Thursday, June 27, 2013

Punjab cafe

Last Friday evening I crossed a couple of items off my to-do list in one hit - eating dosa for the first time and purchasing vegan takeaway food from my local suburb. I've been hankering to try dosas ever since reading about them on blogs and have considered attempting to make my own yet I thought it would be a good idea to try the real deal first.

We have lived in Clayton for almost 10 years and haven’t purchased takeaway food or dined at local restaurants for the past three years. Our more recent eating out experiences usually involve travelling to another suburb to eat at a restaurant we know has a variety of good vegan options. Clayton is home to several Indian restaurants as well as Chinese, Malaysian, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian and Japanese. In the midst of searching for the closest place to buy dosa, I was delighted to discover that Punjab cafe, one of our local Indian eateries, listed a variety of dosas on their menu. The man wasn't entirely keen on the sound of them and it took a couple of weeks of not-so-subtle hints for him to come around to the idea.

Punjab cafe is reminiscent of the other Indian eateries around Clayton, the decor is cheap and minimal, the clientele is mainly of Indian origin and the food is fairly inexpensive. After speaking with the waiter and chef to inform them of our dietary requirements we ordered a couple of masala dosas ($7.50 each), bindhi masala (okra curry - $7.50) and garlic naan ($2 each). I've been under the impression that naan dough usually contains yoghurt (as most recipes I've seen include it) but we were assured that there would be no yoghurt or other dairy products in the naan and that it could be topped with vegetable oil and garlic.

The man succumbed to the gorgeous aroma of garlic naan during our trip home, tearing off a few pieces to keep him satisfied until we could get stuck into the rest of the food. The masala dosa was as wonderful as I imagined it would be – a thin crispy pancake made with a fermented lentil and rice batter filled with spiced potatoes, accompanied by a tangy dal. I was expecting some chutneys to be included with our meal as I think they are usually served with dosas, perhaps they forgot to include them? The bindhi masalas I've eaten in the past have been served in a sauce/gravy so I was little surprised to find that this version was a dry curry. We ordered it to be hot and were pleased that it delivered on spiciness.

My first dosa experience was thoroughly enjoyable and has made me eager to try more dosas at other Indian restaurants for comparative purposes. I would also like have a go at making dosas at home although they will need to be a miniature versions as I don't own a frying pan large enough to make dosas bigger than our dinner plates!

143 Carinish Road, Clayton
9544 4218

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Magical okara loaf

My initial success with home made tofu had me keen to continue making the odd batch on an occasional basis. I'm not sure why it took seven months to dig out the bag of soy beans from the pantry but I've been back in the swing of tofu making lately and have produced a couple of delicious batches this month.

After making tofu or soy milk you are left with a large quantity of okara (soy bean pulp) which can be used in burgers, loaves, cakes, biscuits and as a thickener in stews. I've also come across some other interesting recipes I would like to attempt one day like okara gnocchi and a Japanese stir-fry called Unohana. I was in the mood to try out a veggie loaf and turned to the Magical Loaf Studio on the Vegan Lunch Box blog for a bit of fun.

I've checked out the Magical Loaf Studio previously and loved the concept yet I hadn't put it to test before. The criteria for generating a loaf recipe is to select a protein, carbohydrate, nuts or seeds, liquid, binder, seasonings, oil and as many vegetables and herbs as you desire. The beauty of it is that your loaf can be tailored to suit any leftover cooked grains you have on hand, vegetables that need using up and items you have in the pantry.

The ingredients listed in each section of the tool are limited so I made a few substitutions where I saw fit. Okara wasn't listed as a protein so I selected soy beans to get an idea of the quantity required. After looking over my generated recipe I changed it up a little by using chickpea flour as my binder (which wasn't an option in the tool), a larger quantity of nutritional yeast and also added in some smoked paprika.

The loaf took around 15 minutes to construct and while it was baking there was plenty of time to organise other vegetable side dishes and gravy. It browned nicely on top and even though I rebelled against the instructions to allow some cooling time before slicing it up, it had a firm enough texture which held together wonderfully. I had also lined my dish with baking paper to ensure it would lift out easily. We were all impressed with the taste of the loaf so I can see myself using future batches of okara this way again.

Magical okara loaf (Adapted from the Magical Loaf Studio on Vegan Lunch Box)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium carrots (200g), peeled and grated
2 cups wet okara
1 cup cooked rice
½ cup almond meal
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons chickpea flour
1 teaspoon dried basil
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes
2 teaspoons vegan worcestershire sauce
1 heaped teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 20 x 20 cm square baking dish with baking paper or spray with olive oil spray.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion, garlic and carrot over medium heat for 5-7 minutes until softened. Place the remaining ingredients in a large bowl along with the contents of the frying pan and stir together thoroughly.

Press the mixture into the baking dish and bake for 45 minutes, or until the loaf is firm and browned on top. Turn the loaf out onto a chopping board, remove the baking paper (if used) and slice. Serve with gravy and other vegetables.