Food first

Well, it looks like I am doing a pretty miserable job this year in the blogging department. I might have overdone it last year and set expectations too high gentle readers!

So I will just share with you one of the lovely vegetarian meals that we cooked and ate last weekend.

Potato bake with sour cream, leeks and swiss chard; over-roasted butternut pumpkin with chilli flakes; some big honking roasted mushrooms
Potato bake with sour cream, leeks and swiss chard; over-roasted butternut pumpkin with chilli flakes; some big honking roasted mushrooms

The potato bake was inspired by something in a recent Australian Gourmet Traveller mag. I suggested it and bought all the ingredients, but Roo and Emily did most of the work.

This vego thing…

OK, so some time ago we decided to go Vego at Home at home while my vegetarian niece was living with us.  Well, she has arrived. No meat has crossed the thresh-hold for a week and a day.

So has it make any difference eating Vego at Home so far? Well, I have noticed that I don’t feel the need for alcohol with my vegetarian meals, though, out of habit I have had a little wine with some meals.  I thought it would feel that we were eating lighter, but actually we seem to be substituting starch in the evening meal (potatoes and bread) where before we may not have had any at night. Like these two meals:

Grilled zucchini, mozzarella, tomato, basil, chili and garlic on Lebanese bread

This dish was adapted from something on the cover of an Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine.

Potato, asparagus and jalapeno with some cheese and yogurt

And this one Emily’s mother emailed to her.  Again we varied it by using asparagus instead of the recommended broccoli, because that’s what we had in the fridge.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed both these meals and some others that we’ve had. So Vego at Home thing will continue.  Watch this space…

Rocket, fennel, orange and almond salad

Rocket (Arugula to my North American readers) grows in my garden in winter. So, inspired by Amanda Daniel from 2bEthical who made a winter salad at the Adelaide Showgrounds Farmer’s Market demo kitchen, I did a version of my own. All local produce including the olive oil that I used to warm the local almonds with. Gotta love the Mediterranean climate here in Adelaide. Yummy salad.

Vegetables are our friends too

So, my niece from America might be coming to stay with us for a while and she is a vegetarian.  I mentioned this to my husband, Roo and he thought for a moment and said “Why don’t we go veggie for the year she comes to stay”?  We are both committed meat eaters but we have always been veggie friendly, tending to seek out local vegetarian cafes and restaurants in that endless quest to be healthy.

I was a vegetarian once upon a time for about 6 years.  This period roughly coincided with my university years when I was out living on my own for the first time and meat was too expensive.  In the 70s in Arizona there were plenty of places to find a decent veggie meal around 5th and Mill in Tempe.  My Vego years ended abruptly when I was employed at a Sheep Station in the Pilbara in 1981.  There weren’t enough vegetables to go around at any given meal and mutton was the most readily available food. After the initial bloating and re-learning how to digest all that protein, my body eventually acclimatised. And I enjoyed the meat.

There was a fabulous restaurant called Clearlight in Rundle Street that closed some years ago now, and the style of food served there was the style of food I know I could live on.  The hot dishes and soups of the day were very creative and delicious. At home we have tried to recreate the taste of the mountain bread rolls that were a staple at Clearlight.  I think we’ve come close. If anyone reading this blog knows if the woman who ran Clearlight has another eatery in Adelaide, I would love to know about it.  Or if she has a cookbook. Or runs cooking classes.

Lately we have been frequenting THEA Vegetarian Tea Garden in Gawler Place, Adelaide for healthy and interesting vegetarian meals.

Even though we are meat eaters, for now, we are very veggie friendly.

I discovered a site the other day called Vegeterranean and, my, we have come a long way.  It’s not all about tofu. Not that there’s anything wrong with Tofu (other than the fact that it does require a lot of energy and processing to get from ‘bean’ to all the different tofu products available on the market. 

As I have mentioned in this blog, we are blessed here in Adelaide with fabulous produce and markets. So our vegetarian year challenge may not be that difficult with a little research and inspiration. Watch out veggies!

The sadness of the final tomato harvest

Last week we finished picking the last of the yellow cherry tomatoes. It is officially Autumn in Australia. There is an overwhelming beauty to the home-grown tomato. It is juicy yet firm, sweet but somehow at the same time, tart and refreshing. Perfect in salads or atop toasted, buttered rye bread in the morning.  Or with cheese and vegemite for lunch. The change of season signals that the days of outdoor breakfasts are numbered and visits to the ‘tomato man’ at the Adelaide Central Market will recommence. But these tomatoes will not grace the salad; they will be used in cooked dishes.   When you pick the last one you have to think that summer is soon to be a memory. That is the sadness of the final tomato harvest.

Russell’s Pizza, Willunga, South Australia

Finally…we got a booking at Russell’s. This rustic old cottage and converted shed on the Fleurieu peninsula of South Australia is the hottest place to be on a Friday evening, year-round. We were seated inside the old cottage at a wicker lounge area and ate antipasti followed by pizzas cooked in Russell’s hand-built brick ovens.

The Antipasti consisted of Russell’s hard-to-find Dukkah, Turkish bread, flat pita bread, olive oil, olives, roasted capsicum, marinated mushrooms, artichoke hearts, local almonds, feta cheese and a bit of rocket. All of this is eaten by hand, dipping the bread in the oil then into the Dukkah. grabbing a bits of the other food with Turkish or pita bread.

Two of the pizzas we chose were turkish style, not round, but long with the edges folded in, the fillings fresh and light. No heavy, greasy, cheesy mess. Lamb with preserved lime and coriander, Chilli chicken. The round one was thin and topped with mushroom, anchovy, bocconcini and fresh tomato. Simple. Elegant. Delicious.

Then there was desert…Panna cotta with mango, flourless chocolate cake, and a summer berry and peach tart served with creme fraiche!

Out in the converted shed are long tables and music going. After dinner a space is cleared for a dance floor. Russell himself is often the DJ. Sometimes the local Tango group is on hand for dinner and a bit of Tango. A great way to warm up on a Winter night. Any time of year it’s a pleasure to wander the grounds, check out the veggie garden, look up at the stars, sit by the big bonfire with the last of the red wine or coffee.

BYO Wine is OK but the wine list is good (read quality wines without restaurant mark up price). Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights over sumer; Friday night only the rest of the year. Book now to avoid disappointment!

I have yet to meet a legume that I don’t like

Tonight we ate outside and had the first broad bean salad of the season. When Roo made it for me the first time, last summer, he used sweet cherry tomatoes from our very own garden! It was one of those mouth moments where you just want more.

Tonight the tomatoes were from the Adelaide Showgrounds Farmer’s Market. A a touch of Spanish onion and basil. Salt and pepper. Bloody fantastic. Roll on summer.