Wednesday 29 November 2017

Easy vegetarian thai curry and days out

On Saturday, I had a long Christmas shopping expedition with Sylvia and we had a rather dismal dinner on the train as we came home at 7.30pm.  So the following night I made a Thai curry that I make from time to time.  It was so satisfying to have a dish of lots of vegetables and flavour.  Today I am sharing how I made a curry with a jar of curry paste when I am in the hurry.  It is embarrassingly simple.

Before telling you about the recipe, here are a few snaps from some days out.  We had a weekend in Geelong recently to see family.  We also had time to go into the city.  I enjoyed seeing some street art around St James Street.

When I stumbled across Uncle Donut in Little Malop Street I thought I had better make a purchase for my doughnut loving daughter.  I liked the lamington doughnuts but quibble at the custard as well as jam in the filling.

E and I visited the Archibald Prize exhibition.  This is a prominent Australian portrait prize.  It is held in Victoria in different regional galleries each year.  This year it is at Geelong Gallery.  Such an eclectic collection of artworks with lots of clever ideas.  Above is Anh Do's portrait of Uncle Jack Charles.

After the exhibition, we stopped next door at the Geelong Library's cafe called Public.  While it is not cheap ($4.50 for a cookie is just too much), we enjoyed our wedges with sour cream, salsa and jalapenos.

As an aside, while looking for the cafe link on the library website, I found a reference to their Food for Fines program where people can have their library fines waived if they bring in donations for food banks.  Such a great idea.

On Friday we got along to the Coburg Night Market.  I enjoyed some Ethiopian curries and ice cream but did not get as much time as I had intended for browsing the craft stalls.  Our time there was cut short by an imminent thunderstorm.  I was relieved to get home just as the heavens opened.  Sadly it looks like more rain on Friday for the next market but maybe we can sneak in early.

And we had our Christmas shopping session in the city.  Sylvia is all into Christmas and delighted by all the decorations.  I wanted to get some Christmas shopping done because there are busy days ahead.  My proudest and most nervous moment was when Sylvia decided she wanted to buy me a present and went off by herself.  This was done with quite a lot of planning and discussion but she was very happy when she had done it.  I am being quite restrained with my Christmas photos as I plan to share more closer to Christmas.

So back to the curry.  Above is the curry I made on the weekend.  It is quite soupy when cooking but the top photo is after sitting for a day when the liquids get soaked up.  I cooked the noodles separately each night and then put them in with the leftovers for the third day.  Often I cook the noodles in the curry.  But I also often make rice to serve with it.

This last photo is of a Thai curry I made earlier in the year with a whole lot of different vegies but I did not write down the list.  In fact I have been making this style of curry for a long time but it is so easy and I often change what is in it so I have never blogged it.  Now that I am going through a busy patch, I thought it useful to share some of the meals I have when I am busy.

More Thai inspired dishes on Green Gourmet Giraffe blog:
Skye's Tomato and Pumpkin Curry with Lime and Coconut (gf, v)
Thai curry split pea soup (gf, v)
Thai pumpkin and lentil soup (gf, v) 
Thai style salad with noodles (gf, v)
Vegetarian Pad Thai (gf, v)

Easy Vegetarian Thai Curry
Serves 4

1-2 tsp neutral oil such as rice bran
1 onion
1 carrot
2 dessertspoons Thai curry paste*, or to taste
300g tin of coconut milk
1 cup water
1 tsp stock powder
350g tofu, diced (or chopped cashews)
Chopped vegetables - whatever you have*
Noodles or rice, to serve

Fry onion and carrot in oil until softening.  Stir in curry paste until it smells aromatic (30-60 seconds).  Add coconut milk, water, stock powder, tofu and vegies.  Simmer 10-15 minutes until vegies just cooked.  Hold back any delicate vegies like asparagus, spinach , snow peas until just before serving.  Keeps well overnight for leftovers.

*NOTES: I have made this with different curry pastes - green, red and yellow.  Vegetable suggestions: tonight I had 1 carrot, 1 large sweet potato, 1/3 of a cauliflower, 2 corn cobs, 2 mushrooms, 1 bunch asparagus.  On other occasions I have used pumpkin, spinach, cabbage, capsicum, snow peas, bean sprouts, spring onions, zucchini.  Mostly quick cooking vegies work well here.  If I don't have tofu I often throw in some toasted cashews at the end.  Or sometimes I put in both tofu and cashews.

On the stereo:
The Sound of The Smiths

Thursday 23 November 2017

I Dream of Sushi, Moonee Ponds

When you find a sushi place that is named after a favourite childhood tv show and has a separate vegan menu, you know you are onto a good thing.  As soon as I saw Veganopoulous's fantastic photos I had bookmarked I Dream of Sushi as a place to visit when we were next in Moonee Ponds.

It is just a small place with some seating along the window and wall but it has a nice ambience with kewpie dols and maneki neko.  Sylvia and I also enjoyed watching the trains from the window.  I Dream of Sushi is right opposite Moonee Ponds Train Station.

I was excited that the sushi display had more than the standard vegie and avocado handrolls that you find in shopping centres.  I haven't yet tried the fried eggplant miso sushi but hope to some day.

But then I saw that they had a separate vegan menu.  You might need to ask for it as it is not necessarily given to you unless you ask about vegan options.  But it is extensive and impressive.  Bento box, Gyoza, Soup, Soba noodles, Tofu.

I chose the Tofu Don on my first visit.  the photo is at the top of the page.  It was delicious.  While not dirt cheap, at $14 I got my money's worth.  Four large squares of tofu in batter with don don sauce, lots of vegies and salad and heaps of rice.  In fact Sylvia really liked it and there was plenty for two of us.

Sylvia had ordered her favourite Japanese dishes: inari and edamame.  While sharing a bit of my dish she managed to knock a plate to the floor and it smashed to smithereens.  The staff showed just how lovely they were by tidying up with little fuss and easing our embarrassment.

We also had drinks because I cannot resist a good kombucha and Sylvia always wants apple juice.

My second visit was by myself.  I ordered the Bento and was most impressed.  While I prefer a little compartmentalised bento box, I loved the plateful of food so much that I was willing to overlook this.  The bento consisted of what the staff called "tofu steak" but I would call battered tofu, tempura root vegetables, a green vegetable mixture of broccoli and asparagus with a creamy nutty sauce, some edamame, lots of salad leaves with a delicious dressing and a bowl of rice on the side.  So so so good.  Again it was great value for money at $15 with lots of vegies and flavour.

I really want to return and try other dishes but I loved the Tofu Don and the Bento so much that I want to eat them over and over.  It will be hard to branch out even if the soba noodles and gyoza are calling my name.  The staff are lovely and the cafe is a pleasant place to stop and eat. And don't forget to admire the cute little sushi cartoons around the place.  They will make you leave with a smile.

I Dream of Sushi
6 Margaret Street, Moonee Ponds (opposite train station)
03 9375 7961
Opening hours: M-Th 11am-8pm, Fr-Sat 11am-9pm, Sunday Closed

I Dream of Sushi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday 20 November 2017

Wild Rice Burgers

It has been a week of burgers.  It has been such an intense few weeks that some simple burgers have been welcome meals.  We have had to deal with Sylvia's flu, medical appointments, school swimming lessons on consecutive days, neighbours' noise and my workplace gearing up for some big events, just to name a few of the challenges.  Sylvia has embraced Christmas (thanks major supermarkets and all your unseasonal displays) so I am now starting to worry about getting organised for festivities.

I had my eye on these Wild Rice Burgers from Pinch of Yum for some time and finally made them on the weekend.  I still had salad vegetable that I had bought the previous week in hope of making them.  Unfortunately it was more the sort of week when I was eating baked beans for tea because no energy to think about it, or eating a little tub of nuts and some stewed fruit found in my bag because I didn't have time to make lunch or go and buy it.  Thank goodness that I have well stocked pantry and bag even in busy times.

I decided to veganise the burgers.  Actually I had seen these burgers veganised on Yup It's Vegan but wanted to come at it from another angle.  There are so many ways to make any dish vegan!  I stuck a lot more closely to the recipe, using vegannaise instead of mayonnaise and substituting aquafaba (chickpea brine), chia seeds and flours for the 4 eggs.  I also changed around the flavours.

At first I thought that my changes had made the burgers too soft.  However once chilling them, they mixture was much easier to handle.  I also found that the flavours, which initially seemed too strong, settled after chilling.

My burgers were much darker than Pinch of Yum's burgers.  I am not sure why.  They were really really good.  I really loved them because they reminded me a little of the burgers I had as a child and they crisped up really nicely.  Though I wish they had had a bit more protein.  I was pleased in a busy period that the mixture produced 12 burgers which almost lasted a week.

The first day I served them on  my own sourdough buns , which were a bit heavy for the burgers.  The more traditional light and fluffy white burger buns worked better.  The day after I made them I took a sandwich to work of fresh sourdough bread and cold burger with some cheese and tomato sauce.  It was so good I ate it before lunch with a colleague and did not see anything better at the cafe where I was quite content just to drink a green smoothie.  I took them down to my parents on the weekend and cooked them up for dinner.  The leftover I took for when we arrived home. 

I can highly recommend these burgers.  I would suggest maybe starting with a bit less aquafaba and serving in a burger bun.  But I am confident that they would be excellent in so many ways.

More vegan burgers on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Earth Burgers (gf, v)
Roasted beetroot tofu burgers (gf, v)
Smoky apple vegie burgers (v)
Sweet potato, chickpea and hemp seed burgers (v)
Tamale burgers with mole sauce (gf, v)
Vegemite burger (v) 
Watercourse Foods tempeh burger (gf,v)

Wild Rice Burgers
Adapted from Pinch of Yum
Makes about 12

1 1/2 cup raw wild rice
1 cup button mushrooms, finely diced
1/2 cup aquafaba*
3 tbsp potato starch
2 tbsp tapioca flour/starch
3 tbsp chia seeds
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
2-3 cup breadcrumbs
2 tsp salt and pepper mix
2 tsp smoked paprka
1 tsp seeded mustard
oil for frying

Firstly cook wild rice.  Place raw rice in hot water, cover and bring to the boil.  Stir, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  Pinch of Yum says this should make about 5 cups of cooked rice.

Mix rice with all ingredients.  It is best to chill the mixture in the fridge.  My mixture lasted about a week in the fridge.  Heat 1-3 tbsp of oil in a large frypan.  Wet hands.  Take a handful and shape into round flat burger patties and put straight into frypan.  Fry for a few minutes on each side over medium heat or until crisp and dark.  Drain on kitchen towel.

Mixture keeps in the fridge for up to a week.  Serve straight away in a burger bun or keep overnight and eat cold in a sandwich.  Cooked burgers can be left in the fridge overnight and heated either in the oven or on the grill.

On the stereo:
Flood: They Might Be Giants

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Sock doughnuts and doughnut mania

When Sylvia's suddenly loved everything about doughnuts I decided it was time for a craft project.  I mentioned a while back that we had made some sock doughnuts.  Real doughnuts are delicious but they do get stale quickly.  These doughnuts really liven up Sylvia's doughnut den.  So here is a post on how we made them and a little more on everything doughnut.

Before I tell you about making sock doughnuts, let me tell you a story about my late father-in-law.  He told his daughter that it was so hard to find "fun socks" any more.  She went and found some socks with lots of crazy colourful stripes and spots.  He looked disappointed.  Apparently she had misheard him and he had asked for "fawn" socks.

I agree with my father-in-law.  Fawn socks are very hard to find.  Which makes it tricky trying to make sock doughnuts when fawn or beige socks are the first thing you need.  I ended up buying mostly fawn socks.  I didn't choose this project for the socks.  What attracted me was that there was no sewing involved.  Lots of hot glue gun instead.

So we ended up cutting the fawn legs off socks, rolling them up and then when I glued the edges on I had to pull it as tight as possible to make the holes in the middle more visible.  Then I cut out felt icing to glue on top.  Lastly we used fabric paints to put sprinkles on top.  It was great fun.  We made a dozen over a few weeks.

We experimented with a few different ways of decorating the doughnuts.  The white on chocolate was to be a lamington but the white paint was not quite bright enough.  The coloured sprinkles were the best.

Ironically after avoiding all the sewing, Sylvia has decided to start sewing a stuffed felt doughnut that I have finished off for her.  We just need to sew on the sprinkles.

While we were in doughnut sock mode, Sylvia had to do a craft project for school.  So she put some googly eyes, a red felt mouth and icy pole stick limbs on a sock doughnut.  Voila!  A walking, talking doughnut. She used some modelling clay that we bought at the Wallace and Gromit exhbition to make more little doughnut.

The sock doughnuts go in the Doughnut Den.  That is the area where Sylvia creates her own world's in our living area.  All her doughnutty things go in here.  Even her doughnut outfit.  Just so you know she is not totally obsessed with doughnuts, she does not wear her own doughnut very much.

I have scratched my head about this doughnut obsession.  It seemed to come out of nowhere.  When I think back, it might have started with purchasing some Sylvanian Families dolls house furniture and Sylvia pouring over the catalogue, as she loves to do.  She decided she must have the doughnut shop.  It took quite a while before I found it in a shop but you can see why it would make you swoon over doughnuts.  They are so so cute.

Once you start to look, there is actually quite a lot of doughnut stuff around.  Not enough for Sylvia.  But enough for my wallet.  She also says there are not enough doughnuts in movies.

So here are 5 movies/tv shows with notable doughnuts:
  • The Simpsons
  • Zootopia
  • Adventure Time
  • Wreck it Ralph
  • Emoji Movie

We've been giving Sylvia pocket money so she has to make some choices about what she buys.  Then she finds a Shopkins Delish Doughnut for a bargain $1 in a department store.  Right beside her is Donatina who was bought with her savings.

There are heaps of shops selling doughnuts.  Sylvia loves collecting their business cards.  Quite a lot of them were collected at the Donut Fest.

But we have been visiting more doughnut shops than usual.  Above are some of them: from top right: All Day Doughnuts, Doughnut Time, Krispy Kreme, Donut Fest, Doughnut King and Dooughnut Time.  My favourite doughnut place is not there though - the hot jam doughnut van at the Queen Victoria Market.

Even when doughnuts aren't involved, they look like they are.  Here are some gingerbreads we made to take to the Grampians holiday home.  We used the doughnut cutter to shape them and then iced and sprinkled them.

And then we made "cheese puffs" with a doughnut cutter.  That is what Sylvia calls it when we grate cheese on a sheet of puff pastry, cover it with another sheet, cut it into shapes and baked until golden brown.

And of course we have been baking lots of doughnuts.  Mostly for social occasions.  They don't last well if not eaten on the day.  Occasionally we have just been experimenting.  Above from top right chocolate sourdough doughnuts, yeasted doughnuts, baking powder doughnuts and overnight sourdough doughnuts.  Don't ask me which are my favourites!  I love them all.  Just don't ask me to fry them.

Saturday 11 November 2017

How to make a Loch Ness Monster cake

When it came to making a birthday cake for Alex and Ian this year, the issues to take in to consideration were a serious lack of energy (mine) and a serious desire for doughnuts (Sylvia's).  A Loch Ness Monster cake seemed to please everyone.  Easy enough for me, doughnuts for the monster for Sylvia and Scottish enough for E.  I didn't have any grand plans and did some learning as we went but it was a fun cake that impressed our guests.

The doughnut theme actually helped make the cake seem possible because we were one step ahead with doughnuts in the freezer ready to be baked.  Right from the beginning I knew the sturdier yeasted variety would work far better as decorations than the more delicate baking powder doughnuts.  They weren't quite as smooth as the first batch of doughnuts but it was close enough for jazz.  As I usually try to do, we started the day before.

We looked online at some Nessie cakes and decided to just make a green icing and dunk the doughnuts in it.  I didn't really think this through.  Ideally I should have used an icing sugar and water or milk icing that would have set more firmly and maybe more smoothly.  Using up the rest of the tub of cream cheese and some margarine in the icing made it quite soft and reluctant to set firmly.  Check out the mess they made on the baking paper below!

Perhaps if I had thought it through more I might have cut the doughnuts before we dipped them in icing.  (Though the off cuts would not have tasted so good!)  At least I had the foresight to keep some icing aside so I could patch where we cut or where fingers made marks.  The next day I cut  the doughnuts into parts of the monster.  I initially thought we would do two humps but there wasn't room.  I cut a small piece for the tail and a larger piece for the head which I whittled slightly to make it rounder.

I had made the chocolate cake base earlier in the day.  Chocolate is always my preference.  I chose a vegan chocolate cake that I know well.  It is a simple recipe and tastes really good too.  And it holds up well when decorating.

We managed to put on the lake (teal icing), dirt (chocolate icing), grass (green coloured coconut), rocks (milo cereal) and the Loch Ness Monster doughnuts by the end of the night.  Having the muesli around the lake helped give it definition. I also considered Oreo biscuit crumbs instead of the muesli

By the end of the evening I was able to report to Sylvia in bed that Lochie has done a faceplant.  Yes, the head had keeled over, eyes and all.  It took a bit of patching with my spare bits of icing to try and rectify it.  Luckily Sylvia is a smart cookie and suggested I put a skewer through the head to keep it up.

It was just as well we had got so much done the night before because we had lots to fo the next morning.  Just making the trees to put around the shore was enough to get done.  Actually it was the moment when I told everyone to leave me alone to just get it done.  But the trees turned out fine.  I had got the idea from a cake that used pretzel sticks but there were none to be found in the supermarket so we got breadsticks instead.  Given how thickly we piped the green tinted white chocolate out of a ziplock bag, the breadsticks worked really well.

Everyone was suitably impressed by the cake.  I am impressed that we managed to serve 3 doughnuts - the chocolate doughnuts on the Loch Ness Monster cake, the home made monster doughnuts and the fancy shop bought Uncle Doughnuts.

If you look closely at this last photo you will see a bone of contention between Sylvia and me.  She insisted that Lochie had a moustache.  I resisted as long as I could.

It is unlikely that I will ever make another loch ness monster cake but if I do, I will have learnt quite a lot from this experience.

I am sending this cake to We Should Cocoa and Baking Crumbs.

More monster food on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Franken sushi (gf, v) 
Monster cake
Monster doughnuts (v)
Monster rice krispies (gf, v)
Watermelon monster (gf, v)  

How to Make a Loch Ness Monster Cake
You can take shortcuts by buying the cake, the doughnuts and frosting or make it all from scratch.  I didn't take measurements of my icing/frosting or other elements.  This really depends on the size of your cake.  There are three different green icing batches to be made in different tints of green  Add a little blue or yellow to green colouring for different tints.  Keep some icing aside after spreading it on cake in case you need it for patching up bits of the cake.

What you will need:

1 rectangular chocolate cake (see below recipe or use your own)
2 or 3 firm doughnuts (like these)
Green icing for doughnuts (made with icing sugar, water and colouring)
Green frosting for lake
Chocolate icing for around lake
Coconut and green food colouring
Milo muesli, coco pops, crushed chocolate biscuits (cookies) for rocks
2 candy eyes
1 skewer
Bread sticks or pretzel sticks for tree trunks
White chocolate and colouring for tree branches

What to do:
  • Dip doughnuts into green icing and leave for icing to set - best to leave overnight.
  • Spread cake with frosting in the shape of a lake.  Spread the chocolate icing around it.  Use muesli, coco pops or biscuits to create a border with rocks.
  • Rub a few drops of cheap green food colouring into some desiccated coconut to make it green.  Sprinkle green coconut over the  chocolate icing.
  • Cut iced doughnuts to have one or two halves to be humps (cut slightly more than half), a small piece of doughnut for tail and a third piece that is whittled a bit to make it look like a head.  Arrange on cake.  I had my frosting on thick enough that they sat upright in it.  Break skewer to just above height of cake and push through head and tail to keep them upright.  Smooth icing over if necessary.  Arrange eyes on monster head - use a little extra icing to make it stick if the icing has set hard on the doughnuts.
  • To make the trees, lay breadsticks on baking paper on baking tray.  Melt white chocolate and colour with green food colouring.  Pipe into branches over breadsticks - we did this in a ziplock bag and snipped a corner out to pipe from.  Place in fridge or freezer an hour or two until hard.  Arrange around edge of lake (move rocks if necessary).  I stuck them in cake by using a knife or chopstick to make a little hole and then pushed them into cake. 

Vegan chocolate cake
(also used here, here and here in different quantities/tin sizes)

1 and 2/3 cups plain white flour
1 cup wholemeal plain flour
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup cocoa
2 tsp bicarb soda (baking soda)
1 tsp salt
2 cup soy milk
2/3 cup oil
2 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 180 C.  Grease and line 9 x 13inch rectangular cake tins.  Mix dry ingredients and then add wet ingredients.   Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Sit in tin 5-10 minutes.  Turn out and cool on a wire rack.

On the stereo:
Titanic: Music As Heard On The Fateful Voyage: Ian Whitcomb, White Star Orchestra

Thursday 9 November 2017

Ponzu Stirfry

When I saw Ponzu on the shelves of a health food store recently, I was sure it brought good cafe meals to mind.  So I purchased a bottle.  At home I searched online for ideas and then went with my own variation on a favourite lo mein stirfry.  It had a pleasing lightness to it, thanks to the citrus flavours in this Japanese marinade sauce.

Years ago I overdid it on stirfries.  For an age, I didn't make them.  Then I found a simple lo mein recipe and my stirfy mojo returned.  We have them quite often but I really loved this ponzu variation and think it might be another favourite.

While I am very happy to have ponzu sauce in my house, I did choke for a moment upon reading about it online when sites started to tell me it usually has bonito (fish) flakes in it.  I had never even thought to check in the house.  I rushed to the bottle and checked but was relieved to see that my bottle didn't have any fish in it.

Once I had the sauce sorted, I started to fry the vegies.  I use whatever vegies are on hand for my lo mein.  Here I have written what I used but it is totally dependent upon season and availability for what goes into any good stirfry.  Just so long as there is some good variation in colour and texture. 

And a pile of comforting slurpy noodles.  I try and keep some ready to eat hokkein noodles in the cupboard for nights when I need dinner quickly.  I also like seasoned Japanese tofu.  Some plain tofu or cashews could be fried before starting on the vegies and added later.

It made a really pleasing meal with lots of lovely vegies.  There were enough leftovers for one for the next night.  E and I had them with some fried dumplings.  I mixed up a bit more of the dressing (2 tbsp ponzu, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp maple syrup) and it made a wonderful dipping sauce for the dumplings.  I think I am going to enjoy this ponzu sauce.

More stirfry recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Hal's stirfry sauce (gf)
Lo mein (v) 
Matthews delicious tofu (gf, v)
Tamarind tempeh with noodles (v)
'Teriyaki' tofu with brown rice and kale (gf, v)

Ponzu Stirfry
Serves 2-3

3 tbsp ponzu
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp oil
1 onion. chopped
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
1-2 cups red cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 red pepper, thinly sliced
bunch of asparagus, chopped
handful of snowpeas, diagonally sliced
4-6 button mushrooms, roughly sliced
150g Japanese seasoned tofu
200g pouch of hokkien noodles (ready to use)

Mix sauce ingredients together and set aside.  Fry onion in oil for a few minutes.  Add carrot, red cabbage and red pepper and fry a few more minutes.  Now add remaining ingredients and the sauce.  Stir through a few minutes until the sauce is mostly absorbed and all the vegies are a little wilted but not too soft.

On the Stereo:
Thursday's Fortune: Club Hoy