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
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

Sunday 17 February 2019

Street Art in Melbourne: Hosier Lane 2018-2019

Hosier Lane in Melbourne CBD is possibly the best known place in Melbourne to see street art.  It is quite central so every now and again I wander down the lane to look at the new artworks and take photos if the crowds aren't too thick.  Today I have some artwork I saw in September 2018 and some I saw on the weekend.

We had a nice time the city (although there was one shop where I waited patiently for the shopkeeper to finish with one couple who had a very complicated question and when I had a few quick questions after them I was told to wait for a few other transactions which ended up not being as quick as I was told it would be.  I would have left if I could have found the products anywhere else.)  Hosier Lane is a nice place to calm after an experience like that, even with tours and tourists and an unwilling child beside me!

So above and then the next few pictures are 2018 with the above one alluding to the Marriage Equality bill and a few below having a footy theme because the grand final was nigh.  It was just a few weeks before 3500 tulips were planted in Hosier Lane because they were destined for the bin because local sellers could not sell them.  Wish I had got down there to see that.  But the beauty of the place is that it is always changing.

Below are the photos taken on the weekend.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has started in Melbourne last month.  Hence the weird scene here with the sign "Excuse me young man are you harry potters son the cursed child.  I am not sure why the question is being asked by a man in a business suit and high heels.  Perhaps I need to see the play to find out why!

This picture is about the craziness of Melbourne's real estate markets.

Lily Allen played in Melbourne a week ago.

Is this a kangaroo?  Sylvia just liked the rude words!

There is a message on this girl's face and it reads:

"All I want in 2019 is water.  Yes.  Water in Melbourne ... actual water.  And men's restrooms - functional ones.  Next water tap and restroom located in Toronto, Canada.  Nothing in Melbourne.  Sorry.  (No we're not really.)"

Wow I know the water situation isn't great but it isn't like Johannesburg!

Allusions to Ned Kelly?

Clever painting here rather than neon lights!

For Valentines Day last week?

I know it doesn't look like him but it makes me think of Ozzie Ostrich!

What does "Hand over the Bag" mean?

And one of the street artists.  Actually there were artists at work while I was there.  This does not seem so unusual but it is always fascinating to watch.

More Hosier Lane Street Art:
Street Art in Melbourne #9 Hosier Lane June 2014
Street Art in Melbourne: Hosier Lane 2015  

Tuesday 12 February 2019

Chocolate peppermint candy cane slice (vegan option)

We got the local supermarket magazine today and it has lots of great vegetarian recipes.  However vegan recipes are still slim pickings.  I would say this is true of many mainstream food magazines.  So perhaps I should not have been surprised to find a "vegan" chocolate slice in a magazine before Christmas and then find it had honey in it!  Well it is good to see a vegan menu added.  Baby steps, people!  So today I bring you a slice that is not vegan but could be if you so desired.

Ironically although we didn't use honey, we topped our slice with white chocolate and candy canes.  White chocolate is definitely not vegan and candy canes seem to be likely to be not vegan but some are.  However it would be easy to make the base and put vegan dark chocolate on top.  The recipe has a coconut oil, cocoa and maple syrup topping.

The real reason we made the slice was to use up candy canes we found leftover from Christmas.  Luckily I checked my post about last time I did crushed candy canes to remind me to put a chopping board under them because last time they dinted my table (which was in much better condition back then.) 

Did I also mention that this is a no bake slice which is perfect for summer when you don't want to bake!  We made this a few weeks ago in the summer holidays.  At first it was in the freezer for a while and I really loved eating it frozen on sweltering hot days when it was hard to find relief without an air conditioner.  I still think back to childhood and student days when no one had air conditioners and wonder if it was cooler or we were tougher.  Probably tougher! 

As we were eating this at home I didn't matter how rustic the shards of slice looked.  We just stuck a knife in it and watched where the cracks appeared in the chocolate.  With just a little oil and maybe at room temperature it should be easier to cut, if you want it neat.  I loved how the bits of candy cane (which were very difficult to chop) softened on the slice so they weren't so crunchy.  It was a great slice to have in the fridge over a few weeks including when I went back to work as a little was quiet satisfying thanks to the healthier base.

More Christmas leftover recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Baked brie with cranberry sauce and walnuts (gf)
Candy cane brownies
Cheese, cranberry and thyme muffins
Cranberry, apple and butterscotch muffins
Cranberry and orange glazed tofu (gf, v)
Fruit mince flapjacks (v) 
Fruit mince scrolls (v)
Rice krispie slice with peppermint candy canes (gf, v)  

Chocolate peppermint candy cane slice
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Christmas 2018

1 cup almond meal
2 cups desiccated coconut
1/3 cup cocoa
4 candy canes, crushed (optional)
1/3 cup margarine or butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp peppermint essence

250g white chocolate melts (or dark chocolate)
1 tsp vegetable oil (optional)
8 candy canes, crushed (or desiccated coconut)

Mix almond meal, coconut, cocoa and candy canes in a medium bowl.  Melt margarine with maple syrup (I do this in the microwave and mixing these stops the butter splattering everywhere).  Now pour margarine, maple syrup and peppermint essence into the dry mixture and mix well.  Press into a greased and line slice tin (18 x 24cm).  Leave in the freezer about 10-20 minutes until set.

Melt white chocolate.  If you want to cut into neat slices I advise adding vegetable oil but I didn't and it was fine but messy.  Pour white chocolate over and spread evenly (ours had a few dark spots from the base but these weren't so noticeable once chilled).  Straightaway before the chocolate sets, scatter with crushed candy canes.

Freeze for about an hour before cutting or refridgerate about 4-6 hours.  I loved it both frozen chilled rather than room temperature.  Cut into squares or shards.  It lasts at least 3 weeks.

NOTES: We crushed our candy cane by putting it in a bag and bashing it with a wooden rolling pin on a chopping board (warning: once we did this on the table and it left marks on the table).  If you wanted this vegan or do not have leftover candy canes (and a daughter who wants a white chocolate topping), I would advise using dark chocolate on top and then scattering with desiccated coconut.

On the Stereo:
A hundred million suns: Snow Patrol

Friday 8 February 2019

Kale and pea soup, holidays and random notes

When I contemplate a month of holidays I am so certain I will be in the kitchen cooking up amazing meals.  I regret to say it definitely did not happen over January.  We were busy.  It was hot.  I was relaxing.  Dinner is nothing that a tub of hummus can't solve.  And so I bring you this easy kale and soup with some holiday snaps and some random notes.

I love soup.  In any weather.  So one January summer night, in need of using up some kale, I made this soup.  It was the perfect meal for someone with only limited holiday energy who needs something simple and healthy.  It was meant to be an accompaniment to some very sour sourdough I bought but was a bit more grassy than creamy because I just used my hand held blender.

And now onto some holiday reflections.  I'll try and make them quick because the holidays are over and we are busy working and collapsing afterwards.  (More holiday posts can be found in January when I had more time.)

I had a really nice time catching up with some uni friends, Jane and Alison in Warrigal.  This plate of salads from Earth Market cafe wasn't the most perfect but it was healthy, satisfying and much better food than I ever expect in the country.

I took this photo of signal box art after catching up with my baby sister in Geelong at Sticks and Grace in Pako Street.  Sylvia was at a playdate so we had a rare one on one which was really nice.

I went with my dad, sister and nieces to see Romeo and Juliet at the Fairfield Ampitheatre.  Good to see some amateur theatre.  Lovely to sit outside on a balmy summers evening eating chocolate cake and cherries while watching the theatre.

Sylvia bought this Grow-Your-Own-Penguin with her own money. It looked pretty evil.  That's what happens when you let your penguin grow in an Oreo cup.  But not quite as bad as a dentist check up.  Less disturbing ways to entertain her included a trip to Latitude rock climbing and trampolining centre, sleepovers and swimming.

Yet again we didn't celebrate Australia Day.  I would have liked to go on the Indigenous protest march but wasn't organised enough.  We happened to be eating lunch in Lord of the Fries as it passed on Swanston Street.  It was about 30 minutes of watching the parade and listening to people chant slogans like No pride in genocide.  As this was all I saw, it really felt momentous but we watched the news that night and they made it feel less important. 

I really love having the time to go swimming on the holiday.  Visiting beaches and the local pool.  Makes me realise I need to make more time for swimming.  Everything is better when we go swimming.  Even if it is too cold to go in the beach which happened a few times over summer.

And then there was this blue butterfly pea rice in the Glass Den's Nourish bowl.  Not so keen on the mock chicken chunks but had to have blue rice.  The rest of the bowl lovely and so colourful (avocado, nori, edamame, pickled daikon and pickled ginger with the slightly spicy sauce underneath so as to note destroy the beauty.)

And finally some random notes (not quite all holiday ones):
  • I was recently told that if people eat lots of turmeric, it has been found that their brains are slightly yellow.
  • A colleague picked up whooping cough in China and took the plane home with a tickle in his throat before it was diagnoses.  Doesn't that make you shudder about long haul plane trips!
  • A quick rant about crazy politics - ignoring extreme climates (we had a massive thunderstorm and 2 hour power cut this week), Brexit is a mess, I can't believe how Trump has used public servants' salaries as pawns, and now the Banking Royal Commission is responding to all the bad stuff banks have done by punishing mortgage brokers.  If I had a choice, it would be a no brainer that I would trust my mortgage broker over my bank.
  • We put out about 5 bags of Sylvia's old clothes and a few toys after a big clean out in her room.  It is not that I suddenly got into  the Marie Kondo decluttering.  We still have clutter but with kids growing out of clothes and toys, it is necessary to do a cull regularly.  We gave away some stuff to family and put the rest in the op shops (charity shops).  I had been worried the op shops would not take our stuff because they apparently are inundated due to the Kondo craze but they did. Phew!  But then I felt guilty anyway because I have been reading that some of the op shop clothes goes to landfill.
  • One of my little victories of the holidays was to have a parking fine withdrawn.  The Council sent a fine for parking illegally at an address I had never been and when I provided documents to show I wasn't there, they said just pay anyway.  So I appealed again to express my outrage that they had ignored their mistake and never apologised.  They dropped the fine.  No apology of course.  The Council acts as if people who park in the wrong places are the only ones that ever make mistakes.
  • How digital natives think.  Sylvia told me that the internet was around before travel agents.  When I asked how people bought houses she told me, on the internet!

I am sending this to Eat Your Greens being hosted by VegHog.

More kale recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Kale and broccoli salad (gf, v)
Kale, cheese and mole quesadillas (v)
Kale sourdough tortillas (v)
Tahini lime rice with kale and cashews (gf, v)
'Teriyaki' tofu with brown rice and kale (gf, v) 
Tomato and kale soup with pistachios (gf, v) 

Kale and Pea Soup
Adapted from Veggie Desserts
Serves 2-4

1-2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 potato (or more), diced
4 cups water
3 tsp stock powder
 5 large leaves of curly kale, roughly chopped
1 cup peas
1/2 cup soy milk (or more) 
1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1-2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan and cook onion, garlic and potato for 5 minutes over medium heat.  Add water and stock powder, pinch each of salt and pepper and bring to the boil.  Simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add kale, peas and cook a further few minutes.  Stir in milk, nutritional yeast flakes and vinegar.  Blend.

On the stereo
Best of the Kinks