Sunday, September 25, 2016

Fremantle

September 16-20, 2016


After my work duties were done, Michael met up with me in Perth so that we could enjoy a week off together. We spent the first half in Fremantle - here are six places we ate while there.
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After setting down our gear, we walked down to the Little Creatures Brewery by the water for dinner. They've been bought out by Lion Nathan since I last visited nine years ago, and the food had a 'gastropub for the masses' feel that echoes that history. To their credit, food service was startlingly efficient - each dish was presented to our table less than 10 minutes after we'd ordered it.

We shared a large slice of grilled haloumi ($9.50), a so-so beetroot salad with spiced yoghurt, walnuts & freekeh ($12) and a wood-fired pizza topped with mushrooms, garlic & tallegio ($19). If we'd stopped there, we probably would have been satisfied. Instead we requested a couple of regrettably large desserts: for me, an enormous triplet of icecream sandwiches ($14) studded with chocolate cookies and top'n'fill-style caramel; for Michael, a too-sugary apple strudel ($14) with vanilla curd.

The brewery remains enormously popular, we suspect with tourists more than with locals.


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Saturday morning was our best chance to wander the Fremantle Markets, sipping juices and picking up whatever we fancied for breakfast. We loved the vegetarian arepa ($11) from Kachapas, which was golden-fried and stacked with black beans, melting cheese, shredded veges, a fried plantain and several sauces (psst - they do a vegan version too). Again we were over-ambitious and subsequently struggled to finish a golden-layered feta borek for second-breakfast.
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Sunday breakfast at Moore & Moore was, in spite of the name, more measured. This charming, artsy cafe adjoins a gallery and cobbles together comfy pre-loved furniture in little nooks, sneaks through a moody warehouse passageway and spills out into a ramshackle sunny back garden. It was here, out the back, that Michael feasted on The Avocado ($18), which in addition to its namesake featured grainy toast, grilled haloumi, poached eggs and a lovely broad bean and olive salsa.

Meanwhile I had eyes only for the Grilled Potato Cake ($19), which was crowned with asparagus spears and a citrus dressing. The staff were kind enough to exchange the standard eggs for mushrooms on my request. If we lived in the neighbourhood, we could see this cheery, relaxed venue becoming our local.


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After a day dining with quokkas, we stuck our head in Run Amuk Hotdogs for a quick, early dinner. They make their own vegan, gluten-free sausages analogous to their meat-based bratwursts and they'll stick one in any of their hot dogs for an extra $1. The sausages taste great and have a firm crust, but their inside mushiness gives away that there's no meat here.

I went traditional and ordered my hotdog with just onions, tomato sauce & mustard ($10.50), while Michael tried their formula for Mischief ($14): tomato relish, guacamole, cheddar, baby spinach, tortilla chips, jalapenos & sour cream. The fries ($4) and coriander-lime aioli ($1.50) were on point, and the house-made lemonade ($5 each) was a good choice - I had no hope of tackling their Reese's Peanut Butter Choc Shake after all this!


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Michael's google skills happened upon a Monday night food truck gathering Under The Bridge. Although the evening was chilly, a live band and 3 trucks drew plenty of families, students, holiday-makers, and - to Michael's delight - their dogs.

We carefully selected one sample from each stall. Flying Falafels fry their flagship food well and pair it with a nice tahini dip ($10). Comida do Sul had a hearty Prato Feito Vegetarian plate (~$14) of bean sausage and roasted yam, black beans, rice, pan-fried kale and fresh tomato salsa. The street-food star was Eat No Evil's crunchy-skinned crushed potatoes ($8) with chipotle mayo and some herby-sprouty sprinklin's.


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On our last morning we hulked our luggage to The Attic and gamely left it out front while we ate breakfast upstairs. Though they have folks order and pay up front at the counter, the ambiance fits with Melbourne's exposed-brick coffee roastery scene.

Michael took on their smashed avocado with feta, cherry tomatoes and mint ($17.50) with a poached egg ($2). I slowly chewed my way through a lovely bowl of grain-free cacao & nut granola, coyo, strawberries and kiwi fruit with the help of a little almond milk ($14)... best served without a side of nutritional nonsense.


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As you can see, we ate handsomely in Fremantle! Though specifically vegetarian restaurants are limited (and completely absent from this post), we noticed many places with thoughtful options and even welcoming notes to vegans. It had us feeling right at home.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Perth

September 11-15, 2016


After a week in Fukuoka, I'm now reporting from Perth! It's been 9 years since I explored this city in any meaningful way, although Michael stopped in just last year. My work commitments had me located right in the city centre, eating lots of in-house catering but allowing a bit of time to wander about and seek more exciting veg options. Here are four of those.
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I had Sunday to recover from my travel and prep for a busy week ahead. Most of Perth seemed to be in recovery mode too - the streets were quiet, although a smattering of burger joints were well attended! I was tempted to join in when I saw haloumi burgers filing out of the Little Bird Cafe kitchen, but I satisfied myself with their more conventional brunch menu. It reminded me of Melbourne's Glass Den, where meat-based dishes sit alongside green brekky bowls, maca-spiked almond milk smoothies and raw vegan cakes.


I took on their signature vegan buckwheat pancake ($20), which was listed to include banana, coconut and cashew cream. I was thrilled to get a lot of other fruits besides, although I preferred not to eat the greenery. The pancake was lovely, just a little crispy on the outside and cakey in the middle, primed to soak up some maple syrup. Although there was a lot going on, the plate was lacking a little depth - I would have welcomed a hint of bitterness, sourness or charring to round everything out. Nevertheless I was very happy to be eating a variety of gorgeous fruits in a friendly, bustling cafe.
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Michael recommended that I seek out Utopia in Northbridge for some mock meat and bubble tea. It's set back from the James St footpath, but once found proves to be an enormous cafe with dozens of menu items, as well as fridges stocked with mock meats and desserts that you can take home with you. The menu includes photos of every dish - noodles and soups, stir-fries, sizzling plates and, to my surprise, fish and chips.


Overwhelmed and seeking to narrow my options, I focused on the cheap Chef's Specials which come with a serve of rice. The sweet & sour chicken rice with crispy chicken ($11.50) was pretty standard and over-sweet, although there's always some illicit pleasure in eating a main dish with pineapple (*pulls face at Michael*). My lychee tea with aloe vera ($5) was equally fun and sugary - I really brought that on myself.
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I noticed Indonesia Indah very close to my hotel, and promised myself I'd pay them a visit when I saw tempe listed on their menu out front. Unfortunately it was no longer included on their up-to-date manu inside, but there remained a dozen other veg-friendly dishes.


I picked out the sauteed tofu with egg ($11.90) and added some steamed rice ($2.50). The fried tofu pieces were served in a thin, tangy gravy the held wisps of egg, sauteed onions and tender green vegetables; it was all scattered with golden fried shallots. I was confused to see few other customers enjoying this great food, but perhaps it's more popular at lunch time.
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On my final night in the city I walked beyond Utopia to Lotus Vegetarian, which I'd enjoyed in 2007. I unintentionally but fortuitously entered its sibling restaurant Sri Melaka, which serves Malaysia vegetarian foods. There's also a neighbouring vegetarian grocery, closed at night, to round out the business triplet.


Here I chose a small but rich plate of roti paratha and chicken kapitan ($11). The two rotis were piping hot and fried to flaky perfection, perfect for dipping into the oily curry. The medium-spiced curry bowl had plenty of diced mock chicken and just one wedge of potato. Sour pickled vegetables were a welcome contrast, although they added another layer of chilli. Thank goodness for aloe vera juice!
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These Perth meals made for fun mini-escapes during my work week. It's been a relief to clock off entirely since then - stay tuned for holiday eats next.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Fukuoka

September 4-10, 2016


It's been a quiet week on the blog, but those following us on twitter and facebook will have seen some updates from Fukuoka, Japan, where I've been attending a conference. My host was kind and persistent in securing vegetarian food for me, quizzing cooks several times daily in Japanese about dashi. In turn most chefs were equally generous in making me something off-menu, checking food labels and asking questions of their own accord. 



I enjoyed my usual inari and pickled plum onigiri from the convenience stores. We happened upon soft tofu served in a balloon, lovely braised Chinese vegetables, and tempura on udon. I drank several kinds of sake and ate sweet, pillowy omelettes. There's little I can share that any other non-Japanese speaking vegetarian in Fukuoka could take up and try for themselves - just one small restaurant called Ethnic café Bõ. It's a Vietnamese eatery where the chef knows exactly what vegetarian and vegan foods are, and is all set to prepare multiple versions of them.

It was the rare week where my vegetarian diet felt restricting, but this was tempered with gratitude for the many people who went out of their way to accommodate me.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Mega-mallow Vovo

August 28, 2016


Our favourite Vegan About Town is headed to Singapore for several months, and as a send-off she requested Aussie foods for a potluck in her home. Michael made sausage rolls, naturally, and I put my mind to dessert. I took a gamble on recreating Iced Vovos which Steph has related some nostalgia for.

Vegan-wise, the internet turns up a couple of neat recipes on Like A Vegan. By the time I came on board, one of Steph's housemates had already tried this formulation, and they weren't a fan of the agar texture in the pink fondant layer. I gave myself a couple of options - shopping around for vegan marshmallows, and/or making my own pink marshmallow fluff using aquafaba.


From the Cruelty-Free Shop, I was able to pick up these strawberry vegan marshmallows. They're lightly pink and have a pleasant, natural strawberry flavour that I hoped would carry through. (I still held over some aquafaba from Saturday night's dinner just in case it all went horribly, horribly wrong.) 

Everything was a bit experimental, really. I made an oversized biscuit that ended up a bit cakey after I topped up my plain flour with self-raising. The dough was too sticky to shape, but I cautiously cut some Vovo crinkles into the edges after it baked.

I started getting properly nervous when I tried to melt the marshmallows - they stretched and globbed and stayed stubbornly lumpy, while the edges began turning gold. Using oiled baking paper, I was able to fashion the goo into a couple of sausage shapes and lay them onto my big biscuit. (The marshmallow saucepan looked disastrous, and I filled it up with cold water that I prayed would dissolve the sugar.) I reckoned those marshmallow logs were hiding lumpy-crunchy-sugary bits on the inside. The coconut and jam were my saviours, the final well-behaved touches that lent the perfect Vovo look.

For no reason I can fathom, the marshmallows proved to be just fine and my mega-mallow Vovo was a roaring, sugary success. I still hesitate to recommend my sticky-gooey-will-it-or-won't-it approach, though! Embark on this recipe at your own risk.



Mega-mallow Vovo
(a recipe inspired by the Iced Nono Tart and Vovo biscuits on Like a Vegan)


1/2 cup margarine
1 cup caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup plain flour
1 cup self-raising flour
pinch of salt
1/4 cup soy milk
3 x 75g packets vegan strawberry marshmallows
spray oil
1/4 cup dessicated coconut
1/3 cup berry jam

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Line a small walled baking tray with paper.

Place the margarine, sugar and vanilla into a large bowl and beat them together until fluffy. Sift in the flours and salt and slowly beat them in, gradually adding the soy milk as you go. It could all come together into a sticky dough. Press the dough into the baking tray and flatten it out as best you can. Bake it for 10 minutes, then retrieve the biscuit to flatten it out more with the back of a spoon. Bake the biscuit for a further 10-15 minutes, until it's golden and cooked through but not too thickly crusted. Allow the biscuit to cool completely. 

If you'd like to replicate the crinkled edge of a Vovo biscuit, use the baking paper to lift the biscuit out of the tray. Use a round biscuit cutter to remove small arcs of biscuit at regular intervals along the edge (see top photo).

Set a medium saucepan over low-medium heat and pour in the marshmallows. Stir them regularly as they melt into a big lump - it'll be gooey and ugly and you want to avoid the sugar browning. I did this for about 10 minutes before turning off the heat. Spray a little oil onto a sheet of baking paper and plonk half of the marshmallow goo onto the paper. Roll the marshmallow up and fashion it into a long sausage shape. When it's the same length as your biscuit, transfer it onto the biscuit and flatten it with your fingers to cover a third of the surface (see top photo). Press half of the coconut into the marshmallow. Repeat with the other half of the marshmallow goo, lining the other side of the biscuit.

Gently spoon the jam onto the middle third of the biscuit. Store it all in the fridge if you're not planning to serve it right away; it can sit at room temperature for a couple of hours if needed.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Banana & strawberry cupcakes

August 21-22, 2016


My job is now split over two campuses - I've got some lovely new officemates and we've all moved into a newly refurbished workroom together. Our supervisor invited the rest of the department around for an office-warming morning tea, and our team all agreed to bring along snacks to share.

I first baked a tray of gluten-free, vegan caramel slice to ensure that most special-diet bases were covered. Then I moved onto using up some bananas in a cupcake recipe that I've had bookmarked for 8 years. With eggs and vegetable oil and fresh strawberries folded through perhaps it's more of a muffin recipe, except that the 'muffins' are spread with cream cheese frosting. I slathered the frosting on generously with a knife (no piping for me), and added some sprinkles on top for decoration. I had almost a cup of leftover frosting, which I enjoyed eating with fresh strawberries over the following week.

I like the flavour combination of sweet bananas and strawberries offset with a little tanginess from lemon zest and cream cheese. It was very popular with my colleagues too!


Banana & strawberry cupcakes
(slightly adapted from a recipe on Vanilla Garlic)

cake
3 cups plain flour
1 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
generous pinch salt
3 small bananas, peeled
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 eggs
3/4 cup sunflower oil
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 cup strawberries, chopped

frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened
250g cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons milk

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Place cupcake papers in a cupcake tray.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate large bowl, mash the bananas and the vanilla together. Crack the eggs in one at a time and whisk them through. Whisk in the oil and lemon zest until well combined. Gradually stir in the flour mixture, and then fold in the strawberries.

Spoon the cake batter into the cupcake papers to three-quarters full. (I made 16 cupcakes, and so used up the mixture over two separate baking batches.) Bake the cupcakes until a skewer comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

Allow the cupcakes to cool before frosting them. This is a good time to take the butter and cream cheese out of the fridge to soften.

With an electric beater, whip together the butter, cream cheese and vanilla until fluffy. Sift and beat in the icing sugar, half a cup at a time until well mixed and fluffy. Beat in a little milk if the frosting looks too stiff to spread. Use a knife to spread the cooled cupcakes generously with frosting. Store cupcakes in the fridge, but allow them half an hour on the bench before eating.