Saturday, August 29, 2009


This is $23.75 worth of fresh produce from Russel's Fruit and Vegetables on Sydney Road, Brunswick - (or slightly less, some had to be left out of the photo because it wouldn't fit).

Please show this to anyone who says they are too poor to eat healthily.

Over and out - off to make a green vege soup!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Vegan, Sugar Free, Wheat Free Cookies

I'm not vegan, nor do I not eat sugar or wheat. But I my lovely friend Gemma is vegan and does not eat sugar, and it was her birthday on the weekend. I often bake something for a friend for their birthday, and thought that Gemma wouldn't get things cooked for her very often, so she might enjoy these.

I found this recipe on 101 cookbooks, which is a great resource for vegetarian and vegan recipe ideas.

Oil makes a good substitute for butter in vegan baking, and fruits make a good substitute for sugar. This recipe relies on mashed banana for both its binding qualities and its sweetness. I spoke to Gemma before I baked these and she gave me permission to add honey (she's not too strict a vegan), which I think really helped. I scoured the supermarket for some vegan sugar free chocolate - and they actually had some! This made the cookies really yummy but I suppose isn't strictly necessary - use normal chocolate if your diet allows.

Banana, coconut and choc cookies
Based on the recipe 'Nikki's Healthy Cookies' from

3 bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup oil (I used olive, but a lighter, sweeter oil might be better?)
2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup almond meal
1/3 cup finely shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
100 grams chocolate, finely chopped (vegan and sugar free available at safeway if you need it!)
2 large tablespoons honey (optional)

Preheat oven to 190 degrees c. Mash bananas in large bowl. Add vanilla and oil and mix in. Pour into bowl measured out oats, coconut, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, almond meal and chocolate. Mix thoroughly. Stir through honey if using.

Line a baking tray with baking paper and make cookie balls about 1 tablespoon in size. These cookies don't really rise so don't worry about how close you make them to each other. I had to do 3 batches, because I have a small oven. But fit as many as you can on the tray at once.

Bake in the oven for 15-25 minutes, or until golden brown and starting to harden. The cookies are still quite moist when they come out of the oven but harden a little when cool. They do not become completely hard but retain quite a lot of moisture.

They turned out gently sweetened, filling and quite moreish - not what I'd expect from something so healthy!

Makes about 32 cookies depending on size.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

More photos from the Feast - Dessert

Got some extra photos from another attendee of the Feast, which was rather a long time ago now! The previous photos were lacking serious attention to the wonderful desserts, so I thought I'd put a few of these ones up.

Camila: How are we going to cut these cakes in seventeen pieces? Is that even possible?
Anna: We'll just cut it into sixteen pieces and let everyone fight it out...

Green Bean, Zucchini and Tuna Dinner Salad

Because I usually work all day and have uni in the evenings, dinner is something that often happens at about 9pm or later, and is quite rushed and often eaten whilst writing emails etc. However that doesn't stop me thinking about it. At about 6pm (usually during the middle of a class where everyone is in an in-depth discussion about some art exhibition and why they thought it was crap, and I've stopped paying attention) I start evening-dreaming about my dinner. Making little inventories in my head of the ingredients I have at home, then building a meal idea out of them.

This yummy dinner came about beause I remembered I had green beans and zucchini and potatoes to use up. I usually have stash of tins of tuna and eggs in the fridge. The dressing for the salad involved a bit of lemon, olive oil, ground cumin and salt and pepper, and the oozy yolk of the soft boiled egg that sits on top gradually getting mixed in as you eat it.

Green Bean, Zucchini and Tuna Dinner Salad
Serves 1

Handful of green beans, topped and tailed
Half a zucchini, sliced into strips
1 potato, chopped into 2cm cubes
1 egg
Tin of tuna (in oil, preferably, Sirena or Sol Mare is good, Woolworths Select is awful, and probably dolphiny)
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Salt & pepper
Tablespoon of sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Boil a pot of water and drop in cubed potato. Meanwhile, in a mixing boil, mix a tablespoon of olive oil, a tablespoon of lemon juice, a pinch each of salt and pepper, the sesame seeds and the cumin. When potato is soft, use a slotted spoon to drain it and place in the mixing bowl. Put the beans and zucchini and the egg (unshelled) in the still boiling water. Boil for 4 minutes. Drain the vegetables from the water and remove the egg. Add veges to mixing bowl. Add tuna to mixing bowl and stir together well, trying not to break up the soft potato too much. When the egg is cool enough to handle, peel carefully. Serve salad onto a plate and then top with the egg. When eating, break the egg open and let it drizzle over the salad.

(PS - How daggy are my dinner plates? They came with the unit I live in. I really should get some sans pastel coloured flowers...)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sick Day Cake

So uni has officially started again and with the stress has also come sickness. After a week of feeling not so good, I have also lost pretty much all my motivation. I decided to take a day off to get away from it all. I spent it watching Scrubs, knitting and making/devouring this cake. The recipe comes from "Cookery the Australian Way."

- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup caster sugar
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 1/3 cups self-raising flour
- 1 - 2 apples
- cinnamon sugar = 2 tsp caster sugar/1 tsp cinnamon

- Set oven to 190C.
- Cream butter and sugar.
- Mix in egg.
- Add flour and milk alternately, one third at a time.
- Place in a 20cm lined and greased cake pan.
- Cut apple into slices and place on top of cake. Sprinkle cinnamon/sugar over the top.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Recipes from the Feast - Thai Green Curry

This is one recipe that I've made a few times in the vain hope that it will be as good as my Dad's version without success. Sure it's delicious, everyone loves it etc. But if you'd tasted my Dad's Thai Green Curry you'd think mine was pretty boring. Everyone raves about his - and get this - we use the same recipe! I think he has secrets about it that he won't let on... Nevertheless, this curry is still seriously good.

When I cooked this for the feast I omitted any ingredients that were not vegetarian, and it was still lovely. To make this vegetarian/vegan just omit the shrimp paste from the curry paste and the fish sauce from the curry (replace with soy sauce). Camila loved it and said there were 'four layers of flavour', so I can't be too far off. Maybe it's just years of practice, eh Dad?

I never watched any Masterchef but these popculture things filter through somehow. I found out that when they made curries on that show they used BOTTLED CURRY PASTE. This strikes me as pretty lazy for chefs who were competing on their culinary merits! Do try making your own curry paste! It's not hard, and it's very worth it. Bottled curry paste. Pfft. Just another marketing opportunity?

Anyway, here's the recipe.

Thai Green Curry
(adapted from Charmaine Solomon's The Complete Asian Cookbook)

Green Curry Paste

4 large fresh green chillies (I used 2)
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 small brown onion, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped coriander - including root(I used more. I can't help it. I'm in love with coriander)
2 teaspoons chopped lemon rind
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cummin
1 teaspoon serai powder (? what's this? didn't use it - optional)
1 teaspoon laos powder (? didn't use this either, but Charmaine says it is optional)
2 teaspoons dried shrimp paste (kapi) - from asian groceries, omit for vege version
1 tablespoon oil

Remove chilli stems and slice open. Remove seeds if you want a milder curry, leave in for something mindblowing. Roughly chop chillis and put in mortar and pestle (or blender) with all other ingredients. Bash/smash/puree till paste-like. Note: Bashing ingredients with a mortar and pestle until paste-like is a great way to release tensions. Swear and yell and get it all out. How relaxing! You may need to add a little extra oil to bring it together. You can keep this paste in an airtight container until you are ready to use it. Keeps well in fridge for a few weeks.

Green Curry

1 kg chicken pieces, or vegetables for a vegie curry (I used zucchini and eggplant, but sweet potato, potato and bok choy are great too)
2 tins coconut milk (not 'lite')
3 tablespoons of your delicious home made curry paste
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fish sauce / (or soy sauce for vegie version)
As many or as little green chillis as you can handle (optional)
Big handful finely chopped coriander

Open tins of coconut and spoon off a cupful of the creamiest bit at the top. Heat this cupful of cream in a large heavy saucepan, stirring constantly until it comes to the boil. Lower heat and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the cream thickens and oil bubbles around it. By this time it should be reduced to a quarter of the original amount. Add the curry paste and fry the rich oily cream for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. The curry paste will smell cooked and the oil will seperate from it when it is ready. When this happens add your ingredients, whether that be chicken pieces or lots of vegies and perhaps some tofu. Fry in paste until browned and partially cooked. Add the remaining coconut milk, lime juice, salt and fish sauce (or soy) and stir while the coconut milk comes to the boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer uncovered until the ingredients are well cooked, and the gravy rich and oily. Stir in the chopped coriander and chillis (again, chilli optional!), simmer 5 minutes longer.

Serve with rice and a garnish of coriander. Serves around 6 people.

Yum yum yum....

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cooking Without A Kitchen

I've been meaning to write about this for a little while now, but since it's not actually a recipe, I was holding off. But I think it's an interesting topic. I mentioned in our blog description that Beans and Barley is about being able to cook delicious, cheap, healthy meals even in a messy sharehouse kitchen. I used to live in a messy sharehouse. Now I live in a very small unit - without a kitchen! A lot of units these days only have kitchenettes and I wanted to show you that it is possible to cook well with these types of facilities - you do not need to resort to take away.

I have, in place of a kitchen, a bench equipped with a cooktop/oven unit thing (2 electric burners, a small electric oven), a mortar and pestle (invaluable!), a toasted sandwich maker, a hand blender, and a jug full of utensils. I have a small fridge, but no freezer (no packaged frozen meals for me!). On top of the fridge is a toaster and a kettle. I keep all my crockery, cooking stuff (pots, pans etc) and shelf foods in IKEA storage racks. The bathroom sink very large and stainless steel, to double as a kitchen sink, and is equipped for washing up dishes etc.

In this small space, I've made bread, meals for friends, curries from scratch and lots of other things that usually take a bit of space and effort. If I ever think it is tricky, I remind myself of my Nana impressing my Grandpa during their courtship in post-war London and making him a five course meal on one burner during food rationing (note to self: was Grandpa exaggerating?). My parents, who are currently living in a one bedroom unit in Rovigo, Italy, have only a small kitchenette to make do with. However, that has not stopped their inclination to throw dinner parties, garnering them the reputation amongst their co-workers as having 'The best restaurant in Rovigo'! I've found that you don't need a beautiful, well equipped kitchen with an island bench to get into cooking. You just need (a bit of) patience and (lots of) enthusiasm.

Here are some tips for small cooking spaces I have come up with:

* A mortar and pestle makes less mess and takes up less room than getting out and setting up a blender. It's also easier to clean. Flavours are richer if you bash instead of cut the ingredients as well.

* A dishwasher is a great way to keep the kitchen from getting cluttered up whilst you are cooking, because the dirty dishes are hidden. If you don't have one, which you probably don't in a small kitchen, get a plastic tub from IKEA and find a niche for it (ie under the bench). If you put all your dirty dishes in it whilst you are cooking, it keeps the benches free. Then just carry the tub to the sink when you are ready to wash up.

* The fewer items of cooking equipment you own, the less washing up. You may need to rewash them more frequently than you like, but you will be thankful when the final wash up never takes more than 5 minutes.

* Toasted sandwich makers can double as an extra cooking plate, if the others are full.

* Don't waste space (and money) on ridiculous single-function implements. Eg. - Apple corers look fun at the shop but they aren't really that useful (usually cutting an apple into pieces will suffice) and you have to store them somewhere.

* If you have decorative cooking utensils (eg a tagine dish), consider storing them elsewhere in the house as items to look at, freeing up more kitchen space. They may collect more dust this way so make sure to rinse them before you use them again!

If you are reading this and have any good 'small kitchen tips', I would love to hear them. Happy cooking!

Recipes from the Feast - White Bean Mash

I will not hide it: this recipe I invented was an attempt to replicate the white beans at A Minor Place on Albion Street, Brunswick. I don't know how close I came but they were delicious anyway!

White Bean Mash

2 cups dried white beans (cannellini or great northern beans), soaked overnight and drained
4 cloves good garlic
1 -2 vege stock cubes (I used the massel ones, they are pretty good)
1 onion
Olive oil

Finely chop the onion and garlic. Fry in olive oil, slowly, in big pot until translucent and fragrant. Add white beans and fry a little, until coated in oil. Fill the pot with about 4 cups of boiling water (approx). Add stock cubes, a few grindings of pepper, and a good glug of olive oil, and boil slowly until the beans become soft and squishy and the water is almost gone. If you require more water, boil some and add gradually. You are looking to get a consistency of sloppy mashed potato. Taste and add seasoning to your liking.

Would be lovely served as a side dish with a breakfast cookup.

Recipes from the Feast - Lentil and Beetroot Salad

I am finally trying to get around to putting up some of the recipes from the vegetarian feast.
The task seemed to daunting to get around to all at once, but I do want to share some of them!

I'm going to start with the Lentil and Beetroot Salad, because I think it's a must try for everyone.

Lentil, Beetroot and Feta Salad

1 tin baby beetroot
1 cup french du puy lentils
handful or two of flat leafed parsley
handful or two of coriander
couple of bay leaves
125 grams (approx) of danish feta
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander seed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove crushed garlic
salt, pepper (a pinch or so of each)
1 teaspoon mustard (dijon or grainy - and I always forget to put this in for some reason!)

Boil the lentils in a pot of water with the bay leaves in it until tender. Meanwhile, mix together the oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, coriander seed and mustard in a mixing or salad bowl. Drain lentils, toss into dressing. Cut feta into cubes and toss into lentils. Chop the herbs finely and stir them into the salad. Cut each baby beetroot into quarters and add to salad. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

Note: French Du Puy lentils are the only ones to use here. Other lentils turn to mush! The French lentils (a dark green/black colour) hold their shape and have a lovely flavour to them. Perfect for salads.

Note 2: In the dish in the photo, I used 1 1/2 fresh beetroot, boiled til soft in salted water. This is optional, but I have found the tinned beetroot is much less messy, and just as cheap. But if you are a no-can kinda person (like I was the day I made the vege feast!), then this works just as well. Boil the beetroots without cutting them (as this keeps their colour in). Leave them to cool, then peel and chop.