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Enlightened Cuisine is a great Chinese mock meat restaurant with a vast menu. I’ve been there twice and both times I’ve enjoyed it very much.
It is in an out of the way place, and sometimes I wonder how it survives in that windswept area between the casino and City Road, but it does.
Three of us went there for an early dinner recently before heading off to see the Stephen Sondheim opera/musical “Passion” at the Arts Centre.
We shared some Golden “Duck” Slices as an entree and followed that up with two main courses and rice. The “duck” slices were a convincing texture and flavour made from wheat or soy protein with a thin layer of batter and served with a sweet dipping sauce.
My favourite main was the spicy eggplant with ‘pork’, but the sizzling ‘beef’ was pretty tasty too. The mock pork was particularly good though, with a firm texture. The spicy sauce packed a punch but wasn’t so hot that it gave me hiccups, which is what happens when I get too much chilli. The sizzling beef and the sauce were poured onto the platter at the table, adding a bit of theatre. It also came with plenty of veggies.
Really good if you are craving a mock meat fix.
113 Queensbridge Street,
Southbank VIC 3006
(03) 9686 9188
Another week and another triumph for the ever wonderful chick pea flour.
This time I’ve made a chickpea flour and roasted vegetable frittata. It is wonderful. Sometimes vegan replacement foods can be a disappointment. But this is not. Chickpea flour batter is so fabulous as an egg replacement that I think many people, vegans and non vegans alike, could not tell the difference. The idea comes from the chickpea batter in a quiche recipe at The Gourmet Vegan.
It is a little bit more work than just mixing everything up and throwing it all into the oven, as the chick pea flour needs cooking first, and the veggies need to be roasted before mixing it all together. But, if you have roasted veggies already in the fridge, you can have this ready in less than 40 minutes. I used a combination of roasted cauliflower, pumpkin, red capsicum, and halved cherry tomatoes that I already had in the fridge. Apart from its delicious flavour, I think the cauliflower really helps with the texture and I would always include it. But any roasted vegetables would be good. I have some leeks in the garden that are just calling to be used.
I ate mine with a salad made with some lettuce from my garden with avocado, and a dill flavoured, mustardy vinaigrette. Warning it is delicious, I’ve eaten a third of it already!
Blondie Bar is a lovely small bar and restaurant, nestled into the Melbourne Recital Centre, serving Asian inspired food.
I found myself there at 5pm recently after a chamber music concert. Not quite dinner time, but I was ready for a drink and a small snack. Fortunately, in addition to serving lunch and dinner, they also have a decent bar snacks menu. What was an unexpected surprise and pleasure is that the menu contains three marked vegan options and a couple of more easily veganizable vegetarian ones.
We chose a grilled zucchini salad and some edamame.
The salad was a delicious combination of grilled zucchini, white and black shelled beans and grilled mushrooms in a soy dressing. The edamame don’t need any elaboration, just the usual soybeans steamed with salt.
It is always nice to know that there is another good place for a post concert snack and drink in the arts precinct.
Corner Sturt Street & Southbank Boulevard
A couple of weekends back, we took a quick weekend trip up to Newcastle to visit the Bear’s new baby nephew. Our efforts to arrive super early were apparently in vain – when we got to the airport, there were no shuttle buses for over an hour. We sat at the airport drinking big old mugs of coffee wondering why exactly we had taken the 6am flight.
The shuttle bus took us into Newcastle, where we desperately needed some breakfast after already being up without food for over five hours. Harnessing the power of the internet, we found our target – Natural Tucker Health Food and Cafe on Darby St. We started making our way there, when we stumbled upon this sign:
Vegan options? Count us in!
The cafe had high ceilings and a quirky interior – lots of mismatched coloured chairs and pretty teacups. I liked it. I was a bit jealous of two ladies to my left who had what looked like the most royal thrones of the room, but I stopped giving them greasies to look at the menu.
The bubbly lady explained the vegan options – I went with the zucchini fritters/pancakes? Usually served with haloumi, but could be replaced with tofu to be made vegan. Sounded great.
When my meal came out, I was impressed by the vibrant colours – I like to eat with my eyes and I like rainbow plates. However unfortunately this dish just didn’t quite come together. The zucchini fritters were semi-sweet pancakes with blueberries in them, but then topped with savouries. It was great that they could substitute the haloumi instead of just take it away, however the tofu was raw and I could not taste any marinade. Tomato and avo are always good brekkie additions, and everybody knows I am a dip fanatic, however the hommus tasted distinctly of one I have bought at the supermarket, as did the pesto – which tasted very cheesy (like those little oily cashew ‘chunky’ dips you can buy). When I asked afterwards, the lady assured me that it was vegan and house-made, but I was still a little skeptical. It tasted EXACTLY how I remember that non-vegan store bought dip to taste. But hey, if they tell me so I gotta believe it.
The bear went with a bean dish, though he had it with feta so I didn’t snap it. He really enjoyed it and I tried some of the beans which were tasty. I think they came with some pumpkin toast.
Soul Foods had a bunch of tasty looking vegan sweets, but I wasn’t really feeling it on the day. I was a little disappointed with the breakfast, but wouldn’t discount them entirely without having another go. Maybe next time!
Afterwards, we bumbled with buying train tickets (confusing machines), missed our train (and also forced an innocent man to miss the train too with our inability to navigate the ticket machine) and ultimately had to wait another hour and a half for the next one. When we complained of our plight, we were told “but it’s Saturday” as if that explained the lack of transport options. Oh us Melbourners with our frequent departing Saturday trains, what were we thinking? We arrived at Billy’s sister’s place at about 2pm. Good thing we got that 6am flight! Ha!
227 Hunter st, Newcastle NSW
Tues – Fri – 7.30am – 5pm
Sat – Sun – 8am – 3.30pm
Week 136 of my love affair with chick pea flour. Is there anything that can’t be done with this fabulous stuff? It binds like egg, you can make omelettes and quiches with it, it is delicious and it is high in protein so your mother and your non-vegan friends can stop worrying if you are getting enough protein.
Today I made some curried pumpkin fritters, a variation on the “what the hell do I do with all these zucchini” fritters (that moment will come in the summertime!).
They are delicious too, but pumpkin and curry spices have a great affinity so these are a winner. They are fast and simple to make, and delicious. They are crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. Sometimes I serve them with a spoonful of coconut yoghurt, but I’d run out, so today I just scattered them with some fresh coriander leaves from the garden. This recipe would work with carrot and parsnip too.
I have to interrupt my own traveling foodie reminiscences to tell you all about Thaiger. It is VERY IMPORTANT.
You may remember me visiting Huxtaburger not too long ago and being very disappointed with their vegie burger option. I even went back a couple of weeks after writing that review to give them another go in the fear that I’d been too harsh, but no, it’s still a highly uninspiring tofu slab. But as Cindy mentioned in the comments of that piece, a tofu burger doesn’t necessarily have to be boring and can be done awfully well. Thaiger is a very compelling example of such.
Thaiger, as you may have noticed from the puntastic name, is a Thai-inspired take away burger restaurant. Tucked down the Walk Arcade next to the sushi place that always has the obscenely long queue, it’s a very neat and attractive set-up. There’s 14 different burgers to choose, although only one is vegetarian, so if you like your meats you are in for a fun time (someone go try the pou-nim black burger and come back to tell me all about it because it sounds FASCINATING).
What about this singular veggie burger? Well, it consists of a slab of panfried tofu, crisp around the edges and gelatinous within, topped not only with smoky softened enoki mushrooms but also with a crunchy corn fritter. Keeping it all together is a generous squeeze of sesame soy mayo and a shiny, squishy bun, with some nicely frilled lettuce for good measure. As you would imagine, the combination of smoky enoki, corn fritter, and soft hot tofu was pretty epic in terms of the amount of flavour hurtling about, quickly quashing any suspicion that a tofu burger can’t be delicious. It just all depends on what you team it with.
I also got a cup of sweet potato chips (you can get regular potato chips too), which were hot and as crispy as one can get a sweet potato wedge. I wish I’d been together enough to realise that Thaiger of course had a bunch of sauces that I could have had with my chips, and it shall not be a mistake I make again.
Thaiger is one of those places where it comes across that everything in the business has been devised with great care. From the way the burgers are wrapped and placed in their take-away wrappers and sleeves so that you can eat them in the easiest, least messy way possible, to the design of the space itself, and the care that has clearly gone into creating the menu itself. There are a lot of burger joints across Melbourne now, most peddling the same types of burger fillings and snacks with a slightly depressing homogeneity, so Thaiger feels refreshingly unique. And more importantly than that, it’s properly delicious.
Shop 16, The Walk Arcade, 8 Causeway Lane, Melbourne CBD
Ph: 9663 8558
I love Smith and Daughters. Obviously. Recently I went for my third visit for brunch with some friends after returning from a month on holiday.
I still get excited eating in an all vegan restaurant. The only problem is too much choice. The food is as good as ever, with my old favourites still available and some new ones to try. And their ever changing drinks list is a wonder.
I do love the food, the vibe and the service at Smith and Daughters. If I have a small complaint it is that the music is a bit loud for conversation. But that’s a small price to pay for such delicious food.
Because we were talking so much, I neglected to note what was in the drinks so they are a bit of a blur, I can barely remember mine which was a tropical passionfruit smoothy that contained many ingredients. I do know it was both beautiful and delicious. The other chocolate based ones were good too.
Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to pay attention to the menu, so I’m able to give a bit more information on the food.
Between us we ate a blackbean soup with a cheesy quesadilla, a layered queso dip with spicy blackbeans, salsa and corn chips, two baked omelettes, mexican and spanish. I also snuck in a tuna croquette, just because I cannot be near Brunswick St and not eat one. For dessert we shared a completely unnecessary, but totally delicious french toast with poached quince.
Every last bit of it delicious. Visit four will be coming as soon as possible.Smith & Daughters 175 Brunswick St Fitzroy, 3065 (03) 9939 3293 http://www.smithanddaughters.com/
|Two elephants in the pool.|
|Home made cash register at the cousins cafe.|
|Roses in our garden - thanks to my mum who gives them lots of TLC.|
I love spring.
I love the longer days, the change of light and warmth and the new growth in the garden. But most of all, I love the hope and promise it brings after the grey winter.
Right now my garden is full of tiny fruits and vegetables that are bursting out everywhere. Some I can eat now, and some will be ready in a few weeks or months. Some I have waited patiently for my first crop, like cherries, artichokes and asparagus, while others are making a welcome return like peaches and apples.
This season I converted my raised beds to wicking beds, which are basically gigantic self watering pots. They are miraculous. They use very little water and remain moist all the time. The growth in the veggies is phenomenal. I’ve never had silver beet with leaves 30cm wide.
Here is a photo tour of my garden at the moment.
Roses, a veggie bed with lettuces, leeks, kale and some tomato seedlings, gigantic silver beet, tiny limes, new leaves on the kaffir lime, artichokes and asparagus.
Strawberries, teeny pears, loganberries, raspberries, cherries(!), grapes, apples and quinces.
Here’s to spring!
It is well and truly smoothie season. Over the past weeks I have shifted from eating mainly porridge brekkies to total smoothie town. I alternate flavours regularly, but lately this one has made been amongst the reruns.
Banana Chai Spice Smoothie
1 frozen banana
1 1/2 cups almond milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
Pinch of black pepper
1 tsp maca
1 tsp chia seeds
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!
I always loved grated potato fritters as a kid. They were one of the meals that my Dad was in charge of making and they were always a treat. As well as being delicious they have a nostalgia value for me too.
The originals have egg in them, but this is an egg free, flour free, lighter and slightly more upmarket version where a filling is sandwiched between 2 layers of potato.
This time I made mine with a layer of delicious balsamic caramelised onions from my friend Susan who runs Saucy7 preserves, as well as a dusting of grated Vegusto vegan cheese.
Here is the first layer of potato with the filling before the top layer is added.
You can make these with any filling you like. One of my favourites is mushrooms. But anything goes really.
Happy World Vegan Day (for yesterday!) I didn’t do anything to celebrate as I was home in bed with the sniffles, however am looking forward to the WVD Melbourne event next Sunday. Come at me delicious food!!
I’m still trying to knock out some recipe and dining out posts from before and during MoFo – this one being one of them. A couple of weeks back, the Bear and I hit up the Northcote Social Club for a gig. It was a Tuesday night, so we headed there straight from work and had some time to kill before it started. I don’t know why I feel that I need to give you a backing story to why we ate at Loving Hut, it really does not need to be justified.
As usual, the vibe was kind of weird as there was only one other couple sitting in when we arrived, in that sparse, school cafeteria-style space. There was a video playing on the TV of nature and animal shots which kept us entertained for some time, and for a moment I almost forgot how strange it was that a TV was playing there in the first place.
For the main, we shared a bowl of the Bun Bo Hue, which was plenty for the both of us as we were not super hungry. I always find these big bowls of soup so filling, even with the thin broth base. You can choose to have mock beef or tofu with this one – we chose beef. The flavour of the broth was lovely, made with lemongrass, chili, ginger, lime and cinnamon. It was zesty and slightly spicy and made me feel good inside.
After perusing the dessert cabinet, there was no way I was leaving without a piece of this. There were a few cakey slicey things like this of different flavours, I can’t remember exactly what this one was – I think hazelnut mocha raspberry, or something of the like. I remember thinking that all those flavours might be a bit ambitious, but it seriously worked so well. The base had an incredible light and crispy texture, the centre beautiful and creamy, and how could I go wrong with a scoop of Zebra Dream ice cream on the side? Winnnaaaahhhhh!
If you want to see the glory of my first visit to Loving Hut Northcote, check out the post here. The Northcote shop definitely wins my vote over the Richmond one, which I have been to several times but only once taken pictures (post still to come). Also note, the hours of operation have changed since my last visit and they are now open for lunch too. Hoorah!
377-79 High St, Northcote
Mon – CLOSED
Tues-Sun – 11am – 10pm
kitchen closes 30 mins prior to closing
147 Johnston Street
(03) 9090 7878
Vegan degustation on Wednesday nights
Encouragement from friends after many a successful dinner party led Shu Liu to open his own modern-Sichuan restaurant in Collingwood back in 2012. With vegan friends in his circle, he became well practiced in adapting Sichuan food for the compassionate eater and now devotes Wednesday nights at Shu to a vegan degustation.
Shu's fitout has a quirky chemistry lab/nightclub feel about it; think beakers, stainless steel, video projections and neon lights. All that aside, it is indeed the vegan food that steals the show.
On our visit, Shu's vegan degustation ($45) started with an impressive chilled platter of three dishes, including a 'Daikon roll of cucumber, smoked tofu, enoki mushroom and asian herbs' in a spicy soy dressing that had a memorable kick. A 'Chilled silken tofu jar of fresh peas, lentils and chickpeas, topped with housemade chilli jam' also featured and had a great mixture of textures.
A few hot plates followed including 'Steamed tofu pockets stuffed with preserved vegetable and roasted almonds' and the most amazing 'Pan fried vegan dumplings' with pickled chilli jam and Chinese vinegar.
Following on were some shared plates that included 'Pan roasted eggplant rolls stuffed with preserved mustard greens and roasted cashews'. The preserved mustard greens can only be described as a salty mouth explosion, which according to Shu is unique to his Sichuan hometown, situated at the beginning of the Yangtze river.
'Crispy fried organic tofu brushed with spicy black bean sauce sprinkled with roasted dried chilli and Sichuan pepper' was another amazing shared plate, paired with perfectly 'Grilled green beans and preserved mustard greens'.
A dessert of 'Raw avocado cheesecake topped with dried blueberries, puffed rice and brown rice syrup' was the perfect end to the meal. It was light and not too sweet, and would definitely entice me back to Shu just so I can have it again.
Thank you to Shu for offering complimentary meals to The Good Hearted.
Another day, and a ‘failure’ that turned out delicious.
I was trying to make a chickpea omelette/pancake with some roasted veggies elegantly folded inside it for breakfast. In my pre-coffee stupor I forgot to add any raising agent and forgot to oil the pan. When I went to fold it, everything was a bit flat and totally stuck! Rather than throw it away I simply scraped it from the bottom of the pan and broke it up a bit, threw in some roasted veggies and then tossed it around to cook some more. What I ended up with was a delicious, nutty flavoured soft scramble with some crunchy bits.
A nice change from a tofu scramble and a very happy accident.
I’ll be making it again.
I know it is October, but I think making more dhal is my New Year’s resolution. I’m either late or early, I’m not sure which.
Every time I make dhal I’m impressed by how easy and delicious it is, so I am not sure why I don’t make it more often. It has so much going for it. It is fast and easy to make, delicious, AND healthy.
There are lots of different methods to make dhal. I am not the most confident Indian food cook, so I like this method where you cook the lentils (or peas, beans, or any other kind if pulse) until they are soft, then fry the spices in oil and add the lot to the cooked mix.
This time I made the dhal with yellow split peas, but I’ve used red lentils when I want something quicker or black urad dhal (which is my favourite). I like to give mine a slightly sour taste with some tamarind paste or lemon juice.
This is today’s version.
Some nights you just want to eat pizza without having to make it or even leave your house to get it. Y’all know what I’m talking about. Hooray for home delivery!
Mr Natural has two locations – St Kilda and Fitzroy. The menu consists of a range of entirely vegetarian pizzas, all of which can be adapted to become vegan with the optional addition of vegan cheese, pepperoni and various other tasties like beans, tofu, sprouts and sauces. The online ordering system is simple to use and you can easily customise your pizza with the removal and addition of whatever ingredients your heart does or does not desire.
This was my first experience with Mr Natural – in the past, every time I decide that I want to order pizza, it’s been too late to get in before close. This time I planned ahead and reaped the rewards. I think the delivery guy was a bit startled when the Bear and I answered the door short of breath after sprinting to the door yelling “pizzaaaaaa!” So much excitement.
First up we went with the Broccolini pizza. I’ve heard people rave about broccoli on pizza, and I thought it was about time I gave it a go. It had broccoli, onions, olives, capsicum, cheese, herbs and sesame seeds. I thought that it had potential, but was missing something – it was just a little bit bland. The unveganised version of the pizza included feta cheese, so maybe that offered the bite needed. If I ordered it again, I would add pineapple or more chili or more olives or something, but otherwise I loved how many veggies were packed on there (and how greeeeeen it was).
Second, we got the Cool Peppers, which is apparently the result of a pizza creation competition. This one had tomato, olives, capsicum, vegan pepperoni, vegan cheese, chili flakes, parsley and sesame seeds. It rocked. It was spicy and awesome and I hope it gets added to the regular menu, because I loved it. It was kind of hard to go back to the broccoli pizza afterwards as this one packed so much more punch. In saying that, the broccoli pizza tasted awesome cold the next day.
It’s so great to have easy takeaway/delivery options for vegans, particularly old favourites like pizza. Sometimes you just want to lie in bed watching movies and eating pizza, and thanks to places like Mr Natural, your dreams can come true.
Mr Natural Vegetarian Pizza
469 Brunswick St, Fitzroy North
Mon – Thurs & Sun – 5.30pm – 10pm (delivery 6pm-9pm)
Fri – Sat – 5.30pm – 11pm (delivery 6pm – 9pm)
I was loving Toronto, but the one thing I was missing was a proper coffee. I’d been relying on Tim Horton’s to keep me awake during film screenings, and while it was leagues preferable to Starbucks I got to a point where I just needed a coffee that tasted like coffee, not French vanilla.
I’d noticed Early Bird Espresso & Brew Bar on my walk looking for Grasslands a week earlier, and noted it down as a likely possibility for good coffee. It reminded me of Melbourne cafes a lot, with lots of exposed brick walls, chalkboard menus and LOTS of coffee machines and paraphernalia purring or bubbling away.
I nearly cried with joy at seeing a flat white listed on their menu. It was a very sharp, bordering on bitter initial flavour hit – these are clearly some hefty beans they are using here – but the further into the cup you go that sharpness starts to level out. It never quite gets to a smooth, sedate flavour profile, but hey, at least you know you’re drinking coffee. Also the barista knew how to pour a flat white PERFECTLY, I may have experienced a significant stab of homesickness at the sight.
I ordered myself a little brunch as well – a tomato and soft-boiled egg sandwich with rocket on olive paste sourdough. I couldn’t go past the idea of a boiled egg sandwich, to the point where I bypassed my usual olive trepidation. I normally find olives far too overwhelming, they tend to blot out other flavours for me, but the balance here was spot on, with the toasted olive sourdough nicely coupling with the fresh, lightly salt-and-peppered tomato and thin slices of boiled egg with their creamy yolks.
There’s plenty of pastries and cookies available as well, along with sweet brunch options of yoghurt pots or chia seed puddings topped with a variety of fruits and nuts. While I didn’t notice anything obviously vegan, considering they served a pretty famous vegan a few days before my visit I’m going to guess that they can cover you.
Early Bird is a great spot for anyone hankering for a drop of the good bean, and especially so for antipodeans longing for a coffee that possesses a whiff of home.
Early Bird Espresso & Brew Bar
613 Queen Street West, Toronto
Ph: +1 (647) 962 4204