I have always loved airplanes. As a kid I was always enthralled by the excitement of the aircraft, the “sophistication” of the crew, visiting the pilot in the cockpit and the “toy” food. The first flight that I can remember was at the age of 11 when my family flew to Singapore and my younger brother threw up during the entire 9 hour flight!
Must have been the food! You don’t see so many people suffering motion sickness on planes anymore. I wonder whether those people are pre-medicated now or that flying is such a common occurrence these days, our bodies are used to it.
As an adult I am still enthralled by plane travel; the wonderment of a 300 ton vehicle at 40,000 feet and the idea of travelling to distant exotic places in a matter of hours still amazes me. But nowadays the journey is a bit tedious. Seating space is economically driven, people are less tolerant and respectful of others and the travel crew are overworked and under-appreciated. But the worst part is the food! Much aligned, like hospital food (that’s something else I just don’t get), plane food is DREADFUL!
I understand that the mass production, the space limitations and the health & safety aspects have to impact the constitution of the meals, but I just don’t understand how the quality can be so poor! I mean, who taste-tests this stuff? Does anyone really enjoy plane food or do they eat it just because it’s put in front of them? I’m impressed by the availability of special meals to cater for religious, health, or dietary restrictions on airlines and I’m working my way down the list out of curiosity! I have tried Vegetarian Jain, Diabetic, Fruit only, Gluten-free, Hindu, Kosher, Low-calorie, Muslim, Dairy-free, Raw vegetarian, Asian vegetarian & Western vegetarian meals. Out of these, you guessed it, the fruit only meal was the best, but as expected, not all fresh!!
I am yet to try a Bland/Soft meal, Low cholesterol meal, Low sodium meal, Muslim meal or a Seafood meal – I wonder what to expect?!
So it is now normal practice for us to pack our meals when travelling by air. After all, this is the start of a holiday and holidays are meant for eating! So on our outward journey I will take a cool pack with a mixed salad, cold chicken, avocado, dried fruit, nuts, boiled eggs, chocolate, protein balls, and of course, cake. Authorities will allow small cans of tuna through but I usually mix my tuna into my salad if I am going to take it. And it does help to pre peel your boiled eggs.
During meal service, I accept a meal tray, check out the offering,
laugh and bypass it to use the cutlery/cups for my own food. I am often peered over by envious passengers and crew alike when Mark & I chow down to our “take-away” meal!
When travelling, I always carry my own bread and snacks and have never encountered any problems at my destination immigration. I make and freeze a gluten-free bread or fruit loaf and pack it in my case. Naturally it will have defrosted at my destination but it will last for a week in the fridge at the hotel. Sometimes, I do the same with flatbread too. If travelling overseas, I always go to the “something to declare” queue and tell them that I have gluten-free bread and/or dried fruit in my case and I am always waived through. I’m guessing that because Australia has such tight customs regulations, taking stuff out of the country is not such a risk.
Now don’t think for a minute that I travel overseas so I can just eat my own food!! Far from it! Eating local food is at the top of my vacation priority. But bread and dried fruit is a luxury for me and not something that I eat regularly, so I let loose on holidays! The cinnamon scent of my toasted fig loaf drew crowds at the breakfast buffet one holiday in Fiji, with other guests asking “where did you get that bread from on the buffet?!” Even my husband (who used to scoff at me taking my own bread), asks to share mine after seeing the plasticky fluffy stuff often on offer!
To prepare for the flight home, I pocket a couple of boiled eggs at breakfast so I can take them in my carry-on bag. I pack fresh fruit and nuts and that is usually enough after a week or so of indulgent eating….. Then I mentally prepare for the obligatory post holiday detox!!
My husband recalls his favourite childhood dessert as being his mums Jam Roly Poly. Essentially a scone dough, the roly poly was slathered in home-made jam and set in a sugar syrup bath to cook. It was sweet with a light, bready texture inside and a crusty caramelised glaze on the outside. He loved it!
Not to be out-done by ones’ mother-in-law,
bad bad, idea, I set about to make this dessert, early into our courtship, and my first attempt was none other than mediocre. That’ll teach me! But then not to be defeated by a bad pud, I pursued it further, only to find success several hundred thousand calories later – thank God I wasn’t counting carbs back then! The challenge had been conquered and I rarely made roly poly again – it was typically sugary & stodgy and far too rib-sticking for our sub-tropical climate.
I thought of it again when my mother sent me an old magazine clipping for a berry pudding which she had enjoyed and suggested I convert it. So convert it I did! I now had a use for the raspberry jam languishing at the back of the fridge and leftover rhubarb from a previous recipe. The original recipe had a basic batter made with wheat flour, plenty of sugar, milk AND jam! I have made it gluten-free, dairy-free and lower sugar with pleasing results. It is self-saucing with the major source of sweetness coming from the jam.
Interestingly, my husband loved the pudding and described it as a modern, lighter & healthier “roly poly” dessert. It really looks nothing like roly poly but I understood what he meant – it must have been my rare use of jam that did it!100g gluten-free SR flour (being too lazy to make my own, I used this one) 1 1/2 teas coconut flour 90g coconut sugar (I used Natvia) big pinch nutmeg 60g macadamia oil or ghee 120g almond milk (or rice milk if nut-free) 2 eggs vanilla to taste 1 teas baking powder 100g frozen raspberries 100g stewed rhubarb* 45g raspberry jam 150g water In the TM add the dry ingredients and blitz to mix together. Add the eggs, milk and oil and mix on SP 5 for 10 seconds. Grease 4 teacups and divide the fruit evenly between them. Pour the batter over the top. Rinse the TM bowl but don’t bother washing it and weigh in the water & jam. Heat for 3 minutes on SP 3 at 100°C. Pour over the batter and cook the puddings for 30 minutes at 175°C until golden. Serve with ice-cream or my dairy-free whipped cream or yoghurt. Careful with kids, the fruit will be hot! *Use a combination of any berries or just use rhubarb to the weight of 200g
Arrghh! I wanted to call this post V8 crumpets! The reason why is not that it includes vegetables, but that it took 8 attempts to get the recipe right for several reasons.
This cold weather just has me craving comfort food and crumpets & honey is one of them. I figured that while I am on my winter carb binge, I might as well go the whole hog and make crumpets but I had to make it difficult didn’t I!
My challenges were that the recipe had to be:
- YEAST free, and
- dairy free
Yep, that’s right. Gluten free, YEAST free and Dairy free.
Grain free? Not on your life! OK, so I set about my task and decided that I would ferment my batter in the style of Indian dosai to avoid adding yeast. Well technically. I was going to rely on the airborne yeasts in the air to leaven my batter, does that count? I have been playing around with fermentation a lot lately and have been loving the alchemy of our invisible microbe filled environment.
So in the ideology of fermentation 101, I soaked some rice to activate the starches and added some fenugreek seeds and split peas (dahl) which are both known to attract airborne cultures (I don’t know why or how, but they do). In fact, fenugreek is an amazing spice – fit for another post, me thinks! Apart from avoiding added yeast I was giving my crumpets a probiotic health benefit too! Cooked rice added to the mix helps the texture of the finished product as the cooked rice starches help bind the structure.
After soaking the rice & milling into a batter, I left it in a warm place to ferment. This is where things went awry – and not what you think!
My first batch worked beautifully so I needed to retest.
My second batch seemed different, runnier and didn’t work so I repeated the method again.
My third batch was similar to my second (did I fluke it first?) and then I realised my scales were off calibration so off to the Thermo doctor, my machine did go!
My fourth batch – and I’m getting impatient here – I ran out of aborio rice so I used basmati and it didn’t work…I didn’t know why so hmm, try try again.
On my fifth attempt I used basmati rice again, waited 7 days (!!), had no fermentation and then discovered that basmati does not have enough starch content and will not ferment. F$%^!
My sixth batch I went back to aborio rice again and as it has been cold weather, left it by the (switched off, but still warm)heater to ferment overnight, much to the delight of my dog – say no more..
My seventh batch was successful! HOORAY!! but I thought I could tweak it a bit more and here below is my 8th attempt to give you a gluten-free, dairy-free, yeast-free crumpet recipe that is AWESOME!!
Nothing idée fixe about moi!
This recipe has the yeasty flavour of “real” crumpets. They are soft and tender in the middle while being crunchy and crispy on the exterior, especially after toasting. They are a delight to soak up honey, or in my case, coconut nectar with lashings of butter. A poached egg oozes lusciously into its holes. Like childbirth, I have forgotten the pain of my recipe development and want to make them again and again and again!!!
They do take some time and planning but embrace the lesson of patience.
At least you will not have to endure the lesson of perseverance and grit and tolerance that I have suffered for you. If you like crumpets you will love this recipe!
Now a little preamble: It is really hard to get the bubbles and honeycomb texture that you find in bought crumpets. These are made with lots of different raising agents* as well as yeast and even with my previous conventional wheat flour recipe, is hard to achieve.
The trick is to start with a hot pan so that the batter sizzles when poured in – wait a minute for the bubbles to form and then turn the temperature down to cook the batter through. Don’t be tempted to pour them too thick as the bubbles will not form properly.
You can buy crumpet rings at kitchen shops, but I wouldn’t bother. Cook them in egg-rings or cut the top & bottom out of a tuna can and wash well before using as crumpet rings. Spray the rings well with oil to prevent sticking.
Crumpets (home-made or bought) are best eaten straight out of the pan or toasted later. There is nothing appealing about cold unheated crumpets, fresh or not. Make a double batch and wrap individually and freeze for toasting afterwards.
You can thank me later!200g aborio rice 1 teas fenugreek seeds 40g split yellow lentils or dahl 1/2 teas salt 1 teas sugar 140g cooked rice, cooled** 240g soaking water 2 teas baking powder 60g buckwheat flour (or sorghum) Weigh the aborio rice and cover with 2cm of filtered water. As with all fermenting, using chlorinated water will kill the yeasts & microbes to achieve a wild ferment. Add the fenugreek and let sit overnight or at least 6 hours. Soak the dahl, separately in filtered water. Drain the rice but keep the soaking water. Drain the dhal and do not keep the soaking water. Add the rice, dahl, cooked rice, salt & sugar to the TM and mill on SP 8 for 10 seconds. Weigh in 240g of the rice soaking water and blend on SP 9 for 1 minute. Pour into an open bowl and cover loosely with a tea towel. Place somewhere warm to activate. This may take anything from 24 – 48 hours depending on the weather. It should not take any longer than 72 hours! Sift together the baking powder and buckwheat flour and gently fold through the batter. Leave to rest for another hour in a warm place. Grease and heat a pan with the crumpet rings until hot – grease the rings well. Pour in some batter to about 1 cm thick – it should sizzle and start bubbling. After a minute or so when the bubbles start to pop, turn down the heat to low and continue to cook until the tops dry out. It helps to cover with a lid. Remove the rings and flip over for 30 seconds to finish cooking the top side without browning too much. Crumpet 101
- If the crumpets are not drying on the top, they are too thick.
- If you are not getting nice formed holes, the batter is too runny and/or the pan isn’t hot enough.
- It’s easier to get better hole formation with a thinner crumpet so gauge your batter from there.
The impetus for this post was a gorgeous bunch of rhubarb that I found at the farmers market last week. Rhubarb is not something that I was exposed to as a kid and only discovered it as an adult in my past quests for low sugar, low-fat, low-calorie foods. This fit the bill and I was determined to like this stuff – but how can you call it a fruit when clearly, it is a vegetable!!!
In fact, it was classified a vegetable until 1947 when the United States decided it counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties. It’s very similar to Swiss chard in that both can have long red leaf stalks and glossy dark leaves although I was surprised to find out that rhubarb is related to the buckwheat family while chard belongs to the beet genus.
Nutritionally, rhubarb contains a decent amount of potassium, calcium, vitamin C, and dietary fibre although it contains oxalic acid which renders the calcium not so bio-available to the body. The leaves of rhubarb contain a significant amount of oxalic acid that can be fatal, so the leaves are definitely not edible.
Rhubarb has been used for years in Chinese medicine as a laxative and is hence useful as a cathartic in case of constipation. Handy to know!
I always remember rhubarb being as cheap as chips a decade ago and very seasonal. Seeking it out now you will find it priced at up to $7 a bunch which seems outrageous, so I was very excited to find some lovely glossy red stalks for $3.50 last week.
Rhubarb contains a lot of water and it breaks down very readily when cooked. I prefer to give the stalks a very light cooking rather than a lengthy stewing. They are nice roasted which intensifies the flavour but i think they need more sugar this way.
Many people describe rhubarb as being sweet yet tart, but I only get the mouth puckering tart and sour taste. Sour is good. I think that we are so programmed into the familiarity of sweet & salty & sour tastes, that we forget the multitude of other tastes out there like tart, pungent, umami, bitter, astringent, spicy and more..
So I cooked up the tart stalks with orange juice and strawberries, and I have added a fragrant twist of rosemary which pairs beautifully. But you can’t have stewed fruit without……ice-cream!
Make this dairy-free ice-cream ahead and freeze into ice-block trays if you don’t have an ice-cream churn. Blend the blocks when ready to serve for a luscious, seemingly instant, ice-cream.
The softness of ice-cream depends on the sugar & fat content of the mix (and of course, your freezer temperature). *The addition of vegetable glycerin will help with keeping the texture softer but is entirely optional. You can find it in health-food shops and sometimes, supermarket, but check that it is food grade. I have it in my cupboard as it works as a good emulsifier and anti-crystallising agent too.400g coconut cream 200g nut milk (I used almond) 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped 80g coconut sugar (I used Natvia) 1 tab brown rice syrup or maple 5 egg yolks 1 egg white 20g glycerin* 20g macadamia oil pinch cinnamon Add all of the ingredients to the TM and cook on SP 4 at 80°C for 10 minutes. Cool and pour into ice-cube trays and allow to freeze overnight. Mill the frozen mix on SP 9 for 10 seconds and then add the egg-white. Continue to blend on SP 8 until creamy. Pour into a sealable container and freeze for 15 minutes while you make the rhubarb. If your freezer is really cold, you will need to remove any left-over ice-cream from the freezer about 20 minutes before serving to soften.
1 bunch rhubarb, chopped into 2cm lengths1 punnet strawberries, halved 1 cinnamon stick 1 tab coconut sugar – or more to taste rind & juice of 1 orange 1 sprig of young rosemary Place rhubarb, sugar, rosemary, cinnamon & orange into a shallow pan and cook gently until the sugar is dissolved and rhubarb has softened. Add the strawberries and cook for a further 3 minutes until they start to soften, then cover with a lid and turn the heat off. Let sit for 10 minutes to steam. Taste for sweetness before serving with vanilla ice-cream and toasted coconut or nuts to garnish.
A classic lemon tart is always popular. Rich and redolent with eggs & cream and generous with sharp citrus, lemon tart was a staple on menus in the early noughties.
So I planned to take one to a family get together last weekend until it was announced that I was catering for a vegan!.. At a barbeque!
OK…..so never one to renounce a challenge, I set about modifying my plans and started experimenting!
I have previously posted a raw vegan lemon tart but that recipe wasn’t what I wanted in the traditional sense and I wanted something that was easily transported and would cut into many slices.
For a citrus tart to achieve greatness, the filling has to be exactly the right texture – not too soft but not too firm either. When you are working with custard, this is relatively easy if you have the right proportions of eggs to cream but eggs and cream were not an option this time!
Lemons are available all year round but their flavour excels in the winter months. The Eureka lemon is the most common variety found in the supermarket and popular in back gardens because of its ability to produce fruit and flowers together throughout the year. It has a thicker rind and many more seeds (often lots!) than the Lisbon which has a thinner skin and is bred to have no seeds. Lisbon lemons are rounder and softer and tend not to have a knobbly end as do the former.
The sweetest lemon is the Meyer lemon which is a cross between a lemon and possibly an orange or a mandarin. Thin-skinned and slightly less acidic than the Lisbon and Eureka lemons, Meyer lemons are harder to zest, have only a couple of seeds and are harder to find. They are great for making lemonade as they are sweeter.
For the tart, I like to use an acidic lemon like the Eureka but the proliferant seeds can be pesky! They also yield more zest which shouldn’t be skimped because the flavour of the volatile oils are integral.
I have glazed the tart more for presentation than taste. When making a lemon tart without butter or eggs, the colour can be quite insipid and not very appealing. Adding a pinch of turmeric helps but doesn’t quite cut the mustard! A glaze with orange juice gives the tart a more attractive hue without overriding the lemon-i-ness, but feel free to skip this step if it doesn’t matter to you. Alternatively, you could cover it with sliced strawberries or whipped cream!
Base 120g almonds 70g dates 60g coconut butter 60g whole buckwheat Blitz together on SP 8 until a fine crumble and press thinly into a lined 24cm tart pan. Add a little water if it is too dry. Put into the oven and turn on to 165ºC for 15 – 20 mins until lightly golden. Cool. Filling 70g water 70g almond milk (or water) 2 tabs agar agar flakes (or 2 teas agar powder) 160 lemon juice rind of 2 lemons 160g coconut oil 90g brown rice syrup 90g coconut sugar (I used Natvia) 2 teas maize cornflour pinch turmeric Mill the rind and sugar on SP 8 for 10 seconds. Add the remaining ingredients and heat to 80ºC on SP 1 for 3 minutes to dissolve the agar flakes. Don’t be tempted to increase the speed as the agar will stick to the sides of the bowl and not dissolve. Cook further for 8 minutes on SP 4 at 90ºC, then blitz on SP 7 for 10 seconds to ensure its smooth & thick. Pour into the tart shell and allow to cool while you make the glaze. Glaze (Optional) 70g water 100g orange juice (strained) juice of half a lemon 1 teas agar flakes (or 1/2 teas agar powder) 1 tab brown rice syrup Add all of the ingredients to the TM and heat to 90ºC on SP 1 for 8 minutes. When dissolved and smooth, pour over the tart and refrigerate for at least 3 hours to firm up.
There is a little Swiss cake shop in suburban Melbourne that I used to frequent many years (almost 30!) ago. On a Google search, I was delighted to find out that it is still there AND owned by the same gorgeous couple, Helen & Franz. Along with their sons Sascha and Marcus, (whom I remember as toddlers) they take pride in making traditional Swiss & German pastries & cakes that are the best you will find outside of Europe.
It was Franz who taught me the secret of making a true butter puff in his Mille-Feuille. It was Franz who made my
first wedding, previous life wedding croquembouche all those years ago before they came in vogue. And my favourite pastry in his window was his nut twist loaf.
I often reminisce over his strawberry tartlets and chocolate truffles. Helen’s crème patisserie was the most amazing silky & creamy custard I ever tasted. And I was always intrigued that they often made their cakes in a thin pastry shell.
When I make my poppy-seed brioche I think of the Hilltop cake shop* and have fond memories of my friends there. But, now grain-free, I rarely make my brioche recipe, although writing this has inspired me to convert the recipe to gluten-free and revisit it!
Poppy seeds provide quite a number of health benefits. They have an excellent source of minerals like magnesium, zinc and calcium. The fatty acids present, aid digestion and the linoleic acid helps protect the heart. Apparently, poppy seeds are used to treat insomnia although I haven’t quite benefited from this application! Very high in polyunsaturated oils, they are vulnerable to oxidation and easily turn rancid, so buy small quantities fresh and keep them in the freezer.
I have used the filling from my poppy-seed brioche as a surprise garnish in my cupcakes. I think it works! It adds a nutty, almost earthy flavour that tempers the sweetness of the cake. To make this recipe nut-free, substitute the almond meal for sun-flour, although you may get a faint green taint due to the chlorogenic compounds. Make the filling first to allow to cool and thicken.Filling 80g fresh poppy seeds 60g milk (I used almond milk) 1 egg yolk 25g butter 1 tab honey 1 teas coconut flour 1 tab tapioca flour vanilla to taste Mill the poppy seeds on SP 9 for 10 seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for 6 mins at 100°C on SP 3. The mix will be thick – set aside to cool. Clean & dry the TM bowl. Cake mix 50g almond meal (or sun-flour if nut-free) 45g coconut flour 20g tapioca flour 110g coconut sugar (I used Natvia) 1 heaped teas baking powder rind of 1 lemon 110g butter, softened 4 eggs + 1 egg white 60g orange juice or water 2 teas apple cider vinegar Grind the lemon rind with the sugar on SP 9 for 10 seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix on SP 6 for 10 seconds or until well combined and creamy. Use cupcake cases in a cupcake tin and give them a spray of oil. Half fill cases with the cake mix and make a small indent. Drop a teaspoonful of the poppy paste into the indented mix and cover with remaining cake mix. Alternatively, fill a piping bag with the poppy-seed paste and pipe a teaspoonful into the middle of the batter. Bake in a 170°C oven for 20 minutes. * Footnote: I have since spoken to Helen who tells me that later this year they will be opening a cafe, 2 shops down from their bakery!!
My first introduction to hoisin sauce was in 1978 at an “upmarket” Chinese restaurant where they served the pungent sauce with their spring rolls. The rolls were fat and long and filled with pork & vegetables that you could discern from and the hoisin was an extravagant step up from the usual sweet & sour sauce that typically accompanies them.
From then on, hoisin was a favourite addition to whatever we were eating with rice, or even just with rice on its own!
Hoisin sauce is also known as Chinese barbecue sauce and is often confused with plum sauce as both are thick, dark and sweet. It’s commonly used as an ingredient in Chinese cooking and is traditionally based on fermented soy beans.
But on label watch recently, I found very few commercial varieties that had any soy beans in them at all! Most named sugar as the main ingredient with wheat starch coming in second. Hoisin should typically include soy, chillies and garlic. Vinegar, salt and sugar are also commonly added.
It dawned on me that the reason why I have gone “off” dining in Chinese restaurants is that the majority of the dishes are based on commercial bottled sauces. Because we have been eating cleanly for some time now, anything that has preservatives, additives or flavouring, leaves a residue on my tongue, not to mention a “blech” feeling in my gut!
As you know, I make just about everything in my pantry but was yet to attempt hoisin – until now!
There are so many dishes that feature hoisin as the focus. Barbeque roast pork, shanghai noodles and Mongolian beef all use hoisin as an integral ingredient. As a dipping sauce, you couldn’t have Peking duck or popiah rolls without it. A favourite dish that I used to make was a simple eggplant stir-fry with hoisin sauce and I have included the recipe below.
The sauce itself is very easy. The secret to getting the texture right is adding some starch so that it should be quite thick and pasty. I achieved this by using some roasted sweet potato. White potato & pumpkin would work too as a thickening agent – if it’s roasted it will have a more intense flavour. This recipe makes 1 medium jar. If hoisin is popular in your household, double the recipe.
Hoisin Sauce Make Your Own1 clove garlic 1 purple shallot, peeled 1 teas oil 1/4 teas dried chilli flakes 1/4 teas ground black pepper 1/2 teas Chinese five-spice 50g nut butter (I used almond butter) 50g dark mushroom soy 20g dark molasses (1 tab) 20g rapadura sugar – or more to taste 1 tab apple cider vinegar 60g roasted sweet potato 50g water 1 teas cornflour (or potato starch or tapioca) 1 teas toasted sesame oil Chop the garlic & shallot for 10 seconds, SP 8. Scrape down the bowl and add the oil. Saute for 3 minutes at 100°C on SP 2. Add the remaining ingredients, except the sesame oil and cook for 7 minutes on SP 4 at 100°C. It will be quite thick. Add the sesame oil* and mix in before storing in a clean jar. Simple Eggplant Stir-Fry with Hoisin 500g eggplant, cut into large cubes 50g light olive oil or coconut oil, divided 2 teas fresh ginger, julienned 2 cloves garlic, sliced 1 small onion, sliced 1 teas toasted sesame oil 100g homemade hoisin sauce 50g milk (I used almond) Sliced spring onions or coriander to garnish. In a wok or frying pan, heat half of the oil until hot and saute the eggplant until brown on all sides, adding more oil when required. Pour in 40g of water and cover with a lid to steam the eggplant until it is quite soft and the water has evaporated. Set aside in a serving dish and keep warm. Whilst this is cooking, add the hoisin and milk to the TM and cook for 2 minutes at 100°C SP 3. Back to your wok or frying pan, saute the garlic, onion & ginger for 5 minutes until soft, adding a little more oil if required. Stir in the sesame oil at the end. Pour the sauce over the eggplant and top with the fried onions & ginger. Top with spring onions to garnish. Serve with rice. *Sesame oil has a very low smoke point and its best not to “cook” it but add it last as a flavouring. Some variations:
- Try sautéing some minced pork and mixing it in with the eggplant.
- Use green beans or broccolini instead of eggplant.
- Use tofu instead of eggplant.