Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Vegie Kitchen

April 18, 2017

We were saddened late last year when the news broke that Enlightened Cuisine was closing down. We'd been visiting there on and off for a decade, enjoying their mock-meaty Chinese food. Their closure, hot on the heels of White Lotus' shut-down, left a big hole in Melbourne's veg restaurant scene. Luckily 2017 brought good news: Enlightened has reopened under a new name, Vegie Kitchen. We checked it out for a quick meal before heading off to see the amazing Patti Smith at the Arts Centre.

Aside from the new name, almost nothing has changed. The menu appears to be exactly the same, with more than 100 mostly mock-meaty dishes to choose from. We started off with an old favourite, a serve of the delicious prawn toast ($5), which remains a deep, deep fried delight.

We followed up with a couple of mock mains: kung po fish ($19.90) and ginger duck ($19.90).

These were both great - the fish had a really great chilli kick and the ginger duck was tangy and delicious. Both dishes broke up the mock meat with a generous serve of veggies. They're big meals too - we ran out of steam before quite finishing everything off. 

It's great that Vegie Kitchen has picked up where Enlightened Cuisine left off. There's no sign of innovation here and the ambiance isn't anything special, but it's a reliable veggie restaurant to satisfy your old school Chinese-food cravings. Long may it continue.


You can read our old reviews of Enlightened Cuisine here, here, here and here. Nobody else seems to have blogged about Vegie Kitchen just yet.

Vegie Kitchen
113 Queensbridge St, Southbank
9686 9188
drinks, food: one, two, three, four, five

Accessibility: The entry is flat and wide; there's a reasonable amount of space between tables. There's table service and bills are paid at a high counter. From memory, access to the toilets is narrow and includes a step.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Corn & jalapeño pancakes

April 17, 2017

A long weekend is a good time to make brunch at home. This one comes from the Smith & Daughters cookbook and it's been on my to-do list for months! We've enjoyed the Panqueques Piquantes at the restaurant several times, and they looked pretty achievable for the home kitchen. (By comparison, my all-time S & D fave is the mock tuna & pea croquetta, and I've no intention of ever deep-frying my own batch.)

Indeed, these pancakes are a breeze once you've gathered the right ingredients. Although there's corn involved, these are batter-heavy pancakes rather than fritters. (Incidentally, there is a ripper recipe for jalapeño & corn fritters in the book too!) The pancake batter is filled out with a little polenta and studded with corn kernels and jalapeños. They might sound savoury but once garnished with maple syrup and coconut bacon, they're firmly on the sweet side. 

I've had some fraught times frying pancakes in the past, but we've recently invested in a proper cast iron pan and it worked a treat with just a little spray oil. The first pancake was the mandatory mistake one, but after that I was flipping neat lightly-browned rounds with ease! More importantly, they tasted terrific with a slurp of maple syrup and sprinkling of coconut bacon. The coconut's sweet-salty chewiness makes the perfect contrasting garnish and I'm upgrading its status from optional (in the book) to definitely worth the effort of marinating and grilling your own.

Corn & jalapeño pancakes
(slightly adapted from Shannon Martinez
& Mo Wyse's Smith & Daughters Cookbook)

1 1/2 cups soy milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup polenta
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 teaspoons egg replacer powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/2-1 jalapeño, finely chopped plus extra round slices to garnish
olive oil spray
a couple knobs of vegan butter or margarine to garnish
maple syrup, to serve
coconut bacon, to serve

In a small-medium bowl, mix together the soy milk, lemon juice and vegetable oil. Set them aside for a minute or two to curdle and thicken.

In a medium-large bowl, stir together the flour, polenta, sugar, egg replacer, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Whisk in the curdled milk mixture to form a smooth batter. Fold in the corn and chopped jalapeño. If you have the time, let the batter rest for 30 minutes.

Set a frypan over medium-high heat and spray it with oil. When it's hot, pour in ~1/3 cup pancake batter; allow it to cook until bubbles form around the edge and it's starting to set on the surface. Flip the pancake and cook for a further minute on the other side. Repeat with the remaining batter. I placed cooked pancakes on a baking tray in a low-heat oven while I continued to cook the rest of the pancakes.

Serve the pancakes garnished with a knob of vegan butter, a few jalapeño rounds, a sprinkling of coconut bacon and a generous drizzle of maple syrup.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Fig & goat's cheese tart

April 8, 2017

Well, I think we squeezed every last possible picnic out of this summer! I'm sure of it because little more than an hour after we finished up our outdoor Ottolenghi Club last Saturday, the wind changed and it poured with rain. But while the breeze was still blowing from the north and the sun was shining, we shared kuku, salads, and florets of fried cauliflower. We saw out the summer with this fig tart.

It's one of the most eye-catching pictures in Plenty More, I reckon - several dozen glistening crimson fig geodes stacked across a golden square of pastry, drizzled with lemon glaze, with teeny herb leaves tucked in. Read the ingredient list and it goes one better - there's some kind of goat's cheese frangipane in between the figs and the pastry! It seems like one of those clever dishes that straddles sweet and savoury, a tantalising hybrid of cheese platter and Danish pastry.

The original recipe includes instructions for a yeasted pastry dough, but Ottolenghi graciously grants us permission to purchase puff pastry instead. I found a small frozen block that I could roll myself to fit the base of my baking dish, and I gave it a little blind-bake to help ensure it cooked through. I thought it still ended up a bit tough, and I'd try something different on a second attempt.

The other layers didn't quite meet my high expectations either. The goat's cheese, once diluted with eggs and almond meal, lacked pungency; the tanginess of the lemon glaze didn't quite carry either. But the fresh figs, lightly dusted with caster sugar and baked until sparkling, were spectacular. I reckon they carried the whole dish. So I could change up the cheese or double the lemon juice glaze, but maybe I'm just better off grilling my figs next autumn.

Fig & goat's cheese tart
(slightly adapted from a recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty More)

375g puff pastry, thawed
150g soft goat's cheese
85g icing sugar
grated zest of 1/2 orange
1-2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 eggs, beaten
100g almonds
600g figs
1 tablespoon castor sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line a large high-walled baking tray with paper.

Roll out the puff pastry to fit the base of the baking tray and gently ease it in. Poke the pastry with a fork and bake it for about 10 minutes. Set the tray aside to cool a little.

In the meantime, put the cheese in a small bowl. Add 2 teaspoons of the icing sugar, the orange zest, a tablespoon of thyme leaves and three-quarters of the beaten eggs. Beat everything together until smooth. Grind the almonds to a meal and stir them into the goat's cheese mixture.

Spoon the goat's cheese mixture over the cooling pastry, leaving an inch-wide border around the edge. Brush the remaining egg on the exposed pastry. Slice the figs in half and arrange them, cut side up, over the goat's cheese mixture. Place the figs close together, even overlapping. Bake the tart for about 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the figs are bubbling with juice.

Let the tart cool down a bit. Whisk together the remaining icing sugar and lemon juice into a smooth glaze and drizzle it over the tart.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Fig & walnut friands

March 25, 2017

I made these little fancies because it's fig season, and because I had a few egg whites in the freezer. It's a friand recipe that makes just six serves, and it was a nice spontaneous weekend project. Enough to eat warm, just the two of us on the couch that day, and to pack into our lunchboxes a day or two after, and then be happily done before the cakes turned mushy or stale.

I expect friands to be based on almond meal, but these ones use ground walnuts instead. It makes for a darker, toastier cake that I think complements the figs very well; a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg pushes the effect even further. The original recipe uses fewer, thinly sliced figs but I set a bulbous half into each of my friands. Baking concentrates the figs' sweetness, but they stay quite fresh and juicy. That's probably why the friands deteriorate after just a few days - they're a fleeting pleasure, like fig season itself.

Fig & walnut friands
(slightly adapted from a recipe on A Splash Of Vanilla)

75g butter
60g walnuts
3 egg whites
1/3 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup icing sugar
3 figs

Preheat an oven to 190°C. Lightly grease 6 spots in a muffin tray.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, then turn off the heat and allow it to cool a little.

Grind the walnuts to a coarse meal in a spice grinder or food processor.

Drop the egg whites into a medium-large bowl and beat them with an electric mixer for up to a minute, until they're very foamy. Sift the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and icing sugar over the whites; add the walnut meal and fold everything together until just combined. Spoon the batter evenly into the 6 muffin cups.

Slice the figs in half and place one half, cut side up, gently onto the top of each friand. Bake until the batter is just cooked through, about 25 minutes. Allow the friands to cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes, then slide a knife around their edges and transfer them to a rack to cool further.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017


March 18, 2017

Franklin (not to be confused with Frank!) has ranked highly on Hobart fine dining lists for years. However, reviewers have always tended to recommend the seafood and other meats so we figured it wasn't really for us. Then in the past year a couple of vegetarian friends added their voices to the pro-Franklin crowd - that had us more interested, and we secured an early reservation at the bar on our Saturday night in town.

Franklin inhabits an ex-Ford car showroom and they've maintained an industrial look with lots of polished concrete and a scattering of leather and animal hide mats. Somehow they've managed the acoustics well so that guests can enjoy a positive buzz across the room without echoing music or competing conversations. The kitchen is completely open and visible; those of us at the bar had front-row seats to its workings. The centrepiece is an enormous Scotch oven (pictured above).

We'd mentioned that we were vegetarian in our online booking, and our waiter was well prepared with separately printed vegetarian menus to take to our table. We couldn't quite deduce from the descriptions how much we should order, but decided to request four of the six available dishes and hope for some dessert room. As is often the case at fancy restaurants, Michael ordering a G&T just in time to enjoy some fancy bread and butter.

The grilled eggplant ($16) was little more than a taster, a savoury finger-length each garnished with salted turnip and lovage seeds.

The just-barely-warmed tomatoes ($16) were more abundant, tossed with what I think was a buttermilk dressing (not listed in the name), cloaked in red basil leaves and seasoned with native pepper. I was glad I'd saved some of my bread for sopping up the juices from the bowl.

The toasted Chinese cabbage agrodolce ($19) also looked a little meagre on the plate. Nevertheless, the sweet and sour sauce dressed the leaves well.

Our most anticipated dish was the wood-roasted pink eye potato galette ($21; see the making-of in the top photo!). Thinly sliced potato rounds are layered to form the galette, and once they emerge from that formidable oven they're scattered with fresh green herbs, walnuts and finely grated cheese. It was a worthy finale to our main meal.

We had plenty of room for dessert! For me the night's highlight was the monochromatic malted barley parfait with toasted rye and plums ($14). As the kitchen manager described to us, the malted barley gave a chocolatey, coffee-ish flavour to the icecream wedge. The crunchy rye sprinklings were a complementary flavour and great contrast in texture.

The baked tarragon cream ($14) was no slouch either, with a herbal flavour that's rarely tasted at dessert and some gorgeous berries keeping it all summery-sweet.

We had a really nice evening at Franklin. As at many high-end restaurants, we got the sense that the menu's not really meant for us vegetarians, while still enjoying the options on offer. I thought the servings were small for the prices charged, but ultimately we left feeling satisfied and not stuffed. The capable service likely smoothed over my misgivings and I especially appreciated that, since we were sitting right beside the pass, the kitchen manager directly served and described many of the dishes for us directly.

All the other online reviews we've seen of Franklin are very meat-focused and almost unanimously positive! See Living Loving Hobart (twice), Fork + FootJacqui's Food FetishGet Forked and Fly and FINEEATING. There's a more mixed account on foodie mookie.

28-30 Argyle St, Hobart
(03) 6234 3375
vegetarian menu, full menu

Accessibility: Entry includes a shallow, wide ramp. Interior furniture is generously spaced, a mixture of low tables with mini-stools, standard tables with backed chairs and a high bar with stools. We received full table service. We didn't visit the toilets.