Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tempeh taco salad

November 13, 2017

This is a rare, valued thing - a new recipe to bring into our weeknight dinner rotation! It's a tempeh taco salad, published earlier this year on one of my favourite long-running food blogs, 101 Cookbooks

It starts with tempeh and black beans in taco spices, then there's lots of lettuce and fresh coriander to assert that it's a salad, and a handful of corn chips to bring the taco shell crunch. The salad dressing starts with ketchup, not something I thought I'd see on such a wholefoods-focused blog, but it's filled out with lots of tangy apple cider vinegar. Swanson encourages adding your own extras, too - for me that meant avocado chunks, fresh cherry tomatoes and a wedge of lime.

I'd recommend heading over to the source and checking out the different photos there - Swanson's version is richly coloured with roasted tomatoes and her corn chips are sparse and stirred through the salad. I was eating this over several days, so I separated out the chips to keep their crispness, and added in the avocado at the last minute. Avocado management aside, this was as good a packed lunch as it was a worknight dinner. It'll be back in our kitchen several more times before this summer is done.

Tempeh taco salad
(slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks)

225g packet tempeh
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon taco seasoning
1/3 cup ketchup
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/3 cup sunflower oil
400g can black beans
2 medium heads of cos lettuce
1 cup coriander
1 avocado
250g punnet cherry tomatoes
2 cups plain corn chips
1 lime

Slice the tempeh into cubes. Pour the olive oil into a frypan and set it over medium-high heat. Saute the tempeh in the oil until browned, then turn off the heat and transfer the tempeh to a bowl. Stir the taco seasoning through the tempeh.

Make the dressing in a lidded glass jar. Pour in the ketchup, vinegar, golden syrup, salt, paprika, onion power and sunflower. Screw on the lid and shake until the dressing is emulsified.

Drain and rinse the black beans, and stir them into the cooled spiced tempeh; stir in a tablespoon or so of the dressing too.

Roughly chop the lettuce and coriander; slice the avocado and cherry tomatoes. Gently toss together the salad or layer it up on a platter: lettuce, tomato, tempeh/beans, avocado, corn chips, coriander, then the dressing. Slice the lime into wedges and serve it on the side.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Dr Morse Bar and Eatery

November 12, 2017

We spent Sunday afternoon at Templestowe checking out the platypus that hang about in the Yarra out that way (see pic at the bottom of this post). The bus back took us into Abbotsford and we decided to stop off for dinner on the way home at Dr Morse Bar and Eatery. It's a cafe in the day time and a bar in the evening - the courtyard was pounding with incongruous house music and loads of people; inside was less crowded but the air was still dominated by the DJ.

We started off with some drinks - a citrussy mocktail for Cindy and a lemon lime and bitters for me. Nice and refreshing on a warm evening.

On Sunday afternoons they run a 'Fists of Fury Asian Garden BBQ' at Dr Morse, so the menu is a bit more restricted that other times of the week. There's just enough vego food for two people to share some dishes - we picked out four of the five options for a light dinner.

We had, clockwise from top left, the BBQ pumpkin with sweet tamarind glaze ($7), the charred corn with miso butter and togarashi ($8), the Bangkok fried rice ($12), and the grilled tofu with yellow curry and coconut ($8).

This was a pretty decent meal - the corn and the fried rice were probably the best of the bunch, with the omelette in the fried rice providing a good salty hit. The tofu looked the best, but the curry sauce was a bit bland and it was only the fresh chilli that really gave it some punch. The pumpkin had a nice char on it, but the sweet tamarind glaze didn't really shine. 

The prices are pretty reasonable - we spent just under $40 on an enjoyable meal for two. Service is efficient and friendly and there's a nice atmosphere on a Sunday evening (I can imagine it all gets a bit hectic on Friday and Saturday). Dr Morse probably won't drag us over to Abbotsford on its own, but it's a good option if we're ever in the neighbourhood.

As promised - the platypus from Templestowe:


There are some positive reviews of Dr Morse on Wandering MintThe City LaneSimply SundayLisa Eats WorldChewing is ExerciseThe Burger AdventureMel: Hot or Not and Peach Water, while The Chicken Scene and The Brunch Addict were less enthusiastic.

Dr Morse Bar and Eatery
274 Johnston St, Abbotsford
9416 1005
Sunday evening menu

Accessibility: There's a flat entryway and ramps between the front room and the outdoor area at the back. Toilets are fully accessible. We ordered at the table and paid at a high bar.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

DIY Golden Gaytime

November 2-14, 2017

The Golden Gaytime is a much-loved Aussie icecream that has withstood a shifting interpretation of its name. Its winking tagline is that it's hard to have a Gaytime on your own, and it's tempting to toast Australia's positive vote for marriage equality with one of these delightful popsicles.

And yet! We plan to make this a Streets Free Summer, in solidarity with the workers making Golden Gaytimes and facing pay cuts of up to 46%. So why not make a Gaytime on your own?

The easiest path is to whip it up, sundae style, with purchased icecream. A scoop of vanilla icecream, a scoop of caramel - have you noticed that there are some magnificent vegan salted caramel ones out there now? Make your own two-ingredient choc-ice magic, scatter over some crushed biscuits and you are SET.

Of course, I had to overthink this project and make my own icecream. I thought I'd mastered vegan salted caramel icecream years ago, though I've grown a little weary of overbearing coconut milk desserts since then. I worked in some macadamia milk, glucose syrup to improve the texture, and a hearty dash of dark rum in the caramel layer. My two-toned icecream tasted so, so great, but its texture completely bombed. Dense and icy, it was a pain to scoop and just barely a pleasure to eat. I kinda liked it in popsicle form, but it's not the Golden Gaytime we know and love. I assume it needs a higher fat content.

The recipe below isn't a recommendation. It's a record for myself, it's a call-out for your icecream-making ideas, it's an affirmation that I should do this again, and better.

DIY Golden Gaytime

400mL vegan milk (I used macadamia)
1 x 400mL can coconut cream
1/4 cup glucose syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
scant teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dark rum
100g caster sugar

chocolate shell
1/4 cup coconut oil
80g vegan 'milk' chocolate (I used Bonvita)
tiny pinch of salt

100g plain vegan biscuits (I used Granita)

Place the vegan milk, coconut cream and glucose syrup in a saucepan and heat, stirring, until well mixed. Pour half of the mixture into a bowl and whip it up with a stick blender, adding 1 teaspoon of the vanilla and a pinch of the salt. Refrigerate this mixture until very cold, at least 3 hours. (You should still have the remaining unseasoned half of the milk mixture out.)

Place the caster sugar in a clean dry saucepan over moderate, even heat. Avoid stirring it, but go ahead and shift the liquid bits out of the way to encourage the solid bits to melt quicker. Continue cooking the sugar until it is all liquid and brown, until it just starts smoking. Whisk in the remaining coconut milk mixture, and allow any stiffened caramel to melt back down. When it's all smooth, turn off the heat and whisk in the remaining teaspoon of vanilla, the rum and the remaining salt. Refrigerate this mixture until very cold, at least 3 hours.

Churn the vanilla icecream in an icecream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions, then pour it into your preferred mold, and place it in the freezer. Churn the caramel icecream in the maker, then pour it over the vanilla layer. Place the mold, covered, in the freezer.

To make the chocolate shell, melt the coconut oil over low heat in a small saucepan. Add the chocolate and salt, and stir continuously until you have a smooth sauce. Turn off the heat and store the chocolate at room temperature.

Smash the biscuits into coarse crumbs (I used a rolling pin, with the biscuits placed between sheets of baking paper).

When it's time to serve, scoop or unmold the icecream, pour over the chocolate sauce and quickly sprinkle over the biscuit crumbs before the chocolate sets.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Green Man's Arms

November 1, 2017

We were excited to read that new owners had taken over the old Percy's pub in Carlton and turned it into an all-vego pub with a Middle-Eastern vibe. We quickly rounded up a gang and got along to check it out. 

The fit-out is comfortable and a little retro, with a few high pub-style tables in the front bar and a casual dining room out the back. The staff are hugely enthusiastic and were almost overwhelmingly helpful on our visit. I imagine things will get a bit more slick and efficient once they settle into their rhythm, but we had staff checking in every few minutes.

The menu is a mix of small plates and mains, with most of the vegan options among the former. We shared a bunch of dishes between the four of us for near-comprehensive coverage of the Green Man's Arms' food.

First up was two serves of the Yemeni lahuh bread filled with asparagus, mushroom ragu and fresh creamed corn ($6.50 each), and the house made hummus with pita bread and pickled veggies ($8.50). The breads were fantastic - the lahuh bread had an injera-like texture, but a sweeter flavour. The hummus was solid, without being life-changing and the lightly pickled veggies that came with both dishes added a nice sharpness.

The only vegan main is the house made couscous ($15), which came with a vegetable purree and some roasted beans, corn and onions. It's kind of a weird dish to be honest - you might be a bit disappointed if you ordered it as a main for yourself, and as something to share around the table it wasn't as simple to divide as it looks.

Much more successful were the pomme frites ($8) - a plate of the most deliciously fried smashed potatoes, heavy on the seasonings and served with aioli and house made tomato sauce. The best dish of the night. I liked the falafel ($7) as well, although they weren't chewy enough for everyone at the table. 

We finished off by sharing a sample of all the desserts on offer: halva ice cream ($7, vegan and pictured left), knafeh ($10 and pictured centre) and barboosa ($8, vegan and pictured right). The halva ice cream was an impressively creamy vegan version, with some Persian fairy floss and hazelnuts to keep things interesting. The knafeh was a crisp-edged ricotta-stuffed pastry served with pistachios, pickled grapes, syrup and some weird little jelly cubes. The barboosa was a very sweet semolina cake, served on top of a rosewater infused coconut cream. I think we all had different favourites, which is a good sign.

It's great that the Green Man's Arms is offering up another decent veg option in Carlton, but we were only partially wowed by this early visit. The menu needs a few tweaks I think - some more (and more interesting) vegan mains seem like an obvious addition. It will be interesting to see how this pub develops!


The Green Man's Arms
418 Lygon St, Carlton
9347 7419
menu, desserts

Accessibility: The entry has a small lip from the street and there's a step up between the front bar and the dining room. We had full table service and didn't visit the toilets.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Loving Hut

October 28, 2017

Melbourne has a new, third Loving Hut! And it's located in the shopfront that used to hold White Lotus; it's inexplicably comforting to me that there's a veg*n restaurant nestled in this spot again. The Loving Hut team have redecorated the interior yet it's instantly familiar, both from its past life and via the distinctive yellow branding of the Loving Hut chain.

The menu is all vegan with numerous other dietary considerations (e.g. gluten, onion, garlic, raw) labelled throughout. There are dozens of dishes on offer, and I hear it runs closer to the Richmond offerings than the Northcote ones.

We stopped in after big, separate days running about - neither of us had a huge appetite and were glad to order simply, sit at the empty communal table, and keep to ourselves. Unusually, this Loving Hut is largely run from the counter, and this suited us fine.

Michael was a big fan of the nasi lemak ($16). This version is centred on coconut rice and a spicy mock meat rendang and has all the right trimmings: sambal, fresh cucumber and tomato slices, peanuts, and crispy mushroom mock anchovies.

I played it safe and standard with the salt and pepper tofu ($16). This, too, is a lovely rendition of a common dish, with lively spices in a crispy coating and refreshing capsicum and lettuce surrounding the tofu.

There's still so much more for us to try at this Loving Hut - entrees, noodles, soups, smoothies and perhaps dessert. The proselytising posters are cheesy and the drinks menu's flooded with kombucha, but we can always rely on Loving Hut for a casual, comfortable meal.


Veganopoulous got into this Loving Hut branch early and enjoyed her visit.


Loving Hut
185 Victoria St, West Melbourne
9326 7551
entrees, mains, drinks & dessert
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a shallow ramp on entry and clear corridor through the middle of the restaurant (see top photo). Tables are medium spaced. We ordered and paid at a low counter. We didn't toilets.

Monday, November 06, 2017


October 25, 2017

Etta is a new restaurant close by where we live, but we have Tash to thank for alerting us to its opening and booking us in to try it out together. While a couple of newspaper articles have insisted that it's not fine dining like the co-owners' past businesses, we think Etta looks pretty fancy! There's a sparkly bar up front, a dimly lit dining room out back, seasonal ingredient-focused menu at special-occasion prices, and excellent service throughout. We saw plenty of veg-friendly dishes listed across the menu, but agreed to put ourselves in the chef's hand for $60 per person. 

Another signifier of fine dining is starting a meal with the best bread and butter. Etta delivered soundly on this, with crunchy-crusted pillow-soft sourdough and a memorable burnt butter that could just about be served for dessert. Rather, it was served with some refreshing pickled vegetables and a lovely macadamia-based condiment; the cabbage was sprinkled with a furikake that reminded me happily of Twisties. This appetising spread was a meal highlight for me.

Our second course comprised three dishes: a smoky beetroot carpaccio arranged over miso chimichurri and walnuts (above left), Michael's favourite tamari-roasted buttercup pumpkin sprinkled with sunflowers and dill (above centre), and new season peas with stracciatella and Sichuan (pepper, I assume!).

The third course of savoury dishes was just a little heftier: Tash's favourite mushrooms la greque on a smoked tofu puree (above left), fettucine with globe artichokes, hazelnut and sage (above centre), and a side of green asparagus seasoned with furikake (less Twistie-flavoured here).

For dessert, we were served roasted banana icecream with coconut mousse, jelly and a salty peanut-coconut crumble. Roasting meant the banana flavour was concentrated and a bit much for Michael, but I enjoyed it very much; the salted peanut crunches in the crumble were what made this dish special.

This was a meal of high quality and high consistency, as demonstrated by our differing favourites; it was only our individual ingredient hang-ups (rubbery mushrooms for me, bananas for Michael) that occasionally disrupted our enjoyment. Since a lot of dishes contained dairy we're unsure what a vegan menu might look like, but the flexible 'leave it to us' option and the enthusiastic use of vegetables (and a bit of tofu) leave us optimistic. We reckon coeliacs will do well too.

Service was eager and accessible whenever we needed it. We feel similarly eager to return with the change of the seasons and discover more of what Etta can do.


60 Lygon St, Brunswick
9448 8233

Accessibility: The entry is flat and there is one step up from the bar area to the dining area. Tables are moderately spaced and lighting is quite dim. We received full table service. Toilets are unisex and spacious, but we didn't notice handrails or other mobility aids.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Yuni's Kitchen

October 22, 2017

We had an afternoon gig in Northcote and took the opportunity to check out Yuni's Kitchen, an Indonesian cafe with a reputation for vegan-friendliness. It's a cosy little place tucked in behind a church on High Street with seats for about 20 or 30 people. We had no trouble claiming a table for four at 12:30 on a Saturday afternoon and between us we got stuck into most of the veggie dishes on offer.

We started off with two of the entrees - the tahu isi sayur (below left, $9) and the bakwan jagung (below right, $9). The tahu isi sayur are little pockets of semi-soft tofu stuffed with vegetables and deep-fried in batter. The bakwan jagung are little fritters of corn, coriander, carrot and spring onion. Both are vegan, delicious and come served with Yuni's incredible sambal, which you can buy and take home.

We scanned the mains for tempeh and, finding only one vego dish that included it, three of us ordered the same thing: the nasi campur sayur ($21). It's a combo of all kinds of deliciousness: yellow rice, veggie curry, fried tempeh, urap (steamed veggies with spiced grated coconut), pickles, emping (chips!), perkedel (fried potato fritter), peanuts and a chilli egg (subbed with eggplant for the vegan version). This was such a good lunch, with so many delightful flavours and textures to smother in sambal. It's a slightly expensive lunch, but it's well worth it. 

Cindy took one for the team and ordered a tempeh-free meal: the veggie nasi goreng ($15). It's a solid fried rice with vegetables mixed through, topped with a fried egg, a potato fritter, pickles and some emping. Cindy was a bit disappointed not to get any tofu or tempeh in the fried rice, but it was still a decent offering. She topped it off with a Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk ($5), which is about the only way she'll consume caffeine. 

We had a great time at Yuni's - the nasi campur sayur is an absolute winner and I can't imagine ever ordering anything else. Our only disappointment was the lack of tempeh options - they make their own, which means they have to ration it out a bit rather than putting it in all the stir-fries etc (although I don't know why the waste it in two meaty dishes!). The staff were helpful and there was a nice relaxed vibe - it's a great Northcote option when you're not in the mood for Tahina


There's a reasonably positive review of Yuni's vego options on Green Gourmet Giraffe and a good write-up of their meatier offerings on Gastrology.

Yuni's Kitchen
251 High Street, Northcote
0455 337 666
drinks, food
facebook page

Accessibility: The restaurant is behind a church and the ground's a bit uneven on the way in. The entry is flat and the inside is moderately spacious. We ordered at the table and paid at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Brownie-style chocolate cake
with espresso mascarpone

October 21, 2017

This Ottolenghi club meeting, I made a recipe requested by our host Alice. She'd been browsing recent articles about Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh's new book Sweet, and coveting what is alleged to be the world's best chocolate cake. Alice's oven doesn't currently work and I was glad to supply the cake she craved.

Happily, the world's best chocolate cake isn't the world's most laborious chocolate cake! In fact, you don't even have to cream room-temperature butter and sugar in this version. The process reminded me more of some brownies I've baked, where the butter is melted and everything can be whisked and sifted directly into the saucepan. The two optional (but enthusiastically requested) accompaniments come together just as breezily: the chocolate topping is a one-saucepan ganache (although the recipe also includes a bizarre food-processor technique), and the espresso mascarpone can be whipped in a bowl by hand or briefly with an electric beater. I had both mixtures ready to go in less time than it took the cake to bake.

And how about that tentative "world's best" claim? Well, I can't be sure that it's not the world's best chocolate cake, because I can't recall eating a better one myself. The cake stands tall and dark, with a moist, melt-in-the-mouth medium density. It contains more than a cup of espresso, but that only serves to liven the chocolate flavour and doesn't create an explicit coffee taste. That's in the complex, grainy mascarpone, along with vanilla and cinnamon (incidentally, a half-quantity of this is just about enough to go around).

After a couple of hours in the fridge the cake changes, of course - it's firmer, denser, and the subtler flavours were lost to me. I'd recommend gathering some friends and getting as much enjoyment from this cake as you can during its first few hours out of the oven.

(And if you're after a vegan alternative, my best offering is this recipe.)

Brownie-style chocolate cake with espresso mascarpone
(slightly adapted from a recipe by Helen Goh and published in good food)

spray oil
350mL espresso coffee
250g butter
200g dark chocolate
250g caster sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
240g self-raising flour
30g cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

200mL heavy cream
3 teaspoons golden syrup
3 teaspoons butter
200g dark chocolate

espresso mascarpone
375mL heavy cream
190g mascarpone
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 teaspoons ground espresso
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons icing sugar

Preheat an oven to 170°C. Line a 23cm diameter springform cake tin with paper and spary it with oil.

Heat the espresso in a large saucepan, and add the butter. When the butter is completely melted, turn off the heat and add the chocolate, stirring continuously until it is melted through. Whisk in the sugar until it's dissolved. Check the bottom of the saucepan and allow it to cool a little if it's still hot. When the mixture is just gently warm, whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Sift over the flour, cocoa and salt, then stir everything together to combine. Pour the cake batter into the springform tin, and bake it for around an hour, until a skewer comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for around 20 minutes, before removing the edge. It's gonna have deep cracks; don't worry about 'em!

To prepare the ganache, place the cream, golden syrup and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until the butter is melted and the cream starts to bubble. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate, stirring constantly until the ingredients are well combined and silky smooth. Allow the ganache to cool a little, then place plastic wrap on its surface.

To prepare the espresso mascarpone, whip together all the ingredients with a whisk or an electric beater, until soft peaks form.

To serve, transfer the cooled cake to a serving plate. Spread over the ganache and serve the espresso mascarpone on the side.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Crushed puy lentils with tahini & cumin

October 21, 2017

We've been Ottolenghi-clubbing for a good, long while now (our first meeting was Feb 2015!) - it's a great way to sample a range of Yotam's wonderful dishes without driving yourself crazy with preparation. This time around was as wonderful as ever - we had an aubergine, courgette and yoghurt upside-down cake, black miso sticky rice with peanuts and broccoli (both from Ottolenghi's Christmas column) and saffron, date and almond rice from Plenty More plus contributions from me and Cindy. See our facebook page for the full rundown.

I decided to make this crushed lentil dish from Ottolenghi's Guardian column. I'm a big fan of Ottolenghi's dips and spreads, and this one sounded perfect. It combines a relatively simple process (maybe 40 minutes all up) with a superb outcome - the lentil mix is delicious, with a wonderful  thick texture and a nice garlicky, cumin flavour on top of the nutty lentils. This is a perfect introduction to Ottolenghi - fancy and delicious but without a lot of the complicated methods or odd ingredients that characterise a lot of Otto's dishes. We'll definitely make this again.

Crushed puy lentils with tahini and cumin
(via Ottolenghi's Guardian column)

250g puy lentils
30g butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
3 tomatoes, cut into a 1cm dice
25g coriander leaves, roughly chopped
5 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper
half a red onion, sliced finely
4 hard-boiled eggs
olive oil

Bring a medium saucepan of water to the boil and throw in the lentils. Cook for 20 minutes or so until tender and then drain and set aside.

Melt the butter with the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the garlic and cumin and cook for a minute or two. 

Throw in most of the coriander (reserve some for garnishing), all of the tomatoes and the lentils. Cook for another few minutes and then stir through the tahini and lemon juice, about half a cup of water and heaps of salt and pepper.

Turn the heat down and cook on low for five minutes or so, stirring. Roughly mash the lentils with a potato masher until some of them break up and you get a nice thick consistency. 

Serve, with a drizzle of extra olive oil, garnishes of coriander and onion and the eggs. We had ours with bread, but it's hearty enough to eat on its own.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar

October 18, 2017

We've been wanting to visit the Last Chance with our mate Jess for a little while, and until this week the best we managed was Michael and I popping in on the chef's night off. On Wednesday the stars aligned at last and the three of us shared a range of their vegan pub dishes before hitting a bluegrass gig.

The Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar is unashamedly a dive. The floor is concrete, the walls are lined with hardcore gig posters, and there's a faint smell of bleach in the air. The kitchen opens at 6pm and the menu is a single page of junk food: six kinds of burger, nachos, a souva, a parma, chips and a chilli dog. Happily, most of them have a vegan option (and everything vegetarian is vegan). How to eat gluten-free is less clear, though the buckwheat salad (!), nachos and chips might be suitable.

The loaded croquettes ($13) looked like the most refined item on the menu (save, perhaps, for that buckwheat salad). They're gooey with bechamel inside, dotted with corn kernels and spicy bursts of smoked jalapeno. I'm not sure that the aioli is really necessary (but yeah, we used it).

The chilli dog ($10) starts with a robust mock-sausage, which gets smothered in spicy beans, onions, salsa, chilli sauce and mustard. I'm a retiring ketchup-and-mustard kinda hot dog eater, so this was a bit much for me, but this will appeal to those who want more.

The vegan chicken parma ($16) doesn't appear to have a meat analogue on the menu, and is ENORMOUS. We were all big fans of the fatty mock meat, crispy-crumbed and topped with mock bacon and cheese. The accompanying chips were more modestly portioned, soft rather than crisp and well seasoned - they reminded me more of oven-baked potatoes than fries. Due to the parma's richness and the portioning, I'd be wary of ordering this on my own - chomping down my third of this one was mighty satisfying, though.

The dish I'd be most likely to order again was the Last Chance souva ($9). It's a doughy little wrap stuffed with braised mock lamb, onions and a few of those soft chips, drizzled with chilli sauce and aioli. It's saucy, savoury, and feasible to eat on your own.

The vegan menu at Last Chance is similar to The Cornish Arms, but they're offering a few nice touches of their own, and lower prices to boot. I reckon we'll be heading back for a burger before you know it.


This bar has received a mixed review on Kittens Gone Lentil.


The Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar
238 Victoria St, North Melbourne
9329 9888

Accessibility: There's a small step on entry to a flat, open interior. We sat on high, back-less stools, and ordered and paid at a high bar. Toilets are gendered, the men's are down a few stairs; no accommodations have been made with accessibility in mind.

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Merri Clan

October 7, 2017

We've been seeing references to The Merri Clan all over vego social media for the last few months and finally found a spare Saturday morning to head over to Preston to check it out. It's a casual neighbourhood haunt, with a cafe menu during the day and a bar vibe at night. The fit-out is low-key and a bit ramshackle, but the whole feel is charmingly laid-back. We headed out to the courtyard to enjoy the sunny weather and scope out the menu.

Everything is vegan, including some amazing sounding burgers, a big vegan brekkie, nachos and a good selection of other savoury dishes. There are healthy-sounding smoothie bowls and, for a sweet-tooth like Cindy, there are poffertjes.

The giant, wobbly pile of poffertjes pictured above is the 'fully loaded' snack size (15 pieces, $14) - Cindy shared a few of her snack plate, and I really can't imagine anyone could tackle the meal size (25 pc, $18) on their own. The fully loaded option comes with house made nutella, maple cashew cream, berry compote and candied pecans. Cindy was very happy with her brunch treat - the poffertjes are a puffy, sweet base for the slathering of delicious toppings, with the berry compote cutting through the richness of the sauces. If you can't face the fully loaded option, you can build your own, based on the above toppings plus jam, cinnamon sugar and lemon, butter and maple syrup. It's a very flexible offering and I think a very popular one. 

I ordered the breakfast tacos - a pair of corn tortillas topped with black beans, spiced toasted quinoa, tomato salsa, guacamole, smoked chipotle sauce, lime infused coconut yoghurt and fresh chillies ($15).

These were so laden with toppings that they were impossible to eat as tacos, but luckily they were very, very tasty. The crunchy toasted quinoa was the surprise star of the dish for me, adding texture and spice to the creamy beans and tangy sauces. I really loved these and am super keen to try out more of their savoury options.

The coffee I had was decent, and the outdoor space was lovely. Service was a bit mixed, with some super helpful and friendly staff and some with a bit less enthusiasm, but the food is fantastic and I really liked the atmosphere. We'll be back.


There a couple of very positive reviews on Veganopolous, but nobody else seems to have reviewed The Merri Clan.


The Merri Clan
15 Gilbert Rd, Preston
0407 888 626

Accessibility: There's a flat entryway and a reasonably spacious interior. The outdoor area is a hodge podge of different tables and chairs, but everything is pretty accessible. Toilets are good, including a unisex and fully accessible cubicle.

Friday, October 20, 2017


October 5, 2017

We visited the relatively new Bhang after Will recommended it and Tash suggested we all get together for dinner. Michael grabbed a booking just a day in advance and it was packed out when we arrived - it's clearly rapidly attracted fans, even though it's tucked off Sydney Rd in the north of Brunswick. It might be that early flush for a hip new opening, or the reputation of the owners (who also run Tom Phat), ... or it might just be that good.

Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options are abundant and well-marked, and with five of us on board we were able to try many of them. The staff kindly adapted our small plate orders to ensure they were portioned just right to go around. Pani puri ($10) are always a blast, but surprisingly upstaged here by the spinach and paneer samosas ($12). This was without doubt my favourite samosa experience of my life! The paneer filling was so soft and rich and savoury, reminding me almost of scrambled eggs, and the pastry was buttery, crumbly and toasty-browned.

The mains didn't quite reach the same heights, but they were consistently very good too. The char-grilled eggplants (bharwan vanghi, $15; top left) arrived first and, once we gracelessly cut them with a spoon, disappeared fast. Will and Michael loved the pumpkin olan best ($16; top right), more for the black-eyed bean curry underneath. The gobhi korma ($16; centre) presented its cauliflower whole and so the spices didn't quite soak through, but I adored dredging garlic naan ($4, not pictured) through its ombre sauce. The mast biryani ($18; bottom left) was steamed with a pastry top, and not nearly as spicy as Will swore it was on his first visit. My favourite might have been the tangy tamarind-dressed salad of paneer, green mango and baby spinach (kache aam ka paneer, $11; bottom right).

Others sampled a range of fancy and unusual cocktails. I was a smidge disapointed that they were all out of dates for the date and almond lassi, but the more conventional mango version ($5) was very pretty. Unfortunately for all its colour it was bland, not even matching the plainer, tangier ones I've drunk elsewhere.

I managed to keep our ordering in check and everyone had room for dessert! The others all opted for the spiced poached pear ($12), which was too firm to handle neatly with a spoon, but made for a beautiful plate with a scoop of masala chai icecream, a ball of coconut halwa, and festive sprinklings of nuts, syrup and colour. I was well pleased with my gulab jamun ($9), a little larger and lighter than they're traditionally prepared, with a matching scoop of chai ice cream and pretty garnishes.

We thoroughly enjoyed our first Bhang meal - it was a little loud and a little flawed, but its best dishes were tremendous and even its lesser dishes were very good. The samosas alone would pull me back for more.


Bhang has received a mixed review from Barley Restaurant Reviews, and positive reviews from Lips Temptations (freebie)FEED BLOG SPOT (freebie), and A Chronicle of Gastronomy (freebie).


1/2A Mitchell St, Brunswick
9383 2488
food, drinks

Accessibility: The entry is wide and flat, but we reckon it's pretty tough from there: the interior is crowded with furniture and dimly lit; most of the dining tables are located upstairs. We received full table service and didn't visit the toilets.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Annual lab culinary competition

October 2, 2017

There was concern, after a couple of key departures from the lab last year, that the annual culinary competition might be over. Far from it! All it took was a nod from the new director and a couple of emails, and entries were out in force.

Competitors drew inspiration from their gardens and other local ingredients, from famous chefs and family members, from their cultures of origin and even from their jobs. I contributed a plate of Ottolenghi's butterbean hummus, and a lattice-topped cherry pie. For the first time in all my years of competing, I won the grand prize! The judges especially praised the pie's crumbly buttery crust, and one confessed to reaching for it three times in spite of abundant alternative offerings.


I've also written accounts of this competition in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Swedish meatballs

September 23, 2017

I brought some lingonberry jam back with me from Sweden this year and it has sat sadly in the cupboard for months waiting for inspiration to strike. Lingonberry jam isn't really used like strawberry or raspberry jam - you don't smear it on toast or have it with scones - it's more commonly used as an accompaniment to savoury food like fried herring, potato pancakes or, of course, meatballs.

While we were in Stockholm last year, friends had made us a classic Swedish meal - new potatoes, (veggie) meatballs, greens and lingonberry jam - it was one of my favourite memories of the trip and I decided to spend a quiet Saturday arvo trying to replicate it. A bit of googling around turned up this recipe on Rabbits and Wolves, which ticked all of my boxes. We paired it with the lingonberry jam, boiled potatoes and green beans. It was a wonderful meal - the meatballs were a bit squishy, but held together pretty well and got a decent char on in our hot cast iron pan. The coconut-y gravy is rich and creamy - perfectly paired with the sweet and tangy lingonberry jam. We'll definitely make this meal again, when Melbourne's winter has me dreaming of a Swedish springtime.

Swedish meatballs
(slightly adapted from Rabbits and Wolves)

300g packet of tempeh
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds with 3 tablespoons water
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used a single weetbix, crushed up)
1/2 cup polenta (in place of panko crumbs)
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Salt and pepper
Oil for frying (we used peanut oil)

1/4 cup Nuttelex
1/4 cup flour
2 cups of veggie stock
1 tablespoon tamari
400ml can coconut milk
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the ground flax seeds and water together to make a vegan egg. Combine it with all the meatball ingredients in a food processor and process them into a smooth paste. Add more water if the mix is too dry.

Shape the tempeh mixture into small balls (no bigger than a golf ball). 

Heat some oil in a cast iron pan until it's very hot and fry the meatballs on each side until they're nice and browned. We had to do ours in two batches, but it will depend on the size of your frying pan. Remove the meatballs from the frying pan and set aside.

Wipe the pan clean and start on the gravy. Turn the heat down to low and melt the Nuttelex. Whisk in the flour until it forms a roux. 

Whisk in the stock, tamari, coconut milk, mustard and vinegar - add things in slowly so you can whisk it all together well. Turn the heat up and bring the sauce to a simmer. Hold it over a low simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the gravy thickens right up.

Season the sauce to taste and add the meatballs. Serve with potatoes, beans and a generous spoonful of lingonberry jam. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Smith & Daughters VIII

September 23, 2017

It's been 18 months since we last blogged about perennial favourite Smith & Daughters. The menu has been completely re-worked, which seems like a good enough reason to quickly write up a recent brunch experience. We were pleased to see freshly squeezed juices back on the menu - I ordered the juice of the day, which was a carrot, ginger and apple concoction ($10), while Cindy went for straight-up OJ ($7.50).

There's no more breakfast burrito or maple bacon pancakes, but plenty of exciting new things to try. I almost ordered the scramble, but we've made it at home so much that I decided to branch out and try the sausage and beans ($19), featuring spicy house-made sausage, white beans, peppers, smoked paprika and saffron.

I loved this - the braised beans were rich and smoky, and the chunks of sausage superb. As always, I'd have loved a second piece of toast for scooping up the goods, but that's a minor quibble.

Cindy surprisingly went past the mulled wine soaked French toast ($18) and the Almond turrón bun ($15) to order something savoury - the Spanish pressed sandwich stuffed with chorizo, peppers, mozzarella and quince paste and accompanied by a handful of crisps ($17). 

Cindy was impressed by this, with the sweetness of the quince paste really shining alongside the spicier ingredients. She also raved about the crisps, which she reckons S & D might make themselves.

Smith & Daughters continue to deliver superb vegan food, lovely service and a great vibe. After nearly three years, I wonder if Melbourne is starting to take S & D for granted a bit. The restaurant was surprisingly quiet on the Saturday morning we visited. The vegan brunch options around Melbourne have obviously improved a lot in three years, and loads of people were at the Deli, but they're changing things up enough that it's still definitely worth swinging by the original.


You also can read about onetwothreefourfivesix, seven of our previous visits to Smith & Daughters. Since our last visit A Chronicle of Gastronomy, The Rose & Bean, Donut Sam, delightfully tasty and Future King and Queen have all enjoyed S & D, while Howie's Melbourne Food was a bit underwhelmed.

Smith & Daughters
175 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
9939 3293
brunch menu, drinks
facebook page

Accessibility: The entry is flat and narrow and the tables are pretty crowded. The interior is dimly lit and loud at night. Toilets are located up several steps, are gendered and of standard dimension. We ordered at the table and paid at a high counter.