Monday, December 11, 2017

Breakfast in Surry Hills

December 1 & 3, 2017


At the start of this month, both Michael and I had work commitments in New South Wales, allowing us a stealthy weekend stopover in Sydney. We booked a little apartment in Surry Hills and soaked up the sun.

The Urban List had a handy recent article on the neighbourhood's best breakfasts, and we tried two of them. I visited Gratia before Michael arrived. It's a social enterprise that hosts community events and donates its profits to charities, some of which customers can vote for. The menu is short but appetising - eggs on toast, fruits, fritters and a pancake, with sandwiches and salads at lunch time and some vegan-friendly goodies on display at the counter.

I took a seat in their small, pretty courtyard and ate the avocado toast ($14); it was lined with tahini, sprinkled with sesame seeds and pea leaves, and very well seasoned.
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Shenkin came with an additional recommendation from a shop manager I met on Friday morning. The first Shenkin opened a decade ago in Erskineville and now five outlets dot the inner city. The breakfast menu adds Tel Aviv twists to dishes we're used to seeing: the avocado toast comes with artichoke hearts and za'atar, muesli is served with tahini and rosewater-infused yoghurt, and waffles are sprinkled with halva.


I took on the Tamar Pancakes ($18.50, above left) and found the flavours on point but the proportions out of whack. Just one big cakey disc would have been plenty, and I was pining for more strawberry and banana slices. Vanilla creme and date molasses were terrific garnishes.

Michael wasn't quite sure how to handle the Malawach special ($19, above right), but he relished every bite! It centred around a roti-like pastry and a boiled egg, upon which he tipped numerous condiments: hummus, grated tomato, spicy coriander harissa and tahini.


These were fun ways to start our days, and of course we ate plenty more besides. Michael will cover a couple of the newer vegetarian cafes in his next post.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Mock fish sambal goreng with coconut greens

November 19. 2017


This is a slightly involved but deeply rewarding meal that Michael and I teamed up on, on a quiet Sunday. We were clearly feeling a little nostalgic for the holiday we had in Bali a couple of months ago!

The meal centres on a mock fish sambal goreng recipe from Sri Owen's Indonesian Food, a cookbook that long pre-dates our holiday. It's not intended to be vegetarian, but I glibly replaced the fish and shrimp paste with vegan imitations. I also subbed in a little almond meal for a couple of candlenuts in the spice paste, and was pretty generous with my use of tamarind concentrate and coconut milk. The spice paste is designed to be tangy and complex, and the sauce rich and runny. It was largely a success, and we reveled in drenching our salty 'fish' pieces and steamed rice in it. Nevertheless, I'll try reducing the coconut milk quantity next time, because it came close to smothering a really great spice paste.

Our accompaniment comes straight from our holiday cooking class, a flexible blanched-greens-and-coconut salad. It's robust to haphazard treatment, even benefiting from a bit of bruising to release the makrut lime flavour, and a bit of time at rest before being served. Sprinkling the fried shallots on just as it's being served guarantees it'll feel fancy.

Michael cheerfully gloated his way through the leftovers, packed for lunch, while I was committed to catering at a work function. I reckon we'll both have the appetite to make more of this soon.



Mock fish sambal goreng
(slightly adapted from a recipe in Sri Owen's Indonesian Food)

spice paste/bumbu
4 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
3 large red chillies, stem and seeds removed then roughly chopped
1 teaspoon mock shrimp paste
1 generous teaspoon almond meal
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon fresh galangal, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons liquid tamarind concentrate
2 tablespoons coconut milk

other sauce ingredients
850mL coconut milk
5cm stem lemongrass
2 makrut lime leaves
3 small tomatoes, roughly chopped
salt

1 tablespoon peanut oil
250g mock cod fillet, sliced into bite-sized pieces


Place the spice paste ingredients in a spice grinder or food processor and blend until smooth.

Set a medium-large saucepan over medium heat and add in the spice paste, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk, lemongrass and lime leaves, and bring everything to the boil. Turn down the heat to medium and cook, stirring regularly, for 50 minutes. Add the tomatoes and salt, and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Set the sauce aside.

Heat the peanut oil in a frypan over medium heat, and fry the mock fish until lightly browned on at least one side. Pour over the sauce and cook for 5 minutes, season to taste. Serve with steamed rice and coconut kailan.



Coconut greens
(slightly adapted from a recipe shared at Casa Luna Cooking School)

1 cup grated coconut
1 large bunch kailan or other green vegetable
2 tablespoons sambal
3 makrut lime leaves, shredded finely
1 tablespoon fried shallots
salt, to taste

Preheat an oven to 150°C. Place the coconut in a dry tray and gently roast it for up to 30 minutes; check and stir it every five minutes and remove it when it starts becoming golden (gold is great, but don't risk burning it!).

While the coconut is roasting, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Trim the stems from the kailan and chop it into large pieces. When the water is boiling, blanch the kailan for abotu 2 minutes, then drain.

In a medium large bowl, stir together all the ingredients, including the roast coconut and kailan. You can be a bit rough, allowing the ingredients to bruise and the flavours to mingle.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Merri Table

November 19, 2017


We've enjoyed some nice brekkies at CERES over the years, so I was a bit shocked to wander through one weekend and realise that the old outdoor cafe had disappeared. Instead, CERES have focussed their energy on The Merri Table, a cafe that was briefly a fancy-ish restaurant (e.g. see this review) and was then a site for functions/courses, etc. Now it's the main breakfast and lunch option at CERES, with a nice mix of indoor and outdoor seating (it also hosts the excellent Tamil Feasts nights these days).


We stopped by on a Sunday morning to try it out. The menu is pretty standard Brunswick breakfast - chia seeds, crumpets, a range of interesting egg dishes and a few vegan options. It's not all vego, but there are no shortage of options. I sampled something from the specials board - braised brussel sprouts with capers, onions, garlic croutons, spiced yoghurt and poached eggs ($17). 


This was a solid option - it's always nice to get a big plate of seasonal veggies, and the croutons added some nice garlicky crunch to the dish. It all got a bit soggy towards the end, but it hit the spot nicely. 

Cindy was hoping for a nice fresh fruit salad, but the closest offering was a chia pudding, so she looked to the cabinet goods for something small. A pear, walnut and banana muffin ($4.50) did the job, especially when paired with a dandelion tea ($5). 


The Merri Table is a lovely place to have a meal - from the balcony area you look across the beautiful CERES gardens and catch the sunshine. The menu isn't that exciting - it doesn't compare to the range of goodies on offer around the corner at New Day Rising for example, but there are a decent range of savoury options, good coffee and friendly service. The best part about it is the location - while we were there we picked up some organic groceries at the market, dropped off some goods for the ASRC and hit up the nursery for some herb seedlings (as an added bonus, there's a whole family of tawny frogmouths living near the creek nearby).


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There are some positive reviews of the cafe version of The Merri Table at Fitzroyalty, Hide and Seek and A Place a Day
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The Merri Table
CERES, cnr Roberts and Stewart Streets, Brunswick East
9389 0100

Accessibility: The entry way is via a rough gravel path, but once you're inside things are spacious and flat. We ordered at the table and paid at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tempeh taco salad

November 13, 2017


This is a rare, valued thing - a new recipe to bring into our weeknight dinner rotation! It's a tempeh taco salad, published earlier this year on one of my favourite long-running food blogs, 101 Cookbooks

It starts with tempeh and black beans in taco spices, then there's lots of lettuce and fresh coriander to assert that it's a salad, and a handful of corn chips to bring the taco shell crunch. The salad dressing starts with ketchup, not something I thought I'd see on such a wholefoods-focused blog, but it's filled out with lots of tangy apple cider vinegar. Swanson encourages adding your own extras, too - for me that meant avocado chunks, fresh cherry tomatoes and a wedge of lime.

I'd recommend heading over to the source and checking out the different photos there - Swanson's version is richly coloured with roasted tomatoes and her corn chips are sparse and stirred through the salad. I was eating this over several days, so I separated out the chips to keep their crispness, and added in the avocado at the last minute. Avocado management aside, this was as good a packed lunch as it was a worknight dinner. It'll be back in our kitchen several more times before this summer is done.



Tempeh taco salad
(slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks)

225g packet tempeh
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon taco seasoning
1/3 cup ketchup
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/3 cup sunflower oil
400g can black beans
2 medium heads of cos lettuce
1 cup coriander
1 avocado
250g punnet cherry tomatoes
2 cups plain corn chips
1 lime


Slice the tempeh into cubes. Pour the olive oil into a frypan and set it over medium-high heat. Saute the tempeh in the oil until browned, then turn off the heat and transfer the tempeh to a bowl. Stir the taco seasoning through the tempeh.

Make the dressing in a lidded glass jar. Pour in the ketchup, vinegar, golden syrup, salt, paprika, onion power and sunflower. Screw on the lid and shake until the dressing is emulsified.

Drain and rinse the black beans, and stir them into the cooled spiced tempeh; stir in a tablespoon or so of the dressing too.

Roughly chop the lettuce and coriander; slice the avocado and cherry tomatoes. Gently toss together the salad or layer it up on a platter: lettuce, tomato, tempeh/beans, avocado, corn chips, coriander, then the dressing. Slice the lime into wedges and serve it on the side.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Dr Morse Bar and Eatery

November 12, 2017


We spent Sunday afternoon at Templestowe checking out the platypus that hang about in the Yarra out that way (see pic at the bottom of this post). The bus back took us into Abbotsford and we decided to stop off for dinner on the way home at Dr Morse Bar and Eatery. It's a cafe in the day time and a bar in the evening - the courtyard was pounding with incongruous house music and loads of people; inside was less crowded but the air was still dominated by the DJ.

We started off with some drinks - a citrussy mocktail for Cindy and a lemon lime and bitters for me. Nice and refreshing on a warm evening.


On Sunday afternoons they run a 'Fists of Fury Asian Garden BBQ' at Dr Morse, so the menu is a bit more restricted that other times of the week. There's just enough vego food for two people to share some dishes - we picked out four of the five options for a light dinner.

We had, clockwise from top left, the BBQ pumpkin with sweet tamarind glaze ($7), the charred corn with miso butter and togarashi ($8), the Bangkok fried rice ($12), and the grilled tofu with yellow curry and coconut ($8).


This was a pretty decent meal - the corn and the fried rice were probably the best of the bunch, with the omelette in the fried rice providing a good salty hit. The tofu looked the best, but the curry sauce was a bit bland and it was only the fresh chilli that really gave it some punch. The pumpkin had a nice char on it, but the sweet tamarind glaze didn't really shine. 

The prices are pretty reasonable - we spent just under $40 on an enjoyable meal for two. Service is efficient and friendly and there's a nice atmosphere on a Sunday evening (I can imagine it all gets a bit hectic on Friday and Saturday). Dr Morse probably won't drag us over to Abbotsford on its own, but it's a good option if we're ever in the neighbourhood.

As promised - the platypus from Templestowe:


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There are some positive reviews of Dr Morse on Wandering MintThe City LaneSimply SundayLisa Eats WorldChewing is ExerciseThe Burger AdventureMel: Hot or Not and Peach Water, while The Chicken Scene and The Brunch Addict were less enthusiastic.
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Dr Morse Bar and Eatery
274 Johnston St, Abbotsford
9416 1005
Sunday evening menu
https://www.drmorse.com.au/

Accessibility: There's a flat entryway and ramps between the front room and the outdoor area at the back. Toilets are fully accessible. We ordered at the table and paid at a high bar.