Monday, 10 December 2012

'Twas Brillig (part two)

The saga continues... The cupcakes which were made were a big cheat - yes, it is okay to cut corners where you can. These are the Macro brand vanilla cupcake mix which are, except for excessive vanilla, failsafe. Plus I knew they worked with egg replacer for our allergic guest. Two batches of these were made in different sized and coloured papers and with a few different coloured frostings (Hoppers natural colours) to give the illusion of more variety. You could also add some carob powder or golden syrup to some of them to give flavour variety without having to make separate batches of cake. They were also used as a party favour.

The cakes for taking home were placed in plastic tumblers which were bought from a cheap shop and then put into cellophane bags and tied with a ribbon.

There was also fairy bread with natural sprinkles - some was gluten free and some made with Baker's Delight bread. My friend brought the gluten-filled type and used cookie cutters to achieve the teapot and teacup shapes.

There were also gluten free bread-and-butterflies; these were made using my bread recipe that was sliced, spread with nuttelex and then cut with butterfly cookie cutters.

Pink milk was served as the main drink - a sugar syrup made from two cups of sugar and 2 cups of boiling water was made with vanilla essence and cochineal added. This was mixed into both rice milk and dairy milk and put into teapots on the table. You tend to need a bit more cochineal than you think and as it is diluted again into the milk.

The lolly table had most of the usual failsafe lollies, plus a few that I had made.

The last picture was a recipe I found for conversation hearts (does anyone remember these?). The recipe needed tweaking and in my rush I didn't measure or write anything down. So, unfortunately, a recipe for that will have to wait.

Activities were kept minimal. The kids played croquet and had a great time doing so. I had planned to have a caucus race, but the ground was uneven ad covered with lots of sticks, so I abandoned the idea as I didn't want any injuries. I tried to think of a way to paint roses red without getting paint on party clothes too. They could have coloured with pencils, but in the end they had too much fun playing amongst the trees, eating party food and playing croquet.

The birthday girl - Making the dress also filled a lot of my party prep time

There were party favours other than the cakes. I chose to keep these non-food items. There had been plenty of lollies and sweets consumed at the party, so I felt that the the kids  didn't really need to take more home. We had a variety of different Alice in Wonderland books that the kids received depending on their age. The older children got a paperback version of the stories, the younger ones got a few different colouring books, and the older boys who I knew would not be into these at all got a pack of jumbo playing cards. They also all got a bubble wand (I mean who doesn't like bubbles).

The wrapped book and bubble wands ready to be taken home.

I'll put the cake in it's very own post, in order to make it easier to find.

Friday, 7 December 2012

'Twas Brillig

Birthday, birthday, birthday, Christmas, birthday. That's how it goes in this family and all quite close together. This time of year is a test of my sanity and my stamina in the kitchen. Sometimes I think I'm going to fail the test, but I usually manage a flukey pass. The most recent birthday was no exception.

I have been mentally planning this birthday for quite some time, buying bits and pieces when I saw them and gathering ideas. Although in keeping with my standard form, most of the actual work is left until the last minute.

This party was as much about the decorations and setting as it was about the food and since I'm a bit over the top I wanted everything to be fabulous; it was passable. I didn't have as much time to set up as was really needed and, well if I let them, these things can just get bigger and bigger.

The lolly table

Cups laid out on the adult table

Unfortunately, due to the nature of gluten free food, a lot of food needs to be prepared as close to the party as possible, so the afternoon tea setting was really quite perfect. It also meant that everything was finger food and nothing needed to be heated which was very handy. There was also a child with an egg allergy, so most of the food needed to be egg free. Some allowances were made on our intolerances in order to keep things eggless.

The favourite food item of the day was the toadstools. They were made a few days before and are very easy. I used a small amount of dairy in them, but if you are able to eat eggs please use royal icing instead of the white melts.

  • Marshmallows - standard sized, cylindrical.
  • Marshmallows - larger domed.
  • White melts (or royal icing)
  • natural food colours
  1. Gently melt the white chocolate melts using the microwave on short bursts or a double boiler.
  2. Spread a small amount of melted chocolate on the end of a cylindrical marshmallow and stick it to the middle of the flat side of the larger ones. You can use an ice cube tray or an egg carton to help you keep them straight while they set.
  3. Add a small amount of colouring to chocolate and use a skewer or toothpick to make spots on the cap. 
  4. Leave to set.

There were a variety of biscuits mostly my standard recipes that were presented differently. The iced biscuits were used with fondant so I could could make egg free biscuits and use the same topping. The egg free version was from Kersten's book and the recipe for the fondant was found on the Domestic Diva's blog. The fondant was coloured with Hoppers Natural colours and stamped with a clean stamp. If you like this idea, I would suggest you have separate stamps for craft and food so you don't get any contamination.

The Diva's Marshmallow Fondant Icing

  • 600g icing sugar
  • 225g marshmallows 
  • 1 ½ tablespoons water 
  • Extra icing sugar for rolling 
  1.  Place marshmallows and water into a microwave bowl and nuke for 30seconds on high.
  2. Stir until smooth (cook for another 30 seconds of necessary)
  3. Add icing sugar and stir until combined (I did it by hand)
  4. If necessary add extra sugar until no longer sticky, but not so stiff as to be unrollable.
  5. Wrap very tightly with cling wrap and rest until needed.
  6. Can be made several days in advance, put wrapped fondant into a ziplock bag or airtight container to prevent any drying.    

Make sure you use a lightly oiled surface to roll the fondant. I thought that rolling it between baking paper would be enough. It wasn't. The tiniest amount of oil sprayed onto the paper made it so much easier. Cut the fondant using the same cutter you used on the biscuit and then press the stamp firmly into it (without completely squashing it) before laying on your biscuit that has been lightly spread with Vienna cream frosting.

I tried to use sprinkles to make patterns. Don't bother trying that. Aside from it being ridiculously time consuming they don't stick to the fondant.

You could use any natural colour you want for these to match your theme or use none at all. The white is very pretty and you can get a great decoration from the stamp alone.

The other biscuits were made using the melting moment dough.

Chess Board Cookies

  1. Take a quantity of melting moment dough. Halve it and add a tablespoon of carob to a portion of the dough. 
  2. Use a lined swiss roll tin (or similar) and pressed and rolled half of the dough into it (I didn't use the full length of the tin).
  3. Repeat this with the other portion of dough (making sure to use the same portion of tin as the previous piece). Then lay one on top of the other and freeze until very firm.
  4.  Cut the dough into four, lengthways and lay two on top of each other making sure your colours are alternated and press them together gently (you will have two logs with four layers each). Freeze again.
  5. Now cut lengthways slices about 1cm thick and stack them with alternating colours, four layers thick. Freeze again.
  6. Cut slices crossways from the end and lay on a lined baking tray and bake for about 12mins at 160°C.
  7. Cool on racks.

Walrus and Carpenter Oyster Biscuits

  1. Beat 2 Tablespoons of rice milk into one quantity of melting moment dough.
  2. Fill a piping bag that has a large round tip fitted to it with the dough.
  3. Roughly pipe the dough into tear drop/oyster shell shapes. Try not to make them too thick. Ridges, bumps and texture are desirable!
  4. Bake at 160°C for about 12 mins or until cooked (this depends on the thickness of the dough)
  5. Tinge some vienna cream icing pink with cochineal and pipe onto half of the biscuits. Place a Hoppers silver pearl on each and top with another biscuit.

Since this post is becoming a bit too long I'll split this between a few so that things don't get too hard to find.

See you in the next one!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Festive Preparations

I've never made any pretenses about my organisational skills. In fact I quite regularly go on about my extreme lack of them. So, I had a little heart attack when my co-contributors to "At the Failsafe Table" decided to have a Christmas edition this week. It's a truly great idea and I'm sure you would all like to be a bit prepared and maybe even have a trial run of what you would like to make. For me this week is last minute birthday party preparation for my daughter's 4th birthday - Christmas is not even on my radar until next week.

I have managed to fit something in this week though, so this year you get a Christmas recipe from me before Christmas instead of in March.

While I was deciding what to make I was thinking about all the different yummy foods that are usually eaten over the holidays and one of the things that came into my mind was those rolled pieces of pork that are stuffed with fruit and nuts and are sweet and moist with that naughty bit of crackling on the top. I have done a failsafe version of that. "How is that even possible?" you say. "Massive substitutions" I say; that and a bit of imagination.

Christmas Chicken Roll
  • 2 large Chicken breast doubles
  • failsafe oil
  • 3 Tbsp ground raw cashews
  • 1 pear, peeled, cored and diced smallish
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup crumbs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • few sprigs parsley
  • 1 Tbsp Maple syrup
  • 1 tsp whiskey (optional)
  • 1 tsp failsafe oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
All tied up

Don't worry about being neat, just make sure it is tight.

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C and lightly oil a roasting tray.
  2. Leave the cartilage that joins the breasts intact, but trim any other sinew or excess fat from the chicken.
  3. Mix all the stuffing ingredients together in a bowl.
  4. Lay out the breasts rough side up and spread one half of the first one with about a third of the stuffing. Lay the second piece so half of it covers the stuffing of the first. It's best if you do it with the thicker part covering the thinner of the first ("top and tailed") so it is not really thick at one end once it is rolled.
  5. Spread all of the second breast double with the remaining stuffing and then roll carefully so the cross section is like two interlocking "C's". 
  6. Tie it tightly with kitchen string and place into roasting dish.
  7. Push any bits of stuffing that have fallen out back into the end of it.
  8. Mix the glaze ingredients together and brush some over the chicken.
  9. Bake for one and a half hours (or until cooked through - depends on the chicken size). Take it out at intervals and brush with more glaze.
  10. When ready remove from oven and rest for 10 minutes, then remove string and slice.

Ready to be sliced

  • Nut free - No problem, just leave them out and add a little more crumbs or substitute for chicknuts as they could add another bit of flavour.
  • Salicylates - Apples would be nice instead of pears as would some herbs like sage or thyme.

Served with crispy herbed baked potatoes and steamed beans and cabbage  tossed with nuttelex, salt and sprinkled with crispy fried deli chicken.

We all enjoyed this, it really did remind me of the pork ones. Hubby said he would like to have more stuffing. It would be nice, but it would also make it trickier to roll.

Thursday, 15 November 2012


So spring is here and nearly gone. I have been wanting to share this one for a while, but have had some really good recipes that I had to add first.

We celebrate a few extra holidays in our house. You may remember the pumpkin pie from our autumn feast or have seen pictures of our yule feast on my Facebook page. We celebrate the standard ones too, but really enjoy having the old school seasonal celebrations. They fit with the weather, with fresh food available at the time.

On the 22nd September it was the spring equinox, so we had our Ostara party. Or I guess you could call it easter or Eostre. So you get the theme - flowers, bunnies, eggs, butterflies - Spring things. And what better way to do it than a garden tea party. The table was set with all my china along with glass jars and cups with fresh flowers (these were the rather smelly kind, if you're smell sensitive use ones that are low fragrance).


No new recipes for this party, just reshaping some that I already have.

Flower and butterfly shaped biscuit wands made to the iced biscuit recipe or the gum free recipe.  These were decorated with white icing and natural sprinkles and coloured sugar. This is so basic to do, but something I forgot about for a long time. You know exactly what you are getting with these, and if you use homemade colours they can be completely failsafe.     

I used the gum free recipe for these biscuits

Coloured Sugar

  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • A few drops natural colour of choice


  1. Place sugar and colour in a small container or ziplock bag.
  2. Shake until the colour is evenly distributed through the sugar
  3. Store in an airtight container.

Also made using the coloured sugar were rice crispy eggs. To shape them I use little plastic eggs, the kind you would normally put treats inside for Easter.

Rice crispy eggs

Rice Crispy Eggs  
  • 4 cups crunchy puffed rice
  • 200g white marshmallows
  • 80g nuttelex
  • Coloured sugar


  1. Place rice puffs into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Slowly melt marshmallow and nuttelex in a saucepan over low heat. Stir continuously to stop it sticking and burning.
  3. When it is relatively smooth pour over rice puffs and stir until well combined.
  4. Lightly grease the inside of the eggs and pack the rice crispy mixture into both sides and squash them together.
  5. When they have set gently ease them out of the eggs and dip one end in coloured sugar.

If you wanted to do these as something the  Easter bunny has left you can coat inside half the egg with the sugar and leave them in the egg to make it less messy.

My friend made vanilla cupcakes that had a split marshmallow on top to look like a flower and tea cup biscuits which were an Orgran thistle shortbread biscuit topped with a marshmallow, sprinkles and half a lifesaver (not failsafe, but similar could be made from royal icing) all stuck together with royal icing.

Meringue peeps, Teacup biscuits, quiche, scones and iced biscuits

Meringues were piped in the shape of peeps or little chicks. I tried adding a bit of saffron to them for colour, but the little that I used gave no real colour, but drastically changed the flavour... not something I would do again. You could also add little dots of icing or carob to make eyes.

There were also scones & jam, little chicken & mayonnaise wraps, mini quiches and pink vanilla milk (rice milk for mine, cow milk for the others) in teapots for the kids to drink. 

Wraps, quiche and flower cupcakes

The activities were loads of fun, the kids made birdfeeders by sticking birdseed to toilet rolls using flour  and water glue and took them home to hang in the garden.

My friend brought blank animal masks and the children decorated them with glitter, sequins, pompoms and textas.

Making masks

The grand finale was an egg hunt in the yard for plastic eggs with treats.

They all took home seedlings to plant; a bean, a purple cabbage and a decorative one. A great non-food idea for easter too, just make sure your seedlings are right for the season.

Now to prepare for the Summer Solstice!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Faux Phô

We all miss certain foods, and while I eat other things when I am away from the kids occasionally, I do miss the variety at home. I think it is good for the kids to become accustomed to different styles of food so that one day, when they are able, they won't be scared to try something a bit different.

I've always liked Vietnamese food, but The Boy never did. The best he would ever eat was spring rolls. He didn't like spice and he wasn't even a fan of rice. But that never stopped me trying, and failsafe isn't going to stop me now either.

A purist would be disgusted with this (as they probably would with any of my adapted recipes) as a genuine one would be a fabulously rich, long cooked beef broth fragrant with spices punctuated with chilli, fresh basil and lime, but it's the best I could do with the ingredients on offer. And it did hit the spot; it is phô at heart.

A few little notes about what I have done here...

I have used some beef stock, but it was left from when I cooked the boeuf à la ficelle which only had the beef in it for about 15 minutes. It was a very mild stock and in my mind I would definitely still classify that as low amine. If you don't have this a chicken stock would work, but it really does want the flavour of a meat stock.

Do you need the alcohol? You could leave it out, but it would really effect the flavour of the dish. The whiskey adds body and fullness and the gin gives the hint of herbs and spice. If it really isn't your thing use a higher quantity of stock than I have.

To slice the beef really finely it is easier if it is partly frozen and you have a very sharp knife. I bought a large roasting piece, put it in the freezer for a few hours, sliced off what I needed for this and put the rest back in the freezer for my roast another day.

Sprouts and sauce ready to add to the Faux Phô - the beef cooks quickly in the broth

Faux Phô
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1/4 cup gin
  • 1/4 cup whiskey
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable stock paste
  • 5 1/2 cups water
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 shallots, sliced on an angle (white and most of the green)
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 350g beef topside (or similar) finely sliced
  • 200g packet of wide rice noodles, prepared as directed on the packet
  • 2 cups mung bean sprouts
  • Citric "lemon" juice
  • Pear ketchup
  • Magic sauce
  1. Place stock, gin, whiskey, stock paste and water into a large pot. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10mins. Strain the stock, discard the solids and return the liquid to the pot.
  2. Bring back to the boil and add salt, garlic, sugar and half the shallots.
  3. Divide the noodles between four large, deep soup bowls (or big pasta bowls). Divide the beef and remaining shallots between the bowls placing it on top of the noodles.
  4. Ladle the boiling stock into the bowls and serve.
  5. Have sprouts and sauces on the table for each person to add to their taste
  • Salicylates - have sliced fresh red chilli and thai basil with the condiments, you could also add five spice to the broth (all very high).
  •  Amines - Make a good slow cooked beef broth for your base.
While eating this The Boy's words were "This looks like something the Cook and the Chef would make".

I'll take that, thank you.

Sauce of Wonder

I have spent quite a bit of brain and kitchen power trying to come up with a decent Asian style sauce. One that could be drizzled onto phô or could be added to a stir fry and actually stick to the noodles. A sauce that stood up against a hoisin or oyster sauce. Thick and rich, not too sweet and not too salty.

I've finally done it.

I wanted to call it "Sauce of Wonder", but thought that was a buit pretentious so I enlisted my husband's help to name it. He suggested translating it to Vietnamese - nước sốt kỳ diệu. Not really a name that will come easily to most, and not really easy to search for. I translated it back to English and it is "Magic Sauce". I kind of like that. It has a nicer ring to it that "Hoisin Substitute". Plus it has been a while since I've had hoisin and this may be nothing like it.

Magic Sauce
  • 1/2 cup Golden syrup
  • 1/4 cup gin
  • 1/4 cup syrup reserved from tinned pears
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp carob syrup **
  • 1 tsp tapioca starch
  1. In a small saucepan place all ingredients except one teaspoon of the carob syrup and the tapioca starch. Gently bring to the boil giving an occasional stir.
  2. Simmer until the bubbling starts to look frothy, take off heat and add combined carob syrup and tapioca. Stir through and place back onto heat. 
  3. Bring the mixture back to the boil. When it looks frothy again it is done.
  4. Let cool (don't be tempted to taste it before it has cooled a lot as it will be incredibly hot) and store in a sealed container in the fridge.
  5. Add to phô or stir-fry. Or use as a BBQ marinade for meat.

** If you don't have carob syrup then you could substitute something else. I haven't tried, but I think that half a teaspoon of carob powder mixed with two teaspoons of boiling water would have a similar result or the same amount of instant decaf coffee might too.

Monday, 15 October 2012

L'addiction s'il vous plait

Apparently I have been in denial. Or maybe just underplaying it. It seems that I have an addiction. It was only last night as I added more photos to my Facebook page that I truly realised the extent of it.

Hi, my name is Trish and I am addicted to French Food.

 My favourite French band

There. I said it. It is out there now. 

I loved it before failsafe. Buttery croissants, coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon, baguettes with lashings of butter, tarte au fraise, crêpes, crème brûlée, cheese, wine and I'm getting quite worked up just thinking about it all (I may also be addicted to dairy looking at that list).

It seems only natural that I would be converting as much as I can to failsafe. It helps that a lot of it is easy to convert.

My latest attempt was soupe à l'oignon or as you would know it - French onion soup. Onion is out, but leek is in. Leeks are about as cheap as they get at this time of year. They aren't as big as they are at other times, but try to get the thicker ones so you get more bang for your buck.

Not the golden brown hue of its onion counterpart, but equally satisfying.

Soupe aux Poireaux  (leek soup) (Serves 8 as entree)
  • Leek, halved lengthways, washed and sliced - Aim for about 1kg chopped which was 5 short fat leeks for me.
  • 3 Tbsp failsafe oil (or nuttelex or ghee if tolerated)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup rice flour (or other tolerated flour)
  • 2 1/2 Litres of liquid (water or stock or whiskey. I used 1/2 cup whiskey, 1Tbsp stock concentrate and the rest water)
  • Bread to serve.
  1. Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan and add the leeks. Cook over a medium to low heat for about 30mins stirring occasionally until they start to caramelise.
  2. Add the garlic and flour and stir for a few minutes.
  3. Gradually add the liquid while stirring to ensure there are no floury lumps.
  4. Cover the saucepan and simmer for about 25 mins.
  5. Serve with slices of grilled garlic bread on top
  • Salicylates - Use onions (duh), add a bay leaf and a few sprigs of thyme.
  • Non Failsafe guests? Serve with slices of baguette that have been grilled with grated gruyere cheese on top.
 This was a brilliant starter for my Mum's birthday dinner of Boeuf à la Ficelle. The kids had garlic bread slices on top of theirs (I had a few pieces of gluten free garlic bread in the freezer) and the adults had the cheesy baguette option. It was enjoyed by all.