Thursday 9 October 2014

Adelaide, kale cake, smoky cookies and plane food

When I headed over to Adelaide recently for a catch up with my friend Yaz, I reflected upon how I had visited the city a number of times, even since I started blogging, and yet have very little to show for it in the way of photos and foodie memories.  This trip didn't produce much more in the way of photos of Adelaide but I am happy to say that I enjoyed some great food. I had a fun time in the kitchen with Yaz cooking a taco lunch, kale cake and smoky choc chip cookies.

Firstly, it is opportunity to reflect on the airline food.  I have previously written about my frustrations with plane food.  On this trip, due to a palaver with frequent flyer points, I travelled business class.  Which should make plane food so much better!  Right?  It was lovely flying business class.  Lots of space, proper glasses and the choice of water or juice before we took off.

The meal on the flight to Adelaide was quite forgettable.  A very nicely done pasta with tomato sauce.  It had chunks of zucchini but no protein.  I did have a nice oat biscuit and a square of chocolate as well as three token cubes of melon.  At least I didn't feel I had wasted time eating a tiny falafel slider and piece of cheesecake at the bookshop cafe at Tullamarine Airport (above photo).  One of the downsides of business class for sticky beaks like me is that I was too far from my neighbour to compare my meal with theirs.

I met Yaz in Adelaide at a bar called Udaberri Pintxos Y Vino.   It was a very stylish place to catch up over a drink.  The next morning I felt crook.  I think it was the crazy month catching up with me rather than the after-effects of one glass of sherry.  Unfortunately this meant that I missed the opportunity to go to Adelaide's Central Market that I have heard great things about.

Yaz went to the market alone instead.  So we ate fresh bread and cheese when I felt a bit better in the afternoon.  We also had a walk to a shop called Chile Mojo.  (If this name sounds familiar, you might have read about the shop in this month's SBS Feast magazine.)   I brought shame upon Yaz by asking for a salsa that was not too spicy and didn't taste of coriander (cilantro).  Luckily the guy behind the counter was really friendly and helpful.  And the Key West Key Lime Salsa was perfect for me.

Chile Mojo claims to have the largest range of hot sauces in Australia and I am ready to believe this.  If you ever want entertainment in Adelaide, just go there and read some of the names of the sauces: See Dick Burn, Howling Monkey, Toxic Waste, Dr Assburn!!!!  Seriously, if you want to order hot sauce in Australia, you should check them out. 

Yaz had also organised for us to go out that evening.  I was glad I felt well enough to go along.  We saw Helen Feng's Nova Heart play at the OzAsia Festival at the Adelaide Festival Centre.  She is described as Beijing's Blondie but if you want an amazing description of her music, check out this interview.

It was an fascinating gig because at the start Helen Feng told the audience not to clap or cheer or stand.  If anyone clapped, Helen Feng shushed them and told them they did not know how to obey.  It was odd to feel so passive as the audience.  Yaz found it liberating.  And the music was eclectic: dreamy, wild, sexy, melodic, and the musicians at times created a wall of sound with amazing drumming.

The next day I felt well enough to do the baking we had put on hold the previous day.  Yaz shares my love of zany recipes and is willing to try anything.  So he jumped at the idea of making kale cake and Eats Well With Others' smoked salt choc chip cookies.  We looked for smoked almonds in the supermarket to add to the cookies but had to settle for smoked sea salt.

We used walnuts instead of roasted almonds, 250g butter, 2 cups of brown sugar (and did away with regular sugar), and 2 cups of dark choc chips (instead of milk choc chips).  I really liked the extra crunch of the cocoa nibs and the extra punch of the smoked salt sprinkled on top.  I will try and make these again and write more about the recipe at a later date.  They were really delicious and substantial cookies.  Perhaps I will try them with smoked almonds!

Much as I would like to deny it, I am less likely to make the kale cake again.  I don't have many friends like Yaz who would be so excited about it and I can't see any of my family embracing it with much enthusiasm.  But just look at that vibrant green colour and tell me you aren't curious to taste a slice!

Our biggest challenge was blending the kale.  A comment on the recipe had made me worry we would have a vanilla cake with green specks.  We used the hand held blender.  I convinced Yaz to get out the little food processor which made very little extra impact.  The kale was finely chopped rather than a smooth puree I thought we might need.  We also had a discussion about how much water took in while cooking and if we should reduce the water to allow for it. 

Yaz's kitchen is slightly minimalist given that he hasn't lived in Adelaide that long.  Yet it is a foodie sort of minimalism.  Which is why he doesn't have a rolling pin but he has buttermilk powder, umpteen spices and quandong syrup.  Hence when it came to frosting the kale cake, we decided to flavour it with the qnandong.  Could the cake get any stranger!  For those who don't have quandong syrup, milk would do but I did like the sweet fruity flavour of the quandong, an Australian native fruit.

Yaz and I have been baking together ever since we shared a house many years ago.  It was nice to listen to a few bands we used to enjoy in our share house - Billy Bragg, Blyth Power and Big Hard Excellent Fish (have checked with Yaz and updated name).  After making cake and cookies, we put together a taco lunch.

Yaz rolled out tacos with a bottle and showed me how he flips them over with his fingers.  He was horrified that I wanted guacamole with no coriander but was accommodating.  I helped making refried beans and fajita vegies (seasoned with chipotle and old bay seasoning).  Soon we had our taco lunch spread under the large flowering gum in the back yard.  The weather was perfect for an al fresco meal.

For dessert we ate a slice of the kale cake.  It was delicious.  Think of a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting but this was green rather than slightly orange.  The kale flavour did not dominate.  There was too much sugar and spice and creaminess and crunch.  I thought it was best on the day of baking.  I took a piece home and found it slightly grassy that next day but still very very good.  If I was to be picky I might suggest the cake could be a bit softer but I love dense cake and was very happy with it.

All too soon it was time to fly home to Melbourne.  Business class.  This time I was told there weren't many people on the flight so I could have a choice of meal.  There was the vegie option which was a mushy looking burger and some boiled vegetables.  (Honestly, what sort of food do they think vegetarians eat each day!)  Or I could have sweet potato and corn soup, chicken salad or a cheese platter.

I was so full from the lunch and all our baking that the soup was tempting.  But I know I will never be offered a cheese platter in economy class.  So I chose it.  And it was very good.  The little cheese box came with a blue cheese, a vintage cheddar and another cheese, plus a prune and walnut disk.  I ate them with some crackers but was too full to bother about the slab of dry gluten free bread or the odd gluten free chocolate cake.

While I have nothing against gluten free food, my experience is that it is often best fresh and I question the wisdom of including gluten free baking on plane flights!  There are really good gluten free alternatives to baking (date and nut raw bars, chocolate, rice crackers) that travel far better.  Generally despite enjoying my accidental cheese platter, I was pretty unimpressed with the vegetarian options in business class.

Finally I leave you with a photo I took on the plane.  I love seeing this view.  Perhaps it because the beach always looks so inviting.  Or perhaps it is because when I flew to Darwin for work frequently, this view meant that after a few hours of flying and sitting around airports, I was finally on the last leg of the journey back to Melbourne and my own home.

I am sending the kale cake to Katie at Feeding Boys and a Firefighter who is hosting Bookmarked Recipes this month.  (This blog event is usually hosted by Jac at Tinned Tomatoes.  See her previous Bookmarked Recipes round up.)  I am also sending the cake to Shaheen at Allotment to Kitchen for her Eat Your Greens event.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Spinach, lettuce and pea soup, and a catch up
Two years ago: Strawberry avocado and walnut salad with a chocolate dressing
Three years ago: How to make gravy
Four years ago: Pate, Goslings and Bubbies
Five years ago: High tea walnut, quince and maple syrup biccies
Six years ago: Lentil Salad and the Dream Festival

Kale Cake
Adapted from Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA Recipe Group

2 1/3 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2 packed cups of kale 
3/4 cup warm water (we added buttermilk powder)
1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
6 tbsp flax seed meal (or whole flax seeds)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup walnuts, chopped

250g cream cheese
2 tbsp butter
3/4 cup icing sugar
few generous slurps of quandong syrup (or milk)

Grease and line two round 8 inch / 20cm cake tins or a 9 inch / 23cm square cake tin.  Preheat oven to 350 F or 180 C.

Mix flour, bicarb, baking powder , spices and salt in a large mixing bowl.

Blanch and shock kale (ie bring to boil in a sauce pan of water and cook briefly until bright green then plunge into icy water to retain colour).  Roughly chop kale.  Blend cooked kale, sugar, water, oil, flax and vanilla.  We used a hand held blender and the kale was finely chopped rather than a smooth puree but this worked ok.

Pour kale mixture into the flour mixture.  Add walnuts and mix until you have a beautiful green batter.  Our batter was quite thick.

Scrape mixture into prepared cake tin and smooth on the top with the back of a spoon.  Bake for 20 minutes or until the top springs back when you lightly touch it and a skewer comes out cleanly.  (As we used a larger square tin rather than smaller round tins, ours took quite a lot longer.)  Let sit in tin for at least 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

To make the frosting: Mix cream cheese, butter and icing sugar.  Add enough quandong syrup or milk to make he mixture spreadable.  Ideally this should be done with hand held blender but it worked fine when I did it by hand.

If using a larger square tin, cut cake into two rectangles.  Spread half frosting on one half of the square or a round cake, top with remaining cake and spread on the top.

*The original cake was vegan.  If you want to keep this cake vegan, either use vegan cream cheese or make regular buttercream frosting with vegan margarine such as Nuttalex and vegan milk such as soy milk.

On the stereo:
The Guns of Castle Cary - Blyth Power


  1. That kale cake looks so fascinating! :o I really want to give it a try myself!

  2. I want to go to Yaz's house too! And I shall not bring dishonour on his home by eating guacamole without coriander! I'm so glad you mentioned the hot sauces shop because my husband would love it and we keep talking about going on a road trip to Adelaide. The kale cake looks fab! I might make it for St Patrick's Day though I wonder if I can use some baby spinach instead or work an overripe banana in there somehow?!

    1. Thanks Veganopoulous - you must go to the hot sauce shop in you are in Adelaide - it has lots of quirky little day of the dead figurines and chilli stuff too. Kale cake would be excellent for St Pat's Day. Spinach might work and banana would find a place (though is banana green enough for this cake, hmmm? Maybe green bananas - ha ha)

  3. Yeah! Cherish buds who will make crazy concoctions with you! Sorry the kale cake wasn't too great but I look forward to hearing about smoked salt in cookies. :) Also: I have never heard of quandong... I am intrigued!

    1. Thanks Janet - but I did love the cake - I do like to reflect on recipes and usually can find some way to improve and change but this is one I would make again - though it was quite a large cake to make for myself if others didn't share my sense of adventure!

  4. I would definitely eat green cake with you!

  5. Wow, that's the greenest cake I have ever seen! Plane food- the flights to and from India always have the best food. Rice with lentils and vegetables. Raita. Just perfect. The other flights have pasta with sauce (and no protein, like you said) for vegetarians. Very dismal.

    1. Thanks Nupur - India seems so much more relaxed and sensible about vegetarian food than Australia. Glad your flights fed you well

  6. That view from the plane has exerted an unexpected tug on the Australian part of me! It is such a quintessentially Australian view. I am glad you recovered from your brief patch of being unwell, and could enjoy Adelaide and your food adventures. What adventures they were! I am SO intrigued by the kale cake and would have loved to try a slice. It looks beautiful with the layered icing.

    1. Thanks Kari - it is odd that I don't have a memory of seeing that beach on the ground but it feels like one of my lasting images of Adelaide from all my trips there (even though I have done a couple by car and one by train). The kale cake was indeed great fun

  7. This post of yours excited me in lots of ways, made me envious I wish my best friend Leah was with me to cook in the kitchem so pleased you spent time in the kitchen with Yaz, mad me smile about your not wanting coriander in your guacamole :) I also have the very same recipe for Kale Cake bookmarked. You may remember my bookmarked recipe post as you say 'love of zany recipes' I am with you there :) Hope your feeling much better too x

    1. Thanks Shaheen - I am sure you would love to try making this cake (shame we can have a zany cake baking session together) I did love all the vegetable cakes you bookmarked. What vegetable doesn't get featured in cakes - onion and garlic????

    2. I am sure I have seen cakes with onion and garlic in them too, will have to dig them out - the garlic can be roasted and sweetened, and there is also black garlic that is sweeter. Yes - I agree, shame we don't live near by to have a day in the kitchen together.

  8. Hi Johanna!
    Sounds like you "guys" had a wonderful visit and a whole lotta fun too!!! I love the notion of Kale Cake. These days it seems baking has become oh so creativly inspiring:)

    I'm not too fond of plane food no matter where I sit. I get it that completing a well rounded meal on a trip can be daunting but it seems to me all the plane industries could use a few good inventive bloggers, lol...

    Thanks so much for sharing your time in Adelaide, Johanna...The Hot Sauce store reminds me of one in NYC. I think it's amazing that's there's a Key West brand all the way over there, lol...

    1. Thanks Louise - it seems plane food and airport food looks a bit better on the outside as they try to make it more stylish but it still disappoints. I am sure bloggers could fix this if only airlines gave us a go :-) Never heard of Key West brand before but I really liked it

  9. I'm an expert at complaining about airline food and airlines in general. You would think business class would be good but it's worse than the economy travel I experienced when I was growing up. I love Adelaide too and the image from the plane is gorgeous xx

    1. Thanks Charlie - I did have higher expectations about business class but sad to hear from you that my experience was pretty standard - the cheese was good though!

  10. Kale cake, now I've seen it all! I really want to go to Adelaide soon - I've been twice before, but Billy and I didn't get to travel through and complete our loop last year due to our van breaking down - we ended up flying home from Perth instead of driving. I want to do a weekend away there as I remember good things about it! I love the sound of the smoky cookies - I am obsessed with smoked flavours at the moment, seriously. Love the wall of hot sauce too, yum!

    1. Thanks Caeli - Adelaide is not a bad city to miss as at least you can get there fairly easily compared to other parts of Australia but I am sure it was not a happy moment when you missed it - I have read some good stuff about eating out in Adelaide

  11. Wow, that is such an adventurous cake! I love the colour. And I have never seen that many hot sauces in one place before. I wish Australia was closer. I'd love to see Adelaide one day. But who knows?

    1. Thanks Mihl - I never think of Adelaide as that interesting - just a place to pass through (which I have done often enough) but I am now wishing I had had a bit more time to just explore the city

  12. Sounds like you had a great time in Adelaide. I am a bit wary of the kale cake, but I am glad that you gals enjoyed it.

  13. Ohh that kale cake looks so intriguing, I'd love to taste it. What a fabulous green colour too. Shame the plane food was disappointing, though the cheese selection looks good. Gluten free bread is always best 'refreshed' in a microwave for a few seconds. It helps soften the starches again

    1. Thanks Katie - the bread was quite cool so no attempt had been made to microwave it but I think you could provide an airline with excellent advice (didn't know that myself)

  14. Wow how great does your kale cake look! Sounds like you had fun making it too :)

  15. That's the greenest cake I've ever seen. Even food colouring wouldn't get me more excited. I'm iffy on kale but cake? I'd give it a go.

  16. I have never thought of baking kale before! I am intrigued!

  17. I am similarly captivated by the kale cake - I'm going to go and make a vegan one ASAP. With you all the way on plane food - my favourite recent experience involved chicken in a vegan meal - not good!

  18. Kale cake??? Wow - I would have never thought, but it sounds intriguing! You keep me on my toes with the recipes ;p
    Airplane food just plain sucks. I make a point of never having to travel more than 4-5 hours (I realise I won't be able to do this forever as there much more of the world waiting for me to see) and bring my own food.

  19. What a crazy looking cake - wow! I'd love to try a slice as it's like nothing i've ever seen. Thanks so much for hooking up with Bookmarked Recipes this month :-)

  20. What a lovely trip to spend time with your friend! I’ve flown business class numerous times (via Air NZ, Lufthansa, and Thai Airways) and I discovered they serve the exact ‘economy food’ for VGML. I guess the seats are comfortable, and like you’d mentioned, proper glasses, lots of space and beverages anyway! Wow the kale cake is pretty impressive, I’ve never seen anything like this before…but I would love to try it though!


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