Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Cupboard Mushrooms and Backyard Bok Choy!

For my birthday this year (which was in May . . . yes, I'm still that far behind), I told people who asked that I wanted things that would grow or facilitate growing and so got amazing books, gardening tools, seeds and plants. Thanks, peeps!

Here is my first post of things I've grown in our backyard (and cupboard, in this case).

Siobhan, Robin & M got me a "grow your own mushrooms" kit which I have set up in old linen cupboard. After a couple of weeks, I have mushrooms!

mushie cluster

The kit I was given is half button mushrooms, half portobellos and I only have white button mushrooms so far but, boy howdy, they are TASTY!

mushie picking

They grow super fast once they are up and it is so much fun to open a cupboard and have something you've grown yourself!

mushie picked

The lovely S&D over at Vegan About Town gave me bok choy and spring onion seedlings which grew like great guns. I used the bok choy in stir fry and as steamed greens with other dinners. So good!

Homegrown Bok Choy 1

Again, it was amazing to be all "I'll just nip out to the backyard and grab some greens for dinner" which, I know makes me an insufferable city person but I am trying to grow more of our food. We just reinvigorated our herbs this weekend.

Homegrown Bok Choy 2

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Red Star Cafe, Daylesford

water pumped from the mineral spring

Back in July, Esther and I went to Daylesford for the weekend. It was my birthday present from my family and it was filled with amazing food, relaxing, cider and crafts. NICE.
Above is the mineral spring we happened upon when trying to find the cidery and we drank from and everything.

On the sunday, we went to Hepburn Springs and had lunch at a place we'd only ever had coffee at before: The Red Star Cafe.

We had the Ploughman's Lunch which had some bread, cheese and pickles (as you'd expect) as well as a big salad with a really tasty dressing, a little frittata and the MOST AMAZING RELISH EVER.

Ploughmans @ Red Star Cafe

The only disappointment on the plate (and, even then, it wasn't really that disappointing) was the bread which I wish had been a nice chewy sourdough. Despite that, this was a great lunch and the sort of thing I love to eat.

We also shared the Vego Tart which, after months, I have no recollection of the flavours: feta and something?!

Tasty but overshadowed by the MOST AMAZING RELISH EVER; so much so that the relish is in pride of place in the photo.

A vego tart of some sort @ Red Star Cafe

The service was friendly and fun, the food was tasty and there was a good selection of things for the vego i.e. me. We will definitely go again next time we are up that way.

We then, on the spur of the moment, decided to go to the lavender farm nearby. Lavandula was, actual facts!, the best thing ever. I got all persnickety about having to pay to go in — I believe it was $4 or something ridiculous like that so who knows why I was hesitant — but it was worth every cent. It was just nice to walk around, play some petanque and look at the beautiful gardens.

sajee at the lavender farm

Red Star Cafe
115 Main Rd
Hepburn Springs VIC 3461
(03) 5348 2297

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Four Things (take 2)

I wrote a long-winded and detailed post but it was eaten! Here is the quicker version of a bunch of stuff I made.

1. Cauliflower & Caramelised Onion Tart (from smitten kitchen)

Cauliflower & Caramelised Onion Tart 3

So delicious. So easy.

Cauliflower & Caramelised Onion Tart 2

The pastry was flaky and tasty, the filling was the sort of things that dreams are made of and it was all easy enough to make quickly after work. Do it.

2. Franken-brownies

Franken-brownies 1

Or, what happens when you decide to add other foodstuffs to brownies.

NW: gummi bears

NE: mini M&Ms

SE: mini marshmallows

SW: turkish delight

Franken-brownies 3

Science was the winner. Also, turkish delight.

3. Chocolate Banana Bread

Banana Bread

I love bananas. Just not in things.

Until now. This recipe has changed my banana bread-related life. I am now the kind of person who makes banana bread regularly.

4. Pickled Carrots

Pickled Carrots 1

We get a fruit & vegie box from Organic Angels once a week and, sometimes, we end up with an excess of stuff. I generally use a bunch of carrots during a week but we always seem to have more. They multiply in the fridge. I needed to take action.

Pickled Carrots 2

I decided on pickled carrots using this recipe from David Lebovitz but instead of fennel, I used coriander and cumin seeds and some peppercorns. SO GOOD OMG.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Remember me?

Probably not.

I'm going to try and not make excuses because blogging isn't meant to be an obligation but I will say that I have still been cooking and eating and having adventures and, overall, I think my complete lack of blogging for the past 8 months has been due to the fact that learning how to be a teacher takes up a lot of time! A LOT! Particularly when you are trying to work two other jobs around it. Holy mackerel, kids! (Also, my camera's screen has been playing up a bit. It is frustrating.)

That said, yesterday afternoon signalled the end of my teaching rounds for this year. Obviously, I still have uni for the rest of the year but no more school time. It's weird - I am totally jazzed that time is passing and I am closer to becoming a teacher but it is also really sad. The school was fantastic (the kind of school dreams are made of, particularly for rounds) and the students were engaged, bright and funny. I think I will miss my two classes of Year 11s the most and, to thank them for being so awesome to teach, I made them some Catastrophe Cookies for class yesterday. They were very popular and, thus, I bought the love of my first class. Note to self: food works.

Anyway, let's use this moment to clear some of the 8 months worth of photos I have on hand. There probably won't be heaps of info but, hopefully, it will get me in the mood to do some more up to the date blogging.

At some point in February, I made my first ever spring onion pancake. Please excuse the iPhone photo:
Spring Onion Pancake
So easy and tasty. In fact, I believe I lured our 'new' flatmate, Byron into moving in by promising him spring onion pancake. I have yet to make it again. Oops.

For Easter, I made an amazing carrot cake (recipe from The Pioneer Woman) and it was super-tasty.

easter cake 1

easter cake 2

I also made some Hot Cross Buns, using the amazing BBC recipe which they have since changed! WHY, BBC?!

a delicious treat

For the lovely Miss Jen's birthday, I made this Gingerbread Layer Cake with Lemon Frosting.

fuji 12

The birthday girl seemed to enjoy it and I remember it was nice but not groundbreaking. It was, however, a lovely birthday picnic and anytime you rock up with
a cake and cake stand in the middle of the botanic gardens, you do become very popular.

Three Bags Full. Believe the hype. (Also, get there ridiculously early to get a table.)



The lovely M and I have been baking buddies for the past little while. Our first effort was a Rainbow Cake.

m and the rainbw cake

Don't worry - I checked with her mother before filling her full of food colouring.

rainbow cake

A month or so later, we decided to make something else. She had wanted to make a chocolate cake but as soon as she saw the pink jelly cakes in the recipe book, it was impossible to convince her otherwise.

They looked pretty enough . . .

pink lamingtons 2

Expectations were high . . .

pink lamingtons 3

But . . .

pink lamingtons 4

Oh, I hear you, bb. They weren't so great. As M said, "I thought they had a flavour but they don't."

Finally (for now), the other day we made the most ridiculous brownies the world has ever seen.


Each quarter was a different stroke of evil genius: marshmallow, gummi bear, mini m&ms and turkish delight.


Marshmallow and Turkish Delight were the best. Would make again.

Anyway, I do have some other stuff (Daylesford, St Andrews Market, misc other things) but this has become a bit ridiculous already. I will be back soon - I promise!

Sunday, 31 January 2010


Lamingtons 1

Esther and I spent Survival/Invasion/Australia Day watching this video and watching the Gilmore Girls and doing much-needed washing. My one patriotic thing (apart from ignoring this ridiculous holiday which, I think, is a fairly patriotic stance to take) was to make lamingtons because they involve coconut, jam, cake and chocolate.

Lamingtons 3

There's lots of talk about lamingtons being too much hassle to bother about that I've heard but I think they're fun to make. I mean, if I had to make 70 once a week or some such, then yes, it would blow. But as a once in a while thing - totally worth it!

I have made lamingtons in the past - gluten-free lamingtons no less - and had a whale of time doing so. That time, I simply made a gluten-free butter cake (from a cake mix) and then did the whole chocolate/coconut business. This time, I started from scratch.

Lamingtons 4


for the sponge (based on Nigella's Victoria Sponge recipe):
225g soft unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
200g self-raising flour
25g cornflour
1 tsp baking powder
4 Tbsp milk

Prehear oven to 180C and line whatever tin you wish to use. I went with a deep brownie pan which meant my cake was quite thin and I needed to do a double layer of cake on some of my lamingtons.
Crack out your food processor (you can do it without one but it is so simple with one).
Put all the ingredients bar the milk and process until it is a smooth batter. Then pulse as you slowly add the milk.
Pour into your pan and bake for around 25 minutes (or until the cake is coming away from the edges of the pan).
I leave the cake in the pan to cool for about half an hour or so and then flip out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

If you aren't using a food processor, cream the buter and sugar, add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time, adding a spoonful of flour between each egg. Fold in the rest of the flour and cornflour and don't add the baking powder. When it is all mixed in, add as much or little milk as you need.


2 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup of cocoa
66g butter
1/2 cup of boiling water
Jam of your choice (I used strawberry)
A whole lot of coconut (I used shredded but dessicated is more traditional)

Cut the edges off your cake, as well as slicing off all the delicious brown bits, leaving it all exposed white sponge that is ready to suck up the chocolate icing. (You can keep all the bits for trifle or similar). Cut your cake into your preferred shape - I ended up with rectangles but squares, stars, circles - it is up to you! I then halved them and put a bit of jam in to stick them back together.

Mix the boiling water and butter in a largeish bowl. When the butter has melted, sift in the cocoa and the icing sugar. Stir it around into a a delicious chocolate soup. Pour your coconut into relatively shallow bowl, good for rolling things in and set up a little assembly line - jammified cake, chocolate soup, coconut, final plate.

Let me level with you, peeps - I use my hands for this bit. It is messy but totally easier.
Dip the cake into the chocolate, making sure your coat all of the outside. Then roll in the coconut and plop on the plate. They are pretty delicate so it is best to leave them for a little bit to set (if you can stop yourself).

Friday, 29 January 2010

Tandoori Tofu Salad

Tandoori Tofu Salad 3

Another summer salad!

This is a vegification of something that we used to make with chicken and it was surprisingly successful!

I coated cubed tofu with a tandoori and natural yoghurt mix and then baked it for 20 minutes (or until I was ready for it). Made a simple salad of butter lettuce, cucumber and tomato, put the baked tofu on top and then crumbled papadums on top as delicious papadum-y crutons. I made a yoghurt-y dressing (natural yoghurt, lemon juice and mint) to drizzle over the top.

Delicious and easy.

This is also totally gluten-free (as long as you check the tandoori paste ingredients - all the ones I've ever used are gluten-free) as papadums are totally gluten-free (lentil flour FTW)!

Tandoori Tofu Salad 2

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Daring Bakers: Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Bars 4

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

This month's Daring Bakers had me very excited as I love Canada and I love bars and I have actually been to (well, through) Nanaimo. I was also excited because the host, Lauren is a coeliac and she asked everyone to try the gluten-free baking path. I spent four years being a gluten-free home cook and it is so awesome to make coeliacs something that they haven't had for ages i.e. croissants.

In the end, I ended up making the glutenful version because I was running out of time and I didn't have enough gluten-free flour in the pantry so I feel a bit like I betrayed Lauren but I was so happy that gluten-free baking was in the spotlight this month.

Graham Crackers 1

We had to make the graham crackers first which was a bit thing for me. As an Australian who grew up reading the Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High and various other trashy books that involved smores and other exotic food. All I gleaned from these books at the time is that graham crackers were involved in some way. When I made these the other day, I ended up making a smore by melting a marshmallow over my gas stove and mushing it the cracker and trying to melt the chocolate using the gas as well. It wasn't super successful but I totally dug the concept. Go, BSC!

Anyway, crackers! I kind of imagined these as being a Marie biscuit or a digestive biscuit but they were much more gingerbready than that. There was also something of a Tiny Teddy (honey, not chocolate) about them too. They were delicious and we still have a whole bunch left, waiting for me to think of something to do with them. I know a bunch of people had an issue with the dough being supersticky but I didn't have this issue at all.

Nanaimo Bars 3

Then I made them into Nanaimo Bars! The bottom layer is essentially like a hedgehog slice - I put graham crackers, chopped almonds, coconut and rice bubbles. Possibly too many additions but I couldn't help myself.

The middle layer is a sort of buttercream with custard powder added. It was super sweet so I added in some lemon juice and a little bit of cream cheese to cut through the sweet.

The top is melted chocolate - something I did too quickly and so it went lumpy. FAIL.

All in all, these were amazing but super-sweet. I enjoyed the challenge but I'm not sure I'd make them again because they were even a bit too much for this sweet tooth household.

Nanaimo Bars 2

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Wood Spoon Kitchen

Sake 2

Well, peeps, I am heading back to uni this year to become a Master of Teachering. I'm very excited about this - particularly as I now have a student card! - and Essie wanted for us to go out to celebrate my success and we ended up at Wood Spoon. It was a bit of a surprise as I had been mentioning wanting to go there but wasn't expecting a sms from her the day I found out about uni telling me we had a booking - she's sneaky!

Anyway, together with the boys we headed off to try this place I have heard so much about.

We shared a bunch of nibbley things to start - edamame, seaweed salad, agedashi tofu and okonoimyaki - and I chose to have umeshu while everyone else had various sake. The umeshu was one of the nicest plum wines I've had (which, admittedly, isn't hard as I've only had one other plum wine in my life) and the pear sake I sampled was amazing.


The edamame was salty and delicious and we were so frickin' hungry that they were gone in a flash.

Seaweed Salad

I loved the seaweed salad - I loved the tomato and cucumber in it.


It was a tasty okonomiyaki - it has 'nom' in the name so it must be good - and I can't remember any thing else about it but it being tasty. This is the downside of writing up two weeks late!

Agedashi Tofu

I REMEMBER THINGS ABOUT THIS. This agedashi tofu was by far the highlight of the meal and was so fucking amazing. OMG PEEPS. Nix and I were sharing this as the omnis had the pork gyoza but we convinced Dan and Esther to try some too and then regretted our decision as it meant less tofu for us. If you eat one thing this year, make it this!

Vegetarian Miso Soup

The vego miso was tasty if not quite what I expected. If I'd read the menu, I would have noticed the mention of pumpkin and sweet potato. It wasn't what I was expecting but it is tasty and full of surprise sustenance!

Dengaku Don

We shared the Dengaku Don which I loved but J found the texture a bit strange - it was a bit like tahini-coated eggplant. Which makes it sound terrible but I loved the softness of the eggplant and the sesame flavour. I can see that it might not be to everyone's cup of tea.

Sesame Icecream

After our monster effort, we thought it best to go the whole way by having dessert. The sesame icecream was an intense trip to sesame land - no sugary fluff here. It went really well with our other dessert choice . . .

Pumpkin Dango in Coconut Milk

pumpkin dango! This was very very sweet but also fairly amazing. Anyone who has had the pleasure of going to The Dumpling House with us knows our love of the pumpkin cakes. This dish was like the insides of pumpkin cake in sweet soup. WINNER.

At this point we rolled ourselves out to my car (A+ parking spot in front of the restaurant) and went home to rub our bellies.

This was an amazing evening - the food, company and occasion - and I feel like I've already had my best meal of 2010 in the first half of January. We had excellent service all night and even though it is a small space (though, apparently, it used to be smaller), it didn't feel like we were eating on top of the other patrons. Wood Spoon also get a huge thumbs up for their clearly marked vego, vegan and gluten-free options on their menu. It makes everything less stressful when you know exactly what everyone can eat.


Wood Spoon Kitchen
88 Smith Street

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Borsch, Vodka and Tears

Let the feasting begin

You've got to love a work day that is interrupted with an invite to dinner somewhere you've been meaning to go for years and years. Tash smsed me an invite to dinner at Borsch Vodka & Tears last week and I spent the entire week excited by the prospect of pierogi and borsch.

They coloured it in and everything!

Tash was particularly impressed with the care and attention that had be put into the sign reserving her table; so much so that she demanded photographic evidence of the colouring in. A+ colouring there - gold star!

OK beer

Tash, Anton, Esther and I all went for various vodka based drinks - I had the best Moscow Mule of my life - and John decided on an OK Beer and a shot of one of the many, many, many, many types of vodka. I love the label on this beer - it would be wrong to get it as a tattoo, yes?

When it came to ordering, Esther and I decided to share a couple of things and then get our own mains (so to speak) and leave the rest of the table to their business.
We ended up sharing the blintzes and cheese & potato pierogi to start and we did sample some of the saganaki which was super delicious.

Blintzes 1

The blintzes were amazing - very simple, obviously, but exactly what a potato blintz should be. One of my favourite things of the evening.

Saganki & some sort of fritterball thing

Delicious saganaki and some sort of fritter in the background which I didn't sample. I did steal the pickled veg off the plate later though as they were just going to leave it! NO NO NO - pickles veg is an always food!

Cheese and Potato Pierogi 1

The pierogi were, again, simple hearty deliciousness. Tash, Anton and John raved about the meaty ones they shared for a main and, whilst these were delicious, I think that pierogi are really best at their meatiest. There are other vego pierogi that I didn't sample so I know what I'm ordering next time I go back for cocktails.

Vegetarian Borsch

For my main, I went with the vegetarian borsch as it seemed fitting. From my understanding (and very quick wikipedia-ing), this borsch was a clear broth as it is a Polish borsch and if I had been in a Russian or Ukrainian restaurant the borscht would have been a bit chunkier - please correct me if I'm wrong. The broth was delicious and surprisingly light and very beetrooty. The highlight for me was the mushroom uszka. Wow - I could probably have eaten a hundred of these little dumplings of tastiness. Yum.

Oodles of Strudel

Even though we were stuffed to the gills, we decided to do dessert. We did have to have a fairly significant break in proceedings so that we weren't all automatically ill so we used that to have more cocktails. It was a this point that Esther had the best cocktail of her entire life - the Honey On Toast. Honey vodka, creme de cacao, cream and cinnamon in a honey drizzled glass. Wow. I went with a Starry Starry Night which was champagne and quince and whilst it was good, I should not have strayed from the vodka drinks as they were all outstanding.

Anyway, dessert. Esther and I had apple strudel and it was strudelicious. Probably not the best strudel I've ever eaten but an excellent end to a hearty meal.

I really enjoyed Borsch, Vodka & Tears and will probably go back with the view to sample more of the drinks list than for a meal. If I get to eat some excellent blintzes and pierogi on the way . . . well, that's just a positive.

Borsch Vodka & Tears
173 Chapel Street, Windsor
03 9530 2694