Florentines (gluten free)

I created this recipe a few weeks ago when I was asked to bring something for dessert to a friends house, whose family is mostly gluten free. 

As usual, it was after a forage in the pantry where I spied flaked almonds and craisins that needed using and suddenly the idea of a florentine biscuit came to mind. 

Because I have tried to create a refined sugar free version, you will find that the usual ‘toffee-like snap’ of a florentine isn’t there, but my taste testers assured me that it didn’t matter at all. They still taste like nuts and caramel and chocolate!

Putting a plate of these in the middle of the table at the end of big meal was just the perfect, not too sweet way, to finish. 

Florentines
Yields 20
A thin, chocolate coated biscuit of nuts and dried fruit.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 200 grams flaked almonds, finely chopped
  2. 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  3. 1/2 cup craisins, (dried cranberries) chopped
  4. pinch of sea salt
  5. 1/2 teaspoon of orange zest
  6. 3 tablespoons gluten free plain flour
  7. 50 grams butter
  8. 2 tablespoons rice malt syrup
  9. 100 ml double cream
  10. Coating
  11. 100 grams good quality dark chocolate, (70-85%) chopped and melted
Instructions
  1. Preheat fan forced oven to 160 degrees celsius.
  2. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.
  3. Place butter, rice malt syrup and double cream in a small saucepan.
  4. Stir until butter has melted and bring to the boil.
  5. Once boiling, pour over dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  6. Leave mixture to sit for a few minutes.
  7. Place heaped teaspoon amounts on baking trays lined with baking paper. You many need to use your hands to help shape each circle.
  8. Flatten each one with your hand or the back of a spoon. I like mine thin, so no more than 1/2-1cm thick is good. Make sure you leave enough room for them to spread a little.
  9. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, or until spread a little and golden.
  10. Leave to cool completely on trays.
  11. Once cool, dip one side of each biscuit in melted chocolate and leave on a wire rack (with a tray underneath to catch the drips!) until set.
Notes
  1. Store biscuits in an airtight container for 3-4 days. They will get softer over time. If it's very hot, store them in the fridge.
cook fast eat slow http://www.cookfasteatslow.com/

Torta Chocolate (and Tales from Tuscany)

Every now and then, dreams come true. 

Ever since I was a little girl, I had dreamed of one day visiting Italy. There’s always been something about Italy that has had me captivated; it’s food, people and their love of big-hearted hospitality are just some of the things I love about it.

So, when we were invited to join some friends for a holiday to a Villa in Tuscany, it finally felt like the right time to pack up the family and head to Europe. 

Like everyone, we’ve had our fair share of holidays that haven’t quite lived up to expectations. 

But from the moment we landed, this one met and exceeded them at every turn. 

After 3 days in glorious Venice (recipes to come from there later), we headed to Tuscany and embarked on a week of sight seeing, walking, touring, eating, drinking and immersing ourselves in everything Italy. 

Our base was Villa Gourmet, an old but beautifully restored villa with ample space for our 3 families. Surrounded by acres of olive groves, vineyards and sunflower fields, this Villa felt like home from the moment we arrived. Most meals were eaten at the pool house, which had it’s own kitchen and wood fired pizza oven. 

We cycled through the walled city of Lucca, walked along the top of a 13th century Castle in Montalcino, wandered museums of Florence, and drank Prosecco looking over the fields of Tuscany. We tasted local olive oils, balsamic vinegar and wines and ate at restaurants with no menu where the owners just cooked what they loved and served it. 

We ate pizza, gelato, bruschetta, seafood and the famous Florentine Steak that Tuscany is known for. After long days out touring, evenings were spent with antipasto and wine by the pool where the kids swam until the sun went down, just after 10pm!

On an extra special day, which had been planned by my sneaky friends as a surprise for my 40th birthday (which happened to fall while we were away), we found ourselves Truffle hunting in the woods. 

We were then driven to the beautiful home and vineyards of a family who welcomed the 14 of us into their home and proceeded to cook us a 5 course lunch, with our truffles as a star ingredient. 

We ate Truffled Ravioli (the likes of which I may never have again), Truffled Burrata, and the most amazing veal I have ever had with a truffle sauce. 

When we truly felt we could eat no more, our hosts brought this slim yet decadent Chocolate cake to the table. Named ‘Torta Chocolate’, it is made with 5 ingredients and cooks in just 9 minutes. It is a rich and velvety cake, that looks quite humble, and yet is decadent to eat. 

The Italians we met and ate with on our trip truly welcomed us with a warmth and generosity of spirit that you don’t find everywhere. Their attitude is that life and food is to be celebrated and enjoyed, not just on special occasions, but on even the most ordinary of days. 

Our beautiful hosts happily shared their recipe with me and here I am, passing it on to you. My hope is that you will cook it for a stranger or a friend sometime soon and spend some time with those people, celebrating life around a table.  

Torta Chocolate
Serves 8
A rich, velvety chocolate cake that cooks in 9 minutes.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 eggs
  2. 150 grams butter
  3. 250 grams good quality dark chocolate (minimum 50% cocoa solids, 70% works the best)
  4. 1 tablespoon sugar
  5. 1 tablespoon plain flour (this also works with gluten free flour or almond meal)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius or 160 degrees fan forced.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate together, either in the microwave, 1 minute at a time, or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until the mixture is smooth and combined.
  4. Pour the mixture into a greased and lined round cake tin (approx 23cm) or the size of a dinner plate. It is supposed to be very thin.
  5. Cook for 9 minutes.
  6. As all ovens are a little different, at this stage you can check by moving the pan gently. The cake should be set on the outside, but have a very slight wobble right in the centre. Remove it from the oven at this stage and it will set further as it cools.
  7. If it doesn't seem set enough, put it back in for 2 minutes more and check again.
  8. Dust with cocoa or icing sugar to serve and enjoy on it's own or with double cream and berries.
Notes
  1. This cake can be eaten warm or at room temperature.
  2. If you do happen to over cook it, it will still be edible, but will taste more 'cake' like instead of velvety and smooth.
cook fast eat slow http://www.cookfasteatslow.com/

 

 

Spanish Rice with Chorizo and Veg

I love this kind of recipe. You know the one that mostly uses ingredients you’ll find in the pantry. Rice, stock, tinned tomatoes – building blocks for so many simple dinners.

Throw in some spices for flavour, veggies, either fresh or frozen, for goodness, and top with golden chorizo – for no other reason that it tastes brilliant and always gets the kids over the line with any meal. 

“What is this green bit?” one child might say, staring at his fork. 

“Yum, isn’t this Chorizo amazing!” I will reply, hoping to distract the enquiring child from realising I did indeed put asparagus in AGAIN! 

The original recipe is a Bill Granger classic from Delicious Magazine October 2012. 

I have left out the marinated roasted red capsicum simply because that is a more expensive item that won’t always be in a normal pantry and I added more vegetables, of course. 

Once again, don’t be a slave to the recipe. If you hate beans or don’t have any asparagus, use whatever vegetables you have in the fridge or freezer. 

We are a family of Chorizo lovers, but if you don’t have any or don’t like it, just simply leave it out.  It will then become a fragrant vegetarian rice dish. 

Spanish Rice with Chorizo and Veg
Serves 5
A frangrant rice dish, with mixed vegetables and chorizo.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  2. 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  3. 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, paprika and coriander
  4. 1 1/2 cups (300gm) basmati rice
  5. 400gm tin crushed tomatoes
  6. 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  7. 200gm green beans, cut into 3-4cm lengths (frozen works well too)
  8. 1 bunch of fresh asparagus, woody ends trimmed, cut into 3-4cm lengths
  9. 250gm (2) chorizo, cut into thin rounds
  10. fresh coriander or parsley, chopped to garnish
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the garlic and spices and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Stir in rice and mix well.
  4. Pour in the tomatoes and 3 cups chicken stock.
  5. Bring to the boil, cover the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer.
  6. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the stock has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.
  7. You will need to check it a few times, and give it a stir to prevent it from sticking. If the stock is all absorbed and the rice isn't quite cooked, add more stock, 1/2 cup at a time.
  8. Add the beans and asparagus, and cook for a further 5 minutes until they are slightly soft, but still bright green.
  9. In another frying pan, over medium heat, cook the chorizo rounds until they are golden brown.
  10. Throw the chorizo and fresh herbs on top of the rice and serve straight from the pan.
Adapted from Delicious Magazine Oct 2012
Adapted from Delicious Magazine Oct 2012
cook fast eat slow http://www.cookfasteatslow.com/

Sticky Lemon Slice

When life gives you lemons, make a Lemon Tart. 

That might not be the version most people know, but it’s my favourite and I am sticking with it. 

It’s the dessert I cannot look past if it’s on a menu and the one I love to make for special occasions. 

But on an ordinary day, in the middle of an ordinary week, feeling a little unhinged by life and all it’s stuff, it’s not quite as simple to whip up a Lemon Tart.

Enter the Sticky Lemon Slice. It’s really a Lemon Tart in slice form. No fussing with pastry, no blind baking, just a few simple steps with a bowl, beaters and a spoon. 

I dare you to make it and eat it with your eyes closed and see if you agree?

Sticky Lemon Slice
A sticky lemon-curd like slice with a shortbread base.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
50 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
50 min
Ingredients
  1. 125 grams unsalted butter, softened
  2. 1/4 cup icing sugar mixture
  3. 1 1/4 cups plain flour
  4. 3 eggs
  5. 1 cup castor sugar
  6. 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  7. 1/2 cup lemon juice (approx 2 lemons)
  8. icing sugar to dust (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 degrees fan forced)
  2. Grease and line a rectangular slice tin
  3. Cream butter and icing sugar mixture with electric beaters until smooth
  4. Stir in 1 cup of the plain flour.
  5. Press mixture over the base of the tin with your hands and palm until even and smooth
  6. Bake in oven for 15 minutes or until lightly golden
  7. Place eggs, castor sugar, 1/4 cup remaining flour, rind and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk with a hand whisk to combine
  8. Pour mixture over hot base and bake in oven for 20 minutes or until firm
  9. Cool in tin
  10. Dust with icing sugar and slice into pieces
Notes
  1. This slice will last for 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge.
cook fast eat slow http://www.cookfasteatslow.com/

 

Spiced Pumpkin Bread

So…. I didn’t exactly tell the boys that the star of this loaf was pumpkin.

I just left it on the bench, still a little warm from the oven, for when they arrived home from school. 

The one who hates banana bread, said “this better not have bananas in it!” and I was able to answer confidently that it did not!

No-one guessed the main ingredient, as it was gobbled up and grubby hands reached for seconds. 

I am planning on making another loaf soon, this time leaving out the nuts so I can send it to school for morning tea. 

The smell of this baking made me think of my American sister-in-law and transported me to a White Christmas in North America. Pumpkin and spices baking together in the oven will do that to you. 

Feel free to sub gluten-free plain flour and soy/rice/nut milk to make this a gluten free/dairy free loaf. 

Spiced Pumpkin Bread
A moist pumpkin loaf, with craisins, nuts and a hint of spice.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
50 min
Total Time
1 hr
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
50 min
Total Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup wholemeal spelt flour or wholemeal plain flour
  2. 1/2 cup brown sugar
  3. 1 teaspoon bi carb soda
  4. 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  5. 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  6. 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  7. 1 cup craisins, raisins or dates
  8. 1 cup of nuts of choice, roasted and chopped (pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts work well)
  9. 1 1/2 cups of grated raw pumpkin
  10. 2 eggs
  11. 1/3 cup olive oil
  12. 1/2 cup milk
  13. 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  14. Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and Sesame seeds for topping
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 degrees fan forced)
  2. Grease and line a loaf tin.
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, bicarb soda and spices.
  4. Whisk with a balloon whisk till there are no lumps.
  5. Add in the craisins, nuts and pumpkin.
  6. Stir till combined.
  7. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, milk and vanilla.
  8. Add to the dry ingredients and stir till combined.
  9. Pour into loaf tin and sprinkle with seeds.
  10. Bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted in comes out clean.
  11. Leave to cool in tin for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Notes
  1. This loaf freezes well. Just slice and wrap each piece separately.
Adapted from Mix and Bake
Adapted from Mix and Bake
cook fast eat slow http://www.cookfasteatslow.com/