Friday, February 09, 2018


January 31, 2018

I’ve been vaguely meaning to visit Nostralis since reading about it in the Melbourne Veg Food Guide way back in 2008. It’s a long-running vegetarian pizza place in Caulfield that’s been in operation since 1981, surely a competitor for Melbourne’s second-longest running vego place after Shakahari. The décor betrays its age – lots of wood panels and old fashioned signage, but the vibe is welcoming and relaxed.

The menu has some odd options – a vindaloo pizza that includes banana and sultanas sounded very disturbing to me – but it also recreates some classics. There’s a margherita, mushroom and Mexicana pizzas and a whole range of other veg-heavy toppings. They’ve also added in a few mock meat pizzas for vegos who miss their pepperoni. Gluten free bases and vegan cheese (Cheezly) are available with small surcharges.

Cindy’s a sucker for ham and pineapple, so she went for a small Hawaiian pizza with dairy cheese ($11.50). I didn’t taste it, because pineapple on pizza is an abomination, but she was impressed. There was heaps of mozzarella and generous mock ham, but she would have added even more pineapple given the choice (because she's a monster). A step up from Eat Pizza's version.

I had a medium sized pepperoni with vegan cheese ($15 + $2.50), intending to take some leftovers home for lunch the next day. Instead, I smashed my way through the whole thing. These aren’t the authentic Italian pizzas served up at Gigi or Kaprica, but Nostralis really have the nostalgic '80s Pizza Hut vibe down. If we lived nearby I’d be going back a lot.

Nostralis is a steady success story in Melbourne’s veg dining scene, surviving with seemingly few changes for nearly 40 years. On a sunny Wednesday night we watched a steady stream of people grabbing takeaway or plonking down to share some pizzas – everyone seems to share an enthusiasm for this old school eatery.

There are a couple of Nostralis posts on vegan blogs Veganise This! and In the Mood for Noodles (twice), but nothing for ages that I could find.

55 Hawthorn Rd, Caulfield North
9528 4961

Accessibility: There's a small step on entry into a fairly crowded interior. We ordered and paid at a high counter and didn't visit the toilets. 

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Rhubarb & coconut sago

January 28, 2018

The remainder of Jane's rhubarb gift went into this simple dessert - stewed rhubarb interspersed with a coconut sago pudding. It's another recipe I've held onto for more than a decade, this time from Cook (almost) Anything, and I'm glad it's finally having its moment.

Since it was a hot weekend, I made this a couple of hours in advance and popped it into the fridge to chill. That really sets up the sago! I'm going to enjoy remaking this dessert in cooler weather, when I can serve it warm with a more custardy texture.

Both the rhubarb and the sago are cooked with generous quantities of sugar and the overall effect is very sweet. I'll consider reducing the sugar in the sago component in future batches, to create a stronger flavour contrast. The sweet sago could also work well with tangy fresh fruit, like pineapple. I've got a lot of leftover seed tapioca to figure out my favourite combinations!

Rhubarb & coconut sago
(a recipe from Cook (almost) Anything)

stewed rhubarb
500g rhubarb
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup water

coconut sago
1/2 cup sago/seed tapioca
1 cup coconut cream
1 1/2 cups water (I used 2 cups)
1/2 cup caster sugar

Slice the rhubarb into 1-inch lengths. Place them in a medium-sized saucepan with the sugar and water. Set them over medium heat, stirring often, until the rhubarb collapses.

In a separate, medium-large saucepan, stir together all of the coconut sago ingredients and set them over medium heat. Stir the pudding regularly as it cooks and avoid letting it boil! The sago is ready when the sago pearls are clear, and their starch has thickened the coconut cream.

Spoon the rhubarb and the sago into glasses in layers. It can be served warm or cold, though note that the sago tends to set into a gel in the fridge.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Apple walnut salad with rhubarb dressing

January 28, 2018

My colleague Jane kindly gave me some of her home-grown rhubarb after seeing this recipe here on the blog. We traded cake recipes, too, but even after reflecting on those beauties I pulled out two new recipes for this bunch! This cute little salad has been bookmarked over a decade, from the now-defunct food blog vanesscipes. (Thankfully the Wayback Machine can still dredge it up.)

Here the rhubarb is just gently sauteed with oil and balsamic vinegar to form the salad dressing. It's still quite firm and whole, a different texture to the collapsing puddles I'm accustomed to in many desserts. While I think of rhubarb as a cool weather comfort food, this salad shows how bright and refreshing it can be! That's mostly thanks to the apple matchsticks and radish rounds that make up the crisp, watery bulk of the dish. 

I was worried the apple might brown quickly, but the dressing preserves it well and it was still in good shape for packed lunches the next day. We paired this juicy, tangy salad with the simplest chickpea salad and they made a relaxed, happy summer coupling.

Apple walnut salad with rhubarb dressing
(a recipe from vanesscipes)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 long stalks rhubarb
1 teaspoon brown sugar
generous pinch of salt
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup walnuts
2 Granny Smith apples
6 radishes
2 handfuls green salad leaves

Pour 1 tablespoon of the oil into a medium saucepan and set it over medium heat. Slice the rhubarb into inch-long segments and saute them in the oil for about 5 minutes - they should be softening a bit but still holding their shape. Add the sugar, salt, vinegar and second tablespoon of oil. Saute for a couple more minutes, then turn off the heat.

Gently toast the walnuts until fragrant. Slice the apples into matchsticks, and the radishes into thin rounds.

Time to assemble the salad! I layered up green leaves, radishes, apples, rhubarb dressing, then walnuts. We also tossed together the leftovers and the dressing helped prevent the apple from browning.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Fan's Notes IV

January 22, 2018

A Fan's Notes is still doing its fancy Friday night degustations, but for the rest of the week it's firmly a vegan-friendly dive bar. There are parmas, burgers, cheap tacos and so forth, plus reasonably priced booze, pub trivia and the occasional gig. It's a perfect little local. We noticed their Monday night specials - $5 vegan burgers - and couldn't resist heading along to check it out.

Of course, so did almost everyone else in the greater Melbourne area. When we got there about 7, the staff were visibly shell-shocked from the early rush and couldn't even tell us whether there'd be food available if we stuck around. The kitchen was closed temporarily and they suggested we check back in half an hour to see where things stood. We kicked back with drinks as things died down and were lucky that there turned out to be a few burgers left once the first wave of orders had been dealt with. Cindy requested the fish burger (a nori, tofu and lemon patty), while I went for the chilli burger (quinoa and beetroot patty with chipotle coleslaw, tomato and avocado).

At $5 a pop I had pretty low expectations, but these were both fantastic, way ahead of the more common mushroom or potato-based veggie patties and loaded with great condiments. The $5 price also brings out masses of people - too many for the kitchen to realistically handle. We've just seen that in future the Monday special is going to be a $15 drink/chips/burger combo, which still seems like an outrageously good deal - can't wait to check it out.


Nobody's blogged this place since we visited in December. You can also see our previous posts here and here.

A Fan's Notes
787 Nicholson St, Carlton North
9943 8373
burger menu
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a flat entry way to a slightly crowded interior. We ordered and paid at the high bar. There's a single, unisex toilet cubicle, which is up a step off an uneven path. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

Caramelised white chocolate icecream

January 20-21, 2018

This icecream recipe isn't quite my usual style. Nope, it's not from Ottolenghi's latest book. It's not a home-grown vegan trick. It doesn't really require an icecream maker. And it's flavoured with white chocolate, the least chocolatey of all chocolates. Yet Michael, who skips past every white Lindt ball in the box, declared it the best icecream I've made in years!

So what is this icecream? It's from the blog Delicious Everyday. It's mostly just made from double cream and sweetened condensed milk, which feels a bit like cheating, but is so sweet and thick and creamy that it really doesn't need to be churned. And it's flavoured with caramelised white chocolate.

Caramelising white chocolate was pretty funny this first time around - unwrapping it, popping it whole onto a baking tray, and roasting it in a low oven for over an hour, until it browned. The chocolate only kinda melts, and it's surprisingly difficult to work a spatula through it and make sure the chocolate roasts evenly. I was cautious, turning my oven to only 100°C, and as a consequence I spent an hour and a half on this job instead of the directed hour at 120°C. I'll know better next time.

The result is rich, rich, rich, with a touch of toasty caramel depth. I served small sensible scoops, with a fruit salad of mango and pineapple dressed in lime juice, when I had my international guest and his wife over for dinner. (The rest of the meal was much more predictable, with Michael and I tripling down on Ottolenghi recipes - a crushed lentil plattercoriander and yoghurt-dressed pumpkin, and a Spring salad.) 

Caramelised white chocolate icecream
(a recipe from Delicious Everyday)

150g white chocolate (make sure it's based on cocoa butter, not another vegetable oil)
395g can sweetened condensed milk
600mL double cream

Preheat an oven to 120°C.

Place the chocolate in a small baking tray and roast it for 60-90 minutes, stirring at 10 minutes intervals with a baking spatula, until the chocolate has developed a deep caramel colour. The texture is hopefully smooth, but unexpectedly thick! Here are some indicative photos from the source blog.

Transfer half of the caramelised chocolate to a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the condensed milk until smooth, then whisk in the cream until everything's well mixed.

At this point the original recipe suggests pouring half of the cream mixture into your freezer container, marbling through the extra chocolate, and repeating with with remaining ingredients before freezing. I chose to refrigerate the cream mixture overnight, store the remaining chocolate at room temperature, and churn the cream mixture before assembling and freezing. I found the chocolate too thick to marble, and next time I think I'll refrigerate it and chop it into chips that I can stir through the icecream.

Freeze the icecream for at least 4 hours before serving. I found that it was easiest to scoop after 15 minutes at room temperature.