Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Farmer's Wife Harvest Cafe, Port Fairy

When eating out in the country, my expectations of the food are lower.  I am always delighted to be surprised by good food.  As was our experience at The Farmer's Wife Harvest Cafe at Port Fairy.  We got there after a day of travelling when I was ready for a decent meal.  The salads beckoned.

We had originally intended to go to a pizza cafe.  Only once we got there, the place was empty and the music was loud.  E took umbrage at the prices but it was really the lack of atmosphere that got us.  Instead we followed the sign on the main street and wandered down the little alley to the Farmers Wife Harvest Cafe.

As I look at the writing on the blackboard it occurs why it appeals to me.  It reminds me a bit of Mollie Katzen's writing in the Enchanted Broccoli Forest, one of my first loves in vegetarian cookbooks.  It is quirky, attractive and welcoming.  Even more welcoming is the message "Vegetarian, dairy free, vegan or gluten free.  Just ask.  We can help."

I also love a cafe with some quirky items of interest.  These shelves looked really interesting.  Then we decided to eat our lunch outside in the sun and forgot to inspect more closely.   E ordered a ham and cheese croissant.  Sylvia had a cheese and vegemite and sandwich.  Seems that I was the only one missing vegies and needing salad!

I had one of each salad: kale, farro and broccoli.  I was so happy with my meal.  It was a big delicious bowl of goodness.  Lots of crunch and sweet and savoury.  I remember cranberries and nuts and feta cheese but I cannot tell you which salad they came from.  In my limited experiments with kale salad at home, I haven't been impressed.  But I loved this kale salad with the sweet and sharp dressing.

I'd promised Sylvia a smoothie after she ate her sandwich.  She chose a banana smoothie with soy milk.  It was really nice with a hint of cinnamon.  The only problem was that it was so huge it took her ages.  I could not resist one of the rich gooey brownies.  And a pot of detox liquorice and hibiscus tea.  (Was it irony or habit that they served the detox tea with a smartie!)  Both were delicious.  Though the brownie was so rich that it was probably just as well we all had some.

Sylvia and I took quite a while over our dessert so E decided it was time to do a bit of op shopping.  While he was gone we played a game inspired by the Ramona books we have been reading.  We had to take it in turns to draw three pictures and then the other person would circle which picture was the odd one out (usually based on the first letter).  E got back and found us still playing our game.

When he returned he took Sylvia off to explore the laneway in which we were sitting.  They discovered that the old stone wall had little toys in the crevices.  It was great fun spotting the toys.

I really loved this cafe and was sad we never got to return.  The menu wasn't extensive but the food they made was fresh and inspired.  The prices were reasonable and we were able to find something to suit each of us.  It had a friendly and welcoming ambiance.   If you are in Port Fairy, look out for the blackboard on the main street (Sackville St) beckoning you down the alley (midway between the library and Dariwell Farm Shop).

The Farmers Wife Harvest Cafe
47a Sackville Street, Port Fairy
Tel: 0438 227 240
Opening hours: 9am to 3pm, 7 days a week
https://www.facebook.com/farmerswifeportfairy

The Farmers Wife harvest cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Vegan savoury seedy french toast, Coconut french toast, and Our weekend

French toast always has been a mystery to me.  I never liked eggs enough to want it in my life.  Hurrah for vegan french toast!  I tried it once.  It was ok.  But thanks to Isa Does It, I discovered last weekend that if you coat it in coconut, it is amazing!  Then I wanted something more savoury and thought how much I love a seedy crust on bread.  So I coated the French toast in seeds.  So very good.

When we made the French toast last weekend, Sylvia wanted pancakes.  I convinced her that French toast was actually bread in a pancake.  She was happy to call it "French pancakes toast".  Yesterday when I said we could make French toast she was delighted.  Seems I have won her over.  She loves it with some berry sauce.

One reason I wanted to make the French toast is that I had a heel of a loaf of sourdough bread to use up.  But I also wanted to experiment with savoury French toast.  E says he used to eat it with tomato sauce.  That seemed wrong.  I fried up some tomato and some chickpea scramble.
 
Last weekend Sylvia loved helping.  Yesterday she had suddenly fallen in love with her dolls house furniture all over again and had to set up some rooms.  E was still asleep.  It was very relaxing to potter about the the kitchen, even though it was a bit of work to make a sweet and savoury version.

Sylvia loved her sweet version with raspberry sauce.  Last weekend I found I preferred mine with maple syrup.  Did I mention I experimented with some chia seeds in the sweet mix too.  Inspired by Kari's French toast.  Perhaps this is what sent me down the seedy path!

Meanwhile I tried frying my savoury French toast in seeds.  It wasn't quite as light and fluffy as last weekend.  Possibly the seeds weighed it down, or the sourdough bread was that much heavier than bakery bread, or I didn't use as much milk.

I think in future I would leave the vanilla out of the sweet French toast and use the same dipping mixture for the sweet and savoury.  Or I might just mix the seeds in with the dipping mixture rather than dipping in a mixture of seeds and scattering seeds over the gaps on the toast.  I also have this crazy idea of spreading the bread with vegemite before dipping and then just serving with a few slices of tomato on top.  The possibilities are endless.

The chickpea scramble (which I made as before but without the vegetable add-ins) was great but I made it first.  In retrospect I think I should have made the French Toast first which takes longer to make and stays hotter longer.  Despite this, it was a delicious breakfast   And so filling that I didn't feel the need for a big lunch.

Lunch was at the Fitzroy Market.  We met some friends to enjoy ukeleles, sausages, plants in gumboots, paisley cookware, pad thai and icy poles (those pineapple, coconut and lime ones were amazing)!  The kids always love the playground and E can't resist a bargain secondhand CDs.

After the market, a few of us went to Little Creatures on Brunswick Street for salted caramel doughnuts, a cheese platter and chatter.  Or giggling, as was the case with the kids.  Once they had finished drawing on the chalkboards the staff gave them to play with.  When Sylvia's friend was told it was time to go, she asked if she could do one more silly thing with Sylvia before they went! 

Sylvia would have had French toast again today but I was saving my energies for helping out with a Mellow Music in the park this afternoon.  It was a great relaxed day enjoying local musicians, Iranian food, kids toys, catching up with friends, and a pedal powered Singer sewing machine.  Lots of fun but lots of work too.  I am exhausted.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Healthy spaghetti hoops, caramel popcorn and a cardboard computer
Two years ago: WSC Chocolate Pumpkin Digestives
Three years ago: Chia bread: revising olive oil bread
Four years ago: SOS Tahini Muesli Bars or Mama Mia!
Five years ago: Chocolate cookies, bbq and mum’s sponge
Six years ago: Lysy’s smoky burgers

Savoury Seedy French Toast
An original recipe by Green Gourmet Giraffe
Serves 1-2

1 tbsp chickpea flour
1 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
1 tsp chia seeds
2-3 tbsp soy milk
pinch smoked salt
2 slices of sourdough bread
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp poppy seeds
1-2 tbsp margarine

Mix chickpea flour, cornflour, chia seeds, milk and salt in a shallow dish.  Soak for 30 seconds.  Scatter sesame seeds and poppy seeds on a plate or lid and dip bread in it.  Heat frypan over medium heat and melt 1 tbsp of margarine.  Fry bread for 2 to 4 minutes or until golden brown.  Flip over and fry another 2 to 4 minutes until golden brown - add more butter if needed.  Serve hot.

Serving suggestion: serve with tomatoes fried with a bit of seasoning, chickpea scramble and chopped greens of spring onions.

Sweet French Toast with Berries
Adapted from Isa Does It (See the original recipe)
Serves 1-2

1-2 handfuls of berries
Slurp of maple syrup
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tsp chia seeds
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
2 tbsp dessicated coconut
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp margarine

Heat berries and maple syrup in a small saucepan until berries soften.  Set aside.  Mix flour, cornflour, chia seeds, milk and salt in a shallow dish.  Soak for 30 seconds.  Scatter coconut on a plate or lid and dip bread in it.  Heat frypan over medium heat.  Add olive oil and margarine.  Fry bread for 2 to 4 minutes or until golden brown.  Flip over and fry another 2 to 4 minutes until golden brown.  Serve hot with berry sauce.

On the Stereo:
Alas I cannot swim: Laura Marling

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Vegan choc chip cookies with smoked almonds and cacao nibs


There is great satisfaction in being organised in the kitchen.  I can  go for days and days without the right vegetables or snacks and then I suddenly switch into domestic goddess mode.  It happened yesterday.  I baked choc chip cookies and sourdough bread and put a lot of it in the freezer.  I've done all the grocery shopping I need.  I feel unusually virtuous.  (Just don't look at my carpets.  I'll do them later!)*

These chocolate chip cookies with smoked almonds and cacao nibs were actually a repeat of those I made on my visit to Adelaide.   I feel good about that.  It can often take me ages to repeat a recipe despite good intentions.  Yet fate took a hand when I found a neglected packet of smoked almonds.

Then I bought choc chips on the way home and was all set.  Except for eggs.  I haven't had eggs in the kitchen for a few weeks.  Perhaps they just haven't felt so necessary in my life after seeing Kari could even make lemon meringue pie without eggs.  Though Sylvia recently has expressed a fondness for boiled eggs so they might reappear soon.  Meanwhile a couple of flax 'eggs' worked well.

When I made these biscuits at Yaz's place, they were quite darkly coloured.  After the suggested 10 minutes, they still looked quite pale after cooking in my oven.  (If only I could compare ovens for every recipes I blog!)  So I left them a few more minutes.

They came out and looked slightly domed.  I have written before that a good choc chip cookie looks slightly wrinkled like the skin of a pug dog.  After 5 or 10 minutes the cookies sunk pleasingly.  They were wrinkly delicious.  I was really pleased with their texture: slightly chewy about the edges, firm enough to keep their shape but soft and nubbly with the nuts, nibs and chips. 

The cookies are quite sweet but I think I should have followed Joanne's lead and sprinkled the dough with smoked salt.  I have tried sprinkling smoked salt on a cold cookie and it works well.  I have added the smoked salt to the recipe even though I didn't use it.  And even with the extra salt I think less sugar would be fine in these cookies.

These cookies aren't technically vegan because the choc chips I used were not vegan.  I used dark choc chips and also some caramel chips that Sylvia requested.  I don't think I would use the caramel chips again.  They probably contributed to the sweetness of the cookies.  If you want vegan cookies you could easily do this by using vegan chocolate.


So I can highly recommend these sweet, smoky, salty, nubbly cookies to you.  We have a pleasingly large stash in the freezer as they make heaps.  They are up there with the almond butter choc chip cookies as the most successful vegan choc chip cookie I have made.  We all loved them.  In fact I have a feeling this will not be the last time I make these cookies.  After all if they are good enough to make twice in a few weeks then that is proof this recipe is a keeper!

I am sending these cookie to the Biscuit Barrel Challenge at I'd Much Rather Bake Than....  This month the theme is Comfort.  And aren't choc chip cookies always comforting!  I am also sending it to Vohn's Vittles for Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary's No Food Waste Challenge.  Not only did the smoked almonds need using but the cacao nibs were bought in 2008!

*Update: the domestic goddess feeling never lasts long - today I forgot about some soup I had simmering and when I came home 3 hours later it was very burnt.  Dinner was like a mash that we scraped off the top.  I hope (and think) my saucepan will survive!

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: The Getting of Wisdom Birthday Cake
Two years ago: Vegan Sweet potato and cheeze scones
Three years ago: CC Tamarind Tempeh with Noodles
Four years ago: Spinach Rice Gratin
Five years ago: All About Apples: history, culture and soup
Six years ago: Milestones and Rissoles

Chocolate chip cookies with smoked almonds and cacao nibs
Adapted from Eats Well With Others
Makes about 36 medium cookies

2 tbsp ground linseed (flax)
6 tbsp water
250g vegan margarine (I used Nuttalex)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar (or less)
1/2 cup raw sugar
2 cups plus 3 tbsp plain flour
1 1/2 tsp bicarb soda (baking soda)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 cups choc chips (I used 1 cup dark and 1 cup caramel)
1 cup smoked roasted almonds, finely chopped*
1/2 cup cacao nibs
smoked sea salt, for sprinkling

Put together the 2 flax eggs by mixing linseed (or flax) and water in a small bowl.  Set aside so it becomes gloopy.

Preheat oven to 180 C or 350 F.  Line a few oven trays with baking paper.

Cream margarine and sugars (I used electric beaters).  Add flax eggs and cider vinegar.  Beat until combined.  Stir in flour, bicarb and salt.  Gently mix in choc chips, smoked almonds and cacao nibs.

Drop slightly heaped tablespoonfuls of dough onto lined trays leaving about 2 inches between each cookie.  I only put about 8 onto my smaller oven trays which usually bake about 12 biscuits.  They will spread.  Sprinkle dough with smoked salt

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly golden brown.  Cool for 5 to 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

* I find smoked almonds easy to find in the shops but from the comments it seems this is not the case with everyone.  If you don't have smoked almonds you could make some using this smoked nuts recipe or just substitute roasted almonds and maybe a drop of liquid smoke as well as the smoked salt.  The smokiness of the smoked almonds isn't that detectable but I think it does add to the depth of flavour.

On the Stereo:
Son of Evil Reindeer: The Reindeer Selection

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Port Fairy holiday, walks and eating out

Our holiday in Port Fairy last month made me understand why people return to the same holiday location year after year.  We have never done it before.  I love exploring new places. This year however was our third time staying in the holiday cottages.  And it worked.  Planning was really easy.  We didn't need research or maps.  We knew great places to eat, tried some new ones and had a relaxing time with no pressure to see it all.

We arrived on a Friday afternoon - thanks to my mum loaning us her car.  (Our car had been stolen! More of that saga already written about elsewhere on blog.)  We have stayed at Orchard Cottages twice before.  Sylvia remembered the place fondly because she loved the stairs to the mezzanine bedroom.  She brought along her lego and coloured pens for entertainment.

E and I really love the cosy ambiance of the cottage.   The books, the pictures, the crochet rugs, the wood stove.  Our last trips have been earlier in the spring and we have found it necessary to light the fire.  This trip was a lot warmer so we only lit it a couple of times and on the first night it was far too hot.  Which didn't help Sylvia sleeping in the mezzanine!  I also must mention Terence the cat.  E and Sylvia spent a lot of time outside playing with him.

One reason we love Orchard Cottages is that we have our own space to relax and to eat.  I organise the food to take with us.  What we took was fairly similar to last year: baked beans, packaged curries, pringles chips, nutella, English muffins, nuttalex, oats (for porridge), milk,vegemite, roast chickpeas, tinned chickpeas, tomato soup, crackers, herbal tea bags, chocolate, prunes, apples and a few vegies.  As with last year, we took some of it home but it was all non-perishable food that lasted well.  I also bought my favourite little plastic chopping board, knife, a few tubs and some plastic plate, bowl and cup for Sylvia.

The night before we left, I baked a batch of gingerbread biscuits.  It was a great little snack to have on hand and take with us on walks.  The recipe makes heaps so we had quite a few to take home.

One reason we arrived on a Friday was to visit the Community Market on Saturday morning.  I was disappointed to find it no longer has a baker.  However I did have a pakora and a ricotta, sultana and white chocolate doughnut.  We also bought some jelly slice.  Sylvia's choice!

Most of our time at the market was spent waiting for Sylvia to have her face painted.  We watched the face painter hammer down the tent because it was so windy.  The stall with the wind chimes made of silver tea pots and spoons was rather loud, in a nice sort of way.

After the market we had lunch at the excellent Farmer's Wife Harvest Cafe.  (It was so good it deserves its own post - coming soon.)   Then E and Sylvia spent time in the opportunity shop in search of second hand bargains while I went to Darriwill Farm for fancy food.  Dinner was a simple matter of spinach and macadamia dip, La Madre casalinga, swiss cheese and vegies.  So good.  So easy.

We returned to the Clonmara Tearoom.  We had enjoyed their food and hospitality so much last time that it was high on our list of places to eat.  There were no baked beans on the menu but when I asked, I was given some lovely home made baked beans with hash browns, tomato and toast.  This time there were no potato scones or haggis on the menu but we did receive the same warm welcome from the owners.

We also returned to Tower Hill.  It is a short drive from Port Fairy.  Yet again, I found the scenery stunning and loved being in the bush.  The views in the dormant volcano are beautiful.  We did a walk up to a lookout that looked across the nearby farmlands to the sea.

There were no kangaroos spotted this year but we did have to stop the car to let an emu cross the road.  We stopped to watch a lizard on the walking path and Sylvia was delighted to see Scottish thistles in flower.  Some wildlife was less welcome.  The mosquitoes were everywhere in Port Fairy and at Tower Hill.  And they loved sucking on my blood!  There were also lots of dragonflies about.  They are more harmless.

I took some snacks for our walks.  The cafe seemed pretty rudimentary on our last visit.  Some packets of roasted chickpeas, gingerbread and chopped apples did us nicely.

However by the time we got back to Port Fairy, we were ready for an ice cream.  I had promised Sylvia she would have an ice cream in Port Fairy.  We went to Rebecca's.  I had chocolate, Sylvia had butterscotch and E had salted caramel.  We all really loved the salted caramel.  Someone recommended the ice creams or gelatos at Poco Artisan Ice Cream on Cox Street.  Maybe we will try them next holiday.

We had some time at the cottage to relax (and build cubby huts in the garden) and then Sylvia and I had a swim at the local pool.  It was not a great decision to head out with wet hair to look for the mutton birds flying in at dark on Griffith Island.  We were all so cold and uncertain of what we were looking for.  It is so easy to forget how warm spring days can turn to chilly nights quickly.  Finally we left and as we did we saw some birds flying in.

After a chilly night out we needed fish and chips to warm us up.  Wisharts on the Wharf - just up the road from the cottage - was the fish and chip shop we had been to on our previous visits.  We were surprised to find it had closed.  Luckily I asked a local who pointed me in the direction of Charlie's on East.  It was worth a drive.  Crisp golden chips, great potato cakes and lovely corn jacks.

The next day we did something we hadn't done on previous visits.  We crossed the river on the pedestrian bridge to explore the other side.

I had packed some bikkies and hummus, gingerbread and apple.  We stopped at a little picnic spot by a cart to eat a picnic lunch by the river.  E had actually planned we might go to Botanic Gardens but we never got that far.  Instead we wandered along the river until we came to a deserted beach.

I walked along the water's edge.  Sylvia and E built a sandcastle of sorts.  Sylvia lay in the sand to make a sand angel (like a snow angel).  We all wrote in the sand and watched the tide wash away our words.  Then we walked back and found ourselves going off the beaten trail into the bush.  At one stage I found myself in a staring contest with a wallaby.  She left first with her joey in her pouch.  We checked out the old canons and headed back to the cottage.

Another walk meant another visit to a cafe for a sugar fix.  This time it was The Hub.  I chose the Tim Tam Cheesecake.  It was every bit as decadent as it sounded.  The huge slice was too much for me to finish but I made a great effort.  As well as layers of chocolate cake, white chocolate cheese cake and milk chocolate cheesecake there was a layer of caramel and a piece of Tim Tam biscuit on top.

Dinner was a simple affair that night.  Boxed curries and naan bread.  We were on holiday and wanted something easy.  It was that sort of holiday.  No wifi, no tv, early nights, lots of good food, lots of the great outdoors, lots of walks, and lots of reading.  By the time we were ready to drive home, I felt refreshed. 

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Batman Market - an exciting new market in Coburg

Yesterday Sylvia and I ate french toast and rode our bikes to check out the new Batman Market.  It was busy and buzzing and great to be there on a sunny Saturday.

It being the first day they had held the market, we started with a reccy to get the lay of the land.  It is not a farmers market nor a craft market nor a fete but it felt like combination of all three.  But more festive than farmers. 

The first food that really enticed me were these spicy chickpeas.  Gorgeous presentation.  I bought a cone.  They had chunks of fresh coconut in them too.  Delicious.   I overstretched myself with mozzerella filled arepas and ended up taking some of the chickpeas home. 

I had never seen arepas for sale before.  Which might be why I neglected to see that I should have topped them with a bit of salsa.  Loved them but they would have been even better with salsa.   I would have loved some of the sangria too.  It was non-alcoholic but we were juggling too much by then.

It was hard to go past the seasoned corn, wood oven pizza, dosa and okonamiyaki.  Sylvia had a potato twist.  The above photo is of the people at the food stalls.  They were really busy.  Some places had queues too long for my patience.  But not all.  In the background you can see one of the industrial buildings surrounding the market.

We enjoyed all the entertainers: dancers, bands and the Chinese dragons.  The act that got most of our attention was the circus act where the guy rode an eight foot unicycle.  He had a great patter and amused us further by taking off his suit and then juggling knives while on the unicycle.  He was crazy!

Some of the craft was great.  I really loved these cute owls.  The dresses made out of day of the dead fabric were pretty special too.  However I don't look too closely at the craft so I can't remember more of it.  I need to eat but I have nowhere for any more craft in my house.

This dosa stall seemed the hippest place to sit with festive bunting and cute cane chairs.  However if you didn't get a seat here there were quite a few other places to sit and enjoy some food and entertainers.

We needed a seat to eat our ice cream.  Sylvia wanted a plain old ice cream in a cone but I was too tempted by the syringes at N2.  Vanilla honeycomb icecream with caramel sauce in a syringe.  Mmmmmm.  I felt a bit sorry for Sylvia but not that sorry when she was having fun squirting sauce over her ice cream.  It was really good.

A few stalls were selling food for the home.  Grumpy Gary's hot sauces sounded good but I have enough hot sauce to get through at home.  And the smoky sauce was a bit spicy for me.  We bought banana chips at the fruit and nut store and a currant bun and a pretzel at the bakery.  The loaves of bread looked really good.  We also got spring onions at a vegie stall but sadly the strawberries were sold out when we returned there.

We had a great time at the market.  It will be held every weekend on both Saturday and Sunday.  This sounds ambitious to me but the market is certainly bold and big.  I wonder if it would be so busy  after the curiosity factor has worn off.  Yet they have put a lot of work into promoting it and have a large space to develop it.

It is a great place to take the kids or your friends - face painting, bouncy castle, balloons, entertainers and spaces to sit and enjoy some good food.  The stalls are quite eclectic and interesting.  Hopefully it will prosper and attract more stalls.  I look forward to a return visit.

Batman Market
14-22 Gaffney St, Coburg
(By Batman train station on the Upfield line)
Tel: 1300 284 787
Opening hours: Sat and Sun: 9:00am - 3:00pm
www.batmanmarket.com.au