Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Taleggio & spinach roulade

January 27, 2019

We kicked off Ottolenghi club for 2019 with a big gathering at a friend's house - 10 people, 10 dishes and just an astonishingly good spread (see here for a full summary of the night's food). We decided not to make two dishes this time around, instead joining forces for one of the trickier dishes in Plenty More - the taleggio and spinach roulade.

It all takes a bit of time, but most if is waiting around for the dough to rest at various points in the process. The assembly requires a steadier hand than I can muster, but Cindy managed it very successfully. The result was delightful - a crusty, puffy dough and a rich delicious filling. We served it at room temperature, but I think it'd be even better if you got into it right out of the oven.

Taleggio & spinach roulade
(slightly adapted from a recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty More)

160ml milk
2 teaspoons dried active yeast (we used one standard 7g sachet)
3 cups white bread flour
1 teaspoon cater sugar
50ml sunflower oil
1 egg and 1 egg yolk

100g cream cheese
100g baby spinach leaves
20g basil leaves
100g pecorino cheese, grated
200g taleggio cheese, broken into chunks
150g semi-dried tomatoes, drained

finishing touches
1 egg white
sesame seeds

Gently heat the milk in a small saucepan until just lukewarm. Stir in the yeast and keep stirring until it dissolves. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Place the rest of the dough ingredients in a large bowl with a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add the milk and yeast and stir it all together until you've got a good dough going. Knead your dough for 10-15 minutes, until you've got a smooth, shiny dough ball. (You can do all of this with a dough hook and an electric mixer if you like, but it was easy by hand.)

Brush another large bowl with oil and pop the dough in it, covered with a damp tea towel. Leave it all to rest for about 45 minutes - it should double in size. 

Unroll enough baking paper to cover a 30cm x 40cm baking tray. Drop the dough onto it and roll it out flat to fit the baking tray. Carefully transfer the paper and dough into the tray. Cover the dough with the tea towel again and let it rest for half an hour.

Now it's time for the filling - spread the cream cheese as best you can across the surface, sprinkle with salt and then scatter over the spinach, basil, pecorino, taleggio and semi-dried tomatoes. Now it's wrapping time - pick up one of the longer sides of the dough rectangle and carefully roll it up into a rough spiral. Try to leave it standing on its seam so that it stays rolled up when it bakes. Cover with a tea towel again and let it rest for another half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Brush the surface of your big dough log with the egg white and then sprinkle over some sesame seeds. Bake for 10 minutes and then turn the heat down to 180°C and leave to cook for another 25 minutes. It should brown up nicely and a sharp knife should come out with some melted cheese on it, but no dough. 

Remove from the oven and let it sit for a few minutes. Cut into thick slices and serve.

Sunday, February 03, 2019


January 22, 2019

Our Hobart friend Liz kindly booked the three of us a table at Aløft when we stopped by Hobart in January. This restaurant's been operating from the fancy Brooke St pier for a couple of years, and has an entire glass wall offering a view out to the harbour. (We ended up just basking in that view in the moment and enjoying each other's company rather than capturing any great shots of it.)

Michael and I didn't know what to expect: we trusted Liz's eating recommendations, and by extension, this restaurant's. The less elaborate of the banquet menus is $80 per person, and there are explicit vegetarian, vegan and coeliac versions of it available. There's no problems mixing and matching those different versions of it at one table. 

For our first course, Michael and I shared a bowl of tapioca and nori crackers, and then received our own little bowls of crisp-edged turnip cakes.

There were enough wood ear mushroom dumplings to share around the entire table. The vegetarian accompaniment was a small bowl of agadashi tofu in a deeply flavoured broth with burnt onion and baby leeks.

The table favourite was the same course for both omnivores and vegetarians: in our case, the watery texture of zucchini was at its best encased in a thick, crunchy tempura batter. The batter was coated in hot and sour sauce, and it all sat on a bed of garlic greens.

I was skeptical that our main course of congee would be more filler than flavour, but I was very much mistaken! Crisp-baked greens and roast pumpkin kept the texture varied, and there was plenty of rayu to liven up every mouthful of rice. This would make a terrific meal on its own.

After a series of savoury course drawn from across Asia, dessert had different roots. I was well satisfied by the crumbled chocolate brownie, with little bubbles of dark chocolate and a scoop of fresh mint icecream. 

The team at Aløft have really figured out how to create intense, savoury flavours for vegetarians. Service is great, and the setting is remarkable. This a special occasion experience with plenty to offer both locals and visitors.

You can read more positive accounts of Aloft on blogs Fork + FootLiving Loving Hobart (twice), Just The Sizzle, and Linnie Eats All The Food.

Pier 1, Brooke St, Hobart
(03) 6223 1619

Accessibility: Standard access to Aloft is via a small flight of stairs; contact the restaurant to find out if there alternative access via a lift. Tables and chairs are arranged with a moderate amount of space (see photo above). We didn't visit the toilets.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

where's the best in 2018?

Youpo noodle from Lanzhou Beef Noodle Bar

We're a couple of weeks into 2019, and it's high time we reviewed our best eats of the past year and updated our where's the best? page accordingly. Every year there are closures to commemorate, and this year we bid farewell to Supercharger. Two other faves had transformations: Hana Assifiri's Moroccan Deli-Cacy mentored in Alisha's Cafe Collective, and you could be forgiven for not noticing that Green Park Dining is now known as Park St.

We had an amazing, carb-loaded mid-year holiday in China, and this set us on a mission to find youpo mian in Melbourne. We're now devoted to the garlic-heavy, hand-pulled noodles at Lanzhou Beef Noodle Bar.

Northcote Fish & Chips

And we've had so many other great new cheap veg*n eats in Melbourne! Northcote Fish & ChipsThe Origin Tales, Union Kiosk, Just Falafs, and Neko Neko were all instant favourites. We've shared feasts with friends at Shop 225, Huong Viet and Billy and Lucy; we've had terrific vegan desserts at Ratio Cocoa Roasters and Tidbit Cakes.

Seitan gyros & lemon potatoes

At home we're cooking new recipes less frequently, but our success rate is high. Seitan gyros were well worth pulling up from the deepest pages of my bookmarks - they're a bit of effort, but they include the most flavourful seitan we've made and generate fabulous leftovers for lunch. Other dishes working their way into our weeknight rotation include one-pot orrecchiette, baked peanut tempeh, and kimchi fried rice with smokey tempeh & broccoli. We still embark on the occasional weekend cooking project, with Michael's kimchi, gochujang & cheese scrolls a recent triumph.

Honey, miso & walnut pie

I've long thought of icecream as my cooking specialty, and a caramelised white chocolate icecream unexpectedly won Michael's high praise last summer. Yet pies are creeping up as a sweet new seam to mine: last year I was all about cherry pie, and this year I made a couple of honey, miso & walnut pies.

But there's no need to limit myself, right? There are still so many different recipes and new eateries to try every year. We'll aim to keep bringing you the best of 'em in 2019.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Parmesan shortbread

December 31, 2018

These snacktacular biscuits have a funny little back story. We were attending a vegetarian barbecue co-hosted by a dear vegan friend, and she willingly took charge of decorating a pavlova for dessert. She's not in the habit of prepping dairy, and she accidentally whipped a batch of cream all the way to butter! Since she had no interest in using it, we popped it into a jar and took it home. (There was still leftover cream, and the pavlova was saved.)

I resolved use that butter the next day, when we were attending a New Year potluck. The dessert course, a couple of salads and a vegetarian centrepiece were already planned by others. I remembered some fantastic home-baked shortbreads that I recently ate at a birthday party, and figured I'd give them a go.

The one extra challenge to this plan was that one of our hosts eats gluten-free! I'm delighted to report that the recipe I'm posting here works just as easily with Orgran gluten free flour as it does with plain flour. I made one batch with each flour type as a risk-spreading measure, since there was plenty of butter to go around. I seasoned both batches with some fancy smoked garlic and rosemary salt; the gluten-free ones had the salt worked into the dough and some leftover slivered almonds pressed into their tops, while the glutenful biscuits were sprinkled with the salt.

The shortbreads were just the thing for nibbling on with cocktails before our meal. The textural difference between the two batches was very subtle. I'd baked all of them to a soft texture, and I'd be interested in gently pushing them to a deeper, crumblier brown in future. I noticed that they rapidly went stale following exposure to air, but somehow the biscuits were still all gone by January 2.

Parmesan shortbread
(slightly adapted from epicurious)

1 2/3 cups plain flour
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of salt
200g cold butter
drop of iced water
fancy salt, slivered almonds or another garnish (optional)

Place the flour, parmesan, cayenne and salt in a large food processor bowl; pulse them together to mix. Cut the butter into rough cubes, drop them into the food processor, and blend everything together until well combined. If the mixture isn't yet clumping into a dough, add a little iced water while the blades are still running.

Turn the clumped mixture onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Bring it together into a single mass and work it into a thick sausage shape: I went for a cylinder about 4cm in diameter and 25-30cm long. Wrap the dough up in the plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least an hour.

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Line one or two trays with baking paper.

Retrieve the dough log from the fridge. Slice it into rounds (mine were about 5-7mm thick) and place them on the baking trays. Sprinkle them with any garnishes you've chosen, gently pressing them into the top. Bake the biscuits for about 20 minutes, until they're golden brown around the edges. Let them cool for at least 5 minutes before moving them. Store them in an airtight container - they go stale quickly in the open air!

Friday, January 11, 2019

A not-so-Moroccan chickpea thing

December 30, 2018

'That chickpea thing' has evolved over the years. Its origins are a dish that the Moroccan Soup Bar has been serving forever. It's a rich, hearty bake; thick with yoghurt, tart with lemon juice and tahini, crunchy with fried flatbread and a topping of toasted almonds.

Soon enough, I tried replicating it at home. A few years later, I hit on corn chips as a convenient, gluten-free replacement for the flatbread. This summer, I took it one step further and made a vegan version. Replacing such a large quantity of yoghurt was always going to be challenging, but I pulled it off with the help of some twitter friends. Impressed brand almond milk-based natural yoghurt was a great way to subtly reinforce the almond topping, without introducing the sweet, fatty intensity of coconut-based yoghurt.

This chickpea thing's a long way from that chickpea thing. But it's still a good thing, handy for making in other people's kitchens and sharing at barbecues in summer.

A not-so-Moroccan chickpea thing
(inspired by a dish at the Moroccan Soup Bar)

2 x 400g cans chickpeas
100g slivered almonds
1/2 cup tahini
juice of 2 lemons
2 cloves garlic or 2 teaspoons garlic powder
250g vegan yoghurt (we recommend Impressed almond-based)
175g bag natural salted corn chips
salt and pepper
olive oil
cayenne pepper

Rinse and drain the chickpeas, and set them aside.

Gently toast the almonds using your preferred method. We pop them in the oven for 5 minutes if there's something else on the go, but a grill or dry frypan can also work. Set the almonds aside to cool.

In a medium-large bowl, whisk together the tahini and lemon juice. If you're using fresh garlic, crush it into a little saucepan with a glug of olive oil and fry it until golden. Add the fried or powdered garlic to the tahini-lemon mixture. Stir in the yoghurt until everything is well mixed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Fold in the chickpeas.

To serve, arrange the corn chips over the base of a large salad bowl or platter. Spoon over the chickpea-yoghurt mixture. Swish over some optional olive oil, sprinkle with a little cayenne pepper, then scatter the almonds generously over the top.