Quick pickled radishes

The word ‘pickle’ tickles my fancy. For starters, it rhymes with ‘fickle’, ‘trickle’ and ‘sickle.’ (Not a word that I have had many chances to use, up until now.) Its origin appears to derive from the Dutch word ‘peckel’ which historically referred to a vinegary brine or spicy sauce, not an actual pickled vegetable. In Britain, a pickle is a relish made of chopped veggies or fruit preserved in vinegar. In the US and Canada, a pickle is widely thought of as a cucumber preserved in brine. In these here parts and in much of my foodie reading, we now seem to refer to pickles as any vegetable that has undergone the pickling process.

Getting ‘pickled’ also alludes to partaking of too many alcoholic beverages resulting in inebriation. Finally, all of this pondering leads me to the delightfully old-school sounding idiom ‘in a pickle’. Meaning to find oneself in a quandary, difficulty, tight spot or jam. (Now this is getting confusing.) Certainly a state that all of us who are undertaking the human experience, find ourselves in at one point or another. When I find myself in a pickle (the idiom, not swimming in a giant bowl of vinegary liquid), nothing soothes my troubled soul as much as spending quality time in the kitchen. Making your own preserves is a highly satisfying process. The radish and myself are good friends. This crisp, peppery root vegetable adds zing to my salads and is a favourite snack when sprinkled with a smidgen of salt. It is also delicious when pickled.

This is a quick pickle, meaning you do not need to sterilise the jars and process them in a boiling water bath to ensure shelf stability. They need to be refrigerated and are at their best when eaten in the first few days after making. These rosy-hued radishes sing with a gentle hum of chilli heat and an earthiness from the Indian spices. To add freshness and zing, pop them in salads, sandwiches, tacos or burgers. Also delicious as a condiment with cured meats, cheeses and alongside curries and casseroles.

QUICK PICKLED INDIAN STYLE RADISHES

WHAT YOU NEED
1 bunch radishes
1/2 cup sherry or red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tbl granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsps sea salt
1 tsp whole coriander seeds
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1/4 tsp chilli flakes

HOW YOU DO IT
Wash the radishes then remove the green leafy tops, the bottoms and any hairy bits. Using a sharp knife or a mandolin (please use the guard and watch your fingers!), slice them very finely and pack them into a jar. I used a medium sized Weck jar that takes about 500ml of liquid.
In a small saucepan, combine all of the other ingredients and cook over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and let it cool down for about ten minutes.
Pour the brining liquid into the jar, ensuring that the radishes are covered with the liquid.
Let the pickles cool down to room temperature then cover, shake or rotate the jar gently to ensure that the spices are coating all of the radishes and refrigerate the pickles for at least 1 day before using.
They can last up to five days but they are at their best and crunchiest for the first few days.
Serve on a salad, alongside curries, as an extra taco condiment, with burgers, as part of a sandwich filling or alongside a sandwich.

Cooking Notes: it is important to use pure sea salt and not table salt as additives can make the pickling liquid cloudy.

A Cheergerm adaptation of a bunch of different recipes.


A gluten free lamington sponge and the dog ate my homework

Australia Day had arrived. Kid 1 and myself decided to bake something in the spirit of the day. (Why not heat up the kitchen on an already hot and hazy day?) We decided upon a cake version of the iconic Aussie lamington. The perfect opportunity to try out a gluten free sponge recipe the Mothership had given me. Most accounts state that this dessert was named after Lord Lamington, a governor of Queensland in the 1800’s. It is also much loved in the country of my birth, New Zealand. My maternal grandmother adored these dipped in chocolate and coconut square sponges, particularly when they were sandwiched with raspberry jam and fresh cream.

Kid 1 was a keen apprentice, cracking eggs and jokes like the best of them. The sponge rose to the heavens and all was well with the world. Due to the days increasing heat, we decided to cool the cake downstairs. It was proudly placed on a chest of drawers near the stairs, which seemed like a good idea at the time. Half an hour went by and off I trotted to check the cake. The once magnificent, feather light sponge now had huge chunks missing from the side and there was a Hansel and Gretel trail of crumbs around the base of the stairs. Roaring in dismay, I looked up to see our dogger Elvis, standing there, guilty crumbs still attached to his fluffy bearded face. He had cleverly managed to squish his doggy snout in between the stair banisters and reach the cake.

So, yes, the dog ate my homework. No photos were taken of this once glorious behemoth on that day. (Well, except for one iPhone photo.) We cut off the dog slobbered upon portions, sliced it and added jam, cream, the icing and coconut. It was still delicious, if only half the cake it should have been.

Kid 1 and myself remade this cake a few days later and whilst it was not quite as glorious looking as the first, Kid 1 stated that it was lighter and fluffier. In terms of a cloud like sponge, this easy recipe ticks all the boxes. You do not need to separate the eggs, nor does it require any fancy gluten free flour blend. The Yak was just pleased to be given two gluten free cakes in one week. Whereas our wee canine friend should count his lucky stars he got to enjoy any at all.

GLUTEN FREE LAMINGTON SPONGE CAKE

Just a quick note on sponge baking. It’s vital to ensure that your eggs are at room temperature. Cold eggs do not hold the same volume of air as a warmer egg will and do not whip up as well. Sifting your dry ingredients twice is a good idea and never open the oven door before the minimum cooking time is up or your sponge will sink.

WHAT YOU NEED
Sponge
4 eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup cornflour plus 1 extra tablespoon of cornflour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder (gluten free)
Boiling water
Filling
Raspberry or strawberry jam
250 ml cream, whipped
Icing
1 cup icing sugar (gluten free)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp butter, melted
1/4 cup desiccated coconut for sprinkling on top of the finished sponge

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C (170C fan-forced) and line a 24cm springform baking tin with nonstick baking paper. (You can also use two lined individual sandwich tins.)
In a large bowl, using a mixer (I used my stand mixer) beat the eggs until frothy. Gradually add the sugar until the mixture is pale, creamy and thick and holds its shape. This process can take up to ten minutes. (Which is why a stand mixer is handy.)
Sift the cornflour and baking powder into a medium sized bowl.
Sift half of the cornflour mixture over the egg mixture and fold it in gently, then sift the remaining cornflour mixture into the bowl and fold it in gently.
Pour the mixture into the tins (or tins). If you are using the bigger tin, bake for 25-35 minutes until light, golden and the cake springs back to the touch. (Smaller sandwich tins take 15-20 minutes.)
Let the cake stand for five minutes then remove onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Icing: Sift the icing sugar and cocoa together into a medium sized bowl. Add the melted butter, then slowly add boiling hot water, mixing until the icing is a smooth, coating consistency.
Assembling: Slice the sponge in half, add a thick layer of jam on the bottom layer, goop on mounds of delicious cream (as much or as little as you fancy) and whack the other half of the sponge on top.
Drizzle the chocolate icing over the top, then sprinkle generously with the coconut.
Eat some. You won’t regret it.

Cooking Notes: having made this cake twice now, next time we will make a chocolate ganache instead of icing. Just to make it even more decadent.

A Cheergerm adaptation of a recipe my Mum gave me


Starman

‘The Camping Collective’ does not starve. As time went on, two peeps undertook a trip to the local Seafood Co-op. The mighty hunters returned with a glorious ocean bounty. (Via the refrigerators of the Co-Op.) They had procured plump Sydney rock oysters, a slurpy minerally mouthful that we topped with a squeeze of lemon. A motza of green local prawns in their shells were tossed in oil, seasoned and barbecued. It was no hardship to partake in one of two of these juicy crustaceans. The icing on this seafood cake was a school of uber fresh flathead. Sister 4 lightly tossed these glistening beauties in seasoned cornflour (necessity is the mother of all invention) and they fried up a treat on the flat grill of the barbecue. Lip smackingly sweet and juicy.

Vegetables were also consumed. Crunchy green salads, coleslaw and one of our number made a simple white cabbage dish that hearkened back to her childhood. It was very finely sliced then dressed with lashings of lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper. Simply moreish.

Whilst we love to cook on our camping holidays it is a welcome relief to eat out and more importantly, not wash up. There was a lovely feed at Thai On the Rocks, we sat outside in balmy surrounds, sipping icy cold rose and perusing the vast menu. One of my favourite dishes was a deliciously creamy chicken panang and The Yak raved about a gigantic plate of stir-fried vegetables with chilli.

After our meal, sans kidlets, some of us sneaked off for a delicious post dinner gin and tonic at the Seabreeze Hotel. During dinner, we had found out that the marvellous David Bowie, the iconic Ziggy and Starman, had succumbed to the cursed cancer that has taken so many. His music speaks for itself and as an actor, he shone in ‘Labyrinth’ and ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’. We were all admirers or fans but Sister 3, perhaps, loved him the most. Over our icy cold drinks, we toasted his passing. His loss ominously highlighted the ongoing health battle of one of our nearest and dearest. And the cut was deeper. That evening, gazing at a crystal clear night sky, I imagined that I whispered ‘Farewell beautiful Starman, you really blew my mind.’

An early morning beach walk along hard sands and by azure waters to Trial Bay was rewarded with breakfast at the Trial Bay Kiosk and Licensed Restaurant. The Yak and I both had the haloumi stack with pesto, spinach and poached eggs topped with avocado. Mine was perched atop a crunchy slice of sourdough rye and The Yaks was served with gluten free toast. The Yak headily proclaimed this one of the best breakfasts he had ever eaten. Mine was very tasty, despite feeling slightly ripped off by the tiny amount of avocado. The coffee here is velvety, rich and smooth, I have no idea what their brand of coffee was. Shamefully, this Cheergerm will never make it to the lofty echelons of a true hipster.

Towards the end of our last week, we booked dinner at the Seabreeze Hotel where the food impressed and delighted. My linguine with prawns, chilli and basil was seriously good. Fat juicy prawns, perfectly cooked pasta and just a nice backbite of heat. The night was topped off by The Polish Stepfather winning a nice big meat tray. A true Aussie tradition.

More than anything, my hope is that camping provides our children with the experience of a simplified existence, of learning to be part of a communal group, to compromise and co-operate. To forgo television and play card games again. To dive into frothy waves unfettered by the multiple trappings of everyday life. This Australia Day, whilst I will be present wherever I am, a small section of my heart and mind will be back in South West Rocks. Enjoying the truly egalitarian pleasures of this vast nations amazing beaches and natural beauty.

http://www.seabreezebeachhotel.com.au

http://www.trialbaykiosk.com.au

http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/north-coast/kempsey-area/south-west-rocks?nst=0&gclid=CO-b07HfwcoCFUosvQod7gcM3A&gclsrc=aw.ds


Stopped

Cicada’s buzz, the heat shimmers on the tents and children play endless rounds of Uno.

The rain has left and summer is once more upon us.  Twenty eight degree days allow for fun filled beach activities and the evenings are cool enough for  sleep.

Sets of white tipped waves swell and crash against us, they are stronger than they look. Ice-creams and potato cakes from the Horseshoe Bay Kiosk rule the day.

Our camping collective eat well. Whether it be a slow roasted shoulder of lamb, a myriad of crunchy corn fritters , carnival coloured coleslaw, a mound of roast potatoes or fresh white bread rolls laden with bacon and egg.

Time slows and it is good to just stop.

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Even Cheergerms need a little holiday

Just a wee note to say gidday and to wish all and sundry a Happy New Year. We are off on a camping trip for the next little while. Some may say our holiday collective ‘glamps’ and those people may or may not be correct. I suppose it depends on your perspective.

I leave you with a little pictorial insight into our Christmas and Boxing Day celebrations, which were held at Sister Two’s lovely family abode this year. Good times indeed.

Our camping destination is South West Rocks, a little piece of beachside heaven on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales. If the muse hits me slap on the side of the head with a piece of nice fresh fish, there may even be the odd brief holiday missive as well. Until the next time we meet, lang may yer lum reek.

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‘Not my sisters mince pies’ Christmas cupcakes

Every Christmas, Sister Two bakes what may possibly be the most amazing mince pies in the entire galaxy. Some of you will shake your head and ask, ‘what kind of lunatic overstatement is that?’ Let me put it plainly. They just are. So there. These pastries are legendary enough to convert this mince pie loather into someone who actually delights in partaking of a few (delicate cough), every festive season. In the spirit of inclusivity for the gluten intolerant and coeliacs in our hoard, Sister Two also makes a gluten free batch. The Yak, who is English, adores these short-crusted and delicious wee morsels. Fruitcake, mince pies and plum puddings are the stuff of his festive childhood memories and dreams.

It is easy to know when The Yak is missing home. He hops onto the Information Superhighway and begins googling houses for sale in his hometown of Ulverston. (No Yak, we are not moving there.) A spot of coeliac cheering up was required but being a sensible woman, something simple was required. After all, it is only five more sleeps until the mince pie fairy works her magic and the roly-poly bloke in the red suit visits. I thought that a light cupcake version of a fruitcake would provide some solace to my far less portly old man. The weather is getting hot, hot, hot and these sponge-like, fruity, ever so slightly boozy cakes would be a super dessert on the day itself. Pop them in a fancy tin as an edible Christmas gift or just do as the Yak did. Happily devour them with a good strong cuppa tea.

Merry Christmas to my Yak and to you all.

GLUTEN FREE CHRISTMAS CUPCAKES

WHAT YOU NEED
175g butter, softened
150g soft brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
175g gluten free self raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground mixed spice
115g mixed dried fruit (I used 50g each of currants, sultanas and chopped dried tart cherries)
2 tbsp brandy or orange juice
115g icing sugar
1-2 tbsp hot water
White sanding sugar or edible white glitter or even regular white sugar for sprinkling on top
(2 tbsp extra brandy, liquer Muscat or rum or if you choose to soak the fruit)

HOW YOU DO IT
If you want a more traditional boozy Christmas flavour, soak the fruit in the extra tablespoon of brandy or rum for an hour or two before baking. I used a liquer Muscat. Delicious.
Preheat oven to 180C and grease a 12 hole muffin tray , placing a circle of baking paper at the bottom of each hole. I used smaller brown cupcake papers and gave each one a light spray with a non-stick cooking spray.
Place the butter, sugar, eggs into a large bowl then sift flour, baking powder and spices over the top.
Beat with a hand held mixer (I used my stand mixer) for 3-4 minutes until pale and creamy.
Fold in the fruit and brandy or orange juice.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin trays or papers.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until they have risen and are golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Leave in the tray for 5 minutes then remove and let cool on a baking tray.
Once they are completely cooled, sift the icing sugar then add enough of the hot water to make a smooth and thick icing. Ice the cakes then sprinkle a shedload of the sparkly snow like sugar/glitter over the top of the cakes.
Makes 12 regular small muffin size or 14 smaller cupcake sizes.

Cooking Notes: These cupcakes freeze well, just don’t ice them. You can also pop a glace cherry on top of each with with some fake (or real) holly leaves so they look like mini-plum puddings.

A Cheergerm adaptation of a recipe from the Good To Know website. Website link after photos.

http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/recipes/536399/mini-christmas-cakes


A Child’s Christmas in Wales and a family celebration

‘One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.’

These words are from the wonderful prose work, A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. It is an evocative and humorous anecdotal retelling of Christmas from the point of view of a child. Whenever I read it, it is our Uncle R’s voice that will always be in my head. He read this book to his children as they grew up and over the years, has often enjoyed sharing it with others in his mellifluous orators voice. He is the story teller in my Dads family and on the very near eve of his 70th birthday, I wanted to share his love of this particular literary work with you. Go look up a copy, either the book or the original recording that Thomas made back in 1952. Happy Birthday to one of the best people this world will ever know.

Come December, Mum and The Polish Stepfather throw a pre-Christmas celebration with family and close friends. Everyone contributes something, mine was an eggy pile of mini-mushroom frittatas. (Mini-Mushroom Frittatas .) Sister 4 baked a decadent vegan chocolate cake from the latest Nigella Lawson cookbook. There were croissants, tasty corn fritters and a platter of Polish charcuterie. Our dear friend concocted a fanciful fruit platter in the shape of a Christmas tree. There was a mound of tart plum jam filled Polish donuts, cheeses, a tumble of silky scrambled eggs, haloumi, bacon and fried mushrooms. And there were chocolates, of course.

Little gifts for children, home-baked gifts for grown-ups. The odd glass of fizzy wine and some good strong coffee. Cicada’s sang their summertime symphony and children guffawed loudly, running wild with the sugar coursing through their veins. Troubles forgotten for a brief window of time and the world slowed down. Stopping to look at each one of these beloved faces, I felt the fragility of life and the speedy passing of time. What each of us remembers of these celebrations in years to come will be different but we are making valuable memories. I leave you with one more passage from Thomas’s Christmas prose. He says it far, far better than I ever could.

‘All the Christmases roll down towards the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands into the snow and bring out whatever I will find.’

Excerpts from A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas.

I also found a very good recording of this piece at the ABC shop recorded by a Welsh renowned Thomas-reader and literary professor.

https://shop.abc.net.au/products/a-childs-christmas-in-wales?CAWELAID=120152330000062731&CAGPSPN=pla&catargetid=120152330000216021&cadevice=t&gclid=CO7A1c_q18kCFYaYvAodKpMCWQ


Illuminating cardamom, cinnamon and brown sugar shortbread

Nigh on three years ago, by perchance, we happened to move to a street that ‘does Christmas lights.’ Christmas and all that is associated with it, has always brought me great joy. My childhood memories, our ever evolving traditions, the special family time, the food (always the food), the spiritual connection, the wonder of children and the gift giving. However, the initial thought of having to buy (figuratively and literally) into the whole ‘lights’ palaver, filled me with trepidation.

The possibility of failing to live up to the expectation of hundreds of complete strangers traversing past our home was somewhat perturbing. I questioned the environmental aspect and whilst we do utilise solar lights as well as electrical, at some point, they will always need replacing. Not every house on the street participates, and there is no ‘Christmas Lights Committee’ (a fact for which the rebel in me is eternally grateful for.) In the end, the excitement of all the boys in our house overrode any misgivings on my part.

I often recount how in our second year, a person at my children’s school joyfully told me how much they loved our Chrissy light display. I asked which house they thought we lived in. Upon hearing their explanation of the abode they had seen, I informed them that sorry, that was actually our next door neighbours. (Ensue awkward silence on their part but some mirth on mine.)

Putting up a Christmas light display is strangely addictive and allows you connect to a community larger than your usual. It’s not all tinsel and sugar plum fairies. Shame on the man two years ago, who loudly dissed our display and almost made my then 6 year old cry. People, we aren’t deaf. Also, you lot out walking the street at eleven o’clock with small children on a school night? Go back to bed.

In the main, most people are positive and happy to enjoy the lights, in whatever shape or form they take. Apart from the joy it has brought to my own children and children we know, the absolute pleasure it brings to others has become our ‘Chrissy illumination raison d’être.’ Early one December evening, the lads wanted to eat their dinner in the garage. We plopped ourselves down on camping chairs, happily eating and watching the growing contingent of passer-bys. One mum walked past with two young children under five. Seeing us sitting there, she stopped waved and said, ‘Thank you so much for doing this, our children absolutely love it.’

Then, just last night, as we finally completed our display (after investing in quite a number of new lights), two families with small children passed by. One wee lad in their contingent stopped and in the slightly sibilant way that pre-fives talk, pronounced, ‘I love your house. Its sooooo beautiful. Mummy, why can’t we have a house like this?’ Then his sister spoke in a voice dripping with wonder and awe, ‘I think that Santa probably lives here’. Our hearts stopped beating for a nano second. Yes, cheesy it may be but their delight set our souls aglow more than any electrical or solar light could ever do.

And that my friends, is why we put up lights. The world can always do with a little more illumination. The world can also do with a little more shortbread. This years concoction is a spicy, brown sugar version. The brown sugar adds a caramel-like flavour that pairs nicely with the cooling cardamom and warm cinnamon. This is one of those rare recipes where you can do a straight swap with the plain flour for gluten free. I lose track of how many batches of these biscuits are baked to give as gifts. They are either wrapped in cellophane or placed into adorable Christmas themed boxes. It seems a little nuts to be making butter based sweet treats in our hot climate, but then, some traditions just can’t be changed.

CARDAMOM, CINNAMON AND BROWN SUGAR SHORTBREAD (can be adapted to GF)

WHAT YOU NEED
250g butter
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
2 3/4 cups of plain flour or gluten free plain flour sifted (I use a good quality gluten free flour.)
1/4 cup rice flour
1 1/2 tsps cardamom
1 1/2 tsps cinnamon
1 tbl raw brown sugar for sprinkling

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C.
Line 2 baking trays with baking paper and sift the flours and spices together into a bowl.
Cream the butter and add the sugar gradually (I used a stand mixer), beating until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Work in the flour gradually until the mixture is just combined. Knead the mixture lightly to bring together to a dough. (I do this in the bowl.)
Divide the dough in half and pat each into a round.
Place onto the prepared trays and with the heel of your hand, push the dough out until you have an 1 1/2 cm thick circle, this will be 16cm -18cm in diameter, ensure the mixture is very smooth. I use my hands to do this, the original recipe suggests using a palette knife and smoothing over the edge and surface.
Crimp the edges by pressing the edge of the dough with your finger, and then pinching the edge together.
Use a sharp knife to cut the circle into 8 or 10 even shaped wedges. Prick the surface of the shortbread with a fork. (This helps in releasing moisture as it cooks, making the shortbread crisper.)
Sprinkle the extra raw sugar over the shortbread.
Bake in the centre of the oven for ten minutes then reduce the temperature to 150C and cook for about 30 minutes. The brown sugar in this recipe makes it difficult to judge if it’s baked, lightly press the middle of the shortbread to see if it’s not too soft. Should be firmish to the touch. My gluten free version took an about 35 minutes. It will depend on the flour blend that you use. (My first batch was a tad overcooked at 40 minutes.)
Cool down on wire racks. Wrap up festively and give to your best people, and eat some, always eat some.

A Cheergerm adaptation from The Margaret Fulton Cookbook 2004 Revised and Updated Edition published by Jannie Brown and Suzanne Gibbs.

Here are the links to my previous shortbread recipes.

http://cheergerm.com/2014/12/14/christmas-advent-calendars-and-cranberry-chocolate-pistachio-shortbread/

http://cheergerm.com/2013/12/13/shortbread-for-christmas/

http://cheergerm.com/2013/12/18/shortbread-for-a-hungry-silly-yak/

http://cheergerm.com/2014/06/01/chocolate-ginger-spelt-shortbread/


Big healthy balls

The original intent of this post was not to highlight men’s health. However, seeing as we are still in the month of November it does seem appropriate to touch briefly (yes, figuratively speaking) upon this subject. November is the chosen month of The Movember Foundation, a global charity that focuses on encouraging men to live longer, happier and healthier lives. Founded in 2003 and focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, poor mental health and physical inactivity, they have raised over $685 million dollars. This has been through the growing of moustaches for thirty days in ‘Movember’ or something called MOVE. A thirty day physical fitness challenge. An awesome effort in my opinion.

Having witnessed the devastation that cancer can wreak and the heartbreak that suicide brings to all, I say ‘balls’ to the bad old days of men just ‘pushing through and getting on with it’. If you are a man, go get those regular doctors checks and let us all start more open dialogues regarding men’s health and mental well being. Discussing emotions and seeking professional help when needed, is not just for chicks. As my young lads grow into this world, we encourage them to talk about their feelings and try to convey to them that being a man, is not just about showing the world a tough exterior.

Back to the original topic. These date, nut and prune laden ovoid edibles are a delicious healthy bite for those peckish times. Based on a recipe that a friend has been making for a while, I must admit to feeling completely ripped off that they were not her usual scrumptious old school spherical butter, chocolate and biscuit goodies. However, as balls will do (on those of us who are male), they have grown on me.

Adaptations include swapping the oats for gluten free puffed millet, using whatever nuts I had on hand and opening a jar of wondrous Prunes in Vinno Cotto (or vincotto) from the Western Australian Cape Farm Shop. (Given by the mothership after a recent sojourn she enjoyed there.) Vincotto is essentially a condiment made from unfermented grapes that are slowly cooked until they become thick and syrupy. These prunes added a sweet and almost musty piquancy to this unctuous mixture of nuts, fruit and cocoa. You can of course, use regular prunes if you have nothing similar.

Healthy balls, we all need them.

HEALTHY GLUTEN FREE DATE AND NUT BALLS

WHAT YOU NEED
1 2/3 cups pecans (original recipe called for 1 cup walnuts and 2/3 cup raw cashews)
2/3 cup 100g almonds (recipe asked for blanched I used regular almonds, skins on)
150g pitted dates, chopped
1/2 cup chopped pitted prunes (mine were in vinocotto)
1/3 cup sultannas
1/3 cup tart dried cherries (the original recipe called for 2/3 cup apricots chopped but I used sultannas and cherries)
1/2 cup puffed millet (puffed amaranth or rice would also work)
2 tbl sesame seeds
2 tbl cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder (or 1/4 tsp vanilla essence)
2 tbl honey
1 cup dessicated coconut

HOW YOU DO IT

Place the pecans and almonds (or whatever nuts you have chosen) into a frypan and cook over a low to medium heat for 2-3 minutes until lightly toasted.
Using a food processor, process them until finely chopped.
Add the dates, prunes, sultannas, cherries, sesame seeds, cocoa powder, cinnamon, vanilla and honey into the food processor and blend for 2-3 minutes until the mixture forms a paste.
Divide the mixture into golf ball sizes (about 50g) and roll into balls. It helps if you lightly moisten your hands before rolling them.
Roll the balls in the coconut and serve.
Store in an airtight container, as we have had extremely hot weather, I refrigerated ours.
Makes 12 balls.

A Cheergerm adaptation of a Jill Dupleix recipe from the Delicious website,

https://au.movember.com/about/foundation

https://www.beyondblue.org.au

http://www.delicious.com.au/recipes/date-nut-beach-balls/67e3e391-4a01-4302-904a-d4583e26ca85

http://capefarmshop.com.au/category/recipes/page/2/


Black sesame chocolate cake, looking into the heart of darkness

A person with a vivid imagination could easily gaze into the inky black oil slick that is this cake batter and associate it with all that is dark and evil. Easy to do, in the distressing and challenging times we are currently living in. The portion of my soul that is part poet longs to wax allegorically. However, the pragmatist within, gave the poet inside, a short sharp slap around the chops. Serving as a stern reminder that this was merely a cake made of black sesame powder, given as a gift by a sweet friend. Pondering what to do with this bounty, there was certainly something fortuitous in the recipe that popped up on my Facebook feed a day or so later.

Black sesame seeds are rich in vitamin B and iron and the Chinese believe they assist in slowing down the ageing process. (Anti-ageing you cry! Be warned, they can also have a laxative effect so don’t start chowing down on them by the handful.) They contain nutrients that protect the heart, aid digestion and can assist in lactation. Quite the tiny powerhouse indeed.

Ground sesame has the aroma of a musty health food store but this rich dense cake ends up tasting nutty and earthy. The generous slathering of chocolate ganache atop this somewhat grim looking bake is a decadent and welcome addition. Maybe it is a cake perfect for a Halloween or Day of the Dead celebration. Our children were extremely fond of this toothsome dessert despite it’s subdued sweetness. To the point of asking for extra servings, repeatedly. And there certainly isn’t anything dark about that.

BLACK SESAME CHOCOLATE CAKE, GLUTEN FREE

WHAT YOU NEED
200g (1 1/3 cups) black sesame seeds (I used 1 cup ground sesame seed powder as that’s what I had.)
200g butter, chopped
3 eggs, lightly beaten
185g (1 cup) coconut sugar
100g (1 cup) almond meal
35g (1/3 cup) plain gluten free flour
1 tsp gluten free baking powder
Chocolate Ganache
200g dark chocolate, chopped
100 ml pure cream

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a 20cm square baking tin.
Grind the sesame seeds in a mortar and pestle or spice mill. (I didn’t need to as my seeds were already ground.)
Put the butter and sesame seed paste into a saucepan and cook over a low heat until melted.
Remove from heat and place into a large bowl, allow to cool down for ten minutes.
Stir the eggs and sugar into the sesame seed mixture.
Sift the almond meal, flour and baking powder into the sesame seed mixture and gently fold to combine.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Allow the cake to stand in the tin for ten minutes before turning onto a cake tray to cool completely.
To make the chocolate ganache, combine the chocolate and cream in a saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate melts.
Remove from heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes, until thickened.
Spread the ganache over the cake and allow to set. Cut into small pieces and serve.

Recipe from the SBS Food Website taken from Beautiful Food by Jody Vassallo, published by Harlequin.
http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/black-sesame-chocolate-cake?cid=23230