Thursday 29 April 2021

Honey, apple and olive oil cake for my 14th blog anniversary

I almost didn't bake this cake!  But I have a tradition of baking a cake each blog anniversary.  Fourteen years is a long time in blogging.  Over this time, there has been a lot of change both in the blogosphere and my life.  I started the blog with a birthday cake for my husband and the proceeded to post with incredible energy.  These days blogs are far less rough and ready and I have far less energy for blogging.  I still bake for E's birthday but my daughter takes it to his house now that we are separated.  This year the practicalities meant I just made some biscuits but I wanted a cake for the anniversary.

By the time I decided to bake this cake, it was Sunday morning.  Usually this would be a good morning to duck out to the shops for any ingredients I didn't have.  But it was ANZAC DAY when shops and businesses in Australia close until 1pm.  I had cut up a big saucepan of apples for stewing earlier while watching Insiders on tv.  So with no Greek yoghurt in the house, I used the stewed apples.  And I have lots of limes but no lemons on our trees.  So guess which tree I went to when I realised I had used my last lemon in the stewed apples!  Most of the preparation for baking the cake was spent picking and rubbing thyme leaves off the woody stalks that I picked from the garden.

I had chosen a rather plain cake - yoghurt and honey olive oil cake.  I added some vinegar as well to give a little of the yoghurty sourness.  What made this cake a bit more of a celebration cake was the addition of a dollop of yoghurt with a magnificent berry sauce full of berries that I had squirreled away in the freezer over summer.  The cake was lovely and moist by itself though I found the 1 tablespoon of thyme a little intense and would add less next time.  I went for a swim after it came out of the oven and when I rode home in the rain, it was a cosy return into the warm house smelling of baking and honey.

The cake was really special served with the yoghurt and berry sauce.  Sylvia also enjoyed it.  I made it before an odd week that has started with her at school camp and ends with me in Sydney for a work meeting (hence this post being scheduled in advance).  So some of the cake is in the freezer. 

I usually reflect on blogging in my blogiversary blog post but life is just so odd and busy that it is hard to focus on blogging.  I still have a lot of blogging I want to do, though far less energy.  Perhaps I coudl say that although I have not been that social with this cake, I have probably had one of the most social weeks this week since the pandemic hit early last year.  I had lunch with a friend at work yesterday.  Then after work I went to the cinema to see The Father, followed by a lovely dinner at the Green Man's Arms with a uni friend.  Today I caught up with friends this morning and again this afternoon.  Ahead is a farewell lunch for a work colleague, a work dinner in Sydney and catching up with some familiar faces from work that I haven't seen for some time.  

It will be odd to go on a plane again after a couple of years.  My first time on a plane wearing a face mask for the duration of the journey.  I hope that there is no snap lockdown when I get to Sydney.  Some of my colleagues will not travel because their health is too fragile or they can't risk being locked down. That is our Covid-normal life in Australia.  Almost there but not quite!

For all the strangeness of life, I can't complain too much.  This year so far (touchwood) is better than last year.  I am still busy but I have more hope and it is far better to be struggling with a vaccine rollout than a covid outbreak.  I do not have lots of energy and time to try new recipes and photograph them and blog.  This is partly because my blog has armed me with a fantastic repertoire of favourite recipes.  I am sadder I have less time for comments, which has always been such a delight of blogging.  I would like to write more but I need to do the dishes and pack and try to get some sleep before some busy days ahead.  Let's just finish the post feeling happy I still can occasionally summon the energy to bake a cake for a bit of comfort and celebration!  And I will be bake soon with more blogging!

More cakes made with olive oil on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Chocolate olive oil cake
Chocolate olive oil cake (gf, v)
Citrus grape cake
Kitchen sink tropical fruit loaves
Lemon and honey cake
Venetian carrot cake

Honey, apple and olive oil cake
Adapted from The Kitchn

1 cup stewed apples, chopped small (or plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup honey

1 to 3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

Finely grated zest
 of 1 lime (or small lemon)
3 eggs

1 1/2 cups plain white flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Berry sauce (below) and yoghurt, to serve

Preheat oven to 170 C.  Grease and line a 22cm round springform tin.

Lightly whisk apples (or yoghurt), vinegar, olive oil, honey, thyme and lime.  Whisk in eggs.  Fold in dry ingredients.  Don't worry if it is slightly lumpy.

Pour into prepared tin.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and the cake is pulling away from the sides.  Cool in tin for 10 minutes and turn out onto plate to eat warm or wire rack to cool before eating.

Berry sauce
Makes about 1 cup

150-200g mixed berries (I used blueberries, raspeberries, blackberries and strawberries)
juice of 1 lime (or 1/2 lemon)
3 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp cornflour (corn starch)

Cook berries, lime and maple syrup gently in a small saucepan until boiling.  Mix a couple of spoonfuls of juice from berry mixture with the cornstarch.  Pour into berry mixture and bring to the boil.  It should thicken slightly.

On the Stereo:
Begin to Hope: Regina Specktor

Wednesday 21 April 2021

Easter hedgehog slice and what I did on my holidays

Over Easter I read a journalist saying that it was time to throw out the Easter eggs from last year that their kids had not eaten over the past year.  It reminded me of my childhood neighbours who would horrify us by keeping their Easter eggs instead of eating them.  Easter eggs never lasted long in our house.  Even when my brothers decided they did not want their Easter eggs one year, they just broken them into pieces and threw them to my siblings and me for fun.  These days if we have leftover Easter eggs, they go into some baking for a bit of fun.  Such as this hedgehog slice.

Before I tell you about this slice, I will tell you a bit about my holidays.  This week is my first full week of work in 4 weeks.  Easter gave me a couple of shorter weeks and then I took a week off for the school holidays.  We were treated to a few warm autumnal days.  On Easter Saturday, Sylvia and I headed to Torquay for a swim.  It was so busy we went to the back beach with rough high waves.  There were too many people for my liking but it is hard to resent others who also wanted to enjoy some last rays of sunshine before winter.

 While in Torquay, we went to Il Gelatino (3/42 Bell Street, Torquay) for an ice cream.  I had Golden Gaytime and Chocolate.  It was a lovely balmy late afternoon to sit eating ice cream before heading back to my parents where we celebrated Easter with family the next day.  Only my dad went to church on the Saturday night because it was booked out.  No cramming churchgoers into the aisles this year with Covid still forcing social distancing.

After Easter Sunday, I had leave on Monday and Tuesday.  Sylvia and I went to Barkly Square where we ate lunch outside.  I had recently been told at another Zambrero cafe that it is $1 cheaper to order a Bowl with black rice than to order a PowerBowl which is the same for a vegetarian.  So I had the Bowl with black rice, beans, cheese, cos lettuce, corn, tomato, sour cream, chipotle sauce and guacamole.  It was lovely and very filling but next time I need to remember to ask for just a little sauce.

Before heading back to work I made this Easter Egg hedgehog.  It was made to use up bits and pieces around the house.  I had bought a 95% Lindt chocolate that was far too bitter for Sylvia and me.  As there was a half tin of condensed milk hanging around in the fridge, I thought if I mixed them I would have a fudgy sauce that wasn't too sweet.  It worked well but was very rich.  I mixed in some shortbread biscuits that were heading towards Stale City with worrying speed.  And there were some Easter eggs about so I decided to put some in.  I also added shredded coconut just because I love it.  The slice was brilliant.  It rescued some food in danger of becoming compost.  This was definitely a slice where the sum was far superior to the parts.

During my week of annual leave, we took it easy.  I relaxed and read my book (highly recommend Rodham by Curtis Sittenfield), I cleaned around the house, I organised my life just that little bit more, we had some trips around town, rode my bike and went swimming.  Life still seems to be not quite normal but having a week gave me a chance for some of the recouping I need.

One trip was to have a swim at Brunswick Pool and then head to Luthers Scoops (528A Sydney Road, by Blyth St, Brunswick).  It is an unassuming looking place with some amazing ice cream.  First I saw Cindy and Michael rave about it and then I had a colleague rave to me about it.  I had a scoop of strawberry cheesecake and a scoop of an intense dark chocolate.  The big chunks of strawberries and the cheesecake flavours were amazing.  They mixed well with the chocolate but on its own the chocolate was really intense.  Sylvia had a blueberry and sour cream scoop and a passionfruit and lemon curd scoop.  She raved about the blueberry but was less certain about the passionfruit (which interestingly Cindy loved).  I am sure we will be back!

I went to the city with my mum and Sylvia.  The place we had chosen was noisy and fully booked so we walked on to a food hall.  There are so many in the city and this one had a few closed cafes but quite a lot of people about for the ones that were open.  I tried a pumpkin tempura sushi handroll from Sushi Hub.  It was really good.  And I had a Morroccan Chickpea and Kale Spud from Spud Bar.  It turned out to give me menu envy as I wished I had ordered a more traditional baked potato.  I liked mine but with sweet potato, lots of quinoa, a chickpea and kale in sauce, beetroot chunks and generous dollop of kale it was too much a stew, too earnestly healthy and lacked that cheeky glint of fun.  And it was huge.  I didn't finish it.  It wasn't terrible but I just wanted a baked potato meal rather than stew.

We then walked to Brunettis in the CBD.  Sylvia had this Oreo cheesecake, I had a small square of mud cake and my mum had a rum baba.  There was a lot of syrup on that rum baba.  It is such a huge busy cafe that there is lots of great people watching.  I felt sorry for the couple who had us sitting at a bench directly overlooking them with just a glass wall to separate us and them.  They chatted and flirted and played Uno and I wanted to tell the woman that she had a smear of cream from her pastry in her dark hair.

I had a day when I had organised lunch with a friend but she was sick.  So I rode into the city and just had a bit of time to myself.  It was lovely.  I will share some street art photos soon.  I had decided I needed to start eating a bit more healthily.  So I had lunch at Seedling Cafe (275 Flinders Lane, CBD) where I ate a wonderful plate of quinoa salad and a broccoli and cauliflower salad.  It is calling for a longer post if only I can find time to return.

And though I was determined to eat a little better, when I saw on a dessert named "I'm a lady" on the menu at Noodle Lab (11 Rose Lane, off Little Bourke Street, CBD), I had to try it. The dessert comprised lady finger banana and dulce de leche wrapped in spring roll pastry with black sesame meringue and black sesame ice-cream, with honey shot ($9).  It was as amazing as it sounded.  I promised myself I must go back there soon.  Even though I know that the holidays are over and now my spare time is never enough and my to do list is always ridiculously long!  It was nice to have a breather before diving back into work and the usual craziness of my life.

More leftover Easter egg recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Easter caramel and malteser fridge cake
Easter egg nests
Easter egg slice
Easter Scotch eggs
Marzipan Easter egg cupcakes

See more at Easter recipes: savoury, sweet and salt dough

Easter hedgehog slice
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe

1/2 tin of condensed milk
100g 95% cocoa chocolate - lindt, chopped
125g speckled chocolate eggs eggs
100g shortbread biscuits, crumbled
1/3 cup shredded coconut
Extra shredded coconut for topping

Melt chocolate and condensed milk in a medium bowl in the microwave.  Mix with eggs, shortbread biscuits and coconut.   Press down into a 15cm square lined tin.  Sprinkle with shredded coconut.  Firm up in fridge.  Cut into small square and enjoy!

On the Stereo:
Bat out of Hell: Meatloaf

Thursday 15 April 2021

Street Art in Melbourne - Manallack and Saxon Streets, Brunswick

Today I rode along the Upfield bike and the road by Union Street was blocked so I did a detour along a bluestone lane to Manallack Street.  I pass that way often without any time to stop and smell the roses.  Today I was on holidays, my lunch date was cancelled and I had time to wander and wonder.  So I came across some wonderful sepia street art reflecting the history of Brunswick.  Then I wandered further and found some cheerful colourful street art including some on Saxon Street that was so infectious it had spread to the road.  I wish I knew more about the history but all I can do is stand back, admire and immerse!



I asked someone about the painting on the road and they told me it was done by the folks at Theodores so I am thinking perhaps I need to check out the cafe and bar!
More Brunswick Street Art on Green Gourmet Giraffe:

Saturday 10 April 2021

In My Kitchen, April 2021

Surely it is not already April!  The days pass quickly and there is always a lot to do and not enough done.   I have managed to catch up with some friends.  Easter has been a fun break with family, Hot Cross Buns, swimming and a new Spotify account.  Politics has kept me outraged with our federal government shown to be hopeless out of their depth when faced with the truth about women in federal parliament, disappointed with our slow vaccine rollout, and saddened by our premier's spinal injury.  Brisbane locked down, the cat lost his collar and the the library blocked my card.  At least we have School Holidays and an extra hour at the end of Daylight Savings!

Above is an Ortolana pizza from Old School Pizza.  We've had takeaway pizza on a couple of tired nights.  This pizza had roasted pumpkin, wilted baby spinach, marinated sliced potato, zucchini, roasted eggplant, oil infused garlic and herbs.  It was pretty good with lots of vegies.


It has been farewell to summer fruit.  The fruit bowl has been filled with apples from my parents' tree, citrus and passionfruit.  


I have been missing summer fruit but occasionally I make a nice juice - usually by blending fresh orange juice, strawberries, pineapple and lots of ice.  This happens much more than I bake bread or visit the farmers market.

I had some time in the city a few weeks back.  One visit was to eat sushi and churros after the NGV Triennial and another time I was there for an appointment, after which I stopped at David Jones for cheesy snacks - pretzels and crisps.


I was intrigued by these Miso and Mushroom flavoured Corn and Kale Chips.  They were slightly green with lots of umami flavour.  And very good with hummus.

These Coco Pop covered Golden Gaytime ice creams were also irresistible.  They combined two favourite childhood treats.  But sometimes the sum is not greater than its parts.  Fun to try!

We bought baking potatoes at the farmers market and had them one night as traditional baked potatoes with lots of grated cheese, sour cream and coleslaw.  The next night I had one leftover that went into a taco bowl of sorts: baked potato, corn, red capsicum, coleslaw, grated cheese and broccoli served with dollops of plain yoghurt, refried beans and salsa.  This sort of bowl is such a great way to get my vegetables in my diet.

A trip to Northland shopping centre included purchasing a tub of chickpea and pumpkin salad for lunch with arancini.  There was a lot of salad!  I took some of it home, cooked up some sourdough flatbreads and added purple cabbage and baby spinach.  An easy and satisfying dinner!


My beloved Oxo potato masher broke so I headed to Northland to buy a new one.  I wanted one exactly the same as my black one.  I was fascinated by the Dreamform masher.  It is now sitting in the draw waiting to be used.


I bought some new salt and pepper grinders.  First thing I did was wash them.  When I filled the salt grinder with rock salt I found that it had not dried out properly and would not grind.  Last week when I worked from home on a nice warm day, I dried it outside and now it seems to be grinding the salt as it should.

Sylvia requested we buy some mini gnocchi.  I served it with pesto (made with basil from the garden), mushrooms, capsicums and herbed cream cheese.

 I finally tried Pinch of Yum's Cauliflower Walnut Vegetarian Taco Meat.  It is not a new idea.  I remember being amazed when I saw Ricki Heller's very similar "Meaty Crumbles" back in 2010.  I liked the Pinch of Yum version but was I think it would have been better in a tomato sauce as it was quite dry when I served it.  Having said that, despite it being so crumbly and able to spill everywhere, the yoghurt and salsa with the vegetables were fine accompaniments.

I was surprised that my camelia was already flowering by the end of March.  It usually flowers in about May but it has been quite a wet, cool start to the year.  I also have great expectations for the lime tree with lots of fruit that looks set to ripen soon.  I also have lemons that will ripen soon but the lemon tree is looking a little sad.

We tried to go easy on the Easter goodies.  But novelty chocolate and sticky date butterscotch brownies are hard resist.  The hot cross buns are in the freezer so I am not sure how they taste.  I found the cherry ripe egg a little dark but the fruit tingle easter egg was very good.

I baked a couple of batches of sourdough hot cross buns before Easter.  As usual I pipe my crosses a lot thicker than the shops because we love a thick chewy glazed cross in my household.  I had a problem this year with the glaze being boiled too long and it turned to crystalised sugar on the buns.  Next year I will just heat it until it boils.  Glaze aside, I really loved these hot cross buns.  They are so so good.  It is so sad that my stash in the freezer is almost finished.

Another temptation I fell for was this box of Chocolate hot cross bun ice creams which was on sale after Easter for $1.  The packet says they are spiced and have biscuit pieces.  I am disappointed there aren't chunks of hot cross buns inside and a white cross over the chocolate!  The box has not been opened yet.

I went to Geelong to my parents for Easter Sunday.  Sylvia and I managed to fit in a swim before the easter egg hunt and lunch.  I didn't make a nut roast this year but my mum did a great roast dinner with sweet potato fritters, roast potatoes, roast pumpkin, pumpkin salad with feta and pomegranate, peas and my sister's great cauliflower cheese.  There was also my mum's chocolate caramel cheesecake and my niece's grubs for dessert.  So much good food.

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event.  Sherry has suggested that as well as sharing what's in our kitchen, that we send a curveball photo too.  So I am sharing a photo of Sylvia's new stylish boots that happen to be also my size so I have suggested we share them!  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.