Monday, November 28, 2011

Cravings, Reflections, and Thanksgiving

Hurricane Busy made landfall, stayed, and swept up everything in its path.

At least, that's what my entire month-plus has felt like - busy, stressed, busy, stressed, in a never-ending cycle.

I've been ill too, and that's probably a result of all that craziness back to back for weeks on end. I've been cooking, but on a much smaller scale than before - not had time for it, and I can't cook when I come home too late, by agreement with the Housemates.

So it's with relief that I'm finally able to breathe out a HUGE sigh and rest for a day before getting into the week full-stride. Even a day is good - I'll take all I can get because I won't be getting another chance till after mid-December.

A week ago, when I was performing with the Young KL Singers in Penang, I ran into bakeries and baked goods everywhere. This likely accounts for why I had a sudden, inexplicable craving for bread the minute I got home. Thanks to over-exhaustion, I also didn't wake up in time the next morning to do a full-bore gluten-free crusty boule like I wanted, so I had to search for alternatives.

See that herb-flecked, olive-studded gloriousness? That's Karina's amazing gluten-free whole-grain olive bread. I followed everything in the recipe, except I didn't have rice bran, so I added more quinoa flakes. Now, in the past, I've had trouble with some of Karina's recipes - the liquid content mostly, and I wasn't experienced enough to judge consistency at the time, so I was a bit worried to see how this one would turn out.

As it is, I needn't have worried. It was wonderful. It came together quickly, baked up beautifully, and it was delicious. Satisfied all my bread cravings, and now I want to make more - except that quinoa flakes are out of stock in the two organic stores I frequent!

My eating patterns haven't been particularly healthy for a while, due to production rehearsals, upcoming exams, and a crazy schedule - which is why I found myself also craving Simple, Healthy Food. Nothing fancy, or overly fussy.

Heidi Swanson's Shichimi Mushroom Rice Bowl is what I ended up with in the end, and it was exactly what I craved. Easy to put together, simple and healthy - mushrooms, tofu cubes, brown rice and lots of shichimi togarashi (Japanese 7-flavour chili pepper). I had no kale, so I used baby kailan instead, and it came out just fine. I also used eryngii mushrooms because they had nice large stems that would work much better than the usual oyster mushrooms we get here. The green of the kale was such a beautiful colour, probably my favourite part of the whole dish. One note: you -must- brown the mushrooms on both sides as the recipe specifies. It gives them a definite, delicious flavour.

Today...well, today I wanted to prepare for the rest of the week, and that got me to wanting to make bento staples, and that led to this:

That's Maki's Kinpira Gobo (minus the sesame seeds as I didn't have any) and her basic meat soboro (minus the green onions because I didn't have any on hand). I added a bit of kimchi, because I just happened to have some in the fridge and I thought it'd be a nice bit of colour. I was inspired and cookery-deprived enough to make the potato dough for potato oyaki as well, just so I could have food to take to work tomorrow and the day after.

I am thankful for food bloggers like Shauna, Karina, Maki and Heidi who give such inspiration to their readers, and who work so hard to bring us recipes and posts. I know we don't celebrate Thanksgiving here in Malaysia, but I think sometimes we ought to just step back and count the many, many things we need to be thankful for. It's the best antidote to post-illness blues.

Because it worked for me. I'm thankful for my friends, family, and the many chances I've had to do what I love. I'm thankful for a kitchen to cook in, and people who make sure I can eat safely when I meet with them. I'm thankful that I'm well enough to sing again. And I'm thankful for my choir students, some of whom graduated this weekend at their year-end concert.

When I look at it like that, there's really no reason to complain.

Happy belated Thanksgiving, one and all.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Remembering Vienna

The truffle risotto at this little Italian cafe in the Naschmarkt was heavenly. It was also right opposite a fruit and vegetable stall with produce that practically glowed with colour.

Just look at those gorgeous apricots...

...and currants...

...and there were cherries and plums and nectarines and peaches too.

Fruit in season. Possibly some of the most vibrant, beautiful colours of the summer. It makes me want to savour each and every mouthful of juicy sweetness, just to imprint the taste into my memory.

I might just do that today again, for memory's sake.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Contentment of Simple Gastronomic Luxuries

Otherwise known as, 'Be thankful for what you can eat.'

My recent trip to Europe has confirmed one thing for me - it's much, much easier to eat gluten-free there, on relatively little cost. Given the exchange rate between Malaysian ringgit and Euros, I was immensely thankful. Two weeks' stay in Austria is no joke if one has to spend a lot on food! Just being able to -eat- without fear, now that's a gift. It's a luxury, small as it is, and who says small things can't be luxuries?

Like this:

It's pumpkin seed oil! This is a specialty of Graz where we were at. It's a dark, viscous, thick deep green oil, rather like well-cooked spinach, and the fragrance is out of this world. It makes even the simplest food (canned tuna with rice) taste like a gourmet meal. My mother loves the bottle I brought back so much she prefers it over her favourite sesame seed oil even.

It certain livened up even the most ordinary hamburger patties:

That was Jamie Oliver's Cracking Burger patties, and they are every bit as cracking as they make out to be. I used the remains of a pack of gluten-free crackers that I brought back from Europe, and they turned out absolutely marvellous. Juicy, flavourful and completely satisfying, even without buns (who needs buns when one has great burgers, really?)

Make 'em, you won't regret it. Go to the recipe, tweak it as you like to suit your taste, leave out the mustard if you don't like it and replace it with Worchestershire sauce, but make 'em. Your tastebuds and your stomach will thank you.

I also brought back three other treasures from Austria: sumac, z'aatar, and piri-piri peppers. Sumac comes from the ground-up red berries of the sumac shrub, species Rhus Coriaria. It's a tart, lemony spice that is used very often in Middle Eastern cookery. Z'aatar is a Middle Eastern mix of spices that very often include oregano, thyme and savoury, sometimes with sesame seeds and salt - it is also the generic name for a family of related Middle Eastern herbs from the genera Origanum (Oregano), Calamintha (Basil thyme), Thymus vulgaris (Thyme) and Satureja (Savory). Piri-piri peppers are used very commonly in Portuguese cookery (think Nando's). I've not been able to find any of these spices here, so finding them was an occasion worthy of jumping up and down in the Naschmarkt in Vienna, squealing with delight.

I wanted to do something with my newly acquired spices, and this recipe for Zaatar Sumac Lemon Roast Chicken, from the Ottolenghi cookbook, looked fascinating.

Of course, being me, I always forget or change something in a recipe - I forgot to put black pepper and paprika/cayenne pepper in, and I forgot to mix the chicken and spices together well -after- I'd added the water to it until oh, somewhere around 2am in the morning after I'd put it in the fridge to sit overnight and marinate. I also used chicken breasts instead of a whole chicken since I am a lazy person and don't want to dig bones out of my fowl (yes, yes, that makes me a horrible chef I know!)

That being said, the chicken came out beautifully. So tender and flavourful! And best of all, completely gluten-free and healthy. I didn't have fresh parsley (this is becoming a trend isn't it) so I used dried parsley instead and voila, fresh out of the oven:

I served it over a bed of rice with lots of marinade and chicken juices - luxury right there in a little bowl.

You will not regret trying this recipe. I can promise you that - it really is just that good, and so easy. If you don't have sumac, as per one of the comments, use more lemon juice. If you don't have z'aatar? Approximate it with this and just leave out the sumac, add lots of lemon.

That wasn't so hard now, once one is past the exotic names, right?

Really, I don't need a fancy restaurant to be contented - just the simple act of being able to eat safely? That's all I need, even if it's a slice of bread, a few crackers with cheese, or a very simple roast chicken like this one.

Sometimes it's good to go back to simple - we all started from there anyways. And when I think of the days when the very thought of eating used to depress me because I had no idea what to eat or how to eat just after my diagnosis, I breathe a quiet prayer of thanks for these precious, small, simple things that make life so meaningful.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Saga of the Busy Day Cake and All Plugs Electrical

...also known as 'BOOM thar it is.'

So I was going to try and remedy the utter shame of not having updated this blog since April (April! Dear lord where did the time go?). I've got photos galore, all nicely categorised away, it was just a matter of writing a post and selecting pictures, and then life happened, and Austria (I went to the World Youth Choir Championships with the quartet I sing with, Caipifruta - more on that in another post some day!), and...and...well. You get the picture.

Today was my first day off in a while, so I decided to bake a cake. This cake, as a matter of fact - Shauna's wonderful adaptation of Edna Lewis's Busy Day Cake. In fact, I was even planning on making a pie of some sort to use up the rough puff pastry I had in the freezer. What could possibly go wrong with that?

Everything, it seems.

The universe had other plans, starting with the power tripping off when I woke up in the morning. This got remedied, with nothing untoward - no smoking electrical items or whatnot. So I made miso soup with thick rice noodles for lunch and started putting together the ingredients for the cake - weighed out the flour, beat the eggs, grated orange peel, measured poppy seeds and cocoa, etc.

Then I went to cream the butter and sugar in the stand mixer. And realised that it wasn't working. Now, my stand mixer is an antique - a functioning one, but an antique nonetheless. It had started making some odd noises my last batch of bread a few months back, and my first thought was, Crap it's given up the ghost. I tried another plug point - still not working.

So I transferred all the butter and sugar to my food processor, having remembered you could actually cream butter and sugar and make cake batter in it. Plugged it in, switched it on.

The expression of WTH-ness when it didn't work was probably a camera-worthy moment. My food processor is -new-. I'd not even broken in the food processing attachment yet!

I tried another plug. Still no luck. It was only after I'd tried on every single plug point in the kitchen that it hit me - the power outage in the morning was probably caused by one of those points blowing a fuse, and now NONE of them were working.

Which left me with the problem of a lot of butter and sugar still needing to be creamed. My stand mixer was also probably working just fine, all I had to do was find a working plug point.

Enter the little grey cells.

The cake right out of the oven...

Right now the cake is cooling in the kitchen, I've had two pieces already and it's absolutely HEAVENLY. Wow. I can't say enough good things about it - it isn't dense or heavy, it's...well, cake! Real cake, not the sticky, gummy slabs that often make up most gluten-free cakes. The crumb is light and airy, not heavy and over-moist. And it tastes delicious. I'll likely cut down on the sugar the next time around because even this is very, very sweet to me - but I don't often eat sweet stuff so it may be fine for other people.

I am in awe of this cake. I think I might even cry. Shauna, you are -wonderful-. Have I said that enough times yet? Cake! Real cake! It was worth all the crazy kitchen hassle, that's for sure.

...And served, with a apricot for colour! Look at that wonderful crumb!

You must make this! It's easy, it's adaptable, and it's absolutely delicious. I won't post the recipe, it's here already (and Shauna is always, always worth reading anyway.)

My only modifications were:
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 tbls poppy seeds

These were all mixed in with the dry ingredients (ie: the flour, baking powder, cardamom) and set aside till needed.

I didn't use cardamom powder either, because I accidentally put coriander in. Yes, coriander! Thank heavens I can't really taste it in about stupid at work!

PS: I also hope no one out there has ever needed to go through the nightmare of mixing up and baking a cake while squatting on the living room floor by the front door in a decidedly fetal position, next to one's housemate's hair salon equipment. Thank God for a small oven, or I'd never have gotten it out the kitchen let alone to the plug point outside.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pao de Queijo, Pork and Other Things Not Beginning With P

A while ago during Chinese New Year, I'd baked up a batch of fantastic Pao de Queijo but never got around to posting the pictures up. I'd promised the friend who introduced me to Elise of Simply Recipes' wonderful Pao de Queijo page, that I'd make both versions that were given there - one is a kneaded dough, the other is put together in a blender and poured into mini muffin tins. I didn't get around to the second one till much later, and life interfered so here are both photos and thoughts on both recipe versions.

Pao de Queijo, as far as I can dig up, is Brazilian cheese bread made from manioc flour, or tapioca starch. Manioc flour is apparently fermented and has a slightly sour taste to it, but that's not something I can find here in Malaysia at all. Tapioca starch however I can find in -scads-. It's also known as tapioca flour, confusingly enough, but they're both the same thing.

Elise lists down two recipes - one is the easy blender version, another involves no blender, a mashed potato, and kneading up the dough by hand.

The Kneaded Version

The first time I made this, I thought I'd made a mistake. While the dough came together fine after mixing up the milk, flour, oil potato and the cheese, the recipe instructions didn't say that the addition of eggs would turn it into a completely soggy, goopy mess that looked like a disaster area. And the dough was supposed to be very silky and mouldable! However, after a few minutes the tapioca starch absorbed everything nicely and what do you know, it DID turn out silky and mouldable.

And it baked up like a -dream-. My mother, who normally doesn't eat a lot of dairy or cheese, couldn't stop eating them. The flavour was amazingly wonderful, and so was the texture. I used a combination of cheddar and parmesan cheese for a very strong cheesy flavour, having read that the blandness of the tapioca needed it. By golly it worked! However, I think next time I would store leftover dough in the fridge rather than the freezer, because when it thawed out, there was far too much excess water and the dough became far too liquid. I'd make this again, no hesitation.

The Blender Version

The blender version of the recipe is very simple - all ingredients get thrown into the blender, whizzed into a batter, and then gets poured into a mini muffin tin to bake. It takes about 15 minutes, or less if you're faster than I am at measuring stuff.

It baked up fantastic too, rose like little puffy hats! The flavour was good - if I hadn't actually baked the kneaded version, I'd have been ecstatic with this. As it is, I think the flavour of the kneaded one is better. I'd also use a neutral-flavoured oil, rather than the olive oil - the olive oil flavour was very distinct and a bit strong.

Otherwise though, this was a very, very simple and very good recipe. I would definitely make it again, due to how little time it takes.

Another recipe that I'd been dying to try for a while was the Lisu Spice-Rubbed Pork from Beyond the Great Wall. When Leite's Culinaria posted the recipe last year, I decided to finally give it a shot but I only managed it about two weeks ago. Whoops. However, it turned out to be one of the easiest, most flavourful recipes I've ever come across. The pork was tender and moist, and all around -wonderful-. In fact, when I made it today and accidentally left out the allspice which I substituted for nutmeg (not having any), it STILL tasted amazing.

Recently a friend and colleague came back from taking the Youth Chamber Choir to Vietnam for competition (they won the category championship!) and all the talk about Vietnamese food and Banh Xeo (Vietnamese sizzling crepes) got me into the mood to make some.

I used Rasa Malaysia's Banh Xeo recipe, cutting the quantities down in half. The results? Wonderful! Crispy on the edges and soft in the centre, just like it was supposed to be. I didn't have bean sprouts or chillies, so I just used shredded chicken and some pork and the green onions for the filling. It was great regardless, and so easy - I am going to make another round of this -with- all the ingredients next time. There's a vegetarian version I've come across, which I plan to try one day - Winnie, you'd like that I know!

And yes, Banh Xeo really -is- that lovely bright yellow colour - it's the turmeric powder that does it.

I'm not posting the recipes I used; I've linked them for you so you can go read them for yourself. These cooks have done amazing work; they deserve all the credit for their wonderful recipes!

Next up, ie: when I get around to editing photos - Migas! And possibly soda bread (and a dozen other things that I really should get around to writing up eventually.)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chinese New Year Cheer

I've been on a slight hiatus from blogging, partly due to life and partly due to some slight burn-out from work-related writing. That doesn't mean I haven't actually been taking photos - in fact now I just have to find time to blog about all of the stuff I've photographed!

In view of the fact that Chinese New Year has just come and gone though, I post this in celebration of a wonderful week-long break that was very much necessary - and also in tribute to my father.

My father deserves to be mentioned far more in this blog, because he is an amazing cook who doesn't bat an eye at turning out food for dozens and dozens of people. He's told me before that his university life included a stint at a conference centre where he'd prepare food for a couple hundred people. As a result of this, he's unfazed by the thought of cookery, be it barbeque for 30 people (my 16th birthday) or a hungry bottomless pit (my brother). He also loves to cook, which works out well since my mother's not as fond of the culinary arts even though she's an amazing cook herself.

This New Year, my father and I divided the cookery so I got to feed both my parents, and my father got to putter about in the kitchen like he loves. I tried a load of recipes - Gluten-Free Girl's cream puffs (AMAZING), pao de queijo (heavenly), gluten-free French bread (beautiful texture but taste needs tweaking), and the infamous 36-hour chocolate chip cookies to name a few. We had a restaurant on our hands for a week, pretty much!

I also made one of my father's signature dishes - one I've dubbed the Lai Clan Clean Plate Braised Pork, as there's usually none left by the time guests get up from the table. He first taught this to me when I was in university, and it got rave reviews from any potlucks I happened to make it for.

The cooking instructions may look formidable, but I promise you, after everything's soaked and set aside, it comes together easy as sneezing. It is a magnificent dish, well worthy of Chinese New Year - in fact I made it for my birthday dinner with four other friends, and they loved it too!

Lai Clan Clean Plate Braised Pork

0.5-1kg pork fillet or loin
Handful dried oysters
Handful dried scallops
1 star anise
10-12 dried good, thick-fleshed shitake mushrooms
As many cloves of garlic as you want (I usually go for about 6-8 nice big cloves)
Approximately a tablespoon of gluten-free dark soya sauce
½ a tsp salt
A splash of Shaoxing wine / Chinese rice wine / any white wine (optional)
Oyster sauce, approximately 3-4 shakes from the bottle

Pork Preparation (About 1 hour or preferably several more before actual cooking):
Smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of a cleaver or nice big knife and peel them.

Rinse and pat dry the pork. Rub a clove or two of garlic over the meat thoroughly. Put all the garlic, the star anise, and the pork into a large bowl, add the dark soya sauce and the salt. Using your hands, rub the dark soya sauce and salt all over the meat – if you’re a garlic fanatic like me, you can rub the garlic over the pork again while you’re rubbing in the marinade. Put in the fridge and leave it alone for at least an hour. Me, I like to let it sit for a couple of hours (no need overnight, that’d be overkill), so I prepare it in the morning and keep it in the fridge till late afternoon when I cook it.

Dried Stuff Preparation (About 1 hour or so before actual cooking):
Soak the oysters in a bowl with about 1 cup water. Set aside for 1 hour or until no longer rock hard, and fairly pliable. If the water isn’t gritty, save the soaking liquid. If the water is gritty, pour it off and soak the oysters again in another cup of clean water until you’re ready to use them in the dish.

Soak the scallops in another bowl with about 1 cup of water. Set aside, until ready to use them in the dish. Important note: DO NOT DRAIN! Save the soaking liquid as it’s wonderfully flavourful and will be added to the cooking later.

Soak the mushrooms in a large bowl with plenty of hot water. Set aside, until ready to use. Drain the mushrooms - if the soaking water is gritty, discard. If not, keep and use for cooking later. Slice the mushrooms nice and thickly.

Cooking the Dish:
Take the pork out of the fridge and fish out the garlic cloves from the marinade.

Turn the fire up to medium high. In a heavy-bottomed pot large enough to hold your meat comfortably, add a drizzle of vegetable oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan) and heat till the oil is smoking slightly. Add the garlic cloves from the meat and stir round; make sure it doesn’t scorch. Carefully lift the pork from the marinade and add to the pot. Sear the meat on all sides, making sure there are some nice browned bits all over the surfaces. Add in the drained, sliced mushrooms and stir-fry for about 30 seconds to a minute.

Add in the soaking water from the scallops, the oysters, and the mushrooms, if you’ve reserved that.

Add about a bowlful more water, up to about half the sides of the meat or a bit less if you want a thicker gravy. Be warned that it will evaporate so don’t put too little in. Bring to boil, then turn down to a simmer.

Cover the pot, wrap a twisted-up damp rag or dishcloth around the rim of the pot cover (you may need two dishcloths to do this, depending on the size of your pot). This is to keep the liquid from evaporating too quickly, basically creating a sort of rudimentary seal – at least, that’s what I was told when I was younger and I’m sticking to it.

Simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour. You want the pork to be tender, almost falling to pieces when you poke at it later. Check on it occasionally to make sure that the water hasn’t all evaporated.

At the end of simmering time, dissolve half to one teaspoon of cornflour in a little of the hot gravy and stir into the pot – make sure you keep stirring so it won’t turn lumpy. Once the gravy thickens, turn off the fire, let rest for about 15 minutes, then season to taste.

Serve with hot rice.

Note: This can be used for traditional Chinese New Year dinner too, if you add black moss! You won’t need to thicken the gravy if you do. Make sure to soak the black moss for about 5-10 minutes (it swells very fast), drain it well, and then add only at the last minute as that stuff soaks up gravy like –whoa-.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Deeply Aromatic Curry for a Cold, Rainy Day

It's been raining a lot here. To be more precise, it's been raining almost every day since I got home to my parents' place last Tuesday evening.

Today was no exception - it poured the entire afternoon and the general weather was gloomy, grey, dreary, and cold.

Perfect weather for a mildly spicy warm curry.

In the spirit of Nigel Slater and his Luxurious and Deeply Aromatic Noodle Dish, I flipped through the Kitchen Diaries for a little inspiration, and rustled up this mild, creamy curry with a slight touch of heat (as per requested by my mother, who didn't want it too spicy this time) and a beautiful fragrance from the use of lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves and curry leaves.

A Deeply Aromatic Curry for a Cold Rainy Day
Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Luxurious and Deeply Aromatic and Soup

Spice paste:
2 thick slices ginger, or a small knob of it
Half a small onion, sliced
1 stick lemon grass, sliced thinly
A small handful parsley or coriander (Coriander would be more correct for this sort of Southeast Asian-influenced curry, but I only had parsley on hand)

Curry ingredients:
Half a medium head of cabbage, cut into bite-size wedges
3 potatoes
2 carrots
2 tomatoes, one diced, one sliced (or you can dice them all if you want, I just wanted a bit more colour and texture hence the slices)
2 large mushroom stems (or half a pack of any other mushrooms you like)
1 pack fishballs (optional)
2 tsp (or more) curry paste
2 tsp Seville orange marmalade
1 tbs cooking oil
Handful curry leaves
2 kaffir lime leaves, julienned finely
1 kaffir lime, or 1 small ordinary lime
1 ½ cups milk (you can also use coconut milk, but my mother can’t take it, so milk it was)
Salt to taste

Serves: 2 with leftovers, and could probably be a meal for 4

Preparing the spice paste:

In a mortar, pound the ginger, onion, lemon grass and parsley together till pulverised and fragrant. Set aside.

Preparing the curry:

Over a medium flame, heat the cooking oil in a large pot. Throw in the spice paste and stir it around until fragrant and small bits of onion are slightly brown, but don’t let it burn. Add in 1 tsp of curry paste and fry, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds. Toss in the curry leaves, stir for about a minute with the spice paste, then add the julienned kaffir lime leaves and stir for another minute more.

Add in the diced tomato and stir-fry til the tomatoes are soft and somewhat mushy-looking. Add in the carrots and potatoes and stir well to combine. In about five minutes, when the potatoes and carrots are slightly cooked through, add the cabbage and cook, stirring constantly around, till the cabbage begins to wilt and become translucent. Add the sliced tomato and stir again for about a minute.

Pour in the milk, stir vegetables to combine, add the remaining 1 teaspoon spice paste and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer, cover, and let the entire thing simmer for about 15 minutes. Uncover, add the sliced mushrooms and fishballs, and squeeze the lime juice into the pot. Stir to combine, and simmer for another 10-15 minutes, this time with the lid half-off. The gravy will thicken up later, so don’t worry if it looks watery now.

Add in the marmalade (it sounds strange, I know, but trust me – it added just that little bit of tangy kick I was looking for.) Stir through to combine, and taste for seasoning. You’ll probably need a bit of salt to counteract the sweetness of the milk, but you won’t need too much. If you want to add more spice paste to bring up the heat, by all means – I wanted a mild curry with just a hint of chillies, so I used far less than usual.

Simmer for 10 minutes, turn off the heat and let sit for another 5-10 minutes so the flavours can blend and marry. By now the gravy should have thickened, so it will look more like a curry, and less like a soup.

Serve hot with rice.

A Tart for Sunshine

I don't always analyse why certain recipes catch my attention - only that I want to make them, and most of the time if I can, I do. When I'm at my parents' place for the holidays - like now - I tend to indulge a bit more when it comes to baking.

This was the case of Aran's beautiful pear and hazelnut tart for the holidays. My mother, having been given a choice of lemon-ginger bars or this, picked the tart. So I made it.

I made some changes to the recipe mostly because of ingredients at hand - instead of the brown rice flour and the two starches, I used the Ahern's Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix. Since I didn't have my stand mixer with me, I beat the sugar and butter by hand till it was light and fluffy (this can be done. Trust me. It is a bit slow and your arm will ache afterwards, but it is possible.)

I also cut down a bit of the sugar (a bit less than the half cup called for) and added 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder to the frangipane because I still found it rather overpoweringly sweet. As for the pears, well, I bought five, intending to use two apples to make up the deficit, only to find that TWO pears were more than enough for the topping. Still, that left us three to eat, and more fruits isn't a bad thing at all!

Lesson to self: when rolling pie scraps, put them in the fridge first before the pastry gets so soft it has to be scraped up like mashed potatoes.

I didn't have a tart dish, so I used my mother's glass pie plate, and was afraid the bottom wouldn't be cooked in the time designated by the recipe. As it turned out, I had to cook it for another extra 20 minutes as both frangipane and the crust bottom were very soggy.

Once I got it out of the oven and let it cool though, it was -lovely-. Very, very rich, very buttery, and smelled fantastic. I put it in the fridge for the next day and it was even better since everything had firmed up beautifully. The crust was absolutely gorgeous.

(Food styling really isn't my forte, as you can see. Everything's lopsided!)

Verdict: A bit labour-intensive for me, since I had to grind my own hazelnut meal -and- cream the butter and sugar by hand, but otherwise I'd definitely make this again. The addition of the cocoa powder gave the tart a lovely chocolate taste that complemented the hazelnuts perfectly. Thanks again Aran for a wonderful treat!