Tuesday, January 15, 2019

where's the best in 2018?

Youpo noodle from Lanzhou Beef Noodle Bar

We're a couple of weeks into 2019, and it's high time we reviewed our best eats of the past year and updated our where's the best? page accordingly. Every year there are closures to commemorate, and this year we bid farewell to Supercharger. Two other faves had transformations: Hana Assifiri's Moroccan Deli-Cacy mentored in Alisha's Cafe Collective, and you could be forgiven for not noticing that Green Park Dining is now known as Park St.

We had an amazing, carb-loaded mid-year holiday in China, and this set us on a mission to find youpo mian in Melbourne. We're now devoted to the garlic-heavy, hand-pulled noodles at Lanzhou Beef Noodle Bar.

Northcote Fish & Chips

And we've had so many other great new cheap veg*n eats in Melbourne! Northcote Fish & ChipsThe Origin Tales, Union Kiosk, Just Falafs, and Neko Neko were all instant favourites. We've shared feasts with friends at Shop 225, Huong Viet and Billy and Lucy; we've had terrific vegan desserts at Ratio Cocoa Roasters and Tidbit Cakes.

Seitan gyros & lemon potatoes

At home we're cooking new recipes less frequently, but our success rate is high. Seitan gyros were well worth pulling up from the deepest pages of my bookmarks - they're a bit of effort, but they include the most flavourful seitan we've made and generate fabulous leftovers for lunch. Other dishes working their way into our weeknight rotation include one-pot orrecchiette, baked peanut tempeh, and kimchi fried rice with smokey tempeh & broccoli. We still embark on the occasional weekend cooking project, with Michael's kimchi, gochujang & cheese scrolls a recent triumph.

Honey, miso & walnut pie

I've long thought of icecream as my cooking specialty, and a caramelised white chocolate icecream unexpectedly won Michael's high praise last summer. Yet pies are creeping up as a sweet new seam to mine: last year I was all about cherry pie, and this year I made a couple of honey, miso & walnut pies.

But there's no need to limit myself, right? There are still so many different recipes and new eateries to try every year. We'll aim to keep bringing you the best of 'em in 2019.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Parmesan shortbread

December 31, 2018

These snacktacular biscuits have a funny little back story. We were attending a vegetarian barbecue co-hosted by a dear vegan friend, and she willingly took charge of decorating a pavlova for dessert. She's not in the habit of prepping dairy, and she accidentally whipped a batch of cream all the way to butter! Since she had no interest in using it, we popped it into a jar and took it home. (There was still leftover cream, and the pavlova was saved.)

I resolved use that butter the next day, when we were attending a New Year potluck. The dessert course, a couple of salads and a vegetarian centrepiece were already planned by others. I remembered some fantastic home-baked shortbreads that I recently ate at a birthday party, and figured I'd give them a go.

The one extra challenge to this plan was that one of our hosts eats gluten-free! I'm delighted to report that the recipe I'm posting here works just as easily with Orgran gluten free flour as it does with plain flour. I made one batch with each flour type as a risk-spreading measure, since there was plenty of butter to go around. I seasoned both batches with some fancy smoked garlic and rosemary salt; the gluten-free ones had the salt worked into the dough and some leftover slivered almonds pressed into their tops, while the glutenful biscuits were sprinkled with the salt.

The shortbreads were just the thing for nibbling on with cocktails before our meal. The textural difference between the two batches was very subtle. I'd baked all of them to a soft texture, and I'd be interested in gently pushing them to a deeper, crumblier brown in future. I noticed that they rapidly went stale following exposure to air, but somehow the biscuits were still all gone by January 2.

Parmesan shortbread
(slightly adapted from epicurious)

1 2/3 cups plain flour
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of salt
200g cold butter
drop of iced water
fancy salt, slivered almonds or another garnish (optional)

Place the flour, parmesan, cayenne and salt in a large food processor bowl; pulse them together to mix. Cut the butter into rough cubes, drop them into the food processor, and blend everything together until well combined. If the mixture isn't yet clumping into a dough, add a little iced water while the blades are still running.

Turn the clumped mixture onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Bring it together into a single mass and work it into a thick sausage shape: I went for a cylinder about 4cm in diameter and 25-30cm long. Wrap the dough up in the plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least an hour.

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

Retrieve the dough log from the fridge. Slice it into rounds (mine were about 5-7mm thick) and place them on the baking trays. Sprinkle them with any garnishes you've chosen, gently pressing them into the top. Bake the biscuits for about 20 minutes, until they're golden brown around the edges. Let them cool for at least 5 minutes before moving them. Store them in an airtight container - they go stale quickly in the open air!

Friday, January 11, 2019

A not-so-Moroccan chickpea thing

December 30, 2018

'That chickpea thing' has evolved over the years. Its origins are a dish that the Moroccan Soup Bar has been serving forever. It's a rich, hearty bake; thick with yoghurt, tart with lemon juice and tahini, crunchy with fried flatbread and a topping of toasted almonds.

Soon enough, I tried replicating it at home. A few years later, I hit on corn chips as a convenient, gluten-free replacement for the flatbread. This summer, I took it one step further and made a vegan version. Replacing such a large quantity of yoghurt was always going to be challenging, but I pulled it off with the help of some twitter friends. Impressed brand almond milk-based natural yoghurt was a great way to subtly reinforce the almond topping, without introducing the sweet, fatty intensity of coconut-based yoghurt.

This chickpea thing's a long way from that chickpea thing. But it's still a good thing, handy for making in other people's kitchens and sharing at barbecues in summer.

A not-so-Moroccan chickpea thing
(inspired by a dish at the Moroccan Soup Bar)

2 x 400g cans chickpeas
100g slivered almonds
1/2 cup tahini
juice of 2 lemons
2 cloves garlic or 2 teaspoons garlic powder
250g vegan yoghurt (we recommend Impressed almond-based)
175g bag natural salted corn chips
salt and pepper
olive oil
cayenne pepper

Rinse and drain the chickpeas, and set them aside.

Gently toast the almonds using your preferred method. We pop them in the oven for 5 minutes if there's something else on the go, but a grill or dry frypan can also work. Set the almonds aside to cool.

In a medium-large bowl, whisk together the tahini and lemon juice. If you're using fresh garlic, crush it into a little saucepan with a glug of olive oil and fry it until golden. Add the fried or powdered garlic to the tahini-lemon mixture. Stir in the yoghurt until everything is well mixed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Fold in the chickpeas.

To serve, arrange the corn chips over the base of a large salad bowl or platter. Spoon over the chickpea-yoghurt mixture. Swish over some optional olive oil, sprinkle with a little cayenne pepper, then scatter the almonds generously over the top.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Kimchi fried rice with smokey tempeh & broccoli

December 20, 2018

We had some leftover kimchi from our scroll experiment, so we decided to try out this simple fried rice for a quick work-night dinner. The baseline version is pretty easy - cook some rice, steam some tempeh and broccoli and fry everything up in a wok. It's delicious as well, with the strong flavour of the kimchi adding some bite to what's otherwise a pretty straightforward stir-fry. 

We made an even simpler version on our second attempt - skipping the steaming just stir-frying the tempeh and some broccolini. This works fine, but if you've got the time I'd squeeze in the steaming step for at least the tempeh - it improves the texture a bit when you fry it.

Kimchi fried rice with smokey tempeh & broccoli
(slightly adapted from this recipe on the first mess)

1.5 - 2 cups of cooked brown rice (it's best if you've cooked this the day before and popped it in the fridge, but it'll work fine if you just do it all on the night)
2 cups broccoli florets
225g packet of tempeh, cut into small cubes
2 gloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/2 cup vegan kimchi, plus a couple of spoonfuls of the liquid
2 teaspoons chilli paste
1 tablespoon tamari
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut oil

Steam the broccoli and tempeh for about 10 minutes - we used our bamboo steamers, but do whatever works for you.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil in a work and stir-fry the tempeh for about 5 minutes, until it starts to brown up nicely. Throw in the garlic, maple syrup and smoked paprika, stir-frying it all together for another 30 seconds or so. Remove the tempeh from the wok and pop it in a bowl.

Heat the other tablespoon of peanut oil and throw in the kimchi. Stir-fry for a minute or so and then add the rice, stirring thoroughly to break down any clumps. Add the tempeh back in along with the broccoli plus the chilli paste, tamari and sesame oil. 

Stir-fry for another minute or so over high heat and then serve.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Roasted carrots with chilli & pomegranate

December 16, 2018

Here's another recipe from Simple, something I picked out to boost a meal of leftovers. It's carrots, roasted fast and hot in a dressing of butter and chilli, then finished off with a squeeze of citrus juice and a scattering of pomegranate seeds. 

Its simplicity lies in its capacity for substitutions: we lacked harissa but found regular pureed chilli, fell back on lime juice in the fridge instead of buying a lemon. And though it's not vegan as described, vegetable oil and maple/golden syrup are obvious alternatives that would make it so. Pomegranates aren't exactly pantry ingredients or easily substitutable, but they should always be considered an optional Ottolenghi flourish.

We enjoyed this so much (and had so many leftover pomegranate seeds!) that I made it twice in a week, successfully impressing some visiting family on the second round. It's a nice reminder that it's sometimes worth adding an extra five minutes and grab of household ingredients to roasting veges; something we do weekly with just salt and pepper.

Roasted carrots with chilli & pomegranate
(slightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's Simple)

800g baby carrots
20g butter
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons rose harissa or other chilli paste
1 tablespoon olive oil
generous squeeze of lemon or lime juice
seeds of half a pomegranate

Preheat an oven to 230°C.

Wash and trim the carrots; slice them lengthways if they're very thick. Place them in a large baking dish.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, then turn off the heat. Whisk in the cumin seeds, honey, chilli paste and olive oil. Pour this dressing over the carrots and toss them around to evenly coat them.

Roast the carrots for about 15 minutes, until they're beginning to brown but still firm. Squeeze over the lemon/lime juice and scatter over the pomegranate seeds, then serve.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Kimchi, gochujang & cheese scrolls

December 16, 2018

I bought Cindy a copy of the Smith and Deli cookbook for her birthday and committed to cooking something out of it when the weekend rolled around. Cindy was keen to recreate the Deli's famous scrolls - the standard option in the book is vegemite and cheese, but we went for one of the alternatives: kimchi, gochujang and cheese.

I'm not a confident baker, but this came together pretty well in the end. I needed a *lot* more flour than the initial 3.5 cups specified in the recipe, but once I got the dough to the right kind of texture the rest was pretty easy. If you're making them for brekkie you'll need to get up early - there's a bit of time waiting for the dough to rest etc - but they're well worth the effort. We ate this whole tray in about 2 days and I'm keen to try more variations on future lazy weekends.

Kimchi, gochujang & cheese scrolls
(from Smith & Deli-cious by Mo Wyse & Shannon Martinez)

1 sachet of dried yeast (2 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1.5 cups warm water
3.5 cups of flour plus extra if needed (I think I used at least 4 cups)
2 teaspoons salt
90ml olive oil
2 tablespoons gochujang, mixed with 1 tablespoon warm water and 1 tablespoon tomato paste (adjust the quantities depending on your love of chilli here)
1/2 cup of kimchi
200g grated cheese (we used the pre-grated Biocheese)

Combine the yeast, sugar and water in a bowl and leave for 5 minutes until it starts to froth up a bit.

Combine the flour and salt in a big bowl. Stir through the oil and then add the yeast mixture stirring constantly (the original recipe suggests using an electric mixer with a dough hook - I'd probably do this bit by hand next time, but do whatever you're more comfortable with).

Mix thoroughly until you've got a sticky dough ball - I had to add a lot of extra flour at this step to get a knead-able dough. Knead your dough for at least 5 minutes until it's soft and elastic. 

Leave to prove in a warm place for half an hour or so - it should double in size. Punch it back down to its original size.

Preheat your oven to 190°C. 

Dust your bench with more flour and roll the dough out into a big rectangle - about 45 x 30cm, maybe 10-15mm thick.

Spread the gochujang mix evenly across the dough and then sprinkle over the kimchi and cheese. Carefully roll the whole rectangle up into a giant spiral and then cut it into 8 scrolls, each about 6-7cm wide.

Lay the scrolls out on a baking tray, cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and let them rest for another 15-20 minutes and then bake for 20 minutes, until things start to go golden on top. 

Leave the tray to cool for 10 minutes and then separate the scrolls and scoff them down.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Lucy Lockett IV

November 24 & December 15, 2018

In spite of its veg-friendly menu and proximity to our home, Lucy Lockett has never quite become a regular breakfast haunt of ours. Since we last visited it's changed hands and, if anything, become even more veg-oriented! Of the 20 core dishes listed, 14 are vegan by default, 4 more are vegetarian, and optional meat add-ons are listed to the side (gluten-free options are also marked). 

Staples like granola and smashed avocado are present but overwhelmed with more creative alternatives: tofu and black bean meatballs, smashed peas, savoury waffles, and sweet rice paper rolls stuffed with tropical fruit. Their pun-based names will elicit a measure of chuckles (All I Avo Wanted, Om-E-Lette Ya Finish), yawns (Balls To The Wall, Me-Soooo Vegan) and groans (You A Fun-ghi? Kale Me).

My first order from this new menu was named, prepared, and priced well: the Why So Cereal? granola ($13, pictured above). It was crunchy with nuts and quinoa, topped with strawberry slices, coconut yoghurt and dark chocolate shards.

Michael took on the Not Eggsactly ($17), a plate of toast spilling over with chilli tofu scramble, as well as beans, spinach, cherry tomatoes and a mock-egg seasoning of black salt.

A couple of weeks later, we swung around for more. Michael happily cleared a plate called the Boulevard of Broken Greens ($19): this is a medley of asparagus, broccoli, beans and kale with pesto, chilli, and nut cheese on sourdough toast.

I made slower, but equally happy, progress through B*tch Peas ($19), which was the most popular order in the cafe that day. At its centre is a huge mound of smashed peas with rocket salad, goat feta and a poached egg. It's ringed with potato hash chunks, strips of haloumi, and some dark oily pesto. Magnificent!

Staff at Lucy Lockett are equal parts cheerful and capable, and on a good day there are dogs out front. There's really no reason why we wouldn't continue working through those 18 vegetarian meals.


You can read about one, two, three of our previous visits to Lucy Lockett. Since that last one, blog coverage has been mostly positive; see Little Fluffy Soul2wo Fat Girlsfo0die (freebie), hungry cookie (possible freebie), Melbourne Vita (possible freebie), Feed Blog Spot (freebie), and The Penguin Eats (freebie).

Lucy Lockett
140 Barkly St, Brunswick
8388 7138
food, drinks pt 1, drinks pt 2

Accessibility: The entry is flat and the interior is spacious. We ordered at our table and paid at a low-ish counter. The toilet is unisex and has a big cubicle and a change table, but access requires negotiating a small flight of steps.