Cook this: almond & polenta cake

Apologies for the hiatus in baking of late; between the cookbook being prepared for launch and the rest of life, I haven’t had much time or inclination for it. But, I got back in the kitchen this weekend and finally made a cake that’s been on my “to bake” list for a while – an almond polenta cake by Therese at My Nordic Kitchen. I love almonds. I love polenta. It was an obvious one for me.

I played with the recipe a little, as I am want to do by upping the polenta ratio and making it a bit of a smaller cake. It’s delicious, so next time I’ll double it. It’s a super light and soft cake, and goes down perfectly with a good pot of Earl Grey tea.

Ingredients:
– 50g butter, softened
– 5 tbsp. caster sugar
– 2 large eggs, at room temperature
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– finely grated zest of one lemon
– 150g Greek yoghurt
¼ cup plain flour
¼ cup almond meal
cup polenta
½ tsp baking soda
– pinch of salt
– handful slivered almonds

Method:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C and grease a bread tin.

2. Combine the butter and sugar with electric beaters until smooth and creamy, then add the eggs, one by one, and beat until combined.

3. Add the lemon zest, vanilla and yoghurt, and stir through.

4. Finally, add the flour, almond meal, polenta, baking soda and salt, and stir to completely combine.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and sprinkle the slivered almonds over the top. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cake passes the skewer test. Cool in the tin, and keep up to 3 days in an airtight container.

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A crash course in FODMAPs & cook this: poached egg in polenta & sugo

So, it’s been a frustrating year thus far, trying to work out what’s causing my stomach to hate me so much. After recently undergoing some blood tests and hydrogen breath tests, turns out we can confirm now that I’m not coeliac (although large amounts of gluten don’t really agree with me),  but I am lactose and fructose intolerant, which is apparently why my stomach has been hating me so much. Great. So what does that mean? A super exciting low FODMAP diet for the next few weeks, after which we try to reintroduce some of the stuff that’s currently a no-go. I won’t bore you with the details (Google “low FODMAPs” for more detailed info), but basically FODMAPs are molecules found in a lot of common foods we eat that aren’t digested properly, and then cause nasty digestive issues.  FODMAP stands for:
Fermentable
Oligosaccharides (eg. Fructans and Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS))
Disaccharides (eg. Lactose)
Monosaccharides (eg. excess Fructose)
and
Polyols (eg. Sorbitol, Mannitol, Maltitol, Xylitol and Isomalt)

Great, but what the hell does that mean in real life? Basically, foods containing those guys are not my friend for the next few weeks. Not a whole lot of Ben & Jerry’s style shenanigans over the next few weeks, then…

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The OK to eat list includes:
GRAINS – gluten free everything – bread, pasta, flour etc, quinoa, rice, rice noodles, tapioca, corn thins, popcorn (yay!), oats (double yay!), polenta
VEGGIES – among a few others, red capsicums, bok choy, carrots, cucumber, zucchini, eggplant, ginger, tomato, lettuce, olives, parsnip, potato, spinach, the green tops of spring onions only
FRUITS – kiwi fruit, strawberries, oranges, pineapples, blueberries, rockmelon, limes, lemons, mandarins, passionfruit
DAIRY – lactose free milk and yoghurt (Liddell’s for me!), coconut milk, feta, mozzarella, Swiss, parmesan, brie, camembert cheeses
PROTEIN – chicken, beef, lamb, pork, fish, eggs, unprocessed meats
NUTS/SEEDS – anything but cashews and almonds really, in very small amounts (10 nuts or less)
OTHER – pure maple syrup, pure sugar/sucrose, dark chocolate (Lindt 85% for me!), raw cacao, salt/pepper, most oils, peanut butter, unsweetened coconut, herbs like cumin, paprika, coriander, basil, thyme, chives, parsley, rosemary, Nuttelex spread, small amounts of soy, fish and oyster sauces, some mayo/mustard (providing they don’t have any onion or garlic in the ingredients), tea (THANK GOD!), Massell stock cubes made without onion/garlic (SO happy I found these!)

Basically, not a heap of sauces/condiments/packaged stuff where the nasties are hidden – more plainly prepared stuff like grilled prawns (minus the garlic butter, unfortunately!), rice and simple steamed veggies. I’d be way happier in Thailand or Vietnam for the next 8 weeks, actually…

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The not OK to eat list includes:
GRAINS – Gluten – regular bread and pasta, cous cous, barley, and pretty much all pre-packaged cakes, biscuits, crackers, pastries etc.
VEGGIES – garlic, onion, broccoli, cabbage, snow peas, mushrooms, cauliflower, celery, fennel, leeks
FRUITS – apples, pears, stone fruits, tinned fruit, concentrated fruit juices, dried fruits
DAIRY – cow’s milk, lactose products, buttermilk, ice cream, custard, cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta, sour cream
PROTEIN – sausages/processed meats (often have fructose products such as honey used in them, so check the ingredients!), all beans (kidney beans, black beans, etc), chickpeas, lentils, soy beans
NUTS/SEEDS – cashews, pistachios, large amounts of any other nuts/seeds
OTHER – honey, milk chocolate, molasses, regular stock cubes, relish, cocoa powder, teas that have fennel, dandelion or chamomile in them,  and anything that includes fructose, isomalt, high fructose corn syrup, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol and sugar free drinks and sweets that have polyols (ingredients typically ending in -yol) in them…. how the hell I’m going to study nutritional labels for all this crap is beyond me…

Grey areas:
– Soy and almond milk are the ones that’ll impact me most – almonds and soy beans are technically on the NOT OK section for the low FODMAP diet, but I’m figuring a little soy milk in my tea will still be better that regular milk! Otherwise I’ll stick with Zymil milk I think. Tofu is another one on the maybe/maybe not list, for the same reason.
– In terms of veggies, broccoli, avocado, sweet potato, pumpkin and corn – small serves of a half cup or less are thought to maybe be ok, but no conclusive evidence is available at this stage either way.

Without going into too much detail, it’s not a life sentence; generally after 8 – 10 weeks of this, you’re encouraged to start re-introducing some of those FODMAPs, group by group, to see if you can include them into your diet again 🙂 What that means here is that you won’t be seeing a heap of my standard delicious naughty food on here (I’m not saying I may not have the occasional slip up – I’ll do my best but I am only human!), but instead some more gluten free, lactose free, fructose free, FODMAP friendly options for a few weeks! And I have no intention of eating chicken and rice every day for the next 2 months, so we’ll see how creative this can get!

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ANYWAY, enough of the education component of this post (I didn’t want to get into it too much, but I also didn’t want you guys to be wondering why there wasn’t a new burger every week on here!), let’s get to the food – gooey, runny yolked poached egg in a polenta and chunky sugo nest. Winter time comfort food. The perfect meal to end the week. Which I really, really needed last night after only 3 hours sleep Saturday night.

The polenta and sugo were pretty simple – I make them both pretty often. But, surprisingly, I’ve never done poached eggs before! How is this possible?! I have no idea! It really only just hit me when I vetoed frying the egg and couldn’t be bothered waiting long enough to do the baked egg thing. I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a try,  and happily, it was no where near as difficult or scary as I thought it’d be!

So here’s your gluten free, lactose free, fructose free, low FODMAP, tummy friendly, blah blah blah winter warmer dinner of poached egg/s, polenta and sugo…

Ingredients (for 2):
Sugo:
– garlic infused olive oil
– 2 rashers bacon, diced
– 1 red capsicum, diced
– 2 heaped tbsp pitted, sliced black olives
– 3 ripe tomatoes, diced
– 1 cup plain tomato pasta sauce
– salt, pepper and dried basil
– 2 handfuls baby spinach leaves, torn

Polenta:
– 2 cups water with a sprinkle of salt
– ½ cup polenta/fine semolina
– 1 tbsp Nuttelex spread (or just regular butter if you’re not low FODMAPing)
– 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Eggs:
– as many eggs as you want
– pot of water
– 1 tbsp vinegar

Method:
1. Get the sugo started first – heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and add the bacon. Once the bacon starts to get a little colour, add the capsicum and cook over high heat until the capsicum starts to soften.

2. Next, add the olives, tomato, pasta sauce and as much salt, pepper and basil as you like to the pot. Simmer for 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Then mix the spinach through until it wilts and shrinks. You can set the sauce aside and re-heat it if need be just before serving.

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3. Get your pot of water and the little bit of vinegar for the eggs on the boil next – it needs to be a roaring, rolling boil before you even think about throwing those eggs in there. Crack as many eggs as you want into separate, small dishes and set them aside.

4. Finally, get the pot of water for the polenta on medium heat – bring it almost to the boil, turn the heat down and slowly add the polenta, whisking as you add it (if you dump it all in at once, it’ll be a lumpy mess). Once all the polenta is in, keep the heat on low and whisk continuously for 5-10 minutes, until you’re happy with the consistency – if it’s too thin for you, keep whisking over low heat to thicken it up, and if it’s too thick add a little more water. Add in the butter and cheese, whisk through, and again leave it to the side to re-heat if you need to before serving.

5. Now, those eggs. Water’s on a strong rolling boil, give it a stir with a spoon to create a little whirlpool in the centre, and slowly and carefully slide in the first egg. Set a timer for 2 minutes, try not to panic like I did at the messy trail of egg white that’s probably floating around in there (I don’t know how, but egg magic will bring it all together in the end), and remove your egg with a slotted spoon just before the timer hits the 2 minute mark – rest it on a paper towel-covered plate until you’re ready for it. Keep poaching your remaining eggs, one at a time.

6. Assembly is easy – polenta into the bowl first, lots of sugo next, and plonk your egg on top. Hopefully you saved a little parmesan to top it with, too! Enjoy 🙂

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And if there are any more low FODMAPers out there reading this, I’d LOVE to hear from you guys – let me know how you’re going with it all, any favourite dishes you have, any helpful tips and what not!

Cook this: Cake drops V.2 – the Jaffa edition (orange, polenta & cacao)

polenta cake drops 2

So, last week I posted a recipe for “superfood” cake drops, made with goji berries, cacao nibs and chia seeds, the inspiration for which came from Heather at Skinny Fat Girl. Anyway, over the week, I was thinking about other ways I could play around with this versatile little recipe, and make it more my own. One of my all time favourite sweet combinations is orange and polenta (looove orange and polenta cookies!), and I’m obviously a chocoholic (thanks, dad), so I decided to combine the lot to give it a bit of a Jaffa spin – while I absolutely cannot stand Jaffa lollies, with their crappy quality chocolate and rancid imitation orange flavouring, I absolutely love the combination of REAL orange and REAL chocolate!

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Ingredients
– ¼ cup plain flour (gluten free if needed)
– ¼ cup almond meal (if you don’t have this lying around/don’t want to buy it, just use another quarter cup of flour instead)
– ½ cup polenta
– 1 tsp bicarb soda
– ¼ cup caster sugar (alternatively, honey for refined sugar free version, maple syrup for FODMAP friendly version, or Stevia or similar for lower calorie version)
– 125g yogurt (I like Liddells lactose free plain vanilla, but if you’re not lactose intolerant, plain, natural Greek yogurt is perfect)
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
– 1 egg white
– 2 tbsp toasted cacao nibs
– finely grated rind of 1 orange

Method
1. Preheat to 180ºC.
2. Combine the flour and/or almond meal, polenta, bicarb and sugar in a large bowl, then stir through the yoghurt, vanilla extract, orange juice and egg white until completely combined.
3. Stir in the cacao nibs and orange rind, until they’re evenly mixed through.
4. Baking option 1: scoop out tablespoons of batter onto a lined oven tray.
Baking option 2: scoop batter into mini muffin tins, either lightly spraying the tins first with a neutral cooking oil, or lining them with mini cupcake cases.
5. Bake for 10 minutes, or until just golden on top. Once cooled, these can be stored for almost a week in an airtight container

Just like the original “superfood” cake drops, these are light and airy, moist and delicious. And because they’re so quick and easy to make, come from all pantry staples, and can be made to be so tummy friendly, they’re now basically a staple in our house!  polenta cake drops 3