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’

gluten free caramel crunch brownie …

This week’s recipe is a Donna Hay recipe. It’s a brownie with a little extra indulgence – caramel and more chocolate. Seriously.

I have modified the recipe to make it gluten free.

100g dark chocolate, chopped
125g unsalted butter
1 cup (175g) brown sugar
2 eggs
⅔ cup (100g) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted *
1 tablespoon cocoa

* gluten free plain flour

caramel crunch
2 cups (440g) caster (superfine) sugar
½ cup (125ml) water
½ cup (125ml) single (pouring) cream
50g unsalted butter
2 cups (70g) puffed rice cereal *

* gluten free rice cereal

chocolate ganache
300g dark chocolate, chopped
½ cup (125ml) single (pouring) cream

1) Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
2) Place the chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over low heat and stir until melted and smooth. Set aside.

3) Place the sugar, eggs, flour and cocoa in a bowl with the chocolate mixture and mix until well combined.

4) Pour into a lightly greased 20cm-square cake tin lined with non-stick baking paper and bake for 30–35 minutes or until set. Allow to cool in the tin.

5) To make the caramel crunch, place the sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat and stir, brushing any sugar crystals from the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush.

6) When the sugar is dissolved, increase heat to high, bring to the boil and cook (do not stir) for 8–10 minutes until golden and the mixture reaches 160ºC (325ºF) on a sugar thermometer.

I didn’t read the recipe in full before starting and didn’t see the requirement for a sugar thermometer! Because I didn’t have one on hand I googled for a guide. This guide was most helpful. Crisis averted!

7) Add the cream and butter and stir until well combined.

8) Stir through the rice cereal and pour the caramel mixture over the brownie, smoothing the top. Set aside for 30 minutes at room temperature or until almost set.

9) To make the chocolate ganache, place the chocolate and cream in a saucepan over low heat and stir until melted and smooth.

10) Pour over the caramel and allow to cool at room temperature for 3 hours or until set. Slice to serve. Serves 12.

This brownie is best eaten within 2 days. Do not refrigerate.

Three layers of deliciousness. Three layers of textures.

A warning though. These brownies are very rich so it’s best to cut them into small pieces.

The next time I make these I’ll use a different sized baking pan. The square pan that I used was filled to the top. These brownies pack a lot of caramel crunch! And I may just cut down on the amount of sugar. Seriously, who needs that much sugar? Anyways these brownies are amazing and worth the mess you make in the kitchen :)

“You would be amazed by what you can give up, lose, or break, and yet still be a person who gets happy over brownies.” ~ Augusten Burroughs


gluten free guilt free chocolate banana pie …

This super easy healthy dessert recipe is one of the best recipes that I have tried lately. The recipe comes from simply gluten-free.

There’s minimal baking involved. And all you need is a food processor and a pie dish.

Crust -
1½ cups blanched almond flour
5 large medjool dates, finely chopped
Large pinch of kosher or fine sea salt
3 tablespoons coconut or grapeseed oil

Filling -
5 small, ripe bananas, cut into pieces
5 large medjool dates, chopped
1 cup light, unsweetened coconut milk
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup sliced almonds
2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped or shaved with a vegetable peeler

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 inch pie plate with gluten-free, non-stick cooking spray.
Crust -
2) Combine the almond flour, dates and salt in a food processor. Pulse until the dates and almond flour are well combined.

3) Add the oil and process until the mixture starts to come together like a dough. If the mixture is too dry add some more oil, a few drops at a time.

4) Bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until the crust has browned, it may seem soft but it will harden up as it cools. Let cool completely.

Filling -
5) Combine the bananas, dates, coconut milk, cocoa powder and vanilla in a food processor. Process until smooth.

6) Pour the mixture into the cooled pie crust, top with the sliced almonds and chopped or shaved chocolate, cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 4 hours. Can be made 1 – 2 days ahead.


About ½ hour before serving, take the pie from the freezer, remove the plastic wrap and let set at room temperature until it is soft enough to cut. Slice and serve immediately.

Wow! This pie tasted so good! The filling was silky smooth. It wasn’t overly sweet. It was light. And the bonus is that it’s, shhh …., healthy.

My brother says that it’s up there with my top desserts. And it tasted even better the next day!

“Flowers wilt, jewelry tarnishes, and candles burn out…but chocolate doesn’t hang around long enough to get old.” ~ Sr. Cocoa Loca

raw orange chocolate cheesecake …

Recently, someone at work brought in oranges and had left them in the kitchen for whoever wanted them. I wasn’t interested in taking any until I spotted this recipe from Rawmazing. So to the person who left oranges – thank you very much!

Apart from having to soak the cashews for 3 hours this recipe produces a cheesecake in no time at all.

1 cup almonds
1/4 cup cacao powder
3 dates

3 oranges
2/3 cup agave (or liquid sweetener of your choice) – I used honey
2 1/2 cups cashews (soaked at least 3 hours)
3/4 cup coconut butter
1/2 teaspoon sweet orange essential oil (optional as it is not raw but still healthy)

Tip – pre-soak the almonds and dry them as soon as you get them.

1) Combine all ingredients in the food processor and process until ground fine.

Mixture should hold together when pressed. If it doesn’t, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time until texture is achieved. Set aside 1/4 cup.

2) Press remaining into bottom of 6″ spring form pan.

3) Place in refrigerator.

1) Grate the zest off of all the oranges. You should have at least 3 tablespoons. Be careful to only get the orange part as the pith (the white) is bitter.
2) Squeeze the juice out of all the oranges. You should have about 2/3 cup.

3) Place cashews, liquid sweetener, coconut butter, zest, essential oil and orange juice in the food processor and process until very smooth.

4) Pour over crust, sprinkle extra crust on top and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

On the night that the family had this cake, it was smooth and creamy. And delicious. Chocolate and orange is a great flavour combination. It tasted even better the next day when it had a set a bit more.

Who doesn’t love a guilt-free cheesecake? Especially one that is super quick to make.

“The only way cheese is dessert is when it’s followed by the word cake.”  ~ Michele Gorman, Single in the City


limoncello …

And now for something completely different – limoncello. Limoncello is a sweet lemon flavoured Italian liqueur.

During my 2010 travels overseas, I went to a restaurant called La Tagliata which is located in a small town called Montepertuso (above Positano) along the Amalfi Coast. This is where I had my first sip of limoncello. Loved it! Couldn’t get enough of it.

After lunch our party of four went to Sorrento. Sorrento is well known for its production of limoncello so everywhere we went, there it was.

Anyways, the point of this story is that I have always wanted to make limoncello since that trip. Up until recently I thought that making limoncello was going to be a task and a half. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to find out how easy it is to make my own limoncello! And the best thing is that I’ve read that meyer lemons are the best lemons to use – which I have plenty of!

How easy is it to make limoncello? The peels (without the pith), is steeped in a spirit until the oil is released. The resulting yellow liquid is then mixed with simple syrup. Too easy!

The recipe below states to store your mixture in a dark place for a week. I stored my mixture in a dark place for 4 weeks. I wanted the flavours from the peel to really infuse into the liquid.

10 – 12 organic lemons
1 750ml bottle of vodka or high-proof spirit (an ethanol content of 28-32% is considered optimal)
2 cups sugar
2 cups water

1) Using a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife peel the lemons. Because you are getting the flavor from the peels, opt for organic produce, if you can. And make sure you wash them thoroughly.
2) Remove as much of the white pith from the peels as possible. Too much pith will make your limoncello bitter.

3) Combine the lemon peels and vodka in a clean, dry glass container with a tight-sealing lid. Store the container in a cool dark place for at least a week.

The spirit I used was vodka. The brand – Vodka O. This vodka is three times distilled from fresh seasonal whey and carbon filtered using pure Australian water.

This is actually the world’s first completely organic vodka!

4) Every 2 days, shake the jar to agitate the peels, and make sure they are releasing flavor into the vodka.
5) After at least 1 week, strain the peels out of the vodka.

6) Make simple syrup with the 2 cups of sugar and 2 cups of water. Start by bringing your water to a boil in a small saucepan.

Once it’s boiling pour in your sugar, and stir until all the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Remove from heat and let cool.

7) Combine the strained lemon vodka and simple syrup, and pour into clean, dry glass bottles.

8) Store in the freezer. Serve chilled. The high alcohol content is one of the reasons why limoncello can be kept in the freezer without turning to ice. The limoncello can be kept in the freezer for at least a year.

I had a sip of the limoncello before I put the bottle in the freezer. It was smooth and sweet.

Note: Because you only need the lemon peel to make limoncello, what do you do with the rest of the lemon? I put the juice into ice cube trays.

So in a nutshell, all you need is lemons, a bottle of vodka, sugar, water and patience.

“When life gives you lemons, grab some vodka and make limoncello!”


paleo inspired coconut choc fudge …

This recipe is from Scott Gooding and Luke Hines. They are personal trainers from Bondi. Australia got to know them when they were contestants on My Kitchen Rules in 2013.  They are right into clean living – i.e. eat clean, real, whole and local food.

The boys have released 2 books:

My brother, who works for an organic foods wholesaler, Steve’s Organics, told me about this recipe. After hearing about the recipe, I wanted to make them. (BTW, for this recipe, I bought some of the ingredients from Steve’s Organics. After all, you have to support your local small business, right?)

Now I don’t have the nous or the equipment to film my recipes but here’s a video on how to make the coconut choc fudge. The presenters? None other than Scott and Luke themselves :)

This double layered dessert is quick and easy to make. It’s a very good healthy alternative to those sugared-up fatty sweets. And delicious.

1 cup coconut oil, plus a little extra to grease the tin
1 cup almond butter
1/2 cup shredded coconut, plus a little extra to sprinkle
1/2 cup rice malt syrup
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1/3 cup raw cacao powder
1/4 cup cacao nibs

1) Line the sides and base of a 20 cm square cake tin with baking paper or grease it with coconut oil.
2) Put your coconut oil, almond butter, shredded coconut, rice malt syrup and vanilla seeds in a food processor and combine really well.

3) Scoop half of the mixture into the tin and smooth it out with a knife or spatula so it’s even all over. Place the tin in the freezer for 20 minutes until the fudge has firmed up slightly.

4) Turn the food processor on again and add the raw cacao powder. Blend until chocolatey and lovely, then spoon this mixture onto the already prepared layer in the tin.

5) Put the fudge back in the freezer for about 20–30 minutes, then take it out and cut it into squares.

6) Serve topped with the cacao nibs and extra shredded coconut. (Even though I had cacao nibs in the pantry I didn’t use them. Nor did I use the extra shredded coconut.

Tip: It’s recommended that you use vanilla seeds scraped from the bean. If you don’t have a vanilla bean, just replace the seeds with 1—2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.
Variation: Putting a layer of smashed raspberries between the two layers of fudge adds colour and a great tart flavour — try it out sometime.

Fudge is a noun, a verb, an interjection, and delicious!” ~ Terri Guillemets

gluten free sticky mandarin friands …

Friands are small French cakes, usually made with almond flour and baked in small molds.

I decided that I would make friands when, given mandarins, I searched for recipes and found one on Taste. It was a recipe for ‘Sticky Mandarin Loaves’ – the recipe stated you could make mini loaves or friands. Friands it was!

It’s a simple & quick one bowl recipe. I modified the recipe by using gluten free plain flour.

FYI, I have made these friands twice and, in my opinion, blanched almond meal is better to use than the natural almond meal.

Blanched almond meal is made from almonds with the skins removed.

Natural almond meal is made from whole almonds with the skins intact and has a speckled appearance.

125g butter, softened
1 cup (215g) caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon finely grated mandarin rind
1/2 cup (55g) almond meal
3/4 cup (115g) plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup (60g) natural yoghurt
1/2 cup (100g) caster sugar, extra
1/4 cup (60ml) lemon juice
1/4 cup (60ml) mandarin juice
White sugar, to sprinkle
Shredded mandarin peel, to decorate

1) Preheat oven to 160°C.
2) Grease twelve 1/2 cup (125ml) capacity loaf or friand pans. Place on an oven tray.

3) Use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy.

4) Add eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.

5) Add mandarin rind, almond meal, flour, baking powder and yoghurt and stir to combine.

6) Spoon evenly among pans and smooth over.

7) Bake for 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

8) Combine the extra sugar, lemon and mandarin juice in a saucepan over low heat.

9) Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves.
10) Increase heat to high and bring to the boil. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until syrup thickens.

11) Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly. Pour evenly over each cake and set aside to cool slightly. Top with sugar and peel to serve.

The friands, served for afternoon tea, were light, moist, and tangy.

Great taste and smooth texture. They are just the cutest things! I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the friands were to make. I highly recommend this recipe.

“The first thing I see is the gluten-free section, filled with crackers and bread made from various wheat substitutes such as cardboard and sawdust. I skip this aisle because I’m not rich enough to have dietary restrictions.” ~ Anonymous