Tuesday, 29 January 2013

yemen skhug sauce at lotf

Thanks to the generosity of Lord of the Fries, I ended up at a tasting event in December where I tried lots of things on the menu that I'd never eaten before. Part of my delicious problem with the Lord is that I have some things I really really love, so every time I go there I buy the same thing (cone of vegan french canadian, mini original burger OR mini parma burger), which is delicious and wonderful but sadly means there are huge swathes of the menu that I've never tried.

Fi has already blogged about our excursion to this tasting event, which is handy because in my uncharacteristic* tardiness in blogging, I've managed to delete all the photos I took of the evening. However I can tell you that it was delicious and fun and the owners are charming, answering all of my questions and allowing me to sample anything I wanted to, including the chocolate mousse,** and the vegan mayo, and the chilli poppers, which are breaded hot chillis stuffed with vegan cheese and basically the most delicious, most ridiculous things I've ever eaten. I love them. 

Anyway, now I order the chilli poppers all the time, which is great because now I can order the potato cake and chilli popper munch box. And I was also furnished with this awesome VIP card, which lets me get a free cone with any sauce every month, and which I am using for the awesome experiment of trying every Sauce of the Month for the year of 2013 without depriving myself of the poutine in my LotF budget. 

I think, in the three and a half years*** I have been living in Melbourne, I have tried LotF's Sauce of the Month once only. I know! So now I am living on the edge, trying them every time. 

Today Fi and I had a midweek lunch picnic at Flagstaff Gardens, joined by Danni and E, and of course the Rocket. I baked orange and poppyseed biscuits (recipe tomorrow), but in my geniusness decided to scoot on over to visit the Lord at Melbourne Central and grab a cone of this month's sauce in my handy-dandy tupperware container.****

yemen skhug
This sauce, the Yemen Skhug, is super delicious and this evening there has been much lamenting around the house that no sampling of this delicious sauce had occurred previously, and now the month is nearly over! The Yemen Skhug is based on skhug, or zhug, and the Lord's January newsletter tells me that it is a hot paste common in Middle Eastern and North African cuisines, and the Lord mixes chilli, tomato, garlic, olive oil, coriander, parsley, lemon, herbs and spices together. 

I'm interested in learning more about skhug, in both its red and green forms, and the Yemeni cuisine it traditionally accompanies. That's how great I found this sauce. 

Lord of the Fries
You know where to find it, it's everywhere. Except Brunswick and Southern Cross, where I really want it. 

*this is a lie
**at this point in writing this review, I paused to go and buy the ingredients for chocolate mousse, which is now setting in the fridge
***TECHNICALLY two and a half years, because China
****this was a genius idea and I recommend it to you and all of your friends, especially when you're on your bike

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

berry and chocolate slice

The super awesome Fi bought the also awesome Danni the Vegan Junk Food cookbook for her birthday, and then it sat on the shelf for a month until I decided something needed to be cooked from it. I was, as I often am, keen to bake something but completely uninterested in leaving the house, so I picked the white chocolate raspberry bars (pg 205), and then modified them to work with what I had in the house and what I felt like.

And they turned out sweet, but excellent. Seriously, so sweet I needed water or black tea to drink with it to offset the sweetness, but if sweetness is your thing please feel free to go with it. 

choc raspberry slice
I used a combination of strawberry, raspberry and mixed berry jams, because that was what I had in the house (there is a surprisingly large amount of jam in my fridge), but I suspect just about any jam would work. I have a pear and blackberry from Babka's that I particularly want to try in it. 

I've tried a couple of other recipes from Vegan Junk Food; book review coming soon!

berry and chocolate slice
modified from the white chocolate and raspberry bars in vegan junk food

you will need:
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup margarine and/or copha
2 tablespoons plain oil (canola or similar)
1 teaspoon vanilla
shake of salt salt
2 and a half cups of flour (I used a mix of plain and baking)
1 teaspoon baking powder
100g chocolate
half cup applesauce 
1 cup of raspberry jam

so then:
Preheat the oven to 175C!

With a fork, beat the sugar, vanilla, oil and margarine (melt the copha if you're using it and be prepared to wait one million years). Add in the flour and mix until crumbly. You may want to use your hands for this. When it's all crumbs, set aside a heaped cup of this mixture. 

Melt the chocolate, and add this and the apple sauce to the bigger portion of the crumb mixture. Mix it all together and then press into a lined square tin.* Bake this for 12 minutes, then remove from the oven, spread the jam over it, and sprinkle with the remaining crumb mix. If you had any more chocolate lying around the house you could put some on top, but I ran out. 

Bake for 25 minutes, and allow to cool completely before cutting. It'll still fall apart a little anyway, but it's better this way. 

Variants: desiccated coconut on top of the crumbly topping.

*I used a circle tin but only because while I was in China my square tin went missing !!!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

spiced sweet potato and pistachio cake

I wanted to bake something today, and there was half a sweet potato in the house, and I thought, why not? No regrets, it was delicious straight out of the oven and if you give me half a mo, I bet I'll declare it's delicious cold with a cup of tea, too.

sweet potato and pistachio cake

sweet potato and pistachio cake

you will need:
one and a third cups of flour (I used half self-raising and half plain)
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 very heaped teaspoon of ground ginger
a shake of salt
a shake of ground cloves
half a teaspoon of nutmeg
an amount of sweet potato that makes 1 - 1.5 cups after it's boiled and mashed
1 cup of sugar (i used castor, but i bet brown or coconut sugar would also work great)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
one third of a cup of oil (canola or something plain)
two chinese soupspoons of apple sauce
a handful of pistachios.

to make it:
peel, dice and boil sweet potato, then drain and mash. let it cool down a bit (i used this opportunity to read some more blogs). then combine flour, baking powder, spices and salt in a large bowl. in a separate bowl, whisk together the oil and the sugar until combined, then add the vanilla essence and the apple sauce. mix this with the sweet potato until it's a nice consistency, and pour into the dry ingredients. mix until it's just combined, then throw in the pistachios and give it a stir twice more just to get those through.

bake at 180C for about 30 minutes, or until baked through. i used baking paper in my loaf tin.

Monday, 14 January 2013

laksa king [flemington]

One of the hardest things about being a vegan from Penang living in a not very Malaysian Australian city (Melbourne why, all I do is love you and this is how you treat me) is how hard it is to find good (vegan) laksa. Perth, no problem! Penang, obviously no problem. Melbourne, why.

Anyway, all that is to say, I have been wanting to visit Laksa King in Flemington for a while now, having heard many good things about it, and when the opportunity arose Fi and I moseyed on over there and both ordered the vegetarian laksa, made vegan. While ordering the vegetarian laksa, with vegan option (this emphasis may be annoying but I promise it makes sense soon), we also ordered the fresh-made tofu with mushrooms and wolfberries (you may know them as goji berries), and I ordered a soya bean milk because I'm Malaysian and can't drink a Milo Ais or a teh tarik, which is the only way I could have been more Malaysian at that moment. 
least favourite soy milk

Sadly, they brought out my nemesis, Vamino soy milk, the only azn soy milk around that contains cow milk, and also incidentally tastes gross. Why a Malaysian place wouldn't serve Yeo's, basically the most SEAZN brand there is, I don't know. 

Then came the tofu fresh made on premises, and I knew. Oh, I knew. I stuck my chopsticks into that tofu and broke off a piece, and I knew. That fresh made tofu was egg tofu. Which was a shame, as we'd made such a point of ordering the vegan laksa that I didn't even think to check that the fresh tofu wasn't egg tofu. Saddest. 

The laksa was fine. There was my least favourite tofu (least favourite other than egg tofu, obviously), but lots of noodles and greens, and as is traditional I took most of Fi's noodles because she can't eat all the joyous carbs and she stole some of my soup, which was much less coconutty than hers. And I slurped my way through my noodles, piling them into my spoon and getting laksa everywhere, and laksa is like a little balm on my soul no matter its quality. But they were super coconutty laksas with no spice at all, though nicely oily, and in the end it was okay but nothing spectacular, and maybe if I was in the area again I'd try one of the other Malaysian places nearby, or default to Chillipadi across the street.

Ugh will no one make me an assam laksa?

Other reviews: Fi (on our visit); Cindy and Michael; Pip. Non-veggie meh agreement: the cooking capers.

Laksa King
6-12 Pin Oak Crescent
Get there on the Craigieburn train or the 57 tram. Ramp to get in, didn't check out the bathrooms. Mid-to-high price for a lunch ($9 something for the laksa, but $17 something for the tofu).

Monday, 7 January 2013

easy good food: pasta salad with marinated tempeh

I've had a few requests lately for easy, nutritious, fast, after-work vegan food, so this is the first post in an occasional series of easy good fast foods. For the most part they're rounded meals on their own, or close enough. They're my comfort foods, my lazy foods, my whatever is in the house foods. I almost always have the supplies, or most of the supplies, in the house required to make these meals.

They do rely in part on pre-prepared things, but no shame, I mean, I'm not gonna sun dry my own tomatoes, am I? (spoilers: I'm not)

noms on a hot day
We'll start with one of my favourite summer recipes, sun-dried tomato pasta salad with marinated tempeh.

I know! How can something that involves marinating be fast? Trust me on this one. It's great. It's so great I made this salad twice on Thursday last week, and a big batch of it on Boxing Day (not just for me).

To serve two people (maybe three)
Pots and things that will need washing up: two (a pot for pasta, and a frypan, but maybe you can mix the pasta in the pot). Also a colander.
Time: ten minutes for prep, ten-fifteen for cooking
Complete meal: you got your proteins, your fresh vegetables, your grains, your oils/fats, your deliciousness.

You will need:
100g plain tempeh
some five spice powder
little bit of sesame oil (teaspoon or two)
a tablespoon or three of light soy sauce

200g pasta spirals (spirals! very important!)
100g sundried tomatoes (if they're pre-sliced strips, this is easier, but if they're not remember to cut them into strips)
dash of lemon juice
dried chilli flakes to your desired hotness (I usually use about half a teaspoon) (these really should be flakes, by the way, not ground)
big handful of something fresh that you can eat raw (such as snow peas, or capsicum)
handful of nuts or seeds (such as cashews or sunflower seeds)

What you do:
Slice the tempeh thin, like bacon strips or something, then mix together the five spice, sesame oil and soy sauce and marinate the tempeh in it. If there's not enough liquid, add some more. Sometimes I add minced ginger if I have any in the fridge, but it's totally not compulsory. Leave to marinate.

Put on the pasta to boil. Slice up the fresh things (and the sundried tomatoes if necessary) into nice single bite chunks. You will notice this is basically everything. At this point, fry the tempeh in a little vegetable oil until it's nice and brown on both sides.

When the pasta is firm but ready, drain it and then in a bowl (or the pot!) mix together all of those ingredients that aren't the tempeh or marinade, including the things that look like dressing (lemon juice, chilli, and the oil from those sun-dried tomatoes!), and the nuts. Mix well to make sure the dressing is even! Serve with tempeh on top or beside. Eat.

This seems oily, I know, but you control the oil via how much of the sun-dried tomato oil you put in. Other than that, you can change up your fresh veggies, your nuts and seeds, and even swap out the tomato for marinated artichokes or capsicum if that takes your fancy! Don't swap out the spirals, they are perfect for grabbing onto the flavour.
I am submitting this to Cate's Cates for the Substantial Salads Challenge. You should submit stuff too!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

curious goose [brunswick] (or: spoilers, secret dairy)

My friend Liz and I occasionally meet up on Wednesdays for brunch at random places. Yesterday we were hoping to go to A Minor Place, but alas it was not to be, for they were closed for the new year, as were Wide Open Road and Tom Phat. So we decided to give newish cafe Curious Goose a go.

Let me start with: the service was really great. Our waitperson was really helpful, friendly and lovely, very attentive, and didn't mind all the questions I asked about the menu and making it vegan. Which was handy, as it turned out basically nothing was vegan. The mushrooms were soaked in butter, the potatoes had cheese, the avocado had aioli (apparently usually there were fresh avocados too, but their delivery was unripe and they didn't want to serve it to me, for which I thank them. This aside is getting very long but I recall the time Miss T was served unripe avocado, and am glad that wasn't me).

misc vegan brekkie

In the end I got a whole bunch of things (and somehow some mushrooms, though I had been denied them earlier with suggestions of butter), and they tasted good. Though beetroot is never my thing, this one, hidden behind the beans, was so delicious I ate it all up, and was served with a chilli dukkah that was pretty great. The beans were delicious and the bread (baked on premises) was lovely.

But my friends, not only am I vegan, but I am lactose intolerant, as is (non-vegan) brunch-buddy Liz, and after our meals, after a short period of wandering up Sydney Road doing errands, we ended our brunch date in order to go and commune with the porcelain gods, which can only mean one thing: stealth dairy.

There are so many amazing places willing to provide a brunch-oriented vegan with food in Brunswick, that despite the nice flavours and the excellent service and the really fun (but not vegan) menu, the Curious Goose is unlikely to be a repeat for me.

Curious Goose
307 Sydney Road
7 days a week, breakfast and lunch

I was distracted and didn't check steps and things: tables are spread apart and service is seated at them. Lighting is low during the day but not too low. Get there on the 19 tram.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

ginger and five spice biscuits

So we went vegmeling to celebrate the end of the year, and one of the things I made were Catherine's Gingernut and Five Spice Biscuits. Well, sort of. And in a few different variations.

ginger and five spice cookies

First I made them in the Friends of the Earth kitchen, using ingredients found in the FoE Melbourne food co-op, which meant all sorts of substitutions. Then, after beautifully and successfully doing that (pictured above), I went home and did it all again, only this time much closer to the original recipe but gluten free, which included sitting on the floor of my kitchen stone grinding star anise for the five spice. 

The gluten-free version, with the original treacle and golden syrup, caramalised the recipe when it was baking and made it crunchy and gingernutty. The FoE version, with its agave syrup and coconut butter, was softer, more like a gingerbread biscuit in texture, and more spicy, I think enhanced by the agave. 

I enjoyed the more original recipe, but I loved my revisions, so I copy them below. 

This recipe is very flexible, it took me over an hour to put together what with constant interruptions in the Co-op, often leaving the batter half mixed in the heat. When it got too gloopy I dropped it in the fridge for five minutes, where it dried out quickly (because I forgot to cover it) but was easier to manage.

For gluten-free, just do a direct orgran's substitute. All good! And make sure your five spice is gluten free - it often isn't, even if it doesn't admit it on the pack. 

Ginger and Five Spice Biscuits
Modified from Catherine

200g bakers flour or SR flour (or a combination of the two)
100g coconut butter (originally nuttelex/butter/margarine thing)
75g brown sugar
90g dark agave
30g light agave
2 tablespoons of Chinese five spice mix (mostly this was because I misread teaspoons instead of tablespoons, but I loved the added flavour so kept it)
2 tablespoons of ground ginger
halfish a teaspoon of bicarb

Melt the cocoa butter, and combine with the agave and the sugar. Add in all the other ingredients, and mix so it's even. Roll the biscuits to about a centimetre thick, and cut out into biscuits (I used a glass tumblr). Place on a lined or greased baking tray, and bake for 9-12 minutes at 180C. Allow to cool, then eat. 

After much deliberation and consultation with other people in the co-op that day, I elected to put a pistachio nut into the centre of each biscuit. You could also use a sultana or a goji berry or anything like that. Or elect not to put in anything.