Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Recipe: Home made Nutella (Vegan, sugar free, low carb)



Sugar Free Nutella



1 1/2 cups raw hazelnuts
1/2 cup hazelnut oil
1/4 cup coconut oil
3 tbpsn cocoa powder
2 tbpsn liquid stevia


Method




  • Roast the hazelnuts on a piece of foil at 135C (275F) for 15 minutes
  • Remove the tray from the oven and wrap the foil around the nuts, let the nuts sit for 10 minutes wrapped in foil as this will loosen the skin on the roasted nuts
  • Place the roasted kernels on one side of a clean kitchen towel, double the towel over the nuts and rub vigorously to remove the skins
  • Melt the coconut oil in a pan or microwave
  • Put the nuts and hazelnut oil into a blender and pulse until grainy
  • Add the cocoa, coconut oil and stevia
  • Blend on "Liquify" mode until a smooth liquid is formed
  • If liquid stevia is not available dissolve 4 tbspns of stevia powder into the melted coconut oil before using or a grainy texture will result
  • 1/4 cup skim milk powder can be added to get that "just like store bought" taste but compensate by adding an additional tablespoon of oil
  • You can buy hazelnut oil at Safeway or specialty stores but if not available substitute with a light vegetable oil like canola or grapeseed
  • Pour into a jar and refrigerate
  • Try not to eat the whole jar



Monday, January 11, 2016

Recipe: Coffee Jelly (low carb, gluten free, dairy free)

Coffee jelly is a common dessert in Asia and it's very easy to prepare, low in calories and free from any artificial flavours or additives.


Coffee Jelly


4 cups of coffee
2 packets unflavoured gelatin
3 tbspns sugar or stevia


Method

  • Prepare coffee as usual - brewed or French press coffee works best
  • Pour 1/2 cup of the brewed coffee into a bowl and sprinkle with the gelatin 
  • Wait for the gelatin to bloom into the liquid
  • Pour the remaining coffee and sweetener into a saucepan
  • Add the bloomed gelatin and coffee 
  • Heat and stir until the sweetener and gelatin have dissolved
  • Using a sieve to catch any undissolved gelatin or loose coffee grinds pour into moulds or cups

  • Cool overnight or until set in the refrigerator
  • To remove from a mould set the mould in a bowl of warm water then turn onto a serving plate
  • For a vegan alternative use agar agar in place of gelatin
  • If desired serve with unsweetened cream or sweetened condensed milk
  • Makes 4 1 cup servings (Macros with stevia: 20 calories, 1g carb, 0g fat, 4g protein)




Sunday, January 10, 2016

Review: South City Kitchen, Atlanta

It's January and that means a lot of us are eating healthy and trying to take off Christmas weight; but at least I get to look at some of the reasons why that's necessary!

South City Kitchen is a high end Southern restaurant in Atlanta offering traditional local dishes with a flourish. We went in a large group and had a set menu but it meant I got to see what everyone had to eat. The food in Atlanta is definitely "hearty" and harks back to days when Georgia was an agricultural center of the South. It's sticky gooey comfort food as far as the eye can see and while I might need to run a few extra miles this month it sure was worth it!


Pimento Cheese with pickles and crackers $7USD

Pimento cheese is one of those American things I don't understand. Sharp cheese is mixed with bell peppers and mayonnaise. This is a good rendition of the dish but I think this requires a little nostalgia. The pickles and benne seed crackers were very good though. 


Fried Green Tomatoes $10USD

Stuffed with goat cheese and served with a sweet red pepper coulis this is a morish vegetarian delight that pairs great with cold beer or white wine. 


Salad $8USD

All the fried food in Atlanta really needs some greens to cut through it. This was a good simple side salad with fresh vegetables and a light vinaigrette.


Buttermilk fried chicken with potatoes and beans $19USD

Boy do they know how to make fried chicken in these parts. Brined in a buttermilk bath overnight and then dipped in a slightly spicy batter then fried. The chicken was crisp and the oil not too heavy, great with mash and beans for a simple Southern delight.


Shrimp and Grits $21USD

Shrimp and grits is another very American traditional dish that was unknowns to me before moving to the US. Grits are a corn based porridge similar in taste and texture to polenta made by boiling ground corn. Some grits is made with "hominy" which are corn kernels treated with alkali and give a slightly chewy texture. Shrimp and grits comes with grilled or fried prawns and a gravy often made with pork belly or porcetta. 


Southern Pork Chop with succotash and fried onions $27USD

A very hearty double thick pork chop was basted with a Georgia peach relish and grilled to perfection served over a succotash of corn and beans. The sweet glaze was to die for and this dish was just amazing but we could have easily shared one between two people.


BBQ pork with scallion "hoecake" and horseradish slaw $9USD

This was a main meal sized version of what is usually an appetiser so the serving size may vary. The hoe cake is rather like a vegetable tortilla that soaks up the juices from the meat. Served with a sticky BBQ sauce and cut through with the tangy slaw. Yum.



Dessert platter - Peacan pie, banana pudding and buttermilk chocolate cake ($8USD each for full serves)

We got a sampler plate of tiny versions of these desserts but I'm not going to lie after smothered chops and fried chicken most of us could not eat dessert and a lot of the plate went lonely. Sticky and very sweet desserts seem to be common in the south but I love the user of Buttermilk and custards which give a surprising lightness and destract from all the sugar.

South City Kitchen came well recommended by many and to get a good sample of Southern cuisine it was a great choice. The restaurant was buzzing but the service was excellent. I would definitely avoid eating lunch before hand though. 

 South City Kitchen

http://midtown.southcitykitchen.com/

1144 Crescent Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30309
Phone:(404) 873-7358

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Peach Tree Food Tours, Atlanta

You might have noticed a bit of a radio silence, but for me that usually means lots of travel so there's lots of blogging to catch up on! 

Atlanta is a surprising delight, a beacon of society and culture in the south filled with technology and media companies that keep the city vibrant. I was surprised to find how fantastic the food and bars were in Atlanta, seemingly everywhere we turned. 

Taking a day out from a busy conference and convention schedule I signed up for a walking tour of Midtown restaurants. 


I found Peachtree Tours through TripAdvisor and the reviews were great, for a reason! John is a local resident who lives in Midtown and has great local knowledge of the area and the local eateries. Buying tickets was easy and John was very friendly and in contact early to talk to me about our needs; he was even able to accomodate a last minute ticket for a friend who joined.


We met at the iconic Fox Theatre in Midtown and I was happy to see that the group was reasonably small. This makes dining and chatting with the group relatively easy and the starting point is easily accessible from local hotels. 


Georgian Terrace Hotel http://www.thegeorgianterrace.com/


As we walked to our first dining destinations John took some time to talk about the local architecture and history of Atlanta. While we didn't stop to eat at the Georgian we got some great history on the building including this ballroom which was the site of Margaret Mitchell's society debut. 


Sadly we were not able to stay on but it was great to see signs for Taste of Atlanta. Atlanta is a great destination for food and drinks and as a foreigner it was great to see a lot of local and Southern food highlighted throughout the city. 


Cypress Street Pint & Plate http://cypressbar.com


Firstly we stopped for the Most American Thing - a bacon cheese burger made with donuts for buns. Surprisingly it wasn't as overwhelming as I expected but I'm told the secret is that they use an Asian style donut less sweet than most American donuts. We shared burgers though, with many dishes to come throughout the day there was no need to fill up early! At each stop we had a drink pairing as well, not so much to distract during the walk but enough to wash down the meal. In this case it was a Crispin Apple cider perfect in the warm Atlanta weather.



Hi Five Diner http://hifivediner.com/


John focussed on some great Southern traditions and as a foreigner exploring the food scene this was a great insight into local traditions. Here we were given boiled peanuts in bourbon and coca cola - Atlanta is the home of Coca Cola and they truly own the town. This was once a working man's treat and the cafe balanced it out with a fresh kale salad. 


Margaret Mitchell House http://www.atlantahistorycenter.com/mmh


Amongst the other local architecture we got to see Margaret Mitchell House, a great treat for the Gone with the Wind fan. He took the time to explain some of the history of the house from it's original owner to reconstruction for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games



Einstein's http://einsteinsatlanta.com/


What a great slice of Southern treat! Fried green tomatoes and a fresh Moscow Mule on a delightful patio with plenty of opportunity for crowd watching. Einstein's is an Atlanta instutation and I can see why. This is the perfect lazy Sunday destination or celebration meal and the high class rendition of these Southern favourites was just perfect. My only wish? That we'd had a sweet tea cocktail to wash it down. 



Max's Wine Dive - http://www.maxswinedive.com/atlanta-12th-street/


Fried chicken and champagne? Why the hell not indeed! I probably wouldn't have thought about this combination but it just works. For me this really represents that great cultural mix that Atlanta has, a little bit posh but a little bit wild and really into great chicken. The butter milk chicken came with traditional sides like cornbread, greens and potatoes and came washed down with a generous glass of Classique Prodige Blanc de Blanc NV. This could have been a meal in itself and I'm glad the portion wasn't bigger. Fried chicken and champagne might just become the new meal of the Southern fashionista. 

The branding on the restaurant could do with a little work, I couldn't get any shot where the name of the restaurant and their amusing slogan went side by side. What a missed opportunity for free instagram advertising! On top of this the "wine dive" name is a little odd, people who like dive bars don't really drink wine. I loved the decor though all rustic wood covered in mug shots of famous people - Jimi Hendrix and Al Capone to name a couple. This is definitely a restaurant with potential that needs a new executive manager to really drive the opportunity to target women with disposable income.




Cafe Intermezzo http://www.cafeintermezzo.com/


If there is one thing I miss about Australia it is the cafe culture. Wide patio dining and classic European coffee couture are sadly missing in California. Intermezzo really harks to a lazy afternoon in Florence or even Melbourne. Great espresso drinks and a seemingly endless liqueur selection go hand in hand with a pastry cabinet that is just to die for. Traditional Italian pastries, American classic cakes and pies and sticky Southern delights all feature. Everyone was delighted with their pastries and a coffee was just perfect to cap it off.



For my friend's birthday we even got a candle on her cake and had a birthday sing song. How lovely!



Sweet Hut Bakery and Cafe http://www.sweethutbakery.com/cafe-menu/


But wait there's more! Just when you think you couldn't eat another bite John stopped at the bakery for us to take home some treats. Asian bakeries are high on our list of favourites and this shop had a great mix of sweet and savoury buns and delightful hand crafted desserts. This gave us a better than average breakfast the next day!

All in all it was a marvellous food tour and very involved compared to some of those I've been on. We covered quite a bit of distance in Midtown Atlanta, but it was not strenuous and I was able to easily traverse without impact on a bad leg. Truthfully it was good to walk off some of the food so that you didn't feel lethargic by the end of the tour. I would advise if you have older members in your party that taking the tour in the colder months might be sensible.

There was plenty of history, culture and sites as well as the food and the portions and drinks were very generous for the price. As well as the stores and restaurants we visited we stopped to talk about iconic eateries not on the tour and I had plenty of ideas of where else we could go while visiting. A highly highly recommended event for the food traveller.

Peach Tree Food Tours



805 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA 30308
(770) 352-4607

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Recipe: Chimichurri beef with roasted red peppers (Low carb, gluten & dairy free)

Sometimes cooking for my team at work can be hard since we all have so many dietary restrictions. This was a great answer for the low carb and gluten free diners. Chimichurri adds a freshness that lifts even fatty beef and it pairs wonderfully with the sweet roasted peppers. I've prepared this dish with a beef roast but it works just as well with grilled flank steak or rib eye - use the meat that fits your budget. 


Chimichurri beef with roasted red peppers 

1 bunch flat leaf parsley
6 - 8 cloves garlic
3⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1⁄4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon diced red onion
salt and pepper to taste

300g beef per person

Method

  • Cut the cheeks off your peppers and deseed
  • Place on a foil covered baking tray and grill at 260C (500F) fairly close to the heat on a high shelf
  • The skin of the peppers will begin to blacken and bubble - this is intended and we want as much of the skin as possible to blacken
  • 8 - 12 minutes should be enough depending on the heat and freshness of your peppers
  • For best effect use 2 - 3 colours of peppers for contrast



  • As soon as the peppers are out of the oven wrap them in the foil you used to bake on. 
  • Wrapping the peppers in foil contains the moisture and steam and this will make removing the skin easy



  • Leave for 10 minutes then unwrap and scrape off the blackened skin with a fork. Your nude pepper cheeks should look a little something like this



  • Cut into small strips and leave to cool 



  • Set your oven to 180C (350F) if you are roasting beef
  • For steak wait until the peppers and sauce are made before grilling


  • For roast beef turn into a baking tray fat side up, liberally coat in salt and pepper and score the fat, roast while we prepare the sauce Bake at 180C (350F) for around an hour


  • To prepare the chimichurri you may want to use an electric chopper since you will need to finely dice all the ingredients. Make sure to only use the pulse setting to avoid liquifying your herbs
  • Feel free to do this by hand using a chef's knife if you have good knife skills or you prefer a courser sauce
  • Dice the onion and add to a bowl
  • Finely chop the garlic and parsley together
  • Add the vinegar, oil and citrus juice then stir
  • Taste and then season with salt and pepper
  • If you wish to soften the sharpness of the dish you may add more oil and a small amount of Stevia or brown sugar (1/4 teaspoon should be enough)
  • Slice the beef into slices then layer with chimichurri sauce and roasted peppers
  • Serve with a fresh green salad



Saturday, October 3, 2015

Recipe: Sugar Free Marzipan (Easy, Low Carb & Gluten Free)

Marzipan and marzipan cookies are a favourite holiday treat of mine. Had I known how easy Marzipan was to make I'd have started doing this years ago.



Sugar Free Marzipan


2.5 cups Almond Meal
1 cup Swerve or erythritol
2 egg whites
1/2 tspn Pure Almond Extract
1 tspn Rosewater (optional)

Method


  • Using an electronic food processor or mixer add the almond meal and Swerve

  • Alternative sweeteners like Splenda or Stevia can be used but Swerve is the best for taste and carb value in confectionery. 
  • Swerve does have carbs but as a sugar alcohol it does not affect blood sugar and can be discounted from the net carb values. 
  • Pulse the dry ingredients until a fine powder is formed

  • Separate your eggs and put the yolks asside - these will not be used in the recipe and should be used in another dish

  • Add the egg whites, Almond extract and Rosewater if using then pulse until a crumbly dough is formed
  • Knead on a clean non stick surface - if required dust with a small amount of almond meal to prevent sticking. 

  • Once properly kneaded a slightly sticky but smooth dough should be formed
  • You can use marzipan in cookies, cakes and pastries but they also make beautiful cake decorations or sweets on their own



  • Here I'll show you how I prepared these giftable marzipans using a Mooncake mold but any cookie cutter or pastry plunger cutter works perfectly
  • Traditional mooncake molds look like large wooden paddles that you press cakes and pastries into to form presentation shapes for Mid Autumn Festival in Chinese communities, they can be fiddly to get cakes out of. 
  • Modern day plunger molds are perfect for forming marzipan and other thick pastries and cost less than $20 for a set. They can be bought online direct from China or via domestic US online stores like Amazon

  • Roll out your marzipan to the desired thickness, remember this is a heavy sweet due to the nut content so 1cm (~1/2 inch) is more than enough
  • Press the outside of the mold flat to your board and then plunge the decorative pattern into the marzipan, hold for around 2 seconds and then lift the plunger and remove the marzipan
  • You may need to push the plunger back down and carefully peel the marzipan off the design, particularly for intricate patterns
  • Place in an air tight container and refrigerate until consumption
  • If desired dip into 100% cocoa chocolate which has been tempered, but these are delicious on their own
  • Makes around 18 1 inch square confections - each serving is 96 calories, 8.3g fat and 1.1g net carb

Thursday, October 1, 2015

St George's Market, Belfast Northern Ireland

For better or worse I travel regularly for work but there's usually a chance to steal a little time to see the country side wherever I am. For me tourism always has a food component and while I was visiting Belfast I discovered a thriving market in the center of the city. 

Built in the 19th century the market has that distinct Victorian look of community buildings in the United Kingdom but word is that the site was the location of the central Belfast market as far back as the 1600s. Named the best indoor market in the UK in 2014 this is a great stop for the food tourist to Northern Ireland.


Open every weekend the market is a lively shopping mecca thrumming with tourists and locals buying fresh ingredients and eating lunch. On Saturdays the market offers local food and crafts as well as live music, making it a great stop during a day out in Belfast. On Sunday the emphasis is more on local Crafts - making it a good stop for souvenirs but less lunching options. 


There are a number of competing Hop On Hop Off bus tours in Belfast all of which stop conveniently outside the market. Be warned though at lunch time these buses are packed to the brim with hungry site seers who pour in to the market 100 at a time. For the best choice of goods and to avoid the crowds try going to the market early while tourists are still off seeing the Titanic Museum. Make sure to get to the market before 3pm as vendors will be clearing out and the market closing between 3-4pm.


The open warehouse style market makes it easy for vendors to load in and load out and provides large open seating areas to enjoy a warm snack. It reminds me of Victoria Market in Melbourne, Australia with stall owners hawking their wares and a happy bustle of commerce. 

As well as the standard Green Grocer fare - fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and meat there are a number of fantastic specialty stalls and global specialties. 


Local farmers and producers sell small batch items like jams, chutneys pickles and cakes. My pick of the Irish baked goods has to be the slices though - buttery rich jam, fruit and nut slices abound and all are delicious. This is a country that obviously relishes in morning and afternoon teas. 


Innumerate bakers offer fresh loaves, for a taste of the local stuff try the Irish Soda Bread - delicious with hot warm soups and stews. Regular European migrants and recently resurging economies mean that there are many Italian and French bakery options. Some of the bakers also offer fresh sandwiches and pressed paninis. 



Hot food stalls offer international snack foods like pies, pasties, crepes, paella and curries. 


Irish beef is definitely worth stopping for - tasty and grass fed I've never eaten so many good burgers as I did in Ireland beating out the US at their own game. 


The market is also a great place to pick up spices and hard to find ingredients. Wagyu beef, fresh seafood, exotic spices and more are fantastic for the cook or the foodie in your life. 

There's wifi in the markets as well as a few stalls selling battery packs and sim cards which also makes it a convenient stop for travellers. If you get sick of the crowds there's a brasserie that overlooks the market and a great little pub across the road. 

All in all a great stop with lively community and excellent food. 

St George's Market


East Bridge St
Belfast BT1 3NQ
UK

Indoor food and craft market with live music
Great for tourists