Wednesday 24 July 2013

The helix tree, the dodgy tart and a rather good soup

Sylvia had requested Mazzy Star on the stereo.  I put the CD back after playing it and my eye chanced on the Manic Street Preachers next to it.  We listened to it.  It brought back the time I met E when I saw the Manics at T in the Park music festival and enjoyed Nicky Wire's wit in the NME.

How freaky was it that on the same Saturday evening, I went to Federation Square and heard the back announcement as the music finished.  Unbeknown to me, we had been listening to the Manics who were touring Melbourne.  How was I to know when all I could see was the red jerseys of the rugby fans!  I just wished I had paid more attention.

If I had known the Manics were playing an acoustic set I would have stopped and listened.  Sylvia and I were there for the Helix tree, a light installation that could be seen in Fed Square in June.  We got there early so we walked over to Hosier Lane to look at the street art (above).

Then we walked back over Flinders street to Fed Square.  For those who don't know Melbourne, the glowing yellow building in the distance is our iconic Flinders Street train station.  New proposals were announced for its redevelopment this week (with a request for the public to vote for their favourite).  I am both excited and scared.  I am not against architects with brilliant vision but Flinders Street station is so precious that I don't want it to lose its charm.

Once it got dark the Helix Tree began to light up.  I had been fascinated to hear about it.  Each night in June a community choir would sit and the lights on the tree would then be activated by the sounds.  Light rippled across the iron structure as they sung.  (See my daytime photo of the helix tree structure.)

Not wanting to just stand in the cold, I found us a table in the square overlooking the tree and ordered a margherita pizza for an astonishing $20.  I don't even like to think how this compares with the pizzas we make at home.  I just told myself that the inflated price included watching the light show.

Sylvia wasn't very interested in the pizza.  She was more intent on running  around the large open space.  Her coat didn't stay on her long.  How do these little people have such great reserves of warmth that they don't want cardigans, jackets and blankets!

I suspect one reason she wasn't very hungry is that I had made us treacle scones for afternoon tea.  This time I used a recipe from Ena Baxter (of Baxters Soups) rather than my usual.  The very first time I made treacle scones they were fluffy and plentiful - possibly due to my mum helping me measure out the milk.  Every since they just seem to make embarrassingly small batches and not as fluffy as a scone should.  E's granny would turn in her grave!

It wasn't my finest weekend in cooking.  On the Friday night I had been adventurous and adapted a chard, squash and stilton tart to use up some of the ingredients bursting out of our overflowing fridge.  My slow oven and my lack of pastry experience let me down.  The tart would have been fine if I had only read the recipe closely and baked it til it was golden brown.

Actually E probably would disagree.  He didn't like the blue cheese.  It was rather strong but I though it worked with the rest of the ingredients.  Sylvia just ate the pastry around the edges with no topping.  At least we all enjoyed watching The Ringing Singing Tree (or was it The Tinderbox that came in the same DVD set?).

The next night I made a red lentil soup with spinach and lime.  It was very nice but I was a bit unsure if the lime was too sharp.  Sometimes it is hard to cook from recipes without tasting the dish first.  Yes, I could read a recipe more closely but scratch and sniff computers would be more fun.  The soup tasted lovely and healthy with my no knead focaccia.  There were no complaints.

Finally to return to the coincidence at the start of the post, I will share a few other unlikely moments:
  • The AFL women's round made me wonder if Sylvia is be quite unusual in Victoria (home of Aussie rules football) to have a mother who has played Aussie rules and a father who hasn't.
  • I was talking to my dentist about bringing Sylvia along for a check up.  He said not to put ideas in her mind by reassuring her that it wouldn't hurt.  Unfortunately this was the same week that E had dental treatment that left him with a black eye.
  • A fox killed a friend's chickens in Coburg! (That is the highly urbanised inner north of Melbourne for those who don't know the area.)
  • And a happy coincidence.  E has been trying to sell one of his guitar cases through an online forum.  I happened to overhear two new acquaintances talking about their guitars last week and asked if they were interested in a guitar case.  Sold!

I am sending this tart and soup to Jac of Tinned Tomatoes for  Bookmarked Recipes (July #25) because I found both in my Delicious bookmarks through searching for ingredients I wanted to use.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: The Beachcomber - brunch at the beach
Two years ago: Pumpkin cake for Dolly's tea party
Three years ago: Lentil quinoa balls and fun links
Four years ago: Pear and Walnut Chutney
Five years ago: Chickpea cutlets and gluten strings
Six years ago: Mulled Apple Juice for a Midwinter Birthday

Red lentil soup with spinach and lime
Adapted from The TasteSpace
serves 4

1 cup red lentils
1 parsnip, peeled and diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1.5 tsp turmeric
1.5 tsp salt
4-5 cups water
1-2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3/4 tsp cumin seeds
3/4 tsp yellow mustard seeds
Juice of 1 lime (or to taste)
100g baby spinach leaves

Mix red lentils, parsnip, carrot, turmeric, salt and water into a large saucepan.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until vegies are soft.  Meanwhile in a separate frypan, fry onion, cumin seeds and mustard seeds gently in olive oil for about 15 minutes or until the onion is soft.  Add to lentil mixture.  Mix in lime juice and spinach leaves.  Stir briefly until the leaves wilt.  Serve hot.

Pumpkin, kale and blue cheese tart
Adapted from Jane Baxter in The Guardian
serves 3-4

175g plain flour
1 tsp caster sugar
Pinch of salt
125g cold unsalted butter, diced (I used nuttalex)
1-3 tbsp very cold water (I used 1)

Spiced walnuts:
Olive oil
45g walnuts (120g with shells on)
1 pinch cayenne
A dash of Tabasco
good pinch tsp salt
good pinch of garlic powder

Olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1/2 bunch of kale, sliced
500g pumpkin, diced then roasted with oil and salt

54g blue cheese, chopped
30g grated parmesan

Fried sage leaves:
15 sage leaves fried in butter til stiff
knob of butter

To make pastry: 
 Briefly mix flour, sugar and salt in the food processor.  Add butter and continue to process til it takes on the texture of coarse breadcrumbs.  Slowly add water 1 tbsp at a time until the pastry comes together into a ball.  Cover with clingfilm and chill in fridge for 30 minutes.  Roll out  and I quote "into a rought circle" - I didn't know how thick and probably did it about between 0.5 and 1cm thick.  Prick with a fork and bake at 200 C or until golden brown. 

To make spiced walnuts:
While the pastry is chilling,  heat a little olive oil in a non stick frypan and stir in walnuts and seasonings.  Gently fry until the walnuts smell cooked.

To prepare vegetables:
In a separate frypan or use the one you did the walnuts in, fry the onion slices and then the kale in some olive oil.  I didn't take note of timing.  Mix cooked onions and kale with pumpkin.

To assemble:
Scatter cooked pastry with pumpkin mixture, then walnuts then cheeses.  Bake at 200 C for about 10 minutes or until just warmed through.

To fry sage leaves:
Heat butter in frypan and gently fry sage leaves.  You will know they are ready when they are quite stiff when you turn them over.  Drain on kitchen towel.

Scatter fried sage leaves on cooked tart and serve hot.

On the stereo:
Everything Must Go: The Manic Street Preachers


  1. I'm hanging out for the Flinders reno details too. If they mess it up I'm going to cry *fingers crossed* I think it could just do with a clean and fixing the things that are broken really... plus, if they disrupt my commute for too long it's not going to go down well.

    I was tossing up whether to include my photos of the helix tree in my last post but I'm glad I didn't now! How much fun is it? I think I may have embarrassed my hubs by running around in the rain at night playing with it but it was so much fun!

    We usually go to chocolate buddha just over the other side of fed square to avoid the crazy prices. You can get organic edamame or a huge bowl of veg noodle soup or rice and tofu that's big enough to share.
    Your food looks great too! x

    1. Thanks Claire - I couldn't bear it if they ruined flinders street station - I agree it could have a clean up and I would like some of the station opened up to the public - have never seen the ballroom but photos look amazing.

      The helix tree was fun - was really strange the way it responded to sound but sylvia was having more fun yelling at it than me. I don't go to chocolate buddah due to a previous bad experience.

  2. E got a black eye at the dentist?! Goodness. I think you will have some convincing to do with Sylvia ;)

    I love your photos of the helix tree and think that over-priced pizza is justified when you get views like that. I would prefer any of your weekend meals though, and your scones might not be up to old fashioned standards, but they look and sound good to me.

    1. Thanks Kari - if only that was sylvia's excuse for being shy of the dentist I could explain it - but at least she opened her mouth a bit!

      the pizza was the lowlight in food of the weekend but fortunately food is about experiences too and it was worth going in to see the helix tree

  3. It is a shame that such an iconic building has to redeveloped, I hope they do it justice!

    I adore lentil soups flavoured with lemon or lime and some spices but I usually taste as I am adding the citrus until I am happy with the flavour as it can definitely overwhelm if too much is added. This soup sounds like a lovely recipe.

    Scratch and sniff computers sound like fun - I wonder how much drooling over keyboards there would be!

    1. Thanks Mel - I think there will be a heavy burden of expectation on the shoulders of anyone who touches our precious flinders street.

      I am sometimes unsure about how much lemon or lime to add to a soup - a little is usually enough so this was more sour than usual and I wasn't sure if it is how others eat it. Scratch and sniff computers would need to come with keyboard protectors :-)

  4. She is really growing isn't she! And yes they seem to have huge reserves of energy and warmth :D

    1. Thanks Lorraine - I wish I had so much energy and warmth. I will be freezing and she doesn't want to wear a cardigan but perhaps it is related to how much she runs about

  5. I know, how are they always so warm? Poor old E, hope he has recovered and lovely soup. Thanks for entering it Johanna. The roundup is now live.

    1. Thanks Jac - E is doing fine and enjoyed the round up as always

  6. I can't believe I missed the soup! I am a bit behind on my reader but glad to hear you liked the soup, lime and all. :)

    1. Thanks Janet - might be something to do with moving country :-)


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