Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Take Two Bagels

January 21, 2023

   

Collating an annual round-up of favourites can be a helpful reminder of the spots we haven't documented. For example, Take Two Bagels has become a regular stop-in. It's one of six-ish bagel shops that have popped up in Brunswick in the past five years, about half of which are still in business. I love a bagel but I'm no aficionado, so I won't claim that Take Two bagels are the best of the bunch - they're simply the most convenient and appealing ones to us.

Take Two Bagels are designed to be taken away rather than eaten in-house. We most commonly pick them up in sunny weather and take them to Methven Park, a 10 minute walk away, and occasionally take them home when we're working from home and the fridge is bare.

   

Ordering is a simple process of choosing a bagel type (plain, sesame, poppy, blueberry, cinnamon and raisin, everything, or gluten free) and choosing a filling. We're both 'everything' orderers, and I love a classic cream cheese filling (#1, $8) - there are a few different flavours, and vegan options on two of them. I'm also fond of the #2 filling, a veganisable combination of basil pesto, tomato, lemon & dill cream cheese and chilli oil ($12). This was sold out on our most recent visit, so Michael and I both went for the more substantive offerings. 

For him, the #7: smokey tofu, charred eggplant, tomato, vegan cream cheese, onion jam, harissa and citrus leafy greens ($15). He really appreciated getting a well filled out, varied vegan option. (There's also currently a spiced potato filling that fits this bill.) For me, it was the #8: haloumi, tomato, skip-the-onion-thanks, tomato relish, citrus leafy greens and mayo ($16). The tangy relish really stood out most against the haloumi slabs. Filling options rotate every now and then, and we've had ones featuring avocado or fried egg at other times.

Regardless of my bagel choice, I like teaming it with Take Two's 'clarity' juice ($8), which mixes orange, mango and passionfruit. There's also coffee and soft drinks. It's just great to have this place around the corner when we're seeking an everyday treat, and it usually urges us on to enjoy a visit to a local park too. 

   
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Take Two Bagels
105 Lygon St, Brunswick East
9994 8511

Accessibility: There is a lip on the door and a spacious interior. Furniture is designed for waiting but not really eating - backless bench seats both inside and outside. We ordered and paid at a low counter, and our food was passed to us where we waited. We haven't visited the toilets.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Eggplant & peanut stew with pink onions

January 16, 2023
 
   

We scored a handful of bonus eggplants from a pal and immediately went trawling through the Anna Jones book for ideas. This eggplant and peanut stew immediately appealed, especially because she recommended eating it with flat bread and we had a freezer full of roti raring to go. I'm not sure we entirely nailed it - I couldn't find properly raw red-skinned peanuts at Barkly Square, so we used blanched peanuts instead, and my knife work left our pickled pick onion a bit thick and crunchy on top. Things still worked out pretty well - the stew is rich and peanutty, with a bit of warmth from the chilli and some smokiness from the charred eggplant and paprika. It can be put together on a school night if you're organised, and you'll get lunches for the next few work days. It's definitely another excellent stew for our rotation.


Eggplant & peanut stew with pink onions
(based on a recipe in Anna Jones' One Pot, Pan, Planet)

250g blanched peanuts (get raw, red-skinned ones if you can!)
4 medium eggplants, chopped
4 tablespoons peanut oil
3 brown onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1.5 teaspoons ground coriander
1.5 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon chilli powder
3 bay leaves
small bunch of coriander, stems chopped, leaves left whole
8-10 tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 red chilli, finely chopped
750ml veggie stock
4-5 tablespoons peanut butter

for the pink onions
1 red onion, sliced finely
1 tablespoon caster sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Soak the peanuts in 750ml of boiling water and set aside.

Combine the pink onion ingredients in a bowl, with a few of the coriander leaves and stir together - leave them to pickle until dinner is ready. 

Put a large saucepan on very high heat and dry-fry the eggplant pieces, turning them regularly until they're really charred up on all sides. We did ours in a couple of batches and it took about 8 minutes per batch to get them really brown.

Pop all the fried eggplant into the saucepan and add the peanut oil, frying everything for 5 minutes or so. Throw in the sliced brown onions and lower the heat a bit, cooking for 10 minutes until they're nice and soft.

Add the spices, coriander stalks and bay leaves, along with the chopped tomatoes and tomato paste - fry for a few minutes stirring so that nothing sticks. 

Add the vegetable stock and the finely chopped chilli, then drain the peanuts and throw them in too. Simmer for 10-15 minutes while the sauce thickens up.

Stir through the peanut butter until it combines well. Add in the liquid from the pickling pink onions and then adjust with water and salt until you've got the texture and seasoning right. 

Serve on flat bread or rice, topped with pink onions and coriander leaves.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Dalgona candies

January 7, 2023

   

I have a long history of favouring desserts for my potluck contributions, and figuring out something for a Korean theme was a new line of investigation for me. I was seeking a sweet that I could plausibly make vegan, gluten-free and FODMAP-friendly. I decided, as I browsed, that I also didn't feel confident or excited about making anything with rice flour or red beans.

A fun remaining option was dalgona candies, a confection with close relatives all around the world - I know it best as honeycomb, which I've made once or twice before. Many blogs with Korean roots share stories of childhood nostalgia along with their recipes, and I was most drawn to the version on Maangchi. She includes a video of the process, makes quite free-form candies, and adds nuts to them for a little extra interest. Many other blogs show flatter, nut-free candies with lollypop sticks, which are typcially made with specialised tools and known more specifically as ppopgi.

Something they all have in common is that they're cooked one serving at a time in a ladle against an open flame! Expecting about 10 guests at the potluck, I did not have the patience for that, and made a larger quantity of the mixture in a saucepan. The downside to my approach is that I managed to spoon out 3-4 smooth-looking candies before the bubbles took over, and the remainder had a more jagged appearance. (The smooth pretties are in the top photo and, in the interests of transparency, their rougher-looking counterparts are pictured below.) Regardless of their appearance, they're fun, very sweet, loudly crunchy and a touch messy to eat.

If you're interested in making your own Dalgona candies, I'd highly recommend that you research them beyond this post, to see the variety of serving styles, tools and techniques involved.

   

Dalgona candies
(scaled up from this Maangchi recipe)

~1/2 cup mixed nuts (I used salted peanuts, raw cashews, roasted almonds)
1 cup caster sugar
1.5 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

Line two baking trays with paper. Arrange clusters of nuts across the baking sheet for each individual serving - I made ten.

Place the sugar in a saucepan and set it over medium heat. Allow the sugar to cook until it's all melted and golden. This is likely to take a while - you may wish to tinker with the heat, and it will be difficult to resist prodding the sugar along the way. 

When the sugar is completely melted and smooth, take it off the heat and stir in the bicarbonate of soda. As you stir, the mixture will froth up to triple the volume. Drop big spoonfuls of the mixture onto each cluster of nuts - if you can work fast and drop each serving from a single spoon, you're more likely to achieve smooth surfaces on your candies. Allow the candies to set for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Store dalgona candies in an airtight container and keep them away from moisture.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Kkanpoong Tofu

January 7, 2023

   

A couple of our friends organised a vegan Korean potluck to ring in the new year, and Cindy and I enjoyed delving into a couple of new recipes for it. The dinner crew also included coeliac and low-FODMAP people, so we did our best to make gluten-free, garlic-free, etc dishes. Strange then that I chose something called spicy and crunchy garlic tofu. Even without garlic this had a lot of flavours going on, so I was confident it would still be fine - we upped the spring onion quantities to cover the garlic and regular onion absence and basically worked from there. Cindy tracked down gochagaru (Korean chilli powder) at KFL in Coburg and we were good to go.

The time consuming part of this dish is frying the little battered tofu cubes - the potato starched cubes do stick together in the frypan, so you either have to be very painstaking and patient in how you fry them or just deal with a few big clumps and lose some of the crispiness you'd get from a more careful approach. I'll definitely cut bigger cubes next time. As it was it took me 4 batches in our cast iron frying pan to get these guys crisped up and I was very imprecise by the end. 

Once the cubes are done everything else is easy. We kept the sauce separate until dinner time to try to maintain as much crispiness in the tofu as possible, but I suspect this would be best served immediately. Still, it was pretty great - spicy without being brutal and with a hint of sweetness from the gochagaru. An excellent accompaniment to an incredible feast. 


Spicy and crunchy garlic tofu (Kkanpoong tofu)

500g tofu, cubed (make your cubes a bit bigger than those pictured above I reckon)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon potato starch
2 green chillies, sliced finely
5 green onions, green parts chopped finely (this was out of an abundance of caution in terms of dietary restrictions - follow the original recipe if everyone you're feeding is okay with garlic etc)
1.5 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon gochagaru
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 tablespoon mirin
5 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Combine the salt, the 2 tablespoons of potato starch and tofu cubes in a bowl with a lid and shake gently but thoroughly to coat the cubes.

Add vegetable oil to your best or biggest frying pan and crank the heat up pretty high. Fry your battered tofu cubes on each side, until they're browned and a bit crispy - 5-7 minutes per side roughly. Ideally turn them carefully one at a time to avoid them sticking together. This took four batches in our little frying pan - not ideal, but the cubes came out very well. Take the tofu out of the pan and set it aside.

Stir together the soy sauce, gochagaru, white wine vinegar, syrup, teaspoon of potato starch and mirin until combined. 

Add some more oil to the tofu pan and fry your green onions for a couple of minutes. Pour in the sauce and reduce the heat to medium - stir it regularly until it has reduced a bit and thickened up. 

To serve, stir the tofu through the sauce and top with sesame oil and sesame seeds. 

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Kale Mary II

Note: Kale Mary has now closed.

January 5 & 7, 2023

   

In my review of 2022, I noted my diminishing enthusiasm for brunches. The notable exception to this was Kale Mary, and sadly it just closed last weekend! I unintentionally made the most of their last two weeks in operation, visiting three times. 

   

Kale Mary have regularly mixed up their all-vegan menu, and the final version was split into breakfast, all day and lunch sections. There has consistently been original, delicious versions of avocado toast on the menu ($19): Michael's last one included charred corn, cashew ricotta, mint oil and almond pesto.

   

On the same visit, I browsed the toastie options and picked a filling from the list of specials (~$15): cauliflower cheese with optional pickled kale. This was original, fun and compact. I also took advantage of their drinks special, a lavender butterfly pea iced tea ($5) that was cold, clear and very floral, just barely sweet at all.

   

I insisted that we return soon for breakfast, so that I could try the pancakes ($18). They look little on this plate, but the modest stack was just right for me. Kale Mary somehow intuited my ideal pancake topping preferences - something creamy (coconut yoghurt) and varied fruits (including a saucy compote and dehydrated kiwi shard). The fruits were tangy enough that the maple syrup base was welcome. No icecream, fairy floss or lollies. It's a yes from me.

   

Meanwhile, Michael's breakfast yardstick is scrambled tofu, known as Mary's Eggs ($18) here. He like that they seasoned it with black salt for the eggiest vegan experience, but missed having a second piece of toast. Kale, charred corn and pesto all made repeat appearances in this dish too.

Kale Mary's staff were always warm and helpful and, as you can see above, the food was terrific. I found their menu to be truly distinct from what many veg*n cafes currently offer, and I'm going to miss them very much.
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You can read about our first visit to Kale Mary here.
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Kale Mary 
207 Albert St, Brunswick 
0493 572 466 

Accessibility: Entry was flat and and two doors wide. Furniture was well spaced throughout the café, mostly regular-height tables and chairs with backs, although a couple of high tables with backless stools and low lounge chairs were present. The toilet was an ungendered spacious cubicle with handrails and menstrual products available.