliver a surprisingly generous dose of calcium and iron too. Great food for mama and bump.
Victoria Sponge with chia jam and coconut cream
Not the traditional butter, cream, sugar and bleached-flour variety, this Victoria Sponge will make your taste buds fist-bump and your health insurer applaud.
Make it for a group of Brits, and you’ll have friends for life.
For the sponge:
1/2 cup / 65g coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup / 25g ground almonds
Good pinch of sea salt
4 medium (not large) eggs
2 tablespoons natural or soya yoghurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
just under 1/2 cup / 120ml unscented coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup / 125ml light agave, brown rice syrup or honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
For the chia jam filling:
2/3 cup / 125g frozen raspberries, defrosted
1-2 tablespoons chia seeds
Squeeze of lime (optional)
3 dates, pre-soaked and stones removed (optional jamminess)
4 tablespoons / 75g CoYo coconut milk yoghurt or thick Greek yoghurt
To make the chia jam, let the raspberries thaw first. Then whiz them in a food processor or hand-held blender with the chia seeds, lime and licky-sticky dates. Allow the chia seeds to thicken the jam for 40 minutes before using.
For the sponge, you’ll need to oil an 8×8 (20cm x 20cm) brownie pan, or a 10-inch (25cm) circular tin, and set aside. It’s also important to preheat your oven to 170 degrees, 150 for fan-assisted or 325 Fahrenheit. I find the best oil to use for greasing is unscented (as opposed to extra virgin and raw) coconut oil. Unscented coconut oil won’t turn the edges of the sponge infuriatingly dark. The meat of the coconut is lightly steamed before pressed, in order to remove the strong coconuty aroma.
Take out two large bowls. In the first bowl, sift your flour with the baking powder together. Stir through the ground almonds and some salt.
In the next bowl, whisk the eggs and yoghurt together, adding a splash of vanilla extract. Then pour in the melted coconut oil and sweetener, stirring vigorously to prevent lumps. Gradually drizzle in the lemon juice, whisking all the while.
Now, let the wet ingredients party with the dry ingredients, beating to prevent any cheeky lumps.
Scrape this sumptuously sticky mess into your prepared tin. Level with a spatula. Then bake for approximately 20 minutes, depending on the circumference of your tin (I use my 8×8 brownie tin). The deeper the tin is, the longer time it needs. If you leave it in longer than 30 minutes, I will throw a tantrum.
Remove the sponge from the oven, and admire. Let it cool for 60 minutes before ejecting from the tin. Then carefully slice the sponge in half (of course you could always double the recipe, and make two tiers instead). Smother great big clouds of coconut yoghurt over one half. Parachute a little chia jam on top of this. Then crown with the other half of the sponge.
Serve on a plate with many napkins and giddy fingers. And a side of Sinatra.