Sunday, 2 August 2015

Don Don, ACMI and Blur

Last year I met with some former colleagues for lunch at Don Don.  I think I might have been there many years ago with some friends from our travels who absolutely raved about the place.  Since then E and I have been there for a few quick and cheap dinners before going out, the last one being last week before seeing Blur.

Before Sylvia was born, we were fans of Gopals for its quick and cheap food.  If you don't want any choice about your meal then Don Don is every bit as quick and cheap, maybe more.  I have been enjoying it but it is not all vegetarian like Gopals.  The menu is small.  Vegetarians have a choice of tofu curry don, soba salad and miso soup.  I have stuck with the tofu curry don which is a bargain at $5.90. 

It is indeed cheap and cheerful with plastic bowls and spoons.  The tofu curry don consists of lots of rice and Japanese curry sauce with tofu, a token vegetable (I have had zucchini and cauliflower) and some pickled vegies.  The meal is pretty basic and not as generous with vegies as I would prefer.  But for the price it is a decent feed.

After dinner we had enough time to go to ACMI Cafe for coffee and cake.  It is some time since we have been there.  When Sylvia was a baby and went where we went, we visited quite a bit.  (Unlike these days when we go where she goes!)  So I couldn't help looking out at the highchairs and space for strollers to see that it is still very child friendly.  I suspect that Sylvia would love the booths that are new since our last visit.

E had a coffee with a very nice biscuit.  The range of herbal teas was too limited for my tastes so I had a ginger beer with a slice of warm chocolate mud cake with lots of lovely gooey ganache on top.

The main event was the Blur concert at the Rod Laver Arena.  I didn't take a lot of notice of Blur when they were at the height of their fame but I have great memories of dancing to their music in nightclubs and of spending time with friends in London who were the sort of fans who lived for backstage passes to Blur gigs.  The band is also a sentimental favourite because one of the CDs that E bought when we were first going out was a Blur EP.

When E and I left the concert we turned to one another and said, wow that was so much better that I expected.  It was a fantastic concert.  Even sitting up the back, we were immersed in the energy of this amazing band, though shielding our eyes from the intense light show at times.  Their songs are beautiful and moody and cheeky and fun.  The band members are such fascinating people.  (Did you know that the drummer is a practicing criminal lawyer, a computer animator and a political activist?)  It was their first gig in Melbourne for 18 years and I am so glad we were there because who knows when their next gig will be.

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Friday, 31 July 2015

Paneer tikka masala and Spinach and chickpea curry

It was the end of a busy week during the school holidays.  I was late making dinner, E was late home and Sylvia was late to watch her film.  She bore it well, ate beans on toast while I chopped and fried and stirred.  She complained about the noise of the paneer frying and then snuggled up with us on the couch to watch How to train your dragon.

I had been meaning to make the Paneer Tikka Masala for some time.  At the start of the week I had made dahl to eat with the masala.  It took me a week to find time to make the masala so fortunately we had the big pot of dahl to tide us.  By the end of the week I still had some left. It made a fine accompaniment to the masala.

The masala seemed to last a long time.  I made a cauliflower in spicy peanut gravy (with cashews instead of peanuts and peas instead of the leafy greens) that I had made years ago and it was really nice but very grey.  I made the sauce in my high speed blender which made it smoother than my previous attempt. 

A night or two later I made another curry with spinach and chickpeas.  The recipe methodology needed some slight tweaking to work for me so.  However it was a great simple fast recipe that I hope to make again.  I particularly like that it uses lots of chickpeas for those on the aquafaba bandwagon.

I was very pleased to have three curries to serve together.  I love lots of curries but only manage to make them on different nights.  However by the time I had eaten the spinach and chickpea curry over a few nights I had had my fill of curries.  I blended the leftovers with some vegies to make a very good soup.

I am sending the Paneer tikka masala to Gluten Free Fridays and the Spinach and chickpea curry to Healthy Vegan Fridays.

More curries from Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Banana Curry (gf, v)
Beetroot, Greens and Chickpea Curry (gf. v)
Chana Masala (gf, v)
Chickpea and potato curry with mango chutney (gf, v)
Chickpeas and paneer in a spicy creamy cashew gravy (gf)
Spicy pea curry (gf, v)
Watermelon Curry (gf, v)

Paneer Tikka Masala
Slightly adapted from Ivy, Phyllis and Me
Serves 6

4-5 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon of grated fresh ginger
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons of sweet paprika
1 tablespoon of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon of chilli paste
3-4 tablespoons of Greek yoghurt
400g tin of tomatoes or 3 fresh large tomatoes
500ml vegetable stock (or less)
600g paneer cheese, cut into cubes
1 tsp of salt

Brown onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan.  Stir the ginger and garlic in for 1 minute.  Stir in the spices to make a paste.  Gradually stir in the yoghurt and then then tin of tomatoes.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the stock and simmer uncovered for 25 minutes.  It should reduce thought mine didn't that much.  (However once it had sat for an hour or two it thickened a lot.)

While tomato mixture is simmering, fry paneer in remaining oil over medium high heat until golden brown.  I did this in two batches.

Mix tomato mixture, fried paneer and salt.  Cook another 2 to 3 minutes and serve with rice or naan bread.

Spinach and chickpea curry
Adapted from BBC Good Food
Serves 4-6

1 tsp oil
1 onion, chopped
2 tbsp mild curry paste (I used Rogan Josh)
400g tin of tomatoes
2 x 400g cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
250g baby spinach
squeeze lemon juice
basmati rice, to serve

Fry the onion in oil until soft.  Stir in curry paste for a minute or two.  Add tomatoes and chickpeas.  Cook on medium to medium high for about 5 minutes until thicken slightly. Add spinach and cover for about a minute or two until it is wilting.  Stir in seasoning and lemon juice.  Serve with rice.

On the stereo:
Melt: Straightjacket Fits

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

N.Tran Bakery and a day out in Prahran

I had a fun trip to Prahran with a friend last week.  Carmen had invited me to along to a library session on Twitter.  The day was looking promising when we found a parking spot easily.  That is quite an achievement around Chapel Street.

The information session was interesting and makes me think maybe I will open a Twitter account when I have some time.  Though perhaps the most fascinating moments were when an old guy on roller blades turned up at the doorway of the session just to watch and looking at the swastikas in the library tiles on the way out.  (The building was no doubt built before Hitler sullied the swastika.)

We enjoyed looking up at all the wonderful old buildings.  And browsing in some of the shops beneath.

I enjoyed checking out some street art nearby.  It is great to get out in a different part of Melbourne from my usual inner North. 

Then we had lunch at N.Tran Bakery.  I had the vegetarian salad roll with tofu (banh mi).  It was freshly made and filled with lovely vegies and tasty slices of tofu.  My only regret was that I ordered the standard salad and didn't think to ask for some beetroot in it.  Carmen had the rice paper rolls which were huge.

We had been lucky to order before the rush arrived but as we ate in store we were amazed that it got quite busy.  We paid Prahran prices ($7) but it was a really good lunch.  Satisfied we got in the car to go home and got terribly lost when we missed a turn and found ourselves exploring many no through roads by Southbank.  Luckily we were happy to chat as we drove - or perhaps this was why we got lost in the first place.  Next time we will listen to the GPS.

N.Tran Bakery
263 Chapel Street, Prahran
03 9525 0889

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Sunday, 26 July 2015

Chocolate coconut nirvana slice

So according to The Age newspaper, Melbourne is the world capital of food allergies.  I can confirm that this makes contributing food to social gatherings challenging.  My nieces and nephews present a challenging picture.  We now have a dairy allergy as well as vegetarian, peanut allergy, and celiac (as well as general nut allergies on the other side of the world).  So when we gathered for my brother's birthday on the weekend I decided I would make something sweet to please everyone but it seemed my energy levels weren't quite up to it.

I am still dealing with too many photos cluttering up my hard drive, spending evenings doing silly things like looking for a car key only to find it had fallen in a shoe, and testing recipes that have been labelled by Sylvia as 'too vegany'.  So I decided I would make something on Saturday morning before her gymnastics class.  However upon checking my recipe for home made soy condensed milk I found that it would take a good hour plus need cooling time.  By the time I read this, I had started making condensed milk with coconut for a nirvana slice.

It all got too much and I opened a tin of dairy condensed milk so that I could get the slice cooked in time.  It was still warm when I loaded it into the car.  We arrived at my parents' place after everyone else had eaten lunch and were ready for the birthday cake.  We were too ravenous to be polite and wait til the cake was over to eat our dinner.  It was so chaotic that I never took out my camera until slice had been served and some leftovers had been given to other members of the family.

I really liked this slice though I agree with Sylvia that the almonds were not so successful in it.  It was similar to this one and this one.  I would like to try it again with home made condensed milk.  Then it would be both gluten free and vegan.

The recipe on Gluten Free Goddess called for biscuit crumbs.  I happened to have a 65g packet of Freelicious tea biscuits and used ground up corn cakes for the rest of the bulk.  I quite like the sound of the Nirvana bars at The Vegan Project that use ground almonds and oats instead of biscuits, and coconut milk and maple syrup instead of condensed milk.  Many more experiments are required.

And the coconut condensed milk I was making actually turned out really well.  I gave it to my sister whose little girl is having reaction to dairy.  Hopefully she will get some use out of it.  I am going to experiment more with it as I have a particular fondness for condensed milk in all forms.

I am sending this post to Carole's Food on Friday which is celebrating all things coconut this week.

More condensed milk recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Choc chip cookies
Chocolate caramel slice 
Creamy strawberry icy poles
Mock turtle slice
Vegan 'nutella' fudge

Chocolate coconut nirvana slice
Adapted from Gluten Free Goddess

1/2 cup butter or vegan margarine
1 1/2 cups gluten-free biscuit crumbs*
1 generous cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup coconut (I used dessicated)*
1 cup almonds, chopped and roasted
1 x 400g tin (about 1 cup) condensed milk*

Preheat oven to 180 C and line a swiss roll tin with baking paper.  Melt butter and pour into prepared tin.  Spoon over biscuit crumbs, mix with butter and pat with the back of a spoon to evenly cover the pan.  Scatter with nuts, coconut and chocolate.  Pour condensed milk over the rest of the ingredients.  I stirred them a little to make sure they were mixed.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until puffed and golden brown on top.  Cool in tray and then cut into squares or bars.

*NOTES: I used a mixture of ground tea biscuits and corn cakes for the biscuit crumbs (nb in America these are called cookie crumbs).  I used dairy condensed milk but the Gluten Free Goddess made it with coconut condensed milk so I am sure a vegan one would work here too.  I hope to try it some day.  The Gluten Free Goddess called for coconut flakes but I only had dessicated coconut - will try it with flakes when I have some.

On the Stereo:
Reading, Writing and Arithmetic: The Sundays

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Catch up eating out 2014-2015

It is an embarrassingly long time since I last shared a catch up of random photos of cafes for which I haven't had time to write a full post.  It seems my computer is full up with photos so it seems a good opportunity to dig deep into the shadows (and my memory) and bring some of these old photos into the light. 

These cafes are either places I wanted more visits before I write about it, places I have already written about or places for which I didn't have much information or time for a full post. 

It is so long since I did a catch up that this meal from the Cornershop (9 Ballarat St, Yarraville) was from summer in 2013-2014.  I quite liked the zucchini and mint fritters with cumin yoghurt, sumac and pinenuts.  Sylvia had hand cut potato chips which were really good.  It was a really lovely space to eat in but my memories are a bit blurry.

I love visiting bakeries and have so many photos that here is a collage of some of the great baking I have been eating. 
  • Far left and far right middle: The chocolate muffin from Green Refectory Cafe (Sydney Rd Brunswick) was amazingly good and I also really liked the pie but can't find any notes of what was in it.  
  • Middle top: Yummy tofu and pumpkin pie from Melbourne University food cooperative.
  • Middle bottom: Vanilla slice from O'Hea's Bakery (203-205 O'Hea St, Coburg).  I have friends who swear this is the best vanilla slice.  It was a bit rich for me but pretty good.
  • Far right top: Pumpkin and polenta muffin from Sugardough (Lygon Street, Brunswick).  I just love their savoury muffins either on the go or in the cafe with a good book.
  • Far right bottom: Cheese, spinach and sundried tomato muffin with pepper from Dench Bakery (109 Scotchmer St, Fitzroy North).  Another delicious savoury muffin. 

This mint and chocolate ice cream from Brunettis (Lygon St, Carlton) was enjoyed in summer,  That seems a long long time ago.  If memory serves me right, it was actually for Sylvia but I can't remember the occasion.

A recent meal was this cauliflower. tomato and mushroom soup at the Brunswick Flour Mill (341 Sydney Rd., Brunswick).  I really liked the wooden table and chairs with old advertisements on the walls.  This cafe has lots of bakery pies and cakes as well as a cafe menu.  I really loved this soup and would return to try other food.

I went to a birthday dinner at the Clarendon Hotel (378 Latrobe Terrace, Newtown) in Geelong back in 2014.  I enjoyed the vegetarian lasagna and the golden chips but it was your average pub grub rather than anything fancy.  It was a dark cold night and we were glad the kids could play in the indoor area and there was lots of room for us to sit.  However we had a long wait for dinner and I was surprised to find some of the kids has to wait ages, which meant tears and meltdowns. 

I went to New Day Rising (221D Blyth St, Brunswick East) recently for another of their amazing CLTs.  For the uninitiated, that is the coconut bacon, lettuce and tomato bagels.  It is such a cute tiny cafe and I enjoyed reading a magazine and gazing out the window while I ate but first I had to find a place to get cash because there is no EFTPOS or credit cards accepted there.

One of our regular places to see movies is the Cinema Nova.  Quite some time ago, E and I had a meal at the Cinema Nova Bar (380 Lygon Street, Carlton) before a movie.  I had the pizza with tomato and basil sauces.  I liked it but found that this criss cross of sauces looked good but was a bit much sauce for me.  The menu seemed quite snacky but upon checking the recent menu I would like to try it again because there are quite a few vegetarian options and it is so convenient.

Another long ago meal that has almost receded in the mists of time is this pumpkin soup at a cute little cafe in the city called Le Petite Bourke. It was ok but pretty light for lunch, even with a bread roll.  Sylvia had a croissant with cheese.  As I remember the vegetarian options were not extensive but I think the menu was fairly small anyway. 

On another trip to Cinema Nova, we had dinner at Sea Salt (364 Lygon St, Carlton) before the movie. While this is fancier than the traditional fish and chip shop, I like that there is the option of burgers and sushi for vegetarians.  I had a vegetarian burger with chips and it was great.  This was back in summer when we could sit outside on a balmy evening and chat to other people at the communal table.

When the Emporium shopping centre opened in the CBD last year, E, Sylvia and I went to the food hall for lunch after a movie.  Because the centre was so new, a stall was giving away free green tea ice cream.  I can't remember where it was but the ice cream was really good and the colour was amazing.

I had the superfood salad at Miss Marmalade (126 Union St, Brunswick) when I had lunch there with my mum last August.  This is the time of year when I feel the lack of seasonal fresh fruit and vegies.  So I really loved this fresh hearty healthy salad of quinoa, lentils, barley, greens, almonds on yoghurt flatbread with harissa, truffle pecorino, white bean hummus and pomegranate.  It is a really beautiful cafe and I was surprised to see that the back room was very child friendly with books and toys.

We haven't been to Batman Market (Gafney St, Coburg) for ages but last year we went there and I really enjoyed the broad bean pea arancini with cabbage salad.  Meanwhile Sylvia and E were more excited to eat a cronut.  We must go back and check how the market is going.

I am always on the look out for a good vegetarian pho.  This one at CERES Merri Table Cafe (East Brunswick) was nice but quite light on vegies. I had been tossing up between the pho and the zucchini fritter sandwich.  I recently tried the sandwich and it was not that impressive.  However other foods that people around me have had there recently such as roast potatoes and Dr Marty's crumpets have been really good.  I also really like their little sweet snacks for kids such as the chocolate covered dried banana that Sylvia enjoyed.  However I prefer a pie at the market cafe and I long for them to open the cafe by the old train that closed over a year ago for refurbishment.

Lastly I was really impressed by this pancake about a year ago at what I thought was from St Ali North (815 Nicholson St, Carlton North).  I had gone to meet a friend and found I got my times confused so instead I went to read the paper and enjoy these pancakes with rhubarb, meringues, and pistachio.  (I didn't take notes of the actual name).  However when I thought about returning there another time it was named Green Park.  

So maybe others don't have the chance to eat this lovely pancake again.  However it was so pretty and delicious that I still want to share.  And note in the photo that at the time, The Age newspaper was featuring the shame of our refugee situation.  It seems that things have only got worse since then.  But politics aside, I am truly spoiled to live in a town that offers so much good food that I can't keep up with the places I visit.

NOTE: there aren't many vegan meals here as they were featured in my Vegan eating out in Melbourne post late last year.  I also have other places that I am still hoping to find time to write about!

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Vegan bubble and squeak frittata - for leftovers!

After our Christmas in July dinner we had lots of leftover vegies.  I wanted to make bubble and squeak but I think my potatoes needed to be softer to hold it together.  Instead I decided on frittata.  I had eggs and cream in the fridge but decided I preferred to make it vegan.  It was a light and easy meal after a day of feasting. 

I had lots of roast potatoes, roast pumpkin, brussel sprouts and some roast garlic.  Unfortunately there was no nut roast leftover or I would have cut it into chunks and thrown it into the mix.  With hindsight I might have cut the roast vegies into smaller chunks but I think larger or small chunks work.  I also made some tofu bacon because a lot of bubble and squeak recipes seem to use ham.

I looked up recipes and found that The Simple Veganista had a Vegan Vegetable Frittata that was baked in the oven.  The mixture looked so similar to an omelette that I just looked up a tried and true omelette recipe and adapted that.  So the frittata was essentially an omelette baked over leftovers.  Which is a great solution for a whole range of leftovers.

I really enjoyed this frittata.  It was good honest food.  As it is dark and gloomy in the evenings I decided to save a piece to photograph in daylight the next morning.  However it was just too good and we ended up eating the leftovers before I got a chance.

I am sending this frittata to Healthy Vegan Fridays #56, Gluten Free Fridays #151Meat Free Mondays and No Waste Food Challenge.

More new life for leftovers on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
African curried coconut soup
Haggis neeps and tatties crepe stack
Peppers stuffed with white beans and kale
Pumpkin tomato and spinach pasta
Ricki's Toronto sandwich
Salad sandwich
Vegetarian bolognaise sauce

Vegan bubble and squeak frittata
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe
serves 3-4

300g medium tofu, drained
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp mirin
6 tbsp besan (chickpea flour),
4 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
3 cloves of roasted garlic, peeled
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder (optional)
1/2 tsp sea salt 
pinch black salt
leftover roast vegies - about 3-4 cups
1/2 cup diced fried tofu bacon
sage leaves for garnish

Blend tofu, olive oil, mirin, besan, yeast flakes, roasted garlic, turmeric, papper, garlic powder, sea salt  and black salt in a blender until smooth.  Place the roast vegies in a 22cm pie dish and scatter tofu bacon over the vegies.  Pour tofu mixture over the vegies.  Arrange sage leaves over the top.  Bake about 25 to 30 minutes at 190 C.  Frittata should be golden brown on the edges and set in the middle.  Serve hot or cold.

On the Stereo:
Classic Folk Music from Smithonian Folkways: Various Artists

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Chocolate apple pikelets with blueberry sauce

It was the morning after our Christmas in July dinner.  I was finely grating apple for pikelets for breakfast and it was taking forever.  Sylvia was so hungry she was eating the apple peel.  She was playing houses and waiting for the bus (that would be me).  I was taking so long that she made an announcement that the bus was delayed.  I think this is a sign that even the kids have noticed that the public transport system is in disarray.  And that I need to buy a better grater because I want to make lots more of these pikelets.

I had been after something really simple because I was still tired after our big meal the day before.  These apple pikelets seemed to fit the bill.  Then I made them complicated.  It struck me that I could add some chocolate spread and a blueberry sauce to make them perfect to send to Choclette for her We Should Cocoa event which has blueberries as the theme this month.

I really like Choclette's monthly event and had been thinking of what I could make to combine chocolate and blueberries.  Decadent cheesecakes and layer cakes aren't my thing.  And I have already combined these flavours in cake, scones and cake pops.  Thank goodness for pancakes and pikelets.

These pikelets were a fairly healthy sort of snack low in refined sugar.  Though I say this warily as I have been reading lately about the low sugar myth.  And despite my love of chocolate, I will probably try these pikelets without the chocolate and apple sauce some time.

After breakfast we had a quiet day at home.  Sylvia curled up in her little 'house' in the corner of the loungeroom and found a children's baking cookbook that a friend had given her for her birthday years ago.  She now can read well enough to flick through the book and tell me all the things she wants to bake.  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, does it!

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Cuban Beer-Infused Black Beans
Two year ago: French lavender salt recipe
Three years ago: Irish No Knead Bread
Four years ago: Mulled wine and chocolate cake
Five years ago: Rhubarb and apple sponge pudding
Six years ago: Sour Skon
Seven years ago: Pumpkin, PC Stories and a Roast
Eight years ago: Full Moon Cupcakes

Chocolate apple pikelets with blueberry sauce
Adapted from Kid Magazine
Makes about 15 pikelets

1 cup self-raising flour
2 red apples, peeled and finely grated
2 tbsp chocolate spread
scant 1/2 cup milk
1 egg
butter or margarine to grease the frypan

Blueberry sauce:
125g blueberries
drizzle of maple syrup

Vanilla yoghurt to serve

To make the blueberry sauce, place blueberries and maple syrup in a small saucepan.  Simmer until blueberries are soft and syrupy.  Set aside to cool while you make the pikelets.

Mix flour, and apple in a medium mixing bowl.  Place the chocolate spread in the bottom of a small measuring jug and fill up to 1/2 cup with milk.  Stir the chocolate spread into the milk until combined.  Stir in the egg.  Pour the chocolate mixture into the apple and flour mixture.

Heat a frypan over medium heat and lightly grease with butter.  Drop dessertspoons of mixture onto the frypan.  Cook for a minute or so until a few bubbles appear and the mixture dries slightly.  Flip and cook until golden brown on both sides.  (I had to flip mine more than once on the first lot of pikelets).  Continue to cook pikelets until all the mixture is used.

Serve pikelets with blueberry sauce and vanilla yoghurt.

On the Stereo:
High Violet: The National