Monday, September 29, 2014

Peanut butter & jelly icecream

September 20-21, 2014

I have temporary custody of  K's The Vegan Scoop cookbook, a nice motivator to clear some freezer space and churn some icecream. This book has all the American standards and extends itself towards the fruits and flavours of Asia and the Caribbean as well. Most of the creamy recipes start with a base of soy milk and soy creamer, which doesn't exactly appeal to me, but I'm happy to play around with other non-dairy milks.

I started out with the peanut butter and flaxseed recipe and a whole lot of curiosity, but it all went into the bin before even reaching the icecream churner. I was willing to go with the way the full cup of ground flaxseeds gelled up the texture but I couldn't countenance their bitterness.

Next I stuck with the peanut butter theme but tried a trustier pairing with American jelly (or berry and rhubarb jam, in my case). This 'custard' whipped to unprecedented heights in my churner, and my anticipation with it. This was a hint it'd freeze pillowy-soft. Strangely it ended up dense and rock-hard, and even given 40 minutes resting time on the bench it's firm and scoops flakily. (That flakiness seems to be the hallmark of coconut cream, which was not in the original recipe.)

This icecream is damn lucky that it tastes good. I'll contemplate a new, improved formulation as I hack my way through it.

Peanut butter & jelly icecream
(adapted from a recipe in Wheeler Del Torro's The Vegan Scoop)

400mL can coconut cream
3/4 cup almond milk
1/2 cup soy milk
3/4 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup berry jam
generous pinch of salt

In a medium-large saucepan, mix together the coconut cream, almond milk, soy milk, peanut butter and brown sugar over low-medium heat. Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring occasionally. When it's all smooth and well mixed and started boiling, take it off the heat to cool down a little. Stir in the vanilla and salt then refrigerate the mixture until very cold, at least 4 hours.

Churn the peanut butter mixture in an icecream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Drop generous spatulas-full of the churned icecream into a plastic storage container and drop teaspoons-full of jam in among the icecream. Freeze the icecream for at least two hours before scooping and serving.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mighty Boy

August 29, September 16 & 19, 2014

I was quite excited when Mighty Boy opened across the road from work - it was replacing a fairly standard sandwich-and-salad place (whose salads all seemed to have chicken in them) and promised something a bit more interesting for lunch. I headed over with a gang of colleagues on the day they opened only to experience the definitive first day teething problems: most of us got the wrong dish, the salads came out minus key ingredients, everything took an age - it wasn't a great success. On the upside, the food seemed solid and the prices were reasonable, so I figured I'd give them a few weeks and then go back for a blogging trip. I'm glad I did. They've got everything working now - the food arrives corectly  and quickly, and the staff all seem to know what's going on. Most of these photos are phone pics - apologies for the quality.

It's a breakfast and lunch place - the brekkies are pretty standard Fitzroy dishes (baked eggs $14, smashed avo $11, etc), while the lunch menu is Thai inspired and a bit more interesting. On my first visit I sampled the pad thai noodles with tofu, spring onions, bean sprouts, lime, chilli, coriander and egg ($12).

This was just okay - they're generous with the tofu, and the noodles are cooked nicely, but the whole dish is a little on the bland side. Luckily they offer up a quintet of chilli-based condiments to kick things up a notch (sambal, chilli flakes, plus two kinds of pickled chillies and sriracha).

On my second visit I grabbed takeaway - a $6 serve of two rice paper wraps with crispy tofu and vermicelli noodles, cucumber, house-pickled carrot and cabbage.

These are incredibly good and incredibly good value - two fresh little tubes of goodness with flavour bursting out of them. It's a small lunch but it's just about the cheapest option on Gertrude Street.

On my final visit I settled in for a proper lunch, starting off with a freshly blended lychee, lime, mint and pineapple juice ($8). It's delicious, but it costs more than the rice paper wraps, so maybe save it up for a special occasion.

To accompany the drink, I went with the tofu roti wrap (tofu with cucumber, mint, tomatoes, onion, sweet chilli dressing and lime on a roti base, $10). When I first tried one of these it was an actual wrap (see Fitzroyalty's post for an example) but they seem to have shifted to a more open, deconstructed version. The fillings are great though - beautifully marinated and fried tofu strips, lots of fresh veggies and herbs and the same selection of condiments I enthused about earlier. And of course you get the added bonus of your wrap being made of roti.

I'm really enjoying what Mighty Boy brings to the western end of Gertrude Street - it probably won't take the place of Sonido in my heart, but almost nothing would. Still, it's an excellent addition to the neighbourhood and it's already snuck into my regular lunch rotation.


Mighty Boy has already been favourably reviewed by Fitzroyalty and A Melbournite.
Mighty Boy
59-61 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
9419 3686
menu: food, drinks
facebook page

Accessibility: Mighty Boy has a flat entryway and a reasonably spacious interior. You order at the table and pay at a high counter. I haven't visited the toilets.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Me and Art

September 15, 2014

On my Monday morning in Sydney I checked out of my hotel and set off towards the nearest Iku Wholefood for breakfast. Within little more than a block I encountered a terrace house with a painting of the Vegan Mary. Huh! The little coffee shop seemed worth a look. 

Inside I encountered a friendly barista who offered me a menu, said something about waffles, and suggested I might like to go and enjoy their back garden.

He was absolutely right - the back courtyard had a cute assemblage of tables, plants and knick knacks and was flooded with sunlight. And on a Monday morning I had it all to myself. I settled in with the menu and could barely believe what I saw - almost everything was vegan, with prices centred around a reasonable $10. There was porridge, chia seed porridge, scrambled tofu, smashed avocado four ways, waffles and pancakes (with a gluten-free option!), soup, pies, stews, quiche and salad.

And their house special was apparently a coconut chai latte ($5) - exactly my kind of beverage. In truth this was very light on the tea and spice, but the frothy warm coconut milk went down a treat anyway.

The waffle ($10) was a big 'un, and I ordered it doused in mixed red berries ($2.50). Based on buckwheat and coconut flours, it was nutty and filling yet so soft and cakey that I didn't need a knife to cut it. The berries were thawed from a frozen box, and this rendered them soft and juicy.

There are assorted benches and stools, more ornaments and a rotating selection of art throughout this cafe, which on leaving I figured out is called Me and Art. I found the staff, the menu and the setting utterly charming, not least because I'd discovered them entirely by accident.


Me & Art has had positive write-ups on Not Quite a Domestic Goddess, Fight the Craving, The 9am Mug and Khana. There's a more mixed reaction on fox and lee.

Me and Art
62 Mary St, Surry Hills Sydney NSW
0411 811 404
menu: one, two
facebook page

Accessibility: There are a couple of steps up on entry. The interior is flat with a clear corridor through the centre and a hodge-podge of tables and stools; a unisex toilet is located down a flat hall. Beyond the toilet, down a stair or two, lies the garden - it's crowded with knick knacks and the furniture is even more varied. I could have ordered at the table, and I paid at a high counter on my way out.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A slice of Sydney

September 14-15, 2014

I found myself in Dubbo for work last weekend. This meant flying through Sydney, and gave me an excuse to spend sixteen sneaky hours there on my way home before getting back to my job. I arrived in time for a 9pm dinner on Sunday and had shrewdly stationed myself within walking distance of Yulli's. Though their website says they're open 'til late a waiter immediately informed me that they'd be closing at 10pm.  No biggie.

The menu at this vegetarian bar always looks good, and had me wishing for a veg*n crew to share with. As it was, I kept the beer battered haloumi skewers ($14.50) all to myself. Although typically salty, the cheese was unusually fluffy and a little sweet, like something from a fair. I liked the sourness of the accompanying pomegranate and apple salsa, but the pomegranate's dull colour hinted that it was well out of season.

I had my eye on the chocolate cheesecake for dessert, but no-one bothered to clear my plate away in the 20 minutes that I lingered. Having a vegetarian bar gave Sydney an edge for a while, but now with Smith & Daughters in Melbourne there's no more FOMO for me.

(You can read about our first visit to Yulli's here.)

On Monday I fit my art gallery visit around a sunny yum cha lunch at Bodhi in the Park. Yum cha is probably another meal better shared, but I did enjoy being beholden to no-one's tastes but my own. I made a mess of some tofu pockets stuffed with shredded vegetables, and later noticed someone sensibly tipping the curry satay sauce into the pockets, instead of clumsily dipping the pockets into the saucer.

My biggest achievement was polishing off three rolls stuffed with mock prawns and mashed potato, fried with a crackly toasted sesame top. There was no way I could take on the BBQ buns or Peking mock duck dumplings that circulated soon after. I finished up with some less than fresh pancakes filled with mango and Tofutti cream cheese, not an experience I need to repeat. With a pot of green tea, the bill came to $28 - a bit exorbitant, I thought, but a bloody gorgeous way to spend slack-off Monday.

(You can also read about one, two, three of our previous trips to Bodhi in the Park.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mantra Lounge

September 10-11, 2014

Recently reader Natalie alerted us to a new vegetarian cafe just a few doors down from Animal Orchestra. Lucky for me I had a couple of quiet lunch breaks to check it out right away. Mantra Lounge is doing its level best to attract students from the neighbourhood, advertising its $7.95 main/salad/dessert special with pamphlet distribution and travelling trailer signs. It's going for a funky, chill-out atmosphere and doesn't hide its Eastern spiritual leanings - there's a soundtrack of chants, inspirational quotes on the wall, plus yoga and meditation events on the notice board.

The menu is on chalkboard and changes daily, with all foods clearly on display at the counter. In addition to the three course special there are a few wraps and snacks, salads, sweets and drinks. Gluten-free options are marked and almost everything is vegan - I think just a couple of the drinks contained dairy, but even their chai latte is based on rice milk.

On my first visit I tried their vegelicious chickpea wrap ($4). Though it looked small, the chickpea masala was filling. The tomato sauce I was offered on the side didn't do the subtle spices of the filling any favours. I was surprised that my lemon mint lagudi drink ($3) turned out to be pink, with fragments of dried mint - it was refreshing and sweet, but not necessarily something I'd order again.

I felt ambivalent about the 'amazing apricot slice' ($4) too - the apricot filling had a jellied texture (but also pieces of real fruit) and the coconut cream top was fatty and bland.

The $7.95 meal deal proved much more successful the following day - it was a huge plate of pasta dotted with salty soy meat, covered in a sweet saucy lentil and pumpkin tagine with a little lightly dressed salad. An unassuming square of coco-lemon cake was the surprise star, with an open coconutty crumb shot through with sweet-and-sour lemon syrup.

It seems that we should heed Mantra Lounge's advertising and make the most of their cheap meal deals - these plates are simple, filling and fresh. The staff were friendly, aren't inclined to rush you through, and the setting is cheerfully coloured. This cafe will surely become a student staple in Carlton.


Mantra Lounge
167 Grattan St, Carlton
0433 531 345
menu: visit one, visit two

Accessibility: Mantra Lounge has clearly given accessibility some thought - there's a ramp up from the footpath (see photo above) and plenty of space around the counter, where ordering, payment and food pick-up occurs. There's a unisex toilet with wheelchair accessibility signage on this level. There are a few moderately spaced tables downstairs; the stairs themselves are wide and sturdy with a new hand rail.