Wednesday 26 February 2014

Cauliflower Cheese revisited for a vegan roast dinner

One of my favourite childhood meals is a roast dinner.  It featured in one of my earlier blog posts.  Recently I made one and reflected on how far I have come since then.  The Sunday Night Roast and Perfect Golden Gravy are tester recipes for Ricki Heller.  As is the remainder of the Creamy Greens with Asian Seasoning that I tossed through the peas.  I can't tell you more about them until the book is out later in the year but they are amazing.  The potatoes were roasted with French lavender salt and the cauliflower cheese is vegan.  None of this would have happened in my early days of blogging.

My mum made a lot of roast dinners when I was a child and they usually included cauliflower cheese.  My mum would make a simple white sauce, pour it over cooked cauliflower and cover it in cheese.  Our neighbour two doors down loved the dish and I remember often taking a small warm dish of it to her just before dinner (if she wasn't at our place having a sherry with my mum before taking her share home). 

This was the only way I can remember eating cauliflower as a child.  This was before learning how versatile it is.  We called it cauliflower cheese.  We weren't fancy enough to call it cauliflower gratin. 

Today if we have a family roast dinner, it will still include cauliflower cheese.  My sister often makes one with gluten free flour.  I still love it as much as I did as a child.  I regret to say that I don't make it as often as I would like to.  Every now and again I crave the comforts of cauliflower cheese. 

However I have been reducing the amount of cheese I eat so I thought I would try a vegan version.  I tinkered with another vegan cheese recipe.  It was a bit on the sweet side but it worked really well with the rest of the meal.  E was pleased that it was lighter than its dairy counterpart.  I found the whole meal too filling to finish everything on my plate.

So this is a work in progress.  I have specified half a large cauliflower.  Mine was half a small cauliflower and I could have done with more.  I would continue to tinker with the sauce to give it a bit more punch.  Perhaps more salt and mustard. 

A roast dinner is a balancing act.  Balancing flavours and texture.  It is also a juggling act with the dishes in the oven.  I am a bit vague on the cooking time as the cauliflower cheese was added in with roasting vegies and then as I waited to be ready for dinner I reduced the heat for a while.

My mother once said a roast dinner was one of the easiest things for her to cook.  It is not my easiest meal but it is always worth the effort.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Margaret Quinn's brown bread - served with MLLA stew
Two years ago: Jimmy Watsons - a Carlton institution
Three years ago: Chocolate cashew fudge and nut roast love!
Four years ago: Serendipitous Plum Jam
Five years ago: MLLA8 Dal Makhani
Six years ago: HoTM #12 Prune and Bean Casserole

Cauliflower cheese
My original cheesy one is here and the vegan cheese sauce inspiration is here.
serves 4 as a side dish

1/2 large cauliflower, trimmed and roughly broken up
2 tbsp vegan margarine
2 tbsp and 2 tsp wholemeal flour
1 1/2 cups soy milk
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/8 tsp turmeric
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tbsp maple syrup
few drops Worcestershire sauce (vegetarian version)

Steam or boil cauliflower for 15 minutes and drain.

Meanwhile make cheese sauce.  Melt margarine in saucepan and stir in flour to form a roux.  Fry roux, stirring frequently, over a low to medium heat until browned. Gradually add milk, stirring to incorporate the roux after each addition of milk.  Add remaining ingredients and cook until thickened (which is usually once it boils).

Place cooked cauliflower in a medium casserole dish.  Pour cheese sauce over cauliflower.  Bake for 15 to 30 minutes in moderate oven or until just starting to brown and has formed a crust on top.

On the stereo:
The Crane Wife: The Decembrists

Monday 24 February 2014

Candy Cane Brownies

Valentine Day came and went with good intentions, but little time and energy for fun food.  But don't we always say that Valentines Day is not the only chance in the year for love, hearts and fun.  So a few days later I finally found time to make a recipe I had my eye on.  It was a dense brownie with a white peppermint bark on top.  I might have been late for Valentines Day but not quite as late as I have been to use up the candy canes from Christmas.

Crushing candy canes is something I have never done before.  I will always remember my first time.  Bashing the candy canes in a zip lock bag with a rolling pin was fun but left its mark.  I hadn't thought about just how sharp the shards are and did this on our wooden table.  It still bears the pock marks.  Next time I will crush candy canes on an old chopping board or something harder.

I had seen some peppermint bark brownies on La Casa de Sweets.  They looked gorgeous (and were quite a healthy brownie recipe).  I had visions of cutting them into heart shapes.  However I wasn't so sure of the vegan grain-free version, especially as it had almond flour and I had a notion that I could put one into Sylvia's lunchbox (which must be nut free).  I quite liked the leftover candy cane brownies that I saw at The Creekside Cook.  It was an easy simple recipe, that used pantry staples.

I cut my brownie hearts as soon as the white chocolate had set hard enough to cut - perhaps 2 to 3 hours (I think I put them in the fridge because I was impatient to have them ready before Sylvia went to bed).  I was glad I did.  The next day when I tried to cut them, this is how they looked.

However, while the white chocolate peppermint bark crumbled at the touch of a knife, the brownie was fudgy and rich.  Together they made a pleasing combination of soft and yielding, the shatter of hard chocolate and the crunch of candy cane shards.

The mint flavour worked really well for me here, softening the tooth-aching sweetness of the white chocolate.  After all I grew up eating peppermint crisp - a bar of crunchy peppermint in a milk chocolate coating.  My mint candy canes only made up about half the required amount.  It seemed enough though I would try more if I had them.  I decided to stick to the red and white candy canes for the Valentine aesthetics.

In fact it was so delicious that I was surprised when E said he wasn't so keen on it.  He isn't really into the mint flavour nor the crunchy candy canes.  Hurrumph!  The proof, however, is in the eating.  And I did find that he was rather fond of eating it, despite his proclamations.  Sylvia also loved the slice.  She ate it by taking off the white chocolate topping and eating it first.

We did have some other hearts and flowers on and around Valentines Day.  Here is a little taster.  Meanwhile we have more candy canes left in different colours and flavours.  Perhaps it calls for more brownies!

I am sending this to Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary for her Valentines Day Baking Inspiration event.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: NCR Coronationl Potato Salad
Two years ago: Choc almond slice, Valentine and Koorioberee
Three years ago: CC Cheese Hearts
Four years ago: Valentine Scones - raspberry and white chocolate
Five years ago: Valentine Day Polenta
Six years ago: WCC # 25 Velvet Soup from Nigellaland

Candy Cane Brownies
Adapted from The Creekside Cook and La Casa de Sweets

125g butter
1 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa
2 eggs
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 plain flour (I used 1/4 wholemeal flour)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

150g white chocolate
1/4 cup crushed candy canes (I think I only had about 2 tbsp)

Preheat oven to 180 C and grease and line a 20cm square cake tin.

Melt butter in a medium bowl (in the microwave) or saucepan (on stovetop).  Add sugar and cocoa, add in eggs, one at a time and then vinegar.   Gently mix in flour, baking powder and salt.  Pour into prepared tin.  Bake for 20 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out just clean (a few crumbs are fine).  Cool in the tin.

To make topping, melt white chocolate and pour over cooled brownie in the tin.  Sprinkle with crushed candy cane.  Let chocolate set before removing from tin and slicing.  It is best to slice when chocolate has just set - I think this was a few hours rather than letting it harden completely when it is more likely to crack.  Keep in an airtight container - ours kept for 4 days and was still good.

On the Stereo:
Picaresque: The Decembrists

Saturday 22 February 2014

Acustico, Brunswick and Wilson Avenue Pop Up Park

This morning E played ukelele with his group at the pop up park on the corner of Wilson Avenue and Sydney Road (the Brunswick Better Block Trial being run by Moreland City Council).  It was great fun and I finally had an opportunity to photograph this amazing piece of street art by Jewel train station.  Which reminded me we should try out Acustico cafe while in the area.  We did and enjoyed it muchly.

I have often passed by this cafe on the train thinking I should visit ever since it opened two and a half years ago.  It was a happy moment to walk in and find it was every bit as interesting as it looked from the train window.  Mismatched old furniture, leafy plants, light shade made out of cupcake papers, an old piano, jam jars of sugar.  A done with a good eye for design and a good heart for the environment.

I placed our order and asked about where to find water.  It amused me that he said the water was by the television.  I really dislike a place with a brightly lit television but this one was an old repurposed television that was now the drinks table.  It fitted right in with the retro loungeroom vibe of the old sofa and piano.

When we arrived I also noticed that through the below doorway was a little cubby hole away from the main dining area.  It was occupied at the time.

Later on when the people left Sylvia and I went in to explore.  It is not quite as secluded as it looked because you pass through this door to go to the toilets.  But it is such a cute little space with the old parking sign, plants and buddah.

Meanwhile, when we first arrived, all tables were occupied so we sat at the end of the large one by the "doorway".  It was actually a large garage door that gave the room a spacious feeling and a great view of the railway line for trainspotters.

Then the sofa was vacated and Sylvia was aching to sit there so we moved.  It meant I had to eat my lunch on my lap but it also meant that when I felt very full at the end I could sink back into the sofa and feel like I might never get up.

For lunch I ordered a quesadilla filled with smoked cheese and jalapeno with tomato, onion and corn salad ($15).  The menu has quite a lot of Mexican food on it.  So it should have been no surprise it was rather spicy.  My mouth burnt after it.  Yet I am sucker for a smoky flavoured meal.  And I did enjoy it.  The corn tortillas were light and just crisp.  The cheese would have been too heavy without the salad on the side.  I didn't manage to finish it but E helped out.  Later we were told this plate was meant for sharing.

Sylvia had a croissant and a ginger beer.  The croissant was very flaky and gobbled up.  The ginger beer was the Phoenix brand which we love.  It came with a very hip glass jar with handle.  Sylvia preferred drinking out of the bottle.  There were some croissant crumbs which met some ginger beer when I wasn't looking.

E had a Toastie with corn, provolone cheese, jalaleno, onions, tomato, parsley, chipotle, and home made mayo ($6).  He was most impressed with it.  A cut above the average toastie.  Though apparently not as spicy as my quesadilla - I tasted it but had eaten too much spicy quesadilla to judge the toastie.  I think it was good because it wasn't full of chunky pieces of vegies falling out on your lap.  But E says it was the nice bread and nice filling.  He also enjoyed his soy latte.

And because we enjoyed our visit to the pop up park before the lunch, I thought I would share a few photos.

The park had a pizza oven, some quality craft stalls and a fantastic play area in the middle of it.  The games included giant wooden noughts and crosses, blocks, dice and tug of war.  They were run by The Coco Bros who hire these out for parties.  I love the idea.

These kids also loved the games.  Their favourite was to stack the blocks around one of their friends who would then burst out.  It was great fun to watch.

32 Union Street
Brunswick Victoria 3056
Tel: 0402 489 800

Acustico on Urbanspoon

Friday 21 February 2014

Mostly Raw Double Layer Fudge

Lately I have wished for better equipment to grind and blend and puree.  I've had a green (kale) smoothie with the texture of grass, my favourite little blender has a crack in it ,and when I tried a nut butter it just never got beyond very thick (thanks Emma for suggesting that roasting the nuts might help).  I am pleased to say that this raw fudge coped very well with my equipment. And it was delicious too.

I made the fudge for a birthday lunch with my family.  I had first tasted it at K's place last year and loved it.  I am happy to say it was just as good when I made it.  As you can see above it didn't all seem smooth sailing making it.  The mixture wasn't as sticky as I expected and the dates didn't seem to completely blend with the coconut.  It was so hot that the coconut oil was liquid.  Yet, it all came together perfectly.

My mum had made a Mexican feast - one of my favourite cuisines and perfect for vegetarian and gluten free options.  Nachos, tacos, chilli non carne, and lots of sides.  I was so full after it.

Then came dessert.  I brought along the fudge which was quite soft by then.  I loved the soft squishy fudge and the melty chocolate topping but it was hard to cut neatly.  In fact it was hard to cut without it all sticking to my fingers.  My mum had also made a black forest cake, hedgehog and lamingtons.  All gluten free!  I confess I was so full from the Mexican that I was more interesting in photographing than eating.

For my birthday we had arranged to go for a swim at my parents' local pool which has lots of cool water slides and water play.  It was great fun.  However the best present for me was that the day before school started Sylvia finally started to put her head under water in the pool after a long period of gentle persuasion on my behalf. 

Sylvia has spent so long swimming around with a noodle that within days of putting her head under she had worked out how to swim through the water without a noodle.  She has developed her swimming at an amazing rate since then.  Now she just needs to learn to take a breath.  However it was joyful to watch her excitment at being in the water.  Watching this little girl put on her goggles makes me so happy!

After the swim I had worked up an appetite for the chocolate feast.  We only took about a quarter of the fudge home and it seemed to last for quite a few days in the fridge.  We ate it in small pieces because it is so rich.  I am very fond of eating slices at room temperature but this was excellent straight out of the fridge - more chewy fudgy - and so much easier to slice up neatly. 

So room temperature or from the fridge this fudge is amazing.  I would go as far as saying this is my favourite raw treat of all time.  So rich and chocolatey and fudgy and gooey and delicious and full of good food.  Who would believe it was possible!  Definitely a keeper!

I am sending this fudge to Ricki Heller for her Wellness Weekends event that features healthy food made from whole ingredients.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: River Cottage Veg, Tomato salad, and yoghurt cheese
Two years ago: WHB Basil pesto
Three years ago: Chocolate cashew fudge and nut roast love!
Four years ago: Shrove Tuesday Blinis
Five years ago: Potato salad, freak weather and bushfires
Six years ago: PPN #52 Gyoza and Salad

Raw Double Layer Chocolate Fudge
Adapted from Gourmante in the kitchen via In the Mood for Noodles

2 cups raw cashews
2 scant cups dessicated coconut
300g (about 20) very soft medjool dates, pitted
1 scant cup cocoa
½ cup maple syrup
Pinch of salt

1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup extra virgin unrefined coconut oil
1/2 cup cocoa
Pinch of salt
Extra dessicated coconut for sprinkling (optional)

To make base: Grind cashews finely in food processor.  Add coconut and process to incorporate.  Add dates and process until you have a sticky mass that will clump together if pressed between thumb and fingers. Add cocoa and process again.  Lastly add maple syrup and salt and process until you have a sticky dough that comes together in the food processor.  Press into a lined 20cm square cake tin.  Place in fridge while making topping.

To make topping: Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth, scraping down sides if required.  Pour over base and sprinkle with coconut (if desired).  Return to fridge to set.

When firm, cut into small square and serve cold (firm) or at room temperature (squidgy).  Keeps in fridge for days, or freezer for longer.

On the stereo:
Thursday's Fortune: Club Hoy

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Tomato Nut Roast with Buckwheat and Seeds: Guest post on

I am particularly fond of nut roasts. When I first became vegetarian over 20 years ago, I found that they filled the space left by meat. I grew up with a mother who regularly roasted a lump of meat surrounded by roast vegetables. Nut roasts became the lump of protein surrounded by vegetables on my plate. They are now my comfort food.  Today though you wont find a recipe on my blog because I have written a guest post on Ricki Heller's blog (formerly known as Diet Dessert and Dogs).

I have followed Ricki’s blog since 2007 when I was bowled over by her humour, her warmth and her brilliant recipe ideas. So when she asked me to write a guest post for her, I was delighted. After some thought on what to make, I decided to make my signature dish. A nut roast.  Head over to Ricki's blog to read my post and recipe for a vegan and gluten free Tomato Nut Roast with Buckwheat and Seeds.

Monday 17 February 2014

Tomato kitchen sink chutney

Chutney and preserves are frustrating recipes to blog about.  I wanted to write all about this when I made it but yet I thought I should wait until I had used it a bit and could tell you about how it was going.  Then by the time I am writing about it, my memories of making it are no longer crystal clear. My last chutney was not great and was neglected.  The chutney I bring you today is delicious and we are zooming through it. 

I first decided to make some chutney when I was gifted some peaches by my brother in law from his tree.  Then they were used for breakfast with yoghurt.  I then bought some cheap with good intentions but as you can see, they got a bit manky and I had to cut out some mould.  I also had some tomatoes I had bought on special that needed using. 

I fried the spices and vegies and added all my ingredients before running out of time.  I had been to the zoo with a kinder friend of Sylvia's the previous day and got home with no keys.  My neighbour very kindly had us in while she made dinner for her friends.  The day of the chutney I rang the zoo and was relieved to hear that someone had handed them in.  I left the chutney ready for simmering while I picked up the keys and stopped on the way home to buy new school shoes for Sylvia.

When I got home I simmered the chutney, chatted on the phone, sterilised the jars and did some craft with Sylvia.  Eventually the chutney was in the jars.  With hindsight it seems easy.  Enough time has passed that I can't remember it clearly and Sylvia shoes are starting to look a bit scuffed and in need of a clean.  Though I am getting more used to preparing jars for chutneys and jams, which make life so much easier.

While I initially intended to make tomato and peach chutney, the amount of peaches was reduced by mould and I had a few other vegies that needed using.  I was going to just use mustard and fennel seeds but curry powder seemed right.  Not too much.  I did vaguely follow a recipe which used more salt and sugar than I usually do.  I only realised this after adding the salt but before adding sugar.  So I reduced the sugar and found it quite tasty rather than a bit sweet.  This actually worked well.

I can tell you that the chutney is brilliant.  Perfect for sausages, burgers, sandwiches etc.  I left it a little chunky rather than blending it.  It looks great with the little black specks of mustard seeds. 

As I have said, we are eating it with lots of dishes.  Above is a dinner of sausages, hash brown and coleslaw with chutney. Below is a breakfast of rice cake, cashew cheese spread and chutney. (Yes I am still eating well, despite being so busy that finding time to blog is a bit of a struggle at the moment.)

I gave a jar to my mum and she said my dad loves it.  It is like a good home made tomato sauce, full of flavour, slightly spicy but it wont blow the roof off your mouth.  Fortunately I made it last month.  Last week my mum made her annual batch of tomato sauce so we will be in less need of chutney while the sauce is in stock.  But if you don't have a mother making you tomato sauce, I highly recommend this chutney.

I am sending this chutney to Catherine at Cates Cates for her challenge, Everyone Can Cook Fabulous Vegetarian Food.  This month the theme is Attack of the killer tomatoes.

I am also sending it to Fiona of London Unattached for the No Waste Food Challenge, which is coordinated by  Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary.

And, though it is not at all relevant, I just heard it is the 150 anniversary of poet, Banjo Patterson's birth.  That calls for a rousing singsong of his most famous song, 'Waltzing Matilda'.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Auckland B&B: Braemar on Parliament
Two years ago: NCR couscous salad with chermoula
Three years ago: Earl Grey cupcakes and nutritous ganache
Four years ago: Feta Scones in a Flash
Five years ago: Jam-Making Reflections by a Novice
Six years ago: Wanton Dumplings in Ginger Broth

Tomato kitchen sink chutney
Adapted from The Fresh Feed and My tomato chutney
Makes about 4 cups

1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
2 cloves
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1/2 beetroot, finely chopped
1 kg tomatoes, finely chopped*
2 peaches, unpeeled finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic finely chopped
2 tbsp finely grated ginger
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
6 tbsp raw sugar
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tsp chilli paste
2 tsp salt, or to taste (I think I might try less next time)
1/2 tsp curry powder

*I used about 700g tomatoes peeled and 250g smaller tomatoes unpeeled all finely chopped

Heat olive oil over low heat in a large saucepan.  Add fennel and mustard seeds and heat until they pop.  Stir in the cloves.  Now add the onion, celery, and beetroot (I added them gradually as I chopped them) and fry for about 10 to 15 minutes until softening.  Remove cloves (not easy as they look like all the dark bits of beetroot)!

Add remaining ingredients and check seasoning.  (I left mine in the saucepan for a few hours at this point before simmering.)  Bring to the boil and simmer for between 30 and 60 minutes.  I found I simmered at a higher temperature at the start and then reduced the heat as it got thicker and more bubbly.  It is ready when chunky chutney consistency and not much liquid left. 

While chutney is simmering, sterilise your jars and lids.  I baked mine for 30 minutes in the oven at 150 C and boiled the lids on the stovetop for 10 minutes, then dried them on a rack.  I find it easy to put all the jars in a roasting dish so I am not having to handle them individually.

Once chutney is ready and still hot, ladle into a jar and screw on the lid (using rubber gloves or oven mitts if hot to handle).  As the chutney cools the metal lids should depress, which is a sign of them being sealed.  Store in a cool place.  This only made about 4 small jars (about 1 cup each) and we are now onto the second jar, a month later.

On the Stereo:
Mr Beast: Mogwai

Thursday 13 February 2014

East Elevation: East Brunswick

UPDATE: East Elevation is now closed (2021)

Over the past few months I have been to a few cafes that have impressed me but my favourite has to be East Elevation.  It has an innovative menu, great food and a relaxing huge warehouse space.

From the road the grey building looks unassuming, even with its red door.  The light filled space is a surprise upon entering.  The combination of skylights and high ceilings works brilliantly.  The distressed brick walls and exposed rafters remind us of the warehouse origins.  Yet the foilage and flowers add a welcoming splash of colour.  I particularly like the terrariums.  They remind me of primary school projects.  These plants growing in jars are the sort of quirky retro touch that makes the space delightful.

I first went to East Elevation late last year with my friend Junko.  We both had the Quesadilla off the specials board.  It came with gooey mozzarella inside and on the side was  black beans, corn, chillies, guacamole, a radish garnish and a lime wedge.  It was excellent.  The radishes were a revelation for me and the chillies were more tasty than spicy.

I was so enthused by the place that I went back about a week later with E and Sylvia for brunch.  When we arrived on a Saturday morning when the place was full.  We were able to put our names on a waiting list, play for 20 minutes at the park and return to a seat.  I had the full vegie breakfast, E had the full breakfast, and Sylvia had the crepes with lemon and sugar. 

My plate was filled with sourdough toast, spicy beans, oven dried tomatoes, avocado, and sauteed spinach.  Best of all I could choose to replace the eggs with chipotle tempeh.  Oh joyous day!  The tempeh wasn't quite as crispy as I would have liked but good egg substitutes are always very welcome.  The toast was thick and dense in a satisfying way, the bake beans were home made and nicely saucy, the avocado was creamy and the tomatoes were grilled perfectly so they fell apart oozing juices at the touch of a fork.  E enjoyed his breakfast and found it very filling.  Sylvia was more interested in playing with her food.

This week I went there with my mum to share the Chocolate fondue with fruit, toast (brioche), brownies and more chocolate.  You might notice that there are no brownies on our platter above.  It was only halfway through that we started to wonder about the brownies.  I asked and we were given them with apologies.

The dark chocolate fondue was amazingly good.  (Milk chocolate is also an option.)  So it ought to be given that East Elevation houses the chocolate makers Monsieur Truffle (or does Monsieur Truffle house East Elevation?)  Once we had run out of things to dip we had a spoonful or two off the spoon.  The brownies were gooey and intense.  One for chocolate lovers!

It was a good idea to just have the chocolate fondue platter because on my other visits I have been too full to try it.  Of course that doesn't stop me perusing the cakes and maybe taking home a jam filled lamington.

The service is always pleasant and accommodating, even if the staff forget the occasional brownie.  I can understand why people take in their laptops to while away the time, why my sister on her visit from Ireland went to East Elevation twice, and why the Herald Sun has written up the "industrial chic" on the weekend in glowing terms.  Cindy and Michael have recently written about the good news that East Elevation now offers dinner.  It is on my list of places to visit in the evening.  Definitely! Any excuse to return is welcome.

UPDATE: East Elevation is now closed (2021)

East Elevation
351 Lygon Street
Brunswick East
03 9381 5575 

East Elevation on Urbanspoon