I have always considered myself quite a nice person. I like food of all shapes, flavours and colours. From every country and continent. I don’t discriminate, I am an equal opportunity eater. It’s only the doctors who say I’m intolerant. And certain foods who refuse to tolerate me. They certainly refuse to recognise and respect my right to eat them without major physical discomfort and distress.

Gluten and lactose are not my friends.

Despite the negative attitudes surrounding me from many of those I love best, (cakes, ice cream, hot toast) I decided to become a chef. Not always easy when you live in a bread and milk filled world. I like to think that this has helped me become a better person as I embrace my differences and refuse to let the gluten get me down. I believe InTolerance. I am the InTolerant Chef.

Food should not be about what you can’t eat, but what you can and what you enjoy eating. This blog is about my journey of cooking and eating and discovery. It’s not a definitive guide to allergy awareness nor do my intolerances make me an expert. Your body is your responsibility, not mine. I only know what works for me.

I can tell you this..... No glutens were harmed in the making of this website.

July 29, 2010

Birthday Party

Happy Birthday!

Who says you can only have a picnic in summer? I refuse to be dictated to by the seasons! Maybe the rain, but not the seasons. Sure the weather may still be cold, the wind may be chilly, but bunting, red and white gingham, baguettes and baskets all say picnic to me.

O.K, the picnic in question was held in my backyard. I'm fond of running water and toilet availability. And the cooking was done in my oven, and the food was fresh, not packed in baskets for hours.... but a picnic just the same.

I thought about food that seems especially picnicky...... and discounted sandwiches. I have never found a great gfree bread, and wanted something more exciting. I decided on a menu of homemade chicken liver parfait, stuffed buns aka Muffaleta, buttermilk fried chicken, potato salad, various nibbly things like olives, dolmades, stuffed mini eggplants, cheese platter, and Cherry Ripe Cheesecake for Birthday Cake.

Now, what's a party without games? And of course my game revolves around food! The game was 'Salad Surprise' and contestants had to examine a selection of classic salads depicted as skewers, with the one to name the most the winner. How many can you guess? I had so much fun making these little lovelies; boiling and peeling quail eggs, cutting out little carrot flowers,making parmesan tuilles, drilling holes through toasted gfree croutons, etc. But of course they were practical and part of the meal too, not just for decoration.

We had: Waldorf salad, Caprese salad, Coleslaw, Ceasar salad, Fruit salad, Potato salad, and of course -Three Bean salad!

How did you go?

The guests were all asked to bring along a thermos containing a drink of choice for sharing and what a selection! There was rich, strong coffee, mulled wine, licorice legs tea from T2, and many more.
We also washed down our meal with a fun,fizzy raspberry sparkling wine and homemade cherry lemonade.

I combined old fashioned lemon barley syrup with soda water, frozen cherries, mint sprigs and lemon wedges into liquid lovliness,a yummy and refreshing drink that wasn't sickly sweet. I have a real hate against all types of soft drink, my drink of chioce is plain old soda water, served very cold.

Now the best part, the Cherry Ripe Cheesecake.

I can’t give quantities as I kind of made it up as I went along, but I can give you ingredient lists.

I made the base using a packet of gluten free chocolate biscuits, desiccated coconut, glace cherries and coconut oil.

The topping consists of cream cheese, lactose free cream (I had to draw the line somewhere), sugar, frozen cherries, eggs, cherry wine for flavour, and black cherry jam.

I decided to bite the bullet and just take lactase tablets as I knew what to expect from a standard recipe and ran out of time to experiment with lactose free options.

The chocolate sauce has Lindt 85%, which on reflection was a mistake as the coco-iness was overpowering. The 70% is still lactose free and would have tasted better. Also used was l-free cream, sugar and some more cherry wine.

I pressed the base ingredients onto the bottom of the lined pan, and then mixed the rest of the ingredients together, kind of marbling the jam through the mix with a knife. Some leftover frozen cherries were popped on top for looks.

The whole thing was baked in a 170* oven for about 1 ½ hours or until just slightly wobbling when you give the pan a quick shake. Cool down and refrigerate.

To cut the moist yumminess you will need to have a jug of hot water at the ready and dip your knife in-between slices.

So readers, how do you like to celebrate your birthday?

July 24, 2010

Fat is Flavour

I don’t have a sweet tooth, I have a fat tooth.
Even my pregnancy cravings were for cream.

Surely fat is good for you, isn’t it? Look at the Mediterranean Diet, full of olive oil; and that book ‘Why French Women aren’t Fat’ while they’re swimming in butter and croissants!

The T.V. show Master Chef has been criticized for the amount of butter they use in their recipes, but they have the right idea-Fat Is Flavour! Of course, these types of recipes are Sometimes foods, not Always foods. Foods perhaps for special occasions, not weekday dinners.

Fat coats your palate and extends flavours- they last longer, they spread further. But... a little goes a long way. You don’t need to eat gobs of the stuff to get the best effect. According to an article in the Canberra Times this week, ‘there is speculation that fat should be added as another taste to the other five (sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami)’ Hmmm... Interesting.

Less can be more. I much prefer a good quality chocolate with a higher cocoa fat content, like Lindt, than a sweeter, less fat chocolate like Cadbury. The satisfaction factor is higher and I don’t need very much to satisfy me.... Unless my husband is annoying me, or there's a sad movie on, or I'm feeling hormotional,...I digress...

Most comfort foods have a decent amount of fat in them. Think about what your favourite childhood dish was. Even the good old roast dinner was cooked in, and exuded, fat. And don’t even get me started on Wagu Beef. The fat marbling is even graded! Most of course is rendered out during cooking, but again, the fantastic flavour remains.

Anyway, for Mothers Day this year I received a jar of Duck Fat. (Also 85% dark Lindt chocolate, also Chocolate Covered Wild Figs, also Mango infused Honey- see a pattern emerging?) We have huge tubs of duck fat at work to use for confitting duck marylands, but I have never had it on its own without its original poultry owners. So, good friend that I am, I decided I would bite the bullet and experiment with it to save you the financial and waistline expense.
I know how much you will appreciate it.

I ratted through the pantry for vegetables and some things to roast. I really need to think things out before I just jump in... I came up with: Jerusalem Artichokes, Baby Taro, Kipfler Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin and a Chicken. Great! Now, I know that my choice of veggies was not the best for roasting. A floury potato would have been a much better option, but I went with what was on hand.

Step 1: Prepare veggies. As the veggies are peeled they need to be placed into acidulated water (fancy way of saying water with a squeeze of lemon) to stop the surface browning.

Step 2: Preheat oven to a good high heat, at least 200*

Step 3: Dry veggies and rub with duck fat- duck fat is such a rich, meaty scented and flavoured vehicle for roasting, I really wanted to see the difference it made to the veggies and chicken compared to the vegetable or rice bran oil I normally use.

Step 4: Roast those babies! I baked the veggies until they were golden brown, soft inside and slightly crispy outside.

They smelt fantastic!
They tasted fantastic!

The rich meatiness of the fat came through amazingly. I roasted the veggies separately from the chicken so there would be no flavour contamination to skew my amazingly scientific experiment, but you would swear they had been baked together. The chicken was also the best flavoured I’d cooked. Surprisingly, it was like chicken.... but more so. The duckiness is not at all obvious, it just oomphs up the natural taste of the chookie.
I don’t think the fat content was too high at all. By roasting at a high enough temperature, the veggies crisp on the outside without it soaking in, and by placing the chicken on a rack to cook, it not only crisps underneath but all the excess fat drips off too.
The amount of fat I used was only a couple of tablespoons all up, and nearly all of that was left in the tray at the end of cooking. A pretty good result I think.

So Readers, in this particular case, I definitely feel that I have undeniably, scientifically, once-and-for-all, proven beyond reasonable doubt, that Fat is indeed, Flavour!

Wouldn't you agree?

July 19, 2010

Sydney Good Food and Wine Show

We're ba-ack...

For the past 3 days we have eaten our way across Sydney and now I think I'll need at least 3 days to recover!

For those of you who've never been to the GFW show, it's a great exhibition of food and food producers with opportunities to sample millions of different things and talk to the representatives of each company and find out a bit more about them and their products. You also get to do some celebrity chef spotting and even catch them in a show. We watched Mat Moran in action at the celebrity theatre and there were some great techniques and giveaways.

The exciting thing for me was that there was such a large selection of gluten free foods. There were signs everywhere alerting me to the eatability of each new tasting opportunity. Most stands even had gluten free crackers available for dipping into their product or would give me a spoon to use- you can fit more on a spoon!

There was: chocolate shooters, noodles, duck, fudge, honey, jams, smoked salmon, pork sausages, wagu burgers, olive oil of every variety, vanilla salt, rose liquor, kangaroo jerky, green tea cakes, ube icecream, apple crisps, rosellas, cupcakes, wine of every sort, pomegranate vinegar, caramelized vanilla balsamic, cheeses, bresaloa, lamb soup, biltong, lemon myrtle, wattle seeds, mousses, curries, seaweed, daiquiris, spices, and nearly anything else you could possibly imagine!
And I tried it all....well, nearly.

I love to buy the showbags as you get so many samples of different goodies for very low prices, and I always take this opportunity to renew my foodie magazine subscriptions as you get some amazing giveaways as part of the deal. The best offers were from MasterChef magazine and Delicious. With Master Chef if you got a 1yr subscription you got a free kids cooking pack worth $29.99, and with Delicious you got an apron, 2 recipe books worth $30 and $12 plus current and past magazines, and with Donna Hay you got a beautiful teatowel pack and shopping list, current and previous magazines. The list goes on and on and on.

BigJ behaved very well overall. The moaning began about lunchtime and reached a peak about 4.30pm, but we had been there since 10am, so he still collected his full complement of brownie points for the day. He is very handy for carrying my bags and if the crowd gets too excited I just stand behind him as he's so big and he clears a path for me. That's true love in action.

On Friday night after the show, we rested up for a couple of hours back at our hotel. Despite being on the go since 4.30am, we set out for dinner. As the restaurant we wanted to visit was fully booked, we headed vaguely in the direction of China Town and straight into a night market and dragon festival! Unfortunately the photos didn't turn out too well for this with the crowds, neon lights and all, but it was a very exciting and acrobatic show. I also finally got to try Dragon Beard Candy, which is a rice flour and sugar based sweet that starts off as a solid lump, but is then stretched and pulled into a ring then twisted and stretched time and time again until there are hundreds of little sweet strings to wrap around a nutty filling. Check it out on you tube if you want to see it in action.

Needing to sit down we went to a little food court underground and had some of the most delicious Asian foods I've ever tasted. I would be happy to pay $20+ for these back home in a restaurant, but they only cost about $9 for a generous serve that would do 2 people easily. Of course we had one dish each, finished up with a Cold Rock Icecream then rolled back to bed!

Saturday morning we started with a big breakfast back at the hotel. There was a fair bit gfree to choose from, but mainly cooked items that are a bit too greasy for me, but I was bought gfree toast on request. We spent the day strolling through Paddies Market, the Queen Vic building, etc. and lunchtime found us back at our little food court for more delights! This time we chose Spicy octopus with black fungus and Chilli Chicken. The octopus was nice and soft, but I'm not a huge fan of XO sauce, but the chicken.... we counted 5 types of chilli. Fresh red chilli, fresh green chilli, large dried chilli, chilli flakes and pickled scud chillis. It was absolutely delicious and I'm going to try to copy it for home! It didn't blast our heads off, but certainly made you sit up and take notice. After a relaxing stroll around the Chinese Gardens, we rolled home again to rest up before, you guessed it, going out for dinner!
This time, having cleverly booked ahead, we got a booking at 1945, a Dutch Indonesian restaurant I read about on lovely Lorraine's Blog, Not Quite Nigella. It sounded so yummy, I had to try it and it lived up to all my expectations. The menu is based around shared dishes and rice, with each dish at around $4-$6 and offering a small yummy morsel that you may or may not wish to share. The highlight dishes for us were the Lemongrass Mussels and Rendang beef. The flavours were lovely and sharp and even though we ordered about 15 dishes between us, none of the flavours ran together with the integrity of each standing alone. The staff was nice and friendly, answering my necessary gfree questions and checking with the kitchen if not sure. By the time we finished it was late, we got a tram back to the hotel and flopped into a deep slumber lulled by the roar of traffic and sirens of Sydney.

Sunday. By this time, we were getting pretty full. We put off breakfast and instead wandered around The Rocks area and through some cute market stalls. By about lunchtime we were ready for breakfast though and BigJ chose a Black Angus steak and freerange egg sandwich from one of the stalls, and I found Dash, a little cafe with lots of gfree options and a strong commitment to environmental issues. I enjoyed some yummy coconut pancakes and just wished I could have fitted in the gfree turkish pide.

More wanderings, this time around Circular Quay and a ferry across to Manly just for fun.We only stopped for a Max Brennar chocolate shot served with popping candy and gummybears, before heading back to Darling Harbour and our last stop before home.
We don't travel very often, but when we visit Sydney we seem to have developed a touristy tradition of finishing up at Darling Harbour to people watch and eat oysters. We found a nice plate of Oysters Kilpatrick that had our names on them and, unconventionally pairing them with some hand cut chunky chips with smokey alioi, finished our tour of Sydney for another year.

The strangest thing I ate was ..... too hard to answer! Maybe the mungbean and sago sweet soup? that was yummy but a bit gritty at the same time, and the best thing I tasted? The mussels at $2 each and the plate of chilli chicken at huge size for $9. So just remember that price doesn't always give an indication of pleasure.

We had a wonderful time, we ate some fantastic things, I'm inspired in so many ways, we travelled by car, tram, train, monorail, taxi, foot, ferry and ferris wheel, and I just weighed myself and won't be eating for the rest of the week!

So readers, what's the strangest thing you've eaten?

July 14, 2010

Beans Means...

Homemade of course!

The cold weather makes me want to have rich, warming smells wafting through my home promising of tummy filling goodness later. It's a rich smell. I don't mean the richness of the sauce, I mean the richness and generosity of spirit it inspires. It makes me feel secure, it makes me feel love, it makes me feel full, knowing that my family is provided for and will have that same feeling too when they walk in the door, even if they don't understand why. And I'm sorry, but popping the lid off a tin just won't cut it!

Oops, actually I'm using tins...... I mean they are the starting point, I could soak the beans overnight and all, but we do need to be practical and tins of plain beans are fine. Really. Truly.

1. I start by popping the lid off a tin -ha ha. I like to use a variety of beans for flavour and texture. Make sure you rinse the beans thoroughly and get rid of all the goopiness. Drain in a colander for a bit.

2. Make a basic mirepiox of carrot, onion, celery and garlic and soften in some oil over a medium to low heat. You just want to sweat and bring out the sweetness of the vegetables without browning them.

3. I would normally add in a few tablespoons of tomato paste at this point, but someone -I'm looking at you BigJ- forgot to tell me we were out. Hmmm.... a quick rat through the cupboard revealed a jar of Avjar, a type of red capsicum paste that I've been meaning to use in a Paprika Chicken dish. Let's say, add in 1/2 a jar.

4. Put in other spices and flavourings now, but not salt. Never salt beans until they[re completely finished cooking as it will retard the process and you don't want chalky beans, you want soft beans that will squish satisfyingly between your teeth.I used cinnamon, smoked paprika, cracked black pepper and a dash of liquid smoke for extra kick. I also added a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar for sweetness, but maple syrup is good too. Cook mixture off for a few minutes, stirring around so it won't stick. This will take the rawness off the spices and pastes.

5. Add in (yes, I know) a tin of chopped tomatoes and cover the whole lot with stock. You can use any kind, keep it to the veggies if you like, but I prefer chicken. Stir it around a bit, then cover.

6. This is when I like to pop the whole thing in the oven for a slow bake. Just check the moisture levels now and then and top up if necessary. It's done when the beans are still holding their shape, but are soft to bite. Check seasonings.

You can also leave this to cook on the stove top, but it needs more looking after and checking that it doesn't stick,etc.

Something else I like to do for my carnivores, just as I'm about to pop the lid on, is to top the beans with a couple of smokey ham steaks or speck to bake on top and baste their juices into the beans as they cook. If this is the case, take the lid off the dish about 10 mins or so before taking out the oven so they can burnish up their colour a little. Or you could also add chopped speck, bacon etc. when you are sweating down the mirepoix. I don't do this though, as then the Meat isn't obvious enough and my BigJ is a sook when it comes to vegetables only.

Serve these yummy beans with some bread or toast to soak up the juices and smile smugly, knowing the superiority of opening 4 tins to create a better product instead of just 1!

July 9, 2010


I have been searching for the ultimate buttercream frosting.

Like an ancient hunter-gatherer, I rummaged through piles of cookbooks (I have several hundred), trawled through pages and pages of the web, left queries on notice boards, and googled 'til I was goggled eyed. I found so many, but which one was 'IT'.
A smooth mouth feel, none of the grittiness of undissolved icing sugar, able to hold up to a warm day without melting, good piping consistency, can be smoothed without cracking, hold a piped shape without being hard to bite through, gluten and dairy free, and most importantly, TASTE GOOD!

I finally came across this likely seeming recipe and with a few minor changes, it seemed to fit the bill.This is the new bit, it's cooked. I got the point, by cooking off the milk and cornflour it was lovely and thick and smooth, also stabilized. Much less likely to have a melt down. Creaming the fat and icing sugar gave the requisite fluffiness and lightened the mix. But did it taste good?..........YES!!!

Definitely yes! Not as fatty in the mouth as pure buttery frosting, and not as sweet because the ratio of sugar is down, which I see as an improvement. So still not low-fat, but really, that's not what I'm going for and anyway ,who cares?
I trialled the recipe and was impressed, but what about for those who thought frosting meant 'Betty Crocker'? Would it be foolproof enough?

My good friend Pony and I held a cupcake class last week and taught a mixture of frosted and fondant techniques, using this butter cream and all went well. I used a number 17 Loyal tip for the swirlies to get that lovely generous spiral. Don't think I'm just all about cupcakes, but they are cute, retro, yummy, and fashionable and help to pay the bills!

I've also used the buttercream on large birthday cakes. I generally pipe it between the layers and around the edges, then over the top last. I had a slight mishap with one of them, so pulled some of the buttercream out of the freezer, stuck it in the microwave for 30 secs, then whipped it briefly with my hand mixer, piped it over the boo-boo and smoothed it back down. It took seconds to set and you couldn't notice the patch at all.

So far I have beaten, frozen, microwaved, and left this frosting in the fridge for a couple of weeks and it still tasted good at every stage. I think it may be indestructible.......

Buttercream Frosting

225g of fat -( Butter or Nuttlex ) unsalted is best for flavour
1 cup of milk ( soy, rice, etc)
1 cup of pure icing sugar
2 tabs pure cornflour
1 tsp vanilla extract- not one with seeds!

1.Heat milk and cornflour on stove and whisk until mixture has thickened
2. Let cool
3. Cream sugar and fat until light and fluffy and colour has changed
4. Add milk mixture and vanilla and whip until it has the same consistency of stiffly whipped cream.
5. Taste - for quality control, of course!

Add colourings slowly during whipping, adjusting slowly as the colour will change as the air is incorporated.It doesn't go white, rather yellowy due to the colour of the fat. This will set quickly to nice and firm piping consistancy and then to set place in the fridge.

I have added passionfruit, melted chocolate, and other types of flavour bases into this frosting and have always had fantastic results. I'm actually having second thoughts about this post! Not because I'm selfish of course, but this is how I earn my (gluten free) bread and butter. But because it's you reader, I will pass it on and hope it brings you as much success as it has to me.

July 3, 2010

Wedding Cake

This week I posted a wedding cake.

Not about a wedding cake, an actual wedding cake.

My eldest nephew (j) is getting married to another (j) - My family is full of J’s, 6 at last count. It’s a very small wedding, just 6 guests, and squeezed in between exams and work, and they weren’t going to have any cake. That just isn’t right.
So, I made one.

Initially, knowing it had to be posted to them, I was just going to do a simple small round. But that’s all it was, simple and small. Unimpressive. I have had these amazing 3 tiered cake tins for ages and not gotten around to using them, but wait a minute! Don’t you think these look like wedding cakes? And then they can be stacked on top of the other cake too!
So I did it.

Now, please don’t look too closely as it’s been a long time since I covered a cake. I turned to my trusty Planet Cake cookbook for some answers.

I decided to go with a chocolate mud cake. They’re dense and yummy and keep well. They also just happen to be my nephew’s favourite. I started off with a layer of dark 70% Lindt chocolate ganache made with lactose free cream, with a splash of cherry wine for kick. (j) was very sensitive to lactose when younger, so why take any chances on ruining the big day? This layer gives stability and evenness to the finished product. The ganache needs to set, and then be smoothed into the shape you want.

Next step was to cover the cake with fondant icing. I started off by rolling the icing to the right size then smoothing it over the cake for an even coating. This turned out to be much harder to do on the layered cake than I expected! Maybe it’s a good thing that I’m the sort to commit to something before I have the chance to think it through completely! So.... back to my philosophy of “fake it till you make it”, my little babies received another coat. Obviously my reasoning to place 2 layers of fondant was merely to reinforce the structural integrity of the actual cake. Nothing at all to do with the fact that the first layer was just a little bit wonky. Really!

The colours of the wedding were blue, white and yellow. Blue cake, not really. White cake, didn’t show up the stencilling much. Butter colour, perfect. I tinted the icing with Wiltons gel which adds very little moisture. You just keep kneading it in until the right tint is achieved. Then I pressed on my stencil for the lovely daisy effect and let it all set.

Final step, was to pipe my royal icing rows around the cake. Again, this had absolutely nothing to do with covering up any imperfections at all. It was for decoration purposes only. Really.
Add on my cute roses, and voila! Done. If I didn’t have to post this I would probably decorate more ornately, but the more projections the more chance of breakages. Those roses were cemented on!

Post Office

The guy at the counter was watching me. Awkward moment. His jaw literally dropped when he saw what I was trying to do.
I decided that posting the cake in 2 pieces was probably a better option as the top layer may come unglued during transport. Armed with a box, a soft blanket, and some air pockets from the post office, I proceeded to stuff that little sucker so tight that it wasn’t going to budge. Trusting in lots and lots of tape, a small box and the reliability of Australia Post, I forked over my $38 for overnight express and prayed hard.

But noooo, not that simple

The internal post boxes had already been emptied.

No problem, the outside boxes wouldn’t be emptied until later.

My box was too big.

Of course it was.

The only option was to sit 2 hours outside, in the cold, in the dark, and wait for the actual van to arrive and hand it over personally. So I did. It had better be worth it.

Guess what? 16 hours later and cake arrived with no problems! Not a petal chipped, not a thing bruised or bent or broken! Thank you for Prayers and Australia Post!

The wedding was a wonderful day for the bride and groom, the sun shone, my sister was skyped in from the other side of the world to watch the ceremony- talk about high tech! The highlight of course, was the fantastic, awesome wedding cake!

So Readers, what is the weirdest item you have posted or received in the mail?