Saturday, March 31, 2007

pumpkin and chickpea salad

About time for a recipe don’t you think?

Earlier in the week a made a version of Heidi’s wonderful lemon-scented quinoa salad from 101 cookbooks. I love tahini and lemon juice so any dish including those elements is a winner for me.

Last night I used a similar dressing (no olive oil, extra garlic and lemon) for this delightful vegan concoction. It was a winner.

Pumpkin and chickpea salad with tahini dressing

1/2 medium sized pumpkin
1 can organic chickpeas, drained and well rinsed
1 medium sized red onion, finely sliced
a generous handful (or a whole bunch), coriander, ripped or chopped

Cook the pumpkin by your preferred method. I was lazy so I put the oven on high, cut it into a few large chunks and let it bake with no oil for about 30 minutes - til tender without being too soft. Once cool enough to handle, remove skin and cut into bite sized cubes.

Add the remaining ingredients and toss with the dressing below.

Tahini, lemon and garlic dressing

1-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons hot water
pinch of sea salt

Combine in a bowl or jug.

What can I say? It was fabulous! Almost enough to make me want to be a full-time vegan.


Not so naked!

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Thursday, March 29, 2007


The temperature is dropping and along with it comes a host of possibilities.

I used to feel a little bit of melancholy as the summer gave way to autumn. I’d grieve the passing of the stone fruits, juicy cheap mangoes, Asian salads with crispy greens and fragrant herbs. This year our drought-frizzled city is sighing at a sprinkling of rain and nights cool enough for delicious sleep, snuggled under the doona. Cooler season food is hardly a punishment. Slower cooked food with deeper flavour, the earthy comfort of hot potatoes and stewed rhubarb for breakfast!

This morning at the market the hardier, leafy greens and the sturdier fruits spoke to me. In the basket came home these possibilities.

A cabbage and potatoes to make colcannon.

Silverbeet with onion, garlic and lemon.

Stewed apples with sultanas and cinnamon.

Pears poached in port.

What food’s speaking to you in your neighbourhood at the moment?

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Weekend review: the good, bad and indifferent

Good: Spying the Emily McPherson Collection of antique cookbooks in the RMIT library, The Alderman, Rumi – pumpkin, rice and cauliflower dishes, the Significant Eaters Saturday night vegetarian bake, Beryl’s sparkles and wonderful smoked trout salad at Babka, I-can’t-fit-another-mouthful vego big breakfast at Black Ruby, great company, watching DVD's by candlight on the new laptop when we came home to a power outage, rain on Friday, a cool night for sleeping on Sunday.

Indifferent: Fish kebabs at Rumi – great tahini dressing but the fish could have been a lot better.

Bad: Wet jeans and feet dampening a great night out, the acoustics at Rumi, neighbours arguing in the dark til at least 3 am again (I always want to put my head out the window and scream “Just leave the arrogant bastard and then we can all get some sleep!”), the fridge door beeping at 5.30 am when the power came back on.

How was your weekend?


Monday, March 19, 2007

another one for the owl and the pussycat

“They dined on mince, and slices of quince, Which they ate with a runcible spoon; And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand, They danced by the light of the moon”

There were a number of times during the day that I thought that making quince paste was Not A Good Idea.

The first was even before I had begun. Just looking at the recipe which used terms like – ‘wrap your arm in a dishcloth to prevent burning from the molten like splashes of the bubbling puree’. This was the same puree that needed to be stirred “every few minutes for 3-4 hours”.

So I ditched Stephanie Alexander and I went on the web and found a Women’s Weekly recipe that mentioned nothing about 1st degree burns and estimated the lava would only need to bubble for 1.5 hours and the stirring would only be demanded every 5-10 minutes.

Next was tackling the actual fruit. A have never cooked quinces before and about half way through hacking apart the first one I considered giving up. I valiantly made it through peeling, coring and chopping 4 of the little rocks before I retired due to the rapidly increasing blister on my knife hand.

The WW recipe niftily suggested getting the needed pectin boost from the seeds and cores by putting them in a muslin bag and hanging it in the pot for the first round of cooking. I knew I had a roll of the cloth hiding somewhere and half an hour later I found it and carried on with the process.

Strangely I wasn’t deterred.

After simmering the roughly chopped fruit for about half an hour (siphoning off some of the excess juice and giving it to the sick one in the house to drink) I made the executive decision to puree the fruit by pushing it through a sieve. Stephanie had muttered something about a food processor but had used terms that I had never associated with my machine – something about certain types of blades, that I dared not do it the modern way. First sieveful into the chore, I had another serious NAGI moment. This process was almost as labour intensive as the peeling, coring, dicing ritual. Just when I had almost finished this seemingly endless job, I had another epiphany that this was a really dumb idea when I inadvertently dumped half the sifted out bits of core into my beautiful bowl of puree. I looked at the food processor but even then didn’t trust it. So instead I spent more time plucking out bits of not smooth quince with my (clean) bare hands.

By now I was really having a NAGI moment.

But I carried on.

Having weighed the pulp I consulted the 2 recipes as to how much sugar to add. WW said weight for weight, while Stephanie suggested the sugar could be only 3/4 of the weight of the puree. But when I found that what remained of the 4 quinces weighed in at well over 2 kg I stumbled. There was only 1 kg of sugar in the cupboard. How vital was the sugar to set the paste I wondered? I really can’t tolerate sweet food much any more, so I blundered on pouring in the packet of raw sugar that seemed enormous.

Now the stirring would begin.

I added my own twist, the heat diffuser mat and stoically set the timer for 5 minute intervals. The puree really did have a lot of lumps still in it. Could I just give up at this point and dump the lot? No, while the mixture grew in heat, I fished out a fair few of the now sugar coated lumps and absentmindedly sucked on them. Ten minutes later the sweetness was making me nauseous and a very serious NAGI moment ensued.

I looked optimistically at the clock – if the WW was right on the time estimate the paste would be in the oven drying by bedtime. If Stephanie’s longest estimate was correct – it was going to be a very long night.

After over 2 hours of stirring every 5 minutes, concerned that I was tempting fate cooking a pot of curry on the same stove (that’s all I needed, to stir the paste with the wrong spoon) I was finally convinced that the now ruby coloured concoction was pulling away from the sides of the pot on stirring.

As much as I suspected that Stephanie was right and another hour or two would produce a thicker, richer mass – quite frankly I’d had enough having already muttered “If I ever talk about making quince paste again – stop me!” to the Significant Eater, twice over the last handful of hours. So I went ahead and poured the couple of kilos of sugary fruit pulp into a pyrex loaf dish and some small silicon mini muffins moulds and put them in a very low oven til bedtime. Over night I turned the heat off but left the fan running and by morning the paste had dried (despite my fears that the lower sugar content would prevent them from setting).

So the proof is in the pudding, or the paste in this case. They are sweet and fruity set to a dry-ish jelly. Of course they would be perfect with sheep’s milk cheese – but for now I might just have it as an occasional sweet hit on crackers.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

things go better with coke?

A wonderful photo op on yesterday's Stop the War march.

(Apologies from to my free thinking US readers)


Saturday, March 17, 2007


On market day an unexpected delivery arrived. A long promised $30 box of seasonal fruit from a farm on the Murray. Freshly picked, a tray of fruit weighing half my body weight arrived bearing quinces, pears, apples, peaches, grapes and some home preserved peaches as well. Along with the apples and peaches from the market and grapes from our own vine there is rather a glut of goodness this week.

Not sure whether there is enough quinces to make paste, but at least the apples and pears will last a while longer. Anyone got any dairy free peach (or quince) ideas they'd for me?

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Friday, March 16, 2007

healing soup

I went to the accupuncturist yesterday. A very softly spoken man who gently punctured my body with fine needles.

"You need building up" he told me. "Try steamed fish and sweet vegetables"

In the fridge I had flathead fillets fresh from the market. They had given me the bones as well for soup. Four pairs of eyes watched me ast I skinned the flesh from the skin and rather vocally requested some tidbits. Life really was so much easier with only one cat!

Flathead 'tails' are really not the best shape for steaming, so despite the 30c evening I made the gentlest and freshest of soups.

Healing soup

First simmer the bones in water to make stock: Really this is very easy, use the head too if you have it, cover with an ample amount of cold water, bring to the boil then simmer for about 15 minutes. Strain to use the stock.

Fish stock
Ginger root, finely sliced
A little garlic, crushed or sliced
1 chilli, finely sliced (go easy, to be medicinal the soup needs not to be "too stimulating"
Fresh shitake mushrooms, sliced (or dried and reconstituted, adding the soaking water to the stock)
Carrots, sliced
Zucchini, sliced
Chinese brocolli, or other dark greens, chopped

Simmer ingredients in stock til tender.

Small pieces of fish
Some fresh corriander, roughly chopped

Cook for another 3-5 minutes til fish just cooked.

Then add a dash or 2 of fish sauce to season.

The stock was rich and full of goodness. I slightly under cooked the vegetables, due to the weather, dubbing it "salad soup". It was delcious and I certainly hope had built some inner resources for the days ahead.

Variations: The Significant Eater added more chilli and some fresh lime to his.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

the vegetable meme

Cindy from 'Where's the beef?' tagged me for this meme.

1. Is there a vegetable you hated as a child, but came to love as you got older?

I have always been a fussy eater and there was a plethora of veg I didn’t eat as a child (though even if I lived on cabbage, cauliflower, carrots and potatoes most of the time – I did eat vegetables every day.) Now I like them all except cooked peas. Probably two of the childhood strong dislikes I enjoy most now are pumpkin and spinach. Heck – I’ll even eat silverbeet (chard) now as long as its cooked with lots of garlic, onion and lemon.

2. Most underrated vegetable?

Parsnips. We never ate them at home but I have a strong memory of the neighbours dishing me up mashed carrot and parsnip and thinking it was the most delicious vegetable I had ever eaten. In London my housemates got me onto parsnip chips – finely sliced longitudinally, brushed with oil and sea salt, then baked in the oven.

3. Name one favourite summer vegetable dish.

I like Thai salads, flavoured with lime, fish sauce and a little sugar. The recent Green Mango salad was delish. (I know it’s a fruit, though green its much more like a veg, there were other salad ingredients in it too!).

4. And one for winter?

Vegetable pies or curries. Or a vegetable curry with lots of root vegetables and turning the leftovers into pies the next day!

Winter is a good excuse to eat lots of spuds. Last year I started making my own version of colcannon, which can be a bit addictive. It's cold weather comfort food at its best.

5. What vegetables are in your fridge and freezer right now?

Fennel, mixed lettuces, zucchini, carrots, sweet potato, onion, potato, eggplants, corn on the cob, brocolli, Lebanese cucumbers, shitake mushrooms…There are tomatoes and parsley too but they aren’t strictly veg.

None in the freezer, that’s for vodka, ice, fish stock and the cats’ meat!

6. Is there a vegetable you really like but don't make much yourself?

Beetroot – especially baked. There is an apple-like sweetness when it is cooked this way, nothing like the earthy rawness of raw beetroot. In London the local market in Dalston sold beetroot freshly cooked. I can still see the steam coming off it on a cold morning. Why don't I cook it that often now? I just don’t like having red hands!

If you haven't done the vegetable meme yet and it tickles your fancy, consider yourself tagged :)

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Yu-u and me

Address: 137 Flinders Lane (enter from Oliver Lane)
Phone: 9639 7073
Cost: the dishes are reasonably priced but many are very small, so you need to eat a lot of them. The wine list is reasonable. With wine $50-70 per person depending on appetite and thirst.

So much has been written already about the anonymity of this eatery. It’s Melbourne. We have laneways. This is a modern take on hunting and gathering so enjoy the search for you will be handsomely rewarded in the end.

Once you push open the rather heavy door, you know you have entered a different world. Furnished with sparse elegance, the jarrah bar such a nice change from the usual chunky pine furniture that haunts Japanese establishments. There is a kind of hush, a reverential atmosphere – though depending on the clientele this is not always true. Do not be fooled, no matter how hopeful you may feel about spotting an empty seat at the bar or a space at the table, it is rare for you to be seated at night without a booking.

For the first time I could enter the place with confidence. Yes, we had a booking and our chairs awaited us at the end of the u shaped bar. We had arrived!

The menu is very reasonable, but this is mainly because some of the dishes are mere mouthfuls. But as each tastebud is stimulated with every morsel, it doesn’t matter. You can always order more.

Slowly assemble a selection of little dishes to share. Try to remember to get at least one item from the lovingly fanned char grill in front of you.

Don’t skimp on the wine. Though a small list, it a carefully assembled and very reasonably priced.

So what did we eat?

Kingfish sashimi - 6 little triangles of tender wonderment.

Avocado and salmon sashimi in sweet miso dressing – a very modest mouthful, but every little bit of it was wonderful.

King George Whiting tempura – once more minimalist, but up there with the finest mouthful of fish that I have ever experienced.

Prawn dumplings – not encased in your run of the mill wrapper, these were crafted in ribbons of flat noodles. Sensational.

Agadashi tofu – a perfect version of this classic dish with the best dried bonito flakes in the city.

Salmon on rice in a green tea broth – there was the slight bitterness from the tea and a hit of wasabi – an interesting combo.

Char grilled rice cake – well we wanted something from the rake thin yakitori chef’s fine fan waving hands and as 99% of it was chicken, a little bit of ballast seemed like a fine idea. It was deliciously char grilled and tasty.

We drank: 2005 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Riesling. Sublime and affordable at less than $40 a bottle.

Yu-u is not the place to eat if you have a huge appetite or don’t like Japanese food. It is a temple of taste and a true Melbourne Foodie experience. Take a note from the Japanese diners who remember to order some greens with their meal and a little soba, to make it more balanced.

And don’t forget to book!


Marie for taking the photos and her sparkling company.

The bankrupt business man for providing the unexpected entertainment.

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feeding the muse

Lucette from the deliciously titled blog “My Novel on Toast” mused about food for writers. Her preferred fuel is dark chocolate and I have to agree that it is the queen of foods for the long haul at the keyboard.

When you need to produce a report, essay, chunk of work or commune with the muse, what is your fuel?

Being a bit Virgo (ok anal retentive if you prefer) it’s important for me that it won’t be too messy, something that can be cleanly eaten preferably with the hands. Nothing too oily to make the keys slippery or too likely to spill. Chocolate, providing the room is not too hot, fits the bill with ease.

As a student I discovered Sarotti Extra. This German chocolate was particularly bitter and it was a precise science to balance enough of the sweet drug to keep me working without it keeping me awake all night – about 6 squares later than 8pm was my maximum. A powerful food. The closest milk bar conveniently sold it at the time but these days it is a rarer find. Fortunately with strong dark Lindt so cheap and available, hunting Sarotti is no longer a necessary writer's sport.

Of savoury foods, toast with vegemite seems a good lark, but be careful – crumbs in the keyboard just will not do.

A few rice crackers and dip – hummus, babaganoush or tarama would be my choice, can be popped in the mouth as needed.

A banana, conveniently packaged so there is no sweet residue, is the perfect fruit to avoid sticky fingers.

But most of all water is a necessity – a dry brain is a sure thing to keep the words away.

What fuels your work at the computer?

Thanks to Kitchen hand for bringing this subject up.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

A quick week of food round up

Sunday - breakfast at Black Ruby, extremely good "Vegetarian Big Breakfast", always wonder why I don't go there more often.

Saturday - scrambed eggs and hash browns at home, grapes straight from the vine, spectacular whole Blue Eye baked with a tahini/harrisa/tomato sauce whipped up by the Significant Eater.

Friday - Lunch at Sushi Monger (the tuna and salmon chirashi for a change), drinks and tapas at Geralds Bar (ceviche was delish), dinner at Zum Zums for the wonderful snapper and felafels.

Thursday - Shopping at Vic Market, blog lunch at Enoteca (if you ask very nicely they will make a vegan panini to go with the microscopic orange juice), very delicious marinated in garlic, smokey paprika and olive oil (more on that later).

Wednesday - Tuna patties and salad at cafe mediterraneum for lunch, a drink at Kitten Club and the highlight of the week - DINNER AT YU-U at last! (Review coming). on earth am I expected to remember back that far? I think it will be fruit, muesli and salad for the next week.


Monday, March 05, 2007


Why did it take me so long to change over to the new blogger?

I have been retro-labelling posts, over half way there already but it will take me a while to get through the whole shaboodle.

Clickable tags to gather a bundle of posts on the same theme include: recipes and more specifically - vegetarian, seafood, breakfast etc, reviews (of restaurants), thoughts on cooking (for rants about cooking and eating), photos (posts with original photos, please respect copyright), detox (the really healthy food) and much more.



Thursday, March 01, 2007

we are the future of food and the media!

My rant the other day has spurred on Ed at Tomatom to arrange a little meet up for those who want talk about foodblogging and the possility of a real life (or virtual) food blog event.

All the details are at Tomatom - fellow foodies and stalkers please join us at Enoteca, in Gertrude Street, next Thursday (8th March) at 12.30.

I'll be the one with the shiny new macbook asking the waiter "Do you have anything that's meat and dairy-free?"


more meals than words

A quickie to summarise the food oriented week:

An average meal at The Kent Hotel.

Delicious sauvignon blanc at Geralds Bar.

The Slow Food market at the Convent – delicious organic corn, oysters shucked as you wait.

The Significant Eaters makes his fist Chilli Crab (sensational).

More experimentation with fresh curry pastes – gather the spices you love and just do it (almost as sensational as the crab).

More inspirational cooking making a vegan bake – layers of grilled eggplant with a lentil/tomato filling, topped with grilled potato and paprika (very yummy).

Tamarind and chilli crab at Chin Chins at Koto Moon.

Off to the market to get inspired all over again!


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