Soul Foods, Newcastle NSW

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A couple of weekends back, we took a quick weekend trip up to Newcastle to visit the Bear’s new baby nephew. Our efforts to arrive super early were apparently in vain – when we got to the airport, there were no shuttle buses for over an hour. We sat at the airport drinking big old mugs of coffee wondering why exactly we had taken the 6am flight.

The shuttle bus took us into Newcastle, where we desperately needed some breakfast after already being up without food for over five hours. Harnessing the power of the internet, we found our target – Natural Tucker Health Food and Cafe on Darby St. We started making our way there, when we stumbled upon this sign:

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Vegan options? Count us in!

newie2Soul Foods was closer than our destination, and conveniently right across from the train station we needed to get to to scoot out to Cardiff afterwards.

The cafe had high ceilings and a quirky interior – lots of mismatched coloured chairs and pretty teacups. I liked it. I was a bit jealous of two ladies to my left who had what looked like the most royal thrones of the room, but I stopped giving them greasies to look at the menu.

The bubbly lady explained the vegan options – I went with the zucchini fritters/pancakes? Usually served with haloumi, but could be replaced with tofu to be made vegan. Sounded great.

newie1 When my meal came out, I was impressed by the vibrant colours – I like to eat with my eyes and I like rainbow plates. However unfortunately this dish just didn’t quite come together. The zucchini fritters were semi-sweet pancakes with blueberries in them, but then topped with savouries. It was great that they could substitute the haloumi instead of just take it away, however the tofu was raw and I could not taste any marinade. Tomato and avo are always good brekkie additions, and everybody knows I am a dip fanatic, however the hommus tasted distinctly of one I have bought at the supermarket, as did the pesto – which tasted very cheesy (like those little oily cashew ‘chunky’ dips you can buy). When I asked afterwards, the lady assured me that it was vegan and house-made, but I was still a little skeptical. It tasted EXACTLY how I remember that non-vegan store bought dip to taste. But hey, if they tell me so I gotta believe it.

The bear went with a bean dish, though he had it with feta so I didn’t snap it. He really enjoyed it and I tried some of the beans which were tasty. I think they came with some pumpkin toast.

Soul Foods had a bunch of tasty looking vegan sweets, but I wasn’t really feeling it on the day. I was a little disappointed with the breakfast, but wouldn’t discount them entirely without having another go. Maybe next time!

Afterwards, we bumbled with buying train tickets (confusing machines), missed our train (and also forced an innocent man to miss the train too with our inability to navigate the ticket machine) and ultimately had to wait another hour and a half for the next one. When we complained of our plight, we were told “but it’s Saturday” as if that explained the lack of transport options. Oh us Melbourners with our frequent departing Saturday trains, what were we thinking? We arrived at Billy’s sister’s place at about 2pm. Good thing we got that 6am flight! Ha!

Soul Foods
227 Hunter st, Newcastle NSW
Tues – Fri – 7.30am – 5pm
Sat – Sun – 8am – 3.30pm

Banana Chai Spice Smoothie

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It is well and truly smoothie season. Over the past weeks I have shifted from eating mainly porridge brekkies to total smoothie town. I alternate flavours regularly, but lately this one has made been amongst the reruns.

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Banana Chai Spice Smoothie

1 frozen banana
1 1/2 cups almond milk
1 date
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
Pinch of black pepper
1 tsp maca
1 tsp chia seeds

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!

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Loving Hut Northcote II

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Happy World Vegan Day (for yesterday!) I didn’t do anything to celebrate as I was home in bed with the sniffles, however am looking forward to the WVD Melbourne event next Sunday. Come at me delicious food!!

I’m still trying to knock out some recipe and dining out posts from before and during MoFo – this one being one of them. A couple of weeks back, the Bear and I hit up the Northcote Social Club for a gig. It was a Tuesday night, so we headed there straight from work and had some time to kill before it started. I don’t know why I feel that I need to give you a backing story to why we ate at Loving Hut, it really does not need to be justified.

As usual, the vibe was kind of weird as there was only one other couple sitting in when we arrived, in that sparse, school cafeteria-style space. There was a video playing on the TV of nature and animal shots which kept us entertained for some time, and for a moment I almost forgot how strange it was that a TV was playing there in the first place.

lovinghutnorthcote1We started out with some steamed wontons, which were sitting in a ginger-soy vinaigrette. I really enjoyed the dressing, as well as the crunchy garlic shoots and herbs on top.

lovinghutnorthcote2I couldn’t resist ordering the tofu bites again, I am obsessed. Hot, crispy, salty outside with melt in your mouth centre. And that tartar sauce, how?! So good.

lovinghutnorthcote3For the main, we shared a bowl of the Bun Bo Hue, which was plenty for the both of us as we were not super hungry. I always find these big bowls of soup so filling, even with the thin broth base. You can choose to have mock beef or tofu with this one – we chose beef. The flavour of the broth was lovely, made with lemongrass, chili, ginger, lime and cinnamon. It was zesty and slightly spicy and made me feel good inside.

lovinghutnorthcote4After perusing the dessert cabinet, there was no way I was leaving without a piece of this. There were a few cakey slicey things like this of different flavours, I can’t remember exactly what this one was – I think hazelnut mocha raspberry, or something of the like. I remember thinking that all those flavours might be a bit ambitious, but it seriously worked so well. The base had an incredible light and crispy texture, the centre beautiful and creamy, and how could I go wrong with a scoop of Zebra Dream ice cream on the side? Winnnaaaahhhhh!

If you want to see the glory of my first visit to Loving Hut Northcote, check out the post here. The Northcote shop definitely wins my vote over the Richmond one, which I have been to several times but only once taken pictures (post still to come). Also note, the hours of operation have changed since my last visit and they are now open for lunch too. Hoorah!

Loving Hut
377-79 High St, Northcote
Mon – CLOSED
Tues-Sun – 11am – 10pm
kitchen closes 30 mins prior to closing

Mr Natural Vegetarian Pizza

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Some nights you just want to eat pizza without having to make it or even leave your house to get it. Y’all know what I’m talking about. Hooray for home delivery!

Mr Natural has two locations – St Kilda and Fitzroy. The menu consists of a range of entirely vegetarian pizzas, all of which can be adapted to become vegan with the optional addition of vegan cheese, pepperoni and various other tasties like beans, tofu, sprouts and sauces. The online ordering system is simple to use and you can easily customise your pizza with the removal and addition of whatever ingredients your heart does or does not desire.

This was my first experience with Mr Natural – in the past, every time I decide that I want to order pizza, it’s been too late to get in before close. This time I planned ahead and reaped the rewards. I think the delivery guy was a bit startled when the Bear and I answered the door short of breath after sprinting to the door yelling “pizzaaaaaa!” So much excitement.

mrnatural First up we went with the Broccolini pizza. I’ve heard people rave about broccoli on pizza, and I thought it was about time I gave it a go. It had broccoli, onions, olives, capsicum, cheese, herbs and sesame seeds. I thought that it had potential, but was missing something – it was just a little bit bland. The unveganised version of the pizza included feta cheese, so maybe that offered the bite needed. If I ordered it again, I would add pineapple or more chili or more olives or something, but otherwise I loved how many veggies were packed on there (and how greeeeeen it was).

mrnatural2Second, we got the Cool Peppers, which is apparently the result of a pizza creation competition. This one had tomato, olives, capsicum, vegan pepperoni, vegan cheese, chili flakes, parsley and sesame seeds. It rocked. It was spicy and awesome and I hope it gets added to the regular menu, because I loved it. It was kind of hard to go back to the broccoli pizza afterwards as this one packed so much more punch. In saying that, the broccoli pizza tasted awesome cold the next day.

It’s so great to have easy takeaway/delivery options for vegans, particularly old favourites like pizza. Sometimes you just want to lie in bed watching movies and eating pizza, and thanks to places like Mr Natural, your dreams can come true.

Mr Natural Vegetarian Pizza
469 Brunswick St, Fitzroy North
Mon – Thurs & Sun – 5.30pm – 10pm (delivery 6pm-9pm)
Fri – Sat – 5.30pm – 11pm (delivery 6pm – 9pm)

Red Robyn, Camberwell

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The weekend before last, the Bear and I took a bike ride out to my folks place. Upon arrival, we decided to head over to Camberwell with them to get a bite to eat for a late lunch. I had been wanting to check out the Red Robyn for some time after hearing them described as an ‘allergy friendly cafe’ – catering for a number of different dietary requirements, including vegan, fructose allergies, nut allergies and FODMAP diets. Everything on the menu is also gluten-free and soy-free. Wowzers.

The cafe itself is on a quiet part of Camberwell rd, and you could quite easily fly right past it without noticing if it were not from the cute little red robin sign out the front. Inside, the place is warm and bright, with splashes of red throughout to fit with the theme.

redrobin2 I wasn’t sure if we were going to be let in as we were cutting it quite close to kitchen closing time, however we were welcomed with a smile, and provided with lovely service throughout. I started with a coffee while I perused the menu a little further.

redrobinThere were many dishes that caught my eye, but ultimately I went with this one. Ask me what it is. I can’t remember! I think it was some sort of smoky eggplant and potato croquette, with a fresh salsa. Wow my memory is failing me terribly. I really need to take care if I plan to write about a meal!

Regardless, I remember it was tasty. My mum, dad and the bear all went with non-vegan options, and all commented on how much they enjoyed their meals too. On the way out, I was told that there are usually plenty of vegan sweets on offer, including vanilla slice (be still my heart!) so I DEFINITELY have good reason to return.

Red Robyn
393 Camberwell Rd, Camberwell
Mon – Fri – 7.30am – 3pm
Sat – Sun – 8.30am – 3.30pm
(kitchen shuts 30 mins prior to close)

Music for your Mouth MoFo Wrap Up

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Hello! Hi! Hola!

I had a bit of an impromptu week and a half off after MoFo, just to catch my breath. But now I’m back, and with awesome news. Drum roll pleaaasseee…..I won a MoFie!

mofieHell yeah! Thanks MoFo judges, I certainly had fun and am glad you’ve enjoyed the sweet sweet tunes too. Head over to the official Vegan MoFo site to check out the full list of MoFie winners. Thank you to all my readers old and new and everybody who participated in MoFo and made it rockin’. See you next year!  \m/

And without further adieu, here is a pictorial summary of my thirty days of MoFo, following the theme of Music for your Mouth:

                              bread lemonheads honeycombs3

                              blindmelon2 chillipeppers pb3

                              chuckberry2 neutralmilk2 smashingpump1

                              vanillafudge marthamuffins infectedmush6

                               zombievanillaicee3 jello3

                              fionaapple4 spicegirls3 cake1

                              bananasplit hotchoc soup1

                              blondie3 thejam1 cream4

                              cherry1 orange1 saltnpepa1

                              peaches2 burrito2 custard2

30 days, hoooooly mackerel! This was only my second year MoFoing, but certainly my best effort to date. I can’t believe I managed a post every single day (take a good look folks, it may not ever happen again). I had tried to be organised this year to stay one step ahead of the game, but I did feel a little in the deep end, particularly towards the end of the month. There’s always something to aspire to and next year it will be to be even MORE organised. Ha!

Thanks for dropping by, stay tuned as we return to regular programming.

One more song to take us to the close. It isn’t an edible audio, but I think totally appropriate. Plus I was bummed I didn’t get to squeeze Freddy Mercury in anywhere else, so y’know…

veganmofo

Music for your Mouth: Custard

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DAY 30!!!

Can you even believe it? What a month it’s been! Although I planned to attempt a recipe per day for the month, I never expected I would stay on top of it. But here I am – day 30 of 30. I am actually quite proud of my efforts.

I’ve had a lot of fun playing around with food and music this month, although it has also taken a bit out of me. I had thought with a tiny bit of pre-planning, the whole event would be a cinch. Not the case. There were definitely ups and downs, mini kitchen meltdowns and whole recipes thrown away. Not to mention the extra expenses involved – I didn’t see that one coming! Perhaps next year my theme will have to be cheap eats…But anyway, we made it. Hoorah! I think we all deserve a big pat on the back.

Not only have I had my own cooking fun, but I’ve also loved connecting up with the worldwide vegan community. I’ve kept up with many of the blogs I usually read, but also pretty much doubled my reader with brand new (to me) blogs from all over the place. I still haven’t quite made my way through the MoFo Around the World page, but will hopefully get a chance to over the next week or so. It’s been so nice meeting you all and I want to thank you all for the lovely comments you’ve been leaving.

In the next few days I’ll do a round up of sorts and reflect on the month just gone, but for now I have one last musical treat for you. CUSTARD! I’m bring it back to home base with these guys, who are an Australian band that formed in the ’90s. To be honest, I don’t really know how big the band was worldwide, but I remember a whole stack of songs from them from the ’90s – they are so catchy. The most popular, Girls Like That (Don’t Go For Guys Like Us) has such a catchy riff and was played a lot on Rage and I think even Triple J – if you haven’t heard it, give it a listen below.

custard2 This was one of the recipes that took me a few gos. I had never tried to bake soy custard before, and so firstly decided to attempt a custard mix using silken tofu. I used beautiful rhubarb from my mum and dad’s garden, however the custard didn’t quite cut it – was too spongy – and the crust was too thick.

custard3This time I just used the basic custard recipe from the custard powder box (check that you get a vegan brand as some have milk or egg in them), popped some berries in it (after running out of rhubarb) and chucked it in the oven. It turned out better than I expected. Probably could do with some more tweaking, but uh, it’s DAY 30 MoFo’s!!!

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Custard and Berry Tarts
(makes 6)

Crust:
1 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup nuttelex, cold
2 Tbsp icing sugar
Pinch of salt
2 Tbsp ice water

Filling
1/4 cup custard powder
3 Tbsp coconut sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups non-dairy milk

Handful of mixed berries – about 1/3 cup plus extra for topping

Mix flour, salt and sugar together in a bowl. Add nuttelex in small chunks, then rub together with your fingers until mix becomes like crumbs. Add water one tablespoon at a time until mixture can form a ball. Cover and chill in the fridge for half an hour.

Preheat oven to 180C and grease six small tart tins. Separate dough into six balls. There may even be enough dough for a seventh, however I only had six tins so ya know. On a floured surface, roll each piece of dough out into a circle, about one centimetre thick. Press dough into tins, cutting off any extra. Make a couple of fork pricks in the bottom of each tart, then put some pastry weights on top of each and bake for 15 minutes, until lightly golden. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly and remove pastry weights.

In a saucepan, stir together custard powder and sugar. Add a couple of tablespoons of milk and whisk into a thick paste. Add remaining milk slowly and put over medium heat. Stir continuously with a whisk as the mixture begins to thicken – it is amazing how quickly lumps form if you get a bit lax. Once mixture has thickened – about ten minutes – stir in vanilla. Remove from heat.

Place a couple of berries in the bottom of each tart shell. Distribute custard amongst tart shells, then return to oven for fifteen minutes, until custard sets.

Remove from oven and allow to cool.

For the topping, I grabbed a few extra berries, one teaspoon of agave and a dash of vanilla and cooked down into a sort of coulis.

custard7Gotta love an inside shot. It reminds me of Peter Everett on Ready Stead Cook. My, how he loved to see food ooze.

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What the hey, it’s the last day, here’s another one!

Congratulations everyone, it’s been a blast! Peace ouuuwwwwttttt!

veganmofo

Music for your Mouth: The Flying Burrito Brothers

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Hands up if you can believe MoFo’s last day is tomorrow?! I know, last week I felt like I had been MoFo-ing forever, now it seems as though it’s disappeared so fast. What a month it’s been.

So uh, the Flying Burrito Brothers are a country rock band. Yeah, I’ve been waiting to drop this bomb on you! I’m going to share two videos with you at the bottom. The first one because you just have to watch Gram Parsons’ eyebrows. They are seriously hypnotising. Secondly, I’m playing their cover of Wild Horses because I love the song. Enjoy.

burrito2The burritos I’ve made to go with the band are inspired a little by the tofu asada burritos at Trippy Taco. Any Melbournite will know what I’m talking about – smoky tofu goodness. Thank you liquid smoke, you little beauty. I had never heard of this magic stuff prior to my vegan days, now it is my secret weapon. Love the stuff!

These were my favourite burritos I’ve ever made, and I even had the compliment that they were better than the Trippy Taco ones, however that may or may not have been to make me feel good. Sorry about the foil wrapping, I rarely use foil – and buy the recycled stuff when I do – but I just could not get this burrito to stay together for a photo. Once again, I overstuffed my burrito to the point of eruption. When will I learn?

Smoky Tofu Burritos
(Makes 2)

2 tortillas
250g firm tofu

1 Tbsp coconut oil

Marinade:
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp liquid smoke
Juice of 1 orange
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
Dash of cinnamon

Salsa:
1 tsp coconut oil
1/4 red onion, diced
1 green chili, finely chopped
1 tomato, diced
1/4 of a red capsicum, diced
1/4 of a green capsicum, diced
2 tsp lime juice
2 Tbsp fresh coriander
Salt to taste

Filling:
Basically whatever you want! I used:
Lettuce
Avocado
Vegan Cheese

First up, press your tofu good and well so it can absorb as much marinade as possible. I did the old fashioned way – with tea towels and a couple of phone books for a few hours. Once pressed, cut your tofu into cubes. Mix together all marinade ingredients and chuck the tofu in. Marinate for AT LEAST one hour, if not overnight.

To make the salsa, heat teaspoon of coconut oil over medium high heat and add onion and chili and saute until onion becomes translucent. Add capsicum and tomato and cook until tomato breaks down, about 5-10 mins.

Add lime juice, salt and coriander and stir through. Remove from heat and set aside.

To cook the tofu, heat tablespoon of coconut oil in a fry pan over medium high heat. Add tofu cubes and cook for about ten to fifteen minutes, turning occasionally, until just about all the edges are slightly crispy. Turn down heat to low and pour leftover marinade over the tofu, stirring so that it coats all the pieces. Remove from heat.

Assemble your burrito! I’m not going to tell you how to do this! Well okay, what I did was smoosh some avocado on, put some lettuce down, heap on some tofu, sprinkle on some cheese, and drip on some salsa. Wrap and stuff in mouth.

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Oh and just for fun, I’m sending this over to my friend Liz at I Spy Plum Pie for her new Meatless Monday linkup. Head over and check out the recipes starting to pool up over there!

veganmofo

Music for your Mouth: Peaches/The Moldy Peaches

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Nothing moldy about these peaches! They did, due to the fact that it is not quite stone fruit season here, come from a can and we could assume that they were put there by a man…in a factory down townnnnnn. Yep. Uhuh.

I’m just doubling up bands now as an excuse to play multiple songs to ya. I can’t remember if I said this already, but when I started planning for MoFo I compiled a list of foodie bands, and I well exceeded the thirty I needed for the month. So wherever I can, I’m trying to squidge more in.

First up, Peaches – duh. But today I’m featuring a song by Peaches and Iggy Pop, because I love the dude, and also you get to watch a video of them fighting off zombies. Wins all round!

Secondly, the Moldy Peaches. I guess peaches are not so edible once they are mouldy, but they are still fun to listen to because Kimya Dawson is cute.

peaches2I had some leftover cherries from the cherry ripe balls I made the other night, so decided to team them up with some peaches for a classic crumble. It worked out EXTREMELY well, as I also had some leftover ginger ice cream from the other other night. My testers for this recipe – Mum, Dad and the Bear all loved it. I always love desserts in ramekins where you feel special for getting your own little pot of something.

peaches3Usually when I make a crumble, I just put the fruit, some lemon (sometimes) and spices together for the base – I personally don’t think it needs any more than that. I like my crumbles to be a bit tart and tangy rather than overly sweet – I leave the sweetness for the crumble topping. Because I used tinned and frozen fruit for this one though the fruit was quite juicy – hence adding the flour to thicken it up and create a saucier texture rather than a pool of liquid at the bottom. If you prefer a sweeter crumble, feel free to omit the lemon and add a sweetener.

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Peach and Cherry Crumbles
(makes 4)

2 cups peaches
2 cups cherries
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup flour

Topping:
1 cup oats
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
3 Tbsp coconut oil, firm
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 180C.

In a large bowl, place peaches, cherries, lemon juice, zest, cinnamon and flour. Stir until well combined. Distribute mix amongst four ramekins.

In a small bowl, all ingredients except the coconut oil and vanilla, and stir well. Add coconut oil in small chunks, and vanilla, and stir through – I did this with my hands. Ensure all the oat mixture has gotten some moisture, if you need more oil, add it by the teaspoon.

Distribute crumble amongst ramekins. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until top is golden and crispy.

Serve with ginger or vanilla ice cream, custard or non-dairy cream.

peaches4 peaches5Millions of peaches, peaches for me!

veganmofo

Music for your Mouth: Salt N Pepa

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Yeah you all knew this day was coming. I actually developed my list of bands at the very start of MoFo, so I have been holding out on you all with this one. HOW COULD I NOT FEATURE SALT N PEPA?!?

saltnpepa1 I wasn’t particularly creative in what I would make for this one – I always intended to do salt and pepper tofu. I probably should have created more of a challenge, but hey, this is delicious (and it is too late in the month for big challenges). Plus, I have never had super great luck with it – I’ve only attempted it twice before and neither time I got it quite right (or I made a big mess of the ‘cubes’).

saltnpepa2So I’m pretty happy with this, and happy with my return to the grass backdrop. It reminds me of the pictures I took while we were living in the van, where the ground was our table. Haha. Anyway, doesn’t it just highlight the green spring onions so beautifully?!

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Salt and Pepper Tofu

250g firm silken tofu
4 Tbsp cornflour
1 Tbsp sea salt, powdered
1 Tbsp white pepper
Dash of chilli (optional – white pepper already gives it a little tingle)
1 spring onion
1 small chili
Coconut oil

Drain your tofu, and handling it carefully, cut it into cubes.

Mix cornflour, salt, pepper and chili on a plate.

Dredge each piece of tofu through the cornflour mix, ensuring each side gets covered.

Heat coconut oil until very hot. Depending on your tools and stuff, you might want to use a wok and one of those wire net thingos. I don’t have one, so I just used a small saucepan. I put enough coconut oil in the pot that would cover half a piece of tofu – maybe about a centimetre and a half? (Sorry, didn’t measure the quantity of oil I used – just put it in).

When the oil is very hot (you can test this by flicking a drop of water into it – it should sizzle and bubble rapidly), carefully place tofu into the oil, a couple of pieces at a time. Let it cook for a minute or so before carefully flipping it with a fork to cook the other half. Remove from oil once a slightly golden crust has formed – drain on paper towel.

Chop up spring onion and chili to serve.

These did not last long with the (cleanly shaven) Bear around. I literally got like three of them.

saltnpepa4Look how fast his hand is moving to his face! It’s just a blur!

saltnpepa5At least I know they got the seal of approval.

saltnpepa6How does one choose just one Salt N Pepa song to play? Yeah, gonna go with this one…so ’80s cool.

veganmofo