Monday, February 20, 2017

The Reverence Hotel III

February 4, 2017


We're thrilled to see the AFLW burst onto the sporting calendar, and made our way west for the Bulldogs-Dockers game with some friends. It was a great excuse to stop by the Rev for dinner. We really haven't made it here as often as this veg-friendly pub deserves - and with a big for-sale sign visible out front, our days to make the most of it might be numbered.

The menu is four pages of deep-fried snacks, Mexican-style mains, burgers and pizzas, with a couple of desserts snuck at the end. While it's an omni spread, almost every item has a vegan option on it using mock meat and dairy; there are a respectable range of gluten-free versions too.


We were in the mood for burgers! Michael took on the Big Rev Burger ($18) and was impressed by mock-beef patty. It was further layered up with vegan cheese and bacon, beetroot relish, jalapeno mustard, chipotle lime mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, onion and a pickle garnish. It comes with a hefty serve of spicy fries, too.


I tested out the Reverence Chicken Burger ($18), after dredging half of my chips through the chipotle aioli. It's an enormous, fatty mock fillet with a crunchy coating, stacked with mock bacon, the requisite salad, and a smear of guacamole. It was my kinda flavour combination, but I just couldn't get more than half-way through this thick, junky burger.


Our intended popcorn chicken appetiser ($9) arrived long after our mains. The Rev mean the descriptor literally, tossing popcorn kernels through the fried mock-nuggets. The lime-flecked sauce was the highest point of our meal, and revived our appetites for a bit of snacking mid-main.


The vegan burgers, pizzas and grungy atmosphere of the Rev remind me of the closer-to-home Cornish Arms, right down to the jumbo serving sizes. But the Cornish doesn't have such an extensive Mexican menu, or the chocolate nachos that stretch 'Mexican' to its culinary limits (confession: I'd eat 'em). It's unfortunate that we probably have limited days to explore these parts of the menu!

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You can also read about one, two of our previous visits to the Rev. Since that last post it's had positive reviews on veg blogs Chef John SmithFire & Tea and The Rose & Bean. There are also complimentary reviews on Consider the SauceFoodcrazyNot My Bread and Butter (twice), and Eat Like Ushi.
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The Reverence Hotel
28 Napier St, Footscray
9687 2111
snacks, Mexican mains, burgers, pizza, dessert
http://www.reverencehotel.com


Accessibility: There's a small step at the (narrowish) front door, but the side door is flat and wide. Inside things are fairly spread out, with at most small steps between the bar, side-room and courtyard. We ordered and paid at the bar, and didn't visit the toilets.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Carlton Club

January 31, 2017


We scheduled our February book club meeting at The Carlton Club, hoping to take advantage of its somewhat surprising switch to an all vegan menu. Sadly, between us picking the venue in late January and the date of our dinner they'd changed things up again and shifted back to an omni menu. Still, a good number of vegan options survived the menu change, so we persisted. We didn't venture up to the well known rooftop bar, instead settling into the dining room, which had an odd vibe - part opulent ballroom, part suburban RSL. If nothing else it provided a relatively quiet and spacious setting for our book-club to discuss Swing Time.

The new menu is pretty classic pub food - burgers and parmas make up the mains, with a selection of starters and salads to complement them. They've kept it about half vegetarian and there's a decent array of vegan stuff to choose from. We split a pile of vegan dishes three ways to give us the best chance to sample everything.

First up were a couple of starters - macaroni and cashew cheese croquettes with a porcini mayo (top, $8) and field mushroom and kale meatballs baked in a napoli sauce with almond parmesan (bottom, $7).


This was a spectacular start - the croquettes in particular were fantastic, combining fried carbs and creamy sauce to good effect. I really liked the mushroom meatballs as well - they were dense, hearty and well seasoned.

Next up was a flurry of mains and sides - a beetroot, black bean and quinoa burger with lettuce, vegan cheese, sriracha mayo, jalapenos and fried onion (left, $12) and fries with cajun salt (right, $8). 


They were accompanied by a sub based on the mushroom and kale meatballs with vegan cheese and pesto (left, $12) and a chopped kale salad, with avocado, shaved fennel, crispy chickpeas and a creamy vegan Caesar dressing (right, $14).


Again, these were all pretty great. The beetroot burger patty was maybe a little dry, but it went down a treat slathered in spicy mayo and mock cheese. The mushroom meatballs worked well as a sub filling, although they went a little over the top with the gooey toppings, which made it tricky to split three ways. The kale salad was excellent - it'd be a boring meal on its own, but it was the perfect way to accompany our other heavily fried selections. Most importantly, The Carlton Club does a damn good chip - it's such an important thing for a pub to do well.

We were a bit disappointed when we arrived to find that we'd missed The Carlton Club's short time as a wholly veggie place, but they turned our frowns upside-down with an excellent selection of vegan dishes, efficient service and some cheesy backing tunes for our intellectual book discussions. It's not a venue I can imagine visiting on a busy night, but if you're after vegan-friendly pub food in the CBD you could do an awful lot worse.


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There are surprisingly few blog reviews of the Carlton Club - I could only find Parma Daze and Words and Flavours, both of which are from the days before things turned vegan-friendly.

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The Carlton Club
193 Bourke St, Melbourne
9663 3246
food
http://www.thecarlton.com.au/

Accessibility: Entry is up a long flight of stairs - I didn't see an elevator anywhere. There's full table service in the dining room except that payment takes place at a high bar. We didn't visit the toilets.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Barbecued peaches with ginger-coconut sauce

January 22, 2017


We've been having a fabulous summer of picnics... of dips and chips, and rolls and salads, noodles and cakes and fruit. (And we can always trust Steph to bring one-to-three flavours of iced tea). For this one in late January I did something new and got a public barbecue involved. It opened us up to veggie sausages, marinated tofu, 'pulled' jackfruit and seitan ribs. The fellows flipping meat on the adjacent grill hadn't seen anything like it in their lives.

This simple dessert is handy with a hotplate, too. It's just peaches, barbecued until they're juicy and lightly charred, served with a spoonful of sauce. It's too bad the sauce looks like Clag glue, because it's an actually-rather-fetching mix of coconut milk, minced ginger and caramelised sugar. Once I'd persuaded two people to dig in, their enthusiastic murmurs lured in a few more, and so on. By the time I got back from the playground with the kids there was just one warm peach half left and two or three people eyeing it off.


This recipe comes with a handy tip from its creator, Isa Chandra Moskowitz - peaches are most easily halved 'around the waist', not top to bottom! The pits often pop out with little more than a twist, too.

The original recipe features elegant home-kitchen grill lines on the fruit, some discreetly-hidden served-warm sauce, and a generous scoop of non-dairy icecream. I'd like that version very much, too, but Tupperware-stored sauce is enough when you're several kilometres from your freezer and already stuffed with potato salad.



Barbecued peaches with ginger-coconut sauce
(a recipe published online by Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon cornflour
165mL can coconut milk
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
a few shakes of salt
6-8 peaches
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons canola oil

In a medium-large saucepan, stir together the sugar, 3 tablespoons of the water and maple syrup. Set them over medium heat and stir regularly until the sugar is dissolved. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. A bit of bubbling around the edges is fine, but turn down the heat if it's any more than that. The mixture should turn a few shades browner.

In a mug, whisk together the cornflour and last tablespoon of water. When it's smooth, gradually whisk in the coconut milk. Slowly whisk the cornflour-coconut milk into the saucepan. Stir in the coconut oil, ginger and salt. Continue cooking and regularly stirring the sauce for up to 7 minutes, until slightly thickened. Serve warm, or cool to room temperature and store until you're ready.

Halve the peaches by slicing them 'around the waist', not top to bottom. Twist and/or cut out their pits. Place the peach halves in a large bowl; toss through the lemon juice and oil.

Heat up a barbecue or grill pan and cook the peaches - about 7 minutes on their flat sides, followed by 2 on their round side. They should be more tender but still holding their shape, with a light surface char. Serve with the sauce poured over or on the side.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Chocolate, rose & walnut icecream

January 21, 2017


It's becoming a fairly predictable cross-over for me: Ottolenghi club x ice cream. I've done chocolate halva sundaes, strawberry-rose sundaes and even green herb sundaes; for the latest club gathering I dialed back to a more accessible Turkish delight-&-chocolate theme. This recipe has a rocky road feel too it - chocolate icecream with a touch of rosewater, studded with toasted walnuts and biscuit pieces, scattered prettily with Turkish delight cubes and rose petals. (I'm always happy for an excuse to use up some of my rose petals.)

It seemed impossible to mess up, though I tried my darnedest. Usually I'd pop my icecream maker in the freezer 24-48 hours before serving time.... this time I forgot until 6 short hours before the event. My freezer raced against the clock, and managed to turn up something near-solid and scoopable. No-one need have known.

The original recipe includes a chocolate sauce (actually the same one from the chocolate halva sundae), but I reckon this is just fine without it. The icecream base is already darkly rich, its stir-ins are crunchy, the Turkish delight is sugary and chewy, the petals are delicate and fragrant. We didn't want for anything... not even a second scoop.



Chocolate, rose & walnut icecream
(a recipe from Ottolenghi's Guardian column)

350mL milk
300mL cream
1 tablespoon cocoa
3 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
100g dark chocolate, broken up
1 tablespoon espresso
2 teaspoons rose water
65g walnuts, broken up and toasted
3 plain biscuits, broken up
120g rose-flavoured Turkish delight, chopped into 1cm cubes
2 teaspoons dried rose petals

Stir the milk and cream together in a medium-large saucepan and set it over medium heat. Once it's almost simmering, take it off the heat.

Pour a little of the hot milk into a mug and whisk the cocoa into it. Once it's a smooth, even mix, pour it back into the saucepan and stir it through.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Gradually whisk in a little of a warm milk, then pour the egg mixture into the saucepan and stir it through. Set it all back on low-medium heat. Stir in the chocolate and coffee, until the chocolate is melted. Keep stirring until the custard thickens, then turn off the heat. Refrigerate the custard for at least a couple of hours, ideally overnight.

Whisk the rosewater into the custard, then strain the custard. Churn it in an icecream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Stir in the walnuts and biscuit pieces at the last moment, and freeze the icecream in a container for at least 4 hours.

To serve, scoop the icecream into bowls and scatter with the Turkish delight pieces and rose petals.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Eggplant kataifi nests

January 21, 2017


January saw the long-awaited return of Ottolenghi club, our semi-regular potluck-style assault on Yotam's greatest hits. We had an empty day before the dinner, so I decided to take on something a bit more challenging than my usual fancy salad and dove head-first into these eggplant nests. These were an outstanding success - the choice dish in a meal loaded up with excellence and one that we made again before we even managed to get this blog post written. The crispy nests are wrapped around a smooth, smoky eggplant filling and served with a tangy and spicy dipping sauce - they're great straight out of the oven and nearly as good at room temperature. 

The key ingredient is kataifi pastry - we found some at A1 Grocery on Sydney Road, and I imagine any decent Mediterranean or Middle Eastern food-store will come through for you. I've read that you can substitute shredded filo pastry, but I reckon you're better off making the effort to track this down - it's really worth it. Once you've got the pastry it's just a matter of working your way through the recipe - the roasting of the eggplants, capsicum, chilli and garlic stretches out over a few hours and the assembly of the little nests takes a bit of time, but the pay-off is really, really worth it. These will definitely be on our where's the best? list the next time we update it.



Eggplant kataifi nests
(adapted very slightly from a recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty More)

4 eggplants (about 1.2kg)
200g ricotta
65g pecorino, roughly grated
1 small bunch parsley, chopped
1 egg, beaten
100g ghee
80ml sunflower oil
340g packet kataifi pastry (thawed)
salt and pepper

capsicum & tomato salsa
1 medium capsicum
1 red chilli
3 unpeeled garlic cloves
200g crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
50ml olive oil
salt

Preheat the oven to 250°C.

Pierce the eggplants a few times with a knife and lay them out on a baking tray. Roast them in the oven for 90 minutes, turning every 20 minutes or so to make sure they all get nice and blackened. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, before scooping out the flesh and leaving it to drain in a colander for half an hour.

While the eggplants are roasting you can get to work on the salsa. Put the capsicum, chilli and garlic on another oven tray and roast them in the oven for 10 minutes. Take the chilli and garlic out and turn the capsicum, roasting for another 20 minutes or so until its skin is all blistered. Remove the capsicum and pop it in a bowl covered with plastic wrap to cool (this makes the skin easier to peel off). Peel and deseed the capsicum and chilli and peel the garlic.

Pop the roasted capsicum, chilli and garlic into a small food processor and whizz to a paste. Add the vinegar, oil and about 1 teaspoon of salt and and the crushed tomatoes and whizz some more until you've got a smooth sauce.

Melt the ghee in a small saucepan and combine it with the sunflower oil.

Once all the veggies have been roasted drop the oven temperature down to 200°C and get ready to make the nests. First up, make the filling - mix the eggplant flesh together with the ricotta, pecorino, parsley, egg and generous amounts of salt and pepper.

Now it's time to build the nests! Lightly grease a baking tray - we started with a 30cm x 20cm tray but overflowed and had to use a small square tray as well. Pull out about 25g of the kataifi pastry (I weighed the first couple before I got into a rhythm). Stir a tablespoon of the butter mix into the pastry parcel and then spread it out on a cutting board until you have a rectangle about 15cm x 5cm. Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of the mix onto one end of the rectangle and then roll the pastry loosely around the filling. 

Lay the rolled up pastry in the baking tray and then repeat - you can squish them up right against each other. Once you've made all the rolls, drizzle whatever oil/butter mix you have leftover on top and bake for 25-30 minutes until the tops go nice and golden.

Serve, with the sauce on the side.