23 January 2023

Five minutes with Maddalena Easterbrook, Future Swirl

| Evelyn Karatzas
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Maddalena Easterbrook

Maddalena Easterbrook is the founder of Future Swirl. Photo: Harriet Easterbrook.

Who is Maddalena Easterbrook? I am the founder of Future Swirl, a new Canberra business that serves handcrafted oat milk soft serve, sundaes and milkshakes.

Best recent dining experience: My boyfriend and business partner Mark and I recently went to New Zealand in October last year and absolutely loved the vegan food scene in Auckland. Highlights were the croissants at Maison des Lys Patisserie, a fresh whole foods breakfast at Little Bird Kitchen and a beautifully crafted set menu at Forest by chef Plabita Florence.

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Favourite cuisine: Fried potato is my weakness. I mean … who can say no to hot chips?! I know chips aren’t really a cuisine so to speak, but they would be my most consumed food group. I also love Japanese food – sushi is just the best!

Most embarrassing pantry or fridge item: I think my most embarrassing fridge item is the giant carton of tomato sauce my boyfriend bought at the shops, thinking that buying one huge bottle, rather than many smaller ones over time would save on plastic waste.

What ingredient can I not live without: Is it too stereotypical for a vegan to say tofu? Nooch (nutritional yeast) and miso paste are also fantastic ingredients that really add oomph to vegan cooking.

fried sandwich

A fried oyster mushroom sandwich. Photo: Sweet Bones Scullin.

Next big thing in the Canberra food scene: Whilst I do love a roasted cauliflower steak or a miso eggplant, there is so much untapped versatility and innovation in plant-based cooking that is yet to be explored, and I think we’ll start to see more restaurants recognise that.

I also think we could see Canberra be another starting point for what could become a nationwide food chain – perhaps Vietnamese street food?

Favourite place for lunch in the ACT: I love visiting Sweet Bones in Scullin. The space has a great vibe and the local community seem to have really embraced the cafe. Whenever I used to visit, I’d get their Po Boy – a fried oyster mushroom sandwich.

U&CO Cafe

Maddalena says she loves the coffee at U&Co. Photo: U&CO Cafe, Facebook.

My go-to coffee spot in Canberra: I’d have to say U&Co Cafe in Kaleen. The service is excellent and they have very loyal customers, me included! My very first coffee from U&Co introduced me to the Alternative Dairy Co oat milk brand, which is hands-down the best oat milk for coffee.

Favourite coffee: Oat milk iced latte in summer and an oat milk cappuccino in winter … can you tell that I like oat milk?

The vanilla and chocolate soft serve. Future Swirl. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

A must-try on our menu: Something you’ve got to try on our menu is the mixed vanilla and chocolate soft serve.

Our most-used ingredient at Future Swirl: Oats! I use Australian-grown organic oats in my soft serve. I make the whole thing from scratch because I need to be precise to get the level of creaminess that everyone expects in soft serve, plus it creates a really fresh and premium product this way.

Our most authentic dish: Our oat milk soft serve is a new twist on an old favourite. So many Australians grew up with Mr Whippy and I wanted to recreate that nostalgia, but with an eye to the future as I am super passionate about sustainability, and eating plant-based.

Sweet Bones tacos

The tacos from Sweet Bones in Braddon are crowd-pleasers. Photo: Michelle Rowe.

Our top pick from our desserts: Our warm Biscoff sauce – a delicious caramel biscuit spread that goes so well with our vanilla soft serve.

Biggest culinary influence: I don’t have one culinary influence necessarily, but there are a lot of emerging food technology companies that are pushing the boundaries in this space that I draw huge inspiration from.

Tim Anderson

Tim Anderson won Masterchef in 2011. Photo: Tim Anderson.

Favourite cookbook: My favourite cookbook is Vegan JapanEasy by Tim Anderson. The UK-based chef and Masterchef winner takes you through all the foundational flavours that create the distinctive umami in Japanese dishes.

Who I admire in the Canberra food and wine scene: Two people come to mind.

My friend Manjula Mishra of SimplyLentils – she creates meal premixes using protein-rich pulses. She immediately struck me as a go-getter, and I was blown away by her ambition and passion for creating a really convenient and accessible plant-based product.

Tien Nguyen – the owner of Little Phat Rolls. Our food trucks are parked next to each other and I have become very familiar with their vegan menu. Tien and his team are so lovely, and I think that our businesses complement each other really well.

Little Phat Rolls is located next to Future Swirl in Braddon. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

Where am I travelling to next: One of my dearest friends moved to New York during the pandemic, and I am keen to head stateside for a much needed catch-up. My boyfriend has also been learning German on Duolingo for a long time, yet has never been there, so we’re going to attempt both Europe and the US in one big trip.

Planting bulbs

Maddalena’s least favourite food is daffodil bulbs. Photo: lucentius/iStock.

Dream destination: As I grew up in Southeast Asia, I love going back there on trips. The vegan food scene in Bangkok looks really interesting and I would love to try the work of a few Thai chefs who I follow online. Although, nothing beats a snow holiday – I love skiing, but am now a converted snowboarder, so I think heading to the ski fields in Japan would be excellent.

Death row meal: A huge platter of vegan sushi, followed by vegan yum cha (served on a trolley) and finished with a Future Swirl biscoff sundae.

My least favourite food: Growing up, I hated eating roast meat and casseroles, but I don’t really have a least favourite food now that I eat plant-based. The only recent thing that comes to mind is some fried rice that my sister made us using young garlic that she had grown in our back garden. However, a few minutes into eating our dinner, we suddenly realised there was something wrong. She had accidentally cut up a daffodil bulb and poisoned our dinner. So yeah … daffodils are my least favourite food.

My favourite vegetable: I’d definitely say the almighty potato!

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COVID-19 response: I think the pandemic is still having a profound impact on everyone. I worked as a radio producer at ABC Canberra during this time, and part of my job was manning the talkback phone lines. That was really hard because the information was changing so quickly and people were looking to us to know what was going on.

It was so stressful, but I feel really lucky to have worked for an organisation that I think helped a lot of people who needed comfort. I also lost my grandfather in 2020 and the COVID restrictions meant that I couldn’t see him before he died. His passing has been really hard, particularly on my mum, but I like to think that Future Swirl is my homage to him.

My top three recipe tips:

  1. When cooking plant-based, you have to shift from creating dishes that put meat front and centre to creating more wholistic dishes. As my boyfriend likes to say, There’s no lead singer, it’s a choir”. Diversity of ingredients is key to making vegan dishes sing, as well as meeting your nutritional requirements.
  2. Be open-minded. I meet a lot of people who tried a vegan product a few years ago and didn’t like it, so won’t try it again. People will genuinely be surprised by how tasty plant-based alternatives have become.
  3. Tofu really is the GOAT. It’s going to taste bland if you don’t season it, so experiment with flavours and cooking techniques.

Future Swirl is open Thursday to Sunday from 12 pm. Keep up with their opening hours via their Instagram page. The food truck can be found at Waves Carwash in Braddon, next to the Rainbow Roundabout.

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