Monday, October 23, 2017

The Merri Clan

October 7, 2017


We've been seeing references to The Merri Clan all over vego social media for the last few months and finally found a spare Saturday morning to head over to Preston to check it out. It's a casual neighbourhood haunt, with a cafe menu during the day and a bar vibe at night. The fit-out is low-key and a bit ramshackle, but the whole feel is charmingly laid-back. We headed out to the courtyard to enjoy the sunny weather and scope out the menu.

Everything is vegan, including some amazing sounding burgers, a big vegan brekkie, nachos and a good selection of other savoury dishes. There are healthy-sounding smoothie bowls and, for a sweet-tooth like Cindy, there are poffertjes.


The giant, wobbly pile of poffertjes pictured above is the 'fully loaded' snack size (15 pieces, $14) - Cindy shared a few of her snack plate, and I really can't imagine anyone could tackle the meal size (25 pc, $18) on their own. The fully loaded option comes with house made nutella, maple cashew cream, berry compote and candied pecans. Cindy was very happy with her brunch treat - the poffertjes are a puffy, sweet base for the slathering of delicious toppings, with the berry compote cutting through the richness of the sauces. If you can't face the fully loaded option, you can build your own, based on the above toppings plus jam, cinnamon sugar and lemon, butter and maple syrup. It's a very flexible offering and I think a very popular one. 

I ordered the breakfast tacos - a pair of corn tortillas topped with black beans, spiced toasted quinoa, tomato salsa, guacamole, smoked chipotle sauce, lime infused coconut yoghurt and fresh chillies ($15).


These were so laden with toppings that they were impossible to eat as tacos, but luckily they were very, very tasty. The crunchy toasted quinoa was the surprise star of the dish for me, adding texture and spice to the creamy beans and tangy sauces. I really loved these and am super keen to try out more of their savoury options.


The coffee I had was decent, and the outdoor space was lovely. Service was a bit mixed, with some super helpful and friendly staff and some with a bit less enthusiasm, but the food is fantastic and I really liked the atmosphere. We'll be back.

____________

There a couple of very positive reviews on Veganopolous, but nobody else seems to have reviewed The Merri Clan.

____________


The Merri Clan
15 Gilbert Rd, Preston
0407 888 626
introfood

Accessibility: There's a flat entryway and a reasonably spacious interior. The outdoor area is a hodge podge of different tables and chairs, but everything is pretty accessible. Toilets are good, including a unisex and fully accessible cubicle.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Bhang

October 5, 2017


We visited the relatively new Bhang after Will recommended it and Tash suggested we all get together for dinner. Michael grabbed a booking just a day in advance and it was packed out when we arrived - it's clearly rapidly attracted fans, even though it's tucked off Sydney Rd in the north of Brunswick. It might be that early flush for a hip new opening, or the reputation of the owners (who also run Tom Phat), ... or it might just be that good.


Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options are abundant and well-marked, and with five of us on board we were able to try many of them. The staff kindly adapted our small plate orders to ensure they were portioned just right to go around. Pani puri ($10) are always a blast, but surprisingly upstaged here by the spinach and paneer samosas ($12). This was without doubt my favourite samosa experience of my life! The paneer filling was so soft and rich and savoury, reminding me almost of scrambled eggs, and the pastry was buttery, crumbly and toasty-browned.


The mains didn't quite reach the same heights, but they were consistently very good too. The char-grilled eggplants (bharwan vanghi, $15; top left) arrived first and, once we gracelessly cut them with a spoon, disappeared fast. Will and Michael loved the pumpkin olan best ($16; top right), more for the black-eyed bean curry underneath. The gobhi korma ($16; centre) presented its cauliflower whole and so the spices didn't quite soak through, but I adored dredging garlic naan ($4, not pictured) through its ombre sauce. The mast biryani ($18; bottom left) was steamed with a pastry top, and not nearly as spicy as Will swore it was on his first visit. My favourite might have been the tangy tamarind-dressed salad of paneer, green mango and baby spinach (kache aam ka paneer, $11; bottom right).


Others sampled a range of fancy and unusual cocktails. I was a smidge disapointed that they were all out of dates for the date and almond lassi, but the more conventional mango version ($5) was very pretty. Unfortunately for all its colour it was bland, not even matching the plainer, tangier ones I've drunk elsewhere.


I managed to keep our ordering in check and everyone had room for dessert! The others all opted for the spiced poached pear ($12), which was too firm to handle neatly with a spoon, but made for a beautiful plate with a scoop of masala chai icecream, a ball of coconut halwa, and festive sprinklings of nuts, syrup and colour. I was well pleased with my gulab jamun ($9), a little larger and lighter than they're traditionally prepared, with a matching scoop of chai ice cream and pretty garnishes.

We thoroughly enjoyed our first Bhang meal - it was a little loud and a little flawed, but its best dishes were tremendous and even its lesser dishes were very good. The samosas alone would pull me back for more.

____________

Bhang has received a mixed review from Barley Restaurant Reviews, and positive reviews from Lips Temptations (freebie)FEED BLOG SPOT (freebie), and A Chronicle of Gastronomy (freebie).

____________

Bhang
1/2A Mitchell St, Brunswick
9383 2488
food, drinks
https://www.eatdrinkbhang.com/

Accessibility: The entry is wide and flat, but we reckon it's pretty tough from there: the interior is crowded with furniture and dimly lit; most of the dining tables are located upstairs. We received full table service and didn't visit the toilets.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Annual lab culinary competition

October 2, 2017


There was concern, after a couple of key departures from the lab last year, that the annual culinary competition might be over. Far from it! All it took was a nod from the new director and a couple of emails, and entries were out in force.

Competitors drew inspiration from their gardens and other local ingredients, from famous chefs and family members, from their cultures of origin and even from their jobs. I contributed a plate of Ottolenghi's butterbean hummus, and a lattice-topped cherry pie. For the first time in all my years of competing, I won the grand prize! The judges especially praised the pie's crumbly buttery crust, and one confessed to reaching for it three times in spite of abundant alternative offerings.

____________


I've also written accounts of this competition in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Swedish meatballs

September 23, 2017


I brought some lingonberry jam back with me from Sweden this year and it has sat sadly in the cupboard for months waiting for inspiration to strike. Lingonberry jam isn't really used like strawberry or raspberry jam - you don't smear it on toast or have it with scones - it's more commonly used as an accompaniment to savoury food like fried herring, potato pancakes or, of course, meatballs.

While we were in Stockholm last year, friends had made us a classic Swedish meal - new potatoes, (veggie) meatballs, greens and lingonberry jam - it was one of my favourite memories of the trip and I decided to spend a quiet Saturday arvo trying to replicate it. A bit of googling around turned up this recipe on Rabbits and Wolves, which ticked all of my boxes. We paired it with the lingonberry jam, boiled potatoes and green beans. It was a wonderful meal - the meatballs were a bit squishy, but held together pretty well and got a decent char on in our hot cast iron pan. The coconut-y gravy is rich and creamy - perfectly paired with the sweet and tangy lingonberry jam. We'll definitely make this meal again, when Melbourne's winter has me dreaming of a Swedish springtime.


Swedish meatballs
(slightly adapted from Rabbits and Wolves)

300g packet of tempeh
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds with 3 tablespoons water
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used a single weetbix, crushed up)
1/2 cup polenta (in place of panko crumbs)
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Salt and pepper
Oil for frying (we used peanut oil)

gravy
1/4 cup Nuttelex
1/4 cup flour
2 cups of veggie stock
1 tablespoon tamari
400ml can coconut milk
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the ground flax seeds and water together to make a vegan egg. Combine it with all the meatball ingredients in a food processor and process them into a smooth paste. Add more water if the mix is too dry.

Shape the tempeh mixture into small balls (no bigger than a golf ball). 

Heat some oil in a cast iron pan until it's very hot and fry the meatballs on each side until they're nice and browned. We had to do ours in two batches, but it will depend on the size of your frying pan. Remove the meatballs from the frying pan and set aside.

Wipe the pan clean and start on the gravy. Turn the heat down to low and melt the Nuttelex. Whisk in the flour until it forms a roux. 

Whisk in the stock, tamari, coconut milk, mustard and vinegar - add things in slowly so you can whisk it all together well. Turn the heat up and bring the sauce to a simmer. Hold it over a low simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the gravy thickens right up.

Season the sauce to taste and add the meatballs. Serve with potatoes, beans and a generous spoonful of lingonberry jam. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Smith & Daughters VIII

September 23, 2017

It's been 18 months since we last blogged about perennial favourite Smith & Daughters. The menu has been completely re-worked, which seems like a good enough reason to quickly write up a recent brunch experience. We were pleased to see freshly squeezed juices back on the menu - I ordered the juice of the day, which was a carrot, ginger and apple concoction ($10), while Cindy went for straight-up OJ ($7.50).


There's no more breakfast burrito or maple bacon pancakes, but plenty of exciting new things to try. I almost ordered the scramble, but we've made it at home so much that I decided to branch out and try the sausage and beans ($19), featuring spicy house-made sausage, white beans, peppers, smoked paprika and saffron.


I loved this - the braised beans were rich and smoky, and the chunks of sausage superb. As always, I'd have loved a second piece of toast for scooping up the goods, but that's a minor quibble.

Cindy surprisingly went past the mulled wine soaked French toast ($18) and the Almond turrón bun ($15) to order something savoury - the Spanish pressed sandwich stuffed with chorizo, peppers, mozzarella and quince paste and accompanied by a handful of crisps ($17). 


Cindy was impressed by this, with the sweetness of the quince paste really shining alongside the spicier ingredients. She also raved about the crisps, which she reckons S & D might make themselves.

Smith & Daughters continue to deliver superb vegan food, lovely service and a great vibe. After nearly three years, I wonder if Melbourne is starting to take S & D for granted a bit. The restaurant was surprisingly quiet on the Saturday morning we visited. The vegan brunch options around Melbourne have obviously improved a lot in three years, and loads of people were at the Deli, but they're changing things up enough that it's still definitely worth swinging by the original.

____________

You also can read about onetwothreefourfivesix, seven of our previous visits to Smith & Daughters. Since our last visit A Chronicle of Gastronomy, The Rose & Bean, Donut Sam, delightfully tasty and Future King and Queen have all enjoyed S & D, while Howie's Melbourne Food was a bit underwhelmed.
____________


Smith & Daughters
175 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
9939 3293
brunch menu, drinks
facebook page


Accessibility: The entry is flat and narrow and the tables are pretty crowded. The interior is dimly lit and loud at night. Toilets are located up several steps, are gendered and of standard dimension. We ordered at the table and paid at a high counter.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Mantra Lounge II

September 21, 2017


I have an unfortunate habit of eating lunch at my desk; I have a more mobile friend on campus to thank for getting me back to Mantra Lounge after almost three years! It's a little different (with the neon decorations mellowing and the menu becoming 100% vegan) but mostly, reassuringly the same, offering homely veg*n food from bain maries at student-friendly prices.


Their popular lasagna is permanently on the menu, and there's a rotation of curries that you can order in various meal deals. My eyes were drawn to the pie warmer for a sausage roll ($5), and I filled out my plate with tahini-kale salad ($6). It proved to be much more than a scoop of green respectability on my plate - tender and well-dressed, with big broccoli florets, a few sun-dried tomatoes and olives. I could have settled with a glass of water, but the Mexican hibiscus tea ($3) was much more entertaining.

The upstairs seating was very relaxed, and I'm coaching myself to get out of the office and visit more often. Here's hoping I make it back for the Korean BBQ burger, and any one of the other salads!
____________

You can read about an early visit to Mantra Lounge here. Since then it's been positively reviewed on Veganopoulous and Wandering Mint, and there are mixed messages on Curious Charlie.

____________

Mantra Lounge
167 Grattan St, Carlton
0433 531 345
food, drinks & desserts
http://www.mantralounge.com.au/

Accessibility: Mantra Lounge has clearly given accessibility some thought - there's a ramp up from the footpath and plenty of space around the counter, where ordering, payment and food pick-up occurs. There's a unisex toilet with wheelchair accessibility signage on this level. There are a few moderately spaced tables downstairs; the stairs themselves are wide and sturdy with a hand rail.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Handsome Her II

September 16, 2017


After three visits to Handsome Her I've spanned their sweet menu and I'm here to declare my surprise favourite: the granola! After a week-and-a-bit of morning fruit platters in Bali, ordering the dish most resplendent with fruit felt like the right thing to do. There's plenty more to the 'Samantha Ratnam' ($16.50) besides: crunchy, gluten-free grains and flakes glistening with a sweet syrup, nuts, a halo of beetroot coconut yoghurt, your choice of dairy-free milk and in the centre, a proud passionfruit pannacotta served as a popsicle. It's as light and festive as breakfast gets!

As an added bonus, it left me with room to try HH's iced chocolate ($8), a gorgeous icy blend based on almond milk.


Michael was also rather pleased with the Rosa Parks ($19.50): while he didn't think that the beetroot tint benefited the bun, he was roundly impressed by the mushrooms and pumpkin, vegan bechamel & mozzarella, pea puree & fresh salad.


We're thrilled to see this terrific new cafe near full every time we visit - in fact, they were only able to fit us out back this time. It's a little plainer out there at the moment, but it's still plenty comfortable when there's sunshine and food this fun.
____________

You can read about our earlier visits to Handsome Her here.
____________

Handsome Her
206 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
8383 7360
drinking, eating, booze
http://www.handsomeher.com.au/

Accessibility: The entry is flat, and tables are densely packed with a clear corridor through the middle of the cafe. Out the back, the ground is a bit uneven. We ordered at the table and paid at a low counter. We haven't visited the toilets, but we noticed a 'wheelchair accessible' sign beside the directions leading to the loos.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Ubud II

September 10-15, 2017


There's plenty more to enjoy in Ubud beyond Janet de Neefe's empire. We walked through rice fields with Su, learning about the birds, butterflies, insects and plants of the area. After a bit of research, we agreed to visit the monkeys in the adjacent forest just as they were eating breakfast. We took the Campuhan Ridge walk, and at its end we lazed at Jungle Fish. And, of course, we ate. Here are some other memorable meals from our time in Ubud.
____________


We met a friend for dinner at Hujan Locale, and eagerly took in her recommendations from her many months living in the city. It's smart and casual and candlelit, with a focus on local produce and a clearly labelled page of vegetarian dishes. We all reveled in the Krupuk plate (IDR70k ~ AU$6.60), a gorgeous sampler of chips (potato, melinjo, sweet potato, cassava, tempeh) and dips (saos kacang/peanut sauce, sambal avocado, terong bakar/roast eggplant, sambal bajak/chilli, sambal matah/shallot & lemongrass). After going separate ways for our mains, we reunited over an oily, crispy open style martabak served with a scoop of Balinese pod white chocolate smothered in salted palm sugar caramel (IDR80k ~ AU$7.60). 


____________


After chilli for days, we were after a mellower meal, and Sage delivered. The mung bean-based kitchari burger was a surprise hit, one of the best mock-beef-style burgers we've ever eaten (IDR70k ~ $6.60). I still couldn't stay away from tempeh, ordering them Buffalo wing-style (IDR40k ~ AU$3.80), and we found enough room left over for their specialty layered coconut cake and its cloud-like icing.
___________


We actually booked our entire holiday around an advance reservation at Locavore. We chose their 7-course vegetarian menu (IDR750k ~ AU$71) and were treated to so much more! The official meal was bookended by a half-dozen delicate savoury snacks, and as many petit fours. It was a stunning parade of clever techniques applied to fresh Indonesian produce, served in beautiful custom-made ceramics by smiling staff. The myriad courses were satisfying but not heavy, a refreshing experience all round! This ranks among our all-time favourites in fine dining.
____________


We visited Clear Cafe when Michael needed another walk on the mild side. Their Indian lentil soup (IDR35k ~ AU$3.30) was exactly what his delicate digestive system needed, and I got in another served of tempeh - this time in the form of a TLT wrap (IDR55k ~ AU$5.20) lined with an unexpectedly nifty black bean humus.


____________


My biggest regret is not heading into Tukies earlier. It's a charming little spot for a cooling dessert. I was absolutely bowled over by their simple scoop of vegan-friendly coconut icecream, which was garnished with fresh coconut, dried coconut, toasted coconut and candied coconut. If only there'd been more time to try their other fruity blended and shaved-ice drinks & desserts! Even in their absence, we had an undeniably sweet time in Ubud.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Ubud

September 10-15, 2017


After a very lazy time on Nusa Lembongan, we headed across to Ubud for the second part of our holiday, ready to do some seriously good eating. We stayed at Honeymoon Guesthouses, owned by Janet de Neefe, who has run food businesses, festivals and accommodation in Ubud for 25 years. The guesthouses are spacious and comfortable, although we found our outside chairs already occupied when we turned up (see above).


Food-wise, we spent our first night at Indus Restaurant, which is part of the de Neefe empire - the hotel puts on free transport to and from the restaurant and you get a 10% discount if you're staying at Honeymoon. Indus is beautifully situated, with a terrace looking over a lush river valley - we got there right on dusk, so we only had a few minutes to enjoy the view before focussing our attention on the food.

I had the vegan nasi campur (IDR70k - $6.70) - a plate of rice and goodies including pumpkin, curry eggplant, tofu, snake beans, jackfruit and the best tempeh I've ever eaten. Cindy went for the jackfruit rendang, with green beans, coconut milk, crispy shallots and red rice (IDR85k - $8.10), which was nearly as good. We left enough space for our first real dessert of the trip, a slice of Casa Luna's famous lime tart (IDR60k - $5.70) - it easily lived up to the hype.


We had five mornings at Honeymoon Guesthouses to sample the full range of breakfasts they offered up (breakfast was part of the package) - it was such a treat to have fresh fruit and fancy juices for breakfast every morning.  


This was followed by our choice of main: banana-stuffed pandan pancakes, banana fritters, French toast with palm sugar syrup, eggs and, most impressively, a vegetarian nasi campur. Tempeh for breakfast is the best. Coming back to cereal for breakfast has been one of the hardest parts of the holiday being over.


Our other Casa Luna food-related experience was a half day cooking class the involved a tour of the Ubud market (right before it changed from the locals market to the touristy one). It was fun to get a rundown of the local produce and to get a sense of how locals do their shopping.


After we finished at the market, we headed back to the cooking school to get stuck into some Balinese cookery. A group of about 12 of us pitched in to produce a ridiculous feast: two kinds of coconut salad (urab pakis), a tempe curry, a roasted eggplant sambal (sambal tuwung), a fried chilli sauce (sambal goreng), a raw chilli seasoning (sambal matah), fried noodles (mie goreng) and a fish curry (ikan mekuah). The hands-on parts of the course were tag-teamed, so people took turns grinding up spices pastes, chopping and frying things. 


The food was astonishingly good, and the course was well suited for vegos (the mie goreng was split into two batches - one with fish sauce and one without). While we ate the savouries, the instructors whipped up a batch of pandan pancakes stuffed with palm sugar and coconut, an amazing way to end a fantastic meal. Look out for some of these dishes on the blog in the next few months.


We had a wonderful stay at Honeymoon - the staff were super helpful, the pool was great and everything we ate or drank that had any connection with the place was delightful. We'd definitely stay there again.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Nusa Lembongan

September 7-10, 2017


After our first night in Seminyak, we quickly escaped to somewhere a bit less intense, Nusa Lembongan. It's a little island about 50km east of the main island of Bali and has a much more relaxing vibe. We stayed at Sunset Garden, a lovely little hotel with gorgeous villa-style accommodation, a terrific pool and a cute little restaurant. We didn't have much luck with vegetarian food there for lunch and dinner, but we hit them up each morning for breakfast - fresh fruit, juice or coffee and a decent selection of mains to choose from. Cindy couldn't resist the pancakes (with pineapple or banana), while I went for tomato, cheese and egg jaffles most mornings. It was a good start to the day.



There weren't heaps of vego options in our neighbourhood - most places offered up a couple of meaty Indonesian dishes alongside heaps of weird western food - burgers, pizzas and the like. We were in Indonesia to eat tempeh, so our eyes lit up when we saw that the restaurant at Mushroom Garden Villas had both a tempeh curry (IDR40k - $3.75) and gado gado (IDR35k - $3.30) on the menu. We stopped in for lunch on our way to the beach and had a very satisfactory meal.



We were even happier when we wandered past Oishii Bar & Grill, just around the corner from our hotel, and saw the word 'vegetarian' painted on their sign outside. They're a primarily Japanese place, but like most restaurants on Lembongan do a bit of everything (more pizza and burgers, plus some Indonesian food).


We had a couple of meals there, featuring some excellent crispy tempeh sushi rolls, avocado rolls, tempura veggies and a decent tempeh and vegetable curry (meals were between IDR50k-80k, so about $4-$8). Like everywhere we went, they sold beautiful fresh fruit juices (and pretty decent cocktails).



While we were there we got a good tip from Amy that the best vego food on Lembongan was at Pisang-Pisang. It was right across the other side of the island from where we were staying, but we sorted out a taxi over to that side of town for some beachside cocktails and a wander down for dinner. It was well worth the trip - Pisang-Pisang has heaps of vegan options, easily the most we found on the island. Cindy had some delightful salt and pepper tofu (IDR42k - $4) while I had an amazing tempeh masala curry with fresh pineapple and roti bread (IDR60k - $5.60). The only challenge was finding a night-time ride back to our accommodation!


We had an incredibly relaxing time on Lembongan - it's a beautiful and calm place to hang out. The vegetarian food doesn't hit the heights of the more heavily touristed parts of Bali (see Cindy's forthcoming Ubud post for some real highlights), but we ate well and cheaply. You wouldn't go to Lembongan for the food, but there's enough to sustain all that pool-side lounging.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Seminyak

September 6-7, 2017


Michael and I have just returned home from our first holiday in Bali. It was a fabulous, relaxing experience and we're both hoping that it won't be our last visit to this island. Over the next week on the blog we'll be writing about our favourite meals during our travels.

We spent just one evening in Seminyak when we arrived. Lined with surf clothing shops, restaurants selling pizza and seafood, and crowded with sunburned Aussies, it reminded us of the Gold Coast.


Michael picked up some eating tips from VegieHead, and we ate dinner at Chandi. It was an expansive restaurant aimed at travellers, with a clear vegetarian & vegan section in its menu. Michael went all out on the Vegetarian Sate Platter on River Stone (IDR154k ~ AU$14.30), a selection of vegetable skewers including bacam tofu, coconut milk marinated tempeh, and caramelised pineapple. I was just as delighted with my Tempestuous Arugula Avocado Salad (IDR86k ~ AU$8.05), even though it only had three teeny avocado bites - it was scattered with coconut oil-fried sunflower seeds, shallots, chilli & tempeh chips, and dressed with lemongrass.


Our hotel had a good reputation for its breakfast spread, and we were slow to take stock of the entire spread. There was the typical western stuff: eggs to order and bacon; toast with jam, Nutella or Vegemite; cereals and a pancake station (!); a more European spread of cheeses and cold meats; then the tropical fruits and juices I craved, and clay pots with south-east Asian foods. I lined my stomach with fried eggs and rice, pickles, fried shallots and doughnut pieces, then finished up with a bowl of fruits. I loved it, and I loved anticipating many more such breakfasts to come.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Banana & molasses cake

August 26, 2017


I have nothing new to share with you here. You already know that over-ripe bananas are perfect for banana bread/cake. And you already have at least one great recipe for that (I've got about six such posts on the blog, myself). And what's more, I bookmarked this one from a blog in 2008.

But, but, but. This cake includes molasses, and that changes everything. In the raw batter it's too dominant, too minerally; in the baked cake it's mellow and malty. The bananas aren't as distinct as they are in other banana cakes, they're just supporting the overarching sweetness agenda and ensuring a dense, moist crumb no matter how volcanic and crusty the cake's surface becomes.


I stirred dark chocolate chips and walnuts into my banana and molasses cake, and cut thick slabs of it for afternoon tea over the course of a week. (It wasn't robust enough to sustain slices less than about 15mm thick.) I like that walnuts are a bit softer and woodier than most other nuts, melding a little into the cake and lending only a subtle texture contrast.


Banana & molasses cake
(slightly adapted from Yeah That "Vegan" Shit,
where it's credited to Veganomicon)

spray oil
3 small very ripe bananas, peeled
1/4 cup apple puree
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
2 cups plain flour
3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup choc chips
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped


Heat an oven to 180°C. Line a loaf pan with paper and lightly spray it with oil.

In a large bowl, thoroughly mash the bananas until as smooth as possible. Stir in the apple puree, oil, sugar and molasses, whisking to combine. Sift in the flour, bicarb soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, and stir until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake it for about 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean (it's OK if the batter still feels a bit damp!). Allow the loaf to cool a while before slicing and serving.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Saffron rice with mixed herbs,
barberries & pistachios

August 13, 2017


The Iranian stew that Michael made this winter has left us with a lot of extra dried barberries. They're small, bright and tangy, and they're also commonly served with saffron rice. The rice dish zereshk polow typically involves chicken, but Ottolenghi has a version on his website that doesn't include a bird in the ingredients list.

This is really fancy rice, designed to be a centrepiece dish. It's coated in butter and infused unevenly with saffron, so that the tossed grains show ombre yellow. There's green herbs and pistachios as well as the red barberries, so there's lots of variety in texture and flavour.

We couldn't locate any chervil on the day we prepared this, so we were just a little more generous with the other herbs involved. The half-dozen other polow recipes that I looked at didn't include any green herbs at all, so there's clearly no particular need for it. I'm still not really sure what the best vegetarian alternative to chicken might be alongside this rice, but we enjoyed eating it with tempeh burgers that were drizzled with tahini. It made a terrific packed lunch for work, too!


Saffron rice with mixed herbs, barberries & pistachios
(recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi's website)

1 teaspoon saffron threads
40g dried barberries
pinch of sugar
360g basmati rice
40g butter
salt and white pepper
30g dill
20g tarragon
60g pistachios


Put the kettle on to boil and place the saffron in a small mug or heat-proof bowl. Pour 3 tablespoons of boiling water over the saffron and allow them to soak for at least 30 minutes.

Place the barberries and pinch of sugar in a separate small heat-proof bowl, and pour boiling water over them until they're covered. Let them soak a while too.

Rinse the basmati rice and allow it to drain.

Boil the kettle again. Set a medium-large saucepan over medium-high heat and melt the butter in it. Add the rice and stir it around to coat the grains in the butter. Pour 560mL boiling water into the rice, and sprinkle over the salt and white pepper. Give it a stir, pop on a lid, and turn down the heat to low. Cook the rice for 15 minutes and don't be tempted to lift the lid! While the rice is cooking, roughly chop the dill and tarragon.

When the rice has absorbed all the water, pour the soaked saffron water over one quarter of the rice's surface, leaving the rest white. Cover the saucepan with a tea towel, replace the lid and allow the rice to rest for 5-10 minutes.

Transfer the rice to a big bowl. Drain the barberries and stir them through, fold in the herbs and most of the pistachios. Serve sprinkled with the remaining pistachios.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Black Waffle

August 12, 2017


Vegans-in-the-know N & I have introduced us to Black Waffle on High St. This cafe has a cabinet full of gelato, and a menu full of smoothies, bagels and (of course) waffles. There are vegan options tucked into every section, and every last waffle plate can be veganised!

After a meal at Loving Hut, we shared in Hazelnut Heaven ($15, pictured above). The two waffles were cute and modestly portioned, sandwiched with strawberries and vegan cream and sprinkled liberally with hazelnuts. The plate was rendered utterly immodest with a cup of molten 'nutella' and stout scoop of dark chocolate gelato.

This is a treat well worth saving room for... or even skipping dinner altogether!

____________

Black Waffle has already won fans on The Brunswick Brunchie (freebie), The Penguin Eats, he is hungry, and Curious Charlie.
____________

Black Waffle
262 High St, Northcote
9041 2029
drinks, food
facebook page

Accessibility: Our memory is of a flat entry, gentle ramp indoors and a clear corridor through the shop. We ordered and paid at a low counter.