A little while ago, in a gardening frenzy, we planted some edibles: eggplant, tomatoes, kale, passionfruit & chillies. Not particularly because these were our favourites but we saw the seedlings at the local market and we were feeling optimistic!!
However, our optimism was short-lived when the local possums discovered that we had very kindly provided them with a smorgasbord of Mediterranean bent… They devoured our tomatoes, the kale didn’t reach past it’s infancy and apparently passion-fruit tendrils are a delicacy!
We tried all sorts of possum deflection tactics (as kindly advised by well-meaning friends) including cat wee, rubber snakes and galvanised angle tacked onto the fence: the possum super highway. And obviously, our family dog, Claude, was no help at all. None. (Insert blow raspberry here)
So we gave up. And those little yellow suckers proliferated. We tried to give them away but no one would have them! We quickly worked out that you don’t use one of these tiny hot bombs in a curry, you use a quarter!
The other day I decided to prune the dead fruit from the unassuming chilli plant and low & behold, made a wonderful discovery! Under the chilli plant was a crop – yes – a crop of magnificent Japanese eggplant. Obviously, the possum had made the scotch bonnet mistake only once and had avoided this area, leaving the eggplant to flourish!
So proud we were, having been excited over a lone tomato or two, and a few sprigs of kale, we were now market gardeners of eggplant!! I have previously professed my love of eggplant here, here and here. And love to make my fabulous eggplant jerky (or chips) too. But with Christmas coming up, now is the time to start thinking about edible gifts so I made a quick and easy eggplant relish, scented with balsamic and rosemary. It bottles well and is yummy served hot or cold with barbeque meats, or even tossed through pasta as a hot dish or salad. Keep it in the fridge, it will last for a few weeks.
750g eggplant60g olive oil 1 20cm sprig of rosemary 1 rib celery, sliced thinly 2 cloves garlic, crushed 2 spring onions, finely sliced 1 tomato, chopped 100g water 1 – 2 teas salt 1/2 teas sumac 1 tab balsamic vinegar 1 tab balsamic glaze (ready-made or make your own here) 2 tabs chopped parsley 3 tabs sliced olives, black or green Grill 350g of the eggplant over a naked flame until charred all over. Set aside. Chop the remaining 400g eggplant into 2cm cubes and sauté in batches with the olive oil and rosemary until golden on all sides. Add the garlic, celery and spring onions and continue to saute for a further 5 minutes. When the charred eggplant is cool enough to handle, rub off the skins and chop coarsely and add to the pan with the water & chopped tomato. Do not be tempted to rinse them under water as you will wash away all of the flavour. It’s ok if some charred skin gets in to the mix. Cook gently for 10 minutes until the water has been absorbed and the eggplant is tender. Add the remaining ingredients and cook a further 5 minutes for the flavours to incorporate. Remove the rosemary, taste for seasoning and bottle.
Given that everything is about the G20 summit here in Brisbane, I was reminded of this old-fashioned dessert!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-establishment or apolitical, I’m actually very excited that many of the top world leaders have descended our humble city for world economic discussion. We have a beautiful city here and wish to show it off. What I can’t rationalise is that these influential people will not see our city for what it’s worth – the whole town is in security lock-down, the people of Brisbane have been sequestered to the suburbs.
And ironically, the local government has provided free street & performing art for the public, but there is no public!! Anyhow…
A dessert conducive to hot weather (it is stinking hot here in Queensland), a fruit “fool” dates back to the early 1600′s around the same time that “trifle” made an appearance. Why the word “fool” is used as the name of this fruit dessert is not clear. Speculation says that it is derived from the French verb fouler meaning “to crush” or “to press”, despite being an English dessert. According to the Joy of Cooking, long ago the word “fool” was “a term of endearment, now it just means idiot!!
Traditionally, a fool is made by folding pureed fruit into sweet custard or cream or both. Almost always, an alcohol flavouring is added. In the 80′s, there was a popular dessert called Strawberries Romanoff; macerated strawberries folded through whipped cream with plenty of liqueur, which was a type of “fool”. Another English concoction, Eton Mess is similar with the addition of crushed meringue.
Any way you have it, there is something tantalisingly decadent and messy about creamy, cold custard with fruit. It’s simple and yet sophisticated at the same time! This is my version of a foolish dessert! You will need 5 eggs in total and 2 of the egg whites are raw. Skip this last step if you don’t eat raw egg, but it does impart a seductive cloud like texture. I have resisted adding a bit of “crunch factor” (which I am prone to do) as the orange custard is a real winner. Of course, if you are feeling lazy, you could always use my whipped cream recipe instead, or, heaven forbid….real cream!! This recipe gives the old conventional custard a run for your money!
Perhaps more so than the G20! Ooops!
This recipe was inspired by one of my favourite recipes in my 1989 Australian Women’s Weekly Big Book of Beautiful Biscuits. It was a slice made with fruit mince and coconut. It was called dream bar and had a biscuit base. I used to love making it mid-year as a reminder of the festive season coming. I would use up the last of my home-made fruit mince from the previous year, before I made a new batch when soaking fruit for my Christmas puddings.
I have a seasonal rhythm in my festive cooking: My fruit for Christmas puddings gets soaked in September, at the same time, I make my fruit mince. I then make my puddings in October to mature for December, with one kept spare for after Easter, when the weather cools down. By August I think I better eat up any left over mince before the cycle starts again!
It sounds hard work but it really isn’t. And it’s not something I have in my diary to do, it just eventuates that way. Believe me, maturing your puddings and fruit mince will earn you LOTS of respect at the Christmas table!
I have purposely kept this nut-free and dairy-free. The nut and dairy-phobes have enough to contend with at Christmas, so this one is for them!2 pieces lemon rind 50g rapadura (I used Natvia) 160g coconut milk 3 eggs (4 if small) 90g coconut oil 75g coconut flour 2 teas baking powder 150g homemade fruit mince* 1 tab sunflower seeds or pine-nuts Mill the sugar and lemon rind on SP 9 for 10 seconds. Add the eggs, coconut cream and oil and blend on SP 7 for 10 seconds. Mix in the coconut flour and baking powder on SP 5 for 10 seconds and let sit for 2 minutes to thicken. Add the fruit mince and mix on SP 1 REVERSE. Spread into a greased and lined tart tin and sprinkle with the seeds. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in tin before slicing. *Of course, you can always use bought fruit mince too
Now that “fat is back”, I have been using a variety of fats, beside butter, which include lard, tallow and coconut oil. Lard is rendered from the fat of a pig, but can also come from chicken, duck or goose fat. The best lard comes from around the kidneys and the back of the pig and is least “porky” tasting. Tallow comes from beef fat and like lard, the best fat comes from the heart & kidneys, which is known in its raw form as suet. Rendering my own lard is something I haven’t tried yet but you can learn how here. And strawberry tart? – Don’t worry I’m getting there…
Incidentally, shortening is made out of cooking oil such as soy-bean and canola oils, and is high in trans fats and should be given a wide berth. Copha comes under this category and despite being made from coconut oil, copha is hydrogenated and really bad news.
In my mind there is no substitute for butter! Nothing surpasses the flavour, texture and baking capabilities. Pure home-made butter is truly the best. But if you are strictly dairy-free or vegan it is off the menu. And strawberry tart? – yeah, yeah, I’m getting there…
Pastry is a difficult thing to achieve in the gluten-free-sphere. Just like bread, there are imitations of the real thing that don’t quite hit the mark. But that is something a primal foodie just has to accept and sometimes close enough is good enough rather than miss out.
As our grandmothers knew, pastry made with lard creates a flaky and crisp shell and has less shrinkage than a butter pastry. It also browns more slowly. If you use a combination of butter and lard, you get the best of both worlds, a dough with great flavour and texture, which brings us to my strawberry tart! Yippee!
I love a good tart. See here, here and here. In a previous recipe, I made a strawberry tart with a traditional dairy crème patisserie and butter pastry. I have used lard instead of butter in this pastry, to keep it dairy-free. French pastry purists will be aghast, but roll with me here. A traditional all butter pastry yields the best flavour, in my opinion, but it can be tricky to use. Especially in my warm climate in Queensland – I store my lard & butter in the freezer when making pastry. In this recipe I have added some ground almonds to add some flavour.
But the highlight of this recipe,
in my opinion!, is the custard cream filling. Make this and just eat it by the spoonful out of the Thermomix bowl. Fight your kids for it. Hide it from your husband. It has a little bit of butter which can be replaced with (refined*) coconut oil if you are strictly dairy-free and it is sooooooo good. If you can avoid the temptation, it really is best the next day when it has become quite cold and the flavours have melded.
Now for the strawberry tart:Pastry Shell 3 tabs coconut sugar 1 lemon, rind only 240g GF flour mix 1/2 teas xantham gum or guar gum 60g blanched almond flour 130g lard, frozen preferably 2 small eggs Mill the sugar & rind on SP 9 for 10 seconds. Add the flour & lard and mix on SP 6 for 5 seconds. Add egg and mix on SP 6 until just forming crumbs. There is no need to rest this pastry (no gluten) but after rolling out and lining a tart tin, freeze for 15 minutes. Bake for 30 minutes in a moderate oven or until golden. (Dairy-free) Custard Crème 400g almond milk 70g coconut sugar (I used Natvia) 1 teas honey (optional) 1/4 teas vanilla bean powder 45g maize cornflour pinch salt 3 eggs 80g butter or ghee or coconut oil 30g sherry or brandy 150g coconut yoghurt In the TM, place all of the ingredients except the butter or ghee and yoghurt and cook for 8 minutes, 100C SP 4. Glaze 80g cranberry or blackcurrant juice 1 teas gelatine 1 tab water In the TM add water and sprinkle over gelatine and let sit for 5 minutes to gel. Add juice and heat on 70⁰C, SP 2, 1 minute to dissolve. Cool before brushing over your fruit tart.
100g dairy-free chocolate, melted
fresh fruit, sliced to decorate
I like to coat the shell in melted chocolate - this adds an interesting dimension and also prevents the crust from becoming soggy with the custard filling.
Fill the cooled tart shell with an even layer of custard cream and garnish with sliced fruit. Brush over the cooled glaze and refrigerate until set.
*Refined coconut oil has a milder flavour.
Retro is the new black.
Orange is the old retro!
A dear friend showed me his enormous collection of 1960′s & 1970′s kitchen paraphernalia recently. Included was some Finnish Arabia ware which was the exactly the same as the set that we had when I was growing up. This expensive set sat stagnant in the bottom of the dining room sideboard, waiting for “good”. Christmas and visitors constituted “good” in those days!
Such was the nostalgia that resonated for me, I sought out eBay and found a perfect 6 place set (circa 1971) and snapped it up tout suite. I came home with a big smile on my face while my husband thought I was bonkers! Darling, dark pottery crockery is soooooo INNN!
While admiring my friends extensive collection of retro kitchenware, we were laughing about the retro food that we were so impressed with back then. Cheese-balls, coated with flaked almonds were my first foray with blue cheese. French onion dip made with instant French onion soup mix! Prawn cocktails and Waldorf salad. And who can forget devilled eggs? Still a favourite of mine!
And then there was JELLY! Everything was jellied, or “fluffed”! Sweet or savoury, everything got the gelatine treatment and Veganism was uncharted territory!
So inspired by my Ruska Arabia ware, I give you this retro recipe, which incidentally, is very vogue!
Gelatine is really the most purest form of “instant” protein you can get. It is so good for our guts and skin and bones. Back in the 60′s & 70′s when we were jellying everything , we did it for the novelty of texture and were oblivious to the health benefits. Read more about the health benefits here.
Of course, if you are vegetarian, substitute powdered agar agar for the gelatine but the texture will be quite different. (You will need to “cook” the agar to get it to set). There is something inherently funny about the wibble wobble, wibble wobble of a jelly on a plate! Try serving it in a big bowl at a barbeque instead of tomato sauce. It is very refreshing.80g water 3 teas gelatine 4 big juicy tomatoes 1 piece celery (8cm long) 1/2 teas salt pinch cumin powder a dash of tabasco sauce 1 carrot Salsa 2 tab avocado oil 2 ripe avocados, chopped 1 tab red wine vinegar 1 teas each of finely chopped coriander & basil 1 tab sliced olives Sprinkle the gelatine on the water as set aside to bloom. In the TM, blend the tomatoes, salt, celery & carrot on SP 10 with a few blocks of ice. Pour through a nutbag and squeeze out as much juice as you can. You will need about 320g. Alternatively, put through a juicer machine. Return 100g of the juice to the TM and add the cumin & tabasco & gelatine mix. Heat to 60°C, SP 5 for 2 minutes to dissolve the gelatine. Add the remaining juice and mix well. Taste for seasoning. Grease some small ramekins with some avocado oil and pour in the juice and refrigerate for at least 6 hours to set. To make the salsa, gently toss the salsa ingredients together in a bowl and serve with the jelly.
Where is Armenia?
This tiny country is bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan to the east, and Iran to the south.
I didn’t even know there was a country called Georgia. Forgive my ignorance. On researching, I note that Armenian cuisine is very similar to that of Turkish or Iranian.
Lamb, eggplant, and bread (lavash) are basic features of Armenian cuisine. Armenians use lots of cracked wheat (burghul) in preference to maize and rice popular among their Caucasian neighbours (Georgia and Azerbaijan).
But try as I might, I cannot find any traditional recipe or history on the Armenian Nutmeg Cake.
I dug out this recipe after watching the nutmeg episode of Spice Trip, a good British TV series. It was an old favourite and an easy “food-processor” cake in the days before making cake in a blender became normal!
The traditional recipe is copiously sweet with equal amounts of sugar and flour! It has a crunchy base and light cake topping, and tastes delicious. Apparently Armenian cooking is noted for its use of spices although I could find very little to substantiate this. The nutmeg adds an earthy fragrance as the main focus.
Nutmeg is known for its many health benefits and has been used to help indigestion, pain relief and is a brain tonic. It has great antibacterial properties, and has been used for centuries in dentistry. In fact, I have vivid memories of the nutmeg cloud wafting from my childhood dentists’ clinic. It’s little wonder that I still love this spice!
I have adapted this aromatic recipe to be gluten & dairy free. As I felt so guilty using a GF flour that I didn’t make, I added some grated carrot too. (Yep, I know, there’s a warped sense of logic in that!)
I also reduced the amount of sugar which causes the base to be less crunchy but it doesn’t detract at all. The cake freezes well and I always get asked for the recipe whenever I serve it to friends. In my picture, you will see a few green specks. This is because I used some sunflower seeds as I ran out of almonds. They have a tendency to go green in baking – feel free to substitute all of the nuts for sunflower seeds to make this nut-free!1 whole nutmeg 50g almonds 280g GF flour 4 teas baking powder 150g rapadura or coconut sugar (I used Natvia) 30g molasses or honey 100g macadamia or olive oil 1 tab water 200g almond milk (or any nut milk) 3 eggs 100g grated carrot 50g chopped walnuts Mill the nutmeg on SP 10 for 1 minute. Add the almonds and mill for another 10 seconds on SP 9. Add the flour, baking powder, sugar, oil & honey and mix on SP 6 for 20 seconds. It will be crumbly and loose. If it is too dry, add the tablespoon of water. Weigh out 200g of the mix and press into a lined square tin. With the remaining mix, add the egg & milk and mix on SP 6 until smooth & creamy. Stir through the carrot and pour on top of the base. Sprinkle with walnuts and cook for 40 – 45 minutes at 170°C.