Deep fried whitebait

“Ooh, everything we eat is a delicacy mum!” was what my oldest son said to me last night. I had planned to just have mussels with some fresh bread for dinner but when I went to our wonderful fish monger, he had fresh whitebait and I just couldn’t resist! It’s amazing how something that is so simple can be so delicious. Admittedly I have to block out of my mind that I am eating fish that still have their heads and guts intact. Never in a million years did I ever think that I could bring myself to eat something like this but after trying it in a restaurant a couple of years ago, it is one of my favourite treats. We eat them just as they are but they are also yummy dipped in a little mayonnaise.

There is no precise recipe for this so all quantities are approximate.

250g of fresh whitebait
2 tbsps of garlic powder
1 tsp of salt
1 cup of all purpose gluten free plain flour
Oil for deep frying

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl then toss the whitebait through until well coated. Heat the oil in a saucepan or deep fryer until bubbles form when the handle of a wooden spoon is dipped in. Carefully place handfuls of the whitebait in and cook until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove using a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.

moules en mirepoix bouillon

This is such a simple but tasty dish that I thought it deserved a fancy name, mussels in mixed vegie broth just doesn’t do it justice. Besides, as I was cooking it, my dad and my oldest son were playing with the translator app on dad’s iphone, translating English sentences into French. It seems to be the entertainment every Thursday evening when mum and dad visit.

3 kgs of fresh mussels in their shells
2 medium carrots finely diced
2 large shallots finely diced
1 celery heart finely diced (the heart is the sweet, pale centre of the celery)
2 tsps of citric acid
8 cloves of crushed garlic
2 tbsps of oil
1/3 of a cup of finely chopped fresh parsley

Clean the mussels by removing their beards and rinsing under water.  Heat the oil in a large pot over high heat. Toss in all the vegetables including the garlic and sautee for about 5 minutes. Stir through the citric acid and then add the mussels and cover with a lid. Cook for several minutes, shaking the pot or stirring a few times throughout. I can’t give a time because every time I cook mussels, the timing is different. The trick is to keep checking them and when they just open, they are done. Once cooked, stir through the parsley. (You may find it takes a little practise to perfect it but it’s certainly worth it. I often find that quite a few don’t open so I remove the open ones and cook the unopened ones a little longer). Contrary to popular belief, there is no need to discard any mussels that don’t open, you just prise them open with a knife, carefully of course. Serve with some good crusty bread.

They’re certainly not the most attractive food now are they?

Basic gluten free bread, that actually tastes good

I did it!! I developed a recipe for some seriously yummy gluten free bread. It’s not light, white and fluffy like bread made from wheat flour but I guess those of you who live gluten free have come to realise that there really is no such luxury with gf bread. As long as it’s tasty and not too dry and heavy is all we can ask for really. The best thing about this bread is that both my big guys liked it. I have had so much trouble finding a bread that they will both eat. Even my parents, who pop in to see their grandsons every Thursday, enjoyed it and said they would eat it again (they’re not gluten free so that’s a pretty big call) and dad said it was delicious with just butter! Wow, I was chuffed :o)

I followed no recipe, just my own flour blend that I stumbled across by chance a few weeks back when making pastry. Admittedly I ended up making 2 loaves as the first was a little dry and doughy but all it needed was a little more water. Next time I think I will play around with it a some more too, see if I can get it a little lighter and fluffier.

1 quantity of savoury flour blend
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of baking powder
1 tbsp of maple syrup
1 1/3 cups of lukewarm water
4 1/2 tsps of dried yeast
2 tbsps of oil

Stir the yeast and maple syrup into the water and set aside for a few minutes until frothy on top. In a largish bowl, combine the flour mix, salt and baking powder and gently whisk to aerate. You could sieve it if you like but I’m a little lazy and find that whisking does the same job. Make a well in the centre. Once the yeast blend is ready, mix in the oil then pour into the dry ingredients. Using your hands, mix until a soft dough forms. You will find it very sticky and you may find it easier to turn it onto a lightly floured bench (I use rice flour for this) and knead it gently. Place into a lightly greased loaf tin or onto a lightly grease baking tray (it depends on whether you want a free form or uniform loaf). Cover loosely with cling film and set aside in a warm spot for about an hour to prove. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for about 45 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

The loaf on the left is the not so successful one
It looks like bread, it smells like bread and it even tastes like bread!

Savoury flour blend

I stumbled across this mix a few weeks back when I was making some pastry. It tasted soooo good that I decided to try it again when I made pizzas. It worked a treat and I thought it was the best tasting pizza base I had ever had. So now I will use it time and time again but certainly not for cakes. It makes approximately, but not exactly, 500 grams of flour.

1 cup of besan (also called chick pea or gram) flour
175g of arrowroot (tapioca flour)
1/2 cup of quinoa flour
1/2 cup of rice flour
1 1/2 tsp guar gum
1 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum

Mix all ingredients together really well.

Asian style chicken noodle soup

Another recipe I have posted before, but so yummy it deserves its own bill. We eat this often as it’s so delicious and easy. It is also great all year round as it’s warming in winter and refreshing in summer. I also find it fantastic for modifying with ease for those who aren’t food sensitive. For myself and my partner, I add sesame oil and harissa to the bowl before serving. Sometimes I’ll also add a splash of soy sauce or chilli flakes and some fresh Asian herbs, it really just depends on my mood.

2 litres chicken stock

1 kg chicken mince (I use half breast and half thigh)

6 spring onions roughly sliced on the diagonal

2 cloves garlic crushed

¼  small cabbage, shredded

1 bunch Chinese broccoli or other Asian greens, roughly chopped (optional)
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1 cup green beans roughly chopped
2 stalks celery finely sliced
Tin of bamboo shoots, don’t drain as the liquid adds flavour
1 cup roasted cashews
Salt to taste
¼ tsp citric acid
250g packet rice vermicelli noodles (larger pack if you really like noodles)

 Bring stock to the boil in a medium saucepan. Add chicken mince and garlic and stir to break up mince. Cook about 5 – 10minutes. Add celery, broccoli stalks, cabbage and citric acid and simmer for 2 minutes. Add remaining vegetables (except sprouts and spring onions) and simmer for 2 – 5 minutes until vegies are just tender then season totaste with salt. Whilst soup is simmering, prepare noodles according to packet directions, then drain and rinse under cold water to stop them sticking together. Place a good handful of noodles in each bowl along with some spring onions, mung bean sprouts and cashews then pour over soup. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley if desired. This recipe feeds at least 4. I usually get 2 serves of left overs as well….perfect for lunch the next day.

Stock piling

 With winter on our doorstep I decided it was time to make a big batch of stock. Soups are a staple here in the colder months and I wanted to make sure I have plenty of stock in the freezer. The recipe below is really just a guide, you can add more or less of any of the ingredients if you wish. I freeze a lot of offcuts from vegies so when it comes to making stock, it costs me next to nothing and is so quick and easy. I guess doing this serves 2 purposes, cheap, easy stock and the spring onions and celery fit in my fridge better with the tops removed. Of course I also add a few fresh things to the pot. For those who are less sensitive, you can add peeled carrots and other moderate vegetables if you wish.
8 chicken carcasses
2 leeks chopped roughly
Tops of 9 bunches of spring onions
Tops of 2 celeries
1 bulb of  garlic, smashed and peeled
¼ white cabbage

1/2 a celery, leaves and all, roughly chopped

Stalks of a bunch of parsley
2 swedes, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tsps citric acid
1 tbsp Salt
Place all ingredients into large boiler (20 litre) andfill just below the rim with water. Cover and bring to the boil. Reduce heat andsimmer no less than 2 hours. Scoop off a little of the fat that sits on the surface and  store in 1 litre containers in the freezer (I also like to fill a few smaller containers just in case I cook something that needs only a little stock). For ease and safety, I carefully ladle it into the containers, making sure I don’t get any of the vegies and chicken in with it. Only when it gets right down do I strain it. A 20 litre pot is VERY heavy when full!


Poppy seed and saffron chicken bake

I know I’ve posted this before but it is so yummy it deserves to be posted again on its own separate  page. With the weather really cooling down here now, it’s perfect for firing up the oven and cooking warm, hearty meals and this one is my favourite. I have also cooked it without the poppy seeds and saffron which is really nice too, but they just give it another dimension and make it look a little more special.I know a lot of people gasp at the thought of using saffron as it is so expensive but if you buy it from an Indian grocer, it will cost you a fraction of what it costs at one of the big chain stores. I got at least 4 times as much for half the price.

8 Marylands, skin removed (or whatever joint you prefer. I often use just drummies, or a mix of drummies and thigh chops)
2 leeks, chopped
1 celery heart, finely sliced (leaves and all)
4 cloves of garlic
as much saffron as you can afford
2 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tsp citric acid
1/2 cup canola, sunflower or rice bran oil
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp roughly chopped fresh parsley
1 large swede, diced into cubes about 1 1/2 cm
2 large carrots, diced into cubes about 1 1/2 cm

Grind the saffron in a mortar and pestle with a little salt then crush the poppy seeds in there too. Place the saffron, poppy seeds, 1 leek, the celery, garlic, parsley, maple syrup, citric acid, oil and water into a large dish and mix well. Add the chicken, stir to coat well then cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, stirring occasionally.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Place remaining vegetables into a baking tray then add the chicken and marinade. Cover and bake for about  an hour and a half, or until chicken is cooked through, turning the chicken pieces once during cooking. Remove the cover for the last 10 minutes.

Practically Perfect Pizzas!

Pizzas have been a no go in this house for some time. I haven’t been able to find a gluten free pizza base that both the kids like and also one that the other half would happily eat, the gluten fiend. A few weeks back I decided to make some GF pies and after having an absolute disaster with the packet pastry I bought that ended up in the bin, I tried my hand at making my own. I am not the worlds best baker by any means but I have to say that the pastry I conjured up was a total triumph and the pies even got my mum’s nod of approval. Of course I hadn’t started blogging at that point so the pies will be included in here at some stage down the track, although luckily I did write down what I put in the pastry, just not the filling and I have CRAFT disease…..can’t remember a frigging thing.

Since the pastry was soooo delicious, yesterday I decided to use the same flour blend to make some pizza dough. I have, sorry correction, I had never made pizza dough without following a recipe before because I don’t trust my baking skills, but this stuff was, and I don’t like to use this word in this context but it really was…..awesome! We decided that it could very easily become a staple and I might even see if I can adapt the recipe into a bread of some sort…..especially now that I know I should never underestimate my baking abilities. Perhaps I have a hidden talent I never knew about….best I explore that then hey?

The topping posed a challenge to my brain too. There aren’t many failsafe pizza toppings, especially when one child can’t have dairy, now are there? So I got creative and improvised. For the meat I used “sizzle steaks” that I get from Woolworths. They are very thin slices of beef, about 2mm thick. Not batted out flat like a schnitzel, sliced like cold cuts. In fact, during summer, we used them as cold cuts and they are so versatile since they only take 20 seconds to cook. Yes, just 20 seconds….I timed it last night. I was putting 4 in the pan at a time and by the time I had the fourth piece in I had to turn the first and by the time I had turned the fourth, the first was done. I let them cool then sliced them into strips. Perfect pizza topping!

For the base:

1 cup of besan (chickpea) flour
175g of arrowroot
1/2 cup of quinoa flour
1/2 cup of rice flour
2 1/2 tsp guar gum
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp dried yeast
1 cup of lukewarm water
60 ml of oil

Mix all the flours, guar gum and salt in a large bowl and mix really well. Whisk the flour gently to aerate. (I’m a little lazy and never sift but you could if you prefer).  Dissolve the sugar in the water and stir in the yeast. Set aside for 5 minutes or until it’s a little frothy on top. Add the oil to the yeast mixture, make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet stuff. Using your hands, slowly incorporate all the dry ingredients in with the yeast mixture and knead gently to form a dough. Cover the bowl and set aside in a warm place until required. Please note that it does not puff up like dough that is made from regular wheat flour. Divide the dough into 4 and roll out to about 2 or 3mm thick. I found it easier to handle by placing the dough on some baking paper before rolling, then picked up the paper and flipped the dough onto a greased tray.

For the topping:

There’s no real recipe for this, just whatever you like really but here is what I did.

1/2 of a butternut pumpkin, roasted
1 potato sliced and cooked in the microwave for about 5 minutes
sizzle steaks cooked and sliced (you could use whatever meat you like as long as it’s cooked and sliced)
1/2 a leek sauteed in a little oil until tender
pear sauce
mozzarella cheese
garlic powder

To assemble, spread some pear sauce on the base. If using cheese, sprinkle a little over the sauce then add the other toppings in whatever order you desire. Finishing off with a little extra cheese. Still yummy if no cheese is used though, the toppings just don’t stick as well. Bake at 180 degrees until the base is golden and crispy around the edges……I forgot to time how long it took, my bad.

Lettuce Delight

This is a failsafe take on the good ol’ san choy bau. I can’t bring myself to call it that because it really tastes nothing like any that I have ever had, besides, it has no Asian flavours in it. The bean shoots I use were from our little kitchen garden. I let the mung bean sprouts go a few extra days and lo and behold, we had full blown bean shoots…mind you, a fair bit greener than what you buy in the shops but much tastier! I’m now wishing I had taken a photo of them because they looked so impressive, but my head was thumping last night and it was an effort just to cook the meal.

I serve this in a large bowl in the middle of the table and everyone fills their own lettuce cups. Of course you could fill the cups and serve them on individual plates. My kids love the involvement of making up their own.

1 1/2 kgs of lean mince (you could use chicken mince if you prefer)
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced
1 celery stalk finely diced
8 – 10 onions, finely sliced and the white and light green firm bits separated from the darker green bits
2 cups of wombok, finely cut
2 cups of bean shoots
3 – 4 cloves of crushed garlic
3 tsps of salt
3/4 cup of pear juice
2 tbsps of maple syrup or brown sugar
3 tsps of citric acid
3 tbsps of oil
1 iceberg lettuce

Gently separate the lettuce cups and wash, then set aside to drain. In a wok or large fry pan, heat the oil over high heat until smoking hot. Add the celery, carrot and firm parts of the spring onions and stir fry for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and stir fry another minute then toss in the mince and brown. Add the pear juice, salt, citric acid, maple syrup and wombok and simmer, stirring regularly for about 15 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated. Stir through the bean shoots and remove from heat then add the greens of the spring onions.

Chick pea dip

Kiddywink 2 is not just a keen gardener, he also likes to get in the kitchen and help me cook. Yes, he is often more of a hindrance than a help but it’s nice that he shows such an interest. On our way back from the green lipped mussel trial introductory session, we decided we’d get in the kitchen together, after school, and make some dip. He always feels such a sense of achievement when he helps me, even if all he does is pop a couple of things in the food processor and turn it on then do the “taste test”, reminding me the whole time to measure the ingredients for the blog (such a thoughtful little mite) than telling me that I need more “citriss” acid (he can’t quite get his tongue around citric).

1 tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 clove of crushed garlic
2 roughly chopped spring onions
3 – 4 tbsps of oil
1/2 tsp citric acid (or to taste if you don’t like things too tart)
1 tbsp of water
salt to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a small pan and quickly sautee the onions for a minute or 2, just to take the raw edge off. Pop all the ingredients into a food processor and whiz until smooth. Add more oil or water if it is too thick.