Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Little River II

Update 27/1/2019 - Little River seems to have closed down (although there's some indication on their Zomato page that this is only temporary)

October 24, 2015

On our first hit-and-miss visit to Little River, I noted that I'd be interested in coming back for lunch. We finally followed through on Saturday. The sun shone through the windows but it was cool inside, and Little River was hosting a steady stream of customers.

Michael wanted what those other customers were having before he'd even heard its description. It revealed itself to be a daily special of vegan tofu quesadillas ($15) stuffed with tofu and beetroot hummus (plus what we reckon was Biocheese) and a side of corn salsa and guacamole. Michael loved this fresh and hefty plateful, but wished for a bottle of hot sauce to spice it up.

I requested the vegan option on their corn fritter wrap ($9). A solid toaster-pressing held this together well, and I enjoyed the juicy filling of charred corn, capsicum, spinach and avocado. I couldn't really detect the chutney and wished for just a touch of acidity - perhaps a lime wedge on the side? The lightly dressed rocket garnish certainly helped.

I held off on a milkshake and saved room for something from the cake cabinet, picking out a vegan-friendly pecan slice ($5). It was soft and sweet, perhaps not at deeply caramelised as I prefer, but still darn good. It'd even survive a takeaway bag, I reckon.

We received cheery and efficient service, and weren't hurried out the door. It's lovely to see this vegetarian cafe holding its own with unpretentious, fresh foods.


You can read about our first visit to Little River here. Since then it has also featured on veganfoodtour.

Little River
Shop 7, 208 Albion St, Brunswick
9973 0473
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a small lip on the door and a shallow ramp as an alternative to the three steps up inside. Tables are arranged quite spaciously; we ordered there and paid at a low-medium counter. The toilet is a unisex cubicle - access is flat but narrow, inside is spacious but lacks handrails and other dedicated supports. There are a couple of high chairs and a small selection of children's toys available.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Char-grilled broccoli with chickpeas, almonds, lemon & chilli

October 22, 2015

I'm really enjoying my new cookbook and, after a load of chips at trivia on Tuesday, I decided that Wednesday was a good night to get my salad on again. This broccoli-based salad had a few advantages: it looked simple to make, it had a good mix of veggies and protein, and it seemed like it would be goddamn delicious. 

It lived up to all three promises, although the preparation was a bit more involved than I initially imagined. It would work a lot better if you cooked the broccoli on a bbq as the recipe suggests, as cranking our non-stick frying pan up to charring heat levels left me a bit on edge. And that made it hard to remember to check up on the toasting almond flakes. Luckily, I just about got things right - the broccoli could probably have charred for a bit longer to get more of the smokiness that the recipe promises. Regardless, the combination of crispy almond flakes, fried capers and big hits of lemon and chilli, plus loads of mint and parsley really added some oomph to the base of broccoli, spinach and chickpeas.

The parmesan isn't essential, so this is an easy veganisable dish, and one that we'll definitely come back to again.

Char-grilled broccoli with chickpeas, almonds, lemon & chilli
(slightly adapted from a recipe in Hetty McKinnon's Community)

1kg broccoli (3 heads), cut into florets
6 tablespoons olive oil
100g capers, rinsed and drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups baby spinach leaves
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 cup parsley leaves, chopped
1 cup mint leaves, chopped
80g parmesan, shaved
100g flaked almonds, toasted
salt and pepper

Toss the broccoli florets in half the olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.

Heat a frying pan (or a bbq if you're doing it properly) until it's super hot and throw in the broccoli. Cook for 6-8 minutes, turning regularly, until the broccoli florets have charred up a bit.

Put the other half of the oil in a small saucepan with the capers, garlic and chilli flakes. Heat it up until the garlic just begins to change colour (you really don't want to burn it!) and then kill the heat, and pour the oil/garlic/caper/chilli mix over the broccoli.

Stir in the chickpeas, spinach leaves, lemon zest and some more salt and pepper and toss well.

Serve, topped with lemon juice, mint, parsley, parmesan and almonds.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Glass Den

October 18, 2015

The Glass Den is a roomy Coburg cafe set within the D-division gatehouse of the now-decommissioned Pentridge Prison. In the past month they've really ramped up their vegan menu options, so we skulked in for a late breakfast on Sunday morning.

Though it's a meat-and-all menu, it's clear they know their stuff. There are dairy and three non-dairy mylk options on the first page (plus a vegan coffee frappe hidden further back!), and vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free symbols scattered everywhere. They're almost to be expected, perhaps, on the chia pudding and smashed avo dishes, but coconut mousse, coconut bacon and mushroom substitutions mean that plates like the big breakfast and the calamari salad are also on the veg*n table. You've actually gotta hunt for the eggs and bacon (they are there). It all made for some tough  decision-making.

Michael needed a flu fighter juice (carrot, ginger and orange; $7) to combat his sniffles.

With that done he demanded a second big nutrient boost from the Shrooms & Kale ($15.50), a plate of multi-grain sourdough toast, sauteed kale and garlic mushrooms, pine nuts and coconut bacon. The coconut bacon lacked colour but the dish was well-seasoned. Unfortunately the thick, crusty toast and lack of sauciness rendered this a little dry.

I took a chance on the coconut hotcakes ($16.90). They're vegan and gluten-free by default and read a little overwrought - "gluten free hotcakes, grilled banana, berry foam, maple syrup, candied almonds and coconut". Actually they seem to be one of the cafe's most popular dishes, and I saw several pretty plates delivered to the tables around me before I got my paws on this one.

My suspicions were unfounded - these were excellent hotcakes, with the texture of a flourless almond cake. The fruity trimmings were very generous and complementary. I can't think of many (any?) better gleegan breakfasts around Melbourne.

With a belly full of hotcakes, I barely glanced at the sweet treats by the till. But here they are! They looked nice, and some of 'em were labelled vegan too.

Service was welcoming but a little slow, and it won't deter us from visiting again. This is a menu we want to see more of.


The Glass Den
15 Urquhart St, Coburg
9354 5032
brews, breakfast, lunch, cold drinks, booze

Accessibility: There's a flat entry and clear corridors throughout the cafe, but the tables and chairs are densely arranged. We ordered at our table and paid at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Peanut butter & blueberry pie

October 17, 2015

Michael and I unintentionally went over-the-top on peanuts in our contributions to Hayley's birthday picnic, doubling down on roasted peanuts and peanut butter in both dishes. While Michael's dressed a kale and quinoa salad, mine formed the base flavour for a sweet little pie.

My first contact with this pie was as a recipe tester for Leigh Drew's Wrapped in Pastry. The peanut butter caramel filling was always destined to win me over, but it was the fresh blueberry topping that proved to be the clincher. Instead of the depth and richness of a more predictable chocolate/peanut butter pairing, blueberries really lighten up the caramel and lend a hint of tartness. It makes for a really nice springtime dessert.

The shortcrust pastry was not my best effort. I think I added too little liquid, rendering it crumbly and difficult to roll (yet so very easy to swear at). By contrast, the peanut butter caramel was simple and completed in perhaps 5 minutes. I enjoyed taking a little longer over the topping, alternating decorative circles of blueberries and roasted peanuts to pretty, homely effect.

This isn't the kind of recipe that will ever enter our weekly rotation but I can see myself enjoying it all the more for pulling it out once a year, when blueberries are cheap-ish and there are friends to feed.

Peanut butter & blueberry pie
(a recipe from Leigh Drew's Wrapped in Pastry,
made available online through her blog)

2 cups plain flour
1/4 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup margarine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup almond milk

caramel filling
1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
1 cup almond milk
1 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup fresh blueberries
2/3 cup salted roasted peanuts

To make the pastry, place the flour and icing sugar in a food processor and pulse them briefly to combine. Add the margarine and blend until it's thoroughly mixed through the flour. With the blades still rotating, pour in the lemon juice. Drip in the almond milk a tablespoon at a time and continue blending until the ingredients are well mixed; they might even pull together into a dough ball. Turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, push it together into a dough ball with your hands, wrap it up in the plastic and refrigerate the dough for 2 hours.

Preheat an oven to 180°C and lightly spray a pie dish with oil. Retrieve the dough ball from the fridge, and unwrap it, leaving the spread out glad wrap between the ball and the bench. Arrange another piece of plastic wrap on top of the dough, and roll the ball out between the two plastic sheets to fit the pie dish. When it looks like a good fit, remove the plastic on top and ease the pastry into the dish open side down. Pull off the second layer of plastic and fit the pastry into the dish, trimming and patching where needed. Poke some holes in the base with a fork and bake the pastry until it's lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Allow the pastry to cool on the bench.

To make the filling, place the peanut butter and almond milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir them regularly until they're well-mixed and smooth, then take them off the heat. Sift in the icing sugar and add the vanilla, whisking everything together until it's very smooth. Pour the caramel into the pastry case and smooth over the top to even it out. Decorate the top of the pie with alternating concentric circles of blueberries and peanuts. Refrigerate the pie for around 2 hours before slicing and serving.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Ginger-peanut kale with tofu & quinoa

October 17, 2015

I recently had a bit of a work shake-up, meaning I left a research group in Sydney that I'd been working with (mostly remotely) for the last three years. We had a lovely farewell dinner earlier in the week, and I was thrilled with the parting gift they gave me - the Arthur Street Kitchen cookbook Community. I was even more thrilled to realise that I could bust this book out straight away, to contribute to Hayley's birthday potluck picnic.

The book's probably 70% vegetarian and 30% vegan and, to make sure everyone picnicking could indulge, I focussed on the vegan options. The Thai kohlrabi, cabbage and apple slaw was tempting, as was the smashed chickpeas with broccoli and dukkah, but in the end I went with one of the dishes featured on the cover: ginger-peanut kale with tofu and quinoa.

There are a few separate bits to the recipe, but nothing is very complicated, and you can knock the whole thing off in about an hour without any trouble. The kale seems ludicrously disproportionate compared to the sauce, but it shrinks down nicely in the end, so don't panic. The end result is wonderful - the kale and quinoa soak up lots of peanutty flavour, and the tofu and roasted peanuts add texture and variety. It's easily a meal on its own, but thankfully it also works well in a potluck-style picnic situation.

Ginger-peanut kale with tofu & quinoa
(slightly adapted from a recipe in Hetty McKinnon's Community)

1 big bunch of kale (~500g), roughly shredded (stems removed)
350g firm tofu, cut into thin slices
1 red onion, thinly sliced
300g (1.5 cups) quinoa
2 teaspoons Massel 'chicken' stock powder
1 cup of roasted, salted peanuts
Veggie oil, for frying
salt and pepper

1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup water
2 tablespoons tahini
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 teaspoons tamari
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup (it's honey in the original, but this is more vegan appropriate)
salt and pepper

This recipe has basically three separate processes: the kale 'n' sauce, the quinoa and the tofu and onion frying - it doesn't really matter what order you do them in, but the quinoa takes a good 25-30 minutes, so it can be left to cook while you're doing the rest.

Pop the quinoa, a pinch of salt and stock powder in a medium sized saucepan and fill with water to about 2cm above the quinoa (which kind of floats, making this a bit tricky to judge).

Bring it to the boil and the simmer, covered until the quinoa is cooked and the water is absorbed - about 25 minutes.

Sauce and kale
Melt all of the sauce ingredients together in another medium saucepan. You should wind up with a smooth and slightly thick sauce.

Kill the heat and stir in the kale, a bit at a time - it looks like a complete mismatch in size, but the kale will shrink down a bit as the hot sauce wilts it. I tossed it all together as well as I could and then left the saucepan covered (with the heat off) so that everything kept cooking.

Tofu and onion
Season the tofu slices with salt and pepper.

Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a frying pan on medium-high heat. Fry the tofu for 6-8 minutes on each side until it's nice and golden.

Allow the slices to cool and then cut them crossways into little strips.

Throw the onion in the same frying pan (with another tablespoon of oil if necessary) and cook slowly, for 10-12 minutes, until it's super soft and caramelised.

Finishing it off!
Once everything has cooled down a little, combine the quinoa, saucy kale, tofu and onions in a large bowl. Top with the roasted peanuts and serve.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Lab Culinary Competition

October 12, 2015

After a couple of years' reluctant absence, I was thrilled to attend the 2015 lab culinary competition at my workplace. This beloved tradition celebrates comfort baking, daring new recipes and clever presentation. Only a select few are prize winners (of plastic dinosaurs, lemon-juicing gadgets, grape-flavoured marshmallows and other miscellany), but everyone is guaranteed a very good lunch.

In keeping with the event's conviviality I include photos of all entries in my slideshow, and some do contain meat. Along the way you'll probably spot my two entries, a potato samosa salad (winner of the You Can Win Friends With Salad prize) and mini alfajores (winner of the Little Morsel award). I owe it all to Terry Hope Romero!


You can also read about past culinary competitions from 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Moroccan Deli-Cacy

Update, 27/1/2019:  Hana Assifiri has handed over Moroccan Deli-Cacy to new managers - it's now trading as Alisha's Cafe Collective.

October 11, 2015

There have been rumblings for a while about a new Brunswick venture for the people behind the Moroccan Soup Bar, surely a member of Melbourne's vego hall-of-fame. We stumbled across the new venture on Saturday, and promptly returned for lunch the next day. They've taken over the old Miramar Nut Shop, which was a stalwart of the Brunswick food scene for decades. Rather than wiping the slate clean, the new owners have maintained a connection with the site's history - the nut shop side of the business has been retained, alongside an array of Middle Eastern groceries and spices, while they've added in a lunch and coffee bar to show off the skills honed over nearly twenty years at the Fitzroy restaurant.

The ordering process is hilariously simple - you specify how hungry you are (we said 7.5 on a scale of 1 to 10), any dietary restrictions you have (e.g. if you're vegan or gluten-free) and whether or not you want things spicy. And then you just sit down and wait for a plate of amazing goodness to be delivered (these cost $15 - presumably it's less if you specify a lower level of hunger).

Our meal included two stunning falafel balls, three different grain-based salads, a potato salad, some fresh lettuce and herbs plus a generous splodge of hummus, pickles and a side of bread. There's also a tablespoon or so of harissa hiding under there somewhere. By my reckoning, this was all vegan, although we weren't totally certain about the felafel sauce. I was knocked out by this meal - it was bright and colourful and loaded with fresh, punchy flavours.

I ordered a coffee to finish things off, and was easily convinced to try a traditional Moroccan nous-nous, or half-half (see this post for a summary of how to make your own). The coffee was wonderful, with a strong but not bitter hit. The staff generously threw in a small serve of stunning ricotta pancakes with a sticky, citrussy syrup on top.

This was one of the best lunches I've had in ages - sitting in the window looking out of the Lygon Street sunshine and eating this wonderful food really made me realise how lucky I am to live in this spectacular city. Between Moroccan Deli-Cacy and the ever-reliable Mankoushe up the road, this neck of the woods has the cheap, Mediterranean-style lunch market sewn up.


Moroccan Deli-Cacy
313 Lygon Street, Brunswick East (formerly the Miramar Nut Shop)
9387 6805
There's no website or menu - our plates were $15 a pop.

Accessibility: There's a small step up on entry. The interior is pretty crowded with the deli goods and spices, and the inside seats are all high stools. There are a few lower outdoor tables on the footpath. You order and pay at a relatively high counter.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Beaufort III

Update 27/1/2019: The Beaufort has, sadly, closed down and been replaced by a pizza place.

October 7, 2015

Every now and then, we're reminded of the Beaufort and I think fondly of their vegan ribs. We don't live as close by as we used to, but last week they were located squarely on the cycling path between the Melbourne Museum SmartBar event and home, right when we needed dinner.

The ribs as we knew them are no longer available, but Ike's Rack Shack (situated inside the pub) remains admirably vegan-friendly.... that is, if the vegan in question is willing to eat alongside the giant slabs of meat ordered by most of their co-diners. 

The striking flesh-free alternative is the Vegan BBQ Tray ($25) and it's plenty to share. Clockwise from top-right, it includes a toasted roll and coleslaw, 14 hour hickory smoked daikon (which I mistook for eggplant), a spicy Texicana style smoked barley sausage in BBQ sauce, smoked pulled squash, ranch sauce and southern fried portobello mushrooms. The roll and 'slaw were Bunnings grade and we didn't care for the mushy-textured sausage, but the daikon and mushrooms were terrific. The French fries ($8) were tasty, baffling name-droppers boasting "yugo seasoning" and "dobranaise(c)".

I'm gonna miss Ike's ribs, but good on 'em for this creative contribution to Melbourne's mock meat scene.

You can also read about one and two of our previous visits to the Beaufort. Soon after the second post, their meaty offering were positively reviewed on off the spork.


The Beaufort
421 Rathdowne St, Carlton
9347 8171

Accessibility: The Beaufort has a single step on entry and notably spacious table arrangement - mostly at standard height and with few tables at tall bar height. The rack shack is more crowded and includes an additional step up. The lighting's dim and the music is loud. They accept orders at the table in the rack shack, and require ordering and payment at a high bar in the main pub area. Food is brought to the table. Toilets are gendered and relatively narrow.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Vegan sausage & egg muffins

October 14, 2015

We had a quiet Sunday lined up and, rather than heading out for another cafe breakfast, I decided to reinvigorate our home-breakfast game (which used to be quite strong). I let Cindy take charge of the menu planning, and then set to work delivering on her choices. The plan wound up being to make little eggy muffin treats - inspired by the oven-baked mini-omelettes in Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Isa Does It. These turn out to be very similar to the classic version from Vegan Brunch but made much less stressful by the use of a muffin pan and the oven rather than a frying pan and flipping skills.

Cindy knew she'd seen a recipe for little breakfast sausage patties to really kick these eggy muffins up a notch. She dug it up from Vegan Sandwiches Save The Day and I got cracking. A bit of planning would have made this a lot easier - the tempeh is supposed to marinate for a couple of hours, which is not something you want to read at 9am on Sunday when you're getting excited about breakfast. I cut back the time the patties got to soak up the flavours, but balanced things out by pouring the marinade over the patties while they were frying. It worked out okay in the end - they were spicy and smokey and generally pretty ace. I think cutting the tempeh into 8 thinner patties would work better, but the thick version is clearly aiming at mimicking a fat sausage patty. We added in some wilted spinach leaves and cherry tomatoes for colour, but this is really all about the sausage and egg.

This was an excellent breakfast, and one that would be super easy if you were organised the night before. The omelette mix is a simple food-processor job and would keep in the fridge overnight and the tempeh patties would benefit from the long marinating time. Then all you'd have to do in the morning would be to bake up the omelettes, toast some muffins and fry the tempeh.

Country sausage patties
(slightly adapted from Celine Steen & Tamasin Noyes' Vegan Sandwiches Save The Day)

225g block of tempeh, quartered into four thick squares
1/2 cup veggie stock
1 tablespoon liquid smoke
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
oil for frying

Simmer the tempeh chunks in boiling water for about 20 minutes.

Mix together the stock, liquid smoke, oil and spices in a medium sized pan or baking tray. Add the tempeh patties, flipping them around to get them coated in the marinade. Refrigerate for as long as you can - the recipe suggests at least 2 hours, but we were disorganised and could only wait for 1. Overnight would be best if you're aiming for breakfast.

Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the tempeh - about 5-8 minutes on each side until they brown up nicely.

Serve, on English muffins with mini tofu omelettes, wilted spinach and your condiment of choice.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Healthy Planet

October 3, 2015

Healthy Planet opened its doors last summer on the intersection best known for holding Piedemonte's supermarket in Fitzroy North. It's not been receiving much mention in our corner of the veg-eating grapevine so we had few expectations when we walked in on grand final morning.

We found a spacious and casual eatery with a big snack cabinet and chalkboard juice list. The clipboard menus begin with a multi-colour coding system marking vegan, gluten-free, fructose-free and nut-free foods across the all-vegetarian menu. From there, there are coffees, juices, smoothies, a dozen breakfast plates, about half as many lunch plates, and a guide to the regular, vegan and raw sweets on display.

We started out with some nicely chilled juices, served in 2015's typical twee style. Michael's Summer Vitality ($7.50) was a refreshing combination of apple, celery, spinach, mint, lemon and coconut water. I sorely needed the Instant Energy ($8.95), and frothy and almost jammy mix of strawberry, watermelon, lemon and chia seeds.

Michael had some trouble ascertaining with the staff whether the HP energy bowl was vegan (not marked so on the menu, but a seemingly innocuous mix of rolled oats, lentils, avocado, salsa, baba ganoush and pita bread). Ultimately he opted for the more clearly vegan-friendly Sunrise Scramble Tofu ($14.50) and was impressed with the medley of mushroom, capsicum, onion and spinach and decent kick of cayenne. The sweet potato side was just fine, and he was chuffed with the avocado toast.

In the mood for something sweet but substantial, I had fewer options available to me. The HP French Toast ($12.50) was well executed but very, very basic; showered with icing sugar and served with a dish of maple syrup and a solitary, quartered strawberry. It was really down to the juice to maintain any balance in my meal.

I'm not sure whether grand final day was to blame, but Healthy Planet was a little low on energy. While the menu and display cabinet show a lot of ingredient details, the staff of the day weren't as knowledgeable and forthcoming. We waited a long time to receive our meals even though the cafe was at 30% occupancy. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the casual and spacious setting and much of what we ate. We'll give 'em another go when we're in the neighbourhood.

Healthy Planet
252 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North
9481 8406
drinks, breakfast, lunch, cakes
facebook page

Accessibility: Lookin' pretty good - a flat entry way, spaciously distributed and sturdy furniture, low counter. We ordered and paid at the low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Strawberry & rose sundaes

October 1-2, 2015

When a date for our most recent Ottolenghi feast was announced, I swiftly staked a claim on dessert. Promising icecream served my cause well. There was still the matter of which icecream. In addition to the rich halva sundae from Plenty More (bzzzzt - already done) there are several online options, from a dense rocky road experience to a tropical coconut scoop served with roasted pineapple in the new NOPI book.

Ultimately, I leaned on those gorgeous strawberries doing the rounds right now. They're the major component of NOPI's strawberry and rose mess, blended up into a sorbet and also diced up fresh. Then there's a cacophony of sweet, sour, perfumed, creamy and crunchy supplied by mascarpone and crème fraîche, pomegranate seeds and syrups, meringues and dried rose petals.

The flavours and textures in my version were flawed but forgiving. The cream and the syrup were very runny, and didn't taste much of the rosewater or sumac they made use of. I seized on  Ottolenghi's permission to buy ready-made meringues, and they were homogeneously, crisply dry. The sorbet was soft and frothy (I credit the corn syrup) and quick to melt. It mattered little, with everyone eagerly spooning into their share, saving the sorbet from its impending liquid doom. I took only my coveted new jar of dried rose petals home with me.

I can imagine making the strawberry sorbet, and perhaps even the entire dessert, again. It's pretty and tasty and flexible, and it survived half an hour's travel by bike. It could even be the recipe that inspires me to try aquafaba meringue-making as I attempt a vegan version.

Strawberry & rose sundaes
(slightly adapted from a Yotam Ottolenghi & Ramael Scully recipe
published in the Guardian)

strawberry sorbet
200g strawberries
1/4 cup water
40g caster sugar
40g icing sugar
30g corn syrup/liquid glucose

creamy layer
200g mascarpone
340g crème fraîche
2 tablespoons icing sugar
2 teaspoons rosewater

2 tablespoons boiling water
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon sumac

macerated strawberries
200g strawberries
2 teaspoons icing sugar

45g meringues
1 pomegranate
2 teaspoons dried rose petals

Prepare the sorbet a day in advance. Wash and hull the strawberries, then blend them to a smooth puree. Pour them into a small-medium saucepan and add all the remaining sorbet ingredients. Stir them over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool a while on the bench, then refrigerate it to chill completely. Churn the sorbet in an icecream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer the icecream to a container and freeze it completely, at least 4 hours.

Make the creamy layer by whisking together the mascarpone and crème fraîche in a bowl. Sift over the icing sugar and stir it in too. Whisk in the rosewater, then refrigerate the mixture until it's time to serve the dessert.

For the syrup, place the boiling water and sugar in a glass jar and swish them around until the sugar is dissolved. Add the pomegranate molasses and sumac, and whisk or shake everything together until well combined. Set the syrup aside until serving time.

Macerate the strawberries by washing and hulling them. Sift over the icing sugar and stir it through the strawberries. Allow them to sit for at least 15 minutes, until they're bright and glossy.

Remove the seeds from the pomegranate by whatever means works for you - I tend to tear at it over a bowl of water and discard the pith and membrane as I go.

Assembly will take about 5 minutes before serving. Divide the creamy mixture evenly among 6-8 glasses or bowls. Drop in the strawberries. Gently place a scoop of sorbet in each dish. Break up the meringues and arrange them in each glass. Drizzle over some syrup. Sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds and dried rose petals. Done!

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Spring Salad

September 2, 2015

September saw the fifth meeting of our Ottolenghi potluck gang after a few months off, with a vaguely spring-themed dinner to take advantage of Victoria's newest public holiday. (The wonders of our previous meals can be seen in various degrees of blurriness here, here, here and here.)

As always it was an incredible spread, featuring stuffed onions, muhammara, stuffed peppers, rosemary savoury bread pudding, carrot & mungbean salad, green salad plus the spring salad featured in this post and an incredible dessert that Cindy will post about in a day or two.

I was inspired by Melbourne's burst of warm weather to go for a very spring-themed dish, a simple salad making use of asparagus and broad beans that are both at their peak right now. I altered a couple of things, frying the shallot gently rather than using it raw and bafflingly failing to buy nigella seeds. It was reasonably straightforward by Ottolenghi standards and added some freshness and variety to our meal - the sesame oil was pretty dominant flavour-wise, so you might consider going a bit heavier on the lemon juice and chilli.

Ottolenghi has many show-stopping salads, and this is a more unassuming effort - it's a worthy contribution to a big table of food, but it's probably never going to be the star of the show.

Spring Salad
(very slightly adapted from a recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty More)

2 small bunches asparagus, trimmed and sliced at an angle into 4-5 pieces each
200g green beans, trimmed
300g broad beans (if you're using fresh, you'll need ~1.5kg of pods)
50g baby spinach leaves
1 shallot, finely sliced
1 red chilli, finely sliced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon black and white sesame seeds, toasted
(the original recipe also includes 1 teaspoon nigella seeds, which I forgot to include)

In a small frying pan heat up 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and fry the diced shallot for 5 minutes or so, until it's nicely softened. Set it aside for later.

Fill a bowl with iced water to cool the veggies once they're blanched.

Bring a large saucepan of water to boil and throw in the asparagus, blanching for 3 minutes and then extracting them with a slotted spoon and dumping them in the iced water. Pop the beans in to blanch for 4 minutes and then throw them in the iced water as well. Add the broad beans into the boiling water and blanch them for 2 minutes and throw them in the cold water as well.

Drain the veggies and set the asparagus and beans aside to dry. Pop the broad beans out of their little protective shells and then combine them with the other veggies (including the spinach) in a large bowl.

Stir through the shallots, the chilli, sesame oil, the rest of the olive oil, the lemon juice, the sesame seeds and the salt and serve.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink

September 27, 2015

Since we moved from Carlton to Brunswick a couple of years ago, there seems to have been a bit of a foodie renaissance around the Lygon/Elgin corner - there's Heart Attack & Vine (which we've at least managed to visit), Milk the Cow, Pidapipo, Nora, the fancying up of Percy's into The Roving Marrow  and today's topic, The Vertue of the Coffee Drink (those who favour simpler pleasures will be relieved to know that the trusty Intersection Cafe is holding its own among all these upmarket upstarts).

A couple of things to get out of the way. Firstly, the unwieldy (and frankly pretty terrible) name at least has a nice back-story, taken from an ad for London's first coffeehouse way back in 1652. Secondly, the location is as hilariously Melbourne as it could be - an old stable, down an unpromising alleyway lined with dumpsters beside a petrol station. It takes some finding.

Once you find the door, the atmosphere changes quickly from grimy and weird, to airy and lovely - lots of natural light, fancy coffee making equipment on display (they roast their own) and a tremendously alluring sweets cabinet (that we somehow resisted). The menu is at the unconventional spectrum, with ingredients like amaranth, thyme pastry and verbena buttermilk pudding dotted throughout. There are a couple of salads (heirloom veggies or amaranth & quiona) and an oat and coconut porridge that can be veganised, plus a few other veggie dishes.

I had an excellent flat white, while Cindy weighed up the dirty chai (chai with an espresso shot), but settled on the Mork hot chocolate ($4), which hit the spot (although nothing measures up to the Msr Truffe version they serve at East Elevation. They have lots of interesting coffee options on the drinks menu. Next time I'll try out the 'Coffee 3 Ways' - three different preparations of the same bean (espresso, long black and EK shot, $11).

Food-wise, I couldn't go past the chickpea chips, with poached eggs, charred zucchini, cherry tomatoes, shaved parmesan and baby basil ($18).

It always takes me a moment to readjust after someone serves up a savoury breakfast without toast - it's so standard that I don't even notice when there's no mention of it in the description of a dish. I didn't really miss it here though, with the crispy-on-the-outside chickpea chips absorbent enough to soak up the eggy bits. The zucchini and tomatoes were okay, but the chips and the eggs were the stars of this dish.

Cindy ordered the oat and coconut porridge, with goji berries, raspberry compote, toasted coconut, and cacao nibs ($14).

This was a visually stunning meal, with the mix of colours and shapes arranged on the plain porridge like some sort of abstract art.  It reminded Cindy of the high-end porridge she had at Pilgrim in Hobart, but fell a bit short of that standard - a bit more fruit would have helped to liven things up.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink is a welcome addition to Carlton's breakfast scene - the menu is fresh and interesting, the food is prepared and presented beautifully, the coffee's great and the staff were friendly and effective. It's definitely at the more expensive/more pretentious end of the spectrum, but it does a decent job of delivering food that justifies the prices.
, with only Ichigo Shortcake being anything less than wowed. 
The Vertue of the Coffee Drink
8 Raffa Place, Carlton (tucked in beside the Shell service station on the corner of Lygon and Elgin)
8060 6987

Accessibility: Once you make your way down the little alley and find the cafe, it's super accessible - there's a flat entry, a reasonably spacious interior and fully accessible, unisex toilets.