Thursday, August 25, 2016

Mankoushe IX

August 14, 2016

Though it's still pretty chilly, there are signs that winter is receding - the neighbourhood magnolias are flowering, the magpies look ready to swoop any day now and we've seen 20 degrees again, just the once. It's enough to inspire Michael to get up early for bird-watching, and for me to grab a picnic blanket and meet him for lunch.

Rather than preparing our own spread, we picked up lunchboxes from Mankoushe ($13 each). They'll cater to all manner of special dietary requirements, and the packages were vegan by default on the Sunday that we dropped in. We enjoyed dense little packs of a half-dozen dishes - grainy salads, garlicky sauteed greens, fresh tomatoes and pickley cabbage, nuts folded into a starchy mash, and slightly saucy lentils. Michael ably shovelled up his share with a wooden fork while the sun was still shining; I was slower. The wind picked up, the sun ducked behind a cloud, and I tucked up the last third of my food for later. We escaped the rain, at least. It's still a bit early for picnicking, but perhaps you can find a more sheltered spot to enjoy this splendid takeaway meal. 

You can read about one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight of our previous visits to Mankoushe.

323 Lygon St, Brunswick East
9078 9223
lunchboxes $13

Accessibility: There's a small step up through a narrow-ish entry but everything's more generously spaced once you're in. We ordered and paid for our takeaway at the counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

where's the beef? turns 10

August 23, 2016

Today we celebrate the 10th birthday of this here blog. We started where's the beef? in our first month of living in Melbourne and it's grown into an incredible document of our time in this city - it's threaded with the broadening acceptance and availability of vegetarian foods, the ebbs and flows of food trends, and our own evolving kitchen habits. We've collated some year-by-year highlights below.

Year 1 Being our first year living in Melbourne, we spent our weekends exploring various restaurants, markets and festivals all over the city. Michael started working in Fitzroy and launched the Gertrude St Grub series; Cindy's workplace showed off their home cooking skills.
   Best recipe: spiced chickpeas
   Best restaurants: Three, One, Two, Moroccan Soup Bar

Year 2 Cindy had a slow culinary start because she had her wisdom teeth removed. After that week we got much more sociable, participating in our first food blogger meet-ups. We travelled around Victoria and the world, ticking off Halls Gap, Wilsons Prom & the Mornington Peninsula, then touring the UK. Michael visited Japan for the first time, before Cindy climbed aboard the Chattanooga Choo-Choo.
   Best recipe: we discovered Isa that year, making many soy bombs and chickpea cutlets
   Best restaurants: A Minor Place, Attica

Year 3 Veg*n blogging hit critical mass in Melbourne and we all made friends IRL - there were dinner parties, birthdays, potlucks, festivals, yum cha, pizza nights and even a big group weekend away. I developed my almost-famous vegan sausage roll recipe.
   Best recipe: vegan sausage rolls
   Best restaurants: Hellenic Republic, Monsieur Truffe

Year 4 We explored fancy regional restaurants in Beechworth and Port Fairy before venturing further to Asia, where we ate the freshest tofu of our lives in Kyoto and learned to fry eggs into noodles in Kuala Lumpur. At home we published our 1000th post, joined twitter and tried our hand at a Christmas tofurkey.
   Best recipe: vegan omelettes and hash browns
   Best restaurants: Court Jester (sadly departed), Yong Green Food, Sonido

Year 5  Our travel-eating highlight was an all-blogging all-vegan long weekend in Sydney. In Melbourne, The Fox (one, two, three, four) and The Gasometer (one, two, three, four, five) vied for our veg*n pub-meal affections. Cindy turned 30 and held an ice-cream potluck that is still talked about to this day; less than a month later we discovered Ottolenghi.
   Best recipe: char koay teow
   Best restaurants: Mankoushe

Year 6  We partied through our first MONA FOMA in Hobart, Michael ate vegan poutine in Toronto and together we took in a northern summer in Berlin, Iceland & Norway. Back home we focused on fungi, foraging for our own around Victoria and experimenting with corn smut in the kitchen.
   Best recipe: black pepper tofu
   Best restaurant: New Day Rising

Year 7  In the summer we talked books and foods on the radio, which was a lot of fun. For Melbourne veg*ns more broadly, it was the Summer of South.
   Best recipe: BBQ bao
   Best restaurants: Wide Open Road, Dainty Sichuan

Year 8  Cindy snuck vegan eats around an Auckland conference, Michael found more than pizza and pasta in Turin, and Cindy ate Florida icecream, Denver diner waffles, Baltimore's high-end wholefoods and Native American cuisines in a DC museum. We reunited to tour veg hotspots New York and Portland, then headed home via Tokyo for a special family meal at a forty-plus-year-old Buddhist restaurant. We expanded our online presence by starting a facebook page.
   Best recipe: can't-stop choc-chip cookies (with added rosemary)
   Best restaurants: Smith & Daughters, Shandong Mama

Photo graciously provided by Green Gourmet Giraffe

Year 9  We published our 2000th post and celebrated with a picnic that we remember fondly. Cindy joined a fine dining panel at the Melbourne Writers Festival and attended a range of other food-centred events. We circled around to Tokyo for a third time, Kuala Lumpur for a second, and learned the wonder of cơm chay in Vietnam as a first.
   Best recipe: curried peanut sauce bowl with tofu & kale
   Best restaurant: Trang

Year 10  We both spent decent chunks of this year out of Australia - Michael embraced the working lunch in Stockholm for two months while Cindy learned the secrets of stinky bread-baking in smalltown Pennsylvania. Around our travel we've embarked on a 2006 Cheap Eats Guide project, enjoying a vegan resurgence at Ray. Cindy's rediscovered the joy of jaffles.
   Best recipe: peanut butter & blueberry pie
   Best restaurants: Moroccan Deli-Cacy, Brae


These highlights have reminded us how lucky we are to travel regularly for work and for pleasure, to eat delicious and nutritious foods out and about with friends and every night at home, for the time and money to treat food as a hobby as well as a necessity. We hope never to take that for granted.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Friends of the Earth

Cheap Eats 2006, a decade on

August 13, 2016

Part of the reason we decided to do our Cheap Eats 2006 project was to catch up on some glaring omissions in our near-decade of blogging. Cindy covered off Fo Guang Yuan in April, and this weekend we made our first ever visit to Collingwood vego stalwart Friends of the Earth.

We haven't actively been avoiding it, but the fact that it's taken us so long to visit is probably at least partly due to a suspicion that FOE would serve up worthy but bland vego food. Luckily, that impression was completely wrong - the cafe has a lot more to offer than just lentil stews: there are doughnuts and other sweets, lunch rolls, pizzas and more, along with a seasonal mixed plate. Everything is vegan by default (although there's dairy milk and butter on hand), and they're good at gluten-free options as well. There's a handy selection of veg-friendly groceries, including organic fruit and veggies.

I really wanted to try the baked tofu roll with cashew cheese, slaw, spinach and sesame mayo ($9), but I was hungry enough to tackle the large seasonal plate ($12.50). This is a classic vego buffet plate: rice, salad, a delicious tofu curry - hearty, tasty and healthy. It's a good option.

Cindy wasn't hungry enough to tackle a real lunch, so she ordered a lemon currant scone ($4) and a cup of dandelion tea ($4.50 + $1 for almond milk). The scone was a departure from the classic Australian version, with its triangular shape and dusting of sugar, but Cindy was impressed by it nonetheless. 

There are plenty of lovely-looking vegan sweets to choose from - at least partly provided by Crumbs.

Steph convinced me that I had to try FOE's newest special - a vegan croissant filled with smoked tofu and cashew cheese ($6). I took one home and had a wonderful breakfast the next morning - it's worth a visit to FOE on its own.

We can now personally recommend Friends of the Earth - it's doing much more than the daggy 1980s vego food we were half-expecting, and we really shouldn't have taken a decade to visit. It'll be much less time before we go back.


Friends of the Earth has received pretty limited blog coverage over the years - there are positive write-ups at The Wholefood Mama, Vegan About Town, Veganopoulous, New International Students and MEL: HOT OR NOT.

Friends of the Earth
312 Smith St, Collingwood
9417 4382

Accessibility: FOE has put some thought in - there's a shallow ramp on entry, non-gendered individual but standard-width toilet cubicles on the same level (the wooden floor is a teensy bit uneven) and a low counter for service.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Trailwalker macaroni

August 10, 2016

I've been making this vegan cheesy macaroni recipe for years and am well overdue to blog it. It's stayed unblogged so long because I never take a photo of it! It's the lazy Friday night-on-the-couch recipe that uses pantry ingredients, for when I haven't soaked cashews for Isa's mac'n'cheese.

Over the years, the pressure to write it up myself has steadily increased. Source blog VeganYumYum hasn't been updated since 2012 and her archives have been disturbed by hackers. After all that time of making this macaroni for the two of us, the recipe has achieved legendary status with a small cluster of friends just this year. Back in April Michael and three mates embarked on the 100 km Oxfam Trailwalker, and I joined the support crew. I cooked this macaroni for dinner: making a double batch of sauce at home two days in advance, then the pasta and some roasted broccoli and carrot in a cabin as the team walked. I insulated the enormous pot with teatowels and we drove it to the walkers' 60 km rest stop at about 10:30pm. Steam rose from the pot as I lifted the lid and scooped carby comfort into bowls for the tired walkers. One of them has told me several times since that it was the best meal of his life.

Now I'm not promising that this recipe will make the best meal of your life - it's all in the context. But that context means, even after years of history in our home already, it's now known as Trailwalker macaroni here, even if its most frequent showing is on our couch on Friday nights.

Trailwalker macaroni
(a recipe from VeganYumYum, archived here)

500g macaroni
1/3 cup margarine
1/4 cup plain flour
2 1/2 tablespoons tamari
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon white miso
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/4 cups soy milk
1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the macaroni until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce, making sure that you have all the ingredients ready on hand. Start by melting the margarine in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When it's completely liquid, whisk in the flour to make a smooth paste. One at a time, stir in the tamari, lemon juice, miso, tahini and tomato paste - the mixture will be thick. Gradually whisk in the soy milk, just a half cup at a time, trying to maintain a smooth sauce. Stir in the yeast flakes until well combined. Keep the sauce on low heat, stirring regularly, until the pasta is ready.

When the macaroni is cooked, drain it and transfer it back to the large saucepan. Pour in the sauce and stir well. Serve immediately. We usually eat this with roasted broccoli and carrots - it's pictured above with parsley, roasted broccoli, cauliflower and kale.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Reese's poptarts

August 6-7, 2016

While I was in the US, missing Michael and cooking stuff together, we agreed that we'd try making the Street Vegan poptarts when I got home. While I would have happily embarked on them any old weekend, we had a nice opportunity to bake them for a 2-year-old's birthday party and share them around.

Michael picked out the peanut butter-chocolate filled version and I set to work a day in advance. The filling is a simple, reliable mix of chocolate ganache swirled with peanut butter. The pastry is made with electric beaters and includes egg replacers, which isn't my usual pace. It seemed too mushy and I upped the flour to make a more sturdy, rollable dough (I've adjusted the quantities accordingly below).

On the morning of the party I set to work assembling and baking the poptarts. The recipe's designed to make 10 hefty tarts but instead I cut at least twice as many two-bite treats. I barely used half of the filling since my mini-tarts had a higher edge-to-middle ratio (again, I've altered the recipe below for a better fit). The edges sealed easily with a fork just so long as I didn't dust too much flour around.

It was difficult to work out when the poptarts were fully baked since they're not supposed to brown. I gave 'em a few extra minutes on a hunch and they were still a little underdone - I'd suggest eating a tester before you progress to the icing stage. Once you spill the glaze over them there's no going back! The original recipe suggests using chocolate glaze all over and white vanilla glaze in decorative stripes, but I thought some coloured sprinkles would be less fiddly and for an audience of under-5s.

Indeed, I overheard one youngster declare these poptarts his favourite food at the party. A couple of adults got a real kick out of them too. I'm not quite convinced that they're better than a more conventional pie or tart, but they were a fun little party project to share with friends.

Reese's poptarts
(slightly adapted from a recipe in Adam Sobel's Street Vegan)

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons egg replacer powder
1/2 cup water
3 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup margarine

1/2 cup soy milk
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 tablespoon soy milk
coloured sprinkles

Place the vinegar, egg replacer and water in a medium-large bowl and beat them together with an electric mixer until foamy. On low speed, mix in the flour, salt and margarine until the mixture comes together as a dough. Allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes - I covered my bowl with a lid and refrigerated it overnight.

In a medium bowl, bring the soy milk to the boil. Take it off the heat and stir in the chocolate chips and salt. Keep stirring them together until they form a thick, smooth ganache. Chill the ganache for at least 2 hours, I refrigerated it overnight. When it's time to assemble the poptarts, swirl the peanut butter through the ganache.

Line 1-2 baking trays with paper and lightly spray them with oil. Preheat an oven to 180°C.

Lightly flour a clean surface and roll out the pastry to 2-5mm thick (I did this in about 4 small batches). Slice the dough into rectangles of the same size - mine were about 4cm x 6cm, but the recipe was designed for larger ones. Spoon filling into the centre of half of the rectangles, place the other rectangles on top of each once, and use a fork to crimp the edges together (see photo above).

Place the pastries on the trays and bake them for 15-20 minutes, until they're a little firm. Allow them to cool to room temperature.

Sift together the icing sugar and cocoa in a small-medium bowl. Stir in the soy milk to make a smooth glaze. Spoon the glaze over the centre of the poptarts and decorate them with coloured sprinkles. Allow the glaze to set at room temperature for at least an hour before serving.