Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Mango coconut splice jellies

September 25-26, 2015

I didn't eat many desserts, as such, on our holiday in Vietnam earlier this year. I did drink lots of sweet and colourful beverages, though, and I picked up a slim recipe book of Tropical Desserts at the airport with our last remaining dong. This jelly recipe is adapted from that book - the original includes veg-friendly agar-agar as the setting agent, but uses dairy cream for the white layer. Coconut cream was an easy substitute that readily took on a pandan infusion. I've had good and bad experiences with agar-agar, and this was definitely a good one. The jelly set hard and fast, creating neat mango and coconut layers that sliced smoothly and were firm enough to serve as finger food.

Served alongside Vietnamese-style coffees on soy condensed milk, they were the perfect end to an epic lunch. My holiday companions teamed up to concoct a cơm chay-style buffet of rice, mock meats, pickles, rolls, savoury doughnuts, and other assorted sprinklings. (Props to Vincent Vegetarian Food and Minh Phat for great supplies.) We had little trouble finding a dozen folks to help us eat it (and still, Michael and I face a week of makeshift banh mis stuffed with the leftovers). Lucky for us, there remains a small supply of the jellies to ration out too.

Mango coconut splice jellies
(adapted from Devagi Sanmugam's Tropical Desserts)

mango layer
300g mango flesh (I got mine from 1 1/2 small cans)
500mL syrup from canned mangos
2 tablespoons agar-agar powder
150g caster sugar
a drop of lemon essence

coconut layer
400mL can coconut cream
600mL water
2 tablespoons agar-agar powder
250g caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 pandan leaves

Get out a large, rectangular tray to set the jelly in. Optionally spray it with oil to prevent sticking.

Blend together the mango and syrup until smooth.  Transfer them to a saucepan and stir in the agar-agar over medium heat. Bring the mixture to the boil, and stir it constantly for 5 minutes. Stir in the sugar and lemon essence until completed dissolved. Pour the mango jelly mixture into the tray and refrigerate it for at least 15 minutes.

Clean out the saucepan and use it to whisk together the coconut cream and water. Stir in the agar-agar powder, sugar and salt and set it over medium heat. Knot the pandan leaves and add them to the mixture to diffuse their flavour. Bring the mixture to the boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Discard the pandan leaves and pour the coconut mixture on top of the mango layer in the tray. Refrigerate the layered jelly for at least an hour before serving. Slice it into small squares.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


September 18-20, 2015

We ducked off to Lorne for a spring long-weekend, managing to luck out with a ridiculously lovely few days of sunshine. We spent most of the time wandering the beach and the lookout tracks, reading books and eating our way through some of the treats that the town has to offer. 

We stumbled across Mexican Republic (which strangely has no website - here's the Zomato page) on our walk up to our accommodation and headed back for an early dinner.

It's a cute little place with a handful of booths and a couple of outside tables. The menu is reasonably veg-friendly, although you'd need to ask for some alterations to get anything vegan. We kicked things off with a mojito ($15) and a citrus margarita ($12), which were boozy and refreshing. Cindy ordered one of the smokey bean tacos (with goats cheese, black beans, corn and smokey salsa, $8) alongside some charred street corn (butter, cheese, chipotle mayo and lime, $6). She was particularly impressed by the well-charred corn, while the $8 taco was a decent if expensive bite.

I ordered the smokey burrito (black beans, quinoa, guacamole, smokey tomato and corn salsa, goats cheese, cabbage, pickled onion and chipotle mayo, $16). Quinoa is kind of a weird burrito filling, but it does a good job of replacing the regular rice option while adding a bit of a crunchy texture. The rest of the fillings were decent as well, but it needed some hot sauce to liven things up a bit and was a bit over-priced at $16 (to be fair, everything seemed a little bit pricier in Lorne than in Melbourne).

We got up super early the next morning to check out the sunrise from Teddy's Lookout (photos in the slideshow below) and wandered down to the main street afterwards to scope out our brekkie options. The early crowds were at Moon's Espresso, and the menu was enticing enough to lure us in to join them.

The menu is pretty eggy - there is a simple toast dish with hummus, avo, basil and tomato ($14) that seemed vegan, but that was about it. I was starving and ordered the biggest dish I could - the Mushington D.C. - a brilliant combo of sauteed mushrooms with goats cheese, dukka, spinach and poached eggs on toast ($17). Cindy had the more modest fruit toast with butter ($8), which was a solid rendition of a pretty straightforward dish. 

We snacked at home and then went for an early dinner at the highly regarded Pizza Pizza. The tiny little shopfront cranks out high quality pizzas - the only seating for now is at the outdoor tables, although there was some work going on in the building next door to add in some indoor seating.

Pizza Pizza feels straight outta Brunswick - crispy, perfectly cooked bases, with an interesting selection of toppings. We split a Pizza for Nelly (napoli sauce, mozzarella, capers, olives, sun-dried tomato and caramelised onions, $16.50) and a Spinner (napoli sauce, mozzarella, spinach, roast pumpkin, feta and pine nuts, $16.50). These were truly excellent pizzas - definitely worth a visit (or a takeaway down at the beach).

On Sunday we grabbed a late brunch at the Swing Bridge Cafe and Boathouse, a cute little cafe perfectly situated by the bridge over the Erskine River. It's a popular spot, bathed in sunlight, with the surrounding picnic tables included in the cafe's service area.

It's a small menu, with nothing obviously vegan. I ordered the 'weeds' - slow poached eggs on sourdough, with smashed avocado, goats cheese, coriander and kale ($17). The super slow poached eggs are pretty gooey - I don't mind them, but they're an acquired taste. The rest of this was ace though, with the kale letting me pretend that I was having a healthy weekend. Cindy grabbed one of the sweets - an apple crumble muffin - with a strawberry smoothie ($8). The smoothie didn't really burst with fresh strawberries, with the unripe banana base overwhelming it all a bit. The muffin was okay - not loaded with apple, but warm, sweet and strudel-ly.

Our final meal of the weekend was at The Bottle of Milk, a specialty burger place with branches in Lorne and Torquay. The menu's got five veggie burger options - three of which can easily be made vegan.  

We had the tofu burger (foreground, marinated grilled tofu with tomato, onion, carrot, lettuce, mayo, chillie paste and satay sauce, $14) and the hot lentil (background, housemade lentil patty with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, carrot, mayo, chilli and lemon yoghurt) plus a serve of fries ($6.50) with bbq sauce ($1). I was really impressed by my lentil burger - an excellent patty, with some zingy condiments and fresh salad. The tofu burger worked well too - marinated tofu at non-vego is often pretty bland, so we were impressed that The Bottle of Milk seemed to know what they were doing. 

We had a lovely weekend in Lorne - the weather was perfect, the setting was stunning and the food was pretty top notch.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Lebanese Talk of the Town

September 14, 2015

We met up with a couple of friends at Talk of the Town for a south-side dinner on a Monday night. Despite the name, I'd never heard of this place before, but our dining companions assured us it was worth a visit. It's a pretty basic-looking Lebanese place - there's a big cabinet loaded up with food, about ten tables and a no-frills kind of atmosphere.

Still, you don't eat atmosphere, and the menu had a lot to get excited about: falafel, veggie kibbeh, vine leaves, stuffed capsicum, cabbage rolls and tons and tons of salads to choose from. Nearly all of the veggie dishes are vegan, and the staff are happy to talk you through your options. Options are kind of the problem - there were far too many dishes to choose from, so we sent Craig up to figure out an order for the table.

He came through with the goods, ordering up a falafel and dips entree ($8.50), a stuffed capsicum ($9), a couple of veggie kibbeh ($6 each) and a selection of five salads ($5 each, although I think there might have been some bulk discounting going on).

The falafel were excellent, and well served by the hummus, babaganoush and pickles that accompanied them, and the kibbeh (pumpkin crust around a leek and silverbeet filling) were superb, but the real stars of the show were the salads. We ordered the green beans with tomato paste, onions and spices (above, bottom-right), the eggplant and potato with tomato paste, garlic and cumin seeds (below, top-right), the chickpeas with silverbeet and mint (above, top-right), the fried eggplant with walnuts, garlic and za'atar (below, bottom-left) and the mejadara (rice and lentils, below, bottom-right).

There were split opinions as to the best dish of the night, with the fried eggplant and the potato eggplant both getting rave reviews and the spicy beans hitting the mark surprisingly well. It was all fresh and interesting enough for us to polish off everything without any trouble - a pretty impressive feat given how much food there was on the table.

The proprietor generously served us up a selection of fudge to cap the meal off - this wasn't vegan, so Cindy and I scoffed it all and he even more generously dished up some Turkish delights for the other two to take away with them.

We had a great time at Talk of the Town - the food is cheap, varied and delicious, the service is efficient and friendly and the corkage of $1 per beer is pretty damn reasonable. We don't get to Elsternwick that often, and when we do we usually wind up at Ren Dao. It's great to have another option along Glen Huntly Road - we'll be back to work our way through the rest of the salad menu.


Only little white truths and Spatula, Spoon and Saturday have reviewed LTOTT - both were generally enthusiastic. 

Lebanese Talk of the Town
446 Glen Huntly Road, Elsternwick
9528 6591
menus: one, two

Accessibility: There's a step on entry and a fairly narrow dining area. You order and pay at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Strawberry bread pudding

September 13, 2015

Every time I've opened up Isa Does It (and it's often), I've gazed longingly at the strawberries and cream bread pudding. When I noticed two weeks ago that strawberries were cheap and abundant, I started thinking often of the pudding even when I wasn't flicking through cookbooks. I pretty much planned our home-cooked lunch with Carol around making it for dessert. You might notice, for example, that the main meal was pretty low on carbohydrates, to save room for this bready finale.

It goes like this: cube up sturdy day-old bread. Whisk together a custard of almond milk, coconut milk, sugar and cornflour (I may have added some dark rum). Soak the bread in the custard and toss it in a pan with lots of strawberries and a sprinkling of flaked almonds (doesn't it all look eerily white?). Bake the pudding until the almonds and bread are golden and the custard has set. Drizzle over some glaze if you like (more sugar! more rum!), and scoop it into bowls with vanilla icecream.

I'm glad I got to scratch that itch, while strawberries are everywhere and it's still cold enough for pudding. If you move fast, you might capture that crucial window too.

Strawberry bread pudding
(slightly adapted from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Isa Does It)

6 cups bread, chopped into 2cm cubes
3 tablespoons cornflour
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup caster sugar
400mL can coconut milk
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon dark rum
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
500g strawberries, sliced 5mm thick
1/3 cup flaked almonds

2/3 cup icing sugar
2 teaspoons almond milk
1 teaspoon dark rum
2 teaspoons sunflower oil

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a large high-walled baking dish.

Place the bread cubes in a large bowl. Place the cornflour in a smaller bowl and gradually whisk in the almond milk. Whisk in the sugar until it's mostly dissolved. Stir in the coconut milk, lemon juice, dark rum and cinnamon. Pour this mixture over the bread and allow it to steep for around 10 minutes.

Spread the soaked bread cubes and strawberries out in the baking dish and sprinkle them with flaked almonds. Bake the pudding for 30-40 minutes, until the bread is lightly browned. Allow it to cool for 10-20 minutes.

Whisk all of the glaze ingredients together until smooth in a small bowl. Once the pudding has cooled a little, drizzle over the glaze. Serve the pudding with a scoop of icecream.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Saganaki with peppered figs

September 13, 2015

We haven't been to Hellenic Republic for several years, but we still regularly recall the excellence of their saganaki with peppered figs. Saganaki is pretty great any time, and pairing its salty creaminess with sweet dried fruit and a kick of peppery heat was a revelation. Haalo had a recipe published on Cook Almost Anything within months and we're only just now trying it for ourselves six years later.

There's a bit more going on here than just pepper and figs - Haalo has us simmering the dried figs in honey and balsamic vinegar, bay, vanilla and cloves. I adapted on the fly (honey => maple syrup, cinnamon stick => ground cinnamon) and tended it all for a solid hour on the stove. If anything I was too light on the pepper.

The saganaki was a little less simple than I anticipated too. The dusting of flour was fine, but unlike its cousin haloumi, these saganaki triangles bubbled and melted and glooped all over the pan! They're clearly at their best with a fast and dry fry.

They're lessons learned for next time, and they barely lessened our enjoyment this time. This salty, sweet and spicy goodness went down a treat with a huge, tangy green salad.

Saganaki with peppered figs
(slightly adapted from a recipe at Cook Almost Anything)

peppered figs
250g dried figs
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1 vanilla pod
10 cloves

400g saganaki
flour, for dusting
olive oil. for frying

Slice each of the figs in half and place them all in a medium-sized saucepan. Add in the maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, pepper, cinnamon, and bay leaf. Slice the vanilla pod lengthways, scrape the seeds into the saucepan and drop the vanilla pod in too. Add in the cloves. Pour over enough water to cover all the ingredients and simmer them until the figs are soft and the liquid is reduced to a syrup, about an hour. Remove the bay leaf and cloves. Keep the figs and syrup warm.

Slice the saganaki lengthways into 5mm-thick pieces, and lightly dust each piece with flour. Heat just a little oil in a frypan over medium-high heat. Place the saganaki slices in the pan and fry them until just golden on each side (this could take less than a minute!). Serve the saganaki immediately with the figs and syrup spooned over the top.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


September 11, 2015

We've been meaning to visit Wonderbao for years - we're resolutely pro-bun, and the enthusiastic reviews that pop up regularly on vego blogs (see below) have kept it on our radar. My job has recently shifted from Gertrude Street to the city and, although I miss my old favourites, one of the upsides has been the opportunity to scope out some city lunches. Wonderbao is hidden away down an arcade off A'Beckett street and it's easy to miss it if you're not paying attention (Sarah Cooks has a helpful map on her blog post).

The menu is pretty minimal, especially for vegos - there's a tofu gua bao ($4.90) and a mushroom bao ($2.70), plus a couple of sweet bao options ($2.50 each). I didn't have a good sense of how much I should order, so I was relieved to see that they've got a conveniently arranged veggie pack - for $9.50 you get the tofu gua bao and mushroom bao for lunch and the taro bao for dessert.

The tofu is the clear stand-out - a cube of fried silky tofu, with coriander, sweet soy sauce and pickled mustard, folded into a pillowy steamed bun. The mushroom bun isn't bad either - a puffy ball of dough, wrapped around a mixed filling of shitake mushrooms, tofu and veggies. The filling itself isn't popping with flavour, but the sriracha and soy sauce on the table mean you can add a bit of punch as required. The final offering was dessert - a bun stuffed with a smooth, starchy taro-based filling that is a bit sweet and a bit savoury, but mostly pretty bland. I was tempted to add some sriracha just to see if it would make this more memorable, but I resisted. I'm not generally a big fan of taro-based desserts though, so I'm probably not the ideal reviewer of this dish.

Wonderbao is popular - I arrived bang on 12 and managed to score a seat at the window, but there was a queue streaming out the door by 12:15 that showed no signs of disappearing while I was working my way through lunch. The hype is interesting - Wonderbao offer decent value food, with an emphasis on doing one thing and doing it well - but the food itself isn't life-changing, and I doubt I'd be willing to queue up for 20 minutes to grab a seat. Still - on a proper spring day, I can easily imagine grabbing a couple of the tofu gua bao and eating them in the sunshine somewhere else.


Wonderbao might just be the most blogged-about place we've reviewed. Vegos The Good Hearted, Nouveau Potato, VeganopolousThe Chocoholic Philosopher, easy as vegan pie and vegawesome are fans, while The Simple Eater wasn't so impressed. 

The non-veg blog scene is full of praise - with positive reviews from Burn My Mouth Blog, The World Loves Melbourne, Miss.Neverfull, Food & Travel, But Mostly Food, Mango Macarons (two, three),  Easy Food Hacks, Two Clowns Tripping, Klaus & Fritz, Sarah Cooks, Burp!Appetit, Olive Sundays, Never Too Sweet, The Chronicles of Ms I-Hua, The Hungry Traveller, Gourmet Chick, Petit Miamx, confessions of a little piggy, The Chommery, Seeking Victory, Addicted to the Sweet Life, Juganauts Foodie Thoughts, Skinny Glutton, Curiously Celeste, Good Food, Good Mood, The Hangry Bitch, Carly Findlay, Momo & Coco, Simon Food Favourites, Temasek, Ministry of Gluttony, Let's Get Fat Together, Who Told You That?, Food and Tea Traveller, Gastrology, Let Me Feed You Melbourne, Yellow Eggs, Eat.Play.Shop, foodie about town, Jenny Chews, Rumbly in my Tumbly, Foodscrazy, Eat and Be Merry, For Tomorrow We Die(t) (twice), Asian Restaurants in Melbourne, Gastronomic Gems, Yum Yum, egg tarts and apple pie, Plus Ate Six, The Very, Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Epicurean of Southbank, Poor Student Eats/Drinks Melbourne, Food Made With Love, The Hunger Pangs, I came, I saw, I ate, Kaffiekoo, New International Students, The Escort and the Thief, Petit Fours, The Owl's Nest, The Bake-a-Nista, My First Foray, Simple Palates, Seriously, Ultimate Foodie Getaway, Saving, Dining and Travelling, I Talk Too Much My Mouth Hurts, Panda & Cakes, tickle my tastebuds, Couture Foodie, A Photo is Worth a Thousand Words, Lots of Cravings, Snow Crab Nebula, Food Porn Journal, Good Food, Good Karma, A Hedonist's Love, The Adventures of Miss Piggy, Jotting Down my Foodsteps, Wandering Mint, Ellie's Belly Adventures, The Food Society (twice), A Chronicle of Gastronomy, Gluttony Fair, Go to Bread, Not Bed, Crystal Noir, Caramel Love, Live To Eat, Farkthat'snotbad, 50 First Dates, Food is Our Religion, Spoonfuls of Wanderlust, libertine eats, ps: i heart you, I Heart Good Food, Little Miss Peckish, Sweet and Sour Fork, Peach Water, Ichigo Shortcake, Look, See, Food, A Food Trail, Wynne Ma, FoodVixen, Charles Jedidiah, Lunchosaurus and iFat - Food Chronicles and just a few less impressed posts at Curious Charlie, Such Good Life, Pigging Out Around the World and secretemple.

Shop 4/19-37 A'Beckett St, Melbourne CBD
9654 7887
menu 1, menu 2

Accessibility: Wonderbao has a flat entryway into a very small interior. There are a few stools for people eating in, but it's mostly about takeaway. You order from a medium counter. I didn't visit the toilets.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Middle Fish III

Edit 30/08/2017: Sadly Middle Fish is now closed! Their instagram account reports that they'll be opening at a new address in 2019.

September 9, 2015

Michael's job has shifted locations from Fitzroy to the north-western CBD. As a result, Middle Fish has become middle ground between our workplaces. Originally focused on breakfast and lunch, this Thai cafe now trades for dinner, too, and the menu has expanded substantially since our last visit (erm, that was probably me sneaking in for banana roti with a textbook for cover).

Most helpful is a double spread headed "Not Meat". Here Middle Fish spell out that their vegetarian dishes may contain eggs, fish sauce or shrimp paste - it's not quite my definition of lacto-ovo, but there are six dishes clearly marked vegan among them. There are also pages of Thai desserts and street sweets I'd not encountered before, extending their past roti offerings to sago, sticky rice and root vegetables steeped in coconut milks and syrups, some with icecream.

But we were here for dinner. Once we'd placed our order, we were presented with a plate of prawn crackers - a nice gesture, but again stretching the definition of vegetarian further than we usually go.

By contrast, the Thai tea with condensed milk ($3.80) was exactly was I was after, sweet and more woody than bitter, almost orange once I'd stirred it up.

Michael trialled their vegan mussaman ($15) with brown rice - a pleasant rendition with lots of tofu and only mild spices (this was rapidly rectified using the hot sauces at the table).

I insist on roti with Thai curries whenever possible. This one ($4) was thick, thoroughly toasted and very flaky, with a bit o' satay sauce on the side.

I went back for the kai jiew ($14.50) I've ordered several times before - this is an enormous golden-fried omelette studded with tofu and the odd broccoli floret, slouching over a mound of brown rice. I happily laboured over it for some time, dabbing sriracha around with my spoon.

While the light and the ambience is a little dimmer in the evening, Middle Fish remains a bright, relaxed spot for a meal. With the same menu now served for lunch and dinner, there's no need for anyone to miss out.



Middle Fish
122-128 Berkeley St, Carlton
9348 1704
menu foreword, Thai-style breakfast, Kao tom: rice soup, Melbourne breakfast, nibbles, Sa la pao, Southern Thai cuisine, Ka njom jeen, lunch, lunch 2, not meat, Thai dessert, street sweets, cold drinks, hot drinks, tea

Accessibility: There's a flat entry way leading into an incredibly spacious and naturally well-lit dining area (it's a bit dimmer at night). Service takes place at the table, payment at a low counter.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


September 6, 2015

September 6 is the anniversary of our first date (now some fifteen years ago) and also our registry office wedding (ten years ago). This year it fell on Fathers' Day, so it was a day of celebratory lunches for many. We had ours at Matteo's, a decades-old fancy Fitzroy restaurant that we'd not visited before. We were constrained to their Fathers' Day set menu (3 courses for $95), but happily found cute little eggplant symbols marking vegetarian options across every course.

We played swapsies on the two veg entrees. I started on the zucchini flowers, which were stuffed with fetta and tempura battered, and set against a rainbow of heirloom beetroots. Under the whole and shaved beetroots was a beetroot puree with a surprising horseradish kick.

The other entree featured cubes of eggplant fried in a thick crunchy batter and glazed with Sichuan pepper and black vinegar. It was set on a basil silken tofu sauce and covered in a cacophonous collection of fresh herbs.

While Michael enjoyed a cocktail and couple glasses of wine from the drinks menu, there were no non-alcoholic options spelt out. With a nudge from Michael, though, one of their staff mocked up a Moscow Mule-inspired soda.

The vegetarian main was very rich and European, and arrived at our table with a heady waft of truffle oil. The dish centred around a brioche moulded charlotte stuffed with truffled mushrooms. It sat atop wilted water spinach in a pool of porcini sauce, with three bafflingly-peeled cherry tomatoes. On top was a poached egg and fresh snow pea shoots.

For dessert, Michael and I went our separate ways. He had a generous board of cheeses with figs and fruit bread, washed down with a glass of muscat.

Meanwhile, I took on the plate of three (really four!) small desserts. They were safe dishes very well executed: a diamond of flourless orange cake topped with burnt orange curd and a candied mandarin; a small pot of vanilla creme brulee garnished with poached apple and rhubarb (my surprise favourite); a dark chocolate fondant; and a spoon of Medjool date icecream.

On its website, Matteo's fancies itself as the "dapper, slightly eccentric aristocrat of Melbourne fine dining". It's modern Australian, but not up-to-the-minute trendy - the heavy tablecloths, plush furnishings and formal service style are quite traditional and this 'fusion' approach has been kicking around a long while too. While our entrees were brightly coloured and flavoured, the mains and desserts were more staid, and the $95 price tag felt a little steep. But this is probably the lot of the Fathers Day set menu, and I remain interested in experiencing their regular vegetarian options.



533 Brunswick St, Fitzroy North
9481 1177
Fathers' Day special menu

Accessibility: There is a small step on entry. Tables are quite densely packed. We received full table service. Toilets were gendered, relative narrow, and located up a narrow set of 4-5 steps.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Pumpkin flatbread

September 5, 2015

This little half-recipe caught my eye while I was reading the blog Challenge Accepted! earlier this year. It's a pumpkin spring onion pancake with just three ingredients. Substituting sauteed leek for the spring onion, we rolled ours out flatter, fried them in a little less oil and used them as flatbread to eat with spiced chickpeas and coconut spinach.

Mashed pumpkin is a beautifully soft and sweet binder for this kind of bread, which can otherwise be a little bit tough (... when I make it, anyway). The bread was a soothing flavour and grounding texture alongside these tangy curries.

Pumpkin flatbread
(from the blog Challenge Accepted!)

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

Remove the skin from some pumpkin and slice it into large wedges. Roast the wedges until they're very tender, 40-50 minutes. (If you're using a leek, use this time to slice it into rounds and saute it in a frypan until soft.) When they are cool enough to handle, transfer the pumpkin to a large bowl and mash it thoroughly. (If you're using a leek, stir it into the mashed pumpkin.) Sprinkle over a little salt, and use a wooden spoon to fold in plain flour a 1/4 cup at a time, until you've formed a tacky dough.

Roll out some baking paper onto a bench, and liberally dust it with flour. Pinch off a 1/4 cup round of dough and plop it on the paper, dusting the top with a little more flour. Roll out the dough to form a rough circle about 3mm thick. Heat up a frypan with just a touch of oil, and fry the flatbread for 30-60 seconds per side, until it's dry on the surface and brown spots appear. Repeat the rolling and frying process with the remaining dough.

Saturday, September 12, 2015


September 5, 2015

We were tipped off by a couple of different friends about the recent opening of Tahina, a vego Israeli place that's recently popped up on High Street in Northcote. We were on a weekend mission to Preston to get some La Panella pies, and Tahina was the perfect pit-stop along the way.

It's a cosy little place with counter seating for maybe 16 people, suggesting that they're hoping for a big takeaway trade. The menu is split between savoury Middle Eastern delights and an array of smoothies. Food-wise there's two kinds of falafel, three kinds of shakshuka plus a bunch of salads and pita pockets. It's all veg and super vegan-friendly - even the shakshuka can be veganised, with eggplant swapped in for the eggs. 

Cindy couldn't resist sampling something off the smoothie menu - the Monte Carlo was a vegan mix of strawberries, cashews, oats, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, almond milk and ice ($10).

This was almost a meal in itself! She thoroughly enjoyed this creamy-berry-nutty concoction.

We weighed up the shakshuka, but decided instead to go all vegan. The mixed falafel platter came with both green (parsley, coriander and mint) and red (chilli and red peppers) falafels, along with Israeli salad, pickled cabbage and tahini sauce ($12). They threw in some pita bread ($2 extra).

The falafels were fantastic, a big step up from the dry offerings at Bowery to Williamsburg. The mixed platter was a bit of a random sample, with five red falafels and just one green - not to worry though, the red falafels were top notch, with a decent chilli kick. The accompaniments were great as well, and the bread was incredible - this is a damn fine $14 meal.

Even better was the other dish we ordered: the cauliflower papiot ($7), a whole roasted baby cauliflower with garlic, rosemary, thyme and lemon, with a tahini-based sauce on top and a big slathering of hummus underneath.

The cauliflower was charred to within an inch of its life - tender and smoky, with plenty of tang from the tahini and lemon. This seems like it'd be pretty easy to try at home - we've been on a bit of a roll with cauliflower lately, but this just about takes the cake.

There are a couple of desserts to choose from - Billy van Creamy tahini ice cream ($5) or affogato with tahini ice cream ($7) - we didn't have the space to try them out on this trip, but we'll surely go back and try them out. Tahina is a brilliant addition to Melbourne's food scene - fantastic, affordable vego food, with tons of vegan options and a friendly, casual vibe. It's like Northcote's very own Mankoushe - we can't wait to get back and try more of the menu!


223 High St, Northcote
9972 1479

Accessibility: There's a small lip on the entryway. The interior is a bit crowded and all the seating is at high benches. You order and pay at the counter.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The B-East III

September 2, 2015

It's only a couple of months since I posted about the B-East's vegan Mondays, but I wanted to alert you to their new regular menu. The vegan-friendly mock-chicken Morrissey ($13) is still there and the fries ($7 + $1 for fancy sauce) remain excellent.

The big news for non-vegan vegetarians is TATER TOT NACHOS ($12). They come with bacon as a default, but that's easily done away with. There's still a lot to love here - potato gems layered with salsa roja and roasted sweetcorn, jalapenos, melted cheese and sour cream. It's a sometimes food that I'll relish every time I order it.


You can also read about one, two of our previous B-East visits.

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

Accessibility: There's a wide entry with a ramp. Tables are a mix of standard and high, chairs a mix of stools and backed with a baby's high chair or two on hand. Furniture is pretty densely packed but there are wide corridors through the middle. It's dimly lit and noisy, with food and drinks to be ordered and paid for 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).

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Bougatsa me Krema

August 30, 2015

I was smitten by this recipe the day that Greek Vegetarian Lisa posted it, but it's taken almost two years for me to try my hand at it. I gave it a go on a Sunday afternoon home alone, but not before I set some seitan simmering and cued up Netflix to replay the second season of United States of Tara.

The centre of the slice is a custard thrice-thickened with cornflour, semolina and eggs. I also made sure to add my fanciest vanilla. The custard is wrapped simply in a few layers of filo pastry, dabbed with butter. (Make sure to watch the video embedded in Lisa's post for some expert elastic bougatsa wrapping!) Since we weren't able to eat it all in a day I stored most of the custard and pastry separately in the fridge, assembling and baking just one pastry every few days when we were ready for it.

I'm not usually one for daintily dusting sweets on serving, but I think the sugar and cinnamon really liven up this dessert. We also accompanied ours with sliced kiwi fruit on the side - it turns out that kiwi and custard make a great team.

Bougatsa me Krema
(a recipe found on Greek Vegetarian,
where it's credited to George Columbaris' Greek Cookery)

3 tablespoons cornflour
4 tablespoons semolina
2/3 cup castor sugar
2 eggs
650mL milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
20 sheets filo pastry
150g melted butter
icing sugar and ground cinnamon for dusting

In a medium-large saucepan, stir together the cornflour, semolina and sugar. Whisk in the eggs and then the milk. Set the mixture over medium heat and cook it, stirring regularly, until the custard thickens, about 5-10 minutes. The semolina may cause it to thicken unevenly - just keep stirring and don't worry about it too much. Take the custard off the heat and whisk in the vanilla, trying to smooth out those semolina lumps as best you can too. Set the custard aside to cool a bit.

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

On the baking tray or a bench, layer five of the filo pastry sheets, brushing a little melted butter between each layer. Spoon a quarter of the cooled custard into the centre of the pastry rectangle, forming a rectangle of about 10cm x 15cm. Wrap the filo pastry up into a rectangular package (the video on Greek Vegetarian's page is a good guide), using a bit more melted butter to 'glue' the pastry up. Repeat with the remaining pastry, butter and custard to make four custard pastries and arrange them on the baking tray.

Bake the pastries for 20 minutes, until lightly golden, turning them upside down halfway through. Allow the pastries to rest for at least 10 minutes before dusting them with icing sugar and cinnamon, then slicing and serving.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Slow-cooked red seitan

August 30, 2015

I've hit my seitan stride this year and it's high time I blogged my preferred recipe. It comes from Steen and Noyes' Vegan Sandwiches Save The Day, with only the most minor adaptations from me. Originally called 'moo-free seitan', it's clearly aimed at replacing red sandwich meats and has tomato paste, tamari and smoked paprika worked into the dough. Besides these reddening agents, there's also garlic, onion, nooch and liquid smoke to reinforce that savoury flavour.

I also like that this recipe makes use of my oft-neglected slow cooker. It's little trouble to rustle up the requisite ingredients, submerge a couple of dough loaves in broth, and allow them to slowly simmer over the course of 8 hours. Once done, that's one loaf for the fridge, one for the freezer, and a couple litres of stock as a bonus. 

I've found that the seitan slices brown and crisp up nicely in a frypan while remaining juicy (and even pink!) in the centre. They fare well as simple chops, but also hold up to stir-frying and gravy-smothering.

Slow-cooked red seitan
(slightly adapted from Celine Steen & Tamasin Noyes'
Vegan Sandwiches Save The Day)

seitan dough
2 cup gluten flour
3 tablespoons soy flour
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon 'beef' stock powder
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup tamari
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1 1/4 cups water

cooking broth
2 teaspoons 'beef' stock powder
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon tamari
4-8 cups water
4 cloves garlic, sliced
black pepper

In a medium sized bowl, stir together the gluten flour, soy flour, nooch, spices and stock powder.

Place the tomato paste in a small bowl. Whisk in the tamari and liquid smoke, and then 1 cup of the water. Pour all of this liquid into the bowl of dry ingredients and stir them together with a wooden spoon to form a dough. The aim is to make a dense, firm dough - add in as much of the extra 1/4 cup water you need to bring all the dry ingredients together. Knead the dough in the bowl for a few minutes, scrunching your fingers right in to stretch the gluten strands. Divide the dough into two little loaves and place them side by side in a slow cooker.

Prepare the cooking broth by whisking together the stock powder, tomato paste and tamari, then stirring in 1 cup water. Pour this mixture over the seitan loaves in the slow cooker. Continue pouring in more water until the seitan is just covered. Drop in the garlic slices and add a few grinds of pepper. 

Cook the seitan on low for 8 hours, using tongs to turn the loaves over at the 4 hour mark. Allow the seitan to cool a while in the broth before cooking with it or storing it. We refrigerate or freeze the seitan, and reserve the strained broth to use as stock (often freezing it too).

Monday, September 07, 2015

Bowery to Williamsburg

August 29, 2015

Cindy and I needed a decent pit-stop amidst a busy Sunday at the Melbourne Writers Festival, and were excited to discover that Bowery to Williamsburg has expanded their hours to include weekends. We've been reading the hype since they opened a few years ago (check out the ~80 blog posts below), but haven't had a chance to sample the NYC-inspired menu before. It's a small cafe tucked down a flight of stairs on Oliver Lane, with a big communal table, a handful of tiny solo/duo tables and some big outdoor spots. We sheltered indoors from the cold as soon as they could squeeze us in.

The brunch menu is pretty meaty - vegos can choose from a shakshuka, a haloumi and eggs dish, waffles, a sandwich or sweets. I was looking forward to checking out some sort of exciting sandwich option, but I've been a bit spoiled by the likes of Smith & Deli and True North - there's no vego rueben on offer here. Instead, I went for the falafel wrap ($15), adding a side of mac 'n' cheese, pretzels and a pickle for an extra $5.

The mac 'n' cheese was a delight, and the highlight of the meal - a bit of crispiness on top and a creamy, gooey, cheesy interior. The falafel wrap was okay - the pickled turnip and yoghurty condiments keeping things interesting, but the falafel themselves were a bit on the dry side and not hugely memorable. When you can get incredibly high quality falafel rolls at places like Mankoushe and Half Moon for less than a tenner, then it's hard to justify forking over $15 for this. 

Cindy focussed her attention on the sweets cabinet, picking out a blueberry vanilla pie ($6) to pair with her jaffa shake ($7).

The shake was a success - it tasted almost exactly like someone had blended up a bag of jaffas and some milk, which is basically what you want from a jaffa milkshake. The pie was less exciting - served with a big puff of gross aerated cream and loaded up with too much sugar, overpowering any fruitiness from the berries. Disappointing.

Our experience of Bowery to Williamsburg left us both pretty underwhelmed - watching people get massive rueben sandwiches and ridiculous chicken and waffle dishes it was easy to see why it has been such a successful venture. But for vegos, the options are pretty limited (vegans will really struggle) - you're much better off heading over to Fitzroy for your New York-style deli experience. On the upside, the coffee is excellent and the staff were friendly and helpful, but the food just didn't excite us enough to inspire a return visit any time soon.


Bowery to Williamsburg is ridiculously popular with bloggers. A Food Story, Thoughts of a Moni, stem of sky, bonjourchickie, Mon's Adventure, A Chronicle of Gastronomy, MyFoodBelly, Brunch Addict, Laws of the Kitchen, The Lifestyle Monolog, Sydney Coffee Nerd, off the spork, Lily & Ouk Eat Food, Gourmet Chick, MoMo & Coco, Eat.Live.Escape, Addicted to the Sweet Life, Poppet's Window, grazing panda, Little Wanderings, Petit Miamx, Eat And Be Merry, For Tomorrow We Die(t) (twice), Yellow Eggs, A Rumbly Tummy, fresh bread, Foodie About Town, Feast Wisely, Food. Travel. Superlatives, Peach Water, melbourne gastronome, This (Hungry) Little Piggy, The Mob Review, The Glutton's Diet, Mostly Food Adventures, Mango Macarons, BLK's Food Blog, The Sinful Organic Cook, Spoonfuls of Wanderlust, Tales of an Amateur Cook, Kat Romig, WHOISNINABELLE, To Stay or To Go?, Cartolina Gourmet, Adventures of a Melbourne Girl, New International Students, Hungry Kittens, Eve Lovelle, The Yay or Nay Blog, Pigging Out Around the World, Doughnut forget me!, The Epicurean of Southbank, The Breakfast Experiment, A Food Fable, The Hangry Bitch, The Global Rambler, The World Loves Melbourne, Good Food, Good Karma, VenueMob, The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar, Verdict lobster, chasing a plate (twice), Sarah Cooks, MEL: HOT OR NOT, Golden Delicious Smile, forksake, Eat. Play. Shop, Gastronomical Ramblings, Sweet and Sour Fork, DE-BRIEFME, Food, Fitness and Foucault (twice), Snow Crab Nebula, Ming Tian, A Chronicle of Gastronomy, Hungry Cookie and kit & kafoodle all loved it, while Let's Get Fat Together, Nouveau Potato, delightfully tasty, The Escort and the Thief, Painting Rachel Red and Dammit Janet I Love Food were less impressed. 


Bowery to Williamsburg
16 Oliver Lane, Melbourne
9077 0162

Accessibility: The outdoor area has flat access, but there's a short staircase down to the cafe proper. Things inside are pretty crowded - the outdoor tables were pretty close together too. Toilets were unisex but narrow, and access involved stairs.