Monday, 16 July 2018

Layered nut roast for Christmas in July

We held a Christmas in July lunch on the weekend for a few friends.  It is a cosy way to celebrate a long cold winter.  Fortunately it came at the end of a week of holidays, so I had some time and energy to prepare.  Sylvia loves helping with the planning.  It is our opportunity to make some fun Christmas food without all the stress of the festive season.

Planning in earnest started on thursday two days before when we went to the Queen Vic Market to shop for food for the dinner.  Sylvia had a friend over so it seemed a fun outing (and delicious too - who can resist the hot jam doughnuts!)  She was amazed that cinnamon came in sticks.

When we got home I was perplexed at trying to work out how to get the cinnamon sticks around a vanilla candle.  Sylvia and I worked out I should put thick sticky tape on the table, line up cinnamon sticks on it and roll it around the candle.  When I looked more online, I found good advice about using a rubber band to keep the sticks around the candle.  The candles looked very festive, but next time I will put twine as well as ribbon and try to remember to add the rosemary or greenery before everyone arrived.

I made caramel fudge on Thursday.  It was pretty quick to make.  I left it in the fridge overnight and cut it straight from the fridge.  This meant it was rather brittle and there were lots of fragments.  Next time I will cut it when room temperature.  Sylvia organised red and green sprinkles to put on top which looked quite festive.

We also started on the oreo pops on Thursday.  Sylvia had another play date on Friday but we had a little time in the morning to finish these.  I will post separately about these soon.  They were Sylvia's idea and were just served to the kids.  A great success.

Sylvia brought cupcakes home from her playdate which she thought might be good for Christmas in July.  I convinced her to put them in the freezer for school lunches because we had enough sweet food.

Once Sylvia was gone to her friend's place on Friday I made the nut roast.  I planned to make it a simple smoked cheese and carrot nut roast that I had made before.  Then I threw some parsley in with the breadcrumbs in the blender.  They looked so good I decided to make a green layer.  And why not a red layer too!

E was given a box of fruit and veg the previous weekend with a lot of herbs.  The Italian parsley was easy to recognise but the others stumped me.  After using the parsley, I wanted to put the rest in the middle layer.  So I put out a photo on Facebook in desperation.  After I had thrown them all in, I got some helpful advice that most of the herbs left were indeed a different variety of parsley and the long thin leaves were curry leaves.  If I had been more on the ball I would have recognised the curry leaves and not added them.  The herb layer was very herby and the tomato layer was very tomatoey but in the whole nut roast with gravy they worked.

And the layers were not quite enough for me.  I decided to make some holly leaves to decorate the loaf.  I did these on the bottom of the tin so it would be on top when I turned it out.  The green layer was quite stiff and easy to mould.  The red layer was a lot softer and more difficult to shape.

I also made gravy on Friday evening, made lemonade with excess citrus fruit, roasted some eggplant and red capsicum, and chopped up potatoes, parsnip, pumpkin and sweet potato to be left in large bowls of water until they were roasted the next day.  Below is my vegie shopping list. (I had meant to also roast garlic but forgot it.)We had some leftovers of all the vegies.  I love leftovers and was a bit sad that there were not many leftovers.  Just enough to last us dinner that night and lunch the next day.  After that there was only a good cup of gravy and a stub of nut roast.

Shopping list:
1.7 kg potatoes
1 small wedge of pumpkin
1 large parsnip
1 eggplant
2 red peppers
1 sweet potato
2 or 3 cups of Brussels spouts
2 onions in gravy- more than plenty


Mulled wine and home made lemonade (made by K)

Candy Cane Pizza (for the kids)
Layered nut roast
Spinach and cheese pie (made by D)
Roast vegetables - potato, pumpkin, parsnip, red pepper, eggplant, sweet potato
Steamed Brussels sprouts

Oreo Christmas Tree Pops (for the kids)
Fruit Christmas Tree
Cheese board

I had good intentions of tidying the house but didn't do much until Saturday morning before everyone arrived.  It is so much more fun to cook!  First thing Saturday morning, Sylvia and I rode to the shops for olive oil before making candy cane pizza and roasting vegies.  It was the usual rush but the house looked as neat as it gets by the time everyone had arrived.

I felt a bit behind because we were still making the Christmas tree of fruit when guests arrived.  I will write more about the fruity Christmas tree.  I also had not set the tables and did not have enough time for many photos!  Sylvia looked the party with a santa jacket on that we worked out we had bought for her in Scotland when she was 3 years old (almost 6 years ago).  Her bear also squeezed into an old santa jacket.

I had the candy cane pizza ready to heat up and this was the first to be served.  It is for the kids who all seem to eat pizza and want to eat and play.  This year marked a milestone.  Other years I have seated them around the little red Ikea kids table.  This year I decided the kids were getting too big for kiddie chairs.  We cleaned up a green table from the backyard and put a nice table cloth on it and some folding chairs around it. The kids had finished eating by the time I served the adults.

I would have liked more time to prepare, especially as that fruit Christmas tree took ages.  But by the time everyone arrived, everything was cooked.  All I had to do with heat everything up.  Then I discovered that my oven had gone out, which put me a bit out.  Everyone was happy to have some mulled wine while they waited.  But I eventually had it ready for everyone to serve themselves before taking a seat.  You can see the holly on the nut roast in the above photo.

Here is my rather full plate.  I love a good roast dinner and then was most satisfying.  However it was a little cooler than I had planned.  I don't make lots of meals where lots of dishes need to be served at one and can still find that a struggle to juggle it all.

Sylvia had told me that when the fudge appeared there would be a stampede of kids.  In fact we gave the kids the oreo christmas tree pops and then they were happy to play outside.  So by the time I served the fudge, they were nowhere to be seen but I think they did sample some of it.  The fruit Christmas tree was quite popular with them.

I also served cheddar cheese, toffee cheese, camembert, beetroot lavosh crackers and charcoal crackers.  I do love to graze on dessert while chatting about stuff like the plastic bag ban, the flu and piano lessons.  However later, I reflected that the dessert would be perfect for a summer Christmas dinner.  Ironic really, given that one of the reasons to celebrate Christmas in July is to have a cosy winter feast when the weather is more suited to stodgy rich festive food.

Having said that, there was a good amount of stodgy festive food leftover once everyone had helped with the dishes and left.  It is always so relaxing to rest after hosting a lunch and just nibble on leftovers rather than a proper tea.  Even nicer when surrounded by fruit and flowers.

The nut roast was a success so I am sharing what I did.  It is not a nut roast to make quickly, but it looks quite impressive for a special meal.  Perhaps I will try this again when Christmas comes around.  Yes, one of the nicer things about Christmas in July is that now it is only 5 months until Christmas in December!

I am sending this nut roast to Baking Crumbs.

More Christmas in July dinners on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Christmas in July dessert cheese platter (2017)
Christmas in July lunch and fruit mince flapjacks (2016)
Stuffed nut roast for Christmas in July dinner party (2015)
Christmas in July smoky cheese and barley nut roast (2014)
Hubert the Hog’s Head (2005)

Nut roast with herb and tomato layers
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe
Serves 4-6

1/2 cup hot water 
1 tsp vegemite (or other yeast extract)
275g (2 cups) nuts coarsely ground
125g cheese, grated
110g breadcrumbs (about 3 ends of a loaf)
1 cup caramelised onions
1 tsp seeded mustard
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp seasoning mix (or salt and pepper and herbs)
2 medium carrots, grated

Green herb filling:
6 tbsp cup cashew cream
2 bunches of parsley
65g breadcrumbs

Tomato filling:
1/4 cup cashew cream
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tsp smoked paprika
65g breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 180 C and line a loaf tin.

Mix hot water and vegemite and set aside. Mix nuts, cheese, breadcrumbs, caramelised onions, mustard paprika and seasoning in a large mixing bowl.  Stir in vegemite water mixture.  [Do not stir in grated carrots until you have made the fillings.]

Make the green filling by taking out 1/4 cup of the nut mixture and mixing with cashew cream.  Then add the breadcrumbs and parsley (I blitzed the breadcrumbs and parsley together). 

Make the tomato filling by mixing 1/4 cup of nut mixture with the cashew cream and smoked paprika.  Then mix in the breadcrumbs.

Finally mix the grated carrot with the rest of the nut mixture.

Now arrange in the loaf tin.  (If you want to make patterns on the top with the green and red, go ahead.  I made holly leaves.  This pattern will be at the top when you turn out the loaf.)  Spoon in a little less than half the carrot nut mixture into the tin and smooth with the back of a spoon.  Spread the green mixture and then the tomato mixture and now carefully spoon dollops of the carrot nut mixture and smooth out.

Bake for 45 minutes or until cooked around the edges.  Wait at least 10 minutes before turning out onto a serving tray.  The roast will slice well if you cool it and then reheat it on the serving tray.
If you eat it straight away it will probably be less neat to slice.

NOTES: I used cashews and a few almonds but other nuts would work here.  I used dairy cheese this time but in the recipe I based the recipe on, I used vegan cheese,   I would have used more cashew cream if I had had it for the green filling because it was so dense but it actually turned out soft once it cooked.  If you want more contrast with the layers, use a plainer version of the nut roast without carrot and cheese.  I have made a few variations of this recipe (adapted from the the Vegan Society) and it works every time.  Other festive herbs such as sage, rosemary and thyme would work here.  I also added a handful of curry leaves to the green layer but am not sure I would do it again.

On the Stereo:
The Best Aussie Christmas: Greg Doolan

Friday, 13 July 2018

Lettuce, broccoli and pea soup after Luna Park

We went to Luna Park on Monday.  It was my first trip there and, while I am glad to have been, I don't have a big desire to go there again.  I took Sylvia and a friend who had an awesome time.  The lowlight would have been the beige food.  So when I got home I really needed my greens.  And there was a huge lettuce we had been given that was good for nothing but soup in the middle of winter.

Let's start with some photos.  Here are the girls at the iconic entrance.  The amusement park was built in 1912 in Melbourne, modelled after the original Luna Park on Coney Island in the USA.

I have had travel sickness too often to ever find crazy rides any fun.  The first ride we ventured upon was the Twin Dragon Pirate Ship.  It looked rather tame but started to swing up at rather alarming angles (as seen above).  Sylvia wanted to get off and her friend was nauseaous so I kept saying, lots of deep breaths.  We were all happy to get off. 

We then went on the Skyrider, which is actually a ferris wheel.  Though unlike most ferris wheels I have been on, it only seated two per carriage.  Which meant I went alone.  Luna Park was very strict on safety, including instructing punters not to carry a camera or take any photos on any rides.  I am afraid I was not compliant!

 This is the view from the ferris wheel of the park.  The castle houses the dodgems that the girls enjoyed.  The tram is just for parties.  Beyond the scenic railway you can see the sea.

And here are the two little girls looking like they are indeed riding in the sky.

We considered the Ghost Train but the little carts were just big enough for two people.  So instead we went on the Silly Serpent.  This is a mini roller coaster.  It was far easier on the stomach.  The scenic railway was closed for maintenance.  Ironic, given that it boasts that it is the oldest continually running roller coaster.

I also had a go at the Coney Drop, which was tame enough for me.  You can see the Pharaoh's Curse in the background, another pendulum ride which takes the punters upside down.  No amount of screaming and adrenaline will make this enjoyable.  I don't blame Sylvia that she preferred the flying elephant ride.

We had fun wandering around and looking at the sideshows and rides.  The girls really enjoyed the giftshop.

On the website, it claims that "our range of food caters for vegetarians too with a healthy selection of meals to choose from."  Obviously their idea of healthy and mine are different.  I could have had nacho toppings on chips but didn't because I wanted to share them.  Instead we had waffle fries, onion rings and mac'n'cheese croquettes.  Beige, beige, beige.

If you want colourful food at Luna Park, your best bet is some artificial colouring.  Like these huge sticks of fairy floss.

My best bet for healthy colourful food was to head home.  E had been given this box of fruit and vegetables on the weekend.  The lettuce took up half the box.  It was almost as big as the fairy floss.  I actually had some potato and cauliflower soup that was meant to be purple like the vegetables but it turned out a murky colour like gruel.  I needed greens.

I based the soup on a Spinach, Lettuce and Pea Soup but used what I had on hand.  It ended up being a bit grassy so it was nicknamed Grass Soup.  My mum said that grass soup made me sound like a Nineteenth Century Irish peasant during the potato famine.  (Though I did have potato gruel which my Irish ancestors would have given an arm and a leg to eat!)

I really loved this soup, despite the texture not being as smooth as it would be if I used the high powered blender rather than a stick blender.  It was a great refreshing meal with a toasted muffin.  In fact, I was sad to finish the soup today for lunch.

I am sending this soup to VegHog for Eat Your Greens.

More green soups at Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Asparagus, potato and quinoa soup (gf, v)
Broad bean, courgette and pea soup (gf, v) 
Broccoli, zucchini and blue cheese soup (gf)
Greens, rice and yoghurt soup (gf) 
Nettle and silverbeet soup (gf, v)
Pea and garlic soup (gf)
Summer minestrone (gf, v)

Lettuce, Broccoli and Pea Soup
Serves 4-6

1 large lettuce, washed and chopped
1 head of broccoli, trimmed and chopped
2 cups frozen peas
1 zucchini, chopped
500ml stock
500ml water
1/2 tsp seasoning mix (or to taste)
1/4 cup cashew cream

Bring stock to the boil.  Add vegies and cook about 10 minutes or til broccoli is soft enough to push a wooden spoon through.  Puree.  Add cashew cream.  Check and adjust seasoning.

On the Stereo:
Son of Evil Reindeer: Reindeer Section

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Strawberry crumble

It is mid-July and yet we have been buying lovely sweet local strawberries as recently as last weekend at the Farmers Market.  I have been chatting to people at the stall about how surprised they are to still have strawberries growing in midwinter when they are usually doing maintenance and having a break.  We have been loving the strawberries and eating lots of them fresh.  However I have had some dreams that I might turn some into a crumble.

When Sylvia's friend came over for a sleepover last weekend, Sylvia put in an order for strawberry crumble.  So I baked while they watched Disney's Descendents, a movie I am happy to leave and potter about in the kitchen.  We served the crumble with custard.  It was a lovely way to warm up in a house without a decent heater.   

I'd like to claim it helped the girls go to sleep quickly but unfortunately not.  They slept late and were up early.  It amused and pleased me that they watched Back in Time for Dinner the next morning.  It is an ABC tv series where a family experiences life in 7 different decades.

I loved this intimate way of learning more about different decades, with an emphasis on food, as well as housework, recreation and technology.  The standout moment was when 10 year old Olivia names a fish Jeff when shown a fishtank at a Thai restaurant and is horrified when Jeff is served to her for dinner.  They also tried vegan burgers are future food in the last episode and were quite impressed.

The show made me reflect on how things were and how much they have changed for me as well as for the nation.  It brought back memories of a 20c bag of mixed lollies at the milkbar (oh joy), my first experiences of a microwave (magic), the introduction of CDs (apparently they were so sturdy you could cook a pizza on them), and my first little nokia mobile phone (with reluctance).  And if Back in Time for Dinner had reflected my childhood there would have been lots of warm fruit crumbles and chocolate puddings.

More warming puddings on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Apple sponge (pudding) (v)
Banana butterscotch pudding (v)
Chocolate pudding (v)
Golden syrup dumplings (v)
Pumpkin and chocolate bread pudding (v)
Rhubarb and strawberry crumble (v)

Strawberry Crumble
adapted from 
Serves 4

375g strawberries, hulled and halved
1 tbsp maple syrup (or sugar)
1 tbsp lemon juice

5 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp almond meal
2 tbsp desiccated coconut
1 tbsp sugar
40g butter (or margarine)

1 cup custard, to serve

Mix strawberries, maple syrup and lemon juice in the base of a 16 x 21cm baking dish.  In a medium bown, rub butter into the dry ingredients until you have quite a chunky mixture.  Bake for  15 minutes at 220 C.  Serve hot with warm custard.

On the Stereo:
Nightflight - Kate Miller Heidke

Monday, 9 July 2018

Smith and Daughters: the Italian Feast, Fitzroy vegan restaurant

About a week ago, I was pretty excited to finally get along to dinner at renowned vegan restaurant Smith and Daughters in Fitzroy.  They are currently serving an Italian menu and rebranding as Smith and Bellas.  Our group of 8 was given the feast menu that is mandatory for groups.  The menu had so many interesting dishes I was happy for a taste of lots of them.  And it was a very nice feast, but next time I would like dishes that involve less mock meat.

To drink, I was tempted by the Testa Rossa, a warm spiced apple and ginger toddy but I was driving.  Instead I had a cool refreshing glass of peach and ginger kombucha.

Our first dish was the Meatballs ($12) cooked in napoli sauce with 2 cheeses: buffalo mozzarella and parmesan.  It was served with copious amounts of parmesan and a thick slab of toast.  Here is the downside to the feast.  We had 9 meatballs between 8 people.  I found it odd to eat just one meatball with a bit of torn toast.  Meatballs are usually served in generous amounts with lots of spaghetti or casserole.  In my book, they are not a small dish.  When they are so good, it is hard to eat just one.  I really loved these but could have had more.

Then came the garlic bread ($8).  Really good garlic bread. crunchy on the outside and soft and buttery inside.  It was so hot that it was hard to tear some pieces off the stick.

Next was perhaps my favourite dish: Carpaccio ($18).  It is a dish that I have never eaten with meat nor desired.  I liked that this one had very thin slightly dried strips of mock raw beef with figs, horseradish cream, fried capers, rocket, shaved parmesan and crostini.  We ate this by wrapping the meat, parmesan and rocket around the crostini.  Messy but so good.  I really loved the pile of rocket which was dressed perfectly.

The Gnocchi ($22) that came next was served with a broccoli rabe pesto, cream chilli and lime.  As the photos shows it was generously sprinkled with parmesan.  It was pillowy soft in a way that I have never had gnocchi before. Very delicious but I wanted more.

In all honestly I gulped in discomfort at Ragu and Polenta ($24).  Slow braised beef ragu is not something I have ever desired.  It was fascinating to see just how meat-like it seemed (to someone who has not eaten beef for a couple of decade) and how it fell apart at the touch of a fork just like real beef.  While I would not go out of my way to eat it again, I did enjoy having a taste of the ragu.  I was more impressed with the soft cheesy polenta.  Now this is my sort of thing.  Really lovely and creamy though I could have done with more cheesy flavour.  No wonder this dish is a favourite among the punters.

If the ragu was challenging, I baulked at the Milanese Schnitzel ($25), a thin chicken fillet in a parmesan lemon herb crumb.  I ate a tiny mouthful and that was enough.  I had had my fill of mock meat by then.  Everyone else seemed to enjoy it more than me despite some discussion in the group about the schnitzel needing a sauce of some sort.  Oh yes and the menu says it is very big.  And it is huge.  My photo does not do its size justice.  Imagine that the platter is the size of a small country and the knife is bigger than Crocodile Dundee's to get a sense of how big it is.  It could have fed a small family!  Seriously!

The schnitzel was served with two side dishes, neither which were ones to rave about.  The first was the Cheesy Gratin ($14) of slow braised Jerusalem artichokes, leek and fennel.  Not my favourite vegies.  I would have much preferred the slow baked pumpkin with olive tapenade or the salt baked carrots with pesto.  I prefer a gratin that is soft and melting.  These gratin vegies were a bit al dente for me.

The second side was the Creamed Silverbeet ($10) with preserved lemon and chilli.  I had a dislike of silverbeet as a child but I find it works in some dishes I cook these days and it was great in the creamy sauce.  While others were tucking into the schnitzel I kept going back to the silverbeet for more.

Then it was time for dessert.  The Baked Vesuvius ($15) was a miracle of modern vegan cooking.  Layers of chocolate sable, chocolate ganache, pureed poached spiced quinces and black pepper vanilla ice cream were covered in amaretto quince Italian meringue.  We speculated if the meringue had aqua faba in it.  I think yes.  It was presented with panache.  The waitress brought it to the table and told us not to eat it yet.  Then she brought out a blow torch and proceeded to scorch the meringue.

I really loved this dessert.  It is a fancy version of Bomb Alaska, which I have always been fascinated with ever since it one of the villains on the 1960s tv series used it to try and destroy Batman and Robin.  It was good that I enjoyed it, because I don't eat tiramisu, which was our other dessert.  The others in the group did so I got a little extra Baked Vesuvius.  Win win.

So I am very pleased to have finally had an evening meal at Smith and Daughters.  (I have had a Smith and Daughters breakfast and quite a few sandwiches from their sister shop Smith and Deli.)  It is always nice to get out for an interesting meal in good company.  There is a buzz to the place that says that, four years on, it is still popular with the punters.  I was sad they were no longer doing doughnuts for dessert and would have liked to try some pasta.  But I live in hope that I will return for more evening meals and have an opportunity to sample more dishes next time.

You can read more about this Italian feast at Veganopoulous and Where's the Beef.

Smith and Daughters
175 Brunswick Street Fitzroy, VIC 3065
Tel: 03 9939 3293
Open: Tues-Fri 6pm - late, Sat 10am - late, Sun 10am - 11pm

Smith and Daughters Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Breakfast smoothie bowl

I do not embrace change.  Hence I am often the last to any craze.  Take Smoothie Bowls for example.  I've seen them online.  I've seen them in cafes.  I never got them.  Then last weekend I wanted muesli but was out of yoghurt.  So I decided to make a smoothie to go with my cereal.  And why not serve it in a bowl.  Indeed why not make it look pretty.

So today I bring you my first attempt at a Smoothie Bowl.  It tasted amazingly good.  I really liked all the different textures.  I had wanted to add passionfruit to the smoothie but didn't want the little ground seedy bits in it.  The Smoothie Bowl allowed me to have my smoothie with my passionfruit.  It is accommodating of vegan and gluten free diets too.  A really healthy and satisfying breakfast.

Would I do it again?  Probably not.  (Unless I got to do a green one because I love green!)  It was fiddly to arrange the toppings and took too long.  But I am glad I now know why everyone is raving about smoothie bowls.  Heck, I might even order one in a cafe some time.  If everyone else hasn't already moved onto the next fad.

More breakfast fads I have followed on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Baked porridge (v)
Breakfast burritos (gf, v)
Chickpea scramble (gf, v)
Nutella stuffed pancakes (v)
Green smoothie (gf, v)

Smoothie Bowl
serves 1 - 2

Handful of mixed berries
1/2 banana, peeled
flesh of one orange
1/2 - 1 cup of soy milk, or as needed
ice cubes, optional

To decorate: passionfruit pulp, black sesame seeds, desiccated coconut, sliced banana, toasted muesli, berries, mint leaves.

Other topping suggestions: chia seeds, other seeds and nuts, coconut flakes, dried fruit, other cereals, stone fruit, pomegranate arils, fruit cut into stars.

Green smoothie toppings might include: granny smith apples, kiwi fruit, gooseberries, pepitas, pistachios. mint leaves, avocado

On the Stereo:
Oliver musical soundtrack

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

S'mores (in a slice), vegan marshmallows, Graham crackers for Independence Day

I am not a huge fan of marshmallow but have a daughter who is.  So we recently experimented with making a batch of vegan marshmallow.  The texture was pretty good but there was a lot of it.  So I made graham crackers to try s'mores, the fabled American childhood treat.  I still find s'mores on the campfire a mystery.  When I was a kid, we just stuck marshmallows on a stick and melted them over the campfire.  Anyway, I forgot the baking powder in the graham crackers so I blitzed them and made a slice.  Americans call them bars but I always cut them into squares so I stick with the Aussie terminology of "slice".

Here are so close ups of the marshmallow.  I followed Vegan Dad's recipe using aquafaba and stabilisers such as xanthum gum and agar agar.  We could cut it into a square in the first day or two.  After almost a week it was good to eat but too soft to have much structure.

It was a rare moment to get out my candy thermometer, which always makes me nervous.  But beating the AF and drizzling in sugar syrup was not too hard.  The one instruction that seemed odd was to beat the sugar syrup into the AF until the mixture was room temperature.  I had to stop long before then as the mixture kept creeping up the electric beaters and threatening to crawl inside the mechanism.

Sylvia was pretty excited by the marshmallow but found it very sweet.  She managed to cut a neat square, sprinkle it with popping candy, caramel chips and a cheerio and send me a fine, edited photo from her ipad (see above).  If I made it again I think I would do half the recipe as we seemed to have heaps of marshmallow.  I also would remember not to leave spoons in the saucepan with the sugar syrup.  A spoon stuck to the saucepan and I had to pour hot water over it to release it.  Must be that alarmingly sticky glucose syrup.

I've wanted to try Graham Crackers for ages.  I've never eaten a Graham Cracker before.  I've seen plenty online but I wish I knew what they tasted like so I could know how close these were.  It took me a while to make them because I had Sylvia underfoot and finally banished her from the kitchen to leave me in peace.  A ruler was useful for nice neat cuts (I always go crooked with those wheelie cutters.)  I found them nice but a bit plain.  I forgot to sprinkle on sugar and cinnamon, but more importantly I forgot the bicarb soda.  The crackers were quite hard to bite into and I want to try with bicarb and see if it makes a difference.  Given it has taken me years to get to the recipe I am sharing my version and will update when I try again.

As soon as the Graham Crackers had cooled a decent amount - which means they were not that cool but were not burning our fingers when we picked them up - we put marshmallow on one biscuit and chocolate on another, put the marshmallow one under the grill (which is a broiler in America) until it was gooey and the chocolate under for a second.  Then we sandwiched them together and stuffed them in our mouths with marhsmallow and chocolate oozing everywhere.  We made enthusiastic sounds of bliss.  Those s'mores are amazing.  (Note our Graham Crackers were apparently much smaller than the traditional ones.)

However the Graham Crackers were so tough to bite into that I decided to have a go at making S'mores Bars.  Lots of recipes had shop-bought marshmallows arranged neatly on top or lots of marshmallow creme (more like ours) with lots of topping over it.  I wanted the marshmallow on top to be grilled until it was browned and crispy with soft gooey melty marshmellow underneath it.

Finally The Brown Eyed Baker's take on the bars (aka slice) appealed because she mixed condensed milk into the chocolate layer.  Then I didn't have enough Graham Crackers left so I mixed some coconut into the base.  And with the Holy Trinity of condensed milk, chocolate and coconut I was so happy with the slice.  You can see in the above photo that I could not wait for it to be cool enough for marshmallows to taste it.  I was paranoid that the marshmallows would go too mushy if on a slice straight out of the oven.

Unlike most s'mores bars I saw, I kept the bars and marshmallow separate until ready to eat and then we would put the marshmallow under the grill to crisp up.  I did have a few pieces of slice without marshmallow and I found it very sweet and best in small pieces.  It was awesome with the melted crispy marshmallow on top.  On the day I made it we had dinner at Zaatar after parent teacher interviews and then came home to a piece of this slice.  So so so so good!

I especially kept this recipe to post on American Independence Day.  S'mores seems such an American idea, as do Graham Crackers.  Both seem so foreign and intriguing to me.  I am glad I have sampled them and hope I will at least try the Graham Crackers again.  If you are celebrating Independence Day, I hope it is a fun celebration of the good in your big diverse nation.

I am sending this S'mores slice to We Should Cocoa and Baking Crumbs, two events that celebrate lots of great baking on blogs.

More American recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Chocolate chip cookies
Cobb salad (gf)
Corn chowder (gf, v) 
Mac 'n' cheese
Oreos (v)
Peanut butter brownies
Pretzels (v)
Rice krispie slice (v)

S'mores Slice (Bars)
Adapted from The Brown Eyed Baker

For the Graham Base:

2 cups chopped graham cracker crumbs, finely ground
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
175g butter, melted

Mix all ingredients together and press into a 20cm square lined baking tin.  Bake at 180 C for 10-12 minutes until just slightly browned around the edges.

For the Chocolate Layer:

350g dark chocolate, finely chopped
400g can sweetened condensed milk

Just before base is baked or as soon as it is out of the oven, melt together chocolate and condensed milk until smooth.  Pour over warm slice and cool.  This chocolate covered base keeps for a week, and can be a bit crumbly.

For the Marshmallow Layer:

Vegan marshmallow, as below (or your choice of marshmallows)

When you are ready to eat a piece, cut a square of the cooled base, spread with some marshmallow and grill until browned and crispy on top.  Eat while top is warm.

NOTES: I used mostly choc chips for my chocolate layer but it was very sweet so I think a darker chocolate would work.  The slice would be vegan if the Graham Crackers were vegan and you used vegan chocolate, vegan margarine and vegan coconut condensed milk - I might try and experiment on some crackers without honey but I believe that honey is part of the traditional flavour so I wanted to try this first.  A young child commented that my photo at the top of the slice looks burnt.  It sort of it but in a good way.  As I often charred marshmallows on the bonfire I was quite happy with a bit of char on my slice.

Graham Crackers
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes about 45 x 2-inch squares

1 1/2 cups plain white flour
1 cup wholemeal plain flour
1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
100 grams butter, chilled and chopped (I used nuttalex)
5 tablespoons milk (I used soy)
1/4 cup honey
1 heaped tablespoon molasses (I used treacle)
1 tablespoons vanilla extract

Topping (optional)
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Mix flours, sugar, bicarb and salt in a large bowl.  Rub in butter (or do this in a food processor).  Mix  milk, honey, molasses and vanilla in a small bowl.  Pour into dry ingredients and mix (either by spoon/hand or food processor) until you have a smooth dough.  You might need to knead it lightly on a floured surface.

Now you should put into the fridge for an hour or two but if you don't have time (like me) you can move onto rolling out straight away.

Preheat oven to 180 C.  Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper.  Mix topping ingredients.  Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to about 1/4 cm thick.  (I did it on a floured piece of baking paper).  Sprinkle with some of the topping.  Cut into squares.  Use a skewer or a fork to prick regular holes in the crackers.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until just a golden brown colour.

Vegan Marshmallow
From Vegan Dad

I will not reproduce this recipe but just note that I made it with commercial af from chickpeas that had been salted.  The marshmallows were still very sweet.  I beat the sugar syrup in for quite some time but not til it reached room temperature.  After a couple of days I scooped it out of the baking paper lined lamington tin to keep in the fridge.  Next time I might dust the tray with starch and icing sugar as recommended in the marshmallow recipe by Seitan is My Motor.

On the Stereo:
The Best of - REM (1991)