Category Archives: gluten-free

Recipe: Almond biscuits with Davidson Plum Powder and Ruby Ganache

I know.  I know.  This is a completely ridiculous recipe to share because it’s basically all obscure ingredients.  And do you want to know how it came about?  It came about because we had a bake sale to fundraise for my Relay for Life team, and I’d made vegan cupcakes, and blueberry-lemon cupcakes with berry mousse (leftover from the Tentacle Cake), but I didn’t have anything gluten free in the mix.  And I have a lot of people at work who need gluten-free goodies.  So I decided to make one of my many trusty almond biscuit recipes, and thought, what do I have in my pantry?

And the answer was Davidson plum powder and Ruby chocolate.  Among other things.  So… this is technically a Pantry Special – but only if your pantry is full of *really* random things that you bought at farmers markets and specialty shops and then forgot to use.

On the other hand, if your pantry *is* full of such things, this is actually a pretty good recipe.  It’s not too sweet, it’s nicely acidic, and it’s gluten-free (and the only dairy is in the ganache, so if you are someone who can handle a little bit of dairy but not much, you can probably cope with this).  And it’s super fast to make!

Also, you get to feel like a super pretentious version of Arabella Weir and Richard E Grant on Posh Nosh when people ask you what flavour your biscuits are.  ‘We took a gracious handful Ruby chocolate from the very first shipment to reach Australia, and gently seduced it into a menage-à-deux with the cream.  Then we added some Davidson plum powder.  It’s acidic and a little bit demanding, and but it condoles perfectly with the almonds in the biscuits…’

Apologies again for the lack of pictures.  I was baking a lot of things in a hurry and forgot to pay attention to the photography side of things.  To make up for it, if you scroll down, I’ll tell you how to make a ‘lava lamp’ from kitchen ingredients.  Accompanied by a terrible photo, if I do say so myself.

Your shopping list

200g almond meal
50 g sugar
10 g Davidson plum powder
1 egg
40 ml cream
120 g ruby chocolate

Now what will you do with it?

Preheat your oven to 170°C, and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Combine the almond meal, sugar and Davidson plum powder in a bowl, then mix in the egg until you have a nice dough.

Roll into small balls – walnut sized, or thereabouts – and place on the tray, then flatten slightly.

Bake for 15 minutes or so, or until just getting golden brown underneath.

Now chop the ruby chocolate (or if you have it in tiny pellets, it will be fine as is), and put into a heatproof bowl.  Bring the cream to the boil, and pour over the chocolate.  Cover the bowl for 30 seconds to speed the meltiness, then stir until you have a smooth mixture.

Dollop the ganache onto each biscuit, and top with a few little purple edible glitter stars, if you have them.  Because why not?

Variations

Well, freeze-dried raspberry powder would work in a pinch.  You want something acidic but dry, so that the biscuit keeps the same texture.  Passionfruit powder might also work, but I’m not quite sure how that would mix with the ruby ganache.

As for dietary requirements, this biscuit is gluten-free and low-fructose, but full of nuts and rather dependent on the egg.  The dairy is only in the ganache – you could replace the cream with soy milk, but the only variety of Ruby chocolate currently available on the market contains milk powder, so if you are strictly non-dairy, you are going to be out of luck.

Random Science Experiment – Lava Lamp edition!

So, this made a lot of us happy at about 2 in the morning when we were trying to stay awake.  It was me, and one of the animal techs, and her non-scientist friend, and then we started demonstrating this for the Cancer Council volunteers and the teams next door to us.

So what I’m saying is, the picture may be crappy, and the experiment may sound really basic, but it’s more spectacular than you might think.  Especially at 2 am.

Your shopping list

Vegetable oil
Water
Food colouring
Alka seltzer

Extremely Scientific Method

Put a little water in the bottom of a glass jar and mix it with the food colouring.  Pour in vegetable oil to nearly the top.

Crumble an alka seltzer tablet into the jar.

It will start off just fizzing, but after 30 seconds or so, big, coloured bubbles will start floating down from the top.  It’s pretty awesome.

Also, when it stops, you can add more alka seltzer to get it started again.  After four or five times, it stops working so well, probably because the concentrations are off.  But it was great while it lasted!

Recipe: Walnut and Chocolate biscuits and a fundraiser

Every year, I organise a team of colleagues to do the Global Challenge, a pedometer-based challenge where you have to get a certain number of steps per day.  My team of seven has changed every year, but there are three people who have been in it every time, and more who have taken a year or two off and come back.  This year, we have my three regulars, someone who is back from last year, someone who is back from four years ago, and two newbies.

During the Global Challenge, there are certain weekends where we have ‘mini-challenges’, that encourage us to beat our personal best, or reach some arbitrary number of steps as a group, etc.  Traditionally, I try to organise long walks for these challenges – we’ve walked from Black Rock to Saint Kilda, up along Merri Creek to Fawkner for doughnuts, from Parkville to Williamstown to go on a ghost tour, from Brunswick to the CBD to go on a chocolate walk, and all the way from the mouth of the Moonee Ponds river up to Pascoe Vale, where we got caught in a thunderstorm. 

I was looking for some activities for us this year, and after getting a hard no on my belly-dancing plans, and establishing that several of our walkers couldn’t do really long walks this year for health reasons, I started looking around for more sensible options.  Which is when I spotted the ad for the Cancer Council Relay for Life… which just happened to fall on one of our challenge weekends.

This is a 24-hour relay to raise money for the Cancer Council, but it’s also about remembering people lost to cancer, and it has a fair bit of symbolism attached, in that nobody walks for 24 hours straight, but teams try to have someone on the track at all times.  If one person can’t continue, someone else will carry on for them.

I suggested this, only half-seriously to my lot. (Fine.  You don’t want belly-dancing.  How about a 24-hour relay, then?)  They were in.  And I mean, IN.  I was… appalled.  But also the team captain, so I got us signed up, and went recruiting for more team members.  My feeling was that we wanted two people rostered on at all times, in case someone needed a break, and ideally, I wanted the shifts to be offset so that someone was always fresh.  Fortunately, I was able to recruit 13 people, with two more joining us on the day, which meant that we each did two 2-hour shifts, and most people stayed on a bit before or after their shifts to help out.

Teams are encouraged to have costumes, themes, etc.  I was still recovering from the conference I’d just finished organising, so I was pretty much planning to just make sure people showed up and leave it at that, but I organised a bake sale to fundraise, and during the bake sale, our team plan evolved.  We would wear lab coats!  We would Engage With The Community!  We would have a science fair booth, with experiments that people could participate in!  We have a purple and yellow dragon onesie which is the same colours as the Cancer Council’s logo!

And we did.

I have to say, the day was a lot more fun than I had expected (I had not expected it to be any fun at all – I have dodgy knees which were playing up that week, so I knew it was going to be painful, and that’s about all I knew).  Cancer Council was delighted to have medical researchers participating.  The other participants – especially the children! – were delighted by our activities.  There was a silent disco overnight, which was hilarious to watch – between the people singing along and the people dancing to music only they could hear as they went around the track, it was quite something.  The lab coats turned out to be both warm and highly visible.  We realised early that we wouldn’t be winning the 4x100m sprint activity, so we turned it into a onesie costume relay with the costume having to be worn by each successive participant – and lost convincingly, dramatically, hilariously, and to sustained commentary from the organisers, who found the whole thing hysterical. 

Me, pretending to be a scientist. You should see me pipetting!

There were also some serious moments – the carers and survivors lap at the start, and the candlelight ceremony in the evening, which remembered people who were fighting cancer and people who had passed away from cancer recently.  It was very moving.

And I was very proud that, while other teams slowly shrank in size over the course of the event (I felt bad for one team where almost everyone went home at 9pm, leaving three people to carry the subsequent 13 and a half hours alone), my team mates all turned up on time, full of energy and enthusiasm, and walked, ran or danced their shifts, no matter what hour of the day or night. 

You probably didn’t come here for an extended report on Relay for Life, and I promise that the recipe is coming up next.  But while you are here… if you are currently feeling inclined to support a really good cancer charity in Australia, I’d love it if you’d sponsor meOr my team, who really were fantastic.

My awesome team, who totally deserve your sponsorship

And now for the recipe!  Which is linked, tenuously, to this post by the fact that I invented it for our fundraising morning tea.

This was a bit of a pantry special – I needed something for the people who couldn’t eat lactose or fructose or gluten (of which I have quite a few at work), and I needed something that was quick and wouldn’t require me to go to the shops.  I had half a packed of crushed walnuts and half a packet of cashews.  I had cocoa, and cinnamon.  And I had leftover vegan chocolate ganache from making Sachertorte cupcakes.

So that was easy.  This is basically my almond biscuit recipe in yet another iteration, but I found that without almonds, it made a pretty sticky, sloppy dough, so I added some rice flour to help hold it together.  I did find that I needed slightly damp hands to shape it, even so.  But the results were really delicious, so it was worth the minor hassle.

Very few pictures, I’m afraid – I was too busy trying to make the biscuits in time after a very long day at work – but if you scroll down to the bottom I *will* tell you how to make a rainbow carnation. 

Your shopping list

100 g walnuts (crushed is fine, you will be pulverising them anyway)
100g cashews (ditto)
50 g cocoa
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
75 g caster sugar
1 egg
1-2 tbsp rice flour, if needed
1/4 cup soy milk
125 g Lindt 70% chocolate
30 ml maple syrup Continue reading

Recipe: Lemon and Ruby Cakepops

You probably thought I was done with rainbow-wedding-cake related posts, didn’t you?  Nope.  Not a chance.  I’m actually writing this a month before you are reading it (and a good thing, too, because right at this very moment I am almost certainly collapsed into an incoherent heap after running a conference all week) and if I dared look into my fridge right now, I would see, in addition to these cake pops, a large box full of chocolate cake crumbs, a big ball of white chocolate ganache the size of my clasped hands, a bowl of lavender whipped ganache, and half a carton of cream – ooh, and I’ve just realised what I should make next, but I’m not going to tell you what that is because that would be cheating.

In short, you would not believe how many leftovers that wedding cake generated, so having spent the last few Sundays reviewing the individual cake recipes, we are now starting on the Leftovers Chronicles.

(And yes, I’m milking this for as long as I can, because I do want to start blogging regularly again… but I don’t trust this current burst of energy and ideas to last, so I want to try to blog well ahead of time while I can so that if it all goes to hell for a month or two, there won’t be such a long gap between posts…)

Anyway, cake pops.  Cake pops are traditionally made from cake crumbs and icing mixed together and dipped in chocolate or candy melts.  I usually find them horrifically sweet, to be honest.  But I also didn’t have many other ideas for what to do with epic amounts of cake off-cuts.  So I thought I’d see what happened if I mixed them with the lemon curd that I also had leftover, and the results were actually pretty good, and not too sweet at all. 

As for the ruby chocolate… yes, of course I pre-ordered some from the first shipment in Australia.  If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s quite an interesting taste – I think it’s like white chocolate, but with an acidic bite to it.  It is not, to be honest, my favourite kind of chocolate, but it does go very well with lemon, which most other kinds of chocolate do not.  If you can’t get your hands on ruby chocolate – which is not cheap, in any case – white chocolate would work just fine, but the overall result would just be a little sweeter.

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Recipe: Rainbow cake

So, judging by the reaction I’ve had every time I’ve shown anyone any photos of this cake, this is probably the first recipe I ought to be sharing. Because, let’s face it, that was one spectacular-looking cake.

It’s also a lot easier than it looks.  Seriously, if you can make a passable marble cake, and have access to good-quality food colouring, you can make this.

I actually found the prototype for this recipe online, and I’ll share the YouTube video below, because I didn’t actually take photos of the various steps, being as I was engaged in just trying to get the thing to work.

I changed a handful of things for this recipe.  For one thing, I made it gluten-free, using a modified version of my gluten-free flour mix.  For another, I decided to flavour it with orange flower water instead of vanilla.  Using orange blossoms in the bouquet or bridal wreath is a very old bridal tradition, and I thought it would be nice to give a nod to that, especially given how interested one of the brides had been in my use of rosewater and lavender in cupcakes.  I kept the flavour pretty subtle, because too much orange flower water can be very much like eating soap.

But you know what was the big thing I did that changed this cake into a proper rainbow cake?

I baked it in a smaller tin.

That’s it. 

And the smaller tin meant that the arch of the rainbow was raised, giving a much more impressive rainbow effect than it might otherwise have had.

I’m going to suggest two different decorating ideas for this – the one I used in my practice run, and the one I used for the actual wedding cake.  It really depends how formal you are feeling…

 

Your shopping list

150g butter
160g sugar
3 eggs
270g gluten-free flour mix
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
120g yoghurt
60g milk
1 tsp orange flower water
red, yellow, green, blue and purple food colouring pastes (these are far more vibrant than liquid food colouring)
200g white chocolate
65 ml cream
500g white icing OR lots of hundreds and thousands

You will also need a 5 inch (12.5cm) round tin with tall sides.

Now what will you do with it?

Grease the tin with butter, and line the bottom and the sides.  You really don’t want all your good work to come to nothing when you turn the cake out! Preheat oven to 170°C.

(Also, you need to know now that you are not going to use all this mixture in a cake tin this size.  You need somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4.  You can make the rest into really psychedelic cupcakes, if you want.)

Cream the butter and the sugar, then beat in the eggs one by one.

Beat in the dry ingredients, then the yoghurt and the milk.  Mix in half a teaspoon of orange flower water, and taste to see if it’s strong enough.  Add the other half teaspoon if you think it needs more (I’ve found that some brands are stronger than others).

Divide the mixture between six bowls, and colour them red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.  Orange requires only a tiny amount of red compared to yellow, and I strongly recommend that you buy a purple colour if you can – you can never get a really vibrant purple from red and blue colour.

Make sure the mixture is super-bright.  Now is not the time to worry about the chemicals in food colouring – you don’t want a pastel rainbow, and baking will bleach the cake slightly.

Now for the fun bit!  Get a big dollop of the red mixture – about 2/3 – 3/4 of what’s in the bowl, and plop it carefully into the middle of the tin.  Bang the tin really hard on the bench to make the red mixture spread out a bit.  It won’t go all the way to the edges yet, and that’s fine.

Get a similarly sized dollop of the orange, and plop it carefully into the very centre of the tin on top of the red.  Bash the tin on the bench again – the orange will spread out with the red spreading out further under it, so you have concentric circles.  Well, circle-ish things.

If this is confusing, have a look at the video below.  This is where I got the recipe from – so thank you Emma, for this fantastic method.

Dollop the yellow on top of the orange, and repeat the banging bit, then do the same with the green, then the blue, then the purple.

If you are miraculously good at this, you should be able to see a little bit of red, a little bit of orange, a little bit of yellow, a little bit of green and a little bit of blue, all in concentric circles under the purple.  I wasn’t that good, but it still worked pretty well.

If you are about 2/3 of the way up the tin, you can stop here.  If it’s only half full, go for a double rainbow.  The next layers will be a bit smaller, but that’s OK.

Put the tin in the oven, and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour.  If, after 45 minutes, it’s browning too fast but still wet in the middle, reduce the temperature to 165.  It will bake eventually, I promise, but deep cakes are a bit tricky.  This one should pass the skewer test when it’s done.

Turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool.

Once the cake is cool, your next step is to make the cake nice and flat on top, because you want to serve this cake upside down from where it was in the tin, so that you have a rainbow rather than a series of colourful smiles. I have no tips for this.  My cakes almost always turn out looking drunk.  I fluked the wedding cake, and it was still a tiny bit crooked, frankly.  Just do your best.

My practice cake looked very drunk, but nobody cared once I covered it in sprinkles.

Now you are going to cover the cake in ganache and then either white icing, or sprinkles.

To make the ganache, chop the white chocolate finely and put it into a bowl.

Bring the cream to a boil, and pour over the ganache.  Cover the bowl with a lid for a minute or so, to start the chocolate melting, then stir the mixture until it is smooth.   Use a spatula to coat the cake thinly in ganache.

If you are looking for a nice, formal cake, you want the white icing.  Sprinkle your work surface with icing sugar, and knead the icing firmly until it is soft enough to work into a smooth ball.

Use a rolling pin to roll it out.  It wants to stick to the surface, so what you do is this.  First, sprinkle more icing sugar on the work surface, and roll the rolling pin over the ball twice, away from you, so that you have an oval.  Pick it up, and turn it over, and then rotate it 90 degrees and roll the rolling pin over it twice more.  Turn it over and rotate it again, and keep going until the icing is about 3-5 mm thick, and big enough to cover the cake with several centimetres to spare on each side.  So about 35cm diameter, maybe?  The reason you are turning it over constantly, by the way, is that this helps the icing not to stick to the work surface, so don’t forget to do that bit.

Now you need to drape it over the cake.  This is a pain, and the trick is not to stretch it.  Pick it up carefully and place it gently over the top of the cake.  Use a spatula or smoother (or your hand…) to smooth down the top of the cake only.

Now smooth the cake down the sides with downward strokes, a little at a time.  If you are about to get wrinkles, gently pull the bottom of the icing outward, being careful not to stretch it, while you smooth down the side from top to bottom.  If you are lucky, this will result in no lumps or wrinkles.  I strongly suggest watching some YouTube videos (look up ‘covering a cake with fondant’) until you think you can replicate the method.  That’s what I did…

If this sounds like way too much faffing around, go with the sprinkle topping instead!

To do this, cover the cake with ganache again, but this time, get out a big metal skewer and skewer the cake from bottom to top.

Make a layer of 100s and 1000s or other coloured sprinkles on a long, flat tray or your working surface, and use the skewer to place the cake on its side at one end of the sprinkles.  Carefully push the skewer all the way through the cake, and use it to roll the cake along the layer of sprinkles until it is completely coated.

Now draw back the skewer a little, and use it to lever up the cake and place it face down into the sprinkles (or alternatively, get the cake back onto a cake plate, and leave the top white, or cover it with sprinkles by the more traditional, sprinkling method).

Carefully lever the cake up onto a cake plate.

Serve to someone who needs more colour in their life!

Variations

This is a gluten-free cake, obviously, and it is also low in fructose, and nut-free.  You could probably make a vegan version – just start with a vegan cake recipe that has a fairly wet, but not liquid, consistency.  You don’t want something that is too pancake-batterish, but you don’t want something really stiff, either.  I’m sorry – I don’t have any recommendations for this one.

If you just need it to be gluten and dairy free, you can, of course, use a good dairy-free margarine like Nuttelex, and a soy or coconut milk and yoghurt.

I’m sure you could use natural food colours for this, but I think you’d have to work hard to stop your rainbow from being too pastel – though that could be pretty, too, in the right circumstances.

Recipe: Ratatouille for a ratty week

Taking a break from the travel diaries to write down a recipe that has been a bit of a lifesaver for me this year.  It tastes like comfort food, it’s full of vegetables, it creates copious leftovers, and it takes maybe ten minutes of preparation time.  Probably less, really.  And because the vegetables are all soft, I can even make it when my wrist is acting up and doesn’t want me to chop things. 

You can serve it with all sorts of things, really.  It goes with bread and hummus (or you can fling some chickpeas in to bake with the rest of the ratatouille), or grilled haloumi (which you can also chop into chunks and throw in to bake for the last ten minutes); with roasted or boiled potatoes and felafel or grilled fish or chicken; it’s great over giant couscous (again, with chickpeas), or stirred through pasta, or even made into a bake with bocconcini and more pasta. 

You can serve it hot, or warm, or at room temperature.  Tonight, I’ll be serving it hot with some little pies from Zaatar – lamb, and haloumi, and spinach.  And probably with some roast potatoes because everything is better with roast potatoes, especially when you are eating super late because it took nearly two hours to get home from work and your husband hasn’t even managed to leave work yet and it’s nearly 9pm…

This is not as fancy as my other ratatouille recipe, but it tastes very nearly as good and takes far less time.  It’s Friday night-worthy, which is really saying something, especially after a fortnight like the one I’ve had, with lots of stress and very little sleep.  (Though one of my scientists did bring me cake to cheer me up, which was possibly the nicest thing anyone has done for me ever.)

Oh, and it doesn’t create a lot of washing up, either.  Just one giant baking dish.  There’s really nothing not to like, unless you are entirely anti-vegetable.

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Your Shopping List

3 large capsicums, preferably in different colours
2 red onions
2 medium zucchini
1 largeish eggplant
olive oil
lavender salt
black pepper
rosemary
dried mint
400g cherry tomatoes
500ml – 750 ml (whatever size bottle you have) tomato passata
dried basil

(I know these amounts are very vague.  It really is a sprinkle of this and a sprinkle of that, and it is very much to taste.  If you don’t have lavender salt, a pinch of salt with some culinary lavender is good, or skip the lavender and add a little fennel, and rather more rosemary.  It will be fine.)

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Recipe: Modular Salad for Lots of Dietary Requirements

My best friend lives in Darwin, and she’s having a baby (!!!), so I went up for a quick visit last weekend, to hang out, help out a bit, but mostly just have a good chance to catch up for the last time before there is an adorably cute little barrier to conversation in the house!

The beach at Fannie Bay, just outside the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory

The beach at Fannie Bay, just outside the Museum of the Northern Territory

My friend has gestational diabetes, and her husband has a number of allergies and food sensitivities, and when you add to these culinary challenges the fact that Darwin is appallingly hot and humid, figuring out dinner is a bit of a challenge.

On the road south of Darwin.  This picture somehow conveys the weather perfectly.

On the road south of Darwin.

Like many people in Darwin, they don’t have family living locally, so we also talked a fair bit about planning for food that requires minimum preparation time when there is a small baby in the house.  (Not that I have ever had a small baby in the house, but I am all about minimal food preparation in hot weather.  Or grant season.)

Wattle, coming into bloom.  In hot weather.  Did I mention that Darwin was hot?

Wattle, coming into bloom. In hot weather. Did I mention that Darwin was hot?

We came up with this modular salad, which has the capacity to tick lots of mutually-exclusive boxes. It’s more an idea than a recipe, and it’s pretty simple, but it’s a useful one and worth sharing, I think.

(It’s unofficial name is Franken-Niçoise salad, because originally, there was going to be tuna.  But since we skipped the tuna, and the green beans were looking a bit dodgy, it’s just Modular Salad now.)

We liked it, and hope you will too.

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Your shopping list (for about 5-6 serves, which can be held over for later if need be)

One lettuce
Two punnets of cherry tomatoes
Two Lebanese cucumbers
Two red capsicums
One tin of cannellini beans, drained
Six smallish potatoes, preferably waxy ones
Six eggs
A handful of olives (optional)
A few spring onions (optional)
A tin or two of tuna or salmon; or leftover poached or roasted chicken; or tuna steaks if you are willing to cook such; or marinated and grilled tofu; or pre-prepared felafel, or even toasted hazelnuts or cubes of cheese.  You want about 100g per person of protein that is ready to eat, essentially.
Extra virgin Olive oil
Red wine vinegar (or cider vinegar if that’s what your friend can eat)
Salt, pepper
Tzatziki, or mayonnaise, or plain greek yoghurt with a teaspoon of dijon mustard

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Recipe: Jacket Sweet Potatoes with Vegetarian Chilli and Guacamole

I have no idea when I will escape this food blog hiatus!  Even when I make and photograph food, there never seems to be time to write about it – and most of the food I’ve been making this year has fallen into the category if quick and simple.  And they tend to rely pretty heavily on Gewürzhaus spice mixes, which isn’t so helpful for recording them here.

I’m very fond of jacket sweet potatoes.  Actually, I’m very fond of jacket potatoes, but my husband has an unnatural dislike of them, and sweet potatoes are better for you anyway, so that’s how it goes.  If I ever manage to achieve regular writing on this blog, you can expect a fair number of jacket sweet potato recipes going forward, as they are becoming a bit of a winter staple…

This particular recipe, though, I’ve made a few times recently.  It’s a nice, healthy, vegan dinner that is straightforward enough for a Friday night at the end of a long week.  It wasn’t vegan on purpose, which is one reason it is so good, I suspect – I always get the cheese out, but never seem to use it, and when I made a point of using it once, it didn’t taste as good.  So this is a meal that really wants to be vegan!  It also happens to be gluten free and low-GI, and reasonably healthy, and tastes lovely and fresh and comforting, which makes it a much better alternative to the Friday night takeaway which was becoming a habit.

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Your Shopping List

3 medium sweet potatoes (I know that’s vague, but aim for a similar sort of weight to what you’d do for an ordinary jacket potato meal)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, brown or red
1-2 tsp cajun spice mix, or a mixture of cumin, oregano, garlic, paprika and chilli
1 tin of black beans, drained (these are suddenly available at the supermarket!  Yay!  But if you can’t find them, red kidney beans also work)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp chipotle chilli powder, or to taste
a little salt (lime salt is great if you have it)
2 spring onions (the long, thin ones that also get called shallots)
2 roma tomatoes
juice of one lemon or one lime (I almost never have limes, lemons do nicely)
2 tsp Gewürzhaus Guacamole Spice, if you have it, but failing that, a mixture of salt, cumin and chilli will do – probably a teaspoon in total will be fine.
2 avocadoes
chopped coriander, optional

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Recipe: Saffron and Cardamon Yoghurt (Shrikhand)

I originally encountered this recipe in a pack from the glorious (and sadly, now on hold) Curry Delights startup.  It is a beautiful, pale-yellow-tinted, cooling yoghurt dessert flavoured with cardamom and the honey-like scent of saffron, and I absolutely loved it – so much that I made it two nights running, in fact. 

Ambika and Vikram’s version of this dish was super-easy and very quick, but relied on a couple of products that I was unable to source in Australia, so once I ran out (i.e., about four days after first encountering the recipe), I was out of luck.  I did have recipes for Shrikhand in other books, but none of them looked quite right (though I *highly* approve of the one that suggests adding popping candy, and I will be doing this at the first opportunity), and most of them, being more traditional, required a longer preparation time, as the recipes relied on drained yoghurt.

But I was really craving those lovely, cooling flavours again this week, so I decided that it was time to see if I could cross the various recipes, modified slightly to my tastes, and make a version that was feasible here.

Short version?  I did, and it was glorious, and I’m writing it up right now, so that I don’t forget the quantities…

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Your Shopping List

saffron strands – a big pinch, crumbled between your fingers into a little bowl
250 g light cream cheese
1/3 cup icing sugar (slightly heaped, to be honest)
1/4 tsp cardamom powder, also heaped
350 g low fat Greek Yoghurt (nothing wrong with full fat, but the low fat Black Swan one is nicer than the full fat anyway, and frankly, this dessert does not need to be any richer than it is)
200g raspberries, to serve.  Trust me, you want something fresh and acidic. Continue reading

Recipe: Chocolate THING that is basically evil but really yummy

A couple of Thursdays ago, I read an article in the paper lamenting the fact that many Australians would be letting down their employers by taking a sickie on the Monday before Australia Day.  (The article did, at least, point out that employers should be reasonable about granting annual leave on this day, but something about the way it was written still left an unpleasant taste in my mouth.)

My scientists work ridiculous hours, and don’t tend to take sickies, even when they probably should (leading to the fun phenomenon of the Lab Lurgy – we are a sharing sort of team on 5 West!), but I thought that if others were getting a four day weekend, legitimately or otherwise, we should do something to make it worth coming in to work that day.  Accordingly, I proposed a casual lab lunch – anyone who wanted could bring a plate to share, and we’d set up in the meeting room for a couple of hours, with people dropping in, chatting and eating when they had time.

It turned into a smallish but pleasant gathering – certainly worth doing again, with an interesting variety of food ranging from Turkish bread and dips provided by our German lab head and vegetarian sausage rolls from one of our British postdocs, to a proper Gallette des Rois, brought in by one of our French scientists. 

Normally, I would make Nonna’s pizza for this sort of occasion, but my left wrist is still giving me a lot of trouble, and kneading is definitely beyond me.  So instead, I decided to pursue my current favourite confectionery strategy of melting a lot of chocolate, and then opening the pantry and flinging any sweet contents that seem plausible into it.  The results were very tasty – it’s quite a sophisticated, dark chocolate thing, full of glacé and freeze-dried fruits, but I also couldn’t resist pouring in some popping candy, and I got a great deal of glee out of hearing people go “oh, this is really nice – ooh!  Oh my God what is that?” at irregular intervals through the afternoon…

All in all, an excellent way to liven up the day before a holiday.

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500 g good dark chocolate (I used half Lindt, half Green and Blacks, both 70% cocoa)
250 g glacé fruit (I used pineapple, peach and apricot, but cherries, pears, oranges, or anything else that takes your fancy would work.  Probably not citron, though.)
50 g crystallised ginger
35 g freeze-dried fruit (I used strawberries and blueberries, but again, pick your own preferred flavours)
35 g popping candy
100 g praline paste (I used almond, but use whatever you prefer)

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Recipe: Pasta with Chickpeas and Greens

This is a recipe I made way back in August after being given a big bunch of broad bean leaves  – I didn’t even know they were edible.  It’s a nice, simple, wholesome dinner recipe, good for Boxing Day, when you just want something plain and not too rich and reasonably healthy to eat.

You can use any greens you have in the garden – wild greens, tromboncino zucchini greens, Warrigal greens, silverbeet – whatever.  Or you can use supermarket greens.  120g is a standard packet size for a lot of things like rocket and baby spinach.  Just get a good mix – 2-3 big bunches worth – chop them roughly and off you go.

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olive oil
4 garlic cloves (I mean it!)
1 tbsp chilli flakes (I mean that, too!)
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp italian herbs (or just oregano)
salt, pepper
120 g baby kale
120 g baby spinach
1 bunch broad bean leaves
400 g chickpeas, tinned (drain and use the water for meringues!)
300 g pasta
80 g pine nuts
parmesan to serve

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