Tuesday 27 July 2021

Saigon Corner: Northland, Preston

Over the school holidays we went to Northland Shopping Centre a few times.  Our most recent discovery is Saigon Corner.  It is a quiet cafe in a corner near the supermarkets.  As this was in the month between Melbourne's Lockdown 4.0 and Lockdown 5.0 so we were quite aware of keeping Covid safe.  So this contained cafe near the doors was preferable to the huge food hall filled with crowds of people without masks as they ate.  Not mention the usual noisy chaos of big groups falling over each other to find a seat.

The first time I ordered the Soy Garlic Tofu Rice Bowl ($13.50) which was described as "marinated tofu, pickled carrot, fresh salad, spring onion and sweet soy sauce."  It was more like a stir fry than a nourish bowl I had expected but it is winter so I was happy with a warm meal and the flavouring was nice but mild enough that I could enjoy lots of vegetables and a generous mound of rice.

On my second visit I had the Vermicelli Salad ($14.50) which offered a vegetarian version which had soy garlic tofu, vegetarian spring rolls, vermicelli noodles, pickled carrots, mixed herbs, fresh vegetables, vegan sauce, chilli and peanuts.  I was pleased that they checked if I wanted the vegan sauce or the fish sauce.

I also ordered eggs on toast ($10) for Sylvia and asked for a hard yolk.  As I do not eat eggs I was surprised when they brought out poached eggs rather than fried eggs.  I didn't expect there were any sorts of eggs other than fried that have a hard yolk.  Unfortunately the yolks weren't cooked enough so they took them away and fried up some eggs with hard yolks for Sylvia.

I read about Saigon Corner before writing this and found it is a franchise business with cafes in quite a few shopping centres.  I assume that the menu is pretty similar in other franchises.  What I can say is that I really liked this place for its friendly staff, clean and quiet ambience and good food.  And I really appreciate in these Covid times that we have alternatives to the food halls.

Saigon Corner
(at the entrance near Aldi from the carpark)
Northland Shopping Centre
2-50 Murray Rd, Preston VIC 3072

Sunday 18 July 2021

Lemon and Sesame Sourdough Bread

Today I bring you a sourdough bread I made in Melbourne's lockdown 4.0.  It is quite shocking to think that it only finished a month ago and on Friday we started lockdown 5.0.  Lockdown 4.0 went for 2 weeks and I found myself having more energy for bread baking than I have had for a while.  That means not just the bare minimum of energy needed to churn out some bread, but a desire to experiment on something different.  With a tree full of lemons, I remembered a Mollie Katzen Sesame and Lemon Bread that I had baked years ago. 

The recipe made a bigger batch of dough than I usually make.  I ended up with a large loaf and 10 rolls.  (usually I have a medium loaf and 8 rolls).  This was very welcome as I enjoyed having bread with some flavour.  I particularly enjoyed it warm with butter and vegemite.  Great comfort food!

And during the last lockdown I needed as much comfort food as I could get.  Two weeks was such a long time.  This current lockdown was tentatively planned for 5 days.  At the moment I am not sure that we will be released on Wednesday.  Meanwhile Sydney is in a terrible lockdown as they work out how to deal with the very infectious Delta virus.  There is a lot of commentary about the slowness of the vaccine in Australia, the success of the vaccine in the UK and USA, and the concern about "Freedom Day" in the UK tomorrow.  So much change this year that was meant to be settled after 2020.

I was quite disappointed I could not go and see my family in Geelong on the weekend and then to an art exhibition.  Even once we are in lockdown I have a few plans ahead that I fear will be affected.  However I actually have caught up with a few people this weekend.  I met a work friend yesterday and a local friend today to walk and talk.  And this afternoon my neighbour made cake and invited the people in our units to sit on our verandahs with a piece of cake and chat about life and lockdown.  And I baked sourdough bread today.  But tomorrow I am back to working from home and remote schooling which is challenging.  Here's hoping for some good news on new cases and easing of restrictions soon.

More interesting sourdough breads on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Carrot, onion and poppyseed bread

Charcoal sourdough bread

Malted loaf with chocolate, figs and brazil nuts

Overnight sourdough bread with mashed potato

Roast potato and rosemary bread

Lemon and Sesame Sourdough Bread
A Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe
Makes 2 large loaves or 20 rolls

300g ripe sourdough starter
160g tahini
1 medium lemon - juice and zest
18g salt
12g honey
12g olive oil
550g water
600g wheat flour
400g spelt flour (or more wheat flour)
semolina, for dusting surface

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

About an hour before going to bed (or first thing in the morning) mix everything together.  It is easiest to mix starter, tahini, lemon, salt, honey, olive oil and water, then flours.  Use hands to mix if required.  Set aside covered with a tea towel for half an hour.  Knead in the bowl for about 15 seconds.  Cover with greased clingwrap or a bowl cover and leave at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.

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

Slash the loaves and put in the heated casserole dishes with lids on (or on a tray or in a tin).  Bake for 20 minutes with lid (or foil cover) on.  Remove lid/foil and bake another 20 minutes.  Bread is ready if it sounds hollow when tapped.  If needed, return to oven for another 5-10 minutes to make sure the crust is crispy and sounds hollow.  Cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing.

NOTES: I would have liked sesame seeds on top but adapted this from my usual sourdough bread and seeds would not stick so maybe the seeds might need to be on the surface where the bread is turned out onto or to have an eggwash or milk wash for the seeds to stick to.  I used spelt flour because I had it but using regular flour instead would work fine.

On the Stereo:
A Short Album about Love: Divine Comedy

Wednesday 7 July 2021

In My Kitchen: July 2021

Even as life seems to calm down, it holds surprises.  At the start of June, Melbourne was in lockdown, followed by NSW, Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland.  July finds us with much more freedoms with only NSW still in lockdown.  However the remnants of lockdown are still felt more broadly.  I am feeling wary of planning and appreciative of what freedoms we have.  The federal government is bumbling their way towards stepping up vaccinations and a plan to open our borders but it is still such a slow and confusing process that it is disheartening.  

At home I have recently had the washing machine repaired and a new shower door, we have had a big review at work and I am on leave this week for the school holidays.  We had a wonderful lunch at Green Man's Arms after our review at work, following by drinks and dinner at the Clyde Hotel.  I have been quite spoilt with a few nice meals since we have been out of lockdown.  Above is Vegan Soufra Banquet from Maha that I enjoyed with my parents in Geelong on the weekend.

This is the plateful of the Vegan Soufra Banquet we had for lunch.  My mum ordered it from Maha using the Providoor service that delivers throughout Melbourne and regional Victoria.  It was delivered in lots of bags and little tubs with pages of preparation instructions.  I really enjoyed the meal but was surprised how much work there was to get them together.  I am quite fascinated by the process of thinking through how to deliver this sort of complex dish.  
For example the broccoli had to be heated in the oven, a slick of whipped macadamia spread on the plate, the broccoli arranged on top with some garlic oil drizzled over it and then some dukkah sprinkled on top.  It was a very impressive meal also including roast pumpkin, pickled cucumber, creamy green beans, aged rice, dips and flatbread with lots of interesting flavours.  Followed by some sweet treats from That Place.

I purchased these cauliflower puffs at the supermarket.  They are mainly cauliflower with some rice, oil and salt.  It was an acquired taste but I quite liked them.  Like a healthy version of cheezels!

Winter makes me want warm pudding.  When we had three manky old bananas, I baked a banana butterscotch pudding.  The first time I made it, I didn't have a third banana to slice and bake on top.  This time I had the extra banana and the slices were chewy baked on top.  Neither Sylvia or I were keen on the banana slices on top but they looked good and the pudding was delicious.

This is a photo of our fridge after a trip to the supermarket.  You can see some of our current favourite foods: yoghurts, kombucha, ravioli, quiche, and flavoured cream cheese.  You can also see Sylvia's fine art of organisation in stacking the fridge.

Our lemon and lime trees have been rather fruitful this winter.  I have used them in recipes (see below), frozen lemon and lime juice, and given away fruit to family, friends and work colleagues.  And yet there still seem plenty left in the fruit bowl and on the trees.  I often walk past and see more fruit fallen on the ground.

Here is some of my citrus recipes.  Lemonade and limeade is a favourite drink when the trees are fruiting.  I really love this red lentil soup with spinach and lime.  And I will soon post about the sourdough version of this sesame and lemon bread.  And as you can see there are plenty more lemons and limes.  Although so many recipes use citrus, very few use a lot of the fruit. 

I went back to Northcote health store, Terra Madre (had to pick up a picture from the framing store nearby) and told myself all I was going to buy was some good stock.  I found this vegetable stock concentrate, which was not cheap but was the quality I wanted for a dumpling soup.  Of course I didn't stop there but just kept shopping (see the following three photos).  I want to visit their new Brunswick store but it is all so tempting!

These crisps looked interesting. We loved the Hemp corn chips with feta and garlic.  The texture was like those light crisp corn chips but with an unsual flavour.  So moreish!  The Chickpea crisps with turmeric and black pepper weren't quite as amazing but I enjoyed them as a snack when working from home.

I bought some items for meals.  The Spinach Pesto Pie was very good and creamy.  Those luridly pink beetroot and roasted onion sausages surprised me in that they actually had a sausage texture.  I had thought they would be quite vegetably.  I tried them on pizza and loved them but they were not so good in a pasta with lemon, cheese, spinach and peas.  They also worked well on muffins with onion relish and melted cheese.  The packet of sausages looks more like regular sausages and is yet to be opened.

And then there were a few sweet treats from Terra Madre.  Every now and again I buy some freeze dried strawberries with hope of using them to decorate baking.  Every time Sylvia eats them before I have a chance.  To be fair, I haven't done much baking other than bread and pizza lately.  I also bought some burnt caramel chocolate and a vego nut bar.

After the lunch at Maha on the weekend I also went to a family dinner at my sister's place.  It was good to see siblings and niblings.  A lot of conversation centred around vaccination, lockdown and quarantine experiences.  I had a wonderful plate of cauliflower cheese, roast potatoes and lots of salads. 

At the start of the school holidays, Sylvia and I went to Northlands shopping centre and bought some things we needed and a few we didn't need!  I hope to store things for the freezer in the silicone bags.  The green soap dish and green phone charging cord were both practical and the right colour to cheer me up!

I am sharing a couple of books I have just read and a couple of recent additions to my to-read pile.  Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee is fantastically written but covers very distressing subject matter about sexual abuse in Australia.  Clothes Music Boys by Viv Albertine is very easy to read with lots of interesting insights about being a woman in the early punk scene, many familiar names and frank honest storytelling.  I am looking forward to reading Norman Swan's overview of health issues in What's Good For You? He has become a trusted source of health information during the pandemic.  I love everything I read by Julia Baird and bought her Phosphorescence on a whim.  I thought I could do with some insights into awe wonder and things to sustain us when the world goes dark.  It surprised me that all my current books are non-fiction because I usually read a lot of fiction.

I bought Phosphorescence at Readings Bookstore before picking up Sylvia from a friend's place last weekend.  On the way to the friend's two cars pulled out in front of me suddenly and had to brake hard.  I was so tired after a busy, stressful week that we decided to have takeaway pizza for dinner.  Sylvia stayed at home while I went to pick it up.  But at the pizza restaurant, I found that my wallet was missing from my handbag.  The manager was very kind and said to pay when I got home or just when I cam in next time.  At home I rang Readings and turned everything upside down.  My mind kept going back to the moment I braked hard.  Finally I went back to the car and searched it for about the third time, looking in every crevice and finally I found my wallet.  Thank goodness! 

Finally, here is a photo of our cat, Shadow with his catnip.  Thanks to everyone who has made kind comments about his recent illness.  We had another blood test at the vet's recently and were delighted to be told he has made a full recovery.

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.