Tuesday, February 28, 2017

CNY pineapple tarts

February 7-11, 2017


This Chinese New Year, I graduated from peanut cookies to pineapple tarts. Thankfully I had our host Steph's guidance in the process; she'd already veganised this delicacy and blogged it in three parts. I spliced these with another non-vegan recipe for open tarts to try something that worked for me.

I perceived all my challenges as being about textures: was the jam too runny to hold itself up? what thickness and how crispy or tender should the pastry be? I haven't eaten quite enough pineapple tarts in my life to know exactly what I should be aiming for. (For the to-do list: eat diverse and numerous pineapple tarts!)


The materials to hand made some of those decisions for me. My pastry dough was quite soft and sticky, even from the fridge, so spreading it thinly wasn't really an option. I rolled some of it into 'thumbprint cookie' balls to support the maybe-too-runny jam, and then pressed others with a fork for more decorative, flatter tarts. The jam supported itself through the baking better than I expected, and I double-baked many tarts with an extra dollop on top.

I suspect the pastry was my shortcoming - Steph describes fondness for dry crumbling, while mine were more like soft cookies. I might try for more flour in any future doughs, so that I can roll the pastry more thinly, perhaps use cookie cutters, and then bake it more crisply. My glaze was unwieldy too, and I might just prefer plain soymilk.

Conversely, I loved the pineapple jam. It was sweet, pulpy sunshine with hints of the cloves and star anise I'd infused. It's the reason I came back repeatedly to the snack plate on Saturday night, and why I'll come back to this recipe to try, try again.



Pineapple tarts
(adapted slightly from Vegan About Town,
taking jammy inspiration from Loving Baking)

jam
1 fresh pineapple
70g castor sugar
6 cloves
1 star anise

pastry
120g cup apple puree
220g margarine, cold
2 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon icing sugar
3 teaspoons soy flour
1 tablespoon cornflour
2 shakes salt
1 tablespoon soy milk


Cut the skin off the pineapple, trim out the tough spiny bits, and cut away the core. Chop up the pineapple flesh and puree it in a blender with the sugar. Transfer the puree to a large saucepan and add the cloves and star anise. Simmer the jam over low heat for 30-60 minutes, until it becomes a thick paste. Refrigerate the jam for at least a few days (I stored mine for a few days).

Pour most of the apple puree in a medium bowl, leaving 1 tablespoon aside for a glaze. Add the margarine to the bowl and beat it into the apple puree with a fork. Sift in the plain flour, icing sugar, soy flour, cornflour and salt; stir until just combined. Refrigerate the biscuit dough for at least an hour (I left mine overnight).

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with paper. Whisk together the remaining apple puree and soy milk.

Roll generous teaspoons of the biscuit dough into balls and place them on the tray. Use a wooden spoon handle or similar to imprint a little round groove into each biscuit. Use a teeny teaspoon to drop pineapple jam into the groove. Use a fork to imprint lines in the dough, radiating out from the jam in the centre. Brush each biscuit with the apple-milk mixture.

Bake the tarts until golden, about 15 minutes. Cool in the tray for 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to bring them to room temperature.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Spring onion pancakes

February 11, 2017


Steph has developed a semi-annual potluck tradition to celebrate Chinese New Year - we've had a lot of fun trying out thematically appropriate recipes like peanut cookies, turnip cake, (failed) dumplings, orange szechuan ice cream and more. Cindy was organised this year and had pineapple tarts on the go early in the week (recipe to follow soon), but I left myself only a small window on Saturday afternoon to pull something together. 

Luckily, I had just the thing - this recipe by Andrew McConnell caught my eye in The Saturday Paper way back in October and it seemed like the perfect contribution to our potluck feast. I'm not super experienced at making my own dough-based products, so I was a bit apprehensive that I'd make a mess of it, but McConnell's instructions are clear and easy to follow and these worked out an absolute treat. Cindy insisted they were as good as versions she's had in restaurants and they were met with universal acclaim at the picnic (going particularly well in combination with Steph's excellent mock fish curry). A couple of tips: 1) be heavy-handed with the salt, it really pays off in the final result and 2) you can fry these with just a spray of oil, but they're more golden and delicious if you put a decent splash in the pan. 


Spring onion pancakes
(based on Andrew McConnell's recipe in The Saturday Paper)

300g plain flour
2/3 cup water
salt
Chinese five-spice
5 spring onions, thinly sliced
vegetable oil for frying

Mix the flour and water together in a bowl until it comes together into a firm, dry dough. 

Dust a bench lightly with flour and tip your dough onto it. Knead it for five minutes or so until it's nice and smooth. Pop it back into the bowl and cover it with cling wrap, leaving it to rest for 20 minutes or so.

Pop the dough back onto your bench and roll it out into a long sausage. Divide the dough up into 8 equal pieces - these will become your pancakes!

Roll each piece into a disc with a diameter of about 20 centimetres and lay them out somewhere convenient (we just popped them on a couple of cutting boards).

Take one disc at a time and get them ready for frying - start by lightly brushing one side with oil and then scatter shallots evenly across it, plus a generous pinch of five-spice and a good sprinkle of salt. Roll the circle of dough into a tight tube and then coil them into a circle, tucking the end of the coil underneath. Roll the coils back out so that they're flat again, taking care to avoid any gaps.

I did the above for all eight pancakes first so that I could concentrate properly on the frying once they were all ready. Put a decent splash of oil into a hot pan and then fry each pancake for about 2 minutes on each side, until they're nice and golden (top the oil up if and when you need to). 

They're best served immediately, but they're so good that they're crowd-pleasers even once they've cooled.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Grilled corn on the cob with spicy garlic-miso dressing

February 6, 2017


We've recently invested in a cast iron pan for the first time; we're rather pleased with it so far. It's got a grill insert that had me thinking of marinated tofu with blackened stripes and charred corn on the cob. Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen had a couple of promising options for trying the latter.

The recipe's main feature is a very tangy dressing with the heat of fresh jalapeno, which the grilled corn cobs are liberally doused in just before serving. But its real charm is sweet, juicy, well-grilled corn. Terry has us soak still-in-the-husk cobs in brine for a couple of hours, before grilling them husk-on for around 25 minutes. I played things a little differently, possibly to my detriment.

For whatever reason, I wasn't all that psyched about grilling my cobs in their husks. (Perhaps I thought the husks would be difficult to remove while hot, or that the kernels wouldn't char.) So I cut away the husks and silk threads after the brining and let my corn kernels hit the grill directly. Without the husk, the brine moisture couldn't steam my corn. It probably only took 10 minutes to get a handsome char going. The corn kernels remained pretty crunchy - I really liked 'em this way, but they might not have been what Terry originally intended.

The sprinkle of paprika atop the corn cobs ended up being the boldest colour on our dinner plates - we chose Quorn schnitzels, a wedge of lemon, and Bryant Terry's fabulous mashed potato as supports.



Grilled corn on the cob with spicy garlic-miso dressing
(slightly adapted from a recipe in Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen)

2 tablespoons + a pinch of salt
2 whole corn cobs, still in their husk
juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons white miso
1 tablespoon olive oil
dash of agave nectar
1/2 fresh jalapeno
2 teaspoons garlic powder
shake of cayenne
shake of white pepper
two shakes smoked paprika

Submerge the corn cobs in a large container full of water. Stir in the salt and allow the cobs to soak for at least two hours. Remove the husks and silk threads; cut the cobs down into manageable lengths.

Heat up a cast-iron grill pan. Place the corn cobs onto it and cook them for about 25 minutes, turning them occasionally and allowing a bit of a char to build up.

While the corn is cooking, blend together the lemon juice, vinegar, miso, olive oil, agave nectar, jalapeno, garlic, cayenne and a pinch of salt in a food processor until smooth. Pour the dressing into a bowl.

When the corn is ready, roll each piece through the dressing. Serve, sprinkled with salt, white pepper and paprika.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Reverence Hotel III

February 4, 2017


We're thrilled to see the AFLW burst onto the sporting calendar, and made our way west for the Bulldogs-Dockers game with some friends. It was a great excuse to stop by the Rev for dinner. We really haven't made it here as often as this veg-friendly pub deserves - and with a big for-sale sign visible out front, our days to make the most of it might be numbered.

The menu is four pages of deep-fried snacks, Mexican-style mains, burgers and pizzas, with a couple of desserts snuck at the end. While it's an omni spread, almost every item has a vegan option on it using mock meat and dairy; there are a respectable range of gluten-free versions too.


We were in the mood for burgers! Michael took on the Big Rev Burger ($18) and was impressed by mock-beef patty. It was further layered up with vegan cheese and bacon, beetroot relish, jalapeno mustard, chipotle lime mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, onion and a pickle garnish. It comes with a hefty serve of spicy fries, too.


I tested out the Reverence Chicken Burger ($18), after dredging half of my chips through the chipotle aioli. It's an enormous, fatty mock fillet with a crunchy coating, stacked with mock bacon, the requisite salad, and a smear of guacamole. It was my kinda flavour combination, but I just couldn't get more than half-way through this thick, junky burger.


Our intended popcorn chicken appetiser ($9) arrived long after our mains. The Rev mean the descriptor literally, tossing popcorn kernels through the fried mock-nuggets. The lime-flecked sauce was the highest point of our meal, and revived our appetites for a bit of snacking mid-main.


The vegan burgers, pizzas and grungy atmosphere of the Rev remind me of the closer-to-home Cornish Arms, right down to the jumbo serving sizes. But the Cornish doesn't have such an extensive Mexican menu, or the chocolate nachos that stretch 'Mexican' to its culinary limits (confession: I'd eat 'em). It's unfortunate that we probably have limited days to explore these parts of the menu!

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You can also read about one, two of our previous visits to the Rev. Since that last post it's had positive reviews on veg blogs Chef John SmithFire & Tea and The Rose & Bean. There are also complimentary reviews on Consider the SauceFoodcrazyNot My Bread and Butter (twice), and Eat Like Ushi.
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The Reverence Hotel
28 Napier St, Footscray
9687 2111
snacks, Mexican mains, burgers, pizza, dessert
http://www.reverencehotel.com


Accessibility: There's a small step at the (narrowish) front door, but the side door is flat and wide. Inside things are fairly spread out, with at most small steps between the bar, side-room and courtyard. We ordered and paid at the bar, and didn't visit the toilets.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Carlton Club

January 31, 2017


We scheduled our February book club meeting at The Carlton Club, hoping to take advantage of its somewhat surprising switch to an all vegan menu. Sadly, between us picking the venue in late January and the date of our dinner they'd changed things up again and shifted back to an omni menu. Still, a good number of vegan options survived the menu change, so we persisted. We didn't venture up to the well known rooftop bar, instead settling into the dining room, which had an odd vibe - part opulent ballroom, part suburban RSL. If nothing else it provided a relatively quiet and spacious setting for our book-club to discuss Swing Time.

The new menu is pretty classic pub food - burgers and parmas make up the mains, with a selection of starters and salads to complement them. They've kept it about half vegetarian and there's a decent array of vegan stuff to choose from. We split a pile of vegan dishes three ways to give us the best chance to sample everything.

First up were a couple of starters - macaroni and cashew cheese croquettes with a porcini mayo (top, $8) and field mushroom and kale meatballs baked in a napoli sauce with almond parmesan (bottom, $7).


This was a spectacular start - the croquettes in particular were fantastic, combining fried carbs and creamy sauce to good effect. I really liked the mushroom meatballs as well - they were dense, hearty and well seasoned.

Next up was a flurry of mains and sides - a beetroot, black bean and quinoa burger with lettuce, vegan cheese, sriracha mayo, jalapenos and fried onion (left, $12) and fries with cajun salt (right, $8). 


They were accompanied by a sub based on the mushroom and kale meatballs with vegan cheese and pesto (left, $12) and a chopped kale salad, with avocado, shaved fennel, crispy chickpeas and a creamy vegan Caesar dressing (right, $14).


Again, these were all pretty great. The beetroot burger patty was maybe a little dry, but it went down a treat slathered in spicy mayo and mock cheese. The mushroom meatballs worked well as a sub filling, although they went a little over the top with the gooey toppings, which made it tricky to split three ways. The kale salad was excellent - it'd be a boring meal on its own, but it was the perfect way to accompany our other heavily fried selections. Most importantly, The Carlton Club does a damn good chip - it's such an important thing for a pub to do well.

We were a bit disappointed when we arrived to find that we'd missed The Carlton Club's short time as a wholly veggie place, but they turned our frowns upside-down with an excellent selection of vegan dishes, efficient service and some cheesy backing tunes for our intellectual book discussions. It's not a venue I can imagine visiting on a busy night, but if you're after vegan-friendly pub food in the CBD you could do an awful lot worse.


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There are surprisingly few blog reviews of the Carlton Club - I could only find Parma Daze and Words and Flavours, both of which are from the days before things turned vegan-friendly.

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The Carlton Club
193 Bourke St, Melbourne
9663 3246
food
http://www.thecarlton.com.au/

Accessibility: Entry is up a long flight of stairs - I didn't see an elevator anywhere. There's full table service in the dining room except that payment takes place at a high bar. We didn't visit the toilets.