Thursday 30 August 2007

Cookie - cosmopolitan chic

This post is from a meal before my holidays in September and I had meant to post much earlier but holidays, work and lack of energy took over. But my friend, Heather, put up with me using the flash on my camera and I took notes so finally here it is!

Heather and I enjoyed a lovely dinner at Cookie. This is the sort of place that E is not so keen on - too crowded and noisy and too many luvvies at the bar for him. He tells me all the waiters look like drama students - and indeed, he has a point, as to watch them pour a beer is quite a performance. They clean the glasses before you by placing them over rotating roller brushes and then put them over a little water fountain to rinse them. I find it quite intriguing.

I have not really eaten there before - just been for a quick drink. But Heather and I decided it was worth a try. Despite E's protestations, I enjoyed the space. It takes up the first floor of Curtin House in the city. Curtin House is a fine early twentieth century building (built in 1922 and once the headquarters of the Communist party). Inside, some of the attractive period details are retained including wonderful arched leadlight windows (which I managed to take a photo of). The large room is partitioned so the spaces feel more intimate and large pillars breaks up the space.

After realizing it was reservation only in the dining section, we found a seat in the ‘back benches’ of the other section (I don’t remember what they called it). One large wall is covered with an oversized photo of a black and white crowd. Above us were lightbulbs that were painted black on the bottom to dim the lighting. Our table had a kitsch patterned runner with flowers and hens on it, and we had gingham serviettes.

The menu has some good vegetarian options and we chose a range of dishes to share. Our vegetarian pad thai was nicely presented with a garnish of bean sprouts, shredded chilli, boiled eggs and chopped peanuts. I love the dry spicy noodles and tofu. The Eggplant and Sweet Potato in coconut and lime was fragrantly spicy with the eggplant cooked to melting perfection. We ordered the steamed vegetables with tomato & chilli jam. I found the combination of cabbage, marrow and broccolini an odd one but still appreciated some bland veggies to go with the other dishes. I didn’t try the chilli jam as I had enough spice in the meal but Heather seemed to enjoy it. And finally we had some plain boiled rice which was welcome with the spicy foods.

A filling and delicious meal in a bustling but interesting ambience, so I will be thinking of ways to persuade E that it is worth a visit.

Level 1, Curtin House,
252 Swanston St, Melbourne,tel: (03) 9663 7660

PS – I know it has been some time since I posted on this blog – but as I have done very little cooking lately (and nothing exciting), it has slowed down considerably. Thanks for the comments and I will try and write up something from my holiday soon! And hopefully I'll have a little more to write after that. (posted 6 Oct 07)

Tuesday 28 August 2007

WTSIM ... Beggars Burgers

I found myself home on Sunday night after a few nights out, having brought home a bag of vegetables from my sister's place. Francesca's partner, Steve, has started working at a market job which means he brings home boxes of vegetables. Which is excellent motivation for getting different vegetables into my diet.

Courtesy of Steve, I brought home a bounty of cauliflower, parsnip, silverbeet, baby leeks, basil, sage. Now I confess to a particular aversion to silverbeet when I was young. My mum grew it in the garden and it seemed to be the sort of thing she would serve with cabbage and corned beef - one of my worst meals of childhood (sorry mum)! So although I wouldn't buy it, I was interested to consider how to use it. It has lovely green leaves after all, so it can't be all bad. For those who don't hail from these parts, I think it is called Swiss Chard elsewhere.

Various possibilities for the vegetables came to me: pasta sauce, a rice dish or even roast veggies. But I ended up taking the easy way out and making vegetable burgers with them. I have been tongue in cheek and called them Beggars Burgers because, as we all know, beggars can't be choosers, and I feel I didn't choose these vegetables. But I actually was quite pleased to have risen to the challenge of using what I had on hand.

The burgers were an exellent way of using silverbeet - it gave the pale burgers some lovely green flecks and didn't taste too overwhelming. But I have a small confession - I didn't use the stalks. I put in a tin of creamed corn which I thought would go well with the vegetables and help to bind them. I probably would have used more breadcrumbs if I hadn't had a breadcrumb shortage - which is also why I coated them in flour instead of breadcrumbs. I also fried them in some chilli oil which made them particularly spicy. E loved them.

Now I was excited to see that the 'Waiter there's something in my ...' event had chosen the Meatless BBQ this month and I had hoped to participate as I love a BBQ as much as the next meat eater if there is a decent vegetarian offering. But last night the internet was playing up on me so I am hoping that Jeanne of Cooksister will show some mercy and take a late submission. I also wanted to reply to her request that if there are sad people like myself who do not have a BBQ, then we could either cook it on a griddle pan or wrap it in foil! (PS - she accepted it - see this recipe and lots other great ones at the round up)

I must protest that vegetarians at BBQs are even sadder than she thinks. I have been at BBQs where everyone is outside enjoying the sun and the smell of charcoal while I am inside cooking my vegetarian sausages on a frypan or under the grill! Yes, BBQs can be the bane of a vegetarian's life. As the years have progressed, I (and my family whose BBQs I grace most frequently) have sorted it out a little. Now mostly my vegetarian offerings go on foil on a BBQ so they don't taste of meat. But here is where Jeanne made me think about griddle pans. When you barbecue meat, it is a little scary to see the amount of fat that it releases. Barbecuing vegetarian burgers or sausages seems the opposite - they dry up so easily that often they need to be doused with oil. Hence, the need for meatlovers to use griddle pans to drain away the fat, but for vegetarians they are really just a bit of window dressing if you want some nice charred lines on your food. And this is my convoluted excuse that I am sending to Jeanne for not owning or using a griddle pan.

Having said all that, I would happily put these burgers onto the BBQ but only after they have been pan fried first to seal them - they were so moist, I would worry about putting them straight on a BBQ and finding that half of them were stuck to the grill. This again is based on experiences I have had at BBQs. Vegetarians can have BBQs but like most meals, need to think differently to carnivores if they want them to work. Having said that, our current warm weather (up to 22c this week) as we near the end of winter makes me look forward to summer and enjoying some BBQ meals outside.

Beggars Burgers
Makes about 18 small burgers

½ cauliflower, trimmed of the stalk
300g silverbeet
1 parsnip, peeled
2 baby leeks, trimmed
Handful basil leaves, finely chopped
440g tin of creamed corn (or tin of corn)
2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup oatmeal
½ cup almond meal
Black pepper, ground
Plain flour for dusting
Oil for frying (I used chilli oil)

Chop cauliflower and parsnip and place in a medium saucepan with about 2 inches of water. Bring to boil and simmer for about 12 minutes til a knife goes easily into them. Add finely chopped baby leeks, and finely chopped green leaves of silverbeet, and simmer a further 2-3 minutes til wilted. Drain and mash well.

Add remaining ingredients except flour and oil. Mix well. Place a pile of flour in a shallow bowl. Take handfuls and use your hands to shape into small burgers (and be prepared to have messy hands by the time you have finished). Toss each burger in the flour to coat. Ideally, place in the fridge for at least an hour to firm up. As my life is never ideal, I placed some of them directly onto the frypan and left the remainder uncooked but covered in the fridge til the next evening.

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick frypan. Fry patties for about 20-25 minutes over medium-to-high heat, turning over during this period to ensure they are well cooked either side. If you want to put them on the BBQ or in the freezer (or reheat later in the oven) then just cook lightly each side.

On the Stereo:
Europe '72: The Grateful Dead

Index by ingredient

This index is intended to highlight some interesting dishes under each ingredient. I hope it will help both me and my readers when needing inspiration for a particular ingredient. However, it is not a comprehensive list, and will only be updated occasionally. For all recipes see my complete blog index.

I tend to use a lot of ingredients in many dishes so I have tried to include recipes where the ingredient is featured and loved. It is for those days when we are tempted by sale items or graced with gift from someone's vegetable garden or we feel we need to challenge ourselves to try an underused ingredient more. Hence these are some favourites, some standards and some quirky recipes. I have also noted posts about ingredients. These 'about' posts focus on history and culture rather than benefits and how to store them.

I have colour coded the categories:

Please note that this list is a work in progress as I will continue to add recipes and ingredient categories when I have time.


Bean sprouts
Brussels Sprouts
Capsicum (Peppers)
Eggplant (Aubergine)
Lettuce (iceberg)
Onion (brown or red)
Rocket (Arugula)
Silverbeet (Chard)
Spring Onion
Sweet Potato
Turnip (Scottish - aka Swede, Rutabaga)
Zucchini (Courgette)


Cranberries (fresh)
Kiwi Fruit


Almond butter
Applesauce (100% apples)
Barley (pearl)
Buckwheat flour
Buckwheat groats
Bulgar Wheat
Coconut (dessicated or shredded)
Coconut (milk)
Condensed Milk
Creamed Corn (tinned)
Dried fruit
Golden Syrup
Maple Syrup
Millet flour
Molasses - also see Treacle
Nutritional Yeast
Peanut Butter
Prunes - see Dried Fruit

Rice noodles - flat
Treacle - also see Molasses
Umeboshi vinegar
Vermicelli Noodles
White chocolate

Basil (fresh)
Chives (fresh)
Coriander (dried)
Ginger (ground)
Ginger (fresh)
Ginger (crystallised)
Mint (fresh)
Oregano (dried)
Oregano (fresh)
Parsley (fresh)
Rosemary (fresh)
Sage (fresh)
Smoked Paprika
Star Anise


Cheese, grated
Cottage Cheese
Cream Cheese
Dill Pickles

Goats Cheese

Gruyere Cheese

Haloumi (or halloumi)




Parmesan Cheese (and hard cheeses)

Preserved lemon
Ricotta Cheese
Smoked Tofu

Sour Cream

Sun Dried Tomatoes
Vegetarian Sausages
Wonton Wrappers
Last updated March 2010