Sunday, June 29, 2008

Zesty Citron Cake - gluten-free

At the risk of looking like I've developed an obsession with lemons, here's a delicious, zesty, gluten-free cake cooked by my friend Marienne, who is off to the south of France in two days time. Bless her, she thought I was just coming over for a cuppa and a chat and maybe take a few snaps of the finished cake she was planning on making, before we boxed it up to take to Regina and David's the next day... *chuckle*

Words to the wise: beware of inviting a blogger over for an afternoon of cake-making, he he he.... In the end, Marienne coped admirably with me turning her lounge-room into a photographic studio - lights, camera, action! Her hands over-came their camera shyness and she was very patient while I practiced my 'document the steps' process... I can tell you now, those people who make step-by-step photographs for magazines and cook-books are legends!! Juggling the attention to detail on the 'set', while keeping the actual cooking process on schedule is quite a task.

So here's my first attempt at step-by-step documentation:

zest and juice the lemons...

cream the butter and rapidura sugar...

beat in the zest and eggs...

whisk in the milk and fold in the flour...

stir in the lemon juice and pour into a lined cake tin...
bake at 180 degrees C for 30 - 45 minutes...

when baked, remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Prick all over with a fork and pour the citron-syrup evenly over the cake, allowing it to soak in.

And the recipe?

Marienne's Zesty Citron Cake: (gluten-free)

150g unsalted butter
175g rapidura (dried sugar-cane juice)
2 eggs
grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup almond meal
125ml soy or cow milk
60g sticky-rice flour
115g rice flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
juice of 1/2 lemon

Lemon Syrup:
100g icing sugar
100ml lemon juice (1/1/2 lemons)

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add lemon zest and eggs and whisk in. Add milk and almond meal and whisk through. Sift flours and the baking powder together and gently fold in to the cake mix. Do not beat much at this stage, as you don't want to 'toughen' the mix or lose its airiness. Fold through the lemon juice and pour immediately into a greased and lined cake tin. A spring-form tin is easiest for removal after baking.

Bake 30-45 minutes at 180 degrees C.

While the cake is baking, prepare the citrus syrup - place icing sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan and cook over a gentle heat, dissolving the icing sugar, but do not boil.

When the cake is golden on top and a skewer comes out clean when tested, remove from oven and cool in the tin on a wire rack.

Prick the cake all over with a fork and pour the citrus syrup evenly over the cake, allowing it to soak in.

Remove from tin and serve immediately, or store in a sealed container over night.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Laksa - Malaysian Baba-Nonya Style

Mmmmm, tasty Laska noodle soup warms you from the inside out, creamy, nourishing and satisfying. Laksa’s origins are in the Peranakan culture of Malaysia where it is made by Babas & Nonyas - the men & women descendants of Chinese settlers.

This recipe here is an ancestral recipe of my friend Audrey’s family. Audrey taught me how to cook this while she was taking a breather from writing her PhD thesis on the Pua Kumbu cloth-weavers of Sarawak. Her thesis uses the cloth as a lens to explore people's relationship with the environment and how women in the remote rainforests of Borneo engage with the global art market. Everything from logging the rainforests, to Climate Change is affecting and threatening the culture and hence the stories that are woven into the traditional designs.

This Laksa recipe uses whole prawns, shell and all, though you’d never know, as the shells are ground down with spices into a delicious and – yes – healthy paste. Glucosamine, which can be bought as an expensive nutritional supplement is actually made from prawn-shells – so this delicious dish will satisfy your elbows, knees, hips and shoulders, as well as your tastebuds!

Laksa Spice Paste
12 fresh green prawn-heads & shells
(reserve prawn meat with tails on for serving)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4-5 shallots, chopped
6-7 cloves garlic, chopped
thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled & chopped
1 teaspoon lemon-grass paste
1 fresh red chilli
1 tablespoon dried shrimp paste
a little water

4 tbsp vegetable oil
laksa paste (above)
1 litre of water
1 can coconut cream
1 packet of fish balls
1 packet of fried tofu puffs
1 lime, juiced

12 green prawns - shelled meat with tails on
1 teaspoon palm-sugar - mix with prawns & set aside

Assembly & Garnishes
rice vermicelli noodles
bean sprouts
red chilli, sliced
coriander leaves
deep-fried shallots
fresh lime wedges

Rinse the prawn heads & shells in water to remove grit. Heat oil in a large pot and fry prawn-heads until they turn red and crispy. Place in a food-processor, grinding the heads and shells into a fine paste. Add the remaining paste ingredients and process until smooth. Return the paste to the laksa stock-pot and continue to fry until fragrant. Remove 1/4 cup of paste, setting aside to serve as a condiment.

Add 1 litre of water to remaining paste. Bring to the boil. Add coconut cream and simmer for a few minutes. Add fish balls, fried tofu puffs and the shelled prawn-meat, poaching them in the laksa broth. Add lime juice just before serving.

Meanwhile, blanch rice-noodles in boiling water until softened. Transfer noodles to serving bowls, topping with a teaspoon of the reserved fried paste. Pour the broth over the noodles, topping with the poached fish balls, tofu & prawns. Garnish with the bean sprouts, chilli, coriander and fried shallots. Serve with a wedge of lime.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sanguina - Non-Alcoholic Mulled Wine

This is a post to share a very special recipe for a personal creation of mine: Sanguina - a celebratory drink that can be used for parties and special occasions all throughout winter.

Sanguina is a non-alcoholic mulled wine that arose from my studies and practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The original idea of brewing a mead of Chinese herbs in dark grape-juice was given to me by a southern Taoist practitioner, Rusel Last. Rusel has a Chinese Medicine practice in Kiama on the south coast of NSW - Integral Healing Centre - and we met around 12 years ago when we were both studying Traditional Chinese Herbal medicine in Sydney.
Building on Rusel's inspiration, I researched and formulated the ingredients to create this particular recipe.

When people first hear about Sanguina, they say:
“Oh, Chinese herbs, I don’t know…”

But when they try it, everyone always says:
“Delicious - Yum-oh!”

The name Sanguina is the Yin form of the word ‘Sanguine’ which means: “Cheerful, Optimistic, Confident & Rich, Rich Red!”
In Chinese, the three syllables translate as: San Gui Na or “The Three Returning Forces”.

The herbs used to create this lovely drink have been carefully chosen for their tonifying actions, favoured by Sages in Ancient times for increasing health and longevity. It is designed for use at gatherings, parties & other auspicious occasions to nourish the Spirit and Energy of your treasured Guests.

The quantities of herbs used for this party drink are much less than the dosages used therapeutically, so the effect of drinking Sanguina is a mild, gentle, warming and uplifting feeling.

The herbs used in making Sanguina herbs are very safe and are used commonly in cooking. But as with any medicinal substance, Pregnant women or persons with high blood-pressure or any other serious medical condition, should consult their Traditional Medicine Practitioner before consuming Sanguina.

Sanguina Ingredients:
(These can be purchased from any Traditional Chinese Herbalist - contact me if you can't source any near where you live)

Dang Shen - Poor Man’s Ginseng - 1 piece
Huang Qi - Milk Vetch Root - 2 pieces
Shan Yao - Wild Mountain Yam - 3 pieces
Gou Qi Zi - Goji 'Wolf' Berries - 2 tablespoonsful
Yi Zhi Ren - Cardamom Pods - 5 pods
Rou Gui - Cinnamon bark - 3 quills
Ding Xiang - Clove Buds - 1 teaspoonful
Da Zao - Chinese Black Dates - 5 pieces
Sheng Jiang - Ginger Root - 5 slices, each 2 mm thick
Ji Xue Teng - Chicken Blood Vine - 3 pieces
Zhi Gan Cao - Honey Fried Liquorice Root - 5 pieces

Water - 500 ml
Dark Grape Juice - 2 litres

Simmer the herbs in the water for 15 minutes. Then add the grape juice, warming it through, but not boiling, as the flavour is better when it hasn't 'stewed'. Plus the goodness of the vitamins in the grape-juice are better preserved by not boiling.

Serve in heat-resistant cups, floating a couple of the Goji berries on the top of each cup - they are a nice 'treat' to chew while sipping the the sweet and warming Sanguina.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ginger Tea & a Happy Solstice to Everyone!!

We made it! Today is officially the shortest day of the Southern Hemisphere's winter – so for us, it only gets better from here: bit-by-bit, longer days and more light. Of course, it will stay cold for a few months yet, so continuing with winter-warming dishes in the kitchen is the go.

In honour of the Solstice, my dear friend Kait and I got together for an afternoon of creative collaboration to make some photos of some yum-oh drinks that warm you from the inside out. Kait is also a photographer and her eye for detail in the styling of the photographs is a delight to behold.

Ginger Tea with Black-Sesame Balls.
The perfect treat to keep you going through a winter-solstice game of Mahjong!

Ginger Tea for the Four-Winds:
2 cm piece of fresh green ginger, grated
4 cups of boiling water
4 teaspoons honey.

Steep all ingredients in a warmed ceramic tea-pot for five minutes.
Serve hot in small tea-cups.

Black Sesame Balls:
Ok, so we didn’t make the Sesame Balls - sorry, no recipe for those - some things are best left to the experts! And the lovely Vietnamese grocers on the corner had this crispy, chewy, sweet snack for sale, freshly made for only 40c each. I’d just popped down to Illawarra Rd in Marrickville to pick up some fresh green ginger for the tea and the sesame balls looked so good - so round and golden - they cried out to be photographed!


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Oily Edition - ‘Oils Ain’t Oils, Sol…’

Everyone knows the Usual Suspects when it comes to oils: Olive, Canola & 'Vegetable'. But there are a few perhaps lesser known oils that make for delightful variety in cooking and dressing dishes, as well as having added health benefits. So here's some Words-to-the-Wise about The Good Oil:

The three oils reviewed here are all sourced from mainstream supermarkets, so next time you are strolling down the cooking-oil aisle on grocery-night, have a closer look in the cooking oil section - nestled amongst the 101 varieties of Olive Oil, you should be able to find these three treasures:

Rice Bran Oil
Grape-Seed oil
Green Tea Oil


The Italian Mob may well have based their social structure on the properties of cooking oil: there are Good oils and Bad oils - and sometimes, good oils can ‘turn bad’ – but basically, this is it:

Good oils = cold-pressed, poly-unsaturated
Bad oils = saturated oils & Trans-fats.

Trans-fats are particularly nasty, as these are they guys that raise cholesterol, clog your arteries and generally make life miserable, if they don’t kill you first. Trans-fats are produced by partially hydrogenating oils to make them more saturated. There's nothing much good about trans fats in our bodies - production has mainly been driven by commercial pressures, as partial hydrogenation increases shelf-life and turns liquid oils solid - eg turning vegetable oil into margarine - making them more usable in commercial baking, frying, snack-food and fast-food manufacture.

Another means of "turning a good oil bad" - is prolonged over-heating, such as happens in a chip-shop fryer where the oil is only changed once a month; or when cooking oils or fatty meats at too high a temperature, eg, on a barbecue, which has been shown to produce carcinogens - cancer-causing substances.

So to avoid the 'Bad Guys', eat your oil as fresh as you can - cold-pressed and unsaturated and full of natural vitamins and goodness.


1. Smoke-Point & Flash-Point:
Smoke point is the temperature that an oil can be heated up to before it begins smoking and hence changing its molecular structure, producing both bad flavour and unhealthy chemical products.

Beyond Smoke-Point is Flash-point at which an oil actually bursts in to flame or combusts.

Wikkipedia gives a table of oil smoke-points listing some of the highest smoke-point edible oils as:

271°C - Avocado Oil
266°C - Safflower Oil
254°C - Rice bran Oil
252°C - Green Tea Seed Oil
216°C - Grape seed Oil
216°C - Olive Oil

Other common commercially-used cooking oils including: corn, peanut, soybean, walnut and hemp seed come in considerably lower at 160°C, with some oils such as: safflower, sunflower and flax seed as low as 107°C.

2. Cold-Pressing Versus Heat Extraction:
Obviously since heating negatively alters the structure of edible oils, the less heat used in extraction the better. Cold-pressing produces a better and more pure flavoured oil and retains the natural plant nutrients that are vital for our health.

Presumably it goes without saying that chemical extraction is not something we humans should expose our oils or our bodies to?!

3. Virgin & Extra Virgin
Virgin oils are made using mechanical means only - no chemicals, solvents or heat - and care is taken to leave the oil as unaltered from the pure state as it is squeezed from the fruit, seed or nut that it comes from.

Extra Virgin refers to an oil which is produced with the same care as Virgin oil but which also has a naturally low acidity of less than 0.8%. It is considered the most pure of oils.


I love this oil! I use it for almost all my cooking purposes, as it fries so cleanly. Rice Bran Oil has a mild, subtle flavour and good thermal stability, with a high smoke-point of around 254°C. It doesn’t convert to harmful trans-fats when heated as some other oils do. These features, combined with a low adhesion to food make it one of the cleanest-frying oils.

Rice-Bran oil also has high levels of natural antioxidants such as gamma-oryzanol, tocotrienols & tocopherols. The latter two are naturally occurring forms of Vitamin E. These natural antioxidants helps in controlling free radical formation in the human body and helps prevent various coronary diseases. Research studies have indicated that Rice Bran Oil has a significant hypocholesterolemic (cholesterol-lowering) effects, because it has the dual actions of both increasing HDL (good) cholesterol while lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol in the body.

Rice Bran Oil also contains squalene which, along with its Vitamin E content, makes it a great oil to use for massage, as it protects and rejuvenates the skin.


A by-product of the Wine industry, Grape Seed oil is pressed from the seeds of grapes. It has a high smoke-point of around 216°C, with no smoking, splatter or burnt taste, and doesn’t convert when heated to harmful trans-fats as some other oils do. The high flash point makes Grape Seed oil an excellent choice for fondues.

Grape Seed oil also has no fatty after-taste, allowing the pure flavor of fresh foods to come through. Grape seed oil contains Vitamin E, Vitamin C and Beta-Carotene


This delicate gourmet oil is pressed from tea seeds harvested from the green tea plant (Camilla Sinensis). The seeds are cold-pressed to produce a lovely pale amber-green oil that has a sweet flavour and pleasant herbal aroma. Green Tea oil is high in Vitamin E and other antioxidants. It contains no trans-fats and is even lower in saturated fat than olive oil.

Green Tea oil has a high smoke point and can withstand high temperatures during cooking without burning. It is frequently used in preparing Asian foods and can be added to cooked vegetables, pasta, and stir-fry recipes. It can be used as a base for dips, dressings, marinades, and sauces. It is an excellent element in salad dressings, where it combines well with other flavours, such as: lemon, lime and leafy green herbs such as coriander, parsley and mint.

Enjoy, Bon Appetit.


Winter Stir-fry: Tofu, Leeks & Brussels Sprouts

It's getting close to the Winter Solstice - yes folks, the southern hemisphere's Longest Night of 2008 is coming up, this Saturday night, the 21st June. And so simple, warm, nourishing dishes are in order. Paul Pitchford, of Healing with Wholefoods recommends eating 'round' foods and uncomplicated flavours during the two weeks either side of the solstice, to stabilise and 'earth' us in the deepest heart of winter.

So here's my 'after work' dinner last night - a quick and easy stir-fry of round winter veggies. Not sure about the 'styling' in the finished dish, but it tasted good!

Ingredients of Winter Stir-fry:
Tofu, Leeks, Beans & Brussels Sprouts.
Brussels Sprouts
1-2 tablespoons Rice-bran oil

3 tablespoons Chinese Rice Wine
1 dessert spoon Sesame oil
A splash or two of mild Green Tabasco sauce
zest of 1/2 a lime
juice of 1/2 a lime

Prepare the Brussels Sprouts by removing the tough outer leaves and slicing them in half. Add a little rice-bran oil to a hot frying pan and start frying the Brussels Sprouts, cut-surfaces down and with the lid on the pan to steam them in their own moisture. Let the Brussels Sprouts cook the longest as they are denser than the other vegies. After about 5 minutes, add the sliced leeks and tofu pieces and continue to stir-fry until the tofu is golden, the leeks silky and the Brussels Sprouts bright green and tender. Add the sliced beans about 2 minutes before serving, to keep them fresh and green. When almost done, add the sesame oil and rice wine, frying off the alcohol. Then finish with a few splashes of Green Tabasco sauce, lime zest and lime juice, stirring through before serving.


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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Secret Ingredient #2 - Preserved lemons

The secret to Moroccan & African cuisine, making Preserved Lemons is a delightful winter afternoon’s pastime that will ensure a constant supply of zesty flavour for months to come. And this is what all the cloak-and-dagger secrecy has been about when I went to the Orange Grove Organic Markets on the Long-Weekend: I was on the hunt for seasonal organic bush-lemons, with good, thick rinds.

I arrived at Tim & Barbara’s house on Sunday, laden with lemons and my portable studio (lights, camera, action!) and we proceeded to compare our research - both web-based and from our favourite dog-eared old cook-books - about Zen the Art of Preserving Lemons.

There are quite a few different methods, it seems: some cooks recommend slicing the lemons into thin circles; others say wedges are best; while still others keep their lemons almost whole, slicing a deep six-pointed star through the tip of the fruit. Some methods advise squashing the lemons into jars and covering with juice; while other recipes recommend draining off the juice and packing the rinds in oil. A few recipes add whole spices, such as cinnamon and cloves; others go with just the pure freshness of citrus.

What they all agree on, however, is salt: Lots of salt…

So we decided that we should be a bit scientific about it and try all the methods, to see which one we prefer when the whole process has run its course. We can let you know in about six weeks time...!


Choosing Your Lemons:
The rind is the desired end-product, so choose lemons with good, thick, unblemished skin. You will need a minimum of 10 lemons - for this project, we bought about 30, with the intention of giving some preserves away and we used Organic lemons to ensure no pesticides on the skins.
Wash the lemons well anyway, to remove dust.

About 25g of coarse sea-salt per lemon.
Use plain sea-salt, not iodised (rumour has it that the iodine does weird things to the colour of the final preserve?)

Preserving Jars:

Use clean glass jars, preferably with a bit of a neck as this helps keep the lemons compressed. Use non-metal, coated, or stainless-steel lids, as the acid from the lemon-juice will tend to rust bare metal.

Spices: (optional)
Cinnamon stick
Clove buds
Cardamom pods
Coriander seeds
Bay leaf
Lemon Myrtle leaf

Methods for Preserving Lemons:

Wash lemons well.

Prepare and fill jars using one of the methods below and then leave in a sunny place for 3 days, turning upside down twice daily to keep the juices and/or oil moving and surrounding the lemon pieces. Make sure wedges remain covered to prevent mould – you may need to top-up with more juice and/or oil.

Leave in a cool dark place for 40 days and nights.

When ready to use, wash most of the salt off a piece of rind and slice the peel into chunks or slivers for use in cooking.

Preserved Lemons will keep refrigerated for six months.

Method #1: Whole Salted Lemons
Slice three cuts across the point of the lemons, so the lemon splits into six segments, but don’t cut all the way through – the segments should stay attached to the base.

Pack the centre of the lemons with salt, making sure the salt covers all surfaces of the cuts. Press the whole lemons into a jar, squashing them together so the juice runs and surrounds the lemons. Cover with extra juice.

Method #2: Wedges with Salt
Slice the lemons into wedges. Spread salt on a plate and coat wedges in salt, both sides. Pack salted wedges tightly into jars, squashing them down to release the juice.

Method #3: Wedges with Spices
Salt the lemon wedges as for Method 2 and press into a jar, interspersing with aromatic spices such as: Cinnamon stick, Clove buds, Peppercorns, Cardamom pods, Coriander seeds, Bay leaf, Lemon Myrtle leaf.

Method #4: Circles with Oil
Slice lemons into rounds and squeeze most of the juice from the slices. Reserve the juice for later use in some another dish - lemon juice can be frozen - "waste-not-want-not", my mum always says...

Sprinkle both sides of the remaining lemon-rind slices with salt and rest them on a slanted platter in the sun for three hours, allowing any remaining juices to drain off. Pack the salted slices in a jar, sprinkling with more salt during the packing process. Cover with grape-seed oil and seal the jar, allowing to cure for 4 to 5 weeks.

To Use Preserved Lemons:
Remove a wedge from the brine and scrape the flesh from the skin, discarding the flesh and the white pith. Slice the remaining lemon skin into thin strips or finely chop.

Remember Preserved Lemons are very salty, so it is not usually necessary to add further salt to a dish when using preserved lemons. Rinsing under cold water before slicing can help reduce the saltiness.

Preserved lemons go well with:
blanched green vegies


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Market Day #2 - Orange-Grove Organic Growers

A sunny Saturday morning is a blessing to out-door marketeers. Stall-holders in the Sydney region must have breathed a collective sigh if relief when the week-long clouds lifted just long enough on the Saturday of the recent Long Weekend holiday for them to be able to get their Produce to the People.

My mission in visiting the Orange Grove Organic Produce Markets in Rozelle was to purchase the ingredients of the next Secret Ingredient Post - which will all be revealed in time - there’d be no point in it being Secret if I just blabbed it right away… Plus this particular ingredient needs a little bit of curing, so watch this space!

For now, here are a few more favourite seasonal things, fresh from local Organic farmers in the Sydney basin:

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Secret Ingredient #1 - Carob Molasses

Ever since discovering Carob Molasses, it has been the referred to by our group of friends as the original Secret Ingredient, because we started using it in and on absolutely everything - from pancakes to salad dressing – and people's first reaction is always: Yum-oh! – what’s that?!”

“Concentrated from Dissolved Carob’s Water 100% Pure” as the label says - this rich, full-bodied molasses is a delight to the palate, a little like maple-syrup, but with a rich, bitter-sweet, chocolaty edge.

Where do you buy Carob Molasses?
We first discovered Carob Molasses in Marrickville at the Lebanese small-goods shop on the corner of Illawarra Rd and Church St, but ask for it in Middle-Eastern grocery stores in other areas.

The owner of the shop where we bought it said his family likes to eat it on toast with Tahini; but it works well as the sweetener in a range of cakes and sweets - drizzled over piping hot Buckwheat Pancakes is definitely Yum-oh! (see recipe below)

We also use it deliciously and unusually as the secret ingredient in salad dressings, (see recipe below), where it is the perfect compliment to balance sour flavours like lime and pungent flavours like garlic, used in much the same way as Palm Sugar is used in South-East Asian cooking.

Buckwheat Pancakes with Carob Molasses Recipe:
We make these from Orgran Buckwheat Pancake Mix - gasp! yes, a packet mix... don't panic, it's Organic! No need to re-invent the wheel - just follow the instructions on the packet: mix, pour, fry, flip. Stack them up and drizzle with carob molasses just before serving, crispy and piping hot.


NOTE: This post has been entered in a blogsphere Food Challenge by Susan at The Well Seasoned Cook called Pancakes on Parade - you can make and enter your own pancakes too! Entries close on 6th July 2008.

Carob Molasses Dressing with Fresh Herbs & Leafy Greens Salad.

1 tablespoon Carob molasses
1 lime, juiced
2 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon mild fresh chilli, sliced
3 tablespoons Green Tea Oil
a pinch of salt and pepper

Shake in a jar to emulsify and scatter over a salad of fresh herbs and leafy greens.

Salad of Fresh Herbs & Leafy Greens:
Nasturtium leaves

Coriander leaf
Chrysanthemum leaves
Red Spanish onion, thinly sliced

Wash the herbs and leafy greens and spin dry in a salad spinner. Assemble on a serving-platter, mixing the herbs and greens together evenly. Scatter the red onion over the herbs and sprinkle the Carob Molasses Salad Dressing over the salad.

Serve immediately. Yum-oh!

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Secret Ingredients...

In the weeks since the blog has begun, I’ve had some requests for details about some of our favourite and/or unusual ingredients – what they are & where we get them.

So I’m adding a series of Secret Ingredient Posts to this blog. They will emerge bit-by-bit over the coming months, in-between other recipe posts.

Watch this space - the first Secret Ingredient will arrive tomorrow morning by pony e-xpress... A clue? It's... something sweet!

You can source the entire collection any time by:
> logging onto the blog -
> click the Secret Ingredient tab in the Labels section
(scroll down – it’ll be on the right hand side of your screen)

Feel free to email me with your requests, or post your comments and questions in the comments box at the bottom of each post.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Green Split-Pea & Smoky Bacon-Hock Soup

You know it’s winter when it’s time to make this thick and tasty soup, made from a base of free-range smoky-bacon hocks with creamy vegetables.

Green Split-Pea & Smoky Bacon-Hock Soup Ingredients:

1 free-range smoky-bacon-hock
2 medium onions
3 coves of garlic
2 carrots
3 stalks of celery
3 tablespoons oil
375 gm green split-peas


Bring a large pot of water to the boil and immerse the bacon hock, allowing it to boil for 10 minutes. Remove the bacon hock and reserve it, throwing away the scummy water.

Rinse a packet of green split-peas and drain - no need to soak them.

Meanwhile, chop the onions, garlic, carrot and celery and mix together with the oil in a large soup pot. Sizzle on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegies begin to turn golden.

Add the split-peas and the bacon-hock and 3 litres of water. Bring to boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more water if necessary. When cooked, the meat should fall from the bone and the split-peas should be creamy.

Serve with a crusty rye-bread roll or rye-bread toast.


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Monday, June 02, 2008

Apple Pie for the Gluten-Free Gourmet

Yummy, scrummy, sweet & juicy, this is one is a winner.

Yesterday's winter rain made it a perfect day for baking, warm and cosy in the kitchen, the smells of crispy apples and tart limes melding with spicy cinnamon and the mellow caramel sweetness of the palm-sugar. Ah...

The recipe below uses a lovely gluten-free shortcrust pastry, but you can use your own favourite pastry recipe, or even use pre-made pastry sheets.

Apple Pie Ingredients:
6 Granny Smith cooking apples
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon mixed spice
2 tablespoons palm sugar
1/2 a lime, juiced and zested
melted butter to glaze
extra sugar to sprinkle on top

shortcrust pastry - see Gluten-Free recipe below, or use your own favourite pastry recipe.

Prepare the pastry - see recipe below - making both a top and bottom sheet. Grease a pie dish or individual ramekins with melted butter and press a rolled pastry sheet into the dish to line it.

Peel, core and slice the apples into a mixing bowl and sprinkle with the spices, the palm sugar and the lime juice and zest, stirring to coat. Tip the apples into the lined pie dish, piling them up a little, as they will melt down during cooking.

Cover the apples with the second pastry disc and pinch off the excess around the edges. Press all around the edges with a greased fork or a spoon handle, to seal and make a decorative edge. Slice an 'x' in the centre of the pie to let the steam out during cooking.

Brush the top of the pie with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in a hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot with creamy goats yoghurt.


Gluten-Free Shortcrust Pastry.
1 cup glutinous rice flour
2 cups brown-rice flour (or use white)
75g butter
1 egg
extra rice-flour for kneading

Sift the flours together and cut the cold butter into the mix in small chunks. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flours until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Take care not to over-rub, as the heat of your hands may melt the butter - any larger pieces left will incorporate later when the pastry dough is kneaded.

Stir in the lightly beaten eggs and add just enough water to make the dough come together in a ball. At this stage, the dough will still be quite crumbly, so kneading is essential. This may seem very strange if you are used to making conventional pastry where the golden rule is to handle lightly, but gluten-free pastry differs in that it actually benefits from being handled.

Lightly dust a cold surface with extra rice-flour & knead the dough for 1-2 minutes, adding as much extra flour as needed to prevent the dough sticking to the board. The pastry will change in texture, becoming much smoother and more pliable.

To roll out, divide the dough into two portions – one for the top and one for the bottom – and roll into two spheres. Lightly dust the surface and the rolling pin with rice-flour and roll out using smooth short strokes. When you are ready to place the pastry in the pie dish, use your rolling pin for pick-up and transfer.

Another method is to roll the dough between two sheets of baking paper for ease of handling.

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