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

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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.


An homage in the shape of a gluten free apricot slice

If people could be a fruit, my maternal Nana Dorothy would have been an apricot. Our grandparents owned an orchard in the Central Otago region of the South Island of New Zealand. Pop’s apricot trees were special, as was the fruit they produced. They tasted of sunshine with a hint of savoury tartness. My memories of Nana are inexorably woven together with this small pale golden orange fruit. The blushing velvety exterior of an apricot still reminds me of her luminous complexion and whilst she was warm and kind, Dorothy also had a sharp wit and tongue when it was required.

If I close my eyes and remember those visits, I think of rosehips and grey wild thyme, whispering pines and the muted golden browns and tans of the surrounding craggy Central Otago hills. Tartan woollen blankets, bountiful stone fruit, apples, pears and the low rocky walls made of the unique local schist stone of the region. I can see Pop on the tractor amongst the variegated foliage of the fruit trees. I can hear the ear splitting bark of the cherry gun and watch the frost pots being readied when temperatures were set to drop.

Dorothy was a good cook and baker. How very grown up I felt when helping her carry the wicker baskets laden with a morning tea of something homemade down to the workers. I can see and almost smell the fat juicy sausages that Nana served with her homemade, piquant apricot sauce. Her baking tin always contained a slice or cake. She was generous with food, with her love and with her particularly joyously infectious laugh that I can still hear in my head.

This apricot slice is my homage to her. Sweet, buttery, tropically coconut and vanilla; beautifully offset by the faintly tart fruit. The apricot and almond meal are happy bedmates. I wish she was still with us so I could serve her a generous portion alongside a cup of tea and hear her laugh, just one more time. If you were a fruit, what fruit would you be? I think I too, would be an apricot.

GLUTEN FREE APRICOT SLICE

WHAT YOU NEED
185g butter, room temperature
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence or 1/2 tsp vanilla bean powder
100g almond meal
135g gluten free self-raising flour
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
12 fresh apricots (500g), halved and de-stoned
1 heaped tablespoon Apricot jam to glaze

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C (170C fan-forced) and line a 18cm x 28cm lamington tin with baking paper.
Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla.
Sift the almond meal and self-raising flour into a bowl, then stir in the coconut. Gently fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture.
Spread the mixture evenly over the base of the prepared pan.
Arrange the apricot halves cut side up on the cake batter, pressing them in slightly.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the slice comes out clean.
Whilst the cake is still hot, heat the apricot jam and brush it over the apricots.
Cool completely in the pan, then cut and serve.
Cooking Notes: this can also be served hot as a dessert with ice-cream, yoghurt or mix a tablespoon of honey into mascarpone or ricotta.

A Cheergerm adaptation of two recipes from the Taste Website. Links after photos.

I

image

http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/26489/coconut+apricot+slice

http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/347/apricot+and+almond+slice


A Child’s Christmas in Wales and a family celebration

‘One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.’

These words are from the wonderful prose work, A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. It is an evocative and humorous anecdotal retelling of Christmas from the point of view of a child. Whenever I read it, it is our Uncle R’s voice that will always be in my head. He read this book to his children as they grew up and over the years, has often enjoyed sharing it with others in his mellifluous orators voice. He is the story teller in my Dads family and on the very near eve of his 70th birthday, I wanted to share his love of this particular literary work with you. Go look up a copy, either the book or the original recording that Thomas made back in 1952. Happy Birthday to one of the best people this world will ever know.

Come December, Mum and The Polish Stepfather throw a pre-Christmas celebration with family and close friends. Everyone contributes something, mine was an eggy pile of mini-mushroom frittatas. (Mini-Mushroom Frittatas .) Sister 4 baked a decadent vegan chocolate cake from the latest Nigella Lawson cookbook. There were croissants, tasty corn fritters and a platter of Polish charcuterie. Our dear friend concocted a fanciful fruit platter in the shape of a Christmas tree. There was a mound of tart plum jam filled Polish donuts, cheeses, a tumble of silky scrambled eggs, haloumi, bacon and fried mushrooms. And there were chocolates, of course.

Little gifts for children, home-baked gifts for grown-ups. The odd glass of fizzy wine and some good strong coffee. Cicada’s sang their summertime symphony and children guffawed loudly, running wild with the sugar coursing through their veins. Troubles forgotten for a brief window of time and the world slowed down. Stopping to look at each one of these beloved faces, I felt the fragility of life and the speedy passing of time. What each of us remembers of these celebrations in years to come will be different but we are making valuable memories. I leave you with one more passage from Thomas’s Christmas prose. He says it far, far better than I ever could.

‘All the Christmases roll down towards the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands into the snow and bring out whatever I will find.’

Excerpts from A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas.

I also found a very good recording of this piece at the ABC shop recorded by a Welsh renowned Thomas-reader and literary professor.

https://shop.abc.net.au/products/a-childs-christmas-in-wales?CAWELAID=120152330000062731&CAGPSPN=pla&catargetid=120152330000216021&cadevice=t&gclid=CO7A1c_q18kCFYaYvAodKpMCWQ



All the little lights

‘We’re born with millions of little lights shining in the dark, and they show us the way. One lights up, every time we feel love in our hearts.’

I was sitting with Uncle R and Aunty L in their lounge room. We were listening to an album called ‘All the little lights’ by Passenger, aka Michael David Rosenberg, an English folk-rock singer songwriter with an unforgettably raspy voice and poignant lyrics. L is mending and R is reading. The lyrics from the song ‘all the little lights’ lodge within me, there is definitely a light shining in my heart in that moment.

My three sisters and I had landed in full force in Christchurch, New Zealand, the day before. It had been many years since we have travelled there all together, four curly haired lasses reunited on an adventure once more. We encountered a little pocket of summer in autumn, the warm wind wrapping around us like a loving blanket. Tessa the wonder retrieving cat was a delighting and diverting ball of possum like fur. Our Uncle and Aunty love her to the point of distraction. It is no no hardship to see why. We are all in her thrall before we know it.

Their house, built in 1909, timber walls, lovingly maintained by strong hands and strong hearts and held up by the firm foundations of a loving marriage. To our Uncle, this house is part of his story, a direct reflection of himself. Solid through the toughest and most unimaginable heartbreaking of times. It suffered in the earthquakes but the fact that liquification did not travel beneath and the extra work and timber that they built into it ‘back in the day’, ensured it’s continuing existence.

There is true beauty here. Both in the people it houses and in each lovingly chosen or inherited piece. A living, breathing diaroma of their history, just like the patchwork quilts artfully made by Aunty L. Old Pop’s piano accordion, stained glass and hand crafted wooden sculptures made by a close friend. A man’s garage laden with treasures and tools used by the hands of a bloke who fixes and beautifies discarded objects. The garden provides pumpkins, perfumed climbing roses, lavender, a magnificent veggie patch and an apple tree. Saffron seeds given to Uncle R from an Iranian student have been grown into delicate yet vibrant golden threads.

Hot Wheels and Low Rider, how good it is to see them again. No, these are not some hot rodding gang members but two of our cousins. Rest assured, these titles are of their own choosing. These two beautiful men have Frederich’s Ataxia and use wheelchairs as their current mode of transport. This condition causes progressive damage to the nervous system. We are well pleased to clap eyes on them both again along with Big Bibbity Bob (aka Bob) the beautiful brown eyed dogger friend of Hot Wheels. To know Bob, is well, to love him.

A strong food gene appears to be written in all of our DNA. We ate and drank from dusk to dawn, Aunty L’s rich mushroom soup and sourdough bread. The coffee we encounter is seriously good and excellent New Zealand wine flows. Denheath’s custard squares thank you very much, iconic ginger slice and lolly slice, something I don’t think you will see in another part of the world. A miniature Bombe Alaska filled with a rhubarb parfait is well, frankly, the bomb. We are entertained by Uncle R’s amazing ability to recite poetry and witty sayings handed to him by his own personal mentor and hero, Old Pop. (His grandfather, our great/grandfather. He is the dapper fellow in the first photo on the left wearing a beret.)

Special gin (laden with botanicals) and tonics with orange peel, Italian food, cousins and beers, laughing like loons and catching up. Some cooking and baking is also accomplished by sisters together again. A perfectly balanced carrot cake (not too sweet, not too savoury) topped with walnuts foraged from the tree next door. A delicate seafood chowder laden with NZ seafood. We all pitch in.

Reconnecting with our loved ones, family from both our fathers and mothers side, time has passed but not passed at all. The goodwill and interest is still there as if we only saw each other yesterday. Coffee at the local library, lunch at the Boatshed and drinks at the Astrolabe Bar. More laughter and some tears. We pore over photos from a bygone era, looking for snippets of ourselves in the faces that gaze back at us.

Leaving here is hard for many reasons. We miss all of our family and this beautiful city that is rebuilding itself in new ways after the earthquake. It is made more difficult this time because our beloved Uncle R is fighting a health battle that brings new meaning to the saying that ‘life isn’t fair’. As Uncle R would say, quoting Old Pop, ‘Life isn’t fair, so what are you going to do about it?’ Our uncle has spent his life ‘doing something about it.’ Battling injustices committed not only against his own boys but for others who lacked a voice.

We do not say goodbye but instead, ‘until we meet again.’ If love is a tiny light that burns, then there are many tiny lights burning as brightly as they can right now.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=CoONtDv9eJg

http://www.fara.org.au

http://www.denheath.co.nz

http://www.christchurch.org.nz


A side of herb polenta bake and an aside

Yak: You are a good lad, will you look after me when I am old?
Kid 2: Probably, but I might be somewhere else.
Me: Kid 2, if I were you, I would start running now. Unfortunately, I have nowhere left to run.

This hearty side of polenta is magnificent Yak food. It helps trick convince The Yak into feeling like he is not ‘missing out’. There is very little that this side dish doesn’t go with. We have scoffed it down with a ratatouille like vegetarian sauce as well as a creamy braised mushroom dish. It goes beautifully with a myriad of casseroles or good piece of meat or fish. Breakfast for dinner? Try it with a fried or poached egg and some steamed asparagus.

Chuck in whatever herb combination tickles your fancy. No fresh herbs? Then throw in a teaspoon of dried Italian herbs and let them steep in the stock whilst it comes to the boil. This version has parsley, thyme and a smidgen of sage. In the time it took me to prepare the thyme (boom tish) for this dish, my lads had gone to high school, got degrees, travelled the world and started families. Picking the leaves off thyme is one of the worst kitchen jobs. I would love to say I find it meditative but I don’t.

Take note if you will, of the beautiful wooden board that this polenta sits upon. Uncle R, a veritable goldmine of funny and punny one liners and the master of the ‘aside’ made this for me back in 1993. Whilst staying in Christchurch, NZ, with the always hospitable Uncle R and Aunty L, we took a day trip to Akaroa and stopped in at French Farm winery for a snack with flavour. Some of the food was served upon divine wooden boards that were labelled ‘French Farm Vineyards’. I admired them greatly and Uncle R, a collector of bits of wood (as well as of puns) said ‘Don’t worry niece, I shall make you a board just as nice as this one.’ (He would have said this in a silly voice, cause that’s how he rolls.)

Back at their house, he whipped up a piece of kauri (wood) into this gorgeous wee board, copying the details from the one back at the vineyard. It is exactly the same as the original version I had coveted. Bar one thing. It’s made with the love, care and thoughtful detail of my uncle, and it is far better than anything I could have ever purchased for myself. And that my friends, is something that you just don’t get bored of.

GARLIC AND HERB POLENTA BAKE

WHAT YOU NEED
1 cup gluten free veggie stock and 2 cups water (the original recipe calls for 3 cups of stock but I find it too salty for my taste.)
1 cup instant polenta
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley, sage, thyme, oregano) this is a bit flexible I have also used 1-2 to 1 cup with great results.
3 tbl grated Parmesan
30g butter
Salt to taste
3 tbl grated Parmesan extra for topping

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 15cm x 15cm baking dish with baking paper. I use a larger one and it makes a wedge of polenta that is about 22cm x 18cm and 3cm high.)
Bring the stock and water to the boil in a medium saucepan.
Pour in the polenta and cook over a medium heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly, the mixture should be very thick.
Stir in the garlic, chopped herbs, parmesan and butter and taste for seasoning.
Pour/spread the mixture into the baking dish. Smooth the surface and sprinkle with the extra Parmesan.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden brown.
Cut into triangles, squares or into whatever damn crazy shape you wish.
Serves 8 with one piece each.

Recipe from The Gluten-free Kitchen by Sue Shepherd

http://frenchfarm.co.nz/wordpress/


No more night songs and flourless chocolate cake

For as long as I can remember, Kid 1 has always wanted me to sing him a bed time song. That song is Edelweiss from The Sound of Music. (Please don’t ask if I sound better than Julie Andrews ever did, I don’t want to hurt her feelings.)

Recently, my pink and purple soul was trampled upon.

As I went in to sing; my beautiful, wombat hair coloured, think outside the box, question me always, ten year old said ‘No Mum. I don’t want a song thanks.’ ‘Are you sure?’ I asked. The wobble in my voice ever so slightly perceptible (from outer space I am sure.)

I tried singing the first line. ‘No mum, I really don’t want you to sing.’

Naturally I handled this situation with adult dignity and aplomb. I didn’t really say ‘Wow, you hurt my feelings!’ (Ummm, more than once, in the pathetic hope of guilting him into allowing me to sing to him.)

Time ticked by, I thought that he would shout to me at any moment. ‘Mum, can you sing me a song?’

But that night, not a peep, squeak, burp, fart or mild kerfluffle. Perhaps this was a sign of things to come. My heart hung low as I faced the fact that this special time may have passed between us.

This mum knows that we are lucky to have each other whole and hearty. Yet I am also a mumma with a tender squidgy middle. Somewhat akin to a Cadburys strawberry soft centred chocolate. (The kind of chocolate that we ate back in the old days and now pretend that we don’t like.)

Tomorrow, I thought to myself, I will bake him his favorite cake. This is it.

(I did not, I repeat, did not, go into his room when he was asleep and sing to him. I will deny it.)

FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE

This is our celebration cake and sometimes, our ‘just because’ cake. A meringue like crispy shell with a moist, fudgy but still light crumb. It is a Donna Hay recipe that I have been baking for over ten years now. This gluten free wonder has NEVER (sorry to shout, I got a bit excited) failed me.

Not wanting to go all chocolate elitist on you, I have baked this cake with regular dark cooking chocolate and it is always very, very good. But when you use top shelf swankarama chocolate, it is elevated to the realm of special cakes that will be served in heaven.

WHAT YOU NEED
200g (7oz) chopped dark cooking chocolate (I used Callebaut dark chocolate)
150g (5oz) butter, chopped
5 eggs, separated
3/4 cup caster (superfine) sugar (I used raw caster sugar)
1 1/2 cups almond meal
Icing sugar for dusting

WHAT YOU DO
Preheat oven to 160C (325F). Line and grease a non-stick 22cm (9 in) springform cake tin.
Place chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat and stir until melted and combined.
Cool slightly, then pour into a large bowl.
Stir in the egg yolks, sugar and almond meal.
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggwhites until stiff peaks form.
Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture until just combined.
Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. (I usually test it at 50 minutes.)
Cool completely in the tin.
Run a knife around the edge of the cake and remove from the tin.
Dust with icing sugar. It’s grand when served with berries and double cream.

From a Donna hay magazine from 10 years ago. A second dedication goes out to Jon, cause she loves this cake.

Cooking Notes: when melting chocolate be aware that water is the enemy as it will make the mixture seize up. Use a super, clean bowl when whisking egg whites.

Variations on a theme: Use orange flavoured dark cooking chocolate and decorate with thin slices of candied orange. For a spiced version add 1/2 tsp each of cardamom powder and cinnamon powder to the almond meal and sugar mixture and stir well.

PostScript. Lately Kid 1 has wanted me to sing again so I am enjoying this reprieve whilst it lasts.

IMG_2108


Pinata Rage and Coconut Macaroons

It was the longest piñata hit in history. This gaily coloured Mexican bombonierre was seemingly made of cast iron. Possibly forged in the smelters of dwarven folk from the Kingdom under the Lonely Mountain (a Tolkien reference to all you non Hobbit loving peeps).

Child after strong armed child faced this monster. Bashing it with the supressed rage of youngsters against the iron fists of their parental controllers. Sadly, it was to no avail.

Finally, deliverance came in the guise of the smallest and youngest child (an angelic blonde haired 4 year old). It is difficult to explain the collective surprise at witnessing this beautiful young person flying into, what will henceforth be known as, ‘piñata rage’.

There was violent and assured bashing, followed by targeted smashing. The paper mâché split open and Mexican manna fell from the heavens. All was once again right with the world.

Kid 1 came up to me afterwards, proclaiming ‘The bowl of holiness has been split!’ His hands overflowing with sweet loot, some whole and some crushed. Not caring that they were in a less than perfect state, he snarfled them all in record time.

These coconuts macaroons may not have been a piñata full of sweet and lollylike goodness but they were still a huge hit with Kid 1. Being gluten free, the Yak was also a fan.

Some folk may say the macaroon is the poor, tenement living cousin to the more difficult to make and penthouse living macaron. I tell all those people to rack off. Yes, the macaroon has only 4 ingredients and yes, they are quick and yes, you don’t have to cure the egg whites for 2 days. So, yes, maybe after careful consideration ‘those people’ have a point. But as that overused cooking TV show catchphrase goes, ‘I made them with love’. (I don’t often cook with hate in my heart, although sometimes, I have been know to give a misbehaving cake batter a stern glance or two).

Floral vanilla and chewy coconut, reminiscent of a Polynesian wonderland. Close your eyes as you bite into their crispy exterior and you could be lying on a beach in Tahiti. They may easy peasey lemon squeezy but they are bloody delicious.

COCONUT MACAROONS

WHAT YOU NEED
2 egg whites
Pinch salt
100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
125g desiccated coconut (or shredded)
1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla essence)

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 150C and line two baking trays with baking paper.
Place the egg whites and salt in a medium sized bowl and beat them until they are stiff.
Gradually beat in the sugar and fold in the remaining ingredients.
Drop the mixture in teaspoonfuls about 5cm apart on the trays (as I did) or use a piping bag with a 1cm tip.
Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating halfway through. When the macaroons are dry and cooked, they will be a pale, pinky-gold.
Cool on wire racks and store airtight, Makes about 20.

Recipe from Ladies, A Plate by Alexa Johnston.

A quick shout out to the lovely chicks from I Need a Feed and Vegas Hungry Girl for nominating me for some blogger awards lately. Not sure when I will get to that but in the meantime, just wanted to give you the links to their delightful blogs.

http://ineedafeed.wordpress.com

http://vegashungrygirl.wordpress.com


Bathurst and bagpipes

We recently took an extended weekend to travel to the NSW country town of Bathurst. This is the chosen place of residence for our Papa, Mr Bagpipes. He was celebrating a rather, cough cough, significant birthday. How old you ask? Bloody 70, he would reply. Despite his misgivings, this is a good thing. He is a young 70.. I mean, like a 21 year old 70.

Beautiful Bathurst was the place of the first goldrush in Australia. With a population of around 41,000 people, there is an elegant and historic city centre with a slightly slowed down country feel. To balance this, Bathurst is also a university town with a youthful and energetic vibe. It is famous for Mount Panaroma, an internationally known race track that attracts petrolheads from all over every October for the awesomely noisy Bathurst 1000.

Bathurst is a bit of an understated beauty. The dark haired, brown eyed demure lass who stands undemandingly in the corner. But when you give her your full attention, she shines like soft sunlight on a stained glass window.

There is no sugar coating it, in winter it is BC…Bloody Cold. But what better excuse to rug up in your snuggliest clothes and traverse from shop to shop, park to park, red apple cheeked like someone from a 1950’s American TV sitcom? There is much to appreciate. The fine architecture, fabulous food and coffee and great shoes. (Shoes do matter, well, they do to me….)

First stop, Legall Patisserie, this is when I really know we are in Bathurst. Toffee choux, lemon tart and creme brûlée tart. Naturally, I have no scientific basis for the next claim but this has got to be the best patisserie in Australia. I kid you not. The light choux pastry balls filled with fresh cream and coated in a thin crunchy almost burnt but not, toffee coating almost bring me undone. Served with Fish River coffee, blended locally, this java always has a luscious, smooth mouthfeel and great aftertaste. It ain’t crap people.

Icicles on bench parks and shrubbery, Jack Duggans Irish pub for plates of cockle warming country food the size of a small galaxy and pints of velvety Guinness that make the world a happier place. Duck feeding at the pond, excellent takeaway coffee from Crema or Country Fruit and fat ice creams (yes, children will still eat them, even when it is 9 degrees outside.)

Green leprechaun boots from Gorgeousness, the temple of all things girly and beauiful. The very cool Keppel Street with the marvellous secondhand shop The Naked Bud, op shops and other delightful wee retail outlets worth a squiz at. Artisan handcrafted takeaway pizza from Capers, devoured in the stunning cottage rented by Sister No 4. (We all had serious rental house envy.)

And the shindig itself? Come Saturday evening, we popped our glad rags on and headed off to celebrate. Mr Bagpipes had booked out The Hub, Espresso Bar & Eatery for the entire evening. A charming, partially red wall painted, cosy eatery on the aforementioned Keppell Street. Owned and operated by Mr Ross, a chilled out dude who’s personality is reflected in the happy food and service this wee gem provides.

Family and friends of Mr Bagpipes gathered from near and far in this welcoming space and sipped on sparkling wine whilst snarfling delicious tidbits of canapés. The chilled dinner party atmosphere was framed by the beautiful musicianship of Aaron Hopper and Rob Shannon. Mr Bagpipes surprised us all by banging out a few cool tunes on the bagpipes accompanied by Mr Shannon on the tabla, an Indian drum. The mystic sounds took us to a more ancient time where windy, bagged instruments ran free on stilted legs, shepherded by crazy, wee percussion instruments.

Back to the food. To start, a cauliflower soup served with truffle oil and fine shavings of fresh truffle. Holy fungi! Seriously, one of the most luxurious soups to ever slide down the gob of this greedy Cheergerm. The sweet brassica was highlighted by the hard to describe, earthy taste that is that strange little orb, the truffle. This was followed by tender crusted lamb rack on a bed of kumara mash, a red wine jus and lovely steamed fresh garden vegetables. Vegetarians and the vegetarian Silly Yak dined on a tasty veggie curry. They were well pleased.

Music, warmth, poetry, food, wine and laughter. Hopefully Mr Bagpipe’s heart swelled as his friend piped in the kiwi decorated birthday cake. Celebrations are important, they might not totally erase the darker times but they feed our souls and give us hope for the future.

Enough of that serious malarkey, let’s talk dessert. Adorable piccolos of Fish River Coffee came to the table accompanied by Sister No 2’s amazeballs kiwi covered birthday chocolate stout fruit cake and slices of lemon tart from Legall next door.

Sunday, in party recovery mode, we drove through freezing cold sleet like rain to visit the Beekeepers Inn 20 minutes outside of Bathurst. We enjoyed nice food and coffee along with a great honey tasting station, a myriad of amber honey jars, bee type goodies and gourmet yummy things to peruse. As night fell, we met once again in the enviable cottage rental for great warming Indian curry from Tamarin Indian Restaurant.

Before we took our leave on Monday, we needed to stuff our faces for the last hurrah. Back to The Hub we went. Trunkey Creek triple smoked bacon was the business served with heavenly (give me a hallelujah chorus from the balcony) scrambled eggs that were like tiny little hobbit clouds. A friend devoured chorizo, sweet potato rosti and poached eggs topped with a silky hollandaise sauce that was lemony and not heavy or overpowering as some. A reliable expert on sausages (the Polish stepfather) assured me the fennel and pork sausage with beans was superb. No words left his mouth whilst he chowed down.

So happy birthday Dad, as you traverse into the next decade of your life, may the road rise up to meet you and the melodic drone of bagpipes be the continuing soundtrack to your life.

Bathurst, we will be back.

https://www.facebook.com/LegallPatisserieCafe

http://www.fishriverroasters.com.au

https://www.facebook.com/thehubbathurst

http://www.jackduggans.com.au

http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Naked-Bud/138814430734

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Gorgeousness/264710080253858

http://www.beekeepersinn.com

https://www.facebook.com/TamarinRestaraunt

http://www.trunkey.com.au

http://www.encoreapartments.com.au

http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/country-nsw/bathurst-area