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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Ginger shortbread for Christmas

Just as ginger is spicy and hot, I too, am a bit of a hot mess. Losing two absolutely beloved people in one year and all that comes with that, alongside some health issues; my blogging and writing mojo is sporadic at best. Frankly, my Cheergerm soul is weary, low and well, not so cheery as of late. As I tried to write this post, nine year old Kid 2 was beside me, wrapped in my doona; bouncing, rolling and banging his skinny bony knees into me. Asking me the same question over and over again. I snapped at him, then felt bad. He told me his new job ‘is messing up beds.’ This made me laugh. No chance of an idealised writing environment in my life, where is that solitary attic with a wooden desk that I once dreamed of?

Its been hard to get excited about Christmas, a season that usually provides much delight. Having children pushes me to make an effort. Writing the stripped back truth about your feelings can smack of self-pity and over-introspection. Whilst I am more than happy to read of others struggles, to write about my own leaves me feeling exposed and vulnerable. In the midst of it, I also know that things are so much worse for so many and that our children are healthy and happy. Rather than continue in this vein, here is a list of little joys I have collated from this past week.

The young kindergarten lass at the school Christmas concert on Friday night who raucously and joyfully sang ‘la la la’ shaking her head (much as a headbanger would at a Metallica concert).

Watching Kid 2 at the same concert, impersonating a kookaburra during a song with great abandon, all self-conscious anxiety placed aside for a moment.

Our twelve year old Kid 1 picking out small Christmas gifts for his kindy buddies, selflessly and of his own volition.

All the appreciative folk who view our street’s Christmas lights with gratitude and wonder.

The ongoing support of family and friends and the camaraderie I have found in this online blogging community.

The Scottish people, my ancestors, for creating that delicious biscuit called shortbread. Attributed to Mary Queen of Scots in the 16th Century, it was an expensive luxury for the ordinary folk. In Shetland, it was once traditional to break a piece of shortbread over the brides head as she crossed the threshold of her new home. (Not sure how I would have felt about buttery crumbs through my hair but this shows how special this biscuit was.)

My creation this year combines warm spices with small nuggets of ginger that add a chewy, toffee-like surprise. I used a brand that stated it was ‘un-crystallised bare ginger’ but it still has some cane sugar on it, so I am not quite sure what the difference is. (I imagine it contains less sugar.) There is nothing quite like giving something homemade as a gift. Pop your baked goodies in a vintage tin or wrap them in some pretty cellophane and finish off the parcel with a darling bauble. Another little joy to add to my growing list. Merry Christmas to you all.

GINGER SHORTBREAD, (CAN BE ADAPTED TO GLUTEN FREE)

WHAT YOU NEED
250g butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 3/4 cups plain flour or gluten free plain flour
1/4 cup rice flour
2 1/2 tsps ginger powder
1/2 tsp mixed spice
30g bare uncrystallised ginger, finely chopped (if you can’t find this ‘naked’ stuff just use crystallised.)
Extra white sugar for sprinkling on top

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 170C and line 2 baking trays with baking paper Sift the flours and spices together into a bowl.
Cream the butter in a stand mixer then add the sugar gradually, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy then stir in the finely chopped ginger.
Work in the flour gradually until the mixture is just combined.
Knead the mixture lightly to bring together to a dough. (I do this in the bowl.)
Divide the dough in half, place onto a floured board and pat each into a square.
Using a rolling pin, roll each square into a 16cm by 16cm square, roughly 1cm to 1 1/2 cm thick. Gently lift the squares onto the prepared trays and cut each square into 12 rectangle fingers.
Prick the surface of the shortbread with a fork. (This helps in releasing moisture as it cooks, making the shortbread crisper.)
Sprinkle extra caster sugar over the shortbread.
Bake in the centre of the oven for ten minutes then reduce the temperature to 150C and cook for about 30 minutes to 40 minutes. It is ready when it is firmish to the touch in the centre and golden around the edges.
Remove from the oven and carefully run a sharp knife through the shortbread rectangles again to make it easier to break into fingers later.
Cool down on wire racks. Gently break the shapes apart.
Wrap up festively and give to your best people, and eat some, always eat some.

Cooking Notes: when making gluten free shortbread, keep in mind the mixture will be more fragile. You may want to shape it into a square rather than use a rolling pin particularly if you are baking on a hot day.

A Cheergerm adaptation from The Margaret Fulton Cookbook 2004 Revised and Updated Edition published by Jannie Brown and Suzanne Gibbs.

Click below for previous shortbread recipes.

Cardamom, cinnamon and brown sugar shortbread
Cranberry, chocolate, pistachio shortbread
Old school shortbread
Gluten free shortbread


Barcelona

The deafening roar of motorbikes, the bumble bee buzz of scooter type Vespa bikes, buses, cars and the frequent high pitched wail of emergency sirens were my lullaby for the requisite Spanish afternoon siesta.

Balcony doors flung wide open, provided a view of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia cathedral and the loud hum of traffic noise merged with the sound of children playing at the large school across the road. I was lulled to the blurred place that exists in the space between awareness and sleep.

Barcelona is a vast old city set out on a before its time grid structure, chock full of mind boggling modernist architecture, older style apartment buildings that speak of another era, attractive Spaniards with exquisite taste in bags and shoes, millions of tourists with varying degrees of taste in bags and shoes and of course, a motza of food and drink. Tapas, churros, patisserie, Catalan cuisine, Italian, Vietnamese, Portugese. Wine, beer, cava, sangria. All of varying quality.

We used Trip Advisor and a bit of nouse and managed to (mostly) enjoy good edibles at reasonable prices. The Yak did devour more than his fair share of patatas bravas (a potato tapas dish) and being in a bit of a ‘tourist area’, we probably would have done better going further afield more often. (Kid 2 ended up with a tummy bug/food poisoning case on our two last days, putting a bit of a kybosh on going further afield as we had planned.)

People really do eat late here, it’s no myth. We got into the rhythm of a slightly later start to the day. Heading out for coffee accompanied by delicate little creme patisserie stuffed pastries, followed by some serious sightseeing. Lunch consisted of fresh baguettes and jamon or tapas, then off we trotted back to the apartment for that siesta. We would devour a late afternoon snack then head out the door once more after eight. No self-respecting restaurant opens their doors before eight-thirty, although tapas and pinchos are served earlier. Unfortunately for the Yak, much of the pinchos (small snacks) are served on bread. The Spanish way of life would particularly suit our hot Australian summers although I fear that most of us would fail to return to work after the siesta, as the seductive lure of the pool or beach would prove far too tempting.

The man at the nearby jamon specialist shop was patient with our very poor Spanish skills (I use that word loosely) but we managed to order a few slices of Iberian jamon to go with our crunchy baguettes, tomatoes and Manchego cheese. Wine is plentiful and very reasonable if you visit a good, big supermarket and the tiny and interesting speciality wine shops are also worth a visit or two.

The La Boqueria market was overloaded by tourists, yet still a foodie fantasy land and worth a visit. Rows of perfect chocolates, piles of nuts, vibrant fruits and vegetables and hanging strands of every chilli you could imagine. A lovely local kindly tapped me on the shoulder and told me to beware pickpockets, I had stupidly placed my iPhone in my back pocket whilst buying some plump scarlet plums.

The Sagrada Familia, the iconic Gaudi cathedral was almost a religious experience. God or something akin to God talked to me via Gaudi’s visionary use of space, organic shapes and multi-hued incandescent light.

As I wrote this, it was 10.30 at night, and the Yak and lads were having a different kind of religious experience. They were perched, bums on edge of seat at a tapas bar around the corner watching a Barcelona soccer game with a bunch of passionate Barca fans. They had toured the football stadium Camp Nou earlier that day whilst I thoroughly enjoyed my lone Gaudi ‘La Pederra’ tour. Our little boys heads were full of soccer glory. Messi, Neymar Jr and Suarez. I instead chose to go back to the apartment and enjoy an extra sneaky tumbler of very good Spanish wine and a modicum of peace and quiet.

We made special memories, yet for the Yak and myself, it wasn’t all fun and games. The loss of our Jo bore down heavily upon us at times. However, what we do know is that she would have wanted our boys to experience this big wide world we live in. To laugh, love and shout at the soccer. To eat good food, to learn how to say hola, adios, bueno and bonita. And that is what we will continue to do, wherever and whatever we do, in the best way that we can.


Vegan peanut butter and chocolate chip biscuits

Joe (she added the ‘E’ because that’s how she rolled) was beautiful, sweet, wise, brave, funny, passionate, a letter writer, smart as a whip, suffered from a chronic illness but never complained. An absolutely devoted wife, her equally devoted husband is bereft without his soul mate. Beloved baby sister of the Yak, a loving daughter, a committed vegan, animal lover and mother to two very fine cats. An amazing Aunt, sender of wonderful Christmas packages to our boys, the best of sister-in-laws and a true friend to many.

We are lost, The Yak is undone. She died far too young. As I write this it’s raining, like some cliched Hallmark movie. Except that real grief is not like a Hallmark movie. It’s hard, cold and shit.

The Yak made it to her bedside in the UK hours before she died, he went thinking he would be keeping her company in hospital. He came home for a short time then flew back again for her funeral. The tryanny of distance. The lads and I are preparing to leave on our pre-planned trip to the UK to meet up with The Yak. The original purpose was to visit with our Joe.

I have not had the heart to bake, write or blog. But it had been in my mind for the longest time to do a vegan post just for her. So here it is. Vegan peanut butter chocolate biscuits, I hope Joe would have loved them. Just like we loved her.

VEGAN PEANUT BUTTER AND CHOCOLATE CHIP BISCUITS

WHAT YOU NEED
1/2 cup unsalted natural peanut butter
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white caster sugar (see cooking note below)
1/4 cup almond milk
1 1/2 cups wholemeal flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder or 1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp ground flaxseed (this can be omitted if you don’t have it, it assists in binding the ingredients a little more)
1 cup vegan dark chocolate chips

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 180C and line two baking trays with baking paper.
Place the peanut butter, grapeseed oil, sugars and almond milk into a large bowl. (If you are using vanilla essence add it here.) Beat well until the ingredients are well combined. (I used an electric hand beater.)
Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and vanilla bean powder into the bowl with the peanut butter mixture. Add the ground flaxseed and stir well.
Mix in the chocolate chips.
Roll heaped teaspoons full of the dough into round balls and place on the baking tray allowing room for spreading.
Bake at 180 for 12-15 minutes until light golden brown.
Let cool on the tray slightly then remove to a wire rack to complete cooling.
This made about 22 biscuits.

Cooking Note: it appears that in some parts of the world, some white sugar is processed using bone char. Ewww. That appears not to be the case in Australia but to be safe, I imagine vegans would check it out before they used a particular brand of sugar.

Recipe adapted from the Vegan Yoga Life blog. Link follows photos.

Original recipe:

Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies


Lemon sour cream muffins

Kid 1: If I was to be killed and eaten, I would like to be put to sleep so I couldn’t feel anything, then have every part of my body used, eaten and nothing wasted. Kind of like a soft shell crab.

He really is showing an extreme commitment to the concept of nose to tail eating. During the school holidays, Kid 1 watched a junior baking show on television where ten year olds created intricate baked goodies. This put a fire in his belly and he insisted on baking these muffins completely by himself (under my supervision.) His egg-cracking ability has come along in spades and it’s lovely to observe his burgeoning kitchen confidence.

This is a standard recipe in our household and they are very good. The sour cream moistens the muffins and contributes towards a tender crumb and light golden exterior. They are tangy, creamy and moreish. The only thing that will be be left is the muffin wrapper.

LEMON SOUR CREAM MUFFINS

WHAT YOU NEED
1/3 cup vegetable oil (we use grapeseed)
2/3 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, 70g
Zest and juice of one medium size lemon (roughly 1 tbl of zest and 1/4 cup lemon juice. If I have extra lemons, I will often add another tbl of zest. We love ‘mega lemon’ flavour)
3/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup wholemeal plain flour
1 tbl baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 200C and place your muffin papers in a muffin tin or on a baking tray. I will often give the muffin papers a light spray with rice bran oil spray to avoid sticking.
In a large bowl, combine the oil and sugar.
Add the eggs and mix well.
Add the lemon juice, lemon zest and sour cream and mix well.
Sift the flours, baking powder and salt into the bowl then fold in gently. Do not overmix or your muffins will be not as tender.
Fill the muffins papers about 2/3rds full and bake for about 15-20 minutes until they are risen, light golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.
Eat them.

Makes 11-12 muffins depending on the size of your muffin papers

Slightly adapted from a recipe from Jens Favorite Cookies blog, link to original recipe follows.

Lemon Sour Cream Muffins


Fennel and chickpea soup and he tangata

Soup cravings come on cold days, rainy days and sometimes on days when grief threatens to overwhelm. Soup in its many guises is my ultimate comfort food, bar mashed potato. It is the making and eating that brings a little salve for the soul, if only for a short while.

Our one-of-a-kind Uncle Rodger died a few weeks ago, he made us promise to use the word ‘dead.’ Not ‘passed’ (away, over or under), not ‘left’, not ‘lost’ and not ‘gone’. (As if he had somehow been carelessly misplaced.) I did ask if ‘carked it’ or ‘shuffled off this mortal coil’ were acceptable terminologies. We both had a good laugh at that.

It is difficult choosing words to describe a loved one who has died, my fear is that they may diminish and somehow confine the person you are writing about. Rodger was the strongest of the strong. The best of husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, friends, mentors and work colleagues. A teacher, therapist, board member of the Frederichs Ataxia Research Association of Australasia (the insidious disease that his three sons are and were afflicted with), an activist for social change and a man who refused to accept the status quo.

Rabidly rugby loving in a ‘shouty at the television’ kind of way, funny, headstrong, story-teller and family history orator. Outdoor adventurer, former Kathmandu model, lover of music, literature and beauty, gourmand, wine and whiskey aficionado. Empathetic and not afraid to cry. Renowned for his ongoing love affair with wood; building things out of it, collecting it, chopping it, admiring it and burning it. (The woodpiles he left are legendary.) This was a man who chose the timber for his own coffin and started to build it until he no longer could. This was a man who chose as his final song at his funeral, the eternally and everlastingly funny Monty Python song ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.’

He fought the foul cancer that took his life with everything he had. His amazing wife is one of the most quietly determined and supportive people you would probably ever hope to meet. They walked side by side in love and joie de vivre as well as in grief. Through the diagnosis of their three beautiful boys disease and the ongoing heartaches it brought, when their oldest son took in own life in his early twenties, through to the Christchurch earthquakes and when Rodger himself was diagnosed. Their spirits however, were never broken despite the ongoing crap that life threw at them.

Rodger was a beacon that always burnt brightly and he will be missed beyond measure. As an Uncle, he was easy to talk to, his puns knew no end and he was always interested in what was going on and what I had to say. One of his favourite sayings was a Maori proverb.

He aha te mea nui o te ao
What is the most important thing in the world?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people

So, after returning from New Zealand where we got to say goodbye, then celebrate and mourn his remarkable life, I needed soup. This was the soup I made. The chunky chickpea bites, the silky aniseed fennel alongside the slight hum of chilli and thyme is warming and nourishing. (It’s even better the next day.) Rodger would have hated it. He was bloody sick of soup of by the end of his life as it was the only thing he could eat. The cancer he battled, deprived him of eating the food he had always loved.

This soup is not for you Rodger but this post is. Because what truly makes this life worth living is the people, the people, the people.

FENNEL AND CHICKPEA SOUP

WHAT YOU NEED
3 tbl grapeseed or olive oil,
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 large fennel bulb, diced into 2 cm
4 celery stalks, chopped into roughly 2 cm dice
2 carrots, diced into 2cm
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1//4 tsp dried chilli flakes
2 litres vegetable stock
1 litre water
1 tin crushed tomato
800g cooked chickpeas, drained (I used two tins chickpeas.)
1/2 tsp dried thyme (1 tbsp fresh thyme)
2 fresh bay leaves
200g green beans, chopped
Salt and pepper

HOW YOU DO IT
Sauté onions, fennel, celery and carrot for about ten minutes in a large saucepan over a medium heat, until they start to soften.
Add the garlic and chilli and cook for one minute, stirring continually.
Add the stock, water, tomato, chickpeas, thyme and bay leaves. Add a few good grinds of pepper and about a teaspoon of sea salt. (My stock was homemade and did not contain salt, so do not add salt at this point if your stock contains salt.)
Bring the soup to the boil then reduce to a simmer.
Skim off any scummy frothy bits that float to the top.
Cook for about 60-80 minutes until the carrots and fennel are tender, check for seasoning.
Add the green beans and cook for about ten minutes until the beans are just tender and still a bright colour.
Serve in bowls and be comforted. This soup freezes very well.

Cooking Notes: I like this soup with a fair bit of broth so if you prefer a more ‘stew’ like soup, cut back the amount of water you add from 1 litre to 500ml of water.

A Child’s Christmas in Wales and a family celebration

All the little lights

Christchurch Will Rise Again Seafood Chowder

Friedreich Ataxia Research Association


Gluten free weet-bix slice and The Mo Theory

Kid 1 has ‘a moustache theory’. He believes that anyone with a ‘mo’, immediately feels more confident and intimidating than someone without one. Gunna go grow me one….

Until then, the baking goes on, regardless of an outstanding insufficiency of facial hair. My standard weetbix slice uses a creamed butter method but sometimes, you just can’t be arsed bothered with all that malarkey. So a melt and mix slice was required, I had been wanting to use gluten free weetbix for a wee while now. (The Yak was a very happy little coeliac when a certain company started producing these iconic baked breakfast bricks using gluten free sorghum flakes.) This recipe works a treat and is nice and quick.

All of you wheat tolerant out there may be thinking, big whoop. Our Yak is no cry baby and as we all know, far worse things happen than being a coeliac. It’s just that every now and again, he wants to eat something that is as delicious as the original memory of a dish ever was. This is one of those dishes.

Whether ye be coeliac, gluten intolerant or just experimental, ye will not be unhappy. (But if ye are, dont tell me. Well go on, if you really must.)

GLUTEN FREE MELT AND MIX WEETBIX SLICE

WHAT YOU NEED
3 plain gluten-free weetbix
1 3/4 cups gluten-free self-raising flour
1 tbl cocoa powder
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup dessicated coconut
125g butter, melted
2 tbl milk

Icing
3/4 cup icing sugar
2 tbl Cocoa powder
50g butter
1 tbl hot water
3 tbl extra dessicated coconut (you can get some super nice organic and sulphur free coconut from health food shops these days.)

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 180C (170C fan-forced) and line a 26cm X 18 cm tin with baking paper.
Crumble the weetbix finely into a large bowl.
Sift over the flour and cocoa.
Stir through the sugar and coconut until all ingredients are combined.
Add the butter and stir then add the milk and stir again until well combined.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and press down firmly (I use my fingers).
Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Allow to cool.
Sift icing sugar and cocoa together into a medium sized bowl. Add the butter then the hot water and stir until runny.
Pour the icing over the cooled slice and spread. Sprinkle the coconut over immediately. Let the icing set then cut the slice into squares.
Makes, well, enough.

A Cheergerm adaptation of a recipe from the Best Recipes website. Link follows.

Footnote: (Or is that ‘thumbnote?) My wrinkly thumb has somewhat of a starring role in these photos, deepest apologies.

http://www.bestrecipes.com.au/recipe/weet-bix-slice-L5572.html


Chocolate chip biscuits and a hug

It was late and I had been lying next to my twelve year old lad with my arm draped over him. I stood and said good night, exhausted and ready to flop into the sweet comfort of bed and attempt some semblance of sleep.

Kid 2: Mum, could I please just have one more big proper hug?
Me: Oh mate, I just gave you a hug.
Kid 2: But this time I want a proper two-armed hug.
So, I leant down, scooped up his skinny little body and squeezed him hard. Cheek to cheek. I kissed him and told him I loved him.
As I stood to go he spoke these words to me.
‘I am so glad that I have your Mum hugs with me to go into the world. They make me feel strong and loved and special.’

Sometimes, I am grumpy, mean and tired. Sometimes, my children are grumpy, mean and tired. This motherhood gig isn’t always a lark. I am not whinging. I made my choice. I am also fully aware of all those women who have tried to become mothers and couldn’t, of mothers who mourn the loss of a child, of women who become stepmothers and all those in the sisterhood who have simply decided motherhood was not for them. Total respect and love to us all.

In the future, when feeling like everyone wants a piece of me, or the next time my children are feeling much the same way; I will think of the words from my ‘on the cusp of adolescence son’, take a deep breath, open my arms and just hug them.

These biscuits are on regular rotation in our household and are almost as good as a cuddle from a loved one. Using quality dark chocolate and a sprinkle of sea salt elevates them just a little past the ordinary, to the very bloody good. Happy Mother’s Day to all of us mothers, in whatever form that may take.

CHOCOLATE CHIP BISCUITS

125g butter
1/2 cup white caster sugar
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence (or 1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 3/4 cups self-raising flour
125g dark chocolate chopped (or 125g chocolate chips)
1 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 180C and line two trays with baking paper.
Cream together butter, sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy. (I use a stand mixer for this.)
Add egg gradually, beating well after each addition.
Mix in sifted flour then add the chocolate (or chocolate chips) and stir through well.
I often let this dough rest for half an hour or so before baking but it doesn’t matter if you don’t.
Shape large teaspoons of mixture into balls and place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Allow room for some spreading. Sprinkle a little sea salt atop each biscuit.
Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove the biscuits just as the edges start to colour so they don’t overcook and go too crunchy.
Makes about 15 to 20 biscuits, depending on how large you make them. (The photos in this post contain a double batch of these bikkies. Hence, the large amount.)

A recipe that a friend gave many years ago, slightly adapted.

Go here if you are looking for a gluten free chocolate chip biscuit recipe.


Quince and apple pudding, gluten free

A recent conversation with Kid 1, went like this.

Me: How does it feel to be turning twelve?
Kid 1: Oh, I’m really not that fussed about birthdays. Another year older, another year closer to death.
Me: Wow, that’s a bit of a downer!
Kid 1: Imagine how much worse it would be if I died before I even turned twelve? They could put on my tombstone ‘Kid 1. Never reached puberty.’ Or ‘Never been kissed.’
Kid 2 then chimed in. ‘Or never got a girls phone number. (The back story being that a girl gave him her number when he was a mere six years old. Nothing quite compares to beating your older brother in the romance stakes.)

The good news is that he made it to twelve. His sense of humour and unique view of the world is a constant joy to us. (And keeps us on our toes.) He was a big fan of these aromatic and autumnal wee puddings. The smell of the cooking quince was the musky, heady smell of an orchard full of every ripe fruit you could possibly ever imagine. This golden knobbly produce starts out as rock hard and with slow, gentle cooking, morphs into soft, sweet delectable flavoured fruit with pale pink to deep ruby colour flesh. (The longer and slower it is cooked, the deeper red it becomes.)

Adding a modicum of tart green apple adds a welcome sharpness and when topped off with a subtly spiced gluten free sponge, this is a fabulous wee pudding indeed.

Happy Birthday Kid 1, I promise to make these again for you soon.

QUINCE AND APPLE PUDDING, GLUTEN FREE

WHAT YOU NEED
2 large quinces
1 lemon
1 large Apple, peeled and chopped into 2-3 cm pieces
1 large knob of butter
1 cup water
2 tbl soft brown sugar
Pudding topping
60g butter, room temperature
50g soft brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
100g plain gluten free flour
50g ground almonds
2 tsps gf baking powder
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder or 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 cup milk

HOW YOU DO IT
Squeeze the lemon and place in a bowl full of water. Peel and chop the quince into 2-3 cm cubes and place immediately into water, this stops the quince discolouring.
Place the quince, butter, brown sugar and 1/4 of a cup of the water into a medium saucepan. Cook the quince on a low heat for about 30 to 40 minutes, once it starts to soften, add the apple and cook for another 20 minutes until the apple just starts to soften. Check regularly to ensure the water doesn’t dry out, replenish if it does.
Whilst the fruit is cooking. Preheat the oven to 180C and butter six small ramekins or tins or one large 1 litre pie dish.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. (Add vanilla essence if using here.)
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each.
Sift the gluten free flour, almond meal, baking powder, mixed spice and vanilla bean powder.
Fold the flour mixture and milk alternately into the egg mixture to make a soft batter.
Divide the cooked fruit between the tins then cover with the topping.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until well risen, firm and golden brown. (A one litre pie dish may take more like 30 minutes.)
Serve hot with cream, ice-cream or yoghurt. Kid 1 also loves them cold for a breakfast treat as well.

A Cheergerm recipe, the sponge batter adapted from a Stephanie Alexander recipe.


Golden Bathurst days

The school holidays were coming to a close and my feet were itchy. (Metaphorically not medically.) So, I decided that a road trip to Bathurst was long overdue. We could visit the old man, Mr Bagpipes. Just me and our two lads. And it would be mega awesome. (In ‘young boy language’.) Autumn had hit and golden poplar leaves glinted like a million tiny gold coins, bedazzling us as we drove by. Conversation revolved around our favourite Lord of the Rings characters and the fanciest cars we had encountered thus far. All set against a musical backdrop of the Gaelic clan Capercaille, a drop of Chris Izaac and part of the soundtrack to my youth, Split Enz.

We arrived safe and sound and celebrated with a tasty lunch at The Hub, involving roast mushrooms, buffalo mozarella and parsnip chips. Afterwards, an obligatory ice-cream for the boys from the iconic institution that is Annie’s Old-fashioned Ice-cream Parlour. Church bells ring regularly in this old town, reverberating closely off sandstone walls and reminding us that we are no longer in a big city. The weather is strangely warm and balmy and we enjoyed the gentle stroll into town for dinner. Our destination was the artfully converted place of worship, the Church Bar and Woodfired Pizza. We sang songs of praise to the beautifully crispy based pizzas. And slept well that night at Dad’s abode.

Next day, sunny skies again and a visit to Bathurst wouldn’t be complete without morning tea at Legall. The goodness that is French patisserie set us up nicely for further adventures. (Involving the mandatory toffee choux and lemon tart.) We were wowed by the amazing collection of vintage cars at the the National Motor Racing Museuem, located at the foot of the iconic Mt Panorama racing track. Dad then popped into to his place of employment to do a spot of work. My sons and I visited the War Memorial, being on the cusp of Anzac Day and enjoyed a meander in the ornamental 19th century parks. Back at Dads,’ the whipper snippers read real-life books whilst I cooked up a big pot of my restorative vegetable soup for Pa, freezing a few portions as well.

As we were on an eating tour of Bathurst, dinner that night was at Tommy’s. We happily consumed ribs, hotdogs and burgers the size of a small boys head. The grown ups may have partaken in a jug of Tommy’s margarita mix. But that can neither be confirmed or denied.

Friday morning arrived and the weather gave way to the impending bleakness of winter. After one more quick visit to Legall (pastries are actually good for you dontcha know), we bid farewell to Mr Bagpipes. Naturally, thanking him elegantly for his kind hospitality. For a last hurrah, the wee lads and myself trotted off to the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum to see the Supercroc touring exhibition. Modelled off the fossilised bones of a prehistoric crocodile found in the Saraha desert, this behemoth was over 13 meters long. All three of us were glad that it was now extinct. We oohed and aahed over various brilliantly coloured precious and semi-precious minerals. As well as honest-to-goodness fossils, including a life sized T-Rex replica. Roar.

Like the poplar trees lining the roads to and from Bathurst and the precious stones at the Mineral museum, these days are golden. Time taken to once again reconnect to my children will hopefully hold us all in good stead in the busy weeks ahead. We also got to eat a whole lot of damn fine food and clap eyes on Mr Bagpipes in his natural environment. And that ain’t half bad. In fact it’s, gold.

http://www.churchbar.com.au
https://www.nmrm.com.au
http://www.somervillecollection.com.au
http://www.tommysbx.com
http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/country-nsw/bathurst-area?nst=0&gclid=COm_6KvRpswCFQJwvAodDBsOtw&gclsrc=aw.ds

Desperate to read more Bathurst posts from the Cheergerm?
Back to Bathurst and a spot of Tex-Mex
Shadow sisters and the Apple Bar
Bathurst and bagpipes