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.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Juanita's Almond-free Macarons

I must be one of the last people to jump on the homemade macaron bandwagon judging from how many of the food blogs around have posted about exactly this.

One great thing about macarons? They're gluten-free!

Two bad things about macarons for me? The icing sugar available in South Africa necessary to make macarons contains corn flour (I'm allergic) AND you use almonds (I'm intolerant).

SO what to do, what to do.....

Find a recipe which I can adapt to my allergenic needs (Wasabimon! and her rosewater/vanilla recipe acted as the base), try it, and bloody well get them right on the first try because it's so friggin' time consuming.

Truth be told (as you'll see from the pics below), my version doesn't look like the picture perfect, pristinely smooth finish some people get
they taste the same...crunchy as you bite into it and chewy as you hit the inside.

Now, tell me - unless you're working as a food editor for some glossy magazine, isn't it the taste that counts?

Juanita's Coconut-Macadamia Macarons
with Dark Ganache filling

The Necessaries:
  • 100 grams egg whites, divided (that's 33.3g per egg white)
  • 100 grams raw macadamia nuts
  • 90g caster sugar + 10g potato starch
  • 120g sugar
  • 60g water
  • 1 tsp coconut essence
  • ganache (see Martha Stewarts guidelines)
Method for the shells:
  1. Using a food processor, grind the macadamias, caster sugar and potato starch till very finely ground.
  2. Use a spoon to stir one egg white and the coconut essence into this mixture.
  3. In a seperate (and very clean) stainless steel bowl, beat the remaining two egg whites till soft peaks are reached. Set aside for the moment.
  4. Put sugar and water in a small saucepan, and gently heat using a thermometer to tell you when your syrup has reached 90°C, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
  5. Carefully put the sugar syrup in a small pouring jug (hot syrup burns are nasty), and then resume beating the egg whites while slowly pouring the hot syrup into the mixture, drizzling it down the side of the bowl while mixing. The meringue is ready when it's shiny and puffy, reaching the stiff peak stage.
  6. Fold the macadamia paste and meringue together slowly, till an even consistency is reached. Don't over-fold! Keeping the air in the mixture is important to getting a good end result.
  7. Transfer the mix to a piping bag without a nozzle, and pipe circles of approx. 4cm diameter with 5cm between circles onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper.
  8. Leave the baking sheet sitting on your counter for 30 - 40 mins to allow a crust to form on the macaron shell, while your oven pre-heats to 150°C.
  9. Bake the shells for 12 mins or so. They should be easy to peel off the baking paper.
  10. Allow the shells to cool and then fill them with ganache or a buttercream of your choice.

Voila my pretty ditties!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Spicy vegetarian pasta (gluten-free)

My hubby has started growing chilli plants. I, in turn, have been trying to grow a tolerance for eating chillies so that when the harvest is ready, my taste buds will be up to the challenge. This recipe is born of that task :-)

  • 250g rice spirals (I used Orgran's vegetable rice spirals)
  • 1 large green pepper
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 6 green beans
  • 1 tsp. dried mixed herbs (The blend I used incl. thyme, sage, origanum, marjoram, sweet basil)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. olive oil/butter
  • 2 tsp. tomato paste
  • 100ml cream
  • 1 tsp. diced green chillies (incl. seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed garlic
  • parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. Slice the green pepper, onion and green beans into bite-sized strips/pieces.
  2. Add the pasta, green pepper, onions, green beans, salt, dried mixed herbs and olive oil/butter to a pot of boiling water. Follow packet instructions for cooking time.
  3. Drain the pasta. stir through the tomato paste, cream, chillies and garlic.
  4. Serve sprinkled with parmesan.
  5. Recipe serves 2.