Sunday, June 13, 2021

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Do you receive updates from where's the beef? via email? The service we've been relying upon to send those updates is being discontinued in July 2021. We're working on a new system and if all goes well, you'll be automatically transferred over and will barely notice a thing! But if there are hiccups, you may need to resubscribe.

Keep an eye out for new posts this week for rum and raisin cake and all the things we've been cooking from Hetty McKinnon's beautiful cookbook, To Asia, With Love. If they fail to arrive, come visit our website directly and try resubscribing to our emails. You can contact us at wheresthebeef_blog[at]yahoo.com.au.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Bush tomato-seasoned damper

May 23, 2021

   

I didn't leave it too long between batches of damper! For my second loaf, I veered slightly away from Nornie Bero's recipe and used her bush tomato seasoning as the featured spice. It's actually a spice blend, with the ground dried bush tomatoes backed up by other native and non-native ingredients such as mountain pepper and garlic. As you can see in the photo above, it lends the damper a light orange hue. The flavour reminded me of Barbecue Shapes, Pizza Shapes, and focaccia with sun-dried tomatoes... all things I'm very fond of.

As a colour and flavour contrast, we ate this damper alongside broccoli soup.

Saturday, June 05, 2021

Gloria

May 15 & 23, 2021

   

Gloria is hard to miss - it has a luminous pink shopfront on Sydney Rd, just a few shops south of Bunnings and Icecream Social. Within 15 minutes of entering Gloria, I was thinking: "I want to become a regular here." 

It starts with the cheery décor and friendly staff, and it's the all-vegan food that seals the deal. Two glass cabinets display numerous filled baguettes, sweet and savoury tarts, and slices. On top glass domes boast several magnificent layer cakes. The menu also includes two hot meals per day, available around lunch time.  

   

On our first visit, Michael and I arrived for a late breakfast and the hot meals weren't available yet, but the cabinet options were freshly prepared and plenty appetising. Michael ordered a huge baguette stuffed with scrambled tofu, dill mayo and roasted carrots ($14).

   

I carefully carved my way through a slice of mushroom quiche ($12), savouring the crumbly base, fluffy filling (I reckon it was based on a chickpea flour batter) and earthy herbed mushrooms. The bonus medley of roasted veges was a nice touch.

   

I could not leave without trying something sweet, so we shared a slice of coffee-flavoured layer cake ($9). It was a good cake and an exceptional vegan buttercream.

   

A week later, we timed our grocery shopping so that we could try Gloria's hot lunches. (Yes, I am following through on that vow to become a regular!) The meal of the day was a plate of Brazilian beans, garlic rice, roast cauliflower, pumpkin puree and beetroot salad ($22). It tasted homely and nourishing, but also just a little bit more special than what most of us can pull off at home most of the time. We especially liked the pickley edge to the beetroot.

   

If the meal of the day impressed, the winter special of mushroom congee ($16) positively blew our minds. I'm generally soup-agnostic, especially when it comes to the thin brothy variety, but this was an epiphany. The broth was so deeply flavoured with mushrooms and ginger, occasionally shot through with blended herb garnish, holding just enough rice to fill you up. I felt like it was curing a cold that I hadn't even caught.

On this second visit, we didn't have the stomach or bag space for more dessert but I'll definitely make up for that on future visits. I notice that Brazilian carrot cake is on regular rotation (something that I've made at home before!), and they're riffing on the peanut butter and jelly theme in a layer cake. Gloria are stuck in a reduced takeaway mode right now as Melbourne experiences its 4th lockdown - I reckon we'll pick up a little something on the weekend, and look forward to a near future where we can stop in again for a full hot lunch.
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Gloria
391 Sydney Rd, Brunswick

Accessibility: Gloria has a very wide door and a shallow ramp on entry. Tables are reasonably well spaced with a mixture of backed and bench seating (see top photo). We ordered and paid at a low counter. The toilet is a single, relatively narrow, unisex cubicle located down a somewhat winding path. 

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Chocolate-backed coconut macaroons

May 9, 2021

   

I've had this recipe physically filed away for years. It's written on a cute piece of stationery by my mate Tamsin; she'd baked these biscuits, I'd loved them, and she made time to scribble down the recipe for me before moving away from Melbourne.

It's a recipe I would have scrolled right past if I encountered it online, because: tofu. I'm a long-time fan of savoury tofu dishes, and I know that it can hide away well in some sweet ones. Very occasionally it's even a dessert's feature, but I did not like the idea of a soy-milk-scented macaroon. I think the almond extract works with the coconut here to mask it.

With that tofu binder secretly tucked away, there's a lot to like! The biscuit dough takes just one bowl, and doesn't require an electric beater. The biscuits are chewy inside and toasty-gold around the edges, with just enough chocolate to form a dark-cocoa contrast. They're not gluten-free, but I'm optimistic that some commercial gluten-free flour or almond meal would work. And for me, they're all the sweeter for reminding me of Tamsin each time I eat them.


Chocolate-backed coconut macaroons
(a recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar
which she has since published on her website)

85g silken tofu
1/3 cup neutral-flavoured oil
2 tablespoons non-dairy milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plain flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
3/4 cup chocolate

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

Place the tofu, oil and milk in a food processor and churn them up until smooth. Pour it all into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar, almond extract and vanilla extract. Sift over the flour, baking powder and salt, and mix well. Stir in the coconut. Drop generous tablespoons of the mixture onto the baking sheets. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until the bottoms of the macaroons are lightly browned and their tops have golden tips. Allow them to cool.

Gently melt the chocolate using your preferred method. Dunk the flat bottoms of the macaroons in the chocolate and put them back on the trays, chocolate side up this time, until the chocolate has hardened. You'll probably need to get a teaspoon into the chocolate and spread it around as your supply dwindles. Store the biscuits in the fridge.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Goddess noodles with tempeh & broccoli

May 9, 2021

   

We wanted a new lazy weeknight meal to add to our rotation and after a quick browse of Isa Does It, this jumped out as an ideal option. Isa promised it was almost *too* easy to include in her book and it combines a bunch of flavours we love (tempeh! broccoli! tahini! nooch!). 

Isa was right that it's super easy - cook the pasta, fry a couple of things and mix together a sauce - you're done! It's a pretty basic dinner - I think we'd crank up the tahini and nooch next time to try to give it a bit more oomph. We also underestimated our broccoli, it would definitely work better with the full 6 cups in there. I stirred some chilli through the leftovers and that was an excellent idea too. While we figure it out, we can always go back to our old faithful tempeh and broccolini pasta option.



Goddess noodles with tempeh & broccoli
(from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Isa Does It)

250g dried linguine
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup warm water
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
3 tablespoons olive oil
250g tempeh
6 cups broccoli florets
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fresh chives, chopped small

Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, drain and set aside, putting aside a cup of the pasta water.

In a small bowl, mix together tahini, warm water, lemon juice and salt. You want it to be pretty smooth, so add some water if needed. Stir in the nutritional yeast and set aside.

Heat a frying pan up and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Fry the tempeh with a shake of salt, stirring frequently. You want it to brown up nicely - about 7-10 minutes. Take the tempeh out and set aside.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and fry the broccoli for about 5 minutes. You want it to keep some crispness, so don't overcook it!

Make some space in the pan and add the rest of the oil and the minced garlic. Let it cook for about 15 seconds and then stir it together with the garlic. 

Stir the pasta into the pan, kill the heat and add the tahini mix, stirring to coat. Pour in as much of the reserved pasta water as you need to get the sauce consistency right. 

Stir in the tempeh, chives and a few twists of black pepper and serve.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Icecream Social

May 8, 2021

   

We enjoyed getting to know Icecream Social when we visited Castlemaine in January, and we were thrilled when news came through that they're third outlet would be located in Brunswick. Their original grand opening plans were undermined by lockdowns, but they're settling in and their window full of cakes and pies is attracting plenty of walk-ins from Sydney Road.

   

It was difficult enough to choose among the handful of icecream flavours at the Castlemaine kiosk, and the larger shop space has multiplied the challenge several times over! I think there were around eight icecream flavours, perhaps a dozen different cakes and pies, plus a few savoury pastries and salads. I reckon a solid third of the food is vegan, and very clearly labelled. Gluten-free options are less clear, and may be restricted to a few icecreams and a salad.

   

We were in, first and foremost, for the icecreams. Michael went for a cone of the vegan cookie doh' ($5), while I doubled down on the vegan rocky road and dairy-based miso & walnut in a cup (pictured top; $8). I reckon the miso & walnut was the pick of the bunch - they didn't play coy with the miso, it was salty, savoury and velvety.

   

With all our groceries stored in backpacks, we had free hands to carry home some pies for later. The chocolate-pecan and cherry pies (~$8 each) were still in good shape the next day. It's so great to see desserts that look both delicious and home-made.   

How lucky we are to have this sweet, small business open up in our neighbourhood!

   
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Icecream Social
421 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
0468 729 743

Accessibility: There's a small step at the door, and a relatively clear interior with a high bench against the wall, lined with tall stools. There's a single cushioned bench at a lower height near the door. We ordered and paid at a medium-high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Ge'ez Ethiopian Restaurant

May 6, 2021

   

We both really enjoy injera-based meals, but they pop up in our lives more as an occasional treat than as a regular meal. Maybe that'll change now that Ge'ez Ethiopean restaurant is established in Brunswick. Here's their version of the veg*n-platter-for-two we tend to rely on ($24 per person). It offers solid coverage across their veg*n options, including house salad, whole lentil stew, ye'misir kike wot (split lentils), ye'duba wot (pumpkin stew), kik alicha wot (yellow split peas), shiro wot (thick chickpea flour stew), and key sir alicha (beetroot and red potatoes).

   

Beyond our usual trusty order, we also requested the samosas ($7). They're super-crispy and densely stuffed with lentils.

   

The staff were especially hospitable, fetching us extra samosa dipping sauce and injera rolls without us even requesting them. With most vegetarian dishes being vegan, and gluten-free options available with advance notice, it'll be fun to share a meal here with friends as well as sneaking in, just the two of us, when we can't be bothered to cook.
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You can read another positive review of Ge'ez on vegetarian food blog Green Gourmet Giraffe.
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Ge'ez Ethiopian Restaurant
718 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
8354 0124

Accessibility: Tables and benches are arranged at medium density, with a reasonably clear and flat corridor through the middle (see photo above). Toilets were unisex, with decent space and handrails intended for accessibility. We ordered at the table and paid at a low counter.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Saltbush damper

May 2, 2021

   

Saltbush is another of the spices I bought at Mabu Mabu, and the first thing it went into is damper. The cafe's owner-chef Nornie Bero has shared her version of this bread online, in text for the ABC, and in a lovely video for Yarra Libraries last NAIDOC week. After watching the video through, I'd observed Bero make three flavours of damper and felt pretty confident about the process.

   

So confident, in fact, that I didn't read the text recipe properly and used plain flour instead of self-raising flour! I remembered just as the loaf hit the oven, shrieked, and decided to attempt a rescue. I pulled the damper out, unwrapped it from its foil and paper layers, kneaded a few generous teaspoons of baking powder into the dough, rewrapped the dough, popped it back into the oven, and said a prayer. It worked, well enough for me anyway!

My more noticeable mistake was that I didn't quite rub all the butter into the flour, and there were a few darker, denser stripes through the dough - I'll pay more attention to that next time. It'll be even easier to achieve with margarine than with butter. That's all this recipe needs to make it vegan, and Bero actually takes that option herself in the video.

   

The other little shortcoming of my damper process is that I used baking paper in place of Bero's banana leaves. I'm so intrigued by the extra aroma and flavour this could be adding to the process! As it is, saltbush still makes for a lovely seasoning. We teamed our damper with pumpkin soup, and I reckon we'll do so a few more times before this winter is through.


Saltbush damper
(a recipe by Nornie Bero, available on the ABC website
and on video via Yarra Libraries)

3 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, at room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons saltbush
1 1/2 cups water


Preheat an oven to 200°C.

Place the flour and baking powder in a large bowl and stir together. Thoroughly rub the butter/margarine into the  flour. Stir in the saltbush.

Add the water a 1/2 cup at a time and mix it in with your fingers until it all forms a sticky dough (it's good to watch Bero's hand motion and the dough consistency in the video!) I only ended up using a-cup-and-a-bit of water.

Flour up a clean bench, drop the dough onto it, and give it a good knead. Roll the dough into a thick log shape and place it onto a large sheet of baking paper. Roll up the dough firmly like a burrito. Wrap it up a second time with foil. Place the wrapped damper directly onto the oven rack and bake for 35-40 minutes. The dough should make a deep, hollow sound when firmly tapped. Unwrap and slice the damper as soon as you're ready, or wrap it in a teatowel for a little while to keep it warm.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Brunswick Burrito

May 1, 2021

   

A friend tipped us off about a new vegan burrito place in the backstreets of Brunswick. It turns out that Brunswick Burrito isn't exactly new, but that they've only been fully plant-based since the post-lockdown reopening. It's tucked away in a weird industrial estate between Victoria St and Hope St, filled with mechanics and warehouses and two bustling little venues - this one plus Foreigner Brewing.

Brunswick Burrito has a nice setup - a pool table, some booths and a courtyard-y area they've set up in the car spaces out the front. There's also a mini-cinema upstairs that would be worth a visit one day. The menu doesn't have too many surprises, but there's a good range of burritos, tacos and trimmings with a mix of mock-meaty and more veg-focussed fillings.

Cindy decided to sample a range of their tacos: el planto, cauliflower and Baja ($6 each). The el planto feels a bit like the tacos we used to eat as kids - mock ground beef, lettuce, vegan cheese, sour cream and sauce in an old-fashioned hard taco shell. The cauliflower and the Baja come with guac, pickled onion and a chipotle aioli, with the Baja swapping the roast cauli out for a Gardein fish fillet. Cindy loved them all - a good mix of veggies and deep-fried deliciousness and probably the best way to sample the range of things that Brunswick Burrito are doing.

   

I wanted to order the Con Carne burrito (a mock beef situation, $18), which I'd had on a sneaky unblogged solo visit, but they were fresh out of the ingredients, so I grabbed one of the specials instead, a chorizo and potato burrito ($18). The chorizo reminded me a bit of our tofu chicharrones (a very good thing!) and it worked very well with the potato cubes, beans, guacamole and vegan cheese. Brunswick Burrito have a huge range of hot sauce options - next time I would hold back on the Spicy Sanchez, which almost blew my head off after I slathered it on unthinkingly. 

   

They've got Foreigner beers on tap, a range of Jarritos soft drinks and surprisingly good vibes for something that feels so weirdly industrial from the outside. I'm a huge fan and am hanging out for summertime when it will be an even more pleasant experience.


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Brunswick Burrito
10/102 Henkel Street, Brunswick
03 9043 2803

Accessibility: Entry is flat and things are relatively spacious inside. There's a mix of high tables with bar stools and picnic tables outdoors, and booth seating indoors. We ordered and paid at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Macadamia & strawberry gum yo-yos

May 1, 2021

   

One of the spices I bought at Mabu Mabu is strawberry gum. It was folded into the whipped cream on my waffle plate, and in the Warndu Mai (Good Food) Cookbook, it pops up in icecream, pavlova, and chocolate truffles. Clearly it suits creamy desserts, and I figured that buttercream might also serve as a sweet, plain base and allow it to shine.

Single serve biscuits suit us a bit better than cakes at the moment, so I hatched a plan to serve my strawberry gum buttercream within yo-yos. I'm thinking of yo-yos loosely and drawing from this macadamia-studded recipe - not a strict shortbread, leaving room for them to stay a little soft in the middle and lightly brown on top. (I think that's when macadamias are at their best!)

I omitted the lemon myrtle, so I could focus on the strawberry gum flavour, but got to thinking that a bit of orange might complement it. That didn't really work out in this batch: my orange rind was too bitter and I didn't want to use it, and the orange juice I added to the biscuit dough didn't carry through to the baked biscuits. I also reduced the sugar, since there's so much sweetness in the buttercream, and it was a good move. I tried flattening some biscuits with a fork to make striped or gridded patterns, but the dough's pretty soft and they just looked ragged and bobbly - I ended up preferring the ones I gently flattened in my hand.

In the jar, strawberry gum smells to me more like strawberry lollies than the fresh fruit. Its flavour in the buttercream is a touch more herbal, working nicely with the toasty macadamias. It really settled into the biscuits over the following day or two... it was just as easy to discern and enjoy, picking a yo-yo straight from the fridge a week later, as it was the day of baking.



Macadamia & strawberry gum yo-yos
(inspired by strawberry gum bought at Mabu Mabu,
the dessert ideas in Warndu Mai (Good Food) Cookbook, and

biscuits 
300g margarine 
1/2 cup caster sugar 
1 tablespoon orange rind 
pinch of salt
3 cups plain flour  
3/4 cup macadamias, roughly chopped 

buttercream 
100g margarine 
1 1/4 cups icing sugar 
generous pinch of salt 
2-3 teaspoons ground strawberry gum 
2 tablespoons soy milk


Preheat an oven to 200°C. Line 1-2 trays with baking paper.

In a large bowl, beat together the margarine and sugar until fluffy; beat in the orange rind and salt. Sift in the flour and mix until well combined. Fold in the macadamias. Spoon out a tablespoon of the dough at a time, gently rolling it into a ball, then squishing it into a thick round disc as you place it on the tray. Repeat until you've filled the trays and bake the biscuits for 10-15 minutes, until lightly golden. Give the biscuits 5 minutes to rest on the tray before transferring them to a rack to cool completely. Match up the biscuits into pairs of the closest possible shape and size.

In a medium bowl, beat the margarine until fluffy. Sift over half the icing sugar and beat it thoroughly into the margarine. Sift in the remaining icing sugar, plus the salt and strawberry gum. I retrieved some of the larger unsifted gum leaves, ground them with a mortar and pestle, and sifted them through a second time to deliver as much flavour but as little texture as possible. Finally, beat in the soy milk to loosen up the buttercream a bit.

Choose one half of each biscuit pair and place a very heaped teaspoon of buttercream in its centre, then gently sandwich the second biscuit on top. Repeat with the remaining biscuit pairs. Store the yo-yos in the fridge.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Newer flavours in West End, Brisbane

 April 17-22, 2021

   

West End has long had one of the more veg-friendly restaurant strips in Brisbane. A quick browse of the Happy Cow map shows that it now has more vegan and vegetarian restaurants than ever before, in a higher concentration than any other Brisbane neighbourhood. Here are three of the all-vegetarian restaurants that we most appreciated during our short stay.
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You Came Again is a vegan bar, now occupying a shopfront that previously housed a Tibetan Momo Café. Though it looked small from the street we were led past the front room, through a corridor, and down the back stairs to a buzzing courtyard. You Came Again isn't sleek, but it is cool, evidence that West End is still home to a sub-culture of haphazard artworks and youths in second-hand clothes. The menu is medium-fancy and reasonably priced. It's more about vegetables than mock meats, though there's aqua faba meringue, mozzarella sticks and Kentucky-fried jackfruit on the menu. 

The centrepiece of our meal was the vegan cheese platter ($25), a gorgeous spread of cashew and coconut-based cheeses, olive tapenade and quince paste, apples, walnuts and Turkish bread. We also loved the harissa roasted carrots ($12), served on red pepper hummus and sprinkled with hazelnuts and pomegranate seeds.
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West End Vegan Restaurant is a Supreme Master-led business, with all the mock meat meals we've come to expect from Chinese restaurants in Australia. It's got something of a food court atmosphere and that suited us just fine for lunch. We were a little too ambitious: yuba drumsticks (3 for $7.50) to start, garlic 'beef' in black bean sauce ($16) for Michael, sweet and sour pork ($15) for me, and rice all round. Ordering from the 'rice dishes' page (rice, steamed vegetables and a feature dish for $15) would have been more sensible, but we really enjoyed the food and appreciated that they mixed in a decent serving of vegetables with the mock meats. 
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Vegeme was the perfect setting to grab an early weeknight dinner with some friends and their young kids. The menu was well labelled, had lots of fun smaller dishes for the kids to graze on (edamame, okonomiyaki, spring rolls) and larger rice and noodle-centred dishes for the larger appetites. I ordered out of character - my body was telling me I needed less fried food and more vegetables - and a $12.50 satay noodle soup sounded modest but tasty. It was a good order - lots of veges, a smattering of tofu and soy protein, plenty of noodles, and a hot flavoursome broth - but it was also enormous. It both nourished and defeated me.
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This is but a sampler of the great foods that West End has to offer. There were too few meals in the day to visit every restaurant and café that interested us, and our stay wasn't timed right to hang out at the Davies Park Market or the Brisbane Vegan Market. Regardless, it's lovely to see a thriving veg scene for the local community.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Stalwarts of West End, Brisbane

 April 17-22, 2021

   

We took some time off work to travel to south-east Queensland in April. It's been about two years since either of us has visited, and we had lots of family and friends to reconnect with. Our trip included almost a week in Brisbane's West End, where we lived just before moving to Melbourne. The neighbourhood has changed enormously, yet also retains many features that we remember fondly. We're amazed at some of the cafés still going strong 15 years later - here are three that we revisited.
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To enter The Three Monkeys Coffee & Teahouse is to travel back in time 20 or more years (QR code check-in and hand sanny excepted!). It's a rambling converted home with tables tucked in nooks and crannies, opening eventually onto a leafy courtyard. Though I believe it's changed management along the way, the menu seems immovable: foccacia is stuffed with chicken, avocado and sundried tomato; there's Greek salad and quiche, spanakopita and lasagne (beef and vegetarian). A display case bursts with a dozen or more cakes and they're cut in huge slabs. 

After a long walk in the sun, I ordered a Sweet Passion blended fruit drink ($6.95) - unfortunately it was more cordial than fruit juice, but it was refreshing nonetheless. The main appeal of Three Monkeys is that you can laze for hours in the shady back garden without bothering the staff, and that's exactly what I did, with a big plate of nachos and three of my high school friends.
___________

   

Indian Kitchen opened up in West End while I lived there. I was a student, and their food was cheap, so a couple boxes of their curries and a naan was a favourite easy takeaway. On this visit we stuck around for lunch, and splurged on a full vegetarian thali each ($10 each) and the special naan of the day, paneer and herb ($5.50), which was cooked specially to order. The curries weren't quite as special as the naan, but still incredible value - on this day we were served (left to right) English cabbage and potato, vege kadhi curry (a new one for me!), and garlic dahl.
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I used to pick up the odd sausage roll from Kim Thanh Hot Bread before I was vegetarian. I don't think I knew a thing about banh mi then, but now I know well what I was missing out on. We grabbed a couple of their tofu-stuffed ones ($7 each) for a quick lunch and walked them home. I felt a pang of regret when I noticed another Boundary Street café touting vegan duck banh mi, but that was assuaged when I sat down and took a bite of my own. This was the most intensely marinated, 'meaty'-textured tofu I'd ever eaten: it had Chinese 5 spice, a slow-burning heat and a sweetness to it that I don't have a hope of replicating.
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Amongst these tasty servings of nostalgia, we also ate at some of West End's newer establishments! I'll highlight some of them in my next post.

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Mabu Mabu

April 11, 2021

   

Visiting Yarraville café Mabu Mabu has been on my wishlist since we were deep in lockdown. The business is headed by Nornie Bero; she's from Mer Island in the Torres Strait and showcases native ingredients in her cooking. In addition to this Tuck Shop, Mabu Mabu offers catering services and a suite of native ingredients and condiments to take home and cook with yourself. 

The all-day menu's got a bit of everything for everyone, with vegan and gluten-free options clearly marked. There's emu fillet, kangaroo tail, seafood, chicken and sides of bacon for those who eat meat; and for those of us who don't: damper, eggs, green tomatoes, mushroom larb and purple cauliflower. Beverages from coffee to kombucha to non-alcoholic beer are spiked with native spices and fruits like wattleseed and finger lime.

   

We arrived ready for a hearty breakfast, so Michael took on the hot eggs ($18.50). He loved the spiciness of the house-made chilli paste, and the seaweed was an unusual and welcome source of greens.

   

From the first time I saw the menu, I was set on the chocolate and wattleseed waffles ($18). They're part of a very busy plate with a great proportion and variety of fruits. Amongst the blackberries, raspberries and blueberries were what I think are muntries. The perfectly poached pair was doused in a  syrup that included some little dried fruits, possibly quandong. The plate was piped with strawberry gum cream, and I took my time happily picking across the plate, with every mouthful bringing a new combination of flavours.

I'm keen to go back at a later time of day to dig into the more vegetable-centred dishes, try the damper and drink a smoked lemonade. For now, we're stocked up on sauces and spices to play around with at home. 
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Mabu Mabu has also received a positive write-up on Mamma Knows West.
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Mabu Mabu
13 Anderson St, Yarraville
0438 860 013

Accessibility: Entry is flat but the door sticks a bit. Tables are low, chairs have backs and furniture is densely packed, with a moderately wide corridor through the middle. We ordered at the table and paid at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Potato soup

April 2, 2021
 
   

We had a soup craving over Easter and wanted something to get us through a few long weekend meals. Cindy googled for potato soup recipes and knew that we could trust Smitten Kitchen for something good. We simplified Perelman's fancy garlic steps and made tofu chicharrones to top things off instead of bacon bits, but the basics are the same: a rich and creamy soup, with a good hit of garlic that warms up your insides. 


Potato soup
(a recipe from Smitten Kitchen
where it's credited to Cook's Illustrated)

3 tablespoons butter
2 leeks, washed and sliced small (white and light green parts)
5 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups veggie stock
2 bay leaves
1 kg potatoes (we used Dutch creams, the recipe asks for russets), peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
1/3 cup sour cream
salt and pepper, to taste


Melt the butter in a big saucepan and then throw in the chopped leek, stirring frequently for 5-10 minutes until it softens (you don't want it to go too brown though). Throw in the garlic and cook for another minute or so.

Add the stock, bay leaves and a good shake of salt - at least half a teaspoon (although it depends a bit on how salty your stock is). Add in the potatoes and simmer over medium heat until they're tender - about 20-25 minutes.

Pull out the bay leaves and stir through the sour cream. Whizz everything together with a stick blender until it's beautiful and smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste and then serve.

We topped it with spicy tofu chicharrones and a shake of parsley, but you can add bacon bits, grated cheese, or whatever you feel like.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Leonardo's Pizza Palace

April 2, 2021

   

I walked and cycled past Leonardo's pink façade many times without paying it any attention, until my mate Adam mentioned that it's one of his very favourite spots at the moment. The premises have held pizza businesses since 1959, although Leonardo's has only been there a couple of years. They've leaned into its old-fashioned Australian/American pizza restaurant style with brick archways, wood panelling, and booth seating.  

   

The menu fits neatly on one printed page: mozzarella sticks and hot chips to start, two pastas, two salads, 11 pizzas (one size fits all), and tiramisu for dessert. Vegetarian options are adequate and marked, gluten-free options aren't clear (although it sounds like they do offer a gf base). Leonardo's is most widely fêted for its Ramblr Chinese Bolognese pizza, but Adam wisely put me onto their one vegan option, the Veggie ($23), tucked right at the bottom corner of the menu. 

It's been a slightly different experience on the two occasions we've ordered it. The first time its most prominent feature was a crisped-up smattering of kale on top; the second time it was softer, with the fresh and light tomato base taking the fore. In between, there's also chard, broccoli and eggplant, and then a swirl of macadamia crema on top. It's much more green than I usually go for with my pizza toppings, but it's good.

Leonardo's pizzas come with a non-vegan offering that I also rather like: a teeny tub of ranch dressing to dip your crusts into. It's runny and tangy, and works well with the thick, chewy pizza crusts.
 
   

We added more greens to our meal with a side of broccolini ($16), thoroughly kitted out with sugarsnap peas, toasted almond and lemon dressing, macadamia crema and pecorino.

There are a few other vegetarian pizzas and one pasta to try - we endorse the taleggio-spiked mushroom toppings, and Michael would likely order the jalapeno toppings and I'd order the pasta before we got around to the margherita. I can't imagine ever sparing enough stomach space for the tiramisu, much as I wish to try it.

Leonardo's is not a destination dinner for us, but it's located within a comfortable walk of Nova cinema, Trades Hall, and the Curtin. We're already appreciating it as an easy, family-friendly eating spot when we've got tickets to something in the neighbourhood.
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Leonardo's Pizza Palace has won fans on Whatever Floats Your Bloat and Olive Sundays.
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Leonardo's Pizza Palace
29 Grattan St, Carlton
9242 0666

Accessibility: There's a flat somewhat narrow entry, and a narrow walkway throughout the restaurant. Furniture is densely packed, a mixture of booths, low tables with backed chairs, high tables with stools, and outdoor benches. We ordered at the table and paid at a high bar. Toilets were gendered and extremely narrow (I could barely open and close my cubicle door around my legs).

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Wolfhound on Brunswick

March 28, 2021

   

My fondness for sweet breakfasts is well documented on this blog, but I've been finding fewer and fewer options around town that really match my tastes. Pancakes, waffles and French toast are still out there but their accompaniments are escalating, while my preferences are scaling back. Icecream, fairy floss, chocolate soil, and big honeycomb chunks look like children's parties on a plate, and are more than I really want to take on in my first meal of the day. A little scoop of (mock or real) dairy, some seasonal fruits, and a scattering of nuts or seeds is more my mode. Tootsie Roller's coconut waffles have emerged as my benchmark.

The new-ish Wolfhound on Brunswick has the kind of sweet breakfast I think I'm complaining about (buckwheat waffles with summer berries, cornflake crunch, cherries, peanut butter powder, mint and lime labne - I haven't actually ordered it and I might even like it). But they also have Dr Marty's crumpets in an arrangement that appeals more ($16): they're served with coconut yoghurt and a roasted peach, then garnished with pepita granola and caramel popcorn. The popcorn and edible flowers are beyond my needs, but they don't spoil the main features and the proportions of this dish. It's sweet and carby-comforting, but also offers some freshness and crunch.

More generally, Wolfhound's brunch menu does its best to cover all bases - there's meat and eggs, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options and potential conversions. The cafe is relaxed and spacious, and has a dog-friendly back garden I haven't visited yet. For now, I'm just grateful for their peach crumpets.
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Wolfhound on Brunswick
386 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
9417 0217

Accessibility: There's a lip on the door. Furniture is a mixture of couches, regular-height tables with back chairs, and high tables with stools. We ordered at our table and paid at a low counter. I didn't visit the toilets.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Raspberry custard cake

March 27, 2021

   

I've made a few more batches of the Raspberry Ripe cups this year, but the secret about them is that they don't actually require a lot of raspberries. An 8-year-old blog post for Magic Custard Cake popped up when I looked up my raspberry-tagged online bookmarks; we had a lot of eggs on hand so it felt like time to give it a go.

This isn't my usual style of baking at all, but I really enjoyed it for its difference. This is a cake with all the usual ingredients in all the wrong proportions, building a dessert that is a firm milky custard in the main, with the crust and top layer of a sponge cake. A handful of raspberries cuts through the smooth richness with texture and tang.

The two spoons version comes with an optional caramel sauce, yet I was more interested in the recipe note suggesting that it would work well with toasted flaked almonds. I didn't figure out how to arrange them artfully (see above), but they were an excellent less-sweet garnish that was easy to repeat with the leftover cake.

Since this cake is neither vegan nor gluten-free, I won't find many opportunities to make it again and share it around. I'm nevertheless glad that I gave it a shot. 


Raspberry custard cake
(a recipe from two spoons,
where it's credited to White on Rice Couple)

120g butter
115g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
4 eggs, separated
2-3 drops white vinegar
480mL milk
150g icing sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen (no need to thaw)
1 tablespoon sugar
flaked almonds, toasted, to serve


Melt the butter, and set it aside to cool slightly. Brush a 20cm square cake tin with a little of the butter and dust it evenly with flour. Preheat an oven to 160°C.

Place the egg whites and vinegar in a small-medium bowl, and beat them to stiff peaks. Set aside.

Gently heat the milk to lukewarm and set it aside.

In a medium-large bowl, drop in the egg yolks and sift over the icing sugar; whisk until well combined. Whisk in the remaining melted butter and the water. Whisk in the flour, milk, and vanilla. Gradually fold in the egg whites. The batter will be very thin with frothy whites on top.

Place the raspberries across the bottom of the cake pan and sprinkle them with sugar. Gently pour over the cake batter, and bake for 30 minutes. Continue to bake, 10 minutes at a time, until the cake is golden brown on top, firm with a little wiggle, and a skewer comes our relatively clean. (This took about 55 minutes for me.) Allow the cake to cool, before gently removing it from the tin and serving with flaked almonds.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Gelateria Bico

March 14, 2021

   

Bico is on our circuit of icecream sources in Brunswick. Our friend Nat, who's dairy intolerant, especially recommended it to us - we visited together on a 40-degree night last summer. The vegan/dairy-free options aren't explicitly labelled but I gather that they're listed under 'sorbetti' and 'granita'.

On our most recent visit on a very hot day, I lingered as long as I could (not actually very long) over a cup of tiramisu gelato and frothy, refreshing strawberry sorbet ($7). Michael had to make fast work of his rapidly melting coffee scoop, and work around the edges of his ricotta and citrus layer ($7).

Bico consistently have a couple of specials on the go as well - I'm disappointed I didn't visit in time to try the vegan cashew praline they were advertising a few weeks earlier.

   

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Gelateria Bico
288 Albert St, Brunswick

Accessibility: There's flat entry and a clear passage through the shop. Small clusters of stools and backed chairs are available both inside and outside. We ordered and paid at a low counter.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Green Mans Arms III

March 1, 2021

   

Green Man's Arms has changed up its menu since our pre-COVID visits. A highlight of their current menu is the vegan charcuterie ($20, with a gluten-free option). It's a gorgeous platter of focaccia, olives, pumpkin and eggplant dips, macadamia-based feta, and a wide assortment of fresh and pickled vegetables. Nestled between the pumpkin dip and focaccia, there are also a few discs of mock chorizo - I enjoyed their nutty, salty flavour without any point of reference and my more chorizo-familiar companion was really impressed by them.

We ordered this plate in its ideal context - when we had plenty of time to pick over it, and over the movie we'd just watched across the street at Nova.
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You can read about our previous visits to Green Man's Arms here and here. Since then it's been blogged by Olive SundaysGreen Gourmet Giraffe and Whatever Floats Your Bloat.
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Green Man's Arms
418 Lygon St, Carlton
9347 7419

Accessibility: The entry has a small lip from the street and there's a step up between the front bar and the dining room. There's full table service in the dining room. Toilets are gendered and located on the same level as the dining area.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Cashew maple muesli bars

 February 24, 2021

   

Most of the novelty in our lives at the moment draws from the relaxation of COVID restrictions - we're getting out and seeing friends, attending events (gigs! karaoke! roller disco?!), and eating at/blogging restaurants we've not visited in a year, if ever. We're still spending plenty of time at home, but there it's back to the familiar - books, crafts and recipes that are a comfort rather than a stretch. 

So this is the first new recipe in a while. Even so, it's a familiar ingredient list and melt-and-mix technique, designed to make a low-fuss and moderately nutritious snack for slow, still-working-from-home afternoons. The peanut butter and maple syrup flavours are a bit more subtle than I anticipated - the main feature is really the rolled oats, which gave me something to chew on and would consistently tide me over until dinner. 


Cashew maple muesli bars
(a recipe from the blog Eat This My Friend,
still accessible from the Internet Archive)

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup salted cashews
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 cup dates, pitted


Line a baking tray with paper. Place the oats in a frypan and gently toast them on medium heat, stirring them regularly. When they smell good, turn off the heat and transfer the oats to a large bowl.

Pulse the cashews briefly in a food processor, so that they're roughly and unevenly chopped. Pour them into the bowl with the oats, and mix them together.

Place the maple syrup and peanut butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until they're melted and smooth. Pour the mixture over the oats and cashews and mix.

Thoroughly blend the dates in the food processor until as smooth as possible - I added a tablespoon or two of water to get things moving. Pour the date puree into the mixing bowl and stir everything thoroughly to combine. Turn the mixture out onto the baking tray and use the back of a spoon or clean hands to spread it out evenly across the tray. Refrigerate the slice for at least a few hours before slicing it up to serve.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Masti

 February 23, 2021

   

We owe Steph for pointing out Masti's Vegan Tuesdays to us, and for booking us and a couple of friends in to give it a whirl. It's a set menu, served as a thali, with a wine or soft drink ($39 per person). We were treated to a curled papadum and eensy salad, two curries (which change from week to week), a dal that charmed everyone at the table, saffron rice, and the fluffiest vegan naan I've ever encountered. For dessert, there was a rich and dense scoop of dark chocolate mousse garnished with neon-coloured popping candy (it looks like this gets changed up with fresh fruit on occasion too).

The Masti staff couldn't have been friendlier; eager to share their dishes and hear our feedback. This sample across their menu has us all wanting to return and order more à la carte.

   
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Messy Veggies are already fans of Masti's vegan night.
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Masti
354-356 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
9427 2121

Accessibility: There's a step up on entry. Furniture is medium-spaced throughout the restaurant, primarily low tables and seats with backs. We paid at a high counter, and didn't visit the toilets.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Luther's Scoops

 February 17, 2021

   

We were saddened to learn that Samba's Jhol Momo closed during 2020, but we can't begrudge the following business to take up the shopfront lease. Luther's Scoops has slightly reconfigured the fit-out and offers a unique rotation of icecream flavours.

They offer ingredient combinations that are rarely seen in icecream but intuitively make sense. On this day, we skipped by the vegan options (watermelon and strawberry sorbet, dark chocolate, a sold-out raspberry & lemon verbena sorbet) and focused on the dairy-based options. Michael piled blueberry and sour cream onto butterscotch ripple ($7), while I sampled passionfruit and lemon custard, and vanilla malted milk. 

The fruit flavours and colours were gorgeously bright against the rich, creamy base. Michael was a bit distracted from his butterscotch in a melting scramble, and my malted milk was too subtle to follow up that passionfruit; it might've worked better in combination with the Earl Grey and chocolate icecream. We'll absolutely be back to perfect our orders.

   
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Luther's Scoops
528A Sydney Rd, Brunswick

Accessibility: Under current COVID restrictions, ordering and payment occurs over a low counter direct from the footpath.