Monday 30 January 2012

WW Iced Apple Chamomile Tea

A couple of weekends back when it was sweltering hot, I had requests for treacle scones.  The spirit was willing but the flesh was wilting.  Instead I made a cool drink based on one that I had first encountered at a potluck last year.  K had brought along a chamomile lemon iced tea

I had some chamomile apple tea so it seemed fitting to add some apple juice that I had in the fridge.  I drained all I could from a bottle of maple syrup (rather than making maple syrup ice cubes like K).  Next time if I am low on maple syrup, I might even try some honey, which is a more traditional partner of chamomile.

I found that the taste of the chamomile was rather strong after steeping the tea for 10 minutes.  Later I checked my packet and it said to steep it for 2-3 minutes, which I think I might try next time.  Lastly I added a generous handful of ice cubes and some soda water. 
It was refreshingly cold and not too sweet.  E was not interested but Sylvia and I loved it.  We drank it while watching Mary Poppins.  I confess that I had hoped the chamomile might even help Sylvia sleep.  When I was a student I went through a phase of drinking lots of chamomile tea until I got so sleepy that it really wasn't helping me study.  No such luck with Sylvia.  She seems sturdily resistant to sleep lately.  Who can blame her on hot night!  At least the drink cooled us down!

I am sending this to Ricki for her Wellness Weekends.  I know she will appreciate me sharing a bit of summer!  Also thanks to everyone who sent in ideas on water bottles in my previous post.  I now need to spend a bit of time reading up on the different bottles.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: BBQ tofu like an Aussie flood
This time two years ago: WHB: Tomato and Peach Relish
This time three years ago: Hot weather, hopeful politics and summer food
This time four years ago: Wendy’s Apple Green Tea

Iced Apple Chamomile Tea
Adapted from In the Mood for Noodles
Serves 8-10

2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup loose leaf chamomile tea
2 cups apple juice
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup maple syrup, or to taste (or use honey for a more traditional taste)
about 4 cups soda water
lots of ice cubes

Steep tea in boiling water for about 10 minutes (or according to packet).  Strain and discard tea leaves.  Add apple juice, lemon juice and maple syrup.  To serve, half fill a glass with the apple tea drink.  Add a handful of ice cubes and fill with soda water.

On the Stereo:
The versatile Martin Denny

Friday 27 January 2012

A tale of three water bottles

Over the past 6 months I have tried to move away from using old plastic mineral water bottles with tatty labels.  It has been a frustrating journey.

I started off with the green bottle.  It was made by Aquasteel.  I love it.  It was lightweight and stylish and exactly what I wanted.  Within a few weeks the bottle was knocked off the kitchen table, huge cracks formed around the nozzle.  It was useless.  I tried to contact the company to ask if I could buy another top but the email and phone number didn't work.  I had bought it on holiday so I couldn't return it to the shop.  I had to abandon it.

The next bottle was the tall purple one.  I found it at Officeworks.  It appealed because I don't really like the sucker tops.  This had a nicer opening to drink from.  Unfortunately it seems to open at the wrong sort of moment.  It has dumped water on my camera, on the floor of the car and I get worried Sylvia will throw it on the bed when having a night time tantrum.  It has been banned from my bag and from night time use but I love it too much to throw it out.  It is great around the house during the day.

The last bottle is the little purple one.  It is from Safeway supermarket.  It is practical but is just not quite right.  It is too small when I am riding my bike and reach for it in my drink holder.  It just doesn't have the aesthetic appeal or pleasing feel of the other two.

The pursuit of the ideal water bottle continues.  It is not an active hunt.  But I hope one day I will get over the disappointment of the acquasteel and find another I can love and use.

Update 2014  - after trying lots of water bottles, I have now settled on the Thermos water bottles (see photo of a Thermos water bottle) which don't leak and stay cold in summer.  The only problem is that the straw is hard to clean and gets dirty after a while.  I need to look into replacement straws.

This post was inspired by Kari's post on water bottles.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Happy Burns Night - Haggis Stuffed Mushrooms

Every year E suggested I make vegetarian haggis to celebrate Burns Night.  Finally this year I did.  I have been in search of interesting ways to serve haggis.  So far I have made pizza, tacos, nachos, crepes and pasties.  Recently I discovered McSween, who makes Haggis in Scotland, have a whole heap of recipes.  I decided to make the haggis stuffed mushrooms.

This was an easy recipe to make once I had made the haggis.  It was merely a matter of grilling the top of the mushroom until it smelt cooked and juices started to run out of it, then I mixed some grated cheese with some haggis and pressed it into the cup of the mushroom, topped it with a little more cheese and grilled it under the cheese was golden brown.  Easy.  Served with tomato sauce and light green salad.  Followed by some dancing to Scottish folk songs with Sylvia.  Next time I want to try baked potatoes with haggis.

Happy Burns Night!

Update 2014: My new favourite way to serve haggis is to wrap it in pastry as a festive haggis wreath.

On the Stereo:
The Best of Scottish Folk: various artists

Tuesday 24 January 2012

WHB Green Goddess Enchiladas and other recent meals

As I have mentioned before, I have been avoiding the temptation of new recipes.  Many old favourites are appearing in our kitchen.  But when a dish appears with the temptress name of Green Goddess Enchiladas using lots of kale which is overgrowing in the garden, it is hard to resist.  It doesn't mean the dish will be as gorgeous as Joanne's version but I had to have a go.

Before telling you about my struggles with the enchiladas, I wanted to give a quick round up of some of the recipes that I have loved revisiting and one that turned on me.  Firstly here is a little overview of dinners last week:

Monday - Bangers and mash
Tuesday - Pumpkin and lentil soup (a bit like this soup but less spicy)
Wednesday - Leftover Pumpkin and lentil soup
Thusday - Broccoli burgers (from the freezer) with simple salad
Friday -  Green Goddess Enchiladas
Saturday - Leftover Green Goddess Enchiladas
Sunday - Mock Tuna (Chickpea) Salad, Coconut Bacon, salad and turkish bread

The soup was great and I got some lunches out of it.  I loved revisiting the coconut bacon.  We had it for lunch on the weekend in a salad sandwich with mayo, lettuce, tomato, beetroot, and avocado.  Even Sylvia enjoyed it.  I also tried the broccoli burgers on Sylvia but she only ate as much as she needed to eat the tomato sauce off the top.  My other enjoyable recent meal from my recipe index was tacos with a simple Kidney Bean and Corn Stew

The mock tuna salad was the one that turned on me.  Well it was a matter of me discovering that dijonnaise was too spicy for me.  Unfortunately I only made the discovery after throwing far too much into the salad I had prepared.  I hadn't realised the dijonnaise was so different to mayonnaise.  A stomach upset that night made sure that I have no desire to ever eat it again.

I am not sure that my kale plant was much kinder than the dijonnaise.  Here it is before the harvest.  Who would have guessed that kale would thrive in a Melbourne backyard in summer.  Its main problem - apart from neglect - was the little insects that race me to chomp through it.  If you saw how brutally I harvested my kale, you might think I didn't deserve any kindness from it.  There is only a stump left.

It felt like a forest in the kitchen.  Much of it went into the compost.  I tried to pick only the nicest leaves.  Sylvia and Dolly were most most interested in it.  I stuffed it into my food processor and blitzed it as much as possible for the Green Goddess sauce.  The sauce never tasted quite right.  Slightly too bitter.  I'd like to think it is a learning experience but I have made the same mistake before.

My main mistake was not so much the kale as the corn tortillas.  I love the latter in enchiladas.  But they can turn to mush all too easily.  And that is what happened.  I was just a little too eager to use up all the kale and a little too busy to read the recipe properly.  Though I did like the tips on heating the corn tortillas to make them easier to work with.

Joanne's post had a photo of enchiladas all crisp with just a little sauce (and used some of hers on the bottom of the pan as well as the top.  My photo is of the enchiladas buried under a blanket of sauce.  Maybe it would have been better if the sauce was less bitter.  My mum suggested that the kale might have been a bit old.  I found that the dish was actually better on the second night with a dollop of guacamole.

I swithered over whether to post this recipe but despite the corn tortillas not crisping on top it was quite tasty and I learnt a few things.  January has been an interesting month for posting less recipes and more of my crazy ideas from my backlog.  This has also been a survival mechanism while Sylvia is still not sleeping well in the evenings.  Fingers crossed her sleeping improves.

I would love to dig a few more posts out of my backlog but it is Australia Day on Thursday and a beach holiday beckons so it may be a bit quiet around here, though I have one backlog post in mind that may be scheduled if time permits.  Meanwhile I am sending Green Goddess Enchiladas to Cinzia of Cindystar for Weekend Herb Blogging #318, the event coordinated by Haalo and founded by Kalyn.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: NCR Sushi Salad and Sushi Rice
This time two years ago: Muffins at the tennis
This time three years ago: Apricot History and a Chutney
This time four years ago: HoTM #11: Chunky Beetroot Soup with Kidney Beans

Green Goddess Enchiladas
Adapted from Eats Well With Others
Serves 4-6

Splash of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1-2 medium carrots, diced
1 red capsicum, diced
kernels of 2 cobs of corn
1 cup of cooked chickpeas
1 cup of cooked cannelini beans
125g cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 shake of ground chillis, or to taste
2/3 cup pumpkin and lentil soup (optional)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese, divided
10-12 corn tortillas
1 tsp sesame seeds (optional)

Kale Sauce:
1 bunch kale (three very good handfuls), stems removed if possible
2 spring onions, chopped
2 fairly mild green chillis, finely chopped
1 1/4 cup vegetable stock
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Cook onion, carrot, capsicum and corn in a large frypan until onion has softened (I added the vegies as I chopped them in that order).  Add chickpeas, cannelini beans and cherry tomatoes and cook for a few minutes until tomatoes start to wilt.  Add spices and stir about one minute then turn off the heat and add pumpkin (soup) and 1/2 cup cheese.  Check seasoning.  Set aside.

To make suace puree all ingredients in a food processor until fairly well blended.  (I pureed my raw kale first to make sure it got well chopped and then added other stuff but that is only because I am paranoid.)

Preheat oven to 200 C or 400 F. Grease a 9×13 inch casserole dish. Lightly cover bottom of the dish with 1/2-3/4 cup of the sauce.  (Oops I didn't do this - perhaps it is why my sauce on top was too much).

Heat corn tortillas.  Do this by either 1) wrapping the stack of them in aluminum foil and placing them in the preheating oven for 5-7 minutes or by 2) microwaving them covered with a wet (wrung out) paper towel for 30 seconds.  Spoon 2-3 dessertspoonfuls of mixture onto each tortilla, roughly roll up and place seam down in the prepared casserole dish.  The corn tortillas crack a bit but don't worry too much about this.

Pour kale sauce evenly over top of enchiladas. Joanne says not to worry if it is liquidy.  My sauce covered the whole lot and I think next time I would make sure there only enough sauce so that there is plenty of tortilla showing through it.  Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese and scatter with sesame seeds Bake for at least 25 minutes (mine was more like 40 and could have been more) until cheese is bubbly and the tortilla peeking through is crispy.

On the Stereo:
Super Trouper: ABBA

Sunday 22 January 2012

WSC Blueberry Chocolate Cake

My mum had her birthday last week.  She came to look after Sylvia on the day.  It seemed only right to bake a birthday cake.  Not only does a birthday girl deserve a birthday cake, but I knew there would be hours of entertainment with birthday candles for Sylvia.  Being unorganised as usual, I only decided to bake the cake in the morning before my mum came.  I had blueberries and I wanted it to be healthy(ish).  Fat Free Vegan's Chocolate Blueberry Cake fitted the bill.

Sylvia and Dolly never say no to helping bake a chocolate cake.  It was a fairly straightforward cake to me.  Just blitz the blueberries, mix with wet ingredients, add to dry ingredients and bake.  There was no added oil and no eggs.  Even better for licking the bowl.  The main problem was that it was a 35 C day so I didn't bother pre-heating my gas oven.

The cake came out of the oven 5 minutes after mum arrived.  I was concerned that it didn't look at all appetising.  Flat and rubbery were the words that came to mind.  Well at least it would hold a few candles.  If I had remembered the chocolate ganache that is still in the freezer, I would have brought it out but I was rushing to head off to work.  Yet, my mum and Sylvia seemed to have enjoyed it when I got home.

I loved it.  I would even go as far as saying it is one of the nicest low fat cakes I can remember eating.  E also enjoyed it because it was not overly rich.  He thought it just needed a dollop of cream.  It was lovely on the first day but got even denser and slightly fudge after that.  I guess that Susan of Fat Free Vegan is a big fan, given that she has a picture of the cake on the banner of her blog.

She says it makes 8 servings.  I am more parsimonious.  I liked baking it in a square tin (rather than a round one like Susan) because it is easier to cut small squares.  Which is just as well because Sylvia decided to crumble up her piece while having a tantrum about not being able to eat the pieces I was photographing.  As you can see above, I experimented with eating it with fresh blueberries and some maple syrup. I agree with Susan that it is a delicious way to eat this cake.
Sylvia and I had fun making a birthday card for mum.  It was amazing that all I had to buy was some card (from Deans Art) because the rest of the material - glitter glue, sticky sparkly paper and stickers - were hanging around the house.  I think I could really get into making cards rather than buying them. Though I still haven't worked out about envelopes.

Yesterday we went to my sister Susie's house in Geelong for a birthday bbq.  We had a great array of salads.  I contributed a smoky potato, bean and corn salad.  For sweets we were rather restrained and merely had some cupcakes and mum's pav.  Erica made the GF white chocolate and chocolate mud cupcakes with pretty icing piped on top.  We put some candles in these to sing Happy Birthday.  It was a fun afternoon with the kids setting up shops in their bedrooms.

I am sending the chocolate blueberry cake to Chele of Chocolate Teapot for We Should Cocoa.  The theme this month is Healthy Conscious.  And for those who are interested in healthier baking, there is a great article on muffin makeovers from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Chocolate cake - the way mum made it
This time two years ago: Cheese and Almond Loaf
This time three years ago: Birthday chocolate cake and crazy computers
This time four years ago: Coconut Chai Cake

Chocolate-Blueberry Cake
Slightly adapted from Fat Free Vegan

1/2 cup blueberries (I used frozen)
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup maple syrup (or date syrup, or other liquid sweetener)
1 teaspoon ground flax seeds (or chia seeds)
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup plain white flour
1/2 cup plain wholemeal flour
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
pinch salt

Serving suggestion:
1 cup blueberries and maple or agave syrup
icing sugar
chocolate ganache and cream

Blend blueberries with some of the water.  Add remaining water, maple syrup, flax seeds and balsamic vinegar.  (I did this in my little blender attachment for my hand held blender so I couldn't do too much water at once and then I just hand mixed the remaining wet ingredients but you could just blend them all together in a bigger blender.)

Mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  Pour in wet ingredients and stir until just combined.  Pour into a lined 20cm square cake tin.  (Susan used a round 23cm cake tin.)

Bake 30 minutes in a moderate oven (180 C or 350 F) or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly.  Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.. Keeps in an airtight tin for 4-5 days.

To serve you could top with fresh blueberries and drizzle with syrup OR dust with icing sugar OR spread with chocolate ganache and dollop some cream beside each slice.

On the Stereo:
The Trip - Various Artists: curated by Jarvis Cocker and Steve Mackey

Friday 20 January 2012

Malabar Hut - why it is our favourite Indian takeaway!

We are very particular about ordering takeaway Indian meals.  I want a good mix of vegetables and proteins.  E is fussy about his chicken curries.   Our yardstick is the Prince of India that we used to patronise when E's parents lived in Peebles.  We finally had an Indian meal so satisfying that we leaned back in satisfaction and said it measured up.  Malabar Hut was recommended by friends some time ago.  After a few Malabar meals, we are finally on the bandwagon.

Our first order (because we have mostly had takeaway) was Gobi Mutter (cauliflower and pea curry) and Palak Paneer (spinach and cheese curry).  The gobi mutter was delicious.  It could have had a few more chunks of cauliflower but the sauce was mild and creamy and very very moreish.  Unfortunately the palak paneer was too salty, despite the wonderful silky spinach sauce.  It was promising but definitely not perfect.
On that occasion we also ordered Chicken Dopiaza for E, which he enjoyed, Dosa for Sylvia who ate a bit, and Paratha.  The last is a flaky bread that was recommended to us by the Malabar Hut guy on the phone.  It was a good recommendation as it was flakier than the roti that we sometimes order at Indian takeaways.

Our next order was on the anniversary of E's mother's death.  She had always loved a biryani so that is what we ordered.  I had the veg and E had the chicken.  The biryanis were disappointing.  They were edible but I didn't like the spice mixture, especially when I found myself crunching on a stray cardomom pod, and the spices were too hot for me.  E didn't like the bones in his chicken.

We also ordered masala dosa which was nice but too spicy for me and roti which was cold by the time we picked up our takeaway order.  The unexpected success was the Palak Paneer.  These deep fried squares of cheese with a chickpea flour batter weren't too spicy or tasty but had a slight taste of lemon in the batter.  The chewy crisp texture was excellent even when it had cooled down.  The dipping sauces, as is often the way with Indian takeaway, was too spicy for me but I was happy to eat the pakoras plain.  I had hoped Sylvia might eat them but she was far more interested in the rice.

Finally I ate in at Malabar Hut with my friend Yaz on one of his visits to Melbourne last year.  He had invited quite a few friends along and we ended up with two tables.  One for the omnivores and one for the vegetarians.  This made it easy to share.  Even better was that Yaz and his friends Brian and Bruce were so familiar with the place and their knowledge helped me discover some new dishes.  I didn't take photos because I didn't know many people there.

Just watching their delight as the Gobi 65 was served was proof enough that it had to be sampled.  This starter of cauliflower deep fried in a bright red batter surrounded by fried onions was as good as the reactions of the people around me, despite being quite spicy.  We also ordered a paneer deep fried in a red batter (Rava Fried Cottage Cheese?), potato balls in a bright red sauce (that was amazing but I haven't managed to work out what it was), a creamy mushroom and pea curry (ok but a few too many mushrooms for me, though others loved it), a dal with lots of tomatoes (it didn't impress me because it was too much sauce and not enough lentils).  The service was good.  I was so full and satisfied by the end of the meal and it only cost $18 each (for 2 rice, 2 paratha, 1 dosa, 2 entrees, and 4 mains between about 6 or 7 of us).

My last experience of Malabar Hut was a takeaway meal in July last year.  We ordered Gobi 65, Paneer Pakora, Dal Spinach (which was mustardy with lots of green specks), Dum Aloo Kashmiri (not the excellent potato dish of my last visit but the unnaturally bright red creamy tomato sauce with potato balls were nice), Chicken Dopiaza (boneless chicken in a creamy sauce for E), 2 Steamed Rice, and 1 Paratha.  It was an excellent selection.  I think it cost us about $50 and lasted two nights.  The only reason we haven't been back since is that we just don't have takeaway very often.

I can't think of Malabar Hut without thinking of Malibu Stacy from the Simpsons but I assume the name refers to a place in India (according to Wikipedia there are a few).  I have a copy of an old menu on which the guy serving me had crossed out the home delivery service.  Online, I found that the menu is slightly updated since we were there last.some changes. Though our experiences have been hit and miss, now that I have found some dishes to love, it is our go-to Indian takeaway and I highly recommend it to others. 

Malabar Hut
868 Sydney Road, Brunswick, VIC 3056
Tel: 9383 4200
Open 7 nights a week and for lunch on the weekends

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Laurent Bakery Cafe - French and Fancy

I love a good bakery cafe.  You don't need much more than a really good bread for a satisfying lunch and you can walk away with wonderful loaves and tarts.  On the weekend when I did a camera course, I wandered among the city arcades with little success - too busy or too many spruikers - until I chanced up on Laurent.  This is an old favourite of mine.  It is an elegant old dame of the Melbourne bakery scene.

Just look at that curved staircase and chandelier.  Those tall arched windows remind me of the windows on Playschool before they went modern but in a far more charming setting.  The vase of flowers in the centre of the room is huge and lush.  Best of all is that this is an oasis of space and peace in the middle of the busy city. 

Laurent makes crusty baguettes and a good substantial sourdough that your teeth need to work at.  My aunts often visit my parents bearing this bread which is always welcome. Yet upon entering the store, it is the rows of gorgeous colourful cakes the my eyes are drawn to.  The French bakery does a great line in tarts, pastries, macarons and other French fancies.

After my brief camera course I wished that I could do the bakery more justice.  Seeing examples of how beautiful photography can be makes me feel inadequate.  Yet I hope you will at least appreciate the glorious red strawberry tarts or tartes aux framboise because this is a French-style bakery.

Yet for all that I lust after the pretty sweet food, the sensible side of me knows that I will be far happier with some savoury fare.  I chose the salad baguette.  It is a simple affair of lettuce, cheese, tomato, avocado and an excellent vinaigrette dressing.  My high praise of this salad roll demonstrates the quality of Laurent's goods.  I am usually very fussy about eating salad rolls that are ready made and on display. 

My lunch was delicious.  It wasn't cheap but I will pay a bit more for a decent sandwich.  I ate it while reading about Amy Winehouse in The Age, listening to foreign academics beside me and a cover of a Smiths song overhead.  Oh for such ambiance at more lunchtimes! The sandwich was very filling.  I couldn't face any sweets.  But I did purchase a raspberry marzipan tart, a strawberry macaron and a walnut raisin roll to take home for later.  They were lovely.

Laurent Bakery
306 Little Collins Street
Melbourne CBD, VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9654 1011
Mon-Sat: 8am - 6pm Sun: 9am - 5pm
Check website for other locations

Monday 16 January 2012

Nectarine bounty - salsa and pizza

Wow that was some marathon of catch up posts last week.  I finished off quite a few posts that had been almost there for some time.  During that time I didn't make new recipes, as I promised myself.  It meant I revisited some recipes posted on this blog.  Then I was given a couple of paper bags of nectarines on Friday and had to experiment a bit.

Before telling you about the recipes here is a brief rundown of some of the things happening over this time.  Amazing how much can happen in a week or two:
  • We had such fierce winds in Melbourne that our cubby hut blew over.
  • A bowl of peas started flaming in the old microwave with excellent timing that meant we could get a new one in the New Year sales.
  • Sylvia gave dolly a bath.  As you can see from the above photo the water showed just how much she needed a bath but it did take a while for her to dry out.
  • I did a 2 hour introductory DSLR course that was free with my new camera.  I still find manual photography a mystery but I like Rachel's manual Project 365.  I also bought a tripod.  Am still unsure I will ever have time to use it.
  • Sylvia and I have been doing some craft on birthday cards.  Lots of fun.
  • I cleaned out the pantry.  That doesn't happen very often.
  • I had some painful dental work.  Never again.  Please!

The nectarines came from trees that grew from stones in compost in the house of a family who doesn't like nectarines.  I was quite excited and made a Corn, Tomato and Peach Salsa from Vegan YumYum to serve with broccoli and hazelnut burgers.  I don't have a bbq so my method was quite different.  The nectarines that I substituted for the corn were on the bitter side but worked in this salsa.  My preference would be for yellow peaches in the salsa.  Definitely one to make again.

After my photography course I found a place in Melbourne Central near the train station that sold a container of pineapple chunks.  This was a perfect snack for me.  Even better was that it meant I had some leftover for pizza.  I made some fast track pizza dough with sweet potato pizza sauce, capsicum, mushrooms, olives, pineapples and cheese. 

With the leftover pizza dough I made nectarine and custard pizza.  Not bad for an ad hoc dessert.  The bitterness of the nectarines needed more sugar but I still enjoyed it.  Which is strange given that if you suggested a sandwich of nectarines and custard I might feel slightly queezy.  There are still nectarines left but I probably wont experiment with too many new recipes.  I wonder if the trees are quite young and that is why they are on the bitter side.  Yet who can resist a gift of fruit!

I am sending the salsa to Ricki's Wellness Weekends.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Sylvia's dinner - hit and miss
This time two years ago: Tetris, the Foolish Hedgehog and Brunch
This time three years ago: Mojos Weird Pizza – for the adventurous!
This time four years ago: Mole and the global village

Corn, tomato and peach salsa
Adapted from Vegan YumYum
serves 3-4

2 corn cobs
6-8 large cherry tomatoes, halved
3-4 little peaches (I used nectarines), yellow is best, halved
1-2 tbsp olive oil
pinch salt
1 spring onion, finely sliced
2 tsp lime juice, or more (I used lemon juice)
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp chilli paste
1/4 tsp cumin powder
seasoning to taste

Toss corn, tomatoes, peaches, oil and salt in roasting tray and roast at 180 C for about 30 minutes.  If the corn is still not charred, place under grill and turn occasionally until slightly charred (which is what I did).  Meanwhile chop tomatoes and peaches.  When corn is grilled, cut kernels off the cob and mix in a medium bowl with tomatoes, peaches and remaining ingredients.  Set aside for at least 30 minutes if possible.  Keeps up to 24 hours.

Nectarine and custard pizza
I used about one fifth of my favourite fast track pizza dough and made a thick custard with 3 tsp custard powder, 1 1/2 tsp sugar, and 1/3 cup milk brought to the boil.  I spread it on the dough when hot and arranged the nectarine slices of about 6 small nectarines.  I baked it at 210 for about 20 minutes.  The custard was a little thick and the pizza could have done with a little more sugar but was still very good.

On the Stereo:
Music to Watch Girls By: Various Artists

Saturday 14 January 2012

Scienceworks - history meets science in Spotswood

I love history and museums so it is a mystery why it took me so long to visit Scienceworks.  Sure I had been on the fringes of the museum.  I attended a conference there many years ago and once went to an avant-garde music performance at the Planetarium.  But I guess they don't count.  Finally late last year I took the time to wander through the museum with E, Sylvia and my dad.  It was both fun and fascinating.

The museum is divided up into exhibitions.  We started off in House Secrets.  It was a fascinating mix of science and history, with a mock up of the kitchen upon entering.  There was lots of fun.  A bowl of fruit that people could stand in - great photo opportunity!  An upside down loungeroom.  One of my favourite exhibits was the microwave with a video where the door normally is.  You could select videos of all kinds of things that should never be in microwaves and see what happened when you put them in there.

Even better was this "antique" microwave oven from circa 1960.  How cool is that!  I loved all the old kitchen jugs, cannisters, tupperware, teapots etc.  A great example of the mixture of science and history was the old Kelvinator fridge that you can open and find a video screen with information playing on it.  There were lots of interesting snippets of information, such as that the origin of teabags came from a tea merchant who packaged his tea in silk bags.

The exhibition also managed to take a mundane part of our life and make them fascinating.  This wall of cans makes the everyday into art.  Quite a few of these cans are in our pantry and I was tempted to go home and stack mine up just like this  The Secret House exhibition included other ordinary places in the home like behind the back of the couch, little drawers of what we keep in our bedroom cupboards, and a bathroom set up with information about how it all works.
The exhibition was very clever in they way it made us see homelife with new eyes.  I loved the above giant dryer.  Everyone had to have a look.  One you were drawn in, you could then learn something about it.  Below is an old television that made me feel a little nostalgic for a time when the screen was plagued with snow and rolling pictures and there were no remote controls to help you out.  Reading about how household technology had developed was great.  Visiting with my dad who remembered lots of things we saw and Sylvia who just wanted to play with all the interactive exhibits demonstrated that there was indeed something for everyone.

Much as I loved House Secrets, I concede that domestic history is not for everyone.  Apparently there are some who would prefer to see life-like dinosaurs wave their heads about and roar fiercely in the Explore-a-saurus Exhibition (which finishes in April).  Sylvia was not one of those.  They just made her cling to us.  I liked watching the dinosaur eggs hatching and the sandpit where you could seek fossils.  She was more interested in fake dinosaur poo.

We found a few of the exhibitions (such as Perception Deception) too old for Sylvia and instead headed upstairs to The Nitty GrittySuper City.  This is an interactive exhibition aimed at 3 to 8 year olds.  Sylvia at 2 years old, found it entertaining.  First sight upon entering is the role play cafe.  A kiddie size cafe with sink, plastic food, coffee machine and tables and chairs.  Wouldn't I have loved this in our cubby hut when I was little!  Sylvia spent quite some time here.

I loved how they managed to slip in some food history.  The walls of the cafe are decorated with 1960s supermarket posters.  That Kraft cheese one made me a little nostalgic though I would never have sanctioned tomato in my sandwiches as a kid.

The area has lots of other activities.  The music bowl is lots of fun.  Lots of instruments to bang and tinkle and make noise with.  Other sections includ a pulley system that older kids seemed to love, some Australian animals, a log to crawl through, crazy mirrors, microscopes and a giant paper dolls section.

As with the rest of the museum, there are sections that adults just love.  The below lego model of Melbourne fascinated us.  My dad and I spent some time identifying familiar landmarks, places where we had worked, the Zoo, the Vic Market and the West Gate Bridge.

Midway through our visit we had to stop for lunch.  The cafe isn't anything to write home about.  It is a fairly bog-standard affair of pies, pasties, wraps, sandwiches, coffee and cakes.  I had the spinach and ricotta roll and a piece of carrot cake.  I gave Sylvia a piece of my cake and promptly took it away when I saw there were unspecified nuts sprinkled in the icing.  The staff were pretty vague about what nuts and so she didn't get any in case they were peanuts.

If the weather had been kinder I would have been in favour of taking along lunch to eat outside.  Out the back of the main museum is a huge expanse of grass with a few playgrounds and even a few more learning experiences.  What drew my eye and made me love the museum even more was the old pumping station.  I do so love an old historic building.  And industrial history is just so steampunk!

Before I take you inside, I must point out that Scienceworks has marvellous views of Melbourne's major bridge, the West Gate Bridge.  Can you see its curve between these two towers?  I still remember the bridge being built and travelling over it to visit my grandparents.  As a child who desperately wanted to fly in a plane, I loved the birds eye view of Melbourne, especially seeing the lights at night. 

But onto the pumping station.  I loved all the exhibitions and there are more in the pumping station.  But museums, love them as I do, are tiring.  All the reading and pressing buttons and learning.  Old buildings are places to soak up the atmosphere and reflect on how much had happened in this space.  So much more restful.  Though I did talk to the guards a little about the history of this 1897 building that had pumped Melbourne's sewerage, it was wonderful to just sit in awe at the craftsmanship and technology.

The day we visited it was busy.  However not as busy as the first time Sylvia and I attempted to go there only to be defeated by the queues.  It taught me an important lesson about booking tickets by phone or online if you want to avoid queues and not to go there on a public holiday just as new exhibition opens. Queues aside, Scienceworks is a fantastic museum and a great day out for all the family.

2 Booker Street, Spotswood
Tel: 131102
Only a short walk from Spotswood train station.