Friday, January 30, 2009

Dear Mr Lethlean,

Hi John,

Thanks for including a vegan dish in the latest Melbourne Magazine as one of your “favourite dining moments of the month”. The seasonable vegetable salad at Council House looks great, and even though you didn’t actually say it was vegan, we can tell. Cheers. (Also, hope the move to New Ltd is working out. I’m sure you’re glad you’re in the glossy mag and not the tabloid bit).

Anyway, I did notice that right next to the veggie salad is the hand-cured meat plate at La Luna. I mean, I don’t know if you meant that to be ironic, although I did notice that back at The Age the veggie articles were usually surrounded by ads for fish or something, but hey ho, it’s your page and you’re allowed to do what you want with it.

But, John, did you really have to write this: “The vegetarian’s anti-Christ, North Carlton chef and restauranteur Adrian Richardson, has hung his hat very much on animal protein. …” and did you really have to finish off with this: “… how could you live without meat?”.

How could you? Was that meant to sound rhetorical? Because the answer is: because I’m healthier for avoiding the heart-clogging, asthma-inducing, cancer-encouraging, cholesterol-skyrocketing animal products that you eat; because my carbon footprint is so incredibly teenier weenier than yours no matter what you do ever; and most of all, because no animal had to live a painful, miserable life, be tortured, suffer and die so that I can have a sandwich. More to the point, I live without meat so that animals can live, which is like, the point of being born alive - to get to live, I presume, and not to become someone's casual lunch.

So please stop writing silly things John. I don’t expect you turn veg overnight, or ever actually, but I do expect a bit better in the way of sensibleness. There are myriad reasons why people can, do and should live without meat so that was a very silly question indeed, wasn’t it John?


PS I actually really like your reviews, and I share your obsessive collecting of silicon kitchen gadgets. Just no more silliness thanks. Ta.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Christy Robinson Designs, or: I get into some Jewellery Activism

Shoppering! I am usually not one for emblazoning my veganism on my clothes or across my chest (why is it that activism is so often advertised via T-shirts on the chest? I am yet to see a "Nuclear Free" pair of jeans utilising the more readable space of the derriere. I think I will call this Chest Activism). As a rule I find it a little earnestly weird, kind of like wearing a wardrobe comprising exclusively cause/protest/eco-worrier-warrior t-shirts: just not my thang. Also, I am yet to find anything all that palatable and un-patchouli-ish (with the exception of my Herbivore T-shirts from Moo Shoes, but even then I have to be in the mood for chest-wearing activism).

Before Christmas I received an email from Alter
native Outfitters that highlighted the jewellery (or jewelry if you're from America, North) of Christy Robinson of Dallas, Texas. Christy has made a range of vegan jewellery which is cute and sweet and totally something I'd be happy to wear over my chest.

Is this not the sweetest thing you've ever seen? It's handmade to order and I put it on my chest immediately and have not taken it off.

The nicest thing, however, was Christy. As soon as I placed an order I got a super friendly email back, thanking me for my order and confirming the length of the chain I had asked for (she is very happy to discuss customising pieces), and just a few days later another one letting me know that it had been sent. Speeeeeedy!

And today it arrived - only about three weeks after I ordered and over the holiday period no less - wrapped up in a lovely box with ribbon, care instructions, business cards and a lovely handwritten note from Christy. Is that not the way every transaction should be?

So thank you Christy: I love the necklace and it was a genuine pleasure to work with you.

Christy can be found at: or

Edit: Christy is at etsy as julep115.

In fact I am off to order another one right now ...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

PastaPigs: wholemeal pasta, red cabbage, baby spinach and walnuts, or: I copy a dish

I didn't even mean to go to the supermarket today, but deciding that another day without coffee was untenable, I ended up doing a full shop and halted, skidding-style, in front of half a red cabbage.

I don't usually venture far outside my usual fruit'n'veg preferences. I ignored a number of things today including cucumber apple and dragon fruit in favour of my bananas, avocados, tomatoes, proper garlic, zucchini, eggplant, red onion and asparagus (I'm not really a fruit-eater; I like bananas, avocados and tomatoes, watermelon and some apples as a rule - all others are eaten only provisionally, and don't even get me started on stone fruit and berries).

Red cabbage, however, has been on mind. It started back in New York (you know, daaahling, when I was in Noo Yaaaaahk last year) when Buzz and I had a delicious pasta/soba salady thing with red cabbage here, and I was reminded about that combo last week when Buzz's mum cooked a great teriyaki-red cabbage-spaghetti dish from Vegan Cooking for Idiots for us (isn't she the bestest for buying that book to help her cook for me? I'm all warm and fuzzy about it; it's totally generous and kind and awesome).

So the red cabbage made it home today, along with wholemeal spaghetti, baby spinach and walnuts. Natch, I had plenty of garlic on hand.

I cooked some of the spaghetti al dente, and I think the wholemeal pasta works just as well as what Buzz swears was in the original 'sNice version, buckwheat noodles. I sliced some red cabbage - I took a half a cabbage, and just cut a big slice of about 1 centimetre in width straight down. It looks like a lot but it's not - keep going and chop it up. I minced some garlic and added some sesame seeds and black olives for good measure (and also those bloody sesame seeds have been sitting there for ages daring me to find inventive uses for them). I simply tossed these ingredients, along with the baby spinach and a massive dollop of olive oil, into the drained pasta and shook it all about.

Buzz once told me that my love of garlic can lead me astray. He is quite right, having borne the brunt of it regularly. I did it again here; it wasn't as disastrous as it could have been as I was just cooking for one and the little furry boys don't care, but for future reference, Miss T, one clove of the top shelf stuff is more than sufficient.

Otherwise I think this one will be great once I tweak it, and it would work very well as either a cold salad or a warm main (served hot? No. Don't.).

The brine from the olives was surprisingly effective at cutting through the soft oil and crunchy bitterness without adding too much salt, and I would add more next time. I think I should break down the walnut pieces and be more judicious with them, as even though they provide an almost creamy counterpoint to the bitter cabbage, they are too overwhelming and jarring in bigger pieces. I also overestimated the amount of oil I needed, which was ironic as one of my criticisms of the 'sNice version was over the same fault.

I would also consider adding some halved cherry tomatoes to act in the same way as the olive brine, but I would strongly advise against any other pungents such as onion or spring onion - the cabbage is more than enough.

I'm quite pleased I deviated from my usual pasta cravings here (tinned diced tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, zucchini, chili flakes, salt, pepper, sometimes some NinjaVegan MasterFoods bacon flavoured chips, a dash of passata, drowning a little bit of penne) and will give this one a fair airing as I tweak it to get it right - all potluckers can expect to try endless variations soon!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Magic and mystery in the kitchen, or: Honey, I baked!

Some people are cooks, and some people are bakers. If I didn't realise before, my disastrous and tantrum-inducing attempts to cook cupcakes for Christmas have only confirmed for always and ever that I am a cook and that the mysteries of whisking, sifting, beating and icing will never be revealed to me. Pass me the chili and garlic please.

When I discovered five very very ripe bananas in the fruit bowl, it took me a couple of days to get my back straight, my shoulders back and my upper lip stiff enough to face making the inevitable banana bread.

I took the Lower Fat Banana Bread from Veganomicon and made a few subs - I couldn't find applesauce in the supermarket so I used pie apple; I ran out of plain flour and used a 1/4 of a cup of self raising instead; I used three large ripe 'nanis because I just had so bloody many; and I got liberal with the sugar (and cinnamon sugar instead of ground cinnamon). I found it quick and surprisingly easy to make - all done in a bout 20 minutes, and the only ingredients I needed to buy were the nutmeg and apples. Result? Honey, I baked!

Below: after about 20 minutes in the oven at 180. It needed about 45 minutes all up.

My only change for next time would be to either double the ingredients if I were to use the same loaf pan, or to find a smaller one. This pan was too large and made for a flat shaped bread, and I have a feeling that banana bread, like hair, runs on the principle of the higher the better and the closer to God.

The banana bread came out moist, soft, light and well-formed. The nutmeg was mild but a great spicy foil to the fructose and sucrose. It was a bit more muffin-like than other banana breads I've had but I think I actually prefer it this way as it didn't sit heavily and gluggily in the stomach. Considering that the recipe calls for no soy milk, I can only lay this at the feet of the canola oil and mushy nanis.

So, am I a baker? No. I like to cook, I am intrinsically better at cooking, and I will always have nightmares about icing cupcakes. But baking is fun, and I am intrigued by the chemistry and magic of mixing and rising, of whisking and solidifying. This recipe restored some of my faith in my ability to create sweet things out of the pantry and the oven, and I think it will make repeat appearances whenever the fruit bowl shows up some mushy nanis.

Friday, January 2, 2009

I Can Has Cheezeburger? or: Grill'd, Lunchering with Lisa & the first veg-gathering of the new year

The last week or so has seen Miss T consume three vegan burgers in the city, which she considers an excellent use of her time.

The first was a return to Grill'd, now secure in the knowledge that their bread is vegan-ok (and I hasten to add that although I did receive freebie vouchers - expiry April 08 - I did in fact pay for this one myself in the name of journalistic integrity or because I hadn't remembered to bring them with me or because they hadn't arrived, or sumfink or nuffink).

I ordered the plain ol' veggie burger on panini, minus mayo and cheese, but with dill pickle. And it was good. Fresh beetroot and avocado played a starring role, and the addition of the pickle was on par with, say, deciding to plane the edges off a square, giving it a push and then making another three. I was really pleased with the Grill'd burger and left feeling like I'd had a freshly made sandwich rather than a naughty treat.

My second burgering was another Lunchering with Lisa, on the last day of the year and it was suitable in the extreme. Feeling between us a combination of hungover, tired, hungry, anticipating the upcoming requirements of NYE and a leedle bit naughty, we decided that the ever-faithful Lord of the Fries was our destination and salvation. We both ordered the standard vegan burger (despite being the Chilli Monster, I have developed bouts of hiccups from previous spicy burgers) and chips, Lisa's with gravy and mine with satay. I am devoted to the LoTF satay. De-voted. It's thick, it's creamy, it's real peanutty and it's unapologetic about how it will clog my arteries and expand my hips. But Lisa's gravy was just about as good and bad at the same time, and I think I've found an alternative condiment.

Below: satay on a cone of chips with an adorable chip-pokerer.

As always, the LoTF burgers had a pattie that has even omnis singing praises (Buzz is a fan) as it uses TVP to great, textured effect. When married with the soft, white fast-food bun, little Maccasesque pickles and general squishiness, this is a burger that screams to be eaten at 3am, lit by flourescent lighting, standing up whilst swaying under the influence. In short, it's the best kind of junk.

Below: a reasonably intact burger.

Below: mustard and sauce, cheeze'n'pickle, in the best fast food style.

Finally, or perhaps firstly, today marked my first vegan eatering gathering of 2009, with a small group meeting at the newly opened basekamp cafe in the CBD. A vegetarian cafe, basekamp is vegan friendly and is decked out with the sweetest decor around (and also the sweetest waitress, who apologised to us when we knocked over and broke a sugar dispenser!). The service by our smiley waiter was friendly and informed - no having to explain veganism - and it is a credit to such a new cafe that all of us repeatedly professed our intention to return (except for Kristy, non-CityWorker, poor thing!).

Kristy, Lidia, Pip, Dan and I all met on Little Bourke Street and actually queued outside the tiny cafe waiting for a big enough table. I was at first a little confused to see ham on the menu, given that I thought it was a vegetarian cafe, but it turns our that basekamp makes liberal use of mockmeat in its rolls, wraps and burgers.

Kristy and Pip (and Dan I think) had a Chik'n Roll on excellent panini, with the addition of pesto on the experienced suggestion of Lidia, who herself had a gourmet wrap with tuna. Dan also ordered the mayo garlic bread, which was a bit of an experimental serving with mayo, not much garlic, and an almost astringent, lemony taste. I didn'
t mind it, Kristy liked it, and Dan was not a fan.

Below: the Chik'n burger on panini with pesto.

Below: the gourmet tuna wrap with welcoming words behind.

I ordered a beef and BBQ sauce burger, which arrived smoky and encased in a crispy bun. The pattie had a stringy texture and tasted less mocky than many mock meats. The BBQ sauce well-coated the salad inside, including the charred capsicum, and the pesto on both top and bottom halves of the roll was generous and tasty.

Look at that char! Look at that sauce!

The generous double serve of pesto, and unprecedented grated carrot.

basekamp (no website available): 390 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne 3000. Ph, 9670 3569.