a dip in the butter and a flutter with what meets my eye

Aren’t hormones just the darnedest things? I was thinking about the Spice Girls the other day and started crying a little. While on a public street in Wellington, walking to work. I know, what is life. It was pretty innocuous – something along the lines of ‘they were so pretty but accessible and they really did seem like the best of friends” and then I just got a bit teary, out of nowhere. Last time I cried while thinking about the Spice Girls was back in 1998 when Geri Halliwell left and I couldn’t listen to Viva Forever without my heart crumbling like a Spice Girls-branded Chupa Chup under someone’s back molars.

That really has nothing to do with anything (apart from everything) but it was an anecdote too large for Twitter and too strange for Facebook, and an anecdote nonetheless. I don’t exist on this many online formats to not be able to share awkward public tearfulness at the hands of a largely non-credible 90s pop group somewhere.

It has been a week of big decisions. The biggest being that with this cookbook looming ever closer, I’m leaving my full-time job to devote myself to writing. Writing the book, writing this blog (I don’t want to ever be too busy for it) and hopefully doing some more freelance writing too, in order to keep myself and Tim in butter. It’s not something I’ve decided to do lightly – money doesn’t come from nothing, I’ve gained a lot of opportunities from my current workplace, and honestly it still feels so recently that KFC and several supermarkets never called me back. But the book needs to come first, and so the end of June will also be the end of my office life for a while.

I almost wasn’t going to blog tonight – I did a lot of sleep-ignoring in the leadup to getting confirmation of the book deal and I can’t quite convince my body to carry on at that same hyper level now I’ve got it. However I conceded that I should blog, and could easily upload an instagram of dinner. Then I figured I might as well use my actual proper camera. By the time I started thinking “By gosh, this photo could use a loosely folded teatowel” I knew I was committed. This is just something I came up with tonight, a response to the brutally cold wet weather and to what I had in the fridge. I’m not the best at cooking polenta but this method, while not traditional, tends to work for me. Polenta will absorb pretty much whatever you throw at it, so if you don’t have cream, just use more water or milk and maybe add some butter, or you could use tomato juice, or well flavoured stock. There are options out there, this is but one.

Garlicky Polenta with Greens and Browned Butter

A recipe by myself.

1 cup fine polenta/cornmeal (they’re the same thing, but make sure it’s the finer, not coarser stuff.)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup milk
2 cups water
As many green vegetables as you like – I used broccoli, spinach, and avocado. Also good would be beans, peas, Savoy cabbage, rocket, edamame, etc…

First, slice up any of your vegetables that need it and have them ready. 

Then, in a medium sized pan, carefully whisk together the polenta, garlic, cream, milk and 1 cup of the water till smooth. Bring to the boil, continuing to stir, and adding the extra water if it gets too thick. It will bubble a little – big, slow-moving bubbles – but just continue to stir it, till, when you carefully taste it, the grains are soft and not the slightest bit gritty, with a texture verging on mashed potato-like. 

Set aside while you quickly deal to the vegetables – heat up the pan and add any non-leafy, non-avocado greens to it. Tip in 1/2 cup of water and let it bubble away. Then add your spinach or other leaves, and continue to cook till the water has evaporated and the leaves have wilted. 

Finally – spoon the polenta onto two plates, put the greens (including your avocado if you’ve got it) on top, and then finally heat up the same pan you cooked the veges in and throw in about 30g butter. Let it sizzle over a high heat till darkened, with golden bubbles appearing. Remove from heat and spoon it over the vegetables and polenta. Serve.

Polenta becomes quilt-soft and gently creamy in flavour – incredible comfort food, the likes of which I never even knew existed a few years back. Browning the butter means burning it, but if you’re wary of such brazen actions just know that it becomes more darkly rich and nutty and – oh, glorious new word! – pinguid than you dreamed possible. And hot browned butter on top of cool firm avocado is quite the revelation. It won’t be the last you’ll see this combination here, I assure you.

Pinguid pinguid pinguid. As satisfying to say as it is to think about things that are pinguid.

It has also been a week of podcast fraught-ness. If your original file never recorded properly, your laptop wall charger stopped working, you accidentally uploaded entirely the wrong file to iTunes and in a panic accidentally not only delete it entirely from your podcast website rather than calmly editing it, but also delete the first episode…would you feel like the universe was trying to say “stop trying to make fetch happen!“? It wasn’t just any wrong file I uploaded to iTunes, but a video. Yes, if you can’t tell by the crisp, stellar sound on my podcast, I just record myself talking on Photo Booth, then convert it to mp3, then upload it as a podcast. Except I forgot to convert it, so had you casually found my podcast on iTunes, you would’ve been greeted by my pale, unwashed face talking away in the semi-dark while I was wrapped in a wooly blanket, followed by me in an old tshirt with the angle of the camera directly up my nose, followed by me wearing the outfit I describe in the podcast, but still not at my best angle (I assume I have one.) iTunes does not make it easy for you to delete something in a hurry either. Awkward.

Again I’d like to throw some huge love in the direction of my friend Kate, who came and recorded twice after the first file was busted, whose husband volunteered me their own laptop wall charger after mine stopped working, and who is such a brilliant podcast guest that I was, while editing it, continually smiling and nodding and turning to Tim and yelling “I think it’s going to be good!” because I forgot that I always shout when I’m trying to talk with headphones on.

So if you want to listen to The HungryandFrozen #soimportant Podcast Episode 2, you finally can, on the website or here in iTunes.

It has also been a time of parties! I was going for queen of the dinosaurs here, but despite my hastily cobbled-together garland of dinos, I somehow ended up looking like I was selling Pears soap or something. (Photo by Kate – I guess it’s been a time of Kate too!) Still, it’s a much better look than what I saved you all from in the accidentally-uploaded-video-podcast horrorshow. I wish there were more opportunities to wear dinosaur garlands, I guess since I’m not going to be in the office for much longer I can make my own opportunities, right? This imminent lack of job is paying for itself!
Title via: The Miller’s Son from Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. Sara Ramirez (as in Grey’s Anatomy’s Callie, or as in Tony Award winning Sara Ramirez) is so, so magnificent here.
Music lately:

Liane La Halvas, Age. She’s gorgeous, the song’s gorgeous. Yay for her.

This isn’t a song as such, but if you have even the slightest interest in hearing people sing nicely (not to back you into a corner here) this Seth Rudetsky ‘Obsessed’ video with Morgan James of Godspell has me, well, obsessed. Her voice is incredible. Worth it entirely for the bit at the end, although everything leading up to it’s great as well – I must’ve watched this a zillion times.
Next time: I can’t get enough brown butter at the moment, and Brown Butter Ice Cream keeps appearing in my head, but we’ll see, we’ll see.

19 thoughts on “a dip in the butter and a flutter with what meets my eye

  1. Emma says:

    Well well well. I'd like to think my ode to crying over the Mama video somehow influenced your first post-98 Spice Girls cry; after all, you comment on their 'best of friends' appearance, as showcased in Mama by fake footage of them as youngsters being chummy. But I know that you're just another truly heartwarming fanatic!

    Congrats, Dino Queen, on taking the giant unemployed leap into the unknown. I've been wanting to work on my writing in the five months I've been unemployed, but I've been in the wrong mindset, and my location makes the type of writing I want to do illogical. And anything but pinguid.


  2. Eileen says:

    Polenta with avocado? You'd think I'd have eaten this combination before, living in California, land of avocados, and all–but no. Sounds perfect, especially with the browned butter!

    And congrats on book deal and a shiny new writing life! You win! 🙂


  3. 99 says:

    So I obviously follow your blog for the food, however I love the music you've been posting lately! Thank you for today introducing me to Lianne La Havas, what a babe, and right now I am youtubing the crap out of Morgan James. WOW.


  4. Janae says:

    I'm so sorry I haven't visited in a little while, so I know this is a bit belated, but I've been reading through some of your recent posts and OMG CONGRATULATIONS!!!! I'm so happy for you and your cookbook deal – so amazing! Yay for you and for the fact that you are living your dream! That is quite an accomplishment, and I hope you adequately celebrated (I'm sure you did). Cheers to you!


  5. Sue @ FiveCourseGarden says:

    The best thing about leaving the office world behind and working at home is that you can cook lunch in a proper kitchen with proper ingredients… hmmmm… I reckon there's a blog in there somewhere. Thanks for the reminder about polenta. Why do I never remember to cook it? It's so yellow and happy. Maybe I'll have it for lunch tomorrow.


  6. Hannah says:

    So, so proud of you taking the leap away from officeland. How wonderful, though, to know that in doing so you've got the clear goal (and profit, wheee!) of the cookbook and freelance writing ahead of you! And while money doesn't come from nothing in the first instance, butter comes from cows, so everything will definitely come up shiny.

    You are the most magical at all the costumes. You and my beloved-much-missed Jeniqua would get alone so well in that department; she has an entirely cupboard of Things For Costumes including the most hilarious extravagant wretched 80s wedding dress. It has all the things.

    Also, Viva Forever ALWAYS makes me feel sad. I'll be waiting…


  7. Rebecca says:

    Oh you totally cracked me up with the whole business of getting teary over the spice girls, lol! I am glad I am not the only one out there who gets weepy of the darndest things sometimes. Good on you for being brave enough to quit your job and focus on the book – I really admire people who chase their dreams. Life is so short! Becks xxx


  8. Nigel Olsen says:

    A book deal! I am profoundly happy for you – well done! I'm not the slightest bit surprised, either. The obvious passion for your craft is plainly evident in your writing, as well as in all your other endeavours. Good luck too for being brave enough to take the plunge to pursue your dream; I dropped a career to become a chef, & soon it's about to take off on another tangent. Stress & uncertainty about the future are inevitable; keep your friends & family close & ride it out. You'll be sweet 🙂


  9. jamie-lee says:

    I have to say that when I clicked on your podcast (which I discovered through Kate's blog – it wasn't until now I realised you had disappeared from my Google Reader. Clearly it is so overgrown with things I can't remember what I do and don't read, but I digress) I wasn't sure what to expect. But I enjoyed it all. Your complete enthusiasm for using adjectives to describe almost everything is enviable. As is yours and Kate's love of American food – something I must admit that I also enjoy. I mean, what is there not to love? Did you know that in Auckland there is an American specialty food store? I've been considering placing an order for ages but just haven't taken the plunge. Until then I find Kirby's fulfills my US candy fix.

    I think I saw the two of you at the Papershoes opening night, although I didn't get a chance to say hello, I suppose it was all the alcohol and that jazz.

    Anyway, this is long enough. Congratulations on the book, that is absolutely amazing, and I wish you all the best! 🙂


  10. tori says:

    Gorgeous! (nb- a very belated congratulations on the book – I can't wait to see it- and I know exactly what you mean about brown butter- I'm obsessed with pairing it with yogurt and toasted nuts- both in sweet and savoury things.


  11. hungryandfrozen says:

    My Google Reader is totally in need of pruning – at first it was excellent, but go away for a week and suddenly you can never get that time back and there's 700 new posts glaring at you reproachfully…anyway, thanks so much for listening, glad you enjoyed it!

    We were indeed at the Papershoes opening, how good was that vodka!

    And thanks again 🙂


  12. hungryandfrozen says:

    Thank you…and browned butter sounds just incredible in yoghurt! I want to bake brown butter ice cream but now I think I want to make brown butter frozen yoghurt instead. All the things!


  13. hungryandfrozen says:

    Thank you!

    Envious of your avocado-proximity, here in Wellington they're very hit and miss and usually expensive this time of year – although there is a particular winter variety which I love. It's just waiting for it to ripen…


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