Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Woking Amazing

March 9, 2019

Woking Amazing have been running a popular vegan food truck around Melbourne for the past few years, especially renowned for their fantastic mock-duck wraps. They recently opened a more permanent space in the midst of Melbourne's vegan district on Smith Street in Collingwood. The food-truck roots are still pretty evident - the kitchen is out the back and looks like you could pack it up and move it out to a festival in no time at all. 

The menu's still quite minimal too, with just four mains to choose from plus a handful of sides. They change things up every week though, so you won't get bored if you visit often. 

We kicked things off with some of the sides - a round of $3 dim sims and a serve of the tempura crispy squid ($15).

The mini dimmies were great - crispy batter stuffed with a mix of veggies. The squid was even better, if slightly horrifying in its authenticity. The texture of these was eerily reminiscent of calamari and the fishy flavour was similarly impressive. The wasabi mayo was the perfect dipping sauce.

Cindy and I took on the wraps for our mains - a Korean zinger wrap for her ($14.50, pictured below right) and a Beyond zinger for me ($15, pictured below left). The Korean zinger hit all the right notes - crispy mock chicken and some bacon slices stuffed in a wrap with spinach, tomato, onion and gojuchang mayo.

The Beyond wrap didn't quite reach the same heights - it's more or less the same wrap, but with the chicken replaced by a Beyond patty. I'm quite into Beyond's fancy mock meats, but the patty din't really complement the rest of this wrap as well as the chicken. I'd have cranked up the gojuchang in both as well, but 'more chilli' is my response to basically everything so your mileage may vary.

We had a lovely dinner sitting out the back at Woking Amazing - there were a few small hiccups with the service, but the staff couldn't have been lovelier, which is the main thing. I wouldn't rush back just to have another round of these wraps, but I'll be there again as soon as the Peking duck pancakes get their next turn on the menu.


We couldn't find any blog reviews of Woking's permanent space in Collingwood, just this teaser at Messy Veggies.


Woking Amazing
358 Smith St, Collingwood
0481 861 642

Accessibility: There's a big step from Smith Street into the restaurant, but there might be a direct way to enter the courtyard. We ordered from our table and paid at a high counter. The toilets were outside, unisex and not especially accessible.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Amazing weeknight dolsot bibimbap

March 6, 2019

This, the opening Lab Cookbook recipe, comes with all the trimmings! Not only did I receive the recipe itself from Nick, but he also gave me two dolsots and a jar of gochujang to properly set me up for making bibimbap at home. 

The recipe's name makes two big promises - that it is amazing and that it can plausibly be made on a weeknight - and it delivers on both counts. The ingredients can comfortably be chopped and sauteed in the time it takes for the rice to cook. Then it's a 10-15 minute job to layer everything up in the dolsot, ensure it's warmed through, and sprinkle over your choice of toppings. There are a lot of ingredients, but there's also a lot of room to pick and choose what's convenient for you. 

While you could potentially concoct some kind of leftover lunch from it all, it wouldn't be quite the same. Developing a layer of crunchy sesame-oil rice against the dolsot, frying an egg just so, and maintaining the crunch of the toppings are all special parts of the experience, I think! Instead, we doubled our rice, tofu and greens and made an even easier second batch one night later.  

Amazing weeknight dolsot bibimbap
(a recipe shared by Nick)

8 tablespoons gochujang
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 serves pre-marinated tofu
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2 serves Asian greens (we used wombok), sliced
2 tablespoons light soy sauce or tamari
2 eggs
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 serves cooked rice

toppings, choose some combination of:
1/4 sheet nori, cut into short strips
2 tablespoons Japanese pickled ginger
2 tablespoons Korean/Chinese pickled vegetables
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 large spring onion, chopped
2 tablespoons kimchi, sliced
1 carrot, julienned and sauteed

In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the sauce ingredients. You won't need any more than half of this for two bibimbap bowls, so freeze or refrigerate the rest for later.

Heat the vegetable oil in a frypan over medium-high heat. Slice the tofu into large matchsticks and fry until crisp; set them aside. Fry the garlic and ginger for a minute, then add the Asian greens and soy sauce and fry for a couple more minute; set them aside too. Finally, fry the eggs on one side only, keeping the yolks runny; get the frypan off the heat.

Set the dolsots over medium flames (or heat them in an oven). Drop a tablespoon of sesame oil into the bottom of each one. Place a half-serve of rice into each bowl, mix it through the oil, and press it across the bowl bottom to form a crunchy layer. Turn the heat down to low and pile in the remaining rice. Arrange the tofu pieces, sauteed greens and fried eggs over the rice. Pop the lids onto the dolsots and let every get all steamy and heated through for a good 5 minutes.

Remove the dolsot lids and sprinkle over your choice of toppings. Make sure you've got a good oven mitt and heatproof mat set up while you're eating from these very hot bowls.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Frog in a vegan pond

March 2, 2019

We doubled down on lab cookbook recipes, following our tofu ball dinner up with this funny little dessert. 'Frog in a pond' is a simple, kid-friendly concoction of chocolate frogs swimming in a pond of jelly. Terry kindly shared a vegan-friendly version using agar agar instead of gelatine and a note about dairy-free chocolate frogs from Haigh's.

As you can see from the picture, we didn't make it to Haigh's and resorted to milk chocolate Freddo frogs. The jelly is based on grape juice, which makes for a not-quite-fitting red pond (blue or green jelly typically makes for a less natural food and more natural-looking pond). Perhaps our pirate-costumed Freddo was standing victorious in the blood of his enemies. Or, less gruesomely, perhaps this was the lake in Westgate Park in full algal bloom! On a whim, I stirred a tablespoon of almond milk into one bowl of jelly to enhance the effect, but it separated and looked a bit too much like algae to be appetising.

I really liked the texture of this agar-based jelly - it was set, but still quite soft. This isn't a dessert I'd have thought to make at any other time, but we both really enjoyed it and I'd definitely consider returning to it.

Frog in a vegan pond
(a recipe shared by Terry)

1 1/2 teaspoons agar agar flakes or 3/4 teaspoon agar agar powder
1 cup red grape juice
1 cup water
1/4 cup white sugar
3-4 chocolate frogs (Haigh's dark chocolate ones are vegan)

In a medium-large pot, stir together the agar agar, juice, water and sugar over medium-high heat. Bring it all to the boil and keep it boiling for 2 minutes.

Since I chose to serve the chocolate frogs on top, I poured this hot mixture directly into three bowls and refrigerated it for several hours to set. I placed the chocolate frogs in the bowls at serving time.

Alternatively, you can refrigerate the hot mixture for 45 minutes until it has cooled but is not set. If you take this path, place the chocolate frogs in the bowls and pour the cooled mixture over them, and refrigerate the jelly for a few more hours until it is set.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Braised tofu balls in brown sauce

March 2, 2019

Michael and I had lots of time to cook on Saturday night, so I flicked through my new favourite cookbook ready for a challenge. I always find balls and burgers a bit fiddly with all the frying and will-they-hold-together suspense so this felt like the right time to take on Huey's braised tofu balls in brown sauce. 

The tofu at the core of these balls is augmented with carrot, shitakes, celery and water chestnuts, then flavoured with soy sauce, ginger and five-spice. My tofu held a lot of water and the mixture was mushy, but every last ball held together in the frypan and I felt very optimistic. Their second phase is in a big pot of sweet soy soup, perched atop cabbage leaves and more shitake mushrooms. Ever the risk spreader, I braised only half of the tofu balls and held the others back just in case there was a mess. The braised ones puffed up with soup, some broke apart and all of them were delicate to handle. They were excellent spooned over steamed rice that night, but I was glad to have the non-braised balls in reserve for my packed lunch.

The soup didn't ever reduce to the thick glistening sauce photographed in the book, so I would consider reducing the volume of water if I made this again. This thinner broth was still very comforting, and the shot of ginger through the tofu balls had me thinking about what a steamy, soothing dish this would be when you have a cold.

Braised tofu balls in brown sauce
(a recipe shared by Huey)

tofu balls
300g tofu (not silken)
45g carrot (about 1/3 a large one)
30g shitake mushrooms
30g celery
30g ginger
60g water chestnuts
3 tablespoons plain flour, plus 1/2 cup for coating
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1 1/2 teaspoons white pepper
peanut oil, for shallow frying

braising liquid
225g cabbage
6 shitake mushrooms
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetarian oyster sauce
1L water

Drain the tofu and crumble it up in a large bowl. Grate the carrot, finely chop the shitake mushrooms and celery, mince the ginger and water chestnuts. Add all of these ingredients to the bowl and stir together. Add the flour, soy sauce, sugar, five spice, and pepper, and mix thoroughly to combine.

Heat up the oil in a pan, and pour the coating flour into a bowl. Take a generous tablespoon of the tofu mixture into you hands, lightly shape it into a ball, and drop it into the flour. Lightly toss the ball around to evenly coat it and gently drop it into the hot oil. Repeat this process until the pan has a few well spaced balls cooking along (I did about six at a time). Use two forks to tip the balls over after a minute or two, and use a slotted spoon to drop the cooked tofu balls onto some absorbent paper. Repeat, in batches, until all of the tofu mixture is fried. Set them aside.

Separate the cabbage out into leaves, and slice the shitake mushrooms. Set a very large pot over medium heat and place all seven braising ingredients in it. Gently set the tofu balls on top and simmer everything until the soup has reduced. Serve over steamed rice.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Pumpkin with sweetcorn salsa, feta & pumpkin seeds

We had a Sunday night with some time to spare so decided to brave a double Ottolenghi meal - roasted cauliflower, grape & cheddar salad and this pumpkin dish. (We were actually supposed to make a different pumpkin dish from Simple, but I stuffed up the shopping list completely, so we ended up with this instead.) 

It's easy enough to make - the charring of the corn wasn't as straightforward as I'd imagined, but that was the only slight complication. I'm not sure of the best way to get a good char on a cob of corn - we tried the frying pan, but it wasn't super effective. Suggestions welcome. Every other step is super easy though, and the the pumpkin roasting complemented our cauliflower cooking as well. The results are delightful - sweet pumpkin with a zingy, spicy corn salsa and some creamy dollops of salty feta - an excellent combination. We'll add it to our regular rotation (once we try the pumpkin, lentil and dolcelatte recipe we were aiming for this time).

Pumpkin with sweetcorn salsa, feta & pumpkin seeds
(slightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's Simple)

1 butternut pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 3cm wedges.
75ml olive oil
2 corn cobs, husks removed and strings stripped off
1 large red chilli, seeded and finely diced
3 limes - zest and juice
small bunch coriander
a few stems of mint leaves
30g pumpkin seeds, toasted
50g feta, crumbled
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 220°C.

Mix the pumpkin with 2 tablespoons of the oil plus lots of salt and pepper. Spread the pumpkin wedges out on a large baking tray and roast for 25 minutes, until golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Char the corn as best you can - Ottolenghi uses a chargrill, we tried it in our cast iron frying pan over high heat. The aim is to blacken the corn kernels up a bit - it'll take 10 minutes or so.

Once the corn is cool enough to handle, slice the kernels off the cob and separate them all. Stir them together with the chilli, lime zest and juice, the rest of the olive oil, the mint, the coriander and some more salt. Mix well.

Lay the pumpkin wedges out on a plate, spoon the salsa on top along with the pumpkin seeds and the feta.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Matcha Mylkbar

February 24, 2019

Matcha Mylkbar opened to a flurry of instagram attention a couple of years ago, at the forefront of the turmeric latte scene. Their fake eggs, charcoal buns and algae drinks struck me as gimmicky and offputting, so we didn't go to any effort to visit. Recently, the cafe turned up as a convenient spot for a late lunch and a score recount with our mate Lisa after a sweltering game of mini-golf.

The all-vegan menu was much more appealing than I'd initially expected. Yes, there are ten novelty lattes with the option of a flight of four, and five further matcha drinks. But plenty of the meals caught my eye and my appetite, from a summery acai bowl, to vege-filled bowls, burgers, and mac'n'cheese waffles (!).

Michael feasted on the big breakfast ($25) with turmeric scrambled tofu, two slices of sourdough toast, konjac bacon, potato and leek rosti, truffle roasted mushrooms, wilted kale and tomato relish. He rates it among the best vegan breakfasts around town.

At the last possible moment, I switched from a mac'n'cheese waffle order to the three piece feed ($22). This plate looks exactly like what you might expect from KFC next door! The house-made fried chicken isn't too dense (unlike its delicious but instantly regrettable Loving Hut analogue), and has a pleasantly seasoned crunchy batter. The crinkle-cut chips are crispy, the coleslaw is fine, and the tub of potatoes and gravy earned connoisseur Lisa's approval. I thought the portioning was perfect.

Finally, here's a shot of Lisa's mock poached egg. While the agar agar-set white is perhaps a bit too jellied, the gooey sweet potato centre looked just right.

The Matcha Mylkbar marketing has never been our style, but it turns out there's some great food to enjoy here regardless. I reckon we'll be popping back in next time we find ourselves in St Kilda.


Matcha Mylkbar has received rave reviews from veg*n bloggers, see Like A Veganmessy veggies and A Thoughtful Vegan. Reviews on omni blogs are less effusive but generally positive, see String of EventsTomatoWandering MintLips TemptationsMelbourne Breakfast DiarykrumbledShort x Stoutdelightfully tastyLifestyle by Lily and TOT: HOT OR NOT. There's a more mixed review on A Hedonist's Love and outright negative experiences on all-caps blogs DONUTSAM EATS & TRAVELS and 2WO FAT GIRLS

Matcha Mylkbar
72A Acland St, St Kilda
9534 1111

Accessibility: Entry is flat, but furniture is tightly packed inside. We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Veganator

February 20, 2019

This month I've done something that seemed almost unthinkable four months ago: I resigned from my job of more than a decade! While I was really very happy there, something new and intriguing popped up and I felt ready for a change. 

My longtime workplace is full of wonderful folks who sent me off with the most thoughtful and personal gift: a cookbook made just for me. It's colour printed and spiral bound, with a picture of everyone on the front and 36 recipes individually contributed by my colleagues. The recipes are variously typed, and handwritten and sometimes even illustrated, with extra little notes to me and tips on how to make them best. I LOVE THIS BOOK.

It was actually Michael who dug into it first, and fast: he picked out one of the more weeknight-friendly meals to cook on my first day at my new job. It's a hearty vegan soup of zucchini and rice that's livened up with lots of lemon, fresh herbs and a dollop of coconut yoghurt. It's something that Elise and Dani make together, and they hand-wrote and diagrammed it out on some cute graph paper. It was such a comfort to come home to, and also very handy to microwave at my new workplace for lunch - by then it almost had the texture of a risotto. 

Looks like I've got a 2019 cooking and blogging project all cut out for me.

The Veganator, aka Zucchini Rice Soup
(a recipe shared by Elise and Dani)

1 onion, chopped
1 cup rice (Elise recommends brown, but we started with basmati)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 sprig rosemary, stem removed
2L stock
3 zucchinis, grated
zest and juice of 3 small lemons
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon of coconut yoghurt per person
lots of chopped fresh mint
nutritional yeast flakes, to taste

Set a very large pot over medium heat and throw in the onion, rice, garlic, rosemary leaves and stock, and cook them for 40 minutes. Add the grated zucchinis until they turn soft.

Add the lemon zest and juice, and season with salt pepper and nooch to taste. Serve garnished with a spoon of coconut yoghurt and plenty of mint leaves.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Lux Foundry

February 2, 2019

We met up with friends at Lux Foundry on a sunny Saturday morning, nabbing one of the many outdoor tables and enjoying the parade of neighbourhood pups that hang out there. It's a fantastic space on a summer's day - a mix of shady and sunny tables, lots of space and a nice, laid-back vibe. 

The menu's a mix of breakfast classics and more interesting creations, with a decent mix of sweet and savoury options. Cindy, of course, went sweet with the mango and passionfruit panacotta ($16.50), with oat crumble, seasonal berries, lemon granita and fruit. It was a beautiful dish, with the big blob of panacotta surrounded by flower-speckled ring of icy granita. The combination of granita with the granola-y crumble was a bit odd, but Cindy was on board with the fruity, summery ingredients.

I ordered the Middle Eastern breakfast - poached eggs with grilled zaatar flatbread, beetroot relish, falafel and smoky baba ganoush ($17.50). This ticks all my boxes - perfectly poached eggs *and* falafel, with the smoky eggplant dip adding some richness to everything. I loved it - definitely a dish I'd go back for again in future.

Lux Foundry was superb - helpful and efficient service with an interesting menu executed well. We haven't gone there often in the eight or so years that Lux has been around, but we'll certainly be returning again before too long.


Lux Foundry
21 Hope St, Brunswick

Accessibility: We didn't make it beyond the outdoor area - the tables out there mostly have fixed seating. We ordered at our table and paid at a counter inside.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Taleggio & spinach roulade

January 27, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

finishing touches
1 egg white
sesame seeds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, February 03, 2019


January 22, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

where's the best in 2018?

Youpo noodle from Lanzhou Beef Noodle Bar

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

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

Northcote Fish & Chips

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

Seitan gyros & lemon potatoes

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

Honey, miso & walnut pie

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

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

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Parmesan shortbread

December 31, 2018

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

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

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

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

Parmesan shortbread
(slightly adapted from epicurious)

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 11, 2019

A not-so-Moroccan chickpea thing

December 30, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Rinse and drain the chickpeas, and set them aside.

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Kimchi fried rice with smokey tempeh & broccoli

December 20, 2018

We had some leftover kimchi from our scroll experiment, so we decided to try out this simple fried rice for a quick work-night dinner. The baseline version is pretty easy - cook some rice, steam some tempeh and broccoli and fry everything up in a wok. It's delicious as well, with the strong flavour of the kimchi adding some bite to what's otherwise a pretty straightforward stir-fry. 

We made an even simpler version on our second attempt - skipping the steaming just stir-frying the tempeh and some broccolini. This works fine, but if you've got the time I'd squeeze in the steaming step for at least the tempeh - it improves the texture a bit when you fry it.

Kimchi fried rice with smokey tempeh & broccoli
(slightly adapted from this recipe on the first mess)

1.5 - 2 cups of cooked brown rice (it's best if you've cooked this the day before and popped it in the fridge, but it'll work fine if you just do it all on the night)
2 cups broccoli florets
225g packet of tempeh, cut into small cubes
2 gloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/2 cup vegan kimchi, plus a couple of spoonfuls of the liquid
2 teaspoons chilli paste
1 tablespoon tamari
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut oil

Steam the broccoli and tempeh for about 10 minutes - we used our bamboo steamers, but do whatever works for you.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil in a work and stir-fry the tempeh for about 5 minutes, until it starts to brown up nicely. Throw in the garlic, maple syrup and smoked paprika, stir-frying it all together for another 30 seconds or so. Remove the tempeh from the wok and pop it in a bowl.

Heat the other tablespoon of peanut oil and throw in the kimchi. Stir-fry for a minute or so and then add the rice, stirring thoroughly to break down any clumps. Add the tempeh back in along with the broccoli plus the chilli paste, tamari and sesame oil. 

Stir-fry for another minute or so over high heat and then serve.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Roasted carrots with chilli & pomegranate

December 16, 2018

Here's another recipe from Simple, something I picked out to boost a meal of leftovers. It's carrots, roasted fast and hot in a dressing of butter and chilli, then finished off with a squeeze of citrus juice and a scattering of pomegranate seeds. 

Its simplicity lies in its capacity for substitutions: we lacked harissa but found regular pureed chilli, fell back on lime juice in the fridge instead of buying a lemon. And though it's not vegan as described, vegetable oil and maple/golden syrup are obvious alternatives that would make it so. Pomegranates aren't exactly pantry ingredients or easily substitutable, but they should always be considered an optional Ottolenghi flourish.

We enjoyed this so much (and had so many leftover pomegranate seeds!) that I made it twice in a week, successfully impressing some visiting family on the second round. It's a nice reminder that it's sometimes worth adding an extra five minutes and grab of household ingredients to roasting veges; something we do weekly with just salt and pepper.

Roasted carrots with chilli & pomegranate
(slightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's Simple)

800g baby carrots
20g butter
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons rose harissa or other chilli paste
1 tablespoon olive oil
generous squeeze of lemon or lime juice
seeds of half a pomegranate

Preheat an oven to 230°C.

Wash and trim the carrots; slice them lengthways if they're very thick. Place them in a large baking dish.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, then turn off the heat. Whisk in the cumin seeds, honey, chilli paste and olive oil. Pour this dressing over the carrots and toss them around to evenly coat them.

Roast the carrots for about 15 minutes, until they're beginning to brown but still firm. Squeeze over the lemon/lime juice and scatter over the pomegranate seeds, then serve.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Kimchi, gochujang & cheese scrolls

December 16, 2018

I bought Cindy a copy of the Smith and Deli cookbook for her birthday and committed to cooking something out of it when the weekend rolled around. Cindy was keen to recreate the Deli's famous scrolls - the standard option in the book is vegemite and cheese, but we went for one of the alternatives: kimchi, gochujang and cheese.

I'm not a confident baker, but this came together pretty well in the end. I needed a *lot* more flour than the initial 3.5 cups specified in the recipe, but once I got the dough to the right kind of texture the rest was pretty easy. If you're making them for brekkie you'll need to get up early - there's a bit of time waiting for the dough to rest etc - but they're well worth the effort. We ate this whole tray in about 2 days and I'm keen to try more variations on future lazy weekends.

Kimchi, gochujang & cheese scrolls
(from Smith & Deli-cious by Mo Wyse & Shannon Martinez)

1 sachet of dried yeast (2 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1.5 cups warm water
3.5 cups of flour plus extra if needed (I think I used at least 4 cups)
2 teaspoons salt
90ml olive oil
2 tablespoons gochujang, mixed with 1 tablespoon warm water and 1 tablespoon tomato paste (adjust the quantities depending on your love of chilli here)
1/2 cup of kimchi
200g grated cheese (we used the pre-grated Biocheese)

Combine the yeast, sugar and water in a bowl and leave for 5 minutes until it starts to froth up a bit.

Combine the flour and salt in a big bowl. Stir through the oil and then add the yeast mixture stirring constantly (the original recipe suggests using an electric mixer with a dough hook - I'd probably do this bit by hand next time, but do whatever you're more comfortable with).

Mix thoroughly until you've got a sticky dough ball - I had to add a lot of extra flour at this step to get a knead-able dough. Knead your dough for at least 5 minutes until it's soft and elastic. 

Leave to prove in a warm place for half an hour or so - it should double in size. Punch it back down to its original size.

Preheat your oven to 190°C. 

Dust your bench with more flour and roll the dough out into a big rectangle - about 45 x 30cm, maybe 10-15mm thick.

Spread the gochujang mix evenly across the dough and then sprinkle over the kimchi and cheese. Carefully roll the whole rectangle up into a giant spiral and then cut it into 8 scrolls, each about 6-7cm wide.

Lay the scrolls out on a baking tray, cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and let them rest for another 15-20 minutes and then bake for 20 minutes, until things start to go golden on top. 

Leave the tray to cool for 10 minutes and then separate the scrolls and scoff them down.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Lucy Lockett IV

November 24 & December 15, 2018

In spite of its veg-friendly menu and proximity to our home, Lucy Lockett has never quite become a regular breakfast haunt of ours. Since we last visited it's changed hands and, if anything, become even more veg-oriented! Of the 20 core dishes listed, 14 are vegan by default, 4 more are vegetarian, and optional meat add-ons are listed to the side (gluten-free options are also marked). 

Staples like granola and smashed avocado are present but overwhelmed with more creative alternatives: tofu and black bean meatballs, smashed peas, savoury waffles, and sweet rice paper rolls stuffed with tropical fruit. Their pun-based names will elicit a measure of chuckles (All I Avo Wanted, Om-E-Lette Ya Finish), yawns (Balls To The Wall, Me-Soooo Vegan) and groans (You A Fun-ghi? Kale Me).

My first order from this new menu was named, prepared, and priced well: the Why So Cereal? granola ($13, pictured above). It was crunchy with nuts and quinoa, topped with strawberry slices, coconut yoghurt and dark chocolate shards.

Michael took on the Not Eggsactly ($17), a plate of toast spilling over with chilli tofu scramble, as well as beans, spinach, cherry tomatoes and a mock-egg seasoning of black salt.

A couple of weeks later, we swung around for more. Michael happily cleared a plate called the Boulevard of Broken Greens ($19): this is a medley of asparagus, broccoli, beans and kale with pesto, chilli, and nut cheese on sourdough toast.

I made slower, but equally happy, progress through B*tch Peas ($19), which was the most popular order in the cafe that day. At its centre is a huge mound of smashed peas with rocket salad, goat feta and a poached egg. It's ringed with potato hash chunks, strips of haloumi, and some dark oily pesto. Magnificent!

Staff at Lucy Lockett are equal parts cheerful and capable, and on a good day there are dogs out front. There's really no reason why we wouldn't continue working through those 18 vegetarian meals.


You can read about one, two, three of our previous visits to Lucy Lockett. Since that last one, blog coverage has been mostly positive; see Little Fluffy Soul2wo Fat Girlsfo0die (freebie), hungry cookie (possible freebie), Melbourne Vita (possible freebie), Feed Blog Spot (freebie), and The Penguin Eats (freebie).

Lucy Lockett
140 Barkly St, Brunswick
8388 7138
food, drinks pt 1, drinks pt 2

Accessibility: The entry is flat and the interior is spacious. We ordered at our table and paid at a low-ish counter. The toilet is unisex and has a big cubicle and a change table, but access requires negotiating a small flight of steps.