Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Balls (fructose friendly & low FODMAP)

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I’m just gonna dive right into this post and say that if you love peanut butter and the magical marriage of kinda sweet, kinda salty, then you absolutely must try this recipe. This is my take on Ace’s Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Balls, which I’d been spending far too much money on at the F.O.G store in Richmond (not because they’re stupidly expensive, but because I’d buy several of them several times weekly) before I decided to make my own version.

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I’m racking my brain for something creative to write here, but with two group assignments (kill me) looming and three weeks worth of lectures to catch up on, I think my mental efforts best be redirected. So all I’ll say is that these balls are a cheap, no bake, vegan, one bowl, ready-in-moments and virtually mess free job (unless you’re a total klutz like me and trip over absolutely nothing, spilling a kilo of coconut flour on the floor).
Oh and I’ll make and hand deliver a quadruple batch (and throw a few bear hugs and kisses in) for whoever offers to write one of my assignments for me, preferably the “evaluation of statistical analysis on taste receptor gene studies” one (like I said, kill me).

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Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Balls (fructose friendly & low FODMAP)

Makes approx. 10 balls

FODMAP friendly serving size: 1 ball

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup (235g) natural unsalted crunchy peanut butter
  • 4 tbs (30g) chia seeds
  • 4tbs (70g) pure maple syrup or coconut nectar
  • 3 tbs (35g) activated buckinis
  • Generous pinch of fine sea salt
  • For rolling: ground cinnamon, fine sea salt and coconut sugar

Method

  1. Make chia flour by putting seeds into a coffee grinder or blender and pulsing until they’re finely ground
  2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl with a wooden spoon, then mix with your hands if needed, ensuring all the ingredients are incorporated evenly. Keep mixing until the chia flour has absorbed most of the moisture and a dough-like consistency forms
  3. In a little bowl, combine 1 tbs coconut sugar, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, and a pinch of salt
  4. Divide dough into 10 even portions, then roll into balls with your palms. Lightly roll each ball in cinnamon sugar mixture to coat, then place on a lined tray and allow to set in the freezer for one hour. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for softer balls, or in the freezer for firmer balls. I prefer them firm (trying really hard not to sound creepy here).

Ax

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spelt & Chia Hot Cross Buns with Orange and Cranberries

Makes 9 buns.

Ingredients

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

Method

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

Info for the irritable

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

Other notes

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

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

Icey & Chai Spicy Banana Smoothie

Smoothies are to summer what porridge is to winter, and as the weather warms up in Australia, I like my brekkies to cool down…

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You might have gathered by now that I’m obsessed with all things chai. Like any chai-enthusiast, nothing encompasses those gorgeous Indian masala aromatics quite like the ole chai latte does (yep, that heavenly hot milky drink made with sickly sweet powder or syrup. Pure refined sugary delight).
However, since learning a few years back that refined sugar, preservatives, additives, fillers and artificial flavours are terrible for my health and waistline, I’ve given my beloved weekly McCafe indulgence the flick.

Depending on the type of milk and chai flavouring used, the average cafes style small chai latte contains anywhere between 20-40 grams of sugar (5-10 teaspoons), with the majority weighing in at around the 32g mark! That’s a hell of a lot of sugar to waste on one small drink.

These days, I flavour anything and everything I can with my own chai spice mix. Instead of harming my health like my chai latte habit did, the real spice mix delivers a whole heap of goodness and just as much flavour. Chai spices, when used in their real and pure form, are packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals and boast cancer-prevention properties. Such spices are also great for immune function, hormone balancing (thus PMS symptom relief), gut health, bloating reduction, metabolism firing and energy boosting.

My chai spice mix uses nothing but pure ground cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. More traditional recipes call for white pepper, which you could also try. I use this mix to transform simple porridge, pancakes, muffins, granola, banana ‘ice cream’ and smoothies into gorgeous chai flavoured treats. I love how adding so much flavour to a recipe with these spices also boosts its nutritional value – win/win!

Since chai just wouldn’t be chai-like without a particular sweetness to complement and balance those spices, you can add a little natural sweetener such as rice malt syrup or pure maple to recipes.

Chai Spice Mix

Makes around 6 tbs. of chai mix

  • 2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2.5 tbsp. ground cardamom
  • 1 tbsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 tsp. allspice
  • 2 tsp. ground nutmeg

Combine all the spices together and store in an airtight glass jar or container.

Super Icey and Chai Spicey Banana Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 1 1/2 frozen ripe banana
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 2 heaped teaspoons chai spice mix (or to taste, recipe above)
  • 1 tbs natural almond butter
  • 4 ice cubes plus extra, to serve

Method: Add all ingredients to a blender and process on high for one minute or until thick and creamy. Pour into a glass over ice and sprinkle cinnamon over the top. Slurp away.

Notes:

  • If you need a more substantial breakfast or post workout smoothie, adding 1 tbs chia seeds delivers a great source of natural protein, fibre, omega-3, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
  • I use a Thermomix, and while blending for so long in such a high-power blender might sound excessive, I find that frozen banana needs at least one minute to thicken  the rest of the ingredients up and make it silky smooth.

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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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Mum’s (not Nonna’s) Turkey Spag Bol

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

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

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

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

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Low FODMAP Turkey Spag Bol

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

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

Method

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

FODMAP Notes

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

Turkey Bolognese Stuffed Eggplants

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

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

Ax

IQS-Inspired Macadamia ANZAC Biccies

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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.

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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

Photo: Bangin' banana bread

Bangin’ Banana Bread (low FODMAP, fructose friendly, gluten free, grain free)

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

Photo: Bangin' banana bread

Photo: Bangin' banana bread

If one of your most nostalgic and all-time favourite snacks isn’t banana bread, then who are you?

I wish I could say that I was an active child and that playing a plethora of sports was part of my afternoon routine as a primary schooler, but the truth is that I was never fond of anything that involved physically moving for the sake of it. All I wanted to do was write stories, read books and teenage magazines (the latter of which I was at least seven years too young for and would secretly buy despite my Mum’s efforts to shield me from sealed sections), listen to my Discman (So Fresh FTW), and attend Spy Club meetings and missions with Mitch, my Top Secret Agent partner, neighbour, and childhood bestie.

But before any of the above, my afternoon snack ritual took place. I’d barge through the front door at 3:45pm, throw four slices of Brumby’s banana bread in the toaster before I’d even put my bag down, then smother them with so much butter and honey that it would all run down my chin and forearms as I took each bite. Portion control wasn’t one of my strong suits as a prepubescent.

I calmed down on the banana bread front as I got a bit older and realised that banana “bread” is technically cake (AKA a treat) and not something I should be eating daily, let alone a quarter of a loaf in one sitting. But my love for this perfectly sugary, buttery, banana-ry American classic remains.

Photo: Bangin' banana bread Photo: Bangin' banana bread

My healthified banana bread might not taste exactly like the sugar laden and mega fluffy (thanks to all the refined flour) one we grew up with, but I can confidently –or borderline smugly– say that it’s still pretty good. Being gluten and grain free, low in FODMAPs, fructose friendly and relatively low in sugar, I love knowing that I can eat it errrrrrry day of the week. It’s also high in fibre, healthy fats, complete proteins, a range of vitamins and minerals, and anti-inflammatory properties that your gut, body and brain will thank you for.

Photo: Bangin' banana bread

 

Bangin’ Banana Bread (low FODMAP, fructose friendly, gluten free, grain free)

Makes 12-15 slices

FODMAP friendly serving size: one slice

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups mashed (450g) overripe banana (approx. 4 medium bananas – see FODMAP notes below), plus one medium firm banana cut lengthways, for topping
  • 3 large organic free range eggs (approx 65g each), lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup (50g) coconut oil, melted
  • 4 tbs (70g) pure maple syrup
  • 1 tbs (17g) pure vanilla extract
  • 120g tapioca starch
  • 95g buckwheat flour (brown rice flour would work too)
  • ½ cup (30g) unsweetened shredded coconut (halve this amount if you want the coconut to be less pronounced)
  • ¾ cup (80g) pecans, roughly chopped, plus extra for topping
  • ½ cup (50g) almond meal (see FODMAP notes below)
  • 4 tbs (40g) chia seeds
  • 1 tsp (3g) baking powder (no aluminium added)
  • 2 tsp (6g) baking soda (aluminium free)
  • 2 tsp (6g) ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp (1g) ground cardamom
  • 2 generous pinches Himalayan sea salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 160*C and line a loaf tin with baking paper. My tin is approximately 29cm x 10.5cm.
  2. In one bowl, combine the mashed banana, beaten eggs, coconut oil, vanilla extract and maple syrup.
  3. In another bowl, combine the buckwheat flour, tapioca starch, shredded coconut, chia seeds, almond meal, spices and salt. Create a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour the banana mixture into it. Gently fold until just fully combined. Be very careful not to over mix.
  4. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared loaf tin. Top with halved banana, pecans, and a little drizzle of maple syrup. Place on the middle oven rack and bake for 55 minutes to one hour and 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out with slightly damp crumbs on it (don’t wait until the skewer comes out completely dry because the loaf will be too dry once it cools). I took mine out at the one hour mark because I like my banana bread to be on the moister side, but if you want it a little drier, leave it in for longer. Cooking times will vary depending on your oven and loaf tin. If the top begins to brown too much while cooking, cover with some foil.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to stand in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days, or slice it up and freeze for up to one month.
  6. Serve fresh on its own, or toasted with organic salted butter, nut butter, or fresh berries. For something a little more indulgent, serve toasted with organic butter, a drizzle of maple syrup and a sprinkle of dark choc chips.

Info for the irritable

  • Although overripe bananas contain excess fructose, half a medium ripe banana (approx. 56g) is considered safe. When this loaf is divided into at least 12 slices, each slice contains less than 47g of banana (37g if you don’t use the banana on top), and is thus considered low in fructose.
  • Both the polyol content from the coconut (in the form of sorbitol), and the galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) in the almond meal, are considered to be very low and safe when only one slice is consumed in a single sitting.

Other notes

  • Can’t find buckwheat flour at your local store? You can use buckwheat grouts instead! Simply process them on high speed for one minute or until a fine flour is formed
  • I love to add dark choc chips to this recipe if I’m entertaining or taking it to a bring-a-plate night

Photo: Bangin' banana bread

Deliciously Ugly: Chewy Choc Nutter Bars

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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!

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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

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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_1765IMG_1767

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Low FODMAP Laksa Paste
(makes approx 1.5 cups)

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

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

Ingredients:

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

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

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

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Happy Nourishing!
Ax