Gluten free blueberry muffins

Throwing stuff out is not my jam. Minimalists, let me spare you the pain and avert your eyes now.

Not only do I love to collect, I also struggle with sorting through and throwing out the accumulated tangible items of life. This includes my clothes, knick-knacks and kitchenware but my biggest challenge is anything that belongs to our boys; be it toys, items of clothing or books.

I detest waste (who knows when it may come in handy?) but I also attach an immense amount of sentiment to such objects. Each precious article reminds me of our curly-haired, chubby-thighed little boys in Bonds t-shirts. How could I get rid of the wooden medieval castle or the Schleich animal figurines thoughtfully chosen together? But what I find most difficult is the books. Ahh, the books.

Every book I pick up has been read thoroughly, over and over during those early years. Each of them reminds me of sweet smelling freshly washed heads, snuggly pyjamas, weary nighttime little limbs softened and curled against me. They listened and looked and recited along with either myself or the Yak as we read to them. As often and whenever we could.

Trying to sort through the boys early childhood collection was my very own personal nightmare and I admit to keeping more than I should have. The classic books remembered from my own childhood had to be retained. The Giant Jam Sandwich, The Bad Baby and The Elephant, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Where the Wild Things Are, The Tiger Who Came to Tea and The Story About Ping.

Nor could I give away the many Hairy McLary’s, The Gruffalo, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and Peepo. (To name but a few.) Lovingly packed away for now, my hope is that they will be read to future possible grandchildren (if I live that bloody long). If not, they will hopefully be rediscovered by our boys when they get the wonderful job of clearing out the crap once we have shuffled off this mortal coil. Lads, you are welcome.

This recipe is slightly tweaked from the marvellous Gluten Free Girl blog. Her feelings and experimentation pertaining to The Science of Muffin Baking, mirror my own. As all of us who bake gluten free know, it can be tricky to enjoy a lovely tender bake without using a nut based flour. I don’t like a big, overly sweet and cakey muffin and these little fruity beauties have a lovely soft crumb, are hydrated (I am trying desperately to avoid a certain ‘m’ word that I hate) and are a divine accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee. Kid 1 loves them enough to hog the whole lot. (He will hopefully remember these muffins lovingly as he sorts through the mountains of inherited flotsam and jetsam.)

GLUTEN FREE BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

WHAT YOU NEED
260 gf plain flour (Bobs Red Mill 1 to 1 gf flour blend is my current fave flour blend. I do not get paid to say this!)
2 tbl psyllium husk
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbl baking powder
1/2 tsp bi-carb soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup buttermilk (I have used soy milk and regular milk as well but buttermilk provides the most tender muffin)
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil (I use grapeseed or rice bran oil)

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 210C.
Line a 12 hole muffin tin with muffin liners. (I brush a little bit of oil in each one to assist the muffins in not sticking.)
Whisk the flour, psyllium husk, sugar, baking powder, bi-carb soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl.
Add the blueberries and toss them in the flour mixture. This flour coating helps them to not sink when baking.
Whisk the buttermilk, eggs and oil together thoroughly.
Pour the wet ingredients into a well in the dry ingredients and and very gently, fold the ingredients until everything is combined.
Fill the muffin liners equally.
Bake the muffins for five minutes at 210C then lower the heat to 180C and bake for another 15 minutes. The muffins are cooked when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and place the muffins onto a wire rack to cool.
Eat them.

Recipe slightly adapted from the following blog. This is a great post involving all things muffiny and gluten free. Go have a read.

https://glutenfreegirl.com/2016/10/how-to-make-a-gluten-free-muffin-mix/

Advertisements

Ginger and almond slice, gluten free

Kid 1: Do you want a hug Mum?
Me: (Suspiciously) … um why?
Kid 1: Are you having a bit of a hard time at the moment?
Me: Ummmm…why do you ask?
Kid 1: Are you going through some kind of mid life crisis? I saw those tablets in the kitchen and it says that they are for ‘hormonial’ problems.

Explanation: sitting on our kitchen bench top sat an assortment of herbal tablet remedies addressing ‘certain women’s issues’, including that ‘raggedy-arse no good delightful condition of pre-menopause.’

Me: (Despite the exclamation marks in my mind, out loud I calmly said) Well, I guess I kind of am.
Kid 1: Oh, that’s badly timed with you going through a mid-life crisis and me going through teenage years! (Himself now being all of fourteen.)
Me: Yup, we really should have planned that better.
Kid 1: Do you still want a hug?
Me: Yes, yes I do.

Now that was a damned fine hug indeed.

A close runner up to that hug is this buttery innards-warming gingery slice topped with golden brown nutty slivers. The nuggets of crystallised ginger add wee pockets of chewy surprises that both delight and astound. (Ok, astound is taking it too far but they are bloody tasty.) Indeed, it has become Kid 1’s second favourite homemade slice.

ALMOND AND GINGER SLICE, GLUTEN FREE

WHAT YOU NEED
175g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup caster sugar
1 egg
225g gluten free plain flour
2 tbl milk
100g almond meal
1 tsp ground ginger
100g crystallised ginger or glacé ginger (I prefer the texture of the crystallised.)
70g flaked almonds

WHAT YOU NEED
Preheat oven to 190C degrees conventional (or 180 C fan-forced) and line an 18cm by 28cm baking tin with baking paper.
Beat butter and sugar together using an electric beater until thick, pale and fluffy.
Beat in the egg, then beat in flour alternating with milk.
Stir in the almond meal, ground ginger and crystallised/glacé ginger.
Pat the mixture into the tin and smooth it out evenly and sprinkle with the almonds.
Bake for 35-45 minutes until golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Cool slightly in the pan then lift onto a baking rack to finish cooling. Cut into squares or fingers and eat.

Recipe slightly adapted from the following website:

https://www.taste.com.au/recipes/ginger-almond-slice/0d614e62-250f-45ff-aa4b-c4c161ce186e


Pam’s lemonade scones

Some people are irrevocably part of your childhood fabric, the person who gave me this scone recipe is one of those people. Not long after we moved to Melbourne from New Zealand, over forty years ago now, I made friends with a wee red-headed energetic lass at our local primary school. Her mum’s name was Pamela and as time went on, our Mums became friends and our families became close. In many ways, they were our Australian family. Patching a hole that had been left from leaving loved ones behind in The Land of the Long White Cloud.

Pam’s parents were Dutch, she had beautiful high cheekbones and a European sensibility. She was strong, funny, fierce, kind and possessed a bullshit radar like no other. As well as raising a family, she ran a catering business from home using the classical cooking skills she had acquired in a cordon-bleu cooking course. I remember sitting on tall stools on the other side of her tiled kitchen bench. Shiny copper jelly molds decorated the walls and I watched with quiet amazement as she deftly chopped vegetables with a skill I had never seen before, made pastry or prepared hor’douevres for upcoming catering gigs. (Oysters atop black pumpernickel bread spread with green butter, being one of them. It was the late 70’s.) Alongside my own Mum’s passion for healthy, fresh produce and good home cooking, watching Pam in the kitchen deeply influenced me in a way that I wasn’t aware of until many years later.

I learnt much from Pam and from observing the friendship between her and my mother. She showed me how to clean a bathroom properly and how to use one square of toilet paper if that was all you were left with. (You don’t want to know.) She taught me the pinch test on the back of your hand to see how your skin was ageing. I remember watching with fascination as the skin on our younger hands pinged back quickly but when she pinched her own hand, it went back into place at a much slower pace. Funny the things we remember.

Pam and Mum’s friendship was close and honest. I observed them with equal parts envy, interest and delight. In retrospect as an adult, probably in the hope that I too could emulate this kind of relationship one day. From my perspective, they seemed to stimulate and challenge each other both intellectually and emotionally. It appeared as if the status quo existed only to be questioned. Pam was a stalwart support in some of my family’s darkest times and their friendship taught me that friends don’t always have to see eye-to-eye. That close relationships can move past a disagreement or a hurt into a deeper understanding. Her and Mum are still friends and being divided by distance, talk on the phone, text often and visit when they can.

Pam is a never boring whirlwind of ideas, deep thoughts, rapid-fire at times bewildering conversation that pushes you to keep up. She has an abiding passion for the new, for life, for food, for people, for education and for the intricate workings of the human mind and body. In a recent conversation based around baking, I had told her that my scones were always too heavy, so she promptly emailed me her lemonade scone recipe.

Using the lightest possible hand (as directed), the scones have turned out beautifully light and airy both times I have baked them. They will slip nicely into my standard repertoire and be the basis of some gluten free experimentation in the future. I think I will call them Pam’s Lemonade Scones. Because that’s the very least that she deserves.

Lemonade scones

WHAT YOU NEED

2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup castor sugar
125 ml thick cream
125 ml lemonade
2 tbsp milk

HOW YOU DO IT

Preheat oven to 200C. Line a tray with baking paper.
Sift the flour, salt and caster sugar into a medium sized bowl.
Add the cream, lemonade and milk to the flour mixture quickly. Using a knife or spatula and with a very light touch, bring the mixture together.
Tip onto a floured board and very lightly knead together. (The mixture is quite wet and sticky.)
Pat into a 2cm thick square and cut the mixture into 12 squares. (Or use a cutter but I think this would be a wee bit tricky with a sticky mixture like this.)
Brush the top with any remainding cream.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until risen and lightly golden brown.
Serve with butter, jam, cream. Whatever takes your fancy.

Pam’s Lemonade Scones


Gluten free lemon biscuits

IMG_7499

Winter has certainly hit Sydney. Looking out onto a dreary garden scene, I observe a sun-deprived browning lawn, fallen twigs and leaves from recent strong winds and the remnants of summer herbs. The bright spot in my view is the lemon trees. We are enjoying an abundance of citrus but there are only so many cakes, biscuits and slices you can bake.

My next food goal is to ‘put up’ (as would they say in the old days) some Moroccan/Middle Eastern preserved lemons. In my minds eye, I envisage opening a jar of homemade bottled sunshine to chuck into a slow-cooked tagine or sprinkle atop an autumnal salad. Bathing in a feeling of culinary superiority, wearing muted linen colours, my well-manicured hands clutching a coffee mug in the very latest in ceramic serving ware. Totally ‘Instagrammable.’

Back to reality, I hoist my daggy tracksuits up around my waist. These biscuits are delicate, zesty,  wonderfully easy to make and are much akin to shortbread. Next time (there will be a next time), I will double the recipe.

Gluten free lemon biscuits

WHAT YOU NEED
100g butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tbl lemon zest (I used the rind of 1 large lemon)
1 3/4 cup gluten free flour
1/4 cup rice flour

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 180C and line two baking tray with baking paper.
Combine the butter, sugar, juice and zest in a bowl and beat until combined.
Sift in the gluten free flour and rice flour and stir until smooth.
Form the dough into a ball, wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Remove from the refrigerator and pinch off about 1 large tablespoon of dough and roll into balls. Place them on the trays, 5cm apart. Flatten them with a fork ever so lightly.
Bake for 15-20minutes or until they start to brown around the edges.

Makes about 18 bikkies.

Recipe from the following website, with a few small adaptations.

http://allrecipes.com.au/recipe/26080/gluten-free-lemon-biscuits.aspx

IMG_7470

IMG_7475

IMG_7481

IMG_7510

IMG_7526


More gluten free lemon muffins

Forget finding the meaning of life, running a marathon or even attempting to read an entire book without skipping to the last chapter. My personal Holy Grail (minus the white steed and medieval suit of armour), appears to be an ongoing quest for the perfect gluten free lemon muffin recipe.

Sadly, this is not it. But it ain’t half bad. It is not the fault of the original recipe but merely the curse of using gluten free flour and the tendency for such bakes to dry out quickly. (Especially when the don’t include fruit or some kind of nut flour.) The Yak really enjoyed them and they are certainly at their best on the day of or day after baking. I am most proud of our three bountiful small lemon trees that continue to provide the citrus that is the zingy backdrop to my culinary life.

The search continues but it is good to finally know my true purpose.

GLUTEN FREE LEMON MUFFINS

WHAT YOU NEED
210g gf flour
1 tbl baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar (I used brown sugar for this batch but caster sugar is fine too)
4 eggs
1/3 cup Greek yoghurt
1/2 cup grapeseed or olive oil
2 tbls finely zested lemon rind
1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
Syrup
2 tbl lemon juice
1 tsp brown sugar

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C and place muffin papers in a 12 hole muffin tin.
In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat together sugar and eggs until pale and smooth, this will take about 2-3 minutes.
Beat in the yoghut then beat in the grapeseed or olive oil along with the lemon zest and vanilla essence.
Add the flour mixture and mix until incorporated.
Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling each about 1/3 full.
To make the syrup, place the lemon juice and sugar into a small bowl and microwave for about 30 seconds until the sugar is dissolved.
Bake the muffins for 15-20 minutes until golden or until a cake skewer comes out clean.
Transfer to a rack to cool and then immediately, poke a few holes with the cake skewer into each of the muffins. Drizzle some of the syrup onto each muffin until all the syrup is gone.

Makes 12 small muffins

A gluten free adaptation of the following recipe:

https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/05/lemon-olive-oil-muffins-recipe.html


Gluten Free Mac n Cheese – Rick Stein stylin

In an attempt to involve our kidlets in the cooking and ‘not just eating process’, a decree has been passed in our household (royally of course) that ‘each child shall take turn-a-bout choosing and cooking Sunday’s dinner with their Mum’. We took a respite from this over the Christmas and school break but once those holiday shenanigans ended we began again. This mother of two boys is determined to ensure that our lads eventually leave home (albeit in their early thirties) with the ability to cook a decent repetoire of dishes.

Kid 1, on the cusp of turning 14, decided that after watching Rick Stein cook up a decadent version of Mac n Cheese (Macaroni and Cheese for those that may not know), that this would be the dish for him. We have since renamed it ‘Heart Attack on a Plate.’ But my, how very delicious it was. To save precious energy (I am old and he is, well, an adolescent), we decided that the dish had to be entirely gluten free and vegetarian. Frankly, we couldn’t be arsed bothered making two different versions. And guess what, none of us cared.

Well, The Yak actually cared a great deal as he truly loved this old school classic. I mean, really, dangerously, intimately loved it. Hence, we cannot make it again for a very long time. Our parental ageing bodies cannot take this amount of saturated fat too often, even if the youngsters can. However, if you are looking for a moreish, autumnal or winters, tasty, zingy, creamy, monstrously wonderful comfort dish, this is it. Don’t baulk at the amount of cheese, keep grating. Its a veritable mountain but it is required. (The next Mac n Cheese I make will be a healthier version, you will hear the complaints globally but that’s the way the cheese grates, or well, doesn’t.)

GLUTEN FREE MAC N CHEESE

WHAT YOU NEED
100g butter
100 g gluten free flour
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1.2 litres milk (I used low fat but the orignal recipe calls for full fat)
75 ml double cream
1 bay leaf
400g mature cheddar grated
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg (or dried if you don’t have fresh)
500g of your favourite gluten free dried macaroni
60g gluten free breadcrumbs
50g Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 200C (or 180C fan-forced) and grease a 35x20cm ovenproof dish.
Melt the butter in a medium size saucepan then stir in the flour and cook for two to three minute until the mixture (roux) starts to bubble.
Add the mustard and remove the pan from the heat, add the milk, cream and bay leaf and quickly whisk together.
Return the pan to a medium heat and continue to stir constantly until the mixture starts to thicken and boil.
Remove the saucepan from the heat, remove the bay leaf and add the cheddar. Stir until the cheese has melted then season well with black pepper and nutmeg.
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the macaroni until al dente as per the packet instructions, usually around 8-10 minutes. Drain and add the pasta to the sauce.
Pour the mixture into the ovenproof dish. Mix the breadcrumbs and Parmesan together and sprinkle over the top.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and bubbling and serve immediately.

Cooking Notes: Choosing a decent gluten free pasta is a veritable minefield, to avoid too many white starchy carbohydrates I will often use a buckwheat pasta for The Yak. For this recipe we used a generic supermarket brand corn and rice pasta which was actually OK but that was only because the people in my life cannot follow a simple shopping instruction. Thus far, the best ‘most like wheat based pasta’ gluten free pasta I have ever purchased, is the fairly new gluten free Barilla pasta range. I am not paid to say this, nobody pays me to say anything, although I wish they would. I would also happily be paid not to say anything at all. I am open to all offers.

A slight adaptation of a Rick Stein recipe. Go here for the original non-gluten free and non-vegetarian recipe for those of you who don’t have to care.

Rick Steins Mac n Cheese

I never usually comment on my photos but I had to state that this photo cracks me up. Our lad is standing in exactly the same way that I often do. It is also the same way that my physio has told me off for as it is not good for your spine alignment. It seems to be that very little in this post is actually ‘good for you’ but frankly, cest la vie!


Gluten free pecan and vanilla shortbread

This is the pointy part of the year when our ‘busy’ lifestyles become more hectic than usual. Fighting for a carparking space and battling the multitudes at crowded shopping malls is not my idea of a good time. Completing my present purchasing early, allows me to enjoy the process and maintain some semblance of sanity.

When I think of childhood Christmases, certain gifts I received stand out (hello wholesome Sindy doll, no pneumatic Barbie for me.) What I remember most however, is that feeling where the world has slowed down. Of spending it with my crazy beautiful family, of the steadfast family friends who tethered us, of decorated pine trees hauled from the paddock next door fat and laden down with old school tinsel, Dads long walking socks used as Christmas stockings stuffed full of small and thoughtful delights.

I think of all the delicious things we ate; shiny glazed hams studded with cloves, homemade pavlovas crunchy on the outside and gooey in the middle, enough boiled new potatoes to feed an army and freshly shelled green peas – a job shared by all. Of scorching hot days when our bums stuck to vinyl car seats, us kids making whirlpools in above-ground swimming pools and running wild through sprinklers in baggy one-piece swimming cozzies. I hope one day, my own children will look back and remember the traditions created and moments spent together and not the ‘stuff’ that they received.

My goal has always been to spend the last week before Christmas away from the shops. Soaking in the festive feeling, spending time with loved ones, enjoying the Christmas lights on our street and of course baking shortbread for Christmas gifts. This year I find myself in the kitchen as the temperatures in our part of Sydney soar into the high thirties and low forties. (Celsius that is.) Working with butter in extreme heat is tricky but is manageable if you work fast. I do admit to turning on the air-conditioning once the oven starts to warm up. Pecan and vanilla is a winning combination and so far, no-one has complained. (They wouldn’t want to, there’s no saying what an overheated possibly perimenopausal baker might do if offended.)

Christmas isn’t always an easy time. Grief, pressure, depression,ill-health, financial woes and difficult family dynamics don’t just disappear because the calendar tells us it’s December. Terrible things happen at any time of the year and not everyone has it good. With that in mind; whatever you do or don’t bake this Christmas and whatever kind of Christmas you are experiencing, I wish you good tidings, peace and love.

GLUTEN FREE PECAN AND VANILLA SHORTBREAD

WHAT YOU NEED
250g butter, room temperature
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1 tsp vanilla essence
2 3/4 cups plain gluten free flour (for non gluten-free shortbread use the same amount of plain flour)
1/4 cup rice flour
1/4 tsp fine salt
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 170C.
Line 2 baking trays with baking paper and sift the flours and salt together into a bowl.
Cream the butter and add the sugar gradually (I used a mixer), beating until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Add the vanilla and mix until evenly dispersed.
Work in the flour gradually until the mixture is just combined.
Add the pecans and give the mixture another quick mix.
Knead the mixture lightly in the bowl for a few minutes to bring it together.
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.
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.

A Cheergerm Adaptation of a Margaret Fulton recipe.

Cooking Notes: Gluten free shortbread can be delicate creatures so please handle carefully when rolling and cutting. 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.


Leura and Holmcroft

Our brother-in-law had arrived from the UK and after a couple of days hanging in our usual surrounds, we thought it a grand idea to go and visit further afield. It didn’t take long to decide upon the charming village of Leura, set admidst the quintessential Australian bush environment of the Blue Mountains. After investigating accommodation options online until my eyeballs bled, I chose a charming wee cottage named Holmcroft. Staying in another home elsewhere is like trying on a pair of fine, expensive shoes. You get the feeling of another way of life in a place that is different to your own. Yet you are not required to commit to it.

The bones of Holmcroft wrapped themselves around us. Pressed metal walls and ceilings, wide knotted Kauri floorboards and panels of stained glass panels hark back to the early 1900’s. I stared at the ornate ceilings, imagining those who passed through and have long gone back to dust and dirt. So many unspoken stories embedded into the mitochondria of this building. The spoken and the unspoken, I like to think that we also left behind a tiny part of our own story.

Holmcroft definitely harkens back to a more gracious time. When clocks ticked their steady rhythm, fine bone china clinked and heavy fabricked skirts rustled. The house is plenty big enough, four bedrooms are dressed with good quality bed linen, there are two bathrooms, two comfortable decent sized living areas and a lovely verandah for cup-of-tea relaxing. Mod-cons such as central heating, a dishwasher and an updated kitchen are the icing on this vintage cake. The boys ran out their bottled-up energy in the rambling garden, when they weren’t exhausted from the daily walking.

I happily did very little cooking, unless you can call arranging a piggy-platter of tasty nibbles and opening a bottle of fizzy wine actual cooking? Leura was a pleasant ten minute stroll away and we delighted in the heavily blossom laden trees and beautifully maintained gardens we passed on the way into town.

We ate at a number of restaurants and cafes but my highlight was lunch at the Red Door Cafe. I ordered the same dish on two different occasions, it comprised of a wild rice sage and mushroom rosti, chilli and chive fried eggs, sweet roast pumpkin and all topped with a radish, almond, peach and pecorino salad. Whilst it sounds like a bit of a mish-mash, it was incredibly well balanced and completely delicious. Something to attempt replicating at home for sure.

Josophan’s Chocolates was another solid fist punch foodie moment. The boys scoffed decadent brownies, of which we got a tiny nibble. I also purchased a bag of their magnificent Belgian cocoa and may (or may not) have bought a small bag of their hand-crafted chocolates. (Shhh, don’t tell the children or The Yak.) We ate hearty pies in buttery pastry and very good sourdough at Wentworth Bakery. This sometimes grown-up also managed to sneak away for some lovely shopping moments in the lush boutiques that dot the main street.

We walked, talked and enjoyed the jaw-dropping mountain scenery. Whilst extreme heights has never been my favourite, I found myself panicking whenever the boys went too close to the vertigous edge. I tried not to pass on this new found anxiety to the lads. Judging from the way they happily trekked down the cliff face to the closest point of the Three Sisters rock formation, I seem to have succeeded. (Despite my small tantrum at not wanting them to go and storming back up the path so as not to witness their descent. Another chapter to add to my ‘Fine Parenting Moments 101.’)

We read by the fire, ate, drank good wine and made new memories. Although the absence of our Joanne weighed heavily at times we hope that it was a small salve to Rob’s soul to be elsewhere for a while, just as it was for us to spend time with him.

Speaking of leaving a part of us behind, we accidentally left one boys favourite soccer cap and two other items of my clothing at the house. So I guess the old adage of ‘be careful what you wish for’ sometimes does come true. If that is the case, I would like to throw another wish out there, that we come back to visit Holmcroft again and not before too long.

Holmcroft

*


Maple syrup muffins, gluten free

Since moving to the northern suburbs of Sydney and its bush surroundings, a particular bird has become my steadfast night time companion. A birdwatching neighbour assisted me in identifying the resonant hoot of this avian creature. It is the smallest and most common owl in Australia, the Southern Boobook. (Or as I have nicknamed it, ‘The Hoo Hoo Bird’.) It’s voice capacity seems far beyond its body weight, some would say this fact may explain my feelings of kinship towards this evening songbird.

It’s nocturnal call has become a comforting, rhythmical backdrop to what I have dubbed the ‘3 am blues’. Upon waking around that particular hour; every bad thought, hideous possibility and nightmarish circumstance comes to mind. And due to the hour, it feels unbeatable, unbearable and imminently possible.

Too many times to mention has the rhythmic far off call of the Boobook been my lullaby back to the realm of peace and slumber. Lately, this owl has begun to roost very near our house. The closest I have ever heard it. As I write, my eyes droop and my head nods in a Pavlovian response to its soothing call, lulling me to the Land of Nod.

Oh beautiful bird, thank you for your gift of sleep during restless nights of dark thoughts, wakeful breastfeeding babies, anxious parent emotions, vomiting children, snoring husbands, asthmatic lads, grieving nights and wide eyed ‘what if’ overthinking. I wish you propagation, the protection of your bush environment, delicious treats and the continuing joy of your nightly call.

These gluten free muffins are on steady rotation in our household. The recipe doesn’t contain any refined sugar, only maple syrup which gives them a floral, caramel flavour. They are tender, not too sweet and are best eaten on the day (or day after) they are baked.

MAPLE SYRUP MUFFINS, GLUTEN FREE

WHAT YOU NEED
350g gf flour (see cooking notes)
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs (70g)
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
2 tbl maple syrup extra for glazing

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 200C (or 190 fan forced.) Place muffin papers into a 12 hole muffin tin. Spray lightly with baking oil to ensure easy removal.
Sieve all the dry ingredients into a medium sized bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs then add the buttermilk, maple syrup and grapeseed oil and stir well.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix to combine. Spoon the mixture into the muffin papers and bake for 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven onto a cooling rack and using a pastry brush, brush the extra maple syrup over the top of the muffins whilst they are still hot.
Eat them.

Cooking notes:
In regards to gluten free flour for these muffins, I like to use a blend and this will change depending on what I have on hand. The two blends that provide a lovely, tender muffin are: A. 150g chestnut flour and 200g plain gf flour blend such as the Orgran brand. B. 100g Bobs Red Mill All Purpose Baking Flour and 250g plain gf flour.
If you don’t have buttermilk you can make your own by adding 1 tbl of lemon or vinegar to 1 cup of buttermilk and let it stand for 10 to 15 minutes.

Maple syrup muffins original recipe link

The call of the Southern Boobook


Vegetarian lentil shepherds pie

Our two lads will happily eat standard veggie fare such as corn, carrots, peas, broccoli and potatoes. If you asked them, they would vehemently deny eating (much less admit to enjoying) eggplant, zuchinni, mushrooms, fennel, onion and capsicum. However, they regularly eat these vegetables in curries, vegetarian Mexican bean dishes, veggie lentil pasta dishes, meat casseroles, burgers, bolognese and more.

Whilst eating, they sometimes ask ‘Mum, what’s in this ?’ When I tell them ‘eggplant’, they are not deterred from continuing the inhalation process. I am sure this has something to do with the leafy matter being ‘hidden in plain sight’ and not easily identifiable. On the flip side, they run screaming from the room when confronted with beetroot, brussel sprouts, parnsips or sweet potato.

This hearty winter dish is all about the fifth flavour of umami (or in other words ‘deep savouriness’), provided by the mushrooms, miso and soy sauce. These flavours and textures, combined with some slow cooking, are completely satisyfing. I cannot promise that it will convert the most adamant of carnivores but our lads love it and in fact, have said they prefer it to my meat version of the same dish. (A declaration at which many sheep breathed a sigh of relief upon hearing.)

Make, eat and enjoy; knowing that neither sheep nor shepherd was harmed in the making of this pie.

VEGETARIAN LENTIL SHEPHERDS PIE

WHAT YOU NEED
4 tbl olive oil
1 medium onion finely diced
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
3 medium carrots, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
1 medium sized red pepper, diced
1 large eggplant, diced
1 large zuchinni, diced
2 cloves garlic
3 large flat mushrooms, diced
2 tins brown lentils, drained
1 tin crushed tomatoes
250 ml vegetable stock
1 tbl oregano
1tbl gluten free soy sauce
1 tbl miso paste
Salt and pepper to taste

Mashed potato topping
1.5 kilos potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup milk
50-100g Butter to taste (add as much as or as little as you like)
Salt and pepper
50-80g Parmesan for grating on top

HOW YOU DO IT

Lightly oil a large baking dish.
Sauté onion, chilli, carrot, celery and red pepper for five minutes. Add the eggplant and zuchinni and sauté for another five minutes, stirring regularly. Add the garlic and cook for one minute.
Add the mushrooms and cook for another five minutes. Add the lentils, tin of tomatoes, veggie stock, oregano, soy sauce, miso and another cup or so of cold water so the whole mixture is covered in liquid.
Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer, cook for up to one hour until all the liquid is evaporated and the veggies are tender. (This can take more like 1 hour 15 minutes.) Check for seasoning.
Whilst the vegetable mixture is simmering make the mashed potato topping. Cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender then drain them. Quickly pop them back into the saucepan and cook on a low heat for a minute or two. This will evaporate any remaining liquid and help to make a more fluffy mash. Remove them from the heat.
Warm the milk then add this and the butter to the potato mixture and mash until light and fluffy. Season with salt and pepper.
If cooking the shepherds pie straight away, preheat the oven to 180C.
To assemble the pie: Place the vegetable mixture into the prepared baking dish and smooth flat. Dollop even spoons of the potato mash over the top of the veggies. Flatten the mash with a spatula then drag a fork through the top. (This uneven texture helps the potato to brown.)
Sprinkle the Parmesan over the potato and bake in the oven for 40 minutes until golden brown. (If the top hasn’t browned enough, I often turn the grill on to medium for five minutes or so to help the browning process.)
If you are heating up the shepherds pie from the fridge, bring it out for half an hour before baking and it will take around an hour to heat up to piping hot.

Cooking Notes: Don’t feel compelled to follow my recipe for mashed potato if you have your own awesome recipe and technique. You can also make this recipe vegan by using a vegan margarine to mash the potatoes with and not using any milk. Top with a vegan cheese instead.
Another great thing about this dish is that due to its size, there are always leftovers for the next night. You little beauty.

A Cheergerm recipe