Sunday 30 May 2021

Tortellini and greens soup

It has been a crazy week.  I got my first jab of covid vaccine.  Our cat has been sick.  And we are in lockdown again!  Thank goodness for comfort food.  During the week I made a lovely tortellini soup inspired by My Fitness Pal.  It was a simple matter of finding some vegies in the fridge too cook with tortellini in tomato flavoured broth.  Great for both dinner and lunch.

Shadow, our cat, has had acute kidney disease and spent a couple of days at the vet hooked up to a drip.  Here is a picture of him with his red bandage where the drip was attached.  Poor wee thing.  He is very happy to get back home on Friday and doing better but still not eating much. 


After almost 3 months without community transmission of Covid, we have an outbreak in Melbourne that has led to a 7 day statewide "circuit breaker" lockdown.  Here we go again!  Contact tracing, face masks, social distancing, cancelled events, the 5 km limit, click and collect, queues for testing, criticism of hotel quarantine.  This time the difference is that we have the vaccine available.  It has been rolling out frustratingly slowly.  Now that the risks of Covid loom large again, there are long queues at vaccination hubs and many reports of those who could not get through on the phones to get an appointment.

So you see, there is much on my mind and I appreciate a nice easy meal like this tortellini soup.   Below are a few links to articles that discuss some of the current issues of lockdown, hotel quarantine, and Australians coming home from India:

Winter is here and Covid is back: Melbournians have heard this script before by Calla Wahlquist in The Guardian, 26 May 2021.

No booze, no sunbathing, lots of Vegemite: welcome to quarantine at Howard Springs, NT by Robyn Dixon in The Age, 25 May 2021

Australia's coronavirus evacuation flight from India left me behind due to an inaccurate test by James Oaten in the ABC News, 18 May 2021

’Oh gosh, why me?’: Hussey lifts lid on his Indian COVID nightmare, by Jacob Polychronis in Fox Sports, 19 May 2021

Hookturnistan Returns: Melbourne Lockdown 4.0 by SAmmy J on ABC tv, 27 May 2021

More pasta soup recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:

Tortellini and greens soup

Adapted from My Fitness Pal
Serves 3-4

1-2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1/2 red capsicum, diced
3 button mushrooms, diced
handful of baby brussels sprouts, sliced
clove of roasted garlic
400g tin of diced tomatoes
1-1 1/2 tsp stock powder
300g ready to cook spinach and cheese tortellini
2 generous handfuls of baby spinach

Heat oil in a large saucepan.  Fry onions for a few minutes and then add carrot, capsicum, mushrooms and brussels sprouts.  Fry a few more minutes and then add roasted garlic, tomatoes and use the tin the tomatoes were in to measure two tinfuls of water to add to the saucepan, stock powder.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add tortellini, season and bring to the boil.  Stir in spinach and once it is wilted remove from the heat and serve.  Leftovers can be left in the fridge a few days and reheated when ready to eat.

On the stereo:
"Road Rage": Catatonia

Monday 24 May 2021

Sweet potato buckwheat and greens salad, and vaccine hesitancy

It is not quite salad weather any more but I am happy to share with you a salad that is most welcome in all seasons.  I made this salad on Mothers Day to share with my family when I went to my parents' in Geelong for a barbecue lunch.  We all enjoyed it.  There were even requests for leftovers at the end of the day.

Like some of my favourite recipes, this salad was born out of necessity.  There was a packet of buckwheat in the pantry that led to a broccoli buckwheat salad.  As cooked broccoli does not always age well, I decided to use roasted sweet potato instead.  I added celery for crunch.  I didn't have cucumber so I used some pickled cucumbers, which paired nicely with the sundried tomatoes and feta.  I really liked that the salad did not have a dressing that had to be whisked or shaken.  It just needed some olive oil and lemon juice mixed in at the end.  Easy!  I mean it was easy at the end but a bit of preparation to gather the ingredients with simmering, crumbling, toasting, roasting and chopping!

The day started off with Sylvia who gave me a little mother's day bundle.  We then had pancakes.  It wasn't a flowers and napkins brunch.  I made us fluffy pancakes and ate them in front of Insiders.  I was busy making the salad.  Sylvia was very sweet with the thoughtfulness of her card and presents.  Then she went out to the supermarket to buy us milk, maple syrup and celery.  She sat down with me to eat pancakes with maple syrup and raspberries.


In Geelong, we had a fantastic lunch.  It was good to be sharing some delicious salads, gossip and laughter that reduced us to tears.  My dad and brother did the BBQ and did me some sausages.  My mum made desserts, including a magnificent pavlova.  She is a pretty impressive baker.  So as well as making pavlova, cheesecake and orange cake, she whipped up a batch of scones because my niece said how much she loved them.


One of the main topics of conversation in my life lately seems to be the Covid vaccine.  Australia did such a great job of containing Covid so we can live (almost) normal lives but now the media is all abuzz with stories of vaccine hesitancy.  Living in Fortress Australia being like a being in a gilded cage.  My dad had recently had the vaccine at the Mother's Day lunch.  One fascinating facts I read about buckwheat was that it has a plant pigment called rutin that prevents blood clots.  This made the salad seem quite timely, given that there is a lot of fear about blood clots from the Astra Zenica vaccine. 

Also quite relevant to my family (given we had 4 members present who have been diagnosed with celiac disease) is that buckwheat is gluten free.  I noticed how misleading the name was when I heard my sister tell my celiac niece to avoid the salad.  I had forgot to tell her the salad was gluten free.


In Melbourne we have just had our first community transmission of Corona Virus in 3 months.  It is a timely reminder of just how important the vaccine is to protect against death, disease, and lockdowns,  Coincidentally I had my first Astra Zenica vaccine jab today (booked last week).  As I came out of the magnificent Exhibition Buildings, a woman approached me to ask if I had the vaccine and was it ok.  She was nervous about the vaccine but I admired her for coming to the vacciine hub despite that and stood chatting to her about it for a while.  

 Instead of me wittering on, here are a few interesting (and occasionally entertaining) articles related to vaccine hesitancy:

I would like to write more but I am told I might feel sick tomorrow so should get to bed!  Meanwhile I highly recommend this salad for it's deliciousness and for its anti blood clotting properties.  (I thought of calling it an anti blood clotting salad but that is as gross as my ride to work this morning passing 4 animal carcasses and having a bug fly up my nose!)  I can also attest to this salad being excellent at room temperature for lunch a few days after being made.

More buckwheat recipes:


Sweet potato buckwheat and greens salad
Adapted from Nourish Every Day with some input on cooking buckwheat from Dr Weil

  • 1 cup buckwheat groats or kasha, cooked*
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (approx 500g), diced and roasted in olive oil and salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pickled cucumbers
  • 3/4 cup semi-dried tomatoes, chopped with scissors
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
  • 100 grams feta cheese, crumbled*
  • 1 handful fresh mint, roughly chopped* 
  • 1 handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped*
  • handful spinach and rocket, roughly chopped*
  • 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper to season
 Mix all the salad ingredients.  Stir in the dressing ingredients and season to taste.  Serve at room temperature.  Can be made ahead of time.  Can be kept in the fridge in a sealed container for 3-5 days.
  • To cook buckwheat, toast the groats for 5 minutes in a medium saucepan over medium heat until browned (this makes it into kasha, which you can use and skip this step) and then simmer 15-20 minutes with 2 cups of boiling water and a pinch of salt.  I cooled mine on a couple of large plates because I did this and the sweet potato the night before and wanted to cool it quickly before heading to bed.
  • Use what combination of greens/herbs you have - I forgot about the parsley and mint and just added a little parsley from my garden but meant to add more.  I think dill might be nice instead of the mint, depending on what you have.
  • To make the salad vegan, I would recommend subsituting cooked brown or green lentils for the feta.

On the Stereo:
It: Pulp

Saturday 15 May 2021

Coogee Bay Hotel and trip to Sydney

My workplace sent me to Sydney for a Centre meeting a few weeks back.  It was my first time on a plane since Covid changed our travel landscape.  I enjoyed getting out of town and staying at the Coogee Bay Hotel which is just across the road from Coogee Beach.  And the meeting was really worth attending.

However there were little reminders that we are still living in Covid-normal times.  I was waiting for plane at the gate when a woman behind me, who was arriving on the previous plane at the same gate, gave me a surprise by telling someone she had to get tested for Covid and isolate.  Later I realised it was a planeload from Perth who had recently had a Covid outbreak.  I was glad that they were testing and isolating when I heard the following weekend that there were more cases in Perth.  It gave me some peace of mind.  It was also weird to have to wear a face mask in the airport and on the airplane but again understandable.  More amusing was the announcement on the plane that if we needed to use oxygen masks in an emergency that we should take off our face masks first!  Really!

I was glad to arrive at my room at the Coogee Bay Hotel.   It was a treat to have a nice hotel room with some wallpaper and colour!  So many hotels I have stayed with for work have been so bland!  Not that I was in there that much over my two night stay.  I think I was in the one of the Boutique rooms.  Some of my colleagues had a sea view but I look out over the houses.


In the morning I rose in time for breakfast at the hotel.  I had taken a later flight because Sylvia had returned from school camp on the same day I left.  After last year, we can't complain about being able to go to school camp or fly to Sydney.  I had a lovely breakfast of corn fritters, tomato jam, persian feta, avocado and coriander.  (I forgot to take a photo while catching up with colleagues.)

The Coogee Bay Hotel dates back to 1863 when it was a school and then converted to a hotel in 1873.  It has some great historic photos of the beach on its walls, but I didn't see any information about the architectural history.  And all I could find online are some plans in 1913 but no images of it in the Nineteenth Century.

The first day of our meeting was busy with training, presentations and a tour of my Sydney colleague's office.  She has a room with an amazing view of Sydney.  At lunchtime we went to a nearby cafe (JGs) where I had a delicious vegetable rice and a chickpea and pumpkin salad.


After work I had a little time before dinner but as it is now autumn, the sun was setting early and it seemed too dark for a swim.  I could not resist going down to the beach for a walk.


Coogee Beach is in a little bay with some wonderful cliffs and rock formations.  I loved the colours in this cliff.  Instead of going in, I took off my shoes and waded in the tide.  Of course this is not so smart and the waves washed in with some power and wet my skirt.  I had to change before dinner. 

We had dinner in the Garden.  Again I didn't take photos while socialising with my colleagues but I enjoyed it.  This is a really big space but was quite busy.  One of my colleagues from Sydney says they often have cricket and football teams there.  For dinner I had the Vegetarian Pizza which had eggplant, roasted peppers, zucchini, dukka, mozzarella, topped by dollops of baba ganoush.  The baba ganoush was cold and I was not so keen on the hot pizza with cold dip but it was a nice pizza and a little different to the usual vegetarian options.  I was also pleased they had Mocktails and I had a strawberry and blood orange nojito which was lovely.  After dinner we walked to an ice cream shop and then stood in the park looking over the sea talking while we ate our ice creams.  What a treat!

On the second morning I was so determined to have a swim while in Sydney that I was out of my hotel room earlier than I usually wake up at home.  At 6.45am the sky was spectacular and the beach was pretty quite but there was a handful of hardy swimmers. 

The water was not too cold after the initial shock of dipping my toe in.  The waves were pretty fierce near that edge of the sea but more gentle when a bit further out.  I found the beach very different to those I am used to along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria.  Our beaches are flat and I was taught never to go out where it was above waist height - because even at this height the waves can be over your head.  But in Coogee, the beach got deep really quickly and before I knew it I was up to my neck.  It was fun to be out in the waves at the time of morning.

After I got dressed (with the shrugging on and off at the beach though I am sure there were some change rooms somewhere I should have used) I had a quick walk along the beach.  I am fascinated by the swimming pools built into the sea in Sydney.  I had hoped to get a swim in one but I only managed to walk up to this one by the surf club.  No one was about and I could not work out if you had to pay to go in it.

One important part of going to the beach is washing the sand off.  It was only on the second morning I noticed this plumbing marvel.  When I go to the Great Ocean Road beaches, I am lucky if I can find one shower.  I loved how this had five shower heads, though I am not sure I would like the rough and tumble of the showers in the busy times.

After my swim I went foraging for breakfast.  Which is to say I headed up Coogee Bay Road to a bakery where I ordered a cheese toastie on the recommendation of a colleague.  It seemed odd at first that it was only half a toastie but when I ate it and found how big and rich it was, I appreciated the restraint.  I also had one of the delicious Emma and Tom's green juices.

Then I packed up the rest of my case and left.  I dislike packing wet bathers but once I rolled them up tightly in a towel, it really helped wring out as much water as possible.

I headed down to the hotel lounge to check out and meet my colleagues for another day of training and meetings.  I was meant to head to the airport at 3pm with a colleague for our flights but his flight got changed to 6pm.  My 4.30 flight changed to 5.30 and then that was cancelled and they were looking for a seat for me.  I was glad of the advice from colleagues to head to the airport to organise another flight.  By the time I was in the taxi I got a text asking me to ring them about my flights.  When I rang, there was a message saying no one was able to take my call and I was given another number to call.  I rang this number and was told I was to be on hold for 1 to 2 hours.  Thank goodness by then I was at the airport and able to speak to a staff member face to face.

I got a 7pm flight.  Sylvia organised a sleepover so she was not waiting at home for me.  I stopped at Mad Mex's for a burrito bowl as I knew I could not rely on food on the plane.  I almost had finished my book (New Animal by Ella Baxter) by the time I got home at 9pm.  I was pretty tired but felt lucky to get to spend time at a Centrewide meeting, get an ocean swim and see some of a part of Sydney I had not visited before.  

Postscript:  We were extra lucky we had chosen that week and not the next one when a few people got Covid in Sydney.  Even though the state borders weren't closed, there would have been a lot of uncertainty about the trip going ahead.  There was enough to worry about in our Covid normal times with catering, social distancing in meeting rooms and zoom hook up for those who could not travel. 

Coogee Bay Hotel
253 Coogee Bay Road
Coogee, Sydney

Tuesday 11 May 2021

In My Kitchen: May 2021

May sees the year in full swing with life being busy at home and at work.  While the threat of Covid has eased, the vaccine and closed international borders continue to be challenging.  Winter is closing in which is not good for food photography or riding my bike to work but lovely to fall sleep to the sound of rain outside and even not bad for swimming laps in the outdoor pool today.  Last week we were trying to get back into routines after a crazy week of school camp and a work trip to Sydney.  It was one of those weeks where I wondered if we would ever find routine.  Despite this, I have been enjoying a bit more cooking lately.  I have had a few more opportunities to share food and made some substantial dishes for lunches.  Above is quinoa salad I made a few weeks back.

This is the quinoa salad served for lunch while working at home.  I am only working from home a day and half a week.  Lunches at home are so much easier when they don't need to be carted to work hours ahead of eating them.  Unfortunately I was not so happy with this salad.  I expected the quinoa to be fluffy and separated rather than clumpy.  But it was still pretty good with lots of chickpeas, mini cherry tomatoes, dried cranberries, chopped spinach and cauliflower.

It was exciting to go to IGA supermarket after seeing Tom and Jerry at Pentridge Palace Cinema with Sylvia in the school holidays.  We were wide eyed at all the different groceries.  Tinned edamame beans were grabbed in glee but Sylvia was disappointed with the taste of them.  I loved them in a wonderful Corn and Edamame Chowder.  The freeze-dried pumpkin made for healthy snacking.  The vegan smoked oat cheese was a bit bland cold but worked a treat melted on toast.  I took the Veg Eaty Maple Bacon Gourmet Sausages to Geelong for a Mothers Day BBQ and I really enjoyed them.  Sylvia was keen on the crumpet toast which is quite easy to find at other supermarkets.

I've had a bit of time to sort through some papers and detritus in my bedroom.  I found this domestic goddess badge that I was given years ago.  It has seen better days.  Symbolic of my kitchen prowess?

Not quite "in my kitchen" but it is as good as place as any to share a housekeeping tip.  Many years ago when I lived in a student share house a repair guy visited to look at my housemate's washing machine which was in a bad way.  He told us the problem was that she had not emptied the lint filter.  One I bought my own washing machine, I have emptied the filter almost religiously.  Lately I have noticed my lint filter has got so old and holey that it was getting ineffective.  I put in the brand of my washing machine into search and was surprised how easy it was to purchase a new filter.

Here is a fairly easy weeknight dinner.  I purchased a spinach and feta quiche for one.  It was big enough to share with Sylvia, who surprised me by loving it.  I made a quick mac and cheese to serve with it.  Instead of baking the mac and cheese in the oven I made it in my cast iron frypan, then topped it with grated cheese and panko breadcrumbs.  I cooked it under the grill until it was golden brown and crispy.  Sylvia ate it under sufferance but loved the crispy topping.  Then I amused myself by filling my plate with more cruciferous vegetables: raw cabbage and microwaved brussels sprouts.  It is that time of year.

When I lived in Scotland, I was very partial to Muellers corners (apricot, gooseberry and the unforgettable toffee yoghurt with choc covered cereal hoops).  Now they seem to be filling the shelves of our Melbourne supermarket chilled section.  For those unfamiliar, it is a yoghurt pot that has a small corner filled with something to stir in.  Sylvia is very excited by the Chobani S'mores yoghurt.  I really like the Gippsland ones.  The corners are all full of crispy mixtures of nuts, coconut, chocolate, pastry crumbs etc.  Maybe there will soon be ones with corners of fruit sauce like the Muellers fruit corners.

And here is more yoghurt in my kitchen.  Yes we have suddenly gone a bit mad for yoghurt!  This one is a Gippsland apricot and honey yoghurt which I ate with some homemade berry sauce and bought granola.  Delicious!

Another homemade meal.  I made a stew with pasta and served it with colourful vegetables.  Actually I can't quite remember the stew well but I suspect it was a tex mex sort of

When I flew to Sydney a couple of weeks ago, my flights were changed a few times and it was such a mess that I took my colleague's advice and headed to the airport to sort it.  (Which was much preferable to spending 1-2 hours on hold on the phone which seemed my alternative.)  It means a few hours at the airport.  

After the flight up from Melbourne I assumed that I would not get a vegetarian meal.  So I had a burrito bowl and bought these JCs nut mix snacks.  The names (Outback Mix and Jackaroo Mix) amused me.  I had thought they would be good to have on the plane but, as it was, I wasn't hungry.  I ended up eating them as snacks at work last week and found them to be rather tasty.  

 Luckily I had a good book to read while I waited for my plane.  New Animal by Ella Baxter had lots of odd moments but had some thoughtful insights into grief, and some lovely writing.

Before I sat at the gate to wait for my plane, I had plenty of time to look for some gifts for Sylvia.  I got her an opera house glasses cleaner and a Bondi Kiss salted caramel paw paw lip balm.  I had to buy a new luggage tag and could only find one I liked in a set of two, hence the leftover pink tag.  I also brought some some chewing gum, which I like to have on the plane as I can get travel sickness.  And I bought a couple of hotel toiletries home for Sylvia.

This plate (designed by Ngarga Warendj, the dancing wombat) was my present to myself at Sydney Airport.  I really liked the simplicity of the design with Aboriginal motifs.  Now when I use it, I will think of my first flight and first big centre meeting after lockdown, of swimming at Coogee Beach and being messed around with flights on the way home.  I have some photos from the trip that I hope to share here soon!

It took me a while to find some energy and time to stew a big bag of apples.  Once I did, Sylvia was delighted and at quite a lot of them.  They were delicious and comforting.  I took some warm stewed apple to my neighbour and I used some in a lovely honey, apple and olive oil cake.

Caramilk seems to be a mix of white chocolate and caramel.  I am not a huge white chocolate fan but I do like caramel.  I loved these caramilk choc chips in ANZAC biscuits.  I am not baking a lot but this new flavour makes me curious to try these in other baking.

Here is an odd assortment that I brought back from the city when I rode in to see the skin specialist.  A childhood in the harsh Australian sun means regular skin checks-ups.  On this occasion the specialist decided to do a biopsy on a mark under my eye to check he was right that is was nothing sinister!  That part of the skin is very sensitive.  After the visit I replenished my stocks of iron tablets, brought some new umbrellas and went to Haighs chocolate for some indulgence.  I bought Sylvia the chocolate bilby and the quandong chocolate was for me.


Lastly, here is another colourful work lunch at home.   On this occasion I had a stew made with a soup mix and lots of vegies.  It went very well with baby spinach, red capsicum, red cabbage and brie cheese.  I have been very partial to red or purple cabbage which keeps for ages in the fridge.  It is easy to add it to a dish for some additional colour and nutrients.

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event.  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.

Wednesday 5 May 2021

Caramilk ANZAC Biscuits - not for the traditionalists!

I have a great workplace but it still is a treat to have everyone cheer me in a group meeting.  We had a meeting a few weeks back where I announced at the end that I had made ANZAC biscuits for morning tea.  The cheer that greeted me was no doubt related to happiness at finally sitting in the one room for our group meeting instead of on zoom and then being able to gather to share baked goods afterwards!  I was really pleased with the batch and made another delicious batch soon after with some caramilk choc chips thrown in. 

I took most of my first batch to work because they were so good I didn't want the temptation.  But I had promised Sylvia that I would make a batch for her to take to E's for his birthday. I had recently seen Cakelaw post a caramilk choc chip cookie recipe.  The golden syrup in ANZAC biscuits make them a bit caramelly so this seemed a great opportunity to try the caramilk choc chips.  I also knew sylvia and E love it.  Cakelaw wisely warned that it was very sweet.  Caramilk is a cross between white chocolate and caramel so it is all the sweetest stuff in big toothache!  I did a bit of tweaking the recipe to tone down the sweetness, including a sprinkle of salt flakes on the biscuits.  Sylvia was not so impressed by this but I quite liked it. 

In the past when I have had a brainstorm about putting choc chips into ANZAC biscuits I have mixed them into the dry ingredients and accidentally melted them by pouring the hot melted golden syrup and butter over them.  I was so busy trying to make sure I didn't melt the choc chips that I forgot the bicarb in the butter and golden syrup mixture.  What a loss!  Seeing the butter and golden syrup froth up is one of the fun things about making ANZACs.  Luckily I remembered in time to add the water and bicarb.  It did not just make sure there was enough air in the biscuits, but it also fixed a crumbly mixture.

Of course when I told my mum she said they weren't ANZACs,  She is right.  The recipe is very carefully guarded.  But why can we alter how much flour we add but not tweak an ingredient in the ANZAC spirit of innovation and defiance.  I was so happy with these biscuits that I even considered making another batch.  The third batch is still waiting to appear.  Maybe around next ANZAC Day, which I often get the urge to bake ANZAC biscuits.                  

More ANZAC recipes:
ANZAC biscuits (v)
ANZAC biscuits with cranberries and chocolate (v)
ANZAC biscuits with milo and white chocolate
ANZAC cake (Laws of the Kitchen)
ANZAC chocolate caramel slice (Not Quite Nigella)
Kate's caramel ANZAC slice (The Annoyed Thyroid)

ANZAC Biscuits
(An original GGG take on a traditional recipe)
Makes about 40 biscuits 

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup desiccated coconut
3/4 cup castor sugar
pinch of salt

125g butter, chopped
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp treacle or dark molasses
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2-3 tbsp boiling water
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 generous cup of caramilk (or white) choc chips
extra salt flakes for topping (optional)

Combine first four ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Melt the butter and golden syrup together in a small saucepan. When melted take off the heat. Mix the hot water and bicarb in a separate bowl and add to the golden syrup mixture. Mix and watch it froth up.

Once it is frothing, pour the golden syrup mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients and stir to combine. Stir in the choc chips into mixture.

Drop teaspoonfuls onto a greased or lined baking tray. Leave plenty of room around them as they will spread quite a lot. I didn’t leave enough room for mine (maybe they were too big).

Bake in 160 C oven for about 10 minutes. My mum gave me the wise advice that your nose will tell you when it is cooked. Leave to cool on tray for 5-10 minutes and then use an eggflip or spatula to transfer to wire rack to cool.

On the stereo:
Brood - My Friend the Chocolate Cake