10 October 2011

Ginger Treacle Loaf with Lemon Icing

dairy free egg free nut free vegan gluten free

This splendid loaf is an allergy-friendly triumph - a soft, light vegan cake using regular flour, which then translates beautifully to gluten free (as long as you incorporate the egg back in if you tolerate them.) Ok, so not a complete success - I'm still experimenting with a version for both gluten free and vegan - but still, the result from a commercial gluten-free flour mix was pretty impressive. Dead easy to make, this is now a market bake-stall favourite. Four tins ready for the oven in 10 minutes!

See both recipes below:

Gluten free & dairy free (using egg)

175g gluten-free plain flour mix
1 tbsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp soda bicarbonate
125g treacle
80ml vegetable oil
75g brown sugar
2 eggs 
100ml rice or soy milk

1 cup sifted icing sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 150 C and grease and line a small-to-medium loaf tin.

Sift the plain flour, ginger and bicarb into a bowl and stir to combine. In a separate bowl, mix together treacle, oil, brown sugar, egg and milk until combined. Bit by bit, pour the wet mixture in to the dry, and whisk very gently to ensure you combine it well without lumps forming. Don't pour it in all at once!

Pour batter into loaf tin and bake for approx 40-45 mins.

Cool in tin while you prepare the icing. Add lemon juice to sifted icing sugar and mix until a smooth glaze. Turn out onto wire rack and drizzle lemon icing over the cake. Zest some lemon and sprinkle on top.

Dairy free & egg free (using regular flour)

175g plain flour
1 tbsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp soda bicarbonate
125g treacle
80ml vegetable oil
75g brown sugar
1 egg replacer
100ml rice or soy milk

1 cup sifted icing sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 150 C and grease and line a small-to-medium loaf tin.

Sift the plain flour, ginger and bicarb into a bowl and stir to combine. In a separate bowl, mix together treacle, oil, brown sugar, egg replacer and milk until combined. Bit by bit, pour the wet mixture in to the dry, and whisk very gently to ensure you combine it well without lumps forming. Don't pour it in all at once!

Pour batter into loaf tin and bake for approx 40-45 mins.

Cool in tin while you prepare the icing. Add lemon juice to sifted icing sugar and mix until a smooth glaze. Turn out onto wire rack and drizzle lemon icing over the cake. Zest some lemon and sprinkle on top.

02 October 2011

Moroccan Seafood Soup

dairy free egg free nut free gluten free

We enjoyed this heavenly soup the day after too - the left-over stock went gangbusters in a seafood risotto!

Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tbs ground coriander
1 tbs harissa*
3 tbs chopped parsley
2 tomatoes, chopped
500ml water
1kg fish, firm such as snapper, cut into chunks
8 prawns, peeled and deveined
8 mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
juice of 1 lemon

*You can buy harissa paste or make your own by processing some roasted red peppers with garlic, chilli, salt, cumin and coriander.

Heat oil in a stockpot and sauté onion, celery and garlic until soft. Add ginger, both fresh & dried coriander, harissa and parsley and cook for a few minutes, stirring. Season generously with salt and pepper, then add tomatoes and cook for another few minutes. Add water and bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer on very low heat, lid on for around half an hour.

Add seafood and cook for 15 minutes or until cooked through. Squeeze lemon juice then ladle into bowls.

20 August 2011

Pork & Fennel Bolognese

dairy free egg free nut free gluten free

Pork is the meat of choice in our house when making bolognese. And while there are as many variations of bolognese as there are types of pasta, this version is my hands-down favourite. Fennel replaces the soffritto (carrot, onion, celery) lending a satisfying sweetness, and the hint of bay gives it depth. My mother's sugo is legendary for its simplicity and restraint and I can happily report that when I serve this one up, my daughter asks "Is this Nonna's?" even though fennel doesn't feature in her version. 

(Apparently, 6 out of 10 Australian chefs prefer pork in their bolognese according to 2009 edition of Australian Gourmet Traveller. If you're still making bolognese with beef, it may be time for a change.)

I would think that the only way to improve on this excellent sauce, would be to add some white wine just after adding the meat. We tend not to use much wine in cooking these days as most are processed with egg and milk products. But next time I come across an organic/vegan wine, I might just try it...

500g pork mince
1 large fennel bulb, chopped into 1cm pieces
1 large red onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 bottle tomato passata/puree
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
olive oil

Heat a large saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, gently fry onion and garlic for a few minutes. Add chopped fennel and fry on low-medium heat for about 15 minutes or until soft and golden. Turn heat to medium-high and add pork mince, breaking it up with your spoon and fry until cooked. Season with salt and pepper. Add chopped tomatoes, passata and bay leaf and bring to the boil, then reduce to low heat, simmering for at least an hour, stirring occasionally.

Stir through cooked pasta and serve.

01 August 2011

Braised Artichokes

dairy free egg free nut free vegan gluten free

Artichokes are my vegetable love crush. If I were asked to choose my last meal on earth, I'd be tempted to eschew the foie gras and truffles, and accept a plate of delicately braised artichokes instead (maybe a few deep-fried ones thrown in.)

They're a robust and tricky vegetable to prepare, but all the more satisfying for having made the effort. The pile of waste can be a little alarming once you're done peeling away the tough outer leaves, and removing the top third of the flower. Artichokes are a member of the thistle family, so most of it is inedible anyway. Leave some of the tougher leaves intact so that once cooked you can scrape out their tender flesh between your teeth and discard the skin. This is an integral and rewarding part of the journey towards the prized, heartbreakingly-tender inner petals.

Finally, it's important to leave a decent portion of the stem attached - the flavour there is the absolute essence of artichoke.

4 globe artichokes
juice of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Remove the outer leaves of the artichokes and cut off all but a few centimetres of the stems. Peel away the hard remnants of the base and the outer fibrous layers of the stems until you get to the pale green. Cut off the tops, about a third of the way down. Slice in half lengthways right through to the stem. Dig out the furry choke with a teaspoon. After you've prepared each artichoke to this stage, place them in a large bowl of water with the lemon juice added - you need to do this to prevent them from discolouring.

Heat the garlic and olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and add the drained artichokes in a single layer cut side down. Cook over low-medium heat until garlic is aromatic. Add the parsley, turn over and season with salt and pepper. Cook for a few more minutes then turn them back over so they are face down again. Add 1/2 cup water, cover the pan and simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes. Take off lid and turn up the heat a bit and simmer for another 10 minutes until all the water has evaporated and you are left with some juice at the bottom of the pan like a sauce. Remove from pan to a serving platter, cut sides up, sprinkle more parsley, drizzle sauce from the pan with a squeeze of lemon juice and a grinding of black pepper.

You can also cut the artichokes in quarters, just reduce the cooking time.

24 July 2011

Focaccia with Green Olives & Thyme

dairy free egg free nut free vegan

If you're not a bread baker, now's the time to learn. It's quite easily the most satisfying skill to have in the kitchen. 

I normally stud the olives on top, but this version with the olives mixed into the dough is even more appealing.

7g sachet instant yeast
300g strong flour (tipo 00)
75g semolina (or more flour if you don't have it)
1 cup green olives, pitted
250ml lukewarm water
1 tbsp salt 
2 tbsp olive oil

Dissolve the yeast in a quarter of the water and let sit for a few minutes. Gradually mix in the flour and water (as well as salt and oil) until you have a decent dough, then knead for about 5 minutes until it is smooth and elasticky. Let prove in an oiled and covered bowl in a warm place for 2 hours or until doubled in size. 

Stretch onto a tray in a rough rectangle shape,  sprinkle with olives, roll up lengthways into a sausage shape then bring together into a ring (so there's not much of a hole) and join the ends firmly. Take a rolling pin (or you can do this with your hands) and roll the dough back out to a rectangle. Let prove for another 20 minutes while you preheat oven to 220 C. Dig your fingers into the dough to make the indentations, sprinkle with thyme leaves, drizzle more olive oil and sea salt, then bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

19 July 2011

Minestrone with Chickpeas & Farro

dairy free egg free nut free vegan

Ancient grains and seeds like farro and quinoa have had a renaissance in the last few years. Farro in particular is an Italian grain that was in danger of vanishing from production due to its strong husk that needed complex dehulling and milling machinery. Thankfully, the boom in organic produce and growing interest in wholefoods means we get better access to less processed, more nutritionally sound foods.  Farro is similar to pearl barley, but with a nuttier bite. It does contain gluten, though it is more easily digestible than most wheat grains. If you're gluten intolerant, you could substitute brown rice.

If you don't soak the farro first (overnight preferably), it will still cook in the recommended cooking time, though it will benefit from resting for a few hours to allow it to swell and absorb more liquid.

couple of tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1/2 can crushed tomatoes
1 can chickpeas, rinsed
1 bay leaf
1 cup farro, rinsed (otherwise soaked overnight)
6 cups of veg/chicken stock or plain water

Fry onion, garlic, celery and carrots over medium heat until soft and browned slightly, about 5 minutes. Add zucchini and cook for a couple of minutes. Add tomatoes, bay, stock/water and bring to boil, then add chickpeas and farro, stirring well. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes until farro is tender. 

19 June 2011

Chocolate Hedgehog with Cranberries

dairy free egg free nut free vegan

Mmmm. Just love biscuity chocolate goodness that is classic hedgehog, and you get a nice flavour kick with the cranberries. McVitie's Digestives is a great vegan biscuit (though package states they're made on a production line handling milk. We take the risk on these occasionally because they're so nice). Eskal and Freedom Foods make gluten-free biscuits so you could make these gluten-free also.

125g dairy-free margarine
100g dairy/egg/nut free chocolate
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 egg replacer (Orgran)
220g McVitie's Digestives or other dairy/egg/nut free biscuits, broken into small pieces
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup cranberries

Chocolate topping
200g dairy/egg/nut free chocolate
50g vegetable oil or dairy/egg/nut free margarine

Grease a slice pan (17cm x 27cm) and line with baking paper, allowing some to overhang at long ends.

Place margarine, chocolate and syrup in a saucepan over low heat. Cook gently stirring for a few minutes or until smooth. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Whisk in egg replacer.

Meanwhile, place biscuits, coconut, sugar, cocoa and cranberries in a bowl. Stir to combine, then add chocolate mixture, mixing gently. Transfer to prepared pan and press mixture evenly using the back of a fork. Cover and refrigerate until firm.

To make chocolate topping, place chocolate and margarine/oil in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until smooth. Spread over slice and refrigerate for a couple of hours until set.

Using a hot knife, cut slice into 24 pieces.

18 June 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies

dairy free egg free nut free gluten free vegan

Recently at Elwood Market, a new mum joined the ranks with gluten-free baked goods on our allergy-friendly baking table. I was so enamoured with her chocolate chip cookies that I hounded her for the recipe and then made them vegan. They are very very good! 

She used a commercial gluten-free flour mix but because I'd run out, I subbed in a mix of brown rice flour and coconut flour. And instead of using egg replacer, I just added 1/4 cup rice milk. It probably accounts for the slightly crackled appearance that weren't a feature of her cookies, but they weren't crumbly upon eating. The Sweet William choc chips tend to melt somewhat on baking, but it all still makes for an incredibly tasty (and rich) cookie. 

250g dairy-free margarine (Nuttelex)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup rice milk
1 1/4 cups brown rice flour + 1 cup coconut flour 
or 2 1/4 cups gluten-free plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 cups dairy/egg/nut free chocolate chips (I used Sweet William)

Beat margarine and sugars in small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add in rice milk and extract and beat until well combined. Transfer to large bowl.  Stir combined sifted flour and soda into mixture, in two batches. 

Stir in chocolate, cover, refrigerate 1 hour.  Preheat oven to moderate (180 degrees/160 degrees fan forced). Grease oven trays. Roll dessertspoons of the dough into balls; place 3cm apart on trays.  Bake, uncovered, about 12 minutes.  Cool completely on trays.

08 June 2011

Chorizo & Lentil Stew

dairy free egg free nut free gluten free

I'm suffering through the blast of icy Melbourne weather and craving one-bowl comfort food, so this is just the thing. Tuck in with crusty bread, or for something a bit fancy, the artichoke farinata I just made (which is gluten-free).

1 chorizo sausage, sliced
1 cup dried lentils, soaked overnight (or 1 can of lentils)
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
bay leaf
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bunch baby spinach leaves
1 can diced tomatoes

Fry the sliced chorizo in a frypan with a tablespoon of olive oil until browned. Remove and set aside in a bowl. In the same pan with the remaining chorizo-flavoured oil, gently saute onion, garlic and carrots, until soft.

Add lentils, stock, tomatoes and bay leaf and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Add spinach and chorizo and warm through for a couple of minutes, until spinach is wilted.

Serve in bowls.

Farinata (Chickpea Flatbread)

dairy free egg free nut free vegan gluten free

This recipe is from the River Cafe's Green cookbook, one of very few Italian cookbooks I treasure. It is divided into seasonal fruit and vegetables and features interesting produce with inspiring recipes. (eg. who knew Italians had even heard of ginger, let alone willingly cooked with it in both savoury and sweet dishes?!)

Because I am embracing all things gluten-free at the moment, it must be said that the farinata, a traditional Ligurian street food, is an ideal gluten-free pizza or flatbread.

Make sure the oiled pan is smoking hot before you pour in the batter or you won't get a crispy base. And the batter should only be 1cm thick (reserve the rest for another tray if need be) or you'll get a pancake rather than a pizza. I suspect it should be browner and crunchier than it looks in my picture but I was in a (hungry) hurry. In fact, if you squint, it almost passes for an omelette. Which gets me thinking that a bit of chickpea batter, liberally seasoned and poured into a pan with vegetables might make for a tasty egg-free frittata...

250g chickpea flour
750ml warm water
75ml olive oil

*You can add any flavourings you like - strong herbs like rosemary, marjoram, thyme or sage. I sliced up some artichokes as per the original recipe and scattered fresh marjoram.

Add chickpea flour to the warm water in a bowl. If you can be bothered, sieve it first, but I didn't and given it sits for a couple of hours while it absorbs the water - it's not really necessary. Whisk it well to get rid of any lumps, add a tablespoon of salt, cover the bowl and set aside for at least 2 hours in a warm place.

Remove the foam that forms at the top of the batter and stir in the olive oil, mixing well. Pour a tablespoon of oil into your largest baking tray or pizza tray (around 40cm is best) and put into the oven until the oil starts to smoke. Remove the pan from the oven and quickly pour in the batter. It's supposed to be thin and not more than 1cm deep. Scatter over the artichoke slices and/or herbs, salt and a drizzling of olive oil. Place back in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes. Surface is supposed to bubble and the edges will crisp up.

Slice up and serve immediately.

27 May 2011


For those with nut allergies, it can be challenging to replicate that nutty flavour or crunch. But it can be done! If you're seed-allergic or gluten-intolerant as well, there are a number of options to help you replace nuts in recipes.

Whole or chopped for extra crunch
These are generally included for extra texture and flavor so they either can be omitted entirely or replaced with:
  • Roasted chickpeas or soybeans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower kernels or sesame seeds
  • Crispy rice cereal, puffed rice, rolled oats, crushed corn or rice chips/crackers, granola or other nut-free toasted muesli mixes
  • Seeds (if you’re not allergic) are a healthy substitute: pumpkin and sunflower kernels can be a great alternative when you want texture or need to ground them to make your own nut-free butters or pastes (eg. pesto) 

Ground nuts or nut meals
If a recipe calls for substitution of an almond or hazelnut meal, try some of the following options on their own or as a combination: 
  • Finely dessicated coconut
  • Roasted and ground sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • Plain or gluten-free flour 
  • Breadcrumbs (gluten-free if required)
  • Oat or wheat bran 
Try my nut-free recipes:

18 May 2011

Sunflower Seed Butter

dairy free egg free nut free vegan gluten free

I'm a fan of Eskal's Freenut Butter - a nut-free substitute for peanut butter. But it's quite sweet and has emulsifiers. Turns out it's dead easy to make yourself!

1 cup sunflower kernels
a few teaspoons sunflower oil or light olive oil

Roast sunflower kernels in a dry saucepan on low-medium to heat for about 5 minutes. Don't leave the stove, and turn them frequently so they don't burn.

Once they've cooled a bit, blitz them in a food processor. You'll need to add a little oil to help the binding process, but do this a little bit at a time.

You can add seasoning to taste (1/4 teaspoon of salt and/or 1/2 teaspoon of honey or golden syrup). It's delicious just on its own though.

Keep refrigerated in an airtight container. It might separate from the oil but just mix again before using.

15 May 2011

Gluten-free Orange Poppyseed Cake

dairy free egg free nut free vegan gluten free

I'll admit to being a little cocky these days when it comes to vegan baking. After 6 long years, I reckon I could tackle just about anything. But recently, vegan combined with gluten-free baking, has reduced me to a blubbering mess in the kitchen! Gummy muffins, boulder breads and chewy cakes - I've baked and binned them all.

Now I'm happy to report that gluten-free disasters are happening less frequently for me (though I suspect they'll continue in the future). I'm also going through different brands of gluten-free flour mixes at a rate of knots. After countless hours of google research as well as investing in a growing library of gluten-free cookbooks, it seems the best cake and cookie mix is one which predominantly features fine brown rice flour. So my next challenge will be to make my own flour mix. However if you're up for baking a lovely cake such as this one, (adapted from Cybele Pascal) use a commercial mix, and I'll be back very soon with a DIY version.

This cake is best eaten on the same day, but you can refresh in the microwave for a good pudding-style treat. Zap for about 20 seconds per piece and serve with dairy-free vanilla ice cream.

2 cups caster sugar
1 tablespoon No Egg replacer mixed with 1/4 cup rice or soy milk
1 cup orange juice
zest of 1 orange, finely chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 cups gluten-free flour mix
3/4 teaspoon xantham gum
4 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup poppy seeds

Orange Syrup
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornflour
1 cup orange juice

Preheat oven to 180 C. Grease a 20 cm bundt pan and dust with cornflour.

Combine the sugar and egg replacer mix and beat in a mixer for about a minute. Add orange juice, zest and oil and mix for another minute or so.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour mix, xantham gum, baking powder and salt.

Add the dry ingredients into the wet in three batches, beating after each addition. Mix in the poppy seeds.

Pour batter into the pan and bake for between 30-40 minutes.

To make the syrup, whisk together sugar and cornflour in a small saucepan. Whisk in the juice and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring continuously until it thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.

Once the cake has cooled in the tin for 5 minutes, turn onto wire rack. Pierce holes in the top of the cake with a skewer (about 20 times) and then pour over the syrup.

26 April 2011

Gluten-free Anzac Biscuits

I like the addition of quinoa flakes here - it makes them slightly more nutritious! If you're a coeliac and can tolerate certified gluten-free oats, try asking at your local health food store. Bob's Red Mill is now being imported from the US and their range of gluten-free oats and flour mixes is excellent.

(If you're watching your weight, my healthier version is available at www.weighitup.com.au)

1 cup dessicated coconut
1/2 cup gluten-free cornflakes
1/2 cup quinoa flakes
1 cup gluten-free plain flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 dairy-free margarine (Nuttelex)
1/4 cup golden syrup
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
2 tablespoons hot water

Preheat oven to 180 C.

Place flour, cornflakes, quinoa flakes and sugar in a bowl, mixing well.

Melt margarine and golden syrup in a saucepan over low heat. Mix water and bicarb then add to saucepan.

Add liquid to dry ingredients and combine very well, with hands if you have to. Place tablespoons of mixture onto a lined baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes. If you like your Anzacs chewy, reduce baking time by a few minutes.

Cool on a wire rack.

21 April 2011

Hot Cross Buns

dairy free egg free nut free vegan

About this time last year, I made at least two attempts at hot cross buns. I tried a version where the butter is melted, and another where it is rubbed into the flour. One made for a very dense bun, almost scone-like. Did I say scones? More like bricks. The other was a vast improvement though the recipe required four proving times. Four! 
I only let the dough rise twice because I figured I'd mastered enough yeast cookery to know when to cut corners.

All was going pretty well until I left them in the oven 3 minutes too long. Wahhh. 
very hot, very cross buns
Later, I wondered why I didn't just make buns out of the Stollen recipe I had tried at Christmas. After sitting in my hall of shame for a full year, I'm ready to tackle them again this Easter weekend (despite the calamity that was the gluten-free experiment a few weeks ago, but I'll spare you the horror for now.)

So here's the adapted Stollen recipe for perfect hot cross buns, just in time for Good Friday.

3 cups plain flour
2 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
7g sachet dried yeast
1 1/2 cup dried mixed fruit
grated zest of 1 orange
150ml soy or rice milk, warmed
100gm dairy-free margarine (Nuttelex), melted
1 egg replacer

50g plain flour
1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons apricot jam

Place flour, sugar, spices, yeast, dried fruits, citrus zest and a pinch of salt in a large bowl, stirring well to combine. Whisk milk, Nuttelex and egg replacer together, then stir into flour mixture to form a soft dough. Knead dough on a floured surface for 5 minutes until smooth, dusting with more flour if too sticky.

Place dough in lightly oiled bowl, turning to grease on all sides. Cover and set aside in a warm place to rise for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 200 C and grease a baking tray or line with baking paper.

Punch down dough, turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth. Divide the dough into approximately 12 pieces and knead each piece into even-sized balls. Place in rows on the tray, cover with a tea towel and stand in a warm place for about half an hour until risen slightly. 

Combine flour and water for the crosses and stir to a smooth paste. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a fine nozzle (or a plastic bag with corner snipped off). Pipe lines down each row to form crosses. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until golden.

Cool on tray for a few minutes while you dilute the jam with a teaspoon of boiling water, then brush over warm buns.

02 April 2011

Nut-free Baklava

dairy free egg free nut free vegan gluten free

This recipe makes an enormous slab of baklava. It's a special event dish, so you'll need more than a few friends to help eat it. Toasting the sunflower kernels brings out their nutty flavour making them an ideal nut substitute.

If you are gluten-free, you could try layering with just a few sheets of Pastry Pantry's Rough Puff Pastry which is also vegan, preservative-free and trans-fat free.

750g fillo pastry (Antoniou)
2 cups sunflower kernels, lightly toasted in oven
300g dairy-free margarine (Nuttelex)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1tsp cloves

2 cups water
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup honey or golden syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon

TIP: When using fillo pastry, ensure you bring the unopened packets to room temperature for a couple of hours prior to using. Use fresh (refrigerated) fillo rather than frozen. Always keep the unused pastry covered while you're layering or it will dry out and crack, making it difficult to handle.

Preheat oven to 180C.

Melt margarine and lightly grease 25 x 43cm baking tray. Trim pastry to size of tray and keep trimmings. Layer one packet of pastry, brushing with margarine after every second or third sheet of pastry.

Roughly process toasted sunflower kernels in a food processor, then combine with sugar, cinnamon and cloves in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over top layer. Place the trimmed pieces of pastry from both packets on top of the nut mixture before continuing to layer the remaining pastry.

Cut into diamond or square shapes, making sure to cut right through to the base. You may want to refrigerate for half an hour as it makes cutting the fine pastry a little easier.

Pour remaining margarine (if any left) over the baklava and it will be absorbed by the pastry. 

Bake for about 1 hour or until golden brown. Make the syrup while it's cooling - combine all the ingredients, bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes.

Pour hot syrup over baklava and sprinkle with kernels.

20 February 2011

Icings, Frostings, Glazes & Ganaches

dairy free egg free nut free vegan

If you bake as often as I do, then these are recipe essentials.

You can do a very respectable job of icing your cupcakes and cakes and staying dairy-free. But you need to observe two rules:

1. Never allow your dairy-free margarine to 'soften' before using, like you would with butter. Due to its higher water and lower fat content, it seems to break down and you will run into problems mixing it with other ingredients and it won't hold its shape.

2. Always chill your icing before using.

This is as comprehensive a list as I can manage - but if you have an icing recipe that just must be shared, please drop me a note!

Dairy free Vanilla Frosting
125g dairy-free margarine
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract (or other flavourings)

Beat margarine in small bowl with electric mixer until as white as possible - then beat in sifted icing sugar. You can replace vanilla with lemon juice or other juice if you want a flavoured frosting - you might want to increase it to 1tbsp.

Makes 1 3/4 cups

Dairy free Chocolate Frosting
100g dairy free margarine
4 tbsp water
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
4 tbsp cocoa powder

Combine margarine, water and caster sugar in small saucepan; stir over low heat until sugar dissolves.

Combine sifted icing sugar and cocoa in medium bowl; gradually stir in hot spread mixture until smooth. Cover; refrigerate 20 minutes. Using wooden spoon, beat frosting until spreadable.

Makes 1 1/2 cups

Dairy free Cream Cheese Icing
60g dairy-free margarine
160g dairy-free cream cheese
3 cups icing sugar

Beat margarine and cream cheese in small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy; gradually beat in sifted icing sugar.

Makes 2 1/2 cups

Fluffy Mock Cream
2 tbsp rice/soy milk
1/3 cup water
1 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon gelatine
2 tbsp water, extra
250g dairy free margarine
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine milk, water and sugar in small saucepan; stir over low heat, without boiling, until sugar is disolved. Sprinkle gelatine over extra water in cup, add to pan; stir syrup until gelativne is dissolved. Cool to room temperature.

Beat butter and extract in small bowl with electric mixer, until as white as possible. While motor is operating, gradually pour in cold syrup; beat until light and fluffy. Mixture will thicken on standing.

Makes 2 cups

Glace Icing
4 cups icing sugar
2 tsp dairy free margarine
4 tbsp hot water, approximately

Sift icing sugar into small heatproof bowl; stir in margarine and enough of the hot water to make a thick paste. Place bowl over small saucepan of simmering water; stir until icing is spreadable.

Makes 2 cups

2 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice (approx) or other flavoured juice

Sift icing sugar into small heatproof bowl, stir in enough strained juice to give a thick pouring consistency. Stir over small saucepan of simmering water until thin enough to make a spreadable opaque glaze.

Makes 1 cup

Chocolate Ganache (dairy free, vegan)
You can make an excellent ganache by first finding a dairy/egg/nut free chocolate (Kinnerton Luxury Chocolate Bar is my favourite). Ganache is fantastic for drizzling over a cake and letting harden, or allowing to cool slightly before icing and a filling a cake (goes well under fondant when decorating). You can also let it cool and then whip into a frenzy and use to pipe frosting onto cupcakes.

Rice or soy milk is fine to use, but lately I've been trialling coconut cream which results in a richer taste and more luscious texture.

1 cup rice/soy milk or coconut cream
400g dairy-free chocolate, chopped coarsely

Bring milk or cream to boil in small saucepan; remove from heat. Add chocolate immediately and stir until melted and smooth.

Use while still warm and pourable, or cool and then beat with a wooden spoon until spreadable.

Makes 2 cups

Chocolate Mousse Frosting (dairy free, vegan)
Sometimes, you just want to give the Nuttelex a break. Using tofu makes a nice change, as long as you sweeten and flavour it well.
350g silken tofu
1/4 cup rice or soy milk
2 tablespoons honey or golden syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
350g dairy-free choc chips

Blend tofu, milk, vanilla and golden syrup in a blender and mix. Melt choc chips over a double boiler or in the microwave, allow to cool slightly then add to blender and mix with the tofu. Refrigerate in covered bowl for at least an hour before using.

Ready to roll Fondant Icing (dairy free, vegan)
This is what you use when you want to try a fancily decorated cake. I wouldn't dream of making my own, though there are recipes out there for home-made fondant and marshmallow versions. Luckily, most commercial varieties are dairy/egg/nut free (eg Orchard available at most supermarkets).

29 January 2011

Baby Octopus & Chickpea Salad

dairy free egg free nut free gluten free

"But where's the chorizo?" asked the husband.

Not the first time he's uttered these words, mind. (I once dared make a seafood-only paella - apparently one of the great culinary sins of our time, judging from the look on his face.)

Men and meat! They wish it could adorn every meal, don't they? And I think they particularly love Spanish food because it's the one cuisine that legitimises the use of seafood and meat in the same dish - a culturally acceptable version of 'surf 'n' turf'.

Feel free to enjoy this recipe with or without the chorizo. (Though I suggest adding it for the sake of domestic harmony - or just because it's also very tasty.)

1kg baby octopus, cleaned (ask your fishmonger)
1 can organic chickpeas
handful of rocket leaves
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped
1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 punnet of very sweet cherry or grape tomatoes
1/4 red onion, very finely sliced
1 chorizo sausage, sliced and pan fried

Slice the chorizo and pan fry pieces in a dry pan (no need for oil). Set aside. Preheat bbq or griddle pan. Wash octopus and pat dry with paper towel. Slice each octopus in half lengthways and toss in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper and the finely chopped garlic. Cook octopus on grill or bbq for a minute on each side (possibly even less - be mindful, overcooked octopus is inedible!)

Combine herbs, rocket, tomatoes, chorizo and chickpeas in a bowl and toss with some olive oil, salt, pepper and juice of half a lemon. Add cooked octopus and chorizo and mix together, drizzling with some more olive oil.

18 January 2011

Vegan Palak Paneer

dairy free egg free nut free gluten free vegan

I did promise a nut-free chicken korma recipe a while ago except I'm still experimenting (last attempt yielded an inexplicably fluorescent yellow hue!)

In the meantime, here's a vegetarian contribution - a classic Indian spinach curry. If you can eat dairy, go ahead and cube up some paneer. To keep it vegan, you can add some lightly fried tofu pieces. But if that's not your thing (and quite frankly, it wasn't ours - it makes the photo look more authentic but we enjoyed the curry far more without it), steamed/boiled waxy potatoes cut into cubes would also be delicious.

1 block of firm tofu, cubed and lightly pan-fried in oil OR 2 cups of steamed waxy potato, cut into cubes
1 large bunch of spinach, washed
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
piece of ginger, about 1/2 inch, grated
2 green chillies, finely chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp garam masala
3/4 cup tomato puree
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup water
salt to taste

Blanch spinach in a large pot of boiling water. Drain then blend in a food processor to a smooth paste.

Heat oil in pan and fry onions until translucent.

Add the garlic, ginger, green chillies and turmeric and fry for about a minute.

Add the tomato puree and fry for another minute.

Add spinach paste, tofu or potatoes, garam masala, salt and water then bring to the boil.

Serve hot with steamed basmati rice.

03 January 2011

Grilled Radicchio

dairy free egg free nut free gluten free vegan

I'm afraid my new year's resolution to eat more seasonally, and therefore sustainably, is off to a shaky start. Radicchio is normally harvested in winter, however given the unusually cool start to our Melbourne summer (it even snowed, you know!) I declared its discovery at the grocer this afternoon "unseasonably sustainable".

It was a head of very pretty radicchio and I immediately thought of grilling it on the bbq, something I have never tried. I think the Treviso variety is more suited to grilling, though it was delicious all the same - the bitterness mellowed by the chargrill and the final dressing.

But I promise to wait until winter before buying it again.

1 head of radicchio
2-3 cloves finely chopped garlic
a few tablespoons of olive oil then more for drizzling
1/4 cup chopped parsley
lemon juice or some good quality balsamic vinegar to finish
salt & pepper to season

Cut the radicchio into quarters or wedges, depending on the size of the head.  For the Treviso variety (elongated), cut them lengthwise. Brush all over with a mixture of olive oil and finely chopped garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place on a medium-hot grill or bbq.  Grill for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle olive oil, sprinkle parsley and finish with fresh lemon juice or balsamic vinegar.