True-Brown Aussie

Mango mac coconut truffles onesmallpot (1 of 3)

My first long haul flight was when I was just over the threshold of eight years of age.  I’m afraid my memories of it are scant, the strongest one being that I had the special job of carrying the mantapa, the small Hindu altar that my great-grandfather had carved out of rosewood.  A close second is the memory of the confusing emotions that each of us, myself and my parents, carried with us.  A healthy scoop of excitement stirred through a pinch of sadness and a heaped tablespoon of apprehension at the thought of starting a new chapter at our destination, Australia.

I had no appreciation of how brave my parents were then, leaping into a new life in a country they had never even visited.  Approaching with a few thousand rupees, a weak currency against the dollar even then, and a pocketful of hope, we were Sydney-bound with very little idea of what to expect.  As a family, we learnt our way around not only the Sydney streets, but also the Australian culture and vernacular.  We learnt fairly quickly that “How ya going?” invited an answer of “Good thanks!” or “Not bad!”, and not the reply “By bus!”.  It was a hard lesson when we realised that ‘Bring a plate’ meant a prepared dish, not what the phrase implies in a literal sense.

More than twenty-five years later, we are about as Australian as the average Australian.  We make pakoras on Christmas day, party on New Year’s Eve and go to the temple for Hindu new years.  When asked about our background we identify as Indian but while travelling outside Australia we are fiercely proud to declare ourselves Aussie.  We wear saris and bindis at Diwali to exchange gifts of new clothes, and gorge on chocolate eggs at Easter.  Rather than barbeques laden with meat and onions on Sunday afternoons, we spread dosa (south Indian rice crepes) onto hot pans and dunk them in chutney and sambhar.  On  Australia day, we have the added celebration of Indian Republic day, an interesting coincidence.  Some years, to be honest, it’s simply rest-day or spring-cleaning day!

The mantapa now inhabits my spare room, enclosing my small shrine.  It is where I pray before I go forth to conquer the day and before I sit down to a meal, whether Indian, Italian, Thai or Australian.  Like me, it is Indian-manufactured and Australian-developed, it’s wood as solid and un-weathered as my cultural identity.

Mango mac coconut truffles onesmallpot (3 of 3)

There are days when I feel not Indian enough and a few cents short of Aussie enough.  And other days when I know I am standing comfortably in the middle of the see-saw, perfectly balanced.  I am more a True-Brown Indian-Australian than a True-Blue Aussie, and this seems to work just fine.

Mangoes and coconuts are well-loved ingredients in both India and Australia and the Mango-Macadamia combination is a popular on in my adopted country.  These truffles pack all the flavour of mangoes, with the textural elements of coconut and macadamia butter.  They are vegan and free of refined sugar and gluten.

Happy Australia Day and Indian Republic day folks!

Mango mac coconut truffles onesmallpot (2 of 3)

MMC (Mango, Macadamia and Coconut) Truffles

Get:

100g dried mango, soaked in water for 1-2 hours
1/3 cup macadamia butter
2 tbsp coconut sugar
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
3 tbsp protein powder
1 tbsp flaxseed meal
2 tbsp quinoa flour (or another 2 tbsp protein powder)
1/4 cup shredded coconut + more for coating
Coconut oil (optional)

Make:

Drain the water from the soaked mango.  Pulse the mango with all the ingredients, except for the extra shredded coconut and the coconut oil, in a high-speed food processor, until a smooth mixture forms.  Roll into tbsp sized balls, adding a little coconut oil if the mixture is too firm. Toss the truffles in the extra shredded coconut and refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours.

Earth Hour and biscuits that are out of this world

What would happen if every light and appliance in the country was switched off, for just an hour? Would we make a small, but notable dent in our consumption of energy resources?  Would we at the very least be reminded to only use what we need, to hit the switch on the wall when we leave the room, to be more aware of just how many lights we have burning at once?

cheddar cheese coriander biks (2 of 3)

Earth Hour is an annual initiative about exactly that……..a nationwide switch off, for one hour, tonight at 8.30pm.  In the lead up to today’s event, Earth Hour Australia has released Planet to Plate a cookbook consisting of 52 glorious recipes from Australia’s biggest culinary names, Matt Preston, Kylie Kwong and Jill Dupleix to name a few.  But it is not just the recipes that make this book unique.  Each chapter is punctuated by stories from Aussie farmers, those at the frontline of food production, who are the first to feel the profound impact of our energy consumption.  They talk about their long-standing struggles to produce good food that the nation can be proud of, in the face of climate change.  They gush about the land they love and the joy they take in farming, despite its difficulties.

I chose to share with you a recipe that caught my eye immediately.  Indira Naidoo’s Sage and Cheddar Biscuits were every bit as crumbly and buttery in texture as the beautiful image in the book promised.  A dearth of sage in my fridge steered me towards coriander and I succumbed to my usual temptation to pair it with chilli.  The result was a delicately cheesy, herb-freshened biscuit that delivers a sharp chilli spice.  The adaptation was easy and was a testament to how beautifully simple this recipe is.  Next time, I want to add in Ajwain (carom) or cumin and you too can experiment with spices and herbs using the basic recipe.  As an addition to a cheese plate or with a cuppa, as Indira says, they are pretty divine.  If you ask me, they made a pretty good afternoon post-photography session snack too.

Planet to Plate is available to order on the Earth Hour website here.

*A copy of Planet to Plate was sent to me by Earth Hour Australia, without obligation, and words and opinions are my own.

cheddar cheese coriander biks (3 of 3)

Chilli, Coriander and Cheddar Biscuits

Adapted from Sage and Cheddar Biscuits, Indira Naidoo, Plate to Page Cookbook

Makes 24-30 biscuits

Get:

150g butter, softened
225g plain flour, extra for dusting
125g tasty cheddar cheese, grated
1 small handful finely chopped fresh coriander leaves
1 tsp hot chilli flakes
Generous pinch salt
A few extra coriander leaves for decoration

Make:

Place all the ingredients apart from the whole coriander leaves into a large mixing bowl and mix with a wooden spoon until they come together.  Transfer to a clean, floured surface and knead lightly for a few seconds.  Split the mixture into halves and roll each half into a 3cm diameter log. Wrap in cling wrap and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Remove the dough from the oven and with a sharp knife, slice into 1 to 1 1/2 cm slices. Place the slices flat side down on 2 baking paper lined baking trays. Bake for 10-12 mins or until the tops are starting to turn golden brown.

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)

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)

Tuscany in Transit

The man sat on a platform bench, directly in my line of sight as I peered out of the water-stained window of the train carriage.  His shirt hung completely open and the dazzling rays of the Tuscan sun reflected off the curves of his generous belly.  The equally reflective surface of his bald head was surrounded by a thick ring of dark, unkempt hair that spilled over the tops of his ears.  He held a brown glass bottle in one hand which he rested on his knee.  An unlit cigarette dangled from the fingers of his other hand.  It was lit as if on schedule by a passing man of about the same age who was, bafflingly, wearing a knitted beanie and sweater.  Large sunglasses were perched on the bare-chested man’s nose, heightening the sense that he should be the head of a crime ring in some Hollywood movie.  He held a grotesque fascination for me and before my train pulled away from Pistoia station, I fought the urge to take a picture, reminding myself that I was in his direct line of vision just as he was for me.

Tuscany in Transit Deepa Pizzetta 1

The train I was on was headed for Lucca, a walled city about 140 km from Florence.  Almost three hours earlier, I had entered Santa Maria Novella Station after a brisk twenty minute walk along the sun-baked streets of Florence.  I had approached a small biglietteria, a stall selling tickets for the buses that stopped on either side of the city’s main station.  There, I met the very first impolite person I had come across in Florence, an insipid man who reminded me (in appearance but not in attitude) of my high school economics teacher.  He had set his mouth, sliced his hands through the air and in no uncertain terms told me “Lucca? NO!” promptly turning away as if I had just asked for his bank account details.

A more kindly man at another stall had told me that he too did not sell bus tickets to Lucca, but that if it was him, he would take the train.  I needed no more reasons to opt for the train, especially as I hadn’t been looking forward to the queasiness that I often experienced on drives along winding roads.

Through a combination of my suboptimal touristic Italian and my misreading of the train boards (who knew that they would have both departure and arrival information?), I failed to board one train and had to wait an hour for the next one.  It gave me the opportunity to explore Santa Maria Novella station.  The hub of the Florentine rail and bus networks, it’s imposing ceiling was what kept drawing my eyes upwards.  An intricate arrangement of criss-crossed steel beams supporting panes of grey tinted glass looms over scores of purposeful commutors and bewildered tourists. It’s cavernous underside houses a string of shops selling anything from cheap clothing, to mobile phones and gelato.  The shopping was not exactly a must-do in Florence, but an acceptable way to while away half an hour or so, if one happens to misread the train time signs.

All that speed-walking around a city and missing of perfectly good trains makes one hungry and so I picked up a pizzetta (mini pizza) at a nearby pasticceria.  The round of flaky puff pastry was smeared with pizza sauce and topped with good prosciutto, a puddle of mozzarella and sprinkling of herbs.  It was a simple but satisfying snack that proved to be worth the train mishap.  I picked up another for the journey and vowed to replicate the recipe in my own kitchen.

Tuscany in Transit Deepa Pizzetta 2

Finally aboard the train, I settled into one of the comfortably cushioned seats and set my bottle of water on the tiny table.  In front of me was a young African woman who was engaged in a very loud and animated phone conversation, seemingly oblivious to the annoyed looks she was receiving from other passengers.  Across from me sat a middle-aged man in army pants, sporting a mohawk and impossibly dark sunglasses.  He left the train at a station midway to Lucca, with a chesty swagger that I couldn’t help but watch.  A young, slim woman, probably a gypsy, walked up and down the aisles using printed flyers to beg for money.  As always, I was mildly surprised that she wore jeans and a sweater rather than the flowing skirts and jangly bangles of storybook gypsies.

So it was that for the eighty minute ride to Lucca, I took in the undulating emerald green Tuscan hills, dotted with old farmhouses and historic towns.  At each station, I admired the bright scarlet poppies that grew like weeds along the tracks and around the stone buildings.  I peeped at the laundry drying out of windows and in balconies, guessing what kinds of people lived there and how many.  I observed the Italians that I saw on the many platforms that we passed.  Some were intriguing like the very proper little old lady dressed all in grey, others distasteful like the bald, abundantly bellied platform sitter at Pistoia.

I was surprised to find the train mostly filled with residents rather than tourists.  For me, the gentle rhythm of a train has always had a lulling effect, and it was a forced time-out in what had so far been an overly active holiday.  I sunk into my seat, chewed on my pizzetta and I people-watched.  The good, the bad and like that bare-chested gentleman, the downright unsavoury.

A recipe is probably more effort than a pizzetta needs.  You see, it’s as simple as an assembling of tasty, quality ingredients followed by some oven time.  When Spiral Foods sent me a few bottles of their Sugo (Italian Pasta Sauce), I started using this to smear onto the puff pastry and it worked a treat.  It truly is a fresh, homely tasting pasta sauce.  If you are vegetarian, swap the prosciutto for a few thin slices of flavourful tomatoes or red onions.

In other news, can you believe this is my 100th blog post?? I must admit I’m a little shocked that one with as limited an attention span as myself (ohhh…..look…..a butterfly!) would have lasted this long.  But here I am.  And here you are, reading each new post and supporting me with your presence, comments and encouragement.

Thank you!  Keep coming back, and enjoy the Pizzetta.

Tuscany in Transit Deepa Pizzetta 3

Prociutto Pizzettas

Makes 8

Get:

4 sheets good quality frozen puff pastry, thawed
Olive oil
Melted butter for brushing
1/2 cup passata
1 tsp (3-5) fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped, plus a couple of leaves
Generous pinch salt
8 slices good quality prosciutto
150g buffallo mozzarella
Salt and pepper for seasoning

Make:

Preheat the oven to 200 C.

Quarter the pastry sheets.  Lay 8 pieces out onto oven trays and brush with melted butter.  Lay the remaining 8 sheets onto the brushed sheets, lining the corners up with the middle of the sides to form a star.

In a small bowl, mix the passata, basil and salt with a drizzle of olive oil, or use Spiral Foods Sugo straight up.  Taste and add a little more salt if desired, remembering that the prosciutto will be a little salty.  Spread the sauce over the middle of the pastry squares, leaving a 2 cm border clear all the way around each square.

Lay a slice of prosciutto onto each square and top with pinched off pieces of mozzarella, again leaving the border clear.

Scatter torn basil leaves over the top and season with salt and pepper.

Bake for 15-18 minutes until the pastry is fully cooked and browned.

Tuscany in transit 3

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post, however Sugo product samples were provided by Spiral Foods.

 

Indian Tapas: Feta Pakodas (gluten-free, vegetarian)

Feta Pakora 2

This is it.  This is when we bring out the big guns.  I don’t do a lot of deep frying, partly because of the healthy eating angel on my shoulder, and partly because I’m secretly a little scared of the whole process.

I mean a vat of hot, spluttering oil that you drop cold, wet things into?  And once you drop each one in, you snatch your hand away from the hot popping droplets, only to go back for more?

It all seems a bit terrifying to me.  Like extreme sports for cooks.

As it happens, the bone-chilling, toe-freezing, stay-in-bed weather we’ve had in Sydney lately drove me towards the very thing I feared most in the kitchen.  When wrapping myself in a blanket and donning my fluffy slippers didn’t quite rectify the chill factor, I craved hot, spicy, deep-fried foods with a cup of tea to wash it all down.

Feta Pakora 3

Pakodas are a type of Indian fritter traditionally made with vegetables such as sliced potato or onion, or even pieces of chicken, coated in a spiced batter and deep-fried.  The pungent saltiness of feta cheese, and as it turns out, makes it an excellent pakoda filling.  For those of us turning into icicles, a plate of these with a hot drink is just the right medicine.  If you are up in the Northern Hemisphere and are lucky enough to be enjoying some warm weather, these pakodas work just as well alongside a cold bear or soft drink.  Use firm feta, like Greek or Australian varieties, as the softer Danish feta doesn’t seem to hold its own and makes the batter a little soggy.

They are best served a few minutes after cooking, so that they are still hot.  If you are anything like me though, the fun is in biting into them while they are still shiny with oil, cheesy innards scalding your tongue as you desperately blow at the burn on the roof of your mouth.  Spitting out the ball of fire would be the sensible thing to do.  You know it would be.  But the crisp, spicy batter embedded with sweet tender onions and filled with the salty-tang of the feta is somehow worth enduring the intense burn.  Honestly, just wait a couple of minutes, ok?

Feta Pakora 1

Feta Pakoda

Makes 20-25

 Get:

 150g firm feta cheese, cut into 1cm cubes
1 medium red onion
2cm ginger
1 green chilli
1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chick pea flour (besan)
3 tbsp rice flour
Small handful coriander, finely chopped
2-3 cups vegetable, sunflower or canola oil

Special Equipment:

A deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan
A heat-proof slotted spoon
A food processor

Make:

Cut the onion in half.  Cut one half into rough pieces and place in the food processor with the ginger, green chilli and 3 tbsp water.  Blitz on high until you have a thin puree.  Do not wash the bowl of the food processor yet.

Finely chop the other half of the onion and the coriander.

In a bowl, stir the flours, onion puree, salt and chilli powder.  You should have quite a thick paste.  Place 2 tablespoons of water into the unwashed food processor bowl and blitz again.  Add half of this liquid into the flour mixture and stir.  You should have a fairly thick batter that it is easy to move your spoon through, but it shouldn’t be runny.  Add the chopped onions and coriander and stir through.

Set up another bowl or plate lined with paper towels next to the stove.

Place enough oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan so that it is at least 5-6 cm deep.  Heat on medium heat until the oil is hot but not smoking.  You could start this process before you mix the batter, however it should be watched closely.  You can test whether the oil is hot by dropping a little of the batter into it- if it is sufficiently heater, the batter will start to fry immediately and rise to the surface.  If the oil is too hot, the batter will cook and brown very quickly.  In this case, turn the heat down to really low for a few mins then test again.  If the oil is smoking, take it off the heat completely until it cools, then start again on low heat.

When the oil is at the right temperature, add a teaspoon of it to your batter and stir through.

Pat dry the feta cubes and drop 4 or 5 at a time into the batter.  With clean fingers, toss the feta cubes through the batter, making sure they are well coated.  If the batter is too thick for coating, add a little more water from the food processor.  Scoop up the feta cubes with surrounding batter and drop carefully, one by one, into the hot oil.  With the slotted spoon, turn over the pakodas every minute or so, until they are a darkish brown (but not black!).  If they are darkening very quickly, reduce the flame and wait a few minutes before trying again.  When the pakodas are done, use the slotted spoon to carefully lift them out of the oil.  Allow the excess oil to drip into the saucepan before lifting them out completely and placing them in the paper lined dish.

Continue to coat and fry the feta in batches of 4 or 5, adjusting the oil temperature as needed.

Serve hot plain, with tomato sauce or this mint yoghurt sauce.

Feta Pakora 4

 

Or La La Banana Bread (Paleo) from Clean Living Cookbook

We have talked before about my cookbook fascination.  You very sweetly didn’t judge me when I revealed that I own many more cookbooks than I actually use.  I recently had a glimpse of what lay in my future when I visited the home of a friend of a friend whose cookbook collection put mine to shame.  “Let me show you something” She said as she slid open her wardrobe doors to reveal a wall of cookbooks.  An entire wall.  Vintage tomes, the pages yellowed and slightly fragile sat alongside crisp, contemporary recipe collections adorned with breathtaking photography.  It was not quite heaven but pretty darn close.

Banana Bread Clean Living 1

One of the latest additions to my collection (and one step closer to the coveted cookbook wall), is the Clean Living Cookbook (Hachette, Australia), by My Kitchen Rules alumni Luke Hines and Scott Gooding.  I cooked from it no less than six times in the last two weeks, and I think it’s a safe assumption that this is one member of my cookery book army that will soon be thoroughly covered with ingredient stains, a sure sign of affection.  It is packed with uncomplicated recipes for wholesome, moreish dishes that your body as well as your taste buds will thank you for.

Banana Bread Clean Living 3

Deciding which recipe to share with you wasn’t easy, but in the end, this one was an obvious choice.  You see, I used to make banana bread with such frequency that I have been accused of buying bananas and deliberately ignoring them until they are ready for the banana retirement village that is banana bread.

When I decided to cut down on sugar, I reluctantly gave up my habit due to the sugar content of most banana bread recipes.  Scott and Luke’s recipe on the other hand, is Paleo friendly, which makes it free of refined sugars as well as gluten.  This is not the cakey, oversweet slice you get in cafes.  No, this Or La La Banana Bread is a much more healthful loaf, dense with the chew that coconut offers and the rich, tight crumb that almond meal brings.  I tweaked it very slightly, adding a little more oil for a more moist outcome.  If you don’t have coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil would also work.

Banana Bread Clean Living 5

It is best straight out of the oven, still hot slices tossed gingerly between fingertips, or toasted and slathered with your favourite spread.  Soon after I made it for the first time, I happened to discover some ripe mango flesh in the freezer, a welcome remnant of the summer just gone.  So then there was a mango version, which was equally lovely and disappeared just as fast.

Banana Bread Clean Living 4

Or La La Banana Bread

Very minutely modified from Clean Living Cookbook

Makes 1 loaf

Get:

2 cups almond meal
3 eggs
2 tbsp nut butter (I used peanut)
3 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 large ripe to overripe bananas (or 1 cup ripe mango flesh for mango bread), mashed
1 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 cup nuts, roughly chopped (walnuts, cashews or pistachios work well)
A small handful of shredded coconut, pepitas or sunflower seeds to sprinkle on top (optional)

Make:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  Grease and line a loaf tin (the boys recommend 10 x 20 cm) with baking paper.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the almond meal, eggs, nut butter and oil into a thick batter.  Add the coconut, banana (or mango), cinnamon, chia seeds and nuts, and combine well.

Pour the batter into the tin and level out the top using a knife or spatula.  Sprinkle coconut or seeds (if desired) over the top.  Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25-30 mins, or until a knife passed into the centre comes out fairly clean.  Allow to cool completely before turning out (if you can wait that long!).

Banana Bread Clean Living 2

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

Apple, Coconut and Jaggery Hand Pies for SABH

This month’s Sweet Adventures Blog Hop theme is Childhood Favourites, hosted by Sophie from the Sticky and the Sweet. The theme set my mind racing.  After all, aren’t we all spoilt for choice when it comes to the sweets we were introduced to as kids? For me as a small child in India, there were gems (Indian equivalent of Smarties), 5-Star Chocolate bars, Amul Pista ice-cream and countless traditional Indian sweets.  When I moved to Australia, there was even more sugary goodness to be discovered and toffee apples, Chupa Chups, push pops, Buffalo Bill ice-creams and Jelly Pythons came into the picture.

Apple coconut jaggery pies 2

It is a special quality of childhood enjoyments that often when we try them as adults, we either don’t quite enjoy them as much, or we do but are old enough to know how appallingly lacking in nutrition they are (I’m talking to you, sherbies and redskins!).

So I decided to choose something that I would happily indulge in even now, and not just for the sake of nostalgia.  Two things, to be precise.  The first is that bubbly pastry pocket of lava-hot goodness, the McDonalds Apple Pie.

The second is a South Indian dessert that my mum has made for as long as I can remember.  It is mostly made as a religious offering on festival days a few times a year, making it all the more appealing.  Sliced bananas are tossed in jaggery (unrefined Indian brown sugar), cardamom and fresh grated coconut.  Sometimes a little saffron or a handful of raisins and cashews are sprinkled in.  It is good fresh, amazing half an hour later and a sludgy, syrupy mess the day after, if it even makes it that far.

Apple coconut jaggery pies 1

I used apples instead of bananas for two reasons.  They stand up better when baked in pastry than do bananas, and I had an abundance of them after going apple picking in Bilpin last week.  So it was that two desserts from my two worlds came together in these hand pies.

The pastry was the trusty sour cream pastry from Smitten Kitchen that I have now used several times because it is so good.  In hindsight though, a traditional, thinner shortcrust pastry may have suited these pies better, although I’m certainly not complaining abut the outcome.  The apple pie filling was enhanced by the coconut and almost caramel-like jaggery, with a bite of cardamom just to remind me exactly where I’m from.

Apple coconut jaggery pies 3

Apple, Coconut and Jaggery Hand Pies

Makes 12-15

Get:

Filling:
5 or 6 small red apples, diced (I used Aussie Royal Galas)
1 ½ cups (about 300g) of firm Jaggery
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
The insides of 15-18 cardamom pods, powdered
Generous pinch saffron strands

3 quantities of this pastry (leave out the ajwain and cumin seeds and only use 1/2 the amount of salt)

Make:

Toss the filling ingredients together in a bowl and allow to sit for 10-20 mins.

Roll out the pastry to 4-5mm thickness.  Cut out shapes of your choice.  I went for squares, so I cut strips of pastry that were about 25 cm x 10cm.  I spooned the filling into the middle of one side of the pastry, leaving the edges clear.  I then folded the pastry over to cover the filling.

Use your fingers, then a fork to press around the edges.  Place the pastries in the fridge again for about 20 mins.  In the meantime, preheat the oven to 200 C.

Place the tray of pastries in the oven and bake for about 20-25 mins or until the pastry is crisp and cooked.

Apple coconut jaggery pies 4

Ricotta, Sweet Potato and Chilly spread + Happy New Year!

Shoot for the moon.  Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.
-Les Brown

Ricotta Sweet potato crostini 4

This year, let’s keep it simple, ok? Ok.
Instead of resolutions, let’s make a decision.  One single, easy decision.

This year we will make a decision to be good to ourselves, to understand when it needs to be about us and not those outside of us. An effort will be required, yes. To keep sight of what is in the best interest of our souls often doesn’t come naturally.

Know that it is an effort worth expending.

Let’s give ourselves only the best, without hesitation.  After all, life will only give us what we feel we deserve, no?

Ricotta Sweet potato crostini 3

Twenty fourteen will see us treating ourselves with nothing but kindness, whilst never losing sight of our needs and goals.  It will be the year when we are true to us, when we don’t allow anything, least of all ourselves, to hold us back.

It will be the year we will move forward, shoot for the moon.  Because God knows we deserve it.  And along the way it will finally dawn on us that we do deserve it.

You know what?  Once we understand that, that we have every right to expect the best from the things we pour our hearts into, it will be so much easier to be kinder to ourselves.

And if we do shoot for the moon and land on a star?  Well, no matter……the stars are luminous, and we may just find that they are enough after all.

Ricotta Sweet potato crostini 5

In the interest of keeping things simple, here is a little spread I put together, on a day when the world was like an oven and spending more than ten minutes in the kitchen seemed the most unkind thing I could do to myself.  I had this for lunch, spread thickly onto crostini and with some finely sliced red cabbage and good anchovies piled atop it.  A few drops of white wine vinegar finished it off nicely.  And on that day? Well, it was enough.

You could really use whatever toppings you wanted, but I would suggest a combination of fresh, crunchy and salty with a drizzle of something acidic.

Happy New Year dear readers.  This blog has brought me so much fulfilment in 2013 and you, all of you, are instrumental in that.

Ricotta Sweet potato crostini 2

Ricotta, Sweet Potato and Chilly Spread

Get:

1/2 Habanero Chilly or 1 small red chilli
1/2 cup firm ricotta
1/2 cup boiled sweet potato
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small handful fresh coriander
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp salt

For the Crostini:
1 or 2 baguettes, sliced into 1cm slices
Olive oil

Suggested toppings:
Thinly sliced red cabbage, watercress, alfalfa sprouts etc.  Combine with anchovies, feta or olives and drizzle with a little vinegar of your choice.

Make:

If using a habanero chilly, roast it over an open flame or on a BBQ.  Place half of it, or a small red chilli in the bowl of your food processor with all the other spread ingredients.  Blitz until it is a paste consistency. Taste and add a little salt or olive oil if required, then blitz again.

Brush both sides of the baguette slices with olive oil and grill both sides until toasted to your preference.

Spread the crostini thickly with the ricotta mixture and top with toppings of your choice.

Get out of the kitchen quick and enjoy with something cold in front of the TV.

Ricotta Sweet potato crostini 1