Category Archives: Breakfast

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.

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Monk Bodhi Dharma – Breakfast Degustation

Monk Bodhi Dharma seems to be the one southside cafe all the northsiders get excited for.  Personally I like it well enough, but I don’t think it’s the best my neighbourhood has to offer – I’d put Carlisle St favourites Batch and Las Chicas both ahead of MBD.

It’s exciting to have a veg-only venue, and one that has plenty of vegan options, but I still have a few complaints.  The first is that the blocks of wood they use for seats are damn uncomfortable.  It’s true I have a spectacular arse, but I’ve eaten there with svelte friends who found the accommodations equally uncomfortable.  That said, I love the fit out, and find the use of the tiny space endlessly fascinating.

The second is that I think the food is overpriced – $15 for beans and rice is, frankly, a bit much.  The third is that I find the meals, while always flavoursome and hearty, sometimes lack one element that would bring them together and lift them above what I usually make at home – a bit more protein, say, or a little creamyness; perhaps some yoghurt to cool the spiciness.  I certainly wouldn’t apply this to all the dishes – the corn hotcakes are perfection – but I’ve eaten a few almost-but-not-quite -perfect dishes, too.

Complaints aside, I am very fond of MBD, and it’s on semi-regular rotation for breakfast out (if I ever make it past Batch, that is).  And I was *super excited* when I booked a table for the Breakfast Degustation way back at the beginning of December last year.

The MBD Breako Dego (as I took to calling it) is 100% vegan and consists of three courses plus chocolates and coffee for $40.  I opted to pay the extra $10 for fancy coffees to go along with the courses.

The coffees (all pourovers) were amazing – hardly surprising given coffee is one of MBD’s great strengths.  They know their coffee, have a variety of different beans on offer, and are happy to make recommendations.  As much as I love coffee I’m happy to admit my ignorance once things get past a certain level, but I appreciate the knowledge that goes into the selections.

The first course was ‘summer vegetables with tomato water and horseradish vinaigrette’.

This consisted of thin slices of squash, heirloom radishes, tomato, herbs, and peaches in a light broth.  It was a beautiful dish, though I thought there was just a touch too much olive oil, which overwhelmed the delicacy of it.

Next up withs a ‘king oyster muchroom and avocado carpaccio with grated summer truffle, drizzpled with jalepeno oil & served with fresh bread’.

Now I love king oyster mushrooms, and I love avocado, so this dish was always going to be a win.  The jalepeno oil added a gentle heat and complexity to this delicious dish.  My only complaint was that there wasn’t more of it – but any tummy rumbles were kept at bay by the two fresh bread rolls served alongside.

I love bread, too, and having both the seedy grainy and the crusty sourdough was excellent.  Some good butter would have made these perfect, but I guess that would’ve spoiled the vegan-ness (Nutelex, perhaps?).

The last ‘proper’ course was a ‘sweet potato and coconut breakfast custard on a macadamia and ginger cookie crumble, served with Cointreau caramel and a balsamic tamarillo reduction.

This was truly spectacular!  The sweet potato custard tasted exactly like pumpkin pie, the crumble had a good ginger spike, the caramel was sweet but not over sweet, but the true genius of the dish is the balsamic tamarillo reduction.  Those dark smears on the plate had an incredible intensity of flavour – sweet and tangy and caramelised and lively and truly amazing.  I wanted to lick the plate, and probably would have were we not seated at the communal table with eight or so other Dego diners.

The final course was a selection of handmade organic vegan chocolates.

Look, they have gold on top!  These were amazing.  I’m actually not always a huge fan of dark chocolate (I realise this makes me a complete failure as a foodie snob), but these didn’t have the harsh bitterness that I sometimes object too.  They were smooth and moderately sweet, and intensely flavoured with orange and cocoa.

The breakfast degustation was a pretty spectacular start to the day, and I left feeling perfectly satisfied but not stuffed.  It was a highly enjoyable experience, and I’d probably go back next time I have $50 to spare on breakfast.

Monk Bodhi Dharma
Rear, 202 Carlisle St, Balaclava (next to Safeway)Ph: (03) 9534 7250
www.monkbodhidharma.com.au
Breakfast Degustation: $40 + $10 for matching coffees

I’ve been meaning to do a lot of things

Well hello again.  Yes, it’s been a while (again).  Things keep getting in the way – not of cooking and eating, I have been cooking eating – oh, I have been cooking and eating!  But of photographing and writing and, well, doing anything with this blog at all.

I’ve been meaning to tell you all about the cooking and eating, though – about the incredible meals I’ve eaten at Attica and Ezzard (kindly subsidised by my amazing housemate who takes pity on my student budget).

And I meant to tell you how those meals inspired me to cook a 10-course degustation meal for my mother’s 60th (So much work! So much delicious!).

I wanted to tell you about the delicious vegetarian pancakes and vegetarian pho at Thanh Na Nine (I had the faux pho, but there’s faux-free pho as well):

And I wanted to tell you about the bbq “beef” at Yong Green Food. And also their blueberry vegan “cheesecake”, which I didn’t take a picture of because I was too busy eating it.

About making dulche de leche the old fashioned way (by boiling tins of condensed milk on the stove top for 2-3 hours.  Some people are scared of this method, due to the threat of exploding hot caramel, but you just have to use a big pot and make sure you check the water levels frequently.  Also, let the tins cool completely before opening, otherwise, yeah, exploding hot caramel.  Nobody wants that.)

And about the “pie party” we had for new years, which included Smitten Kitchen’s incredible Cauliflower & Caramelised Onion Tart, and a Mushroom, Blue Cheese & Caramelised Onion tart inspired by Sweet Source in North Carlton, and Cindy & Michael’s scrumptions vegan sausage rolls (ok, I was lazy and used the butter puff I had in the freezer, so mine technically weren’t vegan, but damn they were delicious – much nicer than “real” sausage rolls!).

I was going to mention the new (double!) oven that the landlord (finally!) bought to replace the old one which had holes melted through the door.  And the food processor I bought with my xmas monies (Best. Appliance. Ever).

I wanted to tell you about Ilona Staller, which is Ciccolina‘s sister restaurant and opened just before Christmas around the corner from me.  Verdict: delicious food, great drinks, fantastic service, in desperate need of more vegetarian options (there’s only one veg entree and one main, though there’s a good selection of sides, and their deserts are incredible).

I wanted to tell you about Misty’s Diner, which is outstandingly kitsch and serves wonderfully artery-clogging clogging food that conforms to every US cliche you can think of (deep fried! giant serves!) and I don’t care because it makes me happy.

I wanted to tell you about Rachael Kendrick’s kinky brownies because they may well be the best brownies I’ve ever eaten, and I’m compulsively pimping the recipe to the rest of the world.

I wanted to tell you about Mamsita (the corn! THE CORN!) and Naked for Satan and HuTong Dumpling (which I think is totally worth the 100% mark-up over Camy, if you can manage to get a table).

I wanted to tell you about my favourite hangover cure (because a lot of this eating has been accompanied by a lot of drinking).  It’s called shakshuka, and it’s the best.

I wanted to confess that this blog is basically a recap of all the food blogs I stalk.

And that I’m a bit embarrassed by my iPhone photos, but I bought a shiny new camera which takes much better pictures and will be debuting soon.

And that I’m taking off on a Big Fat US Adventure in March and April, and I’m very excited about all the amazing food I’ll eat there.

And there’s still more things I wanted to tell you about, but maybe I’ll leave those for another post.  If anyone’s still reading.

Okonomiyaki

I’ve had half a cabbage from my veggie box sitting in the fridge for the last week, waiting for me to figure out what to do with it.  It’s not a vegetable I cook with a lot, and it wasn’t I was reading about Cindy & Michael’s Japanese adventures that inspiration struck.  But it was worth the wait, the answer was perfect: Okonomiyaki!

Okonomiyaki is usually described as Japanese pancake or Japanese pizza, but I think it bears a closer resemblance to bubble and squeak.  And I love bubble and squeak.

I googled some recipes to get a basic idea, and then proceeded on my merry way.  I was a bit worried once I’d made the mix – it turned out pretty light on the batter and looked like it wouldn’t hold together:

I pressed on, certain that even if it didn’t turn out pretty, it would still be a tasty mess of bubble and squeak.  But in the end it came out kinda pretty.  At least, it wasn’t a mess:

Delicious!

Okonomiyaki

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 egg
enough water to make a runny batter
half a cabbage, finely shredded
lots of veggies, finely shredded (I used carrot, zucchini and onion)

To serve:
Okonomiyaki Sauce (I used Vegetarian Oyster Sauce)
Japanese Mayonnaise

Measure the flower into a large bowl.  Make a well in the centre and crack in the egg.  Mix with a fork to combine.  Start adding water a little at a time until you have a smooth, runny batter.

Mix in the veggies, ensuring they’re well coated.

Heat a little oil in a large, non-stick fry pan over medium heat.  Add about half a cup of the mixture (depending on the size of your pan).  Press together and neaten the edges with spoons.  Cook for 5-10 minutes per side, flipping once it’s cooked enough to hold together.

To serve, drizzle with sauce and Japanese mayo, and eat piping hot!

I made up a big bunch and put them in the freezer for quick meals – they do very well in the sandwich maker for a few minutes.

Monk Bodhi Dharma

I’ve been wanting to check out Monk Bodhi Dharma since reading Kristy’s post over at In the Mood for Noodles.  Monk is just down the road from my place, but I hadn’t even known it existed until I read that post, because it’s tucked away down an alley behind a carpark next to a supermarket I never go to.  They’ve only been open for about three months, though, and given the abundance of other options on Carlisle Street, it’s not too surprising I hadn’t noticed them.

Other people have.  I was planning to wander down for breakfast with my friends E & D last Sunday, but on the way there I got a call from E & D saying that the queue was so long they couldn’t even get to the door to ask how long the wait for a table was.  I was a bit astonished – I expect to have to wait on the weekend for a table at one of the Carlisle Street favourites Batch or Las Chicas, but for a new place that you can’t even see from the street?  They must be doing something very right!  (I guess reviews in The Age don’t hurt, either.)

So we decided to go around the corner to Monkey on Chapel St, which was an altogether disappointing experience.  The coffee at Monkey was excellent, but the food was a big let-down: supermarket sourdough, average mushrooms, and under-ripe avocado which was served with the excuse “We can’t do anything about it, that’s just how they are right now.”  If I had been told that when I ordered, I would have picked a different side. But for the kitchen to know full well it’s inedible (it was crunchy, for goodness sake) but serve it anyway and make a poor excuse is, well, inexcusable.

After Sunday’s disappointment, I was determined to try Monk on a weekday when I knew I’d be able to get a table.  So I popped in for a late lunch on my way home from uni today.  The space is smallish, but warm and welcoming, with a long communal table, lots of dark wood, and the ubiquitous distressed bricks.  It has some nice touches like the skylights, and the hanging bottles full of daffodils.  I’d happily linger there.

Monk is serious about coffee.  They have three different beans on offer.  I didn’t realise this when I arrived and, hanging out for some caffeine, just ordered my usual soy flat white (kinda like ordering the house red, I guess).  I’m not sure which beans they used, but the coffee was good – strong, serious coffee that was exactly what I wanted.  Apparently they’re also quite serious about their teas, which is definitely something to look forward to next time.

The menu is all vegetarian with no eggs, and they’re happy to vegan-ise where possible.  The no eggs was a bit of a surprise, and the all-day breakfast menu tends toward the sweet more than savoury as a result (though I’m curious about eggless French toast?).  There are also a couple of lunchtime specials (a soup and a curry) which rounded out the savoury options a bit.  I opted for something savoury off the breakfast menu, because breakfast for lunch is just the kind of girl I am.

I had the sweet corn and ricotta hotcakes with basil pesto and roast cherry tomatoes (on the menu as ‘cheery’ tomatoes – a rather happy typo!), and a pot of sour cream on the side.  They were delicious!  I’m a big fan or corn cakes, and there are a lot of excellent versions on offer locally: Batch, Grindhouse, and my own kitchen would be my favourites, but Monk’s corncakes are up to the competition.  They’re deliciously light, and the corn kernals are sweet and bright and flavoursome.  The cheery cherry tomatoes are beautifully cooked, and the basil pesto is really good.  Pesto is one of those things that is so ubiquitous that I’d almost forgotten how fantastic it can be when it’s done right.  All the elements came together beautifully – it was savoury, sweet, and very satisfying.

I’ll definitely be back soon – I want to try that French toast, and the lunchtime specials look pretty tasty too.  But I don’t think I’ll be trying for a table on the weekend.

Monk Bodhi Dharma
Rear, 202 Carlisle St, Balaclava (next to Safeway)Ph: (03) 9534 7250
www.monkbodhidharma.com.au
$7-$14.50

Batch

Batch is my all-time favourite cafe/place for coffee/breakfast/brunch/lunch/getting my day started/my motivation levels up/my happy on.  It’s also the very closest cafe to where I live, which is, well, very convenient.  Days when I just can’t get started, or I don’t have any food in the house, I can trundle down to Batch, get fed and caffinated, and my world is put to rights.  Yes, I am fond.

Batch does great coffee.  It’s strong and full, but not too bitter.

Mmmmm, coffee

They have a great menu which takes the standards and pushes them to a different and excellent level with little twists (the hazelnut meringue and mango yoghurt which come with the fruit salad, for example), and the execution is always fantastic.  They have plenty of vego (and vego-isable) options.  The menu changes seasonally, though some of these changes are minor variations on a theme (the filling in the omlette, or the topping on the porridge, for example).  And there are some favourites which always remain – I would cry giant tears of dissapointment if the avocado and fetta mash ever went away – it’s a chunky, salty, creamy, herby, savoury pile of deliciousness that has saved many a day.  I love that the menu changes because it means that, as often as I go there, there’s always (going to be) something new and interesting to try – as opposed to my other local favourite, Los Chicas, which hasn’t changed its (admittedly still rather excellent) menu in years.

I could reminisce about the many excellent meals I’ve had at Batch, but for now I’ll try to limit myself to the brunch I had with Nix, DB, and M a few weeks ago (and yes, they do seem to be my favourite dining companions!).

I had the chilli fried eggs with roast pumpkin and coriander yoghurt, which I knew from experience would be delicious, and they were!

Oh my god these were so delicious!

The pumpkin was roasted to soft caramelisation, the eggs had just the right amount of heat, and the coriander yoghurt was divine (I adore coriander, it’s one of my most favouritest flavours).

Nix, the other vego in our party, had the Broad Bean and Goats Cheese Omelette (which I’ve also had before and know is delicious.

Omlette with broadbeans and goats cheese

Batch always have two omelettes on offer, a vego version and a meaty version, and as I mentioned above, the fillings change on a regular basis (I’ve had the roast mushroom omelette, zucchini omelette, asparagus omlette, and my most favourite of all, caramelised leek and goats cheese – so delicious!).  The broadbean and goats cheese is very tasty, the beans are a lovely fresh bright green and provide a great counterpoint to the richness of the eggs and the cheese.

DB got the meaty omelette, and M got Eggs Atlantic (the one with the salmon), and they both seemed very pleased with their meals too.

In conclusion: Batch! My closest and most awesomest cafe!

Batch

320 Carlisle Street, Balaclava
Ph: (03) 9530 3550

$9-15

Thai(ish) Vegie Salad with Rice

I’ve been neglecting my blogs rather dreadfully over the last few weeks because I’ve been frantically working on my Confirmation Report for uni.  The report has now been submitted, and I’m getting around to all the things I neglected.  Which means foodie posts!

About a month ago, my awesome friends Nix and DB invited The Socialist and I around for dinner.  Nix made a whole bunch of incredibly delicious salads, which you can read about here.  Every course was a salad!  And oh my, they were tasty!

Inspired by this fantastic meal, The Socialist and I decided to make our own version of the Thai Salad with Coconut Rice (sans coconut because he’s trying to watch his cholesterol intake).  We also added in some silken tofu, because we’re both big tofu fans.  It wasn’t quite as good as Nix’s original, but it was still extremely delicious!

Delicious, delicious Thais Salad

Delicious, delicious Thais Salad

Here’s my slightly modified version.

Thai(ish) Vegie Salad with Rice

1 mango, diced
2 handfuls mung bean sprouts (they were out of bean sprouts! outrageous!)
1 Lebanese cucumber, halved lengthways, deseeded and finely sliced
1 red capsicum, finely sliced
2 carrots, peeled – then use the peeler on the rest of the carrot instead of grating
Bunch of coriander leaves
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1pkt silken tofu

Juice of 2 limes
Equal amount of light soy sauce
Teaspoon or two of sesame oil
2 medium red chillies, finely sliced
A handful of herbs, chopped – mints and basils work best
1 spring onion, very finely sliced
Small amount of fresh grated ginger
Juice from the salad (mainly mango)

2 cups jasmine rice
3 kaffir lime leaves
Lemongrass stem, pounded lightly to break up
Chunk of ginger, pounded lightly to break up
1 tsp palm sugar

Start the rice.  Cook the rice as you usually would (I’m an old-fashioned saucepan-on-the-stove kinda girl), but with the lime leaves, lemongrass, ginger and sugar in the pot – just take them out before serving!

Combine all salad ingredients.

Combine all dressing ingredients.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat thoroughly.

Divide the rice between bowls, top with salad, and enjoy!