Wednesday 28 March 2012

Making Something Out Of Nothing

Do you ever completely misjudge something? It has taken me a while to get used to not cooking too much in one go when it comes to dinners. Meat based leftovers have such a short life span that leftovers are usually wasted. So most of the time leftovers are minimal, but every now and again I totally misjudge quantities. For example, the other weekend my parents came over for a meal which included mashed potato. So I was over catering to begin with, but went completely over the top. I had a ridiculous amount of leftovers and was loath to waste them. What to do, what to do?

Vegetable croquettes of course! They can contain anything that you have on hand. If you've got other leftover veg (or meat), chuck 'em in. A can of beans? Chuck 'em in. Pretty much anything can go into them.

Crispy on the outside, hot and squishy on the inside.

Again, this isn't an actual recipe, just an idea, a bit of inspiration.

Vegetable Croquettes
Suggested ingredients
  • leftover mashed potato
  • finely chopped leek, shallot, celery, garlic, cabbage, brussels sprouts
  • grated swede
  • any vegetable puree you may have
  • cooked lentils
  • tinned beans (kidney, cannellini, chickpeas etc)
  • egg(s)
  • salt 
  • crumbs
  • oil for frying
  1. Saute or steam any raw vegetables
  2. Mix them through the mashed potato adding salt to taste.
  3. Add as many lightly beaten eggs as necessary to moisten your vegetable mixture (unless you went completely over the top, one is probably enough).
  4. Take about a tablespoon at a time and shape into a log and coat in crumbs.
  5. When they are all done heat enough oil for shallow frying in a frying pan and cook in batches until they are golden on the outside and hot through. 
  6. Drain on paper towel if necessary.
  7. Try not to burn your mouth as you shovel them in.

Hubby thought that I had bought them and not just thrown them together from leftovers.

Oh Crumbs!

I was recently disappointed by the unavailability of my favourite rice crumbs. It seems not only that they are not in the shops, but the company is no longer in existence. There are other brands around, but I've never been overly impressed with them. So like everything else these days, it seems I have to make them myself. I had made other forays into rice crumbs with varying results, as it was usually a last minute "oh my god I'm out of crumbs" moment. So I've made a little more effort to have crumbs on hand, and they are really quite simple to make. The bonus is that they don't have to be rice, they can be whatever puffed grain that you can tolerate and have on hand. I actually quite like a combination of rice and millet.

This is not so much a recipe as a guide to making great crumbs.

What you need is
  • Puffed grains - whichever you like, although if they are bigger they will process more easily. Quinoa and amaranth probably won't work very well (but feel free to give it a go). I used a bag of puffed rice and half a bag of puffed millet. 
  • A large baking tray.

How to do it
  1. Preheat your oven to about 130℃
  2. Tip your cereals into the baking tray and put into the oven 
  3. Stir them around every 5-10mins so none get burnt and once they have dried out and gone crispy they are ready for the next step. The time will depend on how many are in the tray and what grain you are using. When you stir them grab one and try to crush it, if it crumbles easily, they are ready.
  4. Put into a food processor and blitz until you have crumbs.
  5. Store in an airtight container.

Yummy crumbs.
Use them as you will, but everything tastes better crumbed!

Monday 19 March 2012

We Shall Eat Cake

We had a little birthday party to attend yesterday. Some of the food was going to be failsafe, but I needed to take cake for us. It's something that drives me a bit nuts. Not the taking of cake, I don't mind that. It's the going to the effort of making cake and then my son deciding he doesn't want to eat it. This has been happening a lot. He has decided that he doesn't like vanilla cake anymore, nor does he like caramel cake. These have been my easy fall back cakes, but he is over them, so I offered to make something different. I offered pear, lemon or carob. Completely out of left field, he chose the carob. We're not big fans of carob here; he eats it sometimes, but it has taken me a real long time to stop gagging at the smell. It is easy enough to convert a chocolate cake recipe to carob and I decided to team that with a caramel icing. He didn't like the icing, but the cake was good. The cake was actually so good that I (who gag at the thought of carob) enjoyed some. So today I experimented with something else - Marshmallow frosting. Bingo! We have a winning combination.

The cake was adapted from a Hummingbird Bakery book that I own and the frosting is straight from Martha Stewart

Carob Cupcakes makes about 24 patty sized cakes
  • 200g plain gluten free flour (I used white wings)
  • 40g carob powder
  • 280g caster sugar
  • 3tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 90g nuttelex
  • 220mls rice milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  1. Preheat the oven to 170℃
  2. Put flour, carob, sugar, baking powder, salt and nuttelex in the bowl of an electric mixer (or you can use a hand held mixer) and beat on a slow speed until everything is combined and it looks sandy.
  3. Whisk the eggs, milk and vanilla together in a jug and slowly pour half into the flour mixture. Beat on high until it is smooth
  4. Turn the mixer back to slow and add the rest of the milk mixture. Continue mixing until you have a smooth batter. Do not overmix.
  5. Spoon the mixture into patty cases until two thirds full (don't be tempted to over fill them, it is a very runny cake batter and it will overflow)
  6. Bake for about 15 mins or until cake springs back when lightly touched or a skewer comes out clean. 
  7. Cool on racks.

  1. 6 egg whites 
  2. 1 1/2 cups sugar
  3. 3/8 tsp cream of tartar
  4. dash vanilla essence
  1. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Turn down to a gentle simmer.
  2. Place egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar into a heatproof bowl and place on saucepan. Make sure the water isn't touching the bottom of the bowl.
  3. Using electric hand beaters, beat on a slow speed until the sugar is completely dissolved and the egg feels warm (approx 3-4 mins).
  4. Take the bowl off the heat and keep beating at increasing speeds until the mixture is glossy and stiff peaks form (8-10 mins)
  5. Add vanilla, beat until combined. Scoop into a piping bag and decorate cakes as desired.

Variations - Amines - Use cocoa
                    If you have a little blow torch, you could use it lightly on the frosting for a toasted marshmallow finish. (I have one. I have yet to figure out how to get the gas into it.)

The biscuit on top is half an Orgran Rotondo which is almost failsafe.

These cakes are deliciously moist and you won't want to stop at one.

Thursday 15 March 2012

The Proof is in the Pudding

I have a few comfort foods. These are ones that I grew up with, that my grandmothers made. My grandparents were from Great Britain, so these foods are warm and stodgy. As I was cooking dinner the other night I realised that even the smell of these foods take me back to when I was a kid.

Whenever we went to my paternal grandparents house for a meal, it was always a baked dinner. Roast beef with all the trimmings and my Grandad would sit there with a jar of hot english mustard and smear it on every forkful. My Nanna would always turn out enormous piping hot Sunday roasts, she had come around to the idea of pumpkin (although would cook it with the skin on which I absolutely hated) and no roast was complete without a huge tray of Yorkshire pudding.

The Yorkshire pudding front and centre.

I often get surprised by how many people have never heard of Yorkshire pudding, even those who come from English backgrounds. It is a batter that was (once upon a time) cooked beneath the roasting meat and would catch the dripping. It would be served before the meat and veg as a cheaper filler. It has kind of evolved over time and become another side dish for a traditional roast dinner often made muffin sized. Left overs (as if there could be any) can be served with syrup or jam for sweets. While in England, our favourite pub served them plate sized with the sausage, mash, peas and gravy on top.

The main trick with these is to have the oven really hot. I usually put them in while my meat is resting and the potatoes are crisping up.

Yorkshire Pudding 
Makes 12 patty sized puddings
  • 1 cup plain GF flour (again, Orgran is my convenient choice)
  • pinch salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup rice milk (or whatever milk you tolerate)
  • oil 
  1.  Sift flour and salt together
  2. Break the egg into flour and add half of the milk. Mix until combined. Stand for at least 30 mins.
  3. Turn oven to 220℃
  4. Put about a teaspoon of oil into each patty hole and place into hot oven 
  5. Mix in the rest of the milk. It should be a thick, but pourable batter.
  6. When oil is smoking pour batter into holes and bake for 15-20 mins. They will be golden. 
  7. Yorkshire puddings always have high side and sinkholes in the middle. Don't think that you have failed when this happens. You've done it right!
Now gobble them up. I love them with LOTS of gravy. In the absence of gravy, a good shake of salt does the trick.

Variations- Gluten - use plain white flour.
                   Dairy - use cow milk and you can use ghee in place of the oil.
                   Amines - dripping or lard can be used in the pan and eat them smothered with gravy.

Thursday 8 March 2012

A Gingerbread House

Without the ginger... Which seemed to go down pretty well with everyone at Christmas as not many people in the family seem to like ginger.

I was completely unsure if this would work, gluten free baking can tend towards brittle and crumbly and there was a chance it would lack the structural integrity needed to hold its own weight. But it did work. It possibly needs a little tweaking as it was slightly dry, but it was pretty.

It was adapted from a recipe on Taste that was recommended to me. How many it makes depends on how big you make them. I made three smaller ones. You will need a template for cutting your house. There are quite a few of varying complexity to be found via google. The one I chose was quite simple as I really didn't have time to waste and still didn't know if it would work. I enlarged and shrunk it before it was printed so there were a few different sizes to work with. If you do the same, don't get the pieces mixed up or your houses may not go together.

Gingerbread House
  • 4 1/2 cups (600g) plain GF flour (I used whitewings this time)
  • 7 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup (280g) firmly packed brown sugar
  • 185g nuttelex
  • 1/2 cup (100g) golden syrup
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Icing sugar (for dusting)
  • Allowed lollies (eg. marshmallows, pear drops, musk sticks, sprinkles)
Royal Icing
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups pure icing sugar
  1. Put the flour, baking powder, sugar and nuttelex into a food processor. Process until it looks like breadcrumbs.
  2.  Mix eggs and syrup together and slowly add to food processor while it is running. When it is starting to come together, remove and knead on a floured surface until smooth. Divide into portions, wrap with cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 4hrs
  3. Roll the dough between 2 sheets baking paper until 5mm thick. Remove top layer baking paper. Place your templates onto the dough and cut shapes. Place gingerbread on lined baking trays. Freeze for 15 minutes or until firm. 
  4. Heat oven to 180°C and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until cooked and firm. Cool on the tray.
  5. To make icing, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add sifted icing sugar while still beating until it is all incorporated
  6. Build your house on a flat, solid plate. Use the icing as mortar to join the walls together. You can use food cans or other containers to prop the walls up until the icing sets. Attach the roof in the same way. (I was unsure if it would hold, so I used two dressmakers pins on the top corners to make sure).
  7. Place the rest of the icing into a zip-lock bag and snip off the tip. Make patterns and decorate your house. Use the icing to stick any lollies to the house- the kids love helping with this. (I also cut little people and a tree from left over dough. I used the icing to stick them to the plate aswell). Dust it with icing sugar.
  8. Wrap it all in cellophane so it keeps a bit better.

Please note that smarties and jellybeans are not FS. They did not contain any nasty additives and were considered a super treat by my son who was only allowed to eat a few of them.


I've made no pretenses about my organisational skills so far on this blog. Basically I suck at it. Everything happens at the last minute, but I usually end up pulling things off to a certain degree. I've also had to change the way I cook for the purpose of blogging. I was always a "cook by feel" type of girl, you know, a splash of this, a splodge of that a handful of something else and cook it until I think it's done... That doesn't really translate well when you are trying to give someone else instructions. So I decided over Christmas that I would take notes as I baked with weights and measurements, times and temperatures. Generally I love notebooks; lists make me feel more organised and I have a plethora of exercise books that I buy at the back-to-school sales for that purpose. So I took Christmas notes with the intention of blogging them (albeit after Christmas, as I was too last minute to get it done beforehand) and then when the time came for me to do it, I couldn't find them. I went through every notebook I could find and came up with nothing. Disappointed isn't a strong enough word for how I felt. My dear husband bought me a lovely new notebook, all hard covered and pretty, so that I would write in that one alone and wouldn't mix it up or accidentally throw it away.

Then, two days ago, I found it! Next to the sewing table with sewing notes on it too. I looked there! I know I did, but there it was. And so now I bring you Christmas (or any other time really) baking recipes.

These are a traditional European Christmas/winter biscuit that are usually full of spices and pepper. These are not. But they are still delicious. This recipe made a *LOT* of biscuits. They kept very well in an air tight container, but you could probably portion the dough and freeze. I used saffron when I made these as I thought there should really be at least one spice in it. Not sure if it really made any difference to the flavour, but it made me feel better about it.

  • 1/2 cup (200g) Golden syrup
  • 1/4 cup(100g) Rice malt syrup
  • 1/2 cup nuttelex
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 cups (580g) Orgran plain GF flour
  • 3/4 cup (170g) white sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100g) brown sugar
  • A big pinch of saffron threads (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tsp bicarb soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup icing sugar for dusting
  1. Put golden syrup,  rice malt syrup, nuttelex and saffron into a saucepan, cook over a medium heat while stirring until it combines and goes a bit creamy looking. Leave to cool to room temperature.
  2. Remove the saffron threads and stir in the eggs.
  3. Put flour, white and brown sugars, bicarb and salt into a large bowl and add the syrup mixture. Mix until you have a nice dough. Cover and put into the fridge for about 2 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 165℃. 
  5. Roll the dough into walnut sized balls and place on trays lined with baking paper approx 3cm apart. These do spread.
  6. Bake for 10-15mins. The longer you bake them, the harder they are.
  7. Cool on racks and dust with icing sugar.

Pfeffernusse front and centre. Spritz cookies on their right, iced biscuits at the back and meringues on the left

The spritz cookies are a recipe I found on Gluten Free Homemaker. These needed almost no tweaking to be failsafe. Simply omit the almond essence and substitute nuttelex for the butter. If you don't have the individual flours on hand, you can substitute the same quantity of Orgran flour and the results are pretty much the same. They don't need to be iced and if you don't have a cookie press you could always put blobs of dough on the tray. Equally delicious!

Happy Baking!

Pear Season!

Pears. What would we do without them?

March is the peak season (in Australia) for William pears and a bunch of other varieties, which makes it the perfect time to make your preserves. Pears are cheap, plentiful, high quality, and in theory you could make your whole year's worth of preserves right now.

Quite some time ago my best friend sent me a link to recipe and asked if it could be done failsafe. A really quick look at the ingredients told me that it practically was. It was a recipe for Pear and Vanilla Bean Honey and quite frankly, it looked divine. I made it and, lo and behold, it was divine. My son ate it at every opportunity, on toast, on sandwiches, on (homemade) crumpets, on scones, on ice cream and straight from the jar.

Here is my adaptation (it makes way more than the original, because really, why bother to make one jar when you can make five).

Pear and Vanilla Bean Honey

  • 12 ripe pears, peeled, cored and quartered 
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 3 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp citric acid
  1. Pop your pears into a large saucepan with the water, bring to the boil and simmer until the pears are very soft and squishy.
  2. Push the pears and the liquid through a sieve - and no you can't just put them in the food processor, because with the sieve you get rid of all the thick fibres which would get stuck in your teeth and ruin the texture.
  3. Put back into cleaned pot. Split the vanilla bean and add the seeds and the pod. Add the sugar and the citric acid.
  4. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for about 45 minutes.
  5. Pour into hot, sterile jars and once it is cool store in the fridge. This is not preserved as well as jam, it is far too liquid and I can't say that it would keep safely out of the fridge.

Monday 5 March 2012

Creamy Chicken Pasta

This is one of my easy meals. It's even easier if the chicken is already cut up in the freezer. It is very tasty and, even though the title suggests otherwise, contains no dairy. It did take me a little while to get this right as rice milk can make things sweet and no amount of salt seems to right that. The key ingredient in this dish is the whiskey. For quite a while I forgot about the failsafe alcohol and if I had no stock then food got even more bland. Failsafe mums will also like the little bit of hidden veg. It is hard to get enough vegetables into our kids and a meal like this is usually another meal devoid of a lot of nutrition. It's not a great deal of veg, but you still want it to taste like a creamy pasta sauce and not a stew.

Chicken Pasta Sauce

  •  1 Tbsp failsafe oil
  • 1 small leek diced finely (or left larger if you like it like that)
  •  3 cloves garlic (crushed, diced or sliced)
  • small piece of celery finely diced
  • 500g chicken breast cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup of whiskey
  • 3 Tbsp veg puree*
  • 1 cup of rice milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp cornflour (or other GF flour)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped parsley

  1.  Place a large frying pan over a medium heat and heat oil
  2. Saute leeks, garlic and celery until translucent
  3. Add chicken and brown all over
  4. Add whiskey and bring to boil 
  5. Add veg puree and rice milk. Simmer for about 10 mins or until chicken is cooked through.
  6. Thicken sauce with flour, add salt and simmer for a couple of minutes.
  7. Stir egg through sauce and immediately turn off heat. (The heat in the sauce will cook the egg without it turning into scrambled eggs) 
  8. Stir through chopped parsley and serve over pasta.

* For veg puree, chop allowed veg and steam in microwave. Puree when cool and freeze in small containers or ice cube trays ready to be added to anything you can get away with. My puree contained 1 swede, 1 cup cabbage, 1 stick celery and half a choko. Pretty much just the veg that I had on hand.

Variations - Dairy -  Use a combination of milk and cream and add a nice big dollop of ricotta.
                 - Gluten - Use normal pasta.
                 - Eggs -  This is totally optional. It does add an extra bit of thickness and richness, but this dish is perfectly good without it.

If you have any leftovers, pop them into the freezer and they make a great pie filling with a bit more pureed veg added.