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Pine-nuts and Parsnips!

August 26, 2016


This recipe purely came about using whatever I had in the cupboard last weekend. It was market day and I had a bunch of gorgeously fresh vegetables I needed to cram into the fridge for the next week, so I had to use up what was leftover from the previous market day: two lone parsnips!

These two parsnips had been sitting there stoically in my fridge demanding attention. I had been ignoring them guiltily, pushing them aside for the zucchini and broccoli, even the swedes got cooked up before them. When I bought them I had planned to make parsnip fritters or pudding but for some reason the inclination never returned.

So what to do with two not-so-fresh parsnips?

The word CAKE does not spring to mind but I set myself a challenge and this is the end result. Initially I had some flaked almonds to use for the topping which suited me happily but after the first cooking attempt I had run out of flaked almonds so I used pine-nuts instead.

Pine-nuts are always considered a luxury in our house as they are so very expensive. Last market day saw my husband bringing home an enormous bag of pine-nuts. (When I asked for some, I didn’t stipulate any particular quantity and I was struck dumb when he came home with 500g of the precious seeds!) “Boy, they are expensive!!” he exclaimed!

And rightly so, pine-nuts are pretty complicated to harvest. The seeds take up to 3 years to harvest, given the right conditions, and shelling them is a tricky, time consuming matter.

While all pine trees will produce a pine-nut, there are only about 18 species that produce seeds large enough to be of value as human food, and are found in Asia, Europe and North America. Pine-nuts are ready to harvest just before the green cone begins to open. The cones are dried in the sun and then they are then smashed to release the seeds, which are separated by hand from the cone fragments. The fact that it takes a lot of time and patience is an understatement – and justifies the high price of pine-nuts. Pine-nuts have a second shell, which also has to be removed before eating. (Are you beginning to understand the high price?)

parsnip cake

The pine-nuts we get are either Asian (short stubby seeds) which have a higher oil content, or European (long slender seeds) which are more expensive and less likely to spoil. Both have a mild buttery flavour which is enhanced by toasting, but be careful, their high fat content enables them to burn easily.

They are rich in the same healthy fats that other nuts contain and surprisingly have quite a good protein content.

I have posted this recipe with pine-nuts to keep it nut free, but flaked almonds also work really well so substituting either is fine. I guess it depends on how full your wallet is at the moment!!!

Interesting fact: Pine-nuts can cause “pine nut mouth” or “pine nut syndrome”. It causes everything you eat to have a bitter, metallic taste – lasting a few hours to a couple of days. It is believed to stem from one species of pine-nut, Armand or St David’s pine (P. armandii) from South West China which triggers  an unpleasant taste sensation by the absorption of a naturally occurring chemical in the Armand pine. Sufferers report enjoying their pine-nuts – and only hours or days later suffering the taste problems. This is so unusual that it has researchers studying it further to try to understand neural pathways that connect the digestive system to the brain and our system of taste in the mouth. They hope to learn more about how our whole food metabolism works in the process.

It may be small consolation but while temporarily unpleasant, pine nut mouth apparently has no other effect on health with no toxic or other debilitating effects. I have had this happen to me once in my life many years ago and never knew what it was –  it wasn’t obviously related to pine-nuts and was very mild. Authorities are much more vigilant about keeping Armand pine-nuts out of circulation these days: another reason to pay a bit more for your pine-nuts!

The cake can be made without the caramel topping if you like but I would increase the nutmeg to give it more flavour. It is wonderfully moist and freezes well. But the cake with the caramel topping is to die for: chewy and nutty, it is amazing served warm with cream for a very easy and impressive afternoon-tea or dessert. As with most gluten-free flour cakes, it doesn’t last well so is best eaten fresh.

…. And can you taste the parsnip?? You can taste a subtle earthiness but without knowing, it would be hard to pick. Try it out on your friends and see!

150g parsnips (about 1 medium, peeled)

90g sugar

150g olive oil

3 eggs

1 teas vanilla extract

½ teas nutmeg

½ teas ground ginger

150g gluten-free flour

2 rounded teaspoons baking powder


80g butter (or 70g coconut oil for dairy-free)

50g sugar

1 tab golden syrup

2 tabs gluten-free flour

80g raw pine-nuts or flaked almonds

Chop the parsnip on SP 5 for 10 seconds until grated finely and set aside.

Blend the sugar, oil, eggs and spices on SP 6 for 1 minute. It will be nicely homogenised and thick. Add the parsnip, flour and baking powder and mix on SP 4, REVERSE, until well combined.

Pour into a lined 24cm springform tin and bake at 175°C for 20 minutes. Make a slight indentation in the batter so that when it rises it will rise with a flatter surface. (My pinenuts rolled off in the photo!)

In a clean TM bowl, melt the butter with the sugar, flour and golden syrup on SP 3 for 3 minutes at 90°C. (Or you can do this on the stove in a small saucepan.)

Stir through the nuts gently.

When the cake has been baking for 20 minutes, take it out of the oven and pour over the topping and return to the oven to continue baking for another 25 minutes. Depending on your springform pan, oil may leach out of the bottom so place it on a baking tray to prevent a mess in your oven.

Cool for 40 minutes before removing the pan.



Nutty about Nut-bars

August 13, 2016

Muesli bar

When my kids were at school, the most popular thing in their lunchbox was an Uncle Tobys Muesli Bar.

Yep. That’s right! Not homemade hedgehog or Anzac biscuitsapricot slice or banana nut loaf, but a chewy oaty muesli bar out of a packet!! These days I’m not packing the kids lunches anymore but my husbands lunch! His new job has longer hours and he hasn’t quite worked out how to “budget” enough food to last him for the day.

These nut bars are my version of a muesli bar – minus the oats and sugar of course, and filled with plenty of nuts and protein to help sustain a grown man through the day. I don’t use peanut butter very often in my cooking but it works really well in this recipe. If your household is peanut-free, it works just as well with any other nut butter.

Peanut butter was first patented in 1884 by a Canadian pharmacist who included sugar into the paste so as to harden its consistency. I’m guessing that this explains why peanut butter is seen as a sweet condiment in the United States rather than a savoury one as it is here in Australia.

John Kellogg, of Sanitarium fame, served peanut butter to his patients who had difficulty chewing, for its high nutritional content. It is an excellent source of protein, fibre and vitamins. Peanut butter is also a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, thiamin, iron and potassium.  It has saturated fats: palmitic acid; and unsaturated fats: oleic and linoleic acids.

Unfortunately, most commercial peanut butters are filled with vegetable oils and sugar and salt. I prefer to make my own from dry roasted peanuts, which can be easily done in the Thermomix or food processor. I like it slightly salty while my husband prefers it unsalted. We both like it chunky though!

When I first came to Queensland, I didn’t know what people were talking about when they referred to ‘peanut paste’. In the southern states it’s called peanut butter and I have never really made the adjustment! But in other countries it is called anything from monkey butter to peanut cheese to peanut spread! Anyway, I don’t eat it much, preferring to have it spread on celery as a snack but it is really yummy in this recipe. you can always use almond butter or your favourite nut or seed butter instead.

In the rest of the recipe, I have used a mix of nuts and seeds here – feel free to omit or add any different ones, as long as the total weight comes to 250 grams. Add some chocolate chips or chopped dried cranberries for some variation.

They last very well in the fridge for at least 2 weeks, I like to wrap them individually to grab & go.

The kids, big and small, will love them!

muesli280g almonds

50g macadamias

50g pepitas

50g sunflower seeds

20g chia seeds

30g puffed brown rice

3 tabs psyllium husks

20g desiccated or flaked coconut

30g whole buckwheat

60g dates

150g nut butter (I used crunchy peanut butter)

120g butter

30g coconut oil

100g honey or brown rice syrup

A few drops of stevia* (optional)

Add the almonds & macadamias to the TM bowl and pulse to roughly chop. Pour into a wide mixing bowl and add all of the other dry ingredients except the dates.

In the TM bowl mince the dates on SP 8 for 5 seconds. add the butter, honey, oil and nut butter. Cook on SP 2 at 90°C for 3 – 4 minutes. Add the stevia, if using and pour over the dry ingredients and stir well.

Press into a lined scone tray and sprinkle with some sesame seeds for garnish. Bake in a slow 150°C oven for 35 minutes until golden brown. Wait until very cold before slicing. I find it slices better if you refrigerate it overnight and then slice into bars. It will cut into 16 bars.

*Because I do not add any sugar, you may wish to add a few drops of stevia if your tribe like things extra sweet.

Vintage Books & Italian Apple Torte

July 9, 2016


Last weekend I went to the Lifeline Bookfest for the first time after hearing people rave about it for many years.

It is a massive sale of donated books that raise funds to support the Lifeline 24-hour Crisis Support Line and many other UnitingCare Community services across Queensland.

I was not prepared for the enormity of the collection of books that were there! There were literally 4km of tables with millions of books ranging in price from $1 – $5. There were also magazines, puzzles, CD’s and vinyl.

Obviously, I spent most of my time in the cookbook section where I looked at a time capsule of my own entire cookbook collection, both past & present!  I drove my son mad with exclamations of: “I have this book! I had that book when I was your age!” or “Ooooh, that’s a good one! I have haven’t seen that for YEARS!!!”

My cookbook collection has shrunk over the years. At one stage I counted nigh on 800 books. A divorce settlement reduced it by half (it was the only thing we argued over!) and the 2011 floods reduced it by half again. I have to admit it is much easier to consult the internet these days than refer to a book – and many books I keep are for a single favourite recipe alone, which is space consuming in my small house. The bookfest reminded me about food trends and fashions; it was a nostalgic path of food memories, good and bad; and $hit food photography. I convinced my son to buy a Women’s Weekly Chinese Cookbook (c.1980) because I often cooked from my mothers copy when I was a teenager. The recipes are basic, really good and reliable enough to expand his repertoire. I hope he uses it!

I found a copy of the original Women’s Weekly Cookbook (c.1970) that was the textbook we used in Home Ec. at school for which I paid a $1! I was bemused at the ingredients listing ‘stock cubes’ and ‘canned asparagus/bean sprouts/potatoes’. Photographs of the chicken dishes show whole chickens with small breasts and legs.  In nearly 40 years the shape of a chook has evolved somewhat….

This whole experience reminded me of an old recipe from a vintage cookbook that I thought was very sophisticated at the time. It was described as an Italian Apple Torte but was probably closer to a cheesecake slice, (did you say cheesecake??) so I converted my very berry cheesecake recipe to replicate it. It is of course gluten and grain free and delicious served warm or cold.

1 tab sultanas

1 tab rum (optional)

75g raw almonds

75g buckwheat

½ teas cinnamon

½ teas ground ginger

50g butter

1 teas honey

1 large or 2 small granny smith apples

70g raw or light coconut sugar

rind of 1 lemon

250g cream cheese

250g sour cream

3 eggs

1 tab buckwheat flour

juice of half a lemon

extra cinnamon for dusting

Blanch the sultanas in boiling water and drain. Add the rum and set aside while you make the base.

Blitz the almonds, buckwheat, spices, honey and butter on SP 8 until soft crumbs form. Press into a 20cm x 20cm, lined square tin. Peel the apple and cut into 3mm slices. Lay these slightly overlapping, on the base to cover. Drain the sultanas and sprinkle over the apples.

Place the sugar and lemon rind in the TM bowl and grind on SP 9 for 5 seconds. Scrape down and add the remaining ingredients and mix on SP 6 until smooth. Pour over the apples and base and cook for 35 minutes at 170°C. It will still be a bit wobbly. Turn the oven off and leave the cake in the oven until cool.

Dust with extra cinnamon  before serving.








Hot Chocolate & Cookies for a Rainy Day

July 2, 2016


It has been quite cold and rainy here lately which is the perfect weather to snuggle up in front of the TV with a cuppa and a cookie!

We have been overdosing on Netflix and enjoying the old-fashioned art of jigsaw puzzling. Could jigsaws be the “new” colouring in? It’s certainly more fun to do with company!

If you think that this biscuit recipe is reminiscent of the good old Anzac biscuit, you would be right! Without the oats, I substituted the golden syrup for honey and added more nuts and seeds to make it delightfully crunchy and it is easily kept gluten-free. I prefer to grind the linseeds & buckwheat in the magic bullet and mix the batch by hand. I find it gives a much nicer texture than if it is mixed in the Thermomix.


Photo: Courtesy of Irene who tested this recipe for me!


1 tab linseeds
70g rapadura sugar
60g buckwheat
70g GF flour (I prefer Orgran)
30g whole buckwheat, extra
40g desiccated coconut
90g flaked almonds
60g sunflower seeds
1 tab chia seeds
120g butter
1 tab honey
¼ teas salt
½ teas bicarb soda
2 tabs hot water

In the TM (or magic bullet) grind the linseeds, sugar and 60g buckwheat until finely ground.

Place the above mix and the rest of the dry ingredients into a big wide bowl. Melt the butter with the honey in the TM on SP 1 for 2 minutes. Mix the bicarb and hot water and add this to the butter mixture. Stir the wet mixture into the dry and place apricot sized balls on a lined tray and flatten. The mix will be quite wet. Bake in a 160°C for 20 mins. Leave on the tray until they are cold – they are quite crumbly when warm but will firm up on cooling. I like to refrigerate them to keep them crunchy.

A handful of chocolate chips would be a yummy addition!


60g 70% dark chocolate, roughly chopped
120g raw or coconut sugar
2 tab slippery elm powder (optional but helps to thicken)
40g cocoa powder
¼ teas vanilla powder
50g dry milk powder or coconut milk powder*
¼ teas salt

I find this easy to make in my magic bullet but it is just as easy to do in your Thermomix.
Pop all of the ingredients into the bowl and blitz until a fine powder forms. To make up a hot chocolate
add 2 tablespoons to a mug and half fill with boiling water. Stir to dissolve, then top up with hot milk.

*I know that powdered milk is not very good for you and pretty nutritionally void, but I like the creaminess that it adds. I prefer to use coconut milk powder rather than dairy milk to keep this dairy free.

Sweet Potato Scones – Gluten Free of course!

June 24, 2016


There are just some things you can’t paleofy and one of those things is a decent scone!

The cold weather has us hunkering down and craving carbs and comfort, and one of my husbands favourite things, apart from a decent pasty or warming soup is a fair dinkum scone! Top it with REAL jam and REAL cream and he is one. happy. man!! Of course, he rarely gets REAL jam or REAL cream at our house so today was an exception!

In the past, I have always turned to my friend Jo’s wonderful gluten-free scone recipe but I decided to have a play around with some roasted sweet potato I had in the fridge (much to my husbands disappointment) and see what I could come up with.

It has been recently discovered that some starches are actually better for you when you cook them, cool them down and reheat them, before you consume them. This is true of rice, potato and pasta. The starches in these foods convert from non-resistant to resistant starches in the process and thus escape digestion (kind of like soluble fibre) which helps prevent blood sugar spikes. Eating foods rich in resistant starch also nourishes your gut bacteria, which is always a good thing.


What I came up with was so good  – they have a light and buttery crumb; they freeze really well and can be sweet or savoury. My husband declared them the BEST scones he had ever had and he thanked me profusely for making scones that weren’t gluten-free!!! Haha! I let him continue believing that one!

scone4140g roasted sweet potato (cold)
140g cold butter
600g Orgran SR gluten-free flour*
1 teas salt
5 eggs – save a little egg-white from 1 egg aside for glazing.
280g milk – I used zymil, but almond or coconut is good too

Preheat the oven to 200ºC.

Blend the potato and butter together on SP 5 for 5 seconds. Add the flour, salt, eggs and milk in that order and mix on SP 4 until just smooth. The mix will be firm but quite may need to stop and scrape down after 10 seconds.

Dollop 1/3 cup fulls of mixture onto a lined tray – I used little silicone patty pans to help the scones keep their shape. Brush with reserved egg-white and place in the oven. Turn the oven down to 180ºC and bake for 15 minutes for smaller scones or 20 minutes for large scones. The recipe will make about 18 scones. The recipe can easily be halved if required. They freeze beautifully.

Serve hot with jam and cream….. Or with butter and pumpkin soup!

*I believe the success of this recipe is owed to the gluten-free flour mix that I use. Orgran is certainly the best one by far that I have tried. It is a mix of maize and tapioca and doesn’t contain any soy. This is not a paid endorsement but purely my own opinion!

Sweetcorn & Zucchini Fritters

June 17, 2016


Fresh corn is in abundance at the moment and it occurred to me that I have never done a post on my blog about this ancient grain which has been around since 2500BC in Mexico.

In fact, fresh sweetcorn is the unripe fruit of the corn crop – and eaten as a vegetable! It is bred to be very sweet and full of water to make it juicy; whereupon, as it matures, the sugar turns to starch and the kernels dry out. But not all corn is the same. There are 100’s of breeds, bred for different applications depending on their starch content. Of the major types of corn, there are dent & flint corn: mature and starchier corns to produce meal. Pod corn and maize to produce flour; popcorn to produce popcorn*; and sweetcorn, a high sugar and low starch corn to be eaten unripe as a vegetable. Corn varies in colour from black, bluish-grey, purple, red, white and yellow. When ground into flour, maize yields more flour than wheat does, but it lacks the protein gluten, so it makes baked goods with poor rising capability when used on its own.

I haven’t eaten a lot of corn over the years. Not because I don’t like it but because I find it very sweet as a vegetable, more so over the last few years, with modern hybrid cultivars. When I have visited Asia in the past, I was always struck by the hot sweetcorn sundaes and creamed sweetcorn puffs from the local fast food outlets. Indeed, the Thais and Japanese see sweetcorn as a fruit rather than a vegetable! In Mexican cuisine, corn features in virtually every dish in the form of grain, flour or meal. There is even a fungus of maize, known as corn smut which is considered a delicacy!

Nutritionally, corn is a good source of B vitamins and folate. It has good dietary fibre, but has a high sugar content, which it is bred for too of course, in the form of high fructose corn syrup. Did you know that a large ear of corn has up to 600 kernels on it?!

Corn fritters are all the rage on the breakfast menu scene here in Brisbane and often I am disappointed… Usually because they are not gluten-free, and if they are, they are generally doughy and heavy.  My version is light and fluffy with the aid of a sneaky zucchini thrown in, and the addition of a little Swiss cheese gives them a lovely nutty flavour.

They make a great breakfast accompaniment to a freshly poached egg, or even a quick and easy Sunday dinner, served with a little tomato relish. This recipe makes 6 good size fritters which feeds 2 so double the recipe if you are feeding 4.

cornfritters1 fresh cob of corn, shucked of kernels**

1 medium zucchini, chopped

1 spring onion (or a handful of chives)

1 small kale leaf, chopped

3 tabs GF flour

1 teas baking powder

1 tab coconut flour

2 eggs

30g – 50g Swiss cheese (or cheddar)

1 teas nutritional yeast flakes

salt & pepper

40g butter to fry

Mince the chives and kale on SP 9 for 3 seconds. Add the corn, zucchini and cheese and pulse until finely chopped but not pureed. Add the eggs, flours, baking powder and yeast flakes with a generous seasoning of salt & pepper and mix on REVERSE for 5 seconds on SP 5. Let stand for a few minutes while you melt the butter in a large frying pan.

Saute ¼ cup dollops of batter on a medium heat until brown and then turn over and lower the heat. Cook until they are brown and cooked through, then serve.

*Out of hundreds of breeds & cross cultivars.

**Don’t waste the silk – chop that up and chuck that in too!




Broccoli & Quinoa Salad with Crispy Bacon

June 3, 2016


Last week I was captivated by a pile of terrifically green and fresh broccoli at the market and went a bit crazy in my purchase! So now having had a surplus of broccoli at home, I was struggling to find ways to use it up. The weather has been unseasonably warm in Queensland (will Winter ever arrive?) and I didn’t want to make soup, so between roasting it, making vegetable slice and my raw broccoli salad, we were getting a bit bored.

Solution? Add bacon!!

Haha! Actually I added a few more things than bacon, namely quinoa and tahini but you could easily forego the tahini if you don’t have any on hand. I don’t know why I don’t use quinoa more often as it has a lovely nutty flavour when cooked. I have probably used it more as a flour where it has a very distinctive flavour in baking – perhaps that has put me off. Rinsing it well will get rid of the tannins that contribute to this. Some people like to soak their quinoa to get rid of the tannins, but I find that rinsing it in warm salted water does the trick.

I think this salad is hearty enough on its own but serving it as an accompaniment to some grilled chicken or lamb will keep your family really satisfied.


100g quinoa

1 teas salt

450g broccoli (cut into medium-sized florets)

1 clove garlic

40g cashews

50g mayonnaise

juice of 1 lemon

1 teas tahini (optional)

1 tab nutritional yeast

handful of fresh herbs (parsley, dill, coriander)

½ teas salt

20g olive oil

3 rashers streaky bacon, julienned

First you will need to cook the quinoa. Add the quinoa and 1 teas salt to the TM with 1 litre of warm water and rinse on SP 3 for 1 minute. This will get rid of the bitter tannins in the quinoa. Drain and add 900g fresh water to the bowl with the rinsed quinoa. Place the broccoli florets in the varoma tray and place on the TM. Cook the quinoa whilst steaming the broccoli on top for 15 minutes, on VAROMA temperature,  SP 4.

Strain the quinoa and set aside.

Set half the broccoli aside in a wide bowl.

In the TM bowl add the oil and bacon and sauté on VAROMA temp for 4 – 5 minutes, SP SLOW REVERSE until crispy. Set aside leaving the oil in the bowl.

Without cleaning the bowl, add the garlic, remaining half of the broccoli, cashews, herbs, mayo, lemon juice, ½ teas salt, nutritional yeast & tahini and blend on SP 6 until smooth. It should be thick enough as a dressing, but not firm. Add a little extra oil if it is too firm. Season with pepper & more salt if required.

In the wide bowl, break up the remaining broccoli into smaller bite sized florets and add the cooked quinoa. Stir through the dressing and sprinkle the crispy bacon over the top to serve.


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