Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mankoushe Bakery IV

February 13, 2015

We had a small moment of panic recently when we travelled past Mankoushe and saw that their bakery was papered over. Actually it was a sign of good things to come - a new wood-fired oven and renovated bakery space! On a rainy Friday night, we tested out the new stools instead of retiring to the back courtyard.

The Mankoushe folk aren't ones for staying still, and we typically notice new things on menu with every visit. Nevertheless they're consistent in offering numerous vegetarian options and a friendly nod to vegans - this time there were thirteen vegetarian items, six of them vegan.

Our first experience with the Iraqi pizza ($9, pictured right) was a good one - crispy edged and spread with tomato sauce, filled with spicy chickpeas and potatoes then topped with rocket. I was even more enamoured of the Phoenician ($10.50, last slice on the left); here the rocket concealed sauteed leek, silverbeet, celery and dabs of fresh ricotta. Gosh, do these guys know how to saute - thanks to their skills with a skillet, the oft-maligned celery becomes some kind of vegetable legend here.

Mankoushe classics like the za'atar bread, haloumi pie and falafel wrap are still for sale, but it's well worth trying out what else is new in that wood-fired oven.


You can read about one, two, three of our previous visits to Mankoushe Bakery. Since then they've also been written up positively on Ordinary Girl, Extraordinary Dreamer.

Mankoushe Bakery
323 Lygon St, Brunswick East
9078 9223

Accessibility: There's a small step up through a narrow-ish entry and a bit of space in the front room. Toilets and courtyard are accessed via a couple of steps and a narrow, bricked path. We usually order and pay at a low counter.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

New Day Rising IV

February 13, 2015

New Day Rising is a charming vegetarian sandwich nook that we don't visit often enough. But I've found the perfect excuse to stop by a little more often - getting my hair cut and coloured next door at Lucky Buster

It's a long time since my last CLT, but I resisted its sweet smoky temptation and tried the Reuben on Rye ($10). This Reuben doesn't make any pretense at replacing the traditional pastrami, relying on good Swiss cheese, a bit of seeded mustard, and plentiful sauerkraut made by their mate Keegan. It's simple but satisfying. 

Noting that the bread was a little on the small side, my server generously offered to toast up a third half if I was still hungry. But having washed this much down with a bottle of orange and passionfruit soda ($4), I had no need.

You can read about one, two, three of our previous visits to New Day Rising. Since then the CLT has earned praise on Veganopoulous.

New Day Rising
221d Blyth St, Brunswick East
food, drinks
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, February 23, 2015

Smith & Daughters V

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

February 11, 2015

We've been keeping up our semi-regular visits to Smith & Daughters lately, but toning down the blog posts a bit - for a while it felt like every second post was another trip to Fitzroy to rave about their wonderful food. This visit, with James, coincided with an updated summer menu, which seemed like a good enough excuse to whip up another post.

The menu hasn't changed dramatically - old favourites like the queso dip, the tortilla and the croquettas (which we ordered again!) remain, but there's been a steady turnover of dishes in the year since S & D opened and we had plenty of new things to try.

The El Nino (spiced rum, lime, agave, mint, ginger and tamarind soda, $17) on the left and the pink lemonade (fresh strawberries, thyme, lemon, vodka, elderflower and lemon soda) on the right maintained Smith & Daughters' reputation for spectacular cocktails - I've yet to be disappointed.

Our first dish was the brocoli y coliflor fritas ($15), a mountain of broccoli and cauliflower in a saffron and caper batter served on a thick smear of salsa verde.

I loved the sauce, which had a warm, smoky flavour with a good hit of roasted garlic and some tangy citrus. The battered veggies were lightly cooked and had plenty of crunch, but the saffron and caper components of the batter didn't really shine through.

Next up were the taquitos (left, $15), fried tortilla tubes stuffed with black bean and cheese and topped with pickled cabbage, guacamole and a salsa of coriander, onion and a mix of pickled and fresh jalapenos. Again, the condiments were really the star here, with the filling of the crispy tortillas not really adding much to the flavour explosion on top.

We finally talked ourselves into trying the morcilla on this visit (top right, $16). This is a vegan attempt at a dish I've never actually tried - blood sausage. It's beetroot-based, with a soft texture and a strongly citrussy flavour, topped with a tangy chimmichuri sauce. After that adventurousness, we had to play it safe and throw in an order of the tuna and pea croquettas ($5 each), which remain an essential component of any meal here.

We stuck with the greatest hits for dessert - warm Spanish doughnuts filled with quince ($12) and the salted chocolate, almond and chili caramel slice with avocado ice cream ($15), both of which lived up to our previous experiences.

Smith & Daughters remains the must-visit place for visiting vegos - wonderful staff, brilliant drinks, a great atmosphere and an ever-changing selection of innovative dishes makes it pretty damn hard to top.


You can read about our previous visits to here, here, here and here. Since we last wrote about Smith and Daughters it's been enjoyed by I Spy Plum Pie, THEGLOBALRAMBLER, Green Gourmet Giraffe, The Brunch Journal and Occupie Fitzroy

Smith & Daughters
175 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
9939 3293
food menu, drinks list (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 is dimly lit and loud at night. Toilets were located up several steps, were gendered and of standard dimension. There's full table service.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Mantra Lounge II

February 10, 2015

Five months since opening, Mantra Lounge attracts a keen queue of students and workers for their cheap, filling and veg-friendly weekday lunches. On a Tuesday date with an old friend, I enjoyed their peanutty vegetable curry served with rice, vibrantly dressed green salad and a square of carob-iced cake ($8). I also added a sweet and very green spirulina-charged Bananarama smoothie (+$2).

As of last weekend, Mantra are extending their trading hours to weekend lunches and dinners. That should render them more accessible than ever to non-locals seeking a cheap and nourishing meal.


You can read about my first visit to Mantra Lounge here.

Mantra Lounge
167 Grattan St, Carlton
0433 531 345
menu on a previous visit

Accessibility: Mantra Lounge has clearly given accessibility some thought - there's a ramp up from the footpath and plenty of space around the counter, where ordering, payment and food pick-up occurs. There's a unisex toilet with wheelchair accessibility signage on this level. There are a few moderately spaced tables downstairs; the stairs themselves are wide and sturdy with a hand rail.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Charles Weston Hotel

February 8, 2015

The Sporting Club has fast become one of our favourite pubs, so we were a bit anxious when it rebranded itself the Charles Weston Hotel. We peered in the windows a few times when they were closed and nothing really seemed to have changed, but we figured we should go and check it out to make sure. Aside from a couple of shiny signs on the outside, the fit-out is basically unchanged. We set up camp in the courtyard to make sure the food still measured up. The menu is clearly labelled and includes an expanded range of vegan options, including tofu tacos ($10), polenta fritters ($10) and a beetroot and quinoa salad ($18). There's plenty of gluten-free stuff to choose from as well.

Cindy spent all morning craving the haloumi burger ($18), which we've somehow never blogged before despite ordering a whole bunch of times. It's the same as ever: a crumbed haloumi square with some tomato and lettuce on a brioche-y bun. Throw in a side of crispy fries and this was an ideal lunch - it's a simple but effective pub meal that's pretty hard to top.

I ordered the black beans on fried tortillas, with guacamole and Greek salad ($18). This was awkward to eat - soft tacos would be more manageable than these crispy discs, but the beans and guacamole combo was top notch, so I scarfed it down hoping that nobody saw my messiness. The Greek salad was fine, but was a pretty odd fit with the Mexi-themed centrepiece.

We were relieved to find that the Charles Weston Hotel really is just the Sporting Club with a different name - the food is still great, there are even more vegan options and there's always a range of delicious tap beers to choose from. It's a great local pub, but even if we didn't leave nearby I reckon I'd travel to visit it.

Food bloggers don't seem to have discovered the Charles Weston yet. Read about our previous trips (back when it was The Sporting Club) here, here and here.
Charles Weston Hotel

27 Weston Street, Brunswick
9380 8777
menu, specials

Accessibility: The Charles Weston has a flat standard-width entry and plenty of space inside. Ordering and payment takes place at the bar, which in our experience can be very loud. The toilets were easy to get to but were just ordinary sized cubicles for men and women.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A new millenium for where's the beef?

After more than eight years of blogging, reviews of over 700 restaurants in 34 cities, nearly 900 recipes and more hours than I care to tally up, where's the beef? is poised to publish its 2000th post!

We're going to welcome the start of our third millennium with some tweaks of our design and some long overdue updating of our where's the best? list, but we'd also like to mark the occasion by eating food. Tons of food.

Note: this food is for illustrative purposes only, actual picnic food may vary

So we're going to have a potluck picnic in the park to celebrate. Cindy and I are going to pack up loads of food and plonk down near the pond at the Northern end of Princes Park from midday on March 22. You're all invited to join us - bring food if you want to, but feel free to just swing by and say hi as well. We've set up an event over on our facebook page, so sign up there if you want to keep track of updates and frantic weather-related rescheduling. We'd love to see you there!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Chocolate halva sundae

February 6-7, 2015

Our friend Erin promptly scheduled in a second Ottolenghi potluck one month after the first. I spent that month utterly occupied by my job, working through all three weekends, and by the time the potluck rolled around I was keen to break out and contribute one of the Plenty More desserts.

Predictably, it was the icecream recipe that took my fancy. Ottolenghi's halva icecream is rich with cream and egg yolks, with only a hint of sugar and tahini in the custard. It's fudgy chunks of halva folded through that provide most of the bitter-edged sweetness. The chocolate halva I bought from a local deli was crumbly and breaking it down into the directed half-centimetre cubes wasn't possible - I liked the texture it asserted in bigger blocks anyway.

Ottolenghi elevates the icecream to full-blown sundae with brandy-spiked ganache, peanuts and black sesame seeds. It's the best kind of over-the-top - alternate spoonfuls of smooth chocolate with salted crunchy peanut, rich custard or a stealthy chunk of halva elicited the odd uh!, ohhh and mmmm around the table. 

The quantities below made little more than a half-litre of icecream - enough for a small scoop each - but double the chocolate sauce we could reasonably pour over it. It's no longer my habit to make recipes so heavy with cream and eggs, and I'd be inclined to roll this one back if I made it again - I know a great vegan ganache recipe, and I reckon the icecream could bear a nut-and-coconut milk adaptation.

Chocolate halva sundae
(a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty More)

ice cream
250mL cream
350mL milk
1 vanilla pod
2 egg yolks
40g caster sugar
30g tahini
100g sesame halva, finely diced

chocolate sauce
150mL cream
80g dark chocolate chips
1 teaspoon brandy

60g roasted salted peanuts
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds

Place the cream and milk in a small saucepan. Slice the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape the seeds into the saucepan; place the pods in the saucepan too. Heat everything in the saucepan until it's just starting to boil, then take it off the heat.

In a small bowl, beat together the egg yolks and the sugar. Whisk a little of the hot cream mixture into the eggs, then a little more, and then finally pour the egg mixture into the saucepan and return it all to a medium heat. Continue to stir and cook the custard until it's thickened slightly. Take it off the heat and whisk in the tahini until it's a smooth as you can manage - I found some little oil flecks in mine that just wouldn't go away. Refrigerate the custard until it's completely chilled, preferably overnight.

Strain the vanilla pods out of the custard and reserve them for other uses. Pour the custard into an icecream maker and churn it according to the manufacturer's instructions. Gently fold in the chopped halva and freeze the icecream in a plastic container.

Take the icecream out of the freezer to soften 10-15 minutes before you plan to serve it. Make the chocolate sauce by bringing the cream to a gentle boil in a small saucepan. Turn off the heat and whisk in the chocolate chips and the brandy.

Construct the sundaes by serving modest icecream scoops, topped with chocolate sauce then sprinkled with peanuts and sesame seeds.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Code Black Coffee

February 7, 2015

We've had a few nice breakfasts at Brunswick's Code Black Coffee so figured we'd give their new North Melbourne branch a go on our way to the Queen Victoria Markets. It's another warehouse refit, although this younger sibling lets in more light and offers some cheery splashes of colour. With a bare floor, high-energy tunes and enough customers for a wait list, it's loud. The menu is shorter and lacks the vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free symbols that so impressed us in Brunswick. Instead there's just some small text suggesting you "chat to your server". Gluten-free bread is available, and it looks like vegans might be constrained to salad.

After a brief wait in the sun, we were seated at a small table on the mezzanine level. Michael cooled down with an iced latte ($4.50). From there we were in for a bit of a wait for food, though our waiter did regular rounds topping up our water.

Michael ordered black beans with a fried egg, jalapeno and cheese cornbread and grilled lime ($12). He found the cornbread a little dry and lacking in cheese, but deemed the plate good value.

The heat held me back from the salted apple caramel hotcakes and I trialled the seasonal fruit plate ($12), which was interspersed with coconut cream and cinnamon maple coconut chips. Code Black earn points for pulling together something varied and vegan-friendly, but didn't match the sophisticated fruit breakfasts I've enjoyed at Wide Open Road.

Although the veg options seem fewer than at Code Black Brunswick, they also seem a little cheaper. Our experience here didn't impress me as deeply as the neighbouring Elceed and Twenty & Six cafes, but the service was chirpy and the food was pleasant. I might still make room for those hotcakes next time I'm headed to market.


The Howard St outlet of Code Black has already gotten the nod on hungrycookie, Simple Palates, Seriously, Poppet's Window, Coffee in Melbourne, confessions of a little piggy and Brunch Addict; a few flaws are noted on The Brunch Journal.

Code Black Coffee
119 Howard St, North Melbourne
9381 2330
drinks, food

Accessibility: The ground level is flat and spacious, while the mezzanine involves narrow stairs, crowded seats and backless stools. We ordered at our table and paid at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Apricot, walnut & lavender cake

February 1-2, 2015

Cindy spent most of January up in the Alpine National Park working like crazy and barely sleeping while I lived a life of leisure back in Melbourne. So it seemed only fair that I welcomed her return home with some sort of cake-ish reward. I had the perfect cake in mind – fellow potluckers had presented a stunning apricot-covered cake at our recent Plenty More-themed dinner and I decided I’d try to replicate their achievement despite its seeming complexity. What’s the worst that could happen? If the cake was a complete disaster I could just scoff down the wreckage and make another weird ketchup cake to replace it.

For all its fanciness, the recipe wasn’t actually that complicated – there was a bit of faffing around grinding up nuts, zesting lemons and beating eggs, but the basic processes were all well within my non-baking skill set. The biggest difficulty was locating some lavender – our plant wasn’t flowering and none of Brunswick’s fancy food purveyors seemed to sell it, so I was reduced to wandering the backstreets and ‘foraging’ some flowers from someone’s front garden. Thanks anonymous Barkly Street benefactor!

The end result: a qualified success. This cake is super delicious with the sweet, juicy apricots really coming into their own. The downside is that the apricot juice soggifies (a technical term) the top of the cake a bit - it definitely needs the full 70-80 minutes in the oven and could probably handle longer if you covered the top to avoid burning anything. I gave it about 75 minutes and the mix was still a little bit underdone – it didn’t really diminish its deliciousness, but it made slicing it up a bit tricky. Still – I was pretty thrilled to be able to present this fruity, floral delight to Cindy on her return from three weeks of exhausting work. We’ll definitely make it again – at least if we can think of a non-vegan non-coeliac audience to appreciate it (or maybe we should try to veganise it!?).

Apricot, walnut & lavender cake
(based on a recipe from Ottolenghi's Plenty More)

185g unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoons peanut oil (the original recipe wanted walnut oil, but we didn't have any)
220g caster sugar
120g almond meal
4 eggs, beaten
120g walnuts, blitzed to a coarse powder in a food processor
90g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon, grated
600g apricots, halved and pitted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons lavender, chopped finely

50g icing sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Lightly grease a 25cm spring-form cake tin (if you're using a regular tin you probably want to line it with baking paper).

Beat the butter, oil, sugar and almond meal in an electric mixer until the mixture is combined and is light and fluffy. Add the eggs in slowly, beating as you go until they're incorporated. Fold in the walnuts, flour, vanilla, lemon zest, salt and half of your lavender.

Pour the cake mix into the tin and smooth out the top. Arrange the apricot halves on top, skin side down as tightly packed as you can squeeze them in. Bake in the over for 70-80 minutes - it's a delicate balance between the top burning and the cake cooking through, you can cover it with foil if it gets too brown.

While the cake's in the oven whisk together the icing sugar and lemon juice until you get a smooth pourable consistency. Once the cake is cooked, spread the icing on top (a brush works well) and sprinkle over the remaining lavender. Leave the cake to cool and then feast.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Curried peanut sauce bowl with tofu & kale

January 21, 2015

With Cindy away, I was looking for simple meals that would stretch to a few serves of leftovers - old classics like quinoa salad, basic braised tofu, kale and chickpea salad and miso-curry pumpkin all got a run, but I decided to sneak in one new meal as well. I'd had my eye on this curried peanut sauce bowl in Isa Does It for a while and slotted it in on an otherwise quiet Wednesday night.

It's not a very time-consuming recipe, but there is a bit going on: you've got to steam the kale, fry the tofu, cook up the peanut curry sauce and cook whatever grain you're having as the base of your bowl (quinoa in this case). It means that every burner of our stove was in action, which is always a little overwhelming. It was worth the kitchen chaos at least - the curried peanut sauce is thick and tangy, like the best kind of spicy satay. The tofu and kale worked well, but you could happily pour the sauce over any combination of veggies and protein.

Curried peanut sauce bowl with tofu & kale
(slightly adapted from a recipe in Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Isa Does It)

1 tablespoon olive oil
500g tofu, cut into 2cm cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 small bunch of kale, rough stems cut out and leaves shredded
1/2 teaspoon salt

peanut sauce
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup water
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
3 teaspoons curry powder
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons agave nectar
2 teaspoons sriracha

for the sauce
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and saute the garlic and ginger for about 30 seconds. Add the water and, once it's warmed up a bit, add in the peanut butter, curry powder, vinegar, tamari, agave and sriracha. Stir everything together - as the mixture warms up the peanut butter will liquefy and combine with everything else. After it's nicely mixed together, taste and add salt or more curry powder as desired and then leave, covered, while you make the rest of the meal.

for the tofu
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over high heat. Throw in the cubed tofu, sprinkle with salt and fry, stirring often for 5-10 minutes, until the cubes have a nice golden char going on.

for the kale
Pop the kale and salt in a steamer (I used a pair of stacked bamboo steamers) over a pot of boiling water. Steam for about 5 minutes, until it's cooked but not soggy.

Serve it all over rice or quinoa and garnish with coriander if you've got some.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Hobart VI

January 16-19, 2015

Another year, another trip to the Mona Foma festival. Sadly, this year saw me flying solo, with Cindy spending the time doing field work up around Falls Creek. Travelling's not quite as fun on your own, so I kept it to a pretty short visit - just squeezing in a long weekend visit to see some great bands and eat as much as possible. We've given Hobart's veggie scene a fairly good shake over the years, but there's always more to discover and I managed to knock off another half a dozen or so places worth documenting here.


Small Fry (3/129 Bathurst Street, Hobart)
I stayed quite close to Small Fry, which opened about six months ago and came highly recommended by our local friend Liz. It's a small space with a relatively brief menu, which is quite meaty. There's nothing obviously vegan, but the menu does note that they're willing to customise most dishes to meet dietary requirements.

I dropped in for a late lunch on Friday arvo, opting to start the weekend with something reasonably healthy: puy lentil, radicchio, fig and goat curd salad with a shallot dressing ($16).

This was all about the figs, which were ripe and sweet and just about perfect. The goats curd and dressing cut through the sweetness a bit and the lentils added texture and earthiness. Small Fry are apparently most famous for their delicious doughnuts, but sadly they were all out when I visited and I didn't get a chance to try again - next year!


Frank (1 Franklin Wharf, Hobart)
For dinner I was in Liz's capable hands, and she suggested meeting up at another Hobart newcomer, Frank. With the restaurant promising an Australian twist on Argentinian barbecue, I wasn't expecting too many vego options, but the menu is surprisingly welcoming - seven veggie sides that can easily be cobbled into a meal. It's a lovely space - down on the waterfront with a beautifully designed dining room that oozes cool. We didn't have a booking but they squeezed us in to some lovely window-side seats and we enjoyed an unhurried feast.

We split four plates: charred sweet potato with goat's curd, muddled almonds, garlic and coriander ($11), a black-eyed pea salad with lime, chilli and onion ($8), a green bean salad with roasted quinoa and queso blanco ($9) and crisp potatoes with salsa criolla ($8).

This was a nice combo of dishes - the sweet potato and crispy potatoes were the stand out, while the beans and black-eyed peas added a bit of bite and freshness. It also left enough room for us to explore the dessert menu. I got in first and ordered the nemesis cake with whisky ice cream and hazelnut and smoked paprika praline ($14). The cake is gooey and loaded with cocoa, but the real highlights are the subtle whisky ice cream and the fascinating smoked paprika praline.

Liz had a more summery sweet dish: passion fruit and mango parfait, white chocolate mousse, coconut shortbread, fresh mango and crisp tuille ($13). I snuck a little taste and was impressed by the fruity freshness.

Frank is an impressive addition to Hobart's booming hospitality scene - it's not really focussing on vegetables, but there's a reasonable selection of savouries and the desserts are top notch. Definitely worth checking out.


Tasman Quartermasters (132 Elizabeth Street, Hobart)
After the first day, my dinners mostly revolved around the festival hub, leaving lunch and breakfast as my chances to explore. On Saturday I kicked things off at Property of: Pilgrim, having the same beany breakfast I had on our last visit. After a good day out at MONA, I came back into town for a late lunch in North Hobart at Tasman Quartermasters. They've replaced the sadly departed Chado with an on-trend burger menu that includes a handful of veggie options. The highlight: the vegan menage a trois, a smoked beetroot, mushroom, pumpkin, rocket and guacamole sandwich ($16). 

It's hard to justify $16 for a sandwich, but this hit the mark nicely - the beets are the star, carrying a good hit of smokiness and a brilliant chewy texture. The sandwich supporting cast was solid, as was the local tap beer they were serving up. The staff are friendly and the vibe is relaxed (at least in the mid afternoon) - it's a good place to stop in if you're looking for vegan food and good booze at lunch.


Farm Gate Market (108 Bathurst Street, Hobart)
Breakfast on Sunday was a return visit to the Farm Gate markets - I won't go into much detail, but my four course brunch was probably the dining highlight of the trip: a blueberry bagel with lemon curd from Bury Me Standing, a vegan burrito with beans, quinoa, capsicum, daikon and ginger cashew aoli from Pacha Mama, a vegan salted dark chocolate cookie from Krumbies and some of the freshest, fattest cherries I've ever tasted. I haven't been back to Salamanca Markets for a while, but Farm Gate (which has moved to a section of Bathurst Street between Elizabeth and Murray) is surely the best food market in town - go go go!


Brat Time (53 Elizabeth Street, Hobart)
I spent most of the morning recovering from that breakfast, but managed to muster up enough energy to wander through the galleries of Salamanca and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, before fuelling up for a night with Shonen Knife and The Clean at Brat Time.

More US-inspired dude-food, Brat Time is a hot dog and beer bar under the mall on Elizabeth Street. The menu is long and involved, but you really only need to focus on the two veggie dogs (both vegan). I skipped the basic veggie dog (veggie sausage, black bean and corn salsa, lettuce and thousand island dressing, $8.90) and went for the volcanic veg (sausage, spicy bean and corn, sauteed onion, jalapeno, guacamole and hot chilli sauce, $9.90).

This was brilliant - great spicy condiments on a decent veggie dog for less than ten bucks. Brat Time is nothing fancy, but sometimes a vegan hot dog and a beer is all you need and you can't go too badly wrong here.


Raspberry Fool (85 Bathurst Street, Hobart)
I had a few hours to spare before the flight back to Melbourne on Monday morning and a reader tip from Kim recommending Raspberry Fool, so my breakfast plans were sorted. Given Kim's enthusiasm, I was surprised how few menu items looked obviously vegan friendly - just the spiced roast cauliflower, white bean puree, pickled carrot and greens toastie ($10). I was tired and hungry, so I didn't quiz them about what else they could do, but there were a few dishes that looked like they'd be veganisable with a few tweaks. I wound up ordering the smashed avocado with chunky herb salsa, soft boiled egg and greens ($16). 

This was a straightforward and successful brekkie dish - generous loads of avo, a good smear of herby spread and some nicely cooked egg. Nothing fancy, but a tasty way to finish up the trip - the coffee fell short of the standards set at Pilgrim, Small Fry and Pigeon Hole, but the staff were friendly, the sweets cabinet looked good and the whole experience highly satisfactory.


Hobart's food and drink scene is booming - I didn't make it to The Winston, Room for a Pony, Burger Haus, The Homestead or Preachers - all new in the past few years I think - or to our old favourites Ethos, Garagistes, Tricycle or Pigeon Hole, let alone the veggie lunch stalwarts Thai Veggie Hutt or Mo Mo. It's a wonderful city - the festival is always great fun, MONA continues to wow and the setting is just spectacular. Stay tuned for another update in 2016.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Broccolini & edamame salad with curry leaves & coconut

January 10, 2015

One of our friends had a brainwave recently - why not have an Ottolengh-themed potluck? She noticed that most of her friends had wound up with a copy of  Plenty More over the Christmas period, so she invited a bunch of us over with dishes in tow, so we could all sample widely from our new book. It was a cracking success - there was a stunning sweetcorn slaw, a gorgeous artichoke, mozzarella and candied lemon dish, some slightly disappointing spicy turnips and simple but effective green beans with freekeh. Plus the most beautiful cake I think I've ever seen - a lavender, apricot and walnut concoction that was mind-blowingly good (spoilers: this cake will be turning up here before too long!). We didn't get a very good shot of the whole meal, so multiply this blurry phone photo by about a million to get a sense of how spectacular it was.

We added a typical Ottolenghi salad to the mix - a combination of green veggies with the pizzazz coming from some curry leaves and grated, fresh coconut. Like any Ottolenghi recipe, there's a bit going on. The first (and scariest) step is to crack the coconut - youtube is your friend here. It turned out to be surprisingly easy to break it open, and then a bit trickier to actually dig the flesh off the shell. It's totally worth it though - the fresh coconut kicked this up from a good dish to something really memorable. After that you've just got to juggle your blanching and your frying and everything comes together. The green veggies are just barely blanched so that they maintain their crunch and flavour and the curry leaves, coriander, mustard seeds and lime give a tangy, complex flavour to it all. This was a real success story and a Plenty More recipe we'll return to again in the future.

Broccolini & edamame salad with curry leaves & coconut
(based on a recipe from Ottolenghi's Plenty More)

400g broccolini, trimmed (the original recipe uses sprouting broccoli, but broccolini works fine)
220g green beans, trimmed
200g podded edamame beans (we used frozen ones picked up at our local Asian grocer)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 brown onion, diced
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
30 curry leaves
3 whole dried chillies
zest and juice of 1 lime
10g coriander leaves
the flesh from 1 coconut, coarsely grated

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and throw in the broccoli and beans, blanching for about 2 minutes before throwing in the edamame beans. After another two minutes kill the heat - you want everything to be cooked but still with some crispness. Scoop out the veggies, put them in a colander and freshen them up with cold water. Drain them, pat them dry and pop them in a big mixing bowl and mix with a generous sprinkle of salt.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a frying pan. Throw in the onion with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and stir-fry for 5 minutes, until it's softened. Throw in the black mustard seeds and wait for them to pop. Add in the curry leaves, lime zest and dry chillies. Stir fry for another couple of minutes and then pour the mix over the vegetables. Stir everything up and leave it to combine for a while, at least 10 minutes.

When you're about to serve it up, gently stir in the lime juice, coriander and coconut.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Spot Burger

January 2016: Spot Burger closed in March 2015

January 8, 2015

We've had our eye on Spot Burger for a while - it opened up over a year ago as Il Gobbo, went quiet for a while and then reopened with a new name but the same basic premise: vegan junk food served out the front of a tattoo place in Essendon. With our trusty junk-food liaison officer Clamps in tow we headed off one Thursday night to finally check it out.

It's an unassuming space - basic tables, a few rock posters on the wall and a pretty fast-foody sort of vibe. The menu is all vegan and all Americana: 6 burgers, 4 hot dogs, a sub, the usual fries and nugget sides plus shakes and a few desserts. It's mock-meat heavy and pretty affordable (nothing over $10) - think Lord of the Fries in the suburbs.

The three of us decided to stick with burgers. I went for the volcano: a TVP-based patty with mock bacon, vegan cheese, hot sauce, jalapenos and onions ($10, right in the photo below).

I was pretty  happy with this - the patty had some nice charred crunchy bits and held together pretty well. The bacon had a bit of crispiness as well and the mix of chilli sauce and jalapenos made sure that there was plenty of flavour. Clamps went for the Calabrian, a mock chicken patty with bacon, cheese, onion and bolognese sauce ($10, left in the photo above). It was a big, messy feast - bolognese sauce on a burger is a genius idea. 

Cindy couldn't resist the Sailor Jerry, Spot's version of a fish burger with a battered mock fish patty, cheese, lettuce, onion, pickles and herbed mayo ($10).

The fish was a standard pre-packaged version, but it worked pretty well in a burger, with a good slathering of tartare-style sauce and pickles adding some tang to cut through the batter. She also ordered a chocolate shake ($6, also vegan) - it was sweet and frothy and not particularly subtle, but a worthwhile burger accompaniment. We shared some chips as well ($7), which were crispy, salty and generously portioned.

Spot Burger is a welcome addition to Melbourne's increasingly diverse vegan junk food scene - it doesn't offer a vastly different product to Lord of the Fries, but it's great to have something like it in Essendon, where the vegan options are probably a bit thinner on the ground. I'm keen to sample their hot dogs one day, but the location will mean that we're only occasional visitors to Spot.

The Good Hearted, Veganopolous and vegawesome! were all impressed by Il Gobbo when it first opened, but nobody seems to have blogged it since the name change.

Spot Burger
305 Keilor Rd, Essendon (in the same premise as Down to Earth Tattoos)
9379 9540
facebook page

Accessibility: The entry from the street is flat and there's a reasonable amount of space inside. Tables are a mix of high bar stool style arrangements and regular low tables. We ordered at the table and paid at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Burmese tofu

January 4, 2015

I first heard of Burmese tofu a few months ago when our friend Troy got excited about it and made a big batch for a brunch potluck he hosted a few months back. He'd discovered it during a period of soy-free eating when he was looking for an alternative to the usual staples. Burmese tofu is really more like polenta than tofu - it's a pretty simple combination of chickpea flour and water, thickened up over heat to your desired texture and then cooked. Troy had made a soft version, going for an eggy kind of style while we had a firmer version in mind, to serve with some simple stir-fried veggies and rice.

We used a recipe from Veganise This!, preferring Mel's speedy version to some of the recipes that require overnight soaking. It's super easy - about 15 minutes of cooking on the stove and then a few hours in the fridge to set. Mel ate hers straight from the fridge, but we decided to stick ours under the grill and try to get a crispy skin on them - it wasn't entirely successful, but our approach added a bit of texture to the tofu slices. Much like traditional tofu, this dish isn't exactly bursting with flavour on its own. We also copied Mel's dressing - a tangy combo of chilli, tamarind, sesame oil and soy sauce, which did the trick perfectly.

Burmese tofu is a good addition to our protein options - it's easy to whip up, will carry any flavour you add to it and seems to be pretty versatile.

Burmese tofu with tamarind dressing
(based on a recipe from Veganise This!, which was adapted from BestOodles)

4 cups water
1 tablespoon margarine
1 1/2 cups chickpea flour (besan)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon chilli oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons tamarind puree
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Put 2 1/2 cups of the water and the margarine in a big saucepan bring it to the boil. 

In a bowl, whisk together the chickpea flour, the rest of the water and the turmeric, salt and sugar. Pour the mixture into the boiling water and whisk it all up into a smooth paste. Drop the heat down to low and keep it bubbling for five minutes or so - it should be quite thick.

Pour the mixture into a greased baking dish and smooth the top as best you can. Refrigerate for a few hours until it's solid.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.

When you're ready to eat it, carve it up into little rectangular prisms and grill for about 15 minutes, flipping them all over about halfway through.

Serve, topped with the dressing, alongside some rice and stir-fried veggies.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015


January 4, 2015

After working all week on a grant application, I took a day off to enjoy a special meal with Michael. We sauntered into Chin Chin for a meal at the bar, walked a portion of it off and then circled back to Supernormal for dessert. They, too, found us a free spot at their bar.

Though the 9 spice chai latte sounded promising, I went for a more delicate pot of jasmine green tea ($5) - it was as lovely to inhale as it was to drink.

Choosing among the desserts was tough and we vacillated a while between different possible combinations. In an uncharacteristic move I looked past the famous peanut butter parfait to the lighter, fruitier offerings. The apricot kernel custard was a refreshing and worthy alternative, dotted with aloe vera gel and scattered with sour fresh and freeze-dried raspberries ($15).

The soft serve ($9) had a different charm altogether with dual swirls of tangy pink lady and subtly savoury miso icecream, garnished with sesame wafers. I'd recommend sharing the generous portion with a broad-minded companion.

I've long had a soft spot for the desserts at McConnell's various restaurants - Supernormal certainly upholds that high standard, and offers some new flourishes of its own.



180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
9650 8688

Accessibility: Looking good - a wide entry and flat interior with a lift to at least one accessibility-marked toilet. (We also noticed a customer in a wheelchair seated at a low table during our visit.) There's full table service.