Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Tootsie Roller

January 7, 2018

We were sad to notice that our old favourite El Chino on St Georges Rd had closed down. Luckily though, it's been replaced by an exciting new place - Tootsie Roller! It's a vego cafe with an Indian-inspired breakfast and lunch menu, Industry Beans coffee and a gorgeous courtyard out the back. We met up with Steph for a Sunday breakfast to try it out.

The menu is heavy on the savouries and on first glance not very vegan friendly. There are lots of Indian-inspired egg dishes: poached eggs with jeera potatoes ($17), eggs Darjeeling ($18), eggs on naan ($11) and so on. There are also breakfast tacos, a smoked tofu burger and a thali plate - so many excellent looking things to try! We had a quick chat with the waiter about vegan options and were reassured that they're happy to sub tofu in to make most of the egg dishes vegan - this isn't well labelled on the menu, but if you ask they'll come through for you. 

Cindy kicked things off with a chai boy ($5.50), which was gingery and delicious. I enjoyed the coffee too.

I couldn't resist the Mumbai scramble - an Indian spiced scrambled egg dish with fried onions, chilli, coriander and spinach on grilled kalonji naan ($15). I added a side of black beans ($4) because I'm out of control.

This was a superb breakfast - the eggs weren't massively spicy, but there was a great depth of flavour from the cumin and chilli (plus maybe garam masala?). The naan was great, and the big pot of beans really added some heft to things - a fantastic way to start the day.

Cindy wanted something a bit more summery, so she ordered the coconut and rice flour waffles with coconut yoghurt, compote, toasted almonds and a big ol' pile of fresh mango and strawberries ($15). 

She raved about this - the ratio of fruit to waffle was particularly impressive, but each of the components really hit the mark as well. Steph seemed happy with her smoked tofu breakfast tacos and we had excellent friendly service.

Tootise Roller is a fantastic addition to the neighbourhood - just writing this post has me wanting to go back tomorrow and try out more of the menu. The courtyard is particularly welcoming during summer. They're licensed, and will eventually open up for a few nights a week - it's hard to imagine a better way to spend a long summer evening then eating a smoked tofu burger and having a beer out back - can't wait.


Tootsie Roller
214 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North
9071 1370
food, drinks

Accessibility: There's a small step as you enter and a clear corridor to the counter, but the tables are quite crowded inside. Access to the courtyard (and the toilets) requires negotiating a few uneven steps. We ordered at the table and paid at a low counter.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

where's the best in 2017?

The 'Samantha Ratnam' granola at Handsome Her

Our 2017 eating is done being documented, so we've spent an afternoon with our archives and picked some new faves to add to our where's the best? page. We bid farewell to El Chino, The Snug Public House St KildaDiscobeansMelbourne WokMiddle Fish, and Easy Tiger. Many of these have natural replacements - we'll soon blog the eatery at El Chino's address, The Snug's still in business in Brunswick, Middle Fish is scheduled to return in 2019, and the Easy Tiger crew are still working elsewhere in Victoria. Two of 2016's major closures have had Lazarus moments too - Enlightened Cuisine is now Vegie Kitchen and little but the name has changed; the former White Lotus address is now Melbourne's third Loving Hut.

The Tramway Hotel

There's never been a better time to get breakfast in the inner north. Handsome Her was our 2017 highlight, and we also had good times at Humble RaysSweet EvelynKines, and Merri Clan. More and more pubs are getting into decent veg grooves; this year we raise a glass to the The Yarra HotelThe Last Chance Rock'n'Roll BarThe Tramway Hotel and The Green Man's Arms. At long last, pizza and dessert are just as delicious and almost as accessible for vegans as for the rest of us, thanks to Red Sparrow PizzaCassellBella's Bakery & CafeGirls & Boys and Black Waffle. Kudos also goes to Dosa PlazaThe AlleyMantra LoungeBhangEttaA Fan's Notes and Feast of Merit

Tofu with hot & sour rhubarb sauce

In our own kitchen, we've dined on tempeh taco saladpaneer butter masalamock fish sambal goreng, and tofu with hot & sour rhubarb sauce, smugly packing leftovers for work. Our most luxurious breakfast was a recreation of Smith & Daughters' corn & jalapeño pancakes, and we did our darnedest to impress our potlucking friends with spring onion pancakesmelon salad with jalapeno-pickled pineappleeggplant kataifi nests and butterbean hummus with red pepper & walnut paste.

Fig & walnut friands

I've been baking up a storm, making fig & walnut friands and banana & molasses cake just for us at home. The Twin Peaks revival inspired my first (then second, third and fourth) attempt(s) at cherry pie - it might become my signature dessert! I'm certain that my one shot at Ottolenghi and Goh's chocolate cake won't be my last, either.

We entered the new year with a broken oven, but I'm pleased to report that it's been repaired and is in the best shape we've had it. We're looking forward to showing you what else it does, and the other great places we eat from in 2018.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Roasted sweet potatoes with caper vinaigrette

December 25, 2017

Our second Christmas Day side came from Ottolenghi's Plenty. It's a lovely mixed tray of roasted vegetables - sweet potato and onion wedges, a whole head of garlic, cherry tomatoes - tossed through with herbs and dressed in a tangy caper vinaigrette the moment they come out of the oven. There's supposed to be parsnips involved as well, but I've not had much success baking them at home and I was planning to halve the recipe, anyway.

Initially I stretched the sweet potatoes, onions and garlic over two baking trays, then once they were becoming tender and I needed the extra oven space for sausage rolls, I piled the vegetables up in a single high-walled tray. They were going swimmingly until, 20 minutes before we were due to eat, our oven's heating element expired! The sweet potatoes and onions were tender enough but not as caramelised as I might've liked; the garlic was perfect; the tomatoes were near raw. It could have been a lot worse, and I'll be interested to see if I can recreate this a little better now that our oven's repaired.

Roasted sweet potatoes with caper vinaigrette
(adapted from a recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty)

600g sweet potatoes
2 medium red onions
1 bulb garlic
70 mL olive oil
4 thyme sprigs
2 rosemary sprigs
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons capers
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Preheat an oven to 190°C.

Peel the sweet potatoes and chop them into wedges. Peel the onions and slice each one into six wedges. Slice the garlic bulb in half horizontally, Place the sweet potatoes, onions and garlic in 1-2 baking trays. Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of the olive oil over the vegetables and toss it through a little. Roughly pull the thyme and rosemary leaves from their stems and scatter them over the vegetables. Roast for 40-50 minutes, until cooked through. 

While the vegetables are roasting, slice the cherry tomatoes in half. Make the vinaigrette by whisking together lemon juice, capers, maple syrup, mustard, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, seasoning with salt and pepper.

When the vegetables are roasted, add the tomato halves and bake everything for a further 10 minutes. Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables as soon as you remove them from the oven, and serve them warm.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Smoky baba ghanoush with roasted cauliflower, lentils & pomegranate

December 25, 2017

We hosted Christmas at our place this year, with a few of Cindy's family joining us for a laid-back lunch. We looked to Ottolenghi for ideas of course - Cindy's post next up will showcase the sweet potato recipe we made - but we also delved back into Community for this fancy cauliflower dish.

I made it easy on myself by making the baba ghanoush a day early - you could probably do it while everything else was going on, but my multi-tasking skills aren't up to three concurrent processes. Besides, a day in the fridge does wonders for the flavours of the baba ghanoush. 

When you combine all the bits and pieces, you wind up with a wonderful combination of flavours - smoky eggplant, bursts of sweet and tangy pomegranate, coriander and golden roasted cauliflower. I left the lentils a bit too long in the saucepan, so they lacked a bit of texture, but otherwise this was fantastic. It's a bit much for a school night, but a fantastic option when you're trying to impress guests or taking something to a picnic. Added bonus: we had heaps of baba ghanoush leftover to smear on toast and crackers.

Smoky baba ghanoush with roasted cauliflower, lentils & pomegranate
(from Community by Hetty McKinnon)

2 small cauliflowers, cut into florets
3 tablespoons olive oil
300g puy lentils
1 cup baby spinach
small bunch coriander
juice of half a lemon
1 pomegranate, seeds extracted
pomegranate molasses
salt and pepper

baba ghanoush
4 eggplants
4 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons yoghurt
5 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Make the baba ghanoush by roasting the eggplants directly over the flame of gas hobs (or under a hot grill if you don't have a gas stovetop). 

Give the eggplants 5-10 minutes, turning regularly until the skins are totally charred. Once they've cooled down, peel the skin off and pop the flesh and juices into a large bowl. 

Mash the eggplant roughly with a fork, leaving it a bit chunky. Stir through the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, yoghurt and olive oil and combine thoroughly. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Coat the cauliflower florets in 3 tablespoons of olive oil and generously season with salt and pepper. Pop them in a baking tray and roast for half an hour until golden.

While they're roasting, prepare your lentils - 20 minutes or so in boiling water should have them tender without being overcooked.  Drain them.

Combine the cauliflower, lentils, spinach, coriander, the rest of the olive oil, more salt and pepper and lemon juice in a bowl.

Serve the cauliflower salad alongside a big dollop of baba ghanoush and scatter pomegranate seeds over everything. Finish off with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses and enjoy.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Tofu with hot & sour rhubarb sauce

December 15, 2017

We had leftover rhubarb from Cindy's birthday cake and Cindy had the perfect recipe to use it up in. Aside from the marinating time, this all comes together really quickly, so if you can plan a half day ahead this is an easy and delicious school night meal. Even if you're not that organised, a pre-marinated tofu would probably do the trick. The sauce is the real star, with a great mix of flavours from the ginger, chilli and especially rhubarb - it provides a sweetness, but of a particularly tangy kind. 

We really loved this dish - it's reasonably healthy, packs a big flavour punch and kept us going for a few meals of leftovers. We don't buy rhubarb too often, but I think we're going to start.

Tofu with hot & sour rhubarb sauce

(adapted slightly from Mostly Eating, who adapted a Jamie Oliver recipe)

marinated tofu
1 tablespoon golden syrup (or agave/maple syrup)
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice
1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 tablespoon peanut oil
500g tofu, sliced into 1 inch strips

4-5 sticks of rhubarb, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 red chilli
3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons golden syrup
3 tablespoons tamari

1 lime, quartered
1 chilli, seeded and finely sliced
2 tablespoons roasted cashews
small bunch fresh coriander

veggie oil for frying
broccoli (or other green veggie), chopped

Mix all the marinade ingredients together and let the tofu soak it all up for a couple of hours (turning once if you can be bothered)

Combine all the sauce ingredients in a food processor and blend it all up until you've got a smooth sauce - it'll take a good 30-60 seconds of whizzing.

Pop the sauce into a saucepan and bring to a low simmer, for around 20 minutes (it can basically be left while you do the rest).

Heat the veggie oil in a frying pan or wok and throw in the tofu and marinade, cooking the marinade off and then getting a bit of a golden edge on the tofu. Throw in the broccoli and stir-fry for a couple of minutes, until it just starts to soften. 

Serve it all up - a layer of rice, some tofu and broccoli on top, generous dollops of sauce and then a scattering of the toppings and a squeeze of lime.