Thursday, August 30, 2012

Let's make three a crowd

We're rapidly approaching Planet VeGMeL's birthday! For three years the planet has brought the food posts of Melbourne-based veg*n blogs to one location for your convenient consumption. With 57 of us on the roll, you're RSS-fed a multi-course meal daily.

To celebrate the occasion, Steph has announced a picnic on Saturday September 15 at Edinburgh Gardens, starting at 1pm. Everyone is welcome - blogger or not, veg*n or otherwise - to bring a vegan dish and partake in an IRL feast. (In the spirit of extra-awesome inclusiveness, consider cooking gluten-free.) Any late changes will be posted on this facebook page. Marking your attendance isn't mandatory, but might help Steph ensure that there are enough zines to go around.

Last year's picnic was a cracker, so I'm bypassing the usual pencil and inking this one into my diary.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Elvis waffles

August 26, 2012

This breakfast is basically a dare. Michael joked that I could stuff some leftover coconut bacon into waffles, I was reminded of an Elvis cake that Lisa made earlier this year and, as if to spite Michael and common decency itself, I vowed to make Elvis waffles.

The formula wasn't all that complicated. I made the peanut butter waffle batter from Vegan Brunch, stirred in some coconut bacon, made an unholy mess with the waffle iron, then topped my waffle with a banana and slosh of maple syrup.

And it was... fine. Not amazing, not awful. It tasted like the things it was made of; they didn't clash revoltingly, they didn't meld into something new. While the concept was good for a laugh, the flavour of this dish was slightly less than the sum of its parts. That is, I think waffles and coconut bacon can both do so much more in other separate incarnations.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Zucchini falafel

August 23, 2012

Cindy and I typically figure out our dinner plans each morning before work, based on a combination of what's in the fridge and what we feel like. Every second Thursday we're presented with a dilemma - we know we've got a veggie box coming but we've got no idea what will be in it. The website has a rough list each week but things don't always match up. This week we decided that we'd end up with at least one zucchini and went hunting for some sort of zucchini based dish to base our dinner around.

This recipe for zucchini falafel from Haalo at Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once fit the bill perfectly. It used up all our zucchini, didn't need too many other ingredients (we swapped parsley in for coriander) and the preparation was simple enough for a weeknight meal. The resulting falafel balls were pretty great as well - much softer and juicier than standard recipes. They're almost fritters rather than falafel really, although they still combined deliciously with Cindy's yoghurt/tahini/lemon juice sauce. We just chucked ours on top of some greens and grated carrot, but these would work just as well in a wrap or burger.

Zucchini falafel
(based on a recipe from Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once)

220g zucchini, roughly grated
1 x 400g chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 small brown onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg, lightly whisked
3/4 cup parsley leaves
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs

Whiz the onions, paprika, cumin and baking powder in a food processor, until the onion is finely chopped and everything is combined.

Add the chickpeas and zucchini and pulse some more - you'll need to scrape the sides down a bit to make sure everything gets properly sliced up. Add in the parsley and whiz again.

Scoop all the mixture out into a mixing bowl and stir through the egg. Add in about 3/4 cup of breadcrumbs, until the mix has dried out enough to be manageable. 

Heat a decent layer of oil in a frying pan - you want to get it pretty hot. 

Pop the rest of the breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Roll the falafel mixture into golf-ball sized spheres, roll them through the breadcrumbs to coat and drop them into the hot oil. Fry for four or five minutes on each side, soak off some of the oil on a paper towel and serve.

This makes about 20 balls, which comfortably left us with lunch-sized leftovers for the next day.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mustard tofu in a creamy leek sauce

August 20, 2012

Leeks are lovely in creamy sauces - including vegan ones, as demonstrated by Appetite Affliction. We made her mustard tofu with our leek, plus a few fridge-friendly tweaks, this week. (Eek eek...) We got off to a slow start, prepping the cashew sauce and plucking a gazillion thyme leaves before we were ready to heat the frypan. Then it got more lively, coating the tofu coated with mustard powder and herbs and frying them up in two pans at once with sizzling, blackening bits of thyme everywhere. The tofu's cashew-creamy, leek and white wine sauce is cooked in the same pan. Marvellous!

Where AA used rosemary, wholegrain mustard and white wine, we used thyme, Dijon mustard and sherry. I think the sherry was a minor mistake, lacking the bite that the sauce needed but we otherwise got away with it. We took a another cue from AA and served our tofu with quinoa and a handful of rocket.

Mustard tofu in a creamy leek sauce
(slightly adapted from a recipe on Appetite Affliction)

cashew sauce
3/4 cup raw cashews
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon stock powder
1/2 teaspoon savoury yeast flakes
2 teaspoons margarine
salt and white pepper

mustard tofu
2 tablespoons mustard powder
2 tablespoons thyme leaves
700g firm tofu, sliced into 'steaks'
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 leek, chopped into circles
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon wholegrain or Dijon mustard

In a food processor, grind the cashews to a powder. Gradually pour in two-thirds of the water while the processor is running, so that the cashews for a smooth paste. Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and set it over medium-low heat. Stir through the stock powder and yeast. Stir in the margarine until completely melted, and add salt and pepper to taste. Set the sauce aside and add extra water, a tablespoon at a time, if you find the sauce too thick.

Mix together the mustard powder and thyme, then rub the mixture over the tofu 'steaks'. Heat the oil in a frypan over medium-high heat (we actually spread it across two frypans to cook all the tofu simultaneously). Fry the tofu pieces for several minutes on each side, until they're thoroughly golden and even blackening in parts (see photo above). Push the tofu to one side of the pan and throw in the leek and garlic. Stir the leek and garlic as they cook and soften for a couple of minutes. Add the wine, allowing it to cook and evaporate for a minute, then stir in the mustard and the cashew sauce. The sauce may get very thick, so add a little more water if you want it thinner, and serve it all up!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Healthier halava

Breakfast serial part xvi
August 19, 2012

Our vege boxes have recently tended towards more fruit than vegetables. Though I faithfully take an apple to work each day, bananas and oranges pile up in the fruit bowl, overflowing onto the table. Peeling and freezing bananas delayed the problem a while, but they still needed eating. It's too cold for smoothies and I wasn't in the mood for my usual banana baking... somehow I hit on the idea of mashing bananas into halava

This actually proved the perfect remedy for my reservations about the original recipe. The bananas' sweetness and smoothness meant I could cut the sugar by another half, and the butter by almost as much. The texture's different, too. Fresh out of the saucepan this halava is mushier and less fluffy than the original, and then it stays soft and silky after days in the fridge.instead of setting to a grainy fudge.

I've been eating my breakfast pudding alternately with a mug of hot tea or a glass of cold milk.

Healthier halava
(adapted from this recipe)

3 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup brown sugar
40g sultanas
grated zest of 2 oranges
100g butter
1 1/2 cups semolina
1/3 cup walnut pieces
3/4 cup dates, chopped
3 bananas

In a medium-large saucepan, stir together the water, sugar, sultanas and orange zest. Bring them to the boil, with a couple of stirs along the way to dissolve the sugar, then turn the heat off and set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the semolina and gently roast it in the butter for 20 minutes, stirring regularly for even cooking. Add the walnuts at the 10-minute mark. It should smell great once it's done!

Gradually pour the sugar syrup into the semolina, stirring as you go. Keep stirring the pudding, letting the grains soak up all the liquid. When it's all absorbed, mash the bananas and fold them in, then stir in the dates. Cover the saucepan with a lid and take it off the heat, allowing the pudding to steam like this for about 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Duchess of Spotswood

18 August, 2012

Cindy had been eyeing off the Wallace and Gromit exhibition at Scienceworks since before we went away. Promising a combination of two things we loved (claymation and science), we were sure it would be fantastic. And even more excitingly, it would give us a reason to trek over to Spotswood, home of one of Melbourne's most hype-tastic cafes, The Duchess of Spotswood.

Bad news first: The W & G exhibition is pretty crappy. It's (very strangely) sponsored by Intellectual Property Australia, and is loaded up with references to branding, trademarks and copyright. It has a couple of huge posters about music piracy, a 'game' where kids can match up junk food logos with their brands and not nearly enough actual Wallace and Gromit. Seriously, who thought that a poster with Gromit on it along with the words, "Register your trademark to protect your brand's value and reputation," was a good idea? How many kids are being won over by that message? All very weird. Anyway, the rest of Scienceworks was better, although clearly pitched at 9 year olds. I somehow resisted the urge to take over the netball bit in the sports section, but we still had fun playing with lasers and other sciency bits and pieces. Still, it's probably best for peeps with kids.

Now to the good news: The Duchess of Spotswood is pretty damn great. Tucked away about 200m from the train station, it's a much smaller cafe than I imagined (for some reason I had something the size of The Auction Rooms in my head) and queues build up quickly. Given the miserable weather, the outdoor tables were out of action and lining up was pretty unpleasant, so we were incredibly happy that a table opened up for us after just a couple of minutes - turn up in a bigger group and you'll be standing out in the rain for a lot longer. It's a pleasant and minimalist fit-out, although the current artwork (photos of 1970s rock stars) didn't really fit the vibe of the place.

Based on my blog reading, the menu varies pretty regularly. They're shooting for a British twist on the breakfast menu, which basically means loads of meat. Still, amongst all the jowls, tongues and sausages, there are two savoury vego options and one sweet. You can also build your own brekkie with eggs and sides or choose from the cakes and other treats tucked behind the front counter. Vegans will really struggle.

The main sweet option on the menu looked pretty dull (poached fruit with yoghurt and grains), so Cindy and I hit up the two savoury dishes. She couldn't resist the siren call of potato, opting for the 'Breakfast of Champignons' (potato and barley hash with field mushrooms, English Stilton and poached eggs, $18.50).

Not being a big fan of eggs, she cut the standard two eggs down to one (which I ended up eating anyway). Otherwise she was pretty happy - the mushrooms were well cooked, the hash brown had a crispily fried exterior and the small cheesy bits added a bit of variation to the dish. I reckon we should have just asked to sub the eggs right out and replace them with more mushrooms. And maybe a second hash brown.

I went for the other savoury vego dish, the Simple Pleasures (thinly sliced Zeally Bay toast with roast beetroots, candied walnuts, goat curd and poached eggs, $18.50).

This had a nice variety of goodies - two perfectly poached eggs, beautiful candied nuts, a scattering of greens, tender and sweet roasted beetroots, a few slivers of roasted potato and a generous gob of wonderfully tasty goat's curd. It all worked pretty well together, with the cheese adding some saltiness to the sweetness of the beets and candied nuts. I'd have liked two bits of toast to go with my two eggs (three once I had Cindy's!), but that's a minor quibble.

We cleared out pretty quickly once we'd eaten (feeling bad for the people out in the cold), stopping only to grab a brownie from the dessert cabinet. It's clear that you're dealing with some pretty slick operators at Duchess of Spotswood - the food comes out quickly and brilliantly cooked, you're never stuck looking for waitstaff (who were all friendly and efficient), and (of course) the coffee is top notch. It's also great to see a place taking some chances with their menu and offering up dishes that differ from the bulk of Melbourne's brekkie places. Sadly for us, most of these dishes involve odd bits of meat, but you can see why they've built such a following. Still, I'm not sure there's enough there for non-meat-eaters to have us jumping on a train again in the near future.


The internet is awash with rave reviews of the Duchess of Spotswood - check out blog write-ups from: ramblingrelish, The Chronicles of Ms I-Hua, dining nirvana, dear melbourne, Off the spork, I'm so hungree, Derek McClure, Food Rehab, Footscray Food Blog, Judging Your Breakfast, Sarah Cooks, Lots of Craving, Gypsy Ju (twice), Sharking for chips and drinks, Mel: Hot or Not, Addictive and consuming, Miss Adriennely, Wayfaring Chocolate, the silent observer, little eats, 8ites, I Eat Therefore I Am, my seasonal table, Almost Always Ravenous, Totally Addicted to Taste, Hedonistic Habits, Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, The Gourmet Challenge, My Aching Head, Gastrogasmic, melbourne gastronome (twice), Brunch Addict, pleases us, Eat. Play. Shop., A Spotted Blog, Snap Story, little lady, Charles Whyte, EAT AND BE MERRY FOR TOMORROW WE DIE(T), Words and Flavours, One Mouthful, Breakfast in the S.K.Y., Backseat Baristas, hookturns, The misadventures of MissC, Caffeine City, YOU SHOULD HAVE A BLOG, Food of Hong Kong and Macau, WHO TOLD YOU THAT?, Adventures of Java Jane, Popcorn & Toast, OISHIINBO, Let's Get Fat Together, mochii eats, Fork, Knife and Chopsticks, Gastronomical ramblings, Lots of Cravings, eggswithsides, The World Loves Melbourne, two front teeth, foodwithfrank and Nathan Maurice Mallon.

Only R.F.K., Fill Up on Bread and SUNTOWNSUNBIRD have been a bit let down.


The Duchess of Spotswood
87 Hudsons Road, Spotswood
9391 6016
veggie breakfasts $18.50 (you could build your own for a bit less)

Accessibility: Duchess of Spotswood has a flat entryway into a middlingly spacious interior. Ordering happens at the table and we paid at a relatively high counter. We didn't visit the bathrooms.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Loving Hut II

August 6, 2012

Our first visit to Richmond's Loving Hut was pleasant but not exciting and it was difficult to muster up enthusiasm to return. But every now and then another positive blog review would turn up, or friends of ours would mention new menu items or their favourite dish, and I knew Loving Hut deserved another go. Michael and I met there after work on a Monday night, armed with a mental list of dishes to try.

The menu, all vegan, has certainly expanded in the past year. There were the deep-fried entrees and mock meat mains that I remembered from our first visit, but also soups and salads, noodles, a dedicated Thai section and a reasonable proportion of mock-free meals including tofu in five different preparations. A tiny whiteboard on the wall listed dessert specials, many of them raw.

We started with the Royal Rendang ($14), thanks to Mel. The soy steak, potato and carrot chunks are hearty winter fare, more so when submerged in a pool of thick, aromatic and spicy gravy. We scooped it into bowls of brown rice ($2 each) for full sitck-to-the-ribs effect.

The salt and pepper tofu ($12) is K's Loving Hut fave. It's lightly battered with a perky spice mix and subtle crunch. Arriving without a sauce, I plucked my share straight from the plate without pausing for rice.

Michael would have happily stopped there, but all night he'd had his back to the specials board announcing "warm black forest cake with cherry cream $7.50". Meanwhile I'd been reading and re-reading and anticipating that cake. It isn't exactly authentic - I couldn't taste any cherries or kirsch, for starters - but the presentation is in the spirit of this ostentatious dessert. I was happy with the dense yet fluffy cake texture and the soy-free flavour, and rationed out the refreshing strawberry segments judiciously.

It was great to see Loving Hut in better form - while they did have a few hiccups on opening, a menu expansion and some tips from friends probably made the difference for us. Their prices are noticeably cheaper that Chinese mock stalwarts White Lotus and Enlightened Cuisine and if this Monday night is anything to go by, they're building a loyal following.


You can read about our first visit to Loving Hut here. Since then it's received positive write-ups on easy as (vegan) pie, Vegan Revolution and CHOMP and SLURP. ForkSake's account is more mixed, while funky_ass enjoyed the food but was put off by Supreme Master evangelism.

Loving Hut
Shop 10, 242 Victoria St, Richmond
9427 8916
veg mains $10-18, rice $1.50-2pp, desserts $5-7.50
facebook page

Accessibility: Loving Hut has a flat standard-width entry, with a difficult door and generously spaced tables.  Ordering occurs at the table, payment at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sherry-roasted rhubarb with coconut cream

August 4-5, 2012

My exposure to Yotam Ottolenghi's recipes has not included many desserts. Although Sarah tells me that there's an extensive set in his first book, Plenty finishes with a section on fruit and cheese (not terribly helpful for a vegan cooking day) and there's only a little more on the Guardian website. But it's difficult for me to let the idea of dessert a go. I lingered over a picture of roasted rhubarb and labneh scatttered with pistachios and hatched a plan.

This would be good with coconut yoghurt instead of labneh, I thought. And then I decided to trying inventing coconut labneh. With Carla's whipped coconut cream topping in the back of my mind, I figured that straining coconut cream instead of dairy curds was worth a shot. I scooped the solid fat out of two cans and noticed that it was lumpy and uneven. I didn't want firm fat pebbles in my labneh so I tried a whip-round in the food processor. To my surprise, this actually separated a little more liquid from the now-smooth coconut fat. I set up my coconut fat in a clean Chux wipe to drain overnight and barely any more liquid dropped from it. It seems to me that the hours-long straining could be entirely replaced by a minute or two in a food processor! Sure, it's not labneh but it's something buttery and vegan, perfect for dolloping on desserts.

The baked rhubarb didn't need any tinkering to meet our dietary requirements. It's simple and charming and was a nice excuse to use one of the real vanilla pods I've been hoarding. The zest of a lemon is divided across the two components of this recipe but I'd actually recommend saving it all for the rhubarb - it does make a real difference to the syrup, and can interfere with the texture of the coconut cream.

While I was all excited about my experiments with coconut cream, the surprising pleasure here was really that these dishes were the perfect accompaniment to Toby's mandarin polenta cake. Maybe that's easier to do when, in an attempt to channel Ottolenghi, you keep one eye firmly on the best produce of the season.

Sherry-roasted rhubarb with coconut cream
(adapted from a recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi's Guardian column)

coconut cream
2 x 400mL cans coconut cream
40g icing sugar
generous pinch of salt
1 lemon

roasted rhubarb
400g rhubarb
100mL sherry or other sweet wine
70g caster sugar
1/2 vanilla pod

20g pistachios, roughly chopped

Open the cans of coconut cream and scoop the solid and creamy parts into a food processor. Set the watery parts aside for another use (maybe a Thai curry or a smoothie!). Whip up the coconut cream in the food processor - I found that more liquid separated from the fat at this stage. Pour away the liquid and transfer the solids to a bowl. Sift the icing sugar and salt into the coconut cream and beat it all together until smooth and well combined. If you want to strain the cream further, plonk it into a muslin cloth, cheesecloth or clean Chux and bundle it up, hanging it over a bowl to continue draining overnight. Since it's winter and coconut fat hardens in the fridge I did this out on the bench. When you're about to serve the dish, grate the zest of half the lemon into the cream and beat through by hand.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Chop the rhubarb into 6cm-long batons and place them in a baking dish. Pour over the wine and the sugar. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the dish and add the pods too. Peel the remaining half a lemon's worth of zest into strips and add it to the dish. Stir it all together and roast that rhubarb uncovered for about 20 minutes, until its tender but still holding its shape.

Serve the rhurbarb with a dollop of coconut cream and a sprinkling of pistachios... also, in the best circumstances, a piece of Toby's polenta cake.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Roasted cauliflower & hazelnut salad

August 5, 2012

This comes from Yotam Ottolenghi's Guardian column rather than my much-thumbed copy of Plenty. It's basically a bowl of roasted cauliflower dressed up with parsley, some crunchy celery and hazelnuts, a splash of vinegar, and - in the original version - pomegranate seeds. Australia's pomegranate season is brief and not now, so instead I used dried cherries. They added the right little burst of chewy sourness, if not quite the same cheery colour.

Though the ingredients list isn't short, this is at the more manageable end of Ottolenghi's style - pretty much everything can be prepared in the time it takes to cook the cauliflower. (I might even consider tackling this on a weeknight!) Though the florets should be tender, I'd urge you to err on the side of under-baking the cauliflower. A crunchy salad's always preferable to a mushy one, right?

Roasted cauliflower & hazelnut salad
(adapted slightly from Yotam Ottolenghi's Guardian column)

1 head of cauliflower
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and black pepper
1 large stick of celery
10g small flat-leaf parsley leaves
50g dried cherries
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
     (I was all out and substituted garam masala)
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon maple syrup
30g hazelnuts, preferably roasted

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Chop the cauliflower into florets. Place them all in a large baking dish, drizzle over 2 tablespoons of the oil and sprinkle over salt and pepper. Bake the cauliflower until tender and turning golden brown at the edges, about 20 minutes. Set the cauliflower aside to cool.

Roughly chop the celery, parsley and cherries, then stir them into the cauliflower. Whisk together the remaining tablespoon of oil, cinnamon, allspice, vinegar and maple syrup and pour them over the salad, stirring them to combine. Roughly chop the hazelnuts and sprinkle them over the salad, tossing it all together lightly before serving.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Mixed beans with many spices

August 5, 2012

Cindy's already summed up our afternoon Ottolenghi-inspired cook-off, so you know the kind of kitchen environment that this meal was prepared in. Most of the recipes in Plenty are complicated, multi-potted rigmaroles that would only have resulted in tears and frustration in a kitchen stuffed with four other people hard at work. Luckily this relatively simple bean recipe is tucked away towards the back, providing a straightforward but interesting dish to add to the afternoon's festivities.

Of course, even with this dish Ottolenghi doesn't make things simple - we hit up the Preston Market in an attempt to round up the necessary ingredients (and also as an excuse to visit La Panella), but still had to swap snow peas for sugar snaps, borlotti beans for broad beans (completely out of season) and coriander for lovage (because what even is that?).

The borlotti beans in particular were kind of a treat - they come in beautiful purple and white pods and are pretty attractive themselves (at least until you simmer away their swirly purple markings).

I don't think any of these were hugely problematic substitutions, although the borlotti beans were probably a bit tougher than broad beans would have been. The whole dish had a relatively mild flavour, with the earthy spices adding depth and warmth to beans and tomatoes. Given the array of other fancy dishes we had lined up this worked pretty well, but I wouldn't recommend making it the centrepiece of a meal - it's much better suited as a solid and veggie-filled side dish.

Mixed beans with many spices
(adapted from a recipe in Ottolenghi's Plenty)

3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 - 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, turmeric and coriander
1 teaspoon each of ground ginger and cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
100g snow peas, trimmed and halved
300g green beans, trimmed and halved
250g of shelled borlotti beans
3 tablespoons chopped coriander
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large non-stick frypan and saute the onion for about 5 minutes, until it starts to soften. Add in the garlic and fry, stirring frequently, for another couple of minutes.

Spoon in the tomato paste, spices, salt and pepper and stir everything together, cooking for another minute or two. 

Pour in the can of tomatoes and stir through all the beans, along with the sugar. Stir together and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and keep the simmer going until you're happy with the texture of the borlotti beans - I reckon we had it going for half an hour or so, but another 10 minutes may not have hurt.

Add salt and pepper if necessary and stir through the coriander just as you're taking it off the heat.

Serve with rice. And a whole bunch of other amazing dishes.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ottolenghi cookalong

August 5, 2012

It took almost a year to make it happen but AOF and I were determined to reconvene in a kitchen somewhere, to cook and eat together. This time the Moody Noodles joined us in an effort to veganise and, where needed, deglutenise the recipes of Yotam Ottolenghi.

AOF committed first, to a celeriac and lentil salad with hazelnuts and mint from Plenty.

K fried a wokful of black pepper tofu with minor substitutions.

Michael made a spicy bean stew and I, a cauliflower salad. (We'll post recipes and photos of them soon.) With a mound of brown rice to soak up the stray dressings, it was a fine plate of food.

Ottolenghi doesn't publish a lot of dessert recipes, but we concocted something in the spirit of the day. Toby baked his first ever cake! He boldly replaced the lemons in this polenta cake with mandarins to great effect.

Meanwhile, the coconut cream and baked rhubarb I'd been plotting turned out to be this cake's ideal complements. (Yep, I'll post those recipes too.)

Winter is a little lovelier when you can spend a Sunday in a warm kitchen with north-facing windows, fresh food and friends to cook it with.

AOF has some reflections on the meal here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Avocado & grapefruit salad

August 4, 2012

Our vege box has us inundated with citrus, including a grapefuit. Last year when a grapefruit turned up I ate it for breakfast but didn't think much of it, but y'all helped out with some great alternative grapefruit uses in the comments. One of them was this salad from Fiona - we bought a couple of avocados especially and had to wait patiently over several days for them to ripen, but it was worth it. Their mild flavour is always lifted by sour citrus, and some mixed greens are just about all you need to finish this off. As a matter of fact, we finished this serves-4 recipe off for dinner between just the two of us.

Avocado & grapefruit salad
(slightly adapted from a recipe from Fiona)

1 grapefruit
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper
2 avocados, ripe but still firm
mixed greens (we used rocket and baby spinach leaves)
1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves

Peel and segment the grapefruit over a bowl, to catch the juice - I like this technique. Set the segments aside and whisk the oil, salt and pepper into the juice.

Dice the avocados and place them in a bowl with the grapefruit. Pour over the grapefruit juice dressing and gently toss the ingredients until the avocado is well dressed. Fold in the mixed greens and coriander.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Turkish Delight doughnuts

July 28, 2012

One of Maha's more well known dishes is Turkish Delight doughnuts. My incorrigible sweet tooth does extend to a fondness for Turkish Delight and the idea of these appealed to me enormously. When we visited the restaurant in May for Michael's birthday they were no longer on the menu; however head chef Shane Delia seemed to have taken on board the old "teach a man to fish..." saying, because he was giving out the recipe and samples of the dry ingredients to diners!

Browsing the internet just now, I can see that Shane's been spreading this recipe far and wide, and usually not in the exact proportions printed on the back of my dry ingredients. (If you'd like to make this, I'd recommend using the quantities on his personal website and not the ones I have below.) My rendition wasn't ideal: 
  • the dough didn't double in size over 15 minutes and I used it anyway, 
  • it was extremely sticky to handle (yours probably will be too), 
  • I didn't know the temperature of the oil and I suspect it was too hot, I had solid Delight and still very moist dough beneath a golden-brown crust,
  • this recipe makes an insanely large amount of rose honey for drizzling,
  • my honey had a very strong flavour and drowned out the doughnut, spice and pine nut flavours.
For all that whinging, this recipe did show promise. The doughnuts themselves are vegan-friendly, and they'd probably taste much better when a lighter touch is used on the honey. (I think rosewater-spiked agave nectar would make a lovely alternative for vegans.) A little citrus salad (pictured at the back) cut through the honey just fine on the night, and these were little balls of sugary comfort mid-winter.

I'm still dreaming of a floral counterpart to more conventional oozy jam doughnuts; this is a base to work from.

Turkish Delight doughnuts
(recipe from Shane Delia, of Maha
it's also on his website, with notably different quantities)
makes 8 small doughnuts

50mL rosewater
1/2 vanilla pod, scraped
1 cinnamon quill
200g honey (I'd use much less in future, perhaps 50-100g)
115g plain flour
pinch of salt
8g castor sugar
2g dry yeast
115mL warm water
oil for deep frying
8 small cubes Turkish Delight (about 1cm3 each)
crushed toasted pine nuts

Place the rosewater in a small saucepan. Scrape in the vanilla pod, tossing the pod and the cinnamon quill into the rosewater. Bring it all to the boil, keeping the mixture at a high simmer until the liquid is reduced by half (this probably took me about 5 minutes). Remove the vanilla pod and cinnamon, and stir the infused rosewater into the honey. Set aside for later.

Stir together the flour, salt, sugar and dry yeast. Whisk in the warm water. Let the dough stand in a warm place for 15 minutes, until doubled in size. Towards the end of this time, begin heating the oil up to 180°C.

Place a cube of Turkish delight in your hand. Pull off one-eighth of the dough and wrap it around the Turkish delight; repeat with the remaining dough and delight. (I found this quite difficult as my dough was extremely sticky.) Drop the doughnuts into the oil, perhaps in multiple batches, and cook until golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper.

To serve the doughnuts, drizzle them in the rose honey and sprinkle over the crushed toasted pine nuts.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Vegan French toast

July 28, 2012

I've just run a search for 'French toast' on this blog and turned up cafe brunch after cafe brunch; there's nary a recipe to be seen. Actually, this old comment is evidence that I've been making vegan French toast at home for a good two years or more. I can't remember where I sourced my first recipe, because this bears little resemblance to the ones in Vegan Brunch. I think maybe Pip's version got me excited about using chickpea flour in the batter, and then I later refined my formula with vanilla and cinnamon thanks to Vicki.

Regardless, that formula is a winner, requiring little more than our standard pantry stores and Saturday morning rage. If chickpea flour isn't yet a staple in your kitchen, consider investing a couple of dollars and centimetres of shelf space on it - we've used it for lots of excellent 'eggy' batters in addition to some more traditional Indian recipes. Though they're also pantry standards, I haven't yet tried out Pip's savoury salt-and-pepper seasoning, nor Vicki's curious tablespoon of nooch in a sweet batch! No doubt you could sneak in any sort of spice you fancy. As it stands, this recipe tastes very much like the 'fried bread' I remember my mum making - a little crusty and caramelised on the outside, soft and cakey inside, with extra capacity for soaking up syrup.

My other French toast must-have is fruit. We've recently had a haul of citrus so I segmented up an orange, a tangelo and a mandarin, saving their extra juice and whisking it with a little maple syrup to pour over the top.

Vegan French toast
(with a hat-tip to The Fairest Feed and Vicki Vegan)

1/4 cup chickpea flour/besan
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
shake of ground cinnamon
4 slices of bread
2 tablespoons sunflower oil

Place the chickpea flour in a bowl and very gradually whisk in the milk until smooth. Stir in the maple syrup, vanilla and cinnamon. 

Heat half the oil in a frypan. Drop a slice of bread in the bowl to absorb the milk mixture, turn it over once and then transfer it to the frypan; repeat with a second piece of bread. Fry the battered bread for several minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Repeat with the rest of the bread and serve.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Monk Bodhi Dharma III

July 13, 2012

Once back at home it's always wonderful first, to settle in at home (with the cat!) and second, to see the people and places we love. In the latter case we began by booking dinner at Monk Bodhi Dharma with the Moody Noodles. MBD's developed a reputation for excellent coffee, tea, and brunch and for almost a year now they've also been offering dinner on Friday nights. The menu varies from week to week but you can expect it to be almost entirely vegan and gluten-free, with many raw options.

Michael arrived early and passed the time with a blackberry smoothie based on cashew milk ($9.50).

Once I'd settled in we shared the Sweet Chile Love ($12), a crunchy chile filled with a macadamia and sundried tomato cream and topped with chile oil, augmented with fresh mango and a lovely pickley cucumber salad.

I was a little wary of a mid-winter raw main, but the cannelloni ($22) was surprisingly hearty. The zucchini 'pasta' didn't do much for me, but the minced-nut tomato sauce and broccoli-'cheddar' filling were impressive.

The Mexican enchilada plate ($24) was more conventional though no less tasty. The corn tortillas were stuffed with all manner of vegetables and topped with thick dollops of guacamole; I ate more than my share of the accompanying salsa.

Monk Bodhi Dharma had a spectacular finale in store for us - while the savoury dishes were good, the desserts were the stuff of fine dining. The raw white chocolate cheesecake ($14.50) was delicately flavoured, set off nicely by a smear of tangy raspberry and crest of dehydrated apple. It was at its best with only a little of the caramel sauce.

Monk's raw 'Snickers' ($16.50) is much bolder, and perhaps best suited for sharing between two. The fudgy peanut nougat base, salted caramel and raw chocolate are taken right over the top with metallic decorations and a shot glass of more chocolate to pour over. It's an incredible imitation but quickly becomes heavy and rich, and the nut-based raw vanilla cream offers no respite.

Monk Bodhi Dharma's Friday night menu is somewhat expensive and very rich, and it feels a little unfortunate to be eating such special food in such cramped conditions. What they're whipping up with is exciting and quite unique in Melbourne; I'll look forward to trying another permutation in a few months.


MBD's Friday night dinner has also been enjoyed and blogged on JMAC .:.STEPBACK.:..


Monk Bodhi Dharma
rear of 202 Carlisle St, Balaclava
9534 7250
Friday night entrees $12, mains $20-24, desserts $14.50-16.50

Accessibility: MBD has a narrow entry with a small step and very cramped interior; most seats are small heavy backless stools.We ordered at the table and paid at a medium-low counter.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Punjab Tandoori

July 1, 2012

On my last full day in Norway, Cindy and I met up with a few of her conference buddies and went on a museum crawl. The national museums are all free on Sundays, so we hit up The National Gallery, The Museum of Contemporary Art and The National Museum of Architecture. The gallery was particularly impressive, but all were worth checking out, particularly free of charge. In the afternoon we wandered back around the harbour to the Oslo Opera House, which opened in 2007 (pictures below). By the time we'd scaled the opera house and wandered back towards our hotel, everyone was footsore, hungry and tired (especially the two of our group who'd flown in that morning). With no real plan lined up for dinner, I turned to the trusty Lonely Planet, which pointed us in the direction of Punjab Tandoori promising us cheap, decent Indian food.

There's nothing flash about Punjab Tandoori, it's a cafeteria-style place, with a big blackboard menu and loads of locals tucking into aromatic curries. We all took the simple option and ordered the veg thali, a silver tray with three curries, some naan bread, rice and a salad, for a ludicrously affordable 70NOK (AU$11.10). This was comfortably the cheapest meal we had in Norway - probably half the price of the next most expensive.

And it was pretty good - nothing very complex or spicy, but a chickpea curry, a dahl and a tomatoey mixed-veggie curry. The star of the meal was the naan - toasty and fresh. Punjab Tandoori isn't going to give you a particularly memorable meal but it's fast, tasty and incredibly cheap (relatively at least). Well worth a visit.


 Punjab Tandoori gets a passing mention by heaps of bloggers noting its affordability. The Slacker's Guide to Oslo and Just a Little Travel Blog provide the most detailed write-ups.


Punjab Tandoori
Grønland 24, Oslo
+47 22 17 20 86
veg thali plate 70NOK ~ AU$11.10

Accessibility: Mucho Mas has a a single step up to medium-spaced interior tables. Ordering and payment happens at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.


The Oslo Opera House from afar. Its design is inspired by glaciers.

The interior is beautifully designed as well, all geometry and repetition.

Cindy and her buddies posing outside, while I photograph them from inside

Monday, August 06, 2012

Den Gode Cafe

June 30, 2012

We started our first full day in Oslo at the Nobel Peace Centre, which is well worth a visit - it has rotating exhibits (which included some wonderful photographs and videos from Afghanistan) and a brilliant set of permanent exhibits dedicated to the peace prize winners. There are a few pictures at the end of this post.

The museum was so engaging that we spent longer there than expected, and left very hungry and ready for lunch. I'd tracked down two nearby vegetarian places, Cafe Blitz and Vega Fair Food. I was most excited by Blitz - a cafe in an anarchist-run squat that's been running for 30 years. Sadly, just like the last squat-based place we tried to visit, it turns out that these anarchists were on some sort of holiday. Last time we rely on anarchists to feed us. No problems I thought, Vega is only a few blocks away. Vega Fair Food is, inexplicably, closed on Saturdays (they at least state this on the website, so this one was my fault really).

By this point I was hungry, sick of walking and getting pretty grumpy. And I had no fall-back plan. Cindy pulled out a couple of muesli bars and we walked vaguely in the direction of Grünerløkka, a supposedly hip and cafe-filled suburb. We got about 200m down the road and stumbled onto this place: Den Gode Cafe (literally, The Good Cafe). Given the situation, I would have been happy enough if this place offered a single, barely edible vego dish, so I was doubly thrilled when we discovered a menu with plenty for us to choose from and an English-speaking staff member who was happy to suggest alterations to other dishes for us. Amazing.

I ordered the veggie burger (149NOK ~ AU$23.60), which came with delicious chunky chips and a little pot of creamy aoli. The burger patty was a crispy-fried mush of veggies (possibly with egg, flour or some other binders), with a melted piece of cheese on top and greens, tomato and sauce underneath. I dunno if it was just my hunger, but it was pretty damn terrific.

Cindy ordered the 'pancake', with spinach, mushrooms and feta (125NOK ~ AU$19.80).

The 'pancake' was basically a crepe, and was another success - thin and nicely browned and stuffed with a good mix of cheese and veggies.

We were both so grateful to have stumbled across Den Gode Cafe that we were almost certain to enjoy it. But it went well above our expectations - the staff were superbly helpful, the menu relatively well stocked with veg options and the atmosphere laid-back and comfortable. Vegans will probably struggle to find much to eat but the staff are very helpful and would probably whip something up for you. For these vegetarians though, this place was an oasis on an otherwise frustrating hunt for a Saturday lunch.


There's not many reviews of the food at Den Gode Cafe, just this positive mention on Ingvildtelle.


Den Gode Cafe
Fredensborgveien 13, Oslo
+47 22203455
veggie mains 125-149 NOK ~ AU$20-$25

Accessibility: There's just a small step on entry, and the exterior is spacious and flat. There's full table service.

The Nobel Peace Centre

The peace forest - 
each little monitor has the details of one of the Peace Prize winners