Monthly Archives: July 2011

Mr Nice Guy

I’ve been a big fan of Mr Nice Guy cupcakes since my awesome friend Georgia introduced me to them.  My first Mr Nice Guy was some kind of amazing berry amazingness that was the perfect cupcake – light, moist cake with sweet-but-not-too-sweet flavoursome icing.  So as soon as Cindy & Michael posted about the new Mr Nice Guy Cafe in Brunswick (which happens to be a 10 minute walk from my office) I had to go.  Unfortunately, the cafe isn’t open on Tuesdays, so I had to wait a couple of days…and now it’s taken me a couple of weeks to write this up.

The cafe is at the Noise Bar on Albert St in Brunswick.  It’s full of couches and has a few ‘proper’ tables as well –  a blessing for those of use with a habit of spilling food in our laps.  It’s actually quite a charming space, although pretty quiet – I was the first person there when I walked in at 12:15, but a a couple of other groups came in while I was eating.

Along with the famous cupcakes, Mr Nice Guy also serve vegan tex mex and crepes. I had the quesadilla with vegan sour cream on the side ($2 extra) and it was damn tasty, although I wanted something more from it – a bit of fresh salsa would have made everything amazing.

I went specifically for lunch, but there was also no way I was leaving without a cupcake. I picked the Betty White: chocolate cake with coconut icing and flakes of toasted coconut on top – it’s like a bounty bar in cupcake form.

Betty White
Betty White – the Bounty bar of Vegan Cupcakes

I took my camera along with full intentions of documenting my meal, but I got distracted by the tasty food and forgot all about it until I was paying (I took the cupcake photos once I got back to the office).  As I was fishing for my wallet, the amazing crepe cake below came out, and the owners were trying to figure out how to photograph it with dodgy phone cameras.  I offered to let them use my decent-but-not-very-fancy digital and emailed the photos.  This is the crepe cake:

Crepes layered with lemon cream cheese and glazed with berries.

As a thank you for the camera use, I got a bonus free cupcake! It was gorgeous – rosewater cake with a chocolate icing – so tasty!

Rosewater cupcake with chocolate icing

Bonus Cupcake: Rosewater with chocolate icing

The verdict: great space run with a complete lack of pretence, relaxed service, and tasty, tasty food.  I hope they get the custom they deserve and keep on serving up delicious vegan food to Brunswegians for a long, long, time.


Homemade “Ricotta”

Homemade ricotta on toast

The first thing I have to say is that this isn’t really ricotta.  Ricotta is made from whey, and this is made from whole milk enriched with cream.  It’s like super-rich, lightly salted, fresh homemade paneer.  And it’s delicious.

The second thing I have to say is that I’m totally obsessed with it. I saw the recipe on Smitten Kitchen and I’ve made it three times now.  I kept forgetting to add the salt after the first batch, but I don’t think that takes too much away from it.  Seriously. So good.

The first time I followed Deb’s recipe exactly (opting for the lower cream:milk ratio; no idea why).  It was a little grainier than I’d like, but still delicious.  I mixed the fresh curds with some extra lemon juice and tossed with some just-steamed green beans and toasted almond flakes. Perfection.

The second time I made it to use up dairy products leftover from other recipes (I’m usually a soy kinda girl). I didn’t measure anything, just tipped the leftover milk and cream into a pot and heated it up.  I used leftover yoghurt for the acid, and when it didn’t curdle quite enough, I added a bit of extra lemon juice to get things going.  This was incredibly creamy, sweet, and amazing, and dear Maude I wish I’d measured things so I could repeat it. I scoffed it all with a spoon and you better believe I’m going to experiment with higher cream ratios and yoghurt coagulants until I can reliably reproduce the results.

The third time I made it, I decided to stop mucking around with polite quantities and just go for broke.  I made a-bit-over-double the original recipe with a cream ratio somewhere in between the two previous attempts.  I also miscalculated the acid ratio and used nearly twice the required lemon juice, but it still came out creamy and seriously good.  Better than deli ricotta for about two-thirds the price, and seriously better than supermarket tubs.  I keep sneaking back to the kitchen to eat it by the spoonful as I type.

If you don’t eat the whole lot at once, you have more restraint than me.  You should also transfer it to a plastic container and keep it in the fridge – it will keep for a few days (if it lasts that long).  It will also firm up a bit – mine ended up with a texture and mouthfeel similar to mascarpone.

Hot milk

Heat the milk until it's foamy.

Mmm, curdled

Curdled milk. This is what you want.

Cheesecloth. Ikea curtain. Whatever.

Homemade Ricotta
from Smitten Kitchen

If you’re after a more reasonable amount, you should probably go use Deb’s original recipe – but go for the higher cream content. Despite Deb’s claims, I think it makes a huge difference, but my experiments have not been as scientific as hers.  If you’re after an unreasonably large quantity, use the measures below. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

2L milk
600ml cream
pinch salt
150ml lemon juice (I used 300ml and it worked but had a very pronounced lemon flavour. Maybe have a couple extra lemons on hand in case?)
A couple of good pinches of salt

Combine the milk and cream (and salt! don’t forget the salt!) in a large saucepan.  Place over medium heat.  If you have a candy/deepfry thermometer, heat to 85C (190F).  If you don’t have a thermometer, heat until just below boiling (there will be foamy bubbles on the surface).

Turn off the heat.  Pour in the lemon juice and stir gently – you should see curds start to form.  If that doesn’t happen, add a little more lemon juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, until they do.  Leave to sit for a few minutes.

Place a large colander over a bowl.  Line the colander with cheesecloth (I use the excess length of a sheer curtain from Ikea, washed and cut to size.  You could also use a tea towel, but the closer the weave the longer it will take to drain.)

Allow to drain.  The longer you leave it, the drier it will be.  If you’re making the large quantity, you may need to empty the whey from the bowl every so often.

To eat: Spread on toast. Mix through pasta. Drizzle with olive oil. Drizzle with honey. Serve with fruit. Or tomatoes and basil.  Or just-steamed green beans and toasted almond flakes. Or grilled eggplant or zucchini or asparagus.  Or just grab a spoon and go for it. No judgement here.