Thursday, December 30, 2010

A New Year's Eve cake

I have just finished making a flourless chocolate hazelnut cake to take to Kate and Phil's New Year's Eve dinner tonight.

The recipe comes from Jody Vassallo's Wheat and Gluten Free Health for Life series of cookbooks. I've made it quite a few times and it always seems to please especially when served with strawberries and ice cream (gluten-free of course- try Sara Lee's French Vanilla). The hazelnut meal makes it a bit different from your standard flourless chocolate cake. Here is the recipe:

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Ingredients: 250g dark cooking chocolate, chopped. 2 tablespoons milk, 120g hazelnut meal, 125g caster sugar, 6 eggs, separated.


1. Preheat oven to 180 C. Line a 20cm spring form tin with baking paper.

2. Put the chocolate and milk into a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water. Stir over medium heat until the chocolate has melted. Set aside to cool slightly.

3. Put the chocolate mixture, hazelnut meal, sugar and egg yolks into a bowl and mix to combine.

4. Whisk the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and spoon into the prepared tin. Bake for 45 minutes or until firm. Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes. Serve with fresh berries. Serves 8.

Have a gorgeous gluten-free New Year and best wishes for 2011.

Friday, December 10, 2010

GF Thai at Mosman's Bangkok Betty

It's great to find Thai restaurants that offer more than one or two gluten-free options. One place that does is Bangkok Betty at Mosman on Sydney's lower north shore. My friend Fi and I dined at the restaurant  last Thursday night. 

Bangkok Betty offers about 15 gluten-free entrees and mains which like all its dishes have interesting names. Some of the options were Mosman massaman, serious succotash, pineapple duck, tummy-yummy spicy soup, soothing soul soup and rice paper rolls.

We chose fish cakes for entree, followed by snow pea paradise with prawns and the sweet Betty curry which is a panang-style curry with chicken. Bangkok Betty offers four curries which are all gluten-free. As well as the Sweet Betty one, you can choose from a red hot Betty curry, a green with envy and a Thai Jungle Curry called Boot Camp Betty.

At the end of the meal there was not a morsel left on our plates. The only downside of Bangkok Betty was that they don't serve coffee. This would usually be fine but on our walk up Military Road at about 9pm on a Thursday all the cafes were closed. In the end though, we had a nice stroll and were able to check out the windows of some of the very nice shops along the way.

Bangkok Betty is at 161 Middle Head Road near the Buena Vista Hotel, Mosman. For bookings phone 9960 6880.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

'All things yum' in Forster

Last week when we had a few days on the mid-NSW north coast we stumbled upon a lovely cafe called All Things Yum in Forster. Very cutely decorated in pastel colours, All Things Yum is run by Joanie Nardi and Amy Baker. In fact, the Saturday morning we stopped by for a coffee and cake it was the first day of opening.

Joanie's brother is coeliac so she is very up on gluten-free food and there's lots on offer at All Things Yum. Most of the savoury options Joanie and Amy make but some of the cakes and biscuits come from Sweetness The Patisserie in Epping in Sydney.

Some of the gluten-free options on the menu were egg and bacon tart and mini baked ricotta. I had a lime and ginger shortbread cream with my latte but I could also have chosen the dark chocolate shortbread, a Florentine, chocolate cookie or some of the Sweet Mallow gluten-free marshmallows, which are also made by Sweetness at Epping.

More of a shopfront or booth than a cafe, All Things Yum has a number of tables and chairs with umbrellas on the footpath where patrons can sit and enjoy the delicious food. Joanie and Amy also cater for vegans. All Things Yum is located at 6/58 Wharf Street Forster. Email address is:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Healthy GF options at Relish Sydney

A good place to pick up a healthy and tasty gluten-free lunch is Relish in Norton Plaza, Leichhardt.

Smoked chicken salad is a particular favourite of mine as its full of crunchy bits like celery, almonds and red capsicum. Yesterday I tried the Persian rice which was a nice combination of sweet and savoury with almonds and sultanas sprinkled throughout.

Relish lists all its gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian salads, savouries, bakes, desserts and freezer selections on a flyer which is available on the counter. Other gluten-free salads include beetroot and balsamic, Greek salad, Indian rice, kipfler potato, low carb chicken avocado, Mediterranean chickpea, potato salad  and roast vegetables.

There's also felafel and felafel bits, onion bhaji, pumpkin bites, timbales, rice paper wraps, spinach pakora, veggie burgers and salmon risotto bake. For dessert, Relish offers a chocolate mousse and an Oscar torte. The shop also stocks gluten-free Relish Sydney soups, Relish Sydney casseroles and Peppe's gluten-free gnocchi.

As well as the Norton Plaza store, there is a Relish shop in the Broadway Shopping Centre. There doesn't seem to be a website so if you want to find out more you'll either have to visit the shops or telephone. Relish Sydney Leichhardt: 9572 6899. Relish Sydney Broadway: 9211 337.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Delicious Rice Chia Buns

I recently discovered Dovedale Rice Chia Buns. Last Sunday afternoon Coles at Leichhardt was out of gluten-free bread so I bought the buns as a back-up. According to the Dovedale website, chia is an ancient gluten-free grain, one of the four main foods of the Central American civilisations. The Aztecs called chia the "running food" because their warriors and messengers could run all day on just a handful of chia. Hope that happens to me.

The website also says chia improves human nutrition by providing the richest natural source of omega 3, antioxidants and dietary fibre. Chia's abundance of omega 3, fatty acids (the richest natural source of alpha linolenic acid) also help promote a wide range of cardiovascular and mental health benefits!

They also taste good. So I think they'll become a bit of a regular purchase now. I have had them for lunch for the past few days. I cut the bun in half and lightly toast and then add tuna, rocket and cherry tomatoes. Delicious! It's almost like returning to pre-coeliac days of salad sandwiches or rolls for lunch.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Gourmet gluten-free caterers

It's nice to be able to eat the food at your own party. With the help of Karen Will Cater, that's exactly what I was able to do at my recent birthday drinks.

After discovering a number of gluten-free caterers on the web, I chose Karen Will Cater as all her gluten-free options were listed on her website, making it easy to select choices. Karen was also very easy to deal with, efficient, and as one guest commented her food "was to die for".

Karen Will Cater offers nearly 20 hot and cold gluten-free finger food options.  My choices were:
  • Italian meatballs with tomato relish
  • Garlic and lemon prawn skewers
  • Zucchini and haloumi fritters with minted Greek yoghurt
  • Kumara, fetta and spinach frittata with prosciutto
  • Hand-made sushi pieces
  • Minted Moroccan lamb on polenta cakes
Karen Will Cater also provided a delicious Mediterranean chicken dish of lovely legs in a tomato sauce with olives and mushrooms with rice.  While there was plenty of finger food it was good to be able to serve something a bit more substantial to those that stayed on.  

As my sister and niece made a gluten-free orange and almond cake, we didn't order any of Karen's gluten-free sweet options, which include mini meringue nests with fresh cream and seasonal fruit, vanilla bean pannacotta, expresso-sized chocolate macadamia mousse and red wine poached corella pears.

As well as being our wait staff for the night, Karen and her daughter-in-law Georgina were very obliging in opening the door for guests and putting flowers in vases.

She can also cater for diabetics, people with a nut allergy, vegetarians, lactose intolerant and those on a wheat free or low fat diet.

In my investigations to find a gluten-free caterer I also discovered Onsight Catering and One Earth Foods, who were both very pleasant to deal with and offer a variety of GF options.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Jugiong's Long Track Pantry

On the way back from Wagga Wagga recently we had lunch at the Long Track Pantry at Jugiong.  Jugiong is a small town of about 230 people north of Gundagai and south of Yass off the Hume Highway.  A few famous people have passed through the Murrumbidgee River town including explorers' Hume and Hovell in 1824, bushranger Ben Hall in 1864 and Australian cricketer Richie Benaud who began his schooling there in 1935.

Inbetween the historic Sir George Tavern and the Jugiong Wine Cellar which doubles as an art gallery, the Long Track Pantry offers delicious fresh food in season including some gluten-free options. Local fruit and vegetable merchant Gino Polimeni provides the cafe with its fresh ingredients.

Manager Juliet Robb says while they do not aim to specifically cater for coeliacs and gluten-intolerant customers they try to offer something for everyone who comes through their doors. She added that having a coeliac on staff gave them excellent access to information and knowledge about products containing gluten.

This meant that my choice of locally smoked lamb, red onion relish, cheese and tomato toastie on Deeks gluten free bread was cooked in alfoil to prevent any contamination. The cafe offers four other toastie fillings which can all be made on Deeks gluten-free bread - the cafe's GF bread of choice. 

Other options for coeliacs include the Long Track Plate and the Ploughman's Lunch, both of which are antipasto-style meals which can be served with gluten-free bread. Some of their soups are also gluten-free, as well as their salads.

The cafe always offers one gluten-free cake. On the day we lunched at the red-gingham table clothed cafe we shared the vanilla and almond torte, which was very moist and melted in your mouth.

Added to the delicious food, the service at the Long Track Pantry is friendly and quick. The cafe also sells a vast array of jams, marmalade, chutneys, relishes and preserved fruit which are made from local produce and are all gluten-free.

Throughout the year Juliet Robb holds a number of cooking classes. The last sessions for 2010, which are being held on Tuesday 2 November from 10.00am-1.00pm and Saturday 6 November from 5.30-8.30pm, are on 'Summer Entertaining for Crowds with Ease and Confidence'. The Long Track Pantry is open from 10am-4pm (closed Tuesdays).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Blue bells and spring lamb

The blue bells are flowering at the bottom of our garden. When they bloom each spring, they remind me of my mother as the original bulbs came from her garden. Every year there are a few more flowers as the bulbs have naturalised and increased over the past 18 years. 
Mum was a great gardener. When we were kids we'd often hear the old Holden or later, the yellow Gemini, arrive home but she would not appear in the house. She'd stop to pull out a weed and get lost in the peace and tranquility of her garden. Seeing the blue bells blossom each year is a lovely memory of her and of the beauty she created in her life and in her garden.
And that leads me to spring lamb. I wasn't sure why spring and lamb were associated so I did a bit of research including speaking to my sheep/lamb guru brother-in-law. Spring lamb is usually milk-fed, three to five months old, born in late autumn or early winter. Before lamb became available all year round, spring was the traditional time that lamb came on the market.  While times have changed, today lamb lovers still look to eat lots of lamb in spring.

Bruce recently made a very nice roast lamb with chermoula and rosemary and garlic, which came from The Sun-Herald. Here are the instructions:

Sit the lamb in a baking tray with a splatter of olive oil. The lamb should be approximately 1.2kg and de-boned.  Insert the rosemary and garlic into slits in the lamb and rub chermoula over lamb. Add sliced Jap pumpkin to the tray and cook for 1hour at 200 C then 20 mins at 220deg.  Before serving, sprinkle fetta over the lamb and pumpkin.  Serve with baked potatoes, onion and zucchini.  Delicious!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lovely lemon polenta cake

Last Sunday I made a lemon polenta cake for our Father's Day lunch for Bruce's dad. The recipe came from David Herbert's Food and Wine section in The Weekend Australian Magazine, August 7-8, 2010. Like most flourless cakes it was quite dense but thoroughly delicious and beautifully lemony. We ate it to the sounds of Aled Jones, the Welsh boy-soprano, now grown-up and no longer a soprano, which we gave to Keith for Father's Day. Here is David Herbert's recipe:

Lemon Polenta Cake
  • 245g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 6 free-range eggs, separated
  • 175g ground almonds
  • 100g polenta (instant or regular)
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 3 unwaxed lemons
  • Icing sugar, for dusting.
Preheat the oven to 180C (fan-forced 160C). Grease a 25cm round loose-bottomed cake tin and line the base with baking paper. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy, then add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Fold in the ground almonds, polenta, zest and juice until combined. Whisk the egg whites till they form firm peaks. Using a large wooden spoon, carefully fold the egg whites into the batter. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake in the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes, or until golden and firm when touched. Cool in the tin. To serve, remove from the tin and dust with icing sugar. Serves 8-10.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

'Disgustingly good' Thai with Zac

Last Saturday night we went to the Atom Thai restaurant in Newtown with nine-year-old Zac. The restaurant was recommended by a fellow coeliac I met recently at the MEAA 'What's the story?' journalism conference.

As well as having a separate gluten-free menu, most of the stir-fries can be altered to be gluten-free - you just have to let them know.

I am not sure what Thai restaurants put in their curries but mostly they seem to be off the menu for coeliacs. While my non-coeliac dining companions, Bruce and Zac enjoyed cuffy puffs and a green chicken curry, they also tucked into the gluten-free dishes:  pad Thai with beef and an extremely tasty mixed vegetable cashew nut stir-fry with prawns.  Other options on the gluten-free menu included chilli basil noodles, stir-fried eggplant with tofu, larb, garlic and pepper king prawn, chilli basil seafood and whole barramundi salad.

At the end of the dinner, Zac (a big fan of MasterChef and a connoisseur of Thai food in the Illawarra) declared the meal 'disgustingly good'!

Atom Thai is at 130 King Street, the Missenden Road end of Newtown. It does not have a website but you can contact the restaurant on 9550 5964 or email at
It's very popular so it's a good idea to book.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Creme brulee at Carss Park Cafe

On Sunday we had lunch at the Carss Park Cafe and Grill for Bruce's mother's birthday. Carss Park is a bit of a hidden gem on Sydney's south-side. The cafe is surrounded by 5.2 hectares of parkland and bush by Kogarah Bay on the Georges River. The park and the suburb were named after William Carss, a Scotsman who purchased 119 acres of land at Kogarah Bay in 1863.  The sandstone cottage he built from stone quarried on site, still stands today, as do many other historic remnants from that period.

As we ate lunch,  families picnicked, fathers played soccer with their kids, and walkers strolled along the promenade by the old tidal baths, built in 1934.

While the cafe does not list gluten-free options on the menu, the staff, particularly Trudy, seemed well-informed on the subject.  There were about six mains which were gluten-free, but they were also happy to adjust dishes such as removing the cous cous from the grilled marinated lamb with roast vegetables and baby spinach with salad with a mint yoghurt dressing (which everyone else had for lunch).

In the end I chose the pan-fried barramundi fillet with celeriac puree and romesco sauce with snap peas. I was not disappointed; it was delicious with a nice mix of flavours and textures. Other main options included chorizo, pea and mushroom risotto with fresh thyme and parmesan, duck breast with rosemary-roasted potatoes and a pickled quince and roast capsicum salad, five-hour slow-roasted pork hock with savoy cabbage and chat potatoes, and grilled scotch fillet steak with brocollini and red wine jus. 

While everyone else in the party had birthday cake for desert (full of gluten) I enjoyed a delicious orange creme brulee from the cafe's sweets menu.  And then it was time to walk off our lunch with a stroll through the park and an amble by the bay.

Carss Park Cafe is open seven days for breakfast and lunch, and on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for dinner from 6pm.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Story creates gluten-free debate

Helen Greenwood's story in The Sydney Morning Herald this week on the Healthy Feast gluten-free bakery in Leichhardt sparked a great gluten-free debate. Well, maybe it wasn't the story that really created the debate but rather an inflammatory comment posted by a person called Sahara at the online site.
At the end of the review, the Herald asked readers to let them know about good gluten-free eating spots. A few people posted their favourites but the majority of the 94 people who commented were responding to Sahara's statement about food allergies being trendy with gluten-intolerant the most popular. Sahara went on to assert that most food allergies were self-diagnosed and that people who claim to suffer from a food allergy are part of the "look at me, I'm special" mentality.
Well boy did those comments set the cat among the pigeons. In particular, people with coeliac disease were the most outraged about being considered trendy on a gluten-free diet, and rightly so.  One point I did agree with Sahara on is that it is important to get a proper diagnosis if you are having digestive problems and find out whether you have an allergy, an intolerance, coeliac disease or something else.

In the end I think Bill from Broome aptly summed up the debate, saying he thought Sahara was one of those typical commenters that like 'taking the piss'' and sitting back and having a giggle at the outrage they cause. Either way Sahara, The Sydney Morning Herald and Healthy Feast created a conversation on coeliac disease, gluten-free foods, allergies and intolerances. And among the 94 posts there were a few good recommendations for coeliac-friendly restaurants.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sister Wendy unveils our new painting

Sister Wendy Beckett made a surprise appearance at our place on Saturday night.

The British art commentator of BBC fame dropped by to unveil our new painting – a wedding gift from more than 20 friends.

Arriving fashionably late, Sister Wendy unfortunately missed out on the hors dóeuvres – all gluten-free. I think she would have enjoyed wrapping those bucky teeth around the tandoori chicken, and prawn and avocado rice paper rolls. Instead the South-African-born contemplative nun, who lives in a caravan, had to make do with a few nuts and chips. We did give her a glass of champagne though, which added a bit of colour to her cheeks.

After a bit of poetic licence on my part, telling our guests there would be an artist talk at the unveiling, we were very pleased that Sister Wendy could step in at the last minute. She added drama, humour and glamour to the night, as well as making some very insightful comments on our new painting, Jacaranda by Australian artist Tanya Hoddinott.

Although Sister Wendy had a bit of trouble with Tanya’s surname (and her veil), she was very taken with her colourful, abstract work, which we bought at the Arthouse Gallery in Rushcutters Bay. As she told the gathering of nearly 20 friends, “Tanya told me that Jacaranda is named because of the bluey/violet colours in it.

“She said the jacaranda was a tree she grew up with (in northern NSW) and always loved, and was very missed in her 20 odd years in Melbourne. So it is not that the painting is representative but rather more symbolic.”

Finally, with a bit of help from gallant Bruce, Sister Wendy ripped the paper covering Jacaranda and revealed the work. “Gorgeous,” said Sister Wendy, and we all agreed.

By this stage our visiting celebrity was getting a bit hungry, so Bruce quickly heated up the bolognaise sauce he had prepared earlier from a Stephanie Alexander recipe. He even had some gluten free pasta ready as Sister Wendy said she preferred it to the wheat variety. Sister Wendy very much enjoyed the spaghetti bolognaise as I noticed she returned a number of times for extra helpings.

Everyone else did too, especially the late stayers, Kath and Ian and Rod who at 1am in the morning were dunking bread rolls (not gluten-free) into the bolognaise sauce.

Special thanks to Sister Wendy (aka Fiona), and to all our friends who gave us such a lovely wedding gift that enabled us to buy Tanya’s beautiful painting.

For recipes from the night go to ‘WHAT I AM COOKING’ on the  right of this blog.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Gluten Free Expo, 7-8 August, Sydney

From pizza bases to pies, pasta and peanut brittle, you'll find a huge range of gluten-free products at the Gluten Free Expo, which opens this Friday, 6 August from 4-8pm.  Presented by the Coeliac Society of NSW, the Gluten Free Expo is being held at Exhibition Hall 4 at the Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park, Homebush.  It is also on Saturday, 7 August from 9-5 pm.

The expo showcases gluten-free manufacturers, distributors and retailers and there's lots of delicious food to taste. Other highlights include cooking demonstrations, talks on coeliac disease and what's new in gluten-free. For people who are newly diagnosed with coeliac disease attending the expo is a great way to find out about the large range of gluten-free products available today. Admission is free.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The bayside cafe at Leichhardt Pool

Leichhardt Pool, or Leichhardt Park Aquatic Centre (LPAC) as it is officially known, is one of my favourite places in Sydney. Set in a picturesque location overlooking Iron Cove, it's my pool of choice for my almost daily swim. And the added bonus is that it has a great cafe - Blue Aqua Kiosk - run by Philip, who with his brother Robert and sister-in-law Annabella, used to run Ba Babas in Norton Street, Leichhardt.

Three years ago, Ba Babas was a great place to eat, and used to be a bit of an institution on Sydney's little Italy street. My inner west friends and I would have dinner there nearly every Friday night, and it was the venue for quite a few family celebrations.

Ba Babas is not the same anymore but Philip's Blu Aqua Kiosk at Leichhardt Pool is definitely a nice place to relax and enjoy good coffee and cake or something more substantial. The elevated terrace above the complex's 50-metre pool is a lovely spot to enjoy the winter sun, read the paper or just relax and gaze out over the bay. 

The other bonus is that there a quite a few gluten-free options. On  a recent sunny Sunday after 20 laps of the pool I enjoyed a gluten-free coconut and raspberry cupcake with a skim latte. There was also a gluten-free apricot and date cake and gluten-free muesli for those early morning swimmers, racing off to work or school. Other GF options include an Italian omelette and scrambled eggs.

Another good thing about this beautifully situated cafe is that it's not just for the complex's pool and gym users - anyone can come in - even husband Bruce, who enjoyed an excellent cup of coffee and banana bread after his run to Balmain. With the 'Bay Run' just below the pool, the cafe is an ideal place for all the runners, walkers and bike-riders who frequent this 7km path to stop in for a post-exercise treat.

The cafe is at Mary Street Lilyfield, just behind Leichhardt Oval.  It is open from 6am in the morning till 7pm at night.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Julia Gillard and polenta chips

As I watched the ABC News on the dumping of  Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for Julia Gillard last night, I was madly stirring polenta in a saucepan on the stove. As we were out of potatoes to accompany the steak, I had a brainwave to make polenta chips. Well, it was a good idea but the thing about polenta is that the cooking of it takes serious commitment. As Stephanie Alexander says on page 347 of her wonderful book, The Cook's Companion: "To make polenta the traditional way you will need a large, heavy saucepan - and patience. Not only patience to stir the mixture, but patience to clean the saucepan."

So while I listened to Julia's impressive speech and shed a tear with Kevin over his sudden dumping, I stirred and stirred my one cup of yellow polenta into the four cups of boiling water. The idea is to keep stirring until the wooden spoon stands up on its own accord in the mix. After 20 minutes my wooden spoon was still a bit like the leaning tower of Pisa, but I decided that was enough. I added more than a half a cup of grated parmesan cheese, chopped fresh rosemary and two large dollops of margarine (it was meant to be butter) and called it a day with the stirring.

By this stage the news had left Julia and Kevin and was on to the World Cup. I spooned the polenta mix out onto a tray to cool. After about 10 minutes or so I cut it into strips with a wet knife (as Stephanie Alexander advised) and basted with olive oil and laid in a baking dish. I popped the dish in the oven for about 20 minutes at about 200 degrees C. Towards the end I turned the oven on to grill to crisp things up. While they ended up looking more like Fish Fingers than chips, or wedges rather than fries - my parmesan, rosemary polenta chips were a nice change to potatoes or rice on the day Australia had its first woman Prime Minister.

For everything you need to know about cooking polenta - a gluten-free Northern Italian speciality - go to page 347 of Stephanie Alexander's book, The Cook's Companion, the complete book of ingredients and recipes for the Australian kitchen.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Delicious dining in Darlinghurst

On Saturday we continued on our art trail of Sydney's galleries in search of a "wedding present" to buy. While we'd love to find something, we are enjoying discovering bohemian parts of Sydney, viewing the diverse range of work, and finding coeliac-friendly cafes like the Forbes and Burton in Darlinghurst.

Our first stop on Saturday was inner-city Chippendale where we saw some very interesting artwork including pieces by Lizzie Buckmaster Dove at the NG Art Gallery and contemporary Chinese art at the White Rabbit Gallery. From there we moved on to Surry Hills/Darlinghurst viewing Caz Haswell's work on wood and tapestry at the Flinders Street Gallery and Matt Bromhead's drawings, sculptures and wall assemblages at the next-door Rex- Livingston Art Dealer. Our final two art-stops were the Robin Gibson Gallery in Liverpool Street and the National Art School Gallery in Forbes Street. 

By this stage we were a bit hungry so we we dropped into the Forbes and Burton, opposite the National Art School.  To my delight there were a number of items marked with GF including a potato cake under poached eggs with oak-smoked salmon and a pash of onion jam, which I chose. This cool but very relaxed cafe is a mixture of old, new and exotic with splashes of bright pink glass and a large New Guinean (I think) wall hanging contrasting with the building's old, sandstone walls. The sounds of Roy Orbison added to the easy-going, mellow ambience and to the delicious food.

Other gluten-free options included grilled chicken nicoise, kipflers, red onions, beans, tomatoes, olives and boiled eggs, salad of roasted baby beetroot, tomato, basil and buffalo mozzarella topped with hazelnuts, and bubble and squeak with grilled bacon, fried eggs, homemade brown sauce. Open in the evenings as well, on Sundays diners can enjoy a range of roasts. We'll be back.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A gluten-free 12th birthday cake

At my niece's 12th birthday barbeque on Sunday I was able to eat the birthday cake as it was gluten-free. The  flourless chocolate fondant cake with rich ganache cream icing came from Croquembouche Patisserrie at Banksmeadow next door to Botany. As Eimear announced when the cake was being cut up, it may look small but it's very rich so you don't need big slices. I enjoyed a piece of the cake with Sara Lee's gluten-free French vanilla ice cream. The only other gluten-free cake made at Croquembouche is an orange and almond cake.

We had a delicious dinner prepared by my brother and sister-in-law to celebrate their eldest daughter's birthday. As well as salad, steak and potatoes, other gluten-free options included Lenard's gluten-free sausages and gluten-free tandoori chicken. My nieces also introduced me to a new brand of gluten-free chips called Piranha Potato Grills. Happy birthday Eimear.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Art and about in Danks Street

A number of our friends gave us some money to buy an artwork for a wedding present so yesterday we headed out to a few galleries. First port of call was the Danks Street precinct in Sydney's Waterloo where there are a number of galleries mostly in the same building.

We saw some very interesting and varied work from artists such as Wendy Teakel, whose paintings and sculptures are inspired by farming and the land. There were works on paper by Gary Shinfield, moody skyscapes from Anita Hochman, indigenous art from Western Australia, South Australia and NT, and intense, dot-like paintings in fluorescent colours from the recently deceased Kuno Gonschior

The Danks Street area is pretty cool with lots of groovy housey shops, cafes and galleries. It's also a very eclectic area of Housing Commission tower blocks, renovated warehouses, a branch of the Hillsong "happy clappy" church, long-time working class residents, students, gays and hip young couples, some with beautiful babies. After an hour or so of observing the artwork it was time for coffee, and if I was lucky some gluten-free cake. 

As most of the cafes in Danks Street were overflowing with people we decided to go to Patisse, which is in the GO1 pyd building where all the galleries are on the corner of Young and Phillip Streets. Patisse was created to bring the baking style and traditions of Paris to Sydney. After having a quick scan of their cakes I nearly left as nothing was labelled gluten-free. But then a friendly staff member called Mike intervened. "What can I get for you,"' he said. "Oh nothing for me I'm gluten-free," I replied. "We have lots of gluten-free things," said Mike. "Strawberry success cake, pistachio and olive cake, all our meringues (which looked pretty spectacular) and our macaroons."

After making our selections we found a sunny spot by one of the cafe's large open bi-fold windows. Bruce had the strawberry succcess cake, which was to die for. It was very moist, full of fresh strawberries and coconuty. "Mine's better than your's," said Bruce. And he was right but my pistachio and olive cake was also delicious. The coffee was good with our only complaint it could have been a bit hotter. My Dad always used to specify, "make it hot"' when he ordered his coffee.

Our experience at Patisse didn't end there as Mike said if we felt like more we were most welcome to take a macaroon from the tree of macaroons. So we finished off with a sweet, melt-in-your mouth macaroon. If you are wanting more than cake, Patisse has lots of other options including all-day breakfasts with omelettes and fruit salads gluten-free. They also have a variety of salads including English spinach and goats cheese with pear and walnut, ocean trout nicoise, warm kifler potatoes with chorizo (you would have to check if gluten-free) and poached eggs and the soup of the day was potato, leek and parsnip. For those non-gluten-free people there's lots of other delicious pastry options too.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Wet weather dining at home

With the weather in Sydney very wet, we didn't head out to any gluten-free restaurants this week. Instead we tried a few new recipes and some old favourites at home. The chapter I was up to in Michelle Maisto's book The Gastronomy of Marriage coincided with the food we ate.  In Chapter 14 'Risotto, Frittata, Fried Rice', Michelle says she turns to these dishes when she has to create something from nearly nothing. Risotto and fried rice were on our menu these past few days with the fried rice made from whatever was in the fridge.  I have to acknowledge Bruce's influence in making the fried rice. He hates wasting food and suggested using all the leftover vegies and herbs for fried rice. Before Bruce, I probably would have made a frittata with the ingredients in the fridge but would have steered clear of fried rice due to the lack of a few key items such as red or green pepper. So here's what was in it: chopped shallots, zucchini and coriander, baby spinach leaves, 3 eggs whisked, cooked and chopped, bacon, lots of ground pepper, Tamari soy sauce and unsalted peanuts.

The finished product was very tasty and with the addition of the coriander at the end was very aromatic.  Bacon can be problematic for coeliacs with dextrose from wheat in some brands. As a consequence I often spend quite a lot of time reading the ingredients on the brands at the supermarket. But recently I discovered KR Castlemaine Bacon, which is thin and crispy, has no artificial colours or flavours and has a big gluten-free sign on the packet. So it's become my brand of choice and was one of the ingredients in the delicious fried rice.
Lemon and leek risotto
Earlier in the week I made Phil Vickery's lemon and leek risotto from his book, Seriously Good! Gluten-free Cooking. Probably not a good one for the waistline but it was very tasty and flavoursome, if a bit rich. It didn't take long to make although as with all risottos you have to spend a bit of time at the stove stirring the rice. We had enough left over for the next night and it tasted just as good. Phil Vickery says the secret to risotto is not to overcook the rice, and to keep it nice and soupy. Here is his recipe:

Ingredients: 6 tablespoons olive oil, 1 small onion (finely chopped), 2 garlic cloves (finely chopped), 1 small leek, (very finely shredded - I nearly shredded my thumb doing this - so not having a good shredder I just chopped it up and it was still nice in the dish), 300g arborio rice, 100ml white wine, 1x10g gluten-free vegetable stock cube (Massell is good and gluten-free), 600ml boiling water, 150g Parmesan cheese (grated), 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, zest of 1 lemon, shredded into long pieces, 25g unsalted butter (I left this out), salt and freshly ground black pepper, grated Parmesan cheese to serve.

Method: Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small, shallow pan, add the onion and garlic and cook for 10 minutes to soften. (Note here - Phil says to use a small, shallow pan but as later on all the ingredients have to be added, you need a pan big enough to fit everything and to cook the rice. So I ditched Phil's advice here and used our new medium- large scanpan). Heat the remaining oil in a separate medium-sized plan (I used a smallish one for this), and add the leek. Season well with salt and pepper (I only used pepper). Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring all the time, until cooked, but not overcooked. Then pop into a colander to drain well. Add the rice to the shallow pan and coat well in the oil, then add the white wine and reduce until almost evaporated. Crumble the stock cube over the rice, and then gradually add the boiling water a little at a time (I accidently added it all at once but it was okay), stirring constantly. Add enough water until the rice is cooked (12-15 minutes), not overcooked, nice and soupy. Taste the rice and season well. Once you are happy with the base, add the cheese, cooked leek, lemon zest, basil and butter. Cover and leave for 5 minutes. Add a little boiling water if the consistency is too thick. Serve in deep bowls with extra Parmesan cheese. Delicious!

Potato soup with sausage and spinach

The other choice for the week was a recipe I have been making for a number of years. I am a big fan of soup especially in winter and as I work from home it's great having something ready to warm up for lunch. From The Australian Women Weekly 1994 Potato Cookbook, Potato Soup with Sausage and Spinach is a very hearty dish for the colder months. When I first started making this soup I used to substitute bacon for the sausage as gluten-free chorizo was hard to find. It's not anymore with a number of butchers and companies making gluten-free chorizo and other sausages including AC Butchery in Leichhardt. This time I used The Peppercorn Food Company's Extra Lean beef chipolata with fresh Asian herbs and spices, which were very tasty. The best gluten-free stock is the Massel brand. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients: 200g chorizo sausage, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 large (200g) red Spanish onion (chopped), 2 cloves of garlic (crushed), 5 medium potatoes (peeled and cut into 2cm cubes), 1.5 litres of chicken stock, 1 bunch (650g) English spinach (shredded - I just chopped up).
Method: Cut sausages into 5cm strips, cook in dry pan until browned, drain on absorbent paper. Heat oil in plan, add onion and garlic, cook, stirring until onion is soft. Cut potatoes into 2cm cubes, add potatoes and stock to onion mixture, simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are tender. Add spinach, stir over heat until spinach is wilted. Add sausage, stir until hot. Serves 6. 

Sunday, May 30, 2010

All that was left of lunch

Yesterday Bruce and I had friends over for lunch to view the premiere screening of our wedding video taken by our friend Fiona. While I was the only coeliac at the lunch, everything was gluten-free. It was a bit of a Thai affair with the main course a red chicken curry and pumpkin, basil and chilli stir-fry with rice. This was followed by Jody Vassallo's Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut cake (see recipe in What I am cooking on this blog) with strawberries, blueberries and ice cream (Cadbury gluten-free ice cream). Everything was washed down with a few glasses of champagne and wine and at the end of the day all that was left was a tiny portion of cake.

The red chicken curry recipe came from a 1991 Australian Women's Weekly Easy Thai-style cook book that I resurrected from a box of books waiting for us to have a garage sale or take to Vinnies. It's a pretty simple dish with the main time taken in making the curry paste, which in my case took a bit longer as I couldn't get my very cheap blender to work. Anyway with a bit of intervention from Bruce the mechanic, it eventually ground and chopped up the Spanish onion, garlic, coriander roots, dried chilli flakes, galangal powder, grated lime rind, shrimp paste, paprika, turmeric, cumin seeds and oil – into a fragrant paste. The other ingredients are green shallots, chicken thigh fillets, fish sauce and coconut milk. The other dish came from a more recent Thai cookbook called Beginners Thai, Step-by-step to Perfect Results also in The Australian Women's Weekly cookbook series. Bruce was the master of this dish, which was very delicious despite my overcooking of the pumpkin, which made it turn into mash.The only gluten-free substitute that was needed was Tamari soy sauce instead of a wheat-containing brand.

Traditionally Thai food does not contain a lot of gluten but in recent years I have found that more and more restaurants are using mass produced curry pastes and sauces that include gluten. At the same time a number of Thai restaurants are specifying dishes that are gluten-free on their menus, which makes eating out a lot easier for coeliacs. One Thai restaurant that I know offers a gluten-free menu is Thai Potong at Newtown in Sydney's inner west.

On checking on The Australian Women's Weekly cookbook website, which seems to be managed in the UK, I found that they produce two coeliac-friendly cookbooks called Gluten-free Eating and Gluten-free Cooking.