Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Florentines

May 8, 2022

   

My sewing machine is out of order, so I reverted to baking to entertain myself on Sunday. This fabulous Florentine recipe comes from my Meera Sodha Guardian bookmarking frenzy of January 2022. I've never thought of Florentines as a favourite, but I have long been fond of them. My mum had a Florentine recipe, most likely from this Australian Women's Weekly book. That's led me to occasionally choose the Florentines from café biscuit jars, although they often turn out to be stale.

This version is vegan (no butter, no honey!) and has a carefully curated ingredient list. No common old sultanas, glace cherries, or cornflakes; instead there are pistachios, dried cranberries, and crystallised ginger. That said, the preparation is less fussy than what I'm accustomed to: Sodha has us form the Florentine mixture as a large rectangular slab, which can be sliced into diamonds or just broken off by hand a piece at a time.

I rounded up the pistachio and almond quantities to use up what I had, and doubled the chocolate. No dainty drizzle for me! Instead I spread out a continuous layer of chocolate and used a fork to decorate it with waves like the café biscuits.

This recipe has promoted Florentines to a firm favourite, after all. I'm likely to make a second batch within the week!


Florentines
(slightly adapted from a recipe by Meera Sodha on The Guardian

60g pistachios, finely chopped
75g crystallised ginger, finely chopped
90g flaked almonds
50g hazelnuts, chopped
100g dried cranberries (or other sour berries)
2 tablespoons plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
75g vegan butter (I used Nuttelex)
50g brown sugar
50g golden syrup (about 2 1/2 tablespoons by my eye)
200g dark chocolate

Heat an oven to 200°C. Line a large baking tray with paper.

Chop all the ingredients that need it. Stir together all the nuts, ginger and dried fruits in a large bowl. Stir through the flour, salt and cinnamon until combined.

Place the 'butter', sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan and set it over medium heat. Cook the mixture, stirring, until everything has melted together and become smooth. Take it off the heat and pour it over the nut mixture in the bowl. Stir it all together to combine, then pour the mixture out onto the baking tray. Form a large rectangle about 1 cm thick; mine was about 30 cm x 22 cm.

Bake the Florentine slab for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown - keep a close eye on it to avoid burning! Allow it to cool completely.

Melt the chocolate using your favourite method and pour it over the flattest side of the Florentine rectangle. Use a fork to make decorative waves in the chocolate. Allow the chocolate to set completely at room temperature. Slice the Florentine slab into rectangles or diamonds to serve.  

Sunday, May 08, 2022

Brother Bon III

May 4, 2022

   

Last week I visited my workplace for the first time in 2022, and I proposed to Michael that we meet at Brother Bon for dinner on my way home. It was a cold, wet and dark evening so I immediately zoomed in to the Comfort Foods section of the menu and ordered a chicken and gravy roll ($26).

This meal didn't quite match the Big/Red Rooster chicken rolls of my youth but still earned top marks in that comfort category. A soft round bun was unexpectedly sliced vertically, stuffed with coleslaw, fried chicken chunks and avocado. A passing staff member offered to fetch me a knife, but I couldn't see how that would help! I ate it awkwardly but happily with my hands. The small side salad was lovely, the chips were ultra-chunky, and the gravy was served on the side.

Brother Bon has such an extensive and appealing menu that'll it'll probably be a while before I circle back around to this dish. I'm glad I found the right occasion to try it.
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You can read about some of our previous Brother Bon meals here and here.
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Brother Bon 
377-379 High St, Northcote 
9077 1335 
menu page 1, 2 

Accessibility: The entry is flat and tables are moderately spaced. We ordered at our table and paid at a low-ish counter. Toilets are individual non-gendered cubicles with a shared sink space. The cubicle I used included menstrual product disposal, and another one was marked for both wheelchair access and a baby change station. 

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Cheesy broccoli pasties

May 3, 2022

   

I don't have the appetite for new recipes that I once did. Two pandemic years (not to mention my own recent COVID bout) have oriented me towards plainer comfort foods, and that typically means reliable, repeat recipes. This recipe for broccoli-stuffed pasties, which recently appeared on Green Gourmet Giraffe, offered some reassuring flavours plus an easy pastry technique that I hadn't tried before... a gentle way to try something new.

I didn't check back to the original recipe inspiration on goodfood until writing up this post. It's by Helen Goh, a favoured name in this household due to her book Sweet. Johanna GGG adapted the recipe to add potatoes, and she cooked her vegetables in the microwave rather than using Goh's original blanching approach. I staged out this recipe, asking Michael to pop our broccoli and potatoes into the oven one night early when he already had it on for other reasons. I sautéed the garlic and shallots, too, so that the filling would need minimal extra work on the night that I made the pastry and baked the pasties.  

The novel pastry technique here is the use of boiling water when cold butter, hands and work surfaces are usually the expectation. I assumed the purpose of this was to conveniently melt the big butter chunks, but Goh actually instructs us to do the messy work of rubbing butter into flour anyway. I didn't, and I seemed to get away with it - the heat from the water and some careful work with a wooden spoon got me to the pliable, slighty greasy dough she said I should aim for. My pastry shells were thin and crisp, buttery and crumbly, sturdy from a wholemeal flour boost.

The pasty filling was great - a bit less cheesy than I expected, plenty salty, and bright with lemon. It's not at all vegan, and could be adapted (I'd add lots of nooch!), but an easy alternative is to go straight to Smith & Deli's cheesy broccoli pie recipe instead. I'd estimate that we had twice as much filling as our pastry could hold (perhaps due to the bonus potatoes?), and I'm planning puff pastry pockets and toasties for the leftovers. Michael made Brazilian slaw to eat alongside - it's also a large quantity and lasts for days, so it might see us through all three incarnations of this filling.

   

Cheesy broccoli pasties
(slightly adapted from a recipe on Green Gourmet Giraffe,
where it's credited to goodfood

pastry
1 cup plain flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
160g butter, diced
120ml boiling water

filling
400g broccoli, diced
180g potato, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
150g mature cheddar cheese, grated
50g parmesan, grated
1 1/2 tablespoons white miso
zest and juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon salt (I used a herby salt mix)
1 teaspoon pepper

a little milk, for brushing the pastry


To make the pastry, stir together the flours, salt and pepper in a large heatproof bowl. Add in the diced butter, which the original recipe instructs you to rub in by hand (I didn't). Pour the hot water over it all and use a wooden spoon to bring the mixture together into a smooth dough ball (I found that the heat from the water was sufficient to melt the butter). Drape a teatowel over the bowl and set it aside.

Use your preferred method to cook the broccoli and potato under just barely tender: Johanna microwaved hers in some water, Helen Goh used broccoli only and blanched it in salted boiling water, and we popped ours into the oven for 25 minutes the night before alongside a different meal.

Sauté the shallots and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until soft, about 15 minutes. I wish I had thought to add the miso at this stage, so that it would soften in the heat and distribute evenly through the mixture. In a large bowl, stir together the broccoli, potato and shallot mixture (this is when I actually added the miso). Add the cheeses, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper, and stir everything together to combine.

Preheat an oven to 200°C and line two baking trays with paper. 

Retrieve the dough and divide it into six balls. Lightly flour a work surface and roll out a pastry ball into a circle 2-3 mm thick. Scoop 1/3 cup of the pasty filling onto one half of the pastry and fold the other half over, crimping the edges securely. Transfer the pasty to a baking tray and repeat with the remaining dough to make six pasties. 

Brush the pasties with a little milk and gently make a couple of incisions in the top of the pastry with a sharp knife. Bake the pasties for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.

Sunday, May 01, 2022

Rusty's Sandwich Parlour II

April 30, 2022

   

We grabbed lunch from Rusty's again this Saturday, as we did our circuit of errands around Brunswick. Michael couldn't imagine deviating from the vegan sausage sandwich he ordered on our first visit. I had a shot at the beet reuben ($13). This has a terrific mid-weight filling for autumn: sliced beetroot stands in for the reuben's usual corned beef, vegan mozzarella provides the cheesy element, and then there's the standard sauerkraut and Russian dressing. It's a little tangy, juicy without being sloppy, and just pickley enough. I might've liked a touch more creamy cheese in the mix. Rusty's buns are always soft and warm and just substantial enough to confidently hold it all together.

On this visit we learned that this shop serves hot chips in addition to the fancy crisps we could see at the front counter. They smelled great. Even so, my next Rusty's mission is to arrive early enough for a breakfast sandwich!
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You can read about our first visit to Rusty's here.
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Rusty's Sandwich Parlour 
189 Nicholson St, Brunswick East 
9381 2005 

Accessibility: There's a step up at the door. We ordered and paid at a low counter - it's basically takeaway only, just a few stools for dining in, and no toilets that we could see.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Wombat Café II

March 26-27, 2022

   

We spent what might have been the last summery weekend of the season at the beach, in Dromana, celebrating our friend Kristy's birthday. We interspersed lots of time in and near the salt water with great vegan food - beachside takeaway pizza, fish-less chips, birthday cupcakes, Steph's famous home-prepared hot pot, and two brunches at Wombat Café. We were delighted to snag the same picnic table out front of Wombat on both occasions and soak up the morning sun.

   

Wombat's all-vegan menu is a bit shorter but no less fun than when we visited four years ago. It follows an all-day-brunch theme, which I cheerfully disrupted by ordering the hot dog ($14.50) for my first meal of the day. The bun and sausage were good, and the toppings were great - as you can see from the photo, it's an over-the-top spread of cheese, sauerkraut, mustard, aioli, tomato sauce, chives and sesame seeds. My vanilla milkshake ($8.50, made with macadamia milk) offset the acidity of all those condiments very well.

   

Meanwhile, Michael and others revisited the tofu scramble ($17.50) and it received high marks all round. It's the primary gluten-free option available, with a surcharge to swap the toast.

   

Our second visit on Sunday allowed everyone to optimise their orders. For the big savoury breakfast lovers, the burrito ($15.50) was arguably a level up on the scramble plate, because it offers scramble plus black beans, rice, spinach, and salsa.

Clever Toby ordered both a pie and a kid's sized pancake on the first day, while Steph chose a cheese toastie side by side with a sausage roll on Sunday, with a wedge of banana cake to take away. This crew sure knows how to squeeze variety out of a café visit.

   

My mini-optimisation was to skip the pancake stack - I'd tried a little of Toby's and it was pleasant but extremely sweet. Instead it was the BRAT wrap special ($15.50) for me: the tempeh bacon was a bit thicker and less intensely seasoned than my approach, but it was well supported by avocado, rocket, tomato, and drizzled aioli. I liked the Raja chai too.

Wombat has gone from strength to strength, with lots of fun café meals to choose from and a few specialty groceries on the side. (A few more options and labels for gluten-free and other diets would be even better.) I'm impressed that the staff keep it so bright and friendly on weekends, which always seem to be bustling with blow-ins like us as well as the loyal locals.  
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You can read about our first visit to Wombat Café here. Since then it's received a shout-out on Fire & Tea.
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Wombat Café
230 Boundary Rd, Dromana
5987 1193

Accessibility: There's a flat entry way and reasonably spaced interior. We ate outdoors at a picnic table on slightly uneven ground. We ordered and paid at a low counter.