Wednesday 29 September 2010

Orange and Almond Cake

I have had great success with silicone baking pans but my faith in them received a serious blow on the weekend. While I strive to make my food look as good as possible on this blog, I hadn’t realised just how badly silicone had could let me down. The orange and almond cake tasted wonderful despite looking like a dog’s breakfast.

Initially I thought that I might wait till I bake it again before posting this recipe but it could be some time. So I present you a less than ideal picture of the cake. After all regular readers know I am not perfect. I have showed you my cake with uncooked centre and my tart baked with the plastic wrapping.

I made it on a day when things did not go right. The footy grand final was a draw, I broke one of my favourite green glasses, and finally, when Sylvia refused her baked beans, I decided to recycle them as cheesy beans tortillas but found that the best by date of the tortillas was February 2010. Surely I hadn’t bought the tortillas that long ago! I managed to recycle them as tortilla chips with chilli non carne thanks to inspiration from Lisa.

I am happy to report that even if it looks a mess, the cake tastes great. It also means that you don’t care if your toddler digs her hand into said cake. I had hoped that Sylvia would eat it because there are worse ways of bumping up your protein intake. She had a few tastes, which is as much as I can expect of her at the moment.

This recipe is not new. Both Nigella and Claudia Roden have made their versions famous. I chose Cakelaw’s version because I had never seen the method made easy by the microwave. I love shortcuts in the microwave (polenta, melted chocolate, dulce de leche). Instead of boiling the oranges for 2 hours, the recipe only requires 6 minutes of microwaving! It also is different to Nigella or Claudia’s version because it has no additional raising agent.

The cake is also notable for being gluten free and dairy free, having no butter or oil and far more eggs than I usually use. It is very moist and satisfying. I enjoyed it, despite having aversions to eggs and citrus. Oranges are my favourite citrus fruit but I think this works without other citrus fruit. Nigella uses clementines.

I enjoyed the dark crust of the cake. My food processor isn’t overly powerful and there were a few pleasingly chewy chunks of peel throughout the cake. I used blood oranges and was a little disappointed that the colour wasn’t more prominent. But not as disappointed as I was with the presentation. I hope one day I can do it more justice.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Roasted Beetroot Tofu Burgers
This time two years ago: Fridge Door Confessions

Orange and Almond Cake
From Cakelaw

  • 2 medium oranges
  • 200g almond meal
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 eggs

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Grease and line a 9 inch or 23 cm round cake tin. Do not use silicone unless you line it with baking paper.

Place the orange in a small bowl and pierce with a fork. Microwave each orange separately on high for 3 minutes. (I found it released a lot of juice, hence the necessity of the bowl.) Cut open and remove any pips. I used a knife and fork to roughly chop my orange because my food processor doesn't do a great job. Place oranges in food processor and blitz until smooth.

Beat eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl with electric beaters until thick and creamy. I beat mine for 3 minutes. I assumed the eggs needed a lot of air in them because the cake relies on them for raising. Gently stir in the almonds and pureed oranges.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, and bake for 1 hour or until cooked through when tested with a skewer. Turn out onto a wire rack to cook. Cakelaw iced hers with an orange juice icing but I just ate it without icing. Keeps at least 5 days in an airtight container.

On the stereo:
Songs from the South: Greatest Hits: Paul Kelly

Sunday 26 September 2010

Rice Noodles with Orange

I have had a few bad experiences with rice noodles recently. I have tried using them in soup and they have been a soggy mush that falls apart within cooee of any fork. Sunday nights E makes scrambled eggs, Sylvia has her usual plain vegies and I make my own dinner. Tonight I decided to try rice noodles in a stirfry again and it was far more successful.

I made the stirfry while E sat with Sylvia in the highchair. She is restless at meal time these days. She loves to transfer her meal from bowl to bowl and throw it on the floor. If we persist some of it ends up in her mouth. Songs help to keep her from wanting to propel herself out of the highchair after her food. Her favourite song today was Miss Polly had a Dolly. She lets me know she wants me to sing it by cradling an imaginary dolly in her arms. Makes a change from Wheels on the Bus and Row Row Row Your Boat. But it makes it harder to follow a recipe or remember a recipe.

I can’t cook rice noodles in soup to save myself but they seem to work well for me in a stirfry so I thought it was worth recording what I did. I had a blood orange that I had cut in half and then didn't need while baking cake yesterday. So instead of just repeating my Fried Ginger Rice Noodles, I found an orange sauce for the stirfy. It was intended for soba noodles. Maybe one day I will be able to try it with soba noodles (which are every bit as much a challenge for me as rice noodles).

The rice noodles absorb flavours and dry out in that sticky slurpy way that I love. I could do with more vegies, especially the broccoli that has sauce clinging to the florets. It makes an excellent meal for a lazy Sunday that has been spent singing songs, reading stories and pushing Sylvia on the swings beside the railway line until she is distracted by a passing train.

I am sending this lasagne to Ruth of Once Upon a Feast who is hosting tthis week's, Presto Pasta Night (#183). I highly recommend you head over to check out all the pasta for some noodly inspiration!

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Champion Crackers and Footy Food
This time two years ago: Pudla – for when your team lets you down!

Orange-flavoured Rice Noodles
Adapted from my Fried Ginger Rice Noodles and Martha Stewart’s Orange Dipping Sauce
serves 2

  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tsp dark-roasted sesame oil
  • ½ onion, sliced into half moons
  • 1-2 carrots, cut into fine matchsticks
  • ½ packet dried flat rice noodles (180g)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ginger, finely grated
  • ½ green capsicum, slice in matchsticks
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • Sylvia’ s leftover veg and chickpeas*
  • 2-3 button mushrooms, sliced
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • ¼ tsp chilli paste
  • handful of spinach, shredded
  • 2 tbsp roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

*If you don’t have a fussy toddler to leave you leftover veg I would use a mixture of tofu and lightly steamed broccoli and peas. The tofu could be marinated in the orange juice,, mirin, tamari, rice vinegar and chilli.

Best to mix together orange juice, mirin, tamari, rice vinegar and chilli paste at the start but I didn’t. If I had tofu I would to give it a little time to marinate in these flavours.

Heat a frying pan or wok on a medium heat and add the oils. Fry the onion, carrot and garlic for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are almost soft. (Or if you are singing Miss Polly Had a Dolly over and over you may find yourself taking up to 20 minutes on a low heat!)

Meanwhile soak noodles in boiling water for about 5 minutes until only just soft or as directed on the packet.

Add the ginger, garlic, capsicum and zucchini and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms, and leftover veg (or tofu/broccoli/peas). Stir one minute and then add drained noodles and orange juice mixture. Stir for a few minutes over med high heat til liquid has been absorbed.

I served mine with baby spinach and peanuts. Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for the next day.

On the stereo:
Ruby: Killjoys

Saturday 25 September 2010

Collingwood Cupcakes

My dad is a one-eyed Collingwood supporter. His grandfather was mayor of Collingwood, many of his aunts and uncles worked for the council. When I was young my brothers' teddies were named after Collingwood players. My little 2 year old nephew Cooper already knows his team. Though, I am the only one of my dad's children to live in Collingwood, I don't barrack for them but I do see an opportunity for cupcake decorating when his team gets into the grand final.

Sylvia and I went to Geelong yesterday to see my nieces. They had lept at my suggestion of cupcake decorating. Mum had already promised the cupcakes to a grand final gathering today so I focused on Collingwood's team colours: black and white.

I decided to get some liquorice to decorate some cupcakes with black and white stripes and make some numbers like the players wear on the back of their footy jumpers. Maddy did the research on numbers by consulting the household authority, my dad. It seemed from talking to everyone that Dale Thomas' number 13 was the popular one.

Grace can't eat liquorice so I had a think about a gluten-free option for her. Lorraine often makes cute cupcakes so I had a look at her list and found some panda cupcakes. It occurred to me how perfect they were, being black and white. Lorraine used fondant but I take delight in using lollies (or sweeties or candies depending on where you live). So Maddy, Grace and I went to the Yummy Mummy Lolly Shop to buy liquorice and some lollies to make pandas.

Back at my mum's we ate cheeseymite scrolls and pancakes while the gluten free cupcakes cooled. Then we set about trialling how the lollies looked on the little cakes before Grace and Ella mixed up the white icing. We used black raspberries for the eyes and ears. I cut them in half and used the flat bottom for the eyes and the bumpy top for the ears. I cut the whites of the eyes from milkbottles and we found some pink mini m&ms for the nose-cum-mouth.

I always buy more lollies than we use as I toss around lots of ideas in my head. We had bought some red raspberries so there was a rogue panda with blue eyes. I also bought some chocolate buttons but could not find decent chocolate in the right size. (I suspect I might find the right size at the Vic Market or other specialty shops).

Sylvia was more of a hindrance than a help and slowed me down a bit. Mum took her off for a play but eventually I had to put her down to sleep. We still had a few numbers to go so mum helped with these. Then I had time to get out a few of my dad's Collingwood paraphernalia for some photographs.

When Sylvia woke, we stayed and had a roast dinner and chocolate pudding with my family. As for the grand final result, it seems we might be making Collingwood cupcakes again next week. I wrote this post while watching the grand final (in between eating sausage rolls and putting Sylvia to sleep) and I thought I would end by announcing the winner but the score was a draw: 68-68. This means that Collingwood and St Kilda will return to the MCG next Saturday for another grand final. Stay tuned....

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Green Tambourine Cafe

Update 2012: Green Tambourine Cafe has closed.

We met my friend Yarrow for brunch on the weekend. I have always chosen a cafe for food and ambiance. Now I seek a cafe that has good food, good ambiance and is child-friendly. I have found that Hey Bambini is a good website for local child friendly cafes. On Saturday it turned up The Green Tambourine Cafe in Brunswick.

The building on Albion Street, close to the intersection with Sydney Road, has only recently opened as The Green Tambourine but Yaz can remember it being another cafe and an Italian restaurant in the past few years. I love a bluestone building and warmed to it as soon as I saw it. Inside the bluestone walls and pistachio green cushions are welcoming. The seats by the open fire were taken so we sat by the window instead.

The menu has a few options that interest me. I want the oatmeal pancakes with caramelised bananas and yoghurt but I should have something savoury. I compromise with ordering a pea fritter, toast and cheese to encourage Sylvia to eat with us. (I also ask for yoghurt on the side in the hope Sylvia might try some pancake.) Yaz has the pea and feta fritter with rocket, avocado and lime aioli (no salmon!).

My pea fritter was a bit disappointing. It was stodgy pancake with a few peas. However when I saw how much greenery it is served with on Yaz's plate as recommended on the menu, it makes more sense. I also found that we had to wait almost an hour because it took so long to have anyone take our order and then bring our food. While I am having a whinge I will mention that Yaz was not keen on his coffee and I ordered a beetroot, apple, lemon and ginger juice that tasted so strongly of ginger that I couldn't finish it.

E, on the other hand, loved the place. He isn't a coffee snob like Yaz and was happy with his latte. He loved his green eggs and ham. His main complaint was that the sandpit out the back was so much fun that Sylvia wouldn't leave it when he took her out for a play. I enjoyed the sourdough toast and the pancakes - the caramelised banana and yoghurt balance nicely so that they aren't too sweet. Sylvia wouldn't eat a thing but she didn't eat much that day anyway.

If I visit again, and this is likely, I would sit out the back in the covered courtyard so that Sylvia could play in the sandpit or in the tub with the blocks for as long as she wanted. I noticed the place also has highchairs, plastic crockery, and a blackboard. Perfect for kids! Now I just need to get Sylvia to eat more when we go to cafe!

Also see reviews from Eat More Vegies, A Vegan about Town and Cherry Blossoms and Vodka.

Update 2012: Green Tambourine Cafe has closed.

Green Tambourine Cafe
179 Albion Street
Brunswick 3056
(03) 9384 2254

Monday 20 September 2010

SHF Chocolate Crackle Top Biscuits

I baked a batch of biscuits last week. It was my first foray into baking for weeks. I’ve been too busy cleaning muddy footprints off the rug, doing Christmas shopping (to send sea mail to family in the UK) and refereeing between cat and toddler. I finally found I needed to bake when I ate a supermarket cake and knew life is so much better than that.

I needed something simple and stumbled upon a recipe I had made a few times in my days before blogging. It was simple enough to make during Midsomer Murders and still follow the plot (though I once watched an episode and predicted everything that was going to happen so perhaps this is no recommendation!)

I think E must have been missing my home baking because he asked when the biscuits would be ready when the mixture was still firming up in the fridge. We both enjoyed a few warm bikkies while watching Inspector Barnaby solve the case! He is a clever old thing but can he explain why we say biscuits and Americans say cookies?

Not only are these biscuits easy but they also have a mysterious and delightful transformation during baking from round snowy white balls to flat discs that look like cracked earth in the desert. Not to be confused with the ubiquitous chocolate crackles of my childhood. They are soft inside with an intense chocolate flavour and the odd chunk of chocolate. Just the thing to eat with a cuppa in the evening.

I am sending these biscuits to Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen who is hosting Sugar High Friday #69. The theme is Bite Size Desserts. Sugar High Fridays is a sweet blog event founded by Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: NCR Lemony Mediterranean Salad
This time two years ago: NCR: Spring Strawberry Soup

Chocolate Crackle Top Biscuits
From Super Food Ideas
makes about 24

  • 100g dark chocolate (I used 70% Lindt)
  • 50g butter
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • cup plain white flour
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp cocoa
  • ⅔ cup icing sugar
Melt 50g chocolate with the butter. Chop the remaining chocolate into chunks and set aside.

Whisk egg and brown sugar together until thickened. Add melted chocolate and butter. Stir in flour, baking powder and cocoa till combined. The mixture will be gloriously glossy. Mix in chocolate chunks.

Refridgerate bowl of mixture for about 1 hour or till batter firms up. Then place icing sugar in a shallow bowl. Roll heaped teaspoons into balls (about walnut sized) and toss in the icing sugar so they are well coated.

Arrange balls on greased or lined baking tray with plenty of space between them (I think I gave them about 5cm between them) because they will spread. Bake at 180 C for 12 minutes or until just hardened on top.

Cool on tray for about 10 minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. I am not sure how long they last but I don’t imagine they will be around your kitchen too long. (NB Martha Stewart says up to 1 week.)

On the Stereo:
Wild Wood: Paul Weller

Saturday 18 September 2010

PPN Pea lasagne

I had brunch with a friend today who asked what I had been cooking lately. Sadly, I had to tell him not a lot was going on in my kitchen recently. Very little in the way of new ideas. Some good old ones. My most creative moments have come with lasagne.

I recently made a lovely chana masala with the leftovers going into a potato and carrot mash. Tonight I made a great stew on soft polenta a bit like this dish but with more vegetables and beans. Not all my recent efforts have been successful. I have had mushy rice-noodle soup, an underseasoned miso soup (which wasn’t so bad for a headache) and oversweet pancakes.

After my delicious tofu-ricotta, pumpkin and zucchini lasagne, I had 'fresh' lasagne sheets left in the fridge. (Not quite enough for the lasagne as you can see in my photo but close enough!) It occurred to me to use it to make dumplings or cannelloni but in the end I went for the easy option and made more lasagne. I also used up leftover tofu, pesto, passata and cashews!

[Cashews!!! So that is where those cashews went! I spent quite a bit of time this evening looking for them.]

I hadn’t been to the shops so I was using what was at hand. Peas from the freezer were the main vegetable. Partly because I didn’t have many other vegetables and partly because I have been thinking about making a pea filled pasta ever since seeing this pea cannelloni and these pea dumplings. I used some silken tofu in the filling and then rather than having leftovers I decided to make a tofu sour cream. It also seemed easier than making a béchamel sauce.

E loved this lasagne. He preferred it to the tofu ricotta one because it was creamier and had a tomato sauce. I enjoyed it but preferred the previous one because it was lighter and seemed to have more vegetables. In fact if I had had any fresh tomatoes on hand I would have used them instead of the tomato sauce. I also preferred the crispy crunchy topping of the tofu ricotta lasagne. But peas and pasta seem a fine combination so below is what I did.

I am sending this lasagne to Val of More than Burnt Toast. She is hosting this week’s Presto Pasta Night (#182), the blog event for pasta lovers founded by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: MM Heirloom Ginger Fluff Sponge
This time two years ago: A bloody tale of burritos and beans

Pea lasagna
serves 4

Pea filling:
  • 2 cups peas (I used frozen)
  • 150g soft tofu
  • ½ cup almonds, ground
  • 45g cashews, ground
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp pesto
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • juice of half a smallish lemon
  • few drops of tabasco sauce
Tomato sauce (or used sliced tomatoes):
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 350ml passata
  • 2-3 tbsp red wine
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ tsp maple syrup
  • good pinch salt
Tofu sour cream:
  • 150g soft tofu
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp umeboshi vinegar
  • ½ tsp mirin
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • pinch of salt
To assemble:
  • 200-300g lasagne sheets (I used 'fresh')
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • grated cheese (optional - I used about 50g)
To make pea filling, blend ingredients together in a food processor.

To make tomato sauce fry onion in olive oil in a frypan until browned. Add garlic and continue frying for a minute. Deglaze with wine. Add remaining ingredients and bring to the boil. Remove from heat.

To make tofu sour cream: blend all ingredients in a food processor.

Grease a lasagne dish and spread a spoonful or two along the bottom of the dish. Lay lasagne sheets on top. Spread pea filling. Top with more lasagne sheets. Repeat pea and lasagne sheets layers. Spread tomato sauce over lasagne sheets. Dollop sour cream over the tomato sauce and gently spread evenly over the tomato sauce with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with cheese and seeds. Bake at 210 C for 40-45 minutes until golden and crispy on top.

On the stereo:
Baalstorm, Sing Omega: Current 93

Thursday 16 September 2010

MLLA Holiday Pasties

Life is busy. Sylvia was up demanding cereal at 2am last night, we have had a two day staff meeting at work, and my blog reader – Bloglines - is closing down so I am trying to organize 1.400 bookmarks and get my head around a new blog reader. I need a holiday. Oops I only just had one! When planning for our recent Port Fairy trip, I decided to make some pasties to make sure we had some decent food while away. Maybe if I tell you about them it will take me back into a holiday mood!

As is too often the case these days, I was glad to get away to Port Fairy. I needed a break! If I tell you that at midnight before leaving I was casting off the stitches of a green scarf I knitted for Sylvia, while packing our suitcases, it might given you some indication of how disorganized I was feeling. I took so long making the pasties that evening and had so much filling that we just ate filling for dinner. While we ate, I cooked the rest of it into pasties to take away.

The next morning I cut Sylvia’s fringe for the first time and then we headed off in the car. We arrived at our holiday cottage and found there was no oven but there was a microwave. Close enough for jazz! After the long drive, lots of songs for Sylvia and a walk in the park, we were glad to have an easy dinner. A couple of nights later we ate the rest of the pasties with Brussels sprouts and hot chips. Delicious!

The pasties that I made were a fusion of childhood memories of root vegetables and flavours I have come to love as an adult. I didn’t follow any recipe. These pasties were inspired by a need to clear out the fridge before going away. I used up some scraps of smoked cheese, vintage cheese and parmesan but the cheese was rather intense and I might just use plain old cheddar cheese or even leave the cheese out altogether. Not perfect pasties but a great work in progress.

It seemed a holiday of pasties. Not only home made pasties. On the way home we stopped in Colac, another familiar town from my childhood. I had a vegetable pastie for lunch at an old fashioned bakery. It had a stodgy bland filling of potatoes, carrot and parsnip. Not a patch on my pasties!

I am sending these pasties to Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook for her My Legume Love Affair blog event, celebrating recipes using bean, lentils and other legumes.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Fruit scones, yellow and uncertainty
This time two years ago: A not-so-nasty pasty

Lentil and root vegetable pasties
(NB there is far more filling than pastry if you make the quantity of pastry below but we ate some of the filling with a mug of tomato soup)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 medium red skinned potatoes, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 celeriac, peeled and diced
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp mixed herbs
  • ¼ tsp fennel seeds
  • couple of pinches of salt
  • a few glugs of olive oil
  • good handful of parsley, finely chopped
  • 400g tin of brown lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 25g vintage cheddar, grated
  • 25g smoked cheddar, grated
  • 25g parmesan cheese, finely grated

Crusty hot water pastry (makes 4)
(from this pastie recipe)

  • 125g butter
  • 150ml hot water
  • 2 ½ cups (400g) flour (I did half white, half wholemeal)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 egg (or milk), for glazing pastry

Toss the vegetables with the garlic, mixed herbs, fennel seeds, salt and olive oil in two large roasting dishes. Roast at 200-220 C for 60-90 minutes (I have given a range because I roasted my veg at different temperatures and times and moved them about between the top and bottom shelves of the oven.) When vegetables are soft, remove from oven and stir in parsley, lentils and cheeses.

Make hot water pastry by bringing the butter and water to the boil, removing from heat and then mix in flour and salt. Bring together with your hands into a ball of pastry and cut into four pieces. Roll each piece out into about a 20cm circle.

Place 2-3 tbsp of filling to the side of the circle about 1cm from the edge. Brush the edges with milk or beaten egg. Fold the pastry over the filling. Turn edges over to seal and neaten. Press your fingers into the edges to finalise the seal.

Brush pasties with beaten egg or milk and bake for 10 minutes at 200 C. Then turn down the oven to 180 C and bake a further 30 minutes.

On the stereo:
Ashes and Diamonds: June Tabor

Monday 13 September 2010

Winchelsea Larder - regional goodness

Winchelsea Larder is now closed (2013)

Blink and you will miss Winchelsea. However the small town holds a special place for me, having spent a lot of time there in my childhood. Not to be confused with the other town of the same name in Sussex, England, the Australian Winchelsea grew around the Barwon Inn, established on the banks of the Barwon River in 1842. The town also has the dubious claim to fame for the local mansion, Barwon Park, where Thomas Austin released the first rabbits into Australia.

Those who head west of Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road will miss it but if you take the Warnambool train or the Princes Freeway, as we did on our recent trip to Port Fairy, you will go through the town. One can't help by notice some of the historic buildings such as the Public Library (above - now the tourist information centre), the Shire Hall, the Globe Theatre, the old bluestone bridge, and the School.

In days of old, travellers would stop for refreshments in the town. Today they can still do so at a number of establishments but today I will tell you about the one where we stopped recently. In an unassuming shopping strip opposite the Shire Hall is the Winchelsea Larder. It is run by my old friend and former housemate. Though I will not claim to be completely objective, I am happy to recommend it, having shared cooking with Rochelle for a couple of years in a student household.

Anyway, you don't have to just take my recommendation. When we stopped for lunch on a Thursday, the place was doing a fine trade. I was pleased to have quite a few vegetarian choices for my lunch and chose the pumpkin, brie and sun dried tomato tart. The tart was delicious with some sweet caramelised onions under the pumpkin, and a generous salad.

We also had some dessert. E chose a toffee pecan crunch. He found it a bit chewy for his liking but I loved the thick gooey toffee filling topped with lots of nuts.

We all shared some gingerbread with lemon icing and candied ginger pieces. This was more E's sort of thing and Sylvia enjoyed the cake, though she is not into icing at the moment.

Rochelle sat down to catch up with us while we ate and it was great to see her. She is a busy person; a few times she disappeared when her help was needed. She bakes quite a lot of the food that is served, and makes an effort to make sure there are vegetarian and gluten free options. In such a small town she also knows many of the fellow diners which makes for a friendly atmosphere.

We sat in some couches by the window, and more importantly, by the box of toys. Sylvia had a lovely time with the blocks while E showed off his drawing skills on the etch-a-sketch. Though I think Sylvia's favourite toy at the moment is a fork. Hours of fun!

Winchelsea Larder promotes the regional producers and nowhere is this more evident than in the impressive display of foods on one wall. They are arranged according to locality and it was interesting to see that as well as nearby Geelong, there are many small towns represented.

I was very tempted by the "chocolate pizza" (big discs of chocolate studded with lots of lollies) but we chose to buy some raspberry vinegar, yo-yos and raspberry liquorice. The latter two were much appreciated in our holiday cottage. E said the raspberry liquorice was the best he had ever tasted. We were more than happy to support some small local producers!

Winchelsea Larder
25 Main Street, Winchelsea, Victoria 3241
Telephone: 03 5267 2832

Winchelsea Larder is now closed (2013) 

Saturday 11 September 2010

PPN Tofu-Ricotta, Zucchini and Pumpkin Lasagne

I once made a lasagne with tofu. It was very soon after I became a vegetarian. My mum was away and I offered to make dinner for my brother and my dad. I was both inexperienced and gung-ho with the tofu. Not a good combination. I made a brilliant lasagne with tofu last week and I am confident my dad and brothers would appreciate this one far more now that I know what I am doing.

I was inspired by this Carrot Courgette and Ricotta Lasagne that Katie posted recently. It looked delicious and lighter than the average béchamel-sauce-laded lasagne. Ricotta is a lighter alternative. Perfect if I liked the stuff. But I don’t. I feel I should but it rarely tastes right. Then I looked at all the tofu in the fridge and dug out a PPK recipe for tofu ricotta. So much better.

We needed the vegie-packed lasagne after all the chips and pasties during our trip to Port Fairy. I made it while listening to the independents announce their allegiances to the country. Seventeen days after the national election, seventeen days of a hung parliament, two independent votes gave the Labor Party enough support to govern. The nation breathed a collective sigh of relief when finally we had a Prime Minister appointed. A momentous day. The lasagne was a celebration of interesting times and our female prime minister being returned to power.

It was an excellent lasagne. Different to my regular lasagne. No béchamel sauce. No tomato sauce. Almost vegan. Only a sprinkling of parmesan cheese on top. Nutritional yeast could be used instead. I used pumpkin instead of carrot but either would work well. The tofu ricotta and slices of fresh tomato made the difference. Both tasted lighter and were full of flavour. Exactly what I loved in this lasagne.

I am sending this lasagne to Abby of Eat the Right Stuff. She is hosting this week’s Presto Pasta Night, the blog event for pasta lovers founded by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year:
Chocolate cookies and pizza
This time two years ago: Choc chip and cherry cookies

Tofu-Ricotta, Zucchini and Pumpkin Lasagne
serves 4-6

Zucchini and pumpkin filling:

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 3 medium zucchinis, grated (400g)
  • 400g pumpkin, grated (weight before trimming and peeling)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup passata

Pesto Tofu Ricotta:

  • 350g tofu, crumbled (this was what I had but in future I would use 450g)
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • plenty of black pepper
  • 2-3 tbsp pesto (I used 2 but you could have a bit more in there if you want the pesto taste to shine through more)

To assemble:

  • extra ¼ cup passata
  • 4 (or 5) medium tomatoes, slices in about ½ cm slices
  • 2-3 tbsp parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast flakes for vegan lasagne)
  • 2-3 tbsp stale breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • fresh lasagne sheets – about 200-300g

To make the zucchini and pumpkin filling: fry onion in olive oil for about 10 minutes on low heat in a large frypan till onions are quite soft. Add zucchini, pumpkin, garlic and salt. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until vegies soften. Stir through passata. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to use.

To make pesto tofu ricotta: mix all ingredients together with a spoon till well combined. This will be quite crumbly in texture.

To assemble grease a lasagne dish (oops I didn’t grease it so this is optional) and spread layers of components as below:


  • ¼ cup passata and ¼ cup of zucchini and pumpkin filling
  • lasagne sheets
  • ½ of the zucchini and pumpkin filling
  • ¼ of the ricotta
  • lasagne sheets
  • half the tomatoes
  • seasoning (if I had more ricotta I would used it here but instead I sprinkled a bit of extra nutritional yeast)
  • lasagne sheets
  • ½ of the zucchini and pumpkin filling
  • ¼ of the ricotta
  • lasagne sheets
  • ½ of the ricotta
  • Sprinkle with parmesan, breadcrumbs, sesame seeds

Bake at 220 C for about 45 minutes or until the topping is crispy and the lasagne sheets are soft when a knife is inserted in the middle. Check about halfway through and if topping is browning too fast you could cover with foil or place on a lower rung of the oven.

On the Stereo:
Mojo Presents the Quiet Revolution – Various Artists

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Isabella's Cafe - lighthouse gourmet

When I told a colleague that we were going on holiday to Port Fairy, she recommended Isabella's Cafe at the Cape Nelson Lighthouse just outside Portland, Victoria. It was an hour's drive from our holiday cottage but the food, the ambiance, and the service were excellent and made it well worth the trip. Just look at this amazing chocolate cake!

The cafe is in a small bluestone building that was once the stables for the lighthouse precinct. The seating and chandeliers are elegantly modern but the bluestone walls are a constant reminder of the history of the building and the view out of the huge windows makes the natural world seem so much closer. I took the above photo shortly before closing but most tables were full during our visit, adding to the friendly cosiness of the place.

On a wintery father's day with intermittent rain, sitting beside the large window was a perfect place to be. The staff were friendly and welcomed Sylvia despite the lack of a highchair. We had a great table just beside this couch. E and I took turns entertaining Sylvia on the couch while the other would sit at the table beside it and eat.

We spent our holiday looking for meals Sylvia might like. Bread is usually a fairly safe bet so we ordered the dips with ciabatta and cheese twists. The dips were an unusual but winning combination of blue cheese and caramelised onion, Thai coconut, and babaganoush. The ciabatta was both char-grilled and soft. But it was the cheese twists that Sylvia loved. E's favourite dip was the creamy blue cheese which was lightened with yoghurt or sour cream. I loved the intense, thick Thai dip with the tomato base.

As soon as I heard the specials, I knew I would choose the roasted vegetable and tomato soup. It was served with a slice of bread and grated cheese, plus a bread roll on the side. When a simple soup tastes so good, you know the food is excellent. It was so full of flavour, not swamped by the tomato, nor lacking in texture despite being a pureed soup. E also loved his chicken, mushroom and leek pie which came with a generous salad.

Upon coming in the door, we passed the front counter with all its curiosities. Sylvia loved the jars of lollies. "Lollies" is one of her favourite new words, though fortunately she just likes saying it rather than demanding them. The counter also had a small but inviting selection of cakes under glass covers.

I was tempted by the chocolate cake. Unlike many cakes on display in modern cafes, this one was even better than it looked. It had a dense crumb with a generous layer of creamy ganache on top. Every mouthful stuck to the fork like thick mud but it tasted soft and intensely chocolatey. The cake was served with an amazingly good vanilla ice cream, cream and strawberry sauce. Though the dessert was too rich to eat more than one helping, somehow I can't help but think that heaven would be eating the whole cake.

Good food, good service, a glass of wine for E, a cosy place to watch the rain outside and Diana Krall on the stereo all made for a very relaxing afternoon. At the end of our meal, we had a quick walk outside to see the lighthouse and the waves lashing against the cliffs. The area was so exposed to the elements that it is no wonder there were wind farms visible from the lighthouse precinct. For those wanting to really get away from it all, other buildings have been converted into tourist accommodation.

Having enjoyed our afternoon, we hopped in the car to drive back to our Port Fairy cottage. However it was not quite as straightforward as it should have been. We had left the lights on and had to call the RACV to recharge our car battery. Filling our petrol tank while keeping the engine running and encountering a police breathalyser made for an eventful drive home but couldn't take away from the warm glow of an excellent meal. I just wish it wasn't so far from home.

Isabella's Cafe
Cape Nelson Lighthouse Road
Portland West, Victoria 3305 Australia
P | (03) 5523 5119
E |
W |