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
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
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.