Australia Day Picnic: Lamingtons, Salmon Cakes, Cherry Bars & Potato Pies

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What can I say about

Australia Day

...I love food, I love friends and I love (more than most things) putting the two together! Well, that's not really what Australia Day is all about now is it? Well,

I actually think it is about Australia Day

as Australia Day, which is a national public holiday on January 26th, is

all about getting together with family and friends and chillin out.

In Perth that's generally done by relaxing along the foreshore of the

Swan River

where we show out patriotism by the sheer number of young and old kids running after footballs, soccer balls and beach balls, where barbeques sizzle (ahhhh the smell of charred snags - that's

Aussie slang for sausages

by the way) and most likely (and unfortunately) one too many beers being cracked open amongst friends and then  - BOOM! - the fireworks light up the sky.

Glutenfreescallywag_Australia Day Picnic 2012

Yep, Australia Day is celebrated with food, friends, drinks, sunshine, bin cricket (where the bin is the stumps) alot of really naff plastic Australia Day hats and more than a few Aussie flags worn cape-style along with picnics or bring a plate barbeques be it the beach, the foreshore or a friends place that's got a vantage point of the fireworks, heck even a 15minute walk to a good spot makes that friends house trump your other friends! Yes, we're fickle about how far we've gotta walk to see those pretty lights at night, after all, we've spent all day getting our butts kicked at cricket and eating and drinking, it's kind of like Christmas Day all over again, but generally with all your friends rather than your extended family!

So, in the spirit of sharing food amongst friends, I set about making a few little bits n pieces that I might take for a gluten free Australia Day picnic ; store bought gluten free dips and gluten free crackers are easy to bring, along with some skewers of tasty cheese and olives are a good way to start off then bring out some warm Aussie meat pot-pies (my take on the mini party pie) and salmon patties which I'd serve along with a big green garden salad or Greek salad (we're a country of many cultures after all!) with some spicy sweet chilli sauce. Dessert is as simple as a stack of ice creams from the local kiosk (check the labels if you're gluten free) some freshly cut watermelon or maybe indulge in some soft pillows of chocolate and coconut, known to Australians as lamingtons (yes, I've finally made them and yes, they're gluten free baby - so tasty, I'm still eating them now) and my take on the Australian favourite: Cadbury's Cherry Ripe.If you have some glass jars to carry extra bits and bobs like napkins or salt and pepper sachets, put them to use afterwards as your wine glasses!

These recipes are also being shared as an Australia Day special over on Stuffed Pepper . If you haven't checked out Stuffed Pepper you should, if a fabulous gluten free resource with contributors from all over the world and from some of my favourite (gluten free) blogers!

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Meat Potato Pies

Makes about 12

12 medium sized round potatoes

1/2 brown onion, finely diced

1clove garlic, minced

1 carrot, peeled and diced

1 piece of celery, diced

4button mushrooms, diced

400g lean beef or lamb mince

2tsp gluten free cornflour

1/4tsp nutmeg

1/4tsp cinnamon

1/2cup gluten free vegetable or beef stock

good pinch of ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 180degrees celcius. Wash potatoes and place in a baking tray, drizzle with a little olive oil and cover tray tightly with foil. Place in oven and cook until cooked through, mine took about an hour and ten minutes.

Whilst the potatoes are cooking make the meat filling. Heat a large frypan with oil and brown the onion over medium heat. Add the garlic, carrot celery and mushrooms and cook until slightly softened. Add in the mince and smoosh it up with a wooden spoon or some such so that there's no big chunks. You want the mince to brown off a little, so you may want to reduce the temperature a little. Cook for 15minutes until cooked through and vegetables are soft.

Sprinkle over the cornflour, nutmeg and cinnamon, stir in and pour over the stock. Reduce temperature to low and cook for 10minutes or until sauce is thickened. Season with pepper to taste. Set aside.

Once potatoes are cooked remove from trays and carefully cut the top off of each potato (about 1cm). Scoop out the flesh of the potato and set aside. Leave a 5mm thickness of flesh near the skin otherwise the potatoes won't have any stability. Stuff the potatoes with the mince meat, return the lids and reheat in the oven for 10minutes or so.

These can easily be made a day ahead and reheated and kept in alfoil for the picnic.

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Mini Salmon Cakes

Makes about 25bites

1 1/2 cup potato flesh from the scooped potatoes above, or leftover mashed potato

400g tin salmon (or tuna), drain and check all bones are removed

1/4 brown onion, grated, or a half bunch of chives, finely chopped

half small bunch parsley, chopped (about a tablespoon)

1cup gluten free breadcrumbs

1tsp salt

pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Roll and press into small flattish balls, mine were about an 3cm round. Note, they don't roll too well as there's no binding ingredient, if you have trouble add a beaten egg in which case you may need to add more gluten free breadcrumbs. 

Heat a non-stick fry pan and drizzle with a little oil. Pan fry the mini salmon cakes in 2 batches, turning after a few minutes. They cook best with little oil as they crispen up well this way. They are delicate, once again due to the lack of egg.

Serve hot or cold. Very very tasty with some gluten free sweet chilli sauce.

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Gluten Free Lamingtons

Makes about 25bite sized lamingtons

Gluten Free Sponge

3eggs

75g castor sugar

85g gluten free cornflour (I used half cornflour, half amaranth)

1/2tsp gluten free baking powder

Preheat oven to 180degrees celcius and line a lamington tray with baking paper, be sure to come high up the sides.

Sift together the flours and baking powder 3times, set aside.

Whisk eggs for about7-10minutes until light and fluffy. Slowly add the sugar a dessertspoon at a time. You want the sugar to be completely incorporated before adding the next spoonful (a bit like a pavlova ). When all the sugar is dissolved and the eggs are lovely and fluffy and creamy sift over the flours and gently fold in with a metal spoon.

Pour sponge mixture into prepared tin and bake for approximately 20-25minutes until lightly golden, it will bounce back if you press it lightly (I should have taken mine out at the 22minute mark, so be sure to watch your oven after 20minutes). Allow to cool in tray, then turn over onto a cooling rack and gently remove baking paper.

Lamingtons are traditionally made with day old sponge as it's easier to handle and as it's dried out a little is soaks up the chocolate icing better, however, if you want them today then keep reading :)

Lamington icing

240g (about 2cups) gluten free icing sugar

60g (1/2cup) cocoa powder

15g (about 2tsp) butter

1/2-3/4cup milk

2-3cups dessicated coconut

Sift together the gluten free icing sugar and cocoa into a medium bowl. Pop the butter on top and slowly whisk in the 1/2cup milk. You want a thick dripping kind of consistency here, not too runny. Add a little more milk if the mixture is too thick.

I make my lamingtons by placing the icing over some recently boiled water like I would to melt chocolate, this keeps the icing warm and runny making it easier to coat the sponge.  I then have another bowl with half the coconut (half as it gets 'dirty' from the wet chocolate, so I top it up with new 'clean' coconut) in that I put the chocolate coated sponge into and roll around, then using a fork wiggle it around to get rid of excess coconut and place onto a cooling rack to 'dry' and drip!!

It's a messy but fun process!

Lamingtons are good for a day or two, after this they tend to dry out a little too much, so are best served with a cuppa. Enjoy!

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Gluten Free Scallywag Cherry Bars

inspired by Cadbury's Cherry Ripe

makes about a dozen 3cm bite sized bars

100g red glace cherries

1/2cup dessicated coconut

1tblspn condensed milk

1/3cup shredded coconut

150g dark chocolate (yes I used Cadbury's Old Gold!)

In a food processor (I have a mini one that works perfectly for this) buzz the first three ingredients to combine. Pour out into a small/medium bowl and add the shredded coconut, stir to combine.

Press oversized teaspoons of mixture onto your palm and use fingers (slightly wet fingers work well here) to form into small bite-sized bars. Place onto alfoil or baking paper and continue with remaining mixture. Refrigerate for an hour.

Melt and if you can, I'd recommend tempering the chocolate, as this keeps the lovely gloss on the chocolate once the bars are covered, as opposed to going white and spotty as overheated chocolate can. You can find a good how to for tempering chocolate here , which is what I used.

Dip cherry bars into melted chocolate and scoop up with a fork, wiggle it a little to remove excess chocolate and return to the baking paper or alfoil to cool and dry. If the temperature is hot I'd recommend keeping these in the fridge or esky .

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So, from me to you - Happy Australia Day to All!

I hope you have a fabulous barbecue or picnic and enjoy your lamingtons and other inspired gluten free treats. Remember if you're out in the sun to slip, slop slap and remember lots of water (regardless of if you're drinking a few beers or not!). Enjoy your Australia Day, regardless of how close you are to those fireworks and I'll be back soon, possibly with something all loved up for Valentines Day.....