Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Holiday baking: pasties, choc chip buns and not cross buns

Yesterday I was back to work after a week of holidays while Sylvia was on school holidays.  Coming soon after my oven was finally fixed, I was delighted to indulge in lots of baking.  Not the cake sort, which I have been doing less, but the bread and buns sort.  Lots of sourdough was used and I also finally got through a packet of puff pastry that had been in the freezer for a couple of months.

When not baking we kept ourselves busy.  Kittens, Early Man (cinema), craft, swimming, cousins, rain, Beanie Boos, friends, housework, late nights, Jungle Book (dvd), baking, Build a Bear, shopping, Ballet Shoes (book), appointments, gardening, Coburg Lake park, pizza, sleeping in, jigsaw, 100 things to do before High School (tv), 

As my oven was only fixed just before Easter, I only baked one batch of Hot Cross Buns.  So we decided to bake some Not Cross Buns, using last year's Hot Cross Buns recipe.  That meant that instead of piping crosses over the buns, we experimented with some different patterns.

Some of our more successful decorations were the minion eye, a hedgehog, a bear and a rabbit.  All of the buns tasted excellent.

While I love the traditional dried fruit Hot Cross Buns, I had promised Sylvia a batch of choc chip buns.  We baked them on a day she had a friend over.  They were really good when fresh out of the oven but with milk chocolate chips and some ginger syrup, were a bit sweet for me.  I scaled back the glaze to 1 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp water and a shake of mixed spice.  One coat of glaze was just enough (and not so sticky to hold as when I have done lots of glaze) so maybe I will do less on next year's buns.

I also baked 3 loaves of bread and a batch of bread rolls in a week (that is two lots of overnight sourdough bread) so I took a loaf to a friend when we went to see their new kittens.

I was also on a mission to use up some puff pastry that had lingered in the freezer while my confidence in my oven had floundered.  I found a Peter Russel Clarke recipe called My Son's Jumbo Vegetable Rolls. It promised to use up so much from the fridge.  Yet when I came to make them, I had gaps.  No onion.  No celery.  No fruit chutney.  No eggs.  So I improvised. 

I also had odd shaped parcels because they were odd shaped bits of pastry.  I think the packet had fallen out of the freezer during a Freezer Tetris session, which is where I feel I can't possibly fit anything more in the freezer but out of desperation I move around the stuff already in there to amazingly fit more stuff.

I made the pasties during the day because it was a nice break from cleaning up my benches.  They were delicious.  I was out late and when we came home they were so nice - or perhaps I was too tired - and we ate them at room temperature for tea.  The rest of the filling got put away for another day when we weren't running out to the park so I could take some nice photos.  But the daylight hours pass quickly in the April school holidays!

When you look at this photo of Coburg Lake, you can understand why I would prefer to sit in the park and read the newspaper (with the occasional glance to check the kids are still there and have not run away with Gerald the Swan) rather than sitting at home taking photos in beautiful daylight.  At this time of year, a perfect autumnal day is all the more precious because we know cooler days are coming.

Then there were days when it was unseasonably warm outside (31 C) and we spent the day in a shopping centre and cafes.  It hadn't been the plan but Early Man was sold out at the Cinema Nova because they have amazingly cheap $7 tickets during the day on Monday so instead we got lost in a huge shopping centre and ignored the free Ben and Jerry's icecream queue before heading to a more expensive cinema.  Buttercream bear was happy to leave with a new dress and sunglasses.  He looked like a celebrity in Brunettis.  But I get ahead of myself.

I had planned to go the Green Man's Arms in Carlton after the Nova so after the film we drove through slow peak hour traffic to have dinner there.  It was really good and the staff were lovely.  This butternut tahini dip with date molasses was amazing.  I will write about this pub but still hope to go back again.  I would have loved to stay for dessert but we ended up at the old faithful, Brunettis which always does excellent small cakes and coffee.

With all the baking over the holidays, I needed salad.  Preferably salad made by someone else.  This is the King Hemp Bowl (red quinoa, organic tofu, seasonal greens, edamame, avocado, roasted almonds, hemp seed oil dressing + lemon) at King of the Castle on Pako Street in Geelong.  (That's Pakington Street to those who do not spend much time in Geelong.) 

We had a day in Geelong of catching up with family.  Sylvia had some playdates with cousins.  I went out for lunch with one sister and had pizza for tea with another.  My mum didn't get to share a meal with me but she sent me home with a tub of leftover stroganoff pasta bake with mushroom and spinach.  It was a busy day.

After a few busy days, we slowed down for the last days of the holidays.  We did housework, we went swimming and we did craft.  Actually I had been planning to vacuum but Sylvia asked to do craft.  How could I resist a better offer!  We don't have much time for craft these days.
Sylvia did some splatter paintings while I made a collage.  She had some mighty splattering that kept coming my way.  Finally we set up a broken umbrella on the table between us so I didn't get totally splattered.  But if you look at my collage at the top of the post, you can see I didn't miss out altogether.  It was a fun way to end the holidays

More pasties from Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Cheese, onion and potato pasties (Tiddly Oggies)
Creamy pasties with peas or pumpkin
Haggis neeps and tatties pasties (v)
Lentil and root vegetable pasties
Pasties with lentils and walnuts (v) 
Spinach and potatoe pasties

Ripper vegie rice pastries
from Peter Russell Clarke's Family Cookbook
Serves 4-6

kernels of 1 corn cob
1 red capsicum, finely chopped
1 carrot grated
1-2 small potatoes grated
handful of baby leeks/chives finely chopped
1 small apple, peeled and grated
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
125g cheddar cheese, grated
2 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp chutney

To wrap:
4-5 sheets of puff pastry
milk for wrapping and glazed

Mix all filling ingredients.  Cut pastry into shapes or strips.  Drop a large spoonful or two in the middle and wrap or fold pastry around it.  Brush milk onto the pastry to seal it and on top to glaze.  Bake at 210 C for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

NOTES:  You could try other vegies in here, such as onion, celery, spinach, kale, zucchini, cauliflower, parsley etc.  I did not have onion so I used baby leeks from the garden which are like chives.  The potato, cheese and chia are there for binding.  Ground nuts, egg or even some cheese sauce (vegan or dairy) might help bind.

On the Stereo:
The Music of Ooo: soundtrack from Adventure Time

Friday, 13 April 2018

Sweet and Sour Tofu

My memories of Chinese food when I was young was sweet and sour dishes.  When we went out, there was some sort of meat in crispy batter covered in sweet and sour sauce.  At home, I think the sauce covered chicken.  These days Chinese food is a lot more sophisticated and spicy but when I saw a recipe for sweet and sour tempeh in The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, I had a nostalgic hankering.

As you might have guessed, I did not have any tempeh so I used the tofu at hand.  I made it late at night so it was ready for the next day's dinner after work.  The recipe was unusual in that the sweet and sour sauce used apricot jam rather than pineapple juice.  Fortunately I had some apricot jam that had not been used for a while.  I think of sweet and sour as tending to be quite sweet.  I had to mess about with the spice and vinegar to get the flavouring right.

The sweet and sour tofu was surprisingly good with rice.  I cooked some spring rolls to serve alongside it and the sweet and sour sauce was great for dipping.  You can see from my notes that the recipe needed a bit of tweaking.  I wonder how easy getting the flavours right would be if you did not have a memory of sweet and sour like I do.  I suspect my version is not at all a traditional one but I did enjoy it.

I am sending this sweet and sour tofu to April's Eat Your Greens hosted by Allotment to Kitchen this month (and co-hosted by The Veg Hog).

More sweet and sour recipes from elsewhere:
Cabbage spring rolls with sweet and sour marmalade dipping sauce - Allotment to Kitchen
Easy sweet and sour sauce - Amuse Your Bouche
Sweet and sour chickpeas, pepper and broccoli - Vegan Richa
Sweet'n'sour mock pork - Where's the Beef
Vegan sweet and sour meatballs - Stay at Home Chef

More Chinese inspired recipes from Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Chow mein (v)
Fried rice with tofu scramble (gf, v)
Lo mein (v)
Mee Goreng (v)
Vegetarian San Choy Bau (gf, v)

Sweet and Sour Tofu
Adapted from The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
Serves 4

2 tbsp neutral oil (divided)
1 tbsp sesame oil
500g tofu
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, finely sliced
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp ground ginger powder
200g (about a cup) apricot jam
2 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp white miso
4-5 tbsp tamari
3 tbsp cider vinegar
1/2-1 tsp chilli sauce
1-2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup (optional)
1 red pepper, matchsticks
200g green beans, trimmed and chopped

Fry tofu in 1 tbsp neutral oil and 1 tbsp sesame oil until crispy.  Once done, set aside.

Meanwhile, fry onion, celery and carrots in remaining 1 tbsp neutral oil for about 5 minutes until softened.  Stir in garlic and ginger for a minute.  Add apricot jam and 1 cup water.  Simmer for 10 minutes.

While the onion mixture simmers, gradually mix 4 tbsp of water into 2 tbsp of cornflour until smooth.  Mix in miso and 4 tbsp tamari, cider vinegar and 1/2 tsp chilli sauce.  Add to saucepan.  Check flavours and if required add maple syrup, more tamari, chilli sauce and some rice vinegar.

Add red paper, green beans and fried tofu.  Bring mixture to the boil.  If you are serving straight away, simmer for 5 minutes until green beans cooked.  If serving later, remove from heat and cool.

NOTES: I think next time I would just use rice wine vinegar instead of the cider vinegar which might mean I did not need extra vinegar.  I think I needed the maple syrup because I added too much tamarai, hence reducing it from 5 to 4 tbsp unless needed.  I don't think the jam I used was overly sweet so you might need more tamari if your jam is quite sweet.  I used ground ginger because I did not have ginger.  I kept the spice low because I had hoped that Sylvia might eat it but when she was not interested I added more chilli paste and probably would have added more fresh ginger too.

On the Stereo:
Picaresque: Decembrists

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Red Lentil and Walnut Pate

When I finally get around to making a recipe for Red Lentil and Pecan Pate, instead of heading out to buy pecans, I found an abundance of walnuts to substitute for them.  In fact I was surprised that there were lots of pockets I had squirrelled away walnuts for lean times.  The end of a bag in the freezer, a bag I'd bought on special in the pantry, another tub of walnuts and some in the shell.  And this pate proved that you can never have enough walnuts!

I could have done a bit better with the dip.  I forgot to toast the walnuts.  And I always fail when directed to cook and drain lentils.  So I think next time I cook them in 2 cups rather than 3 of water so the pate is not quite so soft. 

As well as using up walnuts, I was pleased to use some herbs from the garden and it did give great flavour.  Yet after eating the pate with vegies and crackers for dinner, I gave it a bit more seasoning, and, if I remember rightly, a little smoked paprika.  But I didn't have that much parsley in the garden so perhaps more parsley would help the flavour too.

Despite all my problems, I still really loved this pate.  I never ate much in the way of pate before going vegetarian so I could not tell you how it compares to a meat one, but it really worked well as a tasty dip.  Now I think I had better go and by some more walnuts because I love them in so many ways.

More vegetarian pates on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Eggplant pate (gf, v)
Finnish green bean paté (gf)
Vegan pate with sweet potato (gf, v)
Vegan salmon pate (gf, v)
Voracious vegan pate (v)

Red lentil and walnut pate
Adapted from the Vegetarian Times

1 cup red lentils, sorted and rinsed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups toasted walnuts, plus more for garnish
2 tbsp white miso paste
1 tbsp rice vinegar
small handful each fresh basil, thyme and parsley, chopped

Simmer the lentils in 2-3 cups of water for about 15 minutes and then drain off water.  Meanwhile toast walnuts in one frypan and fry the onion and garlic over low heat in olive oil in another frypan for about 10 minutes. Blend walnuts in food processor to make a paste.  Add lentils, onion mixture and remaining ingredients.  Blend until smooth.  Check and adjust seasoning.

On the Stereo:
I am Sam: Soundtrack from the motion picture

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Coburg Street Art IV

It is time for some Coburg street art. Because this post has been lingering for long enough that some of the artwork is starting to be painted over.  You can see this with some flats on the Upfield line near Reynard Street that have gone from detailed flowers to tagging.  And I finally did my collage (above) with Coburg spelt out in street art so it is time to share.

Gay Marriage Referendum 2017

By Marcia Ferguson.  MoreArt 2016.

Gay Marriage Referendum 2017

Richmond (the Tigers) won the 2017 AFL Grand Final.

So there you have some of the colour and fun to be seen around Coburg's streets (and Upfield railway line).  The picture above is from the Coburg Carnivale last year in September.  For more past Coburg street art, check out my other posts:

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Easter Macaroons with Nutella Nests and more

The shops are all but cleared out of Easter goodies as though we can't wait to leave it behind.  Yet my parents tell me that this is Easter week in the church calendar.  So I think it is still the season to talk about my Easter baking and the Easter weekend just passed.  I can't tell you how happy I was at my oven being fixed so I could bake hot cross buns and fun Easter nests.

I followed the recipe I had used last year for Hot Cross Buns (even using up Christmas fruit mince again) but instead of leaving it for 6-7 hours during the day, I left it about 8 and 1/2 hours.  It rose much better this year than last year which probably helped them to be soft and delicious.  As always I did some nice thick crosses because they are chewy and delicious.

Sylvia was keen to make choc chip hot cross buns (a travesty to traditionalists like myself) but I had to keep reminding her that I did not have the ingredients and all our supermarkets were shut on Good Friday.

Sylvia really enjoyed helping out.  Well it was a bit of a bun fight (no pun intended) over who piped the crosses but she loved helping to glaze them.  Then I read her Nevermoor (by Jessica Townsend) and we ate fresh warm hot cross buns.  A perfect lazy afternoon.  Nevermoor has been given Harry Potter style hype and indeed there are similarities in a poorly treated young girl being taken to a new and wundrous world but I really found it hard to put it down by the time I reached the second half and loved lots of whimsy and creativity in to the story.  I can't wait for the next book to be published.

Once we had finished Nevermoor we could turn our attention to our own little whimsical project: Easter macaroons with nutella nests.  They were fun for Sylvia to help with.

I made changes to the original recipe which made it a bit less kid friendly.  Instead of buying sweetened coconut, I used the whole tin of condensed milk and caramelised 2/3 of it.  This meant an incredibly hot bowl with caramelised condensed milk in it.  I had to scrape it into a cooler bowl and run it under lukewarm and then cold water (I am paranoid about the hot glass bowl cracking under cold water).

Once the caramel cooled, it was easy to make the nests.  And deliciously messy to spoon nutella into the nests.  But who can complain about a recipe that uses condensed milk, coconut, nutella and chocolate!  I made 20 nests rather than 10 nests.  They were plenty big enough so I would not make them bigger.   And plenty sweet too.  Sylvia said they were too sweet.

We packaged up most of the nests in tubs.  I had two nests that the nutella did not stretch to filling.  These were specially for my dad.  He is not as keen on chocolate as he used to be and macaroons were his dad's favourites so they are a sentimental choice for him.

We arrived at my parents just as they were heading off to the beach for an ice cream with my brother's dog who was visiting.  It was a perfect afternoon to wade at the waters edge but both Sylvia and I were a little sad not to have our bathers.  I remarked that most of the swimmers had their wetsuits on and my mother scoffed that they were lightweights.  She comes from a different era!

We attended the Easter Vigil mass at my parents' local church.  There was a moment of amusement when the assistants tried to light the pascal candle with a branch from a gum tree, failed, tried again with a smaller candle and narrowly avoided lighting the priest's notes as the candle was passed from the fire to the pascal candle.

The next morning, I helped my mum bake her hot cross buns.  I made my usual thick cross batter and found it was quite hard to pipe through a narrow piping tip but I managed it.  Her buns looks more professional with the thinner crosses but I still love a good chewy thick cross.

My dad organised an Easter egg hunt for the cousins.  There was some fruitless searching until we realised he had hidden 6 eggs for everyone not 7.  But everyone had fun.  Then we had a big roast dinner for Easter lunch.  I took along a nut roast that I will post about later.  Dessert was a luscious black forest cheesecake and Guinness chocolate cake as well as our nests.  Then the cousins rang around the garden a bit more, as kids will do!

I am sending these nests to We Should Cocoa and Baking Crumbs.

More fun Easter recipes from Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Crackers and cheese chicks
Easter caramel and Malteser fridge cake
Easter egg chicks
Easter Scotch Eggs
Hot cross buns (yeasted)
Even more Easter recipes can be found at my Easter recipes round up.

Easter Macaroons with Nutella Nests
Adapted from Two Peas and their Pod and Green Gourmet Giraffe
Makes 20 nests

395g tin of sweetened condensed milk
1 egg white
1 teaspoons vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup Nutella
Mini eggs (about 60)

Preheat oven to160 C with fan (180 without fan).

Pour 2/3 of condensed milk into a large heatproof mixing bowl.  Cook on high in the microwave 3 times stirring well after each cooking.  It will smell like boiled milk and then it will curdle and need a good stir to make caramel - it will be thicker in texture but not much darker in colour.  Cool.

Mix caramel with remaining condensed milk, egg while, vanilla, salt and coconut.  It should be a fairly thick mixture.  Spoon heaped tablespoons (about 2 tablespoons of mixture) onto a lined oven tray.  Shape with damp fingers into nests (ie round discs with a dimple in the middle).  Bake for 15-20 minutes until slightly coloured around the edges.  Cool on a wire tray.

Spoon 1 tablespoon of nutella into the centre of each nest and arrange 3 eggs in the nutella.  Keeps for 4-5 days in an airtight container.

On the stereo:
The sound of the Smiths: the very best of the Smiths