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  1. Beef Jerky

    March 3, 2015 by Maria

    Beef jerky is a high protein, dried beef snack! Did you ever consider making it yourself? Homemade means there are no unnecessary extra’s like nitrites & MSG. Jerky prices range between $70-$90 a kilo on average, hence why you pay so much for a tiny amount at the supermarket (think: foil-sealed nuts & bar snacks section). At LAX (Los Angeles airport) there is (or used to be?) a whole shop devoted to jerky, mostly in expensive gift packs (think: wooden boxes and triple figures).

    Some jerky recipes require you to marinate the meat for days! My recipe lets you eat your jerky same-day (just don’t start making it at night)! Beef jerky preparations will make your house smell like continental smallgoods.. think of a lovely, paprika and garlic dense Hungarian salami. Though honestly, I think the smell of jasmine rice lingers in your house a lot longer than any jerky smells do. In Masterchef style, I’ll give you my top three tips for making your own jerky. 1/ Choose reduced salt, brined corned beef ie. silverside. My local Woolworths didnt’ have any on the day so I bought organic silverside which has less salt than its regular counterpart. 2/ Remember to keep your oven door ajar and have it at 80 degree’s celcius. I used a wooden spoon in the door to keep it open throughout the 3.5 hour drying process. 3/ Don’t skimp on paper towels when drying off your beef strips. Use double layers of the stuff on top and underneath your strips and press down, so you get a ‘soaking-up’ action.

    So there you go folks, you don’t need a food dehydrator machine thingy to make your own jerky.. just plan to hang around your house for a few hours. Though it won’t require your attention for most of the time.  Experiment with your marinades.. but always use reduced salt soy sauce or tamari (because your beef comes to you in brine). Don’t like garlic? Omit it and think of flavour alternatives like Asian five spice, minced ginger and lime zest. Remember to store prepared jerky with some folded paper towel in zip lock bags or an airtight container. Ok so I seemingly have more than three top tips.

    Beef Jerky

    -1 piece of corned beef or silverside in brine about one kilo in size (reduced salt)

    -5 cloves of fresh garlic, minced

    -1 teaspoon garlic powder

    -1 teaspoon onion powder

    -1 tablespoon caster sugar

    -1/2 cup rice malt syrup (or maple syrup)

    -1/2 cup salt reduced tamari, (wheat free) or soy sauce

    -3 tablespoon’s cooking sake (or spirit alcohol, like brandy)

    -3 teaspoon’s smoked paprika

    -1 teaspoon sweet paprika

    -1/2 teaspoon hot paprika

    -1 teaspoon ground cumin

    -1 tablespoon of mild Indian curry powder (eg. Korma)

    -1 roll of highly absorbant kitchen paper towel, you won’t use the whole roll, but if you don’t have any on hand it’ll be difficult to dry the beef strips before putting them on oven trays


    -Rinse meat in cold water and pat dry with paper towel

    -Trim all fat from meat. If you don’t have a sharp knife, sharp kitchen scissors will do a good job

    -Cut beef into steaks (about 2-3cm thick)

    -Place steaks in a single layer on plates, cover with plastic food wrap and put into freezer

    -Aim to partially-freeze the steaks which will take about 1 to 2 hours depending on your freezer

    -While corned beef steaks are in freezer, make your marinade by mixing all ingredients together in a large bowl

    -When steaks are partially frozen, take them out one-by-one and slice thinly into strips (about 2 to 3mm thick)

    -When all of the beef is sliced (or as much as you’d like to use), place the strips into the marinade and leave for an hour to soak. In colder months, it’s ok to leave out of the fridge if you’re only going to marinate the icy cold beef for an hour. If you choose to marinate the meat for 2 to 3 hours, then cover with plastic food wrap and put in the fridge

    -When you’re ready to dry your jerky, work with a handful of strips at a time

    -Preheat your oven to 80 degree’s celcius

    -Prepare two to three sheets of absorbant paper towel, doubled-over ie. 4 to 6 sheets for a base to lay out some marinated strips, then cover with a double layer of paper towels and press down with your hands. I usually flip the paper towels over and press a second time. You want your marinated beef to be as dry as possible before going into the oven

    -I made two trays at at time ie. two oven shelves and I lined my trays with baking paper

    -Lay beef strips onto prepared oven trays, making sure the strips aren’t touching each other

    -You should have leftover marinated strips which can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days or just make more immediately after your first batch is done

    -Place trays in the oven and leave oven door slightly ajar.. I used a wooden spoon to keep it open, this will ensure the beef dries properly

    -For the texture that I like which is not quite ‘tree bark’ dry and hard, but still chewy with distinct brittleness, let beef dry in the 80 degree celcius oven for 3.5 hours, turning once or twice during that time

    -If you like your beef a little more moist, then remove the beef after 2 hours.. Taste as you go, it’s hard not to!

    -When the beef jerky is done, let cool on trays.. Only store once the jerky is completely cooled

    -Store with a couple of sheets of clean paper towel in sealed, zip lock bags or a snug airtight container

    Trim visible fat off and slice into 2 to 3 cm steaks.

    Recipe inspiration from Google and Paul Mercurio’s marvellous book “Cooking with Beer”.

  2. Sticky Coconut Rice with Mango

    February 24, 2015 by Maria

    I once had Sticky Coconut Rice and Mango in a Thai restaurant for dessert and I was transported to a tropical foodie paradise!  It’s easy to make and if you have a bamboo steamer… even easier.  I LOVE my bamboo steamer, or rather, “loved” as in past tense because it finally died.  Eventually the bamboo started falling apart (like bark off a tree), but we had a good couple of years together and for around $20 for a ‘Luke Nguyen’ purchased at Myer, it was a steal.  For years I’d been using the fold-up metal-petal basket steamers that always seem to lose their petal’s or break or lose one of their little metallic legs. Metal steamer baskets are plopped into saucepan’s with water and I’ve used them for donkey’s years.

    I’ve eaten steamed rice in restaurants.. but for home cooked rice, I usually use my Kambrook rice cooker.  For this dessert however, I decided to do as I was told because all of the recipe’s I researched asked for the rice to be steamed. They also asked for way too much sugar, so I heavily modified the quantity so as not to give anyone a toothache. But suit yourself. Be sure to use ripe mango’s and be generous with your fruit portions because it compliments the coconutty rice so well.  This recipe is a popular one on my Pinterest account too (lots of re-pins) – it looks great (as well as tasting great)… minimum effort, maximum pleasure…so said Nigella Lawson once or twice….

    Sticky Coconut Rice with Mango
    Serves 6

    -2 cups of white glutinous rice (available at Asian grocer’s or some supermarkets)
    -2 cups of coconut milk
    -1/2 cup of sugar
    -1 teaspoon of salt
    -2 ripe mango’s (or substitute with slices of kiwi fruit, moist, ripe peaches or passionfruit)
    -A few tablespoonful’s of coconut cream (thicker than coconut milk) to drizzle over when serving
    -Optional: black and/or white sesame seeds to garnish
    -Rinse rice (in a strainer) with cold water, then drain.
    -In a large bowl, cover rinsed rice with cold water and soak for one hour.
    -Drain soaked rice and put in a heatproof bowl then steam for approximately 20 minutes (a bamboo steamer is ideal, finished rice should be chewy, not crunchy in texture).
    -When rice is ready, turn off heat and prepare coconut milk mixture.
    -Mix salt and sugar with coconut milk then heat in microwave until dissolved and coconut milk is hot..Alternatively you can do this on top of the stove.
    -Put steamed rice into a large bowl and pour over hot coconut milk mixture, then stir well.
    -Cover bowl tightly with two layers of plastic food wrap & let sit for half an hour.
    -Prepare chunks or slices of mango.
    -When rice is ready, serve by moulding sticky rice into balls with wet hands or use small souffle dishes or similar (sprayed with cooking oil) to ‘mould’ the ric. Then upturn moulds onto serving plates.
    -Top sticky coconut rice with slices of ripe mango, sprinkle with sesame seeds, drizzle with coconut cream and serve immediately.
    -Sticky rice is best eaten straight away but can be refrigerated for a day and warmed.
    In a large bowl, soak rinsed rice in cold water for an hour.Drain & rinse rice again.Steam rice for approximately 20 minutes.Prepare coconut milk mixture to pour over steamed rice.

    Put steamed rice in a larger bowl, pour over coconut milk mixture….

    Tightly cover steamed rice & coconut mik with plastic food wrap (I do two layers)… Wait half an hour and your rice is ready to eat. As an option, mould the rice into balls with wet hands or use a souffle dish or similar to make a tidier, symmetrical shape. I spray my moulds first with a little cooking oil spray.
    Top sticky coconut rice with fresh slices of ripe mango and a sprinkling of black sesame seeds (.. white sesame seeds are fine.. or a combo of both)!
    Slices of golden kiwi fruit on the side as a garnish.

    Dollop some coconut cream over finished dessert.

  3. Bircher Muesli with Almond & Coconut (dairy free)

    February 17, 2015 by Maria

    2013-04-29 17.23.56

    The first time I tried Bircher Muesli was in Tasmania at Cradle Mountain Lodge, six years ago.  A buffet breakfast was included in the cabin tariff each morning and it served us very well before our hike-filled days.  I have to say it was a delicious dish that caught our attention, so we looked forward to it every morning.

    Bircher muesli is “soaked-in-stuff overnight (or for two hours)” muesli.  If you’re familiar with muesli recipes you might expect a long list of grains, roughage, nuts, seeds and dried fruits.  Those long ingredient lists have always put me off.  Recipe’s vary, but Swiss style muesli (ie. Bircher) is usually not complicated.  I left out dried fruit on purpose, preferring to enjoy the freshness and enzymes of fresh fruit.

    There is some prep needed to make Bircher muesli (as I mentioned earlier), it’s not something you just pour from a box or container.  A couple of hours ‘soaking time’ is great, but most bircher fans prepare the night before, so it’s good to go in the morning.  It’s eaten cold, not heated like oats in porridge and is a kaleidoscope of textures and refreshing flavours.  Summer and winter in one bowl.  Though this is my recipe, it was inspired mostly by Olivia Newton John’s cookbook ‘LivWise’.  She has 3 bircher muesli recipes in her book which are made at Gaia Retreat and Spa in Byron Bay – which is Olivia’s ‘baby’.  My youngest sister had a little mini-break there a number of years ago.

    2013-04-29 13.08.59

    I was worried about the $7-ish price of organic oats or raw muesli mixes which you can use instead of oats. I found this box of ‘Macro’ organic rolled oats in Woolworths for about $3.40.

    Bircher Muesli with Almond & Coconut (dairy free)

    Serves 2

    *Rolled Oats (not Quick Oats) x 1 generous cup (slightly more than a cup).
    *Apple x 1, coarsley grated.
    *Juice from 1/4 of an Orange.
    *Shredded Coconut x 1/3 cup.
    *Coconut Milk light x 1/2 cup.
    *Almond Milk x 1/2 cup.
    *Rice Malt Syrup x 1 tablespoon (+ extra to serve/optional)-or another sweetener. Alternatively use maple syrup but this has fructose.
    *Cinnamon x 1 pinch.


    *Slivered almonds x 1/3 cup, toasted quickly in a dry, hot pan (most of the toasted almonds will be stirred through the finished bircher muesli, some will be reserved for sprinkling on top).
    *Variety of fresh fruit, eg: mandarin segments, kiwi fruit, chopped apple & pear, sliced banana + extra toasted slivered almonds.

    -Put oats & shredded coconut in a mixing bowl together with grated apple, both the milks (coconut & almond), the syrup, juice from fresh orange and cinnamon & stir well. The mixture will swell with resting time in the fridge.
    -Cover and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.
    -When ready to serve, quickly toast the slivered almonds in a hot pan until slightly brown (if they go medium to dark brown they’re overdone). Set aside.
    -Prepare fruit. I finely chopped some apple, pear and kiwi fruit and tossed that in to the prepared muesli with most of the toasted almonds and some mandarin segments. Stir, then taste. If it’s not sweet enough for your tastes, drizzle a little more syrup in the mixture.
    -Spoon bircher muesli into two small serving bowls, garnish with extra fruit. In my photo’s I stabbed in a slice of apple and pear into the edges of the bowls, a slice of kiwi fruit alongside and some sliced banana over the top. I also topped it with some fresh passionfruit, but upon tasting it, I thought it didn’t need it – but if you’re in love with passionfruit, by all means use it. I also forgot to sprinkle over the extra almonds for my photo’s..but the finishing touch should be some extra toasted slivered almonds. If you’re not fussed about keeping this recipe vegan, then a dollop of your favourite dairy yoghurt on the top would be a lovely way to serve this bircher muesli too.
    -If you’re going to store your bircher muesli (covered) in the fridge, it’s better to keep the extra fruit and toasted almonds separate until you’re ready to serve. Storing with the fruit is ok for a few hours, but for optimal flavour and textures, combine at the last minute. Bircher muesli is best eaten within 24 hours.

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    2013-04-29 17.09.16

    The oat mixture has had soaking time, now the fruit and toasted almonds need to be stirred through.

    2013-04-29 17.22.42

    I added some fresh passionfruit on top, but later thought it was better without it. Each to their own tastes.

    2013-04-29 17.24.22

    2013-04-29 17.20.26

    I forgot to add the last sprinkling of toasted almonds for the photo’s! I found them soon after. My toppings include sliced pear, apple, banana and kiwi fruit. And that superfluous passionfruit ;) I’m going to make this more often.

  4. Chilli Bacon Dip

    February 7, 2015 by Maria

    Years ago I used to buy a delicious dip from a local bakery/cafe which sadly no longer exists.  Their take-home dips and breads (all made on the premises) were sooooo amazing.  I experimented and think my recipe comes pretty close to their Chilli-Bacon dip.  A crowd-pleaser. Adjust the chilli to suit your palate…but theirs was medium-hot.

    Chilli Bacon Dip

    -4 rashers of bacon, chopped, browned ‘crispy’ in a pan and drained on some paper towel
    -2 spring onions, green parts only, finely chopped
    -1 small red capsicum, finely chopped (about 100grams after chopped)
    -1/3 teaspoon of chilli powder (less if your chilli tolerance is low, but the dip is supposed to have a minimum medium-heat ‘bite’)
    -500grams of light cream cheese (or full fat, please yourself)
    -1 tablespoon of whole egg mayonnaise
    -2 squeezes of fresh lemon
    -1/4 teaspoon of mild paprika (sometimes labelled ‘Sweet Hungarian Paprika’)
    -Optional smear of oil in the pan, but the bacon will release its own oil

    -The two cooked items in this dip are the bacon and the capsicum. Set aside the browned, chopped bacon and then prepare the capsicum. Feel free to use a mixture of green, red and even yellow capsicums.
    -Add chopped capsicum to a hot pan and stir-fry 3 or 4 minutes.
    -In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add all of the ingredients and mix well with a fork until well combined.
    -Cover dip and refrigerate an hour before serving.. this will improve the flavour.
    -Serve with crackers or crudites.  Sprinkle over extra chopped spring onions and finely chopped capsicum just before serving.

  5. Wheat and Sugar free Coconut Cake

    February 3, 2015 by Maria


    Coconut flour used to be something I could only get at Wholefoods or.. believe it or not… at a pharmacy. But it’s now readily available at supermarkets and no longer $10 for 500 grams.  I would have called this recipe “Paleo Coconut Cake”.. but rice malt syrup isn’t (?) apparantly paleo (according to some), but coconut flour is.  Those following a paleo diet do avoid sugar, but the word “rice” is in “rice malt”… and paleo also means “no grain”, so there’s the rub. Some paleo-friendly websites recommend Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar program and her sweetener of choice is rice malt syrup. Go figure. Anyway, I’ve left the word ‘paleo’ out and decided to call it ‘wheat and sugar free’.  The fat in the cake comes from coconut milk and eggs and that’s it basically.  If you like cake and ice cream, I’d make this one. And since coconut flour does produce a drier cake.. I’d think about buying a coconut milk based ice cream, like Zebra Dream Organic (you can now get it at Geelong Fresh Foods) …or see my frosting suggestion at the end of the recipe.

    Wheat and Sugar Free Coconut Cake

    *Coconut Milk x 1.5 cups
    *Desiccated coconut x 4 cups
    *Rice Malt Syrup x 6 tablespoon’s
    *Eggs x 6
    *Coconut flour (sifted) x 2/3 cup
    *Pinch salt
    *Some coconut oil or butter for greasing cake tin


    -Preheat oven to 150 degrees celcius, grease and line a 20cm round cake tin
    -Place coconut, coconut milk, syrup and vanilla into a food processor then blend.
    -Add eggs, blend again, then add coconut flour and blend together.  Mixture will be quite thick.
    -Spoon mixture into prepared tin.  You can wet your hands and smooth the top of the mixture down. Bake for approximately an hour or until a skewer comes out clean.  If the cake gets too brown towards the end, you can cover it with foil for the final part of the baking.
    -Allow cake to cool in tin for half an hour before removing.  Coconut flour may produce a slightly more ‘drier’ cake.  This cake would pair nicely with coconut milk based icecream or a coconut cream frosting (just refrigerate coconut cream overnight, scoop out the hardened coconut cream and whip it with a bit of vanilla extract and rice malt syrup).


  6. Eggnog Custard Tart with Sweet Almond Crust

    December 23, 2014 by Maria

    Eggnog Custard Tart with Sweet Almond Crust

    -1.5 cups plain flour
    -1 cup almond meal
    -2 heaped tablespoon’s caster sugar
    -150g unsalted COLD butter (cut into 1.5cm cubes approximately)
    -5 tablespoons of icy cold water (added one tablespoon at a time)
    -Pinch of salt
    -1 egg yolk
    -2 teaspoons water
    -2 heaped cups of thick, premium brandy custard (I use ‘Paul’s’ brand, comes in a tub)
    -2 tablespoons caster sugar
    -3 teaspoons powdered gelatine
    -3 tablespoons water
    -1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (and more to sprinkle on top of finished tart… according to your tastes.. but not too much so it’s not overpowering)
    -Optional: silver cachous (sugar balls) to decorate the edge of your pastry before baking (see blog photo’s).. & a piece of holly to put on your finished tart as a festive garnish
    -Preheat oven to 180 celcius
    -Spray or brush a tart tin with oil (non-stick, removable base preferable) – 20 cm-ish in size
    -Make dough in food processor if you have one, otherwise you can do it by hand
    -‘Pulse’ flour, almond meal, caster sugar, cubed/cold butter & salt (but NOT the water yet) until mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs or gravel – If you have no food processor, do it by hand using your fingertips
    -Add icy cold water by the spoonful, bit by bit while your food processor is operating – Around the 5th tablespoonful, the mixture should start forming into a ball of dough
    -Pour dough mixture onto a clean surface, flatten with hands, put on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes
    -Prepare custard mixture while dough is cooling -Put custard in a bowl, add nutmeg + caster sugar & stir well
    -Put gelatine powder & 3 tablespoon’s water in a heatproof jug or mug – Then put jug or mug into a saucepan of shallow, simmering water – stirring until the gelatine has dissolved
    -Put dissolved gelatine mixture aside
    -When dough is cooled, take it out of fridge and start rolling it with a rolling pin until it’s slightly larger than your baking tin (doesn’t matter if it looks a bit rough & isn’t perfect)
    -Carefully roll dough over rolling pin (as if you were winding it on like a cotton reel)..but be gentle as the dough can stick and break – The aim of this is to be able to lift the dough swiftly and carefully over the baking tin where you ‘unwind’ the dough, hopefully in one piece over the tin (see blog photo’s)
    -When the dough is in your tin, use your fingers, working quickly to mould the dough into the tin -At this point you can add some optional silver cachous (tiny edible sugar balls) around the edges of your pastry before baking
    -Prick the pastry with a fork 6 to 8 times, place a sheet of baking paper over the top and then weigh it down with ceramic pie weights or whatever you use to weigh pastry down (eg. dried beans or rice)
    -Blind bake pastry in oven for approximately 10 minutes, then remove pie weights & foil
    -Glaze pastry with an egg wash made of one egg yolk mixed with two teaspoons of water – this will seal your base & keep it from being soggy
    -Bake for another 5 to 10 minutes until a light, golden brown colour – remove from oven & cool
    -Quickly mix cooled gelatine mixture in with brandy custard/nutmeg mixture
    -Pour or spoon mixture into cooled/prepared sweet almond crust, smooth it evenly with the back of a spoon and refrigerate for at least an hour to set gelatine
    -Decorate with a piece of holly before serving.. sprinkle over some optional extra nutmeg if you like – and if you want to be indulgent, served custard tart with whipped cream!