10 December 2012

Omani Lobster with za’atar and garlic

Omani Lobster is presently a little overfished, but just once in a while, it’s a super way to turn things up for a celebration. This is a claw-less variety, and so is easy to prepare and eat. Simply use the tails, and if you want to keep waste to a minimum, use the legs to make a stock and freeze it for later.

Lobster tails are easy to cook – simply grill until the flesh is translucent – then take them off the heat and eat immediately - it will continue to cook a little in that shell until it's cracked open like a Christmas present. Za’atar is a local narrow and long-leaved thyme relative known elsewhere in the world as winter savoury.

  • 2 Lobster tails, cleaned
  • fresh za’atar – about 12 stems
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt, pepper and lemon to taste

Roasted Vegetable Salad

This is such a vibrant salad. Considering it is so hot here, even over Christmas, not everyone wants a bowl of hot roasted vegetables. It’s easy to prepare before-hand and features plenty of local and seasonal ingredients. It’s wonderful with turkey, but also makes a great accompaniment to grilled seafood.

  • 500g pumpkin, peeled and cubed
  • 1 bunch of radishes
  • 5 small beetroots, quartered
  • 250g roca (arugula)
  • 1 tbsp warm water
  • 1 big pinch of saffron
  • 1 tsp honey
  • coarse salt to taste
  • ¼ cup flaked almonds
  • 2 tbsp labneh
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • squeeze of lemon
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • herbs for garnish (za’atar or coriander)

Gingerbread lamp with stained glass

I've been inspired by the region - hard not to be really. Last year, we made a gingerbread house, and it turned out quite nicely. But the snow on the roof and the Hansel and Gretel theme doesn't really gel in this part of the world. So, here is a Middle-Eastern-Appropriate gingerbread, both in flavour and construction. And you know what? Easier than it looks...

  • 250g butter, softened 
  • 2/3 cup soft brown sugar 
  • 1/2 cup date honey (dhibs)
    2 eggs, beaten 
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup self raising flour
  • 2 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 15-20 clear boiled sweets (lollies), crushed with a mortar and pestle into coarse powder.

Roast Turkey with Freekeh

 Ok - this is not the easiest part of a Christmas Dinner, and so breaks my usual slap-dash rules of only 3-4 steps. Sorry about that - nothing to do. It is however not a hard recipe as far as roast turkeys go - just a simple roast, no brining or anything like that. Let's start you with the stuffing, which is really just chopping, browning and stirring, then I'll move through the trickier bits...

Freekeh Stuffing Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra, to drizzle
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 150g minced veal
  • 205g (1¼ cups) freekeh (washed well and soaked for 1 hour)
  • 2 tsp shawarma spice
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 750ml (3 cups) chicken stock or water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • ½ cup pistachios
  • ¼ cup dried barberries
  • Salt and pepper to taste

20 November 2012

Gluten Free, Dairy Free cupcakes – as easy as 1, 2, 3

It’s amazing where your best recipes come from. This was my son’s maths homework. His male, non-cooking teacher sent home a recipe that was to be used to practice multiplication. He sent home the ingredients for 6 cupcakes, and asked students to make him 12 or 18 at a time. With my kids being on a gluten free diet, I substituted the self raising flour mix by Doves Farm. I also substituted the caster sugar for some coconut sugar I had just picked up from the organic shop (less processed = better for the soul). The recipe was already dairy free.

It’s one of the only cake batters I’ve made that does not contain milk or at least a liquid substitute, and I was convinced it was going to be rock hard – not so. Eggs are mighty little ingredients. Recipe below makes 6 cupcakes – but can easily be multiplied, as my son can vouch for.

14 November 2012

Batheeth pies

Wow - haven't posted a recipe in ages. It's silly season again, that's why. Only time for silliness, nothing else. In the midst, I have been preparing some Christmas recipes for Ahlan Gourmet. They are a twist on the original, and bring a little of the Middle East into the traditional English recipes.

The first is Batheeth pies - a replacement to mince pies, which incidently I hate. I love looking at them, but they're so rich and unbalanced that I rarely find one I like. These however I have been eating by the dozen. Batheeth is something I was introduced to by a fellow food blogger -  La Mere Culinaire - at her own home (I wrote about the experience here - fab day, cooking with her mum.) It's a date and spice mix, with flour and ghee to bind. Very commonly seen on Emirati tables - it's very easy to make, and tastes great with a coffee (or gahwa)


For the batheeth:

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 ½ cups chopped dried dates
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • ¼ cup good quality ghee
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • pinch salt

14 October 2012

Granny's Tuna Curry

Ok - so this is not very gourmet. I've discussed Gran's cooking here. Saying that however, this is one of the favourite dishes in this house, particularly with the kids. Even Mary has been known to say she likes this one, although she might just be showing respect to elders, because this resembles no curry that Mary has ever cooked. It also breaks the rule for all those old wives out there who believe that consuming fish and milk can cause vitiligo (but this is totally unproven). This recipe was designed to include entirely canned and frozen ingredients. Bonus. Yep, super gourmet...

  • 350g tinned tuna in brine (two medium tins) - drained
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup tinned baby carrots (drained)
  • 2 tbsp oil (canola)
  • 1 tbsp butter (I use ghee)
  • 2 tsp mild curry powder (Gran recommends Clive of India brand)
  • 2 tbsp flour (yes, you can use gluten free)
  • 1 cup milk (I use CF diet milk, but rice milk also works)
  • salt to taste

Paneer Pakeeza

This recipe, shared by Ms. Ruchi Khanna was the runner up in a recent Grandma's Recipe comp at Mumtaz Mahal (details here). It is a creamy, rich, korma style sauce with some clever little stuffed paneer parcels. 

  • For the Stuffing
  • 400 grams Paneer
  • 1 tbsp chopped green chili
  • 1 tbsp coriander chatni
  • 1⁄2 tsp coconut powder
  • 2 tsp cheese cream
  • 1 tsp of ginger paste
  • 1⁄2 tsp of mustard seeds
  • 1⁄4 tbsp of red chili powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Manudevi's Delhi Breakfast

This is the winning dish from Mumtaz Mahal's recent "Grandma's Recipes" competition. Ms. Ritu Chaturvedi has been kind enough to share it with me and allow it to be added to the blog. This is a traditional breakfast made of three main components - the bread (or Puri/poori), and the curries to dip it in - one a sweet pumpkin, and the other a tangy potato and tomato curry.

Bedmi Poori

A bread made of wheat flour and stuffed with ground white lentil. These are heavier than the regular puris (good recipe for the traditionals here).

  • Dough
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1cup Semolina
  • 1tsp Chickpea flour
  • 2tsp Butter
  • Salt to taste

Shorisha Elish with touri & mango

This is a gorgeous curry made by Ms. Tapashe Podder, for the Grandma's Recipes competition recently at Mumtaz Mahal Restaurant. She has kindly allowed me to share the recipe on my blog. Notes below outline some of the tricky ingredients. This is a verbatim copy of Ms Tapashe's Grandmother's recipe, so any instructions that seem a little ambiguous have also been clarified below.


Hilsa fish= 6 pieces ①
Mustard seed paste= 1 tbsp
Touri paste= made of 2 big touris ②
Mango boiled= 2 tsp ③
Green chilli= 5-6 pieces
Sliced onions= 6-7 medim onion
Turmeric powder= 1 tsp
Red chilli powder= 1 tsp
Cumin powder= 1 tsp
Coriander powder= 1 tsp
Salt to taste 
Oil= 1 cup


03 October 2012

Sarah's Summer Pudding

Summer Pudding. It's one of those things I wish I could like, but I just loathe the delivery. Yucky sliced white bread soaked in sloppy juice. The concept is great - oodles of magenta sugary bombs wrapped in a secret parcel, but I just keep on coming back to the bread, which would probably taste much better with a slice of plastic cheese on it. The name "Summer Pudding" should conjure feelings of sweetness and light, and yet it's been hijacked by a lump of soggy purple bread. So - here's MY summer pudding. So much better.

  • stale cake - enough to cover the bottom of your bowl
  • mixed berries - twice the volume of your cake - make sure at least 1/3 is tinned in juice.
  • white chocolate (about 100 - 150g)
  • whipping cream (same volume as cake)

24 September 2012

Kiddies Corn Fritters

These have always a staple in our family. I think they started off as a breakfast item, but now they are one of the most frequently requested dinner veggies, and I always save some for the lunchbox the next day.

Considering we have switched to being gluten and dairy free, they've seen a little adjustment. I now use a gluten flour mix (Doves Farm self raising) and I replace cow's milk with camel milk (easy to buy here in Dubai, low in bad casein, and a creamier replica than soy or rice milk). The recipe tastes just as good either way.

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 x 340g tin of sweet corn (12 Oz)
  • 3/4 cup self raising flour
  • 1/2 cup milk 
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • pinch salt
  • pinch smoked paprika

23 September 2012

Pomegranate and Quinoa salad

I've just discovered that you can cook quinoa in a rice cooker. This means no more sticky-together or crunchy bits, no more burned quinoa stuck to the bottom of the pan, and no more constant checking. Just plop in 2 cups of quinoa to 4 cups of water, turn it on and go away.

As a result, I'm finally cooking more quinoa.

Quinoa has a very woody flavour, and it needs something with it to temper the strength of this, particularly if you are trying to get kids to eat it. I've tried it warm and curried (here), which I thought was pretty good, but it got the definite thumbs down from the kids. This time, I served it cold, and to balance the raw and dusty flavour, added pomegranate seeds for sweetness and mint for freshness. And pine nuts, just because I like them.

16 September 2012

Tiger Fish

Well, it's not actually tiger-fish. That's just for the benefit of Goldilocks, my picky 5 year old. He hates just about everything, except the things I can't feed him, namely gluten and dairy. Oh, and sugar of course. He LOVES sugar. With Goldilocks, it's all in the eye though. If it looks good, he'll probably taste it at least. Today, I worked on his new love of marine animals, and everything ocean, and promised him the rarest fish in the world, the kind that's striped, even after you cook it.

This dish has the benefit of having nori, which is stacked with iodine, a nutrient hard to find elsewhere in a child's diet (except for salt). And considering it is vital for healthy thyroid function and brain development, it's something we need to watch. "iodine deficiency during infancy may result in abdominal brain development and, consequently, impaired intellectual development" (www.mineralifeonline.com) Holy cow. Hope it's not too late...

  • fillets of firm white fleshed fish (eg. Hamour/grouper, Snapper, Mahi Mahi)
  • toasted nori (the green one), cut with scissors into thin strips
  • tapioca starch
  • egg - beaten
  • cool water
  • canola oil for frying 

13 September 2012

Beef Daube Provencal

I love stews, particularly French ones. Unfortunately however, I can't get my kids to adore Boeuf Bourguignon the way I do. It's not just the mushrooms they can't stand, but the overall richness. In a recent trip to Provence however, I discovered the lighter, mushroom-free alternative. It's only been around for hundreds of years, but for some reason, I feel the need to put my own little recipe up. It's very simple - almost impossible to mess up, and yes, the kids love this one.

  • 750g beef - iceblock sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 100g lardons (streaky bacon, diced) 
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • dash of good sherry vinegar (substitute with balsamic if you can't find it)
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 large carrots
  • 10-15 pearl onions (or eshallot) peeled but left in tact.
  • 1 bouquet garnis (or 2-3 tsp mixed herbes de provence)
  • 1/2 tsp celery seeds
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • salt and white pepper to taste

03 September 2012

Gluten free, casein free cupcakes that don't have the texture of rocks

Gluten free and dairy free cooking is getting easier. It's pretty common now to find plenty of options even at basic stores. A recent trip to France showed me that even in the world of baguettes and Brie, a country Leclerc sells gluten free flour and soy cream as standard.

But the problem is that these substitutes are not perfect - you just won't get the same result as if you had used standard flour or butter. I'm getting better at making up for this though, and here are a couple of tips for cake making:

Use ghee instead of oil or margarine. Ghee is usually casein and lactose free because all the milk solids are taken off in the process, basically leaving some gorgeous tasting fat. Don't tell yourself it's good for you, but as long as you're not spooning it onto your breakfast cereal, it's not really that bad in moderation. Vegetable ghee is another alternative, but as it is hydrogenated to give it the correct texture and appearance, it's probably best avoided (nasty trans fats). If you are highly allergic to dairy, you should probably stick to Nuttelex or canola oil - sorry about that.

29 August 2012

Gazpacio of red capsicum with prawns

It's hard not to get inspired in Provence. Sometimes I replicate what I eat to the best of my ability, sometimes I ask the chef for the recipe, and others, I take pieces of inspiration from the dish and create something a little more me. This is the first kind, replicated from an incredible gazpacio de poivron avec gambas from La Bastide de Gordes to the best of my ability. 
The rest of my post on Gordes can be found here - the recipe resides below. 

For the soup:
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
  • 2 red capsicums (peppers)
  • 1 medium continental cucumber (or 2 small lebanese), peeled, deseeded and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small salad onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp creme fraiche
  • salt, pepper, brown sugar and tabasco to taste

11 August 2012

Provincial Lavender and Honey Cake

Below is a honey and lavender bundt I prepared for my children. They are dairy and gluten intolerant, so I have made accordingly – it would possibly taste better with softened butter to replace the oil, cows' milk, and a light country wheat flour to replace my gluten free mix. It's a recipe following my post on cooking with lavender, and its multitude of culinary uses.

Don't you love a little Provincial inspiration?


  • 4 cups (Schar Patisserie) gluten free flour 
  • 8 tsp gluten free baking powder 
  • ¾ cup rice milk 
  • ¾ cup canola (rapeseed) oil 
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • ½ tsp vanilla 
  • 1 cup honey 
  • 3 eggs 
  • 2 tsp lavender buds (or 3-4 full flowers) 

28 July 2012

Caramel and Chestnut pie

Still in France, and finding it hard to stay gluten and dairy free. But the way I figure it, it's only the kids who are supposed to be on that diet, so I'm allowed to fall off the wagon for a month. I love the pastry available in the supermarket here - there are many kinds, brisée is a shortcrust pastry, and there are also some labeled as pizza pastry. I bought some gorgeous pre-made french puff pastry known here as feuillete. This utilises several ingredients that are easily found in french supermarkets, and now in many gourmet stores around the world. Even my local sells French feuillete by the roll and tinned chestnuts (marron).

  • 100g butter with salt crystals
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups prepared chestnuts (can be bought like this in tins or vacuum packs)
  • 1 sheet round feuillete pastry
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • more caster sugar for sprinkling

17 July 2012

Cherry Frangipane

A trip to a provincial market is always inspiring, but the recent one I took to Tarascon, in the Bouche du Rhone departement was an eyeful of the grandest degree. I came home with a bundle of goodies, not the least, but the cheapest, being a half kilo of deep purple ripe cherries for the grand total of 1.41Euros. It was hard to look at them and not think of Frangipane. The recipe below sounds a little fiddly, but it's not really - its just a matter of getting the ingredients laid out.

  • 300ml and 100ml almond flour (meal)
  • 1 1/2 cups gluten free flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 120g and 80g butter softened and chopped (or use dairy free margarine)
  • 100ml plus 2 tbsp sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 300g cherries, halved and destoned
  • 2 tbsp cassis jelly and a dash of champagne (optional)

04 July 2012

Gluten free, Dairy Free Oreos

Did you know that standard Oreos are dairy free? That means the basic recipe is very easy to adjust to also make it gluten free. My kids discovered Oreos during a minor lapse of dietry judgement on holidays, and to stop the tears at the emd of the trip, I promised I would research it. 

I've adapted a recipe from bakingbites.com, and apart from a tiny tweak in the liquid ratio, it works well. I also added a pinch of salt. Because everything tastes better with salt... 

(Measurements are American - a cup = 200ml and a tablespoon = 15ml)

  • 2 cups gluten free flour (I used Schar Dolci)
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup real cocoa
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch (make sure it's gluten free!)
  • 1/2 cup vegetarian shortening or margarine
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch salt 

01 July 2012

Poached Pears

I usually avoid fruit desserts. They are naughty things pretending to be healthy. I'd much rather eat something healthy pretending to be naughty. Hence the drunken pears. They feel so naughty as you glug in the red wine, but we all know what happens to alcohol when you cook it down. Sure, there's a little added sugar, but if you leave the double cream off, then this cheeky little number isn't really that bad at all, especially compared to a fruit flan or pina colada. And as easy as whipping up a cocktail...

  • 4 pears, peeled
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • 1 star anise
  • 250ml rich red wine (eg. Aussie Shiraz)
  • 250ml water
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup (or brown sugar)

  1. plonk all in a pot with a lid, and bake in a 170℃ (340℉) for an hour, turning once.

26 June 2012

Dairy-free Carbonara

Did you know that traditional carbonara recipes often don't contain cream? It's amazing, isn't it, that you can get a creamy sauce without using cream. Think about mayonnaise. It also doesn't contain cream (if you make it yourself - who knows what they put in the jar). Egg yolks are amazing little things - they have so many properties, and when you whip them up with olive oil, they go all creamy. 

Unfortunately, carbonara has always contained cheese. So to make up for lack of the flavour this adds, I've added a little extra salt, a touch of paprika and some crushed garlic.

  • 500g Pasta (I used gluten free macaroni)
  • 400g bacon, trimmed and chopped (I used a smoked pork fillet)
  • 3 egg yolks*
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • salt and paprika to taste
  • chopped chives or parsley for garnish 

24 June 2012

Let them eat cake - gluten free eggy bread

The greatest things missed by kids when attempting a gluten free and casein free diet are bread and cheese. I'll get to cheese in another post, but today I'm tackling the daily staple. 

There are ways of making gluten free bread. I have tried tackling it myself, and I have sampled just about every bread mix on the shelf (by the way - I think Springhill Farm is the best one, followed after a large gap by Red Mill and Schär).  It is very possible to make a gluten free bread that tastes good, warm out of the oven with a drizzle of olive oil and some pink salt. But that's the end of it. As soon as it cools down, it the texture rests somewhere between a bag of breadcrumbs and corragated cardboard. The only rescue from this time on is toasting. So how do I put sandwiches in the kids' lunchboxes and send them off to school to eat it four hours later?

I let them eat cake.

I drew my inspiration from old fashioned soda bread. I've made this with some success with gluten free flour. I added in another trick I have learned - separate the eggs and beat the whites into soft peaks to add later - this helps the dense gluten free mix to gain a little air. I also added some extra yolk, because: 1 - I had some left from making meringues the night before, and 2 - because I thought it might add a little glue or chew to the mix, as gluten free flour is notoriously crumbly. Apart from that, I simply adjusted my own banana cake mix. Success!

08 June 2012

Cream of Pumpkin Soup

How do you make a cream of pumpkin soup without cream?

Easy – tofu. Not all dairy can be replaced with soy, but if you are living a dairy-free lifestyle like my family is, you will find there are some things that go together. Espresso coffee and soy milk? Not so good. But Pumpkin and silken tofu? Perfect. Most silken tofu actually has less flavor than soy milk, and its dense texture is perfect for blending – none of those miso soup style soy whirlpools. If you hadn’t been warned this was dairy free, you would swear it was full of cream.

  • Pumpkin* – about 500 - 750g, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large onion – chopped
  • 200g diced bacon
  • 2 cloves garlic – crushed
  • slurp of olive oil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 bouquet garnis pouch (or a teaspoon of mixed dried herbs like thyme and sage and bay leaf)
  • 1 vegetable bouillon and 1.5L of water (or 1.5L of stock)
  • 1 packet silken tofu (about 400g)
  • salt and white pepper to taste

28 May 2012

Coconut and Jaggery cake

In my constant search for less processed foods, I recently discovered jaggery. Over here in Dubai, it is fortunately very easy to find, and is cheap - ranging from less than the equivalent of $1 per 500g packet up to about $10, depending on quality.

Like sugar, jaggery usually comes from sugar cane (it also comes from sago, coconut and date palms), but it is a softer, crumbly substance made from the unprocessed and unrefined cane juice (simply boiled until it becomes a paste), then poured into moulds to set. It does not undergo any bleaching or refining of any kind, and so retains its natural colour, fiber, mineral salts and flavour. It is known to release energy slower than processed sugar, making it better for people with blood sugar issues. 

But the price, process and the health benefits are not the only reason I love it. It tastes amazing. The mineral salts can be detected, and the molasses tint gives it a flavour almost like salted caramel. It is just so much more complex than sugar. It melts easily, can be cut off in shards for nibbling, and can be crushed in a blender.

24 May 2012

Frittata v Spanish omelet

I've made breakfast on new years day for 40 party-sore camping revellers. It was my first ever 96-egg omelet. I made it in a iron pan twice the size of a baby bath dragged out of the garage and thrown over some hot coals left from the night before. It earned me a return invitation for the following year's party, and a reputation - the fact that I could prepare a yummy breakfast for so many people without warning, and with the mother of all hangovers made me a 'good cook'. They didn't know that it was because when I was 14, my mum showed me how to make a frittata, and she's a self-declared 'particularly average cook'.

It's the easiest thing in the world to make - just make a thick omelet with your leftovers and grill some cheese on top. I have one rule with my frittata - it has to contain potato. This is where the whole confusion of the name comes in. Many people call a frittata a spanish omelet and vice versa. Both are thick, and need to be cooked top and bottom unlike a regular omelet, but a Spanish omelet must contain potato, and in fact, often that's all it contains besides the egg and some spices. So, in fact, my 'frittata' is probably a Spanish omelet, especially when I throw chorizo in it. (what it definitely isn't is kookoo - a Persian herb omelet, which sounds amazing and deserves further investigation). But then again, who said a frittata couldn't contain potato...?


08 May 2012

Orange jellies

We're going on a time warp here - back to a time when I used to dream about these in the weeks of lead-up to my birthday party. My mum was fairly anti white-bread, definitely anti-sugar and not much of a baker, but she used to make these sunshine smiles with plain old oranges and a packet of tartrazine-fueled jello. As far as a kid's concerned, that's probably better than my all-natural, no colour, no preservative, low sugar version below. But, this is almost as easy, and healthy enough to pop in a school lunchbox for kids who otherwise refuse to eat fruit. And it's really all about that orange-peel grin in the aftermath anyway...

  • 6 oranges
  • 10g packet gelatin
  • 2 tbsp raw sugar
  • water (about 200ml, depending on oranges)

27 April 2012

Chicken and camel milk tagine

 I have a new tagine. It's a fancy one - Staub. It cost way too much, but it's the first tagine I've had that does the full job - it works on the stovetop, and in the oven. Until now, I've used a 45 year old enamel pot that came to me through my mother in law, and I will still use that lovely pot, but the added bonus with a tagine like this is that it looks damn good on a table.

I'm still inspired by my trip to Jordan, and after cooking mansaf the other day, I thought of my tagine, and chicken. Chicken is so tender and juicy when poached in milk. Jamie Oliver has a great recipe that I had made when my family still included regular dairy in the diet. But now I use camel milk due to its better casein profile. It also has a richer flavour, a light tang and an incredible creaminess despite its low fat content. Camel milk is readily available here in Dubai - for those who can't find it, substitute with buttermilk rather than regular milk, otherwise it will be a little bland, as I use fillets in this recipe rather than a whole chicken.

25 April 2012

Garam Masala Muffins

I was invited to go and have a chat with some lovely people on Dubai Eye Radio today (about food blogs), and realised with an hour before leaving time that I probably shouldn't turn up empty handed. So, I grabbed a ramshackle bunch of ingredients out of the cupboard and threw them together.

The recipe is quite formulaic - I make this kind of thing for the kids all the time now. You will find it is quite similar to many of my cupcake or muffin recipes already on here. But, the garam masala adds a nice little kick. If I hadn't been making enough for the kids too, then I probably would have used a dash more black pepper to spice them up a bit.

As usual, it's gluten free, casein free and even sugar free (except if you frost it).

23 April 2012

Lamb Mansaf

I've just returned from Jordan, inspired. Some people think all arabic food is the same, and living in Dubai, I can tell you I've had tabouleh and humous up to here (imagine me gesturing at my larynx).

However, I've recently been delving into the different cuisines of the area, and have also been treated to an Arabic food crawl by Arva Ahmed in Deira, and I'm finally starting to find some real gems. One of them is Mansaf, the traditional lamb and yoghurt dish of Jordan.

Ingredients (notes on ratios below)
  • Lamb with bone in (I used a 1.8kg leg. Shanks would also work very well)
  • Laban or yoghurt
  • chicken or vegetable stock
  • shawarma spice (my recipe at end if you want to mix your own)
  • olive oil or ghee for browning meat
  • lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • rice cooked with a pinch of saffron threads (in the rice-cooker)
  • coriander (cilantro) leaves and toasted nuts (pine nuts and slithered almonds work well) to garnish

05 April 2012

Honey Bundt

My kids have colds again. 

My granny knew the cure for the common cold a long, long time ago. So did her granny, and her granny's granny. Honey, citrus, and love. Now we have scientific proof - honey not only soothes a sore throat, it also aids in controlling bacteria and supports the immune system. Citrus is full of vitamin C, another immune booster, antioxidants and folate. And love? Well, I don't need a lab report to tell me that it makes you feel better (but there is one anyway)

I'm a big fan of Manuka honey - I always have some in my cupboard. That, and some organic local honey, which I have been told is good for fighting inflammation from exposure to local pollens. I also used a mix of half ghee, half grapeseed oil to boost antioxidents and linoleic acid. As usual, I have made a gluten free and dairy free option, but this could easily be made with standard ingredients.

I made this cake entirely by hand, as it was the 31st March, and I did so in honour of Earth Hour. It was lovely and fluffy - there is no need to use electric beaters. The kids also helped me with this one - it's super easy. It's not a super-sweet cake, but trust me, if they help you make it, they won't even notice.

31 March 2012

Almost healthy yeast-free apple doughnuts

I've fought making doughnuts. I'm not really sure why - probably it was the idea of deep-frying. Not the fat - I don't mind a bit of that. No - it was about the fuss, the mess, the chance of slopping oil all over my clothes, or worse, scalding my hands. Or my children's hands.

So I waited until everyone was preoccupied, and I crept out to the kitchen to conquer my fear while nobody was watching. I wanted to do it quickly, so I used self-raising flour instead of a yeast-based dough. I apologise for the complete lack of measurements*. This is a recipe that is best done by feel.

  • apple - peeled and loosely diced
  • milk (I used almond milk)
  • softened butter (I used dairy-free ghee)
  • egg
  • self raising flour (I used gluten free)
  • pinch salt
  • oil for frying (I used grapeseed)
  • sugar and cinnamon for dusting

29 March 2012

Crunchy chicken and creamed corn crumble

Yep, it's a mouthful. And, it's not very pretty. 


This is the first proudly gluten-free dairy-free dinner I have presented my children with that has been scoffed like junk food. Possibly they are starved after 4 weeks of seaweed rice crackers and almond milk no-sugar banana smoothies and other things they simply don't want to eat? No, I don't think it's just that. This is actually yummy.

  • leek, finely chopped
  • garlic, crushed
  • celery, finely chopped
  • carrot, finely chopped 
  • pinch salt
  • thyme 
  • last night's leftover roast chicken (removed from bone and diced roughly)
  • dash of water
  • tinned corn
  • almond cream (or a non-dairy milk if you can't get this)
  • corn (maize) flour (or another gluten-free flour for thickening)
  • rice (cooked)
  • breadcrumbs (gluten free of course)
  • margarine (again, dairy free)

26 March 2012

Crumplestiltskin Cake

Last week I threw a birthday party for my now-5-year-old son. Goldilocks is a gorgeous thing who is on a strict gluten and casein free diet, so as you can imagine, the food took quite a bit of thought and consideration. No wheat, no cream, no butter, no milk. So, I threw out my other imposed restriction - no processed sugar' and had a free-for all.

The Pièce de résistance was the cake. Goldilocks can eat eggs, and so I wanted to add his all-time favourite and now banned sweet treat, meringue. The name "Crumplestiltskin" was given by my other son, as he helped me attach the crumbled meringue around the cake. I think it's a little more like an iceberg, but Lion insisted to all the guests that the name was definitely one out of a fairytale - almost. I completely cheated and used store-bought meringues and a gluten free self raising flour mix. But, you know how it goes - when you are baking for a party, any shortcut is taken.

12 March 2012

Porky Belly

It's Pork Belly, not porky belly, but that's what you end up with if you eat too much of this. This is the complete opposite of the lovely zingy oil-free salad I last posted up. To be honest, it's a little deviation from my usual diet too, and something I have never cooked before. It was made in honour of my brother, who was threatening not to come to lunch, but after watching him order it every time he saw it on a menu, I knew that as soon as he got the SMS saying "making porky belly n tiramisu - coming or not?" he'd be a cert.

Pork Belly is a super fatty cut of meat - it's cheap to buy ($20 for my 1.8kg cut, which fed seven), and easy to cook. It's the same cut that makes streaky bacon, pancetta, and side bacon. The fat keeps it moist, so it's almost impossible to muck it up - the only tricky part is the crackling, and... well, that's not really tricky at all (it's just about heat and salt).

07 March 2012

Teriyaki Carrot Salad

This is a no-measure salad, but for the benefit of those who like a little guidance, I've put approximates in. It's oil free, gluten free, dairy free. It serves as a great base, and can be added to easily. It is now eaten at least one day per week in one form or another.

  • 6 carrots, grated (I used 2 purple, 4 orange)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander
  • 1/4 tsp grated ginger
  • 1/4 tsp grated garlic
  • 1tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1tsp teriyaki sauce
  • 1/2 tsp mirin

  1. toast sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium heat, flipping often so they don't burn.
  2. Put all ingredients in a bowl and toss.

29 February 2012

Guilt Free Hot Chocolate

When I told my eight year old son that chocolate is a bean, he refused to believe me. I got to show him the proof only this week, when I found roasted raw cocoa beans at our local organic store. It's the first time I've used them this way, so I decided to start small, with a warm cup of cocoa. Our family is now on a GFDF diet, so I used almond milk - this could easily be substituted with cows milk, but may lose a little of the nutty flavour. 

  • raw cocoa beans (about 15)
  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • 1 vanilla bean (split) or 1/2 tsp vanilla

23 February 2012

Seven Hour Lamb

I first tried a similar recipe to this from Stephanie Alexander's book: Cooking and Travelling in South West France. For those reading who are not Australian, she is as close to we get as a mother and mentor to all food lovers. She doesn't only cook - she also used to run one of the most famous restaurants in Melbourne, and now she has "retired" to the garden - A kitchen garden, for kids. She's a bit of a superwoman really...


I made her 7-hour lamb with anchovies and garlic, and it was incredible. When I tried to lift the leg out of the pot, the entire bone came away. Our neighbours had been smelling at our door all day, and literally came begging - for food, and the recipe.

I've made it several times since. I still call it seven hour lamb, but sometimes its 7 hours at 120°C, and others its 5 hours at 140°C. Sometimes I make it with a bone-in leg of lamb, and sometimes I make it without the bone. Sometimes it fits in a pot, and others, when it doesn't (like last night), I put it in a deep tray and cover it with a few layers of foil. It always works. It's a fairly traditional french recipe, and it appears many chefs make a version (including Nigella). My simplified one is below.

17 February 2012

Madagascan Tea Cake

I have some gorgeous Madagascan Bourbon Vanilla in my pantry. For some reason, I'd been saving it for something special, using vanilla sugar or standard vanilla essence in my cooking. Now I'm avoiding using excess sugar, I find myself stretching into my pantry and grasping for flavours that will disguise the fact that my baking is not sweet. The wonderful thing about this is that without extra sugar, you can taste all the tropical flavours - mango, coconut, vanilla and lime. I have to admit though - I'd prefer it with a daiquiri, not tea...

  • 4 eggs
  • 250g mango (or one 425g tin, drained) 
  • 400ml flour (I use gluten free)
  • 4 tsp (20ml) baking powder
  • 125ml virgin coconut oil
  • 100ml sugar 
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1tsp salt

12 February 2012

Corn bread without the corn meal

OK - so if you've read previous posts, I'm ditching wheat. I've said goodbye to dairy. I'm getting as much sugar as possible out of our diets. I'm also using unprocessed and non-preserved items wherever I can, to avoid a whole heap of toxic nasties. Also, when refining into meal, corn loses some of its natural goodness. Now, I'm not saying this is all good, but for my family, not only is this a better alternative to ahem, the alternative, but it ticks the other boxes (wheat, dairy, sugar), and hides a daily vegetable. And I can put them in a lunchbox.

  1. 2 cups self raising gluten free flour*
  2. 1 cup finely grated carrot (1 medium to large carrot should do it)
  3. 1 cup steamed corn kernels
  4. 125ml coconut milk
  5. 125ml olive oil
  6. 2 eggs
  7. pinch of salt

08 February 2012

Teff cookies

After a week of easing my family onto the GFCF diet, I am starting to take things a little more seriously. I have decided that the importance of reducing sugar is in fact outweighed by gluten, casein and toxic nasties, so I have spent plenty of time down at the organic health food shop this week looking for alternative grains and healthier sweeteners.

My friend Edwina put me onto teff. It's a tiny Ethiopian gluten-free grain, and she suggested to mix it with rice flour. First go - Teff cookies, and they are great! This is a super easy recipe, using only one measuring cup. Mine was 100ml (about 4 oz), but you could use anything between about 75ml (3 oz) and 150ml (6oz), maybe adding another egg yolk if you get towards doubling the size.

03 February 2012

Spiced Quinoa

I don't know if you read my main blog, or just the recipes here - but our family is making a drastic change to our diet. We are eliminating wheat, dairy, and all heavily processed items and synthetic products - including sugar. So, time to embrace other grains, and I'm starting with the king - quinoa. This is super-duper health food, and has too many benefits to list here. Check out the link below if you don't believe me. I've cooked quinoa before, but only plain, and I didn't think I'd have a chance of converting the kids that way. Hence the spiced version...

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp brown mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander (cilantro)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin 
  • 1 cup quinoa (washed)
  • 2 cups chicken stock (or salted water)
  • fresh coriander to garnish

31 January 2012

Carrot Cookies

Still on a low sugar diet for the kiddies. The date cakes were such a success yesterday (all gone in 24 hours), I thought I might do a twist on the carrot cake. So here we go - carrot cookies, or "Carrotees" as they are called now.

  • 1/2 cup gluten free flour
  • 1/2 cup wholemeal spelt flour
  • 100g butter (melted)
  • 1 carrot, finely grated (medium to large)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • pinch salt

30 January 2012

Date Cakes - healthier than ordinary cupcakes

You're going to see some changes in my recipes. I'm trying to cut sugar out of my youngest boy's diet. But for this sucrose monster, we'll start with baby steps. Considering he had absolutely no sugar all day, I think he did pretty well until he broke down at 4pm asking for cake. Don't let anyone tell you sugar is not a drug. Here's one for weaning him off. Technically it has no "sugar", but has natural sweetening from the dates, and just a smidgen of honey. As I said, baby steps - but it's still better than chocolate cupcakes...

23 January 2012

Real Chocolate Chocolate Cake

Chocolate cake without melted chocolate? That's criminal. Here's my recipe for real chocolate chocolate cake.

  • 200g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 200g butter, softened
  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1/2 cup cream
For the fudge frosting:
  • 150g chocolate
  • 150g butter, softened
  • 1 cup icing sugar, sifted

16 January 2012


Shakshouka (or shakshuka) is a dish I first tried at Baker and Spice, Dubai. It hails from Northern Africa, but other areas over the middle east, and the Ottoman empire also lay a claim to it's invention. Simply, it is baked eggs in a rich sauce. This is fairly close to the version found in Baker and Spice, and now at least once a month at my own table - either for breakfast, or an easy dinner.

  • 500g Tomatoes (chopped) either tinned or fresh (a mixture works best)
  • 1 red capsicum (diced)
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (crushed) or to taste
  • 2 tsp ground coriander (I like to toast mine from seed and crush)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp crushed chilli
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a handful of fresh coriander (chopped)
  • 4 eggs

05 January 2012

Retro love - Prawn Cocktail

Some matches never get old. Tomatoes and basil, apples and cinnamon, fish and chips with lemon, red wine and cheese. Cold prawns with 1970s cocktail sauce. Mmmmm awesome.... Forthcoming - a particularly old-school, but not tired recipe. You might have a similar one in a frayed, 30 year old cookbook somewhere. Not new, old, done a thousand times and more. But here it is again.

  • 2 cups Prawns - cleaned, cooked, peeled and cooled. (you can buy them this way)
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 baby cos lettuce
  • 1 lemon
     for the sauce:
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp mustard (I use Dijon)
  • 1 tbsp vinegar (I use white wine)
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp cream, whisked to soft peaks
  • dash tomato sauce
  • dribble Worcestershire sauce
  • Tabasco to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

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