don’t you wanna be the life of the party? don’t you wanna be the cream of the crop?

Guess what? I’m better! I nay have a cold anymore! No longer need I use handtowels as handkerchiefs (a mere handkerchief couldn’t sponge up my nose’s output! Just wallow in that image for a moment) or erode the roof of my mouth with pungent eucalyptine lozenges or down painkillers because my head feels like it’s shrinking around my brain.
Guess what other thing? I have pretty much taken over the lives of my friends in the process of this cookbook. Now I love, just love, being the centre of attention, but now that I am genuinely the centre of attention, I feel a little wary that because I have three friends in the role of photographers and stylist for the book, that every time we talk or meet for something it’s all about me. Even though I enjoy talking about myself. Why, just look at me making it all about me in my concern that it’s all about me even though I love it being all about me, via the most all-about-me medium there is, a personal blog! But generally this is a pretty stupid thing to wring one’s hands over, especially as the photoshoot process is going amazingly so far. I truly love the images I’ve seen so far from Kim and Jason, and Kate has been the most brilliant stylist, with more eye for detail than a fox pursuing walnuts (it’s a vegetarian fox). Tim has also shown aplomb as project manager, which involves tasks from the arduous – making sense of my hopeless document-naming system, doing dishes while I lie dramatically prostrate on the couch – to the resourceful, using his wiles to charm vast quantities of excellent coffee from the good people at Customs Brew Bar (he also used money to charm the coffee from them, but let’s not let facts get in the way of a good story.) And hey, get a load of these behind the scenes photos! Which really show you nothing at all, but still.  

And mercifully for our bank balances (buying ingredients but also existing on one income is a challenge, but these are happy times, so we can deal with it) the recipe-testing process has ranged from the merely successful to the ‘intermingling tears of smugness, joy and relief at the deliciousness I hath wrought’ kind of successful.
In the meantime, we still have to eat stuff, and this – Beetroot Baked in Cream, Balsamic Vinegar and Cumin with Spaghetti, Thyme and Pinenuts – was one such eaten stuff recently. It was just an idea I had, that so often beetroot is paired with sharper flavours when in fact it might lend itself perfectly to something richer. The cream makes it luxurious – I’m not talking something you should feel guilty over, or like you immediately have to go for a run afterwards to compensate for – because I would never talk like that anyway. I mean luxurious as in lifting the beetroot from its usual clean, austere nature and transforming it into something with a wealth of flavour as dense and layered and rich as a steak or roasted mushrooms. Cream. It is wonderful stuff. Not least because it can turn itself into butter.

During their time in the oven, the beetroot and the cream – two fairly dissimilar ingredients – start to meld, the sugars in both begin to caramelise, the silky texture of the cream echoes the soft, yielding beetroot, their more nutty elements become more emphasised together. And most gloriously of all, the cream turns a blinding, intensely bright pink.

It’s like you’ve melted MAC Lady Danger lipstick all over your dinner, and leaving aside how gross that would actually be, it’s a notion that kinda pleases me. Why can’t more food be this pink and this delicious?

Beetroot Baked with Cream, Balsamic Vinegar and Cumin with Spaghetti, Thyme and Pinenuts

A recipe by myself. You could of course serve this over rice or couscous or whatever, I just really, really, really, really love pasta. 

3 medium beetroot
3/4 cup cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
200g spaghetti (or linguine, or whatever long twirl-able pasta you like)
A small handful of fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons pinenuts

Set the oven to 190 C. Trim the tops and tails from the beetroot, and scrub them if they’ve got any dirt clinging. Slice in half and then slice those halves into semicircles – a bit like how you might cut an onion. Lay the slices in a roasting dish, not worrying if they overlap, and pour over the cream. Sprinkle over the salt, vinegar and cumin, then cover with tinfoil and bake for half an hour. Remove the tinfoil, and bake for another half hour. The cream will bubble freakishly, but don’t worry. This is all good. 

Cook the pasta in a pan of boiling salted water as per packet instructions, then drain and divide between two plates. Spoon the beetroot and its fuchsia sauce over the spaghetti, then throw the nuts and the thyme leaves on top and serve.

A scattering of rich thyme leaves and a precious handful of pinenuts (seriously, those things are expensive like diamonds) makes it all come together, and also tones down the retina-searing brightness some.

Last time I blogged I mentioned I was getting ready to dress up as a Gold Lion for a Wild Animals party organised by two friends of mine, both named Jo. I found a gold sparkly dress (the sequins of which scratched my arms up no end, but I danced through it) and a friend of mine plaited my hair with pipe cleaners and pinned them into lion’s ears like so:

And I put on sliiightly more makeup than usual. Like food, I enjoy my makeup bright and plentiful. The party was so much fun and I danced so hard with my fellow animal-dressed friends and increasing the joy even further, all proceeds went to the Wellington SPCA. The only dark spot in a glorious evening was the dudebros who yelled homophobic slurs from a bar balcony at a bunny-ears-wearing Tim on our walk home, which is wrong for so many reasons that I won’t overexplain to you (my main concerns being gay cannot continue to be used as an insult, and also what if they weren’t on that balcony? What if they were on the street with us?) We sometimes refer to what we call our ‘liberal bubble’ that our friends and I float around in, and like that night, occasionally the bubble gets popped with a harsh knifestab.

That fleeting moment of horribleness aside, the weekend was so glorious, especially when we got to hang out with some real animals at Jo’s house while watching Veronica Mars on Sunday evening, reminding me with a brief heart contraction just how much I love cats, how much I love Veronica Mars, and, bringing this blog post full circle, how much I love my friends. Either that or my heart was processing some cholesterol. But I think it was sentimentality!
Title via: I’ve used this before as a title, but it’s so incredibly good that I just want to use it in every single blog post. The always-sublime Idina Menzel, getting dark and ugly in Life of the Party from Andrew Lippa’s musical The Wild Party. 
Music lately:

I am totally a Liza fan, but a young Judi Dench’s version of Sally Bowles in the original London cast of Cabaret is so worth your ears – aching, intense, careless, and with the most charming, charming husky voice as she sings the title song.

I spied this cover on my friend Coley’s Facebook. Now, I do not like the Kings of Leon song Sex on Fire. But do you know who can make it effortlessly incredible? Beyonce. And I wish I had even one sixteenth of her gold-lion-ness.
Next time: I am aware that there has been little-to-know pudding or cake or ice cream on the blog lately. This is not like me, and I will remedy it. 

27 thoughts on “don’t you wanna be the life of the party? don’t you wanna be the cream of the crop?

  1. Sarah says:

    Hey hey, glad you're feeling better! So fun to see the pictures of your photo shoot – it's exciting seeing your book come together! 🙂

    I'm sorry to hear about the douchebags yelling at you guys on your way home – but glad you're both ok! Hate is not acceptable, any time!

    xox Sarah


  2. JustMe says:

    I made some beet chips the other day. Hardly as beautiful as this dish, but since beets and I have a testy relationship, any way I can eat them is good!!


  3. Alicia says:

    Good to hear that you're been feeling better and I'm glad that you've posted this recipe. It's also good to hear from you. I was wondering when I'd see a blog post from you! So woohoo! Interesting combo of cream with beetroot. I've also never thought of eating beetroot with spaghetti and cream. I'm now going to have to try this with the next batch of beetroot from the CSA box!


  4. Hannah says:

    I wish I could be there so that my days could be all about you too. WHY IS NEW ZEALAND NOT AMERICA LAURA? AND WHY WON'T YOU GO TO NEW YORK IN SEPTEMBER SADFACE!!


  5. Emma says:

    Not cool dudebros, not cool.

    More cool, creamy beet dish with pasta. Must wait for cooler months to try this out.

    Coolest, pretty lion ears. Sad, dress-scratched arms.


  6. Anonymous says:

    This is going to make my weekend! Yum!
    PS People still using 'gay' as an insult? Wow. Thought that died out years ago 😦


  7. Foodycat says:

    That dish looks amazing! Sort of like the beetroot bled all over the pasta but in a good way. And I am sorry about the homophobic dickhead experience. I also live in a jolly little liberal bubble and it takes me by surprise when I hear about things like that.


  8. Dave Caufield says:

    I love the color in this dish. Can't wait to have my lovely wife take a crack at this and for me to take a big bite. lol – you see, I search for the new recipes, then she does the cooking.


  9. hungryandfrozen says:

    You just can't stop beetroot juices – especially with something as absorbent as pasta! But I decided I liked the effect after all that. I didn't even tinker with the saturation on the photos, it really was that bright!


  10. Hila says:

    My mother would LOVE this recipe – a beetroot fan she is.

    So glad to hear you're feeling better! I've been nursing a bad case of the flu over the past few weeks too. It's taking forever to go away completely.

    And enjoy being the centre of attention – this kind of book process happens rarely in life, so you might as well enjoy it 🙂


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