Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Wesley Anne: Northcote pub

A few months back my bookclub saw Breath by Tim Winton at the Westgarth Cinema.  When we were asked for suggestions for dinner, I put forward the Wesley Anne up the road.  I had been curious about this pub in a converted old church on the high street.  It is brimming with heritage charm, albeit a gloomy lack of light.  There are quite a few vegetarian offerings.  The food is a cut above your average pub grub and leans towards Italian dishes.  I liked it so much I waited to visit again before writing about it.

From the street the pub looks fairly unassuming.  In fact, it is one of those places I can never remember exactly where it is because it doesn't make a great impact when you are walking along the high street.  The above photo is taken during the day on our second visit, as is the below photo of the gloom inside.  It was even darker at night.

On the first visit, at night, it was so dark that we had to use our torches on our cameras to read the menu or specials board.  It was not a great place to find that I had lost my wallet.  I could hardly see as I rifled through my handbag.  (We dropped by the cinema later and it was exactly where I thought I had dropped it.  Phew!)  The group was surprised at how calm I was but they didn't know just how many times I have lost my purse and usually found it again.

Here is my pie I ordered on the first visit, lit by a phone.  I had the seasonal vegetable stew pot pie with toasted sourdough and green salad.  It was very good but a bit disconcerting that in the dim candlelight I could not see what was in my pie.  It had potatoes, carrots and I think lentils.  I also dislike having pies and bakes served in small ramekins because they are awkward to eat with a knife and fork.- potato, carrot, and I think lentils. - served in a small bowl so awkwards with knife and fork.

It was great to discuss both the book and the film of Breath.  Both had great surfing description/cinematography and some great 1970s nostalgia but the endings were just a bit weird.  We were happy to stay on chatting and have dessert.  I had the brownie sundae with hazelnuts, cherries and ice cream.  It was a rather soft brownie, almost like pudding, but I enjoyed it.

When I returned for the second visit at lunchtime I had hoped I might get some photos of the interior but it was still very gloomy in the booths where I had sat previously.  The name the Wesley Anne is a nod to the building's past life as a 19th Century Wesleyan Methodist church.  The stone walls have the austerity of such sterm church folk but there is more warmth in the pub  these days with candlelight, vases, and  friendly staff.

I really like the welcoming ye olde bar.  Lamps, plants, fun figurines and blackboards make it a bit more boho than your average modern Aussie pub.  And I am a sucker for the pressed metal decorations around the bar.

When you come in the door, however, the place has lots of light from the street.  Like you see at this old piano.  So rather than sit in the gloomy (and fairly quiet) back of the pub, we went into the room next to the bar with the stage for musicians and found a large booth in the window.

I ordered a mulled wine because I had really wanted some mulled wine on my first visit but had already had a glass at the Westgarth Cinema.  The mulled wine at the Wesley Anne is much nicer and went down very well.  It was had a nice sweetness and was full of heady spices without being too strong in the alcohol side.  Sylvia had a hot chocolate.

I ordered the vegetarian tasting plate because I thought Sylvia might find something to share with me.  It was a fairly extensive list of house made pickles,  stuffed mini pepper, local cheese, olive, dip, stuffed mushrooms, arancini, toasted sourdough and gluten free crackers ($26).  Vegan and gluten free versions are available.

The cheeses were brie and cheddar with cracked pepper and the dip was a tzatziki, so none of these appealed to Sylvia.  Nor did she like the all pickled veg.  Whereas I really loved the pickled carrots, found the pickled zucchini a rather large pile and I didn't fancy the pickled onion which is not my thing.  I just loved the pumpkin arancini and was smitten with the stuffed mushrooms with a tomato rice filling covered in crispy cheese and was more than happy to eat chargrilled sourdough with cheese and pickles.  I was sorry Sylvia didn't find much to eat beyond crackers but I really loved the tasting plate.  I'd return just to eat this platter again and perhaps share it with some more enthusiastic diners.

Wesley Anne
250 High Street, Northcote, 3070
Tel 03 9482 1333
wesleyanne.com.au
Open Mon - Sun: 12 til late

Wesley Anne Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Spiced walnut and chocolate scones - International Scone Week

If you can't read this then my blog has been hacked!  I checked my blog earlier tonight and it kept redirecting to some dodgy widgetserver.com site.  Less than an hour later it had gone and my blog was back to normal.  I am quite disturbed by this.  So I tried to back up my blog and although Blogger will download, it will not let me open the file.  ARGH!  Sorry to open on such a down note when really you came here for international Scone Week so on with the post and fingers crossed it is online and not hacked!

If you look at my Scone section of my recipe index, you will see I have quite a lot of different scone recipes.  One reason is that I love to participate in International Scone Week.  It started with three bloggers sharing scone recipes and deciding to invite others to share them in an International Scone Week each year.  Now Tandy at Lavendar and Lime is continuing the tradition.  So I have baked her a batch of Spiced Walnut and Chocolate Scones.

I enjoy thinking about new combinations to try in scones.  This year I was inspired by some spiced walnuts that my mum had leftover from baking baklava.  When I went to use them, I was so disappointed to find they had gone mouldy.  By then I really wanted to make scones with walnuts.  So here were my ideas:

- Idea 1: baklava scones in honour of my mum's walnuts that I didn't get to use quickly enough.  I am not sure how I could do it but perhaps lots of walnuts, some honey and some spice.
- Idea 2 - walnut and marmalade scones because I have just finished reading P D James A Taste of Death.  She writes beautifully and with great attention to detail.  I really loved the description of a disappointing walnut and marmalade cake that is offered to Inspector Dagleish.  I even had some marmalade I could have used.
 - Idea 3 - spiced walnut and chocolate scones - this is a having my baklava idea and adding chocolate because chocolate makes everything wonderful and also because I want to post a chocolate dish this month for one of my favourite blog events.  I have been participating in We Should Cocoa over at Tin and Thyme for years and am really sad to hear this that it will finish after this month.  But I am thinking that I need something really chocolatey for the last hurrah.

So as you can see by the heading, I went with idea 3 - spiced walnut and chocolate scones.  I also used a fancy blackberry and orange chocolate from the lovely Cocoa Rhapsody that we love at our farmers market.  Luckily I only needed half of the chocolate.  It gave the scones a real lift but is also delicious to eat as is.

I looked for some recipes that were my sort of scones and found one for walnut and date scones.  I substituted the chocolate for dates and found a useful post on substituting honey for sugar.  Then I decided to simply the recipe.  I took out the egg and a few other ingredients.  The scones I grew up with never had egg (though my mum tells me my nan put egg in her scones but they never tasted cakey like some egg scones do).

I made these in a hurry on a busy day when no one else was about.  It was one of those odd days when i had eaten some bread and cheese for morning tea and decided just to eat these scones for lunch.  It was what I needed.  I made half the mixture and we ate the rest for supper.  Yet again I send my thanks to International Scone Week for inspiration.  (And let's pray to the internet gods that there is no more hacker activity.)

But it looks like the hackers are back so I am going to publish this and hope for the best! Update: have discovered I had to update from http:// to https:// redirect in the settings/basic of blogger.

More scone recipes from Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Beetroot, apple and walnut scones (v)
Gruyere scones
Kale scones (v)
Pumpkin scones
Pumpkin, pecan and poppyseed scones (v)
Strawberry marscapone scones
Walnut, brie and apple scones

Spiced walnut and chocolate scones
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe
Makes about 10-12 mini scones

1 1/4 cup self-raising flour
1/2 tsp mixed spice
15g butter, chopped
1/3 cup chopped chocolate
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup milk
1-2 tbsp honey

Preheat oven to 220 C and line an oven tray with baking paper.

Place flour and spice in a medium mixing bowl.  Rub in butter.  Stir in chocolate and walnuts.  Gently mix in the milk and honey to make a soft dough.  Turn out onto a floured board and knead a few times until smooth, if you call a lumpy nutty chocolate dough smooth.

Pat out to about 1 inch thick on a floured surface.  Cut into rounds (I used mini scone cutters) and knead and pat out the scraps so you can cut more until there is no dough left.  Place scones on lined tray.

Bake for 12 -15 minutes (I did 12 minutes) until golden brown.  Wrap in a teatowel until ready to eat (this softens the edges).  Best eaten on day of baking.

Notes - would add some lemon juice to the milk to curdle it.  1 tbsp honey rather than 2.  Also could make it vegan with vegan milk and butter and chocolate and maple syrup rather than honey - though would do 2 tbsp as maple syrup is not so sweet.

On the Stereo:
Coleur Cafe: Serge Gainsbourg

Monday, 6 August 2018

Sister of Soul, St Kilda vegetarian restaurant

A couple of weekends ago, we headed to St Kilda in a mad rush and arrived just in time to see the play Puffs.  Once it was over we were able to relax and eat at Sister of Soul.  I first went there quite a few years ago and have wanted to return ever since.  This was a great meal but we were so full when we left that it felt like we didn't need to eat for a week.

Firstly, let me tell you that Puffs (a Harry Potter spin off play) was great fun.  The sets and costumes were simple but the jokes were hilarious.  You needed to know your Harry Potter to understand them but we all did.  I really loved all the little fun exhibitions around the theatre and foyer (like the above).  But my favourite moment was probably when Voldemort (an actor in a swimming cap and some tape across his nose) came out into the audience to ask what he might do when he conquered Potter.  One little kid yelled out, buy a toupee.

We then drove around to park by Luna Park, where we went during the recent school holidays.  We walked past Luna Park's slightly creepy happy mouth and past some street art to find a seat in Sister of Soul where we looked out upon both.

Sylvia loved watching the darkness fall and Luna Park light up .  She is keen to go back there in the dark but I think watching from the window of a restaurant is probably more our thing.

Wheras I would be keen to return to Sister of Soul.  We had a great spread of starters and really enjoyed our curries.  I would love to go back to try more because a vegetarian restaurant is always a tyranny of choice.  It was great to eat meals full of lots of flavour and vegies.  If only we lived closer, I would be back for the breakfast menu.

We ordered drinks.  I ordered kombucha ($7)and Sylvia had apple juice ($7).  Her juice looked cute in the bottle but was a bit fruity for her.  (Which means it would probably please an adult taste.)  I was sorry that I had not seen that Sister of Soul served mulled wine ($10) and mulled cider ($9.50).
The latter sounded particularly appealing with a warming combo of apple cider, orange juice and spiced sugar syrup and dusted with cinnamon.  Next time!

I decided to try some starters for Sylvia.  I got her the edamame ($6) and some teryaki tofu skewer ($11.50).  I quizzed the waitress on how spicy were the skewers because the menu described it as "
Marinated and lightly spiced tofu skewers served with nori, a japanese side salad, a goma dressing and fresh ginger".  She told me it was not at all spicy.  As soon as I tasted it I begged to differ.  It was a bit spicy for me but way too spicy for Sylvia.  When I pointed this out, our waitress was happy to swap it for a bowl of potato fries ($8).

Perusing the starters was too tempting and I also ordered some polenta jenga ($10).  This came on a slice of cauliflower puree with some sage and cashew parmesan.  I think this was my favourite dish.  The polenta chips were great with the really tasty cauliflower puree.  You know it is good when you walk away dreaming of the taste and wondering how to reproduce it.

I was actually sad to see the tofu skewers go but the chips were very good.  Sylvia really enjoyed the edamame and by the time the chips appeared, we were all really full and unable to eat that many.

E chose the chickpea kharma curry ($15): Indian chicpeas, red lentil, potato and cauliflower curry. Simmered in a thick masala tomato sauce. Served with labne and a refreshing tomato, cucumber, radish, mint and mixed leaf salad.  He added roti for $3.  I had a small mouthful and enjoyed it but E raved about how good his meal was.

While E had a small bowl of curry, I chose the Massaman curry ($18) which was huge.  That bowl was bigger than my head.  I also ordered some rice on the side ($3).  I partly chose this because it had tempeh in the thick rich curry.  It was really crispy and delicious.  I would have liked twice as much tempeh.  The vegetables were eggplant (mostly good but a few not), lotus root, broccoli, carrots, potato, bean shoots and fresh coriander.

This curry absolutely defeated me.  It was huge.  I found it odd that both E's and my curry came without rice or roti so that we had to pay extra for them.  I didn't get through my rice and ended up sharing it with E.  My curry was lovely but it was too much to have this curry as well as some starters.

By the time we left we were so full that we could walk along Acland Street admiring all the cake displays without any desire for dessert.  On my last visit years ago, I had a impressively memorable impressive black rice pudding for dessert but it is no longer on the menu.  Instead of dessert this time, we headed over Acland St to Readings Bookstore where we ended a lovely evening.

Sister of Soul
73 Acland Street, St Kilda
03 9593 8550
www.sisterofsoul.com.au
Open daily 7.30am - late

Sister of Soul Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, 4 August 2018

In My Kitchen - August 2018

July was a crazy month that started with school holidays, which vanished into a flash with busy working days, Christmas in July and the plastic bag ban in supermarkets.  While I have always liked winter, I am glad August is the last winter month because it has been a hard winter without our heater and with more asthma than usual.

Above are some fondant cakes I made with Sylvia.  I am not very familiar with fondant icing.  It was interesting to experiment though I think it needs more planning as it was very easy to let it go dry if not concentrating enough to cover it up.  The lollipops came out of a packet of icing toppers and inspired the lollies theme.

My dad bough me this cheerful garlic plate a few months back.  It has become my new place to keep garlic.

One wet dark night I stopped on the way home and bought hotdogs and chips for a particularly junkie dinner.  I fried up some onions to topping the hotdogs along with cheese, sauerkraut and tomato sauce.  I toasted the hotdog buns but had to watch them as they cooked rather fast.  It was a fun change for dinner.

On a trip to the Vic Market, I bought a new trolley.  My old wire one had gone rather skanky out by the shed.  Once the holidays ended we haven't really used it but I hope we will when the weather is better.

I love the occasional purchase of ravioli.  These ones were very good and a bit different to the usual cheese and spinach on offer for vegetarians: cherry tomato and mozzarella, pumpkin, leek and sage.  They are a great quick meal.

Sylvia has been very partial to packets of waffles lately.  It started when she stayed with her cousins on the school holidays and came back glowing with excitment as she told me about waffles with mini marshmallows.

I was gobsmacked to find that the very American M&M company had a limited edition packet of the very Australian lamington flavours.  Actually the lamington flavours aren't so common.  When we say lamington style it usually means chocolate and coconut.  These M&Ms are in jam, chocolate and coconut flavours.  They were fun to eat all three together but you might not be convinced they taste like lamingtons.

Here is some fun stuff from the supermarket.  More hot dogs.  Fancy cheeses (I used the cheddar infused with maple and toffee bits for my Christmas in July cheeseboard), more hot dogs, dolmades that I keep forgetting about, a chocolate filled Barni cake, Tutki biscuits with nutella-style choclate filling, and some date and apricot crackers that went well with the apricot and almond cheese.

Mixed citrus lemonade was made from a fruit and veg box that was given to E.  I still have a few grapefruits and other citrus left so I am almost due to use up the rest in another batch.  I don't have lots of other ways to use up grapefruit.

My haul from the Coburg Farmers Market a few weeks back.  The Greek style red lentil patties were lovely with dinner or in a sandwich.  We love Gorgeous George's kombucha (pomegranate and cherry that week), E found an interesting Asian marinade from Gorgeous George that will probably pep up some tofu, and the red carrots were so cheerful even if they were orange once peeled.

I was tempted again by the Collide range of Doritos.  The guacamole was not as green as I hoped and the salsa was a little spicier than expected.  I had dreams of putting them into nachos but we just gobbled them up with a bit of hummus before I got the chance.

I bought some Greener Bags and a bamboo toothbrush as I am quite aware of all the problems with plastic.  It overwhelms me because when I stop to think about it, there is so much plastic in my life.  So I am trying some little steps.  The bags are for the garbage bin while we get used to the ban on plastic bags at the supermarket.  But we are still managing without opening the packet, even a month after the ban started.  Meanwhile I have heard that these degradable plastic bags are worse than the usual one because they break down in to smaller pieces and are easier for animals to swallow.  Sigh.  I wonder where all the plastic hating will end.  I am old enough to remember when aerosols were going to ruin us and now no one gives them a thought so I hope there is some systemwide change to make plastic less harmful.  Until then, I am doing what I can.  There is a larger discussion to be had here but it will have to wait for when  have more time.

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event, that was started by Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial,  If you would like to join in, send your post to Sherry by 13th of the month.  Or just head over to her blog to peek into more kitchens.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

A-Z of old school blogging and ch-ch-changes

After 11 years of blogging, some days I feel a bit of an anachronism in the new fangled world of blogging.  The blogging world has changed so quickly since I started.  I enjoyed Cadry's recent post about Why don't food bloggers shut up and get to the recipe (with her pet peeves).  It made me think about how things have changed, both for blogging in general and for me personally.  So for a bit of fun here is an A-Z of changes in blogging.


A is for Advertising.
When I started blogging, it was quite unusual for blogs to have advertising.  Now it seems to be quite common.  I think this is a reflection of how blogging has changed.  It used to be about sharing personal diaries and making community connections, but now it is more about promoting a post and making some money.  As for me, I have resisted the lure of advertising income.  It is far more relaxing for me not to worry about stats being linked to advertisements.

B is for Blogosphere.
We don't talk about the blogosphere as much as we used to.  Blogging back in the noughties before social media, there was a feeling that we had a corner of the internet for blogs, a community corner in many cases.  These days social media has made the world of the web far more complicated.  Blogs are now integrated with Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and a whole host of software for keeping up connections.

C is for Comments.
Comments built communities in the blogosphere.  It was a really important way of connecting with readers and other bloggers.  Now social media has diluted the comments function.  If you post on a few platforms, you can have comments are likewise dispersed.  I used to respond to every comment but as life has been busier I haven't been able to and miss this part of blogging.  However with limited energy I try and comment on others' posts.  I have noticed that in general people seem to comment less on blogs.  Is is because we are all too busy trying to keep up with social media where we have lots of likes and shares but less meaningful contact?

D is for the Data Protection Act 2018 (UK).
The most recent Data Protection Act in the UK (and the General Data Protection Regulation in the EU) in May this year seems to have had some impact on internet systems.  Since it was introduced Blogspot urls have changed from having country codes to being just .com (happy dance), my Pinterest settings went awry and I no longer have blog comments emailed to me.  However ever since I have been blogging, it is not uncommon to hear of an introduction of a new data protection law that creates a lot of navel gazing.

E is for E-Books.
When I first started blogging no one made e-books or had newsletters.  Now they seem more common.  I like the idea of them and would be curious to try and make one if I had time but the reality is that they get lost of all my computer files.  And too many bloggers seem to use them to drive traffic.  Because if you can build enough of a following you can move from e-books to a hardcopy recipe book.  And blogging seems to have led to some really beautiful recipe books because popularity in blogging usually means beautiful photos as well as great recipes.

My FoodGawker page, July 2018
F is for Foodgawker.
Foodgawker is just one of the sites that encourage beautiful photography in blogging by having rigorous criteria for the blog photos they will feature.  When I started blogging, my photos were not worthy (and neither were many of the blogs around me).  Now many blogs have amazing photos that when I started would have been far more rare.  I worry it makes it harder for anyone to start a blog because it seems there is so much more pressure to perform well with all that learning being behind the scenes rather than as upfront as it used to be.  And yet I also yield to the pressure to try to take better photos (even if I don't always succeed as Foodgawker will sometimes remind me).

G is for Google.
Google has a huge influence over blogging.  When I started blogging, Google (Blogger) and Wordpress were the two biggest blogging platforms.  I chose Blogger which seems a bit old fashioned next to platforms like SquareSpace these days, but it has changed a lot over the years.  As well as Blogger, Google gave us Google Reader which was my blog reader of choice until it closed years ago.  Google gave us Google Plus, which never took off, Google Stats which was really great until it changed years ago.  Best of all is Google search engine which has given bloggers much food for thought on how to get the best SEO to rise up the Google search results.

H is for Headers.
Headers are so essential these days. When I started my blog it took me a couple of years to work out how to put an image on my header.  It just wasn't that important.  Now most people have personalised blog headers.  They have grown bigger and more impressive.  First impressions are so important.  And everyone is so busy that if first impressions don't wow, you might not have a second chance!

My Headers now and then:
Top is my first header screenshot in 2009
Bottom is my current header screenshot taken in 2014. 
Probably due for an update, if only I had the time,
I is for Indexes.
In the early days, many blogs did not even have a menu of any sort.  Indexes, if they existed were a list.  Now every blog has a menu bar and most indexes are pages of images.  I have resisted too many images in my recipe index.  I must prefer to scan a list than scroll through lots of photos.  I find too many images in an index makes it too time consuming to scan.

J is for Juggling.
All the pressures to have that right look means that blogging takes me more time these days then when I could post a crap photo, write a stream of consciousness and press Post.  Now there are photos to edit, links to include and getting the formatting right.  It is hard to find the right blog/life balance.  I find myself juggling time needed for work and family with blogging.  This might mean buying the ingredients and being too tired after work to cook a dish to blog; having a blog post written but not posting because I have family distractions; or taking photos during the day of food I should eat at night without natural light (but who would believe we eat without natural light if you were to look at blog photos!). 

K is for Kari.
I was sad recently when Kari of Bite Sized Thoughts wrote on her blog that she was stepping back from blogging.  I understand.  But I have seen too many bloggers fall by the wayside during my 11 years of blogging and it makes me sad.  I think this is partly because in the early days I would connect with other blogs far more easily than now when I have so much less time for blogging.

L is for Light.
The current trend seems to be lots of light in photos and lots of white space in blog design.  When I started there was more backgrounds and patterns in blog design but now it is more minimalist, more white light.  In photos there is more light on the food but also lots of white space around it.  I have noticed I need far more time to set up a photo in this way and edit it too.  I don't always have the time I need but I feel the pressure for well lit photos.  We now live in an instagram world of images where lighting and editing are considered essential tools of blogging.

My camera (EOS550D - aka to a Rebel T2i) I have mostly been using for the blog for years and assorted lens.
M is for Money.
I see a lot of people write about how much blogging costs them.  It has always been pretty low cost to me.  Yes I have bought fancier cameras but most of my kit is for people as much as blogging.  I have chosen to go with Blogger, do all my own design, and use the blogspot domain rather than spend money.  If I started now, though, it might be different.  I could be tempted to pay SquareSpace for hosting my blog and buy a domain name. 

N is for Names.
When I started blogging, it was common to use a blog pseudonym.  It was a security issue.  People seemed more wary of having a public persona that could be linked to them In Real Life.  (Or was that just me?)  It was rare to see a blog whose title was the full name of the blogger.  This has changed and now most people seem more comfortable with sharing their full name, often as the title of their blog.  Bloggers also more commonly use a photo of themselves than they did in the early days.  Are we all just become more used to being online.  I am still wary of what I post online on my blog and social media. 

O is for Old school blogging.
When I talk about old school blogging I am reflecting on how different blogging has become.  When I started out, it was more of a personal reflection on cooking, it was an invitation into someone's kitchen to find out what they loved.  They were keen to learn from each other.  Now bloggers are often coming into the reader's kitchen as the expert who can help them to make the Best Damn [Insert name of recipe].  Old school blogging is not dead but it often seems the exception rather than the rule.  I confess I delight to see a blogger with blurry recipes who is just doing their own thing rather than presenting their best face.

Bloggers potluck picnic in Princess Park
P is for Picnics and Potlucks.
When I was first blogging there was a group of vegan bloggers in Melbourne who used to have picnics and potlucks that were open to all bloggers.  It was a great way to taste some of the dishes people were sharing on blogs.  I still see some of these people at occasional picnics or dinners.  These days they organise on FaceBook rather than on blogs.  This is the sort of community that was so wonderful when I first started blogging that I don't see in blogging any more.  (Which is not to say it does not happen in social media.)

Q is for Quirky.
I really loved it when bloggers used to post quirky recipes that I would never see elsewhere in cookbooks and magazine.  Blogging didn't have to be safe.  I started blogging partly because blogs gave me novel ideas.  The very first blog event I participated in was called They Go Really Well Together (TGRWT). It encouraged bloggers to try unusual food pairings.  Such as strawberries and coriander in Berry Guacamole.  Now I think that such quirkiness is more mainstream.  And bloggers are more interested in appealing to the masses rather than just pleasing themselves.

R is for Recipe Attribution.
One thing I learnt as soon as I started blogging was to make sure I made it clear where I had found a recipe or even where I had found inspiration.  There was lots of discussion about recipe attribution and ethics.  Originally a lot of recipes on blogs were from cookbooks.  There weren't many recipes online then.  Then bloggers began to make other bloggers' recipes, often with adaptations.  It was great to be able to follow the links back through all the previous incarnations.  Then bloggers got cookbook deals and we all tread a bit more carefully about reproducing cookbook recipes.  Now blogging is now more about original recipes and less about attribution.
 
Fun changes to stop sign in Castlemaine
S is for Sharing.
When I first started blogging there were lots of blogging events.  Someone would give a theme, bloggers would send them in and the originator would gather them together in one post.  It was a great way to get inspiration, make connections and drive traffic.  I miss this sort of sharing of recipes.  We used to ask advice, share learnings and links to each other more than now.  I think this is partly because social media has taken over the sharing but I find it less open (because you need a membership and there are so many platforms) and more overwhelming (so it is easier to miss helpful social media posts).

T is for Trove.
In the old days, every now and again someone lost a lot of data or had their blog hacked.  It doesn't seem to happen so often now (or I am not aware of it).  I suspect our back up systems are better these days.   We are all far more aware of backing up.  In Australia, the National Library of Victoria has an online archive of websites that is searchable on the Trove database.  I feel very lucky to be one of the blogs being archived on Pandora, not just once but every year or two.

U is for Updates.
In an ideal world, every post would be up to date with no broken links, updates when cafes have closed, and lots of external and internal links to relevant content.  Updates were always a challenge and get harder as my blog gets bigger. The other updates that are a challenge is keeping hardware updated.  I note this as our modem died today and we had to buy a new one and make sure it is compatible with the NBN (National Broadband Network) that is set to roll out soon locally.

V is for Videos.
The idea of videos and podcasts was unheard of when I started blogging.  Now it is quite common.  In fact, we now have vloggers who just blog with video.  I appreciate how videos are useful for a visual picture of how to cook a dish.  But I often skip over them as I prefer to skim text at my own pace.

W is for Writing.
Years ago, the size of pictures was a big issue.  They would slow down your internet speed if they were too big.  Hence writing was still king.  These days writing seems less valued by many but I still love it.  Cadry recently wrote about people who want to go straight to the recipe without reading.  But you can easy find recipes online without all the introductory chatter that is part of blogging.  I love to write and loving to read good writing.  When I look back at old posts, I am far more proud of the writing than the photos. 

X is for X- rated comments.
Spam was not such a big deal when I started blogging but along the way I have received a few nasty x-rated comments.  Not too many but enough to feel uncomfortable about it.  But most spam is harmless: just annoying and inappropriate.  Spam got worse and spam filters got better.  One of the best recent changes in Blogger is the ability to have all comments moderated except those from the last 2 weeks.  It stops the blog filling up with spam comments and means I hardly take much notice of them.  But I do get annoyed by constant emails asking me to promote other blogs and webpages, many of which are irrelevant to my blog.

Y is for Y am I still blogging?
I started my blog because I wanted a resource of recipes.  I am still blogging because I enjoy the creativity, I love to write, and I feel very lucky to have a blog that is a resource of favourite recipes as well as a record of moments in my life.

I wish I looked as cute as this wee wombat when I sleep!
Z is for Zzzzz
Blogging has slowed over the last few years as I get busier, older and need more sleep.  There are never enough hours in the day.  'Nuff said.  Time for bed!

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Vegemite fudge 2.0

We recently had an international visitor who offered to bake a German apple cake for our group.  So I invited him to one of our regular morning teas.  It was such a lovely gesture to bring the cake that I decided to make something quite uniquely Australian for him: vegemite fudge.

I was inspired by the caramel fudge I made for our Christmas in July lunch, which was so sweet I thought it could do with some salt.  Then I thought I could add Vegemite.  Then I didn't have white chocolate so I added dark choc chips instead.  I was very pleased with the outcome.

We had a really nice morning tea.  The German apple cake with lots of ice cream and cream was wonderful.  Others brought in savoury buns and Japanese cheesecake so it was quite a feast.  While our visitor and his wife were happy to taste the fudge, some of the other internationals I work with were more wary.  I argued that this was an easier way to try Vegemite than spreading it on toast.  Here are a few of the reactions to the fudge:

I am confused.  It tastes like breakfast but it tastes like dessert.
What is Vegemite?
It is a nice balance of sweet and salty
Vegemite?  No wonder it tasted so strong.
It doesn't taste of Vegemite.

For the skeptics, let me explain.  Our iconic dark salty Vegemite gives a depth of flavour: a little bit umami and a salty balance to the sweet fudge.  If you are not Australian, I hasten to add that adding Vegemite to fudge is not common.  I am possibly one of the only bloggers to have posted two Vegemite fudge recipes.  Yes, this is not my first go at vegemite fudge.  In fact I think it could become quite common in this household.  I rather like it! 

More vegemite recipes:
Cheeseymite scones
Sourdough cheeseymite scrolls
Vegemite burger (v)
Vegemite and poppy seed scones (v)
Vegemite fudge - with caramel layer

Vegemite Fudge
Adapted from Bundaberg Sugar via Green Gourmet Giraffe
Makes 60 small pieces

125g butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, not packed
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp vegemite
395g can condensed milk
200g dark choc chips

Line a small slice tin (28cm x 18cm x 3cm) with baking paper.

Melt butter in a large saucepan.  Add brown sugar, golden syrup, vegemite and condensed milk.  Bring to the boil over a medium heat.  Reduce to a low heat and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and add chocolate, stirring until smooth.  Pour into prepared tin immediately and spread evenly with the back of a spoon.

Cool to room temperature for at least 30 minutes.  Once set, cut into small pieces with a clean hot knife (I had to clean my knife under hot water a few times while cutting up the fudge). 

NOTES: you could try marmite or promite instead of vegemite, though it would alter the flavour slightly.  I wonder if you could try miso too.  

On the Stereo:
Absent Friends: The Divine Comedy

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Fruit Christmas tree

I love a good celebratory dinner but it does often involve so much rich food.  It is always very satisfying to find ways to be a little healthier.  If you look online, there are lots of fun festive ways to shape fruit and cheeses.  For this year's Christmas in July lunch, I made a fruit Christmas tree.

Sylvia and I went to the Queen Victoria Market the previous day to buy fruit.  I had hoped there might be some fresh cranberries or out of season grapes but none to be found.  We bought lots of berries - strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries plus some kiwi fruit and pineapple.  The pineapple was to be the star as well the the yellow fruit.  I was also excited to find red kiwi fruit but it went squishy quite quickly.

We cut a hole in an apple, and sliced the bottom to get it to sit firmly.  Then we sat a carrot in the hole, trying to have it as straight as possible - ours was a little crooked.  The carrot, if you like, is the trunk, the toothpicks are the branches and the fruit is the leaves.  While I chopped fruit, Sylvia stuck the toothpicks into the apple and carrot.  She started at the bottom and cut the toothpicks smaller as she got closer to the top.

The final tree was good but could have had more coverage.  I followed Handimania's instructions and found that they didn't have that many toothpicks.  Maybe their fruit was bigger chunks.  I felt that we could have done with more toothpicks but we ran out of time.  With both me and Sylvia working on it, we took over 30 minutes and needed more time.  When people arrived I stacked the rest of the fruit around the base, which worked well.  I think that it was good to make the tree close to the lunch as some of the fruit got slightly soft even over a couple of hours.

I really loved this addition to the Christmas dessert.  It was really refreshing to have after a large main meal.  And I really enjoyed grazing on the fruit both during lunch and after everyone had gone.  It appealed to the kids too, which was pleasing.

Upon reflection, it seemed ironic to have a summery cheese board, fudge and a fruit tree for dessert for our Christmas in July when we were trying to make the most of a festive winter feast.  On the other hand, this is a Christmas dessert item that would work very well in summer, so when December comes around, I would like to try this again and make the most of all the lovely summer fruit.

More fun ways to serve fruit  on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Watermelon monster (gf, v) 
Rainbow fruit kebabs (gf, v)
Choc-nut banana and fruit kebabs (gf, v)
Christmas in July dessert cheese platter
Fruity icy poles (gf, v)

On the Stereo:
The Original Christmas Album: 20 Party Christmas Crackers - Various Artists