Friday 27 October 2017

How To Puff Your Seeds And Toast Your Nuts

the guilty suspects

Quinoa is quite the trendy little seed these days, isn't she?  Known by the Peruvians for a few thousand years, we are just catching up to her versatility and good-for-you-ness.  (That other trendy item- kale - remains no friend of mine - tee hee.)  So I made quinoa/cacao nib bars the other day.  The recipe called for puffed quinoa, which wasn't easy to find.  I didn't fancy an extra trip to the local Health store to get it, so I decided to make my own.  And the saga began...

I checked up some recipes on the Net; some said to wash and dry it before popping it; some said to dry it for half an hour, or an hour, or overnight.  Some said don't bother to wash it at all.  I went with not washing it.  I grabbed a small pan, threw in a bit of oil, let it get hot then tipped in the Peruvian quinoa I had bought at the Bulk Store (along with other items of interest.)

popping my quinoa in a hot pan

Nothing seemed to happen; it got oilier, and darker, and started to burn.  But yes it made popping sounds and jumped about.  Still the same tiny grains, just browner, and crunchier.  I was about to throw it out when I read up that puffed quinoa DIDN'T puff up like popcorn or get any bigger.  What?!  So I kept it and used it in the bars.  Seemed okay, if a bit crunchy.

rinse the quinoa 

drying out the quinoa on a lined tray before going in the oven  

after drying in the oven, throw the quinoa into a hot pan with a tiny bit of oil

Next day, I thought okay, I'll do the whole washing and drying thing.  So I rinsed it under the tap, laid it out on a lined baking tray, and left it for half an hour to dry.  A new bit of paper, more drying time then into the lowest oven I could get = 120C for 15 minutes.  Now into the hot pan with 1/4 tsp of veggie oil.  Same thing: a tiny bit of popping, no puffing, going dark and brown.  And burns easily so watch out.  Verdict?:  either buy it or use something else!

Now for toasting your nuts.  This can depend on your oven, but basically I toasted brazil nuts @ 170C for 10 minutes.  Put them in a single layer on an unlined baking tray, and into the oven.  They will start to look golden and smell toasted.

golden nuts

The pepitas went in @160C for 10-15 minutes (mine took 14mins.)  On an unlined tray, and into the oven.  They start to get golden edges, and look crisp.  And taste delicious.

crunchy pepitas

And my last tip for the day: chop up those prunes with scissors and a rubber glove if you don't want to get covered in gooey, sticky stuff.

very sticky so use scissors and a glove  

quinoa farmer and his crop on Lake Titicaca 

                   (image: Wikimedia: author Michael Hermann; crops of the

Saturday 21 October 2017

Smoky Quinoa And Cacao Nib Bars

Quinoa (keenwah) - hard to say but not to eat.  I have used it in salads before, but this was new to me.  I mean the puffed bit, and using it in a sweet treat.  I have to be honest here -  this first turned out to be quinoa and cacao rubble rather than bars.  Mr P. said he would add clusters of it to his morning cereal.  I then made some adjustments to the recipe, which was already delicious but just didn't set as hard as it should have.  So I did a bit of recipe renovating.

This recipe is from Simon Bajada's book Nordic Light, which I have enjoyed reading.  I also enjoyed his Scandi photos, now that he lives in Sweden with his Swedish wife.  This has become more of a chocolate sweet treat rather than Simon's healthy bar, but it is still full of the nutty, seedy good stuff.  I have checked similar recipes to this one on the Net, and they all suggest using just coconut oil or a similar substance.  Just not sure how it would set.  Don't worry, with this amount of melted chocolate, you will succeed. 

ingredients gathered


220g. pitted soft prunes, diced

2 tbs butter or coconut oil

150g. nut butter - I used a mix of hazelnut, cashew and almond

50 mLs plain vegetable oil like peanut or rapeseed

1 tbs honey

(big) pinch of cayenne pepper

150g. pepitas, lightly toasted

20g. cacao nibs or chocolate bits

25g. puffed quinoa - or quinoa flakes or puffed amaranth or even rice bubbles!

90g. brazil nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

200g. dark chocolate, melted

a large pinch of smoked sea salt

for the topping:

100g. dark, milk or white chocolate, melted

1/2-1 tbs smoked sea salt flakes


Mash the prunes forcefully with a fork in a bowl till well-squished (or cheat and throw the prunes into a small food processor)

Add the prunes and the butter (or coconut oil) to a large saucepan over a medium-low heat

Stir in the nut butter, the veg. oil, the honey and the cayenne pepper

Grasp your wooden spoon and mash it all together

Keep stirring over a low heat for 2-3 minutes till beautifully squishy

Remove from the heat and add the pepitas, cacao nibs, the puffed quinoa, the brazil nuts, the melted dark chocolate and the pinch of smoked sea salt

Mix with gusto!

Take your lined loaf tin or baking tray and press the mixture very firmly into the tin with a big spoon or your hands

Melt the 100g. of chocolate and drizzle over the mixture

Sprinkle on the salt flakes and whack into the fridge for a few hours

Take it out of the tin and cut into nice sized bars


I chopped the prunes up with kitchen scissors - so much easier

Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30-second bursts

I started off with a loaf tin, and ended up putting it into a tray (30cm x 20cm) the next morning when I realised that it hadn't set.  I then melted the 200g. of chocolate and stirred it in to the crumbly mix

Back it went into the fridge with a piece of baking paper and a couple of heavy tins on top - you don't have to do this!  Basically just follow the recipe and you won't have to worry about all the other stuff that I did to fix it up:=) 

mash the prunes with a fork

mash up the prunes and butter in a large saucepan

yep looking murky at this stage   

seeds and nuts in

mixing in the melted chocolate

press down very firmly with a spoon or hands 

You caught me out - yep I licked the spoon.  And somehow I seem to have chocolate all over my fingers too.  How did that happen?:=)

chocolate and smoked salt ready to go on top 

looking tasty and kinda pretty

slice it up as big or small as you like 

deliciously salty, chocolatey and nutty 

If you are feeling brave, try making it without the 200g. chocolate to bind it together.  I'd love to know how you go!

my seedy doodle

Monday 16 October 2017

At Sixes And Sevens - Public House Review

I managed to drag Mr P. away the other day to have lunch with a friend.  And believe me, that is not an easy task, as hubby is a workaholic to the max.  I had in mind this place - At Sixes and Sevens which is in increasingly trendy Fortitude Valley.  Once known for its prostitutes and the Coke factory, the Valley now harbours expensive boutiques, fancy restaurants and some cosy bars.

the side view of this historical building

This is a gorgeous 1878 cottage, now made into a bar and kitchen with a courtyard and several comfy spaces to relax in.  I felt at home straightaway upon entering.  The bartender greeted us, told us to take any table and said that as it was early and not yet busy, we could just give a holler and he would come take our order, even though it is usually counter service only.

espresso martini $18

Yep a perfect way to start an early lunch.  I had this one!  Very delicious though surprisingly not that alcoholic in effect.  I felt just fine after drinking it.  Perhaps there was more espresso than the vodka, kahlua and cognac.

ginger beer $3.50

Well folks, you can guess what Mr P. had, can't you?  He loves his ginger beer.  Our mate Mr L. stuck to plain water.  (He watches his diet due to health issues.)

local Tiger chilli prawns $18.50 

I'm a big fan of prawns but this was not my fave dish.  There were 5 sweet and spicy prawns, but sadly I could mostly taste fish sauce, with a bit of zippy chilli heat.  The prawns themselves were large and firm but tender.  But even as we left, I still had the fishy taste in my mouth.  Let's just say that I would have preferred way less fish sauce, and less sweetness.  I wondered about the cos lettuce too.  It seemed out of place with an Asian style dish.       

fish tacos $14

I love a fish taco made on a soft tortilla.  I liked these, but I didn't love them. It was a bit difficult to actually find the fish amongst the coleslaw.  I had had fish tacos at another eating place recently which contained large pieces of battered fish - very delicious; these I am sorry to say paled in comparison.  They weren't bad, just not as tasty as I had expected.  Look, I liked the coleslaw and I love me some jalapeƱos, but I would have loved to see a bit more fish.  Oh, and I had to add a bit of salt, which is something I just never normally do. 

haloumi burger $20

and here's the view without Mr P.'s finger 

Mr P. loves halloumi, so this was an obvious choice for him.  He said the actual burger bun was not too sweet (a common problem these days); the filling was generous; he loved the grilled zucchini and the contrast of the creamy avocado sauce.  There were lots of fries which were...yes, fries.  I snuck a few for taste-testing purposes naturally. 

chicken schnitzel $26.50

Mr L. chose chicken (breast) schnitzel.  This was a very generous serving of panko crumbed chicken, accompanied by a bit of salad.  He declined the fries which normally come with this dish.  He enjoyed his lunch, which he said was spicy, with tender meat, and the batter not too thick.  He certainly scoffed it down very happily.  

fish and chips $20+?

I did the food blogger thing and asked the 2 lovely ladies next to me if I could take a photo of their lunches.  They graciously said yes.  I think this was one of the specials of the day; maybe $20+?  

Asian BBQ pork salad $20 

The other lovely lady had the pork salad.  She said it was a bit hard to find the pork!  So that's all I know about this one.

Mr L. being of somewhat conservative taste was disgruntled due to the fact that the cottage had been modernised, but I found it charming.  And I am just so happy that one of the very few old buildings in Brisbane still remains standing, and useful.  

Pickings' Verdict: a thumbs up, though the food could be tweaked a bit.  Then again, it is bar food, as the menu tells you, and tasty enough to soak up the drinks. 

inside the bar area

The kitchen is open from 11am to 10pm every day, and the Public House is open till midnight.  

67 James St., Fortitude Valley 
Ph: 07 3358 6067

At Sixes and Sevens Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Wednesday 11 October 2017

Home Made Baking Powder

You know how there are some things you just never, ever would think of making yourself?  Like Coca-Cola?:=)  Though I did find a recipe for it once that called for 30 lbs of sugar!  Well, I was flipping thru a recent cookbook purchase and came across this recipe for home-made baking powder.  I was amazed and intrigued.  Who would ever have thought to do this?  But back in granny's day, they did. 

This is incredibly simple.  Only 3 ingredients, and a bit of sifting.  I am halving the recipe, 'cos I'm just not sure how this will turn out.  And really who needs that much baking powder?  Grannies must have been baking all day every day, back in the day:=)  Alison gives no temperature or timing for the drying-out part, so I have made a stab at it.  As we don't live in the damp environs of Victorian Derbyshire, I think this will be sufficient.

funnily enough, I came upon this ad. for baking powder the other day


110g. (4 oz.) of cream of tartar

55g. (2 oz.) of bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tbs rice flour


Sift the 3 ingredients into a small mixing bowl

Give it a good stir

Spread it out on a baking tray

Place in the oven to dry at 100C for 6 minutes - the powdery mix should feel warm to the touch

Take it out of the oven; give it another stir and leave to cool down on the tray

Grab 2 mixing bowls and sift the mixture twice

Give it another good stir before spooning into very clean and sterilised small jars

ingredients gathered

sift the 3 ingredients together 

tip into the baking tray to dry out in the oven

give it a good stir and allow to cool

a cornucopia of baking powder 

Now I just have to try it in some baking, and see if it actually works.

Recipe is from Alison Uttley's book Old Farmhouse Recipes; a collection of recipes and stories based on her childhood growing up on a Derbyshire farm.  Her mum made everything from scratch, using their own farm produce, eggs, meat etc.  Alison Uttley lovingly took the recipes from her mum's handwritten recipe book, and turned them into this charming collection.  A real family treasure.

you can guess what this is:=)

Friday 6 October 2017

Gunpowder Potatoes

Is this dish new to you too, folks?  How had I never heard of this before?  I finished a novel a couple of weeks ago, and the author thanked her editor, saying she would make her these potatoes.  So I hit ye old Google, and found a few variations.  I have mixed and matched to suit our tastes, and you can do the same.  Phew, the list of spices and flavours is huge, but it's actually very quick and simple to make.  

crush those little red devils:=)

I may have mentioned the story of my dad's curry before.  He forgot about it on the stove, and the curry was burnt; I mean seriously blackened to within an inch of its life.  Did this mean we poor children got out of eating it for dinner?  Uh uh, no indeedy.  We had to chow down on this lovely charcoaled dinner.  My lucky younger sister being a vego. got out of it tho:=)  So keep an eye on this one folks.  The spices can burn easily.

Serves 4 as a side dish:


600g. (or about 1.3lb) of small or baby potatoes, unpeeled

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

1/8 - 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes

40g. butter

a slurp of olive oil

1 small red chilli (optional)

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp garam masala

1 tsp cumin powder

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

1/4 tsp sea or smoked salt flakes

1 medium tomato, chopped into small chunks

1/2-1 tsp raw sugar or palm sugar

a small handful (2 tbs) of coriander stalks, finely chopped

juice of half a lime

a big pinch of salt flakes

5 spring onions (scallions) finely chopped

a palmful of coriander leaves, roughly torn or chopped


Boil the potatoes till tender - mine took about 15 mins.

Drain well and set aside to cool and dry off

Dry roast the whole seeds and chilli flakes in a small, cast iron skillet, tossing all the while till you can smell the toasty aroma - be careful not to burn - this will only take a few minutes

When cooled down, throw this mix into a mortar and pestle or a flavour shaker and give it a good bash/shake - you don't want a fine powder; just everything nicely broken up

Melt the butter in a large skillet and add a slurp of olive oil

When sizzling, throw in the potatoes and cook for 5 mins. on a medium-low heat

Crush (gently) with a fork or masher and turn them over

Give them another few minutes till they start getting a golden crust

Push the potatoes to the side of the pan; add the roasted seeds to the middle - you may need a dash more oil or butter

Keep an eye on it while you stir, as it burns easily

Now add the chopped chilli, the dried spices and salt 

Add the tomato, sugar and coriander stalks; and do the stirring thang for a couple of mins.

 In goes the lime juice and a pinch of salt

Scatter over the spring onions and coriander leaves 

Serve with yoghurt 


I used Red Royale baby potatoes but use your fave.  I chopped a few biggies in half so they cooked at the same time

What is a slurp of oil, you may well ask?  2-3 tsp should do the trick

all the tasty ingredients gathered

dry roast the seeds and chilli flakes in a small, cast iron skillet

shake the seeds (this is my Jamie Oliver flavour shaker) 

crush the potatoes-gently

stir in the roasted whole spices 

squeeze in the lime juice 

chop up the spring onions and coriander leaves

and ... eat!

This is a fiery and spicy dish, so the yoghurt goes down a treat with it.  Serve with chicken, or a hunk of spicy baked salmon.

my Red Royale baby potato doodle