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It is the season for lots of things in my garden. Early Nicola potatoes, late broad beans, and asparagus at its peak.
Most potato salads are traditionally dressed with mayonnaise, but I like to make mine with a vinaigrette.
I made this riff on my basic potato salad with some extra ingredients. Steamed asparagus, double peeled broad beans, and dill in the mustardy vinaigrette.
I also threw in some quartered cherry tomatoes for colour and some roasted almonds for crunch. This fancied up salad varies according to the season.
This is one of the springtime versions, and a meal in itself.
377-379 High St
(03) 9077 1335
Loving Hut is an all vegan restaurant chain with over 200 stores worldwide, each offering different menus and qualities of service, but all united in the goal of bringing affordable vegan meals to the public.
Behind the sect-like glowing signage, yellow walls, plastic bamboo, and tv screen illuminating Batman cartoons (on mute thankfully), Northcote Loving Hut is a damn good place for a consistently delicious meal, and it's huge interior makes it an easy choice for last minute dining if you have a big group to feed.
The menu offers a boundless array of everything that seems non-vegan at a glance. We're talking about dishes such as 'Southern fried chicken' ($16) (or 'The volcano' ($17) if your partial to smothering said dish in hot sauce), 'Lemon chicken' ($14), 'Katsu duck with plum sauce' ($14), 'Pan fried tuna fillet' ($13) and the list goes on and it's all vegan.
My favourite dish of the moment is 'Bambam' ($15), which is deep fried eggplant or prawns with creamy sriracha infused mayo on top, and puffed tofu. Loving Hut also do an authentic vegan 'Silken tofu pad thai' ($13), a classic 'Curry laksa' ($12) and various rice, noodle and vegetable dishes. There are almost 50 items on the menu, so I won't even attempt to list them all, but I will let you know that many can be ordered as gluten free, onion free and garlic free.
Head to the big freezer to secure a bulk pack of vegan hot dogs or bacon (these ones aren't classified by the World Health Organisation as being group 1 carcinogens - yay!), and there's usually a good supply of veganpet and v-dog (which is hard to find) pet food to snap up for your fur kids.
The Glass Den is another find in the increasingly hip Coburg. It is a light, airy and bustling cafe that is set in the gatehouse of the old Pentridge prison. It is open for breakfast and lunch. They also did their first Friday night drinks and tapas session recently. I had been planning to go, but a number of events conspired against that. That’s OK as it will be a regular feature.
This is a very vegan friendly cafe. There are lots of vegan or vegan option dishes that are clearly labeled, I counted at least sixteen, so I was spoilt for choice. Coeliacs are well catered for with lots of gluten free choices as well.
I opted for the Portobello burger, a large roasted mushroom on excellent multigrain bread, with rocket, caramelised onions, capsicum relish and coconut bacon. Large, juicy, messy, and delicious. I also had a side order of chips.
Many of the other plates I saw coming by looked good too.
I’m keen to go back, both to try other lunch options and also for breakfast.
The Glass Den
15 Urquart St,
(03) 9354 5032
This banana bread is vegan, delicious and very easy to make. It’s also a great way to use up ripe browning bananas that are too soft to eat neat. It can be whipped up in a flash and just requires a little patience for the 50 minute cooking time.
The bread is perfect warm from the oven (allow to cool for about 10 minutes) with a little vegan butter on top, and works equally well sliced cold the following day. I plan to try the same recipe made as muffins. I’m guessing it would be great like this, especially with some added nuts or chocolate chips. I suggest halving the cooking time for muffins.
I’ve been to Half Moon Cafe a few times but never blogged about it. Perhaps everyone in Melbourne has already been there, but if not, you should go. They have been voted the best falafel in Melbourne. I agree.
They serve Egyptian style falafel, made with broad beans rather than the usual general middle eastern kind made with chickpeas. I love their beautiful green interior.
There are several options up on the board for sandwiches or you can pick your own. I went for the Colibaba and subbed out the yoghurt for a tahini dressing.
The Colibaba is made up of falafel cooked to order, lettuce, rocket, babaganouj, beautifully fried eggplant slices, fried cauliflower, chilli and tahini sauces wrapped up in flat bread. It is a sensational combination of textures and flavours and I loved it. I don’t think snack food gets any better, and it is a bargain at $8.
There are plenty of other vegan or veganisable options available. The shop is tiny, with only a few tables inside, and it is low on ambience, but outside in the mall there are many tables available. It was packed at lunchtime on a public holiday.
The worst thing I can say about Half Moon is that they are only open daily until 5!
Half Moon Cafe
13 Victoria St (in the Coburg Mall)
(03) 9350 2949
I don’t know quite what this salad is. It is like panzanella, the Tuscan bread salad in that it uses stale bread and tomatoes, but the bread is crispy…and it has broad beans in it. Whatever it is, it is damn good.
I made it because I had too many larger broad beans in the garden, some very ripe cherry tomatoes and some stale bread. Not very appealing individually, but together they are great.
I made large garlic bread croutons of the bread, made a panzanella like dressing with tomato juices, red wine vinegar, olive oil and salt. And piled in a heap of double podded broad beans.
I just love double podded broad beans. They are a bit of a pain to peel, but I think they are worth the effort for the beautiful jewels that are the result.
This is definitely a dish that is more than the sum of its parts.
World Vegan Day brought in huge crowds to the Melbourne Showgrounds today.
Ironically the horse racing carnival was right next door continuing on obliviously with its annual tradition of excessive drinking, gambling and frippery to the tune of horses being whipped and galloping at top speed around the track. The crowd at WVD graciously ignored their neighbours at Flemington and instead focused on the amazing selection of cruelty free food and goods on display, as well as the wide range of animal welfare organisations that were there to promote their tireless works.
I spent an enjoyable couple of hours perusing the many stalls, taste testing goodies and choosing a small range of items to buy and take home with me. I was delighted to see the high numbers attracted to the event. There is clearly a rising interest in choosing a cruelty free lifestyle with people from all walks of life in Melbourne. Veganism is definitely not the sole domain of hippies and alternative folk any more. There were young, old, smartly dressed, not so smartly dressed and everyone else in between represented there today. What a great turn out – it can only get bigger and better each year from here.
Here are a few snaps from WVD 2015.
I used to go to Ray’s quite a lot before I was vegan. In the old days they did mostly things with eggs and turkish bread. I haven’t been for a few years, partly due to a friend moving house (Ray’s was a convenient point for breakfast) and partly because the menu then wasn’t so vegan friendly. That has changed. They now have quite a few clearly marked vegan and vegan option dishes on their menu.
I am definitely a savoury person at breakfast so the three sweet options were out. I almost went for a white bean tagine, which sounded great, but I am not a huge fan of Moroccan spicing. So instead, I ended up going for a breakfast mezze, which consisted of good sourdough toast with three vegan sides of tomato and mushrooms with a couple of hash browns. The hash browns were of the pre-made variety, which I secretly love, though I had expected them to be house made. The stars of the show were some deliciously sweet cherry tomatoes halved and dressed with basil and olive oil. They were great. The mushrooms were good too.
Coffee, as always, was great. They have soy and almond milk.
I enjoyed my return to Ray’s and it is nice to have it back on my list of breakfast places.
332 Victoria St, Brunswick
I love spring. I love it for the light, the warmth and the sense of renewal and hope. I also love the return of delicious spring vegetables.
This dish is so easy to make, a few small vegetables, some herbs, stock, oil, vegan butter and lemon or lime juice.
The added bonus for me is that all the vegetables came from my garden. Snow peas, artichokes, asparagus, thyme and parsley, straight from the garden and into the pan. I used a lime instead of a lemon because I had one last one hanging onto the tree. I always get a thrill when cooking an entire dish with vegetables from my garden.
This braise can be served over pasta or any other grain, or served in pastry if you wanted to get fancy.
But I usually keep it simple and serve it with some fettucine or pappardelle pasta. The vegetables are the star in their buttery, lemony sauce. And they take less time to cook than the pasta.