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.

Leonardo's Pizza Palace has won fans on Whatever Floats Your Bloat and Olive Sundays.

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.

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.



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.

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.

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.