Gluten free cornflake biscuits and Box Boy

Here in New South Wales, Australia, we have been recovering from devastating storms and torrential rain. Outside play has been at a minimum. Finally, the sun was shining and I screamed at politely asked my children to go outside and play. They ignored me. During my rant soliloquy on the benefits of outdoor playing Kid 2 came up to me, wearing a cardboard box. He had become Box Boy, reminiscent of The Boy in the Bubble but less circular.

Kid 2: Hug me.

Not particularly wanting to hug him at that moment, I decided to take this as an opportunity to think outside the box. I wrapped my arms around my cardboard enclosed child and squeezed. For the record, it was odd and rather scratchy.

The gluten free cornflakes used in the recipe also came out of a box. Having known and adored similar styles of biscuits in my cheery childhood, I assumed the sproglets would devour them immediately. Incorrect. The little buggers sweethearts wouldn’t even try them. ‘Go on, eat one,’ said I. ‘No’, said they, resolutely and determinedly.

The adults who got a look in loved every one of these crunchy, vanilla studded, buttery biscuits. To say they pair well with a good cup of cha (tea) is an understatement. For fans of secondhand goodness, please note the adorable Swedish mug rescued from an op shop for the ripe price of a dollar. Got to love a bargain.

GLUTEN FREE CORNFLAKE BISCUITS

WHAT YOU NEED
125g butter
1/2 cup caster sugar (I used raw)
1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder, or 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla essence
180g gluten free self-raising flour, sifted
1 tbl milk
1 1/2 cups gluten free cornflakes
1/2 cup sultanas

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C and line two baking trays with baking paper.
Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl until light and creamy. I usually scrape the bowl down using a spatula at least once during this process.
Add the flour and mix on a low speed to incorporate.
Add the milk and mix until the dough comes together.
Use a wooden spoon to mix the cornflakes and sultanas in, stir until well combined.
Use a heaped teaspoon per biscuit and roll into a ball. Place onto the trays, allowing room for spreading, slightly flatten each biscuit with a spatula.
Cook for 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden. I often turn the trays halfway through cooking to allow for even cooking.
Remove trays from oven and let cool for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
Made 22 biscuits.

A Cheergerm adaptation of a recipe from the Taste website. The link to the original recipe is provided below the photos.

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http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/13559/sultana+cornflake+cookies

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Back to Bathurst and a spot of Tex-Mex

Restlessness and a modicum of discontent sat curled, viper like, in the depths of my belly. We were nearing the end of the first week of the lads two week school holidays. A last minute opportunity arose to visit Mr Bagpipes, aka the father figure. He is currently house sitting a large ex-vineyard property ten minutes outside of old Bathurst. It felt darned good to pack up and get the heck outta Dodge. A chance for familial reconnection far from the maddening crowd in the country air and wide open spaces.

Before we hit the property, we popped into Legall Patisserie for some takeaway pastries, including of course, my favourite toffee choux. I am marginally grateful for my ever expanding ice-cream pants that this joint is not around the corner from home and is relegated to the less often occurring Bathurst visits.

Finally we arrive at the country house and life was good again. Marshmallow clouds, Pinot grapes withering on the vine, tiny wagtail birdies and a family of unseen foxes near the adorably sized dam. Leaves turning to autumn and unseasonably warm weather welcomed us, it was a holiday weekend indeed. Elvis the dogger was quite overwhelmed by the open spaces. We scoffed the pastries for arvo tea then did a bit of exploring. Dinner was a quick noodle stir fry hungrily consumed before we all collapsed happily into our beds.

Saturday morning brought more Legall pastry and a very good Fish River coffee enjoyed in the stunningly autumnal Machattie Park. A spot of shop perusal followed, finishing at Annie’s for a kiddy ice-cream treat. Back at the house, Kid 1 slept exhaustedly on the couch for a record two hour nap. Daylight savings and a growth spurt have made him hungry and moody. The spectre of pre-adolescence hovers over him, prophesising of things to come. Sleep beautiful lad, sleep. This Mumma was able to contentedly read before the Yak and I hoofed up and down the one kilometre driveway. We couldn’t afford not to, there was further eating to be done.

Saturday night sneaked up on and us and we found ourselves (after booking at the last minute), at the relatively new Tommy’s, Tex-Mex food joint in Bathurst town. We walked into what appears to be a dodgy hole in the wall and happily arrive in a cool, candle dripping entry way. This space screamed Mexican Day of the Dead and we were warmly welcomed by the service staff. Tommy’s has a laid back, understated hipster vibe going on. The menu is a marvellous combination of man-food and classic Mexican faves with a modern twist.

For starters, we greedily ordered two serves of the perfectly crispy fried onion rings and coleslaw along with a jug of ice cold margarita. After a good gander at the menu, three of us decided upon the baby back pork ribs that had been marinated in charred chorizo and served with corn and garlic bread. The Yak ordered the vegetarian nachos and Kid 2, despite strong persuasion, simply chose the shoestring fries. Don’t ask for the ribs marinade, in the tried and true saying, it is top secret. And those ribs my friend, as that overplayed hit 90’s song went, ‘I would walk 500 miles, just to get a bite of those falling off the bones, unctuous meaty delights .’ (Well, it kind of went like that.) All three of those ribs plates were licked clean.

Other delicious sounding menu choices included the Tijuana big dog and the Austin Texas hamburger. There were also some tasty sounding smaller bites to choose from such as jalapeño poppers, empanadas and corn chips with pico de gallo. The Yak enjoyed the myriad levels of flavours and toppings on his nachos, which were cutely served in a cardboard box. (An inspired idea to avoid a messy cleanup later.)

Back to the vineyard, we delighted in the clear as a bell night sky, children pointing out the Southern Cross, Orion’s Belt and the Milky Way swathed across the black velvet. The pip peep of frogs was the only sound, you just don’t get that in the city.

Sunday morning, children still asleep at 7.15 (unheard of) I lay and listened to, well, not much. A snoring dogger, the occasional slumberous murmur from the boys and my own contentment. Upon awakening, I was jumped upon by two laddies, morning snuggles from ferocious dragons who threaten to rip out my guts and still beating heart. Raising boys, a continuing dichotomy of sweetness and blood curdling violence.

As we left, the sproglets shouted goodbye to the sentinel guard alpaca, they have named Mr Banana, who watches sternly over the sheep in neighbouring fields. Then we headed off to The Hub for breakfast. (Again we booked, the people in this town know what is good and you will not always get in on a weekend if you are not prepared. On saying that, always try to get in, you never know your luck.)

The Yak and I couldn’t say no to the Glaswegian potato pancakes served with smoked salmon, poached eggs, cream cheese and hollandaise. (Spinach for the Yak of course.) This dish was The Boss. The creamy sauces were the perfect foil to the potato, it was rich but worth every bite. The Hub coffee was as always, marvellous. Smooth and rich as a royal. Other enticing sounding menu plates were the dukkah boiled eggs and a brekkie salad with chimichurri sauce, roasted tomatoes, almonds and poached eggs (amongst other things.)

Farewelling Mr Bagpipes, we popped back in the car, feeling refreshed, renewed and rather full. Can’t complain about that. Hasta la vista Bathurst.

https://www.facebook.com/anniesbathurst

https://www.facebook.com/LegallPatisserieCafe

http://www.tommysbx.com.au

https://www.facebook.com/tommys.

https://www.facebook.com/thehubbathurst

http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/country-nsw/bathurst-area?gclid=CLC2xd6F_8QCFU-VvQodtm0A8w

http://www.bathurst.nsw.au

http://www.bathurst-nsw.com/machattie.html

https://cheergerm.com/2014/07/20/bathurst-and-bagpipes/

https://cheergerm.com/2014/08/24/shadow-sisters-and-the-apple-bar/


Gluten free silverbeet, herb and polenta pie for Easter

Sending the Yak to the superdoopermarket/green grocers is a hit and miss thing. He is very good at buying utilitarian dried goods (think loo paper, environmentally friendly toilet cleaner in the shape of a duck or gluten free taco shells) but one has to be extremely specific when it comes to fruit and vegetables.

Point in case….I once asked for some green beans. He came back with eight, yes eight, (count them people) individual green beans. I could have created an art installation from them but finding a way to incorporate eight beans into a recipe was a tad beyond my imagination.

When pondering a vegetarian gluten free recipe as part of a shared Easter celebration, I lovingly reminisced upon the traditional spanokopita. That wonderful Greek pie consisting of silverbeet or spinach, ricotta, feta, herbs and flaky layers of pastry. Pastry that The Yak can no longer partake of. Thinking cap placed firmly atop of my noggin, I thunked. Perhaps a polenta crust atop a semi-traditional spinach pie would be quite the treat? (Or a total disaster.)

Curiosity led me to pondering the Greek connection between ground corn and food. Googlebumbling revealed that ground corn has indeed been used in Greek cooking in various ways for several hundred years. It possibly arrived in Greece, courtesy of the Turkish Ottoman Empire by way of Africa. Amongst other uses, it is sprinkled atop leafy green pies or placed underneath to soak up the juices. I have added the link to the very interesting article, after the photos in this post.

Once upon a time, I used to favour a spanokopita recipe by Matthew Evans (a former chef and food critic, now television host). It contained an abundance of herbs, leafy greens and cheese. Having lost this recipe, I now make it merely from memory. (Not the most reliable of sources.) Do not freak out at the amount of herbs in this recipe. It seems a lot but it works. Need it be said, The Yak did not do the shopping for this dish.

This pie is audaciously herbaceous. The salty hits of feta and kefalograviera (a salty Greek hard sheeps milk cheese), combined with the slightly sweet corn polenta, balance the meadowy punch in the face. But this is the kind of face punch that you happily go back for.

Sadly I missed out on the actual abundant Easter feast itself due to Kid 2 and a tummy bug. However, I did get to eat leftovers of this pie. I poured myself a glass of vino, tucked in and pretended I was on a Greek island somewhere. (In a place where stomach viruses did not exist.)

SILVERBEET, HERB AND POLENTA PIE

WHAT YOU NEED
2 tbl olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 bunch spring onion, finely chopped
1 big bunch chopped silverbeet, trim the woody ends and use the leafy greens and some of the softer stem. (I had roughly 700g once trimmed of stalks.)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
6 Eggs, beaten
300g Ricotta
200g Feta, crumbled
1 bunch mint, chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 bunch dill, chopped
Zest of one lemon and juice for the silverbeet
1 tsp Salt
Pepper

Polenta Crust
1.5 cups instant polenta
5 cups water
1 1/2 tbl butter
120g kefalograviera cheese (Use 1/4 cup to add to the polenta and the rest to sprinkle on top of the pie.)

HOW YOU DO IT
In a large frypan, sauté the chopped onion for a few minutes until they start to become translucent, add the chopped spring onions, sauté for one minute.
Remove the mixture from the pan into a large mixing bowl and allow to cool.
Re-heat the pan to a medium heat, add the chopped silverbeet along with a big squeeze of lemon and cook, stirring regularly until it has wilted and most of the liquid has evaporated. When it has cooled, squeeze out any remaining liquid.
Into the large bowl containing the onion mixture, add the silverbeet, nutmeg, beaten eggs, ricotta, feta, chopped herbs, lemon zest, salt and a few big grinds of black pepper, as much as you fancy. (I am not the pepper police!)
Mix well, taste and check for seasoning.
Smooth this mixture into a large oiled baking dish, I use a 3 litre rectangular Pyrex dish.
Preheat the oven to 180 C if you are cooking the dish immediately.
Polenta Crust
For the polenta. Heat the water in a medium saucepan until it just starts to boil. Using a whisk, slowly pour in the polenta, continuing to whisk. This is important as it avoids lumpy polenta.
Change to a wooden spoon, turn the heat to low and continue to cook the polenta, stirring constantly for 4-5 minutes. Add the butter and 1/4 cup of the kefalograviera, it should be of a spreadable consistency.
Remove the polenta from the heat and immediately, spread it over the silverbeet, herb and egg mixture.
Let cool for ten minutes. Sprinkle the remaining kefalograviera cheese on top, and bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown on top. (You can also place the pie in the fridge if you are cooking the next day.)
Let the pie rest for about 15-20 minutes until it has set a little bit.
Serve with a green salad, or roasted veggies.
Cooking Notes: silverbeet is also know as chard. If you cannot find Kefalograviera, use Pecorino, Parmesan or Gruyere.

A Cheergerm creation

http://www.dianekochilas.com/when-greeks-do-corn/

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kefalograviera


Eggy bread and cooking with Kid 1

The only tenuous connection between this post and Easter is the use of the word ‘egg.’ Of course, one cannot live on chocolate alone (although Kid 1 would give it a good try.) At some point during the Easter celebrations, it is good to put something else apart from chocolate into your gob.

Kid 1 had been requesting a cooking lesson on what we call in our family ‘eggy bread.’ The naming of this bready treat harks from the Yaks’s British heritage. It is more commonly known as French Toast or in Frenchy speak ‘Pain Perdue.’ Whatever you call it, the process of soaking an enriched egg and butter bread in a creamy sweet egg wash and frying it up, makes a wonderful breakfast or in this case ‘breakfast for dinner’.

Enriched bread such as brioche or challah, will give you the best result. An even better result is achieved if the bread is one day old. You are looking for a crispy golden exterior and creamy soft interior. Kid 1 and I had a lovely time in the kitchen and both munchkins greatly enjoyed the puffy golden sweet, finished product. Next time, Kid 1 wants to make the brioche himself, grow chickens to make the eggs and farm our own cows for the milk and cream. Maybe we can just start with the brioche?

EGGY BREAD/FRENCH TOAST/PAIN PERDU

WHAT YOU NEED
3 thick (3cm or so) slices of brioche (or a similar bread such as challah, it is better if the bread is a day old.)
3 eggs
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup milk
1 tbl caster sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder or 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla essence
2 tbl butter
2 tbl oil
Maple syrup to serve

HOW YOU DO IT
Beat the eggs, cream, milk, sugar and vanilla in a large jug or medium size bowl.
Pour the egg mixture into a dish that will fit the brioche slices in side by side.
Place the bread in the dish and soak in the egg mixture for 5 minutes.
Turn the bread over onto the other side and soak for another for 5 minutes. Preheat the large non-stick frypan to a medium heat whilst the bread is soaking.
Add the butter and oil to the frypan and once the butter has melted, cook the bread for about 6 minutes each side until puffy and golden brown.
It can be kept in a warm oven for ten minutes or so until ready to eat.
Before serving you can dust the eggy bread in icing sugar but as this was for my kids and they go nuts with maple syrup, I didn’t.
Drizzle generously with maple syrup.
Serves 2 people.

Cooking Notes: To serve 4, simply double the recipe. If you would like to make a savoury version, leave out the sugar and vanilla. It is delicious served with crispy bacon and a sauce of some kind. (A relish, tomato sauce or hot sauce, whatever takes your fancy.)

A Cheergerm creation