Tuesday, January 31, 2012

raw fruit pie

The vegan summer* continues. As it’s been an unusual month, throwing my blogging mojo way off centre, excuse me starting in the middle rather than the beginning of the journey.

As a student for four years in my 20’s, most of what I cooked was vegan by default. All the shared houses were nominally vegetarian (what we ate outside of home varied somewhat). There was the odd egg but the sparse kitty could rarely stretch to seafood.

Recently I unearthed my hand written recipe collection from that time and revisited what I used to eat. Beans, lentils, curries, pies, risotto, tofu balls and soups appeared to be on high rotation. But desserts, bar the odd cake, didn’t get a look in.

One exception being a raw fruit pie introduced to me by a flatmate who’d grown up in the 70s with an older, hippy sister who went on a raw food diet (somewhere between rebirthing and following some guru or another). It’s more than 20 years since I made the “pie” and the recipe is a tad vague but strangely legible. I remember there being oats in the base, yet they’re only mentioned as an after thought and I don’t recall ever cooking with fresh coconut. The size of pie dish, consistency of filling and other details remain absent.

I tweaked the original recipe a bit but stayed true to the memory of the dish. It must have been good because we had seconds, barely leaving any for breakfast.

The original recipe is at the end of this post, for what it’s worth.

Raw fruit pie


3/4 c rolled oats, ground

1/2 c raw pistachios, ground

1/2 c raw almonds, ground

(other nuts or seeds can be substituted)

1/2 c dates, pitted and chopped

(other dried fruit can be substituted)

3/4 c desiccated coconut

1 tsp cinnamon, ground

1/4 cup coconut milk

Water, if needed

1/4 c honey

Soak oats and dried fruit in coconut milk and a little water, for about half an hour until softened. Combine with remaining ingredients and blend in a food processor.

Grease a pie dish (I used a 25 cm flan dish) with coconut oil. Push the rather sticky base into the bottom of the pan. It seems too little but will make it to the outer reaches with gentle coaxing. Rest it in freezer for 15 minutes.


3 medium sized apples, grated

2 tabs lemon juice

3 bananas, mashed

1 tsp coconut cream (the solids in the canned coconut milk)

1/2 cup desiccated coconut

Blend ingredients in food processor and spoon onto the base. Refrigerate til ready to serve.

Before serving decorate with fresh fruit. I used slices of kiwi and banana but any fruit will do such as fresh berries or orange segments.

A quick outdoor shot at 7.30 pm, excuse the dullness of the photo

The original recipe (somewhere between rebirthing and guru worship)


1/2 c dates

1/2 c sultanas

1 cup sunflower seeds

1/4 c almonds’

1/4c fresh coconut (its not clear if this was the juice or flesh)

1/4 c desiccated coconut

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup honey

Soak fruit 1 hour. Grind nuts and seeds. Combine ingredients til smooth in food processor. Press into pie dish to form a crust. Put in freezer ~ 15 minutes.

*Oats ok with fruit and substitute to substitute (note the ingredients list has no asterisks to indicate what can be substituted)


2 grated apples

2 tab lemon juice

1/4 cup fresh coconut

2 mashed bananas


Stir in 2 sliced bananas and add to crust.

Decorate with 1 kiwi fruit, sliced and 1 – 2 mandarins

* The Significant Eater (SE) is currently vegan. This summer all home cooking has been animal product-free.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

incentive based fitness training aka lunch at Wesley Anne

This is not a restaurant review, just remembering the good days when I have them. The Summer of Vegan cooking is coming…soon…I promise.

It’s 8 kilometres from home to Wesley Anne in Northcote and back. The walk involves a hill a hill or two and the lure of good food in the middle.

While this is probably not what a personal trainer would have in mind, my fitness program for The Grand Traverse by necessity has to be incentive based. It’s far too scary to contemplate tramping 18 kms a day up mountains without a tasty lure.

The menu at Wesley Anne always pleasantly surprises me. It’s better than average pub food, pitched at a wide variety of dietary requirements and at a decent price. Any place that I have the luxury of choice (heaps of vegetarian, a few pecterarian and a number of dairy-free offerings) deserves a mention. But would it suit the Born Again Vegan (aka the Significant Eater)? I so hoped after the hike up the hill that she wouldn’t let us down.

While there’s not a heap of vegan options (sides like the delicious roast potatoes or the asparagus and almonds make delightful mouthfuls but they’re not a meal), beyond the smoked tofu salad the menu promises, “Certain meals can be made vegan and vegetarian”.

The SE did just that. A veganised version of the Rustic Plate dished up a better than average shared platter, or in this case a substantial lunch for a hungry man.

This over-exposed photo doesn't do the plate justice, it was huge and that's before you tuck into the warm mini-loaf of bread.

For almost half the price I got a damn fine calamari salad. The lemon dressing and wafer thin croutons made my weekly non-vegan hit an absolute treat. It was one of the best I’ve had.

The walk home took us past the Westgarth, perfectly timed to see the Descendants. Great film. I was the one sobbing in the middle row every time death and dying was mentioned. Still, it was most cathartic.

Now if only the walk offers such great food and entertainment….

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Monday, January 16, 2012

fire and ice aka summer gardening in Melbourne

By the way, blogger tells me this is my 600th post. Who'd have thunk it?

The subversive plot has suffered neglect, golf-ball sized hail and days of scorching heat in the 40c’s over the last few weeks. On my return after Christmas, I was surprised to find I had anything left at all after the hailstorm.

My lazy gardening strategy of letting the tomatoes range with minimal intervention, that served me so well in the 2009 heatwave, continues to pay off. While a small amount of fruit was damaged (especially of the larger sized tomatoes), the majority has survived.

While the tomatoes are staked and pruned haphazardly at best, the strawberries require a little intervention. After watching the first two berries ripen, only to be nabbed by the birds before I could pick them, a couple of dollars of netting was a suitable investment. The old, concertina-style wine rack was also repurposed.

I possibly lost some of the eggplants, as there was a glut of flowers that set over a month ago. But I spied one, hidden at the back growing contentedly. The hail/heat cycle appears to have triggered a second round of flowers.

January 9sqM garden round up

Tomatoes – Burnley Surecrop and two Tommy Toes producing a steady stream of fruit. The perfect amount for a two-person household so far but weather catastrophes willing, there should be a glut in a month or to be roasted, pureed and frozen. I thought I'd lost the two other seedlings planted late, but they're just crowded out by the older siblings.

Strawberries – so many plants but on average only 2 or 3 ripe ones to nibble on each day.

Carrots – thought I’d harvested them all a month ago but found 4 or 5 decent ones this weekend. Still sweet, not woody.

Parsnip – like the carrots I’d thought I’d had the last of them but just spied a lurker this morning.

Silverbeet/chard – most now gone to seed and removed (lots of seed saving first) but a couple of plants soldiering on with new leaves.

Sorrel – looking a bit worse for wear after the hailstorm. Hanging in there, just.

Chives – robust small tuft planted in garden continuing to produce.

Parsley – garden patch gone to seed, after cutting back some edible leaves still usable.

Chilli – having removed my prolific plant when the garden was regenerated earlier in the year, the replacement is flowering but not fruiting as yet.

Tarragon – in a pot competing with weeds, the herb you use least always seems to last the longest.

Mint – has survived in a pot for another year. Thanks to the higher than usual rainfall it’s still lush and green.

Rosemary – stunted bush in a pot, waiting to be strewn on roasted potatoes.

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Friday, January 06, 2012


It was an odd Christmas back in New Zealand. I sprung out of bed early to put together a hearty breakfast - scrambled eggs with roasted tomatoes, rosti and smoked salmon. There was ceviche to marinate, a Marie Rose sauce to put together and prawns to peel.

We hit the road with a few treats, following the familiar route to the nursing home. While mum couldn't make it home for Christmas, I was determined to bring some of it to her.

I've written before about what a cruel bitch dementia is, add a stroke and immobility and little is left. Aromas, tastes, sounds and touch can sometimes reach parts of the brain otherwise immune to language. For mum's last Christmas I was determined there'd be a gin and tonic and prawn cocktail, diced small enough to savour a teaspoon at a time.

The G&T hit that hidden spot. A smile as wide as a river. Each mouthful of prawn cocktail swallowed with something that looked like joy.

So pleased we'd found a way to make the day special in some way, for someone who barely knew her name let alone the date.

A little over a week later, my mother died.

I was just pleased she got a last gin, something that had previously been a daily reward for decades.

Back in Wellington, as the northerly wind whips past outside, I try to write her eulogy. All I can think of is standing at the kitchen bench creaming butter and sugar to make a cake, biscuits or a slice.

A year and a half ago I wrote...

Like many of us who are comfortable in the kitchen, it carries a daily reminder of the culinary traditions shared by my mother. Even if for me some of these skills are now redundant – through observation and careful assistance my mum taught me how to cream butter and sugar for a cake and to use the eggs from the pantry, not the cold ones in the fridge, for baking. As a carnivorous child I learnt how to brown cubes of beef for a casserole and the art of gravy making.

Decades on and in a different country, when I stew rhubarb (the only fruit that was ever plentiful in our shady garden) I cut the stalks into thick slices with my mother’s hands. I toss the sugar in carelessly, adding sweetness as required, remembering to only moisten with a little water and keep an eagle eye on the pot while it simmers on a low heat.

Though my mother is still able bodied, she no longer stews fruit. It’s years since she cooked and the poorly stocked kitchen under my father’s reign fills me with waves of grief each time I visit. This was once the heart of the home, now the drawers and cupboards are alarming spartan. It is the room of the house I feel her absence most. Despite that fact mum still bustles in, she might eye the kettle but is unable to reliably make a cup of coffee now.

Lately I’ve found myself honouring her memory by reading the books she used enjoy and keeping some of her kitchen traditions alive, albeit on another continent. I know I can’t blow the dementia from her brain or bring back the woman who raised me but I find these rituals comforting. For now she still has a dry sense of humour and can come up with the odd gem. She knows who I am but our baking days are over.

I'm looking forward to this phase of grief being over, returning to my own kitchen and paying homage to my mum in the way that comforts me most.

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