Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pan fried dumplings

Every so often I concoct a random meal out of bits and pieces that need using up in the fridge. Sometimes I surprise myself with how well these experiments work and realise later I foolishly haven't recorded the recipe. Other times when I have made the effort to jot down notes, the meal hasn't been that great but at least I have something to work on for next time around.

The other night I made a big batch of dumplings with a bunch of leftovers in the fridge which turned out to be amongst the nicest dumplings I've made. Gyoza wrappers were nearing their best before date, cabbage was discolouring around the edges, mushrooms were becoming soft and I had mistakenly bought a bag of carrots even though I had a full bag in the fridge. To save time preparing the filling, I used my food processor to chop the onion and then the mushrooms. Whilst the onions were frying I attached the grating disc to shred the carrots and cabbage, so the only chopping I needed to do by hand was the garlic and ginger. After the vegetables had softened I seasoned them lightly with a bit of light soy sauce, tamari or regular soy sauce would also work well if you don't have this on hand.

One of my favourite kitchen gadgets is a set of dumpling presses I purchased from Minh Phat in Richmond, a huge Asian grocery store. From memory the set only cost $2 or $3, I believe they are worth their weight in gold as they create a neat finish with minimal effort and save copious amounts of time. All you have to do is place a wrapper on the press, spoon in a small amount of filling (being mindful not to overfill them) and press the little handles together. The edges of the wrappers can be moistened with a drop or two of water if the wrappers aren't sealing properly, although sometimes I find there is no need for this step.

Our preferred style of dumplings is pan fried, I probably only steamed dumplings once before we became hooked on the crispy pan fried style. After the dumplings are browned on each side, a splash or two of water is added to the pan which is covered briefly to create some steam which completes the cooking of the wrappers. As I was in a creative type of mood I made up my own dipping sauce to go with the dumplings. I don't have the precise measurements for this so I won't add it to my recipe list yet. It was a mixture of soy sauce (~3 tablespoons), sesame oil (~2 teaspoons) and a finely sliced birds eye chilli. Some minced garlic would have been been lovely in this too.

These dumplings were a household success, the man isn't fond of too much ginger and thankfully I hadn't gone over the top. There was no way the three of us were going to make it through a batch of 48 dumplings even though the young man managed to polish off 20 on his own! I was pleasantly surprised that the leftovers held up well when I enjoyed them cold for lunch the following day.

Pan fried carrot, cabbage and mushroom dumplings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1.5cm piece ginger, minced
2 medium carrots, grated
400g green cabbage, finely shredded
100g portobello mushrooms, finely diced
2 tablespoons light soy sauce, tamari or regular soy sauce (approximate measurement, add to taste)
48 gyoza wrappers
Olive or peanut oil, for frying
Water, for the steaming step

Heat the olive oil in a large deep sided frying pan over medium heat and cook the onions for 5 minutes until softened. Stir through the garlic and ginger for a minute then add the carrot, cabbage and mushroom. Cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes or until the vegetables have reduced in size and softened. Stir through the light soy sauce and continue to cook until the mixture is fairly dry. Turn off the heat and transfer the contents to a large bowl. Allow the mixture to cool down before stuffing the dumplings (I put mine in the freezer for 15 minutes to cool it quickly).

Construct the dumplings using a dumpling press by placing a wrapper on the pressing tool, spooning a small amount of mixture into the centre and pressing the handles together. If you don't have a dumpling press and are feeling adventurous there are some folding tips and pictures here (be warned that this isn't a vegan site).

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan with a lid over medium-high heat. Place as many dumplings that will fit into the pan comfortably and cook for a couple of minutes or until browned. Flip them over and brown the other side. Splash a few tablespoons of water into the pan and cover with a lid. Allow to steam for 3 more minutes then remove the lid, if there is any liquid remaining allow it to cook off. Gently remove the dumplings from the pan with a spatula and continue pan frying the rest of the dumplings in batches.

Serve with your preferred dipping sauce.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ren Dao

We headed over to Elsternwick on Monday evening to dine at Ren Dao, an Asian vegetarian restaurant. The extensive menu offers a wide range of entrees, soups, curries, stir-frys, noodles, and rice based dishes. The majority of the meals are vegan and it's also possible to remove egg from some of the rice and noodle dishes. The mock meat used in the meals is based on gluten, soy or mushrooms and there are plenty of gluten free meals available. It can be overwhelming being presented with so many choices when you aren't used to having many so I left it to the man to chose the entrees while the young man and struggled to decide on a main.

The man surprised me by selecting an entree outside of his standard order of spring rolls. The 5 Spice Loh-Bak Rolls ($7.50) contained a subtly spiced taro mince filling wrapped in crispy bean curd skin. These tasty parcels got us off to a good start.

Curry puffs are always hard for us to resist and these large ones ($7.50) happened to be a fantastic choice this time. The mixed vegetable filling was blended with a perfect amount of curry spices and the sweet sticky dipping sauce was a nice condiment.

Penang Curry ($19.50) was a mild-medium spiced coconut based curry containing mock chicken chunks, tofu and potato cubes. It wasn't quite as spicy as we were led to believe yet it was still thoroughly enjoyable.

The King Do Pork Chop Hot Plate ($21.90) was a tangy sizzling hot plate piled high with a large assortment of vegetables and soy-based mock meat slices hiding underneath. This was the most realistic mock meat I have ever eaten but I actually found the flavour and texture a little disturbing as it was too close to my omnivorous recollections. The man and young man adored this and declared it their pick of the night.

Penang Rendang ($18.50) was too intriguing for me to pass up as we all love rendang and I was interested to try this version made with a variety of mushrooms. In addition to the coconut based curry sauce, it was full of grated coconut which made the coconut flavours too intense for my liking. It probably wasn't the wisest menu choice given we had already selected another coconut based curry.

The staff at Ren Dao were incredibly attentive throughout the evening and extremely helpful with making menu suggestions when the young man and I were stalling. The serving sizes were very generous, we could have easily done without one of the mains and this would have been sufficient food for the three of us. The staff offered to package up the leftovers which we happily enjoyed for lunch the next day. I'm keen to head back to Ren Dao as there are many more dishes I would like to try.

Where's the beef are the only other veg*n bloggers that have written about Ren Dao to date. Ren Dao was also mentioned by Brianna in her Southside staples article in the Planet VeGMeL zine.

Ren Dao Vegetarian Asian Cuisine
275 Glenhuntly Road, Elsternwick
9523 0150
Lunch Monday to Friday
Dinner Monday to Saturday
Closed Sundays
BYO Beer and Wine

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Around the world - Stopover 25 - Seychelles

The Seychelles are a group of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean situated off the eastern coast of the African continent. Like many other island countries, seafood features predominantly as does locally grown produce such as breadfruit, coconut, yam, cassava, papaya and several varieties of bananas including plantains. The food has a mixture of influences from Indian, Chinese, African, French and British cuisines. Fiery hot Creole styled curries are commonly eaten based on a spice blend called massalé which is unique to these islands.

After encountering several dodgy websites that promised recipes from the Seychelles and ended up offering malicious software instead, I came across a suitable recipe on BBC food, a far more credible site. The recipe was for a Seychelles fish curry which I planned to make with tofu and vegetables. Part of the appeal of this recipe was that it used its own blend of freshly ground spices as this always enhances the flavour of a curry. Spice blends are easy to prepare when you have whole spices in the pantry and a grinder to whiz up them up into a powder.

My favourite type of tofu for adding to curries and stir-frys these days is the Savoury Baked Tofu from Vegan Eats World. I cannot speak highly enough of this recipe, the salty, sweet, sour and slightly spicy marinade is a cinch to put together and then its just a matter of baking the tofu in the oven. I make a batch almost every week, usually a day or two before I'm planning to use it as I find it easier to slice after it has cooled down. If you own Vegan Eats World, you should definitely check this recipe out if you haven't done so already. My only advice is to ensure that the tofu fits snugly in your baking dish otherwise the marinade will burn.  

With a freshly made spice blend, delicious baked tofu and a couple of favourite vegetables, I was confident that this curry would be a wonderful meal. Unfortunately this wasn't the case! In addition to the massalĂ©, the recipe included ground anise/aniseed, tamarind water and fresh thyme. I used dried thyme instead of the fresh herb and substituted tamarind puree for the tamarind water. What I thought would be a moderate amount of tamarind turned out too be slightly too much giving it too much sourness for my liking. The dried thyme also dominated and the blend of spices didn't resonate with any of us. It was definitely not a disaster, just a slight disappointment as I had such high hopes for it.

I would have liked to attempt another dish from the Seychelles but time is short with Christmas around the corner so I'll bid farewell to the islands and move on to the next country.

Did you know?

The Seychelles is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site called Aldabra. Aldabra is the world's largest raised coral atoll which boasts the largest population of giant tortoises in the world and is home to the only flightless bird in the Indian Ocean, the White-Throated Rail.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


After reading (and drooling over) initial reviews and the general hype about South, I was desperate to make a trip to The People's Market in Collingwood to try it out for myself. South is a vegan food stall specialising in food from the southern parts of the United States. The people running this venture hail from two of my recent favourite eateries The Gasometer and The Mercy Seat (which is now closed) so I had a strong feeling it was going to be fantastic.

It was very tough deciding what to order so the man and I chose to split three meals between the two of us. The Philly Cheesesteak ($12) was served in a nice crunchy roll with tender "steak" pieces and an oozing cheese sauce with a mild flavour. It was slightly messy to eat although definitely worth the effort.

The man was keen to try out the Chilli Dog ($8) being a former hot dog lover years ago. Vegan hot dogs and sausages don't usually win my approval yet this one was best I have tried and the accompanying chilli sauce was amazing.

To round out the meal we ordered the Louisiana Beans and Rice ($9) and drizzled some extra hot sauce on top. The beans had a lovely smoky flavour underneath the array of herbs and spices. I found it difficult to stop eating when I had finished my share and reluctantly passed the rest over to my bean loving husband who adored them too.

All of these meals were so delicious and I wouldn't hesitate to order any of them again. Neither of us could pick a favourite as they were all wonderful in their own way. 

While the rest of The People's Market didn't really capture our interest, I have no doubt we will be back many times over the summer months to experience more of the rotating menu that South is cooking up.  

South created quite a stir in it's opening week. It received positive reviews from The Good Hearted, where's the beef and easy as vegan pie

@ The People's Market
65-68 Stanley Street, Collingwood
Thursday - Sunday 12pm - 9:30pm (Closed in Feb 2013)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Around the world - Stopover 24 - Bhutan

The kingdom of Bhutan is nestled between India and China at the eastern end of the Himalayas. The majority of the country is mountainous with only 10% of it's fertile land situated in the valleys. Red rice is one of the staples, a medium grain rice with a pinkish hue which is the only variety of rice that can be grown at high altitudes.

My food memory led me to a Bhutanese pineapple rice recipe in Appetite for Reduction as I've read many positive reviews of it around the blogosphere. I was able to track the red rice down in a local Indian spice shop, it has a texture that is similar to brown rice although the cooking time is slightly less. The man isn't a fan of brown rice at all so I was concerned he wouldn't like this and the inclusion of pineapple definitely wasn't going to win him over. I'm not particularly fond of fruit in savoury meals either and replaced the pineapple with some broccoli instead. After the red rice was cooked, it was fried with onion, garlic, ginger, Thai red curry paste, soy sauce, agave and coriander. An extra dash of curry paste and soy sauce was added after an initial taste test to give it some extra heat and flavour.

To round out the meal, I veganised a recipe originally made with chicken called Jasha Maroo. It was frustrating to find exactly the same recipe duplicated on several websites as the method was unclear and didn't state when to add some of the ingredients that were listed. I resorted to cooking it in the manner that seemed most logical to me, frying the onion first followed by the garlic, ginger and chilli and then adding the rest of the ingredients. The tofu I used in this dish was a new variety from the supermarket labelled as medium firm, it actually resembled silken tofu more than firm tofu so I was extremely careful during the cooking process.

This was a fantastic dinner, the tofu dish had a perfect amount of heat for us and it was an excellent partner for the red rice. I was happy with my decision to season the tofu with "chicken" stock rather than salt as it provided an extra depth of flavour. This was also a speedy meal which gave it extra bonus marks. I was very pleased that the man enjoyed it, particularly the rice dish and delighted when he kept going back for more! As a result of this successful meal, red rice may become my brown rice substitute from now on.

Jasha Maroo (Adapted from Asiarecipe)

300g medium firm or firm tofu, drained, pressed and cut into pea sized cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, sliced into rounds
2 cloves garlic, minced
2cm piece ginger, minced
2 green thai chillies, thinly sliced (use 1 chilli for a milder version)
1 tomato, diced
1 teaspoon vegan "chicken" stock powder
½ cup water

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, add the onion and fry for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, ginger and chillies a fry for a minute then gently stir through the tofu, tomato, "chicken" stock powder and water. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 10 minutes.


Did you know?

Bhutan was the first country to measure the national index of happiness which later became an accepted worldwide index. Bhutan's third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, made a fleeting remark in a speech that was taken seriously by the Bhutanese. According to Buddhist beliefs, happiness is something that one needs to strive for and the country's leading thinkers set about to find a way to quantify it. The index of happiness is measured on four areas: sustainable development, cultural values, natural environment, and good governance.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Low fuss camping food

Over the last couple of decades camping trips with friends, family and the young man have been a popular pastime of ours. These trips have varied widely in locations yet there is a particular spot in between Seymour and Nagambie we have returned to more than others as dogs are permitted and to be able to swim in a creek with your pooch is so much fun for all. The other bonus is this place is it's generally not overcrowded with people which is often the case with more popular camping locations.

After a recent failed attempt trying out a new camping site that was full to the brim on a long weekend, the man and I were keen to head back to our rugged place of serenity. As we were only camping overnight I decided to make the food completely low fuss and picked up some supplies from Oasis bakery. This also meant packing less as we didn't need to worry about bringing the camp stove, gas bottle and cooking utensils.

Not long after arriving and setting up the tent, we constructed some delicious falafel wraps in a matter of minutes. They were made with mountain bread, hummus, falafels, a mixture of salad leaves, tomato, red onion and a dash of Tapatio hot sauce. Ollie doesn't usually get the chance to be involved in food photography and jumped at the chance on this occasion! He is very well mannered around food and didn't think about taking a bite.

Our dinner plates consisted of dolmades, more falafels, baba ganoush, hummus, olive bread and a bean stew. I was on the verge of buying a chickpea or bean salad whilst shopping at Oasis but after I spotted a bean stew the thought of a salad was immediately dismissed. The bean stew was labelled as being spicy yet the man thought it needed more oomph and stirred through a decent amount of hot sauce before we served it up. Although this is something you would usually eat warm we thoroughly enjoyed it as a cold dish. A similar spread was also enjoyed for breakfast the following morning.

These foods were perfect for an overnight camping trip and I can imagine they would also be great for remote road trips where vegan foods are limited. Even though I'm fortunate to have a fantastic Middle Eastern bakery nearby, some of the items we took away can also be sourced from most Australian supermarkets.

Ollie was mortified when we departed after his morning dip and uncharacteristically cried most of the car trip home. We are glad although not surprised that he enjoyed it as much as we did and are keen to take him for a longer camping trip soon.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Around the world - Stopover 23 - Greece

Greek food makes an appearance every so often in my kitchen. Moussaka, spanakopita and seitan gyros in home made pita bread are some of our favourite Greek dishes that I make on a semi regular basis. One of our highest rotation recipes from Vegan Eats World is Terry Hope Romero's oven roasted gyros made with chickpea and olive seitan because my fellows adore it and request it often. Despite being an avid hater of olives, it's the only meal where the young man will eat them as their strong flavour blends into the seitan so they are barely detectable. When Greece was drawn it was no surprise that I was hounded for gyros wraps to be on the menu again. On this occasion I made a similar tofu based garlic sauce to one I've previously posted about and added a touch of fresh dill.

All of the Greek recipes from Vegan Eats World that I tested were full of flavour and thoroughly enjoyed. I didn't get the chance to try Yemista (capsicums and tomatoes stuffed with rice) during testing and I still hadn't made anything new since the book arrived so I was well overdue for branching out into a new dish. Yemista take a little while to prepare although there was plenty of slack time whilst they were baking in the oven. The dill and mint flavoured rice filling was lovely and the Yemista paired wonderfully with some left-over oven roasted gyros and pita bread. This is another fantastic Greek recipe from Terry!

After flicking through World Vegan Feast by Bryanna Clark Grogan, I found some Greek recipes and picked out a Gigante bean and chard stew as I knew it would please the man. Due to time limitations I wasn't very faithful to the recipe. The tofu feta was omitted, the silverbeet/chard was simmered in the stew rather than pre-cooking it separately and as I cooked it on the stovetop rather than in the oven, it didn't make sense to top it with breadcrumbs. The use of tinned lima beans would have made this meal an even speedier process. It was still a very tasty meal with these changes, the flavour of the dill was the highlight amongst the onions, tomatoes, beans and silverbeet/chard. A slice of toasted olive bread from Crumbs Organic Bakehouse was the perfect tool to clean our plates with.

Gigante bean and silverbeet stew (Adapted from World Vegan Feast)

250g dried lima beans or 2 x 400g tins lima beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
6 spring onions, chopped
2 cups vegan "chicken" stock
1 x 400g tin diced tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 bunch silverbeet/chard leaves, washed well and chopped

If using dried lima beans, place them in a large bowl, cover well with water and allow to soak for at least 8 hours. Drain the beans in a colander and rinse thoroughly. Place the beans in a saucepan and fill with water so there is about 5cm of water above the beans. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer until the beans are tender (mine took about 2 hours).

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and fry the onions and spring onions until they have softened and are beginning to brown. Add the drained beans, "chicken" stock, tomatoes, dill, salt and pepper. Stir through the chopped silverbeet/chard in batches until each batch has softened and reduced in size slightly. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered for 30 minutes.


Did you know?

Greece is the world’s third leading producer of olives. The Greeks have been cultivating olive trees since ancient times and there are some olive trees still producing olives that were planted in the thirteenth century.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Veg*n shopping in the South Eastern suburbs

Every so often a reader will enquire about where an uncommon ingredient for a recipe can be purchased from. I'm always more than happy to assist yet I thought it would also be helpful to write some posts about my food shopping sources. My plan is to include these posts on a shopping index page soon. The below text had already been written for the Planet VeGMeL birthday zine and to get the ball rolling I've posted it here.

If you haven't done so already, take a look at the fabulous zine for many more interesting veg*n articles. The Kentucky Fried Tofu recipe supplied by where's the beef is really delicious too!

When I started reading blogs years ago I loved finding out about interesting veg*n places around Melbourne to stock up on goodies. The only problem was gems like Radical Grocery, La Panella, Vincent Vegetarian Food etc. were on the opposite side of town for me so it’s not often that I pop into these shops. Although there aren’t any exclusively veg*n shops I’m aware of in my area, there are a few stores I visit often to replenish the supplies in my pantry.

USA Foods -
110 Cochranes Road, Moorabbin
9555 0288

USA Foods interests me most for their range of liquid smokes, chipotle chillies in adobo sauce, tomatillos, masa flours and other various types of chillies and hot sauces. A huge proportion of their stock is made up of soft drinks, potato chips and confectionery so I steer clear of these aisles and focus on hunting down items for my next Mexican feast.

Their online product catalogue indicates when a particular item is out of stock and provides an option for an email notification to be sent to you when the item becomes available again. It’s handy to check the website before heading out there to avoid disappointment!

Oasis Bakery -
9/993 North Road, Murrumbeena
9570 1122

Oasis Bakery is a very popular Middle Eastern bakery that has been thriving for many years. The name is rather misleading as Oasis isn’t limited to selling freshly baked goods; it’s also a cafe and a grocery store. I haven’t eaten from the cafe for ages but before going vegan I used to love their cheese and spinach triangles and pizzas. Some of the tasty vegan options available are falafel wraps, zaatar pizzas, spinach and walnut triangles as well as a couple of suitable hot dishes in the bain marie like ful medames and a veg dish of the day.

Freshly made dips, salads, falafels, dolmades and harissa can be found in the fridge section. A variety of pizzas and triangles can be purchased fresh or frozen. Vegan sweets aren’t as plentiful although I did enjoy some coconut and date rolls recently as well as peppermint chocolate. All products are clearly labelled and a great thing about Oasis is that they do not use palm oil in any of their products. My favourite sections these days are the bean and spice aisles. Every type of dried bean imaginable is available and the variety of spices and spice blends on the shelves is enough to make your head spin.

Sunnybrook Health
553 North Road, Ormond
9578 6400

Sunnybrook is my local health food shop; it has a big focus on gluten free foods although it is not 100% gluten free. I've been shopping here for years to pick up items like nutritional yeast, unusual types of flours, Sweet William cooking chocolate, Soymilke condensed milk, Cheezly, smoked tofu, the occasional Tofutti product and ironically gluten flour. Sunnybrook also has a small section of organic fruit and vegetables and stocks personal care and household products.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Around the world - Stopover 22 - Singapore

The small island country of Singapore is located on the southern part of Malay peninsula, separated from Malaysia by a narrow strait of water. Malaysian food is commonly found in Singapore as well as Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Middle Eastern and Western dishes. Noodle dishes are always popular at our house so I happily selected a few to make from an abundance of choices and due to my unsatisfactory attempt at making murtabak for Brunei I was also keen to give this another try.

This version of murtabak was adapted from a Singaporean recipe with a promising blend of spices (no cardamon overload in this version!) and I used lentils and mushrooms instead of tempeh this time. Murtabak usually has egg in the filling so I seasoned some crumbled tofu with kala namak (black salt) prior to mixing it with the rest of the filling ingredients.

I also wanted to try making the roti and watched a few videos on YouTube of murtabak being made in market places. It was a bit daunting to see them being prepared with such ease as I knew it wouldn't be the case for a novice yet it also provided me with a few tips and the inspiration I needed. After making the dough, it was rested for an hour in a bowl coated with oil. The oil made the dough very supple and created an elastic texture that is required for it to be stretched out to a paper thin consistency. My technique was fairly rudimentary after the dough was initially flattened between my palms. I placed the dough on the bench holding one side down and slowly stretched the other side in a flapping motion, if that makes sense! The edges didn't turn out as thin as the centre so I pinched them with my fingertips and stretched them out last as best I could. Perhaps a rolling pin could have been better for this task!

The initial concerns I had about the thin dough not holding the filling went away after the first murtbak was successfully assembled and I gathered some momentum for the remaining ones. We loved the curry dipping sauce last time I made murtabak so I made another one based on a recipe from Munting Kusina. Thai thin soy sauce was substituted for fish sauce and even though I used a hot curry powder it didn't turn out too spicy. This turned out to be one of the favourite meals I have cooked recently. The murtabaks paired with the dipping sauce were so delicious and everyone was disappointed that there weren't any leftovers.

Mee Goreng is one of the man's favourite noodle dishes, he frequently orders it from Chinese/Malaysian restaurants but I haven't been able to replicate it at home as well as I would like. This latest attempt was much closer to how we are used to it although I was a little heavy-handed with the chilli and it still needs a few minor tweaks to the ingredients in the sauce.

Singapore noodles have become rather popular at home since In the Mood for Noodles posted a fantastic recipe last year. This time I tried a recipe from World Vegan Feast by Bryanna Clark Grogan. I found it interesting that it used jalapeno chillies and smoked tofu as well as seitan or soy curls. I omitted the seitan/soy curls and bumped up the quantity of the smoked tofu instead. Bryanna's version was very tasty and quite spicy although the recipe from In the Mood for Noodles remains the household favourite as it's the most similar to Singapore noodles we have eaten locally.

Murtabak with lentil and mushroom filling (Adapted from MakanTime)
Makes 6

Roti dough

2 cups plain flour
½ heaped teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dairy-free margarine
2/3 cup lukewarm water
2-3 tablespoons peanut oil

Combine the flour and salt together in a large bowl, then rub the margarine into the mixture with your fingers. Add the water and mix together . Knead the dough for 10 minutes, then divide it into 6 even pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of peanut oil in a large bowl, roll the dough balls in the oil to coat them, then allow them to rest, covered with a tea towel for an hour.


½ cup brown lentils
150g firm tofu, crumbled
¼ teaspoon kala namak (black salt)
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 small onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2cm piece ginger, minced
200g button mushrooms, diced
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup water

Place the lentils in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain in a colander.

Crumble the tofu into a small bowl. Add the black salt and stir well to combine.

Heat the peanut oil in a deep sided frying pan or large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and fry for 5 minutes or until soft. Stir through the garlic and ginger for a minute then add the mushrooms and allow them to cook until softened. Add the garam masala, cayenne pepper, turmeric and salt and stir for a minute. Stir through the cooked lentils and the water and allow to cook on low heat for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and mix the the tofu through. Allow the filling to cool down prior to assembling the murtabaks.


Take a dough ball in your hands and flatten it between your palms. Place it on your bench and carefully stretch out the dough with your hands until it is a rectangular shape and your benchtop can be seen through the dough. Place 1/6 of the filling in the centre of the dough and smooth it into a small rectangle. Wrap the ends of the roti over the filling so it is enclosed like a parcel. Place the roti on a plate seam side down and repeat the steps five more times.

Pour a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil in a frying pan and place on medium-high heat. Fry the rotis in batches for a couple of minutes on each side or until browned. Top up with additional oil in between batches as necessary.

Serve with the following curry dipping sauce.

Curry dipping sauce (Adapted from Munting Kusina)

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon hot madras curry powder
pinch cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 ½ tablespoons Thai thin soy sauce
165ml tin (2/3 cup) light coconut milk

Heat the peanut oil in a small saucepan over medium heat and fry the garlic for 30 seconds, or until softened but not browned. Add the curry powder, cayenne pepper and turmeric and stir for 30 seconds. Pour in the Thai thin soy sauce and coconut milk and bring to the boil then turn off the heat and allow to cool. Transfer to a bowl for dipping.


Did you know?

Although Singapore is one of the smallest countries in the world, it's population density is the second highest.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Crumbs Organic Bakehouse

Crumbs Organic Bakehouse in North Melbourne is the newer sister bakery of a larger operation in Ascot Vale that has been around for a couple of years. A whirlwind trip into the city on Saturday morning gave me the chance for a visit to Crumbs to stock up on some goodies to get us through a busy weekend.

Crumbs also serves coffees and has a small bar for eat-ins. All of their baked goods are vegan and organic which meant tough decisions for me. After much deliberation, I ended up buying some chocolate iced and jam-filled donuts ($3.50), pizza slices ($4) and a loaf of olive sourdough bread ($5.50).

The chocolate iced donuts were impressive in size and delivered in taste yet it was the jam donuts that were my favourite. They were filled with a lovely raspberry jam that left the generic "jam" normally used in these types of donuts for dust.

One of the pizza slices was topped with red onions, tomatoes, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and herbs and the other slice had mushrooms, tomatoes, capsicum and sun-dried tomatoes. Although we normally tend to enjoy pizzas with vegan cheese, I didn't miss it at all on these slices as the chewy sourdough crust was just as enjoyable as the toppings.

The olive sourdough loaf had a crunchy crust, with a soft and airy interior and a mild sour flavour. I enjoyed it fresh and even more over the following days, lightly toasted and smeared with Nuttelex. I would be stopping in to Crumbs regularly for loaves of bread if they had a bakery in my neighbourhood.

Crumbs Organic Bakehouse was brought to my attention recently by American bloggers NutriDude and NutriWife who spent some time in Melbourne on their trip to Australia. The Good Hearted also posted about Crumbs last month and rated it highly. Where's the Beef visited on the same day as me and have also posted a complimentary review.

There were a few other veg*n blogs that mentioned sampling Crumbs foods at various places a few years ago - vegan about town, In the Mood for Noodles and Eat More Veggies.

Crumbs Organic Bakehouse
16 Errol St, North Melbourne

Monday to Friday - 6:30am - 6pm
Saturday - 8:30am - 3pm
Sundays - Closed

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Around the world - Stopover 21 - Myanmar (Burma)

Burmese cuisine draws it's influences from the neighbouring countries of India, China and Thailand. Burmese food is not entirely new to me as we used to eat at a Thai/Burmese restaurant years ago. Our favourite dishes were always Burmese curries (I posted a recipe for one earlier this year) which tastes like a combination of Thai and Indian food. Although Burmese curries are lovely, I wanted to try something different which wasn't difficult as I found plenty of dishes that sounded really good.

After I posted about making tofu a few weeks ago, Mandee commented that she wanted to try making chickpea tofu. Up until then I hadn't heard of chickpea tofu and discovered that it was a traditional Burmese recipe which originated from a fusion of Chinese styled tofu with Indian chickpea flour (besan). When Burma was drawn next I had to give it a try!

I looked up a few recipes, one of them seemed just as involved as the soy-based tofu making process and another on BestOodles sounded quick and easy so I referred to the latter. It was simply a matter of bringing water to the boil with some margarine and whisking through a slurry made with chickpea flour, water, turmeric, salt and sugar. About 5 minutes later, the mixture becomes incredibly thick and difficult to stir. After spooning it into a greased dish/tin the chickpea tofu is refrigerated for 4 hours, then it is ready to use.

BestOodles also listed a recipe for a Burmese tofu salad which contained a couple of fishy ingredients so I made a few changes to the dressing and the garnish. The recipe also included tamarind juice which sounded like a bit of a process to make from scratch so I subbed in tamarind puree in it's place. This was another simple dish which required a bit of chopping, mixing the dressing and putting it all together at the end. The dressing was very spicy although it really makes the dish and if you choose to serve it individually, you can go as crazy (or not) with the dressing as you like.

World Vegan Feast by Bryanna Clark Grogan contained one Burmese recipe which was a dal with roasted cauliflower. I adore dals especially when they have an added vegetable so I had to give it a go. This also came together pretty easily, while the lentils were simmering, the onion, garlic and spices were fried and the cauliflower was roasted in the oven. The dal was lovely, it contained a decent amount of spices and I enjoyed the addition of roasted cauliflower.

I'm not usually the biggest salad lover but the Burmese salad was the stand-out dish of the night. The texture of the chickpea tofu was fairly soft and probably fell somewhere in between silken and firm tofu. Chickpea tofu is also commonly fried so I'm planning to put this to the test with the remaining half of the batch.

Burmese tofu - Shan tohu (Adapted from BestOodles)

4 cups water, divided
1 tablespoon dairy free margarine
1 ½ cups chickpea flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon turmeric

Bring a pot containing 2 ½ cups of water and the margarine to the boil. Whisk together the chickpea flour, 1 ½ cups water, salt, sugar and turmeric in a bowl. Whisk the chickpea flour slurry through the boiling water, reduce the heat to low and continue to stir for about 5 minutes or until the mixture becomes very thick.

Pour the mixture into a 20 x 20cm greased glass dish or baking tray. Tap the dish on the surface of your bench to remove air bubbles and smooth out the top with a knife or the back of a spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 4 hours. Use within one week of making.

Burmese salad - Tophu thohk (Adapted from BestOodles)

2 tablespoons chilli oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons Thai thin soy sauce
2 tablespoons tamarind puree
2 small cloves garlic, minced
½ small cabbage, finely shredded
4 spring onions, finely sliced
fresh coriander sprigs
½ quantity Burmese tofu, sliced
fried shallots, for garnish
shredded nori or dulse flakes, for garnish (optional)

Whisk together chilli oil, sesame oil, Thai thin soy sauce, tamarind puree and garlic in a small bowl. In a large bowl, combine the cabbage and spring onions together.

Arrange the cabbage and spring onions on serving plates followed by a couple of sprigs of coriander and some slices of Burmese tofu. Drizzle some of the chilli, sesame, soy sauce and tamarind dressing over the top. Garnish with fried shallots and nori or dulse flakes if desired.


Did you know?

Burma is technologically behind the rest of the developed nations. Up until two months ago there were no ATMs, there is a limited mobile phone network, internet access is scarce, and people commonly use a horse and cart for transportation.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Vegan MoFo - Final round up

It's hard to believe that Vegan MoFo is over already! I'm pleased that I stuck to my theme and managed to post everyday (twice on the first day), this one makes it 32 posts for the month which is 5 more than last year. Phew! Although I'm looking forward to some quieter blogging months, my head is already swimming with ideas for Vegan MoFo 2013. There were so many wonderful bloggers contributing and loads of fun themes this year and even though I didn't come close to visiting all of them, it was great to find some new blogs that I will continue to follow.

I've already posted some weekly round up links here, here and here, below are a few more bookmarks from the past week or so.

  • Cashew Queso - PPK (This has been sitting in my bookmarked recipes for ages, it's been given the thumbs up so many times during Vegan MoFo so I'm definitely going to try it soon)

Just a reminder that I'm going to be continuing my cooking trip around the world, randomly selecting one country a week. Here is the list of the countries I covered during MoFo. Stay tuned for a post next week as I'm going to take a quick breather for now and try out some of these bookmarked recipes as well as making a few more things from Vegan Eats World!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Vegan MoFo - Aussie Stopover - Jelly Cakes

When I was planning my round the world theme for the month I thought it would be a good idea to finish off with a recipe from Australia. It was tempting to make an Aussie classic like a vegan meat pie or lamingtons yet I've had a childhood recipe in mind to try for some time. Although jelly cakes may not be the most well known recipe, they were my mum's speciality when I was growing up and would always be present at parties and school fundraising fetes. Friends would pre-order them before she arrived at the cake stall and the remaining cakes would sell out very quickly. Jelly cakes are similar to lamingtons but the small patty cakes are dunked into a wobbly half-set jelly rather than chocolate icing prior to being rolled in coconut.

Patty cakes were common when I was growing up which are a much smaller version of a cupcake. We never had anything larger than patty cakes in those days and their miniature size meant that you could eat two or three in a sitting. I found a jelly cake recipe on which used patty cakes and made a few vegan substitutions to the cake batter. This recipe called for self-raising flour which I was out of, although a quick search showed that plain flour, cream of tartar and bicarbonate of soda could be used in it's place.

A packet of vegan jelly crystals had been sitting in my pantry for months which I bought for the sole purpose of making this recipe. The trickiest part to making jelly cakes is getting the consistency of the jelly perfect for dunking. If it's too runny the jelly won't adhere to the cake, if it's too firm the cakes are likely to break up during the dunking. My cakes turned out a lighter colour than I expected and I'm not sure whether this was due to a slightly runny jelly or just a different product. The jelly that mum used to buy was probably full of artificial colourings as it was a lot darker than the vegan jelly.

I've heard many people rave about coconut whipped cream which I tried recently and thought it tasted overwhelmingly like coconut so I used cashews to make cream for the filling. After soaking and rinsing the cashews, they were blended with water, maple syrup and some vanilla essence. I prefer this type of cream as it has a more neutral taste and even though it's runnier, a quick spell in the refrigerator firms it up a little.

I was pleased with how the jelly cakes turned out and they have been popular with my fellows at home. Revisiting recipes from childhood is always an enjoyable experience, especially when the vegan recipes work out tasting just as good as the original.

Jelly Cakes (Adapted from
Makes 18 cakes

1 packet raspberry or strawberry vegan jelly crystals
60g dairy-free margarine
½ cup raw castor sugar
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup plain flour (or use self-raising and skip the next 2 ingredients)
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2/3 cup soy milk (or other non-dairy)
1 cup cashews (soaked in hot water for an hour)
½ cup water
1 tablespoon maple syrup (or to taste)
¼ teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup desiccated coconut

Preheat oven to 180C.

Prepare jelly according to package directions and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour. The jelly should be set enough to be able to coat the cakes with jelly but not too firm otherwise the cakes will fall apart.

Cream the butter and sugar together using a hand held mixer. Add the flaxseed mixture and vanilla essence and beat until combined. Fold the flour, cream of tartar, bicarbonate of soda and soy milk through the mixture with a metal spoon.

Place patty pan cake wrappers in a muffin tray. Add a heaped tablespoon of cake batter to each of of the cake wrappers, they should be about half full. Bake for 20 minutes in the oven until an inserted skewer comes out clean and the cakes are golden on top. Remove the cakes from the tray and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Drain the soaked cashews and rise well with cold water. Place the cashews in a blender with 1/2 cup of water, maple syrup and vanilla essence and process until it becomes smooth and creamy. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow it to thicken up a little.

Remove the cake wrappers from the cakes. Submerge each of the cakes into the jelly then drain off the excess jelly and roll them in coconut. Cut 3/4 of the way through the centre of the cakes and place a teaspoon or two of cashew cream inside.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Vegan MoFo - Around the World in 20 days wrap up

I'm sorry to say that my Vegan MoFo virtual trip around the world in 20 days has come to an end. I thoroughly enjoyed this theme and decided early on in the month that I'm going to continue cooking around the world on a weekly basis. Only 20 out of 196 countries were covered during Vegan MoFo so my aim will be to draw one random country a week until I've cooked dishes from them all. If all goes to plan and I'm still happily blogging, this should see me through until the end of 2015!

There is one more bonus country related post to come for Vegan MoFo, so stay tuned for this tomorrow!

My favourite dishes this month were:

The dish I was least happy with were Sri Lankan pan rolls as I had made them previously and my first effort was a lot tastier. We had been contemplating buying a small deep fryer for a while and finally caved in and bought one on the weekend. There were a few contenders as the first thing to cook yet we decided to break the fryer in with another batch of pan rolls. The spices and seasonings were spot on this time, and the deep fried pan rolls were perfectly crispy and evenly cooked. I have made a few adjustments to the ingredients in the recipe I posted earlier this month as well as the method to include my deep frying notes.

On the subject of deep fryers, if you already own one what type of oil(s) do you use and what are your favourite things to fry? For non owners of deep fryers, what would your first meal be if you purchased a deep fryer?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Vegan MoFo - Home made tofu

I've wanted to make tofu for such a long time but certain things have held me back. I looked into the process and wasn't sure where to get a coagulant so I pushed tofu making into the back of my mind. When Steph posted about her experience of attending a tofu making class in Beijing earlier this year, my interest was piqued and I took it a step further by purchasing some organic soy beans but still couldn't track down the coagulant.

It wasn't until reading Tofu Mom's post recently that I hunted again and found that calcium sulphate (also known as gypsum) is also used in home brewing. This ingredient I had been searching for was actually available at a home brew store down the road all this time! Tofu Mom provided links to three different tofu making methods, it was the first I followed which uses calcium sulphate. I found the process pretty easy, it takes a while from start to end but there is a lot of slack time in between steps. Here is a summary of my tofu making day last weekend.

400 grams of soy beans were soaked overnight, then drained in a colander and rinsed well with water. After placing the soy beans in the blender I filled it up with filtered water to couple of centimetres above the beans.

The soy beans were processed into a paste.

The contents of the blender were poured into a stockpot with 4.5 litres of filtered water and the temperature brought up to between 82C (180F) and 93C (200F) for 30 mins.

The mixture was strained with cheesecloth into a couple of bowls. The leftover pulp okara can be used in baking, I didn't have time to look up recipes for it and froze it for the time being. The strained milk was returned to stockpot and the temperature heated up to 93C (200F).

3 teaspoons of calcium sulphate was mixed with 3 cups boiling water. 3/4 of this mixture was poured into the pot initially and stirred through once. The heat was turned off and the pot sat undisturbed for 10 mins. The liquid was still cloudy after this time so I stirred through the rest of the coagulant as directed. If the liquid is clear there is no need to do this.

The tofu curds were removed from the pot with a slotted spoon and placed into the Tofu Xpress lined with cheesecloth. I didn't realise when I purchased the Tofu Xpress that it could also be used in the tofu making process and was thankful that I decided to buy the additional lighter tension spring that was required for this purpose. The curds released a lot of water for me initially so I drained the excess several times. After the tofu had been resting for 30 minutes the Tofu Xpress was plunged into an ice bath for 1 hour, after that the tofu was ready to eat.

Since my latest motivation to make tofu came from Tofu Mom and I loved the sound of the recipe in one of her recents post I decided to give the Fried Tofu Chik'n Style recipe a go. This was a perfect way to try out the tofu, it was crispy and tasted fantastic and I loved the combination of the vegan mayonnaise, nutritional yeast and soy milk dipping paired with the sage, "chicken" stock, garlic power and cayenne pepper breading.

I love eating tofu a lot so it was very rewarding to finally give tofu making a try. I definitely won't be doing this all the time but will enjoy making a batch every now and then to enjoy a special recipe or two.