Gluten free macadamia and lemon shortbread

Christmas baking. Those of us who reside in this sunburnt country love nothing more than turning on our ovens in thirty plus degrees heat and ninety plus humidity. If you can’t ‘hack’ it, stay out of the kitchen us hardcore bakers would say. Every year I try a new spin on the classic shortbread and this Yuletide season, I decided it was time for a little bit of Australiana. A dash of ‘yeah mate’, a teaspoon of ‘good on ya’ and a sprinkling of ‘g’day.’

The macadamia nut is indigenous to Australia (sorry Hawaii, it was ours first) with a mild flavour and creamy, buttery texture. These ovoid tree-grown kernels pair beautifully with citrus. I would have loved to used the wonderfully zingy lemon myrtle, another native ingredient but sadly, I hadn’t ordered it in time. Hence, good old lemon rind had to suffice.

By all accounts this is a ‘little ripper’ of a combination and one that I am sure any good ‘sheila or bloke’ would be happy to find in their Christmas stocking. Have a ‘beaut’ Christmas and a ‘bloody’ Happy New Year.

MACADAMIA AND LEMON SHORTBREAD

WHAT YOU NEED
250g butter, room temperature
2 tsps finely grated lemon zest (approx the zest of 2 medium sized lemons)
1/2 cup caster sugar
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
60g macadamias, very finely chopped

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, lemon zest and add the sugar gradually (I used a mixer), beating until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Work in the flour gradually until the mixture is just combined.
Add the macadamias 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. Store in an airtight container.
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.

Go here for some other Christmas shortbread variations:
Ginger shortbread
Cardamom, cinnamon and brown sugar shortbread
Pecan and vanilla shortbread
Cranberry chocolate and pistachio shortbread


Gluten free lemon biscuits

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Winter has certainly hit Sydney. Looking out onto a dreary garden scene, I observe a sun-deprived browning lawn, fallen twigs and leaves from recent strong winds and the remnants of summer herbs. The bright spot in my view is the lemon trees. We are enjoying an abundance of citrus but there are only so many cakes, biscuits and slices you can bake.

My next food goal is to ‘put up’ (as would they say in the old days) some Moroccan/Middle Eastern preserved lemons. In my minds eye, I envisage opening a jar of homemade bottled sunshine to chuck into a slow-cooked tagine or sprinkle atop an autumnal salad. Bathing in a feeling of culinary superiority, wearing muted linen colours, my well-manicured hands clutching a coffee mug in the very latest in ceramic serving ware. Totally ‘Instagrammable.’

Back to reality, I hoist my daggy tracksuits up around my waist. These biscuits are delicate, zesty,  wonderfully easy to make and are much akin to shortbread. Next time (there will be a next time), I will double the recipe.

Gluten free lemon biscuits

WHAT YOU NEED
100g butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tbl lemon zest (I used the rind of 1 large lemon)
1 3/4 cup gluten free flour
1/4 cup rice flour

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 180C and line two baking tray with baking paper.
Combine the butter, sugar, juice and zest in a bowl and beat until combined.
Sift in the gluten free flour and rice flour and stir until smooth.
Form the dough into a ball, wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Remove from the refrigerator and pinch off about 1 large tablespoon of dough and roll into balls. Place them on the trays, 5cm apart. Flatten them with a fork ever so lightly.
Bake for 15-20minutes or until they start to brown around the edges.

Makes about 18 bikkies.

Recipe from the following website, with a few small adaptations.

http://allrecipes.com.au/recipe/26080/gluten-free-lemon-biscuits.aspx

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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.


Maple syrup muffins, gluten free

Since moving to the northern suburbs of Sydney and its bush surroundings, a particular bird has become my steadfast night time companion. A birdwatching neighbour assisted me in identifying the resonant hoot of this avian creature. It is the smallest and most common owl in Australia, the Southern Boobook. (Or as I have nicknamed it, ‘The Hoo Hoo Bird’.) It’s voice capacity seems far beyond its body weight, some would say this fact may explain my feelings of kinship towards this evening songbird.

It’s nocturnal call has become a comforting, rhythmical backdrop to what I have dubbed the ‘3 am blues’. Upon waking around that particular hour; every bad thought, hideous possibility and nightmarish circumstance comes to mind. And due to the hour, it feels unbeatable, unbearable and imminently possible.

Too many times to mention has the rhythmic far off call of the Boobook been my lullaby back to the realm of peace and slumber. Lately, this owl has begun to roost very near our house. The closest I have ever heard it. As I write, my eyes droop and my head nods in a Pavlovian response to its soothing call, lulling me to the Land of Nod.

Oh beautiful bird, thank you for your gift of sleep during restless nights of dark thoughts, wakeful breastfeeding babies, anxious parent emotions, vomiting children, snoring husbands, asthmatic lads, grieving nights and wide eyed ‘what if’ overthinking. I wish you propagation, the protection of your bush environment, delicious treats and the continuing joy of your nightly call.

These gluten free muffins are on steady rotation in our household. The recipe doesn’t contain any refined sugar, only maple syrup which gives them a floral, caramel flavour. They are tender, not too sweet and are best eaten on the day (or day after) they are baked.

MAPLE SYRUP MUFFINS, GLUTEN FREE

WHAT YOU NEED
350g gf flour (see cooking notes)
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs (70g)
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
2 tbl maple syrup extra for glazing

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 200C (or 190 fan forced.) Place muffin papers into a 12 hole muffin tin. Spray lightly with baking oil to ensure easy removal.
Sieve all the dry ingredients into a medium sized bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs then add the buttermilk, maple syrup and grapeseed oil and stir well.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix to combine. Spoon the mixture into the muffin papers and bake for 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven onto a cooling rack and using a pastry brush, brush the extra maple syrup over the top of the muffins whilst they are still hot.
Eat them.

Cooking notes:
In regards to gluten free flour for these muffins, I like to use a blend and this will change depending on what I have on hand. The two blends that provide a lovely, tender muffin are: A. 150g chestnut flour and 200g plain gf flour blend such as the Orgran brand. B. 100g Bobs Red Mill All Purpose Baking Flour and 250g plain gf flour.
If you don’t have buttermilk you can make your own by adding 1 tbl of lemon or vinegar to 1 cup of buttermilk and let it stand for 10 to 15 minutes.

Maple syrup muffins original recipe link

The call of the Southern Boobook


Sautéed cabbage

Cabbage is supposedly the latest ‘it’ vegetable, the suddenly fashionable ‘new kid on the block’. It’s in the zeitgeist and cauliflower has been kicked to the curb and replaced with the humble cabbage.

Dear Cabbage, please know that I have always loved you. When you were the wallflower, the last kid picked for handball and the lonely vegetable left sitting on the veggie stand. Eastern Europe stood by you when so many others shunned you. You are delicious whether eaten raw, cooked, pickled and fermented.

Cabbage, I am happy that you are having your day in the sun. Please know that those of us who have always been your stalwart supporters, will still be here when your fifteen minutes of fame finally ends.

SAUTÉED CABBAGE

WHAT YOU NEED
3 tbls olive oil
50g butter
400g red cabbage, finely sliced
400g white cabbage, finely sliced
1 medium onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup cold water
Salt and pepper
1/2 small lemon

HOW YOU DO IT
Heat a large frying pan on a medium heat then add the olive oil and butter.
Once the butter has melted, sauté the onion for a few minutes, then add the cabbage and stir until the cabbage is well coated with the butter and oil.
Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring continuously. Add 1/4 cup of water and bring to the boil then reduce the heat and cook, stirring occasionally for around 30 minutes until the cabbage is soft, tender and starts to caramelise. (If you want crunchier cabbage, just cook it for less time.)
Squeeze the half a lemon over the dish and season to taste with salt and pepper and serve alongside whatever your heart desires.

Cooking Notes:
I sometimes add 1/2 tsp caraway seeds with the garlic if I have them.
My hard taskmaster erstwhile editor (aka The Yak) wants me to explain the terminology ‘sauté’. Sauté means to cook quickly in a small amount of fat in a sauté pan or fry pan, over a medium to high heat for a short time.

A Cheergerm version of a dish that has been around a very long time


Nectarine clafoutis, gluten free

Being the daughter of a woman raised on a New Zealand orchard, it was my destiny to adore stone fruit of all types. Fuzzy floral scented peaches, delicate orange tinged apricots, plums of varying sour-sweetness, luscious ruby-red cherries (that also served as wonderful edible earrings) and of course fragrant white or yellow honey-fleshed nectarines. This abundance of stone fruit speaks directly to my heart of summer, sweet memories and our family history.

Once they start appearing at our local markets, bags of fruit appear in our household and are eaten ‘au natural’, sweet juices dribbling down chins or baked into various desserts and sweet treats. Mr Bagpipes (aka Dad, aka Sweet Tooth Pants) was coming for lunch, hence a fast and easy confection was called for. I whipped this up as quick as a flash (for much of my best work is done at the last minute dontcha know?) Procrastinators unite, is there a club I can join?

The fancy sounding clafoutis (pronounced klah-foo-tee), originates in France and is a sweet eggy batter that is poured over fruit (traditionally cherries) and baked into a light airy custard-like pudding. This would be delicious with any stone fruit but I had an oversupply of nectarines. It is best served straight from the oven as it does deflate rather quickly. (Much as my heart did when Donald Trump was elected President.) Enjoy this summery dessert, we did.

NECTARINE CLAFOUTIS

WHAT YOU NEED
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
60g butter, melted
90g gluten free plain flour
1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder (or 1/4 tsp vanilla essence)
4 nectarines, washed, sliced and de-stoned (300g once destoned)

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Grease a pie or baking dish with butter (I used a 29cm X 20cm baking dish).
Whisk the eggs and sugar together until well combined. (If you are using vanilla essence add it here.)
Whisk in the milk then add the butter, sifted flour and vanilla bean powder, stirring until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared dish.
Arrange the nectarine slices over the batter in a pattern that is pleasing to your eye and heart.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until puffy and golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Best served straight after baking as it does deflate somewhat. Great with a wee dollop of ice-cream, cream or creme-fraiche.

A Cheergerm adaptation of a bunch of clafoutis recipes.


Healthy err gluten free brownies

First things first. Today marks the start of Coeliac Awareness Week in this vast land of thongs and Vegemite.  I for one, am very aware. The Silly Yak seemed to lack some awareness yesterday, when he ordered some salads for his lunch and one of them was couscous. (He has made a mental note to himself, couscous contains gluten, I must not eat gluten). Have a happy coeliac kind of week! 

Back to the healthy err brownie. Don’t get me wrong, I love a decadent chocolate brownie. Loads of butter, unctuous dark melted chocolate, a caramel swirl, a sprinkle of sea salt…burble…stay tuned for that recipe folks.

However, sometimes the inner health food hippy wins out. (That hippy would also like me to dress in long tie-dyed swirling skirts, multiple jangly bangles and a braided leather head band but I keep a sartorial lid on her, mostly.) 

These brownies are dialed back in the fat and sugar content and the addition of dates adds some texture and natural sweetness. It is a gluten free adaptation of a fave little Bill Granger recipe I have been using for a few years. No nuts have been used so the Kidlets can still take them to school. Try changing the dates to apricots or figs if you are not a fan of the date. (Don’t blame yourself if you aren’t, we all have our little oddities). 

They are actually better the next day, you know, a little more moist and all that.
 
Healthy err chocolate brownies

YOU NEED
60g (1/2) cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup gluten free plain flour
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp xanthum gum
50g (1/3) cup coconut sugar or brown sugar
100g (2/3 cup) chopped dried dates
90g unsalted butter, melted
80ml (1/3 cup) low fat milk (or whatever milk you got)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla paste (1 tsp vanilla extract)

METHOD
Preheat oven to 160C
Lightly grease and line the base of a 20cm square non stick baking pan.
Sift the cocoa powder, gluten free and buckwheat flours, baking powder and xanthum gum into a large mixing bowl.
Whisk together the butter, milk, eggs and vanilla.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
Spread the mixture (it’s quite thick) into the tin and bake for 15 minutes or until just set.
Cool in the tin before cutting into squares. Dust with icing sugar (or don’t). (I did).

Adapted from Bill Grangers Healthy Chocolate Brownie recipe