Thursday, 31 May 2007

Tuneful Chowder

Soup is the solution! Soup is the answer! Soup is subliminal! I usually make a big stockpot full of soup about once a fortnight and put it in the freezer in little tubs. Each weekday morning I put one in my bag and at lunchtime I microwave it. It prevents me having boring sandwiches. It helps me get more vegetables into my diet. It makes preparing lunch on a workday morning a breeze.

My two favourite soups to make are pumpkin and spinach, and usually I load them with other veggies like onion, celery, carrot, potato, cauliflower. I put in most anything that takes my fancy. But the trick to having soup every day is to vary it every now and again so it keeps your interest.

On Monday night I made soup for the first time in ages. I had a half cauliflower and decided not to puree it but to have chunks of veggies and a little fruit and cheese in it too! Pears added interesting texture but blended in well with its vegetable friends. Dried cranberries were sweet explosions of fruit and colourful jewels in the soup. I also put in a tin of creamed corn. This is something I searched for in UK with no luck – it is corn blended with sugar, salt and starch which is a thickener and adds heaps of flavour to a soup. I don’t know if you can find it in the US but in the UK, you might have to substitute a tin of corn and some extra seasoning.

I call it a chowder because I think it takes some inspiration from chowders. I am not keen on really milky chowders but I like the name chowder – it sounds chunky and satisfying and reminds me of a song we used to sing in primary school with the ABC Radio Let’s Sing program called Mrs Murphy’s Chowder that had silly lines like ‘it was tuneful, every spoonful made you yodel louder’ and ‘Uncle Ben used to fill his fountain pen with a bowl of Mrs Murphy’s chowder’. Classic stuff!

Fruity Cauli Chowder
(serves 8 as light lunch)

1 onion chopped
1 large leek washed and chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 carrot, chopped
2 medium potatoes, chopped
¼ large cabbage, chopped
1.5 litres of water
½ cauliflower, chopped
3 tsp vegetable stock powder
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
2 pears, cored and chopped
1 tbsp dried cranberries
1 x 400g can creamed corn (or tin of corn)
40g cream cheese
Generous grinding of black pepper

Put about an inch of water into a large stockpot, along with onion, carrot, potato and garlic. Bring to boil and simmer about 10-20 minutes, stirring occasionally til onion starting to soften. (It is forgiving if you have a phone conversation that keeps you longer than you expected). Add leek, cabbage and water and simmer another 15 minutes. Add cauliflower, stock powder, and mustard. Simmer about 20 minutes. Add pears, cranberries and creamed corn. Simmer an additional 5-7 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add pepper and cream cheese. Tastes good the next day – don’t worry if the pears aren’t quick soft – they still taste good (but not too sweet) in the soup.

On the Stereo:
The Man in Black: 22 Greatest Hits: Johnny Cash

Monday, 28 May 2007

Posh Bread & Cheese Supper

On Sunday night I had the pleasure of cooking with my friend Yarrow in his (and Mindy's) brand spanking new kitchen. He is an ex-housemate and co-conspirator in many extravagant cooking experiences (thanks to his flair and vision in the kitchen). On Sunday he wanted to make fondu and I wanted to bake bread, and I left him to choose a dessert. Sounded easy! As always tasted great but we could have had more time!

Yarrow bakes bread more frequently than me so it is reassuring to bake with him and learn from his experiences. The bread I wanted to make was a Buttermilk and Seed Bread which I found in a search for flax seed recipes. I had seen flax seed in a lot of recipes recently and bought some out of curiosity, in the process discovering that it is linseed here in Australia.

As always, we meddled a little with the recipe to suit our needs. I was forgetful and neglected to bring over the buttermilk I purchased especially for the recipe. Yarrow substituted molasses for sugar and we couldn't be bothered toasting the wheatgerm. We also didn't have quite as much wholemeal flour as the recipe required.

The recipe produced a soft moist dough and didn't rise quite as much as seemed necessary (and as we wanted to eat at a reasonable hour, we didn't have the luxury of time). After the second rise, Yarrow put it in the hot oven and sprayed water into the oven to help it rise. Despite being a little under proofed, it baked up into a lovely dense seedy loaf. The middle was a little moist but Next time I will try it with buttermilk and have more time on hand.

It was a great bread to have with the fondu as it was dense enough to work with the rich cheesy sauce. We had lots of nice veggies to dip as well. And then a wait til dessert was ready.

Given the stodge of bread and cheese, we agreed a lighter meal than a cake might be wise. Yarrow presented me with his choice of Chocolate Concord: a dark chocolate mousse sandwiched between chocolate meringue layers and served with an orange ice-cream. I am not sure it was much lighter than a cake and I am not a great lover of eggs but I will always try a new chocolate dessert – especially one with such a great name.

This decadent dessert was not something to be quickly whipped up. We started straight after the bread starting it’s first rise but we really needed more time. It required long periods of patience. The meringue baked over an hour, the mousse had to sit in the fridge and then the compiled loaf was to sit for 4 hours but we waited just as long as it took the ice-cream to freeze enough for serving. The creamy rich mousse, chewy sweet meringue and cold slightly tart ice-cream created a pleasing meeting of tastes and textures.

MultiSeed Bread
(from Recipezaar)
7 grams active dry yeast
1 teaspoon molasses (or sugar)
3/4 cup water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (or milk)
2 tablespoons margarine (or butter), melted
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons linseeds (aka flax seeds)
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 tablespoons wheat germ (toasted is optional)
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
2 cups plain wholemeal flour

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes until creamy.

Combine buttermilk or milk, butter or margarine, honey and the yeast mixture in a large bowl. Add the salt, all of the seeds, the wholemeal flour and wheat germ. Stir to combine. Add the bread flour, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well with a wooden spoon after each addition.

When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead about 6 minutes until smooth and elastic.

Lightly oil a large mixing bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with the oil.

Cover with a damp cloth and put in a warm place to rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. The recipe suggested greasing two 9x5 inch loaf pans, but we used one large pan and scattered some extra sesame seeds along the bottom of the pan.

Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Form loaf and place in prepared pan. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until the tops are brown and the bottom of a loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

On the Stereo:
Red Hot and Blue: a Tribute to Cole Porter - Various Artists

MM #12: A marriage of vanilla and chocolate

Tonight I achieved agreement between E and myself on cake! He is always most appreciative of my baking but in his heart of hearts, he wants a buttery vanilla cake. Whereas I am always hoping for a rich dense chocolate cake.

Last weekend’s pairing of spice and pear cake with Notella not only made me feel there were many possibilities of improving any dessert with rich chocolate sauce, but it also left me with a tub of the sauce in the fridge.

Recently my friend, Kathleen, passed on a hot milk cake recipe to me which she recommended for cupcakes. It is not the sort of recipe I usually make – lots of eggs, no chocolate, no fruit, no spice! But my sister, Francesca, has asked mum and me to make cupcakes for her wedding later in the year, so I thought it might be worth trying this recipe out. Especially given that I had an abundance of chocolate Notella sauce that might be a pleasing frosting.

My mum makes cupcakes regularly, but I don’t, although I have made them often enough to know the batter I am accustomed to is fairly stiff. The batter resulting from this recipe was alarmingly runny. It was foamy and smooth like a sponge cake batter which produced fairy light cup cakes. A perfect foil for the richness and nuttiness of the notella.

I also wanted to make these cakes because they are just the thing E loves. We had them hot out of the oven for dessert with warm notella and cream. They were light and melting. Both of us gave them high praise.

I iced the rest of the cupcakes with notella and decorated with chou-chous. These were very welcome when I visited my family the next day for a birthday get together. But a word of warning – the notella remained moist and didn’t set which made them a little less portable.

The cupcakes seem perfect for a special occasion and so I am entering them into the Monthly Mingle #12 at What's for Lunch Honey? which this month is celebrating Meeta's birthday.

Hot Milk Cup Cakes
(recipe courtesy of Kathleen)
Makes 30

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1¼ cups milk
100g butter
1¼ cups plain flour
2¼ tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare cupcake pan (or in my cake muffin pan) with cupcake paper cases.

Beat eggs and sugar with electric beaters til well mixed. This wont take long. Heat butter and milk in a small saucepan til butter melts. Add dry ingredients and egg mixture, alternatively, with milk mixture. (I didn’t sift the flour as suggested in the recipe but it did mean I had to use electric beaters on low to make sure the mixture was smooth.) Add vanilla.

Pour batter into cupcake cases. I used a quarter cup measure to spoon it in because the batter was so runny, and I filled them almost to the top. Bake 20-25 minutes til skewer comes out clean – mine were very pale but seemed to be cooked through.

Ice with plain icing or chocolate frosting.

On the Stereo:
The Useless Lesson: K Leimer

Fast tracking Flora’s Fruity Lentils

After spending most of the week away from home, I wanted a healthy fix of lots of vegetables on Saturday night. In summer this usually means a big colourful salad but in winter my mind turns to roasted vegetables to bring comfort and goodness.

That morning we had visited the Book Grocer in Sydney Road, Brunswick, where I found a copy of Café Flora Cookbook from the eponymous vegetarian café in Seattle. It had some great recipes – particularly some great ideas for bringing different dishes together. I didn’t buy it in an attempt not to overload my cookery book shelves but I may be back for it.

Flicking through the book in the store, I came across a recipe for a lentil dish with a rich sauce. The sauce looked complicated with directions for straining all the ingredients. After I left, all that stuck in my head was the idea of adding apple and prunes to the sauce.

I thought I could just bypass two dishes that were to be served together and cook the lentils with a rich dark fruity sauce. I wish I could remember the recipe (which is one reason I am tempted to be back to buy the book). Instead I sought out the flavourings one might use for a rich gravy. I realised I didn’t have fresh mushrooms so used some dry shitake instead.

I wanted to roast a variety of vegetables. Potato and pumpkin remind me of the great roasts my mum makes. I have recently become a fan of roast cauliflower. I have never roasted Brussels sprouts before but saw on a blog recently someone saying how much her husband loves the crispy roast sprouts leaves. (Sorry I haven’t recorded who wrote this.) And the combination seemed pleasingly colourful.

I served with a dollop of yoghurt but in hindsight think a squeeze of lemon juice and sprinkle of pepper on the veggies might have been better. The lentils were had so many interesting flavours – both savoury and sweet – that they didn’t need the yoghurt.

Roast vegetables with fruity lentils
(with apologies to Café Flora)

3 medium potatoes, cut into 8 wedges
½ butternut pumpkin, cut into wedges
1 parsnip chopped into chunks
300g Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
½ cauliflower, cut into chunks
2tbsp oil

Fruity Lentils:
1 onion, chopped
⅓ cup puy lentils or brown lentils
2 cups hot water
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp finely chopped shitake mushrooms (or handful fresh mushrooms)
1 scant tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp red wine
½ tbsp maple syrup
½ tsp chilli paste
1 apple, cored, peeled and diced
⅓ cup prunes, chopped
½ cup parsley, finely chopped (or less if you don’t have much)

Preheat oven to 230ºC.

Put potatoes into medium saucepan of about 1 inch of cold water – bring to the boil and simmer about 5 mins. Drain.

Heat oil in large roasting pan in oven while potatoes simmering. Take roasting pan out of oven and add potatoes, pumpkin and parsnip. Toss to coat with oil. Roast for 30 mins. Add cauliflower and sprouts. Give veggies a good toss. Roast another 60 mins. Toss about every 20 minutes. (If necessary spray with some oil spray so they will crisp in the oven.)

While veggies are cooking make the fruity lentils. Fry onions over medium heat about 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except fruit and herbs. Simmer covered for 30 minutes. Add apple and prunes. Simmer covered for another 30 minutes, til lentils are soft and most of water is absorbed. Remove bay leaves.

Serve roasted vegetables with lentil mixture.

On the Stereo:
Rainy Day EP - Pale Blue Eyes

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Café Bellino: Rustic Charm in Brunswick

Yesterday morning E and I had a pleasant sunny ride to Café Bellino in Brunswick. I had had enough warm sunshine in Darwin last week and enjoyed sitting out in the mild autumnal weather.

Café Bellino has rustic charm that might as well be in a country town as in the middle of Melbourne’s suburbs. Distressed brick walls, young box hedges in planters, shaggy gum trees. The water comes in old wine bottles, and the food is served on large white plates.

The breakfast menu included a variety of egg dishes and a long list of extras. I don’t like eggs so I chose the sourdough toast and some extras: home made baked beans, avocado salsa and mushrooms. Sounded promising. And because the toast came with a choice of spreads, I asked for honey so I could have the rare treat of honey on half of my toast.

When my meal came, it was nice but nothing to rave about. The bread was a nice white bread but not the dense and chewy texture that I prefer. The beans and salsa felt healthy but lacked some robustness in flavour. If I ate my raw red onion in the salsa rather than pushing it to the side of my plate, maybe it would have had more bite. I think something as simple as a squeeze of lemon juice would have improved it. But I did enjoy drizzling honey on half of my toast from a little jug. E also was a bit disappointed with his eggs but liked his coffee.

I would go back. It was a pleasant place to chat to E, do my Saturday suduko, watch the world go by, and walk away feeling I’d had a healthy meal that didn’t weigh me down.

Café Bellino
281 Victoria Street

03 9380 5900

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Where have all the vegetarian salads gone?

Once upon a time salads were made of vegetables. At a café or a barbecue a vegetarian knew they could always have some salad even if it was some limp lettuce leaves, tomato and cucumber.

But this is changing. Salads are suddenly fashionable. Salads are more often the main attraction rather than a sideshow. Salads have become substantial and …[frown]… meaty. Packing the salad menu with meat dishes, seems a recent trend in cafe menus. How disappointing as a vegetarian to be excluded from even the salads. E (who likes a bit of chicken) pointed out to to me that meat salads would't satisfy either carnivores or vegetarians.

When I first went vegetarian, much of the vegetarian literature I read pointed out how many vegetables there are compared to the types of meat we eat. Furthermore, a vegetarian diet has prompted many of us to think a bit more creatively about what we eat.

Dressing up every salad by adding chunks of meat seems to show a lack of imagination – or perhaps an inability to value the bounty of vegetables available to us. OK, have your meat salad (if you must), but it would be nice to see more interesting vegetarian salads alongside these. I confess I will sometimes judge a restaurant or café by the salads they serve – if they have lots of meat salads and no vegetarian salads (or just one wilted green salad) I usually want to walk away.

So for anyone who wants to see just how appealing salads can be, I have listed some links to a few salads that inspire me – and don’t need meat to make them desirable. In my dreams I would love some of the café owners in question to see these and give us something more interesting but I know I am probably preaching to the converted. However I list them to comfort us – next time you see a café full of meaty salads, remember this list and think of how good it can be:

- Warm Spiced Pumpkin and Lentil Salad with Pears, Almonds and Goat Cheese from traveler’s lunchbox
- Roasted Tenderstem® Broccoli, Grilled Halloumi and Cherry Tomato Salad from the Vegetarian Society UK
- Sushi Salad at fat free vegan
- Fennel Salad with Grapes, Olives and Dried Figs from Mollie Katzen
- Green Bean Salad with Hearts of Palm, Olives, Red Pepper, and Feta at Kalyn’s Kitchen
- Dr Fuhrman’s Russian Corn Salad at
- Raspberry, Feta, Walnut Salad from PCC
- Mixed Vegetable Salad a la Grecque from Delia Online

NB: Why do my thoughts turn to salads as winter in Melbourne is fast approaching? Because this despatch is from sun drenched Darwin where I miss my kitchen and crave a good salad full of interesting vegetables.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Choc Chip Cookies go Bananas!

At my workplace, we take it in turns to bring morning tea on a Monday and this week was my turn. So in seeking inspiration for something to take in, I found a recipe for Choc Banana Oat Cookies. This meant that I could use the banana still hanging around my fruit bowl after my banana and parsley effort.

Once upon a time, if I had leftover bananas I would have made them into banana cake. When it comes to baking, cakes have always been my thing – there is nothing I love better than a good rich dense chocolate cake. But lately in an attempt to eat less rich food, I have turned to biscuits, actually mostly choc chip cookies.

I was starting to find many recipes on the net when I found a fantastic book called The Search for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie by Gwen Steege. It has over 100 choc chip cookie recipes. I never knew there were so many variations but it is liberating to read it and find where there’s a will, there’s a way. So far I have made versions with zucchini, coconut, honeyed macadamias, peanut butter and loads of oatmeal. I have discovered I can have my choc chips and anything else I want. So I was sure I could find one to give a purpose to my banana.

There was not one banana recipe in my choc chip cookie book but luckily I had written out a recipe from the net lately. It is on my shame file of unsourced recipes so I can’t tell you where it is from but I can recommend it.

The recipe has oats and spices as well as bananas – just how I like it. The mixture was very moist. I am still a novice at biscuits – I think my oven might be less powerful than others so the biscuits always take longer than the recipe - the moment between undercooked and overcooked is a mystery I am yet to solve. The cookies were very soft and cake-like straight out of the oven last night – as I found during quality assurance tasting!

Today at morning tea they were almost chewy and yummy – my colleagues seemed to agree. In fact I had hoped for a few more leftover for a meeting tomorrow but you can’t complain if others enjoy your cooking :-)

Choc Banana Oat Cookies
(source: ????)

1 cup sugar
¾ cup shortening (I used approx 185g butter)
1 egg
1 ½ cups plain flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp nutmeg, grated
1 ¾ cups quick cooking oats or regular oats (I used 1 ¼ regular and ½ quick cooking)
1 cup mashed banana – I used 2 large bananas
¾ cup choc chips

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Mix butter and sugar. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Drop teaspoons onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10-15 minutes till light brown. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

On the Stereo:
Tropism: Bexar Bexar

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Spicy slices and bean cuisine

Tonight the challenge was to make something without going to the supermarket and to use up most of the veggies in the fridge and leave leftovers for tomorrow night. I will be in Darwin for work the rest of the week, so prefer not to leave veggies to turn into beardy weirdies in the fridge. (E will mostly have meals stored in the freezer.)

Inspiration comes from the pantry and recipes that will fit around these. Weeks ago I bought a tin of spicy masala chickpeas. It seems a good idea in the supermarket but it has not fitted with my meals lately. I have found a recipe for a savoury vegetable loaf in Where’s the Beef that was loaded with spices. It seemed a friendly companion for my chickpeas.

By the time I got home, I didn't have the time or energy for a lot of complexity. Michael helpfully pointed out that although it seems easy, chopping veggies can take quite some time – I often find this with a recipe that I think I will whiz through and then find myself taking much longer than expected running my knife through those pesky vegetables :-)

Taking Michael’s wise advice that vegetable preparation might take longer than expected, I simplified the recipe somewhat. The recipe directed me to bake the loaf an hour, cool it and fry slices of it. Sounded great if only I had the time. I had to be opportunistic and change some ingredients depending on what I had on hand. I also made the yoghurt sauce a lot plainer.

I liked the loaf – it wasn’t quite cooked through when I served it (in the bustle of making cookies and my mother phoning from her holiday in Dublin) but still tasted good – and spicy, if a little oozy. But I found the chickpeas overpowering. The yoghurt sauce was the refreshing taste I needed, and I also made a quick stirfry of green beans, mushrooms, parsley, chilli and garlic flakes, and the remainder of the tin of tomatoes I'd used in the loaf. So the dinner worked but I wont buy the chickpeas again.

I was thinking maybe this loaf is the ultimate loaf for all dietary restrictions – it is vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, nut free, lactose free. Although it would challenge a traditional aussie meat and three veg palate, especially one unused to spiciness. Here’s my take on the recipe:

Spicy Vegetable Loaf with yoghurt sauce
adapted from Where’s the Beef
Serves 4-6

1 cup chickpea flour (besan)
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon veggie salt
½ brown onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon chilli paste
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground tumeric
½ teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
1 large carrot, grated
1 smallish zucchini, grated
250 ml tinned chopped tomatoes

Yoghurt Sauce:
½ cup yoghurt
1/4 cup parley, finely chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice

In a large mixing bowl, mix together all ingredients except the chickpea flour and tomatoes. Add chickpea flour and toss to coat ingredients. Add tomatoes and mix to a wet batter, (mine was extremely wet so you may want to add gradually and not use all tomatoes).

Spoon into greased and lined loaf tin. Bake at 200ºC for 1 hour (or more) til brown on top and firm. Turn out onto a plate and serve hot wedges with yoghurt sauce. (To make yoghurt sauce, mix all ingredients.)

On the Stereo:
Forty Licks: Rolling Stones

Cake for the absent bride and groom

My sister Chris married Fergal yesterday in Dublin. I had decided it would be nice to mark the occasion back in Melbourne by baking a cake in their honour (any excuse to bake a cake!), so when Nicki G invited me to dinner I offered to do dessert.

A celebration cake to me should always include chocolate. However, Nicki isn’t a chocolate person so when I saw a Pear and Spice Cake posted recently by Lucy it seemed suitably impressive. But I had also seen a recipe on The Well Seasoned Cook for Gingerbread Muffins which I wanted to try but am not in muffin making mode at the moment. What really interested me was her addition of black pepper like in pfeffernüsse. So I did a little tinkering with Lucy’s recipe to make it even spicier. I figured this would make it richer but that was ok for a celebration cake.

Then I remembered Scottish Vegan’s Notella which I had been curious to try out. This is a vegan and much improved version of the chocolate hazelnut spread we know as Nutella. Scottish Vegan had served it as a sauce so I realised Nicki could have her cake and I could have my chocolate.

The cake has sliced pears on top which looks spectacular. Another friend at dinner, Will, declared it was the most attractive cake I had ever made. I have to agree. How could such an easy cake look so good! And it tasted great too. Very dense and intense. The texture is moist and grainy but this seems to complement the pears well. With the warmed glossy dark notella sauce and cream it was fantastically rich.

By the end of the meal I was full as a state school! Nicki made a great family fondu recipe of gruyere, emmanthal, wine, kirsch, nutmeg and other wonderful flavours. We had fun dipping bread, mushrooms, cauliflower and okra in it. I had never had okra before and found it more pleasant than I expected – green and cooked so slightly it retained a crispness but seemed to go a little bruised, hairy and slimy as it sat after we had finished. (No photos unfortunately but Nicki did prompt me to find the close-up button on my camera so hopefully this will improve my photography.)

And a bottle of Australian sparkling wine to toast the absent bride and groom. Congratulations Chris and Fergal!

Here are my recipes with my variations (some of which are due to me not reading the recipes – oops).

Pear and spice cake
Adapted from Nourish Me

¾ cup of almond meal
½ cup of polenta
½ cup of plain flour
¼ tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
2 heaped teaspoon of ground ginger
1 heaped teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of allspice
¼ tsp black pepper, ground
125g of unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup of raw sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup of plain, thick yoghurt
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 dessertspoons molasses
2-3 pears, cored and thinly sliced
Icing sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 160ºC. Grease and line a 25cm spring form round cake tin. (Lucy suggests you can do a smaller pan but I liked the cake being quite thin).

In a medium bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the yoghurt, vanilla and molasses and mix well.

Fold in the dry ingredients until well mixed. Spoon into the prepared spring form tin and smooth the mixture with a spatula. Arrange the pear slices on top as artfully as you like. (Lucy sprinkled sugar on top before baking but I missed this bit - might try it another time.) Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes away clean. (I found 160ºC was too low – perhaps it was intended for a fan forced oven, so after 30 minutes I turned it up to 180ºC and left it in the oven for another 30 minutes).

When the cake is cooked, I sprinkled with icing sugar and served it from the base of the spring form tin.

Adapted from Scottish Vegan

¾ cup hazelnuts, ground
1 cup soymilk
½ tsp vanilla essence
¾ cup raw sugar
1 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix cornflour with 1 tbsp of the soy milk and set aside. Put the remaining soy milk and sugar in a small saucepan over a medium high heat and bring to boil, stirring frequently. Once sugar has melted add cornflour mixture and continue to stir until it thickens slightly. Add chocolate chips and stir until melted. Remove from heat and add ground hazelnuts. Can be served warm or refridgerated as a paste/spread.

On the Stereo:
Boy Child: Scott Walker

Saturday, 19 May 2007

TGRWT #2 - It’s nuts, it’s bananas, it’s stew!

Recently I came across an announcement on Should You Eat That about a newish regular blog event called They Go Really Well Together (TGRWT). It aims to get people pairing unusual flavours that are strangely complementary bedfellows. This month is banana and parsley – you can see the science here. This combination made a lot of sense to me. So I decided it was time for my first blog event.

It not only made sense, but it drove me back to recipes that have been lingering at the back of my mind. I think I might like blog events for giving me a kick-start to stop dreaming and start cooking! This event sparked of thoughts of combining banana with a peanut soup/curry.

When I searched my recipe books I found no less than 3 versions of the recipe I had in mind so didn’t even bother muddying the waters with more recipes from the web. One was the Curried Peanut Soup recipe from Mollie Katzen’s Enchanted Broccoli Forest. I also had two handwritten unsourced recipes for African Peanut Sauce and East African Sweet Pea Soup.

Sometimes I think my cooking style has magpie tendencies when I tend to pick sparking gems from various recipes and create my own thing. My only complaint about cooking this way is the inconvenience of flitting from cookbook to cookbook, and trying not to leave out vital ingredients. It would be nice to be organised and write out the recipe I will make before I do it, but my recipes evolve a bit more organically than that.

In Mollie’s recipe the banana was fried with cinnamon, sesame seeds, lemon and tumeric which I may try with the leftovers. Another recipe had mashed banana in the recipe. But I was inspired by Eat’N Veg’N who had a photo of banana with tacos rice and salsa. I wanted the banana quite plain with the parsley featuring. I wanted peanut butter (mmmm), interesting spices and apricot nectar. E wanted a sauce over rice rather than a soup (and my soups are often like stews anyway). It has occurred to me tahini might be good in this recipe too – maybe next time.

Of course there had to be lots of veggies and colour. I was in Pedimontes this week and fell in love with a purple cauliflower. You might have noticed that I love green – my other colour I love is purple (yep the feminist colours!). Green veggies are easy but purple is harder to find. These caulis were spectacular – even the few spots going a little mouldy were a beautiful bruise of blue so I didn’t mind that so much.

And a quick word on the name. As the actual dominant flavours are nuts and bananas, it occurred to me that these are words used to indicate someone is crazy in popular speech – and some might think the combination of flavours a little crazy anyway. Those of you who are Chaser fans should try and imagine the Super Spruiker saying the title of the blog entry!

This was fantastic. I am not a huge fan of bananas by themselves but I love the way fruit can lift a savoury meal. In this recipes the sweetness of bananas, the freshness of the parsley and the tartness of the lemon were a perfect foil for the rich nuttiness of the stew. E said it was an outstanding meal and ate my leftovers when I was too full to finish. Here is what I did:

Peanut Stew with Banana (a.k.a. Crazy Stew)
(serves 6-8)

1 onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil (or peanut oil if you have it)
¼ tsp each of ground cloves, ground cardamom, cinnamon
1 tsp each of ground cumin, tumeric, grated fresh ginger
½ tsp salt
½ cup peanut butter ('unmolested' as Mollie says)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
½ cup apricot nectar
1½ cups water
1 cup frozen peas
700g pumpkin, peeled and diced
1 (360g) sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 medium zucchini, diced

Banana Parsley Salsa
1 just ripe banana
1 handful of parsley, finely chopped (about ⅓ cup)
Juice of 1 lime
Generous sprinkle of chilli flakes and salt

In a large saucepan, fry onion in oil on low-medium heat about 5 minutes. Add spices and fry an additional 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add remaining ingredients, bring to boil and simmer for approximately 20-30 minutes til pumpkin and sweet potato are soft. You will need to stir occasionally as it tends to stick to the bottom of the pan.

While stew is simmering, prepare salsa by mixing all ingredients.

Serve stew on brown rice and some steamed green vegetables such a broccoli or Brussels sprouts. Top with banana parsley salsa.

On the Stereo:
Hatful of Hollow: The Smiths

Friday, 18 May 2007

Random facts that speak of me

Lucy from Nourish Me has tagged me for seven random facts about me – my first tag (or is it a meme?) so here comes my blog uncertainty again, but in the spirit of sharing, which is one of the joys of the blogosphere, I have drawn up a list.

- I don’t like throwing things out. I still have a gold leaf from a cake to celebrate my First Holy Communion when I was 8 years old.

- At university, I became fascinated with the history of market gardens while studying them as part of a project.

- I met Rolf Harris when I worked on a BBC website and was transcribing a webchat with him. He was lovely but I wish I had told him how much I had loved his songs when I was a kid.

- I once read a whole novel in a bookshop without buying it – E worked there and I would read a bit every time I waited to meet him there.

- A friend and I once ate three-quarters of a chocolate cake which was fresh out of the oven – sliver by sliver!

- When I lived in Edinburgh I loved it when the wind blew the yeasty smell from the breweries in my direction – I think it was a similar warm comforting smell of freshly baked bread coming out of my mother’s oven.

- I haven’t owned (or used) an iron for over 7 years. Life’s too short!

Oh and I need to pass it on (this feels like tag chasey – is that why they call it tagging?) and so I pass the tag to Scottish Vegan and Mellie - if they can drag themselves away from their wonderful recipes and reviews :-)

On the Stereo:
Dongs of Sevotion: Smog

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Under the Doona Comforts of Crumble

It is one of those weeks when I know I won’t have lots of time and energy for cooking. Last night I left early(ish) for a swim and to get to the supermarket before coming home to make dinner. I needed some comfort and leftovers to get me through a big week of meetings.

In the supermarket I couldn’t think what to make and found myself in the magazine aisle flicking through various foodie magazines in hope of finding ideas – I would have even paid money if I had found other than the usual suspects. In fact, I wonder if I was not alone in this pursuit, as there seemed quite a few other women perusing the periodicals.

But I should have known that inspiration these days is more likely to come from a blog than a glossy magazine. I remembered Cindy’s fruit crumble last week which had brought to mind a hankering for a savoury crumble some weeks back.

Crumbles are hearty winter fare for dark cold nights. Tahini gives me the creamy vegetable stew I desire without the hassle and richness of dairy. The crumbly mixture of oats, cheese and nuts is full of proteins and has a pleasing blend of textures. And the smell of oaty goodness coming out of the oven is just the thing after a wet bike ride home.

As well as satisfying the need for comfort food, crumbles are a great way to use up all those grains I buy for a special recipe, only for the remainder of the packet to languish in dark corners of the pantry. I have written what I used below but any combination of vegetables, and grains would work – the nuts and cheese are optional. I think I was overly generous with my amount of crumble but it mixes with the veggies to make a pleasing porridgy stodge – I can never have too much.

While it was baking, I had some time to think about an appropriate name. Perhaps I have lived in too many places where the heating is substandard and the warmest place in the house is in bed. But warmth and comfort kept bringing to mind snuggling under the doona (that’s duvet to the British). It seemed an appropriate analogy given that the crumble is a comforting cover. And I love the pleasure of getting under the doona at the end of a day and melting into sweet dreams about Jake Gyllehaal. But enough about last night – here is my recipe:

Under the doona veggie crumble
(serves 6)

1 onion chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
2 carrot sliced
2 small potatoes, diced (200g)
500g Pumpkin
1/3 cup peas
2 medium zucchini sliced
150g mushrooms sliced
¼ cup red wine
2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp mustard sauce (or seeded mustard)
1.5 tsp chilli paste (or to taste)
2 cloves garlic
1 tin (400g) tomatoes
1 tin (400g) baked beans
1 apple peeled and diced

1 cup oats
¼ cup wheat bran
½ cup breadcrumbs
1 tbsp flaked millet
1 cup grated cheese*
1/3 cup pecans
2 tbsp parsley
4 tbsp olive oil
(omit if making vegan version but you may need a little more oil, or you could try nutritional yeast)

Cooks onion, carrots, celery, garlic and potatoes in about ½ cup water over medium heat about 15 mins til starting to soften. Then add remaining ingredients and ½ - 1 cup water, stew 15-30 mins. I just let it stew on low heat as long as it took me to chop and add veggies and to prepare crumble.

To prepare the crumble mix all the ingredients – I just use my hands which helps get a feel of when there is enough oil in it to just coat the ingredients.

Tip veggies into large oven dish (I used my large le creuset dutch oven) and cover with crumble. Bake at 220ºC approx 30 mins ot til crumble is brown and crisp.

On the stereo
A short album about love - The Divine Comedy

Noodling Sunday Nights

Sunday suppers as a child were lazy nights. My mum would often do cheese on toast, baked beans or tomato soup. These were the nights of sitting watching The Wonderful World of Disney in our dressing gowns. Some Sundays I feel this need for such easy cooking, especially after a busy weekend leaves me with no energy. It seems on these nights that the weekend can't possibly end because there are still so many things to do. Yet the shadow of another week looms large.

One of my easy dishes is noodle soup. I am a big fan of miso soups and laksas crammed with vegetables. This Sunday I did a simple noodle soup in the style of a laksa. After last week's loading of my green noodles with a heavy cheeze sauce, this light broth was a timely reminder: respect the noodle. My green noodles were happy and heavenly.

Here, I must confess to being an opportunist rather than a purist. I had some dashi stock left over from a previous miso soup so that went in, although I know it is not traditional. I only had one of those cute little cans of coconut milk so used less than I otherwise might, but I found it was just enough without being too rich.

It was a success - fragrant, spicy, oodles of lovely slippery noodles and jewel-like vegetables. Here is what I did:

Easy Noodle Soup
(serves 2)
1 carrot, chopped
1/4 small white cabbage, shredded
small handful of dried shitake mushrooms
1 zucchini, chopped
1 small can (300g) corn kernels, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/3 red pepper, chopped
165ml coconut milk
1-2 tbsp curry laksa paste
1/2 tsp dashi granules

Put in about 1 cm of water in a medium saucepan and boil. Add carrots, cabbage and shitake mushrooms and cook over medium to high heat about 10 mins or til softening. Stir in laksa paste. Add remaining veggies, coconut milk, dashi and about 1 cup of water (depending on how thick you like your soup - I like it quite thick). Cook another 5-10 mins and serve hot.

On The Stereo:
Blue - Joni Mitchell

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Nila – Delectable Dosai and Peculiar Pumpkin

When I was growing up, my mum sometimes made curries (especially sausage curry) but we rarely went out for Indian meals. Unlike E whose family loves an Indian take away. Since meeting him and his chilli-loving tastebuds, I have tried many Indian restaurants.

Our favourite Indian restaurant in Scotland was the Prince of India in Peebles which I mention here because I have struggled to find restaurants of comparable quality here. What I liked about the Prince of India was a good selection of mixed vegetable curries, the like of which I am yet to find elsewhere. Call me fussy or spoilt, but I continue to hope!

Hence my interest in the Nila’s Indian restaurants which have recently come to my attention. Last night we went to their Degraves Street restaurant in the city. It is a small brightly lit restaurant/takeaway with charcoal grey walls and red light shades. Hindi Pop features on their stereo.

As on my last visit, I was delighted by the huge array of vegetarian dishes and alternatives to curried veg and rice - ulunthu vadai (lentil doughnuts), roti curry roll and pizza dosai, to name a few, look intriguing. But I look forward to the day when I have the time and room to try the dessert of banana stuffed roti.

I only recently learnt of the existence of dosai. So last night I had to have the masala dosai again (see the photo). It is an impressive-looking huge wafer-thin light pancake wrapped around lightly spiced potato. It comes with three sauces which are a bit spicy for me to enjoy. Last time I coupled my dosai with dhal and it was a bit stodgy. So last night I went out on a limb and tried the pumpkin puli kolambu. It was soft chunks of pumpkin in a tamarind-based curry sauce. The sour and salty flavours contrasted nicely with the comforting stodge of the potato.

This is Indian, but not as I know it! Well maybe not. I should add that the window describes Nila’s food as Malaysian, Singaporean and South Indian Cuisine. Whatever it is, it’s worth a visit. And not only is the food interesting but it is cheap and quick. We managed to get dinner before having our senses assaulted by Throbbing Gristle at the Focus on Punk screenings at ACMI (E’s choice not mine).

13 Degraves Street
Melbourne City
Ph: 03 9014 8822
(other branches in 360 Sydney Rd Coburg, Forest Hill Chase Shopping Centre, 702 Sydney Rd Brunswick)
Open: 11am–midnight Mon – Sat, 11am–5pm Sundays

Lazy Leftover Lunch at the Lake

I got home just after 2pm, hoping E hadn’t had his lunch. He was making pitta breads and offered to make me one, but I had other ideas. And he was to blame.

E got a new bike recently and suggested we ride to a local park this weekend. I am all in favour of a spin on the bike but thought it would be much improved with a picnic at the destination. So in the spirit of green living and recycling, I got out the hummus and carrot dip I had made earlier this week, chopped up some carrots, capsicums and bread and put it in my bag, together with the weekend newspaper.

It was a lovely sunny autumn day. Coburg Lake was a picture of pastoral serenity with weeping willows, bronzed autumnal leaves, little bridges and ducks swimming in the lake. A most pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Cardamom and Chocolate Comforts

When I was a student, the university’s food co-op regularly sold a vegan chocolate cake that was very popular and I managed to a get a recipe which I made occasionally but it now seems a bit plain for my liking.

Lately I have made a few chocolate cakes with various flavours that have appealed to me so I was excited to find a vegan cake (The New Carob Chai Cake) on Domestic Affair which had an interesting blend of spices and maple syrup.

Now I am not usually one to meddle with cake recipes because I am afraid of upsetting the science. But I made the excellent Store Cupboard Chocolate Orange Cake from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess late last year with marmalade which has two consequences. One – I have never been a big fan of marmalade and so we still had almost half a jar of marmalade in the cupboard. Two – despite not using marmalade on toast, I am now a fan of putting it in cakes to give an orange flavour.

I decided to use marmalade instead of some of maple syrup which was fortunate, seeing my maple syrup was running low. So once I had started to meddle, there was no end to my tinkering. I worried the cake wasn’t sweet enough and found an opened packet of prunes to add, and then I remembered I also had some oatmeal to use up, and some flax seed I bought recently that I wanted to try out. And I have never understood carob so I used cocoa.

One thing I did stick to was adding the cardamom (despite the suggestion of substituting cloves, with which I am more familiar). Cardamom is a spice I have not really used before but when E and I smelt the new jar of it, it gave off a pleasing fragrance that seemed the stuff of nostalgia. I am not sure if the aroma brought back elusive memories or just smelt so good it seemed to create the impression.

I was reminded of the old food co-op vegan chocolate cake with the thin batter. And I confess I didn’t read the recipe well and put the vinegar in with the wet ingredients rather than at the end. My cake seemed a bit flat which may have been my oversight with the vinegar but possibly was due to using a 22cm square tin which I think is a bit bigger than the tin used in the recipe. Also I am not so interested in icing so don’t always ice cakes which doesn’t help with presentation – you should see the pretty cake on Domestic Affair if you want to see how lovely it can look.

It may not look great but it tasted fantastic, albeit a very moist cake. I love the combination of chocolate, spices and orange. I took it to work for lunch, to my mum’s for dinner, to a picnic and even to the cinema. One of the kids who tasted it was not keen so it might not be a favourite with everyone, but I am still recommending it if you want something a little different. Below is the recipe I used:

Vegan Chocolate Spice cake
adapted from Domestic Affair's new carob chai cake

1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup soy flour
2 tbsp ground flax seed (linseeds)
1/4 cup oatmeal
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom (or ground cloves)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup maple syrup*
200g marmalade*
3/4 cup organic (non-dairy) milk or filtered water
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1/2 cup chopped prunes
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp cointreau
2 tbsp. cider vinegar
(* I just made sure the marmalade and maple syrup added up to a cup)

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line and grease 23cm (9 inch) round cake tin.

Place dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix wet ingredients (except vinegar). When all ingredients are combined, add vinegar til evenly distributed. The batter will be quite thin.

Pour batter into cake tin and bake about 30 minutes or til a skewer comes out cleanly. Ice with spiced frosting or dust with icing sugar. Serve warm or cold.

On the Stereo:
Map of Hands: Seaworthy

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Pickled sprouts and vegan cheese doubts

Or the long title of tonight’s entry is:
‘There’s nothing I like better than to stir sprouts pickled in Cointreau,’ said E when I asked him to give them a stir, but he wasn’t so sure about my vegan cheese pasta sauce.

Tonight I have been inspired – firstly by Lucy at Nourish Me for sharing her fab recipe for Brussels Sprouts in Cointreau. It just seemed like the right thing to do to brussels sprouts. I hated them a child and not even honey could disguise their awful taste, though my mother tried. Now I love them and usually have them steamed au naturel, but this recipe seemed to reach out to me with its enticing use of one of the few liqueurs in my cupboard.

Lucy used spring onions and fresh ginger and parsley but I adapted it to what was in the fridge (red onion) and what would suit my meal (chilli flakes). Here is the version I used:

Pickled Brussels Sprouts
(serves 2 as a side)
Adapted from Colin Spencer and Nourish Me

- 400g of Brussels sprouts
- ½ red onion thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon of light olive oil
- Zest and juice of 1 orange
- ½ teaspoon of sugar
- 1 tablespoon of Cointreau (or similar orange liqueur)
- Generous sprinkle of chilli flakes, salt and garlic flakes (or fresh garlic if you don’t have these all in a grinder like mine)

Trim base and blemished leaves off brussels sprouts and halve each sprout (admittedly I might have quartered them if I had read Lucy’s recipe properly).

Heat oil on medium high in heavy based frying pan or large saucepan. Add sprouts and orange zest and stir fry about 2 minutes. Add orange juice and continue to fry another 2 or 3 minutes til juice is almost evaporated.

Add Cointreau, sugar and a generous sprinkle of chilli flakes, salt and garlic flakes and continue to stir over medium heat another 2 – 4 minutes.

(Lucy cooked hers on higher heat but I was worried my saucepan was burning so took a little longer on a little lower heat which also allowed me to do other things– do as you will)


Inspiration number 2 tonight was some green noodles which I had bought at the Asian grocer by the Vic Market. I found them in the cupboard last night and wanted to use them.

Recently I made my first vegan cheese sauce and was inspired as I am not a big fan of heavy dairy sauces and thought this one with carrot and tofu was great. So tonight I tried another which was a bit of a store cupboard ingredients recipe. It was very heavy and not a hit with E.

I think my choice of noodles was perhaps wrong as they were very light and flaccid whereas I think my sauce needed more robust Italian pasta and perhaps a little less salt (despite reducing both the salt and yeast from the original recipe). I will continue trying vegan cheese sauces to find which are the best for us – there are just so many exciting options. Here is the one I did tonight:

Lessarella Cheez
Adapted from
(serves at least 4)

- 2 cups water
- 3 Tbs lemon juice (1 medium lemon )
- 1/3 cup Nutritional Yeast (NOT Brewers Yeast)
- 1/3 cup oatmeal
- 1/4 cup arrowroot or cornstarch – (optional – I didn’t use )
- 1/4 finely chopped red onion
- 1/4 cup tahini (or sesame seeds)
- 1 tsp veggie salt
- 1/2 chopped red bell pepper (optional to make cheese more orange - I didn't use because was after a green look)

Blend all ingredients – I was delighted to find I could do this in a bowl with my hand held blender rather than have to use the food processor. Then heat on medium heat until thickened.

The recipe suggests only using the arrowroot or cornstarch if you want it thick and chill it overnight so it is set solid for slicing. Omit if you want a cheese sauce.


I added grated zucchini, parsley and baby spinach and added the sauce to the green noodles in an attempt to have it looking really green but it was but a pale imitation of the colour I aspired to.

I served my pasta with the sprouts which were delisciously sweet and caramelized with a hint of cointreau (highly recommended) and a simple fresh earthy salad of grated carrot, grated beetroot, finely chopped red pepper and raspberry vinegar.

My inspiration number 3 was being drawn to the beetroot yesterday on a lunchtime jaunt to the supermarket. Why is it that a trip to the supermarket for a bike light battery ends up with me having too much stuff to carry home on my bike and, yet, still no battery? Maybe the universe was ensuring I had my beetroot (and my orange for the sprouts).

The pasta with cheese sauce was a bit overwhelmingly rich and salty – alone it would have been a disaster even with veggies in the sauce. But it was nicely complemented by the side vegetables. And despite not finding the green I desired, I was still pleased with the colours.

On the Stereo:
Altered Realities: Erdem Helvacioglu

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Seeking carrot dip in a sea of recipes

I wasn’t that hungry tonight because I had drinks and nibbles at work before I came home - perfect opportunity for a ‘chips, dips and dorks’ reference :-). But I needed something quick and healthy after last night’s patchy evenings dinner on the run of a flourless chocolate muffin, a cheesymite bread scroll, and carrot and hummus dip. (I cannot recommend this as a balanced meal but I would highly recommend the film, The Lives of Others - watch for the fleeting but fascinating cake scene!)

When I was thinking about dips on the weekend I had remembered an excellent carrot and bean dip I made for a party earlier this year. It was not only smooth and tasty, but also colourful. But one of the problems of so many recipes is that I couldn’t quite remember where I got the recipe.

I have an old diary where I have written out many recipes over the years. It feels like a record of my cooking journey. In the first pages it has a few meat recipes from my pre-vegetarian years, then it goes into basic vegetarian recipes, decadent recipes and then healthier recipes. When I look in there I am reminded of friends who have shared recipes and meals with me. I thought it was in there but wasn’t sure it was the carrot and bean dip I found in my notebook.

Recently I counted that I had 75 cookbooks, and tonight I didn’t have the energy to dip (ha ha) into these books. One of my pipe dreams is to have the time to input all my recipes from my recipe books from my cookbooks and others that I find in magazines, the net and with friends into a database and then the day I want a carrot dip recipe I could put in key words. What joy that would be! But I have calculated if there are an average of 100 recipes per book it would meant 75,000 recipes. So for the moment my wondrous database remains a distant dream.

So both the recipe archive and recipe memory failed me tonight. I tried the carrot and bean recipe in my notebook but I suspect it is not the one – it is a lot more spicy and less fresh than I remember. Ah well, at least it still had lovely colour. I treated it as a puree more than a dip tonight and served it with some veggie patties from the freezer and some sprouts. And I think the leftovers will go well on tortillas with salad. But I will continue searching for the recipe in my memory.

I confess I haven’t always noted the source of my recipes – this is one recipe where I have been neglectful but here it is with reduced oil.

Spicy Carrot and Bean Dip
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp curry powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 6 large carrots, cooked (I steamed mine about 15 mins)
- 400g tin of white beans (cannellini, which I think might also be white kidney beans), rinsed and drained
- ½ tsp salt (or to taste)

Fry onion and garlic in oil til golden brown. Add curry powder and cumin for another minute. Then blend onion mixture with remaining ingredients in food processor til smooth (if your food processor is small like mine, you will need to do it in batches - but you will get layers of lovely colour before you mix it like in my photo). Serve hot as puree or cold as dip.

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

10/5/2007 - PS I did use this for last night's dinner and it was delicious - I put the carrot and bean dip with cheese between two tortillas and grilled it in the style of what I have always thought was quesadillas but according to wiki is a sincronizada. Had it with broccoli, baby spinach and tomatoes. But next time there wont be so much curry in the dip (which by the way is still residing in my freezer and fridge in various containers - it just goes on and on).

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Hummus - morning and night

I said I would bring something for morning tea tomorrow at work for a colleague who is bringing her new baby in. I know she likes savoury food so I thought I'd make a dip to take in with some rice crackers and carrot batons.

I decided to use an old recipe I haven’t made for a while - Mollie Katzen’s hummus. I got this recipe from a friend many years ago before I went vegetarian, when I was still learning a lot about cooking. When I first went vegetarian, Mollie was a cookbook celebrity for me before we had Nigella and Jamie, so the recipe makes me feel nostalgic.

I now own the Moosewood Cookbook and used the recipe from there tonight. When I compared it to my friend's notes, I realised why it didn’t taste quite the same – in the 2nd edition Mollie has halved the tahini. Next time I might revert to the original version. My inclination would also be to put a teaspoon of chilli paste into the mix but I eased off and just was liberal with salt and pepper because I am making this for work colleagues.

It seemed obvious to combine my dip-making with dinner so it inspired me to serve a couple of spoonfuls with falafel (from a box), yoghurt, pita breads, and veggies (tomato, baby spinach, corn, green capsicum, and dill pickle).

Update 2012 - I have updated my Hummus recipe to reflect how I make it these day.

From Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook (2nd edn)
- 2 to 3 medium cloves of garlic
- A large handful of parsley
- 2 spring onions/scallions (optional – I didn’t have these and left them out)
- 3 cups cooked chickpeas (2 x 440g tins of chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
- 6 tbsp tahini (or ¾ cup in original recipe)
- 6 tbsp lemon juice
- ¾ - 1 tsp salt (to taste – I used 1 tsp to compensate for less chilli)
- yoghurt (optional)
- cayenne and cumin to taste (optional – I didn’t use)

Mollie says to mince garlic and parley (and spring onions) in food processor separately to other ingredients, but I chopped them finely and then blitzed in food processor with chickpeas, tahini, and lemon juice. Season to taste. I found the mixture a little stiff so added some yoghurt. Chill in container.

On the Stereo
The Boy with the Arab Strap - Belle and Sebastian

The Vegie Bar: a tyranny of choice

Today we went to the Vegie Bar on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy for lunch. It is a favourite place of ours not just for the good cheap veg food but because it is always buzzing with people but we never have a problem finding a table. It is a large café divided into two rooms with high ceilings, brick walls, tattered posters and the grungy vibe of Brunswick Street.

I have to take a moment to reminisce about Brunswick St. When I first moved into a share house many years ago, this was my local street and, despite many changes, I am mighty fond of it.

We got a table at the Vegie Bar at the window, so we were able to watch the characters of Brunswick St – the man in leathers selling poetry, yummy mummies, the Big Issue seller, guys in velvet jackets and large sunglasses, older ladies in fluffy red berets – they are all there. E even spotted a guy in a t-shirt reading Eat More Vegies!

We looked out over a grungy old-style post box and over the road to a recycled clothes shop, called Shag, where I take such pleasure in browsing through garments in vintage patterns. Beside it is an old timer, the Grub Street Bookstore, where in my student days I loved browsing the second hand books. To the other side of us is the old Punters Club where I saw some fine indy bands perform in its grungy darkness – today it is Bimbo which has been forgiven from replacing the Punters because it does such good chocolate pizza. I could go on and on about all the wonderful memories and places but back to the Vegie Bar.

Brunswick St has a fantastic selection of cafes (although there are also duds) and I always feel spoilt for choice. Similarly at the Vegie Bar, for a vegetarian used to one or two choices on most menus, the array of pizzas, curries, stirfries, and roti wraps presents a tyranny of choice. It even has vegetarian dim sims, which are so hard to find.

To drink I had the berry blaster which was a berries, banana and yoghurt smoothie (I think) – was a pleasingly deep pink, sweet, fruity, thick and filled with berry seeds. E had the organic ginger beer which is light and refreshing with lime.

E always chooses the lunch duo special because it is the best bargain in town (and this Scottish lad likes a bargain). It is two curries (today it was lentil dahl and chickpea dahl) with brown rice and roti. It also has a few lettuce leaves but I don’t see the point of them. The roti at the Vegie Bar is always excellent – large soft flaky sheets of bread. I was so full from my meal I hardly touched his, which is a shame as it is always a treat when he doesn’t have meat when we eat out. But the curry I tasted was good.

After much angst over how to indulge my taste buds I chose one of the specials – the Italiano pizza. It had pesto, napoli sauce, baby spinach, spanish onion, sundried tomato, olives, pumpkin and mozzarella cheese. The crust was thin and crisp. The cheese looked like a fluffy white cloud but was still rich and stringy when pulled apart. The pumpkin was thin sliced and tender. The sun dried tomatoes were plump and juicy. It was all wonderful.

Lunch on Brunswick Street usually means we have time to wander the fab shops. I have to give a mention to the Rose Street market which had a plethora of green goods (in the environmentally friendly sense) – bags made of recycled car seats, jewellery made of buttons, and notebooks made of old hardbook covers and recycled denim pages. Then after a day of green food and green politics, I went to Tea Two purchased a green gadget: a green teapot (which I have photographed with my fave Room of One’s Own mug).

Vegie Bar
378 Brunswick St
Fitzroy 3065 VIC
Phone: (03) 9417 6935