Chocolate zucchini sheet cake with chocolate avocado icing

I've got a (sheet) slice of realness for you today. Despite all my googling, I am still unsure if this is what you can definitively call a sheet cake. Is it an American thing? Am I making it up? Is this a sheet cake? Either way, it's a succinct enough title that I plan to keep it, irrespective of the reality. Cheers for your support.

DSC_3890.jpg
DSC_2688-2.jpg
DSC_2659.jpg

Zucchinis have been my lord and saviour with all the digestive issues I've been having - they're filling, mostly bland, and very much FODMAP approved. I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said that I eat three or more zucchinis in a day. Because I really, genuinely do. Given my hero worship of this humbly excellent veg, it seemed only fitting to try and incorporate it into every aspect of my diet, cake included. 

It wasn't that long ago that I used to make Nigella's 'courgette' cake for my Mum's birthday, weirding myself out, year after year, by the fact that I was putting ZUCCHINi in CAKE. It's times like these that I truly believe in the human capacity to evolve and grow. 

This cake is gluten free, grain free, refined sugar free and FODMAP friendly. It's also dead easy to make, which is arguably a bigger bonus than all the above combined.

DSC_3983.jpg

INGREDIENTS

1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup tapioca flour
200g grated zucchini (skin on, about one medium-large zucchini)
3/4 cup cacao or cocoa
1/2 cup coconut sugar
2 teaspoons maple syrup
2 eggs
2 tablespoons almond butter
1 tablespoon coconut oil (softened)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Generous pinch of sea salt flakes

FOR THE ICING:
1 large avocado
1 tablespoon maple syrup (2 if you have a particularly sweet tooth)
1/4 cup cacao or cocoa
Pinch of sea salt flakes

DSC_3942.jpg

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Combine the almond meal, eggs, cacao and zucchini in your food processor, scraping down the edges intermittently, until you have a nice smooth batter. Add the coconut sugar, maple syrup, almond butter, coconut oil, vanilla bean paste and sea salt, and continue to process until combined. Add the baking powder and apple cider vinegar, and stir by hand to combine. 
3. Pour the mixture into a small greased baking pan. I used both a small rectangular 27cm x17 cm and square 20cm x 20cm pan, both to success. 
4. Place into the oven for 15-20 minutes. You may need to adjust the timings, depending on how thinly your cake batter is spread. 
5. While the cake is cooking, process your avocado, cacao, maple syrup and sea salt together until a smooth icing forms. You might have to scrape down the blender a few times, depending on the size of your avo.
6. Once the cake has cooked and cooled, pile it up with the avo icing, and top with aesthetically pleasing bits and pieces as you see fit. The cake keeps well (icing and all) in the fridge for a number of days. 

DSC_2647.jpg

Kaffir lime pavlova and kaffir candied limes and vanilla coconut yoghurt

Is there anything more noble than reinventing the wheel aka the pavlova? Not much, is the answer you are looking for. As part of some work with the lovely people at Australian Eggs, I decided it was about time I combined the two loves of my culinary life - the pavlova and the kaffir lime. 

DSC_1267.jpg

Ingredients

For the pavlova:
¾ cup white sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
4 egg whites
1 teaspoon grated frozen kaffir lime

For the candied limes:
2 limes
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
5 kaffir lime leaves

1 cup coconut yoghurt
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

DSC_1821.jpg
DSC_1113.jpg

To make the candied limes:
1. Place the sugar, water and kaffir lime leaves in a medium saucepan, and bring to the boil. Stir intermittently, and continue until the sugar has completely dissolved, and you have a viscous sugar syrup. Add the slices of lime, and set the timer for 12 minutes.
2. Once the timer is done, check that the limes have tender peel but have not disintegrated. Continue cooking for up to an additional 5 minutes, if you think it is necessary.
3. Shake the excess sugar syrup off the limes, and lay them on a drying rack or baking paper. Allow them to dry for a minimum of an hour, overnight if possible. You can also dry them in the fridge, if you need to speed the process up.

DSC_1786.jpg

To make the pavlova

1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
2. Carefully separate your egg yolks and whites in clean vessels, and transfer your egg whites into a large, meticulously clean bowl.
3. Using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Slowly, tablespoon at a time, begin adding the sugar, and continue until it is all incorporated. No sugar granules should remain in the glossy meringue. Add the grated kaffir lime zest, and stir gently to incorporate.
4. Paint the meringue onto a piece of baking paper. I find it helps to lightly spray a baking tray before laying the baking paper down, to stop it from sliding around as you paint on the meringue. Create a shape of your choosing, and transfer the pavlova to the oven for 20 minutes.
5. After 20 minutes, turn your oven down to 100-120, and continue to cook for an hour to an hour and a half. Once it has finished cooking, turn the oven off, and leave it in the oven to cool completely. This is optional, but very helpful in ensuring the meringue doesn’t bleed sugar.
6. Mix together the coconut yoghurt and vanilla bean paste, and an optional teaspoon of the kaffir sugar syrup used to create the candied limes. Spoon this on top of the pavlova (you can use cream if you’re a purist) and arrange the candied limes (and some optional kaffir lime leaves if you’re feeling extra) and serve.

DSC_1831.jpg
DSC_1280.jpg

Beetroot and Harissa pickled devilled eggs

If there is one thing I'm making a bee-line for a party, it's devilled eggs. Not only are they delicious, and not only am I too lazy to make them myself, but I know that, give or take some spring onion, they will generally be friendly for a FODMAP gal like myself.

DSC_0880.jpg

Australian Eggs asked me to create some eggo recipes, and I was instantly drawn to an idea that I'd seen on the gram: beetroot pickled eggs. Not only are they are particularly aesthtically pleasing way to serve a devilled egg, but they also take on a completely new texture, firmness, and flavour. It doesn't hurt that I am childishly/plebbishly obsessed with canned beetroot - I'm pretty sure a better way to eat beetroot doesn't actually exist. 

DSC_1603.jpg
DSC_0859.jpg

Ingredients

For the pickled eggs:
1 cup apple cider vinegar
¾-1 cup canned beetroot juice (from a 425g tin of canned beetroot)
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon harissa
8 hard boiled eggs

For the filling:

3 tablespoons Kewpie Mayo
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon curry powder
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon lime juice
½ teaspoon harissa paste
Coriander, to serve

DSC_0912.jpg

Method:

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the apple cider vinegar, canned beetroot juice, brown sugar, harissa and smoked paprika, and cook over a medium high heat, until the sugar is dissolved. This should take about five minutes.
2. Peel and wash your hard boiled eggs, and gently place them into a large, clean jar. Pour the pickling liquid over the eggs, and allow to cool before transferring to the fridge overnight. The longer you leave the eggs in the pickling liquid, the stronger they will taste, and the deeper the red colour will be. Be warned: pickled boiled eggs have a rather pungent smell. Don’t let it put you off!
3. Once the eggs are pickled, slice them in half lengthways, and gently remove the yolks from the whites. Transfer them to a small bowl.
4. Mash the egg yolks well, and then add the all ingredients for the filling. Mix until well combined, and then gently spoon back into the eggs. Top with some chopped coriander, and serve

DSC_0850.jpg
DSC_0802.jpg

Lemon and coconut cake Bombe Alaska

I was recently given the task of creating a recipe using a blowtorch from Williams Sonoma. I mean, what a task. Practically the day I received it, I confirmed what I had suspected all along: everything is more fun when you're using a blowtorch. Why put something under the grill, when you can TORCH it? Answer: there is no logical reason. 

DSC_7669.jpg
DSC_7604.jpg

The first thing that came to mind to make was, of course, a Bombe Alaska. A lot of people on Instagram marvelled at how 'retro' I had gone, but personally, I've always sort of thought of the Bombe Alaska as a bit of a timeless classic. This could be because I grew up after the golden era of the Bombe Alaska, but what could be more impressive than a dessert that is actually three desserts combined, and a dessert that can not only be torched, but subsequently set on fire? My mind says nothing. 

DSC_7624.jpg
DSC_5326.jpg

FOR THE LEMON COCONUT CAKE
2 cups almond meal
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
5 tablespoons maple syrup
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of half a lemon
100g butter
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2 eggs
3/4 cup almond milk, or milk of choice
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

FOR THE MERINGUE
3 large egg whites
½ cup caster sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla bean pastae

TO FILL:
1 litre good quality vanilla ice cream

UTENSILS:
20-22cm cake tin
1 Litre pudding bowl
Blowtorch

DSC_6640.jpg

METHOD

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

2. In a small saucepan over a medium heat, melt the butter, and add the maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla bean paste, lemon juice and lemon zest. Allow to cook for a couple of minutes, and remove when it starts to bubble.

3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the almond meal, desiccated coconut and tapioca flour, stirring to combine. Next, crack in the eggs, and add the almond milk. Once these are mixed in, add the warm butter mixture, and stir well to incorporate.

4. Finally, add the baking powder and apple cider vinegar, and stir the bubbles in thoroughly. Pour the mixture into a greased 20-22cm Spring form pan, and pop into the oven for 30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

5. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it cool enough to pop it in the fridge, where it needs to cool completely (you don’t want to melt your ice cream!)

6. Once the cake has cooled, take a knife and gently slice the cake horizontally to create two layers, as if you were sandwiching icing between them. Set one half of the cake aside.

7. Lightly spray your pudding bowl with oil, and line it with plastic wrap, making sure there is lots of overlay to assist in pulling the Bombe Alaska out later. The oil will help the plastic wrap stick to the edges.

DSC_7466.jpg

8. Place the pudding bowl, the right way up, on top of one half of the cake, and cut around the base of the bowl, to create the top (or roof) of the Bombe Alaska. Use the remaining piece of cake to cut 5 or 6 triangles, which will form a crown shape inside the bowl, giving the Bombe Alaska shape.

9. The second piece of cake will form the bottom of Bombe Alaska. Turn the bowl upside down (rim of the bowl touching the cake) and cut around it to create the bottom. You will press this into the bowl once it’s filled with ice cream.

10. Turn the bowl upright again, and place the small circular piece of cake in the bottom. Follow this with the triangular pieces (pointy side down) until you have a roof and walls for your Bombe Alaska. It is imprecise and needn’t be perfect – it is a protective layer for the ice cream against the heat of the blow torch.

DSC_7474.jpg

11. Take your vanilla ice cream and fill the pudding bowl around the cake. Press down firmly, and pack as much ice cream in as you can. Finish with the bottom layer of cake, pressing it down firmly over the ice cream. Make sure it is inside the pudding bowl rim – trim it slightly if need be. Wrap the overlay of plastic wrap over the base, and return to the freezer to solidify.

DSC_7478.jpg
DSC_7483.jpg

12. To make the meringue, whip the egg whites in a very clean bowl with clean beaters. Once they have firm peaks, slowly add the sugars, and continue beating until the sugar has dissolved and the meringue is glossy and stiff. Beat in the vanilla bean paste, and set aside.

13. Remove your Bombe Alaska from the freezer, and place the bowl in some hot water, to assist in removing the cake from the bowl. It should only need to be in the water for a couple of minutes at most. You might be able to skip this step in a particularly warm climate.

14. Once you have removed the Bombe Alaska from the bowl, remove the plastic wrap and gently paint the meringue over the top of the cake layer. Once you have used the meringue (it will create a thick layer so you can leave some off if that’s not your style) use your blow torch to cook the meringue to a level of your liking. I like it to be quite dark.
15. Using a warm knife, gently slice the Bombe Alaska and serve!

DSC_7540.jpg
DSC_7664.jpg

 

 

5 ingredient gluten free lemon and caper 'carbonara'

I've had somewhat of a lemon revelation of late. I still remember when a friend said to me 'everything I eat is improved with a bit of lemon' and I thought to myself 'but how?" I've never been that person to use all the lemon wedges they give you with Pho, or with fish and chips, or really with anything. But now, here I am, discovering lemon and talking about it like I'm Founding Father of lemon.

DSC_4738.jpg
DSC_6476.jpg

I'm sure there are other recipes out there for zingy lemon pastas, but I've just discovered it, so you'll have to bare with me as I sit here writing about it like I'm something special.

INGREDIENTS

250g pasta (I used gluten free rice penne, but there are handy guides on how to convert uncooked to cooked between different pasta varietals - Google pasta measuring chart)
1 lemon, halved
100g Parmesan
50g capers
1 egg
Sea salt and cracked pepper, to serve (these don't count as part of the '5 ingredients clickbait attempt, right?)

DSC_6255.jpg

METHOD

1. Fill a medium saucepan with water, and add the juice and zest of half your lemon. Bring the water to the boil. 
2. Once the water is boiling, add your pasta, and stir intermittently to make sure they don't all clump together. Put the timer on for six minutes. 
3. Juice and zest the other half of your lemon, and set aside. Finely grate the Parmesan, and get your capers and egg ready to throw into the saucepan. 
4. Once the timer goes off, scoop a cup of the pasta water out and set it aside. You will need it put back in the pan. 
5. Drain the pasta once cooked, and return immediately to the saucepan it came from, but do not place back on the heat. Add 1/4-1/2 cup pasta water (1/2 for a runnier sauce) along with the lemon juice and lemon zest. Stir quickly to combine, and then add the egg, the Parmesan, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Continue stirring quickly until everything is combined. Finally, add the capers and some pepper, divide between two bowls, and go for it. Sprinkle with a bit of extra lemon zest if you're feelin' super fancy. 

DSC_6236.jpg
DSC_6219.jpg

Grain free 'choose your own adventure' muffins

Every now and again I look to check in here with a self indulgent whine about my health, and you're in luck, because today is the day!!

As you're maybe aware, I've been dealing with all sorts of digestive issues for the past three or four years now, which, despite a variety of medical interventions, seem to be worsening. I came to the sad realisation the other day that I actually can't remember what it feels like to not feel some level of terrible after eating. Woe is me. 

DSC_9313.jpg

In a moment of defiance, I decided that I wasn't going to let feeling unwell stop me from gorging on sweet baked goods. Enter, the 'all of my dietary niches' friendly muffin. It's gluten free, grain free, FODMAP friendly, refined sugar free, and can play host to a whole variety of flavours, depending on what you're in the mood for. It's pretty forgiving in that I haven't bothered to measure any of my additions, and they've all turned out excellently. I have tried plain, chocolate, chocolate and blueberry, rhubarb chocolate and halva, sprinkles, and roasted banana. Re-reading this paragraph makes it clear to me why I'm not seeing results from all the Pilates I do, but I digress. Enjoy. 

DSC_8176.jpg

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups almond meal
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
75g butter
2-3 tablespoons almond butter
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 egg
1/2 cup almond milk, or milk of choice
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Flavas of your choosing 

DSC_8934.jpg

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the tapioca flour, buckwheat flour, and almond meal.
3. Using a small saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat, and then add the maple syrup, almond butter, vanilla bean paste and salt. Stir until you have a brown, unappealing (but delicious) syrup, which will be a bit granular courtesy of the almond meal. 
4. Add the almond milk and egg to your flours, and stir well to combine. Once the butter mixture has cooled a tiny bit, pour it over the flour mixture and continue stirring until everything is combined.
5. Add the baking powder and apple cider vinegar, and gently stir through the bubbles. Now is the time to add any mix ins you're feeling -chocolate chips, strawberries, etc. Careful not to go TOO wild or the muffins will be difficult to remove from the tin. But you can go a bit wild. 
6. Pop the mixture into greased, silicione muffin tins (I managed to get them clean out of a regular container too, but I love the safe side) and into the oven for 15-20 minutes. 
7. Allow them to cool a tiny bit before running a knife around them and popping them out. They are best warm, but stay moist (ugh) for a couple of days. Heat them up a lil if they get dry. 

DSC_9296.jpg
DSC_8841.jpg
DSC_9306.jpg
DSC_9003.jpg

 

 

 

Miso and maple roasted greens, jalapeno and cheddar quesadillas

I've probably said it before, but Mexican style cuisine is up there with my all time favourites. I love that it's a bit of a chameleon in terms of what it can be, and that it naturally caters to a whole bunch of dietary requirements (ie mine). Don't start me on the time I went to provincial France over their holiday period and lived off hot chips and meringues. I mean it was pretty great but also not that great. 

DSC_3758-2.jpg
DSC_3811.jpg

When The Dairy Kitchen asked me to create a cheese focused recipe, my first obvious thoughts were a) yes and b) quesadillas. With lots of cheddar. So, kind of bastardised, Tex Mex type quesadillas, which, on my days, are my preferred sort, being the pleb that I am. On my 'intolerant to life' diet journey, I've discovered that cheese works really well for me, and I eat it most, if not every, day. It's generally low in lactose, contrary to common belief, and it's a good source of protein for me, given that I can't eat many other vegetarian sources, like beans. Cheese, much like Mexican, is up there with my all timers. 

DSC_3775.jpg

These quesadillas are a bit new age: they have roasted zucchini and broccoli, slathered in a maple, miso and jalapeno sauce. This makes an interesting and low fodmap alternative to the traditional bean variety of vego quesadillas, and the miso practically makes them the new superfood. I'm expecting a write up on Mind Body Green any day now. 

INGREDIENTS

1 medium head of broccoli (around 300g I think) chopped into small florets
2 medium zucchini, chopped (again, around 300g) sliced and then quartered
3 teaspoons miso paste (I found the darker varieties to give a stronger taste)
3 teaspoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2-1 teaspoon sriracha (I'd go with 1 but pull back if you struggle with chilli)
5-10g Jalapeno, chopped finely, plus extra to serve
100g freshly grated cheddar, plus extra for a dramatic cheesy effect (necessary)
6-8 corn tortillas, depending on how stuffed you want them
Lime juice, to serve
Coriander, to serve (optional, in part for aesthetics lel)

DSC_2493.jpg

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the maple, miso, sriracha and Jalapeno, and pour the boiling water over the top. Mix until the miso paste has dissolved completely, and then add the olive oil.
3. In a large bowl, combine the broccoli and zucchini with the maple miso sauce, ensuring every veg is well coated. 
4. Pop the veg on baking paper, on a baking tray, and into the oven for 25 to 30 minutes. 
5. Once the veg are done, immediately sprinkle them with half of the cheddar, and mix through. Load this cheesy mixture evenly into your tortillas, and arrange them snugly in a baking tin or on a baking tray, 
6. Once they're all on board, sprinkle them with the remaining cheddar and more (go wild) and return to the oven for 10 or so minutes, flipping it to grill at the end to get a beautiful golden colour. 
7. Serve with a squeeze of lime, extra jalapeno slices and a lil bit of coriander, if you're partial to the highly controversial herb. 

DSC_3809.jpg
DSC_3768.jpg
DSC_3835.jpg

Baked strawberry and rhubarb and a peanut butter, tahini and lemon zest crumble

As with many things in life, as the motivational quotes would tell you, the idea for this recipe was born out of a failed batch of cookies, or a general life fail, if we're sticking with the motivational quote theme.

DSC_0607.jpg

I'd spent the whole day recipe testing, deprived of human interaction (the perks of living alone, amirite guys?!) and yet, when it came to past 9, I decided to keep on pushing, and keep on recipe testing. In my 'I was ready for bed two hours ago' state, I forgot to add at least one egg, and at least one liquid, a fact that became blindingly apparent the next morning. As I went to test the fruit's of the previous night's labour, my satisfaction at my own productivity levels quite literally crumbled in front of my eyes. Because that is sometimes the way the cookie crumbles. Sorry, couldn't resist.

DSC_0630.jpg

Dad jokes aside (I think I've exhausted them all) I realised I had stumbled upon a pretty great fruit crumble topping. With a bit of tweaking, it is gluten free, grain free, refined sugar free, vegan, FODMAP friendly and embarrassingly easy to whip up for your dietary niche mates. 

DSC_9409.jpg

INGREDIENTS
1 bunch rhubarb (350g+, extra is fine) 
2 punnets (500g) strawberries
2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used crunchy, but NATURAL PEANUT BUTTER ONLY PLS - All that should be in there is peanuts and salt, check the label) 
2 tablespoons tahini
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup
Generous lemon zest
1-2 teaspoons mixed spice
sprinkle of sea salt flakes

DSC_0634.jpg

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. In your baking dish of choice, mix together your sliced strawberries and rhubarb, and drizzle them with the two tablespoons of maple syrup. Pop them in the oven for around 15-20 minutes.
3. While the fruit is cooking, mix together all the ingredients for the crumble, and mix mix mix until it becomes crumbly.
4. Once the fruit has been cooked (bubbly, juicy and bright but not fully cooked through) remove it from the oven and sprinkle the crumble over the top. Spray it with a little oil and return to the oven for around 15-20 minutes, or until the top is cooked. You can pop it under the grill for a little while to give it some colour, before serving it with coconut yoghurt or whatever else takes your fancy.

DSC_0653.jpg
DSC_9418.jpg

Gluten free apple and coconut cake with easy salted caramel sauce

I'm currently sitting in a cute lil air bnb in Byron Bay, a sunny, beachy, backpacker haven of a coastal town in Northern NSW. I had every intention of crafting a series of eloquent and witty blog posts before my departure, but life intervened, as it always does. And when I say life intervened, I mean that I ended up going to sleep at 9pm every night, binge watching Law and Order, and attending an indoor plant care workshop. Standard life interventions, yes? 

DSC_6869.jpg

Anyway, I've made this apple and coconut cake a bunch of times now, and I'm continually impressed by it. It's gluten free, refined sugar free, grain free, FODMAP friendlier, and super easy to make. It also lends itself super well to other fruit varieties: I've tried plum and feijoa, and next on my list is rhubarb or maybe even caramelised banana. The possibilities are endlessssss. 

DSC_8876.jpg

The cake is gluten free, grain free, FODMAP friendlier, and refined sugar free. The salted caramel is probably the easiest salted carmel you'll ever encounter, and although it does form little globs, it tastes exactly the same, minus 10kg of sugar, a sugar thermometer, and burnt hands. Bonus.

DSC_6841.jpg

INGREDIENTS

2 cups almond meal
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
4 tablespoons maple syrup
100g butter
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1 cup almond milk, or milk of choice
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 apples - 1 1/2 sliced (for the top or bottom) and 1/2 chopped, to mix through the cake

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, tapioca flour and coconut. These instructions are together because I forgot to mention the oven so I'm adding it in now. 
2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter, and then add the maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla bean paste. 
3. Back to yo large bowl: Add the almond milk and eggs to the flours, and mix until all combined. Add the chopped apple (In case you're tired and making this, ONLY the chopped apple, not the apple for the top!) Mix the buttery mixture into the flour. 
4. Add the baking powder and apple cider vinegar, and stir ze bubbles in. 
5. You can place your apple slices on the top or bottom of this cake, but whatever you decide, make sure the pan is greased and lined. Arrange your apples and pour over the cake batter (or vice versa, upside down is fun but slightly harder to remove) and pop in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Timing heavily depends on whether you're making a loaf or a cake, so check it intermittently, and spray the fruit on top (if it is on top) if necessary. 

SALTED CARAMEL

50g butter
2 teaspoons maple syrup
Generous pinch of salt

1. In a small saucepan, combine the butter and maple syrup. Once the butter has melted, turn the heat right up. AS SOON AS the mixture foams up, stir it a few times and turn the heat off. If you continue to cook it, it will turn into a giant glob. A delicious one, but one that is impractical in a pouring scenario. Add the salt, and pour over the cake with reckless abandon. 

NOTE: this recipe works splendidly with plums. And Feijoas. And probably most other juicy but not too juicy fruits. 

DSC_8882.jpg

Gluten free, vegetarian Okonomiyaki

Let me start this recipe by unoquivocally stating that these are not authentic okonomiyaki. In fact, given my exposure to the delicacy extends only to food courts across Australia, I doubt I've ever had authentic okonomiyaki.

DSC_6670.jpg
DSC_6686.jpg

I went through a stage at uni (before going gluten free or even being a strict pescetarian) where I did try and create an authentic version, but I vaguely recall that I was too squeamish to invest in the necessary bonito flakes, and too lazy to hunt down the appropriate flour. Plus, if I'm being totally honest, I personally adore the food court variety. The sadness that overcomes me when I have to walk straight past them at the food court nowadays is overwhelming. 

DSC_0499.jpg

I've experimented with a variety of versions throughout the years, but these ones are a gluten free, grain free and FODMAP friendlier adaption that I've been loving lately. I should point out that there's basically no point making them without the sauces - they are the backbone of the whole arrangement. Also, if you don't have Kewpie in your fridge I'd be concerned that you are missing out on an integral part of life, irrespective of whether you're making this dish. 

DSC_8298.jpg

INGREDIENTS

100g red cabbage, finely sliced
100g white cabbage, finely sliced
100g carrot (about 1 medium carrot) grated
2 cups almond meal
6 eggs
2 teaspoons Tamari
1/2 cup almond milk

Additionals (heavily recommended ones)
Chives
Kewpie Mayonnaise
Gluten free kecap manis (you can either buy it at the supermarket, or if not a healthfood store)

METHOD

1. In a large bowl, combine the vegetables and almond meal, and toss together until they are all combined. Add the eggs, almond milk (or milk of choice) and Tamari, and mix until thoroughly combined. Add a small pinch of salt if you fancy. Set aside.
2. Heat a nonstick pan to a medium heat, and add a small amount of peanut oil or sesame oil. Sesame gives a strong flavour but I quite like it.
3. Divide the mixture as you see fit. I made 6 pancakes each times, but they are particularly large, so you might want to make slightly smaller ones. 
4. Allow to cook for a couple of minutes, and flip the pancake when it's firm enough to do so. You should be able to see that the cooking side is no longer kinda translucent, and there might potentially be a few lil bubbles on the surface. Repeat on the other side, and then repeat with the remaining pancakes. 
5. Top each pancake generously with Kewpie mayo and the kecap manis, and sprinkle with chives if you can handle them. They keep amazingly in the fridge for snacks or for the quickest microwave dinner you've ever had. 

DSC_6716.jpg
DSC_6676.jpg

Gluten free parmesan, basil and turmeric waffles

If you've followed me for any length of time, you'll likely know that I love a good waffle. Not only does the perceived effort of a waffle skyrocket when compared to a mere old pancake, but I can wander off and a automatic timer will alert me to the fact that my waffles are done, as opposed to the billowing smoke that generally signals to me that my pancakes are (over)cooked. 

It was pretty much my ideal assignment then, when Williams Sonoma asked me if I could create a recipe using this waffle maker. No billowing smoke in this kitchen today, friends. 

DSC_4984.jpg

After (another) bout of being particularly unwell in the last couple of weeks, I've started incorporating a lot of turmeric into my foodz for the anti-inflammatory effect. What better way to become less inflamed, I figured, than by eating waffles. I've also been reading up on gut health, and found a study that conveniently suggested cheese was in fact good for the gut, what with the good bacteria and all. Say no more fam. Parmesan and turmeric waffles it is. 

DSC_5012.jpg

INGREDIENTS - makes 2 large waffles in a round Breville machine 

1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup almond milk
5g fresh turmeric, grated (most good supermarkets and health food stores sell fresh turmeric these days, or if not your local Asian grocer. Worth hunting for!)
Generous 5g basil leaves, chopped
75g parmesan
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar 

DSC_5022.jpg
DSC_5026.jpg

METHOD

1. In a medium bowl, combine the almond meal, tapioca flour, turmeric and parmesan. Pour over the almond milk, and stir until combined. Follow this with the egg, basil, and salt. Stir well.
2. Add the baking powder and apple cider vinegar, stirring in the bubbles. Set aside for 10 or so minutes.
3. Heat your waffle maker as per instructions, and spray liberally with oil before you pour in half the mixture. Close the lid and allow to cook. 
4. Repeat with the second half of the mixture, and then serve with a colourful array of breakfast suited veg. Haloumi also advised. as I said, I recently read that cheese is good for gut health, so... 
 

DSC_4988.jpg
DSC_5051.jpg

Gluten free, grain free fig and blue cheese tart

So I've been doing the whole food 'gramming thing for a while now. I started back when I'd gotten my wisdom teeth out, and, thanks to a lil knick to the sinus, found myself with a lot of free time to decoratively arrange cacao nibs on a plate, and a lot of puffiness. I loved faffing around with my food, and was strictly an Iphone shooter  - I didn't have an SLR, nor did I have much desire to use SLR shots for the gram. 'It defeats the purpose of INSTAgram,' I would say defiantly, a mentality I still deep down agree with, despite caving to the perfectly composed pressure. 

DSC_0527.jpg

Eventually, when the whole thing started to get a bit more serious, I invested (aka dedicated my 21st birthday wish list) in a basic SLR. I had no idea how to use it, so I stuck strictly to auto functioning (and continued to do so for a good two years). It was around about this time that I took the original shot of this tart. I didn't have Lightroom, a whole basket of tea towels, a wall lined with backdrops, or a penchant for Artisan crockery. What I did have was a private folder on Facebook that I used to upload my SLR photos, because the concept of getting them from my computer to my phone was absolutely baffling to me. 

DSC_0532.jpg

Anyway, the point of this whole ramble is this: that original tart photo is probably the most shared image I've ever created. It still pops up every now and again, even though I posted it two or three years ago. Whether it's because of the algorithm that it has received more attention than anything I've shot on a fancy camera, or because I've already peaked, I can't be sure, but I probably can (*googles how to cope with peaking too soon). 

I've created this version to be completely grain free - the original used oat flour and a bunch of other things my digestive system wouldn't even touch these days. This one also has zucchini flowers, courtesy, again, of my Dad's garden, but they don't necessarily add a whole heap of flavour, and could be omitted if you don't have access to freebies and don't want to take out a small loan.

INGREDIENTS

2 cups almond meal
1/2 cup tapioca flour
50g butter
2 eggs

400g firm ricotta
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk of choice
75g blue cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
10g (roughly) basil
2-3 figs
4-5 zucchini flowers (optional)

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. 
2. In your food processor, combine all the ingredients for the tart base until a ball forms in your food processor.
3. Press the tart base into a greased tart tin. You have to be a big patient, it does take a lil while. Poke the bottom of the tart with fork holes, and then pop it into the oven for 10-15 minutes. 
4. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta and milk, and stir until the ricotta loosens. Add the seasoning, eggs, and basil, and finally stir in the blue cheese. Set aside.
5. Once the tart base is cooked, remove it from the oven and, after cooling for a couple of minutes, pour the ricotta mixture in. Arrange your fig slices and zucchini flowers on top, and give them a light spray of olive oil. Pop the tart back into the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the ricotta mixture is firm.

DSC_0534.jpg
DSC_0523.jpg




 

Gluten free goats cheese, honey and rosewater cheesecake with a pistachio crumb

When I was asked by Miele to attend The World's 50 Best Restaurant awards, I didn't really know what I was in for. Being in what I call 'the niche diet' category, and being a Luddite, unsure how to download Netflix, I didn't run in circles that discussed the esteemed restaurants at length, nor did I watch Chef's Table. 

DSC_2320.jpg

I got some sense of what I was in for a few days prior to the event, when an excitable buzz descended on the Melbourne food scene, both for Melbourne Food and Wine week, and for the awards. It was an extremely prestigious event to be invited to, I was told. Always something a socially awkward person luvs to hear. 

DSC_2360.jpg

The awards were, despite any social awkwardness/stress rash, truly an experience. To be in a room filled with such talented, passionate and innovative people was nothing short of inspiring, despite the fact I was probably the most clueless person in attendance. It was undoubtedly a highlight of my Insta gal career, and, as such, I've created a recipe, supported by Miele. 

DSC_3498.jpg

Given that I was late after stressing about my outfit for hours ('Heston will be there, you need to look like you're important too') I sweatily and hurriedly sashayed down the red carpet, and was greeted by a waiter serving the simplest of dishes: Goats cheese drizzled with honey. The simplicity of it struck me, because while I'd always known it was a stellar combo, I'd never had it served in such a basic but bewdiful fashion. Naturally, I decided to base a recipe inspired by it, except I, naturally, went in the complete opposite direction and added all the faff possible.

DSC_3475.jpg

Seriously though, this cheesecake is so super easy to make, and not scary at all. You can omit the rosewater if you like (I mainly included it for a legitimate reason to add rose petals, which is so unlike me) but it gives a lovely perfume to it. Don't be scared by the goat's cheese - it lends a subtle tang and doesn't detract from the cheesecake whatsoever. It's gluten free, grain free and refined sugar free, but I promise it doesn't taste like it is. You can make mini varieties or a single large one too, just for fun. 

DSC_2170.jpg

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE CHEESECAKE
500g cream cheese
100g log goats cheese
4 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons honey, plus extra to serve
2 teaspoons rosewater
Juice of 1/2-1 lemon
4 eggs (3 if large) 

FOR THE PISTACHIO BASE
1 cup almond meal
3/4 pistachios, plus extra for decoration
20g butter
1 egg
1-2 teaspoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste 

METHOD - makes 5 mini cheesecakes or one regular one
You'll need mini springform tins (available at House) or one single 20cm springform tin

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. 
2. In your food processor, pulse the pistachios until they are almost flour like, and then add the remaining ingredients for the base. Pulse until a dough forms. 
2. Using a greased a springform tin(s) (plural if you're making mini ones) press the dough (divided into 5 if doing the mini thang) into the tin, making sure it's smooth and even. Poke lots of fork holes in the bottom to allow air to escape, and cook for 5 minutes if mini, or 10 if regular. 
3. While the base is cooking, combine the cream cheese, goat's cheese, maple syrup, honey and eggs in a bowl. A stand alone mixer is ideal for this job, but a hand held one does suffice, as I discovered. Mix mix mix until all the cream cheese lumps are gone, and then add the lemon juice and rosewater, if you're using it. If you're not, I'd suggest a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste instead. Or as well, if you're feeling fancy. 
4. Once the base(s) is/are cooked and cooled a little, pour the cheesecake mixture on top, and return to the oven. the small cheesecakes take 20-25 minutes, oven dependent, and the large one takes 40-45. 
5. Once cooked and cooled, top the cheesecake with extra pistachios, a drizzle of honey, and rose petals if you're a dud like I am. 

DSC_2314.jpg

Gluten free apple and cinnamon hot cross bun

The other week, as happens every Easter, I found myself completely unable to contribute to my friends' conversation about how excited they were that hot cross buns were FINALLY in the supermarkets. At least in Australia, I think we can all agree that they're somewhat of a cult item, and that there is definitely such a thing as hot cross bun season. Some may argue that supermarkets are extending said season for profit making purposes, others may rebut that the longer HCB season the better, I myself prefer not to get involved in the heated debate. 

DSC_0959.jpg
DSC_1424.jpg
DSC_0910.jpg

While I've heard that some supermarkets now cater to the gluten free HCB lovers amongst us, I myself am having a bit of success with a grain free diet while I await the next round of tests in the seemingly never ending quest to get to the bottom of my digestive woes.

With all that in mind, I heard an advertisement on the radio spruiking apple and cinnamon hot cross buns, and I decided to be the master of my own destiny, and make myself some gluten free, grain free HCBS like the independent woman I am. They're also FODMAP friendlier (only one apple divided between 6 buns) and close enough to refined sugar free, if you decide not to use the white chocolate for the cross, although you definitely should, because who wants to eat flour when they could be eating white chocolate instead. Nobody, that's who.

DSC_1334.jpg

While all the 'frees' often makes you wonder what you're missing out on, I am exceptionally happy with these HCBS and I don't think they taste like missing out.  They're  more dense and cake-like (Mum likened them to Stollen HCBS) than the variety you'd be used to if your digestion isn't shit, so you really only need one at a time. As with most gluten free baking, they do go dry quite quickly, but zap them in the microwave or even, spread some butter on and it's business as usual.

INGREDIENTS - makes 6 large and in charge or seven lil HCBS 

3 cups almond meal
1 cup tapioca flour
100g butter
4 1/2 - 5 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 sachet of yeast (the full sachets are 7.5g grams I believe) 
1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar (I used brown) 

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped into small squares
1 cinnamon stick
2-3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon maple syrup 

Extra butter and maple syrup, to glaze
30g white chocolate

DSC_1359.jpg

METHOD

1. In a small saucepan, heat your chopped apple with the cinnamon stick, water and maple syrup, over a low medium heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the apples are soft but still firm in shape. Take them off the heat and set aside. 
2. Melt the butter in whatever way you choose. I don't have a microwave so I use the double boiler method. Once it's melted, add the mixed spice, cinnamon and maple syrup and stir well. 
3. In a small bowl, add your 1/2 sachet of yeast, 1/4 cup water and teaspoon of sugar, and leave to sit for around 10 minutes, or until it's foamy and bubbly. 
4. In a large bowl, combine your almond meal and tapioca flour, followed by the butter mixture, and the active yeast. Stir thoroughly until it is all combined and a sticky dough has formed. 
5. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave it in a warm place for one hour. If it's cold where you are, you might like to leave it by the heater or turn the oven on. I sat mine in a towel outside in the sun. 
6. Shortly before the hour is up, preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. 
7. Once the hour is in fact up, take your dough and throw the apple in. Gently mix it all together, and then divide the mixture evenly into six balls. It should be easy to pick up and easy to mould without getting your hands sticky. 
8. Once you've rolled all the buns, arrange them in a little hugging format on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Mix equal parts melted butter and maple syrup, and generously glaze each bun with the mix. Pop them in the oven for 20-25 minutes. If you've made the smaller buns, go for a maximum of 20 minutes. 
9. Once the buns are done, allow them to cool completely, before crossing them with melted white chocolate. 
 

DSC_1412.jpg
DSC_0957.jpg

Za'atar crusted sweet potato chips with a coconut preserved lemon dipping sauce

So it turns out I've been making sweet potato chips incorrectly my entire life. As with most things in my kitchen, I've be using the 'more is more' approach to olive oil, throwing them in the oven, and hoping for the best. I am so much wiser and smugger now. 

DSC_7817.jpg
DSC_7783.jpg

When Coco Tribe asked me to create a recipe heroing their coconut yoghurt, my first thought was chips n dip, and crunchy chips at that. What better opportunity to pass off googling sweet potato chips as a work activity? For the unitiated, there's basically a whole corner of the web dedicated to the perfectly crunchy oven baked sweet potato chip. There were some methods I was less keen to try - washing them with egg white and liberally sprinkling them with coconut flour (am I the only person who thinks eating coconut flour is akin to eating sand?) some reasonably heavy duty science, and really, just a lot of people who love sweet potato chips. Needless to say, I learnt a lot.

DSC_9079.jpg

Irrespective of whether you're making this recipe or you've just come here because you're currently sifting through blogs on crunchy sweet potato trial and error, here are the top tips I recommend you try implementing with all your chip creations:

DSC_7800.jpg

1) Ensure you cut the chips to as even size as possible. Yeah yeah I know, I used to yawn at this too, and I'm yawning at myself writing it. But it definitely does help.
2) Once you've cut your chips (to even sizes of course amirite guys) soak them in a large bowl of water for at least an hour, overnight if you ceebs. This draws the starch out of the sweet potatoes. I can't remember how that helps with crunch, but it does. 
3) Once you've soaked them, leave them on a tea towel to dry, and then pop them in a small plastic bag with a small amount of corn or tapioca flour, and shake them super well. This will help crunch up the edges.
4) Don't add salt until the end! This encourages them to release moisture when cooking, making 'em soggy
5) Add a teaspoon or two or vegetable oil, rather than olive, and rather than half a bottle. Olive oil has a lower smoke point compared to veg oil (I also hear grapeseed is good) so your chips will burn a lot quicker. 
6) When you flip them at half time, rotate the trays from top to bottom, and spin them front to back, to allow for even heat distribution. Fancy terms for fancy food. 
7) Finally, use baking paper and ensure that none of the chips are touching, and that you haven't overcrowded the oven. Too many chips = moist environment = a lot of soggy chips. 

INGREDIENTS

700g-800g sweet potato, peeled (roughly 2 medium sized sweet potatoes)
2 teaspoons za'atar
3 teaspoons corn flour or tapioca flour
2 teaspoons vegetable or grapeseed oil
1/2 cup coconut yoghurt (I used Coco Tribe, I find their yoghurt much more savoury than the other plain coconut yoghurts, which makes it excellente for dip) 
2 teaspoons (plus extra if you're a big fan) preserved lemon juice
sea salt and torn mint, to serve 

DSC_9113-2.jpg

METHOD

1. Chop your sweet potato into evenly sized chips, and chuck them in a big bowl of water, leaving them to soak for at least an hour. Once soaked, dry them off thoroughly with a tea towel, and preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. 
2. In a small plastic bag, add your za'atar and corn or tapioca flour, followed by the sweet potato chips. Shake it like a polaroid picture, or, you know, shake your chips until they're well coated in the mix. 
3. Add the oil to the bag, and carry on shakin' until well coated again. 
4. Line two baking trays with baking paper, and evenly spread the chips over the trays, leaving none of them touching and none too overcrowded. Cook for 15-20 minutes, and then swap the trays from top to bottom and front to back, to make sure they're cooking evenly. 
5. Once you've turned them, pop them back in the oven for another 15 or so minutes, until they're crunchy and browned. 
6. For a bit of extra crunch, turn the oven off, leave the door open, and leave the chips in the oven while you make the dip. To make the dip: Mix the preserved lemon juice into the coconut yoghurt and ur good to go. Give the chips a super light spray of olive oil (so the salt sticks) sprinkle over some salt and mint, and donezo. 

DSC_8042.jpg

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.

image2-19.JPG

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. 

image3-9.JPG

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

image3-5.JPG

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.

image2-21.JPG

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. 

image2-20.JPG

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. 

image2-22.JPG

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. 

image1-28.JPG

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. 

image3-10.JPG
image1-29.JPG

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. 

image3-11.JPG

TULUM

IMG_3139.JPG
image2-23.JPG

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! 

image1-30.JPG

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. 

image3-13.JPG

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. 

IMG_3613-1.JPG
image3-12.JPG
image1-32.JPG
image3-14.JPG

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. 

image1-35.JPG