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


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.)

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.

What to do with a squash as big as your head

Autumn produce is just irresistible, isn’t it? Blood red peppers, glossy purple-black aubergine, mountains of pale golden sweetcorn; earthy sweet beetroot, perfumed apples and crisp white cauliflower. I could wax lyrical endlessly.

One of my favourites has got to be squash (or pumpkin if that’s what you wanna call them). I picked up a big, beautiful organic squash the other day with a view to, er … no, I didn’t think that one through.

Shit! Gonna be eating squash every day for a week. But with some careful thought, this is where our squash went:

• Sliced into thick wedges, grilled on the barbie and served with tahini yoghurt dressing – beaut!
• Pumpkin, sage and ricotta filled pasta – the leftover filling made a fantastic vegetarian pate
• Chicken and pumpkin curry – switched out the mango for pumpkin and this recipe worked a treat
• The rest was cubed and roasted for the freezer, ready for risotto, pasta or salad whenever I need it

filled spelt pasta

I miss filled pasta! This is my rather clumsy oversized version made with spelt flour – I don’t have the patience or dexterity to make them any smaller. It doesn’t make them any less delicious.

For the filling: mix 2 parts roasted, mashed squashed with 1 part ricotta. Add grated parmesan, minced garlic, chopped sage and the zest and juice of a lemon to your taste and seasonal well. Don’t worry if you’ve got any leftover – it’s great with crudites or crackers.

Spelt vs croissants

Spelt flour is a great substitute in a lot of baking situations: scones, biscuits, pastry. In fact in all the baked goods that don’t need a strong protein structure to be developed through kneading. This is because spelt contains a different type of gluten than wheat, as less of it. In fact, the lower gluten results in a more delicate crumb and lighter texture.

croissants and pain au chocolate

But for bread products spelt can be a bit troublesome. To keep the bread moist, make sure the dough is as wet as you dare, and don’t knead it too much – the fragile glutens won’t take it and you’ll have a dry, crumbly bread.

Anyway, this week’s kitchen adventure is viennoiserie. Think:

  • Croissants
  • Pain au chocolate
  • Croissants aux amandes
  • Pain aux raisin
  • Chasson aux pomme

There doesn’t seem to be much consensus about how long croissants have been around but there are hundreds of recipes out there on the world wide internet. I used the recipe from Bake by Rachel Allen. I reckon you could probably trust Paul Hollywood too 😛

spelt croissants


These are definitely the best I’ve made. That’ll be because I followed the recipe. Who knew?

Is it hot cross bun season yet?

It’s a little early for hot cross bun season, although every supermarket in the world would disagree. Traditionally eaten on Good Friday

… they mark the end of Lent and different parts of the hot cross bun have a certain meaning, including the cross representing the crucifixion of Jesus and the spices inside reminding Christians “of the spices put on the body of Jesus.”                                                            Wikipedia, 2016

There are some foods that have a short but oh-so-sweet season and part of their joy is that you spend 46 weeks of the year looking forward to them coming in. Think strawberries, asparagus, Jersey royal potatoes. Our increasingly globalised economy sure has fucked this up.

hot cross buns

spelt flour hot cross buns

To keep them special, I also regard HCBs and Cadbury’s Crème Eggs as seasonal foods (certainly not for any religious reasons).

But it’s less than 6 weeks until HCB day. I’ll get away with that, won’t I?

Friday night pizza gets a Turkish makeover

Mr Eleanor is, I would go as far to say, a pizza fanatic. I’m going to the UK for 5 weeks soon. I’m a little worried that he’s only going to eat pizza while I’m away and I will return to find that he’s invented an as-yet-unknown nutritional disease. Or he’ll be 3 stone the heavier.

Pizza is the most infamous topped flatbread, but there are others out there. Lahmacun is the Turkish variant and, I hope, a much lower fat and lower calorie version.

My inspiration was again from Istanbul by Rebecca Seal. I couldn’t help but fiddle with what I’m sure is a great recipe, but I thought the savoury, fatty flavours of the meat needed balancing with some fresh veggies and tartness so I added spinach and rocket leaves, along with some strips of roasted red pepper. It was absolutely DELICIOUS! One of the best things I’ve cooked in a while.

Turkish pizza
True to my word, I have been using kangaroo and this recipe works incredibly well with it, keeping the fat down even further. As always, I also had my eye on how to make it vegetarian or vegan. Following consultation with the Grand Vegetarian Matriarch (my Mama) I reckon you could switch out the mince for VERY finely chopped, cooked mushroom (like duxelles), or even a tin of refried beans as they are already laced with cumin and coriander.

Either way, this is a great option for a Friday night treat – enjoy!