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…

image

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.

 image

  image

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

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

image

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

Chocolate, Orange & Almond Tart with a Coconutty Crust

image

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.

image image

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

image

IQS-Inspired Macadamia ANZAC Biccies

IMG_5139

Growing up, Anzac biccies made by my Great-Aunty Joyce were my absolute fave.

I’d take three of those gems at a time and submerge them in a huge glass of milk (just long enough for the two to get acquainted, but not quite long enough for the biccie to go soggy), then suck the milk out of them before allowing the buttery, golden syrupy goodness to melt in my mouth.

Sweet sentimentality…

I adapted this recipe from the lovely Sarah Wilkinson’s I Quit Sugar (IQS) website. These Anzac biccies are totally fructose free (yay!), calling for rice malt syrup instead of golden syrup or sugar, and they even taste like they’ve got golden syrup in them! Sarah’s recipe uses plain gluten free flour, but since gluten-free flour is quite refined, I replaced it with wholemeal spelt. I had to keep some Anzac tradition, so I’ve used butter in all its full-fat, dairy glory. I did consider trying a mix of coconut oil and macadamia oil instead, because I try to consume butter in small amounts, but I can’t see how a true Anzac biscuit could achieve that golden hue and distinct buttery flavour without, well, butter. You’re welcome to replace the butter with said oils, but I doubt you’d get that traditional ‘Anzac’ quality. Just to boost their yum-factor, these Anzacs have been jazzed up with macadamias. I also chopped up one of the many Loving Earth Luvju chocolates that I had left over from Easter last weekend*, and pressed chunks of it into half of the biscuits before I baked them (I used the Coconut Mylk flavour, which is sweetened with coconut nectar and thus contains a little fructose). Of course, the chocolate is optional, but isn’t it always? Chocolate or no chocolate, hmmm…

GIMME DAT CHOCOLATE!

These Anzacs aren’t quite as lip-smacking as Aunty Joyce’s, but they’re pretty darn good.

*By “leftover from Easter last weekend”, I’m not implying that I have lots of chocolate left over because I didn’t eat that much of it over Easter, although I wish this were the case. Rather, I mean that I totally overdosed on Haigh’s eggs, Kinder Surprises, Marvellous Creations, my Aunty Kate’s pav, the rocky road brownie slice I made “just for my family” (not me, of course!) and every other processed-crap-filled-thing I could get my hands on. So, the Loving Earth Luvjus are left over because last Sunday I told myself that ‘naughty’ chocolate was for Easter, and healthy chocolate was for later. Logic? There is none. Blame it on my chocolate-baby brain.

IMG_5140

IQS-Inspired Macadamia ANZAC Biccies

Dietary Info: Contains gluten (oats & spelt), dairy (butter) and nuts (macadamias). Fructose friendly/free (fructose free unless you use chocolate), low FODMAP (contains some FODMAPs: dried coconut & spelt flour), refined-sugar free. Ingredients

  • 125g unsalted butter (organic if possible)
  • 1/2 cup rice malt syrup (I use Pureharvest brand)
  • pinch Himalayan sea salt
  • 1.5 tsp bicarb-soda
  • 2 tbs boiling water
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 3/4 cups unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup wholemeal spelt flour
  • 2/3 cup macadamias, roughly chopped
  • Optional: raw chocolate chopped into small chunks, such as Loving Earth Coconut Mylk Luvju

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 150’C and line 2 large trays with baking paper.
  2. Melt the butter and rice malt syrup in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring until it begins to bubble. Remove from heat and add a pinch of salt. If you’re like me and froth over butter-sugar combos (like creamed butter and brown sugar while making a cake, oh my!), then this is the time to dip your pinky in and taste it. Don’t do what I did and wait until you’ve added the baking soda in the next step – it’s foul.
  3. Combine the bicarb-soda with the boiling water and add to the butter mixture.
  4. In another bowl, combine the oats, spelt flour, coconut and macadamias. Pour in the butter mixture and combine well.
  5. Take heaped teaspoons of the dough, roll into balls and place on the lined trays. Flatten slightly into a disk. Repeat until you have distributed amongst the 2 trays, leaving space in between each for spreading (and believe me, they spread!) The dough should make about 20 biscuits, unless you eat a gigantic handful of the raw dough like I did, in which case you’ll only end up with about 12. Oops.
  6. If using chocolate, press chunks into however many biscuits you wish.
  7. Place trays in the oven and bake for about  15-20 minutes, or until golden. The top tray might be ready a few minutes before the bottom – if this happens, remove the top tray and move the bottom tray into its spot.
  8. Like all good cookies, the biscuits will be very soft until they cool down. They should be slightly crunchy on the very outside and chewy in the middle. Allow to sit on trays for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. Now grab yourself a glass of nut milk, and dunk away.

Lest We Forget, Ax

Deliciously Ugly: Chewy Choc Nutter Bars

IMG_3062

A million different ingredients. 3 different mixtures to be made. One processor. Go!
Measure all ingredients. Take first lot. Sift these, melt those. Process together. Taste and adjust. Freeze for 2 hours. Clean processor. Process next batch of ingredients. Taste and adjust. Pour onto first frozen layer. Freeze for half an hour. Clean processor. Melt some of this, mash some of that. Process. Taste. Pour over the second frozen layer and freeze. Clean processor and the rest of your bomb-site kitchen.

It’s no secret that I like to make things out of food. In My Ideal World, I’d happily spend entire days floating around the kitchen, cooking, creating, decorating. And eating.
Still, even I can admit that making healthy desserts and clean sweet treats can be pretty bloody arduous and time-consuming. So much so that I often just don’t bother with them unless I’m recipe testing or making something for an occasion. Complicated and meticulously presented desserts, whether healthy or not, take patience, time and an excessive willingness to clean the same gadgets over and over. So, while I love my intricately layered sweet treats in all their pretty glory, sometimes the fuss-free uglies are way more appealing than their photo-worthy counterparts. How do Cadbury describe their Picnic bars again? Deliciously Ugly? Nearly all the best tasting recipes are…

So here’s a recipe that looks like a chocolate bar, smells like a chocolate bar, gives you that sugar fix like a chocolate bar, and, yep, tastes like a chocolate bar. EXCEPT it’ll only take you 5 minutes to make, and while your taste buds are fooled into thinking you’re eating a chocolate bar, your insides with be thanking you for impregnating it with healthful fats, powerful antioxidants, wholegrains, fiber, iron, selenium (helps to reduce the risk of common diseases), manganese (helps the body to synthesize fats and benefits nervous system function), copper (support for brain function), Vitamin-E and a range of Vitamin-B complexes.

Please don’t be afraid to use your imagination with this one. The recipe is super basic, and it would be pretty hard to go wrong. You can experiment with different nut butters and add puffed quinoa or buckinis for texture and crunch. A chocolate ‘ganache’ made of coconut oil (or a little organic butter if you eat dairy), cacao, stevia and a little maple syrup would be scrumptioua on top, too!

 IMG_3063IMG_3066 IMG_3060

Chewy Choc Nutter Bars

Makes 10 bars or 20 bite-sized squares.
Dietary info: gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, vegan, fructose-friendly, low FODMAP, refined-sugar free. Contains grains and peanuts.

Ingredients: 
  • 2.5 cups brown rice crispies (not “puffed brown rice” as they go soggy!)
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 3/4 cup crunchy natural peanut butter
  • 3.5-4 tbs raw cacao powder
  • 4 tbs coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • seeds from 1 vanilla bean, or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 7 drops liquid stevia
  • Pinch Himalayan sea salt
Method:
  1. Line a square slice tin with baking paper.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the puffed brown rice and shredded coconut.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the peanut butter, melted coconut oil, maple syrup, stevia, vanilla, cacao powder and salt.
  4. Pour the chocolate mixture over the dry mixture. Stir gently until the rice puffs and coconut are coated evenly and everything sticks together.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and press down firmly, ensuring that the slice is tightly compacted. Set in the freezer for 1 hour. Use a sharp knife to cut slab into desired sizes. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to eat it. I prefer it kept in the freezer as it stays firmer and goes chewier. If kept correctly, I’m assuming that the slice would last weeks in the freezer, though I put emphasis on ‘assuming’ because these things never last more than a few days in my household.
Notes:
  • The peanut butter can be substituted with any other textured nut butter: almond, brazil, ABC etc.
  • Instead of eating as a ‘slice’, you can roll the mixture into ping pong-sized balls and wrap in glad wrap before freezing to make a portioned and guilt free snack, ready to grab when you’re on the go and sugar cravings strike!IMG_3061 IMG_3065 IMG_3058 IMG_3067 IMG_3059 IMG_3057IMG_3068

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_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.
IMG_1758 IMG_1759 IMG_1762

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.

IMG_1769

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

IMG_0592[1]

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.
IMG_0588[1]

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

IMG_0590[1]

Raw Vegan Coconut Cream & Strawberry Slice

IMG_3249I’m about as vegan as a lion. It’s not that I’m against –or even mildly skeptical about– the vegan diet, because I absolutely LOVE plant-based foods, whether they’re cooked or in their natural (raw) state. I have no doubt that humans are able to obtain sufficient nourishment from a solely plant-based diet, given enough variety. It’s just that, well, frankly, I bloody love meat. Full Stop.

An impassioned animal fanatic, I do my very best to only consume certified organic, and therefore more ethically produced, meat and animal products. My diet is predominantly paleolithic, not by conscious choice, but pure incidence. Without even realising it, I’d been following a largely Stone Age/Paleo/Hunter-Gatherer diet for a long time. My omnivorous diet suits my lifestyle perfectly, and I find that I’m most focused, energised and happiest when I’m dining like a caveman. It’s as simple as that. And it is for this simple reason I personally believe that the Paleo Diet is what homo sapiens are genetically designed to consume.

Like I said before, my diet is not entirely, but predominantly paleolithic. Although 95% of my diet consists of unprocessed meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruit, tree nuts and seeds, I do eat some foods that the cave-dwellers would have frothed over given the luxury. These include, but are not entirely limited to, oats, tempeh, the occasional slice of oat bread, some unrefined grains that I’m not already intolerant to (like quinoa and brown rice), peanuts, goats feta, Greek yoghurt, and small amounts of other minimally-processed dairy.

Eating meat and animal products is a personal choice I make, but it doesn’t mean that all my meals contain them. I love eating purely plant-based and raw dishes, and I aim to incorporate them into my diet every day. To be honest, my diet would undoubtedly contain a lot less animal-factor if I wasn’t intolerant to so many plant-based foods. As much as I love eating animal protein, I honestly adore veggies just as much. I’d have a lot more herbivorous days if my body could tolerate more protein-rich plant foods. But until then, I’ll listen to my fuss-pot gut and take chicken over chickpeas.

Since developing my intolerances, I’ve become increasingly sick of going to ‘health’ restaurants and vegan cafes and being intolerant to every single menu item. What’s more, the all-too-often standoffish and apathetic attitudes of hipster waiting staff doesn’t ease the frustration, either. It baffles me that they claim to be the most health-focused eateries going ’round, yet they’re totally unaware (or totally unconcerned) about Fructose Malabsorption or the booming demand for low FODMAP options. ‘Gluten free’ is on every menu you look at, even in third-world countries, yet the mention of fructose malabsorption leaves waiters and chefs with an expression that’s part puzzled, part constipated. I’ll show YOU constipated – just feed me an apple!

So, last Monday I got all vegan in spirit and was, incidentally, craving sweets. Since I can’t eat store-bought raw vegan sweets (they all either contain dates, dried fruit, honey, agave, or all of the above), I decided to make my own super nutritious raw vegan, refined-sugar free and fructose friendly dessert. At first, I was sure that I’d miss the gorgeous taste of Nature’s Caramel –dates–, since they’re an incredibly toothsome plant-based sugar alternative. But, after a bit of throwing various ingredients together and a whole lot of Hoping For The Best, I tasted my pièce de résistance, and BOOM…

The love child of strawberry and coconut was born. And oh my gosh, it is simply scrump-didili-umptious! 

My Coconut Cream and Strawberry Slice is one healthy dessert you can feed to even the most carnivorous, sugar-lovin’ beast and remain confident that they will NEVER know that it’s 100% healthy. Or Vegan. Or RAW! The truth is, it just tastes like it’s bad for you. My sister has asked me a few times, “are you sure this is good for me?”, and my boyfriend can’t stand nuts “unless they’re covered in (milk) chocolate” because they dry his mouth out (um, what?), but even he couldn’t get enough of it.

The base is so buttery and biscuity (without actually being buttery or biscuity) and the filling is dreamily creamy, velvety and sweet. Then there’s the delectable strawbs – the icing on the cake. Like all bona fide slices should, the whole thing just Melts in Your Mouth. Nanna would be so approving. Impressed, even.  It’s incredibly hard to believe that something that tastes like it belongs at a fete cake stall can be perfectly nourishing, vegan and 100% clean. Don’t believe me? I DARE you to try it…

My ultimate verdict? Raw vegans are certainly NOT missing out…

Now, because the slice does contain lots of tree nuts, seeds and dried coconut, my lovely fellow fructose malabsorbers must go easy on it – if you’re particularly sensitive to nuts, please stick to a small serving at a time. That said, some of you might be able to tolerate a lot of it. I’m somewhere in the middle. Still, I’d be willing to experience mild stomach upsets the following day in the name of this Godly Goody.

IMG_3248

Raw Vegan Coconut Cream & Strawberry Slice
Serves 6
To yield enough to fill a normal ‘slice’ dish, double the ingredients.

Ingredients (all nuts & seeds are natural & raw)

‘Biscuit’ Base:

  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup dried coconut (desiccated/shredded/flakes/chips)
  • 1 tbs LSA
  • 1/2 tbs each flax seeds, sunflower seeds & pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 tbs liquid coconut oil
  • 1 tbs pure organic maple syrup (NOTE: if you follow a strictly raw diet, simply substitute the maple syrup for a raw sweetener. Maple syrup is not considered a raw food, but I use it as its health benefits surpass any raw sweetener I could use).
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Liquid or powdered stevia, to taste

Coconut Cream filling:

  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1/3 cup organic coconut cream (I used light)
  • 1/3 cup dried coconut
  • Seeds of 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs pure organic maple syrup/raw sweetener
  • 5-7 of the most titillatingly tasty strawberries you can get your hands on, sliced, for topping
  • fresh mint leaves, to serve (optional)

Method

  1. Line a container with baking paper. The container I used was approx. 16cm/16cm (quite small), but if you want to make enough to fill a proper ‘slice’ tray, double the ingredients.
  2. In a high powered food processor, process all dry ‘ biscuit base’ ingredients (except for the stevia) until a crumbly consistency has formed.
  3. Add the wet ingredients and whiz until it all comes together and is sticky. Taste. If you want it sweeter, gradually add small amounts of stevia until you reach your desired sweetness.
  4. Press mixture firmly and evenly into the base of the lined container/tray and pop into the fridge or freezer while you make the filling.
  5. To make the cashew cream filling, process the cashews and coconut until a fine powder forms.
  6. Add remaining ingredients and process until combined. Spread the coconut cream filling over the biscuit base and allow to set in the fridge for a few hours.
  7. Just before serving, top the coconut cream with sliced strawbs, carefully cut into portions with a sharp knife, top with a few fresh mint leaves for that little extra colour pop, and DEVOUR!


Happy Nourishing!
Ax

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

image
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

image