Devonshire Tea and Mum

Growing up Mum had a large cast iron cauldron that she made her jam in – strawberry, fig or marmalade, volumes of it, bottled and labeled and given away to everyone who walked in the door. And her scones were famous not the least because they were delicious with her home made jam and King Island cream but because of the conversations and company that accompanied them.

Everyone was welcome in our home no matter what age, region, or culture.

Mum passed away last week and I share her classic scone (biscuit) recipe in her honour.

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Cooking with Chickpea Flour

Made with healthy chickpea flour and lightly fried in good olive oil … what’s not to love about these salty nibbles?

At first glance, “Panelle” as they are called in Sicily, look a little bit like fat corn chips but these delicious puffy morsels are a revelation. They have a nourishing nutty taste and the flavour of olive oil without any greasiness.

Watching Fabrizia Lanza prepare this dish in the kitchen of Case Vecchie was a study in wonder. We watched, with our cameras and notebooks poised and, as each step unfolded, we were no closer to imaging the last.

The result served to us with a traditional Aperol Spritz in the courtyard of the old stone house, the late afternoon light receding over the hills. We could not stop eating them.

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Bringing Sicily Home

In Australia we call fava beans, in their distinctive large green spongy pods, broad beans. I always felt they were too much work until I tasted the authentic flavours of Sicily in Fabrizia Lanza’s fava bean soup … with an egg dropped in the middle and dusted with fresh parmigiana. I think you could taste the green goodness. And when I returned I waited to see them appear so I could bring some of that sicilian summer feeling into my Clareville kitchen.

Here I have used them simply … tossed into a raw zucchini salad and dropped into tomatoe and goats cheese tarts .. perfect for summer picnics.

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Afternoon Tea Classics

I have such strong memory of mum inviting the “ladies” over for afternoon tea. Beautifully dressed women with powdered faces and smooth lipstick pressed on cheeks as they said hello. The strong smell of perfume, each with their own, creating a heady mix of scent in the dining room. A medley of fine china cups and saucers patiently waiting on the linen covered dining table. These are two of mums classic afternoon tea recipes; Date Cake and Shortbread Pecan Balls. They’re very easy to make .. even easier if you use a kitchen wizz.

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A Sicilian Food Odyssey

Sicily may seem a strange destination for someone who had been slowly transitioning away from wheat, pasta and dairy but there is undoubtedly a romance in the idea of living and learning in this simple rustic way and understanding the authentic roots of Sicilian cooking and farming and the wonder of bounty of their kitchen garden … tall artichokes, rows of fava beans hanging waiting to be picked, spinach, rainbow chard, tomatoes, olives, almonds, wild greens and honey. And it more than delivered.

Join me on my pilgrimage to the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School in Sicily with this recipe for a delicious Almond and Olive Oil Torte, “Torta di Mandorie e Olio d’Oliva”

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Yammy Drops – no guilt

This recipe for Yammy Drops (yummy and jammy) is really a healthier version of the old fashioned jam drop. But don’t expect the same shortbread consistency, these are chock full of nutty flavours drawn from the sunflower seeds, tahini and almond meal and sweetened with maple syrup .. (the jam in the middle is a real treat). They’re great for school lunch boxes or to satisfy that 3pm low point when you’re normally seeking out chocolate!!

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Walnuts – Cracking and Baking Tips

A walnut grower selling from a stall in a Canberra market last Saturday shared with me the “best ever” tip for opening walnuts in the shell. No more nut crackers needed when you follow these simple steps.

And to celebrate the joy of walnuts we have a recipe for Fresh Apple and Walnut Clusters … too chunky and full of apple, walnuts and raisins to be called a muffin !

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Sweet Potato Pie Base – Boom!

Following on from our focus to transition slowly (the 20% rule) to healthier alternatives for the traditional ingredients we love … Here is a pastry-free crust for quiches or savoury tarts that really works a treat. You can prepare this sweet potato crust in the pie dish or tin and freeze it so you always have it on hand when you need a quick and tasty lunch or dinner. Especially good when you’re wanting the whole family to eat just a little bit healthier. Enjoy!

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Little Tips for a Healthier Life

It’s often the case that when come away from a retreat, a seminar or a book you are fired up to make major changes to our life. We approach the pantry and the fridge with evangelical zeal throwing out the bad food, restocking with new ingredients you’ve never used before. You then announce to the family the new regime only to find they are resentful, the change is confronting and ultimately we retreat feeling like a failure.

Take a tip from the ancient philosophy of Ayurveda: The 25% rule – the secret to making changes to your lifestyle that “stick” and try this simple Ayurvedic recipe for the perfect rice and learn about “the 6 Tastes” to make every meal satisfying and nourishing.

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A healthier version of Grandma’s Recipes

Our diets have changed a bit since the 1950’s and one thing that strikes you is how much refined white sugar there is in these recipes. So I’ve begun to tweak the recipes and transition them to healthy versions of the ingredient. It’s not a full abandonment of the original ingredients so there’s not a big change in the chemistry or experience of the final cake or slice or dessert.

Here is a delicious, chewy and easy-to-make Canadian Walnut Slice. Perfect for a cup of tea. It’s just a transition recipe so we gradually get used to a warmer kind of sweetness not so sharp and we replace the grains with one that’s a little better for our digestion.

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