May 02, 2016

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Edinburgh accommodation: Kildonan Lodge Hotel

As I have mentioned, our second holiday apartment in Edinburgh was less than satisfactory so for our last couple of days after returning from Paris, we booked into the Kildonan Lodge Hotel near to Cameron Toll Shopping Centre in Liberton.  It was an old style bed and breakfast accommodation that E and I used to stay in before Sylvia was born.  We enjoyed staying there.  In fact Sylvia rated it her favourite place we stayed.

We arrived back in Scotland on a wet day and it continued to rain for much of the next two days before we flew home to Australia.  We were greeted with a warm welcome.  The owner and her staff were lovely and very helpful.

We were shown to the cottage out the back.  In some ways it was good to be away from the main hotel to have some space but in other ways it was a bit annoying to have to walk through the rain into the breakfast room.

Our room had a double bed and a single bed for Sylvia through a small archway.  The online photo gallery had shown some quite fancy rooms but I guess they didn't have the extra bed which was appreciated.  It was a nice basic room with a tv.  However it didn't have much room around the bed which made it harder to spread out our large suitcases to pack for the journey home.

Sylvia and E were excited to have shortbread biscuits but we didn't touch the complementary sherry.

Once we had arrived we went into the lounge where there was a television.  Sylvia was so delighted to watch the BBC children's channel again after only having French tv for a week.  It was a nice room but with only two days we didn't have time to spend there.

Likewise we really liked the conservatory in the cottage but didn't have the time - nor the weather - to enjoy it.

Inside the main hotel was a fancier lounge.  It had a touch of olde worlde charm.  If I had had time to relax with a book in a comfy chair, this is where I might have plonked myself.  The Kildonan also had evening meals in the dining room.  I can imagine this would be the place for a sherry before dinner at the bar.  As it was, we only came in here to wait for a taxi to my sister-in-law's house.

The dining room was another charming room.  It was here the we had breakfast both mornings.  The first morning it was a relaxed affair.  Sylvia was very excited at the buffet.  She ordered hot chocolate, a drink she was very fond of in Scotland.  When we asked after it a while after ordered, the waitress told us that it was in the jug that we thought had extra hot water for E's tea.

I started with some yoghurt and sultana bran.  Alongside it was a glass of juice I poured thinking it was pear juice.  It was grapefruit and very sour.  I did feel it was remiss of them to provide tea, coffee and juice but no water.

Then I had baked beans, grilled tomato and mushrooms and a tattie scone.  It was very nice.  E was very pleased to have a fry up.

Lastly I had some jam on a piece of toast.  Sylvia just adored these cute little jars of jam.  As always we were last out. 

Our second morning was a less cosy affair.  We rose at 3.30am in order to catch an early taxi to the airport and fly home.  So we had arranged to have a cold breakfast.  We crept in to the deserted breakfast room in the small hours to have juice and cereal to see us on our way.

I would like to return to Kildonan Lodge Hotel.  It was very comfortable and cosy in a splendidly British way, and lovely to be waited upon after spending a month of finding our own way in self catering apartments.

Kildonan Lodge Hotel
27 Craigmillar Park
Edinburgh EH16 5PE
Tel: 0131 667 2793

Posted May 02, 2016 10:39 PM by Johanna GGG


In My Kitchen May 2016

In My Kitchen is a monthly blog link up hosted by Maureen at The Orgasmic Chef. I’m submitting this blog post of mine for May 2016. While not a vegan-specific event, anyone can join in and you can also discover new blogs, recipes, products, etc! With my favourite season here (it’s autumn!) comes the slight feeling...
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Posted May 02, 2016 07:02 PM

May 01, 2016

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Paris: Rue des Rosiers apartment and airport transfers

Before I tell you about our gorgeous Paris apartments I must tell about the challenges we faced in getting there.  While in Scotland I was not impressed with our second holiday apartment and kept dreaming of the lovely apartment I had booked in Paris.  Then five days before we flew to Paris we were told there was a leak and were offered an apartment that cost more but was further out and had less character.  The next four days were the Easter long weekend.  I was stressed and then I decided to take action.  I found a similar (vacant) apartment to ours that was just slightly more central, slightly bigger and slightly more expensive.  I suggested this apartment to the booking agent (from The French Experience in Melbourne).  He was very helpful over a holiday weekend.  We ended up agreeing that we would book it and pay some of the difference in price.

Getting there was another story.  We flew with a budget airline whose staff walked up and down the boarding queue looking for anyone with hand luggage that was too big.  (Which was better than the airline making the announcements asking passengers to volunteer to check in hand luggage or hand luggage would be randomly checked in.)

To check into our accommodation we had to ring a contact who would tell us the exact address where we would meet him.  We arrived in Paris with no mobile phone (long boring story) so I asked a woman at Orly airport information desk if she could tell us where the public phones were.  She was very kind and rang the accommodation contact for me.  We then went to the taxi rank where we were given priority for a taxi because we had a child with us!  The taxi drove us along crowded freeways and through the beautiful inner suburbs of Paris where we sighed with joy at the elegant architecture.

Finally we arrived in our street outside 40 Rue des Rosiers in the Marais.  The street was so narrow that there was no room for a car to park without blocking all other traffic.  It was a quaint cobbled street in an area of medieval Paris that had become the Jewish quarter, descended into slums, was earmarked for demolition and saved to become one of the hipster areas of Paris.  For tourists such as us, it was close to cafes, the Metro, the Seine, Notre Dame, the Pompidou Centre and museums.

Fortunately we had left a large case at my sister in law's in Edinburgh so we only had a couple of large cases to carry up the one flight of stairs.

Inside we were melting with happiness at how charmingly lovely the apartment was.  In fact it had even more than I had expected.  There was a loft above the bedroom where Sylvia could sleep and a microwave even though they weren't mentioned in the apartment information.  The apartment dates back to the 17th Century and the exposed beams and stone give it a welcoming historic ambience.

It is a small matter but when I looked at the crockery I was so pleased to see it had some character.  Our previous kitchen in Edinburgh had been so ill equipped - no chopping board, cheap crockery and lots of ugly beer glasses. 

The Paris kitchen had everything we needed.  Actually I didn't cook as much in Paris as in Edinburgh.  A microwave, a kettle and a washing machine was quite adequate.  The kettle was a whistling kettle rather than electric.  Which was fine except that when a young child is not sleeping well, the piercing whistle is that last thing we needed.

Yes the apartment had a few quirks.  As well as a whistling kettle, there was no overhead lights in any of the rooms and the bathroom was unusual.  The bath had the tap at the opposite end of from the opening.  Which meant that I had to get in the bath to turn it on or adjust it.  Thankfully Sylvia is old enough to turn it off.  The bath (with shower) was really high and even with the hand rail it was a bit worrying climbing in and out.

And while I admired the ingenuity of storing the hot water heater up high, I would cross my fingers that it was quite stable when in the bathroom.

The bedroom off the living room had no door and was quite cosy, though the futon bed was low to the ground.  It was rather dark even with the lamps.  The only tv in the apartment was in the bedroom but after Sylvia watching French cartoons briefly early on, we didn't touch it.  I was happy to live without it.  The other quirk was that the roof was rather low due to the loft being built overhead.

The loft was pretty simple with a bed on the floor and not enough room to stand.  It looked over the living area through the windows and was reached by a creaky ladder.  Sylvia's sleeping was pretty unsettled by moving to different places and being up a ladder was not ideal.  I did not like going up and down the ladder to check on her.  But in theory it was really cute.

The fireplace was also nice to look at but not so practical.  Which was fine.  The heaters in the apartment kept it nicely warm.  I really loved the living area.  It was cosy and comfortable.

The windows in the living room overlooked the narrow Rue des Rosiers.  Each morning it was fairly quiet but at night the Marais really came to life and our street was no exception.  Despite this, we didn't find it that noisy.  But it was great fun to look down and watch the people going by.

And the large windows let in lots of light.  The apartment looks a bit gloomy in my photos as we were out most of the day and I took most at night.  However it had plenty of light.  You can also see in this photo that we had a table and chairs in the corner where we ate meals.

When we were introduced to the apartment we were given the first of quite a few warnings about pickpockets in Paris.  Fortunately we did not encounter any but we did see quite a few armed soldiers on and near our street.  Yet it was an enchanting place to stay.  It was the sort of place that as a tourist, I might look up at the windows and wish I lived them.  It was most pleasing to be the person going through the little door and staying in that apartment. 

However our leaving was not without drama.  As we did not have a phone I decided to go to the taxi rank at St Paul Metro station that was five minutes walk away.  The taxi driver asked me to direct him to Rue des Rosiers.  I felt like laughing at the idea of me being able to navigate all the one way streets.  Any wise driver consults a map in this circumstance.  Not this driver.  He got lost in one way streets and finally I got the map from him and tried to direct him to our street, but not without him needing to drive backwards up a one way street.  I was very relieved when we got to number 40 where E was playing ukulele as he waited with Sylvia and our suitcases.  I was sad to leave but hope maybe to return to Paris some day.

Posted May 01, 2016 11:09 PM by Johanna GGG


What I Ate These Past Few Weeks

Now that we’re well in to autumn, I’ve been putting slightly more effort in to cooking. I still meal plan for myself, often cooking for about three or four days in a row. I’m trying to be a little more creative as well, in the hopes of finding a dish both kids like. So far,...
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Posted May 01, 2016 08:23 PM

April 30, 2016

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Edinburgh miscellany - meals and shops

As I am nearing the last of my posts about our trip to Edinburgh and Paris, I bring you a post about some of the meals we had at home and an esoteric selection of food shopping.

Above is perhaps my favourite food shop in Edinburgh: Cranachan and Crowdie.  It really stood out among all the tartan tat food shops on Royal Mile that sold the same old fudge, rock and teas.  Cranachan and Crowdie had a fantastic selection of really good Scottish food from small producers.  Sylvia loved the "Puffin Poo" from the Shetland Fudge Company.  I was tempted by the Haggis oatcakes and some of the liqueurs.  I ended up buying excellent Shortbread House shortbread, a tartan baking dish, Orkney smoked cheese and Stag seaweed crackers.  I could have bought so much more if I had the money and space in my suitacase.

Those who have followed my blog for some time will know I love nut roasts.  I didn't have the wherewithal to make one from scratch on our trip but I was pretty excited to find a packet one in Holland and Barratt. It was a simple matter of tipping the dried mixture into a cardboard "loaf tin", adding water and baking.  How I wish I could buy these locally.

Though we had fantastic bread in Paris, the bread in Edinburgh was hit and miss.  It was made even more challenging in our second holiday apartment where we didn't have decent bread knives (and only had a chopping board because e found one when clearing out his dad's house).  I fell in love with the bread from the Wee Boulangerie (67 Clerk Street).  Not cheap but it was worth paying extra for the excellent dense crusty bread.

Here is a meal we had one night with bread from the Wee Boulangerie, some seaweed crackers, Pringles crisps, smoked cheese and a container of green vegies with mint butter from Sainsburys.  It probably was on one of those evenings with little energy but a need for some greens.

I bought some vegan bacon at the Sgaia's vegan stall at Stockbridge market.  It was just the think for a fry up at our apartment.  Potato scones, beans with vegie sausages and vegan bacon.  I probably cooked the vegan bacon a bit much but loved it.  I've sampled a few vegan bacons since going vegetarian but loved the streaks in the bacon.

In Australia, Bakers Delight Bakeries are everywhere.  In the UK there seems to be a Greggs Bakery everywhere you look.  I am quite partial to the cheese and onion pasties.  I tried to introduce Sylvia to them.  She just liked eating the pastry from around the edges.  Which was ok once I found out how much extra they charged to eat instore!

After one long day we stopped at Yum Yums fish and chip shop at the top of Fleshmarket Close in Cockburn Street.  I was too tired to face getting dinner so a box of chips was a quick option.  And as if this wasn't unhealthy enough we finished by sharing a deep fried Mars Bar.  They are ugly and such a weird idea.  Yet they are really good in a disturbing sort of way that means one is enough to last a long long time.

And just in case you are crazy enough to want to make your own deep fried Mars Bar at home, you can buy the tea towel in Victoria Street.  We were more amused by the "You'll have had your tea" tea towel.  It is a phrase that E and his dad both loved to use in jest but apparently was used more seriously to greet guests by other Edinburghers in the past.  This is one of the tea towels I wish I had bought.

I was really impressed with Dee's vegan sausages that I bought from Holland and Barratt.  I bought the traditional sausages spiced with coriander, pepper, ginger and Irish dulse seaweed.  I think it is the first time I have had vegetarian sausages with good skins on them that remind me of meat sausages.  Sadly I don't think they are available in Australia.  They were excellent with chutney, mash and green vegies

Another very simple meal was this excellent sandwich on Wee Boulangerie bread and filled with swiss cheese, the Sgaia bacon, kale and chutney.

E and Sylvia are very keen on fudge.  I am less enthusiastic about it.  However I did like the chocolate salted fudge from the Fudge Kitchen.  The guy behind the counter was entertaining as he chatted to us and gave us fudge to taste.  I also watched them make it for a short time and was told that they mix it to stop the sugar crystalising and keep the consistency creamy.  Indeed it was far superior to a lot of fudge I have tasted.

In the past we have visited the Marks and Spencer cafe in Princes Street a few times.  I am very partial to the cheese scones but there is quite a range of sandwiches, cakes, soup, salads etc.  It is quite cosy with little booths in an area walled off from the food hall.  On this visit all I could see was a brightly lit space with a few plastic chairs and very little on offer. 

As I had decided to have lunch at Marks and Sparks, I bought this Nutty Super Wholefood Salad with cannelini bean and sesame tahini dip.  It was packed with quinoa, edamame, green beans, grated carrots, black eyed beans and nuts.  Unfortunately Sylvia could not taste any as it had peanuts.  She had a less satisfying meal of chips and juice and I can't remember the rest.  Then on my last day in Edinburgh I discovered that I had overlooked the cafe earlier.  So I dropped in for a cheese scone and a cup of regret!

On a chilly afternoon E spied an interesting coffee shop called Procaffeination in St Mary's Street just South of the Royal Mile.  We managed to go back one morning a few days later.  The waitress was not very interested in helping us, it was cold and deserted with no music playing.  The place had a nice design with little trains about but it was souless.  I enjoyed my fizzed cloudy apple juice and currant bun but Sylvia's hot chocolate was too big for her. 

As we were ready to leave, a guy arrived who put on music, gave us a friendly greeting when he passed us and other people started to arrive.  The ambience changed and we were sorry to have been there in the graveyard shift.

Just down from Procaffeination was The Shortbread Shop.  On the window it says "where butter makes everything better".  This was a shop with excellent shortbread, cosy ambience and a sense of humour.

So I leave you with a photo of an amusing flowchart in the Shortbread Shop.  I particularly love the result if you choose a bag of shortbread: "pretend you'll take it home to share and then eat it walking down the street".  We've all been there!  We did not buy shortbread there.  We did have a wee taste and it was indeed excellent shortbread.  I suspect it was not long after we had visited the Fudge Kitchen.  There are only so many sweet treats one can buy.  Even on holiday!

Posted April 30, 2016 11:09 PM by Johanna GGG


Vegan Shopping At Coburg Farmers Market In Late April

Hurrah for the Coburg Farmers Market now being held weekly! Previously I’d be waking up on a Saturday planning to go then realising it wasn’t on that day. Then I’d forget to go the following week. And so on and so on. I last blogged about my visit to the market back in mid 2014...
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Posted April 30, 2016 03:05 PM

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Gingerbread layer cake

April 25-27, 2016

I've had a jar of molasses in the cupboard for a while, and I've spent that time trawling for suitable recipes and excuses to bake with it. It's taken a few months to get it into this gingerbread layer cake, baked to share with our cat-sitter and friend, Tash.

The recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen - I know that Deb Perelman is a bit of a perfectionist with her recipes, and I like that she takes understated, realistic food photos in her own small home kitchen. (They're still a good deal prettier than mine, I know.) I trust her to bake a good cake.

In fact, I think I just entrusted her with baking my first layer cake. The batter was pretty well-behaved; with oil and not butter for the fat, it didn't even need creaming with an electric beater. It just called for a bit of patience as I baked and cooled the three layers, one at a time, late on a Monday night. I whipped up the mascarpone cream on Wednesday morning and stacked up my cake with care, ignoring Perelman's cranberry garnish entirely.

For a vegan version, I'd recommend replacing the eggs with ground flax seeds in the cake batter. I'm not sure how best to replicate the whipped dairy cream, but I reckon coconut cream or yoghurt is the best bet.

Here the cake and cream have a surprisingly light texture. With a cup of molasses, a cup of brown sugar and a cup of white sugar in the cake batter, it's as sweet as Kimmy Schmidt. It's also got Kimmy's brutal aftertaste, a heated, malty mix of molasses, stout and ginger that depends on the triple-layered whipped cream to remain palatable. A small slice goes a very long way (and here it differs from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, because I polished that off in just a few days).

Gingerbread layer cake
(a recipe from Smitten Kitchen)

1 cup stout
1 cup molasses
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of ground cardamom
spray oil for greasing cake tin

mascarpone cream
500mL cream
1/2 cup icing sugar
120g mascarpone

Place the stout and molasses in a large saucepan and bring them to the boil. Turn off the heat and whisk in the bicarb soda - the mixture will froth up but hopefully be contained by your large saucepan. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Trace and cut out three pieces of baking paper to fit the base of a springform cake tin. Line the tin with just one of them, and lightly spray the tin inside with oil.

Place the sugars in a large bowl and whisk in the oil. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth. Whisk in the cooled stout-molasses mixture until smooth. Sift over the remaining cake ingredients, and stir them into the batter until just combined.

Pour one third of the cake batter into the tin and bake it until it passes the skewer test, about 20 minutes. Allow it to rest in the tin for 5 minutes before gently turning the cake onto a cooling rack. Repeat twice more with the remaining cake batter to form three cake layers.

To make the mascarpone cream, pour the cream into a large bowl and sift over the icing sugar. Whip the cream with an electric beater until soft peaks form. Add the mascarpone and whip it into the cream until well combined.

To assemble the cake, carefully transfer one cake layer to a serving plate. Pour a generous cup of the mascarpone cream onto the centre of the cake, spreading it out but leaving about an inch cake border. Transfer a second cake layer onto the top; its weight will push the cream out towards the edge. Repeat the process with another generous cup of cream and the final cake layer. Make the top layer of cream thick and wavy and spread it right to the edge of the cake.

Refrigerate the cake for at least an hour before slicing and serving, with any extra mascarpone cream on the side.

Posted April 30, 2016 07:51 AM by Cindy

April 29, 2016

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Ombre pink cake, IT challenges and a 9th blog anniversary

It is 9 years ago today that I started my blog was a birthday cake I made for E.  Hence my tradition of celebrating my blog anniversary with E's birthday cakes.  You might notice that they get simpler as life gets busier but I am still here blogging after 1763 posts and still love to bake birthday cakes.

I kept things simple for his birthday this year.  For dinner I made nachos.  He would have liked vegetarian haggis on it.  I would have liked the time and energy to make it.  But life is busy and he had plenty of haggis in Scotland.  Instead I made refried beans and guacamole.  I layered tortilla chips, cheese and refried beans.  Baked it for 10 - 15 minutes at 180 C and then topped it with salsa, guacamole and plain yoghurt.  It was delicious.  Sylvia got her own little plate of plainer chips with cheese.

E asked for a sponge cake with buttercream.  It was Sylvia who suggested I make an ombre cake.  She does not know the word ombre but she was obviously impressed with the green ombre cake I made some time ago.  I made this into a simpler version.  Firstly spread buttercream frosting and jam inside the cake like this one.  My preference would have been to stop there.  But I am always up for a challenge.

I spread on a crumb coating first.  Rather than piping rows of dots, I used a ziplock bag to pipe a length of icing around the top (trying to stop the piped icing falling to the ground) and flattened it with a spreader (like a palette knife).  I repeated this with the next two layers and neatened up the bottom.  In retrospect I might have made the top layer a light pink rather than white but generally I was pleased with the result.  Sylvia liked the idea but didn't have time to help me and then she decided it had too much frosting and would not eat any of the cake!  Fickle!

As I reflect on the blog every new year's eve, I will leave the lists of bests and stats til then.  I will remark that it always amazes and pleases me that I find time for blogging in my life, continue to meet lovely people through blogging and cook all the better for it.  An anniversary seems a good time to get my (metaphorical) house in order.  (As you will see above, Sylvia is quite into keeping her dolls house in order lately.  I wish I could say that my house is so neat and minimal.)

Nine years is a long time in the world of technology.  I have seen a lot of change, in particular the rise of social media.  I expect the IT fairies to take care of everything.  Mostly they do.  Some days, though, I think they are lying beside the pool sipping fairy cocktails and laughing at my bemusement.  So here are a few of the odd things happening on my computer lately:
  • First and foremost I take too many photos and they take over my computer.  External hard drives help but it is driving me a little batty right now.
  • Delicious is going through some growing pains right now.  I really really love Delicious for keeping track of recipes I want to make and have over 4000 bookmarks.  I was really freaking out when I thought I had lost access to my account recently.  While in Scotland last month I could not use my Save-on-Delicious button and then when I got home I was asked for my password but could not get a new one sent to my email.  I finally worked out my old password but it worries me that I am not able to generate a new one.  However I did finally read that Delicious had changed ownership and the new managers were making lots of changes which might explain it.  I hope so as I could not get in today!  [Meanwhile my mum recently lost all her bookmarks on her computer when it died.  Trying to keep track of online bookmarks is hard.]
  • Pinterest has also changed.  I am using Pinterest less due to limited time.  Rather than just browsing Pinterest I sometimes visit boards with interesting names when emails alert me to others pinning to them.  Then Pinterest changed from Pins to Saves and for a while were not naming the boards others were saving to.  Then it changed again and now I can see the names of boards.  Hurrah!
  • My love hate relationship with Facebook continues.  It is a great way to keep in touch with some people but Facebook annoys me with their badgering ways.  If I am not on for a while they email me snippets to draw me in.  Even worse recently after I had a conversation with someone who had sent a message and finally after to and fro there was nothing more to say.  Facebook painted me as the bad guy for not replying.  They suggested I should turn off messages and told the public I take longer to reply to messages.  It is a bit like dealing with the playground bully sometimes.  Just walk away! 
  • Something odd has happened with emails and comments recently.  Since I have been in Scotland, if I comment on a blog I often get an email on Delivery Status Notification (Failure) from Google.  I suspect I need to go and change some settings but it is just annoying at the moment.
  • As if this isn't enough, the photo book service I have been using since Sylvia was born has now changed hands.  I find that I have old technology and need to uninstall my photo books software and upload a new one and set it up to prompt me to do regular updates.  I really dislike the constant reminders to install updates! 
  • On a more positive note, I really enjoy using Zomato (formerly Urban Spoon) restaurant listings.  So while in Edinburgh I uploaded some reviews to Zomato.  I was amazed at how little it is used compared to Melbourne.  After about a month, I was number 5 blogger in Edinburgh.  (After over 2 years posting in Melbourne I am number 110 blogger).  Seriously I am glad it is used so much in Melbourne as this makes it a much more useful service than in Edinburgh.

While it sounds like a list of complaints, it is a tribute to how useful I find these systems that when they don't work it niggles.  If you have any illumination on the IT challenges I am facing, I would be glad to hear your thoughts.  Meanwhile I have a few more Edinburgh and Paris posts and then I will be done with holiday posts.  You see, the joy of putting holiday snaps on a blog is that sometimes I look back at them and can show others.  It is so much easier than digging out dusty photo albums.

So soon I shall be back to more regular blog posts.  That means that I expect to spend a bit less time on writing blog posts and a bit more time on responding to comments again.  And I will be back soon with E's second birthday cake.  Stay tuned ....

Posted April 29, 2016 01:44 PM by Johanna GGG

April 27, 2016

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Paris shops, cafes, and Marché des Enfants Rouges

Shopping for food in Paris was a joy.  Walking along the streets of the Marais near our accommodation was a joy.  So much beauty and history.  From the boulangerie with its beautiful bread to the patisserie with rows of pretty pastries to discussing cheeses in the fromagerie.  So here is a run down of some of the shops I visited in Paris.

Most of the shops in this post are food shops but I can't resist a photo of the souvenir shops along the Seine.  We also spent some time in Le BHV department store in the Marais where they would check our bags upon entering.

The above boulangerie patisserie on Rue de Vieille du Temple was a favourite of ours because it was the one we had breakfast on our first morning.  (Notable for a customer telling me how rude the staff were as they struggled with my lack of French.)  We bought quite a few baguettes and pain au chocolats here. 

Later we found that Korcarz a few doors from our apartment in Rue des Rosiers also sold croissants and pain au chocolate.  We made a few morning trips here too.

La Droguerie on Rue des Rosiers made crepes at the window.  We walked down one evening after dinner to buy a nutella crepe.  The next day the man who worked there said hello as we passed.

I loved the look of the challah in the window of the Finkesztajn bakery again on Rue des Rosiers.  Sadly I had one of those bad vegetarian experiences.  The pierogi was baked (not steamed) and looked really good.  I bought a pierogi fromage (cheese).  It was warm and looked delicious but when I took it back to our apartment and bit in, it was cheese and meat so I threw it out.  Quel dommage!

My mum recommended the Marché des Enfants Rouges (market of red children).  The name comes from the 16th century orphanage and the colour of the children's clothes to mark them as recipients of charity.  It was a short walk from our apartment.  I really liked the murals at the entrance, all the colourful flowers and had I been seeking lunch I might have stopped to buy a meal at some of the stalls.

Instead I stopped and browsed at the undercover fruit and veg stall.  I didn't purchase much because we didn't have many meals left to eat at the apartment.  We ate quite a few raspberries while on holiday because they are so easy to eat.

I will confess I didn't fall in love with the market.  It is because I have an idealised Parisian market in my mind and this wasn't it.  When I first visited Paris I wandered the streets in a fog of dreamy enchantment and came across a market in the street selling amazingly good fruit and veg.  I had no idea where I was and still don't know where it was to this day but I have such wonderful memories of it that I keep hoping I might find it again.

I really loved the fromagerie (cheese shop) at the entrance to the market.  One of the men behind the counter chatted with me about what I would like and made some recommendations.  When I said I needed plain for Sylvia, he recommended Comte.  I also got her some emmental which she loves.  And he recommended a goats cheese for me.  It was so superb and creamy that I regret just buying a small round of it.  I now can claim that the best goats cheese I have ever tried was in Paris.

We also visited some more modern grocery store.  Franprix was more like a Sainsbury's Local or Coles Express.  Yet it delighted us with so many new brands.  It seemed strange that a bottle of Perrier water was so cheap.  (French tap water was less impressive.)  I much preferred the Bien L'Epicerie with its gourmet organic groceries.  It had some really interesting vegan products too.

And I loved the patisseries.  So different from our bakeries.  I was particularly fond of the chocolate eclairs.

And because I love the shops and cafes of Paris, I leave you with a collage of some shop front photos.

Posted April 27, 2016 11:08 PM by Johanna GGG

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Stockholm, week 1

April 16-22, 2016

I'm spending a couple of months in Stockholm for work - a good excuse to add another country to our restaurant review map. Most of my meals out so far have been lunches, with work colleagues picking out some highlights around the centre of town and me doing a bit of weekend exploring further afield. The food scene seems very veg-friendly - everywhere I've gone has had prominent vego/vegan options, and there are a decent number of totally vegetarian places.

I had my first meal of the trip at Hermitage (Stora Nygatan 11, Gamla Stan), a vego restaurant that Cindy and I visited way back in 2006. Its buffet-style lunch of old-fashioned vego food powered me up for a big day of walking, with a mock-meat and chickpea stew, a big chunk of vegetarian lasagne, potato salad, bread, rice and some hummus. For 120kr (~$20) with a coffee, this is pretty decent value for money as far as Stockholm lunches go. I went back for seconds to make sure I really got my money's worth.

On Sunday I met up with a friend for lunch at the nearby Chutney (Katarina Bangata, Södermalm) a place I visited on my last trip. They do a 98kr lunch set, with a choice of four dishes plus salads, bread and coffee.

My nasi goreng was excellent, with a rich peanutty sauce accompanying it and a few tasty chunks of mock meat to mix up the texture. This is right around the corner from where I'm staying, so it's going to get some more visits.

I started work on Monday and quickly fell into a lunch routine with colleagues - they go out every day and have a strong selection of local options. First up was Maxos (Scheelegatan 13, Kungsholmen), probably my favourite place so far - it's basically a felafel bar, but the vibe is a bit nicer than that implies and the food they serve up is brilliant. I had the combo (95kr), which is the best way to sample all the great salads and sides on offer with the felafel.

After work on Wednesday I went for a birding walk in a nature reserve near where I'm staying, turning up some decent birds and stunning natural scenery. I stumbled out of the forest starving and stumbled straight into Max, a burger chain (I went to the one at Lugnets Alle 22, Hammarbyhöjden), to see if they could feed me.

Amazingly, there were tons of options, with the highlight being the vegan bbq sandwich (based on Oumph!, a Swedish mock-meat). For 75kr (~$12) I got an excellent burger, some so-so fries and a coke. There's nothing fancy about this place, but it's super convenient and impressively veg-friendly.

Another lunch highlight was Minh Mat (Odengatan 94, Vasaparken) a popular Vietnamese joint. They do a limited lunch menu of three dishes per day, with at least one vegan option. Thursday is banh xeo day, and the vego version didn't disappoint - chunks of tofu and fragrant salad in a crispy-fried rice batter pancake shell. 

The final meal of my first week was at the nearby Ringen shopping centre, in the recently opened upmarket food court. There are street food stalls from lots of famous restauranteurs, including The Plant (inside Ringen, Götgatan 132, Södermalm), supposedly Sweden's first vegan fast-food place. I tried the Hammer Burger, with a pulled-mushroom based pattie, chilli mayo, pickles, and a side of mini boiled potatoes with impossibly creamy mayo (115kr [~$18] or 145kr [~$23] with a beer). This was really impressive - it's another option very close to my apartment, so it's sure to feature again in the coming weeks.

I'm really enjoying exploring Stockholm - there's tons of good veggie food and the city itself is stunningly beautiful (especially when the sun comes out). I'll post semi-regular food round-ups here, but anyone interested in more of the scenery/bird life should head on over to my instagram page.

Posted April 27, 2016 08:25 AM by Michael

April 25, 2016

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Milo weetbix slice

I baked this slice on Sylvia's first day back at school after our Scottish trip.  Weetbix slice is an Aussie slice that my mum made me when I was a kid.  I loved it but this one was a modern version with less sugar and the addition of milo while the icing was more ganache with leftover condensed milk the the usual plainer mixture of icing sugar, cocoa and water.

I would have liked to have gone to the ANZAC Day dawn service with my family today but I just don't have the energy after our holiday.  Instead I thought that sharing a classic Aussie slice would imbue the spirit of national pride and mateship that is part of the ANZAC spirit.  I am not sure this slice would have made it on the sea voyage to the Gallipoli Cove like the famous ANZAC biscuits.  But I think a lot of Australians would remember this slice from their childhood.

It was good to bake after being away from my kitchen so long.  And this was an easy one to ease back into it with.  Getting back into the rhythm of life is hard after a month away.  We have landed home in the middle of Autumn.  This has meant getting used to wearing warmer clothes, the evenings drawing in so much earlier, and different fruit and vegetables in season.  It is taking a while to get back into the swing of school lunches, feeding my sourdough and watering the garden.

Oh yes, and I apologise to regular readers that I haven't quite got back into finding time to reply to comments.  By the way, Kate asked why we had to turn the clocks back forward this year.  It is because we were in the UK in Spring and will be in Australia in Spring in September.  This year we will not have the joy of that extra hour when the clocks go back in Autumn.  I could really do with any extra time in my life!

Sylvia had a lovely time crushing the weetbix though she lost count so I was a bit unsure if it was 4 or 5 in the bowl.  It was a bit crumbly and I wondered if that was because there were 5 in it.  She also loved measuring and mixing the mixture - and tasting it.  Yet once baked she decided she didn't like it.  And there I was thinking this would make a great lunchbox snack!  Kids are so fickle.

She was very fond of the weetbix and milo leftover after we made the slice.  Weetbix, which I had for cereal often as kid, has been great for breakfasts, albeit not great for the floor when she eats them without milk.  Milo, Australia's chocolate malted milk powder, is even messier and I have emphasised that it is a sometimes food not an everyday food.  Meanwhile, E and I really enjoyed the slice.  It wasn't very sweet so was not too moreish but was a delicious snack.

I am sending this slice to Tea Time Treats, No Waste Food Challenge (it used up condensed milk, chocolate buttons and butter that had been in the kitchen when we left for holidays) and Treat Petite.

More Aussie slices on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Apple slice 
Chocolate caramel slice (v)
Coconut ice (gf)
Lemon slice 
Marshmallow weetbix slice

Milo Weetbix Slice
Adapted from Planning with Kids

4 Weet-Bix, crushed
1 cup plain wholemeal flour
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milo
2 tablespoon cocoa
100g butter
1/4 cup of milk

110g milk chocolate
3 tbsp condensed milk
1 tbsp milo
1 tbsp milk

extra coconut, for sprinkling

Place dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Melt butter and milk together and pour into dry ingredients.  Press into a lined slice tin.  Bake at 180 c for 15 minutes or until slightly browned.  Cool slightly in tray.

Melt all icing ingredients together until just melted.  Spread on the slice in the tray.  Sprinkle with coconut.  Once cooled cut into squares.

On the stereo: 
Paris rive droit: Various Artists

Posted April 25, 2016 09:40 PM by Johanna GGG

April 24, 2016


What I Ate: The Glass Den Edition

The Glass Den in Coburg continues to be one of my favourite places to eat. I first reviewed The Glass Den in October 2015 and blogged about another visit. Since then I have enjoyed many more meals alone (that’s my ‘me time’!) or with family. Here’s a look at some of my favourite meals since...
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Posted April 24, 2016 06:28 PM

April 23, 2016

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, Paris

Imagine the excitement of finding an English speaking bookstore in a country where they don't speak your language.  This explains part of the allure of the enchanting Shakespeare and Company bookstore in the heart of Paris.  However I also love it for its history that has become part of my story.

The original Shakespeare and Company bookshop was initially set up in 1919 by American ex-pat, Sylvia Beach at 8 rue Dupuytren.  In 1921 it moved to 12 rue de l'Odeon where it was a hub for American ex-pats until it closed during the German occupation in 1941.  Sylvia Beach was a great supporter of writers, most notably publishing James Joyce's Ulysses when it was banned in the USA and UK as an obscene book.

 I stumbled upon Sylvia Beach when looking for an honours thesis topic.  I ended up writing about literary relationships between men and women, including Sylvia Beach and James Joyce.  Hence my interest in the bookshop when I first got to Paris some years later.  I first sought out the 12 rue de l'Odeon building.  The grey one above with this plaque in memory of Sylvia Beach.  (These two photos and the one just below are quite old ones from travels before digital photography.)

After paying my respects at rue de l'Odeon, I then went to 37 rue de la Bûcherie where George Whitman set up a bookstore in 1951 that in 1964 he renamed Shakespeare and Company in tribute to Sylvia Beach's store.  I asked about the history of the place.  A young man asked if I wanted to sleep there.  I thought he was joking and told him I had a hostel room.  Years later I discovered that artists did stay there and I had passed up my chance to do so.  So sad.  I loved the old monastery turned bookstore with all its cluttered nooks, low doorways, and signs such as "be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise."

In 2011 George Whitman died and I hoped that Shakespeare and Company would continue.  As you can see by the sign above that is outside the shop, it has continued to thrive.  Her name is Sylvia Beach Whitman.  It seems George and I both have daughters called Sylvia.

I am very pleased his daughter is keep the flame alive.  The shop continues to feel like an old fashioned bookstore that welcomes artists and bohemians.  There are still many older books crammed into the shelves.  You know the ones that have a plain blue or red hardback binding rather than the more modern shiny attention-grabbing paperbacks.  Upstairs and writers group seemed to be in session and in another room someone was playing a piano.

However the store also feels like it is keeping up with the times too.  Next door is now a cafe and at the front of the shop is a small selection of Shakespeare and Company merchandise.  And of course there are modern books for those who want to buy them.  Outside on a warm Paris spring evening, it was busy with tourists including what looked like a busload.

Returning to the bookstore this visit with my daughter Sylvia, I felt like this bookstore was a little part of her story too.  I used to know Sylvia Beach's story so well but now I can tell my Sylvie that she was a generous and brave woman who encouraged and supported some amazing writers of the 1920s in Paris.  As a 7 year old Sylvie was interested in the story and very pleased to read some English books in the children's area.  Maybe one day she will read more about her and return to Shakespeare and Company.

Notes: I am not posting photos of the inside of the store (which is just so charming) because there were signs asking visitors not to take photos.  I did buy a tote bag and a notebook.  For those who are interested in visiting, it is on the left bank of the Seine, just across from the Notre Dame.

No coincidence that I am posting about this magical bookshop on the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death.  I am sure he would be proud to lend his name to the store that continues to foster a love of books in our digital age.

Shakespeare and Company Bookstore
37 rue de la Bûcherie
5th Arrondissement, Paris

Posted April 23, 2016 11:23 PM by Johanna GGG


Lunch at Cuppa Cha in Camberwell

DeeW and I went on a little adventure yesterday to visit family. My sister in law suggested lunch at Cuppa Cha on Burke Road in Camberwell. Cuppa Cha is all things tea– it’s a tea bar, a tea shop and cafe specialising in loose leaf teas as well as stocking lots of lovely teaware from...
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Posted April 23, 2016 12:17 PM

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Smith & Daughters VII

April 10 & 12, 2016

We're regular Smith & Daughters visitors and, as you can see up top, this is our seventh blog post about the restaurant. Yet our last post is from more than a year ago! Here's a run-down of the current, very-limited-time-only 2nd birthday menu.

The weekend brunch menu takes its inspiration from American diner food, and with the help of Nat & Ben we were well across it. Michael was drawn in by the Brekkie Hot Dog ($15), piled up with tofu scramble, cheese, onion, bacon and BBQ sauce. It's an excellent vegan hot dog, to be sure, but one that taught me I'm not up to weiners and BBQ sauce this early in the day.

Nat was most enamoured with the mac n cheese ($14), carby and creamy and garnished with just a sprinkle of paprika.

My surprise highlight was the hash ($16). The jalapenos and avocado of their long-standing Mexican hash are replaced here with bacon, onion and kale; the same corn, cheese sauce and starchy foundation of fried potatoes stuck around.

How did that hash outperform the sweet stuff? There were two very, very promising contenders there. The first was this Black Forest Pancake Stack ($17). The pancakes had a lovely fluffy texture but weren't as chocolatey as they looked, although the garnishing ring of sauce fixed that right up.

The Fruit LoopWaffles ($17) were multi-coloured mayhem, crispy and spread with jammy blueberries, sandwiched with vegan cream and mousse, then scattered with the eponymous Froot Loops. It was fun to take on, but a reminder to us adults that the six-coloured cereal barely generates one-and-a-half dimensions of flavour. (The first dimension is, of course, sugar.)

Two short days later we headed back in with Steph & Hayley for dinner. This menu is a greatest hits tour through Shannon Martinez's years cheffing around Melbourne at the East Brunswick Club, Gasometer Hotel, South & Sweetwater Inn (uh, yeah, we're fans). We kicked off with cocktails - a gin-spiked raspberry lemonade/peach sweet iced tea Arnold Palmer ($17) for Michael, and a potently citrussy Sour Puss ($17) for me.

Our nostalgia was drawn in too many directions and it was tough to choose just two stomachs worth of food. Michael and I started by halving the Gasometer-era Southern Fried Chicken & Waffles ($19). They were mercifully smaller but even tastier than I remembered, with the waffles slathered in caramelised maple bacon butter and a deceptively light spiced batter on the mock chicken.

The Sweetwater Inn-style Fish & Chips ($16) was, by comparison, enormous. The mock fish, too, might've been flakier and more delicately beer-battered than in their first incarnation; the chips were very good, but not quite Gasometer-good.

By this time I was ill-equipped to take on the Gasometer-throwback Crispy Fried Pickles ($10) that Michael insisted on. They would've been at their best with that Sour Puss cocktail and without the two major meals in between, interfering.

Though we were really very full, I convinced my co-diners that one dessert between the four of us wasn't really a big commitment at all. We revisited the East Brunswick Club's Choc Peanut Butter Cheesecake ($15). In 2009 I described it as 'a super-rich slab of salty-sweet heaven, best shared with a fellow connoisseur'. It still is.

Smith & Daughters' 2nd birthday menu is an over-the-top celebration of a very special vegan restaurant, and the chef behind it. They've just announced an upcoming cookbook, and we can't wait to see what they dream up next.


You also can read about one, two, three, four, five, six of our previous visits to Smith & Daughters. The flash-back faves menu has also appeared on A Melbourne Vegan Eats.

Since our last blog post, Smith & Daughters has received positive coverage on veg blogs Vegetarian Life Australia, Veganeers, Veganopoulous and Vegan Miam. It's also won fans on omni blogs Filled with Food, The Melbourne Fussy Eater, The Melbourne Glutton, DAMMIT JANET I LOVE FOOD, Sweet and Sour Fork, Cup of Three and Food Fable. Only Zinc Moon has had a tough time, seemingly due to a food allergy.


Smith & Daughters
175 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
9939 3293
brunch, dinner, drinks
facebook page

Accessibility: The entry is flat and narrow and the tables are pretty crowded. The interior is dimly lit and loud at night. Toilets were located up several steps, were gendered and of standard dimension. We ordered at the table and paid at a high counter.

Posted April 23, 2016 10:03 AM by Cindy

April 22, 2016

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Paris sightseeing: Catacombes, Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, the Marais etc

Paris has some of the most famous monuments in the world.  We see them everywhere in popular culture and yet it is still amazing to see them close up and remember just why they are so beloved.  All Sylvia wanted to do while in Edinburgh and Paris was ride the open top bus.  It is a great way to see some of the iconic sights.  We also spent hours queuing to see the Catacombes and I had a day sightseeing in the Marais. 


The one thing E was really keen to do in Paris was see the Catacombes.  These underground passages have the bones of 6 million Parisians moved there when church graveyards became overflowing and a health hazard.  I went there on my first visit to Paris and found them fascinating, disturbing and sad.  We decided that an underground attraction was the thing to do on a rainy day.  I read online that there could be long queues but unfortunately I had to see them to believe them.

The queues were long when we arrived.  And it was raining.  But I insisted we were there and should queue.  So Sylvia and E went off to MacDonalds and brought me back a macaron.  Meanwhile I talked to an American and a Londoner as the queue so slowly moved along.  Somehow I ended up under Sylvia's Minion umbrella.  She had mine and E only had an Akubra hat to battle the rain.  They went off for a hot chocolate to warm them.  We waited ages.  Then I got myself a hot chocolate.

We waited and waited and waited.  We were so wet.  We had conversations with the Londoner about the irony of going to the Catacombes because it was wet and yet spending so much time in the rain.  We talked about the strikes going on that day and whether they affected the other tourist attractions.  (See what I think is a strike poster above.)  We joked that the bones underground were of those who had waited too long.  After almost 3 hours were finally were ushered inside.

We walked along a long tunnel with the occasional date chiseled into stone, past the entrance with the words Arrête! C'est ici l'empire de la Mort ("Stop! This is the Empire of the Dead"), and then we walked along rows and rows of human bones and skulls.  Most of them neatly stacked, some in patterns and others stewn at the top of the piles.  Cemeteries and graves are quite common while travelling around Europe but it is less usual to see the bare bones and so many of them.  It is humbling and disturbing to be confronted by so much death.

After the huge queue, I was surprised that there weren't lots of people underground.  Sylvia refused to look at any of the bones.  I told her they were just people like us and now this is our way to remember them.  To no avail.  We walked the 2 kilometres and then had the final 83 steps up into the fresh air and rain.  I found the steps hard going.  I think I was so tired from queuing.  It is an interesting place but I was glad to get out.

Open top bus tour

Sylvia's heart's desire was to go on an open top bus tour.  I refused in Edinburgh where we had seen all the main attractions.  In the larger city of Paris it seemed a good way to get around to see the sights with a small child.  It wasn't cheap at 33 Euros for E and me and 17 Euros for Sylvia (for the Green Line).  E decided to spend an extra 4 Euros each for him and me to have a 2 day pass.  It turned out to be good value.

We boarded at the Notre Dame, headed up the Left Bank of the Seine past the Musee D'Orsay and across the river to the Place de la Concorde (above).  The traffic there is so crazy that it is amazing no one has ever run into the obelisk.

Arc de Triomphe and the Avenue des Champs-Élysées

Then we turned into the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.  I see people strolling along the generous footpaths and part of me wishes to be down among them while another part loves being up so high (we sat at the front of the upstairs).  It is a romantic street but is full of high street brands rather than quirky individual shops.  The traffic is incredibly busy and we can see the Arc de Triomphe (Arch of Triumph) in the distance.

Up close the Arc de Triomphe surprises with so much grandeur and details.  Look how small the people are in the photo.  I had a yen to climb to the top but I suspect Sylvia and E would not have wanted to accompany me.  Besides the traffic is so crazy around the arch that I was relieved to get out of there.

Eiffel Tower

When we returned to Melbourne after our trip, one of the first questions I was asked about Paris was, did you climb the Eiffel Tower.  We didn't.  I have before but as I have already said, I prefer the views from the Notre Dame (or even the Pompidou) in the very oldest part of the city.  Sylvia really wanted to climb the Eiffel Tower.  I considered it until we saw the queues.  They were long and we had been in enough queues.

I do think it is worth going up close to look at the Eiffel Tower and perhaps that is the charm of climbing it; to have a closer inspection of the beautiful ironwork.  It really is a work of art that gets lost in the silhouette of the icon that we see so often in popular culture.  (Sylvia was quite interested in the Eiffel Tower because she had seen Snoopy flying around it and a Minion climbing it.)

The Louvre

After a day that started with climbing the towers of the Notre Dame Cathedral, riding around Paris on an open top bus and dinner at Brasserie Lola, I left E and Sylvia to go home and I went to the Louvre Museum.  I think I might have only visited once before when I first went to Paris.  It was a Friday night so there were no queues and I had a museum pass.  The hardest bit was trying to work out where to start in this immense museum.

Well I guess the first moment is to sigh in awe at the magnificent building.  Especially when there is a busker playing atmospheric music on the violin.  The Louvre Palace was originally built as a fortress in the 12th Century, used as a royal palace for centuries and in 1793 it was first opened as museum.  It is absolutely huge.

I asked at the information desk for guidance.  Where do you want to go, she asked.  I shrugged and said Medieval.  It is a beautiful section and includes the Mona Lisa, which is a wonderful painting it is so small and distant behind its bulletproof glass and crowds that it is hard to warm to it.  I also decided to go and look at Napoleon III's apartments.  It took a good 10-15 minutes to walk there and a sharp intake of breath as the sumptuous glitzy decor.

Musee de Carnavalet

When my mum heard that we were staying in the Marais she recommended we visit the Musee de Carnavalet.  I decided to go there on the day after we had been on the open top bus.  Sylvia had loved it so much she and E went on it again.  And again.  While I had a day in the Marais.

The building of the Musee de Carnavalet was impressive.  However inside I made the mistake of not getting a headset tour.  Most of the signs were in French and it was hard to get a sense of the place.  Finally I found that there was some information at the back of my map brochure and when I arrived at the section on the French Revolution, I was delighted to discover that the storyboards were in both French and English.

I studied the French Revolution at university and was delighted to be able to read about the details of the background, paintings and memorabilia.  Top right in the above collage is the chair that the royal family had used while imprisoned after the revolution.  I also enjoyed the paintings of Paris, seeing the humble bedroom of Proust and the models of Medieval Paris.

One of the interesting aspects of the museum is the recreated rooms from demolished houses in Paris.  Furniture and furnishings have been brought here so that we can still see what these rooms were like.  I would have been able to find out more about them with a headset tour but I still enjoyed looking at these gorgeous rooms.

Victor Hugo House

When I first went to Paris with my list of places to visit, it included Place de Vosges and Victor Hugo's House.  It took me another 20 years to get there.  When I first visited Paris, I had done heaps of research, but this time I had barely looked at anything about Paris until a few days before we flew there.  Hence my mistake in buying a sightseeing pass that I thought would take me to Victor Hugo's House and Musee de Carnavalet, not realising that these museums were free to enter.

And was it worth the wait?  Yes.  Place de Vosges were incredibly grand.  I had learnt from Musee de Carnavalet that I needed a headset tour.  Though I had read Les Miserables many years ago, I didn't know a lot about Victor Hugo and it was interesting to hear about his life.  I was saddened by the early deaths of many of his children and in admiration of his flair for home decor.  Place de Vosges was very grand and elegant.  It would have been nice if Sylvia had been with me to enjoy the little playground.  Around the edges under the arches were lots of interesting galleries.

And I will end with the Notre Dame Cathedral at night.  You can read more about our visits to Notre Dame.  Some other favourite Paris sights we saw on this trip are the Pompidou Centre and Shakespeare and Co Bookstore.  On previous visits, I have enjoyed visiting Musee D'Orsay, Sacre Coeur Basilica in Montmatre, Pere Lachaise and the Palace of Versailles.  If only I had had more time in Paris....  Sigh!  Je t'aime Paris!

Posted April 22, 2016 02:39 PM by Johanna GGG

April 20, 2016

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Paris street art

I am compiling some traditional sightseeing photos from Paris for a post.  Meanwhile I will share some less well known sights from Paris.  These street art photos are fun and thought provoking in turns.  Most of them were taken around the Marais where we stayed.  The last one was near the Pompidou Centre and the two above were by the Hotel de Ville. 

Posted April 20, 2016 11:12 PM by Johanna GGG

Thoughts Of A Moni


This product talk is brought to you by Circa Homes and Nuffnang.
Gratitude. It is an often forgotten aspect of our lives, and yet, we have so much to be grateful for. There is so much in my life that I take for granted, but so much of it is not available to many around the world.

I am grateful that I have a healthy body. I am able to walk, to run, to drive, and to move without restriction. I am grateful that I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back and food to eat whenever I am hungry. I am grateful that I have friends and family that I can depend on. I am grateful that I live in a country where we assume the right to freedom. I am grateful that I live in a country where gender is no barrier to what I can achieve. I am grateful for the simple human values that my parents have imparted to me, because without them, without the basic principles of love, truth, righteousness, non violence, peace and happiness, life would be meaningless.

I have so much to be grateful for and yet, I rarely take the time to acknowledge all that is good in my life. So I have decided to start a new ritual. I have started writing in a gratitude diary. Every night before bed, I am going to take a minute to write down one thing that I am grateful for that day. It might be something small like that fact that my new body wash makes me happy because it smells like rosewater, or it might be big like that fact that I am fortunate enough to be going to Mongolia in a few months to experience a new landscape and culture. Either way, both deserve to be equally acknowledged, for they both play a part in making my life happier.

Every day may not be good, but it is important to remember that there is something good in every day.

Circa Homes has brought out a limited edition Honeyflower and Sandalwood collection, just in time for Mothers’ Day. I am so grateful to have my mother in life, and I know I wouldn’t be a quarter of the person I am if it wasn’t for her. She has imparted her love of food to me, she has shared with me her fetish for clothes, she has helped me realise the importance of fulfilling my responsibilities, and most importantly she has showered me with unconditional love.

This Circa Homes candle that I am so grateful to have been gifted, is just as warm and inviting as a hug from my mum, and this Mothers’ Day, with my mum overseas, I will take any sign of my mum possible.

Circa Homes is also giving you the opportunity to win a limited edition Honeyflower and Sandalwood Collection pack, including candles, a fragrance diffuser, soy melts and an electric wax warmer. All the products have the comforting smell of honeyflower and sandalwood, and evoke so many feelings of gratitude. To enter, head to the Circa Homes competition page and see if you are lucky enough to win the pack, either for yourself, or perhaps your mum!

Posted April 20, 2016 01:15 PM by Moni

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Roasted pear & gorgonzola salad

April 10, 2016

We were overdue for a home-cooked meal in general, a healthy one in particular and, I thought, another go at the Community cookbook. Once I saw the recipe for roasted pear (in season!) and gorgonzola (delicious year-round!) salad I didn't look any further.

A look in the cupboard and the shops took me a little off recipe. I added a whole head of cauliflower to the recipe for some extra golden-edged substance. Most of the pears in our neighbourhood were rock-hard and not ready for dinner, but Michael found a few nashi pears at Pachamama that were worth a shot. The white wine (not white balsamic) vinegar and black lentils in the pantry would surely do the job. Sage leaves were plentiful but didn't fry to a crisp as they were supposed to.

The ingredient proportions didn't quite add up (too, too many lentils and not quite enough dressing) but it was easy to portion out our own plates and make plans for the leftovers later. The salad was everything I had anticipated - layers of savoury, earthy green and brown with episodes of pungency and sweetness.

Roasted pear & gorgonzola salad
(adapted from a recipe in Hetty McKinnon's Community)

250g lentils (we used black but puy or green might be better)
1 head cauliflower
~1 kg pears (McKinnon suggests 6 Packhams, we used about 8 nashi pears)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons caster sugar
30g butter
1 cup sage leaves
2 cups rocket leaves
200g gorgonzola
salt and pepper

Preheat an oven to 200°C.

Place the lentils in a saucepan and cover them with water. Bring them to the boil, then simmer them until tender (this can take 15-40 minutes depending on the type).

Chop the cauliflower into bite-sized florets and place them in a baking tray. Drizzle over 2 tablespoons of olive oil, sprinkle over salt and pepper. Bake the cauliflower until tender, and golden around the edges, about 25 minutes.

While the cauliflower is baking, slice the pear into 4-8 pieces each and remove the cores. Place the pear wedges in a baking tray. Drizzle over 2 tablespoons olive oil, the vinegar and sugar. Bake the pears until cooked through but still holding their shape, about 20 minutes.

Melt the butter in a frying pan until it's frothing and add the sage leaves. Fry the leaves until they're crispy, then turn off the heat.

Now it's time to assemble everything! Layer up the rocket, cauliflower and pears (including the pears' roasting juices). Drain the lentils and spoon them over the top. Crumble over the gorgonzola and sprinkle on the sage leaves (and any still-melted butter in the pan).

Posted April 20, 2016 07:18 AM by Cindy

April 19, 2016

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Pumpkin and kale soup with tempeh crumbles

There has not been a lot of innovative cooking in our place since we got home from Scotland.  In fact I haven't been posting many soup recipes of late because I feel all my soup recipes are a variation on many that I have already posted.  What makes this soup different is the addition of tempeh crumbles.  It is definitely something I will do again and would recommend to those who are shy of tempeh.

On the weekend I went to our local farmers market for the first time in ages.  I bought kale which I knew would go into this soup.  It is fairly easy to make.  The pumpkin soup is made and simmers away while you steam the kale and make the tempeh crumbles which were very similar to these.  I need such simple recipes while we are trying to get back into the swing of life at home.

Returning to my own pantry has been a bumpy ride.  I have despaired of no tahini for this stew and only after I bought a new jar did I discover an unopened jar in the pantry.  I have made soup without smoked paprika because I forgot the new place I found for it after it fell all over the stove.  I even grabbed the wrong bottle and just stopped myself adding sushi seasoning to pizza dough instead of agave syrup.

As if my discombobulation isn't enough, the days are so much shorter since I got home.  The natural light is usually gone by dinner time.  Daylight savings has finished.  (I find it a cruel cruel thing that we are going to have to put our clocks forward twice this year!)  So when I made this soup, I took a photo (above) and the light just wasn't right.

So the next afternoon when I picked up Sylvia from school, I served a bowl of soup so I could take a photo in the fading natural light and set it aside for dinner.  The textures of wilted kale and soft flavoursome tempeh crumbles was lovely and quite light.  The recipe comes from a clean eating collection.  However for a bit of substance I really enjoyed adding a couple of spoonfuls of cooked quinoa.  Perfect autumn fare!

I am sending this to No Croutons Required, Healthy Vegan Fridays, Gluten Free Fridays, Eat Your Greens and Meat Free Mondays.

Pumpkin and kale soup with tempeh crumbles
Adapted from BuzzFeed
Serves 4-5

For the soup:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 brown onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1200g wedge of pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and chopped into chunks
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 1/2 tsp old bay seasoning
4 cups vegetable stock
2-3 generous handfuls kale leaves, ribs removed, roughly chopped
Steamed over soup for about 5-10 min until wilted but still green

For the smoky tempeh crumbles:
2 tsp olive oil
300g plain tempeh, crumbled
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp liquid smoke

To serve (optional):
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
bread or cooked quinoa

Heat oil in a large saucepan or stockpot.  Fry onion for a few minutes over medium heat and then add garlic, carrots and red pepper and fry for 5 to 10 minutes until softened.  I did this while I chopped the pumpkin.

Stir in pumpkin, paprika, old bay seasoning and a pinch of salt.  Pour in stock.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until pumpkin is soft.

While soup is simmering, start the tempeh crumbles.  Squeeze water out of tempeh and then pat dry with a paper towel.  Crumble tempeh into small pebble sized pieces.  Heat oil in heavy based frypan and fry tempeh for 10 to 12 minutes over medium heat until it is dried and browned (ie not totally dried but just dry enough it will separate into pieces and had lots of patches of golden brown).  Once cooked mix in soy sauce and liquid smoke until absorbed (this is pretty quick).  Set aside until required.

While soup simmers and tempeh fries, it is time to prepare the kale and wilt slightly.  I did this for one half of soup in a steamer basket above the soup (5 minutes).  I did it in the microwave for the second half of the soup.  It should be wilted but still green.  Set aside until required.

To serve the soup, puree the soup.  Ladle into a bowl and top with kale, tempeh crumbles and a spoonful of yoghurt.  The soup is delicious by itself or with a couple of spoonfuls of cooked quinoa stirred through or with some bread on the side.

Notes: Instead of using yoghurt, serve with coconut cream, coconut yoghurt or nut cream to make it vegan.  Or you can leave it out altogether.

On the stereo:
Vaudeville: Saphyre

Posted April 19, 2016 11:11 AM by Johanna GGG

April 18, 2016

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Edinburgh sightseeing: National Museum of Scotland with balcony cafe

On our last visit to Edinburgh, one of the places where I didn't get time to eat with the National Museum of Scotland.  This time we ate there twice.  Sylvia dragged me back because she was besotted with the kid's boxes where she could choose a few small things for her lunch.  I was quite happy to go along because the view is magnificent and the food was lovely.

The museum is centrally situated in Chambers Street just along from Greyfriars Kirk which is at the top of Candlemaker Row leading down to the Grassmarket where we were headed to visit the market.  We were running late and needed to eat so we dropped in.

As you can see it is an imposing Victorian museum and in the early 21st Century the very modern Museum of Scotland, was built adjacent to the former Royal Scottish Museum (on the right of the photo) to focus on Scotland's history.  In 2006 they merged to form the National Museum of Scotland.  To E they are still just the Royal Scottish Museum or the Chambers Street Museum.

While today I am writing about the balcony cafe, there is also a basement Museum Brasserie for more restaurant-style meals and the Tower Restaurant that is very posh.  I was lucky enough to be taken there in 2002.  The food was fantastic and fancy, and the views of the castle were superb.  Maybe one day I will manage to return.

But back to the Balcony Cafe.  Can you see the heads of the people sitting in the cafe on the first floor?  This grand gallery is just magnificent.  Edinburgh is such a grey and gloomy city that it is a surprise that someone thought to design such a light filled space.

I really like this drinking fountain that is on display in the great hall.  But for a drink, we headed to the Balcony Cafe.

The balcony cafe is more about views than fancy food.  However sometimes it is good to have something simple and quick.  Though initally I thought this self service part was all there was and I had chosen a cheese baguette. 

Then I saw there was a toasted sandwich called the Parisian which consisted of brie, spinach and caramelised onions in a ciabatta.  It was lovely though it was forgotten and had E huffing and puffing at the service.  He had a baguette and irn bru.

Sylvia was very pleased to get a kid's box.  She got to choose five things from the kids section.  She had a cheese sandwich (I was pleased it wasn't just hot chips), two packets of pom bear crisps, a Tunnocks caramel wafer bar and an apple juice.  It all came with a box and crayons.  The box required colouring in which is good to while away the hours while slower people eat.

We didn't stay at the museum long unless you include a convoluted route to the toilets.  E was set on getting to the Grassmarket Market.

A few days later Sylvia and I had a day out while E was helping his sister.  We walked to the museum via Sylvia's favourite playground in the Meadows.  I had stopped for a sandwich at Summerhall so I headed for the cake display while Sylvia chose the kid's box again.

My hazelnut and chocolate truffle muffin was very good.  I was particularly impressed that it had an actual rich dense chocolate truffle buried in it.  I also had a cup of tea but cannot remember the flavour.  Sylvia was set on bringing her kid box from the previous visit but one of the staff was very set on her having a new box.  He won.  I busied myself colouring it in while she ate her meal.

Sylvia and then set off to look about.  I am quite fascinated by all the taxidermied animals on display but she didn't like them at all so we didn't stay there long.

The real reason for our visit was the Lego exhibition.  A few Lego structures were on display but what she really wanted was a go at one of the tables with a bucket of lego pieces.  She enjoys her Lego at home and enjoyed this activity.

I helped out but I am no Lego enthusiast.  I was more interested in the exhibitions on the wall of the grand gallery.  It is like a cabinet of curiosities.  We had fun with the interactive display giving information on all sorts of historic and space age items.  Then she was itching to get back to the playground.  Perhaps next visit we will have more time to explore.

Balcony Cafe
National Museum of Scotland
Chambers Street
Edinburgh, EH1 1JF
Tel: 0300 123 6789

Balcony Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted April 18, 2016 11:45 PM by Johanna GGG

quinces and kale

brisbane eating II

noodles with tempura veg

I missed my post last week as I headed to Brisbane for the Baroque Festival for the second year running. It was a quick trip, flying early up on the Sunday morning and returning Tuesday morning.

The Handel opera Agrippina was playing as part of the festival and it was a must see for me. As I expected, it was magnificent. I could happily have sat through the whole 4 hours the next day. We also saw King Arthur, a staged semi opera by Henry Purcell, great music, but a VERY dull play with odd staging. We also went to a very enjoyable lunchtime organ recital on Monday. In between lots of walking and listening to music, we also managed to eat. 🙂

My friend and I revisited the two branches of Vegerama that we went to last year. There are a few in Brisbane, we chose the one in the Myer Centre food court (not classy, but it was close to the City Hall venue) and the more up market one in the West End 10 minutes walk from our apartment. Both experiences were mixed. Last time I ate at the Myer Centre branch I stuck with Indian food which they do well, this time I sampled the lasagna and a pie. Both were a bit disappointing, both were not hot enough and the bechamel on the lasagna was almost like transparent glue. The pie was good. Still it was ribsticking food, good for filling me up. But I had food order envy, my friend chose a vegan frittata which was really tasty, and her tiramisu wasn’t too bad either.

vegan frittata lasagna tiramisu 'chicken' and pesto pie

At the other Vegerama in West End, we both chose an udon noodle dish, one with tofu and one with tempura. My tempura one was so, so good, but my friend’s was a tepid, tasteless mess swimming in oil. It was so bad she sent it back and replaced it with the same one that I’d ordered. The waiter said the manager was insistent that this is how it was meant to be (in which case I’d take it off the menu as I cannot imagine anyone ordering it a second time), but they kindly didn’t charge to replace it with a different dish.

noodles with tempura veg noodles with tofu

On our last night we ate at a place called Vegeme. This was also a mixed bag. It has a pan-Asian menu with a focus on Japanese and Korean dishes. There were so many exciting small bite type dishes that we over ordered – vegetable dumpings, sweet potato fritters, corn fritters, miso soup, salt and pepper king mushrooms.

The dumplings were overpowered by way too much pepper, the sweet potato dumplings were almost dessert like they were so sweet and the corn fritters reminded me of corn jacks that used to be sold at chip shops. Oddly, they came with tomato sauce. The miso soup was good. But the star of the meal was the mushrooms. Crispy on the outside and chewy king oyster mushrooms on the inside made for a perfect combination. We had no problem polishing them off, unlike the other dishes which we didn’t finish. The place has been well reviewed by others, perhaps we just chose badly.

Our breakfast needs were served by Ripe, a hole in the wall coffee place with friendly service, good coffee and an OK range of the usual breakfast staples. We had some sourdough toast with mushrooms, beans, avocado and hash browns. The breakfasts came with each item in a separate dish. I have a dislike of soggy toast so I was pleased to see the beans served that way, but it was otherwise a bit odd. I asked for some spinach and it came raw.  The next day I had a foccacia made up with spinach, mushrooms and a tomato relish.

breakfast breakfast

A very enjoyable visit to Brisbane but a mixed bag on the food front, more misses this time than hits.


Vege Rama Myer Centre
91 Queen St, Brisbane CBD
07 3012 8586

Vege Rama West End
Shop 2A, 220 Melbourne St
West End, Brisbane
07 3255 3388

Vege Rama Restaurant & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Shop 9, 220 Melbourne Street
West End, Brisbane

33 Merivale Street,
South Brisbane

1300 657 041

Posted April 18, 2016 10:00 AM

April 16, 2016

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Edinburgh cafes: Southpour, Lovecrumbs, Forest, Scottish Storytelling Centre

While I love Edinburgh pubs, many seem to be run by large corporations, whereas the cafe scene is far more exciting and innovative.  We spent more time in cafes on our recent trip.  Our visits to Edinburgh often find us returning to old favourites.  Of the four cafes I write about today, only one was new to us.


In fact Southpour was new to all Edinburgh.  It had very recently opened when we arrived.  At first we just passed on bus and saw many people enjoying themselves in a cafe of quirky furniture and sparkly fairy lights.  Then we moved to our Newington holiday flat and were walking distance.  So we visited.

I really wanted to like it.  The place had a lovely design aesthetic with old signs spraypainted on brick walls, high bookcases with old books and bottles, a grill with love locks on it, a bar with lovely cake displays, a wall of polaroid photos and those alluring fairy lights.  Only our waitress was a little inexperienced.  But she was very sweet and as helpful as could be.  I loved the little starry kids cutlery set she gave Sylvia.  Who ate chips.

I had the black bean burger, with mull cheddar, caramelised onions and sides of fries and coleslaw.  It was delicious but was a mighty huge meal.  I was stuffed at the end of it and the large burger did not want to stay in the brioche bun.  I really wanted to come back and try a simpler soup and sandwich.  Meanwhile E got the haggis loaded potato skins which he really enjoyed.

Then E and Sylvia wanted to dessert.  Can you blame them when the menu offered chocolate, salted caramel and hazelnut tart with tablet ice cream.  We asked for three spoons.  It was amazing.  Rich and gooey.  I confess I don't remember the ice cream well but I think it was really good.

Scottish Storytelling Centre

One of our favourite places on previous trips to Edinburgh has been the Scottish Storytelling Centre in the John Knox house on Royal Mile.  It has been a warm and cosy place for a bite to eat.  We ate here a couple of times but E was not so impressed by the service this time.

I really loved my ploughman's platter with cheese, oatcakes, bread, roast vegies, waldorf salad and fruit.  E enjoyed a haggis tzatziki wrap.  The brownie was rather good too.  And I love an elderflower presse to drink.  This was the place where Sylvia learnt to have hot chocolate with some cream on the side.  She ordered this as often as possible while in Edinburgh.

Strangely enough last time the only time I really wanted something off the specials board I wasn't there for a meal.  Likewise this visit.  I would have eaten the vegetarian shepherd's pie but when I saw it I had just had lunch.  Sylvia still enjoyed playing with these little doorways into famous Scottish books just as she had as a baby and a toddle.  And we enjoyed some singing here for St Patrick's Day.  I hope to be back.

Forest Cafe

We have a particular sentimental fondness for Forest Cafe because it used to be quite close to our flat in Edinburgh and my brother volunteered there for a time.  It now moved to the Tollbooth and is expanded but still has a touch of student bohemianism about it.  You can see photos of Forest Cafe from our last trip and notice a little has changed but not much.

On its website, Forest is described as "a volunteer-run, collectively-owned, free arts and events project."  The cafe is vegetarian and helps to fund it.  Signs of the broader activities are all around the cafe.  It is the sort of place where you sit at a table and find a box of chalk and no one minds if you use some even though it seemed to be for the notice board.  By the way, I would love to go to a Bread Party!

The service I had at Forest was pretty underwhelming.  (I was ignored at the counter for about 10 minutes before I asked if it was table service and was told "yes but" ... as I walked to my table .... "only after you order at the counter"!)  However that is the nature of a place with volunteers.  Soon after we were served I noticed that another woman was serving and doing an excellent job.

Sylvia ordered a hot chocolate and a brownie.  I ordered a fruit tea, E had a latte and the two of us shared a plate of nachos.  That dish is a sentimental favourite that we have had a Forest many times.  The drinks and brownie came first.  The brownie was probably one of the best bakes we had in Edinburgh.   Sylvia didn't like her hot chocolate because it wasn't sweet enough and I didn't like the spiciness in my tea.  So we swapped and were quite happy.

The nachos took quite a while.  I wasn't surprised as the volunteer dealing with them wasn't really the sharpest tool in the box.  When they came it was a generous plateful that was piping hot.  Forest does manage to get the corn chips nice and crisp with lots of melty cheese.  It was a shame that we had bad luck with the service as it is a fun place with good food.


It was with delight that we returned to lovecrumbs cake shop which we had really loved last time when Shauna had taken us there (thanks again Shauna).  We went there at the start of the trip and I was sure we would get back but like so many other places we never had a chance.  Such a shame.  It is fun to swoon over the cake cabinet.  Such gorgeous layer cakes and surprising flavours.

We discovered that you have to be quick.  We chose three cakes and by the time I ordered the people in front of me had nabbed the last slice of the White chocolate, hazelnut and thyme cake and the White chocolate pink peppercorn tart.  Instead E had the Beetroot walnut cake with lots of pink flecks and lovely cream cheese frosting.  Sylvia shared the Chocolate bramble cake with me.  It was lovely but so long again.  I think there was bramble jam and chocolate ganache between the layers.  I also really enjoyed the part of my Kitsch Rhubarb and Thai Basil Soda that Sylvia did not knock over the table.  Probably just as well we did not get a seat at the old piano that has been converted into a table!

Finally I leave you with a photo from our walk back through the Meadows to our flat after eating at Forest.  It was one of those sunny spring days when everyone seemed to have come out to enjoy the glorious mild British evening.  People were sitting in groups on the grass, kicking a soccer ball about, jogging, walking their dog, playing tennis, or at the playground.  We stopped to watch a squirrel, looked at the street art and took Sylvia to the playground.  I wish we had gone to more cafes in our time in Edinburgh but sometimes other places beckon.

1-5 Newington Road
Newington, Edinburgh  EH9 1QR

Scottish Storytelling Centre
43-45 High Street Edinburgh, EH1 1SR
Tel: 0131 556 1229 

Forest Cafe
141 Lauriston Place 
Tollcross, Edinburgh EH3 9JN
Tel: 0131 229 4922

155 West Port
Edinburgh EH3 9DP

Posted April 16, 2016 10:51 PM by Johanna GGG

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Water Drop Tea House @ Fo Guang Yuan Art Gallery

Cheap Eats 2006, a decade on

March 29, 2016

Fo Guang Yuan Art Gallery is one of the two biggest oversights highlighted in our Cheap Eats project spreadsheet - it's a vegetarian eatery that's been open the entire decade we've lived in Melbourne, yet we've never visited and blogged it until now. I put this down to the dining hall's opening hours, which are restricted to weekday lunch times and therefore quite inaccessible to us non-city workers.

My workplace issued me with an Easter Tuesday off this year, and I used it to sneak in and give the gallery tea house a go at long last. It was quiet, almost hushed, and I had no trouble getting a four-seated table to myself.

The menu is much longer than I'd expect for such an unassuming operation. The appetisers alone run to twenty mostly deep-fried options, and then there are several dozen more stir-fries, tossed noodles, noodles and noddle soups. Most dishes involve mock meat, with a few centred around tofu or mushrooms instead. Each day of the week has its own set of three bento specials, and there's a range of hot and cold teas. I enjoyed an iced kumquat tea ($4), which had the syrupy sweetness of cordial and a contrasting pithy aftertaste.

At my late arrival time, two of the Tuesday bento choices were sold out; I didn't mind ordering the remaining nasi lemak ($12). It arrived quite swiftly and contained (clockwise from top left): lots of tangy pickled vegetables; a spicy mock beef rendang with potatoes, carrot and generous gravy; firm tofu with a chilli dipping sauce; steamed rice, mock anchovies, cashews and diced cucumber. It was all fun to graze on, and I was especially delighted to see the mushroom-based mock anchovies that we first discovered at Vincent last year.

This eatery's reputation has waxed and waned over the years. I don't think it serves the best mock meat in Melbourne, but my bento box was pleasant, varied and very reasonably priced. The venue's greatest appeal is as a quiet, comfortable respite from the bustling city workday outside.


Most veg bloggers are very fond of this tea house, see praise on Veganopoulous (twice), vegan bullsh*t, easy as vegan pie, Nouveau Potato, and two contrasting posts on Miss T: Princess Vegan.


Water Drop Tea House
Fo Guang Yuan Art Gallery
141 Queen St, Melbourne CBD
9642 2388
menu 1, 2
facebook page

Acessibility: The entry from the street is wide and includes about ten stairs (and I didn't see an alternative approach). The floor inside is flat, tables are low and chairs have backs, with furniture well-spaced. I ordered at the table and paid at a high counter, and didn't visit the toilets.

Posted April 16, 2016 08:35 AM by Cindy

Thoughts Of A Moni

Royal Stacks

On Saturday, I rode for 12 km, ran for 5km at parkrun, and then walked for 3.5 km (and then back for 3.5km) to get burgers for dinner. Given all the exercise, the burgers, fries, milkshake and frozen custard (more on that later) were completely guilt free. People often ask me why I do crazy things like run 5 times a week. The answer is so I can eat ridiculous amounts of food. I’m not willing to eat any less, so the only option is to exercise more.

Melbourne is most definitely on a burger craze. Burger joints are popping up all over the place and competition is rife. This is a good thing if you are a burger lover like I am. A few months ago, Royal Stacks opened up its first branch in the CBD, and it wasn’t long before their second store opened up in Brunswick.

We got to Royal stacks at about 6:30pm on a Saturday evening. It was peak time for a restaurant, so it was no surprise that there was a line outside, and we were told that there would be a twenty minute wait for a table. We decided that waiting was not an issue, and before we realised it, we were called inside to sit at a communal table. For those that didn’t want to wait, there was a takeaway option, which was also doing a roaring trade.

When we got inside, there seemed to be lots of empty tables, so it seemed that they were a bit haphazard in getting people seated efficiently. There was also not table service, so you had to make sure you had someone at the table minding your spot whilst the second person was lining up at the counter placing the order. Not a big issue, unless your spot gets stolen, which was happening a fair bit.

The other half was responsible for the ordering, and he did good. He got the Double Stack for him, and the Queen Bee for me.

Royal Stacks only offers one form of protein for their burgers, beef, with the exception of the Queen Bee which is made with a home made chickpea patty. The Queen Bee also had the basic salads of lettuce and tomato, American cheddar, a special burger sauce which tasted suspiciously like it was based on tartare sauce and one of my favourite ingredients – pickles. I felt the bun was a little too sweet for my liking, I prefer a more bready bun, rather than the sweet brioche bun, but that’s just me. What I really enjoyed was the patty and the way the sauce complemented it, and of course I loved the pickles. Over all it was a good burger, but not amazing.

The other half had a similar opinion of his Double Stack. He commented that everything was done well, but there was no wow factor.

We also got some cheesy fries to share. These were actually my least favourite item. When I order chips, I want thickly cut chips that are crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. The Royal Stacks chips were French fries, McDonalds style, thin and with very little fluffiness. Being so thin, it also meant that they became limp very quickly. The cheese sauce was also nothing to write home about, almost replicating plastic cheese.

But from this part of the meal it was all uphill. First off, the salted caramel milkshake. YUM. The saltiness was perfectly balanced with the sweet caramel, and it was amazing. I don’t usually get drinks, but this milkshake was definitely worth it.

Then, as we were finishing off our meals, a waitress came and told us that they would like to offer us their signature frozen custard to try. I decided to try the pistachio flavour, and the other half went for another round of salted caramel. Both flavours were amazing. The salted caramel frozen custard was also the basis of our previous milkshake, so needless to say, it was perfect, but the pistachio flavour was also a winner. I struggled to tell the difference between frozen custard and ice cream, but regardless, it was smooth and creamy and a great way to end the meal.

Royal Stacks has definitely made a big impact in Melbourne after being open for a short time and the long lines outside the premises are testament to this. Was I impressed? I wasn’t so impressed with the burgers, but I will definitely be back for some more frozen custard, that’s what it was all about for me!

Royal Stacks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted April 16, 2016 08:30 AM by Moni

April 15, 2016

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Edinburgh pubs: World's End, The Southern and Tiles

There is nothing like a ye olde cosy British pub.  They usually have some good vegetarian food on the menu and a delightful ambiance.  I have already written about the pub highlights of our recent trip to Edinburgh.  Today I am going to write about meals at three different types of pubs.  Though not as spectacular as at the Auld Hoose and The Beehive, they nevertheless produced impressive vegetarian pub grub.  The World's End is an iconic tourist pub, Tiles is an after work city centre pub and The Southern is more for the locals and students.  As I had brunch, lunch and dinner at these pubs, I will write about them in that order.

The Southern 
22-26 South Clerk Street
Edinburgh, EH8 9PR
0131 662 8926

The Southern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sylvia and I had brunch one day at The Southern, which was near our holiday flat in Newington.  I liked the dark exterior which suggested a cosy interior.  More importantly, the menu promised a good veggie fry up.

Inside was actually brighter and more modern than I expected albeit cosy.  Leather benches, copper table tops, high tables, heavy stools, and lots of bare white walls.  Yet it still had a touch of vintage charm with the fireplace and little window nooks.  I can imagine it is popular with students.

The music was fun British classics and the pub very quiet at about 10.30am so Sylvia and I had fun dancing while we waited for our meal.  It gave us a laugh.  However most of our laughter came when Sylvia thanked the man who brought in the barrels of beer and then told me she had  embarrassed her pants off!

I ordered the veggie breakfast which consisted of vegetarian sausages, vegetarian haggis, baked beans, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, and sourdough bread.  I enjoyed it but I think I have been spoilt by the likes of Melbourne's Glass Den and wished for more vegies with my meal.  Sylvia enjoyed baked beans on toast.  She had a lovely apple juice and I had a more astringent cranberry juice.

It was an excellent way to start the day and we had fun watching people and buses going by out the window.  If I had had the chance I would have liked to try the vegetarian burgers.

The World's End
4 High Street, Royal Mile
Old Town, Edinburgh EH1 1TB
0131 5563628

The World's End Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

It amazes me that it has taken me this long to eat at the World's End pub on the Royal Mile.  I first noticed it on my first trip to Edinburgh 20 years ago.  I just never went in.  There are so many pubs and so little time in Edinburgh.  In 2006 I ate at the opposite pub (then called The Tass) and took this photo of the exterior through the window (apologies that it is the only photo I could find).  On our last visit, I tried to get in but they would not let Sylvia in with the stroller.  Finally this year we ate there.

This is the cosy British pub of my romantic imagination.  Thick stone walls, some painted a warm burnt sienna and hung with old photos, gilt edged mirrors, cute wee nooks, a curved wooden bar, axes above the doors.  It is in the heart of heritage Edinburgh with a backpackers hostel above it.  Hence it is very popular with tourists.  You can spot all the foreign bank notes around the bar.

Unfortunately pubs are traditionally places for drinking too and I am not so interested in alcohol.  I asked about the alcohol free Kopparberg berry cider on the drinks menu.  It was dismissed as being just juice.  Hurrumph!  It was actually a very nice fizzy fruity cider.

Sylvia wanted chips as usual.  We didn't mind as she had been having lots of kids boxes with cheese sandwiches. E and I decided to share the plate of haggis nachos.  It was great to find some haggis nachos but a pretty ordinary plate of nachos.  The corn chips had cheese melted over them with a pile of veg haggis on top and some sour cream and salsa on the side.  No guacamole.  And not enough salsa.  But a good solid meal while out and about.

I was pleased to eat in a cosy ye olde worlde pub.  And one with a great story.  The name comes from the location of the pub at the end of the walled city of Edinburgh in the 16th Century so it was the end of the known world to the citizens.  The intersection outside the pub has gold markers to show where the gate once stood.  (The Museum of Edinburgh has a great little model of Edinburgh during this period.)

Tiles Bar and Bistro
1 St. Andrew Square
Edinburgh, EH2 2BD
0131 557 3228

Tiles Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I arranged to meet with an old work colleague one evening in Edinburgh.  She suggested Tiles, a bar that she goes to after work regularly.  It is in the old Prudential Insurance art deco building and is really worthwhile to spend your time there staring up at the amazing ceiling.

Tiles offers a fairly traditional Scottish menu of soup, ploughman's board, haggis, burgers and sandwiches.  I ordered a vegetarian burger (on a brioche bun with salad) with cheese, tomato chutney, coleslaw on the side and a cute basket of chips.  The burger was lovely and I really enjoyed the chips too.  I confess I didn't focus too much on the food as I was enjoying catching up with Anne whom I had not seen for a few years.

It was great to visit these pubs in Edinburgh.  I wish I had found more time to sit in pubs enjoying the pub grub and the general ambiance.  It is hard to get into them as laws mean that a 7 year old is not welcome in many of them.  Hopefully we will visit a few more next time. 

Meanwhile, you can check out other Edinburgh pubs I have written about: The Kenilworth, The Last Drop, Sheep Heid Inn, The Beehive Inn, The Auld Hoose.

Posted April 15, 2016 01:47 PM by Johanna GGG

April 13, 2016

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Paris: Pompidou Centre, Restaurant Georges and street food

On our last day in Paris the Paris Marathon was cutting the city in half.  We decided to visit the Pompidou Centre which was a short walk from our apartment.  It is an marvel of 1970s modern architecture in a city with many centuries of architectural history.  I have been there before but this was the first time I had gone inside and I was impressed by the artwork, the restaurant on the top floor and the amazing views.

It is the sort of area where it is not surprising to see fun idea such as books growing on trees.  Unfortunately after walking along the quirky Rue de Rambuteau, the area around the Pompidou Centre was very touristy with lots of cafes that charged a lot and gave little in return.  We went into one and the atmosphere was so absent that I insisted we leave again.

E and Sylvia were hungry and narky at me for searching for that perfect place.  Mind you, it wasn't easy finding a place to each in Paris to suit vegetarians and fussy children.  Finally I settled upon this creperie.  It was cheap and cheerful.  Just what we wanted.  E had a croque monsieur; he was very fond of them.  Sylvia and I shared a cheese crepe.  We both loved it.  I almost bought us another but suspect more food was around the corner.  And I was right.

We sat in the square to the south of the Pompidou Centre while we ate.  There was plenty of space to sit on the edge of a disused fourntain.  My only memory of the Pompidou when I visited Paris with E many years ago was seeing this brightly coloured sculpture. 

It was a fantastic position.  As we sat looking over the Pompidou, a group of break dancers were dancing sporadically in a way that made us admire their fitness and strength.  Quite a crowd was watching, including some little kids who were fascinated (can you spot the little kid with the dancers?).  As if that wasn't entertaining enough, a group of youths were have fun doing tricks with soccer balls.  When we left the dancers were gathering a crowd for a performance but we had to move on.

We wanted to go into the centre.  Our hearts sank at the huge queues.  One of the street artists asked if we wanted a portrait of Sylvia.  We said no.  He then told us we could walk in at a different entrance because it was free on the first Sunday of the month.  I never quite worked out what the queues were for.  We were very grateful to the man.
We took the exterior tubular escalator to the top floor.  The views were spectacular.  In Paris you could play the game of seeing how many iconic monuments you could spot.

 The Eiffel Tower.

 The Basilica de Sacre Coeur in Monmatre.

Chatelet.  I am not sure what other monuments are in this photo but they look impressive. 

When we discovered there was a fancy restaurant (Georges) at the top of the Centre Pompidou, I had to try a chocolate fondant for dessert.  After all, we had eaten a very cheap lunch.  The place was rather expensive (58 euro or $AUD78) for three desserts and drinks.  But this is what you do on holidays.  And I love a view, especially from an iconic building.  It was a mixture of tourists and wealthy people.  You would never have guessed we were tourists from E's t-shirt.

Our waitress introduced herself as Lola and left us with the menus.  I loved the fun game of "guess the Georges" on the back.  E commented that the waiters all looked like supermodels.  They were amazing to watch.

Sylvia ordered a rippled vanilla and strawberry ice cream while E ordered a vanilla bourbon ice cream.  They both came with these huge wafers which looked impressive but were actually quite sweet.  However the ice cream was the star of the show.  It was delicious.

I ordered a chocolate fondant which was rich and gooey in the middle but a reasonably small size.

And did I mention the view.  Amazing!

Then we headed inside to look at the modern art section.  It had some compelling paintings by Matisse and Picasso, some really interesting cubism and avant garde pieces such as a replica of Duchamps "Fountain" and some inscrutable pieces that were total mysteries to me.

Once outside again, we went to Flunch and had sweet bakes.  Sylvia and E had doughnuts and I had a chocolate eclair.  I have probably mentioned my first visit to Lygon Street as a 17 year old when I was horrified to find the eclair filled with patisserie cream instead of regular whipped cream.  I have moved on since then.  This eclair, from a pretty regular street stall, was so good with chocolate icing on top and a chocolate custard inside.

Lastly E spent time in a DVD and CD shop while Sylvia and I drooled over the amazing chocolate creations at Comptor de Mathilde.  Lollypops, chocolate pizza, hot chocolate spoons, truffles etc etc etc.  This is where I bought the orangettes I mentioned recently.

By then, the Marathon was well and truly over so we could cross the Seine to Shakespeare and Co.  I will leave that until another day.

Restaurant Georges
Centre Pompidou
31 Rue Beaubourg
75004 Paris (4th arrondissement)
Tel: +33 (0)1 44 78 47 99 
Open: 12-2pm Wednesday - Monday

Posted April 13, 2016 11:02 PM by Johanna GGG

April 11, 2016

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Paris doors

Tonight I have tried to organise my Edinburgh and Paris photos into a small amount of catch up blog posts. But there are so so so many photos. Take photos of doors for example.  Sigh!

Posted April 11, 2016 11:24 PM by Johanna GGG

Thoughts Of A Moni

Rustica Canteen

I have a thing for good bread. Freshly baked loaves of warm, soft sourdough, with a crunchy crust, perhaps scattered with grains of some sort, and lathered with butter is one of my many weaknesses. Cheese is my other weakness, but let’s not start with that…

Rustica Sourdough has long been on my list to try. Social media has been full of people raving about not only their bread, but also their delicious breakfasts. Located on Brunswick St in Fitzroy, is the original Rustica branch, where we decided to indulge on Good Friday morning. We got there relatively early, as early as one should wake on a public holiday, and headed down there only to be faced with a queue. Luckily we didn’t have to wait too long, as long as we were happy to sit on a communal table. This was no issue for me, infact I quite like the communal table because it means I can perve on everyone else’s meals!

We started with the usual coffees, a latte and a flat white. It important to note that the other half’s flat white was served in a cup that had a handle large enough for his index finger to go through and get a firm grip. It’s the small things that make us happy.

Given that a long weekend was ahead of us, I decided to go for a healthy option of sautéed greens served with a poached egg on sourdough. The other half went on a completely different tangent and ordered the cheesy, béchamel filled goodness of a croque monsieur.

As per the description, my meal really did come with lots of greens. There was brocollini, beans, snow peas and sliced avocado,  all served with some grilled haloumi, almonds, and some salsa verde to tie it all together. It was presented with a poached egg, and sat on top of a thick slice of Rustica sourdough. This meal definitely worked. All the flavours blended well together, although, the cheese lover in me would have loved a little more haloumi. The bread was most definitely a highlight, and I was very satisfied with my meal.

The other half was equally impressed with his meal. Of course the bread was a standout, the croque monsieur was served on a pumpkin brioche which was rather unusual, but very much appreciated. It came with ham hock, gruyere cheese, seeded mustard béchamel and pickles on the side. It was also a winner.

Our breakfast that morning was a successful one, and we left very full and content customers. Rustica also have another couple of branches in the CBD and Richmond, infact I have a girls’ breakfast planned for the CBD outlet, so I hope it will live up to my expectations again!
Rustica Sourdough Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted April 11, 2016 11:19 AM by Moni

April 10, 2016


What I Ate: The Smith & Deli Edition

Wowwww I’ve been mega slack with the What I Ates yet again, so I’ve decided to make lateness with What I Ate posts a regular theme. For this What I Ate, I’m featuring a mega backlog bunch of eats from one of my favourite vegan places, Smith & Deli in Fitzroy. I blogged about Smith...
Continue reading »

Posted April 10, 2016 11:52 PM

Green Gourmet Giraffe

In My Kitchen April 2016: Edinburgh, Paris, Melbourne

The last month has been quite overwhelming with a trip to Edinburgh following the death of my father in law, a holiday in Paris and home to Melbourne just a few days back.  While I loved the daffodils and budding trees of a Northern springtime, I am happy to be home for the mellow weather and apple season of a Southern autumn.

Firstly let us start with one of the quirkier items I purchased in Edinburgh: Marmite's Very Peculiar chocolate.  I was excited to see a large block in the shape of a Marmite jar on the sale table at Debenhams.  After trying our Aussie Vegemite with chocolate I was curious, though I am not very familiar with the British counterpart, Marmite.  The chocolate was strangely pleasing.  The ingredients included celery seed and it tasted weird with chocolate and yet the sweet milk chocolate was a little easier to eat with a slight salty even vegetable flavour.

Being in Scotland meant that our groceries looked quite different to the our usual load.  I found a lovely tomato, onion and ginger chutney in Lakeland (where I really wanted to by the gingham bunting).  I loved the bread from the Wee Boulangerie in Clerk St.  E was v pleased to be able to buy Walkers Worcestershire crisps and Nairns oatcakes in the supermarket.  And I loved the Orkney Smoked Cheddar from Cranachan and Crowdie on the Royal Mile.

There was one kitchen item I really really missed while overseas: good hot cross buns.  I bought some from Sainsburys and some from Marks and Spencers but it was not the same as the ones that I make or not my mum's.

I was amazed to see that Haggis flavouring seemed to be a thing in Edinburgh.  I saw Haggis flavoured oatcakes, chocolate and crisps.  Unfortunately there was only so much I could eat in a month so I only tried the Haggis and Cracked Pepper crisps from Mackies of Scotland.  I liked them but found them to have a disturbingly slightly meaty taste.  Apparently the herbs are a great part of the seasoning that creates the haggis flavour so these crisps contain no sheep stomachs and are surprisingly vegan.

In one of our holiday flats, we had a Sainsburys Local close by.  This scaled down version of the supermarket offers a much limited selection of groceries.  (I assume it is intended to muscle into the territory of the traditional off license).  So I was surprised to find these chocolate edamame in the snack section.  They are actually American and the packaging (with this unnecessary photo) suggests them as a lower fat alternative to chocolate covered peanuts..  I quite liked the crispy coated beans as a snack but they did not go down well with Sylvia.

While I resisted the haggis oatcakes, I was quite interested in the Stag seaweed crackers.  They were lovely with some cheese or dipped in hummus.  Then I saw that Stag also made seaweed shortbread.  Another curiosity purchase.  This time I was less certain about the umami seaweed with the sweet biscuit.  E determinedly ate his way through the packet and quite enjoyed them.

The shortbread that really wowed me was this Shortbread House version that we bought at Cranachan and Crowdie.  They were so nice in that shop and encouraged us to taste the shortbread.  Sylvia was so taken with it that when I returned there, she said I must buy a tin of the shortbread or she would go every day and have the free samples.  When I told the people behind the counter, they said she was welcome to come every day and sample it.  As we did not have time to go back there again, I was pleased to have this wonderful shortbread and to be able to bring the tin home as a souvenir.

One of my favourite things to eat when I return to the UK is always Mueller Corners.  We don't have the same sort of yoghurt and snack add-ins in Australia.  My favourites are the peach and apricot, the toffee hoops and the banana chocolate flakes.  Sylvia loved the chocolate ones so I thought I would try the pack of Cherry Bakewell and Eton Mess yoghurts.  They were so sweet that the chocolate ones seemed preferable.  Sylvia and I will miss the toffee hoops yoghurts!  They are toffee yoghurts with crunchy chocolate covered hoops to mix in.

I was pleased to make some purchases at Holland and Barrett health food stores.  I bought nut roast in a box that I will talk about another time, a "vegetarian" rocky road slice (that actually looked to have gelatine in the marshmallows and I wasn't so keen on) and these sausages.  I really really loved these sausages.  They came in links with the sausage skins and tasted amazing.  The only downside was that they were quite small.

I bought this Easter pasta on a whim at Lakeland because it was so adorable.  Can you see that the pasta is shaped like Easter eggs and chicks.  When we invited my in-laws over for Easter Sunday this seemed the perfect easy Easter meal with a tub of pasta sauce.  Sadly because I wasn't feeling well on the day I never tasted it.

I had planned a holiday in Paris because while I love visiting Edinburgh, having family there makes it a different sort of break.  And I love Paris so any excuse would do.  On our first day we bought food home for tea.  It was amazing to eat such delicious baguette with cheese and vegies.  We also read more in Paris which was just lovely.  And I needed to finish the Rebus novel to give it back to my brother in law before going home.

Sylvia and I enjoyed browsing Le BHV department store.  The food section had so many temptations.  The different shaped sugar cubes were adorable.  I think this was the only place we saw vegemite on all our travels.  And we purchased a block of this dark raspberry chocolate.  It was delicious.

I enjoyed the food shopping in Paris and wished to buy more to bring home if only my wallet and customs would allow.  Here is a sample of purchases:
  • A pistachio and chocolate scroll.  Green pistachio bakes seemed popular.  Displayed on my plate from Le BHV.  
  • The red cat tea bag holder is to hang on the side of the mug.  
  • We bought orangettes at Le Comptoir de Mathilde by the Pompidou Centre.  
  • I visited the Marché des Enfants Rouges (market) and bought raspberries and vegies, then I had a lovely time chatting in the Fromagerie to help me decide what cheeses to buy.  
  • The little round goats cheese was gloriously creamy and showed me just why goats cheese is so popular.  
  • I stopped at the Bien l'Epicerie and really wanted to buy so much.  Instead I bought delicious lemonade, a wonderful dense cranberry bun and this tofu and herb tartinables.  
  • We had cherry tomatoes with a few meals at home.

When we returned to Edinburgh for the last couple of days, I was really touched to receive a parcel from Shaheen at Allotment 2 Kitchen blog.  She always has the most interesting things in her kitchen and I was delighted to receive this gorgeous Welsh dragon cookie cutter, the cutest little red jar of Halen Môn (Anglesey) sea salt, a box of laverbread and a card.  You can see the laverbread and salt below.

I love buying interesting local food products when travelling but it is challenging overseas because the Australians customs are so stern about what can be brought into the country.  And our suitcases were quite full.  So I was very restrained.  When we came through customs, we were asked what was in the case and they were satisfied with my answer and didn't even look at at the cases.  I kicked myself black and blue at not buying more.  It is always the way.  They did let through the truffle oil, the truffle salt, the vegan pepperoni, the mulled wine spices, the black lava salt, and the earl grey tea.

I really wanted to buy lots of crockery while travelling.  Unfortunately it is not very practical for taking in suitcases that are thrown around by baggage handlers.  We didn't have lots of room either in our cases or in my kitchen.  Every time I looked at something longingly I thought of this tartan casserole dish that I bought early in the trip.  It is something that will be a lovely reminder of our trip.  Bought from the wonderful Cranachan and Crowdie who packaged it well in bubble wrap.

As we have so little room in our kitchen I thought that these paper napkins were a nice souvenir.  And when I saw this pack with the giraffe, the green and the Eiffel Tower, I knew it was for me.

Lastly I wish I had bought more in Paris.  It is a favourite city of mine and I am not sure we will be back soon if ever.  One thing I really wanted was a tote bag and I was delighted to find that my favourite bookshop, Shakespeare and Company sold bags.  It is one of those precious purchases that I want to use every day and I don't want to wear out.  I am sure I will enjoy using it.

And that is it for this month.  We are still dealing with jetlag and finding our feet back home.  There is not a lot of cooking going on in my kitchen.  The days are getting shorter and we are back to school and work tomorrow.  But I am pleased to be back in my own kitchen and will be aiming to eat more healthy food after all our holiday indulgences.  Meanwhile I still have quite a few travel posts I would like to write.

I am sending this post to Maureen of The Orgasmic Chef for In My Kitchen.  It is an event where bloggers around the world share what is happening in their kitchens.  Please head over to Maureen's blog and visit some other bloggers or even join in (by 10th of each month).

Posted April 10, 2016 12:20 PM by Johanna GGG

April 08, 2016

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Edinburgh pub: The Auld Hoose and our last day in Edinburgh

We arrived home in Melbourne yesterday after our couple of days in Edinburgh.  So today I will tell you about my last day, in particular the excellent vegan nachos at the Auld Hoose pub.  I had read about them on PETA's list of Where to Eat Vegan in Edinburgh.  I tried my luck there for the second time that trip after buying some gifts for the folks at home.

The Auld Hoose is a clean modern pub that does not go in for a fussy decor of crowded toby jugs and horse brasses.  It does boast comfortable little nooks and booths.  And excellent nachos.  I was there for the nachos but was amazed at how good all the rest of the menu looked, especially the vegan onion rings that are served stacked high on a stick.  There were lots of vegan options:

When I ordered the vegan nachos, I was asked if I was hungry.  I gently chided the barman that I had been in a week or so ago with a friend and my 7 year old but we had to leave because the law does not allow children in this pub.  He was very friendly and chatted about the law not allowing kids to be in a pub where they can see the bar.  Which is the best explanation I have had and is easier to swallow than a stern no-children-allowed.  Though it is still a shame as Sylvia might have enjoyed the vegan hot dog.  Instead of sharing my nachos I drank my Curiosity Cola and read my Quentin Jardine novel.

Then nachos were huge and delicious and amazing.  Can you see the melted cheese on the corn chips.  It was really good.  I asked what it was and was told it is Cheezly white cheddar.  However it is not just that the vegan cheese is right.  It is also that there is such a generous serving of beans and guacamole.  For the chilli loves (not me) there were lots of chilli rings too.  Top marks for presentation and taste.  The menu advises that these nachos serves two and they are right.  I wished I had company and ended up leaving quite a lot on my plate.  At £10 for the plate, it would be quite good value for two people.

The barman (perhaps owner) was really happy to chat about vegan food with me.  He said that they had tested different vegan cheeses until they found one that kept the nachos together in that impressive pile and had the right taste.  I asked if it was due to his diet that they had vegan food and he said it was in response to requests from the punters.  He was interested to hear about the vegan scene in Melbourne.  Finally I left him with a recommendation to check out aquafaba meringues. 

Then I headed back to our hotel to pack the suitcases.  It was a job to be done without others about.  We were getting up at 3.30am the next morning and so I needed as much packing to be done the night before.  As you can see, we had a lot to cram into our three large suitcases and not a lot of room.  I put a chair on Sylvia's bed to give me a bit more room.

Once I had packed as much as possible, I headed over to my sister-in-law's place where Sylvia was having a last day of playing with her cousin.  The two little girls have got along fantastically and it was sad for them to say goodbye.

Meanwhile E and his sister had spent a lot of time sorting through the family papers and photos and various possessions that had been taken from their father's house.  E was amazed that they still had his Percy train set from Thomas the Tank Engine.  He would have liked to stay longer and find what other gems were kept in his parents house but we had a plane waiting for us.  So after one last excellent takeaway curry from Voujon, we headed back to the hotel.

The Auld Hoose
23-25 St Leonard's Street, Edinburgh EH8
0131 6682934

The Auld Hoose Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted April 08, 2016 11:07 PM by Johanna GGG

April 06, 2016

Thoughts Of A Moni

In My Kitchen - April 2016

These In My Kitchen posts really highlight to me how much time flies. It feels like only yesterday I was writing the March post. Now it’s April, and we’re a third of the way through the year!

Eggplant is still very much in season, and as one of my favourite vegetables, I always try and pick some up from the market. This time, I used it to make a potato and eggplant curry. The picture doesn’t really do it justice, as curries generally are not very photogenic, but it was delicious. The recipe was taken from Vegan Richa’s blog. She always has some great things to try out in the kitchen.

I’ve become a bit of a T2 addict. Whilst I still maintain that the products are quite pricey, I can’t deny that they taste amazing. I’m a big fan of their mixed packs, because it means you can taste a variety of teas without committing to any one flavour. I picked up a box of their Choc pack, which contains delicious teas like choc chip chai, and crème brulee. So delicious, and perfect on a winter night with a choc chip cookie!

I was also given a Bessemer crepe pan from the Margaret Fulton range. I’ve never made crepes, so I guess now would be a good time to try! I was also thinking that I could use the pan to make dosas, the Indian rice flour pancake, which I always struggle to make because they stick in the pan and I can’t flip them! The man has a convex surface, so that you dip the whole pan into the batter to coat the surface and cook it on top of the gas flame.

I’ve been babysitting my parents’ garden, which means I also get to benefit from everything that grows in it! My dad has a bit of a green thumb, and I can remember growing up, that our kitchen was always full of home grown veggies. I never really appreciated this as a kid, but now that I am older, I can realise how lucky I was, and how much of a difference fresh produce makes to the taste of a dish. The garden currently has a flourishing bottle gourd plant. Called bottle gourd in English, lau in Bengali or lauki in Hindi, this is a vegetable that is very popular in India and other Asian countries. A member of the gourd family (duh!), it has a texture similar to that of a marrow, but has a slightly sweeter taste. It can be used in curries, in dhal, or a variety of other dishes. I have been eating a lot of bottle gourd this past month, as well as giving plenty away to friends!

This post is part of the In My Kitchen series hosted my Maureen from the Orgasmic Chef. Head over to her blog to see what is going on in other people's kitchens!

Posted April 06, 2016 09:21 AM by Moni

April 05, 2016

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Paris vegan cafes: Le Grenier de Notre Dame, Brasserie Lola, Potager de Marais

On previous visits to Paris (before the internet took over our lives) I have loved the baguettes, croissants and cheese but struggled to find an impressive meal at a cafe.  This visit I was determined to find a good French vegan meal.  Until last night it seemed an impossible dream.  Fortunately I was very impressed by Le Grenier de Notre Dame.

But let us backtrack to Brasserie Lola.  I love cheese but there is only so much of the creamy cheesy French meals I can stomach.  So vegan meals appealed.  A big thanks to Faye of Veganopoulous for helping me doing some online searching.  It was through Faye that I discovered this highly regarded vegan cafe.

The menu for Brasserie Lola was quite overwhelming.  Especially when my French is rudimentary at best.  The waitress was helpful in translating but there are only so many questions I could ask.  Lots of interesting dishes and yet I was drawn to the cheeseburgers with fries and salad.  E ordered the Croque Monsieur and I thought Sylvia would like the hotdog in a bun without salad.

When the meals came it was not a total success.  Sylvia's dinner came with salad and there is no reasoning with a 7 year old who does not want salad anywhere near her plate.  She took umbrage at her meal and barely managed to make her peace with the chips.  Which is a shame as her hotdog was a very nice vegetarian sausage and looked great topped with purple coleslaw.

Unlike E's croque monsieur (a traditional French snack where the ham is in the sandwich and cheese melted on top) which looked underwhelming compared to his gooey dairy cheese version earlier in the trip.  I had hoped for a more melty vegan cheese but he said it was nice.

Meanwhile my burger and chips were great.  I really loved the burger - it was quite soft (I think it had tofu and grains and maybe some seitan) which was served on a bun with impressive melty cheese, lettuce, mustard and my own addition of tomato sauce.  The chips were fresh and chunky.  Possibly hand cut.  And I enjoyed the salad though I would have preferred more vegetables than lettuce.

My main problem with my meal was that it wasn't a particularly French meal.  Which is perhaps unfair as I think they do a mix of different cultural dishes (pad thai, pasta etc) and do not purport to be a French cafe.  Sylvia had some berry sorbet for dessert and loved it.  (E said it was served with vegan cream because it was tasteless which I found odd as I have always found dairy cream tasteless!)  She also had a hot chocolate was was lovely.

So overall Brasserie Lola did a great job and our quibbles were mainly due to our quirks rather than the cafe's.

My next outing in cafe meals was a solo visit to Le Potager du Marais.  I found it on Happy Cow.  It is a cute little vegan cafe that was rather busy.  The menu was extensive and I wished for company to share a few dishes.  In the end I passed by the French onion soup and cassoulet and ordered a Crepe de Sarrasin garnie (buckwheat pancake with mushrooms and leek fondue).  No complaints about finding French food.  In fact it seemed quite an old fashioned vegan menu.

The crepe was a starter but when it came it was huge and had a huge salad accompanying it.  It was ok but not great.  The crepe was nice but the filling was a bit of a mystery.  I had expected a creamy sauce but it was more like well cooked vegies and a little lacking in flavour.  The salad was nice but had an intense spicy mustard sauce that was a bit much.  It took me a while to work out that they worked well together.  And the bread on the side was dry.  Which is a crime in Paris the city of marvellous bread.

Part of me really wanted to try other meals at this cafe to see if others were good enough to explain the popularity of the place.  And part of me did not want to go back there in fear I would continue to feel disappointed.  Despite this, I was glad to try it.  The room was so cosy and I enjoyed a meal out alone while Sylvia and E rode around Paris in the open top tourist bus.

Lastly I chanced across Le Grenier de Notre Dame on Google.  It is actually the same street as Shakespeare and Company (an amazing English language bookshop that I hope to rave about another time).  It was late and we were tired when we arrived.  The place looked cute and the menu was promising.  It was really busy but we got one of the last free tables upstairs.

Our waiter was very patient and friendly.  He cheerfully plugged the light back in when Sylvia unplugged it and was happy for us to order plain spaghetti for her.

E and I both chose the L'Assiette Macrobiotique.  This vegan and gluten free meal consisted of brown rice, boiled vegetables, fried tofu, adzuki beans, seaweed, smoked tempeh, salad, and tomato dressing with herbs.  It sounded old school vegetarian in line with the style of the menu. Yet it was one of the nicest meals and one that I really needed.  Everything worked well together and was really tasty without being highly flavoured.

It is the sort of meal you order when you want to treat your body as a temple.  I don't eat so well when I travel so I welcome temple food.  However of all the places I ate out in Paris I think this is the one I feel I would want to go back to again and again.  I can see why Moby names it as one of his top 5 vegan restaurants in the world.  And it was good to leave Paris on a high.

[We are back in Edinburgh and leave in a couple of days so our holiday eating will come to a halt soon though I will continue to post about the holiday when I am home.]

Le Grenier de Notre-Dame
18, Rue de la Bûcherie •75005 Paris
Tel: 01 43 29 98 29
Metro: Saint Michel

Le Potager du Marais
24 rue Rambuteau • 75003 Paris
Tel: 01 57 40 98 57
Metro: Rambuteau

Brasserie Lola
99 Rue du Théâtre •75015 Paris
Tel: 01 45 78 22 35
Metro: Emile Zola
Facebook and photos here

Posted April 05, 2016 08:09 AM by Johanna GGG

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Waffled tofu & rice

March 27-28, 2016

I was up for a cooking project on the Easter weekend, and the Serious Eats website was a good place to find one. Their columnist J. Kenji López-Alt is quite the experimentalist, and concentrates on vegan recipes for a month each year. He's inspired us to make icecream, soup and deep-fried cauliflower (and similarly driven our friend Stu to make and share a spectacular layered queso dip). All this is just a wind-up and justification for the title of this post: I tried putting tofu and rice in my waffle iron because Serious Eats said it was cool.

Both the article's comments and common sense told me that this could get messy, and it did. My waffle iron has a handle for making a 180° flip during cooking, and that was all my tofu needed to spill marinade everywhere. It's also got deep grooves, which are great for crispy high-surface-area waffles and getting batter stuck when the iron's not sufficiently greased... I should have paid more attention to that between batches.

Still, I managed to retrieve most of what I waffled with some careful spatula and fork work. Firm tofu ends up looking very waffley indeed, although the crisp outer didn't elevate the tofu beyond a good shallow-fry, in my opinion. The pre-cooked sushi rice was both more infuriating and more enlightening - it's tough get it out of the iron without the squished rice patty completely disintegrating, but the crunchy golden edges are chewy and caramelised, like the rice in the bottom of good bibimbap.

I garnished my waffled lunch with a slosh of kecap manis, a shake of shichimi togarashi and some steamed beans dressed in the leftover tofu miso marinade. I'm not sure if I'll waffle tofu or rice again but it was a worthy project for a nothing-to-do day where I was free to play around, make a mess, swear a bunch and eventually eat at my leisure.

Posted April 05, 2016 07:03 AM by Cindy

April 04, 2016


In My Kitchen April 2016

I’m glad summer is over (summer… blergh) and that we’re in autumn but I’m also in that semi-panic mode of realising it’s already April and there are a few things I had planned to have done by now that haven’t really happened. Oh well, don’t sweat the small stuff I say! I’m back in to...
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Posted April 04, 2016 03:32 PM

quinces and kale

a new pizza oven

garlic oil, caramelised onion, cauliflower, olive tapenade and parsley pizza

I love pizza and I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a pizza oven for a few years. I’ve even had fantasies about building a wood fired one. Back in the real world where there is no way I am going to build up a wood fire over hours in order to cook a pizza, I decided that gas is more practical for instant gratification.

Still I wondered whether I should get even a gas one. On the one hand I am opposed to single use items unless they are seriously good and cheap (such as a rice cooker), on the other hand it is just difficult to cook a decent pizza in a conventional oven without preheating it for ages.  Even then, the pizzas can be a bit hit and miss. A conventional oven just isn’t hot enough. A pizza oven will heat the pizza stone with direct heat, cranking the temperature up to 500F in a short time.

After seeing some incredible pizzas come out of a friend’s oven, I finally succumbed a couple of weeks ago and bought a new outdoor gas fired pizza oven in a box at half price on Gumtree. I’m currently obsessed with it.

I’ve been turning out really sensational thin, crispy, artisan style pizza for which I would normally happily pay $14.  They cost about $1. I’ve also been making a lot of flatbreads too. I think I have recouped my investment already. I’ve been using it a lot!

The joy of a gas pizza oven is that it heats up in about 10 minutes. I’ve been making a batch of dough early in the week and putting it into containers ready for rolling out in an instant.

I’ve switched toast at breakfast for flatbread. I head out to the oven, turn it on, feed the animals, take a couple of minutes to admire the garden, roll the dough and slide it into the oven and in the time it takes to make coffee it is cooked.

I’m using the no knead bread dough which works perfectly.

Here are some creations from the last couple of weeks. A roasted capsicum paste, garlic oil, roasted pumpkin and vegan parmesan pizza, a garlic oil, fresh tomato and basil flatbread, a flatbread beautifully puffed up, a garlic oil, olive tapenade, roasted pumpkin, potato and rosemary pizza and a flatbread with avocado and fresh tomato. The photo at the top of the post is a pizza with garlic oil, olive tapenade, cauliflower, caramelised onions and fresh parsley.

pizza with garlic oil, red capsicum puree, roasted pumpkin and vegan parmesan flatbread with tomato, garlic and basil flatbread pizza with olive tapenade, potato, roasted pumpkin, vegan mozzarella flatbread with avocado and tomato pizza oven

Posted April 04, 2016 10:00 AM

April 03, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

A very full vegetable tart

March 20, 2016

I've clearly been dominating the dessert division at our Ottolenghi get-togethers, because I felt a teensy bit flummoxed at the prospect of making a main. I lounged around with Plenty and Plenty More and some little ripped bookmarks, looking out for picnic-friendly autumn-appropriate dishes. I had plenty of time to plan and shop and cook. Michael nudged me into making the Very Full Tart - it looked like a ripper centrepiece and unlikely to be any the worse for being served at air temperature.

Ottolenghi recipes are notoriously effortful, and this is the rare one where you can actually bring extra work upon yourself. In Plenty, the recipe simply demands that you procure 300g of shortcrust pastry. Welp, I made my own. With a food processor on hand it's not too much of a drag, and I called on this ol' pumpkin tart recipe for (butter-heavy) quantities.

From there it was a long, slow procession of chopping and roasting vegetables - capsicums in two colours, eggplant, sweet potato, zucchini and onions. Layered up in the tart crust, they're topped with feta, ricotta and cherry tomatoes; thyme, too, if you can remember it. (Not me.) It's all bound together with eggs and cream. Though 45 minutes is theoretically enough to set the eggs, I found that the vegetables (especially the tomatoes) gave off extra juices and the tart was very bubbly.

Cooled down and cut up in the park, it wasn't as quiche-y as I expected. True to its name, vegetables tumbled all over, coated in a creamy gravy and not a set custard. Everything felt on the brink of collapse, yet each vegetable and cheese chunk held its own, and their pastry casing stayed crisp. If you're not self-consciously saving a piece for photos, it's a dish you can make a wild mess of, safe in the knowledge that it'll still taste great.

A very full vegetable tart
(slightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty)

1 1/4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
120g butter
3 tablespoons iced water

1 red capsicum
1 yellow/orange capsicum
~100mL olive oil
1 medium eggplant
1 small sweet potato
1 small zucchini
2 medium onions
2 bay leaves
120g ricotta
120g feta
2 eggs
200mL double cream
7 cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper

Preheat an oven to 180°C.

Place the flour and salt in a food processor. Roughly dice the butter and drop it in too. Blend the mixture together until the butter is thoroughly mixed through. With the motor still running, slowly pour the water in one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together as a dough (you might not need all of the water).

Turn the dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Place another large piece of wrap on top. Roll the pastry out to fit a pie dish. Put the top wrap off and ease the pastry into the dish; remove the second piece of wrap and trim the pastry to fit the dish. Dot the base of the crust with holes using a fork. Line the crust with baking paper and dried legumes, or another pie weight of your choice. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then remove the pie weights and bake the crust for a further 10 minutes. Allow the crust to cool.

Turn the oven up to 220°C.

Use a small knife to remove the stalks from the capsicums, and any membranes you can reach. Shake out any seeds still inside the capsicums. Place the capsicums on a small baking tray, drizzle them with a little of the olive oil, and bake them on the top shelf of the oven.

Dice the eggplant into 3cm cubes and place it all into a large baking tray. Stir through about 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and some salt and pepper. Bake the eggplant for 12 minutes. Peel the sweet potato, dice it into 2cm cubes, and add it to the eggplant when it's done. Bake them together for a further 12 minutes. Halve the zucchini lengthways and slice it into 3cm lengths. Add it to the eggplant and sweet potato pieces when they're done, and roast all three vegetables together for a final 12 minutes.

By now the capsicums should have collapsed with brown skins. Retrieve them from the oven and cover them with foil to steam as they cool. Allow the other roasted vegetables to cool as well. 

Turn the oven down to 160°C.

Thinly slice the onions. Saute them with the bay leaves in 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan over low heat. Stir them regularly, cooking until they're caramelised, around 25 minutes. Turn off the heat and discard the bay leaves.

Remove the foil from the capsicum dish and peel off their skins. Dice the roasted capsicums.

Spread the caramelised onions over the pie crust. Spoon in all of the roasted eggplant, sweet potato, zucchini and capsicums. Dice the ricotta and feta and arrange these over the roasted vegetables. Whisk together the eggs and cream with some salt and pepper, and gently pour them into the tart. Halve the cherry tomatoes and arrange them cut-side-up over the tart. Bake the tart for up 35-45 minutes, until golden and set. All it to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Posted April 03, 2016 09:38 AM by Cindy

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Notre Dame Towers, Cafe and Entrance, Paris

After two days of rain it was glorious to see the sun come out in Paris.  Just the day to climb the towers of the Notre Dame cathedral, to get up close to some gargoyles, to eat gooey brie in its shadow and then admire the intricate details of the entrance and then hop aboard an open top bus.

I was warying about queuing after the long long queues at the Catacombes the previous day and had seen the queues a couple of days before when we had gone inside the cathedral (see above photo).  However it was only about 20-30 minutes with lots of souvenir shops and cafes to send E and Sylvia off.  I had barely got chatting to the American behind me, avoided the little girl vomiting ahead of me, and cleaned the nutella crepe off Sylvia's coat before we were ushered in to start climbing the 387 stairs.

I was a little wary about climbing so many stairs but it was nothing as bad as I feared.  Not one wheeze from me.  (And climbing makes me wheeze.)  However I have very fond memories of the views of Paris and the gargoyles from a visit many years ago.  It was every bit as brilliant this time.  I didn't have memories of the grill but that did not dampen my enthusiasm.  Fortunately there were a few holes in the grill for cameras.

People often talk about climbing the Eiffel Tower for a view of Paris but I think this is a more splendid view.  The Notre Dame towers are more central to old Paris and closer to the ground so you get a more interesting and detailed view.  With bonus gargoyles!

The gargoyles are worth seeing close us.  They are frightening and amusing and awesome.  What amazing craftsmanship for spouts that are so high that very few would see them.  Surely the huge work of building the Notre Dame would mean that the details were less in these higher reaches.  And yet even on the roof, the detail is astounding and awe-inspiring.

Truly frightening at times!

And did I mention hearing the bells up high is pretty intense.  Sylvia had to plug her ears with her fingers when the bells were ringing.  This bell apparently doesn't ring very often.  Just as well as it would deafen to be so close.  It is probably the hugest bell I have ever seen.  There is no way you could get a hand around the clapper in the middle.  It is probably as big as me.

At first I couldn't believe all the amazing gargoyles.  Then I found we kept walking along and there were more.  And more.

Next I left E and Sylvia to go down and I went to the very top of the South Tower.  Here is a view of the left bank.  Sigh!

Going down seems to take forever.  It is not in stages like going up.  By the time I got down I noticed my legs were a little wobbly.

We were all ready for lunch and headed for the nearest place.  Aux Tours des Notre Dame.  Right on the corner near where we queued.  We sat outside and watched others queueing.  It was good not to be in the queue.

I was a bit wary of the place being a tourist trap.  However it was lovely to sit outside such a magnificent cathedral.  And it was a really lovely place to eat.  The food was delicious and our waiter was charming and attentive.

To drink I ordered a hot spiced wine.  According to E there were a few on the menu but being the tourist I am, I had seen signs somewhere for hot wine and so I just asked for hot wine.  It was warm, not boiling, with a couple of slices of orange in it.  The weather was cool enough to make it comforting to drink the warm spicy drink.  Oddly though E was told there was no milk in the cafe for his coffee.  They had run out.  At lunchtime in the school holidays!  He was fine about it.

When my "roasted brie with walnuts and salad" came I noticed there were no walnuts.  Sylvia and I prodded the cheese and found it was cold.  Our waiter noticed and said it was the wrong salad.  He changed it for the one I ordered without a fuss.  And it was probably one of the nicest meals I have had in Paris.  The cheese was warm and gooey.  I loved piling creamy brie and walnuts on slices of baguette.  The salad leaves were just what I needed to cut through the richness.  Likewise, Sylvia loved her chips (frites) and E loved his croque monsieur.

Then we were ready to go on our way.  First we had to stop and admire the entrance to Notre Dame.  I had not being able to do this a couple of days back when it was raining when we came here.

The detail around the entrance doors is overwhelming.  It was great to have time to look at all the faces.  I showed Sylvia details that caused us to laugh.  E was most disapproving.  I disagree.  I am sure the sculptors had a sense of humour.

Just look at the little people struggling under the weight of the saints.

And what about the looks that the neighbours are giving the headless body!

And then there is this little naked chap with demons either side.

And finally here is a photo of the grand cathedral itself.  Look at how it soars above the nearby buildings, including the one where we ate lunch.  It is a joy to be staying in an apartment that is walking distance from the Notre Dame and amazing to think we climbed all the way to top of the south tower.  If you only have the chance to climb to see one view in Paris, this is the one I recommend.

Posted April 03, 2016 07:23 AM by Johanna GGG

April 01, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Polenta crisps with avocado and yoghurt

March 20, 2016

Our semi-regular Ottolenghi cooking crew took advantage of one of the last glorious summer evenings of the season to head to Princes Park for a picnic potluck. I decided to avoid the big sharable salad-style dishes I usually fall back on and went scoping for snackier options, settling on two dip-based dishes that looked relatively easy to throw together.

First up: polenta crisps an avocado and yoghurt dip. This was not as easy as I originally assumed - the dip was super simple, but the polenta crisp making required a lot of challenging shallow-frying. It all worked out okay in the end, but this is a recipe that you need to devote a bit of time and effort to. The pay-off is worth it in the end - my polenta chips turned out like mini schnitzels, and were an excellent vessel for gulping down big dollops of tangy avocado and lime sauce.

The second recipe actually was an easy one (I won't reproduce it here - see the 2nd recipe on this page) - a simple combination of yoghurt, grated veggies, herbs, lime and butter. The melting of the butter seemed a bit unnecessary to me, and I doubt I'd bother with it next time, which would make it even simpler. It was delicious smeared across some lightly toasted Rustica sourdough.

These were just the starters to another incredible meal - Kate brought along the sweet potato in orange bitters that lit up our Christmas last year, and Erin and Matt came through with a ridiculously indulgent chocolate babka. Cindy's contribution was my favourite dish of all, and it's up next on the blog! (You can cheat and peak at the whole spread on our Facebook page.)

Polenta crisps with avocado and yoghurt
(from a recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty More)

750ml of veggie stock (I just made up some Massel 'chicken' stock)
160g polenta
10g chives, chopped finely
30g grated parmesan
100g semolina
Veggie oil for frying (you'll need at least a cup, probably more)

Avocado dipping sauce
Flesh of 2 avocados
100g Greek yoghurt
Juice and zest of a lime
1 teaspoon olive oil

Whiz all the dipping sauce ingredients together in a food processor along with a dash of salt and pepper. Set aside.

Bring the stock to the boil in a medium sized saucepan. Slowly pour in the polenta and cook over high heat for about five minutes, stirring as much as you can to keep things smooth. Once the mixture is nice and thick and the liquid absorbed, stir through the chives and parmesan for about 30 seconds and then kill the heat.

Pour the polenta out onto flat surfaces - we used two large baking trays lined with baking paper, but chopping boards would work fine as well. Ottolenghi wants you to spread the polenta out so it's nice and thin - maybe 2-3mm. I used the back of a spoon and maybe didn't quite get things as thin as that - it's a tricky balance between getting crisp little chips and having chunks that will hold together.

Leave the polenta to set for half an hour or so and then break it up in to pieces about 5cm x 5cm - it won't break super evenly and it doesn't really matter if some are much larger and some much smaller. Dip each piece in the semolina and set them aside for frying.

Heat enough oil in a frying pan so that you've got a depth of about 1cm. When it's nice and hot, fry the polenta pieces in batches, for about 2-3 minutes on each side until they go golden brown and get a little crispy around the edges. Transfer the cooked chips to a plate lined with paper towel and keep on frying, topping up the oil as necessary. 

Serve, with the dipping sauce at the ready.

Posted April 01, 2016 06:45 AM by Michael

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Easter caramel and malteser fridge cake

Now that we are in Paris, our stay in Edinburgh seems very far away.  Today was so wet we were yearning for Edinburgh weather and we were too wet after queuing for the Catacombes to go to the cafe I had planned.  So back to Easter in Edinburgh where I made a decadent fridge cake with Sylvia and her cousin.

I took the recipe for the fridge cake from Lavender and Lovage with the idea for the Easter eggs in the middle from BBC Good Food.

It required a trip to the large Sainsburys supermarket at Cameron Toll.  It is just as well we didn't have too many trips there as it is a place of many temptations.

Our second Edinburgh kitchen was not as well stocked as our first.  The equipment I needed for the cake was just not about.  We improvised on the ring tin with a large saucepan and a round bowl in the middle.  I melted chocolate in batches in the microwave and tipped each into the medium saucepan to mix it.  (Not even a mixing bowl!)

While the cake firmed up in the fridge, I took the two wee girls to the park at the Meadows.  They had great fun on the swings and roundabout.  I was impressed they were still in fairly good spirits after a sleepover the previous night at our place.

Then we headed back to the flat to turn the cake out of the saucepan and decorate with chocolate drizzle and Easter eggs.  It was a fun cake to make and easy enough for the kids to help out.  It was an ideal cake to make when we had limited equipment on holidays.

I made the cake because we had invited E's sister and family over on Easter Sunday for lunch.  I was pretty tired and not up to much cooking or eating so I left it to E.  He made the pasta and then served the cake.  Later he told me that he had been unsure about how to cut it.  Then he took some of the Easter eggs out and found it easier.  I didn't have a piece until the next day but it was really luscious and very very moreish.

More Easter egg recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Creme Egg chocolate drizzle cake 
Easter chocolate egg nests (gf, v)
Easter egg chicks
Easter egg slice
Lime cheesecake Easter eggs (gf, v)
Marzipan Easter egg cupcakes

And check out more Easter recipes.

Easter Caramel and Malteser Fridge Cake
Adapted from Lavender and Lovage
Serves a crowd (10-12)

200g caramel chocolate
100g milk chocolate
100g daim chocolate
125g butter
3 dessertspoons golden syrup
125g (7) chocolate digestives
1 x 121g bag of Maltesers
1 cup of rice bubbles

Chocolate drizzle:
100g milk chocolate
3 dessertspoons milk

To decorate:
A few large or medium easter eggs in wrappers
A bag of small easter eggs in wrappers
A bag of mini easter eggs

Line a ring tin or bundt tin with two layers of clingfilm.  If you don't have either tin, you can use a bowl or saucepan with a smaller bowl in the middle.

Melt chocolates, butter and golden syrup, preferably together in a saucepan over the stovetop or melt chocolate in small amounts in a microwave and the mix together.  Add digestives, Maltesers and rice bubbles and mix to combine.  Spoon into the prepared tin and press down.  Cover with cliingfilm.  Chill in fridge a few hours.

Unwrap clingfilm from bottom of tin.  Remove from tin and flip onto a serving platter (unwrapped side down).  Unwrap remaining clingfilm.   Mix chocolate and milk to make the chocolate drizzle and carefully drizzle over the top so it runs down the sides.  Arrange easter eggs inside ring and scatter mini eggs around the top of the ring on the drizzle.

Ours was kept in the fridge over two nights and then brought out on the morning of the lunch to come to room temperature.  We kept it for another couple of days at room temperature.

NOTES: other chocolates or biscuits can be used, depending on preference and availability.  this cake would also work for other celebrations or seasonal occasions using other decorations.  or it could just work as a slice cut into squares.  It could be adapted into a vegan cake with vegan chocolates, margarine and biscuits.

On the stereo:
Begin to Hope: Regina Spector

Posted April 01, 2016 05:08 AM by Johanna GGG

March 31, 2016

Thoughts Of A Moni

March Favourites

This month I’ve decided to change things up, and instead of doing the usual Taking Stock questions, I’m participating in Tara’s (from Vegetaraian) link up and posting my favourite finds for the month.

First up are the Thankyou products. These have been on sale for a few years, but I had never actually bought them. They are slightly more expensive than similar products of their sort, but the benefit they provide to society makes them worth the extra cost. I got the hand wash and also the body wash (not pictured) both of which use part of the revenue to fund sanitary projects in third world countries. The bottles come with a label, with a tracking number which you can enter into the Thankyou website, to see exactly which project you helped contribute to. And whilst the toiletries don’t have the cruelty free symbol on them, this is only because they have not paid for the certification to officially deem themselves cruelty free.

I was also lucky enough to win tickets to the Peninsula Picnic held earlier in the month. As the name suggests, the event is held in the Mornington Peninsula, at the Mornington Racecourse. It endeavours to showcase all that the peninsula has to offer in terms of food and produce, in a relaxed atmosphere. Whilst the event was sold out, it wasn’t too crowded, and everybody had a spot to put their picnic rug down, enjoy some food and a glass of wine, with the music of the likes of Timberwolf or Missy Higgins in the background. As an annual event, it’s one to put in the calendar for next year.

It had been a while between Ottolenghi recipes for me. I dusted off my copy of Plenty More and found this gorgeous pumpkin dish to make. It was very simple, and as with all Ottolenghi creation, full of flavour. Spiced with nigella seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, coriander and ginger, it was delicious when I paired it with lemon rice.

We closed off the month with a beautiful meal at Franco Choo’s. Franco Choo’s is one of our favourite restaurants, and I’ve blogged about it previously so it’s not a new find, but what I did find was a post-Easter 20% off special that they had advertised on their Facebook page! In a matter of minutes we had a dinner organised for the next day, with some great company! And as always, the food at Franco Choo’s didn’t disappoint. I’m so surprised that this restaurant hasn’t received as much attention as its Italian cousins like Tipo 00, or Rosa’s Canteen, but perhaps that’s a good thing because it means we can usually get a booking fairly easily!

Have you had any great finds this month? Let me know below, I'd love to hear about them!

Posted March 31, 2016 08:25 AM by Moni

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Paris Dispatches: Notre Dame, Nutella crepes and the evening baguette

J'adore Paris.  It was one of my first loves.  In high school I already had mapped out where I would go on my first trip there.  By the time I finally visited, I had been fascinated by the French Revolution and Sylvia Beach's Shakespeare and Company in university studies.  I am delighted to be here again.  I will try not to gush but it is a city of such beauty around every corner. 

Firstly I am delighted with our little first floor apartment in the Marais.  But perhaps I will write more about it another time.  For now, the top photo is our view out the window.

We arrived last night and snacked on bread rolls from Edinburgh airport.  This morning Sylvia and I headed out for brunch.  She had chocolate croissant and I had a baguette with brie and lettuce.  It reminded me of how much I love a French boulangerie (bakery).

This is our view while we ate our brunch.  Sylvia has spotted the gelati shop across the street.  Apparently the weather is meant to get warmer before we leave so perhaps we will be eating gelati.

Meanwhile today the weather was dire.  Wet wet wet.  The buildings are so stylish and gorgeous but it was not the weather to get out the camera.  I took a few of these buildings on the Seine before the rain got heavier.  Nevertheless it was a lovely walk past the Hotel de Ville across the Seine with a few detours into souvenir shops.

By the time we arrived at Notre Dame, it was quite wet and we just headed inside.  I was pleased it is still free to visit.  Strangely enough I remember feeling a little disappointed upon my first visit there.  I can't think why.  It is such an amazing place.  Building commenced in 1163 and it is still inspiring awe in the crowds.

We wandered around the building, with Sylvia asking me lots of questions about Christianity.  I regret that I don't remember as much as I was taught at school.  I loved the stories of the saints but they are not as fresh in my memory as they once were.

We chatted quite a bit about the stories depicted in the sculpted choir screen.  Some were familiar to Sylvia and some less so.

One of the most amazing ones is this nativity scene.  It is so different to the way we depict the navity these days.  Baby Jesus is hardly noticeable in the manger beneath the cattle while Mary is centre stage and far less modest than than in modern nativity scenes.

Afterwards we were unashamedly touristy and ate nutella crepes in on of the cafes overlooking the Notre Dame.  Sylvia loved it.  If I had known how big they were I would have ordered one between two of us.

We overlooked the queue for climbing the towers of the Notre Dame.  I did it years ago and would love to do it again.  However I don't remember such long queues and this on a rainy day!

We walked back by the Hotel de Ville where we found a double decker carousel.  Sylvia had to try it.  It was great fun.  Then we went to department store Le BHV.  We chose a few small purchases and then had a merry dance looking for a cash register that was open.  No wonder the few open cash registers had huge queues.

On the way home I bought a baguette, some fruit and veg and a chunk of cheese for dinner.  Though once we met up with E and I looked at the one baguette, I decided to head back out for another baguette and a few croissants.  Dinner was magnificent.

Now I must turn to the links to Paris eating places that I have been sent and think about where else we might go.

Posted March 31, 2016 06:15 AM by Johanna GGG

March 30, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Lucy Lockett III

March 20, 2016

With a day of Ottolenghi-related cooking ahead of us (blog posts to come soon!), we needed somewhere local for a quick and delicious brekkie. Having overdoses on the Wide Open Road menu recently, it was time for a return trip to Lucy Lockett. There's a steady buzz at Lucy Lockett these days - the outside tables were full when we arrived, and the inside tables gradually filled up while we ate. The menu has changed a bit since our last visit, but there's still an impressive selection, with heaps of vegan and gluten-free options.

We both wound up ordering vegan dishes - with the breakfast salad of felafel, sauteed greens, cashew butter, beetroot and pickled carrot ($16) for me.

This is a pretty lunchy breakfast - some crispy felafel balls on top of a lovely mix of leafy greens, broccolini and asparagus plus a couple of whole mini carrots and some slivers of beetroot and radish. The cashew butter lumped on top was a bit thick and stodgy - I don't really know why you wouldn't go with a straight-up hummus on this dish - but that was my only minor complaint.

Cindy ordered the acai berry smoothie bowl, with granola, whipped coconut cream and fresh berries, plus some micro-herbs and decorative flowers ($14).

The 'smoothie' part of this dish was reminiscent of a deliciously sweet berry soft-serve, with the granola adding some necessary crunch. The micro-herbs and flowers looked pretty, but wound up annoying Cindy more than they impressed her. Again though, this was only a minor complaint and she was otherwise impressed with this dish.

Lucy Lockett really seems to have hit its stride - the menu still has plenty of dishes that I want to sample (the chilli corn fritters with avocado, harissa and lime yoghurt have my name all over them), the staff are friendly and efficient, the coffee's decent and the sweets counter probably needs to be sampled at some stage. We'll be back.

Read about our previous visits to Lucy Locket here and here. Since then, there have been positive reviews on Voyage Collective, inlovewithbrunch and Melbourne Breakfast Diary, while frenchtoastandinidiepop weren't quite won over.


Lucy Lockett
140 Barkly St, Brunswick
8388 7138
meals, sides, drinks

Accessibility: The entry is flat and the interior is spacious. We ordered at our table and paid at a low-ish counter. The toilet is unisex and has a big cubicle and a change table, but access requires negotiating a small flight of steps.

Posted March 30, 2016 06:55 AM by Michael

March 29, 2016

Thoughts Of A Moni

Northern Soul

Northern Soul is a little café on High St in Thornbury. It is slightly removed from the hustle and bustle of the Northcote end, but still close enough to be in walking distance. We had initially planned to have breakfast at Brother Alec, but as we walked past, we realised how busy it was and given that we weren’t prepared to wait for a table, we kept walking on to Northern Soul.

When we initially walked in, the café was completely empty, which made me a little apprehensive. An empty café is not usually a good sign. It’s a bit of a conundrum for me actually, I don’t like it busy because I don’t like to wait for a table, but I don’t like it quiet because it makes me question the food! I really can’t win!

Anyway, I had nothing to worry about really, because we didn’t even sit inside, instead we walked through the café, into a lovely garden area at the back. It was filled with lots of Buddhist symbols, greenery, and even a section at the back that had chalk and blackboard for children to occupy themselves, whilst their parents relaxed with a coffee. So thoughtful.

We quickly ordered some coffees, supplied by Toby’s Estate, and set about making our choices from the menu.

The menu has a mild Nepalese and Tibetan influence and in keeping with the theme, the other half decided to branch out from his usual breakfast choices and ordered the morning momos served with smoked salmon, poached eggs and dill yogurt. Momos are a Nepalese or Tibetan version of a dumpling, and these morning momos were filled with spinach and cheese. I’m not sure what makes spinach and cheese a morning food, but there is also a potato momo on the menu too. The verdict was that this meal was very… ‘different.’ Not necessarily a bad kind of different, but just not what one would expect for breakfast. I guess it depends on your taste though, one of my favourite breakfasts is eating leftover rice and curry from the night before!

I chose to order the zucchini hot cakes served with mixed greens, tomato relish and coconut yogurt. Unfortunately I was a little disappointed. The hotcakes were quite heavy and stodgy. I think I would have preferred them as fritters and deep fried. The mixed greens had an awful dressing on it, which made it inedible for me. The tomato relish, however, was quite nice, and the coconut yogurt was lovely. I had never tasted coconut yogurt before, but I am now a fan. It also provided a lovely creamy contrast to the dense hotcake which was much appreciated.

Whilst I really wanted to like Northern Soul, unfortunately the food just didn’t win me over. The ambience was lovely, the service was great, but both our meals were below par.

Northern Soul Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted March 29, 2016 02:42 PM by Moni

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Edinburgh restaurants: Kalpna, Vegetarian Indian

Today is our last full day in Edinburgh.  It has been a day of packing and sorting through belongings.  I arranged to meet my friend Clare for lunch at The Auld Hoose for vegan nachos.  When I arrived with Sylvia, the barman was very apologetic about Edinburgh laws stating that children cannot be in a pub in sight of the bar and they did not have a dining room.  Luckily one of the other places I had wanted to visit in Edinburgh was just around the corner.  We walked across to Kalpna and were very pleased with our lunch.

Kalpna is an Indian vegetarian restaurant that has been there for many years and has always had a good reputation.  I have not eaten there since I left Edinburgh about 15 years ago but it was still providing good food.  The lunch is a buffet of rice, paratha, three curries, salads, sauces, potato fritters and potato dumplings.  It was all very good.

I asked the names of the curries and was told, lentil, pea and potato, and spinach and corn.  When I asked what the sauce was for one I was told pea and potato curry.  I can tell you they were very good, especially the dal (with lentils or split peas).  It wasn't really oily as some curries can be and the vegetables tasted freshly cooked.  I appreciated that they weren't overly spicy.  Sylvia and I would have preferred naan bread but the parathas were nice and warm.

We were also impressed with the decor.  The walls of the whole restaurant were stuccoed with little mirrors used to make patterns and pictures.  They were fun to look for pictures with Sylvia to keep her amused while she ate her rice, tomato and cucumber.

Then we headed off to Summerhall for a cake and a drink to take to the playground at the Meadows for Sylvia to enjoy the swings and roundabouts once more.

I still have a few Edinburgh posts that I hope to share but tomorrow we will be off to Paris.

2-3 St Patrick Square, Edinburgh
0131 667 9890

Kalpna Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted March 29, 2016 07:39 AM by Johanna GGG

March 28, 2016

quinces and kale

maccaroni osteria italiana

pappardelle ai funghi

Maccaroni Osteria Italiana has generated a bit of a buzz on a couple of social media vegan dining groups recently. I was first alerted to it when a friend went there a month or so ago and our vegan dining group immediately resolved to eat there as soon as we could organise it.

There were 15 of us and we asked to have the banquet which was $40.  For $40 the food we got was astonishing in value and flavour. This was terrific food, sometimes homestyle sometimes beautifully presented, and all so generous.  In quality, it was well above an average local cafe, but still priced like one. I think it will become a regular favourite.

My only complaint is that I was so full that I couldn’t move afterwards. The fact that I managed to taste everything when I was really full is a testament to how delicious it all was. My mouth could happily have kept going, but my stomach was unwilling.

The restaurant has an extensive vegan menu as well as a non vegan one, so it would be a good place to dine with non vegan friends or family. Frankly they wouldn’t be disappointed if they dined from the vegan menu. There are also several marked vegan wines on the menu. The service is friendly and helpful.

But enough raving about how good it was, here is what we ate.

Appetisers and entrees

Macco di Lenticchie bruschetta misto fritto

We started with bruschetta made from homemade toasted bread served with two sauces, a Kalamata olive tapenade and a delicious sun-dried tomato puree.

Also in this course was a platter of misto fritto consisting of small arancini, crumbed ascolane olives, panelle (chickpea fritters) and potato croquettes. All delicious.

Last of the entrees was macco di lenticchie – a lentil and vegetable soup served with croutons. It was smooth and very flavourful, it impressed both soup lovers and haters alike.

Main dishes (six of them!)

gnocchi forest pita panormus lasagna Fagottino di melanzane pappardelle ai funghi seitan scallopine ai funghi

First up was a dish named Pita Panormus. This turned out to be a baked potato pie with Palermo onion sauce and black olives. It was delicious comfort food and unfortunately I went back for seconds. This would later turn out to be a mistake as there was so much food still to come.

The Pappardelle Funghi e Tartufo –  fresh pappardelle pasta with mushrooms and truffle creamy sauce was probably my favourite dish of the night. Definitely swoonworthy and hard not to lick the plate.

Next up was Gnocchi Forest – potato gnocchi with vegan Bolognese sauce and mushroom. I loved the gnocchi. They were light and pillowy, but I was not so fond of the sauce as some others. It was good, just not my favourite.

Fagottino di melanzane con cuore di pasta – Tagliatelle with Sorrentina tomato sauce wrapped in fried eggplant with basil. This dish was both beautiful and delicious. I am scared of undercooked eggplant, but this was impeccably done, with silky soft insides and crispy skin. Teamed with perfectly cooked fresh pasta I could have eaten a full plate of this…if only I hadn’t been so full. As it was I did go back for a second serve.

The baked lasagna with bolognese was popular, but it was probably my least favourite dish. It was good, but I just couldn’t do it justice when I was so full that I was barely able to move. Luckily for me I’d worn loose pants.

The last main was a vegan scaloppine with mixed wild mushroom served with potatoes. Again this was excellent. The scaloppine was great with a perfect texture. The sauce was also good, but a bit similar to the pappardelle. For variety I’d have preferred something different.

We heaved a collective sigh of relief at the end of the mains and prepared ourselves.


panna cotta and choc hazelnut desserts

Last up were our desserts – a chocolate and almond mousse with Frangelico and crunchy nuts and a vegan pannacotta with a mixed berry coulis.

Mercifully the desserts came in small glasses that held just a few mouthfuls. This was a perfect amount, anything more and I’d have been defeated. Both were delicious, but the star for me was the panna cotta.

There is no doubt I will be back, I’ve already spoken with my sister about organising our next family dinner here. But I will eat less next time. At least I hope so!


Maccaroni Osteria Italiana
201 Queens Parade, Clifton Hill, 3068

9642 0440

Maccaroni Osteria Italiana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted March 28, 2016 09:00 AM

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Maccaroni Osteria Italiana

March 19, 2016

The vegans of facebook have alerted me to yet another unexpectedly veg-friendly eatery! Maccaroni Osteria Italiana is a family-run Italian restaurant located in that funny little wedge of Queen's Parade bordering Fitzroy North and Clifton Hill. With a marble bar, high ceiling and elaborate light fixture at its centre, the restaurant has a sense of occasion.

The regular menu is dominated by pasta and risotti, meat and fish (including calamari and chips!). But there are also vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free labels across the board and an entire separate vegan menu, warmly inviting customers to "ask any question to the staff in order your food for religious reasons, environmental concerns, animal welfare concerns". Our group numbered more than a dozen, and the kitchen were kind enough to devise a $40pp vegan banquet that allowed us to sample numerous dishes across the menu.

The first deliveries to our table were huge platters of misto fritto (mixed fried foods, pictured left) - bolognese arancina (rice balls), ascolane (stuffed) olives, panelle (chickpea flour fritters), and potato croquettes (like crumbed fried gnocchi). These were fun to pick through, with everyone having different favourites. The lightly toasted bruschetta with olive and sun-dried tomato based sauces (pictured right) were almost overlooked.

Next came small bowls of macco di lenticchie (pictured left), a plain-looking red lentil soup with a startlingly rich, savoury flavour that reminded me of chicken stock, topped with herby croutons. The following pita panormous (pictured right) was a deceptively light and fluffy potato casserole studded with onions and black olives.

Little did we know, the hearty dishes would only keep coming! The lasagne (pictured left) had a very fresh tomato sauce and more pasta layers than I could count; papparedelle ai funghi (pictured right) featured thick pasta ribbons, creamy mushroom sauce and heady waft of truffle.

My favourite might have been the gnocchi forest - the lightest little potato dumplings I've ever eaten, in a bolognese sauce dotted with mushrooms. What a nice surprise to have a little vegan cheese to sprinkle over the top too.

Filling up, I was tempted to decline the fagottino di melanzane (bundle of eggplant, pictured left), but was glad I tried it - the pasta filling was elastic and fresh, and the slim eggplant wrapping was smoky and crispy edged, topped with a dab of tomato sauce and a basil leaf.

We were completely unable to do justice to the scaloppine ai funghi (pictured right), tender slivers of mock meat and mushroom in a creamy gravy, alongside parsley-seasoned potatoes. In hungrier circumstances, I'd have demolished the entire plate myself with gusto.

Dessert was mercifully miniature - creamy pannacotta topped with a berry sauce, and coppa di cioccolata fredda (cold chocolate cup) with a softened biscuit base and crunchy candied-almond topping.

Maccaroni Osteria Italiana set a very high bar for vegan Italian dining, with fresh and springy egg-free pastas and rich, creamy dairy-free sauces. Backed up with deep-fried entrees and a couple of desserts, it made for a heavy meal. While a salad or some more side veges might've lightened the experience, there wasn't a single sub-par dish on the table. This restaurant pulled off the far more impressive feat: opening the upscale, family-centred Italian restaurant experience to vegan and gluten-free dietary restrictions.


This particular dinner has already appeared on Veganopoulous.


Maccaroni Osteria Italiana
201 Queens Parade, Clifton Hill
9077 0377

Accessibility: There is a small lip on entry, and a few steps down to the front dining area where we sat. Tables are well spaced and we received full table service. Most toilets are located up a well-lit flight of stairs with a handrail; toilet rooms are gendered and dimly lit; toilet cubicles are narrow. On the ground floor there is a well-lit disability-access toilet with a baby changing station. (Thanks to the staff comment below for extra info!)

Posted March 28, 2016 07:19 AM by Cindy

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Glasgow day trip: Stereo, The Tenament House, Willow Tearooms

Sylvia and I had a day trip to Glasgow yesterday and enjoyed ourselves despite the rain.  We got home late last night and then discovered that the clocks go forward for daylight savings today.  Hence today was a bit of a wipeout and I left E to make dinner for Easter Sunday (more about that later).  Meanwhile in Glasgow, we ate well at vegan restaurant, Stereo, and Glasgow icon, The Willow Tearooms.  Sightseeing was mostly the Tenament House Museum.

It is not ideal to be finding our way about an unfamiliar city in the rain, clutching map and umbrella.  Even worse, when we arrived at Stereo, I found that the lane was closed.  We had to walk around to the other side of the lane to get to the doorway to the restaurant.

Stereo was pretty quiet when we arrived early for lunch but by the time we left it was full with very few vacant tables.  We started with a soy hot chocolate and a Fentiman's Curiosity Cola.  I ordered hummus with flatbread and vegies for Sylvia because she has had so many less vegies than usual on our trip.  Curiosity drove my own ordering.  I ordered buffalo cauliflower and pizza with haggis, caramelised onions, roast potato and cheese.  All amazing.

Sylvia turned up her nose at seeing the oil drizzled over the hummus.  I stirred it in but first impressions were powerful and she mostly ate the flatbread and a little vegies.  The hummus was really nice with a generous amount of tahini while the flatbread was warm and lovely.  The buffalo cauliflower were nice but a bit spicy for me.

I was also surprised that the haggis pizza was also spicy.  I kept wondering if I had ordered the spicy sauce on it but I am sure I didn't.  Despite the spiciness I loved the pizza.  It will take an amazing vegan pizza to beat this one.  It was huge, perhaps too big.  Everything was nicely presented but even so I think it would have been better not to have the pizza hanging over the edge of the plate and to serve the salad in a separate bowl.  But I loved the soft onions, the slightly crispy edges to the haggis and the creamy stringy cheese.  I asked about the cheese and was just told it was from Austria.

We took a taxi to the Tenament House Museum in Buccleuch Street.  It is a 4 room tenament flat that was lived in continuously by a family for 54 years during the 20th Century.  The period detail is really lovely.  Sadly my camera battery gave out before I reached the kitchen.

The flat only had one bedroom but three beds.  Two of these beds were in little closets with curtains.  (They are like Perks bed in the Railway Children if you have seen the 1970s film.)  I love the ingenious use of space.  It was fascinating to look at a model of how 3 traditional bedtime flats had been changed into 2 modern flats.

The Tenament House is closed over winter and was only opened for the year the day before.  As it was the Easter weekend there were kids activities.  Every room had Easter eggs with letters beside them and kids had to collect the letters and make a word to receive an Easter egg prize.  Then there was craft activities in a room where Sylvia made a paper plate bunny and did some colouring in.

Then we walked to Sauchiehall Street to have afternoon tea at the Willow Tearooms.  The tearooms were designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who is famed for his beautiful art nouveau designs.  This photo was taken just as we were leaving and the place was closing.  When we arrived we had to wait for a table because it was so busy.

Sylvia was given a kids menu with a colouring in picture of Maisie the Cat at the Willow Tearooms.

I wasn't starving after Stereo but I wasn't about to pass up the opportunity to have afternoon tea on a posh three tier plate.  As with Stereo, we didn't eat everything.  We couldn't!  The bottom plate was sandwiches.  Vegetarian and vegan options were offered for these so I had a mix.  Cheese and chutney, tomato and avocado, cream cheese and cucumber, and spinach and hummus.  The next layer was scones and the top was a cake of our choosing.

I think my favourite was the scones with jam and cream.  The raspberry jam was lovely and the cream was the thick clotted kind.  I would have liked the scones to be warm but I guess the logistics of this in a busy tearooms is tricky.  The staff were constantly on the go.  Sylvia noted how fancy they looked in the old fashioned black dresses and white aprons.

Then we checked out a few shops in Sauchiehall Street and collapsed onto the train to go home.  It was lovely to spend time in Glasgow.  Sylvia's impression was of a cold wet and windy city.  I felt we had just scratched the surface and would love to spend more time there.

22-28 Renfield Lane, Glasgow, G2 6PH
0141 2222254

Tenament house museum
145 Buccleuch St, Glasgow G3 6QN
0141 333 0183

Willow Tearooms
217 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow G2 3EX
0141 332 0521

Posted March 28, 2016 04:19 AM by Johanna GGG

March 26, 2016

Challenge Accepted!

Renghan Lothiu

I don't know about you, but a while ago when I was watching Gordon Ramsay's Best Restaurant series, I was cheering on tiny vegetarian family restaurant Prashad.

I knew that they had a cookbook out, but I have so many cookbooks it's sometimes hard to justify buying new ones, especially big beautiful (and expensive) hardbacks. So I was super happy to find their latest cookbook, Prashad at Home, in my local library.

I might have mentioned before what a fan of eggplant I am, so I was intrigued by a dish I found in the book for spiced chickpea flour coated fried eggplant slices. Tonight I made the dish, named Renghan Lothiu, for dinner.

First the eggplant slices are soaked in water with one teaspoon of salt. Then while the oil heats in the pan, the chickpea flour is mixed with chili powder, salt, turmeric, cumin seeds, asafoetida, ground coriander and ground cumin. Then the eggplant slices are coated in the flour mixture and fried in the oil, turning regularly to cook evenly. I think my burner plates may be too hot, as many of my slices burned a little despite my turning the heat down lower. I'd recommend a medium heat.

I served these with some white rice and mango chutney. They were spicy and crunchy and the eggplant had cooked perfectly in the centre, to a gooey soft texture. Yum!

What are your favourite eggplant dishes? 😊

Posted March 26, 2016 08:00 PM by Kate

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Edinburgh cafe: Mimi's Bakehouse

As our time in Edinburgh is drawing to a close, I am feeling a bit sad about the lack of time to return to some of the wonderful places where we have eaten.  Though I did return for some lovely simnel cake at Summerhall today.  Mimi's Bakehouse on the Canongate in the Old Town is one such place.

We stopped at Mimi's about a week ago for a cuppa and cake and I really wanted to return for some of their lovely sandwiches.  Yesterday we passed by and the few tables were full.  Nae chance, then!  No wonder it is popular.  The food was really good and the place is charming.  Upon entering, it is warm and welcoming with pink lights, bunting and a beautiful display of cakes.

I was quite interested by the drink options.  Given that I don't drink coffee and rarely drink alcohol, it sometimes feels that there aren't many fancy drinks offered that interest me.  So I was drawn to the raspberry ripple hot chocolate.  Unfortunately I don't like cream on my hot chocolate so I didn't get the full whammy of the drink topped with cream and ripples of chocolate.  I still enjoyed something a little different and the hot chocolate was delicious.  E also enjoyed his salted caramel latte.

The cupcakes were really cute but we were drawn to the slices.  E chose a Mars Bar Slice and Sylvia had a Malteser Slice.  I shared some of each slice.  What really impressed me was that the slices were not cold out of a refrigerated display cabinet but were room temperature.  Both tasted wonderful.  They were fresh and decadent with lots of crunchy bits and a creamy chocolate ganache on top.

I really liked the sound of the sandwiches.  Mull of Kintyre cheddar with caramelised onion chutney.  Or Applewood smoked cheddar with sweet chilli jam.  On the online menu for the Costorphine bakehouse is also a vegetarian breakfast with glamorgan sausages and veg haggis that sounds delicious.  Sadly we are unlikely to have a chance to try these on this trip.

Nevertheless it was lovely to stop at the bakehouse and enjoy a warm drink and delicious slice in such a stylish room.  And I knew they were people after my own heart because above the counter is written "it's all about the cake".  Amen to that!

Mimi's Bakehouse
250 Canongate, Edinburgh
0131 556 6632
Open: M-F: 8am - 6pm, Sat-Sun: 10am - 6pm

Mimi's Picnic Parlour Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted March 26, 2016 10:59 AM by Johanna GGG

March 24, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Mukka II

March 17, 2016

We've enjoyed a couple of visits to Mukka even in the face of stiff veg*n restaurant competition on Brunswick St. Most recently we met up with our mates Natalie and Ben, all of us agreed that we should trial the $30pp vegan "Just Feed Me..." menu.

We also needed drinks. I circled back on the rose & cinnamon cooler ($7) of my first visit - it's so pretty and refreshing! The staff treated Natalie to a ginger beer souped up with pomegranate juice and seeds and a wedge of lime. This was a riff on their current jug-sized cocktail, which was just too much for Natalie to take on solo.

The banquet proved particularly generous in its entree selection.  First up there were neat little samosas, dusted with black salt and served with mint and tamarind chutneys. More novel to us was the bhel puri, aptly described on the menu as "cold and crunchy, light and lovely"; a medley of puffed rice, Bombay Mix, nylon sev, pomegranate seeds, tomato, onion, lime, tamarind & mint.

These were followed by pappadums with more mint and tamarind chutneys, and the Tibetan momos that Natalie was most looking forward too. What luck to be served two each!

We had a long wait for our mains, but having eaten so well already I wasn't bothered. Eventually we were served a small steamed basmati rice (with the invitation to request more), a teeny creamy dal, a kachumbar salad, a sweet muttar tofu full of peas and caramelised onions, two bowls of soft and starchy aloo baingan, and thick wholemeal tandoori roti. We did our best but ultimately finished none of these dishes; we were kindly offered containers to take the remainders home.

Mukka's menu doesn't include vegan desserts so we happily, tiredly finished up at this point. But there was masala chai with almond milk on offer to round out the banquet.

Each time I visit Mukka, I'm glad to observe their customer base growing. Their menu has some great variations around the standard Indian takeaway and thoughtful vegan adaptations. The "Just Feed Me..." menu is a fun way for a hungry crew to sample across Mukka's options.


You can read about my first visit to Mukka here. Since then it's been roundly praised by other bloggers, including fellow vegos Ballroom Blintz and A Melbourne Vegan Eats, and omni bloggers Barley Restaurant Reviews, Wandering Mint (half freebie), Two Bears And A Fork, A Chronicle of Gastronomy (freebie), Gastrology (freebie), Fitzroyalty and Melbourne Explorer.

365 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
9917 2224
main menu, dessert & drinks

Accessibility: There is just a small lip on the entry. Tables are moderately spaced throughout the interior. We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter. Toilets were located out the back, accessed by a flat but narrow path, and gendered.

Posted March 24, 2016 03:54 PM by Cindy

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Edinburgh cafe: Summerhall

E was pleased to find our holiday accommodation was just around the corner from Summerhall (which is opposite the children's playground in the Meadows that Sylvia loves).  It is a fascinating arts complex with a cafe inside.

The first thing we notice is the sculpture in the front yard.  It looks like random furniture and bits of building have been thrown out the windows.  Sylvia tells me they must have put some powerful glue on some sticks and thrown things at them.  A notice on the fence tells me that it is an installation called Virus by Antonio O'Connell in 2014.

Summerhall is in an amazing old rambling building.  However as there are no exhibitions on at present, it is hard to get a handle on it.  The most accessible area is the cafe.  It is large and light-filled with large windows down one side.  Chairs are made of rough hewn wood or you can sit at a comfy old sofa.

We plonk our bags down and head to the counter to order.  The staff are friendly and there are lots of vegetarian options.  Soup, salad, risotto, pasties and sandwiches.  On the recommendation of the staff I order the Blue Monday toastie that is filled with blue cheese, apple, honey and walnuts.  An excellent tip.

Speaking of tips, the sign on the tip jar is rather amusing.

While we wait for our order, we browse the shop.  It has some really tasteful arty gifts as well as fun stuff for kids and lovely postcards.  I buy some because the bear on them amuses me.  Upon purchasing them, I am delighted to find that I am talking to the artist.

We don't have to wait long for our drinks.  Fentimans cola for me and a soy latte for E.  Sylvia goes with Irn Bru.  We are all very happy with our drinks.  (Many places in Edinburgh don't have soy milk and E says this is one of the best soy lattes he has had on this trip.)

My Blue Monday sandwich is superb.  Really unusual but the umamai, sweet, crunchy, melty combination works so well.

E has not had enough millionaire's shortbread in Edinburgh and is pleased to find a piece here.  It is very good, though I only have a bite.

Later we wander into the courtyard.  It would be a lovely place to sit if the weather was kinder.  Inside are lots of parents with young children in strollers; there is plenty of room for them,  I imagine in warmer weather many of them go outside.  It is a Fringe Festival venue so it must be busy during the summer.

Not being an Edinburgh native, I assume that the sign on the building outside is some art student joke.  However E takes it in his stride as Edinburghers know very well that Summerhall resides in the building that was formerly the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.

Sylvia and I return for lunch a few days later before heading to the park.  I try the Highlander toasted sandwich with vegetarian haggis, cheese and tomatoes.  It is nice but does not wow me as much as the Blue Monday.  Next visit I must try the quinoa salad.

On this occasion the place is far busier, the staff more harried and the ambience less relaxed.  Sylvia has a white chocolate and berry muffin because she is eating lunch elsewhere.  And we amuse ourselves with Connect Four after we find the stash of games and children's books.

Summerhall is a fascinating place and I feel we have only seen the tip of the iceberg.  Many events are listed but are not happening during our stay.  However I really liked this jukebox which has been set up as a project for people to donate money to charity. 

Update 25 March: Returned to Summerhall again today with Sylvia and my niece.  The savoury offerings were a bit more basic because the kitchen is being renovated but I had a lovely potato and leek soup.  Then because it is Good Friday, I had a piece of simnel cake.  I am not sure it is quite traditional but was very nice.  It was a sponge cake with a few raisins, a buttercream filling and a marzipan topping.  Sylvia and her cousin then went to the park for a soft serve ice cream but Sylvia was not so keen on hers and said she would have preferred a muffin from Summerhall.

Summerhall Cafe
1 Summerhall Place, Newington, Edinburgh
0131 560 1580

Summerhall Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted March 24, 2016 09:19 AM by Johanna GGG

March 23, 2016

Green Gourmet Giraffe

North Berwick: Steam Punk, Westgate Gallery, JPs, beach and more

Today we took the short trip by train to North Berwick for a most pleasurable day with E's cousin, Anne.  It was a day of relaxing in cafes over coffee and cake, time at the playground, wandering around gardens, walking along the beach and catching up with family.  The sun shone on us, we shared lots of laughter, and the food was glorious.

Our first stop was at JPs for a cuppa.  JPs Deli and Cafe is the reincarnation of Bunneys that I wrote about on our last visit to Scotland in 2012.  It was taken over by John Paul McLachlan in 2013 but retains much of the look and quality of Bunneys.  (Though is now a most fetching shade of green inside and out.)  The cheese and onion scone I had was superb.  It was warm and soft and full of flavour.  I had an elderflower presse to drink that was refreshing.  We all had scones except Sylvia who had a chocolate eclair.  It was great to sit and chat.

Next was a visit to the local playground behind the lodge.  Sylvia had great fun on the flying fox and the roundabouts and the swings.  Then we walked around the lodge gardens and were serenaded by the birds in the aviary.

We decided to stop for an early lunch at Steampunk Coffee.  E had spied it up a little lane and we were all mightily impressed.  The cafe is located in an old warehouse.  It has been designed with style and a great attention to detail.  Even the basins in the toilets are a little steampunk.

Upon first entering we were concerned there was only one table.  However then we looked up and found there were many more seats upstairs.

The tables and chairs were all mismatched old tables and chairs, which despite - or possibly because of - their slightly shabby upholstery are just the sort of furniture I wish I had in my home.

I rather liked the look of the salad bar.  Then I saw the impressive savoury muffins.  They were made with sun dried tomatoes, olives, feta, cheddar and possibly something else with lots of seeds on top.  I ordered one with some thai noodle salad and rocket.  The muffins was soft and fresh and filled with flavoursome chunks of vegies and cheese.  The salad was fresh and tasty while the rocket is the pile of greens I was needing.

Everyone else had the grilled cheese sandwich.  (E had rocket with his.)  Sylvia was a bit unimpressed but E and Anne were most impressed.  In fact Anne said it was the best grilled cheese sandwich she had ever had.  She spoke to the chef and we think it was manchego cheese in it.

As well as all the indoor seating, there is plenty of outdoor tables and chairs in the forecourt with a lovely view of the ruined church and graveyard opposite.  You can also see the combie van which visits market with the Steampunk coffee that is roasted and ground at the warehouse.

Then we took at walk down Victoria Road (past Melbourne Place) to the sea.

We walked along the beach.  Sylvia collected shells and made a wee sandcastle.

As we walked we could see The Bass Rock, one of the iconic landmarks of North Berwick.

Closer to the shore are the rocks at the end of the beach where e would play as a boy on his holidays.  Sylvia loved scrambling over the rocks and E showed her the rock formation like a chair.  The tide was quite high so they couldn't run around it as E has on previous visits.

It had been a lovely sunny day but by the time we left the beach it was quite overcast.

BTW I find the houses at the edge of the beach very British because the beaches where I grew up down the Great Ocean Road usually had either cliffs or parks by them and buildings were not visible from the beach.

Then it was time to wander the shops a little.  This picture of Bass Rock was found down a wee close where there were illustrations about Robert Louis Stevenson's time in North Berwick.

One of our favourite shops is the Westgate Galleries.  It is always welcoming and cosy with such beautiful gifts and pictures. 

Today I finally had a chance to eat in the Westgate Galleries at the Orangery cafe when we stopped for afternoon tea.  I had a berry tea and a splendid slice of cranachan cake.  It was a soft sponge cake with generous amounts of raspberry jam and buttercream.  (Coincidentally on my last trip to North Berwick I had cranchan cake!)

While we were there we decided to buy a print from North Berwick.  This town holds a special place for E.  He had many holidays there as a child and continues to visit as an adult when he can.

We took one last walk to the sea on the West Beach and then we took the train home.  It was lovely to be in North Berwick and to have an opportunity to spend time with Anne.  You can read about my previous trips to North Berwick in 2012 and 2009.

JPs Cafe and Deli
96 High Street, North Berwick
01620 890245

Steampunk Coffee
49A Kirkports, North Berwick
01620 893030

The Orangery
Westgate Galleries
39-41 Westgate, North Berwick
01620 894976

Posted March 23, 2016 10:55 AM by Johanna GGG

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne


March 9 & 10, 2016

I barely pay attention to Broadsheet these days, drowning under the weight of newly opened bars and cafes that we'll eventually visit some time in 2018. Somehow though, my eye caught on the words 'Lebanese Diner' and 'Code Black Coffee' in a write-up of Tahini, a new place just around the corner for my office. We've had pretty good experiences at both Code Blacks and I've been craving a good lunchtime felafel for a while, so this shot straight to the top of my list for days when our packed-lunch game was weak.

I wound up visiting back-to-back quite soon after they opened, giving me a chance to have a proper shot at their menu. On my first visit I got a bit confused by the system - it turns out you only go up to the counter if you're getting takeaway, not if you want to eat in. I panicked a haloumi wrap ($10) without really taking in my full range of options. 

They really are designed as a speedy takeaway lunch - a better option would have been to upgrade to the tablieh option, which comes with a dip, salad and some chips to accompany the wrap, but kicks the price up to $16.

The haloumi wrap was heavy on the herbs - lots of mint and basil, along with cucumber, tomato, a deliciously oily green dressing and a few judiciously placed chunks of fried haloumi. On first inspection I was a bit disappointed by the low cheese:salad ratio, but the proportions tasted brilliant - lots of freshness with just enough cheesy, salty, oiliness to keep me happy. It's a small lunch though and at $10 it's probably not as good as getting three boreks from the Vic Markets (that's probably an unfair benchmark though I guess).

On my second visit I'd figured out how things worked - I sat down with the full menu and sussed out my options. The labelling of gluten-free, vego and vegan dishes is clear and thorough and there's plenty of options for everyone - for example, vegans can build a lunch from the felafel, five different salads, a massive range of dips and breads, vine leaves and chips. I left the decisions in Tahini's hands, opting for a standard soufra: two items from the grill, served with hummus, vine leaves, tabouleh and bread for $18. Only one of the grill items is vego (the haloumi), but they were happy for me to sub in some felafel as my second option.

This is a massive lunch, with a great variety of dishes to work your way through. Everything was excellent with the haloumi and hummus the highlights. This is a great way to sample a good range of Tahini's menu, but it does mean to committing to a $16 lunch, which is at the upper end of what I'm willing to pay. At least you're getting value for your money.

The staff at Tahini are super friendly and, although there were a couple of small teething issues on my first visit, things were running pretty smoothly on the second day. It's a big space and the menu is impressive - I'll definitely be back to sample some more of it.

199 William Street, Melbourne (via Guests Lane)
food menu, drinks menu

Accessibility: There's a flat entry and a fairly spacious interior. There are a mix of high stools and regular chairs. You order at the table and pay at a low counter. I didn't visit the toilets.

Posted March 23, 2016 08:59 AM by Michael

Thoughts Of A Moni

Cheeky Wines From Vinomofo

This product talk is brought to you by Vinomofo and Nuffnang.

Vinomofo are one of Australia's leading online wine stores. They work directly with the best wine producers in the world to find the wines they love, and curate them to the customers' tastes. If the wine doesn't pass the rigorous testing of the tasting team, then Vinomofo doesn't sell the wine. Not a bad quality control strategy.

If the wine does pass, Vinomofo buy a designated amount of stock, making every wine a limited edition. Often the wines sell out, and if that happens, you can't get any more! Vinomofo also have some great secret deals. Because the wines are so awesome, and the prices so unbelievable, the only way they can get their hands on them is to keep the identity of the wine and the producer a secret. It makes the whole concept even more exciting!

I was lucky enough to receive a couple of bottles of Vinomofo wine to try. Vinomofo have some very creative and often cheeky labels, as you can see!

The Orgy, was a grenache blend from McLaren Vale, quite lightweight and short on the palate. I'm not a big GSM fan, so this wasn't my favourite, but don't let that put you off.

The Art of War (Sun Tzu would be impressed that his work was being credited to such a worthy venture!) was a Shiraz from the Barossa Valley. This was a lovely easy drinking red, very pleasant on the palate. It definitely worked well on a lazy Saturday afternoon!

Vinomofo know that often different people have different tastes when it comes to wine, and so they offer a 365 day return policy with a full refund, credit or replacement. Goes to show how confident they are in their wines!

To peruse the Vinomofo wine collection, and perhaps get some wine delivered to your doorstep, visit the Vinomofo website.

And incase you're wondering, yes, Vinomofo does mean Wine, Motherf*cker. Cheeky.

Disclaimer: I received these products courtesy of Nuffnang and Vinomofo , however I was not paid for this post and all opinions are my own.

Posted March 23, 2016 08:40 AM by Moni

March 21, 2016

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Minions in Edinburgh

Minion fever ahoy!  Sylvia can't get enough of these cute little yellow guys with the big eyes.  She is loving all the minion merchandise in Edinburgh.  (Apologies to anyone who thought the title meant that the Minions were invading Edinburgh or that Gru had shrunk the castle and put it in his pocket or that the Scottish Parliament was enlisting the help of the Minions!)  And it is holidays and we might never have the opportunity again.

I can assure you that the top picture is a shop (Primark) and not our holiday flat, though Sylvia no doubt wishes it was the latter.  The rest of the pictures are purchases for the kitchen, the pantry, the bathroom and the wardrobe and her playthings.

Carry case



Bowl and plate

Yearbook - story and activities

Playing cards


Glue Sticks


Hat, top, leggings, socks

Pasta in a tin

Savoury snacks - pickled onion, salt and vinegar, cheese toastie

Spoon and fork

FRuit yoghurt in a tUBE = Frubes

Shower gel and electric toothbrush

And there is more that I haven't photographed - chocolate, pens, plasters, tic tacs etc.

Posted March 21, 2016 10:59 PM by Johanna GGG

Edinburgh sightseeing, Stockbridge Market, Peter's Yard, Botanic Gardens and Epic Chalk Day

It was Epic Chalk Day that inspired today's fun day in Stockbridge and surrounds.  It was a day of markets, a vegan butcher, a Swedish baker, chalking, gardens, friends and charity shops.

It started with a bus trip to Stockbridge to visit the market.  I went early because I had heard there would be a vegan butcher there.  Who could resist!  E came later with Sylvia and her cousin.  It was great to wander about the market, tasting and chatting and trying to resist temptation.

The first stall I saw made me do a double take!  Easter eggs for dogs!  Do dogs really need easter eggs?  (Does this mean I should be sending a postcard to my cat in her cattery while I am away with apologies that she doesn't get an easter egg from me?)

I really liked these pictures and was so tempted to buy one.  Perhaps if E had been there I might have but I wasn't quite sure which one to pick as I loved so many of cats and robins and Scottish streetscapes.

The market had lots of expected offerings.  Pretty cupcakes, tempting slices, large wedges of cheese and beautiful bread.

I was really there because I was fascinated upon hearing there would be a vegan butcher there.  Which was very odd.  Normally I avoid all the meat stalls but today I paid careful attention just in case they were vegan.

The vegan butcher was easy to find.  It was run by Sgaia Foods.  I enjoyed chatting to the people who ran it as they were friendly and happy to discuss the products.

I tasted some of the steak and was taken aback at just how meaty and smoky it tasted.  Pretty impressive.

Their display of meat was interesting to look at, even if slightly disturbing if you are veg*n and not missing meat.  I chose a packet of streaky bacon and am planning to fry up some for breakfast.  Will report back on it.

Shire snax, the store next door was vegan, raw and gluten free.  But I would have stopped anyway because that dragon is really cute.  They sell raw energy bars, cakes and brownies.  I bought a Jaffa (the Hutt) bar.  I really liked the chocolate orange flavour.

The I was pretty excited by some superfoods salts.  Superfoods aren't my thing but I love fancy salts.  I bought a Ghost Lava salt.  It is black salt with chilli.  I really need to sprinkle it on a soup.  The saleswoman read my information about it being lower in sodium and good for me but I regret to say I was too excited about buying black salt to take it in.

They had other interesting salt mixes, sauces and vinegars. 

The last stall where I made a purchase was the Considerit chocolate maker.  They had a great range of vegan and dairy free chocolates.  When I asked about the basket of cream eggs, I was told they had fondant in them and were for people who hadn't been able to eat Creme eggs.  I bought a chocolate with a madagascan vanilla truffle centre and one with honeycomb chips.  Delicious.

After the market, I walked down Raeburn Place to browse the shops.  This was where E caught up with me.  We could not believe how many charity shops there were and that most of them were open on Sunday.  It never would have been like that in E's granny's day.

The reason we had gone across to that side of town was the Epic Chalk Day in Inverleith Park.  We had stumbled across it while looking at what was on while in Edinburgh.  The organiser Paul Togneri is a local street artist who brought lots of chalk and encouraged everyone to draw on the footpath.  It was really busy and according to their facebook page, they ran out of chalk but everyone seemed friendly in sharing chalk.

Then Sylvia was hangry.  And we were so close to the Botanics Gardens that we went over.  It is a place that is dear to E who loved visiting as a wee boy.  The Terrace Cafe that we have visited before was closed until next weekend.  The cafe was temporarily relocated to the main building as a pop up.  It was chaotic but warmer. 

I had a lovely lentil, carrot and carraway soup with a cheese scone.  Sylvia and her cousin had the kids packs with sandwiches, babybel cheese, juices and grapes.  E shared their sandwiches and Sylvia had some of my scone.

We had planned to meet Scottish blogger, Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes, at the Epic Chalk Day but instead met her and her wee boy Cooper at the Botanics.  They went through the Glasshouses but we didn't.  We were surprised and disappointed that it now cost £5.50 for an adult to go through.  Last time we were there it was free.  Which seems right and proper in a public place like the Botanics.

However we met up with Jac and Cooper and had a relaxed time wandering around the grounds and stopped at this tree with the huge roots.  The kids had a lovely time playing there.

Then we walked back to Stockbridge along the Water of Leith.  It is interesting that this walkway was opened as recently as 1981 in such an old area of Edinburgh.  E remembers that you couldn't walk this way when he was a boy though he also said he would sometimes squeeze through a gap in the railing when he was quite small.  He was very pleased to see a dipper in the water.  Apparently it is rare to see this bird.

E was ready for a coffee and I had already checked out Peter's Yard earlier that day.  The cinnamon buns were magnificent.  So soft and fresh and flavoursome.  It was close to where we came out from the Water of Leith.  This is a Swedish bakery with a small cafe attached.  On both visits I shared a table with strangers as there isn't heaps of seating.

E tried a cardamom bun.  He was likewise smitten with it.  He also said his soy latte was one of the best he had had in Edinburgh.  Sylvia and her cousin had ice creams and they were delicious.  I had had enough sweet food and asked if I could have bread and cheese.  They were only too happy to oblige.  The bread was delicious and the cheese was rather tasty.

I really loved Peter's Yard.  They also do a cheese and bread basket and pizzas that I would love to try.  There is another Peters Yard bakery close to the Meadows near to where we are staying.  It is very tempting to go there and buy a loaf of their lovely bread and perhaps a bun or two to take home.

There were a few cafes I would have been happy to stop at for a bite in Stockbridge.  We are unlikely to get back there on this visit but were pleased to spend some time there today.

Terrace Cafe
Royal Botanic Gardens
Inverleith Row
0131 552 0616

Peters Yard
3 Deanhaugh Street
Stockbridge, Edinburgh
0131 3222901

Peter's Yard Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted March 21, 2016 10:29 AM by Johanna GGG

quinces and kale

hand made ramen noodles

hand made ramen noodles

I love ramen, even the instant kind.  But those deep-fried instant ramen, that were part of my staple diet as a uni student, are a poor imitation of the real thing.

Fresh ramen, like the ones you get in a ramen bar are a delight.  The trouble is that, as a vegan, it is sometimes difficult to find a ramen bar that serves a vegan broth.

The answer is to make them. I’ve never done it before, but I am excited that I have. They are pretty easy, particularly if you have a pasta machine. And they are delicious.

The secret ingredient in ramen noodles is alkaline water. This is what gives the noodles their slightly chewy texture. To make this you need an alkaline salt. Traditionally this is kansui which is a combination of potassium carbonate & sodium bicarbonate. But, an easy replacement is easily made at home by “cooking” sodium bicarbonate in an oven on a low heat for an hour. This raises the pH of the bicarb making it more alkaline.

This is then dissolved in the water used to make the dough. Once you have made the baked bicarb, making the noodles is fast. Another piece of good news is that the noodles can be frozen and used later to make “instant” ramen.

There are other recipes out there that cook normal noodles in water with unbaked sodium bicarbonate but they reportedly don’t taste good. So I settled on this more traditional one where alkaline water is used to make the dough. There are a heap of recipes out there. I based this one on a recipe on the New York Times by Harold McGee who is credited with the idea of baking the sodium bicarbonate to make the alkaline salt.


hand made ramen noodles
prep time
15 mins
cook time
1 hour 30 mins
total time
1 hour 45 mins
author: quincesandkale based on a NYT recipe
recipe type: vegan
serves: 3-4
To make the baked bicarbonate
  • ¼ cup sodium bicarbonate (This is more than you need, you will need only 1 tsp. This makes enough for 12 batches. It will keep indefinitely in a sealed container.)
To make the noodles
  • 1 tsp of the baked sodium bicarbonate
  • 200 grams plain flour
  • 100 ml warm water
Bake the sodium bicarbonate
  1. Spread the ¼ cup of sodium bicarbonate on a foil or paper lined baking sheet and bake for 1 hour at 120 deg C.
Make the noodles
  1. Take 1 tsp of the baked bicarb and store the remainder for later use.
  2. Dissolve the 1 tsp of baked bicarb in the warm water.
  3. Add the liquid to the flour and mix into a dough. It will be quite dry.
  4. Knead for 5 minutes.
  5. Wrap the dough and rest for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Roll out thinly and cut into fine noodles. I used a pasta machine to roll and cut the dough.
  7. Cook in boiling unsalted water for 1-2 minutes, drain, rinse and use in your favourite recipe.


ramen soup


I used the noodles in a soup with green vegetables and a miso and soy broth. I also ate them as a snack with some kecap manis, sriracha, sliced spring onions and sesame oil.

Simple and good.

Posted March 21, 2016 10:00 AM

March 20, 2016


Maccaroni Osteria Italiana, Clifton Hill

One thing I’ve wanted to see in Melbourne is a fully vegan Italian restaurant, or alternatively an Italian restaurant with an extensive vegan menu. It’s not that we don’t get Italian vegan options here, though in my experience with vegan dining our Italian food choices are mostly limited to things like pizza, pasta and a...
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Posted March 20, 2016 11:15 AM