Sunday, 29 June 2008

that little mexican place, north perth

tamales de frijol negro

I've yet to find a review of That Little Mexican Place that is mediocre: it's either described as fantastic or quite terrible. As a result, I was prepared to be disappointed, and I was prepared to be contented.

Although the service can only be described as 'odd,' with our waiter taking away our shared entree (guacamole and blue corn chips) before we had quite finished all the chips, and a waitress dropping by to ask how our meal was and to tell me I was weird because I had yet to finish my drink, the meals were quite tasty and the restaurant was warm and interesting. I liked the decor, and little things like the great glasses and the fake candles (complete with flickering light). D and I both had the tamales de frijol negro, and the four of us shared the guacamole and blue corn chips, after I was assured that the guacamole was sans dairy. The tamales were a bit dry, but the beans were tasty and slightly creamy and the rice was quite excellent, so mixed all together it made for an ugly but delicious meal. They are also listed on the menu as 'can be made vegan,' apparently the only difference is the cream that is usually placed on the top to make it look pretty.

Having been assured that the meal was completely vegan, and receiving the bill which said '2 x tamales - vegan,' I'm willing to believe that the white stuff on top of the beans was vegan (as seen in this picture above), but it did look quite a lot like goat's cheese, so we erred on the side of caution, scooped it aside and continued on. We are unsure, but it's certainly a point of question mark from this visit.

Juices of the day were hibiscus and tamarind. The hibiscus was sort of like ribena, so much so that Andy insisted on calling it such all evening, to the irritation of our waiter, and I was surprised and pleased by the flavour of the tamarind, which I have never drunk as a juice before.

The restaurant is tiny, making the seating a bit cramped, and the meals took quite some time to arrive, and the service was, as I mentioned, a little odd. I do also wish that the menu was a little more vegan-friendly, though what we had was very good, and our waiter knew what he was talking about when we had questions (both vegan and non vegan, and also gluten-free) about the food. But the food was quite tasty and I loved the juice, the menu is clearly labelled with gf and veg, and overall it was worth the visit. I might go back in the future, I might not, we'll see if the menu develops and how visits to other Mexican restaurants pan out (next week I hope to try Zapata's in Fremantle).

That Little Mexican Place
382 Fitzgerald Street

North Perth

Thursday, 26 June 2008

sausages inna bun

sausage inna bun

We've been lamenting the loss of puff pastry, of sausage rolls and jaffle pies and savoury pastries and other things that are provided at work meetings that are completely inedible by us, covered as they are in cheese and usually filled with meat. Yesterday this came to a head as I sat in a morning meeting, surrounded by people munching away on cheese and tomato pastries and sausage rolls (sausage rolls are compulsory at all meetings at my place of employment, even at 0930).

I spent the day thinking of things that we could roll in puff pastry, mashed pumpkin and potato and similar, and I googled for vegan sausage roll mixture recipes, but in the end it was D who came up with this simple and tasty method.

A quick trip to the Woolworths on Murray Street after work saw me equipped with a packet of Sanitarium traditional vegie sausages and a packet of Borg's puff pastry (on the package it says suitable for vegans, but I checked anyway) (also suitable for ASSIMILATION OMG). I used a quarter of a sheet per sausage, and rolled and tucked the excess under the sausage, which formed the base. This gave me six little piggies in blankets, which I baked for 20 minutes at 180C.

During baking, I and my lovely assistant D mashed sweet potatoes, fried some mushrooms and sliced some avocado. The entire process took about half an hour, with a lot of that just sitting around waiting for the buzzer to go off. It was quick and easy, and biting into the little sausages in buns left puff pastry flaking everywhere and the familiar taste of sausage rolls in my mouth. So I declare this experiment a success!

I find that the secret to making quick and simple foods really awesome is the stuff you add, the little extras like the five minutes to fry mushrooms in a little nuttelex and olive oil.

little chutney's, subiaco (part two)

dosa at little chutney's

I’ve blogged about visiting Little Chutney’s before, but breakfasts are quite different from dinners in Perth, and it was with delight that I discovered that Little Chutney’s breakfast menu features a masala dosa.

Sunday morning breakfast with The Breakfast Club is usually a leisurely affair, meeting at 0900 by which point I’m famished and any service seems to take a lifetime. So when I say the service is sometimes tardy, perhaps I’m being harsh, but having been there for dinner a few times, I suspect it’s not just my desperation that finds the speed of service sub-optimal.

However if I am to be truthful, for Little Chutney’s to meet my verdict of excellent breakfast, all they need to do is provide me with the masala dosa, the dosa crisp and the potatoes flavoursome, with the onions starting to caramelize and the rasam tart and spicy. And breakfast dosa at Little Chutney’s is all of these things, an excellent way to start the day.

The breakfast menu indicates gluten-free dishes, which is nice, and features fusion dishes (not vegan) for your friends who don’t understand that curry is one of the best breakfasts you can have (these friends are wrong).

The cost for morning beverages is about average, and the dosa is $12.50 which is fairly reasonable for a filling breakfast.

The dosa does also come with a little dish filled with a creamy thing, I always forget to order the dosa without it, but as far as I know that is not vegan.

Little Chutney's
67 Rokeby Rd

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

back blog: orgran lemon and poppy seed cake mix

heart muffins

We moved house, so cooking has been a bit light on, and although there has been quite a lot of take out, there haven't been a lot of photos. Instead, I'd like to take this opportunity to talk about Orgran's lemon and poppyseed cake mix. We were at an engagement party recently, where we were delighted to find little "vegan" signs on every thing that was vegan-friendly. These cupcakes were soft and delightful, and we later discovered that our friends were assisted in the provision of cupcakes by Orgran.

These were baked by non-vegans who are sometimes confused by the process, so I'm going to remember this for the future, for when people say, "I would have baked it vegan but I got confused!" The really great thing about these cupcakes though, is obviously the presentation: love heart shaped cupcakes just look really great! I have been inspired to buy an awesome new tray of my own, just as soon as I get my kitchen back in order.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

white chocolate and berry cupcakes

berry and white chocolate cupcakes

Most of my sunday evening cupcakes tend to be quite similar to one another, just requiring a few modifications here and there. This recipe for white chocolate and berry cupcakes is no different, it is quite simple and offers a cupcake with a mild flavour with occasional bites of tart fruit and soft chocolate, which is the way it should be.

white chocolate and berry cupcakes

1 and 1/2 cups SR flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
50g melted nuttlex
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup soy milk
a small block of chocolate (about 100g), broken into pieces
1/2 cup drained berries

Sift together the flour and baking powder, add the sugar and mix. Add in the vanilla essence, the nuttlex, applesauce and soy milk. Combine and stir in the chocolate pieces. When well combined, add the berries and stir only to combine. Do not over mix, particularly if using canned berries.

Divide into twelve cupcakes. The batter will be quite gooey.

Bake for 15 minutes at 180C.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

easy biryani


I love this biryani, it's so simple and tasty and I walked down the road with a pot of it to serve to my friends, and it was perfect for a cold evening.


1 clove garlic (minced)
1 (or only 1/2) brown onion (sliced)
2 tsp garamasala (see note)
1 diced tomato
1 potato (diced small)
1 carrot (diced small)
1/2 cup water
capsicum (diced)

1 1/2 cups rice
1/2 tsp chilli flakes or powder
1/4 tsp tumeric


Fry the garlic and the onion until the onion is golden and soft, about five minutes. Add garamasala. Stir in tomatoes, potato, carrot and water, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for about ten minutes. Add capsicum and any other vegetables as appropriate. Zucchini and broccoli are also very good in this.

Cook rice and spices separately, in usual fashion.

Combine the two together. I like to layer half the rice, then the vegetables, then the rest of the rice, but it's also nice to mix it all up.

I like to serve this with a rasam or a curry with a tomato-base.

NOTE: Often store bought garamasala is not gluten-free. To that end, I usually make my own garamasala, although I do also always have a jar of store-bought stuff on hand, for when I'm feeling lazy and not feeding coeliacs. Garamasala how-to will follow eventually.

ba cheng

ba cheng

A visit to my mum's favourite Chinese supermarket (Kong's Supermarket up the top of William Street in Northbridge) would often see us wandering home with yao chao gwai and these, sticky, savoury rice wrapped in lotus leaves. I've been eating them my whole life, watching my mother steam them and carefully unwrapping the leaves, but it wasn't until last week that I thought to ask what they were called. It's funny, the patterns we learn, and the habits into which we fall. I never needed to know what they were called until I wanted to blog about them and realised I couldn't call them by name.

We had dinner at Lotus about a week ago, and the proprietor waved her hand at the box. "Take for your mum," she insisted, so I took one for me and one for my mum, and turned to D. "Don't even talk to me about food," was the response, so I didn't.

Later, D protested that I'd not picked one up for each of us, so alas, I was compelled to share.

This ba cheng contained delicious sticky rice and a whole lot of mushrooms and it was great. I hope to try my hand at making the ba cheng sometime soon, but for now I am happy to settle for buying them and bringing them home. They take about ten minutes to cook, you can steam them in bamboo or in a steamer but do it on the stove, not in the microwave.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

veganomicon: a review

lemon and pea risotto and lemony potatoes from veganomicon

I've been putting off this review for two weeks, thinking that I'd make just one more thing, to make my review just that little bit wider, but this morning as I lay in bed I realised that I'm all Veganomiconed out, so I suppose that the time for a review is at hand.

Veganomicon: a review

I love the title of Veganomicon; the idea that it is the cruelty-free book of the dead; that it is an excellent vegan compendium; that it is a gigantic recipe book filled with recipes I can cook without alteration.

I have found the book very US-centric. Earth Balance and Veganaise have both been listed as "don't bother with anything else" sort of items, which made me feel incredibly (perhaps not rationally) resentful, as if there was no acknowledgement that maybe there are vegans out there in the world beyond the US' borders, with awesome products of their own. As an Australian, I've become used to converting recipes in my head, but the narrowness of the book has, as I mentioned (and childishly or not) made me feel resentful. Any Australians (and others?) using the book should remember that "all purpose" flour is plain, and "confectioners' sugar" is icing sugar.

messy rice and lentil and cauliflower curry (from veganomicon)

Both D and I have had some interesting experiences with the flavour of the recipes. The curried things were bland, and things that used herbs we rarely use (tarragon, for example) were often quite overpowering (though not necessarily untasty). This may be an indication that we're not used to these herbs, but I am not convinced.

I have seen many complaints about the format, and I have to agree - although format isn't a make or break thing, and I don't mind having multiple recipes on one page, having to turn the page in the middle of a recipe didn't work for me. Once or twice I didn't notice until halfway through the recipe that there was more on the next page, and that's my fault for not reading the recipe all the way through in advance but also it makes for awkward reading.

I've had some problems with the times listed, and it wasn't until the second recipe that I realised they were cooking times only, which is a bit misleading.

The cookies so far have been pretty awesome. I have baked the chocolate-chocolate chip-walnut cookies multiple times now, they are quite tasty and the next day it's like eating muffins or something. That they are so damp is less than ideal, but that is quite likely part of what gives them such a great final consistency. The recipe is also very flexible; as I mentioned in a previous post, messing up the proportions quite considerably didn't dampen the deliciousness of the cookies. The chewy chocolate-raspberry cookies were also quite tasty. I am confused by the wheat-free chocolate chip cookies - they contain oat, which is a maybe-yes maybe-no item for coeliacs, which they acknowledge in the recipe, so I'm confused why their wheat-free cookie wasn't something that was guaranteed to be coeliac friendly.

samosa stuffed potatoes from veganomicon

I do love the listing of basics and how-tos. Beside the samosa stuffed potatoes it tells you how to bake a potato if you've not done it before, and that's handy. I enjoyed discovering some new things (penne vodka with slivered almonds - awesome!), and having some new takes on things (samosa stuffed potatoes - fantastic idea!).

penne vodka from veganomicon

It was definitely worth the purchase, and having to cart it all the way back from Singapore. Similarly to Vegan With a Vengeance, it is a bit junky, and I have found that I usually have to modify the recipes as I'm cooking them to make them to my taste, which is not necessarily a problem, it's just a thing.

It does, in its way, meet its title as 'the ultimate vegan cookbook.' Maybe there will be a bigger, more encompassing cook book sometime, but for now it's certainly the most comprehensive that I've come across in terms of basic variety, which makes it a good starter's book, definitely (although now that I've said that, I do wonder how it competes with Vegan Planet, which I've yet to try but understand is awesome).

Overall, I'm glad I have it, and I can see myself getting a lot of use out of it, especially in terms of ideas and inspiration (less than the recipes word for word), but probably no more than any other cookbook on my shelf.

Recipes that we tried in order to form this opinion: samosa stuffed potatoes (p60) (awesome idea); lemony roasted potatoes (p109) (not really my thing); messy rice (p118) (bit bland); potato and kale enchiladas with roasted chile sauce (p162) (bit bland); pumpkin saag (p184) (quite tasty); red lentil-cauliflower curry (p186) (needed more spices); penne vodka (p193) (I loved this); green pea and lemon risotto with roasted red peppers (p199) (tasty, but nothing exciting); chewy chocolate-raspberry cookies (p234) (quite tasty); chocolate-chocolate chip-walnut cookies (p236) (these have entered rotation as go-to present cookies).

pumpkin saag

Thursday, 5 June 2008

sebastian's italian cafe


Since we've been vegan, we've not been much for Italian restaurants, for obvious reasons of the Italian love affair with cheese and eggs. Sebastian's was no exception, we went there for a 21st and there was nothing on the menu that was vegan (or modifiable to vegan), the pasta and the pizza bases were all made with egg. Having surveyed the menu online, I called two days in advance, and was told this was not the case, we could just order a pizza with no cheese and we'd be fine. The birthday girl's mother called ahead, and was told there was nothing they could do, they'd have to make a salad or two up for us. On the night, they made us an entree of mushrooms and a pasta from packet pasta that they had (there had been a vegan in the previous night, apparently).

The mushrooms were fantastic, sauteed in a garlic and chili oil. The pasta was very average, a flavourless tomato sauce covering a huge amount of vegetables and some penne that fell apart as I stabbed it with my fork. Neither of these things are on the menu, and it's the first time I've really felt that urge to call in advance.

I was unimpressed with our waitress; when I asked, "does it have egg?" she said, "I'll check," took two steps away then two steps back and asked, "Do you have an allergy?" As if it matters, which it shouldn't. Seriously.

This is not a good restaurant for vegans, even though the chefs seemed quite delightful (my father in law went wandering into the kitchen with my camera, and they were happy to chat with him). I am hesitant to recommend any restaurant that has nothing on the menu that can even be modified for vegans, as delicious as the mushrooms were. The restaurant is very good for gluten-free, though, which was why we went there.

Sebastian's Italian Cafe
851 Albany Hwy
East Victoria Park

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

sawadee, subiaco

Two restaurant reviews in a row!

delicious takeout from sawadee

When we move, there will be many new local places we have to find. A new local (I suspect it will be the Queens), a new provider of kway teow, a new kebab bar. We won't have to find a new Thai restaurant, but more on that later.

I will miss Sawadee, though. Sad though it is, I've ordered exactly the same thing every time I've visited for the last two years: green vegetable curry, vegetarian spring rolls, and pad thai with no meat and no egg. This is not something I do at any other restaurant! Though part of this repeat ordering is that there's only half a dozen vegetarian dishes on the menu, and these three dishes are always delicious, both take-away and dine-in, and we may visit occasionally, perhaps.

Sawadee Restaurant
279 Rokeby Rd

annalakshmi on the swan, perth

at annalakshmi

Annalakshmi has been operating in Perth for several years, and can also be found in several countries - we visited the one by Chinatown when we were in Singapore recently.

Annalakshmi is a vegetarian Indian restaurant that operates on the 'pay what you feel' system. The food is prepared and served by volunteers, and they're always really good about letting us know what has ghee and what doesn't - and most of the time very few things have been cooked in ghee. The meals are all from a buffet, a few different rices, some delicious potatoes and a whole lot of curries of various spiciness. The food is always tasty, and I often go back for seconds. I always feel that I should return more often, because the setting is beautiful and, as I said, the food is great, and I recommend it heartily to all. L + M came with us, L having never before been, and they enjoyed it also.

Annalakshmi On The Swan
Jetty 4
Barrack Sq
(up the stairs, just behind the Belltower)