Wednesday 29 September 2021

Como House dolls house exhibition and Stables cafe

In July school holidays, I took Sylvia and one of her friends to historic Como House to see their Dolls House exhibition. Dolls houses are fascinating both because they are miniatures and a chance to look inside buildings.  And this exhibition was a great walk through history.  There were so many dolls houses it was pretty overwhelming and I regret not taking notes on each one.  I am glad I can at least share some photos and my memories.  Such amazing work.

This was one of my favourite dolls houses.  It was right at the start so when I finished I returned to look at it again.  This meant I got confused by not following the signs and came on the entrance instead of the exit and missed a few of the last dolls houses.  But the craft of this Victorian house was amazing.  The next two photos are close ups of rooms from this house.


Drawing room

Another Victoria drawing room

This dining room is in a very old dolls house that I think is from the nineteenth century and was a little worse for wear but the patina of age gave a shabby charm.

A kitchen from about the 1930s.

Plastic fantastic!  I think this kitchen might have been 1960s/1970s.  Great lino!

A mid to late twentieth century dolls house.  Close up of kitchen below.



A dolls house from the groovy 1960s.

 A Scandanavian modern dolls house by Lundby.  Sylvia has some items from this collection in her dolls house.

This miniature room displayed a dolls house workshop.  So ironic!

Furniture for dolls houses.  I particularly liked the couch and chairs made out of matchboxes.

I loved how the heritage furnished rooms of Como sometimes included little dolls house furniture like in this bathroom.

 The rooms generally had dolls houses dotted around them, like in the above one.

I decided we should grab some lunch before heading home.  Como has a cafe called the Stables.  I found a table inside but the two girls wanted to sit outside.  I think they preferred outside so they did not have to wear face marks.  I liked the rustic green decor.

I had the avocado tartine.  It was pumpkin sourdough toast with smashed avocado, edamame, pickled beetroot, pomegranate and pistachio dukkah.  I regretted not ordering the feta to have on it as  it lacked a bit of oomph that the sharpness of feta might have provided.  But it was rather nice and so beautiful and colourful.  I think I wanted the grain salad but we were there a bit too early.

Sylvia had French fries with aioli.  The fries were served in a really cute flower pot.

On the way out I bought some savoury scones.  When I asked I was told they were vegetarian but at home as soon as I broke one open I was pretty sure they had bacon or ham in them so I gave them to a friend.  I would return to the cafe.

I am really glad we got to go to this exhibition in the July holidays.  It is such a shame that the lockdown 5 started less than 2 weeks after our visit, which merged into lockdown 6, and Como and the exhibition has been closed since then.  The exhibition was extended until 3 October but unless it is extended again it will be closed before lockdown finishes.

Dolls House Exhibition at Como House
Corner Williams Rd & Lechlade Ave
South Yarra, Melbourne, Victoria 3141
National Trust of Australia (Victoria)
Phone: (03) 9656 9889

Sunday 26 September 2021

Cauliflower and chickpea one pot pasta

It is the school holidays.  We are still in lockdown.  I miss the days when we could go to the city, wander around shops, catch a movie and eat lunch somewhere new. Instead we spend it watching too much tv and doing a drive through covid test.  It feels like opportunities for change and novelties are greatly reduced while our activities are so restricted.  I have lots of time but not lots of energy.  The best solution is a meal that lasts for nights on end.  However it gets a bit dull to eat the same thing night after night.  So today I share a one pot pasta I made last week and served in lots of different ways.

I love one pot pastas and was attracted to a recipe for one pot pasta with broccoli and yoghurt because I had yoghurt to use.  I did not have broccoli.  However there was a neglected orange cauliflower in the fridge.  I liked the pasta but it was not the creamy texture I expected.  Instead it was quite soupy with the pasta being served in a broth on the first night.  By the next morning, the pasta had soaked up the broth and was quite flavoursome.  There were quite a few ungarnished bowls of the pasta for lunch or dinner during the week but I also liked serving it in different ways.

I had some leftover rocket, haloumi and candied walnut salad.  So on one night I served the pasta with chopped tomato and salad.  This pasta dish welcomes any salads.  Not that I have had many salads in my kitchen lately.  I knew it is September but I still feel in Winter mode.  It takes a while to warm up to a new season but better produce and more salads are on the way.

Another night I fried up some kale, tomatoes and leftover tofu nuggets.  This pasta makes a nice side dish.  I had almost added kale to the original pasta dish but decided against it because I wanted it blonde and beige.  But adding some colour always make dinner feel more healthy.

On one lunch time I had pasta and spinach on toast with mozzarella melted on top.  I bought a bag of grated mozzarella, cheddar and parmesan which has been great.  You will see below I have been using it a lot.  I even had one night (where I didn't take a photo) when I just baked some leftover pasta with the mozzarella mix on it and loved how crispy it was.  But the above fancy cheese on toast was crisped up under a low heated grill.  And it made a great lunch.

The I baked a potato, scooped out the flesh and mixed it with the pasta, cheese, spinach and some olive oil.  Then I stuffed it back into the potato cup, topped with mozzarella and grilled until it was crispy on top.  I served it with some simple coleslaw.  These baked potatoes were made with Otway Red varieties I bought at the farmers market and were amazing.

Finally I finished the batch of pasta by sprinkling it on a pizza.  I enjoyed the pasta but it needed a bit more oomph.  My idea was that it would benefit from olives and capers.  So when I made the pizza I added some olives and capers as well as cheese and tomato sauce.  

I would have liked to add olives and capers to the pasta but didn't have any on hand.  By the time I made pizza, my first ever delivery from the supermarket had arrived.  Next time I will be more organised.  Naaah, who am I kidding!  I will just hope they are about and if not, I will just look about to see what I have in the kitchen!

More one pot pasta meals on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One pot pasta with beans and tomato sauce
One pot pasta with chickpeas and zucchini (v)
Pasta e ceci (v)
Quick one pot mac and cheese
Silverbeet and ravioli stew

Cauliflower and chickpea one pot pasta
Adapted from The Kitchn
Serves about 8

1 small cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
400g tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained
350g dried macaroni pasta
4 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon seeded mustard
1 teaspoon garlic salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
!/4 cup chopped green olives stuffed with piementos (optional)
2 tbsp capers (optional)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving

Place everything except the parmesan into a large saucepan.  Stir and bring to the boil.  Simmer for about 8-9 minutes and remove from heat.  Stir in parmesan, olives and capers.  Serve with more parmesan.  

If you want to serve it straight away it is a bit soupy with the liquid not absorbed.  I found that leaving it for half an hour or so helped some more of the liquid soak in.  If you have leftovers the liquid is all soaked in overnight.

NOTES: I did not add olives and capers but think I will next time.  If you don't have macaroni pasta you can use other small pasta such as small shells or ditalini.

On the Stereo:
Don't try this at home: Billy Bragg

Friday 24 September 2021

Street Art in Melbourne: Hosier Lane, AC/DC Lane and Duckboard Place 2021

Back in June towards the end of Lockdown 4 when our limit for travel was raised from 5km to 10km, I had a lovely ride to the city.  It was so quiet.  Such a treat to have my favourite Melbourne CBD street art haunts to myself.  Actually it was almost spooky at times.  But worth it.  Hosier Lane, AC/DC Lane and Duckboard Place have so much to stimulate the brain that has been stultifying in lockdown.  

I am now wondering how much they have changed in a few months now that we are yet again able to go 10km instead of 5km.  I might get there again if I can find an opportunity in these crazy times.

More CBD street art on Green Gourmet Giraffe:

Tuesday 21 September 2021

GF Almond Thumbprint Jam Drops make great lockdown gifts

The lockdown continues here and life is difficulty but not without generosity.  I have lately received succulents in the mail, a small jar of saffron, a delivery of flowers and an embroidery by a friend.  Where possible I like to give a little.  Sharing gifts is one of the ways we have of connecting with others in a world that seems to push us apart.  These almond thumbprint jam drops were a gift that I baked a few weeks back.

I was inspired to make these biscuits (aka cookies) when I visited my local farmers market for the first time in months.  It was so nice to be able to browse interesting foodie stalls outside.  At the jam stall I found a recipe for gluten free almond thumbprint jam drops.  It seemed a great gift for a friend whose cat had died recently. 

Recipes are often written so simply but do not always correspond to the contents of my pantry.  I was relieved to find I had a jar of apricot jam as called for, but then I found a half used banana.  I also found I had used up all my gluten free flour so I used some panko breadcrumbs, linseeds, besan and coconut instead.  I really love desiccated coconut in baking and the seeds and crunchy breadcrumbs really added to the texture.  

These additions might not be for everyone but the beauty of gluten free baking is the wonderful range of gluten free grains and add-ins from just using gluten free flour or digging into the pantry to use up whatever you fancy.  My recipe below shares what I did but I expect it would be altered if I made it again depending on what I have available.

Thumbprint biscuits are always fun and easy to make.  I only had a few hours between returning home from the farmers market and going for a walk with my friend.  The mixture came together in the food processor without too much fuss.  The mixture was a bit sticky but I had a glass of water on hand that I used to keep my hands damp so they did not end up covered in the sticky mixture.

The most fun in making thumbprint biscuits is making the thumbprint.  The mixture gets rolled into a ball and then you stick your thumb in it to make a dent.  It is very satisfying.  Sylvia was about while I was making it and could not resist coming over and could not resist coming over and leaving her thumbprint in a few bikkies.

I was a bit unsure if I baked them too much.  They baked at quite a rate and so below I have suggested 160 C rather than 180 C which my recipe called for.  My oven seems to bake much slower than others but these biscuits became golden brown rather easily before I added the jam and then quite brown afterwards.  So I would like to try them at a lower heat.

Most of the biscuits were really delicious with a lovely chewy centre.  Just a few were a bit over crisp!  I packaged up some for my friend before we went on our walk.  Some of the biscuits were packaged up as a Father's Day present with some other goodies from the Farmers Market.  The next day I went for a walk with another friend who was having a tough time and just had her first Pfizer vaccination.  I took along some biscuits and some chocolate for her to congratulate her on her first jab.  I really enjoyed the few biscuits that were left but was pleased not to have a huge batch to eat myself.  (Sylvia was not keen.)  

I was quite sad I didn't have a chance to take some of the biscuits to Geelong for a Father's Day offering.  It's been a long time since I have seen my family who live only about an hour's drive away.  I missed having a family lunch.  And given there are a few gluten free diets in my extended family, I am sure these would have been appreciated.  Maybe next year!

I wish I could tell you that lockdown should be over soon but we have now had our "roadmap" out of lockdown which is depending on us getting our vaccination rates up.  Lockdown will not end until we have 70% of the eligible population double vaccinated.  Currently in Victoria we have 44% double vaccinated.  The government says we will probably reach 70% on 26 October.  Until then I can't go for a swim at my local pool or go into the office or recharge leave or see friends from the other side of Melbourne or go to cafes and department stores.  And it is predicted to be at least a week after this that I can visit my family outside Melbourne.  Such a long wait. 

Julia Baird has written about burnout in lockdown which resonates with me and those about me.  It feels like armageddon at the moment with so many people having terrible mental health conditions, lots of covid exposure sites around my neighbourhood, construction workers protesting and other lockdown protests.  Thank goodness for vaccination, online communications and the support of family and friends. 

More gluten free biscuits on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Chocolate cherry cookies (gf, v)
Chocolate macaroons (gf)
Cookie wands (gf)
Paula's carob bikkies (gf)
Peanut butter and choc chip cookies

Chewy Almond Thumbprint Jam Drops
Adapted from Jam by Fiona
Makes about 24

200g raw almonds
25g linseeds
25g gluten free panko breadcrumbs
100g besan flour
50g desiccated coconut
3 egg whites
150g castor sugar
40g apricot jam
25g banana, mashed
1 tsp vanilla essence (optional)
Jam for filling thumbprints 

Preheat oven to 160 C.

Place almonds, linseeds and breadcrumbs in the food processor and blend until finely ground.  Pulse in besan and coconut.  In a large jug, lightly whisk the egg white, then stir in the sugar, jam and mashed banana (plus vanilla if using).  Pour into the almond mixture in the food processor and pulse to combine.

Roll into walnut sized balls!  (Use some water to dampen your hands so that the mixture does not stick to you.)  Place on an oven tray lined with baking paper.  Stick a damp thumb into each ball to slightly flatten it and leave a hollow in it that can be filled with jam.  

Bake biscuits for 10-15 minutes until very lightly golden.  Remove from oven and spoon jam into each hollow.  Return to oven for another 10-15 minutes until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack and store in a air-tight container.

NOTES: These biscuits/cookies are not overly sweet.  I didn't use the vanilla and am not keen on vanilla but if it is something you use a lot, you might want the added flavour.  I used some banana because I had it but you could either substitute the apricot jam for banana or the banana for the jam, depending on what you have about.  I used linseeds, breadcrumbs, besan (chickpea flour) and coconut instead of gluten free flour.  If you don't have my combo, you could either use gluten free flour or use a combination of gluten free grains you have in your kitchen.  I would definitely use the coconut if making these again as I love the texture and taste.  I didn't measure the jam I used but it was quite a bit - close to half a 300ml jam jar.

On the Stereo:
Abbasolutely: a Flying Nun tribute to the music of ABBA