I LOVE Nutella. In fact, I can never quite get enough of it. I find that if I start the day with this creamy, dreamy spread, by mid-morning I’ll be scrambling around the kitchen looking for anything to spread more Nutella on, whether it be strawberries, a teaspoon (errrmm, I’ll admit, a tablespoon) or an old crust of bread. However, I do limit my Nutella consumption to Europe (where I tend to eat much more chocolate in various, delectable guises) along with other hedonistic indulgences like dancing in techno clubs until 8:30am and unemployment.

One of my favourite past times whilst working in Waterloo, Belgium (yes, where the Napoleon-led French army was defeated), was to visit Le Pan Quotiden – a rustic, communal table kinda place – which made delicious hazelnut and raisin baguettes and their very own chocolate hazelnut spread, in dark, milk and white chocolate flavours. The combination of the baguette, laden with plump fruit and crunchy nuts, with the dark chocolate hazelnut spread was heavenly. So heavenly in fact, I sought out new establishments in other European cities lucky enough to be home to Le Pan Quotiden such as Antwerp, Amsterdam and London and further indulged my addiction.

In order to get my Nutella fix now that I’m no longer living on the Continent, I’ve found the perfect Nutella substitute which is much more in line with my superfood philosophy and tastes far superior. In comparison to Nutella, which is extremely high in sugar and modified palm oil, this recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Spread is actually good for you. It has no refined sugar and is packed full of superfood goodness from the raw cacao, which you can read about in my recipe for Chocolate Avocado Mousse with Raspberries and Candied Almonds. It also contains good fats like coconut oil and hazelnuts. Hazelnuts are rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids like oleic and the essential fatty acid linoleic acid, which increases good cholesterol and lessens bad cholesterol. Hazelnuts are also especially rich in folate, which is good news if you’re expecting a wee nipper and are also high in dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. Happy days!

When purchasing the hazelnuts, I recommend getting the freshest, best quality nuts you can find. In Dunedin, we have a stall at the Saturday market that offers the best damn hazelnuts you’ve ever had. Clive and Jen Blunden of Island Stream Hazels grow their own hazelnuts and produce an array of premium hazelnut products. Seriously, once you’ve attempted to shell generic, old hazelnuts from the supermarket, usually of Turkish origin, you’ll never make the mistake again. Ever. Or you can save yourself time and energy and buy pre-skinned hazelnuts, which make this recipe an absolute breeze.

The beautifully designed ceramics featured in the photo are available from Whiteroom – Dunedin’s top design destination.

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

200 grams of activated* hazelnuts (soaked for a minimum of 4 hours and rinsed well)

1/2 a cup or raw cacao nibs or raw cacao powder

A tablespoon of pure vanilla extract (or the seeds from 2 vanilla beans)

1/2 a cup of agave nectar, raw honey or pure, unrefined maple syrup

A pinch of Himalayan rock salt

3 tablespoons of coconut oil, lightly warmed

1/4 – 1/2 a cup of nut milk (almond, hazelnut, etc or other milk if you’re not vegan) depending on how creamy you’d like it.

In a baking tray, roast the activated hazelnuts at 18oºc for about 10 minutes until toasted. The skins should turn a couple of shades darker and a sweet, nutty aroma should have filled the air.

While the hazelnuts are still warm, remove the skins by shaking in a fine mesh sieve, or rubbing between a tea towel or your fingers. If there are some stubborn ones, you can pop them back in the oven for a few more minutes and try again. Aim to remove at least 80% of the skins. Allow the hazelnuts to cool completely.

In a food processor, blend the hazelnuts until a fine or buttery consistency is reached. If you are using cacao nibs, when the hazelnuts reach approximately the same size, pop them in to the food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth and velvety. This is highly addictive. You have been warned.

* Activating nuts is when you soak nuts in water, thus helping to release enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid found in the outer layer of nuts (and also in seeds and grains). Phytic acid binds to the minerals in nuts, which makes it hard for the body to absorb properly. By soaking or activating nuts, our bodies get maximum benefits from the nutrients.

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