Thursday, 17 August 2017

St Collins Lane: 70 Grams, Burger Project, Sake Jr

You gotta be quick in this town.  Some cafes are there one moment and gone the next.  Take Sake Jr for example.  It was my new favourite cafe in the city.  My friend Jane took me there during her lunchtime and I loved it so much that I was so determined to get back to it.  However by the time I finally returned a few months later it has closed.  Waaah!  So I tried a few other places in the St Collins Lane Food Hall.

I hadn't heard of St Collins Lane (260 Collins Street, Melbourne CBD) until I went to Sake Jr in May.  For those of you also scratching your head, it is not a lane but a shopping centre.  Formerly known as Australia on Collins.  They've given it a face lift and a new name.  It shows how trendy Melbourne laneways are that they are now calling shopping centres "lanes".  I just about forgive the silliness of it because I really love the green columns hanging from the ceiling of the food hall.  However it makes for a difficult light to photograph food.

Sake Jr aims to serve beautiful fresh Japanese food.  Indeed I found it to be a notch about your usual food hall offerings.  And it was very easy to order a Build Your Own Bowl as a vegetarian.  I was asked if I was vegetarian or vegan and alerted to any component with fish sauce.  It was refreshing to have someone tell me rather than have to be asking.

Here is what I had in my bowl:
  • Base - brown rice
  • Protein - fried battered tofu and pickled shitake mushrooms
  • Vegies - pumpkin (could have been a tad more cooked), brussels sprouts, edamame, corn
  • Dressing - sesame yuzu
  • Garnish - sesame seeds and dried garlic
  • Pickles - carrot and daikon

It was such a lovely healthy bowl of rice, tofu and vegies.  The sesame yuzu dressing was wonderful - creamy with a slightly tart citrus flavour.  I also had a miso soup on the side.  Since finding that Sake Jr is no longer in St Collins Lane, I have found that it is now open in 555 Bourke Street.  It is the Western end of the city where I don't go often but I am considering making a trip there just to go to Sake Jr.  However with the way cafes open and close, I guess I need to be quick.

When I found that Sake Jr had closed I checked out the other offerings in the food hall.  At first glance it was the usual offerings of Chinese, Indian, pizza and burger.  However I found that 70 grams did not just offer pizza (which looked very good) but also a selection of salads. I chose a freekeh salad of mixed nuts, asparagus, broccoli and parsley with caesar dressing (there was also a choice of vinaigrette). It was delicious and healthy.

It was so healthy that I decided it needed some chips on the side.  I had checked out the fancy Burger Project and not been wowed by the one vegetarian option of crumbed confit mushroom, cheese, onion, pickles, tomato, lettuce and secret sauce.  Mushrooms are not my thing.  But the chips looked really good.  They were hot and crisp and just what any healthy salad needs.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Avocado, rocket and brie scones (vegan)

For International Scone Well this week I made avocado rocket and brie scones.  Despite all my ideas for scones such as pumpkin date and tomato cheese, I finally settled on the half avocado to be used, the rocket in the enticingly named scones and the vegan brie that piqued my curiosity.

I took my inspiration from the Avocado and Hemp Scones at Bite Sized Thoughts and the Green Grass Scones at Laws of the Kitchen.  The cheese was a Damona brie that seemed uninspiring when straight from the fridge but was wonderful and melty when warmed.

The dough was quite sticky and needed a lot of flour to be able to handle in any way.  However I managed to knead it and shove some chunks of brie into it.  When it came out of the oven these scones were soft and amazing.  And I loved that they were really green inside.

I had planned to make pizza for tea.  Then the scones were so lovely that I decided to heat up a tin of tomato soup to eat with them.  The pizza will have to wait for another day.  Meanwhile the scones were great for breakfast the next day too.

I am sending the scones to Tandy at Lavendar and Lime for International Scone Week 2017.

More savoury scones on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Beetroot, apple and walnut scones (v)
Cheeseymite scones
Kale scones (v)
Leek, walnut and blue cheese scones  
Pumpkin, pecan and poppyseed scones (v)
Walnut, brie and apple scones

Avocado, rocket and brie scones
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe
Makes 9

1/3 cup milk (I used soy)
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

90g avocado flesh (1/2 an avocado)
1 tsp seeded mustard

1 cup self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1 tbsp chia seeds
pinch salt

30g (1 handful) rocket, chopped
90g brie, cubed and divided
extra flour for handling dough

Mix milk and vinegar.  Set aside to thicken and curdle.

Preheat oven to 220 C and line an oven tray.

Mash avocado with a fork.  Stir in milk mixture and mustard.  Set aside.  Mix dry ingredients in a medium large bowl.  Gently stir in rocket and avocado mixture.

Turn out dough onto floured surface and knead a few times using a good amount of flour to help handle it if it is sticky.  Pat down and push 2/3 of the cheese into it and knead once or twice, then pat down again.  Cut into 9 squares and transfer to prepared oven tray.  Press a chunk of brie into each piece.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.  Wrap in a tea towel until ready to eat.  Best eaten warm on day of baking.

NOTES: I used 1 tbsp vinegar with enough milk to make up 1/2 cup but it was really sticky so I reduced it back to 1/3 cup like Kari did.  But I think the extra milk probably helped make the scones softer.  My scones were vegan with vegan milk and vegan cheese but the scones can be vegan or not depending on diet and available ingredients.  I think the scones would work without cheese if you wanted them vegan and could not find any vegan brie - I highly recommend the Damona vegan brie.  I baked my muffins for 15 minutes but they were quite brown and my oven is slow so I suggest checking earlier. 

On the Stereo:
Picaresque: The Decembrists

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Zucchini cheese muffins

When we were planning to visit some properties for Open House Melbourne after Sylvia's gymnastics class, it occurred to me that we hadn't factored in lunch.  And a young girl needs lunch after gymnastics.  Sylvia had mentioned she had made zucchini muffins in the Kitchen Garden program at school so I decided to try changing one of our favourite cheese muffins into zucchini muffins.

I am very grateful to the Kitchen Garden program at school which has given Sylvia confidence and adventure in the kitchen.  It would have been hard to convince her to eat zucchini muffins if not for the program.  And the cheese muffins were inspired by baking in the program too, which has given Sylvia a lot of ownership for that recipe.

The muffins were made after I had made pancakes for Sylvia and her friend who had slept here the night before.  The two girls were a bit flat (tired) as the morning went on but then they discovered the wonderful combination of ribbons and wind.  They were outside marvelling at the ribbons swirling and dancing on the strong wind gusts.  I had hurried through baking muffins and rushed outside to go to gym and found that the ribbons and wind had turned on me.  The ribbons were tangled in the rosebushes and, as I hastily tried to get them out, the wind would rip them out of my hand and tangle them some more.  I was very windblown and cross by the time I emerged with most of the ribbons in a bundle and my hands cut by thorns.

The girls enjoyed snatching a warm muffin or two in the car.  Later that day when Sylvia had finished her gymnastics class, the muffins were great to snack on as we were driving around Melbourne's Open House properties with my parents chatting about places they had known, what had changed and when to ignore the GPS because they know Melbourne well enough even though it is over 40 years since they last lived here.  Seeing the properties was so much more pleasant with a well fed kid.  And they made me happy that I managed to get some greens and protein into her lunch on the run.  A rare win!

I am sending these muffins to Eat Your Greens.  Shaheen is hosting this month and has been sharing lots of zucchini (courgette) recipes so I know she will appreciate these.  Check out her Allotment 2 Kitchen blog for lots more zucchini recipes.

More zucchini recipes at Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Zucchini brownie with smoked walnuts (v)
Zucchini, greens and chickpea salad with blueberry dressing (gf, v)
Zucchini koftas with tomato gravy (gf, v)
Zucchini layer cake with cream cheese frosting (gf, v)
Zucchini and noodle slice
Zucchini and rice burgers
Zucchini slice (with tofu bacon)

Zucchini cheese muffins
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe
Makes 24 mini muffins

1 medium zucchini
2/3 cup soy milk
1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup white plain flour
1/3 cup wholemeal plain flour
2/3 cup ground almonds
2/3 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 200 C and grease and/or line 2 x 12 hole mini muffin tins.  (Mine are silicone so I just cut small circles of baking paper for the bottom.)

Finely grate zucchini and squeeze out as much liquid as possible - I did this by pressing it in a colander but it could be done by making a bag of a teatowel or cheesecloth and squeezing out the liquid.  Mix with soy milk and olive oil in a small bowl.  Set aside.  Mix the remaining ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.  Add the liquids and stir until just mixed.

Spoon batter into mini muffin holes.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Sit for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.


NOTES: These could be baked as regular sized muffins but might need to cook slightly longer.  We used soy milk and dairy cheese but dairy milk and vegan cheese could be used depending on your preference.  Given that the cheese muffin recipe these came from worked well with vegan (bio)cheese, I would recommend making these with vegan cheese if you want vegan muffins.  To make nut free, substitute flour for ground almonds.

On the stereo:
Fin de siecle - The Divine Comedy

Sunday, 6 August 2017

In My Kitchen: August 2017

August is the month when the year seems to be whizzing by at a frightening rate.  In July you can kid yourself that it is still the middle of the year but in August we are well and truly on the downward slope and suddenly feeling the pressure to do everything we promised at the start of the year.  So it is not just the cold, the dark, the rain and the lack of good fresh fruit that makes August a difficult month.

Luckily pancakes brighten up chilly winter mornings.  Pancakes shapes bring even more cheer.  We found these cheap shapes in a local $2 Shop.  The might have been meant for eggs.  We have had fun making fluffy vegan pancakes in shapes, though they rise a bit so I have had to try and go easy on the amount of batter in the shapes.

The fluffy vegan pancakes are quite like pikelets if you make them small.  However sometimes Sylvia loves to buy 'pikelets' which I think are more like pancakes as they as quite thin.  Lately they have come in a few different flavours.  The one above in cinnamon and we have also had chocolate.  I still prefer home made.

This battered old thing is a stressball in the shape of a cow.  We had her for ages.  I think she was a present.  And quite a lot of fun.  Now she has grown so worn that she is here for old times sake before heading for the out pile.

Sourdough bread.  Fresh loaves are always a delight in our kitchen.

My latest venture for reducing some of our landfill is a worm farm.  The instructions make me feel quite worried for my new little worms.  It said that they like to be warm.  This worried me on the first night here when it was 2 C.  However they are still hanging in there after a few weeks..

During the school holidays, a trip to the Queen Vic Market saw us come home with many goodies.  The walnuts, charcoal lavosh crackers, blueberries, quince paste and dried apricots were for the Christmas in July dessert platter.  The caramel fudge disappeared quickly.  It was very good.  I am still looking for opportunities for the Israeli couscous and the chilli lime carnitas jackfruit.  I also came home with purple potatoes and wish I had also bought the purple brussel sprouts.

I also bought a few cheeses at the Queen Vic Market for the dessert platter: Swiss cheese. smoked cheese, brie and a raspberry infused cheese.  It is a great joy to choose and eat good cheese.

I also picked up these black tahini, black beans, truffle oil and mini crackers at the Queen Vic Market.  I have used all but the black tahini.  I am wondering how to use it.  I have tried it in baking biscuits but would like to try it in bread, cake, brownies or even scones (remember it is International Scone Week next week).

A few new bits are around the kitchen.  Some new bowls with swirly patterns that caught my eye.  When I bought them home, I found that E had also fancied them in the shop.  In the back of the photo are some new ice cream bowls that I bought months ago that had an outing in the school holidays when Sylvia had a yen to make Sundaes.  The mason jar with straw came from an Alice in Wonderland party that Sylvia went to a few weeks back.  A fun way to give out "party bags" in the jar.

I have recently become a fan of Bosisto's washing powder and stain remover.  A friend recommended the stain remover and it really does work well.  I had been looking for a good environmentally friendly washing machine powder and so I have started using this one.  The eucalyptus smell is quite comforting.

I have tried a few vegan yoghurts and found then soy ones to be thin and taste very odd and the coconut ones to be too fatty and bland.  Last week I was looking for a yoghurt and noticed there were quite a few new vegan yoghurts in the supermarket aisle.  I think there were 4 or 5 brands of coconut yoghurt.  I decided to try this Nakula passionfruit yoghurt.  It isn't bad but a bit rich.  I think the passionfruit flavour helps give it a bit of that slightly sour flavour.

As I haven't been baking much, I have been buying crackers for snacks.  Rice crackers and Vita Wheats are favourite.  Recently I tried the cheese pretzels which are ok but I prefer the more yeasted pretzel crackers than these pastry ones.  I am yet to try the hommus crisps.  They sound interesting but disappoint me that it is mostly potato starch rather than chickpea flour.

Lastly, I recently had a clean out of plastic tubs because I found some of the Decor ones that I like and bought them before mine could get too manky.  Once the tubs were out of the cupboard, our cat Shadow hopped in.  He's always curious about what is going on in the house. 

As for our cupboards, I am not feeling very happy about them because I managed to catch my jeans on a handle as I walked through the kitchen tonight and it tore a hole in them. Usually I like our 1960s cupboard handles but tonight I wish we had smoother and rounder handles.

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event, that was started by Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial,  If you would like to join in, send your post to Sherry by 10th of the month.  Or just head over to her blog to peek into more kitchens. 

Thursday, 3 August 2017

One pot pasta with beans and tomato sauce

Work is busy.  Night falls quickly.  I need meals that are fast and satisfying.  Something I can throw in the pot and cook quickly.  Preferably with leftovers.  And something my 8 year old will eat.  This one pot pasta ticked all the boxes.  If only I could also take photos to do it justice.

The top photo was quickly snapped the following morning before work to snatch some natural light.  Because I really loved this pasta.  It has more protein and more tomato sauce than the last one pot pasta I made.  And it has some flexibility in using up what is in the fridge.  Just the dish we needed after swimming lessons.

The stew saw us through three nights of dinner, with Sylvia having small bowls of it each night.  Tonight I rode home from work in the rain and knowing I had dinner waiting at home cheered me up.  Though even though it was cold and wet, I quite enjoyed the dark streetscapes with mist around the lights and the rain dripping off the edges of buildings.  It all felt a bit film noir.  Which makes it all the more the sweeter to arrive home to a cosy warm bright home with this hot pasta dish waiting on the table to eat with my family.

I am sending this to Meat Free Mondays.

More easy pasta recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Angel hair pasta with feta, sun-dried tomatoes and spinach
Hurry up pumpkin alfredo (v)
One pot pasta with chickpeas and zucchini (v)
Pasta with mint and parmesan
Smoky cheesy peas pasta
Spaghetti hoops (v)

One pot pasta with tomato and beans sauce
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe
Serves 6

350g spaghetti
2 cups passata (pureed tomatoes)
400g tin cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
400g tin lentils, rinsed and drained
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 zucchini, quartered and sliced thinly
1 red capsicum, finely chopped
2 tbsp capers
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp pesto
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
3 cups water

Place pasta in a large saucepan.  If it needs to be broken up to fit that is fine.  Place remaining ingredients in the pot finishing with the water.  Check and adjust seasoning.  Cover and bring to the boil.  Simmer for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally to stop the spaghetti sticking to the bottom.  Take off the lid and cook on medium-high for another 2-3 minutes with lots of stirring to boil off a little bit more liquid but not all as it will thicken to make a tomato sauce.  Serve hot.  Leftovers are good to serve the next day.

NOTES: If I made this pasta and did not have pesto on hand I would use a bit of stock powder and mixed Italian herbs instead.  Other beans or vegetables could be used here such as chickpeas, kidney beans, kale, mushrooms and broccoli.  Vegetables can be added later if they need less cooking.  The pasta is a little drier when it has sat overnight but as on the night of making it had quite a bit of sauce this was fine and it made for very good leftovers.  I found the onion still to be so slightly crunchy even with chopping it finely.

On the Stereo:
Easy listening: relaxed exotica and space age pop: Various Artists

Monday, 31 July 2017

Open House Melbourne 2017

It was Open House Melbourne on the weekend and I was able to visit five places this year over two days: Arlington Primary School and Kindergarten, Preshil; Mandeville Hall; Victorian Artists Society, Newman College at The University of Melbourne; and the Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre. As always there was some amazing insights into the Melbourne that I don't usually see.

Arlington Primary School and Kindergarten, Preshil, Kew
I was curious about this progressive school because the blurb described it as being child-led architecture.  So I was surprised to enter and see an elegant olde worlde drawing room with shelves of old books and an open fire.  Apparently this was part of the old house from when the school was founded in the 1930s.

Most of the architecture dates from the 1970s.  There are lots of wooden toys and blocks and furniture.  Sylvia loved the pet turtles.  I was fascinated by the blue tongue lizards.

Most fascinating perhaps was the little raised platform with the red rails.  One of the teachers at the Open Day had attended the school as a kid and said they loved to sit on the platform and along the beams over the classroom.  But over the last 18 months it has been shut up by health and safety officers. 

It was interesting to walk through the classrooms that are quite different to Sylvia's.  My parents and E spent a bit of time looking at the library.

Sylvia and I were otherwise engages in the playground.  She could have stayed here all day.  There were lots of fun wooden structures to climb and quite a few classrooms were raised with places to play and learn underneath them.  The double story cubby house was a favourite with Sylvia.

This walkway was called the tree house for obvious reasons.

Mandeville Hall, Toorak
This is a girls Catholic school run by the Loreto nuns.  The original hall is a nineteenth century mansion and this is the part of the school open to us.  I confess to running after small child and not having much time to focus on the history of the building.

The rooms were very impressive in their finery that was typical of a goldrush mansion.

You might notice a few musical instruments like the harpsichord above.  This building is where music lessons are held and these rooms are used for recitals.  I never had a music room like this when I was at school,

Victorian Artists Society, East Melbourne
My dad was interested to have a look at the Victorian Artists Society.  The 1890s building is quite impressive and all the more so for housing a building that counted some of Australia's fine artists among its number.

Inside the building is equally impressive.  It is a place of exhibitions, workshops and classes.  The artwork on the walls was enjoyable to look at.  I quite liked some of the still life paintings and one or two of the landscapes.

Photos were displayed to show how the gallery used to look.  But my favourite photo was of Frederick McCubbin, an iconic early twenthieth century Australian artist, dressed as Hamlet for the artists ball.  The building is in fundraising mode so I guess McCubbin is there to tug at the heartstrings.

A walk out onto the balcony gave a fine view of St Patrick's Cathedral across the road. And that was as much as I saw on Saturday afternoon with my parents, E and Sylvia before we ended the afternoon in a cafe on Brunswick St.

Open House Melbourne requires great planning.  So many interesting buildings but it is a tyranny of choice, and a matter of mapping times and locations.  This has been made even harder because now a lot of the popular buildings require booking.  I looked at booking some of these on the day after bookings opened and many were already booked out.

Newman College at The University of Melbourne, Parkville
One of the buildings that interested me and required a booking was Newman College. I snaffled one of the last tickets for tours for the Sunday morning.  The tour was taken by an architectural historian.  It was great to see some of the beautiful architecture by Walter Burley Griffin from the early twentieth century and hear of his fine design.  But I really would have preferred more social history.

I have been to Newman many years ago when I knew people who lived at this Catholic residential college and even for a wedding in the chapel.  It is so long ago that I needed a refresher.  We started at the chapel.  It is built in the style of Kings College Cambridge in the 1930s.  It is a grand yet stark gothic building.

The focus of Walter Burley Griffin's design is the splendid domed dining room with wings of residential rooms spreading out either side.  (Apparently they meant to be continue into a full square but lack of funds in the interwar years made this impractical.  New dorms have been built to form a quadrangle since then.)

The height of the dining hall is magnificent and cathedral-like.  However I got a bit tired of the architectural details and started talking to some students about which rooms are most desirable, whether they still wear academic gowns to dinner (yes) and drink as much as in my student days (no).

I could not resist a photo of Archbishop Mannix.  He was an influential public figure in Melbourne history.  I think of him as quite stern but this bust portrays him as a softer soul.  He officially opened the college in 1918.

When the college opened with 56 residents, each had 2 rooms.  The furniture above is an example of that which was used in college rooms back in 1918.  We did not see inside the rooms but now everyone gets only one room each and I believe the furniture is far more modern.

These lovely old bookcases are in the entrance to the Oratory, a barrel rooved room that seems to be used for lectures.  I had lost interest in the tour by then.  I went on to see the modern Allan and Maria Myers Academic Centre that is shared with St Mary's.  This 2004 building is functional but lacks the impressive design of some of the modern buildings around the University.

Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre, Carlton
As I was close by, I went to check out the Kathleen Syme library and community centre that opened in 2015.  The building had originally been built in the 1870s as the Faraday Street State School.  I have been curious to have a look inside since its reopening 2 years ago.

Open House Melbourne often means a bit more information about a building but some places such as the Kathleen Syme seem to just be business as usual.  In fact I had to check with staff if it was participating in Open House.  Some history and a map was on a little table.

I enjoyed seeing the fine design that incorporated some modern touches, such as the Chargebar to recharge mobile phones. alongside historic features such as the high wooden roof that you can glimpse in the above photo.  It was good to finally peek inside but there was no sense of seeing inside a place that is usually closed to the public which is one of the thrills of Open House Melbourne.

Then I had to go to the Little Bookroom in Nicholson Street, North Carlton.  While in the neighbourhood, I checked out A Fan's Notes.  I have heard good things about their vegan food.  It is refreshing to see a brunch menu that is not just eggs, eggs and more eggs.  I had a huge black bean burrito with avocado cream, corn and seed salsa, kale and scrambled tofu.  I really enjoyed it but it was quite salty.  And huge.  I hope I might get back there some time and write about the place more.

Meanwhile I really enjoyed Open House Melbourne.  As always I wished I could visit more places.  However the ones I saw were a great peeks into some Melbourne icons that gave some insight into the rich history of our city.  I have listed past Open House visits in this index.