November 29, 2011

8 sugar-free weeks (and still going!)

Hi friends!

As promised, here is a little recap of my sugar-free challenge (so far) - how it all started, how it went and how I am feeling now. These past eight weeks have really been just the beginning. I have no urge to go back to having sugar in my life, and as you're about to see I am doing quite well without it!

So, eight weeks a go I came across this book (Click here for the book). I bought it, and started reading it. As I was reading along, I realised how similar my situation was to that described by Sarah in her book. I didn't think I ate that much sugar, I hadn't been using refined sugars for a while, never ate any shop-bought cookies, cakes, sweets or other sugary treats. But I was eating a lot of fruit, a piece or two of dark (85%-99%) chocolate a few nights a week and I was baking with raw sugar, raw honey or maple syrup. Although this was probably still less than the average amount of sugar most people consume daily, I felt I could do better. I was eager to see how I would feel after eliminating all sugar out of my diet, including fruit.

A little background might help you to understand how easy it was for me to embark on this challenge. I am all or nothing kind of a girl and once I make a decision I tend to stick to it. I have also been told I can be (very) headstrong and I must admit this is probably true. On this occasion, however, I think it was actually helpful to have that determinative nature. After I read the book, I decided to quit sugar. There and then, and I didn't look back.

I felt the change already within the first two weeks of the challenge: I had more energy, I was full after a meal and I didn't crave sweet things to end a meal, I was less sluggish and less bloated and all in all felt much better. After the first two weeks I had got so used to my new eating habits that I didn't even think I was missing out on anything. I was eating a lot of fresh vegetables, drinking freshly made vegetable juices and herbal teas and supporting my daily energy intake with nuts and nut milk.

I had also started cutting down grains, but kept having quinoa a couple of times a week and also had a couple of lentil dishes here and there. Quinoa is a perfect protein for vegetarians and as it is more like a seed than a grain, it was an ideal inclusion in my diet. Cutting down grains whilst on sugar-free diet will certainly help, and will give you even a better result.

Towards the end of the challenge, I decided to cut off dairy as well. Now this may seem a little extreme to some people, but I can promise you it really made a huge difference. One week into dairy-freeness and my energy levels have gone through the roof. Perfect timing, as I will certainly need all the extra energy ahead of this week's move.  

Now what can I eat? Well, I have a glass of home-made almond milk in the morning (see below for the recipe) before my exercise. After my exercise I have a big brekkie that includes more protein, usually tofu or tempeh. I have a snack before lunch - Brazil nuts are my latest addiction, and I sip on fresh vegetable juice (celery, cucumber and ginger has been my recent favourite). There are endless vegetarian choices available for lunch, this cauliflower curry, black bean salad and these tartlets are just a few of my recent favourites. I tend to have a big breakfast and lunch and go lighter towards the evening. I often just have a salad for dinner and have another small snack of nuts or a glass of nut milk later in the evening. As for fats, I prefer to use virgin coconut oil for cooking, flaxseed oil in salads and in addition I eat 1/2 avocado and nuts daily.

Home-made almond milk is superbly easy to make:

1. Soak 1 cup (170g) of raw almonds (or you could use Brazil nuts) in plenty of water overnight. 

2. Drain the nuts, rinse and peel them, and add in a blender with 3 1/2 cups (750ml) of fresh water.

3. Blend until smooth, then strain the milk through a sieve lined with muslin to get rid of all the pulp. Store in an air-tight glass jar/bottle in the refrigerator for up to 3 days (it will probably last longer, but I am always careful).

As for tips how to get started on the sugar-free path, I have to say it much depends on each person's situation. For me, going cold turkey worked just fine and I had no withdrawals or cravings. I suggest you first analyse your daily sugar intake and then decide what method is best for you. I've listed a few sugar-free recipes below to get you started.

Needless to say I have nothing negative to say about this experiment, and although I am not saying I'll never eat fruit or use raw honey again, I have no urge to go back just yet. I am also interested to see how dairy-freeness will support this diet even further, and restricting these elements from my diet is certainly making me come up with more creative recipes.

I hope I've been able to inspire some of you at least to consider going sugar-free. You may think you can't do it, but trust me, it's not that difficult! Once you stop feeding your sweet cravings, your taste buds will adjust and you won't miss a thing!

Here are a few sweet recipes you could try for a soft landing to sugar-free life. 

Grain-free, sugar-free breakfast muffins

Sugar-free coconut granola

Sugar-free rhubarb macaroon slice

Activated, spiced nuts

Grain-free, sugar-free zucchini mini cakes

Grain-free, sugar-free sweet parsnip bread

I would love to hear your feedback! Have you gone sugar-free? How are you feeling?

November 27, 2011

Black bean salad

It's been a hectic weekend with lots of packing, organising, planning. Fun times, but exhausting as well. I had clearly been in denial of how much stuff we had actually managed to accumulate in 5 years. I am almost embarrassed to report that most of that 'stuff' is actually mine, and I'm the one who moved to this country 6 years a go bringing with me nothing but a 20kg suitcase! I am not even big on shopping (I promise!), but during the last couple of years I have managed to more than quadruple the amount of kitchen items and props. Even though I keep telling myself (and others) it's all because of the work I do, it is still rather alarming. All I can do is hope that our new home is bigger than I dare to think.

The good news this weekend was a sunny Sunday after almost a full week of rain. It was making me somewhat worried about the survival of my little kitchen garden, but hopefully today's sun will fix the extra moistness in the soil. In the midst of all the packing and scattered boxes, I managed to put together this tasty number. I adore black beans and wish good raw black beans were more readily available here in Sydney. I don't normally like to use canned beans because I rather enjoy the slight crunch of beans that are cooked until just tender. This time, however, tinned beans had to do, and it was probably better anyway so I could cut down the time spend on this salad. I love the combination of these flavours, and really recommend you try this. But please don't swap pink peppercorns to black pepper (or anything else). They really go so well with all the ingredients!

I must also recommend you make double batch of this. I thought I would get away with just one, but ended up having to make another batch straight after as I had scoffed most of the salad before it even got to the table.

Black bean salad
(serves 2-4)

2 x 400g tin black beans (please use raw beans, soaked and cooked until tender, if you can!), drained and rinsed well
1 red capsicum/bell pepper, chopped into small cubes
2 zucchinis/courgettes, chopped into small cubes
1 avocado, chopped into small cubes
zest of 1 preserved lemon wedge (my recipe here)
2 green onions, finely sliced
1 tablespoon pink peppercorns, slightly crushed
2 tablespoons flaxseed oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
big handful of fresh mint, finely chopped

1. Combine all the ingredients. Refrigerate for 30 minutes for the flavours to develop, if you have the patience. I didn't.

PS. Today also marks 8 weeks since I started my sugar-free challenge! Woot, I did it! 
I'll be recapping my experiences and thoughts a bit later this week, so stay tuned!

November 25, 2011

Cauliflower curry

I have no patience when it comes to sharing delicious recipes here on the blog. Some might argue I have no patience in other areas of life either, but that's another story. Whether I come up with a recipe or come across a recipe that is just too good to hold back, I make a little squeal and get cooking. Some recipes need a bit more work, while others, like this one, just work straight away. I couldn't wait to share this recipe with you. 

Curries are something I don't do very often. I guess I just never really got into them and was often shunned by their spiciness. This cauliflower variation is (obviously) a mild curry, but you can easily adjust it to your liking. I am so happy to just grab a big bowl and scoop this on its own, but you could of course serve it with some grains, if you wish. 


Cauliflower curry
(recipe adapted from the WellBeing Magazine)
(serves 2)

2cm piece of fresh ginger
2 cm piece of fresh turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper (or to taste)
4 tablespoons raw almonds
 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
zest of 1 preserved lemon (or fresh lemon)
250ml coconut cream

1 teaspoon virgin coconut oil
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 medium size cauliflower, cut into small florets
50ml coconut cream, extra
 pinch of salt
fresh lemon juice 

fresh coriander, to serve*

* I don't (yet) have fresh coriander growing in my garden so I used shiso leaves instead. They worked surprisingly well with the flavours!

1. Place all the sauce ingredients in a blender and purée into a smooth mixture. Set aside.

2. Heat the coconut oil in a large pan and add the green onions and the cauliflower florets. Cook for a couple of minutes, then stir in the spiced sauce. Turn down the heat and cook for 10-15 minutes, adding extra coconut cream (or water) if needed. 

3. Cook the cauliflower until just tender, but with a little bit of bite. Turn off the heat and season the dish with a pinch of salt and some fresh lemon juice, if you like. Serve with fresh coriander and with lentils or rice, if you wish.

November 23, 2011

Kale rolls with quinoa and chickpea stuffing

It may seem that I've suddenly become obsesses with rolled foods (see my previous post), but I can ensure you that two roll recipes in a row is a mere coincidence. The idea behind these kale rolls is similar to my savoy cabbage rolls (recipe here), but this time I've opted for a grain-free filling. Spring onion, preserved lemon (or fresh lemon zest) and chickpeas are my staple flavour combination for quinoa, and I love the idea of rolling it all in steamed kale leaves.


Kale rolls with quinoa and chickpea stuffing

300g cooked quinoa*
200g cooked chickpeas**
zest of 2 preserved lemon wedges (see my recipe here), finely chopped
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 bunch of kale, leaves cut off

* rinse the quinoa prior to cooking. For this recipe you will need about 1 cup uncooked quinoa. Cook the quinoa in 1 1/2 cups water for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and let sit (covered) for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

** soak raw chickpeas overnight before draining and cooking in plenty of boiling water until just tender. You can use canned chickpeas (drained and rinsed) too, if you wish.

1. Prepare the filling. Combine the quinoa, chickpeas, preserved lemon and green onions in a bowl. Drizzle the mixture with a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and toss to combine. Set aside.

2. Steam the kale leaves quickly (about 1 minute). Remove from the steamer and cut off the thick stems or thin the stems so they are easier to roll up. 

3. Place some filling on each leaf (the amount depends on the size of the leaf, of course) and fold into a roll. You can overlap the 'half' leaves to make one bigger leaf, if you need to.

November 21, 2011

Zucchini rolls with almond, rosemary and lemon stuffing

Hi friends, 

Did you have a nice weekend? 

I have been having really efficient phase recently and I finally feel like I am getting on top of things. I really hope it stays like this, especially when December is shaping up to be a very busy month!

Since I was getting things organised this weekend, I also had time to try a couple of new recipes. These zucchini rolls, stuffed with a delicious almond crumble are a perfect food for summer parties, but you could use the same stuffing for any other seasonal veggies - try thinly sliced pumpkin or sweet potato even! 

Mixed with finely chopped fresh rosemary, a couple of wedges of those simple preserved lemons I made earlier, and fried in virgin coconut oil until the beautiful nutty aromas swift in the air, this crumble was truly sensational. Perfect weekend snack food!

Zucchini rolls with almond, rosemary and lemon stuffing
(serves 2-4)

3 zucchinis/courgettes, thinly sliced (you could also use sweet potato, aubergines or pumpkins)
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil
70g almond meal
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
zest of 2 preserved lemon wedges, finely chopped
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil, extra

1. Brush the thinly cut zucchini slices with a little bit of oil. Heat a grill pan on medium high and grill the slices for a few minutes on each side. The slices should be just tender, but please don't be tempted to overcook them! 

2. Mix the almond meal, rosemary and lemon zest in a bowl. Heat a small amount of coconut oil in a frying pan and add the crumble mixture. Fry for 5-10 minutes, stirring and moving the mixture frequently, until the crumble starts to release its nutty aromas. Be careful not to let it burn! 

3. To assemble, place a teaspoon of stuffing on each zucchini slice and roll up. Use a small wooden pick to hold the rolls together. Serve room temperature.

November 19, 2011

Grain-free spinach and ricotta tartlets

Hi friends!

I was up early today and went for a morning run whilst the temperature was still bearable. Already then, I could see the haze covering the distant landscape and that if anything is a sure indication of a hot and humid day ahead. I really wanted to make these spinach and ricotta tartlets for our Saturday lunch so I started baking early in the morning before our little kitchen gets far too hot. 

These grain-free tarts are such a lovely treat and definitely one of my favourite stand-by dishes to make. The base is grain-free and so easy to make. For the filling, I used frozen spinach, green onions and raided my kitchen garden for a variety of fresh herbs - basil, rosemary, oregano, parsley and mint. They really make the filling so incredibly tasty! These make a perfect weekend lunch, I couldn't be happier.

Have a lovely weekend!

Grain-free spinach and ricotta tartlets
 (makes 4 small)


200g almond meal
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 large egg (free-range, organic)
2 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil


250g frozen spinach (defrosted), you could also use fresh spinach
2 green onions, finely chopped
a large handful of fresh herbs (rosemary, oregano, basil, parsley and mint)
pinch of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg (free-range, organic)
400g smooth ricotta (low-fat is fine, but fat-free might curdle)
zest of one lemon, optional

1. Prepare the bases: combine all the ingredients in a bowl into a smooth dough. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions and spread evenly on the base and side of the tart pans (pans 14cm each, well greased). Refrigerate the bases for 10-15 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 180C. 

3. Prepare the filling:  Squeeze out all excess water off the spinach. Add all other ingredients and stir into a smooth mixture. Set aside.

4. Bake the tart bases for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and spread the filling evenly on each base. Lower the temperature to 165C and pop the tarts back in the oven. Continue to bake 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack before serving.

November 17, 2011

Asparagus mimosa

I have packed almost all of my cookbooks now, as we only have a couple of more weeks before we move into our new home. The last books standing in my bookshelf are the ones I love browsing the most, and two of them happen to be Yotam Ottolenghi's.

Yotam's recipe for asparagus mimosa suits my food philosophy perfectly. I'm all about simple flavours, I'm sure you know that by now. I don't really enjoy fiddly recipes, and I like to celebrate the seasonal produce as it is, embracing the flavours of the ingredients without messing about too much. Sure I enjoy cooking with somewhat exotic ingredients every now and then, but mostly my food is pretty straight forward.

This simple, humble asparagus mimosa is a celebration of pure flavours. The bright green asparagus spears are covered under a blanket of egg with only a couple of other ingredients to boost the flavours. It was a perfect dish on a rainy spring day.

Asparagus mimosa
(serves 2-4)
(recipe inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi)

2 bunches asparagus, woody ends cut off
2 eggs (free-range, organic)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
sherry vinegar, optional

1. Hard-boil the eggs (7 minutes). Leave to cool completely before grating or shredding. I have a nifty little grater, one of those mouli-type ones, that I like using for this. Set the eggs aside. 

2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds and the asparagus. Cook for a few minutes, tossing the spears every now and then. Season with salt and pepper and add a small splash of vinegar, if you wish (this can colour the asparagus slightly, so leave it out if you wish to keep them bright green). Be careful not to over-cook the asparagus, it's quite nice with a bit of crunch served with a soft grated egg.

November 15, 2011

Broad Beans and Quinoa

It was a ferociously hot day here in Sydney yesterday, the hot winds were blowing straight from the Outback and the only place to hide the heat was an air-conditioned space - the office, a car or a shopping centre. I felt like melting. My body, having spent the first 24 years in the moderate climate of the Arctic circle, does not cope with heat very well. In my 6 years of living in Sydney, I still haven't acclimatised enough to handle days like this one. And It is certainly not helping that during this time of the year, my natural way of thinking would be to start preparing comforting autumn casseroles, warming soups and stews. Fortunately the vivid spring produce is gently directing me back on the right track and inspiring me to cook foods more suitable for the hot days to come.


 I picked up a huge bag of gorgeous broad beans from my local green grocer. Simply prepared with quinoa and some of these preserved lemons I stashed away some weeks ago, they were a perfect meal for a warm night. You could add fresh herbs, like parsley and lemon, along with some finely chopped spring onions in the dish. Be careful not to cook the broad beans for too long, you want to keep them more like al dente, than make them mushy.

 Broad Beans and Quinoa
(serves 2-4)
(recipe adapted from Gourmet Traveller)

 200g quinoa, rinsed
375ml water
1kg broad beans
pinch of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 wedge preserve lemon*
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
shallot green/spring onion, finely sliced (optional)
fresh herbs (optional)

* see my recipe for preserved lemons here.

1. Place the rinsed quinoa in a medium sized saucepan. Add the water and bring to boil. Let simmer for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat, cover the pan with a lid and let sit for a further 5 minutes. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and set aside.

2. Remove the outer bods of the broad beans and blanch the beans in plenty of boiling water for just a couple of minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water, then peel the inner skins off the beans. 

3. Finely chop the zest of the preserved lemon (discarding the flesh) and add it to the quinoa. Season the quinoa with some fresh lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add in the broad beans, shallots and fresh herbs. Serve as a salad or a side dish to fish.

November 13, 2011

Spring lentil salad

I am beyond excited about our upcoming move, and have probably bored most of my poor Twitter followers with a weekly countdown ever since we signed the contract (9 weeks ago!). We have three more weeks to go now, if all goes to plan, before we finally get the keys into our new home. As eager as I am to pack up our current home of 5 years, I am a little bit concerned about my little kitchen garden and how all the growing produce will like the move. Especially the tomato plant has really come to life in recent weeks and I will have to be extra careful transporting the plant into our new home. Once there, they should have no reason to worry, however, as our large north-facing balcony should provide much sunlight throughout the year. I am planning to start growing more veggies, herbs and a citrus tree or two once we've settled in. 


But for now, I am using up as much as fresh herbs from our balcony garden as I possibly can and this fresh spring lentil salad is a wonderful way to use up the most prosperous two - mint and parsley. I've cooked the vegetables ever so lightly in some coconut oil, just to get the edge off, but to keep them crunchy. You want this to be fresh and fragrant, not sad and mushy. Beluga lentils are a wonderful companion, but you could certainly use green/brown lentils as well. This is delicious on its own, but you could toast some spiced sunflower seeds as an additional crunch, if you wish.

Spring lentil salad
(serves 2-4)

200g Beluga lentils
2 teaspoons virgin coconut oil
2 bunches asparagus
2 zucchinis
4 shallot greens
fresh mint
fresh parsley
1/2 avocado
1/2 lemon, juiced
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
flaxseed oil, to serve

1. Cook the lentils in plenty of boiling water until just tender (20 minutes). Drain and set aside.

2. In the mean while, prepare the vegetables. Chop the asparagus in 2cm pieces (discard the woody ends), chop the zucchini into similar size pieces and cut the shallots finely. 

3. Heat the coconut oil in a skillet and add the asparagus, zucchini and shallots. Season the vegetables with a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook only for a couple of minutes, then remove from the heat and set aside.

4. Toss the lentils and the vegetables, drizzle in the lemon juice and add chopped avocado and finely chopped fresh herbs. Drizzle with some flaxseed oil, if desired. Ideally you should let the flavours develop in the fridge for at least half an hour before serving, but this is tasty as it is, served in room temperature.

November 10, 2011

Sugar-free, grain-free sweet parsnip bread

Hello all!

It's my sixth week of the sugar-free challenge and I am quite excited to share another recipe with you.
For this recipe, I was thinking of all the vegetables one could use to make sweet cakes and desserts. There are the usual suspects - carrot, sweet potato, zucchini and beetroot, of course. But parsnips have been a favourite of mine for as long as I can remember, and I've been meaning to use them in a cake for a while. You could easily make a carrot version of this sweet bread, but if you are keen to try something different, I urge you to give a go at parsnips. This is a sweet bread, but perfect served at breakfast or morning/afternoon tea with a big dollop of cinnamon yoghurt or organic butter, if you prefer. I love to toast a couple of thick slices and savour them with a big cup of spicy herbal tea.

On the note of the sugar-free challenge, I was so happy to be featured in Sarah's inspirational blog earlier this week. Sarah's e-book 'I Quit Sugar' was the driving force for this challenge, and I am ever so grateful to her. Thank you Sarah!

Sweet Parsnip Bread
(adapted from Elana's recipe)

300g almond meal
pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
5 eggs (free-range, organic)
60ml extra-virgin olive oil or melted organic butter
2 tablespoons brown rice syrup*
300g grated parsnips
150g chopped walnuts

* brown rice syrup is available at health food stores. Rice syrup is a low glucose alternative to other sweeteners, like raw honey. You can leave this out altogether, if you prefer.

1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a medium sized loaf tin or a 12-cup muffin tin. 

2. Mix together the almond meal, salt, cinnamon and baking soda. 

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, olive oil and brown rice syrup. Stir in the grated parsnips and chopped walnuts.

4. Mix in the dry ingredients. 

5. Scoop the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 45-60 minutes or until firm to touch. Leave to cool on a wire rack before serving. The bread should be moist, not crumbly, so be careful with the baking time and make sure to check during baking as every oven is different.

November 07, 2011

Eggplant and lentil stacks

Hello friends, how was your weekend?

It was a very warm spring weekend here in Sydney, and we got the first real taste of summer. I did some gardening on my little balcony - the herbs are growing fast and now there are even a few tiny tomatoes popping up! It'll be some time yet until they are ripe enough to eat, but I am so excited to see them grow. 

Sunday was such a warm day that I felt like cooking us something light. These tasty eggplant and lentil stacks are a perfect vegetarian meal, and certainly perfect to feed my latest eggplant addiction. You could use beluga lentils too, but I had some green lentils waiting to be used, so I cooked them up instead. Goat cheese would be a great alternative to feta, but you can leave the cheese out if you like.

Eggplant and lentil stacks
(recipe adapted from

200g lentils
1 large eggplant, cut into slices
2 shallot greens, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
100g feta cheese
pinch of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
rocket leaves, for serving

1. Rinse the lentils and place in a saucepan with plenty of fresh water. Bring to boil, then let simmer until just tender. Drain and set aside.

2. Brush the eggplant slices on both sides with olive oil. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Cook the slices for a few minutes on each side. 

3. Mix the shallots, and sherry vinegar with the lentils. Season the mixture with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. You can add a dash of olive oil in the mix as well.

4. Place an eggplant slice on a serving plate, spoon on some lentils, add another layer of eggplant and lentils and top with a slice of eggplant. Crumble on some feta cheese and scatter the rocket leaves around. Repeat with the second stack. Serve immediately.

November 04, 2011

Haloumi with vegetable medley


Happy Friday friends!

Today I'm sharing a little weekend snack recipe with you. I love the flavours in this dish, and the mellow vegetables pair nicely with the salty halloumi cheese. It's a perfect snack to enjoy when you have a little time to spend in the kitchen, just chopping away. I was very lucky to win a new knife set recently, and testing the new knives made chopping even more enjoyable.

 Haloumi with vegetable medley
(recipe inspired by Earth to Table)
(serves 2-4)

200g haloumi cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
200g eggplant, cut into small cubes
100g red capsicum/bell pepper, cut into small cubes
10 brown mushrooms, cut into small cubes
1 white onion, finely chopped
10 green olives, cut into small cubes
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
pinch of dry sweet basil (optional)
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
fresh parsley
fresh mint

1. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the mustard seeds. Add all vegetables and cook for about 10 minutes or until soften.

2. Add the sherry vinegar and season the mixture. Leave to cool slightly before adding in the fresh herbs before serving.

3. Cut the haloumi into slices and fry on each side until soften. Spoon some medley on top of each slice and serve immediately. You can store the rest of the medley in the fridge and serve with fish, tofu or bread.

November 01, 2011

Grain-free, sugar-free zucchini mini-cakes with mint yoghurt

Week 5 of my sugar-free challenge is now well under way. I have certainly broken the habit of looking for that 'something sweet' after meals and found a heap of alternative ways to enjoy baked treats. Not even the fresh new-season mangoes can lure me in at this point! My trustworthy kitchen garden is also providing some special treats - lots of different kinds of mint are flourishing and they can certainly give that extra sweetness and freshness to salads, as well as a bowl of plain yoghurt sprinkled with cinnamon.  


These zucchini cakes have taken a bit of experimenting, but I think I've finally nailed the recipe. The secret of baking grain-free (I think) is that you need to bake them a little longer than you'd think. They stay moist, and these little cakes are certainly that without being mushy. I couldn't help myself but add a couple of tablespoons of chia seeds in the mix, too. They certainly can't hurt, right? Experiment with warm spices too, if you like. Ginger, clove and nutmeg would all go really well in these cakes.

Grain-free, sugar-free zucchini mini-cakes with mint yoghurt
(Recipe inspired by Lee at Supercharged Foods via Sarah Wilson)
(makes 4 small cakes)

100g almond meal
100g chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons chia seeds
2 tablespoons raw cacao nibs (unsweetened)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of sea salt
2 large eggs (organic, free-range)
1 tablespoons brown rice syrup*
2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
3 tablespoons milk/coconut milk
200g grated zucchini

fresh mint, to serve
plain yoghurt (no added sugar), to serve

* brown rice syrup is available at health food stores. Rice syrup is a low glucose alternative to other sweeteners, like raw honey. You can leave this out altogether, if you prefer.

1. Preheat oven to 170C and grease a 4-cup cake tin (each about 200ml). Alternatively you can use one small (18cm) cake tin.

2. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. 

3. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs and whisk in the brown rice syrup, coconut oil and milk. 

4. Fold the egg mixture into the dry ingredients. Squeeze out excess water of the zucchini and fold that in as well. 

5. Scoop the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 30-45 minutes or until the cakes feel firm to touch. Leave to cool on a wire rack before serving. You can freeze these, but they are best eaten within 2 days. Serve the cakes with plain yoghurt mixed with finely chopped fresh mint.