Sunday, June 23, 2019

Ottolenghi birthday feast

May 26, 2019

I had a big birthday recently and hosted a shindig at one of our old favourite pubs with a bunch of mates. I finished the night loaded down with presents, including a stunning set of Global knives from my work colleagues. They supplemented the knives with a box full of produce, providing the key ingredients for three (3!) different Ottolenghi dishes. I had left Sunday completely free, so I spent the day working my way through all of them. 

There were a couple of pretty easy dishes: cauliflower, pomegranate and pistachio salad from Simple and roasted pumpkin wedges with chestnut, cinnamon & fresh bay leaves from the web. The cauliflower was pretty excellent - a mix of grated raw and tender roasted cauli, with the classic Ottolenghi additions of pomegranate and a variety of herbs.

The pumpkin was a bit let down by our inability to locate fresh bay leaves and a general ambivalence towards chestnuts - the maple and sage roasting mix worked well though. 

The final dish (pictured at the top) was the most complex: butternut squash with ginger tomatoes and lime yoghurt from Nopi - we used the version on Ottolenghi's website. There are a lot of steps to this - roast the pumpkin, roast the tomatoes for two hours with a spice paste and make up a yoghurt sauce. None of it's very hard, but it's a time consuming affair - you really need to have most of the day free to make this work. It's worth the time though - the ginger tomatoes provide a sharp, acidic burst that cuts through the sweet pumpkin, while the yoghurt smooths things out and the peanuts and shallots give you some crunch. It's a showstopper of a side dish.

Butternut pumpkin with ginger tomatoes & lime yoghurt
(slightly adapted from a recipe on Ottolenghi's website)

1 medium butternut pumpkin, unpeeled, halved lengthways, seeds removed, then cut into 1 inch slices
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 tomatoes, halved lengthways
3cm piece of ginger, finely grated
1 red chilli, seeded diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons palm sugar
salt and pepper

120g Greek yoghurt
zest and juice of a lime
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

small bunch coriander, roughly chopped
1/2 cup roasted cashews
10g crispy fried shallots

Preheat the oven to 240°C.

Mix the pumpkin with two tablespoons of the oil, two teaspoons of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Spread them out on a baking tray and bake for 40 minutes until golden-brown. Set aside.

Turn the oven down to 170°C. Pop the tomatoes on a baking tray, skin-side down. Sprinkle each of them with salt, drizzle with the rest of the olive oil and cook for 80 minutes.

While they're baking make up your paste - mix together the ginger, chilli, garlic, sugar and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a thick paste. Spoon this mixture on top of the tomatoes and bake for another 40 minutes, until it caramelises. 

Stir the lime juice, zest and cardamom through the yoghurt. 

Spread the pumpkin slices out and top with the tomatoes, lime yoghurt, nuts, coriander and crispy shallots and serve.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Serious Eats vegan brownies

May 24, 2019

I can always rely on Serious Eats for a thoughtful but complicated way around vegan food, and so it was with their vegan brownie recipe. Calling for cocoa butter, soy milk powder and dry malt extract, I had to move beyond my own pantry and even my local shops to ready myself.

Though I'd never bought cocoa butter before, I knew it was achievable, and I was keen to bring another chocolate-based product in for the fatty component. Dry malt extract was harder, and I ended up settling for a syrup. Soy milk powder proved impossible, and I had some memory of seeing coconut milk powder around the place. Out of desperation I bought creamed coconut and this was a big mistake. My first batch of these brownies oozed with oil, and it solidified into a white tide mark around the cooled squares. 

Nevertheless, they tasted great. Very, very chocolatey but also complex with that malt and a pinch of coffee. And there was this slightly elastic chewiness to them that I was into, like a thick caramel. I wanted to make them work. 

The clue was in reading the recipe through a couple more times. It was designed to be packaged up as a dry mix to store in the pantry (just add boiling water and vanilla!) but that wasn't necessarily what I needed. Why use soy milk powder and boiling water when you could just use... soy milk? And how about melting the chocolate instead of processing it until it was "as powdery and fine as flour"? I rearranged the ingredient list, thinking about how brownies are typically made, and came up with the streamlined version that has worked best. I made a new, more successful test batch, and then a double batch for Michael's birthday, and then some more to use up the cocoa butter and share at a crafternoon.

This recipe and this brownie won't be everyone's favourite. It's got fussy ingredients, it's very intensely flavoured, it's barely cakey and the edges can even be tough if overbaked. But it's my kinda brownie, and it's going to take a lot to shift my allegiance to another recipe. 

Serious Eats vegan brownies
(adapted from this recipe)

2 1/4 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup plain flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup cocoa butter
1 generous tablespoon malt syrup
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1 generous teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Line a 20cm-square baking tray with paper and lightly spray it with oil.

In a medium-large bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa, salt, espresso powder and baking powder.

Set a medium-large saucepan over low-medium heat. Melt the cocoa butter in it; whisk in the malt syrup and soy milk. When the mixture is well-combined and hot, turn off the heat and stir in the chocolate chips, continuing to whisk until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients and then the vanilla, until the batter is smooth. 

Pour the batter into the baking tray. Sprinkle something over the top if you like: there are pomegranate seeds in the pictured ones; I've also left them plain, dropped frozen raspberries in, and marbled peanut butter through other batches. Bake for around 35 minutes, until the edges are firm and the centre is a little bit wobbly.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Jamie Oliver's vegan brownies

May 18, 2019

When I put the call out for everyone's favourite vegan brownie recipes, a helpful person in a facebook group pointed me to Jamie Oliver's recipe. I liked that it was based on the kinds of ingredients I always have at home, and that the batter included both cocoa and melted dark chocolate for a deep chocolate flavour. There's some extra chocolate chips and pecans folded in at the end, too. Though I'd normally be very keen on the nuts, I thought it'd be fairer to skip them as I compare recipes.

As you can see in the photo above, this brownie is certainly fudgy rather than cakey! But without anything to replace the eggs that form such a key part of non-vegan brownies, the texture was a bit... paste-y. I could definitely see myself making these again on a raid-the-pantry whim, but they weren't my One True Brownie.

Jamie Oliver's vegan brownies
(slightly adapted from a recipe on his website)

200g dark chocolate chips
170g self-raising flour
3 teaspoons cocoa
180g caster sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup soy milk
1/3 cup sunflower oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Line a 20 cm square baking tray with paper and lightly spray it with oil.

Melt 150g of the chocolate by your preferred method (I use a double boiler-type set-up), and set it aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour and cocoa. Stir in the sugar and salt. Stir in the soy milk, oil, vanilla and melted chocolate until everything is well combined. Fold through the remaining chocolate.

Pour the brownie batter into the baking tray and smooth over the top. Bake the brownie for 20-25 minutes until the edges are cooked but the centre is still wobbly.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

BBQ beans

May 4, 2019

Tash contributed not one, but two, recipes to my lab cookbook. After the excellence of the shortbread cookies, I knew I'd be onto a good thing here. These BBQ beans have a slightly longer ingredient list that the biccies, but a short weeknight-friendly method: all the sauce ingredients go straight into a blender, and then the sauce is simmered with drained canned beans for 15 minutes. Done-diddly-un.

That leaves plenty of time to get arrange them into something dinner-shaped. I commenced with vegan nachos, and a day or two later I moved on to toasties. These beans are sweet and a bit smoky, not nearly as spicy as I feared they'd be: a natural fit for burritos, bowls, and big breakfast cook-ups.

BBQ beans
(a recipe shared by Tash,
who credits it to Thug Kitchen)

1/2 onion, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cloves garlic
4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1/4 cup vege stock
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon tamari
2 x 400g cans black beans

Place all of the ingredients except for the beans in a food processor, and blend them to form a smooth sauce. Pour the sauce into a saucepan over medium-low heat. Drain the beans and stir them into the sauce. Simmer everything until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Jenny's apple cake

April 28, 2019

We missed Simon and Noni's housewarming, but we invited ourselves over for tea soon afterwards when they adopted puppy Arnold. There was plenty of time in the morning to bake a welcome-to-your-own-neighbourhood cake. For the task I picked out Jenny's apple cake, actually shared by Jane in the lab farewell cookbook.

This cake has exactly the ingredient list you'd expect of a traditional apple cake, although the technique and proportions are a little skewed! There's no electric beater here, just a thick dough brought together in a saucepan, and barely enough of it to bind together the large quantity of apples. In her notes Jane assured me "the mixture is soft and breaks but it still works", and she was right. It's exactly the homely afternoon treat you'd imagine, sturdy enough to strap onto the back of a bike, and perfect with a cup of tea once it arrives at its destination.

Jenny's apple cake
(a recipe shared by Jane)

6 apples
2 whole cloves
120g butter
120g sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice (I used ginger, cloves, cardamom)
1 egg
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Line a round springform cake tin with baking paper and spray it with oil.

Peel, core and coarsely dice the apples. Place them in a medium saucepan with a splash of water and the cloves and cook them over low-medium heat, stirring often, until the apples a just cooked through: they should have softened a little but still be holding their shape. Set aside to cool, and remove the cloves.

In another saucepan, melt the butter and then turn off the heat. Stir in the sugar, then the spices, then the egg. Finally, stir in the flour to form a dough. Scoop just over half of the dough into the cake tin and spread it evenly over the base. Turn all of the cooked apples into the cake tin and spread them out evenly. Dot the top of the cake with tablespoons of the remaining dough, filling in the gaps without being too fussy about it (see pic above).

Bake the cake for 40 minutes, and leave it in the tin for a further 30 minutes before serving.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Green Burger

April 26, 2019

We had a shindig in Collingwood on a Friday night and kicked things off by meeting up with some friends for a quick dinner at Green Burger. It's a newish, all vegan burger place on Smith Street that's been getting a bit of buzz. 

We had no trouble getting a table at 6 on a Friday, maybe because they're not licensed to sell booze. Instead they have a selection of milkshakes and three fancy sodas on tap - we both enjoyed the blueberry-lime option. The main attraction is the burgers: seven different vegan burgers, heavy on the mock meat and loaded up with ridiculous fillings. This place is very consciously not aiming at the clean-eating crowd.

I went with the big mock - Green Burger's Big Mac equivalent, with two smokehouse patties, double cheese, lettuce, onions, pickles and special sauce ($14.90). It's a real handful, overflowing with fillings. The patties are excellent - a smoky, firm mock-meat that holds together well. I wanted a bit more tanginess from the sauce, but the pickles added some sharpness and the whole package is pretty impressive (I did eye off my pal's McRibber with some envy though). 

Cindy ordered a serve of the carne asada fries as a main. It's a huge mess of waffle fries, cheese sauce, soy steak, pico de gallo and chipotle mayo ($12.50). I loved these - the waffle fries are the perfect vessel to dig through the incredible pile of toppings. 

I really liked Green Burger and there are so many more things to try - mock duck and southern fried chicken burgers, a mac and cheese, poutine, loaded onion rings and so much more. Green Burger feels like a fancier Lord of the Fries - it's still junky, but much higher quality 

The only blog review of Green Burger that we can find is over at Messy Veggies

Green Burger
240 Smith St, Collingwood
no phone

Accessibility: There's a flat entry and a small number of low tables with bench and stool seating. We ordered and paid at a high counter.

Saturday, May 25, 2019


April 21, 2019

Heini is another workmate who generously shared their signature dish with me through the lab farewell cookbook. She's well known for baking tightly spiralled Finnish cinnamon buns called pulla, and we attempted to follow in her footsteps over the Easter weekend. 

Our buns turned out puffier and less expertly formed than Heini's, but they were still magnificent: bready, but richer, with sweet seams of spice; perfect for seeing in autumn with a cup of tea.

Pulla - Korvapuusti (Finnish cinnamon rolls)
(a recipe shared by Heini)

1 cup milk
15g fresh yeast or 12g dry yeast
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup caster sugar
2-3 teaspoons ground cardamom
3-4 cups plain flour
75g butter, at room temperature

50g butter, melted
caster sugar
ground cinnamon
1 egg, lightly beaten

Gently warm the milk in a small saucepan, and then stir in the yeast until it's dissolved. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add the egg, salt, sugar, cardamom, and most of the flour. Mix it all together to form a dough, gradually adding a little more flour until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the walls of the bowl. Knead the butter into the dough, continuing until the dough stretches when pulled. Cover the bowl with a teatowel and leave it to rise in a warm place, until it has doubled in size.

Get yourself a big clean surface and lightly flour it (you'll see in the photo above that I laid down a sheet of baking paper). Turn the dough out and roll it into a 20cm x 40cm rectangle, half to 1 cm thick. Spread the melted butter over the dough with a pastry brush, leaving a couple of centimetres bare on one of the short sides. Sprinkle the butter generously with sugar and cinnamon.

Set up 1-2 baking trays with paper and lightly oil them. Handling the buttery short side, gently roll the dough up into a log with a spiral cross-section. Slice the dough into triangle-shaped buns and place them on the baking tray so that the tip is pointing upwards and there's plenty of space between them. Use your thumbs to push the tip down on each bun. When the trays are full of buns, cover them with tea towels and allow them another 10-15 minutes to rise.

Preheat an oven to 225°C while the buns are rising. Brush the buns with egg and bake them for about 12 minutes, until browned. Enjoy warm from the oven, store them for a couple of days in a airtight container, and revive them with 10-15 seconds in the microwave. 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Smith & Deli brownies

April 19, 2019

I'm testing out a couple of different vegan brownie recipes in the lead-up to a special occasion. There are a few such recipes on the blog already, but I've still got the appetite to try more. 

The Smith & Deli cookbook was an obvious place to relaunch from. Their base recipe isn't too complicated; non-dairy yoghurt was the only ingredient we don't routinely have at home, and even it is easily found in most supermarkets now.

A large quantity of cocoa powder and a heaping cup of chocolate chips have these brownies looking very dark and rich, yet they're actually on the cakier side and not as deeply flavoured as I'd expected. I was able to strap a lunchbox of them onto the back of my bike to share with our friend who missed out on those shortbread cookies. These brownies were pretty great with a cup of tea, but I'm directing my search towards fudgier recipes next.

Smith & Deli brownies
(from Smith & Deli-cious by Shannon Martinez & Mo Wyse)

3/4 cup margarine
1/2 cup coconut yoghurt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups gluten-free plain flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 cup soy milk
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat an oven to 170°C. Line a 22cm square baking tray with paper, and lightly spray it with oil.

With an electric beater, cream together the margarine, yoghurt, vanilla and sugar until light and fluffy. In a separate large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Gradually beat these dry ingredients into the margarine mixture. Gradually beat in the soy milk until everything is well combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Pour the brownie batter into the lined baking tray, gently smooth over the top, and bake for about 45 minutes - it's OK for the centre to still be a bit wobbly.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Rochester Hotel

April 14, 2019

Vegan about town Steph drew Hayley and I into The Rochester Hotel for a Sunday night dinner, having learned that they've been running a Kerala-styled pub menu for almost a year (!). Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options are clearly marked and well-represented; we really did need some time to figure out what combination of fried and fresh, shared and all-to-ourselves dishes we wanted.

First, we ticked off fried. The chips and curry ($10) were excellent and included a thin, crisp batter. I loved the little pumpkin and coconut ada ($4, pictured right and front), which was served with a surprisingly spicy mint chutney. Hayley couldn't resist the egg bonda ($4, pictured right and back); actually half a boiled egg piled with onion masala and fried in batter.

For our mains, we got a little more fried in by all ordering parota. Steph declared it to be the crowning glory of her vegan thali ($24, pictured at the top of the post), while Hayley and I shrewdly ordered it as the centrepiece of our meals. Our potato wraps were too full to really be wrapped, our parotas bursting with tender and lightly spiced smashed potatoes, more onion masala, fresh green herbs and generous dollops of that eye-watering mint chutney.

On another night I'd be extremely tempted to follow through with vegan coconut custard ($6, with fruit and cashew praline!), but we elected to walk off our curry chips instead. I fear my limited stomach space is going to force me into a delicious chip/parota/dessert trade-off every time I stop in.

In its current incarnation, I've just spotted two blog posts about The Rochester Hotel, both freebies, on The Spice Adventuress and gastrology.

The Rochester Hotel
202 Johnston St, Fitzroy
9419 0166

Accessibility: There's a step up on entry. Inside is a mix of high and low tables. We ordered and paid at high bar. Toilets are gendered, narrow, and a couple of extra steps up.

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Carringbush Hotel

April 7, 2019

Cindy read about the newly renovated Carringbush Hotel on Messy Veggies before it opened and we headed down with some friends soon after they were up and running. The new folks in charge (the gang from The Old Bar) have turned it into an entirely vego pub, with a cosy and welcoming fit-out. There's a front bar, a couple of indoor dining spaces and a cute little courtyard out the back. It seems like The Carringbush is going to be mostly about the food - it didn't seem like there was any space for live music etc.

The food options are pretty diverse - fancy salads, burgers, pasta, plus a few other bits and pieces. More than half of the menu is vegan and there are heaps of gluten-free options as well. We started out on the bar snacks menu, with a bowl each of the root vegetable crisps ($7) and crispy wonton skins ($5). These both came with fancy salts - cumin salt for the wontons and rosemary salt for the root veggies - and were incredibly addictive.

We split a serve of the excellent vegan smoked potato and eggplant dumplings with a soy/lime dipping sauce ($14) and then picked out our mains.

Cindy ordered the beer-battered cauliflower with chips and tartare sauce (vegan, $18.50). This is basically fish and chips for vegos and it really hit the spot - perfectly crunchy batter and a great vegan tartare. It might be wise to pair this with one of the salads next time though - it's a lot of fried.

I wanted chips with my meal as well, so I got the falafel and hummus burger with herb salad, tomato, pickles and herb yoghurt (vegan, $21). This is a solid pub burger - it's not life-changing, but the herb salad and pickles add some nice flavours to a pretty standard assembly. 

We really enjoyed the food at The Carringbush, but even more we enjoyed the vibe - it's a lovely space for a quiet Sunday afternoon meal. We sat around doing the crossword and chatting and just soaking up the relaxed atmosphere. We'll be back!


The Carringbush Hotel
226-228 Langridge St, Abbotsford
9191 0149
bar snacksmain menu
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a small step on entry. You order and pay at a high bar. There's a mix of tables with low seating as well as bar seating. We didn't visit the toilets.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Will's tofu dish

April 6, 2019

We like to think we know our way around a block of tofu, but Will has shared a different style of preparation via the lab cookbook. The tofu is microwaved or steamed without any additional flavouring to heat it through. Then it's smothered in all the flavouring it'll ever need: soy sauce and vinegar, garlic and ginger, coriander, chilli, three kinds of oil, spring onions, fried shallots! We only needed some steamed rice and plain green veges to round this out into a meal.

Since the sauce goes on unheated the garlic and ginger are extra potent. I hoped that microwaving the leftovers at work might mellow them out, but their strong fragrance drew (positive!) attention from some of my co-workers.

I reckon that this is the rare recipe that will work just as well on a weeknight as it could when cooking a show-off meal for friends. I'll just have to pack some chewing gum when I plan to roll over leftovers to lunch.

Will's tofu dish
(shared via the Lab Farewell Cookbook)

20g fresh coriander
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 large red chilli, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
65g (about 5) spring onion, finely sliced
1 teaspoon chilli oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 cup light soy sauce
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup Chinkiang black rice vinegar
500g firm tofu
2 tablespoons peanut oil
deep fried shallots
white pepper
sriracha sauce

Remove any roots from the coriander and wash the rest of it. Separate the stem from the leaves. Chop the stems and place them in a medium bowl. To the bowl, add the ginger, chilli, garlic, the white parts of the spring onions, chilli oil, sesame oil, soy sauces and vinegar. Whisk everything together.

Slice the tofu into flat squares, about 1cm x 3cm x 3cm. Microwave or steam the tofu until it's heated through. While the tofu is heating, put the peanut oil in a small saucepan and heat it just barely to its smoking point.

Layer the tofu in a large serving dish and pour over the soy-based sauce; carefully pour the hot peanut oil over, next. Generously garnish the tofu with the coriander leaves, green spring onion bits, deep-fried shallots and white pepper, squirting over sriracha to taste.

Sunday, May 05, 2019


April 6, 2019

We were very excited to read about Kevabs, an all-vegan kebab place that has opened up just around the corner from our house. We got down there on their first weekend to check it out (and have since been three more times!). Their main product is a classic kebab ($13) - they've developed some sort of vegetable and pea-protein doner that's the star of the show, accompanied by lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and your choice of sauces (hummus, garlic, chilli, tomato and bbq). You can add extras like jalapenos or vegan cheese for a buck extra.

There are heaps of other options as well - HSP ($13), a daily selection of salads ($10), soup and house-made simit ($10), boreks ($5.50) and a range of sweets. Everything is vegan and most things can be made gluten-free. We started off with a kevab and a potato borek.

The kevabs are really excellent - the time they've spent crafting their mock meat recipe has definitely paid off, and the mix of fillings and sauces work in the way that a classic kebab works (garlic + chilli sauce is my tip!). The boreks are excellent too - there's a bit of mock meat included in the filling, accompanied by either potato or spinach. The vegan pastry is impressively flaky.

On a more recent visit I finally skipped a kevab and went with a HSP - a bowl of chips piled up with vegan cheese, the doner mock and your choice of sauces. It's a pretty intense meal, but if you're in the mood for a vegan HSP then this is about as good as they get.

The sweet selection is impressive too - there's 4 kinds of Turkish delight (plain, rose, mango/chilli and pistachio, $2.50 each), baklava ($4 a slice) and a rotating cast of cakes, cookies and brownies. We sampled a bikkie, the Turkish delights and a baklava on our first visit and they all hit the mark. The chilli/mango Turkish delight is the brave choice - it's super spicy, but the flavour combination with the dried mango and the soothing sugary Turkish delight really works. The baklava is top notch as well (and there's a gluten-free option if that matters to you).

We're really excited to have Kevabs in our neighbourhood - it's become our go-to spot for lazy weekend lunches or quick after-work meals. The staff are lovely and welcoming and the food is really hitting the spot. Check it out!


Looks like we're the first blog to review Kevabs - they're the talk of Instagram and Facebook though of course.

89 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
Instagram page

Accessibility: Kevabs has a flat entryway and a mix of low and high seating. You order and pay at a high counter. I don't think they have any toilets for customers.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Uleg

April 4, 2019

It's taken us years to visit The Uleg, an unassuming looking Indonesian place halfway up Sydney Road. I think the menu used to be pretty meaty and we just kind of stopped paying attention - it's veg-tastic now and we finally wandered in for dinner with a pal one Thursday night.

We shared a couple of starters and three mains between the three of us - heads up, this is way too much food. The two starters were spectacular - tempe mendoan (tempura style tempeh with chilli sauce, $8.50) and veggie spring rolls ($5.50). A perfect start to the meal.

Our three mains were, from left: terong balado (chilli stir-fried eggplant and tempeh, $13.50), tahu lelor (fried tofu coated in egg, topped with beanshoots, cabbage and peanut sauce, $12.50) and ketoprak (rice cakes served with cabbage, wombok, beanshoots, vermicelli, cucumber and peanut sauce, $13.0). They were short on rice cakes on our visit so the ketoprak came out with noodles instead.

These were fantastic - the chilli eggplant and tempeh was probably my favourite, while Cindy couldn't get enough of the eggy tofu pancake in the tahu telor. Having two dishes with the same peanut sauce was a bit same-y, but on the whole, this was some very successful ordering. There are a bunch of other veggie dishes to choose from too, with heaps of vegan options and well-labelled gluten-free dishes too.

Cindy capped the meal off with a tea served with super sweet condensed milk - a classic finish. We had a great meal at The Uleg - the staff were friendly and efficient and the food was delicious. The serves are massive too, so you'll likely walk away with some leftovers. 


The only blog review I could find for The Uleg was this rave review over at Consider the Sauce.

The Uleg
312 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
9388 8606
startersvegetarian mains

Accessibility: The Uleg has a small step on entry. We ordered at the table and paid at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

All-the-best-bits salad

March 31, 2019

When Fiona contributed this salad to the Farewell Cookbook, she mentioned that it was a very retro '90s kind of dish, but it's full of the flavours I still love today. Little chunks of salty haloumi and more astringent green olives, and handful of walnuts and a tangy double-down on pomegranate seeds and molasses; whatever green leaves you want to round this up into a salad.

I easily tossed it all together in the time it took to roast some pumpkin for this other salad. Together they provided us with satisfying vege-filled meals that conserved their textures well for days.

All-the-best-bits salad
(a recipe shared by Fiona)

150-200g haloumi, cubed and fried
~ 1 cup walnuts, toasted
a few handfuls rocket leaves
~ 3/4 cup green olives, halved
seed from 1/2 - 1 pomegranate

1 part pomegranate molasses
2 parts olive oil
chilli flakes, to taste

Shake the dressing ingredients in a jar. Gently toss together the salad ingredients and pour over the dressing. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Power Plant

March 30, 2019

Power Plant has been developing an excellent reputation for the past few years all the way up in Templestowe. Lisa and I had an opportunity to stop in for a snug breakfast on a drizzly day while Michael and a few of his mates were embarking on the Oxfam Trailwalker nearby.

Power Plant is situated in a commercial building, but it's been fitted out in a casual, comfortable style, with a long arc of windows and bench seating, golden-hued wood furnishings and cheery spots of colour. The menu is entirely vegan, with the requisite novelty lattes and kombucha, and dishes that are arranged with a minimum of six components and a sprinkling of edible flowers. Even if that approach sets off my cynicism, there was a lot that actually looked really good: a Spanish chickpea omelette; a brekky burger stuffed with tofu, a hash brown and avo; a bumper teriyaki bowl...

Ultimately I stayed on brand and ordered the cinnamon French toast ($18.50). Edible flowers aside, it was a charming homely version, squidgy with cherry and apple compote and showered with coconut. I'm not usually looking for icecream at breakfast time, but this little scoop was lovely. Power Plant also served me up the largest, loveliest almond milk chai ($7) I've ever drunk!

The staff were attentive and friendly, and kindly split our bill (though I think they'll divide at most three ways). It's rare that I find myself in Templestowe, but whenever I'm even remotely close by I'll be seeking excuses to pop back in to Power Plant.


Power Plant has received positive reviews on blogs little vegan bear, Veganopoulous and Mamma knows north

Power Plant
2-6 Swilk St, Templestowe
8838 1282
food, drinks

Accessibility: Entry is flat and furniture is reasonably spaced; a mixture of bench seating and chairs with backs. We ordered at our table and paid at a low counter. Toilets are located outside of the cafe in the main building.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Chocolate chip shortbread cookies

March 26, 2019

I'm here with back-to-back cookie recipes to offer you! I knew this one from my lab cookbook would be good, because I'd been lucky enough to eat these cookies directly from Tash on a couple of occasions. They're the most luxurious chocolate chip cookies around: super-buttery and a touch crumbly, with chunks of the darkest chocolate and a sprinkling of fancy salt.

Really, I should have taken more of a cue from the name - they're pretty close to shortbread. That means lots of cold butter and no eggs, and usually no browning. I left the butter out to soften out of habit and allowed the cookies brown a little around the edges, and was very satisfied with the result. Tash recommended using a mixture of chocolates and I agree that it's worth the effort here, especially when it means the odd seam of barely-sweet > 80% cocoa chocolate.

The intended recipient of these cookies ended up cancelling our dinner plans. It was a pity, but Michael and I having the entire batch to ourselves was ample consolation.

Chocolate chip shortbread
(a recipe shared by Tash,
who credits it to Smitten Kitchen)

250g butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups plain flour
100g very dark chocolate (I used Lindt 85%)
70g other chocolate (I used Callebaut 54.5%)
fleur de sel

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Line 1-2 baking trays with paper.

Use an electric beater to cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla. Mix in the flour with a spoon until just combined.

Roughly chop the chocolate and fold it into the biscuit dough. Roll generous tablespoons of the mixture into balls and place them on the baking trays, flattening them slightly and leaving plenty of space between the biscuits. Sprinkle them lightly with fleur de sel.

Bake for 12-15 minutes; I let mine get a little golden around the edges. Give them 5 minutes to cool on the tray before carefully transferring them to a rack.

The dough can be refrigerated or frozen. Days-old cookies can be brought back to their gooey best with 12 seconds in the microwave.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Rum-glazed pecan cookies

March 20-21, 2019

If we're going on a weekend away with friends, you'd better believe I'm baking something sweet to take along. I pulled this recipe for rum-glazed pecan cookies out of Street Vegan - it seemed to strike the right balance between fancy and feasible. That is, after I researched the ingredient 'evaporated cane juice'. It seems that this is some wellness-culture nonsense that is easily substituted one-for-one with regular sugar.

With that taken care of, the biscuit dough is an easy oil-based mix with ground flax seeds as an egg substitute. The proportion of pecans to dough is quite high, and since I left my nuts quite chunky, it was challenging to wrap enough dough around them. (I'll try chopping the same quantity of nuts a bit finer next time.) I was pleasantly surprised at how stable the cookies looked after baking and the warm unglazed one I ate straight away was delicious and plenty sweet enough.

The glaze, though, is a whole other thing! A huge quantity of icing sugar bound together with little more than dark rum. It complements the pecans, changes the whole profile of the cookies, and keeps their texture softer for longer. Not that that was a serious concern - these easily disappeared within two nights.

Rum-glazed pecan cookies
(slightly adapted from a recipe in Adam Sobel's Street Vegan)

cookie dough
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon finely ground flax seeds
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon coconut extract
2 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped

rum glaze
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Line two baking trays with paper.

In a large bowl, beat together the oil, brown sugar, maple syrup, ground flax seeds, vanilla and coconut extract for a couple of minutes. Sift in the flour, bicarb soda and salt, and slowly beat them in to form a dough. Fold in the pecans.

Roll tablespoons of the dough into balls and space them out on the baking trays. (I left my pecans pretty big and struggled a bit with crumbly dough balls, but they turned out OK!) Bake the cookies for about 14 minutes, until they're browning at the edges. Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the tray before transferring them to a rack.

Sift the icing sugar into a medium bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk them together to form a runny icing. Spoon the icing over the cookies while they're still on the rack, making peace with the wasted glaze that will drip through the rack. Give the cookies at least 20 minutes for the glaze to set before serving or storing the cookies.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Cheesy broccoli pie

March 22-23, 2019

We had a weekend away in the country with a big group of friends recently and night two of our communal dining schedule was Pie Night. A few of us brought pre-prepared fillings and baked up a plethora of pies to feed the masses. Our contribution was a vegan cheesy broccoli pie from the Smith & Deli cookbook. It was wonderful, providing a nice burst of greens to offset the shepherd's and mushroom pies that others prepared. The cheesy sauce is pretty horrifying from a nutritional perspective, but it's goddamn delicious - gooey and a bit rich and the perfect pal for the broccoli. Highly recommended. 

Cheesy broccoli pies
(from Smith & Deli-cious by Mo Wyse & Shannon Martinez)

2 large broccoli heads, chopped
90g vegan margarine
1/3 cup olive oil
1 leek, white and light green parts, sliced finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup plain flour
1 cup veggie stock
1 cup soy milk
1 1/2 cups grated vegan cheese (we used mostly Bio Cheese)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper

Blanch the broccoli in a large pot of boiling water. Drain and set aside.

Heat the margarine and olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the leek until soft. Add garlic and cook for another minute before whisking through the flour and cooking for another couple of minutes.

Slowly add in the stock and soy milk, whisking to smoothness along the way. Stir through the cheese, nutritional yeast, Dijon, parsley and thyme and cook until the cheese has melted, 5 minutes or so. 

Add salt and pepper to the sauce to taste and then stir the broccoli back in. Cook for another 5 minutes and then leave to cool.

That's your filling - we wrapped halved Borg's puff pastry sheets into little squares around a few tablespoons of filling and baked until the pastry went golden (about 25 minutes). Spectacular.

Friday, April 05, 2019

Chickpea soup

March 18, 2019

After the success of one slow, soaked-chickpea recipe from the lab cookbook, we were keen to try another! If anything, this chickpea soup from Kate is even slower and simpler - it was a little bold of us to take on 1-1.5 hour simmer on a weeknight, but we persevered and were rewarded with big bowls of comfort and some parmesan-garlic toast on the side.

Since our dried chickpea stocks were running low, we made only two-thirds of the recipe quantity (but post the full quantity below). The recipe instructs us to partially mash the buttery chickpeas to thicken the soup, and there's a lot of flexibility here from 'vegetables in thin broth' through to 'thick and almost smooth'. I reckon I might get the stick blender out next time for something different.

Chickpea soup
(a recipe shared by Kate)

150mL olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
500g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
1-2 celery sticks, thinly sliced
1 fresh bay leaf (I used 2 dry ones)
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
sprinkle of dry oregano

Set a very large saucepan over medium heat and pour in the olive oil. Add the onion and saute it, stirring regularly, until it starts to brown.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas, and add them to the saucepan, stirring them around to coat them in the oil.

Add the celery and bay leaf, and pour in hot water until the chickpeas are submerged to a depth of about 4 cm (it's a lot of water). Bring it all to the boil, and skim off any froth. Turn the heat down a bit, pop a lid on the pot, and let it all simmer for 1-1.5 hours, until the chickpeas are soft.

Add lemon juice, plenty of salt, and cook gently for 5-10 minutes. Carefully mash some of the chickpeas in the pan until you achieve your preferred consistency, or blend with a hand mixer. 

Add the parsley and oregano, and more salt and lemon juice if you like.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Red Sparrow II

March 16, 2019

We needed a pre-gig dinner near the Gasometer and Red Sparrow fit the bill perfectly. They've doubled their floorspace since we last visited, but they still had to squish us in on a pretty busy Saturday evening. 

We split a couple of pizzas and a side between three of us, starting with one of the specials - The Zoe ($22). It comes with a pesto base, fior di latte, cherry tomatoes, mock bacon, mushrooms, pine nuts and basil. 

This was solid - the bases at Red Sparrow are excellent, but the fillings were a bit lacking in punchy flavours. The risk of mock cheese and mock meat is that things get a bit samey - I wonder if punching this one up with some tabasco or a sprinkling of olives might have helped?

Our other pizza had no problems with flavour - the sausage pizza comes with a tomato and bbq base, house pickled jalapenos, red onion, mozzarella and aioli (plus sausage of course, $20).

This is one of the best vegan pizzas in town - highly, highly recommended.

We finished things off with a serve of the buffalo fried chicken from the specials menu ($12). These little drumsticks came with a super spicy sauce slathered on them, with a ranch dipping sauce to take the heat down and some house pickles to cut through all the fried. I loved these, but the hot sauce will be too much for some people.

It's great to see Red Sparrow doing so well - they make really fantastic vegan pizzas. They're better in the shop than delivered - the bases really are spectacular fresh out of the oven. We'll be back!

Read about our first visit to Red Sparrow here. Since then there have been positive reviews on Whatever Floats Your Bloat and Vegan in Brighton.


Red Sparrow Pizza
406 Smith St, Collingwood
9417 1454

Accessibility: There's a flat entryway into a fairly crowded interior, plus some tables on the street. Seating is a mix of high stools and regular tables and payment happens at a high counter. The toilets are unisex, but in a pretty inaccessible courtyard out the back.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Chickpea & cauliflower curry

March 11, 2019

The Lab Cookbook has some lovely, homely comfort foods in it! This one comes from Libby - she shares with us an enthusiasm for Ottolenghi and McKinnon recipes, and reached further back in time to give us a favourite Kurma Dasa recipe. We're Kurma fans too, but we have a different book to Libby and so this one's new to us.

It's a simple mixture of chickpeas and cauliflower with warm (but not hot) spices and a decent serving of ghee. It motivated me to take those extra steps in a couple of spots: soaking dried chickpeas overnight instead of just grabbing some cans, pulling the seeds out of cardamom pods, and grinding up a whole cinnamon stick. Contrary to the Kurma Dasa way, I skipped over the asafetida powder and served my curry with a garlic chappati on the side.

I accidentally forgot to add the turmeric, so any future renditions of this meal will probably look a lot more golden. This is the rare warming dinner that I reckon I'd like just as well served at room temperature - I'll be keeping it in mind for future potlucks.

Chickpea & cauliflower curry
(a recipe shared by Libby, who credits it to Cooking with Kurma)

3/4 cup dried chickpeas
3-4 tablespoons ghee
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 cups (~250g) cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 large green chilli, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons jaggery or brown sugar

spice paste
1 x 7.5cm cinnamon stick
seeds from 8 cardamom pods
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon asafetida powder
3 teaspoons minced ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons water

Soak the chickpeas in 4 cups of water at room temperature for 8 hours, or overnight.

Drain the chickpeas and transfer them to a large saucepan with 6 cups of fresh water. Bring it all to the boil, then reduce it to a simmer and cover, cooking until the chickpeas are completely soft. Drain the chickpeas and reserve their cooking liquid.

Grind all of the spice paste ingredients together until they form a smooth paste.

Set a very large saucepan over medium-high heat and melt the ghee in it. Sprinkle in the turmeric and salt. Drop in the cauliflower pieces and fry them until they're just tender, 5-10 minutes. Scoop the cauliflower pieces out and set them aside, keeping the saucepan on the heat.

Drop the cumin seeds, chilli and bay leaves into the remaining ghee in the saucepan. After a minute or two, pour in the spice paste, frying for a further 1-2 minutes. Add the chickpeas, cauliflower, a few tablespoons of the chickpeas' cooking liquid, and the jaggery/sugar. Continue cooking, covered, for 5-10 minutes. Serve hot.