Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas 2010

I'd like to wish my readers
a delightful festive season.

Thank you for all your comments
and bloggily-support in 2010.

See you all in 2011!

Gluten-free Fruit Mince Pies

Ingredients for gluten-free shortcrust pastry:
  • 300 grams gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 180 grams gluten-free rice flour
  • 100 millilitres castor sugar
  • 400 grams butter
  • 50 - 60 millilitres iced water (not always necessary)
  • 15 - 20 mililitres lemon juice (not always necessary)

Method for pastry:
  1. Sift the flours and castor sugar together into a bowl.
  2. Using your fingertips, rub cut pieces of butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs (this part can be done using a food processor).
  3. Now, depending on the humidity levels; temperature of the ingredients, etc., you may or may not need to use water and lemon juice to bring the dough together. The batch I made did not need either, and it made a fantastic, rollable dough. The usual rule of thumb is: err on the side of caution when adding water, as the less you use, the better.
  4. Cover with cling wrap and chill in the fridge for 45 - 60 minutes.
  5. Roll out pastry (not too thinly) on a well floured (gf) surface (or even better, between two pieces of cling wrap or non-stick baking paper). Alternatively, press the pastry into buttered muffin pans and create shapes for the top of the fruit mince pies using cookie cutters or by pressing the dough into a circle big enough to cover the filling.

Ingredients for fruit mince filling:
  • 200 grams raisins
  • 100 grams dried cherries
  • 100 grams dried peaches
  • 2 apples, diced
  • 60 grams cashew nuts, chopped
  • 15 millilitres mixed spice
  • 5 millilitres cinnamon
  • 200 millilitres orange juice
  • 80 millilitres honey

Method for filling:
  1. Mix the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over low heat until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Putting it all together:
  • Spoon the filling into the prepared pastry cases and then top with a pressed pastry circle, or a Christmas star.

  • Bake in a preheated 175 degree Celsius oven (350 Fahrenheit) for 20 - 25 minutes (or until lightly golden brown).
  • Allow the fruit mince pies to cool completely in the muffin pan, as the gluten-free pastry will go crispier on standing, and then carefully remove.
  • Recipe make 12 fruit mince pies and 1 fruit mince tart, or 24 fruit mince pies.

Christmas Charity 2010:

This year's Christmas donation is going to FoodBank South Africa, an organisation that sources food donations and then stores, sorts and issues food to a network of national non-profit food aid agencies across South Africa.

If you would like to join me in giving to this worthwhile cause to help hungry people in a country which (most days) feels like it's held together on a wing and a prayer, international currency donations are accepted on the donation's page.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Carrot & Cumin Fritters

After the ice-cream, I had egg whites to dispose of. Having chatted with my Mom the day before about the delicious pumpkin fritters dipped in cinnamon-sugar she used to make for my bro and I as kids on rainy days (we've been having a lot of those of late here in Gauteng), I thought I'd "healthy it up" a bit in the fritter department.

So I threw some things together and this is what came out. Really, you can make fritters from a multitude of foods, just as long as you glue it together using eggs and have a consistency which allows you to form patties or round fritters. So, nothing left to do but have fun with it.

  • 6 large carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 small, very mild chillies
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 12 green beans
  • chives
  • 5 egg whites
  • 6 tablespoons rice flour
  • salt
  • cumin powder
  • coconut oil (for frying)
  1. Chop the carrots, onions, green beans in chunks. Boil the carrots and onions with the garlic cloves, chillies, rosemary and salt for 20 minutes.
  2. While still on the heat, add the green beans, and boil for a further 10 minutes.
  3. Drain well. Zhoesh with a stick blender, then add chopped fresh chives, cumin and salt to taste.
  4. Stir through the egg whites and rice flour.
  5. Use a non-stick frying pan and a light coating of coconut oil to put "blobs" of batter down. When you flip them, use a spatula to flatten them to get a patty shape.
  6. Serve garnished with fresh chives.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Apricot Semifreddo

Semifreddo has got to be one of the easiest and quickest homemade ice-creams in existence. Due to the large quantity of cream it contains, there is no need for an ice-cream machine or for the tedious job of taking it out of the freezer every now and again to mix the ice crystals through.

My apricot semifreddo is a variation on Bill Granger's semifreddo recipe on offer here.

Apricot Semifreddo
(makes 1 ice-cream "loaf")

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons honey or agave syrup or castor sugar
  • 250ml whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons chunky apricot jam (with apricot pieces)
  1. Use a mixer to beat together the egg yolks and honey until doubled in volume, light in texture and pale in colour (anywhere from 3 to 8 minutes depending on mixer speed).
  2. In a seperate, deep bowl, beat the cream to peak stage.
  3. Fold the whipped cream into the yolk/honey mixture, and gently stir through the vanilla extract and chunky apricot mixture. Line a loaf tin with overlapping cling wrap, pour the mixture in and then cover over with another layer of clingwrap. Freeze for 4 - 5 hours.
  4. Turn the ice-cream loaf out, and then slice to serve.
Variations on a theme:
This recipe is incredibly versatile. I've made a vanilla one before using chocolate chips and crushed pecans stirred through. I've also made a delicious coffee flavoured one using no extracts whatsoever, and just stirring through 2 teaspoons of instant decaf coffee for a nice coffee crunch. The flavour possibilities are endless!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Butter Bean Brownies

I created this recipe on a day that
I just didn't feel like baking with gluten-free flour.

When I bake a cake, I like to strike a balance
between sweet and less sweet.
Personally, I detest a sickly sweet cake with an equally sweet icing.
The solution? Balance them out.

In this case, I went for a slightly less sweet cake base
with a sweet and runny icing.

Ingredients & Method:

1 tin (240g drained weight) of butterbeans zoeshed in food processor with 100ml buttermilk

2 egg whites beaten to soft peaks

2 egg yolks mixed with 6 Tbsp sugar

- Add 2 Tbsp cocoa powder, butterbean/buttemilk mix, 2 Tbsp oil, 1/2 t bicarb, 1 tsp creme of tartar to egg yolks and sugar. Mix together.
- Stir through the egg whites.
- Bake at 180 Celsius for 25 mins.


1 Dsp coconut oil

2 tsp honey

2 Tbsp cocoa powder

1 pinch of vanilla seeds

- Mix liquid coconut oil with liquid honey (heat slowly over a very low temp. if your oil/honey has set).
- Stir through the cocoa powder & vanilla seeds (once off the heat if heating is required).
- Ice/Glaze cake and decorate with pecan nuts.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Immnue Boosting/Sinus Blasting

Tough on sinus infection causing nasties but very easy on digestion.

Perhaps not for the feint-hearted (feint-taste-budded?)

  • Brown rice boiled with cinnamon, cardamom and salt.
  • Once cooked, add a teaspoon (or more) of coconut oil and toss in some fresh red chilli, raw garlic, raw ginger and raw chives.

Now, sit back and breathe easy! :-)

the more you cut them,
the more they grow.

"It's a kind of magic!"

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tea infsuion for a sore throat and cough

This worked incredibly well for me,
lessening the painful symptoms of a sore and swollen throat
by three-quarters within two hours of drinking it.

Using my intuition (or perhaps Divine guidance),
I gathered up fresh herbs from the garden
combined with what I had in my pantry to create a herbal tea infusion.
It was only after it worked to soothe my throat and ease my cough
that I researched the individual properties of each ingredient
and discovered why it had, indeed, worked so well.

I consider this to be a small miracle!

  • Add a jasmine green and peppermint tea bag to a tea pot.
  • Infuse the tea with a large slice of ginger, 2 green cardamom pods (crushed slightly), a sprig of lavender, a few fresh basil/rosemary/oregano leaves and cinnamon (I didn't have sticks, so I used ground cinnamon).
  • When at drinking temperature, add a teaspoon of manuka honey.
Other tips:
  • Chew and swallow fresh ginger for an added throat soother (beware the burn).
  • Take turmeric root capsules and l-glutamine to support your immune system. Solgar's is both gluten and corn-free.
  • Two drops of lavender essential oil diluted in 1 teaspoon of coconut oil is useful for soothing itchy, sore ears.

Why does this work?
  • Green tea: said to be a good antioxidant, as well as a stimulant (due to it's caffeine content).
  • Peppermint tea: menthol content is useful in warding off the common cold, while the minty taste soothes a burning throat.
  • Fresh ginger: considered an effective cure for coughing, congestion and colds. Also helpful for nausea.
  • Green cardamom: used to treat and prevent throat troubles.
  • Lavender: when used topically or taken internally, it has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Fresh basil: antiviral, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. Useful in the treatment of asthma.
  • Fresh rosemary: antioxidant. Contains camphor which acts as a cough suppressant.
  • Fresh oregano: antiseptic and antimicrobial, said to be palliative for sore throats.
  • Manuka honey: antibacterial.
  • Turmeric root powder: antiseptic and antibacterial. Used as a blood cleanser (I take this daily in order to keep painful underarm hidradenitis suppurativa in remission).
  • L-glutamine: aids recovery from illness and keeps the white blood cells functioning happily.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Garden delights from nature's pantry

My inspiration this week comes from our garden.
I'd like to share with you some useful tips for using what nature provides,
not only to boost your immune system,
but also to aid in soothing a specific ailment, as well as to add taste/flavour to your food.

It was Hippocrates who said: "Let your food be your medicine
and your medicine be your food."

This hasn't been a good year health-wise for me. I've had two severe respiratory tract infections, both times treated with antibiotics, which have had a range of noticeable side-effects. So, after coming down with a nasty throat infection and cough over the weekend (and refusing to go to the doctor), I decided to turn to our garden for medicinal inspiration.

No over-exagerating here, but within two hours of making an infusion (whose recipe I'll share with you during the week), my symptoms had lessened by three-quarters!

Today's post focuses on Vitamin C, a useful antioxidant; co-factor for enzymes and natural antihistamine. This vitamin is available in most fresh fruits and veggies, but is best if foraged fresh from your own garden.

Chilli plants, aside from making pretty flowers, make peppers useful for adding heat to dishes. They provide a great natural dose of Vitamin C and help to open one's sinuses!

Calamondin oranges, aside from being tiny and ornamental, provide a good dose of Vitamin C and are really useful in the kitchen...

...Over a low heat, pan fry chicken breasts in a little cold-pressed coconut oil and calamondin juice; adding the tiny, thin orange peels which will become caramelised and add great flavour.

Turnips are an under-rated vegetable, often viewed only as feed for pigs. An easy to grow root vegetable, turnips harvested while young are soft, tasty and delicious. Again, these offer a dose of Vitamin C (about 27mg per 100g).

Cut the green tops off of the turnips; wash any dirt off; and then roast the baby turnips whole in a 180 degree Celsius oven drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt for about 30 minutes. Delicious!

Oh-so-pretty cherry tomatoes. So easy to grown and yummy to eat; tomatoes supply lycopene (an antioxidant) and Vitamin C.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

When cookbooks speak to you with their covers

Foodie eye-candy...

I gave in to the siren calls of numbers 3 and 4 above :-)

Spotted this little guy patiently waiting
outside a bookshop for his two-legged friend -
what a cutesie!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Lemongrass & ginger creme brulee

Work busyness and lack-of-sweet-toothiness has meant that my kitchen baking creativity has been amiss of late. So this week's recipe comes courtesy of my talented sister-in-law, Kirstin, (pictured below at the Hamilton Botanical Gardens in New Zealand), who I recently had the pleasure of meeting for the first time while travelling to Australasia.

Aussie born Dr K is quite a dab hand in the kitchen, who (appears to) enjoy effortlessly cooking up a storm together with her hubby, Dr A (my hubby's bro). They own the most beautiful and funky Asian-inspired bowls (as pictured), which I secretly covet. :-)

Creme Brulee

  • 600 mls cream (heated till scalding point and infused with lemongrass/ginger)
  • 1/4 cup of castor sugar and 6 egg yolks (creamed together)

  1. Combine above and sieve (to remove any bits of cooked egg or milk skin).
  2. Place in 6 ramekins.
  3. Blow torch off the air bubbles.
  4. Place a tea towel on the bottom of an oven tray.
  5. Heat oven to 120-130 degrees Celsius and bake for 30-40 minutes till brulee is set on edges/slightly wobbley in middle (each person's oven is different, so you may need to modify this).
  6. Refrigerate.
  7. When good and set and ready to serve, sprinkle demerara sugar on top and caramelise with a blow torch (or under a hot grill).

Personal note:
My sincere gratitude to Kirstin and Alex for unfailingly providing the most awesome gluten-free and corn-free food during our visit. We had an awesome time from start to finish!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Sensory Decadence in Sydney

Iced Guylian coffee

Belgian waffle with Guylian chocolate dip (African ebony 70%)
and praline ice-cream

Guylian chocolate dip (African ebony 70%)
and fruit (incl. kiwi pieces, of course)
(I wasn't too impressed that this was the only gluten-free
menu item amidst a huge range of chocolate decadence.
I mean, haven't they even heard of a flourless chocolate torte?)

Pretty candles spotted above a bar in a restaurant

Quirky shop names appear to be the norm in Oz/NZ

An epic church in Sydney

The botanical gardens.
They're integrated into the city and they're FREE!

The Opera House
(it's so much more impressive up close
than I ever imagined it could be)

Sydney Harbour Bridge

A sleeping koala at the Taronga Zoo
(don't you just want to cuddle it?)

Monday, November 01, 2010

A Sun Halo

Pics taken with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ8 camera on auto

I clicked a few photies of the rainbow halo visible around the sun in South Africa today. Freaky, hey? Yay nature! :-)

According to Wikipedia:
"A 22° halo is a halo, one type of optical phenomenon, forming a circle 22° around the sun, or occasionally the moon. It forms as sunlight is refracted in hexagonal ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere. A 22° halo may be visible on as many as 100 days per year."

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Crowded House SA Tour 2010

Of late, my life has been filled with many things Oz and Kiwi; starting with an epic 17-day trip to Australia and New Zealand at the end of September/beginning of October 2010 to visit my husband's family, middling with the finding of the oh-so-funky musings of The Life of Miss Elly over at; and finishing (perhaps?) with last night's concert of the ever FABULOUS Crowded House right here in South Africa!

It was the band's second visit to SA, the last being fifteen years ago when I was fourteen and had NO idea who Crowded House were. The band did the wise thing, and treated us to all their old crowd pleasing classics (mixed in with some new stuff from their 2010
Intriguer album): Something so strong; Weather with you; Four seasons in one day; Private universe AND (most importantly) my hubby and my's "OUR" song, Don't dream it's over!

To sum it up, they were brilliant, and my stomach gets butterflies just thinking of the fact that I saw them live! It was totally sweet as :-)

P.S. Here's a fun, capturing-the-moment, live sound clip (of my fave CH song) from last night's concert taken on my Nokia E71. As you'll hear, the crowd was really into singing along...

P.P.S. South Africa's Farryl Purkiss opened the show - a great pick as his chilled style was a nice compliment to CH's sound. Sad to say but his live performance didn't quite do justice to his talent (instrumental, yes but vocal, not so much). No worries though, because here's the music vid for his cool song A million grains of sand.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Grapetiser Layer Cake

All photos taken using a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ8

The following gluten-free recipe is an adaptation of Darjeeling Dream's Blackberry Champagne Layer Cake.

Instead of champagne, I used white Grapetiser, South Africa's well-known preservative-free, no added sugar-free sparkling grape juice. Any sparkling juice local to you would probably suffice.

The end-result of my baking experiment was remarkable. The cake batter (gluten-free) held together well and rose evenly. The buttermilk added a rich taste and gave a moist crumb. The cake was easy to slice and delicious to eat. A real all-rounder as far as cakes go (especially gf ones!)

Should you choose to try it, I hope it turns out as well for you as it did for me. Born-up-a-gluten-free tree!


  • 2 level cups gf cake flour (see below for my suggestion)
  • 2 level tsp baking powder (gf or see below for my baking powder recipe)
  • 1 level tsp baking soda
  • 113g + 2 Tbsp soft butter
  • 1 cup sugar (I used Huletts treacle sugar)
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I used Douglasdale as they don't use thickeners)
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup Grapetiser (champagne/sparkling wine/sparkling grape juice)
  • Topping: jam (I used sugar-free St. Dalfour Strawberry Fruit Conserve)
  • To serve: whipped cream
  • Butter two 23 X 4 cm or 20 X 5 cm round cake pans and place circular cut-outs of non-stick baking paper on the bottom of each, which I recommend buttering for good measure as well.

  • Preheat your oven to 175 degrees Celsius.

  • In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar till lighter and fluffier.

  • Mix in the buttermilk.

  • In a seperate bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks, and then add them to the main bowl. Don't mix it together yet.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the butter-buttermilk-egg white mixture and beat until just combined.

  • Stir in the Grapetiser gently. Don't overmix as the bubbles are what's going to give the batter "rising oomph".

  • Divide the batter evenly into the prepped cake pans and smooth the tops with the back of a spoon or spatula. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

  • Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for 10 mins, and then put them on wire racks to cool completely.
  • Spread the fruit conserve of choice onto the cake layers, sandwiching them together.
  • I served slices with imperfect quenelles of whipped cream.

My gluten-free flour of choice for this recipe is my favourite flour to bake with, namely the fabulously well-rounded Cake Flour by Nature's Choice. With its mix of brown rice flour, soya flour, sago flour, potato flour, tapioca flour and sea salt; you'd be hard-pressed to find a better one-for-one gf baking flour in South Africa.

Gluten-free/Corn-free baking powder recipe:
  • 2 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4 level tsp creme of tartar
  • 1 level tsp potato starch
Mix together and then use as you would (tsp for tsp) regular baking powder.