Monday 31 July 2017

Open House Melbourne 2017

It was Open House Melbourne on the weekend and I was able to visit five places this year over two days: Arlington Primary School and Kindergarten, Preshil; Mandeville Hall; Victorian Artists Society, Newman College at The University of Melbourne; and the Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre. As always there was some amazing insights into the Melbourne that I don't usually see.

Arlington Primary School and Kindergarten, Preshil, Kew
I was curious about this progressive school because the blurb described it as being child-led architecture.  So I was surprised to enter and see an elegant olde worlde drawing room with shelves of old books and an open fire.  Apparently this was part of the old house from when the school was founded in the 1930s.

Most of the architecture dates from the 1970s.  There are lots of wooden toys and blocks and furniture.  Sylvia loved the pet turtles.  I was fascinated by the blue tongue lizards.

Most fascinating perhaps was the little raised platform with the red rails.  One of the teachers at the Open Day had attended the school as a kid and said they loved to sit on the platform and along the beams over the classroom.  But over the last 18 months it has been shut up by health and safety officers. 

It was interesting to walk through the classrooms that are quite different to Sylvia's.  My parents and E spent a bit of time looking at the library.

Sylvia and I were otherwise engages in the playground.  She could have stayed here all day.  There were lots of fun wooden structures to climb and quite a few classrooms were raised with places to play and learn underneath them.  The double story cubby house was a favourite with Sylvia.

This walkway was called the tree house for obvious reasons.

Mandeville Hall, Toorak
This is a girls Catholic school run by the Loreto nuns.  The original hall is a nineteenth century mansion and this is the part of the school open to us.  I confess to running after small child and not having much time to focus on the history of the building.

The rooms were very impressive in their finery that was typical of a goldrush mansion.

You might notice a few musical instruments like the harpsichord above.  This building is where music lessons are held and these rooms are used for recitals.  I never had a music room like this when I was at school,

Victorian Artists Society, East Melbourne
My dad was interested to have a look at the Victorian Artists Society.  The 1890s building is quite impressive and all the more so for housing a building that counted some of Australia's fine artists among its number.

Inside the building is equally impressive.  It is a place of exhibitions, workshops and classes.  The artwork on the walls was enjoyable to look at.  I quite liked some of the still life paintings and one or two of the landscapes.

Photos were displayed to show how the gallery used to look.  But my favourite photo was of Frederick McCubbin, an iconic early twenthieth century Australian artist, dressed as Hamlet for the artists ball.  The building is in fundraising mode so I guess McCubbin is there to tug at the heartstrings.

A walk out onto the balcony gave a fine view of St Patrick's Cathedral across the road. And that was as much as I saw on Saturday afternoon with my parents, E and Sylvia before we ended the afternoon in a cafe on Brunswick St.

Open House Melbourne requires great planning.  So many interesting buildings but it is a tyranny of choice, and a matter of mapping times and locations.  This has been made even harder because now a lot of the popular buildings require booking.  I looked at booking some of these on the day after bookings opened and many were already booked out.

Newman College at The University of Melbourne, Parkville
One of the buildings that interested me and required a booking was Newman College. I snaffled one of the last tickets for tours for the Sunday morning.  The tour was taken by an architectural historian.  It was great to see some of the beautiful architecture by Walter Burley Griffin from the early twentieth century and hear of his fine design.  But I really would have preferred more social history.

I have been to Newman many years ago when I knew people who lived at this Catholic residential college and even for a wedding in the chapel.  It is so long ago that I needed a refresher.  We started at the chapel.  It is built in the style of Kings College Cambridge in the 1930s.  It is a grand yet stark gothic building.

The focus of Walter Burley Griffin's design is the splendid domed dining room with wings of residential rooms spreading out either side.  (Apparently they meant to be continue into a full square but lack of funds in the interwar years made this impractical.  New dorms have been built to form a quadrangle since then.)

The height of the dining hall is magnificent and cathedral-like.  However I got a bit tired of the architectural details and started talking to some students about which rooms are most desirable, whether they still wear academic gowns to dinner (yes) and drink as much as in my student days (no).

I could not resist a photo of Archbishop Mannix.  He was an influential public figure in Melbourne history.  I think of him as quite stern but this bust portrays him as a softer soul.  He officially opened the college in 1918.

When the college opened with 56 residents, each had 2 rooms.  The furniture above is an example of that which was used in college rooms back in 1918.  We did not see inside the rooms but now everyone gets only one room each and I believe the furniture is far more modern.

These lovely old bookcases are in the entrance to the Oratory, a barrel rooved room that seems to be used for lectures.  I had lost interest in the tour by then.  I went on to see the modern Allan and Maria Myers Academic Centre that is shared with St Mary's.  This 2004 building is functional but lacks the impressive design of some of the modern buildings around the University.

Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre, Carlton
As I was close by, I went to check out the Kathleen Syme library and community centre that opened in 2015.  The building had originally been built in the 1870s as the Faraday Street State School.  I have been curious to have a look inside since its reopening 2 years ago.

Open House Melbourne often means a bit more information about a building but some places such as the Kathleen Syme seem to just be business as usual.  In fact I had to check with staff if it was participating in Open House.  Some history and a map was on a little table.

I enjoyed seeing the fine design that incorporated some modern touches, such as the Chargebar to recharge mobile phones. alongside historic features such as the high wooden roof that you can glimpse in the above photo.  It was good to finally peek inside but there was no sense of seeing inside a place that is usually closed to the public which is one of the thrills of Open House Melbourne.

Then I had to go to the Little Bookroom in Nicholson Street, North Carlton.  While in the neighbourhood, I checked out A Fan's Notes.  I have heard good things about their vegan food.  It is refreshing to see a brunch menu that is not just eggs, eggs and more eggs.  I had a huge black bean burrito with avocado cream, corn and seed salsa, kale and scrambled tofu.  I really enjoyed it but it was quite salty.  And huge.  I hope I might get back there some time and write about the place more.

Meanwhile I really enjoyed Open House Melbourne.  As always I wished I could visit more places.  However the ones I saw were a great peeks into some Melbourne icons that gave some insight into the rich history of our city.  I have listed past Open House visits in this index.

Friday 28 July 2017

A stew of leftover gravy, with some school holidays reflections

I had quite a bit of leftover gravy after our Christmas in July lunch.  It went very nicely into a stew along with some pumpkin and parsnip that never saw the inside of the roasting tin.  I made the stew during the day and it stood me in good stead on a crazy day in a busy week just when I was trying to get over the school holidays.

After making the stew, I got into the car to take Sylvia to swimming I found the battery was flat and then when I got to swimming we found that her lesson had been changed without notification.  Thank goodness that the swimming coordinator was really helpful and we had a delicious stew waiting  at home that night.

As stews are not at all photogenic and I was too busy while making it to take photos, I am taking the chance to share a few school holiday snaps.  First are these lovely "apple" cupcakes that Sylvia made especially for me.  She was very sweet and checked which cupcakes I liked in her book and spent a long time planning.  As I love chocolate I had leftover chocolate ganache with red sprinkles.  The other cupcakes had buttercream frosting.  They all had spearmint leaves and chocolate dipped pretzel sticks for leaves and stem.

We went to the La Mama puppet picnic and enjoyed it so much with all the quirky puppets (dinosaur, misinformation man, chameleon, fox lady) that we went along to a puppet show of Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne.  While the puppets were fun, it was the umbrellas of special effects and light boxes that really impressed me.  Think an umbrella opened up only to have blue glitter fall from it and blue streamers blowing around to create the effect of a whirlpool. I love a show that is low on resources and high on innovation.

We went to the Speigeltent to see E perform at a West Papuan fundraiser.  It was a fun night out, though Sylvia preferred hiding under the seat.  As well as dancing, singing and music, our tickets included a vegan dinner of delicious West Papuan curry, tofu and rice with some colourful crackers.  I am not sure what the crackers were but we checked and were told they were vegan.

After last year's Minion fever, Sylvia was excited to see the new Despicable Me 3 movie.  She was so excited that Mr Cuddles was dressed as a Minion.  I thought that the movie wasn't as good as some of the previous Minions movies but was still fun.  Sylvia loved it and even was tempted to get the Minions happy meal from MacDonalds.  Her dad ate the burger and she had the 3 potato Minions.  I was shocked to see how few she got and you just don't want to see the ingredients list. 

And lastly I wanted to share the beautifully presented food at the event I helped organise last week.  As usual I always think that the end of the school holidays means a bit of let up but it never does.  Last week was crazy with extra time at work helping with this event.  This week I have finally crashed and taken it a bit quieter with one day in bed with a headache.  Maybe next week I will be back on track.

Meanwhile I was very grateful to have this stew to see us through the week.  The gravy meant I could On the first night it lacked in flavour.  I added a generous amount of mustard which fixed it.  We all have our magic seasonings.  Mustard is one of mine.  I also would have loved to have tried cooking the stew with these dumplings but lacked the energy.  The stew went very well with brown rice.

I am sending this stew to Meat Free Mondays.

More winter stews at Green Gourmet Giraffe.
Bean and beer stew with dumplings (v)
Chickpea, potato and tomato stew (gf, v)
Coconut black-eyed bean stew (gf, v)
Coconut vegie and tofu stew (gf, v)
Honeyed beer and barley stew
Prune and bean casserole (gf, v)
Tempeh vegetable stew with dumplings (gf, v)

Gravy, pumpkin and parsnip stew
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe
Serves 8

1-2 tsp oil
2 large parsnips, diced
1 zucchini, diced
handful of mushrooms, chopped
1 cup thick gravy
1 cup red wine
2 cups water
large wedge of pumpkin, peeled and diced
400g tin black beans, rinsed and drained
400g tin lentils, rinsed and drained
2 tbsp seeded mustard
1 tsp Vegemite
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1-2 tsp salt, or to taste1/4 - 1/2 tsp pepper, or to taste

Cook parnsip in oil in a stockpot until they are softening.  Add mushrooms and zucchini for a few minutes until they soften.  Mix in remaining ingredients and check seasoning, however remember that the stew will thicken and sweeten once the pumpkin is cooked.  Bring to the boil and season about 15-20 minutes until pumpkin is soft.  Check seasoning again and serve hot.

NOTES: You could still make this without the gravy but you would need to brown onions, add some extra liquid and seasoning and a bit of flour to thicken the stew.  I didn't weigh my pumpkin - I guess it might have been 600-800g before peeling.  If you don't have vegemite, you could use other yeast extracts or a stock cube.  This stew lasts well for about 5 days in the fridge and can be frozen.  It is good served with rice and could be served with dumplings or toast.

On the stereo:
Christmas in the Heart: Bob Dylan

Monday 24 July 2017

The Snug in Brunswick, with Christmas in July - CLOSED

 UPDATE: The Snug Brunswick (and St Kilda) is permanently closed

We had a great meal at The Snug in St Kilda some months ago.  It has taken us so long to visit the Brunswick sister pub that sadly in the meanwhile, the St Kilda one has closed.  The Brunswick pub has some fine vegan offerings but not as extensive a menu as over the other side of the river but it feels far more like a pub than the St Kilda one.

The exterior of The Snug is quite unremarkable in the Sydney Road shops closest to Brunswick Road.  Inside the cosy narrow space with framed pictures across the red brick walls feels more traditionally Irish than the usual spacious modern Australian pubs.  It is perfect for winter.  They also have a beer garden that has the same eye for detail in decor and would be more attractive to me in summer.

The first time we visited was a weekend morning and the place was pretty busy.  Apparently they were recovering from a crowded night.  (Many of my photos of the wals are from the Friday when it was quieter and people did not get in my way.)  Cindy had alerted me to the the Snug having vegan breakfasts.

We started with hot chocolates for Sylvia and me (and latte for E).  I did not get a photo.  They were actually rather bitter.  However once a spoonful or two of sugar was added, I really loved mine.  I think ours were soy.  After we had ordered a vegan brekky and soy milk, it was very kind of the landlady to let us know that the marshmallows are not vegan.  Sylvia still had a few on her hot chocolate.  (I do my best to avoid gelatine but some days it is hit and miss.)  Mr Cuddles concentrated hard on playing hangman while we waited for our food.

I confess to a fascination with vegan breakfasts that is born out of never liking eggs and being vegetarian for almost all my adult life.  So I went straight for the Full Irish vegan breakfast: sausages, beans, hash brown, facon, tofu scramble, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms and sourdough toast.  It is rare that my breakfast mirrors E's regular meat and egg big breakfast like this one.  He was very impressed with his Full Irish.

Kudos to the Snug for this impressive plate.  I enjoyed it but I did find the silken tofu scramble a bit soft for my liking and the facon a little too like bacon for me.  On the other hand I loved the crunchy hash brown and the Tofurky sausage.  In retrospect, I think I might have enjoyed the corn fritters more.  Next time.  Sylvia had a sausage, hash brown and beans,  She wasn't into the sausages which were slightly spicy but she loved the rest of it.

My next visit was on a Friday lunchtime.  The pub was far quieter.  Good for photos.  Less good for atmosphere.  However I was happy to have a quiet lunch in the corner after some shopping.  I started with an elderflower kombucha which I really loved.  I would even go out on a limb and say this Tonicka kombucha was one of the nicest I have ever had.  (And I love a glass of the fermented stuff.)

The vegan lunch menu is packed with mock meat choices.  I ordered the bangers and mash.  The I remembered Faye's advice that the meals were huge.  She was right.  I was there because I had the opportunity rather than because I was starving.  Then I found myself faced with a huge pile of mashed potatoes, two large Tofurky sausages, a pool of onion gravy and a truckload of peas.  It didn't take me long to fill up.

I was very grateful that the landlord passed and said it could go home in a doggy bag.  I went home with some very good side dishes and some leftover sausages.

My latest visit was organised after I heard that The Snug were doing Christmas in July.  As regular readers know, I love Christmas in July.  In the past, I have been to such dinners where vegetarians aren't well catered for.  So I was curious to try this one, even though the Snug does more mock meat than I would usually eat.

We headed out to The Snug last weekend.  The Facebook page said to wear a Christmas jumper to get a free drink.  Which was worthwhile when a glass of mulled wine was $8.50.  Unfortunately, it is not so easy or practical to have Christmas jumpers in an Australian summer so we were unable to dress the part.  At least Mr Cuddles had a festive outfit to wear.  If only he could have ordered my glass of (very strong) mulled wine or even's Sylvia's ginger beer!

As well as Christmas jumpers, there were fairy lights, the festive aroma of mulled wine and Irish music from a man in a santa hat with a guitar in the corner.  He sung a pleasing gentle mix of modern Christmas and Irish folk.

I ordered the vegan Irish roast dinner.  It was described as vegan roast turkey, ham and all the trimmings.  As I have written before, my Australian roast dinner is quite different to that in the UK/Ireland.  The trimmings were roast potatoes, mashed potato, boiled carrots and sprouts, stuffing, gravy, bread and butter, and cranberry sauce.  And a small pudding (not vegan) or brownie at the end.  Because, by the time you worked your way through that meal, you only wanted a small dessert.

The meal was huge.  The ham was like little orange-pink round of vegan sausage and not too bad.  I could not eat the huge slice of turkey which was just too like meat for me.  (I know some vegans miss turkey but I never have.)  I am not so into boiled carrots and missed the roast pumpkin that we have always have at Christmas.  On the other hand, I loved the stuffing and gravy which I often don't get at a roast dinner.  And I enjoyed the sprouts.  E loved his meaty roast dinner.  We ordered roast potato and battered vegan sausage for Sylvia.  She was not keen on the sausage but I thought the crispy batter was very good.

As Sylvia had not had the Christmas meal, she chose some banoffee pie for dessert.  This was not for me as I have a soft spot for my mum's caramel tart, but Sylvia loved it.  It wasn't as huge as I feared.  It is made for lover's of cream. This was two third cream!  That's insane.  Perfect for a little girl like Sylvia who rarely has cream at home because I don't like it.  And E took some for his pudding which was served without cream or custard.

I love the ambience of The Snug and that they cater so well for vegans but I wish it has more vegan food without mock meat.  The corn fritter brunch is the exception that I must try.  Not much else.  However the staff are friendly and it does well to feel like a cosy pub without being a caricature of an Irish pub.  I miss the extensive menu of its former St Kilda sister pub but I hope it does well because I hope to drop back in when I can.

UPDATE: The Snug Brunswick (and St Kilda) is permanently closed

The Snug Public House
68 Sydney Road, Brunswick
Open: Mon-Thurs: 3pm ’til late, Fri: 12pm ’til late, Sat-Sun: 11am ’til late
(03) 9388 8756

Snug Public House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday 22 July 2017

Christmas in July - nut roast stuffed apples

When I was a child, my mum would sometimes make us baked apples with lots of dried fruit and custard.  I've never made them as an adult, partly because I don't own an apple corer.  Please don't judge me!  I was under the mistaken impression that was the way to take out the core.  However after making these savoury nut roast stuffed baked apples for Christmas in July , the sky is the limit.

I was quite surprised to read in some recipes that you can scoop out the core with a spoon.  I did need a sturdy spoon as the first spoon I used started bending out of shape.  Above is a step by step photo of the process.  I think the advantage of an apple corer is that you don't have the stem left in the bottom of the apple.  But leaving the stem intact means the stuffing doesn't fall out of the apple.  Though I did have an apple or two that split down the side.

I was inspired to do savoury stuffed baked apples by a Vegetarian Times recipes.  However as a nut roast enthusiastic, I swapped out the quinoa for finely chopped nuts and breadcrumbs.  I kept the wild rice and brown rice.  It was a bit chunkier and crumblier than most of my nut roasts but by no means inferior.  Cutting the middle out of apples is not for huge gatherings.  Once I had stuffed six apples I baked the rest of the stuffing in a loaf with an extra spoonful of chia seeds.

The stuffed apples weren't to everyone's liking.  E said he didn't like the crispy topping.  I suspect it did not appeal so much either as he is not really into fruit.  Once everyone had their apple they were all quite happy to have a crumbly slice of loaf.  The loaf wasn't as pretty but it seemed more popular.  Though it needed a bit more binding whether an egg or a vegan flax "egg". However I suspect this one of those nut roasts that will not slice really neatly no matter how much binding.

I never got a photo of the dinner when served but I had a wonderful leftover roast dinner sandwich.  It comprised nut roast, smoked cheese, gravy, roast pumpkin, boiled brussel sprouts and tomato relish.  I cooked it under the grill.  The final slice of nut roast went into a sandwich to take to work and feel very superior about my fancy sandwich.

I am sending these stuffed apples to Meat Free Mondays.

More festive nut roast recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe: 
Chocolate nut roast 
Cottage cheese and walnut nutloaf 
Festive nut roast parcels
Lentil and walnut roast
Parsnip, cranberry and chestnut roast
Stilton nut roast
Stuffed nut roast roulade 

Stuffed apples with wild rice, mushroom and cranberry nut roast
Adapted from the Vegetarian Times and the Vegan Society
Serves 6-12

1/2 cup uncooked wild rice
1/4 cup uncooked brown rice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium sized red onion, finely chopped
1 parsnip, finely diced
8 button mushrooms (a handful), chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
150g finely chopped walnuts and cashews
2 tbsp ground almonds
50g (2 slices) breadcrumbs
1/2 cup cranberries
1-2 tbsp of freshly chopped parsley and thyme
1 tbsp brandy
1 to 2 eggs or flax "eggs" (for a loaf)
1/4 cup of water, as required
12 red apples (optional)

Firstly cook wild rice for 15 minutes then add the brown rice and cook another 30 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Fry onion and parsnip in olive oil until soft.  This took a while, at least 15-30 minutes over a medium low heat with regular stirring.  Add mushrooms and garlic cloves and fry a few minutes until mushrooms soften.  Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients except eggs, water and apples.  If you want to make a loaf add the eggs but if you are stuffing apples it is optional.  Add some water tablespoon by tablespoon until the mixture clumps together.  Check and adjust seasoning (I used about

If you wish to bake as a loaf, spoon into a lined and greased loaf tin, press down firmly with the back of a spoon, and bake for 35-45 minutes at 180 C until firm to touch and browned on top.

If you wish to stuff in apples, use a sturdy spoon to scoop out the insides of each apple leaving the core intact at the bottom and about 0.5 cm of flesh around the outside of each apple.  Stuff with as much nut roast as you can press in.  Place in an oven dish and pour 1-2 cups of water into the bottom of the dish.  Cover tightly with foil and bake at 180 C for about 45 minutes or until apples are soft to touch.

Or do as I did and make half apples and half nut roast.

On the stereo:
Write about love: Belle and Sebastian

Wednesday 19 July 2017

Christmas royals - a simple pudding idea

In a haze of nostalgia I recently bought a packet of Chocolate Royals, now known as Royals.  (Why they have changed the name, I cannot fathom!  The biscuit and marshmallow are still covered chocolate.)  So when the idea for making Chocolate Royal Christmas Puddings popped up on Pinterest, Sylvia decided she would make these for our Christmas in July lunch.

It is a pretty simple idea.  Some of the recipes I have seen use Jaffas.  As the last bag of jaffas I bought sat in the cupboard so long that I think we threw them out, I decided to follow the ones that uses Smarties.  However the red Smarties were a disappointingly insipid hue.  (Whatever happened to the fun of the advertising jingle that asked "do you eat the red ones last"?)  Though not quite as dull as the spearmint leaves.  While I am moaning about the names of chocolate biscuits, and the colours of Smarties, has anyone noticed that the main brands in the supermarket don't seem to make spearmint leaves?

We bought two 50g boxes of Smarties.  Sylvia enjoyed sorting out the red ones while I cut up spearmint leaves.  Then she measured and melted the white chocolate as she was determined to do it all herself.

The most challenging part was getting the chocolate drizzle right to look like custard on a pudding.  Sylvia did it with a teaspoon but I have seen online that some people do it with a piping bag.  Other than that this was a really easy idea.  In fact it could be done with other round chocolate covered treats such as Tunnocks Tea Cakes or truffles or cake pops.

When the little puddings were finished Sylvia arranged them on the plate with the gingerbread and berries and strategically placed them next to the kids' table. 

I served the kids their pizza first and then they were onto dessert while we were still eating our main meal.  Sylvia was itching to pass the puddings around to the other kids.  Kudos to her for having enough self-discipline to wait until then to try one herself.

I am not a huge fan of Chocolate Royals so I was not wowed by these.  They were a fun festive dessert that was simple enough for Sylvia to make with very little help.  However I can't see these being a regular festive treat.  But I would not be surprised if Sylvia finds an urgent reason to make them again.  After all, they were enjoyed by Mr Cuddles so he might be requesting them at his teddy bears Christmas party.

More cute Christmas eats on Green Gourmet Giraffe: 
Christmas cupcakes: reindeer and holly
Candy cane pizza
Flatbread Christmas trees
Gingerbread Christmas tree
Mashed potato snowmen (gf, v)
Nut roast parcels
Snowman sushi (gf, v)
Zimsterne (cinnamon stars) (gf, v)  

Christmas royals
Adapted from Kidspot

12 chocolate royals
100g white chocolate chips
12 red smarties
6 spearmint leaves, cut into 4 slivers

Melt white chocolate for about 45 seconds in the microwave and stir well.  If a few chocolate chips are not quite melted, heat another 15 second intervals and stir well again.  (And repeat the 15 seconds if needed.)

Drizzle or pipe white chocolate over each royal so it looks like custard on a pudding.  While white chocolate still soft, press a red smartie on top and two little slivers of mint leaves on the side of the smartie.  Let chocolate set (you may need a fridge if you do this in a warm Aussie Christmas).

On the Stereo:
The Best Aussie Christmas