Thursday 28 September 2023

Parmesan and onion focaccia (with tofu bacon option)

Two Sundays ago I made focaccia in the morning and headed to the city to take part in the Melbourne Yes23 Rally to support the Voice referendum campaign for Indigenous Australians to have constitutional recognition and an advisory body to parliament.  It was a busy day with lots of walking and standing about so it was good to have some fresh bread to nibble to keep my energy up.

The focaccia I made was a riff on Sylvia's favourite parmesan and onion bread from the supermarket.  We thought these flavourings in a focaccia would work well.  I love any chance to see Sylvia enjoy onions as she usually avoids them if possible.  And as we had some tofu bacon marinating we threw that in too.  I adapted this focaccia recipe and put it together the night before.  It worked well.  The main change I would make would be a bit less salt - so I have reduced in in the below recipe from 12 to 9g.

In the morning I watched Insiders with discussions on the Voice on Indigenous intergenerational trauma and racism.  Then I baked my foccacia and tucked a piping hot loaf into my backpack before heading out to catch a train to the city. 

On the train there seemed to be lots of people heading to the rally with lots of Voice t-shirts, placards and conversations.  The crowds streamed off the train up the escalator (which refused to move until second after we climbed the stairs) and into the streets.  By the time arrived the lawns outside the State Library were already packed and we were squeezing in on the tram tracks of Swanston Street where we couldn't hear the speeches well.  And the crowds kept coming and filling up  Swanston Street.

I walked all the way from the State Library to Federation Square.  Sylvia was ready for a drink and some shopping by the time we had taken about 20 minutes in the slow lane to walk half a block.  So she and E went to Melbourne Central while I continued by myself.  I enjoyed people watching and listening to some of the singing along the way - John Farnham's "You're the Voice" and Paul Kelly's "From Little Things Big Things Grow".

I arrived at Fed Square halfway through Linda Burney (Minister for Indigenous Australians)'s speech. Again it was hard to hear or see much.  But I had my focaccia to snack on and enjoyed the music that followed: Marlon, Mia Wray and Peter Garrett, especially the covers of classic Indigenous pop songs.  Marlon sang Archie Roach's "Took the Children Away", which is the sort of song for swaying and sighing.  Then Peter Garrett got the crowd going with the Warumpi Band's "Blackfella/Whitefella".  We were all clapping and singing along: "are you the one who's going to stand up and be counted".  I didn't stay for Spiderbait.  By then I was tired and we were all ready to go home.

The rally was a great positive experience in the midst of all the toxic division and misinformation of the Voice debates that have been so difficult for the nation but especially for Indigenous people.  It was such a joy to be in a moment of optimism and feel hope for the future.  I feel I had other things to say but unfortunately the first go at this post was not saved by dodgy wifi on a recent holiday to the country.  However we loved the focaccia and hope to bake it again on the coming weekend!

More focaccia recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe blog: 

Antipasto sourdough focaccia
Black cat sourdough focaccia
No knead focaccia (v)
Rhubarb and raspberry no knead focaccia (v)

Parmesan and onion focaccia, with tofu bacon option
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe
Makes 2 focaccia

1 onion, finely chopped and fried
1 cup fried tofu bacon or another onion300g ripe sourdough starter
400g warm water
40g (about 3 tbsp) olive oil
700g white bread flour
9g salt
150g parmesan cheese, finely grated
extra olive oil, salt, and finely grated parmesan for topping

[Before beginning, fry the onion and tofu bacon, if using, until slightly charred.]

Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. If you have time give it a 15 second knead in the bowl after 30 minutes but this is optional.  Cover well (I used a cover with elasticised edges or you can use beeswax or clingwrap) and leave overnight or 8-12 hours.

When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 220 C.  Line two baking trays with baking paper.

Scrape bread out of bowl onto an oiled surface (I used olive oil.).  Cut in half.  Press each piece of dough into the lined trays and pat out to fit the whole tray.  If dough is sticky you can lightly oil your fingers.

Dimple the dough with your fingers.  Have fun and don't worry about going too deep because it will rise.  Drizzle olive over over the dough.  Sprinkle with a little salt and finely grated parmesan cheese.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and it sounds hollow when you tap it.  Eat warm or room temperature.  Lasts up to 2 days.

On the Stereo:
Diesel and Dust: Midnight Oil

Friday 15 September 2023

La Vista Restaurant and Bar, Geelong

On Father's Day a couple of weekends ago, it was ironic that I had lunch with my mum and my daughter.  Sylvia did a great job of finding a venue online.  It was a restaurant called La Vista in one of the newer buildings overlooking the waterfront.  (I say newer from the viewpoint of someone who remembers Geelong waterfront before it smelled any whiff of a developer.)  La Vista is on the first floor with a great view of the beach.  Unfortunately we had a sunny seat at the window and asked to move to a less sunny seat further from the window.

We ordered drinks first.  Sylvia and I honed in on the mocktails.  She had seen Appletinis on the tv so was excited to be able to try a non-alcoholic Appletini.  It comprised apple juice, lemon juice, granny smith apple syrup.  Sylvia said it was scrumptious athe perfect balance of sweet and sour. I went for the Cuddle on the Beach: peach, cranberry, orange, lime .  I think that was meant to be a PG rated version of Sex on the Beach.  I chose it because I love peaches and because the silly name amused me.

First dish to arrive was the Crispy cauliflower bites.  These battered and fried florets of cauliflower were bit sized and perfectly cooked.  This is the sort of side dish to convince someone of how good cauliflower can taste.  We were all impressed, including Sylvia who has only recently come around to cauliflower.

I had ordered the Grilled Corn and Halloumi Salad which according to the menu was a bowl of "pickled red cabbage, grilled corn, cucumber mint, golden halloumi, chickpea & tomato chilli dressing".  I liked it but it was not as promised by the menu.  More surprisingly was that the main vegetables seemed to be baby spinach and raw red onion, neither of which were mentioned on the menu.  I like baby spinach but it overwhelmed the corn, cucumber, chickpeas and pickled cabbage promised by the menu.  I don't really like raw onion so I had a considerable pile of it at the side of my plate when I finished.  Despite my complaints, I really liked the salty halloumi was lovely with the fresh vegetables. They were lovely with the cauliflower and potatoes side dishes.

Sylvia likes leaves far more than me and ordered the Green Garden Salad.  It was lots of leaves with tomatoes, cucumber and onion.  Sylvia loved it (except the onion) with roast potatoes.

Lately we had a generous bowl of Oven Roasted Rosemary Chat Potatoes.  These were excellent.  They were crispy and crunchy with salt and herbs.  We kept going back for more and praising them to the high heavens!

It was a really lovely lunch: a nice view of Eastern Beach, satisfying food, great service and good to gather three generations together.  After lunch we went to my parents' house where my dad had returned from watching Collingwood at footy training with my brother.  Some of my siblings and niblings came over for a Father's Day afternoon tea of scones, profiteroles and ginger cake.  A fine day of catching up with family and enjoying some Geelong sunshine.

La Vista Restaurant and Bar
120 Brougham Street, Geelong  VIC  3220

Sunday 10 September 2023

Kewpie Bar, Fitzroy

Years after she first visited, Sylvia has discovered Kewpie Bar.  When she first was there, it was called Bimbos and she was too young to be walking or talking.  The building still has a giant kewpie doll high on the facade of the building.  And thee days Sylvia enjoys their pizzas.  I on the other hand really enjoy going to Fitzroy.  I lived there many year ago so now I get all nostalgic when I return.

We first visited when Sylvia was interested in the $5 pizzas.  That is pretty cheap in this day and age where the cost of living just rises and rises at a ridiculous rate.  This Margherita pizza is simply topped with sugo, basil and mozzarella.  Sylvia has had many Magherita pizzas in her time and loved this one.

I had the Poncho pizza, topped with sugo, Mexican beans, corn chips, mozzarella, sour cream and paprika.  I loved the presentation with the corn chips arranged like circling sharks.  And it tasted great.  The beans were scattered sparingly but it meant that the base was crisp and there were plenty of flavour.

We went back a week ago and tried a couple of different pizzas.  This time I went for one of the couple of vegetarian pizzas that cost $8 rather than $5.  The Superveg wqas topped with pesto, spinach, mushroom, cherry tomato, jalapenos, feta, mozzarella, and dukkah.  It was nice but seemed light on the feta and more generous with the jalapenos.  I preferred the Poncho. 

Sylvia tried the Patate pizza which had caramelised onion, roasted potato, mozzarella, parmesan and rosemary.  The onion was like blobs of an onion jam.  Sylvia did not like it.  It was nice pizza but not as nice as some other potato pizzas we have had.  We discussed the bases being less like the pizza dough we are used to from takeaway pizza.  I think it was more than just flour, yeast, salt and sugar.  More processed in some way but nice.

We also ordered the garlic bread.  It was a classic old fashioned garlic bread that I used to have as a kid: soft baguettes lots of melty garlicky butter between them  The sort you have to break pieces off and they ooze butter.  So good!

Like its previous incarnation Bimbos, Kewpie still has a lot of kewpie doll artwork.  This tattooed kewpie above seems very zeitgeisty

After our two visits sitting by the window, we discovered a more night time area with a plane, fake plants, bird cages, mirror balls and kewpie dolls.  We had two kewpie dolls on canes hanging by our window in the bedroom I shared with my sister as a kid.  But not like this.  These are so quirky and fun.

I was curious about the connection between Bimbos and Kewpie so I googled it and found a Broadsheet article from 2021 about the venue changing owners after being shut for 2 years during the pandemic after a fire.  I never liked the name Bimbos.  I preferred it when it was the Punters Club during my student days when I lived in Fitzroy.  Good times.  Much as changed since then.

We had never heard of crullers in mystudent days.  Now they are sold by Moon Cruller in Rose Street, a project of Lune Bakery.  We were visiting Moon Cruller before eating at Kewpie.  Sylvia had money set aside to buy some for Fathers Day.

Another change is this restaurant called the Rice Queen over the pedestrian lights on Brunswick Street.  It looks quite interesting but is very different from the second hand furniture store where I bought a desk as a student.  I still work on that desk today.

Another change is the Fitzroy Nursery.  It has been there for so long with its quirky steel art gate but now it has remodelled, the gate has gone and it has extended to a second store across the street.

There are many stores that I miss on Brunswick Street such as Grub Street Bookstore, Scally and Trombone, and Polyester music store.  But I can still walk down the street and peek into interesting looking shops.

There has been a lot of fun street art around Brunswick Street over the years, though I do not remember any as a student.  This smoking tree is on the wall on the corner of Westgarth Street where Retro Cafe used to be.  The owners had sold The Fitz and moved to a new cafe down the street.  But Retro Cafe is no longer there.  The building is now home to Gogyo which specialises in ramen.

I also enjoy walking around the historic terrace houses on the nearby streets.  Traditionally workers cottages, they were reduced to slums before Fitzroy was gentrified and became very des res.  (I am sure I told the story before of moving to Fitzroy and my dad bringing my grandmother to visit to reassure her it was no longer the haunt of gangsters.)  They have fancy parapets, and cast iron verandahs that are a few footsteps from the wrought iron fences.  These days there are many signs supporting the Voice to Parliament referendum that is coming up in weeks.

As someone with a long memory of Fiztroy, it seems odd that reviews call Bimbos a Brunswick Street institution that has been carried over into Kewpie bar.  To me it will always be the Punters Club which recently became Bimbos.  But I like the way it is developing as Kewpie and we plan to be back for more cheap pizzas.

Kewpie Bar
376 Brunswick Street
Fitzroy Victoria Australia

Sunday 3 September 2023

In My Kitchen - September 2023

The Spring has sprung etc etc.  August was an odd end of winter.  Warmer than usual with us eating better with fruit vegetable than we usually do at the end of winter.  Now we wait for summer fruit.  Over the last month, we have been to cafes, got caught up in World Cup / Matildas fever. seen Elemental at the cinema, and this weekend we drove to Geelong for Father's Day.  In the local news, QANTAS airlines have been acting badly, supermarkets are raking in huge profits while customers suffer rising cost of living levels, and the announcement of the Voice Referendum date as 14 October means lots of campaigning for an Indigenous Voice to parliament.

Meanwhile recently there have been some significant endings.  Most annoying is that The Age newspaper has stopped their weather report which I relied on, especially when out on my bike.  I am looking at other options but I really liked their reports.  I was sad to see that Zomato has closed in Melbourne.  I linked a lot of review to this cafe review site but also used it a lot when looking at where to eat out.  And last Thursday, Virginia Trioli has announced she is leaving the ABC Melbourne morning radio show

Sylvia and I have been planning our meals each week which helps us eat a bit better.  Above is my dinner from a rice bowl night.  That means I cook up rice and we load it with lots of vegies.  On this night I opened a tin of Greek Gigantes Beans in tomato sauce, served it with tofu bacon, edamame, baby spinach, avocado and cucumber.  It was excellent.

From Clay Organics in Rathdowne Street, we bought this little pot of microgreens and a couple of bottles of Fuji Apple Monceau Pet Nat Kombucha, which is made in nearby Brunswick.  Sylvia enjoyed the microgreens on rice bowls and omelettes and we both loved the kombucha which had a mercifully short ingredient list.

We still have pizza every Friday.  Sometimes we get takeaway and sometimes we make it at home.  This is a home made fast track pizza with garlic, olive oil, mac and cheese, parsley and parmesan.  Great comfort carb on carb food.

I don't really understand why Sylvia loves Cheetos so much but I agree with her that these paws shaped Cheetos are really cute.

We stopped in at an Asian grocery at Northland and bought Peach Tea oreos (nice but not a favourite), purple ube condensed milk (still in the tin), cucumber flavoured potato crisps (odd but good) and bamboo charcoal peanuts.  Usually the product does not live up to the photo on the packet but these peanuts are black as night which is even more impressive than the purple on the packaging.  I really enjoy them but they are pretty intense and best eaten in small quantities.

One of our cafe stops was San Churro in Lygon Street, Carlton, where I was very impressed by my mac and cheese croquettes and Sylvia loved her brulee latte.  Of course we also enjoyed their churros and chocolate.  She bought herself a charmingly rustic mug to take home.

We had a few nights watching the Matildas and then the Grand Final of the Women's World Cup.  Bring brought up on Aussie Rules football, I still find soccor a bit of a mystery.  There is so little scoring and so much kick to kick but there were some exciting moments, in particular the incredibly tense nail-biting, heart-stopping Matildas penalty shootout against France.  These crisps were bought for watching the matches.  They were specially chosen not for their flavours but because they were the Matildas' colour of green and gold!

One of my favourite meals to eat out is noodles, salad, fried tofu and spring rolls.  So recently we had had an easy version of this where we dunk some vermicelli in boiling water, chop some vegies (cabbage, snow peas, grated carrot, baby spinach and spring onion), add some flavours (soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar) and top with baked supermarket spring rolls and either leftover tofu or chopped cashew nuts.  I was pleased Sylvia liked the noodles and salad with spring rolls.

Sylvia told me that she wanted to try a risotto so I made a mushroom one based on this recipe.  I used to make risottos quite regularly but haven't made one for years.  I was glad that my risotto mojo returned to me and Sylvia enjoyed the comfort of creamy cheesy rice with fried mushrooms.  She has been keen to try new things lately at cafes: a big breakfast, poached eggs, a Lord of the Fries burger with pickles (I am still upset they have removed the mini burger from the menu and only order a large burger now) and fried cauliflower.  Unlike me, she likes eggs many ways and lots of mushrooms.  After years of going out with my fussy daughter, I am now in danger of becoming the fussy one because I don't fare as well as her in brunchy cafes where most savoury dishes have either eggs or meat.

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 and her gorgeous hand drawn header.