Tuesday 31 May 2016

Lo Mein - easy vegie noodles

As Sylvia went to bed last night I said, you know, those noodles had sriracha in them.  Yeah I saw you, she said.  It was a little victory.  I had served her a bowl of low mein that was exactly the same as ours.  If you are a regularly reader you might know that Sylvia like very plain food.  But I know she likes noodles and tofu.  So I took the chance she would eat it.  Knowing that she had seen me put some spicy sauce in, made me feeling better about having watched her distastefully peel each speck of spinach off each piece of tofu.

I was even happier that Sylvia had eaten a reasonable amount of this meal because it was really easy to make and E and I loved it.  I am not familiar with Lo Mein.  It seems like one of those meals that I have seen being eaten out of cardboard boxes with chopsticks on American sitcoms such as Seinfeld or Friends.  So it is far more glamourous and delicious than anything I have ever ordered in a local Chinese restaurant.  I hope it will become a regular meal in our home.

I am sending these noodles to Kimmy for Healthy Vegan Fridays.

Other Noodle Dishes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Avocado, pickled ginger and tofu soba noodle salad (gf, v)
Mee goreng (v)
Miso soup with tofu, vegetables and noodles (v)
Oriental fried noodle salad (v)
Pad see ew with tofu omelette (gf, v)
Tamarind tempeh with noodles (v)
Vegetarian pad thai (gf, v)

Lo Mein
Adapted from Damn Delicious
Serves 3-4

1 tablespoons rice bran or other neutral oil
1 red onion, sliced into half moons
200g seasoned firm tofu, sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 carrot, julienned
1 red capsicum (pepper), julienned
2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
3 handfuls baby spinach, roughly chopped
440g ready to eat hokkien noodles

2 tablespoons soy sauce, or more, to taste
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha, or more, to taste

Stir together the ingredients to make the sauce.  Fry red onion in 1-2 teaspoons of oil for a few minutes over medium high heat.  Add tofu and fry for a few additional minutes.  Add garlic, mushrooms, red capsicum and carrot.  Cook over medium high for 4-5 minutes or until softened (and add another teaspoon or so of oil if needed).  Stir the spinach in for a minute or two until starting to wilt.  Add noodles and sauce.  Stir for about a minute.  We left ours for 5 minutes before serving.

Variations: heaps of other vegies could be used such as green peas, snow peas, bok choy, edamame, corn, asparagus and spring onions.

On the stereo:
Love and It's Opposite: Tracy Thorn

Sunday 29 May 2016

Smith & Deli: a vegan sandwich bar in Fitzroy

Being a vegetarian, it is so depressing to go to a sandwich shop and find all I can choose is one dull cheese sandwich while other more interesting options are full of meat. So when Smith and Deli opened last year with its overwhelming list of vegan sandwiches I was so excited.  I had been to the sister restaurant Smith and Daughters but I don't often get out to restaurants for meals.  Dropping by a deli for a sandwich is far more suited to my lifestyle.  I would have written about it earlier but kept having to try more sandwiches.

I first visited Smith and Deli on 17 June last year on its second day of trading.  The queues were long and slow.  It helped that I had a friend with me and we had much to catch up on as we chatted.  These days the queues are shorted but the place is constantly busy when I visit.  It is not a place to rush in and out.  Just recently I had a 15 minute car park and it took me 20 minutes until I was able to rush out with my sandwich to beat Fitzroy's ever-vigilant parking officers (phew)!

Mostly I don't mind waiting.  The exception is when I have taken Sylvia who gets impatient.  Often I have dropped in by myself.  The design of the place is meticulous.  Lovely institutional green with retro black and white sign.  Bright light streaming in the windows.  Lots of interesting cakes to peruse.  First of all I must check out the long list of sandwiches.  Twenty four sandwiches plus some brunch options.  It is always a tyranny of choice.

Once I have ordered I like to look around the groceries and fridge/freezer items.  Dips, drinks, faux meat, ice creams, beans, crisps, chocolate, legumes, tinned chestnuts, hot sauces.  A mish-mash of items that are easily found in a supermarket and items that I have only seen on American blogs before.  If I lived in Fitzroy it would be a great little store to drop in for that odd grocery item I needed.  But I don't.  So I usually purchase specialty items that fascinate me.  Apple Sage Field Roast Sausages, Vegannaise, Smoked Cola.

Yes it is always interesting to stand around at Smith and Deli.  Perhaps one of my fondest memories was waiting for a sandwich to be made when suddenly one of the staff announces with great excitement that ginger beer doughnuts will be hot out of the oven in 10 minutes and samples are available now.  She strides around the waiting customers like a god offering a bowl of fried balls.  Of course I have to order these doughnuts.  I've tried the s'mores doughnuts and the doughnuts with corn cream, popcorn and caramel sauce and sticky buns but nothing has been as amazing as those warm ginger beer doughnuts in the park on a Spring day.

However I don't go to Smith and Deli for sweet food.  For me it is all about the sandwiches.  I wish they had seats where I could sit and eat but the reality is that often I am racing somewhere else and am happy to just grab and eat on the run.  Here is a rundown of the sandwiches I have eaten:

The Wiggum (bbq grilled tofu, maple bbq sauce, slaw, pickles, chipotle aioli on sourdough bread.):

It is not a combination that would usually tempt me but the bbq grilled tofu sounded really good.  And it was really excellent.  The tofu was well cooked to give it a nice chewiness and it worked with a generous amount of coleslaw, pickles and the aioli which was not as spicy as I feared.  This would probably be my favourite sandwich to date.

Home Alone (turkey, stuffing, roasted brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce, mashed potato and gravy on a roll):

This came highly recommended and I really liked it but not as much as others.  I love a roast dinner and so it appealed but it is an American roast dinner in a bun, not an Aussie one.  Mashed potato and gravy has always seemed an odd combination to me.  The turkey wasn't as terribly meaty as I had feared and I loved the sprouts but could have had more.

Buffalo the Vampire Slayer (buffalo tofu, ranch dressing, shredded iceberg, carrot, red onion and celery in a roll):

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this one.  It was buffalo tofu that I thought would be too spicy and salad which I thought would be too dull.  But they worked brilliantly together.  I took it home and ate it in installments because it was spicy and I was not that hungry.  The buffalo flavours were great and made the salad taste more interesting while the crisp fresh salad worked well with the spiciness.  I would definitely eat this again but not if I was trying to impress anyone as I found the sauce made the sandwich quite messy.

Maury Ballstein (meatballs in napoli sauce with fresh basil pesto, rocket and mozzarella all toasted on a roll)

I confess I choked on a crumb as I was about to eat this in a park and my friend seconded the juice of nearby strangers so by the time I ate this the cheese had cooled and my appetite was somewhat diminished.  I liked it.  The tomato sauce was rich and pleasing but the cheese was a cold (not Smith and Deli's fault) and the meatballs were a bit fragile.  One of my good meat memories is the meatballs my mum made.  The Maury Ballstein meatballs were lovely but did not resemble my memory of meatballs.

Little Havana (A traditional pressed Cuban ham, roast turkey, mozzarella, pickles, cheddar and a mojo dressing)

I really enjoyed this sandwich.  It wasn't my sort of sandwich - too much cheese and meat for my tastes and not enough vegies.  However it was really good with a vivid green spicy, herby mojo sauce.  And I loved the way it was toasted until the panini was crisp on the outside and the cheese was melty on the inside.  I would probably not order it again (given the huge sandwich menu) but I would highly recommend it to others looking for this sort of sandwich. 

Foghorn Legless (chicken schnitzel, bacon, lettuce, tomato, ranch and celery salt)

I loved that this sandwich used tempeh for the crumbed chicken schnitzel.  One of the few meat sandwiches I really loved before going vegetarian was the schitzel sandwich.  I was excited to try this but disappointed that the schnitzel was served cold not hot because I remember it otherwise.  I ate half the sandwich cold.  The other half I took home where I put the schnitzel, the bacon and the sandwich on the frypan with some added cheese.  It was such a good sandwich.

Egg McMartinez (egg, bacon, cheddar on an english muffin with your choice of sauce)

It took me a while to get to Smith and Deli early enough to try the Egg McMartinez.  It is really for the morning brigade and often gets sold out.  I was curious about it, never having had an Egg McMuffin. When I finally managed to order one, it was a case of too much anticipation and not enough experience of eating eggs.  The fillings were the bacon, a tofu-style patty, a pasty yellow moosh and some cheese.  Was it meant to be the egg white and egg yolk separately represented in the muffin?  I wish I could try it a few more times to work it out.  I liked it but didn't love it enough to have it rather than other sandwiches.

There are also pies, soups and salads.  Of these I have only had a sausage roll which I loved.  Great flaky pastry and a lovely filling that was rich and meaty.  If there wasn't the amazing range of sandwiches I would be much more inclined to try these.

These sandwiches are so amazing.  I still get all unsure about what to order when I do make it to Smith and Deli.  After many visits there are still heaps of sandwiches I want to try.  I am a bit wary of the (mock) meatiness of a lot of them and the spice factor, but those that I have tried have been magnificent.  The bread is excellent, the fillings are generous and the flavours are complex in a really thoughtful way.  Even the names are fun and compelling.  Here is the opportunity to try all those meat sandwiches I never had.  Yet the sandwiches are also so good that they are far better than many regular meat and cheese sandwiches.  When I took my friend who doesn't eat out at vegan establishments, she casually commented on the place sneaking in meat for the non-vegans.  It is often that believable!

So there you have it!  An amazing sandwich bar with so many sandwiches that every visit finds me cursing the tyranny of choice and thanking my lucky stars to have a place like this over my side of the city.  The sandwiches and the rest of the food are too expensive to be everyday (about $15 a sandwich) but are of such great quality that I don't resent paying a little more.  I am more concerned about finding my next opportunity to visit and what sandwich to try next.

I am not the only one to be excited by Smith and Deli. It has been written about by many others including Broadsheet, Veganopoulous and Where's the Beef, all of which reviews alerted me to my need to try this place when I first heard of it last year.  The most comprehensive reviews that I know of have been written by Rosalie of Quinces and Kale who wrote about a Smith and Deli sandwich a day for 29 days in September last year.  While I don't agree with her on everything (unlike her, I like tempeh and pineapple), I do find this a great resource.

Smith and Deli
11 Moor Street, Fitzroy
03) 9042 4117
Open: Tuesday - Saturday 7am-8pm

Smith and Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday 27 May 2016

No Bake Peppermint Patty Slice

"It may have been paradise for Jack and Jacqueline..."  Do you recognise the song?  It is the Big Nosed Bard from Barking, Billy Bragg.  Yesterday I sat at the kitchen table cracking walnuts for a third version of this Peppermint Patty Slice and this brilliant song, The Great Leap Forward, played on the radio.  For a moment I was lost in a pleasant nostalgic haze of memories of my school friend's walnut tree and cooking to music in student households.  And I was making a slice that had some of the key elements of favourite childhood treats - chocolate, mint and coconut!  Yes, I think it may have been paradise!

The slice did not start off as paradise.  I was having a distracted day when I just followed the recipe.  I didn't mean to.  I just forgot I was going to put some extra coconut in.  The mixture was so dry I took it out of the tin and kneaded some extra milk in.  There are a lot of oats in this mixture so maybe my oats were less absorbent than the ones in the Oh She Glows recipe. 

I made the slice again aiming to use less than the 2 cups of oats.  But I got confused and added 3/4 cup of oat flour rather than 1 and 3/4 cups of oat flour.  So I added lots of coconut.  In addition my little food processor attachment to my blender died and I substituted 90% chocolate when I ran out of cocoa.  It was not the sort of cooking to be repeated.

I really liked this second version.  In fact it reminded me of grubs that I made regularly with condensed milk.  It was very soft and coconutty without the firm oaty texture I first achieved.  We took it to a family where Sylvia had a playdate while I went to bookclub.  They liked it very much.  Sylvia, however preferred the first and firmer incarnation of the slice.

Then it became very important that I make it again.  You see, we arrived at school one morning this week and Sylvia's friends were agog with important news.  The teacher who taught them in in Prep (two years ago) had announced she is leaving the school for another job.  Sylvia and her friends started planning farewell presents.  She had a great idea that we could give some of the slice that I had planned to make again.

I made the slice while Sylvia was at school and put the chocolate mint topping on when she got home.  While we were about to cut up the slice, an elderly neighbour visited because he had lost his mobile phone.  I went to his house to ring the number to help locate the phone.  Which was on his kitchen bench, plugged into the charger!  When I returned Sylvia had set up house with rugs under the kitchen table and eaten rather a lot of slice.  The neighbour had kept me talking so long that she had tired of waiting and stated to watch television.  Oh dear!

Sylvia had one more request.  I really loved the look of the flaked coconut on the slice which was on the photos I first admired in Oh She Glows.  This was what made me think there should be some coconut in the slice to replace just a little of the oats.  Sylvia asked if I could sprinkle desiccated coconut on top instead.  Excellent idea!

So I had made this slice three times in the last couple of weeks.  Every time we have gobbled it up eagerly.  It is a really satisfying (and slightly moreish)  slice packed with nuts and oats that are quite delicious when flavoured with cocoa and maple syrup.  The peppermint flavouring is subtle.  E is not a fan of choc-mint but he enjoyed the slice. 

I swithered over whether I should rename the slice.  I am not really sure if I have ever tasted a peppermint pattie.  According to the web, I don't think this slice is very similar.  It is more energy bar than "candy".  But I like the name because it reminds me of Peppermint Patty in the Peanuts comics.

As we packaged the slice with ribbons and labels, Sylvia was less interested in a name.  She just made sure I wrote out a list of ingredients.  I guess kids these days refuse to be fooled by misleading names but they are very interested in what is in food, given all the food allergies.  With everything in order, Sylvia set off for school this morning with a little package of slice along with a card and some loom bands to farewell a favourite teacher. 

I am sending this slice over to Choclette at Tin and Thyme for We Should Cocoa, one of my favourite events where bloggers share chocolate recipes.  This month the theme is chocolate and oats.

More peppermint recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Candy cane brownies
Chocolate peppermint layered fudge (gf, v)
Chocolates with healthy peppermint filling (gf, v)
Chocolates with peppermint filling (gf, v) 
Kale cheesecake surprise choc mint cupcakes (v)
Rice krispie slice with peppermint candy canes (gf, v)  
Spicy chai tea (gf, v)

No bake peppermint patty slice
Adapted from Oh She Glows

1 3/4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup walnuts
5 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt, or to taste
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
5 tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tbsp soy milk
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
75g chopped dark chocolate

75g dark chocolate
1 tsp neutral oil, such as rice bran
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
Coconut, for sprinkling (optional)

Process oats into flour.  Coarsely grind the nuts and mix in the cocoa salt and brown sugar.  Mix in maple syrup and milk, then coconut and chocolate.  Finally mix in the oat flour.  (I do the oats and the nuts separately in my high power blender and mix everything else by hand.  Ange from Oh She Glows does the oats in a blender and the rest in a food processor.)  Press mixture evenly into a lined 20cm square tin.  Set aside.

Made the topping by melting the chocolate, oil and peppermint extract together.  (I do this in the microwave for about 1 minute.)  Spread over the slice mixture.  Scatter with coconut.  Place in freezer or fridge for a short while to set chocolate.  Cut into bars or squares.  Keeps in an airtight container at room temperature for at least a few days.

On the Stereo:
Step right up: a musical journey compiled and sequenced especially for MOJO by Tom Waits

Thursday 26 May 2016

Caramel popcorn with chocolate and cranberries

Sylvia's school is brilliant at helping the kids with Mother's Day presents.  This year I helped for a bit with the stall for the kids to buy lots of beautiful and reasonably priced (nothing over $5) crafted presents. Kudos to all the mums who make wonderful gifts.  Some of the ideas are briliantly simple.  Such as the popcorn kernels and instructions for a movie night.  Instead of movie night we had a Eurovision night with some caramel popcorn covered with chocolate and mixed with cranberries.

Back to the Mothers Day gifts.  As well as popcorn I received a handerkerchief, a change purse and a beaded bracelet.  Sylvia also made a card in class with a message in code in it.  She had made up the code and included it in the card so I could break it.  Such a fun idea!

And to continue the fun, I have some random moments to share:

A few weeks back we went to see a circus performance because one of Sylvia's friends was in it.  As you can see from the above photo, the performers were talented and amazing to watch.  However perhaps the most entertaining moment was driving into the carpark when Sylvia looked at the disabled parking spots and asked about the "parking for the endangered".

I haven't been giving much attention to blogging this week thanks to an enthralling book a friend lent me.  Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty had me racing to find out not the murderer but the murdered.  It was a fun and intelligent read about school yard politics, friendships, relationships and parenting that centred around three mothers' experience of their kids starting school.

We recently had a hard rubbish collection.  I put out an old beach umbrella that we used in the backyard years ago and then stored in the shed until the moths attacked it.  When we were clearing it out on a warm Autumn day, Sylvia and a friend claimed the umbrella and put it over some kitchen chairs in the front yard to make a roof for their house.  Then they sat there reading a cookbook together! Later I put the umbrella back into the hard rubbish to make sure it didn't hang around for another year.  It was huge!

It is National Sorry Day today.  A day to remember the Stolen Generations of children that were taken from their Aboriginal families and denied their culture as they grew up in white families.  The policy of forced removal has done great damage to our nation's Indigenous culture and we have much to be sorry for.  It is not enough to be sorry.  Hence the forthcoming week is Reconciliation Week to celebrate Aboriginal culture.  I recommend to you an ABC article by Bruce Pascoe about teaching Australian Indigenous languages.  He suggesting that school children learn about local Indigenous cultures by identifying and discussing Indigenous place names. (Disclaimer: I was asked for permission to use one of my blog photos on the page but I was not required to talk up the article.)

This was the first year that Sylvia watched Eurovision song content.  She and E lapped it up over the weekend, watching both the semi finals and the grand final.  I dipped in and out.  While the final was on, I spent more time in the kitchen making this popcorn.  I found a maple syrup caramel recipe for popcorn that I then smothered in chocolate and cranberries.

I halved the recipe and thought the caramel perhaps needed a little less time when in smaller quantities.  I also learnt the hard way that the roasting pan should be covered in baking paper and that the chocolate is better the next day when properly set.  It tastes better and keeps a small child far cleaner than when the chocolate is warm and melty.

I think the caramel sauce by itself would be great on the popcorn but the chocolate takes it up to another level that is fitting for Eurovision's over-the-top glitz and glamour.  All it needed was a bit of gold salt or sugar sprinkled over it.  I must remember that next year!

More caramel recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Caramel apple trifle
Caramel cake  
Caramel chocolate cheesecakes 
Caramel chocolate chunk muffins (v)
Caramel popcorn (healthier) (gf, v)
Caramel popcorn (salted) (gf, v)
Chocolate caramel slice

Chocolate caramel popcorn
Partly adapted from Food Blogga

1/4 cup popcorn kernels
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp coconut sugar
1 tbsp butter or margarine
1/4 tsp salt (or more?)
1/4 tsp mixed spice (or more?)
1/4-1/2 cup dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup cranberries

Cook popcorn.  (I do this in a paper bag - twisted at the top - in the microwave for about 2 minutes or until the popcorn is not popping so frequently.)  Make sure you sort out any unpopped kernels.  Place in a large roasting dish lined with baking paper.

Make caramel by placing maple syrup, sugar, butter and salt in a small saucepan.  Melt and bring to the boil.  Boil for 1 minute.  Add spice and simmer for about 2 minutes.  Cool for 2 to 3 minutes.

Pour caramel sauce into the popcorn and mix well with a spoon.  (Do not touch with fingers as it will burn.)  Bake for 10 minutes at 170 C.

One out of the oven, stir through the chocolate and cranberries.  Cool completely, preferably overnight.  Can be kept in an airtight container for at least a few days

On the Stereo: 
OP8: featuring Lisa Germano: Slush

Monday 23 May 2016

Pasta with Pumpkin, Omelette and Parmesan (Vegan)

"What will I make for dinner?" I asked Sylvia as I pottered about the kitchen after her bath.  I try to be organised enough to know what I will cook of an evening but it doesn't always happen.  It is pretty useless to ask a 7 year old who turns her nose up at so much that I cook.  Yet there is nothing wrong with a bit of democracy.

While I gathered up bits and pieces for dinner she watched news headlines on ABC3 that are aimed at kids.  We try not to have the news on in our house while Sylvia is around, though occasionally she hears it on the radio.  She is fascinated by it.  If only like Noni Hazelhurst suggested, it did not paint the world as such a violence, sad, black place.  And don't get me started on politics and all the inadequacies of our politicians.

So I was surprised as Sylvia watched her kids news that she said accusingly that I had not told her there was an election on.  (As an aside, our MP of 20 years is retiring and it is exciting that our area might actually have a proper contest in the forthcoming federal election next month)  Not only did she tell me that she loves elections but she asked if she could help me vote. 

Sadly Sylvia did not get to vote on dinner.  Her suggestions included pizza and sausages.  She highly approved of the pasta but was a bit reluctant about eating the pumpkin and spinach on the side.  Not too reluctant, I was relieved to observe.  E and I really enjoyed this dinner made from odd bits and pieces that needed using.  It was a bit easier to make, given I had leftover omelette and the pumpkin was put on to roast earlier.

Today is a significant day in the preparations for the federal election.  It was the closing date to enrol to vote.  For those unfamiliar with the Australian political system, voting is compulsory.  So as Sylvia expressed her enthusiasm for the election, I was hopeful that in the not too distant future, she will be just as enthusiastic about enrolling to vote when she turns 18.

I am sending this to Healthy Vegan Fridays with congratulations to Kimmy for reaching the 100th week, Meatless Mondays at Tinned Tomatoes where Jac had posted some interesting posts for UK National Vegetarian Week last week, and Pasta Please.  I am delighted Jac at Tinned Tomatoes is now running Pasta Please with a new co-host, Chris at Thinly Spread, who is hosting this month.  For long time bloggers, you might recognise this event as the one that grew out of Presto Pasta Nights that Ruth at Once Upon a Feast held years ago.

More spaghetti recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Avocado pasta (v)
Cheesy peas pasta (v)
One pot pasta with chickpeas and zucchini (v)  
Soy bombs and tomato sauce on top of spaghetti (v)
Spaghetti pie (v)
Spaghetti with silverbeet and cauliflower grematola (v)

Pasta with Pumpkin, Omelette and Parmesan (Vegan)
An original recipe from Green Gourmet Giraffe
Serves 2

Spaghetti for 2 people (measured on a spaghetti measurer), cooked
1/2 butternut pumpkin, peeled, trimmed, cubed and roasted
1 onion, finely sliced and fried til well cooked
1/3 batch of leftover vegan omelette (see recipe below), diced
drizzle of olive oil, optional
squeeze of lemon juice, optional
vegan parmesan (see recipe below)
2 good handfuls of spinach, chopped, to serve

While roasting pumpkin think about what to do, fry up onions and while they are slowly cooking, cook the spaghetti.  Push cooked onions to one side and heat up omelette and pumpkin on frypan.  (NB the omelette works best if it has cooled first so it is easy to cut.)  Mix omelette and vegies together.  Serve the spaghetti in bowl with a drizzle of oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Serve omelette-vegie mixture alongside it and lots of chopped spinach.  Scatter with a generous spoonful or two of parmesan.

Tofu besan omelet
From Green Gourmet Giraffe

300g silken tofu, drained
6 tablespoons besan (chickpea flour)
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon mirin
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion granules
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch black salt
1-2 tsp canola oil, for frying

Blend tofu, olive oil and mirin in tall large jug using a hand held blender.  Heat frypan and swirl around the canola oil.  Pour omelette into frypan and cook 10 minutes on low heat, then a further 10 minutes with a lid on frypan.  Use an eggflip or spatula to check it does not stick to frypan and then flip onto a large plate.

Vegan parmesan cheese
From Green Gourmet Giraffe, slightly adapted from Minimalist Vegan

1/2 cup cashews
2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 tsp salt flakes
1/8 tsp garlic powder

Blend in high power blender until ingredients are blitzed to a powder.

On the Stereo:
The Best of the Pogues

Friday 20 May 2016

Homity Pie (potato, onion and cheese pie)

When I landed in London for the first time 20 years ago, I remember the joy of the wholesome vegetarian meals offered at Cranks Covent Garden restaurant.  I can only remember eating the sausage rolls there but I wanted to eat it all.  As a vegetarian, it was a wonderful place to discover.  It still pains me to think that this Covent Garden shop is no longer there, even if I too have not been in London for a long time.

Homity pie is one of those classic old-school 1970s vegetarian recipes I have always meant to try.  Choclette mentioned it in her memories of Cranks recently.  Suddenly I had a hankering.  And there were potatoes needing to be used.  Plus one last lonely egg and some gouda cheese in the fridge.

Lately life has been busy and I haven't been cooking or cleaning as much as I would like.  If I have spare time it is one or the other.  Usually cooking takes priority.  So I was pleased when baking these pies (and a cake) that a visiting neighbour commented on how cosy the house was.  It made me think perhaps I can get away with a bit more mess if the house has the homely smells of cooking.

I kept the pies simple so they might appeal to Sylvia.  No seeds or smoked paprika or herbs.   Sylvia has not been terribly adventurous in her eating with all the upheaval earlier this year.  But as things calm down, I am pushing her to try new foods a bit more.  Firstly was a homity pie.  Just a few mouthfuls.  She picked it apart until there was a mess on her plate and not much eaten.  She had a meltdown over the onion.  I was tempted to finish her dinner there and then.  But I breathed deeply and took her to her room to calm.  When she came back she ate most of half a small pie.  It did help having cake for dessert!  She has also eaten small amounts of roast pumpkin and kale salad this week!

I used vegan margarine but happened to have an egg to use for the shortcrust pastry.  However as I don't always have eggs in the house I had a look for an egg-free alternative.  The best vegan shortcrust pastry I found on my blog was this one but I think I would just try the one below with 3 tablespoons aquafaba instead of the egg.  In fact if you did this and used biocheese or daiya instead of gouda, you could easily veganise this recipe.

I don't make a lot of pastry and tarts.  So it was the first time I used some cute heart shaped tart tins I bought last year.  I was also able to use some smaller tins that had belonged to my grandmother.  The pies were a bit small for one serve with a kale salad but two seemed a lot.  Probably another salad would have done the trick.  That would be in the spirit of Cranks. 

Update: Quite a few people in the comments said they had not heard of or had Homity Pie.  I checked Wikipedia where it says that Cranks actually popularised the pie.

I am sending these pies to Meat Free Mondays, FoodYearLinkUp (for UK National Vegetarian Week which is this week) and Treat Petite (picnic food).

More Savoury Pies on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Eccles cakes with leeks, spinach and blue cheese (v)
Festive Mushroom Pie  
Samosa Pie (v)
Spaghetti pie (v)
Spinach and ricotta pie with filo roses
Stargazy Pie (v)
Will's farmhouse (mini) pies

Homity Pie 
Adapted from Cranks and The Hairy Bikers
Serves 4-8

125g/4oz plain flour, plus extra for rolling
125g/4oz wholemeal flour
150g/5oz butter
1 free-range egg, beaten

400g potatoes (about 4-5 small), chopped
3 tbsp oil
450g onions (about 6 small), chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
100g cheese, grated (I used gouda)
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp ground pepper, or to taste

Make pastry.  Rub butter into flours and then mix in egg.  This is so much easier in the food processor.  Knead briefly to form a round, wrap in clingfilm and refridgerate for about 30 minutes.

Make the filling.  Boil the potatoes for about 15 minutes or until cooked.  Gently fry the onions in oil for about 30 minutes until quite soft.  Stir in garlic and remove from heat.  Mix with potatoes, half the cheese, salt and pepper.  Don't worry if some potatoes collapse but they don't need to be mashed.  Check and adjust seasonings.  Set aside to cool while lining the tins with pastry.

Assemble pies.   I used 8 pie dishes and divided the dough among them.  Then I pushed it into the tins.  (I greased four of the old tins but did not grease the four larger non stick tins.)  Divide the filling among the tin and sprinkle with remaining grated cheese.  Bake at 220 C for 20 minutes.  Eat hot, warm or room temperature.

On the stereo:
In the Wee Small Hours: Frank Sinatra

Thursday 19 May 2016

Very Good Falafel by Shuki and Louisa: Brunswick cafe

I have always enjoyed the dips (such as these) from Shuki and Louisa at farmers markets.  So when I heard they were opening a new cafe in Brunswick I was excited.  I met Faye from Veganopoulous blog there at 11.30am on the day the cafe opened.  It was still fairly quiet and we were able to watch the place filling up for lunch as we ate.

When we ordered our falafel and salad plates, the names of the salads had not been chalked up on the blackboard yet.  (After all the place had only opened at 11am!)  They all looked so beautiful that I was happy to order something of each.  Faye ordered a vegan platter which came with everything except the eggplant salad.

While we waited, Shuki gave us a falafel to snack on.  Yes they are friendly folk as well as excellent cooks.  I was super impressed with the falafel.  Prior to this I would have claimed that the best local falafels were at Half Moon Cafe.  Shuki's were really really good.  So light and crisp with a lovely green colour inside.  I can see why their University of Melbourne market stall falafels in pitas are popular.  You can also buy falafel in pita bread at the cafe.

Opening another Middle Eastern cafe on Sydney Road seems like take coals to Newcastle.  You might ask why pay $13 for a salad plate (and I think more for the falafel) for lunch when you can get much cheaper Middle Eastern food in other cafes.  I would counter that this cafe is really beautifully designed and offers a very different sort of meal that is great value for money.  We were really full by the end of the meal.

I really loved the salad and falafel with a drizzle of tahini sauce.  We also shared a pita bread which was soft and pillowy.  I am not sure which salad I liked best but I can tell you that they were brilliant together.  The fried potatoes and the wilted greens.  The starchy comforts of the freekah and the fresh aniseed flavours of the raw fennel.  I've been told that the salads change regularly.  I hope the desserts don't change too much as I would love to go back and try the tahini halva and walnut brownies.

For lots of great photos of the cafe, check out Faye's review at Veganopoulous.

Update July 2016: Went again yesterday and had another salad plate with more beautiful food (forgot to take note of salads as chatting too much)!  And I can confirm that the halva and walnut brownies were really good.  Loved the chunks of halva in them.

Very Good Falafel
629 Sydney Road, Brunswick

Very Good Falafel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday 16 May 2016

Only-kale-can-save-us-now salad

When I started blogging 9 years ago I had never heard of kale.  Now you only have to wander down to your local supermarket to find big bunches of the stuff.  And if you want to know how to serve it, you don't have to look hard for recipes.  It is often found in our kitchen.  Even so, it has taken me a long time to find a raw kale salad to really love. 

The recipe was found in the Vegan Life Magazine that I bought on holiday.  It was so simple it was worth a try once.  I had tried a few raw kale salads previously and didn't get the kale adoration.  This salad - with the tongue in cheek title "Only kale can save us now salad" started as being not quite right.  The tahini and soy sauce was a bit sharp and salty for me.  Then I added a spoonful of maple syrup.  And suddenly it was wondrous.

I have now made it four times recently and love it.  It is a great side dish in so many meals or just great to eat with a sandwich at lunchtime.  The only time I wasn't quite so keen on it was when I ran out of maple syrup and used agave syrup instead.  More amazingly, E loves it.  He was heard to say he wished there was more of the kale salad the other night.  This is the same man who once said Kale rhyme with Epic Fail.

So finally I have a kale salad that I am really excited about.  I lick my fingers when I have massaged the dressing into the kale.  I am happy to eat a bowl of it without any accompaniments.  Washing and ripping up the kale takes a little bit of time.  Not long.  And it is worthwhile to stop and make a dressing that makes it so easy to include that little bit more greenery on my plate.

I am sharing this delightful salad with Eat Your Greens, Healthy Vegan Fridays, Gluten Free Fridays and No Croutons Required.

More kale recipes from Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Kale cake (v)
Kale, cheese and mole quesadillas (v)
Kale scones (v) 
Potato and kale enchiladas (gf, v)
Pumpkin and kale soup with tempeh crumbles (gf, v)
Tahini lime rice with kale and cashews (gf, v)
'Teriyaki' tofu with brown rice and kale (gf, v) 
Tomato and kale soup with pistachios (gf, v) 

Only-kale-can-save-us-now salad
Adapted from Eat Like You Give a Damn by by Michelle Schwegmann and Josh Hooten via Vegan Life Magazine
Serves 2-4

6-7 large leaves of curly kale (about half a bunch)

1 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 tablespoon linseed meal (flaxmeal)
1 teaspoons onion granules
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tbsp water, if needed

2 tablespoons hemp seeds (optional)

Firstly tear kale leaves off the stalk and rip up into small pieces.  Wash and dry.  (A salad spinner would be great but if you don't have one like me just wrap in tea towel and squeeze water out.)

In a large mixing or salad bowl, make dressing by mixing ingredients.  It should be a pouring consistency.  Add a spoonful or two of water if too thick.

Tip leaves into the mixing bowl with the dressing.  Use your hands to massage the dressing into the kale.  You want to help the kale wilt a little, spread the dressing throughout the leaves and end up with really messy hands. 

Sprinkle with seeds to serve, if desired.  Salad can be kept in the fridge for a day or two.

On the Stereo:
Waxing Gibbous: Malcolm Middleton

Saturday 14 May 2016

Malteser and Milo Mudcake

After E's birthday we had a celebration in Geelong with my family.  I had decided to make a malty cake that had both Milo (Australia's chocolate malt powder) and Maltesers (malty balls encased in chocolate). It was good if you didn't eat it all at once.  I don't mean that I expect any individual would eat the whole cake.  I mean that its parts were greater than its sum or that the dark chocolate cake and ganache tasted much better without the sweet milk chocolate Maltesers and Chocolate Sticks.

Sigh!  You live and learn.  While I had thought the dark and milk chocolates would be fine together they just brought out the worst of each other - the bitterness of the dark and the toothaching sweetness of the milk. Next time I would sweeten the cake and ganache more with either sweeter chocolate or more sugar.  And I think the Milo taste might be brought out more with some sweetness.  I would also let the ganache have more time to cool so I could spread it on thicker.

I also baked the cake in a smaller tin in an effort to try and make it high enough for the chocolate sticks.  It contributed to this cake being really really soft and pudding-like.  It wasn't a bad thing.  Unless you wanted a nice neat slice. I did manage to get around the chocolate sticks being too tall despite my best efforts.  I just chopped them to size with my large chef's knife.  At least the cake looked pretty.

Sylvia and I had fun putting the maltesers on wire.  I took the cake in the car to Geelong in the boot, a little worried at how my new(ish) cake stand would go in the journey.  The cake arrived at my parents place safe and sound with bobbing Maltesers intact.

My mum had made a superb lunch with bread and dips, amazing battered and deep fried tofu (which Sylvia loved), a deconstructed green salad and a delicious rice and cauliflower salad.  Then we had a spread of desserts: jelly slice, pavlova with peppermint crisp, sponge cake, brownie, cheesecake and the Malteser and Milo Cake. 

The cake was based on a reliable mud cake recipe that I have made and adapted many time for special birthday cakes.  E says this is the sort of cake I always make and I agree.  Hence I am sending it to JibberJabber for the Love cake challenge in May which focuses on Signature Bakes.

More rich chocolate cakes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Coconut and chocolate chunk cake (v)
Jill Dupleix's flourless chocolate cake (gf)
Melt and mix chocolate chunk mud cake
Nigella's Nutella cake (gf)
Walnut fudge cake
White chocolate mudcake

You can also find some amazing cakes at this article on 10 Spring Cakes that Will Make You Smile by Jacqueline Meldrum in the Readers Digest.

Malteser and Milo Mud Cake
(adapted from the Women’s Weekly Cakes and Slices Cookbook)

250g butter, chopped
150g dark chocolate, chopped*
1 cup hot water
1 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cocoa
1/2 cup milo
1/3 cup milk
1 13/4 cups plain flour*
scant 1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
2 eggs

Adapted from Baking with Gab

110g dark chocolate*
40g butter
2 tbsp hot water
1/3 cup milo

Chocolate fingers

Grease and line 22 cm round cake tin. Preheat oven to 160 C.

Combine butter, chocolate, water, sugar, cocoa and milo in a large bowl and microwave til melted (or melt on stovetop). The chocolate might seem a bit flecky but that is fine.  Add milk, flour, baking powder and salt,  It might have some small flour lumps but they seem to be ok once baked.  Now stir eggs in well until you have a glossy but quite thin batter.  Pour into prepared cake tin.

Bake 1 1/4 hours. The cake should be slightly gooey but it doesn't hurt to test with a skewer to chekc it is mostly done.  Sit at least 10 minutes before turning out (it can cool in the tin if you like).

To make frosting melt all ingredients together and leave to cool until it has thickened enough to spread.  This can take at least a few hours in the fridge.  Spread over cake and decorate with chocolate fingers around the edge and Maltesers on top.

If you have craft wires that you have never managed to find use for, feel free to put Malteserts on top but if you have to cut them to size like me, just watch out for anyone eating Maltesers straight off the wire and prevent any health and safety issues.

NOTES: I used 70% chocolate for the cake and the frosting.  This made for quite a bitter cake and I liked it when served without the maltesers and chocolate fingers.  However it did not contrast successfully with the maltesers and chocolate fingers so if I was to combine these again I would use either some milk chocolate or a sweeter dark chocolate or I would add more sugar.  I used Bob's Red Mill gluten free flour instead of regular wheat flour.  I had some frosting leftover - if I had cooled it longer I would have got more on the cake.

On the Stereo:
L'essentiel Sylvie Varten: Comme un garcon - qu'est ce que fait pleurer les blondes