Thursday, 27 November 2014

Owl birthday cake

Everything seemed right with this owl cake when my niece Ella entered the kitchen, looked at the cake and smiled with pleasure.  After all she had chosen this cake for her birthday.  Seeing her reaction made light of my misgivings about the sunken cake, the colour of the beak being wrong and the not-quite-right shape.  After all, these cakes are about making kids happy!

I had looked through my novelty pinterest pins with Ella a week before and we decided on an owl cake.  I chose a favourite gluten free chocolate cake recipe.  After all it was her twin sister's birthday too and Grace is celiac.   The recipe has worked well before but on this occasion it came out of the oven all risen and beautiful.  (I even ate a little cupcake I made with some leftover batter and it was light and airy.)  The next morning the large cake looked flat.  It still tasted good.

The cake was also too square.  Well  it was square when it went in the oven.  When I came to cutting out an owl I wished I had used a lamington tin rather than a square one. It was cute enough but I would have liked a round face.

I was pleased Ella chose the owl cake.  It was easy enough to cut, frost and decorate with choc chips.  Easy enough that Sylvia was able to help.  The biggest challenge, other than cutting it from a square (which resulted in a concave rather than round head), was making the eyes and beak.  I decided to dye some white chocolate, smear it on baking paper and cut it out when just firming up.  The colours we made were quite muted but close enough for jazz.

We took the cake to my mum and dad's place in Geelong for the birthday lunch.  Sylvia decided she would join in on the owl theme and make some owl snacks that she had seen on Playschool.  She originally wanted to do it with sandwiches but we decided to use cheese slices so they would be gluten free for Grace.  Sylvia loved instructing her younger cousin Ashy on making the owls.  They looked great though everyone was too full from other food to eat them.

Here is my plate of food.  There was heaps.  I had a beetroot burger, roast potatoes and pumpkin, cauliflower cheese, coleslaw and heaps of salad.

And here is the little owl with candles.  It looks like owl acupuncture.  And what a stoic look this little bird has despite all the pins and flames.  Over and over.  We sung happy birthday to Ella and then to Grace and then all the kids had a go at blowing out the candles.

Finally here is a lone eye - like a halloween remnant - after many slices were passed around the table.  Everyone loved the cake.  I suspect the generous helping of choc chips on top were the secret of its success.  By the time we had all eaten sponge cake, grubs, hedgehog, and pav, everyone was as full as a state school.  Best of all, was having my nieces thanking me for the cake as they left.

I am sending this cake to
- Helen of Fuss Free Flavours for Bookmarked Recipes (coordinated by Jac of Tinned Tomatoes);
- Helen of Casa Costello for Bake of the Week; and
- Jane of the Hedgecombers for Tea Time Treats (co-hosted with Karen of Lavender and Lovage) for this month's Bonfire Night (because chocolate cake is warming and owls come out at night).

More animal shaped cakes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Butterfly cake
Club Penguin cake
Green giraffe cake
Monkey cake
Sparkles the rabbit cake
Viking cat cake

How to Make an Owl Cake
Adapted from Sew White and Laws of the Kitchen

You will need: 
Chocolate cake baked in a lamington tin (I used this cake)
Baking paper and pencil
*Chocolate frosting (I used this one)
White choc chips (I used melts)
Black choc chips
Blue and yellow food colouring
Dark brown round lollies (I used junior mints)

[*My frosting had to be made first and then left to cool and thicken.]

Make owl template:
Cut out piece of baking paper the size of the cake.  Fold in half and draw outline of half an owl (I would do the ear tufts on the side of the ears and then a smaller circle at the top for the head and a larger circle at the bottom for the body but the square didn't get much room for shaping - hence next time I would use a rectangle shape of the lamington tin).  Turn over and trace the half shape to create a whole owl shape.

Cut cake into owl shape:
Place paper over cake (on a chopping board) and use skewer or other sharp objects to make marks on cake of the shape of the owl.  Use a sharp knife to cut out the owl shape.  Use a pastry brush or silicone brush to remove any crumbs.  Transfer cake onto cake board or plate. 

Make white chocolate shapes for eyes and beak:
Melt about 1/4 tbsp white chocolate and smear half over baking paper.  Take a small spoonful out and mix with yellow food colouring.  Smear on baking paper.  Mix blue food dye into remaining white chocolate and smear onto baking paper.  Place piece of baking paper in the freezer.  Once chocolate is just setting, cut out two large circles of white for eyes, two slightly smaller circles of blue for inside eyes and a triangle for a beak out of yellow chocolate.  I used scone and biscuit cutters for circles.

Frost and decorate cake:
Spread chocolate frosting over the cake.  Clean any frosting from board or plate with a cloth.  Place white circle on frosting for eyes.  Use a small dab of frosting to attach the blue circles on the white circles.  Then use a small dab of frosting to place lollies in the middle of the blue circle.  Now place white choc chips overlapping so that they form a half circle breast of the bird that goes just a little below the eyes.  Place yellow triangle between eyes as beak.  Arrange dark choc chips overlapping around the rest of the body and head of the owl.

On the Stereo:
Costello Music: The Fratellis

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Street Art in Melbourne #10 - Coburg Street Art and MoreArt 2014


A few years back a friend commented that there wasn't any street art in Coburg, in the inner north of Melbourne.  It all was happening in neighbouring Brunswick.  However Coburg is changing.  It is now a suburb boasting gentrified residents with money and time and a love of art.  And Moreland City Council also supports street art in Coburg as can be seen right now with MoreArt 2014.


Let's start with this colourfully painted house on the Upfield train line. 

I really love this Recognise mural that can be seen from the park on the wall of the Robinson Reserve Neighbourhood House.

These three cartoons are on the wall at Woollacott Street.

Here is the full wall on Woollacott Street.  (And yes that is me and my bike in the mirrored image!)

This shed is at Harmony Park on Gaffney Street.  (For the pedants, it is Coburg North.)

There is even stencil art in Coburg.  Not a lot.

This monkey mural is on a wall at Espresso Joe's drive through coffee shop on Sydney Rd south of Gaffney Street.

Coburg signal boxes are being painted as part of a VicRoads program.  I particularly love the giraffe in a car outside Coburg North Primary School.

This mesh lizard and a mate have been atop a house in Railway Place, again on the Upfield train line.

Victoria Street mall has some interesting pieces of street art.  These Pillars of the Community Celebration poles were created by Aaron James McGarry for the Coburg Carnivale this year.  He also made the koalas out of old shopping bags (see the koala in the forked tree in the photo).

I recently was riding through the streets and saw someone's bins on the road waiting to be emptied.  I really love the floral decoration on the bin and had to snap a photo.  It gives new meaning to trashy art!

More trashy art.  I really love these house photos that have been stuck on the sides of bins, public toilets and other public architecture.  Then I saw on Facebook that it is part of the MoreArt 2014, the Moreland City Council's public art show.

I thought that this Little Free Library that has recently appeared on the Upfield bike track south of Reynard Street might be part of MoreArt 2014 but I can't see it on the list of art works.  It would be a great place to read a book and watch some trains!

Finally I happened to see this peacock through some brush fence.  It is painted on someone's garage.  (It is signed by Jara Art.)

I hope you will agree with me that there is some really interesting street art around Coburg.  If you are in the area, I recommend you check out the MoreArt 2014 page which has a little map of where you can see participating art pieces until 19 December 2014.  Or just look out the window if you are on the Upfield train.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Cheesey Kale Quesadillas with Mole Sauce and home made Tortillas

It was a home made day.  I made (roasted) cashew butter to go in home-made mole sauce to go in quesadillas made with home-made tortillas.  I was rewarded with possibly the best quesadillas I have ever made.  They didn't spill or curl or flop the wrong way.  They were creamy and spicy and filled with lots of healthy kale.

I have made a few mole-related recipes but never a mole sauce.  This year I bought my first jar of mole sauce and loved it.  However I was a little uncomfortable that it had peanut butter in it (because my 5 year old has a peanut allergy).  I really needed to make my own.  The one I made was as easy as the recipe suggested.  It was very spicy but with great depth of flavour.  The cocoa added to the richness but did not taste like chocolate.

The sauce took about an hour to cook but it was not onerous.  The last 15 minutes just required occasional stirring.  It was a balmy spring evening.  Sylvia was outside jumping off the letterboxes at the end of the driveway and drawing chalk circles on the footpath.  The neighbours were out too.  I just needed to run in and stir for a few seconds every now and again.  The mole made the house smell wonderful and spicy.

I've always thought I would make my own wheat flour tortillas some day.  Even so, I am not sure what fit of whimsy led me to decide to make some.  I guess I have made enough similar fried flatbreads to know it was be fairly easy.  They were rather quickly and were lovely and soft.  (Sylvia even had one in her lunchbox the next day.)  Perhaps their freshness made it easy to fry them up into quesadillas.  I still have to find out more about making tortillas such as what is the best way to store them and is it better to knead a little or a lot.

The mole recipe suggested enchiladas.  This sounded good but I don't always have the energy to put together an oven bake and wait for it.  I wanted something quick.  So I made quesadillas with kale and cheese.  Once the tortillas were made it took no time at all to put together dinner. I fried up some kale, slapped together the quesadillas and fried them.

These quesadillas were excellent.  The tortillas were superior to store-bought.  So fresh and floppy.  The sauce kept it all together but I love cheese and thought this was a good opportunity to use the vegan biocheese.  E had regular cheddar cheese.  But it would work without any cheese too because the mole sauce has lots of flavour.  And of course stuffing it with kale made it feel healthy.

I had heaps of mole sauce leftover.  I still have some in the fridge a week later.  Below you can see some of the dishes I have served with the sauce.

As well as the quesadillas, I have made plain old cheese and mole quesadillas with lettuce and tomatoes on the side (bottom left), wrap your own tortillas with mole, spicy kale and avocado dip, lettuce, tomato, kale and cheese (top left) and mole burgers with spicy kale and avocado dip, plus a side serve of rice fried with leftover salad, hot sauce, salt and lime (top right).  When I did the wrap your own tortillas, I was in a rush and didn't warm the sauce properly.  It really needed to be warm.  I must remember that next time.

I am sending these quesadillas to Shaheen at Allotment to Kitchen with thanks.  She is hosting this month's We Should Cocoa and has chosen to pair chilli with chocolate.  I am not keen on chilli in sweet food but I do love a savoury chocolate dish.  I have had mole on my to do list for some time so this event was a great inspiration.  I am also sending these quesadillas to Shaheen for her Eat Your Greens event.

More savoury chocolate and chilli recipes from Green Gourmet Giraffe:

Cheesey Kale Quesadillas with Mole Sauce 

Oil
Kale, chopped
Tortillas (recipe below)
Mole sauce
Cheese (cheddar or biocheese)

Fry up kale in oil for a few minutes until bright green in colour.  Spread a tortilla with about 3-4 tbsp of mole sauce leaving about an inch around the edge of the tortilla.  Thinly slice some cheese and soread over half the mole sauce.  Scatter with kale.  Fold over and fry on medium high heat until golden brown on each side.  (It takes a bit of time - enough to be running in and out of sleepless child's room)

Easy Mole Sauce
Adapted from Vegetarian Times
Makes about 2 1/2 to 3 cups

2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped (2 cups)
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (2 tsp)
2 tbsp old bay seasoning*
1 tbsp chilli salt seasoning*
1/2 tbsp cumin powder*
2 tbsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
5 cloves, ground
400g tin of diced tomatoes
2 cups water
3 tbsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp cashew butter*

Fry onions in oil over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.  Add garlic, spices and sugar. Stir for 1 minute.  Mix in the tomatoes, water, cocoa powder and cashew butter.  Check seasoning.  Bring to the boil and gently simmer for 15 minutes (covered), stirring frequently.  Store in the fridge.

*NOTE I used old bay seasoning, chilli salt and cumin instead of 1/4 cup chile powder.  If you don't have these or American style chile powder (not the same as what is referred to as chilli powder in Australia) you could use 2 tbsp mild paprika, 2 tsp oregano, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp cayenne powder (based on this recipe.)  Many moles tend to use peanut butter but I avoid it due to family allergies.  However you could substitute peanut butter or other nut butters for the cashew butter.

Wheat flour tortillas
From Taste of Home
Makes 8

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup water
3 tbsp olive oil

Mix flour and salt.  Add water and olive oil.  Mix until it comes together in a dough.  Lightly knead on a floured surface until you have a smooth dough.  Rest for at least 10 minutes, covered with a tea towel.  Cut into 8 pieces.  Roll out each piece into a 7 inch circle on a floured surface.  Heat heavy based non stick frypan over medium high heat and fry each tortilla about 1 minute each side or until just a few brown spots.  Use tongs to poke at any air bubbles and to flip the tortilla.  Stack cooked tortillas on a plate with a tea towel over them to keep them soft and warm.

On the Stereo:
Brood: My Friend the Chocolate Cake

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Vegan eating out in Melbourne

The growth of vegan food available in Melbourne over the past decade or so has been huge.  Lots of places are now providing vegan options that are exciting, creative and innovative.  As a vegetarian who does not like eggs or a lot of dairy, I enjoy lots finding cafes with plant based offerings.

This year I planned to write about vegan eating out in Melbourne during Vegan MoFo but ran out of time.  The draft has sat there ever since begging to see the light of day.  I also developed the post because I never have time to blog about all the meals I photograph.

So here is my tour of some of Melbourne's vegan-friendly cafes.  It is not a comprehensive list because it reflects how I eat out - I don't like mock meat, I live in the inner North and I mostly eat out at brunch or lunch rather than dinner!  I hope it will make us all feel good about all the wonderful vegan food available.  I'd love to hear of your favourite place to eat vegan food.

My top 5 vegan meals in Melbourne

Sourdough toast with smashed peas, wild rice and candied walnuts
@ Wide Open Road, Brunswick
Sadly this dish is no longer available.  It was so amazing that couple of years later it still stands out as one of my favourite meals I have had in a cafe.  I have also had an excellent tofu scramble there.  It is worth checking their current menu for vegan options.

Vegan nachos 
@ the Vegie Bar, Fitzroy
I was at the Vegie Bar for lunch a while back and really enjoyed the generosity of these nachos.  Heaps of corn chips, salsa, black beans, vegan cheese, vegan sour cream and jalapenos.  It could easily serve 2 (ie I could not finish it).  Nachos can be a bit dry but these were full of vegies and sauce and were really satisfying.  I also loved the green kale smoothie I had with it. 

Brunswick ploughman’s lunch 
@ Code Black, Brunswick
A Middle Eastern twist on the traditional ploughman's lunch.  I was very impressed that when I asked for a vegan version, eggs and meat weren't just subtracted but I was given substitutions.  My platter consisted of chickpea fritters, pickled cabbage, roasted mushrooms, olives, beetroot dip, grated carrot with cumin, fresh radish, avocado with dukkah, gherkins and home made flatbreads with dukkah.  It was so so good.

Raw Hawaiian Live Pizza 
@ Yong Green Food, Fitzroy
I haven't had much raw food in cafes but there is more of this around Melbourne.  One place that I have visited was Yong Green Food which has a lot of raw food including pizza.  This raw pizza had a macadamia-nut bread base, topped with tomato sauce, avocado, pineapple, olives, sprouts, cherry tomatoes and cashew cheese sauce.  Not comparable to regular pizza but wonderful and light.

CLT bagel 
@ New Day Rising, East Brunswick
There is a good reason this CLT has been raved about by many.  The generous serve of coconut bacon (with rocket, tomato and avocado) makes this bagel chockablock with flavour and goodness.

5 recent dishes at omnivore cafes
  1. Natural Tucker Bakery (North Carlton) - tofu and pesto tart with pumpkin, and wholemeal apricot and coconut cake.  Healthy and delicious.
  2. San Churro (CBD and various) - churros with dark chocolate sauce (thanks to Linda for pointing out these are accidentally vegan.).  Absolutely decadent.
  3. Minang Nasi Padang (Carlton) - Eggplant curry, tofu coconut curry and spicy peanuts.  Cheap and cheerful Indonesian street food.
  4. Dos Diablos taco truck - (on the move) black bean tacos with corn salsa (enjoyed in Yarraville Gardens!).  Nice but I should have availed myself of the sauces.
  5. A Minor Place (East Brunswick) - almond crusted chickpea burger, vegan mayo, caramelised onions, tomatoes, spinach and sourdough toast.  Fantastic and quite spicy!

5 recent dishes at vegetarian or vegan cafes
  1. Supercharger (CBD) - smashed green peas and avocado, eggplant curry, carrot salad, braised tempeh and brown rice.  Healthy but my options didn't quite work together and just felt virtuous.
  2. Loving Hut (Northcote and other locations) - wanton noodle soup.  Delicious and satisfying.  I want to try more.
  3. Melbourne University Food Cooperative (Parkville) - pumpkin and tofu pie.  Great healthy cheap student food.  (Sadly it is closed until Semester 1 starts next year in March.)
  4. Sister of Soul (St Kilda) - black sticky rice with caramelised coconut and blood orange sorbet.  An amazing dessert.  (I wish the photo did it more justice.)
  5. Lord of the Fries (CBD and other locations) - original burger with chips.  A mock meat burger I enjoy.  Yummy burger (that I was reluctant to try because it is quite 'meaty') with lots of sauce.  (Ask for vegan cheese and mayo.)
  6.  
5 Vegan and vegetarian cafes I have reviewed
  1. Smith and Daughters (Fitzroy) - Stylish vegan restaurant with a Mexican influence.  Enjoyed brunch and would love to try the dinner menu.  
  2. Lord of the Fries (CBD and other locations) - Great chips but also burgers and hot dogs.
  3. Vegie Bar (Fitzroy) - A busy and lively vegetarian restaurant with an extensive menu, lots of raw food and heaps of vegan options.
  4. Trippy Taco (Fitzroy) - Cheap and cheerful vegetarian Mexican-style street food with lots of vegan options.  Great tamales. 
  5. Mr Nice Guy Cupcakes (Ascot Vale) - All vegan.  He makes lovely filled bagels but it is the fancy cupcakes that really make me ooh and aah!

5 Vegan-friendly cafes I have reviewed
  1. True North (Coburg) - Offers vegan meat and cheese substitutes in their impressive rolls and sandwiches, such as BLT, Breakfast Roll and Reuben Sandwich.  Plus lots of hot sauces.
  2. Wide Open Road (Brunswick) - Innovative modern menu that changes seasonally. 
  3. Code Black (Brunswick) - Modern cafe with interesting dishes that is prepared to actually substitute for meat and cheese rather than just remove it from your dish!
  4. ShanDong Mama (CBD) - Flourescent lit Asian cafe with amazing dumplings and scallion pancakes.
  5. East Elevation (East Brunswick) - Light-filled warehouse cafe and chocolatier that offers fried tempeh instead of eggs in their veggie breakfast.

5 cafes I want to try vegan food

5 shops to buy vegan products

5 vegan friendly places that are gone but not forgotten
  • Cafe Sarabella (Coburg) - A little Indian cafe in Victoria St mall that is much missed.
  • The Gasometer Hotel (Collingwood) - This pub had a great innovative vegan section on the menu.  It closed and has since reopened with a more traditional pub menu.
  • Lentil as Anything (Brunswick) - I enjoyed this vegetarian community-oriented cafe on the corner of Union St and Sydney Rd.  At least there are other branches of Lentil as Anything that are still open. 
  • Radical Grocery (Brunswick) - a fantastic vegan grocery store that I loved visiting.
  • Tart ‘n’ Round Café (Thornbury) - This was a great vegan and gluten free cafe.

5 Melbourne bloggers who write about vegan cafes

I am sending this post to Rika of Vegan Miam who is heading to Melbourne next month and is very interested in where to find vegan food!  I look forward to reading about her experiences!

Now it your turn.  What is your favourite vegan-friendly cafes, vegan meal and/or recommendations for vegan eating in Melbourne?  If you don't live in Melbourne, tell me what cafe/dish you would like to try.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

East Brunswick cafe: Pope Joan

I heard about Pope Joan long before I managed to go there for a meal.  The hype was right!  I loved it. The cafe is light-filled and stylish.  The meals are unusual and delicious.  The food is prettily arranged, often served on vintage plates.  It is satisfying without being heavy.  The staff waft by with floral jugs for topping up water glasses.  It has been easy to return a few times.

Upon entering the cafe, it seems quite small.  However there are lots of tables down the side.  We had to wait for a seat on a Saturday morning but not for too long.  During the week, it has been easy to find a seat.  On our first visit late last year, Sylvia had a little play in the garden down the back.

It was at that visit that I was first wowed by their fancy tarts.  It was a zucchini tart with basil and grains (pictured at the top).  The pastry shell was filled with a light zucchini mousse that contrasted nicely with the raw zucchini ribbons and creamy soft cheese..  It rested on a salad of quinoa, cranberry and herbs, which lay on a slick of capsicum puree.  All very very good.

My mum had crumbed sardines on a mash of butter beans, feta, capers and currants that she spoke highly of.  Sylvia had the chips. They were sprinkled with a herb salt and came with a cute little jar of tomato relish.  The chips were crinkly and crunchy and most excellent.

I loved the presentation of our food so much that I hoped the people next to us would order something else so I could ogle it.  Disappointingly they chose the same tart as me.

It was so good I wanted to try another dish.  Yet when I returned with E and Sylvia, the option I fancied the most was another tart.  This time it was a spinach and haloumi tart.  It was amazing without quite reaching the dizzy heights of the zucchini pie.  Perhaps the spinach mousse was a little heavier than the light zucchini mousse and it didn't have quite the textural interest.

We were there early enough that E decided to try the rice pudding with blueberries.  He was a little perplexed to find it was served cold in a jar.  Yet once he started eating it, he was most pleased with the creamy fruity concoction.

Sylvia had the fruit toast with butter and jam.  She enjoyed but didn't finish it.  E and I had to help out so I can tell you it was lovely bread and good quality jam.  It is many months now since I was there and I wish my notes were a little more detailed.

My most recent visit, but hopefully not my last, was a few weeks back.  This time I tried one of the sandwiches.  They seem to change regularly but to be quite different to any I have had before.  This sandwich was cauliflower and celeriac slaw, aged cheddar and Branston pickle in a soft wholegrain bread.  A nice twist on a traditional British style of sandwich.  It was very satisfying.  My mum also had a sandwich and Sylvia had chips.

It was a warm day so I also had the lemon and toasted barley spritzer (without the optional gin).  I was attracted by the description of it served with slices of orange and mint.  We all enjoyed the refreshing drink.  Pope Joan also does a lovely apple and pear juice that is far more fruity than sweet.

I had been tempted by the desserts on previous visits but this time I yielded.  The three of us shared a chocolate salted caramel hazelnut tart.  It was heavenly.  The chocolate was gooey (not chilled) with a generous layer of caramel underneath and just enough nuts. It was exactly the sort of decadence I love to finish off a meal.  It is not the cheapest meal in town but I enjoy the interesting food and the stylish crockery.  We will be back.

Pope Joan
75-79 Nicholson Street,
Brunswick East
Tel: (03) 9388 8858
Mon - Fri: 7.30am - 11.30pm
Sat - Sun: 7.30am - 5pm
popejoan.com.au

Pope Joan on Urbanspoon