Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Linzer cupcakes

November 26, 2011
Since I was lucky to see lots of friends on Saturday, I baked lots of cupcakes! This second recipe is a slightly more faithful rendition of a Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World recipe: the Linzer cupcake is a recommended adaptation on the hazelnut cupcakes.

They're a little bit fancy without requiring cut-outs or piping or even buttercream. Well, technically the raspberry jam is supposed to be piped into the centre of the hazelnut cake, but I found that slathering a bit on top was much easier, and the dark chocolate ganache glided across the top of the jam just fine. A few extra chopped hazelnuts sprinkled over them add a bit of crunch and hide any bumps.

These were a lovely break from the chocolatechocolateCHOCOLATE rut I can get into with desserts. Admittedly the cupcakes do involve ganache, but it's the moist hazelnut cake and sweet raspberry jam that are the real charmers here.

Linzer cupcakes
(adapted slightly from a recipe in
Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World
by Isa Chandra Moskovitz & Terry Hope Romero)

2/3 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sunflower oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon Frangelico

1/2 cup raspberry jam
4 tablespoons almond milk
75g dark chocolate
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 cup roughly chopped hazelnuts

Preheat an oven to 180 C and line a muffin pan with cupcake papers.

In a small-medium bowl, whisk together the milk and flaxseeds. In a medium-large bowl, stir together the flour, ground hazelnuts, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

Return to the smaller bowl and whisk in the oil, maple syrup, sugar, vanilla and Frangelico. Gradually pour these wet ingredients into the bowl of flour, stirring as you go and continuing until mostly smooth.

Pour the batter into the cupcake papers, about two-thirds full, and bake for about 20 minutes, until they pass the skewer test.

You can top them with jam while they're still warm! Use a teaspoon and make sure the jam is a bit stirred up and loose, not set like jelly. Spread about 2 teaspoons of jam on top of each cupcake, smoothing it as best you can with the back of a spoon.

Set the cupcakes aside to cool as you make the ganache. Bring the milk to the boil in a small-medium saucepan and then take it off the heat. Stir in the chocolate and maple syrup immediately, until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth.

Spoon the ganache onto each cupcake, using the back of a spoon to spread it out. Sprinkle hazelnuts over the cupcakes while the ganache is still warm.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cherry Ripe cupcakes

November 28, 2011
We spent much of last Saturday hanging out with friends, in our home and in others'. To ensure we had something to nibble at with those cups of tea and glasses of wine, I was inspired to bake for the first time in a while. These cupcakes sprang almost entirely from pantry supplies - just the almond milk was bought specially - and from a couple of the basic recipes in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World

With two kinds of cherries cluttering the cupboard I went for a Cherry Ripe kinda vibe, folding dried cherries into the chocolate cake batter, supplementing the flour with shredded coconut and popping a glace cherry on top of each ganache-spread cupcake. The ganache is so easy to make (no double boiler for the chocolate!) and so easy to spread thickly and smoothly. (I've used and raved about it once before; it really is something.) I also made a straight-forward switcheroo between wheat and gluten-free flour.

These were very nice indeed! I erred just on the side of under-baking them to keep them moist, and for a gluten-free recipe they had plenty of springy-ness. I only wish I'd had dessicated rather than shredded coconut on hand. The coconut was strangely crunchy, and I've found that a finer grind tends to meld into the batter better.

Cherry ripe cupcakes
(adapted from the basic chocolate cupcake and chocolate ganache
in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World
by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero)

1 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sunflower oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup gluten free plain flour
1/3 cup cocoa
3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup dried cherries

chocolate ganache
4 tablespoons almond milk
75g dark chocolate
3 tablespoons maple syrup

~12 glace cherries, to garnish

Preheat oven to 180 C. Line muffin pan with cupcake papers.

In a large bowl, whisk together the milk and vinegar, then give them a few minutes to curdle. Add the sugar, oil and vanilla, beating until frothy.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, soda, baking powder and salt; stir through the coconut. Gradually add these dry ingredients to the milk mixture, beating as you go. Fold in the dried cherries.

Spoon the mixture into the cupcake liners and bake for 15-20 minutes, until they pass the skewer test. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely.

To make the ganache, bring the milk to the boil in a small-medium saucepan and then take it off the heat. Stir in the chocolate and maple syrup immediately, until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth.

Spoon the ganache onto each cupcake, using the back of a spoon to spread it out. Pop a glace cherry onto the middle of each cupcake to garnish.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Vegan parmesan

24 November, 2011
Cindy has been semi-regularly rejigging our monthly calendar recipes into gluten-free and vegan versions (e.g. here, here and here). I assumed that the wheaty, buttery, cheesiness of our November pasta would prove a bridge too far but, under Cindy's instructions, it turned out to be relatively simple. All it took were three fairly simple substitutions: 1) the pasta (courtesy of the fresh pasta stall at the Queen Vic Markets), 2) the butter (Nuttelex of course), and 3) the parmesan.

The parmesan seemed trickiest to me, but Wanting Kneading had the answer. It's a very simple recipe that takes all of 90 seconds to throw together. You don't end up with a particularly parmesan-y flavour, but a half a cup stirred through our pasta added a garlicky cheesiness that was not at all out of place. Our vegan gf version of this pasta was a very passable imitation of the basic recipe - the pasta wasn't quite as nice (and wasn't particularly cheap), but otherwise everything hit the spot.

Vegan parmesan cheese
(slightly modified version of wanting kneading's recipe)

1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/3 cup raw cashews
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine all your ingredients in a food processor (we used the little spice-grinding attachment on ours) and whizz them together.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Le Traiteur

Update 27/1/2019: Le Traiteur is permanently closed.

24 November, 2011
I'm living a temporarily luxurious life whereby I basically have Wednesdays and Thursdays to do as I please (which, thus far, has meant reading a whole bunch of books and watching an awful lot of Deadwood). Occasionally I convince Cindy to join me in a breakfast somewhere nearby on her way to work. Months ago Le Traiteur was recommended to us (most likely by essjayeff) and we finally decided to check it out.

Le Traiteur is (as the name suggests) a French-inspired little cafe, pumping out breakfasts and lunches for city workers at the legal end of town. We turned up at about 8:30 and had no trouble finding a table - at that time of day they seem to mostly do takeaway traffic. The breakfast menu is not one for the vegans: savoury dishes are all eggy, and the sweets don't skimp on the dairy. The only possible option is the one that Cindy ordered: semolina porridge with quatre épices (a French spice mix of pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger) and poached fruit ($8.50).

This was as good as it looked - the semolina had the texture of semi-set polenta and was drowning in delicious poaching juices. The fruit was excellent too (although a little challenging to eat). Very impressive at the price.

I, as always, ordered something savoury: poached eggs, silverbeet, field mushrooms and bernaise on brioche ($15).

This was real heart-attack material, which is not to say it wasn't delicious - it just all got a bit much by the end. Given the bernaise and the eggs, I would have been happy to swap the brioche for some regular toast. Still, everything was cooked to perfection and it was a generous and filling start to the day.

Coffees were good and service was friendly and prompt, but I'm not sure we'll be hurrying back - if only because of the fairly limited range of vegetarian options. Although apparently the pastries are pretty good, which might be enough to lure me in.

The blogosphere is filled with love for Le Traiteur - check out: Addictive and Consuming, half-eaten, eat, drink, stagger Melbourne Gastronome, Ballroom Blintz, Tour de Clance, Lunchosaurus and Almost Always Ravenous.

Le Traiteur
552 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
9670 0039
breakfasts $5.50 - $15

Accessibility: Le Traiteur has a small step on entry but is fairly spacious inside. Ordering happens at the tables, but we paid at a high counter. We didn't check out the toilets.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Eat Pizza II

We were at a loose end on a Sunday and I was in the mood for pizza. Browsing the internet, Michael suggested we try a newbie like Queen Margaret or The Moor's Head, but I was in the mood for something less refined. With Plush Pizza now just a wistful memory, I convinced Michael that we should revisit Eat Pizza - it offers the suburban Aussie toppings I had a hankering for.

Eat Pizza's basic menu is pretty typical - Hawaiian, Capricciosa and Meat lovers pizzas, gourmet chicken, meat and seafood options, garlic bread, a few pastas, salads and desserts. So's the decor - toppings and oven visible from the counter, plastic furniture for those choosing to eat in, and the TV in the corner was blaring a fawning celebrity interview on 60 Minutes. The big draws for us pesky-tarians are the gluten free bases (which K gives a coeliac thumbs-up), vegan cheese, vegan salami and vegan ham that can be substituted for a few extra dollars. Despite the veg*n bent of online reviews, it would seem that we don't form the bulk of Eat Pizza's customers. Our friendly cashier looked unpractised at entering our veg-adapted orders into the register, eventually correcting the dockets by hand.

The "Fresh and Healthier Way!" tagline is curious. While they previously advertised wholemeal bases, there's no hint of them on the current Eat Pizza menu. (We're not sure whether wholemeal is now the only base offered or it's instead disappeared.) An Emma & Tom's ad was perched in the dining area, yet the fridge was stocked with sugar-laden sodas, 'vitamin waters' and icecream.

Never mind. We were here for pizza. Michael's Vegie Delight (medium $12) with vegan salami ($2.50 extra), was a little charred and laden with tomato sauce, eggplant, pumpkin cubes, roast capsicum, semi dried tomatoes and fetta. He loved it in all its semi-gourmet glory.

My small Hawaiian pizza ($8 + $2 for vegan ham) took a little longer to arrive. Worse, it arrived with real ham. Once we cleared up the misunderstanding the staff were very apologetic and whipped up a replacement promptly, serving it with a garnish of rocket and a second sincere apology.

This pizza was everything I wanted - sweet, juicy canned pineapple, salty 'ham' and judiciously portioned mozzarella and  tomato sauce on a medium-thick not-too-oily base. The stuff of an Aussie childhood.

It's awesome that Eat Pizza extend that Aussie-style pizza experience to veg*ns and the gluten-intolerant. Just be careful to double-check your order up-front!

You can read about our first experience with Eat Pizza here; that same evening was also blogged on Lisa Dempster and The Fairest Feed. Since then they've impressed more of the veg community, including Vicki Vegan (who visited the Glenroy store), In the Mood for Noodles (twice), and Around The World Vegan. There's a more ambivalent review on Eat More Vegies.

The only omni review I found is on Footscray Food Blog; another rave.

Eat Pizza
44 Raleigh Rd, Maribyrnong (other stores in Footscray and Glenroy)
9317 7977
veg pizzas $6-15, with extras $2-3 each

Accessibility: There's a small step on entry but plenty of room inside. It's very loud, even in the absence of other customers. Ordering and payment takes place at a low counter. Toilets are gendered but flat and roomy.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Black pepper tofu

November 12, 2011
When Michael first bought me Plenty a year ago, we were both immediately drawn to the photo of black pepper tofu. It's taken us quite some time to try it out. In the meantime Carla and K veganised it and offered their thoughts - the most important one being that the original recipe uses more pepper than anyone can stand!

The original ingredient list is certainly packed with pungency: 5 tablespoons of black pepper, 8 chillies, 12 shallots, 12 cloves of garlic and 16 spring onions. Admittedly we cut a few quantities down, but most of the subduing and sweetening is performed by a long, gentle fry in lots of butter. Our tofu was deeply savoury, with a heat level I could happily handle.

Ottolenghi's recipes are rarely short or simple, and the other notable process here is shallow-frying cornflour-coated tofu cubes. They develop a nice golden crust, all the better for the sauce to cling to. That said, I'd also be tempted to try quickly stir-frying the tofu sans cornflour.

The black pepper tofu was loved by all who ate it. We served a fancy Ottolenghi salad on the side but it was completely upstaged. This dish needs nothing more than steamed greens and rice to support it.

Black pepper tofu
(adapted from a recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty,
recipe available online)

~1/2 cup vegetable oil, for frying
1kg firm tofu
~1/3 cup cornflour
120g butter
12 shallots, thinly sliced
6 mild red chillis, thinly sliced
12 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons ginger, minced
5 tablespoons kecap manis
5 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons castor sugar
3 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
8 spring onions, cut into 3cm segments

Pour oil into a frypan until it's 5mm deep and bring it to medium-high heat. Chop the tofu into 2cm cubes, tossing each cube in cornflour and placing it in the hot oil. Cook the tofu cubes for a minute or two top and bottom, until lightly browned, then transfer them to absorbent paper. It took me about 4 batches to fry all the tofu.

Remove all the oil from the pan and clean any sediment from the bottom. Return the pan to low-medium heat and melt the butter in it. Add the shallots, chilli, garlic and ginger, sautéing gently until very soft, about 15 minutes. Add the kecap manis, soy sauce, sugar and pepper, combining everything thoroughly.

Add the tofu back into the frypan, stirring it through to coat it in the sauce. Stir in the spring onions, then serve it all with steamed greens and rice.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I Love Pho 264

November 12, 2011
Jo's been talking up I Love Pho 264 (formerly known as Chu The) for a while; we had our chance to lunch there together on Saturday before braving IKEA. It's plain, popular and has a high turnover. The five minutes we queued at the entry were well spent perusing the wall-mounted menu so that we could order before we'd even cracked open the thermos of tea on our table.

Here pho is of course the star, with the menu board dominated by the different varieties offered. It's full of beef, tendons and cartilage, but us vegos can skip right to the bottom and focus on the tofu and vegetable pho. There's as wide an array of drinks as soups and then a couple of spring/rice paper rolls on offer (with veg options on both). Prices aren't listed.

Pho bowls arrived within minutes of being ordered. (Note: the one above is a medium, and the large looks like a bird bath.) Michael liked the veges, trimmings and chilli, but the stock was pretty plain. By smell alone, we could tell that our beef-ordering friends were having a tastier time of it.

It took a good while longer for our double serve of vegetarian spring rolls to arrive. Spring rolls don't tend to vary a lot, but these were notably above average. And I liked that they were served with lettuce for wrapping.

A few more minutes down the track, my vegetarian rice paper rolls turned up. They were simple and fresh, stuffed with carrots, lettuce, noodles and a strip or two of fried tofu, and were accompanied by an excellent dipping sauce.

Last to arrive were our iced coffees (does this meal seem reverse-served to anyone else?). They were just OK; we've enjoyed better at Thanh Nga Nine and Tom Phat.

The bill (totalled up opaquely and perhaps arbitrarily on a calculator) came to about $15-20 per person; not bad for a big feed and a drink each. Service was rushed but also friendly and accommodating. It was nice to see clear vegetarian options, and I was really impressed with the freshness of everything we ate.

That said, there's probably much more to love at I Love Pho if you're into meat. For a greater variety of meat-free Vietnamese dishes and a faux pho to boot, we love Thanh Nga Nine down the street.

Under its current name, this restaurant have received positive reviews on Sweet and Sour Fork, Barley Restaurant Reviews and Foodie About Town. That Jess Ho covers the drama and intrigue surrounding a recent name change, and is disappointed with the new incarnation.

I Love Pho 264
264 Victoria St, Richmond
veg fare $5-15
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a ramp on entry; the interior is densely crowded with tables. We ordered at the table and paid at the counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Friday, November 18, 2011


5/5/2015: Fitzroyalty reports that Mao's has closed down, to be replaced by a Japanese/Malaysian fusion place in the near future.

November 11, 2011
Ever since I first noticed the promise of 'vegetarian Peking duck' on the blackboard outside of Mao's, Cindy and I have been meaning to swing by to check it out. The setting is nicely designed - a big black and white photo of the restaurant's namesake on the wall, a cute little wheel of teapots and comfy, well-space tables. The takeaway menu out the front has a fairly limited veg selection, but once you get the sit-down menu you discover the wide range of options they offer.

Once we'd ordered, the waitress bought out a little free tasting plate for us - chilli seaweed, vinegary carrot and potato ribbons and peanuts. The potato in particular was delicious.

We started off with the aforementioned vegetarian Peking duck (king abalone mushroom slices, rolled in homemade rice pancakes with chilli, spring onion and served with Mao's special sauce, $8.80).

Even with the number of years since I last ate duck, it's clear that these are nothing like it. The mushroom slices have a bit of texture, but don't go expecting a faux-meat style treat. The sauce is wonderful though: sweet, spicy and garlicky in equal measures.

To go along with it we ordered steamed vegetarian dumplings ($8.80).

These were stuffed with minced onion, tofu and (maybe) eggplant. The dumplings themselves were delicious - tender and nicely steamed, although the thin chilli sauce that came along with them wasn't really much use.

For mains we split a plate of the mapo tofu ($15.80).

It's great to see a Chinese place that offers a veggie version of mapo tofu straight up. And it's a pretty good version - finely cubed vegetables taking the place of pork mince. The sauce had a strong biting chilli flavour but had a nice rich saltiness as well. Excellent stuff. Vegans will do well - I think everything we had was dairy and egg free. Coeliacs will probably struggle with the preponderance of soy sauce.

For around $35 we had an excellent meal at Mao's - a nice array of dishes, friendly efficient service and a nice (if quiet - we were two of only four people in the place at 6:30) atmosphere. Definitely a good option for a quick and affordable meal on Brunswick Street.

Mao's has been enthusiastically reviewed by Words and Flavours, Feed me, darling, The Neo Melbournian and The Indolent Cook with just Foodgasm disappointed by their experience.

Mao's Restaurant
263 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
9419 1919
veg entrees $4.80 - $9.80, mains $9.80 - $17.80

Accessibility: Mao's has a small step in the entryway, but the interior is relatively spacious. All service takes place at the table. We didn't visit the loos.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mushroom, lemon & tarragon tagliatelle

November 10, 2011
November's calendar recipe had a fairly wintry feel which was a bit out of place on a humid November evening. Still, it was simple to throw together (20 minutes from start to finish I reckon) and a fairly tasty kind of comfort food. It's heavy on the butter and cheese, giving the whole dish a nice creamy feel, offset by the chunky mushroom pieces throughout. The tarragon and wine gave it all a subtle flavour, although sadly the lemon got a bit lost.

We used fresh pasta from Donnini's, which gives any pasta-based meal a helping hand, although I reckon this would still come out okay using supermarket stuff. The recipe makes more than enough for four people and gave us some delicious leftovers at work on Friday.

Mushroom, lemon & tarragon tagliatelle
(a recipe available from Delicious magazine here)

2 tablespoons olive oil
50g butter
4 cloves garlic, sliced
8 flat mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons chopped tarragon leaves (plus a few in reserve for garnishing)
500g fresh tagliatelle
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
50g grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Heat half the butter and the olive oil in a frying pan.

When it's heated up, add the garlic and stir-fry for a minute or so until it has softened.

Add in the wine, tarragon and mushrooms along with generous sprinkles of salt and pepper. Stir thoroughly and simmer for a couple of minutes, until the wine has reduced a bit.

Cover the pan and keep simmering for another 10 minutes or so, until the mushrooms are nice and soft.

While the mushrooms are simmering, cook your pasta (our fresh tagliatelle took about five minutes in a pot of boiling water to be perfect).

Drain the pasta and combine with the mushroom mix in whichever container will fit the whole mix in. Stir in the lemon juice and zest along with what's left of the butter. Fold through the parmesan cheese and serve, garnished with the spare tarragon leaves.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cafe Lua

Update 27/1/2019: Cafe Lua has permanently closed.

Somehow, without us really noticing, the cafe on the corner of Elgin and Drummond Streets in Carlton has transformed itself from one of Carlton's many uninspiring eateries to a friendly cafe with a brilliant menu and excellent coffee. Welcome Cafe Lua! I think they've been going for a while but it was only recently that I bothered to read the menu on my way past. Cindy and I stopped in on a Thursday morning to find them doing a brisk trade in both takeaway coffees and late-starting breakfasters like us.

The menu is brilliant - lots of interesting ideas like pumpkin and chia seed pancakes with yoghurt, lentil and spinach salad ($13.50), quinoa, broccolini and asparagus salad ($13.50) and house-baked olive bread with baba ganoush, tomato, basil and goat's cheese ($13.50). Plenty of things for us to come back to try.

I was feeling like a healthy brekkie, so I took advantage of the vegan, gluten-free quinoa porridge (organic quinoa and soymilk porridge with chia seeds, fresh strawberries, granny smith apples with hazelnuts: $12.50).

This was an excellent meal, generous amounts of fruit, a little side-bowl of hazelnuts (not pictured) and a great porridgey mix of quinoa and seeds. Delicious.

Cindy went savoury, with the grilled haloumi and cherry tomato on cashew-pesto toast served with dressed rocket ($11).

Another success - thick and perfectly fried haloumi chunks on toast smeared with excellent pesto. If anything the toast was a bit too chewy, but that's a minor issue when everything else worked so well.

Throw in friendly service, good coffee and a location mere blocks from our house, and Cafe Lua has moved right onto our list of local favourites. We'll be back!


Cafe Lua
Cnr Elgin and Drummond Streets, Carlton
9348 1118
veg dishes $6 - $15

Accessibility: There's no step as you come in and the cafe is spacious and well-lit. Ordering takes place at the table, with payment at a lowish counter. We didn't check out the toilets.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Spicy Peruvian 'cheese' sauce

November 8, 2011

Here we pretty much vanquished what remained of the vege box. We had six potatoes, which reminded me of a side dish in Viva Vegan, and then decided to roast up our broccoli and last carrots with them and call it a main.

[As an aside: do you pronounce 'broccoli' as broccol-ee or broccol-eye? And where did you grow up? I am losing this battle amongst my friends, with Michael even changing teams. A blog poll seems like the appropriate final humiliation.]

The Viva Vegan dish is Peruvian potatoes with spicy "cheezy" sauce, a vegan take on Papa a la Huancaina. The sauce gets its spice from aji amarillo paste, which Michael tracked down at Casa Iberica. An orange puree, aji amarillo is very different to the other Central American chillis we've tried. It's rather hot, and sour too, but it all hits the tongue has no impact on the throat at all! It adds a terrific spark to this silky sauce, but I'd recommend starting small and increasingly the dose to taste.

My only reservation with this recipe is that it used cream substitute, which was interesting to try but neither convenient nor a SOLE food. I reckon the sauce might do OK with plain ol' soy milk instead.

Spicy Peruvian 'cheese' sauce
(adapted slightly from Viva Vegan)

4 1/2 tablespoons chickpea flour
1 teaspoon 'chicken' stock powder
2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons aji amarillo paste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup savoury yeast flakes
300mL carton vegan cooking cream (will try soymilk instead next time)
juice of one lemon
1/2 cup cracker crumbs

In a medium bowl, stir together the chickpea flour and stock powder. Gradually add the water, stirring constantly to form a smooth paste and then a smooth liquid. Whisk in the aji amarillo paste, adjusting the dose to taste.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, cooking and stirring for 30 seconds, then the onion. Cook the onion until soft, about 4 minutes. Pour in the bowl of chickpea flour liquid, stirring it into the onions until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the salt, yeast flakes, cream, lemon juice and cracker crumbs, stirring until everything is well combined and the cracker crumbs have softened.

Remove the sauce from the heat and carefully pulse it with a hand-held blender until smooth (we had a few spatters). To serve, pour the sauce over steamed or roasted vegetables or as a dip.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Carrot fritters

November 7, 2011
Ten carrots in the vege box! While we eat carrots incidentally just about every week, this quantity called for more deliberate measures. My officemate, who buys a vege box from the same company, mentioned that she'd been making carrot fritters with hers and just a couple of days later, a carrot fritter recipe turned up on Delicieux. Perfect!

I subbed parsley in for the fresh coriander, since that turned up in the box too, but otherwise stayed faithful to the original recipe. There's not really a batter here, just enough eggs and flour to cling to the grated carrot. I was worried about these patties holding together, but once in the pan the fritters developed a nice crust and flipped pretty easily. They are a teensy bit delicate, though, so treat them gently.

We ate our carrot fritters with a squeeze of lemon and some stir-fried bok choy in vegetarian oyster sauce. They're surprisingly sweet, and not nearly as starchy as most other root vegetables.

Carrot fritters
(adapted slightly from Delicieux)

7 small-medium carrots, grated
6 spring onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons oil

In a large bowl, stir together the carrots, spring onion, cumin, coriander, parsley, garlic, flour and salt. Stir through the beaten eggs until everything is thoroughly combined.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan, and line a plate or tray with absorbent paper. Spoon the mixture into the pan a couple tablespoonfuls at a time, flattening each portion into a disc. Fry these fritters for a couple of minutes on each side, until lightly browned, then transfer them to the absorbent paper to rest before serving.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Miss Marmalade

November 6, 2011
For reasons I can't fully explain, my Sunday morning started with my riding to Moonee Ponds to do a fun-run at 8 in the morning. Cindy, wisely, opted to stay in bed, so we scheduled a post-run meet-up at a point on my ride home. A bit of research turned up Miss Marmalade, well situated in West Brunswick and regularly recommended by Carla.

Despite not looking (or probably smelling) my best in my post-run glory, I snuck into the window seat while I waited for Cindy and kicked back with the paper and a pretty decent soy flat white. The staff are friendly and efficient (although they mostly steered clear of me until Cindy arrived) and the cafe itself is charmingly fitted out, with a tram scroll on the wall the highlight.

Once Cindy arrived we got stuck into the menu. There are a good mix of sweet and savoury options, with vegetarian dishes well represented (less so vegan, although given Carla's recommendation they must be a bit flexible). There wasn't anything in the way of gluten-free info on the menu, so coeliacs should probably call ahead to make sure they've got options. I couldn't resist the farmers market breakfast (home made corn bread, hash potatoes, cherry tomatoes, the pick of market vegetables with a poached egg, crushed avocado and micro-herbs, $15.50).

This was a nice change-up from the usual brekkie options - lots of spring veggies (broad beans, peas, capsicum, cherry tomatoes, green beans, sweet potato), fresh herbs, little crunch fried potato hash pieces and a perfectly poached egg all burying a small but dense chunk of cornbread slathered in delicious avocado. An excellent and refreshingly healthy start to the day.

Cindy wavered over a few options before settling on something from the specials board: Jack's cheddar on sour dough with pesto, caramelised onion and tomatoes ($10.90).

Unsurprisingly, this was pretty cheesy. How much you like it will depend on your cheese tolerance - I was a fan (especially once Cindy picked the tomato off!) - but the rest of the ingredients did their work as well. It's simple but effective, and pretty sizable for $10.

Miss Marmalade hit the mark pretty well for us - good service, decent coffee and an interesting menu executed effectively.

Despite being a bit off the beaten track, Miss Marmalade has become a darling of the blog scene, with positive write-ups on Coffeearn, Quick, grab your camera, Fashion Rebel, Melbourne Coffee Review, Days Designed, Little Eats, Food Rehab, Eat Play Shop, Chomp and Slurp, A Place A Day and Melbourne gastronome. Only Makers of Melbourne and Mel Hot or Not have been a bit unimpressed.

Miss Marmalade

126 Union Street, Brunswick
9388 8202
veg dishes $6 - $16.50

Accessibility: The entryway is flat and the interior is relatively spacious. Ordering happens at the table while payment takes place at a lowish counter. We didn't visit the loos, but a few reviewers have particularly noted the baby-friendliness of the facilities.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Black Ruby's bread

25/10/2015: It appears that Black Ruby no longer trades here and has been replaced by Masons.

It's easy to overlook Black Ruby while strolling down Rathdowne St, but it's been steadily setting itself up as a haven for coeliacs. Not only is the menu abundant with gluten free options; they also sell a variety of excellent gluten-free bread loaves to take home. Staff are well-informed and ingredients lists are often available.

We've tried the pumpkin loaf before and been impressed. This was not enough to prepare me for the amazing plain white loaf ($7). It is everything any bread-lover could want - a firm but thin crust and soft interior, just chewy enough, and offering that little bit of elasticity that I thought only gluten could.

Michael made much of it into garlic croutons and thus, the gleegan Caesar salad was born...

We took it to eat.drink.picnic, where the per-capita dietary diversity was sky high! Vegos, pescos, omnivores and locavores, people intolerant to dairy, gluten and peanuts, but everyone seemingly tolerant of each others' needs. AOF has shown us (again) how to rock the mindful party.

Read more about the picnic on, In The Mood For Noodles, confessions of a food nazi and Green Gourmet Giraffe. We've all vowed to break (Black Ruby's gluten-free) bread together before summer's done.

Black Ruby
344 Rathdowne St, Carlton North
9348 2777
vegan, gluten-free bread ~$7

Accessibility: From memory, there's a flat entryway and average-spaced tables. Bread is sold at a medium-high counter.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cutler & Co III

November 4, 2011
After a disappointing dinner, we were after something to lift our mood; Cutler & Co did just that. At 9pm on a Friday their front bar had plenty of space and they were happy to have us visit for coffee and dessert. Jo recommended we share two icecream sandwiches between the four of us and I was happy to comply. I'd never tried it before, though I read of many other bloggers swooning over it.

The Cutler & Co icecream sandwich ($18) is a generous vanilla parfait brick between thin chocolate biscuits, a pool of salted caramel underneath and a rich quenelle of chocolate icecream on top. It's very nice indeed, though I don't think it has the complexity of some of their other desserts. We were also generously supplied with petits fours following the theme: chocolate-coated caramel fudge sprinkled lightly with salt. Haute fantails!

Eighteen dollars is no small sum for dessert but to have this dessert in these surroundings, with no hurry to leave, felt worth it. I can see myself stopping by again with this purpose on an idle evening.


We've eaten more extensively at Cutler & Co before; you can read about those meals here and here.

Cutler & Co
55-57 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
9419 4888
desserts $18

Accessibility: Cutler & Co has a flat entry and generous space between tables. The front bar largely contains high benches and chairs, but there are some standard-height booth seats to the side. There's full table service.

Bluecorn III

November 4, 2011
We took advantage of Mike and Jo's wheels to head across the river and revisit an old favourite, St Kilda's Bluecorn. Since we last visited either our standards have risen or Bluecorn's have dropped - this was among our most disappointing recent outings.

They're as popular as ever, and our booking was for 7, with the understanding that we'd clear the decks by 8:30. Stuck in traffic on the way over, we rang ahead and were given the nod to turn up a bit late. When we arrived, the waitress made a worried face before seating us and proceeding to provide an evening of unfriendly, uninformed and vaguely hostile treatment. We knew we had to be fast, but we didn't need to be made to feel like we were imposing on them the whole night.

I'd have been willing to forgive mediocre service if the food measured up, but unfortunately our whole experience fell well short of expectations. My vegetarian burrito (spinach, rice, peppers, corn, black beans, iceberg lettuce, guacamole and salsa on corn tortillas, $22.50) was very disappointing - the tortilla was a bit burnt, the guacamole had big brown patches and the filling tasted like cheese and mush. There was none of the freshness or flavour that we remembered from our earlier trips. At more than twice the price of a Trippytaco burrito this fell a long way short of my expectations.

Cindy ordered the blue masa goats cheese quesadilla (with black beans, sesame eggplant, pumpkin seed rojo, chipotle crema and guacamole, $21.50). Again the guacamole was a bit on the brown side and, while some of the flavours were okay, the dish was mostly mushy, lacking any crispness or freshness.

Our meat-eating companions didn't have anything more positive to offer up either. The night was capped off by our waitress slapping the bill on the table with Cindy still eating and vaguely threatening us, "you've got ten minutes."

This is probably the most negative review I've written on here and it's driven mostly by disappointment - we had such fond memories of sitting out in the courtyard at Bluecorn and being wowed by their fresh, wonderful food. Our expectations were raised even higher by recent raves by other Melbourne veg bloggers. Maybe we hit them on an off night (in their defence they were clearly pretty busy and we were 15 minutes late), but it'll be a long time before we give Bluecorn another chance. Ah well, I guess it's back to Trippytaco (and eventually Mamasita) for us.


Read our two previous (positive) reviews here and here. There's a wide range of opinions out there, from scathing (KC's Food Affairs), through mixed (Mr Smith's Food Journeys, Because I Can't Cook, Eat and Be Merry, For Tomorrow we Diet, Tomatom) to positive (Please Sir, Can I Have Some More, Eaterati)

From a veg perspective, Eat More Vegies, Pocket Carnival and easy as vegan pie have loved Bluecorn, while Hayley at Ballroom Blintz was a bit disappointed by her experience.


205 Barkly Street, St Kilda
9534 5996
Veg shared plates: $19-$27, veg mains: $21.50-$22.50

Accessibility: At most there's a small step on entry (we forgot to really pay attention!). Inside things are relatively tight, but not impossibly so. Ordering and payment happens at the tables. We didn't visit the toilets.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

WuBQ tofu and polenta

Cindy and I spent Melbourne Cup day eating at Cafe la Terra and rockin' out at the Tote, reliving our lost youth to the sounds of Snout and Even. While we were there we grabbed a copy of ToteZine #32, which unexpectedly featured recipes! Julian Wu, Melbourne gig-goer extraordinaire and fixture behind the bbq at the Tote, included a couple of his favourite bbq recipes. We decided to to recreate the experience at home - minus Ross McClennan swinging from the rooftops and Wally Kempton singing Fleetwood Mac songs.

We had two WuBQ recipes to work with, one of which required vegetarian-ising. We turned his barbecued chicken wings into barbecued tofu - it was just a straight swap, the marinade stayed as it was. The tofu we had didn't soak up the marinade quite as much as I imagine chicken would, but it still ended up rich with sweet, smoky bbq goodness (especially after we poured a bit of the leftover marinade on top). The use of Milo and coffee in the marinade added a bit of depth to the ketchup-based sauce. It was all pretty sweet, but the liquid smoke and tabasco added enough salt and spice to make for a pretty successful sauce.

The polenta was very simple - just polenta, stock and cheese. It was tasty enough, but really benefited from having the tofu's accompanying sauce on hand to soak up a bit of extra flavour. With a handful of greens on the side, this was a simple rock 'n' roll treat for a busy school night. Julian Wu, we salute you.

WuBQ Tofu
(Adapted from Julian Wu's barbecued chicken wings recipe in the ToteZine)

2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
1 kg tofu, cut into 1cm thin rectangles

1 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1 tablespoon Milo
a generous shake of liquid smoke

Mix the marinade ingredients in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until the Milo and coffee have been dissolved into the mixture. Take it off the heart and allow it to cool.

Slather the tofu in the marinade and leave it to soak overnight.

Heat a teaspoon of the oil up in a frying pan (we don't have access to a bbq, but go ahead and use one if you've got it) and cook the tofu over medium heat for about 15 minutes, turning a couple of times. It should brown up nicely, but make sure it doesn't burn.

Cheese polenta rectangles
(Julian Wu's recipe from the ToteZine).

250g polenta
1.5 litres of vegetable stock (we just used Massel 'chicken' stock)
150g grated cheddar cheese

In a large pot, bring the stock to the boil. Reduce it to a simmer and gradually pour the polenta in, stirring constantly. Cook over low heat, stirring the whole time, until the polenta has absorbed all the liquid and is nice and thick.

Take it off the heat, stir through the grated cheese and keep stirring until it's melted through. Pour the mix out into a baking dish, leave to cool and then cut it into strips. When you're ready to eat it, cook it under the grill for about 5 minutes on each side (keep a close eye on it, you want it to go a bit brown and crispy but not burn).

Serve with the bbq tofu, a few spinach leaves and a spoonful or two of leftover marinade.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Cafe la Terra

Update January 10, 2013: Cafe la Terra has closed down.

Michael and I stumbled on Cafe la Terra during our Monday wanderings, noticing the word 'vegetarian' featuring prominently on their signage and a menu of cheap Vietnamese meals stuck to the window. We stopped by for a meal the following evening, refueling between bands at what will probably go down as our gig of the year (sorry, Pulp) - the reformation of Snout, in honour of the Tote's 30th and Wally Meanie's 44th birthdays.

Contrary to our initial impression, Cafe la Terra is neither 100% vegetarian nor 100% Vietnamese. There's also a substantial list of breakfast-themed sandwiches, some of which contain meat. The lunch and dinner menu looks meatless (and largely vegan-friendly); Vietnamese style meals and drinks feature prominently but give way to pasta dishes and milkshakes further down. Nothing costs more than $10.50, and at $4.50 each our coconut juices almost seemed expensive.

I started out with a samosa ($3), handmade and stuffed with tender vegetables.

Michael shied away from the 'tofu country and steam rice', which is cooked in Napoli sauce, and ordered the curry vegetables and rice ($9.50). It was simple and hearty.

Having done a little blog research during the day, I chose the steamed spring rolls ($6.50) and was really impressed. The veges were cooked perfectly, soft but not squidgy, all of them retaining their distinct flavours. With a little sweet soy sauce poured over, I didn't spare a thought for their supposedly-tastier deep-fried cousins.

Eating at Cafe la Terra is almost like visiting a welcoming stranger's home. The dining area felt like a cluttered loungeroom, the food was modest but tasty, and the staff were lovely.

Fashion Rebel wrote a positive review of Cafe la Terra earlier this year. You May Call Me Frank recounts a bad experience three years ago; we don't know if the cafe is still under the same management.

Cafe la Terra
corner of Johnston and Campbell Sts, Collingwood
9032 2929
veg snacks and meals $3-9.50

Accessibility: This cafe has a small step on entry. There are tables outside on a wide footpath; the interior is quite cluttered but the tables appear reasonably spaced. We ordered and paid at a low-ish counter.

Monday, November 07, 2011


October 31, 2011
After lunch Michael and I roamed the streets of Collingwood and Fitzroy for a couple of hours, looking at new shop fronts and street art. Though it's by no means new, it was also a nice opportunity to try Shocolate properly for the first time. I was actually quite oblivious to their prize-winning macaron but remembered a very positive review of this chocolatier appearing on fitzroyalty when it first opened.

It wasn't really clear on entering what the protocol was - table service or order at the counter? I inspected the fancy desserts in the display case and ordered straight up. It was only afterwards that I noticed a full printed menu (an almost year-old version is available on their website) better describing their full scope: hand-made chocolates, icecreams and other desserts, chocolatey beverages (including cocktails!) and a kids' menu. There's a substantial mark-up for eating in over takeaway.

The Bombay dessert ($14) arrived on a chocolate-smeared plate, a glossy chocolate dome with a chocolate tendril holding a clump of real gold leaf aloft, edible glitter everywhere. Thankfully there's flavour and texture to support this showmanship: inside is a sponge cake base, almonds, hazelnut mousse and a lovely hint of cardamom.

It's all a bit extravagant, but not unreasonably priced if you're after something glitzy. A carefully home-delivered dessert from Shocolate could make a fine gift for your favourite sweet-tooth.


3/296 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
9415 6556
fancy desserts $14

Accessibility: There are a couple of steps up on your way in; tables are medium-crowded. I ordered and paid at the counter, but table service may be an option.

Wabi Sabi Salon II

October 31, 2011
Back from our weekend away, Cindy and I decided to try to use our long weekend to sample a new lunch place - we had The Social Studio and their four kinds of vegetarian burgers in mind. Unfortunately, they'd had the same idea as us and had used Melbourne Cup day to manufacture a long weekend for themselves.

We kept wandering along Smith, eventually settling on one of the few places that would serve us lunch at 2:50 - Wabi Sabi Salon. I've professed my enthusiasm for their vegie bento box before and I didn't even explore the rest of the menu. Prices have gone up significantly in the past year and a bit - the vegetarian bento box has gone from $11 to $15. Still, it's a pretty decent combo: rice, pickles, a vegie dish, a salad and a random hot main.

Oh, and a miso soup to start things off.

A nice warming start to the meal, with a few pieces of tofu and seaweed in a rich broth.

The main of choice on Monday was potato croquettes: four little fried potato triangles with golden crispy shells, a few smears of a sweetish sauce and a sprinkle of sesame seeds on top. The broccoli (although sparse) came with a tasty miso sauce, while the seasoning on the rice turned a plain accompaniment into its own little highlight. This was a decent lunch, but probably not quite worth the price.

Cindy looked beyond the box option, ordering the tofu and vegetable ankake donburi ($15).

There were lots of fresh vegetables, some delicious cubes of tofu and rice. Everything was perfectly cooked, but the sauce lacked a bit of pizzazz - it was just a bit plain. Still, a fair bit healthier than four chunks of crispy fried potato.

We were happy to find a place open and willing to serve us lunch on an afternoon when most of Melbourne was taking a long weekend. We walked out fairly contented with our lunch, but at $15 a meal, we were probably paying a little more than what the food we got was worth. The service was friendly and efficient, and the setting is as charming as ever, but the food wasn't quite as good as I remembered it. I'll give them another shot, but with more moderate expectations in future.

Since we first visited, Wabi Sabi has had mostly positive reviews, although there have been a few reservations: I'm so Hungreee, Ballroom Blintz (veg review!), Miss Adriennely, Multicultural Melbourne and E. T. & C thinks.


Wabi Sabi Salon
94 Smith Street, Collingwood
9417 6119
Veg lunch: $14 - $15

Accessibility: There's a flat entryway and a somewhat crowded table arrangement with a wide path through the middle. Ordering and payment takes place at the table, and we didn't make our way to the toilets.