Sunday, October 17, 2021

Frozen lime pie

October 10, 2021


This is my second vegan pie mishap of our current lockdown. The first one didn't make it to the blog - it was a lemon tart with a lovely shortcrust and a cornflour-thickened curd that absolutely would not set. 

This time I was in the mood for something involving limes and condensed milk, and key lime pie popped up during my recipe browsing. I flicked between a taste recipe that used condensed milk and an Isa recipe that didn't use eggs, picking out the ingredients and techniques that most appealed to me. I wasn't all that keen on using agar, and hoped that a larger quantity of arrowroot might do the job instead. That didn't work out, and I was stuck with my second un-set tart of the season.

I decided to fall back on a trick that worked once last year: I froze my pie. It was set within a couple of hours, and a bit strange to cut, but an excellent texture to eat. The filling remained soft and creamy, not at all icy, and with a sweet-sour balance that suited me. I've been sprinkling toasted coconut on it and considering it close enough to a success. I might even like this frozen version better than I would a room temperature lime pie. Still: I really would like to figure out a nicely set citrussy vegan tart.

Frozen lime pie
(a recipe inspired by taste's key lime pie

pie crust
150g plain sweet biscuits (I used digestives)
75g margarine

1/3 cup soy milk
3 tablespoons arrowroot (would increase this to 4-5 if attempting an unfrozen pie)
320g can sweet condensed coconut milk
1/2 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon grated lime zest

toasted shredded coconut

Crush the biscuits between baking paper sheets, using a rolling pin, and pour the crumbs into a bowl. Melt the margarine in a saucepan, and stir it through the biscuit crumbs. Press the mixture into a pie dish and refrigerate.

Whisk the arrowroot into the soy milk, in a small-medium saucepan. Stir in the condensed milk and set the mixture over medium heat. Cook, stirring regularly, until thickened. The condensed milk probably already feels thick, but you'll eventually notice your spoon dragging through arrowroot thickness on the bottom of the saucepan, and then notice a similar thickness permeating through the whole mixture. Turn off the heat and stir in the lime juice and zest. Pour the mixture into the pie crust and freeze or refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.

Serve slices with a sprinkle of toasted shredded coconut.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Plain Jane Pizza n Shakes

October 9, 2021


What a relief it is to be back sitting outdoors! We asked our mate Lisa if she'd like to be our accompanying vaccinated household for picnic dinner this week. We had Merri Clan burgers in mind, but we didn't check their news properly and they were closed. Lisa and Michael agreed to try Plain Jane Pizza n Shakes while I nursed my disappointment, and by the time our order was ready I was just as keen for it as they were.

Plain Jane has abundant, well-marked vegan options across their omni menu. (Gluten-free bases are available for an extra $4, but other options aren't explicitly marked.) Pizza toppings are thoughtful combinations of veges, with mock cheese and mock sausage appearing on a couple. Our group was split in our favourites of the day - I liked the Sizzling Sausage ($20 large), with its mock meat chunks and melty-but-not-cloying fior di latte. Michael and Lisa were more fond of the Pocket Rocket ($20 large), which deftly balanced pumpkin, walnuts and a balsamic glaze and had no need for cheese at all. A foil-wrapped loaf of soft, buttery garlic bread ($4) was actually the first to be finished.


We had a nice pause in the afternoon sun before sharing around a vegan nutella calzone ($14). The dough was softer and lighter than I expected, similar to eating a bakery bun. But it was our fourth doughy dish, and we were all full and eager for a gentle cycle home afterwards.

Plain Jane also offers vegan options on many of their fancy shakes, including Oreo and peanut butter caramel flavours - I might consider swapping out the dessert calzone for one of them at a future Preston picnic.

Plain Jane Pizza n Shakes
Shop 14D, 18 Gilbert Rd, Preston
9480 1919

Accessbility: Plain Jane has a small lip on the door. Inside we stood at a high counter in a narrow passage to order, pay and pick up our order.

Saturday, October 02, 2021

Chargrilled cauliflower with fried butter beans
& pumpkin hummus

September 25, 2021


The long weekend rolled around and I had basically nothing planned. To occupy myself on Saturday I decided to cook the day away, picking out two dishes from Hetty McKinnon's Community to set us up for a week of veggie-heavy eating. These two dishes took up a good chunk of the afternoon - there's chopping and cooking and blending and boiling and it was a lovely meditative way to spend the day. I won't reproduce the recipe for the peas and mint with quinoa, feta and almonds here, but it's a lovely fresh spring dish - bursting with crispy greens and crunchy almonds, with the salty feta adding a bit of richness.

I paired it with char-grilled cauliflower with fried beans and pumpkin hummus. Pumpkin hummus is a pretty fancy name for what is basically some mashed pumpkin with tahini and yoghurt in it, but I'm more than willing to forgive the misnomer in light of how wonderful the dish is. The pumpkin mash combines its natural sweetness with tahini tang and some warmth from the cumin, while the charred cauliflower and fried beans are rich and a touch smoky. A bit of crunch from the pumpkin seeds on top and you can't go wrong. It makes a whole ton of food as well - this has been feeding us all week. It's a weekend project, but it's worth it.

Chargrilled cauliflower with fried butter beans and pumpkin hummus
(from Community by Hetty McKinnon)

~2kg of cauliflower, cut into florets
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 cans butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1 cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup lightly toasted pumpkin seeds
salt and pepper

pumpkin hummus
750g butternut pumpkin, peeled and diced into 2cm cubes
2 tablespoons tahini
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons yoghurt
salt and pepper

Start by making the pumpkin hummus. Pop the pumpkin cubes in a large saucepan with a few tablespoons of water and a teaspoon of salt. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more water if the pot dries out. Once the pumpkin is basically falling apart, take it off the heat and leave to cool.

Mash up the pumpkin and stir through the tahini, garlic, salt, olive oil, cumin and lemon juice - it should easily mash up into a thick paste. Stir through the yoghurt and add salt, pepper and more lemon juice to taste. Set aside the hummus and get to work on the rest!

Mix the cauliflower florets with half of the olive oil and salt. The recipe has the cauliflower barbecued, but in our little kitchen we just popped it in a very hot cast iron pan in batches. Cook over very high heat, about three minutes on each side until it's nicely charred - we did it in three batches.

Heat the rest of the oil in your pan over medium heat - throw in the garlic, cumin, coriander and a shake of salt, cooking for 20 seconds before adding the beans. Stir to coat and cook over high heat for 5 minutes or so, trying to get a bit of crisp on.

Stir the beans in with the cauliflower and add the fresh parsley and coriander. Lay out a few spoonfuls of the pumpkin hummus and top with the cauliflower mix and a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds to serve.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Mabu Mabu Big Esso Snack Bar

 September 24, 2021


I have to hand it to the Mabu Mabu team for overcoming two of my prejudices with this one offering! First, Michael and I have rarely subscribed to the 'heat and eat' services that have sprung up during the pandemic - they seem to generate a lot of packaging and aren't always convenient when you don't have a microwave. (That said, it was novel to celebrate a special anniversary at home with Estelle last year). The second prejudice runs longer and deeper - I am really, really uninterested in football. But when Mabu Mabu announced that they'd be catering vegan game boxes for the AFL grand final weekend, I was signed up in minutes!

We had the box delivered direct to our home for a $5 fee, and there was also the option of direct pick-up at Big Esso in Fed Square. It arrived right on schedule and the staff were terrific in dealing with a minor address glitch.


To my delight, all the heated components called for mere minutes in the oven. The dishes looked to us like enough to feed four people, and we stretched them out over a couple of days. We made the loaded chilli cheese yams for an early dinner - they're a reliably comforting carb, and we actually would've been content to skip this mock cheese.


We paired the yams with the wattleseed eggplant schnitzels and they came out as an early favourite - impressively crispy outside and tender inside following their 10 minute bake!


A couple of hours later we took on the bush tomato cauliflower hot wings. They were still a bit watery after the recommended bake time, and we should have cooked 'em longer. They weren't short on flavour, mind - I actually conferred much of my share to Michael because I found them pretty spicy.


By contrast, we were both making sure we got our portion of the saltbush caramel popcorn for dessert. I liked that the caramel was striped across the batch, allowing for crunchy toffee, puffy corn and nutty kernel textures.


We unwittingly saved the best for lunch the following day. The mini pepperberry mushroom bourguignon pies were spectacular, with an impressive thousand-layer flake to the golden-brown vegan pastry. The box included a full bottle of Mabu Mabu's organic tomato sauce, which is already a favourite condiment in our kitchen. Surprisingly, the strawberry, cos lettuce and native tamarind salad might've been my favourite dish of all - the native ingredients shone brightest here, creating a sweet, tangy and refreshing medley.


Unfortunately, I was nursing a headache on the day of delivery so we postponed drinking our desert lime margarita for a couple of days. It was small but strong, and we really liked the coconut notes. I was also able to throw a top-up jar of ground wattleseed into the order and, as you can see, Zimbra loved the box! So we stretched days of enjoyment out of a delivery celebrating an 80 minute game.

While the game box's moment has passed, Mabu Mabu offer other 'heat and eat' packs regularly. Now that picnic season is building up, Big Esso looks like a great potential source for riverside snacks too.

Mabu Mabu Big Esso Snack Bar
Fed Square, corner of Swanston & Flinders Sts 

Accessibility: Big Esso has a wide, flat entry, although Fed Square itself has a somewhat cobbled surface. At the moment you can pick up food at their entry, or arrange for home delivery.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Maple barbecue tempeh sandwiches
with garlic cabbage slaw

September 13, 2021


We decided to take on a cooking project this week, and there's nothing more project-y than the recipes in Adam Sobel's Street Vegan - every recipe has about 8 components and a million ingredients. We simplified this one by dropping the beer-battered pickles, habanero mayo and marinated kale, and just focussed on the tempeh and the slaw. 

It's still a fair bit of faffing around - a couple of different sauces in the blender, pre-boiling of the tempeh and more spices than you can poke a stick at. Still: it was worth it - the sweet and smoky barbecue sauce is really wonderful, and perfect with the tangy, garlicky slaw. Definitely a sandwich that will go into our regular rotation.

Maple barbecue tempeh sandwiches with garlic cabbage slaw
(slightly adapted from a recipe in Adam Sobel's Street Vegan)

maple barbecue sauce
1 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons treacle (the original recipe asked for molasses)
1/2 cup tomato paste
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 tablespoons tamari
1/2 cup olive oil

600g tempeh
4 cups veggie stock
1/2 cup tamari
1/4 cup seeded mustard
1/4 cup olive oil

garlic cabbage slaw
10-15 garlic cloves
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
4 tablespoons maple syrup
5 tablespoons mirin
3/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
zest of 2 lemons + juice of 1
4 cups shredded cabbage
2 teaspoons caraway seeds

dill pickles, finely sliced
6 long rolls

Put all the sauce ingredients in a blender and whizz for a good minute until everything is emulsified. You can make the sauce a few days ahead of time if you need, but we did it in one hit.

Cut the two tempeh blocks into thirds and then turn them on the side and halve them - you should have 12 thin rectangles.

In a large frypan, combine the stock, mustard and half the olive oil and lay out the tempeh pieces so they're submerged. Bring to the boil over high heat and then turn the heat down, simmering for 10-15 minutes. Take the tempeh pieces out with a slotted spoon and set aside (you don't use the stock mixture again, but you can store it to use in other recipes).

Now make the slaw - preheat the oven to 180°C. Thoroughly combine the garlic cloves, olive oil and oregano in a small bowl and then pour the mix out onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Roast for 20 minutes, until the garlic is soft and golden.

Pop the roasted garlic and oil mix into a blender, with the maple syrup, mirin, mayo and lemon juice and blend them until smooth. Combine the cabbage, lemon zest and caraway seeds in a big bowl and then thoroughly mix through the garlic paste - it's easiest with your hands unfortunately.

Now finish off the tempeh - fry the pieces in the rest of the oil over high heat, for a few minutes on each side. Pour over a good splash of the bbq sauce and cook for another minute or two, turning once. 

Build your roll! A slab and a half of tempeh, a few sliced pickles, an extra drizzle of barbecue sauce and as much slaw as you can squeeze in. We got dinner and 3 lunches from this recipe - every one a delight.