Monday, 29 April 2013

Vegan Victoria Sponge Birthday Cake

Another year has passed.  Another birthday for E.  And it is 6 years since I started this Green Gourmet Giraffe blog.  In past years I have made some fun novelty cakes to celebrate.  This year I lacked the energy and will to immerse myself up to my elbows in buttercream, food dye and lollies.  Instead I kept it simple.  Well almost.  I made Victoria Sponge Cake.  Twice.  And it was vegan.

I come from a family where the birthday boy is king for the day.  E always wants a boring vanilla sponge cake.  He is very British when it comes to sponges.  It is not the Aussie tradition of the light airy sponge cake that my mum ices and sandwiches together with cream.  He wants it buttery and dense.  Preferably with buttercream frosting.  The very mention of a Victoria Sponge Cake makes him swoon.

Such a cake is all about eggs and butter rather than chocolate and fruit.  It is just not my thing.  Inspiration finally hit this year when I saw Jac post a very British Vegan Vanilla Cake.  It is the sort of cake that E likes but not laden with eggs and butter.  I cheer at any cake where I don't need to crack icky sticky eggs.  (Anyone who has followed this blog might recall that I have never liked eggs.)  E always accuses me of making cakes that are too dense, heavy or rich.  He was quite happy for me to make his cake vegan.

Some time ago I bought a little cake stand on special.  I also have purchased a smaller cake tin.  I made the full recipe but baked it in the 6 inch tin.  It took ages to bake but it looked very impressive.  (So good that even my 4 year old Sylvia could take the below photo and it looked pretty!)  I sandwiched together the two halves of the cake with buttercream and jam, as is traditional in a Victoria Sponge (though some have cream and jam Mrs Beeton's cookbook required just jam).  It was rather delicious.  E was most pleased.

The sponge exterior was notably browner than a traditional sponge but slightly yellower inside.  My mother commented that it is the eggs and butter that make cakes yellow.  Never mind.  It was a good dense cake that held its shape.  I thought it very sweet and felt a little paranoid you could taste the oil ever so slightly.  Sylvia thought the buttercream frosting was too sweet and scraped it off her cake.  E loved it and thought it tasted like it had a touch of treacle.  I think he liked that it was a bit lighter than a traditional sponge.

We kept the celebrations low key for E's birthday.  A visit to the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV).  The wrong one.  At least we enjoyed the waterwall and the ceiling in the great hall.  Even if the lunch wasn't that great in the ground floor cafe.  It is not far to walk back to the Australian site of the NGV at Federation Square.

Sylvia and I enjoyed some Aleks Danko craft.  E and I enjoyed Top Artists 2013 - the exhibition of school students' work.  We enjoyed an ice cream and caramel slice in the Atrium.  Then home for pizza and birthday cake.  Sylvia found it all very exciting and wanted to do it all again the next day.

Actually I did make the cake all over again for a birthday lunch with the family.  This time I doubled the recipe and baked 2 x 20cm round cakes.  This time they baked quicker.  This time I tried a bit of turmeric for yellow colour but it didn't make much impact.  This time the buttercream frosting and jam oozed down the side and the top threatened to slide off.  Perhaps I used more jam this time.  Perhaps it wasn't as easy to transport in the car as I thought.  My mum said it was because the cake was heavy.  You can see her light fluffy yellow sponge in the picture below.

So in this above photo you have my past and present birthday cakes.  The cake that my mum made for birthdays during my childhood and the cake that I am making for birthdays today.  Oh yes, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

I don't want to dwell on my 6th blog anniversary.  I write my reflections on blog changes each new year so I don't need to repeat those here.  I can announce that my StatCounter account (which I started in March 2008, almost a year into my blog) has just recently reached 1,000,000 "page loads".  (Stats are a moveable feast so I don't place too much trust in them but I do love a 7 figure number!)

As I have been saying recently, I am glad the blog is still going strong but goodness I wish I had a bit more time and energy for it.  Fortunately I still have truckloads of inspiration thanks to the wonderful bloggers and readers around me.  So thank you for reading, thank you for sharing.  Here's to many more years of Green Gourmet Giraffe.  If time is kind to me, I have a few self indulgent posts to share over the next week as a little birthday present.  You can decide whether it is me or you getting the presents :-)

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Ghost cake, birthdays and wildlife
Two years ago:  Guitar Birthday Cake
Three years ago: Viking cat cake with a butterscotch secret
Four years ago: Happy Birthday to E and GGGiraffe
Five years ago: Green Gourmet Giraffe Birthday Cake

Vegan Victoria Sponge Cake
cake adapted from Tinned Tomatoes and buttercream adapted from BBC Good Food.

  • 250 plain flour
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pinch turmeric (for colour)
  • 250ml soy milk (or other dairy free milk)
  • 60ml canola oil
  • 3 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g non-dairy margarine (I used Nuttalex)
  • 70g icing sugar
  • drop of vanilla essence
  • 2-3 dessertspoons of raspberry jam
Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).  Grease and line a round 20 cm cake tin.  

Mix together the dry ingredients in a medium to large mixing bowl.  Mix together the wet ingredients in a large jug or small mixing bowl.  Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix until just combined.  Pour batter into prepared cake tin.

Bake until golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.  It took me about 55 minutes and but on Tinned Tomatoes, Jac said it took about 25 to 30 minutes.

I have also baked these in a 15 cm or 6 inch round tin but as it was a taller cake it took even longer.  I think it took me about 1 hour and 30 minutes. 

On the stereo:
Goodbye yellow brick road: Elton John

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Polenta and cauliflower - two ways (and Fitzroy Market)

Planning dinner often fills me with delusions of a calm evening around the kitchen table eating a meal of perfectly balanced nutrition.  My plans usually include wonderful side dishes that never see the light of day.  Sometimes I have leftovers and a chance to make amends.  So it was with these recent polenta, cauliflower and pea fingers.

I found the Cauliflower, pea and parmesan polenta 'chips' in one of my old food magazines.  It looks simple and impressive.  Making polenta in the microwave is indeed simple but making it in time to pick up Sylvia from child care was a little more rushed than I planned. 

When you look at my attempt, you will see why I renamed mine fingers rather than chips.  E actually commented that they reminded him of the vegetables fingers (the vegetarian version of fish fingers) that you can buy in the freezer section of the supermarket.  I can see it. 

I decided to follow the recipe and fry these on the stovetop.  They were mighty crispy but fragile.  Polenta becomes so soft once hot that it is hard to handle.  They collapsed at the merest sniff of the tongs and even an eggflip (spatula) challenged them.

I think I would have liked to try spraying them with oil and baking them.  Not only to be more healthy but because the night might have been less hectic.  Though I don't think I can blame them for the spilled milk,  the tofu bacon that was eaten before I had a chance to cook it or the avocado that wasn't as ripe as it felt. 

Dinner time was so chaotic that we ate quite a few of the 'fingers' once they had cooled enough to eat them.  Finally I managed to throw together a simple salad and pile more fingers on the plate.  Not the most satisfying of meals.  At least there were a few fresh vegies on the side. Sylvia had a few fingers but had to pick out the peas.  Sigh!

The next day we went to Fitzroy Market.  It is always interesting to look around and see what is on offer.  I bought the old telephone in the picture above for a mere $5.  It is very similar to the one we had in my childhood home.  It is just a plaything for Sylvia.  Sharing a bit of my childhood with her.  If I had the energy I would like to see if it works.  Hear it ring.

The market focuses on clothes and brickabrack.  There are always a few stalls selling food.  The sausage and jam stalls have been a constant since we started going last year.  More recently there is a sourdough bread stall and the lovely icy pole lady.  We always have a vegetarian sausage off the BBQ.  I had a rhubarb and raspberry icy pole that I gobbled up quickly.  Sylvia dilly-dallied over her chocolate avocado one.  She hadn't made much of a dint when it somersaulted over her clothes and into the dirt.  I bought her a cupcake. 

We stopped at the supermarket on the way home and bought doughnuts, among other things.  At home I knew what I wanted to make.  Cauliflower seems a food blogging favourite lately.  (It has come a long way since the 1960s if the disparaging remark about cauliflower fritters on George Gently tonight is anything to go by) As well as being inspired by cauliflower rice, I have also seen some interesting roasted cauliflower recipes.

I couldn't go past the novelty of a recipe that had mashed banana included in the coating.  (It was there for binding more than taste.)  These polenta coated cauliflower were not too difficult.  The baked polenta on the florets was slightly grainy as polenta can be but a nice addition to dinner.  I still had some leftover polenta fingers.  This night I made some simple tomato sauce and steamed some green beans over the sauce.  Amazing what can be done with a little more time and energy.

We sat at the table eating a interesting plate of food.  Different textures and colours. It was just as I had imagined when I made the polenta fingers.  Smiles.  The gentle clinking of the knife and fork on the plate.  Intelligent chit chat.  Well not quite.  Sylvia said she was unwell and didn't want to eat her dinner but there were no tantrums and she did eat a reasonable amount - with some gentle persuasion.  Then we played snap with her Playschool cards and she went to bed.  Why can't more nights be like that!

I am sending the polenta fingers to Jacqueline for Bookmarked Recipes and the cauliflower bites to Ricki for Wellness Weekends.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Purple Pomegranate Stew
Two years ago:  Royal Wedding chocolate fridge cake
Three years ago: Grumpy's Green - well fed with eco cred
Four years ago: WTSIM ... Retro Parkin
Five years ago: Toothpicks, Tacos, and Oaxaca

Cauliflower, pea and parmesan polenta fingers 
Adapted from BBC Australian Good Food Guide, April 2009 (using my previous polenta cooking experience)
serves 3 to 4

1 cup polenta
1 cup milk (I used soy)
1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp salt
shake of smoked paprika
1/4 large cauliflower, boiled til soft and mashed
1/2 cup peas
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Place polenta, milk, water, salt and smoked paprika into a large heat proof bowl.  Cook in the microwave until a thick porridge, stirring every 2 minutes.  I think it took me about 8 minutes.  Mix in cauliflower mash, peas and cheese.  Tip into a greased and lined swiss roll tin and use the back of a spoon to spread until fairly flat and even.  Set aside an hour or two to cool.

Cut cooled polenta into fingers (I think I made about 18 fingers - ie 3 x 6).  Heat about 1/2 cm of canola oil in a large frypan.  Fry polenta in batches (I did 3) until crisp and golden brown on both sides.  Use an eggflip (spatula) to flip over - I tried using tongs and the polenta fingers collapsed but the tongs were useful to steady the fingers I was flipping over.  It took a while to fry all the fingers but worth doing it all even if some go into the fridge for the next day.

Eat hot.  Suggest serving polenta fingers with tomato sauce and steamed vegetables  or salad.

Crispy cauliflower bites
Adapted from Including Cake
serves 3 to 4

1/4 large cauliflower
1/2 banana, mashed
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1 tsp ground linseeds (flax seeds)
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 to 1/2 cup polenta
oil spray

Trim cauliflower and chop into florets.  Cover florets with boiling water in a saucepan (and a pinch of salt wouldn't go astray).  Bring to the boil and then boil about 1 minute (this took me about 5 minutes).

Mix banana, water, nutritional yeast flakes, linseeds, smoked paprika, soy sauce and salt in a medium mixing bowl.  Toss cauliflower florets in smoky mixture.  Place polenta in another medium mixing bowl and use a spoon and fork to dip individual cauli florets into the polenta and then into an oiled large roasting dish.  Place florets in one layer with a little room to crisp up.

Spray polental florets with oil.  Bake at 180 C for 60 minutes until crisp.  (Warning: The 'Including Cake' recipe did them at a lower temperature for shorter time - her oven must be far more powerful than mine.)

On the Stereo:
Folk is not a four letter word - Various Artists

Thursday, 25 April 2013

MLLA Lentil and cauliflower taco filling

I got up at 3.40am for the ANZAC Day Dawn Service so I am a bit befuddled.  (More about ANZAC Day later when I have more energy.)  I have quite a blog backlog.  Lots of interesting food here at Chez Green Gourmet Giraffe.  I don't have lots of quick posts to share so I will try and keep this one short.  This lentil and cauliflower taco filling from Fat Free Vegan was excellent.

The dinner was made after a visit to the Immigration museum for the Easter school holiday crafts.  Adults pay $10 entry but kids are free and it is worth it for the great craft activities.  We made funny felt Easter eggs to hang on an Easter egg tree and  a babushka basket which was intended for Easter eggs but Sylvia loves it for her little and tiny things.

That night I made tacos for dinner using this filling.  Susan from Fat Free Vegan posted it as cauliflower rice but mine was more like a faux minced meat than a faux rice.  (It reminded me of this or this.) I added oil and walnuts and some leftover taco seasoning.  It was excellent.  Good enough to eat alone.  But who doesn't love a taco dinner!

Sylvia was under the weather and tired from our activities.  She told me that she just wanted to go to bed without dinner and was soon fast asleep.  I had extra time and was feeling good about the yummy dinner.  I decided to attempt a rhubarb cooler (drink) that I had been planning for a few days.  It didn't work at all.  I hate sieving fruit.  After a few minutes making no progressing sieving cooked rhubarb, I gave up and decided to call it stewed rhubarb. 

There is a happy ending.  We loved the stewed rhubarb.  It was a breakthrough for me.  I have finally found myself enjoying porridge if I serve it with stewed fruit.  We also had it in smoothies and with rice pudding.  The rice pudding was particularly popular (above).  I didn't have leftover taco filling as I had expected.  So the next night I used the leftover tacos with an excellent chilli non carne with a skanky old cabbage based on a Spark People recipe.

I am sending this taco filling to Claire of Chez Cayenne for My Legume Love Affair (#58), the monthly event celebrating beans and lentils and legumes, overseen by Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen and founded by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Preston farmers market
Two years ago:  Chow Mein - revisited on ANZAC Day
Three years ago: Cookbooks update and easy roast dinner
Four years ago: Tempting prune cake
Five years ago: ANZAC Day and the Biscuit Police

Lentil and cauliflower tacos
Adapted from Fat Free Vegan
serves 2

1-2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion. chopped
1 carrot, grated
1/2 cauliflower cut into florets
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp taco seasoning
1/2 cup water, optional
400g tin of brown lentils, rinsed and drained
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp finely chopped walnuts, or more
cayenne pepper and salt to taste
tacos, goats cheese, spinach and tomatoes to serve

Heat olive oil in large frypan and fry onion for a few minutes, add grated carrot and continue frying a few minutes. 

While onion and carrot are frying, finely chop the cauliflower in the food processor (I did mine in my mini food processor in batches).  Add cauliflower and fry for about 5-10 minutes with 1 tsp of taco seasoning. 

When cauliflower is cooked - mine got quite dry so I added 1/2 cup water but in retrospect I am not sure it was needed because my lentils were quite wet - add lentils, smoked paprika, walnuts and seasoning to taste.  Warm through.

Serve with heated taco shells, shredded spinach, tomato and goats cheese.  (Or leave out the goats cheese for a vegan dinner.  E forgot about the cheese and didn't miss it.)

On the Stereo:
The very best of Peter Allen

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Apple cider cake

Last year, Sylvia undertook her first research project.  She asked all the kids and teachers at her child care centre what was their favourite cake.  One of the teachers wrote down the answers.  I was surprised at the variety of cakes nominated.  Most of all I was surprised to hear that Sylvia's favourite type of cake was apple.  What!  Not chocolate!

Apples are in season.  Time to bake apple cakes.
If you look at the cake recipes in my index you might notice how much I love chocolate cakes.  If you look at my Pinterest sweet board you may notice quite a few apple cakes.  It seems I bookmark many apple cakes but don't bake that many.  It has taken me some time as an adult to come to appreciate apple cakes.  Now that I know Sylvia loves them, I have many good intentions to bake more.  Last week I made a superb apple cake that was delicious despite many problems in making it.

Apples stewed in apple cider
I was initially attracted to the Apple Cider Cake on Jen's Delicieux blog.  It looked gorgeous with the apples arranged on top like a rose.  I admire many photos of cakes but once I see the recipe I often lose interest.  This one was different.  I have been seeking a recipe for an apple cake that has the apples cooked once before baking and then again when the cake bakes in the oven.  This recipe had apple slices cooked in apple cider and spices before being added to the cake.

Pile of apples to arrange on top of cake.
One of my main problems with making this cake was deciding not to follow my gut instinct.  Firstly I thought 6 apples a lot for a cake.  But I chopped them and cooked them and tried to sort out the most cooked third and blended that into an applesauce.  I again ignored my instinct again when the cup of applesauce seemed too much.  I tipped it in and added some extra flour because the batter was so loose.  After creaming the flour, I also added the flour before the egg in a moment of distraction.  It was one of those days.

Pile of apples after arranging a lot of apples on top of the cake.  Still a lot to fit in there!  Not all of it ended up on the cake.
I loved the appearance of Jen's cake with the apples arranged on top.  I can't remember at what point I suspected I should have sliced the apples more thickly but when it came to arranging flimsy little slices, I was sure they were too thin.  This might explain why I had too many slices of apple (see two above photos).  As I was ready to put the cake in the oven, I looked at how full the cake tin was.  Too full.  I ignored my gut instinct and baked it anyway.

Apples arranged on top of the cake.  Too many?  The cake tin was definitely too full.
Midway through baking, I turned the tin around and saw that cake mixture had risen over the sides of the edge and fallen onto the oven floor.  Too late, I put a tray under the cake tin to catch any more drips.  By the time the cake came out of the oven it had lost its good looks.  I was too disheartened to bother with a glaze.  E made a comment about sci-fi movies and craters on the moon.

Not the prettiest cake.
So much had gone wrong with the cake.  Yet, for all the problems, we all loved it.  Sylvia did.  Phew!  She often tells me she loves apple cake.  Even E enjoyed it, despite not usually liking fruit in cakes.  My mum visited and loved it.  It is just the sort of cake I have been searching for with the soft melting apples on top.  I left out most of the spices and made a few more subsitutions.  The apples had just enough subtle flavour for my tastes. 

Ugly but delicious!
I had initially decided not to post about this cake.  Then when we loved it so much, I decided that my notes here on what I did will be very helpful for me to develop the recipe and hopefully might help others who are searching for their own perfect apple cake.  After all, despite all the problems, this may just be the best apple cake I have ever baked!

I am sending this cake to Roz of the More Than Occasional Baker for the Alphabakes challenge that she runs with Caroline of Caroline Makes.  Each month they choose a letter for key ingredients and this month it is the letter A.  A for apple!

Other apple cakes on Green Gourmet Giraffe blog:
Apple and date cake (lumberjack cake)
Apple fruit cake
Caramel apple cake with quince paste
Cheese and apple cake
Cranana cake
Twice cooked apple cake

Apple cakes I would love to bake:
Apple blondies - Then Kitchen Maid
Apple pecan and gingerbread cake - Vegie Mix
Caramel apple layer cake with apple cider frosting - a hint of honey
Chocolate chip apple cake - Peas and Thanks You
Deb's mom's apple cake - Smitten Kitchen
Dorset apple cake with caramel chocolate - Chocolate Log Blog
GF Honey apple cake -
Hazelnut apple cake - Vanilla Garlic
Honey apple date walnut olive oil cake - Cook Eat Live Vegetarian
Maple pecan apple cake - how2heroes
Rima's walnut and apple cake - Wandering Spice
Vanessa's GF chocolate and apple cake - Not Quite Nigella

Apple cider cake
Adapted from Delicieux

  • 6 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced (next time I will use 4-5 apples which will be thickly sliced)
  • 1 cup (250ml) apple cider (non-alcoholic)
  • 1/2 cup castor sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • 1 cup white plain flour (I added 1 cup rather than 1/2 cup due to too much applesauce)
  • 1/2 cup wholemeal plain flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g Nuttalex margarine
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup no-fat yoghurt
To cook the apples:

Put topping ingredients in a medium saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer about 3 to 4 minutes until just tender.  (I misread the recipe and didn't see that I was meant to bring the cider, sugar, vanillla and cinnamon to the boil before adding apples.)  Remove about 1/3 of the apples with a slotted spoon.  Blend to make an applesauce.  Mine made about 1 cup but I think I only needed half as much for the cake.  Set aside remaining apple slices.

To make the cake:

Preheat the oven to 180 C and grease and line a 22cm tin.  (My tin was too small for my batter so next time maybe a bigger one.)

Beat butter (or margarine in my case) and sugar in a large mixing bowl (I used a spoon rather than electric beaters).  Add eggs  (I actually added flour before the eggs but that was due to distraction as I usually would add eggs here.) and then 1 cup (but only 1/2 cup next time) apple sauce, beating to mix well.  Gently stir in flours, almond meal, baking powder and bicarb of soda.  Lastly stir in yoghurt until just combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared tin.  Arrange circles of the apple slices (drained of the liquid) on the top of the cake, starting at the middle of the cake and working your way outwards.  I baked mine for 1 hour and 30 minutes but if my batter hadn't been so wet it might have taken closer to the original 30-35 minutes.  A skewer inserted in the middle will come out clean when cakse is cooked.

[The original recipe also suggested reducing the reserved apple cider mixture to a syrup to glaze the warm cake but I didn't do this.]

On the Stereo:
Time Stands Still: the Collection: Rush

    Sunday, 21 April 2013

    Pretty farfalle pasta with some of our favourite ingredients

    If Sylvia had her way she would eat tofu bacon all the time.  If E had his way every meal would have chillies in it.  If I had my way I would eat pumpkin every day, preferably roasted.  Without chillies.  You see, I am not a big fan of chillies.  However I like to have them fresh every now and again.  So when Shaheen of Allotment to Kitchen announced that chillies was the theme of Pasta Please this month, I made a pasta with tofu bacon, pumpkin and chillies.  Something for everyone!

    Given that I am not the biggest fan of chillies so when I have them I don't want them so hot that steam is coming out my ears.  I have had too many bad experiences in the past.  The chillies in this pasta dish seemed spicy enough when I tested them.  In the pasta they didn't make much of an impact until my last mouthful.  Suddenly I was hit by a mouthful of pleasing heat.  Sylvia does not like spicy food.  But she tells us chillies are good for winter because they warms you up. 

    As an aside, recently I have realised that I have a lower tolerance for chillies than I used to because I cook for myself so much these days.  When I lived in student houses with others who loved chillies I would be challenged to eat it more.  Blogging has been great in encouraging me to try other foods but less so in convincing me to eat more chillies.  So I am grateful to Shaheen for the gentle nudge.

    The pasta was also inspired by having some special colourful stripey farfalle that I have bought before.  It kept its colour better this time than last time.  No doubt, I must have cooked it too long last time.  (A friend also suggested that more colour leeches out if the water is not hot enough.)  Sylvia ate her pasta plain and loved choosing the colours of each piece.  For us, this pasta requiree a very simple olive oil based sauce with few other ingredients to hide it.

    It is not the quickest of recipes.  Yet if you have a little time and some tofu bacon in the fridge, it is fairly straight forward.  Most of the time is in the cooking rather than the preparation.  I have written what I have done with what I had but this is the sort of recipe that can be quite flexible depending on your available ingredients.

    Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
    One year ago: WSC Chocolate Nut Roast with Chocolate Gravy
    Two years ago:  GF Tim Tams, Hot Cross Buns and Haggis Pizza
    Three years ago: Honest soup inspired by a Farmers Market
    Four years ago: Easter Nut Roast and Feasting
    Five years ago: Family Favourite: Chocolate Pudding

    Farfalle with pumpkin, facon and chilli
    An original recipe from Green Gourmet Giraffe
    serves 2

    500g pumpkin, peeled, trimmed and diced
    3-5 tbsp olive oil, divided
    good pinch of French lavender salt (or sea salt)
    1 garlic clove, finely chopped
    200g farfalle (butterfly or bowtie pasta)
    1/4 batch of tofu bacon (aka 'facon')
    juice of 1/4 to 1/2 lemon
    60g goats cheese, crumbled
    basil leaves to garnish
    1/2 red chilli, finely sliced (or more if you like spicy food)

    Toss the pumpkin with about 1 tbsp olive oil salt, and garlic until they are soft inside and starting to brown on the outside.  (I cooked mine for about 45 minutes at 230 C.  I added my garlic after 30 minutes but as other ovens may be quicker, I was reluctant to advise about when to add it.)  Set aside. Fry tofu bacon in some olive oil until crispy and set aside.

    Cook the farfalle in boiling salted water for 8-10 minutes or as directed on your packet.  (Mine said 8-10 minutes which didn't seem very precise for pasta.)

    Drain pasta and toss through the pumpkin, tofu bacon, olive oil and lemon juice.  Check the olive oil and lemon juice for taste.  The garnishes will add saltiness and flavour but you still want to check the olive oil and lemon juice shine through just enough and have the right balance.  To serve, top with goats cheese, basil and chilli.

    On the Stereo:
    The Sounds of the Smiths

    Friday, 19 April 2013

    WSC Chocolate Chip and Honey Scones

    Driving home from kinder, Sylvia told me about the Mini Maestros visitor who had sung songs and had a kissing bee.  Actually I have decided she would make a great politician because most of the time when I ask her about her day, the answer is don't remember.  Planning dinner is another thing altogether.  She loves to give advice.  I had leftover tomato soup and suggested I make us savoury scones.  Sylvia insisted they should be sweet.

    I didn't have choc chips so I chopped up a block of 70% dark chocolate.
    With sultanas, she suggested.  I gently reminded her that she picks sultanas out of most baked goods these days.  Maybe dates?  Too big.  Chocolate?  That got a big smile from my little girl and started my mind ticking over.  Choclette has chosen honey for the We Should Cocoa blog event this month and I have had all sorts of wonderful ideas about what to make.  I've considered adding chocolate to Delia's honey spice cake, Meat Free Mondays' baked apples, popcorn snack bars and even Deb's amazing Bee Sting Cake.

    The dough was far stickier than traditional scone dough but it was easy enough to pat out with lots of flour.
    Then on that car ride home, I suddenly decided I could add some honey to the choc chip scones.  They must be white scones with choc chips, insisted Sylvia.  (Unlike my dad who cannot abide choc chips in baking!)  At home I found an approximate recipe and devised ways to make it a little healthier.  I found this useful advice on substituting honey for sugar.  After our soup, Sylvia had a bath and I baked the scones.

    Watching honey drizzle is one of the small pleasures of life.
    By the time we had sampled a scone, Sylvia was ready for bed.  (Well E and I thought her ready for bed.  She disagreed but went to sleep quickly after reading about Dame Slap's School in the Enchanted Wood.)  E and I then had a cup of tea and a buttered scone in front of Folk Britannia.

    Cutting through the chunks of chocolate was quite a challenge for my scone cutter.
    The scones were lovely and soft, despite my decision to use some wholemeal flour, using less baking powder and not letting the dough rest.  It was a particularly sticky dough but I just didn't have time for it to rest if Sylvia was going to taste one.  In fact as I ate the scones, the wholemeal flour seemed so right.  I think it reminded me of that hippy 1970s thing of combining honey and wholemeal flour in baking.  Then I had a go at presenting them with a doily, as recommended by the CWA (which is about as far from the hippy vibe as you can get).

    I know what you are thinking!  That is a truckload of scones.  Which is why some of them are the freezer.
    I was quite excited when Choclette challenged us to make a chocolate and honey recipe.  Some of my favourite recipes (below) feature this combination.  Honey is a wonderful sweetener because it has such depth of flavour and the stickiness give a lovely softness to baked goods.  (I once baked a dish using honey in one batch and maple syrup in another and the texture of the honey batch was far superior.)  Whenever I taste honey (and it is not often) I am filled with nostalgia.  It takes me back to childhood lunches that finished with soft fresh white bread, spread with slabs of butter and pools of golden honey.  Oh joy!  The best honey was yellow box, according to a presentation that we had at our primary school (in the days before everyone got excited about manuka and Dame Slap got changed to Dame Snap in The Enchanted Wood.)

    Chocolate chip and honey scones in a bowl on some doilies.
    Choclette has noted the Cornish bees have had a hard time of it lately.  It seems this is the case in Australia too.  We spoke to a beekeeper at the recent CERES Harvest Festival who was telling us how there has been a downturn for honey production in Australia.  (According to this report, it is due to climate change).  For those locals interested in honey, there is a Honey Week Celebration at the Collingwood Children's Farm on Sunday 28 April this year.

    Chocolate chip and honey scones on a doily on a plate.  Not quite up to CWA standards but better.
    Enough rambling thoughts about honey.  I am looking forward to Choclette's round up of chocolate and honey treats.  Meanwhile here are a few favourites from my blog and some tempting recipes from around the interwebs.

    My blog
    Choc Honey Muffins
    Honey, Yoghurt and Chocolate Cake
    Chocolate macaroons
    Wattleseed cashew truffles

    Elsewhere on the interwebs:
    Chocolate popcorn - Simply Scratch
    Cinnamon Honey Stars - Chocolate Log Blog
    Homemade Honey Oat Crackers with Chocolate-Yogurt Dip - Oh Shine On
    Honey whole wheat chocolate chip banana bread -  Ambitious Kitchen
    Honey chocolate cake - Nigella

    Choc chip and honey scones
    Adapted from
    makes 36 small scones
    • 3 cups (750ml) self raising flour (I used half wholemeal, half white)
    • 200g dark chocolate, chopped (I used 70%)
    • 1 tsp (5ml) bicarbonate of soda
    • 50g butter
    • 3 tbsp (45ml) honey*
    • 1 egg
    • 1 cup (250ml) milk (I used soy)
    • 1/2 cup (125ml) plain yoghurt
    • extra flour for patting out dough
    • extra milk for glazing
    Preheat oven to 230 C and lightly grease 2 baking trays.

    Mix flour, chocolate and bicarb soda in a medium large mixing bowl.  Melt the butter in a large jug in the microwave (or a little saucepan on the stovetop).  Add honey, egg and milk and mix well.  Pour wet ingredients into dry and gently mix until all combined.  It will come together into a sticky dough.

    Liberally sprinkle flour on a clean surface and place the dough on the flour.  Sprinkle dough with more flour and pat down to about 1 1/2cm to 2cm thick.  (I think mine was more like 1 1/2cm which was fine for my small scones).  Take a round scone cutter and dip in flour.  Cut out scones and place on greased trays close together.  Very gently knead leftover scraps of dough and repeat the patting down on flour and cutting out scones.  Do this until no more scraps are left.  Brush milk over the tops of the scones.

    Bake scones for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown on top.  (If they brown quicker at the sides take these off the tray and return middle ones to the oven.)  Wrap scones in a clean teatowel and serve warm or at room temperature.

    *NOTE I couldn't taste the honey in the scones when hot out of the oven but it was there in the scones when room temperature.   When hot, I wondered about using twice as much honey next time and reducing some of the milk because the chocolate was so intense.  Once cooled the scones were sweet enough if you like a scone that isn't overly sweet.  I don't think they need butter but E likes a bit of butter on his scone.

    On the Stereo:
    Brick Walls and Barricades - Kasey Chapman

    Wednesday, 17 April 2013

    NCR Smoky spicy tomato soup

    I have just about stopped using Google Reader.  It is very liberating.  (Though I apologise if it means I am missing your posts.)  I have now added a few extra blogs to my blogroll on my side bar, including Lisa's Vegan Culinary Crusade.  That is how I found the smoky spicy tomato soup I ate for dinner tonight. 

    I wasn't feeling well and slept all afternoon.  When I finally got up it was dark, E had the heater on and Sylvia was ready for bed (there are advantages to having a husband home on sick leave).  Once we got Sylvia to bed, E turned on Margaret Thatcher's funeral.  (I highly recommend this reflection on her death.)

    I had been thinking about this soup and it seemed a good simple supper.  I changed the ingredients slightly to suit my kitchen.  I made one mistake - after all I was a bit befuddled with just waking up - and added stock powder because I foolishly tasted the soup before adding the nutritional yeast flakes.  Nothing a bit of maple syrup and yoghurt couldn't fix.  I also served it with avocado on toast.  Seasoning aside, I loved the combination of flavours in this soup and how hearty it was with the besan and nutritional yeast flakes.

    I am sending this soup to Jacqueline for No Croutons Required (a monthly vegetarian soup and salad event).  The theme this month is Indian spices.

    Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
    One year ago: Zucchini Layer Cake plus random thoughts
    Two years ago:  Autumn Apple Cake
    Three years ago: Butterscotch Bounty from Ricki
    Four years ago: Tupperware, Arran and Tomato Soup
    Five years ago: Relishing Rhubarb

    Smoky, spicy tomato soup
    serves 4
    • 1 tbsp olive oil 
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 2 tsp mustard seeds
    • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    • 2 tsp curry powder 
    • 1 tsp smoked paprika
    • 2 x 400g tins of diced tomatoes
    • 3 cups water
    • 1/2 cup chickpea flour (besan)
    • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast 
    • 6 sun dried tomatoes, roughly chopped with scissors
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt (I used 2 tsp stock powder but will stick to the salt in future)
    • pinch black pepper
    • yoghurt to serve (optional) 
    Heat olive oil in a large saucepan.  Fry onions for 5 - 10 minutes over medium high heat until soft (I did 5 but mine could have been softer).  Add mustard seeds and garlic and fry a few minutes more.  STir in curry powder and smoked paprika and then add remaining ingredients.  Gently simmer (with lid on if you don't want it splattering over your stovetop) for about 10 minutes.  Blend if desired (I didn't - it is creamy enough without blending).  Serve with yoghurt, if desired.

    On the Stereo:
    Ricochet Gathering, Mojave 2003: various artists

    Monday, 15 April 2013

    Couscous salad and reflections on the week

    You would think that with trying to rid the house of all the foodie magazines cluttering our corners that I wouldn't buy any new ones.  Unfortunately not.  So in an attempt to convince myself the purchase was justified, last week I bought a foodie magazine and made one of the recipes days later. 

    Recipes+ claimed I could make it in 20 minutes.  Unfortunately not.  By the time I had grated, chopped, toasted, fried, zested, worked out spices to use in lieu of a Moroccan spice mix and then ran out to the back yard to pick some mint, it was far longer than 20 minutes.  I found the salad not quite right.  After the first night I found that goats cheese gave it the pick-me-up it needed.  (Perhaps avocado would have worked just as well.)  The salad lasted us a few days and was a great batch of leftovers to have in the fridge. 

    And now I have some random reflections on the week to share:

    Made me smile
    • I woke on the weekend from a great dream that I had a packet of pringles chips that were flavoured walnut, chocolate and cheese.  Hugh Grant was my boss so I offered him one.  (Oh please let this dream come true just so long as Hugh isn't a sleazy boss like in Bridget Jones.)
    • Today I bumped into a friend from college.  He said I hadn't changed at all over all the years since we both lived in the East Wing!
    • E was tidying up and found an Epping line train timetable from 2004.  We really need to tidy up more often!
    • The comment on the radio that made me smile the most today was someone suggested that the way to cut down on too many solo drivers causing congestion in our city was to take away cars from the idiots on the road.  Hear, hear!  Though I worry that the more time I spend on the road with those idiots, the more I am in danger of being one of them.

    Memorable newsworthy moments of the last week

    Made me think:
    • Creativity is frequently born out of boredom. Boredom is good. ... When kids are bored they are more likely to invent their own games.  Red Ted Art reflects on The Importance of Play Part 1, and Part 2.
    • News is to the mind what sugar is to the body, claims Rolf Dobelli in article in the Guardian, 'News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier', 12 April 2013.
    • The actions of this new majority, who refused to remain silent when confronted with racism, contribute to the building of new legacies, inclusive of all Australians.  Amelia John reflects in the Conversation (15 April 2013) on the most recent racist attack in Melbourne where the fellow train passengers turned against the racist.

    Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
    One year ago: Chocolate Raspberry Almond Cake amid the chaos
    Two years ago:  NCR Tricken Rice Soup with Celeriac
    Three years ago: PPN Mee Goreng
    Four years ago: Wholemeal Chocolate Cake
    Five years ago: The Nut Roast in History

    Moroccan chickpea and couscous salad
    Adapted from Recipes+, April 2013
    Serves 6

    1 1/2 cups couscous
    1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
    2 tbsp vegetable olive oil
    1 onion, cur into wedges (I chopped mine)
    1 tbsp Moroccan seasoning (I used 1/2 tsp each cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and dash of cayenne)
    400g tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
    2 carrots, grated
    1 lemon (about 2 tsp lemon zest and 2 tbsp lemon juice)
    1/2 cup flaked almonds, toasted
    1/2 cup torn mint leaves
    1/4 cup sultanas
    1/4 cup crumbled goats cheese (or avocado?)

    Place couscous and stock in a large bowl and cover for about 5 minutes.  Toast almonds.  Fry onion in 1 tbsp vegetable oil til soft (about 5 minutes).   Add spices and stir one minute.

    Mix all ingredients except goats cheese.  Scatter goats cheese on top to serve.

    On the Stereo:
    moondawn - Klaus Schulze