Wednesday, December 31, 2008


One of the first recipes we've made from my new cookbook, Wild Morsels, is the Crumbed Tofu Schnitzels. By "trying this recipe" I mean following it's methods but changing up the ingredients, because our pantry was low on the required attributes to follow exactly.

So, the idea behind this recipe is to marinate tofu and then to flour it, "egg" wash it, and the crumb it before frying.

Andy made a marinade out of soy sauce, orange juice, herbs, and some other mystery ingredients. We let the tofu sit overnight to absorb maximum flavour.

I forgot that we had breadcrumbs in the freezer, so I crushed some corn flakes instead. Then we set up a bit of a production line and I got to schnitzelling.

Step 1: Coat tofu in flour.

Step 2: Dip floured tofu in batter.

Step 3: Cover floured and battered tofu in crumbs.
Step 4: Set aside. Andy reckons it's best to leave the schnitzels for at least 20 minutes, so the egg equivalent can harden up and the crumbs are less likely to fall off.
We had batter left over from the tofu, so we schnitzelled some zucchini slices as well.
After your schnitzels have rested up properly, and you've gotten all the gunky batter/crumb mix off your fingers, it's time to start frying. Heat up the pan, add a thin layer of oil and then the schnitzels. Cook until the crumbs are golden, and if necessary keep them warm in the oven while you fry the rest of the schnitzels.

We had ours served on a bed of spinach with a small salad.

And the next day, we enjoyed them cold in sandwich form.
I've never schnitzelled anything before, but this was actually much easier, and much more rewarding than I expected. (Plus, the word schnitzel is really fun to say, which is why I've made it into a verb and adjective as well as a noun.) I'll definitely be schnitzelling again in the future!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas weekend

Last Christmas, Andy adamantly told me that he didn’t want to do anything; that the day was just another day in his opinion. Then on Christmas Eve he was sad that we weren’t doing anything, so we quickly decided on a menu, rushed to the shop for some ingredients, and threw together a nice Christmas Eve dinner.

This year I pre-empted his indecision and planned a bit better. This meant that I was able to make things in advance, so there was much less to do before dinner on Christmas Eve (and even less to do on Christmas Day). But, we still had quite a feast, and a lot of fun, despite our quiet, low-key activities.

The weekend before Christmas, I baked some masala chai cookies, and made some coconut-ginger truffles. Wrapped up on a pretty (second-hand) plate, these were gifts for a few people, but I made sure there were plenty of leftovers for ourselves.

Though we’re not really Christmassy people, while at the public library on the 23rd I grabbed a free paper reindeer crown, fastened it around a candle and we had out christmas centrepiece.

We started our Christmas feast with some Chilled Zucchini Soup, an Urban Vegan tester recipe. This was a nice, light soup and it was the perfect way to get the meal started on a hot, humid day.

We finished our wine, and then it was time for the main course. Pumpkin seitan (based on Celine’s recipe) with Pecan-Cherry Stuffing (another Urban Vegan tester) was the hearty feature. With it, we had a creamy dill potato salad and a spinach salad.

We were pretty full (especially Andy, who had been eating stuffing all afternoon) but we found a bit of room for a few bites of Trifle, topped it with some Sabayon Sauce, an Urban Vegan tester recipe. It was a sweet, boozy, and yummy end to our Christmas feast.

The next morning we woke up and had a lazy breakfast. We opened a few presents sent up by Andy’s family. Andy’s mum went online to order me some vegan Macadamia Nougat candies and a really great Aussie vegan cookbook called Wild Morsels. Andy got a wind-up head torch which needs no batteries, and some organic ginger and a tea sampler pack his parents picked up on holiday recently. And from Grandma, we got some hand-knitted tea towels.

Then, we packed some leftovers into our cooler bag and hit the road. We headed to Alligator Creek, about 30 minutes south of Townsville. We weren’t the only ones with that idea, but we were able to have a quiet swim away from most of the crowds.

We climbed around on the rocks.

And we sat in some mini-waterfalls for a free spa.

Then we went back to the picnic area for an early-ish lunch of leftovers and watermelon.

We were visited by some curious bush turkeys, and a few nasty march flies.

Then we went for a short hike up the hill to Cockatoo Creek, where we definitely enjoyed sitting in the running water to cool off.

We ate some cookies before walking the two kilometres back to the car and then heading home.

We stopped briefly on our way out of Alligator Creek to buy a bag of Mangoes from this small orchard.

All up, it was a great way to spend Christmas Day. But, luckily for us, Australians celebrate Boxing Day as a public holiday and the timing of the days meant that, this year, we were granted with a four-day weekend (4 and ½, if you count our early knock-off on Christmas Eve.... nearly 10 days if you include the closure of the uni until after New Year’s Day).

To celebrate the public holiday, we lazed around the house reading, sewing, and snacking on leftovers, as one does the day after Christmas. In the evening we went to see the epic new-ish film Australia. I know this has not done well in America, but I highly recommend going to see it. It’s not the most vegan film—the beef industry, horse breeding and riding, and kangaroo shooting all have their place. But, if you can sit through a bit of that, then it’s worth watching for a compelling depiction of Aboriginal-settler relations in the first half of the 20th century as well as the bombing of Darwin in WWII. If you go see it, or you have already, I’d like to know what your thoughts were on the movie...

The long weekend continued in a similarly lazy fashion. Andy made apple pancakes for breakfast one morning, which I topped with some leftover Sabayon sauce.

We read more, went to uni for a bit, I sewed some more, we ate lots of food, and we bought more mangoes at the market (expect a post soon!). Basically, it was a great, long, summer weekend and I wouldn’t have spent it any differently.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Touring the North Island

Pohutukawa tree, or 'New Zealand Christmas tree'

The majority of my week in Aotearoa New Zealand was taken up by the conference I was attending. 400 papers, plus a full program of ethnographic films takes a lot of time, but it also tires you out. Especially following very little sleep, thanks to a conference dinner and dancing to Baltic music.

For that reason, I was happy to wag off on Friday with my friend Chris and skip most of that day's proceedings. Instead, we had breakfast and then set off to walk up Mt Eden, or Maungawhau. The highest point in Auckland (aside from buildings), Mt Eden was not too far from our dingy apartment so we did the whole thing on foot. We started out walking through the Domain, Auckland's big garden with both landscaped grounds and bush.

Then it was back onto the street, into the suburb of Mt Eden and then up the hill. Near the top we found a small herd of small cows, grazing and napping and doing their cow-thing, free of fences.

This one let me give her a pat. I don't think she was particularly friendly, just too tired to move away.

From the lookout on top of Mt Eden you can see all around Auckland.

And, even though Mt Eden erupted 60,000 years ago, the crater is still very visible.

After marvelling at the view (and the cows) for a little while, it was time to walk back down the hill. Chris and I parted ways at the Auckland Museum, where she went in for a look around and I continued into the city. You see, I had a lunch date.

I was meeting up with Vaala, of the beautifully written blog Twilight and Shadow. We headed to Raw Power for lunch, a vegetarian cafe right in the city centre. The menu was packed with vegan options, so I asked Vaala what was good. I settled for the Tofu Burger, and I was informed that the guy from Coldplay had the same meal when he came to Auckland. It was the most aesthetically appealing sandwich I've probably ever had, but I had to eat it with fork and knife because it was so big.

I washed it down with the juice of the day, which was called the 'Elvis'. I don't remember what was in it, but it was yummy.

Then we grabbed dessert (I grabbed two desserts!) and went to Albert Park, near the uni, to eat in the sun. I had a Vegan Vanilla Creme, which is two chocolate biscuits with vanilla icing in the middle, and chocolate sprinkles around the edge.

Vaala was, as I expected, a lovely person and I'm very glad I was able to meet her.
A big tree in Albert Park.

(I also got a vegan rum ball to go, which I ate during afternoon tea at the conference.) After lunch I went back to the conference and settled in to some ethnographic films. As I watched, I wrote a few postcards to send to my family and started winding down for the weekend.

On Saturday a group of us rented a car so we could explore a bit more of the north island. The driver, Marcus, had heard about some hot springs about 40 minutes north of Auckland, so that was the only thing on the agenda for the day. We went, paid exhorbitant amounts of money to get in, and then agreed it was well worth it to soak in 40 degree mineral water.

After our fingers got wrinkly we dried off and kept going north. We found a little town called Warkworth, which I'm pretty sure is the best name for a town I've ever heard--especially if you have an American accent, like I do. We tried out our kiwi accents for lunch and I had "fush-liss sushi" and "chups". Sorry to any kiwis reading this--we weren't making too much fun of you, but it's just a nice accent to speak with!

From Warkworth we headed northeast, to Tawharanui National Park on the east coast. We marvelled at the blue water, waves, sheep and green hills.

Then we went a bit further north to Leigh, where we had a look at the Goat Island Marine Reserve (our driver, though now an anthropologist, started his life as a marine biologist, so this was for him really).

It was getting to be late afternoon at this stage, so we headed west. My supervisor *really* wanted to see the west coast, and especially the gannet colony, after hearing so much about it during the week. Though less than an hour's drive apart, the east and west coasts are vastly different to one another.

At Muriwai, we accidentally missed the turn off for the gannet colony and were rewarded with some amazing views of the whole coast.

And then we were quickly back on track for an up-close look at the gannets (again, for me).
Since Auckland doesn't get dark until late, we lost track of time and ended up going out to dinner at 9 pm, and finishing at nearly midnight! Very European of us, no? Then it was to bed, so I could wake up, do some last minute gift-shopping, pack and then get to the airport to head home. My arrival at home was slightly delayed thanks to a thunder storm over Townsville, but I got there, and in one piece. And shortly after I landed, Andy's plane came in from Lizard Island, where he'd been for the last five weeks. So while I had a great time in both Melbourne and Auckland, I was definitely happy to come home!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Aotearoa New Zealand

After a very fun, food-filled week in Melbourne at a sociology conference, I was off (very early in the morning) to Auckland for an anthropology conference. The time difference plus some plane delays meant I didn’t get into Auckland until late in the afternoon, but thanks to daylight savings time (which QLD doesn’t have) it doesn’t get dark until almost 9 pm.

I was sharing a three-bedroom apartment with my supervisor and another PhD student. Since I was the first to fly in, I got to the room first. I was surprised to find a sticky floor, dirty dishes, no sheets or towels or toilet paper, and a stink of stale cigarettes. When I asked, I was told the cleaners just hadn’t gotten to it yet. So, I went for a wander down Queen Street to see what the city was like. For the most part, I think Auckland is a city with a nice feel to it. Big buildings and lots of people, but diverse food and shop offerings and a generally friendly population. (And the room, though always dingy, was eventually cleaned.)

While not as overtly vegan-friendly as Melbourne, Auckland was certainly easier to navigate than Townsville. Falafels, cheeseless pizza, pasta arrabiata, kumara chips, avocado and tomato sandwiches, and Indian food were all easy meals to grab out. Plus, the little kitchenette meant we had an easy source of breakfast (peanut butter toast) and some place to make noodles with tofu for dinner one night.

I had high hopes for the conference food—on the first day there was a tray of mini-bagels with avocado and tomato, or with jam, and in the welcome session the organisers said those with ‘special dietary requests’ should ask the servers who would keep the vegan stuff in the kitchen for us. Lunch wasn’t provided, to keep costs down. At afternoon tea I asked and was given veggie sandwiches on gluten-free bread. The next few days, I asked and was told there was nothing. I got fruit a few times when it was put out for everyone, but I mostly tried to keep my stomach full of tea instead of food. Luckily there were cafes for lunch close to the conference space.

Although the conference program was pretty full-on—400 papers and 450 delegates from a surprising number of countries—the organisers planned an afternoon off on Wednesday. They offered three choices of organised tours, or of course you could go off on your own. I chose the tour to the “Wild West Coast”. I picked up my bag lunch (yummy salad, fruit and juice) and hopped on the bus along with 30 or so other anthropologists from around the world, and we were off.

We headed up to the Waitakere Ranges, from which you can see all around Auckland.

We marvelled at all the tree ferns that make up the forests of the North Island.

And we poked around in the little visitor’s centre which is marked by a giant Maori carving.

I couldn’t resist posing, with my friend Chris, in the picture frame—a tacky tourist move that was quickly followed by many in our group.

We drove through the mountains, stopping only once for a brief walk to a big kauri tree. The photos don’t do this tree justice—it probably would have taken about 8 adults with arms outstretched to fully circle the trunk.

When we came down out of the mountains, the next item on our agenda was to visit a winery. There, we had bottles and bottles of free wine for tasting, along with fruit, crackers, and some non-vegan snacks.

Then it was just a bit further on to the west coast proper—Muriwai Beach, to be specific.

In addition to black sand, waves, and a generally dramatic coastline, Muriwai is home to a huge colony of gannets. Each white speck on those rocks is a bird—most were sitting on nests full of baby gannets.

We watched the birds for a bit, but then it was time to head back to Auckland. After all, the conference was only half over. I presented my paper the following day, and then we all ate too much at the conference dinner. Despite the lack of vegan morning and afternoon tea, the conference dinner was well-catered. Our friendly server, Campbell, fixed me up with an entrée of grilled eggplant, roasted capsicum and artichoke hearts. Then, when the rest of the table had to wait in line for their gross food, I was served a plate piled high with gorgeous, pink, beetroot risotto topped with grilled asparagus. The free wine led to much dancing and merry-making late into the night.

Now, I will leave it there for this post, and pick up in my next post with my last two days in Aotearoa New Zealand (which will have more photos!).