Monthly Archives: November 2010

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The best tart ever

It’s so common in the UK to see apples and blackberries together. They’re kind of a perfect combination. Alone, they’re great, but together, there’s this magical alchemy that makes you wonder if there maybe is some kind of design behind this whole existence thing. Yeah, I know… the human body is amazing, the complexities of the universe are beyond comprehension, blah blah blah. The things that make me wonder about what’s out there are food combinations; words being pieced together just-so; and colours.

Of course, it might be because it reminds me of my youth. Of picking blackberries by the side of the road, and apples from the apple tree in the garden. Of the nights getting longer. Which, in Glasgow, by the way, means getting dark before 4pm. Of walking to the school bus in the dark in the mornings. Of cold feet. And cold toes. Cold feet. I wonder what came first: the idiom or the character trait. Or maybe one day, somebody was on her way to her wedding, and her feet got so cold that she just couldn’t bring herself to go any further, and she ran all the way back home to put on some thick wooly socks and to sit in front of the fire grilling hot buttered toast on a cast iron poker while the snow fell and while her husband-to-be got increasingly nervous. I wonder if a messenger ran back to the wedding to call “Wedding’s off– the lady got cold feet.” and if that was that.

Or maybe it’s something easier. Maybe somebody was going to go swimming, but upon dipping his toes in, decided not to. “Why didn’t you swim, boy?” “Because I got cold feet, sir!” And once again, that was that. This is what I think about while I’m peeling apples. While my feet are wrapped in thick wooly socks. While a batch of lemon marmalade stews away on the stove. While the rain pelts the awning and the crack under the back door lets in that chilly air, and while Oliver the girl-cat winds herself around my [not so cold] ankles.

And I was going to make a caramel-apple tart. But I changed my mind. I had blackberries and I was nostalgic, and…

I don’t know how I’ll ever beat this.

Crispy flaky tart crust with tart apple and little explosions in your mouth of blackberry.

This tart was perfect. Even with a gluten-free crust (which, by the way, the neighbours, who got half of it, couldn’t believe was gluten-free after they’d finished it and I told them).

Apple and Blackberry Tart

3 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into thin slices

8oz blackberries

1/2 portion of tart crust (can be made with gluten-free flour mix)

Sugar, for dusting

1 egg

Preheat oven to 350.

Roll out the pastry, and line the bottom of a 9″ tart pan. Lay out the apple slices in concentric circles, to cover the bottom of the tart. Evenly place the blackberries on top (or do as I do and dump them and they’ll roll all over the place evenly distributing themselves).

With the remaining dough, cut into strips, and lay out five strips all facing in one direction on top of the tart. Lay out 6 facing in the opposite direction, and then weave them, carefully. Pinch off the edges to seal.

Beat the egg, and brush it over the pastry. Dust the tart generously with sugar, and place in the freezer for approximately 20 minutes.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and you can’t restrain yourself any longer.

This post is shared at the HEARTH AND SOUL BLOG HOP, where Alex is giving away free coconut oil!!! And at Pennywise Platter Thursday.

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All purpose Gluten Free Flour

Remember how I got sick in Mexico a couple of weeks ago?

I haven’t been able to touch unfermented wheat ever since.

Which, if you look at most of the things I write about, has come to be slightly distressing. I love coffee cakes and tarts and cookies. Almost as much as I love… hmm, actually, MORE than I love shoes. My tummy has been so damn sensitive that it feels like there’s a war going on along my whole digestive tract. A war that involves lots of inflammation and discomfort. Most of the time it’s fine– I am eating copious amounts of yogurt and sauerkraut, and my favourite sourdough in the world blessedly feels really good to eat. But I tried having regular old slice of bread at a restaurant last week and ho-ly-cr-ap I was in bed for almost 48 hours. It’s not just cramping, it’s nausea, and headaches, and weird mood swings, and feeling very very foggy-headed. I really don’t want to whine anymore about it though. So I’ve said my piece. And I’ve come up with a gluten free flour mix so that I no longer feel sorry for myself.

The issue with this is that it’s a lot of STUFF. I don’t quite know how to get around that. The good thing is that you can use up most of it to make a massive batch of flour, keep it in a big container, and just use it freely as you would regular all purpose flour.

And by the way, it bakes fantastically.

Gluten Free Flour Mix

Makes 1kg flour.

300g Brown rice flour

100g sorghum flour

40g xanthan gum

200g potato starch

300g white rice flour


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Prickly Pear Jelly

Prickly pear cactus grows all over the Southwestern US. It’s a big, beautiful plant, and the whole thing is edible, once you remove the thorns. In Mexico it’s as common to eat as eggs, but here it’s a relatively unknown food item, except in Mexican communities. In Mexico it’s called ‘nopales’, and the fruits are called ‘tunas’. I was delighted, when we were in Mexico for my birthday, to see it on the menu almost everywhere. The nopales leaves are fantastic medicinally– they’ve been shown in medical studies to reduce blood sugar levels, which is really helpful for diabetics. Unfortunately you’d have to drink about a gallon of nopales juice per day to get the full medicinal benefits…

My mum lives in an area that is covered with prickly pear plants, so a few weeks ago when I was visiting, I dragged her and my little sister out on a tuna-hunting mission. And I’m so glad I dragged them along, because my mum had the clever idea of handing me rubber gloves on the way out the door. My previous method, which, now that I think about it was most inconvenient, was to take my shoes off, put my hands in the shoes, and pull the tunas off that way, rubbing them back and forth between my hands to get all of the fuzzy prickly bits off. This was problematic for 2 main reasons:

1. Walking barefoot around cacti= I must be missing brain cells. Yes, I’ve stepped on thorny bits. Yes, it hurts like hell.

2. Sometimes you get prickly bits stuck in your shoes and don’t see them. Then you put your shoes back on. See above.

With thick rubber gloves on, the tunas come right off, and the little fuzzy thorns don’t get you. You can also rub them back and forth in your hands before throwing them in the bag. I collected as many as I could. The bag was heavy. Nobody else would carry it, and I felt like Sisyphus all the way home.

When you get home with your bag full of prickly pears, dump them straight in the sink, and don said rubber gloves again. Rub each one with a cloth, under running water. The prickles will all come right off. Like I told my sister, it’s not the little pricks you need to worry about…

Check out that COLOUR!! *swoon*

This jam is amazing. It’s sweet and slightly tart. It’s got a fresh flavour slightly remniscent of watermelon or Jolly Ranchers. It’s amazing. And unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before.

Prickly Pear Jelly

makes approx 3 8-oz jars

6 cups prickly pear fruit, mashed (peeled first, then mashed)

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup lemon juice

3 tb pectin

1 tb calcium water (both come in the pomona pectin packet– if using a different pectin, follow directions according to packet)

The prickly pear fruit is filled with seeds, so first off it’s necessary to strain the seeds out. Do this by pressing the mashed fruit through a sieve. You’ll have a bright pink liquid. About 4 cups of it or so. Bring it to a boil, and add the sugar and lemon juice. Boil for a couple of minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool. Preheat the oven to 500, and put in the jars you’ll be using (without the lids). Once the jelly is room temperature, pour in the calcium water and pectin, and bring back to the boil. Remove from the heat, and immediately spoon into the boiling hot jars. Seal, and process in boiling water for ten minutes.

By the way, my friend Butter just wrote a post about tunas too. Check it out here!

This post is shared at Real Food Wednesday and Pennywise Platter Thursday.

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Pumpkin spiced chai

I imagine you’ll laugh at me if you live in, say, Colorado. So let me tell you that when I say “cold”, I completely understand that, living in Southern California, I have absolutely no ground to stand on. Unless you count the Pacific in January. “Cold” in Los Angeles is not cold in Nova Scotia. I know this because I’ve been to Nova Scotia in the winter and I thought I was going to die. Just like I thought that frostbite was imminent last Thanksgiving when I was in Boston. And in Connecticut. And in New York for new years eve. In fact, I grew up in Scotland where it gets damn cold. I get it, Southern California isn’t cold. Except, well, it’s cold. I think your blood gets thin living in a place like this. So thin that when it hits 50 degrees my toes shrivel up and my hands don’t work anymore. Cold enough that I swear my bones are turning to ice. Ice, I tell you. In my old apartment, before I had a bathtub, I’d put the shower on and curl up in a ball lying on the floor, while the hot water hit me. I’d like like that for 45 minutes, until I felt less like an ice cube. Less like I was frozen solid. But now I have a bathtub. So I’ll light some candles and switch off all the lights, and make a tea sachet with some nice spicy herbs (ginger bath? Yes please!) and lie there until I’m cooked. Then when I get out, I’ll make myself a pumpkin spiced chai (inspired by my friend Darcey showing me this link), and curl up on the couch with my new knitting project.

Now, if you’re one of those [weird] people who hates pumpkin pie (I’m married to one of them), then you’ll hate this. It’s like a pumpkin pie in a mug. That said, I love pumpkin pie. Love it. Think about it the second the weather gets cool. And now I can have it in a mug whenever I want it.

Pumpkin Spiced Chai

3 tb canned pumpkin

1 1/2 cups milk

2 tsp sucanat

pinch cayenne

3/4 tsp pumpkin spice (or 1/8 each of cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, cardamom, clove)

1 tb ghee (optional, but it gives it a lovely sweetness and increases the tonic effects)

In a saucepan, heat up all the ingredients until hot enough to drink. Whisk, if necessary, and serve.

Another great variation is to add a shot of espresso– Pumpkin spice lattes!!

This post is a part of the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop and Fight Back Friday.