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simple, salty, sweet + nutty broccoli soba

simple, salty, sweet + nutty broccoli soba // the first messsimple, salty, sweet + nutty broccoli soba // the first messnoodles // the first messThe Extra Virgin Kitchen by Susan Jane White
I find it really hard to eat full-stop healthy sometimes, but most especially this time of year. No garden, no sunshine to lure you outside for an off-the-cuff adventure, constant carb-y hankerings seem to fortify us against the cold (proof: there was a bathtub-sized vat of kale, celery root, chili + cauliflower mac ‘n’ cheese for staff meal the other night), the anxiousness over whether spring will ever come… It’s the season of staying cozy and holding tight, and it seems far from over up in these parts. What to eat is more often answered with reasons of comfort than thoughts of lightness.

I haven’t been strictly vegan for a while (maybe we can talk about that soon?), I love salty snacks, treats with coffee, and I sincerely enjoy a piece of not-even-remotely whole grain sourdough often. All of that and some hot chocolate, you know just in case, has been thoroughly woven into the movements of life lately. It feels good deep down in certain ways that don’t really tick the boxes for wellness inspiration boards on Pinterest (which is fine because frankly #fitspo is a little scary for me). And while I’m happy (so happy) in a general life/place-in-the-universe sense… most of my jeans are tight as eff right about now.

So when The Extra Virgin Kitchen arrived in the post, the whole aura about it felt so timely. The pictures are green, gorgeous, and full of beautiful warm weather evening light. More importantly, Susan offers loads of inspiration in the realm of food and wellness. She has so many interesting and new ideas for superfoods, grains, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. There’s lucuma fudge, beetroot ketchup, spirulina shots, buckwheat crepes with pine nut ricotta, badass breakfast bars (best title eveeeer), harissa quinoa with lemon-roasted fennel… lots of inspiration to help anyone be a little more creative and mindful in the kitchen. All of the recipes are gluten, dairy, and sugar free too (there’s some meat and fish in the mix FYI). I think flipping through this beaut might have been the spark I needed to dust off my juicer? Whatever the case, the inclination towards fresh juices, vegetables in general, plant-y proteins, and proper hydration has definitely been stronger lately.

This recipe from the salads & suppers section had me intrigued in its outright simplicity. I knew it had to be one of those things that was way more than the sum of its parts because why else would she call it “snazzy broccoli and soba noodles”? Snazzy! Some chopped brazil nuts (selenium yea yea) are stirred into a salty-awesome mix of sesame oil, tamari, garlic etc. I added a couple little things just for fun because I had them around (lime juice, ginger, tiny splash of maple syrup). It was just a little stir and pour-over kind of move and holy jeez. So good. Suspiciously good for the amount of effort really. This one is for all the peeps who don’t think they have enough time to eat well for themselves, because YOU KNOW you don’t have time to feel like shit either. Give yourself the power in a cool 15 minutes :)

simple, salty, sweet + nutty broccoli soba // the first messsimple, salty, sweet + nutty broccoli soba // the first messsimple, salty, sweet + nutty broccoli soba // the first messsimple, salty, sweet + nutty broccoli soba // the first mess
simple, salty, sweet + nutty broccoli soba
lightly adapted from Susan Jane White’s The Extra Virgin Kitchen
serves: 2-3
notes: This recipe is so versatile: use any steamed/roasted/grilled/raw vegetables you like, noodles of whatever persuasion you prefer. But the sauce! Please keep the sauce :)

2-3 portions of soba noodles (I like a 1:1, sometimes 1:2, noodle + veg ratio, but make as much as you prefer)
1/2-1 full bunch of broccoli, cut into florets (save the stalks for green juice or maybe some pesto?)

1-2 garlic cloves, grated on a rasp
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled + grated on a rasp
1 tbsp tamari soy sauce
splash of maple syrup/brown rice syrup
1/2 tsp light miso
hot toasted sesame oil to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
pinch of cayenne or chili flakes
juice of 1/2 a lime
4-5 brazil nuts, chopped + divided

Cook the soba noodles according to package directions. This usually takes anywhere from 8-10 minutes once your water’s boiling. Drain them and rinse with cold water.

While the noodles are cooking, in a small bowl whisk/stir together the grated garlic, ginger, tamari, maple syrup/brown rice syrup, miso, hot toasted sesame oil, olive oil, cayenne, lime juice and chopped brazil nuts. Add a little fresh ground black pepper if you want. Set aside.

Steam the broccoli to a point you find enjoyable. I like mine still sorta raw-ish, so once the water’s simmering in the pot, that steamer basket hangs out for about 3-4 minutes.

Divide the noodles and broccoli among bowls, drizzle the sauce on top, sprinkle the tops with some extra chopped brazil nuts if you like and serve.

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Claire (Eat Well. Party Hard.)13/03/2014 - 4:39 am

Two words: that. gif.

Skye13/03/2014 - 5:31 am

You’re photos are always so beautiful – how do you do it?!
I’m endlessly trying to be healthy too. And then failing miserably when someone offers me a slice of cake. But recipes like this certainly help to inspire me to be more conscious of what I eat…

Kathryn13/03/2014 - 5:39 am

I’ve seen a couple of people talking about this book recently and, like you, it feels pretty timely to me. I’m so bored about obsessing about what I eat and I’m so ready to embrace a more simple + happier outlook. Sometimes that will involve carbs + chocolate and other times it will involve broccoli and soba noodles. That’s what balance is all about right? Love this + your pics which are so full of beauty and life.

Natalye13/03/2014 - 6:02 am

Looks amazingly good! I have some broccoli in the fridge waiting to be used. Might just have to try this out! Thanks for sharing.

Lisa @ Simple Pairings13/03/2014 - 7:09 am

What a beautiful dish! I have yet to try soba noodles, but I really should one of these days. I’ve been seeing them everywhere! This looks so yummy – love the sauce recipe.

lynsey13/03/2014 - 8:36 am

This is the best “This one is for all the peeps who don’t think they have enough time to eat well for themselves, because YOU KNOW you don’t have time to feel like shit either” – we all only have 24 hours…why not feel awesome? great post. xo

Abby @ The Frosted Vegan13/03/2014 - 8:50 am

Those noodles and veggies, perfect!

Christine13/03/2014 - 9:58 am

I haven’t heard of this book, but it looks right up my alley and I think I’ll add it to my wishlist :) Your pictures look beautiful and this sounds really delicious!

la domestique13/03/2014 - 10:27 am

OMG I’m talkin about Extra Virgin Kitchen over on la domestique too! Love that book and had great fun at her cookery demo in Dublin last night. You’ve made the broccoli soba look irresistible!

Lauren13/03/2014 - 10:45 am

This looks great AND I have most of these ingredients in my kitchen already. Looks like I’m going to have a new favorite weeknight meal…
-Lauren at

Emma13/03/2014 - 10:58 am

What an easy, tasty-looking dish. I’m not familiar with that book but the recipes you listed sound right up my street.
Spring has finally sprung here but I’m still clinging on to winter comfort foods…

michelle13/03/2014 - 11:02 am

Amazing! Just the kind of simple meal that I love. Question: what nut would be an ideal substitute for a brazil nut in a pinch?

Also, thanks for sharing that article about #fitspo. I hope more people reconsider those kinds of messages.

Ashley13/03/2014 - 11:46 am

Just beautiful. And, that sauce!!! I’ve definitely been overdoing it with the carbs lately. Whoops. ;)

jen13/03/2014 - 11:46 am

Assuming you got this book from the publisher/author, did they provide more info on North America distribution that you could include in the post?

Looks like a wonderful book I’d like to buy but I see it listed for $82 US, and only from third party sellers, which seems crazy….

cheri13/03/2014 - 11:49 am

Look’s like this is a great cookbook, love soba noodles, broccoli and most any kind of nut garnish on top. Yum!

Laura Wright13/03/2014 - 12:05 pm

Hi Jen!,
The publisher included a link to Book Depository, which seems to have it at a more reasonable price!:

Laura Wright13/03/2014 - 12:07 pm

Almost any chopped up nut or seed would be appropes I think. Peanuts, cashews, sunflower seeds or almonds (or a mix!) would all be so great.

dederka13/03/2014 - 1:54 pm

i love the photos! i love soba, i love broccoli, i love brasil nuts, looks like a have a winner in the whats for dinner everyday contest
all the best!

Sini | my blue&white kitchen13/03/2014 - 3:59 pm

I’ve been obsessed with soba noodles lately, so this dish basically calls my name. Definitely going to make this soon! Thanks, for being such a constant source of inspiration!

Jessica DeMarra13/03/2014 - 10:49 pm

Your photography is so brilliant and vivid. The way you present this dish makes my mouth water over something so simple as broccoli and noodles.

Lily (A Rhubarb Rhapsody)14/03/2014 - 1:44 am

Soba noodles are such a simple joy. My son will rarely eat pasta but soba noodles always go down a treat. Adding this recipe to my meal plan!

Jo14/03/2014 - 11:31 am

This looks so delicious can’t wait to try it! Although I’m tempted to just make the sauce and use it for dipping bread in!

M14/03/2014 - 7:49 pm

Just wondering if you tried the sauce with miso? It’s in one of the photos!

Laura Wright14/03/2014 - 8:39 pm

M, I toootally forgot to add that to the recipe! Oops. Fixed it :)

Chelsea // The Naked Fig15/03/2014 - 10:44 pm

This looks so delicious and simple to make. I must remember this one next time I’m feeling run down and uninspired. That book looks fantastic. What a beauty she is. Thank you for sharing!

Gwyneth17/03/2014 - 11:11 am

I just learned how to make my own soba noodles, so I am definitely trying this out. Thanks so much!

Kris17/03/2014 - 3:17 pm

Girl, I totally get this. I could have written this post myself, especially (unfortunately) the part about that my jeans are effing tight! :) You have no idea how nice it it know that I’m not alone. I’ve gotta get my hands on this book now, too!

Katie @ Produce on Parade17/03/2014 - 3:50 pm

Haha, omg this post had me cracking up…and relating. Those fitspo images are terrifying on some many different levels. Not gonna lie, I run at least four times a week and do yoga at least twice a week but it’s mostly for a mind release, to fight stress and curb illness. I do it because it makes me happy, not because if I don’t do it it will make me upset! I’ve never understood that! Being vegan makes me very happy too! :) Loved this post. Now off to eat a chocolate cherry cookie, yum!

Weekend Reading, 3.17.1417/03/2014 - 5:55 pm

[…] love a recipe with a descriptive title. What’s more evocative than Laura’s simple, salty, sweet, nutty broccoli soba […]

[…] Avant je détestais le brocolis. Mais maintenant j’ai envie d’en manger à toutes les sa… […]

jade18/03/2014 - 8:22 pm

this is EXACTLY what I feel like today. and i have all the ingredients already on hand! very excited – the amazing recipes just keep coming laura! sheesh!!

Evan19/03/2014 - 9:48 am

Made this last night–simple, quick, delicious. I found the sauce incredibly salty for some reason–not sure if it was the type of miso I used. I added a little extra olive oil to balance it out and it was just fine. Thank you for the recipe, and for the tip about the book! I look forward to checking it out.

Hilary19/03/2014 - 3:54 pm

“This one is for all the peeps who don’t think they have enough time to eat well for themselves, because YOU KNOW you don’t have time to feel like shit either”

Pure Genius.

Thanks for the spark of inspiration:)

WorldlyPost19/03/2014 - 11:08 pm

Oh my goodness! I could not agree more with the desire to reach for a comforting slice of toast or a slice pot pie for a cold evening or some gooey mashed potatoes! Spring is around the corner though….even though it seems like longer! :)

Thanks for the recipe!

Poutine80twenty25/03/2014 - 12:12 am

[…] richer, more satiating foods still maintains a stronghold on my appetite. I related a lot to Laura’s post about still having a need for comforting, fortifying carbs, and other heavy foods throughout this […]

Brandon26/03/2014 - 10:14 am

I made this the other night and it was fantastic. 5 out of 5. So simple and so delicious. The only thing I may change is to add tofu next time to give it a bit more protein, but other than that it was perfection. Thanks so much for the fantastic recipe.

SLJ27/03/2014 - 6:26 pm

This was so simple to make, yet so wonderfully satisfying. I will add tofu next time too, but it’s lovely the way it is as well. Thanks for the recipe and the gorgeous photos.

[…] simple, salty, sweet and nutty broccoli soba, The First Mess: I’ve been getting a lot of broccoli in my Abel & Cole vegetable box of […]

Michelle Duong27/04/2014 - 11:44 pm

I just made this for lunch. It was deliciously tasty but also light. Yum! Thanks for the recipe and I’m loving your blog

Patty09/06/2014 - 11:06 pm

YUM! Just made this. Quick, easy, super tasty. Thank you!

[…] Make it a topping for a salad dressed with something like this. […]

roasted carrots + rice w/ zingy turmeric broth

roasted carrots + rice with zingy turmeric broth // the first messroasted carrots + rice with zingy turmeric broth // the first messroasted carrots + rice with zingy turmeric broth // the first mess
This simple bowl reminded me of why I actually started this site in the first place. With the emails, sorta silly mismatched dish piles, multiple attempts at a palatable goji berry sauce (one day I’ll get it) etc., this sort of reminder is a surprising ray of light. It’s kind of soup-y, but also kind of not. It’s also mostly just carrots and spice served with a bit of rice and sprouts. It’s affordable as all get-out, quick to throw together and warming to the core. Most of these ingredients were pantry stock for me and I imagine if you’ve been here before, they might be for you too.

I may have overkilled it with turmeric-focused recipes here in the last while, so I hope you don’t mind another. Didn’t you know that all of the cool kids are staining their counters and wooden spoons with this stuff? I roast a couple carrots with thyme until they’re sweet and while that’s happening I make up this sharp miracle broth of sorts. It begins with minced shallot, garlic, ginger and turmeric. A little sparkle of lemon at the end keeps it from seeming flat. You could add a chili or something hot if you want too. It has all of the zing of turmeric tea, but in a more obviously savoury form. Once I had a taste of it all mingled around the sweet carrots and nutty rice, I kind of wondered where it had been all winter (and, news flash, this winter’s been hella long). I like green things so there’s a little tangle of sprouts/shoots (aaaaalways in season) on top of this as well.

When I was studying nutrition in culinary school, we had guest speakers from time to time. Some of them were reputable/interesting and some of them were clearly on the grind and grindin’ hard. One of the good ones was this older man of about 75-ish who was enamoured with sprouts. His name was Tony and he sold sprout growers for home use. Oh, and he maintained a website with up to date information on various styles of dance lessons/dance related socials in the province of Ontario (but also Florida). He absolutely glowed. His business cards promoted “LIVE GREEN FOOD FOR HEALTHY DANCERS.” He told us that he ate 3 tablespoons of sprouts every morning and dang if we didn’t all buy one of those guaranteed-for-life devices by the end of the class.

I honestly have no idea where that thing got to, but I still make a habit of eating sprouts as often as I can. For the amount of nutrition bundled in their little shoots, they’re cheap sustenance. If you think of a young child, all energy and potential, and then how that child grows into an adult, for better or for worse from a health standpoint… a sprout/small shoot is like the plant version of that youthful essence, all bouncing off the walls and full of possibility. I mostly like having them around because they add a bit of freshness to the non-stop roasted roots and lentil-y things that seem to be prevalent this time of year. I’m partial to sunflower + sweet pea shoots and Sarah even has some instructions on handling those all by yourself.

So we have roots, sprouts, brown rice, and healing spices. All the makings of some warming hippie health moments, or maybe just a quiet winter’s lunch. Hope you’re all getting some of those these days. xo

roasted carrots + rice with zingy turmeric broth // the first messroasted carrots + rice with zingy turmeric broth // the first messroasted carrots + rice with zingy turmeric broth // the first mess
roasted carrots + rice with zingy turmeric broth recipe
serves: 1
notes: Any roasted root or tuber would be excellent in place of the carrots. This dish is mostly about the interaction of the caramelized, lightly sweet vegetables and the sharp broth.

2 medium carrots, scrubbed + cut into 1 inch pieces
fresh/dried thyme leaves (+ extra for the broth)
salt + pepper
sizeable knob of coconut oil/ghee
1/2 shallot, fine dice
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled + minced
1-2 tsp ground turmeric
1 cup filtered water
juice from 1/2 a lemon
cooked brown/wild/whatever rice for serving (or another grain you like)
sprouts/shoots/small greens of some kind (I like sunflower shoots)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Line a small baking sheet with parchment.

Toss the carrots with some thyme, oil, salt + pepper. Scatter them in a single layer on the baking sheet and slide them into the oven. Roast for about 20 minutes or until the carrots are browned in spots and soft.

Meanwhile, heat the coconut oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the shallots. Stir them about and sauté them until translucent and soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and a sprig of thyme if you like (or a sprinkle of dried thyme leaves). Stir this mix about until it’s very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the turmeric to the pot and stir to incorporate. Keep stirring until the mix seems paste-like. You’re cooking the raw-ness out of the spice at this point, ideally for about 3 minutes (add more coconut oil if necessary). Slowly add the water and stir. Gently simmer the broth for 10 minutes or so. Add the lemon juice and stir at the end. Season the broth with salt and pepper.

Place the roasted carrots and rice in a bowl. Strain the turmeric broth if you like, then ladle it on top. Garnish the bowl with sprouts and sesame seeds if you like.

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thecitygourmand06/03/2014 - 4:56 am

Yum, this looks like a real crowd pleaser!

Kathryn06/03/2014 - 5:44 am

Never apologise for tumeric recipes – that little spice is packed so full of goodness + I don’t think it’s possible to have too much of it. Love the goodness of this recipe + those little sprouting powerhouses on top.

Chelsea // The Naked Fig06/03/2014 - 8:23 am

I love adding turmeric to everything. Between the color and the health benefits how could you go wrong? This looks so delicious! Thank you, thank you.

This is so beautiful Laura. I love the simplicity of it and the way you photographed it. I need more tumeric in my life (I’ve always wanted to be one of the cool kids.)

Lisa @ Simple Pairings06/03/2014 - 8:44 am

What a great idea! Turmeric has become one of my favorite spices lately – I love its pungent flavor, and especially its healing properties. I haven’t experimented much with it in foods though, as I typically just stir it into my morning warm lemon water. This is a must-try for me! Love your recipe.

Robyn @ simply fresh dinners06/03/2014 - 9:28 am

Hi Laura,
I just saw your beautiful pic you sent with this morning’s tweet and had to come see more. Imagine my surprise when I come across some of those beautiful food photography I’ve ever seen! Your site is gorgeous and so inspirational – thanks for sharing!

Sarah06/03/2014 - 10:11 am

I like this sunny bowl—this is the type of thing I eat ALL the time. Thanks for the nice shout-out about the sprouts, too. I love picturing your sprout-dancer-joy man :)


Abby @ The Frosted Vegan06/03/2014 - 10:42 am

I’m loooving tumeric right now, especially trying to get out of this winter slump. Also, sprouts are my favorite, so I’m in with this!

cynthia06/03/2014 - 10:51 am

Bring on the turmeric! I don’t use it enough and vibrant recipes like these are a vital reminder that I need to incorporate it into my cooking much more frequently. :) Gorgeous recipe, Laura — thank you so much for sharing this.

Shilpa06/03/2014 - 10:56 am

This is the perfect recipe for me today. I am in the thick of fighting this weird bug. Don’t we all get sick right after we talk about how we haven’t got sick all year? This soup is perfect. I have been making a turmeric tea in the mornings so I am excited about this broth!

I met Tony at the Guelph Organic Conference a few years ago. He certainly does have a glow! And seems to always have people around him.

Thanks for the perfect timing of this recipe, Laura!

Golubka06/03/2014 - 10:57 am

Ah, zingy broth, sweet roots, chewy rice with fresh, crunchy sprouts…sounds crazy good, made me so hungry for this kind of meal!

Amy @ parsley in my teeth06/03/2014 - 11:19 am

I think the simple dishes – direct from the pantry type – tend to be the best. Sounds delicious and the photos are beautiful!

Lane | Green Spirit Adventures06/03/2014 - 11:37 am

This sounds absolutely lovely! I think it’s just the meal I’ve been in need of. The photography is so gorgeous, as usual!!

Pang06/03/2014 - 2:31 pm

This could now be one of my favorite “simple but great” recipes to make :)
Your pics are beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

I’m loving both turmeric and roasted carrots right now. This post is is gorgeous and inspiring! I’ve gotta go grab some carrots and turmeric on my way home now :)

Tea06/03/2014 - 9:52 pm

This is real serious I’m making what I have in the fridge & pantry. They are always the best meals, and tumeric is good for inflammation something we all likely have in Ontario in the depths of winter. Nice one.

Meghan Faulkner07/03/2014 - 1:48 am

This looks like the kind of meal I would make, and then keep on infinite rotation until my skin was orange from beta-carotene and my spoons yellow from turmeric. But, I’m totally okay with that, because someone told me it’s the cool thing nowadays. Shoots are a bit new to me, but I’m sure they’d find a cozy place among the goodness and warmth.

Tereza07/03/2014 - 3:36 am

Beautiful recipe! Thank you for sharing

Shelly @ Vegetarian 'Ventures07/03/2014 - 9:38 am

This recipe has such a beautiful array of colors! I’ve been craving protein in this cold so I think I’m going to try this with a handful of chickpeas. Mmmm…

Fay07/03/2014 - 3:13 pm

Can’t wait to try this – going to attempt it without oil, hope it doesn’t lose too much flavour.

[…] been on a turmeric kick lately. This recipe from my friend Laura of The First Mess looks pretty damn […]

Laura Bray07/03/2014 - 6:42 pm

I love the idea of putting a gorgeous broth with a light grain and a roasted vegetable. I definitely intended to try this – perhaps as part of a variation using quinoa. Would that work, too? Beautiful photos, as well.

Katie @ Produce on Parade07/03/2014 - 9:31 pm

I’m down with anything with turmeric or sprouts. My favorite are broccoli and radish! They last so long in the fridge too. My sprouting was fueled by the fact that our stores (Alaska) will no longer carry mung bean sprouts :( But now I do my own! This looks wonderful!

SouthernSpoonBelle08/03/2014 - 12:31 am

It’s 80F today but I’m filing this away for Aussie winter– nourishing recipe, thank you!

Sini | my blue&white kitchen08/03/2014 - 10:31 am

What an amazing dish you have created. Like a bowl of sunshine. Can’t wait to have a serving of this!

Hope you have a lovely weekend,

hannah09/03/2014 - 8:38 pm

This is one of those “all-my-favourite-things-in-one-bowl” recipes that had me coo-ing immediately – sweet caramel root veg, ginger-garlic spiciness, turmeric earthiness – and OF COURSE it was absolutely delcious. I topped the bowl with some wrinkly black olives which I would HIGHLY recommend to add some salty to the earthy-citrusy-sweet flavour combo!
Thank you so so mcuh Laura ;)

h x

Kathryne24/03/2014 - 8:22 pm

Your roasted carrots dish seems tremendously appropriate for this time of year. Love those colors.

Kellen Ferkey27/03/2014 - 10:21 pm

Tonight I ran this for dinner service with some great results! Thanks for the inspiration. “Odori-Brined Pan Roasted Pheasant Breast with Herb-Roasted Rainbow Organic Carrots & Crimini Mushroom Infused Wild Rice in Spicy Turmeric Broth with Ginger & Allium”
It can be funny how we find the need to twist the words for the restaurant guest. In short, “It is good food, and we care about our ingredients and techniques. You will love it.”

Erin30/03/2014 - 3:24 pm

I made this for lunch today. Didn’t have any ginger but it was still delicious without it!

[…] This recipe looks beautiful (and so healthy!). […]

Alanna01/04/2014 - 8:22 pm

Goodness, this bowl is just stunning. I will be so happy when I make it soon. Thank you for sharing your beautiful recipes and photographs!

Vita05/04/2014 - 11:06 am

I look forward to getting your healthfulled ,
Delicious looking receipes ..

Mrs D13/04/2014 - 2:55 am

I got here from Heidi’s and I’m so pleased for the recommendation. I made this with a few adjustments, including four times the amount of ginger, lemon and turmeric plus some homemade coconut milk in with the water. Outrageously good! Thank you so much for a quick, restorative, healthful and bright addition to my repertoire.

Sunday Foodie Likes04/05/2014 - 2:34 pm

[…] Colorful and healthy, I like you so much roasted carrots + rice w/ zingy turmeric broth. […]

Marie-Pier16/05/2014 - 6:38 pm

I used parsnip and squash instead of carrots. And added a bit of lemongrass. :) It is a lovely idea, changes from the usual rice bowl! thanks for sharing!

[…] – Loving turmeric at the moment, so can’t wait to make this zingy turmeric broth […]

[…] Colorful and healthy, I like you so much roasted carrots + rice w/ zingy turmeric broth. […]

chocolate hazelnut torte with salty date caramel + coconut cream {vegan + GF}

chocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel {vegan + GF} // the first messchocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel {vegan + GF} // the first messchocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel {vegan + GF} // the first mess
I used to subscribe to a lot of weekly emails from life coaches, wellness gurus, motivational speakers and the like. I found some of the tidbits they offered lightly inspirational on a good day, but on a bad one…ooof. the pitches that involved a $1500++ investment disgusted me when I thought of all the decent people just trying to take control of the inevitably volatile parts of life. I removed myself from those lists a while ago because I’ve realized that in terms of age and personal progression, if you’re trying hard enough and your mind is right, everything is relentless forward and upward motion. But more importantly, and in a more everyday sense, the spaces/tones of feeling, commitments, the places we go… it’s all pretty circular.

I turned 29 yesterday and it’s true that the layers of our human existence become more defined as time rolls on. Bits of the past inform us in the here + now, and we grow or lie still in the ways we push or allow ourselves to. Our minds and postures shift as we learn and do more. The spots where we stall, deliberately or by accident, help us to be here now in a more defined way too I think.

I used to have this thing where I thought it might be advantageous, in some way, to get my nails done, wear some eyeliner, or to get a professional haircut for once. There’s a whole aura around grooming and personal maintenance that screams of having one’s shit together, right? I’d get a couple days off and and just when I had psyched myself up enough to call a salon or whatever, I’d see a little patch of redness on my hand from a burn or any number of calluses, scratches, deep wrinkles and rough spots. I enjoy working my ass off and eventually realized that reminders of that, in whatever form, were more important. Having the privilege to plug away at something that was meaningful enough was every indication that I had my shit together.

So there’s that, and the billion other ways of realization and growth. And there’s also cake because what would a birthday be without it? Pretty sure I’m taking liberties with the designation of “torte” here, but whatever. I’m pretty jazzed on chocolate and hazelnut together in almost anything, so I started with an incredibly dense brownie base and layered it up from there with a hazelnut mousse-ish cream and coconut whip. The date caramel has a tiny pinch of tang from some fresh lemon and I find it really makes all the flavours work together instead of the whole thing just being this overly rich experience. A hearty pile of toasty chopped hazelnuts on top and all’s good. Really, really good.

chocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel {vegan + GF} // the first messchocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel {vegan + GF} // the first messmaking coconut whipped cream // the first messchocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel {vegan + GF} // the first messchocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel {vegan + GF} // the first mess

chocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel + coconut cream
serves: makes one 9 inch torte/cake
notes: I give the mousse + brownie/cake base a full 24 hour wrap-and-chill time. I figured the longer the setting time, the less possibility of heartbreak from a runny mousse or too-warm-in-the-middle cake. Also, I know that certain brands of coconut milk tend to be better than others for forming solid layers of cream at the top–this one has been consistently good for me.

chocolate brownie/cake base ingredients:
1 1/2 tbsp ground chia seeds + 1/4 cup water
3/4 cup almond meal/flour
3/4 cup hazelnut meal/flour (you could do another 3/4 cup almond meal if you don’t have hazelnut)
3/4 cup GF oat flour
2 tbsp arrowroot powder
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup maple sugar (or natural cane sugar)
1/4 cup coconut or almond milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup semisweet vegan chocolate chips

hazelnut mousse ingredients:
1/2 cup toasted + skinned hazelnuts
1 400 ml can of full fat coconut milk, stirred
1 (scant) cup cashew butter (raw or roasted)
1/4 cup maple syrup
pinch of fine sea salt
2 tsp fresh lemon or lime juice
1/4 cup melted coconut oil

salty date caramel ingredients:
7-8 soft pitted dates + boiling water to cover
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
fat pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
big splash of coconut or almond milk

to serve:
coconut whipped cream (1/2 of this recipe)
chopped toasted hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 inch springform pan with coconut oil and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the chia seeds + 1/4 cup water. Stir and set aside so that it can all gel together.

In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, hazelnut meal, oat flour, arrowroot powder, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and to that add the maple sugar, coconut milk and vanilla extract. Add the chia gel to the bowl as well. Don’t stir it yet. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the chocolate chips and coconut oil. Melt the two while you stir constantly to avoid burning the chocolate. Once it’s all melted and smooth, add it to the dry + wet ingredients. Stir it all together until you have a stiff and unified batter.

Press the batter evenly into the prepared springform pan. Place the pan on top of a cookie sheet and slide it into the oven. Bake for 30-33 minutes or until the top is firm. Remove and allow to cool completely. At this point I wrap the cake tightly in cling film and place it in the fridge to totally set overnight.

Make the hazelnut mousse: soak the toasted + skinned hazelnuts in the coconut milk for about 20 minutes–just to soften them slightly and to perfume the milk a bit. Once they’re ready, pour the whole mess of it into your blender or food processor. Add all of the other ingredients to the blender pitcher/food processor bowl as well. Blend/process until you have a very smooth mixture. Scrape the runny mixture into a bowl and cover it with cling film, pressing the film onto the surface of the mousse/liquid. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or until the mousse has firmed up considerably, preferably overnight.

Make the date caramel: soak the dates in the hot water for about 15 minutes, drain them (reserving the soaking water) and place them into your blender/food processor. Add the lemon juice, salt, vanilla, and coconut milk. Blend this up a bit just to break everything up. Add reserved date soaking water as needed and blend the mixture again until you have a runny, caramel-like consistency. Scrape into a jar and seal with a lid until you’re ready to use it.

Assemble the torte: place the brownie/cake base on your serving plate. Whisk the hazelnut mousse up a bit and scoop it onto the cake base, smoothing it out or fluffing it up however you like. Top the torte with coconut cream, date caramel, toasted chopped hazelnuts etc and serve immediately. Leftover torte can be covered and kept in the fridge for a couple days.

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Stefanie27/02/2014 - 3:39 am

Oh my goodness. This looks INCREDIBLE! Happy birthday!

cristina27/02/2014 - 3:48 am

oh i do hope your birthday was nice. and this cake, is marvelous

Harriet27/02/2014 - 4:31 am

Happy Birthday Laura! Cheers to being present, and eating cake, and all of the wonderful things that a birthday brings!

Danielle Wynne27/02/2014 - 5:22 am

Wow that looks amazing! I love your idea of date caramel, I have been trying to think of a way to make a vegan/healthier dulche de leche and I think this may be the recipe. How long does it last in a sealed jar?

Jessica's Dinner Party27/02/2014 - 5:33 am

Happy Birthday!!! I turn 27 in a couple months and can totally relate to what you’re talking about. The refinement that comes with age is not always the prim, make-up perfect person everyone thinks that word reflects.

The torte is absolutely beautiful!

Melissa27/02/2014 - 6:01 am

Oh wow this looks absolutely fantastic. Can you send me a piece please :-)

autumn27/02/2014 - 7:28 am

Happy Birthday, Laura! What a stunning treat.

Laura Wright27/02/2014 - 7:42 am

Hi Danielle, I’m honestly not sure on the lifespan of the caramel because I always eat it up so fast. 3-5 days in the refrigerator I would guess.

Caitlin27/02/2014 - 8:29 am

happy 29th birthday to you! i completely understand what you mean about the false dichotomy between grooming and having your shit together. i go through periods of that, too, but i come back to the same conclusion as you. similar with never taking the time to cover the dark circles under my eyes. i’m kind of proud of them. i know that’s weird.

beautiful cake/torte and i’m excited to learn more about your experiences and feelings in the upcoming year ;)

Anon27/02/2014 - 8:39 am

Happy Birthday dear Laura!!!! That cake looks staggeringly good!!

Have you ever come across J Krishnamurti? He is none of those sorts of people you mentioned above, you might find him refreshing!

Lisa @ Simple Pairings27/02/2014 - 9:09 am

Wow. Your photographs are absolutely breathtaking! This torte looks like it is to die for! The hazelnut mousse looks incredible, too. What a fabulously indulgent cake! :)


Emma Galloway27/02/2014 - 9:52 am

Crap this looks SO good!!!!!! This is exactly how I’d like to celebrate my next birthday! Enjoy your last year in the 20′s :-)

Katie @ 24 Carrot Life27/02/2014 - 10:03 am

Not only are these pictures beautiful (as usual) but I NEED this cake. It looks so good and it won’t make my stomach hurt from lots of dairy and sugar. Happy birthday!

Lindsey27/02/2014 - 10:31 am

Wow, yeah, totally understand your disgust w/ hustle-hungry gurus; there seem to be quite a few people who prey on people’s weaknesses. Anywho, I totally thought my 20s were my trial, that I’d have figured shit out by 30. It turns out (in my case) that even at 30, life is still a continual assessment of shit-togetherness! 29 was a rad ride for me, and I hope this (and every year) brings you clarity, questions and good times! HB, Laura!

thelittleloaf27/02/2014 - 10:35 am

This looks all kinds of amazing. I could eat the hazelnut mousse stuff by the spoon. Is there a reason you use cashew butter rather than hazelnut? Hazlenut overkill perhaps? Happy belated birthday too by the way!

lynsey27/02/2014 - 10:47 am

the perfect treat for celebrating life, birthdays, and having your shit together. xo

Laura Wright27/02/2014 - 10:47 am

Kate, you nailed it! Sometimes toasty hazelnut has a bitter edge, so I thought I’d just temper it with some fatty cashew butter to help carry + enhance the hazelnut flavour and not overwhelm the whole thing with nuttiness. Thanks for your kindness too :)

cynthia27/02/2014 - 11:01 am

Happy birthday!!!! I’m so in love with this cake (so many flavors that I love, all in one!) and your phenomenal photos — beautiful.

Ashley27/02/2014 - 11:02 am

Happy Birthday! Love your photos and way with words, as always. They always make me think. Plus, I’m positively drooling over this cake and am seriously debating how soon I can get some arrowroot powder to make this….then NOT tell my husband it’s not from a box (his fave).

molly yeh27/02/2014 - 11:11 am

gahh this is GORGEOUS! and i hope you had a very very happy birthday!!!!!

Mandy27/02/2014 - 11:37 am

This sounds AMAZING!

Question- Do you HAVE to use a springform pan? Or would it turn out okay in any other sort of pan?

Stacy27/02/2014 - 11:44 am

Such smart thoughts on life, getting older and being okay with the reflections of that. I know exactly what you mean about being tempted to question yourself (and the scars and lines, etc.) and then realizing that these are good reflections of life well lived, things to be proud of. And: what a cake! I hope it was the happiest of birthdays! You deserve only the best, and I hope this new year is a beautiful one for you.

Grace27/02/2014 - 12:10 pm

Happy birthday! This torte looks and sounds incredible. I’m hoping someone close to me has a reason to celebrate soon so I can bust out this decadent dessert. After college I went through the same thought thinking if I regularly got my nails done, got “real professional lady” haircuts and the right clothes I’d feel like a real adult. Some years later now I rush to work after sweaty yoga with no time for makeup and feel more put together than ever. It’s good to find the things that drive us and give us the irreplaceable sense of self-worth and ultimately make us happier than any superficial sense of self ever could. Cheers to you!!

sandra27/02/2014 - 1:05 pm

this cake looks delectable. so rich and creamy AND vegan. Love it.

Laura Wright27/02/2014 - 1:23 pm

Hi Mandy, You don’t have to use a springform pan at all, I would just recommend greasing your pan up real proper and maybe using some parchment so that the cake de-pans cleanly once it’s totally cooled.

Alanna27/02/2014 - 2:29 pm

Oh wow. This is an amazing work of art, and just look at that beautiful ingredient list. A dream come true. Thank you for sharing, and happy happy birthday. :)

Chelsea//TheNakedFig27/02/2014 - 4:04 pm

Whoa, girl. You just took it to a new level! This looks INCREDIBLE. Sending birthday wishes your way. So grateful that your birthday means me getting my hands on this recipe. So generous of you!

sarah27/02/2014 - 5:18 pm

Happy Birthday Laura! And, thanks for this post. I have so many days of feeling like the worlds biggest mom-slob, glancing around at well-groomed souls that seem to hold perfection in their grasp. But I feel the same – I like my scars and unpolished nails, laughter wrinkles and long un-fancy hair. It’s how I’m most comfortable, anyway. But sometimes I forget. xo

Emma27/02/2014 - 5:24 pm

Holy cow!! This looks incredible! That hazelnut mousse looks so pillowy I want to dive into it.
Happy happy birthday. I love your attitude.

Katie @ Produce on Parade27/02/2014 - 6:28 pm

Oh my dear lord. This is incredible. Period. Hazelnut and chocolate are the best together!

cheri27/02/2014 - 8:10 pm

Happy Birthday to you. Beautiful cake. Love your pics.

jade27/02/2014 - 8:20 pm

Happiest of birthdays to you Laura!
Can I just say, you have absolutely floored me with this one. I have a very good (vegan) friend’s birthday coming up, and as usual I am chief birthday cake maker. I had already planned exactly what I was making – UNTIL I SAW THIS! Whoa!
And your photographs! Jeepers!
Gold stars everywhere.
Thanks for the amazingness.
Jade. X

hannah27/02/2014 - 9:20 pm

Happy Happy Birthday Laura!

I hope this year brings you as much joy as your recipes bring me :)

Lisa | Je suis alimentageuse27/02/2014 - 10:02 pm

Happy Birthday! I love hazelnut and chocolate together, and that coconut whipped cream on top? Jackpot.

It’s true, even people who look well-groomed don’t necessarily have their shit together. Screw looking refined, just continue being awesome =P

Sonja27/02/2014 - 10:02 pm

All I can say is WOW.

[…] vegan chocolate hazelnut torte with salted caramel from another excellent vegan food blog, The First Mess, looks incredibly […]

Kasey28/02/2014 - 2:25 am

Happy birthday, beautiful lady! Those marks are worth being proud of, I agree. 29 is a big year!! Bring on the cake! xo

[…] Not one for a sweet tooth, but man, this hazelnut torte looks so inviting. Bonus, it’s […]

Kathryn28/02/2014 - 6:02 am

I really think the last couple of years of your twenties/beginning of your thirties are the best years filled with moments when you realise that you know who you are better than you ever have before. Happy belated birthday lady, this cake looks like the best (and only) way to celebrate.

Michelle28/02/2014 - 6:22 pm

I have GOT to share this with my GF friends, this looks incredible. Oh he!! I’ll share it with all my friends!

Irina @ wandercrush28/02/2014 - 7:45 pm

Stunning textures, as per usual. Happy belated 29th and thank God for rough spots, deep wrinkles, and date caramel.

Hannah28/02/2014 - 7:48 pm

Oh my, this looks insanely good!!!!!!!!
Just a question before I rush out to make it — is there anything that can be used instead of the oat flour? I know oats can be gf but they contain a similar substance that a good percentage of coeliacs react to, my boyfriend included.
Can you think of any replacements??

Laura Wright01/03/2014 - 8:19 am

Hi Hannah, you could certainly use brown or white rice flour instead of the oat. I’ve made the brownie base before using both and it was great. Also, I think any GF all purpose flour mix would be suitable in this too. Hope this helps!

Harvest and Honey01/03/2014 - 12:48 pm

My goodness. This looks wonderful. So happy to have found your site, btw. The flavor combo of Hazelnuts and Chocolate makes me sort of crazy, like in a good way. Always looking for fun new ways to put them together, and I’m itching to try this one! Thanks for this :)

Heather01/03/2014 - 3:21 pm

Happy Happy Birthday Laura! This cake is a real stunner. I love how you have captured the beauty in these photos – the colors and stunning light. Fancy-face personal grooming is so overrated. Once in a while, my sisters or friends will convince me to get my nails done, and the next day bits of nail polish begins to chip away, possibly in my dinner. Who knows? Three weeks ago I had the worst haircut ever, so that was a real waste of time. And whenever I put on a bit of mascara for fancy occasions, it seems to stay put for weeks even with a diligent scrubbing. It all seems a bit unnecessary. This cake is absolutely necessary though, and a perfect way to celebrate a birthday. Cheers to you!

Jacqui02/03/2014 - 6:31 pm

Hey, happy belated birthday Laura!! This torte looks incredible! I’m starting my list of b-day dessert ideas early for my 30th this year and this one’s made the list for sure!

Sarah03/03/2014 - 2:52 am

This is seriously the most delicious looking thing I have ever seen! I dont own a springform pan though… Can I use a pie dish??

Laura Wright03/03/2014 - 11:21 am

Hi Sarah, you could use and 8 or 9 inch cake pan if you want. Just make sure you grease it real good and allow the cake to cool totally completely before de-panning it.

dervla (the curator)03/03/2014 - 12:24 pm

happy birthday, Laura! I’m on a new non dairy quest, so this cake looks perfect :))

ATasteOfMadness04/03/2014 - 3:15 am

Holy moly, this is gorgeous!! I have a whole bunch of hazelnuts ready to me used, and I would love to use them on something this beautiful ;)

Tamara04/03/2014 - 8:15 am

Ohhh, I am so making this for my birthday on Monday! Was opting for a classic orange-chocolate raw cake until I saw this gorgeousness. Thank you for sharing. And belated happy birthday from almost-springlike Slovenia! :)


Tamara04/03/2014 - 10:47 pm

Oh, another thing. Can I use honey or agave (not my favourite) instead of maple syrup? I usually replace it, but you never know… and I want this “torta” to be just right. Thanks.

Laura Wright05/03/2014 - 12:59 pm

Hi Tamara, any liquid sweetener (except for stevia drops) you like would be fine! So brown rice syrup, agave, honey etc. are all fair game.

Kathryne05/03/2014 - 6:13 pm

Laura, your posts kill me. In the best way possible. Love your reflections on growing older. I doubt that you have calluses on your fingers from your camera shutter button or keyboard, but it’s abundantly evident that you work your ass off in this space, too. This dessert looks stellar. I’m on a homemade brownie high right now but my brownies aren’t so redeeming. Here come the jitters.

phi05/03/2014 - 7:36 pm

some time ago after some convincing from others, i went in for a “real” haircut that came out looking like the worst shoulder pads since the 80′s. since then, i’ve been growing my mane to the floor just for fucks – i’m going to be that old woman on the porch one day and if i get grumpy, i am going to cut it all off and use it as a weapon. don’t let them take away your weapon!

happy birthday dear.

[…] finally, I can’t wait to try out this recipe. Scary, scary […]

Sophia09/03/2014 - 5:41 am

This torte looks and sounds so so so wonderful. Love the flavours you combined here and the texture looks out of this world!

Tamara11/03/2014 - 2:53 am

Ok so I made this for my birthday yesterday and was simply the best cake ever. Honestly. I ate it for breakfast today without feeling un-healthy (as a nursing mom), even gave my thumb dipped in the caramel to my wide-eyed five month-old, and even my family who are humungus sceptics when it comes to health foods… adored it. Thank you, will be on a cake priority list from now on. ;)

[…] Wright from The First Mess has pretty much ruled Pinterest since uploading the photos from her Chocolate Hazelnut Torte […]

Catherine McCord24/03/2014 - 1:13 am

Be still my heart! This looks unbelievable. I can’t believe it’s gluten free and vegan. Must try! I wonder how it would be with almonds?!

[…] (inspired by this recipe from TheFirstMess) Ingredients: 9 big pitted medjool  dates (soaked 15min in boiling water […]

Margaret Burnett11/05/2014 - 6:40 am

Could I use flax seed instead of chia seed? I live in India and haven’t seen chia seed locally. We don’t have hazelnuts either, but a friend just brought me back some from Australia.

Laura Wright12/05/2014 - 7:26 am

Hi Margaret, I believe flax seeds would sub in just fine for the chia. They might make for a nuttier taste as well, which would be great here.

Penny20/05/2014 - 5:15 pm

Wow I made this for my husbands birthday party in the weekend and everyone went crazy for it! Everyone thought it was the best cake they had ever tried and they demolished it! Thanks so much, your awesome!