Friday 30 September 2011

Doing Vegan MoFo 2011

In October 2011 this blog will be free of cheese, honey, eggs, and dairy.*  I have bought nuttalex and soy milk.  I am aiming to keep it light and simple.  Less words.  More food.  More short posts.  Not all posts will be included in my blog indexes so I will list my Vegan MoFo posts below:

1 October: Chocolate Caramel Slice 
2 October: Apple cider brussels sprouts
3 October: Purple nut roast 
4 October: Vegan pizza experiments
5 October: How to make gravy 
6 October: Super creamy green smoothie 
7 October: Choy Sum with Mirin
8 October: Beetroot Poetry
9 October: Vegan Party Pies: Aussie "meat" pies for the footy
10 October: Choc Chip Cookies 
11 October: Pumpkin miso muffins
12 October: Vegan sausage rolls
13 October: Glasses for garlic
14 October: Tofu pie filling (work in progress)
15 October: Vegan MoFo recipe quicklinks 
16 October: Oatmeal Cutout Cookies with cashew coconut frosting on a stick
17 October: Tamarind Tempeh with Noodles
18 October: Green (pea) Nut Roast
19 October: Olive oil bread with chia seeds
20 October: Pumpkin cranberry salad
21 October: Amazing gluten free vegan chocolate cupcakes
22 October: Beautiful Things (bread, tiered cake plate, rose)
23 October: Vegan pad see ew - with tofu omelette
24 October: VT Pepper-Crusted Cashew Goat Cheese
25 October: Cauliflower alfredo pasta sauce
26 October: Quinoa Sun-Dried Tomato Burgers, Asparagus Sauce, an Award
27 October: Nut Roast Lasagna
28 October: Vegan pizza with goats cheeze
29 October: Vegan pumpkin scones
30 October: Vegan MoFo recipe quicklinks II
31 October: Smoky Pumpkin dip and Vegan Mofo Wrap-Up 

On Tuesday I signed up to do Vegan MoFo during October.  I feel a bit of an outsider, not being a vegan.  However as a vegetarian who doesn't like milk or cream or eggs, I love eating vegan food.  I love a challenge.  And I love reading vegan blogs, especially on Melbourne's Planet VegMel.

For those who are not familiar with Vegan MoFo, it is short for Vegan Month of Food.  Hundreds of vegan and vegan-friendly bloggers sign up to commit to posting at least 5 posts a week relating to vegan food.  It is all a bit overwhelming.  And exciting!  I suspect it will mean even less time to visit some of my favourite blogs (sorry) because I will try and keep an eye on other Vegan MoFo posts, in line with the community spirit of the event.

As well as listing my posts, I thought I might list a few vegan recipes that I would love to try (NB: has anyone else had trouble with their Delicious bookmarks being moved to a new system?  I can't login to update my bookmarks which is very frustrating so am I also bookmarking a few ideas here):

Vegan cheese - such as pepper crusted cashew goats cheese
Vegan pizza - like Ricki's pizza toppings
Soy condensed milk - maybe veganise this dulce de leche
Vegan pumpkin scones - maybe veganise my regular Pumpkin scones
Patatas bravas
Kung Pao Noodles
Olive oil pastry
Oh She Glows Choc Chip Cookies 
Apricot and Sultana loaf from Kari

*Disclaimer: I have a few backlog vegan-friendly recipes which might use dairy milk or butter, but as I don't make dishes where the taste of milk and butter are prominent, these recipes can adapt to non-dairy milk and margarine.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Fruit bread

For a long time I have wanted to try my hand at fruit bread.  The yeasted kind!  Ashley's Freshly Fruited Yeast Bread appealed to me.  It was an opportunity to use up a black banana (that had caused my mum to comment that I must be rich to let bananas get into such a state when they are so expensive) and an apple that had been forgotten at the bottom of my bag. It was absolutely delicious.

I was also inspired to make it because my oven had just been fixed.  I wanted to try something special to celebrate.  Honey, yeast and dried fruit were the perfect combination.  I used a bit less fruit, less honey and consequently less flour but that just meant it fitted in my bread tin easily.  The bread took quite a bit of patience.  I started in the afternoon, made lasagne and the finished the bread in the evening.  I am learning to take my time with bread.  Time for the sponge, to knead, to prove and bake.

Another lesson with this bread was to beware the dried fruit mixture.  It seemed an ideal recipe to use up a some of the dried peel hanging around the pantry.  Unfortunately Sylvia loved the bread but spat out any piece with peel.  I ended up spending time at breakfast chiseling out pieces of peel with a sharp knife.

I also learning to beware tins of apricot nectar and to become more familiar with my recipe books.  The recipe called for orange juice but I had some apricot nectar that I decided to use.  Only when I got out the tin to measure out some nectar, did I see the ingredients.  It was mostly sugar.  I was disappointed.  I thought I had bought thicker nectar in the past that wasn't so thin and sugary.  Sigh! 

My other query was the oven temperature.  180 C seemed low for bread.  I have been baking with yeast enough recently to know that it loves a hot oven.  It was only after the bread was baked and I was wishing that I had baked it at a higher temperature, that I noticed the recipe came from the Enchanted Broccoli Forest, a book that I own.  I checked the recipe and found that it was written in an odd way.  Mollie Katzen (bless her) had written one long method for how to bake bread and then had a few recipes with different ingredients that all referred to the same method.  I understand that once we find a good method, we like to stick to it, but I think it is good to acknowledge slight differences in each recipe.  In this case Mollie had generally said to bake bread at 425 F (I think this is 210 C) but Ashley used a newer edition of the book so maybe it had changed in her version.

Quibbles aside, this was a fantastic bread.  I just loved its fruity fragrance.  A couple of days later I was eating an apple and I actually recognised that the aroma was part of what I could smell in the bread.  This is truly fruity bread with the inclusion of both the fresh and the dried varieties.  It was also quite dense, which I loved - once I had got over all the kneading.  It lasted about a week.  I ate it mainly for breakfasts, often with cheese.  But it was just as good slathered with butter.

I am sending this bread to Susan at Yeastspotting, the weekly round up of bread baking bloggers.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Orange and Almond Cake
This time two years ago: Roasted Beetroot Tofu Burgers

Freshly Fruited Yeast Bread
Adapted from The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest via Eat Me Delicious

The Sponge:
1 cup lukewarm water
2/3 cup apricot nectar drink (or orange juice)
2 1/4 tsp (1 pkg) dry yeast
2 cups white bread flour

The Mix:
1 cup dried fruit (I used a mix of dried apricots, currants and peel)
1 ripe banana, mashed
1 apple, peeled, cored and grated (the original recipe called for 1 cup grated apple)
finely grated rind of 1 orange
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
1/4 cup honey
2 1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp melted butter

2 cups wholemeal flour
Approximately 2 to 5 more cups white flour (I used 2 1/2 cups)

Make the sponge.  Heat water and juice to lukewarm.  Place in large bowl with yeast and honey.  Beat in the 2 cups of bread flour.  Cover and let rise for at least 30 minutes.  I was so busy that it was over 90 minutes until I could attend to the sponge.

Beat the mix into the sponge.  It will be very runny.  Add the 2 cups of wholemeal flour, beating with a wooden spoon.  It should be ready to tip out onto a floured board and start kneading the rest of the flour in (though if it is so moist it can have more flour stirred in, do it in the bowl - so much easier than kneading).  Knead in as much of the extra white flour as you can.  I found that after 2 1/2 cups I couldn't do any more - though am uncertain if it was because I was tired of kneading or because the dough wouldn't take more flour.  Every time I thought the dough would take no more flour, I kneaded it more without flour and found the dough would get sticky.

Scrap as much out of the bowl as possible and place the dough in (I don't oil the bowl).  Cover with a damp cloth and let dough rise until it has doubled.  It should take about 1 hour.  My dough was quite dense, even when risen.

Punch down the dough and divide in two and press into one or two bread tins.  Ashley used two 8"x4" loaf pans.  I used my bread tin which is 25cm x 9cm and about 10cm high.  Cover and leave to rise for about 30-45 minutes.  Neither mine nor Ashley's rose much.

While dough is rising in the tin(s), preheat oven.  Ashely said to bake at 180 C (350 F) but I think I would bake mine at 210 C (425 F) or more next time. When dough has doubled, bake for 40-50 minutes (I did 50) until bread sounds hollow when tapped.  Cool bread on a wire rack and wait at least 30 minutes before slicing.

On the Stereo:
The Best of Two Worlds: Stan Getz

Tuesday 27 September 2011

WHB Raspberry Yoghurt Cake

I opened the fridge last week.  It was so jam-packed with food that an awkwardly balanced carton of eggs fell out and started leaking.  I rescued the broken egg, put it aside with a tub of yoghurt that was a day beyond the due date and brought out some raspberries that had been in the freezer forever.  They all came together into a rather good raspberry yoghurt cake.

At the end of a week with a sick toddler, I was after something quick and easy.  The recipe in my notebook (before I started recording sources for blogging) was for a Raspberry Yoghurt Crumble Cake.  I didn't fancy the idea of making a disc of crumble that needed to firm up in the fridge.  I ditched it and made a Raspberry Yoghurt Cake.  It came together quickly in the evening before I collapsed on the couch. 

E was waiting for a piece of cake with his cuppa before we watched our next episode from the box set of The Killing.  He needed some patience.  I checked the cake.  It needed a bit more time.  I turned it out onto a wire rack.  Sooner than I should have, I cut us a slice out.  It was so soggy in the middle, I put the cake back in the tin and into the oven for a further 15 minutes.  It was still rather soft.  I had followed the recipe fairly closely, only reducing the sugar slightly and leaving out the crumble.  It made me wonder if the oven should have been 180 C rather than 170 C. If only I had the time to experiment.

When E finally had his piece of cake he thought it had rather a lot of fruit in it.  I agreed.  From him it was a criticism.  From me it was praise.  Sylvia was in bed and didn't taste it until the next day.  She loved it.  We may have even had a piece for breakfast.  Fruit, yoghurt and almonds are a perfect way to start the day!

I am sending this cake to Winnie of Healthy Green Kitchen for Weekend Herb Blogging #303, the event coordinated by Haalo and founded by Kalyn.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Rice Noodles with Orange
This time two years ago: Champion Crackers and Footy Food

Raspberry Yoghurt Cake
source unrecorded

1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1/2 cup brown sugar (2/3 cup in original recipe)
1/4 cup almond meal
100g butter
1 cup thick plain yoghurt
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups frozen raspberries
icing sugar to dust, optional

Preheat oven to 170 C.  Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin.

Combine SR flour, brown sugar and almond meal in a large bowl.  Melt butter in a small bowl (I did this in the microwave but you could do it on the stovetop).  Gradually mix in the yoghurt and then eggs until thick and creamy.  Tip the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently mix until almost combined.  Fold in the raspberries but don't overmix or they will dissolve and bleed all over the cake.

Spoon mixture into prepared tin and smooth with the back of a spoon.  Bake 55-60 minutes (I let mine bake an additional 15 minutes and it was still a bit soft).  Sit in tin 5-10 minutes and then turn out and cool on a wire rack.  Dust with icing sugar (if desired) and eat warm or at room temperature.  Keeps in air tight container for 3-4 days.

On the Stereo:
The Wonderful World of Nursery Rhymes: Vera Lynn and Kenneth McKellar.

Monday 26 September 2011

Station Street Foodstore: cosy gourmet

A few weekends back Sylvia and I visited my friend Nicki and her new baby and toddler.  I had planned to take Sylvia for a play outside afterwards.  The weather was so foul that we headed to the Station Street shopping strip in Fairfield instead.  For lunch we stopped at a cosy little cafe called the Station Street Foodstore.  As we seated ourselves at our table with some delicious food, the rain came on outside and I knew I had made the right decision.

Most of the food was on display in a glass cabinet but there was a breakfast menu that included standard items such as bacon and eggs and pancakes and lots of side dishes.  I was tempted by the lasagne and fritatta on display.  Eventually I chose the gf pumpkin fritters with yoghurt and a rice salad with dill, goats cheese, baby spinach and carrot (see top photo).  It was a delicious combination.  I meant to ask what held the fritters together so well but Sylvia distracted me by running out the door at that moment.

Sylvia wanted chips but I was sort of glad they didn't have any.  Instead she had toast with cheese.  Most of our time in the cafe was spent trying to convince her to eat some.  All she wanted was a little cake with sprinkles.  Our conversation went along these lines:

S: could I have a little cake with sprinkles
J: eat some toast and some cheese first
S [takes fairy bite]: could I have a little cake with sprinkles

Finally - while kid wrangling - I knocked over a glass of water and the effort seemed too much.  We left.  I only just remembered to pay.  At least I enjoyed my meal.

We had a lovely time at the shops.  Every time we left a shop, Sylvia asked if we could go into another one.  And we did!  We bought spring onions and chocolate and muesli.  We bought soap and greeting cards.  We bought kids books and Sylvia's first umbrella.  I looked at the other cafes and thought that if I return, I might like to try the interesting tofu on the menu at Alfios Cafe.

If in the area again, I would return to the Station Street Foodstore.  The staff were friendly, there were kids books in a corner, and the cake display was very tempting.  If Nicki hadn't plied me with Greek biscuits I might have had a fudge brownie.  As it was we left with two cute cakes in a paper bag.  One for E and one for Sylvia.  She was very pleased.

Station Street Foodstore
134 Station Street
Fairfield 3078
03 9482 5433

Saturday 24 September 2011

Sylvia loves halva flapjack, carob cake and apricot slice

Today I want to share a little of Sylvia's story.  I often write about food that brings together her story with mine. I also want to reflect here on some books and music that I loved as a child and now share with her. Of course I couldn't write about her without some of the recipes that Sylvia has loved recently.  All sweet with the saving grace of a little nutritional value. Halva flapjacks made for a visit by friends.  Carob carrot cake made for the neighbours birthday party.  Apricot slice made just because.  Each is part of Sylvia's story.

One of Sylvia's favourite things to eat recently is "finkle buns".  To you and me that is fruit buns with icing and sprinkles on top.  Above is Sylvia, Dolly and Dolly's Mum all enjoying a piece of finkle bun while they watch Play School.  I am still am unsure about how much Sylvia should watch it.  She watched it yesterday when she was feeling poorly but earlier in the week she seemed happier to go for a walk with Zinc.  (Yes our cat loves to come for a walk with us to the end of the street!)

After all there are many more things in life than tv.  Comforting Dolly after Sylvia's toy cat pulls her hair.  Blowing bubbles for Zinc to chase outside.  Playing in the bathroom sink for hours - even more fun now that she can turn on and off the taps.  Opening and closing the blinds.  Doing up buttons on her favourite stripey dress.  She loves to chat to us.  Her favourite word is "actually" and her favourite question is "what's wrong mum?"  One of my favourite comments from Sylvia lately was "Dadda is just parking the train", when we were waiting for E to get home from work on the train.

Sylvia also loves books and music.  I can't help reflecting sometimes just how much we bring our own childhoods to her.  The picture of books above is of books that I had as a child.  I didn't have the Rupert annual but I was fascinated by Rupert.  Harry the Dirty Dog is a recent purchase that I made because I loved it so much as a child and am surprised that E has never heard of it.  The Outside Cat is my copy of the book that I had as a child and it saddens me that it is falling apart.  She also loves to read recipe books with me, which amuses me when she isn't tearing them up.  Her favourite book right now is Lavendar's Blue nursery rhyme collection.

E is going through a Tiny Tim phase so Sylvia is besotted with him too.  She loves the Yum Yum Song.  I much prefer the music I loved as a kid.  Danny Kaye and Rolf Harris.  It delights me that she loves hearing Danny Kaye sing Ups a Daisy as much as I did when young.  Only difference is that we used to have to be careful when dancing to it lest we bump and scratch the record.

E has bought her a few DVDs from 1960s and 1970s BBC.  The Herbs is a particular favourite right now.  Each character is named after a herb and has a signature song.  It is very entertaining, even if Lord Basil and Lady Rosemary can be a little bossy with Bayleaf the Gardener at times.  Apparently there is only one episode with the witch Belladonna because the BBC was worried it would frighten small children.  It is Sylvia's favourite episode.  We see it over and over.  For anyone who fears Sylvia lives in the past, you may be interested to know we have ordered a DVD set of Peppa Pig.

We went out for dinner last weekend.  A rare occurrence in our household.  When we got home and I told Sylvia it was time to brush her teeth, she told me that she would do it after dinner!  I guess she thinks dinner means sitting around our kitchen table with dinner on a plastic plate.  She did enjoy chippies for dinner.  Sylvia always enjoys chippies.  She still likes her food plain.  I was pleased to see her eating mee goreng noodles again recently.  No bits!  I was bemused when she ate a promite and dried apricot sandwich.  I can't help but think that she would eat more if only she wasn't distracted by so many things.

Last weekend, we had some friends over who used to live next door.  I finally made Dan Lepard's Halva Flapjacks that I had planned to make when our oven broke down.  I wanted to make them as soon as I saw them on Chocolate Log Blog because they were full of condensed milk.  They were slightly crumbly but I am yet to find a flapjack that isn't.  Sylvia is always asking for cake for Dolly's party.  Before our friends arrived, we got out a couple of candles to sing happy birthday to Dolly and blow out the candles.

Dolly was very pleased.  Our friends also enjoyed it.  E preferred the butter biscuits that they brought along.  I loved the slice which was indeed reminiscent of halva.  It felt like a healthier way to eat condensed milk than some of my condensed milk recipes and a great way to use up leftovers.  Healthier rather than healthy!  I found it quite sweet.  Choclette added white chocolate but I would like to add some cocoa to reduce the sweetness.  After all, I am rather fond of chocolate halva!

What I call Apricot Energy Bites comes from Chef Amber Shea's Almost Vegan Blog where she calls it Sunny Cashew-Apricot Energy Cookies.  I read the comments and found that they were a bit crumbly for a lot of people.  Including me.  I added some chia seeds but I went a bit overboard on the extra water.  Mine was quite sticky but fine if I kept it in the fridge.  A little less water next time.  I also chopped it up much smaller than Amber.  Hence it is merely a bite rather than a cookie. 

The bites were reminiscent of my recent Apricot Delight.  A bit more complex.  Sylvia loved them.  Like the apricot delight, I think they would be great in a cake pop, but are they too soft?  I think her lions also love them.  These lions are Dolly's presents.  Did I tell you another of Sylvia's favourite quetsions is "what colour is that?"

I couldn't resist this photo of an egg with a face.  Sylvia still loves her boiled eggs but get distracted.  Faces on the eggs help.  I draw the face and she likes to draw pink hair.  You can see it among cooking equipment because I made the carob carrot cake earlier in the morning.  It was made for my neighbour Paula for her son's birthday party.

The recipe was devised by Catherine of CatesCates for a small boy with a lot of allergies.  Catherine has kindly given me permission to reproduce this recipe here.  I hear that her version of the cake is spectacular so I hope she will blog about it at some stage.  Catherine always has a great section on 'variations' at the end of each recipe so I have added a section here, partly as a nod to her style, and partly because it was a great way to add in Paula's other suggestions and my thoughts.

This is how the cake looked when I left it with Paula.  One of the party activities was to ice it and decorate it with small penguins.  I love the idea of incorporating decorating the cake into the party.  There was heaps of mixture with enough left for another small cake and lots of little cakes for Dolly's party.  With pink icing and sprinkles.  Sylvia loved the carob flavour and I loved that it was packed with carrots.

I am sending the Halva Flapjacks to Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes for her Bookmarked Recipes event, that was originally founded by Ruth. I am sending the Apricot Energy Bites to Ricki of Diet Dessert and Dogs who has decided to keep on with her Wellness Weekends event that was initially for her Northern Hemisphere Summer.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Collingwood Cupcakes
This time two years ago: Green Home, Green Houses
This time three years ago: Pudla – for when your team lets you down!

Halva Flapjacks
From Dan Lepard

100g unsalted butter
75g brown sugar (I used about 1 dessertspoon)
200g sweetened condensed milk
75g tahini
50g honey
100g chopped dried dates or figs
100g chopped walnuts
25g sesame seeds
175g-225g rolled oats

Heat the butter, brown sugar and condensed milk in a saucepan or microwave (I did the latter) until hot and the sugar dissolves.  Remove from the heat or the microwave.  Stir in the tahini and honey, and then the dried fruit, nuts and sesame seeds. Now stir in enough rolled oats until the mixture holds its shape – add more oats if you want a firmer flapjack (I would add more rather then less as it was quite a soft flapjack).

Grease and line a 22cm square cake tin.  Spoon the flapjack mixture into the tin and press down with the back of a spoon. Heat the oven to 180C (350 F) and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the flapjack is golden brown (I would even leave it a little longer than 20 minutes next time). Remove from the oven and cool in tin.  Cut into squares.  Keep in an airtight container (ours lasted about a week).

Carob Carrot Cake
From Catherine

Dry ingredients:
2 cups spelt flour
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cups carob powder
500g carrots, grated 

Wet ingredients:
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups canola oil
3/4 cups raw sugar
3/4 cups dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups carob chips, chopped

Preheat oven to 180 C and grease and line cake tin(s) (I used a 20cm round cake tin, a 15cm square cake tin and about 12 mini muffin cups.  I think you could do 2 x 20cm round cake tin and I think Catherine does a 25cm round cake tin).

Place all dry ingredients into a large bowl.  (Grating the carrot was the most time consuming part of this.)  Combine all wet ingredients in a separate bowl and then pour into the dry ingredients.  Mix together and gently stir in the carob chips.

Pour batter into prepared cake tin(s) and bake for about 1 hour (or less if you are making smaller cakes or mini muffins).  It is ready when a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly.  Rest in the tin for 10 -15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

Variations: You can substitute potato for the carrot.  Paula has also used some swede instead of the carrot.  In her latest incarnation she used double the carob, half carrot, half swede and substituted carob molasses for brown sugar.  I think it would be lovely with lots of spices.  Paula mixed yoghurt, butter and icing sugar for her cake.  I used this cream cheese frosting.

Apricot energy bites
Adapted from Amber Shea

1 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
2 tbsp chia seeds and 4 tbsp water (probably needs less water)
shake of ground cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt

Soak chia seeds in 2 tbsp water for about 5 minutes.  Blitz all ingredients in a food processor until the nuts are finely ground and the whole lot comes together into a ball.  It should be quite sticky so that you can press it into the a tin. Add another tablespoon or 2 of water if you need it but I found mine a bit too sticky when I added that much.

Press the mixture into a lined 22cm square cake tin and refridgerate overnight or until firm.  (Or freeze for at least one hour if you have room in there - I didn't.) When firm, cut into 64 squares. Store in the refrigerator or freezer.

On the Stereo:
Danny Kaye for Children

Wednesday 21 September 2011

PPN: Meaty Cauliflower and Walnut Lasagne

You can imagine my joy when we got our oven fixed last week.  I had missed it over the week that it was out of action.  To celebrate, I spent hours making a lasagne and a loaf of bread.  I was exhausted afterwards but luckily I had made enough for dinner for days and the fruit bread (to come soon) gave me a week of breakfasts.

The lasagne was all the more satisfying because I finally made a Meaty Veg-Based Ground “Meat” that Ricki posted around this time last year.  I am constantly in admiration of her ways with flavours and substitutions but this one is just pure genius.  Who would have thought that cauliflower and walnuts would mimic mince meat! 

I am wary of faux meats in the stores.  TVP and seitan have never seemed quite right to me.  This faux mince meat makes me feel more comfortable. It is made of ingredients that I regularly have in the house.  It is fairly simple to make though it still adds a bit of extra time to the lasagne.  I still have half the batch left in the freezer and am wondering what to make with it - spag bol, chilli non carne, tacos, nachos, burgers.

I took before and after photos of the mixture (above and below) and you might not see much difference.  Blame my photography.  It did look a lot darker once it was cooked.

However, check out the below picture of the "mince meat" in the tomato sauce.  Does it look like a regular spag bol sauce?  As we ate the lasagne, I kept saying to E, it looks just like a meat lasagne.  Of course I would only need one of my brothers to point out that of course their regular lasagne wouldn't have seeds on it or spinach.  I guess I have picked up some odd habits since becoming vegetarian!

We ate late that night but it was worth it.  This lasagne tasted amazing.  Though there are a lot of nuts in the "mince meat", there is lots of cauliflower to lighten it.  E loved it too.  He had lots of dishes to celebrate the return of the oven but all the leftovers meant minimal dishes for quite some days following it.  This "mince meat" will become a regular fixture in our household.

I am sending this to Tandy of Lavender & Lime who is hosting Presto Pasta Nights #232 this week. It is too long since I have been part of this virtual pasta feast, which was founded by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Green Tambourine Cafe
This time two years ago: Simple Feta and Tomato Supper
This time three years ago: Fridge Door Confessions

Meaty lasagne with cauliflower and walnut "meat"
serves 8

Tomato sauce:
1 onion, chopped (I used red onion)
1 carrot, diced
1 red capsicum, diced
750ml passata (sieved tomatoes)
1/2 jar of pasta sauce (optional)
little bit extra water to swish out tomato sauce jars1/2 - 1 tsp mixed herbs
1/2 tsp golden syrup (or other sweetener)
generous pinch salt

White sauce:
30g butter
2 heaped dessertspoons wholemeal flour
about 1 cup milk or as needed
1 tsp seeded mustard
pinch salt
freshly ground black pepper

To assemble:

Half a batch of cauliflower and walnut mince meat (see recipe below)
375g "fresh" lasagna sheets (or a bit less)
spinach, chopped (optional)
200g mozzarella, grated
1-2 tbsps each of sesame seeds and sunflower seeds

Firstly make the cauliflower and walnut mince meat. See recipe below.

Next make the tomato sauce.  Fry the onion and carrot for about 5-10 minutes until softened.  Add red capsicum and fry an additional 2-3 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients and gently simmer for about 20-30 minutes.  It will only thicken slightly.  Go easy on the seasoning because the "mince meat" is well seasoned.

Once tomato sauce is done, add the "mince meat" and set aside while you make the white sauce so the meat can soak up the sauce.

To make white sauce: melt butter in a small saucepan.  Stir in flour (to make a roux) and cook a minute or two over low heat until it starts to dry out (if there is quite a bit of melted butter oozing out of the roux add a little more flour).  Add milk very gradually until you have a very milky mixture.  Bring to the boil, stirring frequently.  By the time the mixture boils it should thicken sightly but still have a pouring consistency.  Add mustard, salt and pepper.  Check and adjust seasoning.

If using spinach, lightly steam spinach - I did this in a bag in the microwave - and squeeze out as much moisture as possible.

To assemble:  Smear a spoonful or two of tomato sauce on the roasting dish.  Cover the bottom of the dish with a layer of lasagne dish.  Evenly spread with about one third of the tomato sauce and half of the spinach.  Cover with a layer of lasagne.  Spread a third of the tomato sauce and a scattering of the cheese sauce.  Cover with another layer of lasagne and spread with the remaining tomato sauce and spinach.  Cover with the fourth and last layer of pasta.  Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta.  Sprinkle with cheese, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds.

Bake at 220 C for about 40 minutes.  Ideally sit for 10-15 minutes before eating - but if you are hungry, just tuck in!

Cauliflower and Walnut "Mince Meat"
From Diet Dessert and Dogs

1 medium head cauliflower, broken into florets (about 450 g after trimming)
2 cups (250 g) raw walnuts
2 Tbsp olive oil (I forgot this)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 tsp dried sage ( I used mixed herbs)
1.5 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp fine sea salt, or to taste
2 Tbsp (30 ml) soy sauce, or tamari

Preheat oven to 180 C (or 350 F) and lightly grease a roasting tin.

Use a food processor to finely chop cauliflower and walnuts into a fine meal (I processed the cauli and nuts one at a time).  Transfer to a large bowl and stir in remaining ingredients, checking for taste.  Ricki mixed with her hands but I found a spoon did the trick!

Tip the mixture into the prepared roasting tin and and spread out evenly. Bake for between 45 and 75 minutes, checking and stirring at 30 minutes and then about every 15 minutes after it.  I found it needed to be stirred midway because it cooked on top quicker than at the bottom of the tin.  The mixture is ready when it is dry and browned.

You can use it right away, keep in fridge for 3 days or freeze it.

On the stereo:
The Rip Tide: Beirut

Sunday 18 September 2011

Gleegan blueberry cake pops for a potluck

What a glorious day for a picnic!  With our first warm day of spring, the whole of Melbourne seemed to be enjoying the sunshine at the Edinburgh Gardens in North Fitzroy today.  Planet VegMel couldn't have chosen a better day for a potluck picnic to celebrate 2 years of bringing together vegan (and vegan-friendly) blogs in Melbourne.  Add good food and good company to the mix and you have a great afternoon.

Blogger potlucks are always a great occasion to relish a challenge and impress a crowd.  However after the last one when I stretched myself a bit far (and fortunately was too ill to share the failure), I decided to stick with what I knew.  I made chickpea crackers (above) and roasted carrot hummus (based on this pumpkin hummus) so that there would be something I knew Sylvia could eat other than sweets.  They were easy, though I accidentally baked the crackers in a lower oven for a bit longer so they were crunchier than my first effort.  I left the spices out of the hummus to please Sylvia.  My dish to wow the crowd was cakepops.

Cakepops are my latest discovery.  I have made them with cake (but no sticks) and with cherry ripe filling and sticks.   They are impressive and rich but each is only a small mouthful.  I decided to make a batch that were vegan and gluten free - a combination that is also known as gleegan.  (A word I have learnt from Planet VegMel.)  I found a raw cakepop challenge for some good inspiration.  I particularly liked the sound of those posted by Barefoot and Frolicking.

I took a few ideas but in the end used what was in the pantry and my intuition.  I ground up the cashews and dried blueberries.  You can see from the photo that my mix wasn't really finely ground.  Blame my food processor or my impatience.  Once I added the maple syrup it was too sweet.  I added lime juice and the taste was good but the mix was too moist so I added coconut.  I tried some beetroot powder but they were still a grey colour rather than a glorious purple.

Sylvia had ordered a green one for her, a pink one for dolly and a purple one for me.  Oh dear!  At least it was easy enough to mix up between Monroe and The Killing (we have the DVD).  I then rolled balls in front of the telly and stuck the sticks in.  The freezer was full.  I got brutal with a few things that had sat there for too long and made room for the cakepops.

Mornings are generally slow in our house.  It takes a while to get Sylvia fed, washed and clothed.  The picnic was at 1pm.  I left for the supermarket at 12 to buy chocolate.  I started dipping the cakepops in chocolate at 12.39 and finished at 12.55.  Not a bad effort!  I was glad I knew what I was doing.  It also helped that E distracted Sylvia with bubbles and Zinckie cat.

I told Sylvia it was time to go and have our picnic on the grass.  She went and sat on the grass at the front of the house.  We got her into the car and headed off to the Edinburgh Gardens.  I still haven't charged my mobile phone for a few months (sorry mum!) so I just figured we would find the Planet VegMel group.  I knew there were a few people arriving by bike.  There were so many groups of people picnicking with bikes beside them that I began to worry.  But our group was beside the bandstand as promised.

It was great to see old faces and some new ones too.  As usual, there was a great spread of food, a little overwhelming at times and I missed eating foods because it was easy to be distracted.  My ploy to take savoury food that Sylvia would eat worked.  She loved the dip and bicckies.  So did others.  I decided not to eat the peanut sauces with savoury dishes in case it came into contact with Sylvia's food (because that she is allergic to peanuts).  I had Mel's quiches, Vicki's rice paper rolls and some of Danni's freshly baked sun dried tomato bread.  Lovely!  Sylvia and I shared a few small cups of K's refreshing chilled Lemon Chamomile Tea.

Dessert was great but overwhelming.  I had coconut covered truffles (don't know who made them), Mel's apricot delight, Cindy's peanut butter cookies with chocolate ganache, and Steph's chocolate caramel slice.  The last is a favourite of E's.  He ate three pieces and as we left he said he wished he had snaffled the rest to take home.  I was intrigued by K's version of chocolate ripple cake with gingernuts and soyatoo but got too distracted to try it.

Sylvia was quite shy at first but warmed up with the potluckers.  She was very chatty with K and gave her a few cuggles.  She also enjoyed watching Vicki's little girl.  When the cakepops were passed around (before they melted) they were enjoyed by everyone but there was a few over.  Sylvia loves them and couldn't think of much else than the "lollypops".  I tried to watch her but only managed to grab her after she had devoured three!  And a piece of caramel slice.  Fine compensation for no time to go on the swings!

It was a great way to celebrate Planet VegMel.  Yet again, I must say how friendly and welcoming I find this group of bloggers.  Without Planet VegMel I wouldn't have met any of them or found so many great recipes.  Emily and Steph had made some badges and a zine as part of the celebrations.  Steph has also written the part 1 round up of This recipe sounds very familiar - an event to encourage us to revisit some great Planet VegMel recipes.  (Part 2 still to come.)  Great stuff!  I look forward to many more years of Planet VegMel.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: SHF Chocolate Crackle Top Biscuits
This time two years ago: MM Heirloom Ginger Fluff Sponge
This time three years ago: Hobart Highlights

Gleegan Blueberry Cakepops
with inspiration from Barefoot and Frolicking
makes about 20

1 cup raw cashews
1/3 cup (70g packet) dried blueberries
3/4 tsp beetroot powder (which had a negligible effect)
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1 tbsp lime juice (about half a lime)
2 tbsp maple syrup (I think or maybe 3)
250g dark chocolate (I used 50% cocoa)

Blend cashews and dried blueberries in a food processor until finely ground (or as long as you can bear to let it run).  I mixed in the rest of the ingredients by hand, checking the taste as I went but you could just mix it all in the food processor.

Choose a board or plate that will fit in your freezer (with enough room above it for sticks to stand up.  Line it with baking paper.  Roll into balls about the size of a walnut and place on lined board or plate.  Gently press a stick into each ball.  (I use icy pole sticks but also saw a post where someone used chopsticks.)  Place in freezer, preferably overnight (which I did) or at least a few hours.

When ready to dip cakepops in chocolate, melt chocolate in microwave in a small deep bowl and prepare playdough (or somewhere for chocolate to dry) and one or two tubs to put set cakepops in.  Take about 3-5 cakepops out of the freezer at a time.  Quickly dip each in melted chocolate holding on to the stick, hold for a minute and then prop upright in playdough or whatever you have where they can sit upright.  Once the chocolate sets (and this will be quick) you can set aside.  Repeat with other cakepops.

Store cakepops in the freezer or fridge.  They can be brought to room temperature to serve.  Mine came out of the freezer and sat about for an hour or two on a balmy day before being eaten and the chocolate still was hard enough to crack!

On the stereo:
A Secret History: the Best of the Divine Comedy

Saturday 17 September 2011

Seven Links Meme

A while back I was tagged by the lovely Kath of My Funny Little Life to participate in the 7 Links Meme that has been travelling around the blogosphere like wildfire.  I have really enjoyed reading others' 7 links and am pleased to have joined the conversation.

I have posted links to seven of my posts using the categories below but I don't have the energy right now to pass it on - though please take up the baton if you are so inclined.  You can also read the rules for more information.  I laughed at the advice not to overthink it.  I have 891 posts to think back through and I initially drew a blank at quite a few categories.  But I always have fun with memes and this is no exception.

It also seems an opportune moment to thank Kath for sending me a packet of dried wild garlic.  She kindly put it in the post for me when I expressed interest in a comment.  I confess I haven't opened it yet as it seems quite precious.  I am saving it up for the right occasion so stay tuned.  FYI, when I received the packet, it had been opened by Australian Customs and they had inserted the orange leaflet in to say that they had opened it and decided it was ok to enter the country.  I think they were happy that it was all packaged up neatly.  They are alert but not alarmed!

1. Your most beautiful post:

Hot Cross Buns.  This was the hardest of the seven categories.  I wanted to avoid just choosing a recent posts that I thought were beautiful (like the one I wrote on 9/11).  I wanted to avoid just seeking beautiful photos (like these photos).  I wanted to pick something that had stood the test of time.

I considered quite a few before I found one that sang out to me for many reasons.  There is something about yeasted baking that delights me with the kneading, soft rising dough and thick crust.  Yes, the photos could have been more beautiful (hence a recent hot cross bun photo) but they were good photos to post in the first year of blogging.  More importantly, the post has beauty in the way it addresses important issues, describes the feeling of a special day and brings my past to life. 

2. Your most popular post

Airplane cake.  Another tough choice.  I did wonder if this meant most imitated, most commented, most requested by family or most hits.  I went for the last one.  The airplane cake constantly gets a high volume of hits. Fair enough.  It was a good post with fun photos and a good template for making the cake.

3. Your most controversial post

Do I dare to cook with one less pear? I generally avoid controversy on my blog.  It is not what I am here for.  One issue that I have written about a few times, which is controversial in the food blogging community, is whether to write the recipes in full or not on food blogs.  This post addressed that issue (rather than stirred up the issue).

4. Your most helpful post

A Neb at Nut Roast Announcement 2008.  One of my passions on this site is nut roasts.  This post gives a lot of information on nut roasts and lots of links to nut roast recipes on both my blog and other blogs.  I wrote it partly because it was so hard to find information on nut roasts online so I hope it helps others who are interested.

5. A post whose success surprised you

Mars Bar Slice.  I guess I shouldn't have been surprised.  Chocolate, caramel, more chocolate and butter.  What's not to love!  Yet, I would never have predicted that this would become one of my most popular posts.

6. A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved

Hummus.  This was another difficult choice.  From the beginning of my blog I have been lucky to have people commenting, visiting and making my recipes.  I can't complain.  So I chose my Hummus post which didn't get the attention it deserved through no one's fault but my own.  It was merely my eighth post.  A favourite dip deserved better photos, better prose and more attention generally.  Maybe one day I will return to give it the attention it deserved.  (I couldn't bear to re-post the photos here so the picture is from my pumpkin hummus post.) 

7. The post that you are most proud of

Why does food history matter?  I spent a long time writing this post.  I collected photos, quotes, and links. This post was too important to write quickly.  I let it simmer gently over time, checked the taste and added seasonings as required.  The final result was a carefully thought out articulation of my feelings about food history, lists of useful information and some of my own food history.  If only I had the time and energy to put into every post!