ON THE MENU WITH SMITH & DAUGHTERSFebruary 17, 2017
Smith and Daughters, aka Mo Wyse and Shannon Martinez are shaking up what it means to be vegan. They are changing how we see cruelty-free food, reclaiming the term from the clean eaters with perfect Instagram accounts full of green smoothies and yoga poses. Having opened a bar in Melbourne with its walls plastered in band posters and their signature neon cross on the wall, they have now published their first cookbook together. Packed full of Spanish and Mexican inspired dishes, the girls are showing the world that eating vegan doesn’t mean eating bland.
We caught up with Mo and Shannon to find out a little about what set them on this path, their hero kitchen ingredients and the highs and lows of running your own business. They also share with us the White Truffle Forest Mushroom Pâté recipe from their cookbook.
UO: Where did your love of cooking and food come from? Was it something you shared with family, or did it evolve later in life?
MW: Because I’m no chef, my love of food is stronger than my love for cooking. I’d love to have the talents of Shannon, but I’m a much better eater than cook. My love for food was something that has always been a part of me. I love the science and creativity and variety food gives us, as well as the rituals and social and health and, well, everything food offers. My love for cooking was more a necessity than anything else. I went vegan on my 16th birthday and my mother who always struggled, being a full time working mother of 3, to get dinner on the table wasn’t about to cook another meal for me, or adjust her cooking. She didn’t have time. So I forced myself to learn. And forced everyone else to try it… even if my first attempts were pretty abysmal.
SM: Without a doubt, my love of food stems from my Spanish grandmother. I spent a lot of time as a child sitting with her in the kitchen watching and helping her prepare traditional Spanish food.
UO: What is your go-to breakfast to set yourselves up for the day?
MW: A cup of coffee, or four.
UO: Your new cookbook looks amazing. What is your favourite recipe (or top contenders) from the book and why?
MW: Hey! Thanks! I used to not be able to choose my favourites. I love all the food Shannon has made for our restaurant. I love that a lot of dishes tie me to different points in our career together, and different customers and just the range of texture and flavours our place is capable of. My go to favourite recipe is always the White Truffle Forest Mushroom Pate. It’s stunning and is so convincingly meaty. I never thought, being vegan, I’d ever have those textures again. Plus I grew up eating my grandma’s super jewish liver pate and it really does take me back. I also love the Tortilla Soup, Pazole, Chocolate Pate, Burrito, I could go on and on!!!
SM: Ok! So I think that when you set yourself and your food up for the week, life runs a whole lot smoother, so with that I mind, I’m going to say, the aioli, sofrito, chickpea stew and the Brazilian black bean soup. If you have thoughts stocked in your fridge at the start of the week, it’ll be a good one!
UO: Can you talk us through creating the cookbook? Highs and lows?
MW: It was all pretty much highs. The cookbook creation was epic. We got to tell our story to the world. Choose our favourite recipes to share, and our favourite images. We got to really put ourselves out there. I suppose if I had to choose a low, it would be all the stuff that had to get cut due to space. Guess there’ll have to be a second book!! But no, it’s a really complete, really beautiful and real depiction of who Shannon and I are, what we are trying to do and create through Smith & Daughters, and our amazing creations with the most beautiful photos and tiny perfectly executed details to boot!
SM: Making a cookbook was one of the best things I’ve ever done. There was a lot of pressure to meet the tight deadlines we were given while still running the kitchens at the deli and restaurant. I’ve never been one to write down recipes, so that in itself was a big challenge. I’d say the hardest thing about it was having to cook all the food in the book on my own in 6 days. While one dish was being shot, I’d have to be hustling to get the next one ready by the time they were done.
UO: What is your creation process for putting together new recipes?
MW: This is Shannon’s domain. The only interaction I have with recipes is to eat the end result.
SM: I spend most of my free time cooking at home. So generally what I’ll do is make non vegan dishes at home, and work on them until I get them how I like them, then figure out how to veganize it.
UO: Hero cooking item?
MW: Tamari Soy Sauce, garlic, fancy olive oil, anything that makes food spicier: chills, chill flakes, hot sauce, cayenne, etc. etc.
UO: What three things will we always find in your kitchen cupboards?
MW: Popcorn, hot sauce, 2 minute noodles.
SM: Olive oil, garlic and kimchi.
UO: Best and worst things about running your own business?
• Happy customers – they’re the f-ing best!! I love making people happy, and seeing customers happy cause of your food, there’s nothing that compares.
Especially customers who travelled far, or who are celebrating a special occasion, or it’s their Wednesday night ritual, anything! I love happy customers. • Good staff, that’s the best.
• Being able to stand behind and for something I wholeheartedly believe in. Working hard for my dreams, and not someone else’s, especially not someone who’s going to under appreciate my second-nature hard work ethic.
• Learning new skills and life lessons, even if they’re really difficult. Knowing that my previous limits were definitely not my limits.
• Opening up new possibilities every single day.
• Being able to make the bigger calls at the end of the day and to reflect on the business for the long term.
• Satisfaction of true hard work.
• Seeing the business grow legs and run from infancy, and seeing where what appears to be limitless possibilities, ends up!
• Unhappy customers
• Bad staff
• Online reviews (even the good ones set up an unrealistic standard for a business)
• The government and silly employment laws, visas, excess tax, etc. etc.
• Lack of common sense that is far more prevalent as a business owner than employee
• Not being able to please everyone all the time
SM: Best thing. Working for yourself.
Worst thing. Staff issues and the government.
UO: What do you love the most about cooking and eating cruelty-free food?
MW: In the year 2017 cooking and eating cruelty-free food is easier and more delicious than it ever has been, ever before. There’s just so many people out there excited about vegan food and it feels like the revolutions are happening. There’s serious money and time being invested into these alternatives and it’s just all so thrilling. The best bit is the innovation, and the realisation we don’t need to sacrifice lives or taste to make a great cruelty-free product.
SM: Cooking vegan food is a whole lot cleaner. In every way. From storing it, to preparing it, to eating it.
White Truffle Forest Mushroom Pâté
Like many of Shannon’s customers, I’ve followed her cooking wherever she went. Admittedly, there was a dark period in my life where I would dress up in different disguises and go to the local pub five times a week so I could sit at the bar and eat this pâté by myself – slowly, because I never wanted it to end. Jokes aside, this dish is what ultimately won me over in terms of Shannon’s sorcery. I’d never experienced anything like it. Needless to say, if you had me at gunpoint forcing me to choose, this would be my ultimate favourite dish.
This pâté lasts for ages in the fridge. We recommend saving some for the week ahead and spreading it on absolutely anything (crackers, veg, sandwiches), or mixing in some sour cream for a creamy mushroom dip, or using it as a pasta sauce – it’s so versatile!
250 g (9 oz) firm tofu, cut into 8 pieces
1 fresh bay leaf
vegan beef stock
60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
50 g (1¾ oz/½ cup) pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped
15 g (½ oz/½ cup) dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 125 ml
(4 fl oz/½ cup) warm water
440 g (1 lb) button mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon thyme leaves, plus extra sprigs, for garnish
60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) Pedro Ximénez sherry (see note)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon white truffle oil
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
melted butter, to cover
toasted bread slices, to serve
Place the tofu, bay leaf and enough stock to cover in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer on low for 5 minutes.
Drain the tofu and press with paper towel for about 10 minutes to remove excess liquid.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until caramelised, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and pecans, and continue to cook for a further 2 minutes.
Strain the porcini mushrooms and set aside the liquid. Add the porcini and button mushrooms to the pan along with the thyme, cook for a few minutes then deglaze the pan with the PX sherry.
Add 80 ml (2½ fl oz/1/3 cup) of the dried mushroom soaking liquid and cook until completely reduced. Season well with salt and pepper. Transfer the ingredients to a blender and add the soy sauce, truffle oil and sherry vinegar. Blend until completely smooth.
Fill ramekins nearly to the top with pâté, cover with melted butter and add a thyme sprig.
Set aside in the fridge for at least 2 hours to firm up.
At Smith & Daughters we serve our pâté with slices of toasted baguette.
Note: You can substitute brandy for PX Sherry if you’re unable to get your hands on it.
Shop: Smith & Daughter’s: A Cookbook (that happens to be vegan)