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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.




A Jewel in Iranian Millet!

September 4, 2016

iranian rice

Before rice was widely consumed in Asia, it is thought that millet was the staple grain in this region. It is one of the hardiest grains and is therefore a staple food in regions with poor soils where other grains will not grow at all (eg. parts of India, Africa, China and Russia).

Millet is actually a seed, originally cultivated in the dry climates of Africa and northern China since the Neolithic Era. (A few years ago, archaeologists discovered a 4000-year old bowl of millet noodles in northwestern China!) In time, millet spread throughout the world; the Romans and Gauls made porridge from it, and in the Middle Ages millet was more widely eaten than wheat. It is mentioned in the Old Testament as an ingredient for bread.

Today, millet continues to be a staple for a third of the world’s population. Ground millet is used in flatbreads, such as Indian roti and Ethiopian injera. Teff is actually classified as a variety of millet. In Eastern Africa, millet is used to make beer. It is also an ingredient in Eastern European fermented drinks and porridges.

In the western world, millet has mostly been relegated to bird and livestock feed. However, interest in the grain has had a resurgence as it is gluten-free and easily digestible. It has a good source of magnesium, fibre, iron, folate and B vitamins. It does contain phytochemicals including phytic acid and saponins so is best rinsed (or activated) before use.

There are many varieties of millet; the primary types are called pearl, foxtail, proso, and finger. Yellow proso is the kind most often found at health food stores. It has been hulled and looks very much like raw couscous. It has a delicate nutty flavour and, depending on how it is cooked, a texture that can be crunchy or soft.

I have only really used millet as a flour where I mix it with other flours to provide a different protein and texture to my gluten-free flour mix.  But I cooked it as I would quinoa and it turned out similar to couscous!

I believe that if you toast it first you get a nuttier flavour – and I admit that I like it better than quinoa as the flavour is less overpowering – but it’s not as nutritious as quinoa. The longer you cook it, the softer it gets, to the point where you can mash it. I really enjoyed using millet as a whole grain and will do so more in the future – its cheap and works well as a conduit to a gluten-free diet for my non gluten-free family!

This dish is a ‘corrupted’ version of the traditional Persian jewelled rice which I have been wanting to blog about for ages. The traditional recipe is quite complicated and time-consuming, using basmati rice. It is laced with butter and sugar and spices and piled with nuts and dried fruits. In the Middle East it is typically served at weddings or other celebrations. I have simplified it somewhat and also used millet and cauliflower rice for a point of difference.

½ medium cauliflower

100g millet

2 carrots, julienned

70g ghee, butter or olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

6 cardamon pods

1 generous pinch of saffron threads

rind of 2 oranges, julienned

2 teas salt

1 tab honey (or brown rice syrup if vegan)

juice of 1 lemon

1 tab apple cider vinegar

½ teas cinnamon

60g flaked almonds, toasted

80g pistachios, toasted & chopped coarsely

2 tabs raisins or dried cranberries

1 pomegranate, arils only

1 teas orange flower water (optional)

1 bunch dill, chopped

Prepare the cauliflower by chopping on SP 4 until resembling rice size pieces. Add 60g water and cook on 100ºC for 6 minutes REVERSE. Drain and set aside in a wide bowl.

Prepare the millet by adding 900g water & 1 teas salt to the TM bowl with the strainer basket and weighing in 100g millet.  Cook for 17 minutes on SP 3 at VAROMA temperature. Add to the drained cauliflower.

Saute the onion, cardamon pods and saffron in the ghee (or oil) at 100°C for 5 minutes SP slow, REVERSE.

Add the carrots, orange rind and raisins and continue to saute for another 4 minutes, SP slow, REVERSE.

Add the honey, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and orange flower water*. Pour into the cauliflower/millet and mix in the nuts, pomegranate and dill. Serve at warm or at room temperature.

*If you can find them, pick out the cardamon pods, they are not so nice to bite on!








Pine-nuts and Parsnips!

August 26, 2016


This recipe purely came about using whatever I had in the cupboard last weekend. It was market day and I had a bunch of gorgeously fresh vegetables I needed to cram into the fridge for the next week, so I had to use up what was leftover from the previous market day: two lone parsnips!

These two parsnips had been sitting there stoically in my fridge demanding attention. I had been ignoring them guiltily, pushing them aside for the zucchini and broccoli, even the swedes got cooked up before them. When I bought them I had planned to make parsnip fritters or pudding but for some reason the inclination never returned.

So what to do with two not-so-fresh parsnips?

The word CAKE does not spring to mind but I set myself a challenge and this is the end result. Initially I had some flaked almonds to use for the topping which suited me happily but after the first cooking attempt I had run out of flaked almonds so I used pine-nuts instead.

Pine-nuts are always considered a luxury in our house as they are so very expensive. Last market day saw my husband bringing home an enormous bag of pine-nuts. (When I asked for some, I didn’t stipulate any particular quantity and I was struck dumb when he came home with 500g of the precious seeds!) “Boy, they are expensive!!” he exclaimed!

And rightly so, pine-nuts are pretty complicated to harvest. The seeds take up to 3 years to harvest, given the right conditions, and shelling them is a tricky, time consuming matter.

While all pine trees will produce a pine-nut, there are only about 18 species that produce seeds large enough to be of value as human food, and are found in Asia, Europe and North America. Pine-nuts are ready to harvest just before the green cone begins to open. The cones are dried in the sun and then they are then smashed to release the seeds, which are separated by hand from the cone fragments. The fact that it takes a lot of time and patience is an understatement – and justifies the high price of pine-nuts. Pine-nuts have a second shell, which also has to be removed before eating. (Are you beginning to understand the high price?)

parsnip cake

The pine-nuts we get are either Asian (short stubby seeds) which have a higher oil content, or European (long slender seeds) which are more expensive and less likely to spoil. Both have a mild buttery flavour which is enhanced by toasting, but be careful, their high fat content enables them to burn easily.

They are rich in the same healthy fats that other nuts contain and surprisingly have quite a good protein content.

I have posted this recipe with pine-nuts to keep it nut free, but flaked almonds also work really well so substituting either is fine. I guess it depends on how full your wallet is at the moment!!!

Interesting fact: Pine-nuts can cause “pine nut mouth” or “pine nut syndrome”. It causes everything you eat to have a bitter, metallic taste – lasting a few hours to a couple of days. It is believed to stem from one species of pine-nut, Armand or St David’s pine (P. armandii) from South West China which triggers  an unpleasant taste sensation by the absorption of a naturally occurring chemical in the Armand pine. Sufferers report enjoying their pine-nuts – and only hours or days later suffering the taste problems. This is so unusual that it has researchers studying it further to try to understand neural pathways that connect the digestive system to the brain and our system of taste in the mouth. They hope to learn more about how our whole food metabolism works in the process.

It may be small consolation but while temporarily unpleasant, pine nut mouth apparently has no other effect on health with no toxic or other debilitating effects. I have had this happen to me once in my life many years ago and never knew what it was –  it wasn’t obviously related to pine-nuts and was very mild. Authorities are much more vigilant about keeping Armand pine-nuts out of circulation these days: another reason to pay a bit more for your pine-nuts!

The cake can be made without the caramel topping if you like but I would increase the nutmeg to give it more flavour. It is wonderfully moist and freezes well. But the cake with the caramel topping is to die for: chewy and nutty, it is amazing served warm with cream for a very easy and impressive afternoon-tea or dessert. As with most gluten-free flour cakes, it doesn’t last well so is best eaten fresh.

…. And can you taste the parsnip?? You can taste a subtle earthiness but without knowing, it would be hard to pick. Try it out on your friends and see!

150g parsnips (about 1 medium, peeled)

90g sugar

150g olive oil

3 eggs

1 teas vanilla extract

½ teas nutmeg

½ teas ground ginger

150g gluten-free flour

2 rounded teaspoons baking powder


80g butter (or 70g coconut oil for dairy-free)

50g sugar

1 tab golden syrup

2 tabs gluten-free flour

80g raw pine-nuts or flaked almonds

Chop the parsnip on SP 5 for 10 seconds until grated finely and set aside.

Blend the sugar, oil, eggs and spices on SP 6 for 1 minute. It will be nicely homogenised and thick. Add the parsnip, flour and baking powder and mix on SP 4, REVERSE, until well combined.

Pour into a lined 24cm springform tin and bake at 175°C for 20 minutes. Make a slight indentation in the batter so that when it rises it will rise with a flatter surface. (My pinenuts rolled off in the photo!)

In a clean TM bowl, melt the butter with the sugar, flour and golden syrup on SP 3 for 3 minutes at 90°C. (Or you can do this on the stove in a small saucepan.)

Stir through the nuts gently.

When the cake has been baking for 20 minutes, take it out of the oven and pour over the topping and return to the oven to continue baking for another 25 minutes. Depending on your springform pan, oil may leach out of the bottom so place it on a baking tray to prevent a mess in your oven.

Cool for 40 minutes before removing the pan.



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