Food and nostalgia

Smell in one of the strongest trigger for memories that there is.

In fact, behavioural studies have shown the smell triggers more vivid emotional memories than images do.

And what is more evocative than the smell of your childhood kitchen?

  • Garlic roast chicken on a Sunday afternoon
  • Richly savoury bolognese bubbling way on the heat for hours at a time
  • Spicy cinnamon and cloves in every part of the house from the 4 hours the Christmas cake spent in the oven
  • And what about jam and chutney season?

That’s probably the reason family recipes live on. They connect us to our past, to our families, some of whom have departed.

It’s 2 years since both Mr Eleanor and I lost our last grandparents, just 3 days apart. And tomorrow is Mr Eleanor’s birthday. So it’s time for a little food nostalgia with this sentimental nod for his birthday cake.

Nan Ruth's fruit cake

I hope I’ve done it justice. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow!

Nan Ruth’s Fruit Cake

Mum Fruit Cake receipe 001

*SR flour replaced with white spelt flour and 1.5 tsp baking powder; milk was lactose free

Sugar-free, fat-free, fun-free cake?

Oh, goddamit, I’ve got to stop baking – I’m going to develop diabetes at this rate.

But on the other hand, if there was a cake that was low fat and low sugar, that would be ok, wouldn’t it? To be honest, I’m not really asking your permission 🙂

I was doing a little research for my writing (alright, alright, I was procrastinating and surfing the internet, dreaming up things to eat) and bumped into this Maltese recipe from SBS which contains NO ADDED SUGAR OR FAT OR EGGS!

No sugar, fat or eggs? Blergh, I hear you say, but you’d be wrong.

sugarless apricot and date cake

You can find the recipe here:

SBS: Sugarless apricot and date cake

The texture was surprisingly good – I expected it to be crumbly but it wasn’t. It was soft and moist and sweet, and everything a cake should be. As a bonus it is completely dairy free and vegan, and could easily be adapted for gluten free.

Tips from TheO
  • Soak the fruit in a little apple juice for an hour before you bake to keep it moist
  • Switch out the wheat flour for a wheat/gluten free option – I used wholemeal spelt, but perhaps this is taking the concept of healthy cake a step too far
  • If you’re not using SRF, add 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • Although the recipe didn’t say so, I assumed the oven temperature should be 180°C
  • Adapt the cooking time for your tin – I didn’t have a ring tin so used a loaf tin which took 50 minutes to cook
  • Mr Eleanor found the apricot flavour a little too strong so I might try using dried mixed fruit next time, and a bit of cinnamon.

Try it, you might like it.

Fakin’ filo

On a wheat-free diet there are now very few foods which are just totally irreplaceable. There’s always some means, some kind of flour that will just about pass for whatever cooking need you have. The foods that we’ve been unable to imitate are the ones which rely heavily on the structure that wheat gluten provides.

The one that stands out for me is filo pastry.

Spanokopita …. baklava … samosas … chicken pastilla … strudel …. and any number of food combinations, sweet or savoury, wrapped into a filo cigar. Crispy, buttery goodness. Godammit. I miss filo.

But have you heard of Mountain Bread? It’s an Aussie flatbread, not unlike a sheet of cooked filo. Sort of. Obviously they don’t have quite the pliable nature of uncooked filo – since I found out that there is an entirely spelt* version of the product, that is not going to stop me!

filo veggie tart

Spelt ‘filo’ cheese and vegetable tart

Sometimes you’re gonna spring a leak but as long as you’re careful, it works – here’s how I did it. I’ve also made chicken and mushroom parcels, fruit mince cigars, and a spectactular pear and berry frangipane strudel. Samosas next.

Happy baking!

 

*(I realise this doesn’t help out coeliacs, and for that I am sorry – perhaps one day Mountain Bread will perfect a gluten free formula.)

The biscuit tin needs a refill

I’ve really enjoyed having a tin of homemade Anzac biscuits winking at me from the kitchen this week. As a kid, my mum always had some freshly made delights waiting for us when we got home from school but as I didn’t drink tea or coffee until I was over 30 (I know! And I call myself British!) I never got into the whole ‘tea and biscuits’ scene.

Cake’s good, but there’s something rewarding about the crisp snap of a biscuit, or the way it yields to the warmth of a cuppa.biscotti

So I thought I might make some crisp, versatile biscotti. These are another type of biscuit that were made to travel. Traditional recipes do not call for any butter or oil, thus they are

  • naturally lactose free
  • low fat
  • keep for weeks

If you wanna make them a little more decadent, dip one end in dark chocolate and almond nibs.

There seem to be several techniques to make them, but Paul Hollywood’s method is a cinch – no processor or arm power required, and Martha Stewart’s uses polenta (cornmeal) – and as always I’m drawn to recipes that use ingredients other than wheat.

So this recipe is a combination of the two. Next time I might reduce the amount of sugar, and switch out for some almond meal. And there will be a next time!

What? They’re delicious AND vegan?

Anzac Day is nearly upon again: Australia’s equivalent to the British Remembrance Sunday to honour all those who have served.

Whilst Easter has Creme Eggs and Christmas has, well, all the food under the sun, Anzac Day is commemorated with the consumption of the Anzac biscuits. These sweet oaty biscuits do not, and never will, contain eggs – this was because of the scarcity of eggs during the war, and it also prolonged their shelf life. It also makes them incredibly easy to adapt to vegan.

Wikipedia tells me that Anzac is a protected term and, unless I abide strictly by the original recipe, I can’t call mine Anzac biscuits (never cookie!). I only read this AFTER I had gone buggering about with the ingredients. So here are my Anzac-style biscuits, adapted from the original for the inclusion and enjoyment of all.

anzac style biscuits

ingredients

  • 75g coconut oil*
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar*
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1/2 cup each rolled oats, desiccated coconut and flour (I used wholemeal spelt)
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • a dash of water

*NB I have used coconut products here only to enhance the flavour and not because of any particular beliefs about the superpowers of coconut – after all, oil is oil and sugar is sugar.

method

  1. Put the oven on to 180°C and line a large baking sheet with baking paper
  2. Put a small pan on a low-medium heat, melt together the oil, sugar and syrup. Once the oil has melted, cook for 1-2 mins then set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the oats, dessicated coconut and flour
  4. Add the bicarbonate and water to the syrup mix, stir and then pour over the oats**
  5. Mix to combine then form 12 golf sized balls, lay them on the baking sheet and give them a little press to flatten and bake for 10-12 minutes until they are golden and firm – allow to cool on a wire
  6. Don’t use your pilates class as an excuse to eat two whilst they are still warm

**Should you not be afraid that the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs will find out, you could add a quarter cup of raisins and 1 tbsp raw cacao powder here. Maybe even some cinnamon. I’m not saying you should, just that you could.

How long you cook them will depend how soft or crisp you like your biscuit – traditionally they are crisp which I think works best for this method. If you’re going to go buggering about with the traditional recipe as well, then changing the syrup could provide you with a texture or flavour more to your liking:

  • maple syrup – more crisp
  • honey – more soft
  • treacle (molasses) – deep, dark flavour

Walnut treacle soda bread

Soda bread seriously is the easy bread in the world – no kneading, proving or hours of goddamn waiting for your delicious loaf of steaming fresh bread! I reckon you could be go to woah in 50 minutes, including a little cooling time. Or less if you’re a bit smarter than me and make 2 smaller loaves rather than one gargantuan one!

walnut treacle soda bread

walnut treacle soda bread

It’s much like a scone dough so in fact the more gentle you are, the better it will turn out. For the same reason, spelt is an excellent flour to use to make it.

The dough will seem VERY wet and soft compared with yeasted bread dough but this just goes to give a soft, moist crumb. I find the best way to shape it is to use a teflon baking sheet to rock it back and forth into it into a log.

soda bread

All this bread needs is a little butter and some peace and quiet. I think it would also be great made into crisp breads for a cheese board. The raisins and black treacle (molasses) give a little warmth of caramel flavour which is punctuated with crisp nuggets of walnuts. Very more-ish. Dunno how I stopped at 2 slices for breakfast.