I will look at you with the focus I gave to my birthday candles

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Guess who’s back? But also about to leave again? But also perhaps, in a way, never really left at all? But perhaps, in a more literal way, literally did leave? Also by “back” I mean, back in the city of Wellington? The answer to all these questions – to any question ever, in fact – is me. Like a beloved TV character who moved away because in real life they started to get movie roles but is contractually obliged to make occasional appearances, I’ve returned for a big party, in this case my dear friend Kate’s Russian Doll-themed 36th birthday. The thing about leaving your full time bartending job to move far far away to a rural village is that you still end up seeing your friends roughly the same amount anyway, but this visit did feel especially special since it has been a relatively long time since we’ve all been in the same area code and I’ve been missing them so much it sometimes feels like my heart is trying to relocate under badly-managed witness protection to my elbows, or something.

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Though I lack initiative, I do love being useful – it’s a real rare treat for me – so I jumped at the chance to help out by making a birthday cake. As you can see, the cake is decorated very specifically, that’s because I was emulating the cake that was actually visible in Russian Doll, (which is, to clarify, an incredible TV show on Netflix that you should absolutely watch.) This cake is quite similar to the one I made for the eleventh anniversary of hungryandfrozen.com last year, but I tweaked and simplified it a little and also – I’ll be honest with you – I just wanted something to blog about while I was down here in Wellington so am happy to opportunistically shoe-horn this in.

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Birthday Cake (aka, a simple vegan chocolate cake)

A recipe by myself.

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 cup good quality cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup soy milk or similar
  • 1/3 cup plain oil such as rice bran or sunflower
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or apple cider or malt vinegar, but balsamic goes beautifully with the chocolate)
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup (or similar eg maple syrup)
  • 1 cup cold water

Set your oven to 180C/350F. Use baking paper to line either one 22cm springform cake tin or two 20cm cake tins if you want layers. Or you can do what I did and make one big one, panic that it is overcooked, make a whole entire new one, realise the first one isn’t really overcooked, and then layer those up!

Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the wet ingredients – I like to dig a hole in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the liquids into it – and then whisk together to form a thick batter.

Spatula the mixture into your chosen cake tin or tins. Bake for about 25 minutes if you’re making two small cakes, or around 40 minutes for one big one. However, this will depend on your oven – you may need more or less time. When the top is firm and bouncy, the cake is ready to come out.

Allow the cake to cool thoroughly then ice however you wish. For the white buttercream I used four tablespoons of olive oil-based vegan butter, two cups of icing sugar, and the juice of half a lemon, plus a tiny splash of strawberry essence. It didn’t make the icing taste of strawberry, but balanced out the flavour of the vegan butter really well somehow. It was honestly just a guess on my part, but it worked. I then melted 200g dark chocolate to pour over the top, this does set very hard though so I had to use a skewer to make indentations for the birthday candles to sit in.

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This cake is extremely low-effort to make – a real one-bowl affair – and it gives you a big, friendly, old-fashioned chocolate cake, the sort that everyone is always pleased to have a slice of. It’s moist and springy and rich but not ridiculous, just an old-timey proper cake that you could give to your grandmother, in fact, I did make it for my own grandmother’s 85th birthday in July. The hardest part was writing “happy birthday” on the top, I kept making the letters all wonky and then taking them off and eating them and then writing them even more wonkily, growing ever more frantic and sugar-riddled, but as you can see from the photos, I…eventually stopped doing this. Fortunately the party was not only dark, it was illuminated by a series of different-coloured lights, as per the aesthetic of Russian Doll itself, which the cake – indeed, all of us – definitely benefited from.

It was a wonderful party, so so good to see so many people I care about in one place and to celebrate the sweet birthday baby Kate while having an opportunity to dress up fancy and glue great quantities of glitter to my eyes – not so much call for that in the rural countryside.

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Guess who else is back! Ghost the dog’s modelling career, that’s who!

It’s sweet and strange and kind of wildly over-stimulating being back in the city that I spent thirteen years in, not least because it’s really easy to drink like three pints of strong filter coffee without realising, and I know if I blink too hard I’ll suddenly be very far away from it again, and I haven’t achieved half the things I meant to, but I am so so happy I got to spend time with the people I love, and to feed them cake, and then to hear them say that the cake was really delicious. That’s what friendship is all about.

title from: Love Ridden, by Fiona Apple. She really knows how to make a song that crawls all over you.

music lately:

Mariners Apartment Complex by Lana Del Rey. Hold onto your tear ducts, there’s a new Lana album. This song is so, so lovely and late-sixties sorrowful, it has these melodic echoes of numerous songs – one that leapt to mind was Never Learn Not To Love, the Beach Boys song that was originally a Charles Manson song. “They mistook my kindness for weakness” is a great line, “I’m your man” is a great line.

Waves, Normani feat 6LACK. This is dreamy and swoony and aerated and lush but with this crunchy bassline holding it down. It feels reminiscent of Mine by Beyoncé in its silky spaciousness, so if you like that song you’ll probably enjoy this, if you don’t like that song then I don’t know what to say to you to be honest!

The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss), by Cher. The sheer ebullience coming off this song is unreal. My friend Charlotte showed me the 1990 film Mermaids, which is where this song is from, and even though I’d never seen the film before I also felt in my bones that I’d watched it once a week since I was five years old, you know those kind of instantly comforting films? I also recommend the original 1964 version of this song by Betty Everett, it’s gorgeous.

Next time: Not sure, but I’ll be back in the countryside, and I’m STILL looking for a good seitan recipe!

PS If you derive any particular enjoyment from my writing, there exists the shrewd business opportunity to support me directly on Patreon. A dollar a month gets you exclusive blog posts, two dollars a month gets you that plus further exclusive content and access to everything I’ve already written this year. It’s easy, and it’s extremely appreciated!

start spreading the news, I’m leaving today

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It is tough out there at the moment, you know? I mean it’s always tough out there – it’s slightly reassuring but mostly terrifying to consider the fact that not a single year has gone by without something awful happening – but specifically, the burning Amazon rainforest is really making my brain glitch and my already-mounting anxiety about environmental stuff and the fragility of what time we have within that environmental stuff, ramp up significantly. To get a grip on it, this piece in The Guardian outlines clearly and calmly what’s going on and gives some ways to help – although the forests’ fate appears largely in the hands of like, three tyrannical despots and a handful of abysmally slow-moving world leaders as opposed to one individual not using a plastic bag one time. Which is not to discount the power of that plastic bag. I grant you, it’s a drop in a bucket of water that’s coming to a boil. But still. Do what you can, anything good: plant a lil native tree, write to whichever politician seems most likely to actually read your email, donate to a local shelter or women’s refuge, contribute to the kaupapa of Ihumātao, smile at a dog, ask someone how they feel and then listen to what they say.

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I recently ordered Rachel Ama’s cookbook Rachel Ama’s Vegan Eats as a baseless reward to myself, the warranting of which I assume will become apparent eventually. I mean, someone’s gotta self-indulge me! I was spurred on by a recommendation of Nigella Lawson’s on instagram – Lawson and I already have a kind of jump/how high relationship as far as her opinion and me heeding her opinion goes, but I figured that a vegan recommendation from someone so wholeheartedly meaty held particular weight. Turns out Nigella and I were both correct! This book is wonderful – not least because Ama also has listed songs in it that she listens to while making the food – it’s full of the kind of food I want to eat, and I can’t wait to cook my way through it. I decided to break it in by making something swift and chill, this Chive Tofu Spread, which takes a bare minute to come together and tastes fantastically delicious.

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Rachel Ama’s Chive Tofu Spread

A recipe from the cookbook Rachel Ama’s Vegan Eats

  • 40g raw cashew nuts (about 1/3 cup)
  • 280g extra firm tofu
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (the refined, flavourless type is best here)
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon garlic granules or powder
  • a handful of fresh chives, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cover the cashew nuts with water and leave to soak for about two hours, then drain.

Drain the tofu and gently press down on it with a paper towel to try remove as much of the moisture as possible. Blend everything except for the chives in a food processor – although I used a stick/immersion blender to make it extra creamy, because I wasn’t sure that I trusted the food processor. Fold in the chives, and serve.

Can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for about three days.

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You might potentially not be immediately drawn to the notion of a bowl of cold blended tofu, but this is so much greater than the sum of its bits: creamily smooth, with a flavour almost approaching soft goat’s cheese, plus a pleasing sour-cream-and-chives vibe from, obviously, the chives. The tofu gives it body and tang and the cashews and coconut oil give it lushness, and I confidently urge you to try making it for yourself. I threw it together earlier this afternoon and it’s already gone: on toast, as you can see above, in vegetable wraps, and the rest taken care of spread on crackers. I would happily double or even triple this quantity in future, and am imagining it spooned into baked potatoes, spread on bagels, stirred through pasta salad, with different herbs like basil and mint; dill and parsley; rosemary and roasted garlic, thyme and roasted garlic; back to chives again but with roasted garlic.

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I want to make it super clear that by talking about both the Amazon and this recipe, I’m not trying to be flippant or imply that cooking makes everything better – although cooking is great – I just tend to think about twelve different thoughts in tandem at any given time and these are but two of them: 1) yikes, the environment and 2) wow, this recipe is great.

If you, like me, are an eager consumer of dips and spreads, I thoroughly recommend these other recipes that I’ve written about hitherto in the last six months alone: Caramelised Onion Butter; Olive Tapenade; Muhammara; Roast Cauliflower Miso Butter, and Butternut Dip.

And if you, like, me, enjoy my writing, you have the option of channeling this enjoyment by supporting me directly on Patreon. A dollar a month gets you an exclusive blog post, two dollars a month gets you that plus further exclusive monthly content and access to everything I’ve already written this year. It’s easy and it’s appreciated!

title from: New York, New York, specifically the smoky, downbeat Cat Power cover. Frank Sinatra’s bombastic original is great, just the kind of song you’d want sung about you if you were a city, but it was the closing time song for a bar I used to go to like four years ago and I’m only just managing to dis-associate it from that “now what, oh no it’s tomorrow” feeling. 

music lately:

Cripple Creek, by Buffy Sainte-Marie, a sweetly exuberant song where she accompanies herself with the water-droplet sounds of the mouth bow. I definitely recommend you watch this video of her performing it on Sesame Street, it’s just gorgeous, and a reminder of her ground-breaking presence on that show. She was the first person to breastfeed on television!

Cheree, by Suicide. You know those songs that you can feel changing you molecule by molecule, note by note? This stunningly fizzy song is somehow wildly exhilarating yet slow moving, like an iron-rich Berocca dissolving in a glass of water.

Next time: I’m still keen to try making my own seitan and am no closer to finding a definitive recipe so please, seitan hive come through!

yesterday I woke up sucking on a lemon

 

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If you thought my Old Fashioned Lemonade recipe a few weeks ago used up the bulk of the lemon supply then you are deeply mistaken; I live in the countryside now and lemons are like, how we communicate. If you shake someone’s hand and there’s not a lemon that has been furtively passed from person to person via that handshake it’s tantamount to a slap in the face. If you wake up and there’s not a bushel of lemons anonymously placed in your letterbox then you might as well move to a new province. People will give you lemons soon as look at you. People will give you lemons and then you’ll give those lemons back to the giver in the form of lemonade. I’m exaggerating for comic effect, but only slightly. Am I exaggerating about how slightly I’m exaggerating though? Slightly.

Anyway, when mum mentioned that it might be nice to have something baked for a quickly-pending afternoon tea drop-in; I was like right, that sounds like my idea of fun, but what: it has to be something reliable, delicious, and that uses existing abundant resources since there’s no shops nearby to get ingredients from. Naturally: the answer was lemons. To be specific, this lemon syrup cake, which is wonderfully delicious and impressively big, mixes together in five seconds, and can be served still-warm from the oven to your arriving guests – although given time to cool its flavour and texture is even better.

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This recipe is adapted from one I blogged about seven years ago; that recipe was adapted from one I found on a site that appears to no longer exist; so while today’s cake is basically my own I had some help getting there, I’m just not sure who from anymore. Since I first blogged about it in 2011 I’ve made numerous versions of it and have found it to be a most versatile and resilient cake – it can adapt to any tin shape or size, lasts for days and everyone always loves it. And it happens to be vegan, which like is not necessarily something I need to announce at this point aside from the fact that my Google SEO is already so woeful, so let me just be clear, person to algorithm: this is a vegan lemon syrup cake.

My aim with this iteration was to make a traditional style iced/lemon drizzle cake, but I was thwarted by the whole lack of proximity to shops thing: we only had a bare amount of icing sugar left, so I had to switch tactics and make a syrup instead. In the end I think it worked out for the best, because we could eat the cake right away and the syrup made everything stickily luscious, and once cooled the sugar granules formed a wonderful crunchy carapace on the cake’s surface.

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Vegan Lemon Syrup Cake

A recipe by myself

  • 1 x 400g can coconut cream (or coconut milk if it’s all you can find)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • the zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Syrup

  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons icing sugar
  • zest of a lemon, to garnish

Set your oven to 180C/350F, lightly grease a 22cm springform cake tin and line the base with baking paper.

Whisk together the coconut cream, sugar, lemon juice and zest, oil and vanilla till combined. Sieve in the remaining ingredients and stir briskly to form a thick batter.

Spatula the batter into the caketin and bake for around 1 hour although you might need longer – I found this took precisely one hour and 5 minutes and I covered it loosely with tinfoil from around 50 minutes in to make sure the top didn’t brown too much.

To make the syrup, bring the lemon juice and sugars to a good robust simmer in a small pan, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat.

Remove the cake from the tin and transfer to a serving plate. Stab the cake with a skewer in several places and spoon over the syrup (you may not require all of it.) Sprinkle over the second lot of lemon zest. Ideally allow the cake to cool completely before serving, but it is good warm – just be aware that if you do it might get a bit crumbly/fragile, so proceed with caution. Once it’s cooled it becomes a lot more solid.

Although there’s an entire can of coconut cream in the cake the flavour is barely discernible, it’s just a lemon hegemony from first slice to last. However, you could point up this aspect by stirring through a cup or so of shredded coconut into the batter before baking; there are also any number of other directions you could take this in: lemongrass in the syrup, blueberries in the batter, different citrus juice – although if you’re using orange juice on its own I’d add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar just to make sure the necessary acid content is present. If you have any food-grade citrus essential oils a drop of one or two of them in the syrup once it’s removed from the heat is a very good idea; you could also let the cake cool completely and pour over the lemon icing that I never managed to make. Finally, leftover slices are great heated up and served with ice cream, tasting comfortingly like a steamed pudding.

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Lemons!

Now that I have your attention; allow me to take you on a brief tour of where you can find me on the internet other than here: upon gloomily discovering that Campari isn’t vegan I wrote about some different options for fans of the classic Negroni cocktail for Tenderly; I also for Tenderly tried making the best mac and cheese that I could conceive of motivated entirely by the tweet of a celebrity. I also wrote a piece that I’m very proud of about Catherine O’Hara’s singular performance as Moira Rose on Schitt’s Creek for The Spinoff. Finally, I wrote a blog post about caramel walnut slice for my Patreon subscribers; if you wish to access it you can do so for one literal dollar, doing so will also directly support me and my writing.

title from:

Everything In Its Right Place by Radiohead, from their 2000 album Kid A which is my absolute favourite of theirs but also, I freely admit, the last new album of theirs that I’ve actually listened to. This song is amazing, somehow foreboding yet feeling like the sun rising at the same time.

music lately:

Young Ones Everywhere by Stephanie, as in, Princess Stephanie of Monaco, daughter of Grace Kelly. Turns out she was a singer for a while in the 80s and while I’m not sure if she’s the most technically gifted vocalist, her music is GREAT, like, with a dusting of highlighter this song – coldly synthy and vaguely yearning despite its fairly pointless lyrics – could literally be Carly Rae Jepsen.

Change The Beat, by Fab Five Freddy, and its famous b-side, both equally magnetic with languid French rapping over a lush, lush beat.

Give It To Me, Miya Folick. My dear friend Kate recommended this to me and it’s…perfect. Emotional in a combative way, sorrowful in a wild-eyed way.

Next time: I’m really keen on making my own seitan but can’t seem to find a definitive through line in the recipes I’ve seen online, so if anyone can recommend me one I would be most appreciative!

if you want a banana republic that much why don’t you go move to one

Before I get further into anything I extremely invite you to read Protect Ihumātao’s website to learn about the incredibly important occupation of the land happening right now; if you are feeling unfamiliar, this story by Leonie Hayden from 2017 for NZ Geographic is excellent for further background and context to this ongoing journey. There is also an ActionStation page where you can donate to the cause. Ngā mihi nui!

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Nigella Lawson often, when questioned, says that greed is her chief inspiration for recipe creation. I’m sure I must’ve been asked this at some point around the time my first cookbook came out, but these days I’m more at the daydreaming-potential-answers-to-future-interviews stage of renown, which is like, literally fine, although I wish I could apply my perpetual preparedness to be interviewed to being prepared in even one other aspect of my life. Anyway, if someone were to ask me, I completely agree with Nigella on the greed front, I just think of what I want to eat and then I make that a recipe. My secondary inspiration is probably that if someone on a TV show or movie that I’m watching mentions a food enough times I will get it in my head that I want to make it; but also significantly, I often derive inspiration from seeing people I am friendly with tweeting about food and being like “this is my BUSINESS,” such as the vegan carne adovada that I made earlier this year after seeing such a tweet.

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A few days ago my good friend Jen tweeted asking what the best vegan banana bread recipe was and I was like wow, I don’t know how to answer that, and I feel like I should, so I’m going to do something about it. (I’m only just realising now that I didn’t actually look at any of the recipes linked in other replies to her tweet, I instead just assumed I was the person to provide the definitive recipe and in turn response to her question. Upon reflection I guess I remain unchanged on that opinion?) The difference between a banana cake and banana bread is pretty much lost on me – aside from banana bread being made in a loaf tin – but if pressed for an answer – in an interview situation, perhaps – I would assert that it’s generally a little denser than the cake version and I wouldn’t expect it to be iced.

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This recipe has a fairly traditional-baked-good vibe to it, which is what I wanted – no dates masquerading as sugar content here, just actual sugar. No disrespect, but sometimes vegan baking recipes feel like they’re being blackmailed by a company that sells dates, you know what I mean? It’s light and moist but also firm with a springy crumb, and easily sliced into thick slabs – which are perfect alongside a cup of tea. You could consider folding in a couple of handfuls of walnuts or dark chocolate pieces, or the zest of a lemon, but I love it just as it is, with the sweetness of the bananas offset by the warmth of cinnamon.

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Banana Bread

A recipe by myself

  • 3 medium bananas (roughly 1 1/2 cups chopped banana)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons soy milk
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons rice bran oil or similar plain oil
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup (or maple syrup, or similar)
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt

Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a loaf tin with baking paper. By which I mean just shove a large rectangle of baking paper in there as best you can.

Place the bananas in a large mixing bowl and mash them thoroughly with a fork or wooden spoon or whatever. Mix in the sugar, milk, vinegar, vanilla, oil, and golden syrup. Sieve the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into the bowl, and then gently fold it all together. Spatula all this into the loaf tin, and bake for around 50 minutes, or until a knife or skewer inserted in comes out clean.

Note: the first time I made this I only used 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon, the second time round I put in heaps more and I think it tasted better for it but obviously your own feelings around cinnamon are perfectly welcome to override mine if you make this yourself.

I guess only future history books will tell us if this is indeed a definitive banana bread recipe but till then I am definitively delighted with it, which is hopefully enough of a push for you to make it too. It’s very easy, just a one-bowl affair, and it keeps well. If you don’t like bananas I can’t help you there but you should know that this isn’t overwhelmingly banana-y, just comfortingly delicious.

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Speaking of comfortingly delicious, if you wish to support me and my writing directly it’s very easy and minimal-exertion-y to do so through my Patreon account, where your assiduousness will be rewarded with content written just for you.

title from: Stars and Stripes of Corruption by Dead Kennedys, this is an uncharacteristically long but nevertheless excellent song of theirs which ducks and dives through time signatures with lyrics which – sorry for being super obvious – are still timely.

music lately:

You Don’t Have to Cry by Emma Ruth Rundle, from her album On Dark Horses. I actually started listening to her music because Minka, who also inspired the vegan carne adovada, tweeted about it, and I am the highly suggestible type! I’m so happy I am though, this album is stunning, intense and metallic and hard and soft all at the same time, I love it. You Don’t Have to Cry is the final song on the album and it’s just lush, the sort of song you should hear while lying on the floor of a barn or in a car as the sun sets right in your eyes.

Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man, by Oscar-winning actress and singer Miyoshi Umeki. This is from her 1956 album Miyoshi Sings to Arthur Godfrey which features American standards and torch songs, sung in a mixture of Japanese and English in her gorgeous warm voice, including this truly beautiful interpretation of the Kern/Hammerstein classic.

Next time: I ordered myself Rachel Ama’s cookbook as a present to myself for reasons I will work out later – perhaps if asked during an interview context – and can’t wait to explore it. I imagine you’ll be seeing recipes from it on here before very long.

got some lemons, make some kickass lemonade

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In an entirely wholesome state of affairs, my mother and I made this lemonade together using lemons from both the garden and the neighbours’ garden, a recipe from an extremely ancient cookbook originally made to provide proceeds to returned servicemen from World War I, and bottles of it were given to family members and the neighbours who gave us the lemons. I’m surprised local bunny rabbits didn’t materialise to help us stir the mixture while bluebirds tied ribbons in our hair.

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The cookbook that this recipe came from is one of those stalwart and somewhat interchangeable publications that flourished in the early part of last century: they all boasted hundreds of recipes, delivered without ceremony, which makes them a real pleasure to read in this era of extreme hand-holding. Which is not to speak ill of hand-holding; I myself try to make my recipes as full of detail as possible to account for all confidence levels, and while the vagueness of the recipes in these old books is amusing in its way, one could assume that the built-in knowledge of its contemporary readers was because most of the women buying these books got locked into a lifetime of cooking from roughly twenty minutes after they got married until roughly twenty minutes before they died whether or not they had any interest in doing so.

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My great-grandmother’s food weights

On the upside you can open any page and have a hearty laugh at recipes that time has not been kind to: Brown Soup, Boiled Ox Heart, Mock Omelet (curiously, the recipe includes egg), Cowslip Wine, and a remedy for throat infection where you literally cover a piece of toast in tobacco, then tie it to your throat with a rag. Side note, I find it hilarious whenever anyone gets starry-eyed about the simple, chemical-free lifestyle of the past, all “just like grandma used to make,” when these cookbooks all but tell you to glaze your hams with lead paint and give your sickly nephew asbestos lozenges.

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This lemonade, however, is timelessly delicious and calmly simple. You just steep the juice and peel of several lemons in some boiling water with sugar and citric acid, and then chuck it into some bottles. It couldn’t be easier, not if there were small woodland deer peeling the lemons for you. You end up feeling almost deliriously positive while making it too, due to the the vigorously uplifting fragrance of lemon permeating the air. This recipe book was published not long after World War I, which is perhaps why they recommend an austere tablespoon of cordial per glass of water – I recommend a couple of tablespoons, but it’s obviously up to you. I prefer it in a glass of sparkling water but it’s very personable in regular water, and it has a clean, pure, sunshine-on-a-rainy-day lemon flavour to it that’s wonderfully appealing. I suspect it would be very good in a gin and tonic.

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Old Fashioned Lemonade

Adapted from a recipe in the Success Cookery Book, 1925

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 4-8 lemons (the book specifies four but eight is very comfortably accommodated)
  • 4 teaspoons citric acid
  • 3 and 3/4 cups boiling water

Get as much of the yellow rind off the lemons as possible, avoiding the white pith. I started off with a mini grater but a vegetable peeler is a lot quicker and as it’s getting strained out it doesn’t matter how big or small your rind is.

Place the rind, sugar, citric acid, boiling water, and as much juice as your can squeeze out of the lemons in a large non-metallic bowl. Give it a good stir to get the sugar to start dissolving, then cover – a tea towel is fine – and leave until it’s completely cool. At this point, strain through a sieve and funnel into clean bottles. To serve, use two tablespoons, or to taste, in a glass of water or sparkling water.

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The cookbook says that this keeps for months, I see no reason not to believe them. The book also calmly lists things that every family medicine cabinet should have in the manner of a comedian, perhaps Seth Morris, doing an escalation bit: “Court Plaster. Ginger essence. Gregory’s mixture. Gripe water for baby’s colic. Ipecauanha wine for croup. Linseed meal. Lunar caustic for dog bites. Mustard.” If you put a microphone and an audience in front of me and told me to humorously invent some old-timey remedies I honestly couldn’t come up with better than this genuine real list.

While it’s always a good time when I’m online, it’s been a particularly good time for me online lately. Allow me to list for you – in the manner of an old-timey cookbook telling you about what quasi-medieval healthcare methods you oughta know – my latest online achievements.

If you are also excited about my writing and want to support me so I’m able to create more and more and more, then I encourage you to sign up to my Patreon account, where for a mere singular dollar per month you can access content made directly and solely for you.

title from: Livin’ Large by L7, just pleasantly chunky late 90s not-too-deep guitar stuff.

music lately:

Girlfriend by Christine and the Queens featuring Dâm-Funk. Of all the music trying to sound like it’s from twenty-seven to thirty years ago, this is amazing – it has this airy smooth sophistication to it, especially that gorgeously chill chorus, and the keyboards genuinely could’ve come from a Janet Jackson track. Somehow the oddness of the translated-French lyrics add to its appeal.

Memory, by Laurie Beechman. It feels like the entire world was engaging in discourse after the Cats movie trailer dropped; the only Cats-related content I wish to engage with currently is this video of Beechman, who tragically died in 1998, singing the musical’s big hit on the Phil Donohue show, I cannot watch it without crying despite the song’s ubiquity, her voice had this incredible power and metallic fragility simultaneously and honestly if you care about me in the slightest you will watch this video.

Next time: asbestos for all!

how bout them transparent dangling carrots

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I’ve been so sick this whole last week, which is extremely unfair and puzzling, because I take supplements and am therefore supposed to be invincible. Day one it was cold, day two was flu, day three there was a matinee performance of flu followed by an evening engagement of cold, and so on. I do respect an indecisive bug though: in this economy even our viruses have to be cutely relatable.

On Sunday I started to cautiously feel better and so made myself these fried carrot noodles, which are a variation on something I’ve made a zillion times for myself and my friend Charlotte, hence why I’ve given them the also-cute alternative title of “friend carrot noodles” which you are entirely within your rights to ignore completely. I just like putting these little easter eggs in my blog sometimes (an easter egg is a term for a very subtle unexplained reference or joke that only a few people will notice, for example, me yelling “hey Charlotte remember those noodles I made you!”) (Just to be clear, that was a joke and would be a terrible example of an easter egg.) (Not to be confused with, since we’re talking about tropes now, a Noodle Incident, which is an event from the past referred to obliquely and often repeatedly but never elaborated, so the audience can only but guess at the scale of its magnitude. This is an incidence of noodles, but not a Noodle Incident. I know, I’m also glad we cleared that up.)

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This recipe was improvised at my friend Charlotte’s house from a few ingredients and her teeny-tiny kitchen, and we both liked it so much that I ended up repeating it numerously for us during successive times together. We quickly assessed that the real star of the piece was the fried carrot, you wouldn’t think that a carrot could elicit much enthusiasm, but like most things, they really come alive after some vigorous heat and oil is applied. Sweet, toasty, nutty, rich, delicious, they are just so good. All it takes is some very hot oil and some patience, letting them really sizzle and brown and shrink down without too much stirring. The sauce was also just made from what I could find in Charlotte’s cupboard, but it has a marvellously galvanising effect on the noodles- salty, aromatic, rich.

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Fried Carrot Noodles, or, Friend Carrot Noodles

A recipe by myself

  • 2 carrots
  • 90g noodles of your choice (preferably udon, though I used soba here)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter or tahini
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup, sugar, or similar sweetener
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese Five-Spice powder
  • 2 teaspoons crushed garlic or two garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • good pinch of ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons sliced almonds, or similar
  • optional: whatever other vegetables/etc you want to add to this, like, go for it

Get your noodles started first by cooking them according to the packet instructions. To make this bit quicker I boil the jug first and then pour that into the pan that I’m going to cook the noodles in rather than heating the water up on the stove. Drain the noodles and set aside.

Wash the carrots, but don’t peel them. Slice lengthwise into sticks of about 1/2 – 1cm wide, not that you need to worry about uniformity, I just gave that measurement because that’s what recipes are supposed to do, but just like, make some carrot sticks, you know?

Heat the oil in a good-sized frying pan at the highest setting and tumble in the carrot sticks. Let them fry for a good 5-10 minutes, without stirring too often, till they’re really browned and crisp and fried.

Meanwhile, stir together the sesame oil, vinegar, almond butter, sweetener, garlic, and pepper together in a small bowl. Taste to see if you think it needs more of anything, more spice, more garlic, more oil? Probably.

Once the carrots are looking really good and done, tip in the almonds and stir them around so they briefly toast in the pan’s heat, then tip in your drained noodles and 3/4 of the sauce. Stir to combine thoroughly, then remove from the heat and transfer everything to your plate. Drizzle over the remaining sauce.

The carrots aside, this is a recipe that is extremely amenable to variations based on what you like and have to hand respectively. Firstly, the base – I much prefer udon or other similarly thick wheat noodles, but when I made it on Sunday I could only find soba noodles and they were still very good. Secondly, you can add any number of other vegetables to this, just remove the carrots to the side as you fry each vegetable individually and add them back in with the noodles at the end. Broccoli is really good, if you let it sit long enough to get properly browned and scorched, same with cauliflower, and don’t be afraid to add more oil to the pan, also chopped spring onions, green beans, and capsicum would be great. I often would stir through a couple of handfuls of baby spinach leaves right at the end too. As for the sauce, you could add chilli, or different spices (I am addicted to Chinese Five-Spice though, it makes everything taste amazing) and if you can get hold of that bottled sesame dressing – you know the one – then that is a particularly fantastic addition. And of course you can use whatever nuts or seeds you want.

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I honestly think that fried and roasted carrots are going to have a moment soon, kind of like how we all started frantically eating cauliflower a couple of years ago. I’ve never been particularly drawn to the carrot on its own – all that crunching and orange coldness tastes like hard work and penance – but when you apply massive heat and lots of oil they suddenly taste beyond incredible. Also, if the carrot does have a moment, let the record state that I called it.

Speaking of carrots, Tenderly, the vegan magazine that I’m contributing to, is launching tomorrow! Or maybe it’s like two days away, I can’t really tell with the time difference between here and the USA. Either way, I’m very excited and you can read and follow Tenderly here.

title from: Thank U by Alanis Morrisette, I love the tremulous little piano notes at the start and the unapologetic largeness of the chorus and the classically cerebrally therapeutic nature of the lyrics (“how bout no longer being masochistic, how bout remembering your divinity.”)

music lately:

A Night We’ll Never Forget from Carrie the musical, that’s to say, a Broadway musical literally based on Stephen King’s horror Carrie. Whatever you think you can make up, Broadway can top. First staged in 1988, this show is a notorious flop but also has had some of the most illustrious names involved with it: Annie Golden, Laurie Beechman, Marin Mazzie, Betty Buckley (who was actually the teacher Miss Collins in the original film), Darlene Love, Gene Anthony Ray, Liz Callaway, Alice Ripley, Debbie Allen, Sutton Foster, and even Barbara Cook of all people! This song was written for the 2012 off-Broadway revival and while it’s very much a musical theatre number, with plenty of exposition, it has this incredible sense of anticipation and 70s menace right from that dark opening piano chord that I adore.

30 Century Man, Scott Walker, I just love this song so much, those guitars and that voice have the warmth of a gas heater on a rainy day.

Torched and Wrecked, by Third Coast Percussion, it’s just a whole ass-ton of, I don’t actually know what those instruments are, I want to say glockenspiels but there’s probably more to it than that, anyway this is unsettling and ethereal simultaneously, it sounds like a thousand butterflies all holding knives, coming towards you in a beautiful swarm, the sun bouncing off their blades, it sounds like nervous rocks in a shallow pool of water. I also recommend Niagara by this same group, it’s got similar vibes but it’s more swirly and momentous and somehow kind of 80s? Like the sort of music a butterfly would use for a movie training montage?

Next time: I don’t know yet, but if I’m still sick I’m going to be so mad.

PS: if you wish to support all the writing that I do – not just for you here but also my other projects that I’m working on – then you can do so by joining my Patreon, where for a literal dollar a month you can access content written just for you on top of all of this.

Salvatore can wait, now it’s time to eat soft ice cream

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I don’t pretend to understand the economy or much of anything really but the day before I left Wellington there was a fruit and vege shop selling mangos for 99 cents and I thought to myself my lord I’d better buy one, at that price they’re practically paying me to have it, and then I didn’t have time to eat it before I flew back to Waiuku, but I was like, for 99 cents it’s just nice to know it’s there, but I also hate wasting food, so I put it in my luggage and it flew up with me, and then damn it if mangos aren’t 99 cents up here as well! I had it in my head that mangos were a summer fruit but I’m not going to question their inexpensive and incongruous presence at all because winter seasonal offerings are otherwise like, onions, parsnips, leeks, and one small, reluctant pear.

I figured I might as well go full out-of-season and make ice cream with the mangos since their elusive flavour, which tastes like running towards the sun in a dream, like a distant popsicle, like passionfruit and mandarin had a child and then sent it to boarding school at the age of five, is so suggestive of summer and heat. And it actually has been sunny here this week, although providing little tangible warmth, since, you know, it’s the middle of winter.

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Unlike my previous ice cream efforts I was happy to take a simpler path this time, and used a couple of cans of coconut cream for the base, as its flavour dovetails so beautifully with that of mango. I also added some fresh lime zest and juice because, after a coffee with my nana and other family, I was given some fresh limes straight from the tree – such luxury! Thanks Denise! If you can’t get hold of a lime then bottled juice will work okay but there’s nothing like that intense sour green freshness of the real thing. All that this requires is a food processor, although you could use a blender or some other similar implement if that’s what you have. I prefer coconut cream for this because its higher fat content gives a better texture, and aside from that there’s just a little vanilla and sugar and not much else. It couldn’t be easier. The second go in the processor is a bit of a pain, admittedly, but it really improves the texture – it’s a bit rock-hard without it. The important thing is, you don’t need an actual ice cream maker and not one of my recipes has ever required one and frankly even if I ever become financially stable I would still never buy myself one on principle because you just don’t need them to make amazing ice cream.

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So the flavour of mango is already holding you at arm’s length, and when you blur it with creamy coconut and add sharp lime it becomes even more mellow and yet you can still sense it, a kind of gentle tropical-ity, because the coconut backdrop somehow buffers out under the lime’s strident influence as well – in case you were concerned it would taste too much like coconut, it doesn’t. It’s so balanced, refreshing yet delicate, soft yet summery. And very delicious, if my weird metaphorical language wasn’t making that clear. It’s delicious.

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Mango Lime Coconut Ice Cream

A recipe by myself

  • 2 large ripe mangos
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 lime, zest and juice
  • 2 x 400ml cans coconut cream (look in the ingredients list for 90% or more coconut extract)

Slice as much mango flesh as you can from each mango – it’s a messy and unwieldy job, I grant you – and place in the food processor bowl with the cornflour. Blitz into a puree, using a spatula to scrape down the sides if need be. Add the sugar, vanilla, salt, lime zest and juice, and then blend again to combine.

Open the cans of coconut cream and empty them into the food processor, and blend again till it’s a smooth, creamy, pale mixture. Spatula this into a tin or container about one litre in capacity, then freeze for four hours. At this point, empty everything back into the food processor (and you might as well hold off on doing the dishes till this is done), blend until very creamy and smooth – this might take a while – then spatula it back into the container and return it to the freezer. After another two or so hours it should be ready to eat, although you’ll want to take it out of the freezer about twenty minutes before you need it, because this stuff gets pretty rock solid. 

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As I said last time, starting this month – my god, it’s July already – I’m going to be contributing regularly to Tenderly, an online vegan magazine that’s launching on the 8th, so I’ve been writing and preparing and testing lots of stuff for that, and unfortunately I’ve also become burdened with a head cold that’s possibly the flu and encroaching with maddening slowness – just get it over with already! I don’t have time to be sick! The germs in my head are extremely disrespectful! But fortunately ice cream is extremely soothing to a tender throat. As I also said last time, I will be also doing fewer blog posts on hungryandfrozen.com and will be instead uploading some exclusively for my Patreon supporters on a monthly basis, just to maintain some balance in my life in the manner of a well-flavoured ice cream – if you want in on this just-for-you content you can do so for a mere singular dollar.

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If you’re also fired up to make ice cream in the middle of winter for no good reason, or if it’s the middle of summer where you are, may I suggest further reading: my Rosé Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream; my Vanilla Ice Cream, and my Black Salted Caramel Ripple Ice Cream.

PS: No cats in the background this week, every time I looked up Poppy was staring at me intently and unsettlingly with hate and disdain in equal measure radiating from her yellow green eyes and rather than prod that hornet’s nest I thought I’d just leave her alone. This is called personal growth.

title from: Salvatore by Lana Del Rey, this song sounds like it was put through a Lana Del Rey Songmaking Machine (“la da da da da….limousines…la da da da da…ciao amore”) which is not to say that it’s not any good; it’s excellent! Syrupy and cinematic and nostalgic and lush and sad, just like a good Lana Del Rey song should be.

music lately:

Istanbul Is Sleepy by The Limañanas featuring Anton Newcombe, who seem to be doing their very best to sound like The Velvet Underground, which is obviously not a terrible aspiration, and as a result this song is gorgeous, layers of droning sounds and pounding drums and persistent guitars and detached vocals all with an oddly uplifting mood to it, it’s really, really good.

Make My Dreams Come True by Lontalius, this is thoughtful and mellow and lovely, like being a passenger in a car on a road with not one single bump on it (a rare treat in New Zealand) with the sun low enough in the sky to make you feel like a moody character in a film but not so low that it gets in your eyes.

If He Walked Into My Life, by Jennifer Holliday, she takes this number from the musical Mame and tears it to pieces effortlessly – her belting is astonishingly huge at all times and yet she’s so in control, she has this song in the palm of her hands, it’s such an incredible performance. The song itself is basically Women Who Love Too Much: The Musical but when she’s like “did I give too much, did I give enough” and then “did I stress the man, and forget the child,” and then “were his years a little fast-uhhhh” I have chills. A definitive interpretation.

Next time: if mangos are 99 cents this week, who knows what will be in season next week, in the middle of winter! Strawberries? Christmas?? But I also feel like I haven’t blogged about anything savoury in ages so will have a think about that.