Saturday, November 16, 2019

Nat's pumpkin rice dish

October 26, 2019

This Lab Farewell Cookbook recipe comes from Nat. She'd be the first to admit that she's not a fancy or especially enthusiastic cook, yet she's one of the two people who took charge of on this whole cookbook project as a gift to me.

Paradoxically, I knew that her recipe would be a handy one - she shared one of her stand-by dishes, something she made to low-key impress her partner in their early days of dating. It's a bowl of pumpkin, rice and Thai curry flavours that Michael easily pulled off on a weeknight. It's got roughly the texture and all the comfort of a risotto, right down to the more solid and perfectly microwaveable leftovers that we packed for lunch.

We're getting pumpkins on the regular in our CERES boxes, so this is gonna get the repeat treatment for sure.

Nat's pumpkin rice dish
(a recipe shared by Nat in the Lab Farewell Cookbook,
where she credits it to Jamie Oliver)

a small handful of makrut lime leaves
2-3 chillies, seeds removed and finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
2 thumb-sized pieces ginger, peeled
3 sticks lemongrass, outer leaves removed
large handful coriander, leaves picked and stalks chopped
1 heaped teaspoon Chinese five-spice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
600 - 1000g pumpkin, peeled and chopped into 5cm pieces
565mL vegetable stock
200g basmati rice
400mL coconut milk
salt and pepper
juice of 1-2 limes

Use a mortar and pestle, spice grinder or blender to make the fragrant soup base: smoosh together the lime leaves, chilli, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, coriander stalks, five-spice and cumin. Remove any stringy bits that remain.

Heat the olive oil in a very large saucepan and add the pulpy soup base. Stir in the onion and cook on low-medium heat for 10 minutes until soft and fragrant. Add the pumpkin and stock, stirring everything together and then bringing it to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on until the pumpkin is soft, about 15 minutes. Stir in the rice; it's OK if some of the pumpkin mushes up. Simmer under the rice is cooked, a further 10-15 minutes. Remove the lid and stir in the coconut milk, and season with salt and pepper. Remove it from the heat, add the lime juice to taste and serve garnished with coriander leaves.

Monday, November 04, 2019

La Tortilleria II

October 25, 2019

Here's a short, updated note of appreciation for La Tortilleria. It was the most convenient place to grab dinner on a Friday night, before attending A Midnight Visit. In spite of its industrial location, La Tortilleria's eatery continues to do very well for itself - the four hopefuls ahead of me were sent away to wait for a half-hour, and we were lucky to squeeze into a table for two with a time limit.

The menu is still gluten-free with abundant well-marked vegetarian and vegan options, including vegan cheese and chorizo. I went for a quesadilla con nopales ($9.50, pictured at 12 o'clock) which is made with a blue tortilla; the cactus gives just the slightest pickley sharpness to an otherwise mild cheesy snack.

I must admit to scraping the raw onion off the papas con chorizo taco ($5.50, pictured at 8 o'clock), but it was worth it for the roasted potato and soy chorizo underneath. My favourite was the frijoles con chipotle taco ($5.50, pictured at 7 o'clock) - the beans were so hearty, and garnished with a sprinkling of savoury crispy rice.

Now that I've figured out my way there by bike, I'm resolving to visit more often. The food is simple and lovely, the staff are capable and friendly, and the atmosphere is lively and colourful. Besides, I didn't have time for a horchata!

You can read about our first visit to La Tortilleria here. Since then it's received positive reviews on Not My Bread And ButterSweet & Sour ForkThe Aussie CoeliacThe New Fave and The Coeliac Plate

La Tortelleria
72 Stubbs St, Kensington
9376 5577
savoury foods, desserts

Accessibility: Limited! The entry is up some stairs and I couldn't see an alternative. The interior has narrow sections is densely packed with furniture. We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter. There's a single unisex toilet.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Daughter in Law

October 10, 2019

Our friends Ben and Nat took us out for a surprise date on a Thursday night in the city - we didn't know where we were heading and I'd never heard of the place we ended up: Daughter in Law. It's an offshoot of Horn Please in North Fitzroy and has a very similar vibe: slightly high-end Indian, a great booze selection and a relaxed atmosphere.

Ben took care of ordering for the table and came up with a wonderful mix of dishes. We started out with a selection of small plates: balls of happiness (top left, $3.50 each), Colonel Tso's cauliflower (top right, $18, vegan) and papadi chaat (bottom, $18, vegan).

The balls of happiness are crispy hollow fried dough, stuffed with chickpeas, yoghurt and spices - they explode with flavour in your mouth! They were happy to adapt these as vegan too. The little chickpea bubbles they came served on were great as well. The Colonel Tso's cauliflower was probably my favourite dish of the night - super spicy little battered delights. I ate well more than my fair share. The papadi chaat is billed as Indian nachos - a great mix of crispy wafers, veggies and delicious chutneys. 

We followed up with a couple of curries: vegan roast pumpkin and butternut squash ($18) and palak paneer ($22), with a naan basket ($12) and a serve of the spiced mushroom and beetroot tandoor ($12, vegan).

These all hit the mark too, although we were already filling up by the time we got through the tandoori veggies. The palak paneer is a good test of an Indian restaurant and Daughter in Law do a very fine one.

We somehow pushed on for dessert - a serve of gulab jamun (top left, $10), kulfi (top right, $8), coconut sorbet (bottom left, $8) and chocolate ice cream (bottom right, $8). Both the bottom two were vegan. I only tried the chocolate ice cream - it was incredibly rich and creamy and utterly too much. Cindy had the kulfi, which came served in what we gather is the traditional style.  

Daughter in Law is an excellent CBD dinner option - there's a good range of vegan stuff, the servings are generous and everything we had was super tasty. Service is lovely as well - definitely a good option for when you want something a bit fancier than dumplings.

We couldn't find any blog reviews for Daughter in Law (which might say as much about how hard it is Google makes it to find blogs these days as anything else).

Daughter in Law
37 Little Bourke St, Melbourne
9242 0814
food, mocktails, dessert

Accessibility: There are a couple of steps up to enter. The interior is pretty crowded, with full table service. We didn't visit the toilets.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019


October 5, 2019

Yamato is located in the same cobbled laneway as our beloved Sichuan House, and it's been there at least 15 years. Every time I've seen it, I've remembered that it was recommended on easy as vegan pie (now half that lifetime ago!). It's difficult to pull Michael past SH's mapo tofu, but I have at last succeeded, on a Saturday night en route to the Corner Hotel.

For me, Yamato has two key points of appeal. First, it has the charming atmosphere of the small cafes we've visited in Japan - it's densely packed with furniture and cute knick-knacks, and there are kneeling tables for those who are keen on them. Second, the vegetarian entrees and mains are clearly set out separately in the menu, meaning no awkward investigations into stock and bonito flakes are needed.

The execution of those dishes doesn't rank quite as highly. The skin on our nasu dengaku ($8.30) was too tough to split with chopsticks or teeth; its seasoning was fine.

The Agadashi Combi ($13.10) was a pleasant assortment of battered veges and fried bean curd, but not the epitome of lightness or crunch.

For me, the Zaru Soba ($11.30) was the surprise winner! I loved the texture of the buckwheat noodles and the light flavour of their broth; some sly ice cubes were keeping it all fresh.

Our Yamato meal was modest, and modestly priced. While not every dish was brilliant, I can see myself sneaking in for a quiet slurp of soba and trialling something from the remaining dozen vege options.


Blog reviews of Yamato span a decade! It was a positive one on easy as vegan pie that led us there.

There are also positive reviews on Weekend NotesNurikko Visits, my name is Food, and Food Rehab, and reasonably positive reviews on Short & Stout, and Eat & Be Merry; bloggers are distinctly unimpressed on Espresso and MatchaSweet & Sour Fork, and The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar.

28 Corrs Lane, Melbourne
9663 1706
vegetarian menu
facebook page

Accessibility: The laneway that Yamato is located in is cobbled, and there's a step on entry. The interior is very crowded, with a mixture of booths, standard height tables and kneeling tables. We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Evie's Disco Diner

October 1, 2019

A couple of our vegan friends have recommended Evie's Disco Diner to us in the year or two that it's been open. It's as garishly lit as the name would suggest, with pink-cushioned booths around its edge and tall, flimsy stools in a space that you might assume is a dance-floor, but is definitely a covered-over skate pool from the burrito business that was here a couple of years earlier. We made a point of visiting on a Tuesday, when they host a free drag-themed trivia night.

The reason our mates are so keen on Evie's is that there are vegan options on every dish on its junky American menu, from hot wings and loaded fries through to hot dogs, burgers and chocolate mousse. (Gluten-free options are more like fried appetisers than full meals but also seem to include the apple pie!) A quick run-down of the terribly lit food photographed above: 

  • The spiced tots ($5, top right) were heavy with smoked paprika, just like the fries down the street at Trippy Taco,
  • Michael's Tex Mex burrito ($18, bottom right) was pleasant but a bit homogeneous, and
  • my chicken and waffles ($18, left) had a similar 'pretty good but gets samey' vibe, although I tip my hat to their garnishing sprinkle of icing sugar - my tablemates were appalled but I thought it worked. 

By chance, I managed to capture my dessert in better light. At trivia half-time, I ordered a Reeces Pieces shake ($10). The bartender apologised that they were out of chocolate syrup, then on a whim offered to improvise a version with Oreos - and it was great! The shake was thick, plenty chocolatey, and I loved the wide, reusable glass straws they're going with. 

We felt a little out of step with Evie's Disco Diner - while the bar staff and trivia team made us feel welcome, the lighting and furniture were for younger eyes and bodies than ours. Their vegan junk food is fun, and we'd be up for ordering another round.

Evie's Disco Diner has garnered a positive review from Suzie Scribbles and a mixed review from The Penguin Eats

Evie's Disco Diner
230-232 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
9419 4192

Accessibility: The entry is flat and wide. Seats are a mixture of narrow booths and high tables and stools, not particularly comfortable, although there's lot's of clear space through the bar (see top photo). The coloured flashing lights and loud music could feel overwhelming. We ordered and paid at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.