Cherry clafoutis {gluten-free}

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You know that feeling, right? You go to pay for your coffee, and discover, too late, that your friend has already paid, and won’t let you pay them back. Yep. Happens to me all the time, with one friend in particular. Her generosity knows no bounds. When Theo was born, he received not just one gift, but two, maybe three… I daren’t ask her to ‘just pop into the shops and pick something up on your way’ – she won’t let me pay for that, either. I can’t keep up. So, I guess I’ve just got to relax and enjoy it.

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Last weekend there came the cryptic text message, “Do you like cherries?” Um, yeah! Next thing, a knock at the door; a quick hello, and the delivery of a kilo of big, fat, locally grown, black cherries. A Christmas present, come early. One the whole family can enjoy! And enjoy we have!! The fridge is currently well-stocked with sweet, summer stone fruits… and now these. With such a generous gift, I couldn’t help but think there might be enough for both snacking *and* baking… or at least I’d make sure there were!

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This recipe is one I’ve had my eye on for some time, so I didn’t need much prompting to attempt it. Originating in France, clafoutis is traditionally made with cherries, but plums or blueberries work just as well. Easily adapted to be gluten-free, it’s a no-fuss dish that suits both my schedule and my hip pocket. Feeling a little time-poor this week (with a family wedding interstate this weekend) this little number is the perfect accompaniment to an al fresco meal on the back porch, and precious moments spent with the toddler in the evening cool.

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Cherry clafoutis {gluten-free}
A simple crepe batter baked around fresh black cherries makes for a lovely, simple summertime dessert.

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients
350-400g fresh cherries, pitted
80g (1/3 cup) caster sugar
2 large eggs
60g (½ cup) plain (all-purpose) GF flour*
150mL (2/3 cup) milk or cream
¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
A splash of kirsch, if you have it
30g butter
Sifted icing sugar, to serve

Method
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Lightly butter a 20cm diameter baking dish, then dust with a couple of tbsp of sugar. Tip in the pitted cherries, reserving a few for decoration.

Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl, add the sugar and beat in the eggs with a large balloon whisk, followed by the milk, vanilla bean paste and a tablespoon of kirsch. Melt butter in a small pan (or microwave), and then stir into the mixture. Pour the batter over the cherries, decorate with reserved fruit, and bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until puffed and golden. Remove from the oven. Allow the clafoutis to cool slightly, then dust with icing sugar and serve with scoops of vanilla ice cream.

Note: Blueberries, plums or apricots also work well in this dessert. *As an alternative to plain GF flour, you could use ¼ cup almond meal plus ¼ cup rice flour.

Adapted from Nigel Slater’s classic cherry clafoutis

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Salted Caramel Truffles {gluten and dairy-free}

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Karen and I go way back… um, let’s see now… 26 years. Yup, we met in high school. She was in year 7 and I was in year 8. We had a few things in common back then… for one; we were the children of missionaries… and sent to boarding school. We were also both Australian, a distinct minority amongst the largely American population of our high school classmates. Since graduating we lost touch, but thanks to the internet (hello, Facebook!) we have been able to reconnect and discover we share a great love of both food and photography.

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Whilst they have remained purely hobbies for me, Karen has taken those creative loves to the next level. Having had to cope with and cook for her own and her children’s food allergies over the years, Karen has learned a lot about catering for sensitive tummies and once her youngest was at school she started up a blog; Food, Glorious Friendly Food. With recipes ranging from cookies to pumpkin pie to a paleo version of Butter Chicken, her recipes aim to assist those who have trouble digesting gluten, dairy, additives, preservatives and the like.

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I’ve been following that blog for the past two years, and have watched as she has gathered a massive following, and recently, after a lot of blood, sweat and tears, produced her first ‘Friendly Food’ cookbook. I did have some warning about this book, because it turns out that the one area we completely diverge on is a love of grammar, i.e. I love grammar and she does not! I was very honoured to be asked to assist in the editing of the manuscript, a process I very much enjoyed, and which Karen was most happy to be relieved of!

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Just a few weeks ago, I received my very own hard copy of Friendly Food for Chocoholics in the mail, and I am very excited to share one of Karen’s recipes with you now. Healthy chocolate indulgence, these friendly truffles are free from gluten, dairy and refined sugars. You will find many similarly divine chocolate flavoured cakes, drinks and desserts in Karen’s new book. Grab a copy now for you and a friend, just in time for Christmas!

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Salted Caramel Truffles {gluten-free, dairy-free}
Soft Medjool dates, honey, almond butter and sea salt combine to create a decadent, healthy treat.

Makes at least 40 truffles

Ingredients
½ cup almond butter
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 tablespoon coconut oil (no need to melt)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 tablespoons raw honey
300g (about 20) individual Medjool dates (the large, undried variety)
200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa, dairy-free)
Sea salt flakes, extra, to decorate

Method
To make your own almond butter: Blend 130g raw almonds in a high speed food processor until they turn into a fine meal (TM 5 sec/speed 9). Scrape down sides of bowl; add 1 tablespoon coconut oil or nut oil. Blend again until blades cease to make contact with the nuts (TM speed 6). Scrape bowl and continue blending, scraping as necessary, until natural oils are released and a butter consistency forms. This takes 2-3 minutes in a Thermomix and up to 10 minutes in other processors.

In a food processor, along with the almond butter, place all the ingredients except the dates and chocolate. Blend on medium speed until completely mixed (TM 5 sec/speed 4).

Leaving the motor running at medium speed (TM speed 4), add one date at a time, discarding the seed of each date before adding, until they are completely blended. Do not stop the food processor during this process as mix may be too thick to re-start.

Remove the mixture from the food processor and place in a bowl or container in the freezer for up to one hour, until it is firm, but still soft enough to work with. Line two cookie sheets/baking trays with baking paper. Using a ½ teaspoon measure like an ice cream scoop, make small balls from the caramel mixture {you can make them larger, but just be aware that there will less truffles}. Finish rolling into a smooth ball shape in the palms of your hands.

Place balls onto baking trays and place in freezer for 30 minutes or the fridge overnight.

Break the chocolate into small pieces. Fill a small saucepan with about 1-inch of water and bring it to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Place the chocolate into a heatproof bowl and place it over the water in the saucepan to melt slowly. The base of the bowl must not touch the water. Leave it standing and stir the mixture occasionally until it is smooth.

Dip each truffle in the melted chocolate, covering completely, then remove with a fork and allow excess chocolate to drip off before returning the truffle to the lined baking tray.

*Sadly, my truffles were too soft to dip into hot chocolate successfully, so I used the ‘dip and roll’ method instead. Dip the balls into the melted chocolate; roll quickly and gently between palms to coat evenly before placing on lined baking tray. Once all balls are coated, place in fridge or freezer to set. {This will create a very thin coating, and will need to be repeated once or twice more to complete the process.}

Top each truffle with extra sea salt flakes to decorate and return to freezer (or fridge) to set before serving.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Adapted very slightly from ‘Friendly Food for Chocoholics‘ by Karen Stevenson

Emergency Banoffee Pie

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I know, I know… it’s high time I got around to sharing some Christmas baking on this site, and believe me, I have some goodies in mind… i.e. a recipe from Karen’s newly published cookbook… but first up, let’s have some fun with this quick and easy dessert.

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Seen first on my Instagram feed, a British friend’s lone glass of “emergency #banoffeepie” sparked my curiosity and I nabbed the idea. Given to me thus: “… smashed up hobnobs, dollop of dulce de leche, sliced banana and some thick double dream on top”… I’ve simply translated it into ‘Australian’ (I couldn’t find hobnobs), put some quantities to it and a bit of grated chocolate on top.

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I’ve got to warn you, though; once you’ve tried it, there’s no going back! Banana, biscuit, caramel and cream are a winning combination! No surprise, then, that Banoffee Pie has been a favourite amongst many for decades. This is just the quick and easy version of the classic dessert.

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If you’ve read the original recipe on the Hungry Monk’s website, they describe boiling two cans of sweetened condensed milk for three hours (three hours!) to achieve the delicious caramel filling of a classic Banoffee (banana caramel) Pie. This way we can have it quicker – much quicker!

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So, if you can keep a can of caramel and some biscuits in the cupboard, save some bananas from the cereal bowl, and grab some cream from the shops, then you’re ready for any dessert emergency. The original makers of this classic dessert even hinted at the same.

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Emergency Banoffee Pie
“Smashed up hobnobs, dollop of dulce de leche, sliced banana and some thick double cream on top”.

Serves 6

Ingredients
1 packet Buttersnap biscuits
1 x 395g can Top ‘n’ Fill caramel or dulce de leche
2 medium bananas
1 x 300mL pot double cream
50g (approx) chocolate, grated, for decoration

Method
Crush the biscuits either in a food processor or place desired amount in a plastic bag and smash with a rolling pin. Divide amongst six parfait or serving glasses.

Top crushed biscuits with spoonfuls of caramel, slices of banana and dollops of double cream. Decorate with chocolate shavings and serve immediately.

Cauliflower & Ham Macaroni Cheese

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Sshhh… don’t tell Jamie Oliver… but we like this version of Cauliflower Mac N Cheese better than his. Full points for style, attitude, and flair, but that one gets the thumbs down – we found it too rich. Which is why I am cooking another version of the same, but with more veg. Lighter and better for you, this is Jamie’s with added vegetables. Added vegetables and ham.

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Not only is it healthy, it’s fast. This one-pot dinner comes together in a flash. Even with a cranky toddler demanding my attention, this cauliflower mac ‘n’ cheese was ready in a jiffy, in the blink of an eye… if you are short on time, this meal’s the one for you. The directions say to grill before serving, but seriously, it can be served straight from the pot. Salad is optional.

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Unlike most of my recipes these days, this one came not from the internet, but from a magazine; a free magazine, at that. I picked it up when passing through the supermarket checkout and immediately found three recipes I wanted to try. This one was first cab off the rank, and the vote is in: an easy, tasty mid-week meal that will be going on high rotation.

We were impressed. And the toddler eats each fistful with a “nomnomnom”, so we figure he approves as well.

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Cauliflower and Ham Macaroni Cheese {toddler approved}
With a hat tip to Jamie, I have added a little parmesan cheese to boost the flavour. And with the presence of pasta, cheese and white sauce, I couldn’t help thinking this would be just as nice with tuna instead of ham.

Makes enough to feed a small army
Preparation time: 20 mins
Cooking time: 15 mins

Ingredients
400g macaroni
1 small cauliflower, cut into florets
200g shaved leg ham, roughly chopped
1 ½ cups frozen peas
1 ½ cups grated tasty cheese
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
250g light sour cream
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt & pepper, to taste

Method
Grate the cheeses and combine in a medium bowl. Chop the ham, and measure out the peas.

Cook macaroni in a large pan of boiling salted water, according to packet directions, adding cauliflower for the final 5 minutes of cooking time. Drain over a large bowl, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid.

Return macaroni and cauliflower to pan. Add ham, peas, half the cheese, sour cream and reserved cooking liquid. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper.

Spoon mixture into a large ovenproof baking dish. Combine breadcrumbs and remaining cheese. Scatter over macaroni mixture. Drizzle with olive oil.

Cook under a pre-heated grill for 5 minutes, or until golden and bubbling. Serve with salad.

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Adapted from Coles.com.au

Chocolate Chip & Coconut Cakes (gluten-free + dairy-free + egg-free}

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Call me a soft touch. But when I see a young boy’s face crumple with disappointment because he can’t eat the cakes all the other kids are eating, it calls for an intervention. These mini chocolate chip and coconut cakes are the intervention. They are super-easy, super-quick, and devoid of all those nasties that seem to be affecting much of the population these days. My family don’t have to deal with food allergies, but I know so many who do now, which is why I like to have a recipe like this up my sleeve! These are for sharing at play group.

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Theo and I make it our business to attend a mums and bubs group each week, and have done so since he was a wee young thing. It’s nice to have a place to go where you are accepted as you are; frump or no frump! There are comfy lounges and coffee, often chocolate, babies to cuddle and if you need it, a shoulder to cry on. The rapport you develop and the advice you are able to glean from those who have gone before is invaluable! To be frank, the group probably saved me from the loony bin more than once during those first few months.

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As a fair exchange, I make cake. Sometimes recipes I’m experimenting with, other times ones that are tried and true. We have an understanding that if there’s chocolate involved, it’s for the mums, and if it’s slightly healthy, it’s for the kids. Where then does this recipe fall? Somewhere in no-man’s land, I suspect… but I’ve found that if I make mini cakes the children just assume they’re kid-friendly, and there’s no stopping them! Now that I have this quick and handy recipe, there’s no reason why any little person needs to be missing out.

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Chocolate Chip & Coconut Cakes {gluten-free + dairy-free + egg-free}
Small enough to clutch in a chubby toddler fist, or demolish in two dainty adult bites, these mini coconut cakes have all the flavours of a Bounty bar, without any of the nasties!

Ingredients
1 cup plain (all-purpose) GF flour (I use White Wings brand)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup desiccated coconut (toasting is optional)
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 cup (250mL) coconut milk
½ cup dark chocolate chips, divided (can use dairy-free chocolate chips)

Method
Preheat oven to 180degrees C (350 degrees F). Grease a 24-hole mini muffin pan. If toasting the coconut, heat over low-medium heat in a large flat pan and stir until golden brown.

Sift flour and baking powder together into a large mixing bowl, and then combine with coconut, sugar and coconut milk; stir until smooth. Finally, fold in 1/3 cup chocolate chips.

Fill greased muffin holes three-quarters full and dot the tops with remaining choc chips. Bake in a moderate oven for 12 – 15 minutes, or until risen and lightly golden brown. Allow to cool in tin for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Stand back and let the kids at ‘em!

Adapted from my Lime & Coconut Cake

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What’s your go-to cake for sharing with the little folks in your life?

Baked Pumpkin Coconut Custard {dairy-free}

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Although I was once a dedicated pumpkin-hater, it turns out that this vegetable has become quite the staple here in this house since the boy started on solids a year ago. It was so easy to boil up half a pumpkin, mash it and then fill ice block trays to store in the freezer for quick baby dinners. Even today, though he eats (almost) everything we do, Theo still loves his mashed pumpkin. So, every now and then I’ll boil up half a pumpkin and mash it, while roasting the other half for adding to quiche, pasta salad or frittata later in the week.

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Meanwhile, I have my mother’s old, worn copy of More with Less on “permanent loan” and have been mining it for inspiration. This cookbook holds so many familiar and well-loved meals that Mum would make when we were growing up. Some of my favourites might even make it to the blog! What stands out most about this particular cookbook is the author’s philosophy of being a good steward with the earth’s resources; a theme common enough now but unheard of in the 1970s, when the book was originally published.

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The recipes were largely compiled from home cooks throughout the Mennonite farming communities in the United States, and though not fancy by any stretch of the imagination, they are economical, and tasty. They are also not meals that one would normally find on tables here in Australia, which makes them all the more fascinating to me! While flicking through, I found this recipe for pumpkin custard. Now, I’ve never been a big fan of pumpkin pie, but I was intrigued and earmarked it to try… and I’m so very glad I did.

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Baked Pumpkin Coconut Custard {dairy-free}
I’ve adapted the original recipe by using coconut milk instead of cow’s milk, and by serving it in individual ramekins (mostly because they look nice!).

There is a teensy, weensy little problem with using ramekins, in that there always seems to be just a little of the custard mixture left when all the ramekins are full. So if you are concerned about waste, by all means use a large baking dish (8-cup or 2-litre capacity) instead. It will still taste just as good!

Serves 6

Ingredients
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 ½ cups coconut milk, scalded (I use a 400mL can of coconut milk)
1 tablespoon cornflour (cornstarch)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon each ground cloves and nutmeg

Shredded coconut, to garnish

Method
Preheat oven to 180deg C (350F). Line a deep 20 x 30 cm roasting pan with an old tea towel and boil the kettle for hot water.

Whisk all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Place individual ramekins* in tea towel-lined roasting pan. Pour custard mixture carefully into the ramekins, filling them ¾ full or near enough. Place roasting pan on the middle rack in your oven, and pour boiling water into the pan about halfway up the sides of the ramekin dishes. Bake for 30 minutes, or until set but still a touch jiggly in the centre when shaken. Remove from the pan and cool slightly before serving.

For garnish: Toast 1 cup of shredded coconut by placing in a heavy-based frypan over low to medium heat. Stir constantly, until coconut is nicely browned. Set aside to cool.

Delicious served warm with cream or ice cream. Even better eaten cold the next day (or in secret spoonfuls from the fridge at night)!

*The original called for one large baking dish (I suggest 8-cup or 2-litre capacity). If you use this, bake for 45 minutes.

Adapted from the More with Less cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre.

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Rocky Road with a Turkish twist

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Holidays and road trips mean ice cream cones. At least, that is what my upbringing told me, and what my adult mind still tells me now. Ice creams were treats that my dad dished out generously on those special occasions when we were on a road trip or a holiday (generally both, as we lived a long way from anywhere)… Other times, we might find a chocolate bar on our pillow when we went to bed at night. These gestures always gave me warm fuzzies, because that was and still is my dad’s love language: he loves to give gifts.

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So when Dad learned that Alex loves Turkish delight, he made it his business to bring some every time he came to visit. And he buys the best kind; the fresh kind. He shops at a dried fruit and nuts wholesaler, and they sell Turkish delight. Not the type that’s been shipped from overseas, but batches that have been locally made and have not yet gone stale. I thought it was just Alex that liked Turkish delight; but it turns out that I do, too! It’s not unusual to find that I am the one polishing off a packet of the rose-flavoured confectionary.

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But I know that Alex prefers his covered in chocolate, so I’ve been good lately, controlling my cravings to make sure there’s enough to put into this slice. It didn’t take long to realise that everyone has a different recipe for rocky road, so this one is custom-made to suit hubby’s sweet tooth. Made with chocolate, marshmallows, Turkish delight, almonds, pistachios and fairy floss, it’s guaranteed to rot your teeth and give you a sugar high. It’s pretty ugly until you slice into it and the pink jelly of the Turkish delight shimmers and the green pistachio nuts shine.

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Rocky Road with a Turkish twist
Adapted from Karen Martini and Taste.com.au

Ingredients
200g dark chocolate, chopped
200g milk chocolate, chopped
150g rose Turkish delight, cut into 2cm pieces
150g marshmallows (a mixture of pink and white), cut in half with scissors
80g unsalted pistachios
50g toasted whole almonds, coarsely chopped

Pashmak* if you can get it

Method
Grease and line the base and sides of a 20cm square cake pan with plastic wrap, allowing the sides to overhang.

Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan half filled with simmering water; stir with a metal spoon until melted.

Place the Turkish delight, marshmallows, pistachios and almonds in a large bowl. Drizzle over the chocolate and use a metal spoon to gently stir to combine. Spoon into prepared pan and decorate with pashmak if desired. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Turn onto a clean work surface and use a large, hot knife to cut into portions. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

*Pashmak is a type of fairy floss that can be found in some Persian (Afghani) supermarkets.