Monday, 28 October 2013

How To Make Some Pretty Good Garlic Bread

When you look in the supermarket there's really only two options for garlic bread: not vegan or containing palm oil. Not cool. But I've missed them like crazy - they were a huge part of being a teenager. So, I figured out a way to make my own!

First: vegan baguette, cut it in half. (Baker's Delight ones are vegan - or use your favourite.) Slice the remaining half almost-to-the-bottom but keeping it in one piece. You're looking at about 2cm-1 inch pieces here. Set aside.

Garlic butter time! Here's my ratio. I would suggest starting with this, and don't omit the powder or minced garlic - to get that supermarkety taste you really need both.

2 heaped tbsp. vegan margarine of choice
1 scant tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. minced garlic (if using fresh, play with the amount - maybe less would be better)
approx. 1/4 tsp. each dried rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, parsley
a quick shake of onion salt

Smush it all up together and smear it inside your cut baguette. Make sure to get it deep in there or your slices will only be half-garlicked, and that's disappointing. I personally can use this amount for a whole baguette, but use however much feels right to you (but not so much that it gets slimy.. that's a good way to out-garlic yourself). You can freeze the remainder quite easily, I should think. I haven't done it, but I have about a tablespoon in an ice-cube tray in the freezer right now so we'll see.

Next: rub a little extra of your butter over the top of your baguette, and sprinkle on a good teaspoon or more of sesame seeds. If you fancy it, toasting them would be even better!

Bake. I go for 200c until crisp, maybe ~10 minutes. I tend to cook these on the bare oven rack with a tray below to catch errant seeds - that way it browns evenly. If you're a traditionalist, wrap it in foil and do it that way! Eat this over a plate or a teatowel though - the sesame seeds are messy. But so worth it.

Seriously. Yum. Try it.

Bullsh*t Recipe: Kalbi Tofu and Zucchini Dumplings

Like every other veg*n in Melbourne (it seems), I've got Shandong Mama on the brain right now. Zucchini in dumplings? Genius. I had to have a go. And then I was browsing The Kitchn and came across a korean BBQ marinade so - tofu and dumplings. Why not.

First step - prep your marinade as per recipe here. I didn't really mess with this too much - I did tweak it to be sweeter, though. Taste it as you go. In goes a block of medium tofu, sliced into maybe 6-8 pieces. I did this about lunchtime and let it sit.

Lone piece of 'fu poking out.

Here is my dumpling mix: 2 medium zucchinis grated, 2-3 spring onions sliced. I got a generous amount of garlic and ginger frying gently in the saucepan, added sesame oil, a little sweet chilli, a little drizzle of garlic soy and a quick sprinkle salt/pepper. This paste was fried until fragrant, then taken off the heat and the zucchini/spring onion quickly stirred in so it got a tiny bit of heat but didn't go gross and mushy. Fridged until I wanted to use it, then quickly pressed in a sieve to get rid of some of the juices.

Dumpling dough! 2 cups flour, 3/4 cup (approx - add more if you need to) water boiled and let sit for a minute so it's not scorching. Get the flour in your food processor, add the water in a steady stream and stop when you're seeing it come together in a ball around the blade. About 30 seconds of kneading, no flour, then pop the warm ball in a zip-lock bag to steam itself. I left mine about an hour because I had the time, but I reckon you could do it in less.

This dough is super easy to work with. It rolls out well and doesn't tear easily and doesn't need flouring. Here's my setup: cheap plastic dumpling press, dough, teaspoon of filling. (Doesn't that look better than that mush you get in store-bought ones!) I wouldn't actually bother using the press again - it creates a pretty dumpling, but doesn't give you an airtight seal so pretty much makes useless pot-stickers. I find it actually easier and quicker to use my hands - but if you're so inclined, picking up some of these could be worth it for you. I experimented with thinner and thicker skins, and found the thicker ones to be easier to work with and not doughy or ovewhelming once cooked.

Here's what I ended up with - notice the ugly ones to the left. This made about ~14 medium sized ones (think gyoza style). I think making smaller sized you'd get about two dozen.

I prepped them pot-sticker style - fry, steam, fry. In retrospect I think these would suit steaming better - next time.

I also managed to not get any more pics of the tofu because I was watching it like a hawk (I rarely use soft tofu - often I find it too - slimy? so I tend to be very careful when I do). But this marinade is yummy - the magic is that it chars in the frypan, so using softer tofu means you get a crispy caramelised outside and a very soft interior. Downside, of course, is that the slices fall apart and don't look pretty in the slightest. (Observe below.). We enjoyed the tofu the day after too - keeping it in the liquid just made it tastier. I reckon this stuff would be the bomb in a crusty roll with salad. Perfect for the disgusting summer weather we'll have in a month or two. I plan to try it on veggies too - pan-fried broccolini soaked in this sounds glorious. And I'll have another play with the dumplings too - keen to see how they freeze. Next time I'll add chives. And maybe some palm sugar for a little sweetness, or some grated carrot and a couple of mushrooms.. or some black vinegar. And not fry them. So, make a totally different thing. At least this was inspiration, right? 

Friday, 18 October 2013

Shandong MaMa: Totally Worth It

I finally got to Shandong Mama and it was definitely worth the hype.
Vegan (actually written as vegan on the menu!) zucchini dumplings with coriander, black fungus, tofu and some other stuff, $10.80:

These are truly excellent dumplings. If you've ever had mushy zucchini, don't fear - the mix is perfect and super fresh tasting. Here's a gore shot. (appreciate this, I am not dexterous and chopsticks + camera at the same time was quite hard.) Check out the bright green! I always feel a little depressed when I bite into a veg dumpling filled with that pasty mush (I make my own ginger-soy tofu dumplings at home so honestly, most dumplings are a disappointment because I'm picky), so these were such a nice surprise. Side note: my omni dining partner got the fish dumplings, tried mine and coveted them for the rest of the night.

Shandong Mama is REALLY popular, it seems. There are good reviews pasted on the glass walls and we walked in just past 6 and snagged the last table. You mix your own dipping sauces with vinegar, soy and chili - I love this. If they had sesame seeds as well it'd be perfecto. Service was fine and quite fast - we'll be back for another post-work dinner quite soon.
Oh, and I went to Divine Realm again because reasons. This is the made-to-order singapore noodles, $9:

DAMN this was good. It had tofu, mock pork and ham, loads of veggies and fresh bean sprouts and was covered in toasted sesame seeds. Yum. And not greasy! I find their stuff hopelessly greasy most of the time - even the fried rice - so this was a nice change. Guess the made-to-order is the way to go. Also, this was so big I asked the nice lady for a container and took half of it home. I will definitely eat this again soon! They have a range of 5-6 made to order options, as well as a noodle soup of the day (this day it was "beef" noodle).

My Friday was pretty great.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Yong Green Food: Still Delicious

This whole post is basically why I love working right near Brunswick Street: Yong's!
It was 30 degrees (very unsettling - did anyone else feel weirded out by it?) last Wednesday, so a friend and I popped by for dinner and sat outside enjoying the weather.

Here's our table:

I got the Korean BBQ, $16.50 (I think). It was exactly what I needed. Warm, healthy and comforting, with a gorgeous savoury broth-sauce. I'm not generally a mushroom fan but these were so delicious. I walked out feeling comforted and like I'd eaten the first decent thing in a long while.

 My dining partner went for the summer rolls, $12.50. They were interesting - fresh and a little pungent, but not really either of our thing. She tried a mouthful of my food and then flagged down the waiter to get her own, so these guys got rather neglected by the end.

 I also snagged a piece of takeaway white-choc raspberry cheesecake as a present for my (also sick) mother, $8:

Melbourne tram shot! I really couldn't make this pretty - it got thoroughly rumpled on the trip home, the coulis dripped all over my white bag (urgh) and I ended up with a serious mess. But my mother says the flavours were perfect: the raspberries and creaminess make total sense. I suspect everyone else in Fitzroy feels the same way - once the tables filled, more people than I could count (or bothered to) came in for takeaway cheesecake. Smart people.
In conclusion, Yong's rocks. Our waiter was nice and friendly and not at all shirty when we took a while to order. I'll be back for the pho very soon!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Flu House, Episode 2: Brinner

One thing I have been able to eat comfortably the past fortnight is the vegan omelette recipe from Vegan Brunch. I figure it's good for me when I'm off-colour - tofu, nooch, a bit of turmeric, besan, not a whole lot else. It's super easy to put together (although god damn black salt smells like farts - anyone else cringe when they use it?), even simpler to cook and takes very little time and effort. So I got inspired and thought: brinner! Let's do this.

First I got a batch of tempeh bacon going the day before. This is the tempeh-not-bacon marinade from Where's The Beef, doubled, with half the amount of tomato paste. The marinade tastes super delicious and you will stick your finger in it at least once. I laid out my tempeh, poured over the marinade, loosely cling-wrapped it for the fridge and this is what came out the next day:

Next: hash browns. I peeled and grated a big fat potato, squeezed out as much water as I could with my hands, then applied tofu principles and pressed it for a bit inside a teatowel:

Seasoned with salt and nothing else, low heat in a pan to cook through, then turned up to crisp. I liked the result I got here: the closest thing I can liken it to is Ikea's frozen rostis if you've tried them - but less gummy-textured. I'm not a fan of the all-crisp and no middle kinda hash brown, so this was exactly what I wanted. If you like your potato super duper crispy, look elsewhere, and perhaps invest in a potato ricer.
Before it broke apart while being flipped.

And finally: omelette. This is the recipe from Vegan Brunch (helpfully transcribed by Where's the Beef here). Flavour-wise, I add herbs - dried thyme, rosemary, basil and oregano, a little grated Cheezly, some bush tomato seasoning and a little diced tomato into the batter. Plain, this recipe doesn't do much for me; like this it's delicious! Below is the one time in the last twenty that my omelette flipped perfectly. I'm a little proud:

Plonked everything together:

Dat beige.

After I took this pic, I wrapped up that tempeh in (vegan) buttered multigrain toast and it was the best thing. My mother shoved everything into one big sandwich and said it was delicious. She is already planning the next bumper sandwich. (I've got a picky eater enjoying tempeh! Go me!)
I always forget how awesome brinner is - it should really happen more often. Now to get me a waffle iron so I can REALLY have the brinner experience. Next time: chicken and waffles? Everything and waffles?!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Las Vegan Nirvana + Assorted (Mostly Disappointing) Edibles

When I'm sick, my tastebuds go out of whack. I really just want calories, because food is unsatisfying, and things that taste good are rare. And I really just want to sit alone when I go out for food, and read a book and try not to cough on anyone. So I went to Las Vegan last week and it was just what I wanted.

This is the snitz and chips, $12. Delicious. I have no idea what the heck is in their snitzel - it's unlike any other mock meat I've had - super soft and stringy, but the salsa they serve it with works perfectly. And I'm pretty sure they have my vote for best chips in Melbourne. It was a very pleasant late lunch and the perfect place to hide away and stuff your face. I really love Las V; the staff are kind and attentive and know their food, but if you just want to read a book in the corner, you can. It's awesome.

I grabbed a brownie on the way out, $3.50:

This was yummy - cakey and nutty with a crispy brownie top (wish I knew how to do that). The guy working, when I asked for a brownie, looked at me quite seriously and asked whether I wanted a corner, middle or side piece. (The answer is always a corner piece if you can, but that's the kind of great service Las V. has!) 

In my search for something that tastes good, I've been around a bit:

BBQ pork and fried noodles at Chan House Divine Realm. Honestly, the pork tasted exactly like the pork I make at home but the pork I make at home is delicious, so I can't complain about that. Mixed in with noodles, it was $5 well-spent. If I could get this takeaway near my house I'd be stoked.

Less satisfying meal, when I stopped by with a friend: bitter melon in black bean sauce (don't go there. the bitter melon flavour gets into everything and is NASTY) and sweet and sour on fried rice with a spring roll and a dim sim. I will always love Divine Realm's deep-fried stuff; it's oddly sweet but totally satisfying. Wish they had the prawn toast more often though.

The most unsatisfying LOTF meal I've ever had, including the accidental dairy-cheesings. The sweet potato chips are horrible. Bland, mealy and hard. I had a pretty big sad about these. Don't go there.
LOTF, if you happen to read this: I adore you, but seriously, fix this.

I'm on the mend now and starting to cook again, so: hopefully less eating, more cooking posts soon!

Flu House, Episode 1: Pasties

I've been AWOL from writing for about two weeks now. We've had the flu. Not just the ol' feel-a-bit-crappy flu - the skin-aching, cough-so-hard-you-vomit kind of hell-flu that you can't do jack about. So,life lately has been about comfort food. Stodgy things, salty things, broths and potatoes and a lot of avocado and cucumber sushi from the local takeaway. On one of the days I felt slightly functional, I made pasties.

Last year Anger Burger, my favourite blog in existence, started blogging Jamie Oliver's cookbook. I followed the posts with interest and bookmarked the Early Autumn Cornish Pasties for future reference. Unfortunately, it's taken me a whole goddamn year to get around to it. But Sunday's sentiments are correct: this recipe seems like it shouldn't really work, but it does. It really does.

I didn't stick to the recipe very much - I used vegan margarine for the pastry (naturally), omitted the meat entirely, didn't put in zucchini because we were out and added peas. All the seasoning this has is rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper, and that's honestly all it needs. All the veggies cook perfectly - everything is soft but not mushy and stays identifiable, as a Cornish pasty should. And they freeze brilliantly and reheat easily from frozen.
The pastry is a little irritating to pull over your veggies, but I didn't find it quite so rage-inducing as Anger Burger did. That's about the only criticism I can have about this recipe. Give it a go on a day where you want to cook but are too busy coughing. Or if you're just feeling lazy. It's worth it.