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.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Woking Amazing

March 9, 2019

Woking Amazing have been running a popular vegan food truck around Melbourne for the past few years, especially renowned for their fantastic mock-duck wraps. They recently opened a more permanent space in the midst of Melbourne's vegan district on Smith Street in Collingwood. The food-truck roots are still pretty evident - the kitchen is out the back and looks like you could pack it up and move it out to a festival in no time at all. 

The menu's still quite minimal too, with just four mains to choose from plus a handful of sides. They change things up every week though, so you won't get bored if you visit often. 

We kicked things off with some of the sides - a round of $3 dim sims and a serve of the tempura crispy squid ($15).

The mini dimmies were great - crispy batter stuffed with a mix of veggies. The squid was even better, if slightly horrifying in its authenticity. The texture of these was eerily reminiscent of calamari and the fishy flavour was similarly impressive. The wasabi mayo was the perfect dipping sauce.

Cindy and I took on the wraps for our mains - a Korean zinger wrap for her ($14.50, pictured below right) and a Beyond zinger for me ($15, pictured below left). The Korean zinger hit all the right notes - crispy mock chicken and some bacon slices stuffed in a wrap with spinach, tomato, onion and gojuchang mayo.

The Beyond wrap didn't quite reach the same heights - it's more or less the same wrap, but with the chicken replaced by a Beyond patty. I'm quite into Beyond's fancy mock meats, but the patty din't really complement the rest of this wrap as well as the chicken. I'd have cranked up the gojuchang in both as well, but 'more chilli' is my response to basically everything so your mileage may vary.

We had a lovely dinner sitting out the back at Woking Amazing - there were a few small hiccups with the service, but the staff couldn't have been lovelier, which is the main thing. I wouldn't rush back just to have another round of these wraps, but I'll be there again as soon as the Peking duck pancakes get their next turn on the menu.


We couldn't find any blog reviews of Woking's permanent space in Collingwood, just this teaser at Messy Veggies.


Woking Amazing
358 Smith St, Collingwood
0481 861 642

Accessibility: There's a big step from Smith Street into the restaurant, but there might be a direct way to enter the courtyard. We ordered from our table and paid at a high counter. The toilets were outside, unisex and not especially accessible.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Amazing weeknight dolsot bibimbap

March 6, 2019

This, the opening Lab Cookbook recipe, comes with all the trimmings! Not only did I receive the recipe itself from Nick, but he also gave me two dolsots and a jar of gochujang to properly set me up for making bibimbap at home. 

The recipe's name makes two big promises - that it is amazing and that it can plausibly be made on a weeknight - and it delivers on both counts. The ingredients can comfortably be chopped and sauteed in the time it takes for the rice to cook. Then it's a 10-15 minute job to layer everything up in the dolsot, ensure it's warmed through, and sprinkle over your choice of toppings. There are a lot of ingredients, but there's also a lot of room to pick and choose what's convenient for you. 

While you could potentially concoct some kind of leftover lunch from it all, it wouldn't be quite the same. Developing a layer of crunchy sesame-oil rice against the dolsot, frying an egg just so, and maintaining the crunch of the toppings are all special parts of the experience, I think! Instead, we doubled our rice, tofu and greens and made an even easier second batch one night later.  

Amazing weeknight dolsot bibimbap
(a recipe shared by Nick)

8 tablespoons gochujang
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 serves pre-marinated tofu
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2 serves Asian greens (we used wombok), sliced
2 tablespoons light soy sauce or tamari
2 eggs
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 serves cooked rice

toppings, choose some combination of:
1/4 sheet nori, cut into short strips
2 tablespoons Japanese pickled ginger
2 tablespoons Korean/Chinese pickled vegetables
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 large spring onion, chopped
2 tablespoons kimchi, sliced
1 carrot, julienned and sauteed

In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the sauce ingredients. You won't need any more than half of this for two bibimbap bowls, so freeze or refrigerate the rest for later.

Heat the vegetable oil in a frypan over medium-high heat. Slice the tofu into large matchsticks and fry until crisp; set them aside. Fry the garlic and ginger for a minute, then add the Asian greens and soy sauce and fry for a couple more minute; set them aside too. Finally, fry the eggs on one side only, keeping the yolks runny; get the frypan off the heat.

Set the dolsots over medium flames (or heat them in an oven). Drop a tablespoon of sesame oil into the bottom of each one. Place a half-serve of rice into each bowl, mix it through the oil, and press it across the bowl bottom to form a crunchy layer. Turn the heat down to low and pile in the remaining rice. Arrange the tofu pieces, sauteed greens and fried eggs over the rice. Pop the lids onto the dolsots and let every get all steamy and heated through for a good 5 minutes.

Remove the dolsot lids and sprinkle over your choice of toppings. Make sure you've got a good oven mitt and heatproof mat set up while you're eating from these very hot bowls.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Frog in a vegan pond

March 2, 2019

We doubled down on lab cookbook recipes, following our tofu ball dinner up with this funny little dessert. 'Frog in a pond' is a simple, kid-friendly concoction of chocolate frogs swimming in a pond of jelly. Terry kindly shared a vegan-friendly version using agar agar instead of gelatine and a note about dairy-free chocolate frogs from Haigh's.

As you can see from the picture, we didn't make it to Haigh's and resorted to milk chocolate Freddo frogs. The jelly is based on grape juice, which makes for a not-quite-fitting red pond (blue or green jelly typically makes for a less natural food and more natural-looking pond). Perhaps our pirate-costumed Freddo was standing victorious in the blood of his enemies. Or, less gruesomely, perhaps this was the lake in Westgate Park in full algal bloom! On a whim, I stirred a tablespoon of almond milk into one bowl of jelly to enhance the effect, but it separated and looked a bit too much like algae to be appetising.

I really liked the texture of this agar-based jelly - it was set, but still quite soft. This isn't a dessert I'd have thought to make at any other time, but we both really enjoyed it and I'd definitely consider returning to it.

Frog in a vegan pond
(a recipe shared by Terry)

1 1/2 teaspoons agar agar flakes or 3/4 teaspoon agar agar powder
1 cup red grape juice
1 cup water
1/4 cup white sugar
3-4 chocolate frogs (Haigh's dark chocolate ones are vegan)

In a medium-large pot, stir together the agar agar, juice, water and sugar over medium-high heat. Bring it all to the boil and keep it boiling for 2 minutes.

Since I chose to serve the chocolate frogs on top, I poured this hot mixture directly into three bowls and refrigerated it for several hours to set. I placed the chocolate frogs in the bowls at serving time.

Alternatively, you can refrigerate the hot mixture for 45 minutes until it has cooled but is not set. If you take this path, place the chocolate frogs in the bowls and pour the cooled mixture over them, and refrigerate the jelly for a few more hours until it is set.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Braised tofu balls in brown sauce

March 2, 2019

Michael and I had lots of time to cook on Saturday night, so I flicked through my new favourite cookbook ready for a challenge. I always find balls and burgers a bit fiddly with all the frying and will-they-hold-together suspense so this felt like the right time to take on Huey's braised tofu balls in brown sauce. 

The tofu at the core of these balls is augmented with carrot, shitakes, celery and water chestnuts, then flavoured with soy sauce, ginger and five-spice. My tofu held a lot of water and the mixture was mushy, but every last ball held together in the frypan and I felt very optimistic. Their second phase is in a big pot of sweet soy soup, perched atop cabbage leaves and more shitake mushrooms. Ever the risk spreader, I braised only half of the tofu balls and held the others back just in case there was a mess. The braised ones puffed up with soup, some broke apart and all of them were delicate to handle. They were excellent spooned over steamed rice that night, but I was glad to have the non-braised balls in reserve for my packed lunch.

The soup didn't ever reduce to the thick glistening sauce photographed in the book, so I would consider reducing the volume of water if I made this again. This thinner broth was still very comforting, and the shot of ginger through the tofu balls had me thinking about what a steamy, soothing dish this would be when you have a cold.

Braised tofu balls in brown sauce
(a recipe shared by Huey)

tofu balls
300g tofu (not silken)
45g carrot (about 1/3 a large one)
30g shitake mushrooms
30g celery
30g ginger
60g water chestnuts
3 tablespoons plain flour, plus 1/2 cup for coating
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1 1/2 teaspoons white pepper
peanut oil, for shallow frying

braising liquid
225g cabbage
6 shitake mushrooms
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetarian oyster sauce
1L water

Drain the tofu and crumble it up in a large bowl. Grate the carrot, finely chop the shitake mushrooms and celery, mince the ginger and water chestnuts. Add all of these ingredients to the bowl and stir together. Add the flour, soy sauce, sugar, five spice, and pepper, and mix thoroughly to combine.

Heat up the oil in a pan, and pour the coating flour into a bowl. Take a generous tablespoon of the tofu mixture into you hands, lightly shape it into a ball, and drop it into the flour. Lightly toss the ball around to evenly coat it and gently drop it into the hot oil. Repeat this process until the pan has a few well spaced balls cooking along (I did about six at a time). Use two forks to tip the balls over after a minute or two, and use a slotted spoon to drop the cooked tofu balls onto some absorbent paper. Repeat, in batches, until all of the tofu mixture is fried. Set them aside.

Separate the cabbage out into leaves, and slice the shitake mushrooms. Set a very large pot over medium heat and place all seven braising ingredients in it. Gently set the tofu balls on top and simmer everything until the soup has reduced. Serve over steamed rice.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Pumpkin with sweetcorn salsa, feta & pumpkin seeds

March 3, 2019

We had a Sunday night with some time to spare so decided to brave a double Ottolenghi meal - roasted cauliflower, grape & cheddar salad and this pumpkin dish. (We were actually supposed to make a different pumpkin dish from Simple, but I stuffed up the shopping list completely, so we ended up with this instead.) 

It's easy enough to make - the charring of the corn wasn't as straightforward as I'd imagined, but that was the only slight complication. I'm not sure of the best way to get a good char on a cob of corn - we tried the frying pan, but it wasn't super effective. Suggestions welcome. Every other step is super easy though, and the the pumpkin roasting complemented our cauliflower cooking as well. The results are delightful - sweet pumpkin with a zingy, spicy corn salsa and some creamy dollops of salty feta - an excellent combination. We'll add it to our regular rotation (once we try the pumpkin, lentil and dolcelatte recipe we were aiming for this time).

Pumpkin with sweetcorn salsa, feta & pumpkin seeds
(slightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's Simple)

1 butternut pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 3cm wedges.
75ml olive oil
2 corn cobs, husks removed and strings stripped off
1 large red chilli, seeded and finely diced
3 limes - zest and juice
small bunch coriander
a few stems of mint leaves
30g pumpkin seeds, toasted
50g feta, crumbled
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 220°C.

Mix the pumpkin with 2 tablespoons of the oil plus lots of salt and pepper. Spread the pumpkin wedges out on a large baking tray and roast for 25 minutes, until golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Char the corn as best you can - Ottolenghi uses a chargrill, we tried it in our cast iron frying pan over high heat. The aim is to blacken the corn kernels up a bit - it'll take 10 minutes or so.

Once the corn is cool enough to handle, slice the kernels off the cob and separate them all. Stir them together with the chilli, lime zest and juice, the rest of the olive oil, the mint, the coriander and some more salt. Mix well.

Lay the pumpkin wedges out on a plate, spoon the salsa on top along with the pumpkin seeds and the feta.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Matcha Mylkbar

February 24, 2019

Matcha Mylkbar opened to a flurry of instagram attention a couple of years ago, at the forefront of the turmeric latte scene. Their fake eggs, charcoal buns and algae drinks struck me as gimmicky and offputting, so we didn't go to any effort to visit. Recently, the cafe turned up as a convenient spot for a late lunch and a score recount with our mate Lisa after a sweltering game of mini-golf.

The all-vegan menu was much more appealing than I'd initially expected. Yes, there are ten novelty lattes with the option of a flight of four, and five further matcha drinks. But plenty of the meals caught my eye and my appetite, from a summery acai bowl, to vege-filled bowls, burgers, and mac'n'cheese waffles (!).

Michael feasted on the big breakfast ($25) with turmeric scrambled tofu, two slices of sourdough toast, konjac bacon, potato and leek rosti, truffle roasted mushrooms, wilted kale and tomato relish. He rates it among the best vegan breakfasts around town.

At the last possible moment, I switched from a mac'n'cheese waffle order to the three piece feed ($22). This plate looks exactly like what you might expect from KFC next door! The house-made fried chicken isn't too dense (unlike its delicious but instantly regrettable Loving Hut analogue), and has a pleasantly seasoned crunchy batter. The crinkle-cut chips are crispy, the coleslaw is fine, and the tub of potatoes and gravy earned connoisseur Lisa's approval. I thought the portioning was perfect.

Finally, here's a shot of Lisa's mock poached egg. While the agar agar-set white is perhaps a bit too jellied, the gooey sweet potato centre looked just right.

The Matcha Mylkbar marketing has never been our style, but it turns out there's some great food to enjoy here regardless. I reckon we'll be popping back in next time we find ourselves in St Kilda.


Matcha Mylkbar has received rave reviews from veg*n bloggers, see Like A Veganmessy veggies and A Thoughtful Vegan. Reviews on omni blogs are less effusive but generally positive, see String of EventsTomatoWandering MintLips TemptationsMelbourne Breakfast DiarykrumbledShort x Stoutdelightfully tastyLifestyle by Lily and TOT: HOT OR NOT. There's a more mixed review on A Hedonist's Love and outright negative experiences on all-caps blogs DONUTSAM EATS & TRAVELS and 2WO FAT GIRLS

Matcha Mylkbar
72A Acland St, St Kilda
9534 1111

Accessibility: Entry is flat, but furniture is tightly packed inside. We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.