Monday, August 29, 2011

An airport vegan

Here I am, hanging out at Gate 36, Sydney International Airport, about to board a flight to Italy. Times have changed & I love that I can now sit here & choose from three different free wifi providers.

Sydney airport has been upgraded recently. I'm not into the shiny brand name stores they have, but I was pleased with the bigger food court. I was actually able to get a pretty decent vegan meal before my flight.

I skipped the antipasti & primo, diving straight into secondo, which is this fetching mixed salad pack from Sumo Salad.

It's a mix of Lentil Tabbouleh & Roasted Pumpkin with Chickpeas.
I really enjoyed these salads - I could taste that they had been made fresh that day. The seasoning was pretty simple too - lemon juice for the tabbouleh & sesame oil for the pumpkin from memory.

From secondo I skipped to dolce - here we have the 'Lychee Crush' from Boost Juice.
I haven't seen these on the menu before (not that I frequent Boost Juice - I think I've been once in the last year), but I still wanted to try it. I added the 'immunity booster', which promised a hit of echinacea, vitamin C & some other stuff. I have no idea if it will do me good, but I'm suffering from a head cold at the moment, and the thought of a 30 hour flight with blocked sinuses isn't a nice one. So I've been trying every natural (and in the last day some less natural) remedies to try & combat it. It's working OK, but unfortunately I haven't kicked the cold completely.

Anyway, having never had a lychee smoothie before, I was curious about the health benefits. Turns out lychees are high in vitamin C & also contain flu-fighting properties. Go lychees!

Next stop - Italia! So stay tuned for tales of my search for vegan goodies in the land of food.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Something new

Pssst. I've started something new. It's over here.

You'll still find me hanging out here at Eat More Vegies occasionally, but mostly I'll be over there.

Hope to see you soon!

Something raw, something cooked

I'll start with the raw. Last month I attended a 3 day vegan yoga retreat at Hepburn Retreat Centre (formerly Continental House). It was a truly inspiring experience, I only wish it had lasted for a full week. I met some amazing people, cooked/ate some amazing food & chilled out with yoga sessions in between. One of the things I took away from the weekend was that I want to start incorporating more raw food into my diet. The raw philosophy makes perfect sense to me, and anything that helps me incorporate more whole foods into my diet can only be a good thing.

At this stage of my life I can't imagine ever going 100% raw, but I also remember thinking I'd never go vegan when I was vegetarian for all those years. I guess the lesson there is never say never. For now, I'm taking small steps, which includes replacing at least 1 cooked meal a day with a salad or smoothie, plus upping my fruit intake generally. I'm also trying to replace cooked sweets with raw ones.

These Sunny Cashew Apricot Energy Cookies caught my eye immediately. I mean, seriously, how good do they look!
OK, OK, mine don't look that good. In fact, mine kind of crumbled as soon as I even went near them with a knife. A combination of not grinding the mix fine enough, not freezing for long enough & a lack of binding liquid. You should check out the photo on the recipe page though - they really do look amazing.

I tell you what though, they tasted awesome. They're very similar in make-up to the many varieties of fruit balls I've made. Except the cookies are sans added sugar & freezing them changes the texture to make them slightly crispy & yum!

Given that I'm not 100% raw yet :-), I gave this Vegan Zucchini Frittata a try for dinner last night.
I added tomato to the top and I'm glad I did as I think the extra flavour was needed. Don't get me wrong, the frittata is tasty, definitely improved with a nice garden salad on the side. Unfortunately, it didn't really hold together & turned into more of a scrambled tofu once it hit the plate. But, given the healthiness factor, I'll probably make this again.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Iku Wholefood, Sydney

There's one thing that Sydney does better than Melbourne when it comes to vegan eating - Iku Wholefood.

There's nothing particularly fancy or mind-blowing about Iku, it's just tasty, nutritious, vegan food. And there are heaps of them scattered throughout Sydney CBD & suburbs. It would be great to see the franchise extend to Melbourne. Unfortunately, their business model is based around preparing all the food centrally in Sydney & delivering to the stores each day. Obviously, the food can't be sent to Melbourne, so there goes that idea - unless there's a rich business person out there who wants to set up an Iku kitchen in Melbourne for me?

Last week I visited the Pitt St Mall Iku & got the mixed pack (I can't remember their name for it).
They also have a salad pack, but I love the variety in this one. It had heaps of deliciousness to try. There was a nori roll, rice-paper roll with curried tofu (excellent addition), marinated tofu, rice ball, polenta bake, some other kind of bake, cabbage salad, lots of green leaves & 2 sauces. My favourite sauce was the mustardy one - I could easily eat this on its own. The other was a chilli sauce - tasty but pretty standard.
As a treat I also got a Marabba - described as a 'pistachio & rose water flavoured almond meal & semolina biscuit'. It just tasted like an orange flavoured shortbread to me, but it was still nice.

A few reviews I have read say that Iku's quality has gone down recently. This may be true, I don't go there often enough to judge. I still love their food though - I'll forgive a lot to have the choice & convenience that Iku offers.

Iku Wholefood
Various locations throughout Sydney, check website for opening hours

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Bamboo Buddha, Holgate

There are 2 places on the Central Coast where vegans can get a decent meal. The first is Gnostic Mana in Woy Woy, blogged about here. The second is The Bamboo Buddha in Matcham/Holgate. As luck would have it, I'm currently working in Woy Woy & living in Matcham, so in terms of vegan noms, I'm not doing too badly :-)

The cafe is nestled in an oasis of gardens, gallery/gift shop, tiny native nursery & really is a pocket of serenity. I'll let the photos do the talking.

This is the first entrance from the road.
You then cross a small courtyard to the second entrance.
Some of the outdoor seating.There's no table numbers - just colour-coded buddha statues. It's a cute idea, but does make it difficult for the wait-staff to find the tables in the large open space.
The important bit - the food. The one let-down? No actual vegan items on the menu. It's something I've never experienced in a vegetarian cafe. The waitress (who happened to be the owner) couldn't tell me if anything could be made vegan & had to ask the chef. The chef was very friendly & came out to speak to me - recommending 2 items that could be made vegan by removing certain ingredients - a burger & a curry.

I was happy with the chef's suggestions, but still annoyed overall. You see, I'm one of those people who doesn't like to cause a fuss. I enjoy being able to order straight off a menu without having to go through the whole rigmarole of talking to a chef or making substitutions. Normally, a vegetarian cafe is the one place where that can happen. Unfortunately, there's also no vegan dessert options.

Anyway, moving on, I went with the chickpea & lentil burger, made vegan by taking away the sour cream. This was delicious - heaps of fresh salad, a lovely relish & scrumptious toasted macadamias. My dad - a staunch meat-eater - had one too & even he enjoyed it!
Here are some more photos of the beautiful surrounds - greenery.
This man-made creek meanders through the cafe & gardens.
One of the decorations.
Despite my complaint about the menu, I still think this is a place worth visiting the Central Coast for. The only thing to keep in mind - it's mostly outdoors so ideally you should visit on a sunny day. There is some undercover seating - but it's not enclosed & can get chilly.

The Bamboo Buddha
221 Wattle Tree Rd, Holgate
Wed-Sun, 9am-5pm (now possibly open 7 days, according to a new sign outside the cafe)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Gnostic Mana, Woy Woy

So, I've left Melbourne, maybe temporarily, maybe forever, I'm not too sure yet. I'm about to head overseas for 4 or 5 months, so the food posts will dwindle a little, though there's bound to be some great vegan finds along the way.

I'm starting a new travel blog, which I'll tell you about soon, but for now I'm back in my old stomping ground of the Central Coast, NSW.

Gnostic Mana is part of Gnostic Corner*, a small urban hippy haven in the sometimes rough environment of Woy Woy (the town so nice they named it twice!).

Woy Woy has really copped it over the years, particularly from comedians (everyone from Spike Milligan, whose mother lived there & who famously described the town as the 'largest above ground cemetery in the world'; to Felicity Ward, who went for the more modern styling of 'a train station wrapped in a titty bar'). Poor old Woy Woy. Sure, at night it can get a bit dodgy, but it has actually grown into a pretty nice place in recent years. It's surrounded by beautiful national parks & has lots of lovely waterfront to enjoy.

And Gnostic Mana is definitely worth making the trip for. It's not a 100% vegetarian cafe, but has lots of vegetarian & clearly-marked vegan options on the menu. The staff are friendly, the coffee is probably the best on offer on the Coast (not outstanding, but at least consistent), the food servings are large & the atmosphere is comfortable. They have lots of outdoor seating too, like this courtyard:
which has this mosaic on the wall that I love:
Here's just a few samplings from the menu - I'm working in Woy Woy at the moment, so there's been more visits than these that I have forgotten to photograph.
A vegan roast vegetable wrap. Tasty, but I was disappointed as the menu promised toasted pine nuts, and they were missing. A nice, light lunch.
The scrambled tofu. Simply served with spinach, rocket, sundried tomatoes & turkish toast with Nuttelex (I love cafes that serve Nuttelex - these small touches really make the difference). A couple of things stood out for me - the seasoning largely comes from tabasco, not soy sauce as is usually the case. This provides some pleasant heat & makes for a lighter taste overall. Also, the tofu is grated, not cubed - this also makes the meal lighter & somehow tastier.
The best thing on the menu, in my opinion - Vegan Breakky Wrap. This was all kinds of awesomeness I can't put into words. So stupidly simple yet so delicious. Fresh toasted Turkish bread, mushrooms cooked to perfection, fresh baby spinach, a hash brown & tomato relish (which I think is the secret ingredient). This is such a wonderfully healthy alternative (except maybe the hash brown - but you know, it's good to have a small amount of fried food sometimes) to the breakfast offerings made by certain fast food chains and I love it! I also suspect it would be a winning hangover cure.

Last but not least, Gnostic also has a range of vegan baked treats - I've managed to resist so far - but I just love that they are there if I want them.

Gnostic Mana
31 The Boulevarde, Woy Woy
7 days, 8am-5pm

* which also includes an organic grocer, a natural therapies practice, a florist, a gift shop and a hemp clothing shop.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cocoa Oatmeal Muffins

A baking post to mix it up.

Looking for a way to use up some pantry ingredients, I found this recipe online & veganised it.

Cocoa Oatmeal Muffins
  • 1 1/4 cups plain flour (I used half wholemeal, half normal)
  • 1 cup caster sugar (you could use half applesauce, half sugar, or another natural sweetener like agave syrup)
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 TBS baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 egg replacers (I used Orgran)
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 cup Nuttelex, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup nuts, chopped finely (I used walnuts)
Preheat the oven to 170C & grease a 12 hole muffin tin. Stir together flour, sugar, oats, cocoa, baking powder and salt in large bowl.

Beat egg replacer, soy milk, Nuttelex and vanilla together in a small bowl. Add wet mixture and nuts to the dry ingredients, stirring until just combined.

Spoon the batter into the tin bake 15-20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

I've lost the photo of these muffins so you'll just have to take my word for it - they're awesome. Chocolatey, wholesome (if you use wholemeal flour & natural sweeteners) & no-fail so far. Also a real crowd pleaser - I took multiple batches of these to work & they always got eaten on the same day.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mega Cafe Catch-up Part 3

The third & final instalment in my cafe catch up posts from Melbourne. Pretty much all these photos are crap - sorry about that.
This is the avocado on toast at Wee Jeanie. I've blogged about this cafe before, and visited many, many more times without blogging. This meal comes with loads of fresh rocket, a yummy tomato relish & fresh lemon.

I just love this place. The service is always outstanding, it has a fantastic vibe and the coffee is by far the best in the west. Sure, the vegan options are pretty light on, but in the western suburbs you take what you can get. Keep up the good work guys!

Wee Jeanie
50 Anderson St, Yarraville
Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30am-4.30pm
For a quick lunch in the city, it's hard to go past The Organic Food & Wine Deli. Yes, I think they are a tad over-priced, and the service is mostly miss, rarely hit. But since Soul Food in Equitable Place closed down, it's one of the only sit-down places with lots of vegan choices on the menu. My favourite thing here is the tofu burger, but I've eaten it so many times I thought I should try something different. So I did - this is the vegan kashmir pie. It was OK - not as flavoursome as the burgers and heated up in the microwave, which is annoying because it made the pastry go soggy. But healthy, filling & warm. One warning - stay away from the coffee, I've never had a drinkable one here.

28 Degraves St, Melbourne
Mon-Fri 7am–7.30pm; Sat 8am–6pm; Sun 9am–5pm
Last, but not least is this small vegan special plate at Gopals. I have a confession to make. I'd never been to Gopals. There, I've said it. I never went in the 4 1/2 years as a uni student. I never went in the 2 1/2 years working in the CBD. Then, 4 days out from leaving Melbourne, I found myself in the city at dinnertime & I decided to take the plunge. Without too much thought I went for the vegan special on the board - about $10 I think - it included a drink & a selection of the vegan items from the buffet plus a dessert. From memory there was a dahl, mixed vegetables, rice & a salad.
This is the dessert - It was some kind of apple/pear pudding. Delicious & just the right way to finish. Gopals is a no-frills place, but the atmosphere is pretty good - especially if you sit at one of the window-tables overlooking Swanston St. The servings are big, the food is healthy & everyone is friendly. I would definitely go back.

Gopals Vegetarian
1st floor, 139 Swanston St, Melbourne
Mon-Sat, 11.30am-8.30pm

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mega Cafe Catch-up Part 2

Whoa, nearly 3 months between posts. This week I'm making a huge effort to get this blog up to date. Because I have another project underway, which I'm itching to tell you about.

Here's some food porn of meals eaten in the last 6 months or so.
This was a meal shared with friends at the (then) newly opened Merri Table & Bar - part of the CERES complex in Brunswick. This was some kind of tasting plate made vegan. It included some yummy vegetable tempura, a carrot & cabbage salad, tomato salad & delicious fresh figs. The drink was recommended by the waiter & was probably the highlight - from memory I think it was a fresh plum crush.

The space here is fantastic - light & airy, pretty minimalist. We took advantage of a warm day & sat on the balcony. My only real complaint about The Merri is that for a restaurant aiming for sustainability, there wasn't an awful lot of vegan choice on the menu. However, I have just checked their winter menu - it seems to have improved a fair bit with the vegan & vegan option items clearly marked. They're off to a great start & I would definitely go back.

The Merri Table & Bar
CERES Environment Park, Cnr Roberts and Stewarts Streets, East Brunswick
Wed-Sat 12-9.30pm; Sun 10am-3pm

Here we have what must surely be the ultimate in vegan food porn - the big vegan breakfast at Soul Food Cafe. I've always experienced pretty hit & miss service at Soul Food, which is a shame, because their food is awesome & the servings are always huge. This breakfast includes scrambled tofu, mushrooms, tomato, spinach, hash browns, as well as toast with Nuttelex.

Soul Food Cafe
273 Smith St, Fitzroy
Mon-Sat 8am-11pm

Next up we have another serving of the veganised Poached Pears at Monk Bodhi Dharma. The service had improved this time. I'm making the call that this is the best sweet vegan breakfast you will find anywhere. 'Nuff said.

Monk Bodhi Dharma
Rear 202 Carlisle St, Balaclava
Mon-Fri 7am-5pm; Sat-Sun 8am-5pm

Finally, a gratefully found vegan pasta salad in Wangaratta. I needed to kill 2hrs before a train back to Melbourne & had tramped around most of the cafes in Wangaratta when I finally found this one. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the cafe! It was in Ovens St & had a lovely courtyard out the back. The salad was really good too - just the right amount of olive oil & simply seasoned with salt, pepper & fresh basil.