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Apple of my Eye – Mothers Day Pie

April 25, 2017

Seeing as Mothers Day is fast approaching (Sunday 14th May 2017), I was thinking about a favourite dessert that my mum used to make: apple pie. Rather than baked in a typical pie dish, she always made it on a flat sheet, resembling a buttery pastry mountain Uluru, crammed with freshly stewed apples. It was delicious hot or cold and would last for a few days as it was a generous recipe.

Whilst my friends were chowing down on “snot blocks” and jam donuts from the school canteen, I would always prefer the apple shortcakes which were much more like flat little pies. They were filled with a sweet & gloopy apple mixture and blanketed with a thick layer of white fondant! I have never seen them here in Queensland and have fond memories of chipping off the icing in thick shards. This recipe is definitely a refined version; much healthier and gluten-free.

Australia produces a large range of apples, but the top five most popular apples in Australia are: Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Pink Lady, Fuji and Gala.  As a kid I only remember there ever being Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Jonathans.  We would drive out to the orchards (now 30-year-old housing estates) and buy 3 kg bags and munch on them in the car on the way home. Those were the days when the bakery closed at 12 noon on a Saturday with the queue starting at 8am! But I digress.

I always use granny smith apples to cook with as they are lovely and tart but if you prefer a sweeter pie, you could use your favourite.

By the way, Granny Smith apples are named after Mrs Maria Ann Smith (1799-1870), who in the mid 1800’s cultivated the first crop of our now famous Granny Smith apples. She was an illiterate who migrated to Kissing Point (Ryde), New South Wales under the government bounty scheme in 1838.

It is said that she had developed a seedling from the remains of some French crab-apples grown in Tasmania. The apple was not a commercial variety in her lifetime but its cultivation was sustained by local orchardist’s and by 1892 ‘Granny Smith’s seedlings’ had begun to win prizes in the cooking-apple class.

What are your favourite apples to cook with?

I like to steam my apples in the Thermomix, rather than cook them in the TM bowl as I like them to retain their shape.  Just peel and quarter them (or cut in eight, depending on the size), place them on the Varoma tray, sprinkle with a little lemon juice and steam for 15-20 minutes, Temp Varoma, SP 1. I only use about 350g water.

By all means you can cook them on the stove in a little water or use canned apple.

                             Ready for the oven

You will need about 450g stewed apple – cooled.

Spices: cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to taste

1 tab currants

2 – 4 tabs sugar (to taste)

1 teas tapioca flour (or cornflour)

For the pastry:

3 tabs sugar
1 lemon, rind only
240g GF flour mix
½ teas xanthan gum (or guar gum)*Optional
110g cold butter
1 egg + 1 egg, beaten & divided
2 ice cubes
Mill the sugar & rind on SP 9, 5 seconds
Add the flour, butter & ice and mix on SP 7, 5 seconds
Add 1 whole egg and half an egg, mix on SP 6 until just forming a dough.
Rest the dough in the fridge for 20 mins, then divide in 2. Roll out half the dough into a 7mm base.  Sprinkle the base with a dusting of tapioca flour** then top with apples, currants, spice and a little sugar if required.
Roll out a larger round of dough and squish the edges up. Brush with the remaining egg and sprinkle the top liberally with sugar. Prick with a fork to allow the steam to escape and bake for 30 – 40 minutes in a moderate oven or until golden. Serve hot, cold or warm with cream or ice-cream. Or nude!
* Helps to keep the pastry strong without breaking.
** The tapioca flour helps absorb the juices from the apples, preventing the base from going soggy.

Chocolate Cherry Brioche Pudding – Happy Easter!

March 30, 2017

It’s nearly Easter time – hot cross buns, family get-togethers, the Easter bunny and of course…..CHOCOLATE!

I have to admit, I have been partaking in far too much chocolate recently, so rather than another chocolate recipe, I have decided to offer you this as my Easter contribution.

My husband woo-ed me with this dish. Well, it was a much sweeter, gluten-ful version!  And it was LOVE at first bite!

Many moons ago (when we were still trying to impress each-other), my yet-to-be husband and I would plan intimate little dinner parties for two, with lavish 3 course meals inspired by extensive research of my cookbook collection. (This was before the internet was even considered a recipe resource.) One did the cooking for the other, and we would alternate spoiling each-other with a fine dining experience in our own home. The one that wasn’t cooking was banned from the kitchen while the cook spent the day (sometimes two) toiling over a hot stove as an expression of love. Aaaawwww! I think back to those meals with fondness, when life was simpler and everything was rose coloured! I should have done this post for Valentines day but I wasn’t organised enough!

I’m not sure where he got this recipe from but it has been stored in the back of my mind as one of those special but rarely visited treats as it would have never have jumped out at me to make myself.

I never had bread and butter pudding as a kid, it seemed so alien to me. Those I encountered as an adult were always stodgy, heavy affairs, often served cold which offered no appeal to me. Something about this recipe resonated with my husband (as he did grow up with bread and butter pudding) and I am so glad that he introduced it to me all those years ago.

The secret is to use brioche instead of bread – and less of it. This recipe is almost a custard pudding rather than a bread pudding as it is amazingly light – but rich! It is studded with chocolate and cherries which makes it as decadent a dessert as you will find – and one certainly worth being woo-ed with!

You can certainly substitute the cream with coconut cream and the milk for nut milk but don’t tell my husband as he would be horrified! I used a 600g bottle of pitted cherries and had some leftover.  Try to find a light and airy brioche or panettone although finding a gluten-free one might prove difficult so I tend to make my own. Don’t worry – it IS worth it!  This will make a great dessert for your family Easter feast as it can be done the day before, or certainly prepared in the morning. Have a Happy Easter!

3 extra large eggs (4 if smaller)

250g cream

250g milk

2 tabs sugar* (or Natvia)

pinch cinnamon


350g brioche (stale)

200g cherries, drained

120g chocolate chips

200g drained cherry juice

2 teas cornflour

1 tab port or sherry

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.

In a wide bowl whisk the eggs, milk, cream, sugar, cinnamon & vanilla well.

Roughly chop the brioche into 1 inch dice. Place into the bowl with the drained cherries and chocolate and mix the custard in gently, trying to avoid breaking up the bread. This is certainly not health food!

Tip into a greased baking dish and let stand for at least an hour or overnight and bake for 45 minutes, turning the oven down to 160°C after 5 minutes of putting it in the oven.

While it is baking, make the cherry sauce by adding the cherry juice, cornflour and port to the TM and cook on SP 3 at 100°C for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool. Serve the pudding warm with the cooled cherry sauce with fresh cream.

*I find that the chocolate and cherries sweeten this enough, but add more to taste.

Pete’s Magic Muffins

March 18, 2017

These will always be known as Pete’s Magic muffins, even if I have converted them to gluten-free and significantly reduced the sugar. I can’t exactly say that I have healthified the recipe as they contain copious amounts of white chocolate and there’s no getting out of that one!

White chocolate is not really chocolate at all but a derivative of chocolate as it does not contain the cocoa solids, the nutritional constituent of chocolate liquor—chocolate in its raw, unsweetened form. During the manufacturing process, the dark-coloured solids of the cocoa bean are separated from its fatty content, as in milk, semi-sweet, and dark chocolate. But, unlike those other chocolate types, the cocoa solids are not recombined. As a result, this wonderful fat; cocoa butter, is the only cacao ingredient in white chocolate. Because it contains no cocoa solids, white chocolate lacks the antioxidant properties of dark chocolate, such as thiamine, riboflavin, and phenylethylamine. So you can’t even eat it and feel vaguely virtuous about it except that it contains trace amounts of the stimulants theobromine and caffeine, if that’s your thing!

Good quality white chocolate will contain cocoa butter that is not deodorised, retaining its lovely strong flavour and will contain some natural anti-oxidant as vitamin E, but cheaper white chocolates are deodorised via steam stripping and flavour is artificially added (usually in the form of vanilla). Fake white chocolate, known as confectioner’s coating (think yoghurt coated sultanas), is made from inexpensive solid or hydrogenated vegetable and animal fats, and are not at all derived from cocoa.

Anyhow,  real white chocolate is sweet and creamy and buttery and a delicious foil for the sharpness of the fresh strawberries in this recipe. You could substitute dark chocolate for the white and use any other berry instead of the strawberries, but this is my favourite combination.

So why are they called Pete’s magic muffins? The original recipe was gleaned from an old colleague when I worked in the art department of a local school. Peter was a fellow art teacher whose zest of life and all things creative was insatiable. He was considered by far, the coolest of teachers by the male student body!  He couldn’t believe that a recipe as simple as this, made muffins that tasted like ‘pure magic’! The original recipe had rolled oats and all-bran cereal with double the sugar – needless to say, I have made a few tweaks here and there, but I think they are still magic!

160g gluten-free SR flour

120g sorghum flour

80g rapadura sugar (or Natvia)

5 tabs flaked quinoa

60g shredded coconut

2 teas baking powder

170g white chocolate chips

4 eggs

260g milk (or nut milk)

100g oil

250g fresh strawberries, sliced

In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients together.

In the TM bowl (or in a jug) whip the wet ingredients together on SP 6 for 10 seconds. Add the mixture with the sliced strawberries to the dry ingredients and mix very lightly. It will be quite runny and lumpy.

Sprinkle the tops with a little extra sugar and bake at 170°C for about 25 minutes. It makes about 13 muffins so the recipe can easily be halved for an after school snack! They are best eaten warm out of the oven but freeze well.

Banana, Date and Walnut Loaf

March 3, 2017

datewalnut-bananacakeDate and Walnuts are a perfect match! Just like chocolate & hazelnut or ham & cheese!

This moist date loaf is based on bananas and carrots and has no refined sugar.  I had a surplus of bananas to use up last week and was looking for something a bit different so came up with this. It’s full of healthy stuff including teff (or you could substitute quinoa) and walnuts but they could be omitted if you are nut-free and is also dairy-free. The molasses contributes a good dose of iron also.

Dates would have to be one of my favourite sugars, they are rich in several vitamins, minerals and fibre. These delicious fruits contain calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, selenium , zinc and magnesium which are all beneficial for health. They are a natural source of energy, sugar and soluble fibre and promote healthy bowels!

I do try not to eat too many as they are so very sweet, but I have used them here instead of sugar. The soft medjool dates are a favourite but they are super expensive so I use the ‘garden variety’ dried type in this recipe.  Try to find ones that are not coated in oil or added preservatives.

I’m also happy to say that “chia eggs” work well in this recipe so it will suit those who are egg-free too!

170g teff (or quinoa)

100g carrot

140g dried dates, pitted + 80g dates, pitted & chopped

100g water

1 teas bicarb

1 teas cinnamon

400g ripe bananas (or you could substitute roasted sweet potato)

60g molasses

80g oil

2 teas baking powder

2 eggs (or 2 tabs chia seeds soaked in 6 tabs water)

100g walnuts, chopped (optional)

Mill the teff (or quinoa) on SP 9 for 30 seconds. Set aside.

Chop the carrot finely on SP 4 for 10 seconds. Set aside.

Add 140g dates and 100g water with the cinnamon to the TM bowl and cook on 100°C for 2 minutes on SP 1. Stir through the bicarb and set the paste aside.

Without cleaning the bowl add the bananas, eggs, oil & molasses. Blend on SP 5 until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients: flour, date paste, carrot, baking powder, extra dates and walnuts and stir through on SP 2 REVERSE.

Pour into a loaf pan and bake for 40 – 50 minutes at 170°C. It will be quite moist. Serve with lashings of butter for afternoon tea or with caramel sauce and ice-cream for a decadent dessert.

*I love a dark molasses-y loaf and ginger would be a welcome addition.


Open Sesame on my Paleo Thoughts

February 5, 2017


Goodness, it’s been a long time between posts!

I’m afraid that life has been getting in the way of me doing the things I love; coupled with the stifling hot weather we have been having here for the last month – I have been feeling extremely lethargic and unmotivated.

Anyway, I’m diving back into my kitchen with some cooler recipes to start this 2017. Paleo Magnum anyone?!

My love affair with Paleo has relaxed somewhat – not that I have changed my mind or beliefs – but I have seen that many people in the Paleo sphere treat Paleo like it’s a food religion. I know, I used to be there. Now that the word has become dare I say it more mainstream, those religious beliefs are what the lifestyle has become mocked for. Don’t get me wrong, if you are wanting to change your diet for the better, an all or nothing approach can be helpful.

Going over my blog, I have dabbled with low-carb, GAPS and ketogenic diets whilst staying predominantly Paleo and always gluten-free. (Except for the really early days pre-Paleo) It has been an interesting experience learning about what works for my body and what doesn’t. I do believe that my few years of puritan Paleo ways were a valuable reset for my body and recommend it as a good tool for being mindful. When many people went with the 80/20 rule, I was always steaming forward 110% as is my nature, however, I have relaxed somewhat and perhaps follow a 70/30 philosophy now!

I still make cauliflower rice and spiralise my zucchini but I make less paleo bread and chocolate. I buy a good almond milk rather than make it myself and eat more dairy these days in the form of yoghurt and cream cheese.  I still love to do all my baking but will use more sugar and less Natvia than I have in the past. As you will have observed my love affair with Japan – it’s virtually IMPOSSIBLE to steer clear of sugar and gluten and preservatives over there, it’s lucky I only go there once a year! Noticing a food hangover after one of my Japanese sojourns is always a good reminder of what the benefits of eating clean are.

Which brings me to my last trip! Despite it being cooler weather in Japan last November, I was craving lots of salad and the Japanese have perfected coleslaw as an art! True to form, a Japanese coleslaw is impeccably fresh, beautifully cut cabbage (chiffonade) served nude. That’s it! It is served with perhaps a few cherry tomatoes and a little shredded nori as a garnish. Then it is served with some goma (sesame)  dressing which is slightly sweet.  I love how they always serve this on the side so you can add as much or as little you like.

Whipped up in the Thermomix or your magic bullet, it is made in seconds and keeps well in the fridge. My husband is addicted to it and it is really nutritious to boot! Sesame seeds are an excellent source of calcium, magnesium and iron. They have beneficial fibres called lignans, which have been shown to have a cholesterol-lowering effects. And they taste wonderfully nutty; but beware – their high oil content lends them to go rancid easily so store them in the fridge and only buy small quantities at a time.

Japanese Goma Dressing

50g sesame seeds, lightly toasted

50g rice vinegar

2 tabs tamari or soy sauce

2 scant teas of sugar (or substitute with Stevia)

1 tab Japanese mirin

1 tab sesame oil

120g mayonnaise (I use homemade)

1 tab water

Place all ingredients into your blender and process until smooth. Add a little more water if you prefer a thinner sauce. It will thicken slightly on standing and will last for a couple of weeks in the fridge. Serve on some finely shredded cabbage or any salad you like – it’s a addictive!!






Salad Days!

December 9, 2016


I admit that it has been hard to get back into the kitchen after my recent holiday in Japan. No doubt you got sick of being inundated by my Facebook stream, saturated with all things Japanese. #sorrynotsorry! We truly had a wonderful time and genuinely love the culture – I wonder if I was Japanese in another life? I did find a lot of the food a bit too sweet after a while, and my palate certainly did adjust; as I can attest, it certainly had a shock when we came home!

Something that I didn’t see much of in the land of the rising sun was celery – and I have been craving it since coming back. And another shock to my system is our oppressive Queensland humidity which has hit with full force – we left a mild Fukuoka winter. So we will be living on celery salad until well into the new year!!

Waldorf salad was first created in the late 1800’s at the Waldorf Hotel in New York City, and is made of fresh apples, celery, grapes and walnuts. It is dressed in mayonnaise and usually served on a bed of lettuce. The original recipe did not contain nuts but they had been added by the time the recipe appeared in The Rector Cook Book in 1928. Other ingredients, such as chicken, turkey, dates or raisins are sometimes added.

I’m not so keen on the addition of grapes and raisins but I do like to add some roasted chicken and a little curry powder to make this into a more substantial summer meal.  Given my recent Japanese influence I have changed the curry powder to wasabi for a refreshing change. My measurements are loose – use more of what you like and less of what you don’t. I prefer less apple so that it’s not so sweet but the kids love it.

4 large ribs fresh celery, cut into 1 cm dice

1 apple, cut into 1 cm dice

1 small zucchini, cut into 1 cm dice

1 avocado*, cut into 1 cm dice

handful of finely chopped parsley

2 – 3 tabs mayonnaise**

3 tabs vinaigrette, or enough to bind.

½ – 1 teas wasabi powder (or 1 teas curry powder)

a handful of walnuts, chopped

2 cooked chicken breasts, chopped (optional)


Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl and serve on a bed of baby spinach.

*use a firmer avocado so that it doesn’t squash into oblivion when you mix the salad.

**Or you could use this salad dressing instead of the mayonnaise & vinaigrette


Gluten Free Brioche! WHAT??!

October 27, 2016

briocheBrioche is a classic French pastry, similar to a highly enriched bread, whose high egg and butter content give it a rich and tender crumb. Chef Joel Robuchon describes it as “light and puffy, according to the proportion of butter and eggs.” It usually has a dark and golden crust, accentuated by an egg wash which gives it a gorgeous lacquered shell.

And my new GLUTEN FREE recipe has all of the above!!

When I first started my Paleo lifestyle, I was cooking lots of breads and cakes and pancakes, as I was focusing on the things that I ‘shouldn’t’ have been eating rather than the things I could. I was very strict and like most others starting out, I was eating a lot of nuts and nut-based things. I experimented endlessly with different recipes, making many versions of bread, and keeping to the ‘rules’. But over the years I have relaxed. I have discovered that it’s not just about the food, and I don’t have to be OCD about everything I put into my mouth… and my food intolerance’s have changed. This recipe is definitely not Paleo, but it is one that I have been working on over the years, on & off – and I have finally cracked it!


Brioche is made in the same basic way as bread, but has the richer aspect of a pastry because of the extra addition of eggs, butter, milk and sugar. It is eaten mainly as breakfast or dessert, but is also used in traditional French savoury cooking like in ‘fillet of beef en croute’ or ‘foie gras or sausage pie’. Brioche is increasingly found on cafe menus as hamburger buns or in bread & butter pudding. I liken brioche to croissants without the layers and love it filled with creme patissiere or doused in rum syrup as in rum baba*.

I struggled with this recipe in the past because I was making my own rice flour which wasn’t really fine enough. In the end, I discovered that the rice flour found in the Asian section of the supermarket, is the best one. This is where you will find the best tapioca flour too, and it’s only a dollar a packet. I was also reluctant to use xantham or guar gum but it really makes all the difference in terms of bubble formation. And there are lots of bubbles! This bread is light and airy. It’s springy and bouncy and all the things I could have hoped for in a brioche!! Like other gluten-free bread mixes, it is a very wet mix and it will take some time – like most yeast baking, patience is the key to all fermentation – but the mixing is quick, as is the baking part. Oh, and the eating part will be pretty quick too!! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

briochecrumb120g milk (any type will do)

1 tab instant yeast

120g rice flour

110g tapioca flour

2 teas xantham gum (or guar)

50g sugar

3 eggs, at room temperature

170g butter (or ghee), at room temperature

1 beaten egg, extra for egg-wash (optional)

Flaked almonds or granulated sugar for garnish (optional)

Heat the milk in the TM bowl for 1 minute at 37°C on SP 2.

Add the rest of the ingredients, mixing the xantham gum in a little rice flour beforehand so that it gets evenly distributed.

Mix together on SP 5 for 1 minute. Press REVERSE from time to time to ensure it is mixing very well. You will have a smooth glossy and thick batter. Leave in the TM bowl in the machine, with the lid on and allow to rest for 1½ – 2 hours. The batter will rise to the top of the bowl and be pillowy and fluffy.

After the first rise, knock down the dough by using the KNEAD button for 20 seconds. It will revert back to a smooth, glossy and thick batter.

Using an oiled spatula or spoon, fill a loaf tin or individual tins to halfway and using oiled hands, pat the surface smooth. (This is for presentation only and you can bypass this bit if you like, as it is very sticky!)

Allow to rise for 1 hour to double in size. Before baking, brush over some egg-wash and sprinkle with flaked nuts (or granulated sugar) for garnish. Bake in a 170°C oven for 30 – 40 minutes for a single large loaf; or 15 minutes for individual brioche. The crust will be quite tan and hard, but the inside will be soft and light.

Adding a little chopped dried fruit will make this recipe into a wonderful Christmas panettone.

* Stay tuned for my rum baba recipe, my bread and butter pudding recipe and my bomboloni recipe!

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