Rye, Millet & Sunflower seed bread

As I was enjoying my wonderful carrot soup recently I realised it’d been a while since I’d made any rye bread. It was a cold winters day and so, with nothing better to do, I dug around in the cupboard for some rye flour, and came across a bag of millet flour and some sunflower seeds as well. So I’ve combined them all in this adaptation. It does take a few hours but it’s not as if you have to stand around watching it, and the full, rich flavour of the bread is worth it.


  • 3 2/3 cups rye flour
  • 1/3 cup of millet flour (or just use all rye)
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • couple of pinches caraway seeds
  • 3 tablespoons barley malt syrup
  • 1 sachet dried yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 100ml milk
  • warm water

Start by warming the milk to lukewarm, add the sugar and stir in the yeast. Leave for 15 minutes for the yeast to start. It should develop a foamy head. Continue reading


Lazy Tart


Peach & strawberry cream cheese lazy tart

One of my favourite lazy quick ways to use up fruit about to over ripen is to slice it up and whack it on a puff pastry tart base. I keep some butter puff sheets in the freezer for this very purpose. If I’m feeling virtuous, I’ll do a minimal base of cream cheese and maybe a hint of cream, but otherwise, frangipane never goes amiss.

Lazy fruit tart

  • 1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted
  • sliced fruit of your choice
  • Topping option (see below)
  • 2 tablespoons slivered almonds
  • Honey to drizzle

Pre heat oven to 180 degrees, place puff pastry onto a baking sheet (oiled – even though the pastry is full of butter, that stuff will cling to anything), smother puff sheet with topping choice and arrange sliced fruit. (Don’t be tempted to over ‘fill’ as the pastry won’t cook through in the middle while it happily blackens round the edges as you wait). Scatter almonds. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup, pop into oven until puffed and golden.

Topping choice one:

Dollop of cream cheese or ricotta, couple of tablespoons of cream, pinch of cinnamon – mix together vigorously in a bowl, slather or dollop & cook as above.


Topping choice two – frangipane (enough for one square puff sheet, plus extra for a couple of ramekins of fruit/frangipane/cream)

  • 65g butter
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 65g Almond meal
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tablespoon plain flour

Cream butter & sugar until pale and fluffy, gradually beat in the egg, fold in the ground almonds and flour. Slather onto your pastry & cook as above.

Not Quite Simnel

IMG_8178The history behind the Simnel cake is a long and interesting one; mostly Easter based, partly Mother’s Day, but as far as I’m concerned, it reminds me of my Beastie back home. She knows who she is.

I set out with intentions of doing it properly this Easter, but as usual ended up faking it. It was the fruit cake you see; I thought I had all the ingredients, but when I got home and looked in my baking box, I just didn’t have enough fruit. Coles had been a cast iron ball breaker that morning, full of bad tempered locals bulk buying for the apocalypse by 9am, and I simply couldn’t face a return engagement.

On the other hand, I had tons of almond meal, and eggs from next door’s chickens, plus we are a marzipan loving family so obviously had plenty in stock.

So: my compromise = almond cake, with a Simnel exterior. Compromise. Might call it Almond Overload.


  • 340g almond meal
  • 45g butter, melted
  • 130g icing sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 4 egg whites, retain a tablespoon for glazing at the end*
  • 1tsp almond essence
  • 45g flour
  • 1.5 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 500g marzipan
  • 2 tablespoons apricot jam or marmalade
  • Blowtorch

Preheat oven to 200 C. Line a 23cm cake pan with greaseproof paper, and oil.

Combine the almond meal with the icing sugar in a mixing bowl and add the whole eggs. Beat these together well, and add the almond essence and melted butter (slowly! I was enthusiastic and chucked it in while the processor was on full pelt. Got a face full of molten butter for my troubles. Oww!). Add the flour and mix gently.

Beat the egg whites until at the soft peak stage, then add the caster sugar and beat until stiff.

Meanwhile roll out half the marzipan and trim to a 23cm round. TIP: when rolling out, lay the marzipan on a sheet of cling film, and place another sheet over the top.IMG_8168 This stops the marzipan sticking to absolutely everything.

Fold the egg whites into the almond mix, gradually. When combined, spoon half into the prepared tin, lay over the marzipan disc, then spoon the rest of the mix over the top.

Pop into the oven for around 30 – 35 minutes or until risen and golden. While it cooks, pull a chunk off the remaining marzipan, and make 11 small balls with it. Roll out all the rest to another 23cm disc. Leave it covered with the clingfilm until you need it.

Allow the cake to cool. I got the oven temp wrong initially (too low) and hence my version has cooked unevenly – I turned it up half way and I guess that’s why it looks so bumpy. IMG_8169Not such a great ad for this recipe is it, eh?? But I leveled it the cheats way, and no one will even know in a minute:

IMG_8170Looks pretty bad at this stage, right?

Hopefully you will stick with the 200 degrees as suggested and won’t have a wonky cake to cut and level out…So. Spread the jam over one side of the remaining circle or marzipanIMG_8172and gently lift it onto your cooled, non wonky cake, jam side down. Roll the marzipan balls in the egg white. Glaze the top of the cake with the egg white, then place the 11 balls around the edges, with one in the middle if you wish (think that one is Jesus).IMG_8173

Run the blowtorch over the top of the cake, cooking off the egg white, fixing the balls in place and slightly scorching it as you go.IMG_8181


Those compromises

I think this cake worked out well – I’ve never been good with presentation, so it’s never going to win any beauty awards. But (other than the way it looks!) there are a couple of things I would do differently next time.

1) Get the oven temp right! Basic one, this.

2)  Use a more refined almond meal. What I had in stock was the brown variety, ground with the almond skins still on. I rather like a rough texture, but I think it could be better without the slight bitterness that the skins convey. It’d also look nicer!

3) I’d also make sure I used egg white for the glaze and not whole egg as I did in the pictures above; this made it look too yellowy.

4) I’d probably blow torch it all all bit longer too, for a more toasty look.


*Yolky omelette for lunch!

Christmas Cake

???????????????????????????????One of the best ways to start getting into the swing of things for Christmas is to make the cake. It’s usually the first really Christmassy thing cooks get to do. This is my mum’s recipe; she makes one every year, even though there’s only two of them to eat it now, and they’re both diabetic. Old habits die hard I guess!

Start the day before you want to cook, and make this around November so it has time to mature. Continue reading

100% Rye Bread (vegan)

Having had a gut full of wheat and lactose this week and suffering for it, I was determined to be good this weekend. In order to breakfast on my favourite avocado on rye, I needed rye bread.  It’s also a vegan recipe, if that suits your circumstances.


  • 400ml warm water
  • 1 sachet dried yeast (7g)
  • 4 cups rye flour (or 2 each of rye and spelt)
  • 1 & 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3 tablespoons barley malt (or treacle)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, for greasing

Combine the yeast and warm water, and set aside until the yeast starts to bubble at the surface.


IMG_5846Place flour, salt and cream of tartar in the bowl of your mixer (or large bowl if mixing by hand), mix together.

Place the barley malt, sugar & caraway seeds, sesame seeds in a bowl and mix well until combined.IMG_5849

Add the malt mix and yeast mix together and stir to combine.IMG_5850

Add to the flour and process using a dough hook (or wear out your mixing  arm if you’re being all manual about it) for about 5 minutes. It will be very sticky!

Coat a bowl with the olive oil with your hands and scrape the dough into it. Turn it over a couple of times to coat it with oil (your hands will still be oily which should help stop the dough sticking to you). IMG_5852Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and place in a warm place for the dough to rise. It needs to double in size.IMG_5856I put mine outside in the weak spring sunshine and it doubled in about an hour.

Knock the dough back – ie give it a couple of whacks to remove all the air – re-cover and leave it to rise a second time – another 1 – 1 1/2 hours.


Knocked back


Risen again

Finally, oil a loaf tin and gently ease the twice risen dough into it.IMG_5860

Cover again and leave another half an hour or so to prove.


Pre heat your oven to 190ºC. Whack the loaf tin in and bake for 40 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the base (slip it out of the tin first!).

I got distracted talking to next door about their chickens and I let the loaf stay in just a little bit too long – hence this next photo shows a slightly over-browned bread!


Try to restrain yourself until the bread cools before slicing & slathering in butter* and jam.

*(that bit not vegan….)

Plum tart

fruitcloseI’m often to be found in front of a food programme on the TV, with a scrap of paper, frantically writing down what I’m convinvced will be the most amazing recipe In The World. I guess it’s part of my desire to catalogue everything, to reduce impermenance to solid state. Or something.

Usually these are stored with the other, curling and yellowing scraps on the off chance I’ll do something with them. As I tend to be a ‘what can I do with this ingredient’ kind of cook, I rarely get through my little pile.

After watching Yotam Ottolenghi working his way around the middle east recently on a bunch of SBS reruns, I scribbled down his Goats cheese and fig tart. And filed it on my little pile, thinking one day I’d do something with it that didn’t use goat’s cheese (which is, of course, the spawn of the devil). I then noticed a blogger tweeting about buying figs and goats cheese and realised she was making this dish; I was in Thomas Dux at the time, and shortly afterward found myself looking at a delicious pile of glossy plums. Deep purple red and lovely pale creamy pink ones. ‘What the heck’ I thought, and bought them, along with some ricotta, and made my version of this tart. I won’t list all the ingredients because, as I later found, SBS have done it for me (see link above), save to say I used a sheet of puff pastry, lemon thyme from my garden and lime, rather than lemon.

pie before

 It looked and smelled gorgeous even before it went into the oven. I found I had to leave it in longer than I’d expected because the centre was still too soft, which gave a pleasingly burnt sugar tang. I liked it anyway:


It was mighty good, and surprisingly not very sweet. 7/10 – but I prefer my frangipane mix to this ricotta version overall I think.

Gluten Free Muffin-ettes, that are actually damn fine!

You’ll have noticed already that I’m not a fan of gluten free bread and cake products. Usually, the texture is just horrid. But this: this is a recipe which is not only fool proof, it’s actually damn fine tasting! Even Mr Chopsticks, who can be a harsh critic (taking a bite, going “bleagh!”, spitting out and making gagging faces is not unknown) really really likes these. He actually chooses to eat them. They’re that good.

  • ½ cup   polenta
  • ½ cup   GF flour (I use Organ brand or make up my own mix from corn flour, tapioca, brown rice flour and sometimes buckwheat)
  • 1tsp       baking powder*
  • 1 tsp      baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)*
  • ½ tsp     salt
  • ½ cup   grated parmesan (more if you like – it’ll take it)
  • 1/3 cup natural yoghurt
  • 2 tablespoons oil (I use olive)
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup   corn kernels (cut from cob, or if you must, frozen (defrost first!))
  • ¼ cup   chopped spring onion
  • ½ cup   chopped speck (or ham/salami) – finely diced
  • Chopped fresh herbs (eg, parsley, thyme or whatever is to hand – possibly not mint) and pepper to taste

Oil a 12 hole muffin tin, pre heat oven to 175 C. Mix together all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Separately, mix the oil, yoghurt and eggs until combined. Dry fry the speck until crispy (or salami) – skip this stage if using ham. Continue reading

Toad in the Hole

These GF bratwurst appeared in my local Woolies recently – and as I’d been to Bavarian Beer Café the night before, all things Germanic were foremost in my mind. So naturally I immediately thought of Toad in the Hole. Well, actually, I thought of beer first, but toad in the hole a close second.

We’re not natural sausage eaters, Mr Chopsticks and I. It’s the whole lips ‘n’ hoof and fat thing. And all that salt to cover the horridness of it all.  Plus – Australians! What’s with the beef sausages?? Basic sausages are meant to be pork. Fancy sausages are allowed to be chicken, lamb or perhaps venison, contain herbs and other fripparies, but yer banger? Pork. Anyhow, I digress. We like to think our diet is pretty junk free (yes, sausages usually qualify as junk) so sausage just don’t feature much. Consequently I haven’t cooked toad in the hole in about 20 years – maybe I was feeling nostalgic (frankly probably just hungover). Anyway, dear reader, I bought those bratwurst, and here they are.

I’m not going to include the recipe I used – basically it was from Jamie Oliver’s Happy Days with the Naked Chef – because to be honest, it’s pancake batter and sausage. He uses rosemary too, so, being as I was clearly in unadventurous mode, so did I. That’s about it. What I did do was stick the oven on hotter than hades (250 C) and heat the tray and the oil first. This seemed to do the trick. Gotta say though Jamie, I think 1cm of oil in the tray is a tad overkill. Next time I’ll use much less.

Eat with abandon. And beer.

What could be more In The Sticks-ey than baking your own bread?

As part of my ongoing quest to reduce the amount of wheat in my diet, I adapted this recipe from one I found on allrecipes.com, to include both spelt and rye flours. Both are forms of wheat, of course, but the thought was there.

Starting with organic flours, and lactose free milk, I ended up with two mainly organic (the yeast was bog standard dried from a sachet, the treacle just Lyles) loaves:

Ingredients for 2 loaves Continue reading