The BEST Sugar-Free and Gluten-Free Ricotta Hotcakes

sugarfreehotcakes.jpg

Pancakes (in their many forms) and I have had a long-term love affair.

When I was little, I would come home from school to the Greek version – a sweet doughy flatbread made in the pan by my grandmother, sprinkled with icing sugar for me (the sweet tooth) and mizithira cheese for my sister. 

Growing up in Australia, childhood would not have been complete without many birthday parties spent at The Pancake Parlour. Here, my weapon of choice was a true classic – Alice in Wonderland Pancakes. Not only were they named after my all-time favourite book, but they were a buttery, stacked pile of goodness dripping in chocolate sauce and dusted with a rainbow of 100s and 1000s. How could a kid resist?

I was satisfied with my pancake experience for a long time. Then, there was my adult enlightenment, where a third lover entered my life – ricotta hotcakes.

The place? Bills, in Sydney. The butterfly moment? Those ridiculously famous, fluffy, rich ricotta hotcakes, dripping with (what else?) honeycomb butter. Wow. It was love at first bite.

With a wedding coming up later this year and a typical case of becoming a little bit softer around the edges in a haze of couples-comfort, I am on a mission. The indestructible pairing of Kayla Itsines + I Quit Sugar = almost guaranteed bikini body.

But of course, it does mean saying goodbye to a lot of majorly delicious favourites. I thought that my beloved pancakes would have been resigned to just a memory, one that occasionally presents itself in fits of nostalgia at brunch and on birthdays.

Until now. Delightful being that he is, Bill Granger posted a recipe for his hotcakes, and by a few sneaky substitutions, they are now IQS and celiac friendly.

What they're lacking in honeycomb butter, they more than make up for by reminding you that delicious treats are still possible. 

Note I said treat – just because this is a possibility doesn't mean it gets to replace your poached eggs and avocado breakfast. 

But if you're ever feeling down, and missing that familiar and comforting breakfast pal, here's where you can turn to get some true satisfaction.


Ricotta Hotcakes with Strawberries & Syrup

4 eggs, separated
3/4 cup milk
1 cup gluten-free plain flour
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 250g tub of ricotta
Strawberries & rice malt syrup, to serve

1. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl.

2. Add the milk and egg yolks and mix until you form a smooth batter.

3. Add ricotta and stir gently until it just comes together (you want your ricotta to still be a bit lumpy). Set aside.

4. Place egg whites in a clean dry bowl and beat (either by hand to work up an appetite, or using a mixer) until stiff peaks form.

5.Gently fold the egg whites through the batter with a large metal spoon or plastic spatula, being careful not to knock all the air out of it.

6. Lightly grease a large non-stick frying pan with a small portion of the butter and drop 1/3 cup of batter per hotcake into the pan (don't cook more than 2 or 3 at a time).

7. Cook over a low to medium heat for 2 minutes, or until hotcakes have golden undersides and bubbles are forming on the top.

8. Turn hotcakes and cook on the other side until golden and cooked through.

9. Serve in a stack with strawberries and a drizzling of rice malt syrup.

10. Enjoy!

Camp Fever

Maybe it's the endless hot weather. Maybe it's the 60 days without rain we've had here in Perth. Or maybe it's because in a past life I was a lumberjack.

Either way, I find myself daydreaming about escaping to the woods and sinking deep into a world of canvas tents, enamelware and plaid shirts. 

campfever.jpg

1. Homecamp // 4m Flinders Bell Tent // AU$985

2. Best Made Company // Be Optimistic Felt Badge // US$6

3. Illustratus Store // Camp Mug // US$25

4. Thermos // Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Flask Midnight Blue 1.2L // AU$35

5. Uniqlo // Women Ultra Light Down Compact Vest // AU$60

6. Farinbault Woolen Mill Co // Cabin Wool Blanket Natural // US$250

7. Missoni // Zigzag Stole // AU$253

8. Timberland // Womens Boots Buck Wheat // AU$250

9. Best Made Company // Flashman Hudson Bay Ace // US$255

10. Uniqlo // Women Flannel Check Long Sleeve Shirt // US$20


My last camping experience was almost perfect, apart from almost dying.

After purchasing a $30 two-person tent from K-Mart, along with two blow up beds, a lantern, tent pegs and a tarp (the check-out girl obviously had no clue what we were up to), we headed to a friend's birthday on her family farm.

We set up our new purchases in the middle of the fruit orchard, within a property that stretched all the way to the horizon before it found the nearest neighbour.

What more could you ask for?

Others turned up, and our triumph in our purchase slowly turned to concern as we realised that all the other behemoth tents looked like they could eat our tent for a snack.

My poor fiancé, in all his 6 foot 4 glory, looked like one of those clowns at the circus trying to squeeze into a comically small car. 

The party continued around the campfire and soon it was time for bed.

While our bargain tent had kept the rain off, and our blow-up beds were surprisingly comfortable (hot tip: buy two single mattresses instead of one double to avoid being blasted into the air at the slightest toss-and-turn), I did find myself unzipping the flap in the middle of the night to get a long, cool gasp of nighttime air.

It then struck me that perhaps the manufacturers of this tent had brought down costs by limiting the number of ventilation holes they included. On the other hand, Buzz does have a scarily large lung capacity.

Either way, the tent flap was left open, balancing on that careful edge of allowing us to breathe while also keeping out any creepy-crawlies out and about and we lived to tell the tale.

I think next time I'll definitely go for one of these bell tents though – glamping is definitely the way for me!

Perfect Sunday Roast Chicken with Leeks and Potatoes

Buzz and I had one of those delicious days yesterday, where for once there were no commitments or expectations to fill the hours. With the next few weekends already filled up with weddings and trips away, our empty schedule was one to be savoured. Melbourne's weather was once again being its moody self, with heavy rain hitting against the windows and I was quite delighted to spend the day, just the two of us, in eachother's company.

Our one departure from the cocoon of home was during a sunny break in the drizzle, where we headed to Collingwood Children's Farm for their monthly farmers market. I was craving a good, wholesome roast and opportunity shone down on me in the form of a chicken farmer selling his wares. With a size 13 chicken in our bag, I picked up some beautiful dutch cream potatoes and bright, fresh leeks and the decision was done.

But this couldn't be just any roast. I wanted this to be the perfect roast, and so I did some research in the form of Heston Blumenthal - the master of perfection. Using his recipe for Perfect Roast Chicken as a guide, Buzz and I set off on our mission.

This is not a recipe for those busy Sundays - this is a lazy day dish, when nothing can tempt you from the coziness of your couch and you're content to enjoy the wafting smells of a delicious roast in anticipation of a meal that's not happening anytime soon.


Perfect Sunday Roast Chicken with Leeks and Potatoes

Two or three litres cold water (enough to cover chicken)
60g salt per litre of water used
One medium sized chicken (we used size 13, and as always, source your meat from a reputable butcher)

Four stems of fresh thyme
One stem of rosemary
One stem fresh oregano
One lemon, whole
50g unsalted butter
Two garlic cloves

Five dutch cream potatoes (or similar), washed with skins left on
Three small leeks
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper

First, you need to brine the chicken. This is to help keep the moisture in when the chicken is cooking. Combine 60g of salt with each litre of water, using enough to completely submerge it. Cover with cling film and pop in the fridge for four hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 90 degrees Celsius. Cooking low and slow is the trick to a succulent and juicy roast. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry. Collect your herbs together and insert into the cavity along with a whole lemon which has been pierced with a knife or a fork a few times.

Cover the chicken with slices of the butter and massage it into the skin. Throw your garlic cloves into a wide pan and pop your chicken on a roasting rack on top.

When your chicken has been in the oven for about an hour, cut your potatoes into thick chunks, cover with water and bring to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and turn down to a bubbling simmer.

Check your chicken after an hour and a half. You need to pierce the thickest part of the breast with a meat thermometer. Safety standards advise bringing your chicken to 75 degrees Celsius, but we brought ours to 65 degrees (Heston actually aims for 60), making sure that the juices were running clear.

You may need to put your chicken back in the oven at this point, and check it again after half an hour, then 10 minute intervals after that until it reaches a point where you’re happy with the temperature and most importantly, the juices are running clear.

Check on your potatoes. They should be completely cooked and ever so slightly starting to fall apart. Drain and set aside until the chicken is ready. Trim the tops and tails off your leeks and cut through them vertically. Wash under a running tap to get rid of any grit hiding in the curls. Cut into thick chunks.

Take your chicken in its roasting rack off the pan and pop over a plate or tray to catch any dripping juices. The chicken will rest for 45 minutes. Turn the oven up to 180 degrees Celsius.

Throw your potatoes and leeks in the roasting tray with the garlic cloves. Shake the pan to ruffle up the potatoes a bit, then drizzle over the whole lot with olive oil and a good sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Pop the potatoes in the oven for 45 minutes, then remove. Turn the oven up to full whack, brush olive oil all over your chicken and place the roasting rack over the top of the potatoes and pop back in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the skin is crispy and a beautiful golden brown.

Put aside the chicken to rest and put the potatoes back in the oven until they’re crispy enough to your liking.

Pizza a la Buzz

I have never eaten as much pizza in my life, as I have in the past three-and-a-half years I have been dating Buzz. For him, the answer to the question, "what would you like for dinner?", is always "pizza", said with slight trepidation, as he knows I don't quite have the same passion for pizza everyday of the week as he does. That being said, even those times I agree almost begrudgingly to yet another pizza, I always end up happy and content, my tummy filled to the brim with carbs and deliciousness.

When I talk of this frequent consumption of pizza, I'm not talking about your Joe-Shmoe on the corner dial-up-and-watch-it-get-delivered-via-an-app kind of pizza. I'm talking the real stuff. We luckily live in close proximity to an absolutely beautiful pizza restaurant, which fortunately for us, also does takeaway. We order so often, and generally, the same order, to the point that they finish our order for us when we dial up.

But these guys know their stuff. The base is beautifully delicate, there's an array of great produce, and the real test for me, is the fact that the basil is put on the pizza after it has come out of the oven, in big, green leaves, to avoid them getting burnt in the oven.

Buzz has a deep appreciation for good food, and great pizza. This naturally lead him down the path one day of making his own pizzas, and this is a man who does not do things by halves. He has read, worked, and practiced, and to this day is continually improving his recipe. It actually amazes me that the pizzas he makes get better and better, because they are, bias aside, the best homemade pizzas I have ever eaten, and right up there in the best I've had at home or out.

He is our resident baker here and the go-to man for bread in its many forms. And so, today, he features as our guest with his Pizza a la Buzz.

There are a few things that will take you pizza to a higher level of yumminess. One of the most important, I believe, is a baking stone in your oven. We actually keep the stone in the oven permanently - not only is it great when making pizza and bread, but I am a firm believer that it genuinely helps when cooking all sorts of things, like roasts, as the stone heats the dish from below, allowing for equal distribution of the temperature.

Another important factor, is love. Not just in pizza, of course, in all cooking, but there's something about dough, where you have to work so closely with your product, shaping it with your own two hands, that the idea of love is an ingredient becomes real. You will see the difference in your dough if you pay it the care and attention it deserves. I read somewhere once that if you start to pay attention to your baker, you'll be able to tell how they were feeling on the day, as it translate directly into the bread they bake. And I believe it! So, make sure not to neglect your dough.

Pizza

Ingredients

Four cups of white flour (00 is preferable), plus extra to knead
Two teaspoons of fine salt
One and a half teaspoons of dried instant yeast
Two tablespoons of olive oil
One and a third cups of warm water (plus extra if needed)

Method (makes 8 small pizzas, or 4 large)

Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl and start mixing. You can do this by hand, or by setting up your bowl to your kitchen mixer.

Add olive oil, and slowly start pouring in the water, mix til incorporated.

Start kneading, either by using the dough hook on your mixer or by hand, for 10 - 15 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Knead for five 5 longer than what you feel is ready. Make sure when kneading, you really stretch out the dough, as this is necessary to stretch out the gluten and make the dough nice and elastic.

The perfect point is when you press into the dough, and it springs back slightly to the touch.

Shape the dough into a round ball, and place in an oiled bowl. Cover the bowl in cling film, and let rest somewhere warm (we chose by the window) until the dough has doubled in size, which is roughly 2 hours in Winter, and just over an hour in Summer.

If you have the time, you can put the dough into the fridge for a slow, cool rise overnight, which gives the dough the opportunity to develop a more complex flavour.

When you're ready to start preparing your dough, preheat oven to the hottest temperature available (we went to 220 degrees celsius).

Press into the dough with your fingers to release the air, and knead, briefly, until it is back into a manageable ball.

Divide into eight even pieces, to make eight small pizzas, or divide in four for larger pizzas. Shape the individual pieces into smooth, round balls and start rolling out using a rolling pin until they are roughly 2mm thick.

At this point, you can top with whatever you like. We personally like to make some infused olive oils while the dough is rising, as this is a great way to add authentic flavour to your pizzas. Simply pour a little olive oil into two small bowls, add crushed garlic to one, and chopped chilli to the other. Top both with salt and pepper, and leave to infuse.

We topped our 'bianca' pizzas with the garlic infused olive oil, buffalo mozzarella, as well as regular mozzarella, salt, pepper and then a drizzle of the chilli oil once out of the oven.

Pop in the oven for 10 - 12 minutes until nice and crispy on the edges, with the cheese blackening in parts.


In our next Buzz Lightyear Pizza Special, we'll delve into perfect pizza sauce, to take your pizzas from bianca to rossa!