Friday 29 June 2012

Chocolate tarts - work in progress

I told you yesterday about my chocolate tarts disaster.  So here they are as I found them straight out of the oven.  What a waste of all that lovely filling!  Pastry has never been my strength in the kitchen but I really shouldn't have attempted to bake with it on a day when anything that could go wrong did go wrong.  I wouldn't be sharing this at all except that I actually liked them the next day and think there may be some potential in the recipe.

I had some leftover pastry and leftover condensed milk and got a notion into my head to make chocolate tarts with it.  I was very tempted to adapt this Creamy Peanut Butter Pie, if only because it was such a sweet story of a wife making it to remember her husband Mikey who died suddenly.  But I kept being intrigued by Minnie's Chocolate Pie made by Katie at Apple and Spice.

However I take all the blame for the disaster.  Katie did warn readers not to substitute condensed milk for evaporated milk.  But condensed milk is just sweetened evaporated milk and I really wanted to make the pie to use some of my leftover condensed milk.  And to eat chocolate!  I then swithered over baking times and filled the pastry cases too much.  I knew they were too full but I wanted to use all the filling.  Which dripped all over my oven as well as the fairy cake tins.

My pastry was nicely cooked and even a little flaky.  The filling, however, lacked the sticky sludgy smoothness of Katie's photos.  Maybe I should have made the large pie rather than individuals.  My pies were almost cakey.  They were even a bit tasteless straight out of the oven.  The next day we loved them.  These are pies that are far better cool.  They are also very portable if you just so fancy one for morning tea at the office.  All in all, these were not a bad disaster (unless you had to do the washing up).

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Denis Cotter's salad, muffins and vegetarian musings
Two years ago: Going on a picnic with nutroast
Three years ago: Awesomely Delicious GF Pumpkin Brownies
Four years ago: Philip Island Pleasures
Five years ago: LOT #6 Leftover Beetroot Koftas in Carrot Sauce

Chocolate Tarts - work in progress
Badly adapted from Apple and Spice

1 heaped tbsp butter (I used margarine), melted
100ml condensed milk
3 tbsp cocoa
1 egg
pinch salt
1/2 tsp vanilla (I didn't use but might do if I did this again)
Pastry - I think I had about 1/3 of this yoghurt pastry

Roll out pastry and line some muffin tins (next time I would use deeper holes like muffins rather than in the tin I used).  Mix remaining ingredients together and spoon into pastry cups, leaving some room at the top for the filling to expand.  Bake at 200 C for about 30 minutes.  (I think the filling needs less time, I am not sure if the pastry would be ok with less time.  I toyed with blind baking but I wasn't sure.)

On the Stereo:
The Bestiality of - The bonzo dog doo-dah band

Thursday 28 June 2012

Smoky lime peanut baked sweet potatoes

I lurched from crisis to crisis yesterday.  My camera lens got broken (let's not allocate blame).  I stopped to post a letter 5 minutes from home and the car broke down (makes it seem wiser to stick to email from the safety of your own home).  I made some disaster chocolate tarts (at least we could eat what didn't stick to the oven and tray).  I was going to tell you all about it today but I don't have the energy.  Instead here is a simple lunch I made while working from home last week (it is my most complete blog draft, after all).

It was as easy as bake mash mix bake.  I put a hard pink sweet potato in the oven and worked until it was soft and oozing.  The I mashed it with a few random ingredients, inspired by Kalyn, and popped it back in the oven and returned to the computer.  The oven warmed the house and I barely had to stop working to prepare it.

Finally it was done.  I was more than ready to stop for lunch.  The baked sweet potato was sweet, sour, salty, smoky, nutty, fresh and utterly delicious.  Served with a simple side of spinach and capsicum, I was very happy and very satisfied.

So there you have a positive review of my lunch last week rather than a whinge about yesterday.  Maybe tomorrow Sylvia will go to sleep early and work will be easy and the house will be sparkling clean.  I doubt it.  But you never know!  Maybe I will have time to tell you about my terrible tarts.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: CC Banana Curry
Two years ago: Nigella’s potato bread
Three years ago:Celeriac Soup and Apple and Cheese Cake for Lunch
Four years ago: Winter Solstice Galettes
Five years ago: WHB Soda Bread for Remembrance

Smoky lime peanut baked sweet potatoes
Inspired by Kalyn's Kitchen

1 medium sweet potato
1-2 tsp lime juice
1/4 tsp smoked salt
3/4 tsp sauce from chipotle in adobo
1/4 tsp garlic powder (or fresh garlic)
1 tsp finely chopped parsley
1 dessertspoon of yoghurt
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 spring onion (I didn't use but would have if I had one)

Pierce sweet potato with a fork a few times.  Bake on an oven tray until soft all the way through - it took me 1 and 3/4 hours at 180 C but it might be quicker in other people's ovens as mine is slow.

When sweet potatoes are baked, cut in half, longways, and scoop out the flesh with a spoon, leaving a thin layer of flesh around the skin to create boats.  Mash the sweet potato and mix with remaining ingredients, adjusting flavours according to taste.

Spoon the filling back into the sweet potato boats.  Bake for 30 minutes until the top is dried out and a little crisp.

On the Stereo:
Love: The Beatles

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Yoghurt pastry, flatbreads, cakes, knitting, aquarium

It was a busy baking, kiddie, fishy, woolly, chippy weekend.  I have photos to share and a couple of easy recipes using a tub of yoghurt.  First up is some mince tarts that I made using Brydie's brilliant yoghurt pastry.  I am still unsure if it is the pastry for mince tarts.  Perhaps a more buttery pastry, but this pastry was so easy to handle and tasted so good  When I ran out of my mincemeat I filled the last few with jam and topped with a psstry lattice.  Both Sylvia and E preferred the jam tarts.  Even my dad found the figs in the mince a bit much.  I loved them and so did my mum.

We went to a party for my little niece and nephew on Saturday.  It was filled with kids, squeals, colours, slides, bouncing, red cordial, meaty finger food, fairy bread and cakes.  Aren't the cakes impressive.  Sylvia's George pig was very impressed that one of the cakes was made in his likeness for Cooper.  I didn't catch the name of Ashton's pink cake but it was very cute.

At home I decided to make a snack of roasted chickpeas, using salt, dried wild garlic, maple syrup and oil.  I followed Mel's advice and cooked them a lot longer and added the seasoning about 10 minutes before they were ready.  They were far more crunchy than ones I had made before - though the seasoning was less noticeable.  Just what I needed after the kids party food.  You will see more dried wild garlic on my blog soon - it is a generous gift from Kath.

That evening for dinner we had Yoghurt Flatbreads.  I borrow Sam Stern's Eat Vegetarian from the library months ago and really liked the sound of some of the recipes.  One was Fast Turkish Pizza.  It is a flatbread made of flour and yoghurt that is fried and bunged under the grill.  I used dried wild garlic instead of cumin seeds and chose to just fry both sides and roll it up like a wrap.

I loved this flatbread.  It was quick easy and delicious.  The first one had beetroot dip, feta, spinach and rocket.  The second had pesto, spinach, rocket, grated carrot and chopped red capsicum.  I reckon this would be a great meal in summer.  I was all set for some blogging on Saturday night but got distracted by Woody Allen and Annie Hall on the telly.

On Sunday I met Lisa for coffee at Andres.  Lovely to catch up and to be able to take my camera to the yarn bombing in the Wild and Woolly exhibition.  I love these three little ducks in knitted cosies.  Knitting and crochet adorn seats, trees, lamposts and bike hoops in the Victoria Street Mall in Coburg.  My sort of streetscape!

Actually I have my own little knitting project at the moment.  I am knitting a scarf for Sylvia.  It is slow going.  And I am worried I will run out of wool before it gets long enough.  But I enjoy knitting.  It is quite relaxing.  We went to the Aquarium on the train and I took my knitting with me.  While knitting in the cafe I even was asked a question about knitting by a fellow knitter.  Of course I didn't know the answer!

Lunch at the Aquarium cafe was pretty ordinary.  (Why don't tourist attractions in Melbourne do better food?)  Spinach and ricotta roll and a few of Sylvia's chips.  At least the view over the Yarra River was pleasant and there was a huge fish tank in the middle of the cafe that was fun to watch with Sylvia.

I took my camera and came away with a lot of blurry photos.  Those fishies never stop moving.  The jellyfishes (above) were mesmerising to watch.  The penguins were so cute.  The seahorses were strangely beautiful.  Sylvia just wanted to see the sharks.  Once she had walked through the shark tunnel she was happy to run around like a madman, stopping only to hold a starfish.  The aquarium was full of interest but it was so expensive that I doubt we will be back in a hurry.

At home I tried a recipes for roasted cauliflower and beans.  It sounded great but was frustrating because I cooked the cauliflower at 200 C for 2 hours and it still wasn't soft.  I have roasted cauliflower before and it has been wonderfully soft so I am not quite sure what didn't work, other than my oven just being pathetically slow as usual.  Ah well, dinner was still good, if not quite what I intended.  Not a bad way to finish a fun weekend!

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Marshmallow Weetbix slice
Two years ago: Food props - food photography
Three years ago: Hellenic Republic – land of the lotus eaters
Four years ago: BBD #11 Sprouted Bread
Five years ago: Red Rascal Burgers

Yoghurt pastry
adapted from City Hippy Farm Girl (with an eye on Maggie Beer's sour cream pastry)

1 and 1/2 cups plain white flour
125g butter, chopped
1 tbsp brown sugar  (optional)
pinch salt
80g yoghurt
1/2 tsp vinegar

Place flour, butter, sugar and salt in food process and blitz until it resembles breadcrumbs.  Mix in yoghurt and vinegar in food processor or by hand until you have a smooth ball (if doing this by hand you will need to knead it briefly).  Shape into a round disc, wrap in clingwrap and rest in the fridge for 20 minutes or longer.

To make tarts, roll out thinly and place in greased 12 hole fairy cake tin, fill with fruit mince or jam and top with stars and sugar crystals (mine were Viennese Christmas Sugar), bake either for 15 minutes at 220 C and then 10-15 minutes at 180 C or for 25-30 minutes at 200.  (I did the former)

Yoghurt flatbread
Adapted from Sam Stern's Eat Vegetarian
makes 8

275g plain white flour
1 tsp dried wild garlic (Sam Stern used cumin seeds)
225ml natural yoghurt
pinch salt

Mix all ingredients together and knead until it comes together into a ball.  Divide into 8 pieces and cover with a teatowel while you work on each piece.  Roll out as thinly as possible on a well floured surface (mine were so thin they were almost transparent when I held them up).

Heat heavy based non stick saucepan over high heat.  Place flat bread on the ungreased frypan and cook about 1-2 minutes.  You will see when it ready to turn because it will start to blow up.  Flip over and you should see some brown spots.  I pushed out the air with my eggflip (aka spatula) - don't know if that is the right thing to do.  Cook on other side briefly until some brown dots appear.

Eat warm or cold (I had one the next morning and it was delicious).  Repeat with remaining pieces.  I found the frypan got full of burnt flour after two or three so I would have to wipe it out with a scrunched up kitchen towel, being careful not to burn my fingers.

Sam Stern calls these Turkish pizza and suggests instead of cooking on second side on the frypan that you scatter with some toppings such as cherry tomatoes deseeded, olive oil, feta, parsley, black olives, red onion, pine nuts, salt and/or lemon juice and heat under the grill for about two minutes.

On the Stereo:
Mitten Ins Ohr: Eine Reise Durch die "Krautrock-Szene": Various Artists

Sunday 24 June 2012

The Gasometer Hotel - a little neofolk, a little vegan

The Gasometer Hotel closed November 2013
It has since reopened but with a different menu that lacks that amazing veg meals it had. 

Last Saturday I spent the afternoon in the pub.  I've read a lot about the amazing vegan food there, then I saw the picture of the Gasometer Hotel on Where's the Beef and Mel remarked on the the promise of pierogis on the specials menu.  We had met my friend Heather at the Fitzroy Market and strolled down Smith Street to the pub for a late lunch.  It looked deserted and closed.  But the door was open.  Let's just say we had our pick of seats.  

We settled by the window in front of a roaring fire and spent some time pouring over the extensive menu.  We were impressed by the Eastern European theme.  A little bit Neofolk, said E, as the Sisters of Mercy played on the stereo.  The menu was quite unusual for Melbourne.  I hadn't expected so much choice.  The pierogis had stiff competition.  I considered the borscht, broccoli leek and spinach pancake, German winter strudel and mushroom schnitzel.  Finally I decided on the pretzel and the cabbage rolls.

We ordered at the bar where I saw that an apple hot toddy was on offer.  It had apple cider, apple schnapps, whiskey, brandy and goodness knows what else!  I am not much of a drinker but warm winter drinks are just my sort of thing.  Especially when sitting in front of an open fire.  Heaven!

Heather chose the Cheese Stuffed Mamaliga Fritters with a paprika based relish.   They arrived quite some time before our meal.  I've never heard of Mamaliga before but have since read that it is like an Eastern European version of polenta.  By the time I sampled these they had cooled considerably and I didn't think to take some sauce.  They seemed rather bland but Michael loved his, so I think hot and with sauce must be the way to eat them.

I chose the Cabbage Rolls stuffed with mushrooms, herb and rice and served with tomato sauce and sour cream.  I liked these but they didn't wow me.  They were quite hearty and tasty but I think I found the cabbage a bit overwhelming.  I had decided on a small plate of these to include more vegetables in my meal and to leave room for a freshly baked pretzel. 

The pretzels were amazing.  Huge knots of bread bigger than my hand, warm out of the oven and served with a tasty mustard butter.  I think I am right in saying that it is unusual to find freshly baked pretzels in Melbourne.  It was a rare treat.

Sylvia was predictable and ordered the chips.  They were excellent.  Crispy, hot and fluffy inside.

E surprised me by ordering the Tempeh Paprikash.  Tempeh chunks marinated in apple cider, caraway and paprika, served in a creamy paprika sauce on a bad of noodles.  It was very good.  The tempeh worked really well here.  The noodles were thick and almost chewy, which worked fantastically with the creamy sauce.

We were rather full after dinner but enjoyed chatting in the convivial surroundings.  After a bit we were ready to tackle dessert.  Unfortunately they weren't ready for us.  E would have liked a coffee but they did not serve those sort of hot drinks.  The service was rather slow.  Not even a reminder could hurry them, and the other tables were filling up.  Fortunately we were happy to while away the afternoon by the fire rather than head out into the rain.

Finally E's dessert arrived.  Again he ordered off the specials menu.  The doughnut balls in a gingerbread mocha soup.  I rather liked the way the soup was served in a mug with little wooden forms for the dipping the doughnut balls.  The doughnut balls were nice but I have had better.  Sylvia enjoyed them.  When I tasted the soup, all I could taste was coffee (despite E telling me there wasn't much coffee in it).  So I suggest, unless you dislike coffee as much as I do, you take E's word that it was rather good and a bit like a hot chocolate.

Heather and I had decided to share the Black Forrest Molten Chocolate Pudding which came with cherry and vanilla ice cream and a spiced cherry compote.  The name of the pudding let it down.  It was more like a warm chocolate cake than anything molten.  Names aside, the combination of chocolate cake with the creamy ice cream and wintery spiced compote was very good.

Despite a few lowpoints, I was very impressed with the Gasometer Hotel.  The menu is full of temptations (I hope that maybe the pierogi stays on the specials awhile so I can sample it another time), caters to a range of dietary requirements (lots of vegan and gluten free dishes) and is very pretty (see below picture).  It was not a cheap lunch but I felt like we were served good food.  The servings are generous, hence Mel renaming it the Bloatometer.  By the time we left the place was full of punters and Joy Division was no longer on the stereo.

I only remember the pub as an Irish pub - variously called Irish Murphy's and Father Flanagans.  So I was interested to read that the current owners have returned it to the original name - The Gasometer - that was used from its opening in 1861 until 1997.  The building reflects an appreciation of history.  Its spacious rooms exude heritage charm with the lead light windows, bluestone walls and open fireplaces. Just the place for a winter's afternoon.

The Gasometer Hotel
484 Smith Street (corner of Alexandra Parade)
03 9417 5538
Open for lunches Sat-Sun, and dinner Tues - Sun
Gasometer Facebook page

The Gasometer Hotel closed November 2013 
It has since reopened but with a different menu that lacks that amazing veg meals it had. 

Friday 22 June 2012

Walnut and Coconut Fudge Balls

Following on from my recent reflections on Pinterest, I have a recipe today that was inspired by the photo boards.  The close up photos of Chocolate Covered Katie's German Chocolate Fudge Balls just made this healthy treat look so decadent.  And I had all the ingredients on hand.

I've made them twice now.  The first time I used some old dates I found in the cupboard.  They made the balls a bit crumbly.  I also used up some cooking chocolate in the first batch (below).  Next time I doubled the recipe because I knew we would eat them quickly.  I used fresher dates, a bit more coconut and left out the chocolate. 

The second batch (below) held together better.  I found them less intensely chocoatey.  We still loved them.  That is Sylvia and I loved them.  (E preferred his blocks of chocolate.)  It is the sort of snack I am happy to have around the house.  It doesn't bother me so much if Sylvia sneaks an extra one.  After a day or two they were even better with a slightly toothsome coconut and nut texture (a bit like golden rough).  Excellent for morning tea at the office or to finish off dinner.

Then I had to photograph them for the blog.  They are really boring to look at.  I had time and daylight and some colourful fruit.  They may not look as fudgy as Katie's photo but I hope my colourful picture will help to convince you these are so delicious you must try them.

I am sending these fudge balls to Amy for her Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays, a weekly event for bloggers to share healthier recipes, and to Ricki's Wellness Weekends, an event all about eating healthy food.  And a happy winter's solstice to everyone in the Southern Hemisphere!

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: A simple lunch of smoky soup and blueberry cake
Two years ago: Half Moon Café: Coburg’s best falafels
Three years ago: Novice Nutella cupcakes accompanied by guitar
Four years ago: The solstice fruitcake offensive
Five years ago: Winter Solstice Roast Dinner

Walnut and coconut fudge balls
Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie 
Makes 10-12 balls

3/4 cup pitted soft dates (about 120g)
1/2 cup walnuts
3 tbsp dessicated coconut
2 tbsp cocoa
25g finely chopped chocolate (optional)
pinch salt (optional)

Blitz in food processor until well processed and looks like rubble or dirt.  Use your hands to grab a small handful and and roll into balls (about the size of a small walnut).  Mine kept in a airtight container for about a week.

On the Stereo:
Vauxhall and I:  Morrissey

Thursday 21 June 2012

WHB Apple and mince crumble

Last week when we were driving home, Sylvia asked if we would be home soon.  "We just need to drive past the lions and dragons," I told her.  It made me smile.  The lions are on gateposts and the dragon is on a gable.  Yet I loved how it sounds like we are in a children's story book.

I love the wonder in a child's view of the world.  This week when I hung out the washing (in a brief reprieve from all our recent rain), Sylvia was watering the plants.  I told her it was called mint.  "Do we make mint pie?" she asked. An odd comment.  Then I remembered I had made mince pies recently. 

The fruit mince is leftover from Christmas baking.  I am quite impressed that my mince lasted so long.  (The last bit of pudding in the fridge went mouldy I regret to say.)  I chanced upon this recipe for Delia's Apple, Almond and Mincemeat Crumble. It was just the way that I fancied using some mince.  I used a lot more than Delia and loved how it made the apple taste special with all the spices, fruit and nuts that are in my fruit mince.  I made it while Sylvia had her bath.

The apple and mince crumble was a great idea.  I wasn't too sure about the crumble topping at first.  I prefer an oaty crumble topping.  I decided to cut corners and used ground almonds.  Next time I will use finely chopped almonds for more texture.  I also misread the recipe and used plain rather than self raising flour.  The crumble mixture was more like sawdust than clumps and I was glad I had made less than the recipe suggested as there was plenty.

Once the crumble cooled it was like a slab of biscuit on the apple mixture.  E was not keen, Sylvia was ambivalent but I loved it in small amounts microwaved after a meal.  I still have some fruit mince left.  The mince tarts were good but I want to try another batch with a different pastry.  Stay tuned...

I am sending this crumble to Simone of Bricola who is hosting this week's Weekend Herb Blogging #339, the weekly event coordinated by Haalo and founded by Kalyn.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Kale pesto and garden update
Two years ago: SHF Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
Three years ago: Refugee Week Stew
Four years ago: Novel Food 4: Drowned Broccoli
Five years ago: SHF: Mud Glorious Mud (cake)

Apple almond and mincemeat crumble
Adapted from Delia Online
Serves about 9 in small servings

1 lb 8 oz (700 g) Granny Smith or cooking apples (I used about 7-8)
8 oz (225 g) Red apples (such as fuji or pink lady - I used about 1 and a half)
1 dessertspoon of brown sugar
2/3 cup fruit mince

For the crumble:
80g finely chopped almonds (I used ground almonds but they were too fine)
65 g cold diced butter (or more)
120g plain flour (or use SR flour like Delia)
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 dessertspoon brown sugar

custard or cream, to serve

Peel, quarter, core and slice apples.  Cook apple slices with a spoonful of brown sugar in a medium saucepan - bring to the boil and simmer about 10 minutes or until apples are just soft.  Stir in fruit mince.  Spoon into a medium baking dish (mine is about 23cm squared).

To make crumble mix flour, ground almonds, cinnamon and brown sugar.  Rub butter into flour mixture.  Press crumble on top of the apples then run a fork over the top to rough it up a little.

Bake for 30-35 minutes at 200 C until golden brown.  Keep an eye on it as mine became quiet brown in 35 minutes.  Ours kept almost a week in the fridge and was delicious heated in the microwave but we had it with custard on the first night.

On the Stereo:
Junior choice, volume 2: Various artists

Tuesday 19 June 2012

NCR Sweet potato and chickpea salad and pinterest reflections

Now that I have told you all about limes, here is one of the recipes I made with my limes.  Not a great success.  Great ingredients.  Just a fail in seasoning.  With a bit of tweaking of the dressing (or maybe trying this lime vinaigrette) and a some hot weather and vegie burgers, I am convinced that I would love this sweet potato and chickpea salad with almond feta and lime.

I served the salad with tofu nuggets the first night and enjoyed it but E wasn't so keen.  The next night I made a total mess of it by mixing it with some rice.  Despite my ambivalence towards this salad, I quite liked the photos.  It's one of the ironies of food blogging that ultimately we are making food to taste great but we mainly stimulate your tastebuds through another sense - the eyes!

With this in mind, I thought I would share a few more photos from the weekend and reflect upon Pinterest.  We went to Fitzroy Market and met my friend Heather.  We enjoyed looking at all the trash and treasure.  Sylvia had to have a button and I was pleased to find a pair of Clarks shoes for her for a mere $5.  Last time the only takeaway food stall was the bbq with (veg) sausages but this month there were stalls with soup, cupcakes, (veg) sausages and slices and cakes. 

After the market we had a lovely long late lunch at the Gasometer Hotel (more on that soon).  Then we came home and both E and Sylvia went to bed and I had almost half an hour to myself before Sylvia woke up again.  E slept through until morning!

Among the treasures for sale at the market were these wonderful old cameras.  They remind me of cameras I have known and those I wish I had known.  I really wanted to buy one but I had to resist because I have neither the use nor the room for such memorabilia.  So too, Pinterest fascinates me because it is so much about capturing images.  For practical use?  To just admire?  I gather that, other than recipes to recreate, many people like the visual references to help plans events, renovations and parties.  I suspect some of us just like to gaze and sigh at beauty.

I have been thinking about this because I set up my own Pinterest account recently.  I love the concept of creating pinboards of images.  I have previously referred to the copyright issues which have created concern among users.  It has made me wary about what pictures I pin.  Pinterest is exciting and scary because it has such promise and yet it still is not quite in good enough order for complete comfort.

Pintereest is even in my dreams.  Recently I dreamt some bad men were after me and I hid in a book as a Pinterest bookmark!  It fascinates me and is a time waster and a mystery.  I think that I just see what the people I follow are looking at when I go to now.  (Can someone tell me if this is correct or if I should be seeing followers updates in other ways?)

Yet despite my love of pretty pictures, I also love words - as must anyone who has read this far.  An image doesn't quite tell me what is in the above sandwich (spinach, mock tuna salad and avocado) or that I was very proud of Sylvia when, after doing some painting together, she created the above one all by herself.  Pinterest has space for some text but it is frustrating.  It destroys the aesthetic if people write too much and if I am not alert enough to edit text when repinning, I find it puts others' words in my mouth.  So I am enjoying Pinterest but with caution.  I'd love to hear what you think of Pinterest.

Now I will send this salad to Jacqueline for No Croutons Required (with a theme of leafless salads this month) and go back to marvelling at having felt the couch move in Melbourne's mini-earthquake and pulling my hair out over the Australian journalism crisis.  Then I might just do a bit of pinning and repinning.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: WHB: Banana Oat Pancakes
Two years ago: SOS Beetroot and rhubarb soup
Three years ago: What does home mean to you?
Four years ago: Choc Honey Muffins
Five years ago: Guinness Chocolate Cake for Bloomsday

Sweet potato and chickpea salad with lime dressing and almond feta
serves 4 as a side

1 tbsp olive oil
pinch salt
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup cooked chickpeas
handful of dried cranberries
1 celery stalk, diced
1 small apple, peeled and diced
1/3 to 1/2 cup crumbled almond feta

Lime dressing:
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp maple syrup, or more
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
Black pepper, freshly ground to taste

Roast sweet potato tossed with olive oil and salt at 220 C for about 1 hour or until soft  when pierced with a fork.  Mix with remaining ingredients.  Make lime dressing by whisking all ingredients together with a fork and toss through salad.

On the stereo:
Kraut Rock - Various Artists

Sunday 17 June 2012

Limes: history, trivia and limeade

"It is a wonder that the lime, with its abundance of acid and only 1 percent sugar, managed to propagate itself at all before the invention of the cocktail, especially because it stays an invisible camouflage green."
from The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten

Last week Sylvia and I made limeade (recipe at the end) with some of the limes from our tree.  It seemed an excellent opportunity to feature limes.  It was a wee bit confusing because not only did I have to disregard the colour and the products of limestone, but also I found that often lemon and limes are written about together.  (Probably not surprising seeing that their names come from the same Arabic word - "limun").

What seems clear is that when compared to lemons, lime juice is sharper and more aromatic.  They flourish in the tropics.  Which explains why they are so important in the South East Asian, Mexican and Carribbean cuisines.

Lime history
Further confusion was encountered in seeking the history of limes.  It seems there are different species and it was sometimes hard to work out which was being referred to.  The Mexican/Key Limes origin seems to be agreed as South East Asian, probably Malaysia or Indonesia.  The origin of the Persian/Tahitian Limes is variously referred to as The Orient, India, and Persia.

It is clearer that the lime has travelled widely.  It appears to have been brought to the eastern Mediterranean and African countries by the Arabs in AD 1000, and to Western Mediterranean countries by Crusaders returning home in the 12th and 13th Centuries.  There is some evidence that lime seeds were taken to the West Indies in 1493 by Christopher Columbus.  The Portuguese took the lime to Brazil.  It was first grown in large quantities in Persia and commercially in Babylonia (today known as Iraq).

Mosaics of lemon and lime trees have been found in remains of Roman villas.  The first mention of limes in Western literature was apparently by Sir Thomas Herbert (Travels, 1677), who spoke of finding "oranges, lemons, and limes" on the island of Mohelia off Mozambique.

Lime seems to star most brightly in British history in preventing scurvy (caused by lack of vitamin C) in sailors.  Despite lemons having more vitamin C, lime juice seems to have been used more.  I found two reasons.  Limes grow better in the tropics and when ships passed through such areas, limes were easier to find.  Another site claimed that the Mediterranean countries that grew lemons were often at war with Britain so they would turn to colonies that produced limes.

Whatever the reasons, in 1867, the Merchant Shipping Act was passed, whereby all vessels, Royal Navy and Merchant, were required to carry lime juice for a daily ration to ships' company.  In the same year Rose's lime juice cordial was patented and the next year the first factory to produce the drink was established in Edinburgh.  British sailors were referred to as Limeys.  The Limehouse areas of London's docks was named from warehouses that stored limes which were brought from the West Indies.

Following World War I the Tahitian lime became a well-established commercial crop in America. There was market resistance at first because it was seen as a “green lemon.”  Today it is more common than key limes in America.

Limes in Australian History
When I thought of my memory of limes two things came to mind.  The first was lime spiders, which contain neither fruit nor insects.  The second was an Aussie folk song called Lime Juice Tub.  I've always loved the line "With a ra-dum ra-dum rub-a-dub-dub / Send him home in a lime juice tub".  Now that I have started looking into lime history, it makes a lot of sense.

School children in Australia were taught about Captain Cook overcoming scurvy by having limes available.  Less well known is that the First Fleet brought lime trees with them from Brazil en route to Sydney Cove in 1788.  According to George B Worgan they didn't flourish.  In The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser in 1824, limes are noted to be part of the diverse horticulture and Persian limes are noted to be a recent introduction (despite my understanding that it was Tahitian or Persian limes brought to Australia in 1788).

In the Cook's Companion, Stephanie Alexander says that the main season for limes in Australia is Autumn (which is odd as my tree produces twice a year) and that the Mexican lime is rarely seen in Australia.  She also discusses the native limes that are being developed as a commercially available fruit.  Finger limes and other bush limes have been used as a food by Aboriginal people for thousands of years but many of the trees were cleared as part of the European settlement.

Limes in music, film and literature
Limes are so often a support act rather than the star in recipes that perhaps it is no surprise to find that I had to think laterally to find much relating to them in the arts.

Perhaps the best known song featuring lime is the Harry Nilsson song Put the Lime in the Coconut (which I know from a Muppets version).  There is also a Canadian 1980s synth-pop band called Lime (who I had never heard of) and an Aussie band called the Lime Spiders (which comes from a drink that I have already noted has no fruit in it).  Nick Cave had a song called Lime Tree Arbour and the Beatles sang 'Oh dirty Maggie Mae they have taken her away / And she never walk down Lime Street any more'.

In film, many of us know of Harry Lime, a character in Orsen Wells The Third Man.  He also appeared in radio program The Adventures of Harry Lime.  Even more obscure is The Limejuice Mystery of Who Spay in Grandfather's Porridge, a 1930s British marionette film with Herlock Sholmes as the detective.  And, to draw an even longer bowl, the BBC made a number of shows at The Lime Grove Studios.

Limes in early literature include a reference to an Egyptian lime in the Tales from th Arabian Nights and an obscure eighteenth century Scottish poet James Thomson who wrote about 'the piercing lime'.  Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote a poem called 'This Lime-Tree Bower my Prison'.  Apparently pickled limes were popular in nineteenth century Boston.  Amy in Little Women pines for them.  Many poets including e e cummings, Pablo Neruda, and William Butler Yeats refer to limes in their writing.

Lime trivia
  • turn yellow as they ripen (this refers to Tahitian or Persian limes which are harvested green)
  • are good for removing turmeric stains from work surfaces and equipment>
  • may help make water drinkable in low income countries, according to researchers at John Hopkins University
  • are the smallest members of the true citrus family  
  • prevent bad breath and whiten discoloured teeth
  • are good for sore throats, especially if drunk with pineapple juice
  • would help to remove signs of smallpox, according to Hannah Woolley in 1670, who recommended mixing it with rosewater
  • are thought to be older than lemons and have contributed to their evolution (according to Stephanie Alexander)

My lime tree
We bought a lime tree in a pot for our small garden in 2007 and it was a wee scrap of a tree.  It didn't yield any fruit until last year.  Just a few limes.  This year the tree hung with many limes (maybe 20).  I find it hard to know when limes are ready to pick.  They are green so long.  Mostly I pick them when they are yellowing.  Inside they are still green.  Fortunately our Meyer lemons are so glossy and bright yellow we can tell which are limes and which are lemons quite easily.  The photos in this post show the growth of limes on our tree from buds through to cut fruit.

Limeade notes
I made limeade last week because we had lots of limes on the tree.  Squeezing the lime juice filled the kitchen with a wonderful fragrance.  It took more limes than I expected to get a cup of lime juice.  Sylvia decided that she would cut the limes for me.  She was constantly trying to catch me off my guard so she could grab the knife and cut a lime at an odd angle, whether we needed it or not.  We both loved the drink.  E was less keen and puckered up his lips when he tasted it.  I imagine this would be wonderful ice cold with mint leaves in summer.  Alas it is winter.  However, while we aren't after drinks to refresh us from hot weather, we are getting to a time of year when fresh fruit is declining and I am happy to enjoy it any way I can. 

I am sending this post to Jyoti of Pages who is hosting an event called Cool Summer Sips.

Recipes featuring lime on my blog:

Recipes featuring lime from elsewhere:

Adapted from Simply Recipes
Makes 4-6 cups

1 cup tap water
1 cup lime juice (I used about 6 limes)
Grated zest of one lime
3/4 cup castor sugar
2-4 cups soda water
Several sprigs of fresh mint and ice blocks (optional)

Place water, sugar and zest in a small saucepan and bring to the boil.  Remove from the heat and strain out the zest with a fine sieve.  Add lime juice and cool.  Fill 1/3 to 1/2 of a glass and top up with soda water.  (It depends on how strong you like it.  I preferred 1 part lime cordial to 2 parts soda water.)  If desired, serve with mint leaves and ice blocks.

On the Stereo:
Neil Diamond: the Greatest Hits 1966-1992