No Meat Week2: Monday

(Jalebi, my superfavourite sweety)

Today I forgot to have breakfast. Then I had take away Indian for lunch. YUM. Ashfield is brilliant for quick lunches: 2 or 3 Nepalese joints (there’s quite a strong Nepalese community here), Chinese of course (mostly Shanghainese, and lots of dumplings and noodles), Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, Malaysian and now a couple of new Japanese joints. An Oporto’s has just opened, which would worry me, if it wasn’t for the fact that two Japanese, one Nepalese and one Indian/Nepalese joints opened in the same month in the same block (for real). There’re also a few rubbishy places in the food court of the Smashmall (Ashfield Mall), but I wouldn’t eat there.

Though you can get badass bubble tea at a couple of joints, there is a distinct lack of coffee and European baked bread action in Ashfield. There is a ‘European’ bakery, run by a Lebanese/Indian couple, but the coffee is rubbish and the cakes are meh. They don’t sell bread. There are a couple of Vietnamese bakeries, but I don’t like that sweet white bread. There’s a Bread Top, but that’s very sweet and not really European style bread. There’s a Baker’s Delight in Smashmall, but it’s totally shit. There is one ‘cafe’ further down Liverpool Road, but it’s actually a Chinese cafe, and not really good for coffee. There is one cafe in the Smashmall, but it’s not good for coffee.
The newest cafe is an internet cafe, opened just next to the Station on our side of the tracks. It’s run by an Indian family, has a coffee machine, and while one side of the cake cabinet is full of ‘European’ cakes, the other half is full of amazing Indian sweets. You can score cheap pirated Hindi language films there too.

So Ashfield is not a good place for ‘European’ food. This is a big change from Brunswick. It’s also been a very good change for my belly, as I eat far fewer sweeties, as I just can’t hack the hardcore sugar in Indian and Chinese sweets. We do travel over to Haberfield for bread and cake and coffee on the weekend, but we are Smashfield people. But Ashfield is a brilliant place for cheap, interesting lunches. Just not so great if you’re looking for a sandwich. One of the things I have noticed in Ashfield, is that sitting down to a meal of shared dishes at lunch is a very common thing for this Chinese community. Everyone does it – from high school kids to mums with sprogs or oldies in a gang. It’s nice.

Tonight, at our little flat in Ashfield, we revisited last Thursday’s roasted veggies dinner. This time we did the dressing without oil, just with lemon. It was a bit sharp. We also added some fennel to the roasted veggies, but it wasn’t really a good place for fennel. I think I’d stick with what we did last time, perhaps. Dave’s poached eggs were as brilliant as last time. He has a talent. He should take it on the road.

No Meat Week: Saturday and Sunday

Saturday morning I had porridge. That shit is so boring. I prefer weetbix.

Saturday we went to lunch with friends specifically to have dumplings. The joint we go to has a large vegetarian dumpling menu, but we ate meat dumplings.

…incidentally, I count fish as ‘meat’. Fishes are living, moving animals. So they have meat. They’re not some sort of floating plant. If you’re a vegetarian, you don’t eat fish. Or chicken. Or the flesh of any animal. I’m not a vegetarian. But I’m not a hypocrite, either.

We had leftover borlotti bean moussaka from Friday with a big stack of steamed vegetables for dinner.

Today we had wholemeal pancakes for breakfast, then borlotti bean moussaka for lunch AGAIN. And tonight we are having the same cauliflower dish we had Monday. I think we’re having it with spinachy rice again.

Over all, No Meat Week has gone well. We like it and are going to do it again next week. We have lots more recipes to make, so we’re not bored with our meals yet. We’ll keep going til we’re tired of it, then we’ll revise our plans. Veggie meals are just like meat meals: if you’re a boring cook, you’ll make boring food and then you’ll be a bored eater. The next goal, of course, is to take meat out of our lunches. The goals, though, in all of this, is to eat ethically, so Cristy’s approach is useful. Here, the point is to eat food that’s farmed sustainably, ethically. That might include meat. So I guess we eat meat when we can buy organic, sustainably farmed stuff. But otherwise we eat veggies. When it comes to lunches, it can be harder to source organic meat. I guess that’s the challenge, really. Leftovers for lunch, or decent other decent stuff.

Generally, I think we need to eat more salad or steamed veggies with the main dinner dish. Or do I? I think I need to learn more about this. And I haven’t been to the shops enough this past week to get fruit. Mandarins! Grapes! Apples!

Other things I want more of: fennel. Dave is also primed for stir fry, and we’ll have veggie lasagne this week because he adores it. He’s also very keen for leftovers for lunch, so that’s a useful thing to remember.

I’ll be away at a dance event next weekend, so my meals will be all mixed up, and I’ll really only be eating two meals per day. I usually make them a sort of lunch and a dinner. And I usually take a bunch of fruit with me to late night dances, and often a muesli bar. It’s difficult to eat enough over exchanges, but I am usually very strict about eating well. It’s too easy to get ill over the physically intense, sleep deprived weekends, so eating well is important. I usually favour pasta, salads and things like ham or cheese. I find it almost impossible to get through weekends with low-carb meals. I need to eat proper carbs at all meals if I don’t want to get starving. I also tend to eat chocolate a bit. I will often have a meal or two out, but I avoid junk food, and go for good stuff like Lebanese with lots of salad and good bread, or chinese with lots of veggie dishes.

We’ll see how it all goes. I’m sure we’re going to have a good week of fewds.

No Meat Week: Friday

Well, breakfast was cheesy bread. Boring. I’m not very good with breakfasts, but it’s when I’m hungriest, so I like to eat big, filling things.

No fruit today, except some apples I’m going to attack in a second.

Dinner was a good one. This is a dish I used to make in Brisbane, but somehow forgot about. I remember it being very time consuming, but tonight it took a lot less time than I’d expected. Which is good, as I am incredibly bad tempered today, and also weepy with random and irritating depressed self-loathing. This sort of craziness smacks of PMS. Great. But it could also be a bit of pre-exchange anxiety. Off to MSF next week, where I’m coordinating DJs. Who are actually all very organised and capable, so it’s not them I’m worried about. Just random travel anxiety probably. Oh, and I’m off to Tasmania a week or two later. Parents. Suddenly, it all makes sense.

Ok, so now that we have that out of the way…. but really, what was I thinking? A complicated dish on a shitty day? Crazy. Crazy.

Borlotti Bean Moussaka. YUM.

These quantities are kind of wacked. Don’t freak if you have extra red slop – freeze it and use it again later. But these quantities need a pretty bloody big dish.

Red slop sauce:
can borlotti beans (I used one can and 1 can of lentils as I didn’t have 2 borlotti bean cans). Borlotti beans are YUMMY.
can tomatoes (I used a big one)
garlic – I used 4 cloves because garlic is the reason we exist
onion – brown, diced
1 cup red wine
2 big tbsp tomato paste
random salad greens
2 big sprigs of oregano

Eggplant layer:
1 big eggplant
1 big zucchini
1 small red capsicum
-> should just have been 2 big eggplants, but I only had one.

Eggy Topping:
4 eggs, beaten a bit
1 cup yoghurt (low fat by accident, but discovering it’s extra sharp and yum = gold)
2 cups milk (use organic whole milk. That shit is SO GOOD)

Cheese. Grated. Intend to use parmesan, but forget and use bullshit tasty instead. Then discover the block of parmesan as you put the tasty away. Sigh in resignation. Fuck you, fromage.

Make the red slop the usual way:
– Saute the onions in some olive oil until they are edging towards brown. This is how you do them for Indian cooking, and that’s how I do them for everything now, as they give a richer, tastier flavour that way. Which could be a bit much if you’re not up for that.

– Saute some crushed up garlic with the onions, but do NOT let it burn.

– Ok, add the tomato. In a sudden rush that leaves the entire kitchen and your favourite jumper splattered in red.
– Stop and have a little weep.
– Get over it.
– Add the beans and lentils. Mix it all in.
– Remember the wine. Add that. And the tomato paste. Just chuck the tomato paste package on the counter when you’re done. Do it roughly, so you feel a bit better.
– Add random salad greens you’ve found in the fridge.
– Chuck in two fairly raggedy looking sprigs of oregano from the garden. Don’t bother looking for grubs. Organic protein is ok.

– Ok, now it’s a bit important to let all this simmer for a while. I didn’t, and it made the moussaka too sloppy. You want it to get thicker. And tastier.

– Put your oven on a moderate heat.

– Grill the eggplant. This bit is annoying. Make sure you brush the slices of eggplant with olive oil. I can’t be bothered salting. But you probably should. Fuck that, hey?
– Grill the zucchini and other capsicum.
– You want them to get brown bits, but not to burn. Except the capsicum. It can singe. Watch it doesn’t spit at you, though.
– When the Capsicum is done, let it sit, skin side down for a few minutes. Or put it in a plastic bag. Then pull the skin off. Get all the black bits off, as it’s bitter and yuck. Slice it thinly.

– Make the topping. I just plopped the milk, the yoghurt, eggs (unbeaten) into a huge jug and then used the stick mixer thing to beat it all up. You’re probably not supposed to do that. Fuck it. I like it to get a bit fluffy, because those air bubbles will be awesome later.

– Now, you have to build this fucker. This bit is surprisingly reassuring.

– Put all the red bean slop at the bottom of a baking dish. I use a deep dish by accident. A wider, shallower one would have been a bit better. 2 inches deep. Maybe 3. A pyrex one is best so you can see it in action. But not necessary.
-Discover that there’s too much red stuff and too much topping. Drink some of the topping, because it is yum.
– Worry about chucking up.
– Get over it.
– Put about half the red stuff in the freezer for later.

– Now you put all the veggies onto the red slop. Lay them all out to make a nice layer with no gaps.

– Now you carefully pour the topping onto all that. It makes a thick layer. I prefer it if it doesn’t seep down past the eggplant. But wtf, it’s no biggie. The eggplant usually floats to the surface. That’s cool. Don’t freak.

– Ok, put this thing in the oven for ages. Until the eggy topping stuff has set. This is where the bubbles are good – it makes a nice fluffy layer. The very top should kind of get crispy, the red slop will be hot all the way through. It takes 40-60 minutes if your oven is shit and you’ve miscalculated the times. You really want the eggy topping set. That’s why it’s eggy. So that it sets. If it’s runny, it’s not so good.

– I added the grated tasty cheese about 10minutes before it was done. This way it melts, browns, but does not form calcified lava yuck. The eggplant + this cheese + the borlotti beans + the rich wine taste is the reason we bother making dinner at all. This is utterly delicious.

We served it with plain old steamed broccoli. A big pile of it.

This is one TASTY dinner.

No Meat Week: Thursday

(NB I just found this egg picture online. Ours were actually better)

Firstly, let me just point out that yesterday we had fish cakes with salty eggs and a veggie/tofu stir fry take away from the brilliant Thai joint in Summer Hill. Not entirely meat free, but better.

Today I had eggs for breakfast then got STRANDED in Alexandria and missed lunch, so I ate hot chips in Ashfield on the walk home. I haven’t hot chips in three hundred years, and they were PERFECT.

Tonight we had something a friend made us for dinner last week: roasted vegetables. Boring. No. DELICIOUS.

Chop up a bunch of vegetables. Not small pieces, about an inch and a half. Watch out, though, because the potato will take ages longer than everything else, so should be cut a bit smaller.
I used:
– some blue pumpkin*
– a potato
– a spring onion (the type with the little onion at the end bulbing out like a smallish normal white onion, and the long green bits still on it)
– a zuchini (those kids are over, now, but I LOVE them)
– a chunk of eggplant (looking quite handsomely aubergine in its nice, firm skin)
– a bit of red capsicum
– some mushrooms
– a head of garlic broken into its constituent cloves
– and a punnet of cherry tomatoes, chopped. Yes, I know, tomatoes are over. But cherries are kind of ok.

Just splash on some olive oil and some salt and roast those suckers until they’re cooked. 40minutes if you’ve a rubbishy oven like ours. You want it all cooked, perhaps a bit browned on the outside, but don’t over cook them.

Make a dressing: olive oil (not too much!), lemon juice (mostly lemon juice), chopped up parsley (grow your own if you can – YUM), a bit of salt and pepper.

THEN you mix the roasted veggies in a bowl with some salad greens. Baby spinach, rocket, whatever you’ve got. If that’s too exy or rubbish, use some finely sliced fresh spinach if it’s not too tough. Put the salad dressing on and mix it. Put some in each person’s bowl.

Right, now the hard bit. Poach an egg for each person. As soon as they’re done, plop it on the vegetables in people’s bowls. The veggies should be hot or warm, the greens beginning to wilt.

The important bit: the dressing should be quite lemony and parsleyish. If you make it too oily, it’ll be too rich on your vegetables. I’d perhaps even omit olive oil if you’re generous with it when roasting. You really want the zinginess of the lemon and the freshness of the parsley to complement your beautifully runny, rich egg.


Dave discovered, on his very first try, that he is a brilliant egg poacher. His poached eggs were round, firm yet soft, runny in the middle with slightly thicker edges on the yellow, white all cooked. They were perfectly formed, and also deliciously perfectly cooked.

When we had this at our friend’s place we actually had it with grilled haloumi. I love haloumi a LOT, but it’s quite rich, and we had it earlier this week. It’s also probably not a good idea to eat a whole block of grilled cheese too regularly. The friend had poached an egg for a lactose intolerant guest, so it was in my brain. At any rate, I actually think the eggs were a slightly better idea, because of the way the yolk and lemon and parsley got together and made sweet, sweet yum.

*not actually blue – the one with the blue skin. I prefer it to butternut or even Jap.

No Meat Week: Wednesday

1. I had a roast beef and veggies sandwich at the deli while waiting for my doctor’s appointment. I clean forgot about the no meat thing. Dave stated that he had not known that the ‘no meat thing’ was “for lunches too”. Jeez.

2. It’s been raining and raining and fucking RAINING so I haven’t been to the shops in a few days. So when I went to the kitchen to make chickpea curry to eat after dancing THERE WERE NO TOMATOES and I suddenly broke my brain.
We got home from dancing and THERE WERE STILL NOT TOMATOES and my brain was twice as broken and Dave was MAKING THE WRONG SUGGESTIONS so crazy girl suggested take away and then there was Thai take away and it was good.

3. Some days some people are just nuts.

4. I am really really tired of all this carbohydrate action. I do not like the way my belly feels really full. Buggered if I know how to make low-carb veggie meals, though. Perhaps I will figure it out tomorrow…

5. Bloody Dave will make bloody stir fry because it is after Wednesday now, and this is when I run out of shopping and cooking steam.


No Meat Week: Tuesday

No meat week continues. Tonight we had ‘asian inspired’ pumpkin soup from the Stephanie Alexander orange book. Meh. I reckon it uses too much stock, but we had a Stock Defrosting Mixup and we couldn’t reduce the stock without waste. This recipe isn’t as good as I’d remembered. I’m not even convinced the actual instructions in the book are all that accurate – I think the timing is off a bit.

Anyways, we had a bit of leftover rice and cauliflower from last night, and we ate the soup, even though it was a bit watery. And, to be honest, a bit simple, flavour-wise, especially after working through brilliant Indian recipes. A blob of jarred Thai red curry paste and some onions, a tomato and a heap of pumpkin doesn’t really cut it, I’m afraid. Not even with our brilliant veggie stock.

I had leftover rubbish veggie risotto for lunch. It was as dumb today as it was yesterday. Too much water, too little flavour, overcooked rice. Gu-ross.
Breakfast was scrambled eggs on wholemeal sourdough.
And plenty of grapes and mandarins during the day.

I reckon I needed some serious salad in there today. Or at least a bunch of steamed greens.

No Meat Week: Monday (& Sunday)

We’ve been living the CSIRO lifestyle for a year or two now, and while I like the lighter evening meals (without carbs), we’ve been struggling, ethically, with the amount of meat the diet includes. Also, it’s bad for your guts. So I’ve instituted a week without meat.

I’ve lived the vegetarian lifestyle here and there over the years, most prominently in a share house in Melbourne between 2001 and 2003. I’d moved to Melbourne from Brisbane, taking the coward’s approach to ending a long term relationship, and moving into a huge terrace house in North Melbourne with a bunch of younger students. They were all about 20 and I was about 26. I loved it. It was a delight to no longer be living unhappily in an New Farm flat with one other person. It was wonderful to suddenly be eating with a household of 5 other people (including ever-present boyfriends and girlfriends). I had my own shelf in the larder, my own milk in the fridge. I took my trolley to the Vic Markets every week, and I walked everywhere. I gave up meat. Alliances shifted within the sharehouse, and two of us began cooking together, tired of being third or fourth in line at the stove each night. We now occupied two shelves in the larder.

At the end of that first year, two of us left the strange sharehouse anchor guy to set up house in another, smaller terrace in Carlton North with a new housemate. Vegetarianism turned into vegan coeliacism as one of us discovered gluten intolerance and hardcore eating issues (masquerading as ethics). Each week I bought a trolley full of veggies from the Vic Markets, a trolley full of tofu, various not-wheat grains and dried goods from the Melbourne uni co-op and a trolley full of assorted canned goods and giant bags of rice and rice noodles. We were three fairly hardcore athletes. I was a newly addicted social lindy hopper, dancing two or three nights a week and walking or cycling everywhere. One housemate was a serious cyclist/climber/runner with a similarly-afflicted boyfriend in his very early 20s. The other house mate was equally active, but male and voraciously hungry. All. The. Time. We ate all the time. I ate two dinners almost every night. I got skinnier.

In 2003 we moved to another house – a gorgeous free standing colonial in Brunswick. We gained a house mate, the coeliac’s boyfriend. I gained a Squeeze. Eventually the coeliac had to call defeat as her doctor gave her supplement injections and demanded a return to nonveganism. Eggs entered our diet. Milk.

During those three years we ate a lot of what we called ‘veggie slop’ – misceleneous vegetarian curries drawn from Kurma‘s book or our increasingly beleagured imaginations. I remember one particularly awful meal in our third share house together. Kidney beans. Rice noodles. Some sort of rubbishy greasy sauce. But those years also brought kicheri and a new appreciation for tofu. Firm tofu, cubed, thrown into a coconut milk/tomato based vegetable curry. Tofu marinated in lemon juice, honey, miso and ginger then stir fried with vegetables. Brown rice. Basmati rice. Jasmine rice. Arborio rice. Pulao. Biriyani. Fried rice. Rice pudding. Rice noodles: flat, narrow, sheets, fresh, dried. Mung bean noodles. We made delicious dinners, for the most part, though I’ve never really eaten that way since.

But this week we’re going to revisit the vegetarian days of yore. We’re going to eat the way we used to in Carlton North, crowded around the dining table or camped out on the second hand, re-covered sofas in front of the television.

It’s already been a bit of a trip down memory lane for me. Last night we had spinach and ricotta cannelloni. Something I started eating in Brisbane, along with a million zillion other people, when San Remo included a basic spinach and ricotta recipe on the back of the cannelloni boxes. But we substitute a chunk of fetta for some of the ricotta, and we use fresh spinach rather frozen. Delicious.

Tonight we had this easy Cauliflower (queen of vegetables) and onion dish (recipe c/o Madhur Jaffrey’s Invitation to Indian Cooking):

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped coarsely
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped coarsely
2 inch long, 1 inch wide piece ginger peeled and coarsely chopped
1 large head of cauliflower (I just used half a big cauliflower)
8tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 medium fresh or canned tomato, peeled and chopped
1 tbs chopped fresh coriander (I used more than this)
1 fresh hot green chilli washed and finely sliced or 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (I used 1/4 ground chilli)
2tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp garam marsala
2tsp salt
1tbs lemon juice

Blend onion, garlic and ginger with 4 tbsp of water and blend to a paste.

Break cauliflower into small flowerets, not longer than 1 to 1.5 inches, and not wider at the head than 1/2 to 1 inch.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed 10-12 inch pot over a medium flame, pour in the paste from the blender, and add the turmeric. Fry, stirring for 5 minutes.

Add the tomato, green coriander, chili or cayenne, and fry for 5 minutes. If necessary, add 1 tsp of warm water at at time and stir to prevent sticking. Now put in the cauliflower, coriander, cumin, garam masala, salt and lemon juice.
Fry and stir for 1 minute.

Add 4 tbsp warm water, stir, cover, lower flame, allow to cook slowly 35-45 minutes. Stir gently every 10 minutes or so. The cauliflower is done when each floweret is tender with just a trace of crispness along its spine.


We had it with rice: brown half an onion cut into rings in some olive oil, add some finely chopped spinach, half a tsp of ground coriander and half a tsp of sweet paprika. Mix it all in. Add some washed basmati rice, mix it all up. Then add water and cook it absorption method style. I do all that in the rice cooker.

And finally, I grilled some haloumi cheese we’d bought on impulse. And we ate it all. The rice was particularly delicious – the browned onion and greasiness of the olive oil making a perfect match for the cheese. The cauliflower was just a little sour around the edges, from the lemon and ginger. Delicious.

I’d had dodgy rice cooker risotto for lunch, using up tomatoes, zuchini, capsicum, mushrooms, some herbs from the garden. It was a bit boring. Needed some rehydrated porcini mushrooms.

I’m not used to all these evening carbs and feel decidedly full. Tomorrow I’m going to reduce portions and drop the hardcore dairy. I’m thinking the ‘asian style’ pumpkin soup from Stephanie Alexander’s big orange book. Or something involving chick peas. I adore chick peas.