Category Archives: Food

A glutton for gluten-free

Standard
Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes

Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes (Photo credit: FamilySweetery)

So, we’re trialling a gluten-free diet in our household and one week in, we’re starting to see (or smell) a real difference.

I don’t want to lower the tone of this blog, but I can tell you that the eldest child is experiencing a lot fewer . . . um . . . ah-hmm . . . bottom burps. There, I said it. Let’s move on.

The only stumbling block so far has been tracking down enough suitable lunch box recipes to keep the kids happy.

Despite the recommendations of several helpful websites, I will not be packing a salad nicoise with tuna for any of my kids’ lunches. I’ve already said no to kabana and vegetable kebabs and closed the door on gluten-free sushi.

I want us to eat better. Not necessarily five star.

I’ve entered a new world where quinoa reigns supreme. Pronounce that right and its sounds even fancier.

I’ve been bemoaning a lack of reading time lately but it seems the quest for gluten-free food has solved that problem as well. I can spend hours reading labels in the supermarket aisles and still leave with just one or two things.

But we are not starving! Bags of rice have invaded our kitchen cupboards. Corn crumbs, corn flakes and cornflour have taken up residence in every other cabinet. Gone are the ready-made chicken strips, pies and cakes. I’m cooking again.

And with a bit of luck and some perseverance, we might just be a little healthier for it.

PS If you can recommend any good gluten-free sites, let me know. Much appreciated! 🙂

Advertisements

Oh, Miguel! Where are you?

Standard
P3101501

P3101501 (Photo credit: a_b_normal123)

I didn’t plan it this way. When I woke up this morning, it didn’t even cross my mind. But just a few hours later I found myself standing in line buying a book I didn’t want, just to get an autograph I never knew I needed.

Perhaps it was the delectable Spanish accent that kept me waiting in line for so long. Maybe it was the whole tall-dark-handsome thing or the roguish smile and cheeky sense of humour.

All I know is that I paid $30 for a book about Spanish cooking that I will probably never use. And let’s face it – this is no audio-book. So we don’t even get to hear that Spanish-English accent that makes Miguel Maestre so appealing.

That said, my kids were pretty chuffed about meeting a celebrity chef. So we stood in line as countless women before us got the kiss on both cheeks and the signature we so desperately wanted.

Then it was our turn. Miguel Maestre stood before us, pen in hand, smile at the ready. But before he could reach for our book, there was a whisper in his ear. He was needed for a taste-test. Could we wait just a minute?

“Sure,” I said. The kids had waited this long, a few more minutes wouldn’t kill us.

Moments passed and a woman appeared where Miguel should have been. He was going to be another hour. The taste-test had turned into a cook-off. Could we come back?

Probably not, I thought to myself. “Sure,” I said and turned away.

The couple behind me stepped forward. “Oh, but we’re leaving,” they gushed. “Could we just get his autograph?”

“Follow me,” said the woman while I stood back, just a little bit annoyed.

Minutes later, the couple re-appeared. He was smiling. She was glowing. What on earth had gone on back there?

Having never planned to buy Miguel’s book, much less get his autograph, I was now oddly peeved.

What to do? I gave up. There was no way I was entertaining three kids while we waited for Miguel to finish cooking.

But my husband was not so easily put off. He sat through that cooking demonstration, lined up with the throngs of excited fans and got that autograph.

The only thing he didn’t get was the double kiss. Oh well. The book is signed. It’s on a shelf. Mission accomplished.

Cooking the old-fashioned way

Standard

I have a ‘new’ favourite book. But it’s not new at all. It’s from 1946 and I love everything about it.

Firstly there’s the title – ‘How to Cook Well’. No fast, furious, low-fuss cookery mania here. No boutique, chef hat, posh nosh in sight. No sir-ee. From the out-set, the author, Ann Roe Robbins, is keeping her expectations low, which suits me fine.

As it happens, we actually have a bit in common. In her preface, Ann Roe Robbins admits she never cooked until she was married. Unless you count cakes, I too was in the same boat. In between leaving home and getting married (perhaps a little longer if I’m honest) my diet consisted largely of peanut butter and honey on toast. Things improved somewhat after the nuptials but there was always a jar of peanut butter on standby in the fridge.

Around this time, I was given one good, contemporary cookbook. It covered some of the basics until I eventually inherited Ann Roe Robbins’ answer to all things culinary. It’s just what I needed. It seems she wasn’t interested in simply compiling a book of recipes. She wanted to explain why things were done the way they were done. She believed in instructions over instinct and measuring over guess-work. She wanted to share her money saving techniques and make sure her readers were eating healthy, flavoursome food.

That meant rules – always have a hot dish with every meal even in the summer; include flavour, colour and texture to ensure every meal is appetising; avoid dishes that require last minute attention, and; don’t be scared of a long list of ingredients.

Not every rule rings true today, but her enthusiasm and passion for food shines through. Ann Roe Robbins and her sky blue cookbook with its linen cover, gold embellishments and understated title would give any of today’s chefs a run for their money.

I’ll have what he’s having . . .

Standard
Biscuit Plate

Biscuit Plate (Photo credit: Caro Wallis)

I give up! I can no longer handle the responsibility of deciding what to eat and when. The whole concept of dieting and fitness just makes me feel tired and a wee bit disheartened. So I’m handing all the food-related decisions over to my husband. I’ll have what he’s having.

When it comes to good health, I think you would be hard-pressed to find two more contrasting characters.

I love cake. I love biscuits. I love chocolate. I love chocolate biscuits. But I especially love bread with a generous scrape of butter on it. My husband, on the other hand, is a salad fiend, never touches bread, eats fruit regularly . . . and jogs. In fact, last week he competed in a triathlon. Meanwhile, I’m getting tired just typing this. Sigh.

Both literally and figuratively, I am being left behind. So it’s time to take action (of the most inactive kind). Henceforth, I am absolving myself of all responsibility when it comes to food.

If he’s going to eat corn crackers instead of bread, so will I. Sniffle.

If he’s going to eat apples instead of cream filled biscuits, so am I. Sob.

And if he’s going to eat muesli instead of thick fresh bread loaded with lashings of peanut butter and honey, so . . . will . . . I. Burst into tears.

Here’s hoping he takes the hint and discovers the block of fruit and nut chocolate I have stashed (rather obviously) in the freezer.

If he’s having that, there’s no way I’m missing out!

A year of passion . . . fruit

Standard

By design or necessity, my Grandma was an excellent cook.

Her kitchen was the place where guests were received, important decisions made and the very best of food was created.

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to inherit a selection of her cookbooks. Amongst the titles was a 1964 edition of The Commonsense Cookery Book, a much-loved and weathered copy of Elizabeth Craig’s Economical Cookery (circa 1948) and a rather pristine copy of Roz Denny’s Family Suet Cooking.

But buried beneath them all, was a cookbook of the home-made variety, labelled ‘Passionfruit 1991’.

It must have been a good year for passionfruit. The book began with a raft of recipes designed to use up all the available fruit. There was one for passionfruit foam (to be served with custard); another for passionfruit lemon butter; vanilla slice with – you guessed it – passionfruit; and, of course, meringue which wouldn’t be complete without . . . passionfruit.

After a dozen or so pages, the inspiration – and perhaps the fruit – ran out. That’s where Grandpa took over ownership of the book. In 1991 he listed every piece of fruit and vegetable harvested from their garden.

At this point, you should know, they didn’t do things by halves. Grandpa logged 172 lbs of tomatoes, 126 capsicums, 31 ¼ lbs of beans, 12 pumpkins and 223 cucumbers.

But passionfruit won the day with 489 pieces of fruit harvested from their vine.

The fruit was delivered into the kitchen where Grandma turned that produce into culinary delights to last the year through.

It’s puts into perspective my own gardening successes – the carrot that’s actually straight, the watermelon that’s actually edible and the eggplant that looks gorgeous even if it will never see the inside of my kitchen.

I take solace in the thought that perhaps 2013 will be my year for passionfruit.

Never say no to dessert . . .

Standard
Rice pudding bowl

Rice pudding bowl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If every meal started with dessert, I’d be a very happy diner.

Unfortunately, due to some slap-dash decree dished out in a fit of pique by some disgruntled lemon-sucking, happy-hater (who was never hugged enough as a child), dessert comes last. And only if you’ve finished your dinner.

I have often wished that even on my nights out with ‘the girls’ I had the backbone to buck tradition and order from the dessert menu when they were all being very grown up and trying to decide which meal would best complement their choice of wine.

I’m not unfamiliar with the sugar high that goes with my passion for desserts. It is, in its own way, as intoxicating as a nice bottle of bubbles. But I digress.

My love of dessert has inspired a new tradition in our family. And so we have – drum roll please – the quad-annual family cook-off. Every member of the family picks a dish we’ve never tried before and cooks it during the holidays.

I can’t tell you how proud I was when four out of my five family members chose desserts. There may have been tears shed. I’m sure there was extra pocket money involved.

So, first cab off the rank – baked rice pudding. I was nominated to make this one which is somewhat confusing as baked rice pudding is one of the rare desserts that I don’t like. But, with a little candied peel and a heavy-handed dose of spice, it actually tasted pretty good.

Next cab off the rank – strawberry sorbet. At the time of tasting I was convinced it could not be bettered.

Third competitor, I mean participant – baked cheesecake. So good, so rich and so lovely we could only eat a little before inviting some friends around to help us finish it.

Entry number four was inspired by a home cooking show and produced ice-cream that looked like a slice of water melon. It was good to look at, the kids loved it, but we couldn’t finish it. The image of red and green colouring melting together on a plate didn’t inspire a race to the finish line.

And so we came to cook-off entrant number five – the only person to select a savoury dish, namely Moroccan beef kofta. It was a masterpiece followed by a Jamie Oliver inspired dessert – Eton mess -because we happened to have all the ingredients lying around. And I’m glad we did.

Now, if I had to pick a favourite I’d have to say . . . one of each.

From Grandma’s cookbook . . .

Standard

I love a good book, but there’s one book I love above all others – my Grandma’s cookbook.

It’s a snapshot of her life through food, from the simplest of recipes to the most creative culinary concoctions, spanning 70 years of Grandma’s cooking life.

It’s a window into her world unlike any other.

The black leather cover is stained and smudged with decades of use. The pages are yellowed and worn. The binding is falling apart. And between every page there’s an added extra – a few centimetres snipped from the pages of a newspaper, a recipe scrawled on the back of a Dunlop proxy form and letters from her friends sharing their own cookery hints and kitchen successes.

It seems every member of the family has contributed in some way at some stage. Their names are included along with the date of their own offering. And even the recipes that have no name still bare the unique handwriting of their owner.

There might have been some order to it once, but these recipes have been referenced so often – probably in the thick of baking, bottling or brewing – that reading this book is now more of a journey than a destination.

Every page evokes strong memories of my Grandma’s kitchen from the wood fired stove where she could bake the perfect sponge to the linoleum covered kitchen table where preparation was done and every meal was shared.

As a child, I knew there was always something on the boil in Grandma’s kitchen and a magical, mystery tin on top of the cupboard protecting her latest sweet treat from hungry grandkids.

And while the cake tin is long gone, Grandma’s cookbook continues to serve up the treats.

The only question remaining is – has it made me a better cook? Ask my kids and they will tell you. I prefer to think the jury is out.