Monday, January 27, 2014

Australia Day weekend: Australian celebrations, my Mum's birthday, river-front activities, and much food

When the British First Fleet reached Sydney harbour on the 26th January 1788, I wonder if they knew how subsequent Australians would appreciate their timing? The Australia Day public holiday does, after all, work wonders at easing the post-Christmas return to work.

Vegan lamingtons

I would still swap the date, happily, for one that does not mark the anniversary of British culture invading indigenous Australia. We may have that shift in the future. I will welcome it if it comes. For now, though, I have enjoyed the opportunity for a 3-day January weekend that celebrates Australia and overlaps with my Mum's birthday all in one.

On the Australian culture side of things, last year I commemorated Australia Day with vegan Vegemite scrolls. This year, I made vegan lamingtons. I recommend both as fitting tributes to Australian food! I hadn't eaten lamingtons in years, but loved rediscovering them. Mr Bite, who is somewhat of a lamington connoisseur, approved this batch too. I used this recipe on WhyVeg, with no adaptations, and highly recommend it. Johanna posted an adaptation using quince syrup as part of 2013 Vegan Mofo, which I imagine would be lovely too.

Australia Day: King's Park crowds and evening fireworks

For Australia Day itself, we had a laid back day featuring Triple J Hottest 100 music and an afternoon cycle that took in the crowds of King's Park. In typical Australia day fashion, the sections overlooking Perth's Swan River were packed, while just a few hundred metres back there was plenty of space. The evening fireworks are detonated over the river, so people come early for their viewing position - and to have the opportunity to eat and drink at leisure across the day.

We watched the fireworks in a more leisurely manner, from the local primary school that sits on top of a hill. We managed to claim a spot at the top of a playground climbing frame, which gave distant but clear views and had the distinct benefit of a 1 minute walk home afterwards. Whilst the atmosphere of the river-front locations would have been enjoyable, the inevitable delays while half of Perth tries to leave a few crowded locations simultaneously were less appealing.

Matilda Bay

On the birthday front, we celebrated my mother's day with a lazy picnic on Saturday. To offset the warm temperatures, we kept the focus on river-front locations, and Matilda Bay is one of the shadier and more tranquil spots to choose from. Bursts of sea breeze provided some relief from the heat, as did the surrounding trees.


For the food, I was pleased to have an opportunity to share some of the dishes I've been testing for Ricki Heller's upcoming cookbook (if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you'll have seen the recent pictures!). Being a recipe tester is great fun, but with only two people in our house, does generate quite a lot of food to get through. It's hardly a challenge eating Ricki's delightful dishes, and our freezer is stocking up portions for future use, but a picnic was a good chance to share some recipes too.


Complementing Ricki's spicy miso-tahini roasted chickpeas, chickpea flour "quizza" and veggie fried quinoa with arame and edamame, we had a green salad, veggie sausages, meat sausages and burgers, bread, crackers and cheese. It was a lunch selection designed to satisfy all members of my family, and I think it succeeded.

Ricki's veggie fried quinoa with arame and 
edamame (pre-picnic packing)

After lunch and before birthday cake, we spent some time enjoying the river courtesy of a small boat my Dad built 17 years ago. My Dad is very fond of boat-based activities, sailing in particular, and my brother also took to sailing during childhood lessons. (Me? Not so much. Rowing, sure; sailing, terrifying.)

A full-size yacht isn't quite in the family budget, but my Dad channeled his enjoyment of "projects" into making a small wooden sail / row boat that provided riverside fun in my teenage years.

Spot the approaching row boat...

Somewhere along the line, the boat fell out of use and was put into storage. Last year, Dad pulled it out again and set about restoring the paint and generally making it seaworthy once more. He did a brilliant job and the rest of the family have all headed out since it returned to the water this summer. Mr Bite and I were yet to make a voyage, so this weekend provided an opportunity for our debut outing.


We managed a decidedly non-professional row ourselves, and enjoyed watching a more professional effort on my parent's (Dad's) part. My sister and her boyfriend took a sail around the harbour, and my brother did the same in a solo sailing effort.

Boating exertions over, we adjoined for cake. I made a vegan raspberry cake posted by Kate of No Meat and Three Veg over Christmas. Other than making it in a heart shape, the only adaptation I made was to omit the icing in favour of a sprinkle of icing sugar and a generous raspberry topping. To accommodate some family members currently not eating sugar, I also made vegan sugar-free lemon cheesecake slices adapted from a cheesecake recipe for the same on And Love It Too. Both desserts were well received, and I recommend the raspberry cake in particular as a simple but effective cake that would suit all seasons and occasions.

Vegan raspberry cake

To my fellow Australians, I hope you had a delightful Australia Day yesterday and enjoy the last of our long weekend today (if you're in the country to enjoy it). To my non-Australian readers, I hope you enjoyed this peek into Australian summer culture, picnic filled and water-focused as it is!

This also seems an appropriate place to mention that I managed to place third in this list of Perth's Hottest 100 Food Blogs for 2014. The list is traffic based, so to all of you - thank you. It was a very unexpected surprise and I am both delighted and humbled. 

Wherever you live - what did you get up to this weekend?

23 comments:

  1. Happy Australia Day! Looks like you made the most of your three-day weekend!! I love lamingtons and made them last year! Your vegan version looks super impressive!

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    1. Thanks Joanne! We definitely enjoyed the 3 days off. I'm so glad you've tried lamingtons too - I think they deserve international eating as well as Australian ;)

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  2. Happy Australia Day! When we visited Australia in 2005, Lamingtons were our favorite!!

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    1. Yay! They have a certain addictive element, that is for sure ;)

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  3. Ricki’s fried quinoa sounds so tasty! And beautiful photos of Australia! And Happy Oz Day!

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    1. Thanks veganmiam! The quinoa dish is really gorgeous - I highly recommend it.

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  4. Congratulations Kari on placing 3rd. That's very exciting. I love how you celebrated Australia Day and it looks like your lamingtons turned out really well. My mother's b'day also falls around Australia Day and so we had a combined celebration too. Your father's boat certainly is enjoying a long life xx

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    1. Thanks Charlie, and I am always amazed at just how many birthdays manage to fit into January! I hope your mother had a good day too and you enjoyed your combined celebrations. My Dad's boat seems to be as good as new after a lick of paint which is quite impressive - it seems varnish goes a long way to preserving wood!

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  5. Well done on placing 3rd that is awesome :)

    Your Australia day sounded as fun as mine, loving all your photos!

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    1. Thanks so much Jan, and I'm glad you had a good weekend too!

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  6. Happy 'Straya Day, my dear! And congratulations! 3rd is definitely the best spot. Just is.

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  7. Looks like you had a fabulous Australia Day. I adore the heart shaped raspberry cake.

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    1. Thanks Cakelaw - I rather loved it too :-)

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  8. So happy the raspberry cake turned out well!! I am definitely trying those lamingtons :)

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    1. Oh and congrats on being #3 on the blogs list- very impressive!

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  9. What a lovely celebration! The weather looks perfect for it too. I'm dreaming of picnics, the sun, sea and sand!
    I agree that it's a lot of fun testing for Ricki. It's just me in my household so you can imagine I'm doing a lot of eating! I do often make half recipes though.

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    1. I've only just caught on to the half recipe option! I think I will be following your lead now - even though there are two of us in the house, quite a few recipes aren't my husband's style, so I still seem to be eating a lot solo!

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  10. Great Australia Day post - really enjoyed your reflections - glad you enjoyed the lamingtons - my family has never being into boating - closest I ever got to yachting was playing around in my friend's yacht as a child (on the farm not in the water) but I have never had a good stomach for the sea. It does look like fun. And I love your idea of watching the fireworks (feel you have been at that playground before - wish we had a convenient place to watch fireworks near home). And congratulations on your giddy heights in the perth blogger scene :-)

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    1. You have a good memory Johanna - we did indeed watch the fireworks from that same primary school last year :-) We missed out on the playground climbing frame position then though! Thanks again for pointing me towards the lamingtons, they are delicious and will definitely be made again.

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  11. Happy belated Aussie Day! And a big congrats on your placement! It was so much fun making the list....I have so many more blogs to follow now!

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    1. Thanks so much Martine - and me too!

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