Summer sips: Sweet Iced Tea

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Being in a heatwave and south of the equator, I think Sydney qualifies as southern. And there’s nothing more ‘Southern’ and simple to make than sweet iced tea! And it’s so refreshing on a hot day.

You’ll be my sugar baby, I’ll be your sweet iced tea
You’ll be my honeysuckle . I’ll be your honey bee
-Blake Shelton’s “Honey Bee”

This recipe makes a medium-sweet tea. Everyone has a personal preference for how sweet is sweet enough. Add more sugar or honey, to taste.

You can make this tea in a saucepan at home, but if you’re in an office without a kitchen stove, use a teapot and let the teabags drawn for a full 5 minutes.

Sweet Iced Tea

Makes 7 teacups of iced tea

You’ll need:

3-cup capacity glass serving jug – glass if possible
3 cups of filtered water
2 teabags, regular black tea
¾ cup caster sugar or ½ cup of honey
7 cups of chilled water
Ice cubes, several trays
Lemon wedges
Orange wedges (optional)
Fresh mint leaves (optional)

Cool the jug in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, until needed.

Then, in a medium size saucepan bring the 3 cups of water to the boil. Add the teabags and keep on the boil for 1 minute.

Remove and discard tea bags. Add the sugar (or honey), stirring constantly until dissolved, then let the mixture cool down to room temperature.

Don’t place the tea mixture in the refrigerator as it will go cloud. Leave on your stove top to cool.

When cooled, pour half the sweet tea mixture into a 3-cup glass jug.

Top up with 1 ½ cups of cold water and stir well.

Add the lemon and orange wedges and mint.

Pour into individual glasses or teacups half filled with ice.
Slip a lemon wedge onto the side of the glass, and serve immediately.

(recipe from SOULICIOUS Soul Food cookbook, Awia Markey)
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Homemade donuts? Yes, please

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NOV 5 is National DONUT DAY in the USA, so with a nod to New Orleans, here is my recipe for homemade donut-beignets – doughnets? This is my first attempt at donuts and as usual, I like to add a little spice.

I warn you, they are delicious! 

DONUT~BEIGNETS
Makes 18-20 (4cm round)

Oil or candy thermometer
Metal tongs or metal slotted spoon

T=tablespoon

1 1/2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1 large beaten egg
1/4 cup caster sugar
3 T melted unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups Sunflower oil, for frying

Sugar-spice coating: Mix together 3 T caster sugar with a generous pinch of ground Cinnamon and a pinch of Allspice.

Let’s get started…

Melt butter in a small saucepan on low heat and allow to cool. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together milk, sugar, egg, and cooled melted butter.

Sprinkle flour into the egg mixture bit by bit. Use a mixer on low speed until all the flour has been combined.

Preheat oil over medium heat in a medium size saucepan or deep non-stick fry-pan (keeping an eye on the oil it as it is heating up).

Once the oil has reached 350 degrees, use a tablespoon or plastic coffee scoop to carefully plop the batter into the oil.

Cook 5-6 donut balls at a time, keeping a close watch on the oil temperature, adjusting down if necessary to keep the temperature consistent and not skyrocketing up in temperature.

Fry the donut balls about 1 minute on each side, or until golden brown. Carefully remove with metal tongs or slotted spoon and turn off the heat. Drain donut-beignets onto a plate lined with paper towels.

When hot enough to handle, roll the donuts in the sugar-spice mixture.

These are perfect with a cup of fresh coffee. Take some to work to share. Enjoy!

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Pimp My Plate #30 – TRAMSHEDS, Forest Lodge, NSW

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Like so many other Sydneysiders, I ignored the inkblot sky and threat of rain to visit THE TRAMSHEDS – Sydney’s newest foodie space, housed inside the former Rozelle Tramway Depot, originally built in 1904. 

TRAMSHEDS is being touted as ‘A community of Food and Learning’ and today was their Opening Day – a palpable buzz of hungry shoppers, lots of cameras from phone size to full frame. Store vendors scrambled to keep up with demand while juggling brand new ordering and catering systems, as customers kept filling tables.

On offer is an array of artisan bread, pasta, organic produce, a butcher, and lots of cafes and restaurants. Providores share a large space full of natural light and industrial height ceilings. There are lots of hard surfaces but it’s not noisy.

My take-home bag of goodies to eat later included: a loaf of Sourdough bread ($4.95 which is unheard of in price) and several pastries from Supamart; and a jar of Tasmanian Pickled Octopus ($15) from Fish & Co.

My sit-down Lunch was a plate of Prawn Cakes from FISH & CO. ($21)

A fun day out with lots to eat.

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RATED: Urban edge  FOOD: 4/5
VALUE: 4/5   ATMOS: Industrial chic  VIBE:  Eat, drink, and be merry – esp after finding parking!
TRAMSHEDS – 1 Dalgal Way, Forest Lodge, Sydney, NSW
Open 9am-10pm most days

Pimp My Plate #29 – NO NAME, Darlinghurst, NSW

PIMP MY PLATE is back in Australia and back to a budget of AUD$19-ish.

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This month I’m posting a series of three café reviews focused on one particular dish. Remember that old Italian-Australian favourite Spaghetti Bolognese?

‘Pimp my Bolognese, again!’

In this week’s quest to see if Spaghetti Bolognese has disappeared from Sydney menus, I twirl my fork in one of Darlinghurst’s oldest Italian restaurants.

As I mentioned last week, a traditional version of Bolognese sauce includes onion, celery, and carrot, different types of minced or chopped beef, and sometimes small amounts of fatty pork, red wine, tomato concentrate and/or ripe tomatoes.

This is the second of three plates of Spaghetti Bolognese I’ll be reviewing.

No Name Restaurant – Ristorante #2

It seems like NO NAME restaurant has been in Darlinghurst for …. forever. Decades ago, when I worked in an advertising agency nearby NO NAMES (as we called it) was a regular hangout on Friday afternoons with the tribe.

I remember this restaurant from as far back as the mid-1970s. Even so, I’d have been shocked if Spaghetti Bolognese had disappeared from the menu.

My heart skips a beat …  Yes! It’s still on the menu. ‘Of course it is,’ I reprimand myself.

I order a ‘small’ Garden Salad ($4 – say whaaat?) to accompany my bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese ($10), and with that I get a complimentary side of bread, a glass of cordial, and a glass of water.

‘Parmesan cheese?’

‘Yes,’ I answer without any expectations of fresh Parmesan cheese.

When it first opened, NO NAME began a tradition of offering simple, no-fuss Italian food, with a rustic style.

Not much has changed since in the style of décor or the food, and that’s its charm. The fact that over so many years NO NAME continues to offer basic Italian meals at a price that seems oblivious to inflation is unique. Especially in a large city like Sydney, where change is a constant of this city’s restaurant scene.

If my memory is correct, the only thing missing on my table compared to ‘back then’ are the little glass salt-shaker bottles full of dried chilli flakes. Part of the Friday lunch ceremony was sprinkling copious amounts of chilli flakes over our bowls of spaghetti. In their place is a sea of bright yellow plastic squeeze bottles full of vinegar. What these are for, I’m not sure, and I don’t care to find out.

My bowl of spaghetti arrives and it looks good, and tastes good. There’s no garnish or carrot – no fuss – but I notice a pleasing ratio of sauce to pasta.

This is cheap and cheerful food. It offers flavour and fills you up, and does both at an incredibly good price. So my second experience of Spaghetti Bolognese is filling, no-frills, and enjoyable. And there’s enough sauce.

NO NAME’S blackboard menu features other dishes including, Schnitzels ($15-$24), Scaloppini w Mushrooms (another old favourite), and Osso Buco (both $12), Liver and Onions ($14), and Steak and Onions ($15).

About the name NO NAME – how did it begin?

According to urban legend, the original restaurant sign kept being knocked down by passing rubbish trucks. Faced with having to continually replace the restaurant sign, eventually the restaurant was left with no name – literally.

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After lunch, I head downstairs to Darlinghurst’s other long term resident, THE ARCH, for dessert: a great cup of coffee and a crunchy pistachio biscotti.

My next and final Spaghetti Bolognese encounter is next week.

RATED: No frills  FOOD: 3/5
VALUE: 4.5/5   ATMOS: Minimalist   VIBE:  No-frills fun
NO NAME – 2 Chapel Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney, NSW

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Refreshing Orange-Raspberry Blush

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Feeling the heat? Cool off with an Orange-Raspberry Blush or two, or even three – they’re alcohol-free… 

This is a truly refreshing and easy to make drink that will have you seeing oranges in a whole new light!

(makes one)

8 fl oz glass
Juice from one Cara Cara navel, or red-fleshed navel orange
3T Raspberry cordial concentrate (I use Bickfords)
Ice cubes
Soda water

To make one Orange-Raspberry Blush, pour the raspberry cordial concentrate into a glass then pour in the freshly squeezed juice from one orange – preferably a Cara Cara Navel orange, if available. Or you can use any sweet-juiced orange.

Add 3-4 large ice cubes, then fill glass almost to the top with soda water.

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If you like, you can dilute the cordial with water and make raspberry ice blocks.

Visit me on facebook at Awia’s Kitchen or twitter: @awiaskitchen

Pimp My Plate #25 – Boston, MA

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This month PIMP MY PLATE visits the east coast of the USA to see if Boston could pimp my plate. With AUD$19 currently equivalent to USD$14.50 excluding tips and taxes I’ve scrapped the usual budget in my search for flavour.

‘Salty kisses from the sea…’

Saltie Girl Seafood Bar

Few words can stop me in my tracks like OYSTERS, as I walked down Dartmouth St in Boston in the middle of a heatwave. Seconds later I was up those stairs, pushing open the door, and gazing at unshucked oysters behind the counter.

I’d just eaten lunch, so my most pressing question was whether Saltie Girl was open for dinner that night. ‘We stay open, first in gets a table.’ Dinner sorted.

Oysters. There are lovers and haters. I’ve been a lover for most of my adult life. It was a hallelujah moment when I first realized that oysters were so much more than slimy, shapeless, greyish blobs … that they are in fact poetry. If you’re still lurking in the grey area of oyster appreciation, think of them as salty kisses from the sea, which they are. Each ocean fresh salty kiss has a transformative power to rewind your senses back to ocean swims and happy times you’ve spent at the beach.

And if oysters don’t excite you there is always lobster – for breakfast, entree, main, maybe even dessert.

Because when it comes to access to quality east coast seafood, Boston is surrounded by choice. From its home state of Massachusetts you can feast on produce from Cape Cod (SE of Boston), and from Martha’s Vineyard (south of Cape Cod).

Further north is the state of Maine, famous for its prized Maine Lobsters which are considered the most succulent in texture and flavour. Down south, seafood is sourced from the state of Connecticut, the waterways of Washington, and the fisheries of Long Island Sound, which stretches between Connecticut and Long Island.

To a seafood lover, the criss-cross of Boston streets can easily be reimagined as interlocking lines on a giant trawler net. Boston is brimming with a diverse choice of sea creatures, with a seafood restaurant on every block.

Back to Saltie Girl. It’s a niche bar-seafood-hideaway. There are several cosy booths or you can sit at the well-stocked bar beneath the gaze of two mermaids.

The wait staff are hipster cool and know their seafood. There’s a set menu of main meal options, and a cutesy tick the box with a pencil menu of fresh crustaceans.

We wanted to try as locavore as possible, so for oysters we ticked Martha’s Vineyard and for sentimental purposes, Long Island Sound. I’ve seen those long skinny Razor Clams at Sydney Fish Markets but never tried them so this was my opportunity. The oysters were ocean-fresh and didn’t need condiments. The Razor Clam was pre-cut and seasoned and I didn’t like the texture as much as my dinner partner did.

Maine Lobster. No way was I going to pass up the opportunity to try it.

I chose a  Gloucester Lobster Roll (USD$32 Market Price) the lobster meat originating from Gloucester, Mass. The next decision was whether to order it served either warm – broiled in butter – or cold.

As I spent precious seconds contemplating which option was the most delicious, our waiter quickly cut in, ‘Go cold!’ OK, then. Suspicions that this lobster roll would far exceed any I’d eaten in Sydney were instantly confirmed. The ‘roll’ was a toasted brioche bun, and it was chock-full of fresh lobster pieces with a subtle tasting aioli.

The savoury chips were a cross between potato slivers and crunchy water crackers.

Having written a soul food cookbook, and eaten various versions of chicken and waffles, there was also no way I could pass up the chance to try Fried Lobster and Waffles w sweet corn butter and spicy maple syrup (USD$32 Market Price). Verdict? Unbelievably good.

Before ordering, I asked about the waffles – were they sweet? I was told they were Belgian waffles, cooked on the premises, and not too sweet. They didn’t lie. There is something about this combination that defies logic, but with each bite, your taste buds concur that this dish is nothing less than an amazing concept. Crisp tender lobster, with springy soft waffles, with a trickle of corn butter, doused with maple syrup – it’s not incongruous, it’s a flavour sensation.

Take your dollars and your plastic as this is not a cheap dining destination, but it’s worth every bite.

RATED: Pimped and pumped!  FOOD: 5/5
VALUE: 4/5   ATMOS: 4.5/5   VIBE:  Atlantis 
SALTIE GIRL SEAFOOD BAR– 281 Dartmouth St, Boston, MA 02116

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Pimp My Plate #24 – Naremburn, NSW

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PIMP MY PLATE is my weekly series of reviews of cafés and restaurants in city and regional areas. My food challenge to have my lunch-or-brunch plate pimped for $19 or less.

‘Maca my day’

Sprout Wholefood Café

Naremburn is a small mostly residential suburb, squeezed between Crows Nest and Artarmon. It’s a pretty suburb with a small, eclectic shopping strip.

SPROUT joins a community of shopfronts that includes a local government Member’s office, a small bar, a picture framing business, a bottleshop, and a pizza restaurant that opened in 1972 and still serves great pizza.

The café occupies the space that was previously tenanted by a privately-owned hardware store of the old style that sold boxes of galvanized nails, brass screws, and cut and drilled timber for you on the spot. They were trusted and their DIY expert advice was as solid as the layer of dust carpeting the shelves.

It is fitting then, that ‘new’ tenant SPROUT also provides holistic components, in this case wholefoods.

It was lunchtime and I was in a hurry, and hurried people need to eat good, wholesome food to keep them happy as they hurry.

I saw lots of healthful bowls on the menu, and that’s great, but I prefer to only eat soup, porridge, cereal, or dessert out of a bowl, and preferably with a spoon.

I scanned hungrily past those delicious-sounding-but-not-for-me bowls of Tabouli Bowl, and Green Goddess Bowl (both $17.95), or Miso Trout Bowl, and other Protein Bowls (each $21.95).

Yumm… Sprout Fritters ($17.95), made from a mixture of feta, kale, chilli, and mint caught my imagination.

I had the option to add avocado, grilled chicken, bacon, or poached egg, for an extra charge but I wanted to see how these fritters would stand up to a taste test by themselves.

They did so splendidly. The two large fritters on my plate were springy and light, and a joy to munch through. And they were gluten free, which prompted me to ask what type of flour held this fairy-light mixture together – Brown Rice Flour.

With a long haul international flight on my horizon, I chose the Anti-inflammatory Super Smoothie – banana, turmeric, cinnamon, maca, goji berries, and coconut milk.

Like me, you might be wondering what maca is? Maca is native to the Andes Mountains and is part of the broccoli, radish, and watercress family. It’s touted as a wonder food with a long list of benefits: an energy enhancer that aids stamina, athletic performance, and memory. Whether that’s true or not, its earthy flavour is a complementary addition to the smoothie I’m sipping.

I am happy to report that any of those potential health benefits come second to flavour. The smoothie has an earthy, refreshing taste, and the coconut milk flavour didn’t overpower the other flavours. In fact the flavour combination of banana, turmeric, and cinnamon made my tastebuds dance a tango.  Maybe this concoction could be renamed Flight Fit and made available pre-flight at every airport – just a thought.

Other drinks served at SPROUT include tonics, teas, lattes and macha, hot chocolate and coffees (with nut milk and coconut milk), super smoothies including a Gut Guardian (I so love that name), wellbeing juices, and the curious sounding Reishi Coffee ($5.50), which is ‘enriched with reishi mushrooms’. As a mushroom lover I wished I’d noticed it on the menu earlier. This certainly requires me to do a return visit for a taste-test.

SPROUT have a range of pretty vegan cakes on display if you’d like to reward your healthy eating with a sweet treat, to eat in, or take out.

Just a few doors down the street is specialty coffee store Forsyth Coffee House so if you prefer your coffee with dairy milk, head there for a coffee. They also serve specialty teas.

Before you do head out, be sure to check out SPROUT’s adjacent grocery section where you can buy organic fruit and vegetables, and a number of wholesome gourmet ingredients to create healthy meals in your own kitchen.

This is a feel good space to grab a quick, healthy bite, meet up with friends, or drop in for a cup of Mt Kenya-grown Gabriel brand coffee and a pretty cake.

RATED: Wholly pimped!  FOOD: 4.5/5
VALUE: 4/5   ATMOS: 3/5   VIBE:  Busy, buzzy, healthy
SPROUT WHOLEFOOD CAFÉ & GROCER – 272-274 Willoughby Rd, Naremburn

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Chilli-Choc Bliss Balls

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‘Baby it’s cold out there’

For my chilli-loving friends like me, I decided to revisit my original Bliss Balls Sugar Hack recipe and add some heat.

This is my first batch. It has a lingering warm chilli flavour. It’s subtle, not rocket-heat, as I wanted to experiment with a bottle of Chilli Choc Sauce I had in the cupboard.

You can add more or less sauce, and I plan on working through my cupboard of other hot sauces and spices and moving UP the heat scale with this recipe – health AND heat. Win-win!

(makes approx. 20)

30 pitted dates (from a 250 g pack)
1 tspn vanilla extract (not essence)
1 1/2 level Tbspn very finely ground espresso coffee
3 rounded Tbspn organic cacao powder
3/4 cup walnuts (buy whole or walnut pieces)
3/4 cup hazelnuts
1 Tbspn melted coconut oil
2 Tbspn Cranky Croc Choc Chilli Chocolate Sauce (made by The Chilli Factory)
3/4 cup dried dessicated coconut

Cut dates in half, and place in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for 10 mins, then drain and place the dates, vanilla, coffee, and cacao into the bowl of a food processor. Blend until the mixture starts to blend together.

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Add the walnuts and hazelnuts to the mixture, and process again until the nuts are chopped into smaller pieces and the mixture starts to form a sticky ball.

Then drizzle in the melted coconut oil and pulse until incorporated.
Use a teaspoon to scoop out mixture and use your hands to roll the mixture into 1″ (2cm) round balls. Keep them small so they are just one or two bites.

Scatter coconut across a dinner plate, and roll the balls across to coat them.
Store in a sealed container, in the fridge or freezer.

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The Chilli Factory’s Cranky Croc Chilli Chocolate Sauce

Guilt-free ‘nutella’ recipe #2

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Here’s the follow up to my previous ‘alternative nutella’ post – Recipe #2.
And my personal favourite!

The original recipes were created and posted online by Natasha Longo, a certified fitness and nutritional counsellor, in response to an article …http://www.realfarmacy.com/need-know-nutella/ …which outlines undesirable chemical additives, and commercial practices involved in producing the current version of Nutella hazelnut spread.

I wanted to test-drive these recipes and see how they shape up as a substitute.

This recipe uses dates and cacao instead of hazelnuts.

If like me you are tired of coconut oil being used in everything and overpowering other flavours, you might prefer my version using virgin olive instead.

I’ve halved the amount of maple syrup, making the recipes even lower in sugar. And for simplicity I’ve replaced the Almond Butter in Natasha’s original recipe, with a commercial Almond Spread.

RAW CHOC-DATE ‘nutella’ – Recipe #2

(Makes about 1.5 cups)

Taste: has a definite chocolate taste – my favourite of the two – I rate it 9/10
Texture: dense, sticky texture, like a firm paste – use a little more oil and/or maple syrup for a smoother texture.

10 dried, pitted dates (3 oz.)
1/2 cup almond spread (or almond butter)
2T maple syrup
1/3 cup cacao powder
1 tspn extra virgin olive oil

Rehydrate the dates in hot water for about 10 minutes (or 2 hours in cold water).
Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl as needed to make sure the spread is smooth.

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At the end add a little olive oil. Spread over waffles, hot-buttered toast, croissants.

Note: Because this recipe contains no preservatives, keep in air-tight container and refrigerate. Treat as you would fresh foods, and use within a few days.

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If you find the texture too stiff to spread, simple heat the required amount for 10 sec in the microwave before serving.

‘Have a DELiCiOUS day’

Visit me on facebook at Awia’s Kitchen or Pimp My Plate   or tweet me @pimpmyplate  @awiaskitchen

Guilt-free ‘nutella’ recipe #1

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This recipe was created and posted online by Natasha Longo, a certified fitness and nutritional counsellor, in response to an article: http://www.realfarmacy.com/need-know-nutella/   which outlines undesirable chemical additives, and commercial practices involved in producing the current commercial version of Nutella hazelnut spread.

I wanted to test-drive this recipe and see how it shapes up as a substitute.

Using Natasha’s recipe as a base, I’ve adjusted by either reducing the quantities of the some ingredients, or omitting them completely. ** denotes an ingredient in Natasha’s original recipe, that I’ve left out.

This recipe uses hazelnuts.

Raw Hazelnut-Choc-Coconut ‘nutella’    

(makes about 1 cup)

Taste: pleasant flavour with a definite coconut taste – I rate it 7/10
Texture: a soft paste with light-medium texture and body

1 cup hazelnuts, soaked for 10 hours
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tspn vanilla extract **  
1/4 tspn sea salt **  
1/4 cup raw cacao powder
2-4 T coconut milk

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Drain and rinse hazelnuts and place in food processor or high-powered blender. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. I didn’t want to wear out the motor on my food processor by processing for the suggested 10-15 minutes, so I just blended for 5 mins until the nut consistency was more like breadcrumbs than butter. If you have a commercial blender you could go the distance and create more of a buttery consistency.

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Add the maple syrup, vanilla, salt, and cacao powder and blend until smooth. Slowly add the coconut milk until desired consistency. I used about 2 Tablespoons of coconut milk.

Serve on crumpets, or hot-buttered toast.

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Note: Because this recipe contains no preservatives, keep in air-tight container and refridgerate. Treat as you would fresh foods, and use within a few days.

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‘Have a DELiCiOUS day’

Visit me on facebook at Awia’s Kitchen or Pimp My Plate   or tweet me @pimpmyplate  @awiaskitchen