Baked Rice Paper Rolls with Cashew Dipping Sauce

Standard

Winter is usually about soups, curries, stews and other hearty dishes, but sometimes you just need something a little more colourful. Rice paper rolls are the ultimate summer dish, but no longer are they banished to hot weather alone.

The great thing about rice paper rolls is how versatile they are – you can pretty much make them with whatever you have on hand. As a result, each time I make them they are slightly different. While I’ve only included veggies in these ones, I often add a strip of marinated tofu or tempeh to each roll, or even some edamame beans or avocado (though I haven’t tried avo in the baked version). When I am making fresh rice paper rolls, I always tend to separate out each ingredient and place them neatly in the rolls, but with these I’ve just mixed all the bits up in a bowl and chucked them in – perhaps more reminiscent of a spring roll filling. Easy as bro.

bakedriceppaperrolls3

Like the filling, the dipping sauce I use varies each time – sometimes I just grab some sweet chili or rice wine vinegar and soy straight from the bottles, or sometimes I feel inspired to whip something up especially. I initially intended to do a peanut dipping sauce, but after finding there was no peanut butter (sacrilege!) I improvised with cashews and sesame oil, which had quite a similar effect.

I did have a go at pan frying these dudes, and then tried baking them – while they were both good, I preferred the texture of the baked ones which seemed to get a little crispier while still retaining some chewiness, as well as being less oily.

bakedricepaperrolls1Baked Rice Paper Rolls with Cashew Dipping Sauce
(makes about 22)

2 cups purple cabbage, shredded
2 cups green cabbage, shredded
1 cup spring onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups carrot, julienned (about 1 large carrot)
2 cups bean sprouts
1/4 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh coriander, roughly chopped
100g brown rice vermicelli noodles
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 chili, finely chopped
Rice paper sheets

Olive oil for brushing

Cashew dipping sauce:
1/2 cup cashews, soaked
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sriracha
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced

Preheat oven to 180C, and line two baking trays with paper.

Place vermicelli noodles in a bowl, and cover with warm water. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together cabbages, spring onions, carrot, mint, coriander and bean sprouts. When noodles are tender, drain them and using kitchen scissors, roughly chop them so they become smaller pieces. Add to the bowl with the veggies.

In a small bowl, mix together chili, rice wine vinegar and soy sauce. Pour over the veggie mix.

Now prepare a large bowl with warm water to dip the rice paper sheets in. One at a time, lay out the sheets, place filling in the centre and roll up, folding the sides in first then rolling away from yourself. If you aren’t familiar with how to wrap rice paper rolls, jump on youtube and do a quick search.

Lay rice paper rolls down on the prepared trays, then spray or brush with olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip them and bake for another 10-15.

To make the dipping sauce, place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. If too thick, keep adding water one tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

bakedricepaperrolls2

Apple, Rhubarb and Orange Crumble

Standard

My idea of a what constitutes a good crumble goes something like this: LOTS of crumble. Getting enough crumble that you have enough to take you to the last bite is an important balance to create, much like ensuring the ice cream will last the distance. Of course I always need to add a little extra to account for the crumble I will inevitably eat off the top before I’ve even served it as well. The last time I made crumble, I was so set on having enough topping that I ended up with a container of it left over that I physically could not fit on top. Luckily it was put to good use with some banana crumble muffins later on.

This is the perfect way to use some of that rhubarb that is going gangbusters at the moment, and the perfect dessert to have on a cool winter’s evening. In fact, it even works well as a breakfast (though you probably shouldn’t include the ice cream like I did the other morning – it IS kind of like the milk on the cereal of crumble, that makes sense right?)

applerhubarborangecrumbleWhile I am also a fan of a simple crumble topping, I also like to pack it full of goodies, and I tend to just throw whatever I have on hand in – sometimes various nuts, seeds and even the odd gingernut biscuit. I like the combination in this one, but you can quite easily substitute more preferred items in place of the ones I’ve used.

applerhubarborangecrumble4It makes me laugh how spherical the ice cream is in this photo – it’s almost too perfect. Is there someone I can talk to about that?

Apple, Rhubarb and Orange Crumble
(serves 4-6)

3 Granny Smith apples (approx 2 cups)
4 stalks rhubarb (approx 2 cups)
Juice of 1 orange (approx 1/3 cup)
Zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp arrowroot + 2 Tbsp water

Crumble topping:
3/4 cup oats
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup flour (I used spelt here, but have used various flours with no problems)
1/3 cup nuttelex (or coconut oil)
2 Tbsp flax meal (optional)
Pinch salt

Preheat oven to 180C.

Chop your apple and rhubarb into manageable chunks, and place them in a medium saucepan along with the orange juice and zest, coconut sugar, spices and vanilla. Heat over a medium-low heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the fruit has softened.

In a small bowl, whisk together arrowroot and water. Take fruit off the heat and stir through arrowroot mix. Pour into a baking dish – I used a large ramekin for this.

To prepare the crumble, place all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Throw in the nuttelex in small chunks, and using your hands rub it through the mix. Sure, you could do it with a spoon, but I like to get amongst it. Distribute the crumble evenly over the fruit mix, and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the crumble topping is golden and the fruit mix is bubbling a little at the sides. Serve with ice cream, cream, yoghurt, or any damn thing you like.

applerhubarborangecrumble3

True North II, A Caterpillar’s Dream and Fina’s Vegetarian Cafe

Standard

Another work drive out to Coburg a while back resulted in another need for lunch. After the last pleasant experience at True North, I swung by to pick up another sammich. This time, I opted for a faux chicken deal.

truenorth21Excuse the car lap shot, I’m eating on the run (don’t worry, am still in car park).

truenorth22The make up of this one was chicken, mayo, lettuce and sprouts on sourdough bread. It was decent, though not as satisfying as the reuben I previously got there – still a respectable lunch. The bear has been asking since my previous post when I would take him out there for a reuben, I think he has been distracted by the offering of a vegan reuben a lot closer to home through Smith & Deli for now though.

Though I’ve been living a short walk away from A Caterpillar’s Dream for six months now, I’ve only made the effort to eat there once. It’s a kind of strange spot for a vegetarian cafe, nestled on the edge of a carpark shared with Leo’s Supermarket and Laurent’s Bakery, amongst other things. It’s a pretty standard cafe set up, nothing to write home about. I apologise in advance for the dodgy photos to follow.

caterpillarsdream1My mum went with a lighter option – the rice paper rolls with lemon and chili sauce. While in appearance, they did not impress, mum declared them tasty.

caterpillarsdream3Dad went with the zucchini corn fritters, with avocado, chutney and sour cream. This was a ‘vegan available’ item, though I can’t remember if dad took them up on that. Either way, he enjoyed it.

caterpillarsdream2We got some ‘sweet potato wedges’ with plum and black pepper spice to share. These were not at all what we were expecting – they were quite sweet and were reminiscent of the pumpkin cakes from chinese restaurants. A bit to dessert-y for me.

caterpillarsdream4Luckily, I had just a few salty regular fries with my meal – pie, chips and salad. Unfortunately, I can’t remember what was inside the pie – was it mushroom? That’ll teach me for leaving it for so long before sharing. A satisfying lunch, but lucky I had some others to share the chip load with.

caterpillarsdream5Mum had her eye on the cake display from the moment we walked in, and though I was getting full, who am I to deny somebody of their cake dreams? We shared this tiramisu cupcake, it was lovely and moist.

caterpillarsdream6Lastly, I had to have an iced coffee, because duh. It was good, however it was definitely enough to tip me into over-fullness. A Caterpillar’s Dream offers decent vegetarian food at a fairly reasonable price – there is nothing outstanding, but it does the trick just fine.

Another really old post is from Fina’s Vegetarian Cafe. I think this might date back to living at the old place, when we frequented Fina’s on a fairly regular basis. Though we’ve eaten there many times, I don’t think I’ve ever shared the experience.

finas1Some spring rolls to share. After living just off VIctoria St, I could never eat spring rolls without lettuce and mint again! How did I not know about this sooner?

finas2We had a habit of getting the same few dishes each visit (pancake, spicy noodle soup) so this time we were determined to try something different. The bear went with the special vegan quang noodle – a combination of noodles, veggies, paper tofu and mock bacon in a creamy broth, with fresh herbs and bean sprouts on the side. While bear enjoyed his dish, he tasted mine and immediately got food envy. Lucky we like to share.

finas3I actually can’t remember what this was – I think perhaps the bamboo soup? All I recall is the deliciously chewy bits of mock meat – either bacon or duck, and a clean and tasty broth.

We love Fina’s – the service is friendly, the meals are tasty, well portioned and reasonably priced. Since this visit, Fina’s have opened up their second restaurant – this one on Brunswick St in Fitzroy and 100% vegan. We popped by on opening night to enjoy a meal, will share our findings later.

True North Cafe
2A Munro St, Coburg
Mon – Fri – 7am – 4pm
Sat – Sun – 8am – 4pm

A Caterpillar’s Dream
Shop 4/26 Princess St, Kew
Mon – Thurs – 8.30am – 4pm
Fri – Sat – 8.30am – 4pm & 5.30pm – 9pm
Sun – 9am – 4pm

Fina’s Vegetarian Cafe
268 Victoria St, Richmond
Mon – 10.30am – 3pm
Tues – Sun – 9.30am – 9.30pm

Smith & Deli, Fitzroy

Standard

I’m sure you’ve all heard of the hot new place in town – vegans and non-vegans alike are buzzing with the news. Yep, those awesome folk over at Smith & Daughters have opened up their own deli, just around the corner on Moor St, aptly named Smith & Deli and stocking everything you could possibly need, from sandwiches to salads, premade pizzas to hot soup, coffees to herbs and spices. I’m yet to step inside yet, but Faye at Veganopoulous and Cindy and Michael at Where’s the Beef? have taken some great photos of the snazzy interior.

While I have not had the opportunity to visit them in person as of yet, I am lucky enough that my bear had a free day and offered to pop by Smith & Deli and meet me on my lunch break with some (read: LOTS) of their goods to share. You can imagine my excitement when I was greeted with this:

smithdeli1At first the bear apologised for getting all “his type” of foods, but I was pretty sure any food from Smith & Deli was going to be my type of food so I was not too worried.

smithdeli3First up, we split a “Rubenstein” sandwich – pastrami, sauerkraut, pickles and Russian dressing on rye bread. This is my second reuben style sandwich ever, and I’m loving them more with each try. Everything about this was perfect, from the thickness of the bread to the tanginess of the generous filling.

smithdeli2Next up, the kim chi and cheese scroll. Are you kidding me?!

smithdeli4Seriously. So de-freaking-licious I can’t even. The bread was so soft and while I thought the kim chi might be a bit too mild in amongst all the dough, it had an excellent kick.

smithdeli5Our last savoury course consisted of a steak and curry pie. This probably wouldn’t have been my first pick, though at the same time I want to eat EVERYTHING on offer, so how could I not be happy with this?

smithdeli7At first we were not blown away by the pie, as we were still coming down off the awesomeness of the last two things. It’s a steak and curry pie. However the more we ate into it, the more we realised that it was a bloody good pie – if we hadn’t already stuffed ourselves with goods beforehand, we probably would have rated it higher to begin with. The pastry was good, there was a strong curry flavour and a generous amount of melt-in-your-mouth ‘steak’ interspersed with chunks of vegetables. Nothing to scoff at!

smithdeli8Oh you thought it was over? Nohohohohooo.

As if there wouldn’t be sweets! Bear brought this doughnut – I’m not actually sure what it was and neither was he – he said he was so overwhelmed he just pointed at things. It had kind of brownie chunks on top? Sweet, delicious, and almost enough to tip us over the edge.

We had to go for an ambulate so we didn’t go into a food coma. While walking, the bear (after previously professing his love for Smith & Daughters by declaring we must eat there weekly) announced that this was his new place, and he was “a deli boy” now. Fine by me. I have a whole deli of treats to work my way through!

Smith & Deli
111 Moor St, Fitzroy
Tues – Sat – 8am – 7pm

Smoky Minestrone Soup with Pesto

Standard

As we reach winter solstice and the temperature keeps dropping, there’s nothing quite like a hot and hearty bowl of soup to keep you warm. It’s been a while since I’ve had minestrone, my main memories of it are from cold weekends when Mum or Nanna would cook up a big pot for the family. It always seemed a bit special to me that there was cooking going on for lunch, and we’d all sit at the table to eat.

Smoked paprika gives this one a little more depth of flavour, and the pesto just ties it all together beautifully. I like to sprinkle some nutritional yeast on top too just for good measure (not to mention those B vitamins!)

minestrone2
Smoky Minestrone Soup with Pesto
(serves 6-8)

1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 x 400g cans diced tomato
6 cups vegetable stock
3 carrots, diced (approx 2 cups)
2 stalks celery, diced (approx 2 cups)
1 large zucchini, diced (approx 2 1/2 cups)
2 potatoes, diced (approx 2 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut into 2cm pieces
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 1/2 cups cooked cannellini beans
1 cup macaroni or other small pasta
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chili flakes
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Pesto:
1 cup tightly packed basil
2 Tbsp pine nuts
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
Pinch of salt

Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onion, garlic, carrot and celery and saute until softened – about five minutes. Add zucchini, potato, green beans, paprika, chili flakes and thyme and saute for another minute.

Add tomatoes and vegetable stock, and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook until potato is tender – about 15-20 minutes. Turn up to bring to a boil again and add macaroni, chickpeas and cannellini beans. Reduce heat and continue to simmer until pasta cooked, stirring occasionally to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom.

While cooking, prepare the pesto: place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until combined. Set aside.

Once pasta cooked, stir in tomato paste, fresh parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Serve up and top with pesto.

minestrone1

Trang Bakery, Collingwood

Standard

Ever since I was alerted to the fact that there was a new Vietnamese place on Smith St serving vegan bahn mi’s by Cindy and Michael of Where’s the Beef, I have been an eager regular of Trang Bakery. Being quite north of Johnston st, Trang is a little out of the way of the regular hubbub of Smith St, however it doesn’t stop them attracting a line out the door each lunch time, and going the extra distance is definitely worth it.

With a huge range of vegan options including mock duck, chicken, fish, pork, lemongrass tofu, tempura eggplant, chicken burger, prawn (and possibly more), they really are my new best friend. At $5 (or $5.50 for eggplant) they are a great cheap and filling eat.

trangeggplantEggplant is my most commonly ordered – especially since they have changed the way they’ve cut the eggplant to better fit the roll. I guess it’s probably my favourite as I always feel a pang of disappointment if I get there later in the day and there’s no eggplant in the tray.

trangtofuThis is the lemongrass tofu – it’s between this and duck for my second place. You have the option of peanuts and chili (yes and hell yes), wholemeal of white bread, and an array of fresh veggies. They also put some kind of paste on the bottom – Michael and Cindy describe it as a roasted eggplant relish, and some special sauce and shallots on top. Heaven!

trangchicken This is the last one I have a decent photo of – I think it is the roast chicken, but could be duck – I can’t remember. I haven’t forayed into the seafood options as have never been a fan of real or mock seafood – too fishy (unless you batter some tofu, deep fry it and call it fish a la Cornish Arms) so can’t vouch for them, but I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve had here.

There are also some donuts and sweets that I’ve just discovered are vegan (though haven’t tried) and they have other options like noodles and rice paper rolls, however I can never resist the bahn mi. Trang have expanded and opened up a second shop in Hardware lane in the CBD. Let’s hear it for our vegan-friendly friends!

Trang Bakery and Cafe
382 Smith Street, Collingwood
Open 7 days, 8.30am – 4pm

Admiral Cheng-Ho, Nourished: 385 and Natural Tucker Bakery

Standard

I’m going to do a bit of a dump, as charming as that sounds, as despite my best efforts I have not been posting as regularly as I had hoped. In a bid to clear some of my backlog, I’m going to summarise a few recent (or not so recent) eats.

admiralchenghoFirst up, a long overdue follow up visit to Admiral Cheng Ho in Abbotsford for a catch up with some old school friends. There’s been a change in menu since my last time there, with all dishes now completely vegan with the optional extras of cow’s milk, feta, yoghurt etc. It’s nice to be the ‘norm’ and not have to pay extra for the vegan option for a chance. A winning move in my books.

I went with the ‘Crazy Jimbo’ – polenta bread with almond feta, sauteed kale and seasonal veggies with tangy beetroot relish and basil cashew cream. Funnily enough, it was basically the same dish that I had last time, though with polenta bread replacing zucchini fritters and the addition of almond feta. I recognised this before ordering, but just like last time the idea of all the different components – especially tangy relish and smooth cashew cream – won me over. I was not disappointed, enjoying each mouthful to the very end. I could honestly eat this every morning.

nourished385

One sunny weekend, I went for a family catch up lunch to Nourished: 385 in Prahran. A relatively new cafe on the scene, it’s shtick is “clean eating” – whatever that means. The thing I like about all this new super clean wonder health eating hoo-ha, is how it is easier to find vegan meals in a wider variety of places. With that in mind, we went along. Nourished:385 is pleasantly located next to the shady Victoria Gardens, and as we sat out in the back courtyard we were able to overlook the greenery, where babies and dogs ran wild.

Unfortunately, the vegan brekkie item I had seen in my quick internet search prior to choosing the place was no longer on offer, and the only items I could have were smashed avocado minus the egg or a quinoa salad. Not wanting to be overcharged again for some avo on toast, I went with the salad.

Unfortunately, I can’t say this was a winner. For $18, I expect more than some mixed salad leaves, a sprinkling of quinoa, corn, beetroot and tasteless ‘marinated’ tofu – expensive and thoughtless. The dish I had above at Admiral Cheng-Ho was $16.50 for comparison’s sake. Others enjoyed their meals more, but I was disappointed.

Going way back now, I was driving back through Carlton North and decided to stop at Natural Tucker Bakery to pick up some lunch.

naturaltucker1 I grabbed a few wholemeal vegan pies for the bear and myself, and heated them up at home with a side of salad and ajvar. The pies were pretty rustic, full of hearty chunks of veggies and lentils.

naturaltucker2Mmm…pie.

naturaltucker3And when I saw there were vegan lamingtons on offer, how could I not? Because vegan lamingtons. I particularly enjoyed the toasted shredded coconut coating the outside.

Phew, and that’ll do me for today! Tune in next time for more eats from this little vegan bear. Roar.

Admiral Cheng-Ho
325 Johnston St, Abbotsford
Mon – Fri – 6am – 4pm
Sat, Sun & PH – 8am – 5pm

Nourished: 385
385 High St, Prahran
Tues – Wed – 7.30am – 4.30pm
Thurs – Sat – 7.30am – 10pm
Sun – 7.30am – 6pm
Natural Tucker Bakery
809 Nicholson St, Carlton North
Mon – Fri – 8am – 5.30pm
Sat – 8am – 3pm