Thursday, September 30, 2010

North Indian spiced cauliflower with ginger recipe... and sun, glorious sun!

It seems someone was listening to my ranting about the weather of late, we've just been blessed with not one but three days of sun! So we've spent our days out doors lapping up the Vitamin D, climbing plum trees, playing at the beach and going for walks...
I thought I'd share a few shots taken over the weekend, just to prove to you how truly glorious it was, along with this recipe for super simple spiced cauliflower with ginger from my new favourite Indian cookbook.

It's a little book called 50 great curries of India written by Camellia Punjabi. First published back in the early 90's it's been so popular, selling over 1.25 million copies worldwide, that it's been re-published and updated a couple of times since. Why I've only just found out about this book I do not know? If you are serious about making real Indian curries and are not put off by long ingredient lists then this could quite possibly be the best curry cookbook, ever.
Friday, September 24, 2010

spring fennel, pear and pecan salad recipe

It feels a tad strange writing about Spring salads because as I write rain is once again falling outside. We've had the fire going all day long the past few days and it still feels like winter to me! I was talking to my Dad the other night and we were both whingeing about the bad weather we have had here in New Zealand over the past few months....and he reckons that in every 24 hour period, there has been rain for over 80 days! Yep I'd believe that it feels like even longer. Sure we have had the odd sunny day, September 1st was lovely if I remember rightly....but then come night fall the rain has always set in once again. I have to say that it's enough to drive even the most loyal Kiwi to move to warmer lands...I hear Perth is a lovely 25 degrees at the moment!!! It's either that or be driven to insanity!
Monday, September 20, 2010

dancing in the kitchen with Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef

Today I made brownie. Gluten-free brownie, with peanut butter swirls none the less. I know, I know, I've been on a bit of a chocolate buzz these days, what with my gluten-free chocolate, chilli and blueberry slice, followed in quick secession by Flourless chocolate love cake with raspberries and cream... but when I was given the chance to try out a few of Shauna and Danny's recipes (from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef) even before their new cookbook Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: A Love Story with 100 Tempting Recipes was released, of course I jumped at the chance!!! In case you have been hiding under a rock somewhere and are not familiar with their world famous blog, Shauna James Ahern has been leading the way in creating tasty, gorgeous looking gluten-free food since way back in 2005 when she was first diagnosed with Celiac disease, and then taking it up yet another notch when she met and then married Danny Ahern, a talented and super passionate chef.
Thursday, September 16, 2010

bitter grapefruit curd recipe

With our grapefruit tree laden to breaking point I've been looking at new ways to use this much loved New Zealand backyard fruit. Sure there's always marmalade, which I have been meaning to get onto making for about a month or so now... but I wanted to make something else. I love lemon curd also know as lemon honey in this part of the world, so I got onto thinking why not make curd using grapefruit? I set about making it one day last week, curds are so easy to make and a such a nice change from the usual jam on toast. The end result is almost like a cross between lemon curd and marmalade. You get the smooth creaminess from the butter and yolks, a little tang from the citrus, though not quite as much as in a lemon curd, then you get this interesting little bitter thing happening at the end, reminiscent of a good marmalade. Quite nice really. And while lemon curd will probably always be the favourite of mine, this definitely makes for an interesting change.
Sunday, September 12, 2010

flourless chocolate love cake with raspberries & cream recipe

Phew, it's been a full on few weeks here. Ada and Kye have tag-teamed being sick, we've had colds, ear infections and vomiting. In the middle of that I tried in vain to celebrate my 30th birthday. We managed a cake. Then the south Island of New Zealand got hammered by a earthquake and numerous after shocks, there was flooding in the central North Island and then another earthquake, in the Hawkes Bay area this time. I also made the decision to switch blogging hosts over here to Blogger, so there have been a fare few late nights had by me......see what I mean!!! Phew.
On a more positive note spring has well and truly arrived the past few days, delivering lovely warm nights and sunny days. The kids are all better now and life seems to be getting back to normal, thank god.
So, cake. This one is a lovely flourless chocolate cake, super rich and so easy to make. That being said it does use expensive ingredients, so I usually save it for special 30th birthdays :-)
Wednesday, September 8, 2010

growing tomatoes from seed

 I've just got my tomato seeds in and thought there may be a few of you that would enjoy a little write-up on how to grow vegetables from seed.
 See there comes a time in your gardening life when you have seriously caught the gardening bug and you want to take full control of things from the get-go. This means buying or saving your own seeds and growing them from scratch.
 A few years back I caught “the bug”. I got online, looked up kings seeds, put in an order and waited with great anticipation for them in the post. That first year, I just kind of bunged them in some trays of seed raising mix and hoped for the best. (It seems to be my style doesn’t it?) I didn’t know about pricking them out and putting them into regular potting mix, so they all ended up leggy and not very healthy. I did some asking around and after talking to my Dad and also Nana next door I soon realised where I had gone wrong. See it seems seed raising mix contains a lot of nitrogen, which is good to give the seeds that initial burst of growth, but left too long in this and they grow too long and leggy. Oops.

 So here’s my tried and true way to grow tomatoes from seed. Which by the way not only makes gardening more economical, but it also means you can choose from a much greater variety of tomatoes than those offered at your local garden centre.
 Specialty seed companies like Kings seeds and Bristol stock all sorts from tasty heirlooms such as “Red Krim” and “Purple Calabash” both of which I’d love to try growing one day, to hybrids such as “sweet million” the cherry tomato that keeps on growing and growing and growing! Or try saving your own seeds as we do, it’s super easy. They have to be from heirloom tomatoes though. If you save hybrid F1 tomato seeds they will still grow, but they wont come true to type as they have been bred by cross-pollination from two selected parents, so you could end up with either one! All you need to do it choose a fully ripe heirloom tomato, either from your garden or from your local farmers market.
 Slice your tomato in half or pull apart, squeeze out the seeds (the rest of the flesh can be eaten) and spread them onto a paper towel. Make sure they are not all clumped together. Leave them to dry in the sun for a few days, fold up the piece of paper, label it and store in a cool, dry place.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

gluten-free chocolate, chilli and blueberry slice recipe & the big three O

So my birthday has come and gone. I’m 30. It’s funny, most birthdays pass without me giving them much thought, I’m not usually one to fret and think about getting older. But here’s the thing, I remember my own mother turning 30. I remember her party, I remember the band that played up at my Dad's shoe workshop that night at the top of our driveway, I remember my mum drinking her rum and Herbal cola and us kids freaking out seeing her drunk (poor mum, after having four kids by 27, it was probably her first night “out” in years!) I remember my friends being there too.

Does that mean I am an actual real grown up? That I am old enough to remember my Mum being my age?

With one sick child and another going stir crazy being cooped up indoors there wasn’t a whole lot of celebrating going down yesterday. It’s Father's day on sunday, so we thought we’d wait till then to eat cake. But me being me I had to at least make something lovely and sweet to eat with the kids for afternoon tea. Chocolate and chilli is for me a match made in heaven. Bitter dark chocolate with a touch of heat from the chilli just tickling your tonsils is just what the day needed.

on the road to Pukehina………

With my 30th birthday fast approaching what better way to spend my last weekend as a 20-something-year-old than to go and hang with one of the most important people in my life, and the one who shared my “birth”day with me all those years ago. Mama. Sure you love your mum growing up, but I’ve found that it’s not until you become one yourself that you realise just how truly amazing mums are. The kids and I decided at the last-minute to head over and visit mum and my little sisters new place, a 2 1/2 hour drive from Raglan, leaving Si at home for a few days rest from fatherhood.

Since having kids, I can almost count on one hand the amount of times that we have left little ol’ Raglan, so as you can imagine the kids and I were super excited! Kye squealed with excitement and pointed out every big truck that went past, as well as screaming out digger every time he spotted one. Ada on the other hand pointed out every tree in spring blossom, stating which shade of pink each tree was, “light pink, like I like” or “dark pink, like you like mum”. Having been so isolated over the past few years it’s easy for me to forget that the rest of New Zealand is not like vibrant little Raglan. Passing through little towns, almost deserted, with old dairy's (deli’s for you Aussies, corner stores for the rest of you) no longer in use, tagged from left to right, I couldn't help but wonder where has everyone gone? Have they moved to the big cities looking for a “better” life?

thai yellow curry with pumpkin, tofu and spinach recipe

Lately I’ve been feeling just a tad envious of friends and family that are overseas. One of my dearest friends has just left for 6 months in India and Nepal, a trip we talked about doing together the very first night we met… 9 years ago now. I feel so totally, utterly and overwhelmingly proud of her for going, I only wish I could have joined her too! But there is always next time eh. Then there is my youngest brother who is travelling home after nearly 3 years in Europe, Scotland mostly. He is in Malaysia as we speak and his tales of staying and travelling with locals, eating non-stop” sampling every local specialty is enough to make anyone feel just a tad jealous. So what does one do to console themselves in such ‘hard ‘ times? Cook. Yep cook. I thought if I can’t be there with Louie, I’d do the next best thing and cook myself up a bowl of spicy Thai curry. Then at least with my eyes closed and the fire well stoked, I can almost imagine I’m on a palm lined beach somewhere in South East Asia.

Many of you may think it’s all a little too hard to make your own curry paste from scratch, but let me assure you, if you have a food processor and a little time it’s easy. This recipe makes enough paste for about 3-4 lots of curry, the left over paste can be stored in the fridge covered with a thin-film of oil for up to 1 week. Or do as I do and freeze it in ice-cube trays (one cube = 1 Tbsp) then once frozen, pop them out and store cubes in bags in the freezer for up to 3 months I’d say. There’s no need to defrost the paste, just stir it straight into the split coconut cream. By doing this you can break the whole curry making process into 2 steps. Set aside some time one day to make the paste, store in fridge or freezer and then you’ll only be about 10-15 mins away from making your curry come dinner time. Just as long as it takes for your rice to cook. Perfect.

gluten-free rosemary and lemon cookie recipe

Making cookies was one of my main jobs when I first started out cooking in a local cafe as an eager 17-year-old. We didn’t have a cake mixer at that time so it was all done by hand. I got pretty good at creaming butter and sugar with a wooden spoon, something my Nana and even my mother would have had no other choice but to do so. I still, even now 12 almost 13 years later don’t own my own stand up cake mixer. And as much as I do dream of having a lovely pale yellow kitchen aid, for now I’m more than happy doing it by hand, or with my trusty little hand-held mixer. I still vividly remember being scalded by my chef for throwing the butter and sugar in the food processor, thinking this would speed things up. It did speed things up, but it doesn’t result in quite the same light and fluffy consistency that you are after. Lesson learnt.

These sweet little cookies are flavoured with lemons picked from my Nana’s next door neighbours and aromatic rosemary from our garden. The great thing about cookies like these is that you can roll the dough up in baking paper and store them for up to 1 week. Slicing off chunks as you go and baking them fresh when you want. To do this, scoop the dough onto a sheet of baking/parchment paper. Shape loosely into a log shape and roll the paper up as you would a sushi roll to enclose the dough. Twist the ends to secure and store on a tray in the fridge for at least 1-2 hours to firm or up to 1 week. You can then cut slices off and bake as many as you want. These rolls can also be frozen for up to 2-3 months.

chocolate tofu mousse recipe

Last year a friend of mine (Rosie Percival) and her friend Ruth Friedlander put out a cute little cookbook, self published and self promoted the girls have done such an amazing job of it that I just felt I had to share! Martha goes green is a precious little cookbook, and today's chocolate tofu mousse is one of the recipes that instantly caught my eye. But first a little about the book.

Written by the two former media art students this book started out as just a collection of recipes to give away to family and friends as Christmas presents, but it quickly turned into something else altogether. New Zealanders Rosie and Ruth are now based in Australia and their whimsical vegetarian cookbook has been taking Melbourne and the rest of Australia by storm.

This self published book is a labour of love and the beauty of self publishing has meant that the girls had full choice over the total package, it’s made out of 100% recycled materials, the ink used in printing is a natural vegetable ink and the lovely organic cotton bags that the book comes in are from an Australian company who gets the bags made in India via a fair trade system with organic cotton.

The recipes are simple, achievable vegetarian and vegan family style ranging from dishes like yellow Thai curry, sorta shepherd’s pie (made with beans), curry puffs, vegan carrot cake to desserts like chocolate tofu mousse and sago pudding. There are also a few gluten-free cakes and dairy free recipes, and a few of my own families recipes too!
The girls have done all their own promotion of the book and it’s now being sold in over 50 shops throughout Australia, New Zealand and even one stockist in the U.K, as well as online.

braised chickpeas with spinach, mint, haloumi & mojo verde recipe

With more and more sun making an appearance over the last few days (even though the rain is back again today!), a few daffodils popping out over at nana’s and spring fast approaching, I am starting to think about a summer garden. This month is the best time to get those tomato seeds into trays and get them growing, all ready for planting out come labour weekend (Oct). I’m going to buy some seed potatoes to plant next time I’m in the big city too and hopefully we’ll be eating new potatoes come Christmas time. Yum.

gluten-free raspberry & coconut scone recipe, rainy days and playdough ants…

A few days ago on one of those lovely New Zealand winter days where the rain persists for 99% of the day, the kids and I had to get pretty creative to keep entertained. We played “faeries and princesses”, Ada’s favourite. We dressed up and danced to Michael Jackson. We put our gumboots on and trudged around in the backyard in the teeny break in the weather, Kye’s favourite. The kids rode their bikes on the deck, Ada made an entire army of play dough ants, and I made scones.

After my last post about Kefir, a good friend of mine commented on how she had made honey Kefir scones, since then I haven’t been able to get scones out of my head!!!! It’s been about 5 or more years since I've made scones. I used to make them every morning at a cafe I worked at, but since going gluten-free I've never quiet had the urge to try them out, oh no actually, I lie. I did make some savoury ones many years ago, just after Ada was born I think. Back when I was a gluten-free novice and didn't even know about xanthan gum. Yep, I remember now, all I wanted was to have a little something to go with a pot of soup that was bubbling away on the stove. I was too tight to fork out for (expensive) gluten-free bread, and because it was only me that was eating gluten-free (Ada was a baby and Kye was not even a twinkle in my eye at that stage) I decided I would whip up a quick batch of gluten-free scones…..I’m not sure if I used a recipe, adapted it from a wheat recipe or what, but I do remember the hideous crumbly rocks that resulted.

kefir – probiotic goodness

I was sitting in the waiting room of the Naturopaths clinic (where I got the kids and myself allergy tested)  when I first came across an article about Kefir. It sounded amazing. A lactose-free probiotic yoghurt drink sounded almost too good to be true! But as is with many things, I wrote the name down, placed it in my bag and promptly forgot all about it. A few months later a tiny little write-up in the taste magazine had me eager to find out more, so after jumping online and doing a little research I had some milk kefir grain arriving by courier the next day. This was over a year ago and since then I have also acquired some of the water kefir grains. Even though I didn’t know it at the time, Mum and Dad used to make kefir yoghurt for our family when I was little, so Mum was pretty happy to get her hands on some again!

If you have never heard of Kefir (apparently pronounced “Keh-fear" even though I hate to admit that we call it “ke-wha”, being the good New Zealanders that we are!) you really should check out Dom’s kefir site. Kefir has some pretty big claims to fame including; the ability to heal lactose intolerance, improve immunity, heal eczema, re-balance intestinal flora, heal leaky gut syndrome, slow the aging process, increase energy to name but a few and for us it has been an amazing alternative to milk and yoghurt (although we do now tolerate regular yoghurt). Once mixed with milk and left to ferment at room temperature for around 24 hours the grains turn the milk into an amazing lactose-free cultured probiotic milk drink and can be left slightly longer and the whey strained off, leaving a thick lactose-free yoghurt. The grains grow, so you will always have excess to pass onto friends and family, but just be warned that it does take a little commitment on your part to keep the grains alive, it’s almost like having a pet in a way.

quinoa with roast Kumara & chimichurri recipe

Quinoa, my friend. We go a long way back, you were my Savior when I couldn’t eat anything else! For months on end I cooked you up, along with plain roasted root vegetables and ate you, over and over again. Thank you for your sustenance. But now it’s time to add a wee bit more flavour and to truly start re-appreciating your brilliance!

Urged on by a good friend to post some quinoa recipes I have come up with this lovely wee recipe. Chimichurri is like a Argentinian salsa verde, it’s hot, sour and salty. Just perfect to go with earthy quinoa and golden roasted Kumara. Kumara is one of New Zealand’s most well-loved vegetables, known as sweet potato to the rest of the world. I used the standard red Kumara’s for this recipe, I love their smooth creamy chestnutty flavour and texture, but use which ever ones are available to you. I know that in Australia the orange and gold ones are more common.

How to: compost

Brother Ben's favourite technique for homemade nutrient rich compost based on some reading and some experimenting.
(Written by Ben Galloway, edited by me)

Now people seem to think that just because your compost ingredients look like s*%$t that means you can go ahead and treat it like s%#@t. Hiding and neglecting it. Holding your nose, turning away and cursing it whenever you are forced to face it! Then hoping that it’ll magically transform overnight into something beautiful.

Well the thing is, that just like you… and the rest of your garden. If you want compost to be your friend and work well for you it needs love and affection too! It needs to be watered, aerated, and kept warm, as well as being made right to start with. One good way to do this is to have an open air compost pile. Then you’ll be forced to spend some time with your pile to not have it looking or smelling nasty. Now this is just one of many way to compost but I like this technique cause it’s easy to work with and you don’t need a bin. The ideal spot to get a nice contained pile would be in a corner backed onto two walls. But really any little square in an unassuming spot will do.

So where to start and what to put in? Well the ultimate rule as far as what to put in isif it once was alive, you can use it”. Now that covers a lot! From vacuum bag contents, to hair (yep, either pulled from your hairbrush or from your latest trim), old egg cartons, cardboard and even ripped up old clothing! Some of these will take longer than others, but left long enough they will all turn into compost. But for me a standard compost pile would be as follows.

Once you’ve found your spot, firstly dig out a little shallow pit 10-20 cm deep before you start the layering. This adds the right soil bacteria needed for decomposition.

  • 1. small twigs & leaves
  • 2. lawn clippings
  • 3. animal manure
  • 4. paper & cardboard (wax-free)
  • 5. food scraps/ garden waste
  • 6. soil from site (not essential, but of you have it, use).
  • 7. blood & bone, lime, fertiliser, seaweed, crushed egg shells.

sunny days, crazy kids and tofu musubi

Just a quick wee post, sorry no recipe this time. The kids and I had such a great time catching up with old friends the other day that I just had to share a few pics. It’s hard to believe that in a town as small as Raglan, 6 months can pass between catch ups. But with everyone’s lives so busy, children to take care of, work to get on with the months seem to fly by at an alarming rate. My two girlfriends have been in my life for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until we all had kids at the same time that we really became close. Those “coffee group” catch ups when our eldest were babies is what kept us all sane, I’m sure of it. The importance of having other mums to share the sometimes overwhelming experience of motherhood is something that can not be stressed enough!

We met down at the Kopua park that backs onto the beach. It’s still the middle of winter, highs of a mere 15 degrees! But the kids all decided they wanted to go swimming! I tried in vain to stop them but one by one, layer by layer the clothes came off and before we knew it they were all running along the waters edge squealing in absolute joy and excitement! Oh to be a kid again. Thank god the sun was out and it was actually quite warm in the sheltered spot where they swam.

gluten-free spiced gingerbread cake recipe

Back when I was still breastfeeding Kye and eating was like walking on eggs shells (with all fingers and toes crossed) hoping that what I was eating wouldn’t leave him screaming in pain all night, my lovely brother Louie sent me a wonderful and life saving book over from Scotland. Vegetarian cooking without by Barbara Cousins was my saviour. It’s a book full of recipes free from added gluten, yeast, dairy, meat, fish and saturated fat. Yep pretty much everything that I was having to cut out of my diet in the hopes of helping Kye’s sore tummy and for us to have a little bit more than 2 hours sleep a night.

This was one of the first cakes I made from the book, sweetened with stewed dates this cake is so good for you it should really be bad! I’m constantly amazed by cakes like this, there was once a time when I thought you needed lots of sugar, wheat and dairy to make a nice cake but not anymore.

red cabbage slaw with sesame and feta recipe

I have to admit, I've never really been a huge cabbage fan. Sure I’ll eat it if it’s on offer. But It’s not something I have ever brought regularly. I tend to prefer Asian veges like Bok choy, pak choy and choi sum as well as my lovely wee Brussels sprouts. All that seems to have changed lately, I’m not sure why really? Maybe it was after spending last Christmas and New Years in Perth with my mother-in-law? Vietnamese use cabbage extensively and I loved eating it in everything Ngot made for me; sautéed with onions to form the base for vegetarian spring rolls, in the vegetarian Pho she treated me to when everyone else ate traditional Beef Pho. Even just simply stir-fried with a little oil and garlic was nice.

So yes it seems I’ve had a complete turn around when it comes to the humble old cabbage. We tried growing them in our garden, the winter Kye was born. It was such hard work keeping those white butterflies off and we only ended up with one that grew to full size... but that one, I tell you, was the sweetest, crispest, juiciest cabbage ever to pass my lips. If only brother Ben had been around to taste its goodness. He’s a cabbage man you see, actually both my brothers are. Back in the day Ben and Louie would buy a cabbage and just eat big raw chunks for dinner!

I think it’s also the Scottish side of me coming out, one huge cabbage for only 89 cents! You can’t really complain can you? This Coleslaw type salad is one I’ve been making a lot lately, based on a salad my Mum used to make when we were kids (hers used raw cauliflower, cottage cheese and sesame seeds) and also one that Dad is quiet famous for (his version uses raw cauliflower, sesame seeds, and a mayonnaise/vinaigrette type dressing). I’m not much of a mayonnaise fan and we can’t eat cottage cheese anymore. But for some strange reason and one that I’m definitely not complaining about, feta seems to be ok with the kids and I. Hence the reason my dressing is a feta based one.

We have parsley growing in the garden and I tend to use a lot simply because we have loads. The Sorrel is not something everyone will have access to, so if you don’t have it don’t worry. I was so excited when I first tasted sorrel. I had fallen in love with a nameless herb Ngot grows in Perth way back when Si and I first went there. She uses it in Rice paper rolls and I wanted to know what the herb was, but she only knew the Vietnamese name for it. So when I saw it at the garden centre in NZ and realised it was Sorrel I was pretty excited. It’s the best herb to plant as it just keeps producing. We planted ours 4 years ago when we brought our house and all year-round I pick it. The kids love eating it straight from the garden and although I’m yet to do anything with it other than use it in salads and rice paper rolls, I have seen many recipes for using it cooked. It adds a lovely herbaceous citrusy note, which I especially love in salads.

Monday, September 6, 2010

golden brussels with chestnuts & garlic recipe

July has been declared “brussels sprouts awareness month” by the New Zealand Gardener magazine after the nation voted and the poor wee brussels came out on top (or should that be bottom?) by a mile as New Zealand’s most hated vegetable! Not only did Kiwi’s say they hated them, they loathed them so much that nearly 30% of the total least-liked votes were for these baby Brassicas!!!!

We adore the dear wee brussels in our house. Well, all of us except Kye. He doesn’t eat many cooked veges though (prefers raw) so I don’t think it’s anything personal against brussels sprouts. I think people either seem to love them or hate them. And I’d be so confident as to bet you that most of the people who say they hate them, haven’t even tried them since being forced to at a young age. Back in the day mums used to think cooking brussels sprouts meant boiling them to death in a little pot (like my mum did - love you mum) till they were mushy, water-logged and slightly sulphur-like in smell! You know the funny thing though? I actually used to like those mushy brussels!! (does that make me a true brussels sprout fan!!??) Though not nearly as much as I do cooked till just tender in a little olive oil or ghee.

We have tried to grow our own, twice in fact. Not quite sure what we did wrong though? The first year I think they got completely hammered by those damn white butterflies and their army of little green caterpillars, they didn’t stand a chance. The second year (last year) we tried again, but I think our soil was all out, as we got nice bushy plants but only teeny sprouts (like the little one on the right in the photo above). Too much nitrogen (sheep poo!) I think? So this year we’ve had a break from trying to grow them…..and are just buying them. When buying, look for compact little sprouts. If they show any sign of yellowing on the outer leaves, put back and walk away!

gluten-free cardamom, pistachio and rosewater shortbread recipe

I love Cardamom. Those beautiful little green nuggets of flavour add such a delightful taste to both savoury and sweet alike. When I spotted a recipe by Aran @ Cannelle et Vanille for Apricot, pistachio and lemon shortbread tarts recently I just knew I had to try it out . But instead of making the tarts I just used the base shortbread recipe adding my own flavours and baking them as cookies. The end results were amazing!! Now I’m not usually one to love shortbread (I’m more of a gooey chocolate cookie kinda gal) but add the cardamom and I’m just hooked. I was intending for these to be a treat for Si, as it’s been awhile since I've baked anything specially for him and he can’t get enough of their buttery crumbly goodness, but once me and the kids got into them he only got a few! Oops.

One of my closest and dearest friends used to make little parcels of  “love fudge” which she would package up in cellophane and deliver to everyone on her bike many many moons ago. She would flavour the fudge with crushed cardamom seeds and everyone around town would be raving about “graceful’s love fudge” for weeks after. Another of my fondest cardamom memories is from my first Vipassana meditation course that I sat with my two younger brothers when I was 21 years old. On the last day of the 10 day silent course they served us Kheer an Indian rice pudding flavoured with flecks of cardamom. It tasted like heaven to me at the time and 8 years on, I can still remember the beautiful scent of the Kheer and how delicious it tasted after going through all that you do on such a course.

The great thing about gluten-free shortbread is that you achieve a “short” bite to the cookie without even having to try! It’s such an important thing when making wheat flour shortbread, to make sure you don’t over-work the dough as there is nothing worse than a dense chewy shortbread. But by using gluten-free flours you will never run the risk of over working the gluten as there is none to begin with! These cookies are quite possibly the nicest shortbread I have ever tasted and I would recommend to people, even if you can/do eat wheat flour to at least substitute half of the amount of normal flour for rice flour. It gives a delicate crispness to them.

carrot, radish and moong dal salad with spiced dressing recipe

After what feels like months of rain, the sun has finally made its long overdue appearance. Thank god. The kids and I have been suffering from serious cabin fever and the school holidays (well kindy/daycare holidays) wouldn’t have been any fun for us if we had to spend them indoors! With the sun came family, lots of family. We had one cousin and her daughter up from the Kapiti coast, one out from Cambridge with her son and my Mum and little sister came down from Waiheke. They brought with them one of my long-lost brother’s, who has just spent 1 1/2 years living in Australia and the past 5 months travelling and volunteering through Europe and Africa. He’s come home fizzing (to use one of mums expressions) and all ready to do an extreme makeover on our compost bin of all things!! Sorting out the compost bin has always been on our list of things to do….it’s just that we are more of the “chuck the vege scraps in the bin and shut it as fast as you can while hoping for the best” kinda people. Occasionally Si or I will put a layer of lawn clippings or leaves in when the guilt gets too much. Maybe that’s why it takes so long to turn into usable compost!! So in the coming weeks, I’ll write a post on composting and brother Ben will show us all how to do it good and proper! He reckons we will have delicious nutrient rich compost in only a few months.

gluten-free chocolate pear cake recipe

Four years ago today I became a Mum. Right about now, I was in the birthing pool, pushing and screaming, only moments away from seeing one of the two most beautiful little things I've ever layed my eyes on (Kye being the other.) The whole birthing process really is amazing, actually us humans beings are amazing. I would never have thought just how much my life was about to change, and even if someone had mentioned it to me I doubt I would have listened let alone fully understood what they were saying.

So today we celebrated. I had it all planned out weeks ago, Ada’s birthday cupcakes would be my first post. It all seemed a little too perfect you know, starting a blog that was inspired by our new eating habits since having kids with allergies, on the actual day my life changed so dramatically, with none other than Ada’s birthday cakes. Hmmmmm yep. But just as in real life, it didn't turn out quite as I had planned. As much as it has stressed my neurotic Virgo self I’ve had to just let go and go with it. So what happened is the cupcakes turned out to be not only the ugliest cupcakes ever, but also the driest and most gag-inducing cupcakes I've ever tasted! Ah gotta love gluten-free cooking! Yep life ain't always so perfect. But it doesn't need to be, Ada had a great day and has been thanking me all day for a party that was amazing in her four-year old eyes, bless.

Thankfully for me and you though, this has been a week of birthdays! My older sister also celebrated her birthday this past week and the cake I made for her turned out to be the most flavoursome and beautifully moist gluten and dairy free cake I have ever tasted. It is the closest thing I have tasted to the real thing, you know by ‘real’ I mean chocolate cake made with wheat and dairy. It was heavily inspired by a chocolate apple cake I found in The Australian Women’s Weekly Gluten-free & Allergy-free eating cookbook I received as a gift from my much-loved Nana. I took a piece up to Nana the following day as my way of saying thanks for the amazing cookbook, these are her (hands) above and in the main picture, I just love her delicate plates.
Feel free to use the same amount of grated apple in place of the pear. (admittedly the pear does give a slight grainyness to the texture, but no less delicious.) When I grated the pear there was a lot of excess pear juice, that I poured into a glass and drank rather than tipping it into the mix. If you use apple or firmer pears however, you won't have to worry about this.

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