Friday, June 24, 2011

the winter solstice experiment

Twelve months ago I started an experiment on this site. To celebrate the winter solstice I shared some of my favourite healthy cookbooks and linked them to an online bookstore with affiliate sales, to raise money for a couple of my favourite charities. Some of you joined in and I added your suggestions to the list. Around summer solstice I updated the list and added a new donor.

So what did we raise for The Smith Family’s Learning for Life and Ian Thorpe’s Fountain of Youth? The princely sum is $286.53, which would have been more if Fishpond hadn’t halved its affiliate rate earlier this year. I’ve thrown in some bucks of my own and rounded it up to $400 in total.

I’m still on the lookout for healthy cookbooks – especially vegetarian ones that are simple to follow and don’t rely heavily on dairy or wheat. I’m also curious as to where you turn to for inspiration cooking seafood and if you have any vegetable gardening books that ring your bell.

The healthy cookbook roundup

Here’s the list, with a few new favourites added since the last update. Anything else you'd add to the list?

Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook
Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook has been popular with those who went shopping on Fishpond.

Veg In: Simple Vegetarian Dishes from Around the World
Melbourne’s own Flip Shelton’s latest offering Veg In: Simple Vegetarian Dishes from Around the World ticked all my boxes.

How to Cook Everything: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food: Vegetarian
How to Cook Everything: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food: Vegetarian
I'm a big fan of Mr Bittman and I think this book is an absolute ripper for techniques and good vegetarian recipes.

Eastern Vegetarian Cooking
Eastern Vegetarian Cooking
This is probably my most tattered cookbook attesting to how often I've used it. Madhur taught me how to make dolmades, roll sushi and cook tasty simple dishes with pulses and grains. It's a cheap book and written for the British who've traditionally not been known for their cookery skills - so it is also suitable for beginners.

Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian: An Unrivalled Sourcebook of Over 600 Recipes and Ingredients from All Over the Globe
Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian: An Unrivalled Sourcebook of Over 600 Recipes and Ingredients from All Over the Globe
This is newer than my all time favourite and not limited to Eastern cuisine. It's the pick of one of my oldest vegetarian friends.

The Cook's Companion
The Cook's Companion
This might be too ambitious for a newbie but for those building some cooking confidence she covers basic techniques well but what makes this book a star for me is the list of other foods that the featured ingredients goes with.

The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen
The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen
If Nigel Slater was straight, and I believed in marriage, I'd tie the knot with this bloke because I like his writing so much. Wasn't Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger one of the best foodie memoirs ever written? I've included a couple of Slater books because not only is he a joy to read, his recipes are easy to follow and I figure for those who enjoy eating meat, you can't go better than his chicken roast.

Real Cooking
Real Cooking
More Slater love!

Feel Good Food
Feel Good Food
Another local chef/food writer to be proud of. Great macro inspired recipes.

The Asian Vegan Kitchen: Authentic and Appetizing Dishes from the Continent of Rich Flavors
The Asian Vegan Kitchen: Authentic and Appetizing Dishes from the Continent of Rich Flavors
Lisa's pick.

Jam Today: A Diary of Cooking with What You've Got
Jam Today: A Diary of Cooking with What You've Got
Lucy's pick.

The Yoga Cookbook: Vegetarian Food for Body and Mind
The Yoga Cookbook: Vegetarian Food for Body and Mind
Zoe's pick.

Edmonds Cookery Book
Edmonds Cookery Book
Ok not a health book but I was cruising the site and came across it. Other than my mother's tuition, the Edmonds ("Sure To Rise") cookbook was the one that taught me how to make afghan biscuits and fairy cakes.

And for those who like a serve a politics with their food

The Omnivore's Dilemma: The Search for a Perfect Meal in a Fast-food World
The Omnivore's Dilemma: The Search for a Perfect Meal in a Fast-food World
An eye-opening read, without the sledge-hammer approach of some other authors of the genre.

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
You can't get enough of "the thinking woman's crumpet".

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: Our Year of Seasonal Eating
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: Our Year of Seasonal Eating
Barbara Kingsolver's journey into the locavore lifestyle never goes out of season.

Give a little

Don’t forget it’s only a couple of days until the end of the financial year, wouldn’t you prefer to give your favourite charity a few dollars and be able to claim some of that back on tax?

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Coffee and art: a wet weekend in Newcastle

I came to wander around the foreshore but ended up hiding out in cafes and bookshops. All is not lost when the rain buckets down on the 9th best city in the world.

I’ll be honest, when I hit the Newcastle CBD early on a drizzly Saturday afternoon I wondered if the city was closed for the weekend. When the first of the recommended cafes came into sight I brightened. One Penny Black gets repeated mention in social media for the best coffee in Newcastle. Barely bigger than a hole in the wall, it’d be more at home in a Melbourne laneway than a rather sad looking mall. The food also hit the spot. Though the menu is limited to mainly toasties, they had a better than average vegan offering of falafel on toast with hommos, rocket and sweet chilli sauce. It worked.

The coffee was good.

Just above OPB, one of the many Renew Newcastle initiatives has set up shop. Currently showing at the ARThive gallery is Art Vandelay: an exhibition about nothing, a quirky homage to Seinfeld group show. I loved the stuffed dolls depicting the main characters.

For an art loving visitor artist run initiatives are a boon. It means there’ll always be an artist on hand to pick their brains for local knowledge. The exhibitor at ARThive sent us up the road to the Lock Up to catch the end of an artist talk and exhibition. Happily Ever After explores female narratives within the fairy tale genre. This group show covers a variety of media, including some exquisite artists books. The exhibition will be touring later in the year so keep an eye on the blog for details. It’s worth a look.

The Lock-up museum documents both the inmates and the police who locked them up. The Dickensian cells were in use ‘til the early 1980’s. Some are now incorporated into the gallery space but the padded cell is a statement in itself. Not for the claustrophobic.

Just opposite the Cultural Centre we spied a Balinese Restaurant. The friendly people at the surf shop next door gave it the thumbs up, so it was earmarked for dinner later that night. Bali Corner smelt great, a sure sign that fragrant fresh herbs are used rather than pre-made substitutes. Actually it was the aroma wafting from the closed restaurant that made me want to come back. The owner/chef chatted to me as I eyed up the menu on the door, she’s the real deal and I’m happy we trekked back up Hunter Street once the sun went down. We sampled some prawn and corn fritters, fish cakes (more Thai in flavour than Indonesian), a steamed fish curry (great flavour and presentation but a little over cooked) and the omnivore ate something meaty. The food was good, though Warung Agus in Melbourne sets a higher bar. Sadly we’d headed off without an umbrella and the clouds had opened. Once there was a break in the deluge we didn’t linger and set off at a fast to walk back to our hotel.

The plan had been to leisurely wander back via the waterfront, have a drink by the water and make it a late night. Oh well. Maybe next time.

Another recommendation for coffee and food was “anywhere in Darby Street”. Like a mini-Brunswick Street, the road connects the CBD with the inner suburb of Cooks Hill. It’s a short walk from Hunter Street. There was a good selection of cafes to choose from but we headed for another pick from a friendly local (can you see a trend here? All the Novocastrians we met were delightful and helpful). Grind was packed but we managed to nab the last table as the torrential rain ramped up once more. It’s cosy inside and the staff did a great job at delivering service with a smile and efficiency. The architecture and layout in Newcastle reminded me a lot of Wellington but it was the cafes that nailed the connection. Almost every breakfast menu had fritters of some sort. As I can’t pass up a taste of home, I opted for the corn and shallot fritters and wasn’t disappointed. The waitress helped me vegetarian-ise the order, swapping bacon for mushrooms, but it didn’t need the additional side as the fritters, stacked with crushed avocado and tomatoes, were whoppers. We lingered in the warmth over a second excellent cup of coffee and headed out into the damp once more.

Darby Street is dotted with independent stores, including the whimsical Blackbird Corner. It’s a handmade haven packed with clothes, magazines, jewellery, cards, decorations and Lomo cameras. Pop in and chat to the delightful owners and buy yourself a treat from the reasonable priced goods on offer.

But when it came to bargains, a second hand store down the road won the prize. We got lost in the shelves of Cooks Hill Books and Records for over an hour. A great mix of quality recently released novels, genre fiction and non-fiction. Oh and they have vinyl too. Judy Garland for $5? Yes thank you very much. The shop flows through a number of rooms but is well displayed, not overwhelming like some second hand book stores. I have to wait for my stash of books (including a 1930s British Grocers handbook) to arrive when the Significant Eater drives south next week, as my carry-on only baggage couldn’t fit them.

Opposite the Queen Street entrance to the shop is the rear of the Newcastle Regional Art Gallery. Their exhibitions were the jewel in the crown of our art crawl. A well proportioned gallery, big enough to spend an hour or two but not so large you have to bolt through the shows to see everything. Currently on display are two collections of Australian art, both studded with gems, Citizen Collectors and Laverty 2. These included works by Richard Larter, Patricia Piccinini and Rosalie Gascoigne, as well as some stunning indigenous art.

Outside the rain continued to pour and the drains over-flowed. Time to hit the road for Sydney, with promises to return. But perhaps, next time, it will be in summer.

Don’t go to Newcastle without:

Printing off the Renew Newcastle map to inform your art and craft crawl.

Flicking through the Novocastrian Files, a great blog chronicling the best of indie Newcastle. The interviewees’ favourite places to eat, drink and shop are also a wonderful resource.


One Penny Black
111 Hunter Street, Newcastle

ARThive Gallery
1/111 Hunter Street, Newcastle

The Lock-up Cultural Centre
90 Hunter Street, Newcastle

Bali Corner
95 Hunter St, Newcastle

Grind Coffee Co
127 Darby St, Cooks Hill

Blackbird Corner
90 Darby St, Cooks Hill

Cooks Hill Books and Records
72 Darby St, Cooks Hill

Newcastle Regional Art Gallery
Laman Street Newcastle

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Friday, June 03, 2011

The meaty business of turning vegetarian

The biggest stir round these parts has been the Four Corners documentary on Monday, exposing the inhumane practices inflicted on animals due to live exports. As a result there are a lot of omnivores who've been put off eating meat.

The problem, nutritionally, is it's not just about dropping the meat. There's a whole heap of misinformation about vegan and vegetarian diets. So if you're a bit confused about sorting fact from fiction - check out this simple guide to becoming vegetarian.

If you've taken the plunge and experimenting with a meat-free diet - the majority of recipes on this site fit the bill. Just start cruising the "vegetarian" box on the drop down menu on the right side of this page.

For cooking in and eating out in Melbourne (and beyond) start with Cindy and Michael's delightful blog Where's the Beef?. These guys are responsible for the addictive soy bombs being made in every vego house in the city!

Heidi Swanson's cookbooks and blog 101 Cookbooks are a goldmine of wonderful recipes. Her generous site allows you to search for meal ideas by ingredient and she's formatted the recipes so they can be easily printed.

My two favourite local cookbooks (yes, I've mentioned them before) are Flip Shelton's Veg In, perfect for beginners and those converting to vegetarian food (full of vego "take away" recipes) and Tony Chiodo's Feel Good Food. Both make perfect gifts for those who've seen the light about live exports but don't quite know how to make the transition to a more meat-free diet.

Happy cow-free eating!

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