Monday, 30 October 2017

Bones and blood, Monster doughnuts, and Halloween - not for the faint hearted

I've been making Halloween food for a few years and every year have wanted to make bones and blood.  There is so much sweet food at Halloween that I always am attracted to savoury ideas.  Fair suck of the sauce bottle!  However I do question my feelings that it is a fun thing to make

And when I say perhaps it is not as fun as I would like to think, I don't mean that it is not really that much fun to spend over an hour on a Saturday morning shaping sourdough bread dough into bones.  I mean the unease - which is always brought on by Halloween - at finding death is fun.

It is all the more sharply felt by me given that we usually have some Halloween based food for my daughter around this time of year at a lunch to remember my stillborn twin boys' birthday.  It seems more natural to me to celebrate that which was once called All Hallows Eve as a day when we are closest to the dead than it does to take lolies from strangers (aka trick or treat).  It would be enough to at least be able to acknowledge that death and grief are complicated to deal with.  It does not make sense to be happy and sad at the same time.  So we stick to the simple and straightforward.

So it does seem odd to make bones and blood which I associate either with horror movies or medical tv shows.  I never understand why people find horror movies so entertaining.  And I find the bones and blood in medical dramas make me squeamish.  But I love playing with bread dough.  And it has become part of our tradition of remembering our sons anniversary that we make Halloween food. 

Halloween ranting aside, making the bones made me remember why I had never made them before.  They took quite a while to shape on Saturday morning.  I had decided to shape my overnight sougdough dough the day before, let them rise 30 minutes and then put them in the freezer.  When they came out they were much flatter than they had been when they went in.  I really wanted to spend another hour or so shaping and rising but by then I was too rushed for time.  I did try and plum them up a little so they weren't so flat. 

I made some plain and some with parmesan cheese grated on top.  Both tasted really good.  The plain ones looked more like real bones.  "They are like dog bones", my mum said.  (That is because she has owned lots of dogs, not because she is familiar with dead dogs!)   I had meant to make a cheese dough but forgot in my tiredness on Friday after work.

As always I was fairly over ambitious about the amount of food I could make and by the time guests arrived, I was finishing the arrangement of this platter of food, including the bread bones and salsa blood.  I really loved the beetroot sweet chilli chips and blue corn chips on the platter.  Sylvia insisted on cutting out the nori face for the pumpkin dip.  Everyone enjoyed the bones/

Sylvia's main focus of the Halloween food had been making monster doughnuts that she had seen on Pinterest.  Of course ours were different to the online pictures, but itsn't that life!  We baked the quick doughnut dough that I had trialled last weekend.  I used our doughnut moulds but found that they rose too much and I had to cut out the holes.

Sylvia just was so happy making these doughnuts.  And a little frustrated when they were not quite as she expected.  The supermarket sold eyes in packs with moustaches and bowties so she had decided they all needed moustaches.  We split up the doughnuts and experimented with dfferent styles and had fun.  The doughnuts tasted really light and were lovely with icing on them (last time they had cinnamon sugar.)

I also made grubs because I love them and had promised Sylvia she could help me make them.  She wanted to decorate them with the leftover face parts after we had decorated the doughnuts. And a cake with doughnut decoration (more about that later).  Friends brought along a beetroot juice mix which looked quite like blood.

My mum brought along a couple of doughnuts from Uncle Donut in Geelong.  Above, you can see part of the "Elton Mess John" (Raspberry and rhubarb, vanilla buttercream and charcoal meringue.)  I was keen to try the different doughnuts and preferred the yeastier ones from Uncle Donut.  It was a great chance to try and work out what makes a doughnut different from a cake (or bread).  This is a mystery I have been trying to solve lately.

I had meant to make sausage mummies for the lunch but ran out of time.  I promised Sylvia I would make them for dinner.  They had been her request after all.  After the lunch I was very full.  My niece loved the grubs and took quite a few home.  A few doughnuts were put into sylvia's Halloween take home bags.  I gave some of the cake to my mum and put some of it in the freezer.  But Sylvia was determined to have a mummy for tea.  I made one for her and one for E and I to share.  They were pretty easy to make and crisped up with 20 minutes at 220 C.  I have promised to make more tomorrow night.  Given how easy and delicious they were, I think I can cope.

Above is a picture of Sylvia and E making Halloween masks at a community house on Saturday.  There are no pictures of leftover bones but I can assure you they were all gone by the end of the day.  I took some to work with vegies and hummus.  They were a bit tough by then.  As I sat in my office in the afternoon chewing on a bone, it occurred to me that it is very rare that a vegetatrian can do such a thing.  Sylvia told me after school that her bone was stale but her brain was soft, which made me laugh.  She had shaped one bit of dough to look like a brain.  Maybe that is an idea for next Halloween.  Meanwhile I am looking forward to more adventures with bread dough.

More Halloween snacks on Green Gourmet Giraffe.

Sourdough bread bones
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe and Just a Taste
Makes 24 bones

150g of bubbly starter
285g water
9g salt
475g flour
parmesan cheese, optional
fine semolina and extra flour for shaping
Tomato salsa or tomato sauce to serve

A few hours before making the loaf, take sourdough starter out of the fridge and feed it so it gets nice and bubbly. 

About an hour before going to bed (or first thing in the morning) mix everything together.  It is easiest to mix everything except flour first and then add flour.  Use hands to mix if required.  Set aside covered with a tea towel for half an hour.  Knead in the bowl for about 1 minute.  Cover with greased clingwrap and leave at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.

Scrape dough out onto a semolina floured board.  Cut dough into 24 pieces (I did 12 and cut each in half once rolled into a sausage)  Use some flour on your hands and the surface if the dough is sticky.  Roll each piece into a sausage and push the ends in to shape like dumbells with a little blob on each end.  Snip the blob with scissors (about 0.5-1cm) and pull apart each end to shape like a bone so the ends are rounded rather than blunt.  Place on baking paper lined trays.  Cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 220 C.  If desired, sprinkle bones with cheese.  Cover bones with foil or a lid.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and bake another 10-15 minutes until just turning golden. Cool on a wire rack.  Serve with tomato salsa or sauce for the bones and blood experience.  Also good with other dips or just by themselves as snacks.  Best eaten on the day of baking.

NOTES: you could try this with your favourite bread dough as long as it is not too sticky.  Though I did find it good to have this dough a little on the sticky side as it sat uncovered while I shaped the dough - which took over an hour.   I froze mine after they rose but they were a bit flat when they came out of the freezer the next day and ever with a bit of extra shaping, lost their plumpness.  It was better to freeze them though so that I could serve them on the same day of baking. I baked my bone for 15 minutes after the foil was removed but I think 10 might have been enough.  I used half while spelt flour and half regular white wheat flour but all white wheat flour is fine.

On the stereo:
Franz Ferdinand: Franz Ferdinand

Friday, 27 October 2017

Jaspresso, North Melbourne

Jaspresso is an unassuming cafe that looks like just another office building opposite Bio21 Institute on Flemington Road between the Royal Women's Hospital and Royal Children's Hospital.  It is much more.  The light spacious interior, the friendly staff, the prompt service, fine presentation and good simple Japanese rice bowls makes it a place to return to.  In fact I went there for lunch and enjoyed it so much that I returned the next day with a work colleague.

On my first visit, I ordered the Tofu Curry Don.  The crispy crumbed tofu is the star, but is nicely accompanied by broccoli, edamame and pickled vegies as well as a generous serve of curry sauce and rice.  I was so full after almost getting through a bowlful.  There was no room for the baked goodies at the counter that looked quite nice.  The second time I ordered Teriyaki Tofu Don.  It had the same excellent crumbed tofu, lots of rice and sauce but it was topped with lots of salad leaves and pickles.

I found the teriyaki don lighter but I preferred the curry don because I am not so into salad leaves and I liked the curry sauce better.  The staff also told us they can do a tofu version of the sesame don.  My friend was very impressed with my discovery.  As we left, we both agreed we would definitely go back.

Jaspresso
91 Flemington Road, North Melbourne
7.30am-7.30pm
https://www.facebook.com/jaspresso.melbourne/

Jaspresso Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Baked doughnuts with baking powder (vegan) and a Sundae

So we are currently on a doughnut bender.  Sylvia and E can't get enough of eating doughnuts.  While they have never been a favourite of mine, I am quite interested in trying different recipes.  Now that I have mastered baked overnight sourdough doughnuts, I wanted to try a recipe that relied on baking powder rather than yeast.  I was really impressed with how these turned out when rolled in butter and cinnamon sugar.

After a fruitless search for a doughnut cake tin in the shops, we finally bought one online.  So I was looking for a recipe that was soft enough to sit in the mould rather being rolled out.  We used a ziplock bag to pipe them into the moulds.  Sylvia turned out to be a whizz at piping.

The doughnut tins seemed to work quite well.  The recipe I found was vegan and used aquafaba. instead of egg  I have found that even with aquafaba that vegan recipes can be more fragile than those made with egg.  When these came out of the oven and we tossed them in melted butter and cinnamon sugar (made by Sylvia so I could not put quantities in the recipe notes below but I think she was quite generous with the cinnamon), we had a few casualties.  Not really a problem.  It was good to be able to taste them.  And they were really good warm.  I was surprised at how light and fluffy they were.  But I think they were more doughnut than cake.

I halved the recipe I was following because it said it made 20 mini doughnuts.  Our half batch made 14 of our doughnuts.  Which meant a few batches in the oven and kicking myself at not buying two of the doughnut tins.  I baked the last two in muffin tins with foil in the middle (see the pictures of Lucy's doughnuts).  It worked but the moulds were much easier.

I was very pleased with the first batch of baking powder doughnuts.  But I had more than I had planned.  One thing I am not so keen about with doughnuts is that they are best eaten on the day of making.  Sylvia helped out by offering doughnuts to some of our neighbours.  Some were kept for the next day and made rather good lunchbox treats.

One of the reasons we decided to make doughnuts was to satisfy Sylvia's desire to make sundaes.  She had decided to do this a few months back but I was too sick to entertain the idea.  And we had a little jar of salted caramel sauce from a school cake stall.  A friend at book club introduced me to a chocolate sauce and strawberry combo which went in too.  We bought salted caramel ice cream and chocolate wafer sticks at the supermarket and used some chocolate sprinkles. 

It was outrageously decadent but lots of good fun.  The ice cream was a bit soft and so keen to melt it would not wait for a photo.  It definitely made these doughnuts a baking day to remember.  I suspect we will return to the doughnut recipe soon but not the sundae.  There is only so much decadence we need in our lives.

I am sending these doughnuts to Baking Crumbs and Treat Petite.  The sundae goes to We Should Cocoa.

More doughnut recipes at Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Cinnamon doughnut banana muffins (v) 
Doughnuts - baked (jam or nutella)
Doughnuts - baked and topped with chocolate and coconut bacon (v)
Doughnuts - baked and vegan (cinnamon sugar or glaze) (v)
Doughnuts - baked, vegan, overnight, sourdough (v) 

Baked doughnuts with baking powder
Lightly adapted from Lucy's Friendly Foods
Makes 14 doughnuts

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
6 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup margarine, melted
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 tbsp of aquafaba

Preheat oven to 220 C.  Mix dry ingredients in a medium-large bowl.  Melt butter and lightly whisk in the milk and aquafaba.  Gently stir into dry ingredients.  Spoon or pipe into doughnut pans.  Bake for 7-10 minutes until just turning golden brown.  Leave 5 minutes in tin and then gently turn out (they are quite fragile when warm.)  These are best eaten fresh but can be eaten the next day.

NOTES: If you want these to be vegan, use dairy free margarine, milk and aquafaba (the liquid drained from a tin of chickpeas).  I did this with soy milk and nuttalex.  However they would also work with butter, dairy milk and 1 egg instead of aquafaba.  We used a ziplock bag to pipe the doughnuts into our silicone doughnut tins (snipping the end off the bag once it was filled).  When they were warm, we tossed them in melted margarine (about a dessertspoon melted for each 6 doughnuts) and tossed them in a mixture of castor sugar and cinnamon.

Choc-caramel doughnut sundae

Cinnamon doughnuts
Salted caramel ice cream
Chocolate sauce
Salted caramel sauce
Fresh berries
Chocolate sprinkles
Chocolate wafers

Spoon a few balls of ice cream into a bowl.  Top with doughnut.  Drizzle with caramel and chocolate sauces.  Dot with berries and balls.  Poke a couple of chocolate wafers in and eat before the ice cream melts.  It is best to have ice cream that is frozen quite solid rather than soft.

On the stereo:
Hal David and Burt Bacharach: the Songbook Collection: Various Artists

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Carrot and smoked cheese nut roast (with vegan option)

This nut roast was made in a rush to take to my parents' for a roast dinner.  It was so nice to have leftovers for sandwiches and a quick meals that I wished I made one every week.  I was too busy baking bread and muesli to give it the time it needed.  I ended up grabbing it from the oven and taking it in the car while still hot in the tin.  But it was still delicious.

I ate the nut roast at my parents' place served with roast potato, roast pumpkin, cauliflower cheese, peas and home made tomato sauce.  My mum mad a Guinness chocolate cake for dessert.  What an excellent lunch!  The nut roast was slightly soft but still really good with all those sides.  And we had leftovers!

As is so often the case, the leftover nut roast was really good.  I meant to cook it through more but the weather was too hot for faffing about with an oven.  I ate some for lunch in a salad sandwich with a friend in the park.  We finished it off that night.  Sylvia reluctantly ate half a slice.  I really enjoyed it with salad.

It was the first really warm day of spring with the sort of pleasant balmy night that makes you reluctant to go indoors.  Such hot weather only halfway through spring is a little worrying.  It might be a hot summer. I might just cope if I have lots of nut roast and salad!

More nut roasts on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Carrot and feta nut roast
Chocolate nut roast  
Golden beetroot nut roast (v)
Parsnip, cranberry and chestnut roast 
Stuffed nut roast
Welsh nutroast with laverbread, leeks and cheese (v)

Carrot and smoked  cheese nut roast
Adapted from The Vegan Society
Serves 4-6

1/2 cup hot water 
1 tsp vegemite (or other yeast extract)
2 medium carrots, grated
125g smoked cheese, grated
1 1/2 cups nuts coarsely ground
110g breadcrumbs (about 3 ends of a loaf)
2-3 tbsp chopped spring onions or chives
1 tsp seeded mustard
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp seasoning mix (or salt and pepper and herbs)

Stir vegemite into hot water.   Mix with all other ingredients.  Spoon into a loaf tin and smooth down.  Bake for 30 minutes at 180 C or until golden brown and firm to touch.  Best served reheated if you want it to slice neatly.

NOTES: I made this vegan because my cheese was vegan.  This nut roast could be made without smoked cheese by adding a bit more smoked paprika.  I used a mountain pepper, salt and herbs seasoning mix.  I used baby leeks instead of spring onions or chives because my leeks never grew much.  I used cashews, hazelnuts and walnuts for the nuts.

On the Stereo:
Apartment Life: Ivy

Friday, 20 October 2017

All Day Doughnuts / Juanita Peaches, Brunswick

It's been the sort of week that requires doughnuts.  I had been promising Sylvia I would take her to All Day Doughnuts in Brunswick.  So Monday we finally visited this fascinating little cafe that shares space with Juanita Peaches that served what E described as "dude food".  Both served up excellent food.

The building is unassuming but excels in the simplicity of design.  There is a choice of picnic style tables out of the front or laminex tables indoors.  A few plants, some condiments and cutlery.  Umbrellas match the All Day Doughnuts design.  The service is friendly and fast.  Sylvia enjoyed the hip hop music.

We were initially there for the doughnuts so we were drawn to the display.  I was quite amused by the pink sprinkled Don Homer doughnuts.  But chocolate is my thing!  So I ordered the choc fudge with mint chew doughnut.  The fudge icing was thick, rich and excellent.  E chose an OG Original which was too simple, too vanilla and too sugary for me but he loved it.  Sylvia chose the Iced Vovo.  It lacked the marshmallow that iced vovo biscuits have but it did an excellent job with the pink iced coconut topping with a blob of wonderful fruity home made berry jam in the middle.  And the doughnuts taste fresh too.

I can never resist reading a menu and was quite tempted by the Juanita Peaches menu.  E was wary but prepared to try to it.  He found it rather limited.  The reason for this could be seen out in the back of the warehouse where the Taco Truck and Beatbox Kitchen Truck were passed.  Both All Day Doughnuts and Juanita Peaches are run  in the same cafe by Raph Rashid who is a Melbourne food truck pioneer.  He keeps his menu short and his quality high.

Sylvia had the fries which for $6 was a very generous serve of shoe strings.  And excellent crispy hot fries.  E ordered the burger and declared it to be one of the best burgers he had ever had.  He was glad he hadn't ordered the fries on the side as there were plenty on Sylvia's bowl for him to share.

I had wanted to try the Black Bean Burrito Bowl.  (I prefer not to have mine wrapped in a tortilla.)  The black beans, brown rice, queso, slaw, crema, and fresh tomato chili salsa were served with satisfyingly thick, crunchy corn chips.  I really loved it.  It felt healthy and honest with lots of vegies and protein.  It was quite spicy for me but not uncomfortably so.  Like the fries, it was very filling.  And at $14 was much cheaper and pleasing than the $24 lasagna I had eaten earlier at a work lunch.

It was, as E had said, dude food, but high quality dude food.  I also was quite curious to try the Charred Broccoli Salad with kale, almond crumb and buttermilk dressing.  The eggplant sandwich with slaw, cheese, boss sauce, pickles and fries also sounded good.  So I have a few dishes to return and try.

As we left I noticed some art on the flats opposite us.  It represented traditional Aussie backyards with a BBQ, a dog, a kid swinging on the Hills Hoist clothes line and people playing backyard cricket.  Quite ironic given that the inhabitants do not have any backyards for such pastimes.  That is modern Australia.  As are All Day Doughnuts and Juanita Peaches.

All Day Doughnuts / Juanita Peaches
12 Edward Street, Brunswick
03 8060 6664
http://alldaydonuts.com/

All Day Donuts Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The Grampians: Australian bush, flora and fauna

While in the Grampians recently I expected to see kangaroos but was surprised at all the wildflowers.  Thank you Spring!  Here's a little tour of the walks and wildlife.

We walked to the Pinnacle lookout.  The first part of the walk from the Sundial carpark had lots of lovely wildflowers.  The yellow wattle was everywhere.  Then the climb started.  Sylvia and E took in an early view and headed back.

I went on, despaired at the point in the walk where the tiny figures on the lookout seemed so far away.  Lots more uphill, with a little downhill and lots of helpful yellow pointers to keep me on the trail.

I loved the spooky rock formations.  If this had been a sci fi movie they probably would have come to life and I am not sure if they would have been friendly.

Finally the Pinnacle.  Red face.  Views.  Photos.  Mountains.  Farmlands.  A dam.  Townships.  And then for the brave (or foolish) the Nerve Test: a thin ledge of rock with steep falls either side.  I walked on by.

Lots of kangaroos.  Not like the paddock at Zumsteins that we loved when we were young.  We have a picture of my brother aged about 4 patting a kangaroo.  Seems they discourage feeding roos these days.  They still visit.  This one above was in the capacious yard of our holiday home.

Birdseed brought in the birds.  Lots of swooping screeching cockatoos.

A dawn chorus of kookaburras.  Rosellas arguing over the birdseed.  A cockatoo showing his crest.  All on the edge of the deck of the holiday home.  Hours of entertainment.

The Brambuk Cultural Centre had a Fyans Creek Loop walk.  Apparently it was 2.5km.  At one point the signs werer confusing.  I am not sure if we did the whole loop.  We enjoyed the scenery anyway.   Grand gum trees dwarfed by the mountains.  We all found sturdy walking sticks.

We saw kangaroos relaxing in a clearing.  I didn't have my zoom lens.  You can see them in the above photo if you look carefully.

The next day I returned to Brambuk with my zoom lens.  It was sunnier.  Some roos lounged with deer in the shade.  A few watched me.  I also read the displays inside the cultural centre.  A reminder of the shame of Colonisation and the resilience of the Australian Aboriginal people.  I was surprised to read how many rock art sites are in the Grampians.  I wish I'd had time to view some.

We also had a short walk to the MacKenzie Falls viewing platform.  If there has been time I would have loved to walk down to the foot of the waterfall.  Nevertheless the view was impressive.

I also liked the bushland: the towering gum trees, the ferns and these grass trees that I think are the ones we called kangaroo tails.

To read more about our holiday, got to Halls Gap, The Grampians accommodation and eating out.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Potato, corn and pea pot pies

These pot pies were a result of a conversation to make sure these were child-friendly.  I saw an interesting idea for a creamy carrot and bean pot pie on Minimalist Eats.  While it appealed to me me, it seemed a bit sophisticated for kids.  So I had a chat to Sylvia to work out what vegies she would eat in a pot pie.

These are pot pies that reminds me of childhood comfort food.  It is interesting that the vegies she chose were ones that I had quite often as a child: potato, corn and carrots.  The cheese sauce is the one that my mum used to make for our regular cauliflower cheese.  And who doesn't love anything served under a blanket of pastry.

Actually I found that Sylvia wasn't so keen on the pastry on the pot pies.  She liked the filling but had to eat her pastry lid separately.  Yet it was a good meal to serve on the Friday that the school holidays started when Spring was just starting to show her head but the chill was still in the air.

I am sending these pies to Meat Free Mondays and Eat Your Greens

More comforting pies on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Homity pies
Macaroni cheese pies
Spaghetti pie (v)
Vegetable cheese pie
Will's farmhouse (mini) pies

Potato, corn and pea pot pies
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe
Makes 3-4 depending on the size of your ramekins

400g tin corn, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen peas
2 cups diced and cooked potato
1 sheet of 25 x 25cm ready rolled puff pastry

Cheese sauce:
1 heaped dessertspoon of butter
2 dessertspoons of wholemeal flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 tsp salt and pepper mix
1/4 tsp seeded mustard
1 generous cup of grated cheese
small handful each parsley and baby leeks or chives

Preheat oven to 220 C.  (If you haven't cooked the potatoes, do this while you make the cheese sauce.)

First make the cheese sauce.  Fry the butter and flour over medium heat a few minutes in a frypan or large sauce pan until it smells cooked and might have changed colour slightly.  Turn the heat to low and gradually stir in the milk.  Bring to the boil and mix in the seasoning, mustard, cheese, parsley and chives.  When the cheese melts, turns off the heat.  Gently stir in the corn, peas and potato.

Spoon mixture into ramekins.  Cover with pastry.  I just cut the pastry into quarters and let it hand over the edges of the ramekins for E and me.  Sylvia wanted to cut hers into a circle by tracing it on the ramekin (before the filling went in) and then we used some of the scraps to decorate the pastry.  Use a knife to make a few slits for the air to get out.  Bake about 20-30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.  These are really hot straight out of the oven so can do with sitting for 10-15 minutes.

NOTES: These could be made vegan by using vegan puff pastry, vegan butter, vegan milk and vegan cheese such as bio cheese.  Alternately you could use your favourite vegan cheese sauce.

On the stereo:
Born Sandy Devotional: The Triffids

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Halls Gap, The Grampians accommodation and eating out

I have fond memories of holidaying in the Grampians as a child.  Strangely it has taken me a long time to return as an adult.  Finally last week we stayed in the above house, charmingly named Swampgum Rise.  It was so lovely to get out of the city and enjoy the sights and sounds of the bush.  I will write about the walks and wildlife in a separate post.  Today I will tell you about our accommodation and food.

Here is the kitchen in its technicolour glory.  It had all the mod-cons - fridge, oven and a surprisingly blue microwave in the corner.  I took the photo before we covered the bench in our food.  We took the usual array of foods like other holidays:  Cereal, milk, tinned peaches, hummus, crackers, swiss cheese, chocolate, gingerbread men, cheese muffins, liquorice, crisps, popcorn, tea, coffee, English muffins, baked beans, naan bread, pasta, pasta sauce, sausages, carrots, cherry tomatoes, spinach etc etc.

This house was probably the best where we've stayed in terms of kitchen goods.  Not only was there a good array of sugars, spices, oil, vinegar, teas and coffee, but there was also cereal, milk, jam, vegemite, butter, We at all of our breakfasts at home.  Sylvia and E loved the little boxes of cereal and I took a fancy to fruit muffins.  We ate some lunches and dinners out and some at home.  Baked beans on muffins were tea one night and on another we had platters of naan bread, hummus, cheese and vegies.

But let me continue the tour of the house.  The living area was a big L-shaped room (I like this term because of Lynne Reid Banks The L Shaped Room novel that I loved so many years ago and inspired me to go on kibbutz but I digress.)  It was good weather most of our days but cool most nights so the wood stove was cranked up almost every night.

Sylvia loved pottering about at the piano.  I wished we had some of E's music books as I can sight read simple tunes but have very few in my memory from my piano playing days.  We mostly played games such as Scrabble or Cluedo in the evenings though we had Wallace and Gromit on for Sylvia's Fun Friday Film night. "Cracking toast Gromit!"

The bathroom was very roomy with an impressive claw footed bath.  Sylvia loved the bath.

The bedrooms were reached by a red metal spiral staircase that was no fun to climb after walking through the bush did my knees in.  This is the view from the master bedroom.  I loved how the curtains didn't cover all the window and I could lie in bed watching the sky darken or lighten.  The second bedroom at the back looked onto a paddock where kangaroos came early in the morning. 

And here is a photo of our backyard.  Really wonderful to watch the birds and occasional kangaroo as we sat out on the deck.  More on them in another post!

On the first day we set out on a walk that was a bit harder than I had expected.  An ice cream from Coolas ice creamery afterwards was really welcome.  This photo was taken at a quiet time but when we went there, the place was packed both inside and outside.  No wonder.  The ice creams were fantastic.  I had rock salt caramel with chunks of caramel.  E had ginger meggs with chunks of glace ginger.  Sylvia had cookies and cream with great big chunks of oreo.

That night we went to The Spirit of Punjab.  Sylvia was pleased it was close enough that she could ride her scooter there.  We were surprised to see all the statues outside the restaurants.  They were wonderfully colourful and intended to illustrate rural life in India.

The menu had quite a lot of vegetarian dishes, rices, naan breads and chips.  Sylvia wanted the chips.  I wanted her to taste a curry.  So we ordered Dal Makhani and Janatnuma Kofta with some rice and naan bread on the side.  We asked for mild.  Yet I still took the caution of checking the curries before offering to Sylvia.  Just as well.  The creamy cashew gravy had exceedingly spicy potato dumplings.  So I just gave Sylvia the gravy and she ate some with her rice.  I am not sure I got her to eat the dal makhani.  It was nice but not quite as creamy as I expected.

The next day we had lunch at the Bushfoods Cafe at the Brambuk Cultural Centre.  It is a modern building with wonderful large windows overlooking the mountains that dwarf Halls Gap and surroundings.

I was fascinated by the cafe because it offered a chance to eat wattletree damper.  And it had mini spring rolls that Sylvia could eat instead of chips.  They also had cute little cupcakes with Aboriginal dot painting designs on them.  I didn't photograph the cupcakes but I did take a picture of this array of native herbs and spices.  I really loved the chance to smell native river mint and saltbush.  At the top right of the picture are quandong seeds.

This board made me realise how little I know of native herbs and spices.  I did make amends in the gift shop with purchases of wattleseed (which I love), salt bush (which I've never had) and quandong (which I have only tasted once) in a dessert sauce.

With hindsight I would have ordered my meal and then taken my time perusing the gift shop while the cafe staff grew the plants, dried them out and ground wattleseed for my damper.  I jest but it was very slow service.  Much slower than you would expect for soup, a toasted sandwich and some reheated chips and mini spring rolls.  Sylvia was delighted about having chips in her meal.  I enjoyed my damper and pumpkin and capsicum soup but I was so hungry by the time they arrived I fell on them like a starving woman rather than a discerning blogger!

That night we had fish and chips.  We don't have fish and chips often but love them when we are on holiday.  The Halls Gap Fish and Chips were pretty good.  As usual the vegetarian options were pretty limited and we had chips, corn jacks and potato cakes.  And E enjoyed his flake in batter.

It is not the healthiest meal but I confess to loving the nostalgia involved with fish and chips.  For me the ritual of waiting in the fluorescent light fish and chips shop, the anticipation as we walked home clutching a burning hot paper wrapped bundle to my chest and then the unwrapping of the paper at home to reveal a steaming pile of golden chips is as much a part of the enjoyment of fish and chips as the meal.

On our final day, I was set on going to Harvest Cafe, which boasted its sourcing of local produce for the meals.  I liked the space with its rustic-country-meets-scandanavia wooden interiors.  We sat out the front which was warmer than we expected.  Sylvia had vegemite on sourdough toast.

I really wanted to try the Pumpkin Quesadilla with roasted pumpkin, tomato and bean salsa, and cheese plus some guacamole on the side.  It was nice but a little heavy on the pumpkin for my liking.  As I was not getting much vegies on the holiday, I asked for some coleslaw on the side.  It went well with the quesadilla.

On our final night after one of the healthier dinners of the trip, I was very proud of lighting my first outdoor campfire (with a little help from some firelighters).  I had promised Sylvia that I would do toasted marshmallows on a campfire.  It was her first time and she was so excited.  It is years since I have done this - possibly not since I was a kid.  I let her put lots of marshmallows on the branches in the picture above but insisted she only put one on a stick in the fire at a time.  E also got out his ukulele to sing some songs which was fun.

On our last morning, we woke to this beautiful sunrise and a few kangaroos in the top paddock.  It felt sad to be leaving.  We drove down the gum tree lined driveway for the last time, stopped at the gift shop for a few last presents and headed home. 

Coolas Ice Creamery
Shop 1 Stony Creek Stores
97 Grampians Road
Halls Gap
Tel; 03 5356 4466
coolasicecreamery.com.au

The Spirit of Punjab
161-163 Grampians Road
Halls Gap
Tel: 03 5356 4234
www.spiritofpunjabrestaurant.com

Bushfoods Cafe
Brambuk - The National Park and Cultural Centre
277 Grampians Tourist Road
outside Halls Gap
Tel: 03 5361 4000
www.brambuk.com.au/bushfoodscafe.htm

Halls Gap Fish and Chips
109 Grampians Road
Halls Gap

Harvest Cafe
2 Heath St
Halls Gap
Tel: 03 5356 4782
http://www.harvesthg.com.au/