Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Recipe: Gluten Free Lemonies

Do you have a favourite flavour? Something that just the thought of gets your mouth watering and the mention of on a menu means you must choose it? I have several: vanilla, raspberry, hazelnut, cinnamon, dark chocolate. But if I had to pick a single one, it would be lemon. I love all citrus but lemon reigns supreme. I am that person who eats the lemon slices in my drink, or sucks on a lemon wedge making my mother laugh with my yellow lemon grin.

In recent weeks I've been on a lemon binge. Several of my colleagues have very productive trees so I've been bringing home bags of lemons from the office. S was a little worried how we would use them up but after I made lemon cordial, lemon bars and lemon and poppyseed drizzle cake in a single day he realised he had nothing to be concerned about.

Lemon Bars from http://www.eatliverun.com/big-sur-lemon-bars/
If all of that wasn't enough, whilst browsing the internet I discovered Averie Cook's Lemon Lemonies, a fantastic take on a blondie packed with lemon flavour and I couldn't wait to find an opportunity to make them. Luckily one popped up quite quickly but due to the participants required a gluten free version. The following recipe is largely true to the original but is gluten free and Aussie friendly.

I have found that simply substituting gluten free flour for plain does not give a good texture and is often a bit dry. Instead I use a mix of gluten free flour, rice flour and ground almonds that tastes great and gives a fantastic texture. These are definitely LEMONY, there is no mistaking the flavour but if you love lemon like I do, I'm sure you will love them.

Gluten Free Lemonies - adapted from Averie Cooks

3/4 cup white chocolate chips
115g butter
2 extra large eggs (roughly 60g each)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup gluten free flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup ground almonds

2 cups icing sugar
about 1/3 cup lemon juice
about 1 tablespoon lemon zest

Preheat oven to 180oC (170oC fan forced). Line a 20x20 cm baking pan with baking paper and grease any corners where the baking paper doesn’t quite meet.

Melt together the white chocolate and butter. I generally do this over a double boiler as it is very easy to overheat the white chocolate and cause it to seize but you can do it in very short bursts in the microwave, stirring thoroughly in between.

Allow to cool for a minute then whisk in the eggs one at a time, followed by the sugar and lemon juice, whisking till all is combined and light and fluffy.

Fold the gluten free flour, rice flour and ground almonds into the mixture until just combined, don't overmix.

Pour mix into the prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean, or with a few moist crumbs. Leave to rest for 10-15 minutes

Meanwhile whisk icing sugar and lemon juice until smooth. The glaze should be thick but pourable which might require slightly more juice.

Pour glaze over the lemonies while still warm and in their tin. It should self level but you may need to smooth it over to the edges. Sprinkle with lemon zest (I grated it directly over).

Leave in the pan for several hours, or even overnight if you can fit your pan in an airtight container, so that the glaze sets before cutting into bars.

According to the original recipe the bars will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months but I doubt they will ever last that long, they are too delicious!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Random Musings: Sourdough


For the last few years I've been fascinated by sourdough bread - don't worry I'm completely aware how weird I am. I love the idea that because the starter is built on the natural yeasts in your environment, every one is slightly different and unique to you. I also greatly prefer the slightly sour taste.

However, as is often the case with things you only know a little about, I had decided that it was not for me as I would be unlikely to make a bread a week, let along every second day which is what it seemed like it was designed for. Not only that but I doubted that I would be able to apply the diligence to keep the starter alive when I had read things about the requirement for 12 hour feeds etc. So making my own sourdough went in the "sometime in the mythical future" basket.

But as often happens, fate intervened in the form of the amazing women from the CWA. Just before Easter Mum saw an ad for a bread making course which was initially full but a cancellation let her attend. It was all about sourdough and she came back completely enthused. We visited for the long weekend and over the course of a few days, that enthusiasm spread. We played with bread producing delicious loaves all weekend and as we left to come home, she presented me with a jar of starter. So there I was, I had starter, I had some basic knowledge, the time to play with it had come.

Since then I've found that you can successfully keep your starter in the fridge. I feed mine once a week and make bread roughly every fortnight as we aren't huge bread eaters and sourdough bread has the benefit that it doesn't go stale like regular bread.

I feel irrationally proud when I feed my starter and it bubbles up indicating it is really active. And don't get me started on how exciting I find it when my initial mix (known as sponge) triples in size over night and becomes the base for a great loaf.

I tend to use Laucke bread mixes as the base as they are excellent quality flours, have a great balance of salt and come in a range of interesting mixes. We have been enjoying both the Crusty White and German Grain in recent times.

I've also had a go at making sourdough crackers and pancakes are next on my list.

The whole experience has reminded me of that lesson that I should really have learned by now which is that very few activities are beyond our ability to learn or at least have a go. Pre-conceived notions are filled with lack of knowledge and prejudice so if you are fascinated by something, why not give it a try. After all the result could be Saturday mornings with fresh bread for breakfast like it is in my house now!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Restaurant Review: Grease Monkey

I really like a hamburger, but S loves one. He rates a place on their ability to create the perfect patty, with appropriate juiciness, good accompaniments and a balanced bun. If there is a burger on the menu, you can pretty much guarantee that is what he is having. So when my Instagram feed began to fill up with pictures of burgers from the new kid on the block, Grease Monkey, I knew we had to give it a go.

Grease Monkey is the latest addition to Lonsdale Street in Braddon. I used to work in Braddon when it was home to a bunch of dodgy takeaway joints, saved only by the pizza at Debacle. I remember the excitement when Zamberros opened there. These days however it is filled with quirky, innovative and original eateries. Grease Monkey joins the throng with a very specific menu, there are burgers, a few sides (chips, coleslaw, mash and gravy) and fried chicken - think American burger joint.

The fitout has had a lot of write ups and after being there I can see why. They have managed to retain the feel of the old mechanic's shop that used to be on the site while also creating a funky, buzzy space. We sat inside at the bar and I have to say the bar stools are a little short. We are tall and sitting there the bar was at chest height so you wouldn't want to be much shorter. I think the outside courtyard will be a big hit when the warm weather returns.

Grease Monkey burgers are traditional American burgers. Yes they have a vegetarian burger but I wouldn't class these as "gourmet" burgers, the like of Brodburger or Grill'd, they are much more of what pops into my mind when I think of a traditional burger. We actually commented that this was a McDonalds burger done right. I don't mean that to sound at all derogatory, what I mean is that with their slightly sweet bun, pickles, special sauce, and fresh ingredients they have the balance that McDonalds spent so long perfecting but with fresh, flavorful, tasty ingredients.

In the interests of a good review we should have each ordered a different burger but in the interests of what we wanted to eat, we both got a "full service" - beef patty, bacon, egg, cheese, pineapple, lettuce, tomato, beetroot, onion, GM ketchup - $17. I had mine minus the pineapple and onion, S had his minus the beetroot. The GM ketchup is their own special sauce, a mayonnaisey, mustardy take on ketchup that is finger licken good.

We found the burgers to be a good size, they filled you up without stuffing yourself silly. I always feel too full when I finish a Brodburger or London Burger Bar burger - not that I ever don't finish them. The burgers came with chips that had a great seasoning on them and they disappeared very quickly, I loved them.

Service was good, it was only a 15 minute wait for our meals and the place was pretty full. We overheard someone say that they did 240kg of beef on their first day, so they have managed to get the kitchen up and functioning really well remarkably fast. It was busy and we were lucky to score seats but we noticed that patrons turned over fairly quickly (the fast service no doubt helps) so the wait for a table shouldn't be too long.

Overall we really enjoyed our burgers and would happily come back again if friends wanted to but probably wouldn't go out of our way to get there. But if you like a good, traditional burger then I would say, you will be well satisfied by Grease Monkey.

Grease Monkey
19 Lonsdale Street (cnr Lonsdale St and Elouera St)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Restaurant Review: Pod Food Degustation Breakfast

One of the brilliant things about having a bunch of foodies as friends is that the moment will invariably arrive when someone says something along the lines of "I've heard of a place that does a degustation breakfast" and shortly thereafter you will find yourself sitting down to such a breakfast.

The location for our 4 course breakfast was Pod Food, the little restaurant tucked away behind the nurseries at Pialligo. I've been there previously for one of their chef's favourites degustation dinners. That occasion was a balmy summer evening with a riotous table of 14 on their deck. This time a slightly more sedate group of 6 were seated inside in the heating which was a good idea on a cold, yet sunny Canberra morning, although I did walk through the deck to the toilet and noticed that it was quite warm out there with the plastic walls down and the sun shining in.

We were treated to 4 delicious courses for $40 plus drinks. As it was truffle season we could have upgraded to include truffle but we chose to stick to the regular menu this time.

First up was pearl barley porridge served with spiced date gel and poached pear and quince. Being a cold morning I was glad it was a warm starter and despite an appropriately degustation small size it was still quite filling. I personally don't love pearl barley, I find it a bit "grainy" but it did taste great matched with the date gel and poached fruit. The freeze dried orange that topped it also added some nice texture but surprisingly little flavour.

Our second course was for most people the pick of the meal. New to the menu, the pan fried gnocchi with pork belly, wilted cos lettuce, peas and a 65°c free range egg cracked to order, was divine. The salty, crispy pork belly perfectly complimented the gooey but not runny egg. I'd never thought of having gnocchi in a breakfast but it was ideal to soak up excess egg yolk and the peas and cos added a note of sweetness and freshness. I probably had the least photographic dish at the table, I should have stolen my brother in law's dish but it was also extremely visually appealing.

It was a hard dish to live up to and for me our third dish while still super tasty didn't quite make it. The third course was scrambled eggs with chorizo, pecorino and pearl onions on white sourdough. Again incredibly tasty, the eggs were just right which is hard with scrambled eggs that I often find are over done. The chorizo was tasty, the onion sweet and caramlised and it all worked well with the bread, it just didn't quite have the zing of dish two.

To round out our breakfast, the fourth course was a breakfast dessert of a ricotta hotcake topped with rhubarb, freeze dried mandarin and vanilla bean icecream. While definitely enjoyable, this was probably the weakest dish for me. When it first came out I thought the freeze dried mandarin was honeycomb and I wish it had been as the mandarin didn't have a strong flavour and I thought the dish could have used that extra element. However the hotcake was nicely spiced, the rhubarb delicious and the icecream was lovely.

We accompanied our breakfast with a range of teas, coffees and Belgium hot chocolates. A few people also tried the locally cold pressed apple juice which comes out almost clear like water but with a strong, crisp apple flavour.

The breakfast degustation is only available for bookings until 10am as it does take about 1.5 hours to enjoy but that leaves you finished in enough time to have a lovely wander through the nurseries or like me provides the opportunity to pop down the road to Bison Homewears to stock up on a few non-essential but utterly beautiful items.

Overall I loved the breakfast. I think that the price is great, the portion sizes were perfect, the food interesting and inventive and I would certainly be happy to return to see how the menu changes through the seasons.

Pod Food
12 Beltana Road

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Random Musings: Wednesday Breakfast Club

If you follow me on Instagram you will know I post a lot of photos of food. Food I've made, food I've eaten, food I'm thinking about. One of the regular things is a shot of my breakfast every Wednesday morning as part of Heidi from Apples Under My Bed's Wednesday Breakfast Club.

Wednesday Breakfast Club aims to give everyone a little bit of mid-week inspiration and I love it. I don't know about you but I don't generally put a lot of thought into my week-day breakfasts and as a result can go months and months just eating the same thing. There is nothing wrong with that but it does get boring.

Now, I'm thinking about my breakfast. Thinking about how I can elevate it to be "Instagram Worthy" with different dishes, toppings, fruits, styling etc.

It is mid-week inspiration. It has got me out of a rut and I'm eating better for it, even if breakfast on a Wednesday takes 15 minutes longer to allow for styling and photography!

If you don't follow me on Instagram but you are really keen to see what I'm having for breakfast today, you can find me at lisablithemoments and I challenge you to join the club and give some thought to making breakfast an interesting meal.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Book Review: The Night Circus

The circus arrives without warning.
No announcements precede it ... 
it is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

And so begins the enchanting tale of "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern which I've just finished reading for the second time.

I love to read, but it is fairly rare for me to read a book twice, however I knew I had to re-read this book well before I finished it the first time. The tale is so intricate, layers of detail, jumping in time, space and perspective. Details are revealed that you do not realise the import of until much later, all of which makes for a captivating re-read filled with ah-ha moments.

The first time I read it, I just enjoyed being swept along with this tale of an impossible circus, an intricate game and an unconventional love story. The second time I read it with the internet open to fully understand the meaning of tarot sessions, noting details and meaning I had missed before and in a way being like the fortune teller who can understand what is to come.

It is hard to provide a synopsis of the story without revealing details that are a joy to discover. It is a fantasy filled with magic, but written in a way that my mother who gets annoyed at fantasy and magic still enjoyed. It is a romantic love story without crossing the bounds into the true romance genre. It is an adventure without feeling dangerous. And somehow everything in it seems perfectly plausible within the monochrome walls of mysterious circus.

It is also beautifully written. Erin Morgenstern has not only crafted a great story, she has structured it in a complex and layered manner that makes it as much a discovery as a good read.

If you enjoy a little magic, like a journey of discovery and most likely are prepared to read it twice, I think you will love The Night Circus.