Sunday 27 February 2011

Teatime and tales - for the young at heart

Teatime and tales has closed

It was Sylvia's birthday last week. We went to the park, the supermarket, bought new clothes for Baby Doll and then headed to Teatime & Tales for lunch. I chose Teatime & Tales because it appeared child-friendly but I was pleased to find it also appeals to adults.

My first impression was the colourful wall murals that make the place seem incredibly pretty. Then I looked at the menus and chose a table by the window partly because it had a Cinderella golden book. It was the Disney version of the story that we had on a read-along-book in my childhood. The read-along-book came with a narration on 7 inch record where Tinkerbell rang her bell when it was time to turn the page. So it filled me with nostalgia and it was all I could do not to break out into a rendition of Bibbity Bobbity Boo.

The place is one of the most child-friendly I have encountered. Highchairs are available, pillows are on offer for nursing mothers and you can ask for your baby puree to be heated in the microwave. The menu has sections for babies, children and adults. In addition, there is a calendar of events for kids and toys to play with.

What really made the place child-friendly was that they were ready to accommodate Sylvia's peculiarities. I ordered a scone and asked for a plain salad. The scone was a tad sweeter than I expected but Sylvia enjoyed it. I buttered it for her. She turned it upside down and grabbed chunks of scone to stuff in her mouth. The salad was presented with style but Sylvia only ate the cheese.

I chose the vegie stack from the specials. It came a long time after Sylvia's but I discovered that the bookshelf had novels and cookbooks as well as kids books. In fact Teatime & Tales is a bookstore as well as cafe. So I enjoyed browsing while she picked at her food. Wifi and the hire of laptops or printers are also available.

The vegie stack was more of a bake than a tower but very tasty. Unfortunately the eggplant wasn't properly cooked, but the pumpkin, mushroom, capsicum, and spinach were all nicely cooked under a very generous blanket of rich tomato sauce and cheese. I even stole a little scone to soak up some sauce. The side salad was an excellent mixture of rocket, tomato and feta in a balsamic vinaigrette.

I hope to return. The menu had some interesting salads and pizzas that I'd like to try and I enjoyed the pretty decor. Sylvia would return just for the chance to play in the outside area. It wasn't easy but I managed to drag her away so I could take her home to have a nap while I baked her birthday cake.

Teatime and Tales
412 Rathdowne Street
Carlton North Vic 3054
Tel: 03 9939 6983

 Teatime and tales has closed

Saturday 26 February 2011

Creamy soup, village life and fish in a bag

A few weeks back I made a creamy potato soup. A few of you commented on how lovely it looked below a heart shaped cheese cracker. I was pleased to hear but I fear all the kudos goes to the crackers rather than the soup. Creamy white with green flecks is not the most attractive of soups. In fact it reminds me of fish in a bag. Which takes me back to my days as a carer in the English countryside. So I hope you will indulge me with a little trip down memory lane.

Many years ago I had a working holiday visa for the UK. After a stint working in London I wanted to see the real England and embarked on a short-lived career as a carer for elderly people. I cooked steak, I refused roles that seemed to be for nurses and I spent a couple of months in a tiny village in Warwickshire. It was in this village that I learnt many things, including how to cook fish in a bag.

The village looked like something out of Midsomer Murders with its thatched cottages and stone walls. The church had a covered gateway, called a lychgate. I even spent time having tea with neighbours where wills and money were discussed. It was here that I first heard the phrase "shrouds don't have pockets". There were no shops. The villagers told me that the shop had closed once VAT was introduced.

A lot of my day was spent watching television with the lady I looked after. I lost count of the times we would watch the news each day and I became very familiar with Richard Whiteley's Countdown. Each day I would go for a walk. I needed to get out and loved exploring the public footpaths that went through the fields and the kissing gate (see below photo).

On my walks I passed lots of raspberries in the hedges and haystacks in fields. One of my fond memories is meeting a strange old man who told me all about the badgers he had seen and made me stand on a bench seat with him while we watched a fox so that it didn't smell our scent. I was delighted to discover a post office in an adjoining village up the hill. It was great to be able to send letters home when I was so isolated. The second time I went there I couldn't find it again. Later I found out that it was in a private house that only put the post office sign out when they were open.

After a while I got out a little further. One time I needed to see the doctor for a medical for my travels. I must have walked 20-30 minutes to get to a nearby town that had a doctor. Later I discovered that I could take a bus into Banbury to browse the high street shops. I had to make sure I caught the bus back because they only went to my village twice a week. Maybe this explains why even some bus drivers didn't know where the village was. I remember the old ladies saying "turn right here, driver" to one who lost his way.

It was a strange life. Once a week I received a food delivery and put in an order for the next week. We also had a gardener, a salt of the earth chap who grew lots of veggies. Below are his onions hanging up. I also remember begging a pumpkin off a neighbour who thought them only good enough for his pigs. It wasn't the best pumpkin I had ever eaten but I was homesick for them.

But the lady was not really interested in her food. In fact one of my main tasks was to make sure she ate. If she had her way she might have existed on polo mints and chocolate fingers. She liked plain food. Sausages, bacon, salad cream and fish in a bag. I had never made fish in a bag before but it suited me as a vegetarian. All I had to do was drop a bag of fish in a creamy sauce with flecks of parsley in a saucepan of boiling water. When it was done I just cut one edge of the bag and tipped the fish and sauce onto the plate. She loved it.

Don't ask me what I ate. It wasn't pretty. I only remember one dish of baked rice and condensed tomato soup. This wasn't a job that I could do long term. I was happy to save money and then head off on my travels. Though I have sometimes wondered about the people in this small village and if my lady is still alive.

I am glad to say that even if this soup reminded me of fish in a bag, it was far more complex and interesting. My inspiration started with some leftover buttermilk that I wanted to put in a soup. I turned to Nava Atlas who has lots of creamy soup. Her Parsley Potato Soup sounded tasty. However by the time I had made some changes and teamed it with my Creamy Lentil and Date Salad, it was a tad bland.

It needed a makeover and a new partner. I threw in some freshly-ground black pepper, smoked paprika and mustard and let it sit overnight. I paired it with the cheese biscuits. It was absolutely delicious. E fell in love with it and I was pleased to offer it to my dad when he dropped in for lunch. It was very tasty with a tang from the buttermilk, some freshness from the dill and parsley and lots of chunks of vegetables.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Shrove Tuesday Blinis
This time two years ago: Valentine Day Polenta
This time three years ago: Queen Victoria Market - day and night

Creamy potato and dill soup
adapted from Nava Atlas
serves about 6
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 5-6 cups water
  • 3 tsp vegetable stock powder
  • 5 medium potatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cauliflower, chopped
  • 125g cream cheese
  • 1/2 rolled oats
  • 1 bunch parsley, roughly chopped (or about 1/2 cup finely chopped)
  • 2 tbsp dill, snipped with scissors
  • 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk
  • 2 tsp seeded mustard
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper (or grind 1/2 tsp black peppercorns)
Heat olive oil in a stockpot. Fry onion and celery over medium heat for a few minutes. Add garlic and fry another 10-15 minutes until vegetables have softened. Add water, stock powder, potatoes and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Add cauliflower and cook another 5-10 minutes or until potatoes are cooked. Add cream cheese herbs and rolled oats. Stir well and cook another 15 minutes. Add buttercream, mustard, smoked paprika and black pepper. Gently heat and serve with a little chopped dill as a garnish. If possible, make it the previous night and it will taste even better the next day.

On the stereo:
Early Morning Hush - Notes from the UK Folk Underground 1969-1976: Various Artists

Friday 25 February 2011

Marinated Minestrone

I have so many cookbooks and bookmarks full of recipes that I would love to try. Yet so many evenings I don't know what to make. One source of inspiration has been a weekly e-recipe from the Vegetarian Times magazine. This week I was taken with what they called Minestrone with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and White Beans. I tweaked and tinkered and ended up with a very pleasing soup.

My version looked nothing like Vegetarian Times. I treat soups as a way to clear out the kitchen. I found some soup pasta that had been in the kitchen for too long, an ageing job lot of cauliflower and broccoli, and a tub of marinated vegetables that was past the best by date. All went in the pot.

I made a deconstructed version of our meal for Sylvia but was pleased that she ate a bit of pasta and beans from my bowl. Not much. Just enough to show she is willing to try some new flavours. She still surprises me in what she will and wont eat. On Monday I made a mash with potato, milk, cashew butter, nutritional yeast flakes, lemon juice and smoked paprika. She was shovelling it into her mouth, though I suspect she loved it more because she ate it off my plate. E also enjoyed the soup.

I was surprised that one comment said it didn't need salt. I use more salt these days than I used to but I found that the marinating juices of the sun dried tomatoes gave plenty of flavour without additional seasoning. I even ended up deciding against using fresh basil and just used it as a garnish at the end.

I found that the pasta really soaked up the water. I would probably use a bit more than a litre next time because by the time I stored the leftovers in the freezer, the liquid had all but been absorbed. No matter. I am looking forward to eating this soup for lunches.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Court Jester Cafe - chaotically charming
This time two years ago: Salad Sandwich
This time three years ago: If music be the food...

Marinated Minestrone
adapted from Vegetarian Times
serves 6
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped (I only used 3 but prefer more)
  • 400g mix of chopped cauliflower and broccoli
  • 1 litre of water, or more
  • 1 packed cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes (I drained and used the contents of a 240g packet of semi-sun dried tomatoes marinated in garlic and herbs in a low fat vinaigrette)
  • 1 small tub of marinated vegetables (optional)
  • 400g tin of cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 1 cup soup pasta (a bit like orzo)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas (or chopped green beans)
  • 2 Tbs. white wine vinegar (I didn't use this because my sun-dried tomatoes were vinegary enough)
Heat oil in a stockpot and fry onions, carrots and celery for about 5-10 minutes. Add garlic and cauli/broccoli and continue to fry until vegetables are just starting to soften. Pour in water and add remaining ingredients except vinegar. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10-20 minutes until vegetables are soft and pasta is cooked.

On the stereo:
Aguirre: Popul Vuh

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Chocolate cashew fudge and nut roast love!

You could be mistaken for thinking I spend my days finding new ways to add nuts into chocolate concoctions. Today's recipe seems like covering ground that has been well trodden on my blog lately but it is just such a good variation that I had to share.

This chocolate cashew fudge was found via Lisa's amazing raw berry cheesecake. The cheesecake was a bit too ambitious for me but I did find a raw chocolate fudge on the My New Roots blog from where it originated. Not only did it look excellent but it seemed a tidy way to use up the rest of the coconut oil and cashew butter in my kitchen. These are the sort of foods that just add clutter and I forget to use.

In addition I have been particularly hungry lately after starting to ride my bike to work again lately (on the days when I am not ferrying Sylvia about). It actually happened after our car broke down recently. There wasn't much wrong with the car (phew!) but it did need some time with the mechanic. Hence I suddenly found myself going from four wheels to two to get to work. I have been enjoying riding my bike so much that I actually was a little glad that the car broke down. But it sure does make me hungry.

Leftovers, biking and some previous successes with chocolate and nuts. How could I resist this fudge! Oh, and it was just so easy to make at the end of a day of work, riding my bike home and then running around after a giggling cheeky toddler. I was even too lazy to put it in cups and I just froze it in a cake tin and chopped it up later. I didn't even take photos until the next day.

After refridgerating a jar of coconut oil that then needed an ice pick, I left my latest jar on the counter. It was fascinating to watch the changing colour as the oil melted into a clear liquid in the heat and then solidified into a white "butter" on the cooler days. It was exactly the right consistency for hand mixing coconut oil and cashew butter on the couch while I watched the telly. I changed the quantities to suit what I had on hand. I was feeling stingy and used less maple syrup than required but I was glad of my meanness because I didn't need all that sweetness.

The resulting fudge is good enough to eat off the spoon but here was the claim on My New Roots that really fascinated me: "The best thing about this chocolate is that when you use whole, natural ingredients, your body knows when it has had enough." Wow! My body usually tells me that there is no such thing as enough chocolate. But I think that there is a definite limit for me when it comes to coconut oil. The fudge is deliciously creamy with a little texture from the cashew butter but I did find that I didn't crave it like I often do with sweet treats.

On another nutty topic, I have been fascinated to see a few bloggers referring back to my nut roast passion recently, and pleased to see them sharing my enthusiasm:
  • Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen had been hesitant about my nut roast event back in 2008 so I was delighted to see her making a Spicy Quinoa Nut Roast this week.
  • Ricki of Diet Dessert and Dogs was an instant nut roast convert with my event and found her nut roast experiments led her into pate territory.
  • Mel of Veganise This wrote a lovely post as part of her great series cooking from Planet VegMel blogs. It was so pleasing to hear she had first discovered my blog through a nut roast search and I loved reading about her experience making one of my nut roasts.
Is there something in the air? Makes me wonder if it is time for a Neb at Nut Roast II event to share some more nut roasts.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Baking: the good the bad and the healthy
This time two years ago: Frozen Fruity Fun with Icy Poles
This time three years ago: WBB Microwave Muesli

Chocolate cashew fudge
Adapted from My New Roots
Makes at least 25 small squares

160g coconut oil at room temp (ie a buttery consistency)
140g cashew butter (or other nut butters)
3/4 cup of cocoa
1/3 - 1/2 cup maple syrup
salt, cinnamon, chilli powder, orange zest etc (optional)

Mix coconut oil and cashew butter together, preferably by hand. Add 1/3 cup maple syrup and mix. Add cocoa and add more maple syrup if needed. Add salt and any spices that you desire. I meant to add spices but forgot. Spoon into lined cake tin (I used my 15cm square tin) and bung in the freezer until firm. I left mine overnight. Cut into small squares and store in the freezer. Eat straight from the freezer and swoon!

On the Stereo:
Write about Love: Belle and Sebastian

Sunday 20 February 2011

Earl Grey cupcakes and nutritous ganache

Once upon a time I thought I liked to drink regular tea. One of my favourites was Earl Grey tea. There was nothing like a cup of tea to warm me up. But I liked my tea weak. So weak that people used to joke I only needed to wave a tea bag over the cup. After a while, I discovered that I didn't like the taste of tea with tannin. I switched to herbal tea.

I do however like the idea of tea in baking, whether it be traditional fruit cake with dried fruit soaked in tea, or new fangled cupcakes tinted green with matcha tea. When Choclette announced that the theme for the We Should Cocoa blog event was tea and chocolate, I hoped to find an inspiring recipe. So I was pleased to find a recipe for Earl Grey Cupcakes in one of my cookbooks. Though I don't drink Earl Grey any more, I still like the smell of the bergamot oil that gives it the distinctive aroma.

These cupcakes had optional crystallised orange in them and Earl Grey infused chocolate ganache. I was actually hunting for cupcakes to trial Ricki's chocolate frosting which was a healthier alternative to the ganache. It was also an opportunity to used up my mixed peel, and I couldn't resist adding some extra chopped chocolate for taste and wholemeal flour for health. I resisted adding too many flavours because I didn't want to overwhelm the Earl Grey.

I loved the cupcakes warm out of the oven. I could have (and did) eat them without frosting. It was merely my dedication to research that made me go ahead and try the frosting. The cupcakes were a bit dry the next day so I was glad I had decided to make the frosting.

The frosting was amazing. It has sweet potato and cashew butter in it for texture and to reduce the GI. Ricki made it to be sugar-free but I don't need to so I used my regular icing sugar rather than coconut sugar and stevia. I was very happy with the taste. In fact I think this could be a sort of fudge or truffle to eat by itself. Less successful was my presentation.

I had decided that I would pipe glamourous swirls of icing onto the cupcakes but I am still not very familiar with my icing gun. Not surprising, giving that I hardly use it. My piping looked more like messy scribbles than neat lines spiraling upwards. I was so unhappy with them that I grabbed a butter knife and smoothed over the piping. (Note to self: learn how to use icing gun!)

Today was my niece Ashton's christening. Both my mum and my sister-in-law's mother put on a great lunch. There were huge bowls of salad and my mum made me a delicious eggplant bake to have instead of the hunk of meat from the bbq. Ashton is one of the smiliest babies I have ever seen and had a lovely time. Her brother Cooper wasn't quite sure of her outfit until he was convinced that she was wearing black and white because they were the colours of his football team. My niece Quin kept my nieces happy with her piano playing. Sylvia wore her new pink party frock and had a good time eating chips, cake and fruit. When we got home she was so tired that she lay on the floor and cried. That's no way to treat a party frock!

I took some of the cupcakes down for the lunch. There was an impressive spread of sweet food. Above is the lemon meringue tarts made by Ashton's maternal grandmother. She is a chef and I was impressed to watch her crisp up the tops with a mini blow torch rather than bake them. The table also heaved with caramel tart, pavolva, hedgehog, profiteroles and fruit. My favourite dessert was the chocolate cake specially decorated for the occasion (see below).

I enjoyed asking a few of my family to guess what was in the frosting. No one could. My brother Andy guessed potato but I suspect that was because he was traumatised by my addition of mashed potato to chocolate cake many years ago. My sister Susie said it was weird because she thought icing was normally really sweet. I had thought it was sweet enough but E had also commented that the cupcakes weren't that sweet.

Fran said that the cake tasted like jaffa. Indeed the orange and chocolate flavours were more dominant than tea. Earl Grey is flavoured with bergamot orange, so I guess the orange flavour is no surprise. Sylvia ate some of the cake - and crumbled some to sprinkle over her high chair - but refused to eat any frosting.

As for me, I enjoyed these cakes so much that E now seems to be nervously watching his posh Harrods teabags. The cupcakes were just sweet enough with a slight bitterness of chocolate and peel. The frosting was smooth and more like ganache than buttercream icing. Best of all I am excited at an icing that is more than just a sugar hit. While it is not low fat, it has far more nutrients than most icings I have come across. Definitely to be repeated!

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Serendipitous Plum Jam
This time two years ago: MLLA8 Dal Makhani
This time three years ago: HoTM #12 Prune and Bean Casserole

Earl grey cupcakes with chocolate cashew ganache
cupcakes adapted from Gail Wagman's Cupcakes Galore
makes 12 cupcakes and 7 mini muffins

160ml milk
2 earl grey tea bags
125g butter
2/3 cup castor sugar
2 eggs
1 cup wholemeal plain flour
2/3 cup white plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
50g dark chocolate, chopped
3 tbsp dried mixed peel

Chocolate cashew frosting:
adapted from Diet Dessert and Dogs

150 ml cooked sweet potato (preferably baked)
5 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch fine sea salt
1/4 cup cocoa
30g dark unsweetened chocolate (I used 70%)
1/4 cup smooth 100% cashew butter
2 Tbsp coconut oil

Preheat oven to 180 C. (If you need to bake sweet potato for the frosting, this is a good time to put it in the oven until after cupcakes are baked - test doneness with a skewer.) Line cupcake tins with paper liners.

Place milk and teabags in a small saucepan. Gently bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and leave to cool to the touch - at least 30 minutes. Squeeze out tea bags and discard.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat until light and fluffy. Add flours, baking powder and salt in batches alternating with infused milk until just combined. Gentle fold in the chocolate and mixed peel.

Spoon into prepared cupcake tins and bake for 25 minutes or until cupcakes are golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Cool on a wire rack.

To make frosting: blend the sweet potato, icing sugar, maple syrup, vanilla and sea salt in the food processor. Add cocoa and blend. Melt chocolate, coconut oil and cashew butter in the microwave or on the stovetop and add to the food processor. Blend until creamy. Spread or pipe over cupcakes. It makes quite a lot so you may have a little over depending on how much you use.

On the Stereo:
Selected Ambient Works by the Aphex Twin: Vol II: Aphex Twin

Friday 18 February 2011

Kalyn's stuffed peppers

Some days I am very aware that I read bloggers' posts with my vegetarian goggles. Where they write meat, I immediately begin to think about substitutes. Of course this mostly happens where I love the flavours being used in a meat dish. Though I don't imagine I would have much interest in a meat dish unless I was interested in the flavours.

Today's recipe is a great example of this. I found Kalyn's Stuffed Green Peppers with Brown Rice, Italian Sausage, and Parmesan, substituted leftover nut roast for sausage and downsized the cheese. It was a huge success. Kalyn had found cheap green peppers. I didn't but I had some nut roast in the freezer that I was puzzling over how to use. I checked out my previous stuffed pepper post and decided I would give each empty pepper a quick burst in the microwave before baking, unlike Kalyn, who doesn't bother with pre-cooking.

I gave Sylvia a little of my rice and chopped peppers (known in Australia as capsicum but I like calling them stuffed peppers so will use a bit of American terminology today). She enjoyed it. I wish I could say the same for her reaction to the nut roast. She was more interested in crumbling it up than eating it. Oh well, it needed to be crumbled for the recipe.

While you could use a commercially produced vegetarian sausage here, I love using a nutroast that I have made because I know all the flavours that go into it. Of course, there is nothing to stop you making your own sausage like those recently posted by Mangocheeks and Mel. I found that my nut roast added so much flavour that I was able to reduce the cheese to a little cream cheese. The recipe could be veganised with a spoonful of any other sauce or binder. If you do try this recipe with veg sausage or nut roast, you should take into account that they tend to be drier than their meat equivalent and might need more oil.

Kalyn suggested preparing the rest of filling while the rice cooks but this was not for me. Sylvia was in the backyard while I cooked and so I spent quite a bit of time trying to stop her getting up to her armpits in sand and soil just before dinner. This required a hunt for a string of blue beads that she loves so she could tip this in and out of her little toy saucepan.

I was pleased that I had bought different coloured peppers because they did look pretty together in the casserole dish. They were less pretty on the plate with messy salad. But they tasted delicious. I loved the addition of fennel. It is a dominant spice so I don't use it often but I appreciate recipes like this that show me just how good it can be. I tried a smidge of chutney on my pepper but it just got lost so I think if you need a sauce it should be added to the mixture or used liberally.

Eaten out in the backyard on a balmy evening with Sylvia playing, these peppers completed a pleasant evening.. We only managed it on the second night when I just bunged the leftover peppers in the microwave. It took me far longer to prepare them on the first night but they were worth it.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Feta Scones in a Flash
This time two years ago: Potato salad, freak weather and bushfires
This time three years ago: PPN #52 Gyoza and Salad

Stuffed Peppers with Brown Rice, Nut Roast and Fennel
Adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen
Serves 4

1 cup brown rice
4 large bell peppers
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp + 2 tsp olive oil
3 nut roast parcels (or veg sausages), crumbled
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, ground
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
40g (2 tbsp) cream cheese
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Cook the rice in boiling water for 30 minutes until soft (or use whatever method you usually use).

Lop the tops off the peppers so they are even with each. Discard the stalk and pith and then finely chop the trimmings. Cook each pepper shell in the microwave with bottom up for 2 minutes on high. Place peppers in a greased casserole dish - preferably one that holds them snugly.

Fry the onion, garlic and diced pepper in 1 tsp of oil until soft. Remove from heat. Fry the crumbled nut roast (or sausage) in 2 tsp of oil, stirring occasionally until starting to brown and crispy bits are appearing. Add the onion mixture, fennel, and oregano and stir for 2-3 minutes to blend the flavours. Add cooked rice, cream cheese, lemon juice, nutritional yeast flakes and seasoning and stir for a minute or two until warmed through.

Spoon the rice mixture into the peppers, pressing down with the back of a spoon. If you have any leftovers you can bake in a separate ramekin or even sprinkle around the peppers in the casserole dish.

Bake for about 45 minutes at 200 C or until tops are crispy brown. Serve with salad. Can be frozen.

On the Stereo:
Soft Black Stars over Lisbon: Current 93

Wednesday 16 February 2011

NCR Creamy lentil salad

I didn't make this creamy lentil and date salad on Friday because the car broke down. Instead Sylvia and I had chippies at Sea Salt in Carlton while we chatted to a friendly stranger and then caught the tram home. It was not an evening for cooking. Instead I made the salad the next night. I loved it on Saturday. I served it with a creamy soup and the salad seemed the winner of the two recipes.

I was intrigued when I saw Trudy's recipe on Veggie Num Num. Dates and lentils seem a good combination but it is an unusual one in a salad. Since my raw brownie failure, I have now found where I can buy medjool dates locally. They landed in the frypan of lentils in a large clump and were loathe to separate. The lentils were not as I had expected. They were dry and looked unappealing. The dressing was also a little dry. I find that yoghurt just dries out tahini so I added a bit of water which made it creamy but maybe a bit too liquid.

Fortunately, I was more successful with creating a spice mix to use in lieu of Trudy's Greek spice mix. This is a salad of many parts that come together to create an amazing combination of sweet and spicy, of crunchy and creamy.

The salad did not come together quickly. Not much does in my life right now. I made the salad in between keeping a watchful eye on Sylvia, feeding her dinner and getting her ready for bed. The phone rang. The Greek neighbours had a noisy party filled with plate smashing and oompa! There was an item on the news that I wanted to concentrate on. Another neighbour knocked at the door to borrow my tin of cinnamon. So it will not surprise you when I say that my salad did not present beautifully like Trudy's nor did I use any garnishes. By the time I served dinner, I was ready to sit down and eat.

We had the leftovers the next day straight from the fridge and it was not as good. This salad is best eaten at room temperature. I served it with soup but all it really needs is a good loaf of bread or maybe some brown rice to make a meal.

I am sending this salad to Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes for the No Croutons Required blog event that she hosts with Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen. This month the theme is creamy salads or soups.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: CNY Potluck, Pearl Balls and Healthy Treats
This time two years ago: Tofu Burgers and Tennis
This time three years ago: Vina Bar: one of Lygon Street’s best

Creamy lentil, date and veggie salad
Adapted from Veggie Num Num
Serves 4
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 400g (14 oz) tinned or cooked brown lentils (approx 2 cups)
  • 1 celery stick, diced
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • shake of cayenne and cinnamon,
  • 5 fresh dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 red capsicum, chopped
  • 1/2 green capsicum, chopped
  • 1/2 telegraph cucumber, chopped
  • 1 spring onion, thinly sliced


  • 2 fresh chillies, finely chopped (I used 1/2 tsp chilli paste)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (I used 1/4 tsp garlic powder)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened non-dairy or dairy yoghurt or water

to serve

  • thinly sliced preserved lemon (optional)
  • fresh mint or thyme (optional)
Heat olive oil in a frypan and cook lentils and celery in oil for a few minutes. Add dates and herbs, spices and salt. (My dates were really clumpy so maybe I should have separated them and scattered them in the frypan.) Cook another 1-2 minutes until lentils are dry. Set aside.

Prepare dressing by mixing all ingredients together. Add a little water to make the mixture creamy, if necessary.

Mix tomatoes, capsicums, cucumber and spring onion in a large bowl. Top with lentil mixture and dressing. I mixed mine to serve but Trudy served hers with layers of vegetables, lentils and dressing.

On the Stereo:
Peaceful Snow: Death in June

Monday 14 February 2011

CC Cheese Hearts

This fortnight's theme for the Cookbook Challenge is love. When I first looked at it I was perplexed. How does a recipe express love? Does it mean:
  • Chocolate?
  • Food with aphrodisiac properties?
  • Tomato, which is also known as the love apple?
  • Red food such as rhubarb and berries?
  • Food shaped as a love heart?
  • Cooking the desires of your true love?
I brainstormed. I considered Chocolate Prune Brownies from Bourke Street Bakery, Tomato Rosemary Scones from Vegan Brunch or even Tomato Orange Soup from Entertaining with Cranks. I suggested the scones to E on the eve of Valentines Day and he said he wanted cheese. In searching for tomato cheese scones I found Nigella's cheese stars. These star shaped biscuits became pink hearts in my kitchen with a few adaptions.

I don't have any parmesan cheese so I added some extra flavours and some beetroot powder for colour. The uncooked dough reminded me of the thin mottled slices of German sausage (aka strausberg or fairy sausage) that my mum used to put in our sandwiches in my childhood. The cooked biscuits were paler and a little puffy but still pink.

E loved these. Sylvia had a taste but she was too snuffly to appreciate them fully. They were full of flavour, buttery light on the outside and a little chewy on the inside. I served them with some creamy potato soup for dinner (recipe to come) and they were perfect. I had thought they would be perfect for Valentines Day but they were mostly gone by then. They were too good to last long.

Go to my Cookbook Challenge page to see my other dishes and ideas or to the community page to see what others are cooking in the Challenge.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:

This time last year: Valentine Scones - raspberry and white chocolate
This time two years ago: CERES Café – a relaxing oasis
This time three years ago: WCC # 25 Velvet Soup from Nigellaland

Cheese hearts
Adapted from Nigella Lawson's How to Eat
makes approx 16

50g (1/3 cup) plain wholemeal flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp garlic powder
shake of chilli powder
100g mild cheddar cheese
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp beetroot powder

Mix all ingredients together until they form a ball of pastry. I mixed mine in the food processor until it was crumbly and then pressed it together.

Roll out on lightly floured surface until about half a centimetre thick. Mine were a little crumbly but held together well once baked and cooled so don't worry if it seems a little crumbly when rolling out.

Bake at 200 C for 8-10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. They will continue baking as they cool.

On the Stereo:
Way to Blue: Nick Drake

Saturday 12 February 2011

Samosa Pie

I have been seeking lighter dinners lately. It is inevitable in Australia in January and February. December brings a wealth of Christmas indulgence and then the new year hits and, whether we make resolutions or not, the body realises it is actually summer and rich foods are not suitable for hot days.

Even in a cooler Aussie summer, such as we have been having, amid the floods and cyclones there are bushfires. Despite all our recent rain, we have had plenty of days when the washing dries quickly on the line, there is little call for jumpers and cardigans, and it is warm enough to eat outside in the evening.

On the day that I made this samosa pie, it was cool enough to bake the pie in the oven but warm enough that Sylvia didn't want to come inside. So E took her highchair outside while I prepared dinner inside. She insisted her baby doll sit in the highchair and she climb onto an outdoor chair. Most of her plate of food was ignored. She was more interested in coaxing Zinc to drink from one of her toy frypans. Sometimes (often!) there are more interesting things than a full belly.

This was an easy pie to make. No rubbing butter in, no chilling pastry and no blind baking. It is like a pot pie, with just a layer of pastry covering the filling. My main problem with the pastry was that my dear little green rolling pin snapped while I was rolling out. It was just the right size and I will miss it.

In keeping with the weather, this is a lighter dish. We both loved it. It has enough stodge and spice for E - potato, pastry, curry - and enough protein and vegies for me. E gave it 10 out of 10. He wanted more but I wanted it to last us two nights. Even so I found him just neatening up the leftover piece of pie. I found it quite spicy and served it with yoghurt. But it was very good and I have promised E that I will make it again soon.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: NCR Bann’s Parsnip Soup with Walnut Ravioli
This time two years ago: Jam-Making Reflections by a Novice
This time three years ago: Potato Scones for Brunch

Samosa Pie
adapted from Vegetarian Times
Serves 4

  • 1/2 cup plain white flour
  • 1/2 cup plain wholemeal flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 Tbsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp. ground chillis, optional
  • 1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup cooked brown lentils (mine were from a tin)
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp agave syrup
  • 1 Tbsp milk
First make the pastry for the crust. Place flours and salt into a bowl and stir in the oil. Add 6-10 tablespoons of cold water until the pastry come together into a ball. I think I added 7 tbsp. Cover with a damp cloth.

Cook potatoes in salted water for about 15-20 minutes until just soft. Add carrots and cauliflower to the mixture in the last 5-10 minutes of cooking.

While vegetables are cooking, mix dry spices in a small bowl. Fry onion in oil (I did this in the same large saucepan as I had cooked the potatoes) until starting to brown and add garlic and ginger and stir for about a minute. Push onion mixture to the side and add dry spices. Cook for about 30 minutes and then add peas, lentils, agave syrup and stock. Stir for a minutes or so and add cooked potatoes, carrots and cauliflower.

Tip vegetable mixture into a 22 cm or 9 inch pie dish - no need to grease it.

Roll out the pastry into a large circle to fit on your pie dish. Arrange pastry over pie filling, making sure there are no air bubbles. Crimping the pastry at the edges is optional. I was too distracted. Brush with a little milk and use a sharp knife to make a cross in the middle to allow air to escape.

Bake pie at 190 C for about 40-50 minutes. Mine took 40 minutes but I am a little unsure what temperature I had my oven at. When pastry is golden brown remove pie from oven and sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

On the Stereo:
Amanda Palmer performs the hits of Radiohead on her Magic Ukelele - Amanda Palmer

Thursday 10 February 2011

Cheeseymite, burgers and sylvia

This was going to be a quick post about how easy these cheeseymite scrolls with puff pastry were. Then I made some other easy chickpea burgers. Then I thought it might be nice to do a little Sylvia update given that her 2nd birthday is coming up. The brief post grew and grew and grew!

As her second birthday draws near in the next few weeks, I have been thinking about how much has changed since her first birthday (see my two lists of firsts before then). She is no longer a little baby. She runs when she wants to get somewhere and tells me what she wants (bikkies!).

Today we saw a dietician as part of a routine medical appointment. It was a relief to finally speak to someone who could talk to me reasonably about a child's vegetarian diet and be reassured that her iron intake seems fine without needing supplements, though I was recommended to put her on calcium supplements because she is not keen on dairy products (or fortified vegan alternatives). So I feel reassured

  • had her first taste of tomato sauce with her vegetarian sausages this week
  • usually has a breakfast of cereal, toast with promite and cheese, and a piece of fruit - if she eats it all
  • loves spicy food - is quite partial to curried chickpeas
  • often has plain veg with plain beans or tofu for dinner
  • sometimes loves baked beans and sometimes hates them
  • loves to explore the kitchen drawers
  • when she is distracted from eating dinner she says "fitty" (finished) and push her plate away - it doesn't always mean she really has finished
  • will not drink milk or eat yoghurt but she loves cheese
  • loves to drink water but can't resist sprinkling it everywhere if I turn my back for a moment
  • is hard to please when eating out unless I buy her something from a select group of favourite foods - chips, margharita pizza, falafels and cheeseymite scrolls

  • can say the name of most of her food and if she doesn't know she can ask "what's dat?"
  • loves to pretend she is cooking outside with her little pots and bowls - this usually involves water and sometimes sand pies
  • "cuggles" dolly, who must come everywhere
  • is fascinated by the moon and loves us reading her Where the Wild Things Are because the moon is on almost every page
  • is careful with Zinckie cat and pats her gently now though she does love to stick her face close to Zinc's to tell her something and expects her to play logo and eat cherries with her
  • loves singing songs - at the moment her favourite seems to be "happy birthcake to oo" - but if we join in we get told very sternly, "sylvia sing"
  • plays with my purse if she can get away with it - but I was pleased to find her putting a stray coin in it this week rather than just throwing my money away
  • can reach the railing by the steps outside the back door
  • is constantly losing things - our house has never been the same since she became mobile
  • prefers to climb in and out of her stroller by herself
  • giggles when she is jumping up and down
  • looks out for the cockatoos on the neighbouring tree that we can see from our backyard
  • know that Zinc goes off on a run each night but not where - last night she guessed that Zinc had gone shopping at the supermarket
  • is amused by my vegetable flowers that I make to encourage her to eat vegetables but also because I love playing with food
Above is a vegetable flower with a chickpea burger at its centre. Unfortunately Sylvia was more interested in the tomato and cucumber than the burger but she did take a few bites of burger on the first night I served them to her. Though even on the first night once I served my own with apple and cranberry chutney, she ate it off the top and kept asking for more jam.

The recipe was inspired by Jacqueline's chickpea and coriander patties that she made for her little boy, Cooper. I made quite a few changes because I had a sourdough loaf to make into breadcrumbs, I don't like fresh coriander and I thought an egg would add a bit more nutrients. They were good everyday food that E and I enjoyed but Sylvia wasn't that keen.

More successful were my recent attempts at cheeseymite scrolls. I had been inspired by Lisa's recipe as part of her great Australia Day recipes series. I have also seen similar scrolls or pinwheels on Should You Eat That and always meant to try it. Now that I am on a scroll roll (ha ha) it was on the cards.

The reason I wanted to try the puff pastry cheeseymites was when faced with paying out for scrolls for everyone on the weekend at Bakers Delight. For those that don't know the BD franchise, cheeseymite scrolls are one of their regular items, bread dough rolled up with vegemite and grated cheese inside. (A photo of these scrolls is the fourth photo down from the top of the post.) I buy them often but when everyone in the house wants them the price adds up.

Then I remembered seeing Lisa making them. They were so simple and quick to make. Sylvia couldn't get enough of them - not even after they had sat in the bikkie tin over night. I used promite instead of vegemite and used up some old sheets of puff pastry in the freezer. I often have puff pastry leftover so this is an excellent recipe to use it up. They are smaller and richer than their bready cousins but they taste so delicious. Maybe another batch will be made on Sylvia's birthday!

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: More baby food, more healthy muffins
This time two years ago: WTSIM … Fruit kebabs
This time three years ago: PGermy Bran Muffins

Cheeseymite puffs
makes about 8-10 puffs per sheet of puff pastry

puff pastry sheets
promite or vegemite
grated cheese

Defrost puff pastry sheet. Spread with promite and sprinkle with grated cheese. Roll up and cut into 1-2cm slices. Arrange on a lined baking tray and bake at 220 C for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Curried Chickpea Burgers
made 13

400g tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
150g dried breadcrumbs
1 red onion, quartered
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 tsp curry powder
oil spray (or olive oil)

Place chickpeas, breadcrumbs, red onion, buttermilk, egg and curry powder in food processor and processor til it all comes together. Form mixture into small patties. Heat a non stick frypan and spray with oil spray or pour in a glug of olive oil. Fry patties over medium heat for a few minutes either side. Cook in oven for about 20-30 minutes (mine was on the bottom of the oven for about 30 minutes). Serve warm with relish.

On the stereo
The Bestiality of - The bonzo dog doo-dah band