Spelt & Chia Hot Cross Buns (vegan, wheat free, fructose friendly)

Hey YOU!
I’ve been doing some pretty extensive research over the last few years (thanks to findings and publications by a bunch of mega brainy gut experts), and I’ve recently decided to join the glutard (AKA gluten free) crusade. As such, all recipes containing gluten on my site that were written prior to 2018 are currently under reconstruction as I strive to make them all gluten free. Keep watching this space because I’ll be delving into my reasons for going completely gluten free at a later date, but all I’ll say for now is that I want my recipes to be as friendly to your gut –and the trillions of incredible microbes that inhabit it– as possible, so that you can kick your digestive issues to the curb and get back to devouring caramelised onion, apples and bulk avocado again.

Just to throw another spanner in, THIS particular recipe is an exception to the above – I’ve personally never eaten a GF/yeast free hot cross bun that I’ve remotely enjoyed, and I’m too happy with this recipe to delete it or butcher it with alterations. Besides, HCB’s are supposed to be a treat anyway. Sufficiently justified? K cool.
By the way, if anyone has ever made or bought a HCB that is genuinely healthy, gluten free, yeast free and FODMAP friendly, I’d LOVE to hear from you. But until then…

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So it’s 5pm on Easter Sunday which means two things: a) I’m in a scalloped potato/cheesecake/giant Kinder Surprise/chocolate tart-induced coma and literally typing this post through one half-opened eye, and b) it’s definitely a tad late to be posting a hot cross bun recipe. That said, ‘a tad late’ is how I go about life in general, and this recipe is too good to wait until next year to post. Besides, who doesn’t love a fresh-outta-the-oven hot cross bun at any time of year? If it’s acceptable now-days to eat HCB’s from Boxing Day until Easter Sunday, it should be acceptable to enjoy them for a few (or many) months afterward, too.

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These hot X babies do contain a little more sugar than my usual recipes (in the form of coconut sugar & dried fruit), but I really wanted them to taste and feel as close to the real deal as possible. They’ve got just the right balance of sweetness and spice, and the spelt flour lends a wonderful nuttiness and dense texture. What’s more, they’ll fill your home with the most beauuuuuuutiful aroma – the smell of any kind of bread baking in the oven is magic, but the notes of cinnamon, ginger, allspice and orange in these buns will take you to a whole new level of aromatic heaven. 

I think the key to getting these buns right is ensuring that the dough gets its full 2 hours of rising time in a warm, draught-free area. I’m certainly no baking wiz so I don’t know whether the rising time or warm environment is more crucial, but the two together resulted in a far better bun texture than the first time I attempted this recipe, when I only gave the dough 1 1/2 hours to rise in a cool kitchen.

Spelt & Chia Hot Cross Buns with Orange and Cranberries

Makes 9 buns.

Ingredients

  • ½ cups wholegrain spelt flour
  • 1 tbs chia seeds
  • 7g instant dried yeast
  • 2 tsp dried ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried ground ginger
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ¼ cup dried unsweetened cranberries
  • ¼cup raisins
  • ¼cup dried currants
  • Zest of 1 orange (halve this if you don’t want the orange flavour to be pronounced)
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ cup organic coconut sugar
  • 1 cup milk of choice (I use no added sugar coconut or almond milk)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tbs melted coconut oil
  • 1 tbs pure maple syrup, to glaze
  • For the crosses: 40g dark chocolate of choice

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180*C. Line a small square cake tin (20cm x 20cm) with parchment paper.
  2. In a small saucepan, stir the milk and coconut sugar over medium-low heat until the milk is warm and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and add the vanilla and coconut oil.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the spelt flour, chia seeds, yeast and dried spices. Wake a well and pour in the milk mixture. Mix with a spoon until just combined, then add in the dried fruit, zest and salt. Use your hands to combine fully and form into a dough with the dried fruit and zest dispersed throughout.
  4. Lightly flour a clean bench space or a kneading mat with a little spelt flour. Knead the dough for 7 minutes.
  5. Oil the original mixing bowl with a little coconut oil, place the dough back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap (to trap heat in). Place a tea towel over the bowl (to keep light out). Leave in a warm, draught free space for 2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size (it’s imperative that the dough doubles, and I strongly recommend leaving it for the full 2 hours regardless). My house was quite cool when I was making these, so I found that the best place to leave the bowl was on a stool right in front of the heated oven.
  6. After the dough has risen, knead for another 3 minutes. Divide the dough into 9 equal portions and roll into rough balls. Place the buns into the prepared cake tin and bake for 25 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Brush the buns with pure maple syrup to glaze. Allow the buns to cool before piping crosses with melted dark choc. Don’t have a piping bag? See notes below.
  8. Serve the only way you ever should: toasted, warm, smothered with organic salted butter (or almond butter) and with your a cuppa. Bliss. It’s probably worth nothing that you may want to remove the chocolate cross before toasting the buns!
  9. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 weeks.

Info for the irritable

If you’re highly sensitive to fructose, adjust the amount of dried fruit to suit you tolerance levels.  You could try omitting the currants and raisins using ¼ – ½ cup dried cranberries, or leave the fruit out altogether if necessary.

Other notes

  • I used normal organic dark choc for the crosses because I knew it would set and photograph better, but vegans can substitute raw chocolate
  • If you don’t own a piping bag, spoon the melted choc into a snap-lock bag and snip the corner with scissors. Voila!Healthy Spelt and chia hot cross buns

Twix Cookie Slice | Vegan, Gluten-Free, FODMAP Friendly

Hey YOU!

If you made this recipe prior to 2018, you may notice it’s a little different now. I’ve been doing lots of research over the last few years, and thanks to the findings and publications by a bunch of brainy gut experts, I’ve recently joined the glutard (AKA gluten free) crusade. As such, this recipe is now gluten free. It’s still FODMAP friendly, low in fructose and full of nutrients, but calls for gut-lovin’ gluten alternatives that your bod and brain will thank you for! Ax
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“While distance makes the heart grow fonder, resistance makes the taste buds wonder”
                                              – Me, 2018 (enlightening, I know)

Photo: Twix Cookie Bar Slice

There’s only one confectionery I love as much as Kinder chocolate, and that’s Twix bars. There’s something about the combination of the shortbread biscuit base, gooey caramel filling and creamy chocolate blanket that’s just so mouthgasmic, it leaves me making noises that no one should ever make in public, let alone whilst eating. I’ve always gone nuts over anything Twix. Twix Pods, Twix ice cream, Twix slice… you name it and I’ve salivated over it. And don’t even get me started on Twix cheesecake. I used my boyfriend’s birthday last year as an excuse to make one, and ended up eating three quarters of the bloody thing over two days.

I’d also go so far as to say that Mars’ release of Twix Ice-cream Bars was to blame for five out of the six kilos I gained during my first European Summer in 2014. The daily habit was justified by the fact that they were only 1€ ($1.50) a pop, a welcomed revelation for my broke backpacking ass, and “I’ve got one life, BITCHES!”
Let’s just say that nourishing my bod wasn’t exactly at the forefront of my mind that trip.

Aside from the aforementioned four-month-long health hiatus and treats here and there, I’ve become pretty disciplined with my consumption of full-of-total-crapola fare since becoming a so-called adult. Full disclosure: I still receive a giant Kinder Surprise each year from the Easter Bunny. Still, it’s true that distance makes the heart grow fonder, and resistance makes the taste buds wonder (that line is a 2018 edit and I’d I’m ridiculously smug rn, by the way), and so Twix is never too far from my fantasies…

I’d always wanted to create a healthy and FODMAP friendly Twix slice, but put it in the too-hard basket because I couldn’t think of how to make a healthy and tasty caramel filling without using a bunch of dates. To my delight, I came across the fabulous blog, Blissful Basil by Ashley Melillo, and her discovery of the incredibly caramely combination of almond butter, pure maple syrup and coconut oil. It changed my life, and if you’re not too sensitive to almonds it will change yours too.

This mega decadent Twix Cookie Slice recipe is my gluten free, vegan and fructose friendly spin on Twix bars, Mars’ best invention ever. Although the caramel mainly consists almond butter which is high in fructans when consumed in large amounts, I have made sure that each serving of this slice contains even less almond butter than is deemed “safe” by Monash University, and I’ve kept the overall FODMAP load low. In other words, this recipe is FODMAP friendly if the recommended serving size is adhered to. Please see notes below the recipe for specific recommendations.

FODMAP Friendly Twix Slice | Vegan, Gluten-Free,Low FODMAP)

Makes 18 bars or 25 squares

FODMAP friendly serving size: 1 bar or 1-2 squares (see notes below)

Ingredients

Vanilla Shortbread Biscuit Base:

  • 1 ¾ cups (210g) brown rice flour 
  • 1 cup (97g) tapioca starch
  • ½ cup (100g) melted coconut oil
  • ⅓ cup (100g) pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Almond ‘Caramel’ Filling:

  • 1 cup (250g) unsalted 100% almond butter
  • ⅓ cup (100g) pure maple syrup
  • ⅓ cup (66g) coconut oil
  • ⅓ tsp fine sea salt

Chocolate topping:

  • ½  cup (100g) coconut oil
  • ½  cup (34g) raw cacao powder
  • 1-2 tbs pure maple syrup
  • Small pinch of fine sea salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180*C and line a square slice or cake tin with baking paper, ensuring that the paper hangs over the sides. My tin is 18 x 18cm.
  2. To make the biscuit base, combine the brown rice flour, tapioca starch, melted coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until fully incorporated. Don’t worry if the mixture is a little clumpy or separated. If it seems too wet (and oil is noticeably pooling on top), add a little more rice flour.
  3. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and use your fingertips to press the mixture in firmly and evenly. Use a fork to poke several holes in the base. Bake for 20 minutes or until the colour is becoming golden. Remove from the oven. Do not wait for it to brown, as it will become overcooked and dry. It should still be a little soft to touch and will harden as it cools. My base often forms a big raised bump in the middle toward the end of baking – if this happens to you, gently push it down as soon as it comes out of the oven while it’s still soft. Allow to cool and harden completely in the tin.
  4. To make the caramel filling, melt the coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat. Increase heat to medium and add the almond butter, maple, and salt. Lightly whisk until all ingredients are fully incorporated and smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temp. I also highly recommend helping yourself to a little spoonful of the almond caramel while it’s warm. You’re welcome. 💁🏼‍♀️
  5. Pour the caramel filling over the cooled biscuit base, smooth with the back of a spoon, and place in the freezer, ensuring a completely flat position, for 30 minutes to set. 
  6. To make the chocolate layer, place the coconut oil, cacao, maple and salt in a saucepan and stir over low heat until the ingredients have completely melted together. Pour the chocolate over the caramel layer, smoothing with the back of a spoon. Return the slice to the freezer for a further 20 minutes, ensuring a completely flat position, to set the chocolate layer.
  7. Remove the slice from the tin and transfer to a chopping board. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting into 18 bars or 25 squares (see notes below on recommended low FODMAP serving sizes). Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week, or freeze for up to one month.

Info for the irritable

  • Almonds –and thus almond butter– are high in Fermentable Galacto-Oligosaccharides (GOS) and Fructans (AKA the “F” and “O” in “FODMAP”) when consumed in amounts larger than 35g in one sitting. However, according to Monash University, 1 tbs or 20g of almond butter is considered low in these carbohydrates, and should be tolerated by people with IBS or fructose malabsorption. Each serving of this slice, when cut into either 18 bars or 25 squares, contains only 14g and 10g of almond butter, respectively. If you’re unsure of your tolerance to almonds, opt for a small square and take it from there.

Ax

Photo: Twix Cookie Bar Slice

Photo: Maple pumpkin, chicken & strawberry salad

Chicken and Maple-Roasted Pumpkin Salad with Strawberries and Caramelised Macadamias

Photo: Maple pumpkin, chicken & strawberry salad

I find myself making this salad all year round, but there’s no denying its utter summery-ness. Whether it’s Sunday dinner at home, a casual picnic, or a festive bring-a-plate night, this salad has been one of my top go-to’s since I first posted it. Going by your emails, it’s still probably THE most loved recipe on here (thank you, lovely readers!), and it makes me V happy to know that you’re still loving it as much as I do. It’s even one of my Dad’s favourites which, given the fact that it’s “just a bloody salad”, says a bit.

It’s simple and straightforward enough to whip up on a weeknight, but the strawberries and caramelised macadamias give it that extra touch of pizzazz, making it perfect for entertaining or when you’re on salad duty. The warm roasted chicken and generous chunks of pumpkin add heartiness and make it feel like a real meal, and together with the nuts and feta it’s deceivingly filling.

Photo: Maple pumpkin, chicken & strawberry salad

I’m a total sucker for anything that combines sweet and savoury (HELLOOOOO fig paste on double brie, honey on peanut butter, and my ultimate vice – maple syrup on fried chicken), and the marriage of savoury chicken and feta with sweet strawberries and maple-coated pumpkin and nuts in this salad is no exception, so when you curate a forkful that has just a little bit of everything, it really is a party in your mouth.

 With just the right balance of sweet and savoury and a touch of tart, this very low-FODMAP salad will leave your tastebuds singing and your belly happy. If you’re after a side a salad or a vegetarian version, simply leave the chicken out. Vegans can omit the feta altogether or substitute with a nut-based feta, however because of the concentration of high FODMAP nuts (commonly cashews) in nut-based fetas, I have not come across one that is strictly low FODMAP.

This salad is best served while the pumpkin is still warm and caramelised, however it’s also great at room temp so don’t worry about being meticulous with timing. If you’re actually capable of controlling your portions and have leftovers, they make for a delicious lunch the next day!

Photo: Maple pumpkin, chicken & strawberry salad

Chicken and Maple-Roasted Pumpkin Salad with Strawberries and Caramelised Macadamias

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

  • ½ roasted chicken (free range and organic if possible), shredded
  • ½ medium Jap/Kent pumpkin (approx 2kg), peeled and cut into even 3cm chunks
  • 1 cup (130g) macadamias, halved
  • 2 tbs + 3 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 1½ tbs melted coconut oil
  • 200g leafy salad mix of choice
  • 100g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 punnet strawberries (200g), sliced
  • ½ cup spring onion (40g), chopped (green part only)
  • ¼ cup (35g) pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • Small handful each fresh basil and flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • 100g goats curd or Danish feta, to serve (omit for vegan)
  • Good quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), to dress
  • Balsamic vinegar, to dress (optional)
  • Sea salt, to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 170*C and line a tray with baking paper. In a small bowl, coat the macadamias with 3 tsp of the maple syrup. Pour onto the tray and place in the oven for 10 minutes or until golden and caramelised. Remove from oven and set aside to cool completely.
  2. Increase the oven temperature to 200*C and line two trays with baking paper. In a large bowl, coat the pumpkin  with the remaining maple syrup, melted coconut oil, dried oregano and salt.
  3. Divide the pumpkin between the two lined trays and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, turning half way through and adding the pepitas to the top tray for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Depending on your oven, you may also want to swap the trays half way through to ensure even cooking. This salad works best when the veggies are a little on the ‘under’ side – quite soft in the middle and caramelised and chewy around the edges. Don’t let them crisp up too much as the delicious gooey maple will dry out!
  4. In the meantime, arrange the salad leaves in a serving bowl or platter. Drizzle with EVOO and top with spring onions, fresh herbs, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, pumpkin, shredded chicken, feta, maple macadamias and pepitas. Finish with an extra drizzle of EVOO and a sprinkle of dried oregano. Serve with balsamic vinegar on the side for those who want a little more acidity – a tiny drizzle goes perfectly with the strawberries and feta! 

Ax

Photo: Maple pumpkin, chicken & strawberry salad

 

Photo: Lemon, ginger & cranberry granola

Gluten Free Lemon, Ginger and Cranberry Granola (paleo, grain free, low FODMAP)

Photo: Lemon, ginger & cranberry granola

Yep, I’m one of those people. One of those who still, even at 22 years of age, puts milk, cookies and carrots out for Santa and his reindeers on Christmas Eve. From December 1st I blast Michael Buble’s 2011 Christmas album in my car, and refuse to take it off rotation until mid-January. Shopping centres go from being in my top-3-most-disliked-environments all year from January through November, to magical joy-filled havens which I find every excuse to immerse myself in during December. I take dramatic detours and scour the streets of suburban Melbourne late at night, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at fairy light displays. Even houses with the tackiest efforts (flashing rainbow fairy lights usually make my eyes hurt) send ripples of Christmas cheer through me. I’ve finally stopped dressing my car as Rudolf and acknowledge that the antlers on the side door windows and red nose on the front grill are a bit much.

As I write this, the most wonderful day of the year is just one week away. The early summer sun is shining outside, I’ve spent the afternoon wrapping presents and arranging them under the tree, and the oven is exhaling mouth-watering notes of ginger, cinnamon and maple from my fourth batch of Lemon, Ginger and Cranberry Granola this week.

Photo: Lemon, ginger & cranberry granola

This granola recipe is a festive and comforting marriage of sugar and spice. It’s sweetened with just enough maple syrup and the pops of tart lemon and dried cranberries add some extra zing. There’s a delicious crunch and chewiness to it, then it melts in your mouth like any granola should. It might look Christmassy, but it makes for a delicious and nutrient dense breakfast all year round. This recipe is very forgiving, so feel free to mix it up however you like. So long as you’re mindful of wet to dry ratios, you can pretty much throw in whatever you’ve got on hand.

How you use the granola is entirely up to you – serve a generous handful with your favourite nut milk and strawbs for a wholesome brekky, sprinkle it over smoothie bowls and banana ‘nice cream’ to add some crunch, or whiz some through smoothies to make them extra thicccc and amp up the flavour. It’s also great to snack on as a trail mix, but I try to portion it out in advance otherwise I end up eating half a batch in one sitting. Portion control has never been my forté.

For something a bit spesh, try layering the granola with cardamom-stewed oranges or other fruit and your favourite yoghurt (coconut or full fat) in individual glasses  – the perfect Christmas Parfait for brunch entertaining! I also love making cute homemade edible gifts by filling mason jars with the granola. Add some mini gingerbread men to the jars and arrange around the side of the jar so that they’re visible, then finish with some festive ribbon and hand-written gift tags.

Photo: Lemon, ginger & cranberry granola

Lemon, Ginger and Cranberry Granola

FODMAP friendly serving size: ¾ cup (approx. 80g)

Ingredients

Muesli mixture:

  • 2 cups(178g) quinoa flakes (you could also use flaked brown rice or buckwheat)
  • 1 cup (200g) buckwheat grouts, activated if possible
  • 1 cup (15g) puffed buckwheat (puffed brown rice also works great although it’s a grain)
  • ¾ cup (45g) shredded unsweetened coconut
  • ¾ cup (97g) of your favourite natural nuts (activated if possible), roughly chopped. I use mostly macadamias and pecans, plus some almonds and walnuts
  • ¼ cup (40g) pepitas
  • ¼ cup (40g) sunflower seeds
  • ¾ tsp finely ground sea salt
  • 1 tbs ground cinnamon
  • 1 ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 tbs coconut sugar (optional)
  • ½ cup (60g) dried cranberries (unsweetened if possible, omit for strictly fructose friendly – see notes)

Wet mixture:

  • ½ cup (100g) melted coconut oil
  • ⅓ cup (95g) pure maple syrup
  • 1 tbs lemon juice

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160*C and lightly grease a large baking tray with coconut oil
  2. In a large bowl, combine all the ‘muesli mixture’ ingredients, except the dried coconut and cranberries
  3. Add the ‘wet’ ingredients to the bowl, gently folding with a large wooden spoon until fully combined
  4. Spoon onto the prepared tray in an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven. Add the dried coconut and use a spatula to gently turn the granola. Lightly press the mixture down to encourage the formation of clusters. Return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes. At this point it should be fragrant and golden
  5. Remove from the oven and set aside. As it cools, the granola will continue to dry out and crisp up, so don’t worry if it’s still a little soft. Allow to cool completely before adding the dried cranberries and transferring to an airtight container or glass jars. The granola will keep for at least a week if stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Info for the Irritable:

  • Certain nuts and dried coconut contain moderate amounts of FODMAPs (GOS and polyols, respectively), however the amount I have used in this recipe, especially once divided into the recommended servings, is considered to be low. If you’re especially sensitive to either, reduce the amount by half or omit altogether and substitute with more quinoa flakes and puffed buckwheat
  • Dried cranberries do contain moderate fructans, however the amount I have included once divided is considered low.
  • To keep the FODMAP load of your meal down, make sure you serve this granola with low FODMAP accompaniments, such as fresh berries and a suitable nut milk.

Ax

Photo: Lemon, ginger & cranberry granola

Photo: Fruit free muesli bar slice

Fruit Free Quinoa Muesli Slice (fructose friendly, low FODMAP, gluten free)

Hey YOU!
If you made this recipe prior to 2018, you may notice it’s a little different now. I’ve been doing some pretty extensive research over the last few years (thanks to findings and publications by a bunch of mega brainy gut experts), and I’ve recently decided to join the glutard (AKA gluten free) crusade. As such, this recipe is now gluten free. It’s still FODMAP friendly, low in fructose and tastes the same as before, but now calls for gut-friendlier alternatives to the gluten. Your belly will thank you for it, and I hope your tastebuds still do, too! Ax

Photo: Fruit free muesli bar slice

It’s probably not news to you that most muesli bars on supermarket shelves -and even some in the “health food” aisle- are not that great for you.

Many of them belong in the confectionary aisle right next to the beloved Cadbury Black Forest block. If you’re reading this, you’re probably also a label reader accustomed to doing a quick scan of sugar contents when deciding between pre-packaged muesli bars. But how much notice do you pay to where that sugar is coming from? The majority of muesli/snack bars out there are absolutely LOADED with added sugars, whether it’s refined in the form of white/brown sugar or horrible processed syrups, unrefined in the form of raw cane sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, coconut sugar, rice malt syrup etc., or sneakily disguised as being the most ‘natural’ –yet actually the most concentrated– forms of fructose of all: dried fruit and fruit juice concentrates.

As I write this, I’m analysing the labels of 2 different muesli bar boxes by a popular ‘real food’ brand sold at supermarkets. Their products are marketed as, and widely believed to be, a much healthier alternative to their processed counterparts. Yes, they use mainly whole food ingredients and don’t contain any nasty preservatives or additives which is great, but the sugar content is simply way too high to be promoted as healthy.
One of the aforementioned labels reads SIX DIFFERENT SOURCES OF SUGAR: cranberries, sugar, glucose, honey, rice syrup and apple. The other contains FIVE different sources: glucose, honey, sugar, cranberries and sultanas.
Ruuuuuude.

Photo: Fruit Free Muesli Bar Slice

Sure, these bars make our taste buds happy because we’re hard-wired to gorge on anything sweet as it was once so rarely available (it’s no secret that the food industry capitalises on this biological fact), but the bottom line is that large amounts of sugar, regardless of where it’s coming from, wreaks havoc on your brain and organs, promotes systemic inflammation throughout your body, and provides a feeding frenzy to the pathogenic bacteria in your gut, making any intestine-related digestive issues you may have a whole lot worse in the long-run.

The main point of this argument isn’t to put you off eating any form of sugar for the rest of your life (how terribly sad would that be?!). I’m just saying that if you’re going to tuck into six different forms of sugar in one snack sized portion, it should be a mega decadent treat, like a double-fudge-peanut-butter-brownie-with-maple-frosting-and-butterscotch-macadamias for instance, not your mid-morning snack. 

Photo: Fruit free muesli bar slice

You might be thinking, “how the hell do I know what muesli bars to choose, then?!”

And rightfully so.
Finding pre-packaged snacks that are low FODMAP, gut-friendly and genuinely healthy can seem impossible, and sometimes it is. Thankfully, more and more options are becoming available in supermarkets all the time. Here’s what I look out for:

1. Excess fructose and overall sugar content

If you have fructose malabsorption or IBS, be mindful of ingredients that contain excess fructose such as dates, dried fruits, concentrated fruit juices and agave syrup, as these could leave you bowed over with mega food regret. With that said, don’t be fooled into choosing a product just because it contains predominately glucose, and is thus low fructose (i.e. glucose syrup, rice malt syrup etc.). Just because it’s low in fructose and won’t promote gastrointestinal symptoms immediately, does not mean it’s good for your gut in the long term! I’ll say it again and again, if you’ve got digestive issues, there’s a good chance your intestinal ecosystem is out of whack, and any bad bugs in your belly love to feed –and multiply like evil gremlins– on glucose, leading to the worsening of intestinal flora imbalances.
As a general rule of thumb, avoid snacks that have a sugar source as one of the first three listed ingredients, and opt for products that contain no more than 3-4g total sugars per 100g. That way you’re minimising exposure to excess fructose whilst keeping overall sugar consumption relatively low.

2. Fibre content and source

Fibre is one of our best friends for a multitude of reasons, but unfortunately sometimes manufacturers like to bulk health food products with plant-extracted fibres such as inulin and chicory root, which can be troublesome for people with FM/IBS due to their fermentable oligosaccharide (GOS) content. Avoid any products containing these particular fibres while your gut is hyper sensitive.

3. Gluten

Research is pointing more and more towards all gluten promoting inflammation in the intestines, and far beyond. I’ve recently decided to cut gluten out as much as possible, with the odd slip-up. And by “odd slip-up”, I mean every day whilst #vacaying in Italy, or when drunk.

4. Inflammatory fats

I’m totally pro-fat, and eat a lot of it, but not all fat is created equally. It’s important to opt for ingredients lists that contain truly healthful fatty acids (such as nuts, seeds, coconut, avocado and pressed olives), and not refined pro-inflammatory “vegetable fats”, such as canola oil, sunflower oil, vegetable oil etc. Oh and it goes without saying that laboratory-made trans fats should be avoided at all costs – never touch anything that reads “hydrogenated-” as a prefix before any oil or fat. Bad bad bad.

5. Other troublesome additives

As if you didn’t have enough criteria already, make sure you’re also weary of troublesome high FODMAP sweeteners such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol etc. Protein bars are common culprits of this! Lastly, if it’s marketed as a health food then it shouldn’t contain artificial additives anyway, but just to be safe, watch out for nasty sulphites (numbers 220-228), which are commonly found in commercially dried fruits.

Granted, it’s a lot easier to narrow the process down when you’re at a health food store as they’re already a lot stricter on what products they stock, but then I’m always conflicted by paying up to $5 for a single snack when I can make a week’s worth of my own muesli slice for the same price…

Photo: Fruit free muesli bar slice

This Fruit Free Quinoa Muesli Slice is super easy to whip up and the recipe is very forgiving. If you don’t have a particular ingredient just use something else that’s similar in density, being mindful of wet to dry ratios. This is designed to be a base recipe, so feel free to jazz things up! Try adding things like goji berries (dark choc-coated gojis would be delicious for a more decadent treat), or a little unsweetened and sulphite-free dried fruit, like cranberries or blueberries.

High in fibre, healthy fats, protein, antioxidants, and low in sugars (just 3g per snack-sized square), this muesli slice makes a perfect on-the-go breakfast or snack any time of day. I love to serve mine spread with natural salted peanut butter and a little homemade strawberry jam – delish. 

Fruit Free Quinoa Muesli Bar Slice

Makes 24 snack squares, or 12 bars

FODMAP friendly serving size: one snack sized square

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (160g) quinoa flakes
  • ½ cup (30g) unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ¼ cup (30g) brown rice flour
  • 1½ cups (180g) mixed seeds (I use pepitas & sunflower kernels)
  • ½ cup (60g) nuts of choice, such as walnuts and pecans (activated if possible), roughly chopped
  • 1 tbs (10g) chia seeds
  • 1-2 tsp (3-6g) ground cinnamon (depending on your taste preferences)
  • ½ tsp (2g) ground cardamom (reduce this to ¼ tsp if you don’t want the cardamom to be pronounced)
  • ¼ tsp (1g) ground dried ginger
  • ¼ tsp (1g) Himalayan sea salt
  • 3 large free range eggs (approx 65g each & organic if possible), lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup (80g) pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup (60g) natural nut butter of choice (I use peanut)
  • 2 tbs (26g) melted coconut oil
  • 2 tbs (30mL) warm filtered water (can be boiled and then cooled slightly)
  • 1 tsp (4.5g) pure vanilla extract

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180*C and line a slice tray or square cake tin with baking paper
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl with a wooden spoon
  3. In another bowl, add the beaten eggs and whisk in the remaining ingredients. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and combine well
  4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and use your fingers to press it in firmly. Sprinkle the top with some pepitas and linseeds, if desired. Bake for 30 minutes or until firm and golden brown.
  5. Remove from oven allow to stand for 10 minutes, before removing and allowing to cool completely on a wire rack
  6. Cut the slice into 12 bars or 24 squares (I often do half and half), and store in an airtight container away from direct sunlight for up to one week.

Ax

Photo: Fruit free muesli bar slice

 

 

Mum’s (not Nonna’s) Turkey Spag Bol

Lately I’ve been getting lots of requests to post more dinner-y recipes, and it made me realise that I never share my favourite dinner meals. So here’s a weeknight favourite in our household – Mum’s (Not Nonna’s) Turkey Spag Bol. I don’t have a Nonna, nor do I have an Italian heritage (a reality that makes me sad quite often), but if I did I wouldn’t dare serve her this rendition to her, in fear of having the veggie-packed and gluten, onion and garlic free morsels spat right back at me.

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It’s no secret that traditional spaghetti bolognese gets a bad nutritional rap from its core ingredients: low quality beef mince cooked in nasty oils, gluten, and cheese. And as delicious and comforting as a giant bowl of ole spag bol from your local Italian joint may be –and sometimes totally granted– it’s not a very healthful choice to make too regularly. What’s more, if you’ve got fructose malabsorption or IBS it’s pretty much out of bounds anyway, thanks to all the onion and garlic.

Being the ever-accommodating woman that she is, my fabulous mumma came up with a spag bol that’s wholesome, FODMAP friendly, fills the boys up, and tastes GREAT! It has to be said that she’s becoming an expert at de-FODMAPifying recipes, and her Turkey Spag Bol is a true testimony to this. On that note, I can’t wait to share her low FODMAP Sri Lankan Chicken Curry recipe with you one day soon!

I hope you love this no-frills but tasty weeknight dinner as much as we do.  Just please don’t serve it to your Nonna.

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Low FODMAP Turkey Spag Bol

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1kg free range turkey mince (organic if possible)
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 large eggplant, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1/2 – 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes*, cut into halves or quarters (see notes for fructose info)
  • 1 red capsicum, diced
  • 1 green capsicum, diced
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes (no added sugar or preservatives)
  • 3/4 cup salt reduced tomato paste* (see notes for fructose info)
  • 8 spring/green onions, chopped (green part only)
  • 1 3/4 cups LOW FODMAP veg or chicken stock
  • 1.5 tbs dried oregano
  • 1 large handful fresh basil leaves, torn
  • Coconut oil
  • Sea salt & cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1 packet gluten free spaghetti or other pasta of choice (I love brown rice noodles or buckwheat pasta)
  • To serve: fresh basil leaves & shaved parmesan (optional)

Method

  1. Heat some coconut oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Sautée the spring onions, carrot, eggplant, zucchini, capsicums and sun-dried tomatoes, stirring for around 7 minutes or until the veggies have started to soften. Remove from pot and transfer to a heat-safe bowl.
  3. Heat some more coconut oil in the pot and add the turkey mince. Cook the mince on medium heat until browned (around 8 minutes), using a wooden spoon to break it up as you go.
  4. Add the cooked veggies to the pot along with the tomato paste, tinned tomatoes, stock, fresh basil and dried oregano. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Turn the heat down to low and simmer, covered, for a minimum of 40 minutes. If I have time, I leave it for at least an hour. The longer you leave it (within reason – you don’t want to overcook the meat!), the richer and more flavourful it will be.
  6. Serve with one ladle’s worth of gluten free pasta of choice, and garnish with extra torn basil and shaved parmesan. For a paleo or lower carb version, use the turkey mixture to stuff into roasted eggplants (see recipe below).

FODMAP Notes

  • Those with high sensitivities to fructose should use 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, or even less if you’re unsure
  • Due to the concentrated form of tomato paste, some people with very high sensitivities to fructose might find it problematic in large amounts, though I’ve never had an issue with it. Use less if you’re unsure of your tolerance levels, and add more fresh and dried herbs to make up the flavour.

Turkey Bolognese Stuffed Eggplants

Please note that due to the polyol (sorbitol) content in large amounts of eggplant (“large” is defined by Monash as 2 1/4 cups), those who malabsorb polyols should either use smaller eggplants or avoid this variation until you are sure of your eggplant tolerance.

Ingredients:

  • 4 large eggplants to serve 8 people, or 1/2 eggplant per person.
  • Turkey Bolognese recipe above, minus the pasta (can be made in advance)
  • 1 tbs coconut oil, melted
  • Sea salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200*C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Use a fork to prick the eggplants several times. Place on prepared tray and lightly brush over with coconut oil. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until tender.
  3. If you made the bolognese in advance, reheat however much of it you’re using (roughly 1-1.5 cups per person)
  4. Cut the eggplants in half length-ways. Use a spoon to scoop out some of the flesh from each half, leaving a 1cm boarder. Chop the scooped out flesh. Sprinkle a little sea salt over the eggplant halves.
  5. Mix the chopped eggplant through the heated Turkey Bolognese. Spoon mixture into the eggplant halves and sprinkle shaved parmesan (optional) over the top, if using. Return stuffed eggplants to the oven for 10 minutes, or until all heated through. Serve topped with fresh basil leaves.

Ax

Pumpkin, Feta and Chive Loaf | Gluten Free, Low FODMAP, Fructose Friendly)

Why don’t you loaf me?
Tell me, baby,
Why don’t you knead me?

Hey YOU!

If you made this recipe prior to 2018, you may notice it’s a little different now. I’ve been doing lots of research over the last few years, and thanks to the findings and publications by a bunch of brainy gut experts, I’ve recently joined the glutard (AKA gluten free) crusade. As such, this recipe is now gluten free. It’s still FODMAP friendly, low in fructose and full of nutrients, but calls for gut-lovin’ gluten alternatives that your bod and brain will thank you for! Ax

Photo: Pumpkin, Feta and Chive Loaf

I’ve fluked a few things throughout my 25 years, but baked goods have seldom been among them. I used to think I was a baker through and through, but I now realise that I was just really good at following cake recipes to an absolute T, and then making them look pretty. When I first started this blog and began developing low FODMAP loaves, muffins and cookies, I quickly realised that I was not a natural born baker. Not at all.

The Lazy Perfectionist in me (a rather detrimental internal conflict at times) can’t handle the uncertainty or the potentially wasted effort. I find myself getting all anxious and stressed when brainstorming which combinations of low FODMAP flours/meals to use, what ratios I should use them in, whether or not I’ll need to add or reduce the liquid, if it will work without the use of a gum, if it will even rise at all, if the balance of flavours is right etc,. etc., etc. The list goes on and on. 

Then there’s the torturous waiting game –and far too frequent opening of the oven door as if three minutes will make all the difference– while it’s baking. Nine times out of ten, after taking it out of the oven and not letting anyone in the house try it because I can’t handle them reconfirming its shit-ness and my failure, I’m back to square one. Meanwhile an entire precious day has gone by and I go to bed feeling frustrated and defeated and I’m positive that I’ve contracted sinusitis in the last few hours, before realising it’s just all the tapioca starch I’ve inhaled. So that’s why you don’t see any fluffy low FODMAP cake recipes on here… yet. 

 Photo: Pumpkin, Feta and Chive Loaf

So yeah, it’s pretty rare for me to nail a recipe like this one the first time I attempt it. But all jokes about my psycho anxieties aside, I couldn’t believe it the first time I made this Pumpkin, Feta and Chive loaf and it not only worked, but worked really, REALLY well. I was obviously ecstatic. (2018 edit: the same euphoria was definitely not felt two days ago when I spent eight hours developing the gluten free version of this recipe. I’ve finally gotten it to the identical texture and flavour of the old version that used spelt, by the way. No biggie [insert blond hair toss emoji]).

This loaf is honestly one of my favourite recipes, primarily because it’s tasty as hell but also because it’s so much more nutrient dense than regular gluten free breads and my belly is always happy after eating it. I often omit the feta from my everyday loaf but will always use it if I’m trying to impress people which, if I’m being honest with myself, is often. It’s got a hearty, dense texture and the combination of the chives, rosemary, feta and buttery pumpkin makes it SO flavourful and morish. It’s great as a snack just on its own, or with a generous spread of nut butter or avocado. Toast it and slather with organic salted butter for THE most perfect soup accompaniment.

Photo: Pumpkin, Feta and Chive Loaf Photo: Pumpkin, Feta and Chive Loaf

Pumpkin, Feta and Chive Loaf | Gluten Free, FODMAP Friendly, Fructose Friendly)

Makes 12-15 slices

FODMAP friendly serving size: Up to 2 slices (see notes below)

Ingredients

  • ⅛ medium Jap pumpkin (approx 400g), peeled, deseeded, chopped into cubes, and steamed until soft
  • 75g brown rice flour
  • 120g tapioca starch
  • 95g LSA meal (ground linseeds, sunflower seeds & almonds – see FODMAP notes below)
  • 3 large free range eggs (approx. 55g each), organic if possible, lightly beaten
  • 30g chives, chopped
  • 150g Danish feta (omit for dairy free option)
  • ¼ cup (50g) coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tbs (20g) pure maple syrup
  • 3 tbs (15g) psyllium (see FODMAP notes below)
  • 2 tsp (6g) baking powder (no added aluminium)
  • 1 tsp (3g) baking soda (aluminium free)
  • 2 tsp (2g) ground sweet paprika
  • ½ tsp (3g) sea salt
  • For topping: leaves of 2 fresh rosemary sprigs and a small handful of pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180*C and line a full sized loaf tin with baking paper. My tin is approximately 29cm x 10.5cm.
  2. Mash the steamed pumpkin until smooth. Set aside to cool (this can also be done the night before to save time later).
  3. Place the rice flour and tapioca starch in a tightly sealed container, and shake vigorously to combine thoroughly.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the flours, LSA, baking powder, baking soda, paprika, psyllium and salt.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the beaten eggs, melted coconut oil, chives and maple syrup. Add to the dry mixture.
  6. Weigh 230g (1 cup) of mashed pumpkin and gently fold it through until well combined.
  7. Crumble most of the feta into chunks (reserving some for the topping), and fold through the dough very gently, taking care not to over-mix as you’ll break the feta up too much. The loaf will be best if it has chunky pops of feta throughout it!
  8. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared loaf tin and use the back of the spoon to smooth the top. Top with remaining chunks of feta, rosemary, and pepitas. Press the feta and pepitas into the dough very lightly with your fingertips to ensure they stick.
  9. Place on the middle oven rack and bake for 45 mins to one hour, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out semi-dry (damp crumbs are fine but you don’t want wet batter). I like to check on the loaf at the 45 minute mark and go from there. Cooking times may vary depending on your oven and loaf tin. If the toppings start to burn at any point, simply cover with some aluminium foil.
  10. Remove from oven and allow to sit for half an hour before removing from the tin and placing on a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days (after three days it will start to dry out and will be better toasted), or slice it up and freeze for up to one month.

Info for the irritable:

  • Although LSA contains high amounts of galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) when consumed in very large amounts, the FODMAP contribution from LSA in this recipe is considered to be very low when no more than two slices are consumed in a sitting
  • Psyllium is usually beneficial for people with fructose malabsorption and IBS, however due to its soluble fibre content it might not be great for everyone. If you’re unsure, leave it out and remove 1tbs of coconut oil. You may need to increase the cooking time since psyllium absorbs a lot of moisture.

Other notes

  • To make this recipe grain free, you could try substituting the brown rice flour for buckwheat flour (it’s technically a seed not a grain), although I cannot vouch for this as I haven’t tried it yet. If you do or do not have success with this variation, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Ax

Photo: Pumpkin, Feta and Chive Loaf

Photo: Choccy granola

Gluten Free Crunchy Chocolate Granola (paleo, grain free, fruit free)

My world was momentarily flipped upside down at eight years old when Mum fractured almost every bone in her foot* and was forced to employ Helga, a middle-aged German Nanny, to help out with us beastly children.

Photo: Choccy granola

Shocked and outraged by the sheer abandonment by our own mother (AKA her physical inability to be at our beck and call 24/7) and her decision to palm us off to a complete stranger who had an accent we couldn’t –or blatantly pretended not to– understand, we vowed to make Helga’s experience as difficult as possible. We were devils disguised in eight, five and four year old bodies.

Of course, in affectionate and remorseful hindsight, Helga was a lovely and caring woman. She desperately wanted to win us over and eventually realised that she could, to some degree at least, through our stomachs. We began seeing her as less of a villain when instead of serving the usual Vegemite toast for breakfast, she started giving us Special Coco Pops. These Coco Pops were extra special because not only were we not allowed to eat Coco Pops on weekdays, but Helga would also sprinkle white sugar all over them to add to the thrilling novelty of our new morning ritual. This was during the days when Foot Loops were still a perfectly acceptable breakfast food *face palm*, plus mum didn’t want to crush Helga’s newfound glory, so she let it slide for a while.

Photo: Choccy granola

And that’s where my love for sweet AF breakfast cereals began. I eventually grew out of Coco Pops and my obsession with sprinkling white poison all over them, but the habit was replaced by only marginally less sugary cereals with boxes that read anything along the lines of “crunchy granola” or “nut clusters” throughout the majority of my teenage years. I may not eat the highly processed and sugar laden versions anymore, but my love for any type of granola remains. Anyone with IBS or fructose malabsorption will share my frustration of not being able to easily find muesli options that tick all the boxes (punny). They’re either full of crap, processed gluten, refined sugars or dried fruits, and if you do find one that’s low in FODMAPs and genuinely healthy, chances are it’s pretty pricey. So I just make my own. My go-to recipes are this Crunchy Chocolate Granola, and my Lemon, Ginger and Cranberry Granola.

Photo: Choccy granola

This Crunchy Chocolate Granola immediately takes me back to the mornings with Helga when I’d eat two huge bowls of candied Coco Pop greatness and then drink the leftover pool of super sweet chocolatey milk at the end. This version might contain 8 teaspoons less sugar per serving, but the crunchy clusters of chocolatey puffed seeds, quinoa flakes and toasted nuts taste totally indulgent and are so satisfying.

The beauty of granola is that it can be used in so many ways – serve it with your favourite nut milk and fresh berries, on top of smoothie bowls or “nice cream”, layered in chia pudding parfaits, sprinkled on grilled banana, or simply use it as a trail mix to snack on.

*Background story: It was school holidays and mum took us to “Pirate Day” at the Polly Woodside in Melbourne, the site where a famous 1885 cargo ship is preserved. We ended up playing on the grounds late into the afternoon and most likely ignored the numerous “closing soon” announcements. To this day I cannot fathom how they managed it, but security ended up locking us in. Determined to not have to sleep on a potentially haunted ship overnight, we screamed our lungs out for help, to no avail. The only solution that seemed logical at the time was to jump the three metre fence, and obviously mum was to be the guinea pig. She ended up landing badly (her high heeled boots probably didn’t help) and broke the bejeezus out of her foot.

Photo: Choccy granola

Crunchy Chocolate Granola

Makes x 10 ¾ cup servings

FODMAP friendly serving size: ¾ cup (approx. 80g)

Ingredients

Muesli mixture:

  • 2 cups (178g) quinoa flakes (flaked brown rice or buckwheat also works well)
  • 1 ½ cups (23g) puffed buckwheat (if you’re not strictly grain free, puffed brown rice also works well)
  • 1 ¼ cups (250g) buckwheat grouts, activated if possible
  • ¾ cup (45g) unsweetened dried shredded or flaked coconut
  • ¾ cup (97g) of your favourite natural nuts (activated if possible), roughly chopped. I use a combination of pecans, macadamias, almonds and walnuts
  • ½ cup (80g) pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • ¼ cup (40g) chia seeds

Chocolate mixture:

  • ½ cup (100g) coconut oil
  • ⅓ cup (95g) pure maple syrup
  • ½ cup (32g) raw cacao powder (you can also use regular fair-trade cocoa powder)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbs pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp sea sea salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 160*C and grease a large baking tray with coconut oil
  2. In a large bowl, combine all “muesli mixture” ingredients, except the shredded coconut
  3. In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil over medium-low heat. Add the maple syrup, cacao and cinnamon and stir until all combined. Bring to the boil and remove from heat. Add the vanilla and salt and stir until the liquid is fully incorporated.
  4. Pour the chocolate mixture over the dry muesli mixture and stir gently until all dry ingredients are evenly coated. There should be enough ‘wet’ mixture to completely cover the muesli.
  5. Spread mixture evenly over the greased tray. Bake in oven for 15 minutes, then remove from oven and stir. Add the dried coconut and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes. The granola will continue to crisp up after you take it out of the oven, so don’t worry if it’s still a little soft.
  6. Allow to cool completely before transferring to a large air-tight container or glass jars. The granola will keep for over a week if stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Info for the Irritable:

  • Certain nuts and dried coconut contain moderate amounts of FODMAPs (GOS and polyols, respectively), however the amount I have used in this recipe, especially once divided into the recommended servings, is considered to be low. If you’re especially sensitive to either, reduce the amount by half or omit altogether and substitute with more quinoa flakes and puffed buckwheat
  • To keep the FODMAP load of your meal down, make sure you serve this granola with low FODMAP accompaniments, such as fresh berries and a suitable nut milk.

Ax

Photo: Choccy granola

Spice up your low FODMAP life: healthified Chicken & Prawn Curry Laksa

IMG_1770

WARNING: do NOT pick your nose within 12 hours of trying this recipe. You’ll regret it. And don’t let curiosity do you in now that I’ve warned you, either. I’ve already told you, you’ll regret it. 

I’m feeling seriously proud right now, like pride-bordering-on-undiluted-arrogance proud. I’ve recreated one of my favourite dishes of all time, one which I thought I’d never be able to eat again, and I’ve made it FODMAP friendly.
Oh, curry laksa…

According to Wikipedia, laksa is a spicy noodle soup which comes from the Peranakan culture, a fusion of Chinese and Malay elements found in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Curry laksa (or just ‘laksa’, as we know it) uses coconut milk in addition to stock to give it a beautiful curry-like richness. Before I became as health-conscious as I am today, I was a regular at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, where a lovely Malay man makes the best laksa in the world (huge call, I know, but I’ve never had better). That little man’s aromatic bowl of laksa heaven is still one of the most mouthgasm-inducing things I’ve ever experienced. I’m seriously salivating just thinking about it as I write this, and I only just ate lunch.IMG_1765IMG_1767

These days, I steer clear of laksa and store-bought laksa pastes for a few reasons:

  1. Fact: all laksas are full of onion and garlic. Brown/Spanish (purple) onion and garlic are two of the main components of any curry paste, especially laksa paste. The abundance of onion in these pastes makes them totally intolerable for people with fructose malabsorption. In addition, the curry soup typically contains stock, and nearly all stocks are made with onion and garlic.
  2. Restaurant and hawker-style laksas often contain substantial amount of added sugar.
  3. Traditional laksas served at restaurants are covered in fried shallots, which are both unhealthy and high FODMAP.
  4. Store-bought laksa pastes are full of nutritionless crap: refined sugar, vegetable oil and/or palm oil, salt, artificial flavours, preservatives, thickeners, stabilisers, and other nasty fillers.

Healthifying and low FODMAP-ifying (how’s that for good English?) curry laksa was easier, but more time consuming than I expected. It was a fun challenge swapping typical ingredients for healthier and “safe” ones, but I found myself in the kitchen for many more hours than I care to admit. Don’t let that put you off though; writing recipes is a far more arduous task than following them, especially when you’re the world’s biggest procrastinator, re-thinking every milligram and milliliter of each ingredient, wondering if and how each element will work and at which point it should be added. It’ll take you a quarter of the time it took me. IMG_1771IMG_1764

The key to getting Asian flavours right is finding the perfect balance between its three distinct taste components: spicy (mostly chilli), sweet (usually palm sugar or brown sugar) and salty (fish sauce and salt).
You need sweetness to soften the blow of that spice, and salt to enhance the flavour of each ingredient. Too much or too little of any one component and you’ve got a disaster. To create a healthy, low FODMAP version of curry laksa soup, I used spring onion (the green part) instead of regular onion to form the base of my paste, and garlic-infused olive oil to replace both the vegetable oil and fresh garlic that all traditional laksas call for. I used a little coconut sugar instead of brown sugar to get the sweetness balance right, and added lots of vibrant veggies to up the nutritional value of the meal. Admittedly, I did use a little fish sauce –which contains added sugar and salt– because it’s hard to achieve an authentic quality without it. In the scheme of the recipe, the amount used is minuscule, so that’s how I justify its use. Always opt for good quality fish sauce with as least sugar as possible.

The recipe does call for rice noodles, and while I rarely eat refined rice products, I’m willing to make an exception in the name of Curry Laksa. Don’t get me wrong, rice noodles aren’t at all terrible for you, but they’re just not particularly good for your health, either. They’re one of those “empty” calorie foods, meaning they don’t provide anywhere near the amount of nutritional value as they do calories. The great thing about rice noodles (such as vermicelli or pad thai noodles) is that a little goes a long way. Unlike traditional laksas which are comprised primarily of noodles (either rice or egg noodles), you only need a very small portion of noodles in my recipe because it’s so packed with other nutrient-dense foods which will fill your belly up. Remember that balance is everything when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle; moderation is key. So when you do really want rice noodles, have them! Just don’t make them the main component of your meal. Pack your dish with veggies and quality protein, and you’ll find yourself only needing a tiny amount of the not-so-good stuff.IMG_1766 IMG_1768 IMG_1772

In terms of cost, the below looks like a hell of a lot of ingredients. I already had most of the items at home, such as the spices, coconut milk, coconut sugar, cashews and fresh ginger, because they’re staple ingredients in my kitchen. My family and I recently started a big veggie patch, so I was super excited to use our own homegrown –and as organic as it gets– cucumber, beans, spring onion, coriander and mint for this recipe. Needless to say, a mega expensive Woolies trip wasn’t necessary.

If you don’t have at least half of the below items at home, you could be looking at one nasty supermarket receipt. So, while I highly recommend using all the below ingredients to achieve beautiful depth of flavour and a laksa that actually tastes like laksa (not to mention the nutritional benefits the ingredients deliver), you might need to cater the shopping list to your budget. If there’s one thing you buy, it should be the spices. Spices are my secret weapon – I never make a meal without them. Not only do they contain potent antioxidants and cancer-fighting properties, packing a variety of spices into your meals will give your skin a radiance no moisturiser can buy, and you’ll notice your immune system picking up. What’s more, one $3 jar will last you from months to even years, so an A-Z range of spices is a totally justifiable investment. Another recommendation I can make is growing your own fresh herbs. You don’t need a large veggie patch or even a garden bed to grow them. All you need is a few pots, soil and an area that is well sun-lit. It’s cheaper than buying a bunch of herbs every time you need them, and there’s something so gratifying about making meals out of your own organically grown produce. Not to mention they taste better!IMG_1760

My Low FODMAP Laksa Paste
(makes approx 1.5 cups)

Ingredients:

1 large bunch spring onion (green part only), chopped
2 tbs chopped FRESH ginger
2 fresh lemongrass stalks, chopped (only use the bottom thirds – that’s where all the flavour is!)
2 birds eye chillies (birds eye chillies are the small ones and they’re HOT. If you prefer milder dishes, only use one)
1/3 cup cashews (if you’re particularly sensitive to cashews, use peanuts instead)
Roots from 1 bunch coriander, chopped (reserve leaves for serving laksa)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 tsp shrimp paste (READ the ingredients! The more shrimp, the better. I used ‘Trachang’ brand from Woolies)**
1.5 tsp each ground turmeric, ground coriander & ground cumin
1/2 tsp each ground cardamom & sweet paprika
3 cloves
1/2 tsp Himalayan sea salt
2 tbs garlic-infused EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil), plus extra

Method:

Add all ingredients to a high-powered food processor. Blend until a paste forms, scraping the sides of the bowl down with a spatula as needed. If the mixture is not coming together properly, add tiny amounts of garlic-infused EVOO until a paste forms. Transfer to a jar or small airtight container and cover with 2 tbs EVOO to seal in flavour. Store in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze for a few months.
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Low FODMAP Chicken & Prawn Curry Laksa

Serves 8
Dietary Info: Wheat free, dairy free, fructose friendly, low FODMAP. Contains nuts.

Ingredients:

1 cup of my low FODMAP laksa paste (if you’re using a pre-made laksa paste, you’ll probably still need 1 cup)
300g rice noodles (I used pad thai stick noodles because I love the width and texture. You could also use rice vermicelli)
2x 400g cans coconut milk (I use organic and full fat)
1L chicken stock*
600g green (uncooked) prawns, tails left on**
1.2kg skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2cm chunks**
2 punnets (400g) cherry tomatoes, halved
350g green beans, ends chopped
1 very large capsicum, or 2 small, sliced into strips
juice of 1 lime
2 tbs coconut sugar
1/8 cup fish sauce (a variety that’s low in added sugar & salt, if possible)**
1 large handful fresh coriander leaves, to serve
1 large handful fresh mint leaves, to serve
1 cucumber, sliced into thin sticks, to serve
2 cups bean sprouts, to serve
coconut oil

Method:
  1. Place the noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes or until the noodles are cooked. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat a little coconut oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Fry the paste for 5 minutes, or until it becomes fragrant.
  3. Add the coconut sugar and fish sauce. Fry for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the coconut milk and stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Season with lime juice.
  5. Add the chicken, capsicum and tomatoes. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is almost cooked through.
  6. Add the prawns and beans, and cook for 3 minutes or until the prawns are just opaque and the beans are slightly tender but still crisp. Remove from heat. The prawns will continue to cook in the heat of the soup.
  7. Divide noodles among bowls. Use a slotted spoon to retrieve chicken, prawns and vegetables from the soup and divide evenly among bowls. Spoon desired amount of soup over the top. Serve with fresh cucumber sticks, coriander, bean sprouts and mint.

* Unless I’m making my own onion-free stock, I always use Massel’s chicken or beef stock cubes. They’re the only onion and garlic free stock I’ve come across, and although they’re not totally clean, they used in sparing amounts and they sure make life easier for those with sensitivities to onion and garlic. The packet recommends that you use one stock cube for each cup of water, but I like to roughly halve this to minimise the sodium levels, depending on what I’m making. I believe the Massel’s vegetable cubes still contain garlic, hence why I only use chicken or beef.
** For a vegetarian or vegan version, simply omit the shrimp paste from the paste recipe, and omit the prawns, chicken, chicken stock and fish sauce from the soup. Use organic firm tofu (you may want to cook it first, then add it for a few mins toward the end to soak up flavours), vegetable stock and season with Himalayan sea salt to make up for the fish sauce.

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Happy Nourishing!
Ax

Fudgey Sweet Potato Chocolate Brownies (gluten free & low fructose)

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I first posted this recipe well over two years ago, and the truth is that I’ve never been totally thrilled with it. It was always just “alright” (seconded by my family), and I’ve been too butt-lazy to improve it. Until last weekend, that is, when I had a sudden craving for sweet potato choccie brownies. As it turns out, all the recipe needed was zero banana to get rid of the too-wet-issue, a little coconut flour (I was too scared to use it a few years ago) to mop up any excess moisture and a bit more cacao. Easy peasy.

Even some of the most culinarily curious people screw up their noses and purse their lips when they hear “sweet potato chocolate brownies”, so I was really nervous when I took the brownies to work for colleagues to try the other day. The nerves quickly subsided when one of my young male colleagues took a bite and excitedly pronounced, “that shit is off its d***!”
Boo yah. Success!

This recipe calls for mashed sweet potato, but please don’t be mistaken: I learnt the hard way that not all sweet-taty-is created equal, especially when it’s going into a brownie. The first time I attempted these brownies circa 2013, I couldn’t be bothered waiting for the potato to roast, so I boiled the bejeezuz out of it until it was mashable. The flavour of the brownies was great, but the texture was more sad, soggy cake than fudgey brownie, and the only people who enjoy soggy cake are trifle fans. I am not a trifle fan.
Moral of that little ramble? ROAST YOUR SWEET POTATO!!!

Now, as content as I am with this recipe, please don’t expect these brownies to resemble your mum’s best chocolate brownie recipe too closely. After all, it’s the combination of brown sugar, butter and processed flour that gives brownies their characteristic chewy outer crust and fudgey centre, so if you remind yourself that this recipe is a wholesome and far healthier version, I’m sure you’ll love it.
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Fudgey Sweet Potato Chocolate Brownies

Gluten free, grain free, Paleo, low fructose.
Contains egg and a small amount of FODMAPs (almond meal & coconut flour)

Makes 16 squares, or 8 bars (let’s be honest – you’ll eat two squares at a time anyway).

Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet potato (to yield 370g roasted sweet potato flesh)
  • 3 organic eggs
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3 tbs melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup natural nut butter (I use almond)
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tbs raw cacao powder
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 2 tbs coconut flour
  • 1/3 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (optional), roughly chopped
  • 3 tbs dark choc chips (optional – they add a little refined sugar)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200*C. Wash and dry the sweet potato. Prick all over with a knife, place on a lined baking tray lined and roast until very tender, approximately one hour. Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 185*C.
  2. Cut a slit down the length of the sweet potato and scoop out 370g of flesh (try to not get any skin). In a large bowl, mash the sweet potato until no large lumps are left. Set aside to cool for half an hour.
  3. Line a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper. In a bowl, combine the eggs, oil, maple syrup, nut butter and vanilla and whisk until fully combined.  Add to the mashed sweet potato and whisk vigorously until the mixture is as lump-free as possible.
  4. In another bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (except the choc chips, if using).
  5. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, folding gently until fully combined.
  6. Pour the batter into prepared tin and smooth the top over with the back of your spoon. Scatter over the choc chips, if using.
  7. Bake in the oven for 35-40 mins, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean, but not totally dry as you want the brownies to be fudgey.
  8. Allow to stand for 15 minutes before removing from the tray and cutting into desired portions.
  9. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 4 days.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

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