Sunday 31 August 2014

Orange, choc chip and hemp seed cake and a rally

It has been a busy weekend of catching up with friends, marching and baking.  It was sunny enough for Sylvia to play in a friend's blow up pool yesterday and to make light work of marching against the government's budget cuts today.  When we got home I made a cake that I had been planning in my head since I bought blood oranges last weekend.  With Vegan MoFo starting tomorrow, I decided on a vegan cake.  It was crumby and yummy, albeit not quite what I had envisioned.

We went on a March in August rally today.  Speeches and placards raised a broad spectrum of discontent with the government.  Refugees, education, welfare, climate change, racism, live exports, the media, gender, health care, transport infrastructure and sexuality.  We saw a few familiar faces, bought badges, signed petitions, cheered the speeches and walked and walked.  Afterwards we had churros and chocolate at San Churro.

With sunny weather, wearing unfamiliar summer shoes meant I was rather footsore by the end of the day and happy to get home.  With Sylvia in the bath, I set about making an orange, choc chip and hemp seed cake.  It started as a raspberry and orange cake with coconut crumble, which I found in Emma Rose's Have your cake cookbook.  By the time I had finished with it, she probably would not recognise the recipe.

Perhaps it is the thought of Vegan MoFo that had me ditching honey and eggs in favour of maple syrup and linseeds (or flax seeds).  I had some vegan choc chips so used these instead of raspberries.  And I threw in some hemp seeds because they were there.

The cake was good but not great.  It was quite crumbly rather than being moist and dense.  The orange flavour was there but not quite as prominent as I had hoped.  Nor was the colour of the blood oranges in evidence in the final cake.  And the choc chips were like choc specks.  The maple syrup was far less sweet than honey would have been.  Despite all these quibbles, it was full of flavour and texture and tasted lovely with a dollop of vanilla yoghurt.  I think I would love it with a chocolate sauce.

So the lesson of the post is not to experiment with recipes after a long day of rabble rousing.  I got confused about how much flour I had put in the crumble mixture - was it one third or two thirds of a cup?  Even worse was my discovery that I had totally miscalculated the conversion of the tin size in the recipe to one of mine.

However it does feel good to have cake at the end of a long day and to have cake in the house to start the week tomorrow.  When I shall see you for the start of Vegan MoFo, with perhaps the silliest theme I could have come up with. The Letter S.  More about that soon.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Sourdough Basics 103: Baking a loaf of bread
Two years ago: WW Experiments with Vegan Cheese
Three years ago: Coconut brittle, leftovers and a week of eats
Four years ago: Banana buttermilk muffins
Five years ago: Carrot Cake and the Lost Sock
Six years ago: Shepherd’s Pie Traditions
Seven years ago: Collingwood children’s farm – peppercorn trees and part time vegetarians

Orange, choc chip and hemp seed cake - work in progress
Heavily adapted from Have your cake by Emma Rose

2 tbsp flax seeds (linseeds)
6 tbsp water
3/4 cup rice bran oil
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp finely grated orange rind
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 cup dessicated coconut
1 3/4 cups wholemeal flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup orange juice
1 scant cup choc chips
1/2 cup hemp seeds

1/3 cup wholemeal flour, or more
1/3 cup dessicated coconut
1/4 cup rice bran oil
1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup

Mix flax seeds and water in large mixing bowl.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 180 C.  Grease and line a cake tin (recipe said 18cm square tin, I used 20cm cake tin - too small, but in future would use 22cm round tin).

Add oil, maple syrup, and orange rind to flax mixture and whisk lightly or stir vigorously.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Spoon into prepared tin.  Mix crumble ingredients to make crumbly mixture.  (I think I had to add more flour).  Scatter over cake mixture.

Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes.  (Mine took 1 hour 15 minutes in a 20cm round tin.)  Rest in tin for 5 to 15 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.  Great served with cream or yoghurt or other sauce (such as chocolate?).

On the Stereo:
The Captain: Kasey Chambers

Thursday 28 August 2014

Veganzola cheeseball

It has been quite a week.  Our car has been stolen.  Our car has been found.  Our car has gone to the mechanic's for damage assessment now that our insurance company finally has taken it from the police.  Sylvia's lovely duffle coat went in the car and never came back.  So I have spent a lot of time on hold on the phone, got dates muddled, spilled half a jar of chilli sauce, forgotten to take goggles to the pool and been dressing sylvia in 2 cardigans on the cold mornings.  I feel a bit like the mashed tofu in this recipe.

Then I read articles this week on refugees in indefinite detention and young girls trying to get educated in South Asia.  I think to myself - mine are first world problems.  We really get by ok without a car.  It isn't even such a bad thing to have to ride my bike more.  The police were very kind to us.  So were the mums at school.  Sylvia has stopped crying about wanting her car.  She now wants a 'higher' car.  Hard to explain we were offered a 'hire' car.  But didn't take it.  Instead we just bought Sylvia a new Frozen CD.  Yes my greatest amusement was that the Frozen CD was in the player and would have booted up when the car was started by those scissor-wielding, MacDonalds-eating, coat-destroying thieve.  Ha!  End of Rant.

But we can all relate to life not being perfect.  This veganzola wasn't perfect.  I am not really familiar with gorgonzola.  Yet I love the name too much to change it.  The cheeseball tasted more like cream cheese with walnuts and cranberries.  It was too crumbly at first so I blended some of it which helped to bind it.  Still a wee bit crumbly.  I can cope with that.

It was really sweet.  I added more seasoning.  It was still quite sweet.  It was best spread thickly on a salty dry biscuit (cracker) like a Savoy.  I tried it in a sandwich.  It just made me feel melancholy.  Probably because I was listening to the choral music at the end of the MH17 plane crash memorial service and reading of Aslan's death in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.  I ate a lot of the cheese and then tossed the remainder into some soup.  It really needs to feed a crowd.  Preferably on a cheeseboard in the depth of midwinter when we are feeling festive and in need of good food. 

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Chocolates with mint filling - the healthy ones
Two years ago: Tofu-bacon and spinach muffins
Three years ago: WHB Chocolate beetroot brownies
Four years ago: The old and the new – date scones and vego loaf
Five years ago: Accidental Plastic Tart
Six years ago: Shepherd’s Pie Traditions
Seven years ago: WTSIM ... Beggars Burgers

Veganzola cheeseball
Adapted from Robin Robertson via Ricki Heller

250g firm tofu
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp ground linseed (flax) mixed with 2 tbsp water
2 tbsp white miso
2 small cloves garlic, crushed 
1 tsp seeded mustard
1 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper

Press tofu - I did this for about 7 hours but that is a lot longer than I usually do.  Crumble it into a bowl and mix with remaining ingredients.  Taste to check and adjust seasoning.  If desired press into a ball.  (It's fun but not necessary.)  Keeps for about a week in the fridge.

On the Stereo:
Little Bird: Kasey Chambers

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Apple slice, Gluten free pastry, Strawberry and haloumi salad

Once upon a time there was a princess.  Nope.  Not the little girl above.  That is her cousin.  The princess in question was totally spoiled with visits to farmers markets where she tasted much chocolate and apple followed by home made apple slice at home.  She made loom bands and went to parties and ate lots of cake, but always left room to taste a lolly from the party bag on the way home.

Yes that is my little Sylvia and my busy weekend!  As Vegan MoFo draws near, I am trying to keep my blog backlog under control.  Hence this action-packed and recipe-packed post!

Saturday morning we went along to Coburg Farmers Market.  It was very good and I ended up with my arms heavy with purchases.  Some purchases never got home.  Some of the apple juice just leaked out of my bag, a bagel went astray and the above chocolate cake was shared by Sylvia and me.  We had planned to go out for lunch but couldn't find the information we needed about the cafe (do you serve food?).  Instead, at home I stuffed bagels with haloumi and salad for lunch.  Then I baked apple slice.

I saw this apple slice recipe recently at The Life of Clare.  Not only was it a simple matter of a mere 5 ingredients but it came with a wonderful story.  Clare's grandmother sent it to the newspaper years ago and readers are still baking it.  I love all the quirky and innovative recipes I see online these days but there is something so lovely about a tried and trusted recipe.  It reminds me of how my mum and grandmothers baked.

As I expected, my mum said she had a similar cake recipe.  I gave her the recipe over the phone and she had baked it before the day was out.  She added cinnamon and a splash of milk.  I resisted any temptation to tinker with the recipe.  I would love to try it with coconut sugar.  You could just add other spices or dried fruit. 

I really loved this slice as it was.  It is almost a cake. On the day of baking it was so light and fluffy with soft apple that it felt like a cake.  The next couple of days it was a bit firmer and felt more like a slice.  It was so easy I am sure I will make it again, especially now that apples are starting to get past their best for eating fresh as winter draws to a close.

We spent some time in the afternoon making loom bands, ukelele practice, wrapping presents and grocery shopping.

Sylvia went to a school friend's party in the evening.  I suggested making some carrot and cucumber tulips.  Sylvia thought it a great idea.  They are quick and simple to make.  By the time we arrived pizza was being served.  I think more people admired the vegie flowers than ate them, but they did make a pretty decoration.

We left Sylvia at the party on a torchlit treasure hunt by the creek.  I returned home to make sausage rolls for my niece's party the next day.  It seemed a good idea to make some gluten free sausage rolls for the gf members of the family.  I had scribbled down a gf pastry recipe years ago and suddenly found myself with all the ingredients.  It was fate.  I liked the pastry.  It was so much nicer than the soft gf mashed potato pastry I made a few years back.  I am just sorry I never recorded the source.

It was easier to just make all the sausage roll filling gluten free.  I found gluten free oats in the supermarket but forgot about the breadcrumbs.  On the way to pick up Sylvia from the party I bought some gluten free breadcrumbs.  I doubled the filling so I could make some extra sausage rolls for the freezer.

The gluten free sausage rolls are to the left in the above photo.  They were a bit dry and crumbly but generally held together ok.  The other half of the sausage rolls were made with some vegan puff pastry.  I bought a bumper packet and need to think about ideas to use it up now.  The sausage rolls are a tad pale in the above photo because I took it after baking them at home but I forgot to take a photo of them once heated up at my sister's place.

Here is the baking stack in the kitchen the next morning.  We went to my parents' house for lunch and helped out with decorating little cakes and making popcorn.  My mum makes it in a saucepan with a glass lid which was heaps of fun for Sylvia.  She made some with salt and some with sugar, using a bit of pink food colouring in the butter for the sweet popcorn.  No photos.  My hands were too greasy from tossing popcorn with butter to pick up the camera.  My mum also made kale chips.  Quite an impressive snack for a 2 year old's party.

My sister Fran loves planning an event and always has such great party ideas.  She hired the best party entertainment.  They did face painting, craft, games, balloons.  The kids loved it.  The birthday girl was right in among it at the tender age of 2.  I loved the strawberry and caramel milkshakes in little bottles.  Sylvia loved them and the frog in a pond and the musk sticks.  I also loved the caramel chocolate tarts and pastitsi.

My sister in law Erica baked the cutest ice cream cupcakes.  Sylvia told me in confusion that they didn't take like ice cream.  She also thought she had an S-shaped cookies in her party bag because everyone had their initial-shaped cookie.  I didn't have the heart to tell her it was S for Stella.  Oh the world revolves around a 5 year old!

There was a huge outdoor table which was great place for kids to colour in bandanas and eat the birthday cake.  Sadly the good weather didn't hold up for the party.  It was grey and overcast with occasional showers (as the weather forecasters like to say)!

I had a paranoid moment eating one of my sausage rolls and thinking maybe I had mistakenly eaten a meat one.  I wasn't the only one.  My brother and his wife were arguing over whether they were really meat or not.  These are amazing sausage rolls.  I was comforted to hear that mine were the only sausage rolls at the party.

By the time I drove home I was exhausted.   Fortunately I had planned my dinner before I left home.  It was just a matter of throwing together the remnants from the vegie tulips, some spinach and strawberries that needed using and frying the rest of the haloumi I opened for lunch the previous day.  I made a simple vinaigrette.  A fresh and healthy salad was just what I needed.

I am sending the salad to Eat Your Greens at Allotment to Kitchen, Souper Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen, and No Waste Food Challenge at I'd Much Rather Bake Than... , the challenge coordinated by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary.  I am sending the apple slice to Tea Time Treats for the picnic edition at Lavender and Lovage.  I am sending the gf pastry to Alphabakes at Caroline Bakes because P is for potato flour.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
 One year ago: WHB Creamy strawberry icy poles, a party and surprise
Two years ago: RRC Roasted potato salad with black olives and greens
Three years ago: Chickpea crackers and sweet potato stew
Four years ago: Taste of Melbourne: on a sugar high
Five years ago: Accidental Plastic Tart
Six years ago: Soup for the Leguminous Evangelists
Seven years ago: Blues Clues Birthday Cake

Apple Slice
From The Life of Clare

2 cups self raising flour*
1 cup sugar
3 apples, peeled, cored and diced (1cm)
125g butter or margarine*
1 egg

Toss apples with self raising flour and sugar in a medium mixing bowl.  Melt butter in a small saucepan on the stovetop or in a small bowl in the microwave.  Stir in egg.  Pour butter and egg into the apple mixture and mix until combined.  Spoon into a greased and lined slice tin*.  Bake at 180 C* for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Keeps for about 3 days.

*NOTES: For Americans: instead of self raising flour, used 2 cups all purpose flour (or cake flour if you prefer) and 4 tsp baking powder, 125g butter converts to slightly under a stick or 4 ounces of butter, bake at 350 F.  A slice tin is 18 x 28cm or approximately 8 x 11 inches.

Gluten free shortcrust pastry (and sausage rolls)

100g each quinoa flour, corn flour and potato flour
125g butter or margarine
pinch salt
1 egg
2-3 tbsp  water

Mix flours, butter and salt in food processor until combined to make breadcrumbs.  Add egg and then water one tablespoon at a time until you have a soft dough.  Mine did not clump into a ball like gluten pastry does but I was able to roll a small handful into a ball.  Tip dough onto floured surface (use corn flour or potato flour) and knead briefly until you have a smooth ball.  (Perhaps a small crack or two.) 

To make sausage rolls: Use a rolling pin to roll out pastry on a floured surface to make an approximation of a rectangular shape, about 0.5 cm thick.  Cut in half lengthwise.  Use the filling from this sausage rolls recipe but use GF oats and GF breadcrumbs (I had to add an extra 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup oats for the GF filling).  Proceed as in recipe but bake for 35 minutes at 180 C.  The pastry only made enough to wrap about

Strawberry, haloumi and greens salad
serves 1 as a meal

50g haloumi, chopped into squares
60g baby spinach and rocket mix
4-5 strawberries, quartered
1-2 tbsp chopped cucumber
1-2 tbsp chopped carrot

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp strawberry vinegar
1/8 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp maple syrup

Fry haloumi until golden brown on both sides.  Shake dressing ingredients together in a jar. Toss dressing and haloumi with remaining ingredients.

On the stereo:
Boy child: Scott Walker

Sunday 24 August 2014

Vegan flourless almond choc chip cookies

I once made flourless peanut butter cookies before Sylvia was diagnosed with her peanut allergy.  They were delicious.  These days they are off the menu.  And I have often thought it a shame they weren't vegan.  I stumbled across a vegan version with almond butter recently and am in love.  They are simple to make and amazing to eat.

The recipe I followed was slightly quirky.  It used banana instead of egg and a crazy amount of choc chips.  You can never have too much chocolate!  Right!  In fact I was tempted to stop with the raw batter which tasted great.  But I pushed on and love love love the baked cookies.  They were most amazing when warm with gooey choc chips.  Even cold they were amazing: thin, crispy around the edges and chewy in the middle.  It is very hard to stop at one!

They remind me of cinnamon stars and Dreena Burton's sticky almond blondies.  As I only had regular dark choc chips from the supermarket they were sweet and not actually vegan.  I would love to try the recipe with chopped Lindt 70% dark chocolate. Maybe I could ditch the brown sugar and use all coconut sugar.  Lots of experiments to do.  I hope these cookies might grace our kitchen again soon.  I know we would all welcome them back.

I am sending these cookies to Healthy Vegan Fridays #10, hosted by Kimmy of Rock my Vegan Socks and Robin of Vegan Dollhouse.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
 One year ago: Chickpea pilaf
Two years ago: Top 10 photos, Pinterest, Delicious and Eat Your Books
Three years ago: CC Pumpernickel Rolls with Currants
Four years ago: Quince Curiosity
Five years ago: PPN Neofolk Buckwheat Pasta Bake
Six years ago: Lemony Dressing for a Quinoa Salad
Seven years ago: Midweek Mock Fish

Flourless almond choc chip cookies
Adapted from Cook with Manali
Makes about 24

250g almond butter (approximately 1 cup)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 smallish banana, mashed (1/4 cup)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup choc chips

Preheat oven to 180 C and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

Stir together almond butter and sugars.  Mix in mashed banana.  By now it will be quite stiff.  Stir in baking powder and choc chips.

Working quickly so the choc chips don't melt, roll mixture into walnut sized balls.  Place on tray and flatten with the palm of your hand.  Leave about 2 inches between cookies because they will spread.

Bake for 9-10 minutes for a chewy cookies, or a few more minutes for a crisp cookie.  Cool on tray for at least 10 minutes.  Continue cooling on tray or removing on the baking paper to a wire rack. 

On the Stereo:
The Best of Weddings Parties Everything.

Thursday 21 August 2014

Housekeeping: Facebook, Updates and the photos FoodGawker rejects

Finally the girl who was called Mary Lou Cabbage Patch in computer studies at school (because I didn't want to be part of them) has a Facebook page for this blog.  Time to stop and share a few housekeeping items.

I have been using Facebook in a few different settings over the past couple of years and finally can't resist its pull, despite my wariness.  It is time to share some of my blog on FB at  I have added the above button down the sidebar while I am playing with FB settings and may make it more prominent once I am happy with how the page is going. 

I expect to upload each post, some random meals and  other esoteric information.  It might also be a place to share a few photos that don't make it to the blog.  If Facebook is your thing, you know the drill. 

For anyone wanting to set up a blog Facebook Page, I found it useful to read the advice by Amuse Your Bouche.

New Header
With a new Facebook account, I needed a "cover" photo.  It has occurred to me from time to time to update my header photo.  Once I started to look at photos from my Facebook account, it seemed a good time to update my header.  As always it is work in progress.  (You can see the previous header in my designs post if you have forgotten what it looks like.)

All About Party Bags - Fairy Issue
All About Party Bags is a UK website the specialises in filled party bags but also has an e-magazine.  The latest issue of the e-magazine is a Fairy Issue.  The Fairy Toadstool birthday cake I made for Sylvia this year is featured among the idea for fairy cakes.  If you have children in your lives that are as interested in fairies as mine, there are lots of great ideas for fairy parties.

After seven years of blogging I am now getting photos accepted by FoodGawker.  And still experiencing some rejection.  I now have 29 submissions accepted, 24 of these in 2014, and less that that rejected (17).

It took quite some time until I felt my photos were of a reasonable quality to submit.  It has been an interesting learning process, though at times it feels brutal.  Their criteria can seem harsh at time.  It has made me more aware of the importance of natural light in photography.  I was advised to move a black line from one photo a while back, did so, resubmitted and was pleased to find it accepted the second time.  They still find me guilty of underexposed, overexposed, fussy backgrounds and too tight composition.

The more effort I put into a photo, the less likely it seems to be accepted.  A good lesson about simplicity.  Yet I still can't predict with any level of certainty if a photo will be accepted.  I thought it would be fun to upload a collage of some of the photos that FoodGawker has rejected.  I am quite fussy about which photos go in.  (But if they think these are bad, I am glad they never saw some of my early blogging photos!)  However I have come a long way since my first FoodGawker picture was accepted last year.

Great old style ice cream sign in Brunswick - makes me feel nostalgic!
Other Blog Updates
As I have said before, I wish I had more time to update my blog.  When I have a moment I tinker.  Here are a few of the pages I have updated over the last few months:

    Spell check please!

    Vegan MoFo
    Finally a reminder that Vegan MoFo (Month of Food) is on in September and you can sign up now (deadline 27 August).  I have signed up (hurrah) and am still preparing ahead to cope with a busy month offline.  Hope to see some of you there and to have others of you cheering from the sidelines!

    Tuesday 19 August 2014

    Hog's Breath in Geelong: a vegetarian's experience

    Those who know me, would not expect the Hog's Breath Cafe to be the sort of place I would normally eat.  However my family thrives on diversity.  They accept I am vegetarian, just as I accept those who love their meat.  Hence my nephew's choice of Hog's Breath, a carnivore's paradise, for his birthday dinner.  Surprisingly it also catered well to my vegetarian diet.

    The Hog's Breath franchise started in Queensland 25 years ago and now there are over 80 of what the website describes as "themed licensed restaurants".  My visit to the Geelong franchise was my first encounter with the Hog's Breath.  The restaurant is quite large - great for a big group - with lots of fun Aussie memorabilia about.  (I wonder if the Ford sign will stay once the company leaves Geelong!)  Thee were quite a few other groups there despite the empty chairs photo above.  As the name suggests, it is a meat lover's dream.  Just check out the menu that my nephew, the birthday boy, holds in the below photo. 

    I expected to eat chips and a few lettuce leaves.  It is a steakhouse after all.  However when I checked the online menu I was relieved to find a few vegetarian options.  The "sensational salads" were impressive.  Two were vegetarian.  I also could have ordered two pasta dishes, an avocado and mushroom wrap.  And quite a few of the appetisers and a lot of sides were vegetarian too.

    The chips were curly and called Hog Tail Fries.  I was pleased that they sorted out the kids' orders first and I ordered Sylvia some of these fries.  (With hindsight I could have ordered her some vegies - though she would not have been pleased if they have butter on them.)   For myself I passed on the Aussie Backyard Salad and ordered the Avocado and Crumbed Mushroom Salad.  It came with Cajun potato chunks, salad greens, carrots, cherry tomato, red onions, cucumber, mixed beans and balsamic Italian dressing.

    The salad was so substantial that I almost regretted ordering some of the fries for myself on the side.  I couldn't finish them but they were so cute and curly.  The salad was good.  Far more impressive the salads that often disappoint me in chain restaurants and pubs.

    We were spread over three tables and were a fairly chaotic group with lots of kids and parents rushing around checking on kids.  So I don't blame the staff that I missed the call for dessert orders.  It was probably just as well because I was quite full.  My sister-in-law ordered the warm chocolate cake (mud cake?) with warm chocolate sauce.  I had a mouthful and it was really good (thanks Erica).  We all dug in too quickly to photograph it.

    My dad ordered Grandma's Trifle Sundae: vanilla and strawberry ice cream layered with swiss roll, vanilla custard, strawberry jelly, whipped cream and toasted coconut.  I confess I don't remember if I had a taste.  (The chocolate cake was dominating my taste buds.)  I know my dad enjoyed it.

    The showstopper, however, was the "Hoggies Rocky Road Sundae to Share".  It had vanilla and strawberry ice cream on warm chocolate mudcake drenched in chocolate fudge sauce, then topped with marshmallows, strawberry topping, whipped cream and toasted coconut. Oh my!  You should have seen the kids dig in their spoons.  Sylvia loved it.  They all did.

    Despite Hog's Breath not being my sort of restaurant, I had a good night.  The staff were friendly and helpful.  I enjoyed something different for dinner with lots of vegies and was pleased that there are quite a few vegetarian options.  And it was good and satisfying food.  Most importantly, I had a lovely night with the family.

    Hog's Breath
    23 Yarra Street, Geelong
    03 5221 4661

    Sunday 17 August 2014

    Walnut, brie and apple scones and random notes

    In a topsy turvy week of illness and an overflowing vegetable crisper, scones are a very good thing.  They can be baked in the blink of an eye and they jazz up any old soup.  Which may explain three batches of scones in 8 days.

    Or you might just blame Celia for encouraging my "sconesiness" with her International Scone Week.  It prompted much contemplation of scone recipes.  Perhaps I bought some brie intending to make interesting scones last weekend but ran out of puff, then I needed chocolate during the week, and finally the brie made it into scones this weekend!

    It is true that Sylvia has been sick all week with aches that come and go.  There was the mysterious ear ache that disappeared at the doctor's on Monday, reappeared at school on Tuesday and Thursday and was finally diagnosed at the doctor's as an infection on Friday!  Plus stomach aches, fevers and lack of appetite at night.  She has still played with enthusiasm when she was not crashing with a rising temperature.  You might begin to see why I needed chocolate during the week.

    We spent a lot of the week eating a lovely split pea soup but three days running were quite enough.  So last night I made a soup with some pumpkin and vegies that needed using, plus the remains of the split pea soup and some vegan tofu-based cheese.  Odd companions but they got along very well.  Alongside them I served some very savoury scones.

    As well as the brie, I had the remnants of a tub of smoky salted walnuts.  More smoked salt than walnut crumbs.  I added some other skerricks of walnuts I found but it was still quite salty.  I was of a mind to add cranberries but Sylvia wanted dried apple.  Fine.  It was so savoury I added a little honey.  I made them a little fancy by baking them with slices of brie on top.

    They were delicious scones.  I loved the slight crunch of walnuts and the soft cheese on top.  They were quite savoury so the little nuggets of dried apple were a lovely sweet contrast.  Sylvia ate hers with jam, E had nut butter on his and I loved them plain.  This morning I enjoyed the scones with my mum's dried apricot jam for breakfast.  A success!  More lovely scones to be found at Celia's International Scone Week round up.

    Finally a photo of the cute cupcakes at the Fitzroy Market yesterday and some random notes: 
    • I have been given the most fun exercises by my doctor - blowing up balloons!  Seriously!  She says it will help clear some of the fluid in my ear that has built up after a recent ear infection.  Sylvia is only too happy to do the exercises with me.
    • Our Australian federal politicians continue to astound us with their arrogance.   Last week Treasurer, Joe Hockey was criticised for saying that a proposed increase in fuel excise will not hit the poor as hard as the rich because they “don’t have cars or actually drive very far”. And then there are our Prime Minister Abbott's comments on Scotland's referendum for independence.  Oh dear, oh dear!
    • We finished watching The Secret State on the telly on Friday.  Gabriel Byrne was dignified as Tom Dawkins.  It was an unsettling plot about the conspiracies and deals behind the scenes.  The most telling line was when the Prime Minister said, "You get to the top, and you realise it’s really only the middle." It was worth watching just to see the sort of honest speeches I wish we could hear from our politicians.
    • I also watched the last of the second series of The Time of Our Lives last week.  Great Aussie drama.  In the last episode was a wedding that was held the afternoon after a stressful job interview and the marriage proposal, organised as a surprise for the bride.  It looked beautiful but a little too much like it existed in televisionland.  How many brides would really be ok about not having a say in the planning of the wedding!
    • I hate finding a typo in my writing and yet they are so hard to spot.  Now that I have read Why is it so hard to catch your own typos? I am relieved to discover that the next time I spot one of my own typos I can feel smug about focusing on more high level complex tasks than mere spelling and grammar!
    Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
     One year ago: Mini baked doughnuts and fun stuff
    Two years ago: NCR African Curried Coconut Soup
    Three years ago: Potage St Germain
    Four years ago: Election Blues and Matrimonial Slice
    Five years ago: Potato boston bun
    Six years ago: WTSIM ... Beer Bread
    Seven years ago: SHF #34: Pumpkin scones

    Walnut, brie and apple scones
    Based on Food Ideas's basic scones
    Makes 28 small scones

    2 cups white self raising flour
    1 cup self raising wholemeal flour*
    80g butter*
    1/2 cup smoked and salted walnuts*
    1/2 cup chopped dried apple
    115g brie
    1 to 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, plus extra for glazing*
    1 tbsp honey

    Preheat oven to 200 C.   Lightly grease (or flour) a baking tray.

    Rub butter into flours.  Chop half the brie in small dice.  Gently stir in walnuts, apple and the chopped brie.  Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in buttermilk and honey.  Mix to a soft dough.  Add a little extra milk if needed.

    Tip dough onto a well floured surface.  (Use floured hands if the dough is sticky.  Mine was a bit sticky but nothing some flour couldn't fix - better a little too sticky than a little too dry!)  Knead briefly until the mixture is smooth.  Pat out to about 1 1/2 cm thick.  Dip a scone cutter or the edge of a glass in flour and cut out rounds.  (Or cut into squares or triangles if that is your style!)

    Place scones on prepared tray.  I like to fit them snugly together but it is not necessary.  Brush with a little milk.  Slice the brie and chop each slice into small pieces.  Place a piece of brie on top of each scone.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.  Leave for a minute or two on tray so that brie is not gooey and then wrap in tea towel until ready to eat.  Best eaten warm.

    *NOTES: I used 1 cup wholemeal flour and 2 tsp baking powder instead of a cup of wholemeal self raising flour.  I used margarine instead of butter, and used soy milk with a splash of cider vinegar instead of buttermilk.  If you don't have smoked walnuts, you could add some smoked paprika (1/4 to 1/2 tsp) and salt to taste.

    On the Stereo:
    The Bairns: Rachel Unthank and the Winterset

    Thursday 14 August 2014

    Revisting rhubarb and raspberry focaccia and the weekend

    I had good intentions of making sourdough bread on Friday but the day passed me by.  Not only did it mean no fresh bread, but it also meant my sourdough starter was begging to be used.  So I did the next best thing.  An overnight foccaccia that would be ready in the morning and use up some of my sourdough starter.

    It seemed a good idea to convert a tried and trusted rhubarb and raspberry focaccia into a sourdough recipe.  Not that I intended to do away with the yeast.  I wanted enough yeast to make it rise fast and enough sourdough to give flavour.

    I spent a good half hour trying to calculate how much water and flour were in my starter in cups and converting into the recipe.  Then I threw together the dough and reread the recipe.  Seems I'd got my amounts mightily confused and misread.  I managed to use 500g flour rather than 800g.  Oops. 

    The resulting dough was far softer than the recipe I was using, and made a smaller focaccia.  Yet it worked.  Which just shows that dough is forgiving and I shouldn't stress so much about converting yeast to sourdough!  More of a problem was that E and Sylvia were not so keen on the rhubarb.  It was a bit tart for them.  Perhaps omitting the raspberries was not a great move.  I loved it.  We ate it and then packed some in our bags.

    Sylvia and I headed off to the Fitzroy Gardens.  It is a favourite place of mine and a fine place to compensate for some theatre tickets that went amiss.  (You can read more about the gardens in a post on our trip to the Fitzroy Gardens in 2010.)  First stop was the Fairy Tree.  The beautiful wood carvings never cease to delight and amaze me.

    Olga Cohn's imagination produced such poignant details of the life of fairies in our gardens.  We sat looking at the tree and eating our focaccia and wishing we had packed more.

    By the Fairy Tree is the Minature Tudor Village.  I have also been going here since I was a child and still love it in all its teeny tiny glory.

    I had planned lunch in the city but once we had walked around the gardens and spent some time at the giraffe swings and dragon slide, Sylvia was hungry.  It is so much slower to get around with a small child.  We went to the Pavillion near the Fairy Tree.  It is more restaurant than cafe.  We paid more than I had intended and were given more food than I needed.  However my ravioli was very nice.

    Sylvia was going down to stay with my parents while E and I went to a trivia night.  Fortunately my mum rang as Sylvia tried to convince me to go into Cooks Cottage.  The moment passed and we walked on to the Conservatory and admired the flowers and the fish pond.  I particularly liked the foilage cake on the table and chairs.

    Then we caught the Circle Tram around to the State Library where we met my parents.  Outside I noticed this statue from May Gibbs' Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.  This Gumnut baby and Mr Lizard are just the sort of folk who might visit the folk of the Fairy Tree.  It seemed a fitting end to our adventures.

    One year ago: Sourdough Basics 101 - Making a Starter
    Two years ago: Fudgy Coconut Brownies
    Three years ago: Besan Vegetable Frittata and a week of eats
    Four years ago: NCR Carrot and Fennel Soup
    Five years ago: Shopping, Sylvia and Soup
    Six years ago: Easy as Vegetable Pie
    Seven years ago: Rumbledethumps: death to the red hag!

    Rhubarb and raspberry no-knead focaccia
    Adapted from  The Kitchen Maid via Green Gourmet Giraffe

    200g sourdough starter (100% hydration)*
    275ml warm water
    1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
    2 Tbsp olive oil
    400g white bread flour*
    1 1/2 tsp salt

    340g rhubarb, cut into 3cm pieces (from 450g untrimmed)
    3 Tbsp olive oil
    3 Tbsp raw sugar

    Start the night before you want to eat it or at least 8 - 10 hours before you want to eat focaccia.  Take a large mixing bowl.  (The dough rises a lot - it was about an inch below the top of my largest mixing bowl in the morning. See second top photo of dough the night before to see how much it grows.)  Mix starter, yeast and  warm water.  Stir in oil, flour and salt to make a soft dough.  Cover with clingwrap and leave overnight at room temperature  for about 8 hours. 

    In the morning, preheat the oven to 200 C.  While it heats, prepare the rhubarb and sprinkle a large baking tray with polenta.   Sprinkle dough with flour and carefully take the risen dough from the bowl - it is fairly soft and sticky.  Place on a lightly floured surface. Using floured hands, pat dough out in an oval shape about an inch thick (might be thinner in places).   Carefully transfer to the prepared baking tray.  Scatter with rhubarb and press lightly into the dough.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle the sugar on top.

    Bake for 40 minutes until the fruit juices are running free and the sides are golden brown.  Eat hot or cool on a wire rack.

    * NOTE: Ideally take the starter out of the fridge to warm up to room temperature a couple of hours before starting to mix the dough.  I forgot and it was fine but will try and remember next time.  It can also be made without the rhubarb and sugar topping - just drizzle with oil and a pinch or two of salt (I find 600g better for the plain focaccia).

    On the stereo:
    Don't Try This At Home: Billy Bragg