Friday, 27 December 2013

Vegan Tuna

I'm surprised at how little I've used jackfruit, particularly given how spectacular the results are. Probably the main reason I don't use it more is because it's essentially devoid of protein - so I would only have it if I've had plenty in other meals on that day.

In view of the mad hot weather, culinary boredom, and the acquisition of three more tins of jackfruit, I decided to try something different.

In cooler times I would go for the pulled "pork" recipes, and I didn't much feel like anything complicated by breading and frying (which ruled out the Fat Free Vegan's crab cakes). Other recipes used more ingredients than I could be bothered to assemble, leading to a completely lazy recipe as follows.

The results are more delicious than the (lack of) effort deserves. Also better than it looks - I won't spell out the analogies.

You will need - a bowl, and a processor/blender (I used my Vitamix).

Into the machine add:

  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbs Old Bay seasoning (I found a low sodium version at USA Foods)
  • 1 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tbs vegan "fish" sauce
  • 1/2 tbs Bragg's
  • 1 finely scissor'd up length of kelp
  • 2 dry bay leaves
  • a dash of smoked paprika
  • 1 tbs nutritional yeast
  • 1 can corn kernels
Process on low speed until just combined and still a bit chunky. 

Drain the jackfruit into a bowl, and pull the lumps into small bits/shreds. Add to the corn mixture and process on low speed for about 30-60 seconds. Again, just to combine and still with texture.

And that's it. 

Obviously this could be used to make tuna sandwiches, if that's your thing, but I also suspect it would be a good mimic for spicy tuna sushi rolls and so forth. 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Inner North Discoveries (a.k.a. I am so late to the party)

First off, I must express my embarrassment about past disdain for the inner North. Since moving here this year I am completely converted, and though I haven’t managed the requisite Bushranger-style facial hair and tattoos, I can muster skinny jeans and a hankering for a fixie. In the meantime, a 25+ year old Raleigh (from the days when there was still a manufacturing industry in England) is transporting me around town.

Now I want everyone I know to move here.

Fortunately almost everyone I know already does live here.

Now, for the food.

I’ve frequented Wholefoods for years, but it’s a heck of a lot easier now to peruse both the East Brunswick and Fitzroy/Collingwood shops. Yesterday I finally got my act together and remembered to bring a jar so I could get some peanut butter from the on-site machine.

The following quantity, minus weight of the empty jar, only cost $3.30 which is a bargain compared with the rubbish at supermarkets, and it’s organic, and it’s the best peanut butter I’ve ever had.

This tiny amount of forethought will surely be followed by other purchases from the bulk bins. (See also Friends of the Earth in Smith St.)

Next up - Coburg.

I have visited Coburg Farmers’ Market twice now. Once was a reconnaissance trip, in which I was REALLY naughty and bought nothing but shamelessly encouraged my friend L to spend away. (This was followed by lunch, alas unphotographed, at East Elevation - very delicious).

The second trip was a bit less miserly, though the pouring rain didn’t really encourage generous thoughts. I did leave with some Cocoa Rhapsody Dark Nut Cove chocolate and forced my mother to get the Salted Lime, which is probably the best chocolate I’ve had in years. And possibly ever.

Today I decided to get some vitamin D/sun damage and walked to Coburg to have a proper look.

Coburg Coles (not the one on Sydney Road - the one behind) produced lebanese cucumbers for $1 a kilo, and ripe R2E2 mangoes for $1 each (supplementing the 15 or so mangoes I got for $3 this week).

Al Alamy had nicely laid out nuts, dried fruits, seeds and grains. I’d have bought from there if I didn’t have the wonders of Basfoods and NSM so much closer to home.

I struck gold at KFL Supermarket. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside it’s exceptionally cosmopolitan. Foods from Croatia to China, Turkey to Taiwan, Poland to the Philippines.

Lots for gleegans as well.

I got:

Bean sprouts ($1.15kg), enoki mushrooms ($1.99) and coriander (80 cents) - pictured with the giant aforementioned mango.

Organic seaweed (albeit from China, so ?how organic really); laver; “prawns” (?!); mushroom/seaweed powder (presumably an umami bomb).

Vegan “fish” sauce (yes, I know there are DIY recipes around but I was curious); soy bacon bits.

I had to try these as soon as I got home. The ingredients list is meaningless, stating only soy, but there is obviously more to it than that. They are however rather excellent. I had them with Sheese cream cheese, tomato, gherkin, Dijon mustard and Bragg’s on Black Ruby’s soy and linseed bread.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

High nutrient GF bread

I don't think I will ever stop being dismayed by the problem of finding adequate gluten free breads.

Most in the supermarket fail by containing egg, and sometimes milk as well.

Many are also imported, which I think is utterly disgraceful.

They are also too often like eating a crumbly old sponge.

Adding insult to injury (given that Coeliacs are already at risk of certain nutritional deficiencies) GF breads are typically very low in protein.

If all that wasn't enough, GF breads are invariably eye-wateringly expensive - particularly if you want something half-decent.

For what it's worth, Coles' own label four-seed GF bread is probably the best supermarket option (and is vegan!) and comes close to tasting like real bread. Black Ruby and GF Precinct are reliably excellent, though of variable availability and with a more premium price.

I have also tried several GF bread mixes (bought only because they were super-reduced), none of which have been acceptable.

Now that I have a working oven, I deemed it time to make my own.

The wacky flour mix I put together was a collection of odds and ends, plus new acqusitions from Spelt Quinoa in Fitzroy, as follows:
  • 1/4 cup cornflour
  • 3/4 cup tapioca flour (this is unbelievably cheap if you buy from Asian grocers)
  • 1/2 cup black bean flour (dominatingly beany if not mixed with other flours and I am still struggling to use this up)
  • 1/4 cup Orgran gluten-free gluten (bought to attempt to make GF seitan - which didn't work!)
  • 1/2 cup teff
  • 1/2 cup sorghum
To which I added 1/4 cup dry millet, and 2 to 3 tablespoons each of sunflower seeds, pepitas, sesame seeds and 1 tablespoon of chia seeds.

This was well combined with 6g of dry yeast, and enough water to make a thick, sticky dough.

I left this on my bench for nearly two hours, then patted it together and put it in an oiled 450g loaf tin.

Baked at 210˚C for about 50 minutes. Take out of tin and allow to cool properly before slicing - though I confess to breaking the odd nubbly chunk off while it was still warm.

I haven't worked out the macronutrient profile for this, but with the bean flour and seeds, it should have a reasonable protein content, particularly compared with most commercial GF breads. Not to mention good fats and some minerals.

It also doesn't have the disgusting pappy sticky gummy mouthfeel that some GF breads have. 

Next challenge - GF sourdough.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Royal Mail Hotel - April 2012

This is certainly the latest review I’ve ever written, and a real test of my memory.

It is also slightly poignant to write given last week’s news that Dan Hunter is to leave the Royal Mail Hotel. I will watch with interest to see where he goes next, and how the restaurant evolves under new leadership.

To celebrate my mother’s 55th birthday in 2012, we made good use of my skerrick of an Easter holiday by going to the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld, via Ballarat on the way (to see Cecil Beaton’s photographs of the Royal Family) and Bendigo on the way back (to see the Grace Kelly exhibition).

Cognisant of the lengthy degustation ahead, and the fact that Dunkeld is not really round the corner, I booked us in for an overnight stay at the hotel itself.

Our elderly guinea-pig Chomsky came for the ride, and hid under hay on the back seat of the car.

We arrived late afternoon, with enough time to unpack and go for a walk along the trails that run behind the rear of the restaurant property, seeing plenty of wallabies, slightly threatening kangaroos, and two attention-starved horses who occupied much of my time. (So says she who never quite out-grew the 8-year-old’s obsession with all things equine.)

Though well into autumn, and with a slight nip in the air, the weather stayed fine and allowed us to appreciate the dramatic scenery.

It was well and truly dark outside when we sat down for dinner, and the restaurant had was – in contrast to daylight hours – inclusively cozy. Round tables were covered with crisp white cloth, and a sprig of native flora alluded to the semi-foraged menu that was to come.

We started with some amuse-bouches, including seasoned shiso leaf, an extraordinary tapioca starch cracker with and without roe (depending on omnivorous status), and another omni/vege divergence I cannot remember but which was either chicken or pork and a crackery thing for me.

Bread and butter were both excellent, as would be expected.

Not all photos came out, so some courses may be missing. I can't for the life of me remember what the above was, but it will have been fantastic. 

Most exquisite carrots – heirloom varieties, intensely and distinct in flavour. Only comparable to the tiny new carrots dug up from my stepmother’s organic kitchen garden.

Egg yolk, nestling amid vegetables and (possibly) chicken skin.

Dramatic plating of tiny root vegetables, garlic and the most madly divine wee onions.

Fish of some sort – presumably very good.

A dish made for me – astringent, cabbagey, beetroot. Sharp and mouthwatering.

More animal courses. I cannot comment, but very beautiful to look at. 

The highlight of the meal for me – yes, it looks like a log on a forest floor, aged and subsumed by verdant new growth. Actually the most insanely delicious aubergine/eggplant I have ever encountered.

Palate cleanser. As with all palate cleansers, I would have enjoyed a vat of this.

The first extraordinary dessert – fallen fruit. Apple, poached and caramelised, with the aid of calcium to maintain firmness so it was semi-dried, semi toffee-like, divinely appley, with crisp leaves of filo and fromage blanc. I unsuccessfully attempted to recreate this with calcium carbonate tablets at home (!)

Pistachio, chocolate. Superb ice cream (white chocolate from memory – might be wrong). 

Service was well-informed, prompt and welcoming. A lovely meal, worth the drive and definitely earned those hats.

Breakfast the next morning was also absolutely excellent, with local Grampians sheep’s milk yogurt (fantastic), delicious poached and spiced dried fruit compote, excellent bread, homemade jam etc etc. Exactly as a good hotel breakfast should be. 

It was well worth the drive (which is easy, albeit boring), and I hope the restaurant continues to provide excellent and unique creations.

I will also add that the vegetarian degustation was extremely well-thought-out and a pleasure for me to not feel like an irritation or an afterthought.