Monthly Archives: November 2013

SWAMPDOG FISH AND CHIPS

So fish and chip shops are not normally the most veg friendly places. Have you ever been to the typical FnC shop and seen the vegetarian fare? Potato cakes, pineapple fritters and, if you’re lucky, a sad vegetarian pattie passing for a burger. I was sitting with a friend who had ordered food at Swamp Dog and realised I had to go back.

A few days later I was sitting with Ben trying the fresh huge salads and yummy chips with housemade aioli.

We ordered the mixed salad- half Greek salad, half Asian salad. They were both delicious.

There was so much food we had to take some home.

Fresh food from a fish and chip shop? Hell yeah.

Swampdog Fish and Chips on Urbanspoon

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Easy Quiche for lazy people (aka me)

So I think the final frontier for ex-vegans eating eggs again is quiche. I’m not sure why, but I’d take a poached egg over quiche any day of the week, even though you’d think a poached egg is more “eggy”.

I’ve wanted to create something freezable for work and thought I’d give quiche a try, but also didn’t want to spend ages making bases. Then it hit me, from the packet of mountain bread I buy for me breakfast wraps:

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And so, dear readers, that is exactly what I made. I doubled it for lunchable goodness. When cold, I wrapped them individually in foil and froze.

Has this made me love eggs? Alas, no. I have been eating fewer eggs these days, reserving them for breakfasts, but Ben loves quiche and even as I type told me he was going to defrost a piece for lunch today.

So not quite delicious in my eyes, but if you already like egg, you might really like this recipe.

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BONSAI BOTANIKA

It was a hot day and I was in the CBD and needed a cold drink. Bonsai Botanika lured us in with its beautiful decor. Unfortunately, there’s where the beauty ended. There was a very friendly greeter and we ordered a soy latte and a green iced tea and sat down. Shortly, the cafe began filling up and we waited. And waited. And waited. We realised the set up was not as functional as it was pretty- the cafe filled up quickly and everyone waiting formed a big messy queue that crushed up against the cafe tables. When our drinks arrived, Ben’s coffee was very average and my iced tea was unbearably sweet. I had one sip. Such a shame, because the piles of chocolate and cakes in the display cabinet would normally tempt me!

 

Bonsai Botanika on Urbanspoon

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Work It

So I made a maxi skirt the other day and discussed how I would wear it. But if I want to corporate it up, I would wear it like this. And I did.

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DIY Maxi Skirt- fun with prints

So I caught the DIY maxi skirt craze.

I really wanted some long, modest skirts I could wear to work (I don’t have to dress corporate) that didn’t cost the earth.

I found some beautiful fabric at Spotlight and looked at a million Pinterest pages and then decided on following this method from Lady Melbourne.

It’s basically folding down the top of the fabric twice to make a space for elastic, folding it over and stitching the side seam, adding the elastic and sewing it in and finally, hemming to the length you like.

The problem with my fabric is that the pattern was facing the wrong way! I had to make a very slim cut skirt with only one seam (down the back) and, because I like walking, I made a slit in the back. This was done by unpicking (ugh. Won’t make that mistake next skirt) the side seam up to my knee, then folding over the edges of the fabric and hemming, followed by stitching the top of the slit a lot so it wouldn’t accidentally open as I traipse up stairs at work.

Ok, and when I say “I”, I mean “Ben” because I don’t know how to use a sewing machine, but my awesome seamster husband does. So I designed, cut and pinned it and Ben sews it like the awesome tailor he is. You can barely see where the fabric lines up. Wife-husband team win.

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There are two more skirts to come. One of the other pieces of fabric (chevron print) also will be quite slim as a skirt and might need to be a pencil skirt, but the floral one should be all swooshy and lovely. I’ll post pictures as they are born.

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This skirt looks good with a black top and brown or red belt, but also works with my grey singlet with leopard print skull. A big pair of sunnies, a top knot and a pair of boots and that’s all the attitude you need during an Aussie summer.

Why not make one (or dozens) for people for Christmas? Or just yourself.

Yeah, just yourself.

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Vego Dinner Party for Non-Vegos

So I had some work people over for a dinner party. None of them were vego or ever ate much vego food, so I wanted to impress. No pressure.

I think cooking for non-vegos is an interesting challenge. I want them to be full, but I don’t want to simply replace a steak with a mock-meat and most importantly, I want it to be delicious.

After thinking about my guests, I decided to compromise on the mock-meat rule and serve vego sausages.

The other great thing about my choice is that most of it can be taken care of in advance and all you need to do is cook the polenta and serve up the icecream at the end.

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The main course was a recipe I found in the newspaper years ago. It’s a Matt Preston recipe I adapted for vegos by swapping the sausage for vego sausage. I forgot to add on my menu that it would be served with a fennel salad with a tomato mustard dressing and a rocket salad. The first time I made this, I used regular mushrooms instead of porcini and it still turned out brilliantly. As you can see, the page is a bit worn and splattered from use.

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I’m pretty organised in the kitchen. I didn’t spend all day on this and I didn’t go any prep the day before, which I’ll also try to do if there are lots of steps.

I didn’t start shopping until after midday.

I went to the Swiss Deli Cafe on Boundary Street and bought porcini mushrooms and a nice piece of Australian pecorino.

At Coles, I bought the rest of the ingredients.

At home, I broke the prep into stages: Chopping and veg prep, making the dressing, making the sauce, preparing everything for later.

Chopping and veg prep:

From left to right: Onion waiting to go into the sausage sauce, bowl ready for tomato prepping, fennel all cut and ready to store until the night, scraps bin. I used my food processor to get the fennel sliced finely. Chunky fennel is a bit intense. In the other photo are porcini mushrooms soaking. When drained, you reserve the liquid for the sauce and chop the mushrooms finely. They smell amazing! Regular mushrooms are fine too.

Making the dressing:

The dressing a combination of the tomato gel sacks discarded from the sauce (from about 4 good sized tomatoes), a squeeze of lemon, 1/2 tsp of mustard and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. You strain the dressing to remove the tomato seeds and press the gel through the sieve to get the most flavours.

Making the sauce:

Very easy. Brown two onions in olive oil and a little butter, add the sausage and brown, add the porcini, add the tomatoes, cook whilst stirring for a few minutes, add the porcini soaking water and simmer (I reserved half of the liquid for reheating).

Preparing everything for later:

Firstly I lined up my extra porcini water, measured out my polenta, grated my parmesan for the polenta, shaved my pecorino for serving, chopped and crumbled my dutch gingerbread biscuits, did the dishes, and left the kitchen. The fun part is preparing the table.

I didn’t start any prep until 3, but had from 5-6.30 to get ready and relax in time for our guests to turn up at 7. After cheeses and entrees (which my guests brought along with a bottle of Mumm champagne!), I cooked the polenta (which takes 20-30 minutes but as our kitchen and dining are the same room, remains social and easy to do).

I didn’t take a photo, but to serve, I grabbed a big board and tipped polenta down the middle, making a well. The sauce got pored over the top and then the pecorino goes on top. As it’s plonked down on the table, it got many “oohs” and “ahhs”, which is pretty much crack to a home cook. Eight people were invited, six turned up, but there was enough for about 10 reasonable eaters (or 6-8 starving people). We couldn’t finish nearly all over it and I sent people home with leftovers.

Sweets were chopped gingerbread biscuits with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream and gingerbread crumbles over the top, with a shot of black coffee poured over, affogato style. It’s super easy, requires no baking or fuss and was delicious. The coffee (a triple shot long black bought earlier in the day at a local cafe) runs over the ice cream into the biscuit below and makes it all gooey. Heaven.

As I clear plates, I rinse and stack them. When guests are gone we take out the rubbish, tidy everything away and wipe down benches and tables. It was too late to do dishes without disturbing the neighbours, but they are neatly stacked and ready to go the next day. This is the cooking equivalent of taking your makeup off before bed- it saves you a lot of heart ache, even if it’s a pain sometimes.

This is really a fancy, maximum impact dinner for little work.

Leave out the dairy in the polenta and sausage sauce topping and choose vegan cheeses and ice cream and it’s a vegan meal, too!

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Sweet Potato Protein Bites

So I’ve been cooking a lot with eggs lately. It’s starting to wind down a bit, but I have a few recipes that I’ve had fun playing with and will share.

The first is a packed lunchboxer’s delight and super easy.

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Ingreedients:

Grated sweet potato (will depend on the size of you muffin trays. I used a medium and a small)

Half as many eggs as you have muffin holes (I have 12 muffin holes, so I used 6 eggs)

Salt and pepper to taste

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Do:

  1. Spray, grease or line your muffins pans (I spray but they always get stuck)
  2. Place a few tablespoons of sweet potato in each muffin hole, aiming to divide evenly
  3. Lightly beat the eggs in a separate bowl. Season with salt and pepper (I also added herbs).
  4. Divide egg mixture evenly over sweet potato. At this point, you could add a sprinkle of cheese top, but I chose not to.
  5. Bake for 30-40 minutes in a medium-high oven, until egg is solid and sweet potato is tender.

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Turn out at eat, or save for lunchboxes.

 

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DAKBLA

So I have no idea what “Dakbla” means, but in West End, it means nice Asian and Vietnamese food.

I first went to Dakbla with friend as a table of four and we had four meals and two entrees for less than $80. Impressive. Dinner also came with green tea from the manager, who was lovely.

Ben and I went back recently for lunch on a hot day. We felt like something light and full of veggies.

I immediately ordered a coconut water, as did Ben. These are the real deal and even come with young coconut pieces to fish out of your glass and chew on. So yum.

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Like many Asian cuisines, there are vegan options if you’re careful to avoid fish sauce.

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I ordered the Rice Paper Rolls with Tofu and Ben ordered the Temple Delight. Another vegan warning is that the tofu is made with egg, so vegetable dishes might be the way to go.

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Our meals arrived together, but the service was very slow. We think it was because it was lunchtime and only one other table had people at it, so by having us sit by the window for a long time, we looked good for business. This is a shame as we had very speedy service the first time we came here and the food really is lovely and affordable (most vego dishes hover around the $14 mark).

my Rice Paper Rolls were perfect: light and filling with a great dipping sauce. Ben’s dish was more filling and substantial and also delicious.

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My suggestion: If you don’t want a drawn out lunch (we were there for over an hour start to finish) eat here for dinner or at busier times.

Here’s another gratuitous coconut water shot, because it was a hot day and I was thankful for it:

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Dakbla Vietnamese and Asian Cusine on Urbanspoon

Enjoy.

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THE BURROW

So I love Alice in Wonderland. It was read to me often as a child and a beautiful full-coloured illutrated version was given to me by my nanna and pop for my 7th birthday (obviously Lew Carroll wrote it, but this version was illustrated by Greg Hildebrandt). I still have the book, the plastic cover that protects it and the caterpillar bookmark I made to use just for that book.

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When The Burrow opened up on Mollison Street in West End, I got it. Even if the rabbit’s feet on the logo has nothing to do with Alice in Wonderland, I don’t care. I pretend it does.

The location used to be a Turkish restaurant, but it really shines as a pizza and beer bar. The backyard, side yard, verandas and  upstairs space are well-utilised to create nice pockets to sit and eat and drink in.

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You have to love the pizza names. With titles like The Kracken and Snoochi Bootchies (Jay and Silent Bob fans much?) you’re gonna have fun just reading the menu. We ordered a Mama Said pizza (Char-grilled eggplant, zucchini, asparagus, feta, roast capsicum & mozzarella) and a bowl of chips with relish and aioli. They were out of aioli so we got tapenade instead. Ben ordered too many different beers to mention, but the list is extensive. They pride themselves on finding interesting local and international craft beers and have a regular rotation on tap.

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Our food was timely and delicious. The pizza crust is homemade and thinnish, but with good flavours. The chips were like pizza: Even when it’s bad it’s good. But these were really good. I wanted to take that tapenade home and bed it.

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Downstairs, large wooden communal tables are used and it’s kind of nice. During busy times, it’s a little awkward to be put next to a large group on a communal table if you’re just two, but considering big share tables seem the way to go in Brisbane these days, suck it up (Please).

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On their lunch menu, there’s a pizza called the Stephen Seagull, which is Napoli base, mozzarella, topped with hot chips and aioli. It’s only available during lunch and, if you’re like me and enjoy both hot chips AND pizza equally, life changing. Order this pizza. Or lie and tell me you did.

Not particularly vegan friendly (unless you’re happy to order a vego without cheese, as I would be), this is a great casual option for a birthday or dinner with friends.

My suggestion? Book ahead and don’t be in a rush. This place is hugely popular and this can mean slow (though always nice) service.

 

 

The Burrow on Urbanspoon

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