Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Mamma Says

June 14, 2021


Michael heard about Mamma Says from our vegan blogging friend of yore, Lidia. The café has been around for years and just made the shift to being 100% plant-based in January. It's a pleasant bike ride from our house, so we made time to visit for brunch on a public holiday with a good-enough weather forecast.

The all-day menu has plenty going on, and a decent sprinkling of well-marked gluten-free options. There are abundant, appetising dishes commonly available for breakfast: granola comes with coconut yoghurt, smashed avo is garnished with radishes and pomegranate, there are multiple takes on the tofu scramble, and I was stuck umming and ahhhing among the crumpets, French toast and waffles.

As you can see above, the waffles ($18.50) won out - they seemed like the right middle ground in terms of toppings. The waffles were thick and deeply grooved, all the better to snag some pecan crumble or apple-cinnamon gel on the way to my mouth. What with the grilled peaches and the icecream, I didn't end up using the side of maple syrup at all - the plate was already sweet and varied enough.


Michael had a shot at the chilli scramble ($15.50) with a bonus breakfast sausage ($3). He thoroughly enjoyed it all - the mock-sausage was good quality and he was pleasantly surprised at how eggy the scramble was.


In addition to the breakfast options, Mamma Says has lunchier dishes. Besides a vegetable-filled risotto, it's a solid spread of mock meats including Vietnamese salad, burgers, lasagna and an intriguing Mediterranean grilled meat plate. There's also a display case stacked with sweet and savoury goodies. We'll have to return and give some of them a go - the food and service were great, and we liked the chance to contribute to their "pay it forward" project on our way out.

Mamma Says
120 Station St, Fairfield
9489 1112

Accessibility: Furniture is medium spaced, a mix of benches against walls and chairs with backs (see photo above). We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Wattleseed & macadamia brownies

June 12, 2021


I'm not sure how many brownie recipes one food blog needs, but this food blog is all the better for including the one appearing in Warndu Mai (Good Food) Cookbook. I received this cookbook as a very thoughtful gift for my last birthday, from a group of friends I met through blogging. The book is centred around native ingredients, and how we can introduce them into our cooking. There are simple, daily foods like wattleseed coffee and native tea, damper, and wild raspberry jam, through to celebration desserts such as Illawarra plum and lemon myrtle limoncello trifle, and strawberry gum pavlova. There's plenty of bush meat recipes (kangaroo, seafood, emu and crocodile) and even a green ant citronello for the non-veg*ns.

A brownie isn't quite so daring, but it's the winter pandemic-lockdown comfort food I was drawn to make and eat. I was low on wattleseed, so I topped up at Gewürzhaus, and I'll try to plan ahead and buy from Mabu Mabu in future. Then there were a couple of substitutions for convenience: golden syrup instead of carob syrup, and walnut oil instead of macadamia oil. I can see a couple more that would earn this vegan status: margarine instead of butter, and perhaps aquafaba instead of the egg whites.

This is a really great brownie! Probably more cakey than fudgy, but with the right chewiness around the edges. I picked up the wattleseed in my first mouthful, but became desensitised to it as I continued eating. The macadamia chunks stand out from the batter more than the usual, softer walnuts and pecans. I'm not generally all that interested in icing on a brownie but this one is unforgettable, a rich buttercream that contains more chocolate than icing sugar - I can see myself transferring it to other cakes in future too.

This is a sweet but subtly-spiced start to my cooking with Warndu Mai. I'm excited to track down many of its other less familiar-to-me ingredients and get to know them better. 

Wattleseed & macadamia brownies
(very slightly adapted from Damien Coulthard & Rebecca Sullivan's 

brownie batter
65g butter
250g sugar
2 egg whites
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon golden syrup
1 tablespoon ground wattleseed
3 tablespoons macadamia or walnut oil
pinch of salt
100g toasted macadamias, roughly chopped

120g dark chocolate
125g butter, at room temperature
70g icing sugar
1 teaspoon ground wattleseed

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Line a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper and spray it with oil.

Cream together the butter and sugar with an electric beater. Gradually add the egg whites. Sift in the cocoa, flour and baking powder, and beat gently until just combined. Slowly beat in the syrup, wattleseed, oil and salt. Fold in the macadamias. Pour the mixture into the cake tin, smooth over the top, and bake for 25 minutes. This should allow for soft centre and a chewy edge. Allow the brownie to cool.

To make the icing, gently melt the chocolate using your preferred method and allow it to cool a little. In a medium bowl, cream the butter with an electric beater. Sift in the icing sugar and beat until well mixed and fluffy. Slowly beat the melted chocolate and wattleseed into the butter. Spread the icing over the brownies, and slice to serve.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

To Asia, With Love

May 29 - June 10, 2021 


For my birthday this year, Cindy got me a copy of Hetty McKinnon's To Asia, With Love, which I'd been eyeing off for a while. We wasted no time working our way through a few recipes and have been completely smitten so far - everything we've been tried has combined our two favourite things: super easy recipes and super delicious meals. 

We've already had two goes at the leftover rice congee - a rich and hearty rice porridge with aromatic base flavours from garlic, ginger, shitake and star anise. Our first crack at it was topped with five-spice shitake mushrooms (top) and our second with crispy kale and everything oil (below). 


I had already whipped the everything oil up, basically the day we got the book. It's a super simple chilli oil that packs both a big kick and a complex flavour profile. It's been going on everything. 


We'd heard a lot about Hetty's vegemite noodle dish before we got the book, so it was another early thing to sample. Again, there's nothing very complicated about this - you cook some noodles and stir together a simple sauce of vegemite, miso and butter and then serve with grated cheese. And it's just about the best winter comfort food you can imagine. We added a side of beans with black bean sauce, which was the ideal accompaniment.


We followed the noodles up with this incredibly simple tomato and macaroni soup, topped with scrambled egg. This has no right to be as delicious as it is - it's really, really basic: just diced tomatoes, onion, garlic, stock and seasonings. One thing we're learning from this book is how great white pepper can be - it really elevates this to something ace. 


The last thing we've made so far is a tofu cumin stir-fry, which we served with some store-bought rotis. It's a dry stir-fry, with crispy corn flour coated tofu cubes and cauliflower, fried up with a spice mix that leans heavily on cumin, with a bit of chilli and salt as well. We liked it a lot, but it didn't quite scale the heights of the other dishes we've tried so far.


I couldn't be happier with To Asia, With Love - all I want to do each week is cook more recipes from it. We'll be sure to report back when we do!

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Rum & raisin cake

May 29-30, 2021


On Michael's birthday this year, Melbourne entered another pandemic lockdown. There were a couple of social arrangements to cancel, but we figured out some good takeaway food and cooking projects across the weekend to compensate (more to come!). I was also ready to bake his pick from Goh and Ottolenghi's Sweet: a rum and raisin cake.

This cake is intended to be baked in a bundt pan. The cookbook shows a decorative cake with the icing in motion, following the neat channels of the cake form. A springform cake tin is a plainer, easier alternative. The cake's preparation isn't complicated, though I had a couple hiccups - the morning was cold, the butter was cold, and my electric beater just wasn't up to the job.

The finished cake had a magnificent texture on the day of baking - crusty at its edge, soft all the way through and just a little fudgy right in the centre, with plenty of rum-soaked raisins scattered throughout. It settled into something firmer and more uniform over subsequent days. I only poured half of the icing over the cake, because the remainder looked likely to just spill onto the plate, and I kept the leftovers in a jar to spoon over one cake slice at a time. The icing has a lovely caramel and rum flavour, but I think I'd be just as happy not bothering with it, since the cake already carries these flavours well itself.

While this cake could certainly be veganised, we've actually got a ready-to-go vegan rum'n'raisin cake recipe on the blog already! Whichever way you bake it, it's a comfort during another locked-down winter.


Rum & raisin cake
(from Yotam Ottolenghi & Helen Goh's Sweet)

200g raisins
120mL dark rum
300g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
250g butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
250g brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
200g sour cream

icing (I recommend halving the recipe, or even omitting it)
60g butter
80g brown sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon dark rum
100g icing sugar

A day in advance of baking the cake, mix together the raisins and rum in a shallow plastic container, cover them with a lid, and let them macerate overnight.

Preheat an oven to 190°C. If you have a 23cm bundt tin, grease and flour it. Instead, I used a ~23cm round springform pan, lining it with paper and greasing it.

In a medium-large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and salt.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric beater. Beat in the vanilla and the eggs. With the beater on a low speed, add in spoonfuls of the flour mixture and sour cream in turns, until everything is well mixed. Mix in the raisins and rum until just mixed through the batter. Pour the cake batter into your tin and smooth over the top. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.

To make the icing, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the sugar until well-mixed. Add the milk and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat, whisk in the rum, and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Sift in the icing sugar and whisk until smooth. Gently pour the icing over the top of the cake.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Are you an email subscriber?

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]

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


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.

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.