Archive for February, 2007

In the past week or so Will and I have visited two vegetarian establishments to explore their culinary offerings. Unfortunately no photos were taken.

Soul Food Cafe

273 Smith St
Fitzroy 3065 VIC
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Phone: (03) 9419 2949

This little hipster cafe is located in a rather grungy area of Fitzroy as we passed many suspicious characters hanging outside the local Tab on the way their. It somehow transported me back to my days in Madrid. The inside of the cafe had a homey, comfortable feel to it and once inside we weren’t sure whether to seat ourselves or wait to be seated. Once we sat down, we also weren’t sure whether we’d be waited on or if we ordered at the register; it was the latter because there weren’t any menus for us to browse. We quickly scanned the cold display of foods available, which was a bit scarce due to it being the end of the night for them (around 8:30 pm), and decided upon a roasted eggplant pizza and a curious little dish called Haystack, both averaging about $12 a serve. The pizza was self explanatory, lacking in the vegetable department, heavy on the cheese, but graced with a lovely thin wholemeal crust that much a ‘crunch’ with each bite. The Haystack was an interesting little serve of a tasty, yet dry legume-nut filling wrapped with puff pastry topped with a sweet sultana sauce with cumin undertones. Without the sauce it would have been difficult to swallow. The food was satisfying overall, but not a place I’d go to for dinner before a night out on the town. The ambiance was so mellow I became sleepy, but the chai for two we ordered picked me right up.

Shakahari Vegetarian Restaurant
201 Faraday St
Carlton 3053 VIC

We’d walked by this little wonder heaps of times and only just now took the time to visit the establishment. I was familiar with the interior as I’d gone in on a previous occasion to drop off my CV. The inside of the restaurant is reminiscent of a Thai teak wood house with its dark wooden furniture and green foliage. The menu was small but obviously showed their dedication to using seasonal produce. The beverage menu was a decent size and included a selection of Rieslings, so I was sold on that alone. We settled on the Satay sticks of tempeh and tofu and the Croquettes, both mains priced at $17 each. When the dishes arrived at the table we were rather pleased with the presentation: stark white plates, eye-popping colours and neatly arranged edibles. Presentation is something that vegetarian restaurants are usually not noted for, but Shakahari earned extra points in that regard. The clientele here is not as young and hip as Vegie Bar, but more aligned with Soul Mama in St. Kilda. Overall, it was a great experience; it’s as close as one can get in Melbourne to vegetarian fine dinning.

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Despite a few disapproving nibbles from Will pre-dinner party, the menu came out wonderfully. The handmade gnocchi (which really don’t compare to those solid chewy nuggets available at Coles or Safeway), the kofta balls…but most of all the baked pear with pine nut streusel, which I’m most proud of because it was an invention of my own, vegan and utterly tasty.

For the sake of the vegan challenge I’ll only post the recipes for the vegan items, sans photos due to a camera that is nowhere to be found. I must admit that my first week of the challenge didn’t go well as I mustered up only 1 vegan meal and 1 vegan dessert. In addition to that, I’ve just planned and cooked meals for the rest of the week only to realise at the very last minute that the only vegan meals for this week are hardly anything exciting: Thai stir fry and lentil-stuffed eggplant. I simply just forgot! I’ve been vegetarian for so long that cooking with or without dairy and eggs is not a decision I make with any effort. I simply just cook without meat and without too much abuse of dairy and eggs.

Without anymore delay due to rambling, here are the recipes for the kofta balls and the baked pears:

Vegetable & Tofu Kofta Balls adapted from The Soy Alternative
250 g firm tofu, crumbled in the blender
40 ml olive oil
185 g pumpkin, grated
100 g zucchini, grated
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 small shallots, finely chopped
7 g fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
150g wholemeal flower
2 tsp salt
vegetable oil, for deep frying

1. Cook the pumpkin, zucchini, onion and garlic over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until soft. Set aside to cool.
2. In a bowl combine the tofu, shallots, parsley, curry powder, 75 g of the flour and the salt. Mix well. Roll about a tablespoon of the mixture into a ball using your hands then coat in flour. Repeat until all the mixture has been used.
3. Fill a saucepan one third full of oil and heat until a cube of bread browns in 15 seconds. Cook the kofta balls in small batches until golden brown. Drain only for a moment on paper towels then transfer to a cooking rack to eat right away or to a tray placed in the oven at 100ºC.

Baked Pear with Pine Nut Streusel
2 Bosch Pears
1/2 of a lemon
1/3 cup pine nuts, roughly chopped
1/3 cup Nuttelex, or other vegan margarine
1/3 cup Castor sugar, plus 1 tsp
2/3 cup of wholemeal flour

1. Preheat oven to 200ºC. Leaving the stems attached, peel the pears, slice them in half and remove the seeds to create a small hollow to be used for filling with the strudel. Once peeled, lay on a greased loaf pan, squeeze the lemon juice over them and sprinkle with 1 tsp of the sugar.
2. To make the streusel combine the remaining ingredients to create a mixture resembling bread crumbs.
3. Divide the strudel into 4 equal portions and spoon into the hollows in each pear.
4. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes until the strudel has browned. Then cover with foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until a toothpick is easily inserted diagonally through the pear. This can be prepared ahead of time and simply reheated until the grill before serving.

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