Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Street Art in Melbourne: Hosier Lane 2021

 Life is busy.  We are out of the snap 5 day lockdown from last week.  It is amazing but it seems weeks ago.  So these photos from Hosier Lane on the weekend before lockdown seem to have been with me a long time but in terms of my slowness to blog, actually they are pretty recent.  The street art seemed to encompass so many current issues: Trump, Australia Day controversy, renewable energy, lockdown, diversity, FaceBook bullying, ScoMo at play and more!

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Fruit mince sourdough bread rolls, Tennis, and Lockdown 3.0

What a week it has been.  It started with transferring all my data to my new laptop computer,  and ended with a shared cheese and biscuits lunch at work while we listened to a press conference about going into a snap 5 day hard lockdown and at home my mechanic checked my new car that I had picked up on Thursday.  My mechanic loved the car.  The computer is great.  Lockdown is not too bad for 5 days but brings some degree of anxiety about rising cases and the UK strain of covid19.  Today we heard that one of the infected people had visited out local area.  And today I indulged in the classic lockdown activity of sourdough baking.

I remember Adam Hills on the Last Leg saying that 1st lockdown was a novelty where you try and get everything right, in 2nd lockdown you feel like you know how to deal with it but in 3rd lockdown you just don't care any more.  In Australia where we have managed to keep covid numbers to zero for weeks - or even months - on end in each state, the short sharp lockdown to manage a small outbreak seems to be effective.  So I hope in Victoria this third lockdown will be indeed just 5 days and can be considered a blip rather than the slog we endured last year.  All going well, it will be bookended by my niece's high school graduation on Thursday and my brother's visit from interstate next weekend.

Victoria eliminated Covid in November, had an outbreak in December, dealt with diagnoses in quarantine among Australian Open tennis players and entourage, and we now have 20 active cases in Melbourne.  These numbers might seem small to people living overseas with much higher numbers but as we all know, from little things, big things grow!  Despite all of this, the Australian Open started this week and I have watched bits of a few matches.  It went from the distraction of a woman in the crowd heckling Raphael Nadal on Thursday to an odd moment mid way through the Djokovic-Fritz match when at 11.30pm the crowd was told to go home so they were not out when the lockdown started at 11.50pm.

I put on the bread last night while watching the tennis and let it rise overnight.  I was a little worried after baking some terrible bread recently but this one was just lovely.  It rose well and was light and fluffy inside.  I used leftover fruit mince from Christmas baking.  My mum gave me some fruit bread a while back and I found the last piece in the freezer last week, which renewed my desire to try making fruit buns.  I often make enough dough to make 2 loaves or a loaf and 8 rolls.  Today I decided to make just rolls to put in the freezer so I can eat them gradually while spending more time at home.

As usual I made my regular overnight sourdough bread dough and added in some extras.  The dough was quite sticky but when I cut it up and shaped it into rolls, it was pretty easy to handle.  It was one of those lazy weekends where we had nowhere to go and took it easy.  I didn't start shaping the rolls until 12 noon.

The rolls were larger than I usually make so next time I might cut them slightly smaller.  Writing up the recipe I found I had forgotten that I usually slash my bread rolls though it did not make much difference.  But they tasted delicious.  These are barely sweet and taken most of their sweetness from the dried fruit.  Because the dried fruit in in the mince, it is actually really soft.  And as fruit mince keeps well, you can save it to make months after you have recovered from Christmas baking.

The rolls are delicious warm from the oven.  Too tempting not to try one or two.  I also had one with my dinner and then put the rest in the freezer for later.  Meanwhile I have been watching the quiet tennis with no audience applause and reactions.  It is odd to see.  However there is still the twack of the ball on raquet and the squeak of sneakers on the court.  Not to mention the players grunting.  Even before lockdown the crowd was more spaced out than usual, mask wearing is not uncommon and there are no lines people calling the ball out.  Just holding the Australian Open has been a massive operation to beat Covid but it is not like other years.

Likewise life is still not normal, despite the diagnoses being so low here.  There is constant politics about how to manage hotel quarantine for international arrivals, of Australian citizens struggling to get home due to lack of flights, and ventilation.  At work we have to remember to check in and out on QR codes, hand sanitiser stations are all over the building and trying to organise a face to face meeting with external visitors is challenging, even before the latest run of community transmission.   Going to cafes and shops we are greeted by QR codes and sanitiser.  Masks are still being worn in shops and public transport even before the restrictions tightened recently.  No wonder lockdown is not quite so odd.  

Despite this, saying goodbye to colleagues at work on Friday was odd as we felt like we couldn't really be confident we would see each other on Thursday when the 5 days of lockdown should be up, all going well.  One of my colleagues took a project home just in case the lockdown lasted weeks.  We've had an infected person visit out local area.  I have changed medical appointments, am yet to postpone a tradie and am sad we wont get to go swimming this weekend.  But we can still shop and we can exercise (walk or ride) for up to 2 hours a day.  It is not so bad but it would be nice to return to a real normal.

More fruity bread baking on Green Gourmet Giraffe:


Fruit mince sourdough bread rolls
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe
Makes 16-20 rolls

300g of bubbly starter
570g water
18g salt
400g fruit mince
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1 tbp golden syrup
2 tbsp treacle
3 tbsp olive oil
1 kg flour
fine semolina (or flour or fine polenta) to dust

[A few hours before making the loaf, take sourdough starter out of the fridge and feed it so it gets nice and bubbly.]

About an hour before going to bed (or first thing in the morning) mix everything together.  It is easiest to mix everything except flour first and then add flour.  Use hands to mix if required.  Set aside covered with a tea towel for half an hour.  Knead in the bowl for about 15 seconds.  Cover with greased clingwrap or a bowl cover and leave at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.

Sprinkle semolina or flour generously onto table or board.  Scrape dough out onto this surface.  Cut into 16 or 20 pieces.   I use a plastic cutter but a large sharp knife will do - and might need some flouring.  The dough will probably need some flour to make it easier to handle it.

Gently roll each piece into a ball.  Do this by putting the corners as tightly as possible around the bun (without squishing the bun) so the floured/semolinaed bottom of the bun is like a little blanket around the bun.  Turn it over so the floured bottom is a smooth top.  Toss in flour/semolina to stop it being sticky but treat it as though it is very fragile just using finger tips.  Then use your hands to shape as much as possible but don't worry too much if the bottom looks like a scrunched blanket.

Grease or line the bottom of a casserole dish with a lid (mine is enamel).  Sprinkle with some semolina or polenta.  Place rolls here as you shape them.  They can be either close together or have space between - if they are close together they can lose their round shape.  Let them rise in the casserole for 30 minutes with the lid on.  While the rolls rise, preheat oven to 240 C. 

Bake for 20 minutes with lid (or foil cover) on.  Remove lid and bake another 10-20 minutes.  Bread is ready if it sounds hollow when tapped.

Cool on a wire rack or eat warm.  Can be frozen on the day of baking and then microwaved on 30 seconds at 50% power in the morning and used to make rolls for lunch.

On the Stereo:
Duckworth Lewis Method - self titled

Saturday, 6 February 2021

In My Kitchen: February 2021

February is the month when life gets back to normal after the summer holidays.  This year it is not quite as normal as we would normally expect.  Tennis players have been quarantining in hotels so they can compete in the Australian Open.  Sylvia has started high school and a recent outbreak in Melbourne means she is wearing a mask during her school day.  I have started spending 3 days a week in the office and the other day and a half working from home.  Masks are back at work too.  It is odd to be back in the office for the first time since March.  But I am pleased to have a job, especially as I have just bought a new car and new computer.  Both are still being sorted.  Which is how life goes at the moment but there is hope!

It was lovely to have a break over summer to slow down, spend time swimming laps, head outside out on my bike, watch movies in the cinema, buy school supplies for Sylvia, lie in bed in the morning reading books, and starting to get back into socialising.  Catching up with friends still feels a bit slow after the crazy last year.  Above is an afternoon tea platter I shared with a friend from work.  I wanted to share some of my Christmas goodies with her: Christmas cake, panforte, mince pies, nougat, cherries, strawberries and apricots.

I picked up these apricots when catching up with a some friends who have kids at school with Sylvia

Sylvia and I met up with a friend and her daughter from the other side of town at the Botanic Gardens.  It was lovely to wander through the shady grounds of the gardens.  We spent too much time in the gift shop and could not resist this gum leaf plate and the pink grapefruit, lemon myrtle and eucalyptus soap.

I baked bread a couple of weekends ago and made some of the worst soudough bread I have ever made.  It was oddly textured with quite a sour taste.  It was not my finest moment in bread baking.  I was not thinking when I decided to add some gluten free flour and I left it 24 hours not 12 hours as it did not seem to be rising.  Not to mention that the starter has been a little neglected.

Kombucha seems to become more and more popular if the amount of bottles in the shops is anything to go by.  And now they are selling kombucha icy poles!  I was amazed at these!  And I had to try them!  The ingredients include kombucha, apple juice and fruit juice.  They are so refreshing on a hot day!

And as if I hadn't had my fill of kombucha, one of my colleagues brought me in these Kombucha flavoured jellies.  The verdict at work was that they didn't taste much of kombucha.  They were less sweet that the usual jubes.

Sylvia requested mac and cheese cupcakes for her first school lunch of the year.  I made a mac and cheese and baked it in muffin cups.  They were delicious  hot or cold.

We have a new local IGA supermarket.  The salad bar was very tempting.  (Is that an odd thing to say?)  I tried the avocado grain salad, the tumeric couscous salad, and the beetroot, carrot and feta salad for lunch.  It was delicious but the medium cup had a lot in it.

My brother in law has lots of fruitful stone fruit trees.  When he gave my mum a load of plums she made plum and raspberry jam and stewed some of this plums and brought me some fresh plums as well.  Photographed here with the lilies from the top photo when they were opened!

My bread baking might not be crash hot lately but the pizzas are always great.  This pizza was delicious served with a vegie-laden rice salad that lasted for days.

This dried pineapple and bananas from IGA comes in big slabs that did not impress Sylvia.  We had hoped they were freeze-dried but they weren't.  I am not sure how I will use them but I think perhaps in a salad might work.

The IGA sells the cutest mini tomatoes called Tomberries.

The Tomberries were great on a pizza with mozzarella, pesto and mushrooms.

Lastly I tried a Warm biryani salad from the Woolworths Fresh Magazine of December 2020.  It was a matter of caramelising some onions, cooking some spiced rice - and I added a tin of brown lentils.  Then I added in the caramelised onions, some cucumber, parsley and cashews.  It was really nice but needed a curry with it or some more vegies.  I took it into work with peaches and red capsicum.  And enjoyed it for dinner at the end of the day too.  The last day I had it with pesto, baby spinach and tomatoes.  You see, it wasn't really spiced enough, partly because there was no fresh ginger in the supermarket and the bottle I bought instead was actually garlic not ginger when I got home.  Oops!  But you can't go wong with rice and cashews and caramelised onions!

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event, that was started by Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial,  If you would like to join in, send your post to Sherry by 13th of the month.  Or just head over to her blog to check out her cute hand drawn banner and visit more kitchens.

Saturday, 30 January 2021

Vegan pad thai with besan omelette (and random links)

One of my recent memorable meals I had at a restaurant was after my work Christmas party when I ate Pad Thai.  It had been so long since I had this comforting slurpy noodle dish that I was inspired to try it at home.  I attempted Pad Thai many years ago but generally prefer it in a restaurant.  It seemed a long time since I had the opportunity to eat out, especially with lockdown last year.  I had bought vegan fish sauce and this seemed a great time to try it.


Here is the Cocomino vegan fysh sauce I bought.  I bought it out of curiosity but then I could not think where I had seen it in recipes.  I seemed to see it regularly until I bought it.  In fact, I wondered why I had it until I had a yen for Pad Thai.  I have never tasted fish sauce before (although I am sure some restaurant has snuck it into a meal at some time) because it was not popular until after I went vegetarian. 

When I recently had Pad Thai at the restaurant in December, I was pleased that I was asked if I wanted egg.  This showed that they were serious about serving vegetarian and vegan pad thai.  I had tofu instead of egg.  I tried it at home in late December with tofu.  But then I wanted to try it again and I forgot about buying tofu. 

I did a search for an egg substitute and found a besan (chickpea flour) omelette used in fried rice.  I often make a tofu-besan omelette but this was more like a chickpea scramble made with besan.  As I usually have besan in the fridge, I liked the idea of having the idea for when I didn't have tofu. 

I roughly followed a recipe from Pinch of Yum.  But they directed to cook the vegies and set aside.  I love meals that are made in one pan so I just moved the vegies to the edge because I used a large frypan.  When I added the besan mixture I was a bit worried it was too liquid but gradually it started to thicken into lumps.  I didn't quite have all the vegies I would have wished for.  Hence I used corn rather than snowpeas which I would prefer.  The end result once I stirred through the omelette was quite a sticky gluggy mess but so glorious and delicious.


Now despite my good intentions and having taken a few weeks leave, this is likely to be my last post for January.  I had planned to write more posts but am waiting on a new computer and have been finding more time (and satisfaction) in reading novels and playing suduko.  However I wanted to share some links I had found while surfing online, some of which are end of 2020 links and really need to be shared in January before it is February and we have to face it that the year has well and truly begun:

World Wide Waste by Gerry McGovern - an overview of his new book about how much energy is consumed by digital technology and how to rethink the relationship between websites and the environment.

Watch Andrew Rannells and Jimmy Fallon recap a dumpster fire year in 2020: the Musical.  If you are missing going out to see musicals, this is fun spotting the musical references and a hilarious way to recap 2020 in 8 minutes!

We go together - Boris Johnson and Donald Trump - this is not a new video but I only saw it recently and had a good laugh because I watched Grease a lot as a kid!  But prepare also to be disturbed!

My life is on hold, frozen at the moment my son died in the Beirut blast - Sarah Copland in The Guardian.  Amazingly thoughtful, articulate insight into grief on a the sudden death of a child.

Mark Reason: Novak Djokovic is not the only one a few strings short of the complete racket - stuff.co.nz - the tennis players arriving for the Australian Open who are not happy about quarantine need a reality check

Margaret and David review '2020' - beloved SBS/ABC film reviewers talk about last year as a film review.

Horned Capitol rioter goes viral again after mom says he wont eat non-organic jail food (kutv) - the social media tweets about this are worth the read!

The truth about January 26 by Henry Reynolds in The Age newspaper - a great insight into the injustices of the settlement of Sydney that still haunt and hurt Indigenous people today in Australia.

More vegan egg recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Chickpea hummus scramble (gf, v)
Fried rice with tofu scramble (gf, v)
Spinach, sundried tomato and chive chickpea scramble (gf, v)
Tofu scramble (gf, v)
Vegan quiche with tofu and besan (v)

Vegan pad thai with besan omelette
Adapted from Pinch of Yum and Vegan Egg Fried Rice
Serves 4

3 tbsp vegan fish sauce
3 tbsp lime juice (about 1 1/2 limes)
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp tamari
1/2 tsp chilli paste, or to taste

Besan omelette:
6 tbsp besan (chickpea flour)
3 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1 tsp stock powder
1 tsp garlic powder
good pinch turmeric
good pinch black salt
1 cup water

Pad Thai:
200g Pad Thai flat rice noodles
2 tbsp vegetable oil (or peanut oil)
1 brown onion (or spring onions), sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 red capsicum, chopped
handful of snowpeas, sliced (I used cooked corn)
handful of spinach, sliced
1/2 cup chopped roasted cashews (or peanuts)

Soak the Pad Thai noodles in cold water while you work on the rest of the meal.

Stir together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

Mix up the besan omelette ingredients and set aside - it will seem very watery!

Heat oil in a wok or large saucepan over medium high.  Fry sliced brown onion and red capsicum for about 3-5 minutes until soft.  Push to the side of the wok or frypan.  Drain noodles and add to wok/frypan with the sauce.  Cook a few minutes or until the sauce thickens to coat noodles.  Push noodles to the side of the wok/frypan and pour in the besan omelette mixture.  Cook until the besan omelette starts to get lumps of besan mixture.  Mix in the noodles, onions and red capsicum.  Add and mix in the snowpeas, spinach and cashews.  Serve hot.  Can be kept in the fridge a few days.

NOTES: I make no claims to this pad thai being traditional.  Variations on the vegetables could include zucchini, corn, Asian greens such as bok choy, bean sprouts, grated carrot, cabbage.  I like the suggestion on Pinch of Yum that you sprialise the carrot and zucchini.  The besan omelette could be replaced with tofu or tempeh but you would not get the same coating on the noodles.  If you don't have vegan fish sauce you could try something like ponzu sauce or ume plum vinegar to get the salty sour flavour.  This dish would be even quicker if spring onions are used because they can be added with the spinach.  I use cashews instead of peanuts because we don't have roast peanuts in the house due to a peanut allergy.

On the Stereo:
Life's a Riot spy vs spy: Billy Bragg

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Gippsland Getaway: Yarram, Tarra Bulga National Park and Wilson's Prom

A couple of weeks back, I went on holidays to Gippsland.  We stayed in a cosy cottage that had once been a Old Dairy on a farm near Yarram.  We walked in the Tarra Bulga National Park among towering mountain ash trees and lacy tree ferns.  We drove to Wilson's Prom to swim in the beach with a friend.  We looked a Yarram street art.  We relaxed in the cottage watching dvds and reading books.  And we ate well.  So here is a story of what I did on my holiday!

But before I start to tell you about Gippsland (a few hours drive East of Melbourne) I can tell you that my holiday is costing me a new car.  It was bound to happen sooner or later with my old car but I didn't think it would end sitting on a bridge at the edge of a freeway in 37 C heat, eating crisp sandwiches, listening to Ariana Grande and watching cars speed up behind me before they saw my emergency lights on and swerving around me at the last moment!  So to get to our holiday we had to be shunted off the bridge by a VicRoads van, have our car towed home while we went in a taxi and then waiting for my mum driving up from Geelong so we can start all over again in her car while she took the train home!  Yes my mum was a hero, my car is kaput and we didn't get to our accommodation until 8pm!

The Old Dairy had a great cosy kitchen with cake, butter and jam on the bench, eggs by the stove and sourdough bread in the bread bin.  I loved doing the dishes and looking out the window towards the cow pasture.

The owner was very friendly and helpful.  She met us when we arrived (quite late) and showed us around The Old Dairy.  It was nice to talk to her about the history of the building as an actual dairy.  She also gave us interesting advice, such as shut the vent on the airconditioner when turned off so the microbats didn't come in and get caught in our hair, and to shut the front door properly because koalas had been known to push it open and come in.

The cottage was decorated with lots of little fun ornaments, mostly cows.  It had wonderful views and cows that ran from me when I approached them (they were on the other side of an electric fence).

The large lounge room had large windows to sit and admire the view of the rolling paddocks.  We watched some DVDs but there was no TV reception, no wifi and limited internet reception on my phone.  A great place to catch up on some reading. 

My favourite cow ornaments was this set of posh lady cows wearing flowers in their hats and pearls around their neck.

When we weren't admiring cows in the next paddock to the Old Dairy, there were plenty to see on the roadside.

Occasionally there were rustic rundown farm houses near the cows.


I did not have Yarram as my first choice.  I had originally planned to go to my favourite Port Fairy holiday house but it is no longer taking guests.  So I turned to AirBnB and when I saw the cottage just outside Yarram, it seemed perfect.  I have a friend who lives nearby and I had read about the Heesco street art in the town.

One our first day, we had lunch in town and then walked around town with the map we found in the bakery.  Here is a taster of some of the wonderful rural art on display!

It might seem odd to find a refugee mural in a rural town.  But there is a history of refugees making important contributions in country towns where populations are dwindling.  This mural was commissioned by the owner of the Yarram Bakery who came to Australia by boat as a refugee and wanted this to be a tribute to refugees and those who gave him a chance.

More cows and country folk on the wall of the Federal Coffee Palace.  I had expected to see lots of street art when walking down the main street (Commercial St) but the map was helpful because many are around the corner or at the back of buildings.

While I would not travel to Yarram for the food, it does have some good food on offer.  On our first day we went to the Yarram Bakery because I love an old fashioned country bakery.  I had a spinach and cheese pastry with some salad and a coffee scroll.  Sylvia had a Turkish bread roll and a jelly slice.  The cheery meringue was taken back to the cottage for later.

The most impressive place to eat was the Federal Coffee Palace.  It was the nearest to an inner city cafe.  I ordered the Falafel salad of falafels, rocket, pickled beetroot, roast pumpkin, chickpeas, peanuts, onion, crumbled feta, and home made sundried tomato vinaigrette.  It was certainly a new way to eat falafel and I really enjoyed it, though it was quiet filling.  I also supplemented my meal with a few of Sylvia's chips.

Sylvia was excited about the chance to taste a rolled ice cream.  I had never heard of them but apparently they are a thing on tiktok and youtube.  They were on offer at The Old Standard Lolly Shop.  Sylvia chose the oreo flavour.  Cream and oreos were mixed on a chilled metal square until it became a thin frozen slab and could be served by rolling up the thin ice cream.  Then it was topped with squirty cream, topping and an oreo.  Sylvia loved it but found it really filling.  For the vegans, I was interested to see a few adverts in cafes for vegan ice creams.

Most of our meals were at the cottage.  Toast and baked beans was my favourite breakfast.  Sylvia would eat cereal and toast with vegemite or fried egg.  We ate pasta with pasta sauce and cheese one night.  After a few nights I needed more vegies and stopped at the supermarket for some salads and dip.  This was my rather satisfying meal: coleslaw, quinoa tabouli, hummus, roast pumpkin cashew dip, cheese cubes and brown rice chips.  I was glad of the apricots and cherries I had packed, which were great to snack on as well as pretzels, raspberry liquorice, chocolate covered freeze dried strawberries and the owner's lovely orange cake.

We went to the nearby Tarra Bulga National Park and walked to the suspension bridge from the visitors centre.  The drive there was on a very narrow windy road.  The sort that would have made me very car sick as a kid!  It was a really lovely walk with lots of shade. 

I was delighted that our path led us past many tree ferns and mountain ash trees.  I am fond of tree ferns as they were often on the bush walks we did near Lorne as a kid.  The mountain ash are such tall majestic trees and one of my lecturers at university wrote a book about the history of them.

 We had some time to just lounge about the cottage.  One afternoon was spent watching dvds.  We had our first taste of the Ice Age movies and I watched Contagion which was fascinating after a year of Covid19.  It did have many echoes of our experiences but I laughed at the supermarkets where cashiers had gone in the anarchy.  It seems the film makers had underestimated the supermarket chains' profiting from the pandemic.  I also read quite a bit, which was lovely after I didn't do much reading last year.

We spent a day driving down to Wilson's Prom - closer than Melbourne but still close to 2 hours drive - to visit my friend who usually lives near Yarram but was holidaying at the beach.  It was a nice chance to go to the beach at the National Park and to catch up with Alison and family.  I had a really good vegetarian burger at the local store in Tidal River.

 I was happy to see some wildlife while we were in the country.  As I have mentioned, there were lots of foxes.  Each morning we would see cockatoos or galahs flying by out the window.  We saw kookaburras and a cute little echidna on roadsides (as well as too much roadkill).  The owner of the cottage kindly invited us to see her cats and chooks.  We even saw a fox sleeping in a tree!

It poured rain for a lot of the day that we drove home.  We stopped to look at Port Welshpool jetty but it was too wet to get out.  Lunch was at Latte Dah cafe at Toora.  I was so cold with all the rain that I really needed a warm meal.  I had eggplant bake, creamy potato bake and a side salad.  It was just what I needed.  Sylvia had chips!  I noticed that the menu board included macchiata and piccolo and the options of soy milk and oat milk so I guess that this was where the treechangers from the city go for coffees.

It was a lovely relaxing holiday with quite a bit of driving and some nice food and spectacular scenery.  It was good to get our of our comfort zone and go to a part of Victoria that we don't know so well, and to support the local tourism industry that had a tough last year with bushfires and covid19 (and avoid all the state border restrictions that made interstate travel risky).  As there is no plans to open our international borders any time soon, local holidays might be on the cards for a while yet!