Forrest Brewing Company

A microbrewery with amazing food

Fake Sausage Rolls

Good enough to make the non vegetarians want them

Franco Choo's

Hearty Italian food, just like Nonna used to make...

Red Pawpaw Update

A few hiccups and an update

Monday, October 13, 2014

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This recipe can be found on quite a few vegetarian blogs, like here and here and here, however whenever I make it, I always get asked for the recipe, so I've decided to blog it myself! It's a definite crowd favourite, and you can make then in various sizes (small for finger food, or large for dinner).

I've fed these sausage rolls to non vegetarians many times, and most of the time they can't even pick that there's no meat!

Ingredients:

'Sausage' mix:

3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup walnuts, chopped finely in a food processor (I've used whatever nuts I have on hand, pecans, peanuts etc)
1 medium to large onion, finely chopped
1 vegetable stock cube (I have often substituted this for random 2 minute noodle flavouring sachets that have been floating around)
1 clove of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
250g cottage cheese
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup breadcrumbs

Other Ingredients:

Puff pastry sheets
Milk for glazing
Sesame seeds or poppy seeds to sprinkle on top

Method:

1. Mix all the ingredients for the 'sausage' filling and put aside.

2. Thaw out some puff pastry and cut it in half, into two rectangles. Spoon a line of the non-sausage mix down the centre third of each rectangle and gently roll up. Slice the rolls into halves, thirds or quarters and cut some diagonal slits along the top. You can repeat and assemble the lot now, or just do as many as you want to eat and freeze the remaining mix for later.

3. Glaze the sausage rolls with milk, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 200 deg for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown.

4. Serve with tomato sauce!



Wednesday, October 08, 2014

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Special occasions call for special dinners, and I was waiting for such an occasion to visit Franco Choo’s. This was again a recommendation, spotted via social media, and I was keen to try it out. Luckily a birthday was happening, which was the perfect excuse to indulge in a fancy restaurant experience.


Franco Choo’s is located on High St, in Prahran, just near the Chapel St intersection, and is a tiny ‘hole in the wall’ place that barely seats about 20 diners at a time. They have a great Prezzo Fisso deal if you book online, where you can have 2 courses for $42 or 3 courses for $52, both with a glass of wine. The only catch is that you need to be there by 6pm and vacate by 7:45pm, but this worked fine for us, because we had nothing else planned for the day.


We arrived at 5:55pm, wanting to make the most of our booking, and found that we were the first ones to arrive. We were greeted by a lovely waiter with an Italian accent, and I immediately felt that we were in for a treat. He explained the deal to us – Franco Choo’s doesn’t have a menu, instead they have seasonally changing dishes that are written up on a blackboard, meaning that they always cook with seasonal produce. It was already sounding delicious to me, especially when the menu was explained to me in an Italian accent!

We nominated our 3 dishes each, I obviously chose the vegetarian options which were a vegetable stew and a pea risotto, and the other half chose an Italian sausage and lentil entrée and a roast beef dish. For dessert we chose one of each option so we could share; a pana cotta and a ricotta crostata.
We started with some bread to prepare our palates for the meal ahead. We were served some fresh ciabatta bread, with a dipping oil of EVOO and sweet balsamic vinegar. Both of these were of the highest quality, and we could immediately tell that this was a restaurant that took pride in its ingredients.


Soon after the entrées arrived. I was expecting a traditional tomato based stew, but instead I was pleasantly surprised. I was greeted with a Roman spring vegetable stew filled with peas and broad beans in a creamy white sauce. With both peas and broad beans being in season, they were both sweet and full of flavour.


The other half received a poached cotechino sausage served with braised puy lentils, mustard fruit and amaretti. When the non vegetarian comments on how good the lentils are, rather than focus on the sausage, you know the dish must be good! He also said the amaretti tasted like something his Nonna used to make, which is probably one of the highest compliments he's given to a chef!


Mains arrived promptly after we finished the entrées and we were again served some traditional, hearty Italian fare. I received a creamy pea risotto which was filled with rich flavours of butter and parmesan. I dared not think of the cholesterol content of this dish and instead focused on how delicious it tasted.  The skill required to perfect the texture of a risotto is one that I strive for, and the chef at Franco Choo’s had mastered it to a tee.


Our carnivorous main was roasted beef short ribs, served with cauliflower purée and Borettane onions. The verdict was that the beef was cooked so well that it was falling off the bone, and the vegetables were full of flavour, making it another hearty dish.


We had also ordered a side of green beans with truffled pecorino, and these were delicious. It is a hallmark of the produce when something so simple, and made with so few ingredients, tastes so good.

With entrées and mains out of the way, it was time for dessert. We had half a dessert each, so I got to try both options. First there was the ricotta, pine nut and chocolate crostata. I had no idea what a crostata was, but it turned out to be a tart. It was served with a berry sauce and pistachios, and all the flavours combined to be a great dessert. It was not overly sweet and the variety of textures gave it the right level of complexity.


The second dessert however, was the real winner. The vanilla panna cotta, served with poached rhubarb and lemon cake crumble was amazing! I am a big fan of panna cotta, and this one was no exception. The lemon cake was also the right level of tart, and contrasted the sweetness of the panna cotta.


The entire experience at Franco Choos was very special. We received amazing service, amazing food, and went home very happy patrons.

Franco Choo's Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 05, 2014

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It’s been almost 5 months now since I subscribed to Red Pawpaw and there have been a few recent hiccups. I felt it might be a good time to provide a bit of an update.

The May and June boxes were excellent. At $5 each, they were full of value. Packaged in a special Red Pawpaw box (which has since become my shoe box!), they contained lots of items which were useful and a few that weren't!

May:
Special K Honey & BBQ Crisp Crackers - $4.40
Saxa Natural Sea Salt Flakes - $4.94
Mentos Fruit - $1.49
Mentos Pure Fresh Spearmint Gum Tin - $2.19
Henry and Jones Fruit and Chia spread - $4.49
Greens Buttermilk Pancake Shake - $2.49
Pine O Clean Disinfecting Wipes - $4
Taylors Minestrone and Aussie Vegetables Soup Pouch – $4.40
Finish Quantum Odour Neutralising Tablets (x4) - $3.48
Saxa Smoked Cyprus Salt Grinder - $6.05
TOTAL - $37.93


June:
Uncle Toby’s Quick Oats Sachets (x3) - $2.20
Uncle Toby’s Crunchy Triangles Chocolate (x2) - $0.86
Nescafe Azera – 10.99
Gravox Cracked Pepper and Barossa Valley Shiraz Liquid Gravy - $2.50
Ovaltine Cold Crunch - $5.27
Goulburn Valley Peaches in Coconut Water – $2.20
Zumbo Passionfruit Macaron Baking Mix - $8.79
White Wings Cafe Creations Blueberry Buttermilk Pancake Mix - $5.50
SPC Spaghetti With Sneaky Veg - $1.21
TOTAL - $39.52

As you can see, they were definitely value for money at $5 each, and most of the items were things we used, or wanted to try. There were a few things that weren’t useful for us like the dishwasher tablets (which we gave away) or the Gravox (which is still sitting there), but on the whole, they were wins.

Then in July we got an email saying that Red Pawpaw were having a few issues, and as a result we wouldn't be receiving a July box, and no money would be deducted either. Fair enough. Bit disappointed, but hey, if they aren't taking any money, you can’t really complain.

And then a few weeks later, came the big hit. Red Pawpaw told us they were back in August, but this time, the boxes were no longer $5 delivered, instead we would be charged a delivery fee based on our location. The justification for this was that may of the previous deliveries had issues, and so they had decided to switch carriers to Australia Post, which incurred additional charges. Being based in metro Melbourne, my delivery charge was $7.50 a box, bring my total cost to $12.50 a month.

There were a few issues around this. Firstly, I had never had an issue with the previous delivery company so I couldn't see where the problem was. Secondly, whereas previously the boxes were guaranteed to have a minimum of $30 worth of groceries in them, this guarantee was removed, which leaves the door open to the boxes having any content value in them, perhaps a content value less than $12.50 even?

Admittedly Red Pawpaw did the right thing, and gave their annual subscribers the opportunity to opt out of the program and receive a full refund. Needless to say many people took them up on this offer, and based on the backlash on social media, there were some pretty unhappy customers.
I on the other hand, decided to stick around. I decided that the mystery aspect of the box was what I enjoyed most, and it was worth $12.50 to me. Plus, I took a bit of a gamble and hoped that the value of the box (or more importantly the goods I would use in the box) would exceed this amount.

The August box arrived, and there were a few differences already. The box was no longer the sturdy box with a lid, instead, it switched to a much weaker cardboard box. The justification for this was to save on packaging costs and help the environment which I fully support, and luckily my box arrived intact. Unfortunately, not everyone was so lucky, and it seemed as though a lot of boxes were delivered damaged, with negative consequences for the contents inside. This is something that is not acceptable given the increased delivery costs.

And now for the contents:

August:
The Little Brownie Company Brownie Mix - $6.50
Chux Magic Eraser - $4.39
Mug Shot Noodles – $1
Mount Franklin Sparkling Water - $2.75
Lipton Original Ice Tea Can - $2.75
Fountain Smart Tomato Sauce – $2.52
Pine O Clean Disinfecting Wipes - $4
Vita Wheat Lunch Slices - $4.50
Nature’s Own Crunchy Bar - $0.99
Weight Watchers Peaches In Jelly - $3.84
TOTAL - $33.24



Obviously there was a decrease in content value and it was disappointing that this kicked in so quickly. I also received a repeat item, which were the Pine O Clean wipes. Luckily, I love this product so I didn't mind, but a lot of people received repeats on the salt from the first box, and if this was me, I would be very annoyed. I still have my first packets of salt sitting there! The drinks were also a little redundant in our house but I guess they will get used when guests come over so they won't be wasted. The brownie mix is definitely the best item in the box, much like the macaron mix when we received that.  All in all, not a bad box, but definitely not as good as the first two.

And then there was the September box which arrived a few weeks ago. There was lots of promotion and preadvertising from Red Pawpaw about how this box had lots of paired items so I was looking forward to it.

September:
Mr Muscle Touch Up Cleaner - $6
Finish Dishwashing Liquid 400 ml - $4.87
Cottees Fruit Crush Drinks (x2) - $1.36
Carte Noir Coffee 100g - $10.74
Air Wick Snowy Mountain Berries Scented Candle - $12.14
Dolmio Spaghetti Bolognaise Sauce Sachet - $2.46
Glad Bake 5mts - $1.71
Vetta High Fibre Spaghetti - $1.50
Maillie Dijon Mustard Sample Jar 25g - $0.56
Bio Attack Sample Sachets 19ml (x3) - $1.25
Sour Patch Kids 65g- $2.15
TOTAL - $44.74



So doing that maths, shows that the September box was definitely value for money, however the coffee was a pretty useless items for me and I definitely wouldn't value the candle at over $12. I have way too much instant coffee from the previous boxes, and whilst I will burn the candle, it really doesn't excite me. Other people got a Wholeberry Folk cake mix worth $5.69 but I missed out on this. This was a shame as I really enjoy the baking mixes.

All in all, both August and September were decent boxes. Will I stick around for more? Yeah I will... I appreciate that small start up businesses go through hiccups and I want to support them. Just don't let me down Red Pawpaw. It's almost time for the October box, so let see what arrives...



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

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Located in the Otway Ranges, past Skenes Creek, the Forrest Brewing Company is a brewery with good beer and even better food. 


We arrived there at about 5pm, to be greeted by a completely empty restaurant, so I was a little skeptical of whether this place was any good. After all, which pub is empty on a Sunday afternoon?!


Luckily, we pushed on and started with a beer tasting paddle (or the equivalent of a paddle anyway). It contained their four standard beers - a pale, a red, a silvertop and a stout, and then three seasonal beers. They were great beers, and we realised why they were so much more expensive than regular beers.


It was then time for dinner which was the highlight for me. The menu revealed only one vegetarian option so this was what I chose, but it sounded pretty good and I was happy with my choice (or lack thereof!).

My dish was described as a series of components: Lebanese eggplant, goat's feta, quinoa, Israeli couscous, hazelnuts, avocado yogurt and lemon thyme.  What this list failed to describe was the deliciousness that the ingredients combined to become!

The eggplant was smoked so that it was tender with a subtly smoky aroma, the goat's feta was wonderfully creamy, the bed of quinoa, Israeli couscous and hazelnuts provided the right balance of softness and crunch and the star of the show was the avocado yogurt, which simply tasted amazing. It was one of the best meals I've had in a long time and worthy of a spot in any fancy restaurant!


The other half went for a traditional pub option, the fish and chips, which he also said were very tasty.


As we were leaving we looked around and the pub was full. The locals obviously know where to come for dinner.... Clearly this microbrewery takes its beer seriously, which you would expect, but more importantly for me, it's takes its food even more seriously!

Forrest Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

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Chez Dre had been on the breakfast bucket list for a while, and it was only one Saturday morning that we randomly decided to visit. We were wary of long wait time, given that we were planning to arrive there at about 9, but luckily we had no reason to worry. We walked straight in and were seated next to the window, overlooking the alley. 

A waitress promptly attended to us, to take our coffee orders, and I stuck to my usual latte. Unfortunately I hadn't perused the menu at this stage, but if I had, I would have knows that they also serve Prana Chai, and I would have definitely chosen that!


The coffee arrived promptly, but unfortunately, it was nothing spectacular, infact I think the Nespresso machine does a better job which was a little disappointing. I must however, commend Chez Dre on their fabulous service. We had spilt an almost full coffee, and the staff were immediately there to wipe everything down, and a new coffee was brought to us, free of charge. These little touches make a big difference.

I looked through the menu, and totally against the norm, decided to order a sweet breakfast. I opted for a spiced porridge, with rhubarb, cardamom, candied orange, vanilla mascarpone and pistachio. It was a tasty combination, but as is often the case with porridge, it was extremely filling and I struggled to finish it. 


All in all, Chez Dre was a pleasant experience, but nothing special. Given all the hype that surrounds this place, I must say that I was somewhat disappointed. There are many places that do much better coffee and food, and are much cheaper too.

Chez Dré on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 29, 2014

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Breakfast out on a weekday is virtually a non occurrence for me, but when I had to travel all the way to Tullamarine for work, a fellow foodie colleague and I took the opportunity to indulge in brunch at Pope Joan.

I have driven past Pope Joan many times, but the long line outside on weekends always deterred me from making the visit, but luckily there was no such issue on a Monday morning. Located on the busy Nicholson St, we were fortunate enough to find parking right in front of the shop front, and we hoped this was a sign that we were off to a good start!


We walked in to find an array or tables available to us, so we chose to sit in the left hand section of the cafe, where are waitress promptly greeted us, handed us menus and took our coffee orders. I ordered my standard latte, which arrived quickly.

Pope Joan serves All Press coffee, and the quality and flavour was evident from the first sip. A very smooth coffee with a subtle bitterness and rich aroma gave me confidence that this was going to be a good brunch, and my attention quickly turned to the menu.


At first glance I was super excited, with three quarters of the menu being vegetarian friendly! It then got even better when I realised that other than the standard toast and muesli options, all the other offerings were savoury! I scanned through the list and settled upon an Indian looking option, saag aloo (also known as spinach and potatoes), smoked yoghurt, almonds, pickled radish and grilled flat bread. I think it was here that the morning went down hill.


I should have picked up on the fact that saag aloo is obviously Indian, and pickled radish definitely has Asian connotations. The two cuisines are both delicious independent of each other, but combined, they really do not work. The saag aloo was also rather flavourless, and whilst I understand that the spice factor may need to be toned down for a western palate, I really do expect better from multicultural Melbourne.

My colleague went for a smarter option and chose the truffled polenta brick, baked eggs, green mozzarella and fried capers. This breakfast was definitely worthy of its place on the menu. I only had a small taste, and immediately regretted not choosing it. Truffle has become the new ‘it’ food on Melbourne menus, and its distinct flavour added an interesting element to the soft polenta brick. The baked egg looked perfectly oozy and the fried capers added the right balance of tang and crunch.


Overall, Pope Joan gets a two out of three. A great coffee, one below average breakfast, and another great breakfast. Would I go back? Yes. Would I order another ethnic or fusion meal? No. Stick to the creative Western options on the menu and you’re in for a good breakfast.

Pope Joan on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 08, 2014

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Unplanned weekend brunch outings are always the best, and that’s exactly what happened last Saturday. Given that it was unplanned, I hadn’t thought of where to go, and so I tried to think of local cafes that I had put on my mental list. Merchant’s Guild popped up in my head and it was decided, to Bentleigh East it was!

We arrived at about 9am, and already the cafe had started filling up, and so we became the first ones to sit at the communal table at the back. I looked around and all along the wall large buckets of spices were lined up ready to be mixed into chai mixes. It was then that I decided that today was going to be a tea morning, rather than a coffee one.


A friendly waitress handed us our menus, and informed me of the excellence of Prana Chai, which is the tea that they serve. I took up her recommendation and wondered if their masala chai would live up to my Indian standards.

The tea arrived promptly, served in a little pan, so that I could strain my own. Whilst pouring it, I could smell the spicy aromas and the remnants in the strainer indicated the generous presence of cardamom and cloves. Upon tasting it, I came to the conclusion that it was certainly worthy of the masala chai title. The complexity of the spices complimented the flavour of the tea, and resulted in a perfect hot drink to start the morning with. Merchant’s Guild had already won me over!



A browse of the menu revealed a lack of fritters, which are my usual choice for breakfast. Instead I opted for the pumpkin, feta and harissa polenta biscuit with poached eggs and za’atar. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from a polenta biscuit, but it turned out to be a perfect choice. The polenta was soft and creamy, but the exterior had a crunch to it, making it to be great replacement for fritters! The harissa added the required zing, and pumpkin and feta are always a welcome combination.



Of course the yolk porn test was the ultimate decider, and the Merchants Guild eggs passed with flying colours!


The other half went for completely the opposite of what I was having, which makes for good blogging. He chose coffee, and a sweet breakfast of French toast, with vanilla mascarpone, bananas, berries and pistachios. I am not usually a sweet breakfast person, but this was delicious. Cheese of any form makes everything taste better, so clearly the mascarpone was responsible for making this dish taste so good!



All in all, it was a great breakfast. The food was delicious, the atmosphere and staff were welcoming and friendly, but for me the real winner was the Prana Chai. I need to go back just for my masala chai fix.

Merchants Guild on Urbanspoon