Saturday, July 02, 2022

Sable II

June 20, 2022


Days in the office are still a novelty for me, so when I planned my second one for the year I arranged to meet Michael afterwards for dinner at Sable. While Sable's lunch menu centres on bagels and biscuits, dinner is about salads, burgers and pasta. It remains 100% vegan and includes well-marked gluten-free options.


We skipped past the burgers and agreed to share a set of Italian-style dishes. We started with the unconventional lasagne croquettes ($17) - little blocks of mock-meat lasagne, crumbed and fried, served with pesto and cheese sauce. They're rich and appetising in this form, but I can't comprehend stuffing them into a bagel sandwich, which is a lunch time option.


Michael chose the special for one main - it featured the softest possible gnocchi on a bed of asparagus and celery puree, with cauliflower, mock-pork and shallots (pictured front left of photo). We slightly favoured it over the bold flavours of the penne alla vodka ($25, pictured centre right), with its tomato, pepperoni and roasted garlic cloves. We couldn't go past some garlic bread ($10, pictured top centre), which leaned towards limited, good quality slices rather than a Pizza Hut-style soft loaf. 


I felt compelled to try the tiramisu ($15) and was glad I did. It's not lightly whipped, rather a dense layering of cookies and something resembling their vegan cream cheese.

Sable flipped from a daytime to night-time atmosphere with ease, and the table service was excellent. We've had fun trying both versions, and emerged very full both times.

You can read about our first visit to Sable here.

562-564 High St, Thornbury 
9480 3371 

Accessibility: There's a step up on entry, a decent amount of space through the middle of the café, and densely packed tables. Tables are standard and tall heights, with a range of benches, backed chairs and tall, backless stools. We ordered and paid at the table. Toilets were ungendered cubicles of standard width, with flat access.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Vegan Polish sweet cheese rolls

June 18-19, 2022


This recipe from lazy cat kitchen has been taunting me every time I've opened my recipe bookmarks these past couple of years. I would have loved to make sweet cheese rolls during our extended lockdowns, but our blender was out of action for making cashew cheese. Now that the blender's back, I rarely have the right moment for yeast baking. I finally made the time on a recent Saturday evening, so that we could pack the rolls for breakfast in the Dandenongs the next morning.

I followed the dough-making instructions without too many issues, but I'm not all that skilled or precise in my technique. My rolls were nice, but perhaps a little tough and definitely vulnerable to going stale quickly. I forgot to brush them with liquid for baking, so their golden colouring was uneven. My errors were completely outshone by the cashew cheese, which was ultra-creamy and tangy with lemon.

I ate one roll when they were fresh out of the oven, leaving six for the three of us embarking on a Sunday morning lyrebird walk. They were perfect fuel on a cold morning, and we saw and heard numerous lyrebirds! It could not have been a more successful excursion.


Vegan Polish sweet cheese rolls
(a recipe from lazy cat kitchen)

sweet 'cheese' filling
135g/1 cup raw cashews
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup maple syrup and 1-2 tablespoons vegan milk
       or 1/3 cup sugar mixed with 1/3 cup vegan milk
1 heaped tablespoon coconut oil

2 cups plain flour, plus extra for dusting
pinch of salt
7g/2 teaspoons dried yeast
2 tablespoons sugar or maple syrup
2/3 cup lukewarm plant milk
1 heaped tablespoon coconut oil

for brushing
2 teaspoons vegan milk
1 teaspoon maple syrup

Place the cashews in a bowl and pour over boiling water to cover them. Allow the cashews to soak for at least 20 minutes before draining.

When the cashews are ready, use a blender to mix together the lemon juice, vanilla, maple syrup/sugar in milk, and coconut oil. When they are well combined, add the drained cashews and blend until everything is as smooth as possible. The cashew cream should be pretty loose, to prevent it drying out too much during baking.

To make the dough, place the flour, salt, yeast and sugar (if using) in a bowl. Pour in the warm milk and maple syrup (if using). Use a wooden spoon to stir everything together into a dough. Turn the dough onto a clean, floured work surface and knead it for around 5 minutes - stretching, folding and turning 90 degrees over and over again. Spoon the coconut oil onto the dough and knead it in for around 10 minutes, until the dough is elastic and smooth. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl and cover it with a tea towel. Place the dough somewhere warm for 60-90 minutes, until it has doubled in size.

Line two baking trays with paper and lightly oil them. Divide the dough into 6-7 equal portions using just a few clean cuts, and roll each portion into a ball, placing them on the trays. Set the dough balls aside to rest for 30-45 minutes.

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Flatten each dough ball with a hand. Press the flat bottom of a round glass into each dough circle to make a deep indent for the filling. Gently spoon the sweet cheese filling into each indentation. 

Mix the brushing liquids together in a little mug or bowl, and brush them onto the dough edges. Bake the rolls for about 20 minutes.   

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Song's Dumplings

June 14, 2022


We are blessed with diverse and delicious cafés and restaurants in our neighbourhood, but we've never really lived close to a dumpling restaurant. I noticed Song's Dumplings set up in the ground-floor restaurant space of a Royal Parade hotel during one of my numerous lockdown walks, but I'd forgotten it by the time I was ready to eat out. Michael saw it mentioned in his instagram feed more recently and that got us in the door for a weeknight dinner.


The menu runs to several dozen pages, including plenty of Sichuan style foods beyond just dumplings. This was fortunate for us, because they were all out of vegetarian dumplings! We skipped through the menu a second time, eyes on the helpful little green vege symbols beside the vegetarian dishes. (Vegans are encouraged to talk to the staff, and we were asked explicitly about egg.)

Michael had been recommended the dry fried cauliflower ($25.80, pictured top) and we could see why. It's a huge serving of cauliflower, florets soft in the middle and crisp around the edges, dotted with Sichuan peppers, showered with dry chilli pieces, growing spicier and spicier as you spoon into the shallow pool of oil below.


I tempered the spiciness with the vegetable fried rice ($14.80, pictured above), and we packed leftovers of both home to feed Michael for two further lunches. Our spring onion pancake ($8.80) was demolished on the spot, though - it's been too long since I last shook Chinkiang vinegar over a deep-fried treat like this! Song's pancake was especially puffy and crunchy with batter, reminding us both of the best potato cakes.


The Tuesday night atmosphere at Song's Dumplings supplies no more than the neighbourhood demands - perhaps two staff, taking counter orders from two tables of diners and a roster of delivery drivers. Charting-pop music drowned out any awkwardness, and the great food was plenty reason to visit. We'll be checking in again to try those dumplings.

The South Melbourne outlet of Song's Dumplings has appeared on Gastrology.

Song's Dumplings
441 Royal Parade, Parkville
0493 459 943

Accessibility: Entry is flat, but the door is sticky and difficult to operate. Tables and backed chairs are regular height (see second photo), and arranged at medium density. There's a clear wide path to the low counter, where we ordered and paid up front. We didn't visit the toilets.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Vegetable soup with tortellini

June 12, 2022

Cindy spotted this comforting looking recipe in one of Hetty McKinnon's regular ABC Everyday updates and filed it away for the winter ahead. Almost immediately, Cheaper Buy Miles had a whole bunch of drastically discounted Rana pumpkin ravioli and everything was falling into place. 

It's a super easy weeknight meal - once you've worked through a bunch of veggie chopping everything comes together very quickly. And it's an excellent meal - hard to go too far wrong when you float a bunch of delicious pasta dumplings in a big bowl of rich vegetable soup. Frying up the fennel and onion at the start adds a kick of sweetness to the mix and the parmesan rind and pasta add a bit of complexity. Don't skip the balsamic vinegar - it's a crucial last step. We happily worked our way through leftovers for a few meals, although filled pasta loses a bit of pizzazz when you reheat it. 

Vegetable soup with tortellini

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, peeled and diced
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
2 carrots, diced
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons dried oregano
800g can of crushed tomatoes
1 litre veggie stock
parmesan rind
1/2 teaspoon sugar
250g green beans, trimmed and halved
500g filled pasta (whatever variety you like!)
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and throw in the onions, cooking on high heat for 5 or 6 minutes, until it starts to caramelise a little bit. 

Throw in the carrots, garlic, fennel and dried oregano and some salt, cooking for another 5 or 6 minutes, until the fennel and carrot start to soften.

Add the tomatoes, stock, parmesan and sugar and reduce the heat to medium. Cover and cook gently for 10 minutes or so. 

Pop the beans and pasta in and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked. Stir through the balsamic and season with salt and pepper and you're done!

Thursday, June 16, 2022


June 11, 2022


Sable has been operating in Cremorne for a while, and I've periodically seen their instagram videos of over-filled bagels and gooey cookies. Last month they opened a second outlet in Thornbury, and on the weekend we visited to celebrate our friend Natalie's birthday.

The all-vegan menu is a touch overwhelming! Mock meat rules almost every bagel filling: there's bacon, smoked salmon, pastrami, schnitzel, ribs, brisket, fried chicken, and crumbed deep-fried lasagne (!). An eater seeking something simpler can try the O.G. (cream cheese), call 1800 Avocado, or build their own filling combination from a choice of around 30 items. Gluten-free options are surprisingly prevalent and clearly marked.


We'd prepared ourselves to go big. I ordered the Marilyn ($17), a hash brown on the side ($3), and (spurred on by my Wombat breakfast) a vanilla malt shake ($10, pictured top). The shake and hash brown very good exemplars of their kind, though if I'd noticed that the bagels were served with potato chips I might have skipped the hash brown altogether.

The bagels were lighter and breadier than we expected, which was probably a good thing given that they're teamed with such dense fillings. Marilyn's bacon, egg, mozzarella, herb cream cheese and BBQ sauce merged into a sweet, salty, and squishy experience - it was tasty but I couldn't really discern any of the constituent ingredients. Michael reported that the pickles and sauerkraut cut through that same sauciness in his Reuben ($18, pictured above), which was otherwise full of pastrami, cream cheese, American cheddar, mozzarella, and aioli. 

This was a fun, over-the-top meal for a vegan's birthday celebration. Before I ever go back for another bagel I'm intrigued to try Sable's dinner menu, where it's possible to cobble together a nearly-traditional Italian meal.

562-564 High St, Thornbury
9480 3371

Accessibility: There's a step up on entry, a decent amount of space through the middle of the café, and densely packed tables. Tables are standard height, with a range of benches and backed chairs. We ordered at the table and paid at a low counter. Toilets were ungendered cubicles of standard width, with flat access.