Monday, August 27, 2012

Meatless Monday. Nutty 'sausage' rolls.

What do sausage rolls taste of and what is their defining aspect?

Commercial ones don't necessarily contain meat in any significant quantity and what meat there is, is likely to include tail, head, cheek, gristle, sinew, tongue, and lashings of fat. Of course there is the addition of a bewildering array of chemicals to prolong the "life" and make the low grade ingredients taste palatable - though I'm not sure how accurate that last word is.

To me, the defining aspect of a commercial sausage roll is the addition of gristle. It can be awkward at a party where the offerings are of the cheapest, nameless variety, to find a piece of gristle rolling around your mouth unable to be masticated. Do you swallow it, or somehow attempt to secrete it surreptitiously in a paper napkin? Almost worse is when a piece of gristle gets stuck between your teeth - never a good look when you try to fish it out with a fingernail ... and what do you do with it then?

My daughter enthusiastically shared the following vegetarian version of a sausage shaped roll with the delighted comment that a guest (a committed anti-vegetarian) came back for seconds, saying "These are soooo meaty, they're great!" and was lost for words to find out there wasn't a skerrick of meat in them.

The recipe comes from retromummy, and I can confidently vouch that they're easy to make, have great flavour and are able to deceive meat eaters, not that that was the point of the exercise, but it was interesting.

I don't understand why the mixture which doesn't look anything special in the kitchen whiz, looks remarkably like a commercially prepared sausage roll when it's cooked. The only thing lacking was the gristle - and the horrible taste.

Due to a completely disorganised day, I relented and used a commercially prepared puff pastry - next time I'll make my own non-puff pastry, using the same recipe as for the mushroom pie.

Nutty 'sausage' rolls


  • an onion
  • 100gram nuts - I used macadamia, pine, almonds and walnuts. Pecans would also be good.
  • small bunch of herbs - I added parsley, coriander, oregano & vietnamese mint. Basil would have been a tasty addition, but I didn't have any.
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • sprinkle of chilli flakes
  • a grind of pepper
  • 3 eggs
  • 150gram fetta (apparently tofu works well too - try the firm one as the silken variety might be too damp)
  • 100gram oats - I like the mixed ones (oats, barley, wheat, rye, buckwheat)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I didn't have any, so used more oats)
  • 3 sheets of puff pastry


  • find Kitchen Whiz
  • Buzz the onion and nuts
  • Add the herbs and pepper and buzz briefly 
  • Plonk the wet ingredients in, followed by the oats a bit more slowly and buzz till the mix resembles coarse breadcrumbs and sticks together easily

  • Cut the puff pastry in half
  • Place sausage shaped mounds of mixture along the length of the pastry
  • Roll and brush with milk or beaten egg
  • Place on baking tray (I used oven paper so they wouldn't stick)
  • cut into bite sized portions

Bake at 200 degrees C for about 20 - 30 mins. Keep an eye on them because they go golden ... then suddenly burn.

Pastry recipe

  • 225 g flour
  • 115 g butter
  • 1 tblsp fresh chopped oregano
  • 1/4 cup cold water - use just enough to bind
  • a grind of salt

Buzz in the kitchen whiz till combined. Roll thinly, then lay sausage shaped logs of mixture on the long edge. Roll to encase the mixture, place on baking tray, brush with milk, cut into bite sized portions and bake as above.

Sorry about the poor quality of the photo of the end result. My young guests were hungry and it seemed mean to ask them to wait so I could take a photo. Naturally, I then completely forgot so these have been in the frig overnight and don't look their best. But they still taste great cold with a swirl of tomato sauce or a dollop of chutney!


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

End of the world at Urunga?

Nothing gave the slightest hint of the breathtaking view around the corner from the rather humdrum boardwalk.  Perhaps humdrum isn't particularly descriptive - or fair. One kilometre of solid structure from the small town of Urunga to the breakwater, built between a beautiful estuary and mangroves.  These mangroves are taller and grow less densely than the ones on Westernport Bay and look more like a watery forest.

Mangroves provide safe breeding grounds for many varieties of fish, crustacean and sanctuary for birds from as far away as Siberia. I could lean over the rail and see shoals of minute fish, as well as toadies and crabs, and although the area is apparently known as being a magnificent fishing spot, there were few fisherfolk around. (More on Mangroves here)

I was engrossed in watching the clash between the waters trying to exit the river with the waves determined to make their way into the river - waves swirled and sucked menacingly even though it was a calm day. These are unfriendly waters and even on the hottest day wouldn't attract swimmers. I paused occasionally to making polite, innocuous conversation with locals and fellow tourists and found myself at the end of the boardwalk somewhat unexpectedly.

It was one of those occasions when I suspect my jaw dropped and my eyes goggled. The contrast between the civilised, constained environment to a vast beach, deep in flotsam and jetsam was riveting. This wasn't just the usual detritus from a thoughtless society discarding garbage into waterways. That's become so common it would have been expected and barely worth a mention.
I'm standing in front of the triangular structure.
A square one is to the right near the dune.
The vast, long beach was deserted apart from a few tiny ant-like people in the far distance. Only a few islands between here and South America, so nothing much to catch debris from storms lashing lands far away.  Caught by the breakwater were deep mounds of twigs, branches, roots and large bleached tree trunks, swirled and swept high up the white sandy beach by local tides and violent storms, swept far higher up the beach than high tides would normally reach.
But as if that wasn't enough, someone, or more likely a group of people, had worked to balance and weave tree trunks, branches, boards and twigs into artistic structures; apparent dwellings. Not one, but a group. Some box like with low openings, others triangular shaped. Sandy footprints showed that many others had stood and stared. Now, all were deserted, no life, not even a bird to break the desolation and sense of fragile finality.
Further up the beach, caught on a large log, something organic draped thickly, blanketing metres of sand and debris, with the faint whiff of decay in the warm sun.  It looked like it had been there for a while and would be there for some time to come before it rotted completely. It felt like a scene from a movie about the end of the world, where every living thing has been removed unexpectedly, leaving the evidence of life, creativity and footprints to vanish in the wind and tides.
Further along still, a lone piece of tree appeared disguised as an animal, crouching, wary and watchful, frozen in time, not knowing whether to stay or try its chance for survival elsewhere.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A night out at "Dodgy Dumplings" and Koyaanisqatsi

"Mum, I know you're stressing, but it'll be ok, I promise, I know this place."
We've only got an hour to have dinner before we walk back to the theatre, and I don't like rushing. However my son was insistent and persuasive "They're fast AND cheap", so we began striding through the crowded city streets. Well, the blokes strode, I  scampered.

Where are all these people going? It's Tuesday night for goodness sake. What are they doing? My little feet and short legs ache to keep up with the long gait of the blokes. I've put on thick woolly socks to keep my feet warm, but as a result, my "going out boots" are a bit tight on this chilly winters evening. My toes hurt and I'm feeling a tad grumpy. I'm cold, hungry and rushed.

Eyes avert as we dodge religious spruikers, but glance with curiosity at someone dressed in a minotaur mask flanked by two women and being trailed by a young man with a video camera. A student film group perhaps. No time to ponder. Rush past the ever present sellers of The Big Issue and assorted people rattling tins hoping for a donation. (Are they genuine? It could be anyone who has stuck a "Help the Homeless" sticker on a tin.)
North along a major street, right up a lane then north again up a darkening alley. Beyond graffiti!

Does this place even have a name?  Arrive breathless to find a welcome lack of queue which is good, but ... there's a certain aroma that's not so good, possibly old food and lacklustre drains and infrequent garbage disposal. Thankfully my nostrils adjust quickly.

We're directed to a table in the corner. Other diners pull their seats in for us to squeeze snugly past with the sort of familiarly I usually reserve for treasured friends.

Tattered menus are presented without fanfare, no specials board, a faded A4 sheet stickey taped to the chipped yellowing wall advertising a meagre selection of drinks. "Don't bother", says my son, "they never have any. Well just have water." Not concentrating I promptly ask for a bottle of ice-tea. "No have" oh, ok it's not just that they don't have beer or soft drinks, they only have water!

Before I've even opened the sticky, torn and dogeared menu, my son has ordered. "If you don't get in quick you might have to wait" My goodness this is fast - he really does know this place!

While I'm exploring the strategically placed condiments, cheap and cheerful plastic picnic cups, looking for all the world like what we had when we were young, are plonked damply on the recently cleared table. They're followed by a Decor container of water which sloshes gaily across the table adding to the general wetness. Definitely not fine dining!

We begin to exchange pleasantries and barely start to catch up on the week's events when an unflustered, efficient young man unloads plastic plates of slippery dumplings unceremoniously on the table. Did we go into some sort of timewarp? We've only just ordered. They must have had them waiting!

I suspect these young waiters know their physics. They have an unerring ability to slide laden plates of dumplings, known for being a skiddy kind of food, onto the tables without mishap. They know exactly how much thrust is possible to save the diner a lapful of steaming hot, oyster sized, dumpling.

If this place had a motto it'd be
Get em in
Feed em
Get em out

Like a conjurer, our gently smiling waiter delivers assorted plastic plates of dumplings, from between, behind and over the heads of other diners. They neither notice, nor care, heads bowed over their own plates of squelchy morsels. No words exchanged till the end: "You enjoy?" he asks with concern. He beams when we answer with honest, enthusiastic yesses.

And with time to spare, we make it to the theatre, tummy's full, chatter shared. As for "Dodgy Dumpings", what should to all intents and purposes be a stagnant backwater of Melbournes dining scene, it's a fast food experience that fitted our requirements perfectly.

On a scale of 1 - 10, with with 1 low, and 10 high.
1 - Decor
1 - Presentation
1 - Mindful eating
1 - Tantalising menu
1 - Ambience
10 - Value for money (under $30 for three hungry adults)
10 - Taste
10 - Efficient service
9 - Entertainment value

Next stop, the New Hamer Hall at the Arts Centre to experience the first of the Qatsi Trilogy, Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance with Philip Glass and The Philip Glass Ensemble.
My review of Koyaanisqatsi is over at traverselife.
Giant vase of gladioli from Dame Edna Everage
to celebrate the opening of the New Hamer Hall.