Blueberry sauce and a baking competition

So, the opportunity arose to partake in a baking competition. The event was being held to raise money for a sensory room at the school where the Mothership teaches. The idea being that your baking would be adjudicated by a panel of expert judges (in other words, people who liked food). The entered goodies were then to be sold at a big bake stall. How could I turn down the opportunity to raise money for a great cause? To me, it’s never been about the winning, it’s always been about the participating. It’s about ‘the taking part’, ‘giving it your best shot’ and all that guff important stuff.

Who am I kidding? I wanted to win. Big time.

The things that this Cheergerm has won in life (if you don’t count the esoteric crap such as true love, two great kids, friendship, good looks, talent) are few and far between. I do remember winning a puzzle once. It wasn’t even a particularly good puzzle.

What to bake, what to bake. It had to be my never fail flourless chocolate cake recipe. But it needed to be elevated and given an extra touch that could really wow them. Basically, it had to be something that could be placed into my new German jars (that I am currently obsessed with). That way, if my cake sucked, the judges would be so blinded by my quality glassware they would hand me the win.

With a few fresh blueberries left and some good quality (as in they won’t poison anyone) frozen ones in the freezer, the idea of a blueberry sauce popped into my mind. A recipe was found, a few adjustments made and Bob was my uncle. Sweet, tart and wonderfully gloopy, this fruit sauce was the perfect accompaniment to the rich, dark cake. We ate the leftovers as jam.

Wonderfully, a decent amount of dosh was raised. Did I win? Sadly not but the runner-up sash and smaller, far less sparkly tiara were mine. My cake and sauce were pipped to the post by mini cheesecakes. Damn those tiny rounds of baked cheesy goodness. Damn them.


2 cups blueberries (I had 1/2 cup fresh and 1 1/2 cups frozen)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tbl lemon juice
1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder or 1/2 tsp vanilla bean essence
1 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tbl water
Zest of one lemon (about 1 tbl)

Place the blueberries, sugar, water, lemon juice and vanilla into a medium saucepan,
Over a medium heat, bring the mixture to a low boil, stirring regularly.
Add the cornflour (that has been dissolved in water) to the saucepan slowly. Be careful not to squish the blueberries.
Simmer the sauce until it reaches the consistency where it coats the back of a spoon, this takes about 5-10 minutes.
Stir in the lemon zest. Taste it, you may want to add another dash of lemon juice. I did.
Put the sauce into a pretty jar and serve with flourless chocolate cake, with lemon muffins, ice-cream, spread on toast or just eat it with a spoon. You may just win a prize.

Recipe slightly adapted from My Baking Addiction blog. See link below.

The last meal and a gluten free rhubarb frangipane tart

Nigh on an eon ago, whilst undertaking my food studies course, we made frangipane for the first time. Frangipane is a filling for a cake or tart made with, or flavoured by almonds. In this day and age, it is normally made of ground almonds, butter, egg and sugar. The manner in which this mixture puffed up and surrounded the fruit placed on top, seemed magical to me back then and still does today.

It appears that this fluffy almond concoction could also have been a favourite of a saint. Some googly research unearthed the charming story of Jacoba dei Settesoli, an Italian woman who married into the Frangipani family in 1210. After meeting Saint Frances of Assisi, she became a friend and follower of his, devoting her life to good works. The story goes that upon his death bed, Francis called for ‘Brother Jacoba’ (as he had named her due to her fortitude), to bring him some of his favourite almond treats. Much to the consternation of the other monks, she was allowed in to the monastery with a basket of almond pastries and stayed until the revered man took his last breath.

This tale of a woman before her time, feeding a saint the food he wished for on his death bed, led me to ponder what my last meal on earth would be. Before making this momentous decision, I asked The Yak what he would choose. He replied that it would have to be his ‘once favourite dish’ from his ‘once favourite’ Italian restaurant Buon Ricordo. The legendary cream and Parmesan fettuccine topped with a truffled egg. He would also feast on a basket of the finest gluten laden breads.

For myself at the time of writing (I am nothing if not fickle), it would probably include half a dozen Sydney rock oysters ‘au naturale’, a bowl of buttery garlic prawns, a slice of good sourdough bread to mop up the prawny juices, steamed asparagus spears drizzled with lemon, a splodge of the creamy French soft cheese Buche d’Affinois and an icy cold glass of champagne. (Well, maybe more than one.) For dessert, this pretty and delicate cake would certainly be a contender. The piquant rhubarb offsets the buttery, nutty, sweetness of the frangipane perfectly.

A tart worthy of a saint or a Cheergerm’s last meal.


150g unsalted butter, softened
150g caster sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder (1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
1 lemon rind finely grated
150g almond meal
35g (1/4 cup) gluten free plain flour
150g rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 5cm lengths

Preheat oven to 180C.
Grease a 34 cm x 12 loose based tart tin rectangular tin or a 23cm loose based flan tin.
Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until they are light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add the vanilla and lemon rind and beat well.
Add almond meal and flour and fold to combine.
Spoon the mixture into the tin and smooth the top with a spatula.
Arrange the rhubarb over the top of the mixture in a pleasing pattern.
Put in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the top is golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
If you want to serve it warm, give it 15 minutes before trying to take it out of the tin. Otherwise, cool completely then gently loosen the edges before removing carefully and placing onto a plate for presentation.
Dust with icing sugar and serve with cream or without. That’s really up to you.

Slightly adapted from the SBS food recipe website. Link follows the photos.

Chia pudding pots and granola, gluten free

There was a stirring in my workday breakfast soul, a yearning for something a little different than my usual banana, spelt sourdough toast with smashed avocado and a cup of tea. Something free of gluten that that The Yak could also scoff, before the trek to work was made. Something that could be made the night before, which for this ‘Non-Morning Person,’ is perfect.

When I first started experimenting with this pudding, doubt ruled supreme as to whether it would be delicious. Currently, these kind of chia concoctions are hipper than hip, too cool for school and this Cheergerm has never enjoyed the textural journey that is sago or tapioca. However, we have become chia pudding converts. Sigh, what followers. After some experimenting with liquid and chia quantities , I found a balance that works for my taste. The gluten free granola is a marvellous combination of crispy, sweet and nutty goodness. It is rather fabulous when strewn on all manners of breakfast foods. Combined with the pudding, it is simultaneously creamy, squishy and crunchy. The blueberries add a lovely fresh tartness that cuts through any richness.

Little black pearls of chia seeds
I appreciate popping you into a biscuit batter
Or this nice little breakfast pudding
Even though
You get stuck between my teeth
I kind of like you
But I kind of don’t
I have read that you are a powerhouse of
Fibre, protein, antioxidants and all that good stuff
You are also free of gluten
Which is greatly appreciated in these here parts
But you are also a little bit weird
And whilst I don’t want to be cruel
I am not quite sure I would say
We are the best of friends quite yet


1 1/2 cup yoghurt (I used a thick greek style vanilla bean yoghurt.)
1/2 cup light coconut cream (an oxymoron if I ever heard one)
1/3 cup chia seeds
1/8 tsp Vanilla bean powder or 1/4 tsp vanilla bean essence
2 tbl maple syrup
125g blueberries (reserve 12 for garnishing) (I have used raspberries as well which are also delicious)

You will need 4 cups or jars to put this mixture into. Whaever takes your fancy. These wee jars were from Wheel and Barrow (no sponsoring or anything tricksy going on here) and I am a little bit in love with them.
Divide the blueberries amongst the jars or cups, leave about 12 for garnishing the top.
Whisk the chia seeds, yoghurt, milk, maple syrup and vanilla in a large bowl.
Divide equally amongst the four containers, pouring the mixture over the berries.
Use the remaining berries to garnish the puddings.
Cover and place in fridge overnight.
If the pudding is too thick for your liking, add a dash of milk or coconut milk to loosen it.
Serve topped with a hearty sprinkling of the granola (recipe follows) and tuck in.

A Cheergerm creation


1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 tbl chia seeds
1 tbl flaxseeds
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder or 1/2 tsp vanilla bean essence
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tbls maple syrup
2 tbl grapeseed oil
1/2 cup coconut (I only had desiccated, shredded or flaked would be good too)
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries (I used whole unsweetened)
1/4 cup sultanas

Preheat oven to 160C.
Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
Spread the walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia, flaxseeds, cinnamon, vanilla and sea salt onto the tray and mix well.
Pour the maple syrup and oil over the granola mixture and mix very well.
Place in the oven for ten minutes, remove tray and add the coconut, cranberries, sultannas and stir. This ensures the fruit doesn’t harden too much and the coconut doesn’t burn. Put the tray back in the oven.
After another ten minutes, remove the tray again and stir.
At this point, you will have to decide if it needs another five minutes or not. It will depend, sometimes I give it a few minutes more. You will have to watch it carefully as you want crunchy golden brown granola, not burnt.
Once cooled, place a hearty spoonful on top of your chia puddings. It is also great on yoghurt and other breakfast cereals. Store in an airtight container.

Cooking Notes: Sometimes I add a half cup each of puffed amaranth and puffed millet along with the nuts and seeds at the start. Also delicious. I have also used dried unsweetened cherries instead of cranberries which are fantastic.

A Cheergerm creation

Thanks Mum and Moosewood, bean and tofu casserole

Growing up in the seventies, our Mum was part of a health-food co-operative. She purchased natural food in bulk that wasn’t your average store bought fare. Standout memories from those days include bags of wholemeal flour, copious legumes, lecithin (crazy stuff that), tins of molasses and brown sugar. (To emphasise this was the seventies, I remember Mum wearing a much coveted white peasant blouse embellished with red embroidery.) An orchardist’s daughter, she always stocked a cornucopia of fresh fruit and vegetables in the house.

Mum baked her own bread, made her own tomato sauce, bottled delicious preserves and for a time, a yoghurt maker graced the benches. Out of her kitchen rolled wonderful soups and heartily savoury casseroles. There was always a container holding tempting baked slices and biscuits made using recipes she had memorised from her own Mums wonderful baking. Our mum is not one to toot her own horn but we all feel lucky to have had such a solid grounding in eating and cooking good food.

One of the cookbooks that graced Mums shelves was The Moosewood Cookbook, one of the most iconic and revolutionary cookbooks of that time. This vegetarian recipe book was written by Mollie Katzen, who at the time was a member of The Moosewood Collective. (A natural foods restaurant founded in 1973 in Ithaca, New York.) My copy seems to have gone missing but recent reviews of updated editions state that many recipes are now ‘lighter’ than in the past. I imagine the author cut back on some of the larger quantities of cheese and sour cream. (Ingredients which were possibly the reason why the Moosewood food was so darned delicious!)

I took the inspiration for this dish from memories of the Moosewood Cookbook and the fact that I was housebound and needed to use whatever my pantry and refrigerator had to offer. It is great to soak your own beans but if you can’t, tinned beans are fine. These sort of casseroles are forgiving, so use what you have and experiment to your hearts content. The Yak and I happily scoffed our portions whilst the sproglets did a double take at the tofu. Kid 2 asked ‘what was that white spongy stuff?’ I said tofu. He said he thought it was chicken. (See, everything really does taste like chicken!) There is a good contrast between the crunchy munchy topping and the piquant, Mexican style sauce underneath. If you like your food really spicy, just bump up the chilli.

Peace out and enjoy.

Thanks Mum and Moosewood, bean and tofu casserole

3 tbl Olive oil
1 onion, diced
1/2 large yellow or red capsicum, diced (or 1 small)
2 carrots, diced
3 small zucchini, diced
200g Mushrooms, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tbl ground cumin
1 tbl ground paprika
2 tsps salt
Black pepper to taste
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tin red kidney beans, drained
1 tin cannelinni beans, drained
1 tbl molasses
250 hard block tofu cut into 2cm cubes (don’t like the curd of beans? Don’t put it in!)
50g Parmesan, grated
1 cup gluten free breadcrumbs (or regular, try and use wholemeal or wholegrain)
Extra olive oil

Preheat oven to 180C.
Oil a casserole dish or if you have an ovenproof casserole dish that you can cook everything in and then transfer directly to the oven, use that. I used my sturdy Le Crueset cast iron pot.
In a large saucepan saute the onions and carrots in the olive oil for a few minutes until they start to soften.
Add the capsicum and zucchini and cook for another few minutes, stirring regularly.
Add the mushrooms and sauté for a few more minutes.
Add garlic cook and for 30 seconds or so then add chilli flakes, cumin, paprika, salt and black pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add the tomato and molasses and stir to combine.
Add the beans and tofu. Bring to the boil.
Adjust the seasoning. If using another baking dish, pour the mixture into it. If you are using the same casserole dish, make sure you wipe the rim so it doesn’t look too messy.
Combine the breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan and a few glugs of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Place the breadcrumb mixture over the bean mixture.
Bake in the oven for 45 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the mixture beneath is bubbling. (Turn the dish half way through cooking to ensure even browning of the crust.)
Serve with a green salad or steamed veggies.

A Cheergerm creation

Gluten free dark Jamaican Gingerbread and the bird

Children are a veritable wealth of knowledge.

Kid 1: Did you know that years ago, that angry tennis man John McEnroe flipped the bird at the queen?

Me: Are you sure?

Kid 1: Yes, and the Queen flipped the bird back at him.

Me: Now I know that part didn’t happen.

Kid 1: It did, it did. The Queen flipped the bird.

Me: She did not!

And so it went, did, didn’t, did, didn’t. It turns out he had seen an advertisement for a television ‘mockumentary’ on tennis and at the time, believed it to be a true historical fact.

I for one, imagine that during her illustrious reign, Her Royal Highness must have wanted to flip the bird at least once. (Gesticulating in this manner has certainly crossed my mind once or twice when arguing with Kid 1). This spot of baking hails from the iconic British baker, Delia Smith. This no-nonsense doyenne of English cookery is accredited for teaching two generations of loyal British fans how to cook. Her recipes are reliable and are also easily converted into gluten free options.

In her cookbook Delia’s Cakes, she tells us that this cake was ‘originally from the sugar-and-spice island of Jamaica.’ Darkly treacly, spicy, sticky and chewy. This is almost like a real loaf of bread. It is truly better when wrapped and left for a day and even better (like so many things), when smeared with butter.

Now I just know that Delia would never flip anyone the bird.


180g gf plain flour (130g plain gf flour and 50g sorghum)
1 tbl ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg (1/4 nutmeg, grated)
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbl milk
75g black treacle or molasses
75g golden syrup
75g dark brown sugar (I used coconut sugar)
75g butter
75ml water
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Getting Ready: Preheat the oven to 170C and line a standard loaf tin with baking paper. Delia suggests using a ready made loaf tin liner (which I did not have.) Place the tin of treacle or molasses and golden syrup bottle in hot water to warm them and make it easier to measure them.
Sift the flours and spices into a large bowl.
Mix the bicarbonate of soda into the milk and set it to one side.
Measure the treacle/molasses, golden syrup, sugar and butter into a saucepan with 75ml of water. Heat over a low heat and stir gently until thoroughly melted and blended. Don’t let it come anywhere near the boil and don’t go off and leave it.
Next add the syrup mixture to the flour and spices, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon.
When the mixture is smooth, beat the egg in a little at a time, followed by the bicarbonate of soda and milk.
Now pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake on a lower shelf, align the the tin with the centre of the oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour until it’s well-risen and firm to the touch.
Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out.
If possible, store it in a cake tin in the liner (if you used one) or wrapped in clingfilm for 24 hours before eating. It is delicious smeared with butter.

A Cheergerm adaptation from Delia’s Cakes published by Hodder and Stoughton 2013