Friday, April 25, 2008

What I ate in Hobart.

So due to the thoroughly inconsiderate scheduling of my university, I was due to face three exams mere days after my return from what was supposed to be some variety of relaxing 'holiday' in Hobart. I bitched and moaned, but what could I do? Ten kilograms of textbook ladden hand luggage later, we were in Hobart.

Knowing that we were to be largely confined to the hotel room, we did choose quite the grand affair - the Executive Suite, where everything is big and fat executive sized, from the plasma tv, to the king size bed, and hell, they even put a spa in our bedroom! Before all that, however, we had to find ourselves some lunch!

With the adeptness of feeble minded undifferentiated stem cells (see, I did end up doing study!) we managed to wander over to the wrong side of town. Packed full of bogans and craptastic cafes, I did comment to Rocket that perhaps we should have visited his hometown of Ballarat instead of spending all that airfare money. Eventually we stumbled upon Phoenix Cafe, which listed a handful of vegetarian options on its menu. I sent Rocket in to explain the concept of veganism, and a mere ten minutes later he returned.

We were then presented with the vegetarian noodles and the vegetarian laksa, see here.


and here


I'm quite sure that the noodles were of the Maggi variety, with some carrot strips and spring onion decor, but the laksa was actually quite decent, apart from the getting to the bottom of the bowl and finding a piece of chicken factor, but it happens. As responsible vegans, we reported this fact to the amazingly kind owner, who pressed a $5 note into our hands and promised that if she had been in charge of the kitchen at the time this WOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED.

Phoenix Cafe
47 Elizabeth St

Continuing from lunch, was a visit to the Safeway (sorry, Woolworths) to stock up on unmentionables (okay, lots and lots of shitty junk food that I wouldn't normally eat unless I was on holiday or studying, or both) which resulted in oven baked frozen chips for dinner that night. Nutrition plus!

The next day, approximately brunch o'clock, we found ourselves wandering the lower end of the Salamanca markets, where we just happened upon (I planned it, okay) a truck selling delicious fresh breads and a selection of vegetarian pies, two of which were vegan!

Lentil Sheperds pie


and a Madras pie! modelled by that hottie Rocket (available for catalogues and runway).


The lentil shep pie was definitely the pick of the two, and I'm getting a little upset looking at the picture of it, not only because I may never get to sample it again, but also I can see something in the background of the picture that says "nondairy soy whip" and even though I have no idea what that means or what it is, I didn't get to try it! Bummed. Out.

Approximately six hours of nap related studying later, we made our way to Siren's Restaurant, which I've heard is the equivalent to Melbourne's Shakahari, only in Hobart.

Walking in was just that little bit intimidating, the low lighting, fancy waiters, double ($$) digit menu and the fact that we were the only kids there meant that my flanny, skinny leg jeans and vans sneakers didn't quite cut the most mature dining picture that there ever was. No matter, we were there for the food, not a fashion show. The menu only had a small selection of vegan options, and due to the price, we decided to skip the entree and share a dessert instead.

Apologies in advance for the terrible photography, I was somewhat reluctant to completely f**k with the ambience of the place by blinding other diners with my photography, so I kept the flash off.

I selected the smoked tofu dish


and Rocket, the millet croquettes teamed with a fancy sauce that I forget, and a preserved lemon and rocket salad.


Oh my goodness were these dishes completely out of this world amazing! From the presentation to the quality of ingredients to the overall taste, they were both spectacular! The tofu was seared, complete with grill marks and served on a bed of steamed broccolini (one of my favourite veggies), with a very umani-ish type sauce, salty and pungent but so delicious. Rocket's croquettes (rhyme!) were beyond description. Something I could never even hope to conceptualise, let alone cook, they were so well textured and the salad was the perfect accompaniment.

Our waiter, upon noticing we were vegan, offered to put aside a slice of the dark chocolate mousse cake for us, and who were we to say no to such a generous offer?


My friends, that cake was the best sweet I've eaten since Vegetarian Orgasm shut its doors, if not better. Coconutty crumbly cookie base topped with thick, oh so rich dark chocolate mousse that simply melts in your mouth. I'm going to use a whole lot of words that are totally not in my vocabulary right now: divine, heavenly, celestial. That's all I can come up with. The sauce you see in the picture was not caramel, as I'd immediately imagined, but a floral jasminey type reduction. I probably would have preferred caramel, but we cant have everything in this life now, can we? Despite that, oh what a cake! Seriously guys, ticket to Hobart. Book it. Eat cake.

Then we staggered home and spa'd it up whilst watching Harry Potter.

6 Victoria Street

Did you know most everything is shut on Sundays in Hobart? Well it is. So it was an assortment of cereal, mandarins and lady grey that kept me going all day, not blogworthy. The Internet pointed us towards a nearby Indian place, Annapurna Indian Restaurant, that was open that evening, so we wandered down quite early and got seated.

It's a lovely looking restaurant in an A1 location, so I guess thats why you pay top dollar for Indian food, which is usually rather cheap in Melbourne.

We started off with onion bhaji entree


This was really a great dish! Despite the sheer deepfriededness of it, the onion rings were actually really light and fresh tasting, probably due to the lemon juice I doused them with. Plenty to share, thank christ, and very filling, we probably should have just gotten one curry to share....but we didn't.

We got two. An eggplant one..and a me to take notes next time.


I'm not the world's biggest Indian style curry fan, but these were both fairly decent, if not a bit samey (or maybe I just cant tell the difference between pumpkin and eggplant?). Massive serves though, and this did end up being Rocket's breakfast the next day, even then there was too much to eat!

The star of the show was most certainly the garlic naan.


Just yum, is all I can say really. Soft, chewy, fresh. The deity of all Indian style breads. Yes.

Annapurna Indian Restaurant
93 Salamanca Place

All in all, Hobart surprised me with its vegan friendliness, and I'm sure I would have been even more joyous had I had more time to wander around and find other places. But I'll be back, dont you worry. I'll be back.

Vegan brunch part-ay!

So a bunch of vegan nerds (and by nerd, I'm really only including myself) decided to get together and partake in the consumption of shared foods. Nerdlier still (once again, just me) this was to be an internets sponsored event, as we had all "met" on the Post Punk Kitchen forum.

Boy, am I glad I dragged the dog, my housemate Rebecca, a manual car and half the contents of the kitchen to Marybyrnong!

This is what I got in return


What you've got there is some chickpea cutlets, pesto scroll, sundried tomato and basil muffin, scrambled tofu, soy bombs, seitan sausage, mushroom and walnut pate and some sundried olivey deliciousness.

Present and accounted for (in my belly) but not photographed were four (yes, 1..2..3...4!) different types of dumplings - differently shaped too (small things amuse..yes you know)! Pancakes with fresh strawberries and maple syrup and oatmeal raisin cookies rounded off perhaps the finest brunch in my existence.

To force myself away from foodcentrism just slightly, I cannot sing enough praises for the brilliant sunny weather bestowed upon us that day for a little alfresco dining, and more importantly the unparalleled loveliness of the other vegan ladies who attended the brunch! It was so nice to be able to chat between bites of food and give my tummy a rest, and to find others who get so maniacally excited over farmer's markets and talking about their own dogs, well, there was definitely some kinship there.

And thankyou Emily for your gracious hosting duties!

We'll be brunching it up at my place next, on the 3rd of May. If you're interested in sampling the cooking of others and also showing off your own cooking skills, leave me a message with your email address and we'll see what I have to say about that. I'll say yes, you can come. That's what.

Squiddy cooks! Black eyed peas and mustard greens stew

Mustard greens are just about the most visually attractive vegetable in the whole entire world of the local Asian grocery. They just look so neat and crisp and fresh, all tied up in their neat little bundle, and at $2 a pop, well I just cant resist.

....if only I knew what to do with them, once I got them home. Something that preferably doesn't involve leaving them in the fridge for a week, fretting over what to do with them, whilst they rapidly wilt away.

After the enlightening discovery of a bag of black eyed peas that I've been hauling around for some years and a length consultation with Recipezaar, the fate of the mustard greens was decided.

They would become a stew.


Black Eyed Peas with Mustard Greens and Rice (stew)



1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 medium onions
, finely diced
3 bay leaves

celery ribs, diced
garlic clove, chopped
1 teaspoon
dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon
hot red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons
celery leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon
tomato paste
2 cups black eyed peas (from 1 cup that has been soaked for at least 8 hours)

1.5 litres massel "chicken" stock
sea salt to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste
1 bunch mustard greens
1 cup
cooked brown rice


1. Heat the oil in a wide soup pot over medium heat until it becomes fragrant

2. Add the onions, bay leaves, celery, garlic, thyme, chile flakes, smoked paprika, cumin and celery leaves.

3. Cook stirring occasionally, until the onions have browned, about 20 minutes.

4. Stir in the tomato paste, then add the beans (drain them first if you used soaked dried) and the 1.5 litres of stock

5. Simmer, covered, until the beans are tender. Season with salt and pepper

6. Cut the mustard greens off at their stems and wash them. Add directly to the beans and let simmer for approximately 3 minutes.

7. Make your final seasoning adjustments.

8. Add a few spoonfuls of rice to each bowl and top with the stew. Serve with tabasco or hot sauce of choice.

It was a really easy recipe, made even easier by preparing the whole thing (bar rice) in the trusty Thermomix. A great rustic flavour and extremely hearty, the combination of beans and rice providing a complete protein for vegans.

Now. Any recommendations with what I should do with the second bunch I got sitting in there?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The laksa wars - Nasi Lemak House

I've often relied on Chatterbox for my (very regular) laksa fix, in desperate times the noodle shop across the road from work does the job. Chatterbox does keep me happy though, large servings, super quick service, and a great product, all the boxes ticked..then why am I such an unfaithful lover, brazenly trying to search out a superior laksa? I cannot answer, only that I am hopelessly polyamorous when it comes to my laksa love.


Thus, Nasi Lemak House. This was a recommendation from a trusted source, and the minute I heard of its "superiority" I was already looking for openings in my lunching diary. I finally got myself there (a whole three days later) and dragged my friends Harriet (of This is Vegan Melbourne blog) and Erle (renowned laksa expert) along for the ride.

Nasi Lemak House is squish tiny. A scattering of seats inside and a couple of pigeon infested tables outside. You order and pay for your meal inside, receive a ticket and come back to collect it later, which does require some guesswork as you're never actually told to come in and get it! Luckily I have keen senses when it comes to food, so I was up right before our meals were ready. The wait time, though by no means extreme, certainly cannot be compared to the lightning fast speed of laksa delivery at Chatterbox. An unfortunate minus. The price tag, at $10, is also a few bones more exxy than that at Chatterbox.


The product itself? It was quite far removed from that of Chatterbox, so its not quite fair to compare. A copious quantity, curiously vegetabled with green beans, fresh tomato, and bean shoots. An interesting combination. A definite plus in the sheer quantity of deliciously spongy tofu. In my experience, the pieces of tofu you receive in soups and stir fries can usually be counted on one hand that has already lost two fingers in a horrible ballooning accident, so to be overwhelmed (ie. to lose count) by the amount of tofu in any dish is a bonus. The noodles involved the usual combo of hokkien and thin rice, so no complaints there, and the whole thing was adorned by a pappadum. Novel. The soup itself was oilier than I'm used to, and after I'd picked out all the veggies and floaty bits, it was a bit too slick like to consume on its own, however it was very nicely spiced and added a great flavour kick to the soup overall.

In summary, a good and decent laksa - well tofued, interesting choice of veg, but my heart will always belong to Chatterbox, no matter what indiscretions may occur between me and other tall, dark laksa strangers.

Nasi Lemak House
113 Grattan Street