As you may have noticed, Veggie Friendly updates have been a little slower in recent years thanks to the arrival of my first baby, T, and my studies towards a Masters of Environmental Management. However, one of the nice things is that I still continue to get a stream of emails, comments and questions from people reading the blog or letting me know about great vegetarian opportunities.
But imagine my surprise when a Canadian journalist contacted me to ask if he could submit a photo of spices that I took in Udaipur, India in 2007 for an article he was writing on The Spice Box cooking class for The Toronto Star. My surprise became uncontainable excitement and bragging a very grown-up show of delight when the photo was accepted for publication.
One of the nicest things is that I associate Udaipur with Canada because we were there with two¬† friends from Toronto, so it seems fitting somehow that the photo appeared in a Canadian newspaper.
Peace Harmony is a blink and you’ll miss it Thai vegan restaurant on King Street in the city. While the tofu and cruelty free festival posters may seem more at home on King Street in Newtown, that doesn’t seem to get this cheerful little cafe-style place down.
I went there recently as a solo, early diner. I was the only person in the restaurant but the cosy size and friendly staff made me feel right at home.
One of the unique touches at Peace Harmony is that the six entree options come as a single serve. For $1.10 you can choose between tasty favourites like a soy chicken satay stick, curry puff, spring roll or vegetarian drum stick. This is an excellent option for the lone diner, and also convenient if you’re in a group and simply want one item (and even different items) per person, rather than the usual plate of entrees that are awkwardly indivisible by the number of people at the table.
The main meals include the usual Thai stir-frys with a lemongrass, cashew nut, chilli basil, peanut or tamarind sauce, six each of curries and noodle dishes, and a laksa. My cashew nut stir fry was fresh and filling, which was just what I felt like on weeknight but a little bland for a night out with friends.
While a lot of the stir-fry dishes have the same base but different sauces, the spicy Thai salads and intriguing chef specials (nugget and plum sauce, Harmony soy fish, or Peace sausage) ensure that a group can order a number of meals and be assured of some variety. I think Peace Harmony also find a nice balance between offering dishes with faux meat without letting them dominate the menu (which in my experience can be off-putting for people unused to their chicken soy-style).
I’ve only been to Peace Harmony for dinner, but I’m sure it comes into its own at lunchtime when the cheap, fresh and fast food makes the perfect meal for hungry office workers.
Sorry for being so slack with the posting. This year I’ve started working from home, and for the last month I’ve spent most of my days sitting around in my house typing away at my computer, which makes the idea of spending my free time sitting around in my house typing away on my computer slightly less appealing.
Anyhow, it’s a shame that I have been less than zealous about Veggie Friendly because since I moved to Canberra I’ve been trying out some great new places which I will
Not so long ago, Andy and I celebrated our first year wedding anniversary. We’d agreed to treat ourselves to a long Sunday lunch, but finding a nice restaurant that was a) open on a Sunday and b) served vegetarian food was harder than I expected. Luckily, a friend came to the rescue and recommended I try Pod.
Pod is set in the grounds of one of Pialligo’s many nurseries. The restaurant is in an old cottage, but the best seats are outside on the wooden deck and courtyard.
Pod serves Modern Australian food but it has an usually good range of vegetarian options. The menu immediately resonated with us because it included an entree of honey-baked figs with goats curd, apple balsamic and mustard seed oil. This was very similar to a grilled fig entree we had at our wedding (and this entree was so good it was the reason we chose the venue). The pod version didn’t disappoint - the fig was juicy and sweet and contrasted perfectly with the soft, tart cheese.
I thought I was being altruistic by insisting Andy started with the fig entree, but my roasted beetroot and feta tart was so nice I was reluctant to swap. The feta was incredibly smooth, the pastry was crisp and buttery, while the beetroot and balsamic dressing added just the right amount of sharpness.
There is only one vegetarian main, but the restaurant can get around this by upgrading a vegetarian pasta entree to a mains dish. I don’t know why this isn’t listed as a main in the first place because it seemed more suited to this part of the menu (although to leave room for dessert we stuck to the entree size).
The sauceless penne pasta was served with liguarian olives, semi-dried tomato, pine nuts and parmesan. It had a lovely fresh, light taste, with just enough bite thanks to the olives.
The actual vegetarian main was pan seared, white truffle and lemon marinated field mushrooms topped with Persian feta mousse, roasted tomatoes, pine nuts, baby spinach and lemon salad. I’m sometimes wary of mushroom mains because they reek of carnivore panic at what to feed vegetarians. However, this dish was great and something I’d happily make at home (though probably not with such success!).
Sitting amongst such a beautiful nursery, it was hard to go past the simplicity of a summer stone fruit salad with vanilla gelati and berry coulis. It was as good as it looks - sweet with soft, melting fruit.
The creme brulee with biscotti and berries was also divine. The brulee crust was nicely carmelised and crunchy, while the filling was soft and smooth. As with all Pod dishes, it was beautifully presented.
Pod’s food was some of the nicest I’ve eaten in Canberra. It was the perfect venue for an anniversary lunch, but being set in a garden it was also popular with casual Sunday lunchers.
One of my criteria for a restaurant was that we could bring our own wine, as we had a special bottle we’d been given as a wedding present. Pod is BYO. Casual diners might baulk at the $8 corkage charge but scarily this is reasonable compared with other top notch restaurants.
The Pialligo location is not super convenient as it’s only reachable by car. But if you’re not coming for a special occasion it’s a good excuse to linger and explore the great nurseries in the area.
I couldn’t fault the service on the day we visited. We arrived late, and without the two guests we’d booked for, but the restaurant manager took it all in his stride despite the fact the restaurant was full.
Pod was the perfect venue for our anniversary lunch, and it’s already top of my list for visiting family and friends to convince them that the nation’s capital is no slouch when it comes to great food.
Growing up I loved most vegetarian foods, except salads. So far as I could tell, a salad was a bowl filled with iceberg lettuce - surely the most bland, watery ingredient on the planet. The lettuce du jour of 1980s Australia was also a salad hog, leaving little room for other ingredients, and forcing the few that did exist to the hidden depths of the salad bowl.
Thankfully, the comparatively urbane 1990s soon rolled around, bringing with them the exotic new lettuce substitutes like rocket and baby spinach. Suddenly salad greens became edible, dressings could be more adventurous, and there was room for a whole host of other tasty ingredients. Hurrah!
These days, there are more and more lettuce and herb varieties available, meaning there’s just no excuse to revert to the bad old days of iceberg lettuce salads. One of my favourite new salad ingredients is shiso, or perilla. It has a rich, nutty taste and slightly rough texture, and is a great addition to salads and sandwiches.
Shiso noodle salad
For the dressing
If you’re using store bought marinated tofu, chop it into small cubes. Otherwise, follow this recipe and then chop the tofu into small cubes once it’s cooked.
Add the dressing ingredients and mix together. Throw all the salad ingredients into the bowl, making sure to tease out the noodles so they don’t cling together. Add the dressing and toss well. Serve.
Notes on the recipe
All about shiso
This week’s weekend herb blogging is hosted by its founder, Kalyn from Kalyn’s Kitchen. Make sure to visit her site so you can see the full recap.
Not so long ago I was bemoaning the lack of good brunch venues in Canberra. Sure, cafes abound. But try finding a place that uses fresh, quality ingredients, has an interesting and tasty menu, and doesn’t have a price range in the double figures.
After listening to my diatribe, a good friend recommended that I try Satis - a reasonably new cafe in the Watson shops.
One visit later I breathed a sigh of relief - Satis has all (or at least most of) the things I look for in a brunch spot: good coffee, a great, cheap menu, friendly staff, and a slightly alternative vibe. The fact it’s vegetarian is the icing on the cake.
Satis clearly defines itself as a brunch spot - it doesn’t open before 8.30am and is closed by mid afternoon. The menu isn’t extensive or finicky, but everything on it is delicious and well-presented. The decor is friendly but funky - paintings and stencil art by local artists on the wall mixed with chunky, dark wood fittings.
The breakfast menu has sweet and savoury options including banana bread with berries and baked ricotta, free range eggs on toast, and home made granola. Most of the standard items on the menu are not vegan but can easily be adapted - for example, Satis has one choice of vegan bread and can substitute scrambled tofu for eggs. The food is great value - of the nine choices, only one costs over $10.
One of my favourite choices is the big brekkie. It comes with an egg or scrambled tofu, toast, zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach (basically, all the veggies I love in the morning). Yesterday ours came with mashed potato and feta as well. Yum!
Tempted as I was by the big brekkie, in the interests of this review I tried the wild rice porridge with compote and coconut milk.
I’ve never tried wild rice in porridge before, but it worked well. Andy said it reminded him of an Indonesian breakfast porridge of green beans and black rice porridge. I liked the slight crunchiness and savoury taste of the rice, and the coconut milk base was a nice, light accompaniement. The berry compote was the highlight of the dish - rich, a little sour and a little sweet and topped with toasted coconut.
Satis also has a small menu of light meals and lunch foods, a very tasty looking selection of baked goods, and a good range of fair trade coffees and teas.
The only real problem with Satis is its success. The cafe is squeezed into a narrow space better suited to a greasy fry takeaway joint. The tables jostle for space out the front and along the interior before spilliing out into a small, sunny courtyard. On my last visit at around 10am there were frequent lines to get in, although the wait was only 5 - 10 minutes.
While the staff are very friendly and the service is quick when the cafe is not too busy, the service was slower and more haphazard on my last trip. We waited about twenty minutes for our coffees to come, and in the meantime watched bemused while people who arrived after us were served coffee and breakfast before any of our order arrived.
Still, I’m always happy to see a vegetarian place thriving, and the occasional wait for service is a small price to pay for finally having a good brunch spot in Canberra.
Umm, sorry about the delay in proceedings over the last few weeks. I started a new job this year and it’s been occupying a lot of my time, not to mention leaving me without the Internet for days at a time while I travel.
But enough with the excuses. I’ll be shortly hopping back on the blogging bandwagon with some new reviews from Canberra.
In the meantime, thank you to all the people who’ve emailed me to ask why the restaurant listings in the left hand navigation bar don’t work (i.e. search by restaurant type, suburb etc.) It’s all fixed now.
Thanks for you patience.
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