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
225f 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

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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 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

*


Gluten free lemon yoghurt cake

Very soon this blog will have to be re-named ‘fear-germ’ as everyone will be too scared to read it, for fear of finding yet another sad story. Unfortunately, that’s all I have for you again today but it is slightly sweetened by the addition of a wonderful Donna Hay lemon yoghurt cake recipe. I am hopeful for gentler and happier waters ahead.

A letter to our dog Elvis

I find you in unexpected places. Your ball tucked behind a chair, your jacket hanging over a balustrade.

I go to save you a snippet of cheese, salmon or sausage and realise you are no longer here.

I watch our boys reach down to where you once sat but you are gone. They recoil in confusion and tears well up in their eyes. Every night before bed, Kid 1 goes to your pillow and breathes in deeply, stating that it smells of you.

Children are more easily distracted. They move in and out of grief fluidly but when it strikes, they are hit hard. For us ‘so called grown ups’, who made the call, based on the opinion of an unknown emergency vet late on a rainy Friday night, there is second guessing and a deep unease. And for me, who spent more time with you than all of us, losing you is far worse than I could have ever imagined.

We had you fourteen beautiful years but we are greedy and it doesn’t seem long enough. The unconditional love you provided soothed all of us at varying times. Our boys learnt about responsibility, loyalty, trust and compassion through having you in their lives. (And well, buying you as a tiny puppy after our first miscarriage, The Yak and I did too.) The lads are now learning another life lesson on loss and bereavement.

We think we hear the jingle of your collar, the pitter patter of your petite paws.

Night falls, I tell the Yak to remember to take you out for a wee but you are no longer here.

Sitting on the couch, there are no more gentle snores, no more ‘hello I am here’ visits. As I go through my work-a-day-life, passing through our home, there are no more doggy-lying sunshine spots.

I could burn this house down for it’s emptiness. You were a member of our family and part of our heartbeat. You were our baby before our babies, a patient and fun-loving brother to our boys, our Happy Birthday singing diva, our cheese-loving fluffy puppy, sneaky cake-eating canine, fence-jumping pooch, Houdini style escaping hound, our ball-chasing high energy muppet, my sweet compadre and house shadow.

What will we all do without our morning lick and cuddle? We are undone, you will live in our hearts forever. I dedicate this cake recipe to you sweet dogger, in the memory of the many cooling cakes you sneakily partly devoured. We love you Elvis and we always will.

If you are looking for a tender, human and canine pleasing, tangy gluten free cake recipe then this is for you. Using lemons from our own trees surely made it more delicious. There is a link to Donna Hay’s original recipe after the photos. Enjoy.

GLUTEN FREE LEMON YOGHURT CAKE

WHAT YOU NEED
3/4 cup (180ml) vegetable oil (I used grapeseed oil)
2 eggs
1 tbl finely grated lemon zest (I used about 1 1/2 tbls)
1/4 cup (60ml) lemon juice
1 cup (280g) Greek yoghurt (I used vanilla bean yoghurt)
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
300g gluten free self-raising flour

Lemon Icing
1 cup sifted icing sugar
1 tbl lemon juice
1/2 tsp boiling water

WHAT YOU DO
Preheat oven to 160C and grease and line a 24cm springform baking tin.
Place the oil, eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice, yoghurt and caster sugar in a large bowl and whisk together to combine.
Sift the flour over the mixture and stir to combine.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 50-60 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Allow the cake to stand for 5 minutes before removing from the tin.
To make the icing, combine the icing sugar, lemon juice and boiling water.
Turn the cake out onto a cake stand and pour the icing over the cake whilst the cake is still warm. (I didn’t do this, I iced the cake when it was cold.) Let it stand for ten minutes for the icing to set then cut it and well, tuck in.

A slight adaptation of a Donna Hay recipe, link to the original recipe is provided below.

https://www.donnahay.com.au/recipes/desserts-and-baking/lemon-and-yoghurt-cake


Roasted cauliflower, fennel and pumpkin soup

Mothers Day came and went in the place we live. For us, it was a low key day. My three sisters and I had recently returned from New Zealand where we farewelled our beautiful cousin Simon. He was a kind, funny, free-thinking, non-accepting of the status quo, shining beacon of a man. His battle with Fredreich’s Ataxia had worn him down and so, he took his leave of us. We are left heartsick and numb but I like to think he has shaken off the earthly chains of his embattled body and spirit and is perhaps dancing somewhere, to the Rolling Stones, on a warm tropical beach. He has a frangipani tucked behind his fine thatch of fiery, strawberry-blond hair and the requisite seaside cocktail in hand. Vale Simon.

So, as exhaustion overtook us, Mothers Day was gentle and unassuming. My boys were sweetly honest with heartfelt gifts, words and cards. In the spirit of honouring Mothers everywhere, I give a shoutout to my own Mum, whose patient, deep abiding love has been an invisible prop against my back in the hardest of times. I give a shoutout to my sisters who are mothers, how I admire their patience, far greater than mine. For another sister who is a step mum (a tough gig at times), I give her a shoutout as a steady and wise presence in the life her stepchild. For our Aunty Lyn, one of the strongest of women who has lost far more than any mother should ever have to but still loves, lives and not simply exists. For my friends who are Mums of all kinds, whether they have children, fur-babies or even plant-babies. These are women I admire, lean on, talk to and share this crazy life journey with in a real, unaffected, lack of bullshit kind of way. You know who you are.

Mum and her hubby did pop over for a simple Mothers Day lunch. We had bowls of this filling, thick and earthily spicy soup followed by a luscious gluten free custard-like apple cake that Mum had made. (Something I will certainly be baking and blogging soon.) Happy Mothers Day, yes it’s belated but no less heartfelt.

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER, FENNEL AND PUMPKIN SOUP

WHAT YOU NEED
1/2 cauliflower (600g)
1 large fennel bulb
300g pumpkin
1 1/2 tsps cumin seeds
1 1/2 tsps dried oregano
1/2 – 1 tsp dried chilli (depending on your tolerance for heat)
Salt
Olive oil or grapeseed oil
2 medium size potatoes
1 litre veggie stock
1 litre water
Pepper

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C and line two trays with baking paper .
Cut the cauliflower into florets, chop the fennel bulb into 2 cm chunks and the pumpkin also into 2 cm chunks.
Put the cauliflower on one tray and the fennel and pumpkin on the other, drizzle with oil and divide the oregano, chilli, cumin seeds and a tiny bit of salt between the two trays and stir to coat the veggies. (Go easy on the stock as it depends on how salty your veggie stock is.)
Roast for one hour until the vegetables are tender and slightly caramelised. Remove from the oven.
In the meantime, add the stock and water to a large saucepan, add the thinly sliced potatoes and cook until tender.
Add the roasted vegetables to the stock mixture and cook for a further 20 minutes .
Blend with a hand stick blender until creamy and smooth and add salt to taste and pepper if you so fancy it. Pour into a bowl of your choice and serve with good bread, toast, cracker or nowt.

A Cheergerm creation

https://fara.org.au


Gluten free jam drops

Recently, Kid 1 has assured both myself and The Yak that we are not cool. I was the first to transgress after daring to use the word ‘swag’, a young persons vernacular for ‘cool’ or ‘awesome’. The second infringement came from The Yak when he attempted a ‘dab’ (a particular two arm salute currently popular with the youth of today). After both incidents, the Cool Kid informed us that we were both totally cringeworthy and embarrassing.

He is wrong, I am cool. (Sorry Yak, you are being left high and dry here.) This mother can still drop some cool jam. Well, some cool jam drops. Gluten free, melt in the mouth with a tangy raspberry centre. Enjoyed by both young and old. And that’s just swag.

GLUTEN FREE JAM DROPS

WHAT YOU NEED
150g unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 1/2 cups gluten free plain flour, sifted
1 1/2 tbls raspberry jam

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 180C and line two trays with baking paper.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until it is light and fluffy.
Add the flour and beat to combine.
Roll one large teaspoon of the dough into a ball, place on the tray and slightly flatten it with the palm of your hand. Repeat with the remaining dough, I got 15 biscuits.
Using your thumb, place an indentation in each biscuit then spoon in about 1/4 tsp of jam on each biscuit.
Bake for about 12-15 minutes until each biscuit is very lightly golden.
Let the biscuits cool on the tray for about 15 minutes (don’t try and move them too quickly as they are delicate and could break) then place on a wire rack to cool completely.
Eat them.

Recipe from http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/gluten-free-jam-drops/9c314daf-e2b9-4374-b3ea-9dd54abf4976


A camping we did go

First night back from camping, I sat in bed and whilst it was lovely to be reclining once again in familiar comfort, something was missing. Walking to one of our bedrooms windows and pushing my face against the scratchy mesh of the flyscreen, I gulped in cool night air like a drowning person. Closing my eyes, the gentle hum of cicadas and rustling leaves of trees washed over me. That is what I was missing. Sister Three had declared that upon returning home from camping, she would have to live outside as she couldn’t bear to be stuck inside once more. Once again disconnected from nature.

Supposedly camping re-sets our circadian rhythms and whilst this light earplug-wearing ninja sleeper may not be able to vouch for that, what I do know is that our children run free, unfettered from the every day bane of television and overt technology. They play games, bike, swim, walk and carry on like pork chops. As adults we also walk more, talk more, chill more, read more, laugh more, puzzle more, connect more and carry on like pork chops more. All this is accomplished in the great outdoors that this very beautiful country provides for us.

For the first week of our two weeks this year, there were five families, 17 all told. We were back at our old haunt, the riverside camping ground in South West Rocks on the mid north coast of New South Wales. Sure, there was the odd unpleasant moment or two. Strong winds that sent tarps or tents flying can frighten both both young and old and a day or so of rain can kind of get you down. (Trying to dry towels whilst camping is one of my bugbears, don’t care if it ain’t clean but a damp towel seems so well, unnecessarily uncivilised.) Setting up camp is rather exciting but breaking down a camp and going home is well, far less so. There is usually fevered talk of burning the whole lot down and starting again next year, thus far, sanity, economy and a wish to stay of jail has won out. But any camping benefits far outweigh the negatives, making for the kind of holiday that allows you to totally check out of the everyday humdrum of life.

As usual we ate and drank very, very well and nobody starved. This part of the world is beautiful. White sand, turquoise waters on bright sunny days and the everchanging darker hues that the ocean provides on days that the sun refused to shine. Tall dark green Norfolk pines stand as silent sentinels, ever watchful and noble. Surely there is no greater marker of the Australian seaside than a stand of these magnificent trees?

Last year brought some sad changes to our lives and it was good to nudge them to the side, even if that sadness was merely simmering under the surface. This year brings new adventures for our family as our no longer chubby-legged big boy heads off to high school and into the somewhat scary state that is adolescence. As we purchase uniforms, pencils and new shoes I wonder where my little headstrong blonde curly haired lad has gone. He still likes a good argument but his body is lengthening and the planes of his face are refining, no remnant of baby fat is left except in this mothers memory. The Yak and myself are re-evaluating career paths alongside personal goals and right now, even though things feel wobbly, we know more than ever that life is bloody short. As cliched as it sounds, there are no guarantees (only death and taxes boom-tish) and our intention is to make the most of this life we have been given. So thanks South West Rocks, until we meet again.


Christmas 2016

Christmas was spent somewhere different this year. Mr Bagpipes was housesitting a lovely large property in White Rock, outside of Bathurst in country NSW. This once working vineyard is perched on a hill in a charming bucolic setting. The Yak, myself and sproglets had visited there before and we were excited to celebrate Chrissy with all of our extended family. Our special guest was ‘Christmas Alf’, harking all the way from Manchester in the UK. (Not a real elf of course but the funny, kind and gentle man who happens to be Manchurian Bro-in-laws Dad.)

It was good to be together somewhere different and somewhere so very beautiful. In this freefall Christmas, I think we all felt a smidge unencumbered and a dash unrestricted by tradition. We kept that which suited us and gently nudged aside that which didnt seem necessary in this new setting.

Christmas Eve morn and our gaggle met at The Hub. Good coffee as always and darned good nosh. My poached eggs, asparagus, spinach and mushrooms on black rye arrived topped with hollandaise sauce and crispy sage. Be still my beating heart. (As long as my heart still ticks after that rich and creamy sauce.)

We stuck to our Christmas evening meal and more relaxed Boxing Day brunch. Two ethically sourced hams (yes, it does matter to us), were expertly glazed by Mum and devoured over the 4 day period. There was a delicious vegan gluten-free lasagna (the handiwork of Sister 2) for Christmas dinner, as well as a more traditional turkey, some much discussed ‘pigs-in-blankets’ that the Mancurian bro-in-law threw together, crispy stuffing balls and of course, a motza of side veggies. Desserts this year consisted of Sister 4’s fabulous pistachio ice-cream cake draped in a berry sauce and crowned with fresh berries as well as a batch of mini gluten-free, vegan sticky date puddings that I conjured up. We sat out on the vine draped patio, talking, laughing at ridiculous Chrissy cracker jokes, eating and drinking. The cicadas buzzed their Chinese operatic cadences and the sun set.

For Boxing Day brunch, the Yak made his now famous (well, within our circle) Boxing Day Fried Potatoes . They were as good as ever, and ‘it was said’ that they were the best thus far. When faced with a bag of heat affected ‘just past their best’ peaches, Sister 2 was inspired to throw together a peach puree. We added this fragrant mixture to some fizzy wine for delicious brunch bellinis and to soda water for a non-alcoholic tipple. (Nothing goes to waste when we roll.) There were fruit platters galore, fried eggs, croissants, homemade pickles, chutneys and jam.

The children ran and played endlessly; soccer, cricket, sword fights, Harry Potter incantations and movie making being the order of the day.

Naturally, there were some sad moments and those who died this year were remembered both aloud and quietly. Every one of us left our family get together with at least one precious memory, tucked safely away, to take out and savour in the year that is to come.

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