Saturday 30 June 2018

Blackbean hummus

This is my hummus that tried to be black but just looked like a creamy chocolate mousse.  You see, Sylvia is going through a black phase and bought these charcoal wafer crackers.  I thought they would look rather striking served with a black hummus.  And I was so sure that black beans and black tahini would make a black hummus.  Apparently not.

The recipe I made was an adaptation of my regular hummus.  As I made it, I wondered if it would be fun to add black garlic.  Not that I have ever had black garlic.  I am just curious about it.  Now that I have found the hummus was not black enough, I am thinking of trying it with some activated charcoal powder.

Despite the colour not being quite the deep black of my vision, the hummus tasted really good.  (My mum had a taste and suggested a tad more salt but it was enough for me.)  Not that different from a traditional hummus.  It would be fun to serve it on a platter with a few different colour hummuses.  And Sylvia is not that bothered about the colour because she told me she is never going to eat this hummus.  She is happy enough with her black clothes, black accessories and black cat.

More hummus recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Avocado hummus (gf, v)
Beetroot hummus (gf, v)
Buffalo hummus (gf, v)
Hummus (gf, v)
Roasted pumpkin and garlic hummus (gf, v)
Smoky red pepper hummus (gf, v)
Spinach hummus (gf, v)

Black bean hummus
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe

1 tin blackbeans
1/3 cup black tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp fine salt
black sesame seeds to garnish, optional

Blend until smooth and creamy.  Adjust flavourings to taste, if necessary.  Keeps well in a airtight container in the fridge.

On the Stereo:
Native Place: The Railway Children

Tuesday 26 June 2018

Vegan lasagne with spinach ricotta and cashew cream

It was a cold and wet night as I stepped out of my building.  Despite my umbrella, I got soaked walking to the tram stop where I stood freezing during a long wait.  Finally the tram came and a rush of cold wind came in the door every few seconds when the tram stopped to let more people off.  When I hopped off the tram and remembered our regular heater was decommissioned, I went to the chemist to buy more heat packs.  Good decision.  But even better was making a hearty lasagne to heat up when I got home.

The day before I had made the lasagne in parts.  During the day I made cashew cream sauce, tomato sauce and spinach ricotta.  In the evening after dinner I put together the layers of lasagne and baked it.  The result was really delicious.  However the tomato sauce could have been sweeter.  Which is my fault that I forgot to buy sweet potato and used mushrooms and carrots instead.  And I also didn't quite follow the instructions that said to only put the cashew sauce on top once the foil came off halfway through baking.  So my cashew cream stuck to the foil and looked a little less impressive.

This was a different lasagne to the one I am used to - far more cheesiness in the layers and less cheesiness on top.  I would definitely have it again though I missed that lovely thick layer of cheese sauce on lasagne sheets on top that I usually do.  But I do recommend making this lasagne when the heater is on the blink.  Nothing like a bit of pottering around in front of a preheating oven to warm you up.

A nice warm cuppa tea after dinner is also good to warm you up.  Except when the kettle keeps tripping the fuse because a dodgy old heater has been plugged in.  I just feel like buying an electric blanket and spending my life in a warm bed like the grandparents in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  But the electric blanker would probably fail me too.  And now the button on the microwave that opens the door is flying out at us every time we push it in.  Honestly this year it feels like my appliances are out to make my life miserable (And I'm looking at you, oven with the dodgy thermostat.)

We have had three plumber/gas people out to see the heater.  The first one did a smoke test and told us there air was coming out rather than going in so he decommissioned the heater.  The second said he couldn't turn it on if the first had decommissioned it.  The third actually had a meter and did quite a bit of testing, explaining about the "spillage" being due to the heater being too close to the fan over the oven but also having a problem even without the exhaust fan drawing the air out.  Now we have three other inadequate heaters crowding the lounge, none of which have the lovely warmth of our old gas column wall heater.  I am missing it dearly while we wait for a quote on a new heater.

This lasagna saw us through most of the week.  By the end I was a bit tired of it and used the ricotta in a sandwich.  I had more tomato sauce that I needed so I froze some and used it a while later with some crumbled nut roast on a baked potato which was delicious.  I think I would love to make both the cashew cream and spinach ricotta again for bakes and sandwiches.  And this is definitely a fine addition to my repertoire of vegan lasagne.

More vegan lasagne from Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Fennel and lentil lasagne (v)
Nut roast lasagna (v)
Tempeh and pumpkin lasagne (v)  
Tofu-ricotta, zucchini and pumpkin lasagne (v)
Vegan lasagne with cauliflower, hummus and tofu "ricotta" (v)  

Vegan lasagne with spinach ricotta and cashew cream
Adapted from Pass the Plants
Serves 10 - 12

For the Lasagna

2 cups savory cashew cream, see below
4 cups tomato sauce, see below
2 cups Vegan Spinach Ricotta, see below
about 250g packet of no-boil lasagne sheets
1/2 cup water

Spread some tomato sauce in a 9 x 13 inch casserole or roasting dish.  (No greasing needed.)  Layer a third of the lasagne sheets, spread with half the spinach ricotta, a generous layer of tomato sauce and a third of the cashew cream.  Repeat layers of lasagne sheets, spinach ricotta, tomato sauce and cashew cream.  Top with last third of the lasagne sheets, more tomato sauce (I had some left over) and set aside remaining cashew cream.a drizzle of the last of the cashew cream.

Cover with foil.  Bake lasagne at 180 C (350 F) for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and drizzle with remaining cashew cream and bake another 20 minutes.  Leftovers last about a week or can be frozen.

Savory Cashew Cream

2 cups raw cashews*
1 cup water
1 tablespoon heaping nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon white miso
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Mix all ingredients in a high powered blender until creamy.  (If your blender is not high speed, soak cashews for at least 2 hours and drain.)

Tomato Sauce

1 teaspoon olive oil, optional
2 large carrots, finely chopped
6 button mushrooms, finely chopped2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp mustard powder
4 x 400g cans of basil and garlic crushed tomatoes
1 cup red lentils
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
1 1/2 cups stock

Fry carrots and mushrooms in olive oil for a few minutes until softened.  Stir in garlic and spices for about a minute.  Add remaining ingredients.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until lentils cooked.

Vegan Spinach Ricotta

1 cup raw cashews
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon light miso 
1 teaspoon salt
350g firm tofu, drained
2 cups frozen spinach
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves (did not use)

Mix cashews, nutritional yeast flakes, garlic, miso and salt in a food processor until cashews chopped and incorporated with other ingredients.  Add tofu, spinach and basil (if using).  Blend until mostly mixed - a few chunks here and there are fine to add some texture.

NOTES: The tomato sauce was too big for my large saucepan and next time I will use my smaller stockpot.  I cooked the tomato sauce for 15 minutes but it was still quite watery - it worked in the lasagne but I have still removed a cup of water from the sauce which could be added if needed and next time might add seeded mustard or tomato paste.  I tried the spinach ricotta in the blender but it took ages and would have worked better in the food processor.  I put my cashew cream on before I covered the lasagne with foil and it stuck when I took the foil off.  Next time I will only put it on when foil removed.

On the Stereo:
O Vertigo: Kate Miller Heidke

Friday 22 June 2018

Green Man's Arms: vegetarian pub in Carlton, Melbourne

I was so excited to hear that a new vegetarian pub called the Green Man's Arms was opening in Carlton and that it had kombucha on tap.  I mean hyperventilating excited!  Though I know Carlton well, the former pub Percy's at the corner of Lygon and Elgin Streets was not one I was familiar with.  But now I have been to the Green Man's Arms a few times I would love to be a regular there.

The first glimpse I had of the place was Cindy and Michael's review late last year soon after opening.  They enjoyed it but the dishes didn't look mind-blowing - with only one vegan main - and nor did the place.  Move forward 6 months, a new chef and the place seems to have hit its stride.  The majority of dishes are vegan with quite a few gf options, and lots of innovative dishes, as one would expect of a head chef who spent 6 years at Ottolenghi restaurants.  Looking back at Cindy and Michael's photos, some nice decorative touches have been added to the retro wallpaper such as the collection of Australiana plates high on one wall of the dining room.

I had to try it.  So I organised to go along for lunch with E and Sylvia one weekend only to find that it did not open til 4pm.  I go out for many more lunches than dinners so I was disappointed.  When I went there this week I was told they are now opening for lunches on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Such welcome news.  Though I am sad to say I went with work colleagues today and it was really quiet.  I hope it is just warming up as people get to know it is open for some lunches.

You will see in my photos that I mostly been there in the dark.  You might not see but I always order the kombucha on tap.  When you don't drink beer there is something very satisfying about seeing your drink being pour from a tap rather than being served it in a little bottle.  It isn't terribly sweet but is refreshing and full of flavour.

Finally I managed my first visit with my friend Heather on a Monday evening after a movie (I Tonya).  It was late and we were seated on a high table out in the modern bar area.  In subsequent visits, one with E and Sylvia, another with Heather, and one with work colleagues, we have sat in the  retro dining area at the tables and chairs.  Let me tell you that when you sit and watch meals come out of the kitchen, they look so good that you just want to eat everything on the menu.  Let me take you through what I have tried.

Heather and I shared the Mac and cheese with zucchini and fresh herbs ($17.50)  I liked it but I prefer my mac and cheese more creamy and more cheesy.  Perhaps the addition of zucchini made it less creamy.  If you like your mac and cheese quite light then I recommend this one.  I think this is the only dish I have tried that is not vegan.

We also ordered a couple of starters to eat with the mac and cheese.  I really loved the Whole charred eggplant with green tahini, pomegranate, crispy chickpeas and pistachios ($14).  The eggplant was cooked to melting perfection.  I was surprised at how much sauce was on it but enjoyed it.  It was really tasty with the chickpeas and pomegranates.  We had to ask for some bread to mop up all the sauce.

We also ordered the Yemeni Luhuh - pan baked bread served like a taco, filled with tempura sweet potato, lemongrass pumpkin puree, lettuce, pickles and chilli.  These have now been replaced on the menu with "Flabread Tacos".  While it lacks the poetry of "Yemeni Luhuh" it is easier to pronounce and understand.  It seems that the filling change from time to time as these sweet potato fillings are no longer available.  They were really good.  An innovative flavour combination and, as they come in twos, were easy to share.  (My colleague had one with tempura avocado today that she loved.)

My next visit was a school holidays evening out with Sylvia and E.  We were about to order the Butternut squash and tahini spread with date molasses and sesame served with sourdough ($12.50) when we were offered the dish with compliments of the chef.  I am not sure why they were doing this that night but I don't look a gift horse in the mouth.  The pumpkin dip was really delicious.  Pumpkin goes so well with tahini and a bit of sweetness.  The bread was lovely too and we didn't grudge paying for some extra bread to get through all the dip.

Sylvia ordered the Pommes Frites: smashed new potatoes, fried with garlic aioli and bravos sauce ($8.50).  This is about as adventurous as she gets but she went away with a new found love of aioli (so we now have it in our fridge).  It would be nice if there was a kids menu but it isn't a place that attracts lots of kids.  But I was pleased that the serving was quite generous enough for her to eat her fill and have plenty to share with us.  And they were so crispy and delicious that we wanted to share.

E had the mac and cheese which he enjoyed.  I ordered the Hand made vegan dumplings filled with desiree potato, dill, and caramelised onion with beetroot slaw and cashew sour cream ($24).  This has to be my favourite dish so far.  The pierogi was superb with the cashew sour cream, though I had to push all that dill aside!  (I guess that is the influence of the chef that worked at Borscht Vodka and Tears.)  It had so much slaw on the side that it felt really satisfying and healthy.

The pierogi does not seem to have the slaw on the side in the latest iteration of the menu which is a shame but maybe it will come back.  I had the pierogi today with the caramelised onion and silverbeet.  (Sadly the chickpea pancake had disappeared from the menu which had got great reviews.)  This serving had more pierogi with the vegies hidden underneath.  Again the dumplings were superb and wonderfully warming on a winter's day.

I visited again after seeing The Book Shop at the Cinema Nova with Heather.  Again we agreed to share dishes.  We had the Mezze Plate of falafel, hummus, a chunky tahini dip and a slightly spicy beetroot dip, cauliflower and beetroot pickles, carrot slices, cooked zucchini slices, olives and flat bread ($19.50)  It was really lovely.  The falafel was quite crunchy on the outside, just as I like it, and I would have welcomed more than three.  The dips were really good, though I was a bit uncertain about the spicy beetroot one.  I love the pickles and olives too. 

We also shared the Cauliflower steak with cauliflower puree, currant, lemon zest, herb and nut salsa with zatar ($24).  I liked this but it was not quite what I expected.  The cauliflower was just cooked rather than really crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.  (Yes I had hoped they would cook it as I wish I could do at home.).  The topping was really good and far fancier than anything I would do at home.  However I feel that this was not quite what I would expect for $24 as it seemed more side dish than a substantial main.

The up side of the cauliflower steaks being so light is that we had plenty of room for dessert.  I was very tempted by the halva ice cream and the chocolate tart but, it being a cold winter's evening, I decided I needed the warmth of the Vanilla rice pudding w rhubarb, tarragon and orange blossom ($10).  Only, when I took my first mouthful I found it was cold rice pudding.  And I do not like cold rice pudding.

I saw the chef walking past and asked him if it was served warm.  He said he could microwave it and I said yes please.  He took it into the kitchen and yelled, they hated it!  I assume he was joking.  I hope so because once it was warmed up I loved it.  The rhubarb was cooked to melting perfection and added great flavour.  It contrasted nicely with the crunchy texture of the toasted slivered almonds.

I intend to keep visiting the Green Man's Arms and am sure I will try many more dishes.  This is just for starters.  I highly recommend the place.  It is the only pub I know serving kombucha on tap and I love it just for that.  But the food is really delicious and interesting, the decor is stylish and thoughtful, and the staff are welcoming and accommodating.  It is one of those places to make vegetarians and vegans feel comfortable while having a menu that is appealing enough for omnivores who want good food.

Green Man's Arms
418 Lygon St, Carlton VIC 3053
+61 3 9347 7419
Hours: Mon-Thurs: 4pm til late, Fri-Sun: 12pm til late

Green Man's Arms Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday 19 June 2018

Fluffy pancakes and weblinks - work, play, sustainability, cleaning

When I started my blog, I was so tired of all the boring old recipes that I had made too often.  I was seeking novelty and innovation.  Occasionally I find myself seeking a basic recipe and finding my blog lacking.  Of course the internet is awash with basic recipes but one reason I keep my blog is to have a ready and searchable resource of tried and true recipes for my own use.  So today I bring you my latest favourite basic fluffy pancake recipe.  And, because having a blog means I can share whatever interests me, I also have a list of links to articles I have found interesting or useful lately.

As I mentioned above there are some recipes you can find squillions of online versions.  The challenge is not to find a recipe.  The challenge is to find the right recipe for you.  I actually have a basic vegan fluffy pancakes recipe but which one suits you best and then how it suits you best.

Regular readers know I am not keen on eggs.  We don't always have them in the fridge and when we do, I find they don't get used.  So I decided to use some up in pancakes.  As I am not so keen on the taste of them, I sought a recipe with just one egg rather than 3 or 4.  This suited me but I tried the suggestion to put 1/4 cup of batter to make uniform pancakes and then I just reverted to my usual habit of spooning batter into the pan and making a few at once.  My mum always did and I find I always do too.

I have now made these pancakes a few times.  They have been great when Sylvia has had sleepovers lately.  Perhaps the pancakes have been a bit distracting because on her last sleepover, her friend forgot to take home a tooth that fell out.  I kept suggesting Sylvia take it to her at school but she kept forgetting.  Finally she has told me the tooth is lost.  It probably wasn't a great idea to keep it in a tissue.

We serve our pancakes with maple syrup or lemon and sugar.  My mum used to also serve pancakes with butter and sugar but I suspect this has never been popular in my house because Sylvia just doesn't like butter.  As you can see in the above photos, these are light and fluffy and pillowy, just as pancakes should be.

Now that you have made your pancakes for breakfast, you might have cancelled your newspaper subscription like we have and no longer have it in the front yard when you get up on a weekend.  If so and you would like some online reading, I have some fascinating links for you below.

(The drinks in the above photo are from one of the talented cocktail makers at my workplace.)


These handy hints are ones I have tried and found brilliant:


More fun pancake ideas from Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Banana oat pancakes
Nutella stuffed pancakes (v)
Pumpkin buckwheat pancakes
Spiced carrot pancakes
Spinach pancakes (gf, v) 

Fluffy Pancakes
From Cafe Delites

2 cups plain flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarb (baking) soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk (plus up to 1/4 cup extra if needed)
1/4 cup butter , melted
1 egg
extra butter for frying

Mix all ingredients together.  Heat frypan to medium high heat.  Use a metal spoon to run about 1/2 - 1 tsp of butter over the warmed pan.  Spoon 1 - 2 dessertspoonfuls of batter into the pan.  I usually fry about 3-4 at a time.  When mixture is starting to bubble flip them over and then leave another minute or so and turn out onto a plate.  They are best warm but very edible a room temperature too.

NOTES: I used soy milk and vegan margarine instead of dairy milk and butter.  If you have self raising flour, you could use 2 cups of self raising flour rather than 2 cups plain flour and 4 tsp baking powder.

On the Stereo:
Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters: In the Twilight Sad

Sunday 17 June 2018

Mum's Kitchen

Today I have some photos of my mum's kitchen to share.  There is a bit of nostalgia involved in some of the old items that I remember from my childhood and just some sharing what is like my second kitchen.  Regular readers will have caught glimpses from time to time.  I found some photos I took a few years ago and have noticed that the fridge  and oven are both updated to a more modern silver now but otherwise not too much has changed.

The kitchen my mum has is not the one I grew up with.  In fact most of my childhood was in different houses but I did spend a few years in this house before I moved out.  Back then it was a bright blue kitchen with the table in the middle, and 4 doors, including a door to a scullery where the sink was and a door to a large walk in pantry.  Great for hide and seek.  Less good for socialising.  While the kitchen was the heart of the house, doing the dishes and cooking could be lonely when everyone else decided to watch the telly.  The only part of the kitchen that was kept when my parents did a renovation about 10 years ago was the wood stove.  It doesn't get used heaps but looks lovey and is fun to use occasionally.  The oven used to be beside the wood stove where the cupboard now is.

In this corner you will see some of the things that makes my mum happy: chooks (hens), music and tea.  Mind you this is her teabag collection for visitors.  She drinks proper loose leaf tea brewed in a teapot.

The current pantry is smaller than the old one.  It isn't big enough any more to have a window but is very handy between the oven and the sink.  It always has dried biscuits (crackers) and usually some home baking, just as it did through my childhood.

We have always had calendars.  My mum often exchanges calendars as gifts with people overseas.  When I was younger my dad used to recycle calendars.  You know how every so many years the days and dates will match up the same.  So as a teenager I sometimes used to see calendars that had my kindergarten noted on them.  It was very odd.  But I miss it sometimes.

My mum loves chooks.  When we were young and lived in the country there was a chookhouse in the backyard.  When we moved to Geelong my mum seemed determined not to have chooks and one year my dad brought her some.  Now she loves them.  They are great for scraps and eggs.

There are a lot of chooks above the mantelpiece.  Mum buys little chooks as souvenirs or is given them as presents.

And of course there are quite a few cups featuring chooks.

My mum has lots of nice crockery.  This teaset is special because it belonged to her mum.

This dish probably could be called retro as my mum has had it ever since I can remember.  I think she might have used it for casseroles but I remember it being used for desserts like apple sponge, apple crumble and chocolate pudding.  The pomegranates are from the garden.

My mum still keeps the icing sugar in the same old coffee jar she has had ever since I can remember.  The top can be a bit difficult to undo but it has given great service.  (According to this discussion Pablo Instant Coffee was horrible.  The jar is quite large and it seems odd for a couple who were never big coffee drinkers.)

I love the thrift in my mum keeping kitchen utensils for so long.  She was given things for her 21st birthday and her wedding and then bought some when they moved out and a lot of this was not replaced for a long time.  This old plastic lemon juicer dates back to my childhood and I have a feeling it is now left the kitchen in disgrace as it had got old and bendy.

Another wonky old piece that goes back to childhood is this fruitbowl.  Looking back I admire my mum for keeping it shiny as well as full of fruit.  It looks a little medieval, which our kitchen never was.  I think this also has gone out, never to return.

We had these white plastic measuring cups all through my childhood.  I helped with lots of baking so I used these a lot.  In the background you can see some of the more modern measuring cups my mum has purchased more recently.

This spoon was a favourite when we were little.  The little dog at the top was called Susie.  We also had a dog called Susie, who my mum ran over while rushing to the school sports on a hot day when the dog was sleeping in the shade under the car.  Then we have a sister called Susie.  I am never sure which Susie came first but we might have told my sister once or twice that she was named after a dog!  (Sorry Susie.)

These pottery salt and pepper shakers were always on the table when we ate dinner together as kids.  I remember the times we accidentally put pepper on our meal and cried and my mum swapped meals with us.  I don't remember regularly salting meals but perhaps we did.  These days we don't have salt and pepper on the table in our household.

Compare this little more recent salt holder to the above salt and pepper shakers.  They are bright, colourful, patterned and allude to other cultures than my anglo-celtic one. I was going to show you a pictures of the fridge magnets on the fridge but it wasn't a great pic.  What I liked about it was all the fridge magnets from around the world reflecting my parents' travel.

My mum has had kitchen beaters ever since I remember.  I think she might have had a stand mixer when I was young but this is an updated stand mixer that gets lots of working out for her popular pavlovas, among other things.

The crockery in my mum's kitchen is quite eclectic, ranging from her marriage to modern day.  Here is a small sample.

This bowl is part of a collection that my mum and my older sister merged which was made by my sister's friend in the 1990s.  I've always loved the bold colourful swirls.  She also has a large wooden sideboard in the living area with lots of lovely crockery in it behind diamond paned windows.

Beautiful ruby red quince jelly is usually to be found in my mum's kitchen.  When we were young she was given quinces by my dad's boss.  Now she buys quinces when they are in season and being sold for a good price.  She still checks quince jelly at markets and shops to check if it is the right colour and consistency.

If I had a dollar for every roast dinner my mum has made I would be a rich woman.  Here is a pan of baked potatoes.  Everyone loves my mum's roast potatoes.

My mum makes lots of sponge cakes too.  They are light and fluffy creations that would make her grandmother proud.  When we were young she sometimes bought sponge cakes from the milk bar at the end of the road but with lots of perseverance she has become a bit of an expert. 

My mum has always been far more keen on spicy food than me.  She embraces new food trends and loves trying new recipes as well as her tried and true ones.  Here is her kimchi.  I confess I have not tried it because it is not really my thing.

She has been baking bread since I can remember but like her sponges, her practice has made it something she produces easily and with great results.  When I made my sourdough starter she took some and has been making sourdough bread ever since.  She bakes it far more than I do and it is wonderful that whenever I stay overnight, my mum's fresh sourdough bread greets me in the mornings.  She uses these bannetons for shaping her bread.

Finally I will leave you with a vase of roses from my mum's garden.  My mum loves her garden as much as her kitchen and usually has flowers around the house.  Her kitchen is a lot larger and a lot neater than mine.  It is often full of activity and visitors.  It is a place where I have always felt at home and learnt a lot.  Thanks mum!