You know your own children’s preferences, but when they become adults and bring home partners, you might have to face the prospect that the partners has different dietary preferences that need to be accomodated at festive occasions, like Christmas.
I am rather late in planning this Gluten free Christmas menu and it is not Vegan, nor vegetarian so that is a heads up. But it is highly nutritious.
Entree or Nibbles
First off we have a Prawn, snow pea and Capsicum Entree, I used the following Prawn dish idea but made it a kind of tasting nibbles board, rather than a whole dish. I will add some nice cheeses, home made Knekkerbrød (Norwegian crackers) and nuts to accompany this.
Fresh is best for this opener. Given that all prawns are frozen at the point of capture, fresh is a loose term these days. But we are Australian, so we have to have some kind of shellfish option to start the hot meal.
Assortment of oven-roasted, gluten-free meats – without stuffing and preferably organic in nature
Potatoes roasted with garlic, thyme and dill
Pumpkin, sweet potato, and carrots (all roasted with rosemary sprigs)
Red capsicum drizzled with olive oil and roasted lightly
Cauliflower butter beans and Pumpkin Hommus
Chickpea Spinach and Eggplant Salad
Broccoli, Quinoa and Edamame Vegetables (served warm for the Moth)
Smashed Pavlova with seasonal stone fruits – there is just a little teaspoon of cornflour in this Pavlova recipe but when there is a coeliac visitor, one has to be extra careful. This is not just Gluten intolerance, but allergy!
Gluten-free Option – Chocolate Brownie
For the Moth: Warm Plum Pudding served with custard and ice cream
What kind of different dishes are you cooking this Christmas?
Are you breaking from preparing traditional foods?
I have always been reluctant to use yeast in the kitchen. I have had bad experiences with dry yeast sachets.
Either I heat the yeast granules far too much in my anxiety to make the dough rise, or the resulting dish tastes of something that I really can’t describe. It’s not an awful flavour but a slight kind of aftertaste. It is not sweet. I am not sure if this is yeast or something else.
The taste of cinnamon scrolls takes me back to Denmark and Finland, but generally all of Scandinavia. In Denmark, you see these rolls and pastries everywhere, from 7/11 stores (which surprisingly are some of the best), to small cafes and even gas stations kiosks. They are both ubiquitous and synonymous with Scandinavian traditions. Whether they be soft sweet bread or the flaky Danish style pastry, cinnamon is the main theme.
The first thing my daughter wanted to do on our return to Denmark was to eat a Cinnamon ‘snail’ or ‘Kanelsnegle.’ This is the kind of flaky pastry that is thin and wound round and round similar to the shape of a snail’s shell.
Eating various kinds of cinnamon pastries is some kind of birthright in Denmark, and I have it. No question. I enjoyed a huge cinnamon bun in Helsinki one year. I didn’t eat anything else until dinner that day.
Cooking with Yeast
It is not that I have not cooked with yeast before. I have. I used to make my own bread but that was using baker’s fresh compressed yeast and it was brilliant. A never-fail kind of yeast that was guaranteed to make bread products rise beautifully. Not so the sad results of my experiences with the dried variety of yeast.
Nevertheless after 38 years, I decided it was too time to try again or hang up the dried yeast forever. And Cinnamon buns was the perfect tester. Ju-Lyn’s Cinnamon bun photographs looked perfect and the texture was soft and bouncy.
Furthermore, Cinnamon is so good for you. Packed with Antioxidants, cinnamon may lower blood sugar as well as assist in managing heart disease and inflammation in the body.
The Result of Cooking Cinnamon Buns with Dry Yeast
This was the moment of truth. Would they be hard as rocks or soft and bouncy?
I can reveal that I was over the moon with the result.
No aftertaste and a nice even texture on the rolls. They rose as the recipe suggested and Ju-Lyn’s clear recipe tips helped enormously. One minor adjustment would be to substitute water instead of milk but that is only personal preference.
Here they are:
If I can convince you to make them or at least experiment and you would like the recipe, you can find it at the blog: purplepumpernickel.
Having a home by the sea has many advantages, however, one disadvantage, is the poor quality of the soils for gardens and the difficulty in growing plants that thrive in coastal areas.
Coastal soils are often sandy and have poor water retention ability but might also be heavy, salty and highly alkaline. This means their PH level is about 7 or above, which makes growing plants quite tricky.
If I wanted to grow Azaleas, Camellias, Magnolias or my favourite flowering shrub: Gardenias, for example, the coastal soils would need organic and chemical* help.
*Please note growing azaleas, camellias, magnolia and gardenias will require a specific fertilizer or may wither or develop yellowing leaves, without the right conditions.
As some of my garden had already been established, adding large quantities of peat moss, compost or organic matter wasn’t going to be a viable option, so in order to change the PH of the soil, I needed to look at other options.
It’s always best to test the soil’s pH level and follow instructions to the “T” when using anything to change soil pH.
If your soil is highly alkaline, adding sulphur, peat moss, sawdust, or aluminium sulfate can help neutralize it.
The first warning sign that the plants in my garden were suffering from a high Ph level was leaves turning yellow with a green midvein, evident firstly with the alkaline sensitive Gardenias and later, the Murraya, or Mock Orange, and some of the small Cupheas bordering the garden.
My next step in remediation was to stabilize the Gardenia, in situ, with an appropriate chemical fertilizer suitable for the sensitive likes of those plants and plant out more alkaline-tolerant species, as well as add organic matter where possible.
Within a few weeks of applying the fertilizer, the Gardenias and Magnolia had shiny new green growth. I applied a general fertilizer to the Murraya and the Cupheas and although slower, they are responding with new buds.
Growing Lavender in Coastal Areas
Lavender plants are a sound choice for coastal areas as they relish well-drained sandy soils and don’t mind wind. The ones I planted thrived in soil that had an upper layer of very sandy alkaline loam with an underlying, also alkaline, clay. They are especially beautiful now, in full bloom. No fertilizer needed, or signs of alkaline damage, so far.
Lavender plants make spectacular borders and vary in height: Lavender dentata, for example, grows to a height of 60 cm and can be pruned to a ball shape lightly after flowering.
Growing Your Own Lavender Plants
Lavender blossoms make excellent cut flowers,or can be used in dried flowers arrangements or potpourri. After flowering, I remove the lavender flowers from the stems and pot up the trimmed down leaf tips and place them in potting mix after first dipping the ends in rooting powder and then seal them with a plastic bag for several months. After that, you should have some established new Lavender plants.
It’s really a plant that keep on giving.
Lavender is known for its therapeutic properties.
Growing Olive Trees in Coastal Areas
Contrary to popular belief, Olive trees do not really have troublesome root systems, and as they do like coastal conditions they can also tolerate alkaline soil, well, provided it is free draining. A great choice for a coastal garden particularly with their grey-green foliage.
Olive trees take about 7 years to produce fruit. Sadly, we had to leave a beautiful olive tree at our former location, when we moved to the ‘Home by the sea,’ one that was close to flowering and producing olives.
The tree was about five years old and about 3 metres tall. It was not in a position of full sun, but we do live in the sub-tropics, so the sun is stronger here. Olive trees seem resilient to pests, so are a great choice for coastal and Mediterranean-style climates.
Plants suitable for Alkaline soils:
Some other plants that cope well in Alkaline soil types are listed below.
Herbs/Vegetables for Alkaline Soils
Sweet Potato – my plants are thriving. Just pop them in and watch them grow.
Parsley can be used as an edible border plant as it is a splash of greenery and handy for use in making Tabouli or salads in the kitchen. It is a herb that does like alkaline soils.
Shrubs and Treesfor Alkaline Soils
Olive Trees – as long as the soil is free draining.
The cake for this week is a bread that is really a cake.
Blueberries are in season here at the Home by the Sea. Blueberries the so-called Superfood packed with antioxidants means this bread-like cake can legitimately claim the label of a healthy home-baked food.
You will find it especially delightful served warm with a cuppa.
Recipe for Lemon Blueberry Bread
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light or low-fat milk
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350° F or 175° C
In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, lemon juice and eggs.
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir into egg mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition.
Fold in the blueberries, nuts and lemon zest.
Transfer to a greased 8×4-in. loaf pan.
Bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.
Combine glaze ingredients; drizzle over warm bread.
Because of its lemon base you can replace the blueberries with raspberries or any other bey in season. Or you could turn this into an orange cranberry bread by using orange juice and cranberries. Cherries and almonds also pair beautifully with either lemon or orange.
Using full fat milk, will mean the bread will keep moist for longer.
This week’s Cake at the Home by the Sea is delicious served with tea or coffee or can be versatile enough for a dessert treat if served with some vanilla yoghurt, cream or ice cream drizzled with Raspberry Coulis.
Raspberry Buttermilk Cake Recipe
130g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
55g unsalted butter, at room temperature
145g sugar, plus a further 1 1/2 Tablespoon sugar, divided
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (optional)
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup (approx 140g) fresh or frozen raspberries
1 dessertspoon butter, (melted)
1 tablespoon cinnamon (sprinkled over the top)
Preheat oven to 205°C/400°F
Butter and flour a 20cm round cake pan.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.
Beat the butter and first measure of sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy.
Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest. Add the egg and beat well.
Switching the mixer to a low speed, mix in the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Ensure that each time you only mix until just combined.
Transfer the batter into the cake pan and gently spread to fill the pan. Scatter the raspberries over the top and sprinkle with the final 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of sugar.
Bake until cake is golden and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, which should take between 30-35 minutes.
Cool the cake for 10 minutes then turn out onto a rack to cool completely, then brush melted butter on top and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Variation: Add 100g white chocolate buds to the mix prior to adding the raspberries.
I do look for recipes that use cinnamon, as it is has so many health-giving benefits:
contains calcium, iron, vitamins, fibre
assists with a variety of digestive ailments such as gas and bloating
has a mild anti-inflammatory effect.
Studies have shown improved insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control by taking as little as half a teaspoon of cinnamon per day. Improving insulin resistance can help in weight control as well as decreasing the risk for heart disease.
Initially I adapted a Danish Spice cake recipe posted by Ted at Recipereminiscing, but halved the recipe as it makes quite a large cake, used butter instead of margarine, and replaced the cloves with mixed spice. Then I added a few currants, because I had a slight oversupply of currants in the pantry and I thought it might work will with the spices.
The cake turned out well but I preferred another version of the Danish spice cake, one that is evocative of Christmas and all those aromatic spices. I have posted both Ted’s and my recipe below.
In Australia, we do not have easy access to the wonder that is a range of fermented milk products, so I substituted sour cream and plain probiotic yoghurt, in place of cultured milk.
Ted’s Danish Spice Cake
2,1 pint / 1 l flour 1,6 pint / 7.5 dl sugar 3 teaspoon cinnamon, ground 1 teaspoon cloves, ground 1 tablespoon baking soda 1 egg 1,6 pint / 7.5 dl cultured milk (see note below) 5,3 oz. / 150 g margarine
 Set the oven at 390 F / 200 C.
 Melt the margarine.
 Mix all the dry ingredients.
 Mix the eggs with milk and margarine, and stirred into the dry.
 Bake in pan for approximately 30 min.
Note: Cultured milk or soured milk is a food product produced from the acidification of milk. It is not the same as spoiled milk that has gone bad, commonly but incorrectly called soured and which may contain toxins.
Acidification, which gives the milk a tart taste, is achieved either through the addition of an acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar, or through bacterial fermentation. The acid causes milk to coagulate and form a thicker consistency, and inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria and thus improves its shelf life. Soured milk that is produced by bacterial fermentation is more specifically called fermented milk or cultured milk.
Amanda’s Danish Spice Cake
2 dl Dark Brown sugar
0.5 dl White sugar
4.5 dl Flour
1 tsp Baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp Ground Cardamom
2 tsp Cinnamon
2 tsp Ginger
2 tsp Clove
1 tsp Mixed Spice
1 tsp Ground Nutmeg
2 tbspn Cocoa Powder
200ml Buttermilk or Yoghurt
100ml melted Copha/Coconut oil/Vegetable oil
Mix all the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon.
Ensure melted Copha and buttermilk is at room temperature and add to the dry ingredients.
Mix well, but not too much. If the Copha solidifies, place the bowl over a hot water bath and gently fold until even.
Pour into greased cake tin, I used a ‘kugelhof’ or bundt mould.
Bake in oven 175° celsius (350°F) for about 40 minutes.
Cool 10 mins before turning out.
For extra decadence (entirely optional):
Drizzle melted butter over the top and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon sugar/dusting sugar.
Tips for measurement conversions:
1 cup = 8 fl oz = 2.4 dl = 24 cl = 240 ml
1 cup = 10 fl oz = 2.8 dl = 280 ml
dl – 1 deciliter = 6 (scant) tablespoons
Reasons to Indulge in this Cake:
It doesn’t require heavy lashings of icing, and the less sugar we eat, the better for us, right? (There is plenty of sugar in the cake itself, so why add more?)
While we are eating it, think of all the good things the spices are doing for our bodies!
The uptake of families using their pandemic down time to create things at home, has led to shortages of essentials in stores in some places.
It is as if we have rewound the clock, to an earlier time, when takeaway was unknown and we prepared all of our own food. Which is such a better way to eat than packaged, pre-prepared foods that are preserved beyond comprehension and have a shelf life that Cro-Magnon man would envy?
Repressed Baker or Bakeaholic?
In my house, the baking frenzy – and the #onecakeaweek has been in full swing during the length of the Covid pandemic. Yet, I still bear the title of ‘Repressed baker.’
Or, perhaps it was likely that I was a baker in a former life?
I venture to say the joy of kneading bread dough borders on the therapeutic, for me at least. Kneading, folding, creating and then of course the joy of eating. It is almost blissful.
It is not the first time, this lapsed baker has made bread, but it has been a while.
When I turned 21 years old, I decided it was time to hang up my bread-making apron for other pursuits. Not only was the process of making bread time-consuming, but good yeast was hard to find and quite expensive. As a 20-something, the novelty of making my own varieties of bread quickly wore off.
Like others, the enforced leave from work, with adult kids who have (mostly), left the nest, means the urge to bake all kinds of things has returned with gusto.
Now in the midst of lockdown, I returned to the kitchen to make sourdogh bread. I have already made loads of different kinds of cakes and sweet treats and was growing a sourdough mother under the expert tutelage of my blogger friends and bread-baking mentors, Sandy and Peggy.
Once I was able to secure some wholemeal flour, which was a feat in itself, given the shortages under Covid, I tended the sourdough starter lovingly for days and made a pancakes out of the discard.
The Final Result Sourdough Rolls
At the end of the week, I produced these wonderful Wholemeal Sourdough bread Rolls from Peggy‘s recipe.
I had enough to give some to my son and a friend. Surprisingly, the friend who happens to be Danish, so is used to beautifully cooked bread, raved about my sourdough rolls.
I was a little surprised she liked them, as I found them quite dense in texture and sliced them thinly to toast them. But then compared to Rugbrød, the Danish Rye bread, they are most likely light and airy given that the Danes like their bread really heavy and solid.
The Sourdough Mother has now gone, so I will have to start the process over again, which is a lot of fun.
I was racking my brains to find the location for a recipe for Carrot Cake I had saved somewhere. It has been sitting in my file notes for I think, several years.
Last week, I made it. The M.o.t.h. loves Carrot cakes as he figures as it is a vegetable, it is all healthy and he can have a larger helping! Although it doesn’t work like that, at least he is getting a bit more fibre in his diet!
The added bonus of cardamon gives it an aromatic hint of something more. Something a little Nordic.
Research online tells me that this recipe is adapted from the bakery of the iconic Rosendal trädgården (a horticultural garden in front of Rosendal Palace) in Stockholm.
I don’t ever ice my cakes, they are sweet enough, already – for me. And cake icing and a sub tropical climate doesn’t make a good marriage. It is melts everywhere and is so messy.
If you do want to ice the cake the cream cheese icing works really well and provides a slightly savoury and sweet combination, so popular in Scandinavian cuisine.
Carrot and Cardamon Cake Recipe
225 ml sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing
310 g caster sugar
170 g grated carrot
240 g plain flour
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
40 g chopped walnuts
200 g unsalted butter
200 g cream cheese
180 g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Cook’s notes (Source: sbs.com.au)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC – (390º F) bit lower if using a fan-forced oven.
Beat the oil and sugar together in a large mixing bowl for 5 minutes, until light yellowish white.
Keep beating while you add the carrot and the eggs, one at a time.
Add the flour, spices, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt. Mix for a few minutes
Stir in the walnuts with a spatula.
Using a greased 23 cm round cake tin or an 11 x 6 ” loaf pan, bake in the oven for 30–35 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Cool in its tin for 10 minutes then turn out. If using the loaf pan, you might have enough over to make a smaller friand loaf as well – (around 5″x3″) – good to pop in the freezer if needed later.
To make the icing by beating together all the ingredients until smooth.
Recipe originally from The New Nordic by Simon Bajada