All of the pleasure, none of the pain

It’s properly cold now. I mean it’s only getting up to 16°C during the day. Well, OK, but it has been 1°C overnight. And the Aussies have NO IDEA about insulation, double glazing, or appropriate heating for their houses. I fear I may lose some fingers.

Now can I get some sympathy?

For me, as well as for my poor cats, the only answer is to stuff in the calories like they’re going out of fashion. It’s a dangerous game and is the reason Bertie has turned into a little dumpling in a few short weeks.

theboys

But I still need to eat, so I thought I’d roll out the fun-free cake again, this time in a different incarnation.

apple and date cake

Apple and date cake

This time I replaced a third of the dried fruit with diced apple and sliced the remaining apple to line in the bottom of the tin, along with a little spray oil, before baking. I also added 1 tsp cinnamon. Goddamn, it was delicious!

For interest’s sake, I thought I’d do a little calorie counting. Each 70g slice (1/12th) contains:*

  • 15g dried fruit, 30g fresh fruit and 20ml fruit juice
  • 8g of almonds
  • 3g protein
  • 2g fibre
  • 140 kcals (600kJ) (vs 275kcals (1170kJ) for shop-bought lemon drizzle)

But … that’s nearly half the calories.

So I had two pieces. With some Baileys ice cream.

I am my own worst enemy.

 

*I am not a nutritionist and all the maths is my own. You’ve been warned.

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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.

Pea and avo pasta with fennel

This might be my new pasta obsession – I always have to have one on the go. I would cheerfully lick the blades of the food processor to get at the smears of sauce hiding from my persistent spatula.

pea and avo pasta with fennel

Pasta with pea, avocado and goats cheese sauce, with caramelised fennel and Parmesan and almonds

The avocado sauce so smooth and has a really good bite of raw garlic; the caramelised fennel gives a great sweet balance to it, with the Parmesan providing the salty umami flavour.

This is easily adapted for all sorts of food intolerance without losing much:

  • GF – use GF pasta
  • LF – use lactose free cream instead of goats
  • Vegetarian – use a vegetarian hard cheese instead of Parmesan
  • Vegan – omit cheese
  • Nut free – omit almonds

I’m REALLY glad I outgrew my childhood avocado allergy though!

If you wanna make it, the recipe’s here.

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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

Gourmet nights #3: Demuths

There was a small delay in the execution of Gourmet Nights #3. It was supposed to be last week but rather shockingly we had a social life and I couldn’t fit it in! Don’t worry – no such impediment this week.

There are a load of reasons why people are vegetarian – concern for the environment, love of animals, health, the taste or texture of meat. The list goes on.

I’m unlikely to ever become fully veggo – cutting another food group out of my diet is just not a good idea, but I have reduced it to the bare minimum. But if I did it would just be because I LOVE VEGETARIAN FOOD! I JUST LOVE IT!

Spinach and potato koftas

Easy to make and contained lots of great spices but the gram flour batter went soft within a few minutes which was a shame – I assume it was because the filling is quite moist. Tasty nonetheless. As a bonus they are vegan and gluten free.

spinach koftas

spinach and potato koftas with mango chutney

Souffle topped mushrooms with panzanella

Delicious! The souffle and mushrooms were deeply savoury – I don’t think meat eaters would even notice they’d gone veggie. The panzanella was super garlicky. Which I LOVED at the time, but not so much the next morning … The dressing includes red wine which gave the dish an amazing depth of flavour. Croutons were essential to offer a change in texture and taste from the rich salad and souffle.

souffle topped mushroom

stilton topped mushrooms with panzanella and spicy croutons

Plum frangipane tart

Oh my! There’s not very much of this left. I think that speaks for itself. Yum, yum, yum!

plum frangipane tart

red plum frangipane tart

Admissions of deviation from the recipe

Koftas: I forgot to buy more spinach so they were a little light on the green stuff! And since we already had homemade mango chutney, I didn’t make the tomato and mango one that was suggested

Souffle and panzanella: These days Oz make some pretty good cheese, so I went with a local Jindi Blue rather than insisting my cheese travel 10,500 miles. For the sake of calories, I put the croutons on the barbie and served them with a drizzle of oil instead of frying them. Also, I didn’t have red grape juice and wasn’t go to buy some for the tiny amount required so I used cranberry

Plum frangipane tart: I used spelt flour for the pastry – always a great substitute for pastry

 

Gluten free cous cous

I realise that I’m a bit late joining this particular band-wagon but – cauliflower cous cous? Delicious or what???cauliflower

  • Take a cauliflower
  • Blitz it to a crumb in the food processor
  • Stir fry, or steam in the microwave, to cook it
  • Duh nah! Cauliflower cous cous… or rice … whatever you want to call it

Had this pomegranate and chickpea cauli cous cous with barbecued lamb, tzatziki and fresh sweetcorn last night – DELICIOUS! It would also be great just with a little feta crumbled on the top

cauliflower cous cous

It’s gluten free, high in vitamin C and is low GI. It’s a great option for keeping down the calories/carbs at dinner time.

Although I don’t recommend you stay up too late.

You might find you start to get a bit hungry.

And accidentally eat a piece of Christmas cake that you realised was still in the back of the cupboard.

I’m just guessing here …

Mango chutney gets fresh

We always have mango chutney with curry. Is that a British thing? It’s also great with ham and cheese, barbecued lamb and in sandwiches.

The stuff that you buy in the shops is sticky and quite, well, jammy! If you make it yourself it’s incredibly sweet and fresh. Plus it’s a doddle so why wouldn’t you?

mangoes

This is a fresh chutney so won’t store in the pantry. In the fridge, it will keep in sterilised jars for up to a month; otherwise put into small pots and store in the freezer for use over the winter.

In Australia, mango season runs November to April so if you want to make some, you’d better get going!

Chilli freak

I have 8 chilli plants … and this after a concerted effort to get rid of some last year. Lots of plants means lots of chillis, so I also currently have:

  • 2 bags of frozen chillis
  • 1 jar of dried chillis
  • 8 jars of chilli jam, in a variety of flavours
  • 4 jars of jalapenos
  • 1 jar of effin’ hot sauce

This is not my doing but is, apparently, my hobby. Mr Eleanor has a chilli problem. And I think I might be his dealer …

Fish chillis

Chilli plants are really easy to grow in pots, which I guess has been part of the problem. I like to keep a variety of chillis in hand, from the (relatively) mild jalapeno up to the mind-blowing Thai. Amongst others I’ve also grown the fragrant and incendiary Habanero, beautiful variegated Fish and the infamous ‘roulette’ tapas chilli, Padron.

In Melbourne they are happy as larry outside for the most of the year, but might need a little protection if a frost threatens to hit. Keep them watered and give them a feed once in a while and they will reward you tens of chillis every year, perhaps even up to 150 per plant (I kid you not, see above list).

Obviously there’s loads of food that you can put chilli into from stir fry to chocolate brownies (oh, yes!) but if your chilli basket overfloweth, you’ll need recipes that use a few more than one or two of these little beauties, and these are my standby recipes:

Nigella’s chilli jam 

Once you’ve perfected your technique you can mix it up this recipe. I’ve got some rather cheeky 100% habanero chilli jam. No jam sugar or pectin? Add half a grated apple and half a lemon cut into chunks instead and boil it for about 30 minutes to make a thinner sauce – don’t forget to fish out the lemon before you bottle 🙂 This jam goes with EVERYTHING – a splodge on top of your Thai curry, a scraping in a sandwich, to dip with barbecued lamb

Pickled jalapenos

I don’t bother with the cumin – Mr Eleanor’s a jalapeno purist – but you can add any spices you like, or other veggies like onion or garlic. To make this into a sauce, liquidise after step 2.

DSC05930 (2)

wasabi tofu noodles

Sometimes you just know when you’ve done well, don’t you? This is what I made myself for lunch yesterday.

wasabi tofu noodles

buckwheat noodles and broccoli, on a bed of rocket and spinach, topped with crispy fried tofu, avocado, cashew and sesame, and a lime and wasabi dressing

It hits so many spots it’s just not funny. The noodles are slippery, soft and unctuous. Against that is the crunch of cashews. The sharp and bitey dressing makes the broccoli taste almost sweet (I know!) and the sesame seeds add a toasty aroma. And I slipped a little crispy fried summin’ summin’ in there too …. mmm mmmmmm!

Not only that but it’s gluten free*, vegan, and dairy free

*Make sure you use tamari and 100% buckwheat noodles – try Spiral Foods