To sleep, perchance to dream, that is the question…is not actually what Hamlet said, but I’ve helpfully paraphrased. It seems I’m either pursuing or avoiding sleep, but hardly ever actually just having it when I should be. Damn you elusive sleep you! (and that definitely wasn’t Shakespeare, although it’s fun to imagine Hamlet saying it while shaking his fist so hard his pantaloons start to flap around.) Luckily this recipe for Cambodian Wedding Day Dip is so easy you could make it in while sleep deprived, but equally it’s so loaded with aggressive flavours that it wakes you up fast like one of those dreams where you’re walking along and then all of a sudden you trip over and slide into your own bed like an elaborate home-run in that sport with the home runs. (I’m just playing, I know it’s softball – I was so dedicated to the Baby Sitters Club that I never once skipped the boring chapters about Kristy’s team that she coached.)
My current state of sleepiness is self-inflicted though – last night Tim and I met up with our friends Pia and Fiona (Piona!) and went to this park on Mt Vic to have a picnic and watch the fireworks. They’re two of the nicest, funnest people we know and excellent hosts – Pia was all “we made a fancy salad” and I was all “I know, I can see it” while having their beetroot and chickpea salad and then she was all “no, this!” and pulled out another amazing salad with sliced oranges and black olives. After the fireworks (which were spectacular, although not quite as exciting as Pia running from flames like an action hero when one of her own fireworks fell over after being lit) they then invited us to play Cranium with Fiona’s sister and their friends, which went on till 2am. It may not sound so cool, but correctly identify Harry Belafonte’s Banana Boat song after your teammate hums three bars of it and see how cool you feel.
Despite this ongoing feeling that I’m running towards something that keeps moving further away, this week has, upon reflection, been full of really good things. I’m going to try to keep this succinct: Broadway Bites is the blog set up by these actual Broadway stars like Adam Chanler-Berat of Next to Normal and Andy Senor Jr from a million different casts of RENT, including the international tour with Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp, and Matt Shingledecker from Spring Awakening. And all three of them are in RENT’s off-Broadway revival. And they ran this competition on their blog where you email in your favourite breakfast recipe and so I did (these two) not even thinking I’d hear anything from it, and then – to take us back to the start of the story – I got this tweet from them saying I’d won, and it linked to this video of them having made the recipe and talking about it and making a porridge recipe I sent them and performing in the musical that this blog was named for. And tweeting me. To sum up: Ha-whaaa? While there’s no reason people on Broadway should be interested in this blog just because I talk about Broadway musicals in relation to food, I’ve also always dreamed of this happening, ever since I started writing it four years ago. Now if the amazing Julia Murney could just check out my recipe for pancakes… (that’s a Broadway injoke, sorry everyone.)
Then I get this parcel from Kate, who Tim and I stayed with in Oxford earlier this year – remember, her and her husband were complete strangers to us but they were from New Zealand and she liked my blog? We had a fantastic time and they were lovely of course, and when she emailed asking for my address because she had something to send me for my blog’s fourth birthday, I was expecting, say, a novelty keyring, but it was in fact a cookbook almost but not quite as gigantic as author Hugh Fearnley-Whittingsall’s name, and entirely dedicated to vegetarian recipes, which I love.
This recipe comes from that cookbook and as I said, it’s called Cambodian Wedding Day Dip, which is a pretty romantic name because it’s not only a food but it also sounds like a cool dance. The ingredients are the kind that I float towards like a moth to a light source – peanut butter, coconut milk, chili – plus plenty of chopped up mushrooms – all of which politely resist overpowering each other and instead all let each other shine gently as they roll over your tastebuds. Creamy, nutty sweetness respectfully busting a move with spicy, earthy smoky flavours.
It’s next-level delicious, somehow showcasing the richness of the peanut butter and coconut milk without tasting like you’re eating satay sauce (not a bad thing, it’s just different) and you don’t even need to be having a wedding to dip sliced up vegetables in it. It’s worth keeping in mind that the finished product is essentially a pale brown paste, hence my liberal carpeting of coriander leaves in the photos. Coriander is like the icing sugar of the savoury world: makes everything look all good again. Tonight Tim had it over rice for dinner, I’d eaten so much of it during the cooking process, that I was too full for that kind of commitment. But not to the point where I couldn’t sneak out later and eat some dip and then cry “Agh! So Full! What Hath I Wrought!” like Hamlet totally would.
Truly. That stack of crackers – with which this Cambodian Wedding Day Dip is ideal – was much, much higher when I started taking these photos. Kate – thanks so much again for sending this to me and I totally recommend this recipe (gluten and dairy-free, hey-ohh!)
Cambodian Wedding Day Dip
500g chestnut mushrooms (confession: used plain old button shrooms. All I could find)
1 tablespoon oil (I use rice bran)
1 small red chilli, finely chopped (I used a tablespoon of sambal oelek, it’s what I had)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon curry powder or mild curry paste (further confession: the vagueness of this direction and my lack of any curry paste whatsoever led me to leave this out and shake in a little cinnamon and ground cumin, some weird instinct kicking in I guess.)
2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter (confession: I followed this step exactly)
1 x 400ml can coconut milk
Juice of half a lime (used a lemon, had no lime)
Dash of soy sauce
Coriander leaves (optional, but used them because I actually had them).
Finely dice the mushrooms, or blitz them in the food processor. Not toooo fine – you want them to be the size of, say…I can’t actually think but you want them bigger than grains of rice, okay? Like 4mm square, ish. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the mushrooms, stirring while the liquid in them appears and then evaporates. Add the chili and the garlic, and cook a little further, before adding the peanut butter and curry paste (if you’ve got it) and stirring through the mushrooms. Tip in the coconut milk, and then let it bubble away, stirring often so it doesn’t burn, till it reduces down and is much thicker.
Those weren’t the only good things that happened this week though, I know, what kind of happy-go-lucky weirdos are we? Not that happy-go-lucky, I promise you. I for one, am more like clumsy-go-anxious. But sometimes you can actually force happy-go-luckiness to come your way, like when you throw a Simpsons party and invite your friends round and make a giant donut and floor-pie and an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet and nuts’n’gum. And your friends bring twinkies and rib-wiches and candy. And you all drink Skittlebrau. It was amazing fun. I’m going to be writing about it for 3news.co.nz’s National News section (just kidding, it’s under lifestyle) so if you ever get the urge to throw yourself a similar party, you’ll know how. So many people came along even though it was a very last-minute thing, the sort of people that are so good for your soul that all you can hope is that you provide some kind of similar function in return.
Title via: Wedding Bell Blues by the late Laura Nyro. Her voice is stunning, this song is all sad and poignant, and when you put the two together, my stars it is something. Props for the cool name too, Nyro.
SWV, It’s All About U. Some 90s R’n’B is so gold that while you’re listening to it, it feels better than any music of any other genre ever. Not that it’s a competition, you can like more than one thing. What I’m saying is, I love this song.
Erykah Badu is coming to New Zealand! That’s good. But it’s to a festival that’s far, far away from Wellington. That’s not so good. Might have to get my vicarious and much cheaper thrills by just playing more of her amazing music.
Next time: I made some frozen yoghurt! But I also made more things from this book. I think frozen yoghurt will win though.