Monday, 26 September 2016

The Royal Melbourne Show 2016

Sylvia was keen to visit the Royal Melbourne Agricultural Show (aka The Show) during the school holidays.  I took her along last week.  We went on rides, sampled food, admired cake decorating and came home with a handful of show bags.  Lots of fun but so expensive and so tiring.  Here are some photos.

Our first stop was the Ferris Wheel.  At $9 each, it was the most expensive ride we saw.  But who can resist riding up high for a bird's eye view of the showgrounds.

Here is one of the views from the top of ferris wheel.  The giant pie on the red frame is one of the icons of the showgrounds and we saw it appear on a few decorated cakes.  It is also the easily visible place for lost children.

I am sorry to say that Sylvia takes after me with height (or lack of).  She wasn't quite tall enough for the adult dodgems so I had to drive.  Maybe that was just as well.

Then we were hungry and headed off to the Woolworth's fresh food pavillion.  I really like this area which had lots of food tasting and a long row of street food stalls.  Sylvia had the cheese toastie and a macaron.  I decided to get a vegetarian hotdog from the hotdog stall but was not overly enthused about it.  I then got a corn on the cob which was great and later returned for a chocolate covered strawberry.  Sylvia got a mango ice cream from Fritz Gelato later. 

I enjoyed tasting the 5am yoghurt with museli, Spotted Dog fudge, Vegie Chips and spice mixes.  We purchased the Vegie Chips showbag (7 bags of chips for $7) and the Super Food Ideas showbag which was really heavy but excellent value for $10. (I am quite sure it would have bee the $86 value they claimed.)  The Vegie Chips were good snacks while wandering around.

Sylvia was keen to do the trampolines with elastic harnesses but the queue was moving too slowly.  Instead she went on the The Swing (as my niece and nephew assure me this ride is called).  My brother took his kids to the Show the day before me and said it was quiet but it was busy when we went.  We queued for the animal nursery and the showbag pavillion.

Sylvia did not enjoy the animal nursery at all.  (She really needs to rethink her idea that she will be a zookeeper when she grows up.)  So we went on the cup and saucer ride afterwards to cheer her up.

I loved the crochet covered animals.  (No they are not real, nor is the crocheted cow pat!)

We checked out some of the kids artwork.  Some of them have so much talent.

Then it was off to join the throng admiring the decorated cakes. We love the Studio Ghibli movies and so this cake was lots of fun.  We spotted characters from Spirited Away, Kiki's Delivery Service and My Neighbour Totoro.

This little mouse cake was my favourite.  I loved the attention to detail but I think the powerpoint switch should be off if nothing is plugged in.  (Yes I can be a pedant!)

And who doesn't love a Wizard of Oz cake!

This gorgeous cake with the vegie garden on top is from the school children's cakes.  If they can do this now, what will they be doing in years to come! 

Sylvia stopped at the kid's craft tables where they decorated a little mushroom.  She was a bit tired by then and so I indulged her sitting and drawing windows and doors for a while before joining the other parents who were trying to convince their kids to move along.

The decorated cakes are the big draw but I also love seeing all the preserves and baking.  Luckily Sylvia loves it too.  We admired rainbow cakes, caramel slice, scones, shortbread, tomato sauce, marmalade, fete goodies, chocolates and breads.  I really loved these biscuits decorated with Aboriginal motifs.  I would have spent more time looking at the craft but Sylvia was tired.

Then we queued for the showbag pavillion.  It was a huge queue that walked up and down the rows.  I joked that it was a public health service to make people burn up the calories they would consume with all the sweet food in the showbags.  The pavillion is really overwhelming and was so busy.  I get amazed at people wandering around the show with lots of showbags but we managed to buy 5 including the two we bought at the fresh food pavillion.  Sylvia chose the Oreo showbag and the Best Friends Forever showbag.  We also bought the Turkish Delight showbag for E.

We were so tired by the time we got on the train that when we met friends coming off our train I am not sure I made much sense.  I was in bed early that night.  The next morning I took photos of some of the food from our showbags.  My mum has the fisherman's friends cough lollies packs and the dishwasher sample cleaner.  E is taking the prepackaged spag bol and coffee samplers.  Sylvia and I both want the vegemite bagel chips and chocolate macadamia spread.  We will all enjoy the apple liquorice and Lindt Chocolate and I am curious to try the kewpie mayonnaise samples.

You can also see my previous post on the Royal Melbourne Show visit in 2013

The Royal Melbourne Show
Melbourne Showgrounds, Flemington
http://www.royalshow.com.au/
17-27 September 2016

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant, Northcote

Today I dropped off Sylvia at my mum's after a swim and a very ordinary lunch at the pool.  E and I had a show and dinner planned for tonight.  We saw the brilliant and hilarious Sammy J in Hero Complex.   I have long been a fan of his humour and music but seeing his clippings from his childhood convinces me he must be a hoarder (or historian) which is yet another reason to love him.

In the show, Sammy J told an amazing story of his school gardener and love of Phantom comics, with great coincidences.  So I am happy to tell you about our own little coincidence in choosing a restaurant tonight.

After the show E had suggested we eat at a nearby Vietnamese  restaurant.  It was really full and noisy.  So we wandered along and saw there were seats in the Ethiopian restaurant.  Yet E had to check out the Mexican restaurant, which was closed.  Which presented us with the excellent option of Mesob Ethiopian restaurant.  E started with an Ethiopian beer called St George's beer, which he really enjoyed. I had a Bundaberg ginger beer.

To eat, we ordered the Herbivore Combination Platter which had a taste of each vegetarian dishes, injera bread and salad.  At $23 per person for a minimum of two people, it is great value.  It looked really beautiful and was a great introduction to Ethiopian food for us.  I was surprised at the injera being more sour than I expected.  I had feared that I would find Ethiopian too spicy but it was just a pleasant heat in my mouth by the end of the meal.


The dishes were mostly vegan.  Served on a big round of injera, they were (starting in the middle and then left to right on the bottom):
  • Shiro (in the middle): a creamy sauce of roasted chickpea flour and barbere sauce with kibbeh and spices.  I can see why the menu says this is Ehtiopian comfort food.  I could have eaten a lot more of this, if only I wasn't full as a state school from all the other dishes.
  • Gomen: collard green simmered in a vegetable brother with onions, garlic and ginger.  Nice but not my favourite.
  • Kik Alicha: split yellow lentils with traditional turmeric blend.  Really lovely.
  • Duba Wot: pumpkin cooked with caramelised red onion and barbere.  This is like a fancy mash and I loved it.
  • Yatakilt Alicha: potato, carrot and cabbage sauted with onions and garlic.  I really liked this though my mind kept playing tricks and telling me it was pineapple.
  • Kayser: beetroot and potato flavoured with ginger and garlic and a hint of olive oi.  I liked this but it was mostly beetroot and a bit more potato would have balanced it up nicely.
  • Miser Wot: red lentils cooked with barbere, garlic and ginger.  Another winning dish.

As novices at Ethiopian food, we were not game to eat with our hands.  When our waiter suggested that we eat with our hands, I was taken back to being offered food by our hosts after climbing a cliff in Turkey and being greeted with no cutlery and the suspicion that they were laughing at the ignorant foreigners.  At Mesob, our waiter was very gracious and talked to us about how to scoop up the dishes with the injera.  I think I need to have a large drop sheet under me to eat this way, like in that long ago hostel in Turkey.

I really loved the restaurant.  The staff were welcoming and friendly.  The space was warm with its wooden tables, woven light fittings and bright artwork on the walls.  By the end of our meal we were very full and satisfied.  Sadly, we could not fit in the injera with nutella and strawberries that tempted us on the specials board. Maybe on another visit.  I would love to return if the fates are kind enough to deliver us back to Northcote High Street on another evening!

Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant
213 High Street, Northcote
(03) 9489 6952
Open: Tues - Sun:  5.30-10pm

Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant And Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Staffordshire oatcakes

Quite some years ago, I bookmarked a recipe made by Jac of Tinned Tomatoes for yeasted pancakes (or flatbreads) called Staffordshire Oatcakes.  Today, while Sylvia and I were kicking around the house on school holidays, I finally made a batch for afternoon tea.  They were so filling that even Sylvia who usually has a raging appetite at tea time, was content with some chickpeas, tomatoes and cucumber for tea.

These oatcakes hail from Staffordshire in the West Midlands of England where they were very popular among the workers in the potteries.  It became common for these oatcakes to be sold from the windows of residential houses but according to Wikipedia, the last of these closed in 2012, though you can still buy them from commercial businesses.

I would have made them for lunch but these yeasted pancake that take time.  (I find it ironic that they are called "fast food" for the potteries.)  At first I had to read a few recipes to get my head around what to do, but once I had fried a few, I found they were very intuitive. 

I am not sure I got the batter thin enough.  I had to do a bit of spreading the batter around the pan, which was a challenge.  Perhaps a thinner batter would be easier.  After making these, I came across this lovely article about a similar yeasted pancake called a Derbyshire Oatcake that used more liquid (hence my notes in the recipe).  What I liked about this recipe was that the blogger left the batter overnight in the fridge so they would be easy to fry in the morning for breakfast.

Apparently it is traditional to eat them with a savoury topping.  Cheese, sausages or a fry up.  I did try half one with jam because I had made jam for the school fete and one jar was there for immediately use because it did not seal.  I also had some with a classic Aussie combination of cheese and vegemite. 

And at dinner, when like Sylvia I was not very hungry, I had a half oatcake with some dal.  I didn't need much this evening after our hearty afternoon tea.  (Just as well the ice cream we made was still firming up!)  Tomorrow Sylvia is going to a gymnastics holiday program and is keen to have an oatcake for her lunch.  I am a bit unsure about how well it will keep overnight.  I hope they keep well because they are just the sort of nutritious and filling food to eat during a day of activity.

I am sending these oatcakes to Tea Time Treats which is hosted by Lavender and Lovage, Travels for Taste and Jo’s Kitchen and this month is seeking Savoury Foods.

More stovetop breads on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Avocado soy rotis (v) 
Blinis with sour cream and beetroot chutney
Brown butter picklets
Chickpea and quinoa flatbread (gf, v)
Spelt sourdough flatbreads (v) 
Tortillas - wheaten (v)

Staffordshire Oatcakes
Adapted from Tinned Tomatoes and food.com
Makes about 10 oatcakes

375-500ml milk*
375-500ml water*
10g dried yeast
1 tsp sugar
225g fine oatmeal
225g wholewheat flour
1 tsp salt
butter or oil, to grease frypan

Heat milk and water to lukewarm in a large mixing bowl.  (I did this in microwave but you could do it on the stovetop in a saucepan.)  Stir in yeast and sugar.  Set aside for 5-10 minutes until yeast starts to froth up.  Measure out oatmeal, flour and salt.  Add to the frothy milk and yeast mixture and stir well.  The batter mixture is creamy to stir but drops off the spoon in lumps.

Cover with a cloth and set aside in a warm dry play for an hour.  At the end of the house it should have risen a bit and have a spongy texture.  While you are heating a frypan over medium heat, give the batter a stir.

Lightly grease preheated frypan with butter or oil.  Drop about a cup of batter into the frypan and spread into a large circle of 20-25 cm diameter with the back of a spoon.  I found that the batter followed the spoon and it was easier to spread if it had a few seconds to firm up on the pan side before spreading the rest of the batter about.  Don't worry if there are lots of humps and valleys in the batter as it seems to even out once cooked. 

Fry for about 3-5 minutes until mixture has dried and when you flip it over the oatcake is a light golden brown.  Fry on the other side for about 2-3 minutes and then flip onto a plate.  Repeat with remaining batter.  Spread warm oatcakes with filling such as cheese, spreads or jam and roll up if desired.

NOTES: I blitzed my rolled oats to flour in my high speed blender.  I used 375ml each of milk and water but I think I would try more liquid next time, hence the suggestion of 500ml.  I used soy milk and margarine so my oatcakes were vegan.

On the Stereo:
You got me singing: Jack and Amanda Palmer

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Asparagus, strawberry and greens salad with poppy seed dressing

    It gets to the point in September where the school term is about finished, everyone is tired and Spring's fresh colourful produce is craved after Winter.  It was very exciting to find asparagus at the farmers market.  Which might make you think it has been salad weather.  Actually it rained all last week but we ate salad despite the downpours.

    How I have missed asparagus!  The supermarkets tempt me with spears flown in from the Northern Hemisphere but I wait until the local produce comes into the shops.  That does not mean asparagus that comes from Mexico or Australia, which I saw in a supermarket recently. 

    I found a salad that also featured strawberries, which have been plentiful and cheap lately.  It was on the second last day of the term when I had a bad start to the day.  I had slept in, then we could not find Sylvia's glasses, spent too long fruitlessly looking for them and getting her to school late.  I needed some salad to fix my life.  Sadly life is more complicated than that but we did find Sylvia's glasses that night.

    Not before dinner, though.  I served up up salad, quinoa, seasoned tofu and roast pumpkin.  E and I really enjoyed ours but Sylvia wanted her salad in a separate bowl, gobbled up her tofu, rubbed poppyseeds off her berries, and turned up her nose at the greens.

    Thankfully last week is behind us, the school holidays are here and the spring rains have eased, if not completely gone.  We even had a few strawberry flowers budding in the garden.  And I hope there are many more healthy salads ahead of us.

    I am sending this salad to Kimmy and Mary-Ellen for Healthy Vegan Fridays
    at http://www.rockmyvegansocks.com, Cindy for Gluten Free Fridays, Jac for Meat Free Mondays and Shaheen and VegHog for Eat Your Greens.

    More asparagus recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
    Asparagus, artichoke and wild rice salad (gf, v)
    Asparagus, potato and quinoa soup (gf, v)
    Asparagus sauce (gf, v)
    Crustless asparagus and potato quiche
    Lentil salad with haloumi and asparagus (gf)
    Maple walnut asparagus bowl (gf, v)
    Peasant potato salad (gf) 

    Asparagus, strawberry and greens salad with poppyseed dressing
    Adapted from Keepin' It Kind
    Serves 2-4

    1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and chopped
    olive oil spray
    handful sugar snap peas, trimmed
    handful spinach and rocket
    stalk of celery, sliced
    half avocado, diced
    125g strawberries, hulled
    handful pea shoots

    Poppyseed dressing:
    juice of 1 large lime
    1 tbsp maple
    1 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1/2 teaspoon mild English mustard
    pinch of salt and shake of pepper
    1 tablespoon poppy seeds

    Heat heavy based frypan and add in asparagus.  Spray with oil and cook over medium high heat until asparagus has a few char marks and is cooked.  Cool.  (I put mine on a tray and stuck it in the freezer for 5-10 minutes.

    While asparagus cools, arrange ingredients in a salad bowl and whisk together dressing ingredients.  Add cooled asparagus and drizzle with dressing.  Toss and serve.  (NB: I made mine 4 or 5 hours ahead.)

    On the Stereo:
    Where the Power is: Magazine

    Thursday, 15 September 2016

    Chocolate nutella caramel cups

    These chocolate nutella caramel cups are so good that I want to curl up in a cosy chair with the whole tub and gobble them up.  Maybe it is just as well that they are so rich that even my chocolate loving stomach could not handle such indulgence.

    In fact, it is hard to justify making such decadent delights.  But life is just begging for them when you have caramel sauce from the farmers market, gold salt to show off and our wedding anniversary in a week of birthdays. (Seems like it wasn't so bright to just let both our witnesses tell us when it would suit to get married in the registry office.)

    It is embarrassing that they have so few ingredients that if I called them more accurately Salted Chocolate Nutella Caramel Cups, the name of the recipe would have more words than the ingredient list!  So I left off salted, partly because everyone adds salt to caramel these day.  Don't they!

    I had been swooning over a recipe for these chocolates which included caramel made from scratch.  But I had to buy the jar of caramel sauce at the farmers market just because it was made by someone called Sylvia (and we don't often cross paths with people who share a name with our own Sylvia).  So it seemed crazy to go and make my own caramel.  That frees up a little time for birthday messages.

    The recipe claimed it made 12 cups in mini muffin tins.  Mine made 36.  Which was just as well.  The above photo is of the first 12 that I made before I ran out of energy.  There was too much chocolate and not enough caramel.  It took a few days to make the rest of the cups.  When I did I packed in more caramel and was much happier with the ratio.

    The combination of chocolate and nutella works brilliantly (unless you are catering to nut allergies).  The nutella makes the chocolate easier to handle.   I left the bowl of chocolate at room temperature for a couple of days and then melted it when ready to make more and it was still good.

    It also means that the chocolate is still creamy when kept in the fridge.  We tried keeping them out of the fridge which made them softer but I did like how chewy the caramel was when chilled.  It also makes them easier to take out of the cupcake papers.

    I gave them to my mum when she visited and she had to bo back for a second.  I took some in to work because we had so many.  And we still have quite a few in the fridge.  They would make great gifts.  After all, it is only 100 days until Christmas.  But you don't have to wait for the festive season to kick in to make these.  I can't think of a better way to impress your friends and make any day a celebration!

    It is six years of We Should Cocoa, one of my favourite blog events that brings together chocolate loving bloggers.  I am sending these chocolate cups along to Choclette to celebrate all those years of sharing chocolate recipes.

    Check out more of my nutella recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe.

    Chocolate nutella caramel cups
    Adapted from Broma Bakery

    3/4 cup nutella
    350g dark chocolate
    1 cup caramel sauce
    salt flakes

    Melt chocolate and nutella together.  Line 3 x 12 cup mini muffin trays with mini muffin cupccake papers.  Use a brush to coat the edges of each cupcake paper.  Place in fridge until set (10-15 minutes).  If there are any edges that are too thin, patch them up when out of the fridge and return to fridge to set.

    Drop about 1/2 tsp of caramel sauce into each cup.  If the caramel is too gooey, set in fridge.  (Mine was quite thick and didn't need setting.)

    Top with a little more chocolate to just cover the caramel. It should be runny enough to flatten out.  Sprinkle with salt flakes straight away before chocolate sets.  Return to fridge to set hard enough to rip the cupcake papers off chocolates.  Keeps at room temperature or in fridge.

    NOTES:
    • I used about 200g of 72% dark chocolate and the rest of the chocolate in dark choc chips. 
    • I found a silicone brush good for brushing the chocolate onto the papers.  I tried dropping some chocolate into the cup and rubbing it over with my fingers but got too much chocolate in it.
    • My caramel sauce was not runny at room temperature - I had to dig it out with a spoon.  If you don't have caramel sauce, you can make your own as Broma Bakery did.
    • Make sure that the chocolate is quite runny when covering the caramel.  When I first did it, the chocolate had cooled and thickened too much so I ended up with too much chocolate on top.  The second time I reheated the chocolate so I was able to drop a little and it would spread and flatten. 
    • Salt flakes are ideal.  However I had gold salt in a grinder that I wanted to use and this was fine.
    • I think it might be possible to veganise these by using my vegan nutella with coconut condensed milk and this vegan caramel filling

    On the Stereo:
    The World is a Monster: Columbia Hillbilly 1948-1958: Various Artists

    Monday, 12 September 2016

    Strawberry passionfruit muffins for a working bee

    Did I mention that life has been busy with all the activities at Sylvia's school.  Yesterday morning I discovered that the working bee started at 10am rather than 9am.  With extra time up my sleeve I made the strawberry and passionfruit muffins I had meant to make the previous night.  They were made in a rush and not as popular as the choc chip cookies I took but I really liked them.

    Last week was the school play.  I made hedgehog and sourdough pizza with tomato and cheese for the cake stall.  At the last play, the cake stall was in the foyer.  This was great while mingling and hanging about after dropping off the kids.  Whereas this year, we had to stand outside for half an hour and then find seats in the auditorium at the same time we were meant to head for the cake stall at the back.  I preferred it when it was in the foyer but nevertheless, the hedgehog disappeared and so did most of the pizza.

    The hedgehog only needed half a tin of condensed milk so on the weekend I made a favourite condensed milk choc chip cookies with the other half of the tin.  This is such a good reliable recipe.  And as the empty container proved at the end of the morning tea, everyone loves a good choc chip cookie.

    However one of my problems of late is that I want to experiment.  I am doing it less as I try to get Sylvia to eat more of our meals, and less for groups where I must cater to everyone, often children with less adventurous tastes than me.  These strawberry and passionfruit muffins were more for me than for a crowd but they weren't too strange to take along.

    Strawberries are ridiculously cheap right now (only slightly over $1 for a 250g punnet) and we had some passionfruit to use up.  It was only 1/4 cup so I added 1/4 cup blood orange juice.  (Even though I had earmarked the blood oranges for salad with a tahini dressing or topped with vegan cheese).  I had aqua faba and was in such a rush that it was easier to just add a bit more of it than melt butter.  Faye of Veganopoulous does it in her oil-free baking so I figured it was worth a try.

    Though everyone loved the choc chip cookies, one parent pointed out the muffins to her kid who has allergies.  In fact quite a few of the muffins were eaten and I really liked them.  (Unlike Sylvia and E).  They had lots of juicy strawberry chunks and were not terribly sweet. 

    It was hard work weeding and trimming bushes around paths.  My arms are actually a little sore today as I don't usually do this sort of work in our small garden.  It felt quite outside my comfort zone.  So while I had to ask for a little advice in the garden, I was pleased to be able to feel quite at home in baking for the morning tea.   And pleased it was appreciated as I left with my empty cake tins.

    I am sending these muffins to Kimmy and Mary-Ellen for Healthy Vegan Fridays, and to Stuart and Kat for Treat Petite, and to Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary for No Waste Food Challenge.

    More strawberry recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
    Creamy strawberry icy poles (gf)
    Rhubarb and strawberry crumble (v)
    Strawberry chia seed jam (gf, v)
    Strawberry dumplings (v)
    Strawberry and smoky chickpea salad (gf, v)
    Strawberry soup (gf, v)
    Strawberry sushi with chocolate sauce (gf, v)
    Watermelon, banana, strawberry, peach juice


    Strawberry Passionfruit Muffins
    Adapted from Baby Cakes
    Makes 35 mini muffins

    1 cup self-raising flour
    3/4 cup wholemeal flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp bicarbonate (baking) soda
    1/4 cup brown sugar
    1 cup chopped strawberries
    1/4 cup passionfruit pulp
    1/4 cup orange juice (or more passionfruit)
    1/4 cup aquafaba (chickpea brine)
    3/4 cup milk ( I used soy)

    Preheat oven to 200 C.  Line 3 x 12 cup mini muffin tins.

    Mix flours, baking powder, bicarb soda, sugar in a large mixing bowl.  Toss strawberries in the dry ingredients.  In a small bowl, mix passionfruit, orange juice, aquafaba and milk.  Pour wet ingredients into strawberry mixture and mix until combined.

    Spoon into prepared muffin tins and bake for 10-15 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.  Leave in tins for 5-10 minutes and then remove and cool on a wire tray.

    NOTES: I used silicone tins and lined them with circles of baking paper on the bottom.  I didn't have time to let them cool much before I took them out and a few collapsed but most were ok though I did need to run a knife around the edges.  I used muffin papers to line some of the tins and these didn't work so well because the muffins stuck even when cold.

    On the Stereo:
    The Crane Wife: The Decembrists

    Friday, 9 September 2016

    Melbourne Street Art: Tinning Street, Brunswick

     I wasn't sure what to post tonight so I sorted some old photos instead.  Then I saw some old street art photos I have never shared and decided it was time.  These photos were taken off Tinning Street in Brunswick where there is an art space.













    These pictures were taken in 2014 and may have changed since then.  You can read more about Tinning Street at www.tinningstreetpresents.com.