The Elephant Vegetarian Restaurant and Bar, Ubud – Bali

I discovered The Elephant during the last week of my stay in Ubud because we moved hotels for my friend’s yoga retreat. It was just down the road basically. One day I popped in to have pad thai and on one of the nights we, as a group, had dinner there.

The whole restaurant with its bar on one wall seem like it is a wide balcony overlooking a lush ravine with a river and a rice field in the vicinity. The view is spectacular.

Everything on the menu is either vegan or vegetarian although most of the vegetarian dishes can be made vegan if you ask. The style of food is somewhat international, including vegetarian versions of some local Indonesian dishes.

I personally picked Ottolenghi’s Sweet Potato Fritters which was served with a yoghurt sauce and mango and radicchio slaw. Yes, the name caught my eye. It was nice and I passed down the information to one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s waiters at his Islington restaurant in London that a vegetarian restaurant in Bali has Ottolenghi’s dish on their menu. Small world, right?

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The service is slow but not too slow and everything is fresh so you don’t mind waiting a bit. The staff is incredibly polite even if you have someone rude in your group like we did. I must say, they handled it really well and I am not friends with that person anymore for many other reasons.

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The Elephant has its website and related accounts like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. However, their Instagram account is the owner’s personal account and is sometimes full of personal stuff like the photo of his pregnant wife wearing a bikini. I personally think that it is not professional and totally irrelevant. Especially when most of the food photos –which is supposed to be their main focus—are blurry.

The Elephant can be found at this address:
Hotel Taman Indrakila
Jalan Raya Sanggingan
Bali, Indonesia

Vegie Delights Savoury Vege Mince

Savoury Vege Mince is a Sanitarium product which we found at Coles recently and tonight I tried it. I made spaghetti bolognese with it. It’s vegan friendly, great source of protein, B12, zinc and iron; these are the good things. However, did I like the taste? The answer is no. I used the tin version of this product before and always blamed the tin itself for the metalic taste. However, this one which comes in a plastic pouch has exactly the same taste. Clearly, it has nothing to do with the packaging.

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Ingredients: Water, textured soy protein (21%) (colour (150c, 150d)), tomato, onion, sugar, garlic, salt, vegetable protein extract (soy), flavour, spices, vegetable gum (xanthan), sunflower oil, minerals (zinc, iron), vitamin (B12).

Where to use: Spicy chilli bean tacos (the recipe for this is at the back of the pack), chilli con carne, spaghetti bolognese, shepherd’s pie, lasagne.

Where to buy: Coles and IGA

Allergens: Contains soy. May contain traces of egg, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts and sesame.

Wrenkh, Vienna

I found Vienna quite surprising in many ways. It was my first time but I can safely say that I would definitely go back in a heartbeat. Vienna is full of art, music and incredible food. I must admit, it is becoming my new Paris or New York.

IMG_4338 (1280x960)Austrian National Library (the most impressive room I have ever been in my life)

Vienna is incredibly surprising, especially in food department. They are so switched on when it comes to vegetarian/vegan food. Every vegan or vegetarian restaurant has their own cookbook published traditionally and their bookstores are full of those local as well as international cookbooks (see below).

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I am a huge fan of German/Austrian cuisine. Mostly because I love how they do their potatoes. And the dumpling business is just divine. They call them dumplings but they’re very much like baked loaves like nut roast without the nuts but breadcrumbs instead. I believe they are their bread substitute. We had something similar in Prague too.

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At Wrenkh, you should ask for a menu in English and they give you this one with an “E” at one ear (like the one above), the left ear, to be precise. And definitely ask for wine recommendation; you won’t be disappointed. We fell in love with Austrian wines. Try Grüner Veltliner. You’ll thank me later. Actually, you can get Grüner Veltliner in Australia. I know it because we found a few after we got back.

Let’s talk about food, shall we? The menu is not exclusively vegetarian but mostly vegetarian. However, vegetarian dishes are marked well and explained well, even in English. I mean, you get an idea. We ordered two distinctive Austrian dishes so that we could share. It’s a great way of trying different dishes.

Dish number one: Creamy lentils in white wine sauce with roasted bread dumplings (below)
Laird lentils in “Veltliner” sauce with celery stalks and carrots, served with herbed bread dumplings.

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Dish number two: Wrenkh’s Erdäpfelschmarrn (shredded potatoes)
Grated crispy grilled potatoes with marjoram, oregano and thyme, served with roasted seasonal vegetables and herbed goat cream cheese-dip.

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Here’s the trimmings (above): Lightly cooked seasonal vegetables and cream cheese dip.

Wrench in Vienna is such an institution; they even have a cooking school (right next door to the restaurant). We noticed that the students were presenting their dishes to a group of judges outside. It is always nice to see young people showing interest in cooking.

If you ever find yourself in Vienna, give Wrenkh a try and when you’re there, make sure you talk to people around you; fellow diners, I mean. You’ll never know, you might bump into a really nice couple from Frankfurt like we did.

Wrenkh can be found at this address:
Bauernmarkt 10,
1010 Wien, Austria

Creamy Lemon Fettucine with Mushroom, Spinach and Pine Nuts

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As some of you may not know, I have just signed up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and started to write my first novel. It is tough Peoples. Some days are better than the others but I have managed to write over 25,000 words in 14 days! Wish me luck Peoples :)

The recipe below is something I created for the purpose of submitting to BestRecipes easy Italian recipes competition. However, by the time I finished cooking, taking the photo and writing up the recipe, the competition was closed. I don’t even know if the ones I submitted a day before are now included in the competition or not but this one certainly isn’t. So it’s all yours :)

Creamy Lemon Fettucine with Mushroom, Spinach and Pine Nuts
The clean taste of lemon adds a wonderful tang to this rich and creamy pasta dish and really lifts the flavours.
Wine suggestion: Marc Bredif Vouvray Classic (2013)
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves 2

200 gram fettucine
50 gram butter
2 tbsp pine nuts
4 tbsp double cream
½ bunch spinach (leaves only), roughly chopped
200 gram king oyster mushrooms, sliced
150 gram oyster mushroom, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 lemon, rind only
Salt and pepper to taste

• Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions until tender. Drain well.
• Melt half the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Add the pine kernels and cook until golden brown. Set aside.
• Heat the rest of the butter in a frying pan and add the mushrooms. Fry the mushrooms for about 15 minutes or until they are tender.
• Put the cream in a large saucepan and bring slowly to the boil, whisking until smooth. Add the mushrooms, fettuccine, pine nuts, crushed garlic, lemon rind and lemon juice. Cook for another 2 minutes. Add the spinach and mix well. Cook until the spinach is wilted.
• Season with salt and pepper and serve warm.

Gran Chorizo from Wheaty

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Wheaty Gran Chorizo is vegan version of the famous Spanish classic which is also palm oil free and organic. It is not one of those refrigerated products, so it sits in your pantry until it’s needed –after that it needs to be refrigerated though. It’s quite spicy and delicious. To be honest, if it weren’t really expensive for what it is, I would have used it more.

Ingredients: water, wheat protein * (26%), red bell pepper*, coconut fat*, yeast extract, onion*, spices* (contains CELERY * and MUSTARD *), rock salt, thickening agent locust bean gum*, smoke**.
* = certified organic.
**= natural beech wood smoke.
Allergy information: Contains wheat gluten, celery and mustard. May contain traces of soy.

Company: Wheaty

Packet size: 200 gram

Where to buy: Cruelty Free Shop

Price: $16.95

Where to use: Slice and use it as pizza topping, cheese toasties, sandwiches or on crackers. Cut it into cubes and use it in pasta dishes.

Aria, Sydney

For significant celebrations, my husband and I normally ask for a vegetarian degustation menu with wine pairing. As vegetarians, we hate to turn up and announce that we’re vegetarians at the last minute. So instead we ring ahead of time and ask if they can put together a vegetarian tasting menu for us and most upscale restaurants are quite happy to do that for you if you let them know upfront. Aria Restaurant is no exception.

After having suffered from the latest and the trendiest virus through our birthdays, we finally managed to keep our booking with Aria last Saturday. Our birthdays are only a day apart so we celebrate them together. We knew Aria is usually booked out so we made our booking one and a half months before our birthdays, not knowing that we were going to change it twice until we were finally well enough to enjoy our experience.

The Place
If you live in Sydney, Aria doesn’t need an introduction. If you don’t, here’s how the story goes… Aria is elegantly located at one end of Circular Quay. Therefore, the dining room has one of the most spectacular views that Sydney offers. It is owned by Matt Moran whom you may remember from MasterChef Australia series or may have already had one of his creations on your Singapore Airline flight. Aria is an award winning restaurant and holds two highly regarded Chef’s Hats as well.

The Service
I believe most restaurants give you a hint about your upcoming experience at the time of booking. I’m happy to say that Aria excels in that department. The first time we tried to book a table, they put us on their waiting list. We didn’t get the table in the end but when we rang for the second time to book for our birthdays, we didn’t have to go through the whole name and phone number process again because our details were already on their system. Now, that’s a good start.

We were given a copy of our menu including the wine – it’s called chef’s seasonal tasting menu. This is something you do not get everywhere because most places do not have an established vegetarian tasting menu. They usually serve your food and explain. Those are the places that I struggle to write review for because when it’s time to write the review everything I ate is digested and gone so is the memory of it. At Aria, I was even allowed to keep mine.

Service was well paced over four hours and seven courses. We even had the General Manager serving us at some stage and every other staff member we encountered was highly efficient and polite. The highlight of the service was the head sommelier, Paul Beaton. Mr Beaton has an elegant way of explaining various elements of every glass of wine and why they are paired with certain dishes.

And The Food
Truth to be told, Aria had some large shoes to fill as we recently had a 5 week European holiday and experienced incredibly well composed as well as interesting tasting menus. However, I personally appreciate the fact that they cater for vegetarians and the quality of the produce is high, I mean very high.

Now, here’s how our experience went…
We started off with complimentary smoked eggplant puree on chickpea crackers and some home baked bread with incredibly tasty butter.

Chef’s seasonal tasting menu continued with…
Salad of Australian green asparagus with cashew nuts and lemon (below) paired with 2008 Michel Arnould Grand Cru Reserve Brut, Champagne France. Those drops you see in the photo are full of delicate lemon and they were quite fluffy and buttery without being fatty. I believe adding lemon is the best way to freshen up greens.

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Fennel jam with heirloom tomatoes and flowering chives (below) paired with 2012 Lowe Nullo Mountain Riesling, Mudgee New South Wales. My husband doesn’t like fennel very much but we both appreciated the way it is used in this dish. Fennel’s aniseedy flavour is balanced with fleshy heirloom tomatoes and lightly blanched flowering chives.

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Confit egg yolk, kale, eshallots and baked potato (below) paired with 2014 Petit Chablis Christophe & Fills, Burgundy France. This is one of the most interesting dishes I have ever had in my life. There is an egg yolk under that coat which is slow cooked to perfection. The sharpness of kale is balanced with kipfler potatoes which are quite nutty and creamy and fried eshallots add some unexpected crunchiness to the dish.

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Warm smoked beetroot with pickled rhubarb and black pepper (below) paired with 2013 Trofeo Estate Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsular Victoria. This was an interesting ensemble with its continuous beetroot slices and pickled rhubard. Rhubard is something I haven’t been brought up with so I appreciate every variation of it.

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Charred artichokes with caramelised onions, toasted brioche and parmesan (below) paired with 2013 Langhe Cascina Ghercina Dedicato Nebiolo, Piemonte Italy. What I really liked about this dish is dryness/moisture balance. Usually, grilled vegetables are dry. So is toasted brioche. However, you get moisture from caramelised onions and parmesan water. Brilliant!

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Miso baked eggplant with hazelnuts, braised mushrooms and green shallots (below) paired with 2013 Caillard Mataro, Barossa Valley South Australia. I am well aware of the fact that miso baked eggplant has been done before. However, complementing it with hazelnuts is quite something different. You also don’t see in the photo but there are two slices of king mushrooms there as well. Mushrooms and eggplant: that actually doesn’t work in my mind but my taste buds certainly appreciated it.

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Strawberries and champagne with macerated berries and watermelon (below) paired with 2014 Dindima Moscato, Orange New South Wales. This was quite a refreshing dessert. I must admit, I do like watermelon desserts so I’ll say no more other than “Thanks to Aria Restaurant for making our (belated) birthdays special.”

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We also had a selection of house made petit fours which I do not have a photo of but they were also very nice.

Finally, my favourite wines of the night are:
• Petit Chablis from Burgundy in whites (actually Riesling was nice too)
• Nebbiolo from Italy in reds

We have always liked Aria’s wine list. Even if you don’t have dinner there, you could still have a glass of wine at the bar which is highly recommended -try a glass of white Burgundy and thank me later.

Aria Restaurant can be found on this address:
1 Macquarie Street
Sydney NSW 2000

Phone: +61 2 92402255

Green Lentils and Noodle Soup or Bacaklı Çorba

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Coming back from 5 week Europe holiday including Turkey, I decided to cook something Turkish. Since the weather here in Australia is cold at this time of the year, I thought a soup would be the best.

This was one of my Dad’s favourite soups growing up in Northern part of Turkey where the cuisine heavily relies on legumes, especially during winter months. Later on, it became my favourite soup. Because of eriste sticking out of spoon with every spoonful of this soup, my Dad named it Bacakli Corba (leggy soup).

The recipe below is my grandmother’s recipe. It was difficult to come up with the right measurements as she never measured anything while cooking. I managed to put it together during one of our conversations. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Green Lentils and Noodle Soup or Bacaklı Çorba
¾ cup green lentils, picked over, washed and cooked
1 cup eriste, cooked
2 tbsp plain flour (heaped)
1 egg
3 generous tbsp yoghurt, in room temperature

For tempering:
2 tbsp butter
3 tsp dried spearmint

• Whisk together plain flour, egg and yoghurt in a large pan. Add 8 glasses of water and boil. Once it is boiled, add cooked lentils and eriste. Season with salt.
• In a separate small saucepan, melt the butter and add dried spearmint. Let it smoke a little without burning.
• Add it to the rest of the soup and serve warm.

One of my creations is in Super Food Ideas Magazine

A few months ago, I participated Home Cook Hero competition on Best Recipes which is the website of Super Food Ideas magazine. I heard about the competition on the last minute and I had another important deadline at the same time too.  Nevertheless, I managed to put together a few recipes and submitted them during July.To my surprise, I was notified as one of the judges’ favourites and my Udon Noodles with Shiitake Mushrooms and Chilli recipe was going to be mentioned in one of their upcoming issues. After being sick for weeks, I went out yesterday to run some errands and checked the magazine at the supermarket and there it was… Super Food Ideas magazine’s November issue is already out and I’m in it :)

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It says in the magazine: Made from only seven ingredients, this is one speedy and flavourful stir-fry. Udon noodles make a great alternative to regular noodles.

Vegetable Casserole

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Recently, I only write about the vegetarian restaurants we visited during our Europe trip. Although, I have another two to go, I’d like to publish a recipe before I finish the whole lot. Luckily, I always have a few half-baked recipes in my workbook. And this vegetable casserole is one of them…

Recipe Note: You will need a good quality, glazed clay pot (with a lid) for this dish. Ceramic or glass ones don’t do the job properly and they create more mess too.

Vegetable Casserole

8 pieces Lamyong soy chunks, thawed
1 large potato, peeled and cut into small pieces
1 small carrot, diced
1 cup green beans, cut into small pieces
1 onion, chopped
2 tomato, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
A handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Vegetable oil
1 tsp ground sweet paprika
Salt and pepper

• Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (fan forced), Gas Mark 4, 350F.
• Heat ½ tbsp of vegetable oil in a frying pan and fry the soy chunks until golden brown. Remove from the heat and set aside.
• Place the carrot, potato, onion, chopped tomato, garlic, parsley, green beans and spices in casserole and mix well. Drizzle with a little bit of oil, put the lid on and place the casserole in the middle of the oven.
• It usually takes 40 minutes to cook although I check it half way through and give it a good stir. When a knife goes through potato easily, it’s done.
• Serve warm and enjoy!

Lehka Hlava (Clear Head) Vegetarian Restaurant and Tea Room, Prague

Lehka Hlava means easy head or clear head and is the sister restaurant of Maitre. We were told about Clear Head during our first and second visit to Maitre so we had to check it out.

Clear Head is tucked in on a little side street which is said to be the shortest street in Prague. The whole area has a renovated medieval charm to it. But, that’s outside. Inside, the décor is quite unique; it’s so colourful from the ceilings to the lamps. In certain areas you feel as if you have just stepped into a different galaxy.

The vibe is also different to Maitre I must say. It is more hip and edgy; mostly frequented by young people –naturally. But boy they do wicked gyros here. It was so good, I didn’t care about what my husband had there; I was busy enjoying my seitan gyros :)

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Seitan Gyros with tzatziki, pita bread, cherry tomatoes and lettuce (above)
I have never had seitan gyros that soft before. It was an absolute triumph in the taste department as well as the texture. We tried to get the recipe unsuccessfully.

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If you ever find yourselves in Prague, check this place out.
Lehka Hlava (Clear Head) Vegetarian Restaurant and Tea Room
Address: Borsov 2/280, Prague 1 – Old Town