Friday, 12 February 2016

Glass Den: Coburg cafe

I spoke to someone moving into Coburg recently and they asked for some local knowledge.  The first piece of advice that sprang to mind was to check out the Glass Den.  It combines a fascinating historic building on the old Pentridge Gaol site with creative food with lots of great vegan and vegetarian options.  As soon as I heard they had coconut bacon I was excited and more recently I have tried their almond feta too.

The building is the old gatehouse of Pentridge.  The forbidding bluestone facade reminds us that not everyone has always enjoyed going through these doors.  Above the doorway it says HM Metropolitan Reception Prison.  Inside opposite the counter is a wall of bars.  It still surprises me that the historic prison, built in 1850, was closed as recently as 1997.  Most of the complex is being developed into housing so I love that there is still a little corner where the public can enter.  (You can see more in this market in Pentridge.)

However this space is not just doom and gloom of prison.  The cafe is welcoming with lots of space and light, plants and colour, upcycled furniture and modern touches.  I never see it empty because it is a great place to just sit and enjoy a coffee.

In fact I have been visiting previous cafes here since 2009.  When Sylvia was 3 months old we went here when it was Cafe Della Rosa.  I had mothers group meetings here because there was so much space for prams.  And I have been here for coffees with friends from time to time previous to this year.  In fact I had a superb savoury muffin here one day last year.

It was towards the end of last year that the menu changed and the vegan community was excited by the options.  Coconut bacon and candied almonds were mentioned.  It took us a while to get there but now we have been there enough that when we went last weekend the waiter seemed to know our faces.

We have had lovely service on our visits but there was one big problem on our first visit.  We ordered hotcakes and smashed avo and the crumpets on special.  We were in a hurry and when I checked, our order had been forgotten.  The staff were very gracious in the way they handled it (just as they were the time I forgot my purse) but it meant we only had time for muffins and a drink.  I really loved the chocolate chunk and coconut muffin I had.

Sylvia had a berry smoothie.  I think it was the Halle Berry made of apple juice, mixed berries, strawberries and chia seeds.  It was nice though I am not sure she finished it as it was so big and we didn't have much time for it.  I think she enjoyed the Banana Del Ray more which has banana, mango, orange and mint.

Since our first visit we have had so many occasions where something has been forgotten.  I have forgotten my camera, my purse, Sylvia's shoes.  Then we met friends there recently who had forgotten the documents they were bringing us.

I had lunch there with my mum back in November and they had this picturesque Banana Blossom Tom Yum Salad.  It was on the specials board and had chili, rocket, red onion, carrot, enoki mushrooms, toasted coconut, bean shoots, and coriander.  My mum loved it.

Meanwhile I had the Veggie Delight Sandwich.  I think it was made with the quinoa and seeded loaf and packed with with roasted pumpkin, zucchini, roasted capsicum, tomato jam, beetroot and rocket.  My memory is poor and my note taking is worse.  It seemed quite expensive for a vegetable sandwich at about $15 and yet it was very very good.

Sylvia and I went another day and I forgot my camera when I ordered the crushed avocado.  So the next time we came I ordered it again.  Sylvia just had the beer battered chips.  On this occasion, we had the option of one bowl of chips for $7.5 or two small serves for $3.5 each.  I might have been swayed to order a bowl but I really love the mini chip fryer baskets they use for the small serves.  And the chips are really good.  Hot and crisp and tasty.

Photographing the crushed avo and chippies was a tough ask for me but I can promise you it was such a good meal.  The smooshed avocado is served on seeded loaf next to beetroot relish macerated raisins, then scattered with pistachio dukkah and "smoked coconut" (which I call coconut bacon).  It is truly so much more amazing than your average smashed avo with a slice of lemon or side of feta.

Then there was the time we were driving home and on impulse I stopped at the Glass Den for hotcakes.  When the new menu was produced last year with almond meal hotcakes I was pretty excited.  They are gluten free as well as vegan and looked beautiful.  I apologise the my photo does not do them justice.

Our serve surprised me because it had changed slightly and now they come with grilled banana, jackfruit, lotus root compote, maple syrup, toasted coconut, taro chips, & coconut mousse.  I confess I am not so into tropical fruit.  I enjoyed the taro chips and coconut and even the banana.  The lotus root compote was like it was candied and quite interesting.  I am not into cream so the coconut mousse was pushed to the side.  I was not such a fan of the jackfruit.  But this was the first time I have had jackfruit and I always tell sylvia it takes 20 tastes to learn to like something new so maybe I just need more jackfruit in my life.  Sylvia was happy to just eat the hotcakes..

While Sylvia has enjoyed a few smoothies, she is now asking for the Raspberry Fizz at the Glass Den.  I occasionally have the mint tea but I really love the Good Brew Kombucha.  At $7 it is not a cheap drink but it is so refreshing.  I have tried the lavender, the hibiscus and the apple mint.  Once I was told to beware it fizzing up when it was opened and it never fizzed.  Another time I was not warned and for a few minutes the fizz kept bubbling out of the neck.

I love that the kids menu is not just meat. One of these days I will order the vegemite and cheese for Sylvia.  So far she is more enamoured of the chips and pancakes.  We went to the Glass Den last weekend and she loved the kids pancake with ice cream and sprinkles.

On this occasion we met up with friends who brought along a school kid and a baby.  They were impressed by the coffee, the food and that there was plenty of space to park a stroller.  The place has interesting details for kids to look at too.  Apparently there is a toy box so must check if that is still there.

Once fun sight was the old red telephone.  However it has recently disappeared.  I once saw a waiter answer the phone there.  Then when I asked where it was gone I was told too many people had thought it actually worked.    So I am confused.

I ordered the Biggy (photo at top of post as well as above).  Silly name but one of the best big breakfasts I have ever had.  Ever!  It was a generous spread of roasted Dutch carrots, smoked coconut, avocado, grilled mushrooms, home made baked beans, grilled cherry tomatoes, lightly sautéed kale, beetroot relish with a couple of slices of sourdough toast.  I also spied almond feta on the extras and wanted to try it so I ordered this on the side.  Good choice!  It was soft and creamy and tasty.  The vegetables were really beautifully cooked, I loved the piles of coconut bacon and had lots of saucy sides with the avocado, baked beans and almond feta.  Even the toast was substantial and golden.

It was $22 for the Biggy, plus $4 for the almond feta.  Not cheap but worth paying to have a brunch so filled with vegies and coconut bacon and almond feta.  (Please take note other cafes!)  On the weekend we were chatting to the waitress who told us they had had to put up the prices for avocado dishes because the price of avocados had risen so steeply locally.

The Biggy was so good I could dedicate a whole post to it.  However I will just say that it is interesting that when the menu first was available on leaves of brown paper on a clipboard it included chorizo and bacon with an option of carrots and smoked coconut instead.  Now it is written on clean white laminated menus and offers chorizo and bacon as alternative options.  I also had the avocado instead of the eggs.

Coburg just continues to offer more and more in great cafes.  At the moment, The Glass Den is my favourite.  My only reservation is that it is not cheap enough to eat in too often.  However I am sure I will be back soon.  The food is so good, the staff so nice and the space is the perfect place to relax and enjoy life.  How it must have changed since the days when it was once a the gatehouse of a prison.

For more beautiful photos and reviews, also check out Veganopoulous and Where's the Beef.

The Glass Den Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Shrove Tuesday Aquafaba Crepes with Haggis

Greetings on this Shrove Tuesday (aka Pancake Tuesday).  I had a go at aquafaba crepes today.  They were good but perhaps not quite as thin as they should be.  I usually make fat fluffy pancakes but today I wanted them thin enough to wrap around some leftover vegan haggis.

I have mentioned before that I have a vision of making a tartan haggis meal.  On my first attempt at tartan haggis, I piped sweet potato and tomato sauce over mashed potato and haggis.  The piping was far too thick.  On the weekend I had a go at piping much thinner stripes.  It is better.  I need to do away with my shaky hand.  And I really wanted a brighter green but my spinach was from dubious sources.  (Curse you, salmonella outbreak in bags of baby spinach!)

The tartan haggis quest continues.  Meanwhile I had lots of haggis and green cheese sauce leftover.  I made a fairly standard fast track pizza with tomato sauce, haggis and grated cheese.  While it baked I made a vegan cheese sauce.  I based in on Dreena's vegveeta sauce but doubled the cashews, added some garlic powder. I placed half in a squeezy bottle (the white half) and then added a few handfuls of basil and garlic plus a good handful of cooked green peas.  It never went green enough but tasted of peas and basil, ie a little sweet but full of flavour.

For Shrove Tuesday, I really wanted a savoury pancake.  It suited me for it to be vegan.  And I am still fascinated by the miracles of chickpea brine or aquafaba.  I finally found a reason to hang onto my balloon whisk when whisking the aquafaba.  At first the mixture was a little too thick to swirl around the pan.  I thinned it down and made another half batch of pancake mixture (because I had the aquafaba).  So a batch and a half made 8 pancakes.  I wonder if I should have thinned the mixture more.

 When it came to stuffing the pancakes or crepes, they rolled up really easily.  I spread the middle with green pea cheese sauce and then sprinkled lots of haggis along it.  I rolled it up placed it in a greased pan.  It was covered in more cheese sauce, tomato sauce and some grated (vegan) biocheese.  I cooked it for about 15 minutes.  The biocheese was disappointing after having it melt so nicely on toast but I guess it looked good and the cheese sauce gave the cheesy flavour.  It was so filling that one stuffed pancake would have been enough each.  Again I questioned if I had made the pancakes too thick.

Overall I was delighted with these pancakes.  Sylvia loved them with some grated cheese in them and rolled up.  The three of us the last one with nutella in it.  They are quite lacy textured, as aquafaba baking tends to be.  It is a brilliant recipe to use up aquafaba and make easy pancakes.  I will experiment with making thinner ones and report back.

I am sharing these crepes with Kimmy at Healthy Vegan Fridays, Jac at Meat Free Mondays, Karen for Cooking with Herbs.

More pancake recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:

Pancakes filled with potato and lentils
Pea pancakes with sun-dried tomato pesto 
Spinach pancakes  (gf, v)

Almond meal pancakes (gf)
Banana oat pancakes (v)
Chocolate pancakes with berries and chocolate sauce
Pancakes with oats and cornmeal
Pumpkin buckwheat pancakes
Spiced carrot pancakes

Aquafaba crepes
Adapted from Clean Real Food Highs
Makes about 6 large crepes

1 cup aquafaba
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
4-6 tbsp milk or water

Whisk aquafaba by hand to make it frothy.  Gradually whisk in flour, salt and baking powder.  Slowly whisk in water until you have a thin mixture (like pouring cream, only just thicker than milk).

Preheat heavy bottom non stick frypan over medium to medium high heat.  (I needed medium high).  Lightly grease pan (I used a light coating of margarine for the first and then a spray of oil spray between crepes.)

Now add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of mixture to pan and swirl to cover pan.  (I think my pan is about 22cm in diameter.  I used 1/2 cups of mixture but others use 1/4 cups so maybe if I had it thinner I could use 1/4 cups and make more pancakes.)

Cook until when you check the underside there is some light golden brown colour.  The edges will curl up and some bubbles will appear but neither indicate there is colour on the other side.  I found I needed to look.  Flip over and cook for another minute or two until some golden brown spots on the second side.

Stack pancakes with a clean tea towel over them.  They will soften slightly.  Stack or fill to serve as desired.  Can be stuffed and baked.

Green Vegveeta
adapted from Dreena Burton via Green Gourmet Giraffe
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 1 cup milk (I used soy)
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1½ tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp sea salt (or to taste)
  • ¼ tsp yellow mustard powder
  • 2 good handfuls of basil and parsley
  • 1 cup cooked green peas
Blend in a high power blender.  (If your blender is not high powered or you use a food processor you will need to soak the cashews.)

NOTE: if I had a handful of spinach or kale I would put that in too.

Vegan crepes with haggis and cheese 
serves 4

4 crepes (see above)
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp green vegveeta sauce (above)
1/2 a batch vegan haggis
1/4 - 1/2 cup tomato sauce (such as this or this)
60g grated biocheese or other cheese

Preheat oven to 220 C

Place a crepe on a flat surface and spread about 2 tablespoons of vegveeta sauce.  Crumble 1/4 of the haggis over it.  Roll up and place face down in a greased casserole dish.  Repeat with remaining 3 crepes.  Spread remaining vegveeta sauce on the crepes.  Spread tomato sauce over the vegveeta.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until cheese has melted.

On the Stereo:
Amanda Palmer goes Down Under

Monday, 8 February 2016

Apricot and passionfruit smoothie, plus a salad and a spinach dip

Just before Christmas I planned a post about some of the healthier food I was eating in the midst of all the indulgent baking.  I never had time.  So while I am not cooking much that is bloggable (it is either old recipes or a bit of this and a bit of that), it seems a good time to catch up.  However only the smoothie seems worth blogging.  I also made a spinach dip that was really similar to one on my blog and I made a great salad but in the festive craziness forgot to write it down.

We make smoothies quite regularly but I rarely post them now as they are often quite similar (like this smoothie).  However this one is worth sharing because it uses two of my favourite summer fruits: apricot and passionfruit.  It is perfect for a summer breakfast.

We made the smoothie with vanilla yoghurt which I don't usually use.  Around this time, we stopped having yoghurt and muesli or rice bubbles for breakfast, so I really wanted to finish pots of soy vanilla yoghurt and dairy vanilla yoghurt.  The yoghurt made it very creamy and delicious.  Which reminds me that I should make some more muesli soon.

I also intended to post this baked spinach dip that I found on Rock Your Vegan Socks.  Kimmy's photo was really gorgeous and made the dip queue-jump my to do list.  The dip was really delicious but then I found I had posted a really similar spinach dip recipe a couple of years ago.  We had it with sweet potato mash and roasted red capsicum strips wrapped in sourdough flatbreads

For Kimmy's dip I followed the recipe closely, just using spinach instead of kale and sriracha instead of ground pepper.  I highly recommending heading over to check out Kimmy's blog to check out her kale dip.

And then there is the salad that looks beautiful but I never had time to write the recipe.  Such is the crazy time of year.  It was inspired by Woolworths food magazine's Wild Rice and Lentil salad.  Mine was quite different as it didn't have feta and beetroot. 

The salad had a base of wild rice, brown rice and brown lentils.  These were topped with spiralised carrots, spring onions, walnuts, avocado and parsley.  I think the dressing was just oil, vinegar and garlic.  Spiralising the carrot was not great for this salad.  Grated carrot would work better.  And the avocado, that I used instead of feta, was delicious but avocado is suddenly so expensive that I am less likely to use it right now.  I would like to return to this salad and maybe might even remember to write notes next time.

I am sending the smoothie to Healthy Vegan Fridays, Gluten Free Fridays and No Waste Food Challenge.

More smoothies on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Banana, berry and plum smoothie (gf)
Green smoothie (gf, v)
Raspberry, apricot and pumpkin smoothie (gf, v)
Strawberry cheesecake smoothie (gf)
Tropical orange and carrot smoothie (gf, v)

Apricot and passionfruit smoothie
An original recipe from Green Gourmet Giraffe
Serves 2

1 banana, peeled
2 apricots, stoned
seeds and pulp of 2 passionfruits
1 cup milk*
175g vanilla yoghurt*
1 handful rolled oats
1 tsp chia seeds


NOTES: We use soy milk but other milks should work.  I made it on different occasions with soy yoghurt and dairy yoghurt and either were fine.

On the stereo 
Fin de Siecle - The Divine Comedy

Friday, 5 February 2016

Nutella recipes and ideas

Happy World Nutella Day.  I bought a jar of Nutella today and then decided I did not have time to bake with it so instead I am bringing you a round up of some fun Nutella recipes on my blog.

Like rice krispie slice but better

Nutella is great sandwiched between any cookies

A variation on Aussie party food: bread spread with nutella and then sprinkled with 100s and 1000s

Pipe nutella into your doughnuts

Dollop nutella on top of a pancake in the pan and then cover with more nutella

Dessert pizza topped with nutella, chocolate melts and raspberries

Nutella in the cupcake and a little extra swirled on top

Blondies are always better with nutella swirled on top

Amazing result of mixing nutella, chocolate and condensed milk 

If you don't have time to bake, buy a doughnut

 For those who don't eat dairy

Thursday, 4 February 2016

The Dressmaker Exhibition, Barwon Park, Winchelsea

In the school holidays one of the treats was to visit Barwon Park in Winchelsea where an exhibition of the costumes from The Dressmaker film is showing until 11 March 2016.  Unless you have a close family friend with keys to the mansion, I suggest you check which days of the week it opens.

If, like me, you are familiar with the mansion, you might start in surprise at the railway sign that has popped up by the front door.  It is, of course, from the film.  I read the book of the same name by Rosalie Ham in my book club last year and then went to see the movie with the group.  The story, set in the 1950s small town Australia, tells of a dressmaker returning to her childhood home to face the trauma of her past and to wow the gossips with her stylish creations. 

The exhibition gives us the elegance and fun of the film, without any of its malice and heartbreak.  Upon entering Barwon Park, you know that this is not the mansion in its prim Nineteenth Century regalia.  The grand staircase is covered by a life sized photo of a scene from the movie with mannequins wearing outfits from the scene.

Indeed the rooms are full of mannquins wearing the fabulous frocks from the movie, often with giant backdrops like this one.  And a photo from the movie, just in case you forgot.

In one front room a wall is dedicated to hats from the movie.

And many more gorgeous dresses.  The mannequins seem to have enough style to pull off wearing such wonderful outfits.

The star of the film was Kate Winslet.  Her character's sewing machine and various props are also here to see.

As we wandered about we were able to hear from our guide about the movie.  I was interested to hear it was filmed in the nearby You Yangs.  The landscape looked so dry and dusty.  It was a most surprising location for all these stylish dresses

Those visiting from the old country might have also been surprised at the extravagance of the mansion in the colonies.  The grand staircase is not hidden from the entrance hall but can be seen from behind the display.  It is mighty impressive.

And as I walk up the staircase I am struck yet again by the beauty of the mansion, even though I have seen it before.

It is in this grand hall that a wedding party's outfits from the film is on display. 

And admist all the fancy dresses, I am pleased to see the dowdy dresses of the mother, played with great humour by Judy Davis.

In the "family" rooms of the mansion, much of the furniture has been removed to make way for the exhibition.

Ironically, though the ladies of Dungatar in the movie would have been far more at home in the servants quarters than in the more posh rooms, these humble rooms were not use for the exhibition.

Some of them had furniture from other rooms.  I loved the shabby chic in this photo.

Other rooms were elegantly simple.  Though I daresay it didn't feel too elegant to the maids when they looked at how the other half lived.

It would have been lovely to have devonshire tea in the stables but this was not the day for it.  That will have to wait until next visit.  We had an afternoon tea to attend.

Barwon Park
105 Inverleigh Road
Open Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday
Dressmaker Exhibition: Wednesday to Sunday until 11 March 2016