Wednesday, 20 March 2019

St Patrick's Day Shamrock Cupcakes

St Patrick's Day was lovely this year.  I made lots of green food, including two batches of green shamrock cupcakes.  I went to a St Patrick's Day fete where green ruled.  Today I am going to share how I made the cupcakes and the fondant shamrocks.

While I am a newcomer to fondant decoration, I am no stranger to green food on St Patrick's Day.  I used to love green beer on the day when I was a student and once made a wonderful cake with a friend of St Patrick sending the snakes of Ireland into the sea.  (You can see a picture of the cake here but bear in mind it was taken long before digital cameras or blogs graced our lives.)

I've done quite a few green cakes since.  This year I decided to do green cupcakes for a school bake sale.  It was easier to do because Sylvia was on a sleepover at a friend's house.  It gave me time to bake cakes and shape shamrocks on the Friday night and then make buttercream and pipe it before taking them to the bake sale at 9am.  And to make a peppermint crisp slice that I will share another time.  (And to watch the tv news in horror as the Christchurch mosque killings were reported.  So sad to see such hatred fuelling all that death and grief.  So heartening to see Jacinda Ahern's compassionate and brave response.)

I am very new to decorating with fondant.  I don't like eating it and so I don't tend to use it.  However, we decided to use it for Sylvia's birthday cupcakes (in a post soon) and had heaps leftover.  I gave some away for friends doing a party cake (who reported back it was too sweet but looked good).  I liked the idea of just a little fondant to decorate the cupcakes.  When it came to making shamrocks, I was pretty unsure and made it up myself.  Once I got a system going it was easier to make them all.

I made most of my shamrocks while watching tv.  (As an aside I highly recommend the coming of age movie, Submarine, written and directed by Richard Ayoade.)  Fiddly work like that is easier when there is something else to concentrate on, whether a podcast, tv show or chatting with a friend.  I kept the piece of fondant whole rather than trying to piece together little bits of fondant.  I also made some fondant dots to use as sprinkles but didn't have enough time to use them.  Maybe I will experiment with them at at later date.

I took my dozen cupcakes to the bake sale and was glad to have bought the slice as well because there wasn't much there.  I think the last few bake sales have had so much baking that people probably thought someone else would bake.  I was pleased to see that they sold well.  Honestly I was happy to see others eating them because these are not my sort of cupcakes at all.  They are too plain and too much icing.  But I had fun making them.

In fact, I was so pleased with my shamrock cupcakes that I offered to take some to my niece's school fete the next day.  Making them with Sylvia was a bigger challenge.  Especially as before I began my brother rang to ask us to come down Saturday night rather than Sunday morning to have a family dinner.

We made the cupcakes, buttercream and shamrocks at home on Saturday and put them together on Sunday morning.  There were slightly more sprinkles and only a tiny bit more time than on the previous day.  Sylvia got to use her St Pat's Day sign.  And they were appreciated at the school fete, even though there was lots of good food.

More St Patrick's Day green food links on Green Gourmet Giraffe 

More St Patrick's Day recipes on blogs elsewhere:
Colcannon casserole - VegHog
Irish goldrush cupcakes - Laws of the Kitchen
Shamrock cookies - Allotment to Kitchen
St Patrick's Day healthy snack board - Eating by Elaine
Vegan Guinness triple chocolate brownies - Wallflower Kitchen

St Patrick's Day Shamrock Cupcakes

Green cupcakes
Buttercream icing
Fondant shamrock
Green sprinkles

Cupcakes, buttercream and fondant shamrocks can all be made the day before.  Pipe the buttercream onto the cupcakes to make a small swirl that still leaves some of the green cupcake visible.  Place a shamrock on top.  Sprinkle with green sprinkles.  I tried making some small green dots with fondant to place in the buttercream but never had time to experiment with placing them neatly.

Green cupcakes
Adapted from Kidspot via Green Gourmet Giraffe
Makes 12-16

125g butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp green food dye (I used Queens)
1 cup milk
2 cups self-raising flour

Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs, vanilla and green food dye.  Beat until smooth.  Fold in half the milk and half the flour and then repeat with remaining milk and flour.  Spoon into pattypan cups or a greased pattypan (or muffin or cupcake) tray.  Bake at 180 C for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.


250g butter, softened
500g icing sugar
1-2 tbsp milk

Using electric beaters, beat butter til creamy.  Gradually beat in icing sugar.  By the time I added all icing sugar, it was like tiny pebbles.  Beat in a tablespoon of milk at a time until the mixture is creamy.

Fondant Shamrocks

White fondant
Green food colouring (the good thick stuff)
Icing sugar for rolling out and shaping

Take a chunk of white fondant about 8 x 5 x 5cm.  I dabbed on a good thick green food dye (because I did not want to dilute the fondant too much) and kneaded it to make the fondant green.

Lightly dust a board with icing sugar.  Roll out the fondant to be 2-3mm thick, turning it over once or twice while you roll so it does not get too sticky.

Cut out a circle of fondant.  (My cutters are about 2-3cm in diameter.)  Put the remaining fondant in an airtight container to prevent it drying out while you shape each shamrock.  Have a little icing sugar at hand to rub on hands if fondant is at all sticky but only use a little to avoid having it all over fondant and leaving white spots.

Cut four lines equally spaced from near the middle.  Cut three of the quarters into thinner wedges by shaving off a little either side.  Shape each of the three wedges into a shamrock leaf shape.  I did some of these with making a small dint with my round cutter and the using my hands but found it easier to find a wavy cutter (a mini gingerbread man cutter worked as in the step by step photos) and use to cut some shape to found the corners as well as make a little dent in the middle before final shaping with my hands.  Then cut the fourth quarter to be a stem a little thinner at the top than the bottom.

These can be air dried overnight.  It will make them a bit sturdier for handling but still soft enough to eat.

On the Stereo:
Irish pub classics

Sunday, 17 March 2019

St Patrick's Day Green Pizza

Happy St Patrick's Day.  I think I have had the greenest St Pat's Day for years.  Those who are regular readers and those who have just read the name of my blog will all know that I love green.  Today has been full of green pizza, green cupcakes and a St Pat's fete.  It has been a pretty busy weekend so I will just quickly tell you about the pizza and save the rest for another day.

I have tried green pizza before but this is my most successful to date.  Before it has been a matter of piling it under cheese.  Today I had the epiphany that I could add greens after the pizza was cooked.  I was inspired by this vegan greens pizza.  I think this one would work with cashew cream but for now I have only tried cheese.  I baked the pizza with cheese on top, then spread it with cream cheese and pesto and topped it with greens.  Delicious.

E said it was like a shoot out in a grocers shop.  I told him that if my brother could sing Baby Shark to a crowd (nicely accompanied by my 6 year old niece) than anything goes with pizza too.  Actually, as well as wanting to create a green pizza for St Patrick's day, I wanted to get some vegetables into us.  It is easy to just do a Margherita pizza if we are tired.

After a day of eating chips and cakes at the fete, it was really lovely to eat a pizza loaded with green vegetables.  It was possible not the easiest pizza to cut and eat but mostly it was fine.  I also chose vegetables that would reheat because we often have pizza leftover for the next day.  I am hoping I might heat up a slice of this pizza for my lunch tomorrow.

Check out more St Patrick's Day green food if you are into green or more pizza toppings.

And I am hoping that Shaheen will accept this for to Allotment to Kitchen and Veg Hog for Eat Your Greens.

Healthy Greens Pizza
Serves 2-4

1 batch of dough for a large pizza (we used half this recipe)
Olive oil
Grated cheddar cheese
Cream cheese (about 2 dessertspoons)
Pesto (about a dessertspoon)
Baby spinach (a handful or two)
Broccoli, cooked and chopped (about 1/2 to 1 cup)
Peas, cooked

Press out dough into large pizza tray (I line mine with baking paper but you could use polenta to line the tray).  Drizzle with oil and cover with grated cheddar cheese on top.  Bake until cooked but not too golden.  I baked mine at 220 C for about 15 minutes on the middle tray of the oven so it did not crisp too much.

Mix approximately a couple of dessertspoons of cream cheese with a dessertspoon of pesto.  Add a bit more pesto if you want a greener colour.  (NB my pesto was home made and had been the in the freezer.)  Spread over cooked pizza.  Don't worry if it melts slightly. 

Arrange baby spinach, chopped broccoli and cooked peas over cream cheese spread.  Cut into wedges and eat hot.  It should also taste good at room temperature or reheated but I haven't tried it.

On the Stereo:
No Need to Argue: the Cranberries

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Cherry chocolate cheesecake

The alternate title of the post might well be Confessions of a Failed Cherry Chocolate Cheesecake.

Before Christmas, I saw this Cherry Chocolate Cheesecake in a supermarket magazine.  I was determined to make it.  Christmas came and went.  Cherries season is often over in a flash.  I decided to make it for a birthday lunch with my family.  It seemed a good opportunity to use up some chocolate ripple biscuits and try the fancy cherry swirl in the photos.  Then I made it gluten free for my sister and failed at the cherry swirl.  At least I got to enjoy some seasonal cherries.

It was quite late in the season so I had to buy Tasmanian cherries.  They were wonderful.  I thought they would make a wonderful pink cheesecake with a gorgeous swirl.  But when I mixed in the cherry puree, I got a light beige colour and the puree sank in the thin cheesecake filling rather than swirling.  It was disappointing.  More fortunate was that I did not have a 20cm springform tin so I used a 22cm tin.  The mixture came to the top of the tin and I wondered how it would have fared in a smaller one.

I started baking it too late and it was finished at midnight.  I had to bake it longer and hotter than the Taste recipe suggested because it was still so wobbly in the middle.  I am not very experienced at cheesecakes and not sure if this was meant to set as it cooled.  But I was taking no chances, even though there was a little singe.  Even cooling the cake seemed a little challenging on a hot summer day when it was a minimum of 22 C.

It was a tired night trying to make the cheesecake.  I tried to pile the dishes in the sink like a poorly performed jenga and then take the dishcloth from under the stack.  I tipped water all over myself.  And Sylvia wanted to be involved in the baking, even though she had had a sleepover the night before and she was too curious to go to bed.  By the time the cake was cooled, I opened the oven door slightly and went to bed. 

The next morning I packed it in the car with frozen bottles of water to keep cool in the heat and drove over an hour to my parents in Geelong.  My mum is more experienced with cheesecakes and recommended sitting the cheesecake on a bowl to separate the springform side from the bottom (as in photo above).

At my parents we had cooling drinks.  I think this drink was ginger beer with berries and mint.  My mum made a Mexican meal to suit everyone included vegetarians and coeliacs.  Then we had a lot of desserts - pavlova, aero mint slice, salted caramel ice cream with churro spiced nuts and my cheesecake with extra cherries.  Lots of desserts because there were lots of birthdays to celebrate in the family once everyone was returned from summer trips.  After dessert, we went to the pool with some nieces and my mum.  It was a lovely swim on a hot day.

When Sylvia tasted the cheesecake mixture she said it tasted like cheese.  It did not seem like high praise.  But when I asked her highlight of the day, she said cheesecake.  Everyone enjoyed the cheesecake.  However it felt like it needed some tweaking.

I was very attracted to the ideal of chocolate and cherries in a cheesecake but this was not what I had in mind.  So my notes for when and if I try again are (some of which I have incorporated into the recipe below):

- I reduced the butter because I used chocolate biscuits sandwiched together with a cream filling but it was too dry.  I overcompensated and it was too much butter - I knew because it came out of the cheesecake and the outside of the tin was greasy.  I recommend baking with a tray underneath in case.  150g butter was too much.  I would take this back to 125g.  However, there was too much biscuit base.  Just having it on the bottom, rather than the sides and bottom, would be better.
- The cheesecake did not taste enough of cherries.  My mum suggested putting in whole cherries but I was worried they would sink like the puree did.  I wondered about spreading cherry puree on the cheesecake midway through baking when it would sit on top but am not sure if it would work.  Would bottled morello cherries be more intense or pink?
- I have mused on whether food dye was added to the Taste photo to make it so pink.  The colour was really disappointing.
- I reduced the sugar in the cheesecake filling from 1/2 cup to 1 tbsp.  It wasn't that sweet.  I think I would take it back up to 1/4 cup.
- I really wanted to do chocolate curls rather than little scraps of grated chocolate but this is not my area of expertise either.  And it is not great in hot weather when cherries are in season.

I still feel a novice at cheesecakes and have a lot to learn.  As I don't make them very often, I hope my notes will help next time.

More cheesecakes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Baked lemon cheesecake (gf)
Berry ricotta cheesecake (gf)
Caramel chocolate cheesecakes 
Chocolate pumpkin mini cheesecakes (gf)
Vegan peach cheesecake (gf, v) 

Cherry chocolate cheesecake (work in progress)
Adapted from

360g gluten free "oreo" style biscuits
60g chocolate covered rice cakes
150g butter melted, 125g probably enough
250g cherries, halved, pitted
2 tbsp caster sugar
500g cream cheese, softened
3 tbsp caster sugar, extra
3 eggs
180g white chocolate, melted, cooled slightly
1 cup vanilla-flavoured yoghurt
1/2 cup sour cream
Cherries, extra, to serve
Grated chocolate, to serve

Grease and line a 22cm spring form tin.  Preheat oven to 150 C.

Blend biscuits, rice cakes and melted butter in food processor.  It should clump together when pinched together.  Press into prepared tin.  To line the side of the tin with biscuit crumb, use a straight edged glass to press into the corners and up the sides.  Chill for 30 minutes while you prepare the filling.

Mix cherries, 2 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp water in small saucepan.  Cook for 2 minutes over medium heat until sugar has melted and then 5 minutes over high heat until syrupy.  Cool slightly (ie while you make cream cheese mixture) and blend into a puree.

Blend cream cheese and sugar, then add eggs and then melted white chocolate melted, yoghurt and sour cream. Scrape down blender sides when needed.  My liquid was very thin.  Blend in half the cherry puree.  Pour into chilled base and dollop with remaining sauce and swirl through.  (I wanted the swirl to work but the puree sunk to the bottom.)

I baked it 60 minutes at 150 C and then 20 minutes at 170 until the edges started to singe. Cool in oven and then chill.  I cooled mine with the oven door open but maybe should have just cooked it a bit less and cooled it in the oven.

Chill before serving.  To serve, arrange cherries and grated chocolate on top.

On the stereo:
Little Eve: Kate Miller Heidke

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Potato, chickpea and cauliflower pancakes

Shrove Tuesday and sweet pancakes are intertwined in my memory.  No wonder when it heralded 40 dessert free days of Lent in my childhood.  But we are more ad hoc about desserts in our household so I had a hankering for a savoury stuffed pancake when Shrove Tuesday rolled around last week.

I give some credit to my worms for inspiring the recipe.  My worms in my work farm are unsettled lately so I wanted to give them lots of scraps.  The whole cauliflowers in the supermarket have lots of leaves around them that I can feed the worms.  In fact when a few leaves fell off at the checkout and the check out woman put them aside I asked her to put them in my bag.  She checked I really wanted them and then was happy to do this.  Probably relieved at one less thing to do, though maybe also too aware of what the supermarket does with food scraps.

I put together the filling during the day.  Roasting cauliflower, frying onion and boiling potatoes are easy tasks to be done around chatting to my mum and pruning roses and sorting out forms for school.  Then I mixed it all together before picking up Sylvia from school.  After taking her to gymnastics, I just needed to fry up some pancakes.

I haven't made these thin unleavened pancakes for some time.  We usually have fat fluffy ones for breakfast and they are often egg free.  I still hold my childhood sense of wonder at the amazing thick fluffy Pancake Parlour pancakes, even though I don't think my mum's pancakes were really thin.  But every now and I again I fancy some thin British style pancakes that can wrap around a filling. 

In fact, now that I have made a few flat breads such as Tortillas, yoghurt flatbreads and Staffordshire oatcakes, I find these pancakes more like a flatbread than a cake.  However these pancakes don't have bubbles - no big bubble like a flatbread and no tiny bubbles like baking powder pancakes.

The pancakes seemed to take forever when everyone was hungry.  The first one I did, I was overenthusiastic about swirling it around the pan and when I tipped the pan up too high, the uncooked pancake peeled off the pan and rolled up into a soggy roll of batter.  I was more careful after that.

Sylvia did not like the look of the stew we had in the pancakes so she had a special cheesy mashed potato filling.  By the time she had hers she was so hungry she had to take a bite before I took a photo.  Fair enough after a day of school and 90 minutes of gymnastics.

We kept our pancakes vegan with some hummus and baby spinach to complete the filling.  It would have worked just as well in a tortilla or a flatbread wrap but it was just right to wrap everything around a pancake on Shrove Tuesday.

These pancakes were pretty filling but we also had chocolate pancakes for dessert at Sylvia's insistence.  You can see a photo of her pancake here.  I did not take photos of half eaten pancakes and stacks of uneaten pancakes.  We were so full from our main course.  And I had a lot of stew to last the rest of the week because we made far more stew than pancakes.

I am sending these pancakes to Allotment to Kitchen and Veg Hog for Eat Your Greens.

More savoury pancake recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Aquafaba crepes with haggis (v)
Corn pancakes and salsa
Pancakes filled with potato and lentils
Spinach pancakes  (gf, v)
Pea pancakes with sun-dried tomato pesto

Potato, chickpea and cauliflower pancakes
Adapted from Sarah Brown via Green Gourmet Giraffe
Makes about 7-8
  • 1 egg
  • 300ml milk
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup wholemeal flour
  • Butter, margarine or oil, for frying

Potato, Chickpea and Cauliflower Filling:
Serves 4-6
  • 1 large cauliflower
  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 1 brown onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • dried herbs 
  • 1-2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 400g tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • olive oil and seasoning

To serve:
  • Hummus
  • Baby spinach

To make filling:

Break cauliflower into florets and roast about 30 minutes at 220 C or until it is soft when a knife goes through it.  Once cauli is cooked chop the florets.  Dice potatoes and simmer in salted water for about 10 minutes or until just cooked.  Fry onion in about 2 tsp of olive oil (or a generous drizzle) for 20-30 minutes or until soft and golden brown.  Add garlic and herb mix and stir for about a minute.  Add tomato, chickpeas, potato and cauliflower.  Cook about 5 minutes or until tomato is starting to wilt.  Check and adjust seasoning.

To make pancakes:

Heat a non-stick frypan over medium head and lightly oil the frypan either with a little oil and some kitchen towel to wipe it over the frypan or using butter or margarine. Pour about 1/4 cup of mixture, or a little more, into the frypan and swirl around a little to cover as much of pan as possible. Fry the pancakes for a couple of minutes (a minute for the batter to dry out slightly and look cooked and another minute for the batter to fry golden brown) Flip and check the underside is golden brown.  Cook for about 1-2 minutes on the other side until light brown spots on the other side. (NB these are thin pancakes and don't bubble up when ready to flip unlike the thicker ones.) Keep pancakes in a stack on a plate covered with a clean teatowel until you are ready to assemble with stuffing.

To serve:

Lay a pancake on the plate.  Spread a spoonful of hummus on the pancake.  Scatter 2-3 spoonfuls of filling along middle of the pancake.  Top with some baby spinach leaves.  Roll up and eat.

NOTES: The stew is vegan.  If you want a vegan pancake, you could use these Aquafaba crepes.  And I made far more stew than pancakes so you could easily make more pancakes.  Or if you preferred a baked pancake, you could wrap these around the filling and bake with some tomato sauce, bread crumbs and some cheese (vegan or dairy as you prefer) and bake at 220 C for about 15 minutes.

On the stereo:
Dua Lipa - self titled album

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

In My Kitchen - March 2019

Here comes March with the change of season.  Last week I had a day when I waited for half an hour for a tram because it was too hot to cycle but the trams were so full of footballs fans that I couldn't get on them.  Yes the heat comes to an end as the football ramps up.  Now I am looking forward to cooler weather, pancakes and apples in March.

Above is one of Sylvia's lunchboxes with some cheese stars, a strawberry from the garden, some apple quarters and a piece of packet strawberry cake that Sylvia insisted on baking.  She added food dye as the mixture looked white.  In the second layer of the lunchbox is a sourdough bread roll with vegemite.

We bought some roasting potatoes before Christmas, full of plans.  However it was too hot for roasting and so I didn't open the bag of potatoes to use until February.  By then the spouting was quite impressive.  I roasted the potatoes but they were beyond their best.  I am looking forward to the nice potato woman being back at the farmers market soon.

I have written about the creamy apricot and chickpea soup that I recently made.  The above photo was taken while trialling the vegan yoghurt that ended up in the soup.  I am sharing it to show you a new set of kitchen scales I bought just before.  I really loved the colourful pattern and that the scales were a bit bigger for my bread bowl.  My old scales seem to seize up regularly when I try to put a large bowl on them but these new scales work better.

Above is the purchases from Cake Deco in Flinders St when we went to buy some items for Sylvia's birthday.  Of course, when in a specialist cake decorating store, it is hard to resist temptation.  I bought a 20cm springform cake tin, lots of edible eyes, a set of round cookie cutters, marshmallow and apple flavouring, an Easter egg cookie cutter, an edible marker as well as quite a lot of fondant.  We also bought a few green items for St Patricks Day.  There is so much in the shop to spark joy.

Sylvia wanted to decorate cupcakes for her birthday.  So we had a play with decorating cupcakes with fondant.  This made it much easier to guide a group of girls in fondant decoration at her party.  And it was quite fun.  Can you see a bear theme emerging?  Stay tuned ....

I remember when the Kit Kat Chocolatory opened a year or two ago and there were queues coming out of the store.  These days it is quieter, so we went to have a look.  And we created our own kit kat: popcorn, fudge and freeze dried raspberries on rose pink chocolate.  It was delicious - and so you would expect for $20.  Too expensive to be anything but a rare treat.

A few weeks back I was looking for silken tofu in a supermarket I don't usually visit.  I stopped a guy in uniform with dreadlocks and a nose ring to ask.  He informed me I was lucky to have found the only vegan worker in the store.  I was pleased because it can be so hard to find the vegetarian/vegan section.  We found these vegan ravioli here.  They were really good though came in quite a small serving.  I guess some vegans don't want huge servings.

Another new vegan product in the supermarkets is the vegan Magnum ice creams.  Actually they aren't technically ice creams as I think the dairy industry protects that term.  They were really good and I would have them again if I ate these ice creams regularly.

And one for the non-vegans are these Smiths Mac 'n' Cheese chips.  We discovered them in a Coles Express but have not have much luck finding them in the big supermarkets around us but then found them in a small supermarket in Geelong.  It is a mystery as to why they are not more widely available, given how amazingly good they are.  One of my favourite ever chips.  For now!  Even the packaging is beautiful.

My only quibble would be that in Australia we traditionally say macaroni cheese not mac 'n' cheese but I can let it go by as I understand it is another Americanism sneaking into our lexicon.  And I think macaroni cheese comes from the UK anyway.  As a friend used to tell me, "everything is derivative".

And today is Shrove Tuesday so we had a double whammy of savoury and sweet pancakes.  I really wanted to do some stuffed savoury pancakes (which I will post soon) and Sylvia was set on having chocolate pancakes.  We have a stack of leftover pancakes that might have to go to the freezer (I added cocoa to these fluffy pancakes).  However her is Sylvia's nicely styled chocolate pancakes with berries, ice cream and extra chocolate.  I hope you are enjoying your Shrove Tuesday.

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, 26 February 2019

Creamy apricot and chickpea soup

A failed vegan yoghurt, the memory of apricot chicken and the knowledge that soup solves everything led to this amazingly good meal.  This soup was too good and I had little energy for photos so I apologise for the quick photo before I served it in a mug.

It has taken a while since school started at the beginning of February to settle into the term.  It is easy to be distracted by birthdays, appointments, and coffees with friends.  Finally last week I found time to make dinner during the day to keep me going during the week.  Work is so busy that leftovers are so welcome at the end of a busy day.  But first we need to return to the vegan yoghurt.

I was pretty excited when I saw Pinch of Yum post a recipe for a 5 minute vegan yoghurt.  Lindsay said she tried it with firm and soft tofu.  So I started with firm tofu and it was so grainy that I threw it out.  So next I tried silken tofu.  And it was smooth and creamy this time but it tasted too much of tofu to me and not enough of that cultured edge to it.  I wondered if I would have to throw this out.  It was sweetened with tinned apricots and I did not have the time to bake something with it.  But I really really hate throwing out food.  Then I decided that if apricot chicken is a thing, I could use this in a savoury dish.  And I love soups.

It was even better than I expected.  I make lots of thick soups but this was a creamy thin broth with vegies and chickpeas.  It was both comfort food and quirky.  Quite light but satisfying.  And not only was the soup excellent but it meant an easier time of dinner in the evening so I had time to take apart the oven knobs and given them a good clean.  That is a win win!

More creamy vegan soups on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
African curried coconut soup (gf, v) 
Cheesy cauliflower and rice soup (gf, v)
Creamy cauliflower and walnut soup (gf, v)
Spicy cabbage and coconut soup (gf, v)
Vegan Avgolemono - Greek Easter lemon soup (gf, v) 

Creamy apricot and chickpea soup
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe
Serves 4 as a light meal

175g silken tofu
1 x 400g tin of apricots in juice, drained
1/3 cup cashews
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 stalks of celery, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
stir for a minute
1 litre boiling water
400g tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tsp salt
1 tsp stock powder

Blend tofu, apricots and cashews in a high speed blender until smooth.  Set aside.

Fry onion, celery and carrot in olive oil over low heat for about 10-20 minutes until softening but not too brown.  Briefly stir in garlic and good pinch of mixed herbs. 

Add boiling water, chickpeas, salt and stock powder.  Bring to the boil for about 5-10 minutes.  Check celery is soft (if not then cook a bit longer).  Stir in tofu mixture.  Serve warm.

On the stereo:
March of the Zapotec: Beirut

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Blue cheese, beetroot and almond patties

When I went to Sydney during the summer holidays, I had a wonderful blue cheese at the Tea Cosy cafe.  I go on and off blue cheese.  This experience filled me with bravery.  I bought some blue cheese but it just was too strong for me.  Pairing it with sweet yellow beetroots seemed like a way to get through it.  These fritters were the outcome and great for dinner during a heatwave.

As I have mentioned, I didn't do much cooking during the summer holidays.  It was too hot or too busy.  I have found that fritters are easy to make and pair with a salad when it is too hot to spend much time in the ktichen.

The fritters were a very pleasing yellow thanks to some yellow beetroot I bought at the farmers market.  The perfect colour for when the sun is shining brightly outside.  It is one of those odd things about a heatwave.  The sunshine is just too bright and hot and yet it feels wrong to totally darken the room.  At this time of year, I need light in a way I don't crave it in winter!

Once fried they were a little less yellow but still quite cheery.  I sampled one or two as they came off the fry pan and really enjoyed them with some tomato sauce.  I could still taste the blue cheese but it was easier to eat this way.

I made some easy coleslaw and put together a few vegetables and that was dinner.  With the air-con going and some ice water, we managed to weather the heat wave quite nicely.  In fact I shouldn't complain too much as we haven't had too many ridiculously hot days of summer.  However it seems summer is going out with a bang with a week ahead of days over 30 C with next Saturday forecast to be 38 C.  Might be time for more fritters and salad.

More blue cheese recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Celery and blue cheese soup (gf)
Cobb salad with smoked nuts and blue cheese (gf)
Eccles cakes with leeks, spinach and blue cheese (v)
Leek, walnut and blue cheese scones  
Macaroni cheese with sauerkraut, cauliflower and blue cheese (v)
Orange, walnut and blue cheese salad (gf) 
Stilton nut roast 

Blue cheese, beetroot and almond patties
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe
Serves 3-4

3 medium beetroot, peeled and grated
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 generous cup of cooked brown rice
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
50g blue cheese, crumbled
1 egg
salt and pepper
oil for frying (I used rice bran oil)

Heat a large nonstick frypan.  Add grated beetroot and chopped celery and about half a cup of water into the frypan.  Cook over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Check if cooked and then if not, add another 1/2 cup of water and cook another 5 minutes.  After 10 minutes I found it was cooked.  Remove frypan from the heat.

Mix vegetables, brown rice, ground almonds, chopped almonds and blue cheese in a medium large mixing bowl.  Season.  Stir in egg.

Wipe out frypan and then reheat to medium high.  Add about 2 tbsp of oil to generously cover base of pan.  Take handfuls of mixture and shape into patties.  Place in the oil and fry until golden brown on each side (better a bit overcooked than undercooked).  Drain on paper towel.

On the stereo:
Classically Chilled: Various Artists

Friday, 22 February 2019

Brighton Soul cafe and Brighton Beach

"Instagrammable" is a thing!  I would like to be snooty and old school about not judging a book by its cover.  But I am a food blogger with a love of colourful beautiful food.  An instagrammable cafe has me rushing in.  So when I decided to go to Brighton to see Instant Family at the cinema on my birthday, I was delighted to have an amazingly pretty (aka instagrammable) lunch at Bright Soul.  And it tasted great too.

The menu has lots of interesting dishes but not a lot without meat or egg.  But they do have some pretty smoothie bowls and a beautiful Buddah Bowl which cater to vegans.  Who can go past blue noodles!  For the kids there is a special menu.  I was pleased they were happy to take the ham out and make Sylvia a cheese filled quesadilla.  She really loved it but was distracted by her Blue Unicorn Freak Shake!  And who wouldn't!

The Blue Unicorn Freak Shake was so over the top that it made me feel like a bad parent.  Fun with food is my weakness.  It had double ice cream, persian fairy floss, waffle cone, warheads, marshmallows, wafers and other lollies.  So imagine your kids wants dessert and you say have a milk shake and an ice cream and here is a handful of lollies (candies) in case you haven't had enough sugar.  But it looked so amazing.

Whereas my Buddah Bowl was on the healthier end of the scale with teriyaki tofu, blue vermicelli, roasted mushrooms and heirloom carrots, greens, blueberries, beetroot hummus, smashed avocado and turmeric tahini dressing.  The problem with such a big ingredient list is that they whisk away the menu and by the time the meal comes, I had to ask for the menu to remind myself what the sauce was.

I really loved the Buddah Bowl.  I felt so guilty about Sylvia having too much sugar that I gave her one of my pieces of tofu teriyaki.  She also occasionally had to sip my orange juice and take a few more bites of her quesadilla to cope with the sweetness of her shake.  Of course she couldn't finish it.

I did a pretty decent effort with my bowl.  I have to share this photo of my noodles.  Not a great photo but it gives you some idea of the different colours that were worked through the noodles to make them look like rainbow noodles.  I really loved it.  And the bowl tasted great.  I love mushrooms and carrots in meals but not as the main event.  The roast mushrooms and carrots were really amazingly good.  The blueberries did not work so well.  The tofu was lovely.  The greens were lettuce which is not my favourite thing.  I found the turmeric tahini sauce very intense but I loved all the flavours together.

We enjoyed seeing Instant Family at the Brighton Dendy (thanks to my older sister for the generous cinema passes).  Then we headed to the beach to see the famous Brighton Beach Boxes.  It is odd I have never seen them before living in Melbourne for so long (albeit most over the other side but my grandparents lived there for a while when I was a child).  As you can see, it was really busy, as was the car park even at $5.70 an hour!

The beach bathing boxes are fun to view as you walk along.  I was surprised at just how many there are.  They have been recorded in the history records as far back at 1862 and there were many more years ago.  These days there are 82 and there is a heritage overlay.  They are brightly painted and some have artistic designs.

We enjoyed walking along the beach but did not swim as it was late and we needed to get home.  It also reminded me of why I don't go to Melbourne beaches.  The sand is so much coarser than the lovely ones we go to down on the Great Ocean Road, and there were lots of crushed sea shells in the sand.  (Apologies for my beach snobbery.)  Nevertheless, it was lovely to walk along the beach on the evening and a great end to our visit to Brighton.

We drove home and were so full from lunch that we had a pretty basic dinner but we did have a slice of a favourite chocolate walnut fudge cake with caramel sauce and cream.  It was a really nice birthday that started with pancakes and wonderful presents (I highly recommend reading Jane Harper's The Dry but have found Lush's jelly soap a very weird experience) and ended with chocolate cake. 

Brighton Soul
129 Church Street Brighton
(03) 9592 8305
Opening hours - 7am-6pm daily

Brighton Soul Espresso Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato