Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Vegan jaffle party!

June 19, 2016

This idea popped up while I was hosting that Family Favourites picnic potluck in the summer. I was probably telling someone about how my family called jaffles Hot Ones (thanks to toddler-me) and got to thinking about how fun a jaffle potluck could be. A few irons in a row, a pile of bread, and everyone brings a filling. Hot Ones all round!

I waited until the cold weather rolled in, when toasty carbs bring the most comfort. My dozen-plus guests definitely brought the goods - extra jaffle irons, numerous vegan cheeses, home baked beans, mock meats, canned spaghetti, the last of a garden's basil... even sweet stuff like caramel bananas and chocolate chips.

For dessert, I had another family favourite to share - this one's something my mum would occasionally make for dinner guests. It starts not with bread, but with puff pastry. Yep, you just thaw out a sheet of puff pastry and cut it into two rectangles. Fill the rectangles will sliced banana, chocolate chips and marshmallows (these ones are vegan). Fold the pastry over into a square but don't fuss about pinching the sides - a good jaffle iron does all the shaping for you! These pastry pockets take longer to cook than your average bread-based toastie but they do eventually puff up golden and flaky, with sweet molten filling.

I candied some oranges Cinnamon Snail-style, then teamed them with chocolate spread and cinnamon for punderful jaffa jaffles. Others paired the chocolate spread with Turkish delight to great effect. It was a sweet way to pass a Sunday afternoon.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Dojo Ramen Bar

June 18, 2016

The Dojo Ramen Bar comes recommended by High St vego-in-the-know Erin; their veggie ramen is her favourite comfort food at the end of a bad day. Last Saturday night we confirmed that it's also a suitable spot for good times, when everyone's looking forward to a gig at the Northcote Social Club. We filled out the bar's communal table with a reservation for twelve and maintained the cheerful, chattering noise levels already established by the other patrons. The staff were friendly and flexible in the face of our large group and staggered orders.

Sake cocktails and Japanese spirits are displayed most prominently on the drinks menu, but Erin actually prefers the Calpico grape soda and I went for a Ramune (Japanese lemonade, $4.50). It doesn't taste so different from a Sprite, but the pop-the-marble top is novel and very Japanese.

As far as food goes vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options are marked well, although they weren't all what we expected - thankfully the staff provided knowledgeable back-up. I thought the vegan gyoza ($8) filling was a little mushy and generic, but the dumplings were perfectly pan-fried and they're always improved with soy-vinegar dipping. The other eye-catching option was a plate of cheesy rolls, a curd-based riff on deep-fried spring rolls.

And what of the ramen? It comes in seven varieties, three of them vegetarian. (Unfortunately for vegans, the noodles contain egg, but the rest can be served with a side of steamed rice.) On Erin's advice I ordered the standard veggie ramen ($13.50). The noodles are nice, and nestled in a creamy, comforting broth made with soy milk and nut extract. On top there's tofu, spring onion, bamboo shoots, two-tone sesame seeds, a sheet of nori and - my new favourite ingredient - benishoga, a vermillion shredded pickled ginger. The other vego bowls stir miso or shoyu into the broth, mix up the veges and lack the benishoga.

It's spot-on mid-winter comfort food, and good value for money. If there's a drawback, it's that the resulting feelings of sleepy satisfaction aren't exactly conducive to late night live music. We were lucky that Olympia has the kind of talent to jolt us from a ramen stupor.


The Dojo Ramen Bar seems to please every blogger who visits, from veg Ebezilla's Food Blog to omnis Two Bears And A Fork, Sweet and Sour Fork, The Spice Adventuress, foodie about town, Vetti Live In Northcote and Fitzroyalty.

The Dojo Ramen Bar
333 High St, Northcote
9482 1247
meals, drinks

Accessibility: There's a small lip on entry (here's a more thorough review of the door). Tables are a mix of high and low heights with backless stools, arranged at average density with clear walkways through the middle of the restaurant. We received full table service. I didn't visit the toilets.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Stockholm, weeks 7 & 8

May 29-June 17, 2016

My last two weeks in Stockholm were light on the blog-worthy eating - I enjoyed return visits to Maxos and Greasy Spoon, but didn't hit up too many new places. I managed to take a quick lunchtime jaunt down to Hornstull to visit Seyhmus, a veggie buffet place recommended to me by Jess. It's really only open for lunchtime (or a very early dinner), but it's definitely worth the trip.

110kr ($18) buys you access to a very impressive array of hot dishes and salads. The  hot dishes included a fantastic spinach curry, a couple of different beany stews, some falafel balls and a delicious spinach and cheese pastry, while the selection of salads, dips and breads was just out of control (the chilli marinated mushrooms were probably my highlight). Herman's has a better view, but this place wins the battle of the buffets hands down.

My other blog-worthy meals were at Reggev Hummus, a teeny little restaurant right by my apartment that serves exclusively hummus-based meals. It was recommended to me by a few people and, while the idea of a hummus restaurant initially struck me as odd, it fast became a favourite option on nights that I was feeling lazy.

The concept is pretty simple - you get a couple of bits of bread, some pickles and a bowl filled with hummus plus some toppings. I had the hazilim (grilled eggplant, tomato and paprika, 95kr/$15.30), the foul (fava beans with tahini and egg, 85kr/$13.70) and the baz-veg (tomato and paprika sauce, with egg and tahini, 95kr/$15.30). They were all excellent, with the hummus a perfect vessel for the simple, tasty topping ingredients. The bread fell a bit short of the excellence you might get at somewhere like Mankoushe, but I still went back again and again when I was after a speedy takeaway meal on a lazy work night.

I had a wonderful couple of months in Stockholm - the availability of vego food is much higher than it was on my previous trip in 2009 and, even if nothing quite lives up to Smith & Daughters or Wide Open Road, I really enjoyed checking everything out. Besides, it's a gloriously beautiful city in spring and summer time - I can't wait to go back.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Orange baked tofu

June 13, 2016

In the spirit of celebrating old favourites this winter, here's a recipe that we've been making for five years. It's the Zesty Orange Mojo Baked Tofu from Viva Vegan!. (Yeah, we did write about it back in 2010 but omitted instructions.)

This is a nifty foundation for a weeknight meal. First the tofu slices get baked in a little oil and tamari for seasoning. Then they're baked a second time in lots of orange juice, a bit of lime and some garlic until most of the liquid is evaporated. The bright flavours cling to the tofu, and the slices condense down to chewy bars. We've often served them as a meat substitute alongside grains and vegetables.

This week I held back just a bit on the second bake, keeping the tofu more tender. I've been folding it into tortillas and layering it up with avocado, a simple cabbage salad, and a herb-oil I made from parsley, coriander and dill. The vibrancy of this meal felt almost summery, even as I relied on early winter veges.

Orange baked tofu
(slightly adapted from a recipe from Terry Hope Romero's Viva Vegan!)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon tamari
500g firm tofu

juice of 2 oranges
zest of 1 orange
juice of 2 limes
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper

Preheat an oven to 200°C.

Place the olive oil and tamari in a large, high-walled baking tray and whisk them together with a fork, spreading them evenly across the base. Slice the tofu into 1 cm-thick rectangles and arrange them in the tray so that they're not overlapping (they can cram right up side-by-side, though). Bake the tofu for 20 minutes.

While the tofu is baking, prepare and whisk together all of the marinade ingredients. When the tofu has had its 20 minutes, retrieve it from the oven and flip over each piece. Pour over all of the marinade and return the baking dish to the oven to bake the tofu for a further 30 minutes, until the tofu is chewy and most but not all of the marinade has evaporated.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Twenty & Six Espresso III

June 5, 2016

I've been taking it gently as a I settle back into wintery Melbourne. I've been choosing old favourite recipes and restaurants that remind me what I love about home - baking granola, cooking lentil tacos and eating the leftovers in toasties, slurping up legume noodle soup. There's been porridge specials at Wide Open Road, dinner after work at Good Days, and Friday nights in local pubs.

Visiting the Queen Victoria Markets is another Melbourne staple. I picked up some soup ingredients there on a cold, wet Sunday and resolutely took myself across to Twenty & Six Espresso for a treat afterwards. They do Mörk hot chocolates including a vegan one they call the Bounty ($6). It's based on coconut cream and their house-made almond milk. Its richness comes more from the distinctive silkiness of that coconut cream and less from the light cocoa content; it's just a little frothy on top. I rationed it out slowly, with a sweet little (non-vegan) pumpkin cake ($4) decorated with just the right amount of cream cheese icing.


You can read about our previous visits to Twenty & Six here and here. Since then it's received positive reviews on confessions of a little piggy, Yellow Eggs, Concrete Playground, Mango Macarons, gochiso, Food Fable, Addicted to the Sweet Life, Eat. Play. Shop., Snow Crab Nebula and Big Hand and Little Hand. As counterpoints, there are mixed reviews on melbourne brunch scene, Eve Lovelle and GOOD FOOD GOOD MOOD, and negative reviews on Dammit Janet I Love Food and www.bleedingwineonmylips.com.

Twenty & Six Espresso
594 Queensberry St, North Melbourne
9329 0298

Accessibility: There's a small step on entry (although there are also some outdoor tables). The interior is pretty cosy and the toilets are out the back via the courtyard (which we haven't explored). I ordered at the table and paid at a low counter in the front room.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Stockholm, weeks 5 & 6

May 15-28, 2016

Between our joint trip to Helsinki and Cindy's sneaky side-trip to Denmark, the last couple of weeks of May didn't turn out to be massively exciting food-wise in Stockholm (at least until the 28th!). Cindy made sure she got to sample Sweden's own mock-meat invention, Oumph! (pictured below). It's a soy-based product with a pretty impressive range - we had the thyme and garlic version, stir-fried to serve alongside a quinoa salad. It's a decent attempt - a chicken-y texture and some nice flavours make this a rare mock-meat you can eat without added sauce. Good job Sweden.


We tried to drop in to Herman's to show Cindy the view one Friday night, but the line was too long and we gave up. With Cindy's time in Stockholm fast running out, we wound up heading back on one of the few non-sunny evenings we've had here lately, which slightly dampens the experience.

The buffet (120kr/$20.05 per person) remains a solid dinner option in any weather, with quite a few variations from my earlier visit. The fresh bread and associated bean and avocado dips were probably my highlight, but there was plenty to enjoy.

Cindy convinced me that we should sample from the dessert cabinet, which has a very attractive array of options. She settled on the apple pie (50kr/$8.35) which was an excellent choice, having buttery pastry and an excellent filling. Her huge, cream-topped hot chocolate was vegan too! The quality felt like a step up from the buffet-style savoury dishes, so it might be wise to ease off a bit on the savoury plates (if you can restrain yourself) and leave room for some sweets.


Next up came the festival of Michael, starting with my birthday dinner at home on Friday night, and continuing with brunch at Louie Louie in our neighbourhood. The brunch menu kicks off at 11am, and things were pretty quiet when we arrived bang on time (it got busier by the time we finished at around midday).

The basic brunch plate is on the left below: sausage, scrambled eggs, chickpea salad, a parmesan and chilli scone, sun-dried tomato mayonaisse, roasted pumpkin, fig jam, a mango-orange smoothie and unlimited coffee refills, all for 150kr ($25). We decided to split a side of the waffles with berries and cream (30kr/$5 extra). It's a massive meal, working a very brown/yellow colour palette. I was really impressed by the 'chorizo', and enjoyed all the trimmings that came along with them. The waffle was mercifully thin and added the appropriately celebratory touch to start my birthday right.


We spent the day wandering around the city and then taking a nap to prepare for our late dinner at Fotografiska, a photography museum with a fancy restaurant overlooking the water. We strolled through the exhibitions and still had time to squeeze in a drink in the neighbouring bar.

The big windows really show off the restaurant's incredible view - we were lucky enough to get shuffled to a window seat early in our meal meaning we spent most of the time gawping out the window as the sun slowly went down (see also the pic at the top of the post).

The restaurant has a real buzz (at least on a Saturday  night), and almost all of the tables were full when we turned up at 8:45. The exposed beams and open kitchen are typically on trend, but it's really all about the windows and the view.

I ordered the cocktail of the day, a carrot and citrus based drink with gin and some other kind of booze involved (142kr/$23.70). It came out alongside some wonderful rye bread, served with pickled Swedish turnip, onion mayo and butter. I happily accepted a second round when they offered.

The menu proper has a strong vegetable focus, with four cold and four hot dishes, all with vegetables as their main component, but some with non-vego add-ons (all can be done vegetarian). The staff suggested four dishes each (they're 125kr/$20.90 each), so we ordered 6 of the 8 possible dishes and saved room for dessert.

The first four were: asparagus with fennel hollandaise and tarragon (above left), potatoes in browned butter with cold smoked sour cream and tapioca (replacing the roe, above right), spring weeds with a herb marinated egg and a light broth (below left), and ramson pasta with fennel (below right). All four were fantastic - I think the asparagus and the potato were the stars of the first round, but there were no weak links.

The final two savouries were salt-baked beetroot with a smoky potato puree (below left) and a baked yellow onion with mushrooms, Jerusalem artichoke and truffle (below right). These two took things to even higher levels - managing somehow to be surprising and comforting at the same time.

We had to see whether the desserts (again 125kr/$20.90 each) could possibly measure up to the savouries, splitting a Jerusalem artichoke pizza with caramel and elderflower...

... and a serve of the birch ice-cream, with sorrel ice, meringue and liqourice.

Again, these were inventive and delicious - the kitchen at Fotografiska churns out some brilliantly thoughtful creations. 

We had friendly and efficient service - there was a screw up with my coffee, which they promptly rectified and then didn't charge for - and the setting is to die for, but the food managed to outdo them both. It's not obvious how well they'd manage vegan food, although the website is very clear that they're happy to cater for any requirements given enough notice, so it would be well worth a try. The food we had was so vegetable-focussed and creative, that it seems likely they'd come up with something worthwhile. I'm really glad we chose Fotografiska for our one properly fancy meal in Stockholm - it's a total winner.

This was our last meal together before Cindy set off home to Melbourne. I might make one more round-up of Stockholm eats before I, too, head home.