Category Archives: “Something” Free Cooking

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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Filed under "Something" Free Cooking, Meat/ Fish Curries, Meat/Fish Dishes, Pork, Sri Lankan Food, Uncategorized

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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Filed under "Something" Free Cooking, Baby Friendly Food, Non-Sri Lankan Food, Snacks and Sides, Uncategorized, Vegetable Dishes

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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Kokis

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It’s coming up to Sri Lankan New Year and Mr C’s day care is holding a celebration. There are a few Sri Lankan kids and a Sri Lankan teacher so it’s a big deal this year. They’re making coconut rice onsite and dressing up in traditional garb.I was wracking my brain trying to think of an easy, uniquely traditional treat to make his friends….and then it came to me…kokis of course. Not only is it not too arduous to make, I thought there was a good chance that even the picky toddlers might enjoy them. It’s also gluten free, nut free and hopefully child-friendly.

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Kokis is a traditional Sri Lankan snack, often served at Sri Lankan New Year. A crispy, cookie-like treat, made of coconut milk and rice flour and deep-fried till crispy. Of the many Sri Lankan treats that grace the New Year table, this is by far one of the easiest. It does require a kokis mould, made of metal, and attached to a long handle, which may be a deterrent. But, they are available in Sri Lankan spice stores in many places outside of Sri Lanka. If not, ask your kindly relatives in Sri Lanka to send you one, the next time the ask “what can we send?” .

A new mould will take a little “breaking in” and you may find the batter will stick to the mould for a little while. Keep at it, it ill eventually come good.

When Ammi made kokis, she always turned the last bit of batter into “chilli” kokis by adding chilli powder. Much as she’d done for her dad growing up. Chilli kokis go especially well with a nice cool beer or ‘lion lager’.  See below for my take on “chilli kokis”.

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup of rice flour
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 egg
  • salt

For Chilli Kokis

  • I cup of kokis mixture
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. of garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Preparation

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In a bowl add salt to the flour and mix well.  Then add the egg and coconut milk into the flour and whisk until no lumps remain. The consistency should be similar to a thin pancake batter. Cover the bowl and keep it aside.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. When the oil is hot place the Kokis mould in the oil for about a minute.

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Carefully dip the mould in the batter, making sure that the mould is well covered on all sides, but not the top.

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Place the now batter covered mould in the hot oil and hold in place for about 30 seconds. At this point, slip the kokis out of the mould, shaking slightly if needed, to loosen. Use a cocktail stick or skewer to prise the kokis away if it needs extra help. Fry until the kokis is golden and evenly coloured.

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Pull out of the oil and drain well  before serving. Will keep in an air tight container for a few days.

I love to serve mine dusted with a generous sprinkling of icing sugar. It goes perfectly with a cup of tea.

Chilli Kokis

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To make the chilli kokis mix the batter with all the spices and half the cayenne. Make as above and sprinkle with the remaining cayenne before serving.

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Gotu Kola Kenda

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It’s good to be back guys. Thanks for your patience. The last few months have seen us move from Seattle to Sydney, buy a house, unpack a 20ft container and welcome a new member to our family. Life is still hectic but the cooking must go on.

I’ve decided to make a recipe my mother has been making for years. Its a real comfort dish for me, something that’s so packed with goodness that I always feel great when I’ve had this for breakfast.

Kenda is somewhere between the ubiquitous Asian congee and a green smoothie. Packed with rice  and simple flavourings, it gets it green colour from the kola, which is Sinhalese for leaves. In Sri Lanka, it’s a real forager’s dish, made with whatever herbs and leaves can be gathered.

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Gotu Kola(centella asiatica) is a herb commonly found in Sri Lanka. It grows wild in many places and we use it in kenda, salads and deep fried till crisp in condiments.  It has many medicinal properties, often used in Ayurvedic medicine and Chinese herbal medicine alike. I’ve often heard it referred to as ‘arthritis herb’, which makes sense as it is known for it’s anti-inflammatory properties.

In the US, I came across gotu kola in the most unexpected place. I was walking with Mr Firehouse and Mister C through the university district farmer’s markets in Seattle and passed a tea stall. I never pass a tea stall without stopping,  I love tea! As I was perusing the teas I came across one that had gotu kola in it. I was excited! Gotu kola in Seattle? Could this be the start of fresh mallums and kenda on Saturday mornings? Sadly no. When I asked the proprietor she informed me that gotu kola is grown in Oregon, which is where she had sourced it. Alas, I never saw it in Seattle but there’s proof it is in the states. Jess from 13spices also did a post on her blog about gotu kola which she found in DC. In Australia it’s often seen in Sri Lankan spice markets or better yet in an Aunty of Uncle’s garden. In fact that’s where I source all of mine.

I’ve had a few requests for this recipe, so I hope you all enjoy it!

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Ingredients

  • 3-4 cups gotu kola, leaves only picked
  • 1/2 cup of rice ( I used a combination of red and white) rinsed
  • 3 cloves of garlic sliced
  • 1 tbsp. pepper corns
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • palm sugar to serve

Method

In a medium saucepan add the rice, garlic and peppercorns and 2 cups of water. Pop the lid on and cook until the rice is cooked, but not too soft, we’re going for al dente.

Meanwhile, blend the gotu kola with just enough water to make a lovely green puree. I ended up with just under a litre of liquid.

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Pass the gotu kola puree through a sieve into the cooked rice and spices and mix.

Add the coconut milk and season to taste. When the mixture is warmed through, take off the heat and serve hot with plenty of palm sugar or jaggery.

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Filed under "Something" Free Cooking, Sri Lankan Food

Sweet Potato, Cauliflower and Coconut Soup

 

 

 
Cauliflower Soup-9Mr Firehouse and I are pretty good at meal planning. We have to be to avoid shopping every couple of days with a toddler who loves to run up and down the aisles. Especially one who is currently obsessed with doors. Guess where he runs to first?Go on, guess.  Anyway, there are times in the week where we plan a bit loosely and might buy something nice at the farmers market. So it was that I once ended up on a Friday afternoon with no meat in the fridge, a few sweet potatoes, cauliflower and some admittedly sad looking thai basil leaves that had been bought for something else. I scoured the internet for something that wasn’t a vegetarian green curry. The idea of red curry soup intrigued me but as I looked through the multitude of jars in my fridge, all I could find was green curry paste. Let’s just say I pretty much substituted everything in that recipe except for the onions and garlic….this happens pretty often. When the recipe said pumpkin, I heard sweet potato. When the recipe asked for red pepper, I was certain they had meant cauliflower. Kale, no worries, thai basil will do just fine.

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Ingredients

  • 1 small head of cauliflower roasted
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1.5 tbsp. of green curry paste
  • 1 tin (400ml) coconut milk
  • 1 cup thai basic leaves, loosely packed
  • 2 tbsp. oil divided

Preparation

In a medium saucepan fry the garlic and onions in a tbsp. of oil until just softened.

Add the cauliflower, sweet potatoes and stir until  well mixed. Add just enough water to cover the veg and place on a medium heat. When the pot comes to a boil turn the heat down to medium and let it simmer with the lid on until the vegetables are softened.

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Transfer the soup to a blender and puree with the thai basil leaves.

In the same sauce fry the curry paste in the second tablespoon of oil until fragrant, add the coconut milk stir well and add the pureed soup. Bring the mixture to the boil and take off the heat.

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Serve with a few extra basil leaves to garnish.

 

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Filed under "Something" Free Cooking, Non-Sri Lankan Food, Soup, Vegetable Dishes

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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Mini Baked Cheesecakes (Gluten Free)

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I want to talk a little less about the cheesecake here and more about the gorgeous cake stand that my girlfriends got me for my birthday. Isn’t it darling? It sits on our buffet and generally looks beautiful but today it was put to real use!

I’m strictly in the baked cheesecake family when it comes to cheesecake and this is my favourite recipe. I’ve changed and tweaked it a little but the best thing about it is that it is super flexible. Serve it wherever and with whatever and it’s a fabulous make-ahead dessert that can be frozen or refrigerated before you guests arrive.

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Makes 12

  • 250g cream cheese, softened
  • 75g (1/3 cup) caster sugar (superfine sugar)
  • 1 large egg (we use eggs with a minimum weight of 59g)
  • 20ml (1 tablespoon) lemon juice
  • 100ml (5 tablespoons) thickened cream (about 35 percent fat)
  •  1/2 cup  gluten free flour (simply use plain flour to make these non gluten free). 
  • 2 tbsp.  firmly packed light brown sugar
  • pinch tsp salt
  • 20g pecans (1.2 oz.)
  • pinch ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup cold butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon cold water

Fruits, sauce, topping to serve

Based on two recipes, the cream cheese mixture is from exclusively food and inspiration for the base goes to Sprinkle Bakes

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 F/ 180 C degrees. Place foiled line wrappers in the holes of a muffin/cupcake tin.

Place flour, sugar, salt, pecans and ginger in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until the pecans are finely ground.

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 Add cold butter and process until crumbs form.  Add water and process in bursts until the dough starts to come together in clumps.  Press dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pans. About 1 tablespoon per cup seemed about right.

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Bake for 20 minutes or until the tops are lightly golden. Cool completely.

Beat cream cheese and caster sugar in an electric mixer or food processor. Stop the machine a couple of times to scrape down the sides and base of the bowl. When the mixture is completely smooth and creamy, add egg and beat until combined. Add lemon juice and cream and beat until well combined. Divide mixture evenly among cases.

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Bake cheesecakes for 20 minutes. Remove from  the oven and allow to cool in pan for 30 minutes.

Remove cheesecakes from pan, place in an airtight container and refrigerate. Cheesecakes are ready to serve when they are cold and set. Remove cases before serving. Top with your favourite berries and sauces. I love these with lightly stewed frozen berries or passionfruit….fresh is best but even canned works brilliantly.

Cheesecakes can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. They are suitable to freeze.

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Dairy/Soy free Banana Bread

Have I told you about my lovely husband that always reminds me to buy bananas when I go shopping and then lets at least one of them rot in the fruit bowl. Well now you know. This has forced me to have a variety of banana friendly recipes to use up the soft bananas….good thing I lurrve banana bread. 

Now that I can no longer eat the king of all foods (butter) I’ve had to change a few of my recipes around. They now include dairy/soy free milk, butter and would you believe it, sour cream! 


Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup dairy/soy free margarine (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1/4 cup olive/canonal oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup mashed banana
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (I used WAYFARE)

Instructions

  1. Grease 1 large loaf pan and preheat oven to 350 F or 180 C
  2. Add the margine, eggs, vanilla and olive oil to the mashed bananas and mix well
  3. Finally add the sour cream and blend again
  4. In a second bowl mix the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda
  5. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and pour into the load pan. 
  6. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes to an hour or until a skewer comes out nice and clean.
Enjoy with some dairy free spread…yummo!


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Filed under "Something" Free Cooking, Cake, Desserts, Sweet Treats

Gluten Free Tabouleh with Quinoa

 

I love recipes like tabouleh. Back in Australia, courtesy of my herb garden, I always had the ingredients on hand. Parsley, spring onions, burghal, olive oil, lemon juice and tomatos. It made for a quick and easy salad with grilled meat and the best thing was that it kept for a while. In fact, I was once told by a Lebanese lady at a restaurant that you had to leave the Tabouleh to soften before eating it.

Nothing I make compares to the amazing stuff from the hole-in-the-wall establishments you get in Greenacre and Auburn but hey…. we have to try.

I’ve recently joined the Quinoa band wagon. Confession: I never liked cous cous, it was gluggy and the taste was a bit meh. Now quinoa, I actually like…..I use it all the time. Now that our local Costco is stocking a big bag for about 10 bucks it’s no longer cost-prohibitive either.

Ingredients

  • I medium bunch flat leaf parsley finely chopped (you don’t have to chop the stalks)
  • 3 spring onions finely sliced
  • Small red onion chopped
  • a handful of cherry tomatoes quartered
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup Quinoa cooked to packed instructions and cooled
  • salt to taste
I normally put the quinoa into a pot with a 2:1 ratio of water : quinoa. I bring it to the boil and turn the heat down to a simmer. Then I let the quinoa cook until all the water is absorbed. I like it with a bit of bite, I like the nuttiness. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even use chicken stock to cook it in!

Instructions

Place the olive oil and lemon juice in a bottle and shake together until well mixed

Note for next time – pick a bottle with a lid that fits. Otherwise, you will get showered in olive oil and lemon juice

Place parsley, spring onions, red onions and cherry tomatoes into a bowl with the quinoa.

Mix together

Add lemon dressing little by little until you are happy with the taste. I like mine really lemony and juicy

Add salt to taste

Tada!

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