On Popsicles and Pooches

Coffee Cardamon pops  (1 of 3)

If you follow me on Instagram you would have seen that I’ve been so proud of my little boy this week.  After tearing a ligament in his knee and hobbling around pathetically for a week, I finally took the leap and operated.  We anaesthetised him, all 7.8 kg of cuteness.  We stuck a needle into his little spine to deliver epidural pain relief.  He had an entire team at his disposal.  An anaesthetist, a surgeon, a vet student, two nurses and two trainee nurses.  Many many two-leggeds for one tiny little nugget of a 4-legged.  Then he was all draped up and for a little while I could forget that it was my precious little fur-child I was doing major surgery on.  This helped as it had been all I could do not to curl up in a ball of nervousness leading up to the event.

Coffee Cardamon pops  (3 of 3)

Thankfully it all went according to plan and before I knew it I was packing a sleepy and sore bundle of fur into my car alongside his drip pump and medications.  Two days on, he is vehemently disagreeing with the post-operative plan to keep him confined and is demanding in true small dog style to be given access to the rest of the house.  He is using a well prepared arsenal of woeful looks, sad tail wags and softly incessant whimpers which even I as a veterinary professional am struggling to ignore.

But ignore we shall as the little body with the chubby little knee needs to heal.  And if Cookie can withstand and recover from major surgery as an eleven  year old pooch, I’d better do my part to ensure that his recovery is as smooth as possible.

Coffee cardamom pops (1 of 1)

All this has nothing to do with popsicles.  However I am a firm believer that coffee and popsicles are enough reason to indulge in coffee and popsicles.  These have a good caffeine buzz, with fragrant cardamom providing an extra jolt.  Sweetened with rice syrup, they are almost toffee like, the warm flavours complementing the freeze.  A grown-up popsicle, if you will.

Coffee Cardamon pops  (2 of 3)

Coffee, Cardamom & Yoghurt Popsicles

Makes 6

Get:

1/3 cup strongly brewed coffee
6 cardamom pods
1 cup full-fat Greek yoghurt
1/3 cup honey or rice syrup

Special Equipment:

Popsicle moulds
Freezer

Make:

Use a mortar and pestle to crush the whole cardamom pods until they break open and the seeds are roughly powdered.  Place the seeds and pods in the coffee and set aside for 30 minutes to infuse.  Once infused, pass the mixture through a strainer and discard the cardamom.

In a large bowl, whisk the yoghurt with the syrup or honey and cardamom infused coffee to form a smooth mixture.  Fill the popsicle moulds, insert popsicle sticks and place in the freezer for at least 6 hours or overnight.

To serve, dip the popsicle moulds in hot water to make it easier to lift out the popsicles.

cookie (1 of 1)

Comfort…..

……is that old pair of jeans that has molded perfectly to every curve of your body.  The ones that used to be a bright azure denim but now, after a hundred washes and many more wears, is a murky blue-grey shade of its former self.  Comfort is slipping these on, feeling them conform to your skin obediently and diligently ignoring that thinning area over the backside that one day is bound to give up the ghost, taking your dignity with it.

Mac and Cheese Valli Little (1 of 4)

Comfort is bare feet.  The liberation you feel when you open the front door, kick off the shoes, stretch the toes and feel plush carpet between them.  It is going to the cinemas in your sweatpants and no make-up.  Comfort watches movies on the couch on New Years’ Eve while the world packs picnics, braves the crowds and catches trains home after midnight, blinking under fluorescent lights.

Comfort is a hug with one who you have hugged for so long that both your shapes have long ago imprinted into one another.

And yet comfort may be something else, like talking on a friend’s couch for hours about nothing and everything all at once.

Mac and Cheese Valli Little (4 of 4)

Comfort is edible.  It is dhal, hot and salty, gingery and lemony, popping with cumin.  It is a roast potato with plenty of butter, solid to slippery liquid as it hits the steaming flesh.  It is hot chocolate, cold beer or a well-earned glass of wine.

Comfort is cheese and pasta.  Mac ‘n’ cheese.  Waistline defying mouthfuls of perfectly yielding pasta in a melty yellow matrix.  Throwing nutrition and caution to the wind to embrace it, comfort on a plate.

This one is from a cookbook which is the latest offering in the delicious. series by Valli Little, titled Love to Eat (ABC Books, Harper Collins).  The book navigates the home cook through a global journey, with each section holding recipes that are Valli Little’s take on flavours of that part of the world.  Comfort from each of the world’s corners.  For lovers of this series, this latest addition doesn’t disappoint, with practical and mouth-watering recipes that any home cook can tackle.

Mac and Cheese Valli Little (5 of 1)

I have my eye on the Kashmiri Prawns from the Indian section and the Chilli Chocolate Puddings of Latin America.  But for now we have this Mac ‘n’ Cheese slice.  I used emmental instead of gruyere, rosemary instead of thyme based on what I could get my hands on at the time.  I unceremoniously dumped in a whole 500g boxful of pasta rather than the recommended 400g and found the recipe still worked well.  I also stopped short of pan frying the slices dusted with flour, mainly due to sheer laziness, but I’m sure this would add an extra layer of decadence.  The pasta I used was one from the Barilla gluten-free range, a shape that is cutely named ‘elbows’.  I wrapped the slices individually, refrigerating some to eat within three or four days, and freezing some.  They thawed very well and made a perfectly convenient lunch to look forward to.

What is your Comfort?

Disclosures: My copy of Love to Eat was sent to me by Harper Collins Australia, and pasta was provided by Barilla, but all opinions are my own.

Mac and Cheese Valli Little (3 of 4)

Mac ‘n’ Cheese Slice

From delicious. Love to Eat, Valli Little

Makes 7-9 serves

Get:

400-500 g macaroni or similar shaped pasta
Olive oil, to drizzle
2 cups milk
1 onion, halved
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme or rosemary
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
80g unsalted butter
1/4 cup plain flour
1 1/4 cups strong cheddar, grated
1 1/4 cups gruyere or emmental cheese, grated
1 1/4 cups parmesan, grated
1 egg, lightly beaten
Plain flour, to dust (optional)

Make:

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to packet instructions.  Drain and rinse in cold water.  Transfer to a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, toss to combine and set aside.

Combine milk, onion, bay leaves, nutmeg and herbs in a saucepan over medium heat adn bring to a simmer.  Set aside for 30 min to infuse.

Preheat the oven to 180 C.  Grease and line a large baking dish with greaseproof paper.

Melt 40g butter in a saucepan over low heat.  Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1-2 mins.  Strain the milk into the pan, discarding the solids. Whisk the mixture until smooth and thickened.  Add the cheeses and stir to melt and combine.  Add the egg and stir to combine.  Season with freshly ground pepper and salt if needed.

Take the pan off the heat and add the pasta, toss to coat.  Transfer the mixture to the lined oven dish and spread evenly.  Bake for 30 mins or until the top is golden. Allow to cool completely then refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Optional:

Cut mac ‘n’ cheese into 7 to 9 slices and dust with flour.  Melt the remaining 40g butter in a frypan and cook each slice as needed for 2-3 mins on each side until golden and crisp.

Mac and Cheese Valli Little (2 of 4)

Click the Month: December 2014

It’s hard to describe what this year has been to me.  And as always, it’s difficult to believe that we are at that time already, when the clock ticks over from 2014 to 2015.  For me, it’s been the year that, despite it’s potential to be one of the most difficult twelve months of my life, somehow through sheer stubbornness on my part, was one of the best.  It was a year that showed me how wonderful the humans around me can be.  How supportive, comforting and unquestionably on my side.

Reisling Dark (1 of 4)

I have not only experienced incredible places and made some new friends who have truly enhanced my life, but I have understood the strength of my old friendships and family bonds.  In short, through some painful experiences, I have understood just how much I have to be joyous and thankful for.  So Thank You.  For the part you have played in making this year a good one.  For giving me a reason, besides my desire to tinker in the kitchen, with the camera and with words, to come to this beloved space of mine and share my thoughts.

As for New Years Eve, I think a drink is in order.  So here are some images I did for Kinvarra Estate Winery in the island state of Tasmania, of their lovely, fruity Riesling.  I hope you like them, and I hope that one day I can do for another what you all did for me.

Happy New Year dear friends.

Reisling Light (4 of 6)

Reisling Light (3 of 6)

Reisling Dark (4 of 4)

 

 

 

Cherry Ripe Truffles

You’re probably thinking it’s all a bit too little, too late. And in all honesty, I wouldn’t blame you.  I mean, a decadent fruity truffle, perfect for holiday gifting, posted on Christmas Day??  When all the gifts are already wrapped and sitting snugly under the tree, and even those relatives who completely slipped your mind until the very last minute have been taken care of in a panicked flurry.

What was that? Yes yes, if I’d posted this earlier you could have at least whipped up a batch to serve with coffee after Christmas dinner.  I could spout out the usual woes about being too busy, hanging on a thread of exhaustion, working fulltime and trying to meet writing deadlines in my spare time.  I could sing the song about how every time I even thought about doing something with this little blog here, a thousand other more pressing thoughts would flood out the first.  It would all be true, of course but of very little relevance to you, as even the self absorbed me is aware.

Cherry Ripe truffles (5 of 3)

Would it have been wiser for me to wait? To realise the little wooden boat had sailed and to wait until Easter or even next Christmas?  Yes, probably.  But if I made decisions based on what is sensible over what I feel like doing, I would be a very rich woman by now (I’m not).  I truly couldn’t have sat on these truly sexy spheres of bitter dark chocolate, their smoothness only interrupted by the cheeky bite of sour cherries and toothsome shredded coconut.  I could have waited a month maybe, but four months?? A whole year??

You know me better than that :-)

So here they are, awkward timing and all.  I hope your holidays are as smooth, decadent and studded with pleasant surprises as these here truffles.

Cherry Ripe truffles (6 of 3)

Cherry Ripe Truffles

Get:

100g good quality dark chocolate
1/3 cup nut butter (almond, cashew or macadamia works well)
3/4 cup frozen sour cherries
1/2 cup shredded coconut

Make:

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave in 20-30 second bursts. Stir through the nut butter and place the mixture in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Pulse the frozen cherries in the food processor briefly until they are very roughly chopped.  Add these to the chocolate mixture with the coconut and stir to combine.  Refrigerate for another hour or so.  When the mixture is firm enough to roll, roll into truffles and refrigerate again.

Gift or gobble as appropriate!

Cherry Ripe truffles (7 of 3)

 

Christmas Chivda (An Indian Street Snack)

Separating the beach from the road was a thickness of stalls that sold juice, tea, pav bhaji, fritters and other street snacks, the many-layered flavours of which could never be replicated in the sanitary conditions of a restaurant.  Rickety square stalls with torn calico coverings were stacked side by side, each a busily functioning unit within itself, much like cells in biological tissue.

Cries of vendors declaring the delights on offer were carried on the warm Bombay breeze alongside the scents of deep-fried chickpea batter, a myriad of masalas and the inescapable, faint undertone of sewage.  Juhu beach stretched beyond the bustle, less populated but still littered with vendors, children’s rides and sand artists with their temporary sculptures.

I would always ask for a paper cone, either filled with roasted peanuts or a dry street snack, Chivda.  They were portable, neat and most importantly allowed me to keep walking, the little girl trailing behind her parents.  They were also considered ‘safe’ to eat……not a drop of water or unwashed vegetable in sight.

Chivda (1 of 4)

When the lovely Claire of Claire K Creations organised the Foodie Secret Santa, I jumped at the chance to participate.  The idea is to make a Christmas treat and send it out to the three people you are allocated.  Soon enough, each blogger receives three treats from different bloggers.  So far I’ve received some moorish roasted peanuts and chilli jam from Claire herself, and some divine pecan balls that were reminiscent of a favourite childhood biscuit from another blogger who seems to wish to remain secret!

Chivda (2 of 4)

As Christmas is not a traditional festival for me, and I guessed that there would be plenty of sweetness in the air during this season as it was, I decided to make an Indian savoury street snack, Chivda.  This is my mum’s version, using flattened rice as the main ingredient.  We usually have a big bottle of this nestled in the pantry at any given time, to snack on with tea or to serve with cold drinks. The light, crisp rice flakes are dotted with crunchy peanuts and pleasantly interrupted by chewy coconut. A little salty with a suggestion of sweetness, it is naturally gluten free and vegan. Frying the poha (flattened rice) on a low heat does require some patience but after that, the process is fairly quick and uncomplicated.  This recipe makes a large quantity which can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for at least a month or for longer in the fridge.

Here in Sydney the lead up to Christmas has been a sombre one, with the horrific tragedy of the Sydney Siege and news of other atrocities elsewhere in the world.  It seems all we can really do is pray for the human race and hope that the people affected can somehow go on to lead positive lives.  Despite everything, I wish you all, with all my heart, a Merry Christmas.

Chivda (4 of 4)

Chivda

Get:

 4tsp + 4 tsp vegetable oil
6 cups thin dried rice flakes (poha)
1 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 cup raw peanuts
8 dried red chillies broken into large pieces
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp asofoetida
25-30 fresh or dried curry leaves
1 cup coconut flakes
Salt to taste
3 tsp sugar

Make:

In a large heavy-bottomed frypan, heat 4 tsp oil.  Add the poha and reduce the heat to very low.  Toast the poha, stirring constantly to make sure the flakes are evenly toasted.  The poha should curl around the edges and gain a little colour very gradually over about 20 minutes.  When the poha has slightly browned and crumbles easily between your fingers, pour it into a large bowl and set aside.

Turn the heat up to medium and heat the remaining 4 tsp oil.  Add the mustard seeds and when they have finished popping, add the peanuts.  Take care not to burn the mustard seeds.  Fry the peanuts on medium heat, stirring constantly until they are a golden brown colour.  Add the turmeric, asofetida and curry leaves and fry, stirring, until the curry leaves have crisped.  Add the coconut flakes and fry, stirring, until they have browned a little.

Add the toasted poha back into the pan with the other ingredients with about 1/2 tsp salt and the sugar. Stir to mix well, but this time be gentle so that you do not crush the poha too much.  Taste and add a little more salt if needed, then stir again.

Transfer the chivda to a large bowl and allow to cool completely before packing into an airtight container.

Notes:

Poha, dried red chillies and spices are available at Indian grocery stores.

Chivda (3 of 4)

Pumpkin Ginger Lassi

Pumpkin Ginger Lassi (1 of 4)

A lassi is a traditional, cooling Indian drink that can be either sweet, often mango flavoured, or salty. Many a restaurant has been guilty of serving a sweet mango lassi that is astoundingly, eyes squeezingly sweet. That level of sweetness usually overwhelms an excessive mango flavour that can’t possibly be natural. For me, the stifling sugariness of it drives me towards the salty option. Yet my thoughts drift to lightly sweetened home-made lassi using fresh fruit, such as this cherry lassi.

Pumpkin Ginger Lassi (3 of 4)

When the good people of The Society asked me to come up with a Thanksgiving recipe, it was the perfect opportunity to create a drink combining pumpkin with Indian flavours. In Australia we are headed for a blazing hot summer and lassi is a much loved summer drink in our household for its cooling, filling properties. This is a sweet, but not over sweet version that combines honey roasted pumpkin with ginger and other spices. Finally, a sprinkle of toasted pepitas adds a surprising crunch. If you are feeling adventurous, you could even spike it with a little gin for a cheeky cocktail.

Pumpkin Ginger Lassi (1 of 1)

Pumpkin Ginger Lassi

Get:
350-400g butternut pumpkin
3-4 cm piece fresh ginger, roughly chopped
1 cup milk of your choice
1 1/2 cups yoghurt
The insides of 2 cardamom pods, powdered
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder + extra
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
Generous pinch saffron (optional)
Honey or rice syrup to taste
Small handful pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

Equipment:
Oven
Stove and frypan
High speed food processor

Make:

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Cut the pumpkin into large pieces (no need to remove skin) and rub the cut surfaces with honey. I used about 2 tsp for this. Roast on an oven tray for 25-30 mins or until very soft.

Scrape the pumpkin flesh out of its skin and place the flesh in the bowl of your food processor with the ginger, milk, yoghurt, cardamom, 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder, vanilla and about 1/4 cup honey or syrup. Blitz until well mixed and the ginger is shredded. If you think your food processor may not shred the ginger, finely grate it before adding it to the other ingredients. Taste and add more sweetener if desired, blitz again to mix. Place the lassi in the fridge to chill.

Place the pepitas in a frypan and toast on low heat for 3-4 minutes or until slightly browned and popping. Transfer to a bowl and toss in a small amount of cinnamon.

Serve the lassi chilled and sprinkled with the cinnamon tossed pepitas.

Pumpkin Ginger Lassi (2 of 4)

Spiced Orange Chocolate Spoons

Choc Orange spoons (1 of 4)

It is widely accepted in scientific circles that a little bit of chocolate every day does wonders for one’s general health, demeanor, muscular strength, bone density, complexion and sexual performance*.  Researchers have found that the substance can be taken in either liquid or solid form, hot or cold, in secret or with others of the same inclination**.  There is anecdotal evidence that sitting in one’s comfiest armchair and closing one’s eyes while taking this medication improves it’s efficacy, however further studies are required in this particular field***.  One point on which all scientists are in agreement is that the darker the chocolate the better****.

Here at the Therapeutic Chocolate Society, we strive to improve ease of administration of this highly efficacious therapy.  We strongly support consumption of chocolate in its solid form, pure and unmodified.  However if a liquid form improves ease of administration, and if the slightest hint of fragrant orange and warming cinnamon, with the subtlest of bites of fiesty cardamom improves the appeal of the treatment, we may have just the thing for you.

Choc Orange spoons (3 of 4)

Warm a cup of milk of your choice, hot enough to melt the chocolate but not so hot that it scalds your mouth. Stir gently with the chocolate spoon until all melted. Lick any residual chocolate off the spoon (it is important to consume the full dose).  Add a little sugar or sweetener if desired and sip until all gone.

You may feel a rich, creamy sensation coating the inside of your mouth.  You will experience a heat in your chest as the warm liquid trickles from your mouth to your stomach.  Approximately 100% of patients report a heady cocoa aroma that overtakes the remaining senses, a sprinkling of orange and spices lacing it’s edges.

All of these are normal and frequently reported side effects of hot chocolate made with Spiced Orange Chocolate Spoons.

Like life itself, it is a bittersweet experience of depth, complexity and ultimately, sweetness.

*This is likely completely fabricated.
**Also unproven
***There are no such studies being conducted, nor are there ever likely to be.
****This part may actually hold some truth.

Choc Orange spoons (4 of 4)

Spiced Orange Chocolate Spoons

Makes 12-14

Get:
150g good quality dark chocolate (I used 100g 70% + 50g unsweetened)
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
The insides of 4 cardamom pods, powdered

Make:

Lay out 12-14 teaspoons in a tray.  Alternatively you can use an ice cube tray.  Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave in 20-30 second bursts. Add the other ingredients.  Stir to mix well and place small amounts (about 1 1/2 tsp) of the mixture into the teaspoons or the sections of the ice cube tray.  If using the ice cube tray, insert wooden popsicle sticks into the centre of each cube of chocolate. Place in the fridge to set or in the freezer if there is a medical emergency requiring immediate chocolate treatment.

Stir into a cup of hot milk, sweeten if needed find an armchair and enjoy.

Like things extra chocolatey? Use two!

Choc Orange spoons (2 of 4)

Kale and Cranberry Toss

It’s been an indulgent couple of months largely owing to a cavalcade of Hindu festivals.  Starting with Ganesh Chathurthi, then Navrathri and the ultimate excuse for overeating, Diwali.  Dotted between them were birthdays, dinners out, a trip to a food bloggers conference where of course there was no shortage of incredible food, and Halloween.  In the middle of it all, I’ve found myself actually craving greens.  The timing couldn’t be better when I was sent the latest cookbook by accomplished chef and author Annabel Langbein, titled Through the Seasons (ABC Books) after her TV series.

Kale Cranberry Toss (1 of 3)

As the title suggests, this is a collection of fresh, delicious ways to use seasonal produce, real food at its best.  It is divided by the seasons with each section progressing from starters and salads, to mains and sides, ending as all good things should, with desserts.  There are also useful ‘how to’s’ such as making yoghurt and growing things from seed.  After my few months of excess, I for one have my eye on the Beachside Ceviche, Cucumber Salad with Dan’s Secret Sauce and the Baked Eggplant with Kasundi.  My sweet tooth won’t be able to resist trying the Chocolate Orange creams and Mexican Hot Chocolate.  The recipes are complimented by stunning photography that creates the mood for each season.

For now, we have a Kale and Cranberry Toss, a simple green side dish whose recipe I halved and slightly modified according the ingredients I had on hand.  What you end up with is orange scented, slightly softened kale dotted with tangy cranberries and the crunch of pepitas.  Kale is insanely good for you, and for those of you who haven’t quite been able to embrace it yet, this is a good way to start.  Also, I’m sure this one at least partially erases the over-indulgences of festivals gone by.

Just in time for the excesses of Christmas.

*Through the Seasons was a gift from ABC Books and Harper Collins.  As always, words and opinions are my own.

Kale Cranberry Toss (3 of 3)

Kale and Cranberry Toss

Serves 3-4 as a side dish

Slightly modified from Through the Seasons by Annabel Langbein

Get:

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot or small eschalot, thinly sliced.
1 small clove garlic, finely sliced
12-16 kale leaves
Finely grated zest of 1/3-1/2 and orange
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp orange juice
1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 heaped tbsp dried cranberries
2 tbsp pepitas, toasted
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Make:

Heat oil in a large frypan or pot and cook shallots or eschalots and garlic until soft, about 2 mins.  Tear kale leaves off stems and roughly chop.  Add the chopped leaves to the pan with orange zest and water.  Cook on medium heat, tossing, for 2-3 minutes.  Add orange juice, vinegar and cranberries and cook covered for 1-2 minutes until kale is slightly softened and cranberries are plumped.  Uncover and cook for another minute or so until all the liquid has evaporated.  Turn off the heat and toss through a generous pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper.  Taste and add a little more seasoning if needed.  Serve with toasted pepitas sprinkled over the top.

Kale Cranberry Toss (2 of 3)

Diwali, Coconut & Quinoa Kheer and Win Flights to India!

Coconut Quinoa Kheer Pudding (2 of 5)

Of all of the stories that are associated with Diwali, the tale of Lord Rama, his wife Sita and brother Lakshman has to be the one that is dearest to my heart.  It is a tale of honour, exile, self-control and eventually, triumph.  This part of the epic Ramayana begins with the self-imposed exile of Rama after an administration bungle involving his stepmother and the throne.  Despite the pleas of his father the King, honour drives Rama into the forest, where he is willingly followed by Sita and Lakshman to begin what is to be an adventure-filled, fourteen year camping trip.

And what of Sita?  Her adoptive father, also a King, discovered baby Sita in the fields (one assumes she was discovered by one of his staff as what King would toil the fields?).  He is delighted with his find, which if you ask me is a refreshing change in the attitude of that time, when female babies were generally considered a consolation prize to sons.  He raises her as his own and when she is of marriageable age, hosts the equivalent of a celestial weight lifting championship to filter out the men from the mice.  Thus, Rama is found.  He is known in Hindu mythology as Purushottama, literally the Supreme Being, or Perfect Man (thereby confirming that on Earth, one may find Mr. Right but can forget any hopes of finding Mr. Perfect).

Coconut Quinoa Kheer Pudding (5 of 5)

So after having to suffer through watching keen suitor after keen suitor attempt to lift the heaviest bow in the world, the Princess Sita finds her perfect man, marries him and is rewarded with a honeymoon of more than a decade in the woods with no mobile phone connection and barely a hairdryer to her name.  As if having to wander around in the forest with your husband and the third wheel his brother wasn’t trying enough for the poor lady, she manages to get herself kidnapped by Ravana, an obnoxious demon with appalling table manners.

So Diwali marks the return from exile of the trio, after Rama proves his perfection by slaying the evil Ravana, rescuing his wife and bringing her back to civilisation before she can get herself into any more trouble.  Known as the Festival of Lights, an important feature of Diwali is the lighting of lamps and of firecrackers.  The flames and bursts are a symbol of good triumphing over evil, of light obscuring the darkness.

Coconut Quinoa Kheer Pudding (1 of 5)

In Sydney, the law dictates that we be content with the lighting of sparklers and of small oil filled lamps, or diyas.  When I was in Mumbai as a child however, it was a different story.  Weeks before the much anticipated festival, we would stock up on firecrackers of all shapes, sizes and colours.  Then the day would come and after the religious rituals were duly observed and obscene amounts of food eaten, all of the inhabitants would gather in front of the apartment block, the youngest kids hoisted safely onto their fathers’ shoulders.

We would often start softly, with flower pots that would spray a bouquet of light upwards and chakkars (wheels) that would spin madly when lit, spraying colourful sparks unpredictably in all directions.  Some of the braver boys would venture onto rockets, placing them in used soda bottles. These had to be lit quickly, legs in take-off position, so that the mad dash to safety could be done before they launched.  The grand finale would be strings of tiny ‘Dum Dum’ crackers, named so for the deafening cavalcade of explosions that began when they were lit, leaving ears ringing till Christmas.  When the boxes of firecrackers had all been systematically reduced to burnt paper and the air was heavy with the strangely intoxicating scent of over-done popcorn, we would all head back into our homes (or each others’) to enjoy a vast array of sweets for dessert.

Coconut Quinoa Kheer Pudding (3 of 5)

Firecrackers and sweets jostle for first place among the highlights of Diwali and in Australia, where the law is limiting, sweets win every time.  There are no rules against sugary, milky gratification and indulge we do, with at least three different types of sweets every year.  This year, I played with a variation on kheer, a popular condensed milk and rice pudding.  In this version, the quinoa lends a nuttiness which cuts through its creamy, mildly sweet coconut vehicle.  There is a pleasant coating of the tongue of thickened coconut milk and the delicate balance of the cardamom, saffron and vanilla that it carries.  Jaggery lends a warm, caramel sweetness, but you could use brown sugar if you don’t have any on hand.  An abundant drizzle of toasted, crushed nuts is mandatory and gives the molars something to work on in an otherwise soft world.  I chose almonds and also used some Persian fairy floss that I happened to find strutting around in the pantry.  From a nutrition perspective, quinoa is mostly protein and therefore a healthier option to rice.  Also, the natural sweetness of coconut products means that only a small amount of sweetener is required.  Serve in small bowls, as both quinoa and coconut milk are filling entities and the last thing we all need is dessert fatigue*.

Now onto the competition! St.George Bank is giving away 2 tickets to India this Diwali (see the video below), and if I hadn’t spent my leave galavanting around Tuscany and the UK, I’d be entering.  To enter, all you have to do is snap a pic of some aspect of your Diwali celebrations.  Post the pic on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, with the #StGeorgeDiwali by 12 noon Sunday, October 26.  The best entry will win flights for 2 to India!  The competition is open to NSW, ACT and QLD residents.  For further info, including T & C’s, head to http://www.stgeorgediwali.com.au/

So whether your Diwali consists of Dum-Dums and squealing children, or quiet rituals and too much food, may it be filled with light, love and sweetness.  Happy Diwali!

Looking for other eggless sweet options? Try these chocolate burfi. or this raw mint slice, or these truffles or these ones.

This is a sponsored post, but words, opinions and ramblings are my own.

Coconut Quinoa Kheer Pudding (4 of 5)

Coconut and Quinoa Kheer (Pudding)

Makes  8-10 serves

Get:

1/2 cup quinoa
1 tin coconut milk
1 tin coconut cream
50-70g jaggery, powdered, or brown sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
The insides of 6-8 cardamom pods, roughly powdered
1/8 tsp (generous pinch) saffron strands
1/2 or 1 whole vanilla bean
About 1/4 cup crushed, toasted nuts of your choice

Make:

Boil the quinoa in plenty of water for 6-8 mins. Drain and rinse the quinoa well.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, place the drained quinoa, coconut milk, coconut cream, powdered jaggery or brown sugar, powdered cardamom seeds and saffron.  Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds.  Place the seeds and the bean into the pan.

Bring gently to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until the pudding has thickened to a porridge consistency.  Crush and toast the nuts in another pan while this is happening.  Serve topped with crushed nuts and whatever else happens to be serving a purely decorative purpose in your pantry.

 

Notes:

*We all know dessert fatigue is a myth, but the weak amongst us claim it exists.  Also, I may have made way too much of this and eaten it for breakfast 3 days in a row.

Jaggery is an unrefined Indian brown sugar that you can pick up at Indian grocery stores.

If you don’t have vanilla beans, you can substitute with vanilla extract or paste.

Coconut Quinoa Kheer Pudding (7 of 2)

 

Mum’s Natural Cough Remedy

For the past week I’ve been struck down with bronchitis, resulting in a pesky, guttural cough that is as unsavoury as it is exhausting.  To say that I’m not great at being a patient is putting it mildly.  It took me several days to see the doctor for some antibiotics, and a whole lot of parental coaxing to convince me to take time off work to recuperate.  Having time on my hands is something I always crave, but time combined with a physical inability to do things I want to do is not quite what I had in mind.  After almost a week at home, I am truly insufferable and yet this tiresome cough lingers.

All this whining has a purpose, I promise.  There is a natural relief for coughing and head colds that I want to share with you, something that my mother forces into me at times like this.  A few days ago I was home alone with Cookie the pooch, and on my second consecutive night of incessant coughing, an activity that seems to be incompatible with sleep.  Sometime around three am, I had had enough and was feeling borderline murderous.  When I got out of bed and turned the light on for the third time that night, (ignoring an exasperated gaze from the long-suffering Cookie who had the misfortune of sleeping in my room) I knew that a solution had to be found.

Turmeric Pepper Milk (1 of 3)

So the stove was lit, milk poured, pepper ground and white yellowed with turmeric.  A short boil later, I was sipping my mother’s medicine for the first time without her insistence.  To say it worked, the cough subsided and I enjoyed a few hours sleep for the first time in what felt like forever would be an admission that my mother is right.  That she told me so, and that I would’ve done well to listen earlier.  And we know, you and I, that we never admit such a thing, regardless of how old or supposedly mature we are.

There are no pretensions about this milk.  It may be, at least initially, one of the worst things you’ve ever put in your mouth.  I don’t sweeten mine anymore, but you can and I suggest you do the first few times.  Honey would be the obvious choice because of its soothing properties.  You could also use a nut milk or soy milk.  Be sure to drink it as hot as you can possibly manage.  I think it works partly because turmeric has known anti-inflammatory properties which have long been recognised in Ayurvedic medicine.  Pepper was thought to have the ability to clear congestion but my personal theory is that in such a high concentration, it just annihilates the sensation in the nerve endings in the throat.  For whatever reason, this concoction, while unappealing in taste, seems to work well as a natural cough suppressant, and will provide some flu relief also.

Please don’t tell my mother I said that.

So tell me, what natural remedies do your family members swear by?

Turmeric Pepper Milk (3 of 3)

Milk with Turmeric and Pepper

Makes 1 serve

Get:

1 cup milk
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp turmeric powder
Sweetener of your choice, to taste (optional)

Make:

Place all ingredients in a small, heavy bottomed saucepan and stir to disperse the turmeric.  Bring slowly to the boil and simmer on low heat for 2-3 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly and drink as hot as you can handle.

Sleep well and allow those around you to do the same.

Turmeric Pepper Milk (2 of 3)