A visit to Basfoods Direct in Brunswick

A friend very recently introduced me to Basfoods Direct.  Which was a little embarrassing because I don’t live far away and I’d never heard of it.  I had forgotten to take my purse with me that day and was determined to go back… with  money.

My sister had the day off work yesterday and bless her, offered to come over and help me clean the house.  Arthur and DeeW are staying with my parents for a few days so I can get the cleaning done.  Why do I need my children away from the house, you may ask?  WELL.  This is why:

messyroom

I present Arthur’s room.  Many a time I’ve said Arthur, go clean your bedroom floor.  It’s a mess.  And he says “Mummo it may be a mess to you but it’s not a mess to me.  So is it really a mess?” That’s what you get for being Greek folks.  You stand the risk of giving birth to Socrates. Socrates has a super clean room now.  Socrates will not be impressed.

I wanted the kids out of the house so I could thoroughly clean their rooms and get rid of stuff.  Their stuff.  SSSHHH.  The sort of stuff they haven’t seen in years and then suddenly it’s their faaaavourite thing when I drag it out from behind the bookshelf.  So my sister offered to help me out and then drop things off at Savers and have some lunchies.  And I said that’s totally cool and I’m taking you to Basfoods.  And off we went:

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Basfoods stock Mediterranean and Turkish foods.  There are also bags of nuts, beans, grains, dried herbs and spices.  It’s not a veg*n specific store but there’s lots in there you can use in your veg*n kitchen.

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I’m not really sure how their prices compare to other places although they do seem cheaper than the big supermarkets.  I have bought my supplies from Preston market in the past, or small Turkish or Lebanese stores.  I didn’t have time to note down prices and I have already lost my receipt.

I left there with containers of herbs and spices, more pink Himalayan salt, pulses, legume and some Spanish paprika.  No musical instruments though or the cute terracotta bowls (which I’ve always wanted but know I’d never use):

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After Basfoods we dropped donations off at Savers and had a quick look around.  I used my discount card to get these Johnson Brothers plates (designs I collect, haven’t seen these in Savers yet), an unused knitting set and game for DeeW and this sweet little sewing basket for Dee-Dubs:

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knitting

sewingbasket

For Melbourne peeps reading this, got any recs for other cheap beans/nuts/etc stores?

See you back here soon folks!

Basfoods Direct is located at 419 Victoria Street in Brunswick.  Website is http://www.basfoods.com.au

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Australia Day sort-of festivities

So the plan for today was to take the kids in to town and check out the free Australia Day events that were happening around the Gardens.  Except we didn’t end up going anywhere and I didn’t make any of the Australia Day kinds of foods I had in mind.  No biggie though as the kids had the home made sausage rolls today and the Australian animal cupcakes from Mister Nice Guy’s yesterday.  So we were pretty much covered.

mnggalahcupcake

In the morning there was a library visit and in the afternoon we decided to go geocaching, then hung out at a quiet playground.  Husband will be interstate for a week as of tomorrow so we opted for something quiet.  Like a slightly dodgy suburban alleyway:

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Dog poo on grass equals single file on concrete:

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These signs and bags are a common sight.  They need to put one in that alley way:

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A nice lazy laid back kind of day!

Random what-I’ve-been-eating-this-week

It’s been a bit of a mehhh week for food preperation.  See what happens when I don’t have a meal plan?  There were just so many leftovers that lasted a couple of days each that I figured a meal plan wasn’t worth the trouble.

This is one of those can’t-be-bothered meals.  You know, where you grab whatever manky veggies are in the fridge, the packet of soba noodles you forgot about and the vegan Chinese barbecue sauce and that’s it.  And decide to be healthy by adding in tempeh.  I’m still not a lover of tempeh:

tempehbbqnoodles

I made up a pasta sauce from more manky vegies and things that were past their best before date.  So this is a mix of garlic, onion and diced eggplant sauteed in olive oil, followed by chopped bottled red peppers and tapenade and hey while we’re at it let’s chuck in the last of the kale.  I prefer more of the sauce than the pasta.  I gave up pasta last year and when I ate this I was all “I really don’t like pasta anymore”.  Much prefer raw zucchini noodles:

eggplantkalepasta

Mum made her Greek lentil dish which is called “faki”.  Yes, it’s really pronounced “fuck-i” with the emphasis on the second syllable. When I was in school I never knew the English word for lentils and the teacher asked us in turn what we had for dinner the previous night.  I ended up in detention for a week:

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Some of mum’s pilafi rice with that pasta sauce:

pilafisauce

My favourite breakfast smoothie is made with a little water, frozen banana, almonds, cacao nibs, coconut oil and a date.  I really like the plaster on the wall there, dating back to the 30s.  We’ll probably have to remove it all at some point as pesky little earthquakes and tremors have opened up big cracks in all the corners.  Hopefully I can find a plasterer who does this sort of texturey thing:

cacaonutsmoothie

Another smoothie, this time with baby spinach, orange, pumpkin seeds and a bit of chlorella:

greensmoothie

Another batch of sausage rolls to eat over a few days.  I now add in about a heaped cup of raw cauliflower that has been finely chopped in the food processor and omit the breadcrumbs, purely so I can sneak more veg in to my children:

sausageroll

Saving the best til last.  Australia Day themed cupcakes from Mister Nice Guy’s Bake Shop and banoffee cheezecake:

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bakeshop

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Peace!

My favourite kitchen appliances and gadgety things

A lot of my day is spent in the kitchen either preparing food or cleaning up.  This is why I love appliances because when something makes my life that little bit easier, I jump on it.  See, I have a really small kitchen.  Two adults can not stand side by side at the sink. The floor space is teeny and my bench (counter) for cutting up food is about 155cm x 35cm deep (that’s about 62″ x  14″).  I might do a separate post on my kitchen some day. Anyway, I prefer recipes or meals that don’t involve me being in the kitchen for too long because the kids always need me for something and when we’re all crowded in the kitchen it can actually be dangerous, given the confined space.  We’re planning on renovating the kitchen this year, yay.

Okay, so I like to make meals and preparation as quick and simple as possible or to at least minimise the need for me to spend ages chopping or standing at the stove.  So here are my favourite items.  The photos below are not mine but clicking on them will take you to the page I found them on.

Okay, we have:

Rice cooker

I love that I can just chuck my rice and water in an appliance and it does all the work.  I always sucked at cooking rice on the stove.  I keep reading about cooking quinoa and other stuff in the rice cooker but I’m yet to try it.

Pressure cooker

I used this a lot before I became vegan and since then I’ve used it for cooking beans and chickpeas.  Good for when I don’t have much time to cook those things the usual way on the stove.

Food processor

If this kicked the bucket tomorrow I would immediately go out and get a new one.  Essential in my kitchen!

Mandolin slicer

Love this when I have to slice up lots of apple, potato, etc.

Blendtec blender

blendtec

Easily my favourite purchase ever.  When I bought this I was telling myself “it’s an investment in your health, your children’s health, do it do it”.  So I did it.  I felt sick after placing the order because it cost so much (and mine was on special).  Then it arrived, I made a smoothie with spinach and was all ZOMG THERE ARE NO BITTY BITS.  See, I’d had a few cheaper blenders before then in those well known appliance names and they all crapped it after a year or so.  Plus I was never happy with how they blended, some left telltale chunks and I was never confident with putting ice in there as I’m sure it ruined my first blender.  Anyway, I use the Blendtec at least once a day (more like twice) and some days as much as five times.  I make juices with the whole fruit (peeled/cored/etc where necessary) so you’re drinking pulp and all.  Cashew cream, nut milk, frozen fruit soft serve, purees, grinding grain, chopping.  I loooooove this.  Love love love it.  Most of all I love that I can put all sorts of veggies in smoothies and the kids can’t tell because everything gets thoroughly blended.

Excalibur 5-tray dehydrator with timer

5-tray-excalibur

Another great purchase but one I should use more often.  My favourite thing to make in the dehydrator are kale chips and buckwheat crispies.  Or apple and date puree mixed with buckwheat then dehydrated so it’s in crispy little chunks and eaten with a nut milk for breakfast.  I’ve also made fruit leathers and dried fruit as well as crackers.  Handy for eating raw but not absolutely necessary.

Tofu Xpress

TofuXpress

I delayed purchasing a Tofu Xpress for ages because the shipping to Australia is so expensive.  Initially when I began to press tofu, I did the wrapping in towels heavy objects thing.  But it really began to tick me off because it took up space in that teeny kitchen.  So I invested in this press which is so nice and small and am glad I did because I can throw it all in the fridge.

Vegetable spiraliser

I use this for zucchini and carrot noodles. You can make thin angel hair style or thicker ribbons.

spiraliser

old Sunbeam Mixmaster

 I don’t do a lot of baking, certainly not enough to justify buying a stand mixer but I inherited this from my grandma.  Brilliant for those occasions when I do need to mix something up and let the machine do it’s thing while I do something else.  I have a small electric hand mixer too which is handy for smaller jobs.  I’m too lazy to take a photo of it right now but it’s one of those old vintagey white ones with the small and large bowls.  Love it to bits.

Other appliances I own but don’t use all that often are a slow cooker with two sections, milkshake maker (from pre-vegan days), hot chocolate maker (ditto), old juicer (getting rid of this as I can make juices in the Blendtec), microwave steamer for vegetables and rice, mini chopper.

So that’s it!  If I had to choose just one thing I could take with me (or even if I couldn’t) if the house was on fire, it’s the Blendtec hands down.

My vegan Karithopita – Greek walnut cake: Experiment 1 is a slight bust

Karithopita (“karithi” is walnut) was always one of my favourite Greek cakes.  I’d tried making it a few times over the years using different recipes.  Some recipes called for flour and others said breadcrumbs.  Some said whole eggs, some said separated eggs.   The walnuts are pretty much a given at least.  Like just about every Greek thing you could make, if you had ten karithopita-makers and their karithopita in the room, you’d most likely have ten different versions and lots of debate.  Maybe even a bit of Smackdown! action.

The recipe I used today is one I found in my mum’s old recipe collection.  It’s so old that not only is it typed by typewriter, it has no author or method listed nor size of baking tin or oven temp or how long to bake for.  Just the ingredients.  Hardcore old school or WHAT.  Or just plain annoying?  Anyway, Mum says that many years ago, she was told that a good karithopita should always be made with breadcrumbs, not flour.

So this ancient recipe I found calls for 8 eggs.  8 eggs!  Far out. I opted for egg replacer for 3 large eggs worth and about 5Tbs of home made walnut butter.  With absolutely no freaking idea about anything.  I’ve used nut butter in some recipes before as a sort of egg replacer and it’s worked beautifully.

Then I had the additional challenge of how the heck to mix it all together.  Did the original recipe intend for the eggs to be separated, beaten, whatever?  Who knows.  So I just mixed up the dry ingredients first then in a small bowl I carefully mixed the egg replacer mixture (made according to packet instructions), the brandy and the walnut butter.  Because I made the walnut butter myself beforehand, I made sure it was easy to work with as the store bought nut butters I’ve tried are really thick and hard to incorporate evenly.

Okay, so this is a cake that has two major components: the actual cakey bit and the syrup.  I was always taught that when you have a syrup that is to be poured over the cake, one thing must be hot and the other cool, so the cake is cool and the syrup hot or vice versa.  I don’t know the exact scientific hocus pocus reasons for this but when my grandmother wagged her finger in your face, you didn’t ask questions about thermal conductivity and all that nonsense.

For this recipe I used freshly made breadcrumbs because that’s all I had.  I would have preferred using stale bread but will try that next time.  I know I could have toasted the bread a bit first but I was impatient.

Okay so then I made the walnut butter, which was about two scant cups of walnuts thrown in the food processor and whizzed until they were buttery.  I did add a good teaspoon of olive oil to make it a little smoother.

I’m happy with the way my first vegan karithopita turned out.  Not bad for a first attempt but I’d make some changes next time.  Like reducing the sugar by much more.  I’ll put in my recipe notes at the end.

UPDATE, TAKE NOTE, BEWARE, ETC:  This turned out really thick and dense.  My mum said “the flavours are really good and are exactly right but it’s a little on the gluggy side and needs to be lighter, but not fluffy-light”.  So that’s my next challenge.

Still, I have tasted some versions which were like this and really thick, which is why you only eat a very small piece  🙂

The Veganopoulous Vegan Karithopita v1.0- the really dense version

(1 cup equals 250ml)

For the cake:

* 3 cups of crushed walnuts

* 2 cups of breadcrumbs

*1 teaspoon cinnamon

* 1 cup sugar

* 1 teaspoon baking powder

* Egg replacer to make about three large eggs worth

* 5 generous Tablespoons of soft walnut butter (soft enough to mix up)

* 1 Tablespoon brandy (optional)

For the syrup:

* 3 cups water

* 2 cups sugar

* 2 cinnamon sticks

To make the cake:

* Preheat your oven to about 180C (moderate oven temp).  Prepare your cake tin/dish (see notes).

* In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, crushed walnuts, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar:

karithopitamix

* In a small bowl, make up your egg replacer mix for three large eggs.  To it, add the walnut butter and brandy.  Whisk it up so it’s all evenly mixed (this is why the walnut butter needs to be soft enough to blend well).

* Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir, then use your hands to thoroughly mix everything.  I squished the mix between my fingers.  The mixture shouldn’t be a typical cake batter.  You should be able to roll soft balls of it, and it is okay to have it be slightly sticky to the touch, without being a wet batter.  Sorry, forgot to take a photo.

* Put the cake mixture in to your prepared tin/dish (see recipe notes) and flatten it gently so it’s all level.

* Put it in the oven until really nice and browned on top and a toothpick comes out clean.  Mine was in the oven for about 45 minutes.  When it’s done, cut it in to diamond or rectangle (or square) shapes while it’s still in the dish/tin (don’t remove it!).  Let it cool while you make the syrup.  Remember, leave the cake right there!

For the syrup:

* You can make this in advance. Put the syrup ingredients in to a medium saucepan.  Mix well, bring to the boil, then simmer about ten minutes.  Stir now and then.  Remove from heat:

karithopitasyrup

Final assembly:

* With one thing hot and the other cold, get a ladle and pour half the syrup gently over the cake.  The cake should be cut and still be in the dish/tin you baked it in!  If you feel the cake needs more syrup, go for it but today for this cake I found I only needed half the amount in this recipe.  I guess it’s one of those “it just depends” things  🙂

Let the cake sit and be completely cool (about an hour at least) to soak up the syrup.  You can keep it in the cake tin/dish or move it to a nicer looking serving plate. Eat!  It tastes even better the next day and the day after that.

Recipe notes:

* This is sweeeet.  Well, for me anyway.  And I really don’t like sweet desserts like this anymore.  Greek sweets are usually served alongside a Turkish coffee (so you appreciate the sweetness more).  Next time I make this I’m using a different (and far less sweet!) syrup.

* Use a cake tin or pie dish that allows the uncooked batter to be about 3cm or 1 1/2 inch high.  The cake doesn’t rise much.  I used a square cake tin with base measuring 20cm (8″) and lined it with baking paper.

* I used a combination of finely crushed walnuts and  finely chopped walnuts because I wanted to bite in to little pieces of walnut.  Next time I might try finely crushed all the way.  I used my food processor to chop.

* There are quite a few variations on the syrup used in such cakes.  Some people make a thicker syrup with a little brandy, water and sugar. Others add orange or lemon rind (with no pith).  Others use a few whole cloves in the syrup.  It all comes down to what you like  🙂

* Next time I will try using stale breadcrumbs.  And I’m thinking of trying barley flour.

karithopita

Enjoy!

"This cake has chunks in it."

“This cake has chunks in it.”