Beetroot and Feta Fritters

Fritters are secretly one of my favourite staple recipes to have hanging around, as I tend to collect vegetables and often the only way to get rid of them is to grate them up and fry the beejesus out them (what, you don’t just think to fry everything?).

These beetroot fritters are particularly good because 1). They are bright pink; 2). You don’t have to wait forever to roast the beets, it’s a grate, fry and eat prospect; and  3). The inclusion of Danish feta makes them quite a bit richer than the standard vegie fritter, so once you team them with a nice side salad they make a proper filling dinner. Bingo bango.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium beetroot, peeled and grated
  • 1 carrot, peeled and grated
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and grated
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • 125g Danish feta
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 heaped tablespoons plain flour, plus extra
  • cracked black pepper and sea salt, to taste
  • olive oil, for frying

Method

1. Combine the grated vegetables in a bowl with the sliced spring onions and the egg. Mix to combine, then once the egg is fully incorporated, add the flour, and mix further until the mixture is sticking together nicely. If your mixture is still too wet, just keep adding flour until it reaches an agreeable consistency.

2. Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Using a tablespoon, take spoonfuls of the mixture, plop into the pan and flatten down into discs with the back of the spoon. Each side should take around 2-4 minutes to brown sufficiently, and obviously remember to turn them over so both sides cook. Let cooked fritters drain on a plate covered with paper towel, and repeat until you run out of mixture.

Grigons & Orr II: Attack of the Avocado Egg

I normally don’t do a lot of repeat visit posts here. Mainly because I mostly figure that if I’ve already written a rave about a place, that’s really enough of an incentive to readers, no one wants to hear me gabbering on about the same places over and over again. I only ever feel inclined to write about a place multiple times if I visit a long time after the first post and feel inspired enough to do a kind of ‘so here’s what they’re up to now’ update, or if I experience a particular dish that makes me sit up and take proper notice and feel the need to make a community awareness announcement. This particular post is most definitely of the latter variety.

Jen and I ended up at Grigons & Orr during the now distant Anzac Day weekend when our first choice of Elceed was closed. Physically not much appears to have changed since my first visit – the resemblance to an old school corner shop is still very charming, and I even spotted the box of crocheted blankets by the front door, although the autumn sun was strong enough that we didn’t need to borrow any.

I knew that I was after a big plate of assorted breakfast goods, and was pleased to see that there was a vegan and gluten free option that looked like it would be of good service to my craving. “The Ghandi” promised potato rosti, spinach, BBQ tofu, tomato, and an “avocado egg” consisting of half an avocado with a pumpkin puree yolk. I was immediately taken by the thought of this avocado egg – how on earth do you make pumpkin taste like egg? Would it taste like egg? Or would it just be a very savoury ball of pumpkin, which probably shouldn’t be sniffed at and might be a nicely novel edition to breakfast? Clearly I HAD to find out.

Well, I have no idea how the cooks at Grigons & Orr did it, but the bright yellow orb of pumpkin sitting in the middle of my avocado half in place of the stone did, unaccountably, magically, taste like like creamy egg yolk. WIZARDRY! Really I shouldn’t be surprised that pumpkin can be induced into tasting like rich delicious anything, but as a child who stupidly eschewed anything pumpkin related I am still catching up with the full extent of this miracle. As to the other components of my plate, the rosti were crispy and provided a good starchy sponge to soak up all the excess sauce from the BBQ tofu, which was VERY saucy indeed and a welcome brunch plate edition, I’d love to see more places play around with tofu that aren’t specially veg*n places, it can be done guys, tofu isn’t scary. The spinach was properly buttery (or margariney in this case), and the tomato was, well, warm breakfast tomato. I am not that fussed with warm breakfast tomato, it was just there, getting the way of tofu and avocado egg. While I was initially worried that the moderate serving size wasn’t going to be enough to soothe my rapacious tum, it was actually the perfect amount to fill you but not stuff you.

Jen went with the salmon version of the corn fritters, which was an impressive looking pile crowned with salmon and a fan of sliced avocado. They didn’t look to be too dense, and seemed to contain a decent array of vegetable matter.

Grigons & Orr was well worth a repeat visit food-wise – the thought of the pumpkin egg still keeps coming back to me weeks later. The service is friendly but remains slightly idiosyncratic – as with my first visit if you want dairy and sugary accoutrements with your tea you have to get up and go source them yourself – but honestly it’s always reassuring when in this brunch fad mad town an establishment that’s been around for more than a year or two can still front up with a good spread.

Grigons & Orr

445 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne

Ph: 0487 608 489

www.grigonsorr.net.au

 

Tempeh Shepherd’s Pie with Mushroom Gravy

Ordinarily I am the sort of cook where if I see a recipe with a hugely long ingredients list and a method that involves more than using maybe two pots, I go “tell him he’s dreaming” and then make ramen for dinner for the forty thousandth time. It’s not just laziness (although a decent percentage of it is laziness) – huge recipes are generally a signal that not only are you going to have to whip out some very clever kitchen skills in order to pull it off, but there’s generally also specialty ingredients lurking within that list that are going to be a bugger to source, are probably expensive and will then sit in your cupboard forever never to be useful for anything else and you’ll end up throwing them away four years past expiry in a fit of annoyed guilt. And of course, there is nothing worse than throwing all your soul and effort into a big complicated recipe, only for it all to explode in your face and end up tasting terrible.

This Frankenstein’s monster of a shepherd’s pie recipe, which I cobbled together in order to use up a packet of tempeh, is however well worth its long ingredients list and slightly fiddly assemblage. I was inspired by Michael’s version of the Viva Vegan creamy corn-crusted tempeh pot pie and used that recipe as a jumping point, although I already knew that I’d be changing several elements – subbing out the corn crust for a more traditional mashed potato, replacing the potato with pumpkin, adding green beans and leaving out entirely the currants and olives (because HONESTLY), and using a mix of spices more easily found in my cupboard and garden. It also didn’t look saucy enough for my purposes, so I started googling around for a suitable vegetarian gravy to add, and came across this version of tempeh pie to further jump off. The mashed potato formula comes courtesy of my mother, as all the best things do.

The only thing that I’ve amended in writing this recipe down is that in my original version I used half dried shiitake mushrooms and half a mix of other dried mushroom varieties, as that’s what I had in my cupboard. But as the shiitake was clearly the best part of the whole endeavour, and lent an awesome richness to the pie filling as a whole while the other mushrooms were merely taking up standing room, I must forcefully insist that you go Full Shiitake.

Ingredients

Tempeh Filling

  • 1/2 medium sized pumpkin, deseeded, skin removed, and diced
  • 230g packet tempeh
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 brown onions, finely sliced
  • handful green beans, top and tailed and cut into short rounds
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (substitute with dried if you don’t have fresh)
  • 2 tbsp red wine
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp vegetable stock powder
  • olive oil

Mushroom Gravy

  • 1 small packet whole dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • lots of ground black pepper
  • 1 cup mushroom water (this will be what’s left from re-hydrating your shiitake!)
  • 2 tbsp corn flour, dissolved in 1/2 cup water
  • olive oil

Mashed Potato Topping

  • 4 floury potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 50g butter
  • milk
  • ground black pepper and sea salt

Method

Grab your shiitake and set them to soak in a big bowl of boiling hot water. The longer the mushrooms have to soak the better, so always make sure this is your first step.

Steam your tempeh and boil your taters! I have one of those stovetop steamer sets where you boil water in the saucepan then whack the steamer pot on top, so if you have one of those you can be a SUPER MULTITASKER and do both at the same time. WONDERS! (You can also just bung on a separate saucepan for the potatoes if you don’t have a stovetop steamer set.) The potatoes will take about 20 minutes to properly soften up, and you should make sure you boil them in water that has had a good generous shake of salt added. The tempeh will take 10 minutes or so, so lay a little round of baking paper on the bottom of the steamer before putting in the tempeh, and then place over the boiling potatoes with a lid on – make sure there is a few inches gap between the top of the boiling water and the steamer pot, otherwise you’ll end up with very soggy tempeh indeed. Once the tempeh is ready, take it out carefully – it will be hot – cut it into cubes and put aside.

Since we’ve been multitasking wonders and boiled our potatoes, we may as well make the mash topping now. Drain the water from the pot, add the butter, and use a masher or the back of a fork to mash the potatoes. Add in a splash or two of milk to bring it to your preferred level of creaminess, add generous amounts of black pepper and sea salt, and mash it all up good. You can set aside the mash with a lid on it and it will keep warm while you make the filling and gravy.

Now would be a good time to preheat your oven to 200C.

Heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a big deep frying pan. Fry the onions and the carrots over medium heat for about 10 minutes – you want the onions to be completely soft. Add the tablespoons of wine, which will cook off nice and quickly, then add the cumin, thyme, pumpkin, beans, tempeh, soy sauce and water. Add the powered vegie stock, combine, and let it simmer for about 10 minutes, with some occasional stirring, before taking off the heat and setting aside.

Now to the gravy. Drain the mushrooms (but keep that mushroom water, we need it!), and cut the shiitake in half. Put them in a small frying pan with a few tablespoons of olive oil and start to saute away. Crack over a good generous amount of black pepper. Add in 1 cup of the leftover mushroom water and bring to a gentle boil. Slowly pour in the corn flour and water mixture, and let it all simmer, while stirring, until it thickens nicely (your kitchen will be smelling like THE MOST DELICIOUS THING IN THE WORLD at this point, by the way).

Let us assemble the pie. Get the biggest, deepest casserole dish you can find. Layer first with the filling mixture, then with the gravy, and finish with the mashed potato. Put the casserole dish on a baking tray that has been lined with foil (just in case there is any spillover during the pie’s time in the oven) and bake for 45 minutes, or until the potato has nicely browned.

photo (3)

If you are vegan you can make this pie – just replace the milk and butter in the mashed potato with your preferred non-daily equivalent. If you are coeliac you can make this pie – just replace the soy sauce with tamari. If you are an omnivore who ordinarily goes “ugh tempeh”, get your childish arse in hand, stop being so fucking boring and make this goddamn pie. This is my greatest life achievement, creating this delicious monument to saucy starch, and if this is the only tangible thing that I leave to the world, well then my existence has been worthwhile. Make the goddamn pie.

photo (4)

Warm Radicchio and White Bean Salad

In order to prevent myself from constantly eating solely surplus packets of Caramello Koalas from my local bargain supermarket for every meal, I’ve started ordering a fortnightly vegie box delivery. Apart from taking me one step further to achieving my greatest dream of being able to have everything I need delivered and consequently never having to leave my house ever again, it’s also contributed to expanding my recipe repetoire due to being sent all kinds of fun things I’ve never cooked with before.

In my most recent box, the good folks at Kelly Brothers included a radicchio. I sent a panicked photo to my mother going “WHAT IS THIS, IS THIS AN ENDIVE, WHY IS IT PURPLE?” before she set me straight, and further recommended that I use it in a recipe where it required wilting, as raw radicchio has a tendency towards being quite bitter. Being of the school of ‘always listen to your mother’, I did some googling, and ended up cobbling together this from smushing a couple of recipes together and substituting various ingredients from what I had available in my fridge.

I’d recommend serving this as a side-dish rather than the entire meal that I scarfed down, it would be damn perfect going alongside some rich and starchy winter stew deliciousness.

Ingredients

  •  2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  •  1 bunch radicchio, leaves separated (cut the bigger outer leaves in half horizontally to make them a bit easier to deal with)
  •  2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  •  2 spring onions, sliced into rounds
  •  240g can white beans, drained and rinsed
  •  olive oil

1. Heat about 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir about until it starts to become fragrant.

2. Add the beans and the radicchio leaves. Toss them about until the radicchio just starts to wilt.

3. Drizzle over the vinegar and an extra fat glug of olive oil, and toss in the spring onions. Mix it all around until the beans are nicely warmed through. Give it a nice sprinkle of sea salt at the death. Serve on a pink salmon plate so the purple of the radicchio really pops (optional, but you would be losing serious style points not to).

radicchio noms

 

The Stables of Como

What follows actually wasn’t my first visit to The Stables of Como. Jen and I had originally visited back in January, but the day of said visit coincided with a stinking hot day that ended up abruptly turning into a violent cool change. So despite the food being great I didn’t feel like it was fair to blog about it given that first the insane heat and then the squally winds accompanied by swirls of dust greatly hampered our dining experience sitting out of doors.

But I wanted a second visit more than anything on a day with more auspicious weather, as I felt it was a place more than worthy of blogging about, and thankfully a catch up with Bennett that necessitated a venue accessible from the No. 8 tram was just the ticket.

Set in the grounds of historical Como House, the cafe is obviously in a very picturesque spot. There’s plenty of seating outside in the old stables courtyard, but indoors manages to cram in a lot of tables into a very vibrant space – and make sure you take a moment to go investigate the overloaded cakes cabinet, which is a sweet feast for the eyes. I’m still not sure how I managed to escape running off without a bag of cakes at the end, but it may be because my savoury breakfast filled all necessary holes.

That breakfast was the smashed avocado with thyme-buttered mushrooms, feta cheese, basil, flat-leaf parsley and one poached egg, served on two small slices of seedy bread. This dish looked a bit small on first glance, but its rich components, especially the salt-packed feta, gives it significant heft in terms of filling you. The mushrooms were soft with just a touch of bite, and hadn’t been over-herbed, giving a mild thyme overlay. The egg was not quite at optimum gooeyness, but still didn’t tip over into over-cooked, yielding a nice river of yellow once popped. What I actually ended up appreciating most, somewhat surprisingly, was the fresh whole basil leaves, which added just the right note of flavour that pulled all the components together. I ordinarily wouldn’t have thought to pair basil with avocado, but here it worked.

Bennett built his own eggy breakfast – folded herbed eggs with bacon and smashed avocado. This was a nicely huge dish in comparison to mine, the eggs looked smooth and creamy, the bacon fat and not overly crisped. It all disappeared with alacrity, so I assume it was great!

I also had two flat whites during our visit, they were nice and smooth texturally, not too bitter, perfectly enjoyable.

This place packs out on a weekend – it was bustling like anything all through our visit, and be warned that if you sit inside the noise levels get pretty deafening. It’s lucky that Bennett and I are fairly used to bellowing at each other, athough at one point I was on the phone to Schaefer and I know I agreed to *something* he said, but I have no idea what it was. Lord knows what I’ve been roped into.

You should also expect from the location that you’ll be paying Toorak prices – everything is a few dollars more expensive than they probably should be, but considering the Stables are attached to Como House and I presume is assisting the National Trust in keeping the site running and in tip top condition, I don’t really begrudge it. Make sure you visit when you yourself are feeling flush is my best advice. Apparently there’s also afternoon tea menus where you can take advantage of all those cakes, and picnic basket options where you can take your spread into the gardens to enjoy. Sounds delightful to me!

The Stables of Como

Como House & Garden, cnr Williams Road & Lechlade Ave, South Yarra

Ph: 9827 6886

www.thestablesofcomo.com.au

Kappaya Soul Food Cafe

Nadine is completely obsessed with the Abbotsford Convent, and most particularly with all the food venues tucked away among its formally ecclesiastical eaves. She once went to the Convent’s Lentil As Anything outpost four times in the space of a week, true story. So when Maddy and I made some Saturday lunch plans to meet Nadine at the Convent, I assumed that we would inevitably end up at Lentil. But a secret part of me was hoping that we might get a chance to tick off one of my long held must-visit places – Kappaya and it’s Japanese soul food.

It turned out Nadine also had a vested interest in visiting Kappaya, as it’s daytime only opening hours means that it had been closed during many of her previous visits. So it was excitement all round on discovering it was open.

The interior does that cosy, mismatched furniture look really well, so it actually succeeds in being a super comforting space to be in. Cosy-ing up on some squishy plush vintage chairs, we were pretty instantly overwhelmed by the menu, with Maddy and Nadine eventually being drawn to the bento box options.

While the vegie bento did indeed sound good, I had my eye drawn by the all-day breakfast option of a rice and soup combo plate: you get mixed rice crowned with a gooey poached egg, served with miso-dressed mixed salad leaves, and a nice fat cup filled with pumpkin soup. Pumpkin soup for breakfast! REVELATIONS. It was a darn good pumpkin soup too, served in a heavy earthenware cup that felt solid and significant in my hands, with a thick, grainy consistency. It was less creamy than you would ordinarily encounter, but ratcheted up the spice considerably, and I was also given a shaker of flavour salt filled with black sesame seeds and other savoury bits and bobs, never give me shaker of savoury bits, it all just ends up going on EVERYTHING.

But let us also talk about the pure joy that is a softly poached egg broken over rice. Is this the most perfect experience yet devised by human people? IF NOT IT MUST BE CLOSE. I know by this point it must seem like I’m completely obsessed by gooey eggs and just having them pop and dribble over all kinds of carbs, but really, why wouldn’t you be, it is GREAT AND PERFECT. And Kappaya’s rice was already tasty from being flecked through with black sesame seeds, and the egg was just at that poached tipping point where it hovers on that edge between underdone and just right. I popped that dang egg, mixed it all through the rice and ate it like I hadn’t eaten in years. And lo, it was good.

Indeed, everything about Kappaya slotted neatly into the ever so good category. Maddy and Nadine both enjoyed their bentos – I snatched a taste of one of the tofu balls that came with Nadine’s, and it was a tasty wee thing of smoky savoury flavours. Everything just tasted fresh and lovingly hewn together using hearty recipes clearly developed for taste and comfort. Should you find yourself at the Convent during the day, I can think of no better place to look after your tum.

Kappaya Soul Food Cafe

Abbotsford Convent

1 Helliers Street, Abbotsford

Ph: 9416 0070

abbotsfordconvent.com.au

Pidapipó

Since January Kate has been insisting that I needed to get along to Pidapipó, a new gelateria in Carlton. She had quickly become obsessed with it and was encouraging everyone in our office to go down when we next hit up Cinema Nova, which for us all is multiple times a week, so really none of us had any excuse.

What I soon discovered upon entering the threshold and sampling Pidapipó’s wares was that there is no way that you can stop at just one visit. Because, and I am very confident in stating this, Pidapipó is serving up the best gelato in town. Yes, even better than Gelato Messina. COME AT ME.

Take the first combination that I sampled: salted caramel topped with Nutella swirl. Let’s not even get into the fact that the salted caramel balances sweet and salty on a perfect knife edge and that I may have subsequently sampled it at least three more times. Let’s focus on when I ordered the Nutella swirl, which as the name suggests has Nutella threaded through vanilla gelato, I was asked by the counter girl “Would you like some Nutella drizzled on top?”

Would I like Nutella drizzled on top, ahahahahahahahahahaaaaaaa OF COURSE I WOULD.

On my second visit I thought it would only be sensible in terms of further research to get a double fruit sorbet cone, but I ruined the experiment by only getting one fruit flavour due to the fact peanut butter was available and we all know I wasn’t going to say no to that. I topped the peanut butter with peach, which was bright pastel orange and liberally flecked with small pieces of fruit. Like all of Pidapipó’s flavours it was robust, just a huge burst of stone fruit goodness. But the peanut butter… ahahahahahAAAAAAAAA THE PEANUT BUTTER. Seriously I just wanted to cackle malevolently like a super villain who finally has their hands on all the plutonium.

It would take me forever to write about the rest of the flavours I’ve sampled in the proper manner I’ve established, so let’s bullet point this shit:

  • Ricotta and fig – creamy gelato with thick, luscious threads of caramelised fig. This is my three-way tie for favourite with salted caramel and peanut butter.
  • Banana – thick and flavoured like they’ve straight up frozen mashed banana with the barest of embellishments just to make sure it’s creamy as all fuck.
  • Pistachio – One of my all time favourite ice cream flavours, Pidapipó’s pistachio is a highly impressive iteration, ratcheting up the nuttiness until it threatened to become an overpowering flavour explosion. Sample at your delicious discretion.
  • Pineapple – one of the sorbetti flavours, like most of the fruit ones are, and while not as creamy as the milk based gelatos, they still pack an impressive flavour wallop. Pineapple is all sharp-sweet tropics in a cup.
  • Blood plum – Another sorbetti, and so clean, sweet and tart all at once, this one’s a great palate cleanser after a meal.
  • Banana and choc fudge – This is the only flavour that hasn’t managed to completely wow me, but that doesn’t mean that it was bad, indeed, how can any gelato threaded with thick seems of gooey chocolate fudge ever be anything but enjoyable?
  • Hazelnut – Another nutty flavour explosion, these are Italians, of course they are not going to do hazelnut by halves, it’s going to explode your face off is what it’s going to do.
  • Coconut – Such a divisive flavour, but if you don’t like coconut son I feel sorry for you, because you are MISSING OUT ON DIVINE REVELATION.

The gelato at Pidapipó is impressive enough, but I’m also so pleased with how spotlessly clean the store always is, how friendly the staff (all Italian) are, how you can always see the baskets of fresh fruit and giant jars of Nutella waiting to be turned into chilled delight, and how the phrase “so we have to go get The Ice Cream” has become so ubiquitous among my friends and I. Because it is the only ice cream now, for all of us, everyone I have introduced to Pidapipó have immediately caught evangelical zeal for it. Come join us. JOIN US.

Pidapipó

222 Faraday Street, Carlton

pidapipo.com.au