Love is in the air: Loving Hut leap of faith pays off

I had never heard of Loving Hut until a fellow Aussie vegan blogger residing in Brisbane wrote how it was one of his favourite restaurants early last year. I was thrilled to learn a Perth branch opened. Not just one, but two! A restaurant and a café!

First off, a history of the business. It’s a family of global vegan restaurants that has won numerous awards such as VegNews 2012 Favourite Vegan Restaurant, 2012 Vegan of the Year: Outstanding Vegan Business (Asia) and 2012 Vegan of the Year: Oustanding Vegan Restaurant (UK/Europe) – Menton, France. The founder believes (as do all vegans) “a plant-based diet is healthier, more compassionate, and is the only sustainable diet for the whole planet”.

Each Loving Hut is individually owned and managed (ie. Owners are given full autonomy of the menu), meaning no two restaurants are the same.

I have been to both Perth Loving Huts several times, and on this occasion hubby and I dropped in for breakfast to the café. I opted for the raw sandwich, only because it was something I’d never tried before and hubby chose the Big Breakfast. For drinks – two freshly pressed juices.

Hubby is blessed with a fast metabolism. He can eat like a horse and not exercise. Doesn’t gain a kilo. Mucho unfair *fist shaking in the air*. He was sceptical how ‘big’ Loving Hut’s Big Breakfast was going to be, but ceased all worrying when his food arrived.

The big V brekky

The big V brekky

For $15, it’s really good value. Toast, scrambled tofu, cherry tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms and a vegan sausage. He managed to finish it and said the scramble tasted exactly like eggs.

My raw sandwich consisted of ‘bread’ on either side of julienned vegetables. The dehydrated flaxseed bread wasn’t too salty and the texture was as bread-like as you could get. It was just right. The tasty relishes on the side were ohhh la la. One was tomato chutney and the other I’m actually not sure. It was sweet and yellow. Hmm, will have to ask next time.

raw sandwich

raw sandwich

A cursory glance at the desserts cabinet and I’m a goner. I never can say no. Problem: It was a bit early for sweets in the day. Solution: Takeaway! Hubby was too full to even go halves with me. On previous occasions I’d tried the (cooked) tiramisu, chocolate, mocha and carrot cakes, and of course the to-die-for soft serve icecream. Opting for the raw route, I take home a slice of raw mixed berry cheesecake and a raw pistachio macaroon.  (Side note:  later that afternoon we devoured the desserts.  Hubby said it’s the best raw cheesecake he’s had out of all the establishments we’ve tried!)

in the raw:  berry cheesecake and pistachio macaroon

in the raw: berry cheesecake and pistachio macaroon

The Loving Hut café not only has organic coffee, teas, juices, a salad bar, hot food station and dessert cabinet – they also dedicate a few shelves to vegan products such as Notzarella cheese, Primal Strips seitan vegan jerky, the Lam Yong range and Tofutti mock cream cheese among others.

As we were enjoying our meal, there was a steady stream of customers dropping in. The owner of Loving Hut Perth, Lee, says a wide variety of people come through the doors. Many are not vegans, they simply want a good feed that doesn’t cost the earth, like most things in Perth.

The next time I visit? I notice they have a Vegan Dim Sum on the menu. Their menu changes according to what’s in season, which keeps things fresh and sustainable.

Want to know more?

self-serve salad bar

self-serve salad bar

The Loving Hut Low Down:  1 Minute with Lee Mah, Owner of Loving Hut Perth

Lee Mah and her entire family are vegan.  She has a background in the restaurant business, owning two vegetarian establishments before foraying into the Loving Hut family.  In addition to running the two Loving Huts, Lee is also the Western Australian producer of vegan cheese Notzarella.  Those that haven’t tried it – you gotta.  A subtle tasting cheese, it melts and shreds just like mainstream cheese.  Melted on top of pizzas, lasagnas or as a grilled ‘cheeze’ sandwich?   Ohh la la…

Vegetarian / vegan since:

Vegetarian for over 15 years, vegan for 5 years.

Most popular dishes on the menu:

Thai green curry, sizzling peking and the mushroom delight.

Most touching Loving Hut moment:

At last week’s Running Raw around Australia Fundraising event in Cottesloe, Lee experienced something innately rewarding. A customer told her that her mother, after visiting Loving Hut Perth Cafe some months ago – has turned vegan. Lee further shares “I am touched…., and overwhelmed with gratitude and warmth. Though we have no intention of trying to convert anyone, we are simply providing vegan food and a venue for people to have an experience of eating vegan meals, However comments like this mean a lot to us all at Loving Hut Perth.”

(Note:  Running Raw around Australia is the initiative of cancer survivor Janette Murray-Wakelin & partner Alan Murray.  This couple are running 1 marathon per day for 365 days around the nation.  Why?  To draw attention to conscious lifestyle choices, kindness, compassion, sustainability and environmental awareness).

The Future of Loving Hut:

Exciting plans are underway to expand Notzarella production and Loving Hut’s famous pies.  In just 3 weeks’ time, you’ll be able to purchase Lee’s pies from your local IGA.  Hurrah!  Cue happy dance here.  As for Notzarella, Melbourne and Adelaide will follow suit, and there are currently 100 outlets in WA which stock it with this number set to increase.

Lee describes Loving Hut as being the medium to which she can promote a benevolent and peaceful world, a simple, humble vegan cafe and restaurant which is hoping to be able to serve the Perth community.

A generous soul, Lee has offered a 10% discount for my blog followers! Give the code “FriskaLove” to the Loving Hut staff when dining in the café or restaurant. This discount is valid from 3 months as of today. That means it expires on 12 December 2013 people.
NB: As of 23 September, Loving Hut East Victoria Park will only be open for dinner on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays as they ramp up Notzarella production.  Rest assured this is only temporary!  Best to like their Facebook page to keep abreast of their updates.
Loving Hut Cafe and Mini Mart
Shop 19, 366 Albany Highway
Victoria Park (Mon-Fri 10am-2.30pm, Weekend 10am-4.30pm)
9470 3969Loving Hut Restaurant
64A Etwell Street
East Victoria Park (Wed-Sun 5-9pm, Fri-Sun 5-9pm as of 23 September)
9470 6162
hot food station

hot food station

Pesto perfecto: Kale and Walnut Pesto

I won’t claim credit.

This is a raw pesto dish hubby made for me one evening.

Served on a bed of raw zucchini noodles, it was one of the best homemade dinners I’ve had in a while.

Kale & Walnut Pesto

leaves from 1 bunch kale
1/4 cup walnuts
1 clove of garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon – juiced and zested
sea salt and pepper

Blitz all ingredients in a food processor.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

If you want a runnier pesto, add more olive oil.  If you like it thick, it could also serve as a dip for vegetable crudites.

Quirky fact:  Did you know walnuts have been revered since ancient times as a symbol of intelligence.  It is attributed to the similarity of their kernels to that of the human brain.  Enriched with health-benefiting nutrients, especially omega-3 fatty acids (a 25g serving provides a whopping 90% RDI), it’s an apt correlation.

It could also be called the ‘beauty’ nut, containing about 21g of Vitamin E per 100g (that’s 140% of your daily required levels!)  

P.S.  Walnut and kale is used here, as this is what was in our fridge.  I don’t see why these ingredients couldn’t be substituted for similar items.  Cashew and spinach pesto, anyone?

pretty pesto

pretty pesto

Magnifique Matcha macaroons, Oh mon Dieu!

Look what came in the mail for me today.

kawaii kenko

kawaii kenko

How cute is that?  It’s right up there along with giggling infants, dimples, Mini Coopers and baby pandas.

It was sent by Melbourne-based Kenko Tea, a premium matcha online retailer.  I’d used matcha in a past post whereby I concocted a raw vanilla cheesecake using a mung bean crust.  However only a dusting of matcha was used – it was not the centre of attention.

I did a lil more digging around and discovered there’s matcha.. and there’s MATCHA.  Let me explain.  Like any fruit or vegetable, the more vibrant the colour = the more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants it contains.  Makes sense.  Who’d want a light mauve eggplant over one a fetching deep shade of royal purple?

I took the photos below to illustrate the varying grades of this wonder powder.

gorgeous green

gorgeous green

Yeah, this is mine… all mine.  Note the intensity of the hue.  And the smell when I popped open the container was just wow.  Pure freshness in a can.  Eau de fresh!

not so green

not so green

Yeah, the above pic is not my matcha obviously.

I was keen to do two things:  brew myself a well-earned cuppa matcha.  Check.  Experiment with Kenko Tea’s premium matcha in the kitchen.  A ha…

This is what transpired.

Raw Magic Matcha Macaroons

2 tbs matcha green tea powder
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup dried coconut
3-4 tbs tahini
3-4 tbs cup agave
¼ tsp sea salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
Optional: carob nibs, orange zest

Food process the coconut and sunflower seeds first until they resemble breadcrumbs.  Food process everything else and shape into cute macaroon-esque balls.  Done.  Haha, short and sweet right.

If it’s too dry, gradually add more tahini, vanilla extract or agave.  Conversely, if you went overboard on the liquid, add more dried coconut bit by bit.  I had carob nibs in the pantry so threw them in there for an extra crunch factor.

Shape into macaroons and pop in the freezer for 5 minutes.

matcha macaroon heaven

matcha macaroon heaven

I was interested to find out more about the Man behind the Matcha.  This is what I discovered….

Sam James, 27, has called the kitchen a second home ever since embarking on a chef apprenticeship at the age of 16.  He works on Kenko Tea during the day before working the evening shift at a Melbourne restaurant. 

Kenko Tea creatively fuses together his passions for quality ingredients, health and funky packaging.

Why did you start Kenko Tea?

I decided to start my own project as after living in Melbourne CBD for the last few years, I’d noticed the specialty coffee culture in Melbourne explode.   I’ve always had an eye for food trends and first came across matcha online when researching its health benefits and high levels of antioxidants.

I couldn’t find any GOOD matcha in Melbourne.  I read about matcha being an amazing, sweet, fresh and bright green super tea that whisks up a layer of crema.  The ones I tasted were horrible unless mixed with loads of sugar and milk. So that’s why I started Kenko Tea, to bring high grade matcha to Australia.

What prompted you on the health and wellness path?

I’ve had a growing interest in nutrition, food and health for a few years now. I was miserable in my early 20’s – the lifestyle that comes with working in kitchens is characterised by long hours, high stress, bad diet, no social life.

I started searching for healthier ways to manage stress. This led me down all sorts of paths – meditation, yoga, martial arts, gym, cutting out sugar/processed foods etc.  These days I notice straight away if I haven’t exercised for a few days or go back to eating junk.  I am still learning what works best for me.

Why the interest in matcha?

Besides the health benefits, it was the intense colour that appealed to me.  It was something new and exciting, an ingredient I’d never experimented with.  It’s incredibly versatile – to drink on its own as a tea, made into a green smoothie, or added to desserts and sweets.

The history behind matcha is fascinating.  It was used by samurai and Zen monks for meditation and the stone grinding production methods are the same methods they’ve used for centuries.  The more I learn about matcha, the more I Iove it.

How matcha benefits me:

Matcha makes me feel energized, refreshed, alert and focused without the jittery or wired feeling of coffee.  Matcha’s high levels of L-theanine which when combined with caffeine, delivers caffeine to the bloodstream over a longer period, so you feel calm and alert for 4-6 hours without coffee’s massive ups and downs.  I receive emails constantly from customers saying exactly this regarding their energy levels.

Describe a typical day for you: 

Wake up 9am, make a matcha smoothie, check emails, pack any orders and go to post office, check emails, write more content for my website, experiment with matcha recipes, send out any more orders before post office shuts. Then I head to work.

Life motto:

If you don’t design your own life someone else will happily do it for you.

The Kenko Tea Co in 5 years’ time: 

Matcha is the superfood of superfoods.  It’s the next gojiberry, acai berry, maca, cacao and spirulina all rolled into one. Kenko Tea will be the number one source of high grade, artisanal matcha green tea in Australia, and the world.

my matcha

my matcha

Nut-free Raw Noodles Gado-Gado style

I was yearning for the Indonesian salad ‘gado gado’.  Come to think of it, not the salad itself but rather the sauce this dish is renowned for.  Gado-gado is arguably the Western equivalent of a house salad, available at high end restos or streetside food carts around the nation.  Traditionally consisting of vegetables boiled within an inch of their lives and generously coated with peanut sauce, it’s devoid of any nutrition!  Typical blanched veges range from cabbage, spinach, bean sprouts, carrot and corn.  Toppings are raw sliced cucumber, deep-fried sliced tofu, deep fried tempeh, sliced boiled potatoes and sliced boiled eggs.

My sauce is much thinner than the authentic version, as I didn’t fancy my raw noodles becoming gluggy and limp.

Yep, been on a South East Asian trend lately.  I must be homesick.

beautiful bali

beautiful bali

Nut-free Gado Gado Salad

Raw noodles

1 spiralised zucchini (you could use carrot or beetroot too!)

Sauce

2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup tahini
2 tbs palm sugar
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbs lime juice
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
2 cups hot water

Use a spiraliser to shred zucchini into noodle-like strips.  If you haven’t got one, use a veg peeler – your noodles will be thick a la fettuccine.

In a food processor, blitz all sauce ingredients until a saucey texture is achieved.  Taste and tweak seasonings if necessary.  You won’t use all the sauce in one go.  Store in an airtight jar in the fridge.

Arrange noodles on a plate and pour over as much sauce as you like.

Now… does anyone have any raw pad thai recipes to share?  And I am yet to think of a way to ‘uncook’ Vietnamese fresh spring rolls too.  Any ideas?

Happy Friday everybody, have a great weekend!

gado gado inspired noodles

gado gado inspired noodles