A week on the Mexican Coast

Mexico has always been on my to-do list (how could I not pay homage to the country whose national cuisine is tacos?) but it wasn't until semi recently, in typical millennial style, that I saw a cenote on Instagram (an oftentimes vibrantly aquamarine body of water created by sinking limestone - cheers Wikipedia) and decided that I must be in Mexico immediately.

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My sister and I have started a tradition of going on a holiday together every year, given that she now lives in London and I, Melbourne. As she will tell you, my method of choosing holiday destinations is thus: seeing a beautiful destination on Instagram, booking a ticket, making her do the same. First Ubud, then Annecy in France, and most recently, Tulum. 

We spent six days in Mexico (in Quintana Roo province) in the middle of a trip to The US, and all I can say is that 6 days is absolutely nowhere near enough. While comparably I am an absolute Mexico novice, I thought I would impart what little wisdom I have so that everyone can go and enjoy what is surely one of the most vibrant, lovely cultures I had the pleasure of experiencing. I also want to spend hours looking through my travel snaps with a half legitimate reason for doing so, but we won't go too deeply into that. 

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PLACES WE STAYED, LIKED (AND DIDN'T) IN QUINTANA ROO

CANCUN

During our little 6 day trip, we visited Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Playa Del Carmen, and Tulum. Landing in Cancun from New York, we decided to stay one night in the party town to see what all the fuss was about. That, and the ferry for Isla Mujeres leaves from a port about 20 minutes out of town. Convenience aside, we felt it was a mistake. 

Staying only one night, we didn't quite ever get a grip on Cancun. The town itself was hard to come to terms with (I don't think we ever found 'the town') and, even according to our concierge, the restaurants and 'attractions' are all in 'the hotel zone.' I have always been personally wary of 'hotel zones' because I am unsure exactly why I would want to fly 20+ hours from straya and yet still be in the West. This is exactly what the hotel zone in Cancun was - Westerners eating eggs benedict and drinking vodka cranberries on a beach. No thanku. If you're after a taste of Mexico and not into partying, I would give Cancun a miss, and get straight off the plane and head to Isla Mujeres or Cozumel, another (apparently, we didn't go but heard glowing reviews) gorgeous island off the coast. 

ISLA MUJERES

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Onto Isla Mujeres. We had planned to stay only one night on 'the island of women' but, upon disembarking the ferry, were so enamoured that we immediately decided one night was not enough. (for that matter, neither was 2) While admittedly Isla Mujeres is likely not the most authentic taste of Mexico you'll encounter, it is impossible not to fall in love with. For starters, a meagre $20US dollars a day (a small price to pay for the experience of a lifetime) buys you A GOLF CART to transport yourself around in, for a whole 24 hours. While we stayed at super central Pocna Hostel (and ended up in a private room because we're 25+ and our hostel days are done) and were close enough to walk to most tourist things, I could not recommend hiring a golf cart any more than I do because IT WAS THE ACTUAL BEST. Please see the photo below of my sister going through a bottle-o drive thru IN THE GOLF CART. Case closed.

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There are a number of things to do on Isla Mujeres (aside from experience the vibrantly coloured township and bluest water I've ever seen) - most of which we did not achieve because we were too busy either hooning around in a golf cart, drowning ourselves in cocktails, or indulging in a not even illegal combination of both. Here's a photo of me holding my sister's driving beer for her for reference. 

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Apparently there is great snorkelling on the island, and there is a bunch of underwater human sculptures to explore. There is a ruin on the more local side of the island, although I would only go if you've hired a golf cart and have spare time, because the drive there was gorgeous but the ruin was mainly reminiscent of a pizza oven. Sorry I am a pleb but it is true. 

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PLACES TO EAT: 

We shamelessly ate breakfast at Lola Valentina two days out of two, and while it's not all local cuisine, it's dishes were inspired by local ones, they had iced almond milk lattes, and the staff were outrageously lovely. Think Melbourne style brunch with a Mexican flare in Mexico. 

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Bastos grill was more towards the local side of the island, and a recommendation given by our lovely waiter at Lola Valentinas. Apparently every taxi driver on the island will know where it is, and if you drive your golf cart around for long enough (and have Google Maps handy) you'll eventually find it. It was absolutely delicious, simple Mexican cuisine, with some of the best guac I've ever had. 

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PLAYA DEL CARMEN

Because we were only in Mexico for six days, Playa Del Carmen suffered at the expense of Isla Mujeres, meaning we only stayed for one night. I have to say, we didn't mind all that much. Playa Del Carmen, as we experienced it (one day makes it hard to get into the nitty gritty) was another tempered slice of America in Mexico. The main street was lined with Zara and Sephora, pasta restaurants and sushi. While it was certainly more interesting than Cancun, and I wouldn't say go out of your way to avoid it, if it's not in your path, I wouldn't be too sad. Having said that, I had some delightful smoked tuna tacos there, so that counts as a win. 

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TULUM

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Oh boy, Tulum. All I can with real certainty is that I would need a solid two weeks in Tulum to be able to say I had properly explored all it has to offer. The township itself is inland from the beach, and spread out over an enormous walking distance. We arrived at the bus station (buses in Mexico are probably nicer than buses in Australia FYI, as long as you make sure you get the ADO ones, they have air con and a loo and everything) and then got a taxi to our hotel, which was on the beach. I have to say, with all the smack I talked earlier about hotel zones, the hotel area in Tulum is pretty special - a big ol' hike from the township (which we didn't really have time to explore) but wow! 

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The drive is set along the aquamarine coastline, weaving in amongst palm trees, little boutiques and healthy vegan ice cream stores. Most of the hotels are yoga and healthy food focused, and you can often rent bikes from your hotel to hoon down the road, stop for an ice cream or a taco, and get a bit of heat relief from the breeze. This was probably my favourite activity while we were there. 

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We stayed at Sanara Tulum which was in the hotel zone, set right on the beach. As in, you get off your sun lounger, and you're at breakfast. Amazing. The restaurant that accompanies the hotel, The Healthy Coconut, offers game changing Mexican cuisine, with coconut flour tortillas, coconut cheese, and a whole variety of gluten free, sugar free offerings that cater to the vegos and non vegos alike. 

The vibe is beachy chic with an emphasis on healthy eating, yoga, and general rejuvenation. They had a bunch of detox cleanses on offer, as well as the regular menu at The Healthy Coconut. They also had a number of spa and holistic treatments available in a gorgeous lil room overlooking the aquamarine coastline. 

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We had the loveliest hotel concierge at Sanara, a gorgeous European girl who had moved to Tulum six months earlier. She gave us a list of things that the locals would do in Tulum, and whie we didn't have enough time to accomplish them all, we gave it a red hot crack.

Casa Jaguar was gorgeously Pinterest style decorated bar and restaurant. We only had a cocktail there in the spirit of trying everything, and I, as a cocktail aficionado, was definitely not disappointed. 

Gitano was another recommendation, and although we didn't end up going (it was closed on our last night) it definitely looks gorgeous and well worth checking out. 

Taqueria De Eufemeria is a funky, cheap taco place right on the beach in the hotel zone. Call me a pleb, but as tourists passing through Mexico so quickly and without really doing any research, these were probably the best tacos we had. Simple, delicious, served on the beach, and backed up with super strong margaritas. Bliss. 

Gran cenote was our favourite of the two cenotes we visited. If you are in Tulum for the cenotes, allow at least a week I would say. There is sometimes quite a distance between them, and so many different ones to visit. I'd also recommend doing your research depending on what you want to do/see - in some cenotes you can scubadive through the cavities underwater (my idea of hell on earth) and some entail only some light snorkelling (better) Gran cenote was gorgeous and of the light snorkelling variety - I would recommend getting there early, as we had about ten other people in there with us, and it kept the magic alive a little bit.

Dos Ojos is another cenote, one that we didn't enjoy nearly as much as Gran cenote. It means 'two eyes' and there are two cenotes that are interconnected by underwater tunnels. The cenotes themselves were covered by a large rock formation and quite dark - I think the appeal is swimming through the cavities, which did not appeal to us remotely. It is also a fifteen minute drive down a desolate dirt road to get to the cenote from the entrance, so please don't call the bluff of the driver offering to take you. Just pay up.

La Playa Tortuga (turtle beach) is a pretty touristy setup, but a really cool experience nonetheless. It's a bit of a walk from where the collectivo will drop you, and a lot of people will harass you on the way, suggesting they are the only licensed guide, etc. Keep walking. Of all the things you'll be hassled to buy or hire on the way, I would highly recommend a life jacket. It seems stupid (the water is shallow) but it really allows you to get right into the turtle watching without disturbing them. A snorkel is also absolutely necessary, although we hired ours from Sanara. The beach is a naturally occurring turtle habitat, so when swimming in a designated area, you'll bump into a huge amount of big ol' turtles doing their thing. Pretty cool. Another hot tip: Put sunscreen on your shoulders and bum. Floating on the surface will get ya. 

These are all the recommendations we were given in our short but blissful time in Tulum - I am 100% sure there are loads more and I would encourage you to stay AT LEAST a whole week, if not two, to suss out everything this ridiculous place has to offer. 

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Broccoli and parmesan pizza bases

I used to eye roll at people who claimed that such and such a food was an integral part of their weekly routine. As someone who used to be thoroughly shook if Mum told me we were having the same thing for dinner two nights in a row, I couldn't fathom how people could be attached to eating the same thing at the same time every week. That is, of course, until I became one of those people. 

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I first discovered the healing properties of pizza at the height of my partying days, when ordering a pizza the morning after (don't judge) seemed to bring me back to life. While I have since made a conscious effort to reign in the partying (old gal takes a good two days to recover now) I was still very keen to keep the magic, excitement and restorative qualities of pizza night alive, in the form of a gluten friendly, grain friendly pizza. Enter the broccoli pizza. 

These pizza bases are grain free, gluten free, very likely paleo but I cannot be bothered checking, and a new way to get some veg in your life and in your pizza. I might even enjoy them more than the cauliflower variety. 

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INGREDIENTS - makes 4 large-ish or 5 medium-ish pizza bases 

600g broccoli (stems are fine but chop the toughest part off) - this was 2 medium heads for me
1 1/2 cups almond meal
6 small or 5 medium eggs
50g parmesan or hard cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup water
Generous table salt 

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METHOD

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. 
2. Roughly chop your broccoli, throw it in the food processor, and process it for about 10-15 seconds, until you have very fine little bits of broccoli rice, for lack of a better term. 
3. In a large bowl, combine the broccoli with the almond meal, parmesan and salt, and mix well. Add the eggs and stir them through thoroughly. Repeat with the oil and water. 
4. Line two baking trays with paper, and place 1/4 or 1/5 of the mixture on each tray. As mentioned above, this makes 4 large or 5 medium pizza bases, so divvy up as you see fit. 
5. Place the first two pizza bases in the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until firm but still green. You wanna keep the green colour for #fitspo dinner shots later. Or, you know, just to not have burnt pizza bases. 
6. Repeat with the other 2 or 3 pizza bases, and then top the pizzas with your choice of toppings. Pop them back in the oven for 10-15 minutes (you might want to spray them a lil with olive oil so the edges don't get too crisp) and ur good to go. 

TOPPING IDEAS!

FODMAP FRIENDLY PESTO:

Combine a bunch of basil, around 1/2-1 cup walnuts, about 1/2 a cup of freshly grated parmesan, the juice of 1 lemon, generous salt and enough olive oil to make a pesto consistency, in yo blender. Blend away until you have pesto. 

Top that with some roasted veg - roasted fennel, tomatoes and zucchini are all v good, and lower fodmap options. If you have other vegies on hand, go nuts. 

Herb! Plenty of herbs. and a melty cheese to hold it all together. I like to put my herbs on at the end so they don't burn, but you can do both, because herbs are important. 

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Cinnamon and sumac roasted pumpkin with pine nut baklava crusted haloumi

You can relax a little: My baklava obsession is drawing to a close (for now) and I thought I would end it with this delightful number, pine nut baklava crusted haloumi. When I first envisaged this recipe, I did so without the addition of the spice roasted pumpkin - I felt (and still feel) that something as heaven sent as baklava crusted haloumi could stand alone. 

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That being said, it took me all of about 10 minutes to devour said baklava crusted haloumi, and when I found myself with some extra pumpkin in the fridge and feeling inspired from an Ottolenghi binge read, I decided to add the pumpkin to make a meal of it. A great life decision, thanks Yotam. This recipe is obviously vegetarian, but it's also gluten free and lower Fodmap if you can tolerate a bit of cheese (haloumi is apparently low fodmap if you consume 50g per serve, according to my googling)

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INGREDIENTS

1 packet of Haloumi
1/4 - 1/2 cup pine nuts (use 1/2 if you want some baklava crumble to sprinkle over the salad at the end)
1/2 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Generous pinch of table salt

500g pumpkin, skin removed and sliced
1 teaspoon sumac
1 - 2 teaspoons cinnamon, depending on your cinnamon obsession
2 tablespoons honey
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Generous salt 

Mint, to serve 

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METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. In a large bowl, combine the spices, oil, honey and seasoning for the pumpkin, and then coat the pumpkin in the mix. Once every piece is fully coated, spread the pumpkin slices on baking trays lined with baking paper, pouring any remaining liquid over the pumpkin evenly. Put it in the oven for 20 minutes.
2. While the pumpkin is cooking, place the nuts for the baklava crumb in a food processor, and process just until a crumb has formed - you don't want the nuts to turn into flour. Add the cinnamon, salt and honey, and blitz again until it all comes together. 
3. Slice your haloumi into four steaks, and then divide each steak into 3 thick matchsticks. I apologise if that terminology is not haloumi appropriate but I could think of nothing better. 
4. Take the crumb and press it gently onto each slice on haloumi, to the thickness of your liking. I piled it on mine because the more the merrier could never be more applicable than when talking about baklava crumb on haloumi. 
5. The pumpkin timer should have gone off, so gently check it - you want the pumpkin to be softened but still holding it's form. It will likely need another 10-15 minutes, but swap the trays from top to bottom and turn them around to compensate for heat distribution in yo oven. I read that term on a website and thought it sounded professional so I have adopted it as my own.  A stark contrast to my completely unprofessional descriptive language. 
6. Once the pumpkin is done, immediately repurpose a baking tray with fresh paper, and pop the haloumi in the oven for 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it and spray a gentle bit of olive oil on top if you feel like it needs it. 
7. Lay your pumpkin on some sort of decorative piece of crockery to impress your friends and Instagram followers, and lay the haloumi on top. Sprinkle with mint, extra baklava crumb if you have it, and u r done. 

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Dill, basil, zucchini flower and tomato tart

My mum has a friend who seemingly has the garden to end all gardens, because Mum always comes home with 'gifts' from her, like gorgeous little yellow tomatoes. I hadn't planned to make a tart of any description, never mind one that also ostentatiously included zucchini flowers, but when Mum showed them to me, I knew that I had to make something to do them justice, but mainly just to show them off.

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The filling mixture borrows heavily from an eggplant involtini recipe that my Mum makes, using dill and basil as the herbs, rather than parsley. I used to be/still am obsessed with the combination of ricotta, parmesan, dill and basil, to the point where tasking me with rolling the involtini was a 'proceed at your own risk' type of affair. The inevitable oversupply of zucchini slices at the end was easily fixed however - I was/am happy to eat them too. And I wonder why my efforts at Pilates never seem to be getting me a summer bod.

Pls note that you don't need fancy tomatoes or even zucchini flowers for this really - they're just the icing on the very herby and entirely savoury cake. You could use anything - I've used some regular ol' cherry tomatoes to illustrate this point.  

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INGREDIENTS

2 cups almond meal
1/2 cup tapioca flour
5og room temperature butter
2 teaspoons miso paste (I've gotten really into using this as seasoning, but totally not necessary if you don't have it, just add a teaspoon or so of water and then your salt instead)
1 egg

2 cups (about 300g) ricotta (THE FIRM DELI VARIETY PLS)
6 zucchini flowers (roughly, depends on their size and the aesthetic you're going for ;))
1 bunch of basil
1 bunch of dill
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan, plus a lil extra to sprinkle on top (I tried to underline fresh in addition to putting it in bold and italics but this unnecessarily long note will have to suffice)
1/2 cup mini tomatoes (or 1 cup if you're omitting the zucchini flowers)
3 eggs
1 cup of water or milk (I used water because I ran outta milk and it was perfectly fine)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg powder
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
generous seasoning

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METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. I don't even know why it's always 180, but it seems to be the norm so there you go.
2. Add your almond meal, tapioca flour, miso paste and butter to your food processor, and whiz up until a crumble has formed. Add the egg and continue to whiz until the dough forms a bumbly ball, rolling around your processor. Or you know, just until it's all combined.
3. Remove all the dough from the processor and take your (olive oil sprayed) tart tin, gently moulding the dough to the tin. This is one of my most irked jobs in cooking, so my heart goes out to you if you're currently on this step. Once you're finished, poke a bunch of holes in the bottom of the pastry with a fork, and put it in the oven for 10-15 minutes.
4. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta and milk or water, and stir or whisk up until the lumps are mostly gone. Add the eggs, grated parmesan, nutmeg, balsamic vinegar and seasoning and continue to mix well. 
5. Chop your herbs reasonably well, and throw them into the mixture. Make sure the mixture is super well combined - it's very heavy on the herbs (I was going to say 'in a good way' but there isn't a bad way to be heavy on herbs rly) and make sure every herb is coated. 
6. Pour the mixture into your tart base (which should be cooked and cooled by now) and spread it evenly, making sure all the herbs are under the ricotta mixture, otherwise they gon burn. 
7. Top the tart with your tomatoes and zucchini flowers, or your tomatoes, or whatever you fancy really - and sprinkle the remaining parmesan on top. I sprayed my tart with a lil olive oil right before I put it in, unsure if it made any difference. 
8. Cook the tart for 30 minutes, leaving it in for an extra 10 if the top appears a little wet or thoroughly unbrowned. I've made this four times now (for half recipe testing/half gluttony purposes) and all of mine took about 40-45 to get a lovely golden top. You can even flip to grill for a bit, but be very mindful. 

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Banana, coconut and passionfruit bread (gluten free, vegan and fodmap friendly)

Sometimes I think of developing recipes as having children, and, in particular, favourite children. Sure, you work hard at them (or for them) all, and you enjoy them all and believe in them all, but there are a few that stand out as the favourites. This banana bread, much like me in my own family setting, is one of those favourite children. 

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In case you hadn't already established how smug I feel about this one, let me talk some more about it. It's gluten free, grain free, refined sugar free, vegan and fodmap friendly, packed full of whole foods and good fats. While I disagree with the idea of needing to feel guilty or not guilty after eating something, this banana bread is low in added sugar - 2 tablespoons of maple and the stevia in the coconut yoghurt, which is great news for someone whose unwelcome bacteria in their digestive system feeds off da sugar. Or you know, just someone avoiding added sugar.

So dietary requirement friends, rejoice - here is your new banana bread. 

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INGREDIENTS

3 ripe bananas, 2 for the bread and one for the top
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 cups almond meal
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup coconut yoghurt (I used the vanilla flavoured Coyo and Nudie, both to success)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (optional)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup plant milk of choice (I used almond) 
85-100g passionfruit pulp (about 4 medium-large passionfruits) plus extra if you want to pop some on top

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METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Chop two of the three bananas into chunks and mash roughly. Transfer to a small pan over a medium heat, and add the coconut oil, cooking until the banana is super mashed and smelling kinda like banana bread. You can also do this with frozen bananas. Add the maple syrup, vanilla bean paste and salt, and stir well before taking off the heat. 
3. In a large bowl, combine the flours together, and add the coconut yoghurt, warm banana mixture, passionfruit pulp and milk of choice. Stir until a batter has formed, and then add the baking powder with the apple cider vinegar, stirring in the bubbles. 
4. Once the mixture is well combined, pour it into a silicon loaf tin. Slice the last banana down the middle, and then gently press it into the top, like little spooning bananas. 
5. Pop the loaf into the oven for 30 minutes, and check it at that point. The moisture content depends on whether the bananas were frozen and how liquidy your passionfruit is, so cooking time varies. I've made the loaf 3 times - without any banana on top it took 30 minutes, with dried banana on top it took about 40, and with regular ol' banana it took about 50. Keep your eyes on it and you'll be fine. 

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Roasted greens with avocado, wasabi and lime dressing

In the latest episode of 'why am I reading this pointless spiel' (flattering myself by suggesting my spiels aren't just skimmed over) today I am going to discuss my love affair with broccoli. I have a number of things that I could say on the topic, but I'll aim to keep it (mostly) brief and relevant, because I've not exactly inspired you to continue reading, and because we're talking about broccoli. 

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Since becoming unwell and figuring out that practically every food was causing it, I have had to dig pretty bloody deeply to figure out which foods I could feasibly eat on the reg without being reduced to a shell of a human. Among others, broccoli has been one of my saving graces, and I eat it pretty much every day, in some form or another. My favourite form, however, is roasted, with a little bit of olive oil and lots of sea salt.

With that in mind, and after a few weeks of eating roasted broccoli sans anything exciting, I decided to spruce up my saving grace with a bit of a zesty dressing. The whole dish is vegan, gluten free, and fodmap friendly, depending on your tolerance for brassicas. I've found zucchini is a very helpful vegetable as it's low carb (and therefore not particularly fermentable) and non offensive. It doesn't get as crunchy and roasty as broccoli, but you can always adjust the ratio of brassica to zucchini if need be.

So here I am on Valentine's Day eve, dedicating a blog post to broccoli.  I feel it's pretty fitting, because it's gotten me through a lot of hard times, and although it may not be the most exciting, or interesting vegetable, but it's the right vegetable 4 me. 

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INGREDIENTS

1 head of broccoli
1 bunch of broccolini
Around 10 brussel sprouts, halved
1 zucchini (optional) 

1 avocado
1 lime
Zest of 1/2 a lime, or to taste
2 teaspoons wasabi paste (If you're using the powder and making your own paste, you might need 3)
1 teaspoon mustard (either variety, I used seeded)
Juice of 1 lime
Generous pinch of sea salt
Pinch of brown sugar
2-3 tablespoons water
Olive oil and salt, for roasting

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METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Toss the vegies in olive oil and sea salt, and arrange them on two baking paper lined trays. 
3. When the oven is good to go, add the vegies and set the timer for 20 minutes. Once that's done, check them out - they should be over half way done. It's best to work incrementally here because your different veg might be done at different times - partcularly if you're adding the zucchini. I found the brussels took the longest to cook at around 40 minutes, but I like my broccoli crispy so I left it in that long as well.
4. While the veg are going, throw everything else in a blender and combine until you have a silky smooth sauce consistency. 
5. Assembly is a lil self explanatory: decoratively arrange your veg on your fanciest crockery and drizzle dramatically with the avocado wasabi sauce. Yummo. 

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Flourless chocolate cinnamon cake with salted baklava crumble and chocolate almond icing

Over the weekend, my friend messaged me and asked me if I had a go-to recipe for a gluten free cake - She was baking for a colleague who consistently missed out on morning tea because of her inability to tolerate glutinous treats. A) cute and B) my answer is obviously this cake.

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My mum used to make a version of this cake for me for every birthday, and I was fiercely loyal in requesting it without fail. I loved it before the word gluten had even crossed my radar, and I love it even more now, because gluten has crossed my radar and I can still eat it. 

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Although I've jazzed it up a bit (I.e gone nuts for baklava crumb, as discussed in this post) in it's plainest form, this cake is a dense, fudgy slice of heaven, sans grain flour of any kind. There are so many things that can be added to it (baklava, for a very convenient example) but is also perfection on it's own. It's foolproof for the uninitiated to gluten free baking, because it doesn't require a complicated mix of flours, and it's not embarrassing when it doesn't rise, because it was never meant to. Boom.

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INGREDIENTS - I used a 20cm springform tin

FOR THE CAKE
200g dark cooking chocolate
150g butter, room temperature
4 tablespoons maple syrup
4 medium eggs, separated and at room temperature (they won't whip otherwise)
1 1/2 cups almond meal
2 tablespoons fresh espresso
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon

FOR THE BAKLAVA CRUMB
1/2 cup pistachios
1/2 cup walnuts
1-2 tablespoons honey, depending on your sweet tooth (I used 1)
10g room temperature butter
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon rosewater, optional

FOR THE CHOC ALMOND ICING
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons almond butter
2 tablespoons cocoa or cacao
2 teaspoons maple syrup
Pinch of salt

 

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METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Take a small saucepan and fill it with water. Place on top of that a metal bowl, ensuring the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl. Turn the stove to high, and place in the bowl the chocolate and the butter. Stir intermittently until it has melted. 
3. Once the chocolate mixture has completely melted, remove it from the heat, and stir in the espresso and the maple syrup. Set aside.
4. Once your eggs are separated, beat the egg whites in a super clean bowl until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
5. Take a large bowl and add the almond meal, the chocolate batter mixture, and the egg yolks. Mix until it is all combined. Next, gently fold in a spoonful at a time of the egg white mixture, trying to retain as much of the airiness as possible. Continue to fold in the egg whites until they are completely incorporated. 
6. Pour the batter into a lined and greased springform pan. The mixture doesn't rise, so don't go too big. As I mentioned, mine is a 20cm springform pan. 
7. Cook for 45 minutes or until a lil skewer comes out clean. While the cake is cooking, whizz up all the ingredients for the baklava crumble in your food processor until the nuts are chopped and everything is combined. In a small bowl, melt the coconut oil and almond butter for the icing, and add in the cacao, maple syrup and salt, mixing until a runny icing consistency forms. 
8. Once the cake is cooked and cooled, ice the cake with the chocolate icing, and top it with the baklava crumb, spooning over a bit of extra honey if you're so inclined, and serve. Excessive rose petals entirely optional. 
 

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Tofu and snap pea curry with mango puree

One of my least favourite things about University was the first tute of every semester, wherein the tutor would ask you to tell the class something about yourself - whether that be an unusual fact about you, a rundown of your life story, whatever. This part of University life filled my anxiety ridden self with so much worry that I found myself, on holidays, pre-preparing some quirky facts and stories about myself (not in an #alternativefact kind of way, but in a 'I freeze when put on the spot' kind of way) so as not to choke and say something stupid and non retractable in front of my cohort. 

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One of the important facts I determined about myself was my top 4 favourite cuisines: Vietnamese, Thai, Mexican and Indian. Unfortunately no tutor ever asked me this question, but if they did, I needn't of feared embarrassing myself - I have got this answer down pat. 

Aside from these cuisines being outrageously divine, I suppose part of my affinity towards them is their ability to be fodmap and dietary requirement friendly, without even trying. The grains involved are generally of the gluten free variety by default, minimal dairy is used, vegetarian and vegan requirements are easily accommodated, and there is a real emphasis on fresh, clean, food (unless you're at Taco Bell)

However, If you've read my most recent blog post, you'll be aware/bored of me talking about my digestive system being in crisis mode at the moment, leaving things like legumes, onion and garlic strictly off the menu. I haven't attempted to make an Indian inspired curry in a while as a result, mainly because a lot of the flavour and richness is derived from the use of onion, and onion is one of my arch nemeses. The other week, I decided to make a curry in spite of this - I used to derive so much enjoyment from trying to create authentic curries that I threw caution to the wind. And I'm so glad I did.

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As it turns out, super slow cooked (we're talking an hour) caramelised onion does not ruin me the way raw, or even regularly cooked, onion does. It doesn't leave a permanent taste in my mouth (fellow fodmappers, you'll know what I mean) and my stomach barely even seems to notice it's introduction. The best part is, it's not even like I had to alter this recipe to make it fodmap friendly - I would have slow cooked the onion regardless, and the non fodmap members of my household are not missing out on anything because of me. This is just delicious, homemade curry, that, in the manner of the cuisine which it is inspired by, happens to work for everyone, regardless of their diet. 

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INGREDIENTS

Peanut oil
2 brown onions, finely chopped
4 large tomatoes, chopped
4 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons cumin
1 tin coconut cream
500g tofu, cubed and drained
150g sugar snap peas, chopped
Generous salt and pepper
Chilli flakes, to taste
1/2 cup water

TO SERVE

Fresh red chilli
One mango, pureed
Coriander
Extra coconut cream

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METHOD

1. In a large saucepan, heat a generous amount of peanut oil over a medium heat. You don't strictly have to use peanut oil, but if you've not got allergies, it is 100% my oil of choice in this instance. Vegetable oil would be my next suggestion.
2. Add the chopped onion, and stir well to coat it in the oil. Turn down to a low-medium heat, and set the timer for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring intermittently and checking the colour to ensure you don't burn it. 
3. Once the timer is done and the onion is super duper cooked, add 4 teaspoons of garam masala and two teaspoons of cumin to the pan, and stir well, cooking for another five minutes or so. Add more oil if the oil has been cooked away. 
4. Add the tomatoes, and cook again for around 10 minutes, or until they begin to soften and lose their form. Take the mixture off the stove, and, ensuring you don't burn yourself or cause an explosion, process the tomato mixture in your food processor until it is completely smooth. Add the 1/2 cup of water to the blender to help it mix. 
5. While the sauce is blending, add some more oil, the remaining teaspoon of garam masala, generous salt, and the cubed tofu to the pan, and turn the heat to high. Fry the tofu in the spice until it becomes crunchy and golden, and then transfer from the pan and set aside.
6. Pour the curry sauce back into the pan, back on a low medium heat. Add the tin of coconut milk, and continue stirring intermittently. The sauce will thicken and lighten in colour, depending on how long you slow cook it for.
7. Add the cubed tofu and sugar snap peas to the curry, and cook a final time. We ate the curry on it's own, but it would be delightful with rice, if you're not as lazy as I am. 

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4 ingredient, intolerance friendly banana pancakes

I (hopefully) haven't spent too much time talking about it on this forum, but I am currently suffering from an increasingly worsening state of digestion. When I first started the Georgeats Instagram (around 4 years ago now, really?) I had recently gone gluten free in the wake of a persistent, three month headache behind the eye, and a never before experienced decline in digestive health. Otherwise, I could eat what I wanted - pesto wasn't pesto if it didn't involve at least 10 cloves of garlic. 

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Fast forward to today: I feel sick on a daily basis, my system is as fragile as a fig at the bottom of your shopping, and the list of foods I'm supposed to avoid is as long as my list of drunken regrets. I have to avoid onion and garlic (most fodmappers will be able to relate to the nausea accompanied by even the smell of garlic) I have to avoid grains of most descriptions (interestingly, despite my absolute skepticism, I was a lot better with sprouted grains on my recent visit to Aro Ha, a post on which is in the works)  I have to avoid sweeteners, excessive amounts of fruit, etc etc etc etc.

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I'm bloated after a mouthful, constantly lethargic, have spent thousands in medical tests, and really 'not mad, just disappointed' at my own system, given how much I love food and cooking, and given that my job IS food and cooking. The reality of testing recipes all day is that this is never going be an easy fix - I can't just eat zucchini and eggs for the rest of my life. I'll always be testing recipes with these 'forbidden' ingredients in them (aka all the food groups) because I love doing it and I love creating recipes for everyone, intolerant and tolerant alike. This post, while dedicated to the Fodmappers, is really just a) an easy, healthy pancake recipe for your repertoire and b) hopefully a reminder to the non Fodmappers out there that we're not new age food wankers drinking kale powder and denouncing gluten, food genuinely does make us feel terrible. If you don't believe me, feed me an onion pizza and then come over to my place and watch what happens. 

In summary of this enormous, self indulgent essay, I plan to try and blur the boundaries of Fodmap friendly and regular person friendly recipes this year, to be more inventive with restricted eating requirements. I want to create things that you can whip up for your pals, without needing to worry about who can eat what, and who might end up in foetal position later. Of course there will be times when the sugar and dairy and fructose take over, but it's all about balance, amirite? 

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INGREDIENTS

2 medium super ripe bananas
2 tablespoons almond butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups almond meal

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METHOD

1. Pop all the ingredients into your food processor, and whizz up until a pancake batter has formed. Put the mixture in the fridge for 10 minutes to harden up. 
2. Heat some butter or oil in a nonstick saucepan over a medium heat, and spread a generous spoonful of the batter into a pancake shape. You may need to turn the heat down a little after cooking a few, play it by ear. I've just begun using a gas stovetop at my new apartment and boy! Medium on a hotplate is v v different to medium with gas. Insert the flame emoji here. 
3. Gently flip the pancake after a few minutes, and then repeat until you've used all the batter. It should make about 8-10 big pancakes, which will serve around 4 people, depending on how big their appetites are. Top them with coyo and blueberries for a dairy free, lower fructose option. 

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Gluten free cherry and strawberry galette

Correct me if I'm wrong (and I mostly am) but to me, a galette seems to be a lazy person's pie. Everything is freeform, nothing needs careful cutting, careful moulding, or careful removing. As much as I love tarts (both sweet, savoury and otherwise) these aspects of creating one are the absolute bane of my existence. So let me repeat my original statement with a much more positive tone: A galette is a lazy person's pie. AKA MY KINDA PIE. 

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As life has dictated for me at present, the galette uses lower fructose fruits and is gluten free, grain free and refined sugar free. I won't go so far as to say completely FODMAP friendly, but it is made with us digestively handicapped folk in mind. Note that the dough needs a little beforehand prep - I left mine in the fridge overnight. You don't strictly need to, but you might need a bit of tapioca flour to roll it out if you don't.

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INGREDIENTS

FOR THE PASTRY:
2 cups almond meal
1/2 cup tapioca flour
50g cold butter
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
pinch of table salt 

FOR THE FILLING:
2 1/2 cups seasonal berries (I used equal amounts strawberries and cherries) 
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1 egg, for eggwash 

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METHOD

1. In the blender, we gon' make pastry. Pop everything in except your egg, and whizz until something resembling a crumble has formed. Next (surprise!) add the egg, and continue to blend until the dough balls up and is whizzing around the blender in ball form, reminiscent of the most stressful Crass Bandicoot level ever (if you didn't play, pls ignore this comparative) 
2. Pop the dough in clingwrap and into the fridge for as long as you can. As I mentioned above, Ieft mine in overnight, and it was a breeze to roll out the next day. Just before you decide to roll the pastry out, preheat yo oven to 180 degrees Celsius. 
3. When it comes to rolling out, I have but a few tips. First, roll it out on a decent sized piece of baking paper which you can slide onto a baking tray and into the oven. Second, roll a large circle with reasonably thin pastry (think a biscuit) - it needs to be large so you can fold the edges back on the tart itself. 
4. Once you have created a big circle, pop it back in the fridge for a minute while you get the fruit ready. Chop, remove pits, do whatever you gotta do, and then toss in a bowl with the maple syrup and the vanilla bean paste.
5.  Spread the fruit in a smaller circle over the pastry, leaving room for the lip of the galette. Use the baking paper to help fold each side over the fruit, continuing along until you have folded all the edges over. I myself am a galette novice, but I got the hang of it v quickly and so will you.
6. Once the galette is formed n ready to go, glaze it with the eggwash, wait for a minute or so, and then glaze it again. Pop it in the oven for 30-40 minutes, finishing under the grill to get a lovely tan on the pastry. The tan I wish I had/turn to Saint Tropez in a bottle for. 

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Hasselback style scallop potatoes with sage butter and nutmeg

My favourite thing at Christmas, second only to watching Love Actually in a Christmas jumper despite the 30 degree heat, is when Mum makes scalloped potatoes. Call me a pleb, and I'd probably agree with you, but there is something so delightful about eating potatoes and cream with reckless abandon and zero *cares* for tomorrow's physique, because these are the sorts of things Christmas permits. 

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As if potatoes in cream weren't decadent enough, I decided to experiment with what would happen if I added sage butter and nutmeg to the mix. Great things, as it turns out. The sauce is runnier than the traditional scallop potato, which is great, because it can be rather joyously added atop your own potato without being stuck with the merely the sauce attached to it from cooking. Ya feel. 

Apologies for the basic photos but I was in a rush to go and watch Love Actually, adorned in a Christmas jumper despite the 30 degree heat (see opening sentence) and I deemed that far more important than photographing cooked potatoes, but also felt I needed to share the festive glory is that is the hasselback scallop potato with sage butter and nutmeg.

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INGREDIENTS

5 large Desiree potatoes (you want an oval shape as opposed to a circle - makes it easier to create the hasselback-ness) - about 1.25-1.5kg
300ml cooking cream (I tried it with others and it separated, shock)
75g salted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 cloves of garlic
15g finely chopped sage, plus extra to serve
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste (I used about half a nutmeg)  ((easy to buy whole nutmeg from supermarkets))
Optional: about 20g freshly grated cheese

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Take each potato and create super thin, tiny cuts about 3/4 of the way through the potato. The bottom needs to remain in tact - the aim is to go as far down as possible without chopping the potato in half. Google if you need to, my explanation is terrible. Repeat with the other potatoes, and put them in a baking dish that is just big enough to fit them in. You want the sauce to be as thick as possible later. 
3. Give the potatoes a spray of olive oil, and put them in the oven for 20-30 minutes, checking and re-spraying intermittently. You don't want them to get dry. 
4. 10 minutes before the timer goes off, melt your butter in a medium saucepan on a medium heat. Once that has happened, add the chopped sage, and stir intermittently until the sage starts to become crispy. Add the crushed garlic cloves, and continue to stir. Once the garlic is cooked (ensuring neither the sage nor garlic burns) remove the butter from the heat, and add the salt, nutmeg, and finally the cream. Give it a good stir, and return to the heat, turned to low, to infuse the flavours into the cream.
5. Remove the potatoes from the oven, and pour over the cream mixture. Make sure you coat each potato, and have plenty of cream on the base. Return to the oven and set the timer for 20-30 minutes. 
6. Continue checking on the potatoes until they are the level of brown you enjoy. For a decadent finish, sprinkle some grated cheese over the top, and pop under the grill for 3-4 minutes. HEAVEN. 

Gluten free mince pies with gingerbread crust

This might be a slightly more controversial recipe, depending on your stance on hybrids. Personally? I don't see why anyone wouldn't want to combine two good things, and make them great (again) 

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Once you've had a few blogging Christmas', it becomes increasingly difficult to come up with something traditionally festive, yet novel in perhaps an untraditional way. How many times can the humble shortbread or minced pie be reworked? Well, a few times, considering I shared a shortbread recipe last week, and I'm currently on the minced pie bandwagon, but next year's Christmas might be a struggle.

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Anyway, I tried making these minced pies as a minced pie, because hey! novel! But as pretty and novel as it was, it's hard to grab a slice on Christmas day and disappear with it half in your pocket, scoffing it in the bathroom for fear of judging eyes. Much easier to do with a portable mini pie, speaking from years of personal experience. 

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I then tried making them with a hazelnut crust, as another way of being inventive. They were nice, even Mum said so, but when I sat down and had the idea for the gingerbread crusted ones, nice wasn't good enough. I love gingerbread, I love minced pies, and I loved the idea of combining them to make a super powered Christmas dessert. 

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As it turns out, my gingerbread recipe from years gone by made the perfect tart base - easy to remove, firm enough to hold the fruit mince without getting soggy, all whilst adding interest to the overall pie without detracting from the fruit mince. I think hybrids might be my new thing.

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INGREDIENTS - makes 9+ medium minced pies

FOR THE MINCE:
2 Pink Lady apples, cored and chopped
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped finely
Juice of 2 oranges, zest of 1/2 an orange (approx 1 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon mixed spice

FOR THE GINGERBREAD
2 1/2 cups almond meal
50g butter, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
grating of fresh nutmeg (easily peasily found at the supermarket, but ground will suffice)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 egg
pinch of table salt
1 tablespoon potato flour, plus extra for rolling out

METHOD
1. In a medium to large saucepan, add all the ingredients for the fruit mince, and turn to a medium heat. Once the mixture is bubbling away, turn it to a low-medium heat, and pop a lid on. Check on it every 5 or so minutes for about 15 minutes, or until the apple has softened and the mixture has a syrupy base to it. 
2. Turn the oven on to 180 degrees Celsius. 
3. In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients for the gingerbread, and keep mixing until a pliable, non sticky dough forms. You can add an extra tablespoon of potato flour or two if the dough is sticky. 
4. Using a silicon muffin tin, grease the holes with butter and set aside. Take a small blob of gingerbread at a time, and mould it into the tin, coming right up the edges of the muffin hole. (side note: muffin hole sounds somewhat unappealing, I apologise, but I cannot think of a butter term) 
5. By now the fruit mince should be done - take it off the heat and set aside to cool. Poke a few forky holes in the bottom of each gingerbread pie case, to allow room for air to escape. Pop them in the oven for 10 minutes. You'll either need to use two silicon muffin trays (I've only ever seen six hole ones) reuse one tray, or use a non silicon muffin pan (I cannot vouch for the simplicity of their removal, however)
6. While the tart bases are cooking, roll out the remaining gingerbread dough, and, using plenty of potato flour, cut out 10 stars for the tops of the pies. You may get a few extra, but considering it's just gingerbread, I think you know what you can do with the remaining. Have more gingerbread. 
7. Once the tart bases have proved, remove them from the oven, and allow to cool for a little bit. Divide the fruit mince between the tarts, and put a gingerbread star on top of each. Spray on a little olive oil or a bit of melted butter, and return the pies to the oven for another 10 or so minutes, to cook the gingerbread star.
8. Once the pies are done (I put mine under the grill for a few minutes after to give them some extra colour) remove them from the oven and allow to cool before removing from the silicon tin. 

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Gluten free, grain free snickers shortbreads

When I started working on a recipe for shortbreads, I had in my mind that I wasn't even going to bother trying to make them healthy, because shortbreads are shortbreads. Sure, you can make them with almond meal and stevia and coconut oil, but they don't have that airy, buttery, sugary crunch that the people know and love. In effect, they are no longer shortbread, and naming them as such would surely lead only to disappointment and resentment.

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I made my first few batches using a gluten free flour blend, loads of butter, and more powdered sugar than I would like to admit. Breaking news: the combination of butter and sugar will never not be delicious. However, after eating one pre-breakfast and ending up with a pervasive, all day headache (not being preachy fitspo but it was a terrible day) I decided to play devils advocate, and mess around with the dark world of healthier shortbreads. 

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After whipping up the first batch, using a medium amount of butter and a small amount of powdered sugar, I ate my words, along with extra shortbreads. They're not made of coconut oil, they're not fitspo, but they are pretty smack bang on with the original version, and my shortbread fiend of a Mother concurs, so that is pretty much all the proof I need. Of course, the next logical step to creating a healthier shortbread recipe was to smother them in melted chocolate and peanut butter. That part is optional, but let me tell you, it is absolutely divine.

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INGREDIENTS

1 cup almond meal
4-5 tablespoons potato flour, plus extra for rolling
75g butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
pinch of salt 

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METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. 
2. In a mixer or a bowl, cream the sugar and butter together, until it is become lighter in colour. Add in the maple syrup, vanilla bean paste and salt, and continue mixing until well combined, making sure you scrape down the sides from time to time.
3. Add the almond meal and potato flour, and mix until a ball of dough forms. If it still looks too sticky, add an extra tablespoon of potato flour at a time.
4. Once the ball has formed, pop it in the fridge for about 10 minutes to harden slightly. 
5. Ensuring your working space is clean and dry, spread some potato flour across it and your rolling pin, and begin to roll out the shortbread, using more flour as you see fit. 
6. Using whatever cutter you fancy (for the snickers shortbreads, a simple shape with a round centre is best) cut out your shortbreads, and place them onto a lined tray, leaving space between each shortbread to avoid creating one giant cookie. 
7. Cook for ten minutes, and check to see if they're browned to your liking. They turn from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds, so keep your eyes on them.
8. Once cooked, remove from the baking tray and onto a cooling rack. If you're not making snickers ones, feel free to eat them at this point. If you are, allow them to cool completely.

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SNICKERS COATING

200g dark chocolate
20g butter
Jar of natural, chunky peanut butter (Ridiculously Delicious is my favourite)

1. Ensure the shortbreads are totally cooled.
2. Place a medium sized steel bowl over a pot of water on a high heat, ensuring the bowl doesn't touch the water. Place the chocolate and the butter in the steel bowl, and allow it to melt completely.
3. While this is happening, spread a layer of peanut butter on each shortbread (thickness is personal preference but don't go too far either way) and pop them on a plate in the freezer for a couple of minutes, so the peanut butter and chocolate don't melt together.
4. Remove the chocolate from the heat as soon as it's fully melted, and set it aside. Once you've pulled the pb covered shortbreads from the freezer (side note: how fitting is it that pb is an abbreviation both for peanut butter and personal best) get ready to dip.
5. I found the easiest way of dipping was to go peanut butter side first, and then turn the shortbread over and repeat. Make sure you lightly run your finger down the underside of the shortbread, to remove excessive chocolate covering (there is such a thing)
6. Repeat with all remaining shortbreads, and pop them back in the freezer to set. 
7. I keep mine in the freezer, because, particularly in an Australian summer, I find their coolness refreshing. You could probably keep them in the fridge, but it's best to eat them fairly quickly if you do.  

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Gluten free pear, blueberry and ginger torte

I started working on this cake in mid November, because I reasoned that a torte was something vaguely Christmas related I could post prior to December without being accused of premature Christmas decorating. As my personal luck would have it, my original copy was deleted (why do I insist on typing everything straight into Squarespace? A rough draft would save me so much heartbreak?) and we are now well into acceptable Christmas posting time, and here I am offering a vaguely Christmassy torte. 

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My thoughts on optimal Christmas recipe posting times aside, I think this torte is a winner both because the concept of a torte negates the angst of combining gluten free flours and hoping they will rise, and also because the fruit negates the need for excessive sweetening. Also, does it count towards your two fruit a day? I say yes. Practically a health food.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups almond meal
1/2 cup tapioca flour
3 teaspoons ginger powder (fresh powder is da best)
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
Pinch of salt
75g butter
1/2 cup almond milk
2 eggs
2 pears, peeled
1/2 cup blueberries

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METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. In a large bowl, combine the almond meal and tapioca flour and set aside.
3. Using your preferred method of melting things (I am a lazy sod, hey microwave) melt the butter. When it is completely melted, add the spices, maple syrup, vanilla bean paste and salt, and stir to combine. 
4. Add the eggs and the almond milk to the flour mixture, followed by the butter mixture (ensuring it is not boiling/has scrambled egg potential) and stir thoroughly to combine.
5. Pour the mixture into a greased, lined, springform tin, and place the pieces of pear into the mixture. Follow this by scattering the bluberries, ensuring they are a little bit pressed into the cake. 
6. Put the cake in the oven for 30+ minutes, or until it is firm when you stick a skewer in it. Allow it to cool a little before running a knife around the edges, removing from the tin and serving. 

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Everything NYC related

So I've done a post on my top 5 favourite places to eat in New York, but for all who have been/are going/have subsequently moved there, you'll know that 5 could never possibly cover the innumerable options available to you on any given street corner. We did our fair share of eating and drinking while we were there, and I figured it made logical sense to use my weight gain and bank account weight loss for the good of someone else too. I've included my top 5 again because I enjoy nostalgic reminiscing, But also for ease of reference when planning your New York eat-athon. Enjoy. 

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A note on where to stay (because I needed this information before I left) - this depends on what you're in New York for, but for eating, and if your trip is long enough, I would recommend a combination of Williamsburg and somewhere in the Lower East Side, Greenwich Village (encompasses West and East Village) Soho or Chelsea. I'm not remotely a neighbourhood expert but every foodie place we went was pretty much in these areas, and having stayed in the Upper East Side before, it was a very refreshing change from all the crowds. 

Cafe Henrie - This was one of my favourite brunches in New York. The interior is super cute, the waitress was bubbly and generally great, they were playing new Frank Ocean and I knew the words which made me feel very cool and relevant, and the breakfast bowl was HEAVEN, as was the acai. I find breakfast bowls of both description can go one of three ways: visually stunning but bland, bland visually but stunning taste wise, or the happy combination of both. These were both. Also, my sister's chai was SPOT. ON. 

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Bluestone Lane Collective - There are a number of these little white and bright cafes dotted around New York, but we stumbled into the Carmine Street location. The menu made us terribly excited, but it is an Australian run cafe, so I am unsure if that is a bit depressing and plebbish of us. Regardless, we got enormous almond milk iced lattes, I had a gluten free donut, and a great time was had by all. The rainbow bowls were nice, but nothing you couldn't whip up yourself. Pick something you couldn't make at home. 

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Babu Ji - Despite being Melbournian, I had no idea that Babu Ji was in fact started in St Kilda, and is also a relative of Horn Please, which is a casual five minute walk from my apartment in Fitzroy. Not knowing this, we were very excited to go, and saved it for the last night, partly because last supper but mostly because we tried a few days earlier and couldn't get in. If you don't do spicy then be very clear on that, as my sister struggled hilariously with dishes that 'aren't that spicy.' The food is lovely though, and lots of options for dietaries. 

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Beauty and Essex - I don't have any photos of this place, as a friend took us there for dinner and, to be honest, I was completely surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The menu doesn't look overly gluten free or vegetarian friendly, but they do loads of alterations if you let them know. 2 tips for this place, and I shall say no more: order the peach toast if it's on, and go to the bathroom with a tip handy. 

Happy Bones Coffee - We just got a quick takeaway here on our way to other activities, but it was good, good coffee, and, unlike the 'fancy' coffee places in Melbourne, they happily offer almond milk, without sneering and or/flat out refusing. 

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Butchers Daughter - This one likely needs no introduction, and not to me either, because I ate there a good four times while I was in America (there is one in LA too!) Great with dietaries, so great, in fact, that when I ordered a vegan caesar salad, forgetting, like a true idiot, that breadcrumbs are made of bread, the waitress swapped it for a gluten free version without batting an eyelid. 

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Bocaphe - A lil Vietnamese inspired place right next to Jack's Wife Frieda, for those who are not interested in waiting ten hours for a table. I had the veg noodle salad, made gluten free by using zucchini noodles. I also had a Vietnamese iced coffee which was divine, although it took me a while to figure out how to use the contraption for it. Peak awkward solo traveller. 

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Tacombi - All my photos of Tacombi are rubbish - it was my first day, I was travelling alone at the time, and I am not the sort of person who can spend hours arranging my food whilst in public. If it doesn't work in five minutes, I am both embarrassed and hungry. This was one of those times. Not the best tacos you will ever eat in your life, but nice drinks, super cute decor (at the Bleeker Street venue) and a good option if you stumble upon it. 

Morgensteins Ice Cream - excuse the average night time photo, but I was alone at 9pm on a Saturday, while amazingly sassy youths were dancing to hip hop while waiting for their ice creams, and I was feeling very uncool. Taking photos of a tub of ice cream did not help. I had fresh pistachio and BANANA AGAVE, and it was delighftul. Right down the road from Freeman's alley too, if you are so inclined for gram purposes. 

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By Chloe - Again, apologies for the basic photo, but I had been out walking all day, had queued 30 minutes for this burger, and I was in no mood to be fiddling with things for the sake of an Instagram. THIS WAS SO GOOD. Worth the low blood sugar 30 minute wait. Everything is vegan, although you would never guess, and I imagine they've had pretty much every dietary thrown at them. I had a black bean burger on a gluten free bun, and it was honestly one of the best burgers I've ever had. The accompanying pink lemonade - with a hit of fresh ginger - hit the spot big time. 

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Dessert By Chloe - If you're in the hood, and by the hood I mean the Bleeker Street By Chloe, I am afraid I cannot allow you to leave without having purchased something from the Dessert By Chloe shop next door. All vegan, with gluten free options for those of you interested. Mine was so rich I thought I couldn't finish it, and then I got back to the hotel and immediately stuffed the rest in my mouth.

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Egg Shop - Egg Shop is an example of how to do a bowl of veg and eggs well. They're pretty simple menu options, but of four people at brunch, none of us could stop raving about how good our own bowl was. I tried two bowls (the perks of travelling with a vegetarian sister) and they were both spot on. As were the coffees. As is the exterior. As is the fact they serve hard cocktails at lunch. 

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Milk Bar Store - I think this is just one of those things you have to do in New York. Sadly, for the gluten free among us, the 'cereal' flavour is not an option, but they do have a gluten free cola flavour with rainbow sprinkles, so you won't miss out entirely. We went to the Lower East Side store/hole in the wall, but our native New Yorker friend told us that the Momofuku ramen store with a Milk Bar attached is a gorgeous sight, so I'd suggest going to that one instead. 

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Gotan Brooklyn - There are a bunch of these sprinkled around Manhattan, but I stumbled into the Brooklyn venue after getting in at midnight the night before. The acai bowl was delicious, although being altered to be gf made it 'for my eyes only' type of meal, but I dragged my sister back when she arrived, and had an excellent special. Doesn't look like much, but every element was lovely. Here's a photo of my Instagram husband struggling with all the miscellaneous pieces she had to hold. 

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Goa Taco - We discovered this place on Uber Eats before we actually discovered it, perusing Uber Eats for cultural research reasons only, of course... After our initial dinner place fell through (closed on Mondays, wah) we found ourseleves at Goa Taco, which is absolutely tiny, particularly when there's four of you. Can't speak for my travel companions, but it was the best fallback meal I've ever had. They serve paratha tacos with Indian inspired fillings - plenty of veg options, and if you're gluten free they create a little salad bowl with the taco filling. SO GOOD.

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Cheese Grille - I mean it's kind of laughable that one of my favourite places to eat was a grilled cheese sandwich shop, but really. The Mediterranean (basil, two cheeses, tomato and truffle oil) on gluten free bread was the highlight of my day on about three different days. I had no time for taking photos, only for devouring. 

BARS

Sixty Lower East Side Rooftop - We stayed at Sixty Hotel on the Lower East Side, and for a few days we didn't bother to check out the bar (instead becoming obsessed with Law And Order because we're wild) but we were certainly glad we eventually did. One of the nicest, most unimpeded views of the city that I came across in Manhattan. Absolutely delightful, and I hear the view from their Soho hotel is just as good. 

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Mr Purple - This bar was so great that we ended up coming back twice in two days. In a manner similar to The High Line bar, the view is (I assume) what most people go for - however the difference is a) there's a pool, b) it's table service (outside at least) and c) the cocktails are not premixed. It's more chill, there's less of a touristy crowd and you can see The Chrysler Building and all the other heavyweight sights while you sip on an old fashioned and feel v haughty and posh. 

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The High Line at The Standard - I assume this is a trendy place to be seen, because it was absolutely packed when we rocked up for sunset. The drinks are average, the lines are huge, and there are a decent proportion of wanky individuals around. However, the view itself, particularly at sunset and in nice weather, is more than worth having tourists elbow you out of the way so they can get selfies while seductively draping an American flag around their shoulders. 

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Wythe Hotel - Post Smorgasburg, on basically the only rainy day we had, we decided to go and day drink at The Wythe, which was an excellent choice. I had too many cocktails then I care to admit for a daytime venture, and we managed to snag a window seat, entirely by accident, with panoramic views of Manhattan. Which, by the way, do not get old regardless of how many rooftop bars you sit in. 

Loopy Doopy - Three words. Icypoles in Prosecco. Potentially not as attractive for winter visitors, but they were a real treat in the sunshine when I was there. A bit of a trek away, in the financial district, but worth stopping in if you're in the vicinity. 

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Mace - A trendy little hole in the wall with the most interest cocktail list I've ever seen. I had a 'black sesame' cocktail, which was pretty much a creamy, sesame-y, alcoholic milkshake. Heaven. Pictured is my sister's drink, which had something to do with bananas and cinnamon. She wouldn't let me drink much of it. 

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TOURISTY THINGS WORTH DOING

Top of The Rock (Or observation deck) - no explanation needed, but just a reiteration that it's worth doing. 

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Cycle around Central Park - This one is weather dependent, but Central Park obviously must be involved in your trip in some form. We walked back via Fifth Avenue, were overwhelmed by both the amount of people and the scent of weed, and were happy to retreat back to Greenwich village domain, but it must be done all the same. 

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The High Line - At the end of the day, it's really just a leafy walk over New York Streets, but it's a pretty cool fusion of city and nature, and there are some cityscapes to be found. Plus it strays very close to Chelsea Markets, among other things, and you can kill two birds with one stone. 

Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and sit in DUMBO park - This walk was absolutely lovely and I would recommend it to anyone. Brooklyn Bridge is iconic, and Dumbo offers some stunning views of both Manhattan and of the bridge from a different vantage point. We also walked through Brooklyn Heights to get the subway back to Manhattan, and that was a sight in itself. For whatever reason the name Brooklyn Heights didn't suggest idyllic street settings to me, but I stood corrected, as happens most days of my life. 

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Smorgasburg - You've undoubtedly heard of the weekend food market in Brooklyn by the water, set in front of an astounding view of Manhattan and Manhattan Bridge. While I didn't find too many options for a gf pescetarian/I had a mild hangover and thus finite patience, but I did find these hand cut truffle potato chips with what I believe was lemon aioli, and that made hungover interactions with others worth my time. Definitely go and check it out. 

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Grilled zucchini, haloumi, dill and caper salad

I've dropped the blogging ball in recent times, and there's a few reasons for that. Whether or not you're interested, I'm going to delve into them now. Sorry.

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Firstly, if you follow me on Instagram, you'll have seen me frolicking around Mexico, drinking too many cocktails during the day, and generally disregarding most of my adult responsibilities. When you're 3 margaritas deep at 2.30pm, blogging is definitely an adult responsibility. 

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The other reason, one that many of you might be able to relate to, is that I have been entirely burnt out by the never ending creative work that comes with Instagramming and blogging. I think there's been an enormous shift in the world of Instagram of late, one which has left me quite unmotivated and a lil bit disillusioned. What was once a domain for sharing in the minute accounts of daily life, and creating communities around common interests, seems now to be a competition as to who can include the most edible flowers on their plate, or who can pull off the avocado flower with the most finesse. 

Don't get me wrong, I love edible flowers (avocado and otherwise) as much as the next person, I really do. I get a small jolt of excitement when I sprinkle them atop something, taking it from 5/10 to 7.9/10 with good lighting (something fake tan does for me on a personal level)  But I can't help feeling nostalgic for the glory days of Instagram, where we were all so excited about sharing what we were eating in the moment that professional photography, lighting, and a fruit platter with ten different exotic fruits, captioned as 'a quick breakfast', didn't even enter into it.

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It has taken me some time with my heart completely not in it, some midday margaritas and some edible flower dalliances to come to a conclusion that should be innate, but apparently is no longer so: food doesn't need to be stunning 24/7. Not everything needs edible flowers. Everybody eats ugly food, whether or not their Instagram account admits to it. And with this revolutionary epiphany that I'm surely the first person to experience, my inspiration to create things has returned. Sometimes ugly. Sometimes with edible flowers involved. 

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FOR THE SALAD:
4 zucchinis, sliced lengthways in a medium thinness
1 block of haloumi, cubed (normally 180g but who would say no to extra haloumi ammirite)
1 tablespoon of capers
1 medium handful of dill (depends how much you are obsessed with dill, so for me, 1000 handfuls)
grated lemon zest, to serve

FOR THE DRESSING:
3 tablespoons olive oil
10g dill, chopped (a small handful)
1/2 lemon juice
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 bruised clove of garlic

METHOD

1. Using your weapon of choice for grilling (I use and am mildly obsessed with a sandwich press for said purpose - whack some baking paper and some olive oil spray on and your zucchini will be golden before you can say 'but isn't that just for making toasted sandwiches?')
2. Once you have grilled all da zucchini, set it aside with a sprinkle of salt on top. Grab a pan, and heat the hotplate to a medium high heat. Once it's ready to go, add a light spray of olive oil and throw in 1/4 or so of the haloumi. Because you're browning cubes of it, it's easier to keep an eye on with smaller quantities. If you consider yourself a non haloumi burning ninja, then go right ahead and cook it all at once. 
3. In a small saucepan, add all the ingredients for the dressing, and turn the heat to medium. Cook gently for about 10-15 minutes, until it starts to become fragrant, with refined notes and undertones of dill and garlic. Or something. 
4. Take the dressing off the heat and allow to cool slightly. Assemble your zucchini and haloumi on a decorative plate of choice (see above rant on Instagram these days) and sprinkle with the dill and capers. Top with a drizzle of the dressing, and finish with the freshly grated lemon zest. 
 

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Georgeats New York City

If you follow me on ye olde gram, you may be aware that I recently visited New York and am subsequently low key obsessed with it. Despite having an enormous list of foodie places to hit up, many of the places we ultimately ended up loving were suggestions from friends, strangers on the street, or happy accidents as a result of one too many margaritas and an impatience for walking to our next destination. We spent the majority of our time in New York staying in the Lower East Side (LES if you fancy sounding like a local/I can't guarantee locals call it this) at Sixty Hotel, which was a walking or biking distance from basically all our favourite places, particularly considering the gorgeous weather we had throughout the duration of our stay.

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I ate at so many places that my emergency fat jeans I packed are now just 'my jeans' but here are my top five places to eat in New York, in no particular order: 

Cheese Grille

We visited this little grilled cheese sandwich shop in Lower East Side (essentially next door to Sixty Hotel) so many times we were actually embarrassed each time we returned. The owner even confirmed our fears by mentioning that he started recognising us after a few return trips. They have gluten free bread (Yay/did not expect) and the most divine 'Mediterranean' toastie, with two types of cheese, basil, tomato and truffle oil. This would absolutely be my pick - although I never bothered to try anything else, my sister did, and she promptly returned to ordering the Mediterranean. Lesson to be learned? Trying new things is a terrible idea. We had every intention of also trying the banana and nutella toastie (fourth time is a charm, ammirite guys?) but unfortunately our eyes are (or were, before all the eating) quadriple the size of our stomaches. Unfortunately we didn't stop at any point to take a photo of our grilled cheeses because they were actually that good, but trust me on this one. 

Cafe Henrie

This cute little retro cafe was one of my favourite meals in NYC. The shop itself is small and retro, with brightly coloured tables alternating in blue or pink. Some may also call this an Instagrammers dream. Although the decor was a winner, the food was even better. I ordered the rainbow bowl with mixed grains (gluten free as it's quinoa and rice in coconut milk) and my sister had the acai bowl with a chai latte. The benefit of having a sister is that I get to try two meals for one, and I certainly took advantage of that in this instance. I am pleased to report both options were equally heavenly. 

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Goa Taco

We discovered this by happy accident, as (being the sloths we are) we had been perusing Uber Eats (only out of curiousity, I swear...) and were intrigued by the concept of Indian style tacos wrapped in paratha. After an embarrassing desire to appear knowledgeable when taking friends out for dinner, and inadvertently taking them halfway across the city to a place closed on Mondays, Goa Taco became our fallback plan, and one that we did not regret. As with every place I went in NYC, Goa Taco was super accomodating in regards to gluten free, and made my taco into a salad bowl topped with corn chips. I had the paneer cheese, spinach pesto, garam masala fried chickpea and tomatillo taco (yes I am reading off the website because it was so good and I had a margarita beforehand and got lost in the moment) and it was honestly one of my favourite meals of the entire trip. 

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Egg Shop

After a few failed attempts of getting here (being unaware of a long weekend is not a hot tip) we finally made it and had no ragrets. I had something called a Spandex which I remember because I was a bit embarrassed to ask my attractive waiter for a Spandex. It certainly helped I had had an extra large glass of prosecco before doing so.  The Spandex was essentially a light bowl of vibrantly dressed vegetables and pickles and yes, you guessed it, eggs! At Egg Shop! Crazy!  But in all seriousness it was delicious, and so was the Indian style one my sister ordered, and so were the almond milk iced lattes. All round winner for a lighter, healthy lunch. 

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By Chloe

By Chloe is an entirely vegan 'fast food' place that will change the way you think about vegan food, I promise. I myself am not a vegan, but I ordered the black bean and avo burger (on a gluten free bun, which was a lot better than your average gf bread) and I honestly felt like I was having a sinfully delicious (to excuse my Will and Grace reference for the die hards) Maccas burger, in the absolute best sense. It tasted delightfully junk like, yet was filled with interesting and exciting flavours that gave it depth no Maccas burger could achieve. I would also recommend the sweet potato fries and the pink lemonade, because damn. If you happen to go to the Bleeker Street establishment and brave the queue, you can reward yourself with a cake from the By Chloe cake store next door - this one below is both vegan and gluten free (!!) and tasted like none of the above. So good. 

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