Friday, July 13, 2018

Vegie Mum

July 4, 2018

Note: we arranged this dinner intending to pay our bill in full. We received one entree and a bottle of non-alcoholic sparkling wine without charge during our visit.

We were both excited and wary when Vegie Mum announced that they'd be opening up a second restaurant in Fitzroy. We've had some great meals at the original Doncaster restaurant, but can the Brunswick St restaurant strip really support another veg restaurant, let alone more Buddhist-style mock meat? I swung back entirely to excitement when Steph spontaneously invited me and Danni to share as many dishes as possible with her during their opening week.

The atmosphere was truly celebratory, with the restaurant owner owning the floor all night, red-ribboned good-luck bouquets spilling out of the foyer, and many customers recognised as family, friends, and customers of the Doncaster restaurant. We were treated to a couple of complimentary items, and it's unclear whether they were extended to all diners that night, or a little something extra because Danni let slip that there was a blogger at our table.

The Pei King duck (~$9) was all our idea, though. This wasn't the dense, 5-spice-flavoured duck I'm most accustomed to, but a lighter layered yuba with a delicate crispy skin.

Soon after, the owner cheerfully pressed a bottle of Mango Tango sparkling drink on us and urged us to sample a Chinese salami that the chef has been playing around with. It had the dots of fat that evoke smallgoods, and more of that crispy yuba skin I was keen on, not to mention an impressive carved carrot garnish.

The rest of the meal was our choice. A bowl of Mapo Tofu ($18) was only mildly spicy, with veges rather than a mock mince. By comparison, the Char Kuay Teow ($13) was studded with at least two kinds of mock meat, and the best kind of slippery-smoky noodles.

The restaurant owner and Steph exclaimed together over the Nyonya Fish ($15), and they were justified in doing so. I think, though, that Danni and I were ultimately more excited by the Shanghai sweet and sour pork ribs ($19), picking them off their wooden 'bones' and dragging them through as much sauce as we could.

We'd strategically over-ordered to take leftovers home, and had just enough room to share dessert. The banana fritter ($8) does the job, and is served with dairy-based icecream (though Steph duly informed them about the easy vegan alternatives available just down the street at the Cruelty Free Shop).

And that's the one minor warning: although most of the menu is vegan (and I suspect that it is all vegan adaptable), it's not clearly labelled. Speak up when they're taking your order and there's a good chance all will be well. Coeliacs will probably have a tougher time of it.

We, at least, had a terrific time of it. While I'm sure that first-opening exuberance will calm down over the coming weeks, I'm hopeful that Vegie Mum will establish itself as a welcoming and well-attended veg*n restaurant in this competitive neighbourhood.

You can also read about our first and second visits to the original Vegie Mum in  Doncaster.

Vegie Mum
72 Johnston St, Fitzroy
9417 6688
entrees, soups & 'seafood'; other mains & dessert; banquet menu; drinks

Accessibility: There's a step up on entry. The interior is flat with moderately crowded furniture. We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

White beans, 'bacon' & leeks on polenta

June 30, 2018

I've been having some dental treatments this month, so I'm treating my mouth with a little extra care and trepidation. There've been soups and smoothies and the odd soothing bowl of ice cream, soft breads and sautes. Eventually I messed up, ordering yoghurt at a cafe that arrived with granola all over it - those deliciously crunchy quinoa clusters easily snapped one of my temporary plastic 'teeth'.

While I walked home early to book an extra repair appointment, Michael shopped for this blessedly gentle meal. It's based on a low key recipe shared by 'kitchen hand' on his long-running blog, What I Cooked Last Night, and it dates all the way back to 2007. A leek is cooked in white wine until very soft, then teamed with (mock, in our case) bacon, a can of white beans and plenty of parsley; it's all piled on top of soft polenta. It's warming, savoury, comforting. Soft enough for my beleaguered mouth, but varied enough in texture and flavour to enjoy in good health too.

White beans, 'bacon' & leeks on polenta
(slightly adapted from a recipe on What I Cooked Last Night)

70g mock bacon
1 large leek
1 can white beans (e.g. canellini, butter, ...)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
3/4 cup parsley, roughly chopped
1L 'chicken' stock
1 cup polenta
3/4 cup parmesan, grated (omit for a vegan version)
salt and pepper

Chop the mock bacon into 1cm squares. Finely slice the leek. Drain the beans.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a frypan and cook the mock bacon until it's dark and a bit crisp. Transfer the mock bacon to a plate. Heat the second tablespoon of oil in the frypan, add the leek and the white wine. Cover the pan and cook the leeks over low heat for 10 minutes.

While the leeks are cooking, bring the stock to a boil in a large saucepan. Gradually whisk the polenta into the stock and, once it's back up to a boil, turn down the heat. Stir the polenta continously as it cooks and thickens, about 10 minutes. Stir in the parmesan until it's melted and season to taste. Turn off the heat and put a lid on the polenta to keep it warm.

When the leeks are very soft, take off the lid. Add the drained beans, parsley and 'bacon' to heat them through.

Spoon the polenta into shallow bowls and pile the leek mixture on top to serve.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Kale & leek bake

June 11, 2018

We decided to use the Monday public holiday to cook up something new (you might have noticed that the blog is very heavy on the restaurants these days - we're still cooking, but mostly old favourites). I flipped through the Smith & Daughters cookbook and settled on this kale and leek bake - it seemed perfect for the wintery turn that Melbourne's taken. There's a bit of faffing around - you flavour up some soy milk stock, separately cook the leek and the kale, stir together a cheesy sauce to bind it all together and fry up some chunky garlic bread crumbs for the top. 

It's worth it though - hearty and thick, with an impressive cheesiness for a vegan bake. The crunchy breadcrumbs on top make it and we happily worked our way through the bake for work lunches all week. This will definitely come into our winter rotation. We served it up with this bbq baked tofu recipe, which was another winner - probably a bit more effort than you can really justify when you have so many other great tofu options, but a smoky, spicy treat to go alongside our cheesy bake.

Kale & leek bake
(slightly adapted from Shannon Martinez & Mo Wyse's Smith & Daughters Cookbook)

2 cups soy milk
1 cup veggie stock
3 garlic cloves, two minced and one smashed
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
small bunch parsley chopped (set the stems aside)
4 leeks, halved and cut into 1 cm pieces (set the green ends aside)
80g Nuttelex
olive oil
1 large bunch of kale, stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup flour
120g shredded cheese (we use BioCheese because it melts well)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 cups stale bread, cubed

Pour the soy milk and stock into a saucepan and throw in the smashed garlic, fennel seeds, bay leaves, peppercorns, parsley stems and whichever green leek bits you can squeeze in. 

Bring to the boil and then take the mix off the heat and leave it all to infuse for 15 minutes. Strain the liquid into a bowl and throw out the stems, seeds etc.

Heat a tablespoon of the Nuttelex and a glug of olive oil in a frying pan and cook the white leek pieces with a pinch of salt. Give it 10 minutes or so until it's softened completely. Set aside.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Throw in a pinch of salt and the kale leaves. Cook them for 3-4 minutes until they've softened but are still bright green. Drain and refresh under some cold water to stop them from over-cooking.

Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease up a large baking dish.

Melt the rest of the Nuttelex in a frying pan. Add half the crushed garlic plus the thyme and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the flour and stir thoroughly until you get a paste. Cook for another minute or so and then gradually add the infused soy milk stock, whisking to keep it all smooth. Add the shredded cheese and mustard and keep cooking until the cheese is all melted through.

Fry the bread cubes in some olive oil along with the chopped parsley and the rest of the garlic. Cook for a few minutes until the cubes are crispy and lightly golden. Set aside.

Stir the leeks and the kale leaves into the cheesy sauce and then pour the whole mix into your baking tray. Top with the garlic bread cubes and bake for 20 minutes.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Huong Viet Vegetarian & Vegan

June 11, 2018

After a morning wander around Point Cook, we took advantage of this rare westside excursion to lunch with Lisa and the Moody Noodles. To our delight, Huong Viet was open on this public holiday and happy to hold a table for us. We piled in and keenly scanned the menu - by my reckoning it's all vegan with the exception of their potato wedges with mayonnaise. Unfortunately there's not a lot for coeliacs, with mock meat abounding. K was limited to a plate of tofu-stuffed rice paper rolls, and the staff were very understanding about avoiding soy sauce and what dipping condiments would work for her.

The rest of us took to the Vietnamese menu with gusto, starting with some pleasantly peppery spring rolls ($8). I rehydrated with a coconut juice ($3.50), which wasn't bobbing with sweet coconut flesh as I'd secretly hoped it would be.

The Hainan chicken rice ($15, pictured above left) was very popular around the table - the chicken was juicy, the rice oily, and the dipping sauce brightly flavoured. The claypot of saute pork chops ($15, above right) was Lisa's pick of the table.

Meanwhile, I was more devoted to the saute duck ($15, above left), with its tender texture and layer of 'skin'. The deep-fried mackerel ($15, above right) had the pungency of its namesake and a terrific ginger sauce.

Three of our dishes ended up looking a bit samey, but we all found different things to enjoy among them, eagerly shifting the options from one end of the table to the other and soaking up the sauces in our rice bowls.

The staff were welcoming, helpful with ordering, and didn't rush us out. I wouldn't hesitate to come back and do it all again.


Huong Viet has already received positive coverage on Veganopoulous.

Huong Viet Vegetarian & Vegan
36A Leeds St, Footscray
9041 3922
menu page 1, menu page 2specials
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a step up on entry. The interior furniture is moderately crowded. We ordered at the table and paid at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Smith & Daughters X

June 10, 2018

We had such a good time trying out the new Italian-themed Smith & Daughters dinner menu that we joined the same friends just a few weeks later to have a shot at brunch. It's had the same kind of makeover, with old favourites like the hash and the pancakes making way for breakfast pizza, meatballs and bombolini. Cindy kicked off with a grapefruit juice ($7.50) - it's great that they're doing the fresh juices again.

The four of us put our heads together and came up with a food plan - 3 savoury mains plus a couple of small dishes and then breakfast dessert. We started with the spaghetti frittata ($12), which is served at room temperature with a wonderful tomato sauce. This hit the spot, but we all needed some hot dishes to warm us up in these dreadful winter months.

That came with our savoury mains: parmesan scramble (with broccoli rabe, chilli, lemon and garlic, $19), the mushrooms and ricotta on toast (with garlic and crispy orgeno, $20) and the breakfast pizza (pesto, mozzarella, tofu scramble, prosciutto, fried capers, chilli, parmesan and rocket, $20). 

Everyone was gaga for the two toasty dishes - the scramble has become a home-made favourite here since we got the cookbook, but the restaurant always delivers something better than we can whip up. It's eggy but not overwhelmingly so and paired perfectly with the lemony greens. 

The mushrooms and ricotta were possibly even better. The mock-ricotta doesn't really mimic the cheese, but it's a rich savoury spread that brings out the best in the mixed mushroom combo on top.

The pizza was possibly my favourite - a crispy base topped with that glorious tofu along with some chunks of fresh chilli and little bursts of fried caper goodness. I'd ditch the rocket on pizza as a general principle, but otherwise this was top notch.

We eventually got our final savoury dish - the potato skins were sold out, but they served us up a different spud dish instead: roasted potatoes with an olive-y mash to give it a salt and vinegar-y flavour. (These came out late, so we got them for free.) We could barely make a dent in them at this point, but they were a huge hit (and we roundly enjoyed the leftovers at home later).  

For breakfast dessert we couldn't resist an order of the bombolini (5 baby doughnuts filled with vanilla bean custard, $16) and a serve of the limoncello rice pudding (with a fresh citrus salad and rosemary vanilla ice cream, $15). They came out with candles and sparklers because Nat and I were both celebrating birthdays and because Mo is a delight.

The doughnuts are always delightful - hot and crispy, with a big spurt of delicious custard inside. The rice pudding was a slightly less impressive version of our dinner dessert - it was still fantastic, but it missed the crispy brulee top.

This new Italian version of Smith & Daughters is really kicking some goals - both our recent dinner and this brunch are among the best meals we've had since they opened. I love that they can reinvent themselves like this and can't wait to see what comes next (after we go back a few more times during this iteration of course).


You can also read about one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine of our previous visits. Nobody seems to have blogged it in the few weeks since our last visit.

Smith & Daughters
175 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
9939 3293
brunch menu

Accessibility: The entry is flat and narrow and the tables are pretty crowded. The interior is dimly lit and loud at night but much brighter in the daytime. Toilets are located up several steps, are gendered and of standard dimension. We ordered at the table and paid at a high counter.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Etta II

June 9, 2018

Michael's birthday fell during a work trip this year, and we made sure to book a special meal out to celebrate a couple of weeks later. In the interim, we learned that Michael's chosen restaurant hasn't been paying its staff the superannuation they're owed, so we cancelled our spot and returned to Etta instead.

This second wonderful experience at Etta has cemented it as our first preference for all foreseeable special occasions! Their vegetarian 'leave it to us' spread ($65 per person) was a delight from start to finish, and an interesting seasonal contrast to the late-spring version we enjoyed there last year.

A nice little bonus is the couple of housemade seasonal sodas ($8 each) available for those of us who aren't feeling boozy. I started with the zestier grapefruit, rosemary and juniper one (pictured above right), while Michael chose the lighter spiced apple (above left).

Thankfully, no matter the season, Etta have spongey sourdough and their incredible burnt butter ready to go. These were rapidly followed by crudité with concentric pools of chèvre and watercress emulsion.

An entree of battered chickpea fritter, globe artichokes and sorrel ranked among my favourites of the night.

We learned that there's one special dish that is always, always on the menu by popular demand - the tamari roasted buttercup pumpkin wedge. While we all liked it the first time, it made a stronger impression on me on this visit - the accompanying sauce was so deeply savoury, reminding me of white miso, and the sunflower seeds were roasted to their nuttiest. It was well accompanied by a plate of Brussel sprouts, some of their leaves holding spoonfuls of labneh, and all of them seasoned with a seaweed powder.

The mains were a little more than we could handle! Eggplant a la greque (pictured above left) was impossibly sweet, served in a puddle of tofu creme and smothered in panko. Potato gnocchi (pictured above centre) were almost glazed in butter and accompanied with hearty pine mushrooms and chestnuts. Dutch cream potatoes (pictured above right) were roasted to crusty golden perfection, deceptively garlicky, and crowned with crunchy saltbush. We could barely do those beauties justice.

We asked for 10 minutes extra mercy before dessert came out, and it proved to be a magical combination of fresh, tart and comforting in a teeny bowl. A sphere of mandarin sorbet was dropped into a cheesecake of custard consistency; it's covered with a spoon of warm ginger caramel and a few vesicles of native finger lime.

This is one of the more exciting, satisfying high end meals we've experienced in recent years (only Ubud's Locavore comes to mind as an equal), and it's a bit more accessible than most. As we ate, we tried to concoct all sorts of ways to visit Etta more often. Could we just drop in for a drink after work, maybe order that butter bread? Invite a friend and snack on the potatoes...? Just have the gnocchi and call it dinner...? Or sneak in late for dessert? Whatever the excuse, we've vowed to return when we can and keep supporting this lovely restaurant.

You can read about our first visit to Etta here.

60 Lygon St, Brunswick
9448 8233

Accessibility: The entry is flat and there is one step up from the bar area to the dining area. Tables are moderately spaced and lighting is quite dim. We received full table service. Toilets are unisex and spacious, but we didn't notice handrails or other mobility aids.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Novel Sydney eats

June 1-3, 2018

My Sydney weekend wasn't all old faves; we planned some new activities and foods! The centrepiece was a night inside the Sydney Opera House's Concert Hall, featuring the phenomenal Solange. Her performance will go down as one of my all-time favourite live events (and I've tucked one more photo of her at the end of this post).

A day earlier, travelling into Sydney by train, my weekend companion made the outrageous suggestion that we lunch at the all-vegan Gelato Blue. We did, and we loved it! I ordered a hot-and-cold doughnut sundae ($13): a warmed-up cinnamon-sugar doughnut and a large scoop of gelato joined together with wonderfully weird waffle cone limbs, all drizzled in Ice Magic-style chocolate sauce and crushed nuts. The chocolate hazelnut scoop I chose was lightly salted and very, very good - though the embellishments were delightful, methinks this gelato doesn't actually need dressing up.

The Buddha Bowl Cafe was a nice low-key spot for Saturday brunch. It's vegan by default with a few vegetarian options (halloumi, eggs, dairy milk) available as add-ons. This place has a wholefood vibe, with all the hits (avocado, hummus, a rainbow of fresh produce) and misses (kombucha on tap, blue algae lattes, raw-only cakes) that entails. My plate was the biggest hit at the table: sourdough French toast made with coconut cream ($12), served with maple syrup, date caramel, dried coconut, coconut yoghurt and lots of fresh banana.


A day later, Another Outspoken Female and her Significant Eater whisked me off to the very popular Petty Cash Cafe. I loved its homely, cluttered atmosphere; mismatched crockery, tea cosies and crocheted knee blankets for those of us sitting outside. Though Petty Cash does serve meat, it's made some special efforts for its veg*n customers, such as scrambled tofu, vake (fake bacon), and fluffy chia-based vegan pancakes. While I was initially drawn to the Vegan Big Brekkie, I ended up doubling down on French toast ($17.90), receiving excellent golden slices of sourdough with just enough maple syrup and plenty of crispy-then-chewy vake.

My one disappointment was that the seasonal fresh fruit I saw listed amounted to a single strawberry garnish (most likely my fault for misreading the menu), but AOF generously shared the bananas and raspberry sauce that accompanied her pancakes.


These were all beaut meals, though it's the time I spent with people - a couple of Melbourne mates, a handful of Sydney-siders and, from an admiring distance, Solange Knowles - that I'll remember best from this weekend away. Nevertheless, the story of That Time We Lunched At Gelato Blue might last a couple of rounds... !

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Sydney reruns

June 1-2, 2018

I just had a whirlwind weekend in Sydney with a friend! Circular Quay was showing off its Vivid projections by night, and we followed the early nightfall with a couple of early dinners at restaurants we already knew and loved.

On Friday we eased into Vina without a reservation, though it filled up and turned tables a couple times while we were settled with a local friend. Vina has had a complete refit since my first visit! The vegan Vietnamese menu is still a good one; we grazed on steamed dumplings and fried wontons ($6.80 per plate) and tentatively folded our own lemongrass mock-beef and tofu rice paper rolls ($16). The highlight was probably the bubbling vegan fish stew in ginger mushroom sauce ($16.80). Next time: the Chef's Special vegan duck.

Our Saturday night visit to Bodhi with a fellow Melbournite was much more carefully planned. The restaurant's evening menu is a la carte, but includes many of the small shared dishes offered during their more famous vegan yum cha. We dived into the mocktail list ($14.50 each, the sweet-and-sour toilet-cleaner-blue Just My Imagination is pictured above) and ordered so much deliciousness to share! The BBQ buns ($9.50) were lighter than usual, and I loved the gua bao bun 'slider' ($17) stuffed with salt and pepper 'chicken', Malay peanut sauce, cucumber and herbs. The laksa ($25) was difficult to divide, but perfect comfort food on a blustery night.

Though we would have gladly eaten at Bodhi three more times, we checked in to a few new eateries too; they're up next.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Smith & Daughters IX

May 22, 2018

Note: we booked this meal intending to pay our bill in full. Mo comped us a couple of extra dishes, meaning that we paid for the $132 of food we ordered and received two extra dishes worth $34 free of charge.

Smith & Daughters has had an amazing menu makeover for winter! They're going for all-out carby comfort food with an Italian theme, dubbing it Smith & Bellas. In surprisingly good news for coeliacs, more than half of these new dishes include a gluten-free option. We booked in with a couple of friends to share as much as we possibly could.

First up: meatballs! (Usually $12 for 3, we paid $16 for 4, above left.) They've got the right minced-meat texture, are smothered in a lovely sweet napoli, and boast some impressive parmesan. The garlic bread ($8, above right) was my must-order starter, and it was resplendent in its foil-wrapped pizza-delivery glory.

The creamed silverbeet ($10, above left) was silky soft, perked up with a little preserved lemon and chilli. Though we hadn't ordered it, Mo knew we needed the show-stopping carpaccio (complimentary on the night, usually $18, above right). They've somehow made their own flat, smoky mock-meat, which we were encouraged to roll up with a fig slice, horseradish cream, fried capers and rocket, then wrap around a crisp fennel bread stick. Wow.

These shared dishes had me excited and genuinely appetised for the mains! And here things got heavy. The gnocchi ($22, above left) were the softest little dumplings with as much broccoli rabe pesto and cream as we could possibly swirl them through. The cacio e pepe ($25, above right) looked deceptively simple but these bucatini were dressed in copious quantities of black fermented garlic, a little parmesan and two kinds of pepper. My pick, though, was the ragu and polenta ($24, main photo) - the polenta was so creamy and cheesy, and the ragu? Some of the most convincing mock meat I've ever eaten, mimicking the tenderness of a slow-cooked tough cut in a sweet gravy. Just astounding.

I was determined that we couldn't leave without dessert, and we agreed on two to share among the four of us. Mo put another beautiful spanner in the works, comping us a tiramisu (usually $16) - more vegan wizardry in neat, coffee-scented layers. Our companions were most taken with the limoncello rice pudding ($12), with a crunchy brûléed crust and dainty scoop of rosemary vanilla icecream.

I was unexpectedly besotted with the baked Vesuvius ($15). Blow-torched right at the table, I had to wait patiently to spoon through the scorched-Italian meringue crust, excavating still-firm black pepper vanilla icecream, skirting by poached quinces before hitting on a ganache-spread chocolate sable crust. I don't normally care for meringues or marshmallows much at all, but this was like a Wagon Wheel had all grown up.

Smith & Daughters have bloody well done it again! This Italian phase is so comforting it's almost familiar, yet it's also delightfully inventive and packed with surprises. You know we'll be back for more.


You can also read about one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight of our previous visits. Since that final post a fairly negative review has appeared on Lifestyle By Lily.

Smith & Daughters
175 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
9939 3293
savoury foods, desserts (including cocktails), non-alcoholic drinks

Accessibility: The entry is flat and narrow and the tables are pretty crowded. The interior is dimly lit and loud at night. Toilets are located up several steps, are gendered and of standard dimension. We ordered at the table and paid at a high counter.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A Fan's Notes V

May 20, 2018

I'm not sure how many more posts about A Fan's Notes this blog needs. I've photographed the underlit, overcluttered front bar ad nauseum, and we've covered the brunches, the burgers and the unexpectedly fancy vegan degustations. But we've found one more reason to stop in - the irregular and unmistakably unfranchised trivia nights. 

It was a good excuse for another burger. This is a menu with six (six!) vegan burgers and three (LOL, three!) beef-based burgers. Four of those vegan ones share a common beetroot & quinoa patty, there's a nifty fishy alternative, and a crumbed shiitake-kim chi affair that I'm going to work up to one day. Michael ordered his beetroot & quinoa patty southern fried ($13), which comes with coriander-pineapple salsa, avocado and, for a price (+$4), fries. It was an utter mess to eat and an utter delight to taste.

I thought I'd check out the vegan parma ($20). It's got an eggplant base, but it's mashed with brown rice rather than being sliced and crumbed on its own. As you can see, the vegan cheese is more of a sauce, and the overall effect is of sweet tomato sugo comfort, with the rice providing just enough to chew on. Fries and green salad are generously portioned.

Our trivia team slumped from equal first after round one to mid-ranking by the end of the night, but we're unperturbed. The quiz is fun, the food is more vegan-friendly than any of us could rightly expect, and the venue is like no other.


You can read about one, two, three, four of our past visits to A Fan's Notes.

A Fan's Notes
787 Nicholson St, Carlton North
9943 8373
seasonal specials, daily specials, burgers, others
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a flat entry way to a slightly crowded interior. We ordered and paid at the high bar. There's a single, unisex toilet cubicle, which is up a step off an uneven path.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Baked peanut tempeh

May 19, 2018

This is one of those simple, brilliant, why didn't I think of that? recipes that we'll end up making so often that we'll be able to cook it from memory. It's wedges of tempeh, slathered in a sauce of peanut butter, tamari and lime juice and baked for half an hour. That's very nearly it.

Ironically, the Minimalist Baker's original recipe has a couple extra steps that we're happy to skip. First, they steam their tempeh wedges to remove bitterness. We like our tempeh just fine as it is! Second, they marinated their tempeh in the peanut sauce for 24 hours. We tried 24 hours, we tried 15 minutes and we like it just the same both ways. If anything the 24-hour batch was a bit of a nuisance because the peanut butter split from the tamari in our marinade. I might, might try blending the peanut marinade in our spice grinder to better emulsify it, but our original slightly lumpy fork-and-bowl approach was still a success.

We served our baked tempeh with roasted carrots and broccolini, rice and sesame-soy pickled radishes. Like Minimalist Baker, I can imagine rolling them into rice paper wraps, tucking them into sandwiches and layering them over salads. The wedges are saucy and comforting direct from the oven, and a squidgy savoury treat at room temperature. They might not convert the tempeh-avoiders (I know you're out there!); for these folks I'd start with tempeh bacon, lasagne or fried with palm sugar. But for those of us already on board the tempeh train, this is a delicious, easy way to eat more of it.

Baked peanut tempeh
(adapted from a recipe on Minimalist Baker)

1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons maple syrup
a pinch of chilli flakes
225g block tempeh

Preheat an oven to 190°C. Line a large baking tray with paper.

In a medium-large bowl, thoroughly whisk together the sesame oil, peanut butter, tamari, lime juice, maple syrup and chilli flakes. (I might blend them together in our spice grinder next time to properly emulsify the peanut butter.)

Slice the tempeh into bite-sized pieces. Drop them into the peanut marinade and stir them together, until the tempeh pieces are evenly coated.

Spoon the tempeh pieces onto the baking tray, lying them flat and avoiding any overlap. Bake the tempeh for 15 minutes. Turn the tempeh pieces and drizzle over any remaining marinade, then bake for a further 10-15 minutes, until the tempeh is turning dark brown around the edges. Serve warm.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Billy and Lucy

May 12, 2018

We followed up our morning visit to Particle with an evening trip to another of the many new vegan places popping up around Melbourne, Billy and Lucy. It's a block across from Fitzroy's heaving veg*n Brunswick street strip in a building that's seen a few restaurants come and go over the years. The fit out is simple but pleasant - lots of exposed brick, an open fire and a few fancy chandeliers. The whole place is vegan and is aiming for something a bit fancy, like a low-key Transformer. There's a bunch of wood-fired pizzas as well as a mix of entrees and mains with a European vibe.

We were with a couple of friends who were keen to share, so we got to sample widely. We kicked off with three starters: southern fried cauliflower florets ($8), palm heart ceviche with capers, black seed crackers and smoked tomato emulsion ($14) and roasted mushrooms in an olive oil tahini crust tart with currant pate, bbq pickled onions, salad and aioli ($15).

This was such an impressive start - the mushroom tart in particular blew us all away, combining a subtly sweet currant pate with the mix of roasted mushrooms really worked. The other two dishes were great too and had us all excited for the mains to come.

We shared a couple of mains and a pizza - the mushroom and fig charcoal ravioli with vincotto and carrot puree ($25), the potato dauphinoise with parsnip, crispy artichoke hearts, onion jam and garlic cannelini ragout ($25) and the special pizza (house made artichoke puree base, cheese, artichoke, red onion and fresh chilli, $23).

This was another set of complete winners. The dauphinoise was probably the best standalone meal, in that it combined a few more elements than the ravioli, but in a sharing situation I think the pasta outshone it. The pizza was great too, reminding me a little bit of the Gigi pizza that uses a cauliflower puree base. I'm not sure which vegan cheese they're using, but it was nice and melty and we didn't  feel like we were missing out on much.

We deliberately paced ourselves to leave room for dessert, splitting the snickers bar ($9) and the pavlova nest with berries and ice cream ($13). 

I preferred the snickers of the two, although that mostly just reflects my ambivalence about pavlova. The desserts probably lacked a bit of the finesse of the savouries, but they both hit the spot.

The food at Billy and Lucy is really great and it's got a nice vibe too. The only downside on our visit was some pretty distracted service - hopefully just some early issues that they'll iron out as they keep going. We'll definitely be back to find out.


messy veggies are the only other blog to have reviewed Billy and Lucy so far - they loved it.

Billy and Lucy
350-352 Nicholson Street, Fitzroy
9191 8350
entrees, salads & mains; pizza & desserts; drinks
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a small step up on entry and a fairly spacious interior. We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.