I have been playing around with some of the new ingredients I find in my pantry. I bought chickpea flour to make Cyndi’s Gluten Free Bread (new Everyday Cookbook). There was quite a bit left. Then I saw a cooking show where they were making onion bhajis with chickpea flour. They looked delicious and what’s more like something my children might consider worth trying.
I looked up some recipes and came across one in my old favourite cookbook, Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion. She had a recipe for carrot fritters that looked similar to the bhajis, so I thought lets give that a whirl. The kids seem to prefer carrot things to onion things anyway. Also, the recipe required me to open a beer and being that kind of evening that was all the excuse I needed.
I roughly chopped 2 medium sized carrots and some spring onions and threw them into the Thermomix, chopping finely on Speed 5 for 5 seconds (I wanted the pieces pretty small, so cooking would be even as well as children not being able to pull out bits). I added 150g chickpea flour, 1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric, 1.5 teaspoons ground cumin, sprinkling of salt (recipe called for 1 teaspoon, I think you can sprinkle more on the cooked fritters if they need it rather than put too much in the batter), 1 egg and half a cup of beer. Recipe also called for 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, but I left it out in case children found them too ‘zingy’ (their word). If you would like it more zingy put it in, or throw in a chilli or two with the carrots and spring onion at the beginning. Mix on Speed 5 for 5 seconds or until all incorporated.
Heat oil in a frying pan. You need enough oil to be covering the whole pan and also coming up the sides a bit. You will need to top up oil in between batches. Remember to wait for it to heat up when you do this. Splodge small spoon sized batter in a pleasing pattern around the pan, leaving a little room between each so you can lever a spatula in to flip em over. When they start to brown around the edges, flip and wait a few more seconds to brown on the other side. Standard pancake procedure. Flip out onto kitchen paper lined plate. Eat some. Share them with children if you so desire. Or if there are any left.
I served mine to the grown ups with cauliflower roasted till crispy with a good splashing of oil and a sprinkling of ground cumin, pappadums, rice and a spinach curry that I found here. So easy in the Thermomix. And TASTY! I left out the cheese, because I didn’t have the time to make it and it would have been overkill with everything else on the plate. And I was tired by then.
School holidays are here (in Queensland at least), which means I try to fill up our time with lots of playdates. My aim is to minimise long stretches of time at home and maximise both tiring activities for the children and adult company for me. Both visits to other homes and receiving guests means a need for morning or afternoon tea. Having been in a mothers group for five years (a lovely group of people who are the very best of what other parents can be – non judgmental) I have found there is such a thing as cake overload. However, you still need to cater for the varying states of parenthood:
1. Pregnant. Eating cake is mostly guilt free (making exceptions for those with gestational diabetes, where you just have to say ‘I realise there is hardly anything here you can eat and I am really sorry for that. Have a cracker.’). When you are pregnant these days it is often necessary to feel guilty eating almost anything but cake once you have been handed that listeria pamphlet by your well meaning doctor. Any food prepared by others, especially your healthy choices of salads and sandwiches, are possibly harbouring this horrifying bacteria. And under no circumstances eat chicken, deli meats, soft cheeses or anything else that might allow you an enjoyable life.
2. Breastfeeding. Need cake even more than pregnant. Operating on very little sleep, possibly forgetting meals in the constant fog of calculating times between feeds for the wee one and requiring a larger calorie intake than usual due to having all nutrients sucked out every two to four hours.
3. Trying to lose weight. Once breastfeeding stops that larger calorie intake needs to be curtailed quicksmart or the continued lack of sleep and irregular meals seems to start working against your body and weight gain happens while you are worrying if the house is child proofed enough for the junior Houdini who recently emerged from babyhood. Which means cake playdates can be very hard to do.
4. Maintaining sanity. The rest of the parenting experience. Sleep is either still being caught up or just a new level of deprived. Children’s needs continue to outweigh parents’ needs by everything to none. Cake is appreciated but when playdates are more than once a week it is useful to have another choice.
Which brings us to muffins. Sure, they are cake like. But I find a bit more room to move in the healthier options department. And nutritional value. For example, you can stick either fruit or vegetables in there and children won’t necessarily run from them. Also, because muffins are supposed to be only barely mixed together they are very quick to make.
I have loosely followed a recipe from a blog I googled while looking for a way to make use of an excess of bananas – Cat Can Cook. It seemed to be a fairly robust, simple recipe that could be adjusted easily to fit in whatever you have in the fruit bowl or in the vegetable drawer. Firstly I did banana and sultana muffins.
Peel 3 or 4 bananas and break them into pieces as you put them in the Thermomix bowl. Add half a cup of sugar (I used rapadura sugar for these as I had it and am finding it gives a lovely caramelly flavour to things), a teaspoon of cinnamon, a teaspoon of baking powder, a teaspoon of bicarb soda (while you have the teaspoon out), 1 egg, a pinch of salt, 60-70 grams melted butter (or oil – depending on your tastes and what is in your stocks) and 220 grams (or one and a half cups) of plain flour. Mix on Speed 5 for 10 seconds. Check on it, maybe spatula the sides and if need be mix for another 5 seconds. Add a handful or so of sultanas and mix again, but on Reverse this time, for 5 seconds. Decant to muffin tray with patty pans if you can’t be bothered greasing the little indents. Bake in oven on 180 degrees for about 20 minutes. Everyone’s ovens are different so keep an eye on them and don’t do what I did and forget until they are quite brown on top and you can smell them through the house. Or do if that is how you appreciate time.
I have also tried apple and blueberry muffins, where you make an apple sauce first (there is one in the Everyday Cookbook – add some cinnamon if you wish) then follow as above, substituting blueberries for sultanas. Adjust sweetness depending on the fruit by tasting the batter. If it tastes as if you could keep eating it without bothering with the oven you should have it about right.
As for savoury, I have found if you substitute, say, grated zuchinni and/or carrot (blitzed from roughly chopped to itty bitty pieces prior in Thermomix) for the fruit and grated cheese for the sugar the flavour is about right. You may need to add some salt depending on the saltiness of your cheese. Depending on your child’s tastes you could throw in some spring onion during the grating process to add a zing to the flavour.
And there you have your basic muffin. Breakfast substitute for the perpetually foggy minded. Nutrition for the kidlets. Close enough for the cake deprived.
There is a new Thermomix YouTube video featuring WA chef Matt Stone making almond milk and then making a rice pudding with it. I was tempted to make almond milk because it sounded like a challenge and I tasted a lovely version at a Thermomix consultant gluten free cooking class. So away I went.
I ended up following the recipe given by Quirky Cooking for rice and almond milk. I soaked 50g brown rice and 40g whole almonds plus 4 or 5 pitted dates in 1 litre of water overnight then blended them in the Thermomix on Speed 9 for 2 minutes. Add a tablespoon of either flavourless or complementing flavour oil (eg, macadamia, grapeseed, coconut) to give a creamier texture to the milk. Cook for 6 minutes at 60 degrees, Speed 4. Puree on Speed 9 for 1 minute. Let it cool for a bit. Strain into a vessel through muslin if you have some handy, or a nut bag if you are even handier or through a fine sieve if you are me and new to the requirement for fine straining of nut milks. Keep the resulting sludge and either put it in some kind of cake batter if you are baking straight away or dry out in a low oven for a bit to make it less sludgy and more like an almond/rice/date meal to use later. Or you can look at the video mentioned above and do it his way.
Rice pudding I have not had much patience for. My mother was very good at making it, therefore I have a nostalgic hankering for it now and then. Until Thermomix, however, I have only attempted it once or twice before. Like custard it just takes too long on the stovetop and is too fraught with burning opportunities or an unpleasant outcome that makes me want to throw the saucepan in the bin contents and all and storm off to bed. Now I had made almond milk no problems and I really wanted to see if it would taste nice in a rice pudding as Mr Matt so confidently assured us it would.
The recipe given was a bit large for the two of us, so I halved it. I didn’t bother with the poached rhubarb bit, not having any on me and because I was wanting to use that plum sauce again. I found it interesting that the recipe calls for half almond milk, half pure cream. So if you are non dairy I am guessing all almond milk should work okay, just maybe end up with a bit thinner result. I put in 240g almond milk, 240g cream, a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste I made a few weeks ago (you could use half a vanilla bean split and scraped, or even vanilla essence) and cooked for 8 minutes on 90 degrees on Speed 2. I then added 100g arborio rice (as I am unaware of Rainfed rice as specified in the recipe, something I am sure will be corrected next time I see some of my extremely knowledgeable Thermomix colleagues) and cooked 20 minutes at 90 degrees on Reverse, Speed 2. Matt Stone didn’t say to put on Reverse but I was a little scared not to, not wanting to make rice paste for dessert.
On tasting, the rice was cooked but it needed a little more sugar, so I sprinkled some cinnamon sugar in and poured some plum sauce in then mixed on Speed 1 for 5 seconds (again worrying about turning it into a paste). It made a good amount for two. Sploshing some more plum sauce on top made it look prettier and gave it a great flavour. The almond milk didn’t make itself strongly known, but I did notice that after finishing I didn’t feel like I had a brick in my tummy as I did the last time I ate rice pudding. I think I shall make this again.
Ooh Aah 1 and cousin QPat’s Ooh Aah admiring how warm the Thermoserver keeps pancakes
While in Sydney there was a request from host niece for buckwheat pancakes for breakfast. Buckwheat has a pronounced savoury flavour, so I found her request refreshing. She has previously been known to be a little particular with food and wary of trying new things. The fact that she prefers buckwheat over regular white flour pancakes as well as a love of lemon tarts (no chocolate or meringue please Aunty!) might just mean she is of a discerning palate rather than just a fussy eater. I have found this with several fussy eaters. It often ends up being a textural or flavour preference as they grow out of the food/control resistance they might put up as toddlers.
Anyhoo, my sister and I set to work to make breakfast for the various children tumbling about in the next room. We were after a more crepey result than the American style fat stodgy pancakes that look more impressive but make you regret eating them halfway through the second one. How anyone eats a stack of them I don’t know.
I toyed with a couple of recipes, the one in the Everyday Cookbook and one on Forum Thermomix. I doubled the latter recipe and added some plain flour to take away a little of the strong buckwheaty flavour. So with a bit more tweaking I came to the following recipe.
First take 100g of your wholegrain buckwheat, grind to a flour as the Thermomix so satisfyingly does for 30 seconds at Speed 9. Now add 100g of plain flour (or if you are preferring a gluten free option, use 100g gluten free cornflour), 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 tablespoon of sugar (or not, especially if you are going to drown them in honey or maple syrup), 2 eggs, 40g oil or butter and 500g milk. Mix for 10 seconds on Speed 5, scrape down sides, fire up crepe pan with a smudge of butter melting in the middle. Or just your regular frying pan if you aren’t Niles from Frasier.
Pour straight from the Thermomix jug into appropriate sized circles on the heated pan and wait for bubbles. When bubbly on top and not too runny flip over for not very much time. Check underside has browned a little then toss into Thermoserver to keep warm. All pancake making means first one is a bit weird, which usually means the chef gets to eat it. This recipe makes around 15 mid sized thin pancakes which was enough to feed our 5 tiny people and a couple of wandering husbands snacking on them while our backs were turned.
Serve with maple syrup, honey, lemon and sugar, blueberries, strawberries, banana, basically whatever is at hand and will get eaten by the little munchkins. You can always get fancy and puree some blueberries and add to the pancake mix. Just add a little more flour to make up for the extra liquid. Blue pancakes are usually received quite well. I did read a recipe that suggested pureed beetroot. I’m sure they tasted lovely but they looked like congealed blood clots in the accompanying photo. Maybe one to save for Halloween.
I was very happy to see a big box of quinces at a reasonable per kilo price at our local market recently. It meant I had an excuse to try out making quince paste!
They are a less than appealing looking fruit and the preparation methods you generally find for them don’t help their cause. But if Maggie Beer can do it so can I. For I have the added super power of a super kitchen tool.
I followed the best bits of a few recipes and hints I found from Thermomixer, Tick of Yum and Recipe Community, which were variations of recipes from the beautiful (but not yet mine) Thermomix recipe books In the Mix and Devil of a Cookbook. Keeping the peel and core in the process, but separating them from the flesh while cooking made it really easy to follow and the paste set beautifully. So much so that I allowed it to cool a little too long and then had a lovely set jelly in the processing bowl which I then had to lever out and squish in to molds. Just over a kilo of quinces makes a shed load of quince paste. I am now in search of a gigantic wheel of stinky cheese to eat with it.
This is just a small part of the quince paste produced in my inaugural batch. You will note that the result is not quite as neat as Maggie’s. Next time I won’t get distracted once I’ve finished cooking it. Apparently it keeps for an age as long as you take the least precautions against the extreme wildlife or weather that are an everyday part of living in Queensland. As with everything I am making for the first time the use by dates are an experiment in mould identification and the sniff it and see test.