Thursday, July 29, 2021

Vegan roast chicken meal

July 25, 2021 


With all of my socks successfully darned, I was looking for a lockdown project last weekend. I found a bag of dried bean curd sheets in the pantry and decided it was time to try making them into roast 'chicken' skin. Some online browsing turned up a recipe and very promising series of photos from School Night Vegan. I liked that his seitan recipe mixed up tofu, beans and gluten flour.

I knew, though, that the 'vital wheat gluten' used internationally can differ from the 'gluten flour' that's most widespread here in Australia (and I've had a couple of seitan fails to prove it). I kept a close eye on this dough, holding back on the liquid until I was sure it could take it - it turns out the original proportions here work just fine! We're still working with a small blender bowl (our big one's motor failed during lockdown #1), so I had to blend my seitan ingredients in batches and knead the dough together in a large bowl. This turned out fine, and the extra unblended flecks of bean skin (gross as they sound) might actually have improved the texture of the seitan. I omitted the salt, because I thought the stock powder and miso paste would be plenty already, but I've put it back into the recipe below because I think this dough can take it.


I was pretty nervous about how the bean curd sheets would hold up to all this boiled water, wrapping, steaming and unwrapping. Certainly they can rip in the delicate early stages, but once they're wrapped up in foil and steamed, they undergo some kind of magical transformation! When I unwrapped my 'chicken' parcels, the bean curd skin layers had melded to the seitan and felt sturdy; they were easy to handle through marination, baking and serving.

The original recipe uses a marinade with cranberry sauce in it - I substituted pomegranate molasses for convenience and enjoyed that very much. The marinade recipe is excellent and I'll happily use it again, but I'll no doubt also try some different flavour combinations, and imitate the roast chicken seasonings of my childhood. The same goes for the side veges - I loved the soft, sweet shallot halves, and the carrots and potatoes were delicious but served in a different ratio than I'm accustomed to. I'm not quite convinced that the herbs and oranges added a lot of flavour beyond the marinade, and I'll give myself a chance to miss them next time around. 

This vegan roast chicken meal was a high effort, risky project that ended up being very successful and yielding four meals for two people. The core seitan chicken recipe is really impressive, and I'm looking forward to pulling it out on occasion, and gradually working towards my own favourite marinade and veges to complement it.


Vegan roast chicken meal
(slightly adapted from a recipe by School Night Vegan)

300g firm tofu
400g can cannellini or butter beans, including the liquid
2 tablespoons stock powder
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white miso
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
350g gluten flour
8 sheets yuba/dried bean curd sheets

3 cloves garlic
60mL balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

roast veges
3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 shallots, peeled and halved
200g new potatoes (I would use more next time!)
1 orange, cut into 8 segments (I would consider skipping this)
1 small bunch parsley (I would consider skipping this)
4 sprigs rosemary

gravy, to serve

Start by making the seitan dough. The original recipe places all the ingredients from tofu through to rice wine vinegar in a food processor together. Due to space restrictions, I blended the firm tofu and most of the bean liquid and transferred it to a bowl, then blended the beans through to rice wine vinegar together and stirred it into the bowl of blended tofu. Although the original recipe is aiming for the smoothest, creamiest possible mixture, I had a bit of bean skin texture to my mixture and I was happy with the end texture. Add the gluten flour to the mixture, either blending to form a dough, or stirring in a bowl. I really dug my clean hands in there to scrunch and stretch the dough and form gluten strands. Divide the dough into 8 pieces, forming them into thick fillets, cover the with a teatowel and set them aside.

Place the yuba sheets into a shallow, heatproof dish and pour boiling water over them; drain out most of the water when they've softened. Prepare a 8 sheets of baking paper and 8 sheets of foil, each big enough to wrap the seitan fillets. Lay out a softened yuba sheet and place a fillet in the centre, and wrap the yuba around the fillet. Firmly wrap the fillet in baking paper, and very firmly wrap it all in foil. Repeat until all the seitan fillets are wrapped in yuba, baking paper, and foil. Place all of the wrapped fillets into a steamer, and steam for about an hour. Allow the fillets to cool for 20 minutes before unwrapping them.

While the fillets are steaming and cooling, prepare the marinade. Place all of the marinade ingredients plus 4 tablespoons water into the blender and process until as smooth as possible. When the fillets have cooled for 20 minutes, carefully unwrap and discard the baking paper and foil layers (I've saved mine for reuse), and place the fillets in a large shallow dish. (I made sure they weren't touching, because I wanted to avoid the yuba layers sticking to each other.) Spoon half of the marinade over the fillets and allow them to marinate for at least 30 minutes, and up to overnight.

When you're aiming to eat in an hour, preheat an oven to 190 C. Place all of the roast vege ingredients into one or two roasting pans; pour over the remaining half-quantity of marinade and stir it through. Roast the vegetables for 30 minutes. Place the seitan fillets on top of the vegetables, return the pans to the oven, and roast for a further 15 minutes. When the vegetables are tender and the yuba is nicely browned, serve the fillets and vegetables with gravy on the side.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Mary Miller II

July 11, 2021


This morning we did our weekly shop at Piedimonte's and cycled by Mary Miller for lunch afterwards. We were surprised to see it closed, and wondered if their pandemic coffee service hadn't been enough to sustain the business. It turns out that they've simply moved a few blocks west! Mary Miller now occupies the ground level of an apartment building on the north-west corner of Nicholson and Miller Streets.


The menu maintains the same style as on my first visit: lots of breakfast and lunch dishes with a very high proportion of well-marked vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. Michael was pleased with the vegetarian version of the harissa eggs ($21): it comes with one, and not the more common two, pieces of toast, and is a filling protein-rich mix of spicy harissa-folded eggs, haloumi (rather than the default bacon), soused onion salad, feta and garlic labneh.


I picked the JFC Bowl ($21) from the lunchier side of the menu - it's an even more generous and filling portion, though not quite as colourful and fresh as I was hoping for. On a base of sushi rice, there's vegan pop chicken, Japanese fried cauliflower, big servings of kimchi, pickled ginger and (not-spicy) gochujang mayo, a little mound of edamame smashed into avocado, and some sweetly roasted teriyaki carrots. While I enjoyed all of the components, the proportions and flavour combinations weren't to my preference - it'll be on me to make my ideal version at home.


There remains a lot to like about Mary Miller's menu, but there's a notable downfall in their move: the new location features polished concrete floors and brick walls, and noise echoes off these surfaces. It's just not as relaxing a spot to sit. I'll consider popping in on a weekday (especially now that I work less than full time!), but not even the waffles are likely to lure me back on the weekend. 

You can read about my first visit to Mary Miller here.

Mary Miller
55-63 Nicholson St, Brunswick East
0449 067 132

Accessibility: The entry is wide and flat, but the door is sticky and difficult to use. Furniture is quite densely packed; low tables with a mixture of backed chairs and benches along the walls. Sound echoes off the polished concrete floor and brick walls. We ordered at our table and paid at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Saturday, July 03, 2021

Wattleseed damper

June 26, 2021


I'm on my way to completing Nornie Bero's set of damper recipes! My latest attempt has been the wattleseed version. It's another simple loaf and, as I think Bero herself comments in her cooking video, this spice gives the damper a lovely coffee-scroll kind of flavour, very much my style for breakfast. Bero's recommended spread is a blend of 70% butter and 30% golden syrup, and it's the perfect gently-sweet accompaniment. I enjoyed pulling it all together on a quiet Saturday morning, got a couple of chores done while the loaf was baking, then brewed a cup of tea and relaxed into this treat from the couch.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Mamma Says

June 14, 2021


Michael heard about Mamma Says from our vegan blogging friend of yore, Lidia. The café has been around for years and just made the shift to being 100% plant-based in January. It's a pleasant bike ride from our house, so we made time to visit for brunch on a public holiday with a good-enough weather forecast.

The all-day menu has plenty going on, and a decent sprinkling of well-marked gluten-free options. There are abundant, appetising dishes commonly available for breakfast: granola comes with coconut yoghurt, smashed avo is garnished with radishes and pomegranate, there are multiple takes on the tofu scramble, and I was stuck umming and ahhhing among the crumpets, French toast and waffles.

As you can see above, the waffles ($18.50) won out - they seemed like the right middle ground in terms of toppings. The waffles were thick and deeply grooved, all the better to snag some pecan crumble or apple-cinnamon gel on the way to my mouth. What with the grilled peaches and the icecream, I didn't end up using the side of maple syrup at all - the plate was already sweet and varied enough.


Michael had a shot at the chilli scramble ($15.50) with a bonus breakfast sausage ($3). He thoroughly enjoyed it all - the mock-sausage was good quality and he was pleasantly surprised at how eggy the scramble was.


In addition to the breakfast options, Mamma Says has lunchier dishes. Besides a vegetable-filled risotto, it's a solid spread of mock meats including Vietnamese salad, burgers, lasagna and an intriguing Mediterranean grilled meat plate. There's also a display case stacked with sweet and savoury goodies. We'll have to return and give some of them a go - the food and service were great, and we liked the chance to contribute to their "pay it forward" project on our way out.

Mamma Says
120 Station St, Fairfield
9489 1112

Accessibility: Furniture is medium spaced, a mix of benches against walls and chairs with backs (see photo above). We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Wattleseed & macadamia brownies

June 12, 2021


I'm not sure how many brownie recipes one food blog needs, but this food blog is all the better for including the one appearing in Warndu Mai (Good Food) Cookbook. I received this cookbook as a very thoughtful gift for my last birthday, from a group of friends I met through blogging. The book is centred around native ingredients, and how we can introduce them into our cooking. There are simple, daily foods like wattleseed coffee and native tea, damper, and wild raspberry jam, through to celebration desserts such as Illawarra plum and lemon myrtle limoncello trifle, and strawberry gum pavlova. There's plenty of bush meat recipes (kangaroo, seafood, emu and crocodile) and even a green ant citronello for the non-veg*ns.

A brownie isn't quite so daring, but it's the winter pandemic-lockdown comfort food I was drawn to make and eat. I was low on wattleseed, so I topped up at Gewürzhaus, and I'll try to plan ahead and buy from Mabu Mabu in future. Then there were a couple of substitutions for convenience: golden syrup instead of carob syrup, and walnut oil instead of macadamia oil. I can see a couple more that would earn this vegan status: margarine instead of butter, and perhaps aquafaba instead of the egg whites.

This is a really great brownie! Probably more cakey than fudgy, but with the right chewiness around the edges. I picked up the wattleseed in my first mouthful, but became desensitised to it as I continued eating. The macadamia chunks stand out from the batter more than the usual, softer walnuts and pecans. I'm not generally all that interested in icing on a brownie but this one is unforgettable, a rich buttercream that contains more chocolate than icing sugar - I can see myself transferring it to other cakes in future too.

This is a sweet but subtly-spiced start to my cooking with Warndu Mai. I'm excited to track down many of its other less familiar-to-me ingredients and get to know them better. 

Wattleseed & macadamia brownies
(very slightly adapted from Damien Coulthard & Rebecca Sullivan's 

brownie batter
65g butter
250g sugar
2 egg whites
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon golden syrup
1 tablespoon ground wattleseed
3 tablespoons macadamia or walnut oil
pinch of salt
100g toasted macadamias, roughly chopped

120g dark chocolate
125g butter, at room temperature
70g icing sugar
1 teaspoon ground wattleseed

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Line a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper and spray it with oil.

Cream together the butter and sugar with an electric beater. Gradually add the egg whites. Sift in the cocoa, flour and baking powder, and beat gently until just combined. Slowly beat in the syrup, wattleseed, oil and salt. Fold in the macadamias. Pour the mixture into the cake tin, smooth over the top, and bake for 25 minutes. This should allow for soft centre and a chewy edge. Allow the brownie to cool.

To make the icing, gently melt the chocolate using your preferred method and allow it to cool a little. In a medium bowl, cream the butter with an electric beater. Sift in the icing sugar and beat until well mixed and fluffy. Slowly beat the melted chocolate and wattleseed into the butter. Spread the icing over the brownies, and slice to serve.