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  1. Kale and Almond Gratin

    March 24, 2015 by Maria


    Here’s another way to eat kale, or you could say, another way of getting fussy eaters to eat kale.  It’s like a 2 layer, pasta-free lasagna.  The base is made up of sweet caramelized onions and kale, topped with white sauce and toasted almonds for crunch.  I added some smokey continental sausage to mine, cut into coins and browned + some sauteed mushrooms, but you can do as you please.  My recipe was adapted and inspired by Nigel Slater and his wonderful book ‘Eat’ The Little Book of Fast Food.

    Kale and Almond Gratin

    *Onions x 2 (if medium-large) or 3 if small, finely chopped
    *Baby Kale x 120g bag (snip with scissors to make smaller pieces)
    *Chicken stock (1/4 cup) – to help kale wilt
    *Almonds x 1/3 cup, roughly chopped
    *Bechamel Sauce, about 600ml quantity (white sauce you’d make for lasagne) – I added a teaspoon of Spanish hot paprika to mine which gave it an orange tinge (and not much heat, as Spanish hot paprika only has a medium heat).
    *Oil for frying (I use refined, low aroma coconut oil)
    *Optional extra ingredients:  Chorizo or Kransky cut into coins and browned, sauteed mushrooms.


    -Slowly fry and caramelize onions until golden, then set aside
    -If you’re adding anything else other than kale (like meat or mushrooms), brown these separately and set aside.
    -Saute baby kale for a couple of minutes, then add chicken stock.  The liquid will evaporate and the kale will wilt and reduce in size.
    -Make bechamel sauce, prepare a lasagne-type dish and layer the base with the caramelized onions and kale (and anything else you’d like to add).
    -Pour over bechamel sauce, sprinkle over chopped almonds and bake in a 180 oven for 15 minutes, then place under a grill to brown the top.  Serve with a salad.





  2. Dairy and Sugar Free Chocolate Icecream

    March 17, 2015 by Maria


    This icecream, is so simple to make and is also icecream-machine free.  While it uses coconut milk as its base, you don’t actually taste the coconut really in the finished product.  When your mixture is blended, if you don’t think it’s chocolatey enough, add a little more cacao.  The stuff is strong, so I’ve pulled-back on the quantity.  I’ve actually named the brand of Stevia I used because there are so many out there that have a tiny percentage of Stevia and include other sweetener’s that are sugar alcohol’s (which can cause bloating and digestive issues at minimum).  The Hermesetas ‘Stevia Sweet’ doesn’t.  I forgot about presentation and photographing the icecream properly when it was finished, so the picture above is an ‘afterthought’ (my apologies).  I also made a sugar-free ‘Ice Magic’ topping (that hardens on the icecream), which is another recipe I’m happy to share if you’re interested.  Adapted and inspired by Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar for Life book.  It’s my birthday today and also the 6th anniversary of the recipe segment on 96three.  Cheers!


    Dairy and Sugar Free Chocolate Icecream

    Coconut Milk, full fat 400ml can

    Cacao powder, raw x 1/4 cup

    Rice Malt Syrup x 1/3 cup

    Granulated Stevia (For this recipe I used Hermesetas Stevia Sweet from a jar) x 3 tablespoon’s

    Vanilla extract x 1 teaspoon


    -Using a stick blender (or similar), blend all ingredients together

    -Pour into a freezer-safe container and freeze for 3 to 5 hours

    -For a “soft serve” feel, stir icecream well after 2 hours and every hour after that and consume when it’s at the consistency you’d like.  Three hours was enough for my freezer.  If it freezes into a solid block, then allow to defrost a little before serving.

  3. Soba Noodle Salad

    March 10, 2015 by Maria

    For me, Soba noodles are the yummiest cold (or room temp) noodles, best eaten with a dipping sauce or dressed with a soy/sesame/vinegar dressing.  I’ve also eaten them with a wasabi-based dressing and cubes of raw salmon.  Soba noodles are of course not bad in soups but cold soba is my fav.  There’s an eatery I’ve been wanting to get to in Melbourne called Shimbashi Japanese Soba & Sake Bar.  Shimbashi apparantly hand-make their noodles every day and even mill their own buckwheat flour on the premises using Tasmanian buckwheat seeds.

    If you can’t make it to Shimbashi though, consider trying my recipe!  Just a note however:  if you’d like the noodles to be gluten-free, use tamari instead of soy and check the back of your noodle packet. I used locally-made Hakubaku noodles which include both wheat and buckwheat flours.  100% pure buckwheat soba is out there, you just need to be mindful when sourcing it.  Try Asian grocer’s, health food stores and of course any place that specialises in gluten-free products.  Soba is after-all Japanese for ‘buckwheat’ (so it makes sense to aim for noodles made from buckwheat, however, prepare to pay more)!  Soba noodles are easily digestible and full of various nutrients. Nigella Lawson loves cold soba noodles (like me) and I think my recipe would be great served with her mirin glazed salmon, a recipe I make several times a year.  But if you’re not into fish, my recipe below has a chickeny serving suggestion.  Slurp away.

    Soba Noodle Salad

    *Soba Noodles, 270gm pack (I used Hakubaku Organic, made in Wendouree, Victoria. This range is available at supermarkets however they don’t always stock soba but they can be easily found at Asian grocer’s. If you’re after noodles that are 100% gluten free and made with 100% buckwheat flour, try a health food store or Asian grocers)
    *Spring onions, green part only, chopped x 1/4 cup + another 1/4 cup for edible garnish when serving
    *Ginger, finely grated x 1/2 teaspoon
    *Garlic, finely grated x 1/2 teaspoon
    *Red Chilli, finely chopped, around 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon with a few seeds (use less or more according to your chilli tolerance or leave out the heat-bearing seeds altogether)
    *Rice Vinegar (or bottled Obento Sushi Seasoning is a good substitute) x 2 tablespoon’s
    *Soy Sauce or Tamari x 2 tablespoon’s
    *Sesame Oil x 1 teaspoon
    *Fresh Coriander Stems (cut just beneath the leaves), finely chopped x 1 teaspoon
    *Fresh Coriander Leaves, several stems to generously garnish dish
    *Sesame seeds, toasted in a hot pan x 1 tablespoon


    -Cook soba noodles according to packet directions, making sure not to overcook because you still want your noodles to have an aldente texture.  As soon as noodles are cooked, drain and rinse them really well under running cold water for at least a minute (use your fingers to move the noodles about while doing this). Set aside to drain.

    -In a small bowl, combine remainder of ingredients for dressing (except the sesame seeds & coriander leaves.. the stems go into the dressing instead).  Taste and assess whether you’d like to add more of anything?

    -In a hot pan, toast sesame seeds, moving them about regularly so they don’t burn. You only want a slight colour change, but they’ll become aromatic quite quickly.  Set aside.

    -When noodles are well drained, put into a bowl, pour over dressing and toss with tongs or even better, use your (clean) fingers, making sure all of the noodles are coated well with the dressing.  Add a few pinches of toasted sesame seeds and mix through.  Taste the noodles and see if the seasoning needs any adjustment. If it’s too fiery for example, remove any visible bits of chopped chilli.

    -Noodles are ready to serve immediately.  Right before serving, scatter over 1/4 cup of chopped spring onions, a few fresh stems of coriander leaves and sprinkle with the rest of the toasted sesame seeds.

    -If the noodles sit for longer than half an hour before serving, you may need to add an extra small splash of rice vinegar, soy and sesame oil because they become blander upon resting (due to the dressing being soaked-up).

    -Cold noodles can be made hours in advance (on the day of eating), the same with the dressing (and both kept in the fridge), however, keep them separate and combine close to serving time.  Eat them on their own or with some chicken prepared with Asian-style marinade.  I prepared chicken thigh fillets with a marinade of ingredients very similar to what I used in the noodle dressing (using rice wine instead of vinegar) and I added a small sprinkling of Chinese 5 spice.  This chicken is especially nice cooked on the bbq and served with the noodle salad and wedges of lime.

  4. 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”.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

    2013-04-29 13.53.02

    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.