Sunday, March 22, 2009

March 22, 2009: The Chocolate Mill

The final mandatory stop on the Vegan Potluck tour of Hepburn was at the Chocolate Mill. The only detail about this place that I'd received, repeatedly, prior to our arrival was that the Chocolate Mill does vegan hot chocolates in a bowl and they're huge and rich and delicious.

Here's the evidence. A few of these were spooned and slurped very happily around our picnic table.

Michael and I preferred to share an iced chocolate - though the syrup and flavoured icecream didn't quite live up to the melted Belgian chocolate, it was a more refreshing choice as we sat in the sun. (Note that the iced chocolate is probably not veganisable, though the Chocolate Mill's milkshakes might be.)

Of course, the Mill doesn't just melt chocolate into drinks - they also mould it around all sorts of other flavours. The vegan ones are helpfully labelled with a green V.

You can even take a peek at the moulding and decorating in action!

Naturally, I took a couple of extra treats home with us. This Dark Connoisseur pack contains chocolate with three different levels of cocoa solids. I'm enjoying working my way up in bites from lowest to highest cocoa content.

This hand-picked assortment is pretty special, too. The cinnamon stick had a surprisingly stick-like texture, and the cherry-centred dark chocolate lips are spectacular.

It's quite possible that the Chocolate Mill won't outperform your favourite city chocolatier, but it's a must-taste stop for any sweet-toothed travellers through the Hepburn shire.

March 22, 2009: Himalaya Bakery and Cafe

Our post-banquet post-pub morning at The Conti was spent in various ways: I want for a wander through Hepburn Regional Park, a committed gang got up to endure a massive yoga session and everybody else waited around getting hungry. By the time everyone had saluted the sun sufficient times it was getting on towards 11 and the less flexible among the group were dying of hunger. Luckily, having rounded the whole gang up it was just a short drive to Daylesford and our breakfast date at Himalaya Bakery and Cafe.

They promise a wide range of vegetarian and vegan baked products, including pastries, cakes, muffins and breads, along with full breakfast and lunch menus. Everything is well-labelled, and there are plenty of vegan and gluten-free options both on the menus and in the bakery case. Everybody with prior Himalaya experience raved about the smoked tofu pies and the cherry danishes (more on these later), but we needed to start things off with something hot and delicious.

Cindy and I basically ordered the same thing: mushroom scrambled tofu ($11) - a deliciously herby mess of tofu and mushrooms fried up into a big gooey scramble. Cindy was smart enough to append a side order of herbed potatoes ($2.50), which I happily stole by the forkful. Outstanding.

I'd been pushing for either a smoked tofu pie or some sort of delightful dessert, but the load of breakfast was just too heavy. Instead, we packed up a delicious take home package for dinner: two smoked tofu pies and a cherry danish to share.

To be honest, the pies were a little disappointing - a bit on the dry side and a little short on the tofu. It was probably good for us that they were liberally packed with little vegie pieces, but I was looking for something a bit more rich and tofu-y.

Contrastingly, the danish really hit the spot - fruity and sugarry, with some of the tastiest vegan pastry you'll ever find. We probably should have swapped the order and dived into two of these and just one of the pies.

The Himalaya is a fine vego place - perfect for a late breakfast. The staff get a little overrun at busy times (to be fair, it's probably not often that a group of ten wanders in looking as ravenous as we did), but they're friendly and helpful and the food more than makes up for it.

Address: 73 Vincent Street, Daylesford
Ph: 5348 1267
Price: $5 - $13
Website: www.himalayabakery.com

March 21-22, 2009: Continental House

Continental House is a 'vegan life sanctuary' in Hepburn Springs. It offers modest accommodation as well as activities like yoga, massage courses, chanting and raw food workshops. They also have a vegan banquet on most Saturday nights. This is what drew a group of Vegan Potluckers to the Conti for a weekend road trip.

Most of the rooms fit two or three people, and they're pleasantly comfortable if not modern. There are shared toilets and showers around the corner, though Michael and I found ourselves in the one room with an en suite. This proved to be a bath room in the most literal sense, containing a nothing more than a bath and mirror! As well as numbers the rooms have nicknames (ours was 'Pixie'), after the murals painted on their walls.

There are also communal kitchen and lounge areas where you can rest and get to know the other visitors and residents. While making toast in the kitchen, Michael met a resident who'd been on a water-only fast for the past 60 hours. Why he was torturing himself by standing in the midst of food, I don't know.

____________

The banquet takes place in a lovely room below the guest bedrooms. There's plenty of room for everyone staying at the House, and the ten of us easily fitted around the largest of the tables.

The Conti is entirely alcohol free, but we were treated to freshly squeezed orange juice as well as non-alcoholic passionfruit, strawberry and ginger wines.

The first course was a sweet potato, tomato, lentil and basil soup served with corn chips. As we happily slurped and crunched and chatted our way through it, we didn't notice the empty serving tables (pictured above) being stacked generously with more food. It was an overwhelming array of salads, dips and bakes.

My plate includes:
  • a pumpkin coconut curry with chickpeas, coriander and black mustard seeds,
  • tabouleh,
  • beetroot dip
  • a spicy pickled cabbage salad with bitter green leaves,
  • avocado,
  • more corn chips,
  • a salad of tofu, seaweed, carrot and shitake mushrooms,
  • a spicy squash bake,
  • lightly dressed kolrabi and Chinese greens,
  • and the table favourite, an orange dip of eggplant, capsicum, garlic and olive oil.
There was plenty to go around, with Toby piling up his third plate with avocado just as I was finishing my first.

And of course there was dessert: fruit salad topped with banana icecream and ground cashews.

This kind of banquet is hardly competition for Melbourne's degustation greats. Rather, it's stuffed full of home-made hippy goodness, what you might expect to find at a Hare Krishna restaurant (though with less deep frying). The tranquil setting is enough to set anyone at ease. That is, if your visit doesn't coincide with a raucous Vegan Potluck road trip!

Address: 9 Lone Pine Ave, Hepburn Springs
Ph: 5348 2005
Alcohol free
Price: $70 per person, accommodation and vegan banquet
Website: www.continentalhouse.com.au

March 20, 2009: Honeycomb

I popped in to Allergy Block on Friday for a couple of groceries and Simon generously sent me off with a bonus sample of honeycomb - he'd just damaged the seal on the container and couldn't sell it on. This stuff comes straight from the beekeeper, Vincent Testa from Templestowe - the honey is still encased in the wax cells that the bees built to store it. Biting in, it is of course bursting with sweetness; I liked the chewy texture of the wax and the way it extended the honey flavour. Thankfully Simon instructed me to not to swallow the wax, as gulping down that hard clump would make for a slightly uncomfortable finish!

Honey-lovers are bound to find this experience irresistable. It is nothing like the sugar/water/bicarbonate of soda confection seen in Crunchie and Violet Crumble bars. Does anyone know how this sponge toffee came to be called honeycomb?

Friday, March 20, 2009

March 18, 2009: East Brunswick Club V

Edit 22/05/2012: The EBC has now closed, but most of the menu has migrated to The Cornish Arms.
Time for an East Brunswick Club update! We received information last weekend from a trusted source that the EBC has a few new vegan-friendly meals to try. For starters, their $10 Monday meals are now followed up with Mexi Night on Wednesdays. This completely veganisable menu features jalapeno poppers (battered, deep-fried, stuffed with fetta and rice, served with guacamole), spiced Mexi fries (served with more guacamole and sour cream), a taco plate, a burrito plate, nachos and chilli fries as well as a few of their usual favourites - traditional, nacho and Americana parmas, vegan fish & chips, vegan chicken salad, wedges and chips.

Michael had a shot at the vegan burrito plate ($15, pictured above). It's described thus: "Char grilled chicken, cheese, rice, black bean chili and chunky salsa, wrapped in a 12-inch wheat tortilla. Served with a side salad, guacamole and sour cream." We assumed that the vegan alternative to chicken might be some seitan chunks, but instead he found zucchini and eggplant.

I chose the vegan taco plate ($12): "3 soft or hard-shell taco's filled with beef, black bean chili, chicken rice, cheese and shredded lettuce. Served with a side salad, guacamole and sour cream." Again, the EBC refrained from their usual tendency towards faux meat, filling this out with just the bean chili and rice. There was some faux dairy to be had, though, with excellent 'cheese' and sour 'cream' on offer.

Both meals were enjoyable, though they were little more than rearrangements of the same ingredients, and offered similar value for money as Mi Corizon up the street. On a less lazy evening we could probably do as well for ourselves at home (though we might not be able to replicate the jalapeno poppers or Mexi fries also on offer!). I'm more inclined to return for the $10 Mondays, or for one of their current specials - the vegan chilli burger and and vegan Philly style cheese steak (available for a limited time on other nights) sound incredible!

(You can also read about our first, second, third and fourth visits to the East Brunswick Club.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

March 14, 2009: Babble

There are two astounding things about dining in Melbourne compared with dining in our home town, Brisbane: the phenomenal number of vegetarian/vegan dining options and the baffling array of wonderful breakfast places. When you look back at all the great places we've lazed away weekend mornings, you'd think we'd be running short of options. Not so! Without even trying, Cindy threw together a list of nine different places that we could sample on Saturday morning. I was initially plotting a bike ride to APTE or Porgie and Mr Jones but our destination was shifted to Prahran (in a completely non-food related aside - Cindy and I both feel as though half the folks on Chapel Street are eyeing us up and wondering whether we need their spare change) thanks to other shopping needs (in another completely non-food-related aside, Andrew Isles natural history bookshop just off Greville Street is a fantastic place to find presents for nerdy outdoor types).

The Prahran option on Cindy's list was Babble and it was on Cindy's list thanks to Cathy at Everything Goes With Cream, who gave it a rave review a few weeks back. We stumbled in the door just as the heavens opened and dumped some much welcome rain. Luckily, we'd timed things perfectly and there was a table for two waiting invitingly for us.

The menu isn't particularly exciting - lots of fairly basic egg varieties (benedict, florentine, the one with salmon), a handful of omelettes and the usual toast/cereal/pancake options. The couple of exceptions were the two dishes that Cathy talked up on her blog: a vegetarian polenta-based breakfast and a luscious sounding French fruit toast. Despite Cathy's enthusiasm (and Cindy's pressure), I didn't feel up to polenta for breakfast, instead opting for the Baroness omelette, which promised spinach, fetta, sun-dried tomatoes, chilli and olives as fillings ($16).

I don't know why I order omelettes - there's always something a little disappointing about them. I think I'm so used to having my eggs poached that omeletty eggs just taste a bit dry to me. Anyway, this had all the makings of a fine breakfast - generous sprinklings of each of the fillings, a crispy well-cooked outer layer and some yummy toast tucked away underneath it all, but I was still a little let down. But I'm blaming my ordering, not the kitchen. On a brighter note - the coffee was top notch and I couldn't resist going back for seconds. What would I do without coffee? It's a serious question.

Anyway, on to Cindy's meal. She cleverly followed Cathy's advice and tucked into the French fruit toast, with mascarpone cream, banana, strawberries and maple syrup ($15). It lived up to the hype - I'm not sure why I've not experienced French toast made with fruit bread before, it's surely an idea whose time has come. This bread had delicious little chunks of dates and dried apricots, which just added to the riot of flavours going on with the rest of the dish. If it wasn't for the banana slathered all over it, I'd have been really jealous.

Babble is a nicely fitted out little place, tucked a bit back from the bustle of Chapel Street, but obviously well known to locals - by the time we were ready to head back out into the rain there was a queue building for spare tables. The crowd is a bit cooler than us, but the staff were friendly and helpful (contrary to some of the comments elsewhere), the space was pleasant and the food was decent if maybe a tad overpriced.

Address: 4 Izzet Street, Prahran
Ph: 9510 6464
Price: veg breakfasts $7-$16

Sunday, March 15, 2009

March 9, 2009: Lime mayonnaise

Here's a calendar recipe that's right up my alley - lime mayonnaise. I love mayonnaise on burgers and sandwiches, and chips dipped in aioli would rate as one of my favourite foods; back in my pre-veg days, battered fish with tartare sauce would have rated as highly. However, after a weekend of (over)indulgence, we needed to scale back a bit and I decided to team this lime mayonnaise with oven-baked tofu 'fish' bites. The freshest half of the plate features mixed green leaves and a coleslaw recipe from Veganomicon with bonus radishes.

As if lime juice and zest aren't enough pep, this condiment also includes horseradish and mustard. Fresh horseradish root isn't quite in season so we took the second option listed and bought horseradish cream from the supermarket. I've not tried horseradish before but it's in the same plant family as mustard and wasabi - it has that same acidic heat that punches you in the nose. The only other alteration I made to this recipe was downsizing - the original ingredient list added up to over a litre of mayo!


Lime mayonnaise

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup light sour cream
juice and zest of 1 lime
1 teaspoon horseradish cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Whisk all the ingredients together and refrigerate until serving.

March 5, 2009: Golden bars for Golden Plains

Again we elected to spend the Labour Day weekend at the Golden Plains music festival. With a total fire ban in place and no camp stoves allowed, it was inevitable that we'd rely largely on the food stalls. This wasn't quite a dismal as it sounds - the menu was almost identical to last year's and for the most part we happily gulped down roti wraps, vegie burgers smothered in hot sauce, mango juice, and nutella-berry crepes. But come breakfast time, whether it occurred at 8am or 1pm, a chunky home made muesli bar was worth its weight in gold.

The muesli bars that we ate were concocted a couple of days early, and based on Heidi Swanson's recipe for Big Sur power bars. Though the recipe initially reminded me of the bubble slice I've eaten (and adapted) so many times, they're actually quite a different proposition. The rolled oats make them more chewy and filling, and though I would never have recognised the coffee in a blind taste test, it adds a terrific and unique depth of flavour. What this recipe does have in common with my bubble slice is flexibility of ingredients: there's a whole host of sweeteners, cereals, nuts and seeds that you could try substituting. My own choice of ingredients meant that I could prepare these entirely from ingredients already in our pantry!

As I stirred together the mixture I worried that it might not hold together (tip: press it into the baking tray using a fork, not a spoon!) and I stuffed it into the fridge overnight. This proved to be unnecessary, and actually made cutting it into squares much more difficult. Unless you're in a very warm place, you can probably keep this away from the fridge altogether.


Golden bars for Golden Plains
(based on the Big Sur power bars at 101 Cookbooks)

1/2 cup pecans, chopped
3/4 cup almonds, chopped
3/4 cup macadamias, chopped
2/3 cup dessicated coconut
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups rice bubbles
1 cup rice malt syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ground coffee beans
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180°C. While you're waiting, chop up the nuts, then bake them for 5-10 minutes, stirring once or twice. When they just begin to colour, add the coconut and bake for a further 5 minutes, stirring once more along the way. Take it out to cool when everything's golden. Transfer the toasted nuts to a bowl and stir in the rolled oats and rice bubbles.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the rice malt syrup, sugar, salt, coffee and vanilla. Bring the mixture to the boil, still stirring, and allow it to thicken a little before taking it off the heat. Pour it over the cereal/nut mixture and combine everything thoroughly.

Lightly grease a baking tray and pour the mixture into it; I found the back of a fork most useful for smoothing over the top. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature (don't refrigerate it!) before slicing it into chunks.

Monday, March 09, 2009

March 4, 2009: Wood Spoon Kitchen

We were hoping to meet up with Jo, Mike and their friend Nicole for dinner at Gigibaba, but a deluge of rave reviews and no-bookings policy meant that we had no hope of obtaining a table for five at 7:20 on a Thursday night. I wasn't too fazed; we know plenty of other great restaurants on Smith St, and there was even another one we'd been meaning to try. Wood Spoon Kitchen is a cute little Japanese cafe just a few shopfronts down from Gigibaba and its highly informative website had alerted me to its veg-friendly menu. With the vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free items clearly labelled, it begins with a variety of flavoured onigiri, before listing an extensive set of soups, a few don buri (rice bowls) and curries, before winding up with sides, salads and desserts.

Having never eaten an onigiri before, I thought I'd give the cheese curry one ($3.20) a try. The 'crumpled vintage cheese and basil in curry' melded beautifully into the rice, though I found the cheese/nori combination a little incongruous.

Next came an okonomiyaki ($6.90) for Jo, which she generously shared around. Though it was certainly pleasant, it lacked the hot freshness of the similar pancakes we've enjoyed at Otsumami and Peko Peko.

Michael went for the vegetarian pumpkin curry ($12.90), another mild and pleasant offering that wasn't quite memorable.

For my main meal I ordered the pumpkin gnocchi in tomato coconut soup ($10.90). This was a steaming bowl of thick broth, concealing a multitude of tender vegetables as well as the promised balls of pumpkin dough. It was the perfect comfort on this unseasonably cool evening.

Wood Spoon Kitchen's flavours aren't quite as delicate as those at the nearby Peko Peko, but it has plenty else going for it. The setting and staff are charming, the food is cheaper, and the menu offers a range of veg-friendly snacks and meals unlike any other Japanese restaurant I've visited.

Address: 88 Smith St, Collingwood
Ph: 9416 0588
Licensed
Price: veg snacks and meals $3.20-$12.90
Website: www.woodspoonkitchen.com

March 3, 2009: Leftover makeover - eggplant curry

While the spiced eggplant salad was quite successful, by the time we'd eaten leftovers for lunch both of us were a bit sick of it. Unfortunately we still had half a saucepan full of the eggplant mix to deal with. Cindy suggested turning it into some sort of curry, and we combined it with the sauce from this recipe to polish it off. We also threw in a handful of Nutrella soy chunks to try to mix up the texture a bit.

It wasn't quite as successful as I'd hoped - the spice mix was a bit overwhelming and the soy chunks had a slightly weird flavour. Still, we managed to eat the rest of the eggplant, which we probably wouldn't have if it had stayed in salad form.

March 3, 2009: Tiffins II

This week's tiffin treat featured toor dal (right) and kathal sabji (left). A new one for me, kathal sabji is a jackfruit curry! The jackfruit had an interesting, somewhat fibrous texture; I detected little of its flavour since it was smothered in spices. The curry had a fabulous tanginess to it, which I guessed was tamarind, but now I wonder if it was amchur (mango powder). The spices also soaked into some large, tender chunks of potato.

A note of caution: a couple of my colleagues found the dal to be too spicy. I'm no hotshot and I coped just fine, but it's worth considering that Tiffins' one-curry-feeds-all approach may not suit every palate in the office.
__________

You can read about my last Tiffins delivery here.

March 2, 2009: The serious summer salad

When Frances created this salad, she gave it the more explanatory title 'Spiced eggplant and lentil salad with feta'. But the lentils and eggplant give this salad a substance and sombre colouring, so I thought I'd try christening it the serious summer salad. Michael and I tried it when we were in serious need of some salad and it made for a fine and filling meal. I'm not sure that I've used canned lentils before, and I've certainly never cracked over a can just to pour it over a salad, but now that I've tried it I'd do it again. I'd even consider upping the lentil quantity in this recipe if it was this salad I was making. That said, the feta was my favourite element; I succumbed to the advertising and tried the Dodoni feta that George Calombaris has been spruiking. A modest sprinkle of it enriched the entire dish with a creamy saltiness.

If you'd like to make this salad, you can get the recipe from Crunchy Green Things.

February 28, 2009: Mi Corazon

While Cindy had been chowing down on a variety of uncooked delights, I'd been wading around Mud Islands in Port Phillip Bay getting sunburned (and seeing twelve new bird species!). Needless to say, neither of us had much energy for a Saturday night shop and cook, so we pondered our lazy and local eating options. We considered a few old favourites, before eventually settling on a trip to Mi Corazon, at the northern end of Lygon Street's fast gentrifying East Brunswick section.

Mi Corazon promises 'Mexico in Melbourne', and is part vodka bar and part Mexican Cantina. It's an inviting venue - a nice area of lounging chairs and lots of tables for dining. All the tables were full, so we parked ourselves at one of the front bars to peruse our options. It's a relatively small menu, and three of the eight mains are veg or veg-convertible. We kicked things off with a couple of virgin mjoitos ($5), which hit the spot pretty nicely (there is of course a wide range of tequilas, and plenty of imported South American beers).

Cindy couldn't resist the allure of taquitos carne vegetariano: crispy golden corn tortilla tacos filled with soy beef and topped with lettuce and sour cream ($16).

I had a little taste, and it was all crispy fried tacos - the filling played only a minor role in its deliciousness. Particularly once I'd smothered it in our sides: refried beans ($2), guacamole ($3) and hot salsa ($1).

I ordered up the tacos de espinacas con papas y queso: corn tortilla tacos filled with spinach, mashed potatos and cheese ($17).

Again, these were quite good, but basically served as vehicles for the sauces (it's worth noting that the tangy salsa that comes with the dishes is at least as hot as the salsa we ordered on the side).

In all honesty, the food here was good but not great - especially not at the prices asked (and especially when you compare it to the delights of Trippytaco), but it's a bustling bar with a good atmosphere and a convenient location, and it all went down a treat after a long day in the sun. Still, I think next time we've got Mexican cravings we'll summon up the energy to ride over to Smith Street.

Address: 462 Lygon Street, East Brunswick
Ph: 9384 6153
Prices: Vegie mains $15-$16
Licenced
Website: http://www.micorazon.com.au/ (although it's tremendously uninformative.

Friday, March 06, 2009

February 27-28, 2009: Raw lime pie

While I have my reservations about raw foodism as a lifestyle, I love a theme and I was as eager as anyone to experiment and contribute a dish to Bec and Jo's raw-themed vegan potluck. The internet is flooded with recipes and ideas, and I had a couple of constraints up my sleeve to narrow down the options. Like many people, I don't own the most popular appliances amongst raw foodies - a juicer, a dehydrator and a mandoline. However I do own a much-loved and much-used food processor and it was the perfect ally in making this raw lime pie - all you've gotta do is pulse and pour, three times.

What this recipe lacks in processed sugar and carbs, it makes up for in sweet fruit and rich nuts. The base layer consists mostly of dates and walnuts and has a deep, caramel flavour. In the middle is a super-tangy lime strip, filled out with creamy avocado and cashews. On top is a macadamia cream, sweetened with agave nectar, that tastes remarkably like coconut. Freezing the pie proved to be an excellent strategy - it was easy to transport and after 20 minutes or so on the bench, it held together in nice firm slices. Served semi-frozen, it makes a serious rival to most of the cheesecakes and icecream cakes parading the planet. For a summertime dessert, I'd make it again in preference to either of these. It's not just a great raw dessert, it's a great dessert.

Unfortunately, raw lime pie doesn't come cheap - a basket full of dates, limes, avocados, cashews, macadamias and agave nectar is more likely to have you reaching for the a credit card rather than the change purse. Thankfully a small wedge goes a long way, and this quantity will easily feed a dozen people.

It turns out that there are plenty of raw dishes that match this terrific pie bite for bite! The potluck was kitted out with a juice and smoothie bar, zucchini pasta, a fantastic satay sauce without peanuts poured over lettuce salad boats, mock tuna parcels, smoky Middle Eastern nut cheese, gado gado, toffee and trail mix slices and Ferrero Rawchers (Kristy and Pip have dutifully recorded them all). It was food that left me sated and definitely not bloated. I've no reservations about going raw a little more often if it means I have this much room for dessert!


Raw lime pie
(based on the key lime pie at From SAD To Raw)

For the base: In a food processor, combine 1 cup almonds, 2 cups walnuts, 1 cup dates, 1/3 cup sultanas and 2 tablespoons fruit juice. Blend them until soft and crumbly and press them into the base of a springform tin or pie dish. Store it in the refrigerator or freezer.

For the lime filling: In a food processor, blend together 1 large or two small avocados, the juice and zest of four limes and 1/2 cup of raw cashews. When the mixture is smooth and creamy, pour it over the base and smooth the top with a spoon. Return the pie to the refrigerator/freezer.

For the top layer: In a food processor, blend together 1/2 cup water, 1 cup macadamia nuts, 1/4 cup cashews and 3 tablespoons agave nectar. When it's as smooth as possible, pour the macadamia cream over the pie and smooth over the top with a spoon. Return the pie to the refrigerator or freezer until firm.

February 26, 2009: Tiffins

I've whinged more than once or twice (both here and on other blogs) about the great city breakfasts and lunches that Michael and I miss out on, since our jobs are based outside the CBD. However, my in-the-know colleague Mich recently revealed some incredible news - city Indian lunch service Tiffins delivers to the University of Melbourne! Within half an hour I'd devoured every word of information from their website. Vegetarian tiffins - which contain rice, a small wholemeal naan, and two curries - go for just $7 each, with free delivery, dirty container pickup, and no minimum order. The featured curries change daily and they're posted on the website two weeks in advance. For $1 or two extra you can order a meat curry or larger portion (sadly there are no vegan or gluten-free variations) but having now sampled the standard-sized vego model, I reckon it'll have you completely satisfied (if not over-full).

Tiffins' lunches are naturally delivered in a tiffin carrier - these plastic models are well insulated and screw together easily. There's a spoon sitting in the bottom layer, too, so you've no need for office kitchenware - just a napkin, pehaps, as you gleefully slurp your meal! On this Thursday the featured curries were a yellow chickpea dal and veg manchurian (vegetable dumplings in a spicy sauce). While not incredibly delicate, everything was delicious and jaw-droppingly good value for money. The seven of us who joined in on this first tiffin lunch agreed that it must become a regular event, and Mich is now responsible for taking weekly orders for Tiffin Tuesday. As a contented packed-lunch eater most of the week, there's now less reason than ever to begrudge city workers their weekday cafes.

Ph: 1300 TIFFINS (yes, really - i.e. 1300 843 436)
Price: standard veg tiffins $7
Website: www.tiffins.com.au

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Cook & the Chef - vegetarian episode

The understated charm of The Cook & the Chef has crept up on me in the couple of years that the ABC has been screening it. While not everything Maggie and Simon make is to my taste, the very premise of the show is to celebrate different approaches to cooking. If you browse through their online archives, you'll notice that they challenge their viewers to appreciate meats such as kangaroo and tongue more often than they prepare Aussie staples like beef and chicken, and they sneak in plenty of vegetarian fare too (I have had Simon's vegan laksa bookmarked since it featured late last year).

Last night vegetarian food was the theme for the entire episode! I enjoyed seeing Kurma Dasa featured as their guest - we've blogged several recipes from his book World Vegetarian Food, which was very influential on our first couple of years cooking as vegetarians. Simon likewise took inspiration from Kurma, demonstrating recipes for dahl, chappatti and halva during the show. By contrast Maggie took a buttery, caramelised path, preparing a leek and eggplant tart tartin and semolina gnocchi with walnut sauce.

I'm guessing you might have missed this screening; we probably would have done the same if it weren't for a reminder from reader William Luu. However, you've still got 2nd, 3rd and 4th chances to see the show - ABC1 will repeat it at 11:30am on Saturday, ABC2 will repeat it at 5pm today (I think), and it's available for download on the website.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

February 25, 2009: Breakfast quinoa

While eating the eat-anywhere quinoa salad, I couldn't help thinking how much I'd enjoy it with a few chopped dried apricots stirred through. Then that got me thinking about a sweeter, fruit and nut based version of the salad... and eating it for breakfast. This recipe is what I came up with. Rather than buying dried apricots, I made use of the dried dates and walnuts I already had at home. Then I replaced the lemon-herb-tahini dressing with apple-cranberry juice, agave nectar, a dash of Chinese five-spice and the inimitable tahini.

It's a fine breakfast food - it's easy to make up a week's worth at once and store it in the fridge, just slicing some fresh fruit over the top each morning. (It'd pack nicely as breakfast on the bus/at the desk as well.) I went a little too crazy on the tahini and found that I enjoyed this with a little milk to dilute it but I'll aim for a drier version in future, I think. With boundless potential variations on the fruit, nuts and even the grain, I shouldn't tire of this any time soon.


Breakfast quinoa

1 cup quinoa
1 cup fruit juice, plus 2 tablespoons extra for the dressing
1 1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons tahini (I'll reduce this next time)
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice
1/2 cup dates, chopped
1 cup walnuts, chopped

Stir together the quinoa, first measure of fruit juice, and the water in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring them to the boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining juice, the tahini, agave nectar and Chinese five spice.

When the quinoa's ready, transfer it to a large bowl. Stir through the tahini dressing, then add the dates and walnuts.

Serve the quinoa with fresh fruit.