A little bit of what you fancy and gluten free banana bread

A particular comment on a television show we were watching recently has stuck in my mind. It was made by a British woman who had reached the magnificent age of 101. She was in remarkable good nick and during the interview had said ‘People always ask me, what is the secret to your longevity? And I always say, a little bit of what you fancy does you good but don’t make a pig of yourself.’

In this age of don’t eat this, eat more of that, eat less of that, eat only that; her view resonated with my food philosophy. Which would probably be ‘a little bit of this and a little bit of that, just don’t go nuts’. I will clarify this by saying that I do sometimes go overboard, being the happily imperfect human being I am.

Fanaticism and radicalism have never sat well with me. Sometimes it feels that my attempt at viewing food in a well balanced manner is under attack, albeit, by a well meaning barrage of good intentions. (It’s ok, no paranoia here, it is completely understood that it’s not directed purely at me.)

The issue is, as a devourer of new food information and being an open minded wee Cheergerm, it floats my boat to learn new things and experiment with different ingredients and recipes. It’s all about keeping it in perspective. Continuing to still enjoy what is loved as well as opening my mind up to new ideas. So the mantra of ‘a little bit of what you fancy’ is compelling in whatever direction that may take me.

Teresa Cutter, aka ‘The Healthy Chef’ has some great recipes. What I love about her is the many alternatives she provides in her recipes and so far, they have all worked. Three out of four CheergermYakatarians adore her nutritious (read low fat, low refined sugar) version of banana bread. I made a little adjustment and replaced some of the almond meal with sorghum flour to attain a lighter texture. Try using a stick blender to zshoosh the mixture as it really keeps the texture nice and light. The ground flaxseed acts as a fantastic natural binder in lieu of gluten.

This loaf is subtly bananaish, light and moist without too much squelchy almond meal texture. A hint of vanilla and cinnamon. Not sweet, at all…I mean, really not sweet but quite delicious with a smear of the good stuff, yeah, we are talking about butter. Give it a try, you might just fancy it.


300g ripe, smashed banana (I only had 240g but it turned out fine)
3 eggs
60g/2 tbl maple syrup or honey
1/4 tsp vanilla powder or 1 tsp vanilla
60g or 1/4 cup grapeseed oil, macadamia nut oil or cold pressed olive oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp bicarb soda/baking soda and 1 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup almond meal (120g)
3/4 cup sorghum flour (80g)
1/4 cup ground flaxseed

Preheat oven to 160C.
Oil a loaf tin and line the bottom with baking paper. The size I used was 13cm x 22cm. The original recipe used 10 1/2 cm wide by 26cm long.
Combine smashed banana, eggs, honey, vanilla, oil, cinnamon, bicarb soda and lemon juice (the lemon juice activates the bicarb) into a large bowl and mix by hand or better still, use a stick blender or big blender of some kind.
Add the almond meal, sorghum flour and flaxseed and mix thoroughly.
Spoon batter into the tin and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Cover the top with foil if it starts to overbrown. I covered my loaf at 40 minutes and it was ready at 55 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool before turning out.
Slice and serve with a creamy smear of butter.

A slight adaptation from Teresa Cutter


The Way of the Pierogi


Before the Lovely R departed back to Poland, I was lucky enough to experience a hands on pierogi lesson. Pierogi is a Polish style dough dumpling stuffed with various fillings. R’s English is pretty darned good, despite her insistence that it isn’t. It is miles better than my Polish. (Ummm, non-existent.) As our lesson progressed, I tried to ask if she ever eats the pierogi straight after being boiled or does she always let it sit, then pan-fry and eat it. As we did on our lovely Polish picnic day.

Using her English/Polish dictionary, I found the word ‘boil’ and pointed at the translation. Horrified, the Lovely R vehemently shook her head and exclaimed ‘No, no!’ We spent a good few minutes, toing and froing, trying to understand what the other was saying. I showed her the dictionary again, this time, my finger was no long blocking the second meaning of the word ‘boil.’ It turns out that the first meaning had been an actual ‘boil’ that appears on the skin, a somewhat unsavoury medical condition.

Much laughter ensued.

This is one picture heavy post. I really tried to capture the intricacies of this process and I hope I have done the Lovely R justice. You can make the dough first then prepare the filling whilst the dough rests. R will often make the filling the night before then make the dough the next day. The dough also freezes well. She works fast. It is harder than it looks to make the dough stick, you must use all of your finger strength. No namby pamby weak fingers please. (Which obviously mine are.) The lovely R’s advice. ‘Practice will make you a master and Be Strong.’

For that is The Way of the Pierogi.


Pierogi Dough
1 kilo plain flour
400ml boiling water and extra ready if needed
1/3 cup Olive oil
1 tsp Salt

Add oil to the flour then add the water gradually, you may not need all the water, or you may need a dash more. We used all 400ml and added another 3 tbl boiling water.
Bring the mixture together in the bowl then turn out onto a floured bench or board and knead until the gluten is activated, approximately 5 minutes.
Cover the dough in clingfilm and rest for half an hour minimum, up to one hour maximum at room temperature .
Flour a tray to place the pierogi on, and flour your workspace.
When the dough is soft and springy it is ready. Take a large ball of dough, around the size of a large orange.
Using a rolling pin, roll the dough, moving the dough regularly to avoid sticking, R worked it quite hard and it is quite elastic. Roll to approx 1mm thickness.
Using a glass or cutter about 8cm to cut out the pierogi shapes.
Use the scraps and add back into the dough.
Place a large teaspoon of filling onto each round of dough. (R works quickly.)
To shape the pierogi, pick up one pierogi and fold in into a crescent shape, press filling into the dough all the way and start to crimp around the edges.
As R says, Be Strong! Then turn over and crimp the other side. If there is too much filling, press it in with your index finger before crimping.
Don’t be afraid to pull the dough out as you crimp, you must have a good space between the filling and the dough so the two sides stick together without filling getting in the way. Again, Be Strong!
This filling used up about half of the dough made, we rolled out another batch once the first dough was used up. You can freeze leftover dough.

3 potatoes, cooked and mashed
1 tbl oil and 1 tbl butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
300g-350g farm style cottage cheese, similar to Polish cheese. (Approximately the same weight of potatoes as cheese, with a tad extra cheese. Cheese must be slightly sour.
1 tbl Veggie stock powder (this is not mandatory)
1 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
Salt to taste, (more if not using vegetable stock)
Pepper to taste

Cook onion in oil and butter until golden brown. Cool slightly.
Grate the cheese then add the cheese, stock powder (if using), marjoram, salt and pepper to the potato mixture.
Add half of the onion mixture to the cheese and potato mixture and mix well. R used her clean hands. The other half of the onion mixture is sprinkled on top of the cooked pierogi.
R usually makes the filling the day before or makes the filling whilst the dough is resting.

To cook pierogi
1 tsp salt
2 tbl oil
Fill a large saucepan over half way and bring to the boil.
Add about 8-10 pierogi at a time. When they float to the surface and have cooked for about 3-4 minutes, and feel tender, they are ready.
Meat pierogi take a bit longer, about 4-5 minutes.
You can eat them straight away topped with fried onion or refrigerate and pan fry on each side later in butter and oil, then top with the onion. (Which answered the infamous ‘boiling’ question, you can eat them straight away or wait and pan-fry them later. I have even re-poached them to keep them as softer type dumplings. It’s up to you!)

If you are not cooking the pierogi straight away, cover the tray with a tea towel until ready to boil. It is ok if they get a bit drier and with a bit of air, it means they are less likely to stick.

Different filling ideas include a sweet variation of fresh blueberries. Do not add any sugar as it will bring out the juices and the pierogi will collapse. Serve them with a a sugar and butter sauce and sweet whipped cream.

Another popular vegetarian filling is finely chopped sauerkraut, dried mushrooms and onion. Meat fillings include ground lamb, pork and beef variations. When making meat pierogi, make the crescent shape then bring it around to the corners and squeeze into a tortellini shape. (See the photos at the very end. )

We did experiment with a gluten free version which was pretty darned tasty, however, it requires a tad more refining, so stay tuned.

Cheergerm Feb 1510


A farewell afternoon tea with mini mushroom and feta frittatas

Last Sunday, The Mothership and Mr Polish hosted a family farewell afternoon tea for the Lovely R and Gorgeous A before they headed back to Poland. In direct hospitable response to the Lovely R’s Polish picnic generosity, the pressure was on to reciprocate. (In all reality, most of our get together’s involve some fairly tasty food due to a general love of eating, and eating well.)

The Cheergerm contribution to this slap up were dainty little mushroom and feta frittatas. Puffy, light and earthy from the thyme and mushroom; they were a nice addition to a motza of delicious afternoon tea delights.

This was the kind of spread from an Enid Blyton storybook. I half expected old Moonface himself to pop his head in and say ‘Hullo, oh, what have we here? What a top drawer afternoon tea. May I have a piece of cake?’ (To which the answer would have been a resounding, why yes Moonface, help yourself!) There was a pumpkin and veggie frittata, crispy homemade sausage rolls, dreamy gluten free lamingtons, fluffy pikelets, a gorgeous rich missisippi mud cake and spanokopita. The Polish contingent provided a delicious apple cake and peach cake (that had also been freed of gluten) and a vibrant marshmallow and Oreo cheesecake.

We sat in the sun, ate, talked and laughed, then ate some more. These beautiful people left a little bit of Poland behind and we hope that a little bit of Australia is forever tucked away in a corner of their hearts.


1 tbl olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small zucchini, finely diced
200g mushrooms, finely chopped
6 eggs
100ml cream
1 tbl thyme
200g soft Danish style feta, crumbled
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste

Lightly oil a 12 pan non-stick muffin tin.
Heat olive oil in a frypan and cook onions over a medium heat for a few minutes.
Add the zucchini and cook until they start to soften.
Add the mushrooms and cook the mixture until any liquid from the mushrooms is reduced. Season lightly and allow to this mixture to cool.
Preheat oven to 180C or 170C fan-forced.
Beat the eggs and cream together in a medium sized bowl.
Stir in the mushroom mixture, thyme and gently fold in the feta. Check for salt and pepper, add more to taste.
Spoon the mixture evenly into the prepared tin and cook for 20-25 minutes, until puffy and golden. They will deflate as they cool, so don’t freak out.
Serve warm or cold, they would also be great for a picnic.

A Cheergerm creation

Ginger Kisses and 80’s Rock Stars

80’s rock stars, how I loved your imperfect teeth, your curly hair, your baggy pants and billowing white pirate shirts. Your castaway on a desert island looks, your exuberance and subtle sexuality.

No overt flaunting of your nibbles and nobbles, be you lady or man. Just a luscious and gorgeous sensuality in the way you moved and dressed.

I am talking about you; David Bowie, Michael Hutchence and all of INXS. Yes, you Sting, the strangely sexy Prince, The Police, U2, The Church and The Cure. Yes; you Split Enz, Crowded House, Pat Benatar, Blondie and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten Duran Duran, Tears For Fears, Icehouse, Depeche Mode and New Order.

If I could, I would give you all a big Ginger Kiss. Rest assured, I am not smothering my lips in ginger sauce and going in for the pash. (Not that I wouldn’t mind giving a few of the above a smooch or two.) I am talking about that delightful New Zealand cake like biscuit, sandwiched with a buttery, mock cream type icing.

My childhood is embedded with memories of my paternal grandmother Nana J opening a packet of these wee puffy clouds from heaven. The spicy smell of them would waft towards you and your mouth watered with great expectation. Mr Bagpipes has memories of his mum baking them from scratch back in the day but by the time us grandkids had come along, Nana was busy running the business side of things for their trucking business. So, opening a packet of these ginger kisses was quicker by far. Nana still baked and cooked, her pavlova roll was legendary.

Baking these has been on the old ‘to do’ list for a while and I was very happy with the result. Warming, gingery and sweet. They were a real treat. Sure they weren’t quite as puffy as the store purchased ones, as I used a wholemeal flour but they had more substance. Try using the same amount of plain flour if you want an even lighter result.


115g butter, softened
85g caster sugar
1 egg, room temperature
2 tsp golden syrup, placed in a small dish and warmed slightly
125g/1 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp hot water

30g butter
120g icing sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla essence or 1/4 tsp vanilla powder
2 tbsp boiling water
1 tsp ginger or 1 tbsp preserved ginger

Preheat oven to 180C or 170C non-fan forced oven, line two baking trays with baking paper.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg, followed by the golden syrup.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and spices.
Fold the sifted dry ingredients into the butter mixture and lastly, stir in the baking soda, dissolved in the hot water.
Put the mixture in small teaspoonfuls (I did large teaspoonfuls and they spread quite a bit) on the trays, or use a piping bag with a 1cm/1/2 inch opening. (I am not a fan of the intricate art of piping so I didn’t.)
Bake for about ten minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.

Making the filling by beating the butter, icing sugar and vanilla together. Slowly add the boiling water a little at a time and continue to beat until the mixture is very light and creamy. Once the icing looks light and fluffy enough, stop adding the water as you may not need all of it. (I added too much water too quickly and had to add extra icing sugar, so my filling was a little heavier than it should have been.)
Pair up the Ginger Kisses, matching the sizes, smear a small amount of filling on each lower half and stick them together.
Store airtight, this made about 12 very large Ginger Kisses, next time I will make them a tad smaller.

Recipe from Ladies A Plate, Traditional Home Baking by Alexa Johnston. Published by Penguin Books 2008

Picnic Polish style and a cake for lazy people

To celebrate the arrival of our stepdads sister (let’s call her The Lovely R) from Poland, a picnic was organised at the lovely McKell Park in Brooklyn, a mere 25 minute drive from the homestead. This cute wee park is leafy and green, has a number of picnic tables and overlooks the beautiful Hawkesbury River. You can lounge around in the shade, chow down, then when everybody needs a spot of cooling off, it’s just a short walk down to the enclosed swimming area at the base of the hill.

The sky was as clear as a bell and the sun had risen this morning saying in its best Spike Milliganesque voice, ‘Good morning Sydney, today I am going to burn as hot as an Italian pizza oven and fry you all into tiny crispy bacon like pieces.’ In other words, it was damn hot. Carnivorous chickens roamed freely and battled with brush turkeys for scraps that had fallen at children’s feet. Frightening and delighting, simultaneously.

The best thing about this picnic was that The Lovely R had gone cooking mad and conjured up a number of amazing Polish dishes as her contribution to the picnic. R hails from Boleslawiec, a town in the south west part of Poland. I can happily say that very little cooking was done by anyone else in our family and we were all super excited to wrap our laughing gear around the amazing looking food. First up were stuffed capsicum/peppers, what’s not to love about a stuffed veggie? R had made a very tasty vegetarian version with rice and mushrooms and a heavenly meaty version. Both were cooked in a deliciously piquant tomato sauce.

R had also rustled up two different kinds of pierogi. (Yes, two, people. She doesn’t do things by halves and vegetarians by halves.) Pierogi are wee dumplings made of unleavened dough that are first boiled then pan fried and in this case, served with buttery fried onions on top. There was the vegetarian pierogi filled with cheese, potato and onion and the kolduny litewskie meat version with lamb mince, onion, peppers, garlic and marjoram. A fight almost broke out when divvying up the leftovers. I missed out. Just saying.

As if that wasn’t enough, The Lovely R had baked what she called ‘ciasto dla lenisych’, or The Cake for Lazy People. (An apt description for our family at this picnic.) A lovely yeasty, vanilla cake that sits in its batter state and bubbles away overnight before baking. She had topped it with ruby red plums and sweet nectarines. It was seriously good. As if we had not been spoiled enough, The Lovely R bestowed upon us some gorgeous handmade gifts. These included gorgeous ceramic glazed brooches made by a friend of hers as well as brightly coloured adorable local pottery (which bizarrely fit in with the chicken theme of the day) as well as scrumptious Polish caramels. Please stay here forever and look after us. Please.

This Cheergerm is pondering a lazier lifestyle, never cooking again and following other people’s picnics around, taking photos and scrounging food. I am also hoping for a pierogi lesson from The Lovely R before Poland (and her very hungry husband), call her home. In the spirit of full disclosure, we did score some leftover stuffed peppers and cake. So don’t feel too sorry for me. (I write this post with a face bulging full of a delicious Polish caramel with an oozy caramel centre…hello mumma….)

Hope you enjoy the new format.




Camping Cheergerm style

Some may say that our crew ‘glamps’ more than camps. We do have electricity and fridges. I am totally down with that.

South West Rocks, in New South Wales, is a five hour drive from Sydney town. Nestled between the ocean and rivers it is a lush, green paradise. We are camping at the South West Rocks Tourist Park on the side of the beautiful Macleay River.

Eating in the great outdoors is awesome. Our group efforts have left no-one wanting. The children move around in a pack, thong footed and sun kissed. Adults increasingly unwind and shrug off the shackles of everyday life. 

Nothing can take the edge of our relaxed lifestyle. Not a million mozzies, bluebottle stings or numerous visits from the asthma train to Kid 2.

Ocean and river swims. Numerous pool visits leave us happy and weary. I lie in my khaki green tent at night as fruit bats fly overhead and the ocean crashes. Dinners out at night have included visits to the Riverside Tavern and the Smithtown Riverview Hotel. They provide a welcome relief from feeding the hungry hordes and mountains of washing up.

The oceanfront Horseshoe Bay kiosk in town sits under majestic Norfolk pines and serves The Best Potato Cakes In The World (think handmade, salty and crispy). The sproglets devour the $2.50 ice-cream cones that they have been saving up for all year.

Foodie camping delights have included coleslaw, a vibrant broccoli salad, magnificent zebra prawns, corn and zucchini fritters, fattoush and kafta patties, fish straight from the river, and of course, potato salad.

These photos were taken with The Yaks mobile phone. Not half bad.




Millefeuilles aux tomates et lentilles and a lady crush

I am putting it out there, Rachel Khoo is a big spunk. Don’t worry Yak, nowt wrong with appreciating beauty from a distance. Not only is this dark haired lass easy on the eye, she also cooks delightful dishes in her teeny tiny Paris kitchen. Her food is inspiring, beautiful and I love how she puts her own personal twist on classic French cooking.

I have been reading her second cookbook, My Little French Kitchen, in which Rachel gets out amongst it and looks at regional food throughout France. Dishes on my ‘to do’ list from this cookbook include a carrot tarte tatin, a walnut and buckwheat caramel tart and this ‘summer on a plate’ dish of a vegetable millefeuilles.

This recipe is from the ‘Brittany’ chapter and this millefeuilles is essentially a multi-layered veggie pie made of Breton buckwheat galettes. Rachel tells us that these savoury pancakes are always made of buckwheat and are best enjoyed with a bottle of the locally produced cider. Good news for Mr Yak who can no longer enjoy beer as he once did.

It was New Years Eve and just the Yak, the lads, my sweet self and The Dadmeister aka Mr Bagpipes, were in da house. We began with a delightful cheese moment. A mouth watering squishy Saint from Bruny Island, a fudgy tangy surface ripened cheese. This could be it people, the most awesome cheese I have ever eaten. Ripened just a smidgen past ‘delicate’ it is almost nutty with a back taste of that delicious moldy penicillin flavour. An extra happy note for all you vegetarians, these cheeses are all rennet free! Oh yeah…

Back to the millefeuille. A great entertaining vegetarian dish. It sings in a soprano voice of all things summer and next time I will be adding a dash of goats or feta cheese to one or two layers. When making your crepes, don’t be pernickety about the size of your frypan, just swirl the mixture around until you have the right size. Lord, making crepes is like watching paint dry. The extremes you will go to when you have a lady crush, (and are also very hungry.)


200g buckwheat flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper
600ml cold water
Vegetable oil, for frying
100g Puy or beluga lentils (French green lentils)
1 large zucchini, chopped into 3mm cubes
2 red peppers, deseeded and chopped into 3mm cubes (I used one red and one yellow)
200g cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra for drizzling
300g assorted tomatoes (a mix of heirloom green, yellow and red would be great if you can find them)
1 tbsp lemon thyme

Mix the flour and a pinch of salt in a bowl.
Make a well in the centre and gradually mix in the water, adding just enough for the batter to have the consistency of double cream. Don’t over stir as this will produce rubbery galettes. Cover the batter and chill in the fridge for at least one hour, or overnight. Before using, whisk again and add more water if necessary.
Heat a 15-18 cm non-stick crepe pan or a small frying pan over a medium heat and brush with a little vegetable oil. Pour in a small ladleful of the batter and quickly swirl the pan so that the batter coats the base entirely. Cook for 1-2 minutes, loosen around the edge with a spatula, then turn it over and cook for a further minute.
Slide the galette out of the pan, then repeat to make 12 galettes, greasing the pan with a little oil each time.
Stack the galettes with layers of kitchen towel or baking paper between each one.
Cook the lentils in boiling salted water until just tender.
Drain and mix together with the zucchini, peppers, cherry tomatoes, onion and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a loose-bottom round baking tin (the size of the galettes, my tin was 9cm high with a 19cm base) with baking paper.
Place one galette at the bottom of the tin. Spread with some of the lentil mixture then top with another galette. Repeat until you have used up all the galettes, ensuring you finished with a galette. (My mixture made 11 galettes.)
Slice the mixed tomatoes (in my case I didn’t have a fancy mixture of heirloom tomatoes so made do with the ones I had) and pack them tightly on top of the galettes. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with the thyme.
Cook for 20 minutes, carefully remove it from the baking tin, slice and eat hot.

Cooking Notes: My millefeuilles was 9 crepes high and I had a dash of the filling left over.

Recipe from My Little French Kitchen by Rachel Koo, Published by the Penguin Group, 2013

A quick thanks to the following blogs for passing on some very kind awards. It was lovely to be mentioned and thought of. Please go and check out these cool bloggers when you are kicking back this holiday season with a cup of whatever takes your fancy. The Cheergerm and Yak family are off camping for two weeks and Mr Bagpipes is in control of house and dog. We are hoping he doesn’t trash the joint with too many parties while we are gone. (He has said that invitations have already been issued.) Stay tuned for some Camping Cheergerm posts.

A.Prompt Reply




Vegas Hungry Girl


France Says


For further information on Bruny Island cheese visit here:


Rachel Khoo blogs at


The Yak can cook

The Yak made a special request that I blog his special Boxing Day potato fry up. I decided to honour this request, despite the fact that he was wearing a child’s Nerf gun in a holster and he had shot foam bullets at me whenever I entered the kitchen.

The Yak Speaks

I’ve always found potatoes to be the elixir of life, us pale skinny English boys love them.

Family tradition dictates that the Yak (me) makes a big fry up for Boxing Day dinner. There are always plenty of leftover potatoes from the Christmas evening dinner feast, as we cook enough to attempt to feed a small army. These leftover spuds are the base for this fry up.

Slicing the potatoes, put them into a well oiled pan and fry for 15 or so minutes, turning them over once they are golden brown. Use the leftover butter that’s set at the bottom of the bowl where the leftover potatoes were sitting and put it on top of the potatoes for extra buttery goodness.

As there’s so many (family and potatoes) I usually have two frypans going at once. Potatoes that are fried to perfection are placed in an ovenproof dish and kept warm in the oven until all the potatoes are fried. Whilst the fried potato treasure is keeping hot in the oven, fry as many eggs as you possibly can.

Thanks Mr Yak for sharing your culinary glory. We leave you with a few images from our Christmas and Boxing Day festivities.

Happy New Year.

Gluten free rumpled plum pudding and a scary Christmas tin

The tins sat nestled amidst a cacophony of ancient kitchenware in an inner west secondhand shop. The search for some vintage tins had been going for months. These, in my opinion, fitted the criteria. A bit worse for wear and a tad unusual. One had tiny Christmas bells adorning the sides with an image of a child in a blue head scarf on the lid. A small concern lurked in the far reaches of my brainbox and I said to the proprietor ‘Do you think the girl child on this tin is a little bit, well, scary looking?’

He agreed, but also stated that he didn’t mind vintage objects that had images of creepy children on them. I concurred, purchased the tin and proudly raced back to the car. When I showed the tin to the Yak and lads, they screamed in horror and ran crying in t’other direction.

Here it is. The jury is out. (Actually, the jury has voted and decided this is the kind of tin that should probably be in a horror movie….)

On to the cooking bit.

The Yak, being of the English variety, loves a spot of plum pudding. So a gluten free version was required. When a mere youngling, this Cheergerm loathed fruitcake and plum pudding type desserts. As an older cheery person, I have discovered that I quite enjoy a small piece of these fruity offerings. The key to success has been in only utilising fruits that I actually like and leaving out the dreaded dried peel, shudder. It is also important when choosing the alcohol to macerate the fruit in, that you use booze you like the taste of. In this case, I went for a luscious liqueur Muscat. On Christmas day, this dessert will be accompanying Sister No 2’s light, fruity Chrissy pudding ice-cream delight. The best of both worlds.

My plum pudding tin was looking slightly worse for wear so I had to line it with baking paper. This gave my finished product the slightly rumpled ‘I been sleeping too heavily on my pillow crease lines’ look. For quality control purposes, I took my trusty apple corer and snarfled a sample. It was bloody delicious. The smell of macerated fruit was intoxicating. It is moist, rich, not too sweet and you don’t miss the gluten at all. The pudding itself is now resting in stately grandeur. All tucked in, preparing itself for Christmas day scoffing.

The Cheergerm, the rumpled pudding and the little girl on the creepy tin wish all of you a very Merry Christmas.


4 cups of dried fruit in total, this is what I used:
1 cup dried figs, chopped finely
3/4 cup cranberries, roughly chopped
3/4 cup sultannas
3/4 cup currants
3/4 cup raisins, roughly chopped (if large, mine weren’t so I left them)
1/2 cup of the booze of your choice, I used a liqueur Muscat
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tbl orange zest
250g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
2 cups gluten free breadcrumbs
1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup gluten free self-raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves

Combine all of the fruits, alcohol, orange zest and orange juice in a medium sized bowl. Cover and stand overnight.
Grease and line a 6 cup pudding basin or tin. Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Stir in the dried fruit mixture, breadcrumbs, almond meal, gluten free self-raising flour and spices. At this point, every member in our family had a stir of the bowl and made a Christmas wish. If you really want to be traditional, it is here that you would place a silver coin in the mixture. I am not sure I would want icky money in my food, so we chose to leave that bit out.
Spoon the mixture in to the prepared pudding tin and cover with greased baking paper and foil. Tie around the rim of the basin with kitchen string, securing tightly.
Stand the pudding on a trivet (or saucer in my case) and place in a deep saucepan or stockpot. Fill with enough water to come halfway up the sides.
Cover and cook for 5 hours over a medium heat, topping up with water as needed.
Serve immediately or if you are making your pudding ahead, cool down completely before wrapping well and storing in the refrigerator until needed.
Pudding can be reheated by returning to basin, covering and steaming again for approximately 1 hour. It can also be microwaved for about 12-15 minutes.
Flame the pudding and serve with custard. (Flaming means to pour brandy over the top of the pudding and setting alight. Let the most sober person in the room perform this ritual and try not to burn your house down.)

A slight Cheergerm adaptation of a Coles online recipe



Christmas advent calendars and cranberry chocolate pistachio shortbread

It has become apparent to me recently why ‘child friendly Advent calendars’ were invented. It was to assist parent conversations with time conscious, anxious seven year olds. In a Christmas nutshell; it was to avoid the parent in question, doing their nut and rocking in a corner with their thumb tucked safely in their mouth.

Kid 2, in his hyper awareness of the universe and it’s going ons, likes to know exactly what we are doing and when, what time it is, how many days until…..I mean it folks. He wants to know the answer to these questions, more than once a day.

Kid 2, to me, for the zillionth third time: ‘Mum, how many more days until Christmas?’
Me: (Imagine a sweet mummy voice here full of patience and infinite love.) ‘I don’t know darling, go and count the days on the Advent calendar.’

It is because of this calendar that, when faced with a constant barrage of Christmas time questions, I can present a patient, non-yelling like a deranged banshee parental face. This mummy can now rest safely at night, knowing that the authorities will not be knocking on the door anytime soon.

I blathered on about what shortbread means to me last year. In short, Christmas is shortbread and shortbread is Christmas. Up to today, this Cheergerm has baked good old fashioned shortbread, gluten free shortbread and chocolate ginger shortbread. (Hmm, I see a pattern.) Now I present to you a very grown up chocolate, pistachio and cranberry shortbread.

The buttery goodness of this biscuit mixed with tart berries, rich dark chocolate and a nutty crunch, is a festive delight and a wonderful Christmas edible gift. To top it off, this recipe can easily be made gluten free or not. The flour is a straight swap, just make sure you use a good quality gluten free flour blend.

It’s not so bad being a grown up if you get to eat biscuits such as these. Even if you do get asked the time and date more than one very human being ever should be.


250g unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 3/4 cups of gluten free plain flour or regular plain flour (I use a good quality gluten free flour such as White Wings.)
1/4 cup rice flour
1/2 cup lightly toasted pistachios, finely chopped
1/2 cup dark chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 180C.
Line 2 baking trays with baking paper and sift the flours together into a bowl.
Cream the butter and add the sugar gradually (I used a mixer), beating until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Work in the flour gradually until the mixture is just combined.
Add the pistachios, cranberries and chocolate and knead lightly to bring together to a dough. (I do this in the bowl.) Knead a little longer for a regular version.
Divide the dough in half, roll each half out to a 3-4 cm log. Wrap in clingwrap and refrigerate for half an hour to an hour.
Slice the logs into 1-2 cm thickness, depending on your fancy, place 10mm apart on a baking tray and prick each piece all over with a fork. This mixture was a bugger to cut due to the chocolate and nuts, so the colder the better. Some shortbread may go out of shape but just form it back into a similar shape using your hands.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until crisp and straw-coloured. (Regular shortbread will be quicker to bake, probably only 15-20 minutes.)
Cool down on wire racks.
Makes about 20-25 pieces.

Cooking Notes: When adding the flour to the mixture, I pop a teatowel over the mixer to stop the flour ‘floofling’ (an exact culinary term) all over the joint.

A Cheergerm adaptation of a Margaret Fulton recipe from The Margaret Fulton Cookbook


Old school shortbread:


Gluten free shortbread


Chocolate, ginger and spelt shortbread