Friday, February 26, 2010

Pastry fiend.

Last Thursday I presented my PhD exit seminar, which is a pre-completion requirement here at JCU.  It was well attended (one person even had to sit on the floor) and my committee gave me the 'Outstanding' tick.  I was pretty chuffed with myself, and felt that I deserved a day off.  And I wanted a decadent Friday morning breakfast.

So Thursday night I made some dough (following the recipe in The Joy of Vegan Baking) and rolled up some delicious cinnamon buns.  They chilled out in the fridge overnight and we ate them all warm and delicious on Friday morning.

Here's the thing: Andy doesn't love pastry for breakfast, and he doesn't love cinnamon rolls.  He finds them too dry and bread-y.  So to accommodate his penchant for super-flavourful foods (while ignoring his cries that pastries are for dessert!), I changed the recipe up a bit.  First, I used peanut butter instead of margarine for the filling.  And I added apples, because apples + peanut butter = a winning combination.  I also added raisins, because hey, why not?

And for the icing, I continued the PB-instead-of-margarine substitution for a yummy peanut butter drizzle.

The result was a flavourful breakfast roll that was not dry, not boring, and Andy even enjoyed.  Of course, he did doubt me before he tried them, so he utilised the pre-heated oven to make "Baked Aporridge-y" from La Dolce Vegan.  We don't have photos of this, but Andy's review is telling:

"Why would anyone wait 45 minutes just for shitty porridge?"  

Needless to say, we were unimpressed, but the buns more than made up for that!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I've gotten just a few comments/emails from people saying that when they attempt to comment on my blog, their web browser crashes.  I'll be honest -- I'm completely clueless about most things technological, so I have no explanations for why this may occur.  Particularly when most people seem to have no probs.  But, in an attempt to prevent this from happening in future, I have removed all the extra html stuff from my side bar, and have changed the comment page.  Hopefully this helps.

Please leave me comments if you have had trouble but now don't.  Or, if you still can't comment here, email me at tropicalvegan (at)


I believe I have mentioned before how much Andy and I dig on Mexican food -- we srsly like it.  I also believe I have previously mentioned that I am completely an utterly aware of the fact that our Mexican food is by no means authentic.  But, for lack of a better term, I still call it Mexican, or to be more precise: Mexican-ish.

We try to avoid cooking in the oven in the summer, so our Mexican-ish dishes become nachos, burritos, and salads.  But, we've had a few rainy days, meaning the temperature has dropped to a nice, cool 30 C, so we've taken advantage of the opportunities by making enchiladas.

We've had two recent winners in the enchilada realm.

First, inspired by my favourite chocolaterian, Hannah, and one of her recent chocolate reviews, we made enchiladas with choc-chilli-lime sauce.  Andy was so grumpy when he saw me put the block of chocolate into this tomatoey sauce, certain I was ruining his delicious sweet potato & bean filling.  But, once they were cooked he admitted that the sauce went beautifully with the enchiladas and provided the perfect amount of richness, tanginess, and earthiness simultaneously.

For the next batch, I was in the mood for green sauce.  But, we didn't have any typical green sauce ingredients (tomatillos, green chillis, etc).  So I improvised with a spinachy-gravy-type sauce, spiked with lime and hot sauce.  The filling was grated sweet potato and mushrooms.  Again, Andy was sceptical that these would be any good, but he gobbled up five or six of them in one sitting, so I think they passed the test.

Those are smashed potatoes on the side, an idea we've taken from BrisVegan and ran with in the past few weeks.  Smooshy, crispy, salty and oily, they are like a delicious lovechild of chips and mash potatoes, and we can't seem to get enough.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Last weekend Andy made me a gorgeous batch of croissants. Following the recipe from Vegan: Over 90 Mouthwatering Recipes for All Occasions, Andy mixed and kneaded and rolled, and became a bit frustrated. The instructions were fairly vague, but I was familiar enough with the process of making croissants -- the rolling and buttering and folding and rolling again, to make nice flaky layers -- to interpret the recipe for him. He followed it as it was written, with just one roll-butter-fold step.

Two of them were intended as dessert that night, and were rolled up with dark chocolate inside for a yummy sweet treat.
For extra decadence, he served with some chocolate soy ice cream.

The remaining four were saved for breakfast. I toasted them under the griller, spread with jam, and served with fruit.

These were good, full of buttery rich flavour, but they weren't quite flaky enough. When we make them again (which I fully intend to do), I'll add a few more roll-butter-fold steps to try and get that authentic croissant texture.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


"Is that vegan?"

"It's RAW"!
(Oh I am just too funny.)

As a brief glance at this blog will reveal, I am not a raw foodist. I have the utmost respect for those who choose to eat fully- or high-raw diets, I'm just not convinced it is the only healthy way to eat, and I love me some cooked food. And since I'm vegan for ethical, rather than health reasons, I see no hipocrisy in the way I operate.

However. On a hot day, particularly if I'm cooking for just me, I do enjoy a bowl full of uncooked produce. We rarely have lettuce or leaves in the house, so these aren't necessarily recognisable as salads, but they are damn tasty.

Raw corn, tomato, and cucumber salad. If you have never tried raw corn, what are you waiting for? It is so delicious, Andy and I rarely eat corn cooked.

And there ain't nothing wrong with just fruit for dinner either. Particularly during mango season. Mango, apple, orange, banana, and cucumber. The cuke offered a fresh, clean alter to the sweet mango & banana and the tart orange & apple.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sydney Vegan: Monday

Monday was our last day in Sydney, so we trekked back to the Museum to see some damn dinosaurs. It was a great exhibit, with some probably-realistic replicas as well as skeleton-casts.

We also took in the International Wildlife Photography competition, with some amazing shots of animals doing their thing.

For lunch, we tried Iku again, this time with success. In a crowded food court, Iku stood like a beacon of whole foods goodness. They were bloody expensive, and things were so crowded and quick that I was unsettled by the process of ordering, but we got our food and went outside to eat.

For $9.50, Andy got a Macro Burger. He thought it was tasty enough, but for that much money he would prefer to go to Subway and get a foot-long veggie burger sub.

For $10, I got a special for the day, a spinach and white bean tart with miso (cheesy) sauce. This was really nice, but definitely overpriced. However, the salad dressing was delicious.

The desserts looked good, but between the crowds and the cost we decided to be on our way. We spent the afternoon watching Avatar in 3D on the largest Imax screen in the world (seriously). The 3D was, like, totes awesome but the movie itself was a bit disappointing. An exciting light fluff piece, I guess, and, woah 3D!

For dinner we caught up with another friend and went to China Town, to a decidedly not-vegan BBQ place. Their tofu and crunchy noodles were good, but I was a bit put off by the pictures of dead ducks and tanks of fish awaiting their doom downstairs. It was fine, just an anti-climatic end to our weeklong eat-fest. I would have like to get to Green Palace in Newtown, but I guess there's always next time.

Anyways, I got to see dinosaurs!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sydney Vegan: Sunday

After a very late night getting home from the wedding, Andy and I had a proper sleep in on Sunday morning. We ate cereal in our room, and then set out with big plans. First stop, the Australian Museum (dinosaurs!!). Then vegan lunch at Iku or Peace Harmony. Then catching up with some friends, followed by dinner back in Newtown.


We got to the museum and saw a line out the door, just to get in. So we decided to save that for Monday. Instead, we wandered down to Circular Quay, because, what's a trip to Sydney without a visit to the Opera House?

Then we walked up to an Iku Wholefoods, to find it was closed. Luckily there are many, fairly close to one another. So we walked to a second location. Also closed. We headed in the direction of Peace Harmony. Closed. Who'd have freakin' thought that nearly every cafe, takeaway shop and restaurant in the business district would be closed on a Sunday at lunchtime? We ended up walking around for ages looking for somewhere, ANYWHERE, to eat, and finally found a Subway, its neon lights calling to us like an angelic saviour. A veggie sub never tasted so good.

So our morning was disappointing, but the afternoon came good. We did indeed catch up with friends, and then parted ways to head back to Newtown for an early dinner at Green Gourmet. I've been warned that this place is questionably vegan -- apparently the Vegan's Choice Grocery next door had some products with dairy ingredients blacked out. I don't know if this has ever been confirmed, and when I poked through the groceries I didn't notice anything like that, so I took my chances, and Andy and I consumed a vast amount of food.

We were pretty starving, so we started with not one, but two entrees. First, Oyster Fritters. These were battered and fried nori pockets filled with mushroom and a bit of tofu. They tasted like the ocean and grease and were so delicious.

Our other entree was Steamed Dumplings with BBQ Not Pork filling. I like that the dough is made with wholemeal flour, but the filling:dough ratio could have been a bit more generous.

For our mains, we continued the deep fried-ness (I realise it's not exactly good for you, but we eat out so rarely that I was more than willing to accept the fat and calories) -- Salt and Pepper Tofu. These were so yummy, soft tofu with a crispy salty batter.

And "Honey" Lemon "Prawns". We were hoping that this meal would come with a bit of veggies and maybe a little bit of extra sauce, but it was delicious anyways. The lemon was not overwhelming and just provided a fresh tartness, the "honey" was sweet and sticky, and the prawns themselves were eerily realistic. They even had the little reddish marks that cooked prawns have, and the texture was fairly spot on, from memory.

Overall, the service at this place was a bit brusque and un-friendly, just basically no-nonsense. But we did get the matriarch's stamp of approval when we cleared our plates, eating even the garnishes. "Good, all gone" was the comment we received when she came to take our plates away.

With a choice of ten or so desserts, I needed a way to simplify my decision making, so I vetoed anything deep fried -- meaning banana fritters, no matter how tempting, were out of the picture. I decided on a crispy vegan crepe with tofu ice cream, and Andy ordered Mango Ice Cream with Coconut Sago Delight. However, they were out of that. So he opted for the crispy crepe, which turned out to be deep fried anyways, as well as filled with custard.

I didn't want to have two of the same things, so I swapped my order to the Raw, Organic, Vegan Strawberry and Chocolate Cheese Cake. Holy sweet baby jesus this was good. Like, really good. It was a small piece, but it was rich and creamy, almost the consistency of icing. The crust was a bit like eating plain desiccated coconut, but the filling more than made up for that.

Thoroughly stuffed, Andy and I returned to our accommodation with sore feet but happy stomachs.

Sydney Vegan: Saturday Night

Saturday was our reason for going to Sydney. After a mere six weeks of engagement, Andy's older brother got married.

The plan was beautiful: a wedding on the headland overlooking Clovelly Beach, drinks on the deck while the bridal party had photos taken along the water, and then the reception at the Surf Life Saving Club. Unfortunately, it rained. Actually, it didn't just rain -- it poured. All day. So those plans were swapped for an entirely indoor event. On the plus side, the weather did provide a fairly stunnig backdrop, as the waves crashed against the headlands.

With only a month to plan the wedding, I offered to liaise with the caterers about vegan meals, but the bridal couple said they had it under control. They asked about vegan wines; I told them not to worry, I wouldn't drink anyways.

After the ceremony, hors d'ouevres started coming around. With big trays of lobster tails being passed, I assumed I should quell my hunger until dinner, but I was greeted with an entire plate to myself of kumara spring rolls and veggie sushi (each of the veggies got their own plate). We all sat for the entree, which for the vegos was a grilled vegetable stack. Sure, it's not the most imaginative, but it was good, all covered in pesto, with rocket and pinenuts underneath.
Yes, that's a whole cayenne as a garnish. Andy took a bite, thinking it might not be hot... but it was.

With such a delicious entree, I had high hopes for the dinner. The server brought out a bottle of organic, vegan white wine for Andy and I, which I tried because I felt obligated but it was far too dry for my palate. And she brought out bread to share at the table, super seed-filled whole grain bread which was baked and served in terra cotta pots (very adorable).

Then came our mains -- polenta balls and a grilled portabella on rocket and pinenut salad. This was good, but it felt like another entree. There wasn't heaps of it, and it was so similar to the first dish -- drizzles of pesto, pine nuts, rocket, roasted capsicum -- that it just wasn't that satisfying. Still, the polenta balls were tasty and I was grateful to have food at all!

Apologies for the shonky photo, but I was at the parental table and didn't want to dilly dally with my picture-taking!

Sydney Vegan: Saturday Brunch

As part of a lazy, rainy Saturday morning in Newtown, Andy and I walked the quick 2 minutes up to Naked Espresso for brunch. We got there shortly after 10, when it opens, and it was already nearly full. But we were still served quickly, the food was hot and delicious, and the place had a cozy, homey feel to it (especially with a 5 year old giving us our menus and an owner giving out free coffee to a woman who came in with a takeaway cup from down the street).

We started off with some hot drinks. Hot Chocolate for me.

And cappucino for Andy.

Then, breakfast. I got the Scrambled Tofu Feast. The tofu was really delicous, spicy and zingy and a little bit wobbly. The sides were all great as well -- sauteed spinach, mushrooms, hash browns, roasted pumpkin, sourdough bread and homemade baked beans.

Andy nearly ordered the Morning After Fry-Up, but he changed his mind at the last moment and got the Aussie Vegan Feast instead. This was a plate of smoked tofu, sauteed spinach, mushrooms, hash browns, a grilled tomato, roasted pumpkin, sourdough bread and homemade baked beans. Andy didn't love this, because I think he ordered the wrong thing for him -- he loves his food saucy and this wasn't. He wasn't bowled over by the smoked tofu, but he did think the baked beans were delicious, which is a big deal for someone who usually doesn't like baked beans. I should have offered to swap, but I was too enamored of the tofu scramble to think so generously.

As we got ready to leave someone was served the BLAT -- vegan bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato on sourdough bread. We both seriously considered a second course, but we were well and truly stuffed.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sydney Vegan: Friday Dinner

After lunch on Friday, Andy and I walked down to Darling Harbour to see Avatar at the Imax, but as I said in my last post, it was sold out. Instead, we wandered around Darling Harbour, popping into the Chinese Garden for a few hours.

We also walked through China Town and Paddy's Markets, so by the time we got back to our accommodation in Newtown we were pretty hungry. Luckily, we were mere steps away from the restaurant strip of King Street, and literally less than two minutes' walk from delicious and vegan-friendly Basil Pizza.

After carefully studying the menu and working out the best value deals, we took advantage of the special offer -- Buy a large pizza and get a pizza bread for just $2. On the pizza bread there is a choice of herbs, pesto, garlic or chilli, and mozzarella or Cheezly. We chose herbs and cheezly.

This was really yummy, and the cheezly was generously applied, but the herbs were a bit understated. I would recommend garlic or pesto instead.

For our pizza choice, we shared a large Vegan Lovers -- tomato sauce, grilled eggplant, marinated artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, tofu chunks, and cheezly. For an extra $1.40, we added vegan pepperoni slices.

This was an excellent choice. The flavours were perfectly matched together and well-balanced, unlike our usual homemade pizzas which are overloaded with toppings. The sauce was delicious, and the spicy vegan pepperoni added an extra layer of flavour. This pizza would have gotten two thumbs up, but my thumbs were occupied with stuffing my face.

Although the food was satisfying and delicious, one large pizza and a pizza bread for Andy and I is not enough, so we walked across the road to Vegan's Choice grocery store and tried their Tofu Ice Cream. Apologies for the really shonky photos (I blame Andy's mediocre camera rather than my mediocre photography skills); I had taro, which was light purple but mostly just tasted like vanilla ice cream.

Andy had avocado, which was light green and mostly just tasted like creamy.

The ice cream was good, creamy and smooth but with a few icy chunks throughout.

Sydney Vegan: Friday Lunch

Since we got in to Sydney so late on Thursday night, Andy and I planned ahead and brought some food down with us. And we had cereal in our room for breakfast on Friday morning, so our first meal out was lunch on Friday. We went to probably the best vegan place in Sydney:
Just kidding (I am so hilarious). We did not go there, but we did try to get into the Imax to see Avatar on Friday only to find it was sold out. Where we did eat was described to me several years ago as the best vegan place in Australia: Mother Chu's Vegetarian Kitchen.

We were a little overwhelmed by the menu -- pages and pages to choose from is hard to handle when you are used to a small handful of veganisable menu items. We finally decided on Tempura with Salad...

...and Fried Noodles with Vegetables and Gluten (I think that's what it was called).

Both were good, but not great. The food was hot, fresh, and flavourful, but I've had better vegan asian food. It is highly likely that we chose two dishes that were underwhelming, as there were so very many choices. We both agreed that this was good food, but nothing super special. However, I appreciated it more than a standard Asian restaurant for the sheer volume of choices on offer.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sydney Vegan

Andy and I just spent a five-day weekend in Sydney, for his brother's wedding. While there, we took part in a substantial amount of eating. I was, for the most part, not shy about photographing this food -- something that doesn't often happen. But, I've forgotten my USB stick, the one containing all of said photos, at home.

But stay tuned! Over the next few days I will post recaps of our adventures at such places as:

Mother Chu's Vegetarian Restaurant
Basil Pizza
Naked Espresso
Green Gourmet & Vegan's Choice
Iku Wholefoods

We also did some cool things like the Chinese Gardens, and the Australian Museum's Dinosaur exhibit.

So considered yourself introduced to the upcoming multi-part series of blog posts!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Wedge Politics

Good things come in wedges.

On one of the recent rainy days, Andy and I decided that we would have a junk food dinner: tater tots, sweet potato wedges and beetroot wedges.

We liked it so much that we did the same the next day. Sweet potato wedges sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg, beetroot wedges sprinkled with cumin and paprika, and a macaroni & cheese-like casserole.

A wedge of pie. For the filling, I used a modified spag bol sauce, with extra veggies and some crushed weetbix to thicken it.

Leftover pie filling made a great topping for this wedge of pizza, along with seitan and tofu fetta.

Finally, a wedge of cake. Fruitcake, topped with buttercream icing. This was actually a test of possible wedding cake recipes, and it failed the test. Buttercream + fruitcake is a weird combination.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Frittering away the summer.

Every now and then, Andy and I make fritters, trying to find the key to a firm but flavourful patty of veggies or mashed potatoes. We've tried gluten flour, chickpea flour, egg replacers, mashed tofu, and a range of other ingredient combinations, but we couldn't seem to find anything that worked.

That is, until Christmas when we got a cookbook from Andy's brother. The book is rather uncreatively titled Vegan, by Tony Weston and Yvonne Bishop. As a British cookbook, it has a combination of familiar Aussie foods as well as things I've never heard of before (but want, like banoffee pie).

One of the recipes is obviously for fritters -- corn fritters, in fact. It basically involves making a savoury pancake batter and stirring in corn kernels. Our first attempt was a resounding success...
With a stuffed capsicum and a salad. of course we decided to experiment. First, I used the batter with grated potato. This had potential, but the potato didn't quite cook properly.
With a chickpea cutlet and a snow pea shoot salad.

Next, we tried mashed potato + mashed sweet potato. This was the winner.

With Thai Style Pineapple Fried Rice (from The Tropical Vegan cookbook), and fat-free garlic bread.

In the past month, we have probably eaten these mashed potato fritters 5 or 6 times, because we both love them that much. And, they reheat really well the next morning for brekky. Our search for the perfect fritters has finally come to a rest.


1/2 c. flour
1 t. vegetable stock powder
1 t. baking powder
1/2 c. soy milk
1 t. apple cider vinegar
1 T. garlic chives (or regular chives, or garlic), minced
1 c. mashed potatoes (or sweet potatoes, or whole corn kernels, or other veggies minced finely)

Combine flour, stock, and baking powder, mix well. Stir in soy milk and vinegar until well combined, then fold in chives and veggies. Heat a large, preferably non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, and add enough oil to thinly coat the whole pan. Drop heaping tablespoons of the fritter mix into the pan, flatten, and fry until browned on both sides. Keep warm in the oven until they are all cooked.