December 20, 2012
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....
Or at least smell like it with all the baking going on at my house!
Cinnamon, five spice, cloves and ginger- all sorts of spices subtly scenting the air.
Add to that a rich toffee, delicious dried fruits, and the zing of zesty orange, and you have a wonderful heady aroma that leaves no doubt that it's the festive season
As I'm the only discerning one in the family who enjoys a traditional Christmas (Fruit) Cake, I tend to make it every second year for home and instead concentrate on other special cakes and slices that we can all enjoy together. This year one of those treats is a Siena Cake.
Siena Cake is a lovely Christmassy treat that originates from Siena, Italy. Also known by the name Panforte, it's a dense, chewy fruit and nut filled cake dating from about the 13th century that's traditionally flavoured with candied orange or citron and spiced with pepper for a bit of kick.
To suit our favourite Asian flavour profile, I played around with the ingredients a bit to give it a twist. By using ginger and 5 Spice and matching it up with some toasted pine nuts to give it a darker earthy flavour and using raw instead of castor sugar it helped keep it darker as well.
Really it's in between a sweet and a cake.
The sugar syrup brings the whole confection together kinda of like a type of delicious cement instead of using eggs and butter, and the small amount of flour means it stays dense and delicious for cutting into tiny slithers to serve with coffee or a glass of Christmas Spirits!
Five Spice Siena Cake
100grm 70% Dark Chocolate- I used an orange flavoured one for a bit of extra boost
1 cup lightly toasted Almonds
1/2 cup lightly toasted Pine nut kernels
1 cup chopped dried Figs
2/3 cup small crystallised Ginger kibble
2/3 cup gf Plain Flour
2/3 cup Sugar- I used raw
2/3 cup Honey
2 tsp 5 Spice Powder
2 tsp Cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp Clove powder
Zest of a nice big Orange
Edible Rice Paper for lining the tin- if available
This rice paper can be easily and cheaply found at delicatessens. Don't mix it up with dried Asian rice paper that is used for rolls and wrappers :)
Line a 20cm pan
If you can't find rice paper, then grease it really, really, really well. If you try and line it with baking paper or wax paper it can still stick sometimes :(
Finely chop the chocolate so it melts easily with the syrup
Pop all the other ingredients into a heat proof dish, and stir around to distribute everything evenly
Make sure the flour coats everything uniformly, and DON'T forget to add the orange zest until the last minute!
Melt together the sugar and honey, then bring it to the boil until it reaches soft ball stage.
I keep a cup of water by the stove so I can periodically drop a bit of the syrup in to test. When you drop a bit in it should hold together softly in a nice ball- not dissolve or go instantly hard and brittle
Nearly there, but don't take it too far or it will turn to hard toffee
Working really fast, stir the hot syrup into the mixture and stir, stir, stir! Make sure all the flour is scooped up from the bottom and doesn't end up clumping. The chocolate will melt and help bind it all together into a lovely mess of more-ish-ness.
Oops! I accidentally deleted that photo, so here's a random one to keep you amused while you keep reading....
Still working really quickly, pat the lovely warm mixture into the lined pan and carefully pat the top nice and smooth
Bake at 150*C for 30-35 minutes, the top will be a bit burnished and might have just a few little bubbles showing. Don't overcook it, or it will go too hard and toffee-fied at the edges
Let it cool down in the pan completely, then trim off any excess paper just to make it look pretty
Now isn't that better?
With such a lovely amount of sugar and other goodies, if you put the cake in an airtight container it will last for a couple of months no problem at all. The flavours will just mature and taste better and better
If you daughter tries to be helpful and pops the cake in the fridge overnight, slicing or even making a dent in the surface of the cake will be nigh on impossible. It's much better stored and served at room temperature if you don't want to chip a tooth or two
So Dear Readers, how are you going with Christmas preparation, and do you like traditional Christmas Cake or not?
December 14, 2012
T'was the night before Christmas,
When all through the kitchen,
Not a thing was prepared
There was no finger-lick'n
Mum just didn't care
At this time of year,
But within a few hours
All the guests would appear
No gluten, no lactose, no seafood or meat
What could she prepare to combat the heat?
Away to the fridge she turned with a sigh,
But what in the depths would appeal to her eye?
Some mushrooms, some crumbs
Herbs and goats cheese,
She knew there was something
In those to appease
'Flash Fried Fungi Fritters'
Should fit the bill,
As a Carnivores side dish
Or a Vego's main thrill
She stuffed them and fried them,
With barely a splatter,
Then piled them all up
On a Christmassy platter
Something Different for Christmas
They were all gobbled down,
All the InTolerants were happy
With nary a frown
My wishes for you
With plates polished bright,
Happy Christmas to all,
And to all a good night!
Cooking at Christmas can be such a pain!
Don't get me wrong- I love cooking at any time, but with extended family get-togethers, food for the Big Day takes it to a whole new level indeed.
'What can I cook?' is something I often get asked by people a bit overwhelmed by it all, especially if there are InTolerants or other dietary restraints involved- including vegetarians on a day that seems to revolve around meat, more meat, stuffing and gravy.
Well, I don't know about you, but I like to multi task and my cooking is no exception. No way am I making a separate dish for everyone just to keep peace, so I came up with this yummy scrummy mushroom recipe where several can be used as a vegetarian main dish, or as a side dish for the meat eaters, or as a great little pre-dinner snack, or as classy nibble with drinkies. Now that's multi tasking! It's also gluten free, and lucky for me I can handle small amounts of goat/sheep product, so I made a great big pile and dug right in- yummo!
An added bonus at this busy time of year is all the goodness packed into these little mushroom morsels. They are nutrient-rich, high in anti-oxidants, very low GI, chock full of vitamin D, and can even boost immune function. And yummy, don't forget yummy.
Amounts for this recipe aren't terribly precise. It all depends on the mushrooms you choose and how large the cavity is. I found that the amount of filling I used filled 2 dozen nicely.
Nice little button Mushrooms
Fresh Goats Cheese (150gr)
Garlic to taste
Gluten free Crumbs- I used Orgran rice crumbs (about 1 1/2 cups)
Gluten free Flour (about a cup)
Fresh ground black pepper- no salt, the cheese is quite salty and mushrooms have heaps of umami
Oil for deep frying- I like cholesterol free Rice Bran oil
Pop the stems out of the lovely little mushroom caps, just tidy them up a bit and make sure there's a good size cavity for filling
Chop about half of the stems nice and fine to use in the stuffing
Place the goats cheese, mushroom stems, spring onion, minced garlic, thyme and pepper in a bowl and mix, mix, mix until well combined
Spoon the filling into the cavity, carefully squishing it down to make sure there are no little empty pockets of air in there.
Smooth the top over, making sure the filling doesn't extend over the edges too much
Prepare yourself for the messy bit
Put the flour, beaten eggs, and crumbs in separate bowls
Start a production line going, keeping one hand for dry ingredients and one for plopping in and out of the eggwash. This is VERY handy in case the phone rings when you're still in the middle of it all
Place the mushrooms in the flour, then shake well to remove any excess
Transfer them accross to the egg and dunk them well all over
Using your designated 'goopy' hand, fish them out and plop into the crumbs.
Make sure they get a really solid coating to avoid the mushrooms and filling splitting and spitting in the hot oil, and to make sure they don't absorb excess oil as well
I like to repeat the egging and crumbing process to make sure I get a good coating, and a really nice crunch from the crispy crumbs. It doesn't take away from the flavour at all, and adds a great textural contrast to the soft mushroom and creamy smooth goats cheese as well
The little fritters can be set aside in the fridge for a few hours now if you want to get ready for the festivities,
Otherwise carefully deep fry them at a very moderate heat, until they are gorgeously golden and crispily crunchy.
I found the larger mushrooms wanted to float belly down leaving the dome in danger of being sadly soggy, but if you wait a few moments you can flip them over carefully and they seemed happy to stay that way for a while. The smaller ones were much more well behaved and stayed flipped when asked to
Serve these fritters nice and warm, NOT straight from the pot! As I discovered to my peril, whilst they are sooooo tempting, give them a moment or two as the cheese melts into molten marvellousness that can sear off your taste buds and cause the rest of your meal to not taste like much at all. And it would be such a shame to put all that Festive Feasting to waste, wouldn't it?
So my Dearest Readers, how much do you love mushrooms, and will you be serving them up on your Christmas table?
This post was paid for and sponsored by The Australian Mushroom Growers Association, as part of their Summer of Mushrooms campaign.
My opinions and love of mushrooms however, are purely my own!
December 4, 2012
One of my sisters, SpecialK, has recently returned to Australia,after living in Turkey for the past 7 years.
She bought with her a Turkish husband and two gorgeous little kiddies who are rapidly adopting Australian accents and habits as they happily settle into their new home.
When we visited them earlier in the year, my brother-in-law proudly treated us to a Turkish banquet of homemade Kebabs and meats grilled over charcoal, and lots of fantastic fresh tasting salads and sweet, sweet Turkish desserts, so I know first hand how delicious real Turkish food can be.
Imagine then, how happy I was to receive and e-mail from author Sibel Hodge asking me if I would like to review her first cookbook 'A Gluten Free Taste of Turkey'!
Sibel's Dad emigrated to the UK where he met her English Mum. She grew up in the UK, but now spends most of her time in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, so she definitely has experienced the best of both cultures indeed.
When Sibel met her Coeliac husband, like most people she didn't have a clue what that meant at all.
Already the author of a string of quirky romantic comedies, mysteries and children's books, she decided she wanted to show that gluten free food can be eclectic, vibrant and delicious, and so created 'A Gluten Free Taste of Turkey'- a mix of traditional Turkish cookery, dishes with a Turkish Cypriot twist, and some of her own creation.
I eagerly read through my ebook, and was certainly impressed with what I saw. I made my favourite recipe from the book, and have jotted down some of my thoughts on the recipes as well:
I think Sibel captured the vibrancy and variety available with Turkish cuisine so well- sadly only known to many as greasy kebabs and colourful dips. Writing this style of cookbook however, shows how delicious and adaptable it can truly be to both Coeliacs and regular eaters, without compromising on either authenticity or taste.
The little snippets of information before each dish were very interesting, and helped engage me with the recipe. Rather than just having a brief word or two describing the dish it helped give each a life of its own, and also showed through a bit of her personality.
One of my favourite dishes was the Yoghurt Soup- so very yummy indeed! My sister makes a version of it often and it's certainly a favourite in her household too.
I liked how there were different options for kebab marinades, as I know so many people who (stubbornly and stupidly) refuse to try a recipe at all if there is just one ingredient in it that they don't like. This leaves them no excuse for not giving them a go.
The Figs in Syrup are bookmarked for when the fig season is upon us, and I have some Saffron Syrup that I think would go really well with them too.
The Sexy Cabbage is definitely a winner, and such an under rated veggie here as well! I have some growing in my garden as we speak :)
Pan Fried Liver was a brave inclusion- offal is an almost controversial ingredient, isn't it? I'm so glad the whole nose-to-tail eating is coming in vogue again.
So many Gluten Free cookbooks really put me off with their almost militant style of writing. Let's be realistic, most people just won't bother with huge lists of weird and hard-to-source ingredients to make this-particular-authors-
special-flour-blend that is the only one to make their recipe work. Sibel has used Great ingredients with Great style to show off one of the worlds truly Great cuisines, proving definitively that Gluten Free need not be Flavour Free!
Yoghurt Soup (Tarhana Corbasi)
1 1/2 pints (700ml) Gluten free Chicken stock
1/2 cup long grain Rice - washed
2 cups Yoghurt (I used Lidells Lactose Free)
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 tsp Tomato Paste
2 tsp Cumin
2 tsp Mint (I used dried for cooking)
1 tsp Sumac
2 Tab Rice Flour (I used plain gfree flour)
2 Tab Butter
Put the stock, salt and pepper in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the rice, cover and cook on a low heat until the rice is soft.
In a separate bowl mix the spices, yoghurt, flour, egg, butter and tomato paste.
Add a few spoonfuls of the hot liquid from the rice pan into the yoghurt bowl to warm it up slightly, then pour the mixture into the rice pan, stirring it very slowly so it doesn't curdle.
Maintain a low heat on the pan, stirring for another 10 minutes, then pour into bowls. Yum!
I noticed that after a few minutes the soup thickened up considerably into a lovely smooth consistency. The flour and butter would work as a roux, and of course the protein from the egg would help give the luscious richness and silkiness- just don't let the mix get too hot, or stop stirring!
I absolutely loved this dish, but it's such a mix of opposites!
Light but rich tasting, comforting but special too, wonderful hot but gorgeously refreshing cold....
overall a terrific all-rounder and a meal I'll be adding to my families repertoire.
The other dish I decided to try were the Baked Eggs (Kavrilmis Yumurta). I'm always after nice breakfast or brunch dishes, but this would be a great lunch or supper dish as well.
The only difference I made to the recipe was to use a Greek Sheep Cheese instead of the Turkish Taze Kasar cheese or mozarella recommended. I can tolerate certain amounts of sheep and goats cheese, and the one I used was the one I could source easily from one of the major supermarkets.
I found the dish to be very tasty, but a bit rich and concentrated tasting for me. I realise that ingredients vary so much world wide, so a little tweaking is needed sometimes to adjust. I think if I just swapped out the tinned tomatoes for fresh ones, I would enjoy it a lot more.
So Dear Readers, do you enjoy Turkish food, and how often you eat it?
The InTolerant Chef was gifted a free e-copy of 'A Gluten Free Taste of Turkey', by the author Sibel Hodge. No payment was received for this review.
A Gluten Free Taste of Turkey is available to buy now in ebook format for Kindle from:
ebook/A-Gluten-Free-Taste- Turkey/book- ysOC66RUc0mQJemN5ARiwQ/page1. html?s=ZZMzD5TrXEWT2ZYb92vV6Q& r=10
It's also available in paperback from Amazon.co.uk:http://www.
amazon.co.uk/A-Gluten-Free- Taste-Turkey/dp/1480267864/ ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid= 1354097634&sr=8-2
and Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.
com/A-Gluten-Free-Taste- Turkey/dp/1480267864/ref=sr_1_ 1?ie=UTF8&qid=1354097600&sr=8- 1&keywords=sibel+hodge+a+ gluten+free+taste+of+turkey