You may have noticed that my recent posts have been veering ever so slightly away from my Paleo template!
The 80/20 rule has been somewhat tested – perhaps the 80 part was the last 4 years and the 20 part, the last 4 months!
It’s time to get back on course as I have been considerably distracted lately; chocolate éclairs, vegetable pasties, choc-chip biscuits, cheesecake and Whisky cake are not very healthy OR Paleo!!
But they were DAMN FUN!
And so my sweet tooth has been fired up and hard to control, such is the seduction of sugar. I
need to have to wean myself back onto the wagon gently so I though that this recipe would make a good segue. OK, I’m kidding myself, but it’s gotta be better than going cold turkey!
This recipe is an old favourite which fits my Paleo template, even if it does have lots of natural sugars – I don’t feel so guilty indulging with my afternoon cup of tea. Dairy free and nut free, it’s a good one to freeze and makes a yummy high fibre lunch box treat.
stevia to taste (optional)
2 ripe bananas
100g butter (or 90g coconut oil)
40g coconut flour
1 teas baking powder
1 teas cinnamon
1 tab tapioca or potato flour
100g coconut milk or water
1 tab apple cider vinegar
Chop the dates on SP 9 for 10 seconds. Add the banana, butter, milk, eggs & cinnamon and mix for 10 seconds, SP 7.
Add the flours, baking powder & vinegar and mix on SP 5, 5 seconds until combined. Pour into a muffin tin and bake at 160°C oven for 25 minutes or until just done. Do not overcook as they will dry out.
It’s been several years since our trip to Vietnam and only recently, when I was flicking through my folder of collected recipes, did I find my stained & crumpled pages from a cooking class we did there.
I think it must have been one of the most memorable and fun (and tasty) classes we have done overseas. It was run by the Hoa Sua Vocational Training School in Hanoi, where proceeds go to educating and training disadvantaged kids.
Our teacher was a very stern but beautiful trans-gender chef, who taught us how to make fresh spring rolls, grilled turmeric fish and this dish; lemongrass chicken.
We were introduced to stinkweed (sawtooth coriander), galangal juice and the unusual use of dill and majoram in Vietnamese cooking. And we learnt what a huge difference it makes to grill directly over charcoal, rather than a BBQ.
Sometimes a really good recipe is not so much about the recipe but the assembling of a number of ingredients. I admit that after making this dish in Vietnam, I have never really measured any of the ingredients but thrown it all together to my taste – which is what I would encourage you to do too!
The contrast in temperatures and textures of this dish appeals to me – hot grilled lemongrass chicken, paired with cool crunchy vegetables like cucumber, carrots, bean sprouts or daikon. Fresh aromatic herbs, vermicelli rice noodles and the tangy Vietnamese Nuoc Cham dressing – are a feast for the senses… fragrant, lively and bright.
Assembled as a noodle bowl, known as Bun Ga Nuong, it can be made with grilled chicken or prawns, marinated with lots of lemongrass. Vermicelli rice noodles are traditional in the dish, but for a low-carb option, try substituting daikon “noodles” or shiratake.
I think the fresh lemongrass in this recipe is the star of the dish. It is fragrant and zingy and really can’t be substituted for exact effect. I have some lemongrass in our garden which is struggling a bit – we planted it in an area where it is too dry. Lemongrass LOVES water and heat and I have friends who say that it can take over if not careful. For now, my lemongrass has produced puny stalks so I am resigned to paying for the expensive stuff at the markets.
When I buy a bunch, I peel away the tough outer layers of the lemongrass stalks and separate the white and very light green portions from the green, which I save and freeze. I make a paste with the white/light green parts and use the dark green parts for steeping in soups or tea or steaming in rice.
To make the paste, slice the white & green parts finely (yes, even if you are using your Thermomix!) and then grind on SP 10 with a pinch of salt. It works better if you are using at least 6 stems and the time taken will vary, depending on the coarseness of the stalk. Freeze the pulp in an ice tray and then remove to a jar to keep in the freezer for easy, instant lemongrass.
You can buy lemongrass pulp from the supermarket but it is filled with preservatives and citric acid which changes the taste considerably. I have also tried dried lemongrass powder which doesn’t taste like lemongrass at all!! Just wood shavings!!
250g chicken thigh fillets
1 clove garlic
juice of 1 fresh lime
1 tab fish sauce
1 tab tamari or soy sauce
1 tab coconut sugar
1 tab macadamia oil
3 tabs minced lemongrass, white part only
50g fresh papaya (green or yellow)* optional
Place the marinade ingredients into the TM and blend on SP 6 for 15 seconds. Add the chicken thighs and mix on SP SLOW REVERSE to combine and then set aside to marinate for at least 2 hours, or better still, overnight.
Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce
50g rice vinegar
60g fish sauce
40g coconut or palm sugar (more or less to taste)
Juice of 1 lime
1 red chilli, sliced
½ teas salt
1 clove garlic
Mix dressing ingredients on SP 3 for 2 minutes at 90⁰C & strain & cool. Adjust to your taste – spicier or sweeter.
To Assemble Noodle Bowl
100g dried vermicelli noodles** or shiratake or daikon
1 carrot, julienned
1 cucumber, sliced
1½ cups shredded lettuce
1 handful bean sprouts
Small handful of mint leaves, preferably Vietnamese, if you can get it
Small handful of Thai basil leaves
Sliced chili & Lime wedges to serve
Soak the vermicelli noodles in hot water for 3 minutes (or according to packet instructions), then drain and rinse under cold water to stop the noodles from sticking together.
Heat your BBQ grill or charcoal grill to hot and cook chicken on each side until brown (almost charred) and chicken is just cooked through. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes then slice thinly.
To serve individually, place noodles in bowl. Then add the chosen vegetables and top with chicken pieces. Garnish liberally with the mint and basil and drizzle with a few tablespoons of Nuoc Cham Sauce and serve with lime wedges.
Often, I will just put everything on a large platter for everyone to help themselves.
* The papaya is a great tenderiser and will give you that “bite-tender” mouth feel that you get in Vietnamese restaurants.
** Look for the ones made in Vietnam as they are finer.
As a child, my family had a regular tradition of visiting my grandparents house every Saturday whilst my father religiously punched in at the (horse)races.
My grandmother, Eileen – whom we called “Eini”, would prepare miles of toasted sandwiches, arranged in assorted points, for all of the extended family who dropped by. There would be a production line of women buttering bread, layering them with various combinations of ham, cheese, tomato, chicken loaf (heaven forbid!), sometimes canned asparagus, mustard – and on special occasions, pineapple. And then someone would be at the end of the line, frying them up on the Sunbeam electric frying pan, to be cut into triangles and served on an enormous platter for whoever was present in front of the Saturday afternoon movie with my grumpy grandfather, Frank**.
It was a house filled with the smell of brown butter and chatter, with lots of aunties & young cousins, and was quite a contrast to my family home, which seemed empty in comparison.
But the highlight of the day was discovering what Eini had baked for the day! Pillowy lamingtons, airy passion-fruit sponge, chocolate éclairs, or chocolate cake. Whatever was on offer, it was guaranteed to be accompanied by oodles of freshly whipped cream! Oh, what a highlight to my week!! Now can you understand where I got my my sweet tooth from!
I think my favourite were the chocolate éclairs. Coated in a shiny chocolate fondant, they were fat and gorged with fresh cream. Reluctantly, we would impatiently tour the garden, admiring the new rose bush or marvel at the grafted fruit tree which had BOTH apples and pears growing on it, before we could go back indoors for CAKE!
I mean, what 8 year old is interested in rose varietals, when there are fresh lamingtons awaiting!!
Eini was a marvellous baker and a keen sweet tooth herself. Bless her.
Chocolate éclairs are just one of the many delights made with choux pastry. The word comes from French éclair ‘flash of lightning’, so named because it is eaten in a flash! I love anything made with choux: Beignets, croquembouche, Paris Brest, Gougiere^, to name a few!
Choux pastry, or pâte à choux, is a twice cooked pastry dough that contains butter, water, flour and eggs. The “rise” during baking, relies on the high moisture content which causes it to produce steam when cooked, which puffs the pastry.
I have played with choux pastry before in the past and I have discovered that the process can’t be rushed. Before the arrival of my thermomix, the method involved some serious arm muscle; beating the cooked roux to a smooth paste. The ease of the thermomix renders one a little impatient so its easy to want to rush. It’s important to cool the dough well before adding the eggs, you will impair the rise otherwise.
Whilst I like choux puffs on the softer side, you still need to bake them enough to dry them out or they will collapse like shrivelled prunes. To keep them tender, you need a good proportion of eggs, but too many will make them eggy. Using gluten free flour will create a crisper puff and no one will know the difference!
My recipe uses a higher proportion of butter than usual recipes. This, and a slightly less flour/liquid ratio helps when I use gluten free flour. If you are lactose intolerant, ghee works well too but I haven’t tried it with other oils. To me, choux pastry is all about the butter flavour.
Lots of recipes will advise to pierce the shells after baking to allow the steam to escape. I do this but then I put them back in the oven and let them dry out as the oven cools. The shells should be crisp and light to hold their shape. Depending on the filling, they will soften after you fill them. I prefer my chocolate éclairs with a fondant icing rather than melted chocolate. In an effort to reduce the sugar – I have made a sort of hybrid icing*. Feel free to use either plain melted chocolate or ganache or your own stock standard icing! Enjoy!
60g butter (or ghee)
75g gluten-free flour (I used this one)
1 big pinch salt
2 large eggs
Heat the water and butter until boiling, for 3 minutes at 100°C SP 2.
Add the flour and salt all at once and continue to cook at 100°C on SP 3 for 30 seconds.
The dough will be very thick and form a ball. Remove from the TM and set aside to cool.
When cool, return to the TM bowl and beat on SP 4. Add the eggs,through the lid hole, bit by bit, whilst still beating to incorporate. When incorporated, whip for a further minute at SP 4.
Use a piping bag to pipe the batter into 15cm strips on a lined baking tray. Bake in a 200°C oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven down to 150°C and continue to cook for another 20 minutes. Alternatively, spoon dollop-fuls onto a tray for profiteroles.
Remove from the oven and pierce with a sharp knife then return to the oven to cool. Store in an airtight container until ready to fill.
80g dark chocolate (I used sugar-free, dairy-free)
30g rapadura sugar
50g brown rice syrup
50 – 80g water
Grind the chocolate with the sugar on SP 9 for 5 seconds. Add the syrup & 50g water and cook for 2 minutes at 50°C, SP 3. It should be the consistency of runny cream. Add a little more water if required. Pour into a shallow bowl for dipping. The mix will firm up in the fridge.
I found it easier to split the éclairs before dipping the tops and refrigerating for an hour or so to firm up, before filling.
** He wasn’t always grumpy, just after he had a stroke and became immobile….
^ Look out for a post on Gougiere soon!!
These days everybody knows quinoa. Its popularity became rife in the mid-2000s as a gluten-free superfood. In recognition of its health benefits, especially compared to other grains like wheat, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization declared 2013 “The International Year of the Quinoa.” But there’s a new grain (actually seed) gaining traction in kitchens worldwide, that is in many respects healthier and more ethical than quinoa. It’s called teff.
Cultivated in Ethiopia and Eritrea for anywhere between three and six thousand years, teff is best known as the main ingredient in the spongy and sour injera flat-bread. The teff seed, as small as a poppy seed, is packed with protein and nutrients and they call it Ethiopia’s second gift to the world – the first being coffee.
It’s huge production potential has protected the Ethiopians from hunger during food scarcity. One pound of teff can produce up to one ton of grain in only 12 weeks. This amount is hundreds of times smaller than that required for planting wheat.
Like quinoa, teff is a gluten-free grain and is one of the most nutritionally impressive. It has a high calcium, iron & protein content and contains all eight vital amino acids.
Despite having a higher carbohydrate content than quinoa, teff is high in resistant starch, which helps blood sugar management, weight control, and colon health. Quinoa’s carbs are mainly starch and insoluble fibre.
The seeds can be white or brown or red and produce a fine flour that can be used to make breads, biscuits and cakes. I find the brown teff easier to find. Brown teff has a subtle hazelnut, almost chocolate-like flavour and a moist texture similar to millet. White teff has a milder flavour than the brown.
It has similar versatility to corn meal and millet. Delicious in porridge, stews, stuffing, and pilaf, teff can be cooked alone or in combination with other grains and vegetables. Teff is quick cooking and there is no need to pre-rinse. Boil 1 cup of grain in 3 cups of water for 20 minutes. They also use it in gluten free beer.
On its own, teff can be a bit heavy – especially unfermented˜, I like to mix it with gluten free flour to achieve a lighter result in my baking as I have done in this recipe. Yes, I know – another chocolate cake recipe – there can never be enough! The flavour of teff goes so well with chocolate. This cake is an easy mix, light and moist. The recipe is very versatile. It can be made dairy-free and/or nut-free depending on the fat you use. It makes great cupcakes, as it does a layer cake to be filled with cream. It is also resilient enough to make chocolate lamingtons if you bake it in a tray. It is quite a large recipe so halve the quantity to make 8 cupcakes or keep a full quantity to make 2 round cakes to be filled.
120g teff seeds – brown, red or white
120g dark chocolate (I use sugar free, dairy free)
250g dandelion tea (or water or black coffee)
150g butter or 120g olive oil (or macadamia oil)
40g cacao powder
150g gluten-free flour*
150g rapadura sugar (add a little stevia if you like it sweeter)
3 eggs – 4 if small
3 teas baking powder
1 teas apple cider vinegar
Mill the teff seeds on SP 9 for a full minute. It may look right after 45 seconds but can be gritty if under milled. Set aside.
Grind the chocolate & sugar for 5 seconds on SP 8. Add the tea (or water) and the butter (or oil) and mix on SP 3 for 3 minutes at 50°C.
Add the remaining ingredients and blend on SP 6 for 20 seconds. It will be a smooth batter, almost like thick cream consistency. Pour into a cupcake tray and bake for 12 minutes at 170°C. Do not over cook as they can dry out.
If making a large tray for lamingtons, bake for 45 minutes at 170°C or until a skewer comes out clean.
*Gluten free flours vary greatly – if not using my own recipe I will use the Orgran brand as it has no soy and is not too “ricey”. Gluten free flours tend to be very thirsty and can dry out easily. If you try this recipe and it seems a bit stiff, add a little more water. Find other great gluten free flour mixes from my friends, Leslie and Jo; here and here.
˜I am looking forward to experimenting with fermenting it to make injera.
I do love pork belly. Especially when it is roasted and served with a crackling crispy skin. But pork belly also makes a fabulous stew. The strata of fat leaves the pork moist and succulent and the result is rich and flavourful – a little goes a long way.
Now that it is cooler, we are craving something more substantial and warming. This dish is a hybrid of an old Hungarian recipe with a Portuguese one! I wanted to use my incaberries in a savoury dish rather than another sweet recipe, and I think that I hit on something great here! The incaberries tartness cut through the richness of the meat – and the seeds add fabulous texture. This dish was really popular with my family, everyone asking when we were having it again!
500g pork belly, cut in 3cm cubes
1/2 teas salt
1 teas smoked paprika
200g onion (1 large)
3 garlic cloves
30g olive oil
80g hot salami slices, shredded
200g tomatoes (3 large)
2 tabs vege stock paste
300g cabbage or eggplant
2 sprigs rosemary
handful pitted olives
1 small green capsicum, cut into 8 pieces
Sprinkle the pork with salt & paprika and leave for an hour.
Chop onion & garlic for 3 seconds on SP 5. Add oil and sauté for 7 mins at 100°C on SP 1.
Add tomato & pork sauté for 5 mins on 100°C, REVERSE SP 1.
Coarsely chop the cabbage and/or eggplant into chunks and place in the Varoma tray.
To the TM, add water, stock, rosemary and salami and cook for 20 mins on VAROMA temp, SP 1 REVERSE with the Varoma tray on top to steam the vegetables.
Set the cabbage aside and add the incaberries, capsicum and olives and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. Serve with the steamed vegetables on mashed potato or my winter parsnip mash.
Go here for another warming and yummy pork belly stew.
Recently, I was very lucky to receive some sample products from the lovely Melanie at the Source Bulk Foods shop in Bulimba.
I am familiar with the brand as I have regularly visited their Balmain store on my Sydney travels and I was very excited to hear that they have opened a franchise in Brisbane. Who doesn’t love a sample pack? Are you one of those people who buys a magazine because it comes with a “sample bag” of goodies?! I used to be, when I was interested in packaged foods, but the lure isn’t so strong now!
Anyhow, Melanie put together a fabulous box containing dried incaberries, Gold Coast honey, hazelnuts, pecans, and banana flour amongst other goodies and my challenge was to develop a recipe with all of the above!!
I got very excited about the banana flour as I haven’t used it in my cooking yet and I think some serious experimenting is in order, so I put that one aside for more attention. I have had incaberries before and had really felt ho-hum about them. The dried ones I had tried previously were very tart, with almost a
chemically taste bitterness to them.
These incaberries were quite different – they were delicious. Yes, they were tart, but they were also very sweet and fragrant. So I chose the incaberries to be the star of my recipe.
I have known the incaberry as a cape gooseberry but it is also known as the Aztec berry, golden berry or pichuberry. Not to be confused with a Chinese gooseberry, it is closely related to the tomatillo and you can easily see the resemblance as it grows within a papery bladder-like calyx. The fruit resembles a miniature, yellow tomato and is full of tiny seeds. Sweet when ripe, it has a characteristic, tart flavour. As a member of the plant family Solanaceae, it is more distantly related to a large number of edible plants, including tomato, eggplant, potato and other members of the nightshades.
If you are lucky enough to find them fresh, they last for up to 2 months if the fruit is left inside the intact calyx husks. Native to high-altitude, South America, it has only recently become an important crop and is grown in China, Egypt, South Africa and since 2011, now Australia. I’m told that it is very easy to grow and will have to find some seeds to plant!
Hailed as the next “superfood” after goji (probably as their ORAC rating is higher), I am inclined to disagree.
What is a superfood anyway?! Despite having good levels of antioxidants, they have only a modest vitamin/mineral value and like other dried fruit, about half their weight is carbohydrates with a lot of natural sugars.
Incaberries have a reasonable amount of protein (6.4 %), but not as high as goji which has 12% (Meat as a comparison is 20% protein). Due to the tiny seeds, they have the highest fibre content of all dried fruit at nearly 20%, more than dried figs (14% ). Nutritionally, they are akin to cross between a dried fig and a dried apricot.
Now that the weather in Brisbane is finally heading in a cooler direction, the season for puddings will be soon upon us! Hooray for pudding!!
I have made the incaberries into a paste for this pudding recipe. Incidentally, fresh or dried, incaberries make fabulous jam. I have added just a smidgeon of honey to the paste to take the edge off the tartness, feel free to use more honey if you are inclined.
To keep these puddings gluten free, I have used hazelnut meal and buckwheat flour. Almond flour will work nicely too, but it’s a nice point of difference. If you use some silicon cupcake pans in your steamer, this recipe will make about 12 little puddings. I like to use dariole moulds which are slightly bigger so I only get about 10 puddings.
120g dried incaberries
1 tab honey
50g fresh ginger
70g rapadura sugar
1 teas dried ginger
2 teas baking powder
1 tab apple cider vinegar
Chop the incaberries coarsely on SP 8 for 5 seconds. Add the water and cook on SP 2 for 14 minutes at 100°C.
Add the butter and honey and blend on SP 9 for 10 seconds. You will have a paste – set aside.
In a clean dry TM bowl, mill the buckwheat on SP 10 for 10 seconds. Add the hazelnuts and grind for a further 10 seconds. Set aside.
Grind the fresh ginger on SP 10 for 10 seconds. Add the sugar, butter and blend on SP 6 for 10 seconds. Add the remaining ingredients, including the nuts and buckwheat and mix on SP 5 for 20 seconds until well combined and smooth.
In well greased ramekins, place a teaspoon of inca paste and then top with some pudding batter. Seal each one with foil. This recipe makes 10 small steamed puddings.
Place 700g water in the TM and set the varoma to steam for 27 minutes on VAROMA temp, SP 3.
I’m not sure how, but we seemed to have a profusion of carrots recently. We had family staying who were more than happy to stock the fridge and carrots seemed to be the vegetable of choice! Funnily enough, I don’t seem to eat carrots very often, despite loving them as a kid and still enjoying them now. I think that the bulk of my vegetable intake tends to be green and the colours are added as a garnish.
But coloured vegetables are very good for you! Up until recently, carrots were reputed to be the ultimate health food. Alongside celery, they were considered “rabbit food” for humans!
It is believed that the carrot was first cultivated around Afghanistan, thousands of years ago, as a small forked purple or yellow root with a woody and bitter flavour, resembling nothing of the carrot we know today. Purple, red, yellow and white carrots were cultivated long before the appearance of the now popular orange carrot, which was developed and stabilized by Dutch growers in the 16th and 17th centuries. Hence, “Dutch carrots”. Like apples, the modern day carrot has been bred to be sweet, crunchy and aromatic, although the heirloom purple & yellow varieties are considered pretty trendy nowadays.
Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A, providing over 200% of the average adult’s needs for the day. They also provide vitamin C, calcium & iron. It is the antioxidant beta-carotene that gives carrots their bright orange colour, which is absorbed in the intestine and converted into vitamin A during digestion. The antioxidants in purple & yellow carrots are anthocyanin, lycopene and lutein. These antioxidants are evident in reducing cancer risks by reducing free radicals in the body.
Do they really help you see better at night? Well, only if you have a vitamin A deficiency as a vitamin A deficiency causes part of the eye’s photo-receptors to deteriorate, damaging normal vision. The rumour was started during World War 2 by the British Royal Air Force to conceal their new radar system from the Germans. It’s interesting how health science was manipulated even back then!
The distinction between this salad and others is that the carrots are cooked. Like tomatoes and spinach, cooked carrots supply more antioxidants, such as carotenoids and ferulic acid, to the body than they do when raw. At least, that is, if they’re boiled or steamed. Frying or baking is not so optimum for bioavailability.
I like to serve this salad at room temperature to maximise the flavours. Use medium size carrots and peel them if the skins are tough. I have made this recipe with turnips, potato and celeriac too. Mix them up! The cumin is optional – my husband HATES cumin so I have to sprinkle mine on afterwards!
450g carrots, peeled and cut into batons
1 handful flat leafed parsley
1 handful coriander leaves
2 tabs olive oil
1 tab red wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 teas ground coriander
1 clove garlic
a big pinch dried chilli flakes, or to taste
1 tab honey
1 tea cumin seeds
20 kalamata olives, pitted & chopped
Toast the cumin seeds on SP 2, VAROMA temp for 3 minutes. Set aside.
Place the carrots in the steamer basket and steam over 500g water for 16 minutes on VAROMA temp, SP 4. The carrots should be bright and tender. Drain and set aside.
In the TM, chop the garlic & herbs with the salt for 10 seconds. Add the remaining dressing ingredients and mix on SP 6 for 10 seconds. Toss the hot carrots with the dressing and allow to cool.
On cooling the carrots will absorb the dressing flavours. Add the olives & cumin seeds and taste for seasoning before serving. I like to serve this at a BBQ or on a mezze plate.
Got lots of carrots? Try my other carrot recipes with a difference:
© Copyright. These recipes are my own. These photos are my own. These stories are my own. You are welcome to share my link to my site for the recipe. However, please refrain from republishing any of my content in its entirety. clevercook – Sarah Wong