Thursday 29 January 2015

Vegan quiche with tofu and besan

Quiche has never been one of my favourite dishes.  After all I am not so keen on pastry or eggs.  But make it vegan with both tofu and besan (chickpea flour) and lots of vegies and I think I am in love.  It is a complex dish with multiple components.  The first time it had too much ooze but the second time it was perfect, if I may say so myself!

I have dabbled in vegan quiches before.  Tofu quiches are too watery and besan quiches are too dense.  I knew I wanted a combination of the two.  Inspired by Kate, I searched the web and turned up some vegan quiche recipes which gave me enough guidance and an excellent flaky vegan pie crust recipe.

Just before we went to see the Christmas lights, I mad my first attempt.  It tasted excellent but the texture was too wobbly.  I thought it would firm up when cooked by it never set properly.  Even the next day after more baking it still had an ooze.  I knew it needed more besan.  It took me so long to make that I needed another night with enough time and energy.

I have always loved lots of vegies in my quiche.  In the recipe below I have given the vegetable combinations I used on both quiches to show that you can choose whatever vegies your fridge yields.  Just make sure they are well cooked and not too soggy.

My second attempt at the quiche had me increasing the besan from 5 to 8 tablespoons and reducing the milk from 1 1/2 cups to 1 cup.

It was a drizzly day when I had been cleaning the house all day so who knows where the energy to make the quiche came from.  I suspect it was a matter of just keeping going because once I stopped I just dropped.  On the up side, we did find spiders, lego pieces, a forgotten easter egg and lots of hair clips in the pantry, behind the stereo and under the bed.

Cleaning the house gave me a great sense of achievement and producing a wonderful quiche at the end of the day was just the ended I needed to feel totally satisfied.  So Sylvia photo bombed this final photo with her scissors.  I think I was too tired to care.  I was just enjoying the quiche.

I am sending this to Lisa's Kitchen for My Legume Love Affair #79, the blog event that features legumes of all varieties and was founded by Susan of My Well Seasoned Kitchen.  I am sending also sending it to Kimmy of Rock My Vegan Socks for Healthy Vegan Fridays #32.

More vegan pastry recipes from Green Gourmet Giraffe: 
Apple and pumpkin pastries with spiced red wine 
Chocolate mince pies
Eccles cakes with leeks, spinach and blue cheese
Haggis neeps and tatties pasties
Liz O'Brien's sausage rolls (vegan)
Spaghetti pie
Stargazy pie

Vegan quiche with tofu and besan
Serves 4 to 6

Adapted from the Blasphemous Vegan
1 cup plain white flour
1/2 cup wholemeal plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water plus 1-3 tbsp

 Vegetables version 1:
1 tbsp oil
1/4 cup uncooked tofu bacon, diced
1 red onion, in thin crescents kernels of 1 corn cob
2 mall zucchini, sliced
1/2 red capsicum, diced
handful of spinach, chopped

Vegetable version 2:
1 tbsp oil
1/4 cup uncooked tofu bacon, diced
1 red onion, sliced in thin crescents kernels of 1 corn cob
1/2 carrot, diced
3/4 red capsicum, diced
1 bunch broccolini, diced

Tofu/Besan Filling:
8 tbsp besan (chickpea flour)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup soy milk
3 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp stock powder
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
300g tofu (I used medium but any would do)

Preheat oven to 180 C.

To make pastry:
Mix flours.  Stir in olive oil and then 1/4 cup of water.  Add a little extra water if necessary to make it come together into a ball.  You can do this in the food processor too.  Knead briefly until smooth.  And if you happen to add a little too much water just knead briefly with a bit of flour until smooth.

Roll out pastry on baking paper (no chilling required) and line 23cm tart tin with it.  (Grease tin if required.  Mine is non-stick.)  If the pastry doesn't quite reach the tops of the sides of the tin, use hands to gently press outwards so that it goes a little further up the sides.  Prick pastry with a fork and bake for 10 minutes.  It should have dried out a little but still be very pale.  Set aside.

Once pastry crust is lightly baked, turn up the oven to 200 C.

Vegetable mixture:
Heat oil in a large frypan over medium high heat and fry tofu bacon until brown and crispy.  Remove from pan with a slotted spoon.  Drain on kitchen towel and set aside.

Add onion to frypan and fry a few minutes until translucent.  Add remaining vegetables (from either version 1 or version 2) except spinach and or broccolini florets.  Fry for 5 to 10 minutes until vegetables are soft and slightly charred.  If using broccolini add the chopped florets a minute or two towards the end.  If using spinach stir it through the vegetables once removed from the heat.  Set aside.

Tofu/Besan Filling:
Mix besan and oil to make a thick paste in a medium saucepan.  Cook briefly over low heat until it dries and becomes a blob.  Gradually add milk a little at a time, stirring to incorporate milk with each addition of milk.  Once all milk is mixed in to make a smooth mixture, add remaining ingredients except the tofu.  Increase heat and bring to the boil slowly until bubbling and thickened.  Remove from heat.  Add tofu and blend (I used a hand held blender in the saucepan.

To assemble and bake quiche:
Stir the vegetable mixture into the tofu/besan mixture.  Tip into lightly baked pie crust.  Bake quiche for about 40 minutes or until top is golden brown and set.  A knife or skewer inserted in the middle should come out clean.  Sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. 

On the stereo:
Costello Music: The Fratellis

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Chocolate muesli (granola)

Muesli is something I am constantly promising myself I will make.  Why not!  It is easy and healthy.  Yet it is a long time since I made it.  Then my sister was making it on her visit to my mum's and I had seen a chocolate muesli recipe.  For the pedants, it was called granola but it has always been muesli to me, and I have a stubborn streak.

I love that Kate of No Meat and Three Veg was giving this muesli to family as Christmas gifts.  It is both practical and surprising.  I loved that the muesli gave me a healthy opportunity to use up some of the fruit and nuts leftover from Christmas baking. 

Mine had a few more seeds than Kate's because I see it as an opportunity to use some of the seeds and grain in the pantry.  And seeds are healthy.  I really want to try chia seeds in muesli but worried they would go gluggy with the liquids.  I also was fascinated by Joanne's use of dried quinoa in muesli.  Must experiment!

Chocolate is not something I normally enjoy at breakfast.  I make an exception for this muesli.  It is more intense than sweet.  I have had it for breakfast regularly lately (except when I forgot to take it on holiday). 

I love eating it with vanilla yoghurt.  The yoghurt picks up the cocoa and looks like a posh version of cocoa pops.  Remember they used to say "just like a chocolate milkshake only crunchy".  Well if I was to advertise this, I would say "just like a chocolate smoothie only crunchy"!

When I can, I pair it with fruit.  I have had apricots when in season, stewed plums and I think it would be great with slices of banana. It is also lovely as a snack with or without yoghurt.  I am coming to the end of the batch of muesli and hope I motivate myself to make another batch.  Meanwhile I am looking forward to breakfast tomorrow.

I am sending this to Kimmy of Rock My Vegan Socks for Healthy Vegan Fridays #31.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Tim Tam Brownies for Australia Day
Two years ago: Risoni with Chickpeas, Lemon, and Mint
Three years ago: A tale of three water bottles
Four years ago: Aussie Moroccan salad
Five years ago: In search of . . .
Six years ago: Apricot History and a Chutney
Seven years ago: In Praise of Cookbooks

Chocolate muesli
Adapted from Live.Love.Learn.Eat via No Meat and Three Veg

4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup seeds (I used sesame, hemp and pumpkin)
pinch of salt
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup sultanas

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl (leaving the dried fruit out if you don't want it really chewy).  Tip into 2 large lined roasting dishes* and bake at 180 C for about 20 to 25 minutes, stirring halfway through.  (If you left out the dried fruit, mix in when it is out of the oven.)  Cool and store in an airtight container.

NOTES:  I found that using one roasting dish made my mixture too crowded to dry out.  I ended up dividing it into 3 lots of baking each for an additional 5 minutes at the end but I think if I used 2 roasting dishes rather than one, it would work better.  The muesli crisps up as it cools so it is a bit tricky to judge how much to bake it but I guess it needs to be dry enough to crisp up. 

On the Stereo:
The Captain: Kasey Chambers

Monday 26 January 2015

Australia Day: Violet crumble ice cream, icons, haggis and the beach.

I was just back from holidays, with a huge blog backlog and promised myself not to make new recipes.  But Australia Day was coming up and I have a Pinterest board of ideas. I decided to try a Violet Crumble ice cream and remember a forgotten icon.  It took me a few tries but it was amazing when it worked.  And I am happy to share it with you on this Australia Day.

Australia Day is a potent mixture of patriotism, nostalgia and icons.  It is a day for reflecting on who we are, how we got here and where we are headed.  If we dare to be honest it is not easy to navel-gaze and remember how our nation of Australia was founded in the land of the many nations of Aboriginal Australia.  I have written about remembering the nation's Aboriginal origins before.

Today I am writing something less important but personally significant nevertheless.  The Violet Crumble, an Australian chocolate covered honeycomb bar, was created in 1913 by Hoadley's Chocolates in Melbourne.  As a child my sister and I alternated giving my dad bags of Violet Crumbles and Polly Waffles each Christmas.

In 2009, the Polly Waffle was discontinued by Nestle who have now taken over Hoadley's Chocolates.  I sometimes worry the Violet Crumble will go the same way.  They no longer sell bags of small pieces, only bars.  Yet it seems that the similar Crunchie, which was created in England by Fry's in 1929, is more popular.  We rarely had Crunchie when I was growing up and I still find the melting honeycomb filling looks unnaturally yellow, tastes a little burnt and melts in the mouth rather fast compared to the harder mellower Violet Crumble that really does shatter in the most pleasing way.

We don't eat a lot of chocolate bars so in some ways it doesn't affect us much.  Yet in other ways, it makes me sad that globalisation means that foreign chocolate bars are elbowing our home made icons out of the way.  The same might be said for my favourite Chokito bar (which I assume is Australian but can't confirm).  And Darrell Lea chocolates are just hanging in there.  Last week it was announced that another Australian chocolate manufacturer, Ernest Hillier, had gone into voluntary administration.

As this is an indulgent post on Australia Day, I will share a couple of photos from yesterday.  We visited family and then bought fish and chips to eat at Torquay beach on a cooler day (22 C).  This above photo is especially for Shaheen who asked what a corn jack was.  It is the roll with the crispy skin and creamy corn filling.

By the time we got to the beach it was raining and we huddled under a tree in our cardigans.  Then we walked along the beach, bought ice creams from a van, splashed about in the waves and got sunburnt.  I had honey crunch ice cream, Sylvia had strawberry and E had plain.  Later he told us the fish was bland and so was the ice cream.  He had thought 'plain' meant Madagascan vanilla rather than what it said on the label!

Sylvia is so keen on ice cream that we have eaten it quite a bit this summer.  Here are a few ice cream moments:
  • At a park where the ice cream van kept come around with its music on.  We can resist the music when we hear it at home but it is harder in the park.  A little kid dropped her ice cream in front of us and was given another.
  • At a local shop where I have often promised to take Sylvia.  There were chewy bits in the ice cream which I wasn't keen on.
  • At Barwon Heads on our recent holiday.  Sylvia and her cousin got rainbow ice creams while I dreamed of buying the nearby raw vegan pad thai

Cool weather and rain at the beach made me feel like we were in Scotland in summer.  Which was quite fitting given that last night was Burns Night.  We like to have vegetarian haggis to remember Robert Burns birthday.  Luckily I had some in the freezer leftover from New Year's Eve.

I had been determined to follow a recipe in my new McSween Haggis Bible.  Let's just say that I started with a recipe but my resulting haggis stuffed courgettes baked with a tomato sauce was unrecognisable.  I started just baking the stuffed courgettes but they took so long I covered them with tomato sauce to soften them with some steam.  They were delicious eaten watching the Australian Open (tennis).  The remaining stuffed courgettes will go on pizza tonight.

Back back to the violet crumble ice cream.  It was a simple matter of beating together cream and condensed milk and folding in chopped violet crumble.  It was inspired by Malta Today but I later found it was almost a family recipe when my sister in law told me she made it that way.  (It came from my brother's, wife's, sister's, husband's grandmother!)

Yet I am never very confident about whipping cream.  I messed up the ice cream the first time by overbeating the cream.  The texture wasn't quite right and it needed to soften up so I could scoop it out.  (Can you see the texture is wrong in the above photo!)

I had to try again.  This time I was careful to beat the cream and condensed milk on low speed.  It worked perfectly this time.  Creamy with great depth of nostalgic flavour, albeit very rich.  We all loved it.  Great for dinner in the backyard after a hot day.  Sylvia preferred it stirred until melty and creamy.  E declared it the best ice cream ever and that he would like to have it for breakfast lunch and dinner.  If only we could....

It has been a very relaxed Australia Day here after some very busy days.  We have had time for pancakes, games, nail polish, cups of tea, face paint, television, making a doll's jungle gym out of a stool, and reading the weekend newspaper.  My favourite line was in an article in The Age by John Huxley (A Brummie from Balmoral) who writes that the past is "slippery, shifty, elusive, subject to change. Like old loves, homes, cars, jobs, favourite things, so much of what we miss no longer exists. If it ever did."  I hope you are enjoying your day too.

More Violet Crumble Recipes:

Chocolate honeycomb slice - ninesm
Honeycomb, chocolate and almond pavlova: What Katie ate
Pumpkin ice cream with home made violet crumble -
Violet crumble brownies - Thoroughly nourished life
Violet crumble cheesecake - Best recipes
Violet crumble cookies - Belly rumbles
Violet crumble lamingtons - Here's something I prepared earlier
White choc honeycomb mud cake -

I am sending this ice cream to Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog for We Should Cocoa and Kavey of Kavey Eats for Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream.  Choclette and Kavey have combined their blog challenge and asked for ice cream with chocolate this month.  (The closing date for submissions was yesterday but Kavey has said it is fine to be a day late.)

If you would like more Australian recipes, I did a round up of Aussie recipes from my blog and elsewhere last year.

Violet Crumble Ice Cream
Serves 6 to 8

300ml double cream*
1/2 cup condensed milk
100g violet crumble*

Use hand held beaters to beat cream and condensed milk until thick enough to hold its shape (I think this might be called soft peak stage - I just beat it with beaters on low until it reached the ribbon stage and then beat another few seconds - this seemed to help make sure it didn't turn into butter).  Roughly chop violet crumble and stir in.  Tip mixture into a tub and freeze overnight or until solid.  It is creamy enough that it doesn't need to sit out of the freezer to soften before serving.

*NOTES: It is a very rich ice cream so we preferred a 35% butterfat to a 51% butterfat cream.  Violet crumble is a chocolate covered honeycomb.  You could substitute other chocolate covered honeycomb or even make your own.

On the Stereo:
Born Sandy Devotional: the Triffids

Saturday 24 January 2015

The Big Wheel, Moor's Head, Amanda Palmer

School goes back on Thursday.  We have been enjoying the summer holidays but I need a break.  Yesterday was a crazy day.  We had a big day out at the park, doing craft, riding the big wheel, eating churros, my first visit to Costco, dropping Sylvia off for a sleepover, dinner at the Moor's Head and finally an Amanda Palmer book reading. 

We took the train to the city and met my sister and nephew at Birrung Marr so Sylvia could have a play at the park with Dash.  The climbing frame was very popular.

Then my sister found that there was a kid's craft tent nearby where children could make little boats to float in the wading pool.  So that's what you do with all your leftover corks!

Sylvia and Dash had a lovely time.  It was really nice to be able to do craft outdoors.

Then we headed off for the tram to meet up with more family and leave Chris to head off to meet up with friends.  We were sad to say goodbye.  It's been lovely to have her visiting from Ireland and Sylvia says she will miss Chris's makeup.

On the way to the tram we passed the fun circular bookshelves in the foyer of the NGV Ian Potter Gallery.  (If you have an eye for detail you might notice Sylvia has on a different dress.  This photo is from when we saw Arriety at ACMI Cinema.  Fantastic movie.)  We could have spent lots of time at the bookshelves but the Big Wheel beckoned.

So I took Sylvia and Dash on the tram to Docklands.  This is a very new part of Melbourne's city where I rarely go.  We walked along the avenues of shops and stopped to stare in fascination at the snake handler giving children a snake to drape over their shoulders for a photo opportunity.

We stopped at the food mall for sandwiches for lunch.  I had my favourite sandwich filling: avocado, tomato, lettuce and swiss cheese.  It was huge. 

Finally it was time for the Big Wheel.  Actually its proper name is the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel but I hardly hear that used and every time we pass it on the train we just call it the Big Wheel.  It goes so slowly that from a distance it doesn't seem to be moving.

It was my dad's Christmas present but he shared it with everyone.  So there were 2 adults and 8 children in our capsule.  These capsules are very echoey and with lots of kids it was really noisy.  The 30 minutes seemed to go really quickly with all the little dramas of who got the map, which window to look out and Maddy's warnings not to go near the door.

Of course we took lots of photos.  I really loved the photos at the top but we didn't seem to stay on top long.  The Big Wheel is on the more industrial side of Melbourne and was great to see city skylines as well as all the railways, docklands and freeways.  I would recommend the Eureka Tower viewing platform if you wanted to see more of the historic buildings, sports stadiums and the river.

Before long we were stepping out of our capsule.  We were glad it was moving so slowly because it does not stop for disembarking.  The kids all raced through the gift shop and out the exit without stopping to look at what I thought was a lego model of the wheel.  (I would have checked if I hadn't been keeping up!)

We then had some churros with chocolate at San Churro.  So yummy.  I was talking to my sister-in-law about nearby Costco.  Erica has a membership and offered to take me over to buy some maple syrup.  Which is how I found myself with 2 litres of the stuff in my bag.  I was so excited at how cheap it was that I forgot how heavy it was to carry home.  Oh well!  At least I didn't spend $817 like the person in front of us at the cash register.

Sylvia and I headed home to have a quick play before taking her out to her friend's place for a sleepover.  E and I were going out.

Firstly we had dinner at the Moor's Head in Thornbury.  We arrived at 6pm before our show.  The place was fairly empty but I heard a staff member say it was booked out later in the evening.  The Moor's Head was opened in 2011 by Joseph Abboud of Rumi.  They offer mainly "inauthentic pizzas", made in a Middle Eastern style, as well as dips, salads, and desserts.

I enjoyed reading the names of the pizzas: Omar Sharif, Shams of Tabriz, Beiruti and Fred the Deaf!  There is a choice of round or long Turkish-style with quite a few vegetarian options.   We started with drinks.  E ordered the Uludag Gazos, a Middle Eastern style lemonade.  I had a lovely sour cherry juice.

E ordered a meaty pizza so there was no sharing.  I had the Istanbuli pide (Turkish style long pizza with pumpkin, spinach, caramelised onion, tahini yoghurt, dukkah and parsley).  It was lovely with soft Turkish bread around the filling.  It was a lot for one person.  I think I would have preferred half the pizza with some salad.  Despite this, I am never going to complain about eating bread, seasoned pumpkin and tasty creamy sauce.

The main event was close by at the Thornbury Theatre.  We went to see a book reading by Amanda Palmer.  She has written a book called The Art of Asking, reflecting on her crowdfunding experience as a musician and how our reluctance to ask for help can paralyse our lives.

At the reading she spoke to local artists, Justin Heazlewood and Tom Dickins about their crowdfunding experiences. her husband Neil Gaiman read some sections of her book exploring their relationship, and she sang some songs accompanying herself on ukelele.  I think my favourite moment was when Amanda and Tom Dickins sang one of my favourite Glen Hansard songs, Falling Slowly.

When the gig ended, E wanted to get his copy of the book signed.  I was prepared to wait, despite being a little worried about hearing about Neil Gaiman doing an 8 hour book signing.  The queue for the signing snaked all around the ballroom.  After over half an hour and the queue had not moved, I was tired and went home, leaving E with some friends.  (I was sad I missed Neil Gaiman handing out brownie to people in the queue!)

This morning I woke up tired and achy.  (I got a sunburnt back at the Botanic Gardens on Thursday.)  Then I remembered I totally forgot about my dentist appointment yesterday.  I left a message at their dentist's surgery and will have to ring them again with another grovelling apology on Tuesday.  Meanwhile today has been more restful and hopefully we will get more quiet time over the Australia Day long weekend.

Moor's Head
774 High Street
Tel: 03 9484 0173

Friday 23 January 2015

Maple meringues

Having made my first batch of meringues I can now pass my meringue wisdom onto you.  Don't make meringues after dinner on a humid summer day.  Honestly they made me sweat with worry that the meringues would never be baked by the time I went to bed and if they did they would be too sweaty, much like me!

Actually I only made them because I had an egg white leftover from my apricot and almond tart.  and I had seen a recipe using maple syrup instead of sugar.  And Sylvia and E love them.  And I had a family birthday gathering the next day.

It was a crazy day and the recipe looked straightforward.  Even though I am intimidated by egg whites.  So I promised myself I would do it despite having many reasons that I was too busy to start.  I put away the Christmas tree, made chocolate granola, went to the supermarket, made birthday cards, read to Sylvia, chatted to a neighbour. 

Finally I began.  Maybe if I had started before dinner I wouldn't have got so much wrong.  I dropped the candy thermometer (it didn't break - phew), I didn't know that the maple syrup would froth up so much and had to change saucepans (and clean the stove), my oven doesn't go as low as the recipe called for (thank goodness the oven has no power), and I forgot to sprinkle with our glittery sugar (which I really want to use up).

Then I happened to read that ideally one should not make meringues while it is humid.  I checked the humidity and it was 80%.  I checked again about an hour later and it was 89%.  This worried me as I had put the meringues in the oven at 8pm.  They needed to bake for 3 hours and then sit in the oven for another hour.  And I wanted to get to bed some time.

I baked most on the top shelf of the oven and the last few on the second shelf.  The meringues on the top shelf needed an extra 30 minutes baking (blame the humidity) but were dry and crispy.  I put them in an airtight container to take to Erica's birthday.  The bottom shelf were sticky so I left them in the oven overnight.

The next morning the bottom shelf were still sticky outside but crunchy inside.  I gave a few to E for lunch and took the top shelf meringues to Geelong.  We had originally planned to go to the zoo but the weather was in the high 30s (celcius) so we headed to the Ten Pin Bowling instead.  It was fun, even with the geeky shoes.  I even got a strike!

Then we headed to my sister's new house for lunch before heading off to the pool.  Susie's place has great air conditioning and a really nice table by a blue wall where I would love to take lots of blog photos!  We had dips and crackers and salads.  (There was meat but let's not mention it.)  For dessert there was sponge and pavlova and my meringues.

Sylvia and her cousin Dash really loved the meringues.  We had to shoo them away so there were some left after we sang Erica happy birthday.  I was pleased that all the meringues were eaten because it was so humid that once I took them out of the airtight container they became sticky around the edges.  By the time the last one was eaten, it would have stuck to your hand like velcro.

They tasted amazing.  Far more depth of flavour than a regular meringue (which has never impressed me anyway).  The caramelised maple syrup gave them a slightly smoky intense flavour that I loved.  Sylvia and E loved them too.  If only maple syrup wasn't so expensive* I would make them more.  Though I would have to find a use for the egg yolks!

Sadly E didn't come down for the lunch.  If he had I am sure he would have been telling one of his favourite jokes.  "Is that a doughnut or a meringue?"  It needs a Scottish accent to make sense of this joke.  He did enjoy the meringues I left him and by the end of the day there were no sticky bottom shelf meringues left in the house.

I am sending the meringues to Jac at Tinned Tomatoes for Bookmarked Recipes, a monthly event where bloggers share bookmarked recipes they have made..

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: How to serve (vegetarian) haggis
Two years ago: No knead honey and oat bread II
Three years ago: WSC Blueberry Chocolate Cake
Four years ago: BBQ tofu like an Aussie flood
Five years ago: Muffins at the tennis
Six years ago: Baba - full of eastern promise
Seven years ago: Raspberry Vinegar for Dummies

Mini Maple Meringues
Adapted from Food Nouveau
Makes about 60

2/3 cup maple syrup*
2 egg whites
scant 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

bake 3 hours or until comes off paper with no resistance (or until you need to go to bed and your husband says they are great because he loves chewy)  leave in oven another hour

Preheat oven to very low (Food Nouveau suggested 75 C but my oven only goes down to 120 C.  However my oven never bakes anywhere near the temperature unless the fan is on so I left my fan off and it was probably more like 90 to 100 C.)  Line baking trays with baking paper or silicone mats.

Bring maple syrup to a boil in a medium to large saucepan - it doesn't look like a lot but it bubbles up.  Once it boils heat until it reaches 120 C on a candy thermometer.  Set aside.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form.  This did not take long with the electric beaters.  Slowly add in the hot maple syrup at the side (it will form crystals if the hot maple syrup touches the beaters) beating as you go (except when I needed to scrape out the saucepan).  Beat for 3 minutes until you have stiff peaks and the mixture has that candied taste.

Spoon into a piping bag (mine is silicone) with a large hole and pipe small circles with peaks onto lined baking trays.  You don't need to leave too much room between meringues as they don't expand when cooking.

Bake for 3 hours or until the meringues come off the trays with no resistance.  You may need longer if it is humid.  Once baked, turn off oven and leave for another hour.  Cool and store in an airtight container.  Once mine came out of the container they went sticky around the edges in the humid conditions.  Food Nouveau says you can keep them for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.

NOTE: I just discovered today that maple syrup is far cheaper in Costco than in the supermarket!

On the stereo:
Twenty four classic blues songs from the 1920s vol 12: Various Artists

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Ocean Grove, Chocolate Bliss Balls, The Dunes and holiday eating

The family beach holiday at Ocean Grove was so much fun last year that we did it again.  We missed the sunshine but enjoyed the beach nevertheless.  There was much good food, laughter, dancing, plotting, couch houses, shared meals, photos, and cheeky kids.  My mum and dad were there the whole week with my sister and her little boy.  Other siblings and their kids came and went, including Sylvia and me.

We were there for 5 nights so I took down two boxes of food.  I also forgot quite a bit of it including the vegetables I meant to take.  Luckily there is very little we can't find at the supermarket.  I also doubled up on a few things with my mum.  Even so, the brown rice chips, crackers, dips, rice bubbles, yoghurt, soy milk, fruit and dried chickpeas were good to have.

I decided I would make some healthy snacks to take as well.  I will talk about the pate later.  The rustic muesli slice above was great for a satisfying sweet snack.  It had malt syrup instead of honey and lots of dried fruit.  Sylvia took umbrage at a few sultanas and didn't eat it but my mum enjoyed it. 

I decided to make some of the chocolate bliss balls that were so popular on Not Quite Nigella last year.  I had the manky bananas.  But my balls were so soft I added more coconut and wondered if the bananas were bigger than the recipe called for.  I made them the day before we left.  It was a busy day making pizza, pate and the muesli slice, swimming, card making and supervising a sleepover.  If I had a dollar for each time I said "go to sleep" I would be a rich woman!

They were best after the first day when the ingredients had softened and melded.  I found it useful to have them in the fridge when I had a chocolate craving.  My sister in law was quite keen to try them until I remembered they had dried fruit in them.

We stayed in the same house with the charming garden.  We could walk to the park and it didn't take too long to drive to the beach.  My parents took their dog along who had lots of space to hang out in the yard.

It took me a whole 24 hours to get to the beach.  Sadly the weather was never brilliant beach weather.  Even when the sun shone it was cold and windy.  Splashing about in the water was great but getting out was c-c-cold.  Yet we also appreciated not having the scorching heat of last year.  I love how much my nieces and my brother love the sea and was pleased that Sylvia enjoyed it more this year.

My sister spied the Simply Vegan Cuisine food truck on one of her trips so we had to go and check out the food being served at Dolly the vegan bus.  It is a cute bus.  Christine, my mum and I shared some lovely raw chocolate fudge that was nutty and dense and a little fruity.

The kitchen saw lots of cooking, especially for my sister's boyfriend's birthday dinner and my mum's birthday lunch.  Sylvia helped her cousin Dash make Nigella's rocky road crunch.  They worked well together under the watchful eye of my sister.  I've posted about my mum's birthday lunch separately.

My family loves eating meat so I decided to take along a favourite voracious vegan pate.  It really was a great choice. It went well in salad sandwiches, on the table with chips and dips, as a starter when everyone else had spag bol or just as a great lunch with vegies and rice crackers.

I didn't have wifi at the beach and my mobile reception was poor.  I really enjoyed being offline (though I still feel quite overwhelmed by being back online now).  I finished my book I had been reading for weeks - American Gods by Neil Gaiman.  It was a fascinating book with lots of very odd mythical characters.  I then read through half of my next book - This House of Grief by Helen Garner - about a local criminal trial.  I am full of admiration for Helen Garner's writing but find the subject makes me melancholy and all the more so for being so close to home.  I even got to read far more of the newspaper than usual.

Being at the beach also gives me a hankering for fish and chips.  I never have fish of course even though I will always call them fish and chips.  I had a corn jack with my chips and potato cake and found that Sylvia seems to quite enjoy corn jacks too.

We had a birthday dinner for my sister's boyfriend Ivan.  This is the impressive marble cake that my sister in law made for him.  We had forgotten the birthday candles and when I put a few blueberries on top some wise spark decided that instead of blowing out the candles he could blow the blueberries off the cake!

On the Saturday we went to the Ocean Grove Farmers Market.  I really loved these onions strung up on the back of the ute.  There were also huge marrows, dumplings, blue potatoes, proffertjes, rhubarb, spiced nuts, herbs etc etc.  My mum had a chat at The Egg Man stall saying she had heard from a government inspector that it is one of the best free range egg farms. 

At the Farmers Market I bought some pastries from A Hidden Secret, who do fantastic vegetarian food.  The above pastie with fennel, carrot, spices etc was amazing with my mum's homemade tomato sauce, coleslaw, lots of vegies and a dollop of my sister Fran's thermomix mayo.

Sylvia and her cousins had lots of fun playing together.  They made houses out of the couches, a house in the walk-in wardrobe, in a tent in the front yard and a camp outside with some fold up chairs and a pile of sticks.

My dad is very partial to the hot chocolate at The Dunes in Ocean Grove so we went there on our final full day.  The fickle weather was sunnier when we got there and instead of hot chocolate I decided to have a glass of the local Flying Brick Pear Cider.  It was quite dry and very refreshing.  Perfect with chips.  Sylvia enjoyed a hot chocolate and her cousin had a milkshake.

One attraction of the The Dunes is that it is right by the beach and has a fantastic view.  After our drinks and chips we went to the beach.  The only kids left were Sylvia and Dash.  They made some sandcastles.  It was so cold that Dash kept his hoodie on.  I had put Sylvia in her bathers just in case.  Last year she wouldn't go near the water.  This year I was impressed that she came in with me and had lots of fun jumping waves.

I really liked all the artwork outside The Dunes.  Sylvia and Dash had a lovely time picking out all the details in the little clay mural and the bollard people on the way to the beach were fun.  That night we had dinner at the Ocean Grove Hotel.  I will write about that on another post.

We were sad to leave the beach house.  It was such a lovely relaxing holiday.  But school is back in a week and there is much to do back at home, even if Sylvia is missing her couch houses and her cousins!

I am sending the bliss balls to Eat Your Veg and Bangers and; Mash for January's Healthy Family Foodies blog event with the theme of Healthy Kids.  Sylvia was not keen on them but I wonder if without the dried fruit or even if it was blended up that she might eat them.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: NCR Vegan caesar salad
Two years ago: Leon Superfood Salad
Three years ago: Nectarine bounty - salsa and pizza
Four years ago: CC Hal's Stirfry Sauce
Five years ago: Cheese and Almond Loaf
Six years ago: Beat the heat with fruit salad
Seven years ago: Pea and Garlic Soup

Chocolate bliss balls
Adapted from Not Quite Nigella
Makes about 24

2 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
5 medjool dates, pitted and chopped finely
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup desiccated coconut plus more for rolling balls
2/3 cup quick cooking oats plus more for rolling
3 tbsp cocoa
1 tbsp honey*
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
dash of cinnamon and salt

Soak the cranberries in hot water for about 10 minutes while you mash bananas and finely chop the dates.  Drain cranberries well.  Mix with remaining ingredients.  Use your hands to roll into balls the size of walnuts (some water on hand to lightly dampen hands to keep mixture from sticking).  Roll first in oats and then coconut.  Keeps for up to a week in the fridge.

To make it vegan, use an alternative sweetener such as maple syrup.
I loved having these for snacks but half the batch would have been enough for me so I might try that next time. 

UPDATE February 2015 - we are now onto our third batch of these bliss balls - they are great healthy snacks to have about and I have found Sylvia loves them without cranberries so I make them that way.  I also only use one large banana and today used just 2/3 cup of coconut and it was enough for the mixture.

On the stereo:
An evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer