Little Tudor Villages, Lord of The Fries and Big Lou’s jam donuts

Last week, we were in East Melbourne and took Arthur and DeeW for their first visit to the Fitzroy Gardens.  I went there often as a child and loved the model Tudor Village and Fairy Tree. I always had the urge to jump the fence and go and touch the houses and as an adult that impulse is still there (I really need to learn parkour so I can jump that waist height fence…)

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It was the Queens Birthday public holiday and we figured Lord of the Fries would be open so we went to the Fitzroy outlet at for lunch.  Husband, Arthur and DeeW only ever order the fries plain with a bottle of tomato sauce:

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I went for the Original LotF burger and because I was sitting down and not eating on the run like I usually do when I grab a LotF burger, I didn’t make a mess:

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If you haven’t been to LotF before, they are meat-free.  If you’re vegan be sure to ask for a vegan burger so you get the vegan cheese.  They also have fries with lots of sauces, but again be sure to check which are vegan.  I’ve never had a hot dog from LotF.  Maybe next time because it was only after I ordered that I saw a big poster advertising their Coney hot dog: a sausage topped with con carne, mushrooms and onions. Yes, there will be a next time and soon I hope, before this Coney hot dog special is over:

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Big Lou’s Donuts at 318 Brunswick Street has been mentioned in vegan circles as they advertise vegan donuts:

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I thought this meant that all their donuts were vegan (custard Berliner!!!) but alas, only the made-to-order hot jam donuts are vegan.  That’s okay, because those are my favourite donuts. The donuts were really good, they don’t have that hot-jam-donut-from-a-donut-van taste and appearance but I think the donuts from the van at Preston Market still hold the number one spot for me.  Big Lou’s come second:

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Big Lou's Donuts on Urbanspoon
 

The past week has been pretty busy with one day rushing in to the next.  I’ll leave you with some photos of the Coburg Carnivale community event which was held yesterday.  I didn’t know it was on and only happened to see it because I had to stop off for some groceries!

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Two years a Veganopoulous already

It’s been about two years now since I became vegan.  Gosh I can’t believe how much time has flown.  Making the compassionate choice when it comes to eating is something I wish I’d done sooner.

When I started this blog, I meant to veganise many of the family meals I grew up with.  My grandparents all came to Australia from Greece in the 1950s.  I used to help my grandmothers with preparing food and they were very much hands-on when it came to teaching the grandchildren how to make things like filled pita and desserts.  When I was ten, my grandmother’s non-Greek neighbour decided to try and make a Greek kolokithopita, which is pumpkin filling inside filo style pastry.  She brought it over to my grandmother, who accepted it with many thanks.  After the neighbour left, my grandmother (bless her), looked at this pie, looked at me and said in her Greek-English “san ta baby’s ta kaka”.  Which translates to…”like a baby’s shit”.  But hey, the baby kaka comment was still a lesson– she told me you had to grate the pumpkin, not boil and mash it like the neighbour had done!

My paternal grandmother made filo pastry by hand.  How I wish I had photos of the process.  She would roll out the pasty with a shortened broom handle and it would cover a six-seater round kitchen table.  Then she would ask her granddaughters to help her gently pull the pastry until it was hanging over the edge of the table, all around.  She made the flakiest, most delicate pastry ever.  My other grandmother’s pastry was much thicker and hearty.  I loved both versions equally!

My grandparents all died roughly around four to five years ago.  I never thought to ask my grandmothers how to prepare their meals, or how to crochet.  My maternal grandmother used to crochet with the thinnest hook and finest thread while watching tv.  She would sit there crocheting but never taking her eyes of The Young and the Restless.  I don’t think I ever asked them anything about meals, or their lives, or anything like that. I guess I always thought there would be plenty of time and they’d be around forever, but I knew their childhoods weren’t exactly brimming with happy memories.

My maternal grandfather had to leave school at age ten when his father died.  He always regretted not getting an education after that, though he was a quiet intelligent man with a wicked wit and sharp comebacks.  He would teach my sister and I Pontian Greek words and give us ten cents if we could kiss our big toe.  As an adult looking up Wikipedia stuff,I discovered what my grandfather and his family had lived through: massacres and ethnic cleansing.  He never spoke of his childhood (I don’t blame him, his earliest memories involved his family literally running for their lives) or life as a soldier, but after arriving in Australia he vowed never to return to Greece as there were nothing but bad memories there for him.  My grandfather was in a nursing home for quite a few years before he died as he had dementia and it was during these times we’d hear more of his life story.  He would sometimes stand at the large windows of the dining room, overlooking the creek and the trees and when he’d be told to go and have his dinner, he’d reply that he couldn’t because he was standing guard and he thought the enemy were hiding behind the trees.

My paternal grandfather was a very quiet, gentle man who never spoke much about his life.  In his last months, we saw the reason why.  He too was in a nursing home and dementia had set in and when we’d visit he would sob and talk about another solider somewhere who had hidden them both in a swamp and that is how this man saved my grandfather’s life.  He had a very hard life growing up, his stepmother seemed very much the evil witch of old fairy tales. As kids we heard those stories, about how he would be given a lettuce leaf to eat and water, though we always thought he was saying that story to get us to behave!

All my grandparents had a very hard life growing up.  They all lost their mothers as young children.  It was such a tough life for them all and they welcomed their new life in Australia, though it was very difficult for them when they all arrived.  Fortunately they had other family here, which made things easier, once they got out of the migrant camps.  My dad was about seven and from the ship journey he recalls that he nearly fell overboard and was grabbed at the last second.  My mum was four and only recalls the smell of the breakfast eggs.  My grandmother had a story about the Germans on the ship wearing their bathers (swimsuits) to go in the ship pool.  Some Greek and Italian men, who had never seen the coast or a pool before, stripped down to their underwear, thinking that’s what the Germans were wearing.  The ship staff made them get out of the pool after that!

The house of my maternal grandparents will be up for sale soon.  My mum has been renting it out but now it’s time to let it go.  We went there on the weekend to take one last look around as there are tenants still living in the house while the selling process is in effect.  It was weird, uncomfortable and to be honest a little depressing, to walk in to my grandma and grandpa’s house and see other peoples’ stuff there and peeling wallpaper.  But the same old smell was still there and that was comfort enough. The glass front door is still the same:

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The front yard is massive.  My grandparents had so many fruit trees when I was young. Pretty much all gone now.  The olive tree is still there.  Lots of memories of my grandparents up on ladders picking olives:

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The neighbours had a fig tree and we would climb up on the fence to pick the figs.  These days, the branches come over the fence, making the job easier.  My grandmother would put small boiled unripe figs in a sugar syrup and they would eventually soften and be served as a sweet alongside Turkish coffee.  It’s a popular Greek fruit sweet and you can do the same with quince, orange peel and lots of other stuff:

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I have lots of regrets about not spending more time with my grandparents in their later years. It seemed life was so busy for me with young children, Husband’s work and so on.  Not having a drivers license didn’t help matters much!  I wish I’d gone to the nursing home and hospitals more.  I fell in to the trap of finding it uncomfortable and not going out of my way to see them when I should have made a greater effort to shift my priorities.  I did visit, but I should have visited more.  Some of my cousins refused to visit my grandfather in the nursing home, saying it was too hard to see him like that, wondering who we were or being confused or asking when my grandma would visit (she died a few years before). I felt mad at my cousins for making it about themselves, though I see now I could have done far more myself.  Seriously folks, if you have elderly relatives and you think to yourself hmm geee, I really should visit them but I can’t this week because work/school/life is busy… drop whatever you can and DO IT. Make whatever effort you can.  If you can’t visit them, pick up the phone. Make more memories  🙂

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Lunch at Gopal’s: visit 2

Ever since I visited Gopal’s back in September 2013, I’ve been waiting to go back.  I haven’t been in that part of the city recently and although I could always catch a tram in to town and go eat somewhere, it’s not really something I do that often!

Today I took Arthur to the city to watch the Adam Spencer ‘Blurred Primes’ show as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.  We left home with enough time to allow us to buy lunch.  Arthur got fries from Lord of the Fries and we took those up to Gopal’s so we could hang out a bit.

Truthfully, we walked up in to Crossways first and it was unbearably hot in there.  We were in there a couple of minutes, checking out the food and Arthur said in a pale kind of voice “can we go somewhere else, it’s really hot in here”.  As he gets nosebleeds a lot when he’s too hot, we got out of there fast.

Gopal’s is a hop, skip and jump away from Crossways.  I was pleased to see the window seats were empty so I told Arthur to stay put eating his chips while I got my meal:

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Today I got the vegan deal for $11.50 (up from $10.50 last year).  I had brown rice, a chickpea kofta, a mixed chickpea-veg curry and then two kinds of salad.  Dessert was plain sago pudding and I got the lemon mint drink.  Like I said, all that for $11.50 and a mega serving.  I couldn’t finish the drink or the salad, I was so full.  Arthur had half the sago, I tried to finish it off but was way too stuffed:

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I didn’t take any Melbourne photos because it was raining and I hadn’t taken my camera.  I was too busy dodging puddles (my boot has a hole in it somewhere) and trying to steer Arthur through crowds.  We got a good seat and enjoyed the show.  Part of the show involved a Melbourne world champion in Rubik’s Cube solving.  This guy solved the cube in under six seconds.  Then he did it one handed.  Then he did about a fifth of the cube then put it behind his back and completed it.

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It was nice to have a day out with Arthur.  I wish he’d eat the same kind of restaurant/cafe food I do, so we could share those huge Gopal’s plates!  But three years ago he would only eat cheese sandwiches and WeetBix and now he’s in to roasted chickpeas and tofu.  All plain, without rice or salad or anything, but we’ll get there one day!

Gopal’s Pure Vegetarian Restaurant is located at 139 Swanston Street up a lot of stairs.  Website here.

Another veganny goodness lunch

My parents came over again today to help with some work going on at our house.  Which of course means I cook some vegan delights!  I decided on a very light dessert, seeing as we had a double layer chocolate fudge cake two days ago.

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First up was Spinach and Tofu Ricotta Cannelloni, posted by Caeli over at Little Vegan Bear.  I made the sauce and filling last night to make things easier today.  I haven’t had cannelloni in years so I was very happy with this tasty vegan version!  The filling contains tofu, mushrooms, walnut and spinach (plus other flavours) and was very easy to make.  The stuffing-the-tubes bit was the most time consuming part but really, it was only ten minutes.  Put the radio on, rock out to a few Poison songs, deny you did that, and you’re done.  Hey did you know that Rikki Rockett, the drummer from Poison (AS IF YOU DIDN’T KNOW) is vegan?  Anyway, I topped my cannelloni with grated frozen Cheezley:

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My second dish was the Creamy Potato and Leek Casserole posted over at James&Matt. I had a leek in the fridge for about, oooh, as long as you can have a leek before it starts sporting mould.  I screwed it up a bit though.  I used less potatoes and used a smaller baking dish but I think I misread the liquid ingredient amounts and didn’t compensate properly.  Although the casserole on top was all nice and thick, the potatoes were swimming in a sea of watery liquid. My silken tofu was also really watery which probably didn’t help. Next time I will adjust properly, because this dish was delicious and I’d like to make it again  😀

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I also made a simple salad with mixed salad greens, tomato, toasted walnuts and the Effortless Anytime Balsamic Vinaigrette from The Oh She Glows Cookbook.

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For dessert, I wanted something as light and refreshing as possible so I opted for fruit with some kind of fancy pants element.  I chose the Winter Citrus Salad from The Oh She Glows Cookbook.  Fresh mint leaves and (raw in my case) sugar are whizzed up and sprinkled over sliced oranges and grapefruit.  I added strawberries.  I’ve never made mint sugar before, it’s so incredibly tasty for something so incredibly simple:

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I gave some cannelloni and potato leek casserole to my sister and brother in law.  They said they tried to leave some for tomorrow’s dinner but caved in and ate it all tonight instead.  So there you go, thumbs up all ’round from my family!

Hair vegan.

Hair vegan.

Vegan Goodness for a Family Lunch

My parents came over today to help us out with some work on the house and my sister had the day off work and came over to help too.  Despite them saying I shouldn’t worry about cooking, I decided to put on a bit of a last minute light lunch.  Why last minute?  Because my sister and I had originally planned to go to Smith & Daughters for lunch, as I’d seen the opening time listed somewhere as midday but when I went to confirm later, Smith & Daughters were only open for dinner.  Which, as you can imagine was a mega disappointment.  I’ve been hanging out to go and that was to be the big adventure today. SOB CRY WAIL.

My mum and dad also offered to come over pretty much last minute, when I’d just realised Smith & Daughters was not going to happen.  I hadn’t done the shopping and there was no chance of going out to get stuff.  Fortunately, I’d made a big pot of the Soul Soothing African Peanut Stew from The Oh She Glows Cookbook the day before and served that up. Husband went out and picked up some zaatar breads from Zaatar in Coburg. For another side dish, I made some roast cauliflower.  I usually sprinkle nutritional yeast on it but I’ve run out (and I’m finding it hard to survive without it) so I just used a little garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.  I would have sprinkled on some almond meal, but I over processed almonds the other day and they went past the almond meal stage and in to the halfway-to-butter stage…

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I’d also previously frozen a dip I made from toasted walnuts, roasted red capsicum and garlic.  I love this dip.  Soooo simple to make, I just toast some walnuts, roast a heap of red capsicum (bell peppers) then peel off the blackened skins and whiz it all up in the blender with some garlic and olive oil.

I decided to make some hummus too, to have another dip on offer.  I don’t follow a recipe, I just throw a can of chickpeas in the blender along with some tahini, lemon juice, cumin and salt.  I leave the olive oil for serving, along with a sprinkle of paprika:

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I also made a simple salad with mixed lettuce, tomato and some leftover red quinoa I’d cooked a few days ago.  The salad was dressed with the Effortless Anytime Balsamic Vinaigrette from The Oh She Glows Cookbook.  I forgot to sprinkle my toasted walnuts on top.  That’s how I roll!  Like sitting down to eat, finishing our meals then realising I forgot to fill the water jug for everyone.

For dessert I wanted to make a cake.  Arthur and DeeW have been asking me to bake a chocolate cake for ages, so I made the Double Layer Chocolate Fudge Cake from The Oh She Glows Cookbook, along with the suggested chocolate buttercream icing.  This was a last minute bake the night before as I really didn’t want to be baking on the day.  Everyone enjoyed the cake and it looked great on the cake plate, though I made a bit of a mess with the icing on the cake plate.  It’s amazing how children think a double layer cake on a platter is super special:

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For more info on the Oh She Glows recipes mentioned here, stay tuned as I am writing up another recipe review post!

I really enjoy cooking vegan food for my parents and as mum is observing Lent and eating mostly vegan (otherwise vegetarian, she gives up meat/fish for Lent), this is where I showcase some simple but very tasty dishes that are easy for her to prepare at home.  When I went vegan and mum was asking me what kind of stuff I’d be cooking, I laughed and said “you know all those meals you make during Lent but that you also make when it’s not Lent?  Like your lentil soup, and green beans-potatoes-carrot dish and your fasolatha (bean soup)? Those!” And she was all “oh!  Fair enough!”  It’s great though as my mum now makes her regular foods vegan for me but she and my dad also enjoy it. She’s not sceptical when it comes to a vegan diet because a lot of what she eats is vegan anyway, without ever having deliberately made it vegan, if you know what I mean!  So for her there has been no problem eating a vegan diet– she was eating this way a lot, long before she ever heard the word vegan.  That’s true of just about everyone I’ve spoken to.  Too often, people seem to think vegan food is all ‘rabbit food’ plus tofu and nothing could be further from the truth!