Slap dash burgers with saucy saffron veggies

The cupboards and fridge are looking a little bare this week. I haven’t done a proper grocery shop in nearly a month and supplies are running very low. We’ve been grabbing things as we need them and on Tuesday I found myself penniless with not much on offer for dinner. It still amazes me how at times like this I manage to concoct some of the most amazing meals. I scoured the freezer, pantry and fridge to see what ingredients I could scrape together and all I could find was some mince, celery, shallots, choko, bamboo shoots, carrots, frozen peas, spring onions, a bunch of asparagus and an egg. Hmmmmm, on went my thinking cap and burgers with stir fried veggies is what I came up with.

I have made burgers many times so this was the easy part, until I went to the pantry for some rice crumbs. Oh dear, I had run out! What to do? What to do?!! I needed something to absorb the fat and since we are a gluten free household, it wasn’t as simple as some might think. Ah, rice cakes!! I ground 3 thin rice cakes in the food processor, perfect! My other half said they were the best he’s had, now that’s a big call coming from such a meat connoisseur. So here’s my winning recipe.

Slap dash burgers

1/2 kg of regular (no, not Heart Smart or extra lean, the full fat version) beef mince

2 shallots very finely diced

1 clove crushed garlic

2 tsps salt

1 egg

3 ground thin rice cakes

Place al ingredients in a bowl and mix well using your hands. If, like me, you hate getting your hands in the mince, get the kids to do it! Roll into balls then flatten slightly and cook as you would any other meat patty.

So now to the veggies. *Yawn* they looked so boring sitting on the bench and were in desperate need of jazzing up. Ah-ha! I’ll marinate them first with some saffron, citric acid, garlic and oil. Oh, my, goodness….they were amazing. Even my carnivorous, veggie hating “not-husband” couldn’t get enough of them and told me the recipe MUST go on the blog. So here it is….

Saucy saffron veggies

3 shallots, sliced

3 medium carrots cut into sticks

1 choko peeled and cut into sticks the same size as the carrots

2 stalks of celery, sliced

1 bunch of asparagus

1 cup of frozen peas

4 or so spring onions cut into inch lengths

1 tin of bamboo shoots

3  heaped teaspoons of cornflour

1/2 tsp citric acid

1 tsp salt

2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

2 tbsps of oil

good pinch of saffron

1 tbsp of maple syrup

Drain the bamboo shoots and reserve the liquid. Place the celery, carrot, shallots, choko, citric acid, salt, saffron, garlic, maple syrup and 1 tablespoon of the oil into a bowl and mix well. Set aside for half an hour or so. Heat the remaining oil in a wok over high heat until very hot then throw in the marinating veggies. Stir fry for about 5 minutes or until the veggies are just tender. You may need to spoon off a little of the liquid but don’t discard it, add it to the bamboo shoot liquid. Add the remaining veggies and toss a further minute or 2 until cooked. Stir the cornflour into the liquid then add to the wok, stirring until saucy. Add more salt to taste.

A Mad Hatter’s Tea Party with rhubarb cupcakes and lactose free ice-cream cake

I’m really in the thick of birthday season and finally I have the time and energy to blog again. Life has been so hectic this last month or so and there have been days where I haven’t even turned the computer on! My brain has been on standby and meals have been a little lacklustre too. I have not had the energy or inclination to come up with fancy new ideas to try out on the family so I have reverted back to the bulk standard 10 meal rotation each fortnight….no make that 9….we have been having the same meal of Haystacks every Wednesday for over a month now. It’s quick, it’s simple, it’s cheap and I LOVE it, who cares if the kids are sick of it!

I promised my middle son, the one with the worst food intolerances of us all, that he could have a party for his 8th birthday. Oh, what was I thinking?!!!!! It was a little touch and go and the party was nearly cancelled before invites went out because his behaviour wasn’t quite up to standard but he redeemed himself at the 11th hour and the party went ahead. Obviously I had to cook everything from scratch and it all had to be what we call “Griff friendly”. I wasn’t going to serve any food at his party that he couldn’t eat and I certainly wasn’t going to put up with the fallout from him eating the “wrong” foods. So no opening boxes and piling dozens of party pies and sausage rolls in the oven, no steaming up cocktail franks, no cutting open packets of lollies and emptying into bowls, no fairy bread, blah blah blah…….. Argh!

Fortunately I have a few quick and easy things in my sweet snack repertoire so they immediately made it to the party food list. I had several other things I considered but just knew I wouldn’t have the time to make them all so the list kept getting shorter and shorter until there were just 5 things left…cupcakes, mini pizzas, meringues, impostor ANZAC biscuits and maple crackles. I must add though, the cupcakes weren’t just any cupcakes, they were rhubarb cupcakes with rhubarb icing…what a taste sensation! Surprisingly, they were very popular with all the kids.

I wanted it to look like a real tea party so I scoured the opp shops for old tea cups and saucers. This in itself was quite a challenge but I found a few doozies and snagged me some bargains. I even got my hands on a couple of “antiques” that are worth a lot more then what I paid for them, and I decided to serve the drinks in teapots (with teabag tags hanging down from under the lid), just to make it even more authentic. Oh but my biggest challenge was finding some 3 tiered cake stands that didn’t cost a lot of money. Wow! Who ever knew this would be so hard?! Eventually, in sheer desperation I decided to Google it and found exactly what I was looking for at Kmart for $10. I was set to make the party table look amazing.

For the cake, I made some lactose free ice-cream and moulded it in a cling wrap lined plastic top hat then after unmoulding it, decorated it with naturally coloured sprinkles, black writing icing that is also naturally coloured, bright ribbon and sparklers. Cake decorating has never really been my forte but this looked pretty darn impressive and the kids were wowed. That’s all we ask for really isn’t it?

It didn’t look like this for very long!

Our “garden” decos to create an “outdoor” theme

No-one was late for this very important date

Rhubarb cupcakes

I was going to just use a gluten free cupcake packet mix but remembered that they really aren’t great, a little dry and rather boring so after an epiphany, I decided to turn a family favourite into cupcakes. Ages ago, I found a recipe in the “Friendly Foods” cookbook that I changed ever so slightly and the kids just love it. It has become a very popular dessert and I get asked to make it for all sorts of occasions. My parents also love it and I found that I have to make a double batch to ensure there is enough for everyone to really indulge, not just have a little piece. I remember hearing somewhere that any cake recipe can be transformed into cupcakes and here was my chance to see just how true it was. Yup, my rhubarb cupcakes were a smash!

I stewed up a whole bunch of rhubarb but ended up using only about half but the kids love it on their cereal so nothing went to waste.

1 bunch of rhubarb

2 tbsps of brown sugar

roughly chop the rhubarb and place into a saucepan with the sugar. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until soft and mushy. Remove from heat and allow to cool then refrigerate until needed. I did this the day before to save myself some time.

225 g of gluten free self raising flour

1/2 tsp gluten free baking powder

3/4 cup of castor sugar

2 eggs

60 ml of pear juice

60 ml of sunflower, rice bran or canola oil

125 ml cold water

Pre heat the oven to 190°C. Place patty pans into a small muffin tray.

Place flour and baking powder into a bowl and gently whisk to combine and aerate slightly. Add sugar. Combine the water, oil, juice and eggs in a separate bowl and whisk to combine then add to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Place a couple of spoonfuls into each patty pan then add a spoonful of the rhubarb and finally cover that with another couple of spoonfuls of the cake batter so that the rhubarb is fully covered. Don’t overfill the patty pans or you’ll end up with a bit of a mess once cooked.

Bake for about 25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from tray and cool on a wire rack.

I iced them with some rhubarb icing that I fluked. I really have no idea on quantities but it was basically pure icing sugar, some stewed rhubarb that I pushed through a sieve and a couple of good nobs of nuttelex.


Lactose free ice-cream

500 ml lactose free cream

1 cup lactose free milk

1/2 cup  castor sugar

1 tsp vanilla paste or 2 shots of decaf espresso

5 egg yolks

Place cream, milk and vanilla into a saucepan and heat over low heat until just simmering. If using the coffee, add that to the eggs just before pouring hot milk mix in. Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale and thick. Slowly whisk the hot milk and cream into the egg mix then pour into a clean saucepan and stir constantly, with a wooden spoon, over low heat until it thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Allow to cool then chill well before pouring into ice cream maker and churning until desired consistency is reached. Once ready, pour into prepared mould or an airtight container for storage.