Monday, 27 February 2012

Please Take A Moment To Support Same-Sex Civil Unions

Civil Partnerships/Unions have become legal and have already begun to take place between happy couples in Queensland, and all is well. The sky didn't fall, like some would have you believe.

But... an election is being held soon, which the Liberal National Party of Queensland (LNP) is likely to win.

The problem is this: the former Mayor of Brisbane and current leader of the Liberal National Party of Queensland, Mr Campbell Newman, was invited to a "Meet your Candidate" forum at the Ashgrove Baptist Church, 2pm, Sunday 26 February 2012. This forum was organised with the assistance of Wendy Francis, State Director of the Australian Christian Lobby.

ABC radio has reported that Mr Campbell Newman made comments, whilst at this forum, to the effect of this:
“In relation to, of, Civil Unions/Gay Marriage: Our position is very clear – we voted against the bill the other day and we said that if we get into Government and we can - we will repeal it..."
[Recording Source:]

Please sign this petition to show our politicians that the general community broadly supports Civil Partnerships, and will not allow this important legislation to be repealed:

Unfortunately, MPs regularly tell me that they hear from lots of people who are opposed to Civil Partnerships, but they rarely hear from people who support it. Please take a moment to show your support! 
 The Australian Christian Lobby has a petition with over 100,000 signatures in opposition to Civil Unions/Partnerships. Let's show them that although we are not necessarily bound by religion like them, that there are more of us who support Civil Unions/Partnerships than not.
My goal is to get at least 200,000 signatures in support of Civil Unions. We can do this!
We will not stand for families being separated. By signing this petition, you are helping to cement the rights of loving, committed couples!

Remember: The world is run by those who show up.


Friday, 24 February 2012

A Peek Inside My Kitchen & Essential Kitchen Tools (Minimalism - I don't have it)

Oh, to have a fantastic, perfect kitchen. Well, we're allowed to dream, right? But what do you actually need to run an efficient kitchen? You'd be surprised how little you need.

Leonardi Da Vinci said it best, I think, when he said "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication". I'm a maximalist by nature (as you can probably tell from my rambly, lengthy blog posts) - but not like those people on the scary TV shows. I guess that's why I've never been accused of being sophisticated. But I do still long for minimalism (sometimes). I've also heard "it's not having what you want - it's wanting what you've got". Hmmm...

Do hang in there with me til the end of the post for this week's photos of Five for Friday - delicious vegan food!
A terrifying peek inside my kitchen...
I'm rather hesitant to reveal these photos of my kitchen, because I look like a crazy hoarder - but I really love to cook with as much variety as possible, and we have very little cupboard space. Sometimes I kinda wish we could just start again. I didn't clean before these photos were taken - for maximum authenticity and shame ;)

Overstocked shelves. Uh huh.

If I had my way, we'd have a massive kitchen with every single appliance possible. Fat slabs of marble benchtops, clean, empty surfaces, a rack hanging from the ceiling with endless pots, pans etc hanging from it, oh gosh. It would make me so happy. I'd hit my friggin head all of the time, but who would care? I'd walk in and sigh "aaaaah", at the beauty of it all.
But.. what we actually have right now is tiny. Miniscule, and rather poorly designed. Even the cat navigates the counter-top terrain with caution, leaping and sliding like a dragon. She usually ends up deciding to watch haughtily from atop the refrigerator.
Unimpressed cat, atop the refrigerator

The benches aren't wide enough to be useful at all, so I do my cooking on a tiny square island shelf in the middle of the kitchen that fits my chopping board with maybe an inch of space to the top and right.

My little kitchen island workspace
We don't even have a dishwasher! Well, we do.. it's The Academic!

Appliances. I'm an appliance-junkie. Love 'em. Hardly ever use 'em, other than the blenders. Dislike the fact that appliances take up so much room. But - they can make cooking so much more fun, and make things so much easier/possible. I'd like one of every single appliance, please. In the end, however, we don't have many (this post makes me question this statement, however!!), and we have a few that aren't stored in the kitchen. So we have an appliance-table, with the food processor, blender, hand/stick-blender, kettle, pressure-cooker/slow cooker combination on it. It's a bit like a fun-circuit, except I never seem to be able to use every single one in one evening (and I don't think The Academic Dishwasher would appreciate it).

Our appliance table - pressure cooker, kettle, food processor, potato ricer, blender, coffee grinder, and stick/immersion blender.
I do love my pressure cooker - it cooks legumes in around 10 minutes, which is amazingly helpful for someone as disorganised as me. But...The dehydrator (unopened, hidden underneath a writing desk), the bread-maker (un-used, still in the boot of the car, shamefully!) and the ice-cream maker (unopened, hidden in the sun-room area - I can't lie) got me thinking. What do we actually *need* to cook?

My friend Jacqui of Everyday Cook recently stayed in France for a significant portion of time with very little, and loved it.  And then I got to thinking about items that made a huge difference in my kitchen - the funnel (as The Academic wrote about here, amongst other things, in his post on simple tools that make a difference), and a good quality chopping board. All simple things. But I'm not a minimalist.

The list below are the minimum items that I feel are necessary for me to function best as a cook and to manage the kitchen. So if you're just starting out, starting again, or looking into new purchases - this may be of use. I'd really be interested to hear what you guys consider essentials. I mean - a funnel! A good quality heavy chopping board! A good knife! These items transformed my cooking and made being in the kitchen so much easier.

When starting out, it's important to buy the best quality that you can afford at that time. But I go for upper-middle of the range, and I recommend choosing things that *work for you*. Even hand-me-downs are a great start. My Kitchenaid blender works pretty darn well (despite it not being a Vitamix), and I love my cheap but perfectly-shaped/textured spatulas from K-mart. But for knives, I'm with Shun all the way.

I also add, than in most cases - I believe in erring on the side of bigger and heavier - this often indicates better quality... So, with that caveat...

My Essential Minimalist Kitchen Tools List!
  • A couple of heavy saucepans/pots (big AND small)
  • Depending on your needs - a big wok, and/or a big frypan
  • Blender
  • A shiny, shiny light silver muffin/cupcake pan (darker pans seem to result in chewier baked goods)
  • A big, solid knife that fits in your hand well
  • A solid, heavy, wooden chopping board
  • A couple of spatulas (one for savoury dishes, one for sweet)
  • A couple of wooden spoons (as above)
  • Pyrex microwave-safe measuring jugs for mixing/heating chocolate/blending/storing (I use all three sizes very often)
  • Measuring cups and spoons (essential for top-quality baking)
  • A really big cookie sheet (I cook pretty much everything I can on this)
  • One big casserole dish
  • Mixing bowl with a rubber bottom (this rubber bottom prevents slipping, which makes life easier)
  • A *really* good oven mitt (burning oneself will ruin anyone's good mood)
  • A funnel (makes pouring things and storing things so so so so so much easier).
  • A fine-mesh strainer - for sifting, draining and rinsing.
  • A whisk! 
I could really, probably very easily live with just these items.

So... tell me - have I left anything out? Are there any other things that should be considered a kitchen essential? 

Five for Friday - Delicious Vegan Eats:

From The Academic: My Valentines Day Truffles from Sjaak's Organic Chocolates
Hungarian-style "Tocsni" (potato pancake), from the West End Markets
Clockwise from front - "Ten Wonders" (a variation based on the traditional Korean Bibimbap), Summer Rolls (vietnamese rice paper rolls), Garlic Butter Cutlet and Cream Cheese Wontons from Loving Hut, Mt Gravatt)
BBQ Combination Platter from "Su Life", Mt Gravatt (my post on this great restaurant here). Clockwise from front left - spring rolls, gluten cutlets, deep fried-purple sweet potato and chewy lemongrass skewers
One of my favourite comfort foods - Cheesy Mac from Vegan Diner by Julie Hasson, with some added hotdogs (do not judge me) and some added guilt-spinach.

 Take care, and have a great weekend, all!

Friday, 17 February 2012

A Delicious Evening for Two (Or One! Menu, Recipes, and order of service - and there's pie! and wine!)

Dinner at home. As romantic, (or not), as you like it.
I would love to have a big house. Not anything ostentatious, just something family-sized, so our belongings wouldn't be squished in. Oh, how I long for space in our home. And the ability to have rooms, where things can be centrepieces. And room for visitors! And guests! A big comfy chair! And group dinners. Truth be told, if the evening didn't wrap up when I wanted it to, I'd probably start flicking the lights on and off as a hint, or just make my goodbyes and leave the house, myself, and curl up in the car until everyone leaves. Who says I've got social skills?!

So, I'm not exactly an expert in dinner parties - but dinner for two... that I can do!

As promised yesterday, I wanted to share some damn fine recipes with you -
something that are a *pleasure* to go home to - a snap to prepare after a long day at the office, and ever-so-pleasing to eat. A menu that still leaves you feeling light, and keeps the clean-up minimal.

This week's Five for Friday: A simple evening in food, for two, organised in the order to prepare it in! ;). Five recipes and products to create a memorable dinner for two!

You'll note it doesn't look simple - actually, I've made this look epic - but it really is simple. I'm just not good at being brief. Actually, I'm incredibly incapable of it. I rave like a writing desk!

All recipes/details are included in each section.

Not tonight.. obviously. But you get the drift.

What you'll be having:
To Drink: A glass/a bottle of wine. We drank Gemtree Uncut Shiraz 2010, a wonderful, deep wine with plummy overtones, with compliments of the lovely wine expert, @peterpanwine, of Mezzanine Wine.
Contact me if you require recommendations. Avoid wine that contains isinglass, egg, dairy, or other animal products.
Your Main Dish: A rich, lip-smacking, tasty and nutritious raw marinara sauce, with light noodles, or pasta of your choice.
Your Dessert: Chocolate, peanut butter and banana pie, with optional whipped "healthy top".

How to do it...
The first thing you'll be wanting to do, since the sauce and pasta come together so easily, is to prepare the pie. If you're using "healthy top", or some other whipped topping, make sure it has been in the refrigerator/freezer for the recommended amount of time. Also place a small metal mixing bowl and your metal beaters in there too.

1. Your Dessert:

This is a new recipe from Dreena Burton, from her soon-to-be-released and much anticipated new cookbook - “Let Them Eat Vegan!”! Translated, the three stunners in our company on this occasion are chocolate, peanut butter and banana. This is a hit! What’s not to love? Depending on the chocolate chips/crust you use, this pie is free of: sugar, wheat, and oils, in addition to being vegan.  It sacrifices nothing - this pie is so creamy and rich - it is a perfect close to an evening. The filling is fast, nutritious, and is simply whizzed in the food-processor, poured into a crust, and baked for 20 minutes.
How amazing is this pie?! And look at that topping! Aaaah!

Should you get out your rolling pin, spread flour all of the kitchen and slowly cut some form of shortening/hydrogenated fat/frozen olive oil into a pie-crust that is time-consuming to make? Well… Not if you don’t want to or don’t have time.
I don’t have room in my tiny little kitchen to roll out pie crusts. My benches are as wide as a particularly-slim, uncuddly cat. So I’ve suffered with unpleasant pre-bought pastry sheets for too long when making pies, or I’ve avoided them completely… But no more!
Here is a fantastic, easy pie crust that can be put together in under 5 minutes, with ingredients everyone has in their pantry - it can even be mixed together in the pie dish! No messy shortening, kneading, rolling, flouring, cutting-in, at all. Just mix together dry ingredients, mix together wet ingredients (in a separate vessel), combine and form in the pie dish, and it’s ready to be filled and baked! And it actually tastes good! Brilliant! Fill it with your pie filling, and pop the lot in the oven for 20 minutes.

Then rinse out the food processor, and prepare your sauce:

2. Your Main Meal:

I love a rich, tomato sauce that has spent hours on the stove, bubbling away just as much as anyone who loves Italian food. Yum. For the best cooked italian food - I'm pointing you in the direction of Bryanna Clark Grogan's incredibly detailed and authentic "Nonna's Italian Kitchen".

But what about a raw marinara sauce? How a raw tomato sauce can taste so rich, so long-simmered, so umami and bursting with flavour, I’ll never know. I could eat this sauce with anything! And it’s so easy to prepare in the food processor. Of utmost importance, for the best sauce possible, are the freshest ingredients you can source: juicy, ripe, deep-red fresh tomatoes. Fresh basil (and fresh oregano, if you have it), and a great quality olive oil are the keys to this awe-inspiring, rich sauce. This could be placebo-effect snobbery, but a sprinkle of pink salt also makes the flavour pop.

Before you prepare the noodles or pasta (your choice, but I'm having konjac noodles tonight), take your pie out of the oven to begin cooling.

Set the table, and avoid the hazards of patting the cute sleepy cat on the way (you'll need your hands to remain intact and attached to your body - to hold a wine glass later)
Sleepy-cat has no interest in your evening.

Yawning, but might as well be roaring.

Prepare your noodles, as required.

When you’re having a particularly decadent evening, and you want to splurge on delicious entrees, desserts, maybe some wine, plus a pasta sauce with mains – Slimpasta can come to the rescue. They make a konjac-based, gluten-free "shirataki" noodle, designed to be used in the place of pasta or noodles. Slimpasta is low in calories and carbohydrates, but high in fibre, and it’s nothing like zucchini noodles – which don’t appeal to me at all. Now – it’s not really anything like pasta. It’s more like a nice salad noodle. But when you have a fantastic sauce, and want to save your calories for elsewhere – it’s a pretty good option. But be sure to follow the instructions on the packet – rinse very carefully, and leave in boiling water for the recommended time, to ensure the cleanest taste.

While you are doing this, swig some wine, and transfer your pie to the refrigerator or freezer for further cooling, so it'll be ready to eat before you're asleep! 
Now, before you sit down to your meal, prepare your pie's whipped creamy topping. Use your favourite recipe or product - I'll be using "healthy top". 

3: To Assemble Dessert:

Vegan whipped cream/topping. What a palaver. Those coconut milk tins never separate for me in the fridge, and I can’t scoop out enough of just the fat.

I have an aversion to using agar-agar, whipping, blending, simmering then cooling, etc just to make a whipped cream topping. I don’t find that cashew or tofu creams whip up enough – and for whipped topping, I think they often taste too much of their origins. Not just a clean taste of creamy, rich, sweet fat, which is what I want. I also find that in something so delicate, tofu and cashew creams still have too much of a noticeable flavour. But then again, I love chocolate mousse made on cashews and tofu, so maybe it's just a personal preference.
For so long I have used Soyatoo Spray Whipped Cream, which is generally fine. However, it still does taste a bit of soy (which isn't always pleasant), and I only ever seem to be able to use half a can before the gas runs out - leaving half the can full of cream which I can't access! So very frustrating, and a rather costly waste.

However, The Green Edge has recently imported (for the first time in Australia, I believe), a brand called "MimicCreme" - who make a delicious whipped creamy topping called "healthy-top". It's also soy-free, gluten-free and vegan. It’s really good! It is not a perfect replication of dairy whipped cream in taste, but it doesn’t need to be. It's delightful. It whips right up into peaks, it's fatty, creamy, rich and so very moreish.
MimicCreme also make other creams - for use straight from the carton – an unsweetened cream (for savoury uses), a sweetened cream (for sweet uses), and a sugar-free cream (a low-calorie, sugar-free sweetened cream). I can’t wait to give these other creams a try. All of these are stocked at The Green Edge (where The Academic works!), for the first time in Australia, I believe.

So whippy! So creamy! Goooooood.

So now... whip your "Healthy top" (or other) for three minutes with your pre-chilled bowl and mixers, and place it in the fridge to decorate the pie with after dinner.

Now... coat your pasta or noodles with your delicious sauce, add a sprinkling of your favourite fresh herbs, and possibly some vegan parmesan topping, and enjoy your dinner! 

When your pie is cooled, add your whipped creamy topping, sprinkle with the cocoa and peanuts (I like salted, for a nice contrast), and serve.


Spend some quality time together - no matter who you are with, without distractions. Dim the lights. Turn your phone off/take it off the hook. Turn the TV off.  Savour your food, notice the tastes. And really listen to your dining companion while you drink the wine. You'll notice the things you adore about the person you're dining with, and you'll grow closer together in this moment.

Enjoy your evening...

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Happiness & Gratitude (Upcoming stunning recipes; And the mood of Cats...)


So... Valentines Day has left me feeling a little "moony" and warm.
I had such a happy morning, so content and ecstatic, for no reason at all, other than I was able to enjoy what is my life. I just wanted to share my gratitude, and quickly touch base... 
This morning I woke up, and I just realised how happy I am… I looked back into the bedroom to the adorably snuggle-sleeping Academic, I looked around the house at the beautiful things we are surrounded by, and how lovely the house looks when it’s tidy. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a piece of art that I’d had hidden away in cardboard, which the Academic had framed for me as a surprise on Valentines Day.  It was painted by one of my favourite (and most criminally under-rated) musicians/songwriters, Juliana Hatfield. She's also on Twitter, and she's a must-follow. Absolutely hilarious at times and fiercely intelligent.

What I want you to see: A typical day at home. Smiling Academic, aloof Sylvia.
An actual day at home: Sylvia may look like she is only trying to escape from pats, but it's much more likely that she's actually trying to smash the painting, and everything else I love. Give her 5 seconds, and the whole table arrangement could be on the floor. And she would happily skid through the debris.
Gosh, the painting looks great! I kept fretting about the high cost and inconvenience of having it framed, and The Academic just went and did it as a surprise, without my knowledge. Beautiful, meaningful things don't have to be expensive, but what a difference they can make, in any form. Too much stuff is stressful, but too little can be hard, too. I've definitely been in both situations in my life!

I had a shower, and was so grateful that I can afford to use natural products that my body loves - strong, mood-boosting scents from essential-oils and herbs. That we have fresh, hot, running water. The cracks in the ceiling paint don't matter.

The Academic wandered out of bed, sleepy-smiley, and gave me a hug. Almost in sync, Sylvia jumped out from her “discomfort-cat” spot, which is squished beside the fridge, on top of a pile of those environmentally-friendly reusable bags, and ran towards me, but away from me when I tried to pat her (of course).  She must have settled in there after coming into our bedroom at 4am this morning and howling us awake, for no reason at all. She loves to do that. She'd make a great ninja if it weren't for the fact that she needs to telegraph her sudden movements. When she's about to run, she'll make an "oourrerrerrr" noise. She only wants to snuggle when you're about to leave. If you want a cuddle, she doesn't. If she submits to pats, eventually she'll turn on you and grab you close with both of her arms, whilst kicking you as hard as she can with her back legs.  She’s the ultimate “look, but don’t touch” cat. But then sometimes, she'll sit in your lap, and she'll close her second layer of eyelids, and look back at you, radiating love, content and happiness. And everything in that moment is alright. I love her, regardless of her mood.

A rare, "cuddle-cat" moment - on a friend's lap, not mine, of course
  We may not be conventional, but The Academic, Sylvia, and I make a beautiful little healthy, happy family that brings me so much happiness and joy. I love them, with all of my heart. They bring me so much happiness and peace, and we all grow and take care of each other. Some day, when we're comfortable, stable in our jobs, and own our own home - I hope this family will grow in size.

The shocking thing in all this happiness, however, was: even the sight of last night’s dishes in the kitchen made me happy. Do you know why? We had a delicious dinner and dessert, and the memory was still fresh (as were two pieces of pie still sitting in the fridge, begging me to eat them - but I didn't)...

Awwwwww....Can you see a bit of the scary/happy extra eyelid?
Neither of us were very hungry, having eaten delicious savoury pies too-soon before dinner last night, so we decided to keep dinner light. A light meal is most conducive to romance also, is it not?
The Academic loves raw foods, but I have this stubborn in-built resistance to them, which I shouldn’t – because properly prepared with good guidance (like anything), even simple raw food cuisine can be delicious. And simple is really the best you can hope for at home!

We had a fantastic raw marinara sauce, with low calorie, high fibre konjac noodles (doesn't sound so appealing, does it? I think of them more like salad noodles), followed by dessert: a delicious triple-treat banana, chocolate and peanut butter pie, topped with new-found whipped creamy goodness and salted peanuts. 

During all of this, we enjoyed a delicious vegan wine that a Twitter friend - hello @peterpanwine! - had sourced for me, recommended and gifted me with, which was a lovely (and unexpected) surprise in my mailbox yesterday.  It's Gemtree Uncut Shiraz, 2010. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Fabulous wine... Thank you, Mr Pan!
Our menu, the recipes and additional components from what formed our delicious dinner and dessert last night will follow tomorrow, in my Five for Friday post! Fresh, tasty raw marinara sauce, and the pie - and my recommendations for all the fixings!

Until then, I'm going to enjoy the fact that I have a stable, comfortable job; that I'm healthy, able-bodied and lucky enough to walk to work via a green, leafy path; that I have a beautiful family, wonderful friends, music I love that challenges me, makes me think and feel; and I will remember of all the aforementioned things that I love..

Thanks for sticking with me for this soppy, off-topic post. We may make you want to throw up in your mouth a little, but maybe it'll break through some of your cynicism ;). Love is the crown of life!

Stay tuned for those fantastic recipes and tips tomorrow!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Five for Friday (on fine-dining disappointment/tips & bliss; and Five photos of vegan food that really was awesome)

Wednesday, we had the pleasure of attending a dinner with some fabulous food-writers, food-bloggers, and food-lovers at a highly anticipated and much-lauded, fairly new restaurant. Our company was highly entertaining, multi-skilled and ever-vivacious, including Jacqui from Everydaycook, Morag from Miss Morag's Morsels, Karen Reyment (author of the "2012 Foodies' Guide to Brisbane", Sally Lynch (of Taste Trekkers), Fleur Cole and Therese Piper. We had a lovely evening. Next time, I'll be drinking too, ladies!

The restaurant is one which I would class as "fine-dining", and I realise that these kind of establishments generally don't provide a breadth of vegan food. But I was grateful that they were prepared to be accommodating. When discussing ideas with them, I mentioned that we like our food filling and hearty, we're not health-food types (so don't feel constrained!), and with their blessing, I provided them with some of my favourite food blogs, including recipes, and waited.

The best fine dining I've had
One very notable exception to the above, terribly uninformed generalisation about food in fine-dining restaurants would be Urbane Restaurant, who provided me with some of the best food I've had in my life - a completely vegan multi-course degustation, where the food was absolutely superb, both in taste and presentation. Molecular gastronomy techniques were used successfully to add layers of deliciousness, and the whole experience was jaw-dropping. We're talking worlds within worlds, here. Every morsel of every individual component carried the taste of an entire, completed, stunning dish. 

Don't get me wrong - we get really good food often in restaurants, but the best food I've had in Brisbane has been from small, cheap, ethnic restaurants.

Back to the restaurant at hand, now
Without wanting to offend the obviously hard-working chefs and staff at this very interesting and wonderfully refreshingly decorated restaurant, I'd like to say that the food we were given at our dinner here was, well, nice. Pleasantly fresh and light, but not hearty, filling or something I would choose to make or eat on most occasions.  The presentation was very pleasing to the eye - we were served a salad for first course, a rather elegant risotto for second course, a third salad to share when we were offered more food (which, almost unforgivably, was extremely similar to the first salad, with the addition of hazelnuts), and a mix of fruit and sorbet for dessert. We were still rather hungry at the end of dinner.

Beetroot & fig salad

Pea risotto

Needless to say, I was rather embarrassed - being in the company of people who know and love good food,  I realised we had been fed the sort of food that Omnivores think that vegans eat. It was wonderfully presented, and was appealing in taste, but it's not food that you can live on. Salads are fine, but they're not something I wish to be served at a restaurant. But kudos to the excellent sommelier who researched very carefully and made phone calls to ascertain which wines were vegan - and gave us some fantastic tasting wines, in addition to providing ingredient assistance.

My tip to restaurants serving patients with special dietary needs:
It's simple. If you're happy to accommodate, that is:
Feed your patrons food that you would relish eating yourself - food that would satisfy you in the best sense of the word.

Upon talking to the ladies we dined with - it became clear to me that most omnivores just don't really realise what is capable within the world of vegan food - and they really don't have any need to. But I think they want to ;).

Five for Friday
So instead of boring you daily with what we eat, I propose that each Friday I do a post entitled Five for Friday. The purpose of these posts will to be to showcase five photographs (you know me - amateur, low quality photographs, of course!) of vegan food that we have eaten that we truly relished even mouthful of. It doesn't have to be fancy, in fact, it can be really homely. Or the food shown could be a show-stopper. But I love my trailer-park specials as much as anyone else.  My only goal is to showcase the variety and depth of vegan food. Please note: I err on the side of fried and naughty, rather than fresh. It seems that fresh, green, vegetable-based vegan food is a given, in people's minds!

So here goes - our first Five for Friday:

Home-made Clafoutis, from The Urban Vegan's first cookbook, The Urban Vegan

Dagwood dogs from Ykillamoocow at the West End Markets

From front left, clockwise- spring rolls; curry puffs & a broccoli dumpling; marinated fried eggplant; and radish cake. All from yum cha/dim sum at Easy House Vegetarian Restaurant at Mermaid Waters.

Chocolate sundae from The Green Edge, including chocolate cookies, marshmallows, chocolate chips, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, Jokerz chocolate bar and Cocoluscious.

Home-made roasted vegetable pizza, with garlic mayonaise (an odd combination, I know!).

Can I ask if this interests our readers? Or is there nothing more boring than other people's food that you can't taste (or am I projecting my own feelings, here ;) ?)
So there you go. Enjoy the weekend, and the fabulous food that you eat! Drink some wine, spend time with those that you love - enjoy your life!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

On Vegetarian Restaurants: And Huo Fo reopens as Su Life! (bringing you spicy, crispy, and deep fried goods)

Vegetarian Restaurants: Don't get me started.

Why is it that, with a few exceptions in Brisbane (Loving Hut, and The Green Edge), non-vegan restaurants serve us much better food than any of their vegetarian restaurant counterparts? Is this the same everywhere? WHY?!

Well, I could go on and on about the level of nobility required to open a vegetarian restaurant for the sole purpose that you want to promote vegetarianism, and provide an option - but we all know that's only going to last so long. As The Academic says, People need to open restaurants because they have a passion for food, and THEY CAN ACTUALLY COOK! What an epiphany, to some. Still, I appreciate anyone who has the chutzpah to open a restaurant in this current economic climate, let alone a vegetarian one (have you noticed that people love vegetarian food, but only when it's not termed as such? Go figure).

Long ago, Brisbane had a restaurant called Huo Fo. Damn, it was good. I can't tell you how delicious the food was. And slowly, sadly, they made renovations to the charmingly offbeat outside dining area, changing it from the outdoor, perma-Christmas-decorated, woodsy BBQ style venue it was, to a homogenised venue of big fluoro lights, fans, and a white roof canopy, as the prices crept up, and the patrons stopped coming. Next thing we knew - they had closed, promising to re-open sometime soon. World travels fast in the veg*n world, and, a year or so from the time of original closing, sure enough - I heard there was a new vegetarian restaurant on the Southside, called "Su Life". And the rumours flying around were that it was the restaurant formerly known as Huo Fo!

We ventured in, and I recognised the staff immediately - or should I say they recognised me! Even the sweet owner - who doesn't seem to speak a lot of English, but always makes an effort to greet and welcome us. She is so friendly, and charming - I suppose restaurauteurs have a gift for the gab.

Anyway, Su Life and Loving Hut are the best vegetarian/vegan restaurants in Brisbane, depending on what you feel like, despite their lack of... decor.. If it's Cafe-style food you're after, check out The Green Edge (note: Burgers are available Wednesday, through to Sunday. Needing to visit on Monday? Have a pie and a chocolate sundae instead). Su Life has much more of an austere feel in decor, compared to Loving Hut's clinical sunniness - it is almost a hole-in-a-wall, but we all know that the best food is often at the places you least suspect! And the prices are very reasonable.

The important side of the menu...
What to eat, at a bare minimum
Golden Pancake I think this is a variation on the traditional "cong you bing". I can't describe how delicious this is. Layers of flaky, rich, savoury pastry - sprinkled with the perfect mix of asian spices, and some homemade mayonnaise.

Spicy Crispy Chicken The ultimate in food. The best item on the menu. Arguably the best vegan main meal in Brisbane. I've *never* had someone say they didn't really like, or love this dish. Never. No matter what their individual tastes. This is the all-purpose all-love-meal. Imagine: delicious, perfect little chunky-thin nuggets of chicken-style protein, chewy and fatty, quick-fried, covered in salt, and smothered in a spicy, sweet, umami sauce. With cashews, chillies, celery, sesame seeds and capsicum. I can't tell you how good this dish is. Everyone needs to try it once in their lives.
Bonus yummy eats
Deep-fried squid Pretty self-explanatory, really. Great texture, great seasoning.

Radish cake (on the far right) Termed something else on the menu. Creamy, smooth, comforting, like multi-flavoured, thicker, fried mashed potato.

Eggplant and oyster sauce I'm always hesitant to order eggplant dishes - despite my love of eggplant, as a general rule, they'll be swimming in oil. This wasn't - the garlic, the ginger, and the basic flavours were clean, left clear and able to sing. The Asian greens and coriander contrasted beautifully with the tangy flavours, and the eggplant was cooked to perfection - melt in your mouth, but crisp on the outside.

Su Life is located at Shop 4/2120 Logan Road, Upper Mount Gravatt, on the left hand side of the Palmdale Shopping Centre (opposite Garden City Shopping Centre). It is open every day except for Monday, for dinner, and my understanding is that it is open 11:00-2:30pm for lunch, again, except Monday. Do call and confirm first. And I've been advised that their phone number is (07) 3349 5995. Take me with you when you go. Hot tip: Don't order the combo meals that come with rice. Stick to the entrees and chef's specials. Finally, another fantastic vegetarian restaurant in Brisbane! Welcome back, Su Life!

By the way, if you're the creative type - my friend Arly tried the spicy crispy chicken mentioned above, and was so impressed with it that she immediately went home and set about recreating a home-cooked version of this dish.... So if you'd like to attempt to make this deliciousness yourself with tofu, you can! View her recipe by clicking here.

Arly's Spicy Crispy Tofu! Su Life Vegetarian Restaurant on Urbanspoon