Monday 27 February 2017

Boot Factory, Coburg cafe

Recently, I have had a few visits to the Boot Factory in the old Pentridge prison site in Coburg.  It does some nice vegetarian dishes and excellent chips.  However its charm lies in the way the old prison boot factory has been transformed into a quirky and welcoming space with an eclectic mix of modern art and retro touches. 

Our first visit was on a Saturday morning which we decided to have brunch at the Boot Factory after picking up Sylvia from a sleepover.  She had been up late and was quite grumpy.  But she enjoyed her kids pancake with ice cream and maple syrup.  She also had a milkshake in a cute blue bottle.

I was tempted by the specials board.  I could not pass up the chance to have waffles with roasted peaches and candied walnuts.  I had overlooked the cream on the menu and wished I had asked for the cream to be on the side.  Yet I still enjoyed this even though I could have had more peaches and walnuts and less of the cream.  I think E had scrambled eggs on toast and liked them.

I have managed to take a couple of photos of the interior with no people in it.  This was no easy feat as the Boot Factory is a large space but has been quite busy both on weekends and week days when I have visited.  I like the mismatched retro chairs, the distressed brick walls and the comfy lounge chairs.  The space is large but is broken up so it feels cosy rather than like a barn.

The second visit was with Sylvia's kinder friend Amelia.  Her mum was chilled to think of this having once being part of a prison.  The building dates back to the 1850s.  Well behaved prisoners at Pentridge made shoes and boots here for the prison guards.  A few little touches such as the keys and some painted boot remind us of this history.  I sometimes wonder what Coburg would be like if the prison was still open.  It is now a huge area of new housing with more planned.

I was more fascinated with this mobile of blown glass and twigs that hung from the ceiling.  It is quite striking.  I wish had been able to take a better photo but instead have a quick snap between catching up with friends.  At least I have captured the large windows below that fill the space with light.  There is also a large table for big groups at one end that I did not manage to photograph.

Sylvia and Amelia both ordered the pancakes with ice cream and maple syrup.  They also had milkshakes.  Sylvia was most displeased that her milkshake came in a plastic cup because she had been rather taken with the cute blue bottle.  I checked and was told that they had just run out.  Amelia's mum had the fruit toast with gingerbread butter.  She also had the berry and banana smoothie which looked really good.

I had the Salad of Pearl Couscous on this occasion and really enjoyed it.  The menu describes it as also having "honey roasted pumpkin, heirloom tomatoes, grapes, feta, pomegranate, spinach and cranberries".  There was a note that they had a dairy free option but when I asked I was told this meant it could be served without the feta.  It was a delicious and light dish full of vegies and flavour.

The kids were a bit stir crazy once they had eaten so they ran outside while we paid at the counter.  As I mentioned above, it is a large space and I had not noticed this stack of biscuit tines, milk tins and other tea caddies that look like they are holding up the building!  I love these sorts of old tins but often wonder what you can do with them.

Most recently I visited with my mum for lunch during the week.  I had been tossing up between the burger and the salad on my previous visit.  So it was good to have a chance to taste the sweet potato burger with avocado, grilled haloumi, bitter greens, tahini yoghurt served with beer battered chips and lemon aioli.  This was really filling but I really loved it.  In particular, I must sing the praises of the crispy fries.  They were so good but I was so full I could not finish them.

I was talking to a friend who said that she was not so interested in the food at the Boot Factory.  It does not have the wow factor of the Glass Den, though the ambiance is definitely impressive.  I am sure I will be back there but less so because all the savoury breakfast dishes have egg in them (except the salmon one).  There is not much for vegans.  On the plus side, I like that there are kids meals and milkshakes.  There is also a new menu promised for new month.

And I find the historic buildings of Pentridge Prison quite beautiful in an eerie way.  So I leave you with a photo of the chimney just outside the Boot Factory.

Update 2021: I have had the Nourish bowl a few times this year.  It is a very pleasing mixture of beetroot hummus, pickled cabbage, edamame, sesame crusted avocado, roasted root vegetables, quinoa, brown and red rice, marinated tofu and cashew tahini dressing ($21).  It is so satisfying and delicious.

The Boot Factory
19 Pentridge Boulevard, Coburg
03 9354 4369
Open: Mon-Fri 7am-4pm, Sat-Sun 8am-4pm

The Boot Factory Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday 24 February 2017

Bath bombs

Back at Christmas time, my nieces made bath bombs while we were at my parents' house.  Sylvia is quite keen on bath bombs for her bath at the moment so I decided to make some at home.  We have now made them about 3 times and I am writing up the recipe in a way that I find easier to follow than that on the CSIRO website.

My mum originally looked for bath bomb recipes because she had heaps of epsom salts leftover from coating candle holder jars over Christmas.  Then she found an even easier recipe.  It came from the CSIRO.  For those not in Australia, CSIRO stands for the well regarded Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

We liked the recipe because it had easy to purchase ingredients.  One of my nieces happily donated some of her body glitter and I tried one batch with dried rose petals but Sylvia prefers none of this.  The recipe is quick to make - probably about 10-15 minutes.  It is also great for anyone who wants to use up bicarbonate of soda - I have gone through a lot in making this recipe.  I actually ran out of bicarb  in the last batch (top and bottom photo) and had a little less than needed, so I added a little more citric acid instead.

The problems I have had with these bath bombs are that they leave an oily ring around the bath and when we put them together after they dried, they stuck together.  Small problems.  I think they are really soothing and softening in the bath and so easy to make.  We have bought some individual silicone cupcake moulds which are great to store them in.  I am sure they would make great presents in the cupcake moulds with some cellophane wrapping. 

To see more gift ideas on Green Gourme Giraffe, check out 10 Foodie Christmas Gifts.

Bath Bombs
From the CSIRO
Makes 4 mini muffin sized ones

10 tbsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
3 tbsp citric acid
body glitter or dried petals (optional)

3 tbsp olive oil
15-20 drops food colouring
10-12 drops essential oil

Mix bicarb soda and citric acid in a medium mixing bowl.  Add in a few shakes of glitter or dried petals if using.  Mix food colouring, essential oil and olive oil in a small bowl. Slowly pour liquids into dry ingredients and gently mix until you have a sandy consistency.  Pat into mini muffin cups or other moulds.  I use silicone moulds and don't need to grease them.  As the mixture dries it clings together and expands slightly.  However even once dried, if out of the mould they can stick to each other or a container if not kept in some sort of packaging or individual container.

NOTES: The CSIRO recipe calls for sweet almond oil but as I don't have it in the house and I know some people say olive oil is very good for the skin we use the olive oil instead, which we always have about.

On the Stereo:
1989: Taylor Swift

Monday 20 February 2017

Chocolate blackberry cupcakes with hearts!

Some time before St Valentines Day I discovered some hearts on toothpicks that had been in my kitchen for over a year.  I was determined to use them this year.  So it had to be cupcakes.  And I wanted to make red velvet cupcakes but there was a tub of blackberries from the farmers market to be used.  So it was that on Valentines Day I found myself presenting E with a batch of chocolate blackberry cupcakes.  He was most pleased.

I confess it was a rush job.  Not much time to make the cupcakes, bake them (forgetting I had left them a few minutes more as I wrote emails), cool them by the door so I had time to frost them.  I was so pushed for time that I only iced half of them with a cream cheese frosting that I really liked.  A quick photo and then I rushed out the door.

When I got home from work, I found that Sylvia had invited a friend over to play.  They had found that some cupcakes needed icing and got to work.  In the fridge were a few tubs of leftover icing and Sylvia is very familiar with where I keep my sprinkles.  I was quite impressed with her handy work when I got home.

Apparently the cream cheese frosting was not a hit.  We had a conversation tonight about Sylvia wanting buttercream on cakes but she didn't want it too sweet.  I had to tell her the sad fact that buttercream is full of sugar.  There is no getting around it.  Sugar gives it structure.  I love trying alternatives.  The cream cheese frosting has very little sweetening.  It is like a cheesecake that doesn't have much sugar.

Now that we come to the question of sugar, I have to let you know that I think these cupcakes are not very sweet at all.  I was in such a hurry when I made them that I accidentally added chocolate that was meant for a chocolate ganache frosting.  When they came out of the oven they were not very sweet at all.  So little that I began to wonder if I had forgotten to add the 1/2 cup of sugar.  It is the sort of thing that is easy to do when dividing up sugar and racing the clock.  But I think I put it in. 

The cupcakes were on the verge of bitterness.  They were also quite dense without being stodgy.  I thought that they paired really well with the yoghurt frosting which added a little softness and sweetness, especially when quite fresh before it firmed up.  I also reduced the coffee and vanilla in the original recipe but decided next time I would leave them out altogether and have altered the recipe below accordingly.

These cupcakes were a fun experiment with blackberries, hearts and frosting.  And while we are not big on Valentines Day in our house, it is always nice to have some good food to help us enjoy the day.  I head heaps of blackberry syrup over and will let you know what I did with it soon.

I am sending these cupcakes to Treat Petite and We Should Cocoa.

More Valentine food on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Candy cane brownies
Cheese hearts
Mini Victoria sponges
Orange and rose petal biscuits
Raspberry and white chocolate scones

More Valentine posts elsewhere
Beetroot creme brulee with pomegranate seeds - Allotment to Kitchen
Beetroot soup - Thinly Spread
Loveheart styled shortbread biscuits - Only Crumbs Remain
Mocha chocolate strawberry tarts with dessert platter - Not Quite Nigella
Strawberry milkshake oreo cheesecake - The Baking Explorer
Valentine onigari hearts - The Veg Hog

Chocolate Blackberry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Pastry Affair
Makes 12 cupcakes

310g fresh blackberries
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup castor sugar, divided
1/3 cup cocoa
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup soy milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
100g dark chocolate, finely chopped
Fresh blackberries, for garnish

Heat blackberries with 1/4 cup of sugar over medium heat for about 10 minutes.  Strain to make about 1/2 cup blackberries syrup.  Set aside extra syrup for frosting and keep the pulp of the fruit to mix into batter.

Preheat oven to 180 C and line 12 hole cupcake pan.

Mix flour, 1/2 cup sugar, cocoa, biscarb soda, and salt into a medium mixing bowl.  Stir in soy milk and oil.  Fold in blackberry puree and chocolate pieces.

Spoon into muffin cups (about 3/4 full) and bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked. Cool on a wire rack and frost with below frosting or a buttercream frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
Adapted from Laws of the Kitchen

200g cream cheese
1/4 cup Greek yoghurt
1 tbsp blackberry syrup
1 tbsp honey

Stir cream cheese until creamy and gradually stir in yoghurt, blackberry syrup and honey.  This frosting is very soft when spread initially but sets firm by 10-12 hours and within less than 24 hours is starting to crack.

On the Stereo:
The Beekeeper: Tori Amos

Friday 17 February 2017

Vegetarian stuffed picnic loaf

Some things are worth waiting for.  I have wanted to make a stuffed picnic loaf for a long time.  I am glad I waited until I could make my own sourdough loaf to make it with.  I also took great inspiration from Jac's colourfully layered loaf at Tinned Tomatoes.  As usual, I also had some of my own ideas to add.

The idea of stuffing a loaf of bread with cheese and vegies seems convenient for a picnic. I wondered about a vegan version with a layer of cashew cheese but went for the easy dairy option.  I also wasn't sure if this is what is known elsewhere as a muffuletta loaf but Wikipedia says it is made with a focaccia style bread.

I made a favourite sourdough loaf the day before I stuffed it, but I am sure it would have been fine on the same day.  Slicing the top off and pulling out the bread was a nervous moment.  If I got it wrong there was no second loaf to work on.  But it was fine.  Though when I look at photos, I think I could have pulled out a bit more of the innards of the loaf.  I was scared of making a hole but I think I probably could have plugged it if there was a tear.

Planning and layering the fillings was great fun.  I don't have a proper recipe with quantities but have written what I did at the end of the post.  I just used  any of the extra fillings in sandwiches.  There was a bit of preparation work with making the pesto and roasting the pumpkin and eggplant the day before.  The eggplant was roasted until quite well browned and seemed a little crisp when out of the oven but it softened overnight.

It was meant to be pressed in the fridge overnight but there is not much room to pile anything on top in our small fridge.  So I took it out a couple of hours before heading to the picnic and pressed it with a mixing bowl, some tins of beans and some heavy cookbooks.  (In retrospect the mixing bowl was a bit too small on the base to cover all of the loaf.)

Cutting the loaf open made me quite nervous.  I half expected it to fall apart.  But no!  It held together beautifully with gorgeous layers of colour.  I was a proud picnic loaf mama!
I sliced the loaf into wedges but pushed them back together into the loaf shape which I wrapped in roil to take to the picnic dinner before a Grease singalong at Moonlight Cinema.  It felt like very fancy picnic food.  I really loved this though I thought the sundried tomatoes were a bit tough to bit through.  Everything else was lovely and soft.  Maybe semi dried tomatoes might work better. 

E was less impressed.  He told me it was as good as he could expect of soggy bread with eggplant.  When I heated it for dinner the next night he much preferred it.  Though he still tells me it would be better without eggplant.  I was happy with it hot or cold.  Sylvia did not touch it.

The Moonlight Cinema trip was a birthday treat so we bought Golden Grass tickets which meant we had seats near the front on bean bags and could order food from roving waiters.  I had meant to bring cake with us but forgot so we ordered churros.  They were lovely.

We took Sylvia along with us as it wasn't a school night.  She was excited at being up late but fell asleep before the movie ended.  I grew up with a sister who was obsessed with Grease so was very excited at the singalong.  I did cringe a bit at all the sexual innuendo with Sylvia there but had to remember how that sort of stuff went straight over my head when I watched it as a kid.

Seeing the lyrics made me realise that I was singing the wrong words in some songs during all those years of singing along in my youth.  Those were the days before you could look up lyrics online.  I remember the kids dancing on the school oval to "Greased Lightning" at lunchtime and singing it at the school talent quest but never realised that song had so many technical car terms.  The singalong was lots of fun.  It had been too long since I had been at Moonlight cinema and I was glad to be back with my fancy picnic loaf.

I am sending this loaf to Meat Free Mondays.

Some favourite picnic fare on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Cashew cheese stuffed dates (gv, v)
Cheese, onion and potato pasties
Dried fruit and coconut balls (gf, v)
Pumpkin damper (v)
Sephardic spinach filo cigars
Tofu nut balls (gf, v)
Vegan salmon sushi (gf, v)

Vegetarian Stuffed Picnic Loaf
Serves 6-8
  • One round loaf of bread - I used sourdough
  • Home made pesto with lots of parmesan cheese in it
  • Fresh baby spinach
  • Roasted eggplant (aubergine) slices
  • Sun dried tomatoes, drained of oil
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Swiss cheese slices
  • Pumpkin roasted in thin slices until soft but not crisp
  • More baby spinach
  • Pickled beetroot from a jar
Slice top off bread and keep lid for later.  Make a bread bowl by pulling out the insides to leave the crust around the edge.  (The innards of the loaf can be turned to breadcrumbs.)

Layer the remaining ingredients inside the bread bowl.  The loaf should be full at the end.  You can do more than one layer of ingredients if not enough.  Once it is full, return lid to the top of the loaf.

Leave in the fridge at least a few hours or overnight with something heavy on it.  (Or if like me you don't have much room in the fridge, leave with a few things on it overnight in the fridge and then take out and press with something heavy for an hour or two before cutting.)  This time out of the fridge also brought it back to room temperature.

To serve at the picnic, I cut it into 6-8 wedges at home , then wrapped in foil and in a bag and took it with us to unwrap at the picnic.  We ate the leftover wedges the next day heated in the oven wrapped in foil for 15 minutes at about 180 C.

*NOTES: The sun dried tomatoes were a bit chewy - maybe semi dried tomatoes next time.

On the Stereo:
Once: original soundtrack by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová

Wednesday 15 February 2017

Green ombre chocolate cake revisited (vegan option)

For my birthday this year I revisited a favourite cake.  I loved both the rich chocolate cake and decorating with green icing.  It is like a meeting of my favourite things.  So why revist?  I had a few tweaks I wanted to try.  Firstly I made the chocolate cake vegan.  Secondly I thought it would look really cool to photograph it in front of the mural in my backyard.  And why not make a cake I love!

Another reason to make the cake was because since making that cake, I have a better selection of green food dyes.  They don't get used often.

I started to take step by step photos.  Midway through the decorating, my neighbour visited and I sort of forgot to take the photos.  But you might notice a few things here.

Firstly the cake sunk more than the non vegan cake.  So I turned it upside down.  It looked better when I decorated the cake but when I cut it into wedges, they were so crumbly down the bottom I didn't bother to photograph them.

Then I piped the first row of green dots around the cake.  But when I went to use the back of a spoon to smoodge down each icing dot, I found that I could not get the angle right unless the cake was right at the edge of the cake stand.  It would not work on the larger cake stand and I had to revert to my smaller cake stand so I could have the bowl of the spoon pressing downwards on each dot of icing and the handle straight down.

And finally, I was lazy and didn't clean out the piping bag between each row of colour to make sure they were clean.  So you can really see the marbled effect in the last layer.

Despite all the problems, I was still pleased with the cake.  It looked and tasted lovely.  Though I was happy to wipe off some of the icing which was a bit sweet.  Once the cake was made, E took Sylvia to the library and I stayed home and took photos of my cake.

Sadly, I had to give up my idea of photographing my cake in the backyard.  It was such a sunny day that the light was too bright for any decent photos.  Instead I pruned some of my plants (that needed it) and arranged them in a better lit space.  You might also notice a little green giraffe.  Sylvia and I both made one for a bit of fun in a quiet moment!  As you do!

For dinner, we had booked to go to I Carusi Pizza in East Brunswick.  As we were leaving my dad and three older nieces arrived with a mars bar doughnut from Bistro Morgan.  It looked really impressive with a syringe of caramel stuck into it.

The pizza was lovely.  E had a zucchini, chilli and mint one and I had a potato and rosemary one.  Sylvia had her usual margherita.  The dessert pizza looked so tempting but we had cake and doughnut at home.  I must return to try it.

So instead of dessert pizza, we came home to the cake.  By then Sylvia had decided her bearded green giraffe would be a cake topper.  We also had roses from the garden.  And candles.  She was tired and didn't have much cake before heading to bed.

As my birthday drew to a close, I was very pleased to relax with a slice of cake on the plate.  It was a little crumbly and very sticky.  The sort of cake to eat with a fork.  Great to make a day special.

I am sending this cake to Jibber Jabber's Love Cake event.

More fancy cakes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Avocado pound cake with cream cheese frosting
Chocolate cake decorated with strawberries and music
Chocolate olive oil cake with flower topping (gf, v)
Malteser and Milo mudcake
Nigella's Nutella Cake (gf)
Vegan chocolate (layer) cake (v)
Zucchini layer cake with cream cheese frosting (gf, v)

Ultimate vegan chocolate cake
Adapted from Drizzle and Drip via Green Gourmet Giraffe

100g dark chocolate (I used 70%)
100g butter or margarine

1/3 cup self raising flour
1/3 cup plain flour (I used wholemeal)
1/3 brown sugar
1/4 caster sugar
2 heaped tbsp cocoa
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 cup aqua faba
2 tbsp vanilla or plain yoghurt
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 170 C.  Grease and line a 15cm round cake tin.  (For a 20cm round cake tin, you should double the recipe - as at Drizzle and Drip.)

Melt chocolate and butter in a small mixing bowl (in the microwave or if on stovetop use a small saucepan).  Set aside.

Mix the dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.  Set aside.

Beat aqua faba for a minute or two until frothy.  Briefly beat in yoghurt and vinegar.

Pour melted chocolate mixture and aqua faba mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.  Scrape into the prepared cake tin.

Bake for about 50 minutes or until it smells cooked, the side of the cake is pulling away from the side of the tin and the skewer inserted into the centre comes out cleanly.  Sit 5 minutes.  Turn out and cool on a cake rack.

NOTES: To make this vegan, make sure that margarine and yoghurt are vegan.  I used the same buttercream frosting as I previous used, however it got a bit soft once I reached the lower row - probably from too much colouring and stirring, so next time I need to rethink this.

On the Stereo:
La La Land Soundtrack

Sunday 12 February 2017

ArtVo - visual illusions in the Docklands

We recently visited a most unusual art gallery.  It describes itself as an immersive art gallery.  However until we found it (in Docklands on Level 1 by the food court opposite the Melbourne Star), I had no idea of what it would be like.  It was lots of fun but also a little frustrating.

The blurb tells us that there are over 100 artworks over the walls and floors by older mostly Korean artists.  Everyone is encouraged to photograph and touch the artwork.  I didn't read much about it beforehand and didn't realise it was really all about taking photos or I would have brought a better camera than my phone.  However at $25 per adult, I am not likely to be back in a hurry.

There were heaps and heaps of photo opportunities.  In fact that is what the gallery is about.  It is not about looking at pictures but at stepping into them and photographing them.  When you looked at pictures through your camera they made sense as they became 3D.  Without the camera they sometimes did not work as a cohesive picture.  Having a camera-shy kids, this brought some challenges.  But even without that aspect, it was so busy on a weekend that often it was a matter of waiting for a moment to jump in, find a pose, take the photo on the spot on the floor where the best angle was recommended and then moving on quickly.

It was fascinating to see how we all came out in the images and we had a great laugh with our friends and their kids at some of the poses.  For a blog that avoids photos with faces, it has been hard to pick out some suitable photos.  Many are best with people in them to show perspective.  However I hope a few photos will give you an idea.  Watch out for a few hands patting animals and the like.  I'd recommend a trip here for a quirky day out, especially if you have ever wanted to be photographed in a snow dome, climbing the walls, in a swimming pool, taming a lion or walking over a chasm.

ArtVo Immersive Gallery
26 Star Crescent
Level 1, Harbour Town (adjacent to the Groove Train)
Docklands, Melbourne
Open 7 days a week, 10am-6pm
ArtVo website