Friday, 11 April 2014

LOTF Chapel Street + Schnitz

Found myself in Prahran yesterday with a little time to kill. The Lord's seemed like a good way to escape from the rain and get a feed at the same time - especially with their Facebook spamming about the new sweets menu, only available at the Chapel St. store.

I grabbed a vegan Mini Mark because it's a damn good burger, $4.45:

This was as good as any: lots of pickles, nice and tangy. I rarely get anything else because this burger is really that tasty. But the real reason I was there was to try the oreo cookies and cream shake, about $6:

Props to LOTF; this came out in a red aluminium cup with condensation on the sides and full of froth. It has a real milkbar feel to it, but honestly, it wasn't that great. It appears to just be vegan milk, a couple of Oreos and maybe a little So Good Vanilla ice-cream blended - not a lot of chocolaty flavour. If they jazzed it up with either more biscuits or a little chocolate syrup, it'd be much more interesting and worth six bucks.

I do like the Prahran store, though - it's very cute and service was great and fast. They're carrying large and mini Mr. Nice Guy cupcakes in red velvet and golden comb, as well as a Botanical Cuisine mint slice dessert (which I didn't get to see) and a peanut butter choc shake. Glad to see LOTF branching out - a cupcake is an awesome dessert to have on the menu - but I hope the shakes improve!

Oh, and I discovered Schnitz chips are vegan just the other day so I had to try them out. This is a "family" size box, $8.90:

If you like beer battered chips, these are the chips for you. Crispy and well-seasoned with an oniony flavour to the crumb, they're super addictive and we ate the whole box and were totally happy about it. These will be my go-to chips when I fancy takeaway from now on. Schnitz's site now has allergen information (the veggie schnitzel contains milk) and the only other vegan option is the garden salad, but at least there's something for us there!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Tomato Not-Eggs

Does anyone else occasionally have strong food memories? Like you're just minding your own business, you see something you ate once upon a time (and which you promptly forgot about) and suddenly it's at the forefront of your brain and you need to make it happen again right now. Just me? Just me. Whoops. 
Enter tomato eggs.

I remember trying these as a kid and thinking they were really delicious.. but somehow I never remembered that fact until I was browsing the web and came across a picture. It's a really simple recipe - tomatoes, eggs, spring onions - so not much room to play with but this version is pretty damn good. It relies heavily on the omelette recipe from Vegan Brunch - you could do it with tofu but I wouldn't suggest it. The texture needs to be softer than a scrambled firm tofu will do, and needs to have more flavour than soft tofu on its own. But this could be an awesome base for a scramble - there's heaps of room to play with, and you only need one frypan once the omelette mix is made. Easy peasy.

Tomato Eggs (serves two)

Ingredients
- one to two spring onions, sliced finely
- two large tomatoes, cut into thin wedges (aim for 8-10mm thick max)
- one quantity vegan omelette mix from Vegan Brunch, as follows:
300g medium tofu, the water-packed kind (you could use silken like the original recipe - I wanted more of a curdy, harder texture for this though. if you use silken, cook a little longer and keep an eye on it.)
1 tbsp. nutritional yeast
1 tbsp. neutral-flavoured oil
generous pinch turmeric
1/2 tsp. black salt 
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. arrowroot
1/3 cup chickpea flour
Combine tofu, nooch, oil, black salt, turmeric and garlic in food processor and pulse. When thoroughly combined, add in arrowroot and chickpea flour and re-blend until you have a smooth mixture. Bam: omelette mix.

For the tomato eggs:
Preheat a large, nonstick frying pan to around medium. Season your omelette mix generously with salt, white pepper and sesame oil, then add about half a teaspoon of vegetarian oyster sauce (this stuff - I suspect if you don't have it, worcestershire sauce would be a decent addition). Re-blend. Oil your frypan fairly generously, add your omelette mix and carefully spread it out into an even layer with a large spoon or spatula. Let sit for around 2 minutes. Once it appears to be partially setting, tear it up! Loosen the entire thing from the base and, using a spoon or fork, separate the mixture into small chunks. Check your heat at this moment, if you've got serious browning it's up too high. Once you're happy with the chunks, let them cook a further 5-ish minutes until you're happy with the consistency. Remove from pan and set aside.
Using the same pan, re-oil and pop in your tomatoes and spring onions (reserve some of the darker green bits for garnish). Season with salt, white pepper and a generous pinch of sugar. Stir-fry for a few seconds, then add a few teaspoons of water. Cover with lid and let steam for 30-45 seconds, until tomatoes are visibly softened but still very much intact. There will be residual water, don't worry about that. Add your eggs back into the pan and stir thoroughly to coat. Let cook an additional minute or two so that the residual liquid is absorbed and the eggs are fully coated. Take off the heat, garnish with spring onions and maybe a little sesame oil, and stuff your face.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Catch-up

HEY. HI. STILL ALIVE. REALLY.

The last month has been stupid. I've been under the weather more often than not and crazy busy on top of it, but here's some things I've been eating.

Raw passionfruit cheesecake from Naked Treaties. This is RIDICULOUSLY good raw cheesecake.. possibly better than Yong's and Pana's. Snagged it from Habib's in Flinders Street, $7.50. (Shitty train station picture because it didn't last the whole way home.)

Made dumplings! These are tofu, spinach, grated carrot with a soy-ginger-sesame marinade, with a whole lot of sesame seeds mixed in. They fried beautifully and were super tasty. I enjoy making dumplings far more when I make the dough myself; it takes about two seconds and not having to endure the nasty flour-residue hands makes it far more pleasant.

Tried the alternate non-spicy dish in Gong De Lin's Scoopon banquet: mushroom and bamboo shoot (I think) in a savoury sauce. Simple but I really enjoyed it, the texture was really interesting. I am not a mushroom person, so every dish where I genuinely enjoy a mushroom always surprises me. 

Berrissimo! Watermelon fro-yo with lychee and strawberry pearls. Didn't really like the watermelon - it was slightly artificially strange. 
Cruelty Free Shop's opening weekend, grabbed a few little things. That Vanoffe chocolate is insane. It tastes like Dairy Milk but in a healthy kind of way. I also snagged a block of Loving Earth's new caramel chocolate at Go Vita, which I am a bit obsessed with - it's so melty and sweet, like eating fudge but you don't get a stomachache or a sugar overload. Has anyone else tried it?

Divine Realm, formerly Chan House - this is their "roast chicken rice", $8. Crispy, salty fried chicken, lemongrass fried rice, sweet chilli vegies and fried tofu skin. For eight bucks this is an awesome lunch, and so pretty! They're also doing these ridiculous flavoured 'prawn' chips in carrot and mushroom that are really tasty, $3/bag and so worth it.

Wonton soup at Loving Hut Northcote. There was something a little offputting about the wontons themselves (slightly grainy? like underprocessed nuts? type filling) but the light broth, veggies and fried tofu were lovely. $12.

Fried chicken! I was stupidly hyped for this but I really think it needed more salt. Grease without salt just makes me feel a bit sicky - didn't feel all that great after eating these. Sadfase. Definitely better mock meat options in Melb. $15

Custard tart, made according to an old-school Women's Weekly book recipe by my mother but using Well and Good's amazing custard powder that sets perfectly with no heat. This tastes like a suburban bakery from my childhood, in a really good way - simple therapeutic food, and I was sad when we ate it all.

Lychee jelly from the local Afghan supermarket. It's made with carrageenan and still has that glorious jelly-wobble unlike agar.. in reality it's completely transparent, so I really could have chosen a better bowl. Still pretty good jelly - it'd be fantastic to suspend fruit in.

More actual food posts soon!

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Sweetwater Inn: Still Excellent

My birthday falls in summer, which is usually a royal pain in the butt. This year I knew exactly where I wanted to lunch, though: Sweetwater Inn. After my last visit I've been dying to go back and sample more of the menu; it's the perfect summery joint to kick back with a drink and some good food on a warm afternoon.

This time I couldn't resist the cocktail menu. This is the Tin Can Kel, $10:

It went to my head a bit early so I don't know how accurate my description is - but there was tequila, lime, mint on the top, elderflower cordial. I enjoyed it a lot; it wasn't your typical sweet cocktail and there was something almost tea-ish about it. Also, I was tickled it was served in an actual tin can. Even Sweetwater's drinks are gorgeous.

After having already sampled the rissole sandwich, I really couldn't go past the BBQ faux-chicken with salad and battered chips for lunch, $18:

This was ridiculous, in the best way. The BBQ sauce was on the tangy side and cut through the oil of the chips really nicely. There was a flaky texture there, but not tofu-skin flaky - I have no idea what's in it, but it was charry (actual char marks! you guys!) and a little sticky and totally flavoursome. Chips and salad were great - these battered chips they do are sublime. This was a brilliant meal, beautifully presented and really satisfying when you want classic pub food done really well.
I think Sweetwater is easily my favourite discovery of the past six months. They've taken the Aussie pub idea and made it better - great food, interesting drinks (that cocktail menu!) and fantastic service. Prices are reasonable, the place is amazing to look at and overall, I'm just pretty happy this place exists and that I can give them money for food like this. Word of warning, though: the menu on the site is out of date - the pie floater is extinct, but there's still the rissole sandwich, the mock-fish and chips and some really interesting new stuff. Still amazing! 

Monday, 20 January 2014

Roald Dahl Knows His Stuff: Arnhem Girls Cookies

So, Arnhem Girls cookies. This recipe has been haunting me for about two years now - I first saw it on Anger Burger, then traced it back to Savour Fare, whose excitement about it is totally infectious. And it's easy to see why - it's an interesting recipe, so simple, and hey, Roald Dahl loved it - if the man behind Charlie and the Chocolate Factory adored them (and he describes some amazing food in his memoir Boy), they must be worth a shot at the very least.

I popped down to The Essential Ingredient to grab some pearl sugar to try it out. (Does anyone else love that place? I always feel as if I could happily walk out with everything they have. Everything.) This is definitely not the Swedish pearl sugar that Savour Fare uses; it's larger and coarser - to me it looks like chunks of snow. I find it quite pretty:

It's less sweet than standard sugar, with a slightly softer bite to the grains and an interesting texture. Google tells me it's good for sprinkling on baked goods. And waffles. That needs to happen. 

I didn't get any pics of the initial process (it was approx. midnight), but it doesn't really need to be documented. Your ingredients go straight into the mixer barring sugar and butter. Knife in small chunks of butter and mix 'til combined. Scrape out onto plastic wrap and let chill overnight. The dough is sticky and not a whole lot of fun to work with, so touch it as little as possible. The whole process takes around two minutes.

The next day, all you need to do is shake some pearl sugar out onto your rolling surface, plonk your dough on top, add more sugar and roll it out as best you can. I didn't want to overly flour mine so instead, I just rolled it a little, then knifed chunks and handformed the cookies as opposed to using a cutter. As a consequence, my cookies came out quite thick. I halved the recipe and got 8 regular cookies - you'd probably get a dozen thin ones. If you like your cookies on the crunchy side, stick to Savour Fare's original measurements. Bake low and slow - 135 degrees, 30-45. Mine took about an hour because they're considerably thicker than the original recipe.

It's 9:30 at night and the lighting in my house is shot, but - here they are. Some crystals went soft and melty, some retained their texture. The bottom caramelised beautifully and they taste wonderful: soft but chewy with a definite sconeish flavour, a little crunch from the sugar, not too sweet. Seriously good cookies. They seem very open to adaptation too; I'd be tempted to sprinkle on coconut sugar for that butterscotchy flavour, or cinnamon, or even go the way of Isa Does It's rosemary choc-chip cookies. These are definitely going into the regular baked goods rotation here. Brilliant. 

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Sweetwater Inn: Yum

I have no real fancy title for this. It's 30 degrees and I'm slightly tired and grumpy because heat really sucks, but I wanted to write this out because I finally checked out Sweetwater Inn today and it was well worth it!
The place is decked out in Australiana - skulls, snakeskins from the ceiling, et cetera - if dead things bother you, you may not like it. Service was fast and considerate (we studied the menu a fair while before deciding what to order and they left us alone to do so). There's also a quite large drinks list - many wines, beers, only one cider (on tap) which was slightly disappointing - and a neat cocktail list with some great looking drinks. The menu has changed for summer and now you can get a smoked 'chicken' or 'ribs', as well as the old classics of 'fish' and chips and the rissole sandwich, which is what I went for.

Here is my vegan rissole sandwich with chips and salad, $16. You'll notice that I picked up half the sandwich excitedly, realised I should take a picture and lowered it again - whoops. Squishy white bread does not like handprints:

This was a bloody good sandwich. The rissole is not soft, it's more sort of crispy on the outside with a chew to it - perfect antidote to the spongy white bread. With the tasty gravy and cheese, it was messy but one of the best sandwiches I've had in a /long/ time. Here you can see the structural integrity of the rissole - it's not a fall-apart kind of thing. Heck, if they sold them in take-home packs I'd buy several, it was that good of a rendition.
The chips are solid beer-battered specimens. I'd actually call them better than Gasometer's - I'll probably go back just for chips! The salad wasn't my thing - I think the dressing is mayo-based, maybe? That never rocks my boat so next time I'll just ask for it without, no big.

I really enjoyed our lunch here. The waiters were super kind and attentive (my thirsty ass needed water refills about four times and the server noticed super promptly each time - so nice!). The area is spacious, and the Australiana decorations are fun. My dining partner (omni) had the half smoked chicken and inhaled every bite, so I guess the omni food is pretty good too! (I don't like to post pictures of omni food here, but I think it's good to know for those of us who don't only eat out with other vegos.) We'll be back for another long, lazy lunch another warm day soon.

Dessert was at Fritz - this is a passionfruit sorbet cone, $4.50: 

Absolutely delicious. The seeds didn't bother me, but if you're the type to hate them, pick another flavour. All fruit flavours are dairy free and there are many - I debated over lemon and blood orange as well. At the same price as a Mister Nice Guy cupcake (and about ~15 metres away), this will definitely win out during the hot summer months.

Side note: I completely forgot to check if the cones are veg; please do this if you order! :-)

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Nha Hang 5 Sao (again)

Hello all and welcome to 2014 - hope everyone survived the holidays and hasn't reneged too much on their NYE resolutions just yet. (Mine is going swimmingly for once, so feeling much better than I generally do at this point in the new year. Woop woop.)

Today I had my heart set on going to USA Foods, where I acquired a two-pound bag of Dum Dums because people keep telling me they're delicious (and they are! except caramel, don't go there).. so figured we'd better swing by Nha Hang 5 Sao for lunch as it's not far, inspired by my previous lunch there here. They've taken the prawn toast off the menu (which is a good thing if they don't actually have it) but otherwise the offerings are pretty much the same - except there are satay skewers, $5. If you've eaten mock-chicken skewers at Enlightened or somewhere else, you know what you're in for. Tasty and fairly mild (spicy-lovers beware), I'll probably eat them again.
Sweet and sour: done it before, still crunchy and great. I think White Lotus wins though - their deep-fried anything is superb.
Sizzling pepper beef! You guys! In my pre-veg days, I never actually ordered this kind of thing at Chinese restaurants because I was a disgustingly picky eater. Seeing this come out made me smile, it brought back memories of eating at the local Chinese joint with my dad. And it was delicious - some of the best 'pepper' steak/mushrooms/whatever else I've had. Super tender faux-beef and mushrooms, perfectly stir-fried broccoli and baby corn. The sauce was caramelising as we were eating and ended up super sweet and sticky by the end.. delicious. I don't envy the poor guy who cleaned this plate afterwards, though.
Still love this place. Service is fast and efficient - check all dishes for vegan-friendliness though, and be prepared for language barriers. You also need to ask for the vegetarian menu when you sit down. It's an excellent place for a lazy Sunday lunch; you can do your Asian supermarket shopping (the one approx. 20m away has a Vincent Vegetarian Food cooler and a range of the dried products/tinned mock duck etc) and then head in and eat. Good times.

Also, this little sweetheart was waiting for us patiently when we got home, which is a pretty nice welcome!