Saturday 24 February 2018

Lentil, tomato and rice dish

Recently I had tomatoes that were going really soft because they are cheap and plentiful but sometimes negelected in the kitchen.  I left them on the stove to cook slowly and forgot them until they were reduced to a pleasing intensity.  They were great tossed with some tinned lentils and leftover rice.  I liked it so much that I then took it further to use up basil.

So today I bring you a version of my second go at this dish which had less lentil and tomato but had a gorgeous fragrance from the basil.  I can show you that the tomatoes were really tasty by themselves.  If you look at the below picture you will notice a few tomatoes had been swiped while they sat overnight before I put the meal together.

It was a really easy after work meal.  And used up lots of basil which has been growing like crazy.  But as I say in the notes below, it is a pretty flexible sort of recipe.  I would probably do it a little differently next time depending on what is in the kitchen.

It is not quite a standalone main dish but doesn't need much to make it a meal.  The first night I served it with sausages, forgetting I had planned to put some greens with it.  The second night I served it with coleslaw, steamed corn, tomatoes and rocket.

Work has been busy lately so it is fitting that I have some random moments from work to share with you:
  • Where I work we have heavy security.  I have to swipe my security pass twice to get to my desk, and once to go and fill up my water bottle!  The other day I helped an elderly gentleman find the button to open the gate to exit the building.  I said it was hard to get out and he said, tougher than Pentridge.  This amused me because Pentridge is no longer a high security gaol but a fancy housing estate.
  • I saw a woman I vaguely know at work the other day.  Do you have these people who you don't know well but they seem to pop up in unexpected places.  This woman had a child with Sylvia in childcare, who also went to the same gymnastic club, and comes to our local pool sometimes and now I work in the same building as this woman.  The embarrassing thing is that I can never remember her name.
  • We had a group lunch out at work recently.  At the end when I helped to tally up the individual payments we were $20 out.  This happens.  What annoyed me was that they said they would check their batching and let me know if they were out.  They did ring but quite arrogantly told me "we were 100% right".  Well they might not have been out on the batching but they really got me offside with their lack of grace.  It is unlikely that I will return.

I am going to send this to VegHog for Eat Your Greens (co-hosted by Allotment2Kitchen).

More dishes to use leftover rice on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Cheesy cauliflower and rice soup (gf, v)
Fried rice with tofu scramble (gf, v) 
Italian rice and beans (gf, v)
Stuffed peppers with brown rice, nut roast and fennel
Tahini lime rice with kale and cashews (gf, v)
Zucchini and rice burgers

Lentil, tomato and rice dish
Serves 3-4

olive oil
1 onion
200g cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp maple syrup
3 cups cooked basmati rice 
400g tin of brown lentils
1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
big handful or two of basil leaves
seasoning mix

Fry onion in 1-2 tsp olive oil until browned (about 5-10 minutes).

Fry cherry tomatoes in 1-2 tsp olive oil in a medium frypan with red wine vinegar, maple syrup and 1 to 2 good pinches of seasoning mix.  Check seasoning and fry 5-10 minutes or until most of the liquid is mostly evaporated.

Place onion, and rice in large frypan and mix until warm.  Stir in tomatoes, nutritional yeast flakes and basil leaves.  Season with a pinch or two or seasoning mix or as required.

NOTES: Many variations are possible.  When I first made this I used more tomatoes including 2 skinned larger tomatoes and less rice.  Basil makes it very fragrant but is not necessary if you don't have it.  I would like to try adding finely chopped spinach.  I fried the oninos and tomatoes the previous night and used leftover rice so it was very quick to put together.  

On the stereo:
Ilo Veyou: Camille

Sunday 18 February 2018

White Night Melbourne 2018

If you were an alien arriving last night in Melbourne to see how it functions, you would get a very different image of the city to its usual self.  White Night is an annual night when Melbourne is lit up to reveal wit, wonder and secrets that are hidden in the usual humdrum of everyday.  Streets are closed to traffic and filled with the curious, images are projected onto buildings, and everyone seems very convivial.

After missing last year, I summoned the energy to go along and was thrilled by the creative images on offer, despite the crowds and queues.  I managed to get along to the Exhibition Buildings and the State Library.  Here are some of my snaps of the video projections.

My first port of call was the Exhibition Gardens - an easy walk from the State Library.  I got there half through a cycle, watched another full one while taking photos and watched another while taking no photos.  So I sat through two pauses between cycles.  The countdown was helpful and the way the sections of the buildings moved about gave an indication the messing with our minds that was to come.

The actual cycle through the video was fast, moving along to pulsing insistent dance music with lots of colour and movement.   There is a dome behind the two towers but I guess logistically it was hard to include it.

Lots of colour.

A snake.  Indigenous artwork?

A dragon coming through the artch.  Because it was also Chinese New Year last night?

Creating buildings ...

To form an artist's representation of the actual building the images are projected on.

Then the building crumbles to pieces.

Then the building rebuilds as a person (hard to see but there is a head with arms stretched out the length of the building (that really needs a panorama shot to represent properly).

Then the whole building seemed to be made of ice and cracking up.

And lastly lots of cool swirly stuff.

I would have liked the energy to walk around to the Melbourne Museum for more light shows but instead I walked down the avenue of trees to Victoria Street where there were lots of blow up koalas, spiders, spacemen etc and then cute anime girl.  I found it hard to walk around with so many people everywhere.  My moment when I most wished away all the crowds.

I happened across these mounds of light and sound as I walked away from the Exhibition Buildings.  I don't know what they were and heard someone saying maybe it was nothing wrapped up to look like something.  It was busy walking back to the State Library but the roads were closed and there was room for the crowds.  I joined a queue to get into the dome which took about 20 minutes.

I had visited the State Library on White Night a few years back.  It was absolutely spellbinding.  This year's was not quite as wondrous but that is not to detract from the sense of wonder I had upon walking in.  Books flew from the shelves and opened to immerse the library in their subject matter:

The jungle.


Under the sea.

After the long queue it was easy to find space to sit inside the library and watch the video projections.  Coming out into the gallery behind the dome I was surprised how many people were there.  (It is much quieter at other times of year and I prefer those times but maybe the bean bags were just too tempting for others.)  Come out, the computer terminals had interesting screens like the above set up to hide them (and stop people looking up that elusive book at 4am?).

Outside I liked the video display on the exterior of the State Library better than I did two years ago.  The music was dreamy and I loved all the flora and fauna.

I had enjoyed looking at this installation at the last part of the queuing for the Dome.

And had it not been late I might have stayed to just enjoy the music and images for a while more.

Instead I looked with awe at all the crowd across Swanston Street and then realised with horror that I needed to get across this crowd to get to the train station.  It was not as bad to get through as it looked at first glance.  I only had to wait a few minutes for a train and got home just after midnight.

Read about my previous visits to White Night:

Wednesday 14 February 2018

Chickpea hummus scramble

Yesterday I went all domestic goddess and decided I would make a tofu scramble for dinner and a gnocchi bake for the rest of the week.  I had forgotten the tofu was past the best by date and my gnocchi bake was below par.  I am trying to use what I have so I decided to try a chickpea scramble and it was rather good.

As someone who has only ever had a tiny taste of egg scramble, I never have any aspirations to imitate it, but I do love a good savoury breakfast-for-dinner dish.

This dish was intriguing because it had chickpeas mashed with spices and hummus.  The problem of  using a processed ingredient such as hummus is that not all hummus has the same seasoning.  My scramble was a bit lemony but this might be due to the flavours in my hummus.  Despite this I still enjoyed it.

The scramble was wonderful in a sandwich with onion chutney and baby kale.  It reheated well in the microwave in the evening to be served with more toast and onion chutney and lots of vegies.  This is a great quick and easy meal to make with ingredients that are usually in my kitchen.

More vegan scrambles on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Fried rice with tofu scramble (gf, v)
My breakfast burritos (gf, v)
Roasted vegetable tofu scramble (gf, v)
Spinach, sundried tomato and chive chickpea scramble (gf, v)
Tofu scramble (gf, v)

Chickpea hummus scramble
From Simple Vegan Blog
Serves 2-3

400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 pinch kala namak (black) salt
6 tbsp hummus

To fry:
1 tsp sesame oil

Mash chickpeas.  Mix in remaining ingredients and mash a bit more.  (I used a spoon to crush and stir.)  Mine was very lemony so I would only add 1 tbsp and check before adding the second.  And of course check seasoning.

Heat a frypan on medium heat.  Swirl around sesame oil and then add chickpea mixture.  Cook for about 5-10 minutes, leaving to crisp up in places but should still be quite soft.  Can be kept in an airtight container and reheated.

On the stereo:
Fictions: Jane Birkin

Sunday 11 February 2018

Raising a vegetarian child to be tolerant of meat eaters

A few months back we had a very stressful night at a pizza shop where I was served meat pizza by mistake.  What really startled me the most was how my 8 year old vegetarian child reacted and how much she has to learn about tolerance, respect and kindness for non-vegetarians.

I grew up eating meat but have been vegetarian for more than half my life.  My husband eats meat but eats mostly vegetarian at home.  My daughter has been vegetarian since she was born.

What happened when I accidentally ate meat

We went to a pizza restaurant for dinner last year and I was busy trying to avoid stuff on the pizza that my daughter would not eat and hence not paying attention to the fact that my husband's meat pizza was really similar to my own but with meat.  I ended up taking two bits of his pizza and then stopping to work out what on earth was on it.  Ugh meat!

I thought that was the worst of it.  Turns out it was worse to have a daughter who was furious at me for eating meat.  In that contrary way that is so typical of kids, she took comfort from my husband who is not vegetarian.  She was so angry and unforgiving of me.  "But dad ..."  I spluttered in bemusement.  Apparently I was meant to be vegetarian always even if he wouldn't.  The next morning when she was still upset I sat her down for a talk.

What vegetarianism can teach children about life

I told my daughter some home truths off the top of my head.  After some consideration, I have added some more to share here:
  • You will at some point in your life eat meat by mistake.
  • You will have friends who are vegetarian and decide to change and eat meat.
  • You will meet people who say they are vegetarian but are more flexible than you about this.
  • You might one day eat meat in the name of kindness.
  • You might fall in love with someone who eats meat.
  • You might be told by a doctor you need to eat meat for health reasons.
  • You might one day decide not to be vegetarian.
Life is uncertain and unpredictable in a way that is hard to spot as an 8 year old who has always eaten vegetarian and feels pure.  Life is messy and does not follow a linear path.

The experience of the accidental meat pizza made me understand that being vegetarian could teach my daughter lessons about chance and change, about being tolerant of difference, about being prepared for the unexpected.  An individual does not have to be made in your image for you to accept them and to treat them kindly.  And people will not always be the same.  (Thanks goodness!)  Someone you respect might act in a way that appalls you.  Someone you dislike might do something that makes your heart sing.

Vegetarian children can be seen as different.  It can be tough.  Their mothers are always asking other mothers not to feed them meat.  The vegetarian child is the one is asking what is in their food.  However, they are not the only ones to stand out.  Others might be different for a whole host of other other reasons.  I hope being vegetarian and learning what it is like to be the odd one out can also help my child be tolerant of others whether it be because of what they eat or the colour of their skin.

Being a kind vegetarian

There is a lot of talk about vegetarian (and vegan) kids being kind to animals and being role models to meat eaters.  I agree but this is only the tip of the iceberg because it's complicated.

Being a role model as a vegetarian is not just about being kind to animals but also being kind to humans.  When I went vegetarian, I had many discussions about not wanting to make others feel uncomfortable because I was vegetarian.  Mostly this means not making too much fuss when people mistakenly slip some meat stock into my meal but once on my travels it meant eating a bowl of beef stew made by a woman who did not speak English and had been incredibly kind to me.  A kind vegetarian is far more likely to make others want to follow their footsteps than a judgemental one.  And a kind vegetarian will probably be fed better!

It is all too easy for vegetarians to judge carnivores as not being kind because they eat meat.  Yet I see a lot of kindness by the meat eaters about me who are brilliant at recycling, volunteering their time to help others or standing up for the vulnerable and disempowered.  They are not bad people and they do some things far better than I do.  Being vegetarian is only part of the big picture. 

My daughter does not hang out with many vegetarians.  Most of her extended family and friends are meat eaters.  Some years ago, I had to caution her against trying to convert her friends.  The idea of her trying to convert them to be vegetarian is as disturbing as the idea of them trying to feed her meat or teasing her for being vegetarian.  It does not mean she does not need to be able to tell people why she is vegetarian but I want her to try to be kind when she does.

Explaining why others eat meat

There have been times when my daughter has been very concerned about people she cares for eating meat.  After all if it is not right for her, why should it be right for others! 

So how do I explain to her about others eating meat?  We have talked about different people making different choices but also people being brought up to understand eating meat in different ways.  We can make choices for ourselves but not for others.  My daughter finds it odd that I ate meat as a child but for me that was my normal.  Being vegetarian is her normal. 

More information

I couldn't find much on the web about this topic.  There is plenty else online about other issues (compassion and nutrients) related to bringing up vegetarian or vegan kids.  So I hope this post will be useful.  If you want more reading:

For more general reflections about being vegetarian you can read my "On being a vegetarian" post.

I liked this Mothering discussion about explaining vegetarianism to kids in a non-judgemental manner

I am interested in No Meat Athlete's attitude towards navigating vegan life in a non-vegan world.

And I like the sound of this book about Herb the Vegetarian Dragon by Julie Bass that ends with meat eaters and vegetarians living together.  (I haven't read it but would like to.)

I would love to hear about your experiences of otherness and tolerance, either as an individual or as a parent and I would love to hear how you have approached it.

Wednesday 7 February 2018

Celebration food: Fudgy Chocolate Raspberry Brownies, Taquitos and Chocolate Coconut pie

Apologies for the long post title.  Celebrations are time to experiment with food that is a little extra indulgent.  So a couple of recent birthdays have seen me trying some new recipes.  While they are not been the height of perfection they have certainly given us some interesting and decadent food.

First up is a fudgy chocolate raspberry brownie that I saw in a supermarket magazine.  It intrigued me because it did not use eggs and was full of condensed milk.  It seemed a good idea because I had some chocolate buttons I wanted to use up before hot weather turned them to goo.  I also used gluten free flour because I had some on hand and wanted to take it to a family gathering.

I made this brownie on a night when my oven was failing dismally.  When I first pulled it out of the oven it looked so undercooked I returned it to the oven.  However as later in the evening my oven would not light at all, I am unsure if the oven was on during all the baking time or not.  The brownie was very soft and squidgy.  It did have the right crackle top which I had thought was difficult to achieve without eggs.

I took the brownie to my mum's birthday afternoon tea.  As I often do with rich desserts, I cut it into small pieces.  It was plenty.  We all enjoyed it but found it very rich.  Afterwards we divided it up and only brought home a small tub of brownie.  After all the rich food at the afternoon tea I wasn't so hungry for this sort of thing for a while.  It was about a week later we finally finished it and it lasted the week rather well.

Later I had my own birthday to celebrate and looked at some Pinterest ideas.  I asked for a Mexican feast because it was a hot day and this is a great way to make sure we accommodate all the family dietary requirements.  Apart from the usual nachoes, taccos and sides, my mum and I made Sweet Potato Lime Taquitos with avocado dipping sauce.

It was the first time I had made taquitos.  And a busy day.  So when I took over from my mum in rolling up the sweet potato, it cracked horribly.  My mum had read the recipe more closely than me and told me I had to microwave 2 corn tortilla for 45 seconds so it rolled without ripping.  Far more time than I expected.  The resulting taquitos were really good but had to be fried before the lunch and heated up.

For dessert I had asked my sister in law to bring grubs and my sister to bring a fruit platter.  Fran focused on the platter rather than the fruit and made a platter with a bit of everything - cheese, rice crackers, vegies, strawberries and lamingtons.  It was rather spectacular.  Grubs are not spectacular - even when made to be a bit of round and a bit of square - but they never fail to delight me.

My mum and I also made Martha Stewart's Crisp coconut and chocolate pie.  It was rather rich and looked almost as good as Martha Stewart's.  However the coconut crust was too thick compared to the filling and once we cut a piece it was rather crumbly over the filling.  I think if I make it again I would like to make it a slice to cut smaller pieces and perhaps to put some condensed milk (and use unsweetened not sweetened coconut) into the base to stop it being so crumbly.  I also think I would like something to soften the topping a little and maybe sweeten it a bit as it was quite bitter.  Mostly I would love the time and opportunities to experiment with the recipe!

Here is Sylvia's plate of dessert.  She had a lovely time piling her slice of tart with cream and raspberries.  She also enjoyed our early trip to the beach in the morning and our trip to the pool with her cousins in the afternoon.  We both love our swimming and in hot weather the pool or beach is really the only place to be. 

More brownie recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Candy cane brownies
Chocolate beetroot brownies
Chocolate brownies with chikpea flour (gf)
GF Donna Hay Brownies (gf)
Tim Tam brownies
Vegan brownies with optional dulce de leche swirl (v)  
Zucchini brownie with smoked walnuts (v)

Fudgy Chocolate Raspberry Brownies
From Coles Magazine Summer 2018

395g tin of condensed milk
130g butter
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 cup plain white flour
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup frozen raspberries
1/2 cup dark choc chips
1/2 cup white choc chips

Preheat oven to 180 C.  Grease and line a 20cm square cake tin.

Mix condensed milk, butter and vanilla in a medium saucepan over low heat (you don't want the mixture too warm) for about 5 minutes or until butter melts.

Stir in flour, coconut, brown sugar, cocoa and baking powder in the saucepan.  (I heated my butter over medium heat and so my mixture was too warm and I had to transfer to a bowl to cool it enough that it did not melt the choc chips.  Fold in raspberries and choc chips.

Pour into prepared cake tin and bake for 25 minutes.  Turn off oven and leave for 5 minutes before removing.  It should be soft but slightly browned and showing a few cracks.  Cool in tin and then cut into squares.

On the Stereo:
Foreign Affairs: Tom Waits

Sunday 4 February 2018

In My Kitchen - February 2018

February finds me back at work, school back and I've had enough heatwaves to do me the rest of the year, thank you very much.   As always I looked forward to the school holidays so much but by the end I was looking forward to the end of term for a break.  But there is even less time for blogging now I am back at work.

After half a week of the school term I have missed two of Sylvia's swimming lessons, gone to gymnastics before classes start and got to the shops after all the uniforms in Sylvia's size sell out.  No matter.

I am at least more organised with making sure Sylvia gets to school with a neat (albeit short) uniform, a healthy lunch and her hat. (Actually she reminded me about the no hat no play policy at this time of year.)

My February kitchen is very summery with cool drinks, fragrant basil and vegies and dip with some sweet treats like the honey photo above.  Sylvia had a new bee toy and only wanted food with honey as well as hunting out anything in the house related to honey.

We bought some of the honey treats above so we could make a sundae.  Honey and butterscotch ice cream with honey maltesers, crunchie crumbs, gingerbread sauce, chocolate sauce, strawberries and wafers.  Honestly these are more fun to make than to eat and often don't always get all eaten.

At the more healthy end of the spectrum is our addiction to kombucha.  While on holiday in Ocean Grove Sylvia and I had to try Remedy's cherry plum kombucha.  It had a really lovely fruity flavour and was very refreshing.  It was a sentimental favourite for me because I grew up with a huge cherry plum tree in the backyard but you don't hear that term very often these days.

On the way home from our Ocean Grove holiday we stopped at That Place, a patisserie tucked away in Belmont.  We both had hot chocolate, I had a lovely beetroot and carrot cake, and Sylvia had a cinnamon scroll.  All so good we took away a salted caramel lamington and a nutella pastry, plus a home made marshmallow (which I assume wasn't vegetarian but did not ask).

Then we drove on to Geelong Fresh in pouring rain (thankful to have left the beach) and was tempted by the cutest bottle of gingerbread syrup.  I hoped hoped it might be good for pancakes.  We found it a bit sweet and prefer maple syrup but it was good with some stewed apricots or yohurt on the pancakes.  

At Geelong Fresh we also made quite a few other purchases - seaweed snacks, raspberry liquorice, a most excellent loaf of sourdough garlic bread with sweet nuggets of roast garlic throughout it.  We also bought these black sesame almonds made by Pana Chocolate.  I have to say they were the most weird snack I have had for a while.  The ingredients were roasted almonds, black sesame seeds, maple syrup and coconut sugar.  The almonds had a coating of slightly sweet tahini flavour.  I really enjoyed them for something sweet after dinner.

My sister and brother in law have been renovating their kitchen.  John kindly made us a chopping board out of leftover wood from the benches.  We had to give it a good oil and salt before using it, hence Sylvia writing her name in salt.  I am still trying to decide if it is too big or not.  He has said he will trim it if it is too long.  It has been lovely to take photos on over summer.

Our strawberries and basil have been growing well in our pots.  I still need to do something about the failed leeks below the basil and am hoping the parsley might regrow after going to seed.  I have used the basil in pesto and salad and on pizza but am wondering what I was going to make all those times in the past that I wanted basil in the backyard.  Let me know if you have favourite recipes using basil.

Here is one salad I made with basil.  It was based on a recipe for Tomato, basil, and cucumber salad with brown rice and feta.  I didn't have enough brown rice so I used risoni.  It wasn't a great success and made so much that after a couple of nights we gave up and binned it.  I don't like throwing away food and usually can rescue it somehow but this just didn't work for me in any way.

A slightly better basil offering was this bread scroll with pesto and cheese.  It was the result of a disaster day making bread after letting my sourdough starter get quite sad and neglected.  I decided to try some bread but it was a cold night and in the morning the dough had a long way to go to get to the usual level in the bowl.  So I left it and was busy by the time it was ready, so it waited a bit more. 

It wasn't a great dough so I flattened it into a rectangle, spread it with pesto and cheese (and one with pizza flavoured tomato paste and cheese) and rolled into into a scroll.  I slashed it into slices that I could cut when it came out of the oven. It took ages to bake because my oven did not want to stay on so I finally baked it for the last bit in the grill part of the oven.  I was relieved to find it edible.  It made a handy lunch on the run and the rest didn't last long enough in the freezer.  I should try this again when the dough is behaving better. 

We can't resist a limited edition at the supermarket.  I wasn't that impressed by this raspberry coke.  It was ok but a bit sarsparilla for me.  E and Sylvia loved it.  Honestly I am not a big coke fan anyway - there are so many better soft drinks out there these days.

I fell for the limited edition Doritos collide with a both sweet chilli corn chips and lime chips in the same packet.  A fun idea but they didn't look quite so different inside as they did on the packaging.  And yes, you could always just buy to different flavoured packets of corn chips.

Here are a few packets of bikkies I have found more interesting at the supermarket than when I get home.  The Peckish range  of rice crackers with carrot and kale sounded exciting but didn't have a lot of extra flavour.  The difference was seen in the colour that seemed to get Sylvia's back up.  We also could not resist a packet of Choc Cherry Tim Tams that claimed to change colour in the fridge.  But ... meh ... we did the research and could not see the difference.  The taste was sensational though!

Finally here is last night's tea.  A wedge of Castello brie cheese with crackers and a plate of vegies and hummus.  We've had quite a few of these meals because it is hot and I don't feel like spending lots of time in the kitchen or eating anything too complicated.  You might notice under the cheese and crackers is my new bread and butter plate that has a pattern of broken plates with all different patterns.  The plate makes me happy.

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 10th of the month.  Or just head over to her blog to peek into more kitchens.