Baked pears with walnuts

baked-pears-with-walnutsThis dish not only makes a sophisticated dessert, but also a yummy breakfast — especially with some natural yogurt and homemade muesli or some porridge.

  • 4 firm Beurré Bosc pears, peeled, halved & cored
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) liquid coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) maple syrup (optional)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla (seeds of 1 vanilla pod)
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) water
  • ½ cup walnuts

Preheat oven to 180C/350F (160C/320F)

Place pears in a baking tray

Mix together oil, syrup (if using), lemon juice, cinnamon and vanilla. Pour mixture over pears and toss pears gently so fully coated, then turn pears so the cut side is facing up.

Pour water into tray & cover tray with foil. Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove foil and turn pears over, so cut side is facing down. replace foil and bake for another 20 minutes before adding in walnuts. Bake for a further 10 minutes without foil. Add some water if the syrup sauce is looking dry.

Serve with a dollop of custard or cashew cream for dessert,  or have for breakfast. Your choice.


  • Instead of pears, try apples —  you may need a shorter cooking time though.
  • No coconut oil? Use butter or ghee.

Carrot & walnut cake with a coconut-lemon frosting

So…cakes need not  be naughty. (Did I hear you breathe a sigh of relief?) They can be part of a healthy lifestyle. But the proviso is they be baked from scratch with wholesome ingredients, and enjoyed on the odd (special) occasion. Like celebrating a loved one’s birthday or even Mothers’ Day. Which is how this cake came about.

It was Mothers’ Day last Sunday in Australia, and I couldn’t think anything better than cooking a meal for mum — to display my gratitude and appreciation for the countless and selfless times she cooked for me and my siblings.  Actually I cooked for the whole family. My in-laws came, and so did my sister with her husband and kids. My small weatherboard home was filled with love, laughter and warmth.

So I baked a cake, too, to cap off the lunch I had poured my heart into. And it was good, not naughty.

May your cakes be just as nourishing as they are yummy.


Moist carrot cake with icingCake

Serves 12–14

  • ¾ cup brown rice flour
  • ½ cup almond meal
  • ½ cup buckwheat flour
  • ¼ cup desiccated coconut
  • ¾ cup rapadura sugar (or muscovado sugar)*
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2.5 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 cup freshly shelled walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 3 carrots, grated (about 1/5 cups)
  • 5 medjool dates, pits removed and finely chopped
  • 3 organic, free-range eggs
  • 100 ml macadamia or coconut oil
  • ¼ cup nut milk or coconut milk with 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or 1/3 cup runny natural yoghurt if dairy is not an issue)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

*If you’re doing the no sugar thing, you can use some stevia instead. If you’re using the Australian brand Natvia, use the same amount as you would sugar. Natvia is blended with erythritol.  Otherwise, if you’re using stevia on its own, you’ll need a lot less of it than you would sugar. So replace the remaining sugar bulk by adding extra almond meal. About 1/3 cup should do it. Remember to remove the dates too. If you try this, let me now how you go in the comments below.

Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Grease a 22cm cake tin with some coconut or macadamia oil and line with nonstick baking paper.

In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients — flours, almond meal, sugar, desiccated coconut, baking powder, cinnamon and walnuts.

In a separate bowl whisk together the remaining (wet) ingredients. Pour the wet mix into the dry, and fold in until combined.

Tip cake mix into the prepared tin and bake for 40–45 minutes, or until a cake skewer comes out clean and the cake is firm in the middle.

Cool in tin for 5 minutes before removing and cooling on a wire rack.

Once cool, enjoy as is or frost it up.


  • ½ cup coconut butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup coconut or nut milk
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (more if you’d like a sharper taste)
  • 1 tbsp desiccated coconut, roughly ground (you can grind it in a mortar and pestle)

Mix all ingredients together and allow to cool in fridge (especially if slightly warm after melting the coconut butter).

If the mixture is too thick add some more coconut milk, and if it’s too runny, grind some more desiccated coconut and add it in.

Frost your cake once it’s cool, and enjoy!

Date & nut protein bars

I’ve called these little bars ‘protein bars’ because they contain quinoa (pronounced keen-wa), nuts, and eggs (if you’re making the non-vegan version). Quinoa is renowned for its high protein content compared to other cereals and grains, and is considered to be a complete protein because of its essential amino acid content.  

Technically, quinoa is a seed, not a grain, and is gluten-free. It is commonly used as whole seeds, flakes – as I have used them for this recipe – or flour. As a flour, the taste is quite assertive, so it’s best used mixed with other flours.

Quinoa is mostly harvested in South America, and most of what is available in Australia comes from this region. But there is also a local product grown in Tasmania. The Tasmanian quinoa does need bit of washing, though, to remove the bitter, soapy coating (saponin) from the seeds.

Quinoa is very versatile – think salads, soups, patties, porridge, baked goods – and, so, is handy to have in the pantry. Especially if you need to make a gluten-free, vegetarian meal in a hurry, as it cooks quickly too.

Now that I’ve sold you on quinoa, do give this protein bar a go. It makes for a filling, nutrient-dense treat that will keep little tummies happy – and big ones too.


Date and Nut protein sliceI’ve made these date & nut protein bars with eggs, and without, for a vegan version. Both are lovely. With the vegan version, as usual, I had to think about binding, fat and moisture – i.e. what could do the job of eggs? For binding, I still haven’t moved beyond chia seeds. And for fat and moisture, I just added more oil. The vegan version is, however, a little more fragile than the egg one, but, nevertheless, it does hold itself together.

  • 2 tsp chia seeds, ground, to make chia gel* (or use 2 large eggs)
  • 8 medjool dates, seeds removed and finely chopped
  • ½ cup (120 ml) almond or melted coconut oil (if using eggs, reduce the oil to ⅓ cup – 80 ml)
  • 2 tbsp (40 ml) pure maple syrup 
  • 1 ½ tbsp (30 ml) apple cider vinegar (exclude if using eggs)
  • ¾ cup quinoa flakes
  • ½ cup brown rice or sorghum flour
  • ¼ cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • 2 tsp gluten-free baking powder (reduce to 1 tsp when making the egg version)
  • ½ cup roughly chopped walnuts
  • pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly oil a square or rectangular baking size dish (I used a 16 x 21 cm Pyrex dish), and line with baking paper.

*If you’re making the vegan version, first make the chia gel – add 100 ml water to the ground chia seeds and set aside. In a few minutes it will turn into a gel-like substance.

Add chia gel (or eggs), dates, oil, apple cider vinegar (exclude for egg version) and maple syrup into a bowl and mix well.

In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients before mixing thoroughly with the wet mix. The batter will be a little stiff. Tip batter into the prepared baking dish and spread evenly with the back of a spoon.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until cooked through (check with a skewer) and lightly browned at the edges. Cool in dish for about 5 minutes before cooling on a wire rack. Once completely cooled, slice into 12 bars. The bars will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. They freeze well too.