VEGEEEEMMMMIIIITTTTTEEEEEE

Oh my goodness, oh my goodness, oh my goodness!! My excitement is off the charts right now. I can make our own Vegemite!!! It’s Gluten Free, It’s Oh. So. Tasty. It’s Healthy (!!) and it tastes better than the real thing.

For those who aren’t Australian, you might not get my excitement right now. That’s ok. I’m sorry for you. Vegemite is the stuff many of us grow up on here. It’s salty, with the right amount of butter it’s creamy, and it’s addictive. In fact, it’s one of the things Mr Incredible has missed most about not being able to eat wheat – the store bought replacements are very ordinary – one of them smelt so bad I wanted to puke whenever he opened the jar.

Now though, HOOORAY! With 4 ingredients we can make the stuff at home. Stoked.

The ingredients is thanks to this post on Thermomix’s recipe community.

Ingredients

  • 70 grams Black Tahini Paste or black sesame seeds
  • 50 grams tamari sauce
  • 5 grams Nutritional Yeast Flakes, or 1 Tablespoon
  • 5 grams apple cider vinegar, or 1 teaspoon (I use Braggs)

Method

  1. If you are using black sesame seeds, mill them until they become a paste
  2. Add all ingredients to Thermomix mixing bowl (or a high speed blender) and mix for 20 seconds at speed 3. Scrape down and repeat.
  3. Store in a glass jar in the fridge.

Homemade "vegemite" on homemade bread

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.

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.

Edible, Cookable Play Dough : Wholemeal spiced cookies

It’s school holidays here. It doesn’t affect our little family much except for one thing, the parks are SO much more crowded. Big kids having a wonderful play can be a bit daunting for Adventure Girl and Dash so we tend to avoid our usual haunts and either go to BIG open spaces to ride bikes, the beach, or make more fun at home. We’re making fun at home today with my version of play dough. The cookable, tasty kind that I can bring out at various times during the week for little hands to hold, roll, squish, shape and cut. We then bake them and have the most delicious snacks. The recipe I adapted these from calls for sugar, I leave this out entirely but do add maple syrup in replacement for molasses. Without the egg it’s edible in a raw form and could possibly be made with GF flour, although I haven’t tried this. I should though, Mr Incredible always comes home to a house smelling of cinnamon and ginger and feels quite left out that he can’t share in the treats!

img_5646

Wholemeal Spiced Cookies

Adapted from http://wholesomekids.com.au/spelt-and-chia-ginger-cookies-nut-freeegg-free/

Ingredients

  • 300g wholemeal flour
  • 150g butter
  • 50g maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds + 3tbsp water
  • 2tsp ground ginger
  • 2tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4tsp bicarb soda
  • pinch salt

Method

  1. Combine chia seeds and water in a small cup and let sit for 5 minutes to gel.
  2. While this is happening, in a food processor cream butter and maple syrup
  3. Combine all ingredients, including chia gel, in the food processor and mix well till a nice dough ball forms
  4. Cover dough a refrigerate for half an hour to make it easier to handle while rolling.
  5. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
  6. Roll dough out to a thickness of roughly 4-5mm and cut desired shapes, transferring onto a baking paper lined tray.
  7. Cook in the oven for 12-15minutes, still should be slightly “cushiony” when ready, and will crisp up as they cool.

Cooking Notes

  • On occasion I’m so focused on cooking with the kids and forget to do step one separately and instead add the flour in the first step… don’t worry if you do this! It will still work out fine 🙂
  • The dough can be portioned out over a few days. Don’t feel like you need to use it all at once, just break off what you want to use for a moment of play and keep the rest chilled until the next day.
  • These are egg free, nut free and can be made to be gluten free.

Market Day Inspiration: Carrot and Cashew Dip

Each week we visit our amazing local markets. I buy most of our fruit and veg from one of the stalls, and while it’s not organic it’s all chemical free produce. The best thing is that, along with being affordable, it tastes like food should. Carrots taste richer and sweeter, apples are amazing and quite frankly, we’ve never eaten as many mushrooms in our lives. When food is seasonal, picked very recently and sold by the grower (so you can ask questions about how best to cook, store and utilise it) it is at its best.

Last week, I wandered by one of the other stalls and found “juicing carrots” for $2/kilo… not bad for organic carrots that were perfectly edible but just a little odd looking. I bought them for juicing but decided to try something different as Dash’s vegetable intake has recently left much to be desired. As we all eat the same food in our household (except for Mr Incredible’s wheat free) I don’t cook anything special for the kids… Adventure Girl knows she won’t get dessert (yogurt or a gold kiwi-fruit which she loves) if she doesn’t eat all her food but Dash is a lot more choosy as well as being younger – he still gets dessert regardless!  With this in mind I created the following dip, which, I am pleased to report Dash devoured for afternoon tea AND dinner, along with roast pumpkin bites and cauliflower mash with some marinated chicken.

IMG_6304.JPGCarrot and Cashew Dip

An original recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 carrots
  • A handful of cashews
  • A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of cumin
  • A Tbsp Olive Oil

Method

  1. Cut and steam carrots until soft (but don’t over cook)
  2. Blend all ingredients
  3. If too soft add more cashews and if too thick add cooking water or olive oil.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Cooking for Kids : The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook

In Australia the recommendation for when babies are to start solids is to start purees at 4 months and solid foods at 6 months. How to do this though can be a minefield, especially for first time parents like us. For some though, when to transition to a full “solid” diet can be the most difficult part. As an example, I was recently involved in a market research group where some of the parents where still feeding their one year olds pureed foods out of “pouches” bought from the supermarket for the majority of meals. For me though, while I started by pushing banana through a sieve and finely processing sweet potato for Adventure Girl, I soon realised that this wasn’t the direction we wanted to take. Simply, and honestly, I was too lazy to do it all myself, didn’t want to use pouches and wondered if there was another way. In my  research for alternatives, I came across the practice of Baby Led Weaning which encourages not feeding your children purees and instead, holding off until your child is 6 months and at that stage introducing solid food. I’m no expert but this has been the best thing for us as a family and this is the direction we’ve taken with Dash as well.

One of the greatest concerns with this form of feeding is choking. The best advice I ever read on this was from Baby Led Weaning, by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett. It said that the gagging reflex is entirely natural and something a parent doesn’t need to be concerned about. The trick is to know when it’s gagging and when it’s choking. To do this it’s simple: count to three. When your child is eating (yes, you really should be there with them!) if they start to gag/choke count to three, if they’re still doing it after the count of three THEN you intervene (watch this video from St John’s ambulance for more details on what to do if they choke). If they sort it out themselves, good work kid! And good work parent… I reckon it’s more stressful for us sometimes than them – I don’t think I’ll ever stop counting 1..2…3 if I see a child gagging.

9781408807569The premise of baby led weaning is that, from a young age, they and you eat the same things – not adults eating purees but kids getting to eat real food that hasn’t been processed already for them. The book that has helped us the most is The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook. The recipes and knowledge within it enabled us to have the confidence to make this step and enjoy it. I’ve loaned it out to a few friends and each of them has gone on to purchase their own copy. It’s a great resource and one of our regularly used cookbooks. I can remember the first time I made the courgette [zucchini] polpettes and how Mr Incredible exclaimed that he couldn’t believe they were in a baby cookbook. The flavour, especially with the lemon zest and garlic, was great. We make them with quinoa rather than breadcrumbs but otherwise leave the recipe as it stands and I include it below as an encouraging “taster” for you to try, especially if you have young kids.

Courgette Polpettes [aka zucchini balls)

River Cottage Baby & Toddler Cookbook, by Nikki Duffy

Author notes: These vegetarian ”meatballs” are inspired by a wonderful recipe from Italian food writer Ursula Ferrigno. Her original uses aubergines, but I really like this fresh-tasting zucchini version. You can easily double the quantities but you’ll probably need to cook the zucchini in batches.

Freezer-friendly: freeze the uncooked polpette. Defrost before baking.

For babies: these make nice finger food and will introduce your baby to lots of different flavours.

For grown-ups and older children: try adding a few toasted pine nuts to the mix.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp canola or olive oil
  • 500g zucchini, finely diced
  • grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 generous tbsp grated parmesan, pecorino or other well-flavoured hard cheese
  • 1/2 ball of buffalo mozzarella (60-70g), diced
  • 50g breadcrumbs or cooked quinoa
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper and sea salt (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Oil a baking tray or line with a non-stick silicone liner.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and fry the zucchini for about 10 minutes, until tender and golden. Set aside to cool a little, then combine them with all the other ingredients to make a thick, sticky mixture. Season if you like (remember that the cheeses already contain salt).
  3. Take walnut-sized blobs of the mixture and roll into balls. Place on the baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until golden.
  4. Serve hot, warm or cold, on their own or with pita bread and a tomato salad or sauce.
  5. Makes about 12.