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Gluten free Italian almond biscuits

Posted on : 15-07-2015 | By : Cindy | In : My idiot-proof recipes



Amaretti are my favourite biscuit, not only because they taste delicious but also because they are so easy to make and pretty healthy – as far as biscuits go.

It’s not the gluten free bit that makes them healthy, although it does come in handy with the current popularity of eating ‘gluten free’. No, what makes them healthy is the fibre and unsaturated fats from the almonds – essential for beautiful skin, hair and nails, girls!

In this recipe I have reduced the sugar by almost half. Most amaretti recipes use equal proportions of ground almonds and sugar but they taste just as good with less.

With this recipe your hands are your utensils – no mixing spoons. It’s a little like re-living that wonderful childhood pastime of squishing mud between your fingers. Just make sure you don’t have to answer your phone! Pop them into the oven for five minutes and you have the perfect treat for the lunchbox or with a strong Italian coffee.

400g pack ground almonds

2 small cups of sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

Dash almond essence

4 egg whites (I make custard with the leftover egg yolks)

Icing sugar

Mix almonds and sugar in a large bowl with your hands. Add essences, then egg whites. Mix with hands. (It feels all squidgy like a kid playing in mud!)

Sprinkle icing sugar on bench. Roll a portion of almond mix into a sausage shape. Coat in icing sugar. Cut into 2cm pieces.

Place baking paper on flat trays. Stand each biscuit upright on tray and press down with fingers to make a nice, uneven shape.

Bake at 170-180 5-6 minutes until just beginning to crack

Valerie’s Chestnut Soup

Posted on : 09-06-2015 | By : Cindy | In : Uncategorized


chesMy gorgeous friend, Valerie, introduced me to the wonder of chestnut soup. She grew up in the south of France where chestnuts feature widely in the cuisine. I had never tasted them, let alone attempted to cook with them. In some ways chestnuts remind me of the French – glossy and glamorous but a bit formidable! How on earth are you meant to turn such a solid looking nut into soup?

It’s surprisingly easy, so long as you have a sharp knife to score a cross on the top of each nut. The first time I made this soup I made it too thick – more like pumpkin soup texture. It tastes far better as a thin soup.

The original recipe has 25 grams of butter swirled through at the end (in the best French tradition) but to me, it tastes just as delicious without the butter. I can already hear the cries of horror from my friend!

Gallipoli – My granddad’s diaries

Posted on : 23-04-2015 | By : Cindy | In : Uncategorized



My grandad was with the New Zealand Field Ambulance in World War One – at Gallipoli, Salonika, the Somme and Passchendaele. His diaries are fascinating to read. In honour of Anzac Day here is an excerpt of his arrival and first few weeks at Gallipoli. I have added explanations in italics. If anyone is interested, I will post more excerpts – let me know!!

Thurs 16 Sept 15

Breakfast 7am. Packed kit and then lay in hammock resting till 11am when we fell in. We were then told to fall out as we were not to go, so went below and had some lunch. We had no sooner finished than we had to fall in with all haste and march right aboard the ‘Sarnia’ and stand aboard her packed like sardines.

Heavy rain was falling but soon cleared off so made myself as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. We got aboard about 12 noon but did not sail until 4pm. Cleared Lemnos 4.30 and had a beautiful calm trip to Anzac arriving 9pm. Had plenty to eat and good tea on the trip.

In NZ always thought what queer emotional thoughts one would have on a trip like this where perhaps in a few hours dozens of the men around one would be killed but no I feel as unconcerned as possible, not the least emotional. Here now I can hear the guns going off – the first I have heard in anger. The place where we land looks just like a town. Lights all over the hill. We are now waiting to disembark. Warship bombarding the shore & just after we were all on the lighter for the shore, star shells went up and a terrific rifle fire started. Sounds just like a very heavy hailstorm on an iron roof. Spray bullets started to hit the boat and the water around. We all lay down. Only one man on the lighter was hit. It stopped in about half an hour and we made for the shore. A jetty to land at now.

Landed at 11pm and soon after started on at least a two mile march through trenches to No. 2 outpost. Rolled myself up in my overcoat and slept in a dugout. Very hard, cramped and cold so did not sleep much.


Fri 17 Sept 15
Up at 6am and enjoyed the view from the trenches. Had a scratch breakfast and then watched an artillery drill till 10am when we came down to the beach to await orders. Watched wounded being brought in, the Indian transport warships, the ASC (Army Service Corps) and all the other various activities. Had all the various positions pointed out to us. Would like to draw a map explaining same but it would not pass censor. Drew rations and mess tins and then marched about a mile to rest station.

The Pounamu Prophecy

Posted on : 13-03-2015 | By : Cindy | In : Maori kai, Milestones, New Zealand, Traditions


COVER5hAt last, after months of prayer and pondering I finally have a title for my novel. The book has had four different names. If it was a person it would surely be suffering an identity crisis from so many changes! But thanks to my husband and sister-in-law, helped along by a few drinks sitting on a balcony in Bangkok, we have come up with a fantastic title: The Pounamu Prophecy.

Pounamu is a beautiful word for a beautiful stone. It is the Maori word for greenstone, a unique type of jade found only in the South Island of New Zealand. It is a sacred stone,  treasured by Maori as a sign of status or power and used for making peace. It is often carved into pendants and other jewellery which many tourists buy when they visit New Zealand.

In the past it was also carved into tools and weapons. Sometimes these valuable and most beautiful weapons were given to another tribe as a peace agreement. Pounamu is still used this way today. My husband’s tribe gave pounamu as a gesture of peace to another tribe after a dispute over his beautiful Mum’s body.

As a child I grew up on top of a hill where once stood a Maori pa site. A pounamu mere (a short flat club carved in the shape of a tear drop) was found in my father’s vegetable garden. (It was given to the local museum.)

Pounamu is smooth and cool to the touch. It has a depth of pattern, as though looking into the deepest green waters. In The Pounamu Prophecy, Helene, one of the characters, experiences the cool, soothing effect of this remarkable stone. It is a stone that one could readily endow with spiritual qualities but as Helene is reminded by her friend, Mere, ‘It is not the stone, but the maker of the stone that gives us peace.’

Shalom. Kia tau te rangi marie.