Oh She Glows’ ‘Tomato Walnut Basil Pasta’

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It’s been a busy few weeks leading up to submissions for this semester of uni, and there are still a couple more to go. With the mounting stress, decreasing sleep and looming cold and flu season, I figured it was about time to look after my health a bit better. Starting with a hot cup of rose hip tea followed by a hearty meal.

With ‘health’ on my mind, I recalled a blog I once saw called Oh She Glows. Pretty healthy and inspiring things happening over there. It didn’t take long to find a recipe that appealed to my cravings: Tomato Walnut Basil Pasta. Yes, pasta. But it’s not your standard nutrient-lacking pasta sauce. While you’ve got the standard tomato, garlic (great for warding off those colds) and fresh basil combination, there’s also nutritional yeast, spinach and walnuts! It’s got to be the healthiest pasta recipe I’ve ever seen.

It’s easy enough to make, although with all those amazing ingredients it does end up on the expensive side. I’m also not sure how Angela manages to keep her version so red. Once I added the nutritional yeast to mine, the best I could manage was a vibrant orange. However, it is tasty, comforting and guilt-free. At least, more guilt-free than mi goreng or frozen dumplings, which are currently my unhealthy stand-bys for when I don’t feel like cooking. Next time I might whip out the food processor to really speed things up.

Vegenista’s ‘Orecchiette with Cabbage, Peas & Lemon Cashew Cream Sauce’

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Dinner tonight was courtesy of Vegenista‘s ‘pasta salad’ recipe, which you can find online here. I had to make a few substitutes due to availability (shell pasta for orecchiette, spring onions for scallions, soaked nuts for not-soaked nuts) but overall I was very pleased with the result. Basically, I’ll make it again. Tomorrow night.

I made roughly a quarter–half of the recipe, which was plenty enough to feed three people. One thing I’ll do differently tomorrow is serve it with some sort of leafy green side salad as it’s quite a heavy meal, despite all that healthy cabbage. I might even go searching for some tempeh bacon if I’m feeling inspired. Yum.

Lucky Coq

The ‘Organico’, without soy cheese.

Lucky Coq in Prahran (possibly the most difficult suburb in Melbourne to spell) is famous for pizza. Four dollar pizzas that is. I decided to spell out the price just in case you thought you were having trouble with your eyesight. Lucky Coq are open every day of the week and you can get pizzas until 2:30am* every night. They’re pretty chilled during the day but they get busy at night, so take the old ‘first in, first served’ sentiment seriously; otherwise you’ll be struggling to find a spare couch, especially with large groups. If I had to label the crowd I’d be leaning towards ‘hipsters’, but they really do get a mix of everything.

Their pizza list is decent, and the vegetarian category rivals the meat-eaters’. Some combinations will turn out quite bland without cheese, so make sure you check off the non-cheese ingredients in your head to ensure you get a decent feed.

My favourite is the Organico (pictured above), but do be aware that the soy cheese is NOT vegan. Sigh.

Lucky Coq has a sister establishment on the ‘northside’, called Bimbos, which also feeds the Fitzroy crowd for a bargain price.

* The $4 reduced price is only available at certain times: 11:30am–4pm, 7–11pm weekdays (7-9pm Fridays); 7-9pm Saturdays; and until 11pm Sundays. Bimbo’s has different times, see the website.

Prices accurate at time of post.

Lucky Coq on Urbanspoon

Vegan Freaks

I can’t remember exactly how I stumbled upon Bob and Jenna. It was during the early days of my veganism, and I wouldn’t put it past me to have typed something like ‘I have no vegan friends’ into Google. Somehow I landed myself on iTunes, listening to these two people on a podcast. I feel in love. I was 19 with no vegans in my life, and overnight I found two fanatical, sarcastic best friends who whined about the omnivores and how stupid some people could be (especially PETA). They also had an amazingly angsty theme song, not to mention their insane sound board featuring George Bush quotes—including an invitation to pet the turkey—and Oprah, welcoming the hommus to the table. Scouts’ honour.

Unfortunately they’ve since gone MIA so the podcasts have stopped and the website has timed out, taking the old recordings with it. But, fear not! Someone over on Youtube has uploaded 20-something of the most recent episodes, which you can find here.

Vegan Freak: Being a Vegan in a Non-Vegan World is a practical survival guide for veganism, written by Bob and Jenna Torres, published by Tofu Hound Press (best publisher name ever?). If I recall correctly, they wrote it because they were sick of answering the same questions over and over. Which is just naturally what you do.

The book includes: a how-to on becoming vegan; smart ways to deal with reactions from family and friends; it explains what is and is not vegan; and more importantly, why you should be vegan. Bob and Jenna have done their research (Bob has even written a second book about the political economy of animal rights, Making a Killing). Vegan Freak recommends some further reading and every chapter has a list of references you can follow up if you feel that way inclined.

The book is written in a casual tone—occasional language warning by the way—which means you feel less like you’re being lectured at and more like they’re just giving it to you straight. The authors are Americans living in America but they take a very global position towards veganism, and I felt I could apply most of the book to my day to day Australian life.

Looking back now, there’s so much content both in the book and the podcasts that’s relevant, even after three years. And if nothing else, it reminds me why I made this decision in the first place and it keeps me passionate.

You can check out Vegan Freak over on The Book Depository: grab a sneak peak and buy a copy for around AU$13 here.

★★★

Blue Train Café

One of the first restaurants I went to after becoming vegan was the Blue Train Cafe in Southgate. They have a great mix of food so it was the perfect place to drag along my brother and father, who would have had fits at a vegetarian restaurant. It’s described as the ‘people’s cafe’ and I’m fairly certain you either need tattoos, piercings or an artistic hairstyle to be hired. But don’t worry, the staff are just as friendly as anywhere else.

Blue Train has retro outside seating, which is gorgeous for summer-time meals.

Although they don’t advertise for vegans, there are a reasonable number of dishes on the menu marked with a (V) for vegetarian. Some are suitable or can be modified for vegans. The following are dishes I’ve ordered in the past, and although I’ve asked waiters numerous times about being vegan, make sure you do too, just incase the people I’ve been talking to haven’t understood the ‘no meat, no cheese, no butter… etc’ spiel.

  1. > Pizza #5 with roast pumpkin, marinated fetta, caramelized leek, mozzarella, pine nuts and fresh wild roquette (V) $17.90 (Make sure you request NO cheese!)
  2. > Vietnamese style vegetarian spring rolls w wrapping lettuce, mint, coriander and dipping sauce (V) $12.90 (The dipping sauce comes on the side but I’m fairly sure it contains fish sauce, so either check or leave it in the kitchen.)
  3. > Golden dahl with coriander, hot stone bread & tomato, red onion and coriander salsa (V) $10.90
  4. > Roti bread served with peanut dipping sauce (V) $7.50
  5. > Moroccan spiced pumpkin with roasted capsicum, sesame chick peas & mixed leaves with honey yoghurt dressing (V) (G) $16.90 (Obviously avoid the dressing, ask if you can switch it out for the lemon vinaigrette if you like.)

My favourite dish so far is the Moroccan pumpkin salad. I believe I might have actually drooled when they brought it out, it looked and tasted divine. The portion sizes are filling, but if you find you’re after a little bit more, you can order a side of garden salad or steamed vegetables (watch out for dressing and butter!).

Salad: Moroccan spiced pumpkin with roasted capsicum, sesame chickpeas & mixed leaves with lemon vinaigrette

It’s not the easiest place to find—in fact, I don’t even remember how I discovered it in the first place. It’s address is given as:

MR5 Mid Level
Southgate Landing
Southbank VIC 3205

Map from the Southgate Melbourne website.

Directions: Cross the Southgate Pedestrian Bridge over the Yarra (away from Flinders Street Station), which has Ponyfish Island underneath, and take the entrance to the left. Walk down the hallway past kikki.k and there are escalators to the right of PJ O’Brien’s Irish Pub. Blue Train is upstairs, just a few large strides away from Chill On Ice Lounge.

Prices accurate at time of post.

Blue Train Café on Urbanspoon

Vegan YumYum by Lauren Ulm

Cover of Vegan YumYum

As veganism gradually spreads its roots, naturally the number of recipe books published on the subject is going to increase. I’ve been vegan for nearly two years now and have made myself quite a collection. The first thing you’ll notice about most vegan cook books is their distinct lack of photography. Initially I began by adapting my meals from vegetarian collections as there is nothing less inspiring than a recipe without a snap shot to accompany it. Gradually I shifted to vegan recipe books as the occasional image popped out at me as I sat on the floor in Dymocks, scanning the bottom shelf in ‘Cooking’. When I stumbled across Vegan YumYum by Lauren Ulm, I didn’t need to think twice about buying it.

As with any type of cuisine, there are good recipes and oh so very bad ones. I’ve made the majority of recipes in this book, and while some require tweaking to suit my tastes, I haven’t come across one that I wouldn’t make again.

Lauren Ulm is the blogger behind the Vegan YumYum website, where the book got its start. She transfers her friendly, informal blog writing style to the page which means you don’t feel like you’re sitting an exam, trying to pull together some culinary masterpiece. She sets up each recipe with ingredient lists, broken into the various components of the meal, and provides step by step photographs for any tricky manoeuvres. What’s more, the woman can take a photo. She has an understanding of light, composition and presentation, so not only is the book jam packed with colour photos, they’re really nice photos. Grab a sneak peak inside the book here at Amazon to see for yourself, or take a gander at the photos featured below.

The book is ‘American’, so some of the ingredients aren’t always that easy to find here in Melbourne. It took me ages to track down Nutritional Yeast, but now, thanks to The Radical Grocery, it’ll last me and very, very, very long time. I’ve also not had much success in locating seitan or kale, although, I believe I might have seen a bunch of kale at the Queen Vic Market. Regardless, it’s easy to subsitute spinach. I haven’t made any of the seitan recipes yet, but I imagine it would be relatively easy to switch it with firm tofu. Having the book based on the experiences of living in another country is not all cons. Before Vegan YumYum I had never heard of Snickerdoodles, which are a type of sugar cookie. If you pull them out of the oven just before the timer hits 10 minutes, you’ll find yourself with most heavenly, gooey, cinnamon coated treat. They’re also a very allergy/diet friendly dessert that’s not only vegan (egg-free, lactose-free), but soy-free and easily made gluten-free. And what’s more, her Snickerdoodles started off as a blog post so you can grab the recipe online and starting making them right now, as a sort of trailer for the book.

Snickerdoodles

Another sweet tooth related find is the Clotted Cream recipe that accomapanies her Lemon Maple Scones. It’s a great cream imitation and has been given the thumbs up from non-vegan friends. It’s made from margarine, icing suger and Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese, which you should be able to find mixed in with the real cream cheese at most Coles and Woolworths supermarkets. It has an amazing shelf life so don’t let your local get away with not stocking it! I’ve tried making cheese cakes with Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese but it loses its form once you begin mixing. It does however work well for Ulm’s clotted cream recipe as the margarine helps it keep a spread like thickness.

Lemon Maple Scones with Vegan Clotted Cream

Vegan YumYum isn’t all sweets as you might be beginning to assume (although it does them well). It is an invaluable resource for hearty vegan meals. One of the brilliant things about Ulm’s book is she seems very conscious about sources of proteins. Almost all her recipes contain either tofu, legumes, seitan or nuts and because they’ve been created by an everyday vegan, they’re often very easy to throw together (even more so for me as I tend to mix by hand and only roughly chop/grind). One of my favourite recipes is her Aloo Matar, a very mild flavoursome curry dish that copes well with a handful of chickpeas for extra nutrition. My week to week dinner plans have come to consist mainly of Ulm’s creative and varied dishes, and the best thing is that I know there’s still more to test out.

Aloo Matar

I bought my copy from Dymocks on Collins Street but you can also buy it here on The Book Depository for under AU$20 with free shipping worldwide.

Verdict? ★★★★★