July 30, 2013
I joined a gym this year
Its a nice ladies only place that is very friendly, and is very supportive of my no-using-arms-only-legs restrictions and my pretty purple and cream arm casts that I have to wear every day. They have lots of incentives, fun events and support local charities as well. One of the extra nice things this month has been a weekly tasting of a hot, healthy soup to encourage us members to eat right without having to compromise on deliciousness or excess calories. We've been dazzled with Pumpkin, Italian Vegetable, Broccoli and Blue Cheese, Sweet Potato and Lentil, and todays offering of Fruity Mulligatawny Soup with Quinoa.
Mulligatawny is a bit of a colourful name coming from the Tamil word Milakutanni, meaning Pepper Water, and isn't at all a traditional Indian dish but rather another invention of the British Raj. There are heaps of variations, with some relying on lentils or rice to add body to the soup, some including chicken meat and stock, and some using coconut milk or even plain dairy cream to enrichen the dish as well.
Well today I'm going with the recipe sheet supplied from my Gym, but with a couple of my own touches to tweak it just a little to suit my tastes perfectly while still keeping it totally healthy, low fat and delicious. Yummo, let's share the love!
Mouthwatering Mulligatawny Soup
2 tab Oil
1 large Green Apple
1 large Carrot
1/2 Sweet Potato
1/4 cup Sultanas
1-2 tab Curry Powder (makes sure it's gluten free and delicious)
1/3 cup Quinoa
1 lt Vegetable Stock
1 tab Mango Chutney
1 tab crushed Ginger
1 tab crushed Garlic
Roughly chop the veggies and apple
Pop them along with the sultanas, curry powder, garlic and ginger into a pan with the oil and sweat them down over a low heat until softened. This will also take away the raw harshness of the curry powder and allow the spices to toast and mellow nicely
Add the stock and chutney, then simmer for about half and hour or so
While the soup is simmering, wash your quinoa well to remove any traces of the natural saponin coating that can give quinoa an unpleasant bitterness instead of a nice nuttiness
Add it into the soup, and simmer for about another 15-20 minutes or so
You can tell if your soup is ready if the veggies can be mushed with a spoon, and if the quinoa has developed cute little tadpole tails
Blend it all up with a stick blender, or other blitzy thing, until it's lovely and silky smooth
There, a lovely big bowl of hearty healthiness!
Very easy, just one bowl to wash, and extra yummy to boot. The only thing I would change for myself is to either leave out the chutney or half the sultanas. The soup is quite sweet for me and that's just a personal preference
To make my soup an extra filling main meal I served mine up with a hard boiled egg and just a little scoop of yoghurt to cut through the sweetness and finish rounding out the flavours. A splash of coconut cream would be delicious on top too if you happen to have some handy
So Dear Readers, do you belong to a gym, and what's your favourite warming Winter soup?
July 23, 2013
I remember my first taste of Hoisin Sauce like it was yesterday......
My Mum was taking a Chinese Microwave cooking class- this was back in the early eighties when microwaves were the New Big Thing and ruled the kitchen- and she showed me a jar with a funny illegible label, full of sticky red goop. Standing in the corner near the pantry, she opened the lid and I was hit with a pungent beany smell. A spoon was offered and as I licked it this amazing sensation spread over my tongue...
It was a revelation
Tasting the sweet, earthy paste was one of the defining moments of my culinary career. Such a punch of flavour and so unlike anything else I'd tried before- it's stuck with me forever
Maybe that's why I love this particular meal. It's a great family dinner, but it's easy to dress up for visitors as well. Sweetness from the orange, lovely warming spices, and the punch of hoisin all cooked in the one pot, it's definitely a recipe for a win indeed- yummo!
I so wish I could take credit for this recipe, but I clipped it from the Australian Good Taste magazine May 2012. It went into the file as a simple recipe for littlej to practice her cooking- I certainly never expected it to be one of my favourite dishes right now instead
HoiSin Chicken Bake
6 Chicken thighs cutlets or chicken thighs- skin on
1 cup Chicken Stock
1/4 cup gf Hoisin Sauce (I like Changs)
2 tabs gf soy sauce
2 tabs brown sugar
1/2 tsp Chinese 5 Spice
1Orange- 4 strips of peel, and the segments
2 Star Anise
gf Cornflour for thickening if needed
Sesame seeds for garnish
* Some of the photos in this recipe are terrible. I try to use natural light, but this time of year it's dark in my kitchen by 4pm. The flash just makes it shiny and worse- sorry!*
Brown the chicken in a small amount of oil until the skin is nice and crispy
Drain off the oil, then in the same pot place the stock, hoisin, spices, orange rind and sugar and heat until the sugar and hoisin melts into the liquid
Place the chicken back into the pan and spoon some of the sauce over the top. Cover and bake for about an hour and fifteen minutes at 150*
Take the lid off the chicken, then let it crisp up a little and get a nice colour by baking for another fifteen minutes or so
If the sauce still seems a little thin, stir through a little cornflour slurry until it's juust right and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Stir though the orange segments and sprinkle the chicken pieces with sesame seeds for a bit of extra flavour and texture
For my family dinner I served up the chicken with a big wok full of crunchy stir fried veggies with a touch of garlic and chilli, and some perfect steamed rice. For guests, I would steam some bok choy and baby broccolini or other asian style greens- just to look a bit more elegant, and of course still a big pot of gorgeous steamed rice
You could use chicken thigh fillets for this dish if you like, but cooking on the bone adds so much flavour and helps hold the meat together during the long cooking process. Thigh pieces would work as well, but I think they're messy and not as nice to eat
So very yummy, slightly sweet but still OK. The punch from the hoisin is definitely there, though tempered a little in the braising process instead of being heavily caramelised or lacquered on. Make sure you spoon on plenty of the sauce for the rice to soak up and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy as much as I do!
So Dear Readers, is there one food memory that sticks with you or that has changed your culinary thinking?
July 17, 2013
I've been informed that Toasted Sandwiches are getting a bit boring
With a week of Winter break School Holidays left, apparently I need to come up with something a bit more inspiring for littlej to munch on.
She is generally happy being left to free-range and graze from the riches of both refrigerator and pantry, but it's slim pickings after a week and I haven't yet resorted to junk food to keep her quiet.
She wants something warm and tasty, and I want something easy, warm and tasty that can be reheated well and that we can both enjoy.....pies are out- I have yet to find a gf one that is even remotely edible, soup is out- we've been having plenty of that for dinner so it's 'boring' too, how about Sausage Rolls?
Warm, tasty, will last a couple of days, and if I use pre-packaged pastry really easy to make indeed. Perfect solution!
To keep things really simple, today I'm giving the new Simply Gluten Free brand that has recently been released at Coles Supermarket a try. It's not terribly cheap, at $10 for 3 standard size sheets, but it certainly is convenient as I can just pull it out the freezer whenever I want.
This isn't a paid for or gifted product review, it's just to satisfy my personal curiosity of a new product and to share my findings with you too Dear Readers
The sheet of pastry- I did find out there is a flat surface and a ridged surface. Not a problem for today's recipe, but important to remember if I'm worried about appearances on the finished product
Now the very important filling!
500grm Pork Mince
1 medium Carrot- don't bother to peel
1 Green Apple- don't bother to peel
1 small Onion- definitley peel
2 slices of gluten free Bread
1 big tab Dijon Mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste
good pinch of Nutmeg
1 Egg- beaten lightly
Pop the prepped apple and veggies into a food processor and whizz up until very finely chopped
See, nice and small
You could also chop them by hand, or grate them if you had too
Add in the bread slices, mustard and seasonings and whizz again until a nice mushy mess
I didn't use egg to bind the mixture today as it can make the mix quite hard as it cooks, and I wanted a soft, pasty kind of effect. I knew the moisture from the apple would work with the bread to hold it all together quite well
Pop the veggie mix in with the pork mince and mix together really well
Let's face it, the best way to do this is by squishing it all through your fingers- and it's actually kinda fun too :)
For generously proportioned sausage rolls, take a third of the mixture and lay it near one edge of the pastry sheet. You can see that I kept the plastic backing on it for now so it wouldn't stick to the bench
Brush the opposite side of the pastry sheet with the beaten egg so it will glue together as it cooks
Using the plastic backing to help you, roll the pastry around the meat filling, and over to conceal the joined seam of pastry underneath the sausage roll . Try and keep it tight as the meat filling will shrink a bit as it cooks
Brush the top and sides of the finished sausage roll with the egg and sprinkle it generously with the sesame seeds for a bit of colour and added texture. Place on a greased baking sheet then bake at 180*C for about 45 minutes or until the centre is cooked through
From left to right- 'regular' gluten puff pasty for comparison, gluten free puff pastry that snapped as it rolled as you really need to make sure that it's completely thawed all the way through, juuuuust right gluten free sausage roll that shall be my photographic model
Finished product, but the tray got turned around so the regular gluten pastry is now on the right
Don't worry and think that the rolls are burnt, that's just the juices that have oozed out as they cooked. You have to remember that apple and onions have a lot of natural sugars and that's all you can see caramelised on the base of the pan
I really enjoyed these sausage rolls, the filling had plenty of flavour from the apples and veggies, and they kept it nice and moist too - but the pastry.....was just OK. It was a fine gluten free pastry that baked up well and really didn't add any flavour. It was a good carrier for the rolls and would be for a tart base too. I didn't see any evidence of Puffing though, so sadly I don't think it lives up to the expectation that calling it Puff Pastry gives. Don't think from the photo that the pastry is undercooked, it tasted fine and certainly had no doughy rawness, it just behaved differently than hoped for.
I would use this pastry again as it was Adequate
There was no rich, buttery crunch or flakes, and you really need to make sure that it's thawed well to be pliable- but it's OK as plain pastry.
I think if you lower your expectations just a little you'll be happy that Coles have come up with a handy, convenient, adequate pastry product that you can have on hand when needed.
Just not puffy :(
So Dear Readers, do you use Pre-packaged puff pastry, or do you go to the effort of making your own?
July 9, 2013
This week is our first week of School Holidays
The Winter break is a great time to curl up in woolies all day, watch a few movies, let the immune system get on top the lurking lurgies, relax and be just a little bit lazy
I spied this style of cookie a few weeks ago in a cooking magazine. It was made, cooked and served all in the same dish- sounding good....
Then lovely Tania posted a yummy sounding reminder, and I knew this cookie was meant to be. I fiddled around with my own ingredients and measurements, and part of the whole lazy sentiment with the use of just one measuring cup so brains in holiday mode don't have to think too hard at all
Littlej just loves chocolate and peanut butter together, so as she has worked very hard this semester and produced a pretty impressive report card, this cookie is deicated to her and with her teenage appetite it certainly won't last very long indeed!
Peanut Butter Choc Chip Skillet Cookie
125gm Butter or dairy free alternative
1 1/3 cup gluten free SR Flour
1/3 cup Cocoa
1/3 cup Brown Sugar
1/3 cup Castor Sugar
1 tab Vanilla
Pinch of Salt
1/3 cup Peanut Butter
1/3 cup Dark Chocolate pieces (70% or dairy free)
1/3 cup Chopped Peanuts
Melt the butter over a low heat, then allow to cool for a few minutes
Add in the sugars and vanilla and stir together
Mix in the egg until well combined
Add in the cocoa, flour and salt
Stir it all together well until it makes a thick, smooth batter
On top of the batter, drop dobs of peanut butter and little clumps of chocolate chips and nuts
Carefully marble them through the batter but be careful not to mix it all together. Streaks and blobs of extra flavour are all good
Pop the whole skillet into the oven at 180* for about 20 minutes. The cookie will still be a bit soft in the centre
Allow the cookie to cool in the skillet, and either serve it still just a bit warm and gooey, or in crispy wedges as well. Or you could add a few big scoops of lactose free icecream to the top and let everyone just dig in out of the actural skillet!
See, still a bit gooey in the middle- perfect!
So yummy and good- and hardly any washing up!
So Dear Readers, do you like to curl up in front of a fire on your Winter Holidays or prefer to be out and about skiing the slopes?