Quick Lamb Biriyani

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One of the great rites of passage as a new mum is the first day you get to venture out alone without kids. My cousin’s little boy is just on 10 months and at about 6 months we decided a day out without baby was in order. The real dilemma was of course, where should we go? Shopping, pampering, movie-ing? What did we want to do now that we were somewhat out of the baby fog? When we saw tickets being advertised for the Good Food and Wine show, we knew we’d found the answer. We are both food-mad and watch the Lifestyle Food channel religiously. The prospect of seeing some of our culinary heroes in the flesh was too tempting to resist, and the call of food and wine was strong.

We planned our day around the demonstrations, keen to see Matt Moran and Gary Mehigan cooking live. We also lamented the absence of Paul West, the host of River Cottage Australia and one of our all time favourites. We didn’t have much time to dwell as we walked in and straight into a live cooking presentation by Matt. He wowed us with cheffy magic and regaled us with tales of Maggie Beer. He also cooked a slow cooked lamb shoulder and as our mouths watered, I declared that that would be the first dish I cooked in my newly purchased slow cooker.

As the day drew to a close, our hearts and bellies full and our heads a little foggy from perhaps a little too much wine tasting and stingy use of the spittoon, we walked right passed a booth with no food and a few people. My eye was drawn to a man in a blue shirt and signature beard. A double take and and a third glance to reconfirm told me I was in fact seeing Paul West. No cooking, no Digger, but the man himself. My cousin and I quickly ran into the booth, paid the exorbitant fee of two dollars (the money was going to a great cause) in order to secure a selfie with the man himself. Day, week, month made!

I did in fact return home and put my Matt Moran inspired lamb cooking tips to use and turn the poor lamb shoulder, long relegated to the freezer, into a melt in your mouth thing of beauty. But, being as we are only a family of four, a two kilogram piece of lamb generates plenty leftovers. In the spirit of Save with Jamie I always portion the leftover meet and freezer. Roast pork often gets turned in protein for noodle salads and chicken will adorn fried rice. Lamb though, gets the biriyani treatment. This has become a family favourite, something loved by adults and kids alike.

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Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. ginger garlic paste
  • 2 tbsp. ghee
  • 1 brown onion finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp. coriander finely chopped
  • 2 cardamom pods crushed
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 2 green chillies sliced
  • 1 roma tomato chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1.5 -2 cups shredded pre-cooked lamb (leg or shoulder works well) *
  • 2 cups rice, cooked.
  • 1 cup frozen peas/blanched green beans
  • Fresh coriander to garnish

Preparation

  1. In a large wok or frying pan add the ghee, ginger garlic paste, onions, cloves and cardamom. Fly until the onions are picking up some colour and the ghee is well perfumed.
  2. Add the green chillies, tomato, coriander and garam masala. Cook for a couple of minutes until the spices and onions are well combined and starting to soften.
  3. Add the cooked lamb and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Add the cooked rice and stir thought until everything is well distributed.
  5. Add the peas and cover for a few minutes until they are cooked through.hp1b0880

* check out this recipe for a great slow roasted lamb, though I roast mine closer to 2-2.5 hours, or until fall-apart tender. https://www.donnahay.com.au/recipes/dinner/slow-roasted-dukkah-lamb-shoulder

 

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Filed under Lamb, Meat/Fish Dishes, Rice Dishes, Sri Lankan Food, Uncategorized

Black Pork Belly

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I got the idea for this recipe while still in the states.I was perusing my favourite blogs, and Lorraine at Not Quite Nigella, posted a review for a new restaurant in Sydney that was serving Sri Lankan food. One of the dishes she tried while she was at the restaurant was a Black Pork Belly Curry. As soon as I read that phrase, I immediately concluded it was the best idea ever! In fact I told anyone that would listen what an amazing idea it was. Naturally, their response was, “why don’t you make it?”. So I did.Many many times. This is about the 10th iteration of this recipe, and Mr Firehouse, who has tried every last one, is confident this is the best.

I won’t lie, this recipe is a labour of love.  It is time consuming and requires a horde of ingredients. But the results are more than worth it. It will also be the crowning glory on your table, if you invest time in this dish, you really don’t need much more. A salad, maybe a creamy dhal or potato, some steamed white rice and you will wow your guests. Trust me!

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Black Roasted Curry Powder

  • 2 tbsp. raw rice
  • 3 tbsp. coriander
  • 2 tbsp. cumin
  • 1 tbsp. fennel
  • 1 tsp. cardamon pods
  • 1/2 tsp. mustard
  • 1 pandan leaf
  • curry leaves
  • 1/2 stick of cinnamon

Pork Curry

  • 1.5 kg of pork belly with skin and rind on (whole)
  • 2 tbsp. onion flakes or 1/2 red onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tsp. ginger minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 green chillis sliced
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp. tamarind paste
  • 2 tbsp. ground cashew nut *
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • olive oil and sea salt for crispy skin
  • Oil for deep frying

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Preheat you oven to 160C. Place all the ingredients for the curry portion, except for the pork in an oven proof sauce with a lid. Add 2 cups of water and stir until all the ingredients are well mixed. .Next add the pork belly, put the lid on and place in the oven for 2.5 hours.

In the mean time, prepare you curry powder.

In a dry pan roast the rice until brown, when you’re satisfied with the colour add the curry leaves, pandan leaf and cinnamon.

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Next add the fennel and fry for a few minutes. Next go the cloves, cardamon and coriander.

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Next to last is the cumin and finally the mustard seeds. Leave the whole mix on the heat until the mustard seeds pop.

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When cool to touch, place the spice mix in a grinder and grind to a fine powder.

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When the pork is done, remove the pot from the oven. Fish out the pork and place over some paper towel to dry. If I have the time, I’ll place it in the fridge over night to further dry out.

Decant the curry sauce into a jug and place in the fridge. Once the sauce has cooled, the fat will have solidified at the top, remove this and replace the cooled sauce back in the saucepan.

Place over a medium heat before adding 2 tbsp. of the black curry powder and 2 tablespoons of ground cashew nuts *.  Simmer for 5 minutes before adding the sugar and testing for seasoning.

Cut the dried pork belly into 2 cm, 1inch cubes. Deep fry over a medium heat until golden,crispy and browned. Because of the fat and water content, the pork will splatter. I use a deep fryer with a  lid to prevent splattering, if not, make sure you have a splatter cover for your pan. Drain well over paper towels.

When ready to serve, combine the pork and curry sauce and serve immediately.

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  • I’ve used cashew nut butter or almond butter or even macadamia butter in place of the ground nuts.

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Quick Passionfruit and Macadamia Cheesecake Cup

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With two small children, our family goes through a lot of fruit. A few weeks ago, it was late on a Sunday and we were facing the prospect of starting the week sans fruit. Mr Firehouse volunteered to go to the shops as the grocery shopping was often a task that fell to me. As he headed out the door, he quickly called out to me to confirm what I had  “mandarins and apples” I called out. He returned some time later and emptied the shopping diligently into the fridge. It was only at dinner time that I opened the fruit and vegetable tray to rummage for a post-dinner mandarin. Instead I found twenty. I called to Mr Firehouse who sheepishly confirmed that he had heard “apples and mandarins” as what we needed, not what we already had an abundance of.

Now we have a running joke in the family, we have to double and triple check every item on the shopping list whenever Mr Firehouse ventures to the shops. So, when I sent Mr Firehouse to the shops multiple times over consecutive days, he was understandably nervous.

“You’ve put 3 packets of cream cheese on the list, are you sure?”

“Yes!” I’d have to say, and reinstate multiple times.

Now in all fairness, I did feed this dessert to him multiple times over a week. I was fixated on getting it perfect and perhaps his apprehension at returning home with the wrong thing was probably not misplaced.

 

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Ingredients

  • 12 ginger nut biscuits
  • 2 tbsp. butter melted
  • 50 g macadamias (toasted)
  • 1 tsp. seal salt
  • 1 package cream cheese at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup thickened cream
  • 4 tbsp. icing sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 cup passionfruit curd (recipe below)

Preparation

In the bowl of a small food processor crush the biscuits and nuts. I like to do the nuts first, tip out and then do the biscuits. That way I can crush the biscuits till finely ground and the chop the nuts into larger pieces for more texture. Add crushed nuts and biscuits to the melted butter and set aside. You can easily do this step with zip loc bag and a rolling pin, or mortar and pestle. Choose your poison.

In a medium bowl, place the cream cheese, cream, icing sugar and vanilla bean paste. Whisk until smooth and no chunks of cheese remain. This can be done with a hand mixer too.

I used drinking glasses to serve these but mason jars, stemless wineglasses will all work. In your glasses, start by placing the biscuit crumb mixture down the bottom. Place some curd on top and then divide the cream cheese mixture evenly between the glasses. Place the remaining the biscuit mixture on top and finish with the remaining passionfruit curd.  Chill the finished cheesecakes for a  couple of hours before serving.

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Passionfruit Curd

  • 25g butter
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg, 1 egg yolk
  • Juice of 2 passionfruit
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

Combine all the above ingredients in a heat proof bowl. Place over a pan of gently simmering water and whisk continuously until thick and glossy. Place in the fridge to cool .

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Macadamia White Chocolate Cookies

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For the first six months of our marriage Mr Firehouse worked FIFO. He would fly into Perth early on a Monday and stay a week, sometimes two, before flying back on a Friday. We had a bunch of lovely friends in Perth who took great care of him. Inviting him over, taking him out and generally keeping him entertained.

I was still getting the hang of the wife thing, so I would attempt to make baked goods to ship over with him. Unfortunately for them, I was still figuring out how to use our brand new oven. If it came with an instruction manual, I never saw it. Instead, I was faced with multiple symbols on a dial to denote baking, fan baking, grilling and the only one I could confirm for certain, light.

It really was hit and miss, I made  mini cheesecakes once, turned the dials with reckless abandon and the cheesecakes took about one and half hours to cook. Thankfully, our guests were patient, and didn’t mind the wait.

One night before a Monday flight, I decided to make some white chocolate and macadamia cookies. I had a recipe that I’d made successfully while at my parents and I had all the requisite ingredients. I couldn’t see anything going wrong. The batter was fine, my trusty Breville Mixmaster did all the hard work. I dutifully placed tablespoons full on the tray and whacked them in the oven. Fifteen minutes later I pulled then out and I was confronted with a goopy mess, the cookies had melted but not baked. The tops browned but the bottoms still soft and uncooked. I tried a second tray, same deal. AHHHH!

Mr Firehouse saw my distress and did what he did best, he consulted technology. He checked on the interweb and found a manual to decipher the oven markings. Turns out, up until that point, I’d been grilling my food.

We managed to salvage quite a few cookies from that disastrous run and the recipe still stands, or at least its 100th iteration maybe.

 

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1cup caster sugar
  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped macadamia nuts
  • 200 g white chocolate chips

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Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In medium bowl combine flour, soda and salt. Mix well, set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars together. Since these are cookies, they don’t need a lot of air, you want a grainy paste. Once they’ve reached that consistency add the eggs, one at a time, and vanilla, and beat at medium speed until fully combined.

Add the flour mixture and mix until combined. Finally add the nuts and chocolate and mix until they are evenly distributed.

Drop tablespoons dollops of the mixture onto baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Move immediately to cooling rack.

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Sweet Potato Pancakes

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For a long time my son Callum didn’t like toast for breakfast. He preferred cooked breakfasts, pancakes, waffles, bacon and eggs. I had neither the time nor the energy to indulge him so I created some cheats. This was one of them. A sweet potato pancake that I made in bulk and froze. Easy to whip out of the freezer and defrost even on a morning before work.

In fact, the day of little Miss M’s arrival I was making a large batch of these, in a valiant attempt to prepare for the madness that would follow. I dropped Callum at daycare and made a triple batch of this recipe. I cooked them, lay them on baking trays and left them to cool while I visited the Ob/Gyn. Sadly, I never made it back home, I just continued onto hospital. It was only a few days later when my sister-in-law was at our house, waiting for a tradie of some sort, that she texted me and said “What should I do with all the pancakes?” I sadly had to tell her they’d been sitting on the counter for days and would need to be binned.

The idea for the pancakes came from Jessica Seinfeld’s book, Deceptively Delicious. While I like the ideas for her recipes, hers have more of an “increase veg, decrease calorie” philosophy. I love the increased veg idea, but both my little mini humans need all the calories they can get. So nothing but full fat here.

 

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup of self raising flour
  • 1/2 cup wholemeal flour
  • 1 1/2 cups full cream milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 3/4 cup steamed sweet potato, mashed (about 1 medium sweet potato)

Preparation

In a large bowl whisk together the the flours. Add the milk and butter and mix well. Whisk the two eggs lightly and add to the mix, mixing till there are no lumps. Finally add the the sweet potato and mix well until it’s even distributed.

Butter a large skillet or pan and place over a low to medium heat. When the pan is hot, place 1/4 cup of the mixture into the pan, leaving a few cm between each pancake to allow for spread.

Flip the pancake gently when bubbles cover the surface. I find these pancakes get more brown, as compared to the plain ones, the sugar content in the sweet potato will do that.

Cook for the few minutes on the flip side before cooling and serving to your demanding clientale.

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If you want to freeze, just lay them flat on a tray with some baking paper and freezer for an hour or two before placing in zip lock bags.

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Pumpkin Curry with Coconut Milk

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As you probably already know, I’m a big lover of pumpkin. Especially pumpkin soup. It’s warming, sweet, creamy and comforting. However, when I have made it for Sri Lankan relatives, especially male ones, they don’t seem to get it. I suspect this curry has a lot to do with it. Pumpkin, cooked Sri Lankan style, is heady with spices and fragrant to the max. It’s the same type of warm, comforting and creamy without the sweetness of roasted butternut. This dish is decidedly savoury, while I think pumpkin soup, especially the kind made with butternut can be a bit of a fence sitter.  I for one will always be pumpkin fan, in whatever style you serve it to me!

By the by this dish also has the added bonus of being vegan.

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Ingredients

  • 1 small red onion finely chopped
  • 2 green chillis sliced
  • 1 handful of curry leaves
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1/2 stick of cinnamon
  • 2 cloves garlic sliced
  • 1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 1 pandan leaf
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp. turmeric powder
  • 1 kg kent or jap pumkin cut into large, even chunks
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk powder
  • 2 tsp, dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp. toasted coconut to garnish *

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Preparation

In a shallow dish or wok fry the onion,garlic, curry leaves, cinnamon, pandan, cloves, cardomom, and green chilli with the oil. Fry over a low heat until the onion is soft and the spices are fragrant.

Add the turmeric and fry for a 1-2 minutes until it’s well incorporated and slightly toasted.

Add the chopped pumpkin and cover with enough water to submerge the pumpkin. Cook over a medium heat until the pumpkin is just soft.

Add a little water to the coconut milk powder and make a paste. Add the dijon mustard and stir well before adding to the pumpkin curry. Bring the whole mix to a gentle simmer and add salt to taste. Take off the heat and add the toasted coconut just before serving.

* to toast the coconut, add 2 tablespoons of shredded coconut to a dry pan. Cook over a gentle heat, stirring constantly until the coconut has changed is colour and is brown and fragrant.

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Filed under Curries, Sri Lankan Food, Vegetable Dishes, Vegetarian Curries

Borscht

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My family has rather a strong connection with Russia. In the late seventies my father travelled to the former USSR to study mining engineering. He spoke no Russian, knew no-one and had never travelled outside Sri Lanka. He spent the first year learning Russian and over the next five became well and truly immersed in Russian culture. He can still shot vodka, can still speak Russian, especially after said vodka’s and enjoys Russian food slathered in copious amounts of mustard. A lot of my father’s friends are friends he made while in Russia. When growing up, it wasn’t unusual to see a Russian potato salad at family dinner a long with yellow friend rice and chicken curry.

My Uncle Shelton likes to do a fully fledged Russian meal. He cooked it for me while I was pregnant and a few months ago he came over, groceries in hand and cooked me and Mr Firehouse the full deal. A beautiful red beetroot borscht, a rice pilaf and a potato salad. Served with rye bread and plenty of mustard it was a delectable treat! It was a chance for me to sit and watch in my own kitchen and take notes as he masterfully prepared the meal.

Since then, borscht appears on our weekly meal plan often, especially with two children who love beetroot.  It’s a warming, comforting meal and freezes well when I make a big pot over the weekend. And, best of all, apart from a little peeling and chopping the prep is pretty simple.

When I have time, I make my own beef stock and then use the meat off the bones in the soup itself. But, it tastes just as good with good store bought stock and a piece of beef that benefits from slow cooking.

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Ingredients

  • 500g of stewing beef
  • 1 litre beef stock
  • 2 carrots chopped
  • 2 potatoes chopped
  • 2 large beetroots chopped
  • 1/4 cabbage chopped
  • 1/4 cup dill
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • salt and pepper to season
  • rye bread and hot english mustard to serve

Preparation

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In a medium pot cover the beef with water and set over a low heat to boil. Boil until the meat is fall apart tender. At this point take off the heat, remove the meat and pour the stock into a jug. Chop and reserve the meat.

Place the jug of stock in the fridge and skim the layer of fat once it has solidified.

In a large pot add the stock, meat, chopped veg and seasoning. Add enough water to covet the vegetables. Bring to the boil and cook until the vegetables are tender but retain a bite.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top with sour cream and freshly chopped dill.

Serve with a side of rye bread spread with hot English mustard.

 

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Carrot Leaf Sambol

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Sri Lankans don’t really do salad, not in the traditional Western sense anyway. A green leaf sambol or mallung is about as close as we get. Mind you, it’s a pretty good substitute. Seasoned with chilli, and lime juice and mixed with crunchy fresh coconut it’s both tasty and nourishing in the truest sense.

These days, carrots, especially the heirloom varieties come  with their tops still attached. I’ve always chopped the tops off and saved them to add a fresh kick to a rice and curry meal. The carrot leaf has a lovely fresh, slightly peppery flavour that is both delicious and interesting.

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Carrot Leaf Sambol

  • 1 bunch of carrot leaf (the green tops of the carrot, cut off)
  • ½ cup of shredded fresh coconut or rehydrated dessicated coconut
  • ½ small red onion chopped
  • ½ a medium tomato deseeded and chopped
  • 1 green chilli sliced (optional)
  • 1 tsp. maldive fish flakes
  • ½ lime
  • salt and pepper to task

Preparation

Finely chop the carrot leaves and add to the coconut, onion, chilli, tomato and maldive fish.

Mix well, ensuring all ingredients are well distributed.

Just  before serving add lime, salt and pepper to taste.

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Lemon Curd

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A few weeks ago I left the role of the SAHM (stay at home mum, if you’re not up with the lingo) and joined the ranks of the working. It makes for a busy week, frantically bolting out of the house at 7 with 2 kids, then rushing back in time for dinner, baths, bed, wine etc.

In order to streamline our lives I decided to try my hand at online grocery shopping.  Coles, where I habitually and preferentially shop offers free delivery at certain times if you go above 150 dollars. Since I do it fortnightly, we often hit that target.

On the whole it’s been a pretty good experience, fruit is hit and miss so I tend to avoid it unless it something foolproof like mandarins or bananas. I only order stock standard veg as well. Nothing much beyond carrot, potatoes and bags of salad.

There was that one time I accidently ordered three loaves of bread, but we have a freezer and by the end of the two weeks we realized that we do actually eat about 3 loaves a fortnight. There was another time where I ordered a jar of curry paste and they “substituted” with a jar of simmer sauce. Seriously?

Then there are the lemons. Oh the lemons. Fifteen of them at last count. I’m not sure what’s happened. A cursory look in the fridge before hitting “add to trolley”, while a whole bag sits waiting beneath the wine that’s always crowding the vegetable crisper? Or is it the yellow freshness they’ve captured so perfectly in the stock image I can’t resist? Do I secretly want my fruit bowl full of lemons so they can perfume the house? Who really knows? Whatever the reason, the other day I found myself faced with a fruit bowl full of fifteen lemons and the horrible possibility of them going off.

My husband, who easily puts this down to my general scatterbrainy-ness, is happy to laugh it off. He’s not a lemon-worshipper  like myself. He doesn’t understand what will befall us all if a precious lemon goes to waste. He did have a useful suggestion though, stemming from his own experience making a cheesecake a couple of weeks ago.

“Why not make lots of lemon curd?” he says helpfully.

You don’t need to tell me twice.

So here it is, my recipe for lemon curd using whole eggs. Most recipes call for extra yolks and what not, and if you want, you can make this with 2 whole eggs and 2 yolks but why go through the hassle of separating and then finding alternate uses etc. Just make it with 3 eggs, trust me, it’ll be fine! This makes for a slightly lighter and runnier curd I think, but perfect to slather on toast or have with greek yoghurt. Or, if you’re like my son, eat it out of the jar.

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Ingredients

  • 3 whole eggs
  • 80 g of butter
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons

Preparation

In a small saucepan at the eggs and sugar and whisk till combine. Place over a low heat and add lemon juice and butter. Stir continuously until the the mixture is smooth and thickened up nicely.

Strain into sterilized bottles and keep in the fridge.

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Chocolate Friands (Gluten & Dairy Free)

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My parents, born and raised in Sri Lanka, are highly bemused by the sudden popularity of coconut oil, especially as many of the virgin coconut oil products come from Sri Lanka itself. They find it highly comical that health food nuts and buffs are paying exorbitant amounts of money for something that’s rather cheap and seen as an inferior product in Lanka, compared to olive, canola and even vegetable oils. Granted, the Sri Lankan stuff that’s made for local consumption can be nasty. Meanwhile, my relatives are always singing the virtues of all other oils and asking us to bring olive oil to eat, drink and moisturise their skin with.

Some of that thinking has obviously rubbed off on me, there is a part of me that baulks at the idea of paying over 10 dollars for a small jar of what my grandmother bought from the markets for under a hundred rupees (approximately a dollar). In saying that, it’s a fabulous dairy-free alternative to butter and in this recipe, gives a lovely silky texture to the final friand – so much so that I didn’t even miss the butter, this time. Yes you heard correct, I didn’t even notice the butter was gone.

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Ingredients

1 cup almond meal
1 2/3 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/2 cup gluten free plain flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking powder, sifted
1/2 cup cocoa, sifted
5 egg whites
150g coconut oil, melted

Raspberry and sea salt (optional)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 180C. Place the almond meal, icing sugar, flour, baking powder, cocoa, egg whites, coconut oil in a bowl and whisk until combined.

Spoon the mixture into 12 x 1/2-cup capacity lightly greased oval-shaped friand tins, insert a raspberry on top and sprinkle with salt.

Bake for 20–25 minutes or until risen and cooked through. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Using a palette knife, loosen the edges and remove the friands from the tins immediately.

Allow to cool on a wire rack before serving. Makes 12.

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