Sunday, January 31, 2016

Roasted jackfruit rolls

January 23, 2016

I usually bookmark appealing recipes from other blogs - right now I've got 820 untried dishes, some of them dating back 8 years. But I was so keen on this one that I made it just 3 days after it was published on Like A Vegan! Chelsey's novel use of jackfruit as a roast chicken substitute was potentially much more my style than the common pulled 'pork' approach.

The canned jackfruit is simply drained, slathered in a herby paste I can make from pantry ingredients, and baked for half an hour. Since I only had one can of jackfruit I changed the ingredient quantities, and I'll tinker with them further for future batches - this version was a bit too sharp with brine and lemon juice for my taste.

Serving the jackfruit in soft long rolls with lettuce and mayo brought back Red Rooster memories I'd locked away for 20 years. This alternative is a bit lighter and fresher, and I'm pleased to have a new way with jackfruit in my repertoire.

Roasted jackfruit rolls
(slightly adapted from a recipe on Like a Vegan)

565g can jackfruit in brine
1 tablespoon olive oil
juice of half a lemon (would reduce to a small squeeze)
1 tablespoon brown sugar + extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons dried green herbs (I used parsley, sage, rosemary & marjoram)
pinch of ground nutmeg
pinch of cayenne pepper
shake of white pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast flakes
4 soft long rolls
1/3 cup vegan mayonnaise
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
spray oil

Preheat an oven to 160°C.

Drain the jackfruit in a colander (next time I'd also rinse the brine off a bit). Use your fingers to break apart the stringy fibres a bit. Squeeze off the excess water and place the pieces on a chopping board. Cut away the cores and finely dice them.

In a large bowl, whisk together all the ingredients from the olive oil down to the yeast flakes, to form an oily golden-brown paste. Add the jackfruit (fibres and cores, the lot) and toss it through to evenly coat it in the paste. 

Lightly spray a baking tray with oil. Spread the jackfruit out on a baking tray, spray it with a little more oil and sprinkle over a bit more brown sugar. Bake the jackfruit for around 30 minutes, until it's golden. It should be a bit brown and crunchy around the edges but still moist in the middle.

Slice the rolls lengthways and scoop the jackfruit into them. Spread or squeeze over the mayonnaise and then layer up the shredded lettuce. Eat straight away, or wrap up for later if you must.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Muhallabiya, two ways

December 28, 2015 & January 18-19, 2016

Dinner at the Moroccan Soup Bar usually ends with a plate of little shortbreads and pastries stuffed with dates or nuts and dripping with sweet syrup. The Moroccan Soup Bar cookbook contains a couple such recipes, but also some heartier sweet treats including sfenj/doughnuts and muhallabiya.

As I mentioned in my last Moroccan Soup Bar post, muhallabiya is a dairy-based pudding flavoured with orange and lemon, drizzled with syrup and scattered with pistachios. I made little cups of it to finish a meal with Michael and our two brothers just after Christmas. More recently, Michael's mum and her two sisters visited us for dinner; on this occasion I tried churning and freezing the pudding as an icecream!

Assafiri welcomes adaptations to her recipes and icecream-churning isn't the only change I made. On both occasions I increased the orange and lemon quantities. I should've known it would curdle the milk (!), but thankfully the mixture smooths right out as the cornflour cooks and thickens. I had a lot of syrup left over, and I can recommend it as a lovely flavouring for soda water (vodka optional).

This dessert is delightful in both incarnations. As a pudding, it's creamy and just-barely-set with a strong citrus flavour. As an icecream it's a little powdery and more subtly flavoured. I already have an awfully similar recipe on the blog, actually, and its use of eggs instead of cornflour probably yields a smoother, richer scoop. Nevertheless, it's been fun to get to know muhallabiya better this summer.

(recipe adapted from Hana Assafiri's Moroccan Soup Bar)

2 cups milk
1 cup cream
1/4 cup cornflour
zest and juice of 1 orange
zest and juice of 1 lemon
pinch of saffron
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup pistachios, roughly chopped, to garnish

3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons orange blossom water
juice of 1/2 orange
1/4 cup water
squeeze of lemon juice

Whisk together the milk and cream in a medium-large saucepan and set them over high heat. In a small cup dissolve the cornflour with 1-2 tablespoons of water, then pour it all into the saucepan. Stir in the orange and lemon zest and juice; don't panic if the mixture curdles, it will smooth out later. Stir in the saffron and sugar and bring it all to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow it all to simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly - it should be smooth and custardy.

To make cool puddings, pour the mixture into serving cups and refrigerate them for at least 2 hours. To make icecream, refrigerate the mixture until very cold, at least 4 hours and ideally overnight. Pour it into an icecream maker and churn, then freeze the icecream in an airtight container for at least 4 hours.

To make the syrup, place all of the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring them to the boil, and continue boiling for 10 minutes. Allow the syrup to cool down to room temperature.

To serve, drizzle the syrup over single serves of the pudding or icecream and scatter over the chopped pistachios.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Pilgrim III and Farm Gate IV

January 15 & 17, 2016

MOFO was primarily based out at MONA this year, so we didn't get too much time for Hobart eating. We were out at the festival by lunch every day, so we really only had time for breakfasts. Our first stop was a return visit to Pilgrim Coffee, a regular haunt on our Hobart trips. The menu has changed around a bit from previous meals, meaning I had to branch out from the bean-heavy 'hipster breakfast' that I usually order, instead trying out the omelette with kim chi, rice, spring onion, wombok, coriander and crispy shallots ($18).

The omelette is a wonderful combination of flavours - little dabs of blended up kim chi give it all a great spicy tang, while the shallots and rice add some crunch. It's a top-notch example of the genre, but at $18, it probably needs a slice or two of toast to go along with it.

Cindy's breakfast was even more minimalist - she ordered the charred stone-fruit with vanilla goats curd, mint and almonds ($15).

And she got this bowl containing one halved peach, a smear of curd and a decent sprinkling of roasted cashews on top. For $15! She was quite happy with the dish itself, but it's the kind of thing you feel like charging even $10 for would be a bit cheeky. 

I enjoyed my coffee as usual, but Cindy's chai was bergamot-heavy and lacking in other spices. All in all, Pilgrim has slipped down our Hobart breakfast ranking a bit - the quality of the food is still high, but the prices are a bit excessive (note also: there aren't any obvious vegan options on the current menu).

On Sunday morning we headed back to the Farm Gate Market, the less touristy and more food-focussed alternative to the popular Salamanca Market. There's lots of excellent-looking fresh produce for sale, a decent selection of other food stalls (jams, teas, cheese etc) and a thriving little food court for people seeking brekkie - we come here every time we're in town these days (see one, two, three previous visits).

We got things started with a coffee and a blueberry bagel with raspberry cream cheese ($6.50) from Bury Me Standing - a perfect way to get Sunday going.

I was then drawn inexorably to Pachamama, for my annual Hobart breakfast burrito - they've always got a vegan option, but this year I couldn't resist the classic egg-cheese-bean combo, slathered in their smoky chipotle sauce ($13). It's a complete winner.

Cindy somehow resisted the lure of the burritos, ducking next door to Mountain Pepper Pizza who were offering up a range of rosti-based breakfast treats. She ordered the mushroom option ($7.50) and was well satisfied with the mix of starchy potatoes and creamy, saucy mushrooms. (They also do a vegan bubble & squeak with kasundi.)

We're always a bit sad that we can't buy up more of the great market produce each year, but it's hard to go past a $9 kilo bag of the plumpest, juiciest cherries imaginable. We gobbled these up far too quickly.

Farm Gate is well worth a visit on any food-related Hobart itinerary - there are tons of vegan options, foody gifts and souvenirs, and a steady stream of cute puppies awaiting your attention.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Straight Up

January 16, 2016

The Hobart eatery at the top of my wish-list this year was Straight Up. I read about this all-vegetarian cafe on quinces and kale about a month before we arrived, and we shared our breakfast with the very same mutual friend as they did!

Straight Up is quite centrally located on Liverpool St, and has a light, casual look and prominent espresso machine that's likely to attract non-veg diners. Once in, they'd surely not be put off by the menu! It's stealthily gluten-free and absent of bacon, of course, but who wouldn't be tempted by corn bread topped with grilled haloumi, avocado and herb salsa, spiced ginger buckwheat porridge or miso marinated pumpkin? And that doesn't even cover the dishes we did order...

Michael picked out the vegan BBQ king brown mushrooms served on potato hash with caramelised onions, harissa and kale chips ($17.50). Michael didn't miss his toast with a potato hash in play, and he loved the meaty mushrooms and slaw-like toppings. His only wish was a little more spice from the harissa.

Our friend and dining companion ordered my plan B and was kind enough to offer me a bite. It was a pretty and gently sweet plate of smashed banana on toast, topped with soy ricotta, pink pear slices, popped amaranth, activated buckwheat and drizzled stripes of date syrup ($13.50).

Lovely as it was, Plan A ensured I had no order envy. Behold, the chocolate waffles ($15)! Vegan and gluten-free, these waffles were thick, crunchy and a guarantee I wouldn't need lunch any time soon. Cinnamon grilled bananas, berry sauce, chocolate icecream and coconut crumble lent softness, sweetness and tanginess, bringing together the best darn vegan waffles I've ever ordered.

Our hot drinks were pretty good and the staff were chipper. This cafe has gone Straight Up to number 1 in our breakfast recommendations for Hobart.


You'll struggle to find a bad word about Straight Up in the blogosphere, where it's been mentioned on chocolatdehaut (twice!), Two Clowns Tripping, The Hobart Life, Walking the Derwent River and quinces and kale.

Straight Up
202 Liverpool St, Hobart
(03) 6236 9237
breakfast, drinks

Accessibility:  The door has a small lip owing to the street-level incline. Tables are generously spaced inside. We ordered at our table and paid at a low counter. Toilets were unisex but narrow, with stair access.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Preachers, Hobart

January 14, 2016

We headed down to Hobart on Thursday for our annual pilgrimage to the wonderful MOFO festival. With no gig-going planned for our first night in town, we met up with some friends to suss out some bars around Battery Point. We started off at the cute and difficult-to-find tiki bar South Seas Cocktail Lounge, which got us started with some lovely cocktails.

The cocktails left us keen to find dinner somewhere close by, so we ducked around the corner to Preachers, a burger-focussed pub that we knew had a few vego options. The wind had kicked up too much for us to enjoy the beer garden (complete with school bus), so we huddled inside and looked over the menu.

It's surprisingly veg-friendly - there's a vegan pumpkin and mushroom burger and a vego felafel one, plus a good array of fried small plates and a salad. I was pretty psyched to try the vegan burger, but Cindy returned from the bar with the surprising news that Preachers had somehow run out of burger buns at 8:25 on a Thursday night and what's more, we had 5 minutes before the kitchen closed. We quickly rejigged our plans and ordered one each of almost everything else vegetarian on the menu - clockwise from the top: felafel ($12), pumpkin and chickpea salad ($12), fries ($6.50), onion rings ($6.50) and Tasmanian tempura mushrooms ($12).

The felafels were just passable - a bit doughy, but at least not too dry, but everything else hit the spot pretty well. The mushrooms and onion rings were probably the stand-outs, but the salad was an essential dish given how fried everything else on the table was. I think we were all a bit disappointed about the lack of burgers, but this table full of fried goods was a reasonably good fallback.

Fortified, we decided to continue bar-hopping, heading back to Society, a place that Will had scoped out earlier for its fancy spirits range. Look at that bar!

The cocktail selection was superb - Cindy's chocolate and whey (with Hartson sheep whey vodka, Mozart dark chocolate liqueur and chocolate shavings, $18) was the pick of the bunch, smelling like a box of Cadbury Roses and packing a delicious boozy punch. My Salamanca sloe gin was a combo of two kinds of McHenry gins (Sloe and Dry), with sugar, lemon and soda ($18) was a bit more refreshing, but I couldn't hide my chocolate envy.

With such a bar-heavy start to our weekend in Hobart Preachers turned out to be an excellent dinner choice, soaking up the booze and leaving us in good shape to tackle MOFO 2016 (see first day pics below).


The first place we spotted Preachers was on Veggies & Me's vegetarian guide to Hobart. It's also been reviewed positively at Living and Loving Hobart, The Hobart life and katiecrackernuts

5 Knopwood St, Hobart
6223 3621
burgers and salads, share plates and fried stuff
facebook page

Accessibility: There are steps up into the bar, although things are relatively flat and clear once you're in. We ordered and paid at a high bar, and didn't visit either the beer gardens or the toilets.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Cafe Lalibela II

Cheap Eats 2006, a decade on

January 11, 2016

Cindy's family wanted to meet us for dinner in Footscray and, with our enthusiasm for our new Cheap Eats 2006 project still high, we decided it was a good opportunity to revisit Cafe Lalibela. It's been more than seven years since we last visited, and not much seems to have changed. The staff are friendly, the service casual, the menu has a good range of vego options and there's a steady stream of people coming through the door.

We made the same move as last time and ordered the beyainetu (the platter below serves 3), a combination of different veggie dishes on an injera platter ($14 per head - up from $12 seven years ago, which is pretty good going).

The dishes are heavy on the protein: lentils and beans cooked in various sauces, along with a potato and carrot dish. The injera is the star of the show - the fermentation adds a citruss-y kick to the chewy, spongy bread, which soaks up the relatively mild flavours of all the stews. It's fun and messy to tear at the injera and scoop up the stews - it's a rare treat to eat with your hands. Added bonus: the delicious Ethiopian beers are a ridiculously affordable $5 a pop.

Cafe Lalibela feels timeless - almost nothing has changed since we visited nearly eight years ago - great, cheap food in a cheerful, casual setting. We really need to go back before 2023 rolls around.


Since our visit in 2008, Lalibela has been positively written up by vegos In the Mood for Noodles and omni-bloggers Footscray Food Blog, Howie's Melbourne Food Blog, Gosstronomy, Apples Under My Bed, Eurasian Sensation and Eat and Be Merry for Tomorrow We Die(t).


Cafe Lalibela
91 Irving Street, Footscray 
9687 0300
vegetarian menu

Accessibility: The entry is flat and there's a reasonably clear path up the middle of the restaurant, although the tables themselves are all wedged in pretty close together. We paid at a high counter and didn't visit the toilets. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tom Phat III

Cheap Eats 2006, a decade on

January 6 & 10, 2016

In 2006 Tom Phat was a new entry into the Cheap Eats guide, on the frontier of Brunswick gentrification and Asian fusion food. A decade later its brunch & bar fit-out has barely changed and aged rather well, with floor space doubling thanks to an extension into a neighbouring shopfront. While dishes have shuffled around from time to time, the menu has remained a mish-mash of eggs and roti, curries and stir-fries, cocktails and mocktails, with well-marked veg options, plenty of tofu and at least one mention of tempeh.

We first visited and blogged Tom Phat in 2008 and made a follow-up post in 2011. While these describe positive encounters, we'll admit to a couple of disappointments regarding both the food and the service in between; Carla was far more thorough in her polarised feelings on easy as vegan pie. In the past week we've returned for both dinner and breakfast to find out how Tom Phat is faring in 2016.

For dinner, Michael ordered the fried crispy silken tofu with red pumpkin curry, basil and lime on rice ($19). The tofu pieces were like deep-fried clouds, the curry was fragrant and citrusy, and Michael was very pleased.

I took on the nasi goreng ($18; we paid $12.90 for the same dish in 2011). It was sweet with kecap manis and a little smoky, with skewers of tofu and tempeh and a fried egg that spilled golden yolk over the rice. Another winner, we reckoned. I washed it down with a tangy Eastern Sunset mocktail ($6) of orange juice, pineapple juice, lemon juice and grenadine.

With happy memories of a scrambled tofu dish back in the day, Michael set his eye on their current version for breakfast ($14.90). It wasn't the spicy egg-substitute he was anticipating, instead a soupy bowl of 'roast tomato salsa' holding silken tofu blobs, wilting spinach leaves and a few button mushrooms. 

Michael does credit Tom Phat for introducing him to Vietnamese iced coffees (still $4 after 5 years). He's mighty fond of getting his summertime caffeine with a shot of condensed milk, though he now does so more often from Wide Open Road.

Meanwhile, I was curious to revisit the roti pancake ($12.90; up from $11 in 2011). Indicative of changes in me more than at Tom Phat, this didn't work out. Tough to cut, filled with mashed banana and encased in toffee, this was extraordinarily sweet even before the icecream hit the plate (oh, for a little lime or spice to cut through the sugar!). My two favourite things about roti are its flakiness and its delicate crunchy surface, and this approach maintains neither.

If nothing else, Tom Phat remains consistently inconsistent! It seems any dish is equally likely to generate a grin or a grimace. We were similarly bemused by the playlist, a mix of early '90s hip hop by night and Wilco backed up against CDB by day. The service staff, at least, were reliably friendly and efficient. It's fascinating that such a restaurant has persevered for a decade with very few updates - we'll probably continue to swing by every now and then, but Tom Phat has never really locked down our loyalty.

You can also read about one, two of our previous visits. Since then it's received praise from fellow veg blogger little vegan bear.


Tom Phat
184 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
9381 2374
breakfast & drinks, lunch & dinner

Accessibility: Tom Phat has a small ramp on entry. Tables are aligned through the length of the building with a corridor through that starts off wide but gets a little more crowded towards the end. There is a disability-marked toilet out back. We ordered at our table and paid afterwards at the low-ish counter.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Cheap Eats 2006, a decade on

January 10, 2016

Cindy and I moved to Melbourne mid-2006 and one of the first things we did was grab ourselves a copy of The Age's Cheap Eats Guide. The rise of Zomato/Urbanspoon has diminished the influence of these books, but when we arrived the Cheap Eats was our guide. This year we're pulling the old book off the shelf to see what's changed in the past decade.

I've gone through each of the 474 listings in the 2006 guide, noting down the type of venue, the region it's in, whether or not we've blogged it and whether it's still open. Shockingly, there wasn't a single Mexican restaurant in the 2006 guide - an almost unbelievable absence given the Mexican explosion that hit Melbourne a few years later.

Of the 474 places listed in the 2006 Cheap Eats, 282 (59.6%) are still open. The survival rate varied substantially by venue type - bakeries were pretty secure while burger joints, seafood purveyors and vegetarian restaurants failed in droves.

There was surprisingly little variation by region. I expected that the gentrification of the inner-north would have swept away the majority of the 2006 entries, but it was the inner South-East (South Melbourne, Middle Park, Albert Park, South Yarra, Prahran and Windsor) that had the most closures.

Now, to the most important statistical question - what impact does getting reviewed on where's the beef? have on a business? Well, of 73 places we blogged, 58 are still open (79.5%), while of the 400 places we didn't blog, 224 are still open (56.0%), so early signs are positive. Even more strikingly, of 8 vego places we blogged, 5 are still open (62.5%), while only 2 of the 9 vego places we didn't blog survived (37.5%).

To properly test our influence though, you need to control for the kinds of places and areas that we tend to blog. So I popped all of these data into Stata and got cracking. In a logistic regression analysis, controlling for type and region of venue, places we blogged were 4.7 times (2.2-9.9) more likely to be open than those we didn't*. Surely all the evidence you need of the remarkable influence that where's the beef? has on the world.

Throughout 2016 we're planning to revisit some of these old listings, returning to favourite eateries and finally checking out some places we've shamefully never gotten around to. We reckon these stayers warrant our blogging attention as much as buzz-hungry new venues.


* The very fact that a place stayed open increased the likelihood that we eventually got around to blogging it, meaning that the causal relationship here goes in both directions. As a robustness check, we just looked at whether or not being blogged on wtb by the end of 2007 was associated with being open in 2016 - the significant relationship remained, adding weight to the argument that where's the beef? attention is a strong predictor of business survival.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Choc-notella pudding

January 3, 2016

I couldn't stop thinking about Family Favourites. I would have loved to make a frozen chocolate crunch or shared around some mango coconut splice blocks, but they just wouldn't work at a picnic. Then I thought of nutella pudding. I didn't need to make more food at all, really, but I couldn't resist a go at veganising nutella pudding.

This one goes in the style of British self-saucing puddings, with the nutella in the sauce and a typical cake batter plonked on top of it. I tracked down a jar of biona dark chocolate spread, which was a little less sweet than nutella and completely lacking in hazelnuts, but it did the vegan silky chocolate job perfectly. Dairy cream became coconut cream, buttermilk begat vinegar-spiked soy milk, butter was replaced with margarine, and I switched the eggs for apple puree (I'll go for a mashed banana instead, one day).

For all those changes, it was the same pudding in every way that mattered. It's probably intended for mid-winter eating, still steaming with a scoop of cream or icecream on top. But it's day-after no-extras state holds just as much nostalgia for me, and that's pretty much how ate it at the picnic.

Choc-notella pudding
(adapted from this family recipe)

1/2 cup vegan chocolate spread
1/2 cup coconut cream
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
90g margarine
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup castor sugar
1/2 cup apple puree
3/4 cup plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup cocoa

Lightly grease a baking dish and preheat the oven to 180°C. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the chocolate spread and coconut cream. Spread the mixture over the base of the dish.

Mix together the soy milk and apple cider vinegar and set the aside. The milk will curdle into a buttermilk substitute.

Use the same mixing bowl to beat together the margarine and sugars. Beat in the apple puree. Sift over the flour, baking powder and cocoa, then mix them until just combined. Mix in the curdled soy milk.

Pour the cake mix into the baking dish and gently smooth over the top. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Doffie biscuits

January 3, 2016

Cindy's Family Favourites picnic theme had me scratching my head - our family meals were from a straightforward meat 'n' veg range, and nothing amidst the chops and sausages of my memories jumped out at me for the occasion. Instead, I thought back to school lunchboxes and found myself strangely nostalgic for this relatively simple apricot slice. Mum dug up the recipe for me over Christmas - they're called Doffie Biscuits and they're basically sugar, flour and dried fruit. 

Veganising them only required me substitutes for 2 eggs and a couple of tablespoons of butter - Nuttelex did the trick for the butter, while a combination of Orgran No Egg and apple sauce provided enough moisture and binding power to replace the eggs. The results aren't going to change your life but they're good - heavy on the apricot and nice and chewy. And if you're me they're going to transport you straight back to your awkward teenage years.

Doffie biscuits
(based on a recipe from a cookbook compiled for the School of the Air some time back in the 1980s)

2 cups wholemeal self-raising flour
1.5 cups caster sugar
600g dried apricots, sliced up (the original recipe calls for 1.5kg of dried fruit, but whoever compiled the cookbook suggested that 500g was enough)
4 heaped tablespoons shredded coconut
2 tablespoons melted Nuttelex
2 teaspoons Orgran No-Egg, mixed with 4 tablespoons water
1/2 cup of apple puree

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

Mix the flour, sugar, apricots and coconut in a big bowl.

Stir in the Nuttelex, egg replacer and apple puree.

Spread the mix evenly in a large flat tray and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the slice is cooked through. It will seem a bit soft when it's hot, but will firm up as it cools so you can slice it up.

Original recipe

Monday, January 04, 2016


January 3, 2016

We capped off our new year weekend with a vegan picnic and a Family Favourites theme. I wanted to learn what foods make my friends feel nostalgic, their back stories, and the funny nicknames they might have. Most of all, I wanted to introduce them to Superchook.

Superchook fits all these criteria. It's something my mum made semi-regularly as I grew up, taking a little extra effort than most dinners, the kind of thing I'd ask for on my birthday. It was a chicken fillet stuffed with chopped bacon, cheese and green herby specks, then crumbed and fried. From the stuffing to the substance to the egg-dipped outer, it's light-years from vegan eating.

Funnily enough, my picnic adaptation was easier to prepare than the original. I bought a packet each of Fry's and Gardein crumbed schnitzels, unsure of which would work better (Fry's were easier to work with, but I liked the Gardein texture better). I gently, gently sliced a pocket longways through each schnitzel and spooned in a mixture of grated Vegusto Melty cheese, diced and fried Cheatin' Rashers, finely chopped parsley and ground pepper. Rather than frying and fretting over them holding together, I popped my Superchooks in the oven for 20 minutes and they were good as gold.

With it being a picnic and all, none were eaten in their native habitat - hot with cheese oozing at the dinner table, served with steamed veges on the side - but they vanished rapidly nonetheless. Even vegan, this chook's still super.

Sunday, January 03, 2016


December 28, 2015

I received the Moroccan Soup Bar cookbook for my birthday! The thick volume collates many recipes from the eponymous restaurant, which we've visited many times during our near-decade in Melbourne. (In 2016 we're likely to become even more frequent visitors to the newly opened sister cafe Moroccan Deli-cacy.)

A visit to the Moroccan Soup Bar has always been much more than a plate of food, with the wild-haired and lion-hearted restaurant founder Hana Assafiri roaming the room, minimal table reservations, no alcohol, and a spoken menu of vegetarian dishes rich in herbs and spices. Likewise, the book is much more than a catalogue of recipes; Assafiri devotes many pages to her philosophy of generosity, actively supporting women within her business and creating a convivial, diverse environment that doesn't shy away from debate. (I was excited to see her featured in Ai Weiwei's Letgo Room of Aussie activists at NGV.)

I devoured Assafiri's words on Boxing Day, and planned a feast of her foods to welcome Michael and his brother Matt back to Melbourne a couple of days later. We started with marinated olives, hummus swirled with olive oil and sprinkled with parsley and paprika, and flatbread. Of course, the famous chickpea bake was mandatory (I made mine using a corn chip cheat I figured out a couple of years ago). Michael helped julienne zucchini and apple for a tangy salad (though we forgot to add the pomegranate seeds I'd patiently collected earlier that afternoon!). I teamed these dishes with makloubeh, a vegan-friendly eggplant and rice dish that I'll share the recipe for below. Finally, after a big break, I served muhallabiya in ramekins - these are dairy-based puddings flavoured with orange and lemon, drizzled with an orange blossom syrup and scattered with pistachios.

But back to the makloubeh (pictured up top). This dish consistently pops up in the Moroccan Soup Bar banquet as a platter of red rice, topped with an eggplant slice and slivered almonds. Herbs, spices, tomato paste and pomegranate syrup go straight in with the rice as it cooks and the eggplant slices are browned separately in a frypan and stored in a low oven, rendering them smoky and close to collapse. There's enough substance and variety to enjoy makloubeh as a meal on its own, and I reckon we'll be doing that on weeknights to come. As it was, we packed leftovers into lunchboxes and wolfed them down at the Boxing Day Test the next day.

(a recipe from Hana Assafiri's Moroccan Soup Bar)

1 eggplant
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
handful of fresh parsley
handful of fresh coriander
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup rice
1 tablespoon pomegranate syrup
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pepper
100g slivered almonds
oil, for frying

Slice the eggplant into 1cm-thick 'steaks'. Sprinkle salt on both sides of the slices and allow them to drain in a colander.

Peel and finely dice the onion and garlic. Coarsely chop the parsley and coriander.

Place the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, parsley (reserving a little bit for garnish), coriander, cumin and chilli powder; saute until the onion is soft. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the water and bring it to the boil. Rinse the rice and, when the water in the saucepan is boiling, add that rice to the pot. Bring it all back to the boil, then lower the heat to medium and allow the rice to cook for 20 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, set oil in a frypan over high heat and brown the eggplant slices on each side, sprinkling over a little pepper as they fry. Place the eggplant slices in a baking tray and, when they're all done, place them in an oven on low heat. Place the almonds in a small bake-proof tray and toast them in the oven, too.

Once the rice has hit 20 minutes, stir through the pomegranate syrup. Cover the saucepan and simmer the rice for a further 15 minutes.

Make sure you get those almonds out of the oven before they burn! When everything is ready, spoon the rice onto a platter. Layer the eggplant slices over the rice, then sprinkle them with the almonds and reserved parsley. Serve as a main meal or a component of a feast!