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.

April 26, 2011

Lemon Mayonaise

Exiled to the Far Far North West of New South Wales for Easter, I am finally back on line!!
No internet access at all, not even a McDonalds within a couple of hours driving distance to glom onto to send out a post.

It can always be tricky going to a family catered event, especially when it's in a tiny country town, with limited shopping options. When I first enquired about the food, I explained that I couldn't eat gluten and was happy to supply my own meals for the weekend. My darling In Laws told me not to worry, they would make plenty of food for me to eat, and if they weren't sure about something they would just cook me plain spaghetti - spaghetti doesn't contain wheat does it?

Needless to say I packed my own meals.

Anyway, back to some real food,

Look at these crab claws!

King crab claws actually. I couldn't resist these when I came across them at the markets. Decisions, decisions, how to prepare these to their best advantage? I didn't want to muck around with them too much, after all, why mess with perfection? So I wisely came to the decision to do nothing. At all. Serve them simply on their own with a yummy flavoured mayonnaise and some wedges of lemon too. Yummm....

It's so easy to make your own mayonnaise at home. It's not some secret cheffy thing, but so many of my friends have never bothered. A lot of them are scared of it. No special equipment is even required, a hand held blender is the best thing, but trust me, a whisk is fine too. Recently at work our Kitchen Aid broke down, we use it for making pastry, sauces and mayonnaise. I had to make bulk lots by hand. Litres and litres and litres. Whew!
The ingredients are even lying around most kitchens. You're running out of excuses now aren't you? It's so yummy and easy that you won't believe it. That's even the reason there's not many photos this time, there's just not much to photograph!

Here are the 3 basic ingredients: Egg Yolks, Oil, and Acid.

A good rule of thumb for a nice rich mayonnaise is 1 egg yolk to 1/2 cup of oil, and one teaspoon of acid.

I quite like using olive oil, but be careful as if you use extra virgin the flavour can be a bit strong and overpowering. I also like to use ricebran oil as it has a nice neutral taste.
Lemon juice or vinegar are used for the acid, and you can even change the taste up a bit by using red wine, white balsamic, apple cider or other flavoured vinegars.

All you need to do is put the egg yolks and acid in a blender or mixer bowl, and start beating, then ssslllooowwwlllyyy drizzle in the oil. The ingredients will start to emulsify and turn into mayonnaise. That's it. Nothing simpler really is there?

The biggest problem people seem to have with home made mayonnaise is with it 'spliting' or curdling. Just take the oil nice and slow and let each little bit whip into the yolks before adding more.
If it does split, it can even be saved by beating in a tablespoon of boiling water which will usually pull it back together.

Once you've proven how easy it is to make the basic mayo, you can start to play around with it a bit and add extra flavours.
Different oils can be used and the acid base can be changed, and things like roast garlic, sun dried tomatoes, mustards and such can all be added at the end of mixing.

Because this was being made to go with my crab claws, I used some fantastic Cobram Estate Lemon oil and lemon juice to flavour my mayonnaise. I went half and half with plain olive oil to mellow it out a bit, but the taste of the lemon was lovely and strong and complimented the seafood fantastically.

The meal was simple, crab claws and mayonnaise. That's it.
Oh, except for a big glass of white wine.

So dearest Readers, will you try making your own mayonnaise, and how did you spend your Easter?

April 17, 2011

Braised Lamb Shanks

If Christmas is all about ham and turkey, Easter is all about chocolates and Lamb!

One of the best parts of the lamb is the shank. The shank is the lower part of the leg, the shin really. It's a secondary cut of meat and actually used to relegated to the dog bone bin at the butcher. A few years ago I only used to pay only about a dollar each, but now with their increasing popularity, they can be relatively expensive -so you want to make sure you cook them juuuuust riiiight. It best suits a long, gentle braise with lots of liquid to help break down the meat and leave it so tender that it just falls away from the bone at a touch. Another benefit of cooking meat this way is that you can pretty much set and forget it. You can get on with the rest of your day, mingle with friends, whip up a magical dessert, all while your braise works it's magic.

Nice meaty lamb shanks, one per person
A bottle of Italian Passata, or a couple of tins of crushed tomatoes
A good cup of red wine
Some extra flavors for yumminess- garlic,herbs,spices

Searing the meat and browning it before braising is a really important tip to add extra flavour and colour to the dish. It also creates a nice crust on the meat and caramelises the natural sugars.

Sear and seal the meat in some hot oil. Put them in a dish large enough to hold them with room for liquid to come at least 2/3 up the sides.

Add in the red wine, passata and other flavours - today I used cinnamon sticks, lemon rind strips and some garlic cloves. Salt and pepper are a given of course, and I also added in about a teaspoon of sugar to cut the acid in the tomatoes.

Cover the dish tightly with foil to keep the moisture in and stick it in the oven at around 160 to 180*C.

Forget all about it for the next 2 1/2 hours. If you do happen to remember it's there, you could spoon the sauce over the shanks or turn them over once or twice. The meat should be just about falling off the bones and be very, very tender.

Check the sauce and if it's still a bit thin, you can quickly reduce it on the stove. It should have thickened up a little while it was hibernating in the oven.

I like to serve my shanks with some smooth, creamy mashed potatoes and some just still crunchy green beans or carrots. I also sprinkled on some gremolata, a mix of chopped raw garlic, parsley and lemon rind that adds a fantastic zingy fresh bite to a rich dish like this. A braise can be a bit one dimensional with all the flavours mingling, so this will help wake it up a bit.
Spoon the sauce over the meat generously and dig in!

So dear Readers, what do you think of secondary cuts and what will you be serving at Easter?

April 11, 2011

Creamy Garlic Prawns

Hello there Readers, Hopefully this post is a bit more coherent than last weeks one, I am recovering nicely from the concussion, but I'm stiff and sore and still a bit sorry for myself, so I'm cooking myself a rich, yummy, decadent meal to cheer me up and end my pity party! Would you care to join me?

One of my clients is allergic to garlic, suffering anaphalatic issues when she accidentally eats some. I think this would be an ingredient even harder to avoid than lactose or gluten, as it doesn't need to be listed as a specific ingredient, just lumped under herbs or spices.

Just imagine missing out on the pungency,the punch, the sweetness, the earthiness, that garlic can bring to a dish. It weaves it way through a dish, and is in every cuisine from Chinese, to Italian, to South American, Indian, and just about everywhere else in between.
Were you aware that the way you cut your garlic dictates the strength of flavour it releases? The finer you go, the more damage to the cell walls, and the stronger the taste- try leaving a clove whole, slicing one roughly, slice one fine, then mincing one. If I want the flavour to spread through a whole dish I'll usually use my microplane to process it, and the garlic itself will almost disappear into the meal. Sometimes I want the nuttiness of the cloves so I'll slice it roughly, and when I want the mellow sweetness I'll roast the bulbs whole, or confit the peeled cloves slowly in oil. The possibilities are endless, and delicious!

This recipe really makes garlic the star of the show. The lovely prawns with their firm sweetness aren't overpowered by the sauce, just beautifully complimented by it. The cream mellows and extends the flavours while adding richness and a fuller mouthfeel, and the rice is perfect for soaking up the extra yumminess. The parsley might seem rather insignificant, just adding some spots of flavor, but trust me, they are key to the finished product. The sharp iron bite seems to snap your palate and stop it being slowly lulled into a dreamy, creamy, comatose state. A nice dry white wine to sip while eating helps as well.

A word of warning before you start: for continued connubial bliss, make sure your beloved consumes at least a bite or two of this as well. No matter how much you love garlic, there is nothing worse than someone wafting garlic bed breath over your shoulder all night.


1 kg prawns
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup lactose free cream
knob of butter and splash of oil
garlic, lots of garlic
1 bunch parsley, I prefer the flat leaved variety
salt to taste
rice to serve

Place the butter and oil in a pan and add the garlic. Cook it off gently, don't let it burn or it will become bitter.
Add the prawns and toss to coat in the garlicky goodness, and cook until they have started to change colour and firm up a little. Pull them out before they are fully cooked, so they don't get mushy when put back into the hot sauce.

Once the pan is hot again, pour in the wine and cream and reduce by at least a third until the sauce is nicely thickened up.

Put the prawns in the hot sauce and let them finish cooking while they heat through.

Once the prawns are off the heat stir through the parsley.
Serve immediately with steamed white rice and maybe some crusty gluten free bread for mopping up the leftover sauce.

So Readers, are you a fan of garlic, and what are your tips for getting rid of garlic breath?

April 7, 2011


I first had this dish at a fancy-pantsy brunch, and it was love at first bite.
Warm spices, smoky fish, creamy texture, and a hint of lemon... Yumm!

Apparently this meal was first brought back from India, by the military in the glory days of the British Empire. They have a long tradition of smoked fish at breakfast, and this just takes it to a whole new level. It's always served as a 'light' meal like brunch or sometimes supper, but today it's my lunch.

I'm a bit under the weather today, I'm shaking off a concussion from a fall at work, so this recipe is full of shortcuts. No sharp knives or much cooking for a couple of days! Thank goodness for spellcheck too, my typing is very funny as well.

Feel free to poach your own fish, but please promise not to use that scary yellow slab defrosting soggily behind the glass at the supermarket, the cryo-vacked portions are affordable and sooo much tastier. A nice smoked trout is really lovely in this too, and if you want to go totally upmarket then try smoked salmon draped through the rice and topped with a softly poached egg instead of a hard boiled one.... bliss.


1 packet microwave rice/ 3 cups cooked rice
1 onion finely chopped
1 tbsp crushed ginger
2 tsp crushed garlic
2 heaped tbsp mild curry powder
250ml lactose free cream
1 pack hot smoked salmon
4 roughly chopped hard boiled eggs
Zest of a lemon

Slowly sweat down the onion, garlic and ginger in some butter until cooked through.

Add in the curry powder and cook it off for about a minute to take away the 'raw' to it and to let the flavours mingle.

Tip in the packet of rice and stir well to distribute the curriness. Then add in the cream and let it heat well.

Carefully stir through the spinach, lemon zest, eggs and salmon and heat through gently.

Serve with a wedge of lemon.
This would also be really nice with a bit of crunch, perhaps from some toasted flaked almonds on top. Little cherry tomatoes would add some sweetness and contrast too.

Dish this up at your next brunch with some other dainties like French Toast or pancakes, and of course a glass of champagne and orange juice.

So Readers, are you a fan of brunch, and what is your favourite brunch dish?

April 2, 2011

Cooking En Masse

Not for the faint hearted.

This post is about corporate catering. At one of my places of employment we cater for HUGE amounts of people at a time.
This poses unique challenges like: Is pre cooked food really any good? How can something maintain it's structural and flavour integrity if it has to plonked in a bain marie for an hour? How can I stir 75 kilos of meat plus veggies and liquid in a vat the size of a single bed when I'm only 5'1" and have girly muscles and not quite optimum physical fitness levels? All will be revealed.....

Just so you understand, the photos for this post won't be too terrific. I had to shoot them under harsh fluro lights with my phone camera, dodging steam and grease. I figure as most of you would like a look behind the curtain, you'd probably forgive me.

Today I'm making Sweet and Sour Pork.

So as not to scare you too much, this is a SMALL example of my daily work. There's only 45kgs of meat this time. I know some chefs who hate cooking like this, but I really do enjoy it, I like to think that the dish still deserves the very best I can give it, and as much flavour as I get in! It's all about the love.

I won't give quantities for obvious reasons. Adjust the amounts to suit your individual needs, not all families have such voracious appetites. Here's another secret, I make it up as I go along. I have a vague outline of what to include, but I can pretty much use what I can find. This is not, repeat not, haute cuisine. I don't have access to fancy pantsy ingredients, just good honest basics and a few extras.

This is the meat I'm using today, as I said, it's only 45 kilos this time, lovely cubed pork shoulder at 92% lean. To get the most flavour in I'm going to marinate the meat overnight in a mixture of minced ginger, bashed up garlic cloves and some sesame oil. Massage it in (a good arm work out) and wheel back into the coolroom overnight.

I'm not going to deep fry the pork for this, as it has to be reheated the batter would go soggy anyway, and this way it's a bit more healthy. So, to cook this I'm going to steam it. I like this method as it's a good way to keep the juices in and tenderise the meat without overcooking it or drying it out. I put the meat on perforated trays to stop it stewing but over deeper containers to catch the juices so I can use them in the sauce later.

 What do you think of our big combi oven? This can do the lot, steam, conventional heating, or any combination in between. Fantastic, don't you wish you had one- maybe just a bit smaller perhaps. I pop the trays in for just long enough for the meat to be cooked through, but juicy, and nice and soft still.

The trays go onto a trolley, and then into the blast chiller. We need to get the temperature of the meat down quickly to keep it in appropriate safe zones. The standard guide is above 65* or below 5*, the middle zone is the perfect environment for breeding nasties that could make you sick. I could just put the meat in the hot sauce, but because the food won't be served for a day or so, I want to keep it separate and maintain the structural integrity of both meat and veggies, and it's easier to do if they're apart.

 Now to the sauce.

For economy I'm using a mixture of fresh and tinned pineapple. Of course if this was for home it would be all lovely Queensland beauties, but at least this way I can use the juice from the tins in the sauce. The amount shown in the photos is just a token amount, I used a LOT more than this I can assure you.

I start off making a syrup with drained pineapple juice, castor sugar, white vinegar and some ginger and garlic. I boil this down until it's reduced and add some tomato paste and a little bit of salt as well- in this case I add it by the handful, not pinch. I also add in a lot of the liquid that came off the pork, this way I have the best flavour and I'm not diluting it.

 Once I'm happy with the way it's going, I throw in a couple of buckets of onion pieces. I never want to hear you whining about peeling a few onions again Readers, just try doing this for an hour or so at a time, peeling then slicing, with acid stinging your eyes and tears running down your cheeks. Suck it up Princess.

 Once these have softened down a little, I add the carrots and let them cook off for about 10 minutes or so. I turn the heat off, then add the pineapple and once it's cooled a little, the capsicums. It's a constant juggling act to get the flavors mingling happily without turning everything to mush. Remember this meal will get reheated in a day, then popped in a hot box for delivery to the customers, then placed in a chafing dish to stay hot until the customers get around to eating it. That's a lot to expect from my poor little sweet and sour porky!

Now I scoop out the veggies and put them in vats for cooling down. I leave the sauce as I want to thicken it a little. I know that more liquid will seep from the pineapple over time, so a bit of thickening is definitely called for. My favourite way to do this is with an Arrowroot powder. I make a slurry with a small amount of water bring the sauce to the boil and mix it in. Arrowroot doesn't have any colour or flavour and doesn't cloud the mix either. It's also gluten free! In fact the whole dish is, this means it's easier for me to taste as I go, and sample some for lunch- I mean for 'quality control'.

Now I cool the sauce, and put everything in the great big walk in coolrooms until tomorrow.

Ok, now to bring it all together.
 I've got to mix the meat, the veggies and the sauce into one mass of yumminess. I had to split it into 2 lots and then glove up to mix, mix, mix! Once again a terrific upperbody workout. I like to leave the boxes on trolleys as it's easier on my back that way then bending over the floor, but it would be soooo much easier if I was just a bit taller.

The meal now has to get split into the right size bain marie containers. It all depends on what function it's going to and how many each is catering for. The dishes are then double wrapped with cling film, overlapping so nothing can get in or out. The steam oven generates a fair bit of condensation and I don't want it diluting the meal.

 Back into the coolroom again, and just a little while to showtime. This all needs to be done quickly, every step is more time out of the coolroom and we need to keep the temperature in that safe zone remember.

 Action stations everyone!
The baines go into the steam oven for about 2 hours to heat up thoroughly. Before pulling them out of the oven, I use this nifty little instant read probe to check temperatures again- after all, I don't want anyone getting sick on my watch, and if all is well, they go into the hot box.

The hot box keeps the food at a constant safe temperature so we can deliver it where it needs to go. As you can see, it's bigger than me as well, and it's very, very heavy. This needs to be pushed miles along carpeted floors... another good workout. The dishes then get taken out and put into the chafing dishes at the various functions. The box sides are really, really hot and if you accidentally brush your hand against them the skin will either blister or be seared right off leaving a painful burn for more than a week. Good news for the food, not so much for me.

Ok, by my reckoning, I have taken the meat from the coolroom, lifted into the vats, lifted onto steam trays, trays into steamer, from steamer onto trolley, from trolley into vats, then sauce onto meat, then meat into bain trays, then back onto trolley, then into steamer again, then out of steamer into hot box, then hot box to chafing dishes. Is that 11 times? So 11 x 45kgs, well more than that with the sauce and the veggies and stuff, 495kgs, no wonder I'm so tired every night! Why aren't I stick thin? It must be all the muscles I'm building, yeah, that's right, muscles.

Have you ever waved a loved one off at the airport, never expecting to see them again?
It would be a lot like this.
The food is now out of my control. I have taken it from it's very basic existence, nurtured it, given it a healthy environment, kept it warm and tucked in carefully, helped it mature with a bit of exotic culture, and added a lot of love.
Now it heads off into the big wide world to be investigated, judged and criticized. It's upbringing and parentage perhaps called into question as well. I've done my best, now I just have to trust in the strength and integrity I've built into it's character.
The only difference between this and a loved one, is in this case, I am happy for it to be attacked and devoured by strangers- for money.

Well Readers, have you enjoyed this voyeuristic foray into corporate catering?
I trust you will never again eat these type of mass function foods without a little thought for us behind the scenes, and a new appreciation for the effort that goes into it.