Tag Archives: recipes

’tis the season…

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

… mini fruit mince pies….

…to make Christmas Fruit Mince Pies!

I love Christmas food… don’t we all?… but most of it is off my diet, so over the last few years I’ve tweaked a few recipes to make my own Niquie-safe versions.

 

 

 

These mini mince pies are one of my favourites. They are very rich, so you only want to make them small (this, I discovered by trial and error), and they fit beautifully in those little mini-muffin cases.

Pie Casing Ingredients:

(to make 24 mini fruit mince pies)

  • 200g / 2cups almond flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 30g butter (or equivalent of sweet macadamia oil)
  • 2 tablespoons honey

This year I am experimenting with ‘natural’ almond flour, that is, almond meal that has been ground with the almond skins on, and I have split the quantities to add 1/2 cup of coconut flour. I’ve also added a teeny amount (very scientific measurements) of ground spices, just to add a certain piquancy to the flavour. Talking of piquancy, I’ve also used a gorgeous macadamia oil that has been infused with lemon myrtle.

Method:

  1. Measure out and mix the dry ingredients thoroughly. Since sieving natural almond flour is rather beside the point, I crushed any lumps of flour or bicarb between my fingers as I mixed.
  2. Pour in the honey and oil together, and mix it all together with a fork or a spoon. Check consistency. I added a bit more oil, possibly due to the ‘natural’ nature of the almond flour.
  3. Knead gently to form a smooth ball, then pop it into the refrigerator for about half an hour to firm up a bit before you start rolling out.
  4. Knead gently to ease it out, then roll between two pieces of baking paper.
  5. At this point, I discovered, it is easiest to use a small cutter to determine the size of your bottom pie case, then just roll it into a small ball and squish (another example of scientific terminology) into the mini-muffin case, using your thumb to create a sizeable dent in the middle. If you want, you can ease a neatly cut circle into place, but I decided this was getting a bit fiddly.
  6. Spoon in your favourite fruit mince to fill the dent (I use my Mum’s home made mince, but you do have to make this in advance for the flavours to have fully seeped into the mix).
  7. Cut a tiny circle from the dough to make a ‘lid’ for each of the pies – I use a vodka shot glass that I somehow ‘inherited’ from our older children when they left home. Very handy. And I poke some holes in the top with a toothpick. Of the pie lid.  Not the shot glass.
  8. Bake for about 15-20 minutes at about 180oC. Think about popping a piece of baking paper over the top to prevent burning and be prepared to let it cook a bit longer if necessary. The art of cooking with almond flour is a lesson in flexibility.
  9. Let cool (the hardest part… waiting, waiting) and enjoy with a glass of your favourite Christmas cheer (or a cup of tea… chai tea goes well…)

 

As far as Christmas traditions go in our family, when I was growing up the mince pies were for celebrating Christmas Eve, generally taken with a smidgen of dry sherry (or ginger ale for the kids), usually after attending a vigil service at church. I still do this with my Mum, but it isn’t quite the same here in Australia, because we rarely (okay, never) have to trudge through snow to get to the church… and then I drive home, so I don’t partake in any alcoholic beverages at this stage. I usually have a tot of fine whisky (a fine single malt for preference) when I get back to Seventy Seven Acres, along with another mince pie with Matt and Will. After all, Christmas is all about family.

Christmas Fruit Mince Pies are also brilliant for Afternoon Tea on Christmas day, if you still have any room left after Dinner, or any time during the day at all really, especially on Boxing Day when nobody ever eats proper meals but spends the day grazing happily on leftovers.

NB. Whilst it’s probably too late now if you are looking for something to make quickly for Christmas, for future reference this is the basic fruit mince mix my Mum makes, although it tends to change a bit each year:

1 cup raisins, I cup sultanas, 1/2 cup chopped (pitted) dates, 1/2 cup (or more) mixed peel*, dark honey (about that much – mm – several dessert spoons full?) or dark brown sugar, if you prefer, whisky to taste (a good slosh – sorry, getting all scientific again), a half to full teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg or any other spice that you like… and you can add a goodly spoonful or two of your favourite marmalade, too, if you feel so inclined. And some chopped almonds or walnuts can be a nice addition, although the pies are very nutty as it is.

*crystallising your own can be much fun, too

Put it all in a bowl and mix it all up (a very quick whizz in a food processor is okay, but VERY is the operative word, or you get mush not mince), then transfer to an airtight container and leave in a cool, dark place for at least a week to develop the full flavour.

Mum recycles jam jars and hands them out to interested rellies. Whilst this is not strictly according to my diet, Mum goes all out to make it as Niquie friendly as possible and I tell myself it is only once a year. Although the mince does keep quite well in the fridge, so I usually have some left over ready for Christmas in July (mmm…you’d have to be Australian [or possibly from some other country in the southern hemisphere] to understand).

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas full of love and peace and joy… or, if you don’t celebrate Christmas, wishing you a happy holiday season with pretty much the same sentiments.

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Computers, Catastrophes, and Comfort Food…

I think I’ve recovered, now, but a few weeks ago I had one of those horrible moments when my old computer (read: very old) had been decommissioned and the new machine decided it was going to throw a tantrum.

My new computer, lurking beside my desk....

My new computer, lurking beside my desk….

Matt had been very careful building the new ‘box’ and had moved all my vast amounts of work across before the old computer had been gently put out to rest, but things weren’t going smoothly… so he decided to rebuild.

Fine so far.

He did a big back-up of all my data, and backed out of the first build, tweaked some of the open source installations and brought the newby back up.

Except it didn’t.

When he came to bed after the late nighter, he had mumbled something indistinct about something I didn’t quite understand, and promised me it would all be okay, but, when I rose early to do some writing, what I got was an unintelligible message basically telling me that, well, everything had gone away and the computer didn’t want to speak to me about it.

I knew, in my heart of hearts, that it would be okay. I knew that I had copies of my work on a USB stick and an external hard drive, it was just this restore that had gone awry, and, even if it couldn’t be fixed, it was really only the last couple of weeks of work that had been lost forever.

It is hard, however, to be rational when your brand new computer is behaving like a dead fish and your computer support person is snoring peacefully away at the other end of the house.

I did the only thing I could.

I went for a walk.

And then I made some apple crumble.

And ate it. For breakfast. With vanilla yoghurt. Which all went a long way towards making me feel a lot better and wasted enough time for Matt to wake up and revive my computer, complete with all the data, intact, and (vaguely) happy to speak to me again. Not right away, you understand, but eventually.

I love computers. I’ve been hooked since the day I told my (then) still fairly recently acquired husband that I needed a new typewriter and I rather fancied those clever ones with a little screen that let you type a couple of sentences and make sure there were no typos before it tapped it out onto the paper.

He said, that no I didn’t, and I begged to differ, but he came home with a PC with word processing software, and I quickly learned that this was the answer to all my typo infested dreams.

And then came the internet, and email, and after that, well, me and my computer were inseparable.

Of course, it has been a rocky relationship, with ups and downs and moments of intense frustration, fraught with catastrophes of varying intensity, and times when I could gladly pick it up and throw it out the window… but, on those occasions, a little comfort food goes a long way…

Individual Apple Crumble Comfort

Ingredients:

...apple crumble comfort straight from the oven...mmm...

…apple crumble comfort straight from the oven…mmm…

large apple, peeled, cored and sliced

handful of sultanas

tablespoon of honey

dash of water or apple juice

ground cinnamon, ginger and/or nutmeg to taste

cup of almond and coconut flour combined

generous splurge of macadamia oil

tablespoon of honey

Method:

Combine the apple, sultanas, honey, water and spices in a pan and heat gently, stirring occasionally until the apple has ‘fallen’ (a word my mother uses to indicate that something like apples or potatoes have basically gone all mushy – I don’t know if it is genuine technical term….)

– make sure it doesn’t burn and stick to the bottom of the pan because this only adds to the sense of catastrophe.

(If you are in need of extra comfort and like that sort of thing, you could add a dash of whisky close to the end of the cooking time.)

Meanwhile combine the flour, oil, and the other amount of honey in a bowl and rub them gently through your fingers until you have a sticky breadcrumb consistency. I also add a smidgen of extra spice, but it is a fairly rich topping, so it is up to you.

Pop the cooked apple into a mini-casserole dish and sprinkle the flour mixture over the top.

Bake in a slow to moderate oven just long enough for the topping to develop a nice golden colour – about 15-20 minutes – keep an eye in it, though, because nut flours burn easily.

While it is baking, measure out a portion of plain yoghurt and mix with a little honey and vanilla to dollop over the top when you serve it up, piping hot from the oven.

I ate half for my breakfast and half later on in the day, but you can save it in the fridge for a day or two if you want, and, of course, you can increase the ingredients to make enough to share. I made enough for Matt and Will, too.

If nuts are not part of your diet, you can use any plain flour that works for you, and substitute a different sweet oil or even butter for the macadamia oil. You could also use sugar instead of honey.

My ingredients are SCD legal to meet my peculiar dietary requirements. Unless you can’t eat nuts, it wouldn’t hurt to try it and you will find the richness of the almond and coconut flour adds to the decadence of the treat – all part of the comfort food experience!

Oh, and for the record, me and my computer are back on cordial terms and I am getting used to the new set of quirks that makes this computer an individual in its own right.

…One White Cockatoo

The poem, White Cockatoo, by Banjo Paterson starts

Now the autumn maize is growing,
Now the corn-cob fills,
Where the Little River flowing
Winds among the hills.
Over mountain peaks outlying
Clear against the blue
Comes a scout in silence flying,
One white cockatoo…

Of course, one white cockatoo is joined by clouds of cockatoos, descending like snow upon the ripening corn-cobs, and I guess that’s it for the crop…

Common across all of eastern Australia, these noisy birds can form huge flocks, resting in regular roosts close to water during the heat of the day and generally heading out to open country to feed either earlier in the morning or later on, when it is a little cooler.

Luckily, the pair of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos that stopped by my garden recently didn’t presage the arrival of a huge flock, but they did provide a few moments of pleasing entertainment.

ImageContrary to the way it may seem, I have a bit of a soft spot for these raucous natives.  They are the clever clowns of the garden and are not immune from playing practical jokes.  We had a large old pine tree in the garden of our house in suburbia where a small family of cockatoos used to congregate to break open the pine cones and eat the nuts.

No worries there.

Not so sure about the pine cones they used to drop on unwary gardeners and small children.

No.  I’m not kidding.  They used to wait until someone was passing underneath and then, basically, throw a pine cone at them.  And laugh.  True.

Or they would fly a low pass overhead and screech at the top of their voices from just behind their chosen victim.  Believe me, they are loud.  Does wonders for getting the heart pumping.

Whilst I had no objection to them eating the pine nuts, I was a little less pleased when they got stuck into our almonds.  There was no keeping them out either.  They generally found a way into or under any netting we put over our young trees, and looked at us with scorn if we tried to chase them off.  They just laughed at the dog, who would stand at the base of the tree, barking, knowing full well that there was nothing that she could do!

Of all the birds, I think that the cockatoo has the most developed sense of humour.

When we moved up from Melbourne some years ago, our new neighbours had a pet cockatoo that lived on a perch on their front verandah.  Our cat was a keen birder, despite our best efforts, multiple bells and water spray therapy.  She took one look at Cocky and you could see her eyes light up.  Heaven.  On a stick.

I was chatting with our neighbour, Anne, at the time and spotted her (the cat, not the neighbour) stalking across the garden.  With huge apologies, I went to prevent what I thought would be a disastrous introduction only to be stopped in my tracks.

“No, watch this,” Anne said, grinning.

A little reluctantly, I watched.

My feline friend continued her soundless approach, while the ‘unsuspecting’ cockatoo completely failed to notice.  I nervously explained that our cat was a very efficient hunter.

“Trust me,” Anne countered.

Cocky was by now preening his feathers peacefully while the Great Hunter bunched up her muscles, poised for the pounce.

And pounce she did.

I swear she was already in flight when Cocky suddenly exploded in size, fluffing up his feathers, extending his wings and opening out his beautiful yellow crest, giving an ear piercing, blood-curdling screech.

The Great Hunter turned in mid-air (against all the laws of physics) and disappeared under our deck, from whence she refused to return until Cocky went to bed.

Cocky bounced up and down on his perch, while Anne explained that this was his normal way of greeting any visiting cats.

I would like to say that our cat was cured of her hunting tendencies as a result of that event, and, indeed, it did cramp her style for quite a while (nor did she ever approach Cocky again), but we still had to perform the occasional rescue over the last few years of her life.

Meanwhile, Cocky’s favourite idea of a joke was to call out to passer’s by, usually inviting them to go to the pub with him, in a voice so realistic that people unfamiliar with him would be looking around for their erstwhile new friend.

Cocky was one of many pet birds around Canberra that were released as the 2003 fires raged through the suburbs.  By then we lived elsewhere (and our Great Hunter had passed on to the Great Hunting Ground in the Sky), but I often fancied that Cocky came to visit us, nonetheless, perhaps throwing pine cones at us from the tree in our backyard.  Perhaps he was the ‘scout’ that led all the others in their mischief…Image

The visitors to our garden the other day were, by comparison, quite benign.  Although they did spend some time investigating our weather station.  And I’m not saying that they wouldn’t have attacked our fruit trees if the wallaby had left them anything to attack.

Still, I’m happy for them to be occasional guests, stopping by once in a while… just, please, not in clouds, descending like snow.

 

 

 

Post Script: Also, just in case you were wondering, here’s a settler’s recipe for cockatoo stew:

Take one cockatoo and pop it in a billy of boiling water with a rock and a handful of root vegetables.  Boil until rock is tender then throw away the cockatoo!

I gather they are a bit on the tough side.  Never felt the urge to find out, personally, but there you go.

Post Post Script: the collective noun for these comedic birds is recorded, variously, as a chattering, clattering, cluttering, crackle, or cacophony of cockatoos.  My vote is for the cacophony.

Post Post Post Script: if you are keen to encourage these delightful birds into your garden by feeding them, I’m given to understand that they are partial to all kinds of seeds, nuts and fruit.  They are also partial to eating any wood that your house or garden structures may be made from, bird netting or shade cloth, and the occasional TV aerial.