Tuesday 28 February 2012

TTT Avocado pound cake with cream cheese frosting

Last week I baked three cakes for Sylvia's birthday.  I tried to keep it simple and plain.  Simple because my time and energy is quite limited at the moment.  Plain because there are so many ways to displease kids.  Neither plain nor simple is my strength.  I managed plain and simple with some twists.  Pound cake (also known as buttercake or madeira cake) is plain but mine was slightly green.  That is the joy of Avocado pound cake.

Not quite as green as I had hoped but greener than I had expected after using avocados with some grey patches and my yoghurt had some blueberries in it.  It was green enough for E to guess that it the cake might contain broccoli, spinach or courgette.  Green enough for me to smile with delight at the green puree in my food processor.

Sylvia then wanted a purple cake.  So I decided on some purple icing.  At which point she told me she wanted green icing.  Sometimes you can't win.  Fortunately she was more gracious about her presents.  E and I bought her a new purple bike.  I am not sure if it is more or less popular than the new dolly stroller from a local budget shop.  I think she will enjoy the bike more if the weather ever manages to find a balance between drenching rain and burning heat. 

Sylvia also received presents for her craft box as well as clothes, dress-ups, games and a new nurse dolly.  Little dolly is still ruling the roost but she is glad to have nurse dolly when she doesn't feel very well.  And Sylvia loves her new cape for being the wicked witch with her friend Gordon!  

Her dad bought her a 1970 movie of the Railway Children DVD.  She loves him reading her an abridged version of the story and was quite fascinated by the film.  Birthdays are about indulgence.  Watching a long DVD, eating pizza and then decorating a cake fit the bill.

I made a ring cake which seemed celebratory.  E thought it looked like a big doughnut.  While I am often happy to leave cakes plain (like Lorraine's afternoon tea loaf), I believe that icing is right and proper when it is a birthday.  I was surprised at how restrained Sylvia and I were in decorating the cake.  I suspect she planned to eat more of the sprinkles than she put on the cake but I did my best to stop her eating a handful of butterfly decorations. 

I was less successful at stopping Sylvia putting her face into the empty icing bowl.  It makes me laugh to see how much she embraces cakes.  Yet if I can make the treats a little bit more healthy I will.  Avocado was not just about colour.  It also imparted some buttery softness in the cake with healthy fats.  The frosting is one I like for not having a shocking amount of sugar and I love using beetroot powder to minimise artificial colourings. 

I served the avocado cake on Sylvia's birthday and it was lovely when fresh.  It was less popular when we had some people around for her birthday.  My mum commented that it had a slightly odd taste.  Probably the avocado.  I thought it barely discernible.  However I suspect the real reason that it was neglected on a table of party food was that there was tough competition.  I'll be back soon with her other two birthday cakes.

Meanwhile, I am sending this cake to Karen of Lovage and Lavender and Kate of What Kate Baked for their Tea Time Treats event.  The theme in February is Romance so I think this cake with purple frosting and pretty flowers seems just right.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Teatime and tales - for the young at heart
This time two years ago: Baking: the good the bad and the healthy
This time three years ago: Valentine Day Polenta
This time four years ago: If music be the food...

Avocado Pound Cake
Adapted from Not Quite Nigella
  • 1 1/4 cups plain flour
  • 1/4 cup cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup almond meal
  • 1 (scant) teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup rice bran oil
  • 3/4 cup castor sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ripe medium avocados
  • 1/2 cup yoghurt (I used half plain and half sweetened)
  • 1 tsp lime juice 
Cream cheese frosting (Adapted from here):
  • 125g cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • purple colouring (I used a mix of purple powder and beetroot powder)
  • sprinkles (sparkly, flowers and butterflies)
    Preheat oven to 170 C.  Grease and line a 20cm ring tin (or a loaf tin).

    Place flours, baking powder, almond and salt in a medium to large mixing bowl.  Mix well.  Blitz oil, sugar, eggs, avocado flesh, yoghurt and lime juice in food processor until smooth and green. Gently mix avocado mixture with dry ingredients until combined.

    Pour into prepared tin and bake for 55 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.   Leave in tin for 5-10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

    To make the frosting, vigourously mix all the ingredients with a spoon (or use electric beaters).  Spread over cooled cake and decorate with sprinkles as desired.

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

    Sunday 26 February 2012

    WW Chocolate energy slice, rain and Ripponlea

    After making chocolate almond rice bubble slice recently, I was quite interested in more ideas for using nut butter.  This energy bites recipe was chosen by E because he preferred a slice to balls.  It appealed to me because when I made it last week it was so hot that I didn't fancy turning on the oven.  And I love how these slices allow a clear out of the pantry.

    In fact it was so hot last week that we ate dinner outside - though that was partly because Sylvia wouldn't come inside.  Then on the night I made this slice it was so wet that both E and took twice as long as usual to get home because Melbourne went into traffic chaos.  Melbourne's weather is like that at the moment.  Either too hot or too cold and wet.

    The slice also gave me an opportunity to use up some chocolate icing in the freezer.  The recipe says that it is fine without the chocolate icing but it was the Pinterest photo with the chocolate on top that first drew me in.  At first I was dubious about the slice.  I wasn't sure of the amount of ground linseeds.  Then I decided I really liked them.  But I loved the slice so much more once I put a layer of chocolate icing on top.  So did E.  Every time I gave a piece to Sylvia she licked the chocolate off the top and told me it was like a icy pole.

    We still had the slice last weekend when we went to Ripponlea last weekend with friends Chris, Yav and Florence.  I wanted to take a piece of slice along but didn't think it quite right.  It was great morning tea snacks at work.  The icing went so soft that it was quite messy.  That's fine for me.  I didn't think I could bear to have Sylvia taking an hour to eat a piece and ending up with chocolate icing everywhere. 

    Instead we had a wee piece after lunch and took oat crackers, roasted chickpeas and grapes to snack on in the gardens. We decided not to do a tour of the grand house.  There wasn't time once we had picnicked on a rug and wandered around the gardens with the kids.  I did enjoy tryout out the telephoto lens that I had purchased with my camera.  It still feels a bit awkward but I don't often have the opportunity to use it.

    Our visit was timely.  Ripponlea features in a new detective series based in Melbourne that started on the ABC last week: Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries.  We caught up on the first episode last night and really enjoyed the stylish production and feisty heroine.

    I am sending this slice to Ricki for her Wellness Weekends (without the chocolate topping for a vegan, sugar free and gluten free slice if you use vegan choc chips and GF oats).

    Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
    This time last year: Chocolate cashew fudge and nut roast love!
    This time two years ago: Serendipitous Plum Jam
    This time three years ago: Frozen Fruity Fun with Icy Poles
    This time four years ago: WBB Microwave Muesli

    Linseed, cashew and fruit slice:
    Adapted from Mia's Domain

    1/2 cup rice malt syrup (I used a little golden syrup to top up when I ran out)
    1 cup cashew butter
    1/2 cup rolled oats
    1/2 cup ground linseeds (flax seeds)
    2 tbsp whole linseeds
    1/2 cup raw wheat germ
    1/2 cup raw hazelnuts, chopped
    1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
    1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
    1/2 cup dried cranberries
    1/2 cup prunes, chopped

    Chocolate ganache (optional)
    The recipe used half cup each of dark chocolate and cream but I used this dark chocolate frosting.

    Mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl until well combined.  I found it hard going stirring it all together but with a bit of elbow grease it comes together.  Spread into a lined or greased 20cm square cake tin and press down with the back of a spoon.  Leave in fridge to firm up.  If desired, spread with ganache or chocolate frosting and return to fridge.  Slice up int squares to serve.  This slice is best kept in the fridge because once out of the fridge it gets quite soft (especially the chocolate frosting). 

    On the stereo:
    Authentic Hawaiian Favorites: Arthur Lyman

    Thursday 23 February 2012

    WSC Green Apple and White Chocolate Salad

    'It's all getting a bit Heston Blumenthal around here,' said E as we ate our Green Apple and White Chocolate Salad.  Well maybe.  Except we had a small child swinging on the kitchen table.  I don't know much about Heston's food but I do know that his idea of fun is different to that of a small child.  White chocolate in a salad?  No says small child.  Thread a piece of penne pasta onto your finger?  Yes please, she says.

    I was excited when Choclette announced that the We Should Cocoa theme was Vegetarian Savoury.  I was less excited when I deleted the post by hitting the back button twice - a really stupid feature of Blogger!  So all my lovely links are gone and I will see how many I can find again.

    Discussions of chocolate in savoury cooking:
    Chocolate savoury (vegetarian) recipes from my blog:
     Chocolate savoury (vegetarian) recipes from elsewhere:

    White chocolate in any savoury food seemed like a crazy idea but intrigued me.  Dark chocolate makes sense because it gives great depth of flavour.  I would have loved the time to make a Tex Mex nutroast with a mole sauce but I was up to my eyeballs, and then Sylvia got sick.  I was interested to read an article explaining that white chocolate gives some of the fattiness that cheese adds to a dish.  But sweeter.  So I chose Green Apple and White Chocolate Salad because it was simple and used ingredients already available in my pantry.

    The salad worked surprisingly well, served with pasta and sundried tomato pesto.  The key was an excellent dressing that had plenty of vinegar, mustard and salt to balance the sweetness of the white chocolate.  If I made it again I would use a more robust lettuce rather than the iceberg that was in the crisper.  I still found the white chocolate incredibly sweet and am by no means converted to using it much in savoury cooking.  Yet it made sense in this salad.  Even E liked it.  Sylvia was not keen.  She just took some of my apple so I used less than I intended.  But you can't be cross at a child for wanting to eat fresh fruit!  Even if she doesn't appreciate white chocolate in salad.

    Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
    This time last year: Earl Grey cupcakes and nutritous ganache
    This time two years ago: Feta Scones in a Flash
    This time three years ago: Palak Paneer
    This time four years ago: HoTM #12 Prune and Bean Casserole

    Green Apple and White Chocolate Salad
    Adapted from csppcooks
    serves 2 (with lots of leftover dressing)

    1-2 handfuls of lettuce, shredded
    1/2 to 1 granny smith apple, chopped
    1 small handful of chopped walnuts, toasted
    10-15g white chocolate, shaved with a vegetable peeler


    3 tbsp olive oil
    3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
    2 tbsp maple syrup (will use less next time)
    1 tsp. poppy seeds
    1/2 tsp dry mustard
    1/4 tsp onion granules
    1/4 tsp flaked sea salt

    Make dressing by whisking all ingredients together in a small bowl until it is well mixed and slightly thickened (or shake in a little jar).  Arrange salad on the plate in the order on the list.  Drizzle with a generous amount of dressing.

    On the Stereo:
    Brood: My friend the chocolate cake

    Wednesday 22 February 2012

    Jimmy Watsons - a Carlton institution

    Jimmy Watson's Wine Bar in Carlton is an institution.  It has been there ever since I can remember but that is not enough reason to visit.  I'm not so into the wine.  The menu is far more favourable to carnivores than vegetarians.  What I go there for is the ambiance.  Who can resist the leafy beer garden on a balmy summer's evening.  It was a great place to grab a quick bite before heading off to see our first 3D movie, Hugo at Cinema Nova.

    The menu says that they cater to vegetarian and gluten free diets.  They even have GF pizza bases.  Yet when I asked what was in the vegetarian pizza, I was flippantly told it had vegetables.  Finally I was told it included pumpkin and asked if I would eat feta.  Huh?  Not quite as welcoming to vegetarians as the menu suggests.  It was an unfortunate attitude because my pizza - topped with tomato sauce, cheese, pumpkin, feta, baby spinach, tahini sauce and almonds on a crisp base - was truly wonderful.  I also saw a platter of antipasto and chips pass by me that looked rather good.  NB We ordered before the full dinner menu was available at 6pm.

    I love the dark wine bar interior but it is the beer garden that beckons me.  Occasionally noisy or smoky, I find the place convivial.  I have had some lovely evenings with colleagues in search of a fine after work bottle of wine.  Surrounded by bamboo greenery, it is shady, and usually filled with interesting people.  The area is unexpected given the austere white exterior that I have always found quite ugly.

    Yet to read the history of Jimmy Watson's makes me appreciate how important the building is in reflecting something of Lygon Street's heritage.  This is the first cafe I have written up on my blog, that has sent me looking into my history books for background. The building was originally a nineteenth century building in 1935 when Jimmy Watson decided to open the bar to introduce patrons to fine wines.  He died in 1962, the same year that prominent Australian architect, Robin Boyd - a critic of ugly Australian buildings, redesigned the frontage in the Mediterranean style.  This was at a time when Melbourne's Victorian architecture with fine cast iron lace balconies were unappreciated.  Wheelan the Wrecker was knocking down some of our lovely old buildings.  I am glad that this cultural cringe has passed but today Jimmy Waton's is an architectural reminder of this time.  Quite fitting considering its important place in the social history.

    Jimmy Watson's Wine Bar
    333 Lygon Street Carlton
    03 9347 3985

    Tuesday 21 February 2012

    Pancakes with fried peaches and blueberry sauce

    On the weekend I made pancakes.  From a packet!  We still have pancake mix leftover from our holiday in January.  So no recipe.  Just some fruity pancakes for Shrove Tuesday.

    We had run out of milk.  I used some apple juice instead.  I sliced a peach and pan fried the slices in butter.  They took a while to soften and brown.  Long enough to chat to a friend on the phone and chase Sylvia around the kitchen.  We had leftover blueberry syrup made with frozen blueberries, maple syrup and orange juice.  I poured it over the peaches.  Lovely!  Rather gourmet, actually!  With very little effort.

    We had savoury pancakes for dinner tonight but I will have to write about it later - stay tuned....

    Sunday 19 February 2012

    Choc almond slice, Valentine and Koorioberee

    What have Valentines Day and local traditional dancing got in common?  Not a lot.  Maybe some people find it romantic to dance like a kangaroo for their beloved but I suspect they are few and far between.  Yet in this post they are linked by this chocolate almond slice which seemed just right for Valentines Day and was the perfect snack after seeing a dance performance last weekend. 

    A surplus of nut butter, gave me an urge to make this No-bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Crispies with PB Fudge from Oh She Glows.  Sylvia is allergic to peanut butter so I used almond butter, which worked really well.  When I made the fudge topping I worried it was too sweet.  Once combined with the rice bubble mixture it was superb. 

    The whole thing seemed like a healthy version of the Mars Bar Slice that is so popular on my blog.  Sticky, crunchy, gooey with a creamy topping.  But less sweet and more chocolatey.  I also loved the addition of coconut which reminded me of childhood favourite, Chocolate Crackles.

    Last weekend we went to the city for Melbourne's Indigenous Arts Festival.  It was a great way to spend the afternoon.  I particularly enjoyed the Koorioboree, performances by eight traditional Koorie dance groups.  It is fantastic to see these groups reclaiming and sharing culture.  And I find the actual dancing really uplifting.  We also saw some Indigenous art in the Potter Gallery at Fed Square and some open air music performances. 

    At the art gallery, Sylvia spied some colourful macarons and wanted one.  I thought of the choc almond slice at home and told her she could have a piece when we got home.  I was glad we waited because the slice was so much more satisfying than a macaron.

    I also think that the slice would make a great Valentines Day recipe, especially in Australia where it falls in the summer, a time when I don't always feel like turning on the oven.  I don't get terribly excited about the day (we went out for dinner on Valentines Day this year as it was the day we could get babysitting but I would have preferred a quieter night) but I do love the opportunity to indulge in chocolate and fun shapes.  So here is a list of some of the inspiring Valentine recipes I have see around the blogosphere and some heart shaped baking on my blog.

    Valentine recipes around the blogosphere:

    Heart shaped food on Green Gourmet Giraffe

    I am also sending this slice to Jac of Tinned Tomatoes for her Bookmarked Recipes event.

    Chocolate almond rice bubble slice

    Adapted from Oh She Glows
    Makes about 30 bites or 16 squares
    • 1/2 cup almond butter
    • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup (I used rice malt syrup)
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 1/4 cup unsweetened soy milk
    • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
    • pinch salt
    • 75g dark chocolate (I used 70%), chopped
    • 3 cups rice bubbles (aka rice krispies) or GF rice puffs
    • 1/2 cup dessicated coconut
    Fudge Topping
    • 1 cup almond butter
    • 75g dark chocolate (I used 70%), chopped
    • 1 tsp rice bran oil
    • salt, to taste
    • coconut for sprinkling
    Line a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper. 

    Place almond butter, rice syrup, vanilla, milk, cocoa, and salt in a large mixing bowl and combine.  Add chocolate and microwave until it is melted (or you can do this in a large saucepan).  Stir well and mix in rice bubbles and coconut.

    Transfer into prepared tin, press down with the back of a spoon and wait until it firms up.  Angela suggested 10 minutes in the freezer but mine was full so I just left it at room temperature for about an hour.

    Meanwhile make the Fudge topping.  Place almond butter, chocolate, oil, and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl.  Gently heat until the chocolate is melted.  Add more salt if desired.  Pour over the firm slice and sprinkle with coconut.

    Leave slice in the fridge until the topping sets (or Angela suggests an 45-50 minutes in the freezer).  Cut into squares or small bites to serve.  Keep in fridge (or freezer).  My slice lasted a week.

    On the Stereo:
    Ruby: the Killjoys

    Friday 17 February 2012

    WHB Basil pesto

    You'd think after almost five years of food blogging that I would have a basic recipe for basil pesto on my blog.  You would also think I could photograph pesto in focus.  You might even expect I could make a basic couscous salad with pesto.  I regret to inform you: No, No and No!

    I almost didn't post this because the top photo wasn't as in focus as I had dreamt it might be (and it is the best of a bad lot).  But the pesto was still green in the airtight container after a week.  It is one of the best that I have even made.  So I am sharing it with you despite blurry photos, wilting basil leaves and crumbs on my table. 

    Some days you just have to take me as I am.  I never promised sumptuous photos.  Surely you wont mind if you taste this pesto.  It really was wonderful.  Fragrant, tasty and brilliantly green.  Great in a seeded bun with tomato and cheese when you have been swimming.  Quite cheesy.  (Note to self: find a good basic recipes for vegan pesto that works for me!)

    It is also fantastic on chia bread.  But here is a tip!  Don't store your pesto in a purple airtight container.  Because you will surely open the fridge and curse at how your glorious green pesto has discoloured overnight.  Murky brown pesto just doesn't have the same appeal.  I didn't cover mine with oil as the experts recommend.  Yet once the lid was off the purple tub, the pesto miraculously was green and stayed this colour in the airtight container in the fridge for a week.

    Lastly, a spoonful of pesto over a minestrone-style soup is delicious.   Which made me realise I have also never posted about a basic minestrone.  Let's leave that for another time.  For now, I will just feel my blog is that teensy bit closer to completion with this pesto recipe.

    I am sending this to Lynne from Cafe Lynnylu who is hosting this week's Weekend Herb Blogging #321, the event coordinated by Haalo and founded by Kalyn.

    Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
    This time last year: Kalyn's stuffed peppers
    This time two years ago: CNY Potluck, Pearl Balls and Healthy Treats
    This time three years ago: MLLA8 Dal Makhani
    This time four years ago: PPN #52 Gyoza and Salad

    Basil Pesto
    Adapted from taste.com.au
    I think it made about 1 cup but will check next time
    • 45g (1/4 cup) pine nuts
    • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves (I used leaves and stems of 1 bunch)
    • 2 small garlic cloves, crushed
    • 60g (3/4 cup) finely grated parmesan
    • 60ml (1/4 cup) good olive oil
    Blitz in blender until smooth.  Keep in fridge in an airtight container - I didn't cover it with oil and it was still green after a week.

    On the stereo
    Latitude 20: Arthur Lyman

    Wednesday 15 February 2012

    NCR couscous salad with chermoula

    Before I start telling you about herbs and couscous and salad, you might notice that I have updated my blogger banner so it goes across the whole width of the page.  Sylvia and I had a craft session this afternoon.  I worked on my banner and she glued and cut and stickered.  I am not sure the banner is quite right but it is an improvement!

    Like my banner, couscous is a constant work in progress.  It is hard to get right.  Often it turns out clumpy or dry or just plain stodgy.  Following a recipe would probably help!  I was searching for inspiration for Lisa and Jacqueline's latest No Croutons Required challenge which is herbs.  I stumbled upon a recipe for 'Giant couscous salad with preserved lemon and chermoula in Alice Hart's Vegetarian.  It took some tweaking but I ended up with one of my best couscous salads yet!

    I was quite taken by the idea of making Chermoula.  It is a sauce of parsley, lemon, olive oil and spices.  I had decided that this would also be a good way to use some of the lovely olive oil that Fran and John gave me for my birthday. 

    Firstly though I went on a detour.  I remembered that I didn't have any parsley in the house.  I headed off to the supermarket before dinner and as I got there I remembered I didn't have parsley because there was non in my last visit there.  So I bought basil and made pesto.  I tried a couscous salad with pesto, roast pumpkin, edamame, tomato and avocado.  It was nice but a bit clumpy.  E said it was more like a side dish.

    The next morning I had to put the car into the mechanic and found myself in the unusual position of walking into the supermarket on the way home at 8am.  They had parsley so I bought a bunch and decided to try again with chermoula.  It was very good though not swimming in oil like the picture in the book.  It was brilliant with the couscous because it kept the grains moist and separate.

    The first night I was happy to eat a big bowl of it with some salad veg on the side.  E less so.  The second night I served it with lentil burgers, salad veg and chia bread.  E was very pleased with it that night.  Sylvia didn't taste the couscous but did eat a chunk out of the bread - can you see it in the above pic?  E just thought the bread had come out of the oven that way.  Sigh!  Ah well, he does the dishes!

    My one reservation is that parsley can sometimes stick in your throat but that is a minor quibble as I have come to love parsley and use it a lot.  I once thought it was only good for a poncy garnish so I have come a lot way.  In the above pic you will see Sylvia's new ninja babies (a bargain at 30c each!) that we bought last week on the day I made the salad.  She loves them and has spent many hours making cots for them with her building blocks.  Her imagination is amazingly fertile at the moment.  I like to think that this salad shows my own imagination still has a bit of kick in it!

    Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
    This time last year: Samosa Pie
    This time two years ago: NCR Bann’s Parsnip Soup with Walnut Ravioli and Carrot Cream
    This time three years ago: Potato salad, freak weather and bushfires
    This time four years ago: FF #3 Dip and muffins from the pantry

    Couscous salad with Chermoula
    Inspired by Alice Hart's Vegetarian
    served us for 3 mains and 3 side dishes

    large wedge of pumpkin (about 800g)
    2 large parsnips
    olive oil and salt for roasting
    400g tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
    1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
    2 spring onions, finely sliced
    1 cup couscous (I used wholemeal)
    1 1/2 cup boiling water
    1/2 tsp stock powder
    2 heaped teaspoons honey (or other sweetener)
    juice of 1 lemon

    Adapted from Alice Hart's Vegetarian

    1 bunch parsley
    zest and juice of 1 lemon
    1/4 cup good olive oil, or to taste
    1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, lightly toasted
    1 small clove garlic, crushed
    1/4 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp sweet paprika
    dash cayenne pepper
    dash cinnamon

    Firstly make Chermoula.  Blitz all ingredients in a food processor.  I did mine in some batches especially as I found the parsley chopped finer if I did it in batches in my little blender attachment for my hand held blender.  Mine was a bit tart but that worked ok once in the salad.

    Trim, peel and dice both the pumpkin and parsnips and toss with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt.  Roast at about 200 C for about 40 minutes.  (I went to the mechanics to pick up the car in the middle of this so I can't be too specific.)  Cool slightly and mix with chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes and spring onions.

    Mix couscous, stock powder and boiling water in a medium bowl.  Cover and sit for about 5 minutes or until soft.  Fluff up with a fork.  Stir through about half the chermoula.

    To serve pile couscous in a large shallow salad bowl.  Heap pumpkin, parsnip and chickpea mixture on top and then dollop some chermoula on top.  Serve with any extra chermoula.

    On the Stereo:
    Authentic Hawaiian Favourites: Arthur Lyman

    Sunday 12 February 2012

    On the Stereo: the soundtrack to my life!

    Ever since starting this blog, whenever I write a post with a recipe, I include "On the Stereo" at the end.  I love to have music playing while I cook or while we eat dinner.  We should each have a soundtrack to our life!  I thought it might be fun to write a post about the music in my life.

    Music has been part of my life from singing along with a Rolf Harris record, accompanying my sister to K-Mart to watch videos of Wham, living with a New Order obsessed housemate, watching my brother's folk band at Port Fairy Music Festival, participating in Top of the Pops chats while working at the BBC website, making friends in London with Blur fanatics, standing in a muddy field at my first Pulp performance, and travelling from Scotland to Ireland to see a Will Oldham gig. 

    E is first and foremost a musician, even though he now has a day job.  Years ago he had an album released on vinyl.  He goes through phases of listening to different genres which since I met him have included: lo-fi, country and western, blues, Americana, American folk, Celtic folk, industrial, krautrock, electronica, classical, post punk, progressive rock, reggae, funk, psychedelic, turntablism, neo-folk, jazz, ukelele, easy listening and lots more. His tastes are eclectic and account for a lot of what we hear. I love Britpop, folk and indie music, but listening to E’s selection has broadened my tastes.

    We don't go to gigs as often as we used to but we still love music in my household.  We can easily get into a rut with albums.  Amazing, given that we had over 800 CDs which I did a quick count a year or two ago.  (All my music is on CDs rather than an ipod or digital, though E is more digital savvy.)  On the Stereo' challenges me to listen to more of my albums, and gives me a reason to insist on a change when E has an album on repeat.  It has also given him a great excuse to buy new albums - as if he needs any.  I don't have an ipod or download music from the internet. 

    Earlier this year when we drove to Orange, E didn't quite understand my request for driving music, so I spent hours listening to a cassette mix that I made a couple of decades ago.  I was pleased that it still sounded ok.  After all it is the soundtrack to my travels.  Rather than expect you to read my scrawly handwriting, I have typed out the list for those who are interested:
    • Morrissey - Now my Heart is Full
    • Gin Blossoms - Hey Jealousy
    • Greenhouse - See Saw
    • Rob Clarkson - Great Day Alright
    • Pet Shop Boys - Suburbia
    • The Cranberries - Linger
    • Beautiful South - Let Love Speak Up Itself
    • Kristen Hersh - Your Ghost
    • The Drunk, The Monk and The Spunk - Pretty Hot Corn Girl
    • My Friend the Chocolate Cake - A Midlife's Tale
    • Pale Blue Eyes - Another Rainy Day
    • Beautiful South - Lips
    • REM - Perfect Circle
    • The Church - Metropolis
    • Hummingbirds - Blush
    • The Welcome Mat - Play Me
    • Teenage Fan Club - Escher
    • Killjoys - Shibboleth
    • Madonna - Oh Father
    • Club Hoy - You Promised, You Said
    • Billy Bragg - Warmest Room
    • Penelope Swailes - Strange Hands
    • Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart Again

    Music is more than sound.  It is also a culture that develops around musicians, bands and genres.  I am fascinated by it.  I love hearing about crazy experiences that music brings to the lives of the stars and the fans.  Here is a snapshot of some musical material culture that has interested me in recent years.  Lists are an important part of music culture so here is my five lists of five.  As you might notice, these lists are eclectic and there are many gaps.  I have much to hear, see and read!

    Five phases of music in my life
    Not a comprehensive list but it covers some of the people I have been excited by over my lifetime.  I thought of a list of 5 best gigs but it was just too hard to choose.  But many of these bands would be included.
    • Youth: Patsy Biscoe, ABBA, Danny Kaye, Rolf Harris, Bushwhackers, Wham, Billy Joel
    • University Days: Killjoys, Wild Pumpkins at Midnight, Billy Bragg, Paul Kelly, Rob Clarkson, The Smiths
    • Travelling/Edinburgh: Pulp, Divine Comedy, Belle and Sebastian, Blur, Scott Walker, Will Oldham
    • Return to Melbourne: Jarvis Cocker, Reindeer Selection, Decembrists, Missy Higgins, Barb Waters
    • Recently: Beirut, Franz Ferdinand, Glen Hansard, Amanda Palmer, Regina Specktor

    An extra 5 modern composers I love to listen to: Max Richter, Hans Zimmer, Phillip Glass, Michael Nyman, Ólafur Arnalds

        Five interesting music documentaries
        Talking heads, archival footage and retrospective angst.  Almost as good as being there!

        Five fascinating books about music
        Since reading music reviews in InPress and Beat street magazines, I have admired how words can be used to describe what we hear, and how the background stories make the music more interesting. 

        Fantastic films about music
        These films illustrate the passion and pathos of both the stars and the fans.

        Five entertaining Youtube music videos
        I don't spend a lot of time watching Youtube or music videos.  If I had all the time in the world, I would link to videos or audio for each album I mention in my On the Stereo section.  Instead I leave you with a few quirky vids that I shared with my niece Quin recently.  She is a fan of Korean pop which explains the third vid.

        Saturday 11 February 2012

        WW Healthy Chocolate Ice Cream

        I am not a huge fan of ice cream but Sylvia loves it.  Her eyes light up at the mention of it.  So when I found myself with bananas that need to be used and a ripe avocado, I followed Not Quite Nigella's unlikely recipe and made chocolate ice cream.

        It was my most successful ice cream venture so far.  Which is not saying much, considering my track record.  I felt I did better this time at stirring the freezing custard to break down the ice crystals than in previous ice cream attempts.  Or maybe it was just the banana and avocado were creamier anyway.

        A minor problem was that I could detect a slight taste of avocado.  Not enough to put me off.  Worse were the choc chips.  I think the ones I used may have been heat affected.  But they were more like chips of cement than soft chocolate in the ice cream.  Next time I might use either finely grated chocolate or even just try melting the chocolate. 

        All in all not a a bad way to please a child!  After all, who can resist an ice cream that not only is vegan and gluten free, but also has more fruit and veg than sugar!  Giving a child a scoop or two feels like saying, here have some fruit, have some vegetables!  Great to come home to after swimming lessons! 

        I am sending this to Ricki's Wellness Weekends.

        Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
        This time last year: Cheeseymite, burgers and sylvia
        This time two years ago: More baby food, more healthy muffins
        This time three years ago: Tofu Burgers and Tennis
        This time four years ago: WCC # 25 Velvet Soup from Nigellaland

        Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream
        from Not Quite Nigella

        3 medium or 2 large bananas
        1 ripe avocado
        1/3 cup cocoa
        2 tbsp maple syrup
        1/4 cup dark choc chips (or cocoa nibs)

        Chop banana flesh and freeze (I froze mine about 5-6 hours).  Blend in food processor with avocado flesh, cocoa and maple syrup until you have a creamy custardy mixture.  Stir in choc chips and place in plastic container in freezer.  Remove from freezer, stir and return to freezer after about an hour or two.  Do this about three times to break down the ice crystals and get a creamy texture.  To serve, leave out to soften for about 1 hour.

        On the Stereo:
        The Flying Club Cup: Beirut

        Thursday 9 February 2012

        Pizza with carrot and leek and recent food

        My energy for blogging is a bit low lately.  I have had such a lovely time of getting my backlog down.  Then I was hit by a wave of making new recipes this week.  Now I feel a bit overwhelmed by all the lovely new food and want to tell you about it all now.  But I am trying to spend some time organising photos and can only spend a little time (especially when the internet is on the blink!).  So I will start with the surprisingly wonderful Carrot and Leek pizza from the weekend.

        Firstly, let me share some of Sylvia's artwork and some good and bad foodie experiences of recent weeks:

        The bad:
        • I tried Bill Granger's Real Muesli Bars.   I loved them when Fran made them when we visited her last year.  But mine crumbled into muesli.  Not a great success but I am enjoying the museli.
        • I made bad rice paper rolls.  The rice paper was old and the noodles weren't soaked enough.  Must try harder next time!
        • I absent-mindedly put cayenne pepper instead of cinnamon in Sylvia and E's porridge.  Fortunately I realised before serving.  (I also took Sylvia to her swimming lesson at the wrong time when she started back after the Christmas break.  Too many distractions in my life!)

        The good:
        • I remembered to tuck a serviette into Sylvia's Jenners party dress neckline at Cafe Lua just before she dropped butterscotch sauce down her front!
        • I finally tried tofu bacon.  Excellent on fried rice.  It was so good I will make it again to do it justice.
        • I tried mock tuna salad again.  This time I used a bottled low fat ranch dressing rather than bitey dijonnaise and it was excellent.

        The pizza I made was among the recent good cooking.  It is exciting to have made it because I have been tempted by the photo so many times and promised myself to make it one day.  In fact I now feel that emptiness you feel after achieving a huge goal.  Well not quite but I loved this pizza.  Sarah Brown calls it Cheese and Leek Pizza.  I call it Carrot and Leek Pizza.  It is the least cheesy pizza I have had for ages.  All it has is a little parmesan which is more a flavouring than a rich flatty blanket.  So I am sure it would be easily veganised.

        Sarah Brown's recipe has a layer of carrot puree, a layer of leeks and ginger topped with raisins, parsley and parmesan.  I was amazed at the lack of salt and added a pinch but the flavours work without salt.  I didn't have sultanas (as we call what the Brits call raisins) or parsley so I just used dried apple because it annoys me sitting around when I don't really want to eat it.  Of course as soon as I was cooking with it - way after Sylvia's bed time because it took me ages - she was running out of bed and sneaking off with pieces of the dried apple!

        She loves pizza but not this one.  I made her a tomato and cheese one to have for lunch the next day instead.  Speaking of dough I used 1/2 a cup of fine semolina in my pizza dough, inspired by Mel's pizza dough recipe.  It worked really well.  Finally I have hope I might finish the semolina in my pantry before the weevils attack it.

        When I made the pizza on Sunday we had a busy day.  I sorted some of the clothes she had been given.  When I was young they were called hand-me-downs and not really welcome but the quality of stuff she has been given is lovely.  We also made a birthday card for her cousin in Scotland and with terrible timing, set out for the pool just as the cool change hit.  There are some advantages to an indoor pool.

        Lastly as I made the pizza, I had Young Talent Time on the telly.  It is pretty awful but I have such fond memories of watching it as a kid that I had to check out the new version.  My favourite Young Talent Time member was Sally Boyden.  No one as sweet as her on the new show.  And they didn't finish with a rendition of All my Loving.  Sigh!  I guess I am just no longer the target audience.  I'll just stick to my hippy pizzas!

        Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
        This time last year: Queso dip, enchiladas and food processor
        This time two years ago: Pizza for the Working Woman
        This time three years ago: Jam-Making Reflections by a Novice
        This time four years ago: Wanton Dumplings in Ginger Broth

        Carrot and Leek pizza
        adapted from Sarah Brown's Vegetarian Cookery

        Pizza dough for 1-2 medium large pizzas (I used about 1/2 a quantity of fast track pizza dough)
        500g carrots, peeled trimmed and chopped
        pinch of smoked salt (optional)
        2 tsp rice bran oil (or other oil)
        25g sunflower seeds
        1 large leek, trimmed, washed and sliced
        1 tbsp ginger, finely grated
        25g dried apple or raisins
        25g parmesan, finely grated (or 1-2 tbsp nutritional yeast)
        Cornmeal for pizza tray

        Make the dough and let it sit while you prepare topping.  If you take ages to get the toppings ready like me, just punch it down every now and again when it looks a bit fluffy.

        Steam or microwave carrots until soft (I boiled mine with minimal water, for 20 minutes until I smelled burning, scrapped the burnt bits off and found they still were a bit undercooked when I tried to puree them, so I then microwaved them for 3 minutes and they then were mooshy enough to puree.)  Puree in until smooth (I used my blender attachment to my hand held blender but you could probably get away with just mashing them with a potato masher).  Stir or puree in smoked salt.  Set aside.

        Meanwhile heat rice bran oil in a large frypan and lightly fry sunflower seeds for about 5 minutes.  Add leek and ginger and gently fry until leek is soft.

        To assemble pizza:  Sprinkle large round pizza tray with cornmeal.  Roll or stretch out dough to fit tray and flop it onto tray with only a slight stretching to fit.  Spread dough with carrot puree.  Scatter dried apple or raisins over carrot.  Arrange leek mixture evenly over the carrot and dried fruit.  Sprinkle parmesan over pizza.  Bake in preheated 190 C oven (I also use a pizza stone) for 25-30 minutes (I did mine for 30 minutes) or until golden brown.

        On the stereo: 
        Night on my side: Gemma Hayes