Monday, December 17, 2012

Delicious and easy 'summer simmer fruits' for Christmas

Last Saturday night we had a whole crowd of people over. There were 12 adults, one teenager, six and eight-year-old boys and a three month old baby boy. We had lovely 'befores' courtesy of Kate and Chris followed by prawns and plenty of champagne. For the main course we served Christmas ham cooked in a marinade of orange zest, orange juice, cloves and Dijon mustard, roast pork with pears, Parmesan baked potatoes, Jamie Oliver's baked beetroot with balsalmic vinegar, marjoram and garlic and David Herbert's roasted asparagus with mozzarella salad. It was all very delicious if I don't say so myself.  But I think the dish that got the most rapturous response was the dessert, 'Summer Simmer Fruits'.

It was the first time we had cooked this recipe which I found in a Donna Hay magazine from Feb/March 2007.  While I shopped for the ingredients Bruce cut up the fruit and made the dish.
And what a hit it was. A beautiful mixture of mangoes, apricots and blackberries with a vanilla bean or two and some castor sugar. So simple, which is the key to all the best recipes.

I also made some meringues topped with chopped pistachio nuts.  The idea for the pistachio nuts came from a recipe in Country Style's Christmas 2012 collector's edition. I used the meringue recipe in Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion as it has served me well in the past and it was less complicated than the Country Style one. We served the summer simmer fruits and meringues with Bulla vanilla ice cream which is gluten free (GF). The other GF ice cream is Sara Lee's French Vanilla. To complete the festival of food, Kate made some delicious GF chocolate fudge brownies which we enjoyed with a cup of tea.  Here are the recipes:

Summer simmer fruits

2 mangoes, cut into wedges (skin on)
2 apricots, halved and stones removed
125g blackberries
1 thick piece of lemon peel
1 thick piece of orange peel
1 vanilla bean, split or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
(These ingredients serves 4, so increase the quantities for more people)

Instructions: Heat a deep frying pan over low heat. Add the mangoes, apricots, blackberries, lemon peel, orange peel and vanilla. Sprinkle over the sugar and cover with a tight fitting lid. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is syrupy. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Sue's meringues (page 432 of Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion (2004 edition)

2 egg whites at room temperature
Half a cup of castor sugar
One quarter of a teaspoon of pure vanilla 
To reduce or increase the quantities allow 60g castor sugar to an egg white.
Note: I used 4 egg whites and produced nearly 40 meringues.

Instructions: Preheat oven to 150 degree Celsius and line a baking tray with baking paper. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form, then add sugar, a little at a time, still beating. Beat in vanilla. Place small spoonfuls of meringue on baking tray and bake for 45 minutes. Turn oven off, leave door slightly ajar and allow meringues to cool completely in oven. Store in an airtight container lined with greaseproof paper. *If you would like to add pistachios to your meringues, chop up the nuts and sprinkle over the meringues before placing in oven.

Chocolate fudge brownies (gluten-free)

Photo from
Note from Kate: she added a big handful of macadamia nuts to this recipe.

Happy gluten-free Christmas.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Gluten-free grazing at four favourite Annandale cafes

Working in Annandale over the past year, I have been taste-testing a number of the suburb's cafes. In the process I have discovered the following four favourites that cater for coeliacs like me and those on a gluten-free (GF) diet. 

For those of you who don't know where Annandale is, it's between three and five kilometres from Sydney's CBD and is within the Leichhardt Municipality. It is the next-door suburb to Glebe to the east, Leichhardt to the west, Balmain to the north and Stanmore to the south. Infamous Kings Cross property developer Abe Saffron was born there, Cold Chisel guitarist Ian Moss is a resident, and American author Mark Twain visited the suburb. He stayed at the home of Sir Henry Parkes, the father of Federation, who died in Annandale on 27 April 1896. I have also spotted a few of The Chaser boys drinking coffee at The Little Marionette On The Dale cafe on the corner of Albion and Trafalgar streets.

Cafe on Johnston

At 63 Johnston Street, opposite the tall spire of the Hunter Baillie Church is Cafe on Johnston. A favourite with locals for more than 14 years, this friendly spot is particularly popular with St Brendan's Primary mothers and their under-5s, who stop in for a morning coffee after dropping their older kids at the nearby school

I came across this review of Cafe on Johnston on Eatability, which describes it well: "It's not your usual trendy cafe (so many of which seem to be popping up everywhere) but it's got good heart and is not intimidating to walk into!"

It also serves delicious food and owners' Lee and Rob have always been very helpful in catering for my GF needs. They stock a particularly delicious GF bread which I had the other day topped with pesto, eggplant, red pepper and artichokes. Other choices include smoked salmon, capers, cream cheese, Spanish onion or tomato chutney, roasted pumpkin, eggplant and spinach. They also offer a range of tasty salads with at least one usually GF, 'create your own omelettes', and hearty soups in winter.

Revolver Cafe

At 291 Annandale Street, around the corner from Annandale North Public School, is the very cool Revolver. Original owner Rod, who recently sold to Mark, opened the cafe in 2009 in one of the suburb's old corner shop buildings.  The circa 1893 building was originally intended to be a pub but when the upper class gentry who lived in North Annandale (and some may say have returned) objected it became a general store and residence. 

On the cafe's website original owner Rod explains where the name comes from. "I have a John Lennon signed copy of the Beatles Revolver album which I think was the pivotal point in their career, as was this cafe so pivotal in my career. I have also always had a thing for cogs and all things revolving like the inner workings of some fantastical machine so revolver just fitted."

Revolver is full of character with friendly, efficient service, great coffee and innovative food. The mother of former owner Rod makes all the cakes including GF orange syrup cake, lemon and lime friands and a moist, coconut-filled, delicious banana bread. Many of the breakfast options are GF and bread-based items like eggs Benedict or burgers can be substituted with GF bread.

Esther's Table

Away from Annandale's main retail area of Johnstone and Booth Streets is the delightful Esther's Table. On the corner of Annandale and Reserve Streets, it is named after Esther Abrahams, the convict wife of Major George Johnston.  A captain of one of the First Fleet ships, George Johnston met his Jewish milliner wife on the journey to Australia. They set up home in Annandale after he was granted 100 acres in the area. Johnston named the suburb after Annan, his birthplace in Scotland.

The cafe has had a number of owners over the years, and some of you may remember it as Hopscotch or Beth's Place. The corner 1902 grocery store building and outdoor area has a nice aspect and seems to be bathed in sunshine for a good part of the day.  In terms of GF options, owner Rose Saunders usually stocks GF banana bread and a number of other sweet treats to accompany a coffee. GF bread is mostly available, although the stocked brand is not as nice as the one at Cafe on Johnston. Esther's Table's breakfasts are particularly delicious and there are a number of GF options.

Clover Cafe

Another local favourite is Clover on the western side of Booth Street just down from the Annandale Post Office.  Clover stocks Naturis Organic Buckwheat loaf GF bread, which waitress Maddie said had received many positive comments from patrons. In the sweet stakes Clover offers lemon and poppy seed polenta cakes and GF brownies.

On the day I lunched there, I enjoyed the mint and lime poached chicken salad with a cucumber, coriander and sesame oil dressing. I have also tried the Clover Greek Salad which includes chunky cucumber, cherry tomatoes, Persian feta, fresh mind and parsley, rock salt-roasted beetroot with a punchy fattoush dressing. Another favourite is the grilled haloumi with watermelon, artichoke hearts, pesto, semi-dried tomatoes and salad greens. Clover has an app which can be downloaded for free at:

Next time: Annandale's coeliac-friendly restaurants

Monday, July 2, 2012

On the tapas trail in Moorish Spain

Eating out overseas is much easier when the local coeliac society lists gluten-free-(GF) friendly restaurants on their website like the Italians do. But if they don’t the next best thing is when restaurant staff have a good understanding of the gluten-free diet.

Fortunately this was what we experienced when travelling through the AndalucĂ­a region in southern Spain last year. In most of the restaurants we dined the staff knew what GF meant and could advise what was suitable on the menu.

Logging on to the Federation of Celiac Spain (FACE) was also useful although its listing of GF restaurants is limited to hotel and restaurant chains. At the same time it is a good source of information on supermarkets selling GF products and on explaining your GF requirements when eating out. It also provides links to coeliac organisations in other regions of Spain including Malaga, Granada, Cordoba and Seville.

One of the nicest meals I had during our time in southern Spain was at Citron in Malaga, our first stop before heading on to explore Moorish Andalucia. Here I was served warm GF bread topped with olive and anchovy paste followed by beef medallions perfectly cooked medium-rare with yellow and red capsicum, onion and cherry tomatoes and chips made in-house.

I also thought I was enjoying a GF beer, however on closer examination I found that the Estrella Damm Daura GF beer was actually not 100 per cent GF. Made from barley it contains a small amount of gluten so it is low-GF rather than GF-free. Consequently it was my last beer in Spain.

The staff at the Hotel Tryp where we were staying in Malaga were very helpful in finding a GF restaurant in the Costa de Sol city and recommended Citron. Tryp Hotels are a good option for coeliacs as they offer GF meals in their dining rooms.

Another hotel chain that is coeliac-friendly is the Parador group, but they are significantly more expensive than Tryp hotels. In Granada we traipsed up the hill to the Parador near the Alhambra so that I could dine gluten-free. While the dinner was nice, it was quite expensive and we would rather have eaten in a more traditional Granada restaurant with more atmosphere than this rather formal hotel dining room.

In Seville we stayed at a Tryp Hotel in the Macarena area and so started each day with a GF breakfast in the dining room.

In Granada and Cordoba, we visited the same cafe each morning where the staff were more than happy to heat up my GF croissant or bread roll bought at the local supermarket.  They would serve it with jam and butter, our daily fresh orange juice followed by a cafe con leche.

During our four days in these two fascinating cities we returned to the same cafe each day for our breakfast ritual and almost felt like locals. One tip I would suggest is when you see GF supplies at a supermarket stock up as you may not find them at your next destination.

In the Las Alpujarras (white villages) in the Sierra Nevada Mountains there was not quite the same knowledge of the GF diet but people were helpful in trying to understand what I couldn’t eat. Learning the Spanish words for wheat, barley, rye and oats and flour was useful, as was carrying the Spanish translation card explaining coeliac disease and the GF diet.

With tapas considered an Andalusian speciality I was keen to join in this culinary tradition. While I couldn’t eat everything on the tapas menus in restaurants and bars throughout AndalucĂ­a, there were usually at least four options I could choose from.

At Taberna Tofe in Granada we had too much tapas!  The food was nothing extraordinary at this traditional restaurant but the woman serving us was extremely helpful in ensuring my selections were GF including pork with shredded cabbage and paprika and a salad with lettuce, tuna, fetta, sultanas and apples.

We also enjoyed some delicious tapas at Casa Rubio Bar after exploring Cordoba’s colourful patios full of geraniums and other potted plants.

Grilled fish and salad at El Rincon de Carmen in Cordoba’s Jewish quarter was a nice way to finish the day after visiting the spectacular garden at Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos. Perhaps our best tapas was at Aljibe restaurant in Seville, which had interesting combinations to choose from.

After visiting Cordoba’s mosque-cathedral Mezquita, we dropped into the always busy Bar Santos for one of their famous tortilla de patatas. We ate the filling potato omelette on the steps of the Mezquita washed down with a freshly squeezed orange juice – one of the daily delights of travelling in this region.

And of course the sangria was GF so I could enjoy a glass or two at a bar opposite Granada's spectacular Alhambra and take in the historic and beautiful view. Muchas gracios Andalucia!