Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Today is the last day of OzNZVeganMoFo. Tomorrow there will be the start of the worldwide VeganMoFo, in which I also plan to participate.
So what is the ultimate Aussie food for the final Australian MoFo post? I haven't covered so many foods and traditions. (Oh well, there is always next year.) However, I do want to mention a very important and overlooked Australian food tradition.
Tonight, I thought I would mention bush tucker. I am not an indigenous Australia, so I am not familiar with much of Australia's food history. Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders have food traditions that reach back over 40,000 years. Their land use, including the use of fire to encourage favourable plants, changed the Australian landscape in a form of land management which preserved the land, resources, flora and fauna far better than European settlers have managed in the last 200 odd years.
In parts of Australia, Indigenous people traded over hundred of kilometres (central Australia, evidenced by rock items displaced by almost the length of the continent). Aboriginal people sent carved message stick invitations to other nations, over similar distances in a form of recorded communication. (The writing-like nature of these permanently recorded messages have been ignored in a privileging of written forms, by many European discussion of Aboriginal culture.) Some groups hosted food festivals like the Bunya nut celebrations for groups from all around their region.
Other than the ever popular macadamia nut, it is only in the last few years that non-indigenous people have paid much attention to this rich tradition. It is now possible to buy wattle seed and lemon myrtle based seasoning. You can also buy bush lime and other traditional fruits in jams, chutneys and sauces.
Well, here are my approaches to bush tucker plants, from my garden. They are all native to the Brisbane area, as well as other areas of Australia.
Midyin berry (Austromyrtus dulcis) amongst my beans and nasturtiums. This low shrub will have red sweet, ginger-flavoured berries later.
Native ginger (Alpinea Caerulea). This tall quick-growing plant will have blue edible berry and leaves which can be used to wrap food for cooking.
Lilly pilly (Syzygium australe), which is a small tree/large shrub with more edible berries.
I haven't had any crop from these young plants yet, but I am hoping for fruit this season and will blog about them if I get them.
Goodbye Aussie MoFo!
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
We have burgers for dinner about once a month at the BrisVegan house. It is a quick and easy dinner. The children like burgers. It is a great way to get the younger two to eat salad. They are made with whatever burgers I buy at the shops, which are often Frys or Sanitarium products. Occasionally, I will make chickpea cutlet or bean burgers.
So what makes this an Aussie burger? Beetroot! It seems to be an Australian thing to eat tinned, sliced beetroot on burgers. I love it.
You will also see a Sanitarium NotBurger, which until recently contained egg white. I used to love them as a vegetarian. Fortunately, there has been a change of recipe and they no longer list egg (or dairy) as an ingredient. They are a vaguely meaty texture and flavour, though not as close as a Fry's product. They are a light, savoury flavour, with sesame seeds for a pleasant nuttiness.
Sanitarium is an Australian company, owned by the Seven Day Adventist church. All of their products, including their popular breakfast cereals are vegetarian. Some of their products contain egg or milk, but some are vegan. Their tinned and cold items are widely available in supermarkets and come to the rescue of many hungry vegans.
The burger is made with a white bun, onion, the burger, beetroot, tomato, lettuce and BBQ sauce. It was served with McCain Original oven chips. This is my type of junk food!
Monday, September 28, 2009
Growing up, my parents lived a very Anglo lifestyle. My father was a meat and 3 vege man, which, due to the very sexist dynamic in my family, meant that almost every dinner was meat and 3 vege. I obviously don't eat that way any more!
However, occasionally I feel like the stereotypical protein and 3 vege Anglo-Australian standard. Here is my version, which is bangers and mash with onion gravy, corn, cauliflower gratin and garlic sauté spinach.
The sausages are Sanitarium BBQ sausages. The mash is potato, Nuttelex margarine, soy milk and a dash of onion powder, salt and pepper. The onion gravy is Massel premix, with onions, a teaspoon of soy sauce, teaspoon of tomato sauce and a pinch each of sage and rosemary. The spinach is baby spinach sautéed in a dash of good olive oil and couple of cloves of garlic. I will feature the cauliflower in a future post. It is such a family favourite it deserves a post of its own.
Yes, I did add tomato sauce before eating. What?! It's traditional!
Sunday, September 27, 2009
On Friday morning, I attended a breakfast for the University of Queensland's Justice and the Law group. It was a very well run, well attended event. The speakers were interesting and topical, with Stephen Keim SC as the main speaker. (Mr Keim SC was the barrister for Dr Mohamed Haneef, in the well publicised scandal of Dr Haneef's arrest on terrorism charges with almost no evidence.) The JATL group, which includes the amazing Amy of Iron Chef Vegan, did a great job, securing interesting speakers and illustrious attendees, planning the event and running it. They are to be congratulated.
The breakfast was at the Marriott, which I blogged about for another recent function. So, was the vegan breakfast any better than the vegan dinner? Unfortunately, not really. I had hoped it would be good, so that I could balance my earlier review with a better one. In all honesty, I can't.
While omnis were served a first course of waffles (admittedly with oddly brown bananas), vegans and gluten free folks had the ubiquitous fruit plate. This was 3 types of melon, pineapple and strawberries. It was mostly tasty and fresh (one piece of strawberry had an unpleasant large bruised/off mark on it), but arrived at our table after the omni's plates for the first course were being cleared away.
The second vegan course was baked beans. No toast, no sides. Just a bowl of beans. They were obviously not just from a can, as there were a few pieces of carrot and celery in them. They were nice baked beans. However, they were a bit bland to be an entire course. It appeared that vegetarians were served the beans with egg and mushroom. I am not sure why the two vegans at my table could not have had a few mushrooms, tomato or greens sautéed in olive oil, to go with the beans. The beans also came out significantly after the other meals for the table.
So, once again, the meal was a bit bland and lacking in imagination. There was also no need for the food, especially the fruit plate, to be served much later than other meals. As we had booked well ahead, with the dietary needs of guests well explained, it was not like the chefs had to make something at the last minute.
I regretfully have to advise vegans against expecting great food at Marriott Brisbane functions. This is not a whole Marriott issue, as I have seen an Irish poster on the PPK be offered amazing food at a Belfast Marriott. However, it appears from the two functions I attended, that the kitchens at the Brisbane Marriot simply don't know what to offer a vegan guest. As there are so many other Brisbane venues that can do amazing food for vegans, I would not have a function at the Marriott.
However, the rest of the function, the company, speakers and organisation more than made up for an unimaginative breakfast. Thanks to Amy and the whole JATL organisation for inviting us to a very enjoyable function!
Saturday, September 26, 2009
What can a vegan eat at the mountain holiday resort town of Mt Tamborine? As you saw from my previous post, the food at our B&B was plentiful, fresh and delicious.
However, the vegan options for the rest of the town were varied.
(Please forgive the poor quality mobile phone photos, but our camera died.)
On our first night, we ate picked up takeaway pizza at Tamborine Mountain Pizza. They make small, medium and large pizzas. We had a small pizza each. I had a vegetarian pizza with no cheese. The chef confirmed that the base was vegan. They also offered to use a clean cutter for my pizza, without being asked. The base was splendid, crisp, light and chewy all at once. The toppings were plentiful and fresh. The sauce was a tangy tomato sauce. I would have liked a bit more sauce, but it was a very good pizza. Mr BrisVegan had a similar opinion of his non-vegan option.
On Tuesday, we cruised gallery row, which is the main craft sales area of Mt Tambourine. I found a lovely little spice store, Gourmet Spice Blends, where I got some Szechwan pepper, sea salt, dukkah and other items. We visited a few winery outlets. We also went to the MT brewery, which had a tasting platter for $10, which gives 4 small beers.
I had the Mountain Bitter (a Yorkshire style with caramel overtones), the moderation pale ale (US style with fresh citrus and tropical fruit scents), the 0909 Cuvee Blonde (Belgian style with raisin and hops notes) and the Katya Imperial Stout (black stout with chocolate flavours in a full bodied yeasty stout). I loved the Mountain Bitter and Moderation Pale Ale. The others were also very good. There are many other options to try.
On Tuesday night, we went to the local Thai restaurant, Eagle Thai. They were happy to give us a list of menu items that did not contain fish sauce. They had quite a few vegan and vegetarian options. We had the deep fried tofu, followed by a Thai tofu salad with peanut sauce and a green curry, with steamed jasmine rice.
The deep fried tofu was firm tofu, deep fried and served with a nice sweet chilli sauce. The tofu was firm, rather than soft, which I have had deep fried in the past. It was nice for a tofu lover like me, but not the best tofu for the dish.
The curry showed some heat and the fresh spiciness of a green curry. However, it was not particularly full flavoured and did not show the full coconut creaminess that you would expect from this type of curry. It also had a lot of wombok, which was an odd vegetable for a Thai curry. The salad had very little tofu and a lot of iceberg lettuce. The peanut sauce was sweet, nutty and good.
I really wanted to like all of this. I love Thai food and the staff were very obliging. However, after dinner, Mr Brisvegan said "Would you recommend the restaurant to your friends?" We both had to answer "No." We have both had better Thai food at a lot of other places. However, the staff seem to understand the concept of vegan food and have a lot of vegan options, so you know that, as a vegan, you will have a lot of choices.
There are a lot of other restaurants at Mt Tamborine, many of which had vegetarian and maybe even vegan options. I would like to explore further in the future.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Back to food blogging!
On Monday to Wednesday this week, I used some of my time in lieu to take a short break. Mr BrisVegan and I had been given a voucher for Witches Falls Cottages B&B, which is named for the adjacent Witches Falls National Park. We left the children with my sister (school holidays!) and went to Mt Tamborine for a few days.
If you follow the link, you will see the lovely cottages and accommodation packages. We found the owners, David and Daniella to be welcoming and kind, but not obtrusive. The cottages were clean, cosy, very private and comfortable.
Best of all, they were very excited to provide a vegan breakfast. Their accommodation comes with a breakfast package. You can have either a gourmet hamper or a BBQ hamper, to cook on your own BBQ in the secluded courtyard of your cottage. Usually the options for vegans are confusing for small B&B providers or scanty. David, however, was very excited to put together a vegan hamper. He asked me what I like and understood veganism very well.
We opted for a gourmet hamper the first morning. I had the vegan option and Mr Brisvegan, an omni, asked for the non-vegan version. Here is the vegan food which was provided:
There was cereal, soy milk, fruit, nuts, avocado (yum!), jam and a loaf of pumpkin seed bread fresh from a breadmaker, which was still warm. There was also juice, an apple, mandarin and banana, which is not pictured, plus dairy yoghurt and deli items for Mr BrisVegan. There was instant and fresh-ground coffee and teabags in the cottage kitchenette. This was delicious, and was so much food that we had leftovers for lunch.
The next day, we had the BBQ hamper. Here is the vegan portion:
And here is my plate of BBQ'ed goodness:
There is tomato, cooked with a little sugar, salt, pepper, and parsley. On the right is lightly blackened capsicum, cooked with sparkling wine and orange juice and sprinkled with dukkah, from the Mt Tambourine spice store. There is also mushroom, grilled apple wedges with a little sugar and toast, some with avocado from the previous day. It was all cooked in the extra virgin olive oil spray which was in the cottage kitchen.
Vegans will find a warm and tasty welcome at Witches Falls Cottages!
This is the road ahead of our car:
A shot of the sun, directly overhead:
The high tension power lines leading away from the road. You can barely see the next tower, which was less than 100 metres away:
We drove back to Brisbane through the dust storm. It was like driving in fog. Visibility was less than 50 metres.
The dust blanketed south-east Queensland for the rest of the day. Everything was an eerie ochre twilight. However, the air was mostly clear today.
While this was rather dramatic, there was little lasting damage for most people. The wind may have damaged a few trees (not near us, thank goodness). However, some people suffered respiratory distress, which can be dangerous for asthmatics. I hope all the east Australian bloggers, readers and their loved ones are OK.
Monday, September 21, 2009
On Saturday, I went to the Carnival of Flowers, in Toowoomba. Toowoomba is a beautiful regional city, 120km west of Brisbane. It is situated on the top of the Great Dividing Range. Though it is only 1 1/2 hours west of Brisbane, the climate is milder, due to its mountainous position. By Queensland standards, it is relatively cold, though it has only lightly snowed on around 3 occasions in my nearly 40 years. The cooler climate means that many English and European plants, including bulbs, grow beautifully there. It is famous for its beautiful spring floral displays. I grew up in Toowoomba. My mother, sister and extended family members still live there.
Each spring, in early September, Toowoomba hosts the Carnival of Flowers. This week long festival commences with a street parade of floats decorated with live flowers.
There are also garden tours and spectacular gardens in the city's many parks.
In the largest central park, Queens Park, there was also a sideshow ally, classic car display and food and wine show.
After the parade, the food and wine show was our destination. After all, I am all about the food! Unfortunately, the food and wine show was not all about the vegans. The food was a bit of a disappointment. There were not many food displays, though there were a number of food sales tents, some from local restaurants and some the usual food carts from markets/festivals. Only a couple had anything vegan. I had plain Langos, vegan Dippin Dots (apparently, the ice is vegan, but not the sherbet or ice-cream), Byron Bay fresh ginger bear (yum!) and later, soy coffee. It was all pretty good. Non-vegans also had a range of Thai, Indian, Spanish and mod-Australian food, some of which was vegetarian.
There were many local wineries, from the Granite Belt. Several of those had good, vegan wine. The most easily available for Australian consumers was the Ballandean Winery, which has wines sold in many outlets and at some very good restaurants, including Melbourne's Vue du Monde. I spoke to the wine maker. He said that they did not use fish, insinglass, gelatine, egg or milk products in any of the whites, though there is an allergy warning on them, as there is a small chance of traces of such products getting into the wine from some of the reds. They apparently use a plastic polymer to fine some of the whites. They want to phase out allergens as much as possible. The SSR (a semillon, sauvignon blanc blend) was very nice, herbaceous and fresh, with a good acid balance and hint of fruit.
There was also a great jazz bland playing and a large play area for children. The kids enjoyed the play area, which included a DIY area with supervisors who led them through painting chairs, walls and play equipment for use later in the week.
If you get a chance to visit Toowoomba, it is especially beautiful in spring and well worth the visit. There are no purely vegetarian or vegan restaurants, though several restaurants have vegan or vegetarian options, that can be made vegan.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I have heard that Australians eat more pumpkin than any other nation. It is a common vegetable on many Australian plates. We eat it in soups, roasted, roasted and cold in salads, in pasta and risotto, on pizza, in tempura batter, etc. Australian pumpkins are often smallish, with thick sweet flesh. We also tend to call winter squash, like butternut, a pumpkin.
Most Australians would use fresh pumpkin, though you occasionally see frozen prepared pumpkin in the freezer section of the supermarket. I have never seen canned pumpkin of the sort which seems to be common in the USA. Oddly, pumpkin pie is only occasionally seen on Australian menus. I think I have only eaten pumpkin pie two or three times in my life (love it though!).
I have posted pumpkin soup in the past and will post more in the future, I am sure. However, today's dish is a pumpkin side dish that I made a few weeks ago.
Maple Glazed Pumpkin
Serves 4 as a side dish
500g (approx) pumpkin cut into 5cm chunks
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon each paprika and sumac (you could use other spices like coriander for different flavours)
1 1/2 tablespoon sweet fruity olive oil or neutral cooking oil like canola
- Heat oven to 200 degrees centigrade.
- Mix all ingredients but pumpkin.
- Add pumpkin and toss until pumpkin is coated with maple syrup mix.
- Bake pumpkin on a tray lined with baking paper for approx 45 minutes to 1 hour or until pumpkin is soft and lightly browned.
- Serve with your savoury dish of choice.
Now, I am off to Toowoomba to attend the Carnival of Flowers celebrations. I grew up in Toowoomba, which is 120 kilomoters west of Brisbane, on top of the Great Dividing Range (mountains which stretch down most of the east coast of Australia). Some of my family still live there. Each year there is a garden and flower based festival in Toowoomba, with parades, garden tours and a major festival in a large park. I haven't been for years and am quite excited about going this year. I will report back tomorrow.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Today I am on strike. Academics around Australia are striking today after stalled negotiations at many universities. The National Tertiary Education Union is concerned about class sizes (some over 500 people for lectures), increased casualisation of workforces (with the attendant job insecurity, lack of decent conditions, leave or superannuation, often going on for many years and with over a full time person's workload for less pay), workload issues, job security, the rights of unions to represent workers in disputes and issues around the workload and classification of administrative staff.
Academics are not paid well compared to what many could earn in the private sector or doing research for private companies. (By the way, we also usually only have 4 weeks holiday a year, not the full uni holidays, as some people assume. Research, teaching preparation and social service requirements take up the time when students aren't on campus.) If the conditions of their employment erode so that the workload is unreasonably high and there is no proper respect and job security for a casualised workforce, there is little incentive for good people to stay in academia, where they benefit all of society by making the fruits of their research public and by teaching the next generation of graduates in all disciplines and professions.
I have a good boss and am not disadvantaged by many of the problems mentioned. But I am a member of the NTEU and support the right of my fellow university workers to decent conditions. So, I am on strike, to support the action.
On a happier note, let's talk about food!
The Australian version of scones is much more old fashioned and plain than the version that I see in American recipe books. They are a round, plain, slightly sweet, heavy bread-like product, a bit like an American biscuit. (By the way, biscuit in Australia = cookie in America). In fact, Australians explain American biscuits by saying "They are a bit like a savoury scone."
Australians put very few flavourings in scones. Common flavours are plain, raisin, date or pumpkin (usually unspiced). Anything else would be viewed as a gimmick. You certainly don't see the wide variety of flavours that Americans seem to put in the wedge shaped sweets that they call scones. Australian scone are also usually round on top, though they may have squared sides from being cooked together. They are also tall, compared to the pictures I have seen of American scones. They are usually served with butter or jam and cream.
So, here are the Australian scones that I made last weekend, served with strawberry jam and Soyatoo canned whipped "cream":
The recipe is again from The Australian Women's Weekly Original Cookbook by "Food Editor Ellen Sinclair" (as it says on the cover).*
Here is the recipe, veganised from the cookbook. Other than vegan ingredient substitutions and the words "half and half", it is transcribed from the recipe in the cookbook.
2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
30g (1 oz) vegan margarine, very cold
3/4 cup mixed soy milk and water [half and half]
Sift flour and salt into basin, stir in sugar. Rub in margarine until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Pour nearly all the liquid in at once and mix to a soft dough. (Flours vary in the way they absorb liquid; if the mixture is not soft enough, add remaining liquid.) Place on floured surface and knead lightly. Pat dough out to approximately 2 cm (3/4in.) in thickness, and, using a 5cm (2 in.) cutter, cut into rounds. Place onto a greased oven tray or into a lightly greased 28cm x 18 cm (11 in. x 7 in.) lamington tin, glaze with a little soy milk. Bake in a very hot oven** for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.
Makes approx. 12.
*This large omnibus style cookbook is an Australian standard. It covers many basic traditional Anglo-Australian recipe, with a few intermediate or simplified international dishes. I was given a copy pregan, when I first moved out of my parent's place over 20 years ago. It is a handy source of veganisable basic recipes for me.
** 270-190 Celsius or 525-550 Fahrenheit
Monday, September 14, 2009
Lamingtons are a white cake (either sponge or butter cake) dipped in thin chocolate icing and then rolled in coconut. I have also seen strawberry versions where the chocolate icing is replaced by strawberry jelly (jello for the US readers).
I decided to bake on Saturday and Sunday, and made these lamingtons:
To make them, I used the recipe for Basic Vanilla Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I made a 1 1/2 size batter. I reduced the vanilla by about 1/2. I poured the final batter into a lamington tray lined with baking paper. (For non-Australians, I think you would use a rectangular 12" x 18" brownie tray.) I then baked it for about 35-40 minutes.
I left the cake in the fridge, covered, overnight. Waiting overnight is important, as it stops the cake from crumbling when you cut it.
The next day, I cut it into 24 squares. With the assistance of M and my niece, I then dipped each square into thin chocolate icing and the shredded coconut. The icing was the lamington icing from an old copy of the Women's Weekly Original Cookbook. It was 500g (1lb) icing mixture (you could use icing sugar), 1/3 cup cocoa, 30g melted Nuttelex margarine (Earth Balance would work) and 1/2 cup soy milk (you could use whatever "milk" you like). These were then whisked until smooth.
Dipping was messy but fun. As the first lamintons that I have had in almost 3 years, they were pretty darn good. They were even better today, with the icing well soaked into the cake. They could easily be given to omnis as a great treat. You could also make cupcakes and just dip the top into the icing and coconut.
My niece helped because she and her brother stayed with us overnight, while her parents went to a wedding and then spent Sunday moving house. The girls asked to help while the boys were playing outside - I didn't make a sexist selection.
I gave lamingtons, scones and jam on a pretty platter to my sister's family as a housewarming present. Scone pictures will follow in the next few days.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Ok, this post is not technically an "Aussie food" post. Last night, I felt like I was coming down with a cold. You know the deal, that almost a sore throat, runny nose, almost a fever kind of feeling.
I don't know about you, but when I feel a cold coming on, I want a nice hearty soup. I like ginger, garlic, miso and greens to boost immunity. So I cooked this:
Asian Inspired Tofu, Rice and Vegetable Soup
2 tablespoons rice bran oil or other mild cooking oil
320 g extra firm tofu, cut into 1 1/2 cm cubes
1 small onion
4 cloves crushed garlic (I cheated and used the stuff from a jar)
1 cm piece fresh ginger, minced
1 cup rice
bunch Asian greens (I used choy sum, but you could use gai lan, bok choy or wombok)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped into 2 cm pieces
4 sliced mushrooms
2 sliced carrots
5 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons cooking sherry
4 tablespoons miso paste
- In a large soup pot, heat the oil. Add the tofu and onion. Fry over a gentle heat until onion is translucent.
- Add garlic and ginger. Fry gently until ginger is fragrant.
- Chop the Asian greens. Separate the stems and leaves. You will be putting them in at different stages.
- Add all the remaining ingredients, other than the miso paste and leaves of your Asian greens.
- cover with water to about 5 cm above the other ingredients. To speed this up, I boiled the water in a kettle and just poured over the boiling water.
- Bring to boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until rice is cooked.
- Add the leaves of your green and cook for 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat and add miso paste. Stir well to combine.
- Add more boiling water, if you want more liquid.
- Serve and enjoy.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
I am defining this as Australian, because I found the recipe on the Vegetarian Network Victoria site.
That site has some good resources, including a veg*n alcohol list.
My students have been taking turns bringing morning tea to work one day each week. I had been doing the usual vegan response to baked goods: “Does it contain dairy or eggs? No thanks, I’m vegan. Looks lovely, though. Very thoughtful.” However, one lovely person went searching for vegan recipes. She made this wonderful Banana Walnut Caramel Pudding from the recipe here.
It was really good. When I said so, she sent me the link to the recipe. I made some a few days after. It was intended to be for school lunches the next week, but we (with some visitors) ate the whole thing over the weekend.
For my effort, I doubled the recipe, swapped half of the flour for wholemeal and only used 1 ½ times the caramel for the top. I also kept the walnuts back and put them on top of half the loaf, because Z does not like nuts in baked goods. It was still very good, though not as luscious and sweet as the original.