Fiona Sheppard On What She Can’t Live Without, Even on Vacation, Her Secret Ingredient, and Foods for the Perfect Dish
Instagram: @ rawCRUSH
Q: What can’t you live without in the kitchen?
A: I can’t live without my knives and chopping board; they are definitely number one. As embarrassing as it may sound, I pack a small high-speed blender when we go on holidays. It sits there right next to the hair dryer and curling iron. I use my blender every day for smoothies, cakes, dips, spreads, sauces, and dressings. I can’t live without it, especially when I am away from home. I also have a very strong connection with my dishwasher. I love preparing meals and cooking, but I appreciate help in the washing up department.
Q: Your favorite ingredients?
A: My number one ingredient is chickpeas and, of course, chickpea brine. I love adding chickpeas to salads and savory dishes. They are one of those foods that make me feel good. And, of course, the brine is liquid gold. I love using the brine to make all different types of meringue and nougat using organic unrefined sugars. Dates, dates, and more dates. They are definitely a staple in my kitchen. I use them in so many of my desserts and breakfasts, but most of all they are awesome for just snacking. It may be the Italian in me, but I can’t live without a good quality Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I use it in most of my salad dressings, dips, spreads, and some cakes.
Q: Any food secret you swear by?
A: Psyllium husk is an amazing ingredient because when it forms a gel, it helps set puddings and raw vegan cakes. It also has numerous health benefits. I have seen the benefit of adding the psyllium husk to my husband’s diet to effectively reduce his high blood cholesterol levels. I have seen it used by family and friends to do the same, even those who have been vegetarian/vegan their entire lives and have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol. It also reduces high blood glucose levels. It can help treat both diarrhea and constipation, and may alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and hemorrhoids, as well as lower the risk of colon cancer.
Vegan Snickers Squares
Brine from two 400 g tins of chickpeas
500 g rice malt syrup
200 g almond meal
18 medjool dates
1 cup unsalted peanuts
¼ tsp ground pink Himalayan rock salt
400 g good quality vegan 70% cacao chocolate
For the nougat layer, you will need to place the brine in a pan and reduce over a medium heat to 70 g and then allow to cool. Place reduced liquid in a KitchenAid and whip on a high speed to firm peaks.
Place rice malt syrup in a pan and heat to a hard crack. You will know the caramel is almost ready when the bubbles reduce significantly. Using a candy thermometer, heat the rice malt syrup to over 150°C/300°F. The syrup should form stiff strands that are firm and brittle.
While continuing to whip your aquafaba, reduce the speed to slow and slowly drizzle in the hot caramel until all combined. Then add almond meal and combine.
Transfer to a prepared pan lined with baking paper and set aside to cool.
For the caramel layer, soak dates in hot water for 10 minutes. Drain the water and mash.
Add the salt and peanuts. Spread over nougat.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, then cut into squares. Place on a cooking tray 3 cm apart. Melt chocolate and then pour over squares.
Cover and refrigerate until needed. Enjoy!
Photos: Fiona Sheppard