Vegan Lemon Ice Cream [no-churn]

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It helps, when feeling on the back foot, to place what you’re doing within a wider context, to ground it, to lend precedence and credence. If you’re plagued with Main Character Syndrome like me you’ll already use this trick on a daily basis but for the rest of you it’s a great way to go from “another ice cream recipe? Really?” to “What do these artists have in common: Andy Warhol. Keith Haring. Yayoi Kusama. Gertrude Stein – that’s right, they incorporated repetition into their work and now they’re super iconic.” And then you point to yourself while saying “iconic”, thus indelibly cementing the association of you and that word. And then someone hands you a million-dollar record deal and it’s a hop skip and a jump to the top of the charts!

So yes, this lemon ice cream enters the room piggy-backing on my Twin Peaks Ice Cream method – which itself was a spin on the Feijoa Ice Cream method which was a vegan version of my original Feijoa Ice Cream! Because it’s such an easy and excellent way of making ice cream you can expect to see it pop up again sporadically in the future in further untold flavours, and should I ever want to repeat any of my existing ice cream flavour ideas I’ll probably be retroactively applying this method to them. (Although aquafaba will always have a place in my heart and my freezer.)

This iteration makes the most of the lemons which have happily burst into season just in time to give us some mid-winter sunshine. The scent of fresh lemon is enormously uplifting – although I take umbrage with the proliferation of TikTok videos claiming that eating lemon peel causes near-instant euphoria – and its sheer pure sourness matches well with a backdrop of lush coconut, giving a cloudless, sun-warmed beach towel vibe to even the frostiest of days. This is one of those recipes where you definitely still taste the coconut in the finished product but when the pairing is this perfect it’s a bonus, not a drawback. Unlike the Twin Peaks and Feijoa Ice Creams, I gave this mixture a brief go-over with electric beaters to aerate it before freezing. Where those ice creams were quite dense, this one is lighter and creamier – as befits its more delicate flavouring.

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You’d think ice cream would be the last thing anyone would want to make in the middle of winter but my favourite food knows no seasons, and the method is so relaxed and undemanding that I look forward to making this almost as much as eating it. And while there are few rewards for a life shackled by capitalism, a small good thing you can do as an adult to exert control and thumb your nose at practicality is to sit by a heater in your underwear and eat ice cream. I thoroughly recommend it. If you’re in the northern hemisphere and enjoying actual summer, I have to warn you that the seasonal inverse of this activity (eating a hot casserole in a swimming pool) just isn’t the same – but your time will come soon enough.

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Lemon Ice Cream

No-churn, three ingredients – vegan ice cream doesn’t get simpler than this. Recipe by myself.

  • 1 x 400ml tin full-fat coconut cream
  • 1 x 320g tin sweetened condensed coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice + the grated lemon zest
  • optional: a pinch of citric acid for extra zing

1: Place the coconut cream, sweetened condensed milk, and lemon juice and zest into a mixing bowl and beat on high for about three minutes using electric handheld beaters. If you don’t have electric beaters, just use a whisk and some upper body strength. You’re looking for an aerated texture – it won’t thicken or whip up but incorporating some air in it at this point will give a creamier texture later.

2: Stir in the citric acid if you’re using it and pour the mixture into a freezer-safe container. Place the lid on top and refrigerate the ice cream mixture for two hours before freezing for about six hours or overnight. It should be pretty scoopable straight from the freezer but may require a ten minute sit on the bench to soften first.

Makes around 1 litre.

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music lately:

Modern Dance by Pere Ubu. Jaunty and frug-y yet abrasive and awkward and coincidentally an excellent use of repetition? I love it!

You’re Dead by Nora Tanega. Cheerfully ominous, blithely jumping around time signatures, and exuding so much cool it could freeze a thousand tubs of ice cream.

There Will Be A Miracle by Mary Testa from Michael John LaChiusa’s 2005 off-Broadway musical See What I Wanna See, a mellow, tranquil oasis of calm in a fairly dark musical. The lyrics to this song are still dark but the melody is so gentle and Mary Testa repeating “there will be a miracle” is so soothing that you can zone out and vibe to it and feel pretty good about the world for a minute or two.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Vegan Chewy Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies

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Brevity is a rare treat round these parts but this week has munted my concentration levels – such as they are – so you’re spared my usual dissertation. The thing is there’s not a lot to say about these cookies anyway – they’re simple, they’re good, and they’ve got oats and chocolate in them.

These are a solid workhorse cookie, a stalwart, neither austere nor gilded, just the sort of thing you want to eat when the hand reaches half past the hour or when you hear water coming to the boil. In her most recent book, the excellent Cook, Eat, Repeat, Nigella Lawson says of a rice dish: “You will not get blown away by this. It won’t be the most electrifying thing you’ve ever eaten. This is not to disparage it…If I felt it weren’t worthy of your time or your table, I wouldn’t include it.” I appreciated her appraising description of the dish. Food-writing can lean all too easily on hyperbole, but when hyperbole is all you have, how can any recipe stand out – or stand up to scrutiny? (I like to claim that I never exaggerate – that my heightened language is simply the precise and appropriate response to whatever I’m describing – but I’m aware it definitely looks like a duck and quacks, hyperbolically, like a duck.)

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And don’t get me wrong, these cookies are delicious – with an almost custardy vanilla perfume and a modest scattering of chopped dark chocolate throughout their small round bodies. Importantly they’re as relaxing to make as they are to eat and behave beautifully – place a squat ball of dough on the baking dish with confidence that it will not spread, crumble, or cook too fast into an inedible rusk. Says Nigella of her rice dish, “there is just something quiet and lovely about it that seems to still the air around you as you eat.” Much the same could be said of these cookies. They won’t blow your hair back, and they’re not the sort of cookie to go viral, cruelly pulled apart and folded in half for the camera to reveal a dripping, uncooked interior. But they will make your life better in an unobtrusive fashion and sometimes that’s where your energy levels are at.

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Despite several hours of trying, and for reasons I cannot fathom other than everything these past few weeks has actively worked to thwart me, I couldn’t embed the cute TikTok video I made to go with these cookies, but you can view it here (or directly in the app of course.)

Vegan Chewy Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies

Easy, simple everyday vegan cookies, chewy from the oats and scattered with chopped chocolate. I genuinely don’t know how many this makes because I’m always eating the dough as I go, but from experience, if you only eat a modest quantity of dough and use a tablespoon measure to form the cookies, you should get 35. These cookies are loosely based on this recipe at Simple Sweet Vegan which I used as a starting point.

  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup soft vegan butter (eg margarine)
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil, I used rice bran
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 75g-100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped small
  • 2 cups flour

1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and line two baking trays with baking paper. Mix the chia seeds and water together in a small cup or ramekin and set aside for the chia seeds to swell.

2: Place the butter, oil, and sugars in a mixing bowl and beat with a wooden spoon till they’re combined and fluffy. Beat in the chia seeds, followed by the cinnamon, vanilla, baking soda and salt – although you’re not going to get a ton of aeration here as you would with eggs I like to mix it energetically for a few minutes as if this were the case, it probably doesn’t have much effect but it feels like you’re doing something worthwhile.

3: Fold in the oats and chocolate pieces, then stir in the flour to form a very thick dough. Roll tablespoons of dough into balls and place on the trays – no need to flatten – about two inches apart. They don’t spread out but I like to give them a little room to breathe. Bake each tray one at a time for fifteen minutes each, transferring the cookies to a wire rack to cool before storing them in an airtight container.

Notes:

  • I haven’t tried it but I’m sure you could replace the chia seeds with ground flaxseeds
  • I promise the end result doesn’t taste a thing like margarine, and I am still the hardest boss to beat in this regard.
  • The cinnamon is barely detectable in the finished product and simply adds a sheer backdrop of comforting warmth, absolutely add more if you want it to actually taste of cinnamon.
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music lately:

Dark by Gary Numan. There’s a stretch of time in the late 90s that produced a lot of stupendous industrial music like this, in my head I call it “GreggArakiCore”, music that makes you feel like you’re wearing pleather pants and dancing in a decommissioned asbestos factory, I was only eleven in 1997 which is why my impression of this music is very stupid and surface-level but even a child can hear this and know for sure that it’s the music of people who are living.

New Rose, The Damned. My brother gave me a drum lesson the other day so I could accompany him on guitar, and I was pretty decent, as I should be three generations of drummers deep, and I went back out to the drum kit by myself a few days later and was simply astonished to discover I couldn’t immediately play one of my favourite songs just by staring at the drums and imagining the song in my head. Maybe next time! Anyway, listen to this song – doesn’t it make you want to play the drums? (We did manage a serviceable Just Like Honey played by ear but obviously, that’s pretty entry-level.)

The Story Goes On by Lea Salonga and Liz Callaway – two of the most crystalline, gleaming voices in musical theatre – this was Liz’s song in the 1983 musical Baby and the presence of harmonies with Lea only makes it even more beautiful – the towering, mountainous ending is just glorious and worth sticking around for.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Vegan Miso Butter Noodles (two ways)

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Somewhere in the last ten years, two things happened: food blogs became more homogenised – facsimiles of facsimiles which trade strenuous perkiness for any discernible personality. And people on Twitter started complaining about food blogs, usually with the cadence of a joke but an absence of actual humour. “Get to the recipe, Karen”, they say, “I just want to know how to make pancakes, I don’t need to hear your life story. Don’t make me scroll through five paragraphs on your year abroad in the Tuscan hills and how it gave you a new appreciation for the mysteries of olive oil.” Everyone words it as though they’re the first person to be affronted by scrolling through a blog to find the recipe. Even Mindy Kaling tweeted this tired joke, and I know she knows how to be funny! (She since deleted it.)

Spend enough time ploughing in the Discourse Salt Mines and you’ll find insufferable takes on both sides (although anecdotal irritation doesn’t preclude one side from usually being considerably in the right.) For every re-tread of this same snide joke, there are a dozen earnest responses about valuing women’s labour (a valid point) and how bloggers get paid greater ad revenue if their posts are longer, or that Google SEO prioritises particular keywords and structures, or other words that mean nothing to me because my blog doesn’t earn me a cent and it’s too late to reverse-engineer any attention from Google’s finicky SEO.

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Yes, that’s certainly an explanation as to why these rictus-grin food blogs chant the same interchangeable phrases over and over, and my issue with them is that the writing is bad, not that I have to wade through it to get to the recipe – but my question is, why aren’t all the complainers simply reading better food blogs? And why are they so brutishly averse to even a shred of context and back story – who could possibly hate context? Imagine two marshmallows: one is sitting on a plastic plate on the floor in a room dimly lit by a flickering bulb, the second marshmallow is on a china plate on a tablecloth lit by candles with kittens roaming about and a sign saying “this marshmallow is delicious and hand-made using local ingredients” – which marshmallow do you think most people would choose? That’s context, baby! (I realise I accidentally made the first marshmallow sound cool as hell, but hopefully, you get what I was going for.) And even the most unreadable food blog is still providing you with a service, for free, that you could get elsewhere but you didn’t, because they made it easier for you – and I recognise how in their own bizarre bloodless way, these food blogs are as much social history as anything I’ll ever write or any food writer I love will ever come up with. They’re documenting a specific time when the tyranny of SEO flattened –

Okay, I also recognise the irony of kicking off such a blog post with absolutely no sign of the recipe in sight.

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This dichotomy of food blogs and those who consume them is always on my mind and the simplicity of today’s recipe for Miso Butter Noodles was what tied it all together for me and started this rant. Literally, just the simplicity: I was like, I have to reassure the readers that this is simple and they shouldn’t expect too much of it, but also that its minimal ingredients aren’t a mark of success in and of themselves and this is simple because it needs to be – and then I started spiralling – and, well, here we are. I feel like I’ve got more to say about food blogs and the space they take up, and perhaps one day I’ll revisit these opening paragraphs and expand upon them, but for now, I’ll start actually talking about the recipe since you’ve already scrolled this far, and I hear that scrolling is an exhausting task.

In 2013 my cookbook was published by Penguin, when writing the manuscript the recipe for Miso Butter Noodles was perhaps the easiest to commit to paper; it’s definitely the recipe I’ve made most since. In taking this favourite and recreating it to be vegan-friendly I knew I couldn’t just sub in vegan butter – aka margarine – or at least, not until I meet a brand my tastebuds can trust – and while you absolutely could use a homemade vegan butter, I didn’t want to presume such forward-thinking of you. If you’re coming to this recipe, you can make it on the spot using store-cupboard ingredients.

The salty, grainy savoury vibe of miso and the rich oiliness of butter make perfect sense together, and I knew there had to be a way to translate that to a vegan recipe without compromise. The result kind of is a compromise, in that I offer two versions: one simply using almond butter, which coats the noodles pleasingly and matches the depth and body of the miso. The second method – my preferred one – fools a few ingredients into acting like butter – coconut oil for fat, soy milk for protein, and vinegar to coagulate. Heating this together with miso paste makes for a more delicate and subtle yet surprisingly, genuinely buttery sauce, and each fat noodle strand is all the more delicious for it.

This is a very simple recipe and it tastes simple – it’s meant to! Feel free to augment any ingredients to make the balance work for you, and definitely add chilli if you want – I love it with Lao Gan Ma chilli in oil, but sriracha or chilli flakes would be friendly too – or garlic sauce, or soy sauce, or kimchi, or fried tofu, or wilted greens. It started life in the cookbook as the sort of meal you could rustle up for yourself while tired, tipsy, or both, and in the years hence it’s slid into pure comfort food territory – it soothes because it’s easy to make, it soothes because it’s salty and oily. I’m glad to have it back.

(PS: speaking of comfort food and things we’re glad to have back, I finally concluded season 1 of my Frasier food blog; to prepare I rewatched the episode under the most perfect of settings: it was raining, it was Sunday and I didn’t have anywhere to be the next day, and I was eating a bowl of these noodles.)

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Vegan Miso Butter Noodles

A revamp of a favourite comfort food recipe from my 2013 cookbook. I offer two variations depending on your ingredients and effort level – but neither version asks too much of you. As you can see this is an incredibly simple recipe: add anything you like to make it more your own. I can definitely recommend a large spoonful of Lao Gan Ma chilli in oil, but then I would recommend that for literally anything you’re eating. Recipes by myself.

Version 1: Almond Butter

This is the simplest of the two simple recipes – a little stirring and you’re done. Make the sauce in the bowl you intend to eat the noodles from for even faster results.

  • 1 x 200g package udon noodles
  • 2 heaped tablespoons almond butter
  • 1 heaped tablespoon white miso paste
  • chives to serve

1: Place the noodles in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let them sit for five or so minutes until they’ve softened. If you have a preferred way of cooking your noodles then do that instead, this is the slovenly habit I’ve fallen into (in my mind, if the bowl has just had hot water and noodles in it, it only needs a rinse before going back in the drawer…perhaps I’ve said too much but it is what it is.)

2: Whisk the almond butter and miso paste together, using a spoonful or two of the noodle water to loosen it into a smooth paste. Drain the noodles and fold in the miso-almond butter sauce. Taste to see if it needs more miso paste and then snip over your chives with kitchen scissors or finely chop them and sprinkle them over. Serves 1.

Version 2: Quick Emulsion

I need to come up with a more appealing name than “quick emulsion” but that’s what this is – you’re basically tricking these ingredients into acting like butter. Anyway, it’s very fast and gives a more subtle, delicate sauce – of the two, this is my favourite version, but they’re both delicious.

  • 1 x 200g package udon noodles
  • 1/4 cup soy milk
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar of your choice (I used Chinkiang black vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons refined coconut oil
  • 1 heaped tablespoon miso paste
  • chives, to serve

1: Prepare the udon noodles as above, or to your preference. Meanwhile, place the soy milk, vinegar, coconut oil and miso paste in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until it’s bubbling slightly and all the ingredients have combined to form a cohesive sauce. Drain the noodles and stir them into the sauce, then top with the finely chopped chives. Serves 1.

Note: if you have homemade vegan butter (eg this recipe or this recipe) then you can melt as much of that as you like together with a heaped tablespoon of miso paste and stir that through your noodles for an excellent time. If you have a store-bought vegan butter that you genuinely love and trust, then use that instead, too, and if you live in NZ please tell me the brand name because I want to know what love is!

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music lately:

Looking For Someone by 8 Eyed Spy. The film-noir horns and Lydia Lunch’s voice both have this incredible mix of bombastic yet careless, I love it so much.

The Key The Secret by Urban Cookie Collective, this song is simply pinging with unreal levels of euphoria – when Diane Charlemagne goes from “I’ve got the key, I’ve got the secret” to “I’ve got the key, I’ve got the secret” – that’s the sound of living!

Freedom! ’90 by George Michael. Those piano chords…that bridge…those supermodels…my life would be NOTHING without this song, that’s all there is to it!

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

vegan green garlic oyster mushrooms

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There is meat, and there is fake meat, and then there are vegetables widely considered to be meaty substitutes: the mushroom, the jackfruit, the cauliflower sliced into steaks, tofu (it was once a soybean! It’s basically a vegetable.) “Meaty” is a crown heavy with expectation to place upon these vegetables – especially the poor cauliflower steak. Can’t they just be vegetables, you might ask, must they dance for us so?

Divorcing the concept of meat-proximity takes a lot of unlearning – at least, for me, as someone who grew up with meat-and-three-veg as the guiding framework for a successful meal, even if l’m pretty sure 90% of what I actually ate was two minute noodles – but I’m not offended if someone says that mushrooms are “meaty”, in fact, it remains a useful term. They are meaty, in that they have heft and cellular density, they’re comfortable in a starring role and their flavour is savoury, pure and inarguable. It would be wonderful if one day the relationship between meat and the adjective “meaty” was entirely etymological, by which I mean, we know it once referred to dead animals and now it refers to vegetables but remains informed by that memory – at least I think that’s what I mean – and till that day comes where we high-five with the cows and skip merrily with the lambs in the fields and know every chicken in the world on a first-name basis, one way to get that ball rolling is to just…eat more mushrooms. Or any other so-called meaty vegetables.

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For example, this recipe for Green Garlic Oyster Mushrooms. If the creaturely spore-cloud forest-floor aspect of buttons and portobellos leaves you disquieted, oyster mushrooms may just be your gateway fungus. Their fan-shaped bods have a calmer, more subtle flavour and their texture once cooked is hearty and chewy, more so than you’re expecting. Unfortunately I’ve never seen oyster mushrooms in any chain supermarkets in New Zealand but if you have an Asian supermarket within a reasonable radius they should be available there – that’s where I found mine and bought a bag the size of my head just to be safe.

In the recipe I have for you today, these oyster mushrooms are roasted till crisped at the edges then smothered in a smashed up mixture of herbs, pumpkin seeds, lime, olive oil, double garlic in both shoot and clove form, and mushroom soy sauce (for synergy! And also because it’s unbelievably delicious.) It’s sticky and messy and oily and salty and pinging with exuberant greenness, an absolute feast of garlic flavour without burning your throat or making your eyes water. And the texture – there’s crunch, there’s that magic chewiness combined with a silky yielding quality in every mouthful.

This dish is versatile: you can eat the mushrooms as they are, or force them into a veg-and-three-veg tableau, or drape them on top of rice or stir them through pasta or divide them between tacos; I imagine they’d be great clamped between a bread roll as a kind of verdant sloppy joe, they’d definitely be perfect with polenta in any format. I didn’t have any leftovers but I know in my heart these mushrooms will be incredible cold the next morning, which in turn leads me to suspect they would, freshly cooked, also be wonderful in any kind of breakfast-related capacity – alongside a scramble, on toast, as part of a big fry-up. And while this recipe won’t work the same without using the oyster variety, I definitely wouldn’t turn down button mushrooms fried till very golden brown before adding this same green sauce to the pan and letting it sizzle till it feels done.

Mushrooms, wrote Alicia Kennedy in her newsletter edition devoted to them, “help us to remember the role of our food in the life cycle of the planet.” She continued: “here is food, freely available, fruiting as an expression of waste and decay. The earth gives even in death.” Who could resist such a metal description? Truly the food of mavericks and heroes!

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Green Garlic Oyster Mushrooms

Sticky and garlicky, these roasted mushrooms smothered in green sauce are so delicious and super versatile. Use the flared, fan-shaped oyster mushrooms for this recipe – save any thick stems or the King variety for another day. Recipe by myself.

  • 500g oyster mushrooms (more is fine)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup flour (or you can use cornflour/cornstarch)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 a bunch garlic shoots (roughly 1 cup, chopped)
  • 3 fat garlic cloves
  • a handful of curly parsley – about 1 cup loosely packed sprigs
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
  • zest and juice of one lime
  • 1 tablespoon mushroom soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, extra

1: Set your oven to 200C/400F and find a shallow-sided roasting tray – if the sides of the dish are too high the mushrooms will struggle to get crispy. I used one of those trays which comes with the oven and slots into the side runners to create a shelf. (If you’ve only got a high-sided oven dish and really need these mushrooms I’m sure they’ll end up still tasting good but I just want to mentally prepare you.) Drizzle two tablespoons of the first measure of olive oil on the tray.

2: Brush any dirt off the mushrooms with a paper towel or pastry brush and shred the larger mushrooms in half. Toss the mushrooms with the flour, salt, and white pepper and arrange them in one layer on the roasting dish. Alas, they will shrink, so don’t worry if it looks a little crowded at this point. Drizzle over the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and roast the mushrooms for twenty minutes, turning once halfway through. If your oven is anything like mine the mushrooms on the outer edges will crisp up and the mushrooms in the middle will stay serenely un-crisp, I advise re-arranging while also turning them over so everyone gets a go.

3: While the mushrooms are in the oven, make your green sauce. Roughly chop the garlic shoots into short lengths and drop them into a food processor along with the peeled garlic cloves, parsley, thyme leaves, pumpkin seeds, lime zest and juice, mushroom soy sauce and olive oil. Pulse briskly till the ingredients merge into a chunky salsa-type arrangement – you absolutely don’t want this pureed, but everything should leave smaller than it came in.

4: Remove the tray of mushrooms from the oven and spoon the green sauce evenly over them, tossing a little to get everything combined. As I said, the mushrooms will have significantly shrunk, but still spread them out into one even layer as opposed to piling them up. Return the tray to the oven for another ten to fifteen minutes, till the mushrooms are sticky and garlicky and at one with their sauce.

Serve these mushrooms however you like, whatever you do will be correct but will also affect how many servings there are – as a main this would serve two, but as a smaller part of something else it could definitely serve four. If you’re lucky enough to be alone, I wouldn’t reduce the quantities, just make it as is and enjoy your bounty of mushroom leftovers.

Notes:

  • Garlic shoots are usually available at Asian supermarkets – which is also where I found the oyster mushrooms – but if you can’t get hold of them, substitute a few spring onions instead and add a couple of extra garlic cloves.
  • The mushroom soy sauce (again, easily found at any Asian supermarket) makes all the difference – my favourite brand is Suree, I genuinely have to hold myself back from just drinking it. I know this sounds like the sort of exaggeration you’d expect from a food blog but I never exaggerate!! But if you can’t find it just use regular soy sauce or Maggi sauce instead.
  • You can use any other nut or seed instead of pumpkin but I liked the green-on-green – of course if you have pistachios, that would be wonderful, but pumpkin seeds are significantly cheaper, so.

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music lately:  

Distopian Dream Girl by Built to Spill, as sun-drenched and delicious as a shaved ice covered in blue syrup.

Back to Life (However Do You Want Me) by Soul II Soul. This is one of the first songs I heard on the radio where I was like damn, this is living, you know? Where I was aware of real-life music and not just pandering sing-song children’s stuff which I was generally suspicious of anyway. And no wonder it hit me so, Back To Life is a perfect song and Caron Wheeler’s voice is a dream, so is the airy, mellow production and it still sounds like the promise of a bigger world out there.

Rhythm of Life by Sammy Davis Junior from the film adaptation of the Broadway musical Sweet Charity. His star power is unreal and this song is so fantastic and euphoric and unhinged and my only fault with it is that the chorus should appear more than twice, oh well, guess I’ll just have to watch it thirty times in a row.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

vegan rhubarb panna cotta

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The alluring culinary dichotomy of sour and sweet is present in numerous fruits but enjoys arguably its prettiest expression in the vivid magenta blush of roasted rhubarb. And there’s nothing like adding a creamy, fat element to this – a tri-chotomy? I’m sorry! I know words have meaning! – to truly enhance its colour and flavour, like wearing an enormous fluffy coat with a tiny slip dress: there’s contrast and balance.

Now, you’d think my lack of object permanence would cause a container of roasted rhubarb to languish in the fridge, entirely forgotten before I’d even closed the door, but fortunately for all involved a secondary function of my brain kicked into gear, where I commence a random and often barely relevant task as if by automatism and wake up halfway through; in this case the morning after roasting the rhubarb I found myself, entirely without thinking, making a pink variation of the passionfruit panna cotta I rapturised about back in March.

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This is a delightful way to come up with new recipes – by taking an existing recipe I love and sliding in a new ingredient, mad-libs style. There is obviously no points system at play here but if there were I would give bonus credit to any such recipe where a half-assed, barely-thought-out replacement ingredient proved so deliciously perfect that at the very last minute I decided to blog about it. But subconsciously I must have known I was onto a winner because I divided most of the mixture between four glasses with a little extra in a fifth glass as a “tester” – surely the actions of a person who suspected they’d want to make sure the recipe worked so they could photograph the remaining desserts in an attractive tableau before the intermittent winter sunlight faded altogether. Also, I took videos of the cooking process for a TikTok which really makes it sound like this was all planned in advance but again: I can’t stress enough how many things I do without thinking! It’s possible! It’s horribly annoying! It’s rarely anything useful! Not once have I zoned in on myself industriously tidying my room or paying bills.

Anyway, all I was trying to say before getting quagmired in the psychological journey is that I guess I knew this was going to be delicious but I was not prepared for just how exquisite it would taste! So let’s finally get to the important part: what does this rhubarb panna cotta taste like? I could and unfortunately will say things like “sherbet cloud” and “nights in pink satin” but to be more specific, the perfumed, green apple-raspberry vibes of the rhubarb become even more pronounced when roasted and cooled; this softened fruit near-on dissolves in the cream leaving nothing but tiny threads interrupting the otherwise plush smoothness, and each thread carries within it a tiny fizzy burst of candy sourness met but not dulled by the modest quantity of sugar. Draping it with more roasted rhubarb stops it from being too mellow and importantly, adds another shade of pink: we eat with our eyes and the sheer aesthetic power of this panna cotta leaves you full up before you can blink.

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I’m not sure if that accurately describes them or if I’ve ended up moving even further away from my point but the point is: these panna cotta taste incredible and you should make them today. And if you can’t get hold of rhubarb? Try the passionfruit version! There’s a sour-sweet dessert for all seasons! Also, I looked up the word ‘trichotomy’ and it’s actually real: my mind is always three steps ahead even when it’s two steps behind.

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Vegan Rhubarb Panna Cotta

Dreamy, pink and delicious. Recipe adapted from my Passionfruit Panna Cotta, which was, in turn, adapted slightly from this recipe at anisabet.com.au. Roasted rhubarb is a method suggested in numerous Nigella Lawson books, most recently Cook, Eat, Repeat. Makes 4-5 servings.

  • 500g pink rhubarb, cleaned and trimmed
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/3 cup extra
  • 1 x 400ml tin full-fat coconut cream
  • 1 teaspoon agar-agar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1: First, roast your rhubarb – slice each stick of rhubarb into smaller lengths, pack into a roasting dish in more or less a single layer, sprinkle over the half cup of sugar – and honestly, I didn’t actually measure it out, I just shook the bag of sugar over the rhubarb till it felt right and encourage you to do the same – then cover the tin tightly with tinfoil and place in a 180C/350F oven for thirty minutes. Allow the rhubarb to cool before decanting it, along with all the pink syrup that has formed, into a container and store in the fridge. This will make more than you need for the recipe but roasted rhubarb is always delightful to have on hand.

2: Scoop about 3/4 cup of the roasted rhubarb and syrup into a saucepan, along with the can of coconut cream and the extra 1/3 cup of sugar. Cook over low heat for a few minutes, without letting it come to a boil, stirring to break down the rhubarb.

3: Dissolve the agar-agar in a little cold water and spatula the lot into the pink rhubarb cream, stirring thoroughly to ensure there are no lumps. Keep stirring over a low heat – again, without letting it get anywhere near boiling – for another five or so minutes. It should thicken up slightly. Stir in the vanilla (you can really stir it in at any point along the way, I just remembered it now.)

4: Use a cup measure or ladle to divide this mixture between four or five small ramekins or pretty glasses. If you use four, you’ll get more, if you use five, you’ll get five panna cotta, it’s as simple as that. Refrigerate the panna cotta for a couple of hours – they set quite quickly, but I find the flavour grows stronger if you leave them overnight.

Serve with reserved roasted rhubarb and a little of the rhubarb syrup spooned over the top.

Notes:

  • Agar-agar is available at shops that sell vegan stuff and Asian supermarkets, it’s usually quite inexpensive at the latter. One teaspoon doesn’t sound like a lot to set all that liquid but it’s powerful stuff.
  • Use any leftover rhubarb on yoghurt and cereal, to top ice cream, add the syrup to cocktails, or just – make another batch of panna cotta!

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music lately:

Snow by Whipping Boy. I swear every dinner time a random forgotten shoegaze band will come up in conversation with my brother that I’ve never heard of and then I listen to them and it turns out they’re my new favourite band! Somehow we haven’t run out of shoegaze bands yet! This song came from Whipping Boy’s album Submarine, and I recommend listening to it all at once, but Snow has all the hallmarks of what makes the rest of the album excellent: a muffled, layered early 90s grimness coupled with remarkable, soaring beauty.

Supervixens by A.R Kane. Speaking of shoegaze; Spotify recently capitalised on the user-propelled free advertising they receive with their end-of-year listening summaries by delivering a distinctly half-hearted mid-year version, and yes, I knew I was being pandered to but unfortunately I love being told I’m special and when Spotify said: “who else but you would play Linda Eder after A.R Kane?” I was like yes, who indeed could do this? Well, now you can enjoy being special too. I’ve mentioned this song so many times on here already but I don’t care because I love it so much.

Don’t Rain On My Parade by Linda Eder. Look if you don’t have time, skip to 3 minutes and 10 seconds, the direction the notes go in compared to how utterly chill she appears to be delivering them is literally comparable to the Moon landing in terms of widespread cultural significance.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

Twin Peaks Ice Cream [vegan, no-churn]

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It’s a rare treat if not a luxury to witness your pop culture references made during a past era of your life hold up to scrutiny in the fullness of time; I first devised this Twin Peaks Ice Cream in 2012 for my 2013 cookbook, nearly a decade later I remain as sincerely enthusiastic about the show which inspired the flavour. (Enthusiastic but without any sense of object permanence: I sprinted around my bedroom, looking fruitlessly for a prop which evoked Twin Peaks to use in the photos before I remembered my framed picture of Laura Palmer sitting, very much on display, on my desk; when I blogged the original non-vegan Twin Peaks Ice Cream recipe back in 2017 I mentioned this picture in the text but didn’t even think to include her in the photos.)

Ice cream is my first instinct and my second nature – to me, ice cream is the reception area in my head where all flavours have to check in first before being directed to their appropriate meeting room. When you eat eggs and dairy, making delicious ice cream is beyond easy. I’m chill with admitting that my vegan ice cream journey was a slog, with the occasional frosty pitfall – no fun for someone used to being at ease with this dessert. And if I may be very honest with you, I look back on a few of my vegan ice cream recipes and feel indifferent, which is so much worse than if they’d been merely disastrous. And even the ice creams I loved had a certain chaotic vibe.

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This weighed heavily on my shoulders without lifting – my brain loves a self-imposed millstone – but I had to keep persisting. THE perfect ice cream base for all the flavours in the waiting room of my mind was out there and it wanted to find me. And after making the vegan feijoa ice cream – using a method I came up with back in 2012 – I realised the simplest and most effective vegan ice cream was hiding in plain sight this whole time.

The magic ingredient is a can of sweetened condensed coconut milk, and that plus a can of coconut cream gives you a lush, icy, creamy and monumentally delicious ice cream without any whipping of aquafaba or soaking cashews or custard-making or coagulating reluctant oils. It’s a bit of a pain to get hold of the condensed coconut milk, I grant you, but it’s becoming more readily available in supermarkets now and for the utter low-effort ice cream excellence it yields it’s worth a little detective work around that weird corner of the supermarket where they shunt all the vegan food and anything they deem “exotic”.

In this case, it’s the perfect vehicle and backdrop for coffee and cherries, those persistent motifs of Twin Peaks (in a show lousy with persistent motifs, to be fair). You might not immediately think to pair such flavours, and, well, that’s why I’m here. They’re so friendly! Special Agent Dale Cooper levels of friendly! The toasty, nutty bitterness of the coffee and the almond-adjacent sourness of the cherries are made for each other, especially when their sharp edges are mellowed out by the rich, impenetrable smoothness of the sweetened condensed milk. I’m so thrilled to have a vegan version of this particular ice cream at my fingertips, which coincides with my being ready for yet another rewatch of Twin Peaks, and I’m super excited for all the other ice creams I’m going to make using this simple and charming sweetened condensed milk/coconut cream base. Now, I’m going to tell you that you can’t taste the coconut in this ice cream but whether this is trustworthy information is up to you; I consume litres of coconut by-products every week and my ability to perceive it is probably dulled as a result. Certainly, the bolshiness of the coffee overrides most of the coconut flavour on its own.

And the presence of coffee makes this something of a morning ice cream if you will; a bowl of Twin Peaks Ice Cream for breakfast is the best conceivable start to your day.

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Twin Peaks Ice Cream

The vegan version of my cookbook recipe, this is the EASIEST ice cream you’ll ever make – no churning, no whipping, no blending, no nothing. You can absolutely substitute in other flavours (and I will be in the future) but coffee and cherry is a wonderful combination.

Recipe by myself. Makes around 1 litre.

  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee powder
  • 100ml recently-boiled water
  • 1 x 300g tin sweetened condensed coconut milk
  • 1 x 400ml tin full-fat coconut cream
  • 1 cup drained morello cherries, from a jar

1: Dissolve the coffee into the hot water. Mix this together with the sweetened condensed coconut milk and coconut cream till it’s smoothly combined.

2: Drop the cherries into the ice cream mixture and briefly stir to disperse. Spatula all this into a freezer-proof container with a lid. Place the container in the refrigerator for two hours (or thereabouts, longer is fine) – this adds extra time to your ice cream but I swear it improves the texture and flavour. Transfer the container to the freezer and let sit for six hours or overnight – no need to stir or check on it at all.

3: Allow the ice cream to sit on the bench for about ten minutes before serving to soften it for scooping – it’s not rock-hard straight from the freezer but it needs a little coaxing. 

Notes:

  • I want to emphasise again that you get full-fat coconut cream. Look at the ingredients on the label – ideally, you want 90% coconut extract or above.
  • If you have fresh cherries there’s nothing stopping you from using them but to me they seem so rare and precious that it would be hard to do anything other than eating them, unadorned, with quiet reverence.

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music lately:

I Get Lonely by Janet Jackson. It’s so elegant, with that spacious, airy opening sequence and the percussive finger snaps and the silhouette-emphasising choreography and the bustier over the white shirt and the sumptuous soul production, it’s super seductive yet also makes you feel like you’re sitting in a darkened room by a fan heater while rain hits the roof. Truly one of Ms Jackson’s very best, I loved it then and I love it still.

Natural’s Not In It by Gang of Four. At first, it’s like okay right they’re just repeating the same chords over and over and then after a while it’s like – if they change the melody in literally any way, if there is even one single goddamn bridge I will throw a table through a window and then you press repeat on the song every time it ends for the next forty minutes.

Twin Peaks Theme by Angelo Badalamenti – since we’re here – looped for ten hours: my all-or-nothing attention span either wants it over in thirty seconds or NEVERENDING and this is music made to be listened to in the latter fashion. Badalamenti’s music is more like another character on Twin Peaks – his ability to distil the vibe of the show into music form is unreal, utterly peerless. Like you could listen to his composition without ever having seen Twin Peaks and yet somehow you would know everything you needed to know and quoting deep cut lines from the show, and you’d probably be dressed up as a minor character with unsettlingly faithful attention to detail.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

Vegan Tofu-Fried Tofu

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On Friday I had my first professional driving lesson in at least ten years. People have been trying to teach me to drive one way or another since 2001; people have failed. I could not be car-broken. And in a nation of drivers, where 97% of society and its amenities are inaccessible without a car, this was eventually going to bite me. Learning about things like anxiety and ADHD has certainly helped me understand why I might not have taken smoothly to driving, but it still didn’t make me any more inclined to get behind the wheel. What I wanted was a Matrix-style chip in the back of my neck, uploading the necessary software to turn me into a driver – failing that, some kind of magic-adjacent experience, such as being hit over the head or electrocuting myself or being bitten by a spider. I did not want to do the work! Nor, should I! Why can’t society bend to me, why must we prioritise driving when it’s so dangerous and environmentally terrible and also something I can’t do?

Ten months of avoidance passed after I got my learners license (again) and then I finally booked a lesson. Unlike the other pros, this instructor was kind and patient and had heard of anxiety and didn’t just bark at me to drive into oncoming traffic; after 50 minutes concentrated figure-eighting around the nearby town, making serviceable left turns and even a few right turns, I felt unbelievably powerful and hyperactive, high on the absence of failure, almost too powerful – like, wait, can I drive now? Should I go on a cross-country road trip right now? Probably, right? Just to be safe?

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I bring this up for reasons twofold: firstly, I just wanted to boast that I bravely committed to learning to drive; secondly, if you’ve ever been suspicious of tofu – which I don’t respect but I do understand because we live in a society and tofu has been poorly treated in the public image – then perhaps this recipe could be the kind of successful interaction to finally make you feel like a person who not only enjoys tofu but frantically celebrates it at any opportunity. (I also recommend Bettina Makalintal’s crispy glazed tofu, I will never be without a bag of potato starch ever again.)

The recipe is Tofu-Fried Tofu, and it’s spectacularly good and inspired by Brooks Headley and his Superiority Burger Crispy Fried Tofu Sandwich. Sometimes, no matter how established the person writing the recipe, I just physically can’t follow it, and instead, I have to scan it into my head like a pdf and never read it again but use whatever key components I can remember to make a recipe based on it. Why is this? I think it’s partly the way a lot of recipes are laid out these days, and probably partly something neurological on my part, let’s be honest. The only person I don’t do this with is Nigella Lawson – at least, not as much – and I think it’s because her recipes feel as though they’re so very already in my language – whatever changes I’d make, Nigella has probably already anticipated it.

This is my roundabout way of explaining that I’m not trying to say I’m any better than Brooks Headley but I still had to make my own version inspired by his recipe rather than following it to the letter. There’s no reason why you can’t make his recipe as it’s written, I’m sure it’s amazing, and my recipe doesn’t diverge too wildly anyway. But the recipe I made is also delicious and through some trial and error, it’s exactly where I want it to be. These errors include adding cocoa to the flour mixture (I wanted to want it, but it’s not the one) and leaving the tofu at its from-the-package thickness, making for a genuinely strenuous eating experience where you practically needed a step-ladder to scale the breadth of soy protein on your plate.

These slender triangles of tofu bathe in an aggressive marinade of pickle brine, soy milk, vegan oyster sauce or Maggi, and mustard powder – which when combined is oddly potable if not wildly delicious, I really had to bargain with myself to stop drinking it from the container while the tofu was marinating in it, I wish I were exaggerating for comic effect here but if anything I’m downplaying it. The key to the flour dredge is a ton of Chinese Five-Spice powder and ground white pepper – an inelegant ingredient but one who deserves to shine, in my opinion – and double-dunking to create pockets and crevices of crumbly coating. It’s more of a KFC-esque coating – dense and softly crisp – rather than shatteringly crunchy, especially the longer it sits, and this is obviously not a bad thing.

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Between the tanginess of the pickle brine and mustard and the bumptious yet balanced spices, this is one of the very best things you can do with tofu. It makes sense to tuck it into a burger bun (I spread the base with hummus and topped the tofu with kimchi which was a chaotic but complementary combination) but you could serve these alongside chips or on top of rice. The crucial thing is to leave yourself a few for the next day, I honestly think they taste better cold than they do at any other stage of the proceedings.

[Also – I forgot to mention this last week but I had the joy of appearing on Pip Adam’s Better off Read podcast to discuss the plot devices I employ in my poetry, the way I’m influenced by film auteurs in my fiction writing (does this make me an auteur? Maybe??) and more besides; Pip is one of my very favourite writers and it was such an honour and a thrill to speak with her about writing. It’s just really fun and I thoroughly recommend you listen to it because I’m a great podcast guest and she’s a great host!]

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Tofu-Fried Tofu

This is inspired by Brooks Headley’s recipe, and the more often you make it the less effort it will seem. I can’t tell you how delicious this is cold from the fridge the next day. Makes 12 pieces.

  • 1 x 300g (or thereabouts) block of tofu, firm or extra-firm
  • 1/3 cup brine from a jar of pickles/gherkins
  • 1/2 cup soy milk (or oat milk – I wouldn’t use anything other than these guys though)
  • 1 tablespoon mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon vegan oyster sauce, Maggi seasoning sauce, or soy sauce
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons cornflour
  • 5 teaspoons Chinese Five-Spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • a large pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried celery (if you can get hold of it)
  • neutral oil, such as rice bran, for frying

1: If you have the time, freeze the tofu for at least a couple of hours and then allow it to defrost – this does something wonderful to the texture, but if you forgot or can’t be bothered – or just got home and want to eat this as soon as possible – don’t worry, it’ll still taste good with tofu straight from the fridge.

2: Place the pickle brine, soy milk, mustard powder, and vegan oyster sauce in a rectangular container a little larger than your block of tofu and whisk to combine. Drain any liquid from the tofu and slice it across diagonally, so you have four triangles, then sit each triangle on their longest side and slice through them twice with the knife flush with the flat side, so you have three of that same triangle, just a lot thinner/flatter. You’re cutting pages, not wedges. I hope that description makes sense – basically, you want to go from having those four triangles to having three matching sets of those triangles, which you can stack up again back into the original rectangle. If it still doesn’t make sense, watch the TikTok above and you’ll see how I cut it there.

3: Place the tofu into the container of marinade, stacking them up into their original rectangle shape, and leave for a couple of hours (although I’ve made this with only about half an hour of marinating and it still tasted good so once again, if you’re impatient or didn’t plan a single thing, it’ll work out.)

4: In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornflour, Chinese Five-Spice powder, smoked paprika, garlic, pepper, salt, and dried celery if you’re using it.

5: Drop each tofu triangle into the flour mixture, then dunk them back in the pickle marinade, then coat in flour again. This is messy, there’s no way around it, but if you just use one hand it’s at least contained, you know?

6: Pour a thin but definite layer of oil into a large saucepan and once it’s hot – when bubbles form around a spoon or whatever you stick into it – cook the tofu slices for a few minutes on each side, flipping twice. Also, this might sound weird but if you have any leftover flour mixture, stir in a little marinade and fry this dough in the hot oil too as a little cook’s treat. It’s really good and I don’t care!

7: Transfer the cooked tofu to a rack with absorbent paper on it and either use immediately, or you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge and briefly fry on each side to heat through. They’re best either straight from the pan or dead cold from the fridge, but this in-between stage is also very commendable.

Notes: As you can see, there are some aspects of this recipe you can be loose about and some which I think are very important. I’d like to emphasise that you absolutely cannot leave out the Chinese Five-Spice and the pepper has to be white – but if you only have a quarter of a cup of pickle brine left in your jar or if you accidentally pour half a cup, nothing bad is going to happen. Sometimes I add a little pinch of baking powder to the flour mixture, this time I forgot, either way is fine. Also, I realise two cups of flour sounds like a lot, but you end up needing it all to confidently double-dunk the tofu. Finally: I don’t know if you can bake or air fry this and I don’t want to find out! The oil is as important an ingredient as anything else on the list!

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music lately:

For The Love of Ivy by The Gun Club. Rhyming “hell” with “hell” four times in a row? Going loud then quiet then loud? That’s the ticket!

Matthew and Son by Yusuf/Cat Stevens (he goes by both names these days, I checked) this song is disarmingly goofy and has the distinct air of being accompanied by a high school orchestra and it’s nowhere near as cool as any of his other songs so naturally, it’s my favourite thing that he’s ever done. It is what it is!

When Love Goes Wrong, Nothing Goes Right, by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell from the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, I haven’t seen this film in years but was reminded – on TikTok! – of how charming this number is and how crackling the chemistry is between Monroe and Russell. Their harmonies when the song speeds up a notch – “a man goes out, gets high as a kite” – are glorious. I will absolutely be rewatching this film soon.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

Vegan Cookies and Cream White Chocolate

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For someone who adores recipes, it’s rare that I’ll follow them to the letter without making some sort of tweak – whether this is informed by suspicion or ingredient scarcity or a general heedlessness. And I’ll still think, “what a great recipe, can’t wait to make that again.” And instead of depreciating from overuse, like a pair of cheap trackpants that immediately give at the crotch after little more than some vigorous couch-sitting, these recipes grow stronger and more anchored in your life.

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This includes my own recipes, which I simply love to write and then ignore forevermore! In this case, it’s a vegan white chocolate recipe – which started off last year as a cashew-cacao butter creation, and which was incredibly delicious – in no way requiring fiddling, you might think – and that turned into my Raspberry Rainbow Slab a few months later. Recently I tried replacing the cashews with their much cheaper cousins, the sunflower seed, and the results were astonishingly good. From there, further meddling ensued: what if I add crumbled up chocolate cookies? What if, indeed: it’s so good.

I love being vegan, but sometimes I want sweet food that isn’t super worthy and made with powerfully bitter dark chocolate. I want the okay stuff! The dollar mixture foil-wrapped corner dairy stuff! This chocolate: it’s that stuff. The inspiration was those Cookies ‘n Cream Hershey’s bars – overpriced, tiny, gone in seconds, and a dizzyingly satisfying meeting of creaminess and crunch. The Hershey’s bars are not a gourmet product – in fact, I’d say comfortably that even the best American chocolate is probably on par with the worst of New Zealand’s – but they’ve had such a hold over me.

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Turns out, sunflower seeds are the key. They’re mild, and not at all overpowering – but the resulting chocolate is definitely not as elegant as the cashew version, with a flavour somewhat akin to Easter egg chocolate. And of course, adding seasonal-based elusiveness to food only makes it seem more delicious (I’m quite sure they also use Easter egg chocolate in Advent calenders and nowhere else) so you can imagine my delight when I tasted this and realised I’d made a decent dupe of that once-a-year flavour. Add some cookie crumbs and it becomes a vegan-friendly dupe of those Hershey’s bars, with plenty to spare too. The way your teeth slide through the dense, buttery chocolate into the scattered crunch of the cookie crumbs: it’s spectacular. Hershey’s who?

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Vegan Cookies and Cream White Chocolate

This vegan white chocolate uses sunflower seeds which are much cheaper than cashews – it also makes this nut-free. It’s creamy, vanilla-y and so good, with crunchy pieces of chocolate cookie throughout – but you can also leave out the cookie and just have delicious white chocolate. (Or add cocoa to it for milk chocolate! It’s so versatile.) Recipe by myself.

  • 3-4 vegan chocolate-flavoured cookies (or see recipe below)
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 tablespoons refined coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste (I usually add a little more)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (roughly 250g) cacao butter, finely chopped
  • 1 and 1/2 cups icing sugar

1: Crumble the cookies into small pieces with your hands and scatter them across a brownie tin lined with baking paper. I didn’t have any cookies so made my own, by mixing 1/2 cup flour, 3 tablespoons cocoa, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, 1 tablespoon rice bran oil and enough milk to just combine (about 2 and a 1/2 tablespoons). Pat it into a circle-ish shape about 1cm thick and bake at 180C/350F for ten to fifteen minutes then leave to cool and crumble into pieces. You might not need all of it: I just ate whatever I didn’t use. The cookie dough will get crisper as it cools but if it seems to be staying soft, bake the crumbs for another ten or so minutes at 180C/350F.

2: Using either a food processor or a stick blender and a bowl, blitz the sunflower seeds until they form a fine, oily rubble, then add the coconut oil and continue processing into a paste, it should resemble tahini or peanut butter and be fairly smooth. The stick blender is my preferred method – it feels a bit ridiculous at first, shoving it into a pile of sunflower seeds, but you can use it to incorporate the melted cacao butter and it makes for smoother chocolate.

3: Add the vanilla extract and salt and blend again to combine.

4: Rest a metal bowl on top of a small pan of simmering water – without the base of the bowl actually touching the water – and tip the finely chopped cacao butter into the bowl. Let it slowly melt, stirring often, and remove from the heat when it’s mostly liquid. It’s important not to overheat the cacao butter or it’ll go gritty, and the heat of the liquid will melt any remaining solids.

5: If you’re using the stick blender, slowly add the melted cacao butter to the sunflower butter, blending to combine. If you’re using a food processor, tip the cacao butter into the blender bowl a little at a time and process to combine.

6: Add the icing sugar – it’s easier to stir this rather than blending as it sends clouds of sugar-dust everywhere. Taste to see if it needs any more salt.

7: Pour this chocolate mixture evenly over the cookie crumbs in the brownie tin – no need to stir, but give it a bit of a wiggle if need be to spread it across. If you have any leftover cookie crumbs, it looks nice to sprinkle some over the chocolate, but it’ll all taste the same in the end so no worries if you don’t. Bang the tin a couple of times on the bench to expel any air bubbles, and refrigerate for a few hours or until solid.

8: Slice into squares and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Note:

  • To make regular white chocolate, just leave out the cookie crumbs. You can also add a tablespoon or two of cocoa to make milk chocolate.
  • I’m starting to see cacao butter in supermarkets – it’ll probably be either in the baking aisle or in the weird corner where they shove all the vegan and gluten-free stuff. If you have a Binn Inn nearby I recommend looking for it there as it’s usually cheaper.

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music lately:

Death Ceremony by Grace McLean from the Off-Broadway musical In The Green, which McLean also wrote and orchestrated. This song begins with a kind of leafy, zingy Neko Case energy with the most astonishing coda about 1:50 which I have listened to on repeat easily thirty times – the way the syncopated vocals slide over each other before joining in harmony, the way McLean’s voice goes from crisp and lilting to chewy and howling and Alanis Morrisette-esque, I have chills just writing this and you should totally listen to it even if the words “musical” put you off. Like, it would obviously never put me off, but I just really want as many people as possible to hear this.

Raat by Aurat, gothic and ethereal and spooky and beautiful. Aurat incorporates the language of Urdu into heaps of their songs and you can listen to more of their music on their BandcampOh My Love is also gorgeous, joyful yet gloomy at the same time, the best kind of music.

Blinded By The Lights by The Weeknd. Despite referencing him on here I hadn’t actually listened to any of his music and somehow heard this song properly for the first time this year? Despite it being probably the biggest song of 2020? Anyway, when I heard it I assumed it must be an old song from the 80s that I’d missed but no, it’s very recent and it’s shockingly addictive! It’s the sound of neon lights in the rain, of Take On Me going backwards while Young Turks goes forwards at the same time, it’s unreal how much this song gets in your head and takes over every other possible option.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

rum and coke jackfruit

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The notes app on our phones and its contribution to our general existentialism cannot be overstated – it’s our id and ego condensed, an unkempt filing cabinet of shopping lists and auspicious dreams, of half-written poems, funny bits, bullet points, log-in details, recipes, addresses and other arbitrary ephemera.

(If this doesn’t make any sense: the notes app is a function on most smartphones that acts as a notebook for you to jot down literally anything – usually to forget about it immediately – and there’s also a good chance I’ve misused the word “existentialism” here but whatever, it’s the vibe of the thing.)

Because I ricochet from one thought to another like an earnest pinball, and every last one of these thoughts seems terribly meaningful, my notes app is rather busy. And because each note is filed away forevermore until you delete it, I’m always finding stuff I absolutely do not remember writing.

Like this note: “rum and coke jackfruit”.

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I don’t remember writing it – although evidently, I did at some point – but having found it, I decided to make good on this long-ago reminder to myself, and so we have this week’s recipe, based on that promising prompt. Jackfruit is a large fruit present in the cuisine of numerous cultures, including Bangladesh and Sri Lanka for whom it’s the national fruit, and South India and Southeast Asia. Over the last few years, it’s become increasingly common in NZ supermarkets canned in brine, which makes it straightforward to use, and its superb texture – dense, softly fibrous – and sweetly mellow flavour makes it ideal for vegan cooking.

Rum and Coke are both sweet, and somehow spiced without being spicy – and together they plus a few other ingredients create a sticky, saucy coating for the jackfruit under the heat of the oven’s grill. Now, if you were to taste this wearing a blindfold I don’t know if you could confidently name either ingredient, and if I’m very honest the rum is mostly just window-dressing because the come-hither familiarity of the title is cute – but nonetheless, this is monumentally appealing, with the smokiness from the paprika, earthy cumin, and plenty of garlic. And despite the length of the recipe, it’s easy too – a bit of simmering, a bit of scorching in the oven, and it’s all yours, to be draped over rice or tucked into tacos and sandwiches.

@hungryandfrozen

my best loop yet 🥲 Rum and Coke Jackfruit, recipe @ hungryandfrozen.com 🤠 #recipe #vegan #veganrecipes #jackfruit #foodblogger #cooking #fypシ #fy

♬ Bluebirds Over the Mountain – Richie valens

This sauce mix – by which I mean everything minus the chicken stock and jackfruit – would be excellent coating other star ingredients as well, with its general barbecue-ribs-flame-grill mood – tofu, obviously, or seitan would be great, but I think oyster mushrooms would be even better. I based the method on the pulled jackfruit recipe I made back in 2017 – before I was vegan but tentatively contemplating it – and I enthusiastically recommend you make that one too. It’s true for both recipes: no matter how much jackfruit I cook, I always wish I’d made more – you’d better write “two cans of jackfruit” in your notes app, to be safe.

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Rum and Coke Jackfruit

Sticky, smoky and sweet, this vegan jackfruit is perfect over rice, in tacos, in sandwiches – basically wherever you want something extremely delicious. Recipe by myself.

  • 1 x 500g can jackfruit in brine (300g drained weight)
  • 1 cup vegan chicken stock (eg 1 cup water, 1 stock cube)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
  • a pinch of cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1/2 cup coca-cola
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornflour (cornstarch)

1: Drain the liquid from the can and roughly chop each piece of jackfruit into smaller pieces lengthwise. Don’t worry if there are any seeds – leave them in.

2: Place the jackfruit pieces, the chicken stock, and the unpeeled garlic cloves into a saucepan and simmer for ten minutes. Simmering the garlic cloves like this gives them a more mellow flavour and makes them easy to peel later.

3: While this is happening, turn your oven to 200C/400F, pour the olive oil into a roasting tray, and place it in the oven to heat up.

4: In a small bowl, mix together the mustard, cumin, paprika, sugar, and cinnamon. Stir in the soy sauce, dark rum, coca-cola (it’ll fizz up a little) and the cornflour.

5: After ten minutes, drain the stock from the pan of jackfruit (you can save it for later use, I’m not advocating wastefulness here.) Press down on the garlic cloves to release them from their skins and roughly chop them. Return them to the pan of jackfruit along with the coca-cola/spice mix and stir to combine.

6: Remove the hot roasting dish from the oven. Transfer the jackfruit mixture onto the roasting dish – I recommend using tongs to ferry the jackfruit pieces across before pouring the remaining liquid over rather than just dumping the contents of the pan onto the roasting dish because it will splutter when the liquid hits the hot oil.

7: Place the tray in the oven and leave for twenty minutes. At this point, remove the tray, turn the jackfruit pieces over, switch your oven to the grill/broil function and grill for a further ten minutes, keeping an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t scorch too much. By this point, the liquid should have evaporated and the jackfruit should be burnished brown at the edges.

8: Serve immediately, although you can store it in the fridge and reheat it in a hot pan if need be.

Serves – well that depends on how you serve this. It fed four as part of a rice bowl, but if I was having it with fewer extra bits I wouldn’t want to make this for any more than two people, and one person could eat the lot very easily. Making double would be sensible (in which case I’d only increase the liquids by about half – eg 1/2 cup coca-cola becomes 3/4 cup – but the spices can be fully doubled.)

Notes:

  • If you don’t have rum or don’t wish to use alcohol in the recipe, that’s all good – just add an extra teaspoon of sugar. I wouldn’t make this if I only had white rum in the house, but spiced rum could be interesting.
  • Feel free to add your preferred form of chilli to this recipe – my family’s taste tends towards the mild, but if I was making it just for myself a little gochujang wouldn’t go amiss.
  • I suspect diet Coke or Coke Zero wouldn’t have the same effect here – you need the sugar to make it work.

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music lately:

Pretty Little Angel Eyes by Curtis Lee. I’ve had of late an odd nostalgia for the songs used in my jazz dancing classes in the early nineties – those hard-working cassette tapes dubbed from other tapes by my teacher. This song was one which we danced to, and despite its chirpy lyrics and break-neck pace – I’m not sure it actually has any verses? It’s literally all bridge? – there’s something about that doo-wop sound that makes me feel super melancholy the minute the “woo-ooo-ooo” bit starts. Anyone else?

Overload by Zappacosta, another song on high rotation in my jazz-dancing years – and I’m sorry to sound ancient but WHY don’t songs sound like this anymore? When will people be brave enough to do that? Is it so much to ask?

SpottieOttieDopaliscious by Outkast. Everyone mentions the horns first – and they’re the greatest – but I also harbour deep affection for that “damn, damn, damn James” refrain. This song is seven minutes long and it feels like three – honestly, forty minutes would still leave you feeling bereft the moment it ends.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

Homemade Passionfruit Liqueur [vegan]

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I have but two modes: asking “are we there yet?” every five minutes; and then, without warning, forgetting completely that we’re going somewhere and arriving at the destination in a state of unexpected incredulity, saying “who put this here?” and “what’s all this then?”

This passionfruit liqueur recipe allows me to keep a foot in each of these lanes – first, there’s the infuriating, clock-watching wait for the flavour to abscond from the passionfruit pulp to the vodka in which it’s soaking. That occupied me for about a week, then I just totally forgot about it and two months passed – probably more than was even necessary to make a decent liqueur! – before I went to look in the cupboard in the garage for something else and found there the jar of fruit and liquor, patiently waiting for me like a small child at the gates of a boarding school – possibly Dickensian – on an exeat weekend.

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Depending on your neurological makeup the waiting aspect of making this liqueur may not come heavy with psychological roadblocks and learnings, but either way, it’s certainly the hardest part of the recipe. Aside from the wait, all that’s involved is throwing fruit and sugar and alcohol in a jar, which yields a liqueur of such exquisitely balanced sweetness and fruitiness, with a silky bod and a long, zingy finish – it tastes of strenuous effort but does not ask it of you.

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This is really a recipe for windfall times – we were lucky to have a heavily laden passionfruit vine absolutely lousy with fruit, and I definitely wouldn’t make this out of season. However, you could probably use any fruit here and in the interests of accessibility I encourage this, but there’s something so heedless and merry about the passionfruit which lends itself to a frivolous liqueur as opposed to, say, the stern workhorse apple. They’re not like the other fruits, they’re a cool fruit! And passionfruit’s lip-smacking sourness and beachy sweetness are just the ticket when suspended in alcohol. As for what to do with the liqueur, I imagine it would bring great perkiness to the already perky daiquiri, or you could make a zesty version of the French Martini by shaking this liqueur up with Chambord and pineapple juice. You also can’t go wrong by simply pouring measures of it into small glasses for sipping before or après dinner – or both. And of course, if you can bear to part with it, it makes a great gift.

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I was hoping an analogy or metaphor would come to me by now to link what I’ve just said to what I’m about to say – something to do with patience, probably – but there’s no way to sugarcoat this news, let alone soak it in alcohol for forty days; I found out this week that Tenderly, the publication I’ve been writing for since June 2019, will be closing down soon. This is terribly sad on many levels, not just because I’ve lost my main source of employment. Tenderly offered me untold editorial freedom and I was proud to be part of its incredible writing team. There are fewer places than ever for a writer to make their living and I hate to see Tenderly join these ex-publications, but I also feel like the work published there was really important! (Yes, even my “31 Great Songs For Horse Fans” playlist.) A few stories remain left to be published and then that’ll be that. I’m glad I got to be part of it and I’m grateful for the opportunities it gave me.

Between this and my recent birthday (which we’re still dragging out, for Main Character purposes) there’s truly no better time to join me on Patreon if you like what I do and want to support me directly and have the means to do so! My entire Patreon archives are available for as little as a dollar a month – in fact, I’m scrapping the higher levels so that literally everything is available for a mere dollar because if I’m taking peoples’ money I want to be able to sleep at night about it. If you like what I do but feel like Patreon is too much of a commitment financially or emotionally that’s also totally fine as well, a great choice in fact!

Finally – back to the passionfruit – if you’re blessed with multitudes of this fruit and have made the liqueur and still have heaps leftover, I wholeheartedly recommend this passionfruit panna cotta recipe from back in March.

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Homemade Passionfruit Liqueur

The hardest thing about this delicious homemade liqueur is the waiting. Recipe by myself.

  • 30 – 40 passionfruit (no fewer than this, but more is cool, welcome, ideal)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 750ml vodka
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1: First, sterilise a 1-litre jar. Once that’s done, start halving your passionfruit and scooping their pulp into the jar. Stir in the sugar to dissolve it a little – although the sitting around will take care of that eventually, so don’t feel you have to exert yourself.

2: Empty the bottle of vodka into the jar, add the vanilla, give it another stir, then screw the lid on and leave the jar in a cupboard for about two months. Every once in a while, pick up the jar and give it a jiggle before returning to the cupboard. You’ll probably do this every day for a week and then completely forget about it: this is fine.

3: Once this wait is over, strain the contents of the jar through a sieve into a jug, and really stir and press down with a spoon to extract as much flavour as possible from the pulp. Pour this sunshine-coloured liquid through a funnel into clean bottles, and there you have it: passionfruit liqueur. Give the bottle a gentle shake before serving, as the sieved pulp tends to settle a little.

Makes about 1 litre.

Note: the vodka I used was 80 proof which isn’t terribly punchy, hence the longer wait time to extract the flavour from the passionfruit – if you can find a bottle at 100 proof or over you can cut that time by at least half.

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music lately:

The White Keys and The Black Keys by Hazel Scott, from the 1943 film The Heat’s On, the way she plays two pianos at once so effortlessly, elegantly, joyfully! She was truly the greatest.

Ground Zero by Bam Bam, slushy yet aggressive and slightly ethereal, like snow melting over broken glass.

Every Story Is a Love Story/Fortune Favours The Brave by Sherie Rene Scott and Adam Pascal from the 2001 Broadway musical Aida. These songs are meant to be heard as one – starting with the introspective bloom of Every Story and Sherie’s mellow belt, suddenly zooming a thousand miles an hour into the rollercoaster energy of Fortune Favours and Adam’s huge, crunchy vibrato, it’s so much more thrilling than you can imagine. Elton John wrote this with Tim Rice if that motivates you to click through (it also might demotivate you, but at least you’ve got all the information.)

PS: I’ve already talked about it but once more with feeling, if you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.