Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Annual lab culinary competition

October 3, 2016

Early October heralds the longest-standing tradition of my workplace - a culinary competition coinciding with the birthday of a beloved colleague. We had more entries and eaters this year than we've seen for a while! I've collated as many dishes as I can in the slideshow above. In the inclusive spirit of the event, it's the one time I allow photos of meat on the blog. 

That said, this might have been the most veg-friendly year yet. Lovely dips, fritters and finger foods... the black bean chipotle burgers were a highlight for me. There were not as many salads as usual, though I did my bit by submitting Ottolenghi's cauliflower, grape & cheddar salad. Sweets were variously fruity, fancy and far from traditional (check out the dumplings!). My own deviation from the norm was a ketchup cake, and it earned me a prize in the 'tastes better than it sounds' category.

The grand prize winner was a new entrant, who made some lovely olive bread sticks. The judges praised the dish for its classic style, superlative flavour and hipster-rustic presentation.


You can also check out competition entries from years 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Tofu in lemongrass broth

September 25, 2016

On our return from Western Australia we wanted something quick and healthy to ease ourselves back into the non-holiday routine - this tofu in lemongrass broth was the perfect choice. We've been making it regularly since we first posted about it back in 2008, so we figured it was time to finally put the recipe on here rather than relying on the old post at Nourish Me staying up forever. It's a really simple recipe, but a really great one (it's already featured in our where's the best list!).  It's all about the broth - fragrant and spicy and carrying the simple veggies and tofu to new heights. A great dish for Melbourne's cold spring nights, but only if you're pro-coriander!

Tofu in lemongrass broth
(based on this recipe at Nourish Me)

2 stalks of lemongrass, roughly chopped
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, cut into 2-3 chunks
6-8 makrut lime leaves
1 large bunch of coriander, washed thoroughly, leaves and stalks separated
1.5 cups water
1 tablespoon tamari
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 medium brown onion, sliced finely
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red chilli, seeded and sliced finely
a big handful of green beans, trimmed and halved
1 small bunch broccolini, chopped up
300g tofu (Lucy uses silken, but we prefer something firmer), cubed
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
200ml coconut milk
fried shallots

Start cooking some rice before you get started on the rest, it all comes together quite quickly.

Put the lemongrass, ginger, lime leaves and coriander stalks in a saucepan with the water and a big pinch of salt. Bring the mix to the boil and then simmer uncovered until the mixture has reduced by half (about 15 minutes). 

Sieve out the bits and pieces and then stir the tamari and sugar into the liquid.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the onions, garlic and chilli, stir-frying for a couple of minutes until they start to soften. Add the beans, broccolini and tofu and keep stir-frying for another few minutes, until the vegies are just cooked. 

Pour in the broth and the coconut milk and simmer for a few more minutes. Stir in all of the coriander leaves and cook for a final minute, until they've wilted down a bit. 

Taste and add more salt if required. Serve over rice, with a generous sprinkling of fried shallots on top.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


September 20-23, 2016

After our time in Perth and Fremantle, we headed down the south coast to spend the rest of the week in sleepy Busselton. We'd imagined a beachy holiday, but WA's weather didn't really oblige. Instead, we had a quiet few days lounging around our apartment reading books and eating treats and generally kicking back. We didn't come to Busselton for the food, but we took our chance to explore what was on offer.

We started off by checking out The Fire Station, a bar and restaurant in a gorgeous old building.

It's cosy inside with a fire going and a steady stream of customers. You can swing by to try the impressive array of craft beer and local wines, or settle in for a meal. We had no trouble getting a table on the two nights that we stopped by, but I'd guess things would get pretty hectic when summer rolled around.

The menu is very gastropub, with a selection of pizzas, pastas and some meatier options. There are enough vego options to go around, but vegans will struggle.

Cindy ordered the pan fried gnocchi with Swiss brown mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, burnt butter, sage & goats cheese ($24).

It was a lovely meal: plump fluffy gnocchi with lots of earthy mushrooms and a few bursts of freshness from the tomatoes. 

I took on one of the vego pizzas, with parsnips, honey, goats cheese and a rocket and horseradish pesto ($22). This was another success - a crisp, light base with an inventive combination of toppings.

The Fire Station really impressed me - it had classy pub food in a charming setting, with friendly staff and a great selection of booze. We stopped by for a drink on one of our other evenings in town just to enjoy the atmosphere - it's definitely worth a visit.


The other noteworthy place we ate at in Busselton was Mana Kai Cafe, an almost-vegetarian place (there's one salmon dish I think) tucked into a little arcade. They're a daytime eatery, with a range of made-to-order breakfast and lunch options, plus a stack of pre-made goodies in the display cases. There are plenty of vegan options. 

We started out by sampling their fancy drinks - a detox juice (celery, mint, parsley, cucumber, kale and pear) for me and a citrus blast (lemon, lime, orange, apple) for Cindy. At $9 a pop these aren't cheap, but they're refreshing and delicious. 

Cindy cobbled together a lunch by combining a savoury muffin ($5) with handcut potato skins with a combo of chutney and garlic yoghurt dressing ($6).

I tested the kitchen out a bit more with the Asian bowl - marinated tempeh, rice noodles, kim chi, carrot, sprouts, corn, red cabbage and greens with a miso and ginger dressing ($15.50).

This was a delight - loaded with fresh vegetables and bursting with flavour thanks to the kim chi and the miso dressing. A perfect counterbalance to all the pizzas I ate over our holiday. 

Mana Kai was heaving on our visit and they seemed to be equally popular with locals and tourists. It's great to see a vego place doing so well outside of the big cities. I'm sure it's a haven for vegan visitors to Busselton. 

We had a nice quiet few days in Busselton, enjoying a day tour around the Margaret River area and sneaking in quite a few visits to the wonderful birdhide on the Vasse River - some photographic highlights are below.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Bread in Common

September 17 & 19, 2016

The eating highlight of our time in Fremantle was Bread in Common. It's a converted warehouse with long communal tables and a no-bookings policy that reminded me of Garagistes, and we took a punt on it for a fancy dinner.

The sharing menu is a good one for vegetarians, and solid for vegans too (we overheard one sitting next to us and he seemed to be a regular!). Gluten-free folks also have plenty to choose from but the severely allergic may wish to proceed with caution - this restaurant is clearly proud of its bread and operates as a flour-dusted bakery as well as a restaurant.

We were in the mood for cocktails - Michael enjoyed a negroni ($17) served with a huge ice sphere and I tried their burnt lime mule ($18). Unlimited bread comes with a $2 per person price tag, and the first section of the menu is an array of little foods that complement it. Although we ordered the sweet garlic butter with fennel salt ($2), we strongly suspect that we received the unflavoured butter - it was still pretty good. Even better was the vegan-friendly white bean puree swirled with rosemary and saltbush ($4).

A plate of orange and purple carrots ($19) was made sweet and sour with compressed rhubarb and sprinkled with pumpkin seeds. Late season mushrooms ($20) were much more savoury, flavoured with shallots, miso, edamame and blue cheese then crowned with mustard leaves.

Our favourite was the sweet potato dish ($21) with artichokes, macadamias, capers and verjuice - it captured sweet and savoury equally and expertly.

For dessert, Michael took a rare trip into cheese platter territory ($32), gleefully picking his way through a Cambray Farmhouse cheddar, Onetik Bleu de Basque, Auvermont Bleu, Le Marquis Chevre, toasted breads and a glass of Hekate Passito ($13).

I skipped over the chocolate and strawberry desserts I'd usually go for to try their bread and butter pudding ($18). The promised ginger wasn't as strong as I'd hoped, and the condensed milk was fun but not striking; I was neither thrilled nor disappointed. (I later learned that they make their own Oreos and have a twinge of regret for not trying the chocolate dessert.)

While these were certainly special-occasion prices, we were satisfied that we received a special-occasion experience, from the service and setting to the vegetarian dishes and the extravagent extras.

When our hopes of visiting vegetarian cafe Juicy Beetroot fell through a couple of days later, Bread in Common was an easy fallback breakfast. To our surprise, the prices at this time of day were no higher than we'd paid for breakfast at other Perth and Fremantle cafes. I tried their version of the ubiquitous avocado smash ($17), which came with a lemon sliver, abundant fresh peas, a few purplish-green leaves and some sadly burned and too-tough-to-cut sourdough toast. I found the perfect smoothie to drink with it ($8), a slushy pale green glass of coconut, apple and lime.

Michael decided to reprise the mushrooms ($21). In the morning they're served richly with taleggio, mushroom ketchup and wholemeal toast.

Michael easily convinced me to pick something from their sweets list. The jam and chocolate hazelnut (read: Nutella) donuts ($5 each) were just fine, nothing special. I really should have ordered one of those housemade Oreos, huh?

It was probably lucky that we entered Bread in Common ignorant of the widespread hype (see blog posts below, for example). Their incidentally-veg dishes were bright and tasty, and their high-end-but-casual style wasn't too pretentious. Eating out in Perth is frequently expensive, and in this context Bread in Common feels like even better value.

Reviews are more mixed on BLK's Food Blog and FoodPorn Journal, then distinctly disappointed on MorselsWenY Wonders WhyPerth Food Blog and Taste Test - Food.Life.

Bread in Common
43 Pakenham St, Fremantle
(08) 9336 1032
dinner, breakfast

Accessibility: They've been mindful in their design - wide flat entry and clear corridors, although tables can be densely packed. We ordered at the table, also paying there for dinner but paying at a high counter for breakfast. Toilets were gendered but included a third fully accessible option.

Sunday, September 25, 2016


September 16-20, 2016

After my work duties were done, Michael met up with me in Perth so that we could enjoy a week off together. We spent the first half in Fremantle - here are six places we ate while there.

After setting down our gear, we walked down to the Little Creatures Brewery by the water for dinner. They've been bought out by Lion Nathan since I last visited nine years ago, and the food had a 'gastropub for the masses' feel that echoes that history. To their credit, food service was startlingly efficient - each dish was presented to our table less than 10 minutes after we'd ordered it.

We shared a large slice of grilled haloumi ($9.50), a so-so beetroot salad with spiced yoghurt, walnuts & freekeh ($12) and a wood-fired pizza topped with mushrooms, garlic & tallegio ($19). If we'd stopped there, we probably would have been satisfied. Instead we requested a couple of regrettably large desserts: for me, an enormous triplet of icecream sandwiches ($14) studded with chocolate cookies and top'n'fill-style caramel; for Michael, a too-sugary apple strudel ($14) with vanilla curd.

The brewery remains enormously popular, we suspect with tourists more than with locals.


Saturday morning was our best chance to wander the Fremantle Markets, sipping juices and picking up whatever we fancied for breakfast. We loved the vegetarian arepa ($11) from Kachapas, which was golden-fried and stacked with black beans, melting cheese, shredded veges, a fried plantain and several sauces (psst - they do a vegan version too). Again we were over-ambitious and subsequently struggled to finish a golden-layered feta borek for second-breakfast.

Sunday breakfast at Moore & Moore was, in spite of the name, more measured. This charming, artsy cafe adjoins a gallery and cobbles together comfy pre-loved furniture in little nooks, sneaks through a moody warehouse passageway and spills out into a ramshackle sunny back garden. It was here, out the back, that Michael feasted on The Avocado ($18), which in addition to its namesake featured grainy toast, grilled haloumi, poached eggs and a lovely broad bean and olive salsa.

Meanwhile I had eyes only for the Grilled Potato Cake ($19), which was crowned with asparagus spears and a citrus dressing. The staff were kind enough to exchange the standard eggs for mushrooms on my request. If we lived in the neighbourhood, we could see this cheery, relaxed venue becoming our local.


After a day dining with quokkas, we stuck our head in Run Amuk Hotdogs for a quick, early dinner. They make their own vegan, gluten-free sausages analogous to their meat-based bratwursts and they'll stick one in any of their hot dogs for an extra $1. The sausages taste great and have a firm crust, but their inside mushiness gives away that there's no meat here.

I went traditional and ordered my hotdog with just onions, tomato sauce & mustard ($10.50), while Michael tried their formula for Mischief ($14): tomato relish, guacamole, cheddar, baby spinach, tortilla chips, jalapenos & sour cream. The fries ($4) and coriander-lime aioli ($1.50) were on point, and the house-made lemonade ($5 each) was a good choice - I had no hope of tackling their Reese's Peanut Butter Choc Shake after all this!


Michael's google skills happened upon a Monday night food truck gathering Under The Bridge. Although the evening was chilly, a live band and 3 trucks drew plenty of families, students, holiday-makers, and - to Michael's delight - their dogs.

We carefully selected one sample from each stall. Flying Falafels fry their flagship food well and pair it with a nice tahini dip ($10). Comida do Sul had a hearty Prato Feito Vegetarian plate (~$14) of bean sausage and roasted yam, black beans, rice, pan-fried kale and fresh tomato salsa. The street-food star was Eat No Evil's crunchy-skinned crushed potatoes ($8) with chipotle mayo and some herby-sprouty sprinklin's.


On our last morning we hulked our luggage to The Attic and gamely left it out front while we ate breakfast upstairs. Though they have folks order and pay up front at the counter, the ambiance fits with Melbourne's exposed-brick coffee roastery scene.

Michael took on their smashed avocado with feta, cherry tomatoes and mint ($17.50) with a poached egg ($2). I slowly chewed my way through a lovely bowl of grain-free cacao & nut granola, coyo, strawberries and kiwi fruit with the help of a little almond milk ($14)... best served without a side of nutritional nonsense.


As you can see, we ate handsomely in Fremantle! Though specifically vegetarian restaurants are limited (and completely absent from this post), we noticed many places with thoughtful options and even welcoming notes to vegans. It had us feeling right at home.