Sunday, November 18, 2018

Pumpkin, saffron & orange soup

November 7, 2018

We just keep going back to Simple. I was keen for a soup and this pumpkin one was the pick of the small selection in the book. It all takes a bit of time - you've got to do a bunch of chopping and roasting before you even get to the soup making. It's worth it though. This is probably the best pumpkin soup recipe we've made - the creaminess of the crème fraiche is nicely balanced by the twin punches of the orange zest and chilli. The roasted pumpkin seeds were the star of the show though - so simple and so, so delicious. You could just make them as a snack. They work brilliantly with this soup though - we'll definitely make it again.

Pumpkin, saffron & orange soup
(from Yotam Ottolenghi's Simple)

60ml olive oil
2 onions, sliced into 2cm wedges
1.2kg of butternut pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 3cm cubes
1 litre of vegetable stock
2 tablespoons harissa (we just used a chilli paste, because we couldn't track down harissa in the supermarket)
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
zest of 1 orange
180g crème fraiche
parsley leaves to garnish
salt and pepper

80g pumpkin seeds
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes

Preheat the oven to 170°C.

Mix the pumpkin seeds, syrup and chilli flakes in a small bowl with a sprinkle of salt. Spread them on a lined baking tray and roast for 15 minutes until they starting to brown. Set aside to cool.

Turn the oven up to 220°C.

Combine the oil, onion and pumpkin in a large bowl with a good sprinkle of salt and pepper. Mix well and then lay them out on a baking tray. Roast for 25 minutes until everything softens up nicely and then take them out of the oven and set aside.

Put the stock, harissa, saffron, orange zest and some more salt and pepper into a big pot. Bring it all to the boil and then add in the pumpkin, onions and baking oil. Stir, reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes.

Take everything off the heat, stir in the crème fraiche and then blend it all up with a hand blender.

Serve, topped with pumpkin seeds and parsley.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Honey, miso & walnut pie

October 31-November 5, 2018

I'm very fond of white miso, and have been wanting to make a dessert with it for a long time. Naturally I bookmarked this recipe the moment I saw it on The Brick Kitchen. Even better, I found an excuse to bake it within days! I prepared this pie to share with friends on a weekend away in Cape Paterson.

I see it as a bit of a riff on the traditional pecan pie. The caramel is based on honey rather than brown sugar, so it's a bit lighter and sweeter; the walnuts are a more bitter counterbalance than pecans. While the caramel has a slightly whipped and not especially chewy texture, the sweetness is intense and a small slice goes a long way. I was a bit disappointed that the miso flavour weakened with baking, but others thought it still hit the right savoury note.

My pastry cooked unevenly (and I've inserted the Brick Kitchen baking tray technique into the methods below that I'll try next time) but otherwise I didn't experience any hitches along the way. A honey, miso and walnut pie sounds fancy, but its construction isn't too fussy and the results are excellent - I was showered with grateful murmurs as everyone helped themselves to two or three slices over the course of four days.

Honey, miso & walnut pie
(a recipe from The Brick Kitchen)

1 1/4 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon caster sugar
115g butter
1/2 cup cold water
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

3/4 cup caster sugar
170g honey
2 tablespoons white miso
1 teaspoon salt
120g butter
300g walnut pieces
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup cream
3 eggs

Place the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor and pulse them to mix together. Slice the butter into cubes, drop them into the food processor, and blend until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix the water and vinegar together in a cup. Set the blender back on and add the liquid just a tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together into a ball (I only used about half the liquid and discarded the rest). Tip the dough onto some plastic wrap, bring it together into a ball, wrap it up and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (I left mine overnight).

Retrieve the dough from the fridge and roll it out to fit a pie dish (I do this between two sheets of plastic wrap). Ease the pastry into the dish, patching up any unevenness and trimming or crimping the edges. Freeze the pastry crust until solid, at least 20 minutes (I gave mine several hours).

Place the sugar and honey in a medium-large saucepan and set them over medium heat. Stir occasionally as they melt together. When they're smooth, whisk in the miso and the salt. When there are a few bubbles around the edges, add the butter and allow it to completely melt in, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool.

Preheat an oven to 180°C. In an ungreased baking tray, gently toast the walnuts until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Set them aside to cool. Place a large flat baking tray, big enough to hold the pie dish, in the oven.

Retrieve the caramel in the saucepan. Whisk in the vanilla, then the cream, then the eggs, one at a time. When everything is completely combined and smooth, fold in the walnuts. Pour the filling into the frozen pastry case, place the pie dish on the hot baking tray in the oven, and bake the pie for 45-60 minutes. It's ready when the edges are set but the centre is still a little wobbly; it'll firm up as it cools.

Cool the pie to room temperature before serving, and/or store it in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

More Simple

October 14, 2018

We had a friend over for a Sunday dinner and turned again to Simple for inspiration. We worked through the pasta section looking for ideas, settling on this chickpea and za'atar pasta as our centrepiece. It's definitely simple - easily put together and requiring no more than about 20 minutes on the stove. You need za'atar of course, but by Yotam's standards that's basically a pantry ingredient. Our dish didn't turn out quite as well as we'd hoped. It proved beyond me to get the chickpeas to crisp up at all. It was still pretty tasty, but I was a little bit disappointed - one to try again perhaps. Luckily, the black garlic Brussels sprouts we made on the side were as good as we remembered them - a must make dish.

The dessert was also a huge success - Cindy made the sumac-roasted strawberries with yoghurt cream. It was utterly wonderful, although in keeping with Ottolenghi's approach to simple cookery it involves straining yoghurt through muslin. Simple as heck Yotam, but absolutely worth it.

For all my teasing, I'm really enjoying cooking out of Simple. The recipes are simple only in relation to Ottolenghi's other recipes, but that at least makes them manageable - you could even make this pasta on a weeknight!

Orecchiette with chickpeas and za'atar
(from Yotam Ottolenghi's Simple)

45ml olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
10g thyme leaves, stems removed
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 400g tins of chickpeas, drained
1 teaspoon brown sugar
400ml mock chicken stock
250g orecchiette pasta
50g baby spinach leaves
15g parsley, roughly chopped
1-2 teaspoons of za'atar
1/4 cup capers
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and throw in the onion, garlic, cumin, thyme, lemon zest and some salt and pepper. Fry for 3-4 minutes until the onion softens and starts to brown.

Reduce the heat and add in the chickpeas and sugar. Fry for 8 minutes or so, trying to get the chickpeas to brown and get crispy (we failed). Add the stock and lemon juice and simmer for 6-8 minutes, until the sauce has reduced slightly.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the pasta as per the instructions. Drain and stir the pasta, capers and spinach leaves through the sauce. Serve, sprinkled with za'atar.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Pavlov's Duck

October 14, 2018

Pavlov's Duck is perched at the less cafe-dense northern end of Smith St, among the clothing outlets. Nevertheless, it's been attracting bloggers for years, through a combination of promotional events and novel offerings (see links below). The all day menu starts with the usual eggs, toast, avocado and muesli but turns sharply into Sri Lankan-inspired dishes half way through - there's milk rice with curry, roti, and hoppers. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free items are well-marked across their menu.

We stopped in for Sunday breakfast on a whim, and focused on the Sri Lankan side of the menu. Michael was well satisfied by the kottu ($17, pictured above), a heavily spiced plate of chopped roti, vegetables and eggs.

I set my heart on a hopper, but slightly flubbed my order. I should have simply requested the traditional hopper ($14), which is accompanied by dhal, coconut sambol and chilli onion. Instead I ordered the egg hopper ($5), which is served plain and I think is intended more as a side. Michael generously shared a little of his kottu to flavour it and all was very well: the hopper was one side crisp and toasty, one side light and tender, the egg was more soft comfort.

We enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere at this time of the week, and we'll have to aim for it again to perfect our menu choices.



Pavlov's Duck
401 Smith St, Fitzroy
9416 4336
food, drinks
facebook page

Accessibility: Entry is flat and there's a wide corridor through the centre; furniture is densely packed with mostly backless benches, stools and chairs with backs to sit on. Toilets are gendered cubicles with narrow entry. We ordered at our table and paid at a low counter.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Annual lab culinary competition

October 5, 2018

In its 15th year, the annual lab culinary competition is still a major point on the social calendar, with many strong entries! This year we saw a fabulous array of finger foods, pastries, bright fresh fruit and vegetables (some from the entrants' own gardens!), sweet things in cups and baked as beautiful whole cakes, foods originating from other cultures and classic dishes we knew well. Unusually this year, I didn't make a dessert submission, though I put in my requisite two entries: among the pics above, you'll be able to see my broccoli & gorgonzola pie, and some hot & sour rhubarb tofu.

The grand prize was reserved for the sparkliest of cakes and the baker who dressed just like it.


I've also written accounts of this competition in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Origin Tales

October 4, 2018

Well, this is a little embarrassing. An all-vegan restaurant opened up at the end of our street and it took over two months for us to notice it! We were quick to grab dinner at The Origin Tales once we'd realised our mistake, and it's now firmly in our weeknight lazy-dinner rotation.

The menu is mostly Chinese-Malaysian, with a couple of burgers and fried snacks (loaded cheese fries, tempura and popcorn chicken among them). Mock meat is abundant, and the couple of gluten-free options are clearly marked.

I was drawn to the Hainanese chicken rice ($15.90) and was richly rewarded. The rice was oily and aromatic, the mock-chicken included a crispy-skinned layer on top (it didn't have the typical poached texture, but was still delicious), there was a little pot of very spicy sauce, and some garden salad to freshen it all up. The raspberry iced tea ($5) was tangy-terrific, too.

Michael was also rather pleased with the sizzling hotplate noodle ($17.90), which arrived furiously bubbling and steaming. It included heaps of veges in BBQ sauce, and a few pieces of mock-char siew on top.

I've since been back for the Zinger Tower burger ($16.90, including chips) and it was one of the best life-after-KFC burgers I've ever eaten (messy as heck, though!). So it's official: The Origin Tales is our new favourite convenience food.


The Origin Tales
41 Lygon St, Brunswick East
8383 9061
entrees & mains, mains, burgers, sides & desserts, drinks, specials

Accessibility: There's a shallow ramp on entry, densely spaced tables and a wide corridor through the middle. We ordered at the table and paid at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Xenia Food Store

October 3, 2018

Xenia Food Store is a Greek restaurant that popped up late last year, in one of newer apartment buildings lining Lygon St in Brunswick. Soon after, we read news on facebook that they proudly tout their vegetarian and vegan options, offering discounted vegan banquets on Tuesday and Wednesday nights ($30 per person, compared to a usual $40 per person). We rallied our friend Lisa and made it a banquet for three earlier this month.

The opening share plate impressed us all! We picked through olives and soft salty, marinated blocks of mock-feta, ate dolmades and falafels with our hands, and slathered eggplant and fava dips over soughdough bread. Our favourites were the large oval-shaped koupes, golden-fried bulgur wheat shells stuffed with savoury minced greens. We did not leave a skerrick.

The main meal was even heartier, and we had no choice but to leave a lot. (Not to worry, it travelled home with us to be reheated another day!) I'm not typically a huge fan of stuffed vegetables, but these rice-stuffed tomatoes and capsicums were good 'uns. The grain salad offered some contrasting chewiness to the the vegetables' collapsed softness, and the lemony roasted potatoes were always going to be a hit.

For dessert, Xenia have figured out vegan loukoumades, and they're very generous in their portioning. These crunchy little batter balls were sticky with syrup, dusted with crushed walnuts and cinnamon.

Xenia is a casual and comfortable option, and we reckon this discounted banquet is great value for money. I can foresee us popping in again on a lazy weeknight and simply ordering the vegan plate for 2 (which looks very much like our entree plate up top).


There's a positive review of a complimentary meal at Xenia over on consider the sauce.

Xenia Food Store
202 Lygon St, East Brunswick
9191 7206
meze, mains, sides, salads & sweets, banquetsdrinks 1drinks 2

Accessibility: Entry is flat and there's an average amount of space around the low tables and chairs. We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Oaty rhubarb muffins

September 29, 2018

I had some extra rhubarb in the fridge after making that salad, so I put it to work in these muffins. I've made something very much like them before, and blogged about it ten years ago. They were in pretty regular rotation for a while there.

This time around I made them vegan. Soy milk with a little apple cider vinegar instead of buttermilk, ground flax seed slush instead of an egg. This is actually much more pantry-friendly for us, and I didn't notice any difference in the muffins.

Let me warn you that this muffin batter is dense. It's all wholemeal flour and oats, with the brown sugar and spices not doing a lot to perk it up. It's lifted by the rhubarb strips and dots of citrus peel, so it's important to add the full quantity and get them distributed evenly through the batter.

The muffins freeze well and I've been packing one into my bag most workdays, letting it thaw through the morning and then pulling it out to break up the afternoon doldrums.

Vegan rhubarb-oat muffins
(veganised from this previously posted recipe)

1 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon flax seeds
3 tablespoons water
2 cups rhubarb
3 tablespoons raw sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 cups wholemeal flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup rolled oats
2 teaspoons of spice - I used a mix of ginger, cinnamon and Chinese five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
40g candied citrus peel, diced

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a muffin tray

In a small-medium bowl, mix together the soy milk and vinegar. Set it aside to curdle.

Wash and trim the rhubarb; chop into 3cm lengths. drop them into a medium-large saucepan and add the raw sugar. Turn on a low-medium heat and cook the rhubarb, stirring regularly, until the sugar has melted and the rhubarb softens slightly. Set it aside to cool a bit.

Place the flax seeds in a spice grinder and grind to a powder. Add the water and blend until as smooth as possible. Whisk the flax mixture into the soy milk bowl. Whisk in the vegetable oil and brown sugar until well combined. When the rhubarb has cooled somewhat, stir it in too.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, oats, spices and salt. Toss through the candied peel, making sure the pieces are separated and lightly coated in flour.

Pour the soy milk mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Spoon the batter into the muffin tray and bake it for about 15-20 minutes, until they pass the skewer test.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Beetroot & rhubarb salad

September 26, 2018

Here's an Ottolenghi recipe I dug up from 7 years ago! It's a salad that centres on a crimson sweet'n'sour medley of roasted beetroot, rhubarb and pomegranate molasses. 

It's got a fairly restrained ingredient list by Ottolenghi standards, and comes together without too much fuss on a weeknight. The beetroots take a while to roast, admittedly, but they don't need to be handled too much, their skin comes off easily post-roast, and they're beautifully tender. I'm going to use this approach again and again. The rhubarb's even less effort sitting on the second oven shelf, the dressing just needs a little shake in a jar, and then there's dabs of blue cheese and a sprinkle of fresh parsley on top.

I tossed in some fresh green leaves and called this a meal, though I'll confess that the dense beetroots and rich cheese didn't keep me quite as full as I hoped they would. Storing the components separately allowed me to re-make the salad for days, and it still felt fresh every time.

Beetroot & rhubarb salad
(slightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe in The Guardian)

800g beetroots
300g rhubarb
1 tablespoon caster sugar
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
100g creamy blue cheese
20g parsley, roughly chopped
salt and pepper

Preheat an oven to 200°C.

Give the beetroots a little scrub and trim off any stems or roots. Wrap each beetroot separately in foil and place them all on a baking tray. Bake the beetroots until tender, up to 70 minutes (my medium-large ones were done in 60 minutes). Allow the beetroots to cool. When you can handle them, unwrap them, peel off the skin and chop the flesh into 2 cm cubes.

While the beetroots are baking, trim the rhubarb and slice it at a angle into 2.5 cm lengths. Toss together the rhubarb and sugar in a small bowl, then spread them out across a paper-lined baking tray. Roast the rhubarb for 10-12 minutes, until soft but still holding its shape. Allow the rhubarb to cool.

In a small glass jar, shake together the vinegar, pomegranate molasses, maple syrup, olive oil, allspice, salt and pepper until emulsified. In a medium bowl, toss together the beetroot cubes and this dressing.

On a serving dish, layer up the beetroot and rhubarb. Cut the blue cheese into dabs and drop them over the salad; sprinkle over the parsley.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

The Reverence Hotel IV

September 23, 2018

Last time we visited The Rev, we lamented that the for-sale signs might be forecasting its demise. Happily, 18 months later, they're still hosting live music, trivia nights, taco Tuesdays and big veg-friendly pub meals all week long. The menu still follows the same themes - deep-fried everything, plenty of mock meat and vegan cheese, with lots of Mexican-ish meals alongside burgers and pizzas.

Unusually, it was Michael who picked out the fish burger ($18) - here it's a dense battered mock-fillet layered with tartare sauce, beetroot relish, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and onions, and then a side of fries. It was rich, yet nothing that Michael couldn't handle.

After some lengthy indecision and consultation, I picked out the smoked chicken pizza ($15) and shared around a couple of slices. The base had that uniform supermarket vibe, but the toppings were more lively: napoli and melty-enough cheese, mock chicken pieces, spring onion, pineapple and some very hot little chilli rings, all drizzled with barbecue sauce.

I left enough room to help our friend Natalie out with those chocolate nachos ($15) that we'd previously noted on the menu. The concept is deeply questionable, but the execution is really very impressive! The Rev kitchen have worked cocoa and a little sugar into their flour tortilla dough, then fried it up into chips - these were topped with scoops of vegan icecream, crushed nuts, strawberry wedges and stripes of chocolate sauce. It's a fun, crunchy and very shareable sundae.

Though we barely make it to the Rev more than once a year, we really like what they do and it seems that plenty of locals do, too!

You can also read about one, two, three of our previous visits to The Rev.

The Reverence Hotel
28 Napier St, Footscray
9687 2111

Accessibility: There's a small step at the (narrowish) front door, but the side door is flat and wide. Inside things are fairly spread out, with at most small steps between the bar, side-room and courtyard. We ordered and paid at the bar, and didn't visit the toilets.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Yuba-mushroom cheesesteak sandwiches

September 22, 2018

When we're in the mood for an all-day food project, we often turn to Serious Eats. Most recently, we had a crack at their veganised Philly cheesesteak. We've never tried the real thing - a soft long roll filled with many layers of thinly sliced steak and some mild and melty cheese - but we've had a few mock meat versions around Melbourne before.

What most appealed to me about this recipe is the use of layered bean curd sheets in place of the meat. We don't have a lot of experience cooking with it and I was keen to try it again. KFL Supermarket stocked numerous brands and forms, and we picked two to play around with. The first were just thin dried rectangles, and the second were thicker fried rings - I thought these latter ones might be a bit chewier and better at absorbing flavour.

Each component is a full recipe in itself. First, there's a mushroomy stock where the veges are roasted for maximum flavour. You can optionally smoke the yuba, but we just added a few teaspoons of liquid smoke instead as we later cooked it in the stock. A vegan cheese sauce gets its creaminess from blended simmered potato as well as cashews; it's spiced up with paprika, chipotles and jalapenos. Then there's onions slowly caramelised on the stovetop and more roasted mushrooms for the filling. It really is an all-afternoon affair!

The one core hiccup for us was cooking the bean curd sheets. They're thin and brittle, difficult to slice into strips and and not amenable to being coated in dark caramel as the recipe suggests. Even once the stock went in, I picked and prodded at the bean curds, adding a bit more water and trying to make sure each one had enough time submerged in liquid to soften properly. I wonder if the ones used by the Serious Eats team had a different form.

The finished rolls were sloppy and savoury and very enjoyable! And leftovers that we were glad to eat for days. But we didn't really pick up on the many nuanced ingredients that went in along the way - the stock was quite mild, the peppers barely perceptible, the mushrooms losing out to the volume of bean curd in the filling. Our minds are ticking over on a different version - less yuba (pre-soaked) and more mushrooms, sauteed in vegan Worcestershire and oyster sauces, and perhaps one of our other creamier vegan sauces. At this stage we're boldly hoping that we can quarter the effort and possibly even dial up the flavour along the way.

Yuba-mushroom cheesesteak sandwiches
(slightly adapted from a recipe on Serious Eats)

mushroom stock
560g button mushrooms, brushed and quartered
1 onion, quartered
8 cloves garlic, roughly smashed
1 large carrot, cut into large chunks
4 ribs celery, cut into large chunks
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon beef-style stock powder

cheese sauce
6 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 chipotle pepper plus 1 teaspoon adobo sauce, all chopped finely
1 small potato, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup roasted cashews
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon hot sauce
2 teaspoons pickling liquid from a jar of jalapeños

sandwich filling
2 onions, thinly sliced
6 tablespoons sunflower oil
200g king oyster mushrooms, shredded lengthwise
salt and pepper
1/4 cup caster sugar
400g bean curd sheets (yuba), sliced into thick strips
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

6 long rolls

Start with the mushroom stock! Preheat an oven to 230°C. In a large bowl, mix together the mushrooms, onion, garlic, carrot and celery. Add 4 tablespoons of the oil and the salt and toss everything together. Spread the veges out over two baking trays and roast them, tossing them around every 15 minutes, until they're dark brown, about 45 minutes total.

Set a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and the tomato paste, cooking for up to 5 minutes, until dark brown. Add 1.5 litres of water, the roasted vegetables and the stock powder. Simmer everything together for 45 minutes. Strain out the solids and keep the stock for the following steps.

Next, the cheese sauce. Pour the oil into a medium-large saucepan and set it over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and jalapeño, and cook them, stirring regularly, until soft but not browned. Add the cumin, paprika, garlic powder and chipotle with sauce and cook for a further a minute. Add the potatoes and cashews, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the water and almond milk and bring it all to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and add the hot sauce, pickle juice and salt. Use a blender or spice grinder to make the smoothest sauce you can (it's a tough ask with all those potato chunks!).

Time to prepare the sandwich filling. In a small frypan, heat 3 tablespoons of oil over low-medium heat. Add the onions and cook slowly, stirring regularly, until thoroughly caramelised, about 30 minutes. Set aside.

Get that oven back up to 230°C. In a bowl, toss the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil through the king oyster mushrooms and season it all with salt and pepper. Spread them over a baking tray and roast until golden brown, up to 20 minutes.

Go back to your largest saucepan and set it over high heat. Add the sugar, and cook it until melted and browning. Add the yuba strips and, if you can, stir them around to get them coated in the caramel. Add the liquid smoke, paprika, garlic powder, and then pour over the mushroom stock. Simmer, stirring regularly, until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the yuba, about 15-20 minutes. (We added some extra water and put the lid of for a bit to get the yuba steaming, before taking it off to let liquid evaporate.) Turn off the heat and stir in the mustard. Fold through the sauteed onions and roasted king oyster mushrooms.

To assemble, slice each long roll lengthways. Spread 1/4 cup of cheese sauce on the bottom half of each roll, pile up the yuba-mushroom filling and pop the top back on.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

True North III

September 22, 2018

We've been consistently enjoying lunches and brunches (and even one trivia night) at True North for a few years now. We stopped in for lunch last weekend on our way to the KFL supermarket, and loved the look of TN's current menu! There's an entire separate page of vegan stuff, with gluten free options marked throughout. It follows the same themes as we've seen before, loosely inspired by Mexican ingredients (jalapenos, black beans, pico de gallo) and diner staples (bagels, mac'n'cheese, potato hash) with mock meats and dairy scattered throughout.

I surprisingly looked beyond the Vulgar Display of Pancake to the Facon the Law ($16), a toasted corn brioche roll stuffed with jalapeno scrambled tofu, facon, tomato, vegan cheddar, avocado, relish and rocket. It dripped juices everywhere, and the perfectly ripe avocado got a bit lost in the mix, but this was a mighty, squishy savoury joy.

Michael was just as delighted by the Blazin' Hash ($21), a huge plate containing half a roasted tomato, more of that jalapeno scrambled tofu, wilted spinach, chiptole BBQ mock duck, and a golden-fried brick of the most exquisite potato hash. 

I also wanna tip my hat to the drinks menu, which includes some lovely non-alcoholic options that aren't kombucha. It seems these folks make their own soda syrups, including a charming apple & rhubarb fizz ($5).

True North has achieved an impressive balance of still doing what it does best while also keeping the menu fresh. It means we're still bursting to blog it, even when our photos are overexposed and the cafe is four-to-five years past its instagrammable launch date.


You can read about our previous visits to True North here and here. Since then it's received positive write-ups from little vegan bearVeganopoulous and frenchtoastandindiepop.

True North
2A Munro St, Coburg
9917 2262
vegan food, booze

Accessibility: There's a small step on entry and a pretty crowded interior (especially on the weekends when the stools at the bar are in use). We ordered at the table and pay at a high counter. The toilet is a narrow non-gendered cubicle.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Lanzhou Beef Noodle Bar

September 16, 2018

Located on the edge of the University of Melbourne campus, I've passed Lanzhou Beef Noodle Bar and not paid any attention to it on countless walks and tram rides. But it unexpectedly turned up in our recent googlings of youpo mian, so we stopped in for an early low-fuss dinner after watching a movie at Nova. It was surprisingly tough to claim two seats at 5:30pm!

As the eatery's name suggests, this isn't really a spot for vegos. The one-page menu starts with three beef noodle soups, two beef noodles, and a cold noodle plate featuring - would you believe it? - beef. Then there's the youpo noodle ($11.80), helpfully labelled as vegan in green lettering! There appear to be a couple other veg options too, though they're not labelled: the 'capsiegg' noodle with soybean paste and a selection of sides.

I was determined not to order the lesser veg dish for a third time, so we doubled down on youpo. This one has the kudai/belt noodles we missed at Xi'an Famous! And there was no shortage of garlic and oil. I liked the chilli level, and there was more to hand at our table for Michael to dig into. In short, this had everything we've fondly recalled from the couple of youpo mian bowls we enjoyed in China! And all the more wonderful that we can revise the best noodle-pulling technique from the chefs while we wait.

We didn't dare imagine that we'd be accessing these noodles again so easily in Melbourne, but Lanzhou Beef Noodle Bar also has outlets in the city and in Caulfield as well as Carlton. They really couldn't be more convenient.

The only other blog review I've found is about the Caulfield outlet, on far fetched & fanciful.

Lanzhou Beef Noodle Bar
Shop 3, 743-751 Swanston St, Carlton (entry on Grattan St)
0452 596 756

Accessibility: There's a shallow ramp on entry. Furniture is densely packed high tables with backless stools. We ordered and paid at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


September 10 & 15, 2018

Regular readers will be well aware that we've well and truly bought into the Ottolenghi hype. There are nearly 70 posts on here based on Yotam recipes, so we were always going to pounce on his new book when it turned up in the shops. Simple promises the best of both worlds - all the deliciousness of Ottolenghi's recipes without the overly involved processes and ingredients that make them unsuitable for a school night. We couldn't wait to try it out.

The first recipe that caught our eye was tofu and French beans with chraimeh sauce. I couldn't help but laugh when one of the first steps in the recipe was toasting and hand-grinding some caraway seeds - only in an Ottolenghi recipe would this qualify as simple. To be fair, it actually was pretty easy and probably only takes half an hour to put together. I loved this simple mix of spicy tofu and crispy beans, but any subtlety in the sauce was a bit drowned out by our hot paprika - we'll soften the edges a bit next time we make it.

We followed up with one of the many recipes in Simple that seem a bit more like a side than a standalone meal - Brussels sprouts with black garlic. Again, black garlic is a pricey, niche ingredient and wouldn't turn up in too many books pitched as easy cooking, but this is Ottolenghi after all. We loved this - black garlic has a rich, complex flavour that works brilliantly with the slightly caramelised sprouts. We served it up with fresh bread and hummus, but it would work alongside almost anything.

So far, so good with Simple - both of these dishes would be easily whipped up on a work night and both really hit the mark. Don't go in expecting these recipes to actually be simple, but they're definitely a step down from a lot of Yotam's recipes - we'll report back as we try more.

Tofu and French beans with chraimeh sauce
(from Yotam Ottolenghi's Simple)

500g beans, trimmed
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
500g firm tofu, cut into 2cm cubes
15g coriander

6 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons hot paprika
1 tablespoon caraway seeds, lightly toasted and crushed in a mortar and pestle
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice

Get a medium saucepan of water boiling and add the beans, cooking for five minutes until cooked but still crunchy. Drain and refresh with cold water.

Put the sunflower oil into a frying pan and fry the tofu with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Give it a good 5-10 minutes - you want to get it nice and golden on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Make the sauce by mixing together the garlic, spices and oil in a small bowl. Add this mixture to a hot frying pan and fry for about a minute. Add the tomato paste, sugar, lime juice and a teaspoon of salt. Stir to combine and then add a cup of water to thin the sauce out. Bring to the boil and cook for a couple of minutes until the sauce thickens.

Add the beans and cook for another minute and then kill the heat. Stir through the tofu and coriander and serve with rice.

Brussels sprouts with burnt butter and black garlic
(from Yotam Ottolenghi's Simple)

450g Brussels sprouts, cut in half lengthways
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
20g black garlic
2 tablespoons thyme leaves
30g unsalted butter
30g pumpkin seeds, toasted
juice of a lemon
1 tablespoon tahini

Preheat the oven to 220°C.

Spread the sprouts out on a baking tray and sprinkle over a good shake of salt. Drizzle with olive oil and smush around a bit so the sprouts get nice and oily. Bake for 10 minutes, until golden brown.

Crush the caraway seeds in a mortar and pestle. Add the black garlic and thyme and crush some more to make a rough paste.

Heat the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook for 3-5 minutes until melted and dark brown. Add the garlic paste, sprouts, pumpkin seeds and more salt. Stir for a minute and kill the heat. Stir through the lemon juice and drizzle the tahini over it all. Serve.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Artichoke & chickpea salad

September 9, 2018

This is a salad that we've been enjoying for several years, thanks to Smith & Daughters. It's been on a couple of versions of their dinner and brunch menu, and it's also in their cookbook. It's hearty and hardy and pickley and just a bit toasted, something that works both as a side and as a main dish on its own. 

The original version pairs artichoke hearts with Jerusalem artichokes; I've gotten lazy about the root vegetable and just use regular old potatoes instead. My two other convenient pantry swaps are dried thyme instead of fresh, and maple syrup instead of agave.

This is the second or third time I've prepared it to share at a friend's house. It's usually tough enough to travel in its final serving state, but this one had a two and a half hour train journey between prep and presentation so I got finicky and packed many of the components separately. Rocket: in its own bag. Almonds: lightly roasted then jarred. Roasted potatoes and paprika chickpeas sharing one lunchbox, charred artichoke hearts and capers in another. Lemon-cumin dressing: jarred and ready for a last emulsifying shake before pouring. It was worth the effort to preserve all those textures, and the entire salad was happily demolished in a sitting, making the train trip home all the easier.

Artichoke & chickpea salad
(slightly adapted from Shannon Martinez & Mo Wyse's Smith & Daughters Cookbook)

1 can chickpeas
olive oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
small handful of slivered almonds
500g potatoes
2 teaspoons dried thyme
400g can artichoke hearts
45g capers
2 large handfuls rocket
salt and pepper

juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat an oven to 180°C.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas, then spread them out in a small-medium baking tray. Drizzle over the some olive oil, sprinkle in the paprika and add a little salt. Stir well and bake for 20-30 minutes (mine never really crisp up as promised).

This is a good opportunity to toast the almonds in a separate small baking dish. There's no need for oil! Just keep an eye on them to avoid burning - they'll only take about 5 minutes.

Scrub the potatoes and slice them into cubes, skin on. Place them in a large baking tray, drizzle them with olive oil, then add the thyme, plus some salt and pepper. Toss everything together, then bake the potatoes until tender, 30-40 minutes.

After the almonds are out of the oven and cooling, There's probably enough time to make the dressing. Place all of the ingredients in a lidded glass jar and give them a thorough shake.

Drain and lightly rinse the artichoke hearts, then slice them into quarters. Lightly dress them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Set a frypan on high heat and sear the artichokes on 1-2 sides. Remove the artichoke hearts. Drain the capers and pop them into the pan for just a minute, until they pop.

When it's time to serve, layer up the rocket, potatoes and chickpeas, artichokes and capers, then the almonds. Pour over the dressing and lightly toss everything together if you have the space.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Coke & peanuts sheet cake

August 30, 2018

Last month Slate pushed an article into my RSS reader pronouncing Coke and Peanut Butter Sheet Cake Is Sweet, Salty and Southern. A sweet and salty dessert with an offbeat ingredient list? I was very predictably Into It. I found the right excuse to make it soon enough: we set off on a long weekend in Forrest with a couple of friends and I resolved to take most of the cake along with us, leaving a quarter of it back home with our cat sitter.

This recipe is egg-free and pretty easy to veganise, so I went ahead and substituted Nuttelex for the original butter. This only goes a small way towards explaining the worrisome things I noticed as I proceeded. The cake batter was thick and a bit rubbery, and it barely stretched across the baking tray I'd chosen for it, even though this was smaller than the baking tray directed in the recipe. It never achieved the fluffiness of a fresh cake, and seemed to have two-day-old texture from the get-go. 

The peanut butter buttercream was incredibly rich, even by my tolerant standards, and licking the beaters was enough to have me feeling bloated. The quantity here seemed far too high: as you can see in my photo, the buttercream looms as tall as the cake itself! (I wonder if this recipe was tested well, because the photo accompanying the recipe shows very different proportions.)

Yet, somehow, these two not-quite-right components came together to make a pretty great cake. The Coca Cola didn't offer a distinct flavour, but the thick buttercream countered the dryness of the cake and it was very satisfying to eat with a spoon. While this wasn't the novelty experience I hoped for, it was a comforting treat as we lounged by the fire with a jigsaw.

Coke & peanuts sheet cake
(a veganised version of a recipe at food52)

500mL Coca-Cola
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
125g margarine, cut into tablespoon-sized pats
3 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
225g margarine, softened
3 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons soy milk
3/4 cup peanuts (roasted and salted), chopped

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Line a very large baking tray with paper and spray it with oil.

In a large saucepan, place together the cola, sugar, cocoa and margarine. Set it over medium heat and bring it to a high simmer, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat when the margarine has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Set the saucepan aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, bicarb soda and salt. Pour in the still-warm cola and whisk until smooth. Pour the cake batter into the baking tray and bake until it passes the skewer test, 15-20 minutes. Allow the cake to cool before you ice it.

Use an electric mixer to beat together the peanut butter and margarine. Gradually beat in the icing sugar, then the salt and vanilla. Add a little soy milk to loosen texture of the buttercream if needed. Beat for an extra 20 seconds after everything is well combined. Spread the buttercream over the cake. Sprinkle over the peanuts, and slice the cake to serve.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Northcote Fish & Chips

August 29, 2018

A few months back the veg*n telegraph pounced on the news that Northcote Fish & Chips were trialling a vegan menu, so when we were looking for a quick dinner in Northcote we headed straight there. The sign on the street promising vegan dim sims made it clear we were in the right place.

The vegan menu has mock prawns and scampi, a pumpkin burger, mushy peas, salad plus dim sims, fish, chips and potato cakes. We stuck with a a pretty classic fish and chip shop order - a couple of dim sims ($1 each from memory), a serve of the Vish ($8.5), a scoop of chips ($3.9) and a couple of potato cakes ($1.25 each). 

The dim sims were fine - I'm not hugely nostalgic for them, but they're nice fried little parcels of cabbage and other veggies, served with some soy sauce for dunking.

The fish was the star of the show - an oatmeal and soy fillet, wrapped in nori and beer-battered. It absolutely delivers the fried fishy goodness you've been missing. Throw in some excellent crispy potato cakes and good chips and you've got the perfect mock fish meal. The guy who runs the joint is super friendly and it's very well located - this place is destined to become a Melbourne vego staple.


The only other post we can find about Northcote Fish and Chip is Messy Veggies announcing the vegan range back in July.

Northcote Fish & Chips
341 High Street, Northcote
9482 9079
vegan menu

Accessibility: There's a flat but narrow entryway and a few well spaced tables inside. You order and pay at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Tidbit cakes & cafe

August 26, 2018

I first got to know Rhi through her blog Vegan in Melbourne and was very excited for her when she opened her own business, Tidbit cakes, in Richmond. Rhi's primary trade is in special occasion cakes but she also sells smaller daily treats from her brightly lit workspace. Everything is vegan.

Sadly our lunchtime visit was too late to claim any of the sausage rolls, but we were well satisfied with the toasties still available. Rhi blends two vegan cheeses to get the best combination of meltiness (Bio Cheese) and flavour (Vegusto). I liked that the pesto, tomato & cheese version ($10) was seedy and nutty, and loved the mustard and pickle piquance of the ham/cheese/tomato standard ($12.50).

There's a couple of little tables to eat in at Tidbit, but Rhi had also pointed out to me the dog park just down the street, so we had our sweets boxed up for a takeaway in the late winter sun. While we watched lots of cute canines frolicking, we split two excellent desserts. This is one of the best vegan cheesecakes ($7) I've ever eaten - super smooth and without a whiff of tofu, with a thick chocolatey biscuit base (get outta here, raw date crusts). We made a magnificent mess of the nutella brownie ($6), which was super-dooper fudgy, with just a little welcome crustiness around the edges.

Though we didn't buy any on this day, these guys make the most stunning vegan macarons! Sadly for us, Richmond's outside our regular circle of movement, but you can bet we'll stop in again (hopefully for a sausage roll) when we're within Tidbit's range.

Tidbit has also appeared on the blog messy veggies.

Tidbit cakes & cafe
255 Mary St, Richmond
0434 872 867

Accessibility: There's a ramp on entry and more floor space than furniture inside. We ordered and paid at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Xi'an Famous

August 19, 2018

As we expounded upon our new love for youpo mian, Laura Jean McKay suggested that we give Melbourne's Xi'an Famous a go. This mini-chain has outlets in the CBD, Carlton and Caulfield, and we figured the CBD one would be a convenient dinner stop before settling in for a MIFF movie.

Online reviews warned us that this isn't a place for vegetarians, but we noticed a solid choice or two in each section of the menu: hot and cold rice or wheat noodles with chilli or sesame; a vegetable or egg burger; little fried pancakes and pies; vegetable dumplings; and cold dishes like chilli oil bean curd and shredded potato.

But we were here to test out the big bowls of noodles! Ensuring we had some variation on the youpo mian, I ordered the tomato and egg noodle ($12.80). It was enormous, with a very mild and almost milky broth, plenty of tomato and egg fragments floating through, and a large submerged mass of noodles (the same as the ones below). The overall effect was a bit bland and soupy, and yet again I was jealous of Michael's superior order!

He had, of course, the youpo mian - called spicy hot oil seared hand ripped noodles ($12.80) in English on the menu. The garlic-chilli dressing was exactly what we fondly recalled from our couple of bowls in China. I was again tentative about the chilli intensity, but it was well within my tolerance. The noodles, though, were a bit of a let-down: far from the wide flat belts we loved, these were more thick and slender and thus, much chewier.

This eatery has a casual, help-yourself style; the staff confirmed with us what was vegetarian and were quick to turn around the food. While this wasn't quite the youpo mian we're yearning for, I'd gladly return to order it (and maybe some of the other fried things!) again.


Xi'an Famous
260 Russell St, Melbourne
9663 3993
noodlesnoodles & fried thingssoups, noodles & dumplingscold dishes & drinks

Accessibility: There's a small step on entry. Inside, furniture is a mixture of low tables with backed chairs and high tables with stools; they're densely arranged with a clear corridor through the middle (see photos above). We ordered and paid at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Union Kiosk

August 18, 2018

Cindy and I needed a CBD lunch before hitting Alia Shawkat's MIFF event. We'd usually revisit Shandong Mama, but we decided to take a break from Chinese food and hit up Union Kiosk. It's a tiny hole-in-the-wall place on a little laneway pumping out a wide array of vegan toasties and coffee. It's kind of incredible to think that Melbourne can support a wholly vegan jaffle place - we've come a long way since this blog began in 2006. 

Anyway, the menu offers up eight savoury and two sweet jaffles, ranging from delights like veg bolognaise, garlic butter and mozzarella through to a melted hazelnut Vego bar jammed between two bits of bread. It's charmingly inventive for a place with such a narrow focus. I ordered the special - roast chicken, gravy and cheese ($8). The 'chicken' was jackfruit based (kind of reminiscent of our go-to jackfruit chicken recipe) and deliciously smothered in impressively melty cheese and a decent gravy. Cindy was even bolder, ordering the jerk jackfruit with cheese and chilli pineapple ($7 - pictured, right below). She loved it, insisting it was better than mine, with nice spices on the jackfruit jerk and a decent amount of pineapple dotted throughout (a terrible mistake, if you ask me).

We grabbed some takeaway sweets for our walk to the theatre - a berry crumble slice for me and a chocolate peanut butter sandwich cookie for Cindy. They both did the job very nicely.

Union Kiosk is a fantastic CBD option - a wholly vegan place that has really nailed down a niche. We'll be back!

There are a couple of very positive reviews of Union Kiosk on veggie blogs The Good Hearted and Messy Veggies.

Union Kiosk
3/306 Little Collins St (on Causeway Lane)
0413 402331
menu board

Accessibility: Union Kiosk is tucked in a crowded, uneven laneway. There are only a couple of tiny tables with low stools. You order and pay at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.