Monday, June 30, 2008

The Townsville Show

A few weeks ago I was talking to some other members of the Townsville Animal Alliance, and we were discussing the pros and cons of having a stall at the Townsville Show. The Show is the Australian equivalent of an American county fair—agricultural displays, demolition derbies, rides, greasy food, farm animals, and competitions for local crafts, produce, and baked goods. It’s sort of the antithesis of an animal rights group.

But wait—baked good competition? We decided that we had to enter vegan baked goods. I emailed an inquiry, and got back a very detailed list of categories, rules and conditions. There were almost 90 categories, not including the junior section, but I settled on two: Madeira Cake and Small Cakes.

After I entered the paperwork, I realised I’ve never eaten a madeira cake and all I knew about it was that it was orange-flavoured. I did some googling and discovered it’s an orangey pound cake. I’ve never made a poundcake... but I remembered reading good things about the recipe from Veganomicon. So my first task was to get ahold of that recipe. I left comments and sent emails to other bloggers, and eventually Vegan Noodle emailed me a copy—thanks!

Two weeks before the Show I modified the pound cake recipe and made some practice versions. Here are my Mexican Chocolate practice cupcakes.

I made sure to share my Madeira Cake with lots of non-vegan friends, to make sure it tasted like it was supposed to taste. I got rave reviews, so I was all set to enter the show.

So Thursday night I got to baking. I did it properly, measuring and sifting and doing steps I sometimes skip. I made the Madeira Cake first. (It had to be in a 20 cm round tin, even though madeira cake is traditionally in loaf form... weird.)

Then I made the cupcakes, which I dipped in a dark chocolate ganache. The ganache was a bit lumpy looking, so I sprinkled the cuppers with icing sugar. Unfortunately, it melted and left white puddles—so we chose the six cupcakes with the most uniform patterns and entered them.

We dropped them off at the Cooking Pavilion on Friday morning, and then they were judged and displayed for the duration of the show. The only trouble is, you had to go to find out if you won...

Madeira Cake (based on Vanilla Yogurt Poundcake from Veganomicon)

1 c. blended silken tofu
½ c. orange juice
1 c. soy milk
1 t. white vinegar
1 ¾ c. raw sugar
¾ c. vegetable oil
3 t. vanilla
1 ½ t. orange zest
3 c. flour
4 ½ T. arrowroot powder
2 ¼ t. baking powder
¾ t. bicarb soda
¾ t. salt

Preheat the oven to 170. Grease and flour two loaf pans or round cake pans (or one of each). Combine orange juice, soy milk and vinegar, set aside. In a large bowl, combine tofu, vanilla, soy milk mixture, sugar, oil, and orange zest. Using a stick blender or electric mixer, blend until smooth. In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients and then sift into wet ingredients. Fold together, and then stir vigorously for several minutes until a smooth, thick batter forms. Pour into prepared tins and smooth tops. Bake for 65 to 75 minutes—don’t open the oven for the first 45 minutes. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely. Best the day after baking.

Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes

1 ½ c. plain flour
1 c. sugar
½ c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. bicarb soda
¼ t. salt
1 c. cold water
¼ c. vegetable oil
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. vanilla
1/2 t. cayenne powder (optional, but I didn't think the CWA would be too keen on it so I left it out)

Preheat the oven to 180. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with liners. Sift together dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a jug, combine cold water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until just combined. Spoon into prepared tins. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes and cool completely before icing.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Eat a rainbow

You don't need skittles or other yucky candy to taste the full range of colours... all you need is some fruit and veg. Here is some of the colourful and wintry food we've been eating.

Avocado, tomato, cucumber and raw corn salad. Avocadoes are at the peak of amazingness right now, and they are so creamy and good that we've been having them at least once a day (on the weekend we had avocado for breakfast, lunch, and dinner).

Green zucchini, sauteed with oil, salt and pepper; a grilled tomato half; eggplant bharta; and purple potato patties (purple sweet potatoes mashed with corn and coriander).
More purple potatoes, paired this time with japanese pumpkin and a spinach-cream sauce to make lasagne.
Leftover lasagne made a reappearance the next night, along with some bright red, juicy tomatoes stuffed with silverbeet (swiss chard), carrot and breadcrumbs.
And when you need some hot pink in your life, try some grapefruit juice.
Now, the only colour I'm missing is blue... but it's been so cold that my fingers and toes are maybe a little blue. Okay, I'm exaggerating a little, but it's cold enough that my normally liquid coconut oil under the bathroom sink has turned completely solid--now that's cold.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mission Beach

Some food, some travel, lots of photos—I’ll try to keep the words to a minimum.

We started our holiday about 40 minutes north of Townsville at Frosty Mango. They make their own tropical fruit ice creams on site, mostly with fruit they grow there, and about half their stuff is dairy-free. I got a lime & basil cone and Andy got a dragonfruit cone.

The next stop was another few minutes up the road, Jourama Falls. Only 6 kms off the highway and then a 1.2 km walk, we got to a lookout to see water pouring down the mountainside.

Then it was back on the road through Ingham and north to Cardwell. Here we stopped off at the Rainforest & Reef Centre and went for a walk along the jetty to look at their shallow, mucky beach.

From Cardwell we just drove straight through to Mission Beach so we could check into our accommodation. Cassawong Cottages is made up of 6 private bungalows—4 family sized and 2 couple sized. We had a big spa bath, a giant bed, a kitchen, front veranda with a bbq, and a back balcony that looked straight into rainforest.

We took full advantage of the kitchen and bbq area.

For breakfast one morning we had pancakes (I pre-mixed the dry ingredients and brought them with us in a jar), with raspberry jam sauce (also pre-mixed in Townsville) and bananas cooked with orange-mango juice.

Full of breakfast we headed off further north. We went along the ‘Canecutter Road’ and saw lots of sugar cane and banana farms.

Then we arrived at our main destination for the day—Paronella Park. In the 1930s a Spanish immigrant built a castle with some serious gardens next to a gorgeous waterfall, and it’s mostly fallen apart now but it’s still really beautiful.

We continued north on the Canecutter Road and stopped at a colourful produce stall in South Johnstone, where we got a pile of avocados, and a two-headed pineapple.

Then we found ourselves in Innisfail, a small city in the north with crazy traffic—so we left pretty quickly and headed back south. We turned off the main highway to stop at Cowley Beach for some hot chips and great views.

We got back to our bungalow in the afternoon and had a snack on the balcony of olives, balsamic vinegar peanuts, crackers with avocado, and champagne.

A walk on the beach across the street from our accommodation worked our appetites back up for dinner—pasta, bbq potatoes, garlic bread, and grilled tomatoes.

We had to check out of our bungalow by 10 am, so we had all day to explore on the way home. Our first stop was Tully, just inland from Mission Beach, and a major sugar cane processing area.

We climbed up the Golden Gumboot at the centre of town. The boot is 7.9 metres tall, which represents the highest annual rainfall they received in the town, which is the wettest place in Australia.

A bit further south from Tully and back to the coast we found Hull Heads, where the Hull River comes out to the ocean.

Just outside Ingham we stopped at the top of a hill to take in the views of Hinchinbrook Island just off the coast.

Then we turned off the highway again to go out to Lucinda and see the “world’s longest offshore sugar loading facility”—a six km jetty. The jetty is so long it curves with the earth’s surface.

Our holiday ended the same way it began... at Frosty Mango. This time we shared a 5-flavour boat. Clockwise from the hot pink one there is Dragonfruit, Custard Apple, Cashew Apple, Mango, and Mamey Sapote.

Three days and two nights without any phone calls, work, or stresses was definitely what we needed.

Monday, June 16, 2008

We're off for a few relaxing days in Mission Beach, full of sand, rainforests, spanish castles, and quiet. Sure, Mission Beach is practically in our backyard, but we decided that we'd be better off staying close by and splurging on accommodation (have you seen the price of petrol lately?!). We got a last minute deal on a fancy pants Spa Bungalow, so we'll be living it up in style for three days and two nights. I'll be back to blog reading and posting next week!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tofu, cauliflower and beetroot

Three things we’ve been eating a lot of lately.

We tried making SusanV’s mini crustless tofu quiches. We used silken tofu that had previously been frozen; cut the recipe in half; used dried mushrooms instead of fresh; and used tomato instead of capsicum. Some combination of these changes led to a complete disaster—even after 40 minutes in the oven, these had not set up at all. I took them out anyways, and let them cool hoping they would firm up, but... no dice. What we had was a tasty but shapeless pile of tofu mush.

We also had roasted beetroot (which doesn't photograph well) and cauliflower baked in a garlic-cream sauce, which redeemed the meal completely.

A more successful attempt at tofu—firm, fresh tofu from the asian grocery store. I marinated it in a mixture of garlic, ginger, hoisin, soy sauce and apple cider vinegar. Then I fried it up in my kick-ass new pan and it got a little crispy and caramelised. After the tofu was cooked, Andy threw together a noodle and veggie stir fry with chilli and the leftover marinade. Yummy dinner—filling, tasty, easy.

Cauliflower was the star of this dinner. Andy found the recipe for “Cheesy Broccoli and Rice Casserole” in The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook. Instead of broccoli, he used cauliflower because it’s ridiculously cheap right now. And he added some frozen spinach. This was a really easy meal that uses exactly one dish in the preparation. It was pretty good, but we both agreed that broccoli would have been better.

Next to the casserole, I made some roasted veggies—parsnips, purple potato, and carrot with black olives and capers (based very closely on La Dolce Vegan’s ‘Roasted parsnips’).

Tasty tofu mush, take two. On the way home from uni yesterday I had a little bike crash when a kid on a bike swerved into me (on accident) as I was passing him on the path. We both ate shit, and I ended up with a scrape on my arm, a sore ankle and knee, some bruises and tight muscles. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t hurt at all.

While I was whinging on the couch, Andy made dinner for me. He decided to make the ‘Indian Frittata’ from Vegan with a Vengeance which features cauliflower, but reckoned it wasn’t going to set anyways so just decided to do it on the stove in scramble form. Then it took on a life of its own—he added potatoes, zucchini, carrot, lots of spices, and used silken tofu because that’s what we had. It was good, but not great.

I managed to suck it up for long enough to throw together a quick side dish—orange and ginger glazed beetroot. I just simmered a few baby beets with orange juice, powdered ginger and salt until the beets were tender and the sauce was thick. It was really good, but next time I’d use fresh ginger.

Now, we still have 1 ½ heads of cauliflower to use before we go to the market on Sunday! What's your favourite way to have cauliflower?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Queen's Birthday weekend

I’m not big on holidays, but this one has to be the silliest. The Queen’s birthday is actually in April, but Australia celebrates it in the form of a three day weekend in June. Don’t ask why, I have no idea. But ridiculous holidays aside, three day weekends are a good opportunity to relax, catch up on stuff, and have fun. In our house, it meant lots of cooking, a few hours at the Palm Creek Folk Festival, some shopping and errands, and lots of cleaning.

I started my weekend on Friday afternoon with a seminar on climate change and heritage in Micronesia, followed by some wine with the presenters (in actuality, much more fun than it sounds). I came home to find Andy making ‘Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew’ from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. With brown rice, bread, and more wine, this was a yummy way to wind down after the last day of the semester.

Saturday we did some shopping and errands, and I got a new cast iron frying pan from a very fancy appliance store. The shop woman told me she uses it for absolutely everything, it’s restaurant quality, it has a 25 year warranty, etc. I’ve only used it a few times, but so far I’m pretty happy with it.

And Nacho loves when we buy things because she gets a new box to play with.

One morning we started the day with tofu scramble with carrot, tomato and spinach.

And another breakfast was the ever-fabulous ‘Fronch Toast’ from Vegan with a Vengeance, served with raspberry sauce.

For dinner one night we made the ‘Punk-kin Pasta’ from La Dolce Vegan. Instead of tinned pumpkin, we used some we had roasted before. Instead of soy sausage, we used TVP crumbles rehydrated in stock, aniseed, and paprika (which tasted a whole lot like Italian sausage). And we added spinach. This pasta was really very good.

We made a batch of Real Food Daily’s ‘Basic Seitan’. After it cooked, we cut it into meal-sized pieces and stuck it into the freezer. We’ve been so busy for the past few months that our frozen stocks have slowly dwindled, but now we’re back to a good level.

We had coriander-cannellini cutlets with mashed potatoes, and sautéed beet greens with corn.

For dessert one night, I used up two old apples and one lonely sheet of puff pastry to make impromptu turnovers, inspired by Pleasantly Plump Vegan.

And finally, the last day of the weekend was spent cleaning for an upcoming real estate inspection. We worked up our hunger, so Andy put together this massive sandwich.

It has leftover cannellini cutlets, ceylon spinach, tomato, cucumber, dill pickles, coriander, mustard, sour cream, and perhaps some other things. It was messy, but oh so good.

Happy belated birthday, Queen, and thanks for the three-day weekend!!