Last Saturday I had the good fortune to appear on Radio New Zealand to talk about recipes for a tight yet manifestly fruitful eleven minutes and three seconds; as a result I had a whole lot of new people sign up to get my blog posts emailed to them. And I was like maaaan I hope I impress those who signed up in all innocence who don’t know that I’m constantly talking about my mental health and even worse, how I use the word “like” as verbal filler even though I’m writing and not like, talking out loud and therefore in need of said fillers, like, how is it that my written words somehow manage to have vocal fry?
I was also hoping to get this blog post done sooner in order to impress said new kids and indeed, literally anyone, but I’ve been SO TIRED which you either know or shall come to learn is like 67% of what I talk about, but in my defence, this week feels next level, as though all I’ve done is work or try to sleep and infuriatingly be unable to do so; you know that particular tired where the skin under your eyes feels like hot scratchy lace and there’s an egg-shaped queasiness in the centre of your ribs?
(Speaking of eggs I last appeared on this same segment of the Radio NZ show a few years ago and at the time confessed to host Charlotte Graham-McLay that I did not know how to poach an egg, or more specifically: I knew how, but I was never successful at it. Before my appearance on the show again last Saturday, sitting outside the studio, she asked me if I was still unable to poach an egg and I was like “well yeah nah, yeah but I’m vegan now so I don’t have to worry about it.” And then I paused and was like “that’s not why I became a vegan.”)
Despite my frantic-making tiredness I’ve been productive in a gritted-teeth kind of way; I’ve somehow managed to read three books (and am halfway through another), I’ve watched twelve films (insomnia is good for something at least), I’m halfway through a knitting project and I made myself food. Specifically, this recipe for Roasted Carrot Mac n Cheese!
Roasted Carrot Mac n Cheese
a recipe by myself
- 7 (or so) carrots from a bunch, the kind that are smallish and have lots of green on the end and look like something from a Beatrix Potter book; or about three regular big normal carrots
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup roasted salted cashews
- 1/3 cup oat milk, almond milk, or similar
- 2 heaped tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon dijon or American mustard
- a pinch of garlic powder or one clove of garlic
- a pinch of ground cumin
- a pinch of nutmeg
- a pinch of paprika, preferably the nice smoky kind
- a very small pinch of turmeric
- salt and pepper to taste (I prefer sea salt and really dusty cheap ready-ground black pepper, personally.)
- 100-200g small dried pasta for example, but not exclusively, macaroni (I used something called Cavatelli)
- 1 slice of bread
- 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Set your oven to 220C/430F. Slice or pull the leafy tops off the carrots and place them (the carrots, that is, not the leafy tops) in a shallow roasting dish. If you’re using regular carrots, slice them in half across the middle and then slice each half lengthwise in half, if that makes sense. Drizzle liberally with olive oil (just regular stuff is fine) and sprinkle over a little salt. Put them in the oven for around twenty minutes, or until they’re thoroughly roasted, you know, all soft and caramelised and a little shrivelled (I can’t think of a better word for it, sorry.)
Allow them to cool, then place them in a high speed blender with the oat milk, olive oil (plus tip in any olive oil that is left in the baking dish), the cashews, the nutritional yeast, mustard, lemon juice, the spices, garlic, and a little salt and pepper. Blend it thoroughly until it’s thick and creamy and there’s no trace of actual carrot or carrot remaining, then taste to see if it needs anything more – perhaps some more salt (don’t be shy) or a little more milk, just trust your tastebuds, basically. At this point, you can either spatula it into an airtight container and refrigerate it for up to a week for further use, or set to with stirring it into some pasta. In which case…
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil (I always boil the kettle first and then tip that into the pan, which saves a ton of time) and cook your pasta for around ten to twelve minutes, or until it’s tender. Drain thoroughly, then mix through the sauce. If you want, you can at this point blitz up the slice of bread with the sunflower seeds and nutritional yeast in a food processor or blender, sprinkle it on top, drizzle it with olive oil and grill till the top is browned and crunchy, but serving it just with the sauce is completely fine too.
Serves 2, or 1 with leftovers.
I feel that a lot of vegan cooking is like playing that game where you have to describe a noun like “pencil” or “John McEnroe” or something without actually naming it, which is not a dig, I excel at such games. So here I use the words “mac n cheese” to evoke a mood rather than to convey anything literal (which to be fair you could like, reasonably expect from a recipe title, but) and everything that goes into it has its own specific purpose in the game to get you closer to imagining that which the title suggests. The spices – earthy cumin, nutmeg brings sweetness and also tricks you with its cheese-sauce familiarity; the mustard and lemon give tang and the turmeric and paprika give colour and a little back-of-throat smokiness and the high speed of the blender’s blades force salty, buttery cashews and rich, nutty, oily almost-sweet roast carrots to relinquish any commitment to their current cellular structure in order to become creamy and thickly, billowingly pureed. And of course nutritional yeast, which really does taste pretty similar to cheese and is therefore a completely obvious addition and there’s no need to get weirdly poetic about it.
The carrots are the real heroes of the piece here and I’m delighted that my idea for using them thusly worked so well. I urge you to find those cartoon-like bunches of smaller carrots bound together by their almost fluffy, leafy green tops: they simply have a ton more character and flavour than a regular-ass carrot, but if that’s all you can find then don’t let that stop you by any means. If I had my time again I’d honestly probably make double the quantity of sauce so that the pasta could get really truly submerged but as it was, modestly coated and with the crunchy sunflower-seed-breadcrumb topping (and you could just use breadcrumbs, I just decided to really lean into this whole, you know, thing), it was completely delicious.
Through appearing on the radio (which I adore doing by the way, not much makes me happier than having a microphone in my face especially if I’m talking about myself and I encourage anyone else who’s looking for such a person to consider me) there was another pleasing side-effect: my Frasier food blog got unprecedented (by which I mean like, seven) views and I received three separate notifications that literally essentially just said “wow someone is actually reading this, end of notification!” Even my blog platform, inanimate though it is, is excited! All of which – talking into a microphone, new readers, the whole thing – makes me feel optimistic and excited! I’m admittedly approaching a somewhat anxiety-inducing fork in the road as my apartment lease comes to an end in February and I don’t know what I’m going to do about it yet and I feel like I’m never going to stop reeling with exhaustion but, with such tangible achievements already achieved in this young year, I’m okay to rest briefly on my laurels. And hopefully even sleep on them at some point.
PS new readers, one final thing I’d like to have noted for posterity is that the photo of me on the Radio New Zealand page is really old.
title from: The Frug by Rilo Kiley. A quiet and slightly odd but sweet little song from way back in their back catalogue, it does feel very of its time, by which I mean a song written in 1998 that appears on the soundtrack of a Christina Ricci film, yes it’s a genre.
It Takes a Muscle To Fall In Love, by Spectral Display, it’s so calm and yet so beautifully momentous at the same time. It bears some of that same hypnotic energy as Scritti Pollitti’s Sweetest Girl but is less sinister. I adore them both.
Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime, by The Field, it’s one of those songs that’s so bordering on ambient that it almost blends into the background but suddenly the minor key cracks open into a major key and it feels like the sun is rising in your face.
Legend of Pat Brown, by Vandals. There’s an appealing matter-of-factness to the singer’s voice, and it’s just a great song, okay.
Oh, and some time after I published my eleventh anniversary blog post I thought it would be funny or fun something to make annual Spotify playlists of every song (that I was able to find on Spotify, that is) that I mentioned in this bit of the blog. I started doing this bit two years in which is why the playlists for each year’s songs start from 2009; anyway it’s just kind of nice and occasionally horrifying, potentially for me and me alone, seeing what I was listening to in any given year, like a little time capsule. If you want to check them out, and indeed, any of my other playlists of varying quality (by which I mean, from good quality to really good quality), I’m here on Spotify.
Next time: I intend to be (a) less tired and (b) that’s it really that’s as far as I’ve got.