Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fina's Vegetarian Cafe II

May 25, 2013

With a free Saturday night and a craving for some Vietnamese, Cindy and I roped in a couple of friends and headed off to Victoria Street for a return visit to Fina’s. Our last trip had been a speedy pre-festival lunch, so we enjoyed having a bit more time to work our way through the gigantic menu.

We started out with some shared entrees, including Fina’s vegetarian fried wontons ($7.50).

These crisply little treats were stuffed with a delicious mixture of silken tofu, mushroom and the occasional chunk of mock-prawn.

We also sampled a serve of the vegetarian Vietnamese grilled pork skewer ($18.50).

Not having paid close attention to the photos on the menu, I had imagined these as just a big pile of skewers. Instead, we got a big pile of skewers plus salad, noodles and rice paper wraps to make our own little rolls with. The ‘pork’ skewers were brilliant, although my rice-paper wrapping skills need work.

Our final starter was a single serve of the ban xeo chay (Vietnamese pancakes, $10.50), which Cindy sampled on our previous visit. More awkward wrapping of things (this time with lettuce leaves serving as the wrappers) and more superb food – the pancake is stuffed with an excellent mess of sprouts, mushroom and mock meat.

Onto the mains! We all sampled a bit of the vegetarian salad ($10.50), a tasty mix of fresh veggies, crackers, noodles and mock meat.

You pour a little bowl of vinegary sauce over the salad and toss it all together before everyone tries to pick out all the weird little ham pieces for themselves.

I was convinced by the very charming owner of Fina’s to sample their specialty dish – vegetarian spicy noodles ($9).

This is a massive bowl of soup loaded up with noodles, chunks of mysterious mock-meat, eggplant and a side of sprouts, lemon for squeezing and fresh chilli. I made the mistake of adding both fresh chilli and a generous dollop of chilli oil and then spilling noodles straight into my tea cup, which left me spluttering embarrassingly with nothing to drink to sort myself out. Spluttering aside, this is an excellent dish – there’s way too much food for you to eat, it tastes superb (apparently the stock cooks for 10-12 hours) and it costs $9. Not too shabby.

Cindy went with the vegetarian dried noodles ($10.50), a tasty hodge-podge of noodles, tofu, salad and two kinds of mock-meat.

The prawns weren’t a huge hit, but the curly bacony looking things were a success. I was a bit overwhelmed by my spicy noodles to really sample this dish, but Cindy gave it the thumbs up.

End of meal table wreckage

Our second visit to Fina’s was as big a success as our first – they’re cheap, friendly and the menu is massive and massively delicious. There are still loads of dishes for us to sample, along with an incredible range of intriguing cold drinks. Fina’s may have surpassed both Thanh Nga Nine and Loving Hut as our go-to Victoria Street option.


Nobody else seems to have blogged Fina's since we visited back in February.


Fina's Vegetarian Cafe
268 Victoria St, Richmond
9428 6765
veg dishes $4.50-18.50, drinks $3.20-7.50
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a small step on entry, but the interior is flat with a clear passage through the middle. Tables are moderately crowded. The venue is well lit but the menu font is difficult to read - it's got photos of all the food anyway. We ordered at our table and paid at a low-ish counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Saucy sofrito tempeh

May 19-20, 2013

This meal started with a big bunch of coriander. I figured Viva Vegan! could give me some tips on how to use it, so I flicked around and developed a three-recipe plan (it really is a great book for mixing and matching).

Recipe one is sofrito, basically a big pot of diced green capsicum and onion cooked down until it collapses into a sweet, still-chunky sauce. Terry Hope Romero mentions that it can handle a whole lot of coriander. It's a solid hour's chopping and cooking, so I got it going on the weekend and hoped I could handle the rest on a worknight.

Recipes two and three divide the sofrito batch neatly between them. Two thirds gets mixed into rice with beans, tomatoes and spices and then baked. It's a clever, low-maintenance way to prepare a whole meal in a single tray and offers plenty of time for making some bonus saucy tempeh.

The tempeh was quite the bonus, indeed! A little tamari and red wine vinegar livens it up, while the remainder of the sofrito and some cherry tomatoes smother the tender nutty cutlets in gentle sweetness. It's bona fide comfort food, without a potato or a pinch of flour in sight.

Sofrito con cilantro
(from Terry Hope Romero's Viva Vegan!)

1/2 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
900g green capsicum, finely chopped
900g onion, diced
2 cups coriander leaves, roughly chopped
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the garlic, capsicum, onion, salt and pepper. Stir the vegetables over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, then lower the heat and stir more occasionally. When the vegetables are soft and becoming mushy, at least 20 further minutes, stir in the coriander and cook for a further 10 minutes. Cool the sofrito to room temperature and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Saucy sofrito tempeh
(adapted very slightly from Terry Hope Romero's Viva Vegan!)

300g tempeh
2 tablespoons tamari
1/3 quantity sofrito con cilantro (see above)
generous handful cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup vegetable stock
vegetable oil

Slice the tempeh into thirds, then through the centre to get six thin rectangles. Steam the tempeh for 10 minutes. When they're done, transfer it the tempeh pieces to a shallow dish and sprinkle the tamari over both sides of them.

Heat a generous glug of oil in a frypan. Fry the tempeh for around 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Set the tempeh aside and keep the frypan on the heat. Pour the sofrito into the frypan and add the tomatoes, vinegar and cumin. Stir occasionally, cooking until the tomatoes soften, 6-8 minutes. Place the tempeh pieces back into the pan, smothering them in the sauce; pour over the stock. Cook for a further 5 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed or evaporated but the tempeh is still saucy.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Brazilian carrot cake goes vegan

May 19, 2013

I used another carrot overload as an excuse to revisit Brazilian carrot cake. This time I tried for a vegan version, hoping that the carrot-dappled, slightly coarse texture of the cake might respond well to a flax seed egg replacer. With a little soy milk and margarine in the chocolate glaze, I had a certified vegan-friendly cake good to go.

Since I reverted back to a whole round cake from the muffin-sized set I baked last time, I upped the baking time to around 40 minutes. By then it passed the skewer test yet still clearly held plenty of moisture. I'm always watchful of vegan cake drying out but this one proved to have only just graduated from the mushy stage. It probably could have taken another 5-10 minutes at a lower temperature without dehydrating.

Still, I'd consider it a success. The complexity of the crumb and simple silkiness of the glaze work so well together. The cake gives these fragrant hints of rosewater and fruit and grains, and I can't quite work out which ingredients to point to and bestow credit.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Mushroom stout stew with potato dumplings

May 19, 2013

We had friends for dinner on a chilly Sunday night and Cindy had the perfect PPK recipe bookmarked - doubly perfect given our morning was taken up mushrooming on the Mornington Peninsula.

Sadly we didn't forage quite enough mushrooms for this stew recipe, but we had a good stash of button mushrooms on hand to cover the deficit. It's a very hearty recipe - rich with gravy, beans and mushrooms, but really topped off by the glorious dumplings on top - perfect for a cold winter's night. The stew itself has a nice flavour - peppery and herby, with some sweetness from the carrots and a bit of a celery tang. It's really all about the dumplings though.

There's a bit of time involved, but it's not particularly complicated. Probably best to leave it for a weekend. We took a few shortcuts - swapping in a mushroom stock cube for porcinis and skipping all the dough kneading for the dumplings - the dish didn't seem to suffer for it.

Mushroom stout stew with potato dumplings
(slightly adapted from this recipe at Post Punk Kitchen)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
150g button mushrooms, sliced
50g pine mushrooms, sliced
3 celery ribs, finely diced
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 teaspoons dried thyme
250g carrots, sliced into thin half moons
1 1/4 cups of Coopers stout
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 cans kidney beans, rinsed
3 cups veggie stock with a cube of mushroom stock powder crumbled through it
1/3 cup flour whisked into 1 cup of cold water until there are no lumps

1 cup mashed potatoes (however you like them - we mashed ours with a bit of soy milk and a splash of oil)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup cold water

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and throw in the onion with a shake of salt. Cook for about ten minutes, until the onion is soft. Add in the garlic and cook, stirring, for another minute or so.

Add the mushrooms, celery, thyme and rosemary. Cook for another ten minutes or so, until the mushrooms start to cook. Throw in the carrots, stout, tomato paste, pepper and salt and bring the mix to the boil. Boil the pot for about eight minutes, until the liquid has reduced substantially.

Add in the mushroom/stock mixture and bring it all back to the boil and cook for another five minutes or so.

Gently pour in the flour mixture while stirring the stew.  Cook for about five minutes until the stew starts to thicken up nicely.

Kill the heat and add the beans, preheat the oven to 220°C and get cracking on the dumplings.

Combine the mashed potatoes with the oil and water and stir well.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.

Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour the potato mixture into it. Mix together to form a loose dough.

Transfer the stew to a baking tray and then dollop big spoonfuls of the potato mix on top.

Pop the whole thing in the oven and then bake for roughly twenty minutes - the dumplings should be nice and brown on top and deliciously soft in the middle. Let it all sit for ten minutes to cool and before serving.


We're submitting this kidney bean-rich stew to Catherine's legume-themed blog event.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Snag Stand II

January, 2016: We noticed from the tram the other day that Snag Stand appears to have closed, replaced by a Mr Burger outlet.

May 18, 2013

It feels like forever since we first visited Snag Stand outside Melbourne Central. I've developed a taste for the Lord of the Fries hotdogs and we've even got into the habit of making our own versions at home (pro tip: potato crisps on a hotdog are surprisingly excellent). Still, we've been meaning to return for ages  - the veggie chorizo has been well-loved and everyone raves about their chips.

So on a lazy Saturday afternoon in the city we decided to stop by. The menu hasn't changed too much but it's clearer about what's vegetarian and they've added the chorizo to the original potato, smoked apple and sage dog. Neither of their designed dogs are vegan, but you can build your own from components (be warned: at last reckoning neither the onions or the mushrooms were vegan-friendly, and I'd be surprised if that had changed).

We stuck with the standard menu option - a veggie chorizo with semi-dried tomatoes, rocket, chipotle aoli and shredded Spanish goat's cheese on a brioche bun ($9.90), with a side of chips and herbed aoli ($3.90 + $1 for the dipping sauce).  The chips were small but excellent - crispy and heavily seasoned with plenty of aoli for dipping. You can see why they've got such a great reputation.

As for the hot-dog - first up: don't order the brioche bun. At least I wouldn't next time. Though Cindy disagrees, I don't really understand the appeal of it as a hot dog bun and would much prefer a basic roll. Second up: this chorizo is pretty damn good, possibly even better than our homemade attempts. It doesn't have the dryness that you sometimes get with a veggie dog, and it had some nice smoky flavours going on as well. The whole mess worked okay, but I reckon I'd go for a simpler option next time - just a dog, some mustard and some onions in a standard roll. We'll see.

It's great that there are two vegan dogs on offer at Snag Stand (and good ones too - probably pipping the Phat Brats versions) but kind of a shame that they don't go the extra mile and offer up some more vegan toppings to go with them. As a vego though it's worth a stop - a $10 hot dog is a bit extravagant but you can be guaranteed something pretty delicious.

Green Gourmet Giraffe seems to be a regular visitor, while Louise By Degrees has an excellent (if slightly old) run-down of what's vegan on the Snag Stand menu.  Live Blissful went to the Brisbane store and enjoyed their vegan offerings.

tirache and lunchosaurus were less impressed.

Snag Stand
corner Latrobe & Swanston Sts
vegetarian hot dogs $6.90-9.90

Accessibility: Snag Stand opens directly onto the Swanston St footpath, which is reasonably flat and without too many obstructions. Ordering and pick-up occurs at a low-ish counter. The few tables available are high set.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Yim Yam II

January 2016: Yim Yam closed their Collingwood branch in September 2015. They're still trading in Yarraville.

May 17, 2013

Last Friday we made a long overdue return to Collingwood's Yim Yam. Though they looked busy out the front and it was too cold for the courtyard, a waiter led us downstairs where there were still plenty of tables available. The menu doesn't appear to have changed substantially though it's difficult to tell when it runs to 91 items, many of them helpfully annotated with vegetarian-friendly Vs. (Vegans and others with dietary requirements are encouraged to speak to the staff, though Yim Yam don't guarantee 100% gluten-free food.)

Though I knew I should be ordering something new for the amusement of our readership, I selfishly returned to the toasted rice & coconut salad ($12.90). Sweet and chewy misshapen hunks of crusty rice are as darling as they sound deformed, elevating fried rice to centrepiece status. I really must insist that you order this too.

We backed it up with coconut rice ($4) and Gang Khi Lek ($13.90), "a curry dish made with khi lek (cassia leaves) which are very bitter, but when cooked with coconut milk and curry spices alchemically transforms to deliciousness". Indeed there was no bitterness and plenty deliciousness to be had.

I topped off the meal with a couple scoops of coconut ice cream ($5). The sweet elastic gelato-textured ice cream held the occasional bite of young coconut flesh, and a sprinkling of toasted coconut added crunch and nuttiness - this was coconut in brilliant 3D.

Yim Yam turned out an excellent, low-key meal - BYO and eat vego and the cost's very reasonable too. Though the service was courteous, it wasn't conscientious - a couple of items were unavailable (intriguing Thai waffle, why do you forsake me?), our entree order didn't make it to the kitchen, waiters rarely checked in on the downstairs dining room, and our bill wasn't correctly itemised on our exit. But our bellies were filled with great food, staff were responsive when we hailed them and for the most part we were happy to dine unattended. We're content to keep it casual at Yim Yam.


You can read about one of our previous visits to Yim Yam here. The Collingwood restaurant has since received positive write-ups on Fitzroyalty and foodie about town.

Yim Yam
76 Smith Street, Collingwood
(also in Yarraville, Ascot Vale and Moonee Ponds)
9419 3985
veg dishes: $6.90 - $13.90

Accessibility: The front area has a flat entrance but is fairly crowded. Access to the courtyard and other rooms (plus the toilets) require you to negotiate at least a few steps. The toilets are spacious enough but not necessarily designed with accessibility issues in mind. Ordering takes place at the table, then payment is at a relatively high and crowded counter out the front.

Monday, May 20, 2013

'Turkey' sandwich slices

May 11-16, 2013

This installment of my sporadic adventures in home-made seitan is inspired by a newly purchased cookbook - Vegan Sandwiches Save The Day by Celine Steen & Tamasin Noyes. This book is cute, with a friendly tone, fresh veges and home-made mock meats and few difficult-to-source ingredients, wholesome wraps and veganised classics, sweet stuff and charming colour photos.  

The Gobbler Slices are a DIY seitan clearly intended to imitate turkey meat. The dough works white beans, white wine and some green herbs into the gluten. I'm still battling a disconnect between U.S. recipes' 'vital wheat gluten' and Aussie groceries' 'gluten flour' and this time I took Mel's advice, dramatically reducing the liquid involved. The seitan was very dense and tasted pleasantly of poultry herbs; it reminded me of Sanitarium's Vegie Roast, though it was far less salty. (I might try kneading it more, aiming to develop the gluten strands, if I made it again.)

Having doubled the recipe, we've spun the seitan out over many sandwiches. We started by making 'razz-elnut spinach' sandwiches (pictured above). These layer the mock slices with spinach, hazelnuts and a silken-tofu based dressing that's flavoured with white miso and raspberries. It's tart, toasty and savoury, unexpectedly brilliant.

We also took inspiration from the Double-Decker Deluxe (picture above), originally intended for the book's beef-style seitan. Here the seitan is marinated in stock, coffee and garlic, fried, and then smothered in a dressing that consists primarily of blended cashews and vinegar, plus a little chilli and parsley.

Since this seitan is dense and subtly flavoured, I'm not inclined to take it beyond the realm of sandwiches.  But sliced thinly and lavished with condiments, it's a delight and potential packed-lunch staple.

'Turkey' sandwich slices
(slightly adapted from the Gobbler Slices in
Celine Steen & Tamasin Noyes' Vegan Sandwiches Save The Day)

1 x 400g can white beans, drained
1 cup white wine
juice of 1 lemon (about 5 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 1/2 teaspoons sage
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
2 1/2 cups gluten flour
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
4 tablespoons besan/chickpea flour
4 tablespoons arrowroot
1/2 cup water

In a food processor, blend together the beans, wine, lemon juice, oil and spices (onion powder through to celery seed) until smooth.

In a medium bowl, stir together the gluten flour, yeast flakes, besan and arrowroot. Pour in the wet ingredients from the food processor and stir everything together into a dough. Dig your fingers in to mix it well and develop the gluten strands! Gradually add water as needed to incorporate all the flour into the dough.

Roll out two large pieces of foil. Divide the dough in half and roll each piece into a thick cylinder about 15cm long. Roll each dough-log in foil, completely covering it and twisting around the ends.

Steam the rolls for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Allow them to cool completely before you use them. Slice the rolls as thinly as you can for sandwiches.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Tofu-ricotta cheesecake

May 12, 2013

This cheesecake is my May calendar recipe. It's a funny one, a tofu cheesecake that isn't vegan. It is full of protein; the tofu is backed up by ricotta and eggs. And it's sweetened with honey rather than white sugar (though there's no doubt some of that in the biscuit base).

I made a few substitutes for convenience - I didn't have the full quantity of almonds so supplemented them with cashews, I likewise topped my quarter-cup of honey up with maple syrup, and I used canned rather than fresh passionfruit. All of this worked out just fine. The use of a food processor for both layers made construction awfully easy, yet the major revelation was the baking technique. There's a water bath, but you don't put the cheesecake in it. Instead the water sits in a tray in the bottom of the oven, creating humidity. I have never seen such a serene cheesecake, smooth and barely coloured by the heat, gently pulling away from the sides of the tin all on its own.

The recipe includes the kind of sour accents I like - a gingernut base, limes in the filling and passionfruit on top. The more unusual ingredients still assert themselves effectively - there are overtones of tofu and honey (even at a half-quantity of the latter), while the tofu and ricotta team up to create a light and velvety texture I have not previously experienced in a baked cheesecake.

Tofu-ricotta cheesecake
(original recipe on the Woolworths website)

155g packet gluten-free gingernut biscuits
50g almonds
70g butter
500g ricotta
250g silken tofu
finely grated rind and juice of 2 limes
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
1/2 cup honey
170g can passionfruit pulp

Line a springform tin with baking paper.

In a food processor, grind together the gingernuts and almonds; transfer these crumbs to a bowl. Melt the butter and pour it into the crumbs, mixing thoroughly. Press the mixture into the base of the springform tin, smoothing it out with the back of a spoon. Refrigerate.

Preheat an oven to 140°C. Fill a deep baking tray at least half-way with water and place it on the bottom shelf of the oven.

Clean out the food processor, then use it to blend together the ricotta, drained tofu, lime rind and juice, vanilla, eggs and honey. Keep blending, occasionally pausing to push down anything unmixed on the walls of the container, until the filling is smooth.

Retrieve the base from the fridge and pour over the filling. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour, it should be smooth, just barely golden and pulling away from the tin at the edges, and a bit wobbly in the middle. Turn the oven off but keep the cheesecake in there for a further hour. Next, let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a bench and finally, cover it and refrigerate it overnight.

Pour the passionfruit over the cheesecake before serving.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Madame K's Vegetarian III

May 11, 2013

We had poorly thought through dinner plans with AOF and Lisa on Saturday night, and found ourselves flapping about trying to come up with a venue late in the afternoon. After finding a few more hyped up places booked up, we ended up going for Madame K's in Fitzroy. We called ahead and booked a table before turning up, which turned out to be wise - it's pretty full on a Saturday night. It's a lovely place, with a stylish blue fit-out and a massive and varied menu.

We decided that the best way to sample from the menu was to share dishes, so we ordered three starters and three mains between the four of us. The starters (from left: Japanese spiced tofu with salad and vegan wasabi mayo, $11.90; steamed wontons with mushroom, mashed potato and water chestnut, $7.90; pan-fried chive dumplings, $6.90) were excellent, with each of them named as somebody's favourite. The chive dumplings probably won it for me, although the wasabi mayo that came with the tofu was the pick of the condiments.

We mixed up the mains as well, starting with the prik khing (stir-fried crispy tofu with red curry paste, beans capsicum and chili, $15.90).

I love the way Madame K's loads their dishes up with veggies - this was full of fresh capsicum, zucchini and snow peas with a few spongy bits of tofu to really soak up the mild curry sauce.

We embraced the mock-meat with our other two mains - the nasi goreng ($16.90) comes with skewers of satay 'chicken' and mock prawns.

I really liked this - the rice was nicely fried and the satay sauce hit just about the right balance between spicy and sweet. 

Our final main was Thai spicy salad (spicy and sour salad with musrhroom made lamb, fresh herbs, lemon juice, lemongrass, fresh chili, cucumber, tomato and green salad, $15.90).

This was the spiciest dish of the night - I've been disappointed by overly mild Thai salads at loads of places, so it's nice to get one that cranks things up a bit. The 'lamb' wasn't to everybody's tastes, but the fresh veggies and sharp dressing more than made up for it (for the record: I was pro-lamb, as I'm pro- almost every kind of mock meat).

We somehow found room for dessert, and Cindy and I split a black sticky rice with lychees and (soy) ice-cream ($10.90).

We've more often sampled black sticky rice at breakfast, but the addition of ice-cream was enough to make this desserty. It's not the most exciting dessert in the world (no chocolate for starters), but it was a warm and satisfying end to an excellent meal.

Madame K is a reasonably safe bet in the veg-heavy northern end of Brunswick St (where it competes with The Vegie Bar, Yong and Lord of the Fries). We've had patchy service in the past, but things ran pretty smoothly on this busy Saturday night, so they might have got themselves organised these days. If forced to choose I'd tend to favour Yong, but Madame K's provides a bit of variation and is well worth a visit.


Read our previous reviews of Madame K's here and here. How I See It, A pretty health life and veganopolous have all enjoyed their visits since our last blog post, while Mel: Hot or Not was less impressed. 

Madame K's Vegetarian
367 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
9415 6909
snacks & mains $4.90-16.90

Accessibility: There's a small step up on entry and tables are quite densely laid out. We ordered at the table and paid at a medium-high counter at the back. We didn't visit the toilets.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

New Day Rising III

May 11, 2013

We had lunchtime business around Brunswick East and tossed up our options: a trip back to Milkwood? CERES Cafe? Trying something new at Piano Piano? Nah, we couldn't resist the lure of bagel-based good times at New Day Rising. It's still tiny, still popular and yet somehow, we still managed to grab a table without having to wait. The staff are friendly and pretty efficient, keeping the small room buzzing and getting takeaways out the door before anyone gets impatient.

I finally got around to trying the Valoumi (bagel with grilled haloumi, mayo, chilli, tomato and rocket, $11).

This is outstanding - salty, spicy, juicy and just spot on. Bagels really are an excellent vessel for brunch.

Cindy cranked up the spiciness with the jalapeno, provolone and manchego toasted sammie ($9).

New Day Rising were short on jalapenos, so they subbed in some other small peppers. Which were hot. Super hot. Still, the creamy cheese and acidic, spicy peppers made for a fine, simple sandwich. One we're intending to whip up at home sometime soon.

New Day Rising is pretty fantastic - a veg-only cafe doing brilliant, cheap meals (nothing over $13) and combining ludicrous hipness with friendly, upbeat service.


Nobody seems to have blogged New Day Rising since we last visited. Check out our first visit here.
New Day Rising
221d Blyth Street, Brunswick East
veg brekkies $5-13
facebook page

Accessibility: A small step up on entry into a fairly crowded interior. You order at the table and just pay whoever you can grab by the coffee machine. The bathroom is accessed from outside somewhere - we've not checked it out.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Creamy spinach & soy bacon fettuccine

May 10, 2013

This Friday night pasta dish is a rearrangement of some other favourite recipes on this blog. I guess it's a little like carbonara, except that I ignored the eggs in our fridge and made a cashew-based vegan sauce, and smuggled in a bunch of spinach.

Creamy spinach & soy bacon fettuccine

Several hours (up to a day) before you want to eat this meal, marinate a generous handful of dried beancurd pieces in a bacon marinade.

When you're 20 minutes away from wanting to eat, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add 500g fettuccine, cook until tender and drain.

While the water is boiling and the pasta is cooking, wash a large bunch of spinach and remove the leaves from the stems, discarding the stems. 

Blend up a batch of Hurry Up Alfredo sauce, replacing the 3 tablespoons tamari with 1 teaspoon 'chicken' stock powder. Saute the marinated beancurd in a frypan over medium heat, adding a little extra marinade and being careful not to burn anything.

Once the pasta is drained, return it to the pot with the spinach leaves, tossing to combine, so that the heat of the pasta wilts the spinach. Pour over the alfredo sauce and stir to combine. Sprinkle in the beancurd 'bacon', tossing it through lightly so that it doesn't discolour the sauce too much.

Scoop into pasta bowls and eat, eat, eat.

Thursday, May 09, 2013


8-9 May, 2013

I've been spending a bit of time in Sydney for work lately - mostly hanging out around Randwick and Coogee, far from the veg delights of the inner-west. Dinners have been simple if unexciting, sampling the innumerable decent Thai restaurants in the neighbourhood (with the odd trip to Java to mix things up). But my real quest has been to find a good breakfast place - somewhere to stop off on my wander to work and get the day started right. I've had reasonable experiences at 22 Grams and OneSixNine, but it was only this week that I found somewhere I could be bothered blogging. Parc Cafe is tucked away on Clovelly Road in a small little strip with a few other cafes. It's heaving on weekdays, with lots of school drop-off breakfasters and commuters grabbing fortifying coffees.

The menu is brief but effective: there's your standard eggy options, a mushroom dish, avocado on toast, porridge, muesli, pancakes etc etc (plus a few other meaty choices). Vegans will struggle, but they do have plenty of gluten-free options available. On my first visit I was bafflingly in the mood for sweets, ordering the poached plum, ricotta and pistachio on grain toast ($14).

This was unsurprisingly delicious - squishy sweet plums, crunchy pistachios and some really lovely bread generously smeared with ricotta. I could probably have eaten two.

I figured I couldn't really write a blog post just about sweets, so I went back again the next day to try something else. This time: smashed avocado, radish, feta and black sesame on grain toast ($15).

Another success! Perfect avocado loaded up with chunks of creamy feta with a nicely dressed pile of rocket and radish on top. One slice of toast for $15 is a bit rich, but this was stacked pretty high and hunger didn't really bite until lunchtime, so it's hard to really complain.

Speaking of lunchtime, Parc do a nice range of pre-packaged meals (including a roast veggie and cous cous salad) plus sandwiches to takeaway. I grabbed a roasted eggplant, goat's cheese and tomato roll ($10), which hit the spot nicely.

Parc has easily been the best breakfast option I've turned up so far - the coffee is great, the service friendly and the food excellent. It's quite possible I'll be there again tomorrow morning.


There are couple of other positive reviews out there of Parc - check out brekkie quest and petit macaron

Parc Cafe
30 Clovelly Rd, Randwick
02 9398 9222
veg brekkies $7-17
facebook page

Accessibility: There are some footpath tables and then a flat entryway into a fairly crowded interior. You order at the table and pay at a low counter. I've yet to visit the toilets.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Shoku Iku

May 5, 2013

A couple of months ago, @daveplusfood drew our attention to a new raw vegan cafe opening up in Northcote.  We've been a little lazy about hitting High St lately but K motivated us to visit Shoku Iku for a weekend lunch.

Shoku Iku is sparsely but stylishly decorated, seemingly optimised for mindful eating. Service was warm and attentive where I imagined it might be austere. The menu starts with a range of smoothies ($7.50-10), teas and cocoa. I gather that the 'hot' drinks warmed within the parameters of the raw food philosophy, and I doubt that there's a speck of gluten in the place.

At lunch time, you can select between a small ($10) or large ($15, pictured above) plate that includes all the savoury dishes of the day. For us this comprised three salads and a 'calzone'; the latter was nothing that Ben Wyatt would endorse, but the dehydrated shell added some welcome crunch.

There's more room to pick and choose for dessert. The black cherry 'macaron' ($5) was delightfully sweet with a touch of sour, and grainy with almond meal. Meanwhile the chocolate-orange tart ($8) was the epitome of smooth, with a matching nutty base.

The kitchen's last lunch supplies were served around 1:30, indicating that they're successfully luring in the locals. We're not raw food aficionados, but agreed that we prefer Yong's savoury raw dishes while Shoku Iku excelled at the sweets. I gather that the dinner menu tends more towards artfully arranged a la carte plates, and these might be stronger competitors all round.


Shoku Iku's dinner menu has been reviewed on The Good Hearted.

Shoku Iku
120 High St, Northcote
0403 569 019
veg lunches $10-15

Accessibility: The entry has a small lip to accommodate the sloping street, and a shallow ramp into the restaurant. There's higher-than-average space around tables. We ordered and paid at a low counter, and our food was served to us at our table. We didn't enquire about toilets.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Twenty & Six Espresso

April 27, 2013

Melbourne opens trendy brunch places faster than anybody can possibly keep up with, so it's taken us a good 18 months to check out the 'new' hotspot on Queensberry Street: Twenty & Six Espresso. It's super trendy, very popular and pretty small, so I was kind of expecting that we'd turn up to find a queue and settle for a return visit to Elceed. Lucky for us, there were a couple of spare seats at the front bench, which we gleefully snagged. 

This left us facing the road, meaning we didn't get to appreciate the designer stylings of the fit-out (the people who run Twenty & Six are big on design). We did get to appreciate the menu, which stands out a bit from the usual set of brunch options offered around town, although most of the savoury dishes aren't veg-friendly. There's a muesli, a banana, pecan and rum-soaked raisin loaf and some egg soldiers, along with two vegan dishes, which Cindy and I decided to sample.

She couldn't resist the Balinese black sticky rice (with fresh banana slices, salted coconut cream, palm sugar and passionfruit pulp, $15.90).

You've got to hand it to the Twenty & Six peeps - they know how to plate up a dish. As well as looking gorgeous this tasted fantastic, with the salt in the coconut milk adding just the right contrasting note to the sweetness of everything else. 

I'd been a bit unwell, so jumped at the chance to have a healthier than usual brekkie with the Tokyo Salad (soba noodles, roquette, daikon, shoots, pickled ginger, spring onion and marinated tofu, $17.90). 

This was almost exactly what I needed - a massive bowl of noodles and veggies, dotted with really excellent tofu chunks. My only problem was the pickled ginger - at the start it seemed like a brilliant addition to the dish but there was so much of it that it got a bit tiresome by the end. It looked beautiful though (which I suspect may be at least half the point). Still, that's a minor quibble with what was a filling, healthy and delicious meal. 

Twenty & Six do a nice line in slightly fancy, beautifully presented brunches - the staff are friendly, the cafe stylish and the coffee (I'm told, I wasn't feeling up to coffee) excellent. It's got fierce competition from Elceed next door, but they seem to be doing a roaring trade and we were impressed to find yet another slick breakfast place with good vegan options on offer.


There's plenty of blog loving for Twenty & Six - check out Yellow Eggs (twice), Laugh as much as you breathe and love as long as you live, prisca and the pea, bonita caidy, Petit Miamx, Hook turn city guide, Dine with me, Kish and Co, The Chronicles of Ms I-Hua & The Boy, No Time like the Present, Life in suspension, A Miniature Take on Food, CarT, grazing panda, new international students, The Glutton and the Lush, Two Spoons and a Fork, Coffee Cherries, And Lashings of Ginger Beer, accidental encounters, obbiz's diary, p-alate, dining nirvana, chillipadi's kitchen, Edible Posts, Sharking for chips and drinks, tirache, dear melbourne, Let's Get Fat Together, she's leaving home, melbournechaitimes, Rumbly in my Tumbly, Judging Your Breakfast, Gagwood Blog (twice), Look, See, Food, A Food Trail, Popcorn & Toast, roseanntangrs and The World Loves Melbourne.

johnsonskitchen loved the style of the place, but wasn't sold on the food, while secretemple found the whole experience a bit underwhelming.

Twenty & Six Expresso
594 Queensberry St, North Melbourne
9329 0298
veggie meals $9.90-$17.90

Accessibility: There's a small step on entry (although there are also some outdoor tables). The interior is pretty cosy and the toilets are out the back via the courtyard (which we didn't explore). We ordered at the table and paid at a low counter up the front.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Lancashire hotpot

April 25, 2013

We spent Anzac Day quietly, at home. We'd stocked up on ingredients to make Messy Vegetarian Cook's Lancashire hotpot and it was lucky that I reviewed the recipe in the morning - it spends nearly three hours in the oven!

Watch the whole charming episode, or skip to 18:55 for the line

Lancashire hotpot traditionally spends all day on low heat, with lamb and vegetables slowly cooking in stock under a layer of sliced potatoes. I really only know it from a throwaway-yet-character-defining line in Wallace and Gromit. Messy Vegetarian's version of the hotpot replaces lamb with tempeh, and smothers it in a gravy flavoured with yeast extract (i.e. Vegemite) and red wine.

Vegetables don't usually need quite so long to cook down to tenderness as meat, and in fact our hotpot ended up a little overdone. (This was probably our fault for increasing the tempeh quantity and leaving the liquids unaltered.) It was still enormously satisfying, with the gravy's flavours permeating the tempeh and the potato roasted golden-brown.

Lancashire hotpot
(adapted slightly from Messy Vegetarian Cook)

500mL vegetable stock
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon tamari
2 teaspoons Vegemite
1 teaspoon dried thyme
100mL red wine
300g tempeh, cut into 1cm cubes
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups carrot, sliced into coins
1 tablespoon flour (try cornflour for a gluten-free version)
5 small potatoes, peeled and sliced ~3mm thick
salt and pepper

In a medium bowl, stir together 300mL of the stock, the Vegemite, Worcestershire sauce, tamari and thyme. Set it aside for later.

Pour the remaining 200mL stock into a large frypan and add the wine. Drop in the tempeh, bay leaf and dried coriander. Set the frypan on medium-high heat and simmer the tempeh for 10-12 minutes, shuffling the tempeh pieces around occasionally for even cooking. Transfer the tempeh pieces to a dish and pour any remaining liquid into a large baking dish. Discard the bay leaf.

Without bothering to clean it out, pour the tablespoon of oil into the frypan. Plonk the tempeh pieces back in, still on medium-high heat, and saute them for 5-7 minutes. The aim is to get them nicely browned on the outside, you should notice it even through that red wine soaking that they've had. Tip the tempeh into the baking dish and spread it out across the base.

This is a good time to preheat the oven to 140°C.

Get that frypan back on the stove and add the last teaspoon of oil. Use it to fry the onion and carrot for 5-7 minutes, until the onion is translucent and the carrots have begun to soften. Sprinkle over the flour and stir it through the vegetables. Pour in the stock-Vegemite mixture and stir it through for several minutes, until the gravy begins to thicken. Season to taste.

Pour the vegetables and gravy over the tempeh in the baking dish and even it out. Layer the potato slices over the top in overlapping tiles and brush or spray them with oil. Cover the dish and bake it in the oven for up to 2 hours (I might just go for 1 1/2 next time). At this point, crank the oven up to 200°C and remove the dish's covering. Bake it for up to 40 minutes more, until the potatoes are browned and crispy (I'd keep a more regular eye on this next time).