I recently had a hankering for polenta chips, and was disappointed to find I was out of polenta. I did, however, have a lot of dried legumes, so I consulted Google to see what recipes I could find to scratch my itch. I quickly stumbled upon countless recipes for fries made from all kinds of ground, dried beans. The ones that caught my eye were the recipes for chickpea fries, because they were repeatedly described as having the delicious, creamy inside texture of a polenta chip, whilst the outside was crunchy perfection.
Inspired by my recipe hunt, I made a batch, using dried chickpeas that I milled into flour. I think I have tinnitus as a result, so I created a simplified, quieter version, using besan flour.
The end result was chip perfection. Crunchy, hot, salty snack heaven!
Serves 4 as a snack
(Note: The mixture needs some time to set in the fridge before you cut it into batons. An hour is fine, or even up to 3 days.)
4 cups water
2 cups chickpea (besan) flour
2 tsp vegetable or chicken stock powder
1 tsp each salt and pepper
3 tbsp olive oil plus extra to cook
1-2 tsps za'atar
Dip of choice (optional)
PART 1 - PREPARE THE MIXTURE
Grease a baking pan and put it aside.
Bring the water to the boil in a pot or large saucepan, then reduce the heat to a simmer and gradually add the flour and whisk it into the water. Then whisk in stock, salt and pepper.
Continue whisking for approx 8 minutes, until the mixture is thick and velvety. Stir in the olive oil. (Don't worry if there are a couple of lumps, it won't affect the final result at all.)
Pour the chickpea mixture into the greased baking sheet and spread out into an even layer. Once it has cooled slightly, cover it well and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight.
PART 2: MAKE THE FRIES
Pre-heat your oven to 210°C (190°C fan forced). Line a large baking tray with baking paper or silicon baking sheet.
Slice the now firm mixture into batons, about the size of a thick potato chip.
Line them up on the baking sheet, and brush generously with olive oil.
Bake for 10 minutes*, then turn to the other side, brush again, and replace in the oven to bake for another 10 minutes. They should be golden and crunchy.
Remove from the oven, salt generously and sprinkle za'atar over them. Serve with greek yoghurt, tahini, hummus or the dip of your choice.
*For an even crunchier chickpea fry experience, try shallow frying instead of baking. They take about 5-7 minutes over a medium heat - remember to turn them halfway through.
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Add some spices or herbs to the mixture, at the same step that you add the stock and seasoning to the mixture while it's simmering. For instance, a tablespoon of fresh herbs like finely chopped rosemary, oregano or parsley. Or a teaspoon of dried herbs. A teaspoon of dried spice blends like baharat or za'atar works beautifully.
For all my swagger and confidence in the kitchen, I'm not nearly so sure of myself when it comes to gluten free baking. So I decided to tackle it head on and create a sweet treat that would prove that anyone can show gluten free baking who's boss. I realised I would need 2 things to help me:
Firstly, I needed my starting point to be a phenomenal but simple recipe that's a classic crowd pleaser. Something I could tinker with and adapt to make gluten free.
It was hard to go past a classic brownie. And I'm lucky enough to have worked with an incredible pastry chef, Nina Wilson, at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, way, way back in the 1990s. Nina was the hotel's head pastry chef, and I, as a wide eyed apprentice, got to train under the best. Nina's fudgy chocolate brownie recipe is famous in all the right circles.
Secondly, I needed advice from a seasoned master of gf baking. Luckily, I work with one here at Village Wholefoods HQ. Alex is a phenomenal baker of gf delights and is a reliable source of knowledge, inspiration and advice for our gf customers and staff alike.
From Alex I learned an invaluable tip - gluten free flours are thirstier, or more absorbent, than wheat flour, meaning the liquid ratio of a non gluten free recipe needs to be altered to accommodate the gf flour. With this in mind I eased off on the amount of flour called for in Nina's original recipe by about ¼, and I believe it was this nugget of wisdom that led to the most splendiferous, fudgey, perfect tray of brownies.
And here is the recipe!
Makes approx 12-16 brownies
1 cup chocolate chips (I used a mixture or dark and milk)
¾ cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
¼ cup cocoa (I used alkalised for a more classic chocolate flavour. Raw is fine)
⅓ cup plain gluten free flour** (I used the ready-to-go gf flour blend we sell in store)
Prepare brownie or loaf tin with baking paper. Set the oven to 170°c (150°c fanforced)
Melt butter and chocolate together. I use the microwave, and do it in 30 second intervals, stirring regularly. Set aside to allow it to cool to close to room temperature.
Whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla well, til it becomes pale, fluffy and velvety. This can take 5-10 mins but it's well worth it. Add cooled melted butter and chocolate, but don't overstir. Just combine.
Sift cocoa, flour and salt. Add to the rest of the mixture. Again, you just want to combine; don't stir vigorously.
Pour mixture into prepared tin and bake for aprox 30 mins. It might need a few more minutes - when it stops wobbling in the middle it's ready. Leave in tin and transfer to a wire rack to completely cool. These brownies are a bit more fragile when warm than ones made with wheat flour so it's a good idea to pop them in the fridge for an hour before cutting into squares to serve.
**to make a standard wheat version substitute the gluten free flour for ¼ cup plain cake flour
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Try adding different ingredients to change things up a bit. A handful of any of the following can be added at the final combining stage:
White choc chips
Fresh or freeze dried raspberries
A dollop of peanut butter
A small sprinkling of dried lavender
A shot of strong, cooled espresso
A tsp of wattleseed
Ask Italians the correct way to cook bolognese, ragu, gnocchi or polenta and you'll get a different answer from all of them. And they're all correct! Ingredients and methods vary between regions, creating unique geographical and cultural signatures on the food.
Pesto is no exception. Recently, a charming Sicilian customer was delighted with our vibrant and fresh Australian grown Pistachios, and told me about his family's pesto recipe.
In the south, he said, it's common to have Pesto made from pistachios, basil, olive oil, mint and parmesan. He was insistent on 3 things:
1. Unlike the classic pine nut pesto that most of us are familiar with, which uses just a handful of nuts to a whole bunch of basil. The pistachio version should be all about the pistachios, with the rest of the ingredients playing second fiddle. The mixture should be ⅔ pistachios.
2. Don't grind it finely. You should be able to see some pistachio pieces at the end.
3. "No garlic!"
Here is my attempt at his beloved Pistachio Pesto. It was absolutely delicious. Hope you all enjoy it!
Pasta alla Trapanese, aka Pistachio Pesto
400 g pasta of choice
200g raw pistachios
50 ml extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
40 g Parmesan or Pecorino grated
salt for pasta and to season
pepper to season
½ bunch basil, leaves only
Handful mint leaves
Put a large pot of water onto a boil for the pasta. Salt generously. "Pasta water should taste like the sea".
Put the pistachios in a blender or food processor, add the grated cheese, lemon juice, herbs and half of the olive oil.
As you start to blend/pulse add the rest of the olive oil until you get a dense pesto. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the pasta al dente. Save a cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta and return it to the pan.
Add some of the pasta cooking water to the pesto to make it a little more liquidy and creamier. This step is crucial. It really elevates the pesto to something special.
Then add the pistachio pesto to the pasta and mix together well.
Serve immediately with extra grated cheese as required.
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*Fried breadcrumbs are a fabulous addition. Tear 2-3 slices of stale bread into pieces and blitz briefly in the food processor until you have coarse crumbs. Then pan fry them gently in a low to medium pan with a splash of olive oil until just crunchy. Use as garnish before serving.
*If pesto without garlic just feels wrong to you, please add a clove. I recommend sautéing it low and slow first to mellow the flavour.
*Mr Sicilian says that almonds are often used in addition to or in place of pistachios. Roasted gives a better texture
*I love hazelnut pesto. It brings a really unique, modern flavour to the classic simplicity of pesto. Use raw or roasted hazelnuts. No need to remove skin, as it's a rustic dish.
Glorious to look at, with a taste to match, this Pecan Streusel Cake is deceptively easy to get right! A streusel is simply a mix of flour, butter and sugar plus added nuts and spices layered throughout the cake and on top. So you’ll end up with a gorgeous layer cake that will get everyone's mouth watering.
In this recipe, pecans, subtle spices and that gorgeous, buttery streusel topping are perfect for that autumnal afternoon tea.
So get ready to impress. Pop on the kettle and polish the cake forks!
For the Streusel:
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp cold butter, cubed
1 cup raw pecans
For the Cake:
170g butter, cubed
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups full fat greek yoghurt
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup caster sugar
1 level tablespoon (15g) baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
FOR THE STREUSEL:
Place flour, sugar and cinnamon in a food processor and process for about 15 seconds to combine.
Add in pecans and cubed butter and pulse carefully until pecans and butter are in pebble-like pieces. Set aside.
FOR THE CAKE:
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan forced) and grease a large bundt pan well.
Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine. add butter and 1/2 cup of the yogurt and beat until ingredients resemble a grainy, wet sand.
In a separate mixing bowl, add eggs and whisk until beaten. Add in remaining yogurt and vanilla extract and beat for 30-45 more seconds or until combined.
Add wet to dry ingredients and gently fold until just combined.
Basically we are layering streusel and cake batter, so when the cake is cut you get a beautiful ribbon of streusel through it.
Sprinkle some streusel mix into the bottom of the cake tin. Spoon ⅓ of the batter into the bundt pan using a spatula to smooth it out and top with half of the remaining streusel.
Place another ⅓ of the batter on top of the streusel, then final portion of streusel, then the last of the cake batter. Press it gently down into the batter to ensure the strudel mixture at the bottom sticks when cooking.
Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes then turn out of the bundt pan and allow to cool fully (about 2 hours, sorry!) before slicing.
I always use salted butter in my cakes but feel free to use unsalted. If you do, you might want to add ¼ tsp salt to both the cake batter and streusel mix.
If the amounts of baking powder and bicarb soda seem a lot, just go with it. We want this cake to reach as high as Dolly Parton's hair.
No bundt tin? A round pan or loaf tin will be fine, just adjust baking times. A bundt takes longer to bake than a loaf tin by about 15 mins. Best plan of attack is to check with a skewer at the 35 minute mark.
With this version I added a simple glaze and some reserved chopped pecans. It’s a lovely addition to this cake if you want to up the decadence. Just remember to reserve a tablespoon of the pecans (chop these separately) for scattering over the glaze afterwards. To make a quick glaze: whisk together 1 cup of icing sugar with 1 tbsp of water and then pour or spoon over the cake, after you turn it out and it's still a little warm. Scatter over the chopped pecans and admire.
It was the humble lima bean that cemented my love of legumes. Other beans all have their place in my cooking arsenal, but lima beans, with their creamy and comforting texture, are my absolute favourite.
When I discovered that they also go by the names Butter Beans and Gigante, a plethora of recipes became available to me! This one is my favourite. Enjoy as a hearty breakfast with a slice of buttery toast, a relaxed and cosy supper, or as a side dish for a bigger feast.
250g dried lima/ butter beans
100ml olive oil
2 onions, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 x 400g tinned tomatoes OR 800g ripe tomatoes,roughly chopped
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
½ tsp lemon myrtle (optional)
Handful flat-leaf parsley or oregano, finely chopped
100g feta or goats cheese (optional)
The night before, pop your lima beans in a large cooking pot. Cover with cold tap water - the beans absorb a lot, so really fill that pot to the brim! Cover and leave overnight. 8-12 hours is ideal soaking time.
The next day, drain the water and replace with fresh tap water then set it on the stove. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to get a nice gentle simmer for 20-30 mins. They should be almost soft, ¾ cooked. Drain, but keep a cup of the cooking liquid.
Heat the oil in a large flameproof lidded casserole pot, and cook the onions, carrots and celery on low-medium heat until tender and the onions are soft and transparent, but not browned. Stir in the remaining ingredients - garlic, tomatoes, lemon, paprika, oregano, sugar, vegetable stock, lemon myrtle (if using) Add in half of the chopped herbs and feta (if using).
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan. Cook over a gentle heat for a further 5 mins, then pour over the reserved bean cooking liquid. Cover the dish and bake in the oven for 30-40 mins. Check occasionally that the beans are not drying out – add a little more water if needed.
Remove the lid and bake for 5 mins more.
Stir through the reserved chopped herbs, season to taste, then crumble over the remaining feta, along with a generous glug of olive oil just before serving.
Can be made 2 days ahead and reheated. It also freezes well for up to 6 months.