A recipe by Nick Grist and Alex Cotter, who run The Mighty Seed café in Hanover, and a much bigger project besides…
Nick: The Mighty Seed is a social enterprise. Alex and I have both worked on educational projects and developed skills in different areas – she’s qualified in permaculture design and horticulture, and I’ve studied nutrition – so we wanted to find a project that would combine our skills. We’ve got a plot of organic food-growing land in Stanmer Park, which, when we took it on, was a big stinging nettle patch. We’ve reclaimed it and we’re in our first year of production now. This year we’ve managed to grow potatoes, squash, purple beans, purple peas, beetroot, chard, fennel, sweetcorn... We’ve even got a mini orchard at the bottom of the plot, and a walnut tree, which we’re slowly nursing back to health. Our plan is that in five years’ time, our café will be supplied almost entirely by our plot. We’ve only got a third of an acre of growing land, but we’re looking at building some wooden structures that would allow us to grow vertically, tripling or quadrupling our growing space.
Over time, we’re developing an employability programme, where we can get people who are not in employment, education or training up to the plot and teach them a bit about food growing and nutrition. The ones who take to it will come and work with us in the café in proper paid employment. We’re starting to make connections with other social enterprises who can train them as chefs or baristas, or develop their skills in other areas, so we can help to get those who have fallen out of the system back into employment in a way that’s supported, rather than just throwing them in at the deep end.
Alex: This is a recipe that Nick’s been perfecting over the last few months: a vegan, gluten-free brownie. It uses ‘chia eggs’ as a substitute for real eggs: these are a one to four ratio of chia seeds to water, which you just leave to sit for ten minutes and they make a sort of gel. That essentially binds the other ingredients together in the same way as an egg. You don’t get a rise with these because there’s no flour, but if you like a gooey brownie, these are incredible.
Ingredients (makes nine):
150g 85% dark chocolate;
80g coconut oil;
3 chia eggs*;
125g light brown sugar;
125g dark muscovado sugar;
100g ground almonds;
1½tsp vanilla extract;
85g roughly chopped walnuts or hazelnuts.
(*1 chia egg = 1 dessertspoonful of chia seeds, mixed with 4 dessertspoons of water and left to soak for ten minutes to form a gel.)
Method: Preheat the oven to 170°C. Lightly grease a nine-inch square baking tin and place a sheet of greaseproof paper on the bottom.
Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl along with the coconut oil. Suspend the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water and melt together the chocolate and the oil.
Make up the chia eggs; leave to stand for ten minutes, stirring halfway through.
Gradually add the sugars to the chia egg and mix together to form a golden paste. Stir in the chocolate mixture and the vanilla extract, then fold in the ground almonds and the chopped nuts.
Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for 20 minutes (for a really gooey brownie) or 25 minutes (if you prefer the less gooey variety). You’ll know it’s done when the surface starts to gently bubble.
Leave to cool completely and then place the tin in the fridge for 20 minutes, before removing and cutting into squares.