Saturday, 27 July 2013

Healthy Rhubarb and Ginger Upside Down Cake

Last month's Australian Delicious magazine contained a feature from Katie Quinn Davies, a collaboration of delicious winter cakes, which left my mouth watering as I hungrily flicked through the glossy pages that elegantly displayed her creative recipes. An upside down rhubarb cake in particular grabbed my attention. Perfect photography combined with a brilliant recipe left me craving this vivid and warming dessert. However the cake unfortunately contained a little too much sugar and gluten for my liking as I wanted this cake as a light afternoon tea that I then wouldn't feel guilty and weighed down by. So I looked at this recipe as I do with many, a challenge, to recreate, using ingredients that nourish and agree with me.

While many of my first attempts to recreate a recipe fail miserably, this cake defied all my expectations. It was moist and flavorful, bright and appealing, with the warming ginger spice the perfect partner for the tart rhubarb. Why flour and sugar were ever necessary are beyond me, with the almond meal and coconut flour giving the cake a dense and moist texture that wheat flour could simply not achieve. This texture I believe is necessary to compliment the hearty rhubarb and support its weight as the star feature of this cake. The boyfriend agreed that the flavors of this cake were enhanced by it being flourless, with this recipe being a sure hit with him as evidenced by the cake's rapid disappearance over that warm winter afternoon.



Upside Down Rhubarb and Ginger Cake
Serves 8

Ingredients

5 stalks rhubarb, cut in half lengthways and then cut horizontally at 3cm (1.5 Inch) intervals
4 tbsp honey or rice malt syrup
2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated
1/4 cup water
4 eggs
1/2 cup granulated stevia
100ml almond milk
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
20 drops vanilla stevia
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 cup almond meal
3 tsp baking powder

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350F) and grease a springform cake tin, lining it with baking paper.

2. Cover the bottom of the pan with the rhubarb, making sure not to leave any large gaps between the pieces.

3. Place the rice malt syrup or honey, ginger and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil and stir constantly until the mixture thickens and turns a light golden brown. Pour the mixture over the rhubarb in the cake tin and set aside.

4. Beat the eggs and granulated stevia until pale. Add the coconut oil, liquid stevia, vanilla essence and almond milk, beating again until combined. Add the coconut flour and almond meal, beating until all lumps disappear. Finally, fold in the baking powder.

5. Pour the batter over the rhubarb and smooth the top out with the back of a spatula (the mixture will be quite thick). Place the tin in the oven and bake for 50 minutes. Once 50 minutes has passed and the cake is golden brown, remove from the oven and let the cake cool completely while still in the pan.

6. Once cool, remove the sides of the springform pan and invert the cake onto a serving plate. Serve with tea or coffee for a healthy yet satisfying afternoon treat. I really hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Rabbit Pie

I am always up for trying new foods, in fact there are few things which excite me more. Walking through the meat isle at Coles I was super shocked to stumble upon a small hoard of wild rabbits staring back at me. Despite the ridiculous price tag, the rabbit quickly found its way into my shopping basket and soon after on top of my kitchen bench.

After watching a quick YouTube demonstration on how to joint a rabbit, I eagerly hacked away at the long foreign protein before me. My experience of jointing a rabbit was anything but graceful. The YouTube demonstrator man made it look so easy and effortless, which was completely misleading because I found cutting up a rabbit into neat little portions is anything but easy! After 30 minutes of violently trying to cut through bone, locate the 'saddles' and remove the hind legs, I was left with a very messy and dismembered bunny, but whatever, at that point I did not care, the bunny was portioned and the hardest part of the cooking experience was over.

Once the bunny was cut up (seriously just cut it up however you want), it was smooth sailing from there. After about 3 hours in total I was finally able to taste my first ever mouthful of rabbit! And yum! Why had this experience been delayed so long?! Rabbit is rich and hearty, tasted a little like lamb yet with the texture of chicken. This pie is the perfect winter warmer and a healthy take on the humble pie. Rabbit is a super lean meat and a great addition to any diet. If it was more affordable I would love to eat it more often, however at $16 a rabbit and while living on a uni budget, it will have to be reserved for special occasions.


Rabbit Pie
Adapted from He Needs Food
Serves 4

Ingredients

1 rabbit, cut into 6 pieces
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
4 carrots, diced
4 sticks celery, roughly chopped
200g smoked pork loin or bacon, diced
2 tbsp smoked paprika
2 large bay leafs
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp Juniper berries, crushed
10 drops liquid stevia or 1 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup red wine (Shiraz works well)
2 tbsp vino cotto
3 cups chicken stock (homemade is best)
1 small sweet potato
Olive oil to spray
Salt and Pepper to season

Instructions

1. In a large cast iron pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the rabbit and brown on all sides, removing once complete.

2. Add the onion and saute until soft. Add the garlic, carrot, celery and pork, stirring over medium heat for a further 2 minutes. Return the rabbit to the pan, add the paprika and saute for a minute further. Now add the wine, de-glazing the pan, followed by the stock, tomato paste, bay leaf, juniper berries, vino cotto, salt, stevia and thyme.

3. Bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover the pot however leave the lid slightly ajar so steam can escape, and cook for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Once 90 minutes has past, remove the rabbit from the pot and shred the meat from the bone. Return the meat to the dish and bring the mixture to a soft boil, allowing the mixture to thicken for a further 20-30 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 210°C (410F). Using a mandaline, thinly slice the sweet potato width-ways. Once the rabbit mixture is thick and reduced, adjust the seasoning if needed and spoon the mixture into a pie dish, topping with the sweet potato. Lightly spray the sweet potato with oil and bake for 20 minutes, or until the potato is cooked and soft. Remove from the oven and serve immediately with desired green vegetables.



Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Homemade Vanilla Chai Concentrate

I am a little bit of a tea addict. Despite having no money and constantly whinging about my finances as a poor uni student, I am still more then happy to justify spending a ridiculous amount of money on tea. From fruity tisanes to exotic greens, delicate whites, flavored rooibos and classic blacks; nearly an entire shelf in my pantry is dedicated to storing tea in neatly labelled canisters and jars.

However the new financial year recently began and my partner and I sat down and had a good hard look at our budget. Putting the obsence amount of money I spend on clothes aside (that is another story in itself), it was obvious our food bills were slightly excessive, with my tea fund an easy area to cut in order to help elevate our costs. 

Chai is easily my most favorite cup of tea. Not only is it a black tea that helps wake my sleepy head but the melody of spices helps ease any adversity that I must face throughout the day. 

When I was in Melbourne I bought the most incredible blend of vanilla chai tea however it has sadly come to its end. My favourite blend of chai I can get in Sydney is ok but I always find myself adding more spices to the brew to help give it a bit of a kick. A few months ago I found a liquid chai concentrate that was strong, spicy and ticked all the boxes. However the price tag is not one my partner would ever see the value in... and as much as I loved it I would have to agree. 

When all hope seemed lost, last week a revelation occurred when I stumbled across a recipe for DIY chai concentrate on a fellow bloggers site. It then hit me that I COULD MAKE MY OWN chai concentrate. Mind was blown and my new chai making journey began.

I buy my spices from Middle Eastern/Indian specialty shops and buy them in bulk. I suggest you do so also as you will save SO much money. While at first buying all the spices you need to make your own chai might be a little pricy, once you stock up and have your pantry resembling a mini spice market, you will be savings oodles over the next year! 



Homemade Vanilla Chai Concentrate
Adapted from Cooking ala mel   
Makes 4 1/2 cups concentrate

Ingredients 

5 cups water
10 cheap black tea bags, labels removed or 10 tsp loose leaf black tea
10-20 drops vanilla stevia (depending on taste)
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 cinnamon sticks
3 cm (1-2 inch) piece of ginger, roughly chopped 
10 whole cloves
8 cardamon pods
2 whole anise stars
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Instructions

1. Throw all ingredients into a medium size saucepan. Bring the mixture to the boil and then lower the heat until the liquid is softly simmering. Cover the saucepan with a lid and let simmer for 20-30min.

2. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve and into a large bowl, allowing it to cool completely. 


3. Once cool, the concentrate can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.

4. To serve, combine chai concentrate with milk in a ratio of about 2:1. However I like my chai strong and less milky, so feel free to play around with this ratio to find one that suits your taste :)

If you would like make hot chai tea, gently heat the mixture in a small saucepan until simmering, or simply place it in the microwave for 2-3 minutes as I do. 

The concentrate also tastes amazing cold so feel free to serve it over ice for a refreshing iced chai tea. 

It cold even be used to flavor baked goods...mmm...the possibilities are endless!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Healthy Low Carb Pizza Crust

I don't eat pizza. Or pasta. Or rice. Or bread. And I am not sorry for this.

However this has not always been the case. In the past I was filled with guilt when I made my friends choose places to eat or cook around my dietary preferences. They did not seem to understand that I just can't handle eating certain foods. I would often be looked at in disgust as I ate the toppings off pizza, or the fillings in sandwiches, leaving behind the doughy and refined crust or bread. When I started dating my current partner I felt ashamed of my dietary preferences and hid them at first, because who wants to be seen as that crazy girl who only eats salad when on a date?! So I gave in and ate whatever I felt like for a few months ignoring my normal food bans. And do you know what? I got fat. Well not fat fat but a little pudgy. No one admitted it to me but I did. Since being in a relationship, the weight kept slowly creeping on and before I knew it I was looking a little rounder and softer than before and my clothes were significantly tighter. After seeing photos of myself from earlier this year I knew I had to refine my diet once again. I told William we were no longer eating sugar and my black list of foods was back and in force! And guess what? Not surprisingly I lost weight.

It is for that reason I am not sorry I have strict and bizarre dietary habits. While I am happy to on occasion have the special sweet treat, generally I will not eat refined sugar, bread, pasta or rice. I am not sorry that I will massacre my slice of pizza or pick out the noodles from a stir-fry. These habits allow me to feel comfortable in my own skin and force me to eat foods which are nutrient dense and better for me. A gluten-free and refined sugar free diet has also left me feeling so much better, less bloated and with far more energy.

However I still like to eat lots of food, just good food, like this healthy pizza.


While I have created flourless pizza bases in the past they have never really given me the 'this could actually be real pizza' feel that I have desired. What I mean by that is that the base has never been strong enough to support the topping so you could pick it up and eat it with your hand as you would 'real' pizza. One of my favourite bloggers who I absolutely adore, The Healthy Foodie, posted an amazing blog post on a cauliflower pizza crust with a picture of her hand holding a piece of pizza, with the crust strong enough to support the topping. I got a little excited by this and when last week my fortnightly veggie box, delivered to me through Aussie Farmers Direct, came with a cauliflower in it I knew great things were about to happen...

And how they did! My taste buds were delighted on Monday night when introduced to this Cauliflower Crust Steak Pizza. While I changed the healthy foodies recipe slightly, it still resulted in a firm crusted pizza that I was able to pick up with my hand. The base was moist and flavourful, and unlike pizza dough was refreshingly light, which I felt complimented the hearty and tender scotch fillet steak perfectly. The pizza was also greeted with as much enthusiasm from the boyfriend, who although acknowledged the taste and texture was different to normal pizza, said it was delicious nevertheless.


The pizza base is paleo, gluten-free, low carb, protein rich and nutritious. So basically everything that regular pizza dough is not. However most importantly it tastes great and would work with any topping your heart desires. Go on and try it, I assure you that you will be pleasantly surprised :)


Healthy Low Carb Pizza Crust
Adapted from The Healthie Foodie
Serves 4

Ingredients

1/2 head cauliflower
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp horseradish
2 eggs
1 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp fresh parsley
3/4 cup almond meal
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 tsp granulated stevia or honey
Salt and pepper to season

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 210 degrees Celsius (410F). Line a pizza pan with baking paper and place it in the oven to warm up.

2. Chop the cauliflower into small florets and place in a food processor. Blitz on high until the cauliflower resembles small 'rice' like particles. Do not over process as you do not want the mixture to turn into a puree!

3. Remove the cauliflower crumbs from the food processor and place in a small microwave safe bowl. Place a damp piece of paper towel on top of the mixture and microwave for 5 minutes, until the cauliflower is soft. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes before using either paper towel or a tea towel to squeeze out excess moisture from the cauliflower.

4. Add the mustard, horseradish, eggs, chia seeds, parsley, stevia, almond meal, coconut flour and seasoning to the cauliflower crumbs and mix to combine. Depending on how much moisture you were able to squeeze out, you may need to add more or less almond meal/coconut flour to the mixture to achieve a wet dough-like mixture.

5. Once your dough has reached a moist yet thick and semi-firm texture, remove the hot pan from the oven and place the wet dough on the prepared pan, spreading it out so it covers the entire base of the pizza pan evenly. Put the pan in the oven and bake for 20-25 min until golden brown.

6. Once cooked remove the pizza from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before topping with desired ingredients. I made a tomato base by mixing tomato paste with some Dijon mustard, crushed garlic and dried Italian herbs, spread it with a pastry brush across the pizza and then topped it with baby spinach, seared scotch fillet steak, mozzarella cheese, homemade sugar-free BBQ sauce and fresh parsley. I then placed the pizza back in the oven and baked for 10 minutes. Once you remove your pizza from the oven allow it to cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving. Enjoy :)