Sunday, 29 July 2012

Raw crumble topping

Now that it is so easy to prepare 'stewed' fruit in the Thermomix, I find myself regularly cooking up a batch to keep in the fridge and stir through natural yoghurt in the summer or to enjoy warm when it is cold and dreary outside (like now) . . . and what goes great with warm stewed fruit for a winter treat? . . .  crumble of course! I have been making my healthy version of a traditional crumble topping for years . . it is considerably more wholesome with minimal added sugar and of course no white flour in sight! I used a food processor before my Thermie came along and have changed the formulation slightly over the years. 

I would usually top my stewed fruit with a generous sprinkling of this crumble topping and then pop it in a moderate oven to toast up for a warming dessert (lovely with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream). But, lately I am enjoying this topping raw on stewed or fresh fruit and natural yoghurt for breakfast (see the photo below) . You can of course heat up the fruit for a warm breakfast :)  Eating the crumble raw is naturally a healthier way to enjoy it, so that the fragile healthy fats and nutrients in the nuts and seeds are preserved and not destroyed during the cooking process which effectively roasts them  . . but I'll let you decide which way you prefer your crumble! 

Paula's healthy crumble topping
This crumble recipe makes enough to top one large dish of stewed fruit or six large individual ramekins. It is equally yummy toasted or raw. You can omit the added fat if eating raw.

20g flaxseeds 
30g pepitas
50g mixed nuts of your choice ( I love to use hazelnuts, almonds & cashews)
6 dried dates or 1-2 tbsp of sucanat (rapadura)
20g desiccated coconut (or grind your own fresh first)
20g coconut oil
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger

Grind the flaxseeds on speed 9 for 10 secondsAdd all other ingredients to the TM bowl and chop on speed 5 for 5 seconds or longer if you prefer a finer texture.  Sprinkle over your favourite stewed fruit combination and bake in preheated moderate oven for 15-20 mins or until golden (or enjoy raw as discussed above).

Enjoy with a generous scoop of vanilla bean ice-cream :) Too easy and so nutritious! Makes a lovely breakfast too, just substitute natural yoghurt for the ice-cream (or not). 

variation ideas
add raw cacao beans or nibs
try blackstrap molasses to sweeten in place of the dates (or sucanat) or omit the sugar if you are sweet enough :)
use any combination of your favourite raw nuts
use sunflower seeds or any seeds of choice in combo with, or in place of pepitas

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Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Quinoa & four veg cakes

I have only needed to survive 10 days without a Thermomix here in Australia this visit thanks to my gorgeous mother-in-law, who will get to use it soon I promise :)  Fresh out of the box it was put to work to make fruity delight, dip, bread rolls, risotto and custard (for the demo) . .  then I kept the tempo up by making a batch of my raw cacao Anzacs, Quirky Cooking's chicken stock paste & creamy brown rice & chicken soup (which is a family favourite), plus stewed rhubarb, raspberries and apple ready for breakfast in the morning . . . all before the day was out! Wheew!  Since then, I've been using Thermie no.2 several times a day . . . impressing family and friends in the flesh rather than simply via pretty pictures on my blog :) 

Here's a recipe I'd been conjuring up in my mind for a week or so, amongst others . . . until the Thermomix arrived. I created this for a light dinner. If you're into risotto cakes, this recipe is a nutritious take on these utilising quinoa instead of white rice. Great for the lunchbox!  I'll definitely be making these in Hong Kong to take into work. But let's not talk about going back to work just yet!

Quinoa & four veg cakes

30g brown basmati rice
70g parmesan, chunks or fetta cheese (or mixture of both)
handful of fresh basil
100g quinoa, soaked or rinsed
1 medium leek, cut into chunks
1 medium zucchini, quartered
1 large clove garlic
15g olive oil
80g baby spinach leaves
2 large eggs
1 red capsicum, chargrilled, peeled & diced
a good grind of salt and black pepper

  1. Measure 100g uncooked quinoa into the steam basket, remove and rinse well or soak overnight inside the TM bowl and drain. Add 400g of filtered water. Cook for 18 minutes at 100°C on speed 4 until quinoa is plump and slightly crunchy. MC lid on.  
  2. While the quinoa is cooking. Cut the cheeks off the red capsicum and place on a sheet of aluminium foil under a high grill until blackened. This should take about 10 minutes. Then wrap the capsicum in the foil and set aside to cool. Later peel off the skin and dice. Set aside. 
  3. Pre-heat oven to 180°C.
  4. Rinse and dry the TM bowl and lid and add brown rice, mill for 30 seconds on speed 9. Set aside.
  5. Add the parmesan cheese and fresh basil to the TM bowl and grate for 15 seconds on speed 8. Set aside with the milled rice. If using fetta, crumble and add at step 7.
  6. Add leek, zucchini and garlic to the TM bowl and chop for 3 seconds on speed 5Add oil and sauté for 2 minutes at 100°C on speed 1. Add baby spinach leaves and sauté a further 1-2 minutes with the MC lid on, until the leaves begin to wilt. 
  7. Return the milled rice, parmesan & basil and cooked quinoa to the TM bowl together with the remaining ingredients (eggs, diced red capsicum). Season well, then combine for 5 seconds on reverse, speed 4
  8. Grease a muffin pan well with coconut oil and scoop the mixture into the muffin holes, fill to the top, press down and level with a spoon. 
  9. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool and set slightly before removing from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. Delicious with tomato chutney & rocket. 

variation ideas
substitute a brown onion for the leek. 
substitute semi-dried tomatoes for red capsicum, stir through at step 9.
substitute cubed roasted sweet potato for the zucchini, stir through at step 9. 

nutrition tid bit
Quinoa pronounced keen-wah could be described as a seed dressed up as a grain, because although it cooks up like a grain, it is actually a seed from a plant which is closely related to spinach and beetroot. Well known in vegan circles because it is a complete protein, which means that it contains all of the 9 'essential amino acids' which must be supplied by the diet (our bodies cannot synthesise them), quinoa is becoming more and more popular for non-vegetarians as a gluten-free alternative to couscous, bulgur or pasta. There are three types of quinoa available commercially; white, red and black, although the most common is the white variety. Each has slightly different taste and texture characteristics. Quinoa is highly nutritious, not just an excellent source of protein but also a good source of minerals such as manganese and magnesium, plus also folate and dietary fibre, as well as a range of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. 

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Saturday, 21 July 2012

Raw energy bars

I came up with the idea for these when I was thinking about what I could make for something different to take with us for a nutritious snack on a family outing to Ocean Park in Hong Kong at the beginning of the school holidays. Miss 5 was favouring my treat balls, but rather than make my usual version, I decided to have a play with the basic ingredients and turn them into a bar for something different! So I made a basic, yet tasty chocolatey mix and turned it into 6 bars just by moulding 3 tbsp of the mixture into a bar shape inside a little plastic bag using my TM spatula. You could easily mould my treat balls into a bar if you wanted to.

The result is a little raw energy bar that you can wrap and take with you as handy little burst of energy when you need it out and about. It's just a shame that I can't send it with my girls to school due to the nut content, as my treat balls have always been a hit with them.

This is what I started with, but there is scope for so much more as I intend to experiment with over the coming weeks. . . while we are on school holidays and I don't have to think 'nut-free'. I will update this page with new recipes as I develop them.

These balls are of course inherently dairy-free, gluten-free, and packed full of dietary fibre and healthy plant fats, plus the sweetness is contributed by whole foods rather than added sugar.

Raw energy bars 
makes 6

ingredients (basic recipe)
100g raw cashews
100g raw walnuts
100g fresh meijool dates
100g dried dates
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
4 tbsp raw cacao  -  if you're a chocoholic like me, you may need 5 :-)

  1. Add the nuts to the TM bowl and with the MC in place, grind on speed 7 for 10-15 seconds. The ground nuts should look a little moist, but not pastey. You don't want to release too much of the oil content. 
  2. Add all other ingredients and combine on speed 7 until the mixture feels fudge-like when you squash some between your fingers. You will also notice that the oils will begin to come out of the nuts. This should only take 10-20 seconds. If you over mix it will become very oily.
  3. Scoop 3 tbsp of the mixture from the bowl and place inside a small ziplock bag. Using your TM spatula, push, prod and shape the mixture into a bar measuring about 3.5 x 10cm and voila . . . you have a nutritious little bar of raw food goodness :) My girls love mummy to add a few drops of peppermint oil for a choc-mint bar. 

Variations . . . there are so many ideas

Use your own combination of nuts and seeds to make up the 200g, e.g. pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashew, peanut, pistachio, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds. You could try to make these nut-free by using a combination of seeds only. 

Use any combination of dried fruit such as dried blueberries, raisins, sultanas, apricots, cranberries, figs, dates, goji berries, prunes, apple, cranberries. It is a good idea to include fresh dates for stickiness. 

Add some extra flavouring such as cinnamon or mixed spice, lemon or orange zest, peppermint oil or vanilla.

Replace 50-100g of the fruit with dried or fresh coconut. I like to use fresh coconut in my treat balls. 

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Warm roasted Jerusalem artichoke & kale dip

Once again, I find myself separated from my Thermomix :(  It is our Summer school break in Hong Kong and I always like to escape the heat this time of year and cool off in Australia for a few weeks with my girls. So, it's just as well that I have a few recipes up my sleeve that I haven't yet posted on my blog. I found this one filed away from last winter in Hong Kong, perfect to bring out now for the Australian winter for my Aussie followers :)

The inspiration for this dip was a bag of Jerusalem artichokes dropped off to me by my gorgeous neighbour, together with a sample that she had sliced and cooked up in the frypan.  . . I fell in love at first bite! Looks were deceiving, because although it looked like sliced potato as we would cook on the BBQ, the taste was so much better . . sweet, nutty, even smokey. I imagined them married with sage or leek in a soup or even as a warm dip. I had a play with them in my Thermomix that day and this is what I created . . . .

Roasted Jerusalem artichoke and kale warm dip

The Jerusalem artichoke is native to North America and is the edible root tuber of a flower not unlike the sunflower. The tubers are knobbly and resemble ginger in appearance which distinguishes it from the globe artichoke which is actually an immature flower.

350g Jerusalem artichokes, cut into chunks
3 garlic cloves, whole, peeled
a little coconut oil
180g baby kale, stems & leaves
50g parmesan cheese, cubed
¼ c mayonnaise (TM made preferably)
juice from half a lemon
handful fresh parsley or coriander leaves
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Scrub and dry artichokes. Do not peel. Chop them into equal size pieces so they cook evenly. Place in a ziplock bag with a little coconut oil and shake to lightly coat. Add to a roasting dish with the garlic and bake in oven at 190°C for 20-25 minutes or until the artichoke is tender when tested with a sharp knife.
  2. Add the parmesan cheese to the TM bowl and grate for 10 seconds on speed 8. Decant and set aside.
  3. Rinse out the TM bowl and add 500g of water. Place the baby kale into the varoma receptacle and place the lid on top. Steam cook for 10 minutes at Varoma , speed 1 or until wilted. Remove the Varoma receptacle and pour out the water from bowl.
  4. Add the artichokes, kale, chopped garlic and parmesan, lemon juice, coriander or parsley leaves and freshly ground black pepper to the TM bowl and mix on speed 5 until well combined. Serve warm with crusty bread and vegetable sticks.
no thermomix?
Prepare your artichokes as per step 1. Grate your parmesan by hand or in a food processor. Steam your kale on the stovetop or in a steamer oven. Combine all ingredients in your food processor to blend. 

nutrition tid bit
Jerusalem artichokes are often touted as a healthy alternative to potatoes. Unlike potatoes which are largely composed of starch, this root tuber stores its energy as inulin which cannot be broken down by the digestive tract and instead promotes the growth of friendly bacteria in your gut. 

I always like to have baby kale on hand to use in recipes because it is highly nutritious. It has a milder flavour than the more robust mature kale which is quite bitter. It can be eaten raw in salads and goes very well wherever you would normally cook with spinach. I often add it to curries. Kale is a cruciferous vegetable and one of the healthiest around! It is an excellent source of vitamin K, A and C and a very good source of dietary fibre, calcium and potassium. It is also a good source of iron, vitamin E and the B group vitamins as well as many different types of phytonutrients with anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory benefits, (

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Sunday, 8 July 2012

Mum's lemon butter

I was hooked on mum's lemon butter or 'jam', as we would call it growing up. It was always on hand in the fridge, ready to generously lather all over my toast in the morning or to top a Salada biscuit for an after school snack.  As a treat, mum would send my sister and I to school with lemon jam sandwiches or fill homemade shortcrust tartlets with the jam, we also topped her homemade scones with it for a weekend lunch . . . we enjoyed it in so many ways. So of course, it goes without saying that mum was in the kitchen making the scrumptious lemony spread very regularly! Lucky for her (and us), grandad had a lovely big lemon tree in his back garden, so we were never short of the good stuff :)

I remember mum would painstakingly grate the rind from each lemon by hand and stand by the stovetop, stirring the mixture continuously so it wouldn't catch on the bottom of the saucepan. As her recipe includes whole eggs rather than just the yolks, she would also have to watch that the egg whites didn't cook out of the mixture and make it lumpy. Mum quickly adapted her recipe for the microwave, but still, if you don't stop the oven and stir the mixture regularly, you risk the egg white cooking . . . .Oh mum, if only you had had a Thermomix to help you out in the kitchen . . . no more grating and stirring. . . just leave the mix in the capable hands of the Thermomix, sit back and read a mag :)

Mum's lemon butter
This lemon butter is lovely and lemony, sweet and slightly tangy, as the recipe includes the zest, juice and the pulp of the lemon. This recipe also contains less sugar than most. Try to source organic lemons if possible.

grated zest, juice and pulp of 4-5 good size organic lemons 
200g raw sugar
125g butter, cut into chunks
4 large eggs

  1. Using a peeler, remove the zest from each lemon (washed & dried) and add to the TM bowl. Finely grate on speed 8 for 10 seconds. Scrape down sides and check that all the peel is finely grated. 
  2. Add raw sugar to the grated lemon zest in the TM bowl and grind for 10 seconds on speed 10.
  3. Squeeze the juice from the lemons using a lemon juicer with a reservoir to trap the juice, flesh & pips. Pour the juice into the TM bowl and using your spatula scrape in the flesh or 'bits' from the squeezed lemon too, taking care to avoid the pips :) The juice + flesh should amount to about 200-250g. 
  4. Add all remaining ingredients and combine on speed 4 for 10 seconds.
  5. Cook for 9 minutes at 80 degrees C on speed 3. Check the consistency, the mixture should coat the back of a wooden spoon. Cook for an extra couple of minutes if needed. 
  6. Pour into three medium-large sized sterilised jars. Keep in the refrigerator. 
I sterilise my recycled jars (& lids) by first washing well in hot soapy water, rinsing and then placing in a large bowl (previously washed and rinsed in boiling water). I pour boiling water over them and leave for a couple of minutes, then remove the jars only from the boiling water with tongs and place in a pre-heated oven at 160 degrees C for 20 minutes. Don't put the lids in the oven for the full length of time unless they are designed to withstand this temperature. Pour warm lemon butter into warm jars. 
variation ideas
  • use coconut oil in place of butter to make this recipe dairy-free
  • use an orange and lime in place of two lemons for 'citrus butter'
  • I have doubled this recipe quite successfully, you will just need to cook the mixture for a few minutes longer

no thermomix
before my thermomix came on the scene I would make this recipe in the microwave, but you could also make it by the conventional method on the stovetop. 

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Monday, 2 July 2012

Nan's mini bakewell tarts

Nanna would always go to the effort of baking homemade treats for her grandchildren when she knew we would be stopping by, which was very often when we were little and lived so close. These days her grandchildren are divided between Melbourne, Hong Kong and London. 

The goodies that I remember most fondly were Nan's 'butterfly' cakes as we called them, known more commonly today as 'fairy' cakes. There was something so endearing about those little wings of vanilla cake, so delicately placed upon a dollop of Nan's homemade jam with freshly whipped cream, then dusted with icing sugar to finish. But I was equally in love with Nan's bakewell tarts and the rich, soft, sweet, almond-y experience that each mouthful would provide. This was not of course the extent of Nanna's recipe repertoire. Other favourites included her bread pudding, mince pies, apple pie, apple & rhubarb crumble as well as vegetable, lentil & barley soup and roast dinners with Yorkshire puds. 

Both Nan's bakewell tarts and fairy cakes featured her homemade apricot jam which she would make from the delicious apricots that grew on the old tree in her backyard that Grandad would tend to. Not since those days of running around without a care in Nanna & Grandad's back garden, have I ever tasted apricots anywhere as good, and sadly I probably never will . . . at least not until I eventually buy that block of land and plant that orchard I've always dreamt about :)  

When I asked Nan about the origin of her sweet baked recipes, she told me that she would develop them herself after being inspired by what she would spy through the shop window at her local bakery near London. This was back in the 1950's when Nan was a young mother. As someone who is very often inspired to develop my own take on recipes that I come across when out and about myself, or from what I view online and in magazines . .  I'd like to think that perhaps there is a little of Nan's talent in me! :)

As a tribute to my beautiful, kind-natured Nanna who passed away recently, I have adapted her mini bakewell tarts for the Thermomix . . .

Bakewell tarts are a very traditional English dessert which originates from the town of Bakewell in Derbyshire, England. The tart consists of a shortcrust pastry shell, with a layer of jam and a sponge-style filling made with ground almonds (known as Frangipane). Nanna would top her tarts with almond icing and half a glace cherry, but traditionally they are also sprinkled with flaked almonds. 

Nan's mini bakewell tarts
makes 18

200g plain flour
100g butter, chilled, cut into cubes
15g raw caster sugar
1 egg yolk
20-30g chilled water

  1. Place flour, butter and sugar in TM bowl and mix for about 5-10 seconds on speed 6 until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the egg yolk and water and knead for 10-20 seconds on interval speed until dough starts to come together in beads. Add a little more water if necessary. 
  3. Turn the mixture onto a floured surface, knead slightly and press together to form a smooth, flat disc. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to rest. 

90g homemade apricot jam - I used Tenina's Thermomix recipe for Dried apricot preserve,  but used less sugar (200g - organic raw sugar) & lemon juice (80g). The result is a deliciously flavoursome apricot jam which can be easily made all year round. 

50g blanched almonds
60g butter, room temp
60g raw caster sugar
1 large egg
30g organic SR flour
1/2 tsp almond extract

  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Grease 2 x 12-hole shallow patty pans.
  2. Grind almonds for 8-10 seconds on speed 7. Decant into a small bowl. 
  3. Add butter and sugar to TM bowl and cream on speed 4 for 1 minute or until light in colour and fluffy in texture. Scrape sides.
  4. Add the egg and continue mixing on speed 4 to combine. 
  5. Add the almond essence, SR flour and return the ground almonds to TM bowl. Mix until just combined for 5-10 seconds on speed 4.
  6. Roll out the pastry to 2-3mm thick on a clean surface sprinkled with flour. Cut 18 fluted rounds with a 7cm cutter. Line patty pans with the pastry rounds and prick base with a fork. 
  7. Add a dollop (approx 1tsp) apricot jam to the pastry rounds, and top with approx. 2 tsp almond sponge filling. 
  8. Flatten with the back of a spoon. The sponge will rise slightly, so do not fill to any higher than the edge of the pastry. Sprinkle with a few flaked almonds if you do not wish to ice the tarts. 
  9. Place the tarts in a pre-heated oven and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool, then ice with almond icing (below) and top with half a glace cherry. 
120g icing sugar, sieved
3 tsp milk 
1 tsp almond extract
9 glace cherries, halved (or goji berries)

Combine sieved icing sugar, milk and almond extract in a bowl and mix well until smooth. Spoon a little onto each tart. Decorate with a half a glace or with goji berries. Allow to set at room temperature. 

I used a few goji berries in place of the glace cherry, which of course is not very traditional, but attractive and adds a little burst of antioxidants :) 

variation ideas
I wanted to resist making any alterations to this recipe . . . as it is Nan's recipe after all, and I wanted to preserve it as hers. However, some nutritional improvements or dietary changes that could be made to this recipe include: using a flax-egg in place of the egg yolk in the pastry and half wholegrain flour or even GF flour in place of the plain white. You could grind whole almonds in place of blanched almonds for the filling and use GF flour with a little baking powder in place of the white SR. 

no thermomix?
Use a food processor to make the shortcrust pastry and the filling. 
Use purchased apricot jam or use the traditional stovetop method to make your own.

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