Lemony Slow-Cooked Lamb Shanks Recipe

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“I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.” 
~ W.C. Fields

Slow cooked food – there’s nothing better to nurture the body and comfort the spirit, and this tasty dish fits the bill perfectly. Now that there’s a chill in the air here at the farm, a nourishing warm dinner is always welcome. I’ve adapted this recipe from my Grandmother’s so that it is gluten-free. It’s a firm favourite, no matter what time of year.

This meal is good for you! The lamb shanks create a rich bone broth during the long cooking time, and the nutrients are easily absorbed by even the weakest digestive systems.  The sauce will become full of the amino acid glycine, which is great for liver detoxification and regeneration.  It’s also rich in collagen and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) which are important for artery, bone and joint health.  The gelatin produced from the well-cooked bones and cartilage helps heal leaky gut, and also reduces your need for meat and protein.

In Chinese Medicine, bone broths are considered to support the kidneys and kidney meridians, and as such are also useful for healthy teeth, bones and adrenal gland function. So if you are feeling unwell, suffering low energy or have adrenal fatigue this is a super meal for you!

This recipe uses the tang of lemon to compliment the lamb, and a dash of sweet vermouth gives the whole meal a little extra zip. (I use Cinzano Bianco but any sweet vermouth will do.)  At a pinch you could use white wine, but truly – if you can – use the vermouth.  I keep a bottle in the cupboard just for this recipe!

These lamb shanks are quick to throw together but  the secret to the silky, melt-in-your-mouth meat is to cook the whole dish slowly, over a long time-frame.  If you have a slow cooker with a timer, then chuck it all in so it’s ready when you come home from work.  This recipe is versatile enough to cook in a big saucepan on top of the stove, or in a covered casserole dish or roasting tray in your oven.  It also reheats and freezes like a charm!

Ingredients:

6 to 8 frenched or trimmed lamb shanks (this means that the end of the shank bone will have been cut off, exposing the marrow – the meat may have also been pushed away to reveal a clean bone at one end); 6 cloves of garlic, crushed; 1 carrot roughly diced; 1 stick of celery chopped; 1 large onion chopped finely; 3 dried bay leaves; 1 heaped teaspoon tumeric; 2 tablespoons of almond meal; 1 cup of good chicken stock; 1 cup of sweet vermouth; 1 to 2 tablespoons of ghee, olive  or coconut oil; juice and finely grated rind of 2 lemons; 2 tablespoons of quinoa (you could also try red lentils or pearl barley), salt and pepper

Method:

Note:  A few words of wisdom before we begin! Find a saucepan or roasting pan big enough to fit all of your lamb shanks. Of course you can also use your slow cooker – just make sure that you have checked the size of your pot BEFORE you start cooking…

Add a little oil or ghee to the bottom of a heavy-based frypan, season the meat with salt and pepper and fry off your lamb shanks in batches over medium heat so that they are lightly browned. Then arrange your meat in the cooking pot.  Poke the bay leaves in between the shanks.

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Next place your onion, carrot, garlic and celery in the frypan with a little extra oil or ghee if needed and cook until fragrant and beginning to brown slightly.

Stir through your tumeric and then add your quinoa, chicken stock, lemon zest and almond meal.  Mix well and then pour over the lamb.

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Pour your vermouth and lemon juice over the lamb shanks and vegetables – don’t worry about stirring it, it will all mix itself up during the cooking. Ladle some of the liquid over the meat.

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Cover and cook.  Don’t be put off by the long cooking times.  The longer you cook the meat the more tender it will be, and the more goodness will be imparted to the sauce.

Cook on low in a slow cooker for 6 hours.

Cook on low heat in a saucepan on the stove for 4 to 5 hours.  Turn your shanks at least once during this time, and re-baste with sauce.

Cook in a moderate oven (180 degrees celsius/ 350 degrees fahrenheit) for 30 minutes, and then reduce heat to 150 degrees celsius/ 300 degrees fahrenheit) and cook for 3 hours.  Turn your shanks at least once during this time, and re-baste with sauce.

Serve with your favourite seasonal vegetables, and some mash, rice or pasta if it suits you. A good bread to mop up the juices is always welcome too.

When cooked low and slow the marrow and gelatin from the meat help thicken the sauce. Don’t waste any of it!  Whatever is not eaten with dinner can be used as a basis for a pasta sauce, or as a gravy over other meats or vegetables.

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The meat will be so tender you will be able to flake it off the bone with just a fork.

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If you have left-over lamb shanks, you can also flake the meat off the bones, add it to the remaining sauce and then reheat this as another meal, or thin it out to make soup.

Nicole’s Fruit Slice Recipe

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“If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.” ~ Tom Stoppard

This week’s offering for my ‘Slice Extravaganza’ series – recipes taken from the hallowed  Family Recipe Book - is known simply as ‘Nicole’s Fruit Slice’.  Why? When I was a little girl it was my absolute favourite, and I never tired of it.

It has a moist biscuit base, a luscious tangy fruit filling with a hint of cinnamon and lemon and a sweet glace icing to top it off.

I would race home from primary school with my little brother and sister in tow, find the big old key under one of the potplants beside the laundry, unlock the back door, get everyone out of uniforms and into play clothes and then we would sit and have afternoon tea at the table in the kitchen before we did our homework. One glass of cordial each, or milk if there was plenty, and a piece of slice. (Often, we ate two..)

I am still quite partial to pink icing. Especially on cupcakes.  But that’s a whole other story. As you can see from the picture below, food appreciation and daydreaming has been a big part of my life since I was small! You will also see that I avoided eating crusts, on account of them making your hair go curly.

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Base Ingredients:

1 x cup of plain flour (all purpose flour), 3/4 cup of rolled oats, 1/2 cup of lightly packed soft brown sugar, 1/2 cup (4 oz or 125 grams) butter cut into cubes

*Note – for vegans, use a vegetable butter substitute.  If you’re gluten intolerant, this works fine with a commercial gluten-free flour mix and coconut substituted for the oats. – Don’t pack this too tightly into the tin if using the gluten-free mixture.

Fruit Layer:

1 cup of dried currants, 1/2 cup of sultanas (golden raisins), finely grated zest of one lemon, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of cornflour, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 cup of water

Glace Icing (Frosting):

1 cup of icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar) 1 teaspoon of butter, 1 tablespoon of milk, pink food colouring

METHOD:

Preheat oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).

Line a 28cm x 18cm (7 inch by 11 inch) slice tin with some baking paper.

Base:

Measure the dry ingredients into a large bowl and then rub in the butter with your fingertips.  The mixture should resemble soft bread crumbs.  Press the mixture firmly into the paper-lined tin, making sure to fill right to the edges.

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Fruit Layer:

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and stir to combine,  Keep stirring over moderate heat until mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat and spoon evenly over slice base.

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Place your slice into the oven and bake for 35 minutes, until the top is firm.

Glace Icing: (Frosting)

Mix the ingredients together in a bowl and beat until smooth.  Colour a pleasing shade of pink. (Trust me – this is an issue of personal taste.) Place bowl over hot water until the icing is very runny and easy to spread. Pour over warm slice and spread to the edges.

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Allow to cool in tin before removing.  Cut into small squares. DO resist cutting before it cools, as slice takes a few hours to firm up and you’ll be left with a crumbly disaster! **Note – cooling can be hastened by placing in refrigerator…

Store in an airtight tin in a cool place. Goes exceptionally well with a cold glass of lemon cordial, milk or for the grown ups – hot French Earl Grey Tea!

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French Toast with Banana and Bacon Recipe

French toast with banana and bacon

“Oh, I just want what we all want: a comfortable couch, a nice beverage, a weekend of no distractions and a book that will stop time, lift me out of my quotidian existence and alter my thinking forever.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

French Toast is such weekend food! The sort of breakfast where you don’t have to rush, where you can dabble around the kitchen in your pyjamas and then demolish your meal accompanied by chatty family conversation, the weekend papers or a good book.

There are endless variations on French Toast, which is essentially bread dipped in an eggy mixture and then pan fried. It actually works better with slightly stale bread, but at a pinch I have made mountains of it with fresh bread and had no complaints.  Gluten-free bread works just fine too!

Today’s version uses fruit loaf. Feel free to substitute plain or any other favourite bread, but I must say that the flavour combination for today’s recipe works well with any bread that has fruit and a little spice.

This meal takes little skill, so it’s a great recipe for beginners, children and the domestically challenged.

INGREDIENTS:

Bacon for each person, adjusting quantity accordingly.  I have used a smoked local free-range bacon – the smokiness is brilliant with the banana and maple syrup!

Three large eggs, 1/2 a cup of milk (or your favourite milk substitute), a teaspoon of vanilla, and a dessertspoon of sugar or sweetener (eg Natvia).  The sugar is optional.  *Hint – use 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon if your bread has no spice.*  Some people like a sweeter French Toast. I usually leave it out because by the time you add maple syrup it will be sweet enough.  If you elect to make this as a dessert (swap bacon for an ice-cream or whipped cream side!) then go ahead and use the sugar if you want.  This is enough to soak 4 to six large slices of bread. (Four if they are thick, or six if they are thin.) If you’re cooking for more people, then adjust your mixture accordingly.

Bread – two slices of fruit loaf/raisin loaf per person or to appetite. A good quality bread like a sourdough or brioche will give an excellent texture, and if it’s a day old the bread will also hold its shape better when you fry it.

A large banana or two small bananas per person.

1 tablespoon of butter.

Maple syrup to serve.

METHOD:

Heat a heavy bottomed frypan, add a tiny wipe of butter and toss your bacon on to cook.  This is fine to do on the barbeque hot plate too! (A super dish to make when camping.)

Bacon sizzling

While the bacon sizzles away whisk your eggs in a bowl wide enough to accommodate a slice of bread.  Add in the milk and vanilla, and the sugar and cinnamon if you’re using it. If using sugar, whisk until it is dissolved.  Hint: Transfer beaten egg mix to a shallow baking dish big enough to hold multiple slices of bread at once if you are cooking for a crowd.

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Peel and slice your bananas lengthways.

When the bacon is done remove it and place in a covered dish to keep warm.

Soak each piece of bread in your egg mixture, turning to coat each side, and then lower onto the pan. Don’t just dunk it – let the bread soak up your mixture like a sponge!  The bread should be soggy.

If there isn’t much bacon fat, add a little extra butter, wait til it foams and then place your bread in the pan.

Fry the bread over medium heat until browned on the bottom – this will take a few minutes.  Using a slide, gently lift each piece of bread and turn it over. Cook until the bread feels firm and has lost that spongy feeling in the centre. Watch your heat. If it’s too hot the egg mixture will burn before the bread is cooked through.

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French toast cooking

Place the bread on your serving plates add the remaining butter to the pan and quickly fry off your bananas, turning them so that they brown up on each side.

fry off the bananas

Add the bacon and bananas to your French Toast.

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Drizzle with Maple Syrup.  Organise yourself a beverage and a comfy place to sit. Enjoy!

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Chocolate Covered Coconut Slice Recipe

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“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” 
~ Charles M. Schulz

Chocolate and coconut is a heavenly combination, and this particular slice recipe delivers! It is quite light in texture, so it’s not rich and it’s not too sweet – a crisp biscuit base, a fluffy coconut centre and a succulent layer of real chocolate to top it off. This slice is a perfect accompaniment to a floral or fruity tea, or a good coffee.

It can also easily be modified to become gluten-free and diabetic friendly. Vegans – please use your favourite butter and egg substitute – I quite like replacing the egg with a 1/4 cup of applesauce or a 1/2 a banana, both of which compliment the other flavours.

Today’s recipe is another offering from the Family Recipe Book, our treasured ‘passed down’ and hostess-acquired recipes from three generations of women who love to cook.

INGREDIENTS

Biscuit Base: 95 grams of butter (3.35 ounces or 0.85 of a stick of butter), 2 tablespoons of caster sugar (superfine sugar) or equivalent sugar substitute, 3/4 cup plain flour, 1/4 cup self raising flour (self-rising for my USA friends or 1 cup of all purpose flour, 1 and 1/2 x teaspoons baking powder and a pinch of salt, sifted together),  1 tablespoon of cornflour, pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

*Note: if using gluten-free flour use 1/2 cup of plain and 1/2 cup of self raising flour for a better result.

Coconut Filling: 2 cups of unsweetened desiccated coconut, 1 egg, 3 tablespoons of sugar (increase to 4 if you prefer a sweeter slice) or equivalent sugar substitute, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, 2 tablespoons of self raising flour, 3/4 cup of milk or your favourite milk equivalent.

Chocolate Topping: 200 grams (7 ounces) of your choice of milk or dark chocolate ( I like a combination of both!) broken into pieces, 25 grams (0.9 ounces) copha or vegetable shortening. If you’re diabetic please use a diabetic chocolate or a dark chocolate that is low in sugar. 

choc mix

METHOD

Base:

Preheat oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).

Line a 28cm x 18cm (7 inch by 11 inch) slice tin with some baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar together (using electric or hand beaters) until light and smooth. Add in the vanilla and dry ingredients and mix until combined.  Mixture should be a crumbly paste.

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Press firmly into the tin, taking care to push mixture right into the corners. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden all over. Remove from oven and rest for ten minutes.

Coconut Filling:

Prepare this while the base is in the oven. Mix all ingredients together and leave sit for five minutes for coconut to swell and absorb any fluid. Spoon over the biscuit base, spreading evenly.  Return to oven and bake another twenty five minutes or until set and lightly browned on top.  Cool in tin.

Chocolate Topping:

Melt broken chocolate and copha in a saucepan together over low heat, stirring frequently until mixture is smooth and lump free. (You could also use your microwave – but we’re a microwave-free household so you’re on your own for instructions here!) Pour over Slice and spread carefully to the edges.  Leave to set in tin, and then cut into small squares.

Store in an airtight container, and refrigerate if you live in a hot climate or like your chocolate layer crisp..

*Warning – this Slice is prone to evaporation and other mysterious disappearances. 

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Variations:

* Evenly space walnut halves in lines before the chocolate sets so that when you cut the slice each square will have a walnut half decorating the centre.

* Add a tablespoon of Malibu (coconut flavoured white rum) to the coconut filling before baking.

* Spread a thin layer of Nutella on the biscuit base before adding the coconut layer. (This is especially good, and also goes well with the Malibu layer for a special treat.)

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The Magic of a Cup of Tea

cuppa

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” 
~ Mother Teresa

There are a few things that have helped me to feel human again in the past twenty-four hours after days of being wretchedly ill. Such simple things, but they nurtured me, body and soul:

  • a long hot shower, with neem oil soap made by a friend to soothe my burning, itchy skin
  • clean sheets; fresh and soft and smelling still of sunshine
  • clean pyjamas; old favourites – warm and comfortable
  • a cup of milky tea – after a few days of no food it was bliss to sip and savour
  • vegemite on toast – just a few bites, buttery and the vegemite not too thick
  • an open window, and a gentle breeze
  • lots and lots of sleep

The clean sheets and pyjamas were waiting for me after my shower.  The tea and toast followed after I was tucked up in bed again.

It’s the simple things, always the simple things, that bring comfort, a sense of safety, and the knowledge you are loved.

What simple things can you do for yourself, or a loved one today?  Everyone benefits from care and comfort.

Thanks for all your lovely well-wishes and messages of support. Am off to see my Lyme Doctor today. I’ll be back to normal blogging tomorrow.  Much love to you ♥ xx

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Nana’s Passionfruit Slice Recipe

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“Cooking is not about being the best or most perfect cook, but rather it is about sharing the table with family and friends.”  ~ Skye Gyngell, My Favorite Ingredients

This is an old recipe that my Nana copied out from her friend Dulcie, after a successful ‘War Wives Luncheon’ during World War Two. At least that was the memorable annotation she jotted at the bottom of the piece of paper the recipe is written on.  As a child I would ask Nana over and over to tell me about that Luncheon in Sydney, and she would remind me how hard it was to make tasty food with all of the rationing and restrictions. Dulcie’s slice had been a real winner.

As a child I painstakingly copied the same recipe into the Family Recipe Book.  Each time I make this I think of my Nana and her friends, sitting drinking cups of tea, eating slice and chatting during the long days of the War, with the rations and limitations and hardships.

There’s a lot of comfort to be had in a cup of tea and a slice.

tea in front of the fire

Base Ingredients:

1 x cup of self raising flour (self-rising for my USA friends or 1 cup of all purpose flour, 1 and 1/2 x teaspoons baking powder and a pinch of salt, sifted together), 1 x cup of unsweetened desiccated coconut, 1/2 cup of  sugar, 1/2 cup (4 oz or 125 grams) melted butter, finely grated zest of one lemon.

*Note –  If you’re gluten intolerant, this works fine with a commercial gluten-free flour mix.

Method:

Preheat oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).

Line a 28cm x 18cm (7 inch by 11 inch) slice tin with some baking paper.

Measure the dry ingredients into a large bowl and then mix through the melted butter.  The mixture should be moist and crumbly.

Press the base into the tin, being careful not to press down too heavily. (If you compact the base too much it becomes very hard to cut after it has cooked.)

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the top is nicely golden.

Remove from oven and cool completely. (This step is essential!)

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Topping:

1 x 395g can of sweetened condensed milk, 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice, pulp of 3 passionfruit.

Heat oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit), and then just before you pop the slice back in, knock the temperature back to 140 degrees for your fan forced oven or equivalent.

passfruits

Whisk the condensed milk, lemon juice and passionfruit pulp together.  The mixture will thicken from the acidity of the lemon juice. At this stage you should taste it… (Okay, I made that bit up, but who can resist?)

Pour the passionfruit topping over the biscuit base and smooth over until you have a good coverage.

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Bake in the slow oven for twenty minutes. The topping should be firm to your touch, and pale golden.

Remove from oven and cool completely.  Store in refrigerator in a hot climate, or if you are not eating this all in one day.  To serve, cut into small squares.

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Cream of Celery Soup Recipe

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“The thought of two thousand people crunching celery at the same time horrified me.” 
~ George Bernard Shaw

Poor George! It’s quite the visual, isn’t it.  Perhaps even worse than zombies…

Still, I digress.  Today it’s all about soup.  Soup is my go-to when I’m feeling poorly.  Easy to make, easy to eat, and you get leftovers, which keep you going when you’re in that place of needing to eat and having no energy for cooking.

This is my current twist on that good old standard, Cream of Celery Soup. I’ve tweaked the recipe slightly to get some extra good stuff in there, namely coconut oil and tumeric. These two simple ingredients lift the humble celery soup into a powerhouse of anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial goodness – perfect for warding off colds and flu bugs, and for boosting your energy and immune system. And it’s super for Lyme sufferers to help kick those borrelia bacteria suckers to the kerb!

Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients to serve 6 (can easily be halved for a smaller portion)

1 large bunch of celery, 4 cloves of garlic, one large or two small brown onions, 2 to 3 potatoes, 6 cups of chicken stock or vegan friendly vegetable stock, 1 tablespoon of tumeric, 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and one tablespoon of butter or ghee (vegans just use extra coconut oil!), 3/4 cup of milk, cream or soy milk (your vegan option).  To serve: plain yogurt (vegans – try coconut yogurt for a heavenly flavour combo!), cracked black pepper, chopped fresh herbs such as garlic chives, parsley, or coriander (cilantro).

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Method

Cut the base from the celery and wash the stalks well.  Remove any bruised or damaged leaves.  Then cut the celery stalks, leaves and heart into small pieces. Peel the potatoes and chop into small segments.

Chop your garlic and onion, and add them to the base of a very large saucepan with the coconut oil and ghee. Cook over a low heat for a few minutes until they are softened but not coloured.  Now add in the potato, stirring to coat well with the oil, and then add the celery. Cook the vegetables over medium heat for five to ten minutes until they begin to soften, stirring every so often so they don’t catch on the bottom.

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Pour in your stock, bring to the boil and then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for twenty minutes.

Cool and then use a stick blender or a food processor to blend until smooth or to your liking.

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Return soup to pot. At this point, taste your soup. If you’re looking for a more traditional Cream of Celery Soup then omit the tumeric.  If you’re looking for extra complexity of flavour and a health kick, add in the tumeric, stirring well, and gently reheat. Add the milk or cream and adjust seasoning.

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To serve, ladle into bowls, add a spoonful of yogurt, a sprinkle of fresh herbs and a dusting of cracked pepper.  Can be enjoyed on its own, or with a good bread.

This soup is filling, warming and nourishing without being too heavy.  It’s medicine in a bowl, and I can attest to it tasting good as it does you good.  Enjoy!

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Simple Baked Apple Recipe

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“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” ~ Martin Luther

Nothing says comfort food like a baked apple – easy to make and good for you too. Traditionally my Nana stuffed apples with a butter, sugar, oats and sultana or currant mixture.  My version still tastes sweet and delicious but is dairy, sugar and gluten free.  Trust me – no one will think any the lesser of you for omitting all that other stuff.  They’ll be too busy eating!  Soft sweet medjool dates and ginger give a lovely caramelly texture and zing, and walnuts – well it just wouldn’t be the same without them.

Ingredients: 1 x cooking apple per person – I like Granny Smith Apples for this; plus 2 medjool dates, a tablespoon of walnut halves, a piece of glace ginger and a squeeze of lemon juice per person.  Note: If there is still too much sugar in the glace ginger for you, trying adding a little extra date and some powdered ginger.

Method: Preheat oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit). Using a sharp knife or an apple corer, remove the core of the apple.  Then take a knife and run it around the circumference of the apple so that you just break through the skin.  This is important so that your apple doesn’t explode when it is cooking. Core your apples Chop your dates, ginger and walnuts and combine them in a bowl with the squeeze of lemon juice.  Mix them well together. Dates, ginger and walnuts Now press the mixture into the empty core of each apple.  Start by filling the bottom, pressing the mixture in firmly.  Then turn over and place into an oven-proof dish. (I find a piece of baking paper helps with easy clean-up.) Keep pressing filling into the core until it is filled to the top.  Mound a little extra over the hole, pressing down well. 2013-04-04 16.43.11 Bake in a moderate oven for 45 minutes. To serve, simply place in a bowl and eat.  They go very well with a dash of cream, custard, some yogurt (try coconut yogurt if you’re vegan or dairy free!) or a good ice-cream. Baked apples are a terrific dessert but do try them for a warm breakfast on a cold morning. Super Yum Delish! baked apple and cream

The Joys of a Shared Table

“The shared meal elevates eating from a mechanical process of fueling the body to a ritual of family and community, from the mere animal biology to an act of culture.” ~ Michael Pollan

 

If you had asked me to create a memorable meal when I was younger I would have had the cookbooks out in a flash, planning some elaborate and fanciful spectacular.  Menu planning for ‘Spectaculars’ runs in our family. We used to call going to my grandparents for dinner ‘a trip to the Palace’; all of us dressed for dinner, the table set with the best china and crystal, flowers, music, wine, and lovingly prepared food of restaurant quality.  As a child I grew up turning melons into piles of perfect tiny spheres for one of Mum’s ‘Annual Christmas Creations’, or hollowing out endless half loaves to make little toasted bread baskets for prawn salad.

I still love a party, and planning something special, but I’ve come to realise that it’s not just about the food. It’s the experience – the people, the situation, the sharing.

Here are some of my most memorable meals:

Ben and I ran into two charming elderly brothers on the veranda of a tiny country pub in the middle of nowhere.  They were staying in a shack down by the river and suggested a spot a little further along as a good place for us to camp. On a whim I invited them to dinner, and cooked a camp oven roast with all the trimmings, bread and butter pudding and home-made custard.  They brought an empty cereal box full of live yabbies (little freshwater crayfish) as a gift, and entertained us with stories all night. The next morning while we were making breakfast our dog Charlie, who was still a pup, found the box of yabbies and spilled them all over our swag, and then ‘played’ with them. We couldn’t get the stink of yabby guts out of the sheets and had to throw them away.

bush kitchen

On the day that my beloved grandmother Marga (Queen of the ‘Palace’) passed away, my sister, Mother and I sat with her as she took her last breaths.  Afterwards my sister and I went for a walk and ended up in the courtyard of a little cafe in New Farm, where we ordered a very late lunch of ginger-beer, toasted ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches and hot drinks.  We sat in the sunshine on this glorious Brisbane afternoon, not really talking, just sharing space and taking comfort in each other. The waitresses were so kind, and brought us tissues when we both kept eating with tears sliding down our cheeks.

toasties

The best hot chocolate of my life was at a little outdoor cafe in the medieval city of Gubbio in Italy. I was travelling with my husband and some friends but had taken time out to sit on my own and write. Was I alone though? No! I was sitting on the terrace with Gubbio laid out before me, surrounded by flirty Italian waiters, while the shopkeepers called greetings to me.  That hot chocolate was sublime, but it was also flavoured with the romance of that ancient city.

gubbio square

During a trip through the centre of Australia a few years back, we got flooded in on a remote stretch of road with several other motorists.  We all camped on the road, glued to the radio for the weather and road updates, and pooled what food and drink we had with.  Dinner was an interesting affair of chips, chocolate, lollies, sweet biscuits, sausages in bread, baked beans and instant noodles, washed down with beers and cups of tea sweetened with condensed milk. Our dining area was a huddle of folding chairs and eskies under rigged-up tarps in the pouring rain. It was cold and wet, but we had a lot of fun and met some interesting people!

central-arnhem-road-650Last year I took my good friend, Carly-Jay Metcalfe to visit one of our neighbours. Gordon’s an old farmer with many a story to tell, and he’s dad to another very good friend, Shannon.  Our farms are opposite each other, separated by a river which is low enough to cross over in our gumboots at the shallowest section, if it hasn’t been raining.  We came bearing home-made scones, jam and whipped cream, and Gordon made us a pot of tea that any CWA stalwart would have been proud of – Gordon’s tea is a bracing brew.  All afternoon we sat in his humble kitchen, laughing and sharing tales.  The food was fresh but not fancy, and there was not a tiara in sight. But it was one of the best afternoons on record.

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When I look back, my most treasured food memories aren’t really about the food at all. A meal can be a main event, but what makes the occasion memorable for me is the joy of a shared table.

What’s your most memorable meal?

Easy Easter Treats to Make

“Easter tells us that life is to be interpreted not simply in terms of things but in terms of ideals.”  ~ Charles M. Crowe

Hooray.  After a huge 14 hours of sleep I have woken feeling revived, optimistic and ready to cook!  We have a CWA Fundraising Cake Stall in Bangalow tomorrow morning, and I am making some Easter treats to contribute.  If you’re down our way, holidaying in Byron Bay or heading off to Bluesfest, why not pop in and say hi?

I thought I’d share some of the recipes I’m making. Don’t worry if you’re not an experienced cook – these recipes are EASY, tasty and lots of fun, and there’s plenty of ways to get the kids involved too.  Giving home-made treats at Easter is a lovely heart-felt gift.

Or of course you could just eat them all yourself!

Here’s my Best Coconut Ice Recipe - a creamy concoction with the perfect texture and flavour.  This has won me many prizes at our local and State Agricultural Shows!

coco-1

I’ll also be making Homemade Rocky Road which is a simple concoction of chocolate, jellies, marshmallows and nuts – all that is required is a little melting and stirring!

rocky road

You can’t have Easter without Marshmallow Treats – some pretty eggs for the kids, and a few batches of traditional marhsmallows for the grown ups.  This marshmallow recipe is gluten-free and perfect for people who also need dairy free and chocolate free. :)

eggs-and-mallows-in-coconut

 

toasted-coconut-marshmallows

Or you could try your hand at a few batches of sinfully good and incredibly easy Five Minute Fudge, which really does take a mere five minutes to whip up, and probably less time to devour!

fudge

fudge2

 

I encourage you to give these recipes a try.  Hopefully some of them will become an Easter Tradition in your household too.

Much love to you, ♥ Nicole xx