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What lovely Sticky Buns You Have!

October 4, 2015


If you have ever walked past a Cinnabon franchise you will be hard pressed not to notice the snaking queue of people intoxicated by the heady scent of cinnamon and yeast and sugar. In fact, you may even be lured to the end of the line to partake.

The combination is lethal. Cinnamon + yeast + burnt sugar. Certainly to die for in my book!

But most mass-produced bakery items are full of stuff that we would prefer not to think about. Additives that make the bread lighter, whiter, softer and more shelf stable. So accustomed to these ideals, its hard not to be disappointed with home-baked breads – especially gluten-free breads!

Now that the humble doughnut has been reinvigorated to trendsetter, I’m predicting that cinnamon buns are going to be the next big THING! Whilst we don’t have Cinnabon bakeries here in Australia, our local bakeries have been producing modest coffee scrolls and cinnamon scrolls for ever – they were always my favourite. Plastered with either white fondant (coffee scrolls) or pink (cinnamon scrolls), they may be studded with the odd walnut or sultana for garnish.

This recipe was a long time coming! I have been playing around with it for weeks trying to get it right. My dog is surely sick of gobbling up the reject attempts and his poo production definitely increased!  I was aiming for a bun that was soft and sweet and cinnamony – one that I felt was just as good an imposter for the ‘real deal’!

Most gluten-free bread recipes have a very gooey dough that would be impossible to roll out and fill, let alone, roll up! The gooey-ness of the dough enables the finished bread to stay soft and moist.  I was also trying to avoid using a commercial gluten-free flour as pre-mixed varieties tend to vary greatly.  Anyway, I have come up with a blend of rice and starches that work – feel free to substitute a commercial gluten-free flour – I tested this with the Orgran brand but can’t vouch for any other*.  Don’t be put off by the length of this recipe; there are a few components to it, but if done in the listed order, you will not have to wash your TM bowl – except at the end of course!

Like a lot of gluten-free baked goods, these are best, straight out of the oven.  Make them on a day when you pottering around at home and then relax in the afternoon with a cup of tea and one of these – just don’t burn your self on the hot caramel in your haste!

Flour Mix

200g white rice
350g brown rice
60g buckwheat
60g tapioca starch
80g potato flour

Mill the white rice for 2 minutes on SP 10 and set aside. Mill the brown rice for 2 minutes on SP 10 and add the white rice flour and buckwheat.

Mill again for 2 minutes to ensure it is very fine with no grittiness. Add the tapioca and potato flours and mix well. You will have 750g of gluten-free flour mix. For this recipe you will need half: 375g.

Next make the cinnamon butter:cinscroll2

60g butter

30g rapadura sugar

1 teas cinnamon or 2 drops cinnamon oil

Mix well on SP 5 for 10 seconds. Set aside.

Next make the caramel sauce:

50g rapadura sugar
60g fresh dates, pitted 60g butter
50g maple syrup
1 teas vanilla extract
1 pinch salt

Grind the sugar and dates on SP 9 for 10 seconds. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and cook for 3 minutes on SP 2 at 90°C. Pour into a 24cm square pan that has been lined with baking paper.

Without washing the bowl make the bun dough:

150g milk
1 egg
1 egg white
30g olive oil
60g butter
90g hot water

Blend all of the wet ingredients on SP 5 for 10 seconds. If you used hot water, the mix should be warm and the butter melted.

cin scroll375g flour mix – see above
100g maize cornflour
2 teas guar gum (or xanthan gum)
1 scant tab instant yeast
2 teas baking powder
30g sugar

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mix and blend on SP 5 for a few seconds to combine. Set to the wheat function and knead for 2 minutes . The mix will get firmer but be still quite sticky.

Place a piece of baking paper on the bench-top and grease with oil. Using oiled hands, spread the dough into a rectangle about 1.5cm thick. Spread with the cinnamon butter and using the paper, roll the dough like a Swiss roll.

It should come away nice and cleanly. Slice into 8 thick slices and place into the pan on top of the caramel. Leave in a warm place to prove for about 30 minutes.

Bake in a 165°C oven for about 25 – 30 minutes. The scrolls will be golden on top and smell delicious! Leave in the pan for 10 minutes before lifting out with the baking paper. Flip onto a plate and peel the baking paper away, revealing a sticky golden mass of caramel cinnamon buns! Enjoy straight away with lots of butter!

*If you do use a pre-mix, omit the guar gum as it will already have it in it.

This is definitely a naughty recipe – I do have another grain-free cinnamon bun recipe which is much more paleo friendly here.

**Spoiler Alert – Don’t read any further if you love Cinnabon!**

The average cinnabon bun contains nearly 900 calories & 60g sugar! The listed ingredients on their website are:

Enriched flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, brown sugar, palm oil, milk, soy bean oil, yeast, salt, whey, soy lecithin, cinnamon, powdered sugar, vegetable mono and diglycerides, sodium benzoate, vitamin A palmitate, cream, cream cultures, carob bean gum, corn starch, natural and artificial flavour. 

It may also contain: Egg white, whole eggs, buttermilk, molasses, sodium stearoyl lactylate, buttermilk, azodicarbonamide, beta carotene, high fructose corn syrup (glucose-fructose), wheat protein isolate (wheat gluten lactic acid, sulphites), vital wheat gluten, hydroxpropyl methylcellulose, acetylated tartaric acid esters of mono and diglycerides (datem), baking soda, xanthan gum, guar gum, beta carotene, glucono delta-lactone, citric acid, propionic acid, enzymes (amylase), ascorbic acid sorbitan monostearate, cellulose gum, potassium sorbate, soy oil, polysorbate 60, lactic acid, artificial colour.


Another Mint Slice Chocolate Biscuit..

September 25, 2015



Those of you who know me, will recognise my penchant for ‘healthifying’ the chocolate biscuits I revered in childhood. They were special in our household because my mother rarely bought them. We were lucky that she was a keen baker and most things were home-made.  So consequently, anything that came out of a packet was considered a big deal!

So it came as a surprise, when someone asked me to do a chocolate mint slice, that I hadn’t already done one on this site before. What an omission!!

Indeed, chocolate and mint is such a popular combination, that it has its own day: the U.S. National Confectioners Association lists February 19 as “Chocolate Mint Day”. And who can remember Red Tulip after-dinner mints served with coffee, being the epitome of a spiffy dinner? My mum used to hide a box in the back of a very high kitchen cupboard which housed a stash of empty little black tissue paper sleeves, concealing our theft!!

So here to rectify my omission is my recipe for a chocolate mint biscuit ‘a la Arnotts’. They are not as thin as the real deal but they are packed full of goodness! In them I have used the wonderful dõTerra peppermint oil which has a wonderful clean and pure minty flavour.

Peppermint oil one of the oldest European herbs used for medicinal purposes, and other historical accounts date its use to ancient Chinese and Japanese folk medicine. It has fabulous gastrointestinal and respiratory benefits including: soothing digestive issues, including tummy aches, relieving headaches, improving mental focus and of course, freshening breath. So not only will the chocolate in this recipe give you a boost, so will the peppermint too!

Start by making the mint filling which is augmented by avocado to give a pretty colour and naturally good MUFA’s and fibre. As usual I have kept the sweetener to a minimum so taste as you go and add more if it pleases you.

chocmint2100g raw cashews
50g coconut
30g coconut oil
30g light coconut sugar (I used Natvia)
6 – 8 drops of pure food grade peppermint oil (buy yours here)
50g fresh avocado – not over ripe but bright and unblemished

Blitz the cashews and coconut and sugar on SP 8 for 20 seconds. Add the oils and avocado and blend for another 10 seconds on SP 8. Set aside.

Without cleaning the bowl, make with the base:

120g raw almonds (or a nut mix of your choice)
80g dates
30g nut butter or coconut butter
20g tapioca starch (or I used banana flour)
2 teas cacao powder

Blitz for 10 seconds on SP 8 until it comes together. It will not be soft enough to form a ball but will press together easily in your fingers. Press into a square slice tin and bake for 15 minutes at 170ºC until it is lightly golden. Wait until it is completely cold before spreading the mint cream thinly on top then place in the freezer to firm up while you melt your chocolate.

In your TM bowl, melt 100g chocolate on 50ºC for 5 minutes. You can  use a homemade chocolate or a good dairy-free, low sugar chocolate like Lindt. The kids may prefer a sweeter chocolate though! Pour the chocolate into a small bowl for dipping.

Using a 5cm round cutter, press out biscuits from the firm mix. If it is hard to press, use a saucer on top of the cutter to protect your palms. Dip the cold biscuit in the chocolate and set aside on a piece of baking paper to firm up. They will keep for a week in the refrigerator if you put them in a box marked ‘tripe’ ! Otherwise they will disappear pretty quickly and you won’t need to refrigerate them at all!!

Feel free to swap the peppermint oil with wild orange oil or cassia oil, they will all taste yummy!


My Grain-free Nut-free Bircher Muesli

September 20, 2015


Can you see I sneaked a little zucchini in here too?!

When my oldest son started pre-school, I was fortunate enough to meet a dozen or so mums who met on a regular basis for coffee, conversation & support. It was a time of ‘news’ and ‘firsts’. First babies, first milestones, first days of school, first lice infections! Then… new babies, new delights, new milestones… We laughed and cried and worried and leaned on each other.

Fast forward sixteen years and we all still meet up! A few have come and gone; we have lived through third & fourth children, separation and divorce, moving house & death. More recently we have seen graduations, car licences, university, and even empty nests! Despite coming from all walks of life, with the common denominator bring our first-born (now in their twenties), we remain pals.

From the beginning, my lovely friends formed a monthly social roster and we meet for breakfast, lunch or dinner, with or without our partners and this has been going on for years. When I can make it, I always looked forward to getting together and catching up on news.

When it is my turn on the roster, I always choose to host breakfast. It’s my favourite meal of the day and having mates over for breakfast is a much more casual affair. A staple dish that would generate complaint by omission, was my Bircher muesli. Such an easy dish, always a hit and often requested by friends.

But my dietary habits have evolved over the years and I no longer soak oats in orange juice or use Greek yoghurt & dried cranberries liberally. In the last twenty years since my son was born I have discovered that I am gluten intolerant, dairy intolerant and a Paleo ‘convertee’!

But I still love a good (grain-free) muesli and have posted previous recipes here and here. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Interestingly, in Switzerland and Germany, muesli is also eaten as a light evening dish with buttered bread and milky coffee. (I can skip the bread & coffee!)

The original muesli was introduced around 1900 by the Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner for patients in his hospital, where a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables was an essential part of therapy. If only they had that now! Fresh muesli is prepared using dry rolled oats that have been soaked in water or fruit juice overnight. It is mixed with grated or chopped fresh fruit, milk or yoghurt or cream, juice, nuts, seeds & spices.

The original Bircher-Benner muesli recipe was based much more on fruit, with the addition of a few soaked oats & nuts, and lemon juice. Bircher muesli’s you see nowadays are much more grain focused.

Many of my grain-free recipes are based nuts and coconut and sometimes I catch myself eating too many nuts. As healthy as they are, they are nutrient dense and easy to over eat. Since going Whole30 this month, I have been craving nuts to replace the naughty foods that had been sneaking into my diet. I was needing something else to snack on apart from nuts and carrot sticks! So I decided on a nut-free ‘muesli’ made up like a Bircher muesli and here it is!

Full of fibre and omega-3’s, this protein packed snack is extremely nutrient dense and filling; you only need a little to set you up for the day. And it curbs a 3pm carb craving too! Make up the dry mix and store it for when you want muesli the next day. You can also use it as a sprinkle on everything, including smoothies and salads, for an added nourishing boost as well.

I have used goji berries and dried sour cherries for a little sweetness, but not too much. Other dried fruits can be overpowering and I am trying to keep my sugar intake low this month!

Unlike dried cranberries, tart dried cherries have no added sugar and they are fabulous for inflammation and will help boost your melatonin levels for sleep. Substitute any dried fruit you have on hand, but remember, keep it minimal!

Nut-free, grain-free, gluten-free and dairy-free! Packed full of protein and fibre!

Nut-free, grain-free, gluten-free and dairy-free! Packed full of protein and fibre!

Mince 1 tablespoon each of:

dried goji berries

dried tart cherries

(I did this in my TM on SP 6 for 5 seconds. But you can just as easily do this by hand.)

Add 1 tablespoon each of:


pumpkin seeds

sesame seeds

chia seeds

hemp seeds

sunflower seeds

+ 2 tabs shredded coconut

Mix well and store in a jar in the fridge. If you use your TM, just stir them on SP 1 for a few seconds, or you will end up with powder! Use as a sprinkle in smoothies or on salads.

To make up as a Bircher muesli:

3 tabs seed mix soaked in 2 tabs water overnight

2 tabs puffed quinoa

pinch cinnamon

1 grated green apple (I actually use half apple, half zucchini!)

Coconut yoghurt (or dairy yoghurt)

Mix all of the ingredients with enough yoghurt to bind and serve. An added dash of lemon juice is nice also.

Next time I’m doing breakfast for my mums group – I’m serving this! I hope they like it!








A Simple Beetroot Relish

September 16, 2015


Ask the average person about beetroot and they will imagine a tin of the sliced pickled stuff. I think it is the most compulsory feature that makes an Aussie hamburger, Australian, and people either love it or hate it.

In my Thermomix consulting days, I used to make a wonderful beetroot salad at demonstrations, using fresh, raw beetroot and I was continually surprised by the number of people who loved beetroot but had never used it fresh.

Admittedly, it is a bit fiddly to prepare as the natural colour compound, betanin, gets everywhere. I avoid this by donning a pair of disposable gloves when peeling or chopping; or, I wash and then roast the beetroot whole & unpeeled.

Belonging to the same family as chard and spinach, both the leaves and root can be eaten – and apart from deep purple, the roots can also be white or golden yellow.

Beetroot is of exceptional nutritional value; especially the greens, which are rich in calcium, iron and vitamins A and C and the roots are an excellent source of folic acid, manganese and potassium. The betaines, where the colour comes from, have been shown to reduce the concentration of homocysteine in the blood.  High levels of homocysteine may be harmful to blood vessels and thus contribute to the development of high blood pressure & cardiovascular disease*.

Betanin is not broken down in the body, and in high concentrations may cause your pee and poo to assume a reddish colour; a cause of alarm in those who have not been warned! This is completely harmless and subsides once the betanin is out of the system.

Conversely, betanin degrades when subjected to heat and light, but is more stable with sugar and acid, which is why pickling beetroot is so common place.  If you open a can of beetroot from varying manufacturers, the colour can indicate the level of sugar and acid present. By the way, as a food additive, betanin is E162.

steak sandwichI love to serve this relish with everything from a steak sandwich to scrambled eggs. It goes well with BBQ meats or with a simple chunk of Gruyère on a cheese platter. In this relish recipe I have reduced the amount of vinegar compared to commercial versions, and used a little honey instead of sugar in an effort to make it more healthier. I wanted to retain the flavour of the beetroot rather than disguising it in sugar. For the same reason, I haven’t used many strong spices, just settling for a hint of rosemary and caraway. I think a little fresh grated horseradish goes well too, if you have access to some.

The tomato paste helps consolidate and intensify the flavour without the need for adding a starch or more sugar to thicken. What do you think you might serve this relish with?

1 small sprig of rosemary

1 clove garlic

1 medium onion

30g oil

650g fresh beetroot, peeled, chopped

50g water

50g red (or white) wine vinegar

50g honey (or brown rice syrup)

1 tab tomato paste

1 teas caraway seeds

1 teas grated horseradish (optional)

1 teas salt

Chop the rosemary & garlic on SP 9 for 10 seconds.

Add the onion and chop for another few seconds and the add the oil. Scrape down the bowl and sauté for 2 minutes on SP 1 at 100ºC.

Add the beetroot and chop on SP 4 until fine, but not puréed**. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for 10 minutes at 100ºC, SP 2 REVERSE with the MC on.

Cook for another 20 minutes, SP 2 REVERSE with the MC off. Bottle when hot and keep in the fridge. Serve as a condiment with BBQ meats or your steak sandwich!

*This hypothesis is controversial as it has not yet been established whether homocysteine itself is harmful or is just an indicator of increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

**For aesthetic reasons I have grated the beetroot on a microplane rather than chop it in the TM. Whichever works for you.

My Essentially Fragrant Lemon Polenta Cake

September 11, 2015

lemon polenta

A friend recently introduced me to dôTerra essential oils. I have used essential oils before in my cooking and love the intense flavour that they impart. But there are essential oils and essential oils and then there are fragrant oils.

Fragrant oils are based on artificial chemical perfumes that smell like their counterpart but are not real. Most ‘essential’ oils that you will see in gift shops consist of these. You may also find some that are labelled 100% pure essential oil, but be wary of these too. Cheaper brands will be diluted with carrier oils and have utilised solvent extraction methods, which although technically pure, their therapeutic value will have been undermined.

The oils that I have cooked with in the past were guaranteed to me to be pure and extracted by distillation only. But they were not allowed to be labelled as food grade as they had not been certified by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Association (which is an expensive and lengthy process). But dôTerra essential oils are!

Now, I am not an aromatherapist but I do recognise aromatherapy as a legitimate complementary therapy. Aromatherapists, who have to complete a year of study (often in conjunction with another modality), utilise blends of therapeutic essential oils that can be issued through topical application, inhalation or ingestion to stimulate a desired response. Two basic mechanisms are utilised: One is the influence of aroma on the brain, through the limbic system via the olfactory system and the other is the direct pharmacological effects of the essential oils.

My interest is more about taste, and how aroma affects taste!

Comparing my original collection of oils to the equivalent dôTerra product was an eye opener or should I say nasal delight! The purity and intensity and freshness of these oils surpassed my old stock which I already thought was pretty good.

dôTerra produces some really lovely food sourced oils that can be applied to cooking. These include my favourite, Wild Orange; Lemon; Grapefruit & Cinnamon; And then there’s Basil; Black Pepper & Caraway (and more). Wherever you can use the original food as a flavouring, you can use its essential oil counterpart in its place. The benefit is a stronger, fresher, more intense AND natural flavour. You can also use them for other purposes than cooking too, but that’s not my field! Go here if this interests you.

So needless to say, I have been doing lots of experimenting!! At a recent morning tea, I put my experiments to the test with my panel of guinea pigs. And what lovely pretty guinea pigs they were!!

This recipe was the winner of the day. I used a combination of orange oil and lemon oil which really sung out and lifted the cake from delicious to sublime. I was tempted to add some oil to the cream but I thought it might compete too much. As some citrus oils are volatile, it’s best to add them when the syrup is not too hot or they will dissipate and lose their aroma. Wait at least 10 minutes and then add them to the syrup – you will need less this way.

This cake is based on a traditional polenta syrup cake, which I often find too grainy on the bite. I like to mill the polenta first for a much lighter smoother consistency.  I have used brown rice syrup rather than sugar which is softer in flavour – and less sweet – you could substitute maple or mild honey if you prefer.

The secret to a good syrup cake is getting a good absorption. This is achieved by adding the hot syrup to a cold cake, or in this case; adding the cold syrup to a hot cake. Always make sure one is cold and the other hot, then you will always get a good soak!

lemondoterra80g fresh lemon juice (about 3 medium lemons)

100g brown rice syrup

20g sugar (optional)

4 drops of lemon oil

4 drops of wild orange oil

100g dry polenta

200g ground almonds

160g light coconut sugar ( I used half Natvia)

rind of 2 lemons

140g butter (or macadamia oil, for dairy-free)

2 teas baking powder

4 eggs

First make the syrup:

Cook the lemon juice, sugar and syrup for 3 minutes on SP 3 at 100°C.  Set aside to cool, stirring through the oils after about 10 minutes. They will evaporate off if added when the syrup is too hot.

Wash and dry the TM bowl.

Mill the polenta on SP 10 for 30 seconds. Add the sugar and lemon rind and mill for another 20 seconds on SP 10.

Add the butter, almond meal, baking powder and eggs and blend on SP 6 for about 15 seconds until light & creamy.

Pour into a 20 – 22cm lined & greased spring-form pan and bake for 35 minutes at 170°C.

Remove from the oven and prick all over with a skewer and then pour the syrup over the top. Leave in the pan to absorb the syrup and cool. Serve with yoghurt or cream.

If you are interested in buying dôTerra oils, I now have a shop where you can buy them.  Email me to find out how to get yours for wholesale prices!


Riding my Chocolate Cream Cheese Brownie Bike….

September 5, 2015


My husband and I have developed a bad habit.

We have recently bought bicycles and discovered the joys of bike riding in our lovely city. “That’s not a bad habit” you may ask? Well, no…but yes, I’ll explain…

Each weekend we set out and plan a ride, following the multitude of bike paths that lace their way around Brisbane. It has opened up a whole new world for us. For those without a bike, it is the best kept secret. We didn’t know how easy and speedily it was to get from A to B. We have discovered parts of our city that we have never ventured before, and explored areas that we thought were hard to get to, or a long distance away by car.

bikeNow, when we need to go somewhere, we automatically look at Google Maps to see how we can get there by bike. The program can show you where the bike friendly routes are so we can stay off the roads. Don’t imagine for a minute that we are dipped in lycra, tapping in our cleats!  I am an upright rider in my daggy wind-proof slicker on my retro touring ebike!! My panniers are full of clothes that we shed as we warm up! Winter is the reason why we live in this city. Our days are clear and blue, albeit crisp, and the sun perpetually shines. We start riding in the cold and cast off layers as our ride progresses. Neck scarf, leg warmers, beanie (for husband), jumper – yep –  I told you daggy!

But on our travels we are also discovering wonderful little coffee shops, tucked away in suburban streets, bustling with customers, relaxing in the sun. The hidden cafe is the new local. Coffee is the new vintage!

Ordinarily, I am not a coffee drinker. But I am concluding that a half-strength decaf ice-coffee on almond milk is the segue to the real stuff!! And so many places offer alternative milks now! A revelation!!!

As a good foodie might,  I ALWAYS look at the menu and peruse the sweet treats on offer. Finding something decent and gluten-free is more of a challenge. But I am always looking for inspiration and saw this chocolate cream cheese slice on offer last weekend and was reminded of a similar slice that I used to make back in the ’90’s. I went home and immediately sought out how to convert it to something more wholefood; gluten-free and dairy-free. I think I cracked it! My dairy free ‘cream cheese’ recipe that I have used in past posts worked well, but you can always use normal cream cheese if you are not intolerant. You will need 3 eggs for this recipe.

I love my bike riding. It has slowed us down (in a good way). It has made us mindful. And it might be making us fat!


250g “cream cheese” (or dairy cream cheese)

1 tab coconut sugar

1 egg white

100g fresh dates, pitted (or a combination of dates & prunes)

100g dark chocolate

60g coconut sugar (I used Natvia)

120g coconut oil or macadamia oil (or butter if not dairy-free)

2 eggs + 1 egg yolk

25g cacao powder

60g buckwheat flour (or sorghum or quinoa flour)

½ teas baking powder

Make the cream cheese using these directions – there is no need to hang the cream cheese to thicken – but it will produce a firmer result. Or use dairy cream cheese if not intolerant. Measure out 250g and mix with the sugar and egg-white on SP 5 for 10 seconds. Set aside.

Without washing the TM bowl, mince the dates, chocolate and sugar on SP 8 for 10 seconds. Add the butter and cook at 70°C for 3 minutes on SP 3 until smooth.

Add the eggs & egg yolk with the cacao, flour & baking powder and mix for a few seconds on SP 5 until well combined. Pour into a lined tin and dot with the cream cheese mixture. Give the batter a swirl with a knife to marble the mix. Bake for about 25 minutes at 170ºC, until just set. Do not over cook. It will firm up as it cools, slice when cold.



Cheeky Beef in Hoisin

August 28, 2015


I’m telling you; brown food does not photograph well! You will just have to trust me when I tell you that this recipe is a great one! I notice that my recent recipes have had an Asian bent – I didn’t intentionally do this –perhaps I will have to convince my husband to take me to Europe for some required inspiration but I think my posts have evolved this way because I have been feeling a bit lazy; and indeed, these recipes of late, are very easy – ones you can do on auto-pilot; whack ’em on and “forgetaboutit” recipes. So here’s another!

Traditionally I stay away from bottled sauces and make my own. But I did just say I have been very lazy lately and the most popular sauce we have in the house – when I seldom buy it – is Hoisin. Find out more about it here.

By choice, my kids would slather hoisin sauce on everything. It ranks higher than mayonnaise or tomato sauce or BBQ sauce, hands down! And needless to say, just like the aforementioned sauces, I’m sure it’s popular because it is sweet!

Based on fermented soy beans, hoisin can be overpowering and bottled hoisin sauce (off the shelf) is very strong. I would never use it straight. If using as a dipping sauce always dilute it with a dash of water – a good secret is to dilute it with a little milk (any kind) which will soften the flavour and surprise you!

I do prefer my homemade version but if you’re feeling lazy like me (or busy), pick up a jar* and make this warming winter dish while it’s still winter!

I have made this dish with both casserole steak and beef cheeks and the beef cheeks were the winner according to the H.C.V.C. (household culinary voting committee). I think that lamb shanks would also work really well. Use what ever cut you prefer, but the sinewy, fattier meats will breakdown and create a richness that is unbeatable. The turnip and water chestnuts add a lovely contrast in texture too.

Don’t be put off by beef cheeks. They are rarely found fresh and are usually cryovac’d by the butcher, directly from the beast. Despite my aversion to food in plastic, cryovaccing; the practice of vacuum-sealing in heavy gauge plastic, is a useful method for preserving fresh meat without freezing, and allowing it to age without losing weight. Most of the meat that you get in the supermarket has previously been processed this way and repacked. These days, very few butchers buy fresh whole sides of beef and cut meat from the hanging carcass as there is too much labour and waste. That’s why it’s a good idea to find a good local butcher, who preferably stocks grass-fed meat, but that’s a post for another time!

If you haven’t cooked beef cheeks before, let me warn you: they are pretty ugly! And big! Unless you have a butchers band saw, don’t try to chop them up, they are full of sinew and connective tissue.  I just halve them and put them in the slow cooker as is. I use 2 – 3 cheeks in this recipe which weigh together, between 1 & 1.5 kgs. After 4 to 5 hours they will be melty and soft and gelatinous. They are worth it!

On a side note: isn’t it both wonderful and crappy that these old-fashioned cuts are available. Wonderful; because they are much more widely available and they are so nutritious and utilise more of the beast – but crappy; because these cuts USED to be CHEAP! CHEAP! Not long ago I used to pay $1.99 per kilo for beef cheeks and now I’m paying $8.99! Oh well, they are still an inexpensive cut compared to leaner cuts. Rant over..

2 knobs ginger

3 cloves garlic

20g oil

1 stick cinnamon

1 star anise

1 teas sichuan peppercorns (or ½ teas black peppercorns)

1 big piece of fresh mandarin peel – about palm sized

500g beef stock

100g rice wine

150g hoisin sauce

1.2kg beef cheeks, cut in half

1 turnip or potato

200g water chestnuts, whole or sliced, drained

Mince the garlic & ginger in the TM on SP 9 for 10 seconds. Scrape down the bowl and add the oil and sauté for 2 minutes at 100°C, SP 1.

Add the spices & peel, stock, wine and hoisin sauce and cook for 4 minutes at 100°C on SP 1 REVERSE.

Place the raw beef cheeks in the slow cooker bowl and cover with the marinade. Cook on high for 4 hours, then add the vegetables and cook for another hour or so.

Garnish with some finely sliced spring onion and serve with rice or cauliflower rice.

*Just check the label: very few commercial varieties that have any soy beans in them at all. Most named sugar as the main ingredient with wheat starch coming in second. Hoisin should typically include fermented soy, chillies and garlic. Vinegar, salt and sugar are also commonly added.


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