Wholefood Cooking

Category: Snacks

Tahini, Orange + Date Gluten Free Muesli Bar

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I know, it’s been ages since I’ve been here – it’s been a busy time teaching, getting my back pergola in and working on the on-line classes that will be launching around mid June. I am so excited about both things – the pergola because this means I can now sort out the paving, which means I can then get the garden started. I have so missed having a back garden, where I can grown even a handful of vegetables, so getting the garden in is the plan for over winter. I can see this is a bit of a metaphor for my own self too – a new garden to be planted with seeds and a new path to travel. On -line classes represent this new path for me and I can see that this will free me up to be able to far better respond to your needs. You already invite me into your homes, honour me by making me a part of your lives as you cook and eat from my books. But there is only so much you can say and show in a book (so much is edited out), and oh my I do have a lot to say to you and show you ! All to help you understand the WHY  something is good, the WHAT and then the HOW to use it, so you get to nourish yourself and those you love in the easiest possible (and most delicious) ways.

Where I have been though, is letting my newsletter subscribers in on what I’m buying and eating each month – seasonality of ingredients is a huge issue, and so often the best place to start when we are working out what to eat. I’ve noticed though that so many people no longer know what actually is in season, and thought this might be a bit of a guide. Lots of other good things go on in my newsletters (recipes, first in line for events, classes, discounts, treats) and if you would like to stay connected with what’s happening more often, I’d love to welcome you to our community. All you need to do is go HERE. And, I’m more than happy if you’d like to shoot me an email and tell me how I can help you, what is it that you are struggling with ? I’m easy to reach jude@wholefoodcooking.com.au

But  I’m here today with a recipe I hope you will love. That’s just my photo there – I’ve missed having the lovely Harriet Harcourt here taking her gorgeous photo’s but I think it shows the muesli bar off quite well.

This bar was the result of our CONVERSION CLASS – taking a recipe and converting it to the individual restrictions. The brief for this was ‘please make me a yummy gluten free, dairy free, egg free, muesli bar’. All good conversions start generally with a cup of tea and a good think. These are the points I thought about:

  • First up – flavour. Gluten free quinoa and amaranth flakes are very strongly flavoured, so how do we tone that down? I have been an admirer of the Tahini,Orange and Coconut gluten free muesli by my good friend Emma Galloway – seriously, she had me at the word tahini. So what if we really went tahini, orange, date, cardamon – this would go a long way to balancing out those strong quinoa / amaranth flavours.
  • Secondly – texture. I felt the bar needed a bit of chew, to be somewhere along the line of a muesli bar and that classic Womens Weekly Oat and Sultana Slice. A bit of chew would allow the eater to also fully experience the dates and dried fruit. Brown Rice Syrup is a perfect candidate for this, giving a lovely crisp exterior but chewy interior. ( I have a huge preference for the Spiral brand – this is a wholesome product, far superior to the many highly refined ones on the market). The honey adds a bit more depth of flavour and sweetness, with a lovely chew also. You will also note the 1/4 cup true arrowroot – this was to help break up the quinoa and amaranth flakes with a bit of chew – it would also help to bind the bar together.

I hope you enjoy it….. I’m sorry it’s not standardised into gm/ or straight cups, but I feel pretty confident it will work !

And Easter ? This glorious time of descending and cooling energy in the Southern Hemisphere and the welcoming of the light and sun in the Northern Hemisphere ? Here are a couple of old blog posts (so not great photo’s but trust me, great food)…..

Wishing you a blessed, peaceful Easter….

x  Jude 

 

Walnut and Yoghurt Cake

Fish Pie for Easter

 

 

Pumpkin and Date Scones

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As you can see, I like a bit of scone with my butter, and it seems that many of you do too, if the facebook post is anything to go by :) I’m making this post quick and short, so I can get this up in time, just in case any one would like to make these for Mothers Day morning tea.

I’ve been making these just recently to have something in the freezer to quickly take out and heat, for morning tea. Autumn has bought some very cold mornings recently, and my house is even colder, so when I’m sitting at my desk (editing the new book), a warm cup of tea and scone is just what the doctor ordered. I love scones, any flavour just about (so long as it’s not chocolate or too weird), and think pumpkin and date is in the top 5. And, there’s no reason you can’t chop up a lot of glace ginger and put that in also.

So whether you are making these for a Mothers Day treat, or just a warm something on a busy working day, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. I’ll be making a batch at Mum’s tomorrow for her freezer, so she too has some treat goodness for a cold morning on hand….   x  Jude

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Apple, Parsnip and Sage Fritters

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It’s been a long time since I’ve been here with you, and done a blog post, lots of very good reasons for sure, but at the heart of it was a plate that was full to overflowing, and an entirely new email and web system being built, both on different platforms than before. Doing a blog in between platforms just felt a little too daunting.Totally rebuilding the website from scratch demanded that I also have a very good think why I continued to keep a blog in the new website. I loved this article on maintaining a long term blog by Heidi Swanson, and others at that time – Heidi talks about this being her practice and the commitment to that practice, and it made me query just actually what my practice was. Along with cooking, writing and photography, the blog itself was a part of her practice. It became immediately clear that for me, my blog was not an essential part of my practice – but rather teaching and writing, that formed that coreI’m not a great photographer and to be honest, I don’t want to learn too much more there – I just don’t have room in my brain for that. That room is saved for learning more about how fats – or any food really – works. I don’t have the ability to run a consistent weekly, fortnightly or monthly blog – some times I am just loaded with teaching commitments (the Whole and Natural Foods Chef Training for example), and sharing my knowledge with in the books I write.

Knowing this, I settled with going ahead with the blog and that I will make it here monthly as best I can, but I knew that I also wanted to be here with you and share what is going on, life and recipe or two. But I also know that I share all those things with you in each of my books, and most certainly in the new book (May 2016) – the book is just about finished (just a few more recipes to go) and editing to commence. I’m incredibly happy with this new baby, I think you will be too. My plan is to post here monthly, and to send out a quarterly newsletter with information and cooking for the season ahead – you can subscribe to that newsletter here

For now, I’d like to give you this yummy and simple recipe, using very seasonal ingredients and to say how lovely it is to be back here with you. Right now, parsnips are being pulled and apples are being picked, and they are a glorious combination. Combined with sage and herbs, a little left over cooked grain and a couple of eggs, they make the most wonderful fritters to eat, any time of the day. I think they will be perfect for the cooler Autumn weather over the long weekend.

x Jude

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Forget The Green Smoothie

IT’S CALLED A SALAD, WITH A DRESSING

EVOlive Oil Mayonnaise and Yoghurt Dressing with Seasonal Herbs

Once upon a time, when by all accounts and my life experiences, people were healthier and happier than they are now, food and life was a lot simpler. I’m talking about my parents generation – those in their 90’s, many still living independently – though now needing help – and vibrant lives, those that lived simpler and less complicated lives. We hear often, that the young generation today is the first generation in a very long time considered to have a shorter life span than current generations, and that we are sicker and unhappier than ever. Somehow my mum, and those of her generation managed it all without the green smoothie or green smoothies with chia seeds. Now those of you that are familiar with my work, know that I tend to be interested in fundamentals – you can read more about those here (you will also find a fabulous rustic tart of greens recipe there, perfect for this time of the year). You will know that after 25 odd years in the ‘healthy’ food industry – which I prefer to call the ‘whole and natural foods’ industry – I am alarmed by the rapid escalation of fractionalisation that seems to be happening in the past few years. The green smoothie is a case in point. Honestly, I didn’t take much notice of it when it first appeared a few years ago, it just seemed silly and made no sense what so ever. But somehow, it’s become the poster child for ‘healthy’ eating, or ‘real, natural or whole food’. I’ve decided I’d like to weigh in on the discussion.

As always, I like to find the original source from whence things come – where did this belief that throwing lots of greens into a blender is a leading edge healthful thing to do? As it happens, from a book called Green For Life by Victoria Butenko. Now before I go on, I would like to point out that I believe we all have a path to follow and none of us have the right to question another’s path. I understand and respect this, but given this book is a treatise on the green smoothie, I think it’s worth noting a few things. The gist of it is this: the author and her family came to the US from Russia, where food was scarce and limited to mostly grains, dairy and some fruit.  On settling in the United States, they were amazed at the variety and availability of food, they especially loved the convenience food and used a microwave often. Within 3 years, all of them were extremely unwell, doctors told them there were no cures for their diabetes, asthma, allergies, heart issues etcetera. So they looked elsewhere, and turned to raw food. Now I’m not going to go to deeply into this issue, but you cannot discuss the green smoothie without discussing raw food, but it would seem obvious to me that they could also have simply stopped eating highly processed food / junk food / and frequenting the microwave. However, a vegan, raw food (most likely because it was at least real) diet turned things around but after several years, they began to have problems such as a heavy feeling in the stomach, grey hair and simply no longer desiring some of the allowed foods. So, the author searched for what was missing (I’m assuming in the vegetable world only) and discovered that greens was the food group that offered everything humans needed, and they weren’t having enough. But how much did a human need to eat? For this answer, she looked for an animal that was close genetically to a human – with an approx.99.4% genetic match, enter the chimpanzee.

The author observed that humans had lost their natural way of eating – but rather than recognising the blindingly obvious problems with refined, processed and junk foods – instead considered that “it is logical to hypothesise that our diets are supposed to be 99.4% similar” (to the chimpanzee) and that understanding the chimpanzee eating habits may help us to better understand the human dietary needs? Seriously? The only thing that I can keep thinking is that we might share a lot of genetic material with a chimpanzee, yet in that difference we are most definitely not a chimpanzee. Given that the main argument here is that this is the ‘natural’ way to eat, we absolutely have to consider another blindingly obvious point – the fact that man climbed down from the trees, stood erect on two legs and developed a bigger brain. Biological anthropologist Richard Wrangham (Catching Fire) (this is the guy that Michael Pollan talks about in his new book Cooked) holds the belief it was the discovery of fire, whereby cooked food enabled more and easier access to nutrient density, thus facilitating the evolution from a large to smaller gut and from a smaller to bigger brain. Others share the belief it was access to nutrient dense animal foods – notably the softer and nutrient dense bone marrow and brain that did the trick. Neither considered that it was an abundance of uncooked greens. Whilst we might share that large amount of DNA with the chimpanzee, we are yet, quite obviously not the same, and to say it is logical to hypothesise our diets should be 99.4% the same beggars belief.

At the very least, chimp and orangs have a larger colon to gut ratio, strong jaws and large teeth –perfect to chew and digest the large amount of fibrous fruits and tough high cellulose leaves (with stems) which along with fermentation in the colon, provides enough calories to support the animal. Humans have the opposite – a smaller colon to gut ratio, with a weaker jaw and smaller teeth – perfect for cooked foods, which require less energy to digest and softens the strong cellulose fiber. It was because of this absolute fact, that the greens had to be blended, otherwise they simply could not be broken down (and then because they were having so many green smoothies and not chewing – which is essential for our bone and jaw health, the author devised a rubber chewing device which you can buy from their website). Whilst certainly heat (fermentation, cooking) does destroy enzymes, denature protein and can destroy vitamin C and some heat sensitive minerals such as thiamine, it remains that cooking food provides incredible nutrient density and energy that is easily accessible – lightly cooked meat for example, makes it more easily digestible – it starts breaking down the protein molecules. Eating cooked foods has also been quite obviously, simply spectacularly successful – we did climb down from the trees and are now the leading animal (I know, we’re not looking that good right now, neither are the cultures that we’ve built, but that is another discussion).  But cooking can also make some big differences to vegetables – it can soften and break down that fibrous cellulose, it helps to improve the digestibility of complex carbohydrate (especially the starch – cooked potato or sweet potato is more digestible cooked than raw) and it can break down some problematic aspects of raw foods – oxalic acid and goitrogens for example. Whilst I believe there is some hysteria around the internet in regards to oxalic acid, it does remain that it is problematic, especially if you have a less than optimal gut ecology.

I’d like to talk a bit more about that gut ecology. If you have a ‘delicate’ or troublesome digestive system (bloating, intolerance to gluten and dairy etcetera) you will most likely have a less than healthy gut ecology. This means you don’t have enough beneficial bacteria to do the many, many jobs they actually do – including most importantly, their intimate involvement in digesting food –  in particular the full and proper digestion of gluten and dairy proteins, and oxalic acid. But, what those good bacteria can’t do however, no matter how much you will it (or blend it) is to be able to fully and appropriately digest some of those more complex carbohydrates (more than 1 or 2 sugars) that include cellulose, fibre and those known as FODMAPS. This is why, even when blended some of those carbohydrates are still tricky to digest. Unless a kale leaf is very, very young it is going to be difficult to digest, even when blended – it is far easier to digest when cooked, which is how the cultures that have most experience with it (such as the Italians) generally use it.

In the end, this seems to me a discussion on eating a balanced diet. All healthy human groups include raw food  (where appropriate to the food) and understand the value of that life force.  However, no healthy human groups solely eat raw food – this is the findings of many, including that same Richard Wrangham who postulated the theory that cooked food is responsible for our evolution from the apes, and as a biological anthropologist found no human group eats all their food raw, as did Weston Price many years before. Nowhere is this issue of balance more evident than in a discussion on cooked versus raw. I have always (as my parents generation before me) consumed raw foods – including the goitrogenic cabbage in my mum’s favourite coleslaw and we called it a salad – indeed we had a salad generally around 3 times a week, more in summer.  We consumed raw, fresh seasonal fruits and called it an apple or pear, not a ‘raw food’, but we also ate all of those same foods we ate as salads and fresh fruit, cooked. We also consumed raw animal products meats (steak tartare), raw milk and raw eggs in raw milk (mum’s egg flip) but we also had them cooked. But perhaps of most importance, is that what and how we ate was all in the context of those fundamentals I spoke of earlier, that you can find here. 

There is also much more to the issue of the green smoothie – promoted by the author as a time saving way to include these greens in your diet, and their nutritional value. I’d simply like to say that in regards to the issue of nutritional value, as much as you would like to think that you are getting all those minerals in that kale or dark leafy green, if you don’t have some fat soluble vitamins with it, you won’t and those minerals can’t do what you want them to do. Those fat soluble vitamins are A, D, K and E. And, if  you think that the kale or dark leafy greens (or the chia seeds)  are giving you Omega 3 EFA’s, well yes they are but in the form of Alpha Linolenic Acid, which has to go through many conversions to become the derivatives that really are essential – Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and especially Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). There are some foods that just happen to be especially rich in both ALL the fat soluble vitamins and those longer chain essential fatty acid derivatives EPA and DHA – they are ALL animal foods and are :  all animal fats eg butter (ghee), egg yolks, offal (especially liver) and fish (including their eggs). This is why we consistently see raw vegetable and green salads traditionally paired with dressings such as mayonnaise based, or topped with soft cooked eggs, presented with lovely crunchy fatty bacon bits or strips of barely cooked liver. You might immediately recognise these pairings as classic, traditional and delicious French, Italian or European pairings. Yes, some land sources such as extra virgin olive oil do have vitamin E, but they don’t have the others.

When choosing vegetables to eat raw, it pays to bear in mind that nature tends to provide season appropriate foods – lighter, less carbohydrate dense and higher water content vegetables and fruits in summer. These all require less cooking – they are easy to eat and digest raw – and blended if that’s how you would like them. Yet, it gives us the almost opposite in the cooler months – these denser and more complex carbohydrate root vegetables, thicker and more cellulose dense leaves (cabbage, kale and collards) and fruits (apples, quince, pears ) provide us with more fuel to keep us warm, but will need cooking to make that goodness fully available. Yes you could blend those leaves up and break down the cellulose, but that is often not enough for some and I would also ask why? I simply don’t agree, because this is what I have seen, that is offers more (better) nutrition than when cooked. And, in regards to healing, there are many paths to the one door and I’ve seen a cooked food diet do the same thing – but this is a deeply complex area, with many other co factors and one for another day.

I think it is an incredibly admirable thing to be advocating eating greens, but extreme and unbalanced to believe the best way to do so is to blend them, raw, into a smoothie (mostly with lots of fruit). They have been eaten by all healthy cultures for generations, and they called it a salad. They knew which greens needed cooking to make them optimally digestible, and what to serve with them to make all their greeny goodness and mineral bounty more bio available. The tragedy of our time is that this traditional knowledge, which served it’s people well, has been undervalued and lost. There are some beautiful greens around right now and so many delicious ways to include them in your day – uncooked as salads, and cooked (that tart I suggested earlier is delicious). This was my morning tea yesterday…..

Quick and Simple Salad – no need for a blender

Autumn is a great time for the easily digested family of lettuce – here I’ve used one of my favourites, Buttercrunch. I’ve added microgreens from the garden, celery heart, pink lady apples and toasted walnuts for a bit more density. Can I say, microgreens are ridiculously easy to grow, nutrient rich with little carbohydrate development at such a young stage – kale is great in this format. To make the dressing I used equal amounts of mayonnaise and yoghurt (thus supplying some beneficial bacteria), lemon or lime juice to taste, a touch of honey to taste and a touch of a nice curry powder, with lots of fresh (and easily digestible) herbs – coriander which is now in season. This dressing will keep in the fridge for at least a week, and gives me the ability to put a salad together quickly. It would be delicious with lentils tossed through it also.

As you can see, I used the thinner skinned Myer lemons, because that is what I had

 

Pack A Little Snack

TOMATO AND BASIL BARLEY PIKeLETS

A little snack pack in preparation for me to take on the road in case hunger strikes

These have been getting a fairly good run in my kitchen of late, mostly because they are so quick to put together, are delicious and keep well. They also pack exceptionally well, and will welcome a host of added extras – goat cheese and pesto spread on top is a particularly good combination. They are a great morning tea/snack after my usual breakfast – eggs any way, with ghee and seasonal vegetables – right now that’s often zucchini, corn and kale. Coby and Zay helped me make those ones in the picture this morning – they are my neices children. Coby walked in the door and said “lets make muffins” – thinking this was too much to do (lazy on my part really) I suggested pikelets, no Coby wanted muffins, so I told him they were muffins :). 

Coby loves to eat flour – ate about as much as he put in the bowl, plus lots on the bench and floor you can’t see

I’m a big fan of this kind of thing – in Australia we call it a pikelet, but more often than not in the U.S it will be called a drop scone. They’re so quick to wip up. I’ve used a barley flour and have a very big preference for the Four Leaf brand in Australia – it retains a good bit of bran and germ. Also in the bowl is wholemeal spelt flour and my preference is for Demeter Mills. If you give yourself a bit more planning time you can soak these overnight in the milk (see the recipe) and make the flour even more digestible. But, I love how easy spelt and barley are on the tummy, and the barley renders a low gluten end result. 

Add as much finely chopped tomato and herbs as you desire

Do give them a try, the barley gives them such a lovely earthy flavour. I like them served with lots of good butter. That’s it !!! Easy Peasy.

 TOMATO AND BASIL BARLEY AND SPELT PIKELETS

I’ve gone down a dairy path in this recipe, but you can easily make these dairy free. If using an oat or soy milk (both would be a good choice) add 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar to it. Replace the butter with olive oil. And, at times I’ve not had an egg to use, so did the chia seed trick – 1 teaspoon ground chia seed + 45ml water, stir and leave to sit until gooey = 1 egg. They will be a little bit denser, but are fine. Store left overs in an air tight container in the fridge and heat before serving to soften them up if desired. OMG just thought how delicious drippings from organic, nitrate free bacon would be to fry these in !!! Stable and delicious, a most definite win win. 

1 cup / 145 gm wholemeal spelt flour

1 cup / 110 gm barley flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

generous sprinkle of salt ( I used Herbamare)

generous grinding of black pepper

finely chopped tomato to taste

handful of fresh basil (or as much as you want)

optional grating of parmesan or pecorino cheese, but a soft goats cheese wouldn’t hurt either

1 egg

1/2 cup full cream, non homegenised milk

1/2 cup cultured buttermilk or yoghurt

30 gm unsalted butter, melted

extra butter or ghee, and extra virgin olive oil for frying

Add the flours, baking powder, salt and pepper to a mixing bowl and whisk through to evening distribute.  Add the tomato, basil and cheese if using and gently toss through. 

Add the egg to a small mixing bowl and beat together with the milk/cultured buttermilk/yoghurt and melted butter. Add to the dry ingredients and gently fold together until just combined. 

Add enough ghee and a touch of olive oil to cover the base of the frypan well. This is important, don’t skimp or your pikelets will stick. When the fat is hot but not at all smoking drop 1 tablespoonful mixture into the pan – the fat should gently sizzle. Continue to cook at a medium heat – they should take about 4 – 5 minutes each side. If the heat is too high they will burn before the inside is cooked (these are whole grain remember), if it’s too low, the pikelet will be soggy. Turn and cook on the other side for 3 – 4 minutes. You will need to top up the fat between batches, the patties absorbs them as they cook and that’s fine. This is good fat you are using. 

If soaking overnight, add the flours and salt to a bowl with the milk/s. There must be some acid in this  – the yoghurt or cultured milk will do the trick, but if dairy free make sure you have the apple cider vinegar in there. Cover and soak out at room temperature overnight. If you’re worried it’s too dam hot, put it in the fridge. The next morning add all other ingredients – it won’t look as liquid, don’t worry about. Don’t add any more milk. 

IT’S JELLY !!

CHERRYLICOUS

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Welcome to the new year. It’s been a quiet space from me I know – I had planned to stop before Christmas but not soon enough for my body it seems – my back went (a first for me, and a first I’d rather not have had), and then Christmas doings, comings and goings on, arrived at my doorstep – much to my delight. Since Christmas I have been – can I politely say – exhausted and very much in need of quiet, doing nothing and searching for the unraveling threads of my body and soul so I can begin to be able to knit them back together again. I thought I had done a good job of that knitting earlier in the year, but it seems not.  In a sense it’s a clear space to see where I’ve been and where I want to go. But, I think I’ve begun to find those threads, so when we head out to our island paradise (mind you not everyone thinks Rottnest is an island paradise) next week I can begin to knit. I think that metaphorical knitting looks something like this: salty ocean water, ocean breezes, sitting with a good book and perhaps a cup of coffee (yup, I’m living dangerously here I know).

And, it’s been hot. Really hot for days on end. I mean horrible hot not just hot. Luckily I have a freezer full of berries (a basic rule – when something is in season, get lots at a good price, preserve it in as many ways possible – jam, bottle, freeze etc). In my desire for doing as little as possible, I opted for the freezing option. There were very few West Australian cherries this year, but this 1kg I found at my butcher the other day for $10.00. Yes, they were in the cool room since Christmas, so going cheap. Thank you very much. Perfect for jelly. Or pie. Or jam (with scones). I’ve been in a cherry and ice cream mood. They are both easy and lovely to eat when it’s hot and a pretty delicious way to include gelatine in the diet. Gelatine is such a good thing – soothing and healing to the gut, ensures that foods are more easily digested, great for bones to name but a few of it’s benefits. But, you have to be very fussy about the brand – I wouldn’t be touching the  generic stuff in the supermarkets labelled ‘ from Australian and imported ingredients’. No way. If you are having bones, skin and cartilage, you want to know it’s come from animals that are healthy and have had respect paid to them. I use either of 2 options – Bernard Jensen or the Great Lakes Grass Pastured. I’ve come across organic leaf gelatine in my travels also, but really quite happy to use the slightly more old fashioned powdered gelatine.

I like to make jelly from scratch, and it’s a lot easier than it sounds. The commercial ones taste like the chemicals that flavour them – they don’t even bother to disguise it it seems. The so called ‘natural’ ones – not much better as far as I’m concerned. A jelly is simply a juice of some kind, sweetened to taste and set with gelatine. That’s it. You could also use agar and I’ll give you the recipe for both. Gelatine will give you a more sexy, wibble wobble, smooth and flexible end result, but it will melt in the heat and take hours to set. Agar will give you a boofy, clunky end result but set in a matter of 30 minutes or so, and hold up to bullying heat.

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In the void of the nothing, I am confident I will find myself and my soul again but I also know some delicious food will help.  The rest of those cherries are coming with me to Rottnest for a Cherry Pie for Body and Soul and Beignet are most certainly happening for breakfast one morning (french doughnuts). You could make a cherry pie too – it’s easy, and this is the pastry recipe I use. Just toss the cherries with a bit of cornstarch/flour/arrowroot to bind the juices (about 2 tablespoons for 1 kg of cherries), a bit of sweetness – taste the cherries first, and vanilla. 

Mum gave me Bathers for Christmas and can I tell you they have cherries on them :) They’re called Cherrylicious. May your new year be cherrylicious in every possible way.

x Jude

BERRY JELLY

You can happily use frozen berries here – for mine, I used a mix of strawberries, logan and blackberries. Sweetness wise, I add just a touch of golden castor sugar, a semi refined cyrstallised sugar (Billingtons) as it allows the taste of the berries to come through. Rapadura, Coconut Palm etc muddy the flavour too much for me – be careful if you are using the moscato or fruity dessert wine, as they will add sweetness also. The moscato (I used Strawberry Champagne for Christmas) etc is not necessary – you can just use more berry juice to make up the amount required. If you’d like to add a 1/2 vanilla bean to the stewing berries, do so – just a little or the vanilla takes over too much. 

400gm blackberries or other moist berries such as rasp, straw, young/logan berries or cherries + extra to set in the jelly – as you can see, I used cherries for that.

1 – 2 tablespoons golden caster sugar or to taste

1 tablespoon (20 ml tablespoon)  high-quality powdered gelatine

125 ml /1/2  cup moscato or fruity dessert wine *** optional see above

Place the berries, the sugar (add a bit, then taste and add more if needed a little later, remembering you might be adding the moscato) and 435 ml (1 3/4 cups) of water in a saucepan. Stir through and bring to a gentle boil [over medium heat. Continue to simmer over low heat (not too rapid a boil or you will evaporate off too much liquid) for 40 -50 minutes, I often put a lid on it to be sure. 

Strain the mixture through a fine sieve, pressing ever so lightly on the solids to extract as much juice as possible (if you press too hard the liquid won’t be as clear and sparkly).  You should have 500ml  (2 cups) of liquid; if have less, you will need to make this up with water; if you have more, set the excess aside for another use. Return the 500ml of liquid to the pan and bring to the boil. Immediately turn off the heat, sprinkle the gelatine over the juice and whisk through for about 1 minute or until it is well dissolved. Add the moscato and stir through. Place your extra berries (as many as you want) in the bowl, and pour the jelly over. Cool before placing in the fridge to set overnight.

MAKING THE JELLY WITH AGAR:

Replace the gelatine with 1 1/4 teaspoons agar powder and 1 teaspoon kudzu (kuzu).

Place the 500ml of strained berry juice in a saucepan and whisk in the agar. Return the heat and bring to a gentle simmer, whisking frequently because as the agar  dissolves it likes to the bottom and stick. Gently simmer for 6 minutes from the time it comes to the boil, whisking frequently.

Meanwhile, combine the kudzu with 1 tablespoon of the moscato and mix to a smooth slurry.

When the agar mixture is ready, remove from the heat and whisk in the kudzu mixture. Return to the heat and bring to the boil, whisking continuously. Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining moscato.