Monday, May 22, 2017

Cherry pie that's worth a stop

May 19, 2017

I've really let cult classic Twin Peaks pass me by for the 25+ years since it first screened. I've been so oblivious that I visited Snoqualmie Falls while in Washington last year, soaking up the scenery without any awareness that it's the most iconic landmark in the show. But some friends have brought me into the TP fold in the lead-up to series' highly anticipated third season - we've been meeting up to watch each season's premiere, studiously working through subsequent episodes at home, then reconvening for each finale. Our meet-ups are the perfect opportunity for some themed food.

One of the more prominent foods in Twin Peaks is the cherry pie at the Double R Diner. Agent Dale Cooper urges every town visitor he encounters that it's "worth a stop". We're long past cherry season here, but I've always been partial to tangy jarred Morello cherries and there are plenty of recipes online that use them. I picked this one from popsugar almost at random, and was rewarded disproportionately well for my scant research.

It's a recipe with a crumbly, buttery crust you can whip together in a food processor. The filling stirs up in a bowl and doesn't need any cooking before it hits the pastry. The key effort here is assembly - rolling out and molding the crust, then looping together a lattice over the top. In the oven, the pastry browns fast but the filling needs a while to set. I usually eat pies warm, but I made sure this one had a couple of hours to cool, the all-American way. It was a good decision - the cornflour sets the filling just so, it's sweet and just a little sour, and the drop of almond essence lends it a hint of cherry-cola that's absent from Aussie desserts.

I cannot fault this pie! I'll make it again, and I won't change a thing about it. (Maybe one day, in a fit of generosity, I'll make it with something more vegan-friendly than butter, but that's it.) Regardless of how I feel about the third Twin Peaks season, I'll have it to thank for this remarkable recipe.

Cherry pie that's worth a stop
(slightly adapted from a recipe on popsugar)

2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon caster or icing sugar
1 teaspoon salt
225g butter
1/2 cup very cold water, plus more as needed

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cornflour
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 cup pitted and jarred morello cherries (approx 2 x 680g jars)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 teaspoon almond essence
spray oil
1 tablespoon cream plus more, to serve

Place the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor; pulse to combine them. Slice the butter into cubes and drop them into the food processor; blend until the mixture has an uneven coarse crumb texture. With the blades running, gradually pour the water into the processor through its spout, until the dough just holds together. Turn off the processor. Turn the dough onto a bench and form it into two balls. Wrap them in plastic and refrigerate them for at least an hour.

In a large bowl, stir together the cup of sugar, cornflour and salt. Fold in the cherries, lemon juice and almond essence. Let the flavours sit and mingle for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat an oven for 220°C. Lightly spray a pie dish with oil.

Sprinkle flour over a clean bench and retrieve one of the pastry dough balls. Roll it out to fit the pie dish, with a bit extra to overhang. Gently easy the pastry into the dish, leave the overhang and pop it in the fridge.

Retrieve the second dough ball and roll it out so that it could fit the top of the pie with some overhang. I sliced it into 1.5 cm strips to form a lattice, but you could also leave it in a big flat sheet.

Pull the pie dish from the fridge and spoon in all of the cherry filling. I was nervous about all the liquid I had, but it set up fine once this got baking. Place the top pastry onto you pie; I used the photo instructions on Simply Recipes to make my lattice. Trim any major pastry overhangs and crimp together the edges with your fingers or a fork. Brush the top of the pie with the tablespoon of cream and sprinkle it with the remaining sugar.

Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 190°C, and bake for a further 50 minutes. Keep an eye on it and put foil around the edges of the crust if it looks at risk of burning.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Gami Chicken & Beer

May 14, 2017

The whole Korean fried chicken explosion that swept Melbourne a few years back kind of passed us by - it didn't seem to have too much to offer us vegos. It was a surprise then when we noticed the Gami Chicken & Beer in Fitzroy proudly advertising their 'signature' vegetarian fried chicken. 

The Fitzroy restaurant is a cute little place - seats for maybe 30 people, lots of bright colours and K-Pop blaring on the speakers. Once you get past the fried chicken, the menu is surprisingly veg-friendly - more than half of the 'Gami Delights' and light meals are marked vegetarian, tempting us with kim chi pancakes ($14), potato heaven ($14) and fried rice cakes ($5.50).

I couldn't resist a lunchtime beer, while Cindy ordered a crushed pear soft drink, which turned out to be a sweet juice rather than a carbonated soda. They came out with a serve of prawn crackers (not vego) and some pickled radish.

Our choice of side dish was mushroom mania ($16), a hot pan filled with three different kinds of mushrooms, tofu puffs and stir-fried veggies in a sweet soy sauce. This was fantastic - the tofu puffs soaked up all the delicious saucy flavours and the veggies and mushrooms hit the mark. 

But the main event was the veggie chicken, which we got as part of a lunch deal - 7 pieces of veggie chicken and chips with a sweet black sauce ($15). 

The chips were great - crispy on the outside and well seasoned and the sauce was sweet and sticky. The veggie chicken though was a bit of a disappointment - it was super chewy and a bit on the dry side. It's too bad, because the seasoned coating was good (though we hear it contains egg, making these unsuitable for vegans).

We had a pretty good time lunching at Gami - the menu is surprisingly veg-friendly and I'd be tempted to come back to try the kim chi pancakes. On the downside, the main attraction - the veggie chicken - wasn't really that exciting and the menu in general isn't that vegan-friendly. I'm glad that Gami offer a vego alternative to the fried chicken, but I can't see us rushing back for another shot.

I couldn't find any other reviews of the mock chicken at Gami. There are a couple of positive meatier reviews of the Fitzroy place at Eats By Donutsam and thebrunchaddict. We're not going to round up all the meaty reviews of the city branch. 

Gami Chicken & Beer
370 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
9417 5036
lunch specials, chicken, other dishes, drinks

Accessibility: There's a step up on entry, to a fairly spacious interior. The seating is all low stools. We ordered at our table and paid at the high bar. Bathrooms are gendered and not especially accessible.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Cook by the box III: CERES Fair Food

May 3-17, 2017

In the past two months, we've tried three different services that home-deliver ingredient boxes for home cooking. This week we're running short reviews on our experiences with each one.

We've been ordering organic fruit & veg boxes from CERES Fair Food for years. We pay $46.75 for a small mixed fruit & veg box. It's intended to last two people a week but we stretch it out for a fortnight, supplementing it with a few extra groceries and, of course, eating out.

What we received: apples, oranges, bananas, pears, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, onion, pumpkin, cabbage, spinach, lettuce.

What we made: salad on lentil tacos, roasted veges (with seitan chops, then sausage rolls), soup, chimichurri pumpkin bowls, okonomiyaki, fruit as-is for snacks and juiced into soda water.

  • Everything is seasonal and organic
  • Total control over what meals you make of it
  • It helps me form a habit of eating fruit, which I don't have at other times
  • Minimal packaging - they'll even take your box back during your next delivery

  • Menu planning and extra cooking ingredients are your responsibility
  • Staying inspired with the same ingredients in repeated weeks can be challenging (like, what's your fourth favourite recipe for cabbage?)
  • Risk of food waste due to poor menu planning, inspiration or timing (we lose at least one orange to mould every. damn. time)

Conclusions: A fruit & veg box has the convenience of home delivery and spotlighting what's in season. However, the rest of the work is on you - prioritising ingredients before they spoil, choosing recipes you'll enjoy, shopping for other ingredients, and cooking the food. Week to week, these are things us two food enthusiasts are content to do!

That wraps up our recent experiences with food delivery. Do you subscribe to a service? How does it work well for you?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Cook by the box II: Marley Spoon

April 15-19, 2017

In the past two months, we've tried three different services that home-deliver ingredient boxes for home cooking. This week we're running short reviews on our experiences with each one.

Friend of the blog @pfctdayelise gifted us a one week free trial of the Marley Spoon two-person box that they subscribe to. We received two serves each of three dinners; this would usually cost $69.90. The Marley Spoon MO is eating well without too much effort, curbing the temptation to order takeaway on work-late weeknights.

What we made: warm roasted mushrooms with basmati & quinoa salad, roasted Dutch carrot salad, hearty pearl barley and sweet potato salad.

  • Although I started with some skepticism, it was possible to prepare the meals in around 30 minutes as advertised
  • Everything tasted good and felt nutritious
  • Minimal food waste, since all ingredients are portioned to fit the recipe
  • The recipes were detailed enough that we could recreate the ones we liked on our own later.

  • One of the meal packs was missing a crucial ingredient (luckily we had some couscous in the cupboard to use in place of the freekeh)
  • No leftovers! This won't be an annoyance for everyone, but we like packing lunches from last night's dinner (perhaps we'd prefer the family box)
  • Substantial amounts of packaging (though they do offer some nice recycling tips on their website).

Conclusions: This service is likely to appeal to busy bods who want to make healthy dinners at home while minimising the time spent meal planning, shopping and in the kitchen.

In our final post in this series, we'll return to our old faithful delivery plan.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Cook by the box I: Rice Kitchen

March 31-April 1, 2017

In the past two months, we've tried three different services that home-deliver ingredient boxes for home cooking. This week we're running short reviews on our experiences with each one.

We received a complementary trial of the Rice Kitchen Vegetarian Delights Feast thanks to business co-founder Anh (we made friends as food bloggers years ago!). This delivery would normally cost $120 and is intended to cater to six people for one meal. Anh et al. describe their service as a 'DIY dinner party in a box' - it's an elaborate menu that calls for substantial preparation and encourages you to gather together the family or invite some friends over to share.

What we made: soy sauce eggs, tempura eggplant mantou buns, Asian mushroom salad, vegetarian popiah.

  • The website and printed materials are beautiful, and definitely got me excited to cook!
  • They supply all the necessary ingredients except for cooking oil, salt, pepper, some sugar & vinegar
  • Everything tasted terrific! The many sauces and sprinklings were particularly good, and made the meal feel special.


  • While an experienced cook will fare fine, the cooking instructions might not have enough detail for a novice
  • Lots of plastic packaging to dispose of afterwards
  • Due to the pre-made sauces and dressings, I could not reproduce these recipes precisely on my own without further research.

Conclusions: This box is for people who don't enjoy meal planning or shopping but are willing to put effort into cooking and entertaining. It would be a fun introduction to Vietnamese cooking for a newbie who's unsure where to source ingredients.

Next up: a service that's more focused on simple weeknight cooking.