Sunday 29 August 2021

Baked curried sausages (vegetarian)

Few of my recipes have been the subject of so many repeated attempts than these baked curried sausages over the past few years.  Curried sausages is something that all my family loved when I was a kid. Actually my mum still makes them.  She says we all love them so much she could serve them for our Christmas dinner, when we have high expectations for the best meal of the year!  Hers are more less fussy than mine - onion, meat sausages, water, tomato sauce, curry powder.  Of course, mine are vegetarian now.  And I add lots of vegies. 

I have added sausages to curries before but I got the idea of baking a curry (to make it totally non-traditional) from Jac at Tinned Tomatoes who has lots of great sausage bake recipes.  I kept notes on my attempts at baked curried sausages and the first version seems to date back to 2017.  I think it is the above photo.  My brief notes on this version said that the roasting tin was too crowded.

Earlier versions were quite edible but just not quite right.  The sausages needed more baking and browning.  I also have notes - perhaps on the version in the above photo - saying that the sauce was too thick due to too much pumpkin and too much cornflour.  It seemed to work better last year when I didn't have much pumpkin in the fridge but the sausages still needed more time to crisp up.  I am not sure why in an earlier versions, I have listed "1 tomato, if not mouldy".

When I had another go at baked curried sausages this month, I felt like I had hit the jackpot.  Previously I had added sausages at the same time as the vegies but it worked better when I baked the sausages with onions before adding the other vegies.  I was really pleased that the sausages had some crisp edges and there was a good consistency to the sauce.

I really loved this way of making curried sausages.  My only improvement would be to add more sausages but I think the amount I used was ok, and I loved having lots of vegies.  I have tried lentils and chickpeas in the past but I think the cannelini beans were the best.  The vegies can be changed around but I really like how the pumpkin breaks down into the sauce.  We always had sausage curry with rice but I had seen some who serve it with mashed potato.  

If you are working from home, as I am right now in lockdown, this is a great meal to put on early and let gradually cook as you work.  Or it would be a good meal to make on a lazy weekend.  And if you fancy having this for Christmas dinner ... well, you could do a lot worse!

More non-traditional curry recipes in Green Gourmet Giraffe blog:
Banana curry (gf, v)
Beetroot, greens and chickpea curry (gf. v)
Chickpea, peach and pumpkin curry (gf, v)
Sausage curry casserole (v)
Watermelon curry (gf, v)

Baked curried sausages
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe
Serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped into wedges
5-6 vegie sausages, chopped in wedges
300g (small wedge) of pumpkin, peeled and chopped
1/2 large red capsicum, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
2 cups water
400g tin of cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup of sultanas (or 1 cup frozen green peas)
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp vegetable stock powder
1 tsp seeded mustard seeded (or chutney)
1 tomato, chopped
1 tbsp cornflour
Rice, to serve

Preheat oven to 220 C.  Toss onion and sausages in oil in a large roasting tin.  Roast for 10-15 minutes as you chop the vegetables (about 1 inch chunks).  Add pumpkin, capsicum, zucchini and pinch of salt.  Stir and roast about 35 minutes or until edges of vegies is crisp.  Mix in water, cannelini beans, stock powder, curry powder, mustard, tomato and cornflour.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Serve with rice.

NOTES: Change the vegies if you wish but I recommend the pumpkin which helps thicken the sauce.  Cannelini beans are quite similar to the beans in baked beans.  Leftovers are good but the sauce will thicken overnight.  I used Vegie Delights sausages.  These are vegan but if you wish to make it gluten free, these sausages aren't GF.

On the Stereo:
0898: The Beautiful South

Sunday 22 August 2021

Cauliflower, Zucchini and Butter Bean Gnocchi and Covid Vaccination

During the week I made a rather good gnocchi with vegetables and beans.  I wasn't going to share it but I decided to jot down the recipe to remember it like the old school blogger that I am and then just prattle on about vaccinations.

It has been a crazy sort of week that started with a couple of long 2 hour walks with friends (one each day with masks).  One friend told me she went to the doctor a few days before her second Pfizer when a nurse asked if anyone wanted an unused Pfizer shot.  On Monday I had my second vaccination jab.

I returned to the splendid Royal Exhibition Buildings where I had my first jab.  It was such a pleasure to spend time in this heritage building that became a hospital during the 1919 Spanish Flu epidemic.  (Actually many years ago I liaised with the management to organise a tour of the tower. and once posted about a visit to The Taste of Melbourne in the main hall)  It was convenient to work when I booked it but it ended up being as close as I got to a day out when I went there in lockdown.  Unfortunately they did not have a piano player there when I was there unlike a friend.

The government is really ramping up the vaccination program with lots more venues.  For example the Royal Melbourne Agricultural Show has been cancelled this year but the Showgrounds are being used for testing and vaccinations.  Hospitals, GPs, pop up clinics and pharmacists are all offering vaccinations.  It is beginning to feel more hopeful but we still have a long way to go and many infections to battle.

Our choices in Australia are the plentiful Astra Zeneca and the highly sought after Pfizer that is slowly making its way to our shores.  We knew months ago that we could have a winter surge but there was terrible complacency mixed with great confusion about Astra Zeneca.  I have had so many conversations about Pfizer versus Astra Zeneca.  When I got my second AZ jab, I was really happy to be told that I had a 1 in three million chance of blood clots and 92% protection against infection.

After I had my jab - which was done so well that I didn't even feel it (which made me happy because I hate needles), there was the 15 minute waiting time.  When I had my first jab it was so much quieter that this area full of chairs for people to wait was just empty space.  But it was busier this week.  I had to check in using my phone for the QR code about 3 times.  On my third check in I could not find my phone and was relieved when the staff member produced it because someone had handed it in.  Phew!  It took me about an hour to go through the whole process including waiting times.  Which was much better than a colleague who took 2.15 hours the following day at a health centre.

On the way out, there is a selfie wall.  I would have preferred a selfie with the gorgeous murals but I understand there are privacy concerns about the people who are being vaccinated.  I was really pleased to get my second jab as it was that day that my brother also got his 2nd jab, which meant all my parents and siblings are now double vaccinated.  In the same week my 19 year old niece and 12 year old (Irish) nephew had their first vaccination.  So now the next generation of my family is starting to be vaccinated.

It is a great feeling to be fully vaccinated.  Especially as covid cases are rising in Melbourne (65 today) and the exposure sites are growing at an alarming pace.  There are too many around me in familiar places.  In fact on Friday a friend told me that our local supermarket was an exposure site.  I was sent a screen shot of the times I had been there and advice it was tier 1.  I had terrible visions of 2 weeks in isolation not leaving the house and then the fear that I would test positive and have to tell the dentist, the neighbours and the friends who picked up a book for their child to read.  

On Saturday morning another friend sent me a social media screen shot of time and advice it was tier 2 and I just needed to get a covid test and isolate until I had the result.  So I queued in a drive through testing site and had a man in swishy blue PPE push a stick up my nose.  When I got home and finally saw the offical time on the government exposures website, I was most displeased to find the exposure times were different to social media and to my attendance.  It was a lesson about not trusting social media and about the peace of mind a vaccination can bring.  I was so happy to get a negative result this morning and be able to ride along the newly opened Upfield bike path to enjoy a walk in the sunshine with a friend.

More gnocchi recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Baked gnocchi with radicchio, gorgonzola and walnuts
Beetroot Gnocchi with Pea Pesto
Gnocchi with Mexican corn (v)
Gnocchi with pesto and asparagus (v)
Panfried Gnocchi with Cauliflower and Peas
Truffle gnocchi (v)
Walnut and tomato pesto with gnocchi, broccoli and feta 

Cauliflower, Zucchini and Butter Bean Gnocchi
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe
serves 2

250g cooked baby gnocchi
2-3 cups cauliflower florets, lightly steamed
2 cups zucchini, chopped and lightly steamed
400g tin of butter beans
1 clove garlic, crushed
olive oil
1/3 cup piemento stuffed olives, sliced
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp sour cream
juice of 1/2 lemon

Place gnocchi, cauliflower, zucchini and butter beans in a saucepan, drizzle with olive oil and mix over medium heat for about 5 minutes until warmed through.  Mix in olives, parmesan cheese, sour cream and lemon juice.  Serve warm.

On the Stereo:
Sing about Life: Tiddas

Monday 16 August 2021

Pumpkin scones with ginger ale for International Scone Week

I have this story about how much I love pumpkin scones, how much I loved these pumpkin scones and how much I enjoyed sharing them.  But today I am so distracted from pumpkin scones.  Sydney continues to be in a desperate situation with covid cases rising at an alarming rate.  Melbourne has locked down tighter today as our cases are low (about 20 a day) but too many are mystery cases and infectious in the community.  And then hearing of the disturbing stories about women and minorities in Afghanistan, which has fallen to the Taliban.  On any other day, I might think my brain is scrambled after having my second Astra Zeneca covid vaccine but today there are so many reasons to feel tired.

But let me go back to the inspiration for the scones.  I am indebted to Tandy Sinclair of Lavender and Lime, a blogger who took on the International Scone Week baton and continues to hold it every year.   I come from a long line of scone bakers.  Baking and eating scones is a joy and a comfort.  But life is busy and I never bake them as much as I mean to.  So I love to participate in International Scone Week each year.  This year it is 9-15 August but I missed the deadline and am very glad that Tandy is generous with her timelines!

International Scone Week is not just an excuse to bake scones but to experiment with new ideas.  One of my favourite scones are pumpkin scones.  So I browsed through scone recipes on  there were many tempting ideas: gingerbread, zucchini and cheddar, and a ploughman's platter with roast vegetable scones.  However I zeroed in on the Pumpkin and Lemonade Scones.  The idea of making scones with lemonade and cream instead of butter and milk is not new but I've never seen it applied to pumpkin scones.  It was worth a try. 

When I make pumpkin scones I often just microwave some pumpkin and mash it before adding to the creamed butter and sugar.  It took me a few times of adding warm pumpkin to the mixture to find I had to  cool it so it did not melt the butter.  So the idea of pumpkin scones without butter appealed.  No more avoiding melting the butter!

I liked the idea of adding sour cream and ginger ale.  Cream and lemonade are not routinely in my kitchen so I had to go out and buy them anyway.  While I am not a big fan of plain lemonade (the sparkling clear sweet one from the shops not homemade lemonade with real lemon juice), I love ginger ale.  It didn't make a big difference to the flavour but I was my happier with my leftover drink.  I had thought that soft drink would make up for not adding sugar.  But the scones weren't as sweet as my usual pumpkin scones.  I like how the sugar brings out the pumpkin flavour so I have put a spoonful in the recipe below.

I initially though I could give some scones to a friend but once I made the batch, it seemed much bigger than I had expected.  Sylvia does not like pumpkin scones (what!) so I am alone in eating them.  I made them at lunchtime on my half day and was about to go out for a medical appointment and to meet up with my friend.  So I took some warm scones in a tea towel to a neighbour to share with others in my block.  Our verandahs form a courtyard where we can sit with a cuppa and chat.  They had them with cream cheese.

Meanwhile I met my friend for a walk around Princes Park.  We stopped and ate some scones with butter and jam before starting our walk.  Given that it was in the midst of our current lockdown, it cheered us up enormously to share some warm scones.  It is the little things that are special in a pandemic.  So I am very grateful to Tandy for her inspiration which has been a cheering moment in lockdown.  Please visit her blog to see the list of scones other bloggers have made for International Scone Week.

More interesting scone recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Beetroot, apple and walnut scones (v)
Cheeseymite scones
Olive, pineapple and cheese scones
Pumpkin, pecan and poppyseed scones (v)
Walnut, brie and apple scones

Pumpkin Scones
Adapted from and Delicious
Makes about 16

2 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 tbsp sugar (or honey)
Large pinch salt
1 cup mashed pumpkin
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup ginger ale
1 tbsp milk, for glazing

Preheat oven to  230 C and prepare a medium size baking tray.  (I didn't grease or line but had a few scones stick so it is up to you which you prefer.)

Mix flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. (If you decide to use honey, add this to the wet ingredients instead.)  In a large jug,  mix pumpkin, sour cream and ginger ale.  Pour into the flour mixture and fold in with a flat butter knife.

Turn the soft dough onto a well floured board and knead until just soft.  Pat out on a floured board to about an inch thick and cut into rounds with scone cutter (or a glass).  Brush with milk.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.  Wrap in a tea towel until ready to eat.  Best eaten on the day of baking.  Serve with butter and jam or butter and vegemite or your favourite scone topping.

On the Stereo:
Tiddas: self titled album

Wednesday 11 August 2021

In My Kitchen - August 2021

August finds me in Lockdown 6 in Melbourne.  It came a week after we emerged from  Lockdown 5 in July which followed hot on the heels of Lockdown 4 that ended in June.  I am so tired of going in and out of lockdowns.  I am so tired of cancelling plans.  On the other hand, I really appreciate any fun and socialising between lockdowns: lunch at the pub, swimming, Tuesday morning coffees, and even seeing Sylvia come home from school.  (You can read more recent lockdown reflections.)

The above photo is from my one social night in lockdown 5.  My family had a birthday zoom get together for my brother's birthday.  My mum made cupcakes and dropped them off to family nearby but those of us not close enough had to find our own cupcakes.  So we bought some from the supermarket as I just did not have the energy to bake.  My nieces did a trivia quiz all about my brother which was very entertaining.  About 10 minutes after it ended, I went into a workplace lockdown trivia quiz.  We were put into teams at random to discuss questions in breakout zooms.  I ended up with some pretty clever people.  Sylvia also helped with some questions, and I gave an answer or two.  It was good fun and my team won.  All participants were very generously given an UberEats voucher so we had Heaven takeaway pizza for dinner before our cupcakes.  It was a really fun night that gave some relief from the monotony of lockdown.

Our lockdown 6 started the day after we had a 'doughnut day', as we like to call days with no cases of covid.  It was cause for great celebration.  The joy didn't last long.  In the afternoon we heard of a new case and by 8pm the next day we were in lockdown.  It was a an incredible change of fortune.  So at the supermarket we bought doughnuts both for comfort and as a sign of hope that there will be more doughnut days soon.

A friend of mine whom I meet for lockdown walks, had asked for a loan of screwdrivers during lockdown 5.  She was very grateful for the loan and returned them with chocolates.  I forgot to ask what sort they were but I enjoyed the crispy chocolate mounds with a little nut inside.

I tried making a ravioli lasagne that I found in a supermarket magazine.  I did as the magazine suggested and layered ravioli with a home made tomato pasta sauce and topped it with a mozzarella grated cheese mixture.  It was rather delicious but calling it lasagne seemed a bit of a gimmick.  I think that it would have tasted as good if I had just mixed the ravioli and sauce.  I guess layering means you can layer some cheese in between.

We were excited to see some new Aussie shaped pasta at the supermarket.  Sylvia prefers her dinosaur shaped pasta.  I wanted to know if they are able to do Sydney Opera House shapes, are they able to do Flinders Street Station shapes.

Sylvia begged for this Green Tea Mochi Ice.  She went for the green tea as she thought (quite rightly) that I would prefer it to the mango version.  Sadly neither of us were enthused by the green tea flavour.  I am not sure if I have had mochi before but I don't think it is my sort of thing.  The Mochi Ice was like ice cream with a chewy dough around it.

We were more enthused about this Caramel Slice version of Chobani flip with choc chips, fudge chips and biscuit crumbs to mix with the caramel yoghurt.  Actually I am a bit confused by the packaging.  It says pie crust rather than biscuit crumbs but is this meant to be a classic Aussie Chocolate Caramel Slice which has biscuit base rather than pie crust.  Given chobani is American and the picture looks like pie not slice, maybe they means some dessert called caramel slice that I have never heard of.  It still reminds me of the Aussie slice.

For a long time Sylvia has not liked butter on bread or toast but she is suddenly switched to loving butter on any sort of bread or toast.  So after years of eating nuttalex margarine, she has asked to buy butter.  It is like we have turned full circle to my childhood!

 As I mentioned, my team won the work trivia quiz.  We won another UberEats voucher so when lockdown 6 started, Sylvia and I consoled ourselves with Coburg Pizza takeaway pizza.  It was a nice treat.

However I have been making some meals.  The one above is a disappointing version of the buckwheat salad I made a few months back.  That salad was so good I thought I had gotten over my problems with buckwheat.  The above meal of buckwheat, vegetables and beans showed me I still have some way to go.  Next to the buckwheat meal is chopped mozzarella that Sylvia discarded from her Coburg Pizza.  It actually improved the buckwheat when I mixed it through.  We have also been eating brussel sprouts and peaches in juice.  It is that time of year when there is not a lot of good fresh fruit and vegies around so I am longing for Spring.

Lastly I am stepping out of my kitchen to share a vegan chocolate caramel cake I had at Gloria cafe in Sydney Road, Brunswick in the week between lockdowns 5 and 6.  It was a nice moment to catch up with Faye and eat a big slice of cake.  I really loved the chocolate cake but the frosting was a little much.

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. 

Tuesday 3 August 2021

Creamy split pea and cauliflower soup and Lockdown 5.0

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the most delicious dinner is not necessarily the most attractive.  I am not sure if it is more frustrating to have a pretty meal that tastes rather ordinary or a bog-ugly meal that tastes amazing.  Today's Creamy Split Pea and Cauliflower Soup was one of my finest moments in the kitchen in a period lacking creativity but it does not look that impressive. 

It was one of my cheering moments in Lockdown 5.0 in Melbourne.  I made it on the weekend I should have been having dinner with my family in Geelong while my brother was in town, driving with my dad to the Flinders Street Ballroom to see the Patricia Piccinini exhibition in Melbourne, followed by a drink at the pub with a friend.  At least I had soup to console me that instead I was locked down at home.  And I had a walk with my friend instead of heading to the pub.  I also gave her some of this soup to take home to her family because I had made so much.  It was nice to share it with people who appreciated it.

Lockdown 5.0 was hard.  I thought 4.0 was going to be the hardest but it seems everyone just gets more and more worn down with each lockdown.  It was 10 days with the 26 covid cases the highest daily tally.  Nothing compared to last year's lockdown or compared to Sydney's current longer lockdown or even other countries but a little can have a big impact.  Especially when the unsettling affect of three lockdowns over 6 months means we are finding it hard to keep getting back on top of life each time.  We are unsure of planning ahead and wondering when the next lockdown will be.

As with other lockdowns, working from home and supporting my year 7 to learn remotely was challenging.  Life slowed down.  I had a good bout of cleaning which found me scrubbing the bathroom ceiling.  I had some nice walks with friends.  I cancelled a few things but had a medical appointment that went ahead face to face which I followed with a visit to Zaatar for a takeaway of favourite zaatar pizza.  The mural on the wall of Zaatar is very cheering (see above photo).

This above "Get on the Beers" photo of Dan Andrews was seen in Moonee Ponds in the week before lockdown.  We were a bit close for comfort to a covid case who was wondering around the shops where we were but luckily the one place we went that ended up being a Tier 1 exposure site (requiring 2 weeks quarantine at home) was visited 3 hours before the case.  Phew!  Being in lockdown is hard enough but at least we can get out for walks, bike rides and shopping.  Having had 2 brothers in home quarantine lately, I am all too aware of how easy it is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Being an old hand at lockdowns now, I find that coming out of a lockdown is as hard as being in one.  It is a joyous moment to be told that lockdown will end but we know that it doesn't really mean life is back to normal.  There are lingering restrictions that only gradually ease up.  One of my simple pleasures in getting out of lockdown is having a swim.  It has usually been at the Brunswick outdoor pool because outdoors usually open before indoor pools.  Although it was not the case this time, this was where I had my first swim after lockdown even though it was raining at the time.

I am happier being in the pool than watching swimming but it seems so much of Australia has been watching our Olympians winning a record haul of gold medals in the pool.  The Olympics Opening Ceremony was while we were in lockdown.  In fact I heard one or two people say that lockdown and the Olympics go well together.  I haven't really got into the Olympics though I did watch some gymnastics, artistic swimming and a little athletics (that pole vault is amazing).  The Olympics is odd in these Covid times with no crowds or cheering is just bizarre.  I am partly glad for Japan to have actually staged the Olympics and partly concerned at their Covid situation.

I am still feeling both wary of going out and impatient to resume life.  We are not allowed visitors in the home or big crowds.  I have been into the office at reduced hours and met with friends at cafes but life still feels pretty quiet.

Returning to the soup, I highly recommend it.  It is a cross between a dal and a split pea soup.  I actually was going to make this Creamy Coconut Dahl with Cauliflower which had red lentils.  But I had a packet of split peas that I bought on a whim and decided to use them instead.  I ran out of curry powder so I tweaked the spices and added in corn that I had hanging around the fridge.  The soup seemed a little salty but was fine once I added some lemon juice.  As with so many soups, it was quite thin on the first night but thickened into more stew than soup overnight.  This recipe makes plenty for sharing and is a satisfying dinner on a cold winter evening.

More split pea soup recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Potage St Germain (split pea and green pea soup)
(gf, v)
Shitake and star anise split pea soup (gf, v)
Split Pea and Lentil Soup (v)
Split Pea Soup (gf, v)
Split Pea Soup with Sweet Potato and Mushrooms (gf, v)
Thai curry split pea soup (gf, v)

Creamy split pea and cauliflower soup
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe
Serves 8-10

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2-4 stalks of celery, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
6 cups water
1 tbsp stock paste (or 1 1/2 tsp stock powder)
500g split peas (soaked 2 hours in boiling water)
1 tsp salt, or less
1 large cauliflower, broken into florets
2 cups frozen green peas
1 large zucchini, chopped
1 cup corn kernels
400g coconut milk
few handfuls of baby spinach Juice of half a lemon
Freshly ground black pepper

[Soak the split peas in boiling water for about 2 hours prior to starting the soup.]  Fry onion, celery and garlic in olive oil for 5-10 minutes or until softened.  Stir in spices for a minute or so until fragrant.  Add water, stock paste, split peas and salt.  Bring to the boil and simmer for about 30 minutes.  Add cauliflower, green peas, zucchini and corn.  Simmer for about 45 minutes or until split peas are cooked and cauliflower is soft.  Stir in coconut milk, spinach, lemon juice and black pepper.  Check seasoning and adjust to taste. Serve warm with bread.

On the Stereo:
Elton John's Greatest Hits