Photo: Vegan Sweet Potato Nachos

Sweet Potato Nachos | Vegan, Paleo

(Almost) gone are the days of fried taco shells stuffed with MSG-laden ground beef offcuts, barely-there guac, under-cheesed and over-refried-beaned nachos and soggy taquitos…

Photo: Vegan Sweet Potato Nachos

 They were all pretty awesome in 2004 when we didn’t know any better (and let’s be honest we were probably all high on the blue colour dye in the fishbowls anyway), but the Tex-Mex joints from the ’90s just ain’t cutting it anymore. Over the last decade we’ve witnessed a soar in modern Mexican cuisine, and now we’re wonderfully spoilt for choice.

Of course, if you have IBS or fructose malabsorption, you might be a little frightened of going out for Mexican given its reliance on onion, garlic and black beans. I used to avoid it at all costs. It just wasn’t worth the menu battle only to end up ordering soft tacos with plain chicken (yep, hold every single topping please, dear waiter) and a bland side salad. Thankfully, the huge demand for adaptable menus has meant that chefs and waiting staff are now more clued up than ever, making eating out with food sensitivities SO much easier and more enjoyable than before. So long as you’re willing to pass up a few obvious options, that is. Pre-made guac laden with raw onion will always be the bane of my Mex-food-lovin’ existence.

FODMAP-friendly Mexican restaurants in Melbourne

The below list comprises some of my favourite modern Mexican eats in and around Melbourne, all from which I’ve been able to find FODMAP friendly or easily modifiable menu items:

Mamasita – CBD
Touché Hombre – CBD (a personal favourite and home of the BEST corn on the cob you’ll ever sink your teeth into)
Fonda – various locations
The Black Toro – Glen Waverly (a little pricier and more refined but definitely worth a visit)

Photo: Vegan Sweet Potato Nachos

So here’s my spin on an old favourite – Sweet Potato Nachos. This fresher and much healthier version is vegan, grain free and paleo, and calls on baked sweet potato “chips” to replace pro-inflammatory fried corn chips, fragrant quinoa instead of high-fructan refried beans, sautéed capsicum to add some bulk, a zesty guac, and all seasoned with my super simple Low FODMAP Mexican Spice Mix. This recipe is perfect for sharing with a few friends or as a side dish. Pile all the components on a serving board, place in the middle of the table and and tuck in, being sure to grab a little of everything. The best thing about this recipe? No one fighting over the cheesiest corn chips.
I also like to make extra spice mix and add it to other dishes for a healthy Mexican twist – perfect for making FODMAP friendly chicken fajitas!

I’m finallllllly more tolerant to legumes these days, so sometimes I’ll pile chipotle beans onto these nachos, especially when making them for other people because it really elevates the flavours. To make your own, simply place the desired amount of canned beans (pinto, kidney or black) in a pan with a generous splash of water (avoid using the canned liquid as it will be high in FODMAPs due to leaching) and a few dollops of good-quality natural chipotle sauce. Stir, bring to the boil over medium high heat, then reduce to simmer and leave until the liquid has reduced slightly. Please note that this option will add significantly to the ‘FODMAP load’ of the meal and will definitely not be suitable for some people.

You may wonder why this recipe calls for large amounts of sweet potato and avocado, foods both known to be moderately high in the polyols (AKA sugar alcohols) mannitol and sorbitol, respectively. The reason I’ve published a recipe so high in these is because irrespective of the severity of my “intolerances” to FODMAPs, I’ve always been able to eat large amounts of sweet potato and avo without dramas, and you might as well, while the next person may find them very problematic. It all depends on how you currently absorb polyols. For this reason, I have made sure that all other ingredients in this recipe are super low in FODMAPs to reduce the overall load. If you’re currently extremely sensitive to polyols, I recommend saving this recipe for a later date when your gut has begun the healing process and you’re able to start reintroducing foods like sweet potato and avocado again.

On the other hand, if you’re currently reintroducing polyol-containing foods but don’t want to overdo it, simply limit your serving of both guac and sweet potato chips (see recipe notes for specific recommendations), and bulk up your plate with more of the quinoa and capsicum instead. Alternatively, you could replace half or more of the sweet potato with zucchini and/or eggplant chips – simply wash, cut (no need to peel), and cook them exactly the same as the sweet potato in the recipe below!

Photo: Vegan Sweet Potato Nachos

Vegan and Paleo Sweet Potato Nachos

Serves 3 meals or 5 sides

FODMAP friendly serving size: see notes below

Ingredients

Low FODMAP Mexican Seasoning:

  • 2 tbs cumin
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt

Guac:

  • 2 large avocados
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • Handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • 5 spring onions (green part only), chopped

Nachos:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes (approx. 500g each), peeled and sliced into even 3mm-thick rounds
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups all natural stock of choice or filtered water
  • 1 large red capsicum, chopped
  • 1 small handful fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped, to serve
  • 5 spring onions (green part only), chopped
  • 1 red chilli, seeds removed and sliced, to serve (optional)
  • Lime wedges, to serve

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 220*C and line two large trays with baking paper.
  2. Prepare the seasoning by combining all ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. To make the sweet potato chips, arrange the sweet potato rounds in a single layer on the prepared baking trays. Drizzle very lightly with coconut oil and sprinkle a quarter of the spice mix. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from oven and use tongs to turn the rounds over. Add another sprinkle of spice mix, then return to the oven for a further 15-20 mins or until the rounds are beginning to resemble chips (refer to the images). Remove from oven and set aside. You may also wish to swap the tray positions half way through to ensure even baking.
  4. While the sweet potato is cooking, rinse the quinoa under cold running water to remove any bitterness. Transfer to a saucepan and add the stock/water and half of the remaining seasoning. If you’re using water instead of stock, add some salt for more flavour. Bring to the boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the germ (the little ring around the seed) is exposed and the liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
  5. Heat a little coconut oil in a frypan over medium heat. Sauté the capsicum and half of the green onions until the capsicum is slightly tender, approximately 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  6. To make the guac, combine all ingredients and season with a sprinkle of seasoning and a little extra sea salt. Set aside.
  7. Assemble the nachos on a serving board starting with the sweet potato chips on the bottom, then piling on the quinoa, sautéed capsicum, and guac. Garnish with coriander, spring onions, sliced chilli (I often use dried chilli flakes instead), lime wedges and a light sprinkle of the spice mix. If you’ve got any good-quality chipotle sauce on hand, feel free to drizzle over. These nachos are best served immediately when the sweet potato chips are crispy around the edges and the quinoa and capsicum are still warm.

Info for the irritable:

  • This recipe is obviously not as low in the FODMAP, Polyol (sugar alcohols) as my typical recipes. For people with high sensitivities to polyols (sugar alcohols), please read below:
    • Avocado contains sorbitol. ⅛ whole avocado or 20g is considered low in sorbitol and thus safe; ¼ or 40g is considered moderate and should be limited; ½ or 80g is considered high and should be avoided.
    • Sweet potato contains mannitol. 70g sweet potato is considered low in mannitol and thus safe; 107g is considered moderate and should be limited; 140g is considered high and should be avoided).
    • Do reduce the polyol load, you could replace half or more of the sweet potato with zucchini or eggplant chips. Simply wash, dry, cut (no need to peel) and cook them exactly the same as the sweet potato in the method above!

Buen provecho, amigos y amigas!
Ax

Photo: Vegan Sweet Potato Nachos

Low FODMAP Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice

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: Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice

Throughout my primary school years, my favourite afternoons involved a visit to the local bakery where I’d leave with a choccie Big M in one hand, and either a sausage roll or lemon slice in the other. Sometimes all three, depending on how much Mum wanted to shut me up until dinner. My irrepressible love for lemon slice continued into the early years of high school –as did sausage rolls, unfortunately– when I’d make a batch most weekends, using half the sweetened condensed milk for the biscuit base and drinking the rest straight from the tin…

Photo: Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice Photo: Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice

To this day, I can never knock back a traditional lemon slice when the opportunity arises, and I still revel in its delectably citrusy, melt-in-your-mouth glory, but I try not to chow them down on the regular like I used to. FYI I’ve also stopped drinking sweetened condensed milk from the can.

It’s quite easy to find healthy gluten free lemon slice alternatives these days, but as with all healthy spins on traditional desserts, it’s difficult to find ones that are suitable for the digestively challenged. Most health-ified lemon slices I’ve come across, delightful as they are, rely heavily on nuts, dried coconut and dates in the base, and cashews in the cream topping. Great for some; not so great for us FODMAP malabsorbers.

My Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice, albeit not FODMAP free (because that’s not the point of the low FODMAP diet), has been very carefully formulated to use enough coconut and lower-FODMAP nuts and seeds so that it has a nice flavour and texture and is nutrient dense, but is still at the ‘low’, and thus ‘safe’, end of the FODMAP spectrum so long as the recommended serving size is adhered to. The base is bulked with quinoa flakes and buckwheat grouts, and soaked macadamias make for a lovely cream (not as creamy as cashews would, granted, but we can’t have it all). This slice is also vegan, gluten free, grain free, paleo, and packed with quality proteins, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.

Photo: Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice

Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice (vegan, gluten free, Paleo)

Makes 24 squares

FODMAP friendly serving size: 1 square

Ingredients

Biscuit Base:

  • 1 cup (70g) quinoa flakes 
  • 1.5 cups (82g) unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut plus a little extra, to serve 
  • 1 cup (100g) raw pecans
  • 1/2 cup (80g) buckwheat groats
  • 2 tbs linseeds (chia seeds would also work)
  • 1/4 cup (85g) pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup (70g) melted coconut oil
  • Generous pinch of sea salt

Lemon and Macadamia Cream Topping:

  • 1.5 cups (180g) macadamias
  • 2/3 cup (120g) coconut cream (100% coconut and guar gum free)
  • 3 tbs pure maple syrup
  • 3 tbs melted coconut oil (this is an option for a slightly firmer topping – see notes in step 4 below)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 1/2 – 1 lemon plus extra, to serve

Method

  1. Place the macadamias in a small bowl and cover with filtered water. Cover the bowl with a small plate and allow to soak overnight at room temperature.
  2. Line a rectangular slice tray (mine is 18 x 27cm) with baking paper.  
  3. To make the biscuit base, use a high-powered processor to process the quinoa flakes, dried coconut, pecans, buckwheat grouts, linseeds and salt until a crumb forms. Add the coconut oil and maple syrup and process until it all comes together, scraping the bowl down with a spatula as necessary. Spoon the mixture into the tin and use your fingertips to press it down firmly and evenly. Place in the freezer to set while you make the topping.
  4. To make the lemon cream topping, drain the soaked macadamias and discard the liquid. Place the macadamias into the cleaned processor bowl/jug and process until as smooth as possible. Add the coconut cream, maple syrup, lemon juice and a quarter of the zest, and process until smooth and creamy, scraping the sides down with a spatula as necessary. At this stage, taste the cream and add more lemon zest if you wish. Please note: this topping is designed to be quite soft and creamy once set, but if you want it to be a bit firmer you can add 3-4 tbs melted coconut oil, which will help it set more in the fridge as the coconut oil solidifies. 
  5. Remove the biscuit base from the freezer and top with the lemon cream, using the back of the spatula to smooth over. Top with extra lemon zest and shredded/flaked coconut (I like to toast mine lightly first). Allow to set in the freezer for an hour or so.
  6. Once set, use a sharp knife to cut the slice into 24 squares. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to one week, or freeze for up to one month and thaw slightly before serving.
Info for the irritable:
  • This recipe has been carefully formulated to be FODMAP friendly when the recommeded serving size is adhered to. It contains moderate amounts of the polyol, sorbitol, from coconut (dried and milk/cream) and small amounts of fructans from pecans, macadamias and linseeds. One square of this slice (when the slice has been divided into 24 squares) is considered low in both sorbitol and fructans and should thus be safe for people with IBS or fructose malabsorption.

Ax

Photo: Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice

Hellenic Republic-Inspired Quinoa Salad with Cumin Yoghurt Dressing & Pomegranate

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Last December, my mum had a bunch of her girlfriends over for their annual Chrissy lunch. Of all the memorably tasty dishes on offer (the leftovers overflowed our fridge for days – score!), one thing stood out in particular: a colourful little grain salad made by one of my mum’s friends. Upon tasting it, I was equal parts delighted and deflated; delighted because it set off a party of whiz-bang flavours and textures in my mouth, but deflated because it was packed with high FODMAP ingredients like freekeh (green wheat), lentils, red onion and dried fruits.
Typical me, always wanting what I can’t have…

As it turns out, the ‘Cypriot Grain Salad’ is a recipe by George Columbaris (of Masterchef fame), and is one of the most popular side dishes served at his modern Greek taverna, Hellenic Republic, in Brunswick, Melbourne. I’d love to be able to take full credit for this recipe, but that would be a jackass move. All I’ve done is add a few things here and there for flavour and tweaked it to suit my dietary needs. Besides, I’d rather not be on George’s bad side.
I couldn’t wait to taste this dish again, and so here it is: my low FODMAP version of Hellenic Republic’s ‘Cypriot Grain Salad’ in all its fluffy, crunchy, sweet and savoury glory. It’s perfect on its own or as a side salad to chicken or slow cooked lamb.

Hellenic Republic-Inspired Quinoa Salad with Cumin Yoghurt Dressing & Pomegranate

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups tri-coloured quinoa (available at most supermarkets)
  • 3 cups low-sodium stock of choice
  • 1 bunch coriander, washed and chopped
  • 1/2 bunch continental (flat-leaf) parsley, washed and chopped
  • 1 cup chopped spring onion, green part only (use 1/2 chopped red onion if you don’t have FM )
  • 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup toasted pepitas
  • 2 tbs toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup currants*
  • 2 tbs dried cranberries*
  • Juice of 1 – 1.5 lemons (or to taste)
  • 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup thick full fat Greek yoghurt
  • Seeds of 1 small pomegranate, or 1/2 large
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground (or 1.5 tsp cumin powder, carefully cooked in a dry fry-pan over medium-low heat until fragrant)
  • 1 tbs pure maple syrup (use honey if you don’t have FM)

Method

  1. In a saucepan or pot, bring the quinoa and stock to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed (depending on your cook top, this can take anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes). Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.
  2. Combine the yoghurt, cumin and maple syrup/honey in a small serving bowl.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the quinoa, coriander, parsley, onion, almonds, pine nuts, pepitas, currants, cranberries, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Transfer salad to a serving dish and top with the yoghurt dressing and pomegranate seeds. I like to mix some of the yoghurt dressing through the salad, then add more on top, but that’s up to you 🙂

* Those of you with fructose malabsorption/IBS or on a low FODMAP diet should limit your intake of dried fruit (excess fructose). However, if you’re trying to reintroduce FODMAPs back into your diet, a small amount shouldn’t hurt as the overall FODMAP load of this recipe is quite low. As always, assess your own tolerance. Halve or quarter the quantities if you’re unsure, and leave out altogether if you know you react to any amount of dried fruit.

 

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

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

 

Chocolate, Orange & Almond Tart with a Coconutty Crust

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Does anybody else think that orange and chocolate is just the greatest culinary combo ever? As in even better than peanut butter and honey, or avocado and feta? I have such fond memories of scoffing family-size bags of Jaffas during pretty much every visit to the cinema with my parents as a child. Come to think of it, this is all I remember about those visits – I can’t recall a single film I saw, though I know there were many. My head was no doubt too busy being buried in the aforementioned bag of Jaffas to look up to the screen.

This chocolate, orange & almond tart couldn’t be simpler or quicker to make. The crust only calls for a few basic ingredients, and the filling can be quickly prepared while the crust bakes. Then it’s just a matter of pouring the filling over the crust and popping it in the fridge for 1-2 hours until it’s set. I recommend serving this tart as close to the 1-hour mark as possible (or as soon as the filling is set), as the moisture in the fridge won’t have softened the coconut and almonds too much yet, and they’ll still have their delicious crispy texture and toasted flavour. The tart will still be tasty after this time, but the texture just won’t be as good.

A few FODMAP notes before you get started…

In terms of the FODMAP content of this recipe, the lactose content of dark chocolate is very low. You will see that I’ve included relatively large amounts of dried coconut and almonds. According to Monash, those with moderate polyol sensitivies should limit dried coconut to to 1/4 cup per sitting, and those sensitive to oligo’s should stick to 10 almonds per sitting. If this tart is divided into at least 10 segments, there is less than these amounts per serving. Those who don’t need to be as strict should be able to tolerate more anyway (come at me, seconds!), providing their OVERALL FODMAP consumption isn’t already high that day, as it will add to the load.

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Chocolate, Orange & Almond Tart with a Coconut Crust

Dietary info: Gluten free, moderate FODMAPs (see notes above), low fructose (see notes above). Contains egg, nuts and dairy (use vegan chocolate for dairy free).

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 3.5 cups (or 200g) unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbs melted coconut oil
  • 2 tbs pure maple syrup or coconut nectar

Filling:

  • 1 cup (100g) slithered almonds (can also use half almonds, half pecans), chopped roughly and toasted until golden brown
  • 1 tsp finely grated orange rind
  • 1 cup (250mL) full-fat pure coconut cream (organic if possible)
  • 100g 70-85% dark chocolate, roughly chopped (I used Lindt 80% because it only has around 10g sugar in the whole block and the bitter/sweet ratio worked well for this recipe. You could also try a raw chocolate alternative but I cannot guarantee the same result as I have not tried it)
  • 1 tbs pure maple syrup
  • Orange oil (see notes for alternative)
  • Pinch Himalayan sea salt
  • Liquid stevia, to taste

To serve:

  • Fresh orange slices
  • Fresh Strawberries, sliced
  • Orange rind, finely grated
  • Cacao powder for dusting (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 175’C and lightly grease a 20cm non-stick tart/flan tin (with a loose base) with coconut oil. Good quality tins should not need greasing, but I like to be safe. Nothing ruins a tart more than a crust that sticks to the tin!
  2. Place the shredded coconut, egg whites, rice malt syrup and melted coconut oil in a large bowl. Use your hands to squeeze and fully combine. The mixture should be sticky and form a loose dough. Press the dough VERY firmly into the base and up the sides of the tart tin. It’s important to get the crust thick enough so it will maintain its form, but not so thick that it doesn’t cook through. If you think you’ve got too much, discard some of it (or you can make healthy macaroons-style biccies with the excess by flattening into small discs and baking until slightly browned!)
  3. Bake the crust in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  4. In the meantime, place the toasted slithered almonds in a small bowl with the orange zest and use your fingers to evenly massage the zest through the almonds. Set aside.
  5. When the crust only has 5 minutes of baking time left, place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring the coconut cream to a boil in a saucepan. Pour boiling coconut cream over the chocolate and whisk until fully combined.
  6. Add the maple syrup, sea salt and 5-10 drops of orange oil, depending on how orangey you like it. Taste and add orange oil and liquid stevia as needed. If you’re after a deeper chocolate flavour, add a teaspoon or so of raw cacao powder.
  7. When the tart crust is ready, cover base with the toasted slithered almonds. Then carefully pour the coconut/chocolate mixture evenly over the top. Place in the fridge to set for 1-2 hours (the coconut crust and toasted almonds will begin to lose their awesome crispiness after 2 hours, so I highly recommend serving it ASAP once the filling is set.
  8. Serve with fresh orange segments, sliced strawberries, shaved dark chocolate, a dusting of cacao powder (optional) and a sprinkle of grated orange rind.

Notes:

  • If you don’t have any orange oil, you can use 1-2 tsp of finely grated orange zest instead, but the flavour might not distribute as evenly.

Ax

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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

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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_1765
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

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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Coconut, Banana & Raspberry Loaf | Gluten free, Grain Free, Dairy Free

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This Coconut, Banana and Raspberry loaf was one of the first recipes I ever posted, and it was one of those extremely rare first-time baking successes (AKA an absolute fluke). Three years on, this page is still one of the most visited –and emailed about– on my blog, which leads me to believe it’s one of the most used recipes, which is all really alarming because this morning it occurred to me that I haven’t updated this page in three years. As gravely expected, the photography was terrible (I’m talking iPhone-4-and-heavily-light-streak-filtered terrible). So today I (very quickly) re-photographed it.

FYI, it still tastes great. Thank God I had taste judgement and some sort of cooking knack going for me in 2013, if nothing else.

Packed with nourishing fats, complete proteins, an array of vitamins and minerals, fibre and antioxidants, this recipe makes for a great snack at any time of day. Eat it on its own or toasted and lightly buttered, or try it my favourite way: warm with a few dollops of organic natural yoghurt, fresh berries, a few sprigs of mint and a cup of French earl grey on the side.

Coconut, Banana & Raspberry Loaf | Gluten Free, Grain Free, Dairy Free)

Makes 10 thick slices, or 15 thin

FODMAP friendly serving size: One THIN slice (see notes below)

Ingredients

  • 200g dried coconut (desiccated, shredded or chips)
  • 6 large (60g each) free range eggs
  • 1 large overripe banana, mashed
  • 1 tsp (3g) gluten and aluminium free baking powder
  • ¼ cup + 1 tbs (approx 100g) pure maple syrup
  • 1 heaped tsp (5g) pure vanilla extract or paste
  • ¼ cup (287g) frozen raspberries 

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180*C and line a 26cm loaf tin with baking paper.
  2. In a high-speed food processor, process the dried coconut until it forms a crumbly flour-like consistency. Do not over-process it, as it will begin to turn into butter. Add the baking powder and mix on low speed for a few seconds to combine.
  3. In an electric mixer, beat the eggs, maple syrup and vanilla on medium speed for a few minutes. Add the mashed banana and mix on low for a few seconds to combine.
  4. Fold the processed coconut into the wet mixture, then gently fold through the frozen raspberries.
  5. Pour the batter into the lined loaf tin. Top the batter with extra raspberries and coconut chips. If I have some on hand, I also like to top the loaf with a few heaped teaspoons of old fashioned all natural raspberry jam, and lightly swirl it through the top of the batter with the edge of the spoon, for extra deliciousness.
  6. Bake at 180*C for 30 mins – at this point it should have risen significantly and started to deepen in colour. Turn the temperature down to 150*C and bake for a further 20-25 mins or until a skewer comes out clean. It takes around 55 minutes in total in my oven. Cooking times may vary depending on your oven and loaf tin. Remove from the oven and allow to stand in tin for 10 mins before removing from tin and placing on a wire rack to cool completely. You can eat it immediately, although it will be difficult to cut until it’s cooled. It’s best served at room temperature or toasted. Store in an airtight container away from direct sunlight for up to 3 days, or slice it up and freeze for up to one month.

Info for the irritable

Although dried coconut is low in fructose, it’s high in polyols (sorbitol) when consumed amounts equal to or greater than 37g. Once divided into at least 10 slices, the loaf contains 20g dried coconut per serving. This amount is considered to be low in FODMAPs, however it still might be problematic for those with fructose malabsorption or IBS who have high sensitivity to polyols. If you’re unsure of the severity of your polyol malabsorption, try a very thin slice of this loaf in one sitting, making sure that you limit your FODMAP load before and after. Monitor how you feel over the next 24 hours. If you don’t notice any symptoms, try a thicker slice the next day, ensuring that you’re mindful of your overall FODMAP load.

Other notes

  • To mix things up, you can use frozen mixed berries or frozen blueberries instead of the raspberries
  • If you’re making this recipe for a special occasion and want it to be more decadent, try adding white or dark chocolate chips

Ax

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