Monthly Archives: April 2014

Chocolate Coconut Balls

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I studied Physiotherapy for 4 years and the knowledge that remains with me is astounding… or more accurately, lack of knowledge. I remember vaguely attending lectures, I could probably name a few bones or muscles here and there if pressed, the jury was still out on stretching before exercise so I’m still unsure about that one and I distinctly remember being told that one cigarette could get you addicted, if you were genetically inclined, I’ll be using that when I put my ‘Mr C, don’t smoke’ campaign into gear. I also remember a lecture about dessert. It probably wasn’t actually about dessert, but my memory likes to sugar coat things (pun intended).

I remember being told that the desire for a sweet fix after a meal is our body misinterpreting our gut asking for more energy to digest the food recently consumed. Us humans have taken that demand for energy and misappropriated it into “dessert”. It made sense to me. She also mentioned that if you waited 20 minutes or so, that need for a sugar fix would dissipate and sure enough it usually does.

I like to live my life in moderation so I generally ignore that call to sugar from my gut. Occasionally thought Mr Firehouse and I do like to sit down to a cup of coffee and something sweet during the week. For those nights of indulgence, we look to something like the recipe below. Free of processed sugar and easy to make and store. They’re also rich enough that one or two bites keeps me well sated.

By the way these are raw, gluten free and vegan!

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil melted
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 1.5 cups desiccated coconut

 

Preparation

In a small sauce melt the coconut oil and honey until smooth.

Add the cocoa powder and coconut and mix well.

Using a spoon or wet hands form the chocolate mixture into balls, place on a lined tray and freeze for at least an hour. Peel the frozen balls off the tray and place in a container and keep in the fridge.

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Browned Butter Anzac Biscuits

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If you’re Aussie or a Kiwi, ANZAC day is a big deal. April 25th is a day Australians and Kiwis alike celebrate the sacrifices of our armed services, past and present. It’s a humbling day, but also a day of celebration. Here’s what Wikipedia says about it:

Anzac Day /ˈænzæk/[1] is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations” and “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served.”[2][3] Originally 25 April every year was to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire during World War I.

To me it’s a day of ANZAC ceremonies at dawn, bugle calls, games of 2 up at the pub and most importantly ANZAC biscuits.

My high school had been around for over a 100 years by the time I turned up. This meant that some of our old boys had served in the Great War. To mark their deaths, the school had planted a memorial forest on the farm. Our ANZAC ceremonies were often held there, weather permitting. Now ANZAC Day usually fell in the school holidays so sometime we’d have the ceremony after the holidays and more often then not before. This meant that we’d catch some of the blistering heat, still present at the beginning of April. Our school school cadets had the dubious honour of standing guard at these events. While we sat, somewhat shaded by the memorial forest, the cadets, dressed in their gear would stand, head bowed, holding heavy guns. It wasn’t long before they started to fade, and by fade I mean faint. Many a cadet would fall victim to the unforgiving  heat.

History says that the original ANZAC biscuits were made by wives at home to send to their men on the front as the ingredients contained did not spoil easily.  This means that once made, these babies will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Browned butter just adds a little extra depth to this already amazing biscuit.

On this special day LEST WE FORGET.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup sugar (I used 1/2 brown, 1/2 white)
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut (unsweetened)
  • 150g butter
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (add a little more water if mixture is too dry)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F).

Place the oats, flour, sugars and coconut in a bowl and mix to combine.

Place the golden syrup and butter in a saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring, until melted. Once melted cook the mixture until the butter has “browned”. It will go from lovely golden to lovely caramel brown. Don’t be alarmed by the bits at the bottom, that’s normal. The mixture should smell nutty and buttery… oh and delicious.

 

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the just melted butter with golden syrup

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the browned butter

Combine the bicarbonate of soda with the water and add to the butter mixture. The mixture will froth and foam. Again, perfectly normal.

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Pour into the oat mixture and mix well to combine. If the mixture is a little dry at this point, add a some more water. 

Place tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper,  allowing room to spread. Flatten the biscuits out a little. (I forgot to do this, but went back and flattened them with a spatula)  

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Bake for 8–10 minutes or until deep golden. Allow to cool on baking trays for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. 

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Notes: If you like your biscuits chewy, make all the sugar white. If you prefer a crunchy, crisp texture, stick to brown. I’m undecided so I went half/half.

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Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Berry Salsa

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I first tried a panna cotta at the menu tasting before our wedding. I thought it was magic. Creamy and lightly flavoured with passionfruit and mango. It was the one thing I insisted on having on the menu.

On the night of the wedding, we were frantically busy, trying to meet and forge a meaningful memory with all of our 230 guests. I watched the waiters closely, and as they bought out the desserts I rushed backed to the table, stuffed a few generous mouthfuls in and continued on my merry way. There was no way I was missing out on panna cotta.

I’ve been making panna cottas at home ever since. They are a fabulous make-ahead dessert. They refrigerate well and look impressive served with colourful and tart berries. In the summer, I make a simple salsa of summer fruit; berries, peaches, mangoes and pineapple, which perfectly complements the sweet creaminess of the panna cotta. This is fabulous served with a simple berry puree or compote.

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Serve these in moulds or ramekins, or if you have neither tea cups work a treat and look super cute.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (375ml) cream
  • 1 1/2 cups (375ml) milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup (115g) caster sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons gelatine powder
  • 1.5 cups fruit cut into small cubes berries(1 used, strawberries, kiwifruit, mango and blackberries)
  • 1 tbsp. icing sugar (if your fruits are tart)
  • squeeze of lime
  • 1 small tin of passionfruit syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preparation

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Place the cream and milk in a saucepan. Use a small sharp knife to split the vanilla bean lengthways, then scrape the seeds from inside the bean. Add the seeds and bean to the saucepan. Slowly bring to the boil over a medium heat. Remove from the heat and set aside for 10 minutes.

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Potato and Coconut Milk Curry (Ala Kiri Hodi)

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My grandparents place in Sri Lanka was always full of people. With 7 kids and with each of my grandparents coming from large families there were cousins, friends, acquaintances galore. My mum says that holidays were always frantic with cousins and friends descending on the house.

During their younger days, my mum and her siblings would often entertain friends on the estate. It’s a novel experience for many from the city so there’s plenty of interested parties. My mum tells the story of a time when friends of her brothers and cousins were visiting. My great-grandmother, who had always been privileged and was used to hosting versus cooking, was also in attendance.  Now these were typical boys, big eaters  and they made quite a dent in the food my mother and her sisters had prepared. My great-grandmother, always the perfect hostess, was unaware or oblivious of this and encouraged the boys to “eat, eat”, even though the food was fast running out. My mother and her sisters were in a panic, the curries were dwindling and thanks to the fabulous hostess, the boys were still eating.

A quick thinking cousin of my mum’s grabbed the bowl of potato curry from the table, rushed to the kitchen and held it deftly under the sink. Suddenly the dearth of potato curry seemed a thing of the past. Much of the other curries followed suit. Mum says that the hungry, sated, probably slightly intoxicated young men never noticed the difference. And my great-grandmother kept serving!

I really don’t recommend you do this to this delicious curry!

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Ingredients

  • 400g potatoes (about 3 medium sized)
  • ½ onion chopped
  • 2 green chilies sliced down the middle
  • 5 -6 curry leaves
  • ½ teaspoon fenugreek (Uluhal)
  • 1 pandan leaf, torn into small pieces
  •  1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. maldive fish
  • 1 tin  coconut milk
  • salt to taste

Preparation

In a medium saucepan, place all the ingredients save the the coconut milk. Cover the potatoes with water and place on a medium heat.

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Cook until the potatoes are just done and add the coconut milk . Simmer for a few minutes until the potatoes are done and the gravy has thickened. Season to taste

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Healthier Oat & Raisin Cookies

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Raisins are one of Mister C’s current favourite foods. They are the bane of my existence, I find the little black shrivelled masses everywhere. They’re especially hard to clean out off the black leather seats in my car. Having said that they usually keep him calm for extended car trips, relieve the sudden onset of tantrums and generally make my life more pleasant, so I’ll deal.

A week or so after we returned from Sri Lanka Mister C and I headed to Green Lake Park in Seattle for a walk with some friends. It wasn’t raining, which is all that can be said for the weather. Now Green Lake was one of those places that sounded amazing, the kind of “hip” place that the radio station I listen to (admittedly it’s NPR) refers to all the time. It’s full of joggers and mums with strollers. I was excited to get out and get some exercise in after being struck down with jet lag.

Now something I forgot in all my excitement was that Green Lake is 2.8 miles around. That’s a long way. That’s 4.5 km long way. Callum started complaining a mile in. Whinging turned to crying and crying turned to full blown hysteria. I threw everything I had at him, spoons, forks, phones….and even raisins. Nada. When the raisins didn’t work, I knew the jig was up. I scooped him up and proceeded to walk while pushing the stroller. He may be a featherweight but even lifting feathers will get to you after 4.5km. I felt terrible that my friends had to stop and start with us. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before the other two babies raised their objections to the long,cold walk. Unfortunately there was only one thing to do, keep walking around! That’s the beauty of walking around a body of water.

Lessons learned, walking 4.5 kms around a lake with a baby, even with raisins, is probably a bridge too far… to start with.

I made these for Callum for a special treat. They’ve got a bit of sugar but also have goodness like oats, raisins and wheat germ. Callum will happily munch on a small, Callum hand-sized one of these on our walk home from the park. Maybe Green Lake would have been less disastrous if there had been some cookie surrounding the raisins. These are not “healthy” but I’ve made them healthier by adding whole meal flour, some wheat germ (leave this out if you don’t have it) and cutting down the sugar. But oats and raisins, which this recipe has oodles of, do have their own goodness so don’t despair if you can’t stop at one!

These are based on a recipe I found here at the Beantown Baker.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 oz, or 115 grams) butter, at room temp
  • 1/3 cup (125 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup (95 grams) wholemeal flour
  • ½ cup plain flour
  • ¼ cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (120 grams) rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup (120 grams) raisins

Preparation

Cream together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla in the bowl of your mixer. In a second bowl combine, the flours, wheat germ, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir. Finally add the raisins and rolled oats. Pop in the fridge for an hour to chill.

When ready to bake, preheat the over to 350F/180C and line 2 tray with baking paper. I use an ice cream scoop to portion out the dough. I give the dough a slight roll and flatten with my fingers.

Bake for 13-15 minutes until the edges are just golden. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then gobble these babies up!

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Loku Amma’s Eggplant Pickle

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Years ago, when we’d first moved to Australia my parents, my sister and I took a trip to Paddy’s fruit and vegetable markets at Flemington in Sydney. We drove in my dad’s newly purchased yellow Nissan Pulsar. We parked it in one of the giant concrete parking towers and braved Paddy’s. It was an assault on the senses. Paddy’s was full of new-age costermongers. Boisterous vegetable vendors, spruiking their wares, flagging you down and begging you to come into their stalls.

We spent some time walking through the narrow spaces between the stalls, blocking our noses at the stench of rotting vegetables discarded on the sides and begging our parents for chips.

Once we finished we headed back out to our car. Or at least we tried. Try as we might we couldn’t find the little yellow Pulsar. We walked up and down the concrete tower, scoured from side to side. The car was nowhere to be seen. My parents were convinced it had been stolen. Back we marched to the markets to try and find a pay-phone, this was before the days of cell phones. It was as we came down the tower that we spotted not a pay phone, but another tower. Turns out we were looking in the wrong one.

Up we went the next tower and found our little yellow car tucked away in a corner. Phew.

I would think about that whenever we went back to Paddy’s. I’d make doubly, triply sure I knew where the car was.

We often went to pick up boxes of eggplant to make eggplant pickle, similar to the one below. I’d place it in sterilised bottles to keep for a few weeks or even gift to friends. This is a recipe my Loku Amma makes to serve with her amazing Chilli Chicken Curry. The cocktail onions are something I’ve seen added before and I like the crunchy texture.

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Ingredients

  • 750g (1.5 lbs) eggplant washed and cut into thick fingers

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  • oil for deep frying
  • 2 tbps. soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. chilli powder
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. garlic
  • 4 spring onions sliced at an angle
  • 1/2 cup cocktail onions

Preparation

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Deep fry the eggplant in batches and drain well.

 

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I did this 24 hours beforehand and let the eggplant drain well over night, remembering to change the paper underneath a couple of times. Otherwise, I find the finished dish has an oily texture.

In a  small saucepan mix the soy,vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and chilli. When warm, add the deep fried eggplant and spring onions and picked onions. Warm through.

Place in a glass  or ceramic container until it’s time to serve. I find this best made a couple of days ahead. I store this in the fridge and pull it out and bring it to room temperature before serving.

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Breadfruit Curry (Del Curry)

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In Sri Lanka there is an expression that goes something like “Ala del vela”. It literally translates to the potatoes have turned into breadfruit. It’s akin to the English; ‘it’s all gone pear shaped’.  What it refers to is that a bad, overcooked potato curry will look like the thicker, more mushy breadfruit curry.  I heard this expression an awful lot growing up, it was one of my dad’s pet phrases. Unfortunately I had no idea what it meant because growing up in Australia I never had del. Not that I remember. As you can imagine this phrase didn’t hold much meaning for me until I finally tried del, then I spent a lot of time regretting my misspent youth and all the missed opportunities to eat del!

This curry, if made with good breadfruit, and believe you me not all breadfruit is created equal, is lovely, thick and slightly ‘slimy’. It’s perfect with rice and is meaty enough to stand on it’s own, unlike the humble potato. If the breadfruit is not ripe enough the curry will not get floury, no matter how much you cook it. In Sri Lanka, this is a lost cause and the dish will often be thrown out. I leave this up to your discretion. Thankfully this has never happened to me with the processed variety.

I’ve made this with frozen breadfruit and you can follow this for fresh as well. If you’re working with the tinned variety, the quantity might be a bit smaller and you’re best off making the curry with the coconut milk and then adding the drained breadfruit to the simmering coconut broth. The tinned fruit is using partially cooked or brined so doesn’t require the softening. You can then temper, as per the recipe below.

One of my favourite ways to eat this curry is with simple store bought paratha and a “salsa” of cubed tomatoes, cucumber and red onions seasoned with a little salt and chilli


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Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 500 g frozen  (~ 1lb ) breadfruit, peeled and cut into 3cm pieces
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp. maldive fish
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 pandan leaf
  • curry leaves
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • For tempering
  • 3 tbsp. oil
  • 1/2 small red  onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 3-4 dried red chillis cut into pieces
  • pinch of roasted dark curry powder (for serving)

Preparation

In a medium saucepan add the breadfruit, turmeric, curry powder, maldive fish, curry leaf, pandan leaf and pepper. Cover the breadfruit with water and turn the heat on to medium.

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Cook until the breadfruit it soft and going “floury” around the edges.

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When the breadfruit reaches the floury stage add the coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes until the curry is thick.

In a small frying pan add the oil and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop add the onions and dried chilli to the pan. Cook on medium heat until the onions have just a little bit of colour.

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Add the tempered onions to the del curry and stir through. Serve with a sprinkle roasted curry powder.

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