Saturday, 19 May 2018

Rye and lentil casserole and a busy week

Last night I dreamt that I had moved house and looked out the window to see chimps wearing top hats in the backyard.  It has been that sort of crazy week.  Last Saturday I made a huge casserole that saw us through some busy days.  We finished it tonight and I still have a tub of it in the freezer.  So let me take you through a busy week accompanied by casserole.

Firstly let me tell you that it is well and truly casserole weather.  A couple of weeks ago the weather suddenly turned from warm and dry to cold and wet.  I took the above photo while waiting for a tram home after work two Fridays ago.  After I took it, someone mentioned to me it would be a wet walk across the road to get the tram.  Then we saw that the tram stop was not in use and a few of us had to race through three sets of traffic lights to get the next train.

I made the stew while Sylvia and her friend had a craft session at the kitchen table.  The inspiration came from a bag of rye berries I found at the back of the pantry and a bag of puy lentils that was being neglected.  I found a recipe for a lamb, rye and dried apricot tangine so I decided to throw in some Turkish dried apricots we were also neglecting.  I checked what I might need to include oven baked lentils and cobbled together a recipe to suit me. 

I spent a bit of time adjusting the flavours after it cooked in the oven.  It was a bit on the sour side.  I amped up the salt, then vinegar, then sugar.  Finally I let it go and it was very good with some rice and coleslaw.  The rye berries were not quite cooked but the slightly chewy texture actually worked for me.  The casserole had a bit of bite rather than being total mush.

When Sylvia had her swimming lesson I had some time at home beforehand to photograph the stew.  It is always a challenge to make a brown stodgy casserole look interesting.  Then i had to rush to the supermarket, to the post office and to get a prescription at the chemist.  The chemist was really busy and by the time I had my prescription I had to rush to pick up Sylvia from school for her swimming lesson. 

Usually I have her swimming bag together and in the car but I was so disorganised her swimmers were at home and I had to drop the goods at home to go in the fridge.  So I had to take her home, dump the groceries, get her ready for the pool and head out again.  On the way into the pool she fell over and had grass stains on her pjs that she wore.  We just arrived in time for the lesson and I was relieved that she enjoyed it.  I was glad to have casserole to come home to.  Though perhaps photographing it had made me even more disorganised.

The week was busier than usual.  E was starting a new job which meant I did more pick ups and drop offs at school.  In addition I had one night when I stayed at work til 10.30pm because we were packing up our office to move to a different building and I needed some quiet time to focus on packing.  (I have realised this photo looks like I work with luxury with the bottle of wine and the couch but let me assure you that although I will miss my couch in my new office, it has not been used a lot.) 

Yesterday I had to have my office completely cleared and left early to pick up Sylvia straight after school.  It was a struggle but I did it and only was only 15 minutes late.  Luckily Friday is an afternoon for milling about after assembly.  We managed to get to the mall for hot chocolate and the heavens opened.  Sylvia still enjoyed her hot chocolate and a browse in the library.  Then we had pizza for tea.  I had casserole to use so I topped the pizza with tomato paste, casserole, pineapple, mushroom, olives and cheese.  I baked the pizza for 5-10 minutes before putting on the toppings to make sure it cooked properly.  Wonderful with a side of Adventure Time.

The final day of the stew was today.   The weather was mercifully dry (for the washing on the line) but fate was not kind to iconic La Mama Theatre in Carlton.  It was quite sad to see the shell of the theatre surrounded by many firefighters and viewed by shocked onlookers.  La Mama saw the gensis of many theatre and acting careers in Melbourne and Australia.  We went to Lygon Street search of a book but instead ended up walking away with a new warm jacket for Sylvia and ice cream from Pidapipo Gelateria.

Then we swung by Sylvia's friends to pick her up for a play date and brought her home for a sleepover.  I told the girls they could stay up for Harry and Meghan's Royal Wedding but they have been more interested in dressing up in Sylvia's room and taking selfies.  We had macaroni cheese for tea.  E and I had some of the remains of the casserole on the side as well as some broccoli.  Great comfort food. 

And so ends the week of the casserole.  Until I find a moment I need to take the last tub of it out of the freezer.  Because I suspect there are more busy times ahead.

More winter-warming casseroles and stews on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Cheesy lentil bake (gf, v) 
Chickpea, potato and tomato stew (gf, v) 
Lentil ragu with chocolate chilli fettuccine (v) 
Nicki’s Nana’s Chulent (v)
Prune and bean casserole (gf, v)
Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potato Mash (gf, v)
Veggie Crumble

Rye and lentil casserole
Serves 10-12

1 1/2 rye berries - soaked
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion. chopped
4-6 garlic, roughly chopped
2 carrots, sliced
1/4 cabbage, chopped into 1 inch squares
2 litre water
2 cup puy lentils
1 tin crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup dried apricots
2-4 tablespoons of honey (or other sweetener)
2 tbsp rice vinegar
4-6 tsp salt
3 tsp stock powder
2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp each cumin, fennel, allspice

Soak rye berries.  (I did this for 2 hours in boiled water.) 

Fry onion in a large ovenproof stockpot for a few minutes until translucent.  Stir in garlic, carrots and cabbage.  Fry for about 10-15 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients and stir well.  Check seasoning and adjust to taste.  Coer and bring to the boil.  Meanwhile preheat oven to 180 C.  When stew is boiling, stir, remove from heat and place in oven.  Cook for 1.5 hours or until cooked.  Check flavours again and adjust if required.  Keeps well in fridge for at least a week or can freeze.

On the Stereo:
Melt: Straightjacket Fits

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Catch up eating out 2017-2018, Melbourne's inner north

It has been busy lately and, as always, I visit more cafes than I ever have time to write up.  So here is a wee round up of some of the places I have been over the past year.  I have chosen the ones of which I have decent pictures.  Some are from places I have already been and others from places I want to write up when I have been back again. Yet again showing just what an amazing array of food Melbourne has to offer.

Naughtons Hotel
43 Royal Parade, Parkville 3052

Naughtons Hotel is a place we would go drinking sometimes when I lived on campus at the University of Melbourne as a student.   More recently I have been there for a couple of work lunches.  It was a little hit and miss but I really loved this dish of cauliflower and almond pastry, harissa carrots, coriander and grains, labneh ($25).  The pastries were delicious but the overall dish was lighter with the nice salad.

Post Office Hotel
229-231 Sydney Road, Coburg 3058

I wrote about the Post Office Hotel back in 2012.  Since then it has expanded into another large dining room.  The menu is no longer the innovative middle eastern dishes.  It is more a pub classics style but done creatively with burgers, pizza and pasta.  I have eaten there a few times but the most memorable meal I have had was with my mum over a year ago on a balmy lunchtime in the beer garden.  I really loved the vegetable charcuterie platter.  It had chargrilled sourdough bread, olive oil, dukkah, green beans, olives, hummus, gherkins, possibly a pumpkin dip and some orange vegetables that at the time my mum and I had trouble identifying.  Perhaps a squash.

True North
2A Munro Street, Coburg 3058

True North is another local cafe that I have been to every now and again since I wrote about it in 2014.  The sandwich really impressed me with the vegan chorizo, roast potato, melted cheese, lime and coriander pesto. I removed the fresh coriander!  It was served with lots of corn chips.  Not the easiest sandwich to eat but really great comfort food.  I visited again last week and had quite a similar filling in a quesadilla which was also very good: pan fried potato and vegan chorizo with cheese and jalapenos served in a toasted flour tortilla with lime aioli and greens ($19).  I like that they continue to try new things.  Their passiona pancakes are on my list of dishes to try.

Rude Boy Burger
482 Albion Street, Brunswick West 3055

I visited Rude Boy Burger with Faye who wrote about it in her Veganopolous blog.  Both of us had the Vegan Latina with chilli and spring onion fried potato cake, chickpea salsa, chimchurri, jalapenos, avocado, chipotle relish, lettuce, tomato and onion ($13.50).  We were there on a Tuesday when all the regular burgers were half price.  Hence my decision not to try a special vegetable burger.  I was really pleased with my choice.  Stuffing a potato cake in a burger is genius.  It would be too much carb if you stopped there but with all the add-ins, it was really good.  But filling.  I made the mistake of also ordering some onion rings.  They were nice but the burger was enough and the potato cake was enough grease for one meal.

Humble Rays
71 Bouverie Street, Carlton 3053

After I saw that Cindy had written about Humble Rays I was curious to try it one lunchtime. It is a really nice light space, though far bigger and busier than I had expected.  I ordered a bowl of vegetables, sesame seed tofu, seaweed and a yuzu dressing.  It was nice but quite light.  I had been disappointed the tofu didn't have a bit more flavour but it worked well with the dressing.  I decided to have dessert and chose the Green tea skookie.  It is a matcha choc chip cookie cooked in a small skillet, served with toasted marshmallow, vanilla ice cream, matcha cookie crumbs and white chocolate curls. The cookie was a bit dry but nice with all the toppings.  Just not quite enough chocolate for my liking.  I keep hoping to go back.

Two Monks
Coburg Leisure Centre, Bridges Reserve, Coburg 3058

In the school holidays I took Sylvia swimming and we stopped for lunch afterwards.  The Coburg Leisure Centre cafe has been taken over by Two Monks and had some interesting dishes on the menu.  I ordered the (vegan) Quinoa, israeli couscous, spinach, avocado, pumpkin seed, sesame seed, dried cranberry with lemon, olive oil and garlic dressing ($16.50).  I really enjoyed the salad, despite the dressing being a bit more oily than I like.  I have tried some Israeli couscous recipes and not had great success.  This seemed a great way to serve it.  The drawback of eating here is the lack of any ambiance but it is great to have some decent food to eat after swimming.

Handsome Her
206 Sydney Road, Brunswick

I was pretty keen to visit Handsome Her when it opened in a blaze of publicity over its idea of charging men a surcharge to raise awareness of the gender pay gap and donate the surcharge to women's services.  It has the same owner as the Glass Den.  The food is all vegan and very creative.  It took me until late last year to finally visit with Faye.  She has written about it on Veganopoulous. We had The Kelis - a pulled jackfruit burger with smoky barbecue sauce, rainbow slaw, mayo, avocado, onion rings, grilled pineapple on a charcoal bun ($21).  I enjoyed it but find pulled jackfruit quite juicy so the burger was quite moist but full of flavour.  I loved the pineapple on the burger.  A nod to the traditional fish and chip shop burger with the lot.  For dessert I tried a peanut butter chocolate cake pop which was delicious too.

Mantra Lounge
167 Grattan Street, Carlton 3053

It also took me a while to get to the Mantra Lounge, a vegan cafe near The University of Melbourne.  (It is quite close to my old work place and I wish it had been there back then.)  Finally late last year I visited and had the sausage roll with the salads.  Really delicious.  I also had a refreshing home made lemonade.  A few weeks back I went again and had the satay curry with rice and roti.  It was really good with chickpeas and vegies but I was too deep in conversation to remember to take a photo.

Mr Nice Guy's BakeShop
151 Union Road, Ascot Vale 3032

I've been to Mr Nice Guy's (vegan) BakeShop quite a few times since writing about it in 2014. Last year when we went, Sylvia was very taken by the idea of Monster shakes.  She tells me this one was the cookie monster.  It was an amazing creation of chocolate milkshake with lots of vegan cream, oreos, chocolate sauce and other stuff I can't remember.  It looked beautiful but was a bit sweet.  Less photogenic but more successful have been the meatball sub and the hot dog in a pretzel.  I still find it fun to look at all the cupcakes, doughnuts and cinnamon buns on display.  So much yumminess.

Glass Den
15 Urquhart Street, Coburg 3058

Yes I have had to share two photos from the Glass Den.  I have had quite a lot of meals there since I wrote about it in 2016.  Sadly my notes are pretty sketchy and my memory is worse.  Lately I haven't had many meals but continue to go there for a drink with friends.  I loved the hot apple and ginger juice with cinnamon last winter and hope it is back now the weather has cooled.  I am sad they stopped serving kombucha.  And I was a bit disconcerted to order a bagel and find their bacon had changed.  I liked their coconut bacon but now they serve more of a faux bacon that seems too real to be fake.

The food continues to be beautiful.  An instagrammer's dream.  I wish I had more notes on the dishes above.  I think the bruschetta might be peach and avocado with berry slick and maybe a charcoal bun.  I think the dessert is a bubble waffle with cookies and cream - oreos, mini meringues, blueberries, strawberries, ice cream, marshmallows, matcha cookie crumbs and caramel sauce.  Sylvia really loved the kids nutella and fairy floss brioche burgers when we went early last year.  I really should check out the menu again soon.

Flirting with Shadows
Shop 4, 12 Victoria Street, Coburg 3058

Lastly a small cafe has opened at the top of Foleys Arcade in Coburg facing out onto Coles carpark.  the is a lovely welcoming space with a few quirky touches.  The bench at the window is actually an old door that has the beautiful etching in the above photo.  I have had a lovely burek and lentil soup there.  E loves the Turkish coffee and Sylvia had had a few ice creams there.  the chocolate caramel slice pictured above was impressive not just because it tasted so good but also because it was just the right size - a few mouthfuls rather than the size of a mattress!  And the owner is a lovely friendly guy who is interested in making sure the cafe has food to suit a whole range of dietary requirements so he is always trying new things.  Definitely worth a visit after your next supermarket trip.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Radiatore pasta with tomato and chickpeas

I love the idea of one pot pasta.  That means you cook the pasta in the sauce.  Bung it all in and wait for it to be ready.  So when I saw Michael post about trying Ottolenghi's Oriecchiette cooked in chickpea and tomato sauce, it seemed a great idea.  I really loved the pasta with unusual flavours but it did prove that Ottolenghi, for all his talents in the kitchen, is not an expert at simplicity.

It's ok.  I understand.  I am not great at simplicity either.  But I am telling you just so that you know this is not a one pot pasta that you bung in the pot and leave until dinner is ready.  This is a one pot pasta that you cook in steps and make another mixture in a bowl on the side and then set aside parts of the dish for later.  But that is Ottolenghi's style, just as I will always prefer sweet smoked paprika over hot smoked paprika and the olives in my fridge will not be of the quality that the recipe called for.  We all have our signature moves!

But honestly I did not mean to deviate as much from the recipe as I did.  I went to buy the really cute curly orecchiette I had bought recently only to find it was not there.  And I had some pretty interesting radiatrore pasta at home so I used that.  My dish was not as saucy as Ottolenghi's.  Possibly due to the radiatore needing more sauce or perhaps because I skimped on the olive oil.  And I only noticed the salt when I wrote up the recipe.  So it was no doubt under seasoned.

Ottelenghi notes that this is not at all a traditional way of serving pasta.  It brings a little of his Middle Eastern Heritage to Italy but with his elegant style. 

Speaking of countries, I have recently realised how poor my grasp of where countries are.  Sylvia has had a poster of times tables on the wall that has gone to pieces and been replaced by a map of the world.  I am loving checking the map every time there is a news story.  And recently we watched an amazing film called Fly Away Home about a girl who flew a light aircraft to encourage her wild geese to migrate from Ontario, Canada to Florida, USA.  It was really helpful to look at where they flew on the map. 

The map also reminds me that although Italy and the Middle East seem quite different cultures, in  fact they aren't that far apart geographically when seen in the context of the rest of the world.  And Marco Polo probably went through the Middle East when returning from China after "discovering" pasta.

More vegan pasta on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Hurry up pumpkin alfredo (v)
Lentil ragu with chocolate chilli fettuccine (v)
Macaroni cheese with sauerkraut, cauliflower and blue cheese (v)
One pot pasta with beans and tomato sauce (v)
Summer minestrone (gf, v)

More vegan pasta elsewhere to try:
Creamy tomato spaghetti with hummus - Bite Sized Thoughts
Eggplant meatballs with spaghetti - Connoisseurus Veg
Jumbo pasta shells stuffed with tofu ricotta - Oh She Glows
Macaroni cheese - Where's the beef
Drunken spicy red wine spaghetti - Allotment to Kitchen

Radiatore pasta with tomato and chickpeas
Adapted from Ottolenghi in the Guardian
Serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
400g tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp salt
40g parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
2 tsp lemon zest
4 tbsp baby capers
80g piemento-stuffed green olives, roughly chopped
250g cherry tomatoes
2 tsp caster sugar
1/2 tbsp caraway seeds, lightly toasted and crushed
250g dried radiatore
500ml vegetable stock
black pepper

[If you need to dry fry caraway seeds, do it first.] 

Heat olive oil in a large deep frypan over medium heat and stir in garlic, chickpeas, paprika, cumin, tomato paste and salt.  Fry for about 8 minutes, leaving to get a little crisp around the edges if possible and stirring occasionally.  Set aside about a third of the mixture once done.  Meanwhile mix parsley, lemon zest, capers and olives in a small mixing bowl.  Set aside abou a third.

Stir the remaining two thirds of parsley mixture into chickpea mixture with tomatoes, sugar and caraway seeds and fry for 2 minutes.  Add pasta, stock and 250ml water.  Bring to the boil, reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for about 12-14 minutes (or until pasta is cooked).  Stir in parsley mixture and garnish with remaining chickpea mixture.

On the Stereo:
Among My Swan: Mazzy Star

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Almond brownies with milo, and random thoughts

On the weekend we went for lunch at East Elevation where the mushroom, lentil and gruyere pie (on special and too mushroomy for my tastes) was very meaty and the brownie was tempting.  "But why would you buy a brownie when you are going to make one" spoke my wise child.  Indeed.  I put away all thoughts of buying the brownie, and went home to bake one in the short space of time before going out again.

As soon as I had seen Choclette post about her Triple Chocolate Almond Brownies recently I thought of the bar of dark chocolate with whole almonds that E turned his nose up at and the bag of almonds in the freezer that was getting in my way.  I am very partial to brownies and flourless almond cakes.  This recipe was like both rolled into one.  Sylvia asked me to use some milo because I still have a huge tin leftover from baking cake.  (Curse you, supermarkets, and your specials on huge tins of milo.)

I mentioned that I made it in a short space of time.  I literally pulled the brownie out of the oven and rushed out the door.  The brownie was so gooey that I wonder if I should have cooked it longer.  In the photo above you can see that the edge pieces have a more baked look with holes/aeration.  I think I should have left it a little longer so that the middle also had that look.  However I have loved this brownie.  While I love my brownies a little more fudgy than gooey, it is incredibly chocolatey and rich.  Exactly as I would expect from the chocolate loving Choclette.  Not for the faint hearted.

Before I go, I wanted to share a few random thoughts:
  • I am feeling a bit annoyed with doctors lately.  I had a rash that was not bothering me and a doctor noticed it and said to put ointment on it.  So I bought the ointment and the rash got redder.  I saw another doctor who said I now need to buy another ointment to bring down the irritation from the first ointment.  Grrrrr!
  • I have been reading Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield to Sylvia (I loved that story as a kid) about a little girl who is training to be a ballerina.  My own book at the moment is In the Woods by Tana French about the murder of a little girl who was training to be a ballerina.  It struck me that these are not good books to read at the same time.
  • I recently visited a photographer I use at work.  As we were chatting, he asked if I wanted to see an Egyptian mummy's hand that was thousands of years old that he had for photographing.  What a fun - if slightly disturbing - moment at work.
Now I am off to finish reading In The Woods and to try and avoid the temptation of the brownies left in the tub.  They are so good!

More brownies on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Brownies with butterscotch chips
Candy cane brownies
Chocolate beetroot brownies
Chocolate brownies with chickpea flour (gf)
GF Donna Hay Brownies (gf)
Peanut butter brownies
Vegan brownies with optional dulce de leche swirl (v) 

Almond brownies with milo
Adapted from Tin and Thyme

175 g salted butter
175 g dark chocolate with whole almonds
110 g brown sugar
3 eggs
50g milo
1 tsp baking powder
150 g ground almonds freshly ground if possible
150 dark choc chips

Melt butter and chocolate. Add sugar and milo, then eggs and remaining ingredients.  Bake in a lined and greased square 20cm cake tin at 170 C for 35 minutes or until baked on top and still a little soft underneath if you touch the top.  Cool in tin, cut into squares and store for 4-5 days in an airtight container.

NOTES: The almond chocolate I used was Whittakers which is 62% cocoa solids.  If you use milo it is not a gluten free brownie but you could use a GF hot chocolate drink powder instead.  Or check out Tin and Thyme for a GF version.

On the stereo:
Recurring dream: the very best of Crowded House

Thursday, 3 May 2018

In My Kitchen - May 2018

So autumn is turning dark and cool as we enter May.  That means a lack of light for photographing evening photos; soups and stewed replacing salads and smoothies, and the ground thick with rustling autumn leaves.  It is perfect weather for baking.  Given we have had the school holidays and ANZAC day last month, I have also have opportunity.

The above photo is of a salad roll I made for lunch recently.  It had avocado, cherry tomatoes, cheese and spinach in a sourdough bun (using this bread recipe).  I made it because I was tired of bringing boring vegemite and cheese sandwiches to work while those around had healthy bowls of vegetables.  As an aside, on the radio recently I heard that in a survey, 1 in 6 people eat the same lunch every day.  People rang up to talk about their lunches.  One man had vegemite and sultana sandwiches every day and a woman had vegemite and lettuce sandwiches every day. 

Over the school holidays I dug out my old mass book to show Sylvia how I learnt all the responses at mass.  What is really special about this book is that inside it I keep the gold leaf from my First Holy Communion cake that I had when I was 8 years old.  It amused me that the pictures in the book are of large Catholic families.  All better behaved than we often were in mass.

Sylvia and I had a ride to the Coburg Farmers Market a few weeks back.  It had moved to the back of the Coburg North School and is going to be on the move soon.  But I don't know when.  I really should be going more at this time of year for the excellent apples but haven't got organised.  However I was pleased with our haul from a quick visit.  Kale, butternut pumpkin, bok choy, apples, tempeh, orange juice and a raspberry pear pie.

I was really interested in the stall at the market selling locally made artisan tempeh.  They had cubes of it lightly seasoned and fried which were really good.  So far I have made some chowder with it, a bit like this tempeh corn chowder.  The other half is in the freezer waiting for more inspiration.  Or else I will eventually made my favourite Asian-style tempeh and corn soup.

I also had a shopping trip in Geelong Fresh over the school holidays.  It is such a lovely shop of lots of fancy products and reasonably priced fruit and veg.  I bought some limes and strawberries.  The limes became limeade.  I also purchased some Irrewarra muesli because everything Irrewarra produces is amazing, some oatcakes for E, and a Vego bar.  The last is a vegan milk chocolate and hazelnut bar and is really delicious.

Here is the Irrewarra toasted muesli (actually they call it granola but it was always toasted muesli when I was growing up so I still call it that) with toffee and honeycomb yoghurt and stewed plums.  I have been stewing quite a few plums.  They really make a breakfast feel more fancy and satisfying.

I bought a packet of tofu puffs and then wondered what to do with them.  Finally I made some Braised Tofu Puffs, a bit like this stirfry.  It was good but not great.  I am still not sure if I like tofu puffs.  Some days I think I do and others I wonder if anyone likes them.

Easier to like is cupcakes.  At a recent work teambuilding day we had a 2 hour cupcake decorating workshop at Cupcake Central in Melbourne Central.  It was lots of fun to work with fondant and have a go of some different piping nozzles.  Here are three cupcakes that survived overnight.

Soon after Sylvia went to stay with my mum and had to get her own cupcake decorating experience.  She brought home a tub of very cute cupcakes.

I bought some cream for E's birthday cake that sat around being mostly neglected.  So one night when Sylvia was away I roasted vegetables and chickpeas with a a vinegar and seasoning.  The following evening I mixed it with cream and cooked pasta.  It was simple and good but would have benefited from a bit of lemon juice and maybe a bit more seasoning.

I also recently had a go at Kari's vegan creamy tomato pasta but did not take photos.  I quite enjoyed it but needed to season it more.  I have some of the creamy tomato sauce left and fancy trying it on some pizza tomorrow.

We have been quite taken by the Doritos crackers.  Perhaps too much.  They are really highly seasoned and very moreish.

E has been given a case of Coburg Lager.  As well as enjoying having some cans in the fridge, he has been pleased to given a few away to people who had been a huge help: my sister's boyfriend for fixing our car and my dad for helping out around the house.

Here are a few new additions to our tool set on the left.  My dad came to help with putting up new blinds in our loungeroom.  As our car had broken down in Geelong, I had taken my mum's car, he had brought my car back so he could drive my mum's car to his house and meanwhile my mum had taken his car with a lot of his tools.  So I suggested we buy a few extra to make our tool kit a bit more useful.  On the right is E's five pound toolkit that he takes great pride in.  (We do have a few other bits and pieces but not heaps.)  The tools helped but my dad's patience and persistence were invaluable too.

Last Sunday I had a coffee with a friend and bookclub.  I baked bread first thing and then made ANZAC biscuits.  Because I always feel better when I don't arrive empty handed.  Bookclub was great because the author came along and it is just fascinating to ask them questions like, did you have any control over the cover of the book?

When we made the ANZAC biscuits, Sylvia decided it would be a good thing to tip sprinkles over the raw biscuits before they went into the oven.  I said no and cleaned it all up.  Then I promised I would make her some funfetti ANZACS.  They would horrify the traditionalists (hi mum) but they were fun.

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event, that was started by Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial,  If you would like to join in, send your post to Sherry by 28th of the month.  Or just head over to her blog to peek into more kitchens. 

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Malted chocolate cake for blogiversary

Green Gourmet Giraffe is eleven.  Yet another blog birthday.  Now I am in double figures I am a bit blase about these anniversaries.  But I still love cake.  And my blog started after E's birthday so I have an excellent reason to make cake.  Something simple.  Full of chocolate.  When I said that I was making a chocolate cake with Maltesers, Sylvia thought it a bad idea because I had made a Malteser cake last year and another the year before.  I can't see a problem with loving chocolate and malt.

I did have other problems with the cake.  Firstly it was a little confusing to be directed to whisk the dry ingredients and the egg with the sugar.  I was not sure if this meant I should stir or use electric beaters.  I suspect it meant stir but I used the electric beater.  Then I misread baking soda for baking powder.  (It is very confusing that Americans say baking soda instead of bicarbonate soda.  I usually catch it but was not concentrating.)  So the cake, which had very little leavening agent, had even less rise than intended.  Finally I decided to weigh the cake tins to make sure I divided the batter evenly.  Unfortunately it was that moment that the battery failed and I discovered it was really difficult to take off the battery cover.  Weighing cake tins was less important than getting them into the oven quickly.

Then there was chopping maltesers and being very tempted to eat them.  You could call that a pleasure or a challenge.  There were some leftover and then I saw that Sylvia had decided to put some in a circle on top of the cake.  Not quite what I planned but she made sure it had her stamp on it with some popping candy as well.

It is a fancier cake than I usually make but is still not too difficult.  I baked the cake the night before, did the buttercream and malteser decoration in the morning.  We went out for lunch to the Cornish Arms (which I will write about some day) and then bought Sylvia a new amazing Malvern Star bike.  Once we got home and Sylvia did a few laps of the driveway on her bike (amazingly easy transition from trainer wheels to no trainer wheels) I baked pizza and then we had cake.

The cake was brilliant.  For all of the concern about the lack of rising agent, it rose enough but was incredibly dense and rich.  The buttercream was really soft and luscious.  And the Maltesers had softened over a few hours and were all chewy and malty.  I was quite relieved - and delighted - that the cake worked.

As for my blogiversary.  As always, I am grateful that my blog continues to amble along and wish I had more time for it but always grateful for all the support I receive and the inspiration it gives me.  Last night E and I watched Lessons from a Middle Class Artist about struggling musician Anthony Frith goes to the US to meet successful novelty song composer Matt Farley. It made me reflect on what sort of contribution I made towards the internet.  And I feel proud of my contribution in my little corner of the world wide web.  Some days I wonder about the future of the web and where it will be in another 10 years.  For now I am quite fascinated by all the change over the past 11 years.

When I planned this post, I decided I would do a it's-my-blog-and-I'll-write-what-I-want tangential random diversion.  However as it is late at night and I am just glad to have got my anniversary post in on the date I started my blog 11 years ago, I will not ramble as much as I would like but just say it's-my-blog-and-I-wish-I-had-more-time-for-it-and-had-not-just-fallen-down-a-facebook-rabbit-hole.  Honestly I have had a good weekend but it will have to wait for another time.  Because I am hopeful that there are many more blog posts to come.

More malty deliciousness from Green Gourmet Giraffe:
ANZAC biscuits with milo and white chocolate
Easter caramel and malteser fridge cake
Floating malteser cake with fudgy buttercream frosting
Malted loaf with chocolate, figs and brazil nuts (v)
Milo weetbix slice

Malted chocolate cake
Adapted from Chowhound

2 cups milo powder
1 2/3 cups plain flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
3 eggs
1 cup castor sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups milk (I used soy)
1 recipe Milo Buttercream Frosting (see below)
1 cup maltesers, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 160 C.  Grease and line 2 x 20cm round cake tins.

Mix milo, flour, cocoa. salt and bicarb.  Set aside. Beat eggs, sugar and oil together until mixed.  Add dry ingredients and milk in three batches, beating after each time. Pour into cake tins and bake for 45-50 minutes.  Turn out onto a rack.  Cool.

Place one cake on a plate.  Spread a generous amount of buttercream evenly over the cake.  Place second cake on top.  Spread buttercream around cake.  Press maltesers around the side.  Cake great the next day, lasts another day or two.

Milo Buttercream Frosting

6 tbsp milo
1/4 cup boiling water
185g butter
2 cups icing sugar

Mix milo and boiling water until milo dissolves.  Beat butter with electric beaters until it becomes paler and then gradually add icing sugar until mixed.  Beat in milo mixture.

NOTES: Milo is a chocolate malted milk powder from Australia.  

On the stereo:
Steven Universe soundtrack (vol 1)

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Tortilla de patatas (Spanish potato omelette) - vegan and gf

When we went to my mum and dad's for ANZAC Day brunch yesterday, mum asked what I would eat.  I was pleased to have my Tortilla de patatas when everyone else had bacon and eggs.  I had decided it would be a good dish to take down because we drove down the previous night when my mum was out doing her volunteer work at dinner time.

I have wanted to make a Tortilla de patatas or Spanish potato omelette for a long time.  In fact when I visited Spain almost 20 years ago, I would have been delighted to know you could make a vegan version.  I went to Spain on a whim without a thought to what vegetarian food I could eat and ended up barely going near a tapas bar because I could not understand the language nor did I know much about the cuisine.  In my defense, there was no easy internet access and I had other things on my mind.

After the trip I spoke to other vegetarians about Tortilla de patatas (often just referred to as tortilla because I think it is the most comment tortilla in Spain) and sort of regretted not trying it but not that sad because it sounded like far too much egg for me.  The discovery of vegan omelettes have made the idea of eating a tortilla far more delightful.  Especially when there are potatoes that really need to be used.

I bookmarked a recipe on Wallflower Kitchen quite some time ago that inspired me.  However I was not sure of just using besan flour so I ended up just making my favourite omelette recipe which uses both besan and tofu.  It is quite a well seasoned mixture so I regretted the pinch of salt on the potatoes and would not do it again, just as I would not fry the onions for a few minutes before adding the potatoes because my onions were dark brown in many places.  But I think a bit of char is fine.

Traditional tortilla de patatas recipes call for a cup or more of oil to deep fry the potatoes.  I was happy with 3 tablespoons of oil and no leftover oil to drain away at the end of the process.  I think it also helped to go outside and potter in the garden while the potatoes cooked for about 10 minutes so they fried without me prodding and pocking and worrying at them. Getting nicely fried potatoes will really make a big difference to this recipe.

I made the tortilla the day before ANZAC Day.  My usual omelette takes about 20 minutes and is one of my quick meals.  This omelette took about an hour with slicing, frying, frying, frying, and finally browning under the grill.  Yes the frying took a lot longer and there were more steps than frying.  So I don't see this recipe going into regular rotation.  I can see myself making it again as it was excellent.

It was a long time until lunch but it was well worth it.  I went simple with my lunch and put some omelette into a sourdough roll with some of my mum's home made sauce.  It was amazing.

I kept aside most of the tortilla to take to my parents.  We had a hearty ANZAC Day brunch.  My mum made sourdough bread and pancakes to go with egg and bacon (so E had reason to sing Making Bacon Pancakes from Adventure Time.)  Me, I was so happy to eat a vegan Spanish omelette rather than egg and bacon.  (My aunt once told me there would come a time when I would really need egg and bacon for breakfast after a big night out but I still laugh at the idea!)  It was nice to see my famly and share a big brunch.  Did I mention freshly squeezed orange juice!

Unusually brunch was the biggest meal of the day.  We had some sausage rolls before I took sylvia and my niece to the pool.  Then we had fresh scones with jam and cream after some shopping (for boring school tights and exciting rare Beanie Boos).  Finally as I was about to drive home, the car was steaming and leaking so we had to call the RACV to look at it and tell me not to drive it to Melbourne.

As you can see by all the feeding, my parents are good people who are excellent in a crisis.  My dad checked on the car and talked to the RACV.  My mum made cheese on toast for tea, loaned me her car to drive home and rang my sister's boyfriend to arrange for him to fix the car.  If you start your day some hearty tortilla and end it with the support of family, you can handle almost anything that happens in between. 

Other savoury vegan "egg" recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Fried rice with tofu scramble (gf, v)
Tofu besan omelette (gf, v)
Tofu scramble (gf, v)
Vegan bubble and squeak frittata (gf, v) 
Vegan quiche with tofu and besan (v)

Tortilla de patatas (Spanish potato omelette)
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe
Serves 2-4

Potato and onions:
3 tbsp neutral oil
1 onion, finely sliced
500g potatoes, peeled and sliced about 1/4 - 1/2 cm thick

Omelette mixture:
300g silken tofu, drained
Handful of parsley, chopped
6 tbsp besan (chickpea flour),
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon mirin
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion granules
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch black salt
1 tsp neutral oil

Fry onion and potato for about 15 minutes in oil over medium heat in large frypan until potato is cooked and a little brown around the edges.  Flip over occasionally (every 5-7 minutes) so that the potatoes aren't handled too much and keep their shape.

Cool potato mixture once cooked and while they cool, blend all the omelette ingredients until smooth in a medium bowl.  Mix potatoes and onions into omelette mixture gently so potatoes hold their shape.

Heat teaspoon of oil over low heat in the same frypan where the potatoes and onions fried. Swirl it around to cover frypan.  Scrape omelette and potato into frypan and use spoon to neaten the edges to make a round shape.  Fry for 10 minutes.  Then put a lid on it and fry another 20 minutes or until the mixture looks cooked (slightly drier than the mixture).  Place frypan under the grill for about 5-10 minutes to brown the top.

Flip onto a plate or chopping board.  It tastes great hot but slices up nicely when cooled and firmed for a bit.  The omelette can be kept overnight in the fridge but will be firmer than when it is freshly cooked.

On the Stereo:
Tooth and Nail: Billy Bragg