September 02, 2014

Little Vegan Bear

Music for your Mouth: The Lemonheads

The Lemonheads remind me a lot of being in high school. A time when I was absorbing a LOT of music, much of it from before my time. The song at the bottom of this post was the first I ever heard from the band, and it got me interested enough to find some more tunes, which led me to some of their earlier, heavier stuff, such as the recommended blending song below. I’m pretty excited to spotlight this band, because they’re coming to Australia at the end of the year, and I’m going to see them! Yeehahhhh!

I guess this is kind of a strange dessert to match the Lemonheads – I don’t think they are really a raw dessert kind of band. Nevertheless, these tarts are a tasty treat. To be honest, I just thought it would be an easy lemon thing to make. I’m copping out already – on day two! Ahhhh…who cares, it is a delicious cop out at worst – I can live with that.

lemonheadsApart from setting time (and even then, they only really need about 45 mins), these are such a quick and simple dessert to whip up that is sure to impress any guests. The filling is super zesty and not too sweet, which is how I like my lemony desserts. The tarts have had the tick of approval from the Bear and the family, so they are definitely being added to the repertoire.

A song for you to drown out the whizzing of the blender:


Raw Lemon Tarts
(makes 3 tarts, maybe 4 if you use smaller tins)

1 cup pecans
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup medjool dates, pits removed
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of pink himalayan salt

1 cup cashews, soaked
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp agave nectar
Pinch of pink himalayan salt

Dash of turmeric for colour

Lemon zest and strawberry to garnish (optional)

Place pecans and walnuts in a blender or food processor and blend until they resemble coarse crumbs. Add dates, vanilla and salt and blend until the mixture holds together. Press into tart tins and put in the freezer to set.

Blend filling ingredients until smooth and creamy. The mixture should be pourable – add a little more coconut milk if necessary. Spread evenly amongst tart bases, then return to freezer to set.

Garnish with some extra lemon zest and strawberry.

lemonheads3As I said, this is the first Lemonheads song I ever heard, and it has always had a knack of sticking in my head for ages – I’m too much with myself, I wanna be someone else, I’m too much with myself, I wanna be someone else.

I love the little vocal harmony from Juliana Hatfield. The folky tune and smooth warm voice meant I could listen to it over and over and over. Sit back, relax and enjoy the delicious tunes.


Posted September 02, 2014 10:17 PM

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Choc chip, walnut and date sourdough cake

A couple of months ago I baked my first cake using sourdough starter.  It seems fitting to start this year's Vegan MoFo with a recipe from Vegan MoFo last year.  I really enjoyed seeing Alex at In Vegetables We Trust experimenting with her sourdough starter in baking cakes and biscuits.  In the school holidays I had sourdough starter that needed using because I had been too busy.  By the time I got around to baking the cake, I discovered my dried figs were beyond rescue and I had used sourdough starter in pizza.  Never mind.  There were medjool dates to be used.  I made a very nice choc chip, walnut and data tea cake.

I also found an old orange and used the juice instead of milk.  So my final cake was quite different to the recipe I was following that used fresh figs and spices.  Both cakes have one thing in common.  The starter.  Once you have a sourdough starter it demands to be fed and it grows at an alarming rate.

The cake came out of the oven in time for dessert.  We ate a warm piece with gooey choc chips while talking to my mum in Ireland via Skype.  If only I could I would have passed a piece through the computer to share with her.  Just as I would to you. It was so good straight out of the oven.  Once it cooled it was firmer but still lovely.

The cake was moist and crumbly.  You can see a crack in the middle in my picture.  I decided to only bake mine for about an hour rather than an hour and a quarter.  In the middle it was slightly underdone but edible.  In fact I found it quite enjoyable with a spread of nuttalex margarine.  My parents always slathered butter on tea cake.  E was less certain.

As a kid I loved date and walnut tea cake.  This cake was like that, only better.  Sylvia very proud of herself having a piece with a walnut even though she could taste it.  I told her that everything is better with chocolate.  She said she wished she could have dinner with chocolate.  Hmmm wonder if she would like some mole sauce.

More vegan fruity tea cakes from Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Apple fruit cake
Banana cake with maple syrup
Blueberry chocolate cake
Chocolate and coconut and date cake
Chocolate spice cake
Orange, choc chip and hemp seed cake 
Plum kuchen

Choc chip, walnut and date sourdough cake
Adapted from In Vegetables We Trust

1 scant cup brown sugar
1/4 cup ground linseeds (flaxseeds)
2/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (or milk)
1/2 cup rice bran oil (or other neutral oil)
1 cup sourdough starter, preferably room temperature
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 cup white flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
1 cup dark choc chips
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup chopped medjool dates (about 5)

Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F).  Grease and line a loaf tin.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the brown sugar, linseeds, orange juice and oil until it has melded into a glossy oily mixture.  Now mix in the sourdough starter until well combined.  Gently mix in the flours, bicarb and salt until you have a fairly thick batter.  Fold in the choc chips, walnuts and dates.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 60 to 90 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer comes out cleanly.  Rest 5 minutes and turn out onto a wire rack to cool.  Eat warm or room temperature.

On the Stereo:
Tempest: Bob Dylan

This post is part of Vegan Month of Food September 2014.  This year for Vegan MoFo my theme is The Letter S.  Today is Same Same Tuesday where I bring you a recipe that is quite similar to others I have made before on my blog.  (Yes sourdough in a cake is new but I do love baking these sturdy honest tea cakes with lots of fruit and nuts.).  Go to my Vegan MoFo list for more of my 2014 Vegan MoFo posts. 

Posted September 02, 2014 11:14 AM by Johanna GGG

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Thinking & Drinking at the Melbourne Writers Festival

August 23-27, 2014

Michael and I threw ourselves whole-heartedly into the Melbourne Writers Festival these past 10 days, attending all sorts of sessions - dress memoirs, life anti-hacks, TV tapings and queer commentaries among them. I was especially drawn to the food-themed events, turning up at four of those alone.

On the first Saturday I listened to American food writer Ruth Reichl. She seemed completely at ease on stage, with a warm, playful and occasionally passionate manner. Reichl was motivated to develop a discerning taste at a very young age, as her mother was an untalented and occasionally dangerous cook. In spite of this setting, she grew to love rather than fear food and went on to strike a deal for her first cookbook at just 21 years of age. She's been writing about food for decades since, working at Gourmet magazine in its heyday of extensive recipe testing and 10 onsite cooks. Seeking anonymity in her restaurant reviewing, Reichl developed an elaborate range of disguises and characters (even impersonating her own mother!) and these ultimately led to her recent foray into fiction. A newcomer to her work, I was as enthralled with Ruth Reichl's life story as any of the more clued-up fangirls in the audience.

Just half an hour later I slipped into a session on Crowdsourced Criticism featuring Lorraine Elliott (aka Not Quite Nigella), Tresna Lee of Yelp, and freelance food writer Dani Valent. The obligatory initial discussion of defamation gave way to some more interesting reflections on the unique opportunities of social media (e.g. conversations that include business owners) and challenges of providing rigorous critique.

On Monday night it was my turn to step up, joining a panel on Australian Fine Dining with Ronnie Scott and Andrea Frost (pictured above). Estelle Tang was our friendly and funny moderator, teasing this blog's "fancy schmancy" tag one moment and rightfully schooling us all on fair working wages the next. Ronnie and Andrea were clever co-panelists and I did my best to keep up. While we all agreed that food can be art, I think the session proved that we have as much affection for everyday eating as the posh stuff - Andrea's book really cuts away the pomp around wine culture, and Ronnie confessed to eating Pizza Hut for lunch.

Two nights later I returned to the Duke for a session on Food Ethics. This time Leanne Clancey MCed a panel comprising farmer Tammi Jonas, Sustainable Table's Cassie Duncan and sustainable designer Ewan McEoin. They highlighted the Aussie demand for cheap food; McEoin astutely pointed out that if it's cheap for us to buy, the cost is probably borne elsewhere - by the environment, by the farmed animals and by our fellow humans on the supply chain. The panel also discussed solutions, from long-term overarching structures to everyday actions. Their ideal is to shorten the string of transactions between food grower and food eater and Jonas boldly challenged the audience to make a difference by immediately ceasing to eat chicken from suppliers they don't know personally.

It's been wonderful to hear from some of Victoria's more thoughtful eaters during the festival (plus a couple of out-of-town guests) - credit goes to festival director Lisa Dempster and especially the Thinking & Drinking convenor Yasmeen Richards for seeking out such diverse opinions and styles.

I received free entry into Ruth Reichl's Delicious, Crowdsourced Criticism and a number of other Melbourne Writers Festival events as a participating artist of the festival. I will likely be paid a fee for my contribution to the Australian Fine Dining panel. I paid full-price entry to the Food Ethics panel.

Posted September 02, 2014 07:36 AM by Cindy

September 01, 2014

Little Vegan Bear

Music for your Mouth: Bread

It’s that special time of the year – Vegan MoFo is back, and so too am I for my second go at it. This year, my theme is Music for your Mouth (pretend you can see a spiffy banner which will hopefully be ready by tomorrow). Oooh, ahhhh!

Yes, Music for your Mouth – this month I’m dedicating all my posts to bands with food-y names. And what better way to start than with this classic – Bread!

No prizes for guessing what I made to match this band – a good old fashioned loaf of bread. Now this loaf of bread ain’t perfect, but since it’s MoFo, there’s no time for messing around so I’m going to post it anyway (this month will probably see a lot of ‘it’s not perfect but…’ from me). I wouldn’t really eat this bread as bread, as it is super dense – I think it is best suited to toast. It has a rich, dark, sweet flavour from the molasses, and lots of nuttiness from all the seeds. It reminds me of all the beautiful artisan loaves we used to get in Tasmania (in appearance at least!)

Seeded Spelt Bread

500g spelt flour
300ml warm water
2 Tbsp blackstrap molasses
1 pack dry yeast (approx 7g
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil + extra for bowl
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds

2 Tbsp non dairy milk
1 tsp rolled oats
1 tsp pumpkin seeds
1 tsp sunflower seeds
1 tsp sesame seeds

Firstly, proof your yeast by dissolving molasses into water, adding yeast and setting aside for 5-10 mins. This is not totally necessary, but it’s fun watching the little explosions of yeast bubble to the surface.

In a large bowl, mix together flour and salt. Add the yeast mix along with the olive oil and stir as long as you can with a wooden spoon, then turn the dough out onto a floured bench top.

Start kneading away, adding flour if the dough is too wet or extra water if too dry. Knead for 10 minutes, then make into a ball. Get a clean bowl and swish some oil around in the bottom so that your dough doesn’t stick. Put your dough in the bowl, cover with a clean damp tea towel and set aside to rise for a couple of hours (I did two here).

Punch your dough, then knead again for another 2-3 minutes. Shape into a logish loaf shape, then place on a greased baking tray. With a sharp knife, do a couple of slashes along the top of the dough, so that you don’t have any explosions or deformations in the baking process. Set tray aside and allow dough to rise for another hour or so.

Preheat oven to 200C.

Brush dough with milk, then sprinkle seeds over the top. Place in oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when you knock on it.

Allow to cool on rack before slicing.


As I said, this bread totally works best as toast. It’s perfect for some avo, chilli and lemon on top. Nothing really beats the satisfaction of eating a slice of bread that you made by hand, it really feels wholesome or something.

Now please enjoy the sweet sounds of bread as you munch away on this.


Posted September 01, 2014 07:50 PM

Green Gourmet Giraffe

So begins Vegan Mofo 2014: list of posts and The Letter S

So it begins. Vegan MoFo is Silly Season in the blogosphere for vegans and vegan-friendly folk*. I have Started it by deleting today’s post. Argh! My Second act is to back up my blog.

So let’s Start again. Vegan MoFo is an opportunity to Share Scrumptious vegan food all September. Some “MoFoers” Set a theme. My Silly theme is THE LETTER S. Somehow every post was Starting with S. So I went with it. After all it was September and Spring and Sunny. It meant I could make Smoky, Spicy, Sweet, Sticky, Saucy and Scrumdidliumptious food.

So let’s Skip trying to remember all the Sophisticated, Stylish, Sensational chatter I deleted. Sadly you will never read my Sparkling wit on Spam and Sourcery and Snozzberries. Instead, onto my Vegan MoFo Scheme and Some teaser pictures of what you will See this month.  I can't wait to Share it with you.

My Vegan MoFo posts in September 2014 will be organised under these headings (to be updated as I upload each post):

Speedy Mondays

Same Same Tuesdays:
Choc chip, walnut and date sourdough cake

Surprising Wednesdays

Sticky Thursdays

Smoky Fridays

Sensational place to eat out

Standard Vegan MoFo posts

* NOTES: I am a vegetarian who eats lots of vegan food. I cook a broad range of food and couldn’t decide between healthy food and comfort food in the Vegan MoFo categories. In fact I can’t remember which I chose. And if you don't know where to start finding other Vegan MoFo blogs have a Squizz at

Posted September 01, 2014 12:34 PM by Johanna GGG

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Radhey Kitchen & Chai Bar

August 27, 2014

Back in May I spotted an empty shopfront on Brunswick St promising "wholefoods-vegetarian-raw-organic-vegan-Hare Krishna"; by July it opened as Radhey Kitchen & Chai Bar, and Brian reported enjoying lunch there on Fitzroyalty. A couple of our friends have checked it out, too, and gave us tips on what they liked best. We had our chance to sneak in for a very early dinner last Wednesday night.

The menu follows a basic formula with the details varying from day to day. Entrees include soup and pastries at around $7 per serve, mains include a curry, a burger, pastas and bakes ($13.50), while the display cabinets show off a range of salads, sandwiches and sweets. Everything is vegetarian and the staff are very mindful of vegan and gluten-free diets, not to mention super-friendly - they'll gladly talk you through your options.

We tried out the tandoori tofu burger with chips ($13.50). Tofu slabs run a high risk of being chewy and bland, and when this arrived at our table I thought the bun looked burned around the edges too. I could not have been more wrong on all counts: the tofu was tender and spicy, with a soft gently toasted roll and plain but fresh salad fillings. The chips were good too, with two fine dipping sauces.

The vegan meatballs seemed to be a mix of TVP and vegetables with a comforting (possibly fried) crust; they were served with spaghetti and a thick dousing of sweet tomato sauce ($13.50), plus our choice of the fresh salads - I chewed my way through some creamy-dressed kale and crunchy carrots. These were both generous, home-style meals - presented simply but executed skillfully, and great value for money.

We didn't have the time or appetite for sweets, and I want to go back for their specialty chai and something from the dessert cabinet. Everything in it was vegan on the night of our visit, an unusual achievement even for a vegetarian cafe.

This section of Brunswick St is already overrun with veg*n eateries, yet Radhey Kitchen has something extra to offer - simple, comforting food that steers away from the mock meat and (for now, at least!) a quiet, personable atmosphere.

The only other blog post we can find about Radhey is the abovementioned one on Fitzroyalty.

Radhey Kitchen & Chai Bar
336 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
9077 8858

Accessibility: I think there's a half-step up on entry and a flat interior. Tables are quite densely packed with a clear wide corridor through the middle. We ordered and paid and a low-ish counter, where much of the food is on display and chalkboard menus are easy to read. We didn't visit the toilets.

Posted September 01, 2014 07:29 AM by Cindy

August 31, 2014

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Orange, choc chip and hemp seed cake and a rally

It has been a busy weekend of catching up with friends, marching and baking.  It was sunny enough for Sylvia to play in a friend's blow up pool yesterday and to make light work of marching against the government's budget cuts today.  When we got home I made a cake that I had been planning in my head since I bought blood oranges last weekend.  With Vegan MoFo starting tomorrow, I decided on a vegan cake.  It was crumby and yummy, albeit not quite what I had envisioned.

We went on a March in August rally today.  Speeches and placards raised a broad spectrum of discontent with the government.  Refugees, education, welfare, climate change, racism, live exports, the media, gender, health care, transport infrastructure and sexuality.  We saw a few familiar faces, bought badges, signed petitions, cheered the speeches and walked and walked.  Afterwards we had churros and chocolate at San Churro.

With sunny weather, wearing unfamiliar summer shoes meant I was rather footsore by the end of the day and happy to get home.  With Sylvia in the bath, I set about making an orange, choc chip and hemp seed cake.  It started as a raspberry and orange cake with coconut crumble, which I found in Emma Rose's Have your cake cookbook.  By the time I had finished with it, she probably would not recognise the recipe.

Perhaps it is the thought of Vegan MoFo that had me ditching honey and eggs in favour of maple syrup and linseeds (or flax seeds).  I had some vegan choc chips so used these instead of raspberries.  And I threw in some hemp seeds because they were there.

The cake was good but not great.  It was quite crumbly rather than being moist and dense.  The orange flavour was there but not quite as prominent as I had hoped.  Nor was the colour of the blood oranges in evidence in the final cake.  And the choc chips were like choc specks.  The maple syrup was far less sweet than honey would have been.  Despite all these quibbles, it was full of flavour and texture and tasted lovely with a dollop of vanilla yoghurt.  I think I would love it with a chocolate sauce.

So the lesson of the post is not to experiment with recipes after a long day of rabble rousing.  I got confused about how much flour I had put in the crumble mixture - was it one third or two thirds of a cup?  Even worse was my discovery that I had totally miscalculated the conversion of the tin size in the recipe to one of mine.

However it does feel good to have cake at the end of a long day and to have cake in the house to start the week tomorrow.  When I shall see you for the start of Vegan MoFo, with perhaps the silliest theme I could have come up with. The Letter S.  More about that soon.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Sourdough Basics 103: Baking a loaf of bread
Two years ago: WW Experiments with Vegan Cheese
Three years ago: Coconut brittle, leftovers and a week of eats
Four years ago: Banana buttermilk muffins
Five years ago: Carrot Cake and the Lost Sock
Six years ago: Shepherd’s Pie Traditions
Seven years ago: Collingwood children’s farm – peppercorn trees and part time vegetarians

Orange, choc chip and hemp seed cake - work in progress
Heavily adapted from Have your cake by Emma Rose

2 tbsp flax seeds (linseeds)
6 tbsp water
3/4 cup rice bran oil
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp finely grated orange rind
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 cup dessicated coconut
1 3/4 cups wholemeal flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup orange juice
1 scant cup choc chips
1/2 cup hemp seeds

1/3 cup wholemeal flour, or more
1/3 cup dessicated coconut
1/4 cup rice bran oil
1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup

Mix flax seeds and water in large mixing bowl.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 180 C.  Grease and line a cake tin (recipe said 18cm square tin, I used 20cm cake tin - too small, but in future would use 22cm round tin).

Add oil, maple syrup, and orange rind to flax mixture and whisk lightly or stir vigorously.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Spoon into prepared tin.  Mix crumble ingredients to make crumbly mixture.  (I think I had to add more flour).  Scatter over cake mixture.

Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes.  (Mine took 1 hour 15 minutes in a 20cm round tin.)  Rest in tin for 5 to 15 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.  Great served with cream or yoghurt or other sauce (such as chocolate?).

On the Stereo:
The Captain: Kasey Chambers

Posted August 31, 2014 11:29 PM by Johanna GGG

The Good Hearted - Vegan Food in Melbourne

True North

 True North Reuben ($12)

True North Reuben ($12)


True North
2a Munro St,
Coburg VIC 3058

(03) 9917 2262

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 7am-4pm
Sat-Sun: 8am-4pm

True North is a cosy little cafe in Coburg churning out vegan sandwiches and excellent coffee.

All but one of True North's six sandwiches are available as vegan, including a 'BLT' ($12.50), 'Chicken' sandwich ($12), 'Chorizo' sandwich ($12.50) and a 'Summer Salad Sandwich' ($10). I recently tried the 'True North Reuben' ($12) with vegan pastrami, dijon mustard, vegan mayo, sauerkraut and vegan cheese on toasted white sourdough w/ dill pickles and crisps on the side. It was an indulgent delight, and with smotherings of vegan margarine on top, would probably fit in into the category of a 'sometimes' food.

The veganised 'True North Breakfast Roll' ($13) is a popular breakfast choice w/ vegan bacon, bubble n' squeak, avocado, rocket and house made spicy relish on a toasted Rustica roll.

For something sweet, a Crumbs Bakery organic vegan muffin will set you back $4.

Coffee is $3.80 plus a 50c soycharge for Bonsoy.

 True North on Urbanspoon

Also visited by where's the beef?, Quinces & Kale and Green Gourmet Giraffe

Posted August 31, 2014 04:30 PM

August 30, 2014

Little Vegan Bear

Las Vegan Cafe

One more pre-MoFo post, before the madness begins..

Las Vegan Cafe is around the corner from my work in Collingwood, and I’ve enjoyed a meal there many a time. I’ve only ever photographed it once about four months ago, when my friend Liz from I Spy Plum Pie and I met up for a bite of lunch.

Las Vegan serve a range of standards, from parmas to pizzas to burritos to salads. The servings are generous, the prices are reasonable, the staff are friendly and they have cake. What more could you ask for?

lasvegWe were having trouble choosing, so decided to share two plates. First up the rice balls, which came with a side of salad and some thick satay sauce. The balls were really crunchy, and the satay was tasty – even Liz, who is an ex-peanut-butter-hater, enjoyed it.

lasveg2And nachos! Full of black beans (my favourite bean for Mexican), jalapenos, salsa, sour cream, and a huge dollop of guacamole. Nice thick corn chips that aren’t compromised by the weight of the topping when scooping.

Get amongst it!

Las Vegan Cafe
22 Smith St, Collingwood
Tues – Wed – 11am – 3pm
Thurs – 11am – 3pm and 5pm – 9pm
Fri – 11am – 9pm
Sat – 10am – 9pm
Sun – 10am – 3pm


Posted August 30, 2014 02:16 PM

August 29, 2014

Thoughts Of A Moni

Pope Joan

Breakfast out on a weekday is virtually a non occurrence for me, but when I had to travel all the way to Tullamarine for work, a fellow foodie colleague and I took the opportunity to indulge in brunch at Pope Joan.

I have driven past Pope Joan many times, but the long line outside on weekends always deterred me from making the visit, but luckily there was no such issue on a Monday morning. Located on the busy Nicholson St, we were fortunate enough to find parking right in front of the shop front, and we hoped this was a sign that we were off to a good start!

We walked in to find an array or tables available to us, so we chose to sit in the left hand section of the cafe, where are waitress promptly greeted us, handed us menus and took our coffee orders. I ordered my standard latte, which arrived quickly.

Pope Joan serves All Press coffee, and the quality and flavour was evident from the first sip. A very smooth coffee with a subtle bitterness and rich aroma gave me confidence that this was going to be a good brunch, and my attention quickly turned to the menu.

At first glance I was super excited, with three quarters of the menu being vegetarian friendly! It then got even better when I realised that other than the standard toast and muesli options, all the other offerings were savoury! I scanned through the list and settled upon an Indian looking option, saag aloo (also known as spinach and potatoes), smoked yoghurt, almonds, pickled radish and grilled flat bread. I think it was here that the morning went down hill.

I should have picked up on the fact that saag aloo is obviously Indian, and pickled radish definitely has Asian connotations. The two cuisines are both delicious independent of each other, but combined, they really do not work. The saag aloo was also rather flavourless, and whilst I understand that the spice factor may need to be toned down for a western palate, I really do expect better from multicultural Melbourne.

My colleague went for a smarter option and chose the truffled polenta brick, baked eggs, green mozzarella and fried capers. This breakfast was definitely worthy of its place on the menu. I only had a small taste, and immediately regretted not choosing it. Truffle has become the new ‘it’ food on Melbourne menus, and its distinct flavour added an interesting element to the soft polenta brick. The baked egg looked perfectly oozy and the fried capers added the right balance of tang and crunch.

Overall, Pope Joan gets a two out of three. A great coffee, one below average breakfast, and another great breakfast. Would I go back? Yes. Would I order another ethnic or fusion meal? No. Stick to the creative Western options on the menu and you’re in for a good breakfast.

Pope Joan on Urbanspoon

Posted August 29, 2014 10:32 PM by Moni

Ballroom Blintz

Hellenic Republic

Do you know how long I have waited to eat at Hellenic Republic? ALL OF MY LIFE. Or at least it seems that way. For years I’ve been trying to lock it in as my preferred birthday blow-out treat venue, but as I share these outings with my mother as our birthdays are mere days apart, and she has the shocking temerity to not like Greek food (WHAT), it was not to be. Thankfully when catching up with Jen and Zoe for a long overdue dinner of awesome, Jen had the good sense to book at table at Hellenic, throwing me into an excited/nervous maelstrom of “oh yes FINALLY but will it be good oh god I hope it’s good.”

Zoe had thankfully been to Hellenic many a time, and had the good oil on what we should order. As long as we finished on the loukoumathes, the Greek doughnuts that have become chef George Columbaris’ specialty and have long been haunting my most covetous dreams, I was very happy to accept whatever showed up. And very happy I ended up indeed.

To start we went with a pair of dips with grilled pita bread, because I can’t pass up the chance to slather bread in things. The tzatziki of cucumber, dill and olive oil drizzled yoghurt was agreeably tart, but my heart was immediately taken by the fava Santorini – yellow split pea dip with white truffle oil, capers, and shallots. THIS DIP WAS BROUGHT DOWN FROM OLYMPUS BY SOME WILY HERO THIEF OF ANTIQUITY, THIS IS MY FIRM BELIEF. Because how else could it have been so outrageously, surprisingly good? I don’t ordinarily expect dips to rate among the best part part of a meal (who does) but this was extraordinary and a must order.

Our other starter was the tyri saganaki kefalograviera with peppered figs. I’m always happy to eat up hot salty cheese like it is manna, but felt slight trepidation about the idea of a peppered fig. I should not have been so silly and trusted in George, as it turns out peppered figs are quite delightful, the sharp burr of peppery heat mellowing out against the fig’s sweetness so that with the salty cheese it was a fantastic hot-savoury-sweet taste melange.

The Cypriot salad of grains, pulses, nuts and yoghurt was our concession towards vaguely healthy eating, and it was a very good choice indeed, being very nutty, lightly dressed with olive oil yet allowing the simple grains to pop against the tart yoghurt.

And immediately directing spite at any sense of healthy eating was the next dish, the Tiganites Patates – potatoes fried in olive oil, and flaked with oregano and salt. You probably don’t need yet another description from me about crispy fried potato, so I will spare you, but it was good, ever so good.

As my vegie main I got for myself a spanakopita, which as we all know is a Greek cheese and spinach pie in flaky filo pastry. A nice round of a pie, it was light and flaky, not at all greasy or oily, a nice salty golden pillow threaded with green.

I was growing dangerously full by this point, and was worried at the fact I still had two desserts to sample! The much longed for loukoumathes were first – Hellenic doughnuts generously drizzled with honey, dusted with cinnamon and then topped with scattered walnuts. These were as divinely sweet as the description implies, puffed balls of dough liberally coated in thick, oozy, sweet sweet sweet honey. They were in all honestly probably a bit too rich for their own good, we actually couldn’t finish the bowl between the three of us! But they were still very worth trying, I would just recommend either eating less before they are scheduled to hit the table (a very difficult proposition), or having more people to share them with.

Our second dessert was the Bougatsa me Frouta tou pathous – semolina and passionfruit custard pie, encased in filo pastry and topped with vanilla ice-cream. This was the secret stealth winner of the whole meal. Akin to a round roll version of vanilla slice, it was a gorgeous rich custard delight, bright yellow and decadent yet not at all heavy once settled in your stomach, it was somewhat a feat of wizardry. Zoe informed us that this is a dish commonly served for breakfast in Greece, which seems enormously unfair in comparison to cereal and means we should all probably pack up and go to Greece tomorrow.

So did Hellenic Republic live up to my wild expectations? Yes, and then some. The staff were a delight and enormously professional while still being friendly, the space although large manages to make you and your table of diners feel they have an intimate cocoon, and the food, as gushingly detailed above, was well worth the wait. I hope I don’t have to wait as long for a second helping.

Hellenic Republic

434 Lygon Street, East Brunswick

Ph: 9381 1222

Posted August 29, 2014 07:09 PM

August 28, 2014

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Kale & coconut salad

 August 26, 2014

Our veggie box dictates a lot of our cooking these days, and with just half a bunch of kale to finish off before the new box arrived we went scouring our cookbooks for a solution. This salad from Heidi Swanson's book fit the bill nicely - it was easy enough for a work night dinner, didn't require any shopping and held out the promise of delicious toasted coconut.

I didn't do a great job on it - I'm still mastering our rice cooker, and the brown rice wound up being a bit undercooked, while my faffing about with it meant that the kale/coconut mix was slightly overcooked. It was a masterful display. Still, the recipe is pretty forgiving - the kale crisped up almost to kale chip texture, while the extra dressing helped to soften the rice out and the sweet, crispy coconut flakes made everything better. We served it up with maple-miso tofu (another recipe that I messed up but got away with anyway).

Kale and coconut salad
(very slightly adapted from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day)

80mL olive oil
1-2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
100g of kale
85g flaked coconut
250g cooked brown rice (the original recipe uses farro, any grain will do)

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Cut the stems off the kale, remove the biggest stalky ribs and then roughly chop the leaves.

Combine the olive oil, soy sauce and sesame oil in a small jar and shake well to combine.

Combine the kale and the coconut flakes in a large bowl with 3/4 of the dressing and stir well to coat.

Spread the kale and coconut mix in a large baking tray (or two if you need 'em) and bake for about 15 minutes, until the coconut is golden brown - keep an eye on it every 5 minutes or so and stir things around a bit.

Put the kale and coconut mix, the rice and the last drizzle of the dressing into a bowl and toss well.

Serve as a side dish for four (we paired it with maple-miso tofu) or a main for two.

Posted August 28, 2014 11:03 PM by Michael

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Veganzola cheeseball

It has been quite a week.  Our car has been stolen.  Our car has been found.  Our car has gone to the mechanic's for damage assessment now that our insurance company finally has taken it from the police.  Sylvia's lovely duffle coat went in the car and never came back.  So I have spent a lot of time on hold on the phone, got dates muddled, spilled half a jar of chilli sauce, forgotten to take goggles to the pool and been dressing sylvia in 2 cardigans on the cold mornings.  I feel a bit like the mashed tofu in this recipe.

Then I read articles this week on refugees in indefinite detention and young girls trying to get educated in South Asia.  I think to myself - mine are first world problems.  We really get by ok without a car.  It isn't even such a bad thing to have to ride my bike more.  The police were very kind to us.  So were the mums at school.  Sylvia has stopped crying about wanting her car.  She now wants a 'higher' car.  Hard to explain we were offered a 'hire' car.  But didn't take it.  Instead we just bought Sylvia a new Frozen CD.  Yes my greatest amusement was that the Frozen CD was in the player and would have booted up when the car was started by those scissor-wielding, MacDonalds-eating, coat-destroying thieve.  Ha!  End of Rant.

But we can all relate to life not being perfect.  This veganzola wasn't perfect.  I am not really familiar with gorgonzola.  Yet I love the name too much to change it.  The cheeseball tasted more like cream cheese with walnuts and cranberries.  It was too crumbly at first so I blended some of it which helped to bind it.  Still a wee bit crumbly.  I can cope with that.

It was really sweet.  I added more seasoning.  It was still quite sweet.  It was best spread thickly on a salty dry biscuit (cracker) like a Savoy.  I tried it in a sandwich.  It just made me feel melancholy.  Probably because I was listening to the choral music at the end of the MH17 plane crash memorial service and reading of Aslan's death in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.  I ate a lot of the cheese and then tossed the remainder into some soup.  It really needs to feed a crowd.  Preferably on a cheeseboard in the depth of midwinter when we are feeling festive and in need of good food. 

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Chocolates with mint filling - the healthy ones
Two years ago: Tofu-bacon and spinach muffins
Three years ago: WHB Chocolate beetroot brownies
Four years ago: The old and the new – date scones and vego loaf
Five years ago: Accidental Plastic Tart
Six years ago: Shepherd’s Pie Traditions
Seven years ago: WTSIM ... Beggars Burgers

Veganzola cheeseball
Adapted from Robin Robertson via Ricki Heller

250g firm tofu
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp ground linseed (flax) mixed with 2 tbsp water
2 tbsp white miso
2 small cloves garlic, crushed 
1 tsp seeded mustard
1 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper

Press tofu - I did this for about 7 hours but that is a lot longer than I usually do.  Crumble it into a bowl and mix with remaining ingredients.  Taste to check and adjust seasoning.  If desired press into a ball.  (It's fun but not necessary.)  Keeps for about a week in the fridge.

On the Stereo:
Little Bird: Kasey Chambers

Posted August 28, 2014 10:48 PM by Johanna GGG

quinces and kale

a holiday in the USA and Vegan MoFo

US flag

I’m off to the USA for a month to travel, relax, look at a lot of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, admire the autumn foliage (hopefully) and eat vegan food.

September also just happens to be Vegan MoFo. Stay tuned, I expect to post quite a few meals. :)



Posted August 28, 2014 10:00 AM

August 27, 2014

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Potato & almond koftas

August 24, 2014

I'm mighty fond of koftas, and I tend to eat them out at Indian restaurants far more often than I make them at home. (Nevertheless, I do have fried paneer and baked spinach versions in the archives.) Something had me overcoming my usual "Woe, the effort! Ugh, the frying!" kofta-cooking reluctance on Sunday, and I gave an Ottolenghi version a shot.

Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe centres around potatoes and feta with lots of green herbs, plus a crust of flaked almonds and freshly-ground spices. It's neither vegan nor gluten-free, but I found it pretty easy to convert both ways. Firm tofu has just the texture to replace feta, and I added some extra salt and a squeeze of lemon juice to boost the flavour. Chickpea flour behaves just as well as the wheat-based stuff, and a just-add-water powdered egg replacer sets the batter right (I bet a little cornflour and water would do the trick, too). I missed the dill Ottolenghi used, but it just wasn't practical to buy such a small quantity (note to self: plant dill.). I didn't need nearly as many almonds as he listed, and I've adjusted the quantity down in the recipe below.

For all my veganising, these have a hilariously eggy look - they're about the right size and have a crackly golden shell; inside they're a funny mottled mix of white potato and tofu with streaks of yellow turmeric and paprika. Michael sauteed a bunch of spinach with garlic, ginger and vege oyster sauce, which made an excellent accompaniment and kofta-nest.

Potato & almond koftas
(adapted from a recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi's Guardian column)

450g potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 green chilli, finely diced
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
generous squeeze of lemon
½ teaspoon caster sugar
75g firm tofu
1/3 cup chickpea flour
1 egg replacer, whisked
50g flaked almonds, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds
vegetable oil, for frying

Preheat an oven to 220°C. Puncture the potatoes with a fork and place them on a baking tray. Bake them for about an hour. Allow them to cool enough to handle, then remove and discard their skins.

Place the potato flesh in a medium-sized bowl, drizzle over the olive oil, and mash them roughly so that a few lumps remain. Add the fresh herbs, chilli, spices and sugar. Crumble in the tofu and generously salt it all. Stir it all together to combine.

Place the chickpea flour in a bowl. Form the potato mixture into golf ball-sized koftas with your hands and roll them in the flour, lining them up on a plate or board. (I made seven koftas; Ottolenghi made eight.)

Whisk together the egg replacer in another small bowl. In a third small bowl, stir together the almonds and seeds. Roll each kofta in the 'egg' batter and then the nuts and seeds, pressing the nuts and seeds into the ball to form a crust; return the kofta to the plate/board.

Pour the vegetable oil into a small-medium saucepan until it is ~2cm deep. Bring the oil up to high-medium heat and fry the koftas, two or three at a time. I fried mine for 30-60 seconds on each of three 'sides', so that they looked golden all over, then transferred them to absorbent paper while I continued with the rest. Serve.

Posted August 27, 2014 03:28 PM by Cindy

August 26, 2014

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Apple slice, Gluten free pastry, Strawberry and haloumi salad

Once upon a time there was a princess.  Nope.  Not the little girl above.  That is her cousin.  The princess in question was totally spoiled with visits to farmers markets where she tasted much chocolate and apple followed by home made apple slice at home.  She made loom bands and went to parties and ate lots of cake, but always left room to taste a lolly from the party bag on the way home.

Yes that is my little Sylvia and my busy weekend!  As Vegan MoFo draws near, I am trying to keep my blog backlog under control.  Hence this action-packed and recipe-packed post!

Saturday morning we went along to Coburg Farmers Market.  It was very good and I ended up with my arms heavy with purchases.  Some purchases never got home.  Some of the apple juice just leaked out of my bag, a bagel went astray and the above chocolate cake was shared by Sylvia and me.  We had planned to go out for lunch but couldn't find the information we needed about the cafe (do you serve food?).  Instead, at home I stuffed bagels with haloumi and salad for lunch.  Then I baked apple slice.

I saw this apple slice recipe recently at The Life of Clare.  Not only was it a simple matter of a mere 5 ingredients but it came with a wonderful story.  Clare's grandmother sent it to the newspaper years ago and readers are still baking it.  I love all the quirky and innovative recipes I see online these days but there is something so lovely about a tried and trusted recipe.  It reminds me of how my mum and grandmothers baked.

As I expected, my mum said she had a similar cake recipe.  I gave her the recipe over the phone and she had baked it before the day was out.  She added cinnamon and a splash of milk.  I resisted any temptation to tinker with the recipe.  I would love to try it with coconut sugar.  You could just add other spices or dried fruit. 

I really loved this slice as it was.  It is almost a cake. On the day of baking it was so light and fluffy with soft apple that it felt like a cake.  The next couple of days it was a bit firmer and felt more like a slice.  It was so easy I am sure I will make it again, especially now that apples are starting to get past their best for eating fresh as winter draws to a close.

We spent some time in the afternoon making loom bands, ukelele practice, wrapping presents and grocery shopping.

Sylvia went to a school friend's party in the evening.  I suggested making some carrot and cucumber tulips.  Sylvia thought it a great idea.  They are quick and simple to make.  By the time we arrived pizza was being served.  I think more people admired the vegie flowers than ate them, but they did make a pretty decoration.

We left Sylvia at the party on a torchlit treasure hunt by the creek.  I returned home to make sausage rolls for my niece's party the next day.  It seemed a good idea to make some gluten free sausage rolls for the gf members of the family.  I had scribbled down a gf pastry recipe years ago and suddenly found myself with all the ingredients.  It was fate.  I liked the pastry.  It was so much nicer than the soft gf mashed potato pastry I made a few years back.  I am just sorry I never recorded the source.

It was easier to just make all the sausage roll filling gluten free.  I found gluten free oats in the supermarket but forgot about the breadcrumbs.  On the way to pick up Sylvia from the party I bought some gluten free breadcrumbs.  I doubled the filling so I could make some extra sausage rolls for the freezer.

The gluten free sausage rolls are to the left in the above photo.  They were a bit dry and crumbly but generally held together ok.  The other half of the sausage rolls were made with some vegan puff pastry.  I bought a bumper packet and need to think about ideas to use it up now.  The sausage rolls are a tad pale in the above photo because I took it after baking them at home but I forgot to take a photo of them once heated up at my sister's place.

Here is the baking stack in the kitchen the next morning.  We went to my parents' house for lunch and helped out with decorating little cakes and making popcorn.  My mum makes it in a saucepan with a glass lid which was heaps of fun for Sylvia.  She made some with salt and some with sugar, using a bit of pink food colouring in the butter for the sweet popcorn.  No photos.  My hands were too greasy from tossing popcorn with butter to pick up the camera.  My mum also made kale chips.  Quite an impressive snack for a 2 year old's party.

My sister Fran loves planning an event and always has such great party ideas.  She hired the best party entertainment.  They did face painting, craft, games, balloons.  The kids loved it.  The birthday girl was right in among it at the tender age of 2.  I loved the strawberry and caramel milkshakes in little bottles.  Sylvia loved them and the frog in a pond and the musk sticks.  I also loved the caramel chocolate tarts and pastitsi.

My sister in law Erica baked the cutest ice cream cupcakes.  Sylvia told me in confusion that they didn't take like ice cream.  She also thought she had an S-shaped cookies in her party bag because everyone had their initial-shaped cookie.  I didn't have the heart to tell her it was S for Stella.  Oh the world revolves around a 5 year old!

There was a huge outdoor table which was great place for kids to colour in bandanas and eat the birthday cake.  Sadly the good weather didn't hold up for the party.  It was grey and overcast with occasional showers (as the weather forecasters like to say)!

I had a paranoid moment eating one of my sausage rolls and thinking maybe I had mistakenly eaten a meat one.  I wasn't the only one.  My brother and his wife were arguing over whether they were really meat or not.  These are amazing sausage rolls.  I was comforted to hear that mine were the only sausage rolls at the party.

By the time I drove home I was exhausted.   Fortunately I had planned my dinner before I left home.  It was just a matter of throwing together the remnants from the vegie tulips, some spinach and strawberries that needed using and frying the rest of the haloumi I opened for lunch the previous day.  I made a simple vinaigrette.  A fresh and healthy salad was just what I needed.

I am sending the salad to Eat Your Greens at Allotment to Kitchen, Souper Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen, and No Waste Food Challenge at I'd Much Rather Bake Than... , the challenge coordinated by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary.  I am sending the apple slice to Tea Time Treats for the picnic edition at Lavender and Lovage.  I am sending the gf pastry to Alphabakes at Caroline Bakes because P is for potato flour.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
 One year ago: WHB Creamy strawberry icy poles, a party and surprise
Two years ago: RRC Roasted potato salad with black olives and greens
Three years ago: Chickpea crackers and sweet potato stew
Four years ago: Taste of Melbourne: on a sugar high
Five years ago: Accidental Plastic Tart
Six years ago: Soup for the Leguminous Evangelists
Seven years ago: Blues Clues Birthday Cake

Apple Slice
From The Life of Clare

2 cups self raising flour
1 cup sugar
3 apples, peeled, cored and diced (1cm)
125g butter or margarine
1 egg

Toss apples with self raising flour and sugar in a medium mixing bowl.  Melt butter in a small saucepan on the stovetop or in a small bowl in the microwave.  Stir in egg.  Pour butter and egg into the apple mixture and mix until combined.  Spoon into a greased and lined slice tin.  Bake at 180 C for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Keeps for about 3 days.

Gf sausage rolls - used 1/4 cup more breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup more oats - possibly because used quick oats rather than rolled

Gluten free shortcrust pastry (and sausage rolls)

100g each quinoa flour, corn flour and potato flour
125g butter or margarine
pinch salt
1 egg
2-3 tbsp  water

Mix flours, butter and salt in food processor until combined to make breadcrumbs.  Add egg and then water one tablespoon at a time until you have a soft dough.  Mine did not clump into a ball like gluten pastry does but I was able to roll a small handful into a ball.  Tip dough onto floured surface (use corn flour or potato flour) and knead briefly until you have a smooth ball.  (Perhaps a small crack or two.) 

To make sausage rolls: Use a rolling pin to roll out pastry on a floured surface to make an approximation of a rectangular shape, about 0.5 cm thick.  Cut in half lengthwise.  Use the filling from this sausage rolls recipe but use GF oats and GF breadcrumbs (I had to add an extra 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup oats for the GF filling).  Proceed as in recipe but bake for 35 minutes at 180 C.  The pastry only made enough to wrap about

Strawberry, haloumi and greens salad
serves 1 as a meal

50g haloumi, chopped into squares
60g baby spinach and rocket mix
4-5 strawberries, quartered
1-2 tbsp chopped cucumber
1-2 tbsp chopped carrot

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp strawberry vinegar
1/8 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp maple syrup

Fry haloumi until golden brown on both sides.  Shake dressing ingredients together in a jar. Toss dressing and haloumi with remaining ingredients.

On the stereo:
Boy child: Scott Walker

Posted August 26, 2014 11:31 PM by Johanna GGG

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Ren Dao II

August 22, 2014

We've been making a good go of the Melbourne Writers Festival, starting out with a Book Club taping over in Elsternwick. It was a lot of fun, and a great excuse to revisit Ren Dao for a late dinner. They agreed to serve us after 9pm on a weeknight without a hint of annoyance, and a few more Book Clubbers trickled in after us to make it worth their while.

We did our best to be decisive, in spite of the seventy (!) items on offer, and our food was served in good time. The Assam Pedas ($23.90) was a little sour and a little spicy, with plenty of zucchini, carrot, capsicum and celery adding variety to some slightly homogeneous mock fish strips... and a canned pineapple ring on top. While we gladly polished off the lot, it didn't have quite the panache of their Kung Po Chicken.

Roti ($4) arrived too hot to handle and thicker around the edges than we prefer, but it was great for mopping up the Assam Pedas sauce.

The night's victor was the Hainanese Roasted Chicken Rice ($12.80). Michael was utterly enamoured of the thin and crispy bean curd skin 'chicken' strips, and the back-of-the-tongue heat of the chilli sauce took us both by surprise. The rice mound had a nice whiff of galangal about it, too.

While we finished up and paid the bill, our waiter shyly recommended a few of her favourites for next time (watch out, roast duck and coconut butter chicken!). It was a nice gesture that reflects the understated, welcoming atmosphere of Ren Dao and it had us looking forward to a future visit before we'd even finished this one.


Our first visit to Ren Dao is blogged here. It turned up on Veganise This! soon after but doesn't seem to have scored any recent blog attention.

Ren Dao
275 Glenhuntly Rd, Elsternwick
9523 0150
menu: one, two

Accessibility: The restaurant's entry is quite flat and wide, tables inside are moderately spaced. We received full table service. The toilets are unisex but located up a narrow, bending staircase.

Posted August 26, 2014 08:51 PM by Cindy

August 25, 2014

Little Vegan Bear

Red Door Corner Store, Northcote

Well helloooo! You guys, I have been so busy preparing for MoFo next month that I have barely had the energy to write any blog posts. I’m not sure what I’ve gotten myself into this year, I may have bitten off a little more than I can chew so to speak. Oh well, I’ll give it a red hot go and see what happens. I’m really looking forward to reading all the wonderful posts from everyone!

Today is just a pit stop I suppose, to remind you I’m still here and to share a quick meal that I ate last week. The Bear and I both had a Friday off, so we decided to go out for brunch. The sun even came out for us, and it was G-L-O-R-gloooooorious! We popped over to Northcote and sat out the front to bask in the warm rays. Happy times.

I had never been to Red Door Corner Store before, but I had heard of it and liked the rhythm of the name so really wanted to check it out. The cafe is located a couple of blocks back from High street, in amongst the houses – so it really does have that ‘corner store’ feel. Quite charming really! The staff were just as charming as they buzzed around taking orders and delivering coffees.

There were not many (if any) outright vegan items on the menu, however a few items had little marks noting how the dish could be made gluten free or vegan.

reddoorThe Bear and I both ordered the same dish – corn, zucchini and quinoa fritters, avocado, romesco and grilled corn salsa, though Bear had his as the original item on the menu suggests – with a poached egg on top.

These were not what I expected at all – fritters always brings to mind flat round disc shaped creations. However, wikipedia tells me that fritters can refer to a wide variety of foods – basically batter or breading with stuff inside. This fits the bill. Plus when I opened my mind a little and saw photos of banana fritters, I realised that many fritters I have eaten are not disc shaped. MOVING ON.

The insides were all blended up and creamy, the romesco was surprisingly sweet but nevertheless enjoyable and I loved the colourful salad. Rainbow foodies!

We also ordered some coffees and a small side of chips to share because chips are delicious, even if they aren’t reeeeaaaalllly breakfast food. The coffee was nice, albeit a little cooler than I would have preferred. The chips were delicious, and came with a non-vegan aioli which the Bear devoured.

reddoor2In conclusion, the Red Door Corner Store turned this grumpy armless bear….

reddoor3…into a happy, satiated and fully-limbed one. The end.

p.s. Yes I jumped on the Daiya bandwagon…by the time I got to it, there was only pepperjack flavour remaining. I ate it on a variety of things, but mostly just melted it on crumpets.

crumpiesIt was gooey, and somewhat stringy, and coated my mouth. I enjoyed it. Just don’t eat it straight out of the bag because it is disappointingly bland at that point – somehow melting makes it magical. Cheeeeeese!


Red Door Corner Store
70 Mitchell St, Northcote
Mon – Fri – 7am – 4pm
Sat – Sun – 8am – 4pm

Posted August 25, 2014 10:04 PM

Ballroom Blintz


In continuing ‘Hayley is finally visiting places that the blogosphere was losing their minds about three years ago’ news, I finally made a visit to Huxtaburger.

There was a time, young readers, when you couldn’t move for folks posting rave reviews about Huxtable’s various endeavours, especially their burger offshoot Huxtaburger. The first one, situated across the road from Huxtable base camp on Smith Street in Collingwood, always had an enormous line spilling out the front of it. Everyone, it seemed, was rapacious for American diner style burgers that were simple, filling, and provided avenues for a lot of Bill Cosby sweater jokes while you were waiting for them.

I, and many other vegetarians, were silent on the Huxtaburger score, however, as for a long time (I think two years? More careful foodie historians will be able to correct me) Huxtaburger simply did not have a vegetarian burger option. Which seemed slightly mad in veg*n-obsessed Melbourne, but the official line given forth was that the burger boffins simply didn’t want to offer a vegetarian burger that wasn’t as good as the meaty ones that were sending Melbourne collectively mad, and were going to keep quietly developing until one cut the mustard. Fair enough, I suppose, although in that time waiting my interest in visiting Huxtaburger waned into non-existence.

Indeed, it took Mel and I coming into possession of some Huxtaburger vouchers for me to remember that indeed they actually had vegie options now. To the CBD outpost we went!

The shop itself is very clean and a fusion between a diner and a slicker version of your standard chain burger restaurant. The staff were ENORMOUSLY friendly, and certainly made the customer service level of things far more enjoyable than I’m used to expecting in similar establishments.

The vegie burger is called the Sondra (all the burgers are named after Cosby Show characters) and consists of a slab of grilled tofu, tomato slices, lettuce, and sesame-soy mayo sandwiched in a brioche-style bun. The bun wasn’t too sweet, thankfully, which I often find is the standard fault of the brioche burger bun, but instead was very well balanced in flavour while also being structurally sound in keeping the burger together. The Sondra was actually the least messy burger I’ve encountered in a long time, a pleasing antidote to the types of burgers that stuff far too many toppings in that collapse out all over you as soon as you take a bite.

The tofu itself, being a cohesive slab, also stayed together nicely, but the one big problem with the burger as a whole is that the tofu itself just isn’t that flavourful. It had possibly been marinated in some kind of soy concoction before being put on the grill, but contrasted with the mild mayo it didn’t pack any kind of punch and was rather dull. Like eating a geography teacher.

What did pack punch, however, was the side order of chipotle fries. A colourful cup of crinkly chips that had been liberally sprinkled with chipotle seasoning, I actually needed to go a little mad in squirting tomato sauce on them so that my mouth didn’t end up on fire. They were a needed dose of fun!

The real question here is, would I go back to Huxtaburger without the dangled carrot of a voucher, and would I encourage you all to do the same? Honestly, I am not sure that I would. The pros that it is cheap and quick is overshadowed by the reality that the vegetarian option is simply not that exciting. The fact that within walking distance of the CBD Huxtaburger I could go to three different Lord of the Fries outlets and gorge myself on plentiful vegetarian burger options is probably damning enough.

There was a time, young readers, when if a food place didn’t have terribly good vegie options, veg*n diners would just sadly shrug and muddle through. But considering that Melbourne now boasts such an extremely veg*n-friendly food scene, whenever I now come across seemingly tokenistic vegetarian options my reaction tends to be “why did you even bother?” Because there are so many options now that we don’t have to put up with it. So while Huxtaburger may be one of the grand burger poobahs for meat eaters, vegetarians might want to seek out other alternatives. And that’s okay, because now we can.


Rear 357 Collins Street, Melbourne CBD (also locations in Collingwood and Prahran)

Posted August 25, 2014 11:37 AM

quinces and kale

vegan food is everywhere…well almost!


I love that fully vegan restaurants and shops exist, but I also find great pleasure every time I find vegan food in unexpected places. For me it is a sign we are becoming mainstream.

I had one such experience recently when I was in the shopping centre in Doncaster. I had headed out there to go to the Apple Store and things took slightly longer than I expected.  By the time I was leaving to go home I needed some sort of snack to ward off hunger.

I didn’t want to eat chips – I’ve eaten more chips as a vegan than I did in a lifetime of being an omni, as so often they are the only choice.

Just as I was despairing of finding anything remotely vegan (other than chips) in a large shopping centre, I walked past Joy Cupcakes. In amongst the regular cakes, they had several vegan ones and a prominent sign to let me know. They also make gluten free cupcakes, and there are even some that are both vegan and gluten free.

I grabbed two flavours because I couldn’t decide, a  Red Velvet and an Orange with Popcorn. Both delicious and with a good texture.

A nice find in the middle of otherwise unlikely vegan territory.

Posted August 25, 2014 09:23 AM

August 24, 2014

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Vegan flourless almond choc chip cookies

I once made flourless peanut butter cookies before Sylvia was diagnosed with her peanut allergy.  They were delicious.  These days they are off the menu.  And I have often thought it a shame they weren't vegan.  I stumbled across a vegan version with almond butter recently and am in love.  They are simple to make and amazing to eat.

The recipe I followed was slightly quirky.  It used banana instead of egg and a crazy amount of choc chips.  You can never have too much chocolate!  Right!  In fact I was tempted to stop with the raw batter which tasted great.  But I pushed on and love love love the baked cookies.  They were most amazing when warm with gooey choc chips.  Even cold they were amazing: thin, crispy around the edges and chewy in the middle.  It is very hard to stop at one!

They remind me of cinnamon stars and Dreena Burton's sticky almond blondies.  As I only had regular dark choc chips from the supermarket they were sweet and not actually vegan.  I would love to try the recipe with chopped Lindt 70% dark chocolate. Maybe I could ditch the brown sugar and use all coconut sugar.  Lots of experiments to do.  I hope these cookies might grace our kitchen again soon.  I know we would all welcome them back.

I am sending these cookies to Healthy Vegan Fridays #10, hosted by Kimmy of Rock my Vegan Socks and Robin of Vegan Dollhouse.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
 One year ago: Chickpea pilaf
Two years ago: Top 10 photos, Pinterest, Delicious and Eat Your Books
Three years ago: CC Pumpernickel Rolls with Currants
Four years ago: Quince Curiosity
Five years ago: PPN Neofolk Buckwheat Pasta Bake
Six years ago: Lemony Dressing for a Quinoa Salad
Seven years ago: Midweek Mock Fish

Flourless almond choc chip cookies
Adapted from Cook with Manali
Makes about 24

250g almond butter (approximately 1 cup)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 smallish banana, mashed (1/4 cup)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup choc chips

Preheat oven to 180 C and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

Stir together almond butter and sugars.  Mix in mashed banana.  By now it will be quite stiff.  Stir in baking powder and choc chips.

Working quickly so the choc chips don't melt, roll mixture into walnut sized balls.  Place on tray and flatten with the palm of your hand.  Leave about 2 inches between cookies because they will spread.

Bake for 9-10 minutes for a chewy cookies, or a few more minutes for a crisp cookie.  Cool on tray for at least 10 minutes.  Continue cooling on tray or removing on the baking paper to a wire rack. 

On the Stereo:
The Best of Weddings Parties Everything.

Posted August 24, 2014 10:28 PM by Johanna GGG

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Billy Kwong

August 19, 2014

I've managed to set up my current employment situation so that I get to make semi-regular trips to Sydney for a week at a time. I usually stay somewhere near the beach and haven't really stumbled across too many places worth blogging (let's just say that I eat a lot of cheap Thai food). But clearly I've been talking food with my colleagues, because on this trip one of them booked me in for a Tuesday night outing for something a bit fancy. Our original plan was Berta, but their special Tuesday night meal doesn't include a vegetarian option. Luckily, my friend had plenty of fall-back plans and we were able to snare a table at the one on the top of her list - Billy Kwong.

Billy Kwong is a stalwart of the Sydney scene - run by celebrity chef Kylie Kwong with a strong emphasis on local ingredients and sustainability, it's a regular presence in lists of 'must try' Sydney restaurants. It's a tiny and crowded space and has only recently started taking bookings after years of long queues for tables. We felt lucky to nab a booking on the day - rainy Tuesdays are probably the best time for impulsive trips to high demand restaurants.

The menu changes regularly, and the current iteration isn't its most vegetarian friendly - there weren't quite enough dishes available for us to order the $95 chef's banquet. The staff were lovely though, suggesting dishes and helping us come up with more than enough options to form an excellent meal. The style of the menu is fascinating, pioneering a kind of bush tucker Chinese food, whereby relatively standard Chinese dishes are tweaked with the addition of local ingredients. Most famously, Kwong advocates for the use of insects as a sustainable protein source, serving up cricket and prawn dumplings and fried rice with meal worms (for the record, my dining companions sampled the crickets and described them as just adding some crunch to the dumplings). Vegans do almost as well as vegetarians here - all the savoury dishes I had were vegan and the dessert would just need a sour cream substitute.

We split a couple of the veggie starters among the three of us. The saltbush cakes with house made chilli and soy sauce ($18) were a brilliant way to get started, with the slightly salty greens seasoning the crisply fried cakes and the chilli adding some bite. Note to self: next time, don't share these.

Next up was the vegetarian sung choi bao ($26) - big lettuce leaf cups to be stuffed with a black fungus, saltbush, organic vegetables, coriander and chilli sauce.

I'm sure there's a knack to making neat little parcels out of the lettuce leaves, but I wound up with chilli sauce and veggie pieces dribbling down my chin. Messiness aside, this was a dish bursting with freshness and flavour - the fungus got a bit lost, but this was all about big crispy bites of vegetables.

I got a whole main to myself - steamed silken tofu with ginger, shaved kombu, chilli, shiro shoyu and sesame oil ($26) and we split a $15 plate of the stir-fried native greens with ginger (my note-taking failed, but I think it included Warrigal greens and some more saltbush). The tofu was creamy and a tiny bit sweet, but otherwise fairly featureless, taking on the flavours of its accompaniments - a salty, umami flavour from the kombu, mild shoyu and a decent ginger kick (I must admit to not really noticing any chilli, but we were a few wines deep at this stage). It's a lovely dish, but probably one that's better shared - it all got a bit samey by the end. The gingery native greens provided a nice contrast, with some sharp flavours.

There's just the one dessert option - poached pears with hazelnut praline, home-made sour cream and crumbled dark chocolate ($15). We split this between the three of us - it was fresh and pleasant, but strangely unexciting given the fascinating dishes on the savoury menu.

In light of her Writers Festival appearance, Cindy and I have been talking a bit lately about what's distinctive about Australian fine dining, and Billy Kwong provides some answers. Kylie Kwong has taken excellent Chinese cookery and given it a really distinctive Australian twist. I was very impressed. It's not a cheap place to eat (e.g. a similar tofu dish at Rice Queen goes for $16), but the focus on sustainable and organic produce, the friendly and efficient service and the imaginative approach to food just about make it worth the money. Billy Kwong is doing something quite unique and is well worth a visit if you're looking for somewhere exciting to eat in Sydney.


A couple of veg-bloggers have visited Billy Kwong previously, and both Tales of a Vegan Food Fetishist and Not Another Mushroom Risotto were very impressed.

Billy Kwong
3/355 Crown St, Darlinghurst (although it's soon to move to Potts Point)
(02) 9332 3900

Accessibility: There's a flat entryway but a very tightly packed interior. It's full table service. We didn't visit the toilets.

Posted August 24, 2014 09:08 PM by Michael

August 22, 2014

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Vegan soul in a bowl

August 10, 2014

Australia's experience of soul food has been pretty shallow, on the whole. A few years ago we might have been able to nominate fried chicken or collard greens as soul food staples, and now there's no end of Melbourne bars and restaurants serving up cornbread, mac'n'cheese, hush puppies and pork fat everything. But you'd be hard-pressed to learn much of this cuisine's roots, deeply entwined with African-American history. There's a context of slavery, African and Native American ingredients, home gardening, game meats and offal, and a spirit of sharing and making the best of what's on hand.

I was struck by this sense of generosity and family connection when we visited soul food restaurant Seasoned Vegan in New York back in June. Like the Seasoned Vegan team, Bryant Terry has been reinterpreting soul food for the contemporary vegan, though he tends to leave the mock meat and dairy aside and prioritise sustainable whole foods. (Here's a great article where he fondly recalls the home-grown produce and seasonal cooking traditions in his grandparents' neighbourhood.) I recently acquired a second-hand copy of his book Vegan Soul Kitchen and it's been fascinating to flip through some really unfamiliar recipes, drawing together spices and produce in ways that I haven't tried before.

We tried out three of these recipes for dinner on a Sunday night. This wasn't quite the ordeal it sounds - the preparation methods aren't too fussy, and we scheduled the oven and stove times well. The main protein was tofu, drizzled with a little oil, paprika and fresh rosemary before baking. I was impressed with the golden crust it developed but the spices just didn't carry; I'll have to try tinkering with the quantities here.

We had better success with the sweet potato puree - fluffy yet filling and very, very sweet. It played well with the chewier and more acidic lemon tahini-dressed chard and spinach. I reckon we'll be making these two recipes again - as a sweet-and-sour team, mixing and matching with other Vegan Soul Kitchen dishes, and perhaps even integrating them into our other cooking habits.

The sweetest potato puree
(from Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen)

1.8kg sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
4 tablespoons agave nectar (or less)
6 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
165mL can coconut milk

Preheat an oven to 200°C.

Place the sweet potato chunks in a very large bowl. Toss through the agave nectar, coconut oil and salt. Spread the potato chunks out over a large high-walled baking dish and roast them for 30-40 minutes, giving them a stir at 10 minute intervals. Let the potatoes rest for 10 minutes or so. Puree the sweet potatoes and coconut milk in a food processor until smooth, working in batches if necessary.

Lemon tahini-dressed greens
(slightly adapted from Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen

large bunch of chard, sliced into bite-sized pieces with stems and leaves separated
large bunch of spinach, leaves sliced into bite-sized pieces with stems discarded

1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together, by hand or in a food processor.

Set a large frypan over medium heat. Cook the chard stems for a couple of minutes, then add the chard leaves, and after a few further minutes the spinach leaves. Stir them often, cooking until everything is just wilted. Transfer the greens to a bowl (if there's water in the frypan, hold it back from the bowl). Pour in the dressing and toss it through the greens.

Posted August 22, 2014 08:11 AM by Cindy

August 21, 2014

Consuming Cate

I've moved!

Looking for my blog? I've renamed my blog

It can be found at


Posted August 21, 2014 03:34 PM by Cate Lawrence

Green Gourmet Giraffe

Housekeeping: Facebook, Updates and the photos FoodGawker rejects

Finally the girl who was called Mary Lou Cabbage Patch in computer studies at school (because I didn't want to be part of them) has a Facebook page for this blog.  Time to stop and share a few housekeeping items.

I have been using Facebook in a few different settings over the past couple of years and finally can't resist its pull, despite my wariness.  It is time to share some of my blog on FB at  I have added the above button down the sidebar while I am playing with FB settings and may make it more prominent once I am happy with how the page is going. 

I expect to upload each post, some random meals and  other esoteric information.  It might also be a place to share a few photos that don't make it to the blog.  If Facebook is your thing, you know the drill. 

For anyone wanting to set up a blog Facebook Page, I found it useful to read the advice by Amuse Your Bouche.

New Header
With a new Facebook account, I needed a "cover" photo.  It has occurred to me from time to time to update my header photo.  Once I started to look at photos from my Facebook account, it seemed a good time to update my header.  As always it is work in progress.  (You can see the previous header in my designs post if you have forgotten what it looks like.)

All About Party Bags - Fairy Issue
All About Party Bags is a UK website the specialises in filled party bags but also has an e-magazine.  The latest issue of the e-magazine is a Fairy Issue.  The Fairy Toadstool birthday cake I made for Sylvia this year is featured among the idea for fairy cakes.  If you have children in your lives that are as interested in fairies as mine, there are lots of great ideas for fairy parties.

After seven years of blogging I am now getting photos accepted by FoodGawker.  And still experiencing some rejection.  I now have 29 submissions accepted, 24 of these in 2014, and less that that rejected (17).

It took quite some time until I felt my photos were of a reasonable quality to submit.  It has been an interesting learning process, though at times it feels brutal.  Their criteria can seem harsh at time.  It has made me more aware of the importance of natural light in photography.  I was advised to move a black line from one photo a while back, did so, resubmitted and was pleased to find it accepted the second time.  They still find me guilty of underexposed, overexposed, fussy backgrounds and too tight composition.

The more effort I put into a photo, the less likely it seems to be accepted.  A good lesson about simplicity.  Yet I still can't predict with any level of certainty if a photo will be accepted.  I thought it would be fun to upload a collage of some of the photos that FoodGawker has rejected.  I am quite fussy about which photos go in.  (But if they think these are bad, I am glad they never saw some of my early blogging photos!)  However I have come a long way since my first FoodGawker picture was accepted last year.

Great old style ice cream sign in Brunswick - makes me feel nostalgic!
Other Blog Updates
As I have said before, I wish I had more time to update my blog.  When I have a moment I tinker.  Here are a few of the pages I have updated over the last few months:

    Spell check please!

    Vegan MoFo
    Finally a reminder that Vegan MoFo (Month of Food) is on in September and you can sign up now (deadline 27 August).  I have signed up (hurrah) and am still preparing ahead to cope with a busy month offline.  Hope to see some of you there and to have others of you cheering from the sidelines!

    Posted August 21, 2014 11:01 AM by Johanna GGG

    quinces and kale

    chick pea omelette/pancake

    chickpea omelette

    I’ve been stuck in a bit of a breakfast rut lately. Toast everyday. So I decided I needed to do something different. It definitely needed to be warm as the weather has been so COLD.

    I’ve had a hankering for an omelette for breakfast for the last couple of weeks,  so I thought I’d try to make one using chick pea flour. There are a lot of omelette/pancake-like creations made from chickpeas, ranging from the French socca to various Indian pancakes. This recipe owes more to the Indian side rather than the French, though the raising agent and spicing are completely different.

    Even though I added a little baking powder to the mix, these ended up more like a substantial pancake than an omelette, but the flavourings were good. I restricted my additions to the pancake to some parsley, black salt (which gives an eggy flavour) and turmeric for colour, but you could use any flavourings you like really. I stuffed the finished omelette with sprouts and vegan cheese and served it with some capsicum relish. The second day I added a little truffle oil to the mix, and filled them with some cashew cream cheese and sprouts, also delicious.

    They definitely hit the spot even if they are not quite like an omelette! But I’ll keep experimenting. I think silken tofu might be featuring in the next one.


    besan omelette



    chick pea 'omelette'
    prep time
    5 mins
    cook time
    5 mins
    total time
    10 mins
    author: quincesandkale
    recipe type: Breakfast
    cuisine: vegan
    serves: 4
    • 1 cup chick pea flour
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1 cup water
    • salt - I used himalayan black salt for the "eggy" flavour
    • ½ onion finely diced
    • oil spray
    • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
    • chopped parsley
    1. Add some oil to a pan and fry the onions until softened and they have a bit of colour.
    2. Add the onions to a bowl and mix all the other ingredients in.
    3. Spray the pan lightly with oil.
    4. Pour ¼ of the mix into the pan and cook until the edges of the omelette dry out.
    5. Shake the pan to loosen and flip.
    6. Cook until golden on both sides.
    7. Serve folded with your favourite savoury filling.
    These can be made with any flavourings you like.


    Posted August 21, 2014 07:45 AM

    August 20, 2014

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    Mankoushe Cafe IV

    August 9, 2014

    I've only just finished singing the praises of Mankoushe Cafe, so I'm going to keep this post pretty short - Mankoushe are doing a monthly banquet and you all need to get yourselves along as soon as you can. Basically the Mankoushe guys pick a day, pick a theme (it was Syrian this month, previous buffets have been Iraqi and Lebanese food) and make a crazy amount of delicious food that you can stuff into your face for just $20.

    The menu is super veg-friendly - I'd hazard half the dishes are vegan and another quarter are vegetarian. Everything is well labelled and the staff are incredibly helpful and happy to make sure you know what you're eating. And the food is just incredible - a great mix of fresh salads, stewy dishes, rices and grains, fried goodies and sweets - you'll stuff yourself silly just getting a sample of everything. Some of the highlights: kibe dumplings stuffed with tahini, chickpeas and silverbeet, silverbeet rolls stuffed with cardamom and chickpeas, grilled eggplant with tomato, capsicum and parsley and a simple but wonderful rice and noodle mix. There were loads of other dishes too, including a tasty vegan slice - it really was an incredible spread.

    You get the picture by now - we're big Mankoushe fans and will recommend a trip there any day of the week. The buffets are really something special though - you can tell how much they love whipping up this food and it's a brilliant way to experience all that Mankoushe has to offer. You really should get along to one of these afternoons - the next one will be Sunday, September 7. See you there!


    Read about our previous trips to Mankoushe Cafe here, here and here and our bakery visits here, here and here

    Mankoushe Cafe
    323 Lygon St, Brunswick East
    9078 9223
    monthly banquet $20

    Accessibility: There's a small step up through a narrow-ish entry but everything's more generously spaced once you're in. We mostly self-served at the buffet, but the staff were happy to load plates up for us too.  We paid on the way out at a low-ish counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

    Posted August 20, 2014 08:21 AM by Michael

    August 19, 2014

    melbourne with the rocket » food

    bendigo without the rocket

    Having a kid changes your life in many ways (for example, today I am Sick, but instead of calling off work and lazing around drinking water and watching daytime soap operas, I am still fielding questions and insistent requests for playing and having to fend off the Rocket from kissing me so she doesn’t get sick too, which makes her cry) but one of the ways I didn’t expect was that sudden urge to make the most of my spare time made me – and this sounds vain – actually a little bit more interesting. As dithering late-twentysomethings, Teach and I had our jobs and each other and our insular creative pursuits, then we had a baby and, I guess, to remind ourselves that we were things other than parents and job-holders, we started to find other outlets. Teach joined a band, was shortlisted for an award for a comic he drew, and has just sent off the final file for his full-length graphic novel to the printers to publish. I have my podcast, I joined a book club full of pretty cool folks, and found myself part of ACWA, which handles the Ned Kelly Awards for Australian crime writing. After months of emails and demands and panic-flailing, this weekend saw the announcement of the shortlist the committee and the judges had worked hard to put together, two hours away at the Bendigo Writers Festival. Teach suggested I take myself off on the train to attend the shortlist announcement on the Saturday night and get a visit in with my very oldest friend, Rachael, who lives up there. I said no at first, because it’s what I do, and the idea of spending my first night away from my daughter was pretty overwhelming. Then I thought more about being there to see the finished product of the shortlist, and spending time with the first friend I’d ever made on my own, and then the Rocket spent a whole day annoying me and I was all: I’M IN, LET’S GO.

    The train ride took around an hour and fifty minutes; in that time, I played with my phone, read a book, looked at scenery, ate chips, ate an apple after feeling bad about eating chips, and was just completely and utterly on my own. It was quite blissful, really – I’d brought a book of short stories along (this one), so I could feel like I’d finished something before taking in the passing tiny towns, enormous homesteads, and green landscapes dotted with trees, cows, hay bales, all the kinds of stickers you’d get in a book about the country. It was quite marvellous. Even better was the squeezy hug I got from Rachael at Kangaroo Flat, where she met me with a big beautiful smile and, like always, even when we hadn’t spoken by anything apart from SMS for months, it was like we had never been apart. Back at her place, with her partner and their youngest son at home merrily working on some banging and crashing that tradesfolk and their four-year-olds are wont to do, we hoovered down some lunch and then she spirited me away for a little tour.

    She drove me past her work, past a vast and entrancing amount of lovely ye olde buildings, around the fountain that one colleague told me to say hello to, and then up to the Capital Theatre for a pre-event scope-out (because when you’ve known someone for twenty-eight years, you know when they are getting anxious about something, especially when she tells you, “I am feeling quite anxious about this”), then to the accompanying gallery for a brief and impressive look-see, then for a coffee at the Basement on View. It’s tucked underneath the theatre and I realised immediately upon entering that this was the type of place I wished was my local cafe. They were flat-out catering for festival-going literary types, but we found ourselves a cosy little nook in a building almost completely made up of cosy little nooks, and sat together with warm drinks and company and well, you know. It was really just the best.

    Back at her place after a scenic way back, I faffed about in front of a mirror and then headed out to the event itself, which I’ve detailed better here; suffice it to say that it all went smoothly, the company was delectable and you should read all those books. A tableful of us headed tipsily out for dinner as well, attempting at first to go to Bunja Thai (lookit that glorious heritage interior in the link!) but they were too full to accommodate us, so we tripped a couple of shops up the road to Curry Garden, which, excitedly, had a little sign right there on the menu saying that there were vegan options available. (I was super pleased about that, as I’d been intending on flying under the radar on this particular culinary expedition, maybe having a spoonful of rice and saying I wasn’t hungry, just so I didn’t have to tell my new friends I was vegan, as I’d been frantically Googling “vegan Bendigo” for a while before and found virtually nothing vegan, so I couldn’t even make suggestions.) They had a special list of all the items that were vegan or could be made vegan, and we ordered three appetisers, two mains, rice and some roti I could have, along with a couple of non-veg mains too. The onion bhaji were almost worth losing friends over, and the chickpea masala and aloo palak perfectly serviceable. The service was friendly, but a bit slow; I’d still happily return.

    The next morning, I deigned to leave my snuggly cocoon of a sleeping bag and declared that I would take my three hosts out for breakfast. Turns out nothing in Bendigo is open before ten o’clock on a Sunday morning – “We’re on country time, remember?” Rachael said at one point as I stared sadly in a closed cafe’s window at their warm-looking fire – so we ended up at the Pall Mall Cafe, a small but friendly cafe that does a trade in your standard big breakfasts. I just ordered toast and coffee, and the service was ridiculously fast (handy when you have a friendly but bored four-year-old crawling all over the place), and the coffee was HUGE – I didn’t even finish it, I was so overwhelmed. Nothing flash, but nothing to sneer at by any means. Across the road was a park, a playground, a lovely old bridge (seriously, I’m just saying, and this is very unlike me because I am Very Modern and Stuff, but Bendigo’s 82,000+ population gets to see much nicer architecture just everywhere than we do down in upstart young Melbourne), and a giant, gorgeous and historic-looking old school, and so we ran around in the cold for a while before heading over to the Showgrounds Market, a fairly large and sprawling market that seems to survive almost entirely on plants and counterfeit Peppa Pig merchandise. I bought stickers for the kids to be the Favourite Aunt, and I made the surprising discovery in one of the halls of Wings Japanese Homemade Bakery. Wings has cakes, mousse, doughnuts, egg tarts and the like – and about six different vegan options. I was full from breakfast but picked up a little sample of a savoury curry doughnut, which was super yum – afterwards I moaned about not buying some for the train ride ahead. It started raining just as we got out of the hall, Rachael’s son covered in icing from his Japanese cupcake, so we drove back home and retired to the couch for one last companionable snuggle before I went off to the train station again to get home.

    Selections at Wings Japanese Homemade Bakery

    The trip was, again, delicious in its solitude; Melbourne was wet and freezing; but when I plodded all damp and whimpering up the driveway after walking from the station I was given the loveliest, happiest smile from my Rocket through the front window, and everything was warm after all.

    Posted August 19, 2014 12:51 PM

    Green Gourmet Giraffe

    Hog's Breath in Geelong: a vegetarian's experience

    Those who know me, would not expect the Hog's Breath Cafe to be the sort of place I would normally eat.  However my family thrives on diversity.  They accept I am vegetarian, just as I accept those who love their meat.  Hence my nephew's choice of Hog's Breath, a carnivore's paradise, for his birthday dinner.  Surprisingly it also catered well to my vegetarian diet.

    The Hog's Breath franchise started in Queensland 25 years ago and now there are over 80 of what the website describes as "themed licensed restaurants".  My visit to the Geelong franchise was my first encounter with the Hog's Breath.  The restaurant is quite large - great for a big group - with lots of fun Aussie memorabilia about.  (I wonder if the Ford sign will stay once the company leaves Geelong!)  Thee were quite a few other groups there despite the empty chairs photo above.  As the name suggests, it is a meat lover's dream.  Just check out the menu that my nephew, the birthday boy, holds in the below photo. 

    I expected to eat chips and a few lettuce leaves.  It is a steakhouse after all.  However when I checked the online menu I was relieved to find a few vegetarian options.  The "sensational salads" were impressive.  Two were vegetarian.  I also could have ordered two pasta dishes, an avocado and mushroom wrap.  And quite a few of the appetisers and a lot of sides were vegetarian too.

    The chips were curly and called Hog Tail Fries.  I was pleased that they sorted out the kids' orders first and I ordered Sylvia some of these fries.  (With hindsight I could have ordered her some vegies - though she would not have been pleased if they have butter on them.)   For myself I passed on the Aussie Backyard Salad and ordered the Avocado and Crumbed Mushroom Salad.  It came with Cajun potato chunks, salad greens, carrots, cherry tomato, red onions, cucumber, mixed beans and balsamic Italian dressing.

    The salad was so substantial that I almost regretted ordering some of the fries for myself on the side.  I couldn't finish them but they were so cute and curly.  The salad was good.  Far more impressive the salads that often disappoint me in chain restaurants and pubs.

    We were spread over three tables and were a fairly chaotic group with lots of kids and parents rushing around checking on kids.  So I don't blame the staff that I missed the call for dessert orders.  It was probably just as well because I was quite full.  My sister-in-law ordered the warm chocolate cake (mud cake?) with warm chocolate sauce.  I had a mouthful and it was really good (thanks Erica).  We all dug in too quickly to photograph it.

    My dad ordered Grandma's Trifle Sundae: vanilla and strawberry ice cream layered with swiss roll, vanilla custard, strawberry jelly, whipped cream and toasted coconut.  I confess I don't remember if I had a taste.  (The chocolate cake was dominating my taste buds.)  I know my dad enjoyed it.

    The showstopper, however, was the "Hoggies Rocky Road Sundae to Share".  It had vanilla and strawberry ice cream on warm chocolate mudcake drenched in chocolate fudge sauce, then topped with marshmallows, strawberry topping, whipped cream and toasted coconut. Oh my!  You should have seen the kids dig in their spoons.  Sylvia loved it.  They all did.

    Despite Hog's Breath not being my sort of restaurant, I had a good night.  The staff were friendly and helpful.  I enjoyed something different for dinner with lots of vegies and was pleased that there are quite a few vegetarian options.  And it was good and satisfying food.  Most importantly, I had a lovely night with the family.

    Hog's Breath
    23 Yarra Street, Geelong
    03 5221 4661

    Posted August 19, 2014 09:25 AM by Johanna GGG

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    Dessert 1st

    August 3, 2014

    Clamps and Bec continued our vegan Springvale tour with a stop at Dessert 1st. My subsequent googling has revealed that this Asian dessert cafe was set up by Sheryl of Cupcake Central fame, in partnership with her mum. (Its online presence rates barely a blip after its 2012 opening so I don't know if they're still running it.) 

    It's a teen dream hang-out, crammed with posters, piping pop music and selling myriad permutations of cheap coloured sugar - mix'n'match drinks and bowls of dumplings, puddings, pearls and jellies, ices, beans and fruit. The walls show posters of pancakes and other fritters not mentioned in the laminated menu, so it's worth sitting and staring in bewilderment a while and working out what you're most in the mood for. There aren't any dietary labels, so double-check that your choice fits your needs at the counter.

    Clamps and Bec shared a cute pastel bowl of mixed puddings and tapioca pearls ($5.50), Michael slurped a milk-based Thai iced coffee ($3), and I picked Tangyuan ($5) from the posters (pictured top). These glutinous rice balls were stuffed with sweet black sesame and served in a warm syrup of ginger and rock sugar, sprinkled with white sesame seeds - prime winter comfort food.

    Service was friendly but haphazard, just fine for a casual cafe. We weren't surprised by the charting RnB tunes the staff chose until they shifted to uncensored R. Kelly - an artist with an abusive history and very explicit lyrics. It was an unsavoury accompaniment to otherwise excellent mid-afternoon desserts.


    Dessert 1st
    35C Buckingham Ave, Springvale
    9109 2121
    partial dessert menu, drinks menu
    (barely updated) facebook page

    Accessibility: I think Dessert 1st has a flat entry; it's very crowded inside. I ordered and paid at a low counter; drinks were picked up from a high counter and desserts were served to our table. We didn't visit the toilets.

    Posted August 19, 2014 07:39 AM by Cindy

    August 18, 2014

    quinces and kale

    east elevation for breakfast


    Until now I’d never been to East Elevation for breakfast or brunch. Not for want of trying, but the couple of times I’d been there it was so busy that we went elsewhere. I guess that is the price of success.

    I have eaten there three times before at the wonderful vegan themed dinners that they hold periodically.

    Back to the breakfast. I settled in with a coffee while I checked the menu. There were a few clearly labelled vegan options on the breakfast/brunch/lunch menu that all looked appealing. While I did particularly like the look of the coconut tapioca with rhubarb, orange syrup and pistachios, I was both hungry and in the mood for savoury, so I opted for the vegan version of the veggie full breakfast. Sourdough, avocado, spinach, beans and oven dried tomatoes with a choice of either chipotle tempeh or mushrooms.  Being both indecisive and a glutton, I opted for the tempeh and the mushrooms.

    The breakfast was fantastic. The mushrooms are a sensational flavourful and textural combination of king and swiss brown. And I have to say that the beans are, hands down, the best breakfast beans I’ve ever eaten.  Really ever. You just have to try them. They are wonderfully flavoured with tomato, smoked paprika and pieces of roasted capsicum. I wasn’t a huge fan of the tempeh, but that’s me, I am scared of tempeh unless it is thinly sliced and fried to a crisp. This came in chunks so it had the waxy texture of tempeh that I find so creepy. The chipotle flavouring was good though. Everything was beautifully seasoned.

    East Elevation manages to get things just right: a wonderful open space, friendly service, good coffee and great food.  I loved my breakfast here and I will be back.


    East Elevation
    351 Lygon St,
    East Brunswick, 3057
    9381 5575

    Posted August 18, 2014 09:01 AM

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    Nha Hang 5 Sao

    August 3, 2014

    We've been hoping to visit Nha Hang 5 Sao in Springvale ever since Brianna discovered it a year ago, so an invite from some friends to lunch with them there was eagerly accepted. The restaurant is really close to the train station, so it's not a particularly arduous journey. It's also the kind of place you could easily walk by as a vegetarian looking for food - there are ducks hanging in the windows and a general vibe of meatiness. We investigated further. The regular menu looks like it's got very few veggie dishes on offer but the second, vegetarian menu more than makes up for it, with nearly 100 dishes to choose from.

    We had the benefit of Bec and Clamps' previous visits here and let them recommend some key dishes, starting with two serves of the deep fried chicken wings ($4 a serve). This was a big mistake - we should have ordered at least four serves. The 'wings' are a mix of tofu and crispy fried tofu skin and are ludicrously good.

    The other mandated dish was the fried kuey teow ($10.80), a smoky wok-fried medley of rice noodles, slivers of mixed mock meat and some veggies. This was my favourite dish of the day, with the mock adding texture and flavour without completely dominating the plate.

    We took Vegan Bullsh*t's advice and tried the Kung bo soy chicken ($12.80), assuming we'd have the spice tolerance to do it justice. It had a pretty decent kick, but as long as you steered your way around the dried chillies it was fine. The mix of mock chicken and veggies was great and the slight sweetness of the chicken pieces was a nice match for the hot sauce.

    We branched out into some unexplored portions of the menu after that - unable to resist a taste of sizzling venison in XO sauce ($16.50). The 'venison' turned out to be some sort of mushroom-based meat, which I didn't completely love, but the spicy sauce and fresh veggies complimented it well.

    We completely embraced the mock meat experience and tried to order the green beans with soy beancurd sausage ($13.80) as our 'veggie' dish, but sadly they were all out of sausage and we settled for some stir-fried Chinese broccoli ($13), which did provide some respite from all the mock.

    Nha Hang 5 Sao offer a good line in non-alcoholic drinks - I enjoyed a cooling coconut juice ($3), while Cindy loved her grass jelly and coconut milk concoction ($3)

    Nha Hang 5 Sao isn't a fine dining experience - the fit out is basic, the service a little haphazard and the atmosphere very suburban Chinese restaurant, but the food is excellent, cheap and plentiful. It puts the likes of Enlightened Cuisine and White Lotus to shame price-wise, and I don't think either have served up dishes to compete with the chicken wings or the kuey teow (OK, maybe the tamarind fish at White Lotus). It's a definite winner, and well worth making the trip out to Springvale for. It's probably best to visit with a group of people so you can sample widely - we're keen to return and hunt down some more menu highlights.

    Brianna and Vegan Bullsh*t have enjoyed the mock meat experience at Nha Hang 5 Sao, while Gourmanda liked its meatier options.

    Nha Hang 5 Sao
    4 Balmoral Ave, Springvale
    8555 0106
    menus: one, two, drinks

    Accessibility: There's a small step on entry and a fairly spacious interior, including a ramp between rooms. The toilet is unisex, although there was something wrong with the latch when we visited - it was probably too accessible.

    Posted August 18, 2014 07:44 AM by Michael

    August 17, 2014

    Green Gourmet Giraffe

    Walnut, brie and apple scones and random notes

    In a topsy turvy week of illness and an overflowing vegetable crisper, scones are a very good thing.  They can be baked in the blink of an eye and they jazz up any old soup.  Which may explain three batches of scones in 8 days.

    Or you might just blame Celia for encouraging my "sconesiness" with her International Scone Week.  It prompted much contemplation of scone recipes.  Perhaps I bought some brie intending to make interesting scones last weekend but ran out of puff, then I needed chocolate during the week, and finally the brie made it into scones this weekend!

    It is true that Sylvia has been sick all week with aches that come and go.  There was the mysterious ear ache that disappeared at the doctor's on Monday, reappeared at school on Tuesday and Thursday and was finally diagnosed at the doctor's as an infection on Friday!  Plus stomach aches, fevers and lack of appetite at night.  She has still played with enthusiasm when she was not crashing with a rising temperature.  You might begin to see why I needed chocolate during the week.

    We spent a lot of the week eating a lovely split pea soup but three days running were quite enough.  So last night I made a soup with some pumpkin and vegies that needed using, plus the remains of the split pea soup and some vegan tofu-based cheese.  Odd companions but they got along very well.  Alongside them I served some very savoury scones.

    As well as the brie, I had the remnants of a tub of smoky salted walnuts.  More smoked salt than walnut crumbs.  I added some other skerricks of walnuts I found but it was still quite salty.  I was of a mind to add cranberries but Sylvia wanted dried apple.  Fine.  It was so savoury I added a little honey.  I made them a little fancy by baking them with slices of brie on top.

    They were delicious scones.  I loved the slight crunch of walnuts and the soft cheese on top.  They were quite savoury so the little nuggets of dried apple were a lovely sweet contrast.  Sylvia ate hers with jam, E had nut butter on his and I loved them plain.  This morning I enjoyed the scones with my mum's dried apricot jam for breakfast.  A success!  More lovely scones to be found at Celia's International Scone Week round up.

    Finally a photo of the cute cupcakes at the Fitzroy Market yesterday and some random notes: 
    • I have been given the most fun exercises by my doctor - blowing up balloons!  Seriously!  She says it will help clear some of the fluid in my ear that has built up after a recent ear infection.  Sylvia is only too happy to do the exercises with me.
    • Our Australian federal politicians continue to astound us with their arrogance.   Last week Treasurer, Joe Hockey was criticised for saying that a proposed increase in fuel excise will not hit the poor as hard as the rich because they “don’t have cars or actually drive very far”. And then there are our Prime Minister Abbott's comments on Scotland's referendum for independence.  Oh dear, oh dear!
    • We finished watching The Secret State on the telly on Friday.  Gabriel Byrne was dignified as Tom Dawkins.  It was an unsettling plot about the conspiracies and deals behind the scenes.  The most telling line was when the Prime Minister said, "You get to the top, and you realise it’s really only the middle." It was worth watching just to see the sort of honest speeches I wish we could hear from our politicians.
    • I also watched the last of the second series of The Time of Our Lives last week.  Great Aussie drama.  In the last episode was a wedding that was held the afternoon after a stressful job interview and the marriage proposal, organised as a surprise for the bride.  It looked beautiful but a little too much like it existed in televisionland.  How many brides would really be ok about not having a say in the planning of the wedding!
    • I hate finding a typo in my writing and yet they are so hard to spot.  Now that I have read Why is it so hard to catch your own typos? I am relieved to discover that the next time I spot one of my own typos I can feel smug about focusing on more high level complex tasks than mere spelling and grammar!
    Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
     One year ago: Mini baked doughnuts and fun stuff
    Two years ago: NCR African Curried Coconut Soup
    Three years ago: Potage St Germain
    Four years ago: Election Blues and Matrimonial Slice
    Five years ago: Potato boston bun
    Six years ago: WTSIM ... Beer Bread
    Seven years ago: SHF #34: Pumpkin scones

    Walnut, brie and apple scones
    Based on Food Ideas's basic scones
    Makes 28 small scones

    2 cups white self raising flour
    1 cup self raising wholemeal flour*
    80g butter*
    1/2 cup smoked and salted walnuts*
    1/2 cup chopped dried apple
    115g brie
    1 to 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, plus extra for glazing*
    1 tbsp honey

    Preheat oven to 200 C.   Lightly grease (or flour) a baking tray.

    Rub butter into flours.  Chop half the brie in small dice.  Gently stir in walnuts, apple and the chopped brie.  Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in buttermilk and honey.  Mix to a soft dough.  Add a little extra milk if needed.

    Tip dough onto a well floured surface.  (Use floured hands if the dough is sticky.  Mine was a bit sticky but nothing some flour couldn't fix - better a little too sticky than a little too dry!)  Knead briefly until the mixture is smooth.  Pat out to about 1 1/2 cm thick.  Dip a scone cutter or the edge of a glass in flour and cut out rounds.  (Or cut into squares or triangles if that is your style!)

    Place scones on prepared tray.  I like to fit them snugly together but it is not necessary.  Brush with a little milk.  Slice the brie and chop each slice into small pieces.  Place a piece of brie on top of each scone.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.  Leave for a minute or two on tray so that brie is not gooey and then wrap in tea towel until ready to eat.  Best eaten warm.

    *NOTES: I used 1 cup wholemeal flour and 2 tsp baking powder instead of a cup of wholemeal self raising flour.  I used margarine instead of butter, and used soy milk with a splash of cider vinegar instead of buttermilk.  If you don't have smoked walnuts, you could add some smoked paprika (1/4 to 1/2 tsp) and salt to taste.

    On the Stereo:
    The Bairns: Rachel Unthank and the Winterset

    Posted August 17, 2014 12:20 PM by Johanna GGG

    August 15, 2014

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    Peach & semolina custard tart

    July 27, 2014

    There was an open plastic jar of peaches in our fridge for the entirety of our overseas travels. The expiry date was still many months off, and they looked and smelled just fine, but I still hesitated to dip a fork in and eat them as they were. Within a week Haalo was posting about a peach and semolina custard tart and I knew what to do.

    I was completely unfamiliar with semolina custard, but the premise seems pretty simple - semolina thickens milk just like eggs do! That had me thinking that I really should just go ahead and veganise the tart. I looked up Wrapped in Pastry for tips on sweet vegan shortcrust and blended it together with my usual food processor method. The pastry didn't brown as quickly as a butter-based version, but with a little extra baking it was crisp and comforting.

    This tart is not quite as elegant as an almond frangipane, but it has its own casual charm. We didn't even bother with an (ice) cream garnish.

    Peach & semolina custard tart
    (pastry adapted from Leigh Drew's Wrapped in Pastry,
    tart adapted from Cook (Almost) Anything)

    shortcrust pastry
    2 cups plain flour
    a generous tablespoon of icing sugar
    pinch of salt
    1/2 cup margarine
    1/4 cup almond milk
    1 tablespoon lemon juice

    semolina custard
    2 tablespoons semolina
    2 1/2 tablespoons coconut sugar
    3/4 cup almond milk

    8 peaches sliced into eighths, or an equivalent volume of canned peaches

    Place the flour, icing sugar and salt in a food processor, pulsing briefly to mix them together. Add the margarine in small spoons and blend it all together until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the almond milk and lemon juice, blending further until the pastry dough just starts coming together. Tip the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and pull it together into a ball with your hands. Wrap it up in the plastic and refrigerate the pastry for at least an hour.

    Stir the custard ingredients together in a small saucepan. Set the saucepan over medium heat and continue stirring regularly as the custard cooks, turning off the heat when it has thickened. Let it rest for 10 minutes, then place a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface of the custard to prevent it from forming a skin. Allow the custard to cool to room temperature.

    Retrieve the pastry from the fridge and roll it out between two sheets of plastic wrap - aim for a circle that's a bit bigger than your pie dish. Ease the pastry into the dish (without the plastic attached to the bottom!).  Remove the plastic from the custard and give the custard a brisk stir; spoon it onto the pastry base and spread it out evenly. Arrange the peach wedges over the custard, and fold the pastry edges down, pinching it at intervals.

    Bake the tart until the pastry begins to go golden - this took mine about 50 minutes.

    Posted August 15, 2014 07:35 AM by Cindy

    August 14, 2014

    Green Gourmet Giraffe

    Revisting rhubarb and raspberry focaccia and the weekend

    I had good intentions of making sourdough bread on Friday but the day passed me by.  Not only did it mean no fresh bread, but it also meant my sourdough starter was begging to be used.  So I did the next best thing.  An overnight foccaccia that would be ready in the morning and use up some of my sourdough starter.

    It seemed a good idea to convert a tried and trusted rhubarb and raspberry focaccia into a sourdough recipe.  Not that I intended to do away with the yeast.  I wanted enough yeast to make it rise fast and enough sourdough to give flavour.

    I spent a good half hour trying to calculate how much water and flour were in my starter in cups and converting into the recipe.  Then I threw together the dough and reread the recipe.  Seems I'd got my amounts mightily confused and misread.  I managed to use 500g flour rather than 800g.  Oops. 

    The resulting dough was far softer than the recipe I was using, and made a smaller focaccia.  Yet it worked.  Which just shows that dough is forgiving and I shouldn't stress so much about converting yeast to sourdough!  More of a problem was that E and Sylvia were not so keen on the rhubarb.  It was a bit tart for them.  Perhaps omitting the raspberries was not a great move.  I loved it.  We ate it and then packed some in our bags.

    Sylvia and I headed off to the Fitzroy Gardens.  It is a favourite place of mine and a fine place to compensate for some theatre tickets that went amiss.  (You can read more about the gardens in a post on our trip to the Fitzroy Gardens in 2010.)  First stop was the Fairy Tree.  The beautiful wood carvings never cease to delight and amaze me.

    Olga Cohn's imagination produced such poignant details of the life of fairies in our gardens.  We sat looking at the tree and eating our focaccia and wishing we had packed more.

    By the Fairy Tree is the Minature Tudor Village.  I have also been going here since I was a child and still love it in all its teeny tiny glory.

    I had planned lunch in the city but once we had walked around the gardens and spent some time at the giraffe swings and dragon slide, Sylvia was hungry.  It is so much slower to get around with a small child.  We went to the Pavillion near the Fairy Tree.  It is more restaurant than cafe.  We paid more than I had intended and were given more food than I needed.  However my ravioli was very nice.

    Sylvia was going down to stay with my parents while E and I went to a trivia night.  Fortunately my mum rang as Sylvia tried to convince me to go into Cooks Cottage.  The moment passed and we walked on to the Conservatory and admired the flowers and the fish pond.  I particularly liked the foilage cake on the table and chairs.

    Then we caught the Circle Tram around to the State Library where we met my parents.  Outside I noticed this statue from May Gibbs' Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.  This Gumnut baby and Mr Lizard are just the sort of folk who might visit the folk of the Fairy Tree.  It seemed a fitting end to our adventures.

    One year ago: Sourdough Basics 101 - Making a Starter
    Two years ago: Fudgy Coconut Brownies
    Three years ago: Besan Vegetable Frittata and a week of eats
    Four years ago: NCR Carrot and Fennel Soup
    Five years ago: Shopping, Sylvia and Soup
    Six years ago: Easy as Vegetable Pie
    Seven years ago: Rumbledethumps: death to the red hag!

    Rhubarb and raspberry no-knead focaccia
    Adapted from  The Kitchen Maid via Green Gourmet Giraffe

    200g sourdough starter (100% hydration)*
    275ml warm water
    1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
    2 Tbsp olive oil
    400g white bread flour
    1 1/2 tsp salt

    340g rhubarb, cut into 3cm pieces (from 450g untrimmed)
    3 Tbsp olive oil
    3 Tbsp raw sugar

    Start the night before you want to eat it or at least 8 - 10 hours before you want to eat focaccia.  Take a large mixing bowl.  (The dough rises a lot - it was about an inch below the top of my largest mixing bowl in the morning. See second top photo of dough the night before to see how much it grows.)  Mix starter, yeast and  warm water.  Stir in oil, flour and salt to make a soft dough.  Cover with clingwrap and leave overnight at room temperature  for about 8 hours. 

    In the morning, preheat the oven to 200 C.  While it heats, prepare the rhubarb and sprinkle a large baking tray with polenta.   Sprinkle dough with flour and carefully take the risen dough from the bowl - it is fairly soft and sticky.  Place on a lightly floured surface. Using floured hands, pat dough out in an oval shape about an inch thick (might be thinner in places).   Carefully transfer to the prepared baking tray.  Scatter with rhubarb and press lightly into the dough.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle the sugar on top.

    Bake for 40 minutes until the fruit juices are running free and the sides are golden brown.  Eat hot or cool on a wire rack.

    * NOTE: Ideally take the starter out of the fridge to warm up to room temperature a couple of hours before starting to mix the dough.  I forgot and it was fine but will try and remember next time.

    On the stereo:
    Don't Try This At Home: Billy Bragg

    Posted August 14, 2014 11:32 PM by Johanna GGG

    quinces and kale

    vegan comfort food around town


    Last week I went to the Aztecs exhibition at the Museum and when I left I was hungry and craving Mexican food… :)

    I headed off to Trippy Taco to get my fill, only to find that they were closed that day! By then I was beyond hungry, so I headed around the corner to Las Vegan. Luckily they have a couple of Tex-Mex items on the menu as I was nursing a serious Mexican food obsession by this point.  I settled on the quesadilla. Black beans, salsa, cheese, sour cream and guacamole in a tortilla. All vegan. Yum.  I was starving and it really hit the spot. Las Vegan does a range of other home style comfort foods as well as good range of cakes. All their food is vegan.

    spring rolls laksa quesadilla

    Later that week I decided to check out the Northcote branch of Loving Hut. I have to say I like this branch much better than the Richmond one, as there is no grand master TV beaming from the wall. Based on what I ate that day, I think the food is better too.  Like all Loving Hut cafes the food is all vegan as well.

    I chose some spring rolls which were beautifully crunchy, followed by a good curry laksa packed with fried eggplant, “prawns” and fried tofu. Also good.

    Neither of these places is ever going to scale great heights for fine dining, but they do decent home-style comfort food at a reasonable price and I love that they exist. Not having to interrogate the waiter about what is and isn’t vegan, makes dining very relaxing.

    The food equivalent of a comfy chair.


    Las Vegan Cafe
    22 Smith St,
    Collingwood, 3066

    Loving Hut Northcote
    377-379 High St,
    Northcote, 3070

    Posted August 14, 2014 10:00 AM

    August 13, 2014

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    Curry soup

    July 28, 2014

    A few months after it hit the newsstands, Cindy and I finally grabbed a copy of The Saturday Paper for a lazy weekend browse. Alongside the in-depth articles on the various ways that the Abbott Government is destroying Australia and the excellent arts coverage was a nice little food section, featuring recipes from Andrew McConnell (of Cutler & Co, Cumulus Inc and elsewhere).

    The theme for this wintery week was soups - we skipped the chestnut, celeriac and cabbage soup recipe and focussed on McConnell's curry soup. The recipe included a big pile of mussels, but we were assured in the text that it was just as good mussel-free, so we swapped in a can of chickpeas and garnished with a few fried mushrooms instead (we also left out the butter to keep things vegan). Once you chop up all the pumpkin it's a very straightforward recipe and the end result is loaded with spicy-sweet flavours from the array of aromatics that are simmered in. The chickpeas were an okay addition, but next time I might try to think of something a bit chunkier to take the place of the mussels - I feel like some big potato cubes or diced mock-meat would work well. This is definitely a good base for a spicy winter soup - we'll report back on any future experimenting we do.

    Curry soup
    (adapted from this recipe in The Saturday Paper)

    1 onion, diced finely
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    3 garlic cloves, chopped
    1 teaspoon turmeric
    2 red birdseye chillies, sliced finely
    4cm piece of ginger, chopped finely
    410g can of chopped tomatoes
    600g pumpkin, peeled and diced into 1cm cubes
    1L veggie stock + an extra 250ml or so of water
    410g can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

    6 makrut lime leaves
    15 curry leaves
    2cm chunk of ginger
    2cm chunk of galangal
    1 tablespoon palm sugar
    1 teaspoon garam masala (we'd run out, so I made up my own with a mix of ground mace, cinnamon, cloves, cumin and nutmeg)
    400ml can of coconut milk

    Heat the olive oil in a big saucepan and throw in the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli, cooking for 5 or 10 minutes, until everything is soft and the onion has gone a bit golden.

    Add the tomatoes, pumpkin, stock, turmeric and the extra water. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes.

    Attack the mix with a stick blender until you've managed to turn all the pumpkin and onion pieces into a relatively smooth paste (if you've got a real blender you can transfer the soup and do it properly)

    Throw in all the aromatics and simmer again, for about 10 minutes. Fish out the ginger and galangal chunks as well as the lime and curry leaves and then stir in the chickpeas, cooking for another 5 minutes or so.

    Posted August 13, 2014 06:30 PM by Michael

    August 12, 2014

    Consuming Cate

    Pickled beetroots and beetroot bread

    I've been craving beetroot the last week or so. So I decided to get cooking my favourite pickled beetroot and some tasty bread to go with it. Here's my recipes.

    Pickled beetroot
    • 4 large beetroot
    • 3/4 cup water
    • 1 1/2 cups white vinegar • 3/4 cup sugar

    • 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 2 cloves
    • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds • 1/2 cinnamon stick

    • 1/4 teaspoon salt


    1. Wash your beetroot and cook in a boiling water until tender.
    2. Take out and let cool. Remove the skin and cut the beetroot into slices or quarters.
    3. All the other ingredients go in a saucepan and boil for 5 minutes.
    4. Place your beetroot into hot sterilised jars and pour vinegar mixture over until all beetroot is covered.
    5. Seal the pickled beetroot and store in a cool place. 

    Beetroot Bread
    • 3 cups plain flour
    • 1 3/4 cups water from boiled beetroots
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried yeast
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 grated beetroot
    1. Place flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl.
    2. Add water and mix lightly until all ingredients are combined and sticky. 
    3. Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and a rubber band (so it doesn't blow away). I pop mine in the warm sun for a bit if I make it during the day but you don't have to. It will bubble and expand and smell rather yeasty.

    Leave covered for 12-18 hours. 
    The next day:
    1. Flour a chopping board. 
    2. Remove the dough and pop onto the board
    3. Add the grated beetroot and knead lightly to disperse the beetroot.
    4. Fold it into itself so it becomes a bit more ball like.
    5. Cover slightly with plastic wrap or tea towel and leave for 15 mins. 
    6. Remove and dust top and bottom with flour. 
    7.  Heat your oven to it's highest temperature (250C) 
    8. A little spray oil or olive oil to the bottom and sides of your baking pot
    9. Transfer the dough into the pot with a lid.
    10. Place in the oven for 30 mins. Be aware it will be VERY hot. Your oven mitts may not be thick enough so use layers to remove it at any stage
    11. Remove the lid (CAREFULLY) and place back in the oven for 15 mins. 
    12. Turn out (yes carefully) onto a wire rack until cool.
    Variation: if you want your bread to be a true pink colour, then I would advise adding 1 cup of pureed beetroot instead of grated beetroot. Just add it with the liquid at the start of the recipe. I didn't want to lose out on my pickling beetroots so I used grated beetroot instead in this instance. 

    Posted August 12, 2014 08:44 PM by Cate Lawrence

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    Sookie La La

    July 27, 2014

    Recently we cycled up to High St for some sun, physical activity and takeaway frozen La Panella pies. New cafes pop up on this strip St faster than we ever make it up there to visit them, and this was a chance to try at least one more. I picked Sookie La La from my to-eat list, having read about it on MEL: HOT OR NOT earlier this year. This is a cute hybrid of American diner and inner north cafe, with a stool-lined high counter, dark wood booths, espresso coffee, pies, shakes, fries and - on the specials board - a lamington-flavoured bagel.

    Vegetarian options are abundant, there are helpful hints for vegans along the way, and there's gluten-free bread available for those who need it. Veganising the Don Watson sandwich ($12) means sourdough or rye bread instead of brioche; Michael chose the latter. He reported that the slab of tofu tasted as much of mustard as the promised sweet BBQ sauce, and I could see the pickled beetroot, carrot and cucumber making quite the mess as he gobbled it all up (see pic below). I helped out with the shoestring fries (an extra $3) before setting to work on my own meal.

    Since the desserts looked good, I decided against cornmeal buttermilk pancakes for lunch and tried The Bacho ($12.50), a toasted bagel thickly spread with jalapeno cream cheese on one side, then layered with black beans, melted mozzarella, salsa and avocado on the other. It was gooey and comforting, and perfectly portioned.

    The sundae list is short but irresistable - there's even a vegan option made with 'Coconut Silk' sorbet! I pressured Michael into sharing some 'Strawberry Harvest' icecream topped with a thick hot chocolate fudge sauce, honey-roasted macadamias and stroopwafel wedges in place of the more traditional wafers ($8). I can see why Thanh goes ga-ga for this biscuits, with their chewy strip of caramel through the centre. Three spoons in, Michael ceased acting at all put upon.

    Sooki La La is a sweet little spot - I hope we'll find time for more bike trips towards their sundaes come summer.


    Sookie La La  has won other admirers on Vetti Live In Northcote, MEL: HOT OR NOT and Dani Valent.

    Sookie La La 
    593 High St, Northcote
    9486 5417
    breakfast & bagels, sandwiches, drinks, sundaes

    Accessibility: We think Sookie La La has a flat entryway. Seating has a range of free-standing seats and tables, fixed booths and high stools at the counter with a wide pathway through the middle. We ordered at our table and paid at the high counter. The toilet was unisex and located upstairs.

    Posted August 12, 2014 08:42 PM by Cindy

    Green Gourmet Giraffe

    Chocolate and cranberry scones - for International Scone Week

    Last night I made my second batch of scones in three days.  If I had the energy I would be happy to eat freshly baked scones every day.  I grew up eating scones regularly and now, like my mother and grandmothers, it is one of my easiest things to bake.  So for a trivia night when energy was limited, I baked cheese scones.  They even inspired our team name: The Scones.  An auspicious start to International Scone Week.

    International Scone Week was the brain child of Celia, Heidi, and Joanna in 2010.  This year they are celebrating again.  Unlike my mother and grandmothers, I love baking scones with different flavour combinations.  Plain is just not enough for me.  (Having said that, my mum did some yummy cinnamon pinwheel scones on the weekend!)

    I had a bag of chocolate melts, some dried cranberries and a round of brie in the kitchen.  Here started my brainstorming of ideas.  Finally I settled on these chocolate and pecan scone pinwheels.  I had just enough walnuts to use instead of pecans.  Sylvia preferred cranberries.  Before I knew it the recipe looked a totally different creature to the pinwheels and was my own recipe.

    The scones are not bitter but not particularly sweet.  Sylvia didn't taste them at all.  She was home sick with an ear ache that bothered her in the morning, disappeared (and embarrassed  me) when we saw the doctor, and came back again in the evening.  She went to bed early without a fuss - not even her usual request for something sweet.  I tried the scones with honey, apricot jam and butter but I preferred them plain.  They reminded me a little of my pumpernickel rolls.  Which may explain why E had one or two with a bowl of split pea soup for dinner.  He then said he liked them best with apricot jam. 

    As an aside, E is Scottish and says 'app'-ricot whereas I say 'ape'-ricot.  I always attribute so many differences between us to him being Scottish and me being Australian.  Then at the trivia night I was surprised that other Australians used the term Chopper for the bikes I only ever knew as Dragsters.  I assumed when E talked about Choppers that it was was British but not Australian! What do you call them?

    Back to the scones, I know that they aren't everyone's cuppa tea.  I love them.  They were fluffy and dark and just sweet enough for me.  I really enjoyed the sweet bursts of the cranberries.  Now I am hoping that I can find time for more scones as I still have brie and walnuts to use up.

    Update: these scones were best fresh as is always the case with scones, however we enjoyed them the next day too.  E had one for lunch, as did Sylvia in her lunchbox and I shared some with my mum who enjoyed them.  If they last any longer, they are probably best kept in the freezer.

    Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
    One year ago: Beetroot, apple and walnut scones for International Scone Week
    Two years ago: Wholemeal pretzels and Pea soup
    Three years ago: Melbourne to Orange Roadtrip - a long long way
    Four years ago: Honey, Yoghurt and Chocolate Cake
    Five years ago: Surprising Sprouts in Risotto
    Six years ago: My Vegetarian Lasagne
    Seven years ago: Favourite food books

    Chocolate and cranberry scones
    An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe
    Makes 24 small scones

    2 1/2 cups self-raising flour
    1/2 cup cocoa
    1/4 tsp mixed spice
    80g butter or margarine
    1 cup vanilla yoghurt*
    2 tbsp treacle
    2 tbsp golden syrup
    6 tbsp water, or as required
    1/2 cup dried cranberries
    milk, to glaze scones

    Grease a round oven tray and preheat oven to 200 C.

    Mix flour, cocoa and mixed spice into a large mixing bowl. Rub in butter or margarine (I used margarine). Stir in cranberries. Gently mix through yoghurt, treacle, golden syrup and enough water to make a soft dough. It will be slightly sticky but turn it out onto a well floured surface and knead just a few times until the dough is smooth.

    Pat out to about 2 cm high on a well floured surface. Cut into small round scones with a cutter or the edge of a glass dipped in flour.

    Place side by side on greased tray, brush with milk and bake for 20 to 30 minutes until scones are golden brown. (Check those in the middle are not undercooked on their underneath - they can go back in the oven for 5 minutes if you find this is the case.)

    Note: I use five:am vanilla yoghurt which is thick and not overly sweet. If you don't have a good vanilla yoghurt, you could use some additional sweetener and regular yoghurt, buttermilk or even make them vegan by using vegan milk that has been curdled by sitting for 5 minutes with a good splash of cider vinegar.

    On the Stereo:
    The Captain: Kasey Chambers

    Posted August 12, 2014 10:43 AM by Johanna GGG

    August 11, 2014

    vegan about town

    comfort, lazy noodle soup and other favourite comfort foods

    A friend asked me for my top five favourite things to cook, and I listed them as follows:

    Kari Kapitan (often with oyster mushrooms and firm tofu instead of the mock chicken)
    Lentil Ragu + long pasta (sometimes also with tempeh)
    yellow Dahl
    Pasta Salad made with whatever is in the house (and, hopefully, five spice tempeh)

    However then I realised I had missed one, because I have never previously blogged it; mostly, because I have never considered it worth blogging. Here, then, is one of the laziest things in my cooking repertoire: noodle soup.

    Please note that when I say lazy, I mean it is lazy for me. Your laziness may vary. It is also a very flexible, forgiving recipe. You can add and subtract as you deem necessary (though I really mean it about the star anise).

    makes: about two portions

    2 star anise
    1 carrot
    2 or 3 bok choy (or a whole lot of chinese cabbage)
    dark soy (you don't want it to go dark brown but you want it shaded - 3 tablespoons? less? something like that)
    2 fresh chillis
    5 cups water
    1 tsp dry powdered stock, if you have it
    1 inch fresh ginger, washed but not peeled

    whatever noodles or tofu or frozen dumplings you have lying around the house, suitable for 2 people
    any other vegies or whatever that you deem appropriate

    Bring water to a boil in a pot. In the meantime julienne the carrot, saving the ends; cut off the ends of the bok choy. Throw these ends, plus the star anise, soy, chilli, stock and ginger into the pot. Reduce heat and let simmer for twenty minutes, lid on but ajar. When it smells AMAZING, add your vegetables and noodles and dumplings as appropriate. I like to use a stick of rice noodles and two cakes of yellow mee, already soaked in hot water and rinsed to remove the starch. If I'm using firm tofu I'll add it at the same time as the carrots to give it the opportunity to soak in the flavour. Add the bok choy leaves and stems separate from each other, but near the end. But not so near the end that they're not soft. SOFT BOK CHOY/CHINESE CABBAGE IS LIFE.


    Remove the star anise, carrot ends and ginger before serving, unless you really want to eat boiled star anise (I don't recommend it).

    I often eat with extra soy+chilli sauce that I make at the beginning of the process, which gives the chilli and the soy time to infuse each other.

    This stock, with the same things but bigger proportions, is good for all sorts of chinese vego cooking. Also add garlic cloves (peeled) and oyster mushrooms to the stock while it's going for a fuller flavour. Very authentic. TRUST ME. TRUST THIS AZN FACE.

    Posted August 11, 2014 08:48 PM by steph

    quinces and kale

    pressure cooker risotto

    mushroom and pea risotto

    Forget slow cookers, I love fast cookers.

    Slow cookers are all very well if you have your act together in the morning, but I’m not that organised. That’s why I love my pressure cooker.

    Modern pressure cookers are not scary like the old school ones. I remember soup exploding out of the pressure valve of my Mum’s old pressure cooker and spraying the ceiling. But the new ones have all sorts of safety features that make them foolproof. They are a bit of an investment up front at $100+, but I think they are worth it.

    Here is a recipe for a risotto that turns out perfectly every time, with no stirring. I made it for a family dinner recently and my sister said she’d seriously think about buying a pressure cooker just to make it.

    Pressure cookers save time and energy. Dhal, soup and risotto can all be made in under ten minutes on a low heat,  so they are perfect for when you get home and need something quickly.

    I cook the onion, garlic and any firmer veggies like mushrooms or pumpkin in the pressure cooker with the rice, and then add quick cooking vegetables like spinach and peas at the end once I open the lid.

    I’ve tried lots of different vegetables to flavour the risotto: preserved artichokes, mushrooms, peas, spinach, tomato and diced pumpkin. All of them have been great.

    The recipe below is for a basic risotto with no extras. The rule of thumb is one cup of rice to 2 cups of liquid.

    Anything else is up to you.


    pressure cooker risotto
    prep time
    5 mins
    cook time
    12 mins
    total time
    17 mins
    author: quincesandkale
    recipe type: savoury
    cuisine: vegan
    serves: 2
    • 1 cup arborio rice
    • 2 cups stock (I used Massel)
    • 1 small onion diced
    • 1 clove garlic crushed
    • ½ tbs olive oil
    • Any other vegetables you'd like (artichokes, peas, spinach, mushrooms, pumpkin, tomato)
    1. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker and fry the diced onion until it softens.
    2. Add any other firm veggies you'd like such as mushrooms or pumpkin, and fry to caramelise slightly.
    3. Add the garlic and fry briefly.
    4. Add the rice and fry until the rice starts to look translucent and a few grains start to colour slightly.
    5. Add the liquid and stir.
    6. Close the pressure cooker and bring to high pressure, lower the heat and time for 7 minutes.
    7. When the time is up, run cold water over the top of the pressure cooker to cool it rapidly until the lock releases.
    8. Open the lid and stir in any extra veggies that don't need much cooking like peas or spinach.
    9. Serve with some vegan parmesan, like Vegusto piquant.



    Posted August 11, 2014 09:14 AM

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    Reminder: Australian Fine Dining panel

    The 2014 Melbourne Writers Festival approaches! The panel I'm appearing on - Thinking & Drinking: Australian Fine Dining - is happening in just two weeks. I'm catching up on the books of my co-panelists Andrea Frost and Ronnie Scott, and they're definitely food for thought... moderator Estelle Tang's food blog makes for a few chuckles in between.

    I believe there are still some tickets available through the festival website. Hope to see some of you there at the Duke of Wellington (an accessible venue!) on Monday August 25.

    Posted August 11, 2014 08:47 AM by Cindy

    August 10, 2014

    Green Gourmet Giraffe

    Street Art in Melbourne #9 Hosier Lane June 2014

    After posting a series of street art posts in May, I have continued to photograph street art when possible.  I enjoyed doing the series so much that I want to continue it on an occasional basis.

    Today I bring you street art from one of Melbourne's most famous street art locations, Hosier Lane.  It is a small lane in the block bounded by Russell St, Flinders St, Swanston St and Flinders Lane in the CBD or city of Melbourne. 

    After taking photos of so much street art recently I was really struck just how touristy this lane seems compared to other street art locations.  Where usually I find it pleasing to go off the beaten track and take photos in peace and quiet, Hosier Lane is busy with people wielding cameras.  Likewise the walls of Hosier Lane are busy - with artwork.  I haven't visited often but from a few infrequent visits I think the art there changes far more regularly than in other locations.  I suspect if you go there today, a few months after my visit, much of the artwork you encounter might be different.

    Posted August 10, 2014 10:16 PM by Johanna GGG

    August 09, 2014

    Consuming Cate

    Food for thought

    I have no interest in cars at all (I don't even drive) but I enjoyed my time in Prague last year so this ad makes me laugh.

    Love these artworks!

    Love this colouring book for grown ups. A few years ago Chris and I did a political colouring book.

    Cute blog of homes in Leipzig

    Posted August 09, 2014 04:29 AM by Cate Lawrence

    Pineapple cordial (made using pineapple skins)

    Pic from here

    I love pineapple but as a food it always seems to have such a tremendous amount of waste. Perhaps this is why tinned pineapple is so popular?

    So when I bought a pineapple this week, I decided to use the core and skin to make pineapple cordial. It's a light and flavourful drink, without the sweetness of fresh pineapple or pineapple juice. As I don't like sweet drinks it worths wonderfully.

    I love this pineapple jug!

    • Skin of 1 pineapple (you could also use the core if you aren't eating it)
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 lemon
    • 5 cups water
    1. Place pineapple skins, sugar and water in a large saucepan.
    2. Cook on a simmer for 30 mins.
    3. Juice the lemon and add to the mixture.
    4. Sit covered overnight
    5. Strain into a jug or bottle and store in the refrigerator.
    To use: Top cordial with water or sparkling water or add to your favourite cocktail. Cordial keeps in the fridge for about 3 weeks. 

    Posted August 09, 2014 03:11 AM by Cate Lawrence

    August 08, 2014

    Thoughts Of A Moni

    Merchants Guild

    Unplanned weekend brunch outings are always the best, and that’s exactly what happened last Saturday. Given that it was unplanned, I hadn’t thought of where to go, and so I tried to think of local cafes that I had put on my mental list. Merchant’s Guild popped up in my head and it was decided, to Bentleigh East it was!

    We arrived at about 9am, and already the cafe had started filling up, and so we became the first ones to sit at the communal table at the back. I looked around and all along the wall large buckets of spices were lined up ready to be mixed into chai mixes. It was then that I decided that today was going to be a tea morning, rather than a coffee one.

    A friendly waitress handed us our menus, and informed me of the excellence of Prana Chai, which is the tea that they serve. I took up her recommendation and wondered if their masala chai would live up to my Indian standards.

    The tea arrived promptly, served in a little pan, so that I could strain my own. Whilst pouring it, I could smell the spicy aromas and the remnants in the strainer indicated the generous presence of cardamom and cloves. Upon tasting it, I came to the conclusion that it was certainly worthy of the masala chai title. The complexity of the spices complimented the flavour of the tea, and resulted in a perfect hot drink to start the morning with. Merchant’s Guild had already won me over!

    A browse of the menu revealed a lack of fritters, which are my usual choice for breakfast. Instead I opted for the pumpkin, feta and harissa polenta biscuit with poached eggs and za’atar. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from a polenta biscuit, but it turned out to be a perfect choice. The polenta was soft and creamy, but the exterior had a crunch to it, making it to be great replacement for fritters! The harissa added the required zing, and pumpkin and feta are always a welcome combination.

    Of course the yolk porn test was the ultimate decider, and the Merchants Guild eggs passed with flying colours!

    The other half went for completely the opposite of what I was having, which makes for good blogging. He chose coffee, and a sweet breakfast of French toast, with vanilla mascarpone, bananas, berries and pistachios. I am not usually a sweet breakfast person, but this was delicious. Cheese of any form makes everything taste better, so clearly the mascarpone was responsible for making this dish taste so good!

    All in all, it was a great breakfast. The food was delicious, the atmosphere and staff were welcoming and friendly, but for me the real winner was the Prana Chai. I need to go back just for my masala chai fix.

    Merchants Guild on Urbanspoon

    Posted August 08, 2014 11:29 AM by Moni

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    Mankoushe Cafe III

    July 26, 2014

    Since getting back from holidays we’ve been revisiting some of our favourite breakfast places to remind ourselves how great Melbourne’s veg eating really is. After East Elevation and Smith & Daughters, it was time to make a return visit to the fantastic Mankoushe Cafe. There were a terrifying couple of months where the windows were papered over, but the cafe has reopened with a renovated back room and an open fire. Things are otherwise basically unchanged – the staff are still amazingly friendly, the food incredibly tempting and the whole experience just wonderful.

    The breakfast menu isn’t very large, with just five dishes to choose from (and nothing vegan). You can also sample from the bakery menu, so you can always fall back on a spinach, feta and ricotta pie ($5.5) or a zaatar bread with fresh tomato, onion, green olives and mint ($7). We stuck with the brekkie menu, with Cindy ordering the zucchini and fennel fritters, with grilled capsicum and a parsley tahini dressing on toast ($15).

    It all looked a little dry when it came out, but the thick smears of tahini dressing hiding under the fritters kept things tender. The fritters themselves were simple but effective and the tower of greens and capsicum added colour and freshness.

    I weighed up the tomato and ginger puree baked with two free range eggs and eggplant spread ($16), but in the end couldn’t resist the siren song of breakfast potato. The spiced Dutch cream potatoes baked with two eggs and topped with minted yoghurt ($14) was the perfect winter brekkie. Hearty and warm, with more carbs than a human should probably ingest first thing in the morning. I was impressed.

    We’d both focussed on savoury breakfast options to ensure we had some enthusiasm for post-breakfast treats, ordering an apple and custard pastry triangle and a pot of cardamom and cinnamon tea ($9) to finish up. Alongside Smith & Daughters, Mankoushe is one of the few places in town where we’ve made enough repeat visits to be treated as regulars, and we were rewarded with a bonus bikkie that was crumbly on the outside and stuffed with sweet ground nuts. The sweets are reliably excellent at Mankoushe, and these were no exception. I will definitely be re-ordering the apple custard pastry in the not-too-distant future.

    Mankoushe Cafe is such a standout Brunswick breakfast option – consistently brilliant food, a menu that changes regularly and surely the friendliest staff in town. It’s a bit baffling to see empty tables here on a Sunday morning when there are queues out the door at other places along Lygon Street. Word will surely get around, so grab a quiet, relaxing breakfast while you still can.
    Read about our previous visits to the cafe here and here and to the bakery here, here and here. Since our last visit, I Spy Clad and Christina MacLean have enjoyed the Mankoushe experience.

    Mankoushe Cafe
    323 Lygon St, Brunswick East
    9078 9223

    Accessibility: There's a small step up through a narrow-ish entry but everything's more generously spaced once you're in. We ordered at the table and paid at a low-ish counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

    Posted August 08, 2014 11:03 AM by Michael

    August 07, 2014

    Green Gourmet Giraffe

    Chocolate chip and cola muffins

    Despite my love of large chocolate cakes, sometimes I want those neat self contained muffins.  Not delicate cupcakes covered in sticky icing.  I much prefer good honest chunky muffins.  They are particularly attractive now that I try and put some home baking in Sylvia's lunchbox these days.

    I am far more experienced at making large chocolate cakes than smaller cupcakes or muffins.  So I looked at my recipe index expecting to find proof.  Even so, I was surprised to find I had blogged 40 large cakes, 15 brownies and only 12 cupcakes or muffins.  Perhaps it is that when I was young we had large chocolate cakes but little cakes were usually vanilla.  Not that we would call them vanilla.  We just called them plain.  If that is any indication as to how they were viewed.  Yes, a bit boring.

    In an ideal world, I would make hearty healthy muffins filled with wholegrains, seeds and fruit or vegetables.  Which might explain my lack of chocolate muffins on my blog.   Sometimes I just want chocolate.  Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella is one of those bloggers who takes amazing photos.  She made these her chocoletta muffins look so dark and brooding and gooey and just so enticing that they went straight to the top of my to do list.

    These muffins had cocoa, cola and choc chips.  Unable to stop just there, I added caramel chips too.  Because I had some.  Sylvia was very excited about these muffins.  They were great sport for her.  The aim was to eat as many of the caramel chips before the muffins went in the oven.  My challenge was to stop her.  And I had to work hard to avoid the temptation of eating the whole batch as soon as they came out of the oven.  

    We all loved these muffins.  Soft with lots of chocolate and caramel chips, they were warm and snuggly as befits cold foggy morning, sudden hail showers and bone rattling winds at this wintery time of year.

    I am sending these muffins to Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes for her Bookmarked Recipes event to share the bookmarked recipes that we actually manage to cook.

    Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
    One year ago: WW Open House Melbourne, Green Lentil Dal and Om Vegetarian
    Two years ago: Treacle gingerbread and more Open House Melbourne
    Three years ago: Vegetarian meatballs
    Four years ago: Nutty fries and other people’s plates
    Five years ago: Apple and date cake
    Six years ago: Do I dare to cook with one less pear?
    Seven years ago: Baking cake for climate change

    Chocolate chip and cola muffins
    Adapted from Not Quite Nigella
    Make 12 to 15 muffins

    2 1/4 cups self raising flour
    1 cup caster sugar
    1/2 cup cocoa
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 1/4 cup cola drink
    1/2 cup vegetable oil
    2 eggs
    3/4 cup caramel chips
    3/4 cup dark chocolate chips

    Preheat oven to 160 C.  Line a 12 hole muffin tin with papers.   (If desired you can add a few extra muffins or some mini muffins - I made about 10 mini muffins as well as 12 regular muffins.)

    Mix flour, sugar, cocoa and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Lightly whisk together cola, oil and eggs in a large jug.  Make a well in the flour mixture and tip in the cola mixture.  Mix until combined.  Gently stir in caramel chips and choc chips.

    Spoon mixture into lined muffin tray, almost to the top of each muffin cup.  Bake for 23 to 25 minutes.  (I baked my mini muffins for 20 minutes on the middle shelf of the oven.)  Check they are done with a skewer inserted in the middle - it should come out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

    On the Stereo:
    Christmas: Low

    Posted August 07, 2014 08:37 PM by Johanna GGG

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    Rice pudding

    July 20, 2014

    Thanks to houseguests and vege boxes, we've recently been inundated with kiwi fruits. I've never really developed a taste for their tartness, so I got to thinking about desserts I might be able to hide them in. Some went into an ugly yet edible vegan bastardisation of this financier recipe, but that only took down two. Cashew cream and frothy gelato came to mind, but I really wanted something warm and winter-friendly.

    I hit on a winner with rice pudding. Its creamy warmth is perfectly in season, and softens out the kiwi fruits' acidity. I like these two much better as a team than I like either on their own, and I happily finished off the large pot of pudding and half a dozen kiwis.

    This was also a chance to try mixing not-milks in place of dairy, a trick I noticed at a couple of New York's best vegan icecreameries. It definitely lent this pudding a silky richness that didn't taste overbearingly like any of the source ingredients.

    Rice pudding
    (adapted slightly from a recipe at taste)

    1.75 L milk (I used 1L almond milk, 400mL coconut milk, 350mL soymilk)
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1 cinnamon stick
    finely grated rind of 1 lemon
    3/4 cup coconut sugar
    220g short-grain rice, such as arborio

    Place the milk, vanilla, cinnamon, lemon rind and sugar in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring it regularly.

    Pour in the rice and reduce the heat to low. Stir the mixture regularly, cooking it for 40-50 minutes, until the rice is completely cooked and the mixture is slightly thickened. Remove the pudding from the heat and allow it to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving with fruit.

    Posted August 07, 2014 01:29 PM by Cindy

    quinces and kale

    daiya cheese in australia


    Move over Bio cheese, there’s a new cheese in town.

    There has been a bit of vegan cheese action in Melbourne recently, with the arrival of the greek fasting Bio cheese, and now daiya.

    Many people loved the Bio cheese, but I am not a fan. Bio was so promising and I wanted to love it. Unfortunately I am one of the few that experience a weird chemical aftertaste.

    I must confess that I am not a fan of many vegan cheeses at all. Frankly I think that most are awful, with the exception of Vegusto Piquant, the Botanical Cuisine cashew range and Notzarella. What is missing from those is a melty-cheese-on-toast/macaroni-cheese/cheese-sauce/gratin type of cheese experience.  I have found it at last. Daiya is here.

    I bought mine at the Prahran Convenience Store on the second day it was available, and raced back across town to give it a work out. I bought all three flavours: cheddar, pepperjack and mozzarella. They all come shredded, and that’s fine because this is a melting and cooking cheese, not a cheese platter one. The 227g packs cost $10.50 each. That works out at around $46/kg which isn’t cheap, but it is so good.

    Firstly I made two types of grilled cheese on turkish bread with the pepperjack and the cheddar. Swoonworthy. The texture is right, the flavour is right. I was so excited I started live blogging the daiya experience on Facebook while I was eating.


    cheese on toast

    Next I made a cheese and tomato toastie in a sandwich press. The cheese oozed out, it stringed nicely, and where it sizzled on the plate, it crisped up like burnt cheese of old! Sorry, I was so excited at this stage I forgot to photograph it! :)

    For dinner I made some macaroni cheese.

    Believe me, I have made every vegan “Best Mac Cheese Ever” recipe.  They run the full gamut of awful – fake cheesy flavours, too much savoury yeast, pumpkin, sweet potato, cashew, miso, tahini. I’ve tried them all and they are just wrong, wrong, wrong in both flavour and texture.

    Every one a disappointment, until daiya.

    mac cheese

    Tomorrow I will take the mozzarella to my local pizza place where they will happily make me a pizza with it. I will report back.

    It is currently available at Mad Cowgirls, Prahran Convenience, and at the Cruelty Free shop from Monday and probably others soon.

    If you have been looking for a seriously yummy, melty vegan cheese, look no more. This is it!

    Posted August 07, 2014 09:10 AM

    Consuming Cate

    Some of the differences between Melbourne and Leipzig

    There are many differences between Melbourne and Leipzig. Some are obvious, some more subtle. Here's some random differences I have found in no particular order, they are not absolute, merely based on my experiences alone as an Australia who has visited German a few times and has lived in Leipzig for about a month.

    Image from here

    Bike riding
    Traffic lights are mostly directly above your head. In Australia they are usually on the other side of the road so it takes a bit of getting used to when bike riding! In Australia bike helmets are compulsory yet here you get the joy of riding with the wind in your hair, it's really quite lovely. In Germany you ride on the opposite side of the road to Australia and there are a hell of a lot more bike paths.  But many are shared with pedestrians and it can be a bit confusing who goes where when as most pedestrians (including me at times) tend to meander. It makes me terrified of smacking into someone! You are often riding on cobblestones and paths and pavements are poorly tended, making the potholes of Brunswick seem like pin pricks in the road.

    I thought there were loads of bike riders in Melbourne but here there are loads more. Everyone ride, regardless of age and size, which is encouraging to those like me who are bigger and less than fit! But I'm working on it and am enjoying riding my bike regularly. (We tried to sell our bikes before leaving Australia but no joy so we shipped them over).

    Supermarkets in Leipzig tend to have a separate attached bakery and shop selling cooked meats like roast pork and (surprise, surprise) sausages. Each supermarket has almost more aisles of booze than real food. There's also a lot of processed stuff like packet mix sauces and desserts and various things that I look at and have no idea what they are. I must look like an absolute nutter every time I go shopping as i look at everything and take ages.

    Portion sizes are far smaller in food. You can get mini watermelons. Flour and sugar come in 1kg packets, no bigger. You can buy half a loaf of bread and icecream comes in little containers. Part of the obvious reason for this is that apartments and fridges are far smaller. It's a real mental shift, I'm used to have a big fridge and shopping in bulk and freezing. Here I can't do that so much.

    There's no green shopping bags like we have in Australia. Not a bad thing as they aren't great for the environment. We bought cloth bags with us from Australia.

    Supermarkets and almost all businesses are closed on sundays. The exception is the shops at the main train station.

    Based on 6 years work in the sustainability sector, I think Australians in general are very compliant on recycling. Judging by our block of apartments, this is not the case in Leipzig. Of course, it is a lot more difficult in apartments as there is no way of controlling who is doing the wrong thing etc.  In Germany every plastic or glass bottle you buy attracts an extra fee. You can return your bottles at any supermarket, receive a receipt and get the cash back. An excellent idea meaning there are no bottles or cans littering the streets.

    People buy a lot of bottled mineral water in bulk packs in Leipzig, where as back home everyone drank tap water. It's really hard to get tap water in a restaurant. (I keep forgetting Leitungswasser -tap water).

    Seriously I have never seen so many smokers! I say that as someone who used to smoke myself for 10 years. Here every time i turn around someone is puffing away. I really struggled with it when i was ill with the lurgy as I couldn't stop coughing. You can smoke inside most restaurants and bars too.

    By comparison I believe the rate is smoking in Australia is declining. In part due to the sheer cost of smoking (over $16 for a pack of cigarettes compared to $6 in Germany) but I also couldn't help feeling that smoking had become in many instances, very socially undesirable. Plus of course there are messages like these on cigarette packets in Australia. Of course culture, socioeconomic status, gender, age etc all have a part to play...

    Vegan and vegetarian food haven't been hard to find at all. There's plenty of lovely summer produce and all supermarkets have tofu, faux meat products and vegan cheese. There's plenty of health food shops that stocks bits and pieces of vegan and gluten free food. I've had the odd kebab with haloumi from the Turkish kebab shops that are everwhere. Plenty of felafels too. I haven't been able to find vegan 'butter' or nutritional yeast but there's a vegan festival coming up in September so I may find it there.


    In Germany it's really easy to buy alcohol. There are corner shops with nothing but booze and cigarettes, supermarkets etc. Also, you can drink in public. I remember the first time I took my husband Chris (from the UK) to a music festival in Australia and he couldn't believe that if you wanted to drink you had to stay in a literally caged off area surrounded by security guards. And every time we went to an event somewhere like a classic concert at the Myer Music Bowl you were subjected to a lengthy bag search. Have I mentioned that booze in Leipzig is insanely cheap? Well except for mixed drinks. A G&T is about $7AUD at a bar or restaurant. Cocktails can be cheaper than mixed drinks which I find quite strange, perhaps the cost is for the soft drink?

    With that, I think it's time to make myself a spritzer...

    Posted August 07, 2014 12:46 AM by Cate Lawrence

    August 06, 2014

    Vegan Bullsh*t


    For some reason our local fruit and veg shop has been carrying amazing tomatoes: deep red, juicy and flavoursome - and three bucks a kilo! I've been going nuts for tomato recipes. Stumbling upon The Kitchn's roasted garlic and tomato sauce recipe was a godsend: this is brilliant. Tomato, lots of garlic and a combo of olive oil and butter roasted slowly in the oven ends up with a glorious sauce: rich, warm and chunky, but not too chunky - perfect for pasta, or even on toast. Absolutely perfect with homemade gnocchi fried up: today I tried it with polenta. Genius.

    You start out with this beautiful-looking dish (I use pyrex - The Kitchn says to use foil, but I think you'd lose a lot of the delicious bits that way). Here's my first batch. Fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, good olive oil and small chunks of Nuttelex:
    And here's how it turns out - as shown by my lunch today, served on cheesy polenta (Bio-Life cheese - fairly neutral on it, although I think the Cornish is now using it on their parmas and that's delicious. Can anyone confirm?). This one involved red and green capsicum which was even better than the original. This is the kind of comfort food I love to eat: slow, simple, the kind of thing you eat snuggled up in a warm jumper with a good book. I can't wait for spring but this'll do pretty nicely in the meantime!
    Slow Roasted Tomato-Capsicum-Garlic Sauce (originally from The Kitchn; altered by me)

    approx. one kilo of tomatoes - whatever kind takes your fancy, anything works!
    one small red capsicum
    one small green capsicum
    around six cloves of garlic, peeled and diced fairly small
    a generous handful of fresh basil, torn
    two tablespoons olive oil
    about the same of Nuttelex
    a splash of red wine vinegar

    This is very simple. Preheat your oven to 180. Chop your tomatoes into rough chunks, and your capsicum into smaller chunks (think around an inch or less). Pop them into a suitably large baking dish, preferably pyrex. Season generously with salt and pepper. Scatter in your torn basil, garlic and drizzle generously with red wine vinegar. Add your olive oil and Nuttelex in smaller chunks dotted around. Toss everything a little and pop it in the oven for three hours. Check it at least every half hour and just give everything a little squish - this way you're encouraging everything to break down to a sauce-like consistency. When it's done, you should see a little blackening but no unusuable bits. Serve it on polenta, your favourite pasta, as a spread on toast (it'd be smashing on pizza too) or just eat it from the pan.. I have. It's worth it.

    Posted August 06, 2014 02:16 PM by L

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    Berbere black beans

    July 20, 2014

    My friend and colleague Yung is an excellent cook, and always brings something exciting to our workplace's annual culinary competition. Recently she formed a small team to cater a vegetarian fundraising event; Michael and I gladly bought tickets to support a worthy cause and graze on what we knew would be a very good buffet. One of the highlights was a pot of rich, warmly spiced black beans. Yung is a generous chef who doesn't hesitate to share her kitchen secrets, in this case her homemade berbere.

    Yung and her partner Danielle are so fond of this Eritrean spice mix that they find themselves roasting and grinding up a batch every couple of months! And I was the lucky recipient of a small jar of their blend two Christmases ago, so I had a little on hand. (Yung says they use a recipe by Cath Claringbold, published in Good Weekend a few years ago - we'll post it if we ever muster the courage to make our own stock.)

    As for the beans, this is a recipe that Yung and Danielle have developed to suit their taste. It sure suits ours, too! Apparently you can make this with dried beans without any need to pre-cook or soak them, and Yung urges us all to use the full quantity of oil to really carry the flavour and build a rich texture.

    We were so keen that we copied her moves the very next night, serving our beans with some Viva Vegan! silverbeet, wholemeal tortillas and fresh salad.

    Berbere black beans
    (slightly adapted from a recipe by our friends Yung & Danielle)

    1/3 cup olive oil
    1 large onion, finely chopped 
    1 green capsicum, finely chopped
    2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped 
    1 1/2 teaspoons berbere 
    2 x 400g cans black beans, drained
    3 bay leaves
    1 dried chipotle chilli (optional)

    Place a large saucepan on medium-high heat and pour in the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion, capsicum and a teaspoon of salt. Allow them to cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes. Stir in the garlic and berbere and then the black beans; pour over enough boiling water to cover the beans. Keep cooking the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender and the sauce is thick and rich.

    If you're using the chipotle chilli, soak it in hot water and add it around 15 minutes before you want to eat.

    Posted August 06, 2014 08:04 AM by Cindy

    August 05, 2014

    Consuming Cate

    Lemon poppyseed cake

    I have always loved lemons, they allow jam to set, make delicious cordials and now this delicious cake. When I lived in Australia a neighbour with a big lemon tree used to leave  a big box of lemons out for passers-by to help themselves to. I used to leave big bags of herbs hung over our fence for others. Living in an apartment I miss these easy aspects of community. Our building is big and we don't know any of the neighbours. It's hard to syy more than "hello, how are you?" when you don't speak much of the language. We're planning on hosting drinks in our building next month after Chris is settled in again after his trip to the States. Fingers crossed people show up! 
    I love lemon poppy seed cake. I bought the lemons and poppy seeds from a market that is on in our town square twice a week. Loads of fresh fruit and vegetables, spices, fish, cheeses, bread, flowers, great fun.
    • 1  and 2/3 cups self raising flour (or same amount of plain flour with 1 teaspoon and 2/3 teaspoon baking powder)
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
    • 2 lemons
    • 1 cup water
    • 2 eggs equivalent no-egg replacer
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    Topping syrup
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup boiling water
    • 1/2 lemon, juiced
    1. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celcius
    2. Line or grease cake tin
    3. In a large bowl, sift flour and add sugar and poppy seeds. Stir gently.
    4. In a small bowl make up egg replacer according to instructions. Add water and olive oil.
    5. Juice 2 lemons and finely grate the zest of one lemon
    6. Add egg mixture and lemons to flour  mixture and combine well.
    7. Add batter to cake tin and cook in oven for about 50 mins or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
    8. Allow cake to cool before removing from tin or adding topping syrup.
    9. Combine topping syrup ingredients and whisk until syrup is formed. Pour lightly over cake upon serving.

    Posted August 05, 2014 07:53 PM by Cate Lawrence

    Green Gourmet Giraffe

    Urban Alice: Northcote cafe

    E loves a record store.  That was the reason we headed to Northcote a few weeks ago.  Once there, it was an opportunity to try out a new cafe.  E had spotted Urban Alice during the ukelele festival.  As Loving Hut was not open for lunch at that time, I agreed to try it.  The menu didn't enthuse me but I loved the welcoming interior.  By the time we left, I felt very warmly towards the cafe that treated us so well.

    I really liked all the quirky touches in the cafe.   One wall is covered with a colourful Urban Alice mural (top photo).  A few touches are reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland: an oversized top hat on a wall, a surreal teapot in a cage and a rabbit beside a fob watch.  I also loved the retro crockery, especially the mugs.

    E had a latte and Sylvia had apple juice.  While we waited for our food, I did some sudoku.  It was really nice that the waitress brought over some pens and paper for Sylvia.  For her lunch, we chose cheese on toast.  E instantly decided he would have the Alice Bagel - egg and bacon on a bagel with chilli jam.

    I showed my hand as a fussy eater when ordering.  Being a vegetarian who doesn't like eggs is always hard with a breakfast menu.  It is all eggs and meat.  Or the same old soup, sandwich and avocado on toast.  So I asked if I could make some changes to the corn cakes with poached eggs, salmon, spinach, tomato and chilli jam.  The waitress said it would be easier if I spoke directly to the chef.  I was so impressed.  He came out and was really helpful in suggesting substitutions.  I had haloumi instead of eggs, and mushrooms instead of salmon.
    If this meal had been on the menu, I would have jumped at the chance to try it.  As it was served with such kindness, I really loved it.  My meal was piping hot.  The haloumi was golden brown and squeaked on my teeth in a pleasing way.  The corn cakes were  soft and tasty.  I am not a huge fan of mushrooms but they were lovely.  And the chilli jam added a lovely flavour without burning the top of my mouth.

    My meal was so huge that I couldn't finish it.  E loved his bagel and helped to mop up my remains and some of sylvia's cheese on toast.  We left feeling very satisfied.  Not only was the food delicious, but the service was thoughtful and helpful.

    Urban Alice
    213 High Street, Northcote, VIC 3070
    Tel: 0401 857 724

    Urban Alice on Urbanspoon

    Posted August 05, 2014 10:50 AM by Johanna GGG

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    Smith & Daughters IV

    July 20, 2014

    We'd brunched our way across North America and fallen in love with a few great places (hi Champs!), so on our return we decided to see how Smith & Daughters measured up to what the US has to offer. We turned up at 10 as they opened and had no problem snaring a table - the downside of our early arrival was that it left me unable to justify breakfast cocktails once again. One day I'll get my weekend started with a gangster horchata... one day.

    I'd heard great things about the egg-free omelettes on the brunch menu and so got onto the baked Spanish omelette (potato, chorizo, mushrooms and sweet peppers topped with saffron sofrito and served with toasted bread, $16)

    This was outstanding - some egginess in the mix (black salt presumably) and a cheesy flavour, little chewy chorizo pieces and a rich sauce across the top. It's a little on the small side, but it's a really high quality breakfast. The burrito that Smith and Daughters serve up is good, but this? This is really excellent.

    Cindy could not be swayed from the Spanish French toast (is that a contradiction?). It's based on Shannon's grandfather's recipe apparently, with the bread dipped in a spiced wine syrup, coated with batter and served with a cluster of golden poached quince wedges ($16). Though the bread looked a crusty, this was soft and cakey all the way through.

    As always we got great, great service at Smith & Daughters. It's got to the point where they're so nice to us that I'm not sure these write-ups can be considered even vaguely objective anymore. On this visit, Mo dropped off a bowl of the horchata rice pudding for our table to share - since Cindy last ordered it it's become more sprawling and fluffy, the charred pineapple is finely cubed for easier distribution and there's a little shredded mint. Brekkie is a great time to visit Smith & Daughters - there's not as much pressure on your table and you can lounge around a bit over a coffee as you enjoy a really top notch meal.

    You can read about our last brunch at S & D here, and our dinner experiences here and here. Since we last wrote about Smith and Daughters it's been enjoyed by Cate's Cakes, Klaus & Fritz, It's an expensive but delicious habit, melbourne with the rocket, A Melbournite and I Spy Plum Pie

    Smith & Daughters
    175 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
    9939 3293
    brunch and booze menu, juices, smoothies and coffees (although the facebook page is really a bit more useful)

    Accessibility: The entry is flat and narrow and the tables are pretty crowded. The interior was a bit quieter and brighter during the daytime. Toilets were located up several steps, were gendered and of standard dimension. There's full table service.

    Posted August 05, 2014 08:14 AM by Michael

    August 04, 2014

    Little Vegan Bear

    Apple Polenta Flan

    This flan is a little something that I had forgotten about until not long ago. I remember my mum making it when we were little, however it was a lost memory until a couple of months ago, when all of a sudden she brought it back into my life.

    As soon as I tasted a mouthful, I had instant taste recognition and memory of this delicious treat – it’s like we never parted!

    polentaflan1This recipe actually comes to you from the Australian Women’s Weekly Vegetarian Cookbook – classic meals coming to you from 1990. When mum made it most recently, she omitted some of the non vegan ingredients.

    I enjoyed it so much, I made it again the following week, but tweaked the recipe, making some substitutions and minor changes.

    5This flan is like nothing else I’ve ever eaten and I love it to death. It’s the perfect thing to eat in the afternoon over a cuppa.

    You’re welcome.

    Apple Polenta Flan

    1 litre non-dairy milk
    3/4 cup coconut sugar
    45g nuttelex
    1 Tbsp
    lemon zest
    1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
    1 cup polenta
    3/4 cup sultanas
    1/3 cup chopped walnuts
    1/2 cup coconut cream
    1 large granny smith apple, thinly sliced
    1 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup
    3 tsp coconut sugar, extra
    1 tsp ground cinnamon, extra

    Preheat oven to 180C and lightly grease a 20cm springform tin.

    Heat the milk, sugar, nuttelex, lemon zest and spices in a medium saucepan. Stir over high heat, without boiling, until sugar is dissolved.

    Bring to boil, reduce heat and stir in polenta. Cover and cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    Remove from heat, stir in sultanas, walnuts and coconut cream. Pour into prepared tin.

    Combine extra sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Arrange apple slices on the top of the flan, then pour maple syrup over the top. Sprinkle with sugar mix.

    Bake for approximately 35 minutes, or until apple is tender and the flan has come slightly away from the side of the tin.

    Cool to room temperature. Remove from tin, serve with a drizzle of coconut cream if desired.


    Posted August 04, 2014 11:02 PM

    Vegan travelling adventures



    DAY 1: I arrived in Taipei just after lunch time, and was starving by the time I got into the city, although I did grab some steamed buns from a small supermarket in the airport to keep me going on the 1 hour long bus ride. After asking several people I eventually found someone who spoke enough English to tell me which of the buns were meat free. I got a taro one and the other was black sesame, both were some of the nicest steamed buns I have ever had.

    It took me quite a long time to find the place where I was staying as most of the street signs were only written in Chinese, but after asking several more people until I found another English speaker I was finally pointed in the right direction. I dropped my bags off and then decided to get the MRT into the city centre with the idea of going to a vegetarian buffet restaurant called Evergreen that I had heard a lot about. However, when I got there I discovered that their dinner price was TWD600 (approx.$20) which was a bit expensive so I left in search of a better deal. Several hours later I was still walking around Zhongshan area trying to find another of the veg restaurants from my happycow list but as I was discovering cities in Taiwan (particularly Taipei) has a very complicated street numbering system which in addition to very few signs in English can make things quite challenging for a non-Mandarin speaker, especially if you’re trying to find a particular place.


    Finally I stumbled upon a Loving Hut tucked down a very colourful and busy alley near Taipei main station. They had an English menu with pictures which was handy. I ordered the spicy dumpling noodle soup, soy nuggets and a very strange tasting mulberry milkshake.

    Loving Hut dinner

    Loving Hut dinner

    The dumpling noodles were the standout, the other things were alright but nothing special. I wondered around for another hour or so and then headed back to the hostel.

    DAY 2: I woke up very early despite still being really tired from the flight so I decided to get the MRT a few stops north to Beitou which, although is still very much in Taipei city is considered to be a village. It is famous for its hot springs. There is also a large park (sorry the name escapes me) with good hiking trails so I spent a few hours exploring around there until it was lunchtime.

    44 Huaining rd, near Taipei main station


    I managed to mind this cute and quirky little Japanese vegan café tucked under the MRT line opposite a big Buddhist temple. Strangely the kitchen was outside on the porch whilst the 4 small tables took up the entire inside space. I got there at 11.30am right on opening time, I was the first one there but it quickly filled up. They have a menu in English available and the staff also spoke some English. I ordered the braised rice with vegetables, the cold tofu and a blueberry milkshake.

    Yummy vegan lunch @ Yummy Vegan House

    It was all quite reasonably priced for the portion size, my meal cost around NT250.

    218 section 1 Zhonggard rd south, Beitou



    After lunch I got back on the MRT still trying to decide where to go next. I ended up at ivegan supermarket, Taiwan’s 1st all vegan supermarket that had only opened a few months ago. I got off at Wanlong MRT and straight away saw the ivegan sign so followed it down a series of laneways.
    The supermarket was huge and divided up into 2 sections. The 1st was the fresh produce sections with a large range of reasonably priced organic fruit and vegies.




    The 2nd was pre -packaged items including a small section of mock meats, various dried and canned goods and lots of vegan cheeses (including Daiya) which was sold either in the regular sized packs and also in 2.5kg packs for NT2000. Surprisingly they had almost no junk food except for small tubs of Loving Hut chocolate ice cream. They also have a small coffee shop just inside the entrance.

    I left ivegan with my sweet craving intact so though a visit to Taipei’s only 100% vegan bakery was in order.

    Near Wanlong MRT, exit 1 turn left and follow ivegan signs


    Fresh bakery

    Fresh bakery


    Black forest cake

    Black forest cake

    Run by an overly friendly Indian guy (sometimes a lady just wants to eat her cake in peace and quiet). I had a slice of black forest cake which was fairly nice but I thought the icing was a tad on the sweet side and there was also a bit too much of it. Fresh bakery also makes lots of different flavoured breads so I got a few to try, including one stuffed with potato and Daiya and my favourite a spiced pumpkin and nut. They are also happy to cater to anyone with allergies with several days notice so if you want GF etc just phone ahead. I had planned to have them as snacks for my day trip to Fulong the following day but after meeting a very sweet and skinny stray dog in a park I ended up donating most of the bread to them.

    466 section 6 Zhongxiao east rd

    It had started to cloud over by the time I left Fresh bakery and had thankfully cooled down a bit too (it was still about 38 degrees with humidity in the high 90s). I had planned on hiking up Elephant mountain and by the time I got to the nearest MRT it had started to rain but I decided to just keep going as it was only supposed to be a short hike (or so I thought).

    After 100’s of steep and slippery stairs I finally made it to the top and was definitely ready to sit down and enjoy the view for a little while. The view was very beautiful and you could see right across Taipei and of course Taipei 101 which was the world’s tallest building until a year or 2 ago.

    View of Taipei 101

    View of Taipei 101

    I was about to head back down the path that I had come up on but then noticed another path that continued going up the next mountain. I was quite enjoying the cool breeze and the rain which was a welcome change from the stifling heat of the city below so I decided to follow the path up for a little while longer. Three hours and 1000’s of stairs later I was still walking; it was now starting to get dark so I was a bit concerned about trying to find my way down. I figured it was probably too late to turn back so just kept going asking the various middle aged men who passed me by on their daily run (FYI Taiwanese men apparently turn into hardcore exercise junkies once they hit 50) until I found one who could speak English and told me that it was only another 40 minutes walking.

    I the path was really slippery from the rain so I went fairly slowly, I was overtaken several times by a guy of about 60+ yo literally running backwards down the stairs (he kept stopping to stretch before overtaking me again). Eventually I made it back to a road but had absolutely no clue where the hell I was. There weren’t many people around to ask except for two women but I managed to gesture to my MRT map however due to the language barrier they weren’t able to tell me directions so one of them very kindly offered to walk me to the closest station which turned out to be a 20 minute walk away which was very kind of her, especially since it was raining.
    On the way back to the hostel I stopped briefly to look around Shilin night market which turned out to be way too touristy, they did have lots of cheap and tasty fruit though.

    DAY 3: HO HAI YAN rock festival

    I was quite excited to be getting out of the city and also at having the chance to check out some Taiwanese indie rock and punk bands at this music festival which I had heard a lot about. The whole festival which is totally free (apparently it’s sponsored by the government who is trying to encourage young people to become more involved the creative and performing arts) it goes for 5 days and takes place literally right sand on Fulong beach.

    Main stage at Ho Hai Yan

    Main stage at Ho Hai Yan

    There was some mix up with my train ticket and the train I had a ticket for either got cancelled or rescheduled so after a few minutes of confusion I was shoved onto one of the local all stations trains to Fulong which unfortunately meant standing up for the entire 2 hour journey, but at least it was air conditioned.

    I got to Fulong ready for lunch but had no clue where or how to find anything vegan as my internet research for this town hadn’t got me anywhere. I sussed a few places out but the language barrier was becoming an issue and I was getting very over heated walking around in the hot sun so settled on a mango shaved ice (with no milk) instead. Most places it is common to pour condensed milk over the fruit on any shaved ice dessert so always be sure to ask for no milk.

    Mango shaved ice

    Mango shaved ice

    Still hungry but feeling much better I headed down to the beach to see what was going on down there. The music hadn’t started yet and the food options were even less vegan friendly than in town (not to self, beach side towns in Taiwan are really into deep fried sea food). After around an hour of walking around on the sand with the burning hot wind I was ready for another dose of air conditioning so went back towards the main street and into the 7/11. The 7/11’s in Taiwan are much more hospitable to the povo vegan backpacker than the ones in other countries and before long I was stocked up with a carton of soy milk, some cold ramen noodle salad and some stuffed tofu skin rolls. I wasn’t sure if the sauce with the noodles was soy or fish sauce (it definitely didn’t smell like soy) so I just ate the noodles plain. Most 7/11’s and Family Marts also sell whole roasted sweet potatoes and yams and will have a selection of steamed buns, with some vegetarian options too which is quite useful if you can’t find anything else to eat.

    7/11 lunch

    7/11 lunch

    Most of the bands playing were pretty decent although the majority of them just sounded like Greenday or Offspring tribute bands. The highlight for me was a girl pop/metal band (yeah you read that one right) called P!sco. The day was also quite a good learning experience in Taiwanese culture. Firstly, I learned that Taiwan is an extremely safe country. The amount of people who I saw just dumping their bags with all their valuables in them on the sand and then just wondering off to go for a swim or to get food completely out of site from their bags took me a while to get used to, but no one seemed the slightest bit concerned about their stuff being stolen. Taiwanese also prefer to swim fully clothed and apparently don’t like to go further than knee deep. Several times I went in as far as waist deep only to have some guy (I think he was a lifeguard) frantically coming up to me in a speed boat motioning at me to move back to the “safe area”. It was a really fun festival and although I ended up with some very bad sunburn as a momento it was a great day out and met some awesome people too.

    DAY 4: Feeling a bit worse for wear with my sunburn/heat stroke I decided to have a lazy inside day. After catching up on some research in internet land I ventured out into the heat in search of some food. I had planned to visit Loving Vegan, one of the only entirely vegan buffets in Taipei. It was a bit of a trek as it was right on the southern edge of the city, but when I eventually got to the address I found it was closed and semi abandoned looking (still not sure if it was closed down or just closed that day). I went to back to the MRT and headed for my next restaurant of choice.


    This very aptly named pay by weight vego buffet is situated right across the road from Shida university about a 10 minute walk from Taipower building MRT, making it a popular hangout place for students. There was no sign in English so just look for the street number. I was really hungry by the time I arrived so I grabbed a cardboard tray (they don’t use plates for some reason) and a pair of tongs and piled up my plate as high as I could with lots of tofu and vegies. FYI many of the mock meats in Taiwan are made using egg and dairy ingredients so if in doubt it’s best to avoid them.My tray was about 3x bigger than everyone else’s and cost NT270. Everything was very fresh and delicious, especially the pumpkin.


    Buffet @Vegetarian Paradise

    Buffet @Vegetarian Paradise

    182 Heping E rd, MRT Taipower building


    On the way back I stopped in at one of the vegetarian restaurants near to where I was staying to get some takeout for my hiking trip the following day. I just kept it simple and ordered some fried tofu, rice and stir fried greens. Some of the staff spoke good English and English menu was also available. Whilst ordering I spotted a fried tofu skin dish stuffed with taro which sounded interesting so I got that for dinner.

    Taro stuffed tofu skins

    Taro stuffed tofu skins

    It was very yummy, the outside of it was several layers of crispy fried tofu skin with a thin layer of finely grated spicy veggies with steamed chunks of taro in the middle, it went perfectly with the salty crunchy pickled veggies that it came with.

    357 Zhongzheng rd, MRT Shilin

    DAY 5: It was an early start for the hike in Yangmingshan national park. I’d come across some hiking group on Facebook that had organised it so just joined up with them. There were about 8 of us in total, a mix of Aussies, Taiwanese, a Russian and a Singaporean. We met up at the MRT station and then got a bus to the trail head about an hour away.

    The first hour of the hike was through some very scenic open grassland with lots of cows. We then walked down into a valley where it slowly turned into rainforest. The path we planned to take was “official closed due to landslides” but it was still easily accessible aside from one small section where the track was missing so we had to climb down the cliff using ropes to the next part. The forest was teaming with a huge array of insects, particularly butterflies; a couple of the others were stung by wasps along the way.

    Bayan hot springs

    Bayan hot springs

    3 hours later we finally reached our destination: Bayan hot springs, a beautiful natural hot spring that flows into a river at the base of a waterfall with a succession of pools, each a different temperature cascading down the river. It reminded me quite a lot of the amazing hot springs I visited in northern Sumatra last year. After a quick cool off in the waterfall I jumped into the hot spring with the others, it was very relaxing and peaceful. There were only 3 or 4 other people aside from our group (this hot spring is “officially closed too”). We stayed for around 2 hours going back and forth between the hot spring and waterfall and then walked the half hour back to the main road to catch the bus, stopping at a few places along the river to take photos. I just got some snacks at a supermarket for dinner and for my train ride to Hualien the next day.


    DAY 6: I was pleasantly surprised when I stepped off the train in Hualien to discover it was a bit cooler than Taipei (still horrendously hot though). I quickly dropped off my bags and then consulted a map to check where the closest vegan food options were located then headed out to find somewhere for lunch. My first pick was an all vegan buffet restaurant called Guo Xiang Yuan that was recommended by some random local guy I was chatting to at the train station. However after doing several laps of the street it was on with no sign of it, I gave up and headed for the next best option.

    GREENLAND (also called Green Earth by locals)

    It was around 3pm when I finally arrived at Greenland to discover that they had just closed and wouldn’t reopen until 4.30pm (FYI it is very common for many restaurants to close in the mid- afternoon period from around 2.30pmish- 4.30pmish). So I thought I’d just wander around the town for a couple of hours until they reopened. I only got a few hundred metres up the road when I found an ice shop which looked too irresistible given the heat so I got a matcha red bean shaved ice. Most shaved ice desserts will usually be served with condensed milk and sometimes ice cream or sorbet (some sorbets are vegan depending on which shop you go to. To ask for no milk you can either say “wo buxiang chi nai”, (“I don’t drink milk”) or if they don’t understand your pathetic attempts at Chinese pronunciation as happened to me on multiple occasions you can just point to it in a picture and say “bu” (“no”).

    Matcha red bean shaved ice

    Matcha red bean shaved ice

    Right on 4.30pm I went back to Greenland more than ready for lunch/dinner. Only very minimal English was spoken by staff but they had an English menu so ordering was easy enough. I got the sesame noodle rainbow salad, crispy fried tofu and a mystery vegetable juice (I tried to ask what was in the juice to no avail so just took a gamble that there would be no tomato in it.

    Greenland dinner

    Greenland dinner


    Everything was awesome and even nicer than I had expected, the noodle salad was deliciously fresh and the spicy tahini sauce was really yummy. The fried tofu was also really nice and cam served with lots of veggies too.
    Greenland was a little pricier than the standard veg buffets but still reasonable prices; I think mine came to around NT220.

    143 Jianguo rd

    DAY 7: Began with an early start to stock up on snacks and get some breakfast from 7/11 before an hour long bus ride to Taroko gorge. I just got some bananas, soy milk, a taro flavoured steamed bun and a roast purple yam.

    Roast purple yam from Family Mart

    Roast purple yam from Family Mart

    Taroko gorge is an overwhelmingly huge place, with steep marble cliffs rises up right out of the ocean to over 2000m in height, the entire park covers an area of around 1000km sq. I bought the day bus pass so I could just hop on and off the shuttle bus anywhere which made it easier to hike from one part to another. I just did a few of the trails as it was a very hot and sunny day and the crowds of people in some places made it far less enjoyable. The swallow grotto trails which went along the edge of the gorge for several km’s going through a few tunnels along the way was nice as it allowed you to see all the patterns in the marble. It was however one of the most popular and easily accessible trails so if you don’t want to have all your nice gorge photos being photo-bombed by elderly Chinese tourists trying to elbow you out of the way either go here early or go somewhere else. The Bunyan waterfall trail was probably my favourite because it was mostly in the shade and a lot less touristy. It was a very pleasant 6km walk each way following the river upstream.

    Taroko gorge

    Taroko gorge


    By around 4pm I was a bit over walking around in the heat constantly and was also getting hungry but didn’t want any of the mediocre and outrageously priced food that was available in the park so got the bus back to Hualien.

    On the bus ride back into town I discovered a date bar and some nuts at the bottom of my bag which was quite exciting so I decided to skip dinner and just go straight for dessert. It was back to the previously mentioned ice shop for a mango and red bean shaved ice.


    DAY 8: After one last ditch attempt to locate Guo Xiang Yuan, I finally gave up and went to another veg buffet place near to the train station for lunch before I caught my train to Ruisui. For NT200 (approx $6) this buffet restaurant is all you can eat rather than the usual pay by weight, what’s better is that it also included drinks and dessert. You pay at the counter first and are then given a spoon and chopsticks. There didn’t appear to be any order in which way you should go around in the buffet section so be sure not to pile up your ridiculously small plate too high because all the elderly Chinese people that pack out this restaurant at lunchtime seem pretty hell bent on getting to every single dish before you at any cost.


    There were all the usual type dishes you’d expect at a veg restaurant, there was also a big salad bar and lots of different types of dumplings and sauces to choose from. The dessert consisted of the regular tofu puddings with tapioca balls, herb jelly and a few different kinds of mocha and flavoured sticky rice. The food wasn’t amazing by any standards and was fairly bland but it was fresh relatively healthy and cheap so it’s still worth a visit if you’re in Hualien.

    22 Fu an rd

    Before my train I also bought some mocha from one of the many fresh mocha stalls located next to the station.


    DAY 9: I’d wanted to stop in one of the small towns between Hualien and Taitung to explore the area and little more, however the accommodation in most places was way beyond my budget. Ruisui, a small hot spring town about 1 ½ hours south of Hualien was the only viable option so I booked a room at the oldest and cheapest place in town which was actually about 5km’s out of town in a tiny little backwater village called Hongye. The hotel was a Japanese tatami style that has apparently been in the same family since it opened 90 years ago and very little has changed since. I had planned on doing some cycling around the area but after discovering that the hotel didn’t have rental bikes (despite their website clearly stating they did) I learned that it would be a 5km walk in the hot sun to get into town to rent a bike so I decided to just have a lazy day and make the most out of the hot springs instead.

    My bamboo mat room

    My bamboo mat room

    The hot spring water was into pumped into some very tacky looking concrete pools with a fake natural rock finish out of a natural spring which flowed down the mountain just behind the hotel. There were 3 pools with varying temperatures, the hottest being about 48C. The water in this spring is apparently very high in iron oxide and sodium which gives the water a particularly unappealing rusty brown colour but at least it didn’t have that hideous sulphur smell like many other hot springs and it was very pleasant and relaxing once I was in the pool anyway.

    I had a midday train to catch t Taitung and after a bit of internet research I discovered that there was a vegetarian restaurant in Ruisui close to the train station so set off into town with plenty of time to spare to find it and have lunch. It was pretty simple to find the address but when I got there I wasn’t too sure how accurate my info was as it just looked like someone’s lounge room with a freezer full of mock meats in it. The lady inside spotted me lingering on the door step and motioned for me to come in, after a few moments of confusion and failed attempts to speak Chinese, I managed to get the point across that I was hungry and didn’t eat egg. The lady then disappeared up stairs; there was no menu so I had absolutely no idea what to expect when she re-appeared 10 or so minutes later with a lunchbox and a bowl of soup. It turned out ok, it was just very simple, plain food with rice, some green veggies and a few different kinds of mock meat. The meal cost TWD65.

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    2 Guoguang N rd (2 blocks from station then turn left), sign only in Chinese so look for the street number.


    On the train ride to Taitung I was invited out to dinner with some randoms that I’d started chatting to (they were Taiwanese but now lived in Melbourne). So I went out with them to a non-vegetarian restaurant (I have no idea what it was called but it was near the beach somewhere). I left ordering up to them since I couldn’t read the menu. The food was nice enough but nothing exciting.


    I was staying right next to the night market which is also nicknamed “Fruit street” due to the huge array of fruit stalls that lined the street on both sides for several blocks. There were also about 3 or 4 vegetarian restaurants within 100m which I was completely unaware of (all the signs were only in Chinese) until the very sweet girl at my hostel kindly offered to take me on a veg tour of the neighbourhood and pointed them out. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to go to any of them but they were all in the laneways off Fruit st near the Carrefour supermarket.

    DAY 10: While there were quite a few vegan eating options in Taitung they all seemed to be fairly spread out and a bit challenging to find, mainly due to there being considerably less street signs in English than other cities in Taiwan. I’d managed to find Loving Hut pretty easily but for lunch I decided to go to another less generic more interesting sounding vegetarian restaurant called Denim Elephant.

    On the walk there I passed a mocha shop that I’d been told was very famous amongst locals in Taitung so I dropped in and bought a few different ones for snacks on the train (I ended up eating them all on the way to Denim Elephant).


    This very funky little vegetarian restaurant is attached to an art gallery in a quiet back alley, it is packed full of elephant statues, pictures and knickknacks, the seats were upholstered with used denim jeans. It had a pretty chilled vibe and an English menu, the friendly wait staff spoke a little English but when I asked what was egg free there was some confusion, but she miraculously was able to decipher my Chinese attempt at “I don’t eat egg” (“wo bu chi jidan”) and marked the things on the menu that were vegan. I ordered the fried noodles and an iced green tea.



    Unfortunately the food didn’t match the vibe, or even come remotely close; it was probably the most disgusting meal of my Taiwan trip thus far. It was literally a bland plate of stodgy partially uncooked noodles with a few token bits of veg swimming in an oily pool of flavourless liquid.  It cost NT170 which I thought was too expensive for such crap and simple food. It was back to 7/11 and then the fruit market to buy food to keep me going for the 2 ½ hour journey to Koahsiung.

    181 Guangdong rd


    By the time I arrived it was pouring with rain, thundering and starting to get dark, luckily I was staying right near an MRT station. I grabbed a map of the city to find where the closest restaurants were and found one about 3 blocks away. While I was in Hualien several day before I’d also asked someone to write out in Chinese “where is the closest vegetarian restaurant” so I also showed that to a few random people on the street who pointed on a map where there were others nearby so I knew I had about 4 to choose from with a 5 minute walk of where I was staying which was quite handy.


    This buffet was so awesome that I ended up eating here every day during my 3 days in Kaohsiung, they had a huge range of fresh, tasty and mostly vegan dishes to choose from and it was half the price of all the other places. I piled up my plate on all 3 visits to this restaurant and prices ranged from NT95-115 which I thought was a total bargain considering the amount of food that I got and the quality.

    Plate 3

    Plate 3

    plate 2

    plate 2

    plate no. 1

    plate no. 1


    131 Dayi st on the corner of Sinle st

    DAY 11: I rented a bike for the day and cycled around the city, up to the Lotus pond and then down along the river. Despite continuously putting on huge amounts of sunscreen throughout the day I still managed to get horribly sunburnt (and I’d only just recovered from my Hohaiyan sunburn, sigh).


    During my bike ride I stumbled upon this street side eatery, there was a large picture menu so it was easy to order just by pointing. I’m not sure if it’s entirely vegan but when I queried (in Chinese) I was told that everything was egg free and meat free. My Chinese pronunciation of the word milk (“nai”) still need some work it seems so I couldn’t find out if anything contained dairy. I got a veggie curry for NT70, it was pretty tasty.



    337-1 Huarong rd

    For dinner it was back to Qian Ye (see above for picture).

    DAY 12: I had planned a day trip to Meinong to cycle out to Yellow butterfly valley and take in some of the local Hakka culture of the area, I trip which I’d been looking forward to for a while, but I woke up feeling a little worse for wear from my sunburn. I had also realised that it was Monday (it took me a while to figure that one out) and the Hakka museum I wanted to go to in Meinong was closed on Mondays, so I ended up having an inside day and caught up on some washing and travel planning. I couldn’t really be bothered to venture too far in search of food so I ended up back at Qian Ye for round 3.


    DAY 13: I was quite happy to be getting out of Kaohsiung, it was an alright city but didn’t really like the vibe that much and was starting to get a bit bored. It was just a half hour train trip to get to the much nicer and friendlier Tainan. After a few hours of wondering around the city centre I went to Guli’s natural vegetarian restaurant but it was closed. I then went to see the Confusionist temple where I found another veggie place across the road but decided to go to a vegetarian buffet restaurant near to where the Monday/Tuesday night market is held.


    Long Spring vegetarian buffet

    Long Spring vegetarian buffet


    It turned out to be a pretty choice to come here instead and totally worth the 20 minute walk. This place was massive and had a huge range of dishes, with quite a lot of Japanese style stir fried vegetables and a good selection of vegan sushi rolls. My plate cost NT180 and was delicious.


    Long Spring plat #2

    Long Spring plat #2

    201 section 1 Datong rd

    DAY 14: The plan for the day was to rent a bike and explore the outer edges of Tainan and the historic old city of Anping. However, thanks to typhoon Matmo that plans got canned pretty quickly when I woke up to the sound of torrential wind and rain lashing the rooftop. Thankfully Tainan escaped the brunt of the storm which mostly hit around the Hualien area and by late morning it seemed to have cleared enough to venture outside. I decided to walk into town instead of going by bike, figuring that I could just get a bus if it started to rain again. It was very pleasant walking (for a little while at least), the rain had cooled things down considerably to a refreshing 29C. About 20 minutes into my walk it suddenly started to pour again and a rather strong wind came up. Just as I was attempting to get my raincoat, which turned out to not be anywhere near as waterproof as I’d hoped, out of my bag some random guy on a motorbike pulled up beside me and gave me his spare raincoat (Taiwanese are seriously the nicest people ever). The raincoat proved to be an invaluable item of clothing for the day as the wind and rain kept pelting down in sudden bursts throughout the day. I had hoped to go to Guli’s natural veg for lunch but when I got there I found that it was closed still (there is a slight possibility that I had the wrong address) along with just about all the other shops due to the typhoon. Wandering where to go for lunch I tossed up the idea of going to one of the places in Anping but figured that I probably wouldn’t make it there in time for lunch. By this point I was fairly close to Long Spring vegetarian buffet so ended up eating there again.

    After lunch I walked all the way to Anping, it took around 2 and a bit hours because I kept having to stop and take shelter every time there was a torrential downpour or the wind came up. Eventually I made it to discover that just about everything aside from 7/11 and a few dessert places were closed and the streets were largely disserted so I just wandered around looking at all the old buildings etc for a while until I came to Yunhe st which I knew had a small street side vegan eatery on it.


    I found it pretty easily as there is a large green vegan sign out the front as well as lots of vegan stickers. It was however, all closed up but stopped briefly to look at the menu display board (it was all in Chinese), just then someone opened the roller door and came out. After asking the very lovely women (named Jessica) if they were going to be open for dinner she told me that they were closed for the day because of the typhoon but if I told her what time I wanted to eat she’d happily cook me something. I arranged to come back in a few hours and then set off on a bit more exploring. Everything I wanted to do/see in the area was closed including the Anping tree house and the Aboriginal cultural park but I did find a nice park with some quality play equipment during one of the brief dry periods of the day so that was good.

    I went back to the vegan street stall at the specified time to find that Jessica had a 5 course meal ready and waiting for me (I really would have been happy with just one dish since I was still pretty full from lunch). I had some delicious dumplings, easily the nicest I’ve had in Taiwan thus far, she had also made some very tasty mushroom rice with veggies, soup, a fruit bowl with some chips and a cup of freshly made soymilk. If that wasn’t enough already she then brought out a bowl a freshly made herb jelly in a sauce made of sweetened black soy milk.

    Everything tasted amazing and was so lovingly made. Jessica was really sweet and spoke excellent English so we chatted a bit. She told me a story about how she went backpacking in Europe about 20 years ago (long before it became the vegan wonderland it is now), and she nearly starved to because it was so hard to find food so now every time a vegan traveller shows up at her stall she always wants to make sure they’re well fed.


    Dumplings and mushroom rice

    Dumplings and mushroom rice

    After enjoying my awesome vegan dinner and refusing Jessica’s repeated attempts to laden me with yet more food I got up to pay and was shocked when she said it only came to NT50 (less to AU$2) for everything. I tried to convince her to charge me a more reasonable amount but she wouldn’t have a bar of it and said she just wanted to spread some good vegan traveller karma. If you’re visiting Tainan this place is definitely worth a visit, the food was so delicious and fresh and made with such love, not to mention the nice atmosphere and the pleasant view overlooking the water, and please say hello to Jessica for me.

    24 Yunhe st, Anping


    DAY 15: My original plan was to travel from Tainan to Chiayi and then onto to Alishan by bus for 1 day before going on to the small mountain village of Fenqihu where there were some hiking trails that sounded interesting before returning to Chiayi via the Alsihan forest train for a music festival. However, typhoon Matmo put these plans into jeopardy as much of the transport in the area had been suspended until further notice due to the weather and the national park around Alishan had also been closed off to visitors. In the morning I was due to leave Tainan, however I heard that the park was likely to reopen the next day so I decided to get a train to Chiayi anyway and figure out where to go from there. When I arrived I found out that the trains were still not operating but there were buses, the only hostel (and only affordable place to stay in Alishan) would not reopen until the following day. Since I was running out of time in Taiwan I couldn’t really spare a day waiting it out in Chiayi so I decided to head to Fenqihu first and then onto to Alishan from there, even though that meant having to get the much more nauseating and far less scenic bus in both directions and missing out on the famous Alishan forest mountain train (the train line currently only goes as far Fenqihu due to typhoon damage from several years ago, repairs on the Alsihan leg are still underway).

    The visitor information desk at the train station were able to call ahead and book the hostel in Fenqihu for me so with 3 ½ hours to kill before my bus I wandered off in the directions of the closest vegetarian buffet restaurant which was only a few hundred metres from the train station.


    Tucked away under a large sign, I walked right passed it the first time. Probably one of the less impressive veg buffets of my Taiwan trip, it was more of a local budget joint. Despite it being bang on 12 midday they didn’t seem to have much food left, it also didn’t look particularly appetising but figuring it was possibly my last chance for a few days to have a decent meal I thought I should get something so I picked out some of the scraps that looked the least likely to give me food poisoning.


    There were quite a few tofu dishes and hardly any mock meat which made a nice change, the dumplings were actually quite good, everything else was edible but that’s about it. It cost NT83

    257 Ren’ai st (directly opposite train station)

    After my meal I walked along the street for a little while and then headed back to the train station. I stopped and got a very delicious mango smoothie bubble tea (with no milk or sugar) from a small shop across the road from the restaurant. It was bloody huge and super tasty with lots of chunks of fresh mango and coconut, and it only cost NT65.

    The bus ride to Fenqihu was certainly not boring, although the steep, narrow and nauseatingly winding road did make me regret eating beforehand, not to mention the erratic driving of the bus driver who didn’t quite seem to understand the concept of braking/slowing down before going around a sharp bend. He instead seemed to take great delight n going as fast as possible around every corner and seeing how many passengers would get thrown from one side of the bus to another. Within 30 minutes of driving we were already almost 1000m higher in altitude.

    2 hours later I arrived in Fenqihu in one piece, and followed some random strangers from the bus who were also staying at the same place down the hill to the Catholic church which had the only affordable accommodation in town. I’m not usually one to go within sight of any kind of religious establishment but given the distinct lack of any other affordable options in town there wasn’t really much choice. The hostel is run by a very sweet, albeit rather nosy little old nun from Switzerland, they offer very basic and somewhat musty and weird loft dorm rooms to povo travellers like myself, and at NT300 a night it’s about a tenth of the price of any of the nice little b & b’s in the village.

    After checking in to my 15 bed dorm room that I had entirely to myself (thankyou typhoon Matmo), I ventured out for a short stroll before it got dark. I found myself on the giant cypress boardwalk trail just a few minutes later. The path was extremely slippery due the large amount of moss covering the wooden planks and it was littered with lots of branches and fallen trees that came down during the typhoon the day before so it was quite slow going but very beautiful and peaceful. About an hour later I exited the trail and walked back up the steep hill to the Old st where there were a few shops. Market stalls and a 7/11. Most places were closed already so my only dinner option was 7/11. I bought a few packets of nuts to have as snacks for my hike the next morning and some cookies. I walked up the hill to a bench to eat some of them and was followed by a very sweet, sad and hungry stray dog so I ended up sharing a pack of Oreo cookies with him before returning to 7/11 to buy him some noodles for dinner because I felt so sorry for him.

    DAY 16: The next morning I was up at 4:45am to hike the Fenqihu- Ruili historic trail which I had seen pictures of on the internet and thought looked rather spectacular. The trail is 7km’s each way and goes through some stunning giant bamboo forests to the peak of a mountain before going back down into a valley to the small town of Ruili. The track is only one way and there is no public transport between Ruili and Fenqihu so if you go there you then have to turn around and hike the 3 ½ hours back along the same path.

    The plan was to hopefully make the return journey and then be back in Fenqihu by 12 midday to catch the last bus to Alishan, otherwise I would have to spend another night in Fenqihu. It was a beautiful clear morning, with lovely fresh cool mountain air and almost no humidity thanks to Fenqihu’s 1500m elevation so walking up the hill to the start of the trailhead was very pleasant. I found the track easily which was clearly marked (in English), the first hour was up some very steep and slippery moss covered stone steps. I had to go very slowly as the track had not yet been cleared after the typhoon and there were a lot of fallen trees that I had to duck under/climb over. After a while it finally levelled out a little to a dirt track as the scenery gradually changed from rainforest to bamboo forest. At one point there was an eerie mist flowing up the side of the mountain that got caught in the sunlight making the forest look like it was straight out of a fairy tale.

    Fenqihu-Ruli historic trail

    Fenqihu-Ruli historic trail


    The trail was easy to follow as it was well signed the entire way telling you how far you’d gone and how much further there was to go. Eventually I made it to Ruili and sat down in a clearing on the side of the road to have a rest and some snacks. About 30 minutes later I was contemplating heading back when it started to rain fairly heavily. I wasn’t that keen on hiking all the way back to Fenqihu in the rain given how slippery the path was and it was also getting quite late and knew that if I hiked back I definitely wouldn’t make it back in time for the bus so I decided to hitchhike back instead. Although the trail is only 7km’s from Fenqihu to Ruili the road is 22km’s and there was very little traffic so I was really hoping I didn’t have to walk all the way back along the road in the increasingly heavy rain. Thankfully though after just a few hundred metres of walking a nice old man in a fruit and vegetable truck stopped to offer me a ride. I had no idea where he was going and vice a versa due to the language barrier but I eventually managed to find a map of the area written in Chinese in my bag and pointed to where I was going. He wasn’t going anywhere near there but kindly gave me a ride all the way back anyway, he even stopped a few times to let me take photos which was super nice of him. I made it back to Fenqihu by 11.30am so I had plenty of time to pick up my bags and also grab some take-away food for the bus ride to Alishan.


    I didn’t know of any vegetarian places in Fenqihu since it was so small but I thought I would go and see if Fenqihu hotel had anything vegan as they are famous for their lunchbox meals which come served in a cute little take-away box made out of bamboo. No English was spoken so I attempted to tell them in my horrendous Chinese that I was vegetarian and didn’t eat egg, which the women thankfully understood and disappeared off into the kitchen. She came back a few minutes later with some food for me so I paid the NT100 and headed up the hill to the train station to wait for the bus.

    Vegan lunchbox from Fenqihu hotel

    Vegan lunchbox from Fenqihu hotel

    My lunch was surprisingly delicious, it had a base of rice with various stir fried vegetables (I have no idea what the bright red stuff was but it was really tasty) and some kind of fake dead thing.

    Fancy lake hotel is on the Old st directly below 7/11


    I didn’t have any accommodation booked yet in Alishan as the Catholic hostel there was closed the previous day so hadn’t been able to call ahead (the only cheap accommodation in Alishan is also the same deal as in Fenqihu). When I eventually arrived I went to the visitor centre to get directions and was told that the hostel ws already fully booked but they knew of another place nearby that had cheap dorm rooms so they took me over there.

    It was a crappy, musty and very run down looking hotel just off the main parking lots where all the shops are. It was a bit more expensive than the Catholic hostel (NT700) a night for the dorm room and was definitely way more disgusting but there wasn’t any other choice and by this time it was pouring with rain so I settled for a bed in a damp and musty dorm room which I ended up having all to myself. As soon as the rain let up a little I went out for a walk, the park is horrendously touristy during the day with busload after busload of elderly Chinese tourists but from 4pm onwards it is almost completely disserted and had a much nicer vibe. I finally found my way to the giant tree trail which was one of the main reasons I’d wanted to go to Alishan to see. It was still raining fairly steadily so the rain coat that the kind random guy on a motorbike in Tainan had given me came in handy once again. I walked past the 3rd generation tree which was pretty amazing and also the huge “sacred tree” to the board walked giant tree trail 1 that goes through a beautiful forest of giant red Cyrpress trees, many of which are around 2000 years old.

    I finally arrived at the end of the track which opened up into a viewing area on the edge of the mountain and was greeted with an absolutely stunning sunset, so I hang around to watch that and then made my way back to the village to find somewhere to have dinner.


    Located around the corner from the main tourist drag near the train station, they had an English menu available and the staff happily pointed out which things were vegan once I explained what I wanted (or didn’t want).

    I ordered the sizzling tofu with some rice, nothing fancy or amazing but it was fairly tasty and filling.

    Around the corner from 7/11 going towards the train station

    DAY 17: I woke up at 3.30am and stumbled out of the hotel and towards the already packed train station to purchase my ticket for the sunrise train which, as I kept getting told was a “must do” in Taiwan. The train took 20 minutes to reach the top of the mountain at an altitude of around 2600m. While 99% of people went straight for the horribly over crowded viewing platform directly in front of the station I decided to walk a few hundred metres further up the path to an area that had far superior views and very few other people.

    Sizzling tofu

    Sizzling tofu

    The sunrise was quite stunning; as the light increased a sea of cloud completely enveloped the mountains below making it appear as if the top of the mountain where I was standing was floating above to clouds.
    To get back down the mountain there are 2 options, the train which involved a long wait in line and then a chaotic fight with a whole bunch of elderly Chinese tourists who seemingly want nothing more than to elbow everyone out of their way and even knock others to the ground just so they can get a seat on a mere 20 minute train ride, or a nice leisurely 1 ½ hour stroll downhill on an almost disserted trail through some beautiful forests with stunning views across the countryside. I personally would recommend the latter.



    Alishan sunset

    Alishan sunset

    3rd generation tree @ Alishan

    3rd generation tree @ Alishan

    I got back to my hotel at about 7.30am and noticed a lot of people going in and out of the basement carrying plates which I had assumed was just storage or something else equally as boring. I’d already had my usual banana and soy milk breakfast from 7/11 so wasn’t really hungry but curiosity got the better of me so I went downstairs to see if there was any worthwhile. As it turned out the was a considerable upside to staying in a hotel as opposed to a hostel, FREE BREAKFAST. There weren’t any labels on the food so I just asked someone if anything was vegetarian, to my surprise I discovered that everything was actually vegan by default. The breakfast buffet consisted of rice porridge, steamed bread, freshly made hot soy milk and a selection of stir-fried tofu and vegetable dishes. I grabbed a few different things for my 2 ½ hour bus ride back to Chiayi and then went back to my room to pack my bag.

    While waiting for the bus I did a quick lap past all the tourist shops to have a look and couldn’t go past the mocha stall without getting some. I got a few different flavours of mini mocha on a stick; each mochi cost NT8 each and were all delicious.

    Mochi on a stick

    Mochi on a stick


    I’d heard about a 3 day metal/punk music festival happening in Chiayi and luckily it happened to coincide with when I was passing through Chiayi. I’d originally planned to go to Taichung as well but I was running out of time so decided to give it a miss in favour of going to one day of Wake up fest. The hostels were all booked out and I couldn’t find anyone to couchsurf with at such short notice but at the last minute I found a place on airbnb. The owner only sent me the address and directions in Chinese and when I cut and paste them into google translate they made absolutely no sense whatsoever. So I arrived in Chiayi with only a faint idea of where I was actually going. I managed to find the right area easily enough but there were no street signs so I had trouble finding the correct street but some random guy on a motorbike stopped and asked if I needed help and then gave me a ride to the street I was looking for. Unfortunately though, I had the wrong street number for the place (FYI Google translate is shite), so I ended up walking all the way back to the station in the hope of finding internet so I could ask a person to translate my Chinese directions. I was almost all the way back at the station when some random guy wanting to practice his English asked if I needed help. He kindly let me check my emails on his phone so I could get the address and then he called up the place where I was staying to get directions (apparently they didn’t make any sense in Chinese either). The guy who owned the place where I was staying offered to come to the station to pick me up since it was so hot, which was awesome so I sat down and chatted to the random guy for a while until my lift arrived.

    It was getting late and the festival had already started so I dumped my bags in my room and quickly headed back out again. The festival took place in the creative industries and cultural park just next to the train station so it was just a short walk. Wake up fest is quite a small more DIY type festival but it had a really cool chilled out vibe, quite unusual for a metal festival. There were 3 outdoor stages and one inside an air conditioned warehouse, there was also an alternative clothing market with lots of handmade fashion by local designers and the usual type of festival food stalls. Most of the bands were local Taiwan bands but there were also a few from other countries including South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Australia and UK.

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    I was really surprised at the diversity of the crowd, although it was mostly 15-25yos, there were also quite a lot of families with young children and even a few 70+ yos who were rocking out including a sweet little old lady who was pushing her husband around in a wheelchair. I discovered a tonne of new favourite bands throughout the day, but my top picks were Solemn, an epic 7 piece metal band with one of the best female metal drummers that I have ever seen and 88balaz, a fun punky 3 piece. There was also a Korean black metal band called SEED who were pretty rad too. The festival was quite an interesting insight into Taiwanese culture, despite the majority of bands being on the heavier side which is usually a very male dominated scene in most countries, over half of the bands at Wake up fest however had at least one female band member and quite a few were all girl bands. The crowd also had a much higher percentage of women than you’d expect to find at most metal festivals in other places, and were almost even numbers. I was also quite surprised to see so many girls diving into the circle pits which was pretty awesome to see, girls in Taiwan are obviously way more into their metal and music in general than in other places.

    Solemn- one of my new favourite bands @Wakeup fest

    Solemn- one of my new favourite bands @Wakeup fest


    I was really impressed with all of the bands although Solemn were still my definite favourites, once again there were a high percentage of women there rocking out. The crowds in Taiwan are also considerably better than in Australia (no drunk bogan dickheads) which meant that I could quite easily get up the front and enjoy myself without having to worry about get pushed and shoved about by some egotistical wanker.

    None of the food stalls at the festival were vegan friendly from what I could tell so I went back to that cheap veg buffet place (Gongbing) near the station to grab some food to go, as well as another mango bubble tea from the shop across the road before heading back to the fest to eat it.

    Wake up fest was probably my favourite music festival of the 2 that I went to as it had a much cooler vibe and was more alternative and DIY than Ho Hai Yan, I was way more into the line-up too. Of all the bands I saw only one was kind of crap (the UK one) all the local bands were awesome and I was really impressed with the quality and ingenuity of the alternative music scene in Taiwan which seems to be very much alive and well.

    TAIPEI (again)


    DAY 18: I had a ticket already for the 12:20pm train back to Taipei which took 3 ½ hours. After checking out I walked about 15 minutes up the road to a small, more local budget vegetarian buffet to get some food for the train ride. This buffet was pretty much indistinguishable from most other buffets in that price range, with all the usual types of dishes on offer. I piled up my cardboard take-out container and paid the NT83 then made my way back to the station stopping at one of the many breakfast places to buy a vegetarian steamed bun and some soy milk for breakfast. Sorry forgot to take photo.

    419 section 1 Bo’ai rd

    The train ride back to Taipei was quite pleasant (trains in Taiwan are considerably nicer than Australia’s), the journey seemed to go quite quickly and before I knew it I was back in Taipei main station. Although I was excited to be back in Taipei it also meant that I was near the end of my Taiwanese trip which was a shame.

    Earlier that morning whilst trying to find out the names of all my new favourite bands in English (the info on set times at the festival was all in Chinese) I’d found out that one of my new favourite bands from Wak up fest (Solemn) was playing a show in Taipei that night at one of the most well-known live indie music venues in town called the Wall so I was keen to go and check them out again. Solemn were part of a 4 band line-up that consisted entirely of female fronted metal bands, 3 were from Taipei and the headliners Head phones president were from Japan.

    DAY 19: After a bit of a sleep in I walked around the corner to a fruit shop to grab some fruit for breakfast when of course I came across a vegetarian buffet restaurant so a few hours later I headed back there for lunch. It was the standard mid-range buffet similar to Long Spring in Tainan, but they had a few less common dishes including steamed taro. My plate cost about NT170


    Yummy vegan buffet lunch

    Yummy vegan buffet lunch

    286 Dalong st (sing only in Chinese)

    After lunch I got the MRT to Da’an park as it was one area of the city that I hadn’t spent much time yet. I ended up having a bit of a knap in the shade before making full use of the awesome play equipment and monkey bars in the park’s play area which seemed to have an unusually high number of adults playing there (or maybe that’s just normal in Taiwan).

    By chance, on one of my first days in Taipei several weeks earlier I’d heard about a tattoo studio in Taipei called Queen Tattoo Ink that only tattoos women. I really liked their work that I’d seen on their Facebook page which had lots of beautiful colour and shading. I’d been thinking about getting one of my tattoos turned into something else for a while but hadn’t really given it much in depth thought until I heard about this studio but thought they sounded like the perfect place to get my dodgy spur of the moment Thailand job fixed up. So that evening I went to their studios to discuss the design etc and made an appointment the following day to get it done. I didn’t really have any definite ideas about what I wanted so I just left it up to the artist to design something.


    DAY 20: Since I only had a couple of days left in Taiwan and realising just how many awesome veggie/vegan restaurants there were left on my list, I decided to skip the buffets for the day. Although I really liked most of the buffet restaurants I’d been to I was keen to try a few different cuisines so I went to Ooh Cha Cha an all vegan health food bar located right next to Guting MRT. I’d checked out their menu online a few days prior and it looked interesting, lots of quinoa and tempeh dishes and a variety of sandwiches and raw desserts. There were also lots of gluten free options, which were well labelled.

    Tofu bahn mi sandwich and smootie

    Tofu bahn mi sandwich and smootie

    Banana swirl cheesecake @Ooh Cha Cha

    Banana swirl cheesecake @Ooh Cha Cha

    I ordered the tofu bahn mi sandwich, a cacao, goji and banana smoothie and a slice of the banana swirl cheesecake for dessert. The sandwich was fairly tasty but nothing too exceptional, smoothie was really nice but I thought it was quite tiny for the price and the cheesecake was really tasty and not too sweet.

    207 Nanchang rd (30 second walk from Guting MRT exit 2)

    After lunch I went to the tattoo studio for my 2pm tattoo appointment. I’d left the design pretty up up to the artists as I wasn’t really sure of exactly what I wanted. When I arrived they showed me what they had drawn up which was a mostly turquoise and blue Chinese style phoenix with lots of tiny detail and shading on the feathers.
    It turned out to be quite a marathon job, taking just over 5 hours to complete due to all the fine details so it was almost 8.30pm by the time I finally left in search of some dinner.

    Before and after attoo from Queentattoo Ink

    Before and after tattoo from Queentattoo Ink


    Another of Taipei’s 100% vegan restaurants, it was only about a 15 minute walk away from the tattoo studio so I thought I might just make it before closing time at 9pm. They have a mostly western menu dominated by various kinds of burgers and pasta with a heavy use of mock meats. Personally pasta is the last thing I would ever consider eating when it’s 40 degrees with high humidity outside, especially in a place like Taiwan where there is an abundance of amazingly fresh and delicious fruit and vegetables on offer, but I guess it must be fairly popular since half of the menu at Soul R Café are pasta dishes. They do however have an excellent and very extensive dessert menu offering a variety of homemade vegan desserts including ice cream, waffles, brownies and crème brule.

    It was just before 9pm when I finally arrived here to find that they had literally just closed, but the staff kindly offered to make something for me to takeaway. They only had a few things left so my choice was very limited. I eventually settled on the apple burger and the chocolate walnut waffles.

    Impressive vegan dessert menu @Soul R Cafe

    Impressive vegan dessert menu @Soul R Cafe

    Mediocre apple burger @Soul R Cafe

    Mediocre apple burger @Soul R Cafe

    Chocolate and walnut vegan waffles

    Chocolate and walnut vegan waffles

    The burger was quite literally just a bun with some lettuce, a slice of apple and some vegan mayo on it so not entirely sure why it took them over 30 minutes to make, the waffles however, were much better and some of the nicest waffles I’ve had. Soul R café is definitely a good place to go for desserts but I don’t think I’d bother going back for mains.

    6 Alley 1, lane 217, section 3 Zhongxiao rd E

    DAY 21: My last full day in Taipei had sadly arrived. I was up fairly early as I planned to go to Wulai which was the top of my long list of places that I still wanted to go. It was about a 30 minute train ride and then another 30 minutes on the bus. Wulai is a tranquil Aboriginal community with some of the most stunning hiking and scenery in the country. It is also really interesting from a cultural perspective as the traditional culture and the Atayal (the original inhabitants of the area) is still very much alive and well in the village despite it being a very popular tourist destination.

    Wulai Old st

    Wulai Old st

    Wulai waterfall

    Wulai waterfall

    After a quick stroll through the old st I walk up the road to look at the waterfall. It was a very hot day and my leg was a little bit sore still from the previous days tattoo session so I wasn’t really up to do any of the more lengthy hikes in the area or visit the hot springs so I walked back to town and went to the Atayal Aboriginal culture museum. Despite it being quite small the museum was really interesting with lots of photos and miniature replicas of traditional houses and info on traditional foods etc. Unfortunately a large group of very unruly school children arrived there at about the same time and seemed to find me a much more interesting subject to stare at which made it slightly less enjoyable.


    I was quite interested to sample some of the Aboriginal cuisine that Wulai is famous for, I had done a little research to see if there were any vegan friendly restaurants around town and I’d come across Taiyo Popo which was almost right next to the museum. They had an English menu so after checking what was “su”, I ordered the tossed betul nut flower salad with sesame oil dressing, a taro rice dumpling and some millet rice.

    Everything was really good, the salad was very fresh and tasty and the dumpling had a delicious smoky flavour.

    Tossed betul nut flower and sesame salad with millet rice

    Tossed betul nut flower and sesame salad with millet rice

    Taro rice cumpling @Taiya Popo

    Taro rice cumpling @Taiya Popo

    14 Wulai old st

    There were many little street stalls scattered along the main st selling a variety of traditional snacks, many of which were vegan so I got a grilled rice cake stick with soy sauce and seaweed topping which was delicious and a box of one of my new favourite foods: candied wild yam which was also really yummy.

    Grilled rice cake with soy sauce and sea weed

    Grilled rice cake with soy sauce and sea weed

    One of my fave Taiwanese food- candies wild yam

    One of my fave Taiwanese food- candies wild yam

    I ended up going back to buy two more rice sticks, this time I got one with brown sugar and black sesame topping and the other with matcha red beans. The former being the much nicer of the two as the red beans made the rice cake all soggy.

    More rice cakes, top: brown sugar with black sesame, bottom: matcha red bean

    More rice cakes, top: brown sugar with black sesame, bottom: matcha red bean

    After another hour of ambling around I was feeling quite tired and sunburnt so jumped on the bus back to Taipei.

    DAY 22: I had been putting of packing for the last few days as I was in denial that I was leaving, but I really couldn’t put it off any longer since my flight was now just a few hours away. So I quickly rammed everything into my pack and then set out to get some takeout lunch to eat on the way to the airport. I had planned to go to Minder a vegetarian buffet restaurant chain as they had a branch in Taipei main station but then I discovered that the airport bus stopped just a few blocks away from where I was staying so it seemed more practical to just go to the veg buffet around the corner to get food instead.

    Lunchbox from Chinese veg buffet

    Lunchbox from Chinese veg buffet

    There is also a vegetarian /vegan restaurant in the airport serving mostly Korean and Taiwanese food. It’s located in Terminal 1 B1 foodcourt.

    Vegan restaurant in International airport

    Vegan restaurant in International airport

    Posted August 04, 2014 05:15 PM

    where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

    All Day Donuts

    July 19, 2014

    Twitter and Facebook went a bit crazy the weekend we got back from our overseas jaunt, with everyone suddenly obsessed by a pop-up doughnut shop tucked into the back streets of Melbourne. With photos of massive queues, we decided to bide our time for a few weeks, finally stopping in after the hype had died down. The shop in question is All Day Donuts, a semi-permanent home for Raph Rashid (of Beatbox and Taco Truck fame) to sell a selection of iced doughy treats.

    There are six doughnuts to choose from and it seems as though they're going to focus on getting these six flavours spot on rather than rotating their options regularly. We took home a sampler of four (clockwise from top left): jaffa, coffee glaze with passionfruit curd and choc rubble, strawberry cheesecake and lime brulee ($5 each). First up, the price: $5 for a doughnut is a bit nuts, although it seems to be the going rate if my research into Melbourne's other fancy doughnut shops is to be believed. These make a pretty good fist of living up to the expense though - the dough is fresh and soft and the icing and curd combos work reasonably well. The lime brulee is the clear standout - the sourness of the lime flavour cutting through the sweetness that overwhelms the jaffa and the strawberry cheesecake.

    We've been on a bit of a doughnut binge lately - these were much better than the Voodoo version (although there's nothing vegan on offer here), but not as cute as our Japanese treats. With fancy filter coffee on offer and a very Brunswick vibe, I'm sure All Day Donuts will be a roaring success - given the price and sweetness though, we'll probably keep them as a sometimes food. They're only open Friday-Sunday at the moment, but there's talk of dinner options and longer hours in the future.

    Melbourne Food Snob, My Backyard and Ordinary girl, extraordinary dreamer loved what All Day Donuts had to offer, while Ebezilla's Food Blog and erin maynie, everyday had the same kind of mixed response that we did.
    All Day Donuts
    12 Edward St, Brunswick
    8060 6664
    donuts $5 

    Accessibility: There's a small step up to a pretty spacious interior. Service is at a low counter.

    Posted August 04, 2014 10:49 AM by Michael