Monday 27 January 2020

Primavera soup with gremolata

Today I bring to you a satisfying spring soup I made in November.  It was full of green vegies, hearty enough with orzo to make a meal, but light enough for spring weather and the addition of gremolata to be full of flavour.

At the end of a busy weekend, I went all domestic goddess and made the stock from some vegies in the fridge that were looking sad.  I have included this stock recipe below too but I understand only too well that many of us don't have time to make our own stock these days.  It is a treat when I get to do it.  And I really only did it to use up vegies. 

The stock was inspired when I decided to make a big pot of dinner to last the week.  On the Saturday  I had no energy for cooking after using it up tidying the house, kid wrangling, organising Sylvia's room, exploring Sydney Road with a colleague, sitting for 30 minutes reading my book in queue for the car wash (after a crazy dusty rain), and getting a tad over zealous with the gardening and finding that I had weeded out some nasturtiums that a neighbour had planted in our communal garden.  I was so tired and felt I needed more vegies!

On Sunday I was determined to plan before I hit the supermarket and all its temptations.  So I had a quiet lunch pouring over some of my much-neglected cookbooks for inspiration.  (I really need to consult the four shelves of cookbooks more!)  I found a recipe that would use up some of the ingredients in my fridge, including putting those sad vegies into stock.  I also added some macadamia butter just because I had some.  I thought it would make it creamy but it was more like adding finely chopped nuts.

Spring is always a time of tender green vegies and I am often so busy in the run up to Christmas and the end of the year that I don't take enough advantage of it.  This was a great soup for appreciating all those spring vegies, especially asparagus.  However, like some many dishes with green vegies, the green dimmed once it was cooked.

The recipe I found had pangratto as a garnish.  It was fiddly enough to pronounce, let alone to try and make as well as a soup.  I decided to go for a simpler gremolata.  The grematola had wonderful green colour and fresh, instense, herby, citrussy flavours.  It finished off the meal nicely.  I loved the soup which was wonderful with home made stock.  It was a lot more brothy than most soups I make but it was quite comforting, either fresh or reheated after being frozen!

More green meals on Green Gourmet Giraffe:

Primavera soup with gremolata
Adapted from the Australian Women's Weekly
Serves 4-6

30g butter
2 shallots (125g), chopped
6 cups vegetable stock
2 medium (350g) zucchinis 
3/4 cup risoni pasta
150 gram asparagus, cut into 3cm lengths
2 cup (240g) frozen baby peas
1 cup chopped baby spinach
2 dessertspoons of macadamia butter (optional)

Melt butter in large saucepan.  Cook shallots over medium heat for 3 minutes.  Add stock and bring to the boil.  Add zucchini and simmer 5 minutes.  Stir in asparagus and peas and simmer a further 5 minutes or until vegies tender.  Remove from heat and stir in spinach and macadamia butter.  Serve sprinkled with gremolata.  Can be frozen.

1/2 bunch parsley
zest of half a lemon
1 small garlic clove

Finely chop all ingredients together.

Vegetable Stock

1 onion
3 stalks celery
2 carrots
4-5 small garlic cloves
1 tomato
stem of red capsicum (optional)
3 bay leaves
3 stalks of thyme leaves
5cm stalk of rosemary
2-3 stalks of parsley
6 cups water
salt and pepper, to taste

Chop all vegies and place in pan with herbs and water.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.  Drain and discard vegetables.  (I cook mine in a stockpot with a pasta insert so I can remove the pasta insert and vegetables together for easy draining.)  Season. 

On the Stereo:
Tigerlily: Natalie Merchant

Thursday 23 January 2020

Vegan Stovies (potato stew with home made 'mince meat')

It has been such odd weather lately that it is just the weather for a warm winter stew like these stovies.  Yesterday was warm and humid but in the evening a cool change arrived and the rain came on.  Not just any rain but dusty rain.  This morning the ground had patches of red dirt that the storm had brought in from the drought affected north of Australia. 

Mind you, this is only the 2nd dust storm I can remember in my life.  The first was at school in 1983 when there was no rain but just red dust.   We closed the windows and the sky darkened with dust.  Afterwards our school books were covered in red dust.  This time it was the dirtiest rain but late at night so I missed it.

Back to the stovies!  I actually made these in November during a period of cold weather.  It was a bit of an experiment.  I had seen that Jacqueline had made a vegan version of the Scottish dish, stovies.  (Check out her blog if you want to know more about this traditional Scottish dish.)  She used lots of gravy and I had some in the fridge.  However she used vegetarian mince which I don't tend to use and she cooked hers in a slow cooker. 

I drew on two previous recipes.  Firstly I used riced cauliflower and finely chopped walnuts as I had in this vegan mince but I did not do the drying out, which was just as well because the slow cooking tended to dry it out anyway.  Then I drew on the chulent I had made years ago that cooked potatoes and barley very slowly.  I cooked it for ages with the occasional stirring.  Sadly it was quite a while ago that I made it so I think I might have actually served some, being unhappy with it not being cooked enough and cooked it more.

Another challenge with the recipe is getting it dark enough.  I also find it can be a challenge with gravy.  Dark seasonings such as soy sauce, worcestershire sauce and vegemite help this.  But it is really the taste the is special.  There is such wonderful comfort in meltingly soft slow-cooked potatoes. 

However I had to have it with some colour.  As it is a Scottish dish and the Scots are not known for lots of exotic vegetables, I served it with carrots and peas.  It was delicious and reminded me of childhood dinners.  I have never had stovies in my life but my mum used to make meat and potato sort of casseroles when I was young.  I highly recommend this dish for some winter comfort, to use up leftover gravy or to celebrate Burns Night which is coming up on Saturday!

More traditional Scottish recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Coconut ice (gf)
Tattie scones 
Vegan haggis

Vegetarian Stovies
Adapted from Tinned Tomatoes and Green Gourmet Giraffe

2 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, halved and sliced
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup water
1/2 cauliflower, finely chopped (or 3 cups cauliflower rice)
1 cup walnuts, ground to crumbs
1 tbsp worcestershre sauce
1 tsp vegemite dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 1/2 cups gravy
1 kg potatoes, cut into 1-2 inch chunks

Fry onions and garlic until soft in olive oil in a medium  casserole (my preference is one that can go on the stovetop and in the oven).  Stir in the cup of water to deglaze.  Then add remaining ingredients.  Check and adjust seasoning.  Bring to the boil on the stovetop.   Transfer to the oven (scrape into another dish if your stovetop casserole is not ovenproof).  Bake at 160 C for 3-5 hours until potatoes soft and collapse at the touch of a knife.  Stir about every 1/2 hour and if it seems too dry add more water (also check seasoning if you add quite a bit of water).  Keeps for about a week in the fridge.

NOTES: I used homemade gravy but you could make it from a packet if that is your thing.  My gravy was thick and made with onion so that probably added to the flavour.  The potatoes get quite dark in colour on the outside but that is as they should be.  To make this gluten free use a GF form of vegemite.  If you don't have vegemite you could substitute with marmite, vegetable extract such as vecon, a stock paste/powder or any seasoning that adds a punch with flavour.

On the stereo:
Electronic (self titled)

Sunday 19 January 2020

Laneway Greens and the holidays

I longingly passed Laneway Greens many times before I finally ate there yesterday.  I love a place with a healthy bowl of food.  It was lovely to share with a friend from the country.  It was a nice ending to my summer holidays.

Laneway Greens is a clean, modern space with a selection of bowls of food with a few extras and smoothies.  I had the Summer Market Bowl ($18): falafel, ancient grains mix, Laneway leaf blend,  baba ganoush, dill pickles, sesame seeds, coconut yoghurt, dukkah pomegranate molasses, cranberries, barberries and tahini dressing.  It was delicious.

The food was in a cardboard bowl with plastic cutlery.  And according to the notice it could all be composted.

I haven't been out for much fancy food these holidays.  The Lord of the Fries vegan mac and cheese burger has been more typical of our outings than Laneway Greens.  That burger was surprisingly spicy.  I didn't notice the jalapenos.  In fact it was fun and cheesy but I think I prefer the classic burger I usually have.

We haven't got to museums and galleries and zoos or done day trips over the holidays.  So it really has made us focus on the bushfires more.  From overseas it seems that all of Australia is burning but it is not so.  Australia is so big that on the map the bushfire areas look small but they are much larger than usual and having more of an impact.

Instead there has been cleaning up around the house, buying new furniture and moving old furniture around.  Little discoveries of the past.  Hard pizza crusts and loving notes to mama.  Bags of clothes discarded and quite a bit of Netflix.  (Above is a picture of Sylvia's new desk in the shop!)

There has been a bit of fun.  Sylvia has had a few playdates and been doing craft.  We have had a few swims.  Some down at Torquay when we have visited my parents in Geelong.

We had a family lunch at the Wharf Shed, which has recently re-opened with a facelift.  The lunch and dinner menu had some good vegetarian options.  The breakfast menu had a lot of eggs so I had the Buttermilk hot cakes with vanilla double cream, crunchy sesame praline, berries, maple syrup, lemon balm ($24).  It was nice but as I am not so into cream I would have liked a fruit sauce or something.

And tomorrow I am back to work.  It seems too quick.  I have had lots of sleep and got some organisation done around the house. What an odd summer!

Laneway Greens
2/242 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Victoria, 3000
Monday to Friday 8am-8pm, Saturday 9am-4pm, Sunday Closed

Laneway Greens Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday 13 January 2020

Quick black bean quesadillas

I have a week of summer holidays left before I am back to working 9 to 5.  After weeks of lots of sleeping and rest, I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and starting lists of things to accomplish before the holidays finish.  There is a lot to do.  I want to do lots of cooking while not exhausted after work but there is so much else on my list.  So some simple quesadillas did the trick on the weekend.

I had hoped to share a recipe for a tahini rice bubble slice today but it was a total failure!  We were baking for a bushfire fundraising cake stall on Saturday.  Luckily we had aimed high.  Sylvia made grubs and honey joys and I had also made vegan cupcakes.  So the slice went to the bin while the rest of our contributions went to the cake stall.  The stall raised about 3 times as much as the school normally makes from a cake stall.

It feels like our politicians are letting us down on the bushfires but the community is showing amazing spirit.  Everyone around here seems to be be doing something for the bushfire funds whether it is donating the takings of a cafe, busking, holding a garage sale, setting up a go fund me page or even marching in the street.

And the bushfires will have far reaching effects whether it be with wild life, accessible roads, drinking water or food availability.  So I am feeling even more than usual that I should be responsible and avoid food waste.  Above is a photo of some strawberries and tomatoes from the garden.  I haven't given the garden quite as much attention as it needs but I am keeping my plants alive.  My cherry tomato plants look quite spindly compared to my mum's lush green tomato plants.  So I just am grateful for any produce.

The quesadillas originally were inspired by Jamie Oliver's gnarly black bean tacos in his new cookbook Veg: Easy and Delicious Meals.  I quite like Jamie Oliver and promised myself  I would buy one of his cookbooks if he ever wrote a vegetarian cookbook.  Finally last year he did.  I bought a copy I saw on sale (forgetting I had requested it for Christmas but I ended up with a book voucher that was great fun to spend).  I am trying to use the cookbook despite not doing much cooking from cookbooks lately. 

Jamie's gnarly recipe looked simple and a good way to use up some tortillas.  Yet I could not quite get my head around cooking the tortillas on the frypan and pressing the tortillas on top.  I predicted a big mess in my kitchen and changed tack!  And I wanted to use up some of the stuff in my fridge: half a tomato, some avocado dip, some old yoghurt, an open jar of salsa, wilting baby spinach and of course my cherry tomatoes.  I listed 1 tomato in the recipe as I don't expect everyone to have half a tomato and a few cherry tomatoes to use up!

I was happy with how these quesadillas turned out.  They were delicious and good easy casual eating that didn't distract too much from my work in sorting out papers, books and clothes around the house.  I had quesadillas as in the recipe the first night and on the second night I was still sorting out stuff and stopped long enough to grill some leftover black beans, salsa and grated cheese on a couple of slices of sourdough toast.  Perfect food for busy times!

More Tex Mex meals on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Kale, cheese and mole quesadillas (v)
Mexican nacholada casserole (gf, v) 
Super easy vegie layered tortilla casserole
Tex Mex vegan bowl (gf, v)
Tex Mex Pizza with sourdough base (v) 

Quick black bean quesadillas
Serves 2

400g tin o f black beans, rinsed and drained
1 handful baby spinach,  chopped
1 tomato, diced
1 tsp vinegar
1/2 tsp ground cumin
4 tortillas
2 handfuls of grated cheese
Butter for frying
To serve: yoghurt, salsa, guacamole, finely sliced red cabbage

Mash black beans and mix in spinach, tomato, vinegar and cumin.  Spread on half four tortillas.  Spread with grated cheese.  Fold tortilla over and cut in half.  Heat frypan and melt a small knob of butter over medium high.  Carefully place quesadillas into pan (I cook 4 quarters at a time).  Fry a few minutes until golden on one side.  Very carefully turn, melt another small knob of butter in the pan and remove once golden brown on the other side. (I don't time these but I look and smell and sometimes turn the first one a bit too early but it can be flipped back over if needed.)  Serve with yoghurt, salsa, guacamole and cabbage arranged on top.

On the Stereo:
Ruby: Killjoys

Tuesday 7 January 2020

In My Kitchen - January 2020

January should bring rejoicing at summer holidays and gorgeous blue skies.  But this year it is not quite the summer we expected to welcome.  Our country is experiencing too many bushfires, to many evacuations, too many properties lost, too many lives and livelihoods affected.  Though our emergency services have done an amazing jobs at fighting the fires, supporting the evacuees, and keeping deaths to a minimum.  Meanwhile in Melbourne it is a little smoky.  We are the lucky ones!

At home, I have a couple more weeks holidays.  There has been lots of sleep and not much socialising.  The Christmas tree and decorations are down.  We have been swimming and shopping and to the cinema (loved Little Women and Last Christmas).  I've written my 2019 reflections.  And with Christmas just behind us, in my kitchen you will find lots of gifts and new year feasting!  Let's take a look.

The top photo is a fried egg that Sylvia was having fun with. It is still a surprise to me how much she has loved cooking and eating fried eggs, scrambled eggs and omelets in the last year.  I don't like any of these.  Eggs aren't my thing.  But they are rather photogenic!

Sylvia also had fun decorating some gingerbread cats in the lead up to Christmas.  You can see more festive food in my Christmas eating post.

I met up with Faye who had been in Japan.  She very kindly brought us back wasabi salt, a cute dog purse and an unusual soy sauce dipping plate with a cat shape.  I need to experiment with the salt but the plate and purse have had plenty of use.

We had a secret santa at my workplace.  It was a stealing secret santa which in principle I don't like because it is not about accepting gifts but in practice it is actually fun which you have good presents and friendly people.  We had so many laughs swapping presents that we did another round of swapping presents.  The most swapped present was a coffee voucher!  I got this cat tea infuser (because I thought Sylvia would like it) and it oddly came with some eggs and a stone, all wrapped up in an egg carton!

The cat tea infuser proved very useful.  My sister gave me a T2 loose leaf Frosted Fruitcake Tea and Eggnog Tea in a cute Christmas cracker wrapping.  The fruitcake tea is herbal and smells amazing.  The eggnog is black tea and Sylvia has taken this one which she loves.  The mug with the cat face was a decorate-your-own-mug present to Sylvia, the cat tea strainer is also a present for her and the pink cat mug was bought in the post-Christmas sales.

We got some lovely belgium chocolates in cute Christmas shapes from my aunt and uncle.  There has been quite a bit of sweet food about: pannetone, panforte, Christmas cake, stollen.  There is still quite a lot of this about!

We planted catnip in a pot in the garden last year.  It grew from a little cutting to a leafy abundance without too much encouragement and we had to prune it back when it started going to seed.  Apparently it is related to mint, which explains it growing like a weed!

The catnip was bought for our cat.  Someone told me a genetic difference in Australian cats mean they don't react as much as American cats.  But when we had the leaves on the table after pruning (because Sylvia wanted to dry them out and stuff them in a little bag), our cat Shadow took a great interest in them and was rather playful!

On New Year's Eve we were running late and I didn't have time for making nachos.  Instead I served the vegetarian haggis (that I usually make) in quesadillas with cheese for me and some quesadillas with just cheese for Sylvia.  I served lots of vegetables to make us feel healthy!  We had a quiet one at home with a neighbour visiting us.

A few days later I invited E over to have haggis nachos for tea.  He loves haggis whether it is meat or vegetarian.  I think it reminds him of the home country!  It also turned out to be the New Year's Eve Dr Who special that night so we enjoyed watching that together!

As Australia Day is coming up at the end of the month, the shops are starting to fill with patriotic stuff!  I give the flag waving a miss but could not resist Lamington flavoured crisps!  These are some of the weirdest crisps I have tasted.  So weird and yet moreish.  They have a chocolate and coconut flavour with a bit of salt.  I think they would go well in a nutella sandwich.  But I think either they will be a one hit wonder novelty item or they will be trailblazers in a new fad for sweet crisps.  I suspect it will be the former!  Sylvia is not a fan!

I have been making a few fruit salads.  It is such a great way to eat lots of the fresh seasonal summer fruit.  I dice berries, stone fruit and pineapple, then add some orange juice and passionfruit and keep it in the fridge for a few days.  I know I should add watermelon but melons just aren't my thing.  We had pancakes a few mornings back and they were delicious with fruit salad and maple syrup.

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 visit more kitchens.

Friday 3 January 2020

Reflections 2019

And like that, here we are in a new year and a new decade.  Hard to believe another year has whizzed by but I am pleased to see the back of 2019.  Today I bring you a recap of the year

Last year started full of promise with a fun trip to Sydney.  We also visited Lorne and Port Fairy.  But the end of the year fizzled out with E and I separating.  There was so much change that I found it hard to keep up.  Though I am in the same house, I have had a new phone, a new fridge, new bank accounts, new NBN wifi network, and a new hard drive in my home computer. At work my team dwindled to me and my manager at the start of year.  I was sad when she left due to ill health but in her place came a new manager with her new team of lovely people.  I change my role, moved office twice and had a new computer at work.  It was a year of a lot of change.

Sylvia's home made slime collection!

With a 10 year old in the house, there is always change.  Sylvia became more independent and bloomed as a digital native.  After some swithering, I gave her my old phone so she now has a phone and an ipad.  She had one scooter die and one scooter go missing.  She cooked herself lots of eggs, made lots of slime, loved all things cats and, most of all, our cat Shadow.  She was a big fan of Kate Miller-Heidke.  Meanwhile our garden continued to grow, my bookclub continued, and I got into knitting for the first time in years.

There were many more changes in 2019.  The traditional elders of Uluru banned climbing the rock.  Jon Faine, who I have listened to for years, resigned from the ABC Melbourne morning program after 23 years.  I closed my landline account and now my only personal phone number is a mobile phone.  The local newsagency closed.  It was the place where we used to have a paper delivery account and I bought many birthday cards.  The bank branch at the University of Melbourne also closed.  I had my first adult bank account there and knew the staff well enough that I didn't need ID to withdraw cash if I forgot my purse.  Scott Morrison remained Prime Minister of Australia following our national elections.  And Boris Johnson became the UK Prime Minister.  Sadder yet was seeing the roof and main spire of the Notre Dame in Paris collapse in a fire.

My statistics were down this year.  No surprise there.  I had less time and energy for blog posts.  I had less time and energy for sharing these posts.  I was more surprised that only a little over a half of posts (53%) had recipes.

91 blog posts
14 photos accepted on FoodGawker
9 cafe reviews linked to Zomato
440 likes on FaceBook

Where my blog was featured
I was surprised to find a few links to my blog online this year (or that is what the dates suggest in this digital world where dates don't matter to some people).  More links are to photos than posts!

Most popular
As my stats took a tumble in the second half of the year, it is no surprise that the popular posts, according to my Blogger stats, were from earlier in the year.

Top 5 recipe posts
Twice baked potatoes and SpudFest 2019
Overnight sourdough bread rolls
We Bare Bear cupcakes for a birthday party
Charcoal overnight sourdough bread
Chickpea, potato and cauliflower curry

Top 5 eating out posts
The Tea Cosy tearooms, The Rocks, Sydney
Brighton Soul cafe and Brighton Beach
Are the vegan burgers better at Hungry Jacks?
Grounds of Alexandria, Sydney
Moo Gourmet Burgers and Manly Beach, Sydney

My best of 2019
This is a list of my favourites I have encountered this year rather than the best released this year:

Favourite kids film - Mary Poppins Returns and Frozen 2
Favourite adult film - Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman
Favourite Netflix movie - Pirate Radio (The Boat that Rocked)
Favourite family tv show - Gilmore Girls
Favourite adult tv show - Line of Duty
Favourite Australian novels - Boy Swallows Universe and Past the Shallows
Favourite foreign novels: the Goldfinch and the Night Circus
Favourite non fiction book - The Land before Avocado
Favourite album - Billy Joel's Songs in the Attic 
Favourite musician - Kate Miller-Heidke
Favourite new local eating out - Carringbush Hotel, Abbotsford

What we enjoyed eating in 2019
My cooking mojo was at low ebb this year.  There weren't heaps of recipes that really excited me, other than sourdough baking, but I did find some I really loved when I checked over the posts of 2019.  Here they are:

Savoury meals - Ghost salad, Cauliflower cheese pastiesSt Patrick's day green pizza, Creamy apricot and chickpea soup, Slow cooked smoky chickpeas with tacos, Chickpea tangine with quince, Purple sushi salad with tofu nuggets

Sweet baking - Cinnamon scroll scones, Irish Tea Cake, Carrot cake, Pinwheel pancakes with strawberries and cream cheese,

Fun baking: St Patrick's day shamrock cupcakes, We Bare Bear cupcakes, Halloween eyes in the dark cake,

Sourdough bread baking - Overnight sourdough bread rolls, Antipasto sourdough focaccia, Charcoal overnight sourdough bread, Overnight sourdough hot cross bunsOvernight sourdough cranberry nut rolls, Roast potato and rosemary bread

Happy New Year
We had a quiet new year with vegan haggis in quesadillas.  Then on New Year's Day, Sylvia and I started the year with a visit to the beach.  There is much I would like to do more in 2020 that I haven't done enough in the past year: cooking, baking, blogging, craft, swimming, cycling and catching up with friends.  I have been catching up on sleep during the holidays and feeling a bit more energy so I hope to get more done this year.  I thank you for reading, commenting and supporting me this year.  Here's to more blog posts, good food, good company and good times in 2020!

End of a decade
The world has changed so rapidly over the past decade that it scares me.  Here are a few reflections on the decade that has just passed:
Here in Australia we are intensely conscious of the effects of climate change with so many terrible bushfires raging at the moment.  Fortunately in Melbourne we have not been affected, other than a little smoke haze and looking out for family and friends who might be in the line of fires.  But our community will be devasted for some time to come by these fires.  So I go into the New Year with all those affected in my thoughts.