Tuesday, June 29, 2010

June 20, 2010: Yong Green Food III

We returned to Yong Green Food for lunch on a wet Sunday while Liz was in town. With seven of us 'round the table, it was a good opportunity to order broadly from the menu.

K and I shared a pot of pomegranate honey tea ($4.50/jug), which we both loved. It seems we're equal suckers for these syrupy sweet fruity concoctions.

These kim chi gyoza ($9.50) are a winter special. The menu promises an explosive filling of kim chi, tofu, mushrooms, onion, garlic and spring onion, though it actually reminded me more of mock meat. These are well worth a try, though not quite as special as we'd all hoped they'd be.

Michael kindly permitted me a taste of the Korean kim chi pancake ($9.50) he shared with Toby. In contrast to the dumplings this exceeded my expectations with its complex savoury flavour.

Michael and Toby also shared the teriyaki chicken ($13.50); another winner and perfect for winter with its thick sauce and brown rice.

Meanwhile I dug into the grilled chicken burger ($8.50). Between the Turkish-style bun and gluten-based patty this is a huge portion of wheaty carbohydrates. Thankfully it comes with a decent helping of flavour too - the 'skin' on the 'chicken' is quite phenomenal and the satay and sweet chilli sauces suited better than I thought they would. My only gripe is that the chicken's quite uneven, a too-rich inch thick in the centre and petering out to nothing towards the edges.

Another winter special is the raw pecan pie ($7.50). In my opinion it's not a patch on the raw chocolate cheesecake but there was sufficient enthusiasm for it amongst my friends that this slice disappeared quickly and entirely.

Though there were a couple of mild disappointments on this visit, Yong is much more hit than miss and a worthy competitor to the enormously successful and variable Vegie Bar across the street. We'll be back for more, for sure.

You can read about our previous meals at Yong here and here.

June 19, 2010: Court Jester III

We've raved about Court Jester a couple of times already, having enjoyed their amazing breakfast menu. Each time we visited though, we've regretted being too early to sample their lunch menu, with Cindy particularly eyeing off the rotating cast of pierogi that they offer up.

Finally visiting after 11am, I was still tempted to go back to the Brunswick Green (brekkie is an all day affair here) but instead delved into the unknown wilds of the lunch menu. Lunch is a bit meatier than breakfast, with a Polish pizza, a vegie burger or the pierogi providing the vegetarian choices. Cindy  was thrilled that all 3 pierogi choices for the day were vego: mushroom, potato and cheesy potato. She got a mixed 6, two of each variety, served up with sour cream on top ($7.50).

This came out looking like a pretty small lunch, but they're a hearty little dumpling, and Cindy was well satisfied. The dumplings were soft and beautifully cooked, with rich fillings - the potato in particular won rave reviews. Cindy had high hopes, and these did not disappoint.

I decided to sample the vegie burger, which came with salad, pickles, Polish sauce and sour-cream ($9) - I added in a beetroot and carrot salad for an extra $3.

The pattie on the vegie burger was decent enough, but this meal was all about the pickles and sauces - lots of saltiness and bite. Similarly, the beetroot and carrot salad had a hint of pickle about it, making this a delicious Eastern-European lunch. Plenty of food on offer too for just $12.

Cindy decided that, despite finding the pierogi quite filling, there was still some room left for dessert. And when the blackboard promises sour cherry and chocolate torte ($5), you can understand why.

This was rich and filled with chocolate - I only had a little taste, but I thought they could have upped the cherry content a little to give it a bit more variety. Still, there were no complaints from the other side of the table.

Court Jester continues to impress us, with friendly (if slightly scattered) service and well-priced and interesting food in a great space. We're yet to be disappointed - if only it were a little closer we'd be there every week.

Read about our previous visits to Court Jester here and here. Since we last looked, it seems only Green Gourmet Giraffe has blogged it - I was sure that this place would become super hip once Epicure reviewed it, but it seems as though there's still not been a whole lot of blog attention (excluding the little burst that we linked to in our first post).

Sunday, June 27, 2010

June 19, 2010: Global Green Vegetarian Food Mart

Keira from Around The World Vegan recently got the scoop on a new vegetarian grocery, Global Green, perched on the western side of the Queen Victoria Markets.  I eagerly stopped by the very next Saturday, strategically scheduling my visit to coincide with the 11am tastings that Keira mentioned.  When I arrived I was also greeted by the lovely Christine (whom Keira met), and she treated me to samples of stir-fried mock mutton and diced faux-chicken in a terrific tomato-chilli sauce.

As I enjoyed this late-morning snack I browsed the shelves.  With freezers full of mock meats, plenty of soy products and lots of condiments, there's a distinctly Asian bent; there are also a few veg*n bonuses such as Soyatoo cream, soy condensed milk and Cheezly.  Global Green stocks many products that were first introduced to me at Vincent Vegetarian Food - as well as the extensive mock meat selection, I was mighty pleased to see the brands of vegetarian 'oyster' sauce, 'fish' sauce and barbecue sauce that I've grown to love this year.

Global Green isn't actually a place to buy your fresh leafy greens but there's plenty of those across the street.  Instead I'd recommend any vegetarians frequenting the markets pay this shop a visit for a few unique treats that'll sit happily in your pantry or freezer before making their way to your belly.

Address: Shop 1/33 Peel St, West Melbourne
Ph: 9326 9686
Hours: Monday - Saturday 9:30am-6pm, Sunday 10am-6pm with tastings 11am Saturdays

Edit 26/01/2011: Global Green has recently moved to 105 South Rd, Braybrook.  You can keep updated with them via their website or facebook.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

June 17, 2010: Cutler & Co II

Since we moved to Melbourne we've been building up a tradition of fancy degustation feasts to celebrate our respective birthdays. People who've been with us for years will remember our gob-smacked enjoyment of Andrew McConnell's old place Three, One, Two way back in 2007 and our follow-up visit in 2008. It's taken us a while to really try out McConnell's new place, Cutler and Co - sure we sampled a cracking lunch last year, and we've breakfasted at his other joint Cumulus Inc, but we hadn't got our act together and tried out a really fancy meal there. So this year I decided to make it my birthday venue.

Unlike Three, One, Two the vegie degustation isn't a standard option - we let them know ahead of time that we were keen and they were more than happy to accommodate us. The degustation is eight courses - six savoury and two sweet - for $100 a pop.

Things started off with the obligatory bread - sourdough this time. It was as delicious as ever, but I think I mostly enjoy the bread at these places because of the licence to smear it with awesome butter and salt.

The first real course was a selection of 4 entrees:

Rye crackers with horseradish and fresh radishes,

Weird parmesan and tapioca crackers (right) and goats cheese cigars with olive powder (left)

A selection of marinated olives (you'll note that I was too impatient to wait for the photos and there's already a lonely pit sitting there in the pit-bucket.

These were all excellent, a cavalcade of flavour and texture - crispness, creaminess, weird powders, tender olives. All very impressive. The undoubted star were the cigars - filled with a wonderfully creamy goat cheese inside these crisp little cylinders, all sitting on a dehydrated olive powder. I would have been happy if these came out with every course.

Instead, we were next served up this little delight:

baby beetroot served on creme fraiche and smoked onion ceviche, with rye cracker twigs, dill, little beetroot jelly cubes and fresh green capsicum. The creme fraiche was lightly tangy and impossible smooth, while the beetroot had a sweeter taste than I expected. This was another textural adventure: crunchy crackers, crisp capsicum, jellied beetroot and tender baby beet. The dill was a little overpowering when you big bits of it in a single mouthful but otherwise it worked brilliantly.

Next up was an unphotographed dish (can't even blame booze for this oversight) - a carrot salad with raw, cooked and pickled carrot, with walnut cream and shanklish. This was a cute riff on the carrot theme, with crisp raw carrots, dark and soft cooked carrot and slivers of tart carrot pickle. There were a few more radishes in there as well, along with some pieces of slightly candied walnut and the mild shanklish and walnut cream.

The following dish was probably our pick of the bunch: slippery jack mushrooms, pomme anna and nettle.

The little parcel of finely sliced and fried potatoes was simply amazing. Most of you will know Cindy's obsession with all things chip-related, and this left her unable to even speak - possibly the potato-highlight of the year. The slippery jacks were their usual odd, slightly squishy texture, but were cooked beautifully and had a mild, buttery flavour. They were served atop a Jerusalem artichoke puree with vanilla and beneath a nettle topping, which was a welcome sight of greenery amongst a plate of fried goodness. But really, this was all about the potato. Stunning.

Things shifted gears again next, going from a hearty fried treat, to something more delicate and stewy - a leek bourride, with fregola, smoked tomato and mustard cream.

The mustard cream made this dish, with the rest serving almost as vessels for it's creamy goodness. The tiny pasta pieces were a nice textural variation, while the leeks were soft and had soaked in plenty of the glorious mustard cream.

Our last savoury was billed as a kind of main dish, with two plates coming out: a little rectangle of baked ricotta, served with a raw globe artichoke and fennel salad.

The salad was tart and fresh and the cheese-prism was light and crumbly - Cindy noted that on its own, this plate would make for a great spring entree. But it came with something more seasonally appropriate, this hearty eggplant mush, sprinkled with almonds.

It was warming and hearty, with a nice mix of crispy roasted nuts and soft and gooey eggplant mush. It was also filling - at this stage we were both glad that it was time to move on to dessert.

First up was a mandarin and carrot granita, served with sheep's milk yoghurt.

This was better than either of us expected - the fine cylinders of raw carrot had been soaked in something sweet and delicious, while the icy granita and sweet biscuit crumbs were like powdered goodness. Throw in a few plump mandarin pieces and some amazing yoghurt and you've got a wonderful refreshing treat.

But a chocolate-less treat. So it was lucky that our final course brought the chocolate: violet ice cream, chocolate ganachek, clove meringue, freeze-dried raspberries, some sort of nutty sponge and chocolate powder.

This was astonishing - the little red pellets were concentrated raspberry flavour, the ganache was ridiculously chocolatey, and the violet ice cream was floral without being weird. Combined, this was just a heavenly plate - all the flavours and textures (the meringue added some crunch to all the powders and creaminess) working together to make something wonderful. A perfect end to the meal, and the only dish to compete with the potato and mushrooms as the night's winner.

Cutler and Co really turn it on with the degustation - our meal made stars of beetroot, carrot, mustard cream, fried potato, goats cheese, eggplant, mandarin and ricotta, with each course highlighting the restaurant's wonderful ingredients and inventive cooking. The service throughout was impeccable, and the couple of glasses of wine I had were great - I can think of literally nothing to complain about except for our inability to get a booking before 8:30 and thus eating past 11 at night. But it's popular for a reason, people, so get booking.

Read about our previous visit to Cutler and Co here.

For the completist, make your way through the dozens of C & C reviews at: Suck My Radish, Tasted by Two, Lusciousness, Saucy Thyme, Melbourne Dining, Melbourne Gastronome, Tomato, Melbourne's Bargain Foodie, Doublecooked, Eat (almost) Anything at Least Once, See. Smell. Taste., Record, rewind, play, 1001 dinners 1001 nights, Foodmile's, The Chronices of Ms I-Hua, Injera, Munching in Melbourne, Fitzroyalty, Mel: Hot or Not, Jenius, Jeroxie, Gourmet to Glam and Off the Spork

Monday, June 21, 2010

June 13-15, 2010: Maple baked beans

With winter well and truly arrived, it was time to pull out the slow cooker that Michael gave me for my last birthday.  I figured it was also time that I tried cooking dried beans at home - you might have noticed that all of our leguminous recipes use cans.  It turns out that this is really s l o w   c  o  o  k  i  n  g.  First the beans need to be soaked in room temperature water for at least 8 hours.(I was surprised how much they expanded in this one step!)  Then they go into the slow cooker with some garlic and bay leaves for 8-12 hours.  Then after a little rinse they go back into the slow cooker with their sauce ingredients for 6-8 hours more!

Happily, these baked beans were worth the wait. They're actually remarkably similar to how I remember canned baked beans tasting (... I haven't eaten those for years). They are extraordinarily soft and this sauce is very sweet (I guess that's the maple syrup talking).  Michael liked them even more with a little Tabasco sauce.  I reckon I could go for a little more bite, so in future I'd like to try skipping the intermediate slow-cooking step and go straight from soaking to slow-cooking with sauce (while keeping an eye on the moisture levels).  I'd probably add a few chilli flakes to the brew as well.  There's still a half-kilo of dried beans in the cupboard and several months of cold weather ahead - plenty of room to experiment.

Basic beans
(based on a recipe in Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson)

Note that this recipe makes roughly double the beans required for the maple baked bean recipe below.  We threw some of the leftover beans in pasta for dinner later in the week, and made a half-serve of this Veganomicon recipe with the rest.

500g dried Great Northern (or other) beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves

Place the dried beans in a large contained and cover them with water, with an extra inch or two of water on top.  Leave them to soak for 8 hours or overnight.

Drain the beans and transfer them to a slow cooker, adding the garlic and bay leaves.  Cover them with fresh water, pop on the lid and cook the beans on low for 8-12 hours.

Gently drain and rinse the beans when they're done.

Maple baked beans
(from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cups Great Northern beans, cooked as above
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 1/4 cups hot water

Saute the onion in the oil in a frypan over medium heat, for about 5 minutes or until softened.  Transfer the onion to a slow cooker and add the beans, maple syrup, mustard, salt and pepper.  Dissolve the tomato paste into the hot water and pour it over the beans.  Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook the beans on low for 6-8 hours.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

June 13, 2010: Carrot-maple soup

Our recipe calendar is very seasonally appropriate, so as the cold weather came in this month, it offered up a perfectly warming soup recipe.  This is a neat combination of flavours, with the ginger and maple syrup adding a bit of sweetness and bite to what is otherwise a straightforward carrot soup recipe. The whole process takes a bit of time - you've got to roast everything first and then turn it into soup, but it's all quite simple to do and the end result is worth the effort.  It's quite sweet, but it feels healthy and hearty and was perfect for a cold night at home.

Carrot and Maple Syrup Soup

1kg carrots, sliced 2cm thick
2 onions, roughly chopped
4cm piece of ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
4 cups vegie stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Toss together carrots, onions, ginger, garlic, oil and maple syrup with salt and pepper.  Spread them out on a lined baking tray and roast, turning a couple of times, for thirty minutes.  The carrots should have just started to brown a bit.

Tip the vegies and juices into a big pot and pour in the stock.  Bring to the boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes until everything is tenderised.  

Mush everything up with a stick blender, doing your best not to spray the kitchen with carrot juice - it should be thick and smooth.

Serve it up and drizzle with maple syrup to garnish.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

June 12, 2010: Plush Pizza II

Though we like to whinge about anything that drags us out of the inner north, Miss T's birthday bash out east provided us with a welcome excuse to stop by Plush Pizza for dinner with Toby. Toby's something of a PP veteran and he advised us by text message to order two medium pizzas to share between the three of us, one of them Chunky ($18.50). Though this topping combo wasn't high on my to-try list, it was terrific - jammed with mushrooms, capsicum, onion, tomato, sausage, tofu, olives, pineapple, gherkin and topped with fresh parsley, it had the heartiness of a supreme pizza with none of the stodginess.

In the comments on our previous Plush pizza post, I got a clear message that I needed to try the Ben Special ($17) - "pesto, button mushrooms, red onion, sliced roma tomato and a light sprinkle of our hot spice blend. Garnished with slices of fresh avocado, cracked pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar". While I didn't pick up on the pesto, spices or balsamic vinegar as I ate, this really worked! The thinly-sliced avocado was a wonderful creamy alternative to melted cheese, and I always think it's the perfect partner for mushrooms.

I really dig what Plush Pizza puts out - bucketloads of veges, flavour and satisfaction without the oily, doughy ball of regret that takeaway pizza can leave in your stomach for hours afterwards.

You can read about our previous visit to Plush Pizza here.

Edit 10/07/11: Sadly, Plush Pizza has closed - Melbourne veg community will miss it terribly.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

June 10, 2010: Supermaxi

Every month or two a wave of hype sweeps through food bloggers and across twitter as another exciting restaurant opens in Melbourne. In March and April, it was the turn of Supermaxi, the new restaurant run by Rita Macali, one of the people largely responsible for Melbourne's pizza boom with the opening of Ladro (which we've shamefully never reviewed!) on Gertrude Street some years back. With that pedigree it was no surprise that Supermaxi was packing them in from day one.

We took a bit longer to check it out, with Mike and Jo inviting us to join them there for a late celebration ofmy birthday. We booked but on a Thursday night it seemed like you could walk up and get a table if you turned up early enough (especially if your name is Vince Colosimo!) - but by the time we left there wasn't much spare real estate left.

The menu is surprisingly light on vego options - there's a few good dishes in the entree section of the menu and we'd had two particular recommendations from previous visitors: the Cavolfiore di Gigia (deep fried cauliflower in batter, $11) and the battered beetroot ($11).

These were both exceptional - the sweet beetroot and light batter complemented with just a dribble of lemon juice and the tender cauliflower florets with caramelised onion bits taking the Indya bistro idea to a new level. The only downside was the doubling up on the deep-frying - probably you're best off picking one of these to order each time you go rather than going with back-to-back batter.

Once you get past the entrees the vegie fare becomes scarce - just two pizzas and one pasta by default. Cindy went with the ravioli with grilled artichoke, butter and sage ($20).

Cindy enjoyed this but not as much as I did - I thought the filling, which had a kind of vinegarry artichoke flavour, was amazing. The pasta was beautifully cooked of course, and the butter sauce was appropriately light.

The vego pizzas on the menu were the margherita and the funghi, but the staff were happy to take the anchovies off the La Napoletana for me (fior di latte, olives, oregano, capers and chilli on a tomato base, $18).

As you'd expect, they make a good pizza base at Supermaxi, and the sauce and cheesiness on this were pretty enjoyable. I was a little disappointed at the sparseness of the toppings - I wasn't expecting a La Porchetta style slathering but five olives and this sparse sprinkling of other bits and pieces seemed a bit light. Maybe the anchovies add some variety. Still, I'm not complaining too much - this was a very enjoyable pizza feast. But maybe not quite up to some of its competitors.

We all had a bit of a chat afterwards, and there was a reasonable consensus - Supermaxi is a good restaurant but it's probably not a good value-for-money restaurant. The service is impeccable and the room is cleanly designed and stylish but it feels like the food falls just a tad short of the price and environment.

You can read more timely reviews of Supermaxi at Fitzroyalty, Melbourne Gastronome, essjay eats, Eat Our Way Up High Street, Selective Consumerism and Broadsheet

Address: 305 St Georges Rd, North Fitzroy
Ph: 9482 2828
Price: Vegie entrees $8-$11; vegie mains $18-$20
Website: http://www.supermaxi.com.au/ (although it's utterly useless - why pay someone to design something with so little functionality? Baffling)

Monday, June 14, 2010

June 6, 2010: Carrot cupcakes

Once my paneer was compressing, I set about making carrot cake using a recipe from Green Kitchen Stories.  I've always liked - though never been wild about - carrot cake.  Done well, it's hearty and delightful for afternoon tea (even better if there's cream cheese icing involved!).  But it's never as nutritious as I might like to think and, let's face it, it's no match for chocolate cake in the treat stakes.

This recipe showed real promise, using wholemeal flour and coconut (like my own recent snack baking), bananas and dates for sweetness (no refined sugar!) and precisely the same number of eggs as I had in the fridge.  In fact, I only needed to add four ingredients to my shopping list and I was good to go!  Instead of making one large cake as Johanna did, I divided the batter into a dozen cupcakes.  Then as a take-'em-to-work trick I sandwiched the agave-sweetened cream cheese into the middle instead of spreading it on top, making them easy to wrap and pack. 

The one challenge was achieving the smoothness they need, both in blending the dates for the cake batter and whipping the cream cheese for the icing.  There's probably no need to fuss about the dates as a little chunkiness works nicely with the freckly mix of carrot, sultanas and walnuts.  The few lumps remaining in my cream cheese didn't spoil my day, but it's worth getting the cream cheese right down to room temperature before beating.  Regardless, these have been everything I want in a carrot cake - a pleasing combination of wholesome and treatsome.

Carrot cupcakes
(based on a recipe at Green Kitchen Stories)

1 1/2 bananas
15 dried dates
1/2 cup sunflower oil
3 eggs
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
3 medium carrots, grated
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup sultanas

200g cream cheese
juice and zest of 1 lime
3 tablespoons agave nectar

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lighty grease a muffin tray.

Blend together the bananas, dates and oil in a food processor until as smooth as possible. Add the eggs and blend briefly.

Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom into a large bowl. Stir the mixture from the blender into the dry ingredients in the bowl.

Fold in the carrots, coconut, walnuts and sultanas. Scoop the batter into the muffin tray (I made a dozen muffins). Bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes.  Allow the cakes to cool on a rack before icing them.

To make the icing, thoroughly beat the cream cheese until fluffy and as smooth as possible.  Gradually beat in the remaining ingredients.

Slice each cupcake in half horizontally and spread it with the cream cheese, then gently sandwich the halves together again.  Alternatively, slather the icing on top of the cupcakes.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

June 6, 2010: Paneer

On Sunday afternoon I had my own go at making the paneer I swooned over at Kurma Dasa's cooking class.  I planned it as a welcome-home gesture for Michael (he'd been working out of town for 10 days) and a time-to-stop-scavenging-and-actually-cook motivator for myself.  Not that too much planning seemed necessary - all it takes is milk, some lemon juice or vinegar, and a splash of water.  

Oh, how wrong I was.  As I began to heat the milk, I set up my colander over a bowl for the draining stage and rummaged in the drawers for the muslin.  You know, that muslin we used to make tofurkey?  Not in the drawer I expected it to be in.  Nor, seemingly, in any of the other drawers.  Not in the cupboards.  Not in any other place outside the kitchen where I could imagine possibly stashing muslin.

By this stage my milk was threatening to boil over and I just went with it.  I curdled the milk and took a chance on the relatively small holes in my colander, pouring it all through without any finer straining.  And I pretty much got away with it!  There were just a few teeny curds floating in the yellow whey - they were easily strained with my finer tea strainer as I packaged the whey into jars to freeze for later (Kurma has some good ideas for using whey too!).  Then I just popped those escapee curds right back into the colander to be squished with the rest.

I was still a little nervous that my cheese might not compress into a neat slab without a cloth to keep it together.  In the end my paneer was a little crumbly round the edges but completely edible; first dressed with salt, pepper and lemon juice as we tasted it in class, then gently fried into golden cubes for a palak paneer.

I shared my paneer-straining woes with the twitterverse as my curds drained and received some great tips on substituting for muslin - clean Chux (@crazybrave), a linen tea towel (@tammois) and even 'heavy denier pantyhose' (@stickifingers)!  If only I'd run to the sock drawer instead of the kitchen drawer.

(based on a recipe from Kurma Dasa, which appears on his website here)

~1/2 cup water
2L full-fat milk (preferably not homogenised)
juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)

Set up a colander or sieve in a large bowl and line the colander with muslin or another clean cloth.  If the cloth is very thin, fold it to double thickness.  Also, make sure there's sufficient extra cloth hanging over the edges to fold in later.

Pour enough water into a large saucepan to completely cover the base (perhaps 5mm deep) and add the milk.  (The water, Kurma advised, will prevent the milk from burning and sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.)  Set the milk on a high heat and bring it to the boil, stirring it regularly along the way.

When the milk begins to foam, turn the heat down to low and add the lemon juice.  The milk should split into curds and whey.  Keep stirring the split mixture over the low heat for a few minutes to allow full separation.

Gently pour the curdled milk through the colander, so that the curds are caught in the cloth and the whey drains through into the bowl.  Pull up the sides of the cloth and twist them together, squeezing as much whey out of the cheese as possible.  Set something heavy (e.g. food cans held on an upturned plate) on the cheese for at least an hour to drain as much liquid from the cheese as possible.  When it's ready, gently unwrap the paneer to store or eat as you wish!

Monday, June 07, 2010

June 3, 2010: Lord of the Fries V

Lord of the Fries have introduced yet another deep-fried temptation to their menu - onion rings!  Such is their popularity, the Melbourne Central store has repeatedly sold out of them and twice I had to console myself with an actually-very-consoling chicken burger before striking gold.  A cup of onion rings with the standard LotF Aussie sauce (tomato sauce and vinegar) will set you back $4.20, but I splashed out and paid extra for Belgian mayonnaise.  Arriving a little before the lunch rush, my much-anticipated sample was at its peak; freshly cooked and promptly served.

The good news is that these onion rings are much closer to the crunchy-tender bites that so delighted me in UK pubs two years ago than they are to the Chattanooga oil loops that so disillusioned me only weeks later.  Even better, they're vegan and gluten-free.

It looks like Lord of the Fries are set to become Australia's Lord of the Rings. 
(Yes, I went there.  Go ahead and groan.)

Read our previous posts about Lord of the Fries: one, two, three and four.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

May 27, 2010: Nasi Lemak House

Michael followed up his bento box birthday lunch with dinner at the cheap and cheerful Nasi Lemak House.  I discovered long ago (thanks to Buttons) that they are veg-friendly but it's taken our recent trip to Malaysia to get us properly enthusiastic about nasi lemak and the other culinary delights of the region.

Nasi Lemak House seems popular with and well-suited to the local student population, being located close to the University of Melbourne and serving large meals for as little as $9.  Even more attractive for us is that there's a dedicated vegetarian section to their menu.  The friendly woman who took our order at the counter double-checked whether we ate egg, a good sign for vegans interested in stopping by.  Once payment is made, it's up to you to grab your own cutlery and water and to keep one ear cocked for your meal as it comes out of the kitchen.

Michael decided to go with their specialty, the Vegetarian Nasi Lemak Traditional ($9.20).  He was surprised how little it looked like our previous dealings with this dish - the tofu puffs, fried egg, pappadums and onion were definitely a different interpretation.  The sambal, too, looked syrupy and sweet though Michael confirmed that it had quite a kick - just what he typically needs to clean a plate with gusto.

I was in the mood for the Vegetarian Char Kuay Teow ($9.80), though no mood nor appetite I've ever experienced could have me finishing a plate piled this high with food!  The noodles were good, the tofu ever better and the chilli danced around my heat threshold.  (I'm pretty sure that you can make a heat-level request on ordering, so I might meekly ask for mild in future.)

While the flavours weren't nuanced, these meals have plenty else going for them.  Vegetarian options are numerous, prices are low and servings are huge.  Given the proximity of Nasi Lemak House to our inner-north workplaces, there's a good chance we'll be choosing it for future lazy-night takeaways.

Address: 115 Grattan St, Carlton
Price: veg mains $9.20-10.90
Website: www.nasilemakhouse.com.au

Thursday, June 03, 2010

May 27, 2010: Gertrude Stree Grub - Wabi Sabi Salon

To celebrate my birthday I decided to drag a bunch of my work buddies out for lunch somewhere nearby. A couple of them were very enthusiastic about Wabi Sabi Salon, which Cindy and I have shamefully never visited (never managing to go past Peko Peko), so I booked us in for a quick visit.

The tiny shop-front gives no indication of what lies within - a small number of tables inside, a pleasant-looking upstairs area and a cute little Japanese garden out the back. We were lucky enough to get the big outside table, which made up in atmosphere what it lacked in legroom.

The lunch menu has fewer options than the restaurant offers for dinner but there's still plenty for vegetarians: noodles, rice-bowls, salads and curries all have non-meat or fish choices. The stars of the lunch-time show are the bento box specials - with rotating meat, fish and vego alternatives. I couldn't resist sampling a box of vegetarian goodies ($11).

This was a beautiful meal - the meat-free main of the day was a deliciously fried tofu steak ($11), which was swimming in a subtle, brothy sauce with tender pieces of eggplant to top things off. But the whole thing is made by the combination: you get a beautiful little sweet potato side, some cute pickled vegies, a big pile of perfectly cooked rice and a leafy salad with a tangy dressing. While there was heaps of food in this cute little box, it all had a light freshness meaning you walk out satisfied but not bloated - and everything tasted amazing.

It's ridiculous that this is my first sampling of the delights of Wabi Sabi - it's well within walking distance of work and serves up reasonably priced, brilliantly presented and tasty meals. I'm going to return again and again.

Wabi Sabi Salon has been given a bunch of positive reviews - stop by Abbotsford Blog, Fitzroyalty, Cookbook, The Melbourne Food Experience, Knife-fork-spoon-chopstick and Mel: Hot or Not to verify how good this place is. We really need to go back for dinner one night to sample more of what they have to offer.

Address: 94 Smith St, Collingwood
Ph: 9417 6119
Price: veg bento lunch $11
Website: http://wabisabi.net.au

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

May 24, 2010: Peanut butter and chocolate squares

Michael wanted to prepare something easy for a special morning tea at work and though it's been almost two years since she posted the recipe, I knew that Lisa's peanut butter chocolate squares were what Michael needed.  Between you and me, they were what I needed too - we've had some rice bubbles hanging around in the cupboard for ever and I figured they'd make an excellent (if rather different) substitute for the graham crackers in the original recipe.  (As an aside, I've never eaten a graham cracker.  Can anyone tell me what they're like?)

While not quite as good as double choc-coated peanut butter bliss balls, this slice requires only a fraction of the effort.  It's one of those terrific melt-mix-chill recipes that you can accomplish in 15 minutes, even with the two layers.  A chocolate-peanut butter fix in this Reese's-scarce country has suddenly become scarily accessible.

My one tip is to keep the slice cool, as it has a tendency for melting goo-iness.  At the moment it's fine in the fridge, but in summer I'd be tempted to try it straight from the freezer!

Peanut butter and chocolate squares
(based on a recipe at Lisa's Kitchen)

2 cups rice bubbles (note that Kellogg's brand are not gluten-free!)
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup margarine
1 cup peanut butter

1 cup dark chocolate
3/4 cup peanut butter

Line a 22cm square baking tin with paper and lightly grease it.  In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the rice bubbles and icing sugar.  Over low-medium heat, melt the margarine and peanut butter in a small saucepan.  Pour the melted mix over the rice bubbles and stir everything together thoroughly.  Press it into the baking tin, using the back of a spoon to smooth the surface.  Pop it in the fridge while you prep the second layer.   

For the topping, gently melt the chocolate and peanut in a small saucepan (just use the same one!).  When they're smooth and well-mixed, retrieve the slice from the fridge and pour the chocolate over, gently spreading it evenly across the slice.  Return the slice to the fridge for at least an hour to set, before cutting it into squares.