From Gluten free

Chia pudding could be the easiest [and yummiest] thing you ever make

We went out for dinner recently. AND a gig. Pretty smug, that we still ‘got it’. Until we lined up to settle the bill for dinner. When asked what we were doing afterwards [and who was playing], the friendly restaurant dude [probably half our age] grinned and exclaimed: “old school!”. I was at a loss for words. How did I find myself in this age bracket? Yes, I am here, I have arrived. Officially OLD SCHOOL.

So, it only seems right that I denounce all attempts at wannabe-cool and admit to being completely late off the blocks with this one. I might be late, but she’s goodie and has revolutionised mornings around here: I am officially obsessed with chia. A bit tired of breakfast, I find it the hardest meal of the day to be excited about. Not strictly limited to any meal time [thankfully], this ‘pudding’ preparation requires so little fuss, it just needs enough time for the seeds to soak and swell. Keeps for about a week in the fridge [if it hangs around that long]. Wink, wink.

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C O C O N U T   A N D   L  I M E   C H I A   P U D D I N G  [ F O R   A N Y   T I M E   O F   T H E   D A Y] :

[makes 2 cups]

  • 250 ml / 8.8 fl oz milk*
  • 50ml / 1.7 fl oz maple syrup
  • 2-3 kaffir lime leaves, crushed slightly in your hand [or feel free add some lemon or lime peel; star anise or a cinnamon quill].
  • 250 ml / 8.8 fl oz coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds [I used black]

[*or substitute for coconut milk if you’d prefer dairy free].

Place first 3 ingredients into a saucepan over low-medium heat. Bring milk to a gentle simmer, then turn down the heat to low. Leave for around 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. This just gives the lime some time to infuse. Add coconut milk to saucepan, heating through gently and dissolving any lumps of coconut.

Add chia to milk mixture, stir through and cover. Leave seeds to soak and swell, stirring occasionally. I often leave overnight, but you could have it ready in 2-3 hours in a rush. Once cooled, place mixture in the fridge. I like to leave kaffir lime leaves in the chia mix, they continue to add flavour. [They are big enough to fish out prior to serving].


P O A C H E D   F E I J O A   A N D   L I M E :

[loosely based on David Lebovitz’ caramelised pineapple]

  • 1 kg feijoa [about 10-15 feijoas]
  • 125 ml / 4.4 fl oz maple syrup [or to taste]
  • zest and juice of 4-5 limes [about 100 ml / 3.5 fl oz]
  • 1 tsp each cardamon, cinnamon and mixed spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste/essence
  • 2 tablespoons marmalade or apricot jam
  • 75ml / 2.6 fl oz malibu liqueur [optional]

Heat oven to 100 deg C. Peel feijoas and place them in a shallow oven dish [you want them packed in snugly together, in a single layer]. You can either slice feijoa into large chunks, or of late, I have been leaving them whole. Pour liquid over feijoas and bake for around 2 hours, until feijoas soft. Place into preserving jars or into an airtight container once cooled. Will keep in the fridge for a good week or so.

Served here with poached feijoa and honeycomb, but any fresh or preserved fruit will be delicious. Of course, honeycomb is entirely optional [but just for the record, it still tastes as good as it did in school science].

Three cheers for chia! Four cheers for old school, [I may or may not be in denial].

xx

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Date and coconut caramel sauce

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Date and coconut should probably get married.

D A T E   A N D   C O C O N U T   C A R A M E L   S A U C E :

  • 1/2 cup chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup / 125ml /  4 fl oz fragrant tea [I used stir tea coconut cream, but any fragrant black tea, or chai will be delicious]

Leave dates to soak in tea for 30 minutes [the longer the better].

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 100ml / 3 fl oz coconut milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt [or to taste]

Melt butter in saucepan. Spoon dates into butter, try and squeeze out as much of tea mixture as you can. Fry dates in butter for a few minutes until fragrant and mushy. Add remaining tea liquid to saucepan and simmer for around 5 minutes. Add coconut milk and salt. Cook briefly until coconut incorporated. Using whizz stick [or food processor], blend until mixture is smooth and most lumps have gone.

Served here with caramelised bananas and a dollop of vanilla creme fraiche. Use poured over yoghurt, ice cream or cake. [Or just eat it straight, it’s delicious]. Store in airtight container in refrigerator. Makes about a cup.

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Apple, date and coconut cake with cream cheese, maple and cinnamon whip

But before we talk cake, I’ve been thinking.

Three possible explanations for the origin of those wild apple trees growing on the roadside [in order of personal appeal, least to most]:

  1. They sprouted from cores thrown from apple-eaters in vehicles driving on road [totally unexciting]
  2. Some Johnny Appleseed type character covered the country on foot, planting apple seeds for our enjoyment [bravo, Johnny!]
  3. They were planted following the war, in memory of the soldiers who were lost in battle by loved ones.

While I can’t vouch for the historical validity to #3, two people have told me this in recent weeks. I’ve decided it is the most humbling, fascinating and lovely thing I have heard in a while. To have a tree planted in your memory must be a great honour. Weathering the seasons in and out, and dropping the most delicious fruit after each glorious Summer: there would seem like no better way to celebrate life. I’m rolling with #3.

So while driving past fallen roadside apples recently, a friend and I exchanged a knowing glance. We parked the car and trekked up to the tree. You can’t help but marvel at the sheer resilience of their existence. No fancy treatment. No fuss. Just delicious apples.

So, let us eat cake. Refined sugar free, gluten free and gloriously apple laden cake.

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A P P L E ,   D A T E   A N D   C O C O N U T   C A K E :

  • 2-3 medium apples, quartered and sliced thinly [you can peel skin if you wish]
  • 3/4 cup chopped dates
  • 1 cup / 250ml / 8.5 fl oz. fragrant tea [I used Stirtea earl grey blueflower]. You could also use chai.
  • 100g / 0.8 stick butter or100g coconut oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup buckwheat flour [or regular/your choice of flour]
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 pistachios [or any nuts of your choice. Walnuts, almonds, macadamias etc would work just as well].
  • 1 cup shredded coconut

M E T H O D :

Place dates, tea and apple in a saucepan and simmer over low-medium heat until softened. You can even do this overnight [once simmered and softened, place in an airtight container in the refrigerator]. You’ll just need to make sure apple mixture is sufficiently cooled before adding to rest of cake mixture.

Preheat oven to 170° C / 325° F / gas mark 3. Grease two 22cm / 8 ” cake tins and set aside.

Place butter, eggs, vanilla, flour and baking powder in food processor and blend until all ingredients combined. Add pistachios and blitz a few times until they are chunkily chopped. In second bowl, mix apple/date mixture and coconut. Mix all ingredients together and place into cake tins.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes [if you decide to make one cake, it will be about 30-40 minutes]. Once cooked, remove and leave to cool in tin.

C R E A M   C H E E S E ,   M A P L E   A N D   C I N N A M O N   W H I P :

  • 250g / 8 oz cream cheese, softened [leave at room temperature a couple of hours before, if possible]
  • 1/4 cup/ 2 fl oz maple syrup
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • toasted pistachios or coconut etc to decorate

Beat cream cheese until light and whipped. Stop to scrape sides down, if required. Slowly dribble in maple syrup with beater running on medium speed, then add cinnamon. Once combined, add icing to the top of one cake and sandwich other cake on top. Spread remaining icing over cake and top with nuts, coconut or whatever takes your fancy.

Or serve with dairy free yoghurt mixed with maple and cinnamon if you’d prefer your cake dairy free.

*You can also make this cake with bananas in place of the apples, just add about a cup of banana [or 3 medium bananas] to food processor with cake mixture and blend until combine. You’ll need a bit of extra baking powder, so I would add a total of 2 tsp, instead of 1 1/2 tsp. Walnuts and bananas are an awesome match, try using walnuts [if you have them] instead of pistachios [but any nuts will do]. It makes a dense but delicious cake that will last well for a few days, and definitely tastes better the day after baking. Cool bananas!

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Chocolate fudge cake with peanut butter toffee

Don’t think I haven’t tried, but I’m generally not a chocolate person. However, just to contradict myself, every now and again I want to eat the kind of chocolate that will knock my socks off. This fudgy cake does exactly that. Rich [but not sweet], and not for the faint hearted. It can be made days in advance, and reheated prior to serving, if you wish. 

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C H O C O L A T E   F U D G E   C A K E :

  • 50 g / 1/3 stick butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup / 60ml coffee [I used stout, but you could also use tea]
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds
  • 150g chocolate, melted [I used dark, but milk chocolate is great too]

M E T H O D :

Preheat oven to 200 ° C / 390 ° F / gas mark 5-6

Melt chocolate in heatproof bowl over saucepan of boiling water, stirring occasionally. Once melted, remove from the heat. Cream butter and sugar together. Lightly beat eggs with vanilla, add to butter and sugar and beat until combined. Sift cocoa powder into mixture, add ground almonds and gently mix through. Add coffee/stout [whatever takes your fancy]. Finally stir through melted chocolate. Place in small cake tin [I used a 15cm terracotta saucer] greased and lined with baking paper.  You can also cook these in small muffin tins and serve them as individual cakes.

Place in oven and cook for 20 minutes, or until cooked. Smaller cakes will be done in about 10 minutes. Leave to cool in tin. Once cooled remove and place in airtight container. Serve with marscapone or yoghurt, peanut toffee [alternatively toasted nuts or some fresh or preserved fruit] and dust with cocoa powder.


P E A N U T   T O F F E E :

  • 115g / 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp crunchy peanut butter [I used Fix and Fogg super crunchy]

Place butter, sugar and saucepan in heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally to ensure butter and sugar are melting evenly. Mixture will start to bubble and start to turn to a golden colour. Add peanut butter to mixture, once stirred through, spread out over tray lined with baking paper. You can cut it up while warm and still malleable if desired, otherwise it can be broken up once set. Store in an airtight container.

[Toffee can be a fickle thing. If you’re more patient and less uncouth than me, you’ll enlist the help of a thermometer and [probably] get it right every time. You need the butter and sugar to melt at the same rate. Sometimes, towards the end of the bubbling process, the butter will start to separate from the toffee. You can often remedy this by adding 1-2 tablespoons of boiling water and mixing through over the heat until it all sort of sticks together again.  If all else fails, and there is residual butter on your toffee, leave to cool, then place a teatowel over top to absorb it all. The toffee might be a bit buttery. but will still taste awesome. Omit the peanut butter if you wish. It’s just as delish].

Kapow. Chocolate fix sorted!

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Pumpkin and eggplant curry

[ M A K I N G   A   F U S S   O F   F E N N E L ]

We’ve had a blast with wild fennel this summer. I think I’ll start claiming fennel [and blackberries] as residents of our vegetable garden. They grow better than anything I ever grow, and they need zero love! At the moment, those vibrant yellow ‘licorice’ flowers have all but disappeared and we are being treated to the tastiest fennel seeds. Hence this ‘curry’ [or some kind of an interpretation of a curry. I can’t attest to its authenticity, but I can attest to its tastiness]. And pumpkin seemed an obvious choice, given its abundance at the moment!

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P U M P K I N   A N D   E G G P L A N T   C U R R Y  :

[serves 4 hungry adults]

P A S T E :

This paste can be made in advance and stored in the fridge. I make this amount, use half to make this curry and keep the rest for a soup paste or a meat rub a few days down the track.

  • 2 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 4 Tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 Tbsp ground fennel seeds
  • 1 Tbsp tumeric
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped
  • 2 heaped Tbsp tomato paste
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 tsp fresh chilli/chilli flakes [optional, or add more to taste. Whatever it takes to keep your crowd happy]

Stir together, it should make a thick but mixable paste. [If using later, store in an airtight container and keep in the fridge. This will keep for a least a week].

T H E   R E S T :

  • 1 pumpkin, cut into 2cm chunks [or thereabouts]
  • 1 eggplant, cut into similar sized chunks
  • 2 x 400g tinned tomatoes [I used cherry tomatoes]
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 400 – 500ml coconut cream or milk [I love the AYAM brand, so i would use most of 2 x 270ml cans]
  • 1-2 Tbsp fish sauce [or to taste]
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar [or to taste]
  • Toasted cashews, coconut and shredded coriander [optional, we have none so I used parsley]
  • oil for cooking

M E T H O D :

Preheat oven to 100-150 ° C / 200-300 ° F / gas mark 1-2.

Scatter pumpkin on a roasting dish, drizzle with oil and toss pumpkin to coat each piece. Season with salt and pepper. Place in oven, turning occasionally until pumpkin soft. They can sit in there for an hour or two, just check on them from time to time. [Cover with foil/baking paper if they are starting to get to crisp on the edges].

Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add paste, stirring until aromatic. Add tomatoes and stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Add eggplant and leave to do its thing- simmer until eggplant is soft and absolutely saturated in sauce. This can take some time, I like to walk away and let mine simmer away for at least an hour or so- but if you’re strapped for time, crank up the heat and have it ready sooner that that- just keep a watchful eye it doesn’t burn. Remove eggplant briefly, add coconut cream/milk, fish sauce and brown sugar. Best to do these last two in baby steps, you can always add more but hard to redeem a major over salting/sugaring! Once happy with how it tastes, return eggplant to pan and heat through again. You can stir pumpkin through briefly, if you wish.

Serve with rice. I like to cook mine with a small handful of shredded coconut. Sprinkle with nuts etc as desired.

[Because if all else fails, the kids will eat the rice. Ha. It’s true].

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