Friday, December 31, 2010

Seddon Deadly Sins II (pancake heaven)

With our family visiting from Sweden, we have been out to local cafes for breakfast a few times in the last few weeks. By far everyones favourite so far has been Seddon Deadly Sins.

On one visit we were lucky enough to have turned up at exactly the right time to get a table for 8 without having to book! Usually they are pretty packed but we arrived just as 3 tables of people were leaving so were able to push these together.

We started with rounds of coffees, and fresh squeezed orange juice. As has been the case any time we have been to this cafe, the coffee was great and the service prompt and very friendly. No matter how busy the place gets, the staff are always friendly, chatty and helpful and still efficient.

Our niece and nephew tried the special for the weekend which was french toast with apple and strawberries and mascarapone. I love how the french toast is presented. This is the best photo of this breakfast I have, but you can see they made a double decker sandwich of french toast and fruit which looks really good. Each french toast slice was fried, then the sandwich made with 2 layers apples and fried lightly together. It was then cut in half diagonally and served with strawberries, a large dollop of mascarapone, and drizzles of maple. Apparently it was awesome and I am still impressed that our niece and nephew both managed to finish it all.

Another special was the mango coconut pancakes. I tried this and it was amazing. The 3 large pancakes were light and fluffy, the mango was so fresh and ripe and the coconut ice cream had heaps of toasted coconut through it. There was more mango hidden back behind the ice cream too which doesn't show in this picture. I was offered maple syrup to go with this, but didn't take it. The pancakes didn't need it.

There were a couple of orders for the grilled banana caramel pancakes for the table. This is an item from the regular menu. Again, these came with 3 large fluffy pancakes, a large scoop of ice cream, a large banana sliced length ways and grilled, and a very generous serve of caramel sauce.

Finally the second pancake offering from the regular menu, the mixed berry pancakes. 3 pancakes with ice cream, served with mixed berries and berry sauce. Again this was a huge serve of pancakes. When they came out none of us were sure we would be able to finish them, but they were so good, we all managed.

Not everyone was a mad sweet tooth so there were a few orders for a couple of the savoury breakfasts.

There were a couple of orders for the egg special of the day, which was scrambled eggs, with field mushrooms and a blue cheese sauce. I had a little taste of the sauce, expecting just a creamy sauce with a tiny hint of mild blue cheese as is so often the case, but the flavour of the sauce blew me away. There was a good strong blue cheese flavour with a hint of garlic as well. It was really very tasty and the consensus from all who ordered this was it went perfectly with the scramble and mushrooms.

The other dish ordered by a few was the green eggs. Usually this comes with ham, but we were able to order this without ham, and with mushrooms instead. The green eggs are scrambled eggs with crumbled feta and heaps of pesto.

The breakfast sizes are far more generous here than at other cafes we have been to in the area, and I love that they don't skimp on anything - other places we have tried pesto eggs have used less pesto and lose the flavour impact, or give you a sad handful of berries on little pancakes, but Seddon Deadly Sins never seem to cut corners. Every meal has been indulgent, and I guess that is in keeping with the deadly sins and decadence theme of the cafe.

Seddon Deadly Sins on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Asparagus, chickpea and haloumi salad with mustard aioli dressing

I'm posting this salad recipe at the request of my sister in law Marion so she has an easy to find copy when she gets back to Sweden :-)
I made this salad for our Christmas celebrations and it went down really well with everyone at the table.

Asparagus, Chickpea and Haloumi salad.
This volume made to served 15 people.

  • 300 grams of sliced mushrooms
  • 4 bunches of Asparagus
  • 180 grams haloumi cheese (180 grams is just what the block I used weighed)
  • 500 grams of chickpeas (this is the drained weight of either canned, or soaked dry chickpeas)
  • 2 handfuls of mixed lettuce leaves, washed
  • 2 tablespoons of aioli (ready made or see 2 recipe options below)
  • 3 teaspoons of mustard paste (I used a jar of Maille dijon mustard because it has no sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cracked pepper
  • A little vegetable oil for cooking

  1. Snap the woody ends off the asparagus spears and discard. Chop the tender part of the spears into pieces about 5cms long.
  2. Place the sliced mushrooms in a fry pan with the vegetable oil and set to lightly fry.
  3. Add the chopped asparagus a when the mushrooms have started to shrink down and fry for another few minutes till the asparagus spears have just started to go a little tender. You don't want to cook them too much.
  4. Spoon the mushrooms and asparagus into a colander and leave to cool.
  5. While the vegetables are cooling, cut the haloumi into strips about half a centimeter thick.
  6. Fry the cheese strips till they are golden and crispy on each side. Remove from the fry pan and cut each strip into 1/2 centimeter thick slices. Set this aside to cool.
  7. Combine the aioli, mustard, balsamic and cracked pepper and mix well till completely blended.
  8. When you are ready to serve the salad, combine all ingredients in a salad bowl, pouring the dressing in last. If you put the dressing on too early the salad leaves will go limp. Toss the salad well and serve.

Vegan Aioli - 2 methods

Method 1 - cheats aioli
  1. In a blender combine 2 peeled and crushed garlic cloves and 1 cup of vegan mayonnaise.
  2. Blend till combined.

Method 2 - nut based mayonnaise substitute aioli (for mayonnaise, skip the garlic)
  • 1/2 a cup of almonds or cashews (soaked and drained - almonds soak for 8 hours, cashews for 2)
  • 1/2 a cup of water
  • 2 tbsp of lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed (If you don't want too garlicky, start with 2 cloves)
  • 1/2 a cup of oil
  1. Place all ingredients except the oil into a blender, and blend till smooth. If you have a cheap blender like me, this could take a while and a lot of stopping the blender to scrape everything back down the sides.
  2. With the ingredients in the blender now in a smooth paste, slowly pour in the oil a little at a time, blending between additions, till the aioli is the consistency you want.
  3. Taste and add more garlic or lemon to suit your taste.
Unfortunately I do not have any photos to go with this post. Instead here is a photo of our beagle sitting on our rottweiler. This is what Katie does to Leela, I guess as a kind punishment, when Leela refuses to play with her. Just backs her butt up and sits on her.

Rottweiler bean bag.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Gasometer II

It's been a busy week with Christmas preparations getting all the food ready for Christmas, two days of Christmas celebrations (Swedish tradition is to celebrate Christmas eve) and spending time with the family doing touristy things around the city. 

On Monday though the family all went to visit old friends and we were left looking for ways to fill our day. After spending most of the day doing loads of washing and cleaning (it's amazing how many towels and sheets get used up with all the extra people around) Kev decided we needed to go out for dinner, so took me to Gasometer. It must have been the place to be last night because soon after we sat down, K and Toby from In the Mood for Noodles came in too. Small world :-)

Our intention when we ordered food was to have just entrees then mains, no dessert. Unfortunately despite ordering entrees and mains as separate courses all the dishes came out at the same time.

We ordered the Spanish Style Mushrooms, which I thought were really tasty. Kev didn't like these much though, he couldn't pin point what is was exactly but there was something in the flavour of the sauce that he didn't like. That just meant I got to keep this entree to myself :-)

The second entree we ordered was the smoked tofu strips. These were great just like last time we ordered them, though I don't think they were as spicy as I remember. Next time I'm ordering these brutal instead of just spicy.

For mains I really wanted to get the Vegan Chorizo Burger that Kev ordered last time, but there was a main on the menu that I hadn't tried yet so I ordered the Cuban Beans with Rice, vegan. Bad choice. Really bad choice. The beans were super dry, there was waaay too much rice, and not a lot of flavour in the dish at all, except for something resembling soap. Even after I tried to improve the flavour by pouring the sauce left from the mushrooms over the beans, I still couldn't eat it. Kev didn't like it either, he took one fork full and that was all he was prepared to eat. I wish I had ordered the burger instead and just left this one untried.

Kev was a lot happier with his main than I was with mine. He ordered the black bean burrito, with dairy cheese. He was really pleased with the flavour and really enjoyed it. His only criticisms were that pot that looked like it was meant to be tomato salsa seemed to be just mashed tomato with a little water and no flavour, and that he would have preferred more beans and less rice, but since he doesn't like rice much that is to be expected.

Since I didn't eat my main, I ended up having room for dessert. Every cloud has a silver lining :-) I ordered the vegan pumpkin pie with gingerbread ice-cream. This was really, really, really good. The gingerbread ice-cream was good just on it's own, but was amazing with the lightly spiced pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie is now my second favourite way to serve pumpkin, behind pumpkin curry.

Aside from the mix up with all our food coming out at once, and the disappointment with one of our mains, we had a really good night out.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas cake - traditional and vegan versions.

Usually at Christmas time my mum goes into a baking frenzy, pumping fruit cake after fruit cake out of her kitchen as her traditional Christmas gift to her friends and one for the family to eat on Christmas day. This year however she has not baked a single thing because she doesn't have a kitchen. She started renovations back in July after the stumps on one side of the house went, and she had to replace them. She also decided to renovate 2 bathrooms, replace all her carpets and tiles, repaint and rip the entire kitchen out to replace with a new one. All of this was meant to be finished in October. 2 months later and she still doesn't have a kitchen...

So making the cake for Christmas day fell to me this year and I made 2 versions. A traditional one that pretty closely follows my mums recipe (I didn't have time to soak the dried fruit in brandy for 2 days, and bake the cake 2 weeks ahead and keep pouring more brandy over it like she does...) and a second cake that I tweaked to be a vegan version. 

Baking times are based on a deep cake pan. If you use a shallow pan or a loaf pan, take 30 minutes off the baking time. Both cakes will keep well for at least a week if stored in an airtight container. Longer if you pour a little brandy over them to keep them moist.

Shortcut version of Mum's fruit cake recipe
  • 500g sultanas
  • 300g currants
  • 150g mixed peel
  • 100g raisins
  • 100g chopped dried figs
  • 100g chopped dried or glace cherries
  • 3/4 cup of marmalade
  • 1 cup of brandy, rum or sherry (I have also used mead before when it was all we had in the house)
  • 250g soft butter
  • 2  1/2 cups of plain flour
  • 1 tsp powdered nutmeg
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 5 large eggs, free range
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 50g whole almonds to decorate (optional)
To make:
  1. Combine the dried fruit, marmalade, spices and brandy in a large mixing bowl. Mix this really well to combine and leave to sit overnight (or a couple of hours at least). Most of the brandy should soak into the fruit.
  2. Set the oven to 150C. Prepare your cake tin. Ideally this should be a deep 20cm square or 24cm round tin. To prepare the tins, grease the pans, then line with baking paper. Cut a piece of paper to fit the bottom of the pan, then strips to fit the sides. Try to have a bit of a paper collar sticking up above the edges of the pan.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar till the sugar is dissolved in.
  4. In another bowl, beat the eggs together. Slowly add this to the butter mix about half an egg at a time and blend in each time. If you add too much egg at once, the mix will curdle (if it does curdle it is not the end of the world, it is just better not to have it happen).
  5. Gently fold the flour into the butter and egg mix. Fold till combined.
  6. Add in the dried fruit mix and any brandy that hasn't soaked in. Fold till the fruit is evenly distributed.
  7. Pour the mix into your cake pan and flatten with the back of a spoon.
  8. If you want to decorate your cake, press the almonds gently onto the top of the batter to make a pattern.
  9. Bake the cake on the top shelf for 2 1/2 hours. Insert a skewer or thin knife into the cake. If it comes out clean the cake is cooked. If not keep checking the cake every 10 minutes till it is done.
  10. Cool the cake in the pan.
  11. Store the cake in an airtight container till you are ready to use it. You can sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of brandy over the cake each day if you want to keep the cake a little more moist.

Egg based fruit cake.

A bit drier and lighter in colour than I would like, but still tastes fine.

Vegan version of Mum's fruit cake recipe (note for this version I used gluten free flour. You may need to reduce the liquid and baking soda if using wheat flour)
  • 500g sultanas
  • 300g currants
  • 150g mixed peel
  • 100g raisins
  • 100g chopped dried figs
  • 100g chopped dried or glace cherries
  • 3/4 cup of marmalade
  • 1 cup of brandy, rum or sherry
  • 250g nuttalex
  • 2 cups of gluten free all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of rice flour
  • 1/2 cup of corn flour
  • 1 tsp powdered nutmeg
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups of soy milk
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 50g whole almonds to decorate (optional)
To make:
  1. Combine the dried fruit, marmalade, spices and brandy in a large mixing bowl. Mix this really well to combine and leave to sit overnight (or a couple of hours at least). Most of the brandy should soak into the fruit.
  2. Set the oven to 150C. Prepare your cake tin. Ideally this should be a deep 20cm square or 24cm round tin, but 2 loaf pans will do. To prepare the tins, grease the pans, then line with baking paper. Cut a piece of paper to fit the bottom of the pan, then strips to fit the sides. Try to have a bit of a paper collar sticking up above the edges of the pan.
  3. Cream together the nuttalex and sugar till the sugar is dissolved in.
  4. In another bowl combine the soy milk with the vinegar and leave to sit a couple of minutes to curdle.
  5. Add the baking soda to the soy milk mix. This will foam so make sure the bowl is large enough for the mix to double or even triple in size.
  6. Slowly add this to the nuttalex mix and combine thoroughly.
  7. Gently fold the flour into the nuttalex and milk mix. Fold till combined.
  8. Add in the dried fruit mix and any brandy that hasn't soaked in. Fold till the fruit is evenly distributed.
  9. Pour the mix into your cake pan and flatten with the back of a spoon.
  10. If you want to decorate your cake, press the almonds gently onto the top of the batter to make a pattern.
  11. Bake the cake on the top shelf for 2 1/2 hours. Insert a skewer or thin knife into the cake. If it comes out clean the cake is cooked. If not keep checking the cake every 10 minutes till it is done.
  12. Cool the cake in the pan.
  13. Store the cake in an airtight container till you are ready to use it. You can sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of brandy over the cake each day if you want to keep the cake a little more moist.
Vegan gluten free fruit cake

Looks pretty damn good for a gluten free flour cake!

I cut a bit off the end of each cake to see how they went in side. Agneta helped me do a taste test and said that the vegan version was better and more moist than the non vegan version! You can see from the photos that it looks better too.

Next time round I think I would use a dark muscovado sugar to get a bit more colour in the cake and will stick with the vegan version from now on. It worked out much better.

We will be eating this on Christmas eve and Christmas day with brandy butter.

Brandy Butter
This can be spread as a hard sauce on cold fruit cake, or served to slowly melt over hot Christmas pudding. 
  • 100g Nuttalex
  • 4 cups icing sugar
  • 6 tbsp Brandy
  1. Blend together nuttalex and 1 cup of the icing sugar till smooth.
  2. Alternate adding 2 tbsp Brandy and 1 cup of icing sugar till all is blended in and the mix is pale and creamy.
  3. Set in the fridge till you are ready to use it.
Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas with good food and great company!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Home made vegan chocolates

Part 2 of my posts on home made christmas presents will be a little longer than the first. This was a lot more time consuming than the white christmas and had to be done in stages. Like with the white christmas, I made everything gluten free and vegan as I was also giving some of the chocolates to K and Toby from In the Mood for Noodles.

I got started making chocolates when I was really young. Mum found it was cheaper (and more fun) each easter to buy chocolate melts and make her own eggs each easter rather than buy the stupidly over priced foil wrapped store eggs. She would colour white chocolate in a variety of pastel colours with powdered food dye and paint her hand rolled hollow easter eggs them with beautiful designs. 
She soon expanded into making her own chocolates and has a little book she has put together over the years of her signature fillings. She was so good at it that she ended up turning it into a source of revenue and also went to the local primary school each year to help the little prep grade students make their very own painted coloured chocolate easter egg to take home. The kids at school thought I had the coolest mother ever and they were of course right :-)

To start making shaped chocolates at home, you will need to get a couple of things first.

  • Chocolate moulds - You can get some great chocolate moulds from a cake supply shop in port phillip arcade in the city, called Cake Deco. This is just across the road from Flinders street station and the have HEAPS of food crafting supplies. Spotlight and Matchbox also have a good range. If you have never made chocolates before try to get clear plastic chocolate moulds rather than silicon as it is easier to judge whether the chocolate is thick enough.
  • Food paint brushes - If you are planning on painting different coloured chocolates into the mould or onto the chocolates as decoration it is much easier to use a fine food grade paint brush. These can be purchased at the same place as the moulds.
  • A candy thermometer. If you want to make caramel fillings you will need this to check when the caramel gets to soft ball or soft crack stage.

You will also need to decide what to fill your chocolates with. You can make solid moulded chocolates of course, but filled chocolates are so much more interesting and impressive.

I made 3 simple fillings this time - Peanut butter, Agave Caramel and Strawberry Cream Cheez.

Peanut butter filling:
This filling is really really simple. It also works with any other nut butter like macadamia or ABC spread, etc. If you are making gluten free chocolates, best to go buy a fresh jar of peanut butter. You don't want to use peanut butter that someone has wheat contaminated when they have double dipped the knife when spreading their toast...
  • 1/2 cup of peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup of pure icing sugar
  1. Mix the peanut butter and icing sugar together to form a paste.
  2. Store in the fridge till you are ready to use.

Strawberry Cream Cheez filling:
Like with the peanut butter, buy a fresh tofutti tub that no one has contaminated with bread...

  • 20g freeze dried strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons of caster sugar
  • 1/4 of a cup of hot water
  • 100g tofutti cream cheese
  1. Chop the strawberries into small pieces.
  2. Dissolve the sugar into the hot water in a bowl. Add the strawberries and leave to soak for 30 minutes. 
  3. Spoon the strawberry pieces and 2 tbsp of the liquid into the tofutti and blend thoroughly.
  4. Store the mix in an airtight container in the fridge till you are ready to use this. The mix should be used within a week and any chocolates made with it kept in the fridge.

Agave caramel
There are 2 methods I use with this caramel depending how thick I want it. Using agave syrup will give a honey flavoured caramel. Again, I started with a fresh tub of nuttalex.

  • 3 tbsp nuttalex
  • 3/4 cup of caster sugar
  • 1/4 plus 1/4 cup of agave syrup
  • 1/4 plus 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 tspn vanilla essence
For a thicker slightly chewy caramel
  1. In a heavy saucepan combine the nuttalex, sugar, all the agave syrup, all the water, and vanilla essence. Stir this over the heat till combined.
  2. Using a candy thermometer, boil the mix till it reaches soft ball stage (115C). The thermometer should have a marker on it to show how much of it needs to be immersed in the caramel for an accurate reading. You can also tell if it has reached soft ball stage by dropping a little of the caramel into a glass of ice cold water. If the caramel forms a soft flexible little ball.
  3. Once the sauce hits soft ball, remove it from the heat immediately. Transfer to a heat proof storage container or bowl.
  4. Store in an air tight container in the fridge till ready for use.
For a runnier caramel

  1. In a heavy saucepan combine the nuttalex, sugar, 1/4 cup of the agave syrup, 1/4 cup of the water, and vanilla essence. Stir this over the heat till combined.
  2. Using a candy thermometer, boil the mix till it reaches soft ball stage (115C). The thermometer should have a marker on it to show how much of it needs to be immersed in the caramel for an accurate reading. You can also tell if it has reached soft ball stage by dropping a little of the caramel into a glass of ice cold water. If the caramel forms a soft flexible little ball.
  3. Once the sauce hits soft ball, remove it from the heat immediately. Allow the caramel to cool a little bit and stir in the remaining agave and water. (If you stir this in when the caramel is still at 115C then the water may react violently and you may get burnt by caramel splash and that really hurts)
  4. Transfer to a heat proof storage container or bowl.
  5. Store in an air tight container in the fridge till ready for use.

I made the fillings a day ahead of making the chocolate and stored the fillings in the fridge. The fillings should be cold when you put them into the chocolate shells so as not to melt the chocolate.

With the fillings made it is now time to start making the chocolates. There a couple of things to note about melting chocolate.
  • It does not like water. Get water in your chocolate and it will seize (go thick, solid and gluggy). Make sure your moulds are completely dry before you use them. Any water and your chocolates will look dull and furry anywhere there was water.
  • It does not like direct heat. If you melt chocolate in a saucepan over direct heat it will likely seize and probably burn.
  • If you do have an accident and some of the chocolate does start to seize you can save it by mixing in a little bit of copha. The copha will help the chocolate go back to a liquid and you can still use it, but it will not taste quite the same.
  • You can also add a very small amount (just a couple of small shavings) of copha to any chocolate you are trying to use to decorate with if you are finding it is too thick or gluggy to paint into fine details on your mould. The copha will thin it out a little and make it easier to paint with.
  • You can re-melt chocolate if it sets while you are working with it, by putting it back over a pan of boiled water.
To make the chocolates you will need:
  • 1/2 a block of white chocolate to decorate (I used sweet william)
  • Milk or dark chocolate. How much will depend on the number of chocolates you want to make and the size of the moulds in the tray. I find it usually takes 100g of chocolate per tray. For the volume of chocolates I made this year, I used 600g of sweet william milk chocolate, plus 170g Noble choice dark chocolate.
  1. Boil a small saucepan of water. Turn the heat off after the water has reached boiling point.
  2. Chop the white chocolate and place it a heat proof bowl. Place the bowl over the pan of boiled water and leave the chocolate to melt. Once most of the chocolate has melted, stir gently till the last little pieces melt away.
  3. For moulds with detail - Using a food paint brush, paint white chocolate into the design on your mould in the areas you want some detail. Once all the moulds in the tray are painted with the design you want, put the trays in the fridge to set.
  4. For shaped moulds where you want a marble effect - Roughly paint some white chocolate into the bottom of the mould. Once all the moulds in the tray are painted, put the tray in the fridge to set.
  5. In a new heat proof bowl, melt the milk or dark chocolate using the same method as used to melt the white chocolate.
  6. When the chocolate is melted, use a teaspoon to put a little chocolate into each mould in the tray. As a rule of thumb a mould will need to be about 1/3 filled with chocolate to have enough to give a good coating.
  7. Using a food paint brush, paint the chocolate up the sides of the mould, making sure there is a good coating all over the whole of the shape. This is where having clear moulds is easier - if you hold the tray up to the light, you can see where the chocolate is not thick enough because light will show through. Anywhere the chocolate is too thin, paint a little more chocolate in.
  8. If you are making chocolates with a marble design, gently swirl the chocolate around in the bottom of the mould. This should melt the white chocolate and start to marble the white and dark together.
  9. If you have too much chocolate in the moulds don't worry. Just turn the tray upside down and pour any excess chocolate back into the bowl.
  10. Put the tray in the fridge to set.
  11. Once set, check each shape to make sure there are no thin spots where you can see the mould through the chocolate, or can see light coming through. Corners or any design edges will be the most likely place. Paint some more chocolate into any thin spots and return to the fridge to set.
  12. Once you are happy the chocolate shells in your moulds are thick enough it is time to put your filling in. Use a small spoon to transfer a little filling into each mould. How much you will need will depend on the size of the mould you have chosen. My moulds needed about half a teaspoon. Press the filling in and get it as flat as possible. Leave a millimeter or 2 of space in the mould for a seal of chocolate to go in on top.
  13. To seal the chocolate, spoon a little chocolate into the space left in each mould in the tray. For really soft fillings, start from the edges - if you pour from the middle of the chocolate your filling will ooze over the edge. Return the tray to the fridge to set for at least 30 minutes.
  14. Once set, remove the tray from the fridge and gently turn the tray upside down over a plate. For plastic trays gently press on each chocolate till they fall out of their mould. For silicon trays, pull the sides of the mould around each chocolate till they fall out.
  15. You're done! Try to resist the temptation to eat all your chocolate handy work at once.
Below are some pictures of the chocolates I made with samples of cut chocolates so you can see what they look like inside.

Little peanut butter men. I call them Meesa's Pieces

Runny agave caramels with marble design

Strawberry cream cheez hearts and roses. White detail on hearts was painted on after un-moulding the chocolates

I had some chocolate left over so I decided to attempt to use the brain mould tray again. This time I made the chocolate shell much thicker so they would not break when popping them out of their mould like they did last time. This mould is actually an ice cube tray and the chocolate needs to be pretty thick so as not to break when the mould is being peeled off. I filled them again with caramel and some dandies vegan marshmallows. They are sickly sweet with 2 teaspoons of caramel and 3 marshmallows in side each brains thick chocolate shell, but they worked this time!
Caramel marshmallow brains to give your brain a sugar overload!
And there you have it. With the right equipment and a little patience, anyone can make filled chocolates at home and they make great home made gifts for christmas time.

Damn that was a long post... I hope it all made sense.

White Christmas - Vegan

Since this is the first year in a long time that I have actually had some time off work at Christmas (with the exception of last year when I was in Sweden for Christmas) I have actually had the time to make some Christmas gifts this year. Not a lot of time to blog about them, but time to cook at least.

The first I will post about was the simplest. This White Christmas only took me 10 minutes to make, then only a couple of hours to set. The White Christmas I remember my Nan making when I was little was always super sickly sweet, made with copha, heaps of icing sugar, milk powder and those nasty red green and yellow fake cherry things. I figured it would taste way better using white chocolate instead of the sugar and milk, and with dried sour cherries instead to counter the sweetness in the white chocolate. A more adult version of a white christmas perhaps.

I made this using all vegan and gluten free ingredients so I could give this to my friends at In the Mood for Noodles in the christmas gift box I put together.


500g Vegan White Chocolate (I used 3 blocks of Sweet William and 2 block of Bonvita rice milk white chocolate) If that seems like too much chocolate, you can substitute 200 grams of the chocolate for 200g Copha (solid coconut oil) instead.

1  1/2 cups rice bubbles 
100 grams dried sour cherries
100 grams dried apricots, chopped
100g sultanas
50 grams of dried citrus peel chopped
2 cups desiccated coconut
  • Line a small slice tin with baking paper. 
  • Sit a heat proof mixing bowl over a pan of boiled water. Melt the chocolate in this bowl.
  • Mix in fruits, coconut and rice bubbles. Stir well to combine and ensure all dry ingredients get a good coating and the coconut is evenly distributed.
  • Pour the mix into the lined pan, and press it down with the back of a spoon.
  • Refrigerate till set, then cut into squares. 

Glace cherries look more traditional than the sour cherries I used, but if you want to use glace cherries just be careful of the red colouring they use. A couple of the brands I saw in the supermarket used colour 120 :(
The dried fruit you use doesn't really matter, you could use pineapple, figs, apple, what ever you like really. 
As long as it has white chocolate, coconut and rice bubbles it still looks like the White Christmas we all remember from child hood. It just tastes 387% better!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Shakahari - Carlton

With the family over from Sweden we have been doing a lot of dining out while we have been out and about doing things around the city. There are a lot of blog entries just waiting for time to post them. So many photos of food and so little time to post... 

Last nights dinner at Shakahari though was so good it warranted forcing some time to write an entry.

One of my sisters in law had her birthday fall during the families visit, so we have done a couple of birthday dinners to celebrate. Last night was the second dinner where we took Agneta to Shakahari for a special birthday dinner. Lisa and John, our niece and nephew, also joined us for dinner.

We hoped our love of Shakahari would be shared by our guests. When they opened the menu and were more than a little apprehensive, but we have seen this a few times when we have taken omni guests here before. The menu at Shakahari is unusual if you are not used to veg dining, and a lot of the ingredients were things that our family had not seen before, coupled with language differences and one guest being a 17 year old boy, the menu was probably not overly inspiring to them.

So we started by ordering a few entrees for the table to get things going:

We ordered the Chia, Buckwheat, Besan trio, which was a really tasty gluten free, vegan flatbread with a delicious coriander coconut dip. This was really popular all around the table.

The Scent of a Green Papaya - a green papaya salad with a tangy dressing. I have seen this on the menu before, but this was the first time I had tried this entree. It was wonderfully crisp and refreshing.

The Avocado Magic, which is tempura avocado with capsicum and eggplant, with a coriander sauce. I've ordered this a few times before, on other occasions the batter has been undercooked in some parts of the roll but tonight it was all well cooked, and was beautifully presented. Unfortunately Kev got a little over enthusiastic about this plate arriving and moved one of the pieces from the display before I could get a picture of the presentation of the rolls.

And finally we ordered the Quinoa Gnocchi, triangles of gnocchi made from quinoa and rice flour with balsamic sauce. These also went really fast.

The entrees all went down really well and got great reviews around the table. The only issue we had was getting the plates to fit on the table - there were five of us dining and we had booked for 5, but the table we had was a 4 person table with a 5th seat tacked on the end. There was just not enough room for all the plates and glasses. I was impressed that ALL the items on the entree menu were listed as vegan and gluten free. I think this is the first time I have seen the menu like this.

We moved on to ordering mains. Kev didn't take long to order, it's a pretty safe bet he will order the Satay Legend (you can rename it Satay Shakahari if you like, but it will still always be the satay legend). Kev gave some pieces of the seitan to Agneta and Lisa, the first time they had tried it, and they said they were amazed at the meaty texture and liked the flavour of the satay sauce.

Agneta ordered the Couscous Ala Caspian, couscous served topped with a spiced baked tomato, eggplant and chickpea stew which she really enjoyed.

John and I ordered the Spaghetti. This dish was gluten free pasta with 3 kinds of mushrooms, asparagus and pine nut pesto. Lisa also wanted to try this but does not like mushrooms, so the chef made her a version without mushrooms, and put some broccoli in instead. I thought it was very cool of them to do a major substitution to a dish like this. No one noticed any difference between the wheat pasta we are used to and the gluten free pasta in this dish. John and Lisa loved their spaghetti. I enjoyed it too but did find there were more pine nuts than I would usually like, and a couple of the mushrooms were strangely chewy, almost like they were dried mushrooms that had not been soaked long enough. I just picked those out to the side. I can forgive little things like that when the asparagus is done so well. 

Again all the main menu items were vegan, and most of them gluten free. On other visits I remember there being a few dishes that had cheese in them on the mains, but on this occasion any cheese was soy cheese. I hope this is a trend that continues here. While none of us are vegan, no one even noticed that the dishes they were eating were vegan or even gluten free. It's good to see that there are more choices available for GF-Vegans nowadays.

After the entrees and mains, we were kind of full, but still managed to get some desserts to share.

We got the Thai Delight - baked cassava fudge with coconut black rice pudding and mango slices. This was not what any of us expected. I suppose when we saw fudge in the description we imagined something more like a traditional english caramel fudge, so the texture of the cassava fudge was unexpected. After the initial shock at the texture though, we all enjoyed this. Kev also liked that this dessert didn't seem to be overly sweet either.

We also tried the Soy Almond Panacotta. Agneta is a fan of the standard dairy based panacotta so was curious to see an almond based version. She was not disappointed, she said it was just as good, maybe even better than the panacotta she is used to. The combination of the smooth almond custard, tangy orange coulis and almond toffee was a perfect dessert. 

Kev chose the seasonal fruit crumble, which was mango this time. I didn't try this one myself after Kev had poured cream into the middle of it, but everyone else said it was delicious.

As usual all food was beautifully presented, everyone loved their meals and there was a lot of plate sharing and tasting going on. The service was also the best we have had there for a while. On previous visits we have had waiters forget to bring us water when we requested it, forget our wines and were just generally slow. On this occasion service was drastically improved. Our very courteous and patient waiter gave us water as soon as we sat down and the regularly came around to top our glasses up. We had very prompt with service all night, and the staff were very helpful with explaining menu items through the language barrier. I am still really impressed how easy it was to get a substitution to the spaghetti too. 

The menu changes on a fairly regular basis. Other recent reviews and blog posts off the same menu period can be found over at In the Mood for Noodles, Vegan About Town and I'm So Hungreeee.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Nigella's 'Slut red raspberries in chardonnay jelly'. Veganised.

Slut red raspberries in chardonnay jelly. Just the name of the dessert was enough for me to want to make it. I've also never made a Nigella Lawson recipe before. And it seemed a good way to use up the cheap bottles of $4 wine I seem to get given every year at around this time.

Nigella's original recipe can be found here. The recipe in the link is Nigella's take on a recipe she was sent. This is a vegetarian version of Nigella's version. Given the agar makes the jelly a little cloudier than Nigella describes in her recipe, the raspberries don't take on the same 'stained glass lucent red', but it does still make a pretty, but I suppose slightly less slutty looking dessert. So here is the recipe:

Slightly promiscuous red raspberries in chardonnay agar jelly.

1 x 750 ml bottle of chardonnay. Other white wine would probably work too. Red wine would just be weird...
5 grams of agar powder.
150 grams of caster sugar (sorry Nigella, 250 grams just sounds too sweet to me...)
1 vanilla pod, split open length ways
2 punnets of raspberries.

(Note - if you want to reduce the alcohol content of your jelly, boil the wine and let it cool again before adding the agar)
  • Decant the wine into a large bowl and soak the raspberries in the wine for 30 minutes.
  • Strain the wine into a saucepan and add the agar powder and vanilla pod. Stir the powder in and leave to soak for 15 minutes.
  • Heat the wine slowly, stirring constantly to ensure the agar mixes in and no lumpy bits form.
  • Add the sugar and dissolve into the warm wine. Divide the raspberries between 6 serving bowls. Make sure your serving bowls will be ok with heat.
  • Strain the wine mix to remove any vanilla pod chunks, and pour over the top of the serving bowls while it is still warm.
  • Chill in the fridge to set. My jelly set in under an hour
This is an awesome adult version of jelly, and was really good served with some coconut ice cream we had left in the freezer.

Needs more raspberries :(
This photo doesn't really do the jelly justice, it had a wonderful golden colour and the raspberries were a beautiful glowing red.

The jelly had just enough agar to set. This was actually my third attempt at making this, before I got the amount of agar right. The first couple of attempts had too much agar and were just way too solid, as you can see in the example below.
Waaaaaay too much agar!!!!
The above example was what happened when I followed the agar to liquid guide on the back of the agar pack. I found it was just too much and had to cut back. Lucky for me I had several bottles of cheap wine to play with so it wasn't a total waste and I did get it right eventually. I also made a version of the jelly for our designated driver guests and under 18s, substituting apple juice for the wine.

The jelly tasted wonderful. It would be even better with a better bottle of wine. I probably should have boiled the alcohol out of the jelly in my initial test versions... after lots of taste tests of failed jelly I'm feeling a little woozy...

Monday, December 13, 2010

East Brunswick Club

I can't believe it has taken me this long to get around to going to East Brunswick Club! Ok, so it is on the wrong side of the city for me and finding excuses to be in the area is a challenge, but I still should have found time to get there long ago.

I was taken by surprise by the size of the portions here! Massive! If we had known how big the serves were we would not have ordered a side of chilli fries with vegan cheese as well as mains. The chilli fries were great! I was expecting them to come out as fries with spicy salt coating topped with beans, they came out with this amazing spicy nacho style bean topping. And with loads of chilli! They were way more food than we needed, but seriously worth it.

For mains we decided to go the vegan parmas.

Kev ordered the Nacho style parma, which was a bit of a surprise to me. He eats very little meat, and has always had a loathing for eating chicken. To the point that he can't stand to eat mock chicken dishes. So I wasn't expecting him to order something that is made to look like chicken. I also wasn't expecting him to love it!

I ordered the traditional vegan parma. I swear the menu said this was meant to come with vegan ham, but I may have read the menu wrong. The parma was great, all fried and crispy with a tasty tomato topping. Though I had gotten the idea of it having some form of vegan bacon on top so was initially a little disappointed, I got over this pretty quickly.


There were some really tempting dessert options on the menu - peanut butter chzcake and hedgehog, both vegan - but after parma and chilli fries there was just no way I could tackle any more food. This just means I have to make time to head back out to EBC again, this time to try the philly cheese steak and a dessert.

There are heaps of other bloggers who have posted on East Brunswick Club. Check out a few of them here, here, here and here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Kri Kri Mezethopoleion - Veg friendly Greek restaurant, CBD

Saturday night I took my mother and mother in law to see Hairspray. For pre theatre dinner, I wanted to find a restaurant as close to the theatre as possible so they would not have to walk far. My trusty smart phone app gave us a list of all the nearby veg friendly restaurants in the Spring/Little Bourke street area and we settled on Kri Kri Mezethopoleion, a greek restaurant on Little Bourke.

The menu looks like it is geared towards diners ordering dishes to share. To that end, they have 2 banquet menus available. The menu sports a large selection of vegetarian items and both banquets have a good number of vegetarian dishes for any vegetarians dining out with omni friends.Since we only had a short time to eat diner before the show started we ordered items straight from the menu. Given the sizes of the portions we received, we probably couldn't have managed a banquet anyway.

My fiance joined us for dinner, and he and I ordered 3 items from the vegetarian menu, that we were also assured were diary and egg free! While there were only 2 of us, we figured we would order 3 dishes since non vegetarians always enjoy trying the veg dishes as well.

We ordered the Tiganita me Skorthalia (Kolokithia) - Fried battered zucchini slices with garlic potato. The zucchini was beautiful, perfectly cooked. I've never had battered zucchini before. While it was a little oily from being fried, this is how I now think it should always be served! 

We also ordered the Patates Sto Fourno - herbed lemon potatoes. Again, these were beautiful. While they look oily in the picture, they were not. They just had a delicious lemony herby glaze.

Finally we ordered theYigantes - Giant white beans in tomato and onion. This had to be my favourite dish. It looks, as my mother said, like your basic baked beans, but the flavour was something else. I don't know what herbs they put in the sauce, but I will be hunting the internet for recipes for greek beans to try and find one that makes something similar to this dish.


Kev wanted to order the eggplant dish, but opted not to because it had cheese in, and because I just cannot stand the vile purple rubbery blob that is eggplant. 

Mum loved the chicken skewers she ordered. It must have been seriously garlicky because from my side of the table it smelled like someone had just opened a jar of crushed garlic under my nose. Since too much garlic is still never enough for my mum though the dish was perfect and she was still raving about the food the next day. 

My mother in law ordered a salad off the specials, which I believe was a octopus salad. She also said the food was amazing, however the serve was bigger than you would expect from a salad so she was unable to finish it which she felt rather guilty about. She is always very careful not to waste food.

Since the food came out fairly quickly, we had time for dessert. Kev ordered the yoghurt with seasonal fruit, expecting it would be the least sugary dessert option. He did not realise it was going to be served drizzled with honey. A lot of honey. He just ate around this. When asked how it was he replied 'like yoghurt'. I'm guessing that means it was good???

Mum ordered the baclava. She had never had baclava before and had no idea what to expect. I think she may have built it up to be something more than sweetened nuts and pastry, because she was disappointed. She said it was nice, but not something she would eat again. I am allergic to walnuts so I stayed far far away from this dish... It looked pretty though.

My mother in law tried the Loukoumathes, which were listed on the menu as honey puffs with cinnamon and crushed nuts. I was scared off by the menu listing nuts, so initially wasn't going to try these, and the rest of the dessert menu was dairy, so resigned myself to no dessert. When the Loukoumathes came out to the table however, there was no trace of nuts to be seen, and the waiter said there actually were no nuts in the dish and they were not prepared near the baclava. Since the serving size was huge, my mother in law and I shared this one. They were basically just donut puff balls covered in honey and cinnamon. Nothing really special.

Kri Kri is somewhere I would recommend if you are looking for a vegetarian friendly greek restaurant, the mains were great and got rave reviews all round the table. The service was friendly (the waiter even very politely responded to my mum querying why there was posted written in french on the wall of a greek restaurant), and prompt and waiters were constantly coming to the table to top up or replace the water jug on the table. I would probably skip dessert however next time I go there. While the desserts each seemed fine, being all either dairy or super sweet options, none of them were really my thing.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Balderdash - Port Melbourne

We happened to be in Port Melbourne on the weekend so decided to do a drive by to see what had become of our once beloved weekend breakfast haunt, Bowl of Soul. We were rather depressed when they closed, and nothing has really been able to fill the hole their closing has left over our side of the city.

We found that not only had the space BoS left behind been filled by a hip looking little coffee and cake style cafe called My Sister Says, but a new and equally inviting little cafe named Balderdash had sprung up only a couple of weeks ago where Silk Pirate used to be.

While we initially had intended to go to My Sister Says, we were more impressed by the offerings on the breakfast menu across the road at Balderdash. The coffee write up on the board sounded too good to pass up. Visiting My Sister Says to sit and reminisce in the empty shell that once was Bowl of Soul shall have to wait.

Love the little horse!
They have a couple of out door tables available, along with a variety of indoor seating options - a large communal style table, several 2 and 4 person tables, and a window bench. We seated ourselves at a small 2 seater table and were promptly visited by friendly wait staff to deliver menus and take our coffee order.

The coffees did not disappoint. I enjoyed my soy latte so much I ordered a second, and the long black earned a thumbs up from Kev which is rare. He is rather particular about his coffee and was quite impressed by the coffee he received.

The cafe has only been open perhaps 3-4 weeks and the menu is quite new. From this review they did not have a menu 2 weeks ago, and were serving only coffee and pastries. They have since introduced a full menu, and there were several vegetarian options available. They were also more than happy to make substitutions.

I ordered the corn and caramelised onion fritters which are usually served with a poached egg. When I asked if the egg could be substituted for mushrooms they were more than happy to oblige. The fitters were also served topped with relish. The fritters were fantastic and the relish worked really well with them. The mushrooms were also done well, good flavour and not served soggy like so many cafes do.  My only complaint was having to share half of one of the fritters with Kev since I had promised when I ordered that he could try some...

Kev ordered the pesto scrambled eggs with feta, plus a side of mushrooms and avocado. Pesto scrambled eggs is one of his favourite menu options from Seddon Deadly Sins so he was curious to compare. He liked that the toast was served unbuttered and separate to the eggs. Serving scramble on top of the bread just gives soggy toast. He really enjoyed the eggs here which he said had really good flavour and generous amounts of feta but still prefers the version that Deadly Sins do as they have a larger serving of eggs, and the pesto is more evenly distributed through the scramble.

All in all, Balderdash serve quality coffee with great food and friendly service in a relaxing and inviting atmosphere. They will be a very welcome addition to Bay street, which has been in need of some more interesting cafes. We will definitely be back here again when we get the chance.

Balderdash on Urbanspoon