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!


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.

You can read another positive review of Ge'ez on vegetarian food blog Green Gourmet Giraffe.

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.


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

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

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.


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.


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. 


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.

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.


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.


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.

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. 

Mabu Mabu has also received a positive write-up on Mamma Knows West.

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.