Gluten free blueberry muffins

Throwing stuff out is not my jam. Minimalists, let me spare you the pain and avert your eyes now.

Not only do I love to collect, I also struggle with sorting through and throwing out the accumulated tangible items of life. This includes my clothes, knick-knacks and kitchenware but my biggest challenge is anything that belongs to our boys; be it toys, items of clothing or books.

I detest waste (who knows when it may come in handy?) but I also attach an immense amount of sentiment to such objects. Each precious article reminds me of our curly-haired, chubby-thighed little boys in Bonds t-shirts. How could I get rid of the wooden medieval castle or the Schleich animal figurines thoughtfully chosen together? But what I find most difficult is the books. Ahh, the books.

Every book I pick up has been read thoroughly, over and over during those early years. Each of them reminds me of sweet smelling freshly washed heads, snuggly pyjamas, weary nighttime little limbs softened and curled against me. They listened and looked and recited along with either myself or the Yak as we read to them. As often and whenever we could.

Trying to sort through the boys early childhood collection was my very own personal nightmare and I admit to keeping more than I should have. The classic books remembered from my own childhood had to be retained. The Giant Jam Sandwich, The Bad Baby and The Elephant, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Where the Wild Things Are, The Tiger Who Came to Tea and The Story About Ping.

Nor could I give away the many Hairy McLary’s, The Gruffalo, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and Peepo. (To name but a few.) Lovingly packed away for now, my hope is that they will be read to future possible grandchildren (if I live that bloody long). If not, they will hopefully be rediscovered by our boys when they get the wonderful job of clearing out the crap once we have shuffled off this mortal coil. Lads, you are welcome.

This recipe is slightly tweaked from the marvellous Gluten Free Girl blog. Her feelings and experimentation pertaining to The Science of Muffin Baking, mirror my own. As all of us who bake gluten free know, it can be tricky to enjoy a lovely tender bake without using a nut based flour. I don’t like a big, overly sweet and cakey muffin and these little fruity beauties have a lovely soft crumb, are hydrated (I am trying desperately to avoid a certain ‘m’ word that I hate) and are a divine accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee. Kid 1 loves them enough to hog the whole lot. (He will hopefully remember these muffins lovingly as he sorts through the mountains of inherited flotsam and jetsam.)

GLUTEN FREE BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

WHAT YOU NEED
260 gf plain flour (Bobs Red Mill 1 to 1 gf flour blend is my current fave flour blend. I do not get paid to say this!)
2 tbl psyllium husk
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbl baking powder
1/2 tsp bi-carb soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup buttermilk (I have used soy milk and regular milk as well but buttermilk provides the most tender muffin)
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil (I use grapeseed or rice bran oil)

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 210C.
Line a 12 hole muffin tin with muffin liners. (I brush a little bit of oil in each one to assist the muffins in not sticking.)
Whisk the flour, psyllium husk, sugar, baking powder, bi-carb soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl.
Add the blueberries and toss them in the flour mixture. This flour coating helps them to not sink when baking.
Whisk the buttermilk, eggs and oil together thoroughly.
Pour the wet ingredients into a well in the dry ingredients and and very gently, fold the ingredients until everything is combined.
Fill the muffin liners equally.
Bake the muffins for five minutes at 210C then lower the heat to 180C and bake for another 15 minutes. The muffins are cooked when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and place the muffins onto a wire rack to cool.
Eat them.

Recipe slightly adapted from the following blog. This is a great post involving all things muffiny and gluten free. Go have a read.

https://glutenfreegirl.com/2016/10/how-to-make-a-gluten-free-muffin-mix/

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Pam’s lemonade scones

Some people are irrevocably part of your childhood fabric, the person who gave me this scone recipe is one of those people. Not long after we moved to Melbourne from New Zealand, over forty years ago now, I made friends with a wee red-headed energetic lass at our local primary school. Her mum’s name was Pamela and as time went on, our Mums became friends and our families became close. In many ways, they were our Australian family. Patching a hole that had been left from leaving loved ones behind in The Land of the Long White Cloud.

Pam’s parents were Dutch, she had beautiful high cheekbones and a European sensibility. She was strong, funny, fierce, kind and possessed a bullshit radar like no other. As well as raising a family, she ran a catering business from home using the classical cooking skills she had acquired in a cordon-bleu cooking course. I remember sitting on tall stools on the other side of her tiled kitchen bench. Shiny copper jelly molds decorated the walls and I watched with quiet amazement as she deftly chopped vegetables with a skill I had never seen before, made pastry or prepared hor’douevres for upcoming catering gigs. (Oysters atop black pumpernickel bread spread with green butter, being one of them. It was the late 70’s.) Alongside my own Mum’s passion for healthy, fresh produce and good home cooking, watching Pam in the kitchen deeply influenced me in a way that I wasn’t aware of until many years later.

I learnt much from Pam and from observing the friendship between her and my mother. She showed me how to clean a bathroom properly and how to use one square of toilet paper if that was all you were left with. (You don’t want to know.) She taught me the pinch test on the back of your hand to see how your skin was ageing. I remember watching with fascination as the skin on our younger hands pinged back quickly but when she pinched her own hand, it went back into place at a much slower pace. Funny the things we remember.

Pam and Mum’s friendship was close and honest. I observed them with equal parts envy, interest and delight. In retrospect as an adult, probably in the hope that I too could emulate this kind of relationship one day. From my perspective, they seemed to stimulate and challenge each other both intellectually and emotionally. It appeared as if the status quo existed only to be questioned. Pam was a stalwart support in some of my family’s darkest times and their friendship taught me that friends don’t always have to see eye-to-eye. That close relationships can move past a disagreement or a hurt into a deeper understanding. Her and Mum are still friends and being divided by distance, talk on the phone, text often and visit when they can.

Pam is a never boring whirlwind of ideas, deep thoughts, rapid-fire at times bewildering conversation that pushes you to keep up. She has an abiding passion for the new, for life, for food, for people, for education and for the intricate workings of the human mind and body. In a recent conversation based around baking, I had told her that my scones were always too heavy, so she promptly emailed me her lemonade scone recipe.

Using the lightest possible hand (as directed), the scones have turned out beautifully light and airy both times I have baked them. They will slip nicely into my standard repertoire and be the basis of some gluten free experimentation in the future. I think I will call them Pam’s Lemonade Scones. Because that’s the very least that she deserves.

Lemonade scones

WHAT YOU NEED

2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup castor sugar
125 ml thick cream
125 ml lemonade
2 tbsp milk

HOW YOU DO IT

Preheat oven to 200C. Line a tray with baking paper.
Sift the flour, salt and caster sugar into a medium sized bowl.
Add the cream, lemonade and milk to the flour mixture quickly. Using a knife or spatula and with a very light touch, bring the mixture together.
Tip onto a floured board and very lightly knead together. (The mixture is quite wet and sticky.)
Pat into a 2cm thick square and cut the mixture into 12 squares. (Or use a cutter but I think this would be a wee bit tricky with a sticky mixture like this.)
Brush the top with any remainding cream.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until risen and lightly golden brown.
Serve with butter, jam, cream. Whatever takes your fancy.

Pam’s Lemonade Scones


Gluten free 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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More gluten free lemon muffins

Forget finding the meaning of life, running a marathon or even attempting to read an entire book without skipping to the last chapter. My personal Holy Grail (minus the white steed and medieval suit of armour), appears to be an ongoing quest for the perfect gluten free lemon muffin recipe.

Sadly, this is not it. But it ain’t half bad. It is not the fault of the original recipe but merely the curse of using gluten free flour and the tendency for such bakes to dry out quickly. (Especially when the don’t include fruit or some kind of nut flour.) The Yak really enjoyed them and they are certainly at their best on the day of or day after baking. I am most proud of our three bountiful small lemon trees that continue to provide the citrus that is the zingy backdrop to my culinary life.

The search continues but it is good to finally know my true purpose.

GLUTEN FREE LEMON MUFFINS

WHAT YOU NEED
210g gf flour
1 tbl baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar (I used brown sugar for this batch but caster sugar is fine too)
4 eggs
1/3 cup Greek yoghurt
1/2 cup grapeseed or olive oil
2 tbls finely zested lemon rind
1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
Syrup
2 tbl lemon juice
1 tsp brown sugar

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C and place muffin papers in a 12 hole muffin tin.
In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat together sugar and eggs until pale and smooth, this will take about 2-3 minutes.
Beat in the yoghut then beat in the grapeseed or olive oil along with the lemon zest and vanilla essence.
Add the flour mixture and mix until incorporated.
Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling each about 1/3 full.
To make the syrup, place the lemon juice and sugar into a small bowl and microwave for about 30 seconds until the sugar is dissolved.
Bake the muffins for 15-20 minutes until golden or until a cake skewer comes out clean.
Transfer to a rack to cool and then immediately, poke a few holes with the cake skewer into each of the muffins. Drizzle some of the syrup onto each muffin until all the syrup is gone.

Makes 12 small muffins

A gluten free adaptation of the following recipe:

https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/05/lemon-olive-oil-muffins-recipe.html


Vegetarian lentil shepherds pie

Our two lads will happily eat standard veggie fare such as corn, carrots, peas, broccoli and potatoes. If you asked them, they would vehemently deny eating (much less admit to enjoying) eggplant, zuchinni, mushrooms, fennel, onion and capsicum. However, they regularly eat these vegetables in curries, vegetarian Mexican bean dishes, veggie lentil pasta dishes, meat casseroles, burgers, bolognese and more.

Whilst eating, they sometimes ask ‘Mum, what’s in this ?’ When I tell them ‘eggplant’, they are not deterred from continuing the inhalation process. I am sure this has something to do with the leafy matter being ‘hidden in plain sight’ and not easily identifiable. On the flip side, they run screaming from the room when confronted with beetroot, brussel sprouts, parnsips or sweet potato.

This hearty winter dish is all about the fifth flavour of umami (or in other words ‘deep savouriness’), provided by the mushrooms, miso and soy sauce. These flavours and textures, combined with some slow cooking, are completely satisyfing. I cannot promise that it will convert the most adamant of carnivores but our lads love it and in fact, have said they prefer it to my meat version of the same dish. (A declaration at which many sheep breathed a sigh of relief upon hearing.)

Make, eat and enjoy; knowing that neither sheep nor shepherd was harmed in the making of this pie.

VEGETARIAN LENTIL SHEPHERDS PIE

WHAT YOU NEED
4 tbl olive oil
1 medium onion finely diced
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
3 medium carrots, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
1 medium sized red pepper, diced
1 large eggplant, diced
1 large zuchinni, diced
2 cloves garlic
3 large flat mushrooms, diced
2 tins brown lentils, drained
1 tin crushed tomatoes
250 ml vegetable stock
1 tbl oregano
1tbl gluten free soy sauce
1 tbl miso paste
Salt and pepper to taste

Mashed potato topping
1.5 kilos potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup milk
50-100g Butter to taste (add as much as or as little as you like)
Salt and pepper
50-80g Parmesan for grating on top

HOW YOU DO IT

Lightly oil a large baking dish.
Sauté onion, chilli, carrot, celery and red pepper for five minutes. Add the eggplant and zuchinni and sauté for another five minutes, stirring regularly. Add the garlic and cook for one minute.
Add the mushrooms and cook for another five minutes. Add the lentils, tin of tomatoes, veggie stock, oregano, soy sauce, miso and another cup or so of cold water so the whole mixture is covered in liquid.
Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer, cook for up to one hour until all the liquid is evaporated and the veggies are tender. (This can take more like 1 hour 15 minutes.) Check for seasoning.
Whilst the vegetable mixture is simmering make the mashed potato topping. Cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender then drain them. Quickly pop them back into the saucepan and cook on a low heat for a minute or two. This will evaporate any remaining liquid and help to make a more fluffy mash. Remove them from the heat.
Warm the milk then add this and the butter to the potato mixture and mash until light and fluffy. Season with salt and pepper.
If cooking the shepherds pie straight away, preheat the oven to 180C.
To assemble the pie: Place the vegetable mixture into the prepared baking dish and smooth flat. Dollop even spoons of the potato mash over the top of the veggies. Flatten the mash with a spatula then drag a fork through the top. (This uneven texture helps the potato to brown.)
Sprinkle the Parmesan over the potato and bake in the oven for 40 minutes until golden brown. (If the top hasn’t browned enough, I often turn the grill on to medium for five minutes or so to help the browning process.)
If you are heating up the shepherds pie from the fridge, bring it out for half an hour before baking and it will take around an hour to heat up to piping hot.

Cooking Notes: Don’t feel compelled to follow my recipe for mashed potato if you have your own awesome recipe and technique. You can also make this recipe vegan by using a vegan margarine to mash the potatoes with and not using any milk. Top with a vegan cheese instead.
Another great thing about this dish is that due to its size, there are always leftovers for the next night. You little beauty.

A Cheergerm recipe


Turmeric, garlic and sumac potatoes

Our home is an eclectic mix of the old and the new. Vintage pieces have either been collected or handed down. Our artwork tells the story of where we have been, who we once were, where we came from and perhaps where we are headed. The sentimental and the functional work alongside a healthy mix of Lego, too many books to count and endless drawers stuffed full of ‘God Knows What.’ Furniture is chosen for both comfort and design and in some cases, passed down or handed over.

I am drawn towards textural fabrics that provide warmth and please my eye. Our abode is a continual work in progress and our list of ‘things to do’ grows bigger by the day. We are not the greatest of ‘handypeople’ and we work at a snails pace that would (and probably does) frustrate those faster moving people out there. Our home doesn’t suit everybody but then nobody should really ever have to justify ‘home’ to anyone. (Except maybe those of you still married to the 80’s grey and pink decor theme but then, who am I to judge?)

This winter, it feels as if my heartbeat and mind have slowed. I notice the small things. A new crack in a wall, a particularly lovely leaf on an indoor plant or the iridescent glaze on a piece of pottery. The way the light moves throughout the house during the day, alighting on a painting or a section of wooden flooring. I have found great peace and comfort in my surroundings.

Today’s recipe is more of a delicious idea than a recipe. Mum gave me a turmeric plant a little while ago and I excitedly harvested it the other day. I peeled and grated a bulb then threw it into the dinner potatoes alongside some olive oil, crushed garlic, sumac and sea salt then baked them until golden brown. Earthy, slightly tangy with a garlicky hit, the lads loved this little twist on a regular side dish.

strong>TURMERIC, GARLIC AND SUMAC POTATOES

WHAT YOU NEED
1 kilo Pontiac or Desiree potatoes, cut into 3-4 cm chunks
2-3 tbls olive oil
7-10cm fresh turmeric bulb, grated
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp sumac
1 tsp sea salt

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Toss the potatoes in the olive oil, turmeric, garlic, sumac and salt.
Place on the tray and bake until golden brown and tender.
Serve with whatever takes your fancy.

A Cheergerm creation


Gluten free lemon yoghurt cake

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

A letter to our dog Elvis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GLUTEN FREE LEMON YOGHURT CAKE

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

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

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

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

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


Roasted cauliflower, fennel and pumpkin soup

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

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

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

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER, FENNEL AND PUMPKIN SOUP

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

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

A Cheergerm creation

https://fara.org.au


Thai green curry paste or, some like it hot

This curry paste is hot and spicy, no two ways about it. ‘Some Like It Hot’ is also the title of the 1959 gender-bending farcical movie starring the luminous Marilyn Monroe alongside the actors Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis masquerading as slightly less than easy-on-the-eye women.

Recently, I was attempting to explain to our twelve year old lad, how it would be great if males found words other than ‘hot’ or ‘sexy’ to describe the appearance of a woman. Intrinsically, I was stating that these words can objectify women. (He hadn’t actually used those words but we heard them on a television show and I couldn’t resist an opportunity to rant impart my wisdom to my offspring.)

He thought for a moment and asked ‘But why is it OK if a woman sees a man and calls him chunky?’ This stopped me in my tracks, I looked at him. ‘Do you think you might mean hunky’? ‘Well’ he replied, ‘I knew it was ‘unky’ with something at the start’.

Many eons ago, before I had children to amuse me, many happy hours were spent traversing through Melbourne’s Asian groceries and Indian spice shops. All in an effort to source the more exotic ingredients required for blending and making my own curry pastes and curry powders. My senses were overwhelmed with citrusy lemongrass, stinky shrimp paste, the vivid colours of green and red chillies, peppery galangal, earthy turmeric, too many dried spices to list and the floral polarising scent of fresh coriander.

Whilst searching through some of my cookbooks recently, I happened upon The Hot and Spicy Book by Charmaine Solomon. She has been dubbed the ‘queen of Asian cooking in Australia’. This book, alongside her iconic tome, The Complete Asian Cookbook first published in 1976, were wonderful guides as I embarked upon my adventure into Asian cookery.

With progeny in tow (who are far less amusing when you have to shop with them), we set off to source the bits and bobs needed to make Solomon’s Thai Green Curry Paste. Sadly, we couldn’t find fresh or dried galangal so I used fresh ginger. As The Yak is vegetarian, the best substitute I have found for shrimp paste is fermented bean paste. (This is sourced from most larger Asian grocery stores.) Blend the heck out of this until it is no longer chunky and you will have a very satisfying, bloody hot, spicy, punch in the face curry paste. No objectification intended.

THAI GREEN CURRY PASTE

WHAT YOU NEED
4 large or 8 small green chillies
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh coriander, well washed including roots, stems and leaves
1/4 cup finely sliced lemon grass (or thinly peeled rind 1 lemon)
1 tbl chopped galangal fresh or bottled (I had to use fresh ginger as I couldn’t get my hands on any galangal, it’s not the same but it is an OK substitute)
2 tsps ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsps fermented bean paste (or 1 tsp dried shrimp paste if you don’t want it to be vegetarian)

HOW YOU DO IT
Wearing rubber gloves, remove stems and roughly chop the chillies.
Put the chillies into an electric blender with the remaining ingredients and purée.
Add a little water if necessary to help the blending process.
Store any paste that you don’t use in a clean, dry glass jar in the refrigerator or do what I do and divide into convenient portions and freeze. Ready to use in your next curry, soup, stir-fry or marinade.

Recipe from The Hot and Spicy Book by Charmaine Solomon, published 1995 by Mandarin a part of Reed Books Australia.

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Soft ricotta banana bread, gluten free

Legend has it that Cleopatra, the last active ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt, had seven hundred donkeys milked every day so she could opulently fill her bathtub to soak her royal self in. The properties of this magic milk supposedly prevented wrinkles and assisted in preserving youth and beauty. If I were to choose a dairy product to ablute myself in, it would be a tub filled to the brim with fresh ricotta. Since our local butcher started selling this soft cheese in adorable little blue basins, I have gone on a bit of a ricotta bender (which is certainly easier on my liver than a wild drinking spree would be.)

This versatile creamy white cheese is mildly sweet and tangy and is used in both sweet and savoury cooking. It makes a beautiful breakfast when smeared on crunchy sourdough toast atop some fruity berry jam. I have dolloped it between roasted eggplant, zuchinni and red capsicum in a vegetable bake. It’s been beaten into a lime ricotta cake, stuffed into veggies and baked and makes a great filling for eggplant involtini. Huge spoonfuls have been stirred through pasta sauces just before serving as well as added to mushrooms and thyme to fill a gluten free savoury tart.

Bananas past their prime cannot be wasted and what better way to use them up than in a banana bread that also calls for ricotta? Yes sure, recipes for this ubiquitous bake are a dime a dozen but this is a wonderfully soft, tender and aromatic loaf. It is even better when topped with just a smidgen more of that fresh ricotta. Go big like Cleopatra or go home.

SOFT RICOTTA AND BANANA BREAD

WHAT YOU NEED
113 grams (1/2 cup butter), melted
3 ripe bananas
1 large egg
3/4 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup fresh ricotta (not skim ricotta)
1 tsp vanilla extract
270g gluten free plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 170C and grease and line a loaf tin with baking paper.
Pour the melted butter into a large bowl, add the bananas and mash well into a pulp.
Add the egg and beat until smooth.
Add the sugar, ricotta and vanilla and mix well.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet until just incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the centre of the oven for 55-65 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. (You may need to cover the top of the loaf with foil towards the end of the bake to avoid overbrowning.)
Remove to a cooling rack and let cool for about 20 minutes before removing from the pan.
We ate the crusts of this deliciously soft and moist loaf whilst they were still warm. Just wonderful.

Cooking notes: I have been getting really good results with a gluten free flour blend from Bobs Red Mill called ‘Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour.’ It is found in some supermarkets and health food stores. I have no affiliation with this company and haven’t been paid in any way, shape or form for mentioning this brand. I just really like it and couldn’t keep it to myself, that would be selfish.

A slight adaptation of this recipe

https://www.aol.com/article/lifestyle/2016/08/01/soft-ricotta-banana-bread/21442917/