Keep cooly cool, orange and poppy seed cake

Earlier this year, our ten year old lad, on the cusp of eleven, said he wanted to sleep on the floor of our bedroom. When this happens, you stay calm (try not to let your excitement show). As the Jets gang sang in the iconic West Side Story movie, keep cooly cool, boy.

He brought along a mattress, a doona, his pillows with once again wrestled off pillow cases and a book.

He said that he loved our room, it made him feel safe. This was because it was on the second story and always felt comforting to him.

I told him you are always welcome here.

He read and shared some of his thoughts whilst I also read. Be cool, I thought. It was like entertaining a nervous gazelle. One false move and you could scare him off. I kept my breathing light.

‘Mum, did you know that Aztec children played a game of ball where they would rip each others limbs off?’

‘Really?’ I replied. (Gross was what I actually thought but ‘get cool’ I reminded myself.)

‘Mum, how old can you be before you get your drivers licence?’
‘Well,’ I said, ‘I think it is 16 for your learners licence.’
‘Is that too young do you think Mum?’
‘Maybe,’ I said. (Playing it very cool.)

I went to him, kissed his still soft cheek and told him I loved him and was proud of him. ‘I love you Mum,’ he said.

He fell asleep and his breathing evened. I am getting older and somewhat wise enough to know how rare these times are. I know I have been a less than perfect parent, that my impatience and temper have at times ruled the day when they should not have.

No-one can ever tell you how very scary this parenting journey is, how imperfect we all are, how many mistakes we will make. My new parenting motto for myself?

Keep cool.

All too soon, Kid 1 returned to his own boudoir. A fleeting moment indeed. He adores this orange and poppyseed cake recipe that the dearest of friends bakes on a regular basis. So, before the lad embarks on a school camp this week, I baked this cake, especially for him.

Slightly nutty tasting poppy seeds (which are actually considered a spice) combined with citrus in baking, is a long-standing tradition in many European countries. The zingy aroma of orange that permeates your kitchen as this cake bakes is drool worthy. The buttermilk adds a lovely moistness and the entire cake is low in fat. This fact is greatly appreciated by those of us older than eleven and keeping a close eye on their ‘ice-cream’ pants. The Yak stared at this speckled delight with great sadness and maybe (just maybe), a tear welled up in his coeliac eyes. A gluten-free version will be baked very, very soon.

Kid 1 was happy not to share.

ORANGE AND POPPY SEED CAKE

WHAT YOU NEED
2 cups self-raising flour, (I used white but you can use half white and half wholemeal.)
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
3/4 cups caster sugar (raw or white, my friend has used coconut sugar as well and it also works)
2 tbls poppy seeds
2/3 cup oil (grapeseed or rice bran oil)
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup orange juice
grated rind of 1 orange

Icing
60g cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups icing sugar
2 – 3 tsps orange juice
shredded orange rind, to garnish

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 180C, grease and line a 23 cm round cake tin with baking paper. (I used a 20cm deep baking tin and my friend uses a bundt tin.)
Sift flour,baking powder and sugar together into a large bowl.
Stir in the poppy seeds.
Combine the oil, buttermilk, eggs, juice and rind in a separate bowl of jug.
Blend this mixture into the flour mixture and beat for one minute.
Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the cake is cooked when a skewer comes out clean.
Cool in the tin for five minutes.
Turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.
My friend never ices this cake and nor did I, choosing instead to dust with a light rain of icing sugar. I have provided the icing recipe in case you would like to.

Icing
Beat cream cheese and icing sugar until well combined.
Beat in the orange juice to achieve a spreadable consistency.
Spread over the cooled cake and decorate with the orange rind. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe from a friend, who found it, she knows not where.

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The siren call of the sunflower seed

Funny how life can come full circle. Things from childhood, that in your teens and early twenties seemed so passé, suddenly become desirable or enjoyable.

One particular blast from my past, has always left me stone cold. The sunflower seed and its hippy chicky cohort, the pumpkin seed or pepita, as it is also known. Mum tried to sneak those little buggers into everything. Little parcels of them appeared in our lunch boxes, whereas other lucky children may have scored a chocolate teddy bear biscuit. They also crept into cookies, cakes, salads, breakfast cereal (not really but I bet she would have if she thought she could have.) These wee kernels stood for everything that, at the time, I totally didn’t get. (Physically and metaphorically.) Homemade, nutritious food in abundance, when all I really wanted was a store bought white bread tomato sandwich. And a Mars Bar.

Our parents grew radiantly yellow sunflowers in our garden and we watched with fascination as they grew tall, blossomed and withered. We would watch their seeds darken, harden and grow as the flower matured. They also grew pumpkins, in varying shapes and sizes. Not even these living miracles convinced me it was natural to consume their kernels.

For many years I have staunchly withstood the squeaky siren call of the sunflower seed. Until that fateful day, when the decision was made to throw together a gluten-free granola for The Yak. Packets of those grey and green coloured things were purchased. After a good toasting, there was a tasting (because a good cook should) and guess what? I liked them. I really liked them.

Full circle. Sorry Mum.

This gluten-free recipe is from The Gluten-free Kitchen cookbook by Sue Shepherd. It is definitely what you would classify as a ‘health cake’ and The Yak (self-proclaimed taster) and cohorts have all proclaimed it as a toothsome and moreish concoction. Dense and fruity with an intense blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves that will make your head spin. This cake is savoury, earthy and studded with a plethora of seeds and nuts. A small piece goes a long way and your body will thank you.

FRUIT, NUT AND SEED CAKE, GLUTEN FREE

WHAT YOU NEED
1/2 cup sultanas
1/2 cup tart dried cherries chopped, (or raisins, I like the sourness of these cherries.)
1/2 cup glacé pineapple (125g), chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
30g butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
140g brown rice flour
90g buckwheat flour
2 tsps gluten-free baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbl ground flaxseed or 1tsp Xanthum gum. Both are optional but I used flaxseed.
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin (pepita) seeds
3 tbls sunflower seeds, extra for sprinkling
3 tbls pumpkin (pepita) seeds, extra for sprinkling

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 160C. Grease a 20cm springform cake tin and line with baking paper.
Combine the sultanas, cherries (raisins), pineapple, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, butter and sugar and 1 1/4 cups water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. (Smells like Christmas when the fruit is cooking.)
Stir until the sugar has dissolved , then increase the heat and bring to the boil.
Boil for 1 minute, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and cool to room temperature.
Sift the flours, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and flaxseed/Xanthum gum (if using ) into a bowl. Repeat this process three times to ensure they are well combined. Or whisk really, really well.
Add the eggs, pecans, sunflowers seeds and pumpkin seeds to the cooled fruit mixture, then stir in the sifted flour mixture.
Pour into the prepared cake tin and sprinkle the extra sunflower and pumpkin seeds on top. Cover with foil and bake 50 minutes, then remove the foil, rotate the cake tin and bake for a further 10 to 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Remove onto a wire rack, let the cake sit in the tin for 15-20 minutes, then remove carefully onto the wire rack and let cool completely.
Store in an airtight container.

COOKING NOTES
If allergic to nuts you could substitute the pecans with extra dried fruit and seeds.
Rotating the cake tin ensures more even baking.
I have also been reading about about grinding sunflower seeds in a spice blender or NutriBullet type doohickey, and adding them to baking. Kids, watch out.

Recipe from The Gluten-free Kitchen by Sue Shepherd. Published by Viking, Penguin, 2009. (With one or two minor changes.)


Gluten free lemon coconut fridge slice, a happy accident

This recipe was a happy accident. Others accidents I have experienced have been far less joyful. Take for example the time that I gained rather painful third-degree burns on a delicate part of the anatomy, upon backing into a wall heater. In my defence, it was a cold and wintery Melbourne morning and the heater was irresistibly warm. No cheer found there.

Then a few years ago, I boarded a train, holding Kid 2’s pram with one hand and attempted to open the train door with the other. Pushing the door with undue force, I overbalanced and slipped into the gap between the train and the platform. Dangling from the train door handle, I utilised my superhuman strength and propelled myself upwards. My shoulder was badly damaged but I did have the wherewithal to let go of the pram when I slipped. Could have been worse but again, not happy.

Or the time that I haphazardly found myself in the middle of a bar fight that had nothing to do with me and was punched in the face. That experience provided very little glee indeed.

This tasty no-bake slice is just as good using either gluten free or regular store purchased biscuits. The recipe required 250g of biscuits but my pantry only coughed up a mere 160g packet of gluten free Anzacs. What to do? With the temperatures set to unseasonally and prematurely soar to 37 degrees Celsius there was no way that I was getting in the car to go shopping. It was also a public holiday and lassitude ruled the day.

Necessity once again being the mother of invention, my beady eyes happened upon some bags of puffed amaranth and millet. A cup of each was added and Eureka! It worked.

Chewy, cold, buttery and sweet, this fridge slice is balanced by a superb lemony punch. A happy accident indeed and so much more enjoyable than a real punch in the face. Trust me.

GLUTEN FREE LEMON AND COCONUT FRIDGE SLICE

WHAT YOU NEED
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
125g butter
250g milk arrowroot biscuits gluten free or not ( Arrowroot work best but all I had was a 160g packet of gluten free Anzacs.)
1 cup puffed amaranth
1 cup puffed millet
1 tsp grated lemon rind (I used the rind of two small lemons)
1 cup desiccated coconut

Icing
1 3/4 cups icing sugar, sifted
3 tbl lemon juice
15g butter, softened
2 tbl dessiccated coconut

HOW YOU DO IT
Line a lamington tin with nonstick baking paper.
Place condensed milk and butter in a saucepan. Stir over gentle heat until the butter has melted and the mixture has combined.
Crush the biscuits very finely. (Either old school by placing them in a plastic bag and beating the stuffing out of them with a rolling pin or sensibly, as I did, by placing them in a food processor.)
Place the biscuits into a large bowl, add the lemon rind and coconut. Mix well.
Add the condensed milk and butter to the biscuit mixture. Mix well.
Press the mixture into the tin, my slice was about 1.5 cm thick and about 24cm long x 23cm wide, it didn’t use up all the tin. Refrigerate for one hour.
Icing: Combine the sifted icing sugar, lemon juice and butter in a bowl. Mix well until smooth. Spread over the chilled biscuit base and sprinkle with the coconut.
Refrigerate until the icing is set, cut into small squares.

A Cheergerm adaptation from a recipe found on the Allrecipes website.

http://allrecipes.com.au/recipe/12464/lemon-coconut-slice.aspx


Cauliflower fritters and the stink of learning

A conversation had with the eldest of our progeny went like this.

Me: You smell of school.
Kid 1: I hate the smell of school too. It’s the stink of learning.

It is true that our boys emanate a certain odour upon their return from school which is, well, rather unpleasant. However, I always thought it had more to do with the running, jumping, sweating, wearing enclosed shoes, stinky socks, and being cooped up in classrooms with twenty five or so other human beans along with their bodily emissions.

In my imagination, the smell (or stink) of learning would consist of the earthy scent of knowledge filled books and the exciting aroma of information. You would be enveloped by the bouquet of well washed teachers who are thrilled to impart knowledge and to empower our children to be independent and critical thinkers.

But then, what do I know? All that is required is a shedding of uniforms and some serious bathing to ablute the young ‘uns of the heady aroma of school. These fritters are packed full of cauliflower (the totally hip vegetable of the hour.) They smell only of good things, the tingly exotic spices of India and the promise of something tasty to eat. We usually serve them with an Indian style tomato relish or yoghurt and mint sauce.

I would rather walk into a house that was perfumed by the fragrance of delicious fritters than the odiferous miasma of stinky, day old school socks. Like, any day.

INDIAN STYLE CAULIFLOWER FRITTERS, GLUTEN FREE

WHAT YOU NEED
Olive oil/grapeseed oil for frying
1/2 cauliflower, trimmed and chopped into small 1.5 cm pieces
1 medium red onion, (half it then finely slice each half)
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tsps sea salt
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp chilli powder (or 1/2 fresh red chilli finely diced)
Black pepper, a few healthy grinds
Handful of fresh coriander, stalks and leaves roughly chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup millet flour (or sorghum flour or brown rice flour)
1/2 cup plain gluten free flour
1 1/2 tsps gf baking powder
3/4 to 1 cup water

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 170C and line two large baking trays with baking paper.
Place the cauliflower, onion, garlic, spices and coriander into a large bowl.
Sift the flours and baking powder into the large bowl. (I am big on saving on washing up.)
Add the egg and half a cup of the water, mix well. If the batter is too dry, continue to add the rest of the water until you have a loose batter.
Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a large non stick frying pan.
To make the fritters, add 2 – 3 large spoonfuls of the batter for each fritter into the pan. The mixture will be chunky and look like it won’t hold together but it will. Once they are golden brown on the bottom, flip them carefully and cook until golden brown on the other side. Remove to the tray and repeat the process until the batter is used up.
Place the fritters in the oven and cook for fifteen to twenty minutes until they are puffy and golden brown.
Makes ten very big fritters or if you wish to make smaller ones, just use 1 – 2 tablespoons of batter when making them.

A Cheergerm recipe creation