Freekah, Mint Pesto and Vegie Bowl (Vegan)

Freekah Mint Veg Bowl (2 of 5)

I guessed that by this time of the summer, the mint scattered along the side of the house would have flourished, perhaps even enough for a pesto.  The crop started many years ago as a couple of tiny plants, one of regular mint and one of chocolate mint.  The chocolate mint has never served a purpose per se, but I defy any of you to walk past a cute little pot of emerald green leaves that smells ever so slightly of an After Eight mint without wanting it in your garden.

At some point in the history of the garden, both plants escaped the pots, intermingled and took up their sprawling residence in the garden bed along the side of the house.  It’s a little unruly, this part of the yard.  Little chartered territory given a slightly more dangerous edge by the stump of the lemon tree that my dad had to chop down owing to its infestation of ominous looking black citrus bugs with their toxic venom.  Definitely not for barefoot wanderings.

Freekah Mint Veg Bowl (4 of 5)

Be-sandaled and armed with a basket and scissors, I made my way around the Tulsi (holy basil) and picked my way among the weeds, past the stumpy citrus.  Squeezing around the water heater, I was met with a lush mint crop large enough to supply a toothpaste factory.  A pesto was surely in order.  I tossed it with freekah (a type of cracked wheat) and with a few fresh vegetables, it made the freshest, most healthful lunch I’ve had in some time.  Sweetcorn is a must I think but as far as other vegetables go, You can pretty much pick your favourites.  I threw in carrot and snowpeas, but cherry tomatoes, blanched asparagus or broccoli, or pan-fried zucchini would work beautifully.

Want more healthy and filling vegetarian salad ideas? Try this lentil salad or quinoa salad.  Or screw the salads and make this fudge 🙂

Freekah Mint Veg Bowl (1 of 5)

Freekah, Mint Pesto and Vegetable Bowl

Get:

3/4 cup dry Freekah
1 ear of corn
Olive oil
Other vegetables according to preference
Small handful sunflower seeds.

For the Mint Pesto:
1 1/2 cups loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1 cup loosely packed baby spinach leaves
2 tbsp almond meal
1/2 hot chilli
Small garlic clove (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil
A good squeeze of lemon juice
Salt to taste

Make:

Place Freekah on the stove with twice the amount of water and 1 tsp salt.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 20-25 mins until cooked.  It should be tender but still a little firm and nutty. Drain, rinse  and set aside.

At the same time, boil the peeled corn in salted water in another pan for about 10 min.  Rub the corn with olive oil and char on an open flame or in the grill.  With a knife, carefully cut the corn off the cob.  Prep the other vegetables.

To make the pesto, blitz all the pesto ingredients (start with 1/2 tsp salt and add more to taste) in a food processor until a rough paste is formed.  Taste and add salt or lemon juice as needed.

Toss the pesto through the freekah.  Divide into 3 or 4 bowls.  Top with corn and whatever vegetables you choose. Finally, sprinkle with sunflower seeds.

Freekah Mint Veg Bowl (3 of 5)

Mocha Tartlets

Mocha Tartlets OSP (1 of 4)

It took me a long time after university to stop associating coffee with the torture of exams.  Despite being an over-achiever at school, it took me quite a few years to get my groove at uni.  And so frantic, caffeine fuelled all-nighters were the rule rather than the exception during vet school, much to the surprise of those who knew me in high-school.  Couple that with the academically, physically and emotionally demanding nature of a vet degree, and it was a sure formula for one hot mess of a vet student come exam time.  That year that we had 10 exams to complete in a two week period is particularly memorable, and I think it was after that year that I resolved to get my act together so that I wouldn’t have to sit important papers on two hours of sleep and a whole lot of liquid stimulation.

A forced wake-up from an unfairly short sleep wasn’t even the worst of it.  The kicker was the mind-fog through which I would command the answers to surface as I tried to focus on the words on the page.  Finally, there was the fumble of a bus ride home, when my brain was too numb with lack of sleep to even process whether I had performed adequately in the exam.  Even to this day, looking at an energy drink brings back the faint nausea of those delirious, desperate and disillusioned all-nighters that I and my friends (yes, I had company in this silly behaviour) subjected ourselves to for 2 weeks every semester.

Mocha Tartlets OSP (4 of 4)

In the last few years I have felt that I am adult enough and forgetful enough to be able to savour the taste of coffee without the bone-chilling memories that my disorganised uni student self had attached to it.  Good coffee, made well, truly is a wonderful thing.  Those first few sips whose aromas fill the nostrils and which leave a trail of warmth down the oesophagus are a comfort and a wake-up call in one.

I take mine without sugar, always have, and find it is actually an offense to the coffee if sugar masks any of its flavour.  On days when I’m feeling a bit decadent, I will also dip a piece of dark chocolate into it, holding it in there for a few seconds so that I can inelegantly suck off the top layer of melted chocolate before dipping it back in.  Occasionally I will also drop a cube of chocolate in while the coffee is still very hot, so that I have something lovely to scoop out with a spoon after my last swig.

I don’t think there’s any uncertainty that I am all for the marriage of coffee and chocolate.  These mocha tarts combine those two great lovers, and the nutty, gluten-free base does much to ground the whole thing and cut through the bittersweetness.

Mocha Tartlets OSP (2 of 4)

 Mocha Tartlets (Gluten-free, refined sugar free)

Makes 18-20

Get:

For the Crust:
3 cups almond meal
115g butter at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
1 tbsp rice syrup or honey
1 pinch salt

For the filling:
2 cups raw cashews
1/3 cup strongly brewed, good quality coffee
1/3 cup Rice Syrup or honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
150 g 70% dark chocolate
1/3 cup double cream

Special Equipment:
Mini tart cases or a muffin tin, greased well
A high speed food processor

Method:

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.  Spread the cashews out on an oven tray and bake for 4-5 mins until just starting to gain colour.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

To make the crust, cut the butter into cubes and place in a large mixing bowl with the other crust ingredients.  Using clean hands, rub the butter into the other ingredients to form a dough that you can knead.  Knead for 2-3 minutes.

Pinch off portions of the dough the size of ping-pong balls (23-25g each).  Flatten each ball between the palms and press into the tart cases or cups of the muffin tin.  Press the dough evenly at the base and sides of the tins to a 3-4mm thickness.  Place the tins on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 10-15 mins until the cases are an even golden brown colour.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before removing the cases from the tins.  Use the tip of a sharp knife to gently loosen the tart cases and facilitate removal from the tins.

While the tart cases are baking, make the filling.  Place the cooled cashews in the bowl of the food processor and blitz on high speed, stopping intermittently, until a smooth butter is formed.  Initially a meal will form, then a thick dough, then a smooth butter.  Add the coffee, cinnamon and honey or rice syrup and blitz until an even mixture forms, stopping to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure all the nut butter is incorporated.

When all the tart cases are baked, cooled and removed from the tins, fill each one 1/2 to 2/3 with the filling.  Place them in the freezer for an hour or so until they are firmly set.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave in 20 to 30 second bursts.  Take off the heat and add the cream, stirring quickly to form a smooth ganache.  When the coffee filling has set, spoon small amounts (about a tsp) of the ganache onto the top of each tart and spread out a little with the back of the spoon.

Refrigerate until the ganache is firm. Serve as is or with a dollop of cream.

Leftover chocolate and coffee filling? Mix them together, firm up in the fridge and roll into balls to make mocha truffles!

Notes:

You could probably make 1 large tart in a standard sized tart tin if you prefer, although I have not tried that with this recipe.

Mocha Tartlets OSP (3 of 4)

Raw Mint Slice for The Sweet Swap 2014

The punch of peppermint is what first makes

It’s presence known in the rich nutty base

Then sexy dark chocolate, creamy with coconut

Widens the smile on the indulger’s face

Mint Slice 3

So as a nibble with tea

Or an after dinner zing,

This raw mint slice will make

Your taste-buds sing!

Mint Slice 4

Ok so a poet I clearly am not.  But I am kinda tickled pink with this recipe, and boxes of the decadent yet goodness-filled squares went out to three lovely bloggers.  Amanda of Chewtown, Bryton of Food in Literature and Cassandra of Journey From Within each received a box of these gluten-free, low sugar, raw goodies.  In turn, I welcomed sugary goodness in the form of Butterscotch Pecans from Fiona of Tiffin and Raw Date and Almond Truffles from Karla of Get On Up.  In its second year, the Sweet Swap, organised by Amanda (Chewtown) and Sara (Belly Rumbles) is a fun, innovative event that brings Aussie bloggers together and benefits a worthy cause.

Raw Mint Slice

Makes 24 squares, approx 4cm x 4cm

Get:

Base:
3/4 cup cashew or macadamia nut butter (homemade or store bought)
2 tbsp milk powder (or pea protein powder for a vegan option)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 tbsp rice syrup
4 drops peppermint oil (available at cake supply shops)
1 1/2 tsp spirulina powder (for colour, optional)

Topping:
120g good quality dark chocolate
1 tbsp thick coconut cream* (see note)

To Sprinkle:
Small handful cacao nibs or shredded coconut

Make:

See the note below first regarding coconut cream.  Prepare a tray lined with grease-proof paper.  To make the base, place all the ingredients in a bowl and stir.  It will probably be a little too thick to stir, at which point you can knead with clean hands.  If the nut butter you use is on the runny side, you may need to add a little more milk or protein powder to achieve a bread dough consistency.  Press the mixture down into the tray to roughly a 6-8mm thickness.

To make the topping, melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in 20-30 second bursts in the microwave.  When it is fully melted, quickly stir through the coconut milk before the chocolate seizes up.  Quickly spread the mixture evenly over the base and sprinkle with cacao nibs or coconut.

Place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before slicing with a sharp knife.

Notes:
Use coconut cream with no additives (I use Ayam brand), and pop the can in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.  Then, open the tin without shaking and use the thick part of the cream off the top of the tin.

Mint Slice 2

Chocolate, Cranberry and Pistachio Granola

Choc Cranberry Pistachio Granola 3

It began with the subtlest of signs.  A hole in a paper bag from which plain flour poured when I was shifting things around to look for something.  A perfect circle the size of a ten cent piece that I convinced myself was a tear.  I cleaned up the mess, found what I needed and thought nothing more of it.

Then on another day, another hole……..this time in the wholemeal flour bag.  And another pile of flour underneath to clean up.  On the other side of the pantry, there were tiny holes nibbled into the bag of pepitas.

Nibbled!

By tiny teeth!

Choc Cranberry Pistachio Granola 1

It was then that we noticed the scattering of tiny black pellets.  After all, when you’ve been busy scooting around on tiny feet and munching your way through a pantry full of food, nature will inevitably call and a trail will be left behind.

Feeling somewhat invaded and unclean, we set out the humane traps.  They were not lured by the bread that we offered on the first two nights, not the sweet piece of dried coconut that we tried next.  Predictably, it was the cheese that did it.  Not the holey Swiss cheese that attracts cartoon mice, but a small piece of Grana Padano…….the expensive kind.

Choc Cranberry Pistachio Granola 6

Once both the tiny furry terrorists were caught and released in the park down the road, Mum and I set about on our cleaning mission.  It was a much needed push to spring clean the pantry.  Old ingredients and those that were blessed by rodents were thrown out, shelves were wiped down, and glass jars were filled, labelled, and arranged in height order.

Ingredients that I had purchased and forgotten about were rediscovered.  An afternoon of experimentation led to a rich, chocolatey granola, low enough in sugar to make it ok to eat chocolate in the morning.  I used some unsweetened cocoa mass that was uncovered in the mouse hunt, and added rice syrup for a slight sweetness.  You could do the same, or just use 70 or 80 % dark chocolate.

Choc Cranberry Pistachio Granola 2

Chocolate, Cranberry and Pistachio Granola

Get:

1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
80g dark chocolate (I used unsweetened cocoa mass + 2 tsp rice syrup)
2 tbsp cashew or macadamia nut butter
1 tbsp protein powder or milk powder (optional)
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp coconut oil
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped

Make:

Preheat the oven to 160 C.  Spread the coconut and sunflower seeds out on an oven tray and toast in the oven for 7-8 minutes, or until the coconut has turned a light brown.  Spread the pistachios on a seperate tray and roast until they have gained a little colour- they may take a bit longer than the coconut and sunflower seeds.  If making the nut butter from scratch, this is the time to roast those on a separate tray.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave in 20-30 second bursts (use a large bowl either way).  If using cocoa mass, stir in the rice syrup well.  While the chocolate is warm, add the coconut oil and nut butter, cinnamon and salt, and stir well.

Add the other ingredients and toss until they are all well coated in chocolate.  Place the bowl in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

Remove from the fridge and crumble with your fingers.  Store at room temperature for up to 3-4 weeks or in the fridge for longer. Eat with milk, nut milk, yoghurt or on it’s own!

Choc Cranberry Pistachio Granola 4

Stepping-Stone Nutty Chocolate Eggs (low-fructose)

Beyond the overstuffed floral sofas, past the assortment of porcelain milkmaids and ceramic puppy dogs, there was a scuffed old desk pushed up against the wall.  The tiny old lady gingerly pulled out the chair and perched herself on it, gesturing for my uncle and I to take a seat nearby.  She was my uncle’s dearest patient, and he had brought me along on a house visit to meet her.

stepping stone eggs 1

Carefully, she pulled open a draw and held out a plastic tube, paper thin skin stretching over arthritic knuckles as her hands curled around it.  Peering into the container, my eight-year old eyes widened in delight.  Eggs of all sizes were nestled in together.  They twinkled in their colourful foil wrappers, unlike anything I had seen before.

‘Pick one’ urged my uncle.  I snapped out of my bewilderment to choose a bright blue one, about the size of a chicken egg, and unwrapped it slowly.  A cobblestone chocolate surface was revealed as the soft foil fell away under my eager fingers.  The hollow centre was a real surprise, and there was something about that thin chocolate shell, perhaps the way it just seemed to give way on my tongue, that did it for me.  I’ve been weak at the knees for Easter eggs ever since.

stepping stone eggs 2

Those first few months after we migrated to Australia are mostly a blur, but there are certain memories, like this one that linger vividly within the childhood section of my mental filing cabinet.

The lovely old lady is long gone.  But that little girl’s first taste of a chocolate Easter egg, sitting in the living room of her uncle’s favourite patient, is never to be forgotten.

stepping stone eggs 3

These eggs were a happy accident in my quest to create a low-sugar creme egg.  While they are not quite what I envisioned, they are a stepping-stone towards a creme egg, and turned out too good not to share with you. The centres of these are creamy, albeit a bit too firm to call them a creme egg.  They have a natural sweetness provided by the nuts and boosted by the tiny amount of sweetner, which is nicely balanced by the bitter dark chocolate shell.  As for the original goal…..well, there’s always next Easter.

For other low-sugar chocolaty treats, try these or these.  Or even these.

Happy Easter to you all!

stepping stone eggs 4

Stepping-Stone Nutty Chocolate Eggs

Get:

Makes 12-15 small eggs

1/4 cup cashew or macadamia nut butter
100 grams (2 sachets) coconut paste
1-2 tsp rice syrup or honey
100g good quality dark chocolate

Make:

Dip the unopened packets of coconut paste in boiling water for a couple of minutes to soften.

Place the nut butter, coconut paste and syrup or honey in the food processor and blitz to a smooth paste.  Transfer to a bowl and freeze for 20 mins or so until quite firm.  Alternatively, you could pour the mixture into silicone chocolate moulds and place that in the freezer.

If hand-shaping the eggs, remove the mixture from the freezer and using the spoon, scoop out small amounts (about a tsp) of it.  Usig clean hands, knead and roll into balls, then flatten slightly to make eggs.  Place on grease-proof paper on a tray and freeze until very firm.

In the meantime, melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in 20-30 second bursts in the microwave.  Roll the frozen eggs (or whatever shape you choose) in the melted chocolate.  Use a couple of spoons to cover the eggs in the chocolate and place back on the grease-proof paper lined tray.  Refrigerate until the chocolate is set.

Eat!

Notes:

If you would like to make your own nut butter, find the method here.  You will need about 1/2 cup of nuts to make 1/4 cup of butter.

I found coconut paste in the Asian food section of large supermarkets.  I found it in a box of 5 sachets of 50 grams each.  I believe it is also available in some Asian grocery stores (thanks for the tip JJ!).

stepping stone eggs 5

 

 

 

Dessert Wontons with Sweet Dipping Sauce

Dessert Wontons 1

It’s not quite a recipe, really.  More like an assembling of things to be steamed, dipped and devoured.  It all started when I was invited to a Chinese themed High Tea at Four Friends, and I started to wonder what I could contribute given my very limited Asian dessert repertoire.  The thought that lingered in my mind was one of dessert wontons.

Dessert Wontons 4

You see, us Indians make a steamed rice parcel stuffed with coconut and jaggery that if done right, will fall apart in the mouth leaving behind a puddle of seductively melted brown sugar and chewy coconut.  How I went from contemplating modakam, and onto deciding to stuff my wontons with peanut butter, chocolate and coconut is probably a function of my ever tangental mind.

If you don’t have a bamboo steamer, you could use a metal colander sprayed with a little oil or lined with grease-proof paper, in a large covered pot with water in the bottom of it.  However you make them, they are best eaten fresh and dipped generously in the sauce.

Oh! And speaking of sweets…..if you live in Sydney and are of a sugary inclination, don’t forget to enter the giveaway to win tickets to the Cake Bake and Sweets Show March 21 – 23 here.

Dessert Wontons 2

Nutty, Chocolatey Dessert Wontons with Coconut Dipping Sauce

Makes about 15

Get:
75 g dark chocolate
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1-2 tbsp rice syrup or honey

Wonton Wrappers

For the dipping sauce:
1/3 cup coconut cream
2 tsp rice syrup
Few strands saffron (optional)

Make:

Blitz the filling ingredients together in a food processor until a coarse paste forms.  Start with 1 tbsp syrup and add more if you prefer it sweeter.

Fill the wonton wrappers.  I used about a tsp of mixture per wrapper, placed it in the centre and folded the edges together.  I used a little water around the edges to make them stick.

Sprinkle the wontons with water and steam them for about 20-25 mins, or until the wrappers are cooked.

Make the dipping sauce by whisking the ingredients together well.

Serve the wontons with dipping sauce for dessert.

Dessert Wontons 3

Rose and Raspberry Celebration Tart for OSP’s 1st Blogiversary!

Rose raspberry tart 1

I’ve been like an excitable little kid, anticipating this day. The day that marks a year of blogging for me. A year of breathlessly rushing into the kitchen after a day at work to try out a new idea I had. To make it truly amazing so that I can share it with you all. A year of thinking way too much about every canape, main meal and dessert I ate. Of putting every dish through a deep analysis to figure out how I could make it at home, what interesting twist I could give it and more recently, what I could do to make it sugar-free. Twelve months of drawing on my imagination and the things that have inspired me to decide how I want to style the dish and the best way to photograph it to provide a visual complement to my words.

Also, perhaps closest to my heart, the words themselves. The stories I would tell and the windows that dish would open up into the inner workings of my mind. Because for me, food is as important as it is because it always tells a tale, triggers a memory or incites an emotion. There is a commonality between my mother’s family’s puliyogare, and a terrine served at a fine dining restaurant. Between that three ingredient fudge and that delicate, seven layer cake that graces the window of the upmarket patisserie, looking far too pretty to plunge a spoon into.

Raspberries 1

That connection may not be in the ingredients, the method or how it is served. What all food has in common is that it was made by hands that are controlled by a mind with a story to tell, a history to either reveal or protect and thoughts to express.

Food is sustenance, for nourishing and for fulfilling. But it is also for sharing, for drawing people in and for bringing them together. A bowl of warming soup that you slowly savour while watching television, curled up on the couch on a wintery evening. The pudding that is eaten slowly, each syrupy spoonful punctuating words that you share with someone you are just getting to know, while you try desperately not to let the sauce dribble inelegantly down your chin. The cup of too-hot tea that you blow the steam off before you settle your head back onto the shoulder of your sweetheart.

Rose raspberry tart 3

It is a privileged position, this one. To be able to view food this way is a function of a comfortable life. But it is how I view food, and I thank you for allowing me to share that with you for the past year. This yearling space of mine means more to me than perhaps I could ever explain. A creative outlet, a happy place and a raft that has helped keep me afloat through what has been a challenging year. Each comment, glowing or otherwise, every tiny piece of interaction and encouragement has made my heart smile.

At the basest level I have discovered rosewater, cashew cream, how to steam puddings and how wonderfully therapeutic bread-making is. I have found rice syrup, Quinoa and kale. I have worked out what makes a good food prop and just how much light I need for a photo session. Beyond that, this small corner of mine has given me so much more.

Rose raspberry tart 4

We have come a long way, you and I. From that first kulfi recipe with its endearingly awkward photographs to now, when I finally feel I am getting a grasp of things. We can go further, we know this. We have so much more to discover about each other, to share over a cup of coffee and a chocolate truffle.

This blog is growing too. I am working to make some positive changes here in this space and outside it.  So do stick with me.  For there is no-one else in the world I can imagine moving forward with.

Thank you all for sharing the past year with me, it has meant more to me than you could possibly know.

Rose raspberry tart 6

Rose and Raspberry tart (Vegan, Gluten-Free, fructose-free)

Feeds 6-8

Crust recipe modified from here

Get:

For the crust:
2 1/2 cups almond meal
Generous pinch salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
4 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
3 tbsp rice syrup

For the rose and cashew cream filling:
1 1/2 cups raw cashews
Water
2 tbsp rosewater
1/3 – 1/2 cup rice syrup or honey

To decorate:
2 small punnets raspberries, washed and patted dry
Anything else you desire- chocolate, crushed nuts etc etc etc.

Make:

Immerse the cashews in water and soak for at least 3 hours.

To make the crust:
Preheat the oven to 175 C.

Place the almond meal, salt and baking powder in a large bowl and mix well.
In another bowl, whisk the coconut oil and syrup. They will not mix very well but do your best. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and with clean hands, crumble everything together and knead lightly until a dough is formed.

Grease a tart tin and press the mixture evenly into its base and about 1 1/2 cm up the sides. Bake for 15-20 min or until golden brown.

To make the filling:
Drain the cashews and rinse. Place them in the bowl of a high speed food processor. Add rosewater, syrup or honey and 1/3 cup water. I found 1/3 cup of syrup to be adequate, but taste and add a little more if desired. Process on high speed until a smooth or slightly coarse cream forms, scraping down the sides as needed.

When the tart base has cooled, remove it from the tin and fill with the cashew cream, spreading evenly. Refrigerate for 20 mins before decorating with raspberries and whatever else you choose. I used some dark chocolate leaves that I piped.  You can of course, opt for another fruit if you wish!

Raspberries 3

Bounty Bar Popsicles for SABH (Low-Fructose)

Bounty bar popsicles 1

I’ve ditched the sugar again and apart from a couple of planned (and one unplanned) cheat days, I have been well on track.  After I fell off the wagon towards the end of last year, I made a decision to quit the white stuff again in the new year.  Isn’t it funny how we consider new years eve such a major milestone in our decisions?  As if on the 1st of January we somehow get that extra push we need to make a positive change in our lives.  Really, it’s just another date, isn’t it?

So I’ve taken on a slightly different frame of mind now.  This time around, it is all about what I deserve….remember we talked about that?  From a health point of view, what I deserve is a healthy, well nourished body that I fill with goodness.  After all, you can’t expect to get the best from this vehicle that has been assigned to you in this life unless you give it the very best care, no?

And so it is that the menacing ‘I MUST LOSE WEIGHT’  has been replaced by ‘I deserve to be happy with myself, inside and out and a positive step towards that is to be slimmer and healthier’.  Is that not much kinder, friends?

Like any affirmation, it is to be repeated.  We humans are creatures of habit and our mental patterns, created over years, take gentle persistence to break.  So I remind myself daily of my decision to ensure I have what I deserve and try not to berate myself too much when I slip up.

Try it, dear friends.  Let’s treat ourselves with kindness, and the universe will do the same.

Bounty bar popsicles 3

I was a tad excited when this month’s Sweet Adventures Blog Hop theme of Popsicle Party was announced.  This month it is hosted by the lovely Swah from Love Swah. 
These chocolate covered, coconut popsicles are a frozen, low-sugar version of the Bounty Bar, a popular Australian chocolate bar.  If you want them to be dairy free, leave out the yoghurt but the result will be a harder popsicle.

Bounty bar popsicles 4

Bounty Bar Popsicles (Low-fructose)

Makes 6-8 depending on size of moulds

Get:

270 ml (1 tin) full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup Greek yoghurt
4 tbsp rice syrup
1/2 cup frozen fresh grated coconut
150g good quality dark chocolate

Make:

 Whisk all ingredients together except for the chocolate.

Pour into popsicle moulds.

Freeze until set.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave in 20-30 second bursts, stirring in between.

Dip  the popsicle moulds in hot water to loosen, then dip the popsicles one by one into the dark chocolate or paint it on with a pastry brush.

When the chocolate has set, place back in the popsicle moulds (they won’t fit as well) and in the freezer until ready to eat.

Notes:
Frozen coconut is available at Indian grocers.
I had a little mixture left as I have small popsicle moulds, and I poured this into an ice cube tray to throw into my smoothies.

Bounty bar popsicles 2

Rose and Saffron Pots De Crème

Rose Saffron Pots 3

It’s a funny thing, is rosewater.  Too much of it in a dish and each bite is like a group hug with a gaggle of perfumed grannies.  Although, get the balance right and you are greeted with a sensation that is more a scent than a flavour.  A nuance that adds a romantic and intoxifying quality to the dish, whether it be a scented middle eastern fried rice, a soft and yielding Turkish delight or the Indian Gulab Jamun.

In India, rose is a default flavour, much like chocolate or strawberry in Australia.  Growing up, rose milk, rose Kulfi and the Gulkand (rose jam) that my mum used to buy me from tiny footpath stalls in Bangalore were well-loved and anything but exotic.

Rose Saffron Pots 4

We Indians have the middle-east to thank for rosewater, which was obtained by chemists in the ancient Islamic world using a steam distillation method.  We now not only use it in our cooking, but also in Ayurvedic medicine and as a perfume.  It is not uncommon for unsuspecting wedding guests to be sprinkled with a liberal amount of it upon their entry to the venue as a welcoming gesture.

Rose Saffron Pots 1

When a friend gifted me a copy of the beautiful Delicious Home Cooking by Valli Little, I immediately zeroed in on the recipe for Honey Pots De Crème, the cogs in my mind turning as I worked out how I could make it a fructose-free version with Indian flavours.  The result was a smooth baked custard wafting with the fragrance of roses and saffron, which lends itself to a biscuit for dipping or a sprinkling of nuts as it pleases you.

Rose Saffron Pots 7

Rose and Saffron Pots De Crème

Modified from Delicious Home Cooking, Valli Little (ABC Books, Harper Collins)

Serves 3-4 in ramekins or 7-8 in shot glasses

Get:

150ml thickened cream
1/4 cup + 1 tsp rice syrup or honey
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp Rosewater*
Generous pinch saffron strands
1 egg plus 2 egg yolks
1/2 vanilla bean
1 tbsp pistachios (optional)

Make:

Preheat the oven to 160 C.

In a medium-sized saucepan, warm the cream, milk, rosewater, saffron and syrup or honey until just simmering (but not boiling!).  Stir gently to incorporate the syrup/honey. Take off the heat and allow to cool a little.

Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into a mixing bowl.  Put the bean casing into the cream mixture.

To the bowl with the vanilla seeds, add the egg and egg yolks.  With an electric beater, beat until pale and a little thickened.  Add the egg mixture to the cream mixture and stir until well combined (do not beat or you will create more froth).  Set aside off the heat for 5 mins to infuse.  In the meantime, boil a kettle of water.

Place the ramekins (3 or 4) or shot glasses for smaller portions (8) in a deep ceramic baking dish.  You can also use small glass jars.  Strain the mixture into a jug and divide the mixture between the ramekins or shot glasses.

Set the dish with the ramekins on the middle shelf of the oven and carefully pour boiling water into the dish to a level about half of 3/4 of the way up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake for 40-45 mins or until set but with a slight wobble.

Remove the dish from the oven and carefully lift the ramekins out of the hot water and onto a tray.  Allow to cool completely, then chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.  I roasted the pistachios for about 6-7 mins, then crushed them and sprinkled them over the Pots de Crème before serving.  You could use anything that provides a bit of a crunch like other nuts, wafers or honeycomb.

*Rosewater is available at Indian and Middle eastern grocers.

Rose Saffron Pots 6

Black Cat Pumpkin Cheesecake bars and 5 Tips for Safe Pets this Season

Halloween is coming!  And in anticipation, I present you with these Pumpkin Cheesecake bars which I assure you, you will love as much as I do.  The base is one that refuses to play second fiddle to the fresh, tangy topping.  It is packed with nuts and shredded coconut, providing a roughage that contrasts nicely with the smoothness of the cream cheese and pumpkin.

I used melted dark chocolate to pipe these funky little black cats, and adorned them with shiny edible pearls for eyes.  You can of course choose whatever design you please; witches hats, bats, evil eyes……the world is your cheesecake!

Pumpkin cheesecake bars ingredients

Speaking of cats and holidays, for those of you who have four-legged family members, I thought I’d put together a list of ways to care for them during this season.  Our beloved furry friends can get a little neglected during the festivities and that, as well as the insanely hot summers we experience here in Oz mean that vet hospitals are the busiest during this time.

Here are a few important ways to look after our creatures over the next few months…….

1.  Watch what they gobble: Our pets love a Christmas feast as much as we do.  In fact, we often see patients that have eaten something silly, causing them to become sick.  Nothing ruins a holiday like having to spend an hour in a busy waiting room of a vet hospital!  When pets eat fatty foods such as bacon, sausages and sweets, it can trigger a condition known as pancreatitis.  This is a very painful and debilitating condition whereby the pancreas becomes inflamed, causing vomiting and a lack of appetite leading to dehydration and illness.  Most cases are treated with hospitalisation, antibiotics and IV fluids, but severe cases can be fatal.

Fatty foods aside, certain foods such as onions, chocolate, raisins and many others are actually toxic to pets.  So while you enjoy your meal, treat your pet to something pet-friendly such as a raw bone or doggy treat, and ask visiting relatives nicely not to feed the pets human food or leave it lying around within reach.

Pumpkin cheesecake bars ingredients2

2. Remember that things that are not food can seem edible:  In addition to eating inappropriate foods, some dogs (think Labrador!) have a knack for eating things that really shouldn’t be eaten by anybody!  While you are celebrating the holidays, your pooch may do the same by gulping down something that may get stuck in his or her gut causing an obstruction.  Some holiday related things that I have had to fish out of doggy intestines include wine corks, skewers, fish hooks and corn cobs.  Believe me, spending Christmas eve elbow-deep in a dog’s abdomen is no fun for the vet, the dog or the anxious owner!

3. Protect against nasty critters: In Australia, the heat tends to bring out some of those nasty creepy crawlies that we are well known for.  Paralysis ticks are a horrible little bug, and if I could choose one species to be extinct, it would me this one.  They latch onto an unassuming animal and proceed to inject them with a poison that paralysis first the legs and then the respiratory muscles.

There are one or two good products available from vets to protect dogs against these ticks and they should be used in high risk areas such as national parks and near water bodies.  Unfortunately none of these products are highly reliable and you should search your pet after visiting these areas, focusing on the head and neck.  If you notice any signs of paralysis such as weak legs, a change in bark or breathing difficulty, veterinary care should be sought immediately.

Snake bites are also more common during summer and this should also be treated as an emergency.

Pumpkin cheesecake bars 3

4.  Stay on top of routine treatments: Ensure your dogs are fully vaccinated.  Diseases such as Parvovirus and Canine Cough (Kennel Cough) are more frequently transmitted in the warmer months.  Parvovirus occurs mostly in young, inadequately vaccinated dogs and causes severe vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration.  It is also a condition that can be fatal due to the profound dehydration and weakness it causes.  Vaccinations and worming can often be overlooked during the excitement of the holiday season so stay organised!

Pumpkin cheesecake bars 1

5.  Beat the heat: Keep your pets cool during the scorching summer months.  Keep them indoors or provide plenty of shade outdoors.  Ensure there is plenty of clean drinking water within reach, and add ice cubes to it on hotter days.  Pets should not be left in cars on hot days and if this must be done, leave a couple of windows open a notch, don’t leave them for more than a few minutes and park the car in the shade.

So with a bit of care and vigilance, your furry friends can enjoy the holiday season while staying happy, healthy and out of hospital!

Hoping I haven’t put you off your food with all this vet talk and on a brighter note, here’s the recipe for my Black Cat Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars for October’s SABH.  The lovely JJ from 84th & 3rd is hosting this one.  These bars are gluten-free, vegetarian and fructose free (not including the decoration).

Happy Halloween to you and your pets!

Pumpkin cheesecake bars 2

Black Cat Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Makes 8

Recipe for the base is from Sarah Wilson’s Blog

Get:

For the base:
1/2 cup nuts- hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios or macadamias work well
1/2 cup shredded or dessicated coconut
1/3 cup nut meal- I used almond
2 tbsp unsalted butter

For the topping:
1 block (200g) cream cheese
1/2 cup pumpkin puree*
2 1/2- 3 tbsp rice syrup or honey
1 tsp allspice
1/3 cup almond meal

To  decorate:
About 10 squares dark chocolate
Sprinkles, pearls, et al
A piping bag or homemade version (try this tutorial)

Make:

Preheat the oven to 160 C.

Use a food processor to grind the whole nuts to a very coarse meal with some small chunks.  Place in a large bowl and add all the other ingredients.  Using your (clean) hands, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture forms a sort ok kneadable dough.  Press the mixture into a grease-proof paper lined loaf tin or a deep baking tray if you decide to double the recipe.  The base should be about a centimetre thick.  Bake on the middle shelf for about 15 mins or until firm and very slightly browned.  Allow to cool before adding the topping.

Place the topping ingredients in the bowl of the food processor and pulse until well combined and smooth.  Pour the mixture over the cooled base and spread evenly.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before slicing into 8 even squares.

Line a tray with grease-proof paper or a silicon mat.  Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in 20-30 second bursts in the microwave.  Place in the piping bag and pipe shapes of your choice.  At this point, I placed the edible pearls to make the cats’ eyes.  Place the tray in the fridge till the chocolate sets.  Once the cheesecake bars are set and sliced, decorate with the chocolate shapes and any other decorations you wish to use.

*I make pumpkin puree by placing a chunk of pumpkin, skin and all, on a tray in an oven preheated to 180 C.  Bake until the pumpkin is quite soft, about 30 min.  Scoop out the flesh and mash by hand or using a food processor.

White flowers

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