Friday, 20 June 2014

Product Review - Zest Byron Bay Curry Pastes and Spice Blends

When it comes to baked goods, my sister and I are like peas in a pod. Whatever she bakes I want to eat it until it's all gone! But as far as our non-sweet palates, it's like we are cut from different cloths! I love almost all cuisines, and there isn't much that I don't enjoy. But her tastes are much more mild, focusing on herbs rather than spices.

So when at the Good Food and Wine Show, I was delighted to meet Shelley from Zest Byron Bay who had a number of different spice blends out for tasting. I normally can't handle store bought spice pastes as they are laden with onion, which I just makes me feel terrible. So I've stopped even considering them after spending many trips at the supermarket analysing almost every bottle of curry paste. They are also gluten and dairy free, and free from artificial preservatives and added sugar. A dairy free butter chicken? Really! I'm in heaven, because this suits my gluten/dairy/onion free diet. Now this is a real find!

So many flavours!
I had a good chat with Shelley at the Show, who owns Zest with her husband Pob. I wondered where the inspiration for their spice blends came from. It turns out they bought the company from a Nepalese guy who started with four of his mother's recipes which he brought with him when he moved to Australia (yes! Authentic flavours!). Here is a cute little video about their company. Now Zest has expanded to include spices that cover Nepalese, Moroccan, Sri Lankan and Indian cooking. These are real curry pastes too where you can actually see the flavour, with cumin seeds, bay leaves and other bits popping out of the sauces!

So one lazy weeknight, we tried out Zest's Kerala recipe base, which is a southern Indian inspiration. This isn't something I have ever seen in the supermarkets, or even at Indian restaurants, so was really excited to try it. Below is what I created for dinner :)

The Kerala Blend is inspired by Southern Indian cuisine
1 packet Zest Byron Bay Kerala blend
1 Tbsp oil
600g chicken
1 400ml can coconut milk
400g vegies (we used capsicum, yellow squash, eggplant)

To start, marinate the chicken in the Kerala blend for at least 15 mins. In a heavy based pot, heat the oil, and then add the marinated chicken, cooking on high for 2 minutes until the chicken starts to colour up. Add the coconut milk and vegies, simmering for about 10 mins until the chicken is cooked. Serve with fresh coriander and rice. And if you have any, some chutney would go a treat, although I didn't have any!

A fresh and tasty Indian curry- easy, quick and delicious!
The verdict...yum! I've never had a southern Indian curry before, and I'm a fan. It's not too spicy, and a little smoother on the palate than other curries you might find at an Indian restaurant. I would say that it's a great curry for those that would say they don't like Indian. So, this might be a good one for my sister! On another lazy night I chucked together some beef mince, potatoes, pumpkin, carrot and tomatoes, with some Zest Indian spice paste and it was a delicious, quick and easy meal. I'd add some more chili to give it a bigger kick, but a curry paste that even a curry hater would enjoy.

Zest Byron Bay stock in lots of places across Australia, check the list to see if your local grocer does, otherwise you can order online too for $7 each.

Thank you to Shelley at Zest Byron Bay for providing me with some amazing products to review at a discounted price as part of the Good Food and Wine Show Melbourne.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Super Delicious Muesli Brekky Cookie- Good Food & Wine Show

One of the stall holders I met at the Good Food and Wine Show (GFWS) was Jenny from OMG Cereals. Jenny has a lovely muesli that she has developed, but was also showing a new product, yet to hit the shelves- a GF muesli cookie.

Before I go on, I just want to acknowledge Jenny's journey. Jenny only started marketing her muesli commercially in January, after years of friends and family telling her how amazing it was. And in 6 months she has been selling at markets, in health food shops, and has also exhibited at the GFWS. Wow! How incredible. As her muesli isn't GF, I was lucky enough to try the GF muesli cookie. 

Yum! You can see the flavour with all those chunks of fruits, nuts and more!

Now one thing I love about this product, is that it's been developed by a non-coeliac. The reason why I love that, is because Jenny knows what other non-GF products are like so she can compare to the 'real' thing. There are far too many GF products on the shelves that shouldn't be there, because they are not very nice!

Jenny developed this cookie for a friend's grandfather that was visiting, who had brought some unappetising apricot tarts for afternoon tea, so Jenny saw the opportunity to make a product people would actually enjoy. So after lots of experimentation, the end product is a combination of almond, millet and coconut flours, eggs, Greek yogurt, crushed pineapple, toasted coconut, a mix of nuts (macadamia, almonds, pecans), seeds (pepitas, sunflower and chia) and dried fruit (cranberries, blueberries, apricots), and maple syrup. 

What an amazing combination of ingredients! There's also one very special ingredient to top it all off- nu-coat ginger. This gives the cookie a great ginger taste which makes it quite refreshing. Every bite is delicious and each bite gave a taste of something a little different. The cookie was really filling and quite satisfying for breakfast. I think it would be too big for a snack, but not sure how the final product will end up when finally available on the shelves. It would be great to see smaller bite size cookies also available as these would make for a great afternoon snack. Jenny is currently in the process of trying to work out commercial preparation and packaging for this exciting product, so stay tuned!

For the moment you'll have to find Jenny at farmers markets around Melbourne and the Yarra Valley to try out the cookie or her muesli (not GF). Will keep you posted when it becomes commercially available. 
What a view! And what beautiful visitors. Hello Sydney!
PS- had to share this photo from our weekend in Sydney where these guys popped in to say hello during a bout of glorious Winter sunshine!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Good Food and Wine Show - Melbourne - June 2014

So I did something on the weekend I've never done before- I went to my very first food show! And what makes it even better is that I was invited on a Media Pass!

Earlier this year I went to the Home Show at the Convention Centre, and being held in the same place, I thought I would know what to expect, but this was so much better. Lots of bright lights, and a real buzz in the air, as well as lots of beautiful aromas! And I guess with so many free samples, everyone was just kind of happy- who doesn't love a freebie!
So much free coffee! Thanks DeLonghi! PS Check out my Media Pass!
But first stop, the Barilla Cooking Class. Thanks very much to Barilla for inviting us to participate as it was a lot of fun. We made a pork sausage and winter vegetable pasta, using their new GF pasta. The cheese they provided was a salted sheep's milk ricotta which I have never of before, but it was hard enough to be grated and absolutely delish! I was very excited it was sheep's milk and not cows as it meant I could eat it. Was a delicious lunch and great start to our afternoon!
At the Barilla Cooking Class with chef Luca Ciano
The products on offer were so diverse. Everything from yogurt, sausages, sauces, crackers, and coffee (lots of coffee!), with some big companies, but lots of new and exciting small producers, some using locally sourced ingredients, making them all that more special.

So stay tuned for some reviews on some great products, including the OMG Cereals GF Muesli Cookie, The Ginger People ginger syrup, Caramelicious salted butter sauce, Zest Byron Bay curries, and
Carême GF pastry. I've got a lot of cooking, baking and eating to do!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

There's a New Pasta on the Block!

I like to cook almost everything from scratch...that's part of the reason why I wanted a Thermomix so much, and it certainly has made cooking from scratch so much easier. Read more about the Thermomix here from one of my favourite Bloggers Quirky Cooking.

So the types of things I will cook from scratch include sauces, pestos, dips, soups, nut butters, nut milks, dairy free yoghurt, sorbet, ice-cream, custard, spice mixes etc. The list goes on! I love doing it because it means that I can be sure there are no allergens that will affect me, there are no preservatives or numbers, I can control salt and sugar content, it tastes better, and is cheaper too.

One thing that I have cooked from scratch once and will probably never try again is pasta. It takes so long to make pasta and is really hard to perfect so that definitely turns me off wanting to do it very often. I really like pasta, and like most people, it's quick and easy to prepare a beautiful meal after a hard day. Since going gluten free 9 years ago (wow that long?), I have been disappointed by lots of gluten free product alternatives, but gluten free pasta has been one substitute I really don't mind. This is reinforced when your boyfriend will eat it without complaining (unlike GF bread!).

This is the new GF pasta. Very excited to try!
So just like any other person following a gluten free diet, you get really excited whenever there are new products in the supermarket that you can eat. So when I found out that Barilla was releasing a GF pasta, I was excited to try it. I can't remember ever eating normal Barilla pasta, so it's not a brand I've ever bought, but I thought, how bad could it be?
This pasta sauce is full of vegies and low in onion which is a bonus for me

So to celebrate what the box claims as "Classic taste & texture", I thought I would cook up a delicious chorizo and vegetable spaghetti, using the Barilla Mediterranean Vegetables pasta sauce to go along with it. You can substitute this pasta with any favourite pasta recipe you might like.

In case you would like to try my recipe:
2 chorizo sausages sliced
400g mixed vegetables cut in 2cm pieces (capsicum, eggplant, zucchini, squash etc)
1 jar Barilla Mediterranean Vegetables pasta sauce
Handful fresh herbs chopped (rosemary, oregano, thyme)
200g Barilla Gluten Free Spaghetti
Lots of vegies- yum!
This was so simple. In a large heavy based pan, I cooked the chorizo until browned, and then added the vegies for a couple of minutes. I then added the Barilla Mediterranean Vegetables pasta sauce, tomato paste and fresh herbs, and simmered for 15 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, add to a large pot water and bring to the boil. I have never really payed much attention to the instructions on the packet of pasta before, but this one says you need at least 1l water per 100g of pasta. So I boiled 2L of water for 200g pasta, and added a good tsp of salt. Cook the pasta for 10 minutes, and then strain and add to the sauce. Serves 3-4.
Add the pasta for the last minute of cooking in the pan and stir through
I was so pleasantly surprised by this spaghetti. It wasn't gluggy and stodgy like lots of other GF pastas can be. This is because they are made with rice and corn, but even though the Barilla GF pasta is also made with rice and corn, you don't need to add oil after cooking it to prevent it from sticking together. It also holds it shape really well and doesn't break up into small pieces so you can eat it like real pasta. I did notice that when reheating the next day, it did break up a little though.

It definitely got the tick of approval from the boyfriend, and he loves pasta, so I think this says something. To quote him, he said "it's just like real pasta" I guess my only criticism is that it is made in Italy, and I love to support Australian farmers and producers as much as possible. I don't really eat pasta all too often, so I think this would be a special purchase where those rules don't apply...this is the case with lots of products I purchase anyway as sometimes it is impossible to get an Australian made option of the product.

I would definitely recommend it if you ever need a GF pasta for yourself, friends or relatives. They will probably want to check the box to make sure it really is gluten free, as it is so similar to regular pasta.

Bon appétit!
The best GF pasta I've ever cooked :)

Twolicious has been provided the Barilla products used in this blog post free of charge, however this in no way has impacted my review of the products.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Healthy soda recipes: Real Fizz Lemonade

This was my fave soda post by another blogger Holistic Squid. I liked that she had a couple of other sodas there already... But this one stuck out cos I had just bought a few punnets of strawberries on sale, and I didn't just want to do my usual thing of washing and freezing for later use. I wanted to see if I could use them in a soda. And it works!

Cultured Strawberry Soda at Holistic Squid
you should totally check them out!

I really was hoping to share a roundup of a bunch of great recipes, but well I actually only had 2 recipes I used from the net. Other wise I used these recipes as a base and swapped out the flavours for others.

The strawberry soda became... Passionfruit soda, and Raspberry soda-YUM!

Then as I talked with the kids about which flavour they would like next, Brother bear decided on Lemonade. We didn't have any lemons, but as he told me Nanny has heaps at her tree, and oranges. So he rang Nanny who happily offloaded close to a dozen lemons and oranges.
Lemonade? Yes, Please.

This is his recipe:

Large saucepan
Zester, or fine grater
cup measure
sterile bottles for storing your lemonade (with a twist or swing top)

10 Large Lemons freshly zested and then squeezed and strained.
2L Filtered water
1C sugar
1 cinnamon quill
1 vanilla bean

Place all ingredients in a large saucepan, bring to the boil, simmer 20 minutes uncovered (your house will smell delicious!)
Let sit for a couple of hours until the brew comes to room temperature 25*C- 35*C (80-100*F).
Strain and add 1C of ginger beer plant to your lemon mixture, stir and pour into your bottles. If you need more details pop over here for a tic

Leave to brew for 4-7 days, checking for fizz intensity after 4 days. My kiddos do this for me. They love to open the bottle and hear that 'Psshht'! I have to admit, it is fun.

Keep it simple. after you have made a couple of brews, you will be a seasoned professional.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Lest we Forget

Lest we Forget.

This year we grew the Flanders red poppy seeds that we brought back from the Capital War Memorial last year.

These are a couple of pics of our first poppy from the plants that grew.

There has been a consistent bloom of poppies for months.

Brother Bear even brought some in for news. Apparently he had a great deal to say, his friends were quite enthralled, so I am told.

Today we picked Poppies in the pouring rain, along with some rosemary. We tied them with twine and the kiddos each laid a posy on our local war memorial.

Do you pause to remember on Remembrance day?

Do you bake or make something special?

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Part 2...Making Healthy soda : Ginger beer

Hopefully by now you have been feeding up your ginger beer plant for about 2 weeks with some fresh ginger and sugar everyday. If you missed a day, never mind, just pick up from where you left off.

Your plant should look a little something like this:
Can you see the bubbles?? That's what'll make your drinks fizz!

Each time you add a little more ginger and sugar you should start to get a bit of a reaction, if your 'plant is not bubbling or fizzing about when you stir the sugar in, your plant is not ready. Or possibly you may need to start again, it may be that something was not sterile...

This is the sort of reaction you are looking for- Check out that bubbling action. I love it!

I have been making smaller batches, of about 1.5L- 2L. This gives the family more variety, so we are not stuck all drinking ginger beer for a month and nothing else (most of the recipes i found a couple of years ago made 4-6L batches)! It also allows me to tweak a recipe to their tastes, and try new flavours.

This is the ginger beer recipe that our family likes the best (according to dadda, it's still not as good as bundy ginger beer, so if anyone has a recipe for that, we'd be so grateful:).

Large saucepan
Wooden spoon
Cheese cloth or muslin
Cup measure
enough sterilised bottles to take 2.5L of fluid either swing top or twist top.

4C filtered water
1 Thumb Root ginger chopped 
1 C Brown sugar
1 Vanilla bean
2 Cinnamon sticks broken
1 Nutmeg cracked
6 Cloves
I like to use whole spices as they are easier to sieve out, and do not leave gungia in the actual beer as it brews, but this is just a personal preference.

In your large saucepan place all your ingredients*. 
Bring the water to a boil, and let simmer for 20 minutes uncovered.
Turn off the heat and bring the liquid to room temperature. This may take a few hours, or if you like do it overnight, just keep it covered. This is an important step, if you add the ginger beer plant to the ginger beer mixture while it is too hot, there will be no fizz, you will have killed off all the lacto- bacilli that create the fizz. Fail (dunnit). Then you will never want to do this again. So chill.

Remove the spices with the sieve.

Take your ginger beer plant (the one you have been feeding for the past 2 weeks), use the cheesecloth or muslin the strain 1 cup of liquid from your plant. Retain the ginger pieces in the ginger beer plant and start feeding from week 2 (when you add the cup of water back in, remember?).

Stir in the liquid from the 'plant' into your ginger beer mixture.

Decant into your sterilised bottles using the funnel (take it slowly as this can be a bit messy). 
Make sure to leave about 30mm -40mm breathing space above the liquid (we don't want any explosions!).

This is an example of how much breathing space I leave for my brew.
Then pop the lids on (not super tight), and leave to brew for 4-7 days in a cool dark place (I use my laundry because it's outside, and although I haven't had a top pop off yet, I don't really want to deal with that sort of mess in my kitchen.

Write your date of brew on your bottle, to be sure. Or use cute labels.

Start checking for fizz after 4 days, as it depends on the room temperature. A warmer room will brew faster.

Yay!! Ginger beer! Enjoy!

Oh, and just so you know this is the method I use for all my healthy soda. Just using different flavours.

I'l share The creaming soda recipe next, it is a fave at our place. And just in case you are not really liking ginger beer... the creaming soda is a sweet mild soda. I think you'll enjoy it too!

*You can make a bouquet garni with the herbs to make it easier to take them out when we are finished.