January 27, 2015

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Chocolate muesli (granola)

Muesli is something I am constantly promising myself I will make.  Why not!  It is easy and healthy.  Yet it is a long time since I made it.  Then my sister was making it on her visit to my mum's and I had seen a chocolate muesli recipe.  For the pedants, it was called granola but it has always been muesli to me, and I have a stubborn streak.

I love that Kate of No Meat and Three Veg was giving this muesli to family as Christmas gifts.  It is both practical and surprising.  I loved that the muesli gave me a healthy opportunity to use up some of the fruit and nuts leftover from Christmas baking. 

Mine had a few more seeds than Kate's because I see it as an opportunity to use some of the seeds and grain in the pantry.  And seeds are healthy.  I really want to try chia seeds in muesli but worried they would go gluggy with the liquids.  I also was fascinated by Joanne's use of dried quinoa in muesli.  Must experiment!

Chocolate is not something I normally enjoy at breakfast.  I make an exception for this muesli.  It is more intense than sweet.  I have had it for breakfast regularly lately (except when I forgot to take it on holiday). 

I love eating it with vanilla yoghurt.  The yoghurt picks up the cocoa and looks like a posh version of cocoa pops.  Remember they used to say "just like a chocolate milkshake only crunchy".  Well if I was to advertise this, I would say "just like a chocolate smoothie only crunchy"!

When I can, I pair it with fruit.  I have had apricots when in season, stewed plums and I think it would be great with slices of banana. It is also lovely as a snack with or without yoghurt.  I am coming to the end of the batch of muesli and hope I motivate myself to make another batch.  Meanwhile I am looking forward to breakfast tomorrow.

I am sending this to Kimmy of Rock My Vegan Socks for Healthy Vegan Fridays #31.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Tim Tam Brownies for Australia Day
Two years ago: Risoni with Chickpeas, Lemon, and Mint
Three years ago: A tale of three water bottles
Four years ago: Aussie Moroccan salad
Five years ago: In search of . . .
Six years ago: Apricot History and a Chutney
Seven years ago: In Praise of Cookbooks

Chocolate muesli
Adapted from Live.Love.Learn.Eat via No Meat and Three Veg

4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup seeds (I used sesame, hemp and pumpkin)
pinch of salt
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup sultanas

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl (leaving the dried fruit out if you don't want it really chewy).  Tip into 2 large lined roasting dishes* and bake at 180 C for about 20 to 25 minutes, stirring halfway through.  (If you left out the dried fruit, mix in when it is out of the oven.)  Cool and store in an airtight container.

NOTES:  I found that using one roasting dish made my mixture too crowded to dry out.  I ended up dividing it into 3 lots of baking each for an additional 5 minutes at the end but I think if I used 2 roasting dishes rather than one, it would work better.  The muesli crisps up as it cools so it is a bit tricky to judge how much to bake it but I guess it needs to be dry enough to crisp up. 

On the Stereo:
The Captain: Kasey Chambers

Posted January 27, 2015 10:05 PM by Johanna GGG

January 26, 2015

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Australia Day: Violet crumble ice cream, icons, haggis and the beach.

I was just back from holidays, with a huge blog backlog and promised myself not to make new recipes.  But Australia Day was coming up and I have a Pinterest board of ideas. I decided to try a Violet Crumble ice cream and remember a forgotten icon.  It took me a few tries but it was amazing when it worked.  And I am happy to share it with you on this Australia Day.

Australia Day is a potent mixture of patriotism, nostalgia and icons.  It is a day for reflecting on who we are, how we got here and where we are headed.  If we dare to be honest it is not easy to navel-gaze and remember how our nation of Australia was founded in the land of the many nations of Aboriginal Australia.  I have written about remembering the nation's Aboriginal origins before.

Today I am writing something less important but personally significant nevertheless.  The Violet Crumble, an Australian chocolate covered honeycomb bar, was created in 1913 by Hoadley's Chocolates in Melbourne.  As a child my sister and I alternated giving my dad bags of Violet Crumbles and Polly Waffles each Christmas.

In 2009, the Polly Waffle was discontinued by Nestle who have now taken over Hoadley's Chocolates.  I sometimes worry the Violet Crumble will go the same way.  They no longer sell bags of small pieces, only bars.  Yet it seems that the similar Crunchie, which was created in England by Fry's in 1929, is more popular.  We rarely had Crunchie when I was growing up and I still find the melting honeycomb filling looks unnaturally yellow, tastes a little burnt and melts in the mouth rather fast compared to the harder mellower Violet Crumble that really does shatter in the most pleasing way.

We don't eat a lot of chocolate bars so in some ways it doesn't affect us much.  Yet in other ways, it makes me sad that globalisation means that foreign chocolate bars are elbowing our home made icons out of the way.  The same might be said for my favourite Chokito bar (which I assume is Australian but can't confirm).  And Darrell Lea chocolates are just hanging in there.  Last week it was announced that another Australian chocolate manufacturer, Ernest Hillier, had gone into voluntary administration.

As this is an indulgent post on Australia Day, I will share a couple of photos from yesterday.  We visited family and then bought fish and chips to eat at Torquay beach on a cooler day (22 C).  This above photo is especially for Shaheen who asked what a corn jack was.  It is the roll with the crispy skin and creamy corn filling.

By the time we got to the beach it was raining and we huddled under a tree in our cardigans.  Then we walked along the beach, bought ice creams from a van, splashed about in the waves and got sunburnt.  I had honey crunch ice cream, Sylvia had strawberry and E had plain.  Later he told us the fish was bland and so was the ice cream.  He had thought 'plain' meant Madagascan vanilla rather than what it said on the label!

Sylvia is so keen on ice cream that we have eaten it quite a bit this summer.  Here are a few ice cream moments:
  • At a park where the ice cream van kept come around with its music on.  We can resist the music when we hear it at home but it is harder in the park.  A little kid dropped her ice cream in front of us and was given another.
  • At a local shop where I have often promised to take Sylvia.  There were chewy bits in the ice cream which I wasn't keen on.
  • At Barwon Heads on our recent holiday.  Sylvia and her cousin got rainbow ice creams while I dreamed of buying the nearby raw vegan pad thai

Cool weather and rain at the beach made me feel like we were in Scotland in summer.  Which was quite fitting given that last night was Burns Night.  We like to have vegetarian haggis to remember Robert Burns birthday.  Luckily I had some in the freezer leftover from New Year's Eve.

I had been determined to follow a recipe in my new McSween Haggis Bible.  Let's just say that I started with a recipe but my resulting haggis stuffed courgettes baked with a tomato sauce was unrecognisable.  I started just baking the stuffed courgettes but they took so long I covered them with tomato sauce to soften them with some steam.  They were delicious eaten watching the Australian Open (tennis).  The remaining stuffed courgettes will go on pizza tonight.

Back back to the violet crumble ice cream.  It was a simple matter of beating together cream and condensed milk and folding in chopped violet crumble.  It was inspired by Malta Today but I later found it was almost a family recipe when my sister in law told me she made it that way.  (It came from my brother's, wife's, sister's, husband's grandmother!)

Yet I am never very confident about whipping cream.  I messed up the ice cream the first time by overbeating the cream.  The texture wasn't quite right and it needed to soften up so I could scoop it out.  (Can you see the texture is wrong in the above photo!)

I had to try again.  This time I was careful to beat the cream and condensed milk on low speed.  It worked perfectly this time.  Creamy with great depth of nostalgic flavour, albeit very rich.  We all loved it.  Great for dinner in the backyard after a hot day.  Sylvia preferred it stirred until melty and creamy.  E declared it the best ice cream ever and that he would like to have it for breakfast lunch and dinner.  If only we could....

It has been a very relaxed Australia Day here after some very busy days.  We have had time for pancakes, games, nail polish, cups of tea, face paint, television, making a doll's jungle gym out of a stool, and reading the weekend newspaper.  My favourite line was in an article in The Age by John Huxley (A Brummie from Balmoral) who writes that the past is "slippery, shifty, elusive, subject to change. Like old loves, homes, cars, jobs, favourite things, so much of what we miss no longer exists. If it ever did."  I hope you are enjoying your day too.

More Violet Crumble Recipes:

Chocolate honeycomb slice - ninesm
Honeycomb, chocolate and almond pavlova: What Katie ate
Pumpkin ice cream with home made violet crumble - taste.com.au
Violet crumble brownies - Thoroughly nourished life
Violet crumble cheesecake - Best recipes
Violet crumble cookies - Belly rumbles
Violet crumble lamingtons - Here's something I prepared earlier
White choc honeycomb mud cake - taste.com.au

I am sending this ice cream to Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog for We Should Cocoa and Kavey of Kavey Eats for Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream.  Choclette and Kavey have combined their blog challenge and asked for ice cream with chocolate this month.  (The closing date for submissions was yesterday but Kavey has said it is fine to be a day late.)

If you would like more Australian recipes, I did a round up of Aussie recipes from my blog and elsewhere last year.

Violet Crumble Ice Cream
Serves 6 to 8

300ml double cream*
1/2 cup condensed milk
100g violet crumble*

Use hand held beaters to beat cream and condensed milk until thick enough to hold its shape (I think this might be called soft peak stage - I just beat it with beaters on low until it reached the ribbon stage and then beat another few seconds - this seemed to help make sure it didn't turn into butter).  Roughly chop violet crumble and stir in.  Tip mixture into a tub and freeze overnight or until solid.  It is creamy enough that it doesn't need to sit out of the freezer to soften before serving.

*NOTES: It is a very rich ice cream so we preferred a 35% butterfat to a 51% butterfat cream.  Violet crumble is a chocolate covered honeycomb.  You could substitute other chocolate covered honeycomb or even make your own.

On the Stereo:
Born Sandy Devotional: the Triffids

Posted January 26, 2015 04:53 PM by Johanna GGG

quinces and kale

no soak beans

no soak beans

I have to admit I’ve gotten lazy about cooking beans. Part of the trouble with cooking beans from scratch is all that washing, soaking, discarding of water and cooking involved. Mine usually boil over on the stove as well, making an atrocious mess. Add to this that they are easily available and cheap to buy in cans these days, it is easy to see why I stopped.

So when I came across a shared post from the LA Times on the Where’s the Beef Facebook page about cooking beans without soaking, I was intrigued. I had also just bought a set of lovely new 600ml round ceramic dishes with lids, so I gave them their first road test by cooking some beans.

I made two kinds, some borlotti beans and some cannellini beans.

I gave the beans a quick rinse, put them in their dishes, covered them with boiling water, added a small amount of salt and then cooked them slowly in the oven until they were tender. I’ve cooked them a couple of ways, at a constant 150 deg C for a longer time, as well as in the oven with other dishes at a higher temperature for an hour, then turned the oven off and left the beans in to cook on stored heat. Both ways have worked brilliantly.

Frankly, they are a revelation. They are definitely the best beans I’ve eaten in a long time. They taste really, really good, the texture is beautiful, and unlike canned ones they taste more of the bean than salt.

I ate my first batch while they were still warm with some chopped fresh tomato from the garden, some spring onion and a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. But to honest they are pretty damn delicious, just straight out of the pot. I’ve also eaten them with some mashed roasted tomatoes or roasted red pepper relish folded through as instant baked beans on toast for breakfast. Since my first batch I’ve made them another three times using borlottis, a four bean mix and chick peas. They are so easy.

Fresh from this success, I’m even going to give ful medames another go. I ate some in Sydney at Cafe Shenkin, but my last attempt to create them was a dismal failure. They were still hard after much cooking on the stovetop.

There’s still room for canned beans for the emergency meal, but cooking them like this is likely to become a regular event for me.


5.0 from 1 reviews
no soak beans
prep time
2 mins
cook time
2 hours
total time
2 hours 2 mins
author: quincesandkale
serves: 1½ cups
  • 150 grams dried beans
  • ⅓ tsp salt
  • boiling water to cover
  1. Preheat the oven to 150 deg C
  2. Rinse the beans to remove any dust, and place them into a small ovenproof dish with a lid
  3. Add the salt
  4. Cover with boiling water approx 1cm over the beans (ie the beans should be submerged)
  5. Put into the oven and cook until tender.
  6. Check every 30 minutes to make sure there is enough liquid and give them a stir.
The beans can take between 1½ - 2 hrs to cook depending on a number of factors such as the type of bean and how long they have been stored. They can also be started at a higher temperature with other things in the oven and then the temp lowered or the oven turned off and the beans left to continue cooking on stored heat.


Posted January 26, 2015 10:00 AM

January 24, 2015

Green Gourmet Giraffe

The Big Wheel, Moor's Head, Amanda Palmer

School goes back on Thursday.  We have been enjoying the summer holidays but I need a break.  Yesterday was a crazy day.  We had a big day out at the park, doing craft, riding the big wheel, eating churros, my first visit to Costco, dropping Sylvia off for a sleepover, dinner at the Moor's Head and finally an Amanda Palmer book reading. 

We took the train to the city and met my sister and nephew at Birrung Marr so Sylvia could have a play at the park with Dash.  The climbing frame was very popular.

Then my sister found that there was a kid's craft tent nearby where children could make little boats to float in the wading pool.  So that's what you do with all your leftover corks!

Sylvia and Dash had a lovely time.  It was really nice to be able to do craft outdoors.

Then we headed off for the tram to meet up with more family and leave Chris to head off to meet up with friends.  We were sad to say goodbye.  It's been lovely to have her visiting from Ireland and Sylvia says she will miss Chris's makeup.

On the way to the tram we passed the fun circular bookshelves in the foyer of the NGV Ian Potter Gallery.  (If you have an eye for detail you might notice Sylvia has on a different dress.  This photo is from when we saw Arriety at ACMI Cinema.  Fantastic movie.)  We could have spent lots of time at the bookshelves but the Big Wheel beckoned.

So I took Sylvia and Dash on the tram to Docklands.  This is a very new part of Melbourne's city where I rarely go.  We walked along the avenues of shops and stopped to stare in fascination at the snake handler giving children a snake to drape over their shoulders for a photo opportunity.

We stopped at the food mall for sandwiches for lunch.  I had my favourite sandwich filling: avocado, tomato, lettuce and swiss cheese.  It was huge. 

Finally it was time for the Big Wheel.  Actually its proper name is the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel but I hardly hear that used and every time we pass it on the train we just call it the Big Wheel.  It goes so slowly that from a distance it doesn't seem to be moving.

It was my dad's Christmas present but he shared it with everyone.  So there were 2 adults and 8 children in our capsule.  These capsules are very echoey and with lots of kids it was really noisy.  The 30 minutes seemed to go really quickly with all the little dramas of who got the map, which window to look out and Maddy's warnings not to go near the door.

Of course we took lots of photos.  I really loved the photos at the top but we didn't seem to stay on top long.  The Big Wheel is on the more industrial side of Melbourne and was great to see city skylines as well as all the railways, docklands and freeways.  I would recommend the Eureka Tower viewing platform if you wanted to see more of the historic buildings, sports stadiums and the river.

Before long we were stepping out of our capsule.  We were glad it was moving so slowly because it does not stop for disembarking.  The kids all raced through the gift shop and out the exit without stopping to look at what I thought was a lego model of the wheel.  (I would have checked if I hadn't been keeping up!)

We then had some churros with chocolate at San Churro.  So yummy.  I was talking to my sister-in-law about nearby Costco.  Erica has a membership and offered to take me over to buy some maple syrup.  Which is how I found myself with 2 litres of the stuff in my bag.  I was so excited at how cheap it was that I forgot how heavy it was to carry home.  Oh well!  At least I didn't spend $817 like the person in front of us at the cash register.

Sylvia and I headed home to have a quick play before taking her out to her friend's place for a sleepover.  E and I were going out.

Firstly we had dinner at the Moor's Head in Thornbury.  We arrived at 6pm before our show.  The place was fairly empty but I heard a staff member say it was booked out later in the evening.  The Moor's Head was opened in 2011 by Joseph Abboud of Rumi.  They offer mainly "inauthentic pizzas", made in a Middle Eastern style, as well as dips, salads, and desserts.

I enjoyed reading the names of the pizzas: Omar Sharif, Shams of Tabriz, Beiruti and Fred the Deaf!  There is a choice of round or long Turkish-style with quite a few vegetarian options.   We started with drinks.  E ordered the Uludag Gazos, a Middle Eastern style lemonade.  I had a lovely sour cherry juice.

E ordered a meaty pizza so there was no sharing.  I had the Istanbuli pide (Turkish style long pizza with pumpkin, spinach, caramelised onion, tahini yoghurt, dukkah and parsley).  It was lovely with soft Turkish bread around the filling.  It was a lot for one person.  I think I would have preferred half the pizza with some salad.  Despite this, I am never going to complain about eating bread, seasoned pumpkin and tasty creamy sauce.

The main event was close by at the Thornbury Theatre.  We went to see a book reading by Amanda Palmer.  She has written a book called The Art of Asking, reflecting on her crowdfunding experience as a musician and how our reluctance to ask for help can paralyse our lives.

At the reading she spoke to local artists, Justin Heazlewood and Tom Dickins about their crowdfunding experiences. her husband Neil Gaiman read some sections of her book exploring their relationship, and she sang some songs accompanying herself on ukelele.  I think my favourite moment was when Amanda and Tom Dickins sang one of my favourite Glen Hansard songs, Falling Slowly.

When the gig ended, E wanted to get his copy of the book signed.  I was prepared to wait, despite being a little worried about hearing about Neil Gaiman doing an 8 hour book signing.  The queue for the signing snaked all around the ballroom.  After over half an hour and the queue had not moved, I was tired and went home, leaving E with some friends.  (I was sad I missed Neil Gaiman handing out brownie to people in the queue!)

This morning I woke up tired and achy.  (I got a sunburnt back at the Botanic Gardens on Thursday.)  Then I remembered I totally forgot about my dentist appointment yesterday.  I left a message at their dentist's surgery and will have to ring them again with another grovelling apology on Tuesday.  Meanwhile today has been more restful and hopefully we will get more quiet time over the Australia Day long weekend.

Moor's Head
774 High Street
Tel: 03 9484 0173

Posted January 24, 2015 10:23 PM by Johanna GGG

January 23, 2015

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Maple meringues

Having made my first batch of meringues I can now pass my meringue wisdom onto you.  Don't make meringues after dinner on a humid summer day.  Honestly they made me sweat with worry that the meringues would never be baked by the time I went to bed and if they did they would be too sweaty, much like me!

Actually I only made them because I had an egg white leftover from my apricot and almond tart.  and I had seen a recipe using maple syrup instead of sugar.  And Sylvia and E love them.  And I had a family birthday gathering the next day.

It was a crazy day and the recipe looked straightforward.  Even though I am intimidated by egg whites.  So I promised myself I would do it despite having many reasons that I was too busy to start.  I put away the Christmas tree, made chocolate granola, went to the supermarket, made birthday cards, read to Sylvia, chatted to a neighbour. 

Finally I began.  Maybe if I had started before dinner I wouldn't have got so much wrong.  I dropped the candy thermometer (it didn't break - phew), I didn't know that the maple syrup would froth up so much and had to change saucepans (and clean the stove), my oven doesn't go as low as the recipe called for (thank goodness the oven has no power), and I forgot to sprinkle with our glittery sugar (which I really want to use up).

Then I happened to read that ideally one should not make meringues while it is humid.  I checked the humidity and it was 80%.  I checked again about an hour later and it was 89%.  This worried me as I had put the meringues in the oven at 8pm.  They needed to bake for 3 hours and then sit in the oven for another hour.  And I wanted to get to bed some time.

I baked most on the top shelf of the oven and the last few on the second shelf.  The meringues on the top shelf needed an extra 30 minutes baking (blame the humidity) but were dry and crispy.  I put them in an airtight container to take to Erica's birthday.  The bottom shelf were sticky so I left them in the oven overnight.

The next morning the bottom shelf were still sticky outside but crunchy inside.  I gave a few to E for lunch and took the top shelf meringues to Geelong.  We had originally planned to go to the zoo but the weather was in the high 30s (celcius) so we headed to the Ten Pin Bowling instead.  It was fun, even with the geeky shoes.  I even got a strike!

Then we headed to my sister's new house for lunch before heading off to the pool.  Susie's place has great air conditioning and a really nice table by a blue wall where I would love to take lots of blog photos!  We had dips and crackers and salads.  (There was meat but let's not mention it.)  For dessert there was sponge and pavlova and my meringues.

Sylvia and her cousin Dash really loved the meringues.  We had to shoo them away so there were some left after we sang Erica happy birthday.  I was pleased that all the meringues were eaten because it was so humid that once I took them out of the airtight container they became sticky around the edges.  By the time the last one was eaten, it would have stuck to your hand like velcro.

They tasted amazing.  Far more depth of flavour than a regular meringue (which has never impressed me anyway).  The caramelised maple syrup gave them a slightly smoky intense flavour that I loved.  Sylvia and E loved them too.  If only maple syrup wasn't so expensive* I would make them more.  Though I would have to find a use for the egg yolks!

Sadly E didn't come down for the lunch.  If he had I am sure he would have been telling one of his favourite jokes.  "Is that a doughnut or a meringue?"  It needs a Scottish accent to make sense of this joke.  He did enjoy the meringues I left him and by the end of the day there were no sticky bottom shelf meringues left in the house.

I am sending the meringues to Jac at Tinned Tomatoes for Bookmarked Recipes, a monthly event where bloggers share bookmarked recipes they have made..

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: How to serve (vegetarian) haggis
Two years ago: No knead honey and oat bread II
Three years ago: WSC Blueberry Chocolate Cake
Four years ago: BBQ tofu like an Aussie flood
Five years ago: Muffins at the tennis
Six years ago: Baba - full of eastern promise
Seven years ago: Raspberry Vinegar for Dummies

Mini Maple Meringues
Adapted from Food Nouveau
Makes about 60

2/3 cup maple syrup*
2 egg whites
scant 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

bake 3 hours or until comes off paper with no resistance (or until you need to go to bed and your husband says they are great because he loves chewy)  leave in oven another hour

Preheat oven to very low (Food Nouveau suggested 75 C but my oven only goes down to 120 C.  However my oven never bakes anywhere near the temperature unless the fan is on so I left my fan off and it was probably more like 90 to 100 C.)  Line baking trays with baking paper or silicone mats.

Bring maple syrup to a boil in a medium to large saucepan - it doesn't look like a lot but it bubbles up.  Once it boils heat until it reaches 120 C on a candy thermometer.  Set aside.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form.  This did not take long with the electric beaters.  Slowly add in the hot maple syrup at the side (it will form crystals if the hot maple syrup touches the beaters) beating as you go (except when I needed to scrape out the saucepan).  Beat for 3 minutes until you have stiff peaks and the mixture has that candied taste.

Spoon into a piping bag (mine is silicone) with a large hole and pipe small circles with peaks onto lined baking trays.  You don't need to leave too much room between meringues as they don't expand when cooking.

Bake for 3 hours or until the meringues come off the trays with no resistance.  You may need longer if it is humid.  Once baked, turn off oven and leave for another hour.  Cool and store in an airtight container.  Once mine came out of the container they went sticky around the edges in the humid conditions.  Food Nouveau says you can keep them for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.

NOTE: I just discovered today that maple syrup is far cheaper in Costco than in the supermarket!

On the stereo:
Twenty four classic blues songs from the 1920s vol 12: Various Artists

Posted January 23, 2015 04:37 PM by Johanna GGG

January 22, 2015

Challenge Accepted!

Ash Reshteh - Ottolenghi

So, following the Middle Eastern theme I've been on recently, tonight I made Iranian Ash Reshteh soup from Ottolenghi's Plenty More.

Ash Reshteh is made with chickpeas, lentils and noodles, served in a thick soup, with lime juice and sour cream. Apparently, the reshteh noodles bring good luck, and are often eaten before a big decision or journey, like the one to Mecca. I used soba noodles in my dish, as they were the only ones I had.

This was fairly easy to make, as I already had all the ingredients - my favourite kind of recipe! (Well, except for some parsley that I borrowed from a friend.)

The soup is very rich, a small bowl was enough to satisfy me. I think this will be a good standby for the cooler months. As you can see, Plenty More is easily veganised, and definitely recommended!

Recipe follows:


Serves 8

125 g dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight with 1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
[Note: I cheated and used two cans of cooked chickpeas instead.] 
125 g dried butterbeans, soaked in water overnight with 1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
2 large onions, thinly sliced
10 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
80 g clarified butter
1½ tsp turmeric
Salt and black pepper
225 g yellow split peas
Roughly 2 litres vegetable stock
35 g chopped parsley
35 g chopped coriander
15 g chopped dill
100 g spring onion, thinly sliced
150 g baby spinach
100 g reshteh (or linguine) broken in half
150 g soured cream, plus 1 tsp per portion to finish
1½ tbsp white wine vinegar
4 limes, halved

Drain and rinse both the chickpeas and butterbeans, then either boil them separately in lots of fresh water until almost cooked – anywhere ­between 25 and 55 min, or cook under low pressure for around 2.5 min for the chickpeas and around 5 min for the butterbeans, once they come to pressure – and drain. Reserve a few of each legume as a garnish

In a large, heavy-based pot, sauté the onion, garlic and butter on ­medium heat for 20 minutes, or ­until soft and golden-brown. Stir in the turmeric and some salt and ­pepper, then lift a third of this mix from the pot and transfer to a dish for use later.

Add the chickpeas and butterbeans to the pot, then add the split peas and stock. Simmer for 30 minutes, skimming off the froth occasionally, or until the peas are tender. Add the herbs, spring onion and ­spinach, stir and cook for 15 minutes more; add extra stock (or water) if the soup is very thick. Taste and season generously.

Add the noodles and cook for about 10 minutes, so that they are just done. Stir in the soured cream and vinegar, adjust the seasoning and serve at once, garnished with extra soured cream and the reserved cooked onion mix. Serve lime halves to squeeze over every portion.

Posted January 22, 2015 10:51 PM by Kate


What I Ate… Of Late

One of these days, I’ll get my supposed-to-be weekly What I Ate posts published in a timely manner! So this post includes stuff I’ve made over the past few weeks. The photo above are the chickpea tenders from Happy Herbivore Light & Lean. I didn’t flavour them too much in case Arthur and DeeW didn’t...
Continue reading »

Posted January 22, 2015 01:53 PM

January 21, 2015

Challenge Accepted!

Smith and daughters

Tonight we went back to Smith and daughters for dinner, and they had a new menu! Exciting for new foods, but also slightly disappointing there's no paella anymore.

We had a taster plate of the tapas, mushroom pate, and crab cakes with mango salsa. Followed by chocolate torte with avocado ice cream (way better than it sounds, creamy and subtle).


Posted January 21, 2015 08:19 PM by Kate

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Ocean Grove, Chocolate Bliss Balls, The Dunes and holiday eating

The family beach holiday at Ocean Grove was so much fun last year that we did it again.  We missed the sunshine but enjoyed the beach nevertheless.  There was much good food, laughter, dancing, plotting, couch houses, shared meals, photos, and cheeky kids.  My mum and dad were there the whole week with my sister and her little boy.  Other siblings and their kids came and went, including Sylvia and me.

We were there for 5 nights so I took down two boxes of food.  I also forgot quite a bit of it including the vegetables I meant to take.  Luckily there is very little we can't find at the supermarket.  I also doubled up on a few things with my mum.  Even so, the brown rice chips, crackers, dips, rice bubbles, yoghurt, soy milk, fruit and dried chickpeas were good to have.

I decided I would make some healthy snacks to take as well.  I will talk about the pate later.  The rustic muesli slice above was great for a satisfying sweet snack.  It had malt syrup instead of honey and lots of dried fruit.  Sylvia took umbrage at a few sultanas and didn't eat it but my mum enjoyed it. 

I decided to make some of the chocolate bliss balls that were so popular on Not Quite Nigella last year.  I had the manky bananas.  But my balls were so soft I added more coconut and wondered if the bananas were bigger than the recipe called for.  I made them the day before we left.  It was a busy day making pizza, pate and the muesli slice, swimming, card making and supervising a sleepover.  If I had a dollar for each time I said "go to sleep" I would be a rich woman!

They were best after the first day when the ingredients had softened and melded.  I found it useful to have them in the fridge when I had a chocolate craving.  My sister in law was quite keen to try them until I remembered they had dried fruit in them.

We stayed in the same house with the charming garden.  We could walk to the park and it didn't take too long to drive to the beach.  My parents took their dog along who had lots of space to hang out in the yard.

It took me a whole 24 hours to get to the beach.  Sadly the weather was never brilliant beach weather.  Even when the sun shone it was cold and windy.  Splashing about in the water was great but getting out was c-c-cold.  Yet we also appreciated not having the scorching heat of last year.  I love how much my nieces and my brother love the sea and was pleased that Sylvia enjoyed it more this year.

My sister spied the Simply Vegan Cuisine food truck on one of her trips so we had to go and check out the food being served at Dolly the vegan bus.  It is a cute bus.  Christine, my mum and I shared some lovely raw chocolate fudge that was nutty and dense and a little fruity.

The kitchen saw lots of cooking, especially for my sister's boyfriend's birthday dinner and my mum's birthday lunch.  Sylvia helped her cousin Dash make Nigella's rocky road crunch.  They worked well together under the watchful eye of my sister.  I'll post about my mum's birthday lunch separately.

My family loves eating meat so I decided to take along a favourite voracious vegan pate.  It really was a great choice. It went well in salad sandwiches, on the table with chips and dips, as a starter when everyone else had spag bol or just as a great lunch with vegies and rice crackers.

I didn't have wifi at the beach and my mobile reception was poor.  I really enjoyed being offline (though I still feel quite overwhelmed by being back online now).  I finished my book I had been reading for weeks - American Gods by Neil Gaiman.  It was a fascinating book with lots of very odd mythical characters.  I then read through half of my next book - This House of Grief by Helen Garner - about a local criminal trial.  I am full of admiration for Helen Garner's writing but find the subject makes me melancholy and all the more so for being so close to home.  I even got to read far more of the newspaper than usual.

Being at the beach also gives me a hankering for fish and chips.  I never have fish of course even though I will always call them fish and chips.  I had a corn jack with my chips and potato cake and found that Sylvia seems to quite enjoy corn jacks too.

We had a birthday dinner for my sister's boyfriend Ivan.  This is the impressive marble cake that my sister in law made for him.  We had forgotten the birthday candles and when I put a few blueberries on top some wise spark decided that instead of blowing out the candles he could blow the blueberries off the cake!

On the Saturday we went to the Ocean Grove Farmers Market.  I really loved these onions strung up on the back of the ute.  There were also huge marrows, dumplings, blue potatoes, proffertjes, rhubarb, spiced nuts, herbs etc etc.  My mum had a chat at The Egg Man stall saying she had heard from a government inspector that it is one of the best free range egg farms. 

At the Farmers Market I bought some pastries from A Hidden Secret, who do fantastic vegetarian food.  The above pastie with fennel, carrot, spices etc was amazing with my mum's homemade tomato sauce, coleslaw, lots of vegies and a dollop of my sister Fran's thermomix mayo.

Sylvia and her cousins had lots of fun playing together.  They made houses out of the couches, a house in the walk-in wardrobe, in a tent in the front yard and a camp outside with some fold up chairs and a pile of sticks.

My dad is very partial to the hot chocolate at The Dunes in Ocean Grove so we went there on our final full day.  The fickle weather was sunnier when we got there and instead of hot chocolate I decided to have a glass of the local Flying Brick Pear Cider.  It was quite dry and very refreshing.  Perfect with chips.  Sylvia enjoyed a hot chocolate and her cousin had a milkshake.

One attraction of the The Dunes is that it is right by the beach and has a fantastic view.  After our drinks and chips we went to the beach.  The only kids left were Sylvia and Dash.  They made some sandcastles.  It was so cold that Dash kept his hoodie on.  I had put Sylvia in her bathers just in case.  Last year she wouldn't go near the water.  This year I was impressed that she came in with me and had lots of fun jumping waves.

I really liked all the artwork outside The Dunes.  Sylvia and Dash had a lovely time picking out all the details in the little clay mural and the bollard people on the way to the beach were fun.  That night we had dinner at the Ocean Grove Hotel.  I will write about that on another post.

We were sad to leave the beach house.  It was such a lovely relaxing holiday.  But school is back in a week and there is much to do back at home, even if Sylvia is missing her couch houses and her cousins!

I am sending the bliss balls to Eat Your Veg and Bangers and; Mash for January's Healthy Family Foodies blog event with the theme of Healthy Kids.  Sylvia was not keen on them but I wonder if without the dried fruit or even if it was blended up that she might eat them.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: NCR Vegan caesar salad
Two years ago: Leon Superfood Salad
Three years ago: Nectarine bounty - salsa and pizza
Four years ago: CC Hal's Stirfry Sauce
Five years ago: Cheese and Almond Loaf
Six years ago: Beat the heat with fruit salad
Seven years ago: Pea and Garlic Soup

Chocolate bliss balls
Adapted from Not Quite Nigella
Makes about 24

2 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
5 medjool dates, pitted and chopped finely
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup desiccated coconut plus more for rolling balls
2/3 cup quick cooking oats plus more for rolling
3 tbsp cocoa
1 tbsp honey*
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
dash of cinnamon and salt

Soak the cranberries in hot water for about 10 minutes while you mash bananas and finely chop the dates.  Drain cranberries well.  Mix with remaining ingredients.  Use your hands to roll into balls the size of walnuts (some water on hand to lightly dampen hands to keep mixture from sticking).  Roll first in oats and then coconut.  Keeps for up to a week in the fridge.

To make it vegan, use an alternative sweetener such as maple syrup.
I loved having these for snacks but half the batch would have been enough for me so I might try that next time.

On the stereo:
An evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer

    Posted January 21, 2015 10:14 AM by Johanna GGG

    January 19, 2015


    Would You Like To See Vegan Style At Veganopoulous?

    Vegan fashion! Vegan style! I love browsing through vegan clothing websites and Etsy, looking up beautiful vegan garments, shoes and accessories! There are vegan business out there producing some great stuff. The downside for me is that a lot of things I love are overseas and either don’t ship to Australia, or shipping here is insanely...
    Continue reading »

    Posted January 19, 2015 09:45 PM

    quinces and kale

    not really haloumi, but so good

    tofu halloumi

    One of the cheeses I miss is haloumi, that dense, fried, salty, cheese hit eaten with lemon.

    I need to state up front that I am not a huge fan of nutritional yeast as a cheese substitute. I know people say that it tastes like cheese, but really, for me, it tastes like yeast that’s reminiscent of cheese. So I approached this recipe with some skepticism. No it isn’t exactly haloumi, but yes it is good.

    It is made from frozen tofu, that is thawed, pressed and marinated before frying. I found the recipe at Cooking with Plants. I’ve tweaked it a bit to use less nutritional yeast, but otherwise it is the same.

    The texture is reminiscent of haloumi, chewy and dense, but without the squeak (lovers of haloumi will know what I mean). The flavour, though very yummy, is not exactly like haloumi, but it does pack a great salty, crispy, chewy punch which fits the bill nicely in a salad.

    I ate mine with a green salad with some fresh tomatoes from the garden. I also ate the remainder on sandwiches over the next few days. It makes a good burger, with its firm texture, so I think I’ll experiment with the thickness and some other flavourings as well next time.


    vegan haloumi
    prep time
    10 mins
    cook time
    5 mins
    total time
    15 mins
    author: quincesandkale based on cooking with plants
    recipe type: cheese
    cuisine: vegan
    serves: 4
    • 1 350 gram block of firm tofu
    • ¼ cup of nutritional yeast
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp paprika
    • ½ tsp turmeric
    • 1 tsp onion powder
    • ¼ cup boiling water
    • 1 tbs oil for frying (I used olive oil)
    1. Freeze the tofu overnight then thaw it the next day. This freezing process changes the texture of the tofu, making it chewier.
    2. Press the water out of the tofu by placing it on a tea towel with a chopping board on top. Place a heavy weight on top of the board. (I used my mortar which weighs a ton!)
    3. Slice the tofu into ½ cm slices.
    4. Mix all the other ingredients in a bowl except the oil and water. Add enough of the water to make a paste.
    5. Brush the paste on both sides of the tofu slices and leave to marinate for a few hours (if you can wait)
    6. Heat the oil in a non stick frying pan and fry the slices over medium heat for 2-3 minutes each side. They will crisp up.


    Posted January 19, 2015 09:00 AM

    January 18, 2015

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    Supercharger II

    January 2, 2015

    We might be developing a very specific Supercharger habit - our second visit also served as an early Friday night dinner before hitting the nearby cinema. Though we were now familiar with their paper-and-pencil ordering approach, we still took some time to mull over the options available to us. There'd been a few minor swaps in the menu and we did our best to mix new offerings with the dishes we were sad to miss the first time around.

    Keen to base my meal on the mashed potato with mustard seeds, I elected for the India-themed dishes - dahl ka deewana (pictured above, centre), chickpea chole (front left), fermented carrot with cumin seeds and a coconut yoghurt-based raita (main bowl; $12.80). The carrots weren't overly pickley and tasted more of caraway than cumin to me, but I'd gladly recommend all the other components: the potatoes were fluffy, the raita sweet and cooling, the chole all warmly spiced sweet'n'sour tomato, and the dahl like a low-fat dahl makhani, with four kinds of legume and many more spices besides. A carrot, orange, ginger and cardamom blast (tall jar; $7.80) proved refreshing and complementary.

    Michael started with steamed quinoa, '10 sec. broccoli w sweet tamari & ginger dressing' and a disconcertingly grey but actually-very-tasty cauliflower, black turtle bean, turmeric and curry leaf smash. There were even louder flavours in the tofu simmered in tom yum broth, and the carrot & bean khadi with coconut, turmeric, lemongrass, galangal & lime ($12.80 all up).

    Our second Supercharger experience reinforced everything we learned on our first - the food is fresh, nutritious, generously portioned and reasonably priced - not something we habitually encounter in the city.


    You can read about our first visit to Supercharger here. Since then it's received blog love from Veganopoulous, quinces and kale and The Good Hearted.

    Level 3 Emporium, 287 Lonsdale St Melbourne
    9020 4334
    menu: one, two
    facebook page

    Accessibility: The entry from Emporium is flat and wide. All ordering options are visible from low counter height; we ordered and paid at this counter. We picked up food from a high bench, though I'm sure accommodations could be made. Toilets are elsewhere in the Emporium complex.

    Posted January 18, 2015 07:39 PM by Cindy

    Green Gourmet Giraffe

    Geelong cafe: Little Creatures Brewery

    While we ate lunch at Little Creatures Brewery in Geelong last week, we marvelled at the success of the place.  I am not familiar with the brand but I don't drink beer.  However the food is creative, good quality and easy to share.  The vibe is hip, interesting and kid-friendly.  It was my first visit to the Geelong restaurant, but I have been to the Little Creatures dining hall in Fitzroy (Melbourne) a few times and enjoyed it.

    Whereas the Melbourne dining hall is a large restaurant in a street known for eating out, the Geelong one is actually based in the brewery and you can take a tour of the works.  A yellow striped path leads from the car park to the restaurant.  Along the way the sights are promising.  I see street art and I take out my camera! 

    We turn the corner and see the outdoor dining area that is dwarfed by a large redbrick industrial complex.  It is busy.  Only one lone sunny table without colourful canopies is vacant.  An old school drinking trough is covered in vines.  Chimneys rise in the distance.  Pipes criss cross up high.  Children play in a sandpit.

    Someone has fine chalkboard skills.  The sign welcomes us into the warehouse where more diners are seated.  There are so many of them.  The space is huge. 

    We don't have to wait for long before we are seated at a high table with stools.  On our table is a quirky woollen sheep.  I love all the incidental artwork.  It is a great distract for fidgety kids.

    We order and I walk around the restaurant to explore the space.  There is a giftshop, a map of the origins of beer, yarn bombing, paintings, and boxes of beer.

    I enjoy watching all the people eating their meals.  They are such a diverse bunch.  Lots of noisy happy groups.  Young and old.  Foreigners and locals.  The beautiful and the ... um ... not so beautiful.

    I love the above green sign that I assume is for people who are going on a brewery tour.  We see a group in bright orange jackets and I am told by my parents that you need covered shoes to do the tour.  Which probably cuts down on those who are eligible on a warm summer's day.

    Dinner comes as I am taking Sylvia for a wander.  She has had enough of drawing pictures with her cousin.

    My sister and I share braised chickpeas with flatbread.  It is good hearty honest food with lots of spice but not too much heat for me.  The flatbread are soft and pillowy with attractive chargrill marks.  My parents share a meaty dish (apparently with similar spices) and Sylvia and her cousin each have a pizza to share with the rest of us.

    Sylvia's margherita pizza is beautifully cooked with lots of cheese.  She also had the apple juice which I highly recommend.  It tastes like real apples and is so much nicer than many of the apple juices she orders elsewhere.  I also see chips go by that look delicious.

    By the end of lunch I am full as a state school.  Which is a shame because the people next to us have the brownie with a scoop of ice cream and there are amazing brownie muffins on display.  I have sampled chocolate tart and salted caramel doughnuts in the Melbourne dining hall which were indulgent, heavenly and too rich not to share.  So I am sure desserts here are excellent as well.  Sadly they will have to wait for another day!

    Little Creatures
    Geelong Brewery
    Cnr Fyans and Swanston Streets
    Te;: (03) 5202 4009

    Little Creatures Geelong Brewery on Urbanspoon

    Posted January 18, 2015 09:00 AM by Johanna GGG

    January 15, 2015

    Green Gourmet Giraffe

    Apricot and almond tart

    For me, an apricot tart means that the world is as it should be.  As a child I always wanted apricots in desserts rather than apples.  I appreciate apples far more these days and now understand that apricots have a short and wonderful season.  Yet I still glory in a baked dessert that revolves around apricots.  Hence my excitement to see Bill Granger's recipe for an apricot and almond tart in the The Age just before Christmas.

    I had grand plans to make the tart on New Year's Eve but we were swimming in food.  Then I thought I would make it for our picnic at the Wind in the Willows.  However it just seemed totally impractical.  How do you keep it upright and serve it neatly at a picnic!

    Bill Granger says a picnic isn't a picnic without a sweet tart.  I think his picnics are different to mine.  He probably has the servants run around with wicker picnic baskets of the good china and best silver cutlery with which to serve slices of tart.  Not us!  I don't know that I have ever had a tart at a picnic.  But I digress!

    Then fate intervened.  My brother has so many apricots on his tree that he has considered charging people to pick their own.  My mum gave me a generous bag of them.  Sylvia and I enjoyed most of them before they were ever squidgy chin-dripping ripe.  But I did manage to use some in a tart on an evening where we were running behing because we had a late visit to the park.

    I had been promising the tart for so long that it seemed only fair that I let Sylvia stay up late to eat a slice of the warm tart with us.  After all it is the school holidays and we had an episode of the Nowhere Boys to catch up on.  She loved helping to make it and loved eating it even more.  Even more surprising was that E - who always says everything is better with less fruit - loved the pie and the fruit filling.  Nobody can resist the spell of the magnificent apricot!

    Sylvia ate all of her apricots out and then ate the pastry shell like a biscuit.  It impressed me that it kept its shape and was both soft and crispy with a marzipan-style layer of almonds.  Both E and Sylvia agreed I had made the right decision in leaving the chopped almonds off the top of the tart. 

    Despite my claim that this was brilliant with apricots, I am sure this would work well with other fruit.  I always feel a bit awkward with pastry but had no problems with this one.  Perhaps a plum tart in late summer or an apple tart in autumn might work.  I would also love to try the pastry without the egg yolk because I hate having egg whites hanging about.  (Perhaps like this pastry.)

    Sadly we are approaching the end of apricot season.  My mum has some more from my brother's tree in her fridge for me.  So even though I don't make fruit tarts very often, I can still dream that might make this tart once more this summer.  (Not over the this week though.  I am be at the beach at Ocean Grove and offline.  However a few scheduled posts should pop up, including this one.)

    I am sending the tart to these blog challenges:

    Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
    One year ago: Ocean Grove beach house and what we ate
    Two years ago: Baked brie with cranberry sauce and walnuts
    Three years ago: Malabar Hut - why it is our favourite Indian takeaway
    Four years ago: Fruit mince scrolls and muffins
    Five years ago: Gado Gado with Marmalade
    Six years ago: NCR How My Chowder Fed the Dalek!
    Seven years ago: Scrumptious Sugarfree Slice

    Apricot and almond tart
    Adapted from Bill Granger in The Age Sunday Magazine 21 Dec 2014
    Serves 6

    1 1/2 cups plain flour
    125g butter (I used margarine)
    2 tbsp castor sugar
    1 egg yolk

    4 tbsp almond meal
    finely grated zest of 1 lemon (I used lime)
    2 tbsp brown sugar
    8 apricots (mine were about 400g ) stoned and quartered
    Milk for glazing (I used soy)
    2 tbsp raw sugar

    To make the pastry: Mix flour, margarine and sugar in food processor until crumbly.  Add egg yolk and enough water to make the pastry hold together.  (Bill Granger suggested 1-2 tsp and I used 2 tbsp.)  Bring pastry together into a ball, kneading briefly and wrap in clingfilm.  Chill in fridge for about 30 minutes.

    Meanwhile chop the apricots and mix the almond meal, lemon zest of brown sugar.

    Preheat oven to 200 C (this worked for my slow oven but 190 C like Bill did might be better for regular ovens).

    Roll pastry out into a 25cm diameter circle on a large piece of baking paper that is spread over the baking tray you will use.  Sprinkle the almond meal mixture over all the pastry.  (It will seem like a lot but that is fine.)  Arrange the apricots in the middle leaving a generous inch of pastry around the edges.  Fold the pastry edge over the apricots.  Brush the pastry and apricots with milk.  Scatter the whole tart with raw sugar.

    Bake for about 35 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the apricots have softened.

    On the stereo:
    Storybook: Kasey Chambers

    Posted January 15, 2015 09:49 PM by Johanna GGG

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    Chipotle sausage hash

    January 1, 2015

    We had big plans for New Years Eve this year, so I knew we needed some similarly big plans for our first breakfast of the year. Cindy had a tough 'holiday' period, basically working the whole way through, so I took it on myself to give her a delicious January 1. For breakfast dessert I went back to the lemon & blueberry loaf that Cindy had made last summer, but to start the meal off I wanted something savoury and hearty enough to soak up any hangovers we may have accrued. Isa Does It had just the recipe, with a title consisting of three perfect words: chipotle. sausage. hash.

    What more could you ask for post-party than a big pot of spicy mush, loaded with potatoes and mock snags, with a a few green bits and pieces on top to deal with any foolish new year's resolutions you might have made? It was perfect. It's really easy to make, although the spuds require a bit of patience - you need them to be cooked through (ours were a tiny bit underdone because I was tired, hungry and impatient). The miso/tahini dressing provides some creamy, umami-ish richness, but it's really all about eating a big bowl of spuds, sausages and chilli.

    Chipotle sausage hash
    (adapted slightly from a recipe in
    Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Isa Does It)

    2 tablespoons olive oil
    500g potatoes, chopped into 1-2cm cubes
    1 teaspoon salt
    2-4 store bought veggie sausages, chopped (we were limited to Sanitarium brand, but go with Tofurky if you can)
    1/4 cup fresh coriander, chopped
    1 heaped teaspoon dried oregano
    1 heaped teaspoon mild curry powder
    1/4 cup chipotles in adobo sauce, finely chopped
    juice of two limes

    1/4 cup tahini
    2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
    2 tablespoons white miso
    1/2 cup water

    1 avocado, cut into chunks
    a few extra coriander leaves

    Heat a tablespoon of the oil in large saucepan. Throw in the potatoes and salt and cook for 10-15 minutes, covered. Stir the spuds up every 2 minutes or so - you want to try to get them crispy on the outside without having them stick to the pan.

    While the potatoes are cooking make up your dressing - just whizz all the ingredients up in a food processor or blender.
    Throw the onions and the rest of the oil in with the potatoes and cook everything for five minutes or so, until the onion is cooked through. Add the sausages, coriander, oregano and curry powder and cook for a couple more minutes. Add the chipotles and lime juice, stir everything together and kill the heat. Taste and add salt and pepper as required. 

    Serve, topping with chunks of avocado and garnishing with coriander leaves.

    Posted January 15, 2015 07:08 PM by Michael

    Challenge Accepted!

    Big Vegan Borscht

    This week's organic veggie box had beetroot, potatoes and carrots, so I decided to make a dish I've been thinking about for a while -  borscht!

    It's been a relatively cool summer week here in Melbourne, so rich earthy soup really hit the spot, with some dill sour cream left over from the latkes.

    I know that borscht is supposed to be more of a chunky soup, but despite liking the taste of beetroot, I'm not really a fan of eating big chunks of it, so I blended this a little, leaving a few chunks for texture.

    Such a hearty soup, but so many vitamins! I love when healthy things are also yum.

    Posted January 15, 2015 02:13 PM by Kate

    January 13, 2015

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    Marmalade cheesecake slice

    December 31, 2014

    We saw the new year in at our friends' home; sharing a potluck, watching Footloose and trading favourite online dance videos. The lowest common dietary denominator was vegan and gluten-free, so I decided to remake the Veganissmo ginger cheesecake slice for this different crowd.

    A few days earlier our hosts had given Michael and I a lovely homemade Christmas gift of jarred condiments and a retro serving plate. I put them to good use here, stirring a jar (approx 1 cup) of lime and ginger marmalade into the cashew batter instead of lining the cake with crystallised ginger. It worked a treat, and looked all the cuter on that sweetly patterned platter.

    I can see myself making and making-over this recipe again and again - the sandy buckwheat base and dense creamy topping are just to my taste. Given it's vegan, gluten-free, easy to slice and feasible to transport, this is a great go-to for picnics and potlucks.

    Posted January 13, 2015 08:53 PM by Cindy

    Green Gourmet Giraffe

    Lego biscuts for the birthday boy

    If the weather had been kinder and cooler, I might have made a cake for my nephew's birthday.  It was forecast to be a scorcher (38 or 39 C) and so biscuits seemed more practical.  And I couldn't think of a better theme than lego.  When I was told the day before his birthday that he spent his waking hours doing lego, I felt I had chosen well.

    I wanted to make vegan biscuits (cookies if you live in America) but decided the family would appreciate butter rather than margarine.  I usually stock and bake with Nuttalex vegan margarine and am sure it would work here.  However it does help to get the quantities right.

    When I made the dough it was really really soft - like butter with a little flour.  I blamed the hot weather and went off to the pool while it chilled.  Out of the fridge it was difficult to handle and the biscuits spread like wildfire (or a bushfire if you live in Australia).  I checked and double checked and found I had put in only three fifth of the butter.

    Once I fixed the quantities, it looked like a real dough and the biscuits mostly kept their shape.  It was after dinner and Sylvia was just about ready for bed by the time I started decorating.  She helped sort the m and m's into colours and mix some of the icing.  We may have even sampled a few.  Knowing what was going on in the kitchen did not make for a settled child that evening but she slept eventually.

    Meanwhile I kept icing the biscuits and arranging m and m's on them.  I know that some people would pipe a square outline and fill it with royal icing.  I prefer my icing without egg white, I don't like piping and I didn't want to lose part of my icing in piping bags.  So I just used thick icing and a knife.  It wasn't fast work but it looked close enough for jazz.

    When I took the biscuits to Geelong, everyone was impressed.  How did you match the colours? they asked!  Just luck, I replied.  Then I remembered that the yellow had been all wrong and I had added more dye.  So I guess it was a bit of trial and error.

    When I found that there were not enough yellow and red me and m's, I mixed red and yellow which matched the orange.  I also discovered that there is only an m on one side of the chocolates but by the time I noticed, I was too far gone with the biscuits to take much care.

    It was such a hot day that the party started at the pool.  It seemed that all of Geelong had turned out for Dash's birthday.  I have never seen it so crowded and crazy.  Sylvia ran into someone on the water slides and got a blood nose!  Back at my parents' house, the party food was quite traditional which meant lots of meat.  My sister made a great lentil salad for me and cheese sandwiches for Sylvia.  And I really loved these dips.

    There were lots of party games.  My sister had found a pinata that just need to be filled.  It was so hot that going outside in bare feet for herbs was very painful.  Which meant the pinata had to be in the shade of the back porch.  And done quickly before all the little chocolates melted.  There were no shortage of volunteers to give it a hefty thwack with the cricket bat!

    The kids also played Pin the Tail on the Donkey.  No one knew where the donkey was so a makeshift donkey was outlined by yours truly.  Then the kids took over.  They all had a go at colouring in.  My niece Ella made it into a unicorn donkey.

    We found a scarf, tied it around each child's eyes and spun them around.  Then they had to blu tak the tail on the donkey.  (That's right!  No pins on my parents' doors!)  You can see where we wrote each initial.

    It was decided to let the kids run under the sprinkler in the backyard before the storm started brewing.  By the time they all had their bathers and the sprinkler was creating a mist, the sky was grey and the cool change was well on the way.  Which made it more like an Irish summer's day than an Australian one.  Perfect for my little Irish nephew!

    And there was cake and fairy bread and little pink iced cakes and chocolate crackles as well as the lego biscuits.  Dash ended the day by putting together a lego monster truck he got for his birthday.  To paraphrase The Lego Movie, everything was awesome!

    I am sending these biscuits to the following blog events:

    Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
    One year ago: Dashing Car Birthday Cakes
    Two years ago: NCR Spring onion soup
    Three years ago: Scienceworks - history meets science in Spotswood
    Four years ago: CC Nigella's Sugar Roasted Peaches
    Five years ago: Airplane Cake for Dash
    Six years ago: Curry traditions – of sausages and potatoes
    Seven years ago: You say biscuits, I say scones!

    Lego Biscuits
    Slightly adapted from Betty Crocker

    Biscuits (cookies):
    1 1/4 cups icing sugar
    1 cup vegan margarine (I used butter)

    1/4 cup soymilk
    1 tsp vanilla
    2 1/2 cups plain flour
    2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
    1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
    1 teaspoon cream of tartar

    4 cups icing sugar
    4 tablespoons soy milk
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    food dye
    smarties or m and m's

    To make biscuits: 
    Stir together margarine and icing sugar until creamy.  Add remaining ingredients and mix until it comes together into a dough.  Briefly knead into a ball and chill in fridge for at least 2 hours.  Preheat oven to190 C or 375 F.  Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to about 0.5 to 0.25cm thick.  Cut into squares or rectangles.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.

    To decorate:
    Make icing (frosting) by mixing icing sugar, milk and vanilla until you have a thick spreadable paste.  Add extra spoonfuls of milk if required.  Divide icing into 4 or 5 small bowls and colour each to match one of the colours of the m and m's or smarties.  Carefully ice the biscuits in a square and then position smarties to be evenly spaced like lego blocks.  (NB: if you use m and m's it is best to position the chocolate with the m side down!)

    These kept for a few days in an airtight container but the fresher the better as they did get a bit soft.

    On the Stereo:
    A: Agnetha Faltskog

    Posted January 13, 2015 06:39 PM by Johanna GGG

    January 12, 2015

    The Good Hearted - Vegan Food in Melbourne

    Pearl Oyster


    Pearl Oyster
    14 Miller St

    Preston, VIC 3072
    03 9480 2500


    Opening Hours:
    Mon: 8am-4:30pm
    Closed Tuesdays
    Wed-Sat: 8am-4:30pm
    Sun: 9am-4pm

    Pearl Oyster Cafe in Preston has always catered well to vegans since opening in 2008, and after undergoing a change of ownership in 2014 we were happy to discover that the menu remains largely the same.

    For something simple, Pearl Oyster offers up a 'Blueberry Bagel w/ tofutti cream cheese' ($8), 'Hommus, tomato & pepita zaatar on organic sourdough' ($8) or 'Avocado w/ dukkah or pickled jalapenos on organic sourdough' ($8). I decided to make my own rules on this occasion and opted for avocado w/ dukkah on a sesame bagel ($8) with a side of organic smoked tofu ($3). It's a lovely combo, however I found my bagel to be a bit dry (perhaps freshly baked bagels are harder to source over the Christmas break?) and I needed to ask for (an essential) wedge of lemon to squeeze on my avocado.

    There is also a 'Thai style soft scrambled tofu' ($16) with shitake mushrooms, chilli, capsicum, fried shallots, crispy lettuce and bean shoots. It's a very tasty dish, especially for the chilli lovers, but doesn't come with any toast so you may want to order a side of organic sourdough ($6) too.

    Other vegan options include 'Field mushrooms in sherry vinegar with lemon, chives & confit garlic on sourdough toast' ($14), the 'Tofu Burger' ($16) with organic tofu on a sesame seed bun with slaw, mayo, tomato, lettuce, hot sauce & pickles and the 'Tokyo rainbow salad' ($15) with avocado, picked ginger, baby spinach and red cabbage in a sesame-vinegar dressing with grilled organic smoked tofu.

    I have fond memories of the coffee ($3.50 w/ 50c soycharge for Bonsoy) at Pearl Oyster, however I now find it too bitter for my taste. An extensive array of teas ($4.50) may also interest you. Props to the new owners for keeping the menu so wonderfully vegan friendly.

     Pearl Oyster on Urbanspoon

    Posted January 12, 2015 08:00 PM

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne


    December 29, 2014

    Summer city errands are a nice excuse for a city lunch - something we don't do very often. Last year Johanna claimed that Gekkazan has the best vegetarian sushi in Melbourne, so we confirmed that it was open and headed on over. We were relieved to discover that this didn't require entering GPO/H&M; rather, it's tucked away on Postal Lane and best approached from Little Bourke St.

    Gekkazan certainly does sushi - there's an extensive selection of rolls, onigiri and inari. In many cases the nori is wrapped separately for a crisper roll-your-own experience. Michael positively rated the ready-rolled chilli-fried tofu with black rice, and the vegetarian-croquette-with-lettuce stuffing ($2.90, both pictured above).

    If you're willing to wait a little longer, there's also a menu of cooked-to-order meals. The options were a little narrower than we'd hoped - there's currently no vegetarian bento, and the vegetable noodle soups contained chicken stock. There were, however, gyoza ($8.90) - their conjoined skin was intriguing but the filling was a less innovative vegetable mash.

    My agadashi tofu donburi ($14.90) was probably our best selection. The lightly-battered tofu cubes were smothered in a thick savoury gravy with a hint of ginger, and tender slivers of carrot and shitake mushroom; the rice was expertly formed and seasoned. There was a bounty of sides to pick at: seaweed and tofu nori rolls, a croquette sample, flour-dusted potatoes, steamed and fresh salad vegetables. I took my time browsing and delighting in each morsel.

    Gekkazan is a cityworker's lunch spot with long queues, fast service, dense seating and a lot of noise. But there's thought and skill evident in their food and their service - we were grateful to the smiling staff member who set us straight on the veg options.


    We were inspired to visit Gekkazan thanks to a review on Green Gourmet Giraffe. Reviews on other blogs are less effusive but still generally positive, see Let's Get Fat Together, Purple bowl, delightfully tasty, DAISYUM.COM, A Chronicle of Gastronomy (twice), ~~~Wild Mixed~~~, Gastrology and The Bonding Tool.

    Postal Lane at GPO, 350 Bourke St, Melbourne CBD
    9663 7767
    GPO website

    Accessibility: Entry to Postal Lane and Gekkazan from the Little Bourke end is flat, and there are stairs at the Bourke St end. The corridor through the middle is reasonably clear, but the tables are very densely packed and the area is crowded at lunch time. We ordered and paid at a high counter. Signs pointed to gendered, parenting and wheelchair-accessible toilets elsewhere at GPO.

    Posted January 12, 2015 04:58 PM by Cindy

    Challenge Accepted!


    Another dish I made this weekend was the Burnt Aubergine and Mograbieh Soup from Ottolenghi's Jerusalem. I've become a little obsessed with Ottolenghi recently, after getting Plenty More for Christmas. I love the simple but rich dishes, and the Middle Eastern style of cooking, so sumptuous.

    The soup is a little time consuming, but worth it. I just wish aubergines were cheaper, I want to make all his aubergine recipes!

    First you need to roast the aubergines on an open flame or under a hot grill (this is what I did as we have an electric stove) until the skins are burnt, and meanwhile also fry some extra diced aubergine for texture and garnish. After making the tomato base for the soup, you add the burnt aubergine flesh and blend it all up, then add the diced aubergine and cooked mograbieh (Israeli couscous). It's pretty simple in terms of ingredients, but turns out really creamy and filling. Yum.

    Posted January 12, 2015 01:10 PM by Kate

    quinces and kale

    savoury corn and chilli muffins

    savoury muffins

    I love savoury muffins, much more than the sweet kind.

    Savoury muffins make a great snack, a good meal with a side salad and work well in a lunchbox where 10 seconds in a microwave will revive them, making them great for taking to work. They also freeze well.

    These ones are my favourite. I used to make them before I was a vegan. They have a Mexican themed flavouring with smoky chillies, tomato, corn and coriander. They also have ZUCCHINI in them, which is a bonus since I am now struggling to keep pace with the zucchini bounty. :)

    Muffins are really easy to make, just chuck all the dry ingredients in a bowl, throw the wet ingredients in, stir briefly until just combined and cook for 20 minutes. You can put anything you like into a muffin (within reason) and they’ll almost certainly be delicious.

    I ate these ones warm,  with some Butter Me Up from Half Pint Vegan Dairy and some red pepper relish.


    savoury muffins
    prep time
    10 mins
    cook time
    20 mins
    total time
    30 mins
    author: quincesandkale
    recipe type: vegan
    serves: 12 large muffins
    • 1½ cups self raising flour
    • ¼ cup grated vegan parmesan style cheese (I used Vegusto Piquant)
    • 1 cup grated zucchini
    • 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves
    • ½ dried chipotle chilli chopped finely
    • 10 cherry tomatoes quartered
    • ¾ cup corn kernels
    • pinch of salt
    • 1 egg replacement (I used Ogran No Egg)
    • 1 cup of liquid (stock, water, non dairy milk)
    • 3 tbs oil
    1. Preheat the oven to 200 deg C.
    2. Roughly combine all the ingredients in a large bowl except the egg replacement, liquid and oil.
    3. Mix the egg replacement, liquid and oil in a small bowl.
    4. Add the llquids to the dry ingredients and mix until just barely combined.
    5. Drop the mixture into a greased muffin tin and bake for 20 minutes.


    Posted January 12, 2015 10:00 AM

    January 11, 2015

    Green Gourmet Giraffe

    Beetroot and lentil salad with random moments

    My big sister is eating healthy these days.  I have been impressed at watching her salad making.  Perhaps it was the inspiration for this salad.  It was just the sort of thing we needed after a hot summer day.

    It was a busy day.  Sylvia had her first sleepover at our place the previous night.  Her little cousin Ashy was just lovely.  In the morning they dressed in their princess dresses and played shops.  Then we went to the outdoor pool with a school friend where Sylvia found just how cold the water is when it is stinking hot.  (There were screams!)  In the evening we watched Star Wars.  It now always makes me think of a little swimming friend of Sylvia's who wanted to dress up as Jabba the Hut for her birthday party.  (Sadly she never did!)

    I didn't watch all of Star Wars.  I was making salad.  But I kept an eye on it.  A classic movie.  I have watched it many times but always feel I was never paying enough attention the previous time.  (Why don't I remember the bit at the start with the uncle and aunt?)

    The salad also seemed like the sort I have made many times and was easy to put together.  I had everything in the kitchen.  The capers were inspired by a friend who recently made us pizza with them on it and raved to me about using capers.  I really loved the yoghurt dressing.  I dolloped genteel amounts on my salad for the dressing.  But once served I added heaps more.  Even so there was leftover dressing to use for another salad.  This was a most satisfying yet light dinner with just a few other vegies on the side. 

    Now I have a couple of random moments to share:
    • I recently had a dream about a snake and a crocodile outside the house.  When I woke I was compelled to read the Drover's Wife by Henry Lawson.  I was horrified we didn't have a copy of this classic Australian short story.  Thank goodness for the trove of literature online.
    • E really wanted to go and buy a CD on sale while on leave between Christmas and New Year.  Then he worked out he would save about $4 and pay about $6 to go into the city by train and decided it was not a bargain after all.
    • Sylvia has been very keen to clean out the cupboards.  She told me I had promised to do it another day and didn't.  Then came the killer line: "You broke a promise and that's illegal."  Imagine how full the gaols would be if the police arrested everyone who didn't get around to their cleaning!
    I am sending this salad to:
    • Lisa for No Croutons Required, the monthly vegetarian salad and soup blog event that she hosts with Jacqueline.
    • Shaheen for Eat Your Greens, an event for bloggers to share dishes using green vegies.
    • Elizabeth for No Waste Food Challenge, an event to share dishes using ingredients that might otherwise have gone to waste.  I find salads great for using up odd vegies.  This salad also used up leftover yoghurt from a tub I had opened for haggis nachos.

    Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
    One year ago: NCR Vegan caesar salad
    Two years ago: Weekend samosa, nectarine marmalade, raitia and slice
    Three years ago: What vegetarian is that?
    Four years ago: Chocolate cake - the way mum made it
    Five years ago: Tetris, the Foolish Hedgehog and Brunch
    Six years ago: Miso Soup for after the feasting!
    Seven years ago: Scrumptious Sugarfree Slice

    NOTE TO WORDPRESS BLOGGERS: I seem to be having problems with commenting on WordPress - I know of at least one bloggers who says my comments were in her spam.  I am not sure if this is just me or a glitch in WordPress.  Any advice on this is welcome.

    Beetroot and lentil salad with yoghurt dressing
    Adapted from Gourmet Traveller
    Serves 2 as a main meal

    2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves
    2 tbsp capers
    400g tin of brown lentils, rinsed and drained
    2 cooked and peeled beetroots, chopped
    1 spring onion, chopped

    1/2 cup yoghurt
    1 tbsp lemon juice
    1 tbsp olive oil
    1 tsp seeded mustard
    1 garlic clove
    1-2 pinches salt
    freshly ground black pepper

    Arrange salad ingredients on large shallow salad bowl (I layered in the order they are written).  Whisk together all salad ingredients.  Drop spoonfuls of dressing on the salad and serve with more dressing on the side.

    On the Stereo:
    Country Christmas: Loretta Lynn

    Posted January 11, 2015 10:20 AM by Johanna GGG

    January 10, 2015

    Challenge Accepted!

    I'm back!

    So after a loooong hiatus, I'm back! One of my news year's resolutions is to start cooking new recipes again, so here I am.

    Maybe it's the Irish in me, but I've always loved potato dishes. So today I made Isa's latkes! With dill sour cream and apple sauce, so yum.

    Recipe from the ppk (I used breadcrumbs instead of matzoh meal):


    2 1/2 pounds starchy white potatoes, peeled (russets, idaho, et al)
    1 small yellow onion, peeled
    1/4 cup potato or corn starch
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    2 cups matzoh meal

    Lots of vegetable oil

    If using a food processor:
    Use the grating blade to shredd the potatoes and the onion.

    If shredding by hand, use a grater to shred all the potatoes. Dice the onion as finely as possible.

    Have ready brown paper shopping bags or paper towels for draining the oil from the latkes. You may also want to have the oven on at 200 F to keep the latkes warm until you’re ready to serve. If serving immediately then just have a baking pan covered with tin foil ready to keep the finished ones warm after they’ve been drained.

    In a large mixing bowl, using a wooden spoon or your hands (I use my hands, it’s faster) mix the potatoes and onions with the potato starch until the potatoes have released some moisture and the sornstarch is dissolved, about 2 minutes.

    Add the salt and pepper to combine. Add the matzoh meal and mix well. Set aside for about 10 minutes. The mixture should get liquid-y but sticky.

    In the meantime, preheat a large preferable cast iron but definitely non-stick skillet over medium heat, a little bit on the high side. Add about 1/4 inch layer of vegetable oil to the pan. The oil is hot enough when you throw a bit of batter in and bubbles rapidly form around it. If it immediately smokes then the heat is too high and you should lower it a bit. If the bubbles are really lazy then give it a few more minutes or turn the heat up a bit.

    With wet hands (so that the mixture doesn’t stick) roll into small golf ball sized balls. Flatten into thin round patties. I do about 4 to six at a time. Fry on one side for about 4 minutes, until golden brown. Flip over and fry for another 3 minutes.

    Transfer to the paper towels and proceed with the remaining latkes. Once latkes have drained on both sides, place in a baking pan to keep warm.

    Posted January 10, 2015 06:50 PM by Kate


    Product Review: LifeToYou Raw Macaroons, Raw Crackers and Raw Granola

    When I attended World Vegan Day 2014 in Melbourne, I had more than my fair share of samples provided by the LifeToYou stall. Friends and relatives confessed the same. The raw macaroons in particular were a standout and I heard lots of people making mmmm noises and telling their friends to sample some (yes, I...
    Continue reading »

    Posted January 10, 2015 01:44 PM

    January 09, 2015

    Green Gourmet Giraffe

    Cashew cheese stuffed dates for a picnic

    There are times I feel I could live without cheese.  Like when we have plenty of nice cheese in the fridge and I still want to just slather my bread with this cashew cheese spread.  I actually made the cheese because I decided to make a simple picnic lunch and wanted something a little fancy. 

    Cadry's bacon wrapped cashew cheese stuffed dates sounded very fancy.  I didn't soak my cashews for as long as Cadry did.  Nor did I wrap facon around mine.  I was too busy baking Celia's overnight sourdough for our cheese sandwiches and making grubs.  My blender doesn't bother too much if I don't soak the cashews much but I did find I needed more water to compensate.

    I'd love to recommend this cashew cheese to everyone but I suspect that nutritional yeast flakes and vegan cheese are an acquired taste.  I can hand on heart tell you how much I love it.  I wasn't quite sure how much to stuff the dates and was a bit stingy.  You need to stuff them as much as possible for the cheese to make its presence felt.  It is milder than the recent cashew cheese I made for a salad but equally good.

    Sylvia and I had a lovely time arranging dried fruit in the top photo because I feel that the dates would work well on a platter at the end of the meal.  However we really put them in a plastic tub to take to the Botanic Gardens to see a performance of The Wind in the Willows.  We got there early and had time to explore the gardens and get grass stains on shorts (not mine).

    The show was lots of fun.  Sylvia loved Toad falling out of his boat in the lake.  E like watching Weasel exploring picnic baskets when the kids ran off the The Wild Wood.  I loved the weasel fight at the end.  I also was amused by the mother beside us who gave her kids cheese sticks and the opened brie for the adults.  We all had cheese sandwiches (yes dairy cheese), dips, vegie sticks, BBQ shapes  but I was alone with the stuffed dates.  For dessert we had grubs, grapes, nectarines and cherries.

    I made it towards the end of December for a picnic and thought how good cashew cheese stuffed dates would be to celebrate New Year's Eve.  But sadly I was too busy to share it.  However this is an everyday cheese.  It will dress up for a special occasion but is happy to be relaxing at home over breakfast or dinner with its pjs still on.  I loved having it for a sandwich filling as much as I loved it at the picnic.

    I am sending these cashew cheese stuffed dates to:

    More vegan cheeses on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
    Balsamic garden salad with cashew cheese
    Chickpea and hemp seed cheese
    Pepper-crusted cashew goat cheese
    Sharp vegan cheddar cheese with sauerkraut brine 
    Vegan cheddar cheese

    Cashew cheese 
    Adapted from Cadry's Kitchen and Spabettie

    1 1/4 cup raw cashews, soaked*
    1 Tablespoon white miso paste
    2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
    2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    1 tbsp lemon juice
    1/4 to 1/2 tsp french lavender salt
    2-4 tbsp water*

    Blend until you have a thick paste - but not so thick that your blender is struggling.  (*I added water as I assume soaking for 1/2 hour to use in a high speed blender meant the cashews took on less water than if I had soaked them overnight.)

    Cashew cheese stuffed dates
    Remove the stone from medjool dates and use a teaspoon to stuff a generous amount of cheese inside.  They last well in the fridge for a day or two.

    Cashew cheese is also great in sandwiches or as a dip.  Ours lasted in the fridge for a few days.

    On the Stereo:
    A Cool Crazy Christmas: Homer and Jethro

    Posted January 09, 2015 02:04 PM by Johanna GGG

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    Acustico II

    December 28, 2014

    It's a lovely time of year to eat outdoors. Though the ground is uneven and the tables small, the dappled sun out front of Acustico is a near-ideal spot for breakfast. They've changed up their menu since we last blogged about them - there's now bircher muesli, an avocado-quinoa salad that looks vegan-friendly, and a lunch menu with cheesy toasties, fancy salads and fresh baguettes.

    I was most pleased that the sweet breakfast option wasn't crossed out this time. My Brunswick bruncher sensibilities were ruffled by their choice to mix currants into ricotta pancakes ($15) and soup it all up with bananas, raspberries, yoghurt, hazelnuts and honey. It proved completely successful, equal parts fresh and filling, creamy and tart and toasty.

    I couldn't help noticing that iced chai ($4) now appears on the cold drinks menu - Acustico's rendition is a milky black tea served with lots of ice and ground cinnamon.

    The gluten-free quesadilla ($15) seems to be unchanged and an enduring favourite of our friend Dave. It's stuffed with smoked cheese and plentiful jalapenos then served with a salad of tomatoes, corn, onion and spinach. With some friendly egging on from Dave and our waiter, Michael added a poached one to his quesadilla plate ($3).

    Relaxed and extra-helpful service from the Acustico staff clinched this as an especially-good any-weekend kind of breakfast. The juice and toastie menus hint that it's a good 'un for lazy lunches too.


    You can read about our first visit to Acustico here. Since then it's been well received by fellow veg blogger Green Gourmet Giraffe, plus omni bloggers I Talk Too Much My Mouth Hurts, the melbourne local and BYEBYEMYTHYROID.

    32 Union St, Brunswick
    0402 489 800
    menu: breakfast, something small, cold drinks, hot drinks

    Accessibility: There's a small step at the Union St entry but it's flat if entering from Railway Place. The front room is a little cramped, but things open out nicely in the back area; tables out the front are spacious but set on uneven ground. Ordering as at the table and you pay at a low counter. The toilet is unisex and narrow.

    Posted January 09, 2015 07:37 AM by Cindy

    January 08, 2015

    Vegetarian Life Australia

    Vegan pumpkin and spinach lasagne

    I’ve been making vegetarian lasagne for many years, but in the last few months I’ve been trying various vegan versions.

    I always thought that a lasagne wasn’t a lasagne without lashings of cheesy sauce and a crispy cheesy top. But I was so wrong. I’ve surprised myself by discovering that I actually prefer a no-cheese lasagne. You can get all the taste and a beautiful golden crispy topping with a much lower fat content by creatively swapping a few ingredients.

    I love this recipe for a deliciously creamy pumpkin and spinach lasagne. The recipe makes a substantial sized lasagne and it was great reheated the next day too.


    • 1 large box wholemeal San Remo instant lasagne sheets
    • 1 medium potato grated with its skin on
    • 1 cup fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs

    Pumpkin layer

    • ¼ cup plain or wholemeal flour
    • 2 cups peeled pumpkin
    • Pinch of nutmeg
    • 2 cups soy milk
    • 2 tsp olive oil

    Spinach layer

    • 2 tsp olive oil
    • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
    • 4 cloves chopped garlic
    • 1 tbsp plain flour
    • ½ cup cashew nuts soaked for half an hour (or longer) in ½ cup of hot water
    • 250g frozen spinach, thawed in the microwave
    • salt and pepper


    • Preheat the oven to 180 c.

    To make the pumpkin layer:

    • Chop the pumpkin into cubes and cook in the microwave until soft. Mash with a potato masher to a creamy consistency.
    • Heat the olive oil in medium pan. Add the flour and cook for a minute whilst stirring.
    • Add the soy milk and cook until thickens – stir continuously to avoid sticking or burning.
    • Add the mashed pumpkin, mix through until creamy and cook for a few more minutes. If the sauce gets to thick add some more soy milk. You want a thick batter consistency.
    • Add a little salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.

    To make the spinach layer:

    • Blend the cashews and water to a creamy consistency in a blender or food processor.
    • Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until the onion softens.
    • Add the flour and cook for a minute whilst stirring. Add the cashew cream and stir through.
    • Add the thawed spinach and cook for a few minutes. If the mixture feels too thick add a little water. Add a little salt and pepper to taste.

    To assemble the lasagne:

    • In a large lasagne dish or a deep baking tray spread a layer of the pumpkin mixture on the base. Place a layer of lasagne sheets on top followed by a layer of the spinach mixture. Alternate layers, finishing with a layer of the pumpkin mixture.
    • Mix the breadcrumbs and grated potato in a bowl with a little olive oil to coat. Sprinkle a generous layer on top of the final pumpkin layer.
    • Bake in the oven for approx. 35-40 mins until the lasagna is cooked through and the top is golden brown and crisp. Check after about 30 minutes to make sure the top isn’t burning.
    • Serve with a lovely salad and balsamic dressing!
    Pumpkin mash

    Pumpkin mash

    Preparing the layers

    Preparing the layers

    Pumpkin and spinah lasagna

    Pumpkin and spinach lasagna

    Pumpkin and spinach lasagna with salad

    Pumpkin and spinach lasagna served with salad

    Posted January 08, 2015 04:25 PM


    A Bus Tour Around Melbourne

    This past weekend, the family and I went on a double decker bus tour of Melbourne. Yes, our home town! Husband had bought some cheap discounted tickets and we figured this would be a good educational activity on a pleasant day where we could pretty much sit down the whole time. We took two tours,...
    Continue reading »

    Posted January 08, 2015 12:28 PM

    January 07, 2015

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    The Cornish Arms III

    December 27, 2014

    We had a sneaky non-blogged trip to The Cornish Arms in mid-December and finally stepped beyond the mains section of the menu to discover the vegan option of the spicy chicken wings ($13). They were so good that we were back soon after for a second shot at them. They're a basket of crispily fried mock-meat with a batter not too far removed from KFC hot and spicy and a creamy aioli that soothes the chilli burn. And they are so freaking delicious! Go. Go and order them at once.

    The only problem with ordering the chicken wings is that it really drives home how ridiculously big the main meals are. Still, we soldiered on - it was the holiday season after all. I tackled the stupidly gigantic vegan souvlaki - mock duck and chicken (both seitan-based) with salad, garlic sauce and chilli plus a bucket of chips and some tomato sauce ($20). My memories of this are slightly tainted by how full I was by the time I got through it all - the first few bites were out of this world: excellent mock meat, soaked in chilli, mayo-y sauce, but it gradually wore me down. I probably wouldn't recommend ordering this on top of the chicken wings, but on its own it's a pretty incredible meal. 

    Cindy was smarter and looked to the more manageably-sized pizza menu, falling back on her faithful mock Hawaiian (strangely unblogged by us!). It's a combination of delicious mock-chicken and excellent facon with disgusting, sickening pineapple. Honestly, you pineapple pizza people are all monsters. Our dining buddy Clamps was more appropriate, ordering the chilli non-carne pizza, a modestly sized treat topped with beef and black bean chilli, corn chips, salsa, jalapenos, sour cream and a smattering of veggies. It looked amazing, but I was too far gone with my souvlaki to sneak a taste. Next time!

    The Cornish is a Melbourne vegan treasure - at least for vegans who embrace junky pub food. There's almost nothing healthy on the menu - it's all burgers, pizzas and mock meat - but that's sometimes what you need, and the Cornish is getting better and better at delivering it. The pub's generally got a good vibe (it depends a bit on whether or not there's an open mic night going on), the beer taps are always diverse and excellent - it's a real winner.

    Read about our previous visits to The Cornish Arms here and here. Since our last blog post, it's been reviewed positively from a vego perspective by I Spy Plum Pie, Veganopolous, easy as vegan pie and Little Vegan Bear and by omni-bloggers I talk too much my mouth hurts, makelovetotheworld and A Chronicle of Gastronomy, who all enjoyed the food, although the latter two were let down by slow service.

    The Cornish Arms
    163A Sydney Rd, Brunswick
    9380 8383 

    Accessibility: There's a flat entryway and a pretty spacious interior. Lighting is low without being ludicrously dim. Ordering and payment happens at the bar. The toilets are on the same level and are wheelchair accessible.

    Posted January 07, 2015 09:08 PM by Michael

    Green Gourmet Giraffe

    Tropical orange and carrot smoothie

    The weather forecasters say it will be 35 C.  We had to cancel a day at the zoo because it is too hot.  The pool is looking more likely.  It is just the sort of day to enjoy a smoothie for breakfast.  I usually make smoothies with milk and oats.  But right now all that summer fruit is too tempting and needs to be used.

    We had oranges leftover from Christmas morning, lots of apricots from my brother's tree and lots of passionfruit just because I bought a bag of them. 

    Adding the carrot was inspired.  A friend who has been doing a low carb diet told me that it make carrots taste like lollies.  They taste good to me and I still love the novelty of my high speed blender making fast work of them.

    The smoothie was so delicious.  Thick and creamy but a little tropical too.  Not too sweet.  Sylvia wouldn't touch it.  Probably just as well.  I only made enough to fill one glass.  And I wanted it all.

    Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
    One year ago: Mixed berry jam
    Two years ago: Edinburgh Cafe: Scottish Storytelling Centre
    Three years ago: Christmas cheese muffins, icy poles and the beach
    Four years ago: On being a vegetarian
    Five years ago: New Year's Raspberry Punch
    Six years ago: Summer Fruit Salad, Darling!
    Seven years ago: Summer salsa and quesadillas

    Tropical orange and carrot smoothie
    Serves 1

    juice of 2 oranges
    1/2 carrot, thinly chopped
    1/3 banana, chopped
    pulp of 2 small passionfruit
    1 small apricot, stoned and halved
    small handful of ice

    Blend in a high speed blender for about 30 seconds.

    On the Stereo:
    Different Class: Pulp

    Posted January 07, 2015 09:27 AM by Johanna GGG

    January 06, 2015

    Green Gourmet Giraffe

    In My Kitchen - January 2015

    Welcome to my new year kitchen.  Hard to believe it is 2015.  Yet it also feels like life goes on.  My kitchen is full of summer fruit, glitter and the last of the festive clutter.

    Above are apricots from my brother's tree.  I took this photo a few days ago and already they have ripened in the heat.  There is nothing like apricots from a backyard tree.  We have been scoffing many and I made a lovely tart with some (on my blog soon).

    The kitchen is smelling wonderful thanks to this kind gift from my friend Heather.  We had planned to go to the Fitzroy Market just before Christmas but spent time looking for missing keys instead.  Heather had planned to see us in Fitzroy but changed plans and had a coffee at our place.  She gave us this candle with a gorgeous cinnamon and vanilla scent from the market.

    You know that moment when you look at something new in the supermarket and say do I want to buy it?  Yes.  No.  Yes.  No.  And you decide not to buy it.  Yet you arrive home and find it in your groceries.  Well that was how I found I had bought these roasted coconut chips.  They were crispy and delicious but rather sweet.

    I bought these herbal teas with great hope.  Such pretty packages.  The teas were not quite as fruity as I had hoped but quite refreshing.  I think I prefer the Apple and Pomegranate tea (Coles own brand).  The Calming Peach is nice as long as I don't leave the teabag in too long.

    I don't buy calendars until after Christmas because sometimes we receive some with our gifts.  This year there were none under the tree.  So on New Year's Eve we headed off to Readings bookstore where all calendars were on sale.  I really like the bright foodie images in this calendar for our kitchen.

    On the same shopping trip we decided to buy a Christmas cake from Bakers Delight.  I hadn't intended to.  In fact I had considered making one but felt we had so much food anyway.  Then I was tempted by these cute cakes in the shapes of Christmas trees.  It pleasingly moist and soft with lots of spices.

    Our kitchen has been loaded with food.  Here is a glimpse of my fridge on new year's eve.  It was packed to the rafters.  (The middle shelf is my nuts, flours, seeds etc.)   You may notice Sylvia's fringe.  Her photobombing made it challenging to photograph the fridge.

    I also had intended to make an apricot tart on New Year's Eve.  Again, I was beaten by the amount of food in the house.  Instead we ate gingerbread and butterscotch ice cream and I added a slice of chocolate salami.  Scrumptious!

    I have now made Celia's amazing overnight sourdough loaf twice.  It is so easy and so delicious.  Who would have guessed you could have soft spongy sourdough bread with so little work and in less than 12 hours.

    Coles Supermarket was big on the Heston Blumenthal products this year.  There were huge piles of the hidden orange pudding.  I wanted to try the Christmas pudding with hidden chocolate sauce.  But again too much food in the house!  Hard to justify buying a pudding to serve 8.

    We went to my mum's on New Year's Day to see my sister and nephew who arrived from Ireland a few days before.  Mum served the hidden chocolate pudding for dessert.  It was very rich with a sludgy chocolate filling.  Nice but I think I prefer regular Christmas pudding.  Mum sent us home with some leftover pudding which we have been enjoying.  She also gave me a box of Heston's spiced shortcrust mince pies.  I find the exceedingly spiced pastry a bit much for me.  E is enjoying them with brandy cream.

    On the same visit, my sister Christine gave me some nested canisters.  She said mum had asked her to give them to me.  They belonged to my nan and bring back memories of being in her kitchen with these canisters above the stove.  When my mum saw them she said they were for an op shop.  By then I was already attached.  I have no room for them, no lovely spacious shelf to welcome them.  So one of my summer challenges is to fit them in the kitchen by hook or by crook.

    Christine also brought me a souvenir apron from Dublin.  She knows how much E and I have enjoyed visiting the Queen of Tarts cafe.  I have already been wearing it in my floury baking adventures!

    I am sending this post to Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for her In My Kitchen event.  Head over to join in (by 10th of each month) and/or check out what is happening in other bloggers' kitchens.

    Posted January 06, 2015 10:14 PM by Johanna GGG

    Vegetarian Life Australia

    Rawmesan wowmesan!


    Gopal’s Rawmesan and Justine’s Rawmesan

    My recent vegan adventure has led me to many new and interesting foodie delights. The most exciting of which I discovered on a recent trip to Perth.

    My sister and I had lunch at the amazing vegan Raw Kitchen in Fremantle – discovered using my favourite Happy Cow app. I really love this app! If you don’t know it, check it out. It’s a wonderful resource for all traveling vegetarian and vegans seeking food options in new towns. I also had great success using it in Hong Kong last year. I discovered some fantastic restaurants on high levels of skyscrapers that you would never usually know existed as a tourist.

    I digress. Our Raw Kitchen lunch was amazing. My sister had a pad thai made with zucchini noodles and almond satay, and I had a flax sandwich with marinated mushrooms and mango salsa. We finished the meal off with an out of this world avocado cheese cake and a chocolate brownie.

    Raw Kitchen lunch

    Our amazing Raw Kitchen lunch

    The Raw Kitchen

    The Raw Kitchen











    However, as well as the meal being my food highlight of Perth, there was a great little health food shop attached to the restaurant where I bought a jar of Gopal’s Rawmesan. You might well ask “what the bejeebers is rawmesan?”. Well I thought the same and bought it out of curiosity.

    At first, taking the lid off, I found the rawmesan smell quite strange – yeasty and rather overpowering. But once I tried it on some pasta I was completely hooked. It really taps into the whole savoury umami flavour experience.

    Wow, delicious! I REALLY LOVE RAWMESAN.

    In fact, I love it so much I was devastated when I couldn’t find it for sale in Melbourne, or in fact on any Australian website. I was fully prepared to import a personal supply directly from Gopal’s in Texas if necessary.

    But the ingredients are very simple, so I thought I’d try to knock a batch up for myself before going down this route. It’s taken a couple of attempts to get the recipe tasting right, and I think it could still be improved with a different brand of nutritional yeast. But it’s delicious and I’m really happy.

    I’ve no need to skimp on using rawmesan any more because I can just whip up a new batch in no time. So it’s rawmesan on everything at the moment – pasta, salads, baked potatoes, chilli beans and more. My vegan food journey has taken on a new dimension with the addition of a sprinkle of rawmesan.

    In case I’ve whet your appetite to try it out for yourself, here’s my rawmesan recipe.

    Justine’s Rawmesan recipe


    ½ cup walnuts
    ½ cup nutritional yeast
    ¼ cup sunflower seeds
    1 teaspoon ground sea salt


    Grind the walnuts briefly in a blender. Add the sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast and salt and blend until a nice consistency just right for sprinkling on food. Store in a glass jar in the pantry. So simple.

    Posted January 06, 2015 11:14 AM

    January 05, 2015

    Little Vegan Bear

    Hello 2015 and Tangy Edamame Buckwheat Noodle Salad

    Hellooo everyone and happy 2015! I’m back! I was never really gone, but I’ve had a busy couple of months – moving house, festival-ing, having family over from Perth, going on a mini-holiday, Christmas, New Years, ALL THAT JAZZ. It’s hard to believe that one and a half months slipped away from me just like that, but it’s been lots of fun and I’m now feeling a lot more relaxed and grounded in my new home. Our house has lots of light, lovely floorboards, a rocking kitchen, an outdoor patio and a BACKYARD. I am still very excited by this and I have been here a month now.

    I have so much to share with you, but I’m trying not to get too overwhelmed with it today and instead I’ll just hit you with a lovely simple noodle salad recipe. This is a great one for summer because there is pretty minimal cooking involved. In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing a bunch more summer-friendly recipes. I’ve always been a fan of stronger flavours, and this one packs quite a tangy punch thanks to the combination of rice wine vinegar, sriracha and ginger. Nothing like a good hit of ginger to boost the old immune system!

    Tangy Edamame Buckwheat Noodle Salad
    (serves 4)

    3-4 carrots
    1 medium red capsicum
    6 spring onions
    2 cups frozen edamame
    2 cups snow pea tendrils
    200g buckwheat soba noodles
    3 Tbsp black sesame seeds

    4 Tbsp soy sauce
    3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
    2 Tbsp sriracha
    2 Tbsp sesame oil
    1 tsp ginger, minced
    1 clove garlic, minced

    Prepare your veggies – using a julienne peeler, a mandolin or a really sharp knife and a bit of patience, cut your carrots and set aside. Julienne the red capsicum, and chop your spring onions into 1cm chunks.

    Cook your noodles according to instructions, and in the final minute or two, throw in the edamames.

    Meanwhile, whisk together dressing ingredients and set aside, and lightly toast sesame seeds in a pan over low heat until fragrant.

    Drain noodles and edamame, and place in a large bowl along with carrot, spring onion, capsicum and snow pea tendrils. Pour over dressing and toss to combine. Top with toasted black sesame seeds.


    Posted January 05, 2015 10:36 PM

    The Good Hearted - Vegan Food in Melbourne



    Lvl 3
    287 Lonsdale St
    Melbourne, VIC 3000
    03 9020 4334


    Opening Hours:
    Sat-Wed: 11am-7pm
    Thurs-Fri: 11am-9pm

    Supercharger is a completely vegan restaurant in the Emporium Melbourne food court. Yes, compassionate ladies and gents, we now have an all vegan restaurant in a food court - things are looking good for Melbourne.

    Supercharger has a build your own bowl system which requires you to tick your selections off on a reuseable paper menu. Firstly you need to select two bases for your bowl, choosing from a couple of mashes, rices, quinoa or fresh baby spinach leaves. I recommend including 'mashed potato w/ mustard seeds' in your combo.

    Next step is to decide how many items you want in your bowl (not including bases), you can have 4 items ($12), 5 items ($13) or 6 items ($14). Items include 'super smashes' such as 'green peas w/ avocado, lime, coconut oil & mint', 'super proteins' such as 'fresh tofu simmered in tom yum broth' (this got my tick of approval), 'super raws' including 'kale, red cabbage & shredded green apple w/ tahini sauce', 'super sauces' such as 'coconut yoghurt raita', 'super ferments' such as 'daikon & garlic' and 'super simmers' including 'dalika dahl w/ tumeric, cumin & ginger'.

    'Super porridges' (all $6) are on offer too, including a 'Bircher muesli w/ orange juice, seasonal fruit & soy milk' and a savoury 'Jasmine rice congee w/ ginger & spring onion'.

    Desserts are also not to be missed with a selection of raw cheesecakes by Evelyn Reid ($7) and some jars of 'Raw cocoa mousse w/ raspberry couli' ($6) amongst other delights.

    The drinks on offer here create such a colourful display in the fridge that they're almost irresistible - they're not blended up until you order one, so you get to see the whole ingredients before the 'whizzing' process.

     Supercharger on Urbanspoon

    Also visited by veganopoulous and where's the beef?

    Posted January 05, 2015 07:41 PM

    Vegetarian Life Australia

    Newly vegan


    Delicious cashews

    For the last few months hubby and I have dabbled with being vegan. And we’re loving it!

    I say “dabbled” because we’re not being totally strict, having decided this is the best way to avoid future failure. We have been vegan at home but a little lenient with ourselves when out and about. Sometimes it’s just really hard to find a decent vegan option and we figure it’s better to fall back to our original ovo lacto stance once in a while, than decide it’s all too hard and give up completely.

    So I guess we’re 95% vegan.

    I was vegan for a couple of years when I was 17, but it all got too hard and I gave up. My youthful party lifestyle wasn’t really congruent with any type of cooking, never mind finding the time or inclination to learn how to prepare tasty, nourishing, dairy free meals.

    Hubby and I have discussed veganism a number of times over the years, and eventually we just reached the point where we couldn’t justify the consumption of dairy and eggs any more. After all, if we aren’t prepared to drink human milk as adults, it’s not logical that we drink cow’s milk. Milk specifically created by a mother cow to fatten a baby calf. When you consider the potential health implications of drinking another species’ hormone packed milk for the whole of your life it doesn’t seem like such a smart thing to do.

    The whole hormone thing is one side of my reasoning to become vegan, the other is animal cruelty. For many years I have knowingly turned a blind eye to the brutality of the dairy and egg industries. As a lifelong vegetarian I have always been happy to openly discuss the pain and suffering caused by the meat industry but I have closed my eyes to the discussion around dairy and eggs – of course knowing full well that the reality of the situation is the industries are intrinsically linked and work hand in hand to support one another. The cruel and painful slaughter of millions of unwanted bobby calves and male chicks each year is only the start of the story.

    But I don’t want this to be the place for that conversation.

    This blog is intended as a celebration of food.

    So … I’m pleased to report that a couple of wonderful things have happened to me since becoming 95% vegan.

    The first is that my passion for cooking has been completely refreshed and renewed. I’ve been discovering all sorts of wonderful recipes and new ways of cooking. I’ve spent many hours researching how to replace dairy and eggs in my favourite meals – and I’ve found that it’s actually not that hard and my new recipes are totally delicious. Cashew nuts and nutritional yeast have become my best friends and cake without egg really works and tastes great!

    Secondly, the inflammation in my painful osteoarthritic hips (yes I’m far too young to have arthritis) has reduced so significantly that I am completely amazed. This is a bonus I never expected –  and I am thrilled :).



    Posted January 05, 2015 03:24 PM

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    Sweet potatoes with orange bitters

    December 25, 2014

    We hosted a small Christmas gathering at our place this year - just us and a handful of family members picnicking in the park. Even with just a small group, we figured Christmas was the perfect excuse to delve further into Plenty More - Ottolenghi's recipes are Christmas staples around here, so we were excited to try a few new ones. 

    We couldn't go past a couple of pretty classic Ottolenghi-style salads - a mango and curried chickpea salad (bottom of the picture above) and a parsley, lemon, cannellini bean and quinoa salad (top left). The quinoa salad was actually surprisingly straightforward for Ottolenghi - the usual array of shredded herbs (parsley and mint in this case, plus some coriander I threw in by mistake!), a bit of quinoa, some beans, lemon and a few spices - it's really simple and pretty effective. 

    The curried chickpea salad took a bit more work, even with the shortcuts we used (tinned chickpeas and pre-ground spices rather than soaked chickpeas and roasting and grinding our own). You've got onion to fry, cauliflower to blanch and fry and a whole lot of mango to slice up. The pay-off is worth it though - this is an excellent mix of sweet mango, spicy curry flavours and some nice charred cauliflower chunks (plus plenty of greens for freshness). We'll definitely be making this again.

    Our centrepiece though was the most time-consuming dish of the lot - roasted sweet potatoes with orange bitters (recipe below). It's actually not a lot of work, just lots of chopping and then an hour of roasting, with regular stops to stir things together. It's a phenomenally good dish - the glaze that you roast the potatoes in is a mix of sweet and bitter and it caramelises as it roasts, leaving the potatoes sticky and loaded with flavour. Throw in the infusion of deliciousness from the roasted garlic, sage and thyme and you've got a classic veggie dish that's destined to impress. The goats cheese in the recipe can be omitted without really diminishing the dish, so it's easily adapted for vegans.

    We had a lovely Christmas lunch - a few nibblies, some wine, sunshine and these three dishes is a winning combination, especially when followed up with a batch of these cream cheese brownies that Cindy whipped up for us. We've made our way through a lot of Ottolenghi recipes over the years, but he keeps coming up with brilliant dishes and will remain a regular Christmas visitor at our place.

    Sweet potatoes with orange bitters
    (adapted very slightly from Ottolenghi's new book Plenty More)

    350ml orange juice (the recipe calls for freshly squeezed, but we had some decent bottled juice that worked fine)
    80g brown sugar
    60ml red wine vinegar
    60ml Agnostura bitters
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1.5kg of sweet potatoes, unpeeled (about 4)
    2 red chillies, slit open longways
    4 stems of sage
    10 sprigs of thyme
    2 heads garlic
    100g goats cheese, broken into pieces
    salt and pepper

    Preheat the oven to 220°C.

    Slice the sweet potato into wedges, about 3cm wide and 15cm long. 

    Combine the orange juice, vinegar and sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and keep it at a low simmer for about 20 minutes - you want the liquid to have thickened up and reduced by about half. When it's done, take it off the heat and add in the olive oil, bitters and a teaspoon or two of salt.

    Put the sweet potatoes in a large bowl, along with the garlic, chilli and herbs. Pour over the sauce and toss everything together so that it all gets well coated. Lay the mixture out in two lightly oiled baking trays - you want to try to get it all in a single layer, but it's not critical if things get a bit too crowded (see our pictures above).

    Roast for an hour, taking the pans out every 15 minutes to shuffle the potatoes around and make sure they're coated in the liquid. Ours dried out by the 45 minute mark so we added an extra splash of orange juice to each pan. 

    Remove from the oven and let them cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature, dotted with the goats cheese and seasoned with salt and pepper.

    Posted January 05, 2015 02:02 PM by Michael

    quinces and kale

    fried zucchini with gomasio

    fried zucchini with gomasio

    Here we go again…the zucchini are back!

    It is a summer ritual for me to complain about drowning in zucchini. This year they have arrived earlier than usual, so I suspect it is going to be a bumper crop. I have planted a ridged Italian variety this year which is firmer than other zucchini. They are also beautiful when cut, with a lovely star shape profile.

    zucchini plants zucchini

    As always, I have difficulty pulling up perfectly healthy plants so I have four of them.  I am picking them every day. I will need to dream up a few new ways with the zucchini if I am not to end up hating them.  So far they’ve gone into every stirfry, pasta and veggie roast I’ve done, but this is the first time this season I’ve featured them on their own.

    I started thinking about this dish as a salt and pepper batter kind of dish and decided on the gomasio as a way to add a slightly fishy taste to the zucchini with some seaweed flavour.

    They make a good beer snack.


    fried zucchini with gomasio
    author: quincesandkale
    recipe type: vegan
    cuisine: asian
    • 1 large zucchini sliced into ½ cm thick slices
    • ½ cup flour
    • ¼ cup corn flour
    • ¼ cup plain flour
    • salt, pepper and chilli powder to taste
    • seaweed gomasio
    1. Mix ¼ cup corn flour, plain flour and the seasonings together.
    2. Add enough really cold water to make a thin batter.
    3. Put the ½ cup plain flour into a shallow dish.
    4. Heat a few centimetres of oil in a wok or deep pan (I used rice bran oil as it is mild in flavour and has a high smoke point)
    5. Dip the zucchini slices into the dry flour, then into the batter and drop into the oil. Don't overload the pan as the oil won't stay hot enough and the zucchini won't be crisp.
    6. Remove when golden and drain on paper.
    7. Sprinkle with gomasio and serve.



    Posted January 05, 2015 10:00 AM

    January 04, 2015

    Green Gourmet Giraffe

    Reflections on 2014

    It has been a year of huge changes, some challenges and lots of good times.  As always there is a lot to reflect upon so grab a cuppa and make yourself comfortable!

    Life was busy in 2014.  Here is a brief summary:  Sylvia started primary school.  We rode bikes to school a lot.  Sylvia and I got new bikes,  Lots of swimming, mostly in the pool, some in the beach.  Packing lunchboxes.  New friends.  School forms, fundraising and events.  Local connections, Frozen.  Loom bands.  Holiday in Port Fairy.  Sourdough baking.  Trip to Adelaide.  Stolen car,  New car.  Sylvia has learnt to read.  New blender.  Ukelele performances (E).  Ukelele lessons (Sylvia).

    I spent too much time on my blog and not enough.  I updated the header and made the background all white.  I diversified my social media platforms, made more effort with my photography and posted more street art photos.  And when I got time I tinkered with my main pages.  I got into a good pattern of three posts a week after my May blog break.  However I am so behind with posts after the festivities, I think I need to churn them out before the blog settles back into familiar patterns.

    Sylvia on her bike wearing her lovely duffel jacket that was in our car that was stolen
     Blog statistics

    On my blog, the number of posts (176) was down a little compared to previous years.  I have found myself so busy that I took a blog break in May.  It was my month of Street Art posts.  I even missed noticing posting my 1500 post a few months back.  At the end of 2014 I have 1542 posts on my blog.

    My apple slice post was the star of the year as far as blog stats went.  I guess the is the power of a good photo (below) and a simple recipe.  At the end of the year Google Analytics chalked up 17,139 hits for the post and Blogger more generously put it at 28,782 hits.  This is far more hits than any other posts in my seven years of blogger.

    However the apple slice had a life beyond my blog.  It has now 2708 view from FoodGawker.  In August 2014 it was number 16 (out of 10,250) for most favourited on FoodGawker.  It was popular on Pinterest.  Sew Much Easier shared the photo and recipe with a link to me on FaceBook.  At the end of the year it has been shared 112,420 times and liked by 9507 people.  Pretty amazing!  Especially for a recipe buried in a long rambling post.

    My most popular recipe of 2014 - Apple slice

    Top 10 2014 blog posts 
    So it is no surprise to see what was my most popular post for the year.  Here is the top 10 blog posts of 2014 according to Google Analytics
    1. Apple slice, Gluten free pastry, Strawberry and haloumi salad
    2. 5:2 diet - vegetarian meal plans, reflections and recipes
    3. Toadstool birthday cake, cake pops and party in the park
    4. Oat and seeds sourdough bread
    5. Spinach, sundried tomato and chive chickpea scramble
    6. Vegan flourless almond choc chip cookies
    7. Mostly raw double layer fudge
    8. Black bean cacao fudge
    9. Sweet potato, zucchini and olive quesadillas 
    10. Gwyneth's Apple muffins and the rainy school holidays

    Zinc the cat: fierce explorer!

    Blog achievements and good stuff
    Other than the apple slice photo/recipe being so popular, there have been other moments when my blog has made my proud and/or happy:
    • This year I have been making more of an effort with photos and have had 42 photos accepted by FoodGawker.  
    • I have diversified my social media platforms this year.  I opened a Green Gourmet Giraffe FaceBook page this year and have 142 Likes.  I also started an UrbanSpoon account to share my posts on cafes more widely and because I find myself using UrbanSpoon so much when I eat out.  I have also started a Goodreads account which I am only using sporadically but enjoy the list making.  I am still finding Pinterest useful but use it when I need rather than for much browsing.
    • I did VeganMoFo for the fourth year in a row.  I love the inspiration to make interesting vegan food but it is a tiring month.
    • Included on Jac's Top Ten Vegetarian and Vegan Blogs on Tinned Tomatoes for National Vegetarian Week.
    • I did recipe testing for Ricki Heller's forthcoming cookbook (Living Candida Free) earlier in the year.  I can't wait to get a copy of the book because I just loved making the recipes from it.  I also did a guest post for Ricki on a Tomato Nut Roast with Buckwheat and Seeds.
    • I also did a review for Janet at the TasteSpace on an e-book Culinary Quandries: A Vegan Dinner Party - e-book.  It was another opportunity to cook some fantastic food.
    • I have just seen on Noodlies listings that this year my Green Gourmet Giraffe blog was listed as number 6 food blog in Melbourne and number 62 in Australia.  Wow!

    Here I am trying to keep the tide back from my blog!  Literally and figuratively.
    Where my blog was featured
    I love blog events and love to participate in them.  (Vale Ricki Heller's Wellness Weekends - one of my favourite events that ended this year!)  However occasionally I notice that my blog gets around in unexpected ways!  Here's where some of my recipes were featured:

    Tempeh and corn soup - an oldie but a goodie!
    What I have been eating
    I know it would be great to do a list of my 10 favourite recipes of the year but I just love lots of what I have posted.  Here is an overview of some of the good stuff:

    Christmas Eve food and baking

    And now here are some of my favourites of the year (ie what I loved this year, not what I judge the best of 2014).

    E on the road to Port Fairy
    Happy New Year
    And so as 2015 begins and we still can't believer that 2014 is really and truly over, I thank you for reading my posts, taking time to comment and email, and for your support in keeping me enjoying my blog.  It has been a great year for meeting up with fellow bloggers and blog readers.  It always wonderful to see my blog having a life offline.  I think E for the music, the dishes and his company in enjoying good food.  I thank Sylvia for the challenges and letting me know just what she thinks of my cooking.  I thank family and friends for sharing so much good food and fun times.

    Lastly I wish you, my dear readers, a happy and healthy new year.  May it be filled with gripping books, kind people and pleasing sights.  And to paraphrase Custard Pie's admirable food manifesto, may your food be compassionate, honest, surprising, curious and joyous.

    Posted January 04, 2015 10:28 PM by Johanna GGG

    January 01, 2015

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    Wide Open Road IV

    November 16 & December 24, 2014

    I was quite surprised to discover that it had been about two years since we last wrote a proper blog post about Wide Open Road. Since that post we've moved to a new flat not too far from Barkly Street and quickly made it our go-to local cafe option - I get coffee there all the time and Cindy and I regularly stop by to check out the seasonal menu changes. It's probably our own familiarity that has limited us to the occasional tweet and facebook post, but a couple of visits within a few weeks of each other this summer is a good excuse to remind our readers of this place's charms.

    It's a lovely space - a cavernous and stylish interior tucked away behind a fairly brutal industrial exterior. There are communal tables, bench seats, booths and regular tables, but they're all almost always full and on a weekend you'll almost never get a table without at least a few minutes of waiting around. In spite of the ridiculous turnover and seeming chaos of the place, the staff are relaxed, charming and incredibly efficient - it's a slick operation.

    The menu changes around semi-regularly and always has a bunch of vegetarian options available. They've stopped being explicit about dietary requirements on the menu these days, but there's a note clearly welcoming inquiries about which dishes can be done vegan or gluten-free. We had a couple of shots at the most recent incarnation of the menu.

    On the first visit I ordered fried eggs on sourdough with an avocado and black bean dressing and Asian herbs and chilli salad ($15.90) plus a gruyere potato cake ($5) on the side to share with Cindy.

    The potato cake was excellent - crispy and cheesy and completely indulgent, but it didn't really belong with the rest of this dish. The dish itself was incredible - the black bean dressing had a rich savouriness, while the noodle salad had crunch and a decent dose of chilli heat. Throw in half of an excellent avocado and two perfect fried eggs and you've got a really excellent and innovative breakfast dish.

    After she'd polished off her share of the potato cake, Cindy tackled her dish - local strawberries with whipped cream fraiche, praline and balsamic flakes on toasted brioche ($15).

    The toppings on this were great - a nice combination of sweetness and tartness - but the toasted brioche itself was like a thick slab of cake and difficult to share around those pretty toppings.

    I'm a big fan of the coffee that Wide Open Road serves up and Cindy reports that their chai is excellent as well - spicy and not too sweet.

    Our more recent visit was a lunchtime trip, specifically so we could try the fried cauliflower sandwich (with carrot jam, walnut labne, chard and herbs served on Rustica pumpkin bread, $15.50).

    It was an unwieldy sandwich - basically impossible to eat without taking it to pieces and using a knife and fork. The fillings were wonderful though - battered, deep-fried cauliflower florets, a mild labne dotted with walnut chunks and a lot of sweetness from the carrot jam. Between the soft sweetness of the pumpkin bread and the carrot jam, the dish was at the sweet end of the savoury menu, right where Cindy likes it.

    I had enviously eyed off the Egyptian fuul on our previous visit, so was set on ordering it this time around. It's a broadbean-based dish, topped with battered, dukkah spiced poached eggs, a pomegranate and mint salad and some flat bread ($16.50)

    This was another spectacular dish - I highly approve of the practice of battering poached eggs and henceforth encourage all cafes to offer it as an option. The fuul itself was a little drier than examples we've enjoyed at Brunswick Foodstore and Half Moon Cafe, but was hearty and well spiced, with the mint and pomegranate providing some sharp freshness to cut through the rest of the dish.

    There's good reason that Wide Open Road is wildly successful - it's menu is innovative, varying and the food is consistently top notch. They do great coffee, are always playing excellent music and have a group of superbly effective and personable staff. It's a high-end breakfast (you're almost always paying $15+ for food), but they really justify the high prices in ways that lots of other cafes don't. They've got a reputation for being super vegan-friendly, but I'm not sure how the current menu works out - I'd be interested to hear about the experience of any vegans who have visited recently.


    Read about our previous visits to Wide Open Road here, here and here (and on Facebook here, here and here). Since our last blogging visit a couple of years ago, it has been positively reviewed by: The Good Hearted (back when WOR had more explicitly vegan dishes on the menu), The World Loves Melbourne, The Filthy Platen, Klaus & Fritz, melbourne brunch scene, Dale's Blog, The Owl's Nest, Mel: Hot or Not, I talk too much my mouth hurts, Doughnut forget me, Miss Muesli, Do You Want to Stay for Breakfast? and New International Students. There are a couple of less enthusiastic write-ups at Melbourne Food Snob and The Travel Journo.

    Wide Open Road
    274 Barkly St, Brunswick
    9387 6079
    menu: food, drinks

    Accessibility: Tables outside are on a sloping footpath and there are a couple of steps up on entry. There's a fair bit of space inside, although they manage to squeeze plenty of tables in there. There's full table service. The toilets are tucked away out the back, are gendered and fully accessible.

    Posted January 01, 2015 06:19 PM by Michael

    December 31, 2014

    Green Gourmet Giraffe

    Broad bean, courgette and pea soup, and 1000 steps walk

    I enjoy the rest period between the frantic bursts of Christmas and New Year's Eve.  It is a time when we can wind down, reflect, and think about the year ahead.  While I am not one for New Year's resolutions, I do know when my body needs to be treated with some respect.  Hence it was that after the festive feasting, I ate soup and had a long walk.

    I didn't take many photos of the soup because I made it after bringing home Sylvia from an outing to see the Paddington movie again and a playdate with a friend (where she had been ill) and while my parents dropped in on the way to the airport to pick up my sister and her son.

    Likewise, I didn't take many photos at the 1000 steps walk we did the day before.  I had decided we needed to get out of town for a bushwalk while E was on holidays.  I packed some rolls with cheese and chutney, some fruit and a few last chocolate mince pies.  Unfortunately I forgot to pack my camera memory card so I just used my phone for photos.

    The 1000 steps walk in Ferntree Gully (on the outskirts of Melbourne) is a memorial to the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea where many Australian's showed courage in a battle during World War II.  Most of the people walking the memorial trail seemed there for fitness rather than to pay respects.  We were there for the scenic walk. 

    The walk was a little more challenging and more spectacular than I had expected.  I loved all the rain forest tree ferns and lots of majestic gum trees.  The steps had me wishing I was fitter.  However we all reached the top and enjoyed eating our rolls.

    We then headed down with vision of icy poles dancing in our heads.  The 1000 steps cafe seemed to offer quite a decent menu with burgers, a "vegetarian sensation", and lots of biscuits.  It was warm enough that all we were interested in were the ice creams or icy poles.

    E and I were ready for a rest but Sylvia was full of energy at the end of the walk and had a lovely time on the playground.

    I highly recommend this soup (inspired by this recipe) if you want something light after your New Year's indulgences.  In North America, black eyed peas and greens are often eaten for luck.  This dish is not quite that sort of peas and greens but it is as close as I get.

    Now I am off to make vegetarian haggis nachos for our New Year's Eve dinner.  I wish you all fun celebrating the new year (or best wishes for trying to sleep while the fireworks explode around you if that is your preference) and a happy and healthy 2015.  I will do a reflection on 2014 post early in the new year.

    Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
    One year ago: A day out: Pancake Parlour, Frozen and Starbucks
    Two years ago: Edinburgh cafe: Jenners Department Store
    Three years ago: Rocky road
    Four years ago: Haggis nachos, haggis leftovers
    Five years ago: Sweet pasta, sweet crepes
    Six years ago: Chestnut, parsnip and orange soup
    Seven years ago: PPN #44 Pumpkin Sauce and the Grim Eater

    Broad bean, courgette and pea soup
    Serves 4

    2-3 tsp olive oil
    1 onion, chopped
    1 stalk of celery, chopped
    2 small potatoes, chopped
    1 large zucchini (400g), chopped
    3 garlic, finely sliced
    3 cups vegetable stock
    500g frozen broad beans
    1 cup frozen peas
    1 handful of rocket or baby spinach
    Mint and parmesan to serve*

    Heat oil in a large saucepan.  Fry onion and celery for 5 to 10 minutes until onion is soft.  Mix in potatoes and fry for about 5 minutes, then add zucchini and garlic and fry about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  By now the vegies should be quite soft (and the bottom of my saucepan was quite brown).

    Add in stock, broad beans and peas.  Check seasoning and adjust if desired.  Simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add rocket or spinach.

    Blend with a hand held blender or as desired.  Stir in about 1-2 tablespoons of finely grated parmesan and chopped mint.  Ladle into bowls and serve with extra parmesan, mint and lots of black pepper.

    *NOTES: For a vegan soup use some nutritional yeast flakes or a vegan parmesan instead of the parmesan.

    On the Stereo:
    Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes

    Posted December 31, 2014 01:24 PM by Johanna GGG

    December 30, 2014

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    Little River

    December 21, 2014

    A couple of months ago, one of my workmates helpfully pointed out that a new vegetarian cafe was under construction on Albion St. A walk by and an online search had us hooked in to Little River's facebook page and we kept a close eye on them. To be honest, their original menu didn't inspire much excitement - there was fruit salad, toast, corn fritters, eggs with everything savoury and a coconut yoghurt option on the muesli as the only vegan breakfast.

    Melbourne's vegan community pointed out this dearth quickly and politely, and Little River responded with a new, more varied menu. Now there's scrambled tofu in a brekkie wrap, a vegan option on the veggie breakfast, and a vegan waffle on the specials menu.

    Michael's vegan veggie breakfast ($16.50) was big and bursting with colour, with grainy toast, scrambled tofu, mushrooms, tomato, saffron potatoes, avocado salsa, baked beans and veggie sausages. The 'sausages' had distinct vegetable flecks and weren't attempting to mock meat; Michael reported that everything was well prepared but within the realm of what we can achieve at home thanks to Vegan Brunch.

    Of course I had to have a shot at that vegan Belgian waffle ($8). I must admit some bafflement on its arrival - it was barely two inches in diameter! On digging in, bafflement begot disappointment. This waffle had the character of stale bread squished into a waffle iron. (It's again thanks to Vegan Brunch that I know fluffy, flavoursome, crispy-edges vegan waffles are possible.) Little River did get the toppings right - the coconut-based icecreams, fresh strawberry wedges and dark chocolate sauce were all excellent.

    As luck would have it, I'd also ordered a 'recovery smoothie' ($7) from the specials list. It certainly restored my faith in this cafe with its filling banana base, bold chocolate flavour and chewy toasted coconut and cocoa nib accents. This passes as a great chocolate thickshake even for a superfood-skeptic.

    On our way out the door I noticed some handsome rolls, wraps and pastries in the display case - all good candidates for a low-fuss lunch. 

    With one major miss and a couple of solid hits, Little River is doing OK after little more than a month of trading. We're optimistic that they'll hit their stride soon.

    Little River
    Shop 7, 208 Albion St, Brunswick
    9973 0473
    menu: standard, special
    facebook page

    Accessibility: There's a small lip on the door and a shallow ramp as an alternative to the three steps up inside. Tables are arranged quite spaciously; we ordered there and paid at a low-medium counter. We didn't visit the toilets but noticed a unisex label down the hall. As you can see from the photos above there are a couple of high chairs and a kids' corner.

    Posted December 30, 2014 05:28 PM by Cindy

    December 29, 2014

    Green Gourmet Giraffe

    Chocolate salami - a Christmas gift

    A few days before Christmas I saw two of my favourite bloggers post a recipe for Chocolate Salami on the same day.  Hence while shopping at the supermarket, it suddenly seemed a great idea to make it for E as a Christmas present.  I looked up the recipe on my phone and added the ingredients to the trolley.

    It appealed not just because it was full of yummy things, but also because it seemed quite easy to put together.  The most challenging moment was when I decided to tie on the string to make it look like a hung salami.  It took me a while to work out it was just a matter of looping a knot over the salami for each string loop.  Then it was easier but I still had to get the loops lined up neatly.

    The string work was trickier because I had thought it would be a fun gift to make with Sylvia.  She got a bit distracted when it came to rubbing the icing sugar into the chocolate log.  It was sticky work with a small child helping out!

    Explaining to Sylvia that we were making chocolate salami which was to look like meat but did not contain any meat was a little confusing.  She asked what salami was.  I didn't have any cultural references that she understands.  Yet once she understood it was a bit of fun, we shared a giggle at two vegetarians giving a meat-eater a meat-free piece of meat.

    E was pleased with his gift - once he had ascertained it was not a blunt weapon!  He then asked where I had bought it.  Ahem, good sir, we made it with our own hands.  He was most impressed.  However I think I might have eaten more of it than him. 

    I really loved the rich chocolate studded with nuts, cranberries, ginger and shortbread.  It is very good with vanilla ice cream.  My mum loved it too and suggested some chilli would be good in it.  I would prefer orange zest.  The original recipe had booze in it but I wanted it to be child friendly.  It was so easy and so yummy that I can see this making it onto our list of gifts to make in future.

    Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
    One year ago: How to make a gingerbread house
    Two years ago: Christmas Day with mince pies
    Three years ago: CC Lebkuchen
    Four years ago: Nut roast parcels and potato snowmen
    Five years ago: Christmas Day panforte and more
    Six years ago: Christmas, Leftovers and Vegan Mayonnaise
    Seven years ago: My Christmas Nutloaf

    Chocolate salami
    Adapted from Not Quite Nigella and A Travelling Cook

    200g chocolate (I used 70%)*
    75g butter or margarine*
    60g shortbread, chopped small*
    1/3 cup slivered almonds, roasted
    1/3 cup pistachios, roasted
    3 tbsp cranberries
    2 tbsp glace ginger

    1/3 cup icing sugar (approximate)

    Melt chocolate and butter.  Mix in shortbread, nuts, cranberries and ginger.  Cool in the fridge for about 20 to 30 minutes.

    Lay a large piece of clingfilm on the table and spoon out the cooled mixture in a chunky sausage shape.  Wrap in clingfilm, twisting the ends, and use your hands to smooth out the sausage through the plastic.

    Chill in the fridge until hard.  We did ours overnight but I took it out once or twice as it was cooling and moulded the shape a little.

    Once hard, unwrap, sprinkle with icing sugar (we did this over an oven tray) and rub along the sides to make it look like aged salami.  Tie string about the salami to give the look of salami that has been hanging.  (Knot a loop around one end.  Then make a knot and before you tighten it, loop it over the salami and tighten it with a little length of string running long the salami towards your loop.  Keep repeating until you get to the other end.  I found this a little fiddly but fun.)

    Wrap and gift to friend or family. 

    We used vegan chocolate and vegan margarine.  It would be quite easy to use vegan biscuits or even gluten free biscuits if your recipients has these dietary requirements.

    The quantities are quite flexible, depending on taste and how big you want it.  I downsized Not Quite Nigella's recipe to make a smaller salami but used more shortbread, after seeing that A Travelling Cook used many more biscuits.

    This chocolate salami can be kept in the fridge especially in a hot Australian summer.  However I prefer to eat at room temperature and it seems to keep well out of the fridge while the weather is mild.

    On the Stereo:
    Oz: Missy Higgins

    Posted December 29, 2014 11:11 PM by Johanna GGG

    Thoughts Of A Moni

    400 Gradi

    Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to win a voucher to dinner at 400 Gradi from Sweet Cherrie Pie. At the time, 400 Gradi had just been crowned as having the world's best margherita pizza, and as a result bookings were scarce, so it took us this long to use our prize.  Even months down the track, I had to make a reservation 3 weeks in advance for a Tuesday night, and the only slot they could give me was 8:15pm! I decided this was a good sign to indicate that the food should be good (because being deemed as having the world's best margherita is obviously not enough).

    We arrived at 8:15pm on the dot, and the restaurant was packed! We hadn't anticipated this at all! We were quickly shown to our table, handed menus, offered drinks and we set out to make decisions on what we should order.

    The menu offered all the standard Italian options, starting with antipasti, pizza, pasta, risotto, the more substantial meaty mains, and desserts. We settled on a couple of pizzas to share. The margherita was obviously the first choice, and for the second pizza, we decided on a pumpkin and rocket pizza.

    The pizzas arrived in about 20 minutes, piping hot and with oozy cheese. We wasted no time in digging in, starting with the famous margherita.

    Now I know I've already mentioned the margherita half a dozen times already, but let me assure you, it is worth every mention. I'm lucky enough to regularly have homemade woodfired pizzas which I thought were the best in the world, but the 400 Gradi pizza was even better than what I'm used to (let's hope there aren't any Russo's reading this!).

    Let's start with the dough; it was bready without being too chewy, thin enough without being too crisp and it had the beautiful smokiness that the woodfired cooking process imparts. All a margherita has is sauce, basil and mozarella, so you'd think that there can't be much variation, but 400 Gradi had perfected each of these elements to create the perfect combination. The sauce was full of flavour, the basil was fresh and imparted a beautiful aroma and the fresh mozarella was soft and oozy, just the way I like it. I really can't express how delicious this pizza was, no amount of flowery language will do it justice.

    After the margherita I wasn't sure if it was worth trying another pizza, after all, I had already hit the jackpot, but since when have I ever said no to food?!

    The second pizza was lined with a white sauce, thinly sliced roast pumpkin, soft goats cheese, pine nuts, and dressed with rocket. I'm a big fan of fresh greens on a pizza post cooking, and the rocket worked beautifully with all the other ingredients. It made for a delicious pizza, but alas, for me, it didn't compare the the margherita.

    After the pizzas we decided to indulge in some dessert. The menu was full of scrumptious options, so we did what any indecisive people would do, and ordered a tasting platter. The platter came with three different desserts, a honey pannacotta, a lemon tart and a nutella crepe.

    The honey pannacotta was perfect, full of honey flavour and the right amount of wobble. The lemon curd in the lemon tart was also delicious, but the pastry was not the greatest. And the nutella crepe was great, but seemed a little less refined in comparison to the other two desserts.

    The meal at 400 Gradi was definitely on the steep side, especially for pizza, but it was delicious. If you could ever imagine a fine dining pizza experience, 400 Gradi is it. And if you can't imagine it, get yourself to 400 Gradi, because it is an experience everyone should undergo.

    400 Gradi on Urbanspoon

    Posted December 29, 2014 04:33 PM by Moni

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    Lentils, radicchio & walnuts with Manuka honey

    December 13, 2014

    Cindy headed off to the country for work over the weekend, leaving me at home with our newly purchased Christmas present to ourselves: Yotam Ottolenghi's new cookbook Plenty More. I couldn't resist a flick through, which inevitably led directly to a more attentive reading, which progressed directly to dinner plans for Saturday night. 

    I started with one of the simpler dishes in the book - a lentil-y salad, typically loaded with herbs and fancy flavours, including the ludicrously expensive Manuka honey that I'd bought by mistake months ago. There are a handful of different components to put together - the lentils, the walnuts and the radicchio all get cooked separately - but nothing is very taxing and it's all simply stirred together at the end. It's the usual flavour riot - the dill and radicchio combining into something quite bitter, offset by the sweetness of the honey that's infused in the lentils and the crunchy walnuts. It's an excellent dish - even better as leftovers the day after when the flavours have had more time to soak together. Like Plenty before it, Plenty More is looking like it's going to get some serious action around here.

    Lentils, radicchio & walnuts with Manuka honey
    (adapted very slightly from Ottolenghi's new book Plenty More)

    200g puy lentils
    2 bay leaves
    3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    80g Manuka honey
    1/4 cup olive oil
    1 teaspoon chilli flakes
    1/2 teaspoon turmeric
    1 small raddichio, roughly chopped
    100g walnuts
    80g pecorino cheese
    20g basil, roughly chopped
    20g dill, roughly chopped
    20g parsley, roughly shopped
    salt and pepper

    Preheat the oven to 170°C.

    Put the lentils and the bay leaves in a medium saucepan, cover with plenty of water and bring to the boil. Get it on a low simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Drain, pick out the bay leaves and return to the saucepan.

    Whisk together the red wine vinegar, half the honey, half the olive oil, a teaspoon of salt and some pepper. Stir this dressing into the warm lentils and leave it all to cool.

    Mix together the rest of the honey, the chilli flakes, turmeric and a few shakes of salt with a teaspoon of water, creating a thick paste. Toss the walnuts through the paste, coating them.

    Spread the walnuts out on a lined baking tray and roast for about 20 minutes, until crunchy.

    Add the remaining olive oil into a frying pan on high heat. Quickly stir-fry the radicchio - you want to cook it for no more than a couple of minutes. Take it off the heat and stir it together with the lentil and walnut mixes, the pecorino and the herbs. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

    Posted December 29, 2014 07:41 AM by Michael

    December 28, 2014

    quinces and kale

    tom yum

    tom yum

    I’m sitting and writing this post with all the effects of eating a wonderful bowl of fragrant, hot, sour and salty tom yum soup. Tissues at the ready, hiccups from the chillies. And loving it.

    My family all love Thailand and Thai food, a legacy of one of my sisters living in Bangkok for a couple of years. I received a kaffir lime tree for my birthday a few years back. It is popular with my family, neighbours and friends when they are making Thai food. Just the smell of the leaves is transporting. Back to Thailand in an instant.

    Anyway, recent events led me to making the soup, which I have never done before. I had been in the city for a couple of days and dropped into Supercharger for lunch. They have a tom yum soup that is just delicious and I decided I must make some.

    As luck would have it, that night I watched an episode of David Thompson’s Thai Street Food and he was making Tom Yum. I had no idea it was so easy to make. I learned that ‘tom’ means to boil in Thai, and that’s exactly what the soup is. Stock boiled with aromatic herbs and some vegetables.

    The classic tom yum in Thailand often has prawns and straw mushrooms.  I happened to have some mock vegan prawns in the freezer from Vincent’s Vegetarian so I used them along with some canned champignons. You could put any vegetables or tofu in it, the soup is the star.

    It is easy to make and utterly delicious. Perfect for something light after all that holiday excess. Just go and make some!


    tom yum
    prep time
    10 mins
    cook time
    10 mins
    total time
    20 mins
    author: quincesandkale based on David Thompson's recipe
    recipe type: soup
    cuisine: thai
    serves: 4
    • 1 litre of stock (I used Massel)
    • 1 tsp sugar
    • a pinch of salt
    • 8 cherry tomatoes halved
    • 1 large dried hot chilli or 2-3 small. ( I removed the seeds because I am a wimp)
    • 2 stalks of lemongrass, white tender part only
    • 5 coriander roots
    • 3 kaffir lime leaves
    • 3 small fresh birdseye chillies (I also removed the seeds)
    • 2 thin slices of galangal or ginger
    • 1 tsp tamarind paste (optional, this is sour, so if you don't have it you'll just need to use more lime juice)
    • 1-2 cups of cubed tofu, "prawns", mushrooms or whatever you want in the soup.
    For the seasonings
    • the juice of one lime, to taste
    • 2 tbsp vegan fish sauce, to taste ( I got mine from the Cruelty Free Shop)
    • more bird’s eye chillies, bruised (I used one!)
    • 1 tbsp chopped coriander
    1. Boil the stock, sugar, salt, tomatoes and dried chillies until the tomatoes soften.
    2. In a mortar and pestle (or with a heavy knife on a board if you don't have one) bruise the lemongrass, coriander roots, kaffir lime leaves, fresh chillies and galangal.
    3. Add the bruised herbs to the soup and cook for a minute or two.
    4. Add the vegetables, prawns and tofu with the tamarind paste and cook for another minute or two.
    5. Put the soup into a serving bowl.
    6. Add the seasonings bit by bit, tasting and adjusting. The soup should be hot, sour and salty with no one flavour dominating.


    Posted December 28, 2014 10:00 AM

    December 27, 2014

    Green Gourmet Giraffe

    Christmas Reflections, Food and Presents

    And like that it is over!  I hope everyone had a great Christmas and a relaxing break.  Our Christmas was two days of festive mayhem, family get-togethers and feasting.

    Sylvia was agog with excitment on Christmas Eve.  We let her stay up and see some of the Carols by Candlelight on the telly.  She loved it even though they don't do much in the way of traditional songs early in the night.

    Then with spiced ginger beer and a chocolate mince tart left out for Santa, she dropped quickly to sleep.

    Meanwhile I was giftwrapping some last minute foodie gifts as I continued to watch the Carols.  French lavender salt and some apricot, nectarine and vanilla jam (that I will write about later).

    Sylvia woke me at some ungodly hour to tell me what Santa had brought her.  Fortunately we both went back to sleep.

    In the morning we opened presents and had cranberry nut rolls with jarlsberg cheese for breakfast before heading down to my parents house in Geelong for more presents and food.

    My mum had some fancy cucumber boats with hummus and carrot for canapes.  My dad and his many helpers handed out presents.  Mostly accurately.  My brother Dave accidentally opened a present that was meant for my nephew Dash!  Oops!

    I loved some quirky gift tags.  Sylvia got one with chocolate in it and one that was actually made out of a candy cane cookie cutter.

    Sylvia had been asking for a Frozen doll all December.  Yet it was the hairdresser head and the blue ukelele that she really loved.

    Here is my Christmas dinner.  I made nut roast as usual and had lots of vegies.  Mum almost forgot the cauliflower cheese.  I was glad she didn't!  She also made a delicious sangria to drink with dinner.

    Sylvia managed a mouthful of nut roast.  Her preference is for the roast potatoes.  But most of all she loves mum's pavolva.  When it came to dessert I had to have pudding with custard and some caramel tart.

    Most of my siblings were off to in-laws after lunch and we relaxed.  By evening we were still full and just snacked on some leftovers.

    One of the difficulties of celebrating Christmas in Australia is trying to enjoy the lights when the sun doesn't set until almost 9pm.  Geelong has pulled all stops out with Christmas lights this year.  My dad took us out at about 8.30 to try and see lights before Sylvia was too tired.  It was too light.  And it was raining.  D'oh!

    We were determined to see the lights and stood under our umbrellas to watch the light show on the Geelong Town Hall.  It is spectacular with kangaroos bouncing, fireplace, candles, art deco, snowflakes, Christmas trees, candy, and a gingerbread house.  It went so long it was dark by the time it finished.  Sylvia was cold and tired by the end and dropped off quickly when we got home.

    On Boxing Day my dad's family came over and we had more food and presents.  Quiche and salads and roast potatoes.  Dessert was more caramel tart, pavlova, mince pies, panforte, stollen, and cheesecake.  I was so full I didn't get to try my mum's Christmas fruit cake after dinner.

    Here is the panforte and stollen.  My mum sent us home with lots of leftovers.

    Here are just some of the presents we all received.  You can see we were well and truly spoilt.  And we have lots of reading and DVDs to enjoy.  And I am curious to try Sylvia's new ice cream maker.

    Today is a quiet day to relax after all the festive craziness.  While I write this E and Sylvia are watching Santa versus the Martians and eating Pringles crisps.  Yet is is just that sort of day!

    Posted December 27, 2014 03:28 PM by Johanna GGG

    December 26, 2014

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    Great Canadian Ketchup Cake

    December 14, 2014

    I know my way around the kitchen reasonably well, but my skills are limited to the imprecise world of cooking, rather than the careful and measured art of baking. So every year when I tell Cindy to pick out a cake for me to make for her birthday, she's basically taken pity on me and 'forgotten'. This year I persisted, and she nominated this simple but strange ketchup cake that she originally spotted over at Lemonpi. It probably helped that she was going out of town for the weekend, so she didn't have to hear the cursing and see the chunks of icing flying off the beaters and across the kitchen, instead coming home to spotless counters and this slightly misshapen treat.

    The actual process isn't really that difficult - at least if you're vaguely competent with electric beaters. My lack of any real skill only became evident at assembly stage, when my cake pieces sat a bit oddly on top of each other and my icing application left a few big gloopy clumps. It's not all about presentation thankfully, and this cake actually tasted alright - the tomato sauce isn't particularly obvious, but if you know it's in there you can catch a slightly odd salty flavour lurking under all the sugar. It's reasonably moist and the cream cheese icing is sweet and tangy, but otherwise it's a pretty basic cake - the novelty of the tomato sauce is really the key reason to give this recipe a shot. Still, it's a confidence builder for me - who knows what complex creation I'll bust out next December!

    Great Canadian Ketchup Cake
    (original recipe on 'Heinz it Up!', originally spotted on lemonpi)

    2 cups flour
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/2 cup tomato sauce (yes, really!)
    1/2 cup water
    2 tablespoons red food colouring
    175g softened butter 
    1.5 cups brown sugar
    2 eggs

    icing (note: this makes nearly double what I actually managed to smear onto the cake!)
    175g brick-style cream cheese
    175g softened butter
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    500g icing sugar

    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line two identical cake tins - I used a pair of loaf tins.

    Combine the flour, spices, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl and stir together. 

    Mix the tomato sauce, water and food colouring in another bowl (enjoy the shockingly red colour!).

    In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until the mixture is smooth. Beat in the eggs. Once combined, add in the flour and the tomato sauce mixtures, beating it all steadily and scraping down the sides to get everything combined.

    Divide the mixture between the two cake tins and bake for about 35 minutes, until the top is springy. Leave the cakes to cool for 15 minutes and then extract them from the tins and leave them to cool completely.

    While the cakes are cooling, stir together the icing. Start by beating together the cream cheese, butter and vanilla and then gradually add the sugar, beating the mixture as you go to combine everything.

    Once the cakes have cooled, spread the icing over the sides, the top and between the two cakes to make a big messy cake tower.

    Posted December 26, 2014 08:17 PM by Michael

    December 25, 2014


    Our Family’s Christmas And Some Easy Food Gift Ideas

    And just like that, it’s over for another year (and I can have a good sleep in tomorrow before tackling the latest Mario Karts)!  I had planned on putting up quite a few Christmas themed blog posts this year with gift guides, recipes and so on but time just got away from me and then...
    Continue reading »

    Posted December 25, 2014 11:44 PM

    December 23, 2014

    Green Gourmet Giraffe

    Almost there: Christmas, quiche and salad

    It is almost Christmas and I am up to my neck in festive baking.   I am looking over my to do list at what has not been done.  I had planned to share a work in progress vegan quiche but that will have to wait until after Christmas.  Meanwhile here are a few photos of festive fun!

    This is the vegan quiche I made last night with tofu and besan.  More about it soon.  It wasn't perfect but I enjoyed it.

    We did the last of my Christmas grocery shopping today.  Then E ate some of the chocolate I bought for the panforte.  So I sent him out for more.  I've had enough of the shops.

    Today I made panforte with a candy thermometer, vegan chocolate mince pies, Christmas tree salad and some other gifts that I will talk about after Christmas.  (Not that the intended are likely to read this but you never know!)  I also took a batch of mince pies to a Christmas party on the weekend.  They disappeared fast.

    I was excited to finish all my fruit mince during Christmas for the first time since I started making it.  Usually it lingers in the fridge for months.  We made star biscuits with the last of the chocolate pastry.  Sylvia enjoyed sprinkling glitter on them and sharing them with her friend at dinner tonight (after pizza and Christmas tree salad).

    I made red currant and orange punch for Christmas drinks with our neighbour on the weekend.  It was lovely and refreshing with ginger ale.

    Last night we drove around the neighbourhood to look at Christmas lights.  These one in The Grove in Coburg were impressive.  And no doubt we enjoyed them more than the later ones when it started to rain!

    Yesterday Sylvia and I met one of her child care friends at Hay's Paddock in Kew.  A great playground but I am glad we didn't meet any snakes by the billabong.

    This photo is from Sylvia's last day of school when she lent Joseph her sunhat on the way home.  It isn't her proper school hat but she had been wearing the Barbie hat because she lost her regular one.  Luckily she found her hat on the last day of school.  (After all she just got a book where Barbie lists shopping as a hobby - what sort of self respecting doll says that!)

    Lastly here are two wooden spoon reindeer Sylvia made with a schoolfriend.

    There is much to do tomorrow, so I wish you a happy Christmas full of good food, good company and good cheer.  I will be back after enjoying my Christmas nut roast with mum's roast vegies and some plum pudding with my family.

    Posted December 23, 2014 10:58 PM by Johanna GGG

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne


    December 13, 2014

    Way back in October when I was going through a slightly obsessive banh mi phase, Cookie Daux tipped us off via Facebook that the chainstore-looking Vietnamese place at Barkly Square was a creditable veg Vietnamese option. We've stopped by a couple of times since then, but finally used a lunchtime Saturday visit to blog the place properly.

    Roll'd is a fast-growing franchise, with twenty-something locations listed on its website. Their focus is fast, affordable Vietnamese food, a kind of food-court version of the super cheap bakeries you find in Richmond and Footscray. The menu is pretty veg-friendly - there's a tofu option for each of the six or seven dishes they offer, including pho, noodle salads, rice dishes and more. The atmosphere is cheery, but you're still sitting in a shopping centre, so you're not really going there to soak up the good vibes. 

    We started out splitting a tofu soldier (rice paper roll filled with tofu, rice noodles and fresh veggies, $3), with a serve of the chilli mayo for dunking. This was fine - a bit noodle heavy and not bursting with flavour, but cheap, fresh and a good warm up for our mains.

    I couldn't resist the tofu banh mi (or, as they strangely label it: Bun Mee). It's a pretty decent rendition - crusty roll, loads of fresh chilli, coriander, carrot, mayo, cucumber and a few cubes of tofu dotted throughout ($7.90). Vegans will need to alert the staff to hold the butter and double check the mayo situation - we've also heard a few reports of pate turning up on the tofu banh mi as well, although that's never happened to us.

    Cindy ordered the tofu and mushroom banh xeo - a crepe with a tofu/mushroom mix, chilli some greens and a few herbs ($6.90) served with a sweet sauce. It's a light meal (3 bits of tofu and 3 mushrooms), so it doesn't really compare with the similar dish offered at Fina's or our homemade version.

    She bulked it up with a side order of sweet potato fries ($3.90), which were surprisingly crispy unlike so many sweet potato chips - probably Roll'd's most impressive achievement!

    You can order Vietnamese iced coffee, iced tea and aloe vera drinks to take the heat out of the chilli. Service is brisk, friendly and effective. Roll'd are never going to measure up in either quality or value with traditional Vietnamese bakeries like Nhu Lan or N. Lee, but it's a super convenient option for us and does a decent enough job of veg-friendly Vietnamese. They're popping up all over town, so keep an eye out if you're struggling for lunch in a food court somewhere.


    There's plenty of love for the various Roll'd stores, with mostly positive write-ups at Gastrology, Arrow Foodie, MEL: HOT OR NOT, Eat And Be Merry, For Tomorrow We Die(t), Peach Water, Asian Restaurants in Melbourne, Love, Adjpants, Calenex, Champagne for the Pain, Krapow, Banh Mi Maniac, Chomp and Slurp, JP & Melbs and foodie about town.

    The Very, Very Hungry Caterpillar, Pigging Out Around the World, New International Students, Consider the Sauce, Gourmet Chick, PhoCity and I talk too much my mouth hurts weren't as impressed.

    Barkly Square, Sydney Road, Brunswick
    9380 9075

    Accessibility: Roll'd has a flat entryway and a slightly cramped interior (especially during the lunch rush). There's a mix of high and low tables. You order and pay at a low counter. We haven't visited the toilets (in fact they probably rely on Barkly Square's general public toilets, which are pretty accessible).

    Posted December 23, 2014 02:28 PM by Michael

    December 21, 2014

    Green Gourmet Giraffe

    Balsamic Garden Salad with Cashew Cheese

    Summer calls for salads.  Something easy that requires lots of greens, something juicy, a sharp vinaigrette and creamy cheese is perfect.  Caeli's Strawberry Balsamic Salad with Cashew Cheese has been on my mind ever since she posted it.  Finally I made it, albeit with tomatoes and beetroot instead of strawberries.  It is the sort of salad that will welcome what is in the fridge and excite your taste buds. 

    I'd highly recommend this dish for Christmas either as a side dish or even a light meal after all the feasting.  We had a little of the cheese leftover and loved it with crackers.  Sylvia wasn't keen on the cheese but she dipped her vegies in the vinaigrette and yelled out that I should make it every day.  That makes it child friendly in our house!

    I am sending the avocado hummus to Healthy Vegan Fridays #27 hosted by Kimmy of Rock My Vegan Socks and Robin of Vegan Dollhouse.

    Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
    One year ago: Cabbage salad and digital disquiet
    Two years ago: Cranberry, apple and butterscotch muffins
    Three years ago: Buttermilk bread
    Four years ago: Buns, soup and crunchie in yaz's kitchen
    Five years ago: The Witchery - Scottish Fine Dining
    Six years ago: Lentil Loaf with Chutney
    Seven years ago: Nadine’s wild rice salad

    Balsamic Garden Salad with Cashew Cheese
    Adapted from Little Vegan Bear
    Serves 2

    2 large handfuls of baby spinach
    1/2 green capsicum, chopped
    1 small handful snow peas, sliced
    2 small cooked beetroot, sliced
    1 small tomato, sliced
    snow pea sprouts, chopped

    Cashew Cheese:
    1 cup cashews, soaked
    3 tbsp nutritional yeast
    2 tsp onion powder
    1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
    1 clove garlic
    2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    1 tsp wholegrain mustard
    2 tbsp water
    1/4 tsp salt

    2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
    1 clove garlic, crushed
    1 tbsp olive oil
    1 tsp wholegrain mustard
    1 tsp red wine vinegar
    Salt and pepper

    Make the cashew cheese by blending all ingredients.

    Lightly whisk dressing ingredients (or shake in a sealed jar).  Toss the spinach with about half the dressing.

    Divide spinach between two bowls.  Arrange remaining salad ingredients in the two bowls.  Spoon dollops of cheese over the salad.  Drizzle with remaining vinaigrette.

    NOTES: I only soaked the cashews for about an hour because I used a high speed blender.  I did take note of Caeli's advice not to make the cheese too smooth for the salad and left a little texture in it.  I found I had a little cheese and dressing leftover but they were gone before the end of the night.

    On the stereo
    There is no one what will take care of you: Palace Brothers

    Posted December 21, 2014 08:15 PM by Johanna GGG

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    Cutler & Co V

    December 11, 2014

    On my birthday proper, Michael booked us a table for two at Cutler & Co. Though we've long been fans of owner-chef Andrew McConnell's vegetarian options, it's been three years since we were last at this restaurant. It's plenty of time for trends and seasons to have transformed the menu.

    I started out with an old classic, anyway - gin and tonic ($9.50), to the drinker's own preferred dilution.

    Like many high end restaurants the a la carte menu features a lot of meat. Nevertheless, Cutler & Co slip their vegetarian degustation to all diners and they've proven themselves capable of catering well to vegans and miscellaneous peskytarians. The wait staff remembered from Michael's reservation call that we were vegetarian and made sure to point out what altered and additional a la carte dishes were available. We didn't pay them much mind as we were pretty keen on the degustation ($110 each). The beverage options have expanded with a classic wine pairing (chosen by Michael; $85), a premium wine pairing ($125) and - yay for lightweight me - a non-alcoholic drink pairing ($49).

    Beginning bread was served with beetroot chutney, as well as the usual butter and salt. Though the sourdough rolls looked light, they were very crusty. I held off on the white rye, bracing myself for the 6+ courses to come.

    McConnell is clearly a pepper de Padron lover, repeatedly serving them in his restaurants for more than seven years. Fried almost to blistering skin and generously salted, this batch were sweeter than usual without a single firecracker among them.

    Our first official course was a silky buttermilk mashed potato with a pine nut crumb and crisp-edged kale leaves. The potato tasted of sharp cheese, a trusty companion to green leaves. The apple and lemon juice in my drink effectively cut through the richness, and some muddled celery softened it out and lent an unusual savoury note.

    These green spring vegetables were subject to nothing more than the lightest blanching before being served with goats curd and toasted sunflower seeds (sprinkled at the table after an oversight in the kitchen). My paired drink was based on an unfamiliar citrus fruit, more celery, and bay leaf.

    Carrots and asparagus also received light treatment, augmented with a green lovage puree and dabs of fromage blanc. We also detected dill and the occasional little burst of sweet aniseed. I was very taken by the accompanying mocktail - grapefruit and verjuice shot through with almond syrup and garnished with sorrel.

    In a nod to Japan, braised cos was served with shiitake mushrooms, ginger and sesame. My warm green tea added toasted rice flavours.

    Unfortunately the staff were distracted before they could describe our final savoury course. Our plates held pressed eggplant, shanklish and pickles that I found out of place. The menu also mentions honey and elderflower, but these were overpowered by the burned flavour of the eggplant skin. The grain-based side salad, pomegranate seeds and fresh herbs were all rather Ottolenghi. (Ottolenghi is a legitimate adjective in this Plenty-loving house.)

    Our sommelier was especially proud of the faux pinot he had for me here - the grape juice base is enhanced with star anise, coriander seeds, and a popular canned Chinese tea.

    We declined a cheese course and moved on to the palate cleanser, a real cutie - rose cream, peach sorbet and fresh peach segments.

    Dessert proper was fairly cleansing itself - a small tangy quinelle of buttermilk icecream with melon, cucumber and a little oat crumble.

    My final paired beverage used more cucumber, muddled into apple juice with elderflower. Its acidity almost gave the sensation that it was carbonated.

    The petit four of the night was a fruit-flavoured marshmallow, but our waiter swiftly recalled that the marshmallow would contain gelatine and served us ganache on wafers instead - we reckon it might be secretly superior to the marshmallows.

    There's nothing like a parting taste of chocolate to sweeten my judgement. This degustation didn't hold any outstanding individual dishes for me, but I admired its consistent and careful use of fresh, seasonal vegetables (.... though as usual, it wouldn't hurt for a high-end chef to prioritise more plant-based proteins!). If anything the well-paired and varied non-alcoholic beverages are the  innovation that elevated my experience. Cutler & Co really does set a consistently high standard - after the incomparable Attica, it's probably my favourite fine dining in Melbourne.


    You can read one, two, three, four past posts from us about Cutler & Co.

    Since that last post, it has received a rave review on easy as vegan pie and a mixed review on Nouveau Potato. Omni bloggers are largely fans - see Sweet & Sour Fork, ChiGarden, BLK's Food Blog, The Glutton's Diet, JKP, A Food Story, Eat, Drink and DIY, I came, I saw, I ate, James Ridenour, let me feed you MELBOURNE, WHAT'S NEXT ON THE LIST, foodie about town, Gourmet Chick, Prick with a Fork and Spoonfuls of Wanderlust - although the experience didn't quite match the reputation for FoodMeUpScotty or The Survival Imperative.

    Cutler & Co
    55-57 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
    9419 4888
    degustation menu

    Accessibility: Cutler & Co has a flat entry and generous space between tables. The front bar often contains high benches and chairs, but there are some standard-height booth seats to the side. There's full table service. The toilets we encountered were quite narrow.

    Posted December 21, 2014 06:43 PM by Cindy

    vegan about town

    misc christmas party noms

    The flattie (Bella) and I hosted a Christmas party last night! We did minimal catering because we were too busy and I only got home at 1700 and our first guest arrived at 1805 (as per our invites), but I did prepare a few things.

    I made crunchy chewy clusters, which I've been obsessed with ever since Cindy first introduced me to them (at the same time as I introduced her to If You Are the One, so it was a fair trade). HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

    I basically only sort of use Cindy and Michael's recipe, and what I made last night was so amazing that when I tried to pack the last handful away, Ral scooted up to me and shoved them all in his mouth.

    I melt 100g of dark chocolate couverture. While it's melting I combine a cup worth of dried fruit, usually goji berries, white mulberries, and 3 or so dried bananas (note these are like liquorice rather than banana chips), diced small, with a third of a cup of cashews. When the chocolate is melted I add a pinch of salt and a third of a cup of desiccated coconut, then mix the fruit and nuts until they're all covered. Put them on a baking tray that has baking paper on it (important! for non-stick), and then fridge them for an hour. Done. Delicious. So much yum.

    I also made pizza pinwheels, ginger and five spice biscuits cut into sharks and penguins, and gluten free Swedish jam thumbprint cookies, and that's a recipe I've been using forever and highly recommend.

    There's no picture of the food, so here's a picture of us in our Christmas party clothes.

    Posted December 21, 2014 04:55 PM by steph

    December 20, 2014


    Lunch At Another Mother, Burnie Tasmania

    After my initial dismay at the vegan food options on board the Dawn Princess, I was glad I came prepared for our first port excursion to the town of Burnie, on Tasmania’s northwest coast. I’d looked up vegan options for Burnie beforehand and the only result seemed to be a vegan-friendly cafe called Another Mother....
    Continue reading »

    Posted December 20, 2014 06:38 PM

    December 18, 2014

    Green Gourmet Giraffe

    Vegan chocolate mince pies and other Christmas foods

    Can it really be only a week until Christmas day!  Inconceivable!  I feel I have done enough festive baking for the season already.  For a start, I've already made three batches of mince pies. But if there is another week, I reckon I might squeeze in another batch before the big day.  I have been enjoying experimenting with baking mince tarts and other Christmas foods.

    I am not fond of making pastry.  It is fiddly and either too thick or too thin, too crusty or too soft.  And I really hate pastry recipes that call for an egg yolk.  I don't know what to do with an egg white.  It is not as though I make pavlova or meringues.

    Last year I made chocolate pastry for mince tarts that had an egg yolk.  So this year, I decided to look for a vegan recipe to avoid the egg conundrum.  Having made this pastry three times I am quite happy with it.  The first time I baked it a bit long and it was too crisp.  Making three batches of mince pies has helped me hone the recipe so that I am really happy with it.

    Above is the first batch of mince tarts I made in a patty pan tin.  Since then I have been making them in my mini muffin tins.  They are slightly smaller (a smaller star).  I have also experimented with some sparkly gold sugar dust.  I found that a liberal sprinkling over the star works really well and helps to make the star easier to see on the dark pastry.  (I tried sprinkling the sugar on after baking and it didn't stick but it seems to caramelise onto the pastry if sprinkled before baking.)

    The reason that I have made three batches of mince tarts is that they are great for entertaining and picnics.  I made a batch for a carols service a couple of weeks ago.  Then I made a batch earlier this week to take to a Christmas party.  And yesterday I made some when Sylvia's school friend and family came for dinner.

    I also took some cheese biscuits along to the Christmas party.  They are from Nigella's How to Eat (a bit like these.)  I made them to make sure Sylvia had something to eat other than crackers and sweet food.  She did rather enjoy them.  Though my favourite comment about the chocolate mince pies was when she took a bite of one and a friend laughed and said Sylvia had closed her eyes because they were so good.  Everyone enjoyed the mince pies at the party.

    When Sylvia's schoolfriend came over, I decided to try a candy cane pizza.  I rolled the sourdough pizza dough into a long sausage, then flattened and shaped it on silicone sheets.  I spread them with tomato sauce and then place strips of cheese long them.  They looked really good when they went into the oven.  I baked them at 200 C for about 20 minutes.

    When they came out of the oven, they were less impressive.  I must try them again.  (And there is still time before Christmas).  Next time I think I would either just spread cheese on the pizza and then arrange stripes of red capsicum or alternate stripes of tomato sauce and cheese.

    As our guests were ready to go yesterday I remembered I had dessert.  Oops!  They stayed a little longer to sample the mince pies and some White Christmas.  I had made the White Christmas for a school end of year party yesterday and had brought home some leftovers.  Quite a few actually.  I wonder if today's children don't know about White Christmas.  I also think I might try it with half the coconut as I noticed some other online recipes do.

    I made French Lavender Salt to give to Sylvia's teachers.  I didn't like the colour of the lids on the jars so Sylvia and I painted them.  I felt that I did a good job with the gift wrapping.  If you are like me and don't have great wrapping skills, you could check out 21 Festive Gift Wrapping Ideas by Jac (of Tinned Tomatoes) or these cute sparkly gift tags by Claire K Creations.

    On the weekend, we had planned to go to another carols service but we were too tired.  However I still made pate and rice krispie slice.  I planned to make pale blue slice and cut it as snowflakes.  Something went wrong with some of the food dye and it turned out green. 

    We used an Ikea set of cutters to make a 3D Christmas tree.  The first one I did was too warm and melted (like the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz) while we put little icing star decorations on it.   I put the slice in the freezer before my second attempt at the tree and just drizzled it with white chocolate and sprinkled some gold sugar sparkles.  It lasted long enough for a photo!

    Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
    One year ago: Cranachan-style breakfast parfait, park, stars and carols
    Two years ago: NCR Snow Snow Snow and Edinburgh Botanics
    Three years ago: Gifts in a Jar, Christmas quicklinks and Melbourne Christmas
    Four years ago: Edible Gift Ideas for Christmas
    Five years ago: Christmas Nut Roast in Scotland
    Six years ago: Tree, Tarts and Punch
    Seven years ago: Christmas Snowflake Biscuits

    Chocolate mince pies
    Adapted from Cake Crumbs
    Makes about 24 small mince tarts

    1 1/4 cups plain (all purpose) white flour
    1/3 cup icing (confectioners) sugar
    1/4 cup cocoa
    2 tbsp ground almonds
    2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
    125g margarine or butter, chilled and chopped
    1-3 tbsp cold water

    1 cup fruit mince (approximately)
    1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate or choc chips
    glittery sugar (optional)

    Mix dry ingredients in food processor.  Add in margarine and process until mixed in.  Add 1 tbsp of water and process again.  Pinch mixture between your fingers and if it sticks it is done.  If it is still a bit crumbly add another tablespoon of water.  (I found it did not go into a ball in the food processor and it needed only 1 tbsp water.)  Tip mixture out of food processor (you wont need a floured surface).  Press together into a smooth ball with your hands.  Wrap in clingwrap and refridgerate for at least 20 minutes.

    Preheat oven to 190 C.  Lightly grease 2 x 12 hole mini muffin tins.  Mix together fruit mince and chocolate.

    Roll out pastry on baking paper until it is about 3mm thick.  (I would start with two thirds of the pastry and wrap the remainder and return to the fridge.)  Cut circles slightly bigger than your mini muffin holes.  (I use a scone cutter but even a glass would do.)  Carefully place circle on mini muffin hole and use your fingers to gently push it in and against the edges to form a little cup.  Drop spoonfuls of fruit mince mixture into each cup to fill it to the top.  Cut out little stars (or circles if you prefer) and place on top of the fruit mince.  Sprinkle with glittery sugar.

    Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.  (15 minutes for me.)  When they are baked, leave in the tin for about 5 minutes and then carefully pop out onto wire rack.  Cool and then store in an airtight container.

    On the stereo:
    Winter Songs: The Albion Christmas Band

    Posted December 18, 2014 11:39 AM by Johanna GGG

    quinces and kale

    hellenic bite


    I found myself in Richmond at lunchtime the other day,  so I headed over to Swan St to check out Hellenic Bite, a Greek souvlaki and burger place. They won an Age Good Food Guide award for their food and came recommended from a couple of people on social media.

    A souvlaki joint is unlikely territory for a vegan, but they do a great vegan burger. The vegan patty is made in house from brown rice, small green french lentils and vegetables – I could make out at least corn and carrot. They were friendly and helpful and happy to answer the questions I had.

    The ENORMOUS burger is served in good bread  (a not too thick pide roll) with a beautiful,  fresh lettuce, tomato and onion salad, with tabouleh, hummus and sweet chilli sauce.

    Very good and so, so fresh. But despite it being great, I couldn’t finish mine because it was so big. OK, I confess I did get the chips as well, which were stellar. Crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, just the way I like them. I couldn’t finish those either!

    The food is generous, fresh and really delicious. Highly recommended.

    Hellenic Bite
    172 Swan St,
    Richmond, 3121

    Posted December 18, 2014 10:56 AM

    December 17, 2014


    A Vegan Cruising On The Dawn Princess

    We’ve just returned from a five night cruise around Tasmania aboard the Dawn Princess. We left Melbourne last Thursday and sailed to Burnie, Port Arthur, Hobart then back to Melbourne. Even though we’ve been back for a day, I still have that sensation of the floor moving. Urgh! I will confess right now that I...
    Continue reading »

    Posted December 17, 2014 08:20 PM

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    Lucy Lockett II

    December 5 & 11, 2014

    Since belatedly catching on to the very veg-friendly Lucy Lockett, we've wasted no time in revisiting to explore more of the menu. For a late Friday lunch, Michael and I both ordered the breakfast burrito ($17) in a rare moment of simpatico. Accustomed to the densely packed parcels of Trippy Taco,  Zambrero and Smith & Daughters, the fanned-out saucy version offered here took me by surprise.  The scrambled egg and avocado didn't quite hold their own against a mass of Mexican beans, but I appreciated the side salad and smear of sour cream. An apple, strawberry and lime juice ($7) sealed this meal as a success.

    Less than a week later we were back for a sneaky pre-work breakfast. Michael had the braised mushrooms, super-charged with vinegar, served with spinach and parsley on sourdough toast ($15).

    I ordered the slow-to-prep French toast ($17), with strawberries, double cream and a walnut crumble on the side. The egg batter barely penetrated the surface of these towering bread chunks, which were crumbed with banana chips and oats. I only managed two of them before I ran out of strawberries and admitted defeat; I still didn't desire lunch until 3pm.

    Our second and third Lucy Lockett meals didn't hit the same high notes as our first, but the friendly service has proven consistent. There are still eight more veg*n options on the menu that we've not yet tried, so there are plenty more opportunities for them to delight (or disappoint) us.


    You can read about our first visit to Lucy Lockett here.

    Lucy Lockett
    140 Barkly St, Brunswick
    8388 7138

    Accessibility: The entry is flat and the interior is spacious. We ordered at our table and paid at a low-ish counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

    Posted December 17, 2014 04:10 PM by Cindy

    December 16, 2014

    Green Gourmet Giraffe

    Christmas in Melbourne, salt dough decorations and quicklinks

    'Tis the season for twinkling Christmas tree lights, for shiny excited eyes of children, for pleasing others with great creative gifts and baking.  'Tis the season for looking for that extra ounce of energy to make it all happen. Let's take a walk through some of the Christmas goings-on around Melbourne.

    I sometimes feel a little like these stars I found in that city that looked like they were trying to climb the stairs. (Most of the stars were hanging up high so I guess these were those lagging behind!)

    I am fascinated by the Christmas merchandising in the supermarkets.  Gingerbread house kits seem all the rage.  I really liking the novelty of making an Outback Shack gingerbread house.

    I was also surprised to see the Heston Blumethal's Christmas puddings range in Coles.  The hidden orange doesn't enthuse me.  I am more tempted by his puddings with caramel filling and chocolate filling.

    And all these Christmas goodies have been on the shelves so long that now they are being sold at cut prices!  That is Christmas craziness!

    Woolworths has lots of Christmas baking package mixes that are just gimmicks.  Take for instance the Betty Crocker's Fruit Mince Mini Tarts.  What more does it offer than a packet of shortcrust pastry and a jar of fruit mince?  Or the Green Christmas Cupcakes which seem just like regular cupcakes with some christmas sprinkles.

    We planned to go to two carols services this year.  Christmas got the better of us and one carols service was all we could manage.  Sylvia decorated two stars for the outdoor Christmas tree and queued to see Santa.

    Above are a few more images of the carols as well as some esoteric ones.  In the centre is one from the Melbourne City Square.  We went there last week to see the Christmas tree and decorations in the square.  Sylvia enjoyed the poles that kids could touch to make bells ring.  (We were too early to see the Town Hall light show.)

    When planning to go into the city, we despaired of finding any Christmas meals.  It isn't like in Edinburgh where every pub has festive dishes on the menu at this time of year and I am always able to find a vegetarian meal.

    We had dinner at Lord of the Fries.  Just chips and a mini burger.  Then we saw that Krispy Kreme had a few Christmas doughnuts.  It is the first time I have had a good reason to buy a doughnut from Krispy Kreme.  We shared this cute snowman doughnut, covered in white chocolate and filled with lots of sticky jam.

    We wandered along to Myer through the Block Arcade and Royal Arcade which are always festively festooned!  Here is Crabtree and Evelyn's window display at the entrance to the Block Arcade.  Inside we were very tempted by all the marvellous Christmas chocolates at Haig's.

    Myer Christmas windows is a Melbourne tradition.  I have been going to see them ever since I can remember.  Each year they have displays with moving parts that tells a story. (This year was Santa Claus and the Three Bears.) They have become more technically sophisticated but children still find them magical.  Then we went to visit Santa at Myer.  It was late and there were no queues.

    At Sylvia's school it has been busy with end of school year activities - instrumental concert, diorama displays, end of year parties, catch up ukelele lessons, anticipation about whose class she will be in next year.  I really like the Christmas tree outside her classroom.

    A few weeks back we made salt dough tree decorations.  Sylvia decided to give some to friends, teachers and cousins.  You can see the finished decorations at the top of the post.  And yes there are some snowflakes a la Frozen.

    And here is our Christmas tree that we decorated on the weekend.  Sylvia is delighted with it.  You can't see individual decorations in this photo but I can assume you there is a Frozen salt dough snowflake there.

    Finally here are a few foodie Christmas quicklinks:

    Posted December 16, 2014 10:43 PM by Johanna GGG