Sunday 29 June 2014

Gekkazan, the best vegetarian sushi in Melbourne CBD

Sushi shops are so common in any shopping centre in Melbourne that you might be forgiven for thinking they are much of a muchness.  However I have discovered the best place to by sushi in Melbourne CBD.  It is a little Japanese cafe in the laneway between Myer Department Store and the old GPO building.  They have lots of great food but if you have ever wanted a range of flavours, purple rice or just the fun of rolling your own, I suggest you get down to Gekkazan.

Until recently I loved to visit this part of the CDB.  The old GPO building is one of the fine Victorian buildings in the city.  I loved to visit the ABC shop and wander through the building, perhaps to stop at the cafe in the middle of the GPO shopping centre.  It was with sadness that I have watched it transform into foreign owned shopping monolith H and M.  Myer is no longer what it used to be.  And I have written more about the new Emporium shopping centre in another post.

Thankfully there are few changes to the Gekkazan laneway.  (Though it has changed names in the last few years since I first wrote about Kenzan at the GPO in 2008).  I particularly love some of the historic signage that has been preserved.  Be warned it is often busy with city workers.  There are lots of seats at Gekkazan with heaters in winter and sparrows throughout the whole year.

The reason I keep going back to Gekkazan is the roll-your-own sushi.  For those who only ever eat sushi from a sushi shop in a shopping centre, it tastes different when the nori is fresh and still has a little crunch.  And it is fun.  The fillings are fairly standard vegetarian mixtures of avocado, pickled vegetables, carrot and tofu.  My only reservation is that this is not so good for the environment with all the extra packaging.  And it is more expensive than your usual sushi hand roll.

Not all the sushi is roll-your-own.  Recently I have tried a few different flavours.  I really loved the crumbed potato and lettuce filling (top photo).  I also was very taken by the purple rice hand rolls.  The seaweed filling made for great colours.  However I tried the chilli tofu filling, which was mild enough for my palate (top photo). 

Recently while rushing around town, I bought a sundried tomato and sour plum onigiri.  It was very unusual.  I had rushed off without realising it was a roll-your-own and without stopping for some soy sauce.  It had a very sharp flavour which would have benefited from soy sauce.

Another reason I have been returning to Gekkazan is that it is quick, has enough room for a stroller and I can buy a tub of edamame which Sylvia loves alongside a sushi hand roll.  The above photo is taken on a day when there was a pop up washi tape shop in Melbourne Central and you can see we had fun choosing some rolls.

I took a friend of mine there for lunch last year.  Jane had lived in Japan for a while and made me realise I should try other dishes.  She introduced me to the bento box.  It isn't cheap but it is so good.  It included tempura vegetables, vegetarian sushi, seaweed, edamame, yakisoba (rice, fried noodles with vegies), and soft tofu salad with a slightly sharp and sweet orange sauce.  Miso soup is included for a slight increase in the price.  I loved the combination.  The tofu salad is slightly bland but the whole meal is greater than the sun of its parts. 

I have also tried one of the noodle soups.  I think it was ramen but my notes weren't too detailed.  I can tell you that I enjoyed it with lots of slurpy noodles and fresh vegies and I think there was tofu.  I keep meaning to return and try the soups and gzoya but all too often it is lunchtime, I am busy, and I just want something quick and cheap and only have sushi. 

Shop 28g, Postal Lane
350 Bourke St, Melbourne CBD
03 9663 7767

Gekkazan @ GPO on Urbanspoon

Thursday 26 June 2014

Teriyaki tofu with brown rice and kale and Sylvia's dinners

A while back, I borrowed Gwyneth Paltrow's Notes from My Kitchen from the library.  It has lots of great simple recipes in it.  I bookmarked lots to try.  I made her gorgeous apple muffins and then I cooked up a batch of teriyaki tofu and rice with kale before having to return to the book.  The tofu was sticky and delicious but the rice wasn't quite right.

As always I made changes.  The original recipe was for teriyaki salmon.  A version of the recipe is at (Chef)uality).  Gwyneth said that you could substitute tofu.  She didn't give much more information.  I decided to fry the tofu because my oven is slow and frying is quick.  According to Wikipedia this means that my tofu was not actually teriyaki because it is a grilling/broiling cooking technique rather than a sauce.  No matter, it tasted amazing.  I used garlic instead of ginger in the hope that Sylvia would eat it.

Gwyneth wrote about the kale and rice that she is proud of her kids because they love this.  Sadly I wasn't able to enjoy the same pride.  Sylvia gobbled up the tofu but was not keen on the kale being mixed with the rice.  I insisted she ate a few mouthfuls and was pleased to see some bits of kale hiding in her spoonfuls.

It is a while since we had the teriyaki tofu but I keep trying now and again to challenge Sylvia's separatist food tendencies.  Last night I made some fairly plain fried rice for her.  She ate about a third of a bowl.  She does not like onion so I cut it small but she tried to pick it out of every spoonful so maybe next time I will cut it big.  She also protested that there were too many vegetables and she would prefer them on the side.  At least she accepts I will put some vegies in the rice and she loved the tofu bacon in it.  Baby steps!

I took the above photo of it and it does look like a lot of vegies, even though when I made it there didn't seem to be that many vegies.  Also in the photo are some of her favourite things at the moment.  Loom bands, a comb for hairdressing and gloves that she wears to be Elsa from Frozen.  (And if you are as fascinated as me by the popularity of the movie, ie the little girls belting out the song 'Let it Go' everywhere, check out this New Yorker article on Frozen.)

As for the teriyaki tofu and brown rice and kale, I loved the meal.  It had less variety of vegies than I usually serve up for dinner.  E thought the rice dish lacking oomph.  Perhaps the spring onions might have made a difference.  So while not perfect (and I think I have missed the point of teriyaki altogether because apparently it is usually broiled or grilled food), it is a healthy quick meal that I am sure I will make again.

I am sending the teriyaki tofu with brown rice and kale to Healthy Vegan Fridays #2.  Kimmy of Rock my Vegan Socks is keeping on with it but has farewelled 2 co-hosts and welcomed a new one - Robin of Vegan Dollhouse.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Q is for Quinoa pizza balls, quitting parliament and the picnic game
Two years ago: Yoghurt pastry, flatbreads, cakes, knitting, aquarium
Three years ago: Marshmallow Weetbix slice
Four years ago: Nigella’s potato bread
Five years ago: Pleasing pumpkin muesli slice
Six years ago: Philip Island Pleasures
Seven years ago: Red Rascal Burgers

Teriyaki tofu
Adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow's Notes from My Kitchen Table
Serves 2-3

Teriyaki marinade
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp honey (Gwyneth used 3)*
2 tbsp mirin
2 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp oil
300 - 500g tofu, diced (I used 300g)

Mix marinade in a small bowl.  Toss with tofu chunks until well coated.  Marinate for an hour if you have the time (I didn't).  Heat heavy bottom non-stick frypan over medium heat and fry until marinade is absorbed, stirring frequently.  Tofu will be sticky and golden brown.

*Use another sweetener for vegan marinade.  Sugar or agave would work fine.  Wonder if coconut sugar or coconut nectar would work?

Fried rice with kale 
Adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow's Notes from My Kitchen Table
Serves 2-3

175g dried brown rice (or 3 cups cooked rice)
225g kale (3 to 4 large stems)
3 spring onions, sliced (I didn't have these)
1 tbsp oil
2 clove garlic (I used 1 because enough in teriyaki)
1 to 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce

Boil rice for 30 minutes or until cooked.  Drain rice.  Meanwhile prepare kale by removing stems if curly kale (I don't remove stems from Tuscan kale) and finely chopping.  Steam kale (over the cooking rice) for 7 minutes.  Once rice is cooked, fry garlic in oil in frypan over medium heat for about 2 minutes.  Add kale and spring onions and fry for about 2 minutes.  Add rice and stir for about 2 minutes.  Stir in soy sauce to taste and remove from heat.

On the Stereo:
Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music, Volume 2: Social Music, Disc 1: Various Artists

Tuesday 24 June 2014

E for Eccles Cakes - vegan and savoury with leek, spinach and blue cheese - For the Picnic Game and Eat Your Greens

Eccles cakes - those British pastries packed with dried fruit - have never held much interest for me.  Not until I saw the creative Shaheen at Allotment to Kitchen make a savoury version.  Fortunately she posted two versions.  Once years ago when I bookmarked the recipe for Leek and stilton.  Then again recently she posted a Savoury nettle, ground elder and spinach 'Eccles' cake.  I found serendipity had presented me with all the ingredients to make a vegan version.

I had Vegusto's vegan blue cheese, Borg's puff pastry and lots of greens.  It was meant to be.  Especially as I had been wandering what to do with the blue cheese.  The vegan stuff really needs to be used in a dish rather than a sandwich.  It isn't crumbly and creamy in the way of dairy cheese.  But it worked well in this dish.  Of course you could deveganise the Eccles cakes and make them with dairy like Shaheen did.

Shaheen had used wild garlic so I thought it was a good way to use my wild garlic salt.  Not that I need any help with ideas for using the salt.  I put it in everything.  And it really does smell strongly of wild garlic.   

I loved these Eccles cakes.  They have a magnificent combination of indulgent puff pastry, virtuous greens and creamy cheese that gives it oodles of flavour.  I think they would be great for entertaining.  They look impressive despite requiring very little effort and skill.  You could prepare them in advance up until the point where they are baked and pop them in the oven when you friends arrive.  I also think they would be a great conversation starter.

Alas I haven't been doing much entertaining of late.  Mine were eaten for dinner on the run during Sylvia's dinner and bedtime routine.  They deserve better than this.  I think a hearty salad and a nice home cooked tomato sauce would be far more respectful.

The next day I heated them up in the microwave for lunch and popped them under the grill to crisp up the tops.  You might have noticed that they were rather well browned on top in some of my photos.  I don't recommend this method.  But between you and me, sometimes there is just not the time  and energy.  And if you wanted them really quickly or to take out for lunch, I think they would work at room temperature.

I am pleased to be able to send these Eccles Cakes back to Shaheen for a new blog challenge she has started this month called Eat Your Greens.  It is a vegetarian event to share ways of serving up green vegies.

I am also sending the Eccles Cakes to Louise at Months of Edible Celebrations for the Picnic Game. My fellow Melbournians will appreciate that it is not at all picnic weather here.  But Louise lives on the other side of the world and begins this game each year to celebrate International Picnic Day on 18 June and has the full list up on 1 July in time for National Picnic Month.  Bloggers all choose a letter and play along as we used to like when we were kids.  Here we go (a few more to be added when they are posted):

We are going on a picnic and my friends are bringing

A - Angel Cake
B - Basil Leaves in Caramelized Prawns
C - Chicken Piccata
E - and I am bringing Eccles Cakes filled with Leek, Spinach and Blue Cheese

Head over to Months of Edible Celebrations on or after 1 July to see what everyone brought to the picnic.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Winter Solstice chocolate fruit mince slice
Two years ago: Oat and honey bread, and a malted bread
Three years ago: Tahini lime rice with some multicultural day thoughts
Four years ago: SHF Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
Five years ago: Novice Nutella cupcakes accompanied by guitar
Six years ago: The solstice fruitcake offensive
Seven years ago: Winter Solstice Roast Dinner

Vegan Leek Spinach and Blue Cheese Eccles Cakes
adapted from Allotment to Kitchen
serves 3-4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium leek, washed and chopped
100g (couple of big handfuls) baby spinach, chopped
1 tsp wild garlic salt (or regular salt)
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley (a good handful)
finely ground black pepper 
100g vegan blue cheese, diced (I used Vegusto)
1-2 tablespoon dried breadcrumbs (oops I forgot)
2 squares of ready rolled puff pastry
Soy milk, for glazing
Sesame seeds, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 180 C.

Fry leek in olive oil over low heat for about 10 minutes or until soft.  Add spinach, salt, parsley and pepper. Stir for a minute or two until spinach starts to wilt and turn off the heat.  Cool slightly.  Stir in blue cheese and breadcrumbs.

Cut the sheets of puff pastry into four squares.  Cut the corners to make the squares a roundish shape.  Place a spoonful or two of spinach filling in the middle of each square.  Bring the edges together and seal to make a round parcel.  Turn over with seam side down and lightly roll with rolling pile to flatten slightly.  You should be able to see the filling through the pastry but do not break the pastry.

Place parcels (or eccles cakes) on a lined oven tray with a little space between each.  Brush tops with soy milk and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Use a sharp knife to make three slashes in the pastry.  Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until golden brown.  Serve warm.

On the stereo:
Tooth and Nail: Billy Bragg

Sunday 22 June 2014

Vegan Roast Masterclass and weekend notes

It almost looks real doesn't it!  We called her Tina Turkey but she was really a tofurky.  She was the star of the Green Renters Vegan Roast Masterclass run by Cate today.  I love making vegetarian roasts and went along to learn some new roast ideas and share some hearty food over the winter solstice weekend.  My photos are not great.  I was too busy chatting to others and enjoying good food to concentrate on photos.

When I told Sylvia that I was doing a cooking class, she said that I already knew how to cook.  And I do.  But I have found that cooking with others is always a good way to learn more.  We started with a quick introduction to the recipes by Cate and a chance for everyone to introduce themselves.  Then we ventured into the large kitchen with a bench full of ingredients.  It was quite overwhelming to work with a dozen or so people in a strange kitchen but we danced around each other gracefully - mostly!

Recipes were allocated to small groups.  The first lot were desserts that needed to set in the fridge.  We made a no-bake chocolate pepppermint tart, a lemon tart, tiramisu and three ice creams.  Of course I chose to be on the chocolate team.  The tart had a nut, date and coconut base and a chocolate avocado filling.  It was joy to see the thick creamy filling in the blender.

Once the desserts were chilling, we chilled too with a cuppa, a slice of sticky baklava and warm doughnuts.  Did I mention that one of my "classmates" was another blogger, Veganopoulous!  It was great to meet her.  She was as warm and friendly and funny as her blog.

Next was the roasts.  Any regular readers will know that I love nut roasts.  However I wanted to make something I hadn't made before.  Like tofurky.  I teamed up with Veganopoulous and Leanne.  It was fairly easy to make but a little time consuming.  Firstly we had to make the stuffing, the tofu casing and the marinade.  Then we rolled the tofu around the stuffing, crafted some drumstick legs and basted her with marinade.  We called her Tina Turkey and made some terrible Tina Turner puns ("simply the best")! 

Meanwhile others made a nut roast covered in blanched cabbage leaves, a stuffed seitan roll and a mushroom wellington.  Cate and her lovely assistant Jen roasted some vegies and made three gravies - mushroom, red wine and miso.  (Or maybe others made the gravy.  Tina kept us a little busy!)

Cate and Jen also had a vegan cheese and crackers platter.  Doesn't it look amazing.  Sadly I barely touched it as I was too excited by all the roasts.  We took some leftovers home and I didn't think to take some cheeses.

Finally we had the roasts and plates of vegies on the table, along with gravies, cheeses, wines and cordials.  It took some time for everyone to serve their meal.  But it was worth all the work that had gone into it.  Scrumdidliumptious!  And very very filling.  One roast is so filling.  Four had us bursting at the seams.  I think my favourite was Tina the Tofurky.  The tofu outside was really tasty and the inside was full of vegies and breadcrumbs.  I'd love to try this at home and maybe add a few nuts to the stuffing.

And then there was dessert.  I didn't take a photo but it all tasted great.  The ice creams and lemon tarts weren't quite set but the chocolate tart was so deliciously creamy and the tiramisu was surprisingly good.  I usually avoid tiramisu because of the coffee but this had no coffee and made me think I need to try making it myself.  I did notice that the vegans were excited by the desserts, but as a vegetarian it was the savoury roasts that most excited me.

Many thanks to Cate for a fun and yummy class.  (Sadly this was her last cooking class in Melbourne before heading overseas to live.)  For further reflections and better photos, head over to check out Veganopoulous' post on the masterclass.

Weekend notes:
A few random notes on my weekend

  • My sister in law made an amazing rainbow cake to take along to a pub meal to celebrate some family birthdays on Friday.  See above photo.
  • As I left for the class today I found Sylvia chopping a fringe in her hair.  She has been playing at being a hairdresser lately.  I wont let her cut my hair.  E wont let her cut his hair.  I think hers was the only hair left to cut.
  • Yesterday I heard a really engaging talk by a researcher on ABC Radio National: Bridie Scott Parker of Southern Cross University discussed a New approach to reducing fatalities amongst young novice drivers.  It was fascinating to hear her talk about how she was translating her research into policy and practice.
  • I am reading The Luminaries.  It is fascinating reading but such a doorstopper of a book and so dense I worry I will never get through it.  I have been trying to get to bed early to read more but every time I do I fall asleep.  I don't blame the book.
  • I didn't manage to get out to a winter solstice bonfire last night.  Instead I made two of my favourite warm winter dishes.  Mexicale pie followed by Chocolate pudding.  If only I didn't feel too full from the masterclass today to enjoy the leftovers. 
  • We have found room for E to put his record player in the loungeroom (after some time Sylvia's bedroom).  As I write I am listening to an EP called This Machine is Made of People by Wild Pumpkins at Midnight.  It must be 20 years since I listened to it on vinyl.  Yet the topics of industries closing down, retrenchment and disappearing skills seems as current today as it did then.  I still feel sad as I hear these lines:
So you see I'm only human
And this machine is made of people
Although I need someone to remind me.
'Cause everyone has a number.

Thursday 19 June 2014

Greens, Beans and Potato Soup

I have mentioned that I went to a funeral recently.  It was a work colleague who had been full of kindness and generosity.  I remember walking to the market with her on our lunch break and her joy at the fruit and vegetables.  So it was no surprise to hear her friends talk about her making what she called Stone Soup.  It was the name she gave to a soup where she cleaned out any vegetables lurking in the crisper in the fridge.  Today's soup is made in that spirit.

I made this soup after visiting my parents and coming home with parsley and dill from my mum's garden.  The potatoes were growing eyes and the silverbeet was going slimy in places.  Everything had to go in the soup.  Even the parmesan on top of the soup was only there because it hadn't been eaten by Sylvia.  It was quite a grassy soup and yet it was virtuously satisfying.

I am sharing this soup with a few events:

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: MLLA Lentil ragu with chocolate chilli fettuccine
Two years ago: Limes: history, trivia and limeade
Three years ago: Kale pesto and garden update
Four years ago: SOS Beetroot and rhubarb soup
Five years ago: Refugee Week Stew
Six years ago: Great Stew of Darkness!
Seven years ago: SHF: Mud Glorious Mud

Greens, Beans and Potato Soup
serves 2-4

1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 cups vegetable stock 
330g silverbeet (chard), roughly chopped
400g (2 large) potatoes, peeled and chopped
400g tin (1 1/2 cups) cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
60g rocket (arugula)  
handful parsley and handful dill
black pepper and parmesan cheese, to serve (optional)

Fry onion, garlic and carrot in the oil over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes until vegetables soften.  Add stock, potatoes and silverbeet.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 -20 minutes until vegetables are soft.  Add beans, rocket and herbs.  Cook a minute or two.  Remove from heat and puree with a hand held blender.  Serve with parmesan cheese chunks and black pepper if desired.

On the stereo: 
Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House: Wailin' Jennys

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Culinary Quandries: A Vegan Dinner Party - e-book review

I have long been a fan of the recipes by Janet at the taste space blog, so I was pleased to be asked to review an e-cookbook, A Vegan Dinner Party by Janet Malowany, Anya Kassoff and Allyson Kramer (published by Erudition).  Given the combined extensive experience of these writers, there is no surprise that this is a collection of innovative vegan recipes.  These recipes are far lighter than the usual rich dinner party fare and yet still impressive. 

Crispy Beer Soaked Sweet Potato Fries
The cookbook is aimed at people who are not familiar with vegan cooking.  The introduction gives an overview of veganism and vegan ingredients, with a promise that you wont miss the meat, dairy and eggs in these recipes.  At the end of the book are a few notes on unusual ingredients.  While I doubt these recipes would appeal to some of the hardcore carnivores that I know, I think anyone who is interested in trying new dishes would enjoy them.  Most of the recipes are gluten free too.

Black Bean and Avocado Enchiladas
The recipes are arranged into Starters, Mains and Desserts.  The Starters include some great dinner party ideas like the Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and the Stuffed Jalapenos.  I was not keen on the inclusion of a couple of salad recipes for starters.  That may be just me as I am sure I do see salads listed with starters elsewhere.  And the Chickpea and Apricot Salad with the Pineapple Ginger Cilantro Dressing looks rather tasty.

The Mains section has some showstoppers that I would love to be served at a dinner party: Black Bean and Avocado Enchiladas, Broccoli Stem Risotto, and Cellophane Noodles with Crispy Vegetables.  A few recipes like the pizza or the onion flowers are in need of accompanying dishes.  Some ideas for menus would be really helpful and would bring together some of the recipes in the book.  More notes about making meals ahead would also be useful for dinner party planning.

The Best Vegan Pizza
The Desserts section is packed with the sort of spectacular recipes that make a dinner party memorable. The dishes are healthy and fun but have oodles of flavour. How good do these twists on recognisable recipes sound: Vegan Panna Cotta Teacups with Raspberry Compote and Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie with an Almond Coconut Crust!

Tamarind Roasted Eggplant and Chickpeas
I was excited to review the book because it motivated me to try some of the recipes.  It was easy to choose recipes I wanted to make.  I still have many more I want to try.  (NB All the photos in this post are my own except the cover photo at the top).  Here are the recipes I made:
  • Crispy Beer Soaked Sweet Potato Fries - these were easy and tasted different to regular fries.   The beer gives them a yeasty hoppy flavour that moderates the sweetness of the sweet potatoes.  They were soft inside with crispy bits on the outside and very moreish.  I would be more likely to serve them as a side than a starter but I can see them making a repeat appearance in our kitchen.
  • Black Bean and Avocado Enchiladas - this was a complicated dish that I made on a weekend when I had enough time.  It is just the sort of thing I would spend time on for a dinner party.  It tasted great and looked attractive too. 
  • The Best Vegan Pizza - as a regular baker of pizza, I was initially dubious about the claim that it was the "Best" but I was won over when I made it.  The base was 100% wholemeal and so soft and bready.  The sauce was so easy, so rich and so delicious.  I used vegan cheese because I had some Notzarella but I agree it is not essential.
  • Tamarind Roasted Eggplant and Chickpeas - I really enjoyed this curry with rice but E thought it needed something else with it.  We both enjoyed the leftovers on a wrap with some avocado and tomato.
  • Apple Pie Parfaits - this was my most challenging dish.  The apples took ages to cook, my timing was all wrong, and I had bought a vegan yoghurt for the recipe that I found tasted awful.  I ended up using dairy yoghurt and only had enough of it for one serve; the remaining apple and nuts went into my porridge.  It looked attractive and tasted nice but did not remind me of an apple pie.  Nor did the apple and date filling taste like caramel to me. However it would be a refreshing dessert in summer.  

Apple Pie Parfait
The recipes I tried were delicious and would stand up to being part of a dinner party menu without weighing you down.  I would have liked to try more of the desserts but most of them were either too summery for this time of year or too rich to justify making it for our small household.

I was interested to look at the e-book formatting.  I have only used a few e-cookbooks.  This one was the first I have seen that isn't just a pdf document.  It showed me the potential of online publishing.  I loved the drop down menu, the section for the reader to type notes and the ability to include video demonstrations of techniques.  Every recipe had a photo and some had step by step photos.  While I still love to hold and browse a hardcopy cookbook, I am fascinated by the technological capabilities of e-books.  I was quite amazed at how easy it was to browse this e-book.

What I really disliked was the need to click between ingredients and step by step instructions.  It is best practice on the internet is to minimise clicks.  Many of these clicks seemed unnecessary and it made it awkward to be clicking backwards and forwards between the ingredients and the instructions while making dishes.  I have since discovered that while the ingredients just on one page on iBooks, when viewing the e-book online the ingredients stay at the bottom of each page that has the instructions for that recipes.  I prefer the online recipe format but the iBooks download had a better photo display.

Overall I would certainly recommend A Vegan Dinner Party for anyone who wants to cook and share interesting vegan recipes.

Giveaway by Janet:  One of the authors, Janet, is currently holding a giveaway of this e-book on her blog at the taste space.  You need to be quick as she will draw the winner on 20 June 2014.

To Purchase: A Vegan Dinner Party is now available to buy directly on the Erudition website, where it can be read on computer/tablet via the web browser and downloaded for offline reading as iBooks or Kindle formats.

Disclosure: I was given a free e-book voucher by Erudition.  I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions are my own.

Sunday 15 June 2014

WSC Black bean cacao fudge

This week I spent time with Sylvia at home sick and attended a funeral.  The week before I saw people collapse in public places twice over two days.  And I was laid low with a headache a few nights back.  So today I bring you a healthy fudge recipe and an urging to take care of yourself.

The fudge is adapted from Ricki Heller's blog.  Just a bit less healthy.  Pureeing up a tin of black beans in a fudge is a challenge for me but it seems a way of life for Ricki.  I am happy to report that this fudge was far more successful than my attempt at black bean brownies some years ago.   (Ricki is right.  Don't do what I did and try and substitute kidney beans!)

I asked Sylvia to test taste the fudge and added far far more sweetener than Ricki.  I took the opportunity with the fudge to use a few of my healthy ingredients: yacon syrup, cacao powder, coconut oil and coconut sugar.  So the fudge was sweet but in the healthiest way possible.  I really liked it, even with black beans.  It quelled the urge for chocolate without making me want more.

Below is a blurb on our local Coburg Carnivale from yesterday but first here is a favourite quote from the Princess Bride that I was reminded of when I think of keeping healthy:

Prince Humperdinck: [sincerely] Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work [in the torture pit], but I've got my country's 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I'm swamped.
Count Rugen: Get some rest. If you haven't got your health, then you haven't got anything. 

Coburg Carnivale was great fun in the Victoria Mall.  It rained on our walk there but the sun came out soon after we arrived.  It was smaller than last year but a great little community event.  Sylvia's school had a cake stall that was a roaring success.  I baked gingerbread that wasn't quite as cute as the ones in the photo.  Sylvia made masks in the library with her friends.  I loved watching the Aboriginal dancers, especially when they taught some dance steps to volunteers from the audience.  E loved choosing some cupcakes from the cake stall.  (Maybe that is why Sylvia has set up a shop this morning.  Though I don't know where she got the idea for a whale's burp ice cream!)

I am sending this fudge to Michelle of Utterly Scrummy Food for Families for We Should Cocoa.  The theme is gluten free this month.  This fudge is also vegan, soy free and grain free.  If I had used sugar free chocolate, it would have even been free of refined sugars.  Best of all it is easy to whip up.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Hazelnut oat choc chip cookies and the long weekend (Coburg Carnivale)
Two years ago: Healesville Harvest Cafe and The Archibald
Three years ago: Smoky tomato soup and recent cooking
Four years ago: Chocolate custard crumble
Five years ago: Chocolate custard crumble
Six years ago: Split Pea Soup goes Asian
Seven years ago: Wee cakes for wee girls

Black Beans Cacao Fudge
Adapted from Ricki Heller

400g tin of black beans, drained and rinsed
3 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup almond butter
1/2 cup and 2 tbsp cacao powder (or cocoa)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp yacon syrup* (or other sweetener)
1/2 cup coconut sugar
pinch fine sea salt
30g dark chocolate, finely chopped

* I used yacon syrup because I bought it for something else and have the rest of a jar to use it but I don't recommend you rush out and buy it at $35 a small jar.  Yacon is quite thick, treacly and carmelly.  Other liquid sweeteners would work here such as maple syrup, coconut syrup, or (if it doesn't need to be vegan) honey.

Blend everything together except chocolate.  It didn't take me long before everything was smooth.  Add chocolate and pulse enough to mix in but not so much that it blends in altogether.  Spoon into a lined 15cm sqaure tin.  Cool in the fridge and it will be firm enough in a few hours.  Store in fridge for a week or so.  Or freeze to keep longer.

On the stereo:
Hatful of Hollow: The Smiths

Thursday 12 June 2014

Tea Salon, Myer and the Melbourne Emporium

The Tea Salon is now closed but read on about the Melbourne Emporium

You might say that it was love at first sight when I first spotted the Tea Salon.  When the new Melbourne Emporium shopping centre opened recently, I found myself going down an escalator.  I glanced down at the pretty fabrics and chinaware of the Tea Salon and it was like my life took on soft focus as I dreamed of sipping tea there, pinky in the air, wearing a suitably floaty Laura Ashley dress.

It wasn't long before I arranged to meet my mum there for morning tea.  My main problem was finding the Tea Salon again.  A few escalator rides up and down the Emporium and a visit to the information desk (once I found that) and I was yet again admiring the elegance of the place.  It sits oddly in a very modern minimalist shopping centre (more about that further down the post).  Once inside, you are transported to a world of Midsomer Murders and Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (without the murders of course)!

Not only did I like the look of the Tea Salon.  I was impressed by the range of scones.  The menu has a top ten list of scones.  There is something for everyone.  This is your place for rose or lavender scones, chocolate chips or cheddar, wheat or gluten free.  I was excited to be able to choose a savoury scone.  My rosemary leek and parmesan scone with herb butter was lovely.

My mum went for a sweet scone: date and orange with a chunky marmalade and cream.  I've never had marmalade on a scone before but this marmalade was great with melt in the mouth chunks of peel.  We both had a pot of tea with our scones.  My mum's floral tea pot and strainer had the elegance and charm that the decor led us to expect.  The Turkish apple sea was sold out.  Instead I chose a peppermint tea which came in a disappointingly plain silver teapot.

We had a great time and enjoyed the ambiance but I recommend the place with some reservations.  It is not cheap.  Two pots of tea and two scones cost us $23.  The meals look great but I am reluctant to pay $13.95 for a savoury scone with feta, relish, rocket and tomatoes or $39 for a high tea.  My mum found her tea to be too weak and I think one scone per person is a bit stingy.  Most places I go for a Devonshire tea serve two scones with tea.

I hope to be back but perhaps not as often as if the prices were lower.  After all the Tea Salon is inside a shopping centre that has other eating options.  I wont write about the top floor food hall today but I wanted to share some photos of the Emporium as work in progress.

I have managed to dredge up some old photos of the building works that transformed the old Myer Lonsdale Street building into the Melbourne Emporium.  Above is the old facade of the building on the Little Bourke Street side in April 2011 before it was demolished.

This Little Bourke Street facade photo was taken in July 2011.  It is being supported by girders.  I guess this was part of the demolition process.

This photo was taken year later in July 2012.  The Lonsdale Street facade was preserved but as you can see, not much of the Myer Lonsdale Street building was retained, including the Little Bourke Street facade.  I was both saddened by the loss and fascinated to see the building viewed in this way.

The facade in Lonsdale Street in September 2012.  A lot of support was need to keep the facade in place once the rest of the building started to go up.

The other side of the Lonsdale Street facade at the same time.  I think this was around the time of the Grocon industrial protests.  I will not go into detail about this but it left a bad taste in my mouth about the building. 

I then can't find any photos of note until February 2014, not long before the Emporium opened in April.  If you compare this to the photo of the old Little Bourke Street facade you will see that it is quite similar.  Same same but different!

And finally here is the new facade from the walkway between Melbourne Central and the Melbourne Emporium.  In the below photo you can see that the old Myer sign and clock have been kept on the old Lonsdale Street facade.

I like the way the facade has been preserved.  I like the colour in the new buildings.  However I am disappointed in the interior of the centre.  It is quite boring.  The shops don't interest me too much.  I think the Tea Salon is one of the best places in there.  Though I will hold off on judging the food hall until I had eaten there more than once.

If you look carefully, or just get horribly lost, you might see this small acknowledgement of the old Myer store that has been replaced.  There is a storyboard with some information about the history of the building.  According to this, the 1926 Myer building was innovative and grand.  It was such an icon in Melbourne that when someone was bold we might say they had "more front than Myer".  Redesigning the site should come with some responsibility to history.  Sadly some developers seem more interested in money than heritage.

The new Emporium lacks the grandeur and vision of the Myer building.  It is all a very boring grey with little of interesting in design and few shops to excite me.  My main excitement about its opening is that the walkways joining Melbourne Central and Myer are open again.  I suspect I will mostly just pass on through the Emporium, with the occasional stop at the Tea Salon when I want something special.

The Tea Salon is now closed  (updated 2018)

Tea Salon
Emporium Melbourne Level 2
295 Lonsdale St, Melbourne CBD
Tel: 03 8609 8188

The Tea Salon on Urbanspoon