Friday, September 30, 2011

Mock duck mix up

September 26, 2011
Six months after visiting Vincent Vegetarian Food, we've still got a mock meat or two kicking around in the freezer. I pulled out some mock smoked duck on Monday morning and turned to twitter, where Zuckerbaby proposed I use it for a stir-fry with "an orange-hoisin-chilli sauce & broccoli". How Zuckerbaby managed to identify the exact thing I felt like eating, even though I'd never before eaten it in my life, I do not know. She must be some kind of clairvoyant chef.

My only personal tweaks were to diversify the green veges and stir through some almond slivers - both winners. The sauce was not quite as abundant and punchy as I'd wished for, I should have added more orange juice, but the mock duck had more than enough flavour to carry through the whole dish. Brown rice was the perfect accompanying carb, and the leftovers were dreamy.

Mock duck mix up
(with eternal gratitude to Zuckerbaby)

Defrost a mock smoked duck and chop it into bite-sized pieces, setting it aside. Get a saucepan of brown rice cooking.

Trim and chop a generous handful each of broccolini, snow peas and green beans, also into bite-sized pieces. Mince some garlic.

Heat up a wok, add a little spray of oil and toss in a handful of almond slivers, cooking them just long enough to brown and then removing them. Add a more generous slurp of peanut oil and throw in the duck pieces, stir-frying them for a couple of minutes, until are golden crust is just starting to develop. Add the minced garlic and stir-fry for just a minute more. Add the veges.

While the veges are heating up, place a scant tablespoon of cornflour in a mug and add a tablespoon of orange juice. Stir them together into a paste, then mix in a little more orange juice again. By now it's probably time to give the veges a thorough stir. Pour over several tablespoons of hoisin sauce, and Sriracha sauce to taste. Add the orange juice mixture and stir everything together thoroughly. After a minute or two the sauce should thicken a little.

All done! Serve the stir-fry on a mound of rice, generously sprinkled with almonds.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


September 24-25, 2011
After weeks of taking my recipe cues from VegMel, I reverted back to my calendar recipes. September's feature is gluten-free florentines. I was looking forward to trying these - my mum would occasionally bake florentines when I was a tween and teen (mostly likely having sourced her recipe from a Women's Weekly cookbook). Hers were very thin and crisp, with a deep brown sugar flavour and chocolate on the back. 

This recipe was a bit different, chocolate-less, and baked into cupcake papers. Though they browned up a little, they didn't have the same depth of flavour. They reminded me more of toffee, a little chewy and inclined to stick to the teeth (happily remedied with a glass of milk on the side).

In the same sitting I attempted a vegan batch with a couple of straight-forward swaps - margarine for butter and maple syrup for honey. While it seemed ridiculously easy, this did affect the results substantially. My vegan florentines (in the pastel pink cases) leaked much more oil while simultaneously gluing themselves firmly to their cases. I don't think anyone trying these escaped without ingesting some paper. They didn't brown up in the oven in quite the same way either. There was still some sticky sweetness to be enjoyed, but I've got to work on my way with vegan fat.

This recipe is very quick and easy to make, and uses the kind of ingredients I have on hand (or can easily substitute). These are all good reasons for me to try again and get this just right.

(a recipe already available online here)

75g butter or margarine
100g castor sugar
50mL coconut cream
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
75g flaked almonds
30g glacé cherries, chopped
30g dried currants

Line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake cases and preheat an oven to 180°C.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter/margarine. Stir in the sugar and coconut cream, bring the mixture to the boil, and then allow it to simmer for 5 minutes. Mix in the remaining ingredients.

Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases, gentle level them off a little, and bake them for 15 minutes. Allow them to cool to room temperature before eating - they'll firm up quite a bit.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Porgie and Mr Jones

September 24, 2011
Cindy and I usually keep our breakfasting out pretty close to home. Being car-less and hungry means that a long journey for brekkie is likely to end in grumpiness and impatience rather than relaxation and contentment. This explains the three years it has taken us to make our way out to Hawthorn to try out one of Melbourne's most raved about cafes: Porgie and Mr Jones. Thankfully, the buzz has died down a bit over that period (in part due to the ongoing expansion of the P&MJ empire), meaning that we didn't have to wait for a table, a fact that made me and my caffeine addiction very happy indeed.

Porigie and Mr Jones expands TARDIS-like from a stylish front area into two big back rooms decked out in a more homely fashion, and a courtyard beyond the kitchen.

The white tablecloths give things a fancier feel than I think they're going for, but the staff are relaxed and friendly and the general vibe is pleasant. Coffee orders were taken immediately and I was caffeinated quite soon after we sat down. Breakfast is a decent mix of eggy savouries and a variety of sweeter options - I was in the mood for baked beans of some description but they were a surprising menu omission. Still, there was plenty to choose from. Following our typical approach to breakfast, I leant towards savoury while Cindy couldn't go past the sweets.

My dish was something of a Jones-family staple turning up on the menu at all three of his establishments: Mr Jones' golden 'folded' scrambles with fresh herbs and holy goats cheese on wholegrain toast ($12.90), with added avocado ($3.50).

These are very lightly scrambled eggs, falling pretty close to omelette territory. Either way they were delicious, dotted with creamy chunks of goats cheese and a scattering of fresh basil leaves. The avo was smashed to guacamole texture, but was at least ripe and fresh and the bread reaffirmed my desire to visit Noisette one day. Not too shabby at all.

Cindy went healthier: Fruits of the season with rosewater, Cleo's yoghurt, honey and oat crumble ($11.90).

The fruit and yoghurt were excellent - it's nice to see a fruit salad that offers up a good variety, but Cindy didn't get the rosewater hit she was hoping for (a shame given her obsession with it) and the crumble was very fine and not particularly oaty. It was all satisfactory but I think she left with a vague sense of disappointment. This was somewhat alleviated when I grabbed an excellent brownie to takeaway with us as a treat for the journey home. It didn't survive long enough to be photographed I'm afraid.

The menu and the vibe of P & MJ are very similar to their sister-venue Friends of Mine and, unsurprisingly, our feelings about this brekkie were about the same as our thoughts on Friends of Mine - both have decent coffee, good food and friendly service, but neither wowed us enough to get us back on an early morning tram across town in the near future. Vegans aren't well catered to here, but coeliacs will be happy with the offer of homemade gluten-free bread ($1 extra).

In contrast, the blogosphere is giddy with P & MJ love - check out rave reviews from: Food Chee, Two Fat Buns, Almost Always Ravenous, I'm So Hungreee, Food Rehab, Melbourne Gastronome, Let Me Feed You Melbourne, Eat and Be Merry for Tomorrow We Diet, Uey Loves, Never Trust a Skinny Foody, Ronnie's Spots, Second Helping, Melbourne Dining Experiences, The Breakfast Blog, Kate and Zoe, Home Sweet Home, Nouveau Potato, Two Munch, Eat Play Shop and Iron Chef Shellie

Let's Get Fat Together, Zinnamon and Feed Melbourne had similar experiences to ours: nothing to complain about but not quite measuring up to expectations, while Eat Almost Anything at Least Once was pretty disappointed.


Porgie and Mr Jones
291 Auburn Road, Hawthorn
9882 2955
Breakfasts: $5.00 - $18.90

Accessibility: There's a small step up into the fairly crowded front room. There's a bit more space in the back area, although there's another step to negotiate here. The place is well lit and payment takes place at the relatively low front counter. Toilets are up a flight of stairs.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cassata for gleegans

September 22-23, 2011
I've recently had an inexplicable yearning for cassata. I do typically get geared up for icecream in Spring but cassata doesn't hold any special significance for me... I'd barely even eaten it before my calendar had me making one two years ago. And it involves glace fruit, which I've long hated. Yet it seems I might be developing a taste for those sickly sweet, gaudily coloured 'fruits'.

I impatiently prepared this vegan, gluten-free version on a quiet night at home by myself. You can see that the layers aren't as neatly formed as they should be. I still think it looks pretty festive, if misshapen.

The vegan, gluten-free cookies at the supermarket didn't take my fancy so I skipped them and doubled the almonds instead. No regrets. If the dairy-free angle on this dessert bothers you, let me say that I've been pleasantly surprised by So Good Vanilla Bliss. It's no gourmet blend but it's a convincing substitute for your average Peter or Paul. Once the chocolate, fruit and nuts are mixed through it's rather good indeed.

Cassata for gleegans
(adapted from this recipe)

1/4 cup glace fruit, chopped
1 tablespoon brandy
150mL coconut milk
1 teaspoon castor sugar
1 L vegan vanilla icecream (I used So Good Vanilla Bliss
60g dark chocolate
2 teaspoons margarine
1 teaspoon cocoa
60g slivered almonds

In a small bowl, stir together the fruit and brandy and let them stand for 10 minutes. Line a loaf tin with baking paper. Beat together the coconut milk and sugar by hand, then fold in the brandied fruit. Pour them into the loaf tin, checking that the fruit is evenly distributed and it's reasonably smooth on top. Put the tin in the freezer to firm up that first layer.

Allow half of the vanilla icecream to soften at room temperature. In a medium-sized saucepan, gently melt the chocolate and margarine together, then allow the mixture to cool. When the icecream's softened stir it, along with the sifted cocoa, into the chocolate - the chocolate should harden up and create a choc-chip effect. Retreive the loaf tin from the freezer, spread this chocolate layer over the first one, and return the cake tin to the freezer for about 15 minutes. Take the remaining half-litre of vanilla icecream out to soften.

When the second layer of icecream in the loaf tin has begun to firm up, spread over the remaining softened vanilla icecream and return the cake tin to the freezer.

Toast the almond slivers gently in a dry pan (I found a little spray oil helped). Press the almonds into the top layer of the cassata and freeze it until firm, at least 4 hours.

To serve, gently but firmly slice the cassata using a wet knife.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Black sticky rice

Breakfast serial part xiv
September 21-22, 2011
I've ended up with a bag of glutinous black rice larger than I could ever hope to use up in icecream. The obvious solution is to make sweetened black sticky rice, something I've only eaten once or twice before. The idea of it called to mind my brown rice porridge so I marked this as another breakfast project.

I referred to Carla's recipe as a guide then kinda did my own thing. Since I was going for breakfast more than dessert I kept the base mixture unsweetened, using coconut milk and palm sugar syrup to taste at the table. And while I'm sure it's far from authentic, I plonked some forest berries (found in the freezer and thawed) on top and liked them very much. I guess mango's a more typical accompaniment, right? What other fruits should I try with this? While I usually love some dried fruit with porridge I can't quite see it working here, as the black rice has more than enough chewiness itself.

This was certainly at its best on the first morning, and anyone with a microwave could no doubt easily revive it for subsequent breakfasts. I ate it cool thereafter and found that the rice acquired a slightly bitter edge - no problem, though, as the coconut milk tones it right down.

That I liked this so much is a relief - there's at least a month's worth of black rice breakfasts still sitting in the pantry, waiting to be made.

Black sticky rice
(inspired by a recipe at easy as vegan pie)

300g black glutinous rice
50g block palm sugar
1/4 cup water
400mL can coconut milk
fruit to serve

Cover the rice in lots of water (it will expand) and leave it to soak overnight.

In the morning, drain the rice and transfer it to a large saucepan. Add 5 cups fresh water, cover with a lid and bring the rice to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer the rice for up to 90 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed and the rice has formed a thick porridge.

While the rice is simmering, get out your smallest saucepan. Place the palm sugar and water in it over medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Allow the syrup to simmer for 5 minutes as the block dissolves, then take it off the heat. As it cools the syrup will thicken up so that it's similar to (or perhaps a bit thinner than) maple syrup.

When the rice porridge is ready, spoon each serving into a bowl, top with fruit, drizzle with the palm sugar syrup and pour over some coconut milk. I've stored leftover ingredients in separate containers in the fridge.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Celebrating two years of VegMel

It's been a fun four weeks showcasing the delights of Planet VegMel! We've recreated and/or remixed 9 recipes from as many bloggers and plenty other VegMellers have joined the fun too. (See Steph's first round-up here and stay tuned for another.) We got a kick out of seeing a few of our recipes rerun - Johanna made baked beans, Steph tried lemon pepper cashews, and K churned up a batch of salted caramel icecream.

Celebrations culminated in a VegMel picnic last Sunday, where the sun shone down on Edinburgh Gardens and a few of us narrowly escaped our first sunburn of the season. Steph had spent Saturday making badges and zines for all! Amazing. You can download the Happy Birthday VegMel zine here (PDF), which unfortunately but doesn't come with the hard copy's coloured party hat for the tofu coverguy and matching coloured stitching on the spine. There was far too much food had by all - savoury muffins and bread, eggplant salad, Michael's enchiladas, mock crab cakes (inspired by us!), mini tofu quiches, apricot delights, peanut butter balls, cake pops, chocolate caramel slice, my cookie sandwiches and many other delicious dishes soon-to-be or sadly-never-to-be blogged.

Melbourne's online veg community is pretty special! And all the better for having spilled over into face-to-face food sharing and friendship.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

PB&choc sandwich cookies

September 17-18, 2011
After Michael spent hours in the kitchen preparing enchiladas, I took my turn and made some Sugarspoons-inspired cookies. (This will be our final contribution to 'that recipe seems very familiar...'.) These flourless peanut butter cookies have a former life on that blog as peanut butter alligators! Too cute. I formed them into smaller and less adventurous balls and hoped that sandwiching them together with ganache might provide some joy instead.

Emily noted in her blog post that the quantity made only a few cookies so I gamely tripled it. This made the perfect number of cookies for the ganache quantity, but all up it's a lot of cookie sandwiches - anyone interested may wish to halve the recipe below. I was quite unsure about testing the doneness of the cookies as they baked. Mine certainly looked much browner than Emily's and yet they were very wet straight out of the oven and ultimately set into a nice tender texture. They were a also delicate - inclined to crumble on the first day, then soggy-crumbly a day or two later (due to the ganache?) - and I'm amazed that Emily's alligators survived postage. Mine just barely survived a bike ride!

Regardless of whether or not the ganache should be blamed for causing sogginess, I'll be making it again. I was astounded at what a thick satiny mixture could be made by simply using soy milk. And using dark chocolate as I did, there was not the faintest whiff of tofu about it.

It's another recipe for us peanut-butter-and-chocolate lovers to file away, though I'll be reserving it for occasions where the whole batch will feasibly be scoffed quickly and close to home.

PB&choc sandwich cookies
(based on recipes blogged at Sugarspoons
for flourless peanut butter alligators
and chocolate ganache)

1 1/2 tablespoons no-egg powder + water to fill a cup measure
   (i.e. 6 egg replacers)
750g crunchy peanut butter
3/4 cup light agave nectar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup castor sugar

2/3 cup soy milk
200g dark chocolate
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 150°C. Line a baking tray with paper.

Whisk together the no-egg powder and water to a smooth paste in a cup or small bowl.

In a medium-large bowl mix together all the cookie ingredients, including the egg replacer, until smooth. Drop small blobs of the dough (as little as 1-2 teaspoons each) on the baking sheet, leaving a bit of space around each one. It'll take several batched to work your way through all the dough.

Bake the cookies for 10-15 minutes, until they're just browning slightly around the edge - they'll still look a bit wet. Allow the cookies to cool on the tray for 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack.

When the cookies are all baked and completely cool, do your best to pair them up by size and shape and prepare the ganache.

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the milk to the boil. Turn the heat down to low and add the chocolate and maple syrup, stirring the mixture constantly to avoid burning or sticking. Keep stirring until the ingredients form a smooth silky ganache, then take them off the heat.

Drop a restrained spoonful of the ganache into the centre of a cookie and top it with its cookie pair. Repeat with all your remaining cookie pairs, and give them at least half an hour to set before transporting them anywhere.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Potato-chickpea enchiladas with green tomatillo sauce

September 17, 2011
We did a fair bit of thinking about what to make for the VegMel picnic before settling (as we almost always do) with me making a savoury dish and Cindy making something sweet. In keeping with the VegMel theme, we dug recipes out of other blogs - I went with these potato and chickpea enchiladas from Veganise This (originally from Viva Vegan).

First things first: this is a lot of work - you've got to make two different sauces, the enchilada filling, assemble the dish and then bake it all in the oven. I reckon I spent three hours on a Saturday afternoon putting it all together. The two sauces are fantastic - the pine nut crema brings a creamy cheesiness that belies its vegan-ness and the tomatillo sauce has a tangy sharpness that had me really looking forward to tasting the final dish. The enchilada filling is hearty, but even with all the spices that go into it, its flavours end up a bit overwhelmed by the sauces (particularly with my heavy-handed pouring approach).

Was the final dish worth all the work? Maybe. It went down a treat at the picnic, but I think serving it fresh from the oven might be a better option than at room temperature the day after. The tortillas had lost their cylindrical shape and the everything was a bit smushed together. I'm not sure if we'll make it again - there are so many inspiring recipes in Viva Vegan that it might be a while before I can justify the time on it.

Pine nut crema
(all recipes are based on recipes from Terry Hope Romero's Viva Vegan)

300g silken tofu
1/2 cup pine nuts
juice of a lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons corn flour
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt

Blend all the ingredients together and add more salt and/or lime juice as required.

Green tomatillo sauce

500g can tomatillos
(the Viva Vegan recipe uses fresh tomatillos but I have no idea where to get them in Melbourne)
3 cloves garlic, minced
A few pickled jalapeno pieces, chopped finely
(replacing fresh jalepenos - where can you get these in Melbourne?)
1 brown onion, chopped finely
1/2 cup coriander leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups vegie stock
2 teaspoons sugar

In a blender, whizz the tomatillos with the garlic, chilli, onion and coriander to a paste.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and then add the tomatillo mixture. Bring it to the boil, stirring occasionally.

Add in the vegie stock and stir well. Bring the mixture back up to the boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until it's thickened up a bit. Stir through the sugar and salt to taste.

Potato-chickpea enchiladas with green tomatillo sauce

400g waxy potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1cm cubes
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 dried pasilla chilli, soaked in water for 10 minutes and then chopped finely (this replaces roasted serrano chillies and was based solely on me getting carried away at Casa Iberica)
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 red onion, diced
2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon epazote
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup vegie 'chicken' stock
400g can of chickpeas, drained, rinsed and roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste
8 corn tortillas

Put the potato in a saucepan and just cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and cook over high heat for 15-20 minutes, until the spuds are tender. Drain.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Fry the garlic in the peanut oil until it sizzles and then add in the chillies, onion, oregano, epazote and cumin and fry, stirring regularl for about five minutes. The onion should be nice and soft.

Add in the potatoes and the chickpeas and stir everything together. Pour in the stock and cook, stirring, until the stock has reduced down a fair bit (5-10 minutes).

Roughly mash the mixture to create a chunky mush for the filling, and season with salt and pepper.

Pour 1 cup of the tomatillo sauce into a flat pie dish and lightly grease a baking tray (ours was about 40cm x 20cm x 3cm).

You have to make your enchiladas one at a time: quickly fry a tortilla in a lightly oiled pan so that it's nice and flexible (30 seconds or so on each side). When it's ready, dunk it thoroughly in the sauce dish so that both sides are nice and covered. Pop the tortilla in the baking tray, spoon a generous amount of filling in a line down the middle and roll it tightly. Repeat for the rest of the tortillas until you've got a row of neatly packed enchiladas taking up your whole pan.

Pour the remainder of your tomatillo sauce over the top and then dollop the pine nut crema on top of that.

Cover the baking tray with foil and cook for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and keep baking for another 15 minutes or so. If you're up for it, you can finish off with a couple of minutes under the grill to brown the pine nut crema up a bit.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Un-beet-able chocolate cake

13-14 September, 2011
While Steph has already posted the first round-up for 'that recipe seems very familiar...", there's a bonus post-picnic round to come! And we're cramming in a few more blog tributes. This chocolate beetroot cake appeared about a year ago on The Fat-Fueled Vegan, and originates from The Fairest Feed. The Fairest Feed is no longer updated but I'd highly recommend a browse through its archives. Pip has published some beautiful vegan recipes there, with homegrown whole ingredients aplenty.

With plans to share it around at work, I multiplied the original recipe by 1.5 and still it all disappeared rather rapidly! Dark and moist, it's almost like a cakey brownie with very subtle earthy undertones. The icing is tinted pink with beetroot juice but just tastes of sugar - I'd be inclined to flavour it with a bit of pomegranate molasses in future, as I've tried previously. I bet rosewater would be lovely too. (I'm getting a bit predictable in my chocolate pairings, aren't I?)

Regardless, this is a wonderful recipe straight up and very easy to put together once the beetroot's grated.

Un-beet-able chocolate cake
(adapted slightly from a recipe on The Fairest Feed,
renamed by The Fat-Fueled Vegan)

1 generous cup grated beetroot
1 1/2 cups plain flour
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 generous cup cocoa
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sunflower oil
1 1/2 cups soy milk
3 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/2 tablespoons margarine
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons beetroot juice
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
~2 teaspoons soy milk, as needed

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Line a large baking dish with paper.

Start by grating the beetroot into a bowl, doing your best not to stain anything precious with the juice. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Add the oil, milk and vanilla, stirring until just combined. Transfer the beetroot into the batter, giving it a squeeze over its holding bowl to reserve some beetroot juice for the icing. Fold the beetroot into the cake batter, then pour it all into the baking dish. Bake the cake until it passes a skewer test, about 50 minutes. Allow the cake to cool completely before icing it.

To make the icing, beat together the margarine, vanilla and beetroot juice. Gradually beat in the icing sugar. You may like to additionally beat in a little milk to loosen up the icing and make it more spreadable. Spread the icing in a thin smooth layer over the cake, or slice the cake through the middle and spread the icing there.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Black rice icecream

September 10-11, 2011
This black rice icecream was the rich finale to our Bali-inspired banquet. I was very pleased for the excuse to try something from the icecream section in Sri Owen's Indonesian Food, which is influenced as much by her travels to Italy as her country of birth. Between my pantry constraints, time constraints and vegan constraints, the recipe I've written below departs quite a bit from the original but is still pretty good.

For starters, there was no question that I'd be replacing the dairy. With so much coconut milk in the original recipe I didn't hesitate to take it all the way. My bigger challenge was locating black glutinous rice in my neighbourhood. None of my weekday haunts had any, and it was 3pm on Saturday by the time I brought a bag home from the Asian grocery near the Queen Victoria Markets. I slashed the rice soaking time by two thirds and the simmering time by another third, needing the mixture to be back in the fridge before we headed out for birthday party. As a consequence my rice was soft but not porridgy, and I decided to strain it out.

Even strained, this icecream was a rather fetching mauve, with a very gentle sweetness from the coconut and rice as much as the palm sugar and agave. I'd like to make another batch, giving the rice the full time it wants, to taste it at full rice power.

Black rice icecream
(adapted from a recipe in Sri Owen's Indonesian Food)

70g black glutinous rice
560mL coconut cream
400mL coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
small cinnamon stick
1 1/2 tablespoons palm sugar
1 tablespoon agave nectar

Cover the rice with cool water and let it soak for 2 1/2 hours (original recipe has 4-8hours so go longer if you can!). Drain the rice and place it in a saucepan with the coconut cream, coconut milk, salt, cinnamon and palm sugar. Bring it all to the boil, then keep it on a high simmer for an hour, stirring regularly. (The original recipe had a 1 hour 35 minute simmer, bringing the well-soaked rice to a thick porridge.) My rice was still very granular, but also very tender. Refrigerate the mixture until completely cold, about 4 hours.

Transfer the mixture to a food processor and add the agave nectar. Blend until as smooth as possible. Optionally, strain out the rice (I did). Churn it in an icecream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions, then freeze until firm.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mock crab cakes

September 11, 2011
As promised, here's a recipe for mock crab cakes! It's based on a recipe for real crab cakes in Sri Owen's Indonesian Food. Michael efficiently chopped up all the aromatic elements while the potatoes boiled. I mashed up some chickpeas and stirred together a cornflour paste as replacements for the crab meat and egg.

While the shallow-frying in a very hot wok had me a little anxious, these turned out very nicely; most of the cakes held together with a lightly golden crust. Inside they're a little mushy - I'd like to try leaving the chickpeas half-mashed next time for a little extra texture, though I fear it would also lead to more crumbling.

These mock crab cakes derive almost all their flavour from the 'extras' - the lemongrass, chilli flakes, kaffir lime leaves and ginger are not delicate. It's important to chop them up as finely as you (or your cooking partner!) can. I liked dragging the patties across my plate through the rujak dressing, and I wonder what dipping sauce I could otherwise serve them with. I think it'd start with kecap manis and tamarind.

Mock crab cakes
(adapted from a recipe for real crab cakes
in Sri Owen's Indonesian Food)

2 x 400g cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained, then lightly mashed
225g waxy potatoes, peeled and boiled until tender, then mashed
3 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions
3 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped kaffir lime leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped lemongrass, inner part only
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons cornflour, made into a paste with 2 tablespoons water
vegetable oil for shallow frying

The ingredients will take a while to prepare. Drain and rinse those chickpeas, get the potatoes on to boil, and then do all that chopping. Mash the chickpeas and potatoes together in a bowl, then stir through the remaining ingredients (frying oil excepted). Form the mixture into small patties with your hands and place them on a tray. Refrigerate the patties for about half an hour.

Heat the oil in a frypan or wok and shallow-fry the patties in batches until they form a lightly golden crust. Drain the cooked patties on absorbent paper. Serve with salad and a sauce of your choice.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Don't forget...

The weather forecast is looking good for Sunday, so come along to Fitzroy's Edinburgh Gardens from 1pm for a vegan picnic with VegMel bloggers, readers and friends.

Bring a plate of food to share and if you can, mark your attendance on the facebook event page.

Bali-inspired banquet

September 11, 2011
Last Sunday Michael and I gathered with some fellow pesky-tarian bloggers to pay tribute to the vegan foods of Indonesia.

I arrived armed with peanut rice chips (this time with added lime zest, though none of us could taste it) and there were citrus-and-soda mocktails all round.

We moved on to a sweet and sour rujak...

... and mock crab cakes (recipe coming soon!).

Then the steamer provided...

chilli tempeh and...

... stuffed tofu!

The oven held stuffed eggplants.

Once we'd tasted them all we were pretty stuffed too.

There was dessert as well, would you believe, but that's a thing for another post.

In this one I'd just like to show you a kitchen with lovely light and the things we made in it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Invita II

September 10, 2011
On Saturday we hit the Queen Victoria Markets. A cafe breakfast is our usual precursor but with a fine home-made one under our belts, we made our trip later and stopped by Invita for lunch. This is an outdoorsy vegetarian cafe, perched along the market's Therry St side, where what you see is what you get. You order and pay at the counter and find a seat where you can. Most of the menu items are pre-made and visible in their display case with the full ingredient list marked on every item - super-helpful for all manner of dietary requirements!

Michael zeroed in rapidly on the Vegani pie ($9.80, including salad), a spelt-based crust stuffed with tofu and a variety of vegetables with a small amount of spiced coconut gravy.

It's no meat-pie imitator, but tasty on its own terms. Michael complimented the salads between mouthfuls -a bean mix, a green salad, and a hspicy carrot one with enough sauce to carry across the whole plate.

Having ingested a hearty savoury breakfast and more recently caught wafts of the market's jam doughnuts in the air, I ate cake. The Chocolate Cake Especial ($5.95) had a nice density to it, and reminded me of the simple iced chocolate cake that my mum most commonly made for birthdays when I was a kid. The ingredients list, though, was almost entirely different! Though it's based on chickpea flour, almond meal, soy milk and vegetable oil, its vegan and gluten-free status could easily fly under the radar. My chai latte ($3.40) was pretty good too.

Invita really hit the spot for us on this visit. While it's totally vegetarian and has lots of healthy options, it's not too crunchy - I imagine that the well-stocked display case attracts plenty of omni eaters on their market rounds, too. Umbrellas and partitions offer only a little shelter from bad weather and market bustle, but it's a nice spot to rest your weary legs and fill your stomach before heading home and filling your fridge with Queen Vic produce.

You can read about our first visit to Invita here. Everyone else blogging Invita since has enjoyed it though many note minor flavour flaws, see, The Daily Veg,, Vegetarian Life Australia, We Dare Food and Green Gourmet Giraffe.

76 Therry St, Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
9329 1267
cakes $3.50-6, veg lunches $9-14

Accessibility: This cafe has the same flat paving as the pedestrian walk out front. Tables have average-to-crowded spacing; ordering and payment occurs at the counter. There's no directly attached toilet, look elsewhere around the Queen Victoria Markets.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hash browns

September 10, 2011
We've been trying hard to make lots of other Planet VegMel recipes in the last few weeks for the 'that recipe seems very familiar...' event but we're fast running out of days before VegMel turns two! Most of our weekend meals were booked up with outings so we decide to squeeze another remix in for breakfast on Saturday. The recipe in question: Vicki's hash browns.

The hash browns are easy to make but take a bit of time to get together, so if you're someone who needs to eat as soon as they're up and about, make sure you've got some snacks on hand. We made minor changes to Vicki's recipe - swapping chives in for onion (the onions I've bought at the supermarket lately have been consistently gross) and garlic powder for fresh garlic. I think the onion would have been a nice addition but these were still excellent - crispy on the outside, creamy in the middle and with some nice flavours from the stock and the spice powders. Added bonus: these are gluten-free and vegan!

We combined them with mediocre Sanitarium faux-sausages and some sautéed spinach and mushrooms for an excellent start to the weekend.

Vegan hash browns
(via Vicki Vegan
- another contribution to 'that recipe seems very familiar...')

2 large potatoes, peeled
handful of chives, chopped finely
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Massel 'chicken' stock
1/4 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper

Boil the spuds in a pot until they're cooked through but not falling apart - 20 minutes at least.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

When the spuds are cool enough to touch, grate them up.

Whiz the cashews, water and the stock, onion and garlic powders in a blender to a smooth paste. Vicki suggests starting with 1/4 cup of water and adding more as you need, but we found 1/2 a cup of water was perfect.

Combine the grated potato, the chives and the cashew paste in a bowl and mix thoroughly, seasoning generously with salt and pepper.

Shape the mixture into four big hash brown patties and place them on a greased oven tray.

Bake for half an hour, turning once halfway through. The final product should be crispy and brown on the outside but soft and still a bit moist in the middle.

Monday, September 12, 2011

September 7, 2011: Embrasse II

18/12/2012: Embrasse has recently closed, but head chef Nicolas Poelaert can now be found at Brooks in the city.

This week we had a vegan dinner with Nic Poeleart, a Fringe Food Festival event organised by Ed Charles and mentioned on this blog last week. So many festival events are meaty (though this restaurant has been a welcome exception once before) and don't allow for specialised dietary requirements, so we and a few friends were really looking forward to this event. Here's what we were treated to...

smoked bread with olive oil piped into the centre


an aerated pumpkin soup with bergamot, meyer lemon oil,
and horseradish powder

taste of the sea...
a large near-raw wedge of broccoli with a sliver of Brussels sprout, 
grilled zucchini puree, sugar beet, dune spinach
and sea grass juice piped at the table from a toy boat

sweet burnt carrot purée, golden raisins, flamed potatoes
and green mango

forest floor of cooked, raw, smoked and pickled mushrooms

avocado chocolate mousse, with tamarillo and sweet red pepper purée

We loved the lemon lift to the light and fluffy pumpkin soup! The taste of the sea was very popular, though I was actually a bigger fan of forest floor - its gentle earthy flavours impressed me more than Embrasse's visually stunning and more famous forest floor dessert. This night's dessert was more controversial still - while everyone was comfortable with the chocolate mousse, the jammy dab of capsicum and piquant tamarillo appealed to few. I found the savoury, bitter and smoky elements they lent fascinating.

Nic Poelaert has a lovely unassuming manner and a clear fondness for foraging and fresh produce. He and his team put quite some effort into planning, tinkering with and testing this menu and we thank them for it.

This particular meal has also been blogged at 1001 Dinners; 1001 Nights and the Fringe Food Fest team. have collated a few photos here. You can read about our previous veg-friendly visit to Embrasse here.

Embrasse Restaurant
312 Drummond St, Carlton
9347 3312
special event 5 vegan courses $85 including wine

Accessibility: Entry, seating and service on the ground level seem very accessible. Toilets are situated upstairs.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 5, 2011: Toby's Singapore noodles

We're getting right into the swing of the Planet Vegmel's 'that recipe sounds familiar...' event, and we couldn't let it pass without whipping up something from our good friends' K and Toby's blog In The Mood for Noodles. We've been inspired by their recipes before, but we were looking for something new to make for the event. Luckily, K blogged Toby's Singapore noodles right when I was casting around for something to make for dinner on Monday night - it ticked all my boxes: simple, a bit spicy and generously portioned. I couldn't wait to give it a shot.

I failed at the simple task of making a shopping list, which meant making do without sesame seeds. I'm not sure how much difference this makes - they certainly look great in the close-up that K posted. Otherwise I followed the recipe exactly - even down to the lack of greens and the extra tamari (actually, I upped the chilli flakes a bit knowing K & T's tastes). I thought it needed the extra tamari drizzle - the saltiness was a bit lacking otherwise. Once it was added, this was perfect. It had a good rich heat from our curry powder, a bit of bite from the chilli and plenty of vegies and tofu to complement the noodles. And it makes heaps - we're still eating it for lunches. It's a perfect weeknight dinner when you want leftovers.

Toby's Singapore Noodles
(via In the Mood for Noodles,
it's another contribution to 'that recipe seems very familiar...')

400g packet of rice noodles (turns out they have a good range at Safeway)
500g firm tofu, sliced into strips
2 carrots, sliced into sticks
1 capsicum, sliced into sticks
1 onion, sliced finely
2 tablespoons curry powder (adjust this up or down depending on how spicy your curry powder is)
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1/4 cup of stock
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1-2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons tamari plus more at the end
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
salt and pepper to taste

Soak rice noodles hot water for 10-15 minutes

While the noodles are soaking, marinate the tofu and the vegies in the sesame oil and tamari and sprinkle with the chilli flakes.

Heat the sunflower oil in a wok and fry the onion until it softens (5 minutes or so).

Stir in the curry powder and fry for another minute or two.

Add the marinated tofu and vegies to fry pan and stir everything well, frying for another 5 minutes until the vegetables have started to soften.

Drain and rinse the noodles and add them to the wok, mixing well. Pour in the stock and cook until it's evaporated off.

Season with salt, pepper, extra tamari and sesame oil until it suits your tastes.

Friday, September 09, 2011

September 4, 2011: Cauliflower & caramelised onion tart

More VegMel-sourced goodness in the lead-up to its anniversary! This one, from easy as vegan pie, is...well, vegan pie. Somehow it sneaked past me when Carla first posted it but when Lisa made it for her Christmas potluck last year I sat up and took notice - it was fantastic.

We made it pretty much as instructed, skipping the optional Cheezly and giving the pastry a little pre-bake before adding the filling. I overcooked it a little and it puffed up a lot - for some weird reason I completely forgot to weigh down that pastry. The tofu didn't make its way through the entire filling as a binder so I had to be extra careful when cutting pieces. (I might layer the fillings in smaller batches in future.)

I had this whole plan of drizzling over some white truffle oil, to add a bit of extra interest in the absence of the Cheezly, but it was probably better that I forgot that too! This pie has a really impressive savouriness of its own - it's hard to believe that there's no garlic involved.

Cauliflower & caramelised onion tart
(a recipe from easy as vegan pie via Lisa Dempster)

1 medium head of cauliflower
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
2 large brown onions
1 tablespoon sugar
300g silken tofu
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 sheet puff pastry

Preheat an oven to 200°C. Chop the cauliflower down into florets and place them in a walled baking tray. Drizzle over 2 tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast the caulifower until tender and a little golden, about 20 minutes.

While the cauliflower is roasting, slice the onions into rings. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a frypan and add the onions. As they first start to soften, turn the heat way down to low, sprinkle over the sugar and cover the pan with a lid. Stir the onions every 10 minutes, continuing to cook them until completely collapsed and golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Make sure your puff pastry is thawed and use it to line a pie dish, trimming and patching as needed. Blind bake the pastry for 10-15 minutes, until it's starting to dry out but hasn't gone golden yet. Spread the mustard over the base of the pastry crust.

In a food processor, blend together the tofu, nutritional yeast and half of the caramelised onions. Go for whatever texture you like, it doesn't have to be completely smooth.

Arrange the remaining onions over the mustardy base. Roughly chop the cauliflower florets and spread them across the pie. Spoon the tofu mixture evenly over the top, mushing it in to sink through the pie. Bake the pie for about 30 minutes, until firm and golden on top. Allow the pie to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

September 3, 2011: Easy Tiger II

A few weeks ago Michael said for what was probably the fourth time, "We really should go back to Easy Tiger for the banquet!". I chuckled on the inside - just the day before I'd booked us a table as an early anniversary celebration. An early celebration, but a late table - Easy Tiger are running two discrete sittings on Saturday nights and we spent a little time waiting outside for the first cohort to settle their bills. But we weren't wasting any time over the menu and they started our procession of dishes quite promptly.

First comes a bowl of taro chips, sprinkled with chilli salt (and, I'm guessing, a bit of sugar besides). Light and crisp, I loved the lively seasoning but they really got stuck in my teeth.

The vegetarian ma hor replaces the minced meat with crushed peanuts. They're minced up with chilli, garlic and galangal, rolled into a ball and placed on top of pineapple slice, to be gobbled in one bite. Michael was a fan; me, not so much.

The vegetarian betel leaves were much more to my taste! A sweet-and-sour mix of peanuts, fried shallots, lime zest, puffed rice and fresh coconut, with a dab of drip-down-your-hand dressing that reminded me of fish sauce (but wasn't - rest assured, these guys know what vegetarian means).

We were both very happy to revisit the silken tofu with smoked eggplant. The tofu now has a light salt and pepper crust, which is lovely but secondary to the deep, dark eggplant smear.

The main course comprised several dishes to share. The first to arrive was the sour orange vegetable curry with radish, watercress and winter melon. This was the only dish with much heat to it and Michael scooped up the sauce liberally. The winter melon looked a lot like potato chunks and it was difficult to adjust our expectations as we ate; it is a nice curry component in its own right.

I was more taken with the king oyster mushrooms, wok fried with rice noodles and soy beans. The noodles were tender and not at all rubbery, reminding me strangely of gnocchi, and the overall flavour was sweet and soy-ish with a wok hei smokiness.

These dishes were accompanied by bottomless steamed rice, a sparingly dressed iceberg lettuce, witlof and chive salad, and a son-in-law egg each. This is one of the few ways I really enjoy eggs and I found the chilli jam rather sweet (though Michael picked up a few chunks of more potent dried chilli). Though it felt odd to receive a big bowl of iceberg lettuce chunks, I found them refreshing and cooling and they helped me kid myself that I wasn't really that full.

Michael was that full. Though he'd eaten a little more than me, he was one cocktail, two beers and at least a half-litre of water ahead of me. He wasn't too enthusiastic about dessert.

That changed. Dessert looked very, very modest but oh, it was astounding! Four melon balls and two pandanus leaf dumplings filled with Monsieur Truffe chocolate served on a salted coconut cream. The intermingling of molten chocolate with salted coconut was other-worldly. The melon was a nice light finish, though I'm ambivalent about how it works with chocolate. Never mind, those dumplings had me in a trance and I was surprised how satisfied I felt after this small taste.

This banquet exceeded my expectations. It reprised the dishes we enjoyed most on our first visit (silken tofu with smoked eggplant, son-in-law eggs), featured some new flavours and ingredients (winter melon, jumbo sweet-soy rice noodles, iceberg lettuce on the side) and had a killer finish (those crazy, crazy dumplings). We found the staff to be friendly and attentive throughout. The venue was a bit loud and echo-y this late on a Saturday night but then, grabbing our coats and venturing outside, Smith St itself was much worse.

Looking ahead to longer days, I hope to visit their courtyard soon.

You can read about our previous visit to Easy Tiger here. All the blog posts I've found subsequent to that are positive, see The Value-Add, Tour de Clance, Bombolone Blog, lunchosaurus, Temasek, Friday Night, Date Night, doublecooked, Double Dutch Oven, Food Fable, melbourne food journal, Mouth to Mouth and Sharking for Chips and Drinks.

Easy Tiger
96 Smith St, Collingwood
9417 2373
veg banquet $65 per person, small veg plates $4-$10, veg mains $28, desserts $14

Accessibility: There's a ramp on entry, somewhat crowded tables with a decent walkway through the restaurant and female and disabled toilets on the same level. Male toilets and a downstairs courtyard are less accessible. There's full table service.