polenta pizza with italian toppings …

Janella Purcell is a naturopath + nutritionist, herbalist, iridologist, wellness coach, author, environmentalist, wholefood chef, TV presenter.

Janella’s healthy food philosophy is keeping it deliciously simple.

I follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram – um … stalker much? Anyways, last month she mentioned the launch of her new book, ‘Janella’s Super Natural Foods’, on Facebook. The opportunity to pre-order the book, through Booktopia, was too good an opportunity to pass up.

The book arrived 2 weeks ago! There’s over 150 recipes to try. The first recipe I tried? The polenta pizza.

1 tablespoon olive oil
500ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) vegetable stock
65g (2 1/2 oz /1/3 cup) fine polenta
1 teaspoon unrefined salt (optional)
125ml (4 fl oz / 1/2 cup) Napoli sauce
2 tablespoons pitted and halved black olives
2 tablespoons quartered sun-dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons Broccoli and mint pesto
1 large bocconcini ball, torn
6 basil leaves or 1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
1 tablespoon Cashew cream cheese (optional)

* See end of post below for recipes for Napoli sauce, the broccoli and mint pesto and the cashew cream cheese.

1) Preheat the oven to 180C (350F/Gas 4). Lightly brush two 22cm (8.5 inch) pizza trays with a little of the olive oil.

I had just the one pizza pan but it measured 32cm (12.5 inch).

2) Bring the stock to a rolling simmer in a large saucepan then, whisking constantly, rain in the polenta in a steady stream.

3) Continue to whisk for about 5 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed.

4) Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for another 5 minutes until the polenta is very thick. Be careful not to get splattered by a volcanic-like burst of polenta lava. Remove from heat, taste and season but only if your polenta is not salty enough.

5) Allow the polenta to cool slightly, then spread it over the pizza trays.

You can make the crust as thick as you like.

6) Pop the polenta bases in the fridge to set. This will take about 5 minutes.
7) Remove the trays of polenta from the fridge and add the toppings.

First up, spoon the Napoli sauce over each base, then scatter on the olives and sun-dried tomatoes, dollop on the pesto, and finish with the bocconcini and herbs. Drizzle lightly with the remaining olive oil (not essential) and bake for 10 or so minutes until the tops of the pizzas are golden and the cheese has melted a little.

I didn’t make the Napoli sauce. I used tomato paste instead.

Whenever my mum would make pizzas, she would always put the oregano on the sauce before the toppings were added.

This pizza was going to be for me, mum and nonna. I added sliced ham to one half for mum and nonna.

5) Remove the trays from the oven and allow the pizzas to cool slightly before dolloping cashew cream cheese, if using, over them. Cut into slices and serve on the trays.

I cut the pizza into quarters. Mum, nonna and I had a piece each. Each piece was large enough for us. (The fourth piece I kept for the next night.) The pizza was delicious! We all loved it. Granted, you can’t hold the polenta pizza like you would a normal pizza but there’s nothing wrong with using a fork and knife to eat this pizza.

This was such an easy way to make pizza. Mum loved the fact that the pizza was gluten free. She can now enjoy pizza again! I will definitely make this pizza again – especially for my brothers who don’t like ham and cheese. For them, I’ll use tomato paste, mushrooms and pineapple – an interesting mix but that’s how they like their pizzas. Remember, you can use whatever toppings you like. Be creative, go crazy!

Napoli sauce
1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil, depending on your preference
1 medium brown onion, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 x 400g (14oz) BPA-free tins diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon each unrefined salt and cracked black pepper

Heat a large fry pan over medium heat, then add your oil. Add the onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and saute for about a few seconds. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaf and seasoning and simmer fro about 10 minutes until the sauce thickens and intensifies in flavour.

Cashew cream cheese
155g (5 1/2 oz / 1 cup) raw cashews soaked in 375ml (13 fl oz / 1 1/2 cups) water for an hour
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 garlic clove (optional)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon each unrefined salt and cracked white pepper

Drain your cashews, then place in a blender with the other ingredients ad blitz until thick and luscious. You may want to adjust the flavours to your liking. It will firm up when chilled for a couple of hours, make it easier to spread. Leave out of the fridge until it softens a little if you want to use it on pasta or as a sauce. It will last for about 1 week, stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

Broccoli and mint pesto
1 small head of broccoli, cut into florets
20g (3/4 oz / 1 cup) mint, roughly chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
50g (1 3/4oz / 1/3 cup) chopped almonds
50g (1 3/4oz / 1/3 cup) crumbled goat’s feta
1 teaspoon unrefined salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon grated lemon zeest
125ml (4 fl oz / 1/2 cup) extra virgin olive oil

Steam the broccoli and garlic for a minute, or until the broccoli is just tender. Using a food processor or mortar and pestle, pulse or pound the broccoli, mint, garlic, almonds, feta, salt and lemon paste to form a chunky paste. Drizzle in the olive oil and process or pound until you have your desired consistency of crunchy peanut butter.

“Everybody likes pizza! It’s a quick and easy clean-up meal.” ~Buddy Valastro

raw strawberry cheesecake bites …

This simple recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, guilt-free, vegan, raw, paleo-friendly, no bake and has no refined sugars.

The recipe is courtesy of Delighted Momma via Pinterest. This recipe caught my eye because it was similar to the mini vegan cheesecakes that I had made previously.

The raw strawberry cheesecake bites are a much healthier version of the store bought cheesecakes. Just think of the ingredients that are in those cheesecakes (artificial additives, animal gelatin, etc …). Ugh!

Happy no-baking! ;)

2 cups almonds
1 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
juice from 1/2 a lemon

3 cups raw cashews
3/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup coconut oil
1 tablespoon vanilla

8-9 medium to large strawberries
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tablespoon honey

1) Place all of the ingredients for the crust in a food processor.  Process until you have a sticky dough consistency.

* Tip – soak the pitted dates in warm water for 10 minutes then drain before adding to the food processor.

2) Take a small amount of crust and roll it into a ball.  Then place it on the bottom of your muffin tin and press down firmly so it holds together.

* Tip – I scooped about 1 tablespoon of the crust into the muffin tin and then pressed it down. You can use a small glass or the back of a spoon to compact it and really press it down. The bottom of a glass works well. If it sticks, separate the crust and the glass with a small piece of parchment.

* Tip – To make removing the cheesecakes easier, cut strips of parchment paper and lay them in the slots. This creates little tabs that makes removing them easier to pop out once frozen.

Alternatively, using a silicone muffin tin makes the process of getting the frozen desserts out so much easier.

3) Clean your food processor and place all the ingredients for the filling inside.  Process until you have a smooth cheesecake filling consistency.


* It does take a little while for the cashew cream to get to the cheesecake consistency.

4) Layer the filling on top of the crust, leaving a little bit of room for the topping.

5) Place all of the strawberry topping ingredients into the food processor and blend until you have a sauce like consistency.

The food processor wasn’t mixing the ingredients well enough so I switched to the stick/immersion blender.

6) Add the topping on top of each mini cheesecake.

7) Place in the freezer for about an hour or until they are set.

8) Once they are set, remove by tugging on the tabs or loosening them with a butter knife. They should pop right out.  Keep in the freezer for up to 1-2 weeks.

I made 21 mini cheesecakes using 2 muffin trays.

Oh.my.goodness! Ridiculously tasty! These mini treats are to die for. The crust is crunchy, the filling is creamy and the topping is tangy. Textures galore. And your taste buds will go crazy. Bite-sized deliciousness.

“One must ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

upside down pineapple and banana loaf …

This week’s recipe is courtesy of the October 2014 edition of Better Homes and Gardens which came with a bonus booklet – ‘Slices of perfection with your bar tin’.

The other bonus was the inclusion of the  26 x 8 x 4.5cm bar tin.

Out of all the mouth watering recipes in the booklet, I chose the upside down pineapple and banana loaf recipe. This cake is really easy to make. It looks good and tastes good.

melted butter, to grease
2 tablespoons brown sugar
extra 20g unsalted butter, melted
440g can pineapple slices in natural juice, drained
3/4 cup plain flour *
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ripe banana, mashed
double cream, to serve

* substituted with gluten free plain flour

1) Preheat oven to 180C. Grease bar tin with butter, then line base and sides with baking paper.
2) Combine brown sugar and extra butter in a small bowl. Spoon over base of prepared tin.

3) Halve 3 pineapple slices and drain on paper towel. Arrange over sugar mixture.

4) Sift flour, bicarb and spices into a large bowl. Add caster sugar.

5) Finely chop 2 pineapple slices and put in another large bowl; (Reserve remaining pineapple for another use.) Add egg, oil, vanilla and banana to pineapple.

6) Make a well in the centre of flour mixture and add egg mixture. Stir until just combined.

7) Spoon into tin. Put tin on an oven tray and bake for 45 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Cool completely.

8) Turn out onto a plate, letting syrup drizzle down the sides. Serve with cream.


The cake was very moist, light and not too sweet. Crazy delicious! Even better served with cream. The tropical flavours makes this cake ideal for spring and summer. For the cold winter nights, serve it hot with custard (or cream).

“the rough end of the pineapple” – a situation in which someone receives unfair or harsh treatment.

luxury orange and almond polenta cake …

Because I picked all the oranges off my orange tree (I now have a glut of oranges) I decided to go looking for a recipe with oranges. Well, there are a lot of oranges_based recipes out there so it was difficult to narrow it to just one. I didn’t have the time to go through every.single.one. Thankfully I found an easy to follow recipe. The recipe is courtesy of good to know recipes.

2 small oranges
5 large eggs
175g (6oz) caster sugar
175g (6oz) ground almonds
50g (2oz) polenta (cornmeal)
5ml (1 teaspoon) baking powder

Orange syrup:
50g (2oz) caster sugar
Juice of 1 large orange

1) Place the oranges, unpeeled, in a pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 1¼ hrs until very soft. Drain and cool for 30 minutes.

2) Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F, gas mark 5).
3) Grease and lightly flour a 24cm (9½ in) springform cake tin and line the base with greaseproof paper.

4) Roughly chop the boiled oranges, removing any pips. Place in a food processor or blender and purée.

5) Whisk together the eggs and sugar for 1-2 minutes then stir in the ground almonds, polenta and the baking powder, followed by the puréed oranges.

6) Pour into the tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until light golden and just firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out and cool completely.

7) To make the syrup, place the sugar and 60ml (4 tablespoons) water in a small pan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Boil, without stirring, until the mixture turns light golden. Remove from the heat and add the orange juice. It will bubble and caramelize so reheat gently until dissolved.

8) Serve the cake in thin slices with the warm or cold syrup and crème fraîche. Lightly dust with icing sugar.

Gritty texture. Not overly sweet. Light. Tasty. Ideal for morning/afternoon tea. Beautiful.

“Polenta? Oh, you mean Italian grits.” ~ unknown.

no bake (vegan) peanut butter cup bars …

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – peanut butter + chocolate = amazeballs. The best flavour combination!

This recipe is from The Detoxinista. These bars take no time at all to make and require absolutely no baking. Bonus.

Chocolate Crust:
3/4 cup ground almond meal
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
Pinch of sea salt

Peanut Butter Filling:
1/2 cup creamy natural peanut butter
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
Pinch of sea salt

Chocolate Topping:
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1) Line a standard loaf pan with parchment paper and set it aside.
2) In a medium bowl, stir together all of the chocolate crust ingredients until a moist dough is formed.

3) Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the lined loaf pan, and place it in the freezer to set.

4) To prepare the filling, you can use the same bowl to stir together the peanut butter, maple syrup, coconut oil and salt.

5) Remove the crust from the freezer and pour the peanut butter filling over the top, using a spatula to spread it out evenly.

5) Return the pan to the freezer to set.
6) Rinse the mixing bowl, and use it again, if you like, to make the final layer.
7) Combine the cocoa powder, melted coconut oil, and maple syrup, whisking well to break up any clumps.

8) Once the mixture has become a smooth chocolate sauce, pour it over the peanut butter layer, and return the pan to the freezer to set until firm, about an hour or two.

9) Once the bars are firm, grab the edges of parchment paper to easily lift the solid bar from the pan, and use a sharp knife to slice the bars into your desired size.

OMG. These bars are to die for. Seriously. You will not be able to stop at one. One of the best sweet treats you could possibly have. Heavenly.

Store them in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to two weeks, or in the freezer for up to a month.

If you don’t like peanut butter, you can use almond butter, cashew butter or even sunflower butter for a nut free filling.

“These are delicious! What are they?”
“Double chocolate chip with peanut butter filling.”
“They’re the second best thing I’ve ever tasted.”
I laughed. “You said the same thing at dinner.”
“I recently readjusted the ranking.”
~ Colleen Houck, Tiger’s Quest

gluten free jaffa friands …

A few weeks ago I attended a CWA function where the guest speaker was Liz Harfull. Liz Harfull is a South Australian author who loves to tell stories about rural and regional Australia. During the talk Liz told stories about her upbringing, country shows and how the recipes came to be in her latest book, The Australian Blue Ribbon Cookbook.

There are 70 tried and true recipes from some of Australia’s most enthusiastic and talented show cooks. Not only does the book have recipes but it also has stories about the show cooks and many photographs (past and present) from the country shows around Australia.

After the talk I bought the book – a signed version :)

Last year I watched Kirstie’s Handmade Britain. Kirstie went around Britain entering various country fair competitions in different categories – both cooking and craft.  I was intrigued. So now after listening to Liz, I am determined to go to a local South Australian country show. I know there are a few coming up in the latter half of this year. I can’t wait!

Anyways, the first recipe I tried from the cookbook was jaffa friands. The recipe belongs to Vaughan Wilson who is a keeper at the Monarto Zoo. Vaughan is also a prize-winning cook. He won his first blue ribbons ( he took home four ribbons!) at the Strathalbyn Agricultural Show.

75g (1/2 cup) plain flour *
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
180g (1 1/2 cups) pure icing sugar
100g (1 cup) ground almonds
finely grated zest of 1 orange
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
4 tablespoons hot water
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons orange liqueur **
100g reduced-salt butter, melted
1-2 teaspoons pure icing sugar (extra), sifted, for dusting

* substituted with gluten free plain flour.
** you can substitute orange juice for the liqueur which is what I did.

1) Preheat the oven to hot (200C).
2) Grease a 12-cup friand pan, and line the base of each mould with greaseproof paper.

3) Sift the flour, baking powder and sugar together into a medium-sized bowl, then stir in the ground almonds and orange zest.

4) Dissolve the cocoa in the hot water in a small bowl.

5) Stir the eggs into the dry ingredients, then add the cocoa mixture, orange liqueur and melted butter. Stir until smooth.

6) Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes and then spoon into the prepared pan.

7) Bake in the oven for 5 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180C and bake for another 15 minutes or until they spring back when touched lightly.

8) Allow the friands to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before turning out on to a clean tea towel.

9) Dust with the extra icing sugar prior to serving.

What a simple recipe! No mess, no fuss. And there’s no need for electric mixers. Super easy to make.

The friands were light and moist. Texture and taste was great. Chocolate and orange together is a great flavour combination.The taste testers (aka my family) loved the friands.

“Who’s got my Jaffa Cakes? You know I can’t function without Jaffa Cakes.” ~ Simon R Green, Daemons Are Forever

tuscan beef stew (peposo) …

At the last South Australian CWA (Country Women’s Association) Adelaide branch meeting, Tia, one of the food hostesses, brought along this amazing dish. It was a Tuscan beef stew. We crowded around the pot and sampled the stew. Oh my goodness – it was melt-in-your-mouth stuff. Tia explained that the dish was so easy to make. (Tia used chuck steak and varied the recipe by adding strips of orange peel.) I had to put my name down on the mailing list to get a copy of the recipe. Tia sent the recipe later that night. Thanks Tia!

As the recipe states “throw some beef in the oven and walk away – in a few hours you’ll have Jill’s unforgettable Tuscan stew.”

Jill Dupleix is a food writer, a restaurant critic and cook book author.

Jill says that one of the best meals she ate in Italy was a simple stew scattered with rocket and parmesan. She eventually tracked down the recipe. The recipe comes from the local potters who would mix chopped beef with lots of pepper, garlic, tomato and red wine, and leave it in their firing kilns to cook into melting tenderness.

A one-pot wonder. This dish literally cooks itself.

1.8kg beef shin, trimmed, cut into 5cm cubes
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
1/3 cup (95g) tomato paste
4 rosemary sprigs
1 cup (250ml) red wine
1 cup (250ml) chicken stock
2/3 cup (110g) instant polenta
Grated parmesan and rocket, to serve

1) Preheat the oven to 150°C.
2) Place the beef, garlic, anchovy fillets, tomato paste and rosemary sprigs in a flameproof casserole and season with sea salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.

Note: the cut of beef that I used for this stew was beef bolar blade.

3) Add the red wine and toss to combine, then add enough water to just cover the meat – about 1 cup (250ml).

4) Cover and bake for 4 hours until the meat is tender and the sauce is rich.

As the stew was cooking away the aroma in the kitchen got me super excited!

(If the sauce isn’t thick enough, strain the liquid into a small saucepan over high heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened, then pour back over the beef in the casserole and stir over medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes.)

5) Meanwhile, place the chicken stock in a saucepan with 1 cup (250ml) water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low, then slowly pour in the polenta in a steady stream and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes or until thick and creamy. Season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

6) Divide polenta among serving bowls and ladle over the beef stew. Scatter over parmesan and serve with rocket.

Note: I didn’t make the polenta. The stew was served with cauliflower and mashed potatoes. A good hearty meal for those cold nights.

Easy to make. Full of flavour. Deeeelicious!

This is a no-fail recipe and it’s a keeper. I can’t wait to make it again.

“Talk of joy: there may be things better than beef stew and baked potatoes and home-made bread — there may be.” ~ David Grayson, ‘Adventures in Contentment’