Tuesday 30 July 2019

Gertrude St Projection Festival 2019

After being wowed by the Gertrude Street Projection Festival a few years back, I was keen to see it again.  This year when Sylvia had a sleepover I was able to slip out and wander the section between Napier Street and Smith Street.  According to the online map, it went beyond this section but I had limited energy.  This year my favourite projections were "Parkies of Old Fitzroy" and "Habitat".

As with my previous visit, the projections were very impressive on the Atherton Towers ("Looking On" by Atong Atem) on the corner of Napier Street.  Yet they were more disturbing than beautiful. 

"Parkies of Old Fitzroy" by James Henry was a slide show of striking black and white portraits of Aboriginal people.  It celebrated the Aboriginal heritage of Gertrude Street since colonisation.  There is so much beauty in these faces that have lived such rich lives.

Rose Chong's Costume Hire has been on Gertrude Street for years and had an interesting display of film on a curtain called "Wolf and Woman" by Holly Cuthbertson.  The part I saw seemed to be film on a curtain of women putting on makeup.

I am not sure of the name of this one which was a screen of fragments which were falling out of the screen.  ("De:struct" maybe.)  Mesmerising.

Again I could not find the name of this video of these spirals which looks like the rings you see in trees when they are chopped down.  I thought this might be what it was about because it was in a shop (El Lobo) that sold furniture made of wood.

This little guy made me smile.  "Sway" by Tom Civil was very simplistic art but created some fun impressions.

Finally I went to see the "Habitat" (by Taloi Havini) projections on the wall of the Builders Arms Hotel on the corner of Gore Street.  It was mesmerising with the gentle movement of trees and tides.

The Gertrude Street Projection Festival runs from 26 July to 3 August 2019.  For more information go to www.gspf.com.au.

You can read about my previous Gertrude Street Projection Festival visit in 2014.

Sunday 28 July 2019

Aubergine and tomato nut roast

While some people might associate turkey with Christmas, I think nut roast!  But nut roasts are also a winter comfort food.  I hadn't made one for ages and the nuts were piling in the pantry.  So I finally got around to making one a few weekends ago.  Then I noticed it was only a week before our Christmas in July lunch.  I was delighted to find a way to make this part of the planning.

I don't tend to cook with aubergines or eggplants a lot.  It is not that I don't like them.  But I find them a bit of a challenge because they must be cooked well or they are horrid.  And E is not a fan of them.  I had wanted to try them in nut roast for a while but hadn't found a time when the recipe and the energy came together.  Mary Berry had a recipe where you use the skins to line the nut roast.  It did not appeal.

I was more attracted to the Happy Foodie nut roast and decided to try it.  Once I started to make it, I found that it was actually more work than I had planned.  Halfway through I decided to ditch the idea of simmering vegetables and seasoning for about 20 minutes and I just chucked it all in the mixing bowl.  I love a nut roast that is just a matter of mixing and baking.  But fried onions always add some nice flavour.

There was so much nut roast that I found I had two loaves.  Which meant I could freeze one for the Christmas in July lunch.  Perfect.  After spending quite some time on this nut roast (we ate at about 8am which is pretty late for Sylvia even though it wasn't so unusual before she was born) I was pleased that I had already done this work for my weekend of Christmas in July.

We had a wonderful roast dinner with the freshly baked nut roast.  I made roast dinners like my mum did but mine are vegetarian.  They take a bit longer because I made my nut roast.  My mum would just put a chunk of meat in to roast.  Even so it takes me a lot longer than her. 

The roast dinner was nut roast, gravy, roast potato, roast pumpkin, brussel sprouts and cauliflower cheese.  I had made my cauliflower cheese with a really cheese sauce the night before.  Maybe the cheese sauce was still too thin.  I decided to add cannelini beans.  This was not great.  The next day after the roast dinner I blended it.  So much better.  Itt was really delicious.  I have plans to have another go at it and post it as a dip.  When I get a bit of time...

The wonderful thing about nut roast is that there are always leftovers.  There is nothing like thinly sliced cold nut roast on fresh bread with some cheese and tomato or in a salad sandwich.  I guess this might be because I grew up with cold meat in sandwiches.  My mum used leftover meat in the same way I used leftover nut roast.  Of course we never ate it with the charcoal bread in the top photo.

The second loaf that I frozen in foil and then defrosted and warmed up for the Christmas in July dinner was really delicious.  It is a treat to have it with lots of gravy that I make from scratch.  Nut roast does not have to be the centre of a roast dinner, but it works so well with the roast vegies, soft cooked greens and a generous ladle of gravy made from scratch.

The second loaf yielded a decent amount of leftovers to be sliced and warmed up with the leftover vegies or eaten in cold slices on bread or just a la Nigella Lawson at the fridge door when I needed a snack.  If I had been in less of a hurry I would have remembered to throw some sultanas (soaked or unsoaked) in when I ground the nuts and to put in lots of parsley.  The sundried tomatoes made some nice red specks and the green would have gone with nicely with these in a festive loaf.  This is definitely a nut roast to make when there is time to potter in the kitchen.  Served with the festive trimmings, this is bound to impress.

More festive nut roasts on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Festive layered nut roast with tomato and herbs (v) 
Festive nut roast parcels
Parsnip, cranberry and chestnut roast
Stilton nut roast
Stuffed nut roast (roulade) 

Aubergine and tomato nut roast
Adapted from the Happy Foodie
Makes 2 loaves.  Serves 8-12

2 large  aubergines (eggplants)
3 1/2 cups mixture of walnuts, cashews, almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp of soaked sultanas (optional)
Vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp mixed herbs
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups dried breadcrumbs
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup besan (chickpea flour)
2 eggs
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped (including any oil)
2 tbsp tomato paste
generous handful of parsley, finely chopped
2 tsp sea salt
generous grinding of black pepper

Rub aubergines with oil and bake at 220 C for 45 minutes or until soft when you push a skewer into them.  Cool, peel, discard peel and chop flesh finely.

While aubergines are baking/cooling, fry onion in 1-2 tsp of vegetable oil for about 5 minutes over medium high heat or until browned.  Stir in garlic, herbs and cinnamon.

Grind together nuts and sesame seeds (and sultanas if using) until coarsely ground.

Place remaining ingredients into a large bowl together with aubergines, onion mixture and ground nuts/seeds.  Mix well.

Divide mixture between 2 greased and lined loaf tins.  Bake at 180 C for about 30-40 minutes.  Can be frozen wrapped in foil.  To defrost, take out of fridge the day before you want to use and let come to room temperature before warming in the oven wrapped in foil for about 20-30 minutes.

NOTES: The aubergine cooled while I put everything else together but I started roasting them a bit earlier.

On the Stereo:
An Aussie Christmas

Thursday 25 July 2019

Pearl couscous pilaf with eggplant, lentils and peas

If there is one thing that I can be sure of with a Christmas in July lunch, it is leftovers!  I went overboard in cooking peas.  And I had planned to roast eggplant (aubergine) and red capsicum (pepper) for the meal but never did.  I fancied rice and looked up eggplant pilafs online.  Then at home I decided pearl or Israeli couscous would be quicker and use up the end of a packet.  I had limes and mint to use so this just worked in making my way through my pantry.  And it tasted really good, once I remembered to run out to the tree for one of the last limes of the season to squeeze on the dish.

There was a lot of pilaf so we have had leftovers and work lunches.  I really loved it but I think it needs something else with it.  Perhaps a salad.  I am still undecided whether it is a side dish that needs a salad, or a side dish to accompany a central dish.  Whichever, I found it very comforting soft food, though the couscous is slightly chewy so it is not just mush.

Now I have a few random moments to share:
  • It has not been a great week for transport.  Earlier in the week my tram broke down halfway into a busy intersection.  I loved hearing one tram driver say to the other, you take the brake off and I will push.  Meanwhile behind me some women were laughing that it was like pushing a couple of angry rhinos (because we have had adverts warning people to keep clear of trams because they are like a charging rhino).   But I have taken more trams than I intended this week because I have had a flat tyre on my bike.
  • We watched Alaistair Campbell, Tony Blair's former spin doctor turned mental health advocate, on tv (Q and A) who made the interesting comment that we talk as though some people have mental health problems and everyone else is fine but that no one has perfect mental health.  And seeing his pain when someone praised Boris Johnston showed that the new British prime minster is not good for his mental health.
  • When winter comes I drink more hot chocolate.  One of my regular cafes (the Glass Den) was serving a beaker of hot chocolate with a glass of Persian fairy floss to pour it into.  It was fun.  Then they stopped the fairy floss and I asked why.  Apparently it came in plastic bags and had to be wrapped well to keep it fresh so they made the decision not to keep using something that required so much plastic.
  • I was sad to hear that Margaret Fulton, the grand dame of Australian cookbooks, died yesterday.  My mum didn't have lots of cookbooks when I was young but her Margaret Fulton cookbook was battered from frequent use.  And I loved reading the cookery section of magazines as a kid which often featured her recipes.  She was just everywhere and gave good sound cookery guidance and recipes.
  • On a tv show called Ask the Doctor, I was surprised to hear that researchers estimated that 1.5% of the population have coeliac disease but of that group, about 80% have not been diagnosed.

I am sending this pilaf to Shaheen at Allotment 2 Kitchen who is hosting Eat Your Greens with The VegHog.

More eggplant recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Baked eggplants with cashews 
Chocolate peanut butter fudgies (v)
Macedonian eggplant salad (gf, v)
Stargazy pie (v)
Vegetarian moussaka

Pearl couscous pilaf with eggplant, lentils and peas
Adapted from Martha Stewart and The Washington Post
Serves 4-6

2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 large eggplant, diced
1 onion diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 1/2 cups boiling water
1 heaped tsp of vegetable stock powder
1 1/2 cups dry pearl couscous
400g tin of lentils, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups of green peas
juice of 1 lime

Fry eggplant in a large frypan over medium high for 10-20 minutes until soft and starting to brown at the edges.  Push eggplant to the side of the frypan and fry onion for 5-10 minutes until golden.  Stir in garlic and spices for a minute.  Add boiling water, stock powder, couscous, lentils and seasoning (just a pinch of each salt and pepper for me).  Bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed by the couscous and it is chewy and cooked.  Stir in peas for a minute or two or until warmed.  Stir through the lime juice and serve.

NOTES: my peas were already cooked but frozen ones don't take long to warm through.  I think this would work well with rice but would need to cook longer and might need more water (or soaking).

On the Stereo:
Greatest Hits compilation album: Queen

Tuesday 23 July 2019

Christmas in July lunch and fruit and marshmallow skewers

Christmas in July came around quickly this year.  By that I mean I was not prepared at all but we could not let July pass without a festive feast.  Despite it being too sunny to feel that cosy winter feeling, it was lovely to have our friends over.  As always, I love Christmas in July for festivities that eschew commercialism in favour of good food and good company.

I hadn't had much energy for preparation but Sylvia and I had a bit of discussion and came up with a menu on the Friday before lunch on Sunday.  As well as a menu we also have to have a bit of a plan of attack.  Sylvia had a birthday party on Saturday but we got shopping done beforehand (using my list from last year), I ducked home for some tidying during the party, and when we got home we baked biscuits and made bark and then I cooked gravy and chopped vegetables.  We spent all Sunday morning preparing the food and the house.

Christmas in July menu: 
  • Cheese, dips and crackers
  • Mulled wine

    • Aubergine and tomato nut roast (recipe to come)
    • Roast potatoes and roast pumpkin
    • Whole cauliflower cheese (recipe to come)
    • Peas
    • Gravy

      • Bauble biscuits (recipe to come)
      • Christmas bark (recipe to come)
      • Reindeer bark (recipe to come)
      • Lamington bark (recipe to come)
      • Festive fruit and marshmallow skewers (recipe below)

      Tidying the house was quite rudimentary.  So were the decorations.  Sylvia got out as many as she could in limited time.  I liked this collection of a few decorations hanging from magnetic cats tails on our old heater.  It was a busy morning but we had dinner ready just about by the time everyone arrived.

      I was reflecting that I have made quite a lot of Christmas dinners without ever making one on Christmas day.  I would have to be far more organised to do dinner on Christmas day.  Chopping and soaking vegies for roasting overnight always helps.  I made the nut roast a week before and froze it.  And this year I bought a bag of frozen peas rather than chopping brussels sprouts.  I wasn't sure about making cauliflower cheese in advance but I did decide to do a whole cauliflower because it seemed easier.

      Naomi brought along wine and a cheese platter that included a spicy eggplant dip.  Kerin brought along mulled wine and a rice krispie roulade.  It was great to have the cheese platter and wine for everyone to chat when they arrived (including one unexpected guest from the airport where they had not let him board his international flight because his passport had been one week shy of the required 6 months).  I had waited for their arrival to warm up all the components of the meal in the oven (other than the gravy in the microwave).  I even channeled my inner domestic goddess and warmed some plates in the grill section of the oven.

      Sylvia had made Kids punch.  It was pretty similar to the one she made for her birthday but it used ginger ale rather than raspberry lemonade.  I liked that much better.  She put lemon slices, frozen raspberries and mint leaves into the mix.  It worked very well in our cactus drink dispenser.  I was worried about it being lukewarm, so I froze water in a bottle but had to melt it quite a bit to get it out.  I think it helped.  And drinks don't need to be as cold in winter as in summer.

      As always I served the kids first.  They have been coming to these lunches for 5 years now and seem so much more grown up.  But they still like to eat their pizza quickly, attack the desserts and then run outside and play.  We came out later and found our driveway had roads and parking spaces chalked up for them to ride their bikes, scooters, and roller blades around.  Whereas the adults are happy to take their time over dinner and dessert.

      I love doing a roast dinner for the Christmas in July lunch because my mum always made roast dinners for Christmas.  It is not quite as easy for me as for my mum but it is still something I don't need to think about much and it is my comfort food.  I also like the opportunity to use some nice cookware and was annoyed I forgot to use my gravy boat, which doesn't make many appearances these days.

      Here is the rice krispie roulade with a white chocolate filling.  These are not the best pictures of the slices but it was what was there when I got a chance to photograph it.   I enjoyed it but it was toothachingly sweet.  This is the sort of slice that keeps dentists in fancy holidays!

      Sylvia set up a dessert table with bauble biscuits, three types of chocolate bark and her festive fruit and marshmallow skewers.  They were made with strawberries or raspberries, kiwi fruit and white marshmallows (until they ran out and she used pink marshmallows).  There were options of two berries because one kid is allergic to strawberries.  Sylvia seemed quite pleased when the kid's sister said, you can't have them because they have strawberries, and Sylvia was able to point out the raspberry option.

      By the way, I had good intentions of finding vegan marshmallows but they weren't at the health food shop I went out of my way to visit (just like all my favourite stalls weren't at the farmers market on the weekend).

      So that is Christmas in July over for another year.  The house is a bit tidier.  (Kudos to guests who wash the dishes before leaving.)  The fridge has quite a few tubs of leftovers that are going into meals this week (more recipes here soon).  We have an embarrassing amount of lollies leftover from the chocolate bark.  I always have heaps of gravy leftover.  And now it is only 5 months until we do Christmas all over again.

      Previous Christmas in July dinners on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
      Layered nut roast for Christmas in July (2018)
      Christmas in July dessert cheese platter (2017)
      Christmas in July lunch and fruit mince flapjacks (2016)
      Stuffed nut roast for Christmas in July dinner party (2015)
      Christmas in July smoky cheese and barley nut roast (2014)
      Hubert the Hog’s Head (2005)

      Saturday 20 July 2019

      Charcoal overnight sourdough bread

      I think this might be the blackest post I have ever uploaded here.  And that was the dream.  Black as coal.  Black as velvet.  Black as night.  Not quite as admirable as Martin Luther King's dream.  But charcoal bread was something I have wanted to try for ages.  Well, ever since I saw my friend Yaz's black ravioli with beetroot filling.  I was amazed and delighted at just how black it was.

      Before starting to make this charcoal bread, I did a bit of reading.  It scared me.  People were talking about charcoal sucking out the nutrients and not being suitable for anyone on medication because it might make it less effective.  It seems this charcoal packs quite a punch.  I wondered if I should add more water or oil because it might dry out the bread.  After reading some recipes, 20g seemed a reasonable amount to add to my regular bread recipe, which makes 2 loaves, or more usually 1 loaf and 8 rolls.

      When I added the charcoal, it looked like dirt and I had to stir it well to make sure there were no lumps.  It was blacker than my wildest dreams.  Just look at these photos of the mixture.  I use fine semolina for shaping the dough and it does give a light dusting.  When I showed my mum the photos of the bread she said it looked like Collingwood bread (that is black and white stripes for anyone not familiar with AFL football).  But I couldn't think of alternative flours to use.  Ground black sesame seeds occurred to me but I am not sure if it would work.  And the semonlina did not take from the blackness.  A colleague asked if it was hard to check if it was baked because you would not see it go golden brown. But with the semolina you could see a tiny bit of colour.

      One note to make about charcoal powder is that is can leave colour behind but not much.  If you get a bit of the powder on your hands and wipe your face you will look like a chimney sweep.  When I hand kneaded it, the colour washed off my hands.  I had worried it would leave colour on my table but it didn't.  The main residue left was a tiny bit of grey at the bottom of my old mixing bowl where the glaze has thinned.

      I often make one loaf and then rolls so we put the rolls in the freezer for lunches.  When the bread came out of the oven I was so pleased I took a couple of warm rolls over to a friends to eat with cheese spread for lunch.  Then I took a fresh roll to Sylvia to eat before gymnastics.  And the rest went in the freezer.

      I was really chuffed by the results of my charcoal bread.  It was still lovely and soft.  I was not sure if it dried a little quicker than my regular bread or had a tiny bit of grit or if I was just being paranoid.  I have shown photos of it to quite a few people and did show and tell with my bread at work and gave some to a colleague to taste.  Everyone was amazed.

      As well as eating it with cheese spread, we had it with stew for dinner, Sylvia ate it in a fried egg sandwich, I had some with nut roast.  One of the most interesting ways to eat it was spread with vegemite.  I was fascinated to see that compared to the black of the bread, the vegemite looked brown.

      Charcoal bread is not quite as impressive as the first landing on the moon (hard to believe it is 50 years ago today and still blows my mind) but this is definitely a great small step for me!

      More overnight sourdough bread recipes:
      Carrot, onion and poppyseed bread
      Chocolate, cranberry and apricot sourdough bread 
      Malted loaf with chocolate, figs and brazil nuts
      Overnight sourdough bread with mashed potato
      Savoury monkey bread
      Sourdough fruit bread with poppy seeds
      Sourdough cheesymite scrolls

      Charcoal overnight sourdough bread
      Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe
      Makes 2 loaves or 16 rolls or a mix of both

      300g of bubbly starter
      570g water
      20g activated charcoal powder
      18g salt
      950g of flour

      [A few hours before making the loaf, take sourdough starter out of the fridge and feed it so it gets nice and bubbly.]

      About an hour before going to bed (or first thing in the morning) mix everything together.  It is easiest to mix everything except flour first and then add flour.  (Make sure you stir in the charcoal well so there are no lumps.)  Use hands to mix if required.  Set aside covered with a tea towel for half an hour.  Knead in the bowl for about 15 seconds.  Cover with greased clingwrap or a bowl cover and leave at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.

      Scrape dough out onto a lightly floured board.  Shape into a loaves (or cut and shape into rolls - if doing rolls I let them rise in the casserole as they don't need much in the way of slashing but slashing loaves is hard in the casserole).Place on a floured surface and cover with the lightly greased clingwrap or beeswax.  (I used semolina here.)  Set aside to rise for 30 minutes.  While the loaves rise, preheat oven to 240 C.  I use enamel casserole dishes and don't heat them but used to heat them when I used ceramic casseroles.

      Slash the loaves and put in the heated casserole dishes with lids on (or on a tray or in a tin).  Bake for 20 minutes with lid (or foil cover) on.  Remove lid/foil and bake another 20 minutes.  Then reduce oven heat to 180 C .  Bread is ready if it sounds hollow when tapped.  If needed, return to oven for another 10 minutes to make sure the crust is crispy and sounds hollow.  Cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing.

      On the Stereo:
      So Frenchy, So Chic: the unofficial soundtrack of the French Film Festival

      Sunday 14 July 2019

      School holidays and Vegan 365: Vietnamese cafe in Coburg

      The July school holidays end today on a wintery wet windy day.  It seems to have been a quite holidays here with lots of rest, tv, knitting and drawing.  But upon reflection we were out quite a lot with lots of meals out and some fun times.

      I haven't knitted for years but as a student I loved to knit and made myself a few jumpers.  Then lately I decided to knit a patch for a jumper that was falling apart.  I decided to knit more.  A friend gave me some unused wool.  Firstly I made a beanie and decided to make more.  We have been watching Line of Duty on Netflix late at night when I have made some good progress in my knitting (amazing albeit disturbing police drama).  Meanwhile I have shown Sylvia how to knit so she can make a scarf.

      At the start of the holidays we went to Olivia Spring cafe (637 Mt Alexander Rd, Moonee Ponds).  Sylvia enjoyed wrapping her spring rolls in lettuce and mint leaves.  I had the turmeric noodles with lemongrass tofu, seaweed crisps and heaps of salad.  It was quite spicy for my chilli-avoiding palate but very nice.  It's a shame so much of the menu has mock meat but it is still a nice vegan place to visit.

      Sylvia had a week of playdates and staying at my parents before I was off work for a week.  However she did find time to paint my nails.  I can't remember the last time I painted my nails.  Probably sometimes before I stopped knitting.  The photo here is of a vegan sauce in a bun covered with cheese from Bakers Delight.  It was still warm out of the oven and a delicious breakfast while I was out of routine with no child at home.

      Actually I had to change a day from my week off to the first week.  It meant I spent the first day of my holiday week at work while Sylvia went to the Cat Cafe with E.  On my day off in the first week while Sylvia was away, I met up with a friend Jane at Gopals.  It is a long time since I have been there but it hasn't changed much.  E and I went a lot before Sylvia was born and it was a challenge to take a pram up the stairs.

      Jane and I were over ambitious with ordering the Feast menu for about $12.  It was indeed a feast with lentil soup, kofta, korma curry, 2 salads and a sticky date pudding with custard (out of a squeezy bottle).  I also had a dark green apple and wheatgrass juice which I enjoyed.  It is a great place for cheap hippie food and it is all vegetarian.

      My workplace is a fine place for good food.  We had a few farewell lunches before I went on leave.  I really loved the pasta and lentil soup at TiAmo.  I have been to TiAmos many times but this is the best meal I have had there (although maybe it was just perfect because I had been feeling unwell).

      The above dish is the Bun Chay (tofu and vegetables on vermicelli with spring rolls $14.50) from Dumpling 88 (88 Grattan Street, Carlton).  It was delicious and so were the vegetarian dumplings.  I figure that this place much be well regarded as we ran into another group from our workplace when we were there.

      I went to Purple Peanuts with Sylvia after she got back from my parents' place.  It does such nice Japanese food.  I bought a onigiri rice ball which was lovely but not appreciated by Sylvia.  For myself I had the Japanese vegetable curry.  It was fantastic.  The tofu was nice and crispy.  The rice, the almonds, pickled veg, carrot, potato and rice were delicious with lots of sauce that was spicier than other curry don bowls I have had.

      My dad organised for Sylvia and her cousins to go ice skating in St Kilda.  I refused to ice skate after a bad experience years ago.  Sylvia managed to get around the rink.  My brother Paul and niece Ella had a great time on the ice and were reluctant to leave.  Sylvia and I shared a cheese and tomato toastie at a cafe in Acland Street.  She now keeps craving cheese and tomato toasties.  Then we went to the South Melbourne market for churros with chocolate.  It was a cold day and the warm crispy churros were so so good.

      I went to the Vegie Bar in Fitzroy with Faye for dinner on a cold wet weekday night.  The sort of night I expect no one else to want to go out. But it was packed and we could only find a couple of seats on the communal table.  We both had the Better than a Big Mac: "Two house-made 100% no-beef patties, special sauce, iceberg lettuce, vegan cheese, pickles & onion in a three-part brioche bun. Served with golden potato fries. $18"  It wasn't quite as amazing as my first time.  The burger patties seemed slightly mushier with less structure.  But it was so fantastic.  I really love a burger I can pick up and eat, and it does imitate the iconic Big Mac of my teenage years.  We also had wonderful crispy rice balls with satay sauce.  But it was too filling for us to have time for dessert.

      Being on leave did not give all the time for cooking and blogging that I had hoped.  However I did make two things I had been wanting to try for ages.  I made Smitten Kitchen's Mom's Apple Cake.  It uses an impressive 6 apples and bakes for 1 1/2 hours.  I didn't have a big enough ring tin so I used two loaf tins, and I used lemon juice instead of orange juice.  It was absolutely delicious with a layer of soft apple in the middle and on top but it was rather overbaked around the edges.  My mum says the shape of my tin was to blame.  But it is worth trying again (perhaps with a double lined tin).  I also  made a nut roast for a roast dinner.  More about that later.

      We enjoyed seeing Yesterday at the Westgarth Cinema because we had some vouchers left from my birthday.  Firstly it was a pleasure to go to the old Valhalla Cinema where I used to go as a student (and my dad went weekly when he was a kid).

      With regards to the film, I feel we (and Justine Clarke) have done a good job in Sylvia's musical education that she is quite familiar with the Beatles.  The film is about a struggling musician who wakes from an accident to find he is the only person in the world who remembers the Beatles.  There is a theme about fame and how it changes him.  But the Beatles huge influence on music/fashion/cultural history is too big for the film to really grapple with.  It does raise an interesting idea to ponder.

      We had a day where Sylvia had a haircut, we went to Vegan 365, had cake next door at True North and then went for a swim.  I have wanted to go to Vegan 365, a Vietnamese cafe in Coburg that opened earlier this year.  Inside are tiled walls, plants on table, laminated pictures of the meals and vegan posters (stay calm and go vegan).  It is clean and neat.  Upon arrival we were given a thermos of green tea.

      Sylvia ordered spring rolls which came with lettuce and Vietnamese mint $9.  They were piping hot and very good.  I asked for soy sauce instead of the vegan fish sauce.  The staff member nodded and brought her fish sauce without chilli.  Sylvia was disappointed she could not push out the middle easily.  She enjoyed her custard apple smoothie ($6.50) because it tasted of coconut milk and was sweet.  Whereas I enjoyed the spring rolls far more than her drink.

      I think I would prefer Vegan 365 in summer.  The dish I really wanted to try is the Vermicelli Dry Noodles with the noodles, tofu, spring rolls and salad.  But it was just too cold and wet.  I needed something hotter.  The noodle soups and curry had mock meat in them.  So I went with the Pancakes (tofu, varieties of mushroom, carrot and bean sprouts, served with Vietnamese mint, lettuce and vegan fish sauce $12.80).  It was really nice, though I not familiar enough with it to know how to eat it neatly with lettuce and mint.  Like Sylvia I was not a huge fan of the fish sauce, something that I am not familiar with.

      I would return to try the vermicelli noodle dish.  Next time though I will take cash as the only other option was a bank transfer and mine was playing up so I had to go and get cash to bring back.

      Finally I forgot my phone today when we had a ride down the Upfield Bike track so I have a photo of the wonderful street art near Tinning Street from a sunnier day.  It is such a beautiful image of Jacinda Adern comforting a community member after the Christchurch bombing earlier in the year.  If only we had more images of compassion throughout the city.  We were on our bikes to go to Barkly Square for shopping but stopped at Lord of the Fries for a burger and hot dog.  Sylvia got out her drawing book and I got out my knitting and we decided we would make fine crazy cat ladies!

      Vegan 365
      2 Munro Street, Coburg
      Tel: +61-475752121
      Opening hours and prices change next week
      Happy Cow listing