Before the sugar cane was imported, carob flour and syrup were used as sweeteners, like honey and beetroot were too.
Only recently have the carob by-products become popular for dietetic purposes, but for many years the carob has been a popular Portuguese dessert ingredient and a reflection of our inherited culture.
Also known for medicinal treatments (colds, the flu, intestinal problems), carob flour is the best cocoa substitute because fat-content is lower. It has more carbs and fibre – that’s why carob is sweet and cocoa is bitter. It has neither allergens nor stimulants and is also very rich in vitamins and minerals, like A, B, niacin, calcium, magnesium and iron.
The food industry has developed many desserts and sweets thanks to this ingredient’s emulsifying, thickening and flavourful properties.
A remarkable curiosity about the carob tree is its ability to survive in dry hot climates, enduring long periods without water.
The fruit grows into a sort of pod, where tiny carat-size seeds linger (these were actually used to measure a carat of precious stones hundreds of years ago – science later on proved that the size of the seeds/beans isn’t always the same).
After drying, the sub-products are obtained (the leftover pods are good for animal feed) and sold in many supermarkets and health food stores. Portugal is the fourth most productive country in the world. Hurray for us!
Although I love cocoa, I’m always keen to pursue interesting and available substitutes, and carob flour goes remarkably well in a brownie recipe. Even if you don’t like the ingredient, you will love it this way!
Instead of butter, I use avocado, so it is dairy-free and there is no saturated fat. Just to make it even healthier, I use whole-wheat flour and coconut sugar. Try it out and you won’t be disappointed!
1/2 cup carob flour
1/2 cup coconut sugar
Pulp from 1 avocado
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup almond milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Just blend the wet ingredients, mix in the dry ingredients (carob and whole-wheat flour), top with sliced almonds and bake in 170°C oven for 20-25 minutes. I like my brownies very fudgy, so I always take them out ahead of time. They are served best with plum couli, orange marmalade or fresh peaches.
By Megan Melling
Megan Melling’s journey into the food world started three years ago when she decided to enrol in Cookery and Food Production in Portugal. She was born American, but grew up in the Algarve, so she gets the best of two opposite culinary cultures. She is currently working as a cook in Lisbon and documenting all of her personal recipes on her blog www.melsvittles.wordpress.com