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.