La Tortilleria Tortillas : A shameless (unpaid) plug

As a consumer I try to shop wisely. We don’t have a lot of money in our grocery budget but I also think it’s incredibly important to make ethical decisions and support local businesses. How food is produced matters more to me than how much it costs – and if it’s too expensive I’ll just buy it when it’s heavily discounted and put it in the deep freeze (I’m looking at you organic, grass fed and finished beef and lamb,  organic chicken and sustainably caught fish!), purchase less of it or figure out how to make it myself.

When Mr Incredible was diagnosed as being allergic to wheat though, our grocery bill shot through the roof. So many things I’d done to save a penny here and there were negated with one diagnosis. Sure, we could continue to bake our own bread but a wheat free loaf costs both a lot to make and a lot to buy – especially if you care about taste, texture and ingredients. One of the biggest shocks I got was just how disgusting some of the ingredients that make up mainstream GF food are. I have a habit of reading labels and the amount of times I couldn’t bring myself to buy a GF item are without count… Mr Incredible just missed out 😦

One of the items that’s been difficult for us is wraps. We really like burritos and my mince base usually does us for two meals – burritos one night and Mexican potatoes the next. (It’s here that I should also apologise to my North American readers – we do Mexican a lot less traditionally here most of the time and what I serve up as burritos might be unrecognisable to you!) Regardless, it’s one of those meals were we purchase two different types of wraps. Wheat based and freshly made for us – preservative laden for Mr Incredible who asked me to make an exception on the ingredient rule for this dinner. Which is why, when I came across a demonstration by La Tortillieria in our local grocer the other day I purchased three packs of their incredibly delicious, traditionally made wraps. We’ve gone from these ingredients:

  • Whole Ground Corn treated with lime (54%), Water, Preservative (282, 202), Food Acid (297), Thickener (412, 466), Enzyme (1100)

To these:

  • Corn & Sea Salt

If you’re in Australia and looking for a better option, do yourself a favour and check them out. I do realise they’re probably rather easy to make yourself… but when you can buy them this good I have so much less incentive.

*This blog is unpaid and with no incentive other than hoping enough people buy the product so that it will stay on shelves and I can continue to.

Hummus that works – and tastes oh. so. good.

I’ve had a mixed relationship with making hummus. When Adventure Girl started solids I would make it often and while it was on the chunkier side, we both quite enjoyed it. Upon reflection though it was after a friend came over for lunch and couldn’t stand it that I stopped making it so much… she was right, it was rather strong on the garlic even if I had done that on purpose. Criticism sticks and after a few bad batches I decided just to buy it (a great grocer in Sydney makes it additive free and delicious so it was just as good to buy although not as cheap).

We’ve been eating A LOT of hummus lately though. It just works with so many things – for dinners with baked potatoes or our hummus and lamb dish that we still eat on an almost weekly basis even though it’s mid-winter. It works for lunch or breakfast on the easy oatmeal loaf I’ve been making twice weekly since returning from NZ, or it’s delicious with crackers and cheese as an afternoon snack. We’re eating so much of it right now that what my stomach craved had run out… disaster! Did I dare to try again? Especially with the memory still fresh of my last batch that was way too strong on tahini… Thank you Google for directing me to the most genius recipe on Inspired Taste. This recipe has a different method from anything I’ve tried before AND it opens up the path to use peanut butter instead of tahini! This is brilliant as we always have peanut butter on hand (I buy in bulk whenever the good stuff is on sale and I use tahini so rarely it sets like a rock in our cupboard. This switch worked so well  – no peanut taste but oh. so. delicious. hummus. Creamy, light (I really couldn’t believe how light this method makes it) and spreadable. Adventure Girl and Dash ate it with a spoon. I may have also.

Hummus  by Joanne (on inspired taste)

Ingredients 

  • 1 tin of chickpeas (I use Honest to Goodness no BPA tins)
  • 1/4 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup of tahini OR peanut butter
  • 1 small, minced, clove of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste if needed)
  • 1-3 tablespoons of water, depending upon texture

Method

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the peanut butter/tahini and lemon juice and process for 1 minute, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process for 30 seconds more. This extra time helps “whip” or “cream” the tahini, making the hummus smooth and creamy.
  2. Add the olive oil, minced garlic, cumin, and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the whipped tahini and lemon juice. Process for 30 seconds, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process another 30 seconds or until well blended.
  3. Add the chickpeas and process for another minute.
  4. Most likely the hummus will be too thick or still have tiny bits of chickpea. To fix this, with the food processor turned on, slowly add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water until you reach the perfect consistency.
  5. Taste for salt and adjust as needed.

Notes:

  • Store homemade hummus in an airtight container and refrigerate up to one week.
  • You can cook the chickpeas yourself and then use them to make hummus – I have done that once or twice before but it’s a long process including overnight soaking.
  • Please, please, please don’t skimp on the blending time – it’s what makes this hummus better than the rest.

Signs of refreshment: Baking Everyday Oatmeal Bread from Simply in Season

IMG_3335
I think we all have signs that indicate we’re feeling refreshed. For some it might be having the emotional energy to make a phone call, for others it’s winding down enough to sit and read a book, for others still it might be the desire to get out the paint set or get dressed up and go out for dinner. For me I know I’m feeling refreshed when my creativity returns and I bake spontaneously or feel like writing (hello again dear blog and friends of this blog!).

After returning from New Zealand last night, I woke up with a desire to bake some bread. Not just put bread in the machine and then watch it rise in the oven, but really bake. The inspiration for this was my sister-in-law’s incredible loaf that I could have devoured quite selfishly on my own, slathered with butter and munched on with utter delight to my heart’s content. It really was that good. Not just any bread, this was a darker loaf, incredibly moist and filled with goodness. Along with wholewheat flour and oats it contains a healthy serve of molasses, which apparently has the lowest sugar content of any sugar cane product and contains vital vitamins and minerals, such as iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and selenium (according to Healthline.com).  I also really enjoyed making this with Adventure Girl and Dash. They found the punching  of the dough especially fun!

9780836194944The recipe for this comes from the cookbook I’ll be saving up for next Simply in Season by Mary Beth Lind. It’s the sort of cookbook that informs as well as provides incredible recipes and focuses on seasonal food that’s locally grown and ethically produced. Right up my ally. It’s a compilation of different recipes which was refreshing as well. The recipe I’ve featured here for instance is not by the author but the author has given credit to whom contributed as I do below. I also liked how the book focused on seasons but successfully makes the north/south hemisphere divide. Living in the southern hemisphere I often get frustrated with the seasons being sorted by months. While I know I can simply compute that June in America or England (etc) equates to our December, sometimes I do get confused. Also, my brother and his wife are exceptional cooks so any cookbook that they use often is high on my list.

I wonder what signs you have that you’re in a relaxed state of mind? I’d love to hear so feel free to comment below!

Everyday Oatmeal Bread by Janet Steiner (from Simply in Season)

Ingredients and Method (combined as within the original recipe)

Recipe makes two large loaves

1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup rolled oats (or whole oats, or 12-grain cereal, etc)
Combine and let stand 30 min.

3/4 cup molasses (or maple syrup)
3 Tbsp butter or oil
2 tsp salt
Stir into oatmeal.

2 cups lukewarm water
1 Tbsp active traditional yeast
Mix in a large bowl until dissolved. Add oatmeal mixture. [Note: do make this a large bowl as it’s what you’ll be using to form your dough in]
6 cups bread or all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
Work in flour to make a medium-soft somewhat sticky dough. Knead 8-10 minutes until smooth. Place in greased bowl and let rise until doubled about 1 hour. Keep covered with damp cloth while rising. Then punch down. Divide into two, and shape into loaves. Embellish tops of loaves with seeds (sesame, sunflower, hemp, etc) if desired. Place in greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise again, about 45 min. Bake in preheated oven at 400 F/200C/180C (fan forced) for 5 minutes and then reduce to 350F/180C/160C ( about 30-35 minutes until they sound hollow when tapped.

Notes:

  • If you’re trying to cut down on carbs this is NOT the recipe for you. The very smell of this bread cooking was enough to make me salivate
  • You can increase the wholewheat flour ratio if you prefer (I used 3 cups wholewheat and 5 cups unbleached white bakers flour)
  • According to other blogs featuring this recipe, it also works well with adding in nuts, seeds and grains or using a grain mix instead of the oatmeal
  • This really is a recipe you can make with kids (at times!). Involving them in the punching of the dough or giving them their own piece to kneed/use like play dough is a fun and contained way of involving them.

 

Hot Nights: Cool Dinners with hummus and lamb

It’s been hot here. Real hot. Our outdoor thermometer has often read in the high 30’s and into the 40’s for the past month (for those working on Fahrenheit, 40 degrees Celsius is 104 degrees) with a few days of blessed respite. By the time it’s dinner I just haven’t felt like cooking, much less sitting down to a hot meal and outdoor BBQ’s are still not fun. Thankfully, we’ve had a few great meals up our sleeve which are table, toddler and fun friendly.

I’ve adapted this dish from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Hummus Kawarma which is in his incredible book Jerusalem. This book is one of my favourites and while they’re not always applicable to weeknight dinners (see this post) the flavours speak for themselves.

My take on Yotam Ottolenghi’s Hummus Kawarma

Ingredients

To marinate:

  • 300gr Lamb backstrap (last night I also used veal scotch fillet with success)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • good pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 tsp za-atar
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp salt

To serve:

  • A simple mix of chopped tomato and cucumber
  • Hummus
  • Flatbreads

Method:

  1. Chop lamb into small strips and set aside
  2. Mix all ingredients and marinate for at least half an hour in the fridge (I tend to do this around lunch time)
  3. About 30 min before it’s time to cook get your lamb out of the fridge so it’s not as cold before you cook it
  4. Bring together all your ingredients to serve and make sure they’re ready
  5. When the table’s set turn the stove on a medium high heat, put oil in a heavy frypan and cook your lamb (with all the ingredients it’s been marinating in) for about 4 minutes, stirring while it cooks
  6. Transfer the lamb to a separate bowl and with all the ingredients on the table each person serve themselves what they want: It’s very much a sharing dish and finger food fun.

Not a weeknight family dinner: Ottolenghi’s Beef Stew with pale ale, juniper and prunes

You know when things all come together in your pantry and fridge for a recipe you’ve heard of but never made? It’s brilliant. It’s seeing the brisket, the juniper berries, the beer and going… I think I’ve seen a recipe for this! Yesterday, when I purchased some beef brisket that had been “further reduced for quick sale” the inspiration came to make Ottolenghi’s Beef Stew with pale ale, juniper and prunes. Before I go any further, I’m a massive fan of this chef… I don’t think I’ve ever made anything of his that hasn’t had at least one person (usually everyone) exclaim with delight. It was enough, on a week that I’ve been struggling with a cold, to decide to make a meal that took 4 hours to cook… yup, you heard me right. Four hours. For a weeknight meal with just our little family of four eating it and leftovers for Mr Incredible’s lunches. Crazy right? Yeah. I hear you. When Adventure Girl refused to even taste it (in her defence she was super tired after a huge day and not having a nap) I was rather miffed. However, Mr Incredible loved it and there’s a big part of me hoping for work colleagues to be very jealous of his lunch today.

When I come to a meal like this I have to ask myself, “was it worth it?”. The truthful answer is no. It wasn’t worth it for last night’s dinner. However, should I have some people around one night it’s definitely on my repeat dinners list. For us as a family though, I should have used that brisket for something else or put it in the freezer for another night. Should you be unfamiliar with Ottolenghi please make yourself acquainted with his recipes! I’ll share more of them in weeks to come as the seasons change but his use of ingredients has changed my cooking dramatically, and, as stated above given delight to many of my friends and family.

Beef Stew with pale ale, juniper and prunes by Yotam Ottolenghi

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp juniper berries
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • 4 tsp Flaky sea salt (if I were making this again I’d cut this down to 2-3 as I found the dish slightly  too salty for my taste)
  • 900g beef brisket, cut into 2 pieces
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 500g baby shallots, peeled and left whole
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 5g picked thyme leaves
  • 500ml pale ale
  • 2 tbsp date syrup (40g)
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 600g small waxy potatoes (desiree or charlotte), peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
  • 10 large pitted prunes (about 100g-worth)
    (finely grated zest of ½ lemon 80g soured cream, to serve: I didn’t use these but did serve with yogurt and a cauliflower and cashew mash)

Method

  1. Put the juniper berries and peppercorns in a spice grinder with four (3) teaspoons of salt. Blitz well, then put in a medium-sized bowl, add the two pieces of brisket and, using your hands, mix well until the beef is well coated, then set aside for an hour.
  2. Heat the oven to 160C/320F/gas mark 2½. On a medium-high flame, heat a tablespoon of oil in a 26cm-wide casserole or ovenproof saute pan for which you have a lid, then add the brisket pieces and fry for two to three minutes, turning them over halfway, so they brown on both sides, then lift out the beef on to a plate.
  3. Turn down the heat under the pan to medium and add another tablespoon of oil. Once hot, add the whole shallots and fry for five minutes, stirring frequently, until golden-brown, then add the garlic and thyme, and fry for another minute, just to soften. Stir in the ale, date syrup and mustard, return the brisket to the pot and bring to a boil. Pop on the lid, transfer the casserole to the oven and roast for two hours.
  4. After two hours, turn over the brisket pieces, stir in the potatoes and prunes, cover again and return to the oven for another hour, until the brisket is very tender, the potatoes are cooked and the sauce is thick. Take the pot out of the oven and leave the meat to rest for at least 10 minutes.
  5. To serve, cut each piece of meat into four to six chunks (or even shred it into smaller pieces), then divide the stew between four or six shallow bowls. Sprinkle lemon zest on top and serve with a spoonful of soured cream alongside.

Notes:

  • I served this with a cauliflower and cashew mash along with some plain yogurt
  • As noted, I’d decrease the salt in the beef rub as the whole dish was too salty for me (as Heston Blumenthal notes, salt is essential for bringing out the flavour of the dish but as soon as you can taste the salt, you have too much salt!)
  • I have seen a recipe for this adapted for a slow cooker… I might be interested to try that sometime but my previous slow cooker attempts never quite get the sauce right – it’s never reduced enough and the whole dish is compromised – any tips? Please!

Outstanding Orange Cake: Gluten and Dairy free

I love simplicity in ingredients. Those recipes you look at and they immediately give comfort and warmth by the ease of making and the delicious outcomes. This is one of those cakes. What makes it better is that it’s the perfect gluten and dairy free “event” cake that you can stack. I make it for all sorts of reasons: A friend’s 70th birthday where a GF Celebration cake was needed – Double layered and slathered in ganache with a fancy cake topper (as pictured) – outstanding; a meeting where GF food is needed; and the reason for today’s incarnation, a childhood friend’s funeral. Her mother tasted this cake at a meeting I made it for, promptly asked for the recipe and has made it 3 times since. One of those times she shared it with her daughter whose funeral is tomorrow. Today I made it in honour of both of them, the daughter for memories of being able to enjoy good food, the mother in hope that this “soul food” which she enjoys might be something she feels like eating on what must be one of the worst days of her life. It looks a lot less fancy today, cut up on a paper plate ready for the morning-tea… but I trust it will do the job.

Flourless Orange Cake

From Cooking Under the Influence: Food to Drink to  by Ben Canaider and Greg Duncan Powell

Ingredients:

  • 2 Oranges
  • 250gr Almond Meal
  • 250gr Castor Sugar
  • 6 Eggs
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder

Method

  1. Simmer the oranges for 1.5 hours until they’re soft (this can be done in advance)
  2. Heat the oven to 180 degrees C.
  3. Beat the sugar and eggs together until they’re pale and thick
  4. In a food processor blend the almond meal, cooked oranges (remove pips and cut in half) and baking powder
  5. Fold the almond and orange mix into the egg and sugar mixture
  6. pour into a 23cm cake tin (lined in making paper/greased) and cook for an hour.

Notes:

  • To make this really special you could drizzle an orange syrup over it
  • I personally, if not making it for someone who’s dairy free, love to ice it in a dark chocolate ganache.

 

 

 

Oatcakes : better than rice crackers any day

In our search to cut more wheat out of our lives (while the kids and I can eat it fine, it’s less to buy if we all eat the same thing. And no, I haven’t decided if I want to read Grain Brain!). Sadly, rice crackers have become an all too familiar trade off in our household as we’ve compromised a wheat free diet with accessible snacks. Thankfully, I discovered how easy oatcakes are to make and how delicious they can be, especially when you include the satisfying crunch of seeds in the mixture. As an added bonus, they’re super easy to make and quite fun for the kids to help with… there’s no egg in the dough/batter so sneaky munching of the raw ingredients by Adventure Girl and Dash is ok.

Oatcakes.jpgI’ve been  a fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall ever since my mother and I watched The River Cottage on telly before he/it became famous (i.e the late ’90s!). I loved the idea of a smallholding that, with the help of neighbours and surrounding people, can be self-sufficient… I guess it’s community-sufficiency. Grow what you can, swap/sell what you have too much of and all help each other out. A romantic ideal that grabbed me from a young age and still does. Within his book, River Cottage Everyday, this recipe, along with many other gems, is found… true confession though… when Mr Incredible went to eat them today there was only one left! The rest may have been consumed by me even though I really did make them for him 🙂

BILL’S RONA OATCAKES

Ingredients

  • 300gr Oats : 150gr blended to oatmeal and 150gr blended to porridge oats (or 150r of each)
  • 1/2 tsp sea/Himalayan salt
  • A few twists of freshly ground pepper
  • A small handful of seeds (I like pumpkin or sunflower)
  • 75mL extra virgin olive oil
  • 150mL boiling water

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180 degrees C
  2. Mix all the dried ingredients together in a bowl and make a well in the centre
  3. Pour the oil in the well and stir
  4. Pour in the water to bind it into a firm dough
  5. Work the dough quickly and if too watery add more oatmeal
  6. Shape the dough into a ball and rest it for a couple of minutes
  7. Roll out the dough on a non-stick surface until about 5mm thick.
  8. Cut into rounds and place onto a baking tray
  9. Combine and work the remaining dough to roll it out again and repeat the process until all the dough is gone. Try not to work the dough too much though as the more you handle it the crumblier it will become
  10. Bake for 20min and then turn the cakes over and bake for another 10 minutes.
  11. Leave to cool on a wire rack and enjoy! (I love to eat these with cheese and pickles)

Cooking notes

  • The oatcakes will keep for a week in an airtight container.