Thursday, November 27, 2014

Banana butterscotch pudding

November 9, 2014

I've been accumulating bananas in the freezer and wondering what to bake them in. I wanted to make this sticky banana pudding while Michael was away travelling but I can't find the recipe online anymore - and boy howdy, have I looked. It was after my latest failed search that I let it go and started researching alternative versions. There are actually plenty of self-saucing banana puddings out there that my fond memories prevented me from noticing.

I went with a Bill Granger recipe posted on fuss free cooking. I knew it wasn't the same as my ol' fave - I remember there being butter and/or cream in the butterscotch sauce - but if anything that made it simpler to prepare. Given that mashed banana is a common egg replacer in vegan baking, I doubled on the fruit and cut down on ingredients in the process.

Pouring a watery syrup over the cake might look weird, yet I trusted it would work (I've done this once before). Granted, it's not as buttery as the original, but this butterscotch sauce thickens and pools in the bottom of the dish and leaves sticky caramel on the edges of the cake, just as it should. The pudding is very, very sweet and I'll try reducing the sugar in the cake down to 70g or so next time I bake it. Fresh from the oven the pudding is cakey and almost light; after a day in the fridge it tends toward dense and fudgy. It's a treat either way.

Banana butterscotch pudding
(slightly adapted from fuss free cooking,
where it's credited to Bill Granger)

85g butter or margarine
115g castor sugar
2 bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
125g plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
a pinch of salt
1 cup almond milk

butterscotch sauce
140g brown sugar
1/4 cup golden syrup
1 cup water

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a baking dish

In a large bowl, beat together the butter/margarine and the castor sugar until fluffy. Beat in the mashed bananas and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Sift over the flour, baking powder and salt and gently beat it in, gradually adding the milk as you go. Pour the cake batter into the baking dish.

Place all the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and bring them to the boil. Gently pour the sauce over the cake batter. Bake the pudding for 30-40 minutes, until the cake is cooked through.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Loving Hut II

November 8, 2014

Leigh Drew has been in Melbourne recently promoting her new cookbook Greenilicious. She found time between celebrity appearances and repeat visits to Yong Green Food to share a meal with some veg bloggers including Veganopoulous, Green Gourmet Giraffe, The Good Hearted, Veganise This! and Kittens Gone Lentil.

Veganopoulous kindly reserved us a table at Loving Hut Northcote, which we've been long overdue to revisit. The menu has expanded to almost fifty savoury dishes with a variety of mock meat and non-mock dishes, stir-fried, deep-fried and completely un-fried foods. Everything is vegan, and the menu is coded for gluten-free, raw, chilli-heavy and onion/garlic foods.

I've had an eye on other bloggers' meals at Loving Hut throughout the year, and it was darn difficult to settle on just one for dinner. Ultimately I went for the sizzling katsu duck ($14) doused in a sweet and sour plum sauce, topped with a few steamed vegetables. The mock meat was excellent with a tender, slightly fatty texture and crisp crumbing.

The fried chicken that so impressed me on our first visit now has a spicier sibling called the volcano ($17). It's an even heftier serve of mock meat doused in a three chilli-rated sauce that marks it as Michael's meal - I don't have the heat-tolerance to steal more than a bite!

The dessert cabinet's expanded with the menu, and we couldn't help but test it out too. Lower shelves hold homely goods like brownies and jam tarts, and the top shelf is reserved for some of the fancier cakes. (After we picked a couple of these, our waiter proudly mentioned that they're made by his partner.) This chocolate and hazelnut slice (~$6.50) was silky smooth and topped with a toffeed pecan and sherbetty powdered raspberry.

The Loving Hut staff were efficient and personable, even stopping by to check that our meals were OK - unheard of at a Supreme Master venue. On our chattering, seat-swapping table of eight I was oblivious to the half-empty food court atmosphere I've previously reported. The only shortcoming was ours and not the restaurant's: we were too enthusiastic about the deep-fried dishes and should have made more space for their fresher, vegetable-focused foods. Perhaps we can make amends next time.


This shared meal has been mentioned in passing on Green Gourmet Giraffe and Veganopoulous.

You can read about our first visit to Loving Hut Northcote here.


Loving Hut
377-379 High St, Northcote
9077 1335
menu: one, two 

Accessibility: Lookin' good! A very wide automatic door, flat floors and moderately spaced tables. We ordered at our table and paid at a low-ish counter. We didn't visit the toilets, but I spotted a disability-labelled unisex toilet down a wide corridor at the back of the building.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Lucy Lockett

November 4, 2014

This is a story of major oversight on our part - it appears that cafe Lucy Lockett has been serving up original and abundantly veg-friendly breakfasts and lunches just a couple blocks from our home since February. And we had no idea. 

We blame the awnings that obscure their signage. When a cafe opened in this spot almost two years ago, we looked over the menu and didn't see anything we wanted to order. Since then it's evolved from Red Scooter to Red Vespa to the current Lucy Lockett without making any further impression on us at all. Thankfully our friend Troy is a little more observant recommended their menu to us.

As I hinted above, there's a lot to recommend - smashed avocado comes with spring onions and coriander (and Vegemite if you like!), mushrooms are braised with spinach, there's a breakfast burrito stuffed with scrambled egg and beans. The sweet side is as extensive and thoughtfully composed - the bircher muesli is vegan with a pina colada theme, house roasted granola comes with popcorn, and the French toast is crumbed with banana chips and oats. I can almost forgive them for adding bacon to their sticky date and almond pancakes. And that's not even delving into the toasties and lunch options! With crystal clear dietary markings throughout, these guys are true friends of vegetarians, vegans and coeliacs.

Michael relished a sunny plate of vegan, gluten-free corn and zucchini fritters interspersed with quinelles of avocado, sour coconut cream and sweet chilli jam ($18). My serve of Dr Marty's crumpets ($8.50, pictured top) came in a fancy stack, dripping with rich house made peanut butter, mixed berry jam and fresh strawberries. I also sampled my second iced chai of the weekend ($6.50, also pictured top), though based on the confused murmurs behind the counter it's rarely ordered. It was a mild milk tea chilled with both ice cubes and ice cream.

Staff were friendly and relaxed on a quiet Melbourne Cup morning. Prices hover around $15 for breakfast, rise towards $20 for lunch plates and soar beyond for folks ordering the biggest meat-based meals. Those price points are becoming more common in Melbourne's cafes, and I don't mind paying them here, where the veg options are so numerous and varied.


Lucy Lockett
140 Barkly St, Brunswick
8388 7138

Accessibility: The entry is flat and the interior is spacious. We ordered at our table and paid at a low-ish counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Heartattack and Vine

November 3, 2014

We took advantage of cheap Monday nights at Nova to catch up with Cindy's aunt for a movie and a meal. I'd been itching to try Heartattack and Vine, the newest kid on the Carlton block, with an impressive pedigree (it's been opened by Wide Open Road and A Minor Place alumni and follows their tradition of a musical reference moniker).

They've transformed the old Brown's Bakery space into a tremendously stylish bar - beautiful wooden tables, exposed bricks and gorgeous light fittings create a lovely atmosphere. It's cosy inside - maybe 30 seats - and there are a couple of big outdoor tables on Lygon if you want to sit outside.

We had no idea what to expect food-wise, but we had high hopes. It turns out though that H & V is more bar than restaurant, modelled on the bars of Italy, where food is all about shared plates of small bites. They've got the drinks nailed down - a great range of bottled beer plus Coburg Lager on tap, cocktails, an impressive wine list and an array of Six Barrel Soda Co soft drinks. Cindy and Carol split the raspberry/lemon and the cola and were impressed by both.

There's no menu to speak of - the kitchen puts together an array of dishes each day and you talk them through with the staff and make your choices - $3.50 a dish or 3 for $10. We wound up with 9 dishes ($30) - this included all the vego options (they'd just run out of a salad) plus some anchovy-stuffed olives for Carol. The day we visited vegans would have been limited to the crisps, the spiced nuts and the green olives (all of which were good). We added some cheese and pickles on delicious bread and some gooey, cheesy arancini, plus they threw in some crisps as a bonus. The dishes were all excellent, although teetering on the brink of decent value - $30 got the three of us enough food to get through the movie, but really not much more than that.  

We had a good time at Heartattack and Vine - the staff are super friendly and the vibe was busy without being overly crowded, but I struggled to scale back my expectations to bar food from the full meals I'd been imagining. This isn't really H & V's fault - they do what they do very well - I'm sure we'll be having drinks there again before too long, but it's probably not a dinner destination if you're feeling hungry. They're open all day - coffee and pastry at breakfast, a few different sandwiches and rolls at lunchtime and booze all day. It's a welcome addition to the neighbourhood and will provide fierce competition to the bar upstairs at Nova


The lunch options at Heartattack & Vine have been reviewed at de-brief me already.


Heartattack and Vine
329 Lygon St, Carlton
9005 8624
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a small lip on the door as you come in off the street. The interior is pretty crowded and the seating mostly low stools. You order and pay at a high bar. The toilets are unisex, but not particularly accessibility-focused otherwise.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Blue Buddha Cafe

November 3, 2014

Following our lunch at Tadka Boom!, Michael and I ran a few errands in the city and then walked north to Raw Trader with dessert on our minds. It was closed for the Melbourne Cup long weekend and Short Stop next door had only just that minute sold out of donuts. Dang. We whipped out our smart phones, confirmed that Blue Buddha Cafe was open and continued walking north.

Tucked just beyond the Queen Victoria Markets, this cafe has transformed a flat corporate building with a benevolent blue Buddha mural. Inside there's second hand furniture, cotton cushions, board games and a small lending library. Michael picked a pew and I wandered over to the counter to survey our options. The brunch foods that others have posted about weren't really apparent, but it was easy to discern our cake-and-drink options.

I picked out two non-bananified raw cakes from the display case ($6 each) - a wedge of lemon and avocado cheesecake, and a cupcake-sized chocolate and avocado cheesecake. They were homely and well-balanced: not overladen with sweetener or coconut oil, and perfectly portioned.

Drinks are fair trade and soycharge free - Michael went for his usual flat white ($4), while I took on their soy iced chai ($5). The latter was remarkable! Made with real tea and real spice with only a subtle hint of sweetness, this could be my perfect iced chai. I'll guess I'll have to go back soon just to be sure. Next time I'll turn up in time to try their mushroom bacon too.


Blue Buddha Cafe has already received positive reviews on Veganopoulous, The Good Hearted and A Melbournite.

Blue Buddha Cafe
30/1 O'Connell St, North Melbourne
8395 0699
facebook page

Accessibility: There's one small step on entry and a moderately spacious interior. I ordered and paid at a low counter. The furniture is a mix of cushioned wooden pews, milk crates, and more standard table and chairs. We didn't visit the toilets.