Tuesday 25 February 2020

Mac and Cheese Pancake: and brunch for dinner

We wanted something savoury for Shrove Tuesday.  And there was leftover mac and cheese in the fridge.  Pancakes are made on Shrove Tuesday to use up food before Lent begins.  So it is in that spirit that we made pancakes full of mac and cheese.  And served them as brunch for dinner!

When we go to the Pancake Parlour they have a breakfast pancake dish but not in my style.  So I made the sort of pancake fry up that I wish for: pancakes, hash brown, vegetarian sausage, fried tomatoes, tofu bacon, baked beans and spinach, all served with tropical juice.  I had wished I had the energy for vegan omelette and that I had a few mushrooms to fry up but it was pretty good and so filling.

The pancakes were just a matter of mixing mac and cheese with an adaption of a favourite pancake mixture.  I halved the pancake mixture I usually do to allow for it bulking out with the pasta.  Oddly enough I didn''t taste a lot of the mac and cheese in the fry up.  Perhaps it would be different with macaroni pasta but I only had spirals when  made the mac and cheese the previous night.  But after tea I took out some caramel sauce and its sweetness worked really well on the salty cheesey pancakes.

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

Mac and Cheese Pancakes
Inspired by The Food Network
Makes 6

3/4 cup self raising flour
3/4 cup milk (I used soy)
1/2 cup grated cheese
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice bran oil
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 1/2 cups macaroni and cheese
margarine, for frying

Mix all ingredients (except margarine) to make a thick batter.  Let sit 5 minutes.  Meanwhile heat frypan over medium heat.  Rub a little knob of margarine to cover the pan.  Drop heaped dessertspoons of batter on the pan.  It takes quite a while (5 minutes or so) and in this mixture bubbles didn't appear.  It should be golden brown.  Flip over and cook another few minutes until browned on the other side too.  If not brown enough, keep flipping.

On the Stereo:
Word Gets Around: Stereophonics

Thursday 20 February 2020

Greek pasta salad

Last week it was warm and humid.  This week summer turned cold and wet.  We have had so much rain over the last few days.  And I have slept so much due to ill health.  On Monday I slept 9 hours during the day and on Tuesday evening I fell asleep on the couch at 6.30pm.  Today I am feeling a bit better but could have done without the cat waking me at the ungodly hour of 5.30am.

So this week there has been very little cooking.  Instead of telling you the paltry offerings in the kitchen, I will hark back to my birthday a while back when I had so much good food that I made this Greek pasta salad out of the leftovers. 

I have been feeling more inspired in my cooking since I started a spreadsheet of recipes I wanted to cook (to replace my much mourned delicious bookmarks list that was great until the online software was shut down).  So this salad came from my spreadsheet.  It was inspired by leftovers olives, vegan feta and vegies from a platter.  Actually I was surprised to see how few pasta salad recipes I have on this blog!

I had wished that I had more of the feta (from a Greek deli) that went very well in the salad.  Although a vegan friend only gave it 3 out of 5, I felt it was more like feta than any other vegan version I have tried.  I really loved the mixed olives from the same deli which also gave lots of flavour.  It was a really nice salad with some leftovers for dinner and work lunches.

I had very relaxed birthday.  Freshly made cupcakes at a friend's place, lunch at the Pancake Parlour, free fries at Lord of the Fries, a movie (A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood) and some window shopping.  I got some really thoughtful presents.  The salad is presented in a beautiful bowl I was given by my family.  I also invited family and friends for a very pleasant birthday lunch and will share about it soon; once I have a bit more time and energy.

More salads on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Cobb salad with smoked nuts and blue cheese (gf)
Couscous salad with chermoula (v)
Green bean and broccoli tabbouleh (v)
Pesto pasta salad
Roasted potato salad with black olives and greens (gf, v)

Greek pasta salad
Adapted from The Kitchn
Serves 6

500g dry, small pasta, such as shells, ditalini, or elbows
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large capsicum, diced (I used half red, half green)
2-3 medium tomatoes or 375g cherry tomatoes, diced
1 medium cucumber, diced
1 small red onion, diced (I used 2 spring onions)
1 cup pitted olives, coarsely chopped
200-250g feta cheese, crumbled (I used vegan)
basil to garnish (optional)

Cook pasta according to packet instructions.  When cooked drain and rinse in cold water.  Place in cold water with ice cubes to cool it down.

Meanwhile make dressing of red wine vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper.  Chop vegies and olives.  NB I used a medley of olives and then used some of the oil that the olives had marinated in for the dressing.

Mix cooled pasta, vegies, olives and dressing.  Then stir through feta.  Let sit 20 minutes and adjust flavours.  I drizzled in more red wine vinegar, olive oil and lemon juice until it tasted sharp enough to be flavoursome but not really sour.

Can be kept in fridge overnight or up to 5 days

On the Stereo:
The Crane Wife: The Decembrists

Saturday 15 February 2020

Pineapple and cabbage rice salad

Although this salad was made a few weeks back, it would have been great for last week's humid weather.  This is tropical summer salad with a balmy Asian flavour.  I even added some edible flowers from the garden (Johnny jump-ups which my mum told me grows like weeds!)

The salad was made at the end of a busy weekend of getting the house in order: scrubbing our manky old shower, hanging out washing, sorting old files, taking my bike in for service (and finding it needed to much work and so I needed to think about cycling options)!  I cooked dinner while the Australian open tennis was on, between making morning tea for work.  I felt so good about having a few days of dinners packed until I looked at the dishes.  It wasn't a pretty sight!

But let's talk about the salad.  It was made to use up some things in the fridge like purple cabbage and half a pineapple and some limes. Although I did wish my mint was more bountiful.

I had an epiphany and decided to substitute ponzu sauce for fish sauce.  In the past I have used ume plum vinegar.  I still had some in the back of the shelves.  But when I checked the use by date it was 2009.  Oops.  How time flies!  Ponzu is my latest love and has that salty sharp taste that I imagine is fish sauce. 

I found the salad needed slightly more flavour.  Perhaps because I ate it as a main and the recipe was meant to accompany meat.  So I added more pineapple and dressing (adjusted for my tastes in the recipe below).  I think this helped it last a few days. It was colourful and crunchy and juicy and a little tart and salty.  Perfect for summer!

More savoury pineapple dishes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Fried rice (gf, v)
Peach and pineapple salsa (gf, v)
Pineapple and banana chutney (gf)
Sausage curry casserole (v)
Shamburger pizza (v)

Pineapple and cabbage rice salad
Adapted from taste.com
Serves 4

Salad dressing:
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 1/2 tablespoons ponzu sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar

3 cups cooked basmati rice
2 cups shredded purple cabbage
1/2 large fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, and chopped
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/3 cup salted roasted cashews
1-2 tbsp coconut shreds or flakes
Mint sprigs, extra, to serve

Mix well the lime juice, ponzu sauce and brown sugar in a small bowl.   Mix half of this dressing with the rice and set the rest aside.

Place cabbage, pineapple, cherry tomatoes, spring onion and mint leaves on the rice and toss together.  Scatter with cashews and coconut.  Drizzle with remaining dressing.

Notes: If you don't have cooked rice, cooked 1 cup of dried basmati and set aside to cool while you chop vegies and put together the dressing.

On the stereo:
Blame: Naked Raven

Monday 10 February 2020

Ge'ez Ethiopian Restaurant, Brunswick

Last night I went to Ge'ez Ethiopian Restaurant to share a vegan platter with Faye.  Sunday night wasn't really busy but there were quite a few groups come and go while we chatted.  The restaurant was simply furnished with a bar for those who wanted to drink.

Faye and I were keen to share a vegetarian combo platter ($24 per person) which the menu described as Chef's combo of vegan/vegetarian dishes and salad.  Faye checked it was vegan and it was confirmed.  I also noticed online that they have gluten free injera now but advise to give 24 hours notice.

Last time I went to an Ethiopian restaurant, I ate with cutlery.  This time the menu had information on eating with hands and so I followed Faye's lead and ripped up pieces of injera to wrap around the curries and salad.  I am no expert on injera but this one was sour and spongy I think it should be.

I was a little overwhelmed by all the dishes so I have reproduced a photo I took of the menu to give an overview of the curries.  I think the lentil stew and split pea stews were favourites.  I also loved the chunks of spiced beetroot.  And the tangy salad was a nice contrast.  Ge-ez is a welcome newcomer to the diversity of food choices in Sydney Road.

Ge'ez Ethiopian Restaurant
718 Sydney Rd, Brunswick VIC 3056
(03) 8354 0124
Open Wednesday to Monday 5-10pm

Ge'ez Ethiopian Cafe Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday 6 February 2020

In My Kitchen: February 2020

February means back to school, back to work, balmy evenings and simple hot weather food.  Last week when the kids went back to school we had two scorchers including a 43 C day.  Then on the weekend we had torrential rain.  I feel like I got a lot done over January.  Moving furniture around, cleaning and sleeping.  Good to have a rest before being back to work and back to having very little time.  So not much complicated cooking but we are eating some good food.

Above is the rice paper rolls we made one holiday lunchtime.

These cute cat dipping bowls have been in good use with rice paper rolls and sushi.

And when we ran out of rice paper roll wrappers I just had noodles, vegies and ponzu sauce.  Yes, we are eating lots of ponzu sauce!

After I accidentally bought the book I had requested for Christmas and asked for a book for Sylvia that she already had, we ended up with Dymocks bookstore vouchers.  It was a fun trip with so many good books.  But I had been putting out quite a lot of books when tidying up my bookshelves so I bought this gorgeous plate to use frequently!
Sylvia has been making herself healthy packed lunches for school.  Her mango looks so pretty it makes me wish I liked the fruit!

We have had a lot of summer fruit.  Every now and again I cut it into fruit salad.  This one was made with lots of stone fruit from my brother in law's fruit trees.

This is a meal I made over summer with pasta in tomato sauce, vegetarian sausages, lettuce and snow peas.  As an aside, I have found that now there is so much vegan food in the supermarkets, it is harder to find vegetarian sausages which have always been a great standby for meals.

We baked for a school cake sale to raise money for bushfire victims.  I made some tahini rice bubble slice that was so bad I had to bin it.  But the classic old vegan chocolate cupcakes worked fine.  I thoroughly checked that the Queen unicorn confetti sprinkles were vegan before including them.  Sylvia made honey joys and grubs.

These florentines were made to use up corn flakes, dried fruit and nuts and choc chips in the pantry.  They were pretty good but most of the chocolate got bloom.  I had been under the mistaken belief that choc chips didn't bloom but obviously I was wrong!

This is one of my favourite meals this week.  Warmed basmati rice, chopped cabbage, red cabbage, snow peas and grated carrot, roast cashews and ponzu sauce.  I told you we are loving ponzu.  It is light and flavoursome and an easy satisfying seasoning!

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 and visit more kitchens.

Saturday 1 February 2020

Travel in the 1990s - A-Z of changes

Before WiFi, AirBNB and GPS, we travelled without a safety net.  There was less research, more surprises.  Most of my travel was done in the 1990s.  So today I am sharing some memories and have even dug into my archives for photos of old momentos.  If you could sum up the change today, it would be the mobile phone.  So many of these aspects of 1990s travel can be replaced by a phone these days.  All except a Swiss army knife and no one lets you fly with one any more!

A is for Accommodation booking services
Accommodation booking services were in tourist centres rather than online.  I remember spending a week travelling by car around the UK with my mum and dad.  We decided not to book ahead.  So we would book either by going to a a phone box to contact an accommodation service or going there in person.

B is for Batteries
In the 1990s we often packed batteries for cameras, walkmans and alarm clocks.  These days, although there are still batteries in cameras, phones and laptops, I tend to think more in terms of packing chargers to keep the batteries going rather than packets of batteries to replace used ones.

Film canisters and the little plastic tubs they came in.  My bag always had quite a lot of these.
I remember choosing between 100, 200 and 400 ISO when purchasing film.

C is for Camera
Cameras used film so every photo was precious and expensive.  How often did we take a photo thinking it was just right, only to find when we got the photos developed weeks later that someone blinked or the focus was all wrong!  Sometimes it was easier to buy a post card or guidebook instead.  It was exciting to show everyone our holiday snaps.  These days with digital photos we have so many goes at getting it right and by the time we return from holiday we have too many photos and everyone has often seen the best photos already.  And the spare and used reels of film in the baggage were so precious.  No backing up photos online!

D is for Diary
It was the done thing to keep a travel diary when I was backpacking around Europe.  I remember people in hostels taking time to hand write their memories and paste in pictures that were cut from brochures.  These days people carry laptops and write a travel blog or just record memories in FaceBook or Instagram.

My travel diary from my European travels: tickets, directions, notes, sketches, beer label, etc

E is for Embarrassing
We never had embarrassing pictures or stories on the internet when we had a holiday romance or wore birkenstocks with socks on a plane (I admit to neither and you don't have the photos to prove it).  Of course, we shared embarrassing moments but only with close friends.  Nothing went viral in those days - well not in a digital way!

F is for Foreign languages
Travelling in a country where you didn't speak the language was tough.  Lonely Planet was a godsend with a small list of common words to help you communicate with the locals.  But this didn't help in the grocery stores when I couldn't tell what food I was buying.  There was no internet to search for words and no Google translate to help.

G is for Gadgets
My favourite gadget was my swiss army knife.  These are much harder to travel with today if you are going through airports.  Mine was confiscated in 2002 after 9/11.  An alarm clock and a watch were essential to catch planes and trains.  These days mobile phones take their place and we pack more sophisticated digital gadgets such as portable chargers, cables, bluetooth speakers and, apparently, video recording sunglasses.

H is for Hitchhiking
I am by nature a cautious traveller but on occasion have been caught out.  When we arrived at our cabin in Cradle Mountain in Tasmania a few decades back, we were some distance from the main lodge where we had planned to get our meals.  The only way there and back was hitchhiking.  These days, Google Maps makes it so much easier to see exactly where you are staying and going. 

Internet cafes were exciting when you travelled without any other internet access. 
But also slow and expensive.

I is for Internet cafes 
Who can forget the joy of internet cafes in the late 1990s when you could go into a cafe and purchase half an hour of dial up internet that cut out abruptly after waiting for ages for a page to load.  I travelled alone around Europe for a month and was so excited to have a little time to check my emails and connect with friends at home and those I had met travelling.  Now I travel with my laptop or phone and have email, social media and texts there when I need them.  It is great but you never seem to really leave home behind in the way we used to.

J is for Jobs
Many Australian youths travel on a working holiday.  When I travelled we didn't consider finding a job until we were there partly because it was so much easier to apply in person to employment agencies in the UK.  I had friends who were teachers who went through agencies but they met with the agencies before they left.  I remember asking employers to write references for me too.  These days jobs are online, references are by phone or email and the interviews can be done by video conference if necessary!

K is for Kindness of Strangers
In the 1990s I had a European bus pass that should have got me out of Poland.  But when the bus driver refused to let me on the bus, I was unable to understand the system or work out alternatives.  A kindly woman translated for me, took me to her flat for the night and then drove me back to the bus station where the next bus driver would not let me on.  A young man who was getting on the bus told me that I could go to his parents' place and stay in his room.  These days I would have been able to search more about the bus pass online both before I left and while I was in Poland.  Too often now we bury ourselves in our devices rather than look up at the people around us.

Some of my Lonely Planets (don't know where the rest went)
plus a Rough Guide special with stories of travel before blogging gave us these insights.

L is for Lonely Planet 
We called the Lonely Planet Guide "the bible" because it had everything we needed: information about accommodation, sights, places to eat, maps, some basic words in the language of the country, travel stories etc.  I spent hours pouring over my Lonely Planet guides before and while I travelled.  I still have a few of them.  Now Lonely Planet seems limited compared to having the internet at your finger trips.  Now we have the tyranny of choice in finding information about our destination.

M is for Money
When I first went travelling overseas in the 1990s, I went to the bank beforehand to organise travellers cheques that I could cash when I got to the UK.  Then I hid them in a money pouch I wore around my waist.  There was nothing so terrifying as being in a foreign country with no money.  Not to mention the complications of travelling Europe with all the different currencies before the Euro.  Nowadays when I travel overseas I purchase a bit of cash at the airport and make sure I have enough in my credit card account to withdraw it at an ATM (cash machine).

Cashing in travellers cheques in Jerusalam

N is for News
When I travelled in the 1990s we got our news from newspapers, the television and the radio.  None of these were easily available when travelling (especially in a non-English speaking country) and they didn't have much about Australia.  It was exciting to hear news from home.  When I was on kibbutz in Israel and somehow I heard about Sadam Hussain bombing a country near Israel, it was hard to get facts and I phoned the Australian embassy to work out if we were safe (we were).  These days with the internet so readily available, it is easy to keep up with news from home.

O is for Overseas calls
When I first travelled in the 1990s, the way to keep in touch was by phone.  Emails were not so common and there was no social media.  Overseas calls were really expensive.  My parents wisely and kindly bought a phone number with a pin which meant we could call home on reverse charges from any phone.  I constantly am amazed at how easy it is to use mobile phones overseas these days, as well as social media to keep in touch no matter where you are!

Aerograms from the days when we would write a lot on a small amount of paper
and send it home as cheaply as possible

P is for Post
In a strange town, we were often interested to find the post office to purchase stamps and send mail.  It was so much fun to receive mail.  (There was none of the adverts and dross you have to scan through on social media to find news from home!)  I had friends with whom I would exchange aerograms: flimsy cheap notepaper that folded into an envelope.  We would write small to fit as much news as possible into the page.  It was fun choosing postcards and looking at the stamps we bought from different countries.  Now it is so easy to keep in touch by phone and online.

Q is for Queues
So much more was done in person in the 1990s.  You went to the travel agents, did check-in for flights, bought train tickets.  There were so many more people that queues were more common.  I remember queuing at public phone boxes.  Yes we got impatient but it was all part of travel.  Now there are less queues.  So many tickets and check-ins are organised digitally these days.  Sometimes I miss having a person to ask questions but then I remember the queues we used to have.

This pocket sized A-Z London atlas and guide was always with me in London.

R is for Road maps 
I loved visiting a tourist information office for a map.  When I lived in London I relied on the A-Z road maps.  When travelling Europe I relied on the maps in Lonely Planet.  Mind you, Lonely Planet maps were quite limited and it didn't take much walking to leave the security of the map.  These days it is so much easier with Google Maps and GPS. 

S is for Selfies
Our ideas of selfies in the 1990s were getting someone else who looked honest to take a photo.  And being honest did not mean that they knew how to take a photo in focus without half their finger in the frame.  Selfies and selfie sticks mean you don't need to ask strangers to take your photo today, though occasionally we still do.

I spent many hours in phone boxes. 
Not all of them as graceful as this row on Edinburgh's Royal Mile.

T is for Telephone boxes
Public phones were a godsend in the days before mobiles (if you can just forgot those horrid cards advertising x-rated services in the British phone boxes).  This was how we would connect with home to let them know we arrived safely, or organise ahead for accommodation or even ring the middle of the night when something went wrong.  We would literally save up our pennies and talk quickly when we had no more money to feed in and we know the line would go dead.

U is for Uncertainty
Not having a mobile phone meant we had to live with a lot more uncertainty.  When we flew to meet a sister or friend, we trusted they would be there.  I even met someone in Amsterdam and arranged to meet on a railway station in Prague.  No safety net of texts if she was not there.  The best way to contact her if she didn't turn up would be finding an internet cafe to send an email.  But she was there.  Just as when I unexpectedly found myself in hospital in Cork, Ireland I had to find a payphone to let people know, including the hostel where I had checked in my backpack!  The flipside of uncertainty was trust!

V is for Vegetarian food
Travelling  as a vegetarian in the 1990s was more of a challenge than it is today.  I remember days in Italy eating very plain pizza margherita or pasta with tomato sauce and wishing for something a bit more.  One of my worst travel meals was on the now-defunct Ansett Airlines in Australia when I was served a sandwich of plain tofu and a slab of butter.  Of course there were some wonderful surprises like the Turkish breakfast of tomato, pickles, cheese, and bread in a hostel in Cappadoccia.  But I really appreciate the good vegetarian food you can find these days through internet searches.

A selection of old cassette tapes.  Most have now been thrown out. 
The Anthems tape was a favourite when travelling.

W is for Walkmans
How I loved my Walkman when I travelled.  It was the soundtrack to my travels.  It calmed me when I was nervous.  It was from the days of cassette tapes when we taped from CDs and the occasional vinyl record.  We only took a few tapes so I listened to them over and over again.  I carried spare batteries because the Walkman went through them quickly but most of all I feared tape being chewed up by the machine.  These days even ipods are a little old fashioned as phones become ever smarter.  And apps such as spotify make it easier to carry a lot of music around without adding to weight and volume.

X is for Xeroxes
Xeroxes (or what we call photocopies in Australia) were an important back up for all our important information such as passports and driving licences.  If we bought travellers cheques or airline tickets these were often photocopied because it made it so much easier to replace if lost.  While I still might photocopy my passport, many tickets can be accessed online these days and even passports can be scanned and kept on the cloud or the phone.

A hostel registration card: no computerised booking, no url, no requests for social media likes!

Y is for Youth hostels
Youth hostels were another great source of information.  I met people to hang out with when I travelled solo, I talked to people about where to eat and visit, and would check out the noticeboards and brochures.  When I was travelling around Europe, people in youth hostels kept telling me to do the tour of Berlin.  I would ask, what tour?  Just do the tour, they told me.  Word of mouth was a wonderful thing.  When I got to Berlin my youth hostel was advertising an English language tour.  It was the best tour I ever did on my travels.  In 1998 Berlin was a vibrant city in the midst of rebuilding after the Wall went down.  These days such tourist activities ca be found online before landing in a city, as are travelling companions and recommendations.  I am sure people still meet in hostels if only they look up from their phone once in a while!

Z is for zzzz
I am sure we got more sleep in the 1990s without the distraction of the internet.  We didn't have to be spending our time posting about travel and researching the next destination.  It was quicker to write on a postcard or in a travel diary and check the Lonely Planet.  Sure, we didn't know the half of where we were going but we had more time for sleep when not spending long nights chatting and drinking.  Ahhhh .... those were the days!