Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Seasoning Mixes

Many spices and herbs have wonderful healing properties. Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory benefits, while chilli has been shown to  reduce cholesterol and clear congestion. Cardamom is a good source of minerals such as potassium, calcium and magnesium as well as containing high levels of iron and manganese. Cumin is also a great source of iron and assists with digestion. Nutmeg is known to aid sleep while also protecting teeth and gums.
Herbs have also been used for hundreds of years in healing, before antibiotics came on the scene. Many such as oregano are anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. Herbs in the mint family are well known for their use as breath fresheners, but they also soothe the stomach and aid in digestion.
Parsley is another herb used to freshen the mouth due to its high levels of eugenol. Parsley and clove oils have long been used in dentistry as anaesthetic and anti-bacterial agents. Parsley is also highly nutritious, containing many minerals and vitamins.

So, while flavouring our food, herbs and spices are also helping us to digest it and nourishing our bodies at the same time.  I love to use herbs and spices in my cooking, but prefer not to have the additives that are found in many commercial mixes. I've come up with a couple of my own mixes, one of which I've included here. As I perfect my herb and spice mixes, I will update this post.

The following All Purpose Seasoning is exactly that! Use as a flavouring for meat loaf or rissoles; as a rub for roast chicken; as a sprinkle for wedges in the Air Fryer; to flavour soups and stews.

All Purpose Seasoning
The Bush Gourmand

3 Tbsp sea salt
1 Tbsp Celery Salt
2 Tbsp icing sugar
4 tsp paprika
4 tsp rice flour
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp chilli powder, ground black pepper, garlic powder
½ tsp nutmeg, ground coriander, ground cumin, ground cardamom

Blend on speed 5 for 3 or 4 seconds. Place in a jar and label.

The next spice mix recipe has been developed by a friend from forumthermomix.com, known as achookwoman. It makes the most outstanding Southern Fried Chicken. Marinate chicken strips or pieces in yoghurt or buttermilk with two Tbsp of the seasoning. Coat in a mixture of plain flour mixed with another 2 Tbsp of the seasoning and shallow fry to brown. Finish off cooking in the Air Fryer

Southern Fried Chicken Seasoning

2 Tbsp ground white pepper
3 Tbsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp sea salt
2 Tbsp pizza herbs or oregano
2 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp rice flour
1 Tbsp cumin, cardamom, ground cloves, garlic powder, allspice, celery seed 

Blend on speed 5 for 4 seconds. Place in a jar and label.

The following recipe is a copycat of McCormick's Steak Spice. It's delicious as a roast beef rub or sprinkled on steak. Use in place of All Purpose Seasoning to coat wedges for the Air Fryer.

Steak Spice
The Bush Gourmand

4 Tbsp sea salt
2 Tbsp onion powder
2 Tbsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp paprika
2 Tbsp celery seeds
2 Tbsp black pepper (2 1/2 Tbsp peppercorns)
2 Tbsp Rapadura sugar
1 Tbsp rice flour
1/2 Tbsp nutmeg
1/2 Tbsp ground coriander (3/4 Tbsp coriander seeds)
1/2 Tbsp dried thyme
1/2 Tbsp dried rosemary

Blend on speed 5 for 4 seconds (longer if using whole spices). Place in a jar and label.

I am working on a Lemon & Herb Pepper Spice.  I'll post to Facebook when I have perfected this.



Sweet Chilli Chicken Strips

Harvest is in full swing after a few breakdowns, some rain and some harvest bans due to hot, windy weather. Harvest brings with it our two lovely boys who take holidays from their regular jobs to come home and help.
We couldn't manage without them and are so grateful that they continue to use their time off this way.

Of course, this means I have extra mouths to feed and extra lunch boxes to fill. It's always a bit of a battle thinking of savoury foods to pack. Foods must be able to be eaten with one hand as most times the boys are driving a header or a truck. I often make sausage rolls, mini pasties, meatballs and such, but was wanting some roadhouse food that they both love. The healthiest I could think of was the Sweet Chilli Chicken Strips. I've created my own version and they're pretty good. There's also some variations on the theme with my other spice mixes as well as using fish and pork instead of chicken.

It's best to start the night before to marinate the chicken strips. When ready to coat, allow an extra couple of hours refrigeration if you are able.

Sweet Chilli Chicken Strips
The Bush Gourmand

1 cup Buttermilk
3 Tbsp Sweet Chilli Sauce (Woolies Homebrand)
1 Tbsp All Purpose Seasoning
2 Chicken Breasts, sliced into strips
Marinate chicken strips overnight in buttermilk mixture.

2 cups cornflake crumbs (blitz in Thermie, speed 6/3 seconds)
2 Tbsp or so of either millet or quinoa puffs
1 Tbsp All Purpose seasoning

Mix together in a wide bowl.
Scrape strips on container to remove most of buttermilk mixture. 
Place into coating and press down firmly, coating both sides. Place on a baking tray and refrigerate for 2 hours, if possible.
When ready to cook, pre heat oven to 200C and place some coconut oil into a large frying pan.
Gently fry to brown both sides of strips. 

Place back onto clean oven tray and into oven for 10 minutes or so until completely cooked through. 

Serve with Sweet Chilli Mayonnaise.

Sweet Chilli Mayonnaise
The Bush Gourmand

½ cup good mayonnaise
¼ cup plain yoghurt
2 Tbsp Sweet Chilli Sauce
1 tsp white vinegar

Mix together and serve with chicken strips.


Southern Fried Chicken Strips
Replace Sweet Chilli Sauce and All Purpose Seasoning with mayonnaise and Southern Fried Chicken Seasoning in the buttermilk mixture.

Use the following coating:
½ cup rice flour
½ cup plain flour
1 - 2 Tbsp buttermilk mixture

Mix together lightly to make a lumpy batter. Coat drained chicken, refrigerate and cook in the same manner. A double coat works well.

These are delicious served hot with gravy, though BBQ sauce works better in a lunch box.

Parmesan Chicken Strips
Coat chicken in ½ cup mayonnaise mixed with ½ cup plain yoghurt.
Add ½ cup grated parmesan and 1 tsp All Purpose Seasoning to the cornflake crumbs.
Proceed as per recipe.

Lemon Fish Strips
Use firm white fish - shark works well.
Coat fish in mayonnaise mixture as per Parmesan Chicken Strips.
Add 2 tsp grated lemon rind and 1 Tbsp Lemon Pepper to cornflake crumbs.
Proceed as per recipe. Do not place in oven as shallow frying should be enough to cook fish through.

Serve with a mayonnaise/plain yoghurt blend with lemon juice, lemon rind and lemon pepper.

Honey Mustard Pork Strips
Use strips of pork steaks and marinate in the following:

1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp seeded mustard

Coat with cornflake crumbs blended with 1 Tbsp All Purpose Seasoning.
Serve with mayonnaise mixed with some Dijon mustard.

I encourage you to experiment with other marinades and coatings. There are so many different flavour ways.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Soft, Fluffy Bread

I'm happy to eat tough sourdough and seedy wholemeal loaves, however, my nearest and dearest likes only soft white bread in a packet. I've tried to make a loaf like store bought for some time, but have never quite achieved the right texture.

However, I think I've found it! Over at The Road to Loving My Thermomix, Peta has developed a great recipe and has loads of tips on bread making. I learned that I have had my oven way too hot for this sort of bread. I cook at 180C now and have been making some lovely loaves and rolls using her recipe.

Rather than copy it, I'll pop a link here so you can read all the tricks of bread making yourself.

Here's one of my lovely loaves with some rolls made from the dough. This is double her normal recipe for rolls, that is, it uses 750g flour. This particular loaf has 620g strong white flour, 80g wholemeal flour and 50g white spelt flour. It made a large loaf plus 6 rolls. I leave my dough to rise until it's tripled, rather than doubled. My bread tin measures 28 x 14 wide x 12cm high. The rolls were baked in a 20cm tin.

Do try this fabulous recipe. I'd love to know how you go with it.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cauliflower Fried Rice

My other half is not a fan of rice and I love it. There's no better accompaniment to an Asian meal than Fried Rice. So, with cauliflower rice all the rage at the moment, I gave it a try and we both loved it!

Cauliflower Fried Rice
1 small head of cauliflower, cut into large chunks -  about the size of the hole in the lid of the Thermomix
1 onion, sliced
1 egg
1 tsp sesame oil
salt and pepper
macadamia oil, for frying
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 carrot, julienned
¼ green capsicum, diced or sliced
handful of snow peas, diced (or use frozen peas)
soy and sweet chilli sauce, to taste

Place half the cauliflower in the Thermomix bowl or food processor. Chop on speed 5 for 2 seconds. Check cauliflower size, stir around with spatula and chop again if necessary. Repeat with remaining cauliflower chunks. Set aside.

Beat egg with sesame oil, salt and pepper.  Heat a small amount of macadamia oil in wok and add beaten egg. Flip over when brown on underside. When cooked, remove from pan and roll up on board. Slice when cool.
Heat more oil in wok and add slice onions and garlic. Stir fry until fragrant and starting to colour. Add carrots and continue to stir fry. Add soy and sweet chilli to taste and a little water. Add cauliflower and stir fry. Add capsicum, then snow peas and omelette. Do not overcook at this stage, cauliflower should have just a little bite to it.
Taste for seasoning and serve immediately. Sprinkle with sesame seeds to serve.

Asian Braised Chicken

This recipe comes from one of my favourite cook books, Belinda Jeffery's Collected Recipes. I took the book out of the library and then after renewing it twice, realised that I couldn't do without it, so I purchased it. You can buy it here.

This recipe is called Braised Star Anise Chicken, but I don't always put the star anise in, so I just like to call it Asian Braised Chicken. It is finger licking delicious and the stock can be frozen to use in other asian dishes. It's fabulous for pork belly.

Asian Braised Chicken

1 cup kecap manis - this is a sweet thick soy sauce. If you don't have it, just use a little more sugar
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup chicken stock - you can use water with a teaspoon of stock powder or paste
½ cup rapadura sugar
2 star anise - or leave out as I sometimes do and use 2 teaspoons of five spice powder
½ cup sherry
2 cloves garlic, sliced
6cm piece ginger, sliced
1 x Size 20 Free Range Chicken

Pre heat the oven to 180C.
Place everything except the chicken into the Thermomix bowl and heat on 100/5 minutes/speed 2.
Place chicken into a large casserole dish and pour over the sauce. Place the lid on the dish and place in the oven.
Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, basting regularly. You can turn chicken over, but I prefer not to.
If you like, cook the liquid down after removing the chicken to make a thick glaze to brush over the skin before serving.

Strain the stock into jars and freeze for later use.

Serve with fried rice and stir fried asian vegetables. Or serve cold with salads.

I'm cooking this next Monday, so will take a photo then!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Muffin Master Recipe

Muffins have defeated me for years. I can't for the life of me make a really good muffin. They're either too moist, too dry, too crumbly, too heavy - you name it, I've made it and badly.

So, not to be completely defeated, I've been searching the internet for a good master recipe. I found two that were fairly similar and adapted them into one recipe. I made dried apricot muffins with this recipe and they turned out beautifully! Light, just moist enough, good crumb, nice flavour. A winner!

They're not what I'd call healthy eating by any means, but since I make them for others, not for me, I'm not worried. Now that I have the perfect recipe, I'll play around and experiment with soaked wholemeal flour and rapadura or coconut sugar instead of raw sugar.

Recipe has been adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction website. The other site I used was the US Better Homes And Gardens Website.

Muffin Master Recipe
The Bush Gourmand

1 ½ cups plain flour
½ cup raw caster sugar 
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

Mix dry ingredients together with any dried fruit, cheese, spices, choc chips etc.

2 eggs, beaten
½ cup soured milk or buttermilk
¼ cup oil (I use macadamia) or melted butter (I think these would be a little firmer when cool)
2 tsp vanilla

Blend together and mix into dry ingredients. Fill greased muffin cups to ¾ full. Preheat oven to 220C and bake for 5 minutes. Reduce to 190C and bake a further 20 - 25 minutes.


Streusel topping
3 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp brown sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp butter, chopped

Blend together in Thermomix until crumbly. Sprinkle over uncooked muffins prior to baking. Can add 2 Tbsp chopped pecans.

Apricot Muffins
Add ½ cup chopped dried apricots into flour mix.

Date and Orange Muffins
Add ½ cup chopped dried dates and rind of one orange. Make up milk to ½ cup including 2 Tbsp of orange juice.

Cheese Muffins
Reduce sugar to 2 Tbsp. Stir ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese and ¼ tsp cayenne pepper into flour mixture. You can also add corn and grated zucchini.

Berry Muffins
Fold ¾ cup frozen berries into flour mixture just before adding liquid mixture. 

Banana Muffins
Reduce milk to ¼ cup. Stir 2 small mashed banana and ½ cup chopped nuts into flour with the liquid ingredients.

Cranberry Muffins
Fold 1 cup coarsely chopped cranberries and 2 tablespoons additional sugar into flour mixture.

Oatmeal Muffins
Reduce flour to 1 cup and add ½ cup rolled oats to flour mixture. 

Lemon Muffins
Add zest of one lemon to flour mixture. Make up milk to ½ cup including 2 Tbsp lemon juice. 
Grind 2 Tbsp raw sugar with thinly peeled rind of one lemon in Thermomix until fine. Sprinkle over muffins just before baking.

Muffins are best eaten warm. I love to split them open and spread each side with lashings of butter. 


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sugar - Sweet Poison? Part II


I've previously written a bit about the chemistry of the simple carbohydrate, sugar in my blog post Sugar - Sweet Poison?  The discussion ranged around white sugar and it's empty nutrition and how other foods can provide sweetness while still being 'good for you'.  Now, in Part II, I'd like to expand on that topic in this post about the various types of sugar and how they are made.

In Australia the main sweetener in our processed foods on in our pantries is processed white sugar (in the US, it's high fructose corn syrup, but that's another story...).

White Sugar


White Sugar, as mentioned in my post on sugar, is a disaccharide, meaning it contains two monosaccharides, glucose and fructose. In Australia, white sugar comes from sugar cane. Many other countries use sugar beets to make white sugar. Caster sugar and icing sugar are simply white sugar that has been ground to make it finer.

Cane sugar is highly processed, first by crushing the sugar cane to extract the juice. The juice is then mixed with lime and phosphoric acid to adjust its pH to around 7.  The clarified juice is then heated under vacuum to make a syrup. Further heating is done under vacuum to concentrate and super saturate the syrup. It is then pressure filtered through cloth and deodorised using activated charcoal. (1)

The cleaned syrup is then seeded with sugar crystals and cooled. Upon cooling, the sugar syrup crystallises and is then put through a centrifuge to separate the sugar from it's remaining liquid, known as molasses. The remaining molasses can be further processed to extract more crystals, leaving blackstrap molasses. (2)

Raw Sugar


At this stage, the product is Raw Sugar (a terrible misnomer) which is a light golden colour. So raw sugar is still a highly processed product. The raw sugar is then bleached, sometimes by bubbling sulphur dioxide through the crystals. (1) I'm unable to find out exactly how Australian sugar is bleached. None of the companies explain this process, other than saying that the raw sugar is then 'further refined'. I'm awaiting a reply from CSR. The fact that it must be 'bleached' sounds ominous, though.
Raw caster and golden icing sugar are made from raw sugar. White processed sugar is pretty much 99% sucrose and has a GI of around 65. (3) GI isn't a perfect method for judging a product's health benefits, though. Adding fructose to a product will reduce it's GI, but read more about the problem with fructose below.

Brown Sugar

Brown Sugar is simply white refined sugar with the molasses added back in. Now, there's no information to say whether this is the first extraction of molasses with all its health giving goodness, or the less nutritious blackstrap molasses. My guess is that it is the cheaper one. So, the sugar is refined, bleached and deodorised and then the stuff they took out is put back in! If you want to make it yourself, simply add molasses to white sugar until it's fully saturated.

LoGiCane Sugar

LoGiCane is a brand name from the CSR company promoted as low GI. The CSR company explains on their website that LoGiCane sugar is refined white sugar sprayed with molasses. The molasses slows down the digestion of the sucrose, making it less likely to spike blood sugar. If this is the case, then brown sugar and 'raw' sugar will do the same. 
In fact, if you delve further into it, the molasses is actually treated to remove the nutrients such as minerals, polyphenols and other phytochemicals. (4) So, once again a highly processed product that is more expensive than simply buying 'raw' sugar. This appears to be a marketing ploy, in my opinion.

Demerara and Turbinado are still processed raw sugars, albeit with more molasses left in the final product.
Rapadura Sugar

Rapadura and Panela are two different names for the same product, pure unrefined cane juice. The sugar cane is simply crushed and the juice is dehydrated. The nutrient rich molasses with all its minerals and phytochemicals is retained in the final product, making it a far healthier alternative to white, processed sugar or even 'raw' sugar. Rapadura is quite expensive, but can now be found in supermarkets. I purchase it in bulk from www.2brothersfoods.com

Here's a chart showing the comparison of nutrients for each of the sugars. The 'evaporated cane juice' in the chart is that which is processed using heat. 

Coconut Sugar

Coconut Sugar, also known as coconut palm sugaris made from the blossom of the coconut tree, that ubiquitous plant that provides so much for so little. It has a low GI, only 35. It also contains a great many nutrients, mainly potassium, iron, zinc, calcium plus polyphenols, inositol (part of a vitamin B complex) and other phytonutrients. (5) (6)  It's a natural product, with very little processing other than collection and dehydration. It's fairly expensive.

Many people are becoming wary of Fructose and with good reason. Fructose is natural fruit sugar, but is also found in sugar.  Sugar, or sucrose, is 50% Glucose and 50% Fructose. Fructose is the monosaccharide which is only broken down in the liver.  The liver will transform fructose into glucose derivatives, storing it as glycogen. The liver can only store so much glycogen. If it's not being used through providing energy, it will be stored as triglycerides (i.e. fat) which is then deposited around the organs in the body. (7)

This concept is being espoused by Sarah Wilson of the "I Quit Sugar' movement. Sarah has an enormous group of followers on her Facebook page and blog. She has published two books on the subject, containing excellent information and recipes. Her concept is a little extreme, though and I don't believe we should deny ourselves certain treats. Life can be hard enough as it is without being unable to eat dessert at a restaurant.

There are many references showing that fructose is indeed a baddy in our diets. Mainly because sugar is consumed in large amounts in processed foods such as mayonnaise, sauces, soft drinks, biscuits and cakes. A study in 2010 showed that fructose consumed as soft drinks and sweetened fruit juices, taken in large quantities did cause weight gain. (8)

My take on the consumption of sugar in the diet is this.
  1. Consume whole foods as much as possible. Eat whole fruits, peel as well if possible (obviously not banana peel). If you're making a cake with oranges, use the whole orange - flesh, juice and zest. 
  2. Include good fats (coconut, palm, lard, tallow, poultry fat, butter) in your diet to allow for satiety, so you're not hanging out for a chocolate after tea.
  3. Limit sugar in all your cooking and use unprocessed sugar wherever possible. Some other options for sweetening include rice malt syrup, maple syrup and honey. Fresh dates can be used instead of sugar in some recipes - e.g. protein balls.
  4. Don't consider that every meal must be followed by dessert. Make desserts a special treat. 
  5. Make your own fruit roll ups with whole fruit, raw chocolate with cacao and so on. 
  6. Finally, don't stress about it too much! Do your best and allow yourself some treats without feeling guilty. 
There's a wealth of great wholefood recipes out there and some great books and blogs, too. Here's a list of recommended reading:

Wholefood Cooking - Jude Blereau
Nourishing Traditions - Sally Fallon
I Quit Sugar and I Quit Sugar for Life - Sarah Wilson 


(1) SKIL - How sugar is made: http://www.sucrose.com/lcane.html
(2) https://au.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070515070200AAENMgq
(3) Sugar and sweetener guide: http://www.sugar-and-sweetener-guide.com/glycemic-index-for-sweeteners.html
(4) Product review: low GI cane cugar - Catherine Saxelby's Food Watch: http://foodwatch.com.au/reviews/item/product-review-lowgicane-sugar.html
(5) http://coconutpalmsugar.com/Home_Page.html
(6) Coconut sap sugar: http://www.cocofat.com/about-coconut-products/coconut-sap-sugar/
(7) Precision Nutrition. All about fructose: http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-fructose
(7) Metabolic effects of fructose and the worldwide increase in obesity: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20086073

That's all for now, bravo if you've actually read the whole post!!


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Eggs Poached in the Shell

I guess an egg poached in it's shell is a boiled egg. But, it's not eaten that way. This method of poaching eggs was first written about by Julia Child, that doyenne of French Cooking. It is indeed a French method and is the best and easiest way to poach eggs, especially if you're feeding three or four people.

If the eggs are very fresh, it's not as effective as they'll be a little more difficult to peel. However, I've not had a lot of trouble peeling our own eggs that are about 2 weeks old.

What you'll need: A timer (I use my iPhone), a pin, a bowl of ice-cold water.

Pop a saucepan of salted water on to boil. Prick the rounder, fatter end of each egg with a pin, being careful not to go too deep and break the membrane.

When water is boiling, add eggs and set timer for 6 minutes (for large eggs, 5 ½ for smaller ones).
Pop your toast down part way through.
When time is up, remove eggs with a slotted spoon to the bowl of iced water. (If you have asbestos hands, don't worry about this step.) Leave for a second or so to cool down and then gently roll and tap egg on the bench to break the shell all over.

Remove the top part of the shell, insert a teaspoon and slide it all the way around to remove remaining shell.

This photo was a bit blurry as our cat was up on the bench trying to check out what I was doing! I was pushing him away with my head as both hands were full!!

Work quickly to ensure remaining eggs don't get too cool if you're doing a few eggs at a time.

Perfect poached eggs! I forgot to heat up the Hollandaise that I had made yesterday, so I just plopped it on top. No time for asparagus, either!

The cat enjoyed licking the plate.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Caramel Magic Bean Cake

I've had such great success with the Chocolate Magic Bean Cake that I decided to convert the recipe to make a caramel flavoured cake.

I like to use whole sugar in my cooking, so I tend to make caramel and chocolate flavours because rapadura still contains all the molasses and will make batters darker. Coconut sugar is the same as it's quite dark in colour.

This cake is delicious and is gluten free to boot.

The Bush Gourmand

420g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp plain yoghurt or buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g butter, softened
120g rapadura or coconut sugar
4 eggs
60g coconut flour
1 tsp bi-carb soda
1 ½ tsp GF baking powder

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a small ring tin.
Place beans, yoghurt, 2 of the eggs and vanilla into TMX bowl.
Blend for 2 minutes on speed 8.
Remove but don't bother rinsing bowl.
Place butter and sugar into TMX bowl and blend on speed 3 - 4 for 30 seconds. Scrape down and blend again.
Add eggs, one at a time, blending in between. 
Add sifted flour and raising agents and mix on speed 3 until blended together. Mixture will appear curdled.
Pour into tin and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until cake bounces back from a gentle touch.

Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Caramel Sauce
¾ cup rapadura or coconut sugar
65g butter
80g coconut cream

Place sugar and butter into a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Boil while stirring for about 2 minutes. Add coconut cream and bring back to boil, again stirring constantly. Boil, stirring for about a minute.
Serve cake warm as a dessert with Caramel Sauce and cream or ice cream

Caramel Icing
For an afternoon tea cake, add 1 cup golden icing sugar to the caramel sauce. Beat together until a smooth spreading consistency and ice cake.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Soaked Whole Wheat Bread

I have discussed the benefits of eating grains in a previous post, Grain Pain, so won't go into the nutritional aspects again. In that post, I mentioned that I have a Skippy Grain Mill and was planning to use it to grind my own wheat and use it for soaked wholewheat cooking. Well, I haven't had a lot of time to do this lately, but find myself with some time on my hands again.

I've been experimenting with sourdough, too. Sourdough requires a lot of dedication and planning. If you want to make a loaf of bread, you basically have to start two days before! It doesn't require a lot of hands on activity, mostly just sitting around doing its thing, but when it's ready to have something done to it, you have to be there to do it! So, I'm back to thinking of other ways to use our own wheat to make my bread and am revisiting the soaking idea. I found this recipe at Don't Waste the Crumbs and have given it a go with a few tweaks of my own and using the Thermomix. If you don't have a Thermomix, just mix by hand.  It's not totally wholewheat, but this will hopefully make it a little lighter and less dense.

Here's how to do it:
(Start the evening before)

The Bush Gourmand

480g whole wheat flour, freshly ground if possible
140g white bread flour
240g buttermilk (or use ½ cup yoghurt mixed with ½ cup whole milk)
¼ cup cold water
90g soft butter

Add to the Thermomix bowl and mix on dough setting for about 3 minutes or until the mixture begins to come together. It will resemble play dough.

Place in a ceramic bowl and cover with plastic wrap and leave to sit on the bench overnight or for up to 24 hours. It will look darker on the outside of the dough. Don't worry, this is perfectly normal and the bread will not be dark in colour.

Next morning, continue with the recipe below:

½ cup warm water
1 Tbsp rapadura sugar syrup (Maleo) or 2 Tbsp honey
2 ½ tsp dried yeast
2 Tbsp macadamia or other mild tasting oil

Mix together in a small jug and leave to prove for 5 minutes.
Place soaked dough back into Thermomix bowl - break it up a little. Add the proved yeast mixture and knead on dough setting for 3 minutes.

1 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp bread improver
½ tsp Vitamin C powder

Add to the dough and knead for a further minute on dough setting. Remove from bowl and place on to bench or silpat mat. Knead by hand for 5 minutes until smooth and silky. Shape into a round ball and place back into the (greased) ceramic bowl. Cover with greased plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to double in size.

Roll dough out into a rectangle shape.

Once proved, remove dough from the bowl and place onto a lightly floured work surface.

Roll the rectangle up from the shorter side and tuck in the edges.

Place into a bread tin and cover once more with the greased plastic wrap.

 and leave to rise again until it's come up above the sides of the tin.

My bread tin measures 26cm x 11 cm. I bought it online from All About Bread.

Place into a hot oven, around 225C. After 10 minutes, reduce to 200C and bake for another 20 minutes or so. Check whether it's cooked by carefully removing from the tin and tapping the base. It should sound hollow. If not, place the loaf back into the oven straight onto the racks and bake a further 5 to 10 minutes.

I like the top of my bread nice and dark, so very happy with this. If you prefer a lighter coloured crust, preheat oven to 200C and cook at this temperature.
The loaf feels nice and light and has a wonderful texture.

...and it's delicious with lashings of butter and my homemade dried apricot jam.


Friday, June 6, 2014

Condensed Coconut Milk

Condensed Milk is often an ingredient in ice creams and cheesecakes. I don't ever buy it because it's way too full of sugar, and the wrong sort of sugar too. By the wrong sort, I mean high fructose corn syrup.

Most big food companies have replaced normal sugar with this insidious ingredient.  It is cheap, 25% sweeter than sugar (but they didn't reduce the amount) and is highly addictive.
High Fructose Corn Syrup or HFCS is made by using enzymes to convert the glucose in corn syrup into fructose.

Fructose is absorbed and used differently to sucrose, or regular sugar, in the body. Without the fibre and pulp from fruit (where fructose is normally found) to balance out the sugar content, fructose heads straight to the liver and triggers a process known as lipogenesis - the production of lipids, or fats. This makes it a major cause of liver problems such as fatty liver and worse. It also spikes blood sugar and can lead to overproduction of insulin. This constant increase can lead to insulin resistance, obesity and Type II Diabetes. If you would like to learn more, watch "The Men Who Made Us Fat" on ABC on Thursdays. It runs for three nights over three weeks, but I believe it will be available on iView for a while.

Anyhoo, I found a recipe for a large quantity of biscuits that needed a tin of Condensed Milk. I don't trust anything from the Nestle company, so decided to make my own. Just for a change, I thought Coconut Condensed Milk might be a nice change. I looked at Quirky Jo's recipe (http://quirkycooking.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/dairy-free-condensed-milk-dulce-de-leche.html), but ended up doing it a little differently.

Here's my recipe:

Coconut Condensed Milk
2 x 270ml Ayam Coconut Cream (I can't guarantee good results if you use another brand)
70g coconut syrup (you could swap out with 100g maple syrup as Jo does, or 70g coconut sugar)

Place into Thermomix bowl and cook on 100/speed 3/60 minutes. Then repeat for a further 10 minutes on speed 4 at 100. Transfer to a bowl or jar to cool. I ended up with over 300g of condensed milk.

There is a definite coconut taste, but the biscuits it was used for didn't taste of coconut. That recipe will be posted next.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Flourless Microwave Chocolate Pudding

I've seen recipes for these chocolate puddings in a mug all over the internet and have never succumbed. However, tonight, I just couldn't help myself, I NEEDED Chocolate Pudding! I looked at quite a few recipes and ended up making up my own. I like the idea of flour free, so decided to use almonds instead of flour.
Neither my DH or I could eat a whole one, so I would now split this recipe and make two puddings in small cups or mugs.
I like to use a cup and saucer for this. Make sure you choose one that can go in the microwave.

Picture shows full recipe in a large cup

Flourless Microwave Chocolate Pudding
(Makes 2) 
The Bush Gourmand

35g (2 Tbsp) fresh almonds (hazelnuts would also work)
10g (2 Tbsp) cocoa or cacao
3 Tbsp coconut or rapadura sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp thin cream or full cream milk

Add almonds, cocoa and sugar to bowl of Thermomix or food processor. Grind on speed 9 for 10 seconds in Thermomix or process until fine. Scrape down.
Add egg and cream and blend again. Using spatula, scrape into two cups.
Place in microwave for 1 minute and 30 seconds.
Serve on the saucer with cream and ice cream.

Note: Microwave ovens vary in power. You may need to experiment. Start with 1 minute 30 seconds and increase if necessary.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Megan's Dinner Rolls, et al

This recipe came about due to lots of experimentation with dinner rolls. When I finally got the recipe where I wanted it to be, I realised it would translate to a variety of different types of rolls.
The recipe makes a small quantity - 9 dinner rolls, hot cross buns and scrolls, 6 finger buns and flat hamburger buns. It's quick and easy, so a couple of batches can be made at once.

It's not what I'd call a tremendously healthy and nutritious recipe, but it's certainly better than buying rolls. I'll continue experimenting with adding seeds and using some wholemeal wheat and spelt flour.
For now, since it's Easter time and I'm making Hot Cross Buns, I'll continue with the white flour recipe.

I leave the dough to do its first rise in the Thermomix bowl, but this isn't necessary. I prefer to do this as, one, I won't forget it and two, I know when it's risen enough as the MC pops up. I'm fortunate to have two bowls, so I can always use the second bowl if the first is occupied.

Master Dinner Roll Recipe
The Bush Gourmand

225g warm water
45g instant milk powder (or use 250g warm milk to replace water and milk powder)
1 Tbsp dried yeast
2 Tbsp Rapadura sugar + 2 extra for sweet buns
1 tsp salt
60g soft butter
380g strong unbleached bread flour (spelt flour works fine)

1. Place water, milk powder, yeast, sugar and salt into Thermomix bowl and mix on speed 2 for 10 seconds. Leave for one minute.
2. Add remaining ingredients and mix on dough setting for 4 minutes.
3. Leave to rise in bowl until MC starts to pop out.
4. Add any remaining ingredients for the type of roll or bun you're making and shape as required. Use a silpat mat if necessary.
5. Place in baking tin and cover with a clean tea towel.
6. Leave to prove in a warm place until doubled in size. This can take 2 to 2 ½ hours in winter.
7. Bake for 20 minutes in a preheated 200C oven.

Dinner Rolls

Shape dough into 9 small balls and place into 20cm square tin. Continue as per Master Recipe and bake for 20 minutes in a preheated 200C oven.
Cool on a wire rack, keeping the rolls together. Or, place into a basket that's lined with a clean tea towel to keep warm for the dinner table.

Hot Cross Buns
Add with flour:
2 Tbsp mixed spice (I blend 2 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp mixed spice, ¼ tsp nutmeg and ¼ tsp ground cloves)
Once proven in bowl, add 1 cup mixed fruit and knead for a further 20 seconds or so to incorporate.
Cut into 9 even pieces and shape into a ball. To do this, cup hands around a piece of dough and continue pushing dough to the underside until the top is smooth and round.
Place into a 20cm square cake pan and allow to rise. When nearly ready to bake, heat oven to 200C and make piping mixture.

Piping Mixture
1 Tbsp plain flour
1 Tbsp water
1 tsp macadamia oil

Mix together in a small bowl. Place into a small ziplock bag and cut a tiny piece from one corner. Pipe horizontal then vertical lines on the rolls to make the crosses.
Bake for 20 minutes or until they are nicely golden brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Try to keep in one piece.
Glaze if desired.

2 Tbsp Rapadura
2 Tbsp water

Place in a small saucepan and stir to dissolve sugar. Bring to the boil and allow to boil for 20 seconds. Use a pastry brush to brush over warm rolls.

Flat Hamburger Rolls

Make the master recipe.
Divide dough into 6 and shape each into a ball. Place into a large shallow sided (about 2 cm, enough for rolls to rise) baking tray and press down, making sure there’s plenty to space between each bun. Cover with a silpat mat or well greased foil. 
Place another tray on top of the mat and prove as per instructions. Use 2 tea towels to cover completely.
Bake with tray still on top.

Finger Buns

Make the master recipe, adding the extra sugar.
Divide dough into 6 even pieces. Roll each into a ball, then flatten and roll up to make a sausage shape. Place into a medium sized oven dish or tray, so they have a little room between them, to prove.
Bake as per master recipe. 
Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Place icing ingredients into Thermomix with butterfly attached.
Blend on speed 2, then increase to speed 4 until creamy.
Ice buns and then sprinkle with coconut.

1 ½ cups icing sugar
100g soft butter
1 Tbsp milk
Natural pink food colouring, optional
Desiccated coconut, optional


Make master recipe.
Shape dough into a rectangle on a silpat mat. 
Brush dough with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar 
Roll dough up from long end into a log. Cut into 9 pieces and place into small square baking dish.
Continue as per master recipe.
Mix icing ingredients together. Leave scrolls for 10 minutes to cool a little, then pour over.

Spice Mixture
60g butter, melted
100g rapadura or coconut sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon

1 cup icing sugar
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp hot water
1 tsp vanilla

I'd love to see photos of your creations from this recipe on The Bush Gourmand Facebook Page.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Sugar - Sweet Poison? Part I


Sugar seems to be the word on everyone's lips (and on their tongue and sliding down into their stomachs) lately. The leaked release of the World Health Organisation's draft report on the effects of sugar on health has sparked debate once again.

When we say the word 'sugar', we all think of the white or brown crystally stuff pictured above. This is actually called sucrose and is a disaccharide of glucose and fructose. Read on for further explanations.

Pictured above is semi refined sucrose, or raw sugar. It comes from pressing the sugar cane and then mixing it with lime. It's then evaporated and spun in a centrifuge to produce the crystals.  This is then further refined to produce white sugar by using sulphur dioxide to bleach the crystals. These are then filtered through carbon to remove the molasses (where the actual nutrition lies) content.

Sugar is a dietary carbohydrate, the main source of energy for our body. The body can use protein to a limited extent and will use fat when no carbohydrates are available. Carbohydrates exist in many other forms and are actually sugars. Confused? Don't be, it's not terribly complex at all. Let me explain briefly.

Monosaccharides (meaning one sugar molecule) are the simplest form of carbohydrate. They are glucose, fructose and galactose. Combinations of these three form disaccharides (two sugar molecules) . Glucose and fructose make sucrose (table sugar); glucose and galactose make lactose (milk sugar) and glucose and glucose makes maltose (occurs naturally as a part of starch digestion in the body and can be produced through malting of grain such as barley).

Polysaccharides, therefore are made up of many molecules of glucose, sometimes with the other monosaccharides all strung together and are known as complex carbohydrates. Just as there are three types of monosaccharides and disaccharides, there are three types of polysaccharides. These are simply known as glycogen, starch and fibre. Still with me? Good....

Glycogen isn't found in food, it is manufactured in the body and stored in the liver and muscles. It is made of many glucose molecules linked together.  When you are needing energy, it is this glycogen that is broken down by enzymes to release glucose into the bloodstream.
Muscle cells also store glycogen, but hoard it to use during exercise. Glycogen holds water and can only be stored for short periods of time. Less than a day when the body is at rest and a few hours during activity.

Starch, on the other hand, must be obtained from plants as plants store glucose as starch.


By eating a plant, our body converts the starch into glucose for our energy needs. Starches are found mostly in grains and in plant foods such as tubers and legumes.

Fibre also comes from plants.

It is obtained from eating the whole plant - e.g. whole grain flour rather than white grain flour. The body doesn't break down this type of polysaccharide, so no energy is obtained from dietary fibre. However, it is vital to the health of our digestive system.

There are two types of fibre - soluble and non soluble.
Soluble fibre either dissolves in water or forms viscous gels and is easily fermented and broken down by the natural bacteria in the colon (bowel). They help to maintain a healthy bowel. When this natural bacteria are no longer present due to poor eating habits or illness, the body doesn't deal with soluble fibre very well. Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn's Disease are two conditions where this may occur.
Insoluble fibre does not form gels or dissolve in water and is less easily fermented in the colon.
Some starches are classified as dietary fibre because they escape the digestion process and are broken down in the colon. Insoluble fibre assists with bowel movement and prevents such conditions as diverticular disease.

Now, what do we need all this different form of sugar for? The main role of carbohydrates are to provide the body with glucose for energy. Starch is the main form of glucose provision, but the monosaccharides (simple sugars derived from the disaccharides) can also provide glucose if it is needed.
Brain cells, other nerve cells and developing blood cells prefer to use glucose for energy.

When sufficient carbohydrate intake has met the body's energy requirements, guess what happens if you consume more? The liver can only hold a certain amount, as mentioned previously, so it has to deal with this excess by breaking down those glucose molecules into smaller ones. These are then put together into another compound - fat.  The little fat molecules then travel through the blood stream to be deposited in fat cells in the tissues throughout the body. Fat can be stored for years in the body's fat cells.

Still reading?

Okay, so we need carbohydrates, but we need the complex ones more than the simple ones, because they provide other components that our bodies need such as protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
When we compare the carbs in white sugar to an equivalent amount in kidney beans, dates and apricots, we have the following data:

Excuse the crappy Google Docs chart. It took me a long time to get it to even show up, let alone look good too.

If we add fibre into the above chart, the results would show the high amounts in the dates, kidney beans and apricots with 0 for sugar. Therefore, white sugar provides our body with empty calories. Lots of glucose to provide instant energy, if that's what you need, but no nutrients or value in any other way.

Fibre also helps slow down the processing of carbohydrate, so though dates and apricots are high in carbohydrate, the fibre content prevents quick assimilation of the glucose content. Energy is released slowly over a period of time. Glycaemic Index is a way of measuring the how quickly blood sugar (glucose) levels rise after eating a particular food. It doesn't take into consideration the amount of carbohydrate actually consumed. This is measured by multiplying the GI of the food by the carbohydrate content of the serving. Thus, a food like watermelon may have a high GI, but it has a low GL. You need to eat a lot of it to obtain a large amount of carbohydrate.


Eating well is all about choosing carefully. If you have a sweet craving at 4pm, do you choose a sugary processed biscuit or cake or a couple of dates and some watermelon or apricot? Cool drinks would probably have to be one of the worst choices a person can make when choosing a beverage. There are over 9 teaspoons of processed white sugar in a can of Coca Cola which is 11% of a person's daily requirement of carbohydrate with no other nutritional benefit.

That's probably enough information to be assimilated in one blog post. In the next post, I'll discuss ways to sweeten your foods in a far more healthy way than with processed white sugar.