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Open Sesame on my Paleo Thoughts

February 5, 2017


Goodness, it’s been a long time between posts!

I’m afraid that life has been getting in the way of me doing the things I love; coupled with the stifling hot weather we have been having here for the last month – I have been feeling extremely lethargic and unmotivated.

Anyway, I’m diving back into my kitchen with some cooler recipes to start this 2017. Paleo Magnum anyone?!

My love affair with Paleo has relaxed somewhat – not that I have changed my mind or beliefs – but I have seen that many people in the Paleo sphere treat Paleo like it’s a food religion. I know, I used to be there. Now that the word has become dare I say it more mainstream, those religious beliefs are what the lifestyle has become mocked for. Don’t get me wrong, if you are wanting to change your diet for the better, an all or nothing approach can be helpful.

Going over my blog, I have dabbled with low-carb, GAPS and ketogenic diets whilst staying predominantly Paleo and always gluten-free. (Except for the really early days pre-Paleo) It has been an interesting experience learning about what works for my body and what doesn’t. I do believe that my few years of puritan Paleo ways were a valuable reset for my body and recommend it as a good tool for being mindful. When many people went with the 80/20 rule, I was always steaming forward 110% as is my nature, however, I have relaxed somewhat and perhaps follow a 70/30 philosophy now!

I still make cauliflower rice and spiralise my zucchini but I make less paleo bread and chocolate. I buy a good almond milk rather than make it myself and eat more dairy these days in the form of yoghurt and cream cheese.  I still love to do all my baking but will use more sugar and less Natvia than I have in the past. As you will have observed my love affair with Japan – it’s virtually IMPOSSIBLE to steer clear of sugar and gluten and preservatives over there, it’s lucky I only go there once a year! Noticing a food hangover after one of my Japanese sojourns is always a good reminder of what the benefits of eating clean are.

Which brings me to my last trip! Despite it being cooler weather in Japan last November, I was craving lots of salad and the Japanese have perfected coleslaw as an art! True to form, a Japanese coleslaw is impeccably fresh, beautifully cut cabbage (chiffonade) served nude. That’s it! It is served with perhaps a few cherry tomatoes and a little shredded nori as a garnish. Then it is served with some goma (sesame)  dressing which is slightly sweet.  I love how they always serve this on the side so you can add as much or as little you like.

Whipped up in the Thermomix or your magic bullet, it is made in seconds and keeps well in the fridge. My husband is addicted to it and it is really nutritious to boot! Sesame seeds are an excellent source of calcium, magnesium and iron. They have beneficial fibres called lignans, which have been shown to have a cholesterol-lowering effects. And they taste wonderfully nutty; but beware – their high oil content lends them to go rancid easily so store them in the fridge and only buy small quantities at a time.

Japanese Goma Dressing

50g sesame seeds, lightly toasted

50g rice vinegar

2 tabs tamari or soy sauce

2 scant teas of sugar (or substitute with Stevia)

1 tab Japanese mirin

1 tab sesame oil

120g mayonnaise (I use homemade)

1 tab water

Place all ingredients into your blender and process until smooth. Add a little more water if you prefer a thinner sauce. It will thicken slightly on standing and will last for a couple of weeks in the fridge. Serve on some finely shredded cabbage or any salad you like – it’s a addictive!!






Salad Days!

December 9, 2016


I admit that it has been hard to get back into the kitchen after my recent holiday in Japan. No doubt you got sick of being inundated by my Facebook stream, saturated with all things Japanese. #sorrynotsorry! We truly had a wonderful time and genuinely love the culture – I wonder if I was Japanese in another life? I did find a lot of the food a bit too sweet after a while, and my palate certainly did adjust; as I can attest, it certainly had a shock when we came home!

Something that I didn’t see much of in the land of the rising sun was celery – and I have been craving it since coming back. And another shock to my system is our oppressive Queensland humidity which has hit with full force – we left a mild Fukuoka winter. So we will be living on celery salad until well into the new year!!

Waldorf salad was first created in the late 1800’s at the Waldorf Hotel in New York City, and is made of fresh apples, celery, grapes and walnuts. It is dressed in mayonnaise and usually served on a bed of lettuce. The original recipe did not contain nuts but they had been added by the time the recipe appeared in The Rector Cook Book in 1928. Other ingredients, such as chicken, turkey, dates or raisins are sometimes added.

I’m not so keen on the addition of grapes and raisins but I do like to add some roasted chicken and a little curry powder to make this into a more substantial summer meal.  Given my recent Japanese influence I have changed the curry powder to wasabi for a refreshing change. My measurements are loose – use more of what you like and less of what you don’t. I prefer less apple so that it’s not so sweet but the kids love it.

4 large ribs fresh celery, cut into 1 cm dice

1 apple, cut into 1 cm dice

1 small zucchini, cut into 1 cm dice

1 avocado*, cut into 1 cm dice

handful of finely chopped parsley

2 – 3 tabs mayonnaise**

3 tabs vinaigrette, or enough to bind.

½ – 1 teas wasabi powder (or 1 teas curry powder)

a handful of walnuts, chopped

2 cooked chicken breasts, chopped (optional)


Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl and serve on a bed of baby spinach.

*use a firmer avocado so that it doesn’t squash into oblivion when you mix the salad.

**Or you could use this salad dressing instead of the mayonnaise & vinaigrette


Gluten Free Brioche! WHAT??!

October 27, 2016

briocheBrioche is a classic French pastry, similar to a highly enriched bread, whose high egg and butter content give it a rich and tender crumb. Chef Joel Robuchon describes it as “light and puffy, according to the proportion of butter and eggs.” It usually has a dark and golden crust, accentuated by an egg wash which gives it a gorgeous lacquered shell.

And my new GLUTEN FREE recipe has all of the above!!

When I first started my Paleo lifestyle, I was cooking lots of breads and cakes and pancakes, as I was focusing on the things that I ‘shouldn’t’ have been eating rather than the things I could. I was very strict and like most others starting out, I was eating a lot of nuts and nut-based things. I experimented endlessly with different recipes, making many versions of bread, and keeping to the ‘rules’. But over the years I have relaxed. I have discovered that it’s not just about the food, and I don’t have to be OCD about everything I put into my mouth… and my food intolerance’s have changed. This recipe is definitely not Paleo, but it is one that I have been working on over the years, on & off – and I have finally cracked it!


Brioche is made in the same basic way as bread, but has the richer aspect of a pastry because of the extra addition of eggs, butter, milk and sugar. It is eaten mainly as breakfast or dessert, but is also used in traditional French savoury cooking like in ‘fillet of beef en croute’ or ‘foie gras or sausage pie’. Brioche is increasingly found on cafe menus as hamburger buns or in bread & butter pudding. I liken brioche to croissants without the layers and love it filled with creme patissiere or doused in rum syrup as in rum baba*.

I struggled with this recipe in the past because I was making my own rice flour which wasn’t really fine enough. In the end, I discovered that the rice flour found in the Asian section of the supermarket, is the best one. This is where you will find the best tapioca flour too, and it’s only a dollar a packet. I was also reluctant to use xantham or guar gum but it really makes all the difference in terms of bubble formation. And there are lots of bubbles! This bread is light and airy. It’s springy and bouncy and all the things I could have hoped for in a brioche!! Like other gluten-free bread mixes, it is a very wet mix and it will take some time – like most yeast baking, patience is the key to all fermentation – but the mixing is quick, as is the baking part. Oh, and the eating part will be pretty quick too!! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

briochecrumb120g milk (any type will do)

1 tab instant yeast

120g rice flour

110g tapioca flour

2 teas xantham gum (or guar)

50g sugar

3 eggs, at room temperature

170g butter (or ghee), at room temperature

1 beaten egg, extra for egg-wash (optional)

Flaked almonds or granulated sugar for garnish (optional)

Heat the milk in the TM bowl for 1 minute at 37°C on SP 2.

Add the rest of the ingredients, mixing the xantham gum in a little rice flour beforehand so that it gets evenly distributed.

Mix together on SP 5 for 1 minute. Press REVERSE from time to time to ensure it is mixing very well. You will have a smooth glossy and thick batter. Leave in the TM bowl in the machine, with the lid on and allow to rest for 1½ – 2 hours. The batter will rise to the top of the bowl and be pillowy and fluffy.

After the first rise, knock down the dough by using the KNEAD button for 20 seconds. It will revert back to a smooth, glossy and thick batter.

Using an oiled spatula or spoon, fill a loaf tin or individual tins to halfway and using oiled hands, pat the surface smooth. (This is for presentation only and you can bypass this bit if you like, as it is very sticky!)

Allow to rise for 1 hour to double in size. Before baking, brush over some egg-wash and sprinkle with flaked nuts (or granulated sugar) for garnish. Bake in a 170°C oven for 30 – 40 minutes for a single large loaf; or 15 minutes for individual brioche. The crust will be quite tan and hard, but the inside will be soft and light.

Adding a little chopped dried fruit will make this recipe into a wonderful Christmas panettone.

* Stay tuned for my rum baba recipe, my bread and butter pudding recipe and my bomboloni recipe!

Peanut Butter + Cheesecake = NOM NOM NOM!

October 9, 2016


Lovers of peanut butter are going to ADORE this cake! And it seems that the peanut butter in desserts craze has finally hit Australian shores. We are a bit slow on the uptake as our American friends have been privy to this obsession for years! Although I’m not sure that we have embraced the passion for peanut butter and jelly (jam) as much as the Americans have yet but I am sure it won’t be long.

Peanut butter is included as an ingredient in many sweet recipes, notably peanut butter and jam sandwiches, peanut butter cookies and confectionery. Peanut butter’s flavour combines well with honey, jam & cheese, and does well with chocolate, and salt! In our house, it is primarily used on my husbands toast or in his muesli bars. I tend to stick with almond butter for most recipes, or my I eat my gingerbread butter on apple.

I was inspired by a recipe that I saw recently for a frozen peanut butter parfait which was based on cream cheese, and knowing my penchant for cheesecake, you can guess that I put two and two together and came up with FIVE!!

This is my version of a Snickers cheesecake sans caramel, I guess! It is no bake and egg-free. It is built in 4 layers which sounds very complicated but it’s not, in fact it’s really easy. You don’t even have to wash the TM bowl between layers which suits me fine!

You will get a much more flavourful result with homemade peanut butter, especially if you toast the nuts first. I used homemade peanut butter so I added a little more salt but you might not need to if you use a bought one as commercial peanut butters can have lots of  salt & additives in them. If you use a bought peanut butter, taste the mix before adding any salt.

This cake was an enormous hit at a party that I took it to; in fact I was really surprised, it got demolished  – so I thought I better blog it straight away and get your opinion!

pnbcake280g raw almonds

60g toasted peanuts

40g coconut

50g dates

50g butter


40g rapadura sugar

60g water

2 teas gelatine

250g cream cheese

180g sour cream or thick Greek yoghurt

50g smooth peanut butter

a dash of vanilla

a few drops of stevia (optional)

¼ teas salt

Sprinkle the 2 teaspoons of gelatine on 60g water and allow to bloom for 5 minutes (for the filling). Then heat gently in a pan, stirring to dissolve the gelatine and set aside.

To make the base, add the nuts, coconut, dates and butter to the TM and mix on SP 8 for 10 seconds until it comes together – you may need to add a drop of water if the dates are very dry. Press into a 20cm springform cake tin that has been lined with baking paper (for easy removal). Set aside in the freezer while you make the filling.

Without washing the bowl, add the cheese, sugar, cream, vanilla, salt, peanut butter & gelatine mixture and blend on SP 5 until well combined. Taste for sweetness, adding a little stevia if desired. Pour on the base and tap the tin to level. Place in the freezer while you prepare the peanut topping.


100g water

1 teas gelatine

150g smooth peanut butter

30g butter

80g honey (or brown rice syrup)

pinch salt

There is no need to wash the bowl.

Sprinkle the 1 teaspoon of gelatine on 100g water and allow to bloom for 5 minutes. Then heat gently in the TM at 50°C on SP1 for 1 minute or until dissolved.

Add the remaining topping ingredients and cook for 2 minutes at 50°C on SP1 until smooth. Pour over the cheesecake mixture and return to the freezer while you make the chocolate layer.


80g dark chocolate, chopped

60g sour cream

30g salted peanuts, roughly chopped, to garnish

There is no need to wash the bowl! Add the chocolate and cream to the TM and melt for 2 minutes at 50°C on SP1 until smooth. Spread over the cake and sprinkle on the chopped nuts to garnish. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours to set.

JIANBING! It’s a Chinese Wrap!

September 30, 2016


Whilst flicking through the food channel on TV recently, I happened across a story showing crepes being made with one of those wooden dowel spreader things on a huge grill, French style.

Except it wasn’t in France, it was in Jinan, Shandong. Chinese style.

I watched with intense curiosity: this was a pancake I had never seen before, and being a complete sucker for crepes and pancakes of any ilk, I was now to learn the wonders of Jian (fried) bing (flatbread).

Jianbing is one of China’s most popular street breakfasts. And while all manner of Chinese buns and dumplings have spread well beyond the country’s borders, it might also be China’s best-kept culinary secret. The savoury crisp-fried crêpes are all about bold contrasts of flavour and texture: eggs; crunchy puffed strips of fried wonton; a jumble of grassy coriander & spring onions; a sweet and spicy layer of hoisin and chilli sauces. Each one is cooked fresh to order on a huge circular grill in front of you, as you like it. And better still, they are made with millet flour and bean flour, so are completely gluten-free!! YAY!

Jianbing have a longer history than almost any other Chinese street food. Thought to have originated in Shandong Province (220–280 AD), military strategist Zhuge Liang had his soldiers cook batter on their shields held over the fire after their woks were lost. I once had a Chinese home-stay student who attributed his favourite things: pancakes and soccer, to Chinese invention, and he may have well been right!

Millet cultivation predated that of rice in parts of Asia and thus was the main crop available.

jiangb3After researching, I have seen jianbing made with either a thick, sticky wad of dough, deftly spread into a giant pancake; or a very thin batter poured onto the grill, thin as a crêpe. I think the latter seems much easier and requires less skill.

While the crêpe cooks, an egg is cracked onto its uncooked surface and spread evenly…And then flipped over. The cooked side is then painted with hoisin and chilli sauce and filled with fried wonton skins & lettuce, adding a satisfying crunch.

As with many street foods, the batter and fillings used in jianbing differ by region (and vendor). In northern China, the batter might be made from mung bean or black bean flour, while in the East it’s a combination of millet flour and mung bean flour. In Tianjin, they use you tiao (fried dough sticks) rather than fried wontons as filling, calling them jianbing guozi. Other fillings vary too, ranging from Chinese sausage, or duck, to shredded carrot, or fermented vegetables.

Many consider making your own jianbing impossible without months of practice and tuition from a master. But I have worked out a very easy technique that will have you “binging” in no time!!

The beauty of the actual batter is that it is egg-free so you can omit adding the egg later if you are egg-free and fill it with other yummy things if you wish. The batter is robust enough to hold any fillings, sweet or savoury.

I made mine with almond milk instead of dairy milk but any milk will work well. Traditional jianbing are made on huge grills much like an Indian dosai, in fact the texture is quite similar. They are more pliable than a dosai but still have a lovely crunch. Street jianbing are folded into huge envelopes which is more difficult to do when using a smaller pan, so I was happy to roll mine up – you can get more filling in this way.

Instead of the traditional crispy wonton chips which are based on wheat, I used some sweet potato chips, which I think add a lovely flavour as well as crunch. I haven’t given any quantities for the fillings as you can use whatever you have on hand, although each crepe should have 1 egg on it. Feel free to omit the coriander if you are averse, I love it so I use lots! The meat addition is entirely optional and not traditionally used – I augmented mine with a little leftover duck that I had in the fridge and it was delicious!

This recipe makes 6 crepes (30cm diameter).jiangb2

70g millet flour

40g besan flour

20g tapioca flour

200g milk (of your choice)

1 tab oil

Mix the ingredients well – I used my nutri-bullet – until a smooth thin batter forms, like runny cream. Let stand for 20 minutes at room temperature.


eggs, lightly beaten – allow 1 per crepe

spring onions, sliced

coriander, chopped

Hoisin sauce & Chilli sauce jiangbang2

sweet potato chips or potato chips

leftover cooked meat: pulled pork, chicken, duck etc.

lettuce, cos or iceberg

Heat a non-stick pan which has been lightly oiled and pour some batter to make a thin crepe. Cook over a medium heat. When the surface has dried out, pour over some lightly beaten egg and spread over the surface. Sprinkle on some sliced spring onions and cook further until just set on top.


When the egg has just set, flip the crepe over and brush the cooked side with a little hoisin sauce and chilli sauce. The Chinese like them quite spicy!

In the middle, place a tablespoon of cooked meat, a handful of coriander, a handful of crushed sweet potato chips and some lettuce. Fold up into a parcel (or roll) so that the egg is on the outside and eat straightaway!!

OPTIONAL EXTRA FILLINGS – chopped peanuts, fried shallots, chopped roasted veges, mustard pickles, XO sauce, sliced fresh chilli, bacon, cheese!!



A Couple of Good Spreads

September 21, 2016


Recently I tried a very interesting cake recipe from my friends blog The Cooks Notebook.

Mel had a secret ingredient in her recipe that no one could pick! Mushrooms! WOW – I just had to try this straight away as I love mushrooms and hadn’t had a fix for a while. As described, this is a VERY decadent cake! Full of almonds and chocolate, it’s dense and moist and extremely tasty! The mushrooms almost melt away and I am tempted to make it again and add more to the mix – just to see what happens! And it so happened that I was looking for a vehicle to test drive my new vegan chocolate frosting that I had been experimenting with. In her recipe, Mel uses a simple ganache to top the cake but I thought that my frosting worked extremely well. And considering that it is based on sweet potato and avocado, I figured that a meal of this cake would be a vege packed balanced meal!!


The frosting is easily made in any food processor or “nutri-bullet” so it’s made in a minute, although it is best left to stand for about 30 minutes in the fridge to firm up. It is beautifully smooth and buttery, despite having no butter!

A word on coconut oil: Just recently, I have gone off coconut oil. I don’t know why.. Maybe its the brand I bought but I am finding the flavour a little too intense for me and not sitting too well in my gut. So I am listening to my body and avoiding it for a while. I have made up a substitute that gives me a similar texture for this purpose and that is an olive oil/cacao butter mix, mixed together in a 60:40 ratio. I have gently melted together 120g light olive oil and 80g cacao butter and poured it into a jar and I use it when a recipe calls for coconut oil. Of course, this is only for sweet cooking as the cacao butter imparts a gorgeously velvety chocolate flavour, which I think is better than coconut oil anyway! And olive oil has been proven to have just as good health benefits to coconut oil too.


Another recipe I have been sitting on is my tahini butter recipe that I love to spread on toasted banana bread or paleo toast.  Only a few ingredients whipped together can turn something from ordinary to sublime! If you use unhulled tahini the flavour will be stronger so experiment with the quantities to your own taste. You can always substitute the above cacao butter mix for butter if you are dairy free. The honey, though, is non-negotiable! It is so lovely in this combination that brown rice syrup (or coconut syrup) just won’t be the same.


200g cooked sweet potato flesh

80g coconut oil (or 80g of the above cacao butter mix)

80g maple syrup

4 tabs cocoa powder

2 tabs rapadura sugar

120g avocado

Make sure the sweet potato is well cooked so that it is soft and smooth. I find the best result is baking the potato in its skin and using it while it is still warm as it will help dissolve the sugar and the cacao butter.

Whip all of the ingredients together until smooth and set aside in the fridge to firm up. This will make enough frosting to fill and cover a family chocolate cake.


100g butter (unsalted is best)

1 tab tahini

1 -2 tab honey

Whip together and set aside in the fridge to firm up. Serve on toast or crumpets or scones!


Chiquitita, you and I know…. Chokito!

September 16, 2016

chokitoChiquitita, tell me the truth
I’m a shoulder you can cry on
Your best friend, I’m the one you must rely on                        (Abba)

Arghh! This song has been my ear worm since I started making this recipe. It has nothing to do with chocolate but the I can’t get the words out of my head!  Maybe chocolate is the shoulder I can cry on… and rely on!! Or best friend or….I dunno!? I’m not making sense!

When you were a kid, what was (or still is) your favourite chocolate bar?

After graduating from the infamous Bertie beetle as a kid, mine was the chokito bar. It must have been the crunchy bits encased in chocolate that appealed to me. I shared the passion with my brother while I remember that my sisters favourite was the Pollywaffle.  Interestingly both bars were manufactured by the now defunct Rowntree Hoadleys Chocolates (formerly Hoadleys chocolates) and then bought out by super-giant Nestle in 1988.

Last month we had our Ekka – the Royal Brisbane Exhibition & Show – the realm of showbags, and I always thought that the Rowntree Hoadleys showbags were the best! (They had Bertie beetles in them too). Fortunately, showbags or commercial chocolate do not interest me anymore but I do have fond childhood memories of them.

A chokito is an Australian chocolate bar containing caramel fudge with puffed rice crisps and coated in chocolate.  I believe you can also get them in New Zealand, Switzerland and Brazil and there is a similar bar in the United States called the $100 Grand bar. In the ’70s the tagline for advertising was “Chokito gets you going” but was changed to the current “big feed, big taste” (marketed to men aged 24-35), to increase chocolate sales in men as women continue to dominate the chocolate market.  I’m not sure what that says about my tastes – and I haven’t bought a chocolate bar since I can remember – but I was reminiscing recently and thought it was time to healthify this treat!

There are a couple of parts to this recipe and it is not as complicated as it sounds. The fudge is deliciously easy to make, just make sure it is properly chilled before you slice it up. I experimented with rolling the fudge in brown rice puffs but sadly, they lost their crunch. Using commercial rice puff cereal will maintain the crunch but it wasn’t optimum for me. I had more success rolling the fudge in a mix of toasted buckwheat and chopped walnuts; I think these are healthier for you than rice puffs anyway, but it’s a personal preference. I even tried toasted pinenuts which also worked. Then again, coating anything in chocolate is going to be a winner!


120g raw cashews or blanched almonds (I used a mix)

70g cacao butter

50g dates

50g maple syrup

50g almond milk or cream

50g coconut oil or butter

vanilla to taste

Chop the nuts, cacao butter and dates on SP 7 for 5 seconds. Scrape the bowl down and add the syrup, milk, vanilla and oil and cook at 70°C on SP 5 for 5 minutes. Scrape the bowl down again and blend for 1 minute on SP 7.

Pour into a lined loaf pan and place in the freezer to chill well for at least 1 hour.


1 cup of rice puff cereal


50g buckwheat, lightly toasted

70g pinenuts or chopped walnuts

150g dark chocolate*

1 teas oil

Place the rice puff on a plate OR Mix the nuts and buckwheat together on a plate. Slice the fudge into 2 cm widths and roll in the combined nuts and buckwheat until well coated. Place back in the freezer while you melt the chocolate.

In the TM bowl, mill the chocolate on SP 8 for 5 seconds. add the oil and melt at 50°C for 2 minutes. It needs to be quite runny. Pour into a shallow bowl and dip each fudge roll to coat, using 2 forks, and drain on a wire rack. I place a piece of baking paper underneath so I can catch the excess chocolate and reuse. Keep in the fridge or freezer and try not to eat them all at once!

*If using homemade chocolate, omit the oil.




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