Friday 29 September 2017

Wallace and Gromit and friends: the magic of Aardman, Melbourne 2017

A few weeks back we saw the Wallace and Gromit exhibition at ACMI.  I love the Aardman animations so it was great fun to see all the tiny sets and characters and marvel at the details.  I didn't take my DSLR camera because I wasn't sure they would allow photos but there was a sign saying photos were welcome.  So here are a few I took on my phone.  I've tried to keep a few humans in some photos from some perspective.

The exhibition started with a cartoon of the original short film about Aardman, the super hero that inspired the name of the animation studio.  Then there was lots of sketches.  Above are some sketches from Shaun the Sheep with the naughty pigs who are such fun characters.

Then we noticed the little house shaped hole in the wall.  Clever stuff!  (Apologies for the terrible photo of the sheep stack!)  I imagined the brainstorming conversations when someone came up with the idea of little holes in the walls - just big enough for kids to crawl through - for parents who thought their kids would like the exhibition but found the little cherubs were a bit bored.  These kiddie holes were a hit with Sylvia for whom the actual exhibition was a bit hit and miss.

I was delighted to see Morph animations.  I remember watching Morph on tv with Tony Hart when I was a kid.  Isn't it odd when you are reminded of shows you haven't thought of for decades!  I was glad to find he was every bit as amusing as I remembered.

This guy has to be one of the greatest comedy villains of all time.  The idea of a penguin wearing a rubber glove on his head to impersonate a chicken is brilliant.  And Feathers McGraw almost got away with it!  There were a few video screens with excerpt from movies and I was shocked to find Sylvia did not recognise the scene with Feathers McGraw on the toy train.  This has since been remedied but we still need to find her a copy of Chicken Run to watch.

While A Close Shave is not my favourite Wallace and Gromit movie, I love this gaol scene.
The amount of research and detail in Lady Tottington's house in Curse of the Were Rabbit is just amazing.  So tiny and so perfect. 

I really love the Wallace and Gromit interiors.  This one also from Curse of the Were Rabbit with the baddie and the vicar.  The attention to detail is superb.

It is hard enough to think of conceiving these sketches that imagine such complete worlds ...

And then to build them into tiny reality with plasticine and other bits of pieces.  The vegetable gardens in Cure of the Were Rabbit are also a delight.

And then to put all these vegetables into a shop so tiny that the vegetables mustn't be much bigger than the tip of my finger.

Also from the same film is a display of advertisements and posters that have lots of fun in them - Elvis Parsley and Bean Martin are tiny details that not many will even notice but there are there anyway - for the trainspotters!

There were some wonderfully sets from The Pirates!  Band of Misfits.  We have not seen this movie and the sets made us keen to see it.  (Isn't that what a good exhibition does!)  The above picture is from the Rare Creatures Dining Club in this movie.

The kitchen is wonderful but I don't remember it being so spacious in any of the movies.  Perhaps it needs space for photographing it?

I really really loved these miniature kitchen items.  I took a picture with my finger to try and give some idea of just how tiny but perfectly formed they are.  So many eggs.

And this is the bakery from A Matter of Loaf and Death.  That windmill looks so huge compared to the little house.

At the end everyone got to try their hand at making a Plasticine figure and film a few shots against a background.  It is brilliant that kids can get a sense of how much work - and how much fun - it is to actually make a film.  For older folk like me, it made me marvel at how technology has developed to make stop motion so much easier than when I was doing Audio Visual studies at high school.

Lastly from the gift shop, here is a poster that is classic Wallace and Gromit, and classic old school Britain.  If you haven't had a chance to go yet (and you are willing to fork out $24 per adult etc), the exhibition is still on until 29 October and is a fascinating look at lots of familiar characters and lots of wonderful details.

Wallace and Gromit and friends: the magic of Aardman 
ACMI - Australian Centre of the Moving Image
Federation Square, Melbourne CBD
29 June - 29 October 2017

Sunday 24 September 2017

Overnight baked sourdough doughnuts (vegan)

After a long wait, yesterday was a glorious spring day of 29 C as the school holidays started.  So too, yesterday saw the end of my wait to find a good overnight sourdough doughnut recipe.  I've looked, I've mulled over it, I've gone back to my yeasted doughnut recipe, I've even tried a really unsuccessful doughnut recipe last weekend before finally hitting the jackpot yesterday.

I bought a doughnut cutter some years ago and it has turned out to be a very useful investment, especially now that Sylvia is suddenly into all things doughnut.  It means that I have always made yeasted doughnut dough that is rolled and cut out.  Recently I have been looking for a doughnut tin that I can pour batter into so I can use different doughnut recipes.  (Actually I dreamt I bought one last night but it had some weird grills on it that did not make sense!) 

After looking for the recipe I wanted, I ended up using my overnight sourdough bread recipe, my yeasted doughnut recipe and Gemma's no knead donut recipe.  I gave some thought to what was needed for the dough - a bit of sweetness and more buttery richness than usually found in my regular bread dough.  The dough seemed quite sticky but rose well and was lovely and soft once baked.  However I was most pleased that it was quite easy to shape with only a little flour. 

We cut out lots of doughnuts.  After lots of rings, we got out cookie cutters and did some shaping.  I made a bear face (that looked slightly evil once iced).  Sylvia made a funny person we decided was like a baby Voldemort so she made a wand for him and stabbed him in the heart (as you do if you get the chance with Voldemort).  We also used cutters to make a cat that ballooned up and a guitar that looked like a drumstick once baked.

Then let the doughnuts cool while we went to gymnastics and Coburg Carnivale.  Sylvia dipped some doughnut holes in cinnamon and icing sugar.  E and Sylvia got home first and had a messy time of glazing doughnuts.  And they forgot to put sprinkles on before the glaze set.  So later we did a bit of drizzle.

Once I got home we went more traditional with pink icing and sprinkles and a lovely chocolate gaznache.  The ganache tasted so much better than the sweet sweet icing.  (In my humble opinion!)  Sylvia and I had a lovely time doing a doughnut photo shoot once they were decorated.

I baked the doughnuts.  I am too intimidated to fry doughnuts.  And fried doughnuts are best eaten hot, so there is the practical matter of when to make them.  Though baked doughnuts are not quite up to the standard of the Queen Victoria Market hot jam doughnuts, they are pretty good if you are icing them.  These were even ok the second day (with chocolate ganache) though not nearly as good as on the day of baking.

Today we had some leftover doughnuts with lunch.  Which meant that I asked Sylvia to look for healthy snacks when we were out.  This is why I found myself this afternoon sitting on the nature strip outside Record Paradise listening to Underground Lovers (too noisy inside) with Sylvia asking me for some soy crisps.  It occurred to me that I could never have imagined this moment many years ago in the days when I saw the Underground Lovers in grungy pubs.  Nor could I have ever anticipated my adventures with baking sourdough doughnuts.  I am sure the journey is not quite over yet so stay tuned for more sourdough doughnut loving!

More doughnuts on Green Gourmet Giraffe blog:
Donut Fest, Melbourne, August 2017
Doughnuts - baked  and filled (jam or nutella)
Doughnuts - baked and topped with chocolate and coconut bacon (v)
Doughnuts - baked and vegan (cinnamon sugar or glaze) (v)
Nutella doughnuts in Coburg

Overnight baked sourdough doughnuts
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe
Makes about 18 doughnuts plus holes

1 cup ripe sourdough starter
3/4 cup soy milk, warmed
1/4 cup brown sugar
90g or 3 ounce butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cups flour

Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  It will be quite sticky but should come together into a ball.  Cover with a tea towel for 30 minutes and then knead about 15 minutes in the bowl with well floured hands.  Cover with clingwrap and leave overnight about 8 hours if the weather is good.  It should be about double in size.

In the morning, carefully scrape the dough out onto a floured surface.  Using floured hands pat down to about 1 cm thickness.  Cut out using a doughnut cutter or just cut into rounds or whichever shape you like.    Place shapes on baking paper on a tray and leave covered (I used the clingfilm off the mixing bowl) for 1-2 hours until the dough has got a little puffy. 

About 15 minutes before dough is ready, preheat oven to 200 C.  Cover doughnuts - I use foil but if you have a large dish with a lid that is fine.  Bake doughnuts for 20 minutes, remove cover and continue baking for a further 10-15 minutes until a light golden brown colour.

Cool on a wire rack and ice as desired.

NOTES: we did some icing of icing sugar, butter and food dye with sprinkles but my favourite was a chocolate ganache style icing that I made by melting a small handful of chocolate melts with a spoonful of butter and then adding a little milk and icing sugar to get the right consistency.  I left a few doughnuts out overnight.  The ones with ganache were fine but the icing got a little watery.  Some doughnuts went in the freezer once iced but would probably be better to go in the freezer before baking.

On the Stereo:
Ruby: Killjoys

Thursday 21 September 2017

Simple vegetarian lasagne

How I love lasagne!  Let me count the ways!  Hot and melty just out of the oven.  Thin cold slices pulled apart into layers.  The crispy cheesy top, preferably with seeds.  Stuffed with lots of vegies.  Fancy and filled with the unexpected.  Made with a vegan cheese sauce.  Or hummus.  Or cauliflower.  And yet.  Sigh!  I will do it plain for my little girl so that she can learn to love it too.

Before Sylvia went on school camp, we were discussing what she would eat.  It is an issue when your kid is a vegetarian with particular tastes.  She told me with horror that they would be serving lasagne.  There are certain foods I love with a passion that I expect her to learn to love.  Like lasagne!  So recently, inspired by my mum's marathon effort of making lasagne for 100 people at a church dinner, I decided to get a little pushy with lassagne.

Only a little pushy.  Mostly I tried to find common ground.  I talked with Sylvia about lasagne being just things she loved like pasta and cheese sauce as well as some things she could tolerate like tomato sauce.  I promised to blend the tomato sauce and only add in lentils afterwards so there was no onion

I confess I got a little sneaky and added some pumpkin even though she thinks she doesn't like it.  The joys of being able to hide vegies in a blended sauce.  I should serve them more.  (I've finally got Sylvia eating a little soup.  She is also quite capable of reading my blog posts these days so I hope I don't get sprung with the pumpkin!)  And I tried to keep it plain but I did notice a neglected bottle of truffle oil so just a little went into the cheese sauce.

It wasn't a huge hit like a recent mac and cheese casserole but Sylvia enjoyed it in parts.  After all the fun of lasagne is to break up the layers and decide which one you like best.  I am not sure it would quite get her scoffing a big plate of lasagne at school camp but I hope it has helped her to see that maybe there is some good in lasagne.  Given time she might even love it like I do.  And despite making compromises with this lasagne, I really loved it.

I am sending this to Jac for Meat Free Mondays.

More vegetarian lasagne on Green Gourmet Giraffe blog:
Fennel and lentil lasagne (v)
Green lasagne with broccoli and rocket pesto
Meaty cauliflower and walnut lasagne
Nut roast lasagna (gf, v)
Tempeh and pumpkin lasagne (v)  
Vegan lasagne with cauliflower, hummus and tofu "ricotta" (v) 

Vegetarian lentil lasagne
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe
Serves 6-8

Tomato lentil filling:
2-3 tsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
50-100g pumpkin, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
750g passata
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp tomato paste
Drizzle each of worcestershire sauce and maple syrup
Pinch of salt and mixed herbs (or Italian herbs)
add 2 x 400g tins of lentils

Cheese sauce:
2 big dessertspoons of butter or margarine
2 heaped dessertspoons of wholemeal plain flour
2 1/2 cups of milk (I used soy milk)
175g cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp  seasoning mix (I used Tasmanian pepper salt)
1 tsp truffle oil (optional)

To assemble:
lasagne sheets
mozzarella, cheddar, parmesan grated cheese mixture

To make the tomato sauce, fry onion in oil on low for 5 minutes in a small saucepan.  Add carrots and pumpkin.  Continue frying for about 5 minutes until softened.  Stir through garlic.  Add remaining ingredients, except lentils.  Cover and simmer about 15 minutes.  If desired, blend until smooth with a hand held blender.  Stir in the lentils.

To make white sauce: Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Mix in flour and stir the mixture over low heat for 1-2 minutes so the buttery flour mixture browns ever so slightly. Add milk gradually, mixing as you add it. Bring to the boil so that the sauce thickens. Stir in cheese, mustard, seasoning and truffle oil (if using).

To assemble lasagna, spoon a little tomato sauce onto a 9x13 inch casserole dish and spread it to cover the bottom.  Place a layer of lasagna sheets, spread with about half the tomato sauce and then another layer of lasagna sheets.  Now layer half of cheese sauce, more lasagna sheets, the remaining tomato sauce, more lasagna sheets and the rest of the cheese sauce.  Sprinkle with grated cheese mix.

Bake lasagna for 40 minutes at 180 C until topping is golden brown and when you put a knife in, you get no resistance (ie if the lasagna sheets uncooked, you will find it a bit harder to put a knife in).  I turned off oven and left it in there for 1 hour before serving.

On the stereo:
Gold: Greatest Hits: ABBA

Monday 18 September 2017

Cashew crema, avocado coleslaw and tostados

Last night I slept for 13 hours.  I should do that more often.  Sadly, most nights I get a lot less sleep.  Fortunately there are other ways to cope with a busy day: simple meals, cooking in bulk and shortcuts.  And the support of friends and family.  I made these tostados for dinner a couple of weekends back while a good friend had Sylvia staying for a sleepover.

I had found a packet of tostado shells in the supermarket and had all sorts of visions of what I might do with them, including an interesting bean or corn topping I saw on a blog but never noted and could not remember.  Finally practicalities took over.  Firstly I had to use my packet of chilli lime carnitas jackfruit.  This was a shortcut that gave me a go at cooking jackfruit without feeling overwhelmed.

I found a neglected avocado hidden in the corner of the fridge.  It had been there so long I was grateful to rescue any flesh but it wasn't enough enough for a guacamole.  I had seen a recipe for coleslaw with avocado mayo recently (while browsing magazines in the newsagents) so I turned it into a simple small coleslaw. 

For a creamy topping I found a simple cashew crema.  I love having a high power blender that means I can skip the soak the cashews.  I am not familiar with crema.  I think it is like sour cream.  Which I don't have much.  So I am not sure I got the seasoning quite right.  It was a nice topping for the tostadas.

E and I enjoyed this simple dinner.  It was quite unlike our usual Mexican meals.  Though it was quite messy as with so many of our Mexican meals.  I am still a little undecided with how much I would like to experiment further with jackfruit but it is quite a fascinating meat substitution.

I am sending these to Soups, Salads and Sammies hosted by Kahakai Kitchen

More Mexican-inspired meals on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Mexicale pie
Mexican lasagne with corn tortillas (gf, v)
Nachos with refried lentils with garlic scapes (gf, v) 
Oaxaca tacos (with potato and cheese) (gf)
Super easy vegie layered tortilla casserole

Cashew Crema
Adapted fro Thyme and Love

1/2 cup raw cashews*
1/2 cup soy milk
1 tbsp water or as needed
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt flakes
1/2 tsp cider vinegar

Blend in a high power blender, scraping down a couple of times until smooth.  (*If you don't have a high power blender you would need to soak the cashews.)

Colelsaw with avocado dressing
Serves 2

2 and 1/2 tbsp avocado flesh
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp mustard
pinch salt
1 cup finely sliced cabbage
1/2 carrot, grated
1/3 red capsicum finely sliced

Mash avocado flesh with lemon juice, mustard and salt.  Stir into vegies and serve.

On the Stereo:
Tracy Chapman: self titled album

Wednesday 13 September 2017

Mayonnaise Chocolate Cake (vegan option)

Happy international chocolate day!  I am pleased to be able to bring you a chocolate cake.  It is months since I baked one but last weekend I suddenly had the urge.  Perhaps it was because Sylvia was on a sleepover and we had eaten dinner by about 6.30pm so much time stretched ahead of us without the bedtime routine.  So I baked.

It was lovely and relaxing to bake in the early evening without a child underfoot.  Even more relaxing because I did not need to explain to her why I was putting mayonnaise in a chocolate cake.  (I didn't tell her until she had eaten a few slices of cake.  She didn't seem pleased but then ate another piece quite happily.)  I also got to try putting some rye flour into my overnight sourdough bread which worked well.

The chocolate cake recipe is one that I had handwritten in my notebook many years before I started blogging or even surfing the net.  It fascinated me then and continues to do so. 

f you are skeptical about the idea, just think that mayonnaise is traditionally made of eggs, oil, and lemon juice.  Aren't these ingredients that are usually found in cakes!  So then it makes sense that this cake is made with no eggs or oil, other than what you might find in the mayo.

And I wondered from time to time if a vegan mayonaise would also work in this recipe.  I was recently reminded of this by a Vegan Brownie recipe by Seitan is My Motor that uses vegan mayo.  So having a jar of Kingland soy mayonnaise in the fridge that wasn't being used, gave me a good opportunity to try it. 

One problem with the recipe is that not every mayonnaise is the same.  The one I used was quite sweet and a little sharp.  I find vegannaise (or a good egg mayonnaise) to be far blander and creamier.  I wonder how they would be in this cake.  My version of the cake, which also reduced the sugar by a third and used baking powder instead of bicarb soda (I sometimes get caught out by the Americans writing "baking powder") was quite dense and perfect if you don't like your foods oversweet.

I also liked the frosting, based on this one but using dark chocolate and less icing sugar.  It is as creamy as it is sweet and gave the cake the little bit of extra sweetness it needed without making my teeth ache.

By the time Sylvia returned from her sleepover we had already had a couple of pieces of warm cake and forced it into an airtight container that was slightly too small.  It was still uniced.  So I made up the frosting and then Sylvia decided she needed to decorate it with sprinkles.  She was remarkably restrained.  She has enjoyed the cake in her lunchbox and I have taken it to work with my lunch.  It has been remarkably sturdy - in a good way.  And as someone who never seems to get through a jar of mayonnaise, it cheers me to know I can always put my surplus mayo into a lovely chocolate cake.

I am sending this cake to We Should Cocoa and to a new baking event called Baking Crumbs.

More vegan chocolate cakes at Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Chocolate spice cake (v)
Coconut and chocolate chunk cake (v)
Green ombre chocolate cake (v)
Vegan chocolate (layer) cake (v) 
Zucchini brownie with smoked walnuts (v)

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake
Source unrecorded

Dry ingredients:
3 cups plain flour
1 cup sugar
6 tbsp cocoa
3 tsp bicarb soda (baking soda)
1/4 tsp salt

Wet ingredients:
1 1/2 cups mayo
1 cup water
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

Chocolate frosting:
60g dark chocolate
2-3 dessertspoons butter of margarine
icing sugar

Mix dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Lightly whisk together wet ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.  Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir gently until combined.

Scrape into a greased and lined 13 x 9 inch baking tin.  Bake at 180 C for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

Ice with chocolate frosting (melt chocolate, cook slightly and mix in margarine then mix enough icing sugar to have a soft icing).  Keeps for 4-5 days in an airtight container.

NOTES: the recipe I based this on had 1 1/2 cups sugar and 3/4 cup water.  I used vegan mayonnaise, milk, chocolate and margarine.  Any old frosting or buttercream icing would work instead of the frosting I used.  I used half white and half wholemeal flour.  My tin was actually 12 x 8 inch which might be why it was a nice high cake and needed about 10 more minutes in the oven.

On the Stereo:
The Swell Season: Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová

Monday 11 September 2017

Pictures and Pages children's bookshop, Coburg

Imagine a bookshop.  Bunting hangs above colourful displays.  Friendly smiles welcome you in.  Browse the shelves.  A tyranny of choice.  Take a recommendation or two.  Seat yourself in a comfortable chair.  Buy more books than you intended.  Be excited when they move.  Love the launch!

Anyone familiar with Coburg's Pictures and Pages children's bookstore will know what a welcoming and magical space it is.  It is like immersing yourself in the whimsical world of childhood.  Just reading the titles of kids books is fun.  Lots of nostalgia.  Heaps of fun.  As I walk through the shop books catch my eye and slow me down. 

Lee and Sharon opened in a long narrow shop on Sydney Road at the end of 2014.  It was just what Coburg needed.  There are only so many kebab and coffee shops that a suburb can absorb.  I often turn to Pictures and Pages when I need to buy gifts.  And a few books for myself too.  After all, they have a loyalty program.

The Young Adult selection is full of great reads and there is even a slim shelf of adult books for the parents to browse while their kids are captivated all the world of books.  But adults don't really need grown up books.  This shop appeals to the child inside all of us.  Just look at these cute little toys below.

After almost 3 years at 400 Sydney Road, Lee and Sharon have moved to a new address up the road at Shop 5 in Foleys Mall, 441 Sydney Road.  Just north of the Victoria Street Mall.  The new shop is not quite so narrow.  That means more space for prams to maneouvre around the shelves.  On the weekend they held a launch of the new shop.  You couldn't keep us away!

The launch was great fun.  Authors, music, story time, balloons, craft and a chance to check out the new digs.  When we arrived, Elise Hurst was drawing owls inside the front window of the shop.  She is a talented illustrator and author and so sweet and lovely to chat to.

Lee and Sharon were there with their welcoming smiles.  Aren't they lovely!  They are always ready to stop for a chat and help look for a book or make recommendations.  As stated in my disclaimer below, they are friends of mine but even if they weren't, they are easy to approach.  This is their counter where they work.  And when you buy a book they are always ready to giftwrap it.

Inside was story time on the mat.  Above it you can see the four Hogwarts houses from Harry Potter.  No children's bookshop is complete without the many editions of Harry Potter these days.  A few months back, Pictures and Pages were overwhelmed by the response to a Harry Potter day.  We were unable to go but heard there were long queues to get money from Gringotts bank to buy a wand from Olivanders etc etc.  A gold coin donation was requested to raise money for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. 

I took Sylvia to meet the authors.  (And only managed to ask one author to sign someone else's book - oops!)  After chatting to Elise Hurst who signed our copy of Imagine a City, we took one of Sylvia's favourite Christmas books What do you wish for  (written by Jane Gordon) to illustrator Anna Walker (in the grey coat above, talking to Jen Storer).  Then we talked about cats with Judith Rossell (below) while she signed Sylvia's new copy of Withering by Sea.

All the authors were so friendly and ready to chat to the kids.  Sylvia was quite fascinated.  It is great for kids to see authors in their own world and know that anyone can make that leap into the world of their imagination.  We also met up with some friends there, who were also impressed by the shop.

Lastly I purchased a print from Elise Hurst's Imagine a City.  It is such a book lover's picture with so much wonderful whimsical details that I can't wait to have it on the wall.

If you are in Coburg, I highly recommend a visit to Pictures and Pages.  It is fantastic to see a local bookshop doing well and I am always pleased to be able to support them.

Disclaimer: I know Lee and Sharon who run Pictures and Pages but I was not asked to write this blog post or given any financial compensation.  I wrote the post because I am a regular at the shop and really love it.

Pictures and Pages
Shop 5 Foleys Mall
441 Sydney Rd, Coburg Victoria 3058

Saturday 9 September 2017

Street art: Hosier Lane 2015

Not much baking going on here so today I will share some street art from my photo archives.  Hosier Lane in Melbourne CBD is well known for street art and every time I go there there are lots of different pictures.  It is a fascinating place.  Enjoy the photos!

More street art posts are listed in my Reflections and Reviews index.