Wednesday, April 30, 2014


April 27, 2014

A Sunday afternoon at Women of Letters had us in Northcote seeking dinner. There are a lot of great restaurants in the neighbourhood that we would have gladly revisited - Japanese, Vietnamese, pub food, pizza - but there was also the Sri Lankan restaurant Sigiri, which I've had bookmarked for six years. Our companion Carol was keen to try it out, so we waited until their six o'clock opening time ticked past and secured their second table of the evening.

The menu's a great one - scroll down and click through all eight pages yourself. The first one points out that they've marked vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and similarly adaptable items and they faithfully carry this through all sections of the menu. There are less dairy traps for vegans here compared to the average Indian restaurant and a different suite of dishes all round - wade and those/dosa entrees, a couple of soups, an extensive selection of pickles, ten vego mains, a couple of salads and a bread section dominated by roti and hoppers.

We shared three mains (clockwise from top left): a thick, reliable parippu dahl ($10), smoky fried batu pehi (eggplant, $11) and a creamy kaju hodi (cauliflower and cashews in coconut milk, $11). A sinhala achcharu pickle (with green papaya and jackfruit, $6) contributed tanginess and spice.

We mopped it all up with (left-right) steamed rice ($3), a stick-to-your-ribs coconut pol roti ($3.50) and a thin, crispy appa/hopper ($2). I sipped at a frothy rose water-infused lasi ($4.50) too.

Though the main servings were quite small, the accompanying starches ensured we were satisfied, and at the very reasonable price of $16 per person. Everything tasted great and we'd like to go back to try more. The only flaw was slow, slightly distant service - waiting 20 minutes for drinks was pretty perplexing given they seemed to be managing three dine-in tables and one takeaway order. Thankfully we were in no rush, so it was a pleasure to relax, eat and chat in this quiet long-serving restaurant.

Aside from a mixed review on Words and Flavours, there's a mostly positive account of Sigiri on vegan about town and a further thumbs-up from The Tasty Dozen.

338 High St, Northcote
9482 6114
menu: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Accessibility: Entry includes two steps up. Tables inside are moderately crowded and lighting is dim. We ordered at the table and paid at a high counter. The toilet is a single small unisex cubicle, accessed via a narrow and uneven path, with a couple of steps down and up. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Brown rice hazelnut burgers
with baked onion rings

April 21, 2014

A month or two ago we picked up a cut-price copy of Julie Hasson's Vegan Diner. Although I'd excitedly flicked through it in bookshops in the past, I wasn't really sure what I wanted to try out of it. I guess I know my way around vegan junk food already, with burgers and scrambles and muffins and waffles already accomplished many times over, and I really don't need a recipe to mix together soy milk and store-bought vegan icecream (I'm looking at you, Mocha Malt on page 154). That said, please tell me you favourite recipes from this book! I want to give it a good chance.

One recipe that did catch my eye was for brown rice hazelnut burgers. They're definitely a weekend job - brown rice needs cooking, mushrooms need sauteing, hazelnuts need roasting and they all need cooling before they make it to a food processor, let alone an oven. The burger mixture is a little fragile and needs gentle handling and flipping to avoid crumbling. But the time and care taken paid us back with a bumper batch of really nice patties; a savoury, mincey texture, a slightly charred crust, and a distinctive nuttiness. They're a good stand-in for minced beef burgers. We stacked them with a simple Vegan Diner sauce, tomatoes, grated fresh carrot and beetroot, and spinach leaves on lightly toasted rye bread.

I also tried my hand at onion rings for the first time. There are a couple of recipes for them in Vegan Diner but those involved deep-frying, and I preferred to pull out an oven-baked version that I'd bookmarked on Yeah, That "Vegan" Shit years ago.

I started out strategically. Since the burger mix also included an onion, we sliced both onions into rings, picked the best ones for battering and then scooped the messier half into the patties. I crushed up some cornflakes in lieu of breadcrumbs, but they rapidly clumped up and refused to adhere to the batter-dipped onion rings. In a fit of desperation I cast aside the cornflakes and used a second dusting of flour on the remaining rings. They looked much more promising.

Surprisingly, the couple of cornflake-crusted rings (pictured right, above) were the pick of the bunch, deeply caramelised and very crunchy. The flour-doused rings (picture left, above) were still pleasant but notably dustier. I'd love to find a way to make the cornflake crumbs consistently clingier. Then again, I only seek onion rings occasionally and they're increasingly accessible at Melbourne's many burger joints. I might just leave them to the experts.

Brown rice hazelnut burgers
(slightly adapted from Julie Hasson's Vegan Diner)

1/2 cup brown rice
1 3/4 cups water
1 cup TVP
2 teaspoons olive oil
200g mushrooms, sliced
1 cup hazelnuts
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 small brown onion, roughly chopped
1/4 cup gluten flour
1/4 cup wholemeal flour
2 tablespoons chickpea flour
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
spray oil

Place the brown rice and 1 cup of the water in a small saucepan. Bring them to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer the rice until all the water is absorbed, about 45 minutes. Set the rice aside to cool down.

Bring the remaining water to the boil in a kettle. Place the TVP in a heatproof bowl and pour over the boiling water. Stir it through and allow the water to absorb and the TVP to cool down.

Heat an oven to 120°C and roast the hazelnuts for around 30 minutes. Allow them to cool for a few minutes, them rub off their skins using a paper towel. Discard the skins and roughly chop the nuts.

Heat the olive oil in a frypan and add the mushrooms. Saute them for about 5 minutes, until soft. Set them aside to cool down.

Turn the oven up to 180°C. Line a large baking tray with paper.

Place the mushrooms, garlic and onion in a food processor and pulse them until finely chopped. Add the TVP, rice and hazelnuts and pulse further - just until finely chopped, not pureed. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the three flours, parsley, salt and pepper until just combined. Form the mixture into patties and place them on the baking tray. Spray them with oil and bake for 15 minutes on each side.

Special sauce
(slightly adapted from Julie Hasson's Vegan Diner)

1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar
dash of paprika
salt and pepper

Mix together all the ingredients in a bowl.

Baked onion rings
(from Yeah, That "Vegan" Shit, where it's credited to
Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Appetite for Reduction)

1 large onion
1/3 cup plain flour
1 tablespoon cornflour
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup crushed cornflakes, breadcrumbs or plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
spray oil

Preheat an oven to 230°C. Line a baking tray with paper.

Peel the onion and slice it into thick rings. Separate the rings out and place a paper towel over them to reduce the fumes.

Stir together the flour and cornflour in a small wide bowl. Whisk in half of the almond milk. Whisk in the apple cider vinegar and remaining almond milk until you have a smooth batter.

In a separate small wide bowl, mix together the crumbs, salt and olive oil with your fingers.

Set yourself up an assembly line with onions, batter, crumbs and baking tray. With your 'batter hand' pick up onion rings and dunk them in the batter, dropping them in the crumbs. Then use your 'crumb hand' to ensure they're well coated in crumbs and transfer the rings to the baking tray. Repeat until you've used up all the rings. Spray the trays and rings with oil and bake for 15 minutes, turning once half-way through.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Kiwi cocoa crunches

April 19-20, 2014

I brought a few leftovers home from the field, including several boxes of cereal. I wasn't all that excited about finishing the plain cornflakes for breakfast, but damn near thrilled when the internet reminded me that they're a key ingredient in Afghan biscuits.

Apparently these are a New Zealand specialty, and their name has hazy (but very probably racist) origins, so I'm rechristening them Kiwi cocoa crunches. The chocolate-coloured, cornflake-studded biscuits bake crisp and dry, then soften just a little under a spoonful of icing. A walnut on top adds a much-needed touch of bitterness. It turns out they're super-easy to veganise - simply swap butter for margarine.

The biscuit dough was crumbly and one biscuit disintegrated on the tray, but the rest held their own and have proven to be quite robust over subsequent days. I don't remember such visible cornflakes in the batches I've eaten in other homes - perhaps the cornflakes are more often crushed? The recipe made much more icing than I could fit across the batch, and I've reduced the quantities accordingly below.

I've only had fleeting contact with these biscuits over the years and I'm regretting that I didn't get to know them sooner - they're like crispy brother of the brownie.

Kiwi cocoa crunches
(adapted slightly from a recipe on SBS Food)

150g margarine
110g caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
185g plain flour
25g cocoa
60g cornflakes

80g icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon cornflour
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 tablespoon water

walnut pieces, to decorate

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

In a large bowl, use a fork to beat together the margarine, sugar and salt. Sift in the flour and cocoa, stirring to combine. Stir in the cornflakes and mix thoroughly.

Scoop out tablespoons of the biscuit mixture, roll the into balls and flatten them a little, arranging them on the tray - they'll spread a teensy bit while baking, but not much. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until a crust forms on the outside of the cookies. Set them aside to cool.

Make the icing by sifting together the icing sugar, cornflour and cocoa. Whisk in the water to form a smooth icing, adding more water just a teaspoon at a time if needed.

Spoon teaspoonfuls of the icing on top of the cookies and set the walnuts into it. Give the icing a while to set at room temperature before serving the cookies.

Store them in an airtight container if they don't get eaten immediately.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Lolo & Wren

April 20, 2014

We had a very quiet Easter weekend lined up, so we were ready to go when Eliza tweeted us a tip: breakfast at Lolo & Wren in  Brunswick West. It was a place we'd both heard of, but not one that we'd really paid any attention to, failing to notice as Lolo & Wren made it onto the Herald Sun's top 25 Melbourne breakfasts, The Age's guide to Melbourne's best sandwiches and into the upper echelon of The Age's cheap eats guide. Nevertheless, one look at the menu made it clear that we were in good hands: there's banoffee porridge ($12.50), caramelised pear, almond and walnut pancakes with marscapone, rhubarb and blueberry compote, mint and maple syrup ($15.50), a very fancy sounding bruschetta ($18.50) and plenty of other impressive options. There's not a lot on offer for vegans - an adapted version of a haloumi, beans, leek and vegetable escabeche dish ($16.50, and I'm not sure what they do instead of the haloumi) and a patatas bravas side ($9.50).

The cafe itself is a bit out of the way - tucked under a newish apartment block on Albion Street west of Melville Road. It has a very stylish fit-out, mixing a simple clean look with some hip recycled touches, like the communal table and main bar (built out of old wooden pallets). At 9am on Easter Sunday things are pretty quiet, but by the time we left at 10ish there wasn't a spare table to be found - Lolo & Wren have clearly won a devoted following since opening a little over a year ago.

I considered the haloumi dish but decided that I couldn't resist the allure of the sweetcorn and zucchini corn fritters with pepperonata, feta, pebre salsa, chilli jam and avocado ($16.80). 

This was incredibly impressive - the fritters were the perfect balance of crispy exterior and puffy, soft interior served with a lovely mix of accompaniments. The chilli jam offered just a hint of spiciness, while the creamy, salty feta and tangy salsa kept every mouthful interesting. This is a brilliant breakfast - definitely one to make the trip for.

Cindy was drawn to the brioche French toast (with lemon curd, fresh orange, ricotta, candied zest, raspberry compote, baby basil and burnt orange syrup, $15.50).

It looked even better than my dish - a brilliantly presented plate that made me wish I'd gone with a sweet order for once. The lemon curd was a standout, and the berries and orange cut through the richness of the eggy bread and the ricotta. It was another great meal.

Lolo & Wren is a real find - fancyish breakfast dishes at pretty reasonable prices in a lovely setting. The staff were friendly and efficient, the coffee excellent and the menu well stocked with interesting dishes. It's not as conveniently located as some of our other favourites, but it's well worth a visit and will definitely be added to our rotation.



Lolo & Wren
484 Albion St, Brunswick West
9383 3712
menu: one, two

Accessibility: There's a flat entry into an interior that's moderately dense with tables. We ordered at the table and paid at a low-ish counter. We didn't visit the toilets but noticed a wheelchair-accessible sign for them.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sweet potato & red curry soup

April 18, 2014

I've somewhat foolishly signed up to do the Oxfram Trailwalker this year - a 100km walk through the Dandenongs over the course of a weekend, inevitably resulting in pain, tears and ruined friendships. Our team decided to make use of the Easter weekend to get a last burst of training in and headed out Warburton way to sample a section of the trail.

Sadly, Melbourne's forecast of 'a few showers' turned out to be more like 'buckets of freezing icy rain,' leaving me wet, cold and cranky on my return home. Luckily, the meal I'd planned for the evening was the perfect antidote - a spicy, thick soup, bursting with flavour and loaded with fresh veggies.

It's another recipe from Isa Does It and had the twin virtues of being pretty simple to make and being able to thaw the ice in my bones. There's a bit of veggie chopping required to get yourself set up, but from then on it's a big one-pot dish that simmers away quietly filling your house with wonderful aromas. The curry paste and coconut milk give everything a very Thai feel, while the root veggies and kale give it a slightly heartier vibe and the lime juice adds a bit of zing. Now I just need to convince Cindy to make this on the weekend of the actual walk - I can't imagine a better dish to come home to.

Sweet potato & red curry soup with rice and kale
(based on a recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Isa Does It)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 brown onion, diced
2 teaspoons salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3/4 cup jasmine rice
4 cups veggie stock + 2 cups water (use 6 cups of stock if you've got it)
2 tablespoons red curry paste (we use Maesri)
the leaves from 1 bunch of red kale, shredded
half a sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 carrots, diced
400g can coconut milk
juice of 2 limes
1 tablespoon maple syrup
fresh coriander for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a big pot and throw in the onion and one teaspoon of the salt. Cook for five minutes or so, stirring often, until it's softened up.

Add the garlic and ginger and fry for another minute or so.

Tip in the stock and water, the rice, and the rest of the salt and cover. Bring it all to the boil.

Once it's boiled, drop the heat until you get it at a nice low simmer. Throw in the curry paste, kale, sweet potato and carrot and stir everything together thoroughly. Cover and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the coconut milk, lime juice and maple syrup, stir in some of the coriander and kill the heat.

Serve, garnished with remaining coriander.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Food for the field

April 14-17, 2014

Last week my work took me out to the field - wandering woodlands, measuring trees and tracking their embattled offspring in the north-west of Victoria. Our mission was a little vague, but the company was good and the weather was spectacular. We drove and walked and talked and ate together, and I learned a lot along the way.

'We' were a team of seven, making the six-hour drive from Melbourne and setting up camp in an isolated but unexpectedly luxurious lodge. Unable to assist with the driving, I volunteered to manage the food. I've had a bit of practice.

Still, it's not my weekly habit to cater to so many - including meat-eaters, a coeliac and a fellow with a selective nut allergy - and I floundered estimating quantities of bread and milk. At least the meal strategy that I blogged a couple of years ago helped a lot.

I recycled many meal ideas from that last big trip. Cereal and toast, tea and coffee and juice with BYO alcohol. Fruit and muesli bars, trail mix and jelly lollies. I bought ready-made felafel for sandwiches, while others pitched in with extra fruit, allergy-friendly snacks, sliced meat and coeliac-friendly sandwich substitutes.

For dinner we ate lentil tacos (canned, for rapid cooking) with myriad trimmings, then a Thai red curry with tofu, lots of vegetables and steamed rice.

On the last night I pulled out a spice paste I'd prepared earlier and made the eternally awesome Mondo chickpea curry. Instead of serving more rice I gave Lucy's baked polenta a go, doubling the quantity and stirring in half a block of parmesan. This unlikely pairing was a roaring success eaten by an outdoor fire.

On the last morning, I was relegated to toast duty while a colleague fried up eggs, bacon, spinach and mushrooms on the barbecue. As we wolfed it down I thanked everyone for the favours they'd granted that week, hoping that I'd be able to reciprocate one day. While we all interpreted it as an offer of workplace assistance, I'd probably consider a catering role too.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The B.East

April 8, 2014

The opening of B.East in 2012 smacked of the worst kind of hospitality cynicism - Baba, a fancyish Middle Eastern place that we quite enjoyed, was closed down by the owners so they could jump on the Americana/burger bandwagon with the B.East. We checked it out early and were pretty unimpressed - the whole exercise felt a bit half hearted and trendy. Still, it seemed to be a success, with crowds of people there whenever we wandered past. We even revisited at one point to try the tempeh burger they were offering up for vegans, but it was a pretty dull rendition and we'd more or less cast it aside as somewhere we'd never get around to blogging.

At least until Jess McGuire tweeted about how amazing the harissa mock chicken burger was. So we had to make one more trip. We managed to coincide our return with Jess' excellent pop culture trivia (at which we failed pretty dismally), which meant that the whole place was jammed with people and very noisy - it's as much pub as restaurant, and really not somewhere you'd go for a quiet relaxed meal.

The menu's changed a lot since we visited - there's a couple of veggie burgers, a slider, a couple of snacks and a range of fries. I really just wanted to focus on The Morrissey (mock fried chicken, sweet corn relish, lettuce, tomato, jalapeno salsa on rye - vegan, $13), but Cindy thought we should broaden our selection a bit.

We started with a roast pumpkin and blue cheese slider (pumpkin and blue cheese fritter, snowpea tendrils and horseradish aoili, $7). 

This wasn't very memorable - there wasn't the blue cheese richness I was hoping for or any real kick from the horseradish in the aoili. The fritter was fat and fried, so it wasn't a complete disappointment, but I wouldn't order it again.

Instead, I would order The Morrissey.

This was the bomb - the patty was huge and had great crispy batter around fatty mock chicken. The bun was fresh and manageable enough (although the whole thing was too big to really eat neatly) and the sauce was really hot and spicy. Four of our trivia team tried this and everyone was very enthusiastic - definitely one to check out, and not ludicrously priced at $13.

The $13 doesn't get you any fries though - you can pay $3.50 to get a side with your burger or you can do what we did and get a full serve ($6.50 plus $1 if you want a dipping sauce instead of just the table ketchup/mustard). The fries were excellent - super crunchy and salty.

Despite our initial misgivings, the B.East hits the mark pretty solidly for a boozy Tuesday trivia. There are cheap Holgate pints, fantastic fries and one of the best mock chicken burgers around. We just need to study our John Hughes movies and Beyoncé-related trivia before we return.

The B.East
80 Lygon St, Brunswick East
9036 1456

Accessibility: There's a wide entry with a ramp into a pretty crowded interior (at least on trivia nights). It's dimly lit and noisy and you order at a high bar. The toilets are on the same level through a narrowish corridor by the kitchen and are gendered and quite large (although I can't remember seeing a specifically accessible cubicle).

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Terminus Hotel II

April 6, 2014

This week Michael managed to steer our pub club to the Terminus Hotel, which was renovated and relaunched soon after our visit last year. It's a got a spacious, contemporary look with the traditional pub trappings - a long bar with a wide selection of craft beers, high tables, low tables and a beer garden. There's a clear split between the 'gastropub' and 'bar & beer garden' sections, with different menus on offer at each.

We settled into the more casual bar area, where the menu is dominated by on-trend Asian-ish dishes like bao, banh minis, green papaya salad and duck spring rolls. There's also a few meaty classics for the old guard, with miniature analogues for the kids. Veg*n and gluten-free options aren't marked clearly, but we were heartened by the number of tofu options scattered across the menu.

The kitchen was out of banh mi rolls and served our lemongrass tofu banh minis ($13.90) on two sweet, doughy slider rolls. The lightly battered tofu had a lovely texture and there were nice pockets of fresh chilli hidden away, but I didn't catch the pickley or herbal flavours I seek in a banh mi, let alone the promised lemongrass.

The vegetarian bao option ($5.90 each) struck a better balance with squidgy salty mushrooms, a squirt of soy mayo, and the cleansing bite of pickled ginger.

The fries ($6.90) came with the unlikely pairing of rosemary flecks and chilli jam. I'm still not quite convinced by it but the chips were well cooked with abundant golden crunchy bits, which I scrounged right to the bottom of the bowl.

The Terminus bar is a very comfortable spot to hang out with friends, and their food was well received across our table. The banh minis aren't the satisfying stuff found in  Footscray or Richmond, but the menu is a welcome diversion from the stodgy burgers and burritos we've come to expect from North Fitzroy's pubs.


You can read about our pre-renovation dinner at the Terminus here. Since its transformation, the bar menu has received a very positive review on Fitzroyalty, while the 'gastropub' menu has won fans on Seeking Victory.

The Terminus Hotel
492 Queens Parade, North Fitzroy
9481 3182
bar menu

Accessibility: I think the bar has a flat entry, then inside there's a reasonably spread out mix of high and regular tables. Ordering and payment happens at the high front bar. We didn't visit the toilets.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Warra Warra Korean Kitchen

April 1, 2014

We needed a speedy city dinner before hitting up Cherchez La Femme and finally managed to resist the lure of Shandong Mama to follow through on Hayley's gushing recommendation of Warra Warra Korean Kitchen. It took us less than a year, which I'm claiming as a win.

Warra Warra is tucked away at the back of the Tivoli Arcade off Bourke Street - it's got a few big outside tables and a stylish, exposed brick industrial-ish interior. The menu is long with plenty of vegetarian options, basically one for each menu section: a soft tofu stew, bibimbap, tofu bulgogi, a grilled tofu green bowl, spicy vegetarian hotpot, veggie tofu with kimchi, kimchi pancake, sweet potato noodles and a few others - you've got choices is what I'm saying.

I got there early and the super friendly staff plied me with free nibblies and not so free beer (the waiter helpfully pointed out that Hite beer is pronounced like 'height' not hit-ay).

When Cindy arrived we quickly negotiated our orders - I couldn't ignore the rave reviews that Hayley gave the bibimbap ($13.90), while Cindy was intrigued by the tofu bulgogi ($17.50, served with rice, salad and seasonal fruit).

The bulgogi comes out in five dishes - you get some leafy greens and a couple of bits of fruit, a seasoned rice bowl (the staff checked in with us as to whether we wanted fish flakes and/or egg on top of the rice, so it's probably worth being clear that you're vego/vegan when you order), a little pan of saucy tofu, kim chi and pickled oniony bits. The tofu was grilled and coated in a sweet sauce with a bit of soy saltiness, served on a bed of cabbage, carrot and onion. Cindy was happy to enjoy it as it was, but I'd have added a dash of hot sauce or mixed it with the kim chi to give it a bit more zing.

Thankfully, the bibimbap is designed to be self-sauced to your satisfaction, so I could happily squeeze on as much of the house made chilli sauce as I wanted (hint: a lot).

The dish itself was excellent - a good mix of tofu, veggies and rice with a squishy egg yolk on top that you mush up and stir through everything else. The stone bowl is super hot and everything keeps on cooking while you eat, so the rice gets crunchier the longer you go on. It's not heavily flavoured - just a drizzle of a sweet soy sauce on the tofu - but the staff are clear that you're meant to self season (there's a mild sauce as well as the chilli, but I was never going to make that mistake).

Warra Warra is a good CBD restaurant to have in your kit bag: fresh and delicious food, a quiet and relaxed atmosphere and plenty of vego options. The prices are reasonable (although not as cheap as the various dumpling houses we usually fall back on in the city) and the service spot on. They do cheaper set dishes at lunchtime, when I think things are a bit more chaotic. We'll definitely be back - I'm keen to try the kim chi pancake ($14.50) and the veggie tofu with kim chi ($19.50).

We were inspired to try Warra Warra by the write-up on Ballroom Blintz. There are more positive reviews on Mon's Adventures, Where Adles Eats, Blogs and Thoughts, new international students, The Food Society and Barley Blog, while The Weekly Foodie, Doughnut forget me! and Peach Water had more mixed experiences. 

Warra Warra Korean Kitchen
Shops 19 & 20, Tivoli Arcade, 235-251 Bourke St, Melbourne
9662 2077

Accessibility: The entry is flat, but things are a bit crowded inside. The toilets are up a small step, are gendered and of standard dimension. You order at the table and pay at a high counter.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Smith & Daughters III - Brunch Edition

Edit 02/01/2022: S+D has had a revamp and is now located at 107 Cambridge St, Collingwood.

March 30, 2014

I know, I know, this blog is in danger of needing a new name: something like 'Cindy and Michael go to Smith & Daughters' or 'Smith & Daughers R Us', but we really couldn't resist one more visit to suss out the weekend brunch options.

The space looks even slicker in the daytime - the chilli plants bursting with colour and the windows flooded with light. Through the week, Smith & Daughters have the same menu for lunch and dinner, but come the weekend they pull out the brunch options, offering up vegan versions of omelettes, French toast and more. They're really pushing their fresh juices too, with a mix of green juices, citrussy options and a tropical juice plus smoothies and a bunch of breakfast cocktails all using freshly squeezed produce for added pep. We had a juice each ($7.50 small/$12 large) - the easy green for me (kale, celery, cucumber, spinach, mint, lime, apple, lemon and ginger) and en rosa for Cindy (pink grapefruit, orange, pineapple, red grape, apple and watermelon). Both were great, although I did have some regrets about my failure to order one of the four breakfast cocktails instead. Next time.

Isn't that just the cutest salt and pepper shaker set you've ever seen? The food menu's short and punchy - shorter than the drinks.  There's two kinds of baked omelette (Spanish and Mexican), a horchata rice pudding, French toast and a scrambled tofu breakfast burrito.

I was always going to order the breakfast burrito, stuffed with scrambled tofu, chunks of house-made chorizo, black beans, garlic kale and chipotle cashew cheese, with a side of lime and guacamole ($18, or $15 without the cashew cheese).

I must confess, my first thought when this came out was, "It's a little small." It turns out that I didn't have anything to worry about - the combination of fillings was just that, incredibly filling. I worked hard to finish it and didn't need to eat again for hours. Oh, and for bonus points: it was incredibly good. The scrambled tofu was excellent, with chunks of chorizo and cashew cheese bursting through. Their house-made hot sauce is great too - tangy and spicy without overwhelming the other flavours around it. I started off pondering whether this could be $6 better than Trippytaco's tofu burrito and finished it ready to recommend it to everyone I know.

Cindy somehow resisted the lure of the French toast (served in spiced wine syrup with poached quince, $16) in favour of the horchata rice pudding (house made horchata and grilled pineapple, $15). Tasted separately, she found the pudding dense and plain and the pineapple sour, but they worked much, much better as a team.

The coffee (Wide Open Road) was excellent and can be done with soy, oat, coconut or coconut/almond milks. The service as friendly as ever (although they clearly know who we are now, so we may not be getting an objective experience) and a bit more in control without the heaving crowds of the nighttime sittings. We had a great time on our Sunday morning. Prices are getting into the higher range that we see around town, but the menu items are undoubtedly the most interesting for veg*ns in that bracket. I'm dying to try the omelettes and pretty keen for some brunch boozing, so I reckon there's at least one more Smith & Daughters post in our future.


You can read our summary of the restaurant launch here and a dinner we paid for here. There are a few more launch posts popping up - see Gastronomical ramblings and The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar, while The Lentil Institution somehow snared a quick meal without a booking on a packed-out Wednesday night.  

Smith & Daughters
175 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
9939 3293
brunch and booze menu, juices, smoothies and coffees (although the facebook page is really a bit more useful)

Accessibility: The entry is flat and narrow and the tables are pretty crowded. The interior was a bit quieter and brighter during the daytime. Toilets were located up several steps, were gendered and of standard dimension. There's full table service.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Martha's buttery apple pie

March 30, 2014

I'm embarking on a rare re-blog with this apple pie recipe. I first made it in 2007 and didn't include the full instructions. I think I've made it once every year since and I'm starting to worry that one day Martha Stewart's web team will delete the page (they've shifted it once already) and I'll be pie-less forever more.

I'm not certain that I'd bookmark this recipe if I were to happen upon it for the first time now. It's completely unsharable with my vegan and gluten-free mates, with almost three cups of flour and more butterfat than our fridge has held since... well, probably since I made this pie last year.

But I've grown rather fond of it. The crust is crisp and unsweetened with an unfeasibly high proportion of butter. The filling has the usual pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg, but it's the multiple varieties of apple that provide a surprising complexity (clever work, Ms Martha). And if the butter quantity seems unfeasible, the 1.8kg apple filling defies logic itself. It forms a mountain in the pie crust, threatening avalanche as you fit the pastry lid and a pie-splosion in the oven.

There are some pesky interim stages where you're supposed to freeze the crust and the pie, and I've concluded that they're worth it, somehow they even out the pie's baking. I'd deem the extra butter in the filling less necessary, as it was responsible for some unattractive oozing in my most recent pie.

Nevertheless, this buttery apple pie has taken a nostalgic hold on me. It's my Melbourne winter pie.

Martha's buttery apple pie
(a metricified, annotated version of this recipe)

2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
230g butter
1/4 - 1/2 cup ice water

1/3 cup plain flour
2 tablespoons cream
1-1.6kg assorted apples
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
60g butter

To make the pastry, place the flour and salt in a food processor. Dice the butter and add it to the processor, blending only until the mixutre forms a coarse crumb-like texture. Add 1/4 cup water and blend again until the dough just starts coming together. It should look like this:

Add a little more water if it won't come together within a minute, and repeat.

Turn the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap. Form it into two balls and wrap them separately. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour.

Roll one of the dough balls out to fit a pie dish. Transfer the pastry into the dish, fit it as best you can, trim the edges and place the crust into the freezer for 30 minutes.

Set to work on the filling. Peel and core the apples, and slice the flesh into bite-size pieces. Place them in a large bowl with the lemon juice, sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

When the pie crust is ready, retrieve it from the freezer and spoon in the apple filling.  Dice the butter and distribute it across the pie filling.

Roll out the second dough ball to fit the pie as a lid. Place it over the pie, pinching togther the edges. Cut slits into the pastry top. Brush the cream over the pastry and sprinkle over the extra sugar. Freeze the pie for a further 30 minutes.

Preheat an oven to 200°C. Bake the pie until the crust begins to go golden, about 20 minutes. Turn the oven down to 180°C and continue to bake the pie until the crust is very golden and the juices are bubbling, about 35 more minutes.