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.


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.


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.

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


  • 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.


  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 …

Free-from Christmas

The biggest eating event on the year’s calendar is fast approaching. Are you hosting this year? I’m on Boxing Day duties where all the English relos are coming over for a traditional British Christmas dinner. Not my favourite thing when it’s 30 degrees outside but, well, what can you do? It’s what they all want. They are stuck in the past. On the other side of the planet. At least I get to go Aussie style for the big day itself.


Catering for a host of different food intolerances and choices might seem daunting but, because a Christmas lunch usually involves numerous dishes, with a little planning you can keep everyone happy without overloading yourself

Some tips and trips

  • Make the stuffing without gluten or nuts, and bake it separately, to broaden its audience – I’m planning a leek and apple stuffing
  • Miss out eggs and cheese to make your vegetarian option tick the vegan box too – what about a vegetable wellington?
  • Don’t forget that veggies like gravy too!
  • For a dairy free desert accompaniment , try cashew nut cream with your Christmas pud
  • Is there suet in your Christmas pudding? Don’t offer it to the veggies unless you know it was made with vegetarian suet!
  • Some folks have allergies to the sulphites used to preserve certain types of dried fruit so take care
  • Not everyone likes to get smashed on Christmas Day (?!), so offer a soft alternative
  • As best you can, try to cook each dish in a separate tray to reduce the risk of cross contamination

I’ll be sharing my menus for both Christmas Day and Boxing Day with you, so watch this space!

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

The flavour of Christmas

Home-made mincemeat

This, my friends, is not some weird-looking chutney. This is the very nectar of Christmas; the Yuletide ambrosia. This is:

home-made mincemeat.

It took an entire 24 hours to make but, of that, only 40 minutes of my time – it quietly soaked, melted and cooled all by itself.

Anyone wishing to make it themselves should go and visit Auntie Delia. My version used grated hard vegetable fat as both suet and vegetarian suet come kindly dusted in the flour of the devil. Also I went a bit heavy on the cinnamon. Because I wasn’t reading the recipe. No surprises there.

Now I have a small conundrum. There’s a little bit leftover from filling the jars. Do I:

a) Stuff and bake a couple of apples and serve with a little ice cream for a delightful dessert this evening?

b) Stuff my face using the stirring spoon that’s still in the bowl and deny everything to Mr Eleanor?

Answers on a postcard.


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!

Roasted Jerusalem artichoke soup

artichoke soup

Jerusalem artichokes are weird little roots (from a type of sunflower!) with a texture like potato and a flavour of mushroomy globe artichoke, that matches sublimely with black truffle.

They are great simply roasted, but also liquidise into a silky smooth purée and naturally make this rather wonderful soup. In fact, if you want to make it vegan, you could omit the cream and the texture would still be amazing.

Be warned, it’s nickname (fartichoke) is not without reason, so go easy. You can apparently reduce the, er, consequences but I haven’t tested out this method.