Vegan Chocolate-Nut Fudge Candies

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You can usually pinpoint the exact moment that I become cognisant of Christmas approaching because I’ll suddenly post an utterly frivolous recipe whose existence clearly serves to augment my annual edible Christmas gift round-up. Case in frivolous point, these Chocolate-Nut Fudge Candies, which you’ll see added to this year’s imminent list in a couple of weeks. I mean, I’m also aware that the Fideles are Adeste-ing because I’ve started having those dreams where I wake up on Christmas Day and haven’t organised any presents and everyone is deeply disappointed in me. But only one of these internal alarm clocks results in chocolate, and even though I am still largely in Thesis Replicant Mode (a mode which, admittedly, feeds on itself more than my thesis probably requires at this point) I still heeded the call.

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If you need to cook something giddy and impetuous there are few safer bets than a second-hand mid-century book of recipes compiled from women across America titled America’s Favourite Recipes, subheading: Desserts, sub-subheading: including party beverages. I love to read this book when in need of comfort, and they weren’t lying about the party beverages, such as Cranberry Eggnog, a “mock Tom Collins” with two cups of milk in it, and a punch that includes, but is not restricted to, maraschino cherries, pineapple juice, and peppermint extract. These chocolate candies — and I use the American word here since it makes sense, provenancially — are adapted from a recipe in the book by Mrs O.S. Dews, who was, at the time of publishing in 1968, the president of the Officers’ Wives’ Club in Ogden, Utah. Should Mrs Dews still be kicking about, I graciously thank her.

Though there’s a bit of boiling sugar involved here this recipe is remarkably easy and very delicious — admittedly, not a super complex flavour profile, it instead evokes solidified chocolate icing, but this is hardly a bad thing. Also, despite having not a lick of dairy, the combination of toffee shocked into submission by a pile of chocolate really does end up tasting like fudge, with its wet-sand, tooth-exfoliating soft melting grittiness.

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The dusting of dehydrated plum powder, scattering on the white baking paper like pohutukawa needles (or, I suppose, a Fargo-esque spray of blood) on fallen snow, is, I assure you, truly for aesthetic purposes only. You could consider sprinkling over edible glitter to give it the old razzle dazzle, lean into immaturity with rainbow sprinkles, or assume a soberly logical stance and simply press extra cashews into the surface of the cooling chocolate candies. Either way, these are delicious post-dinner fortifiers or, logically, edible gifts, and just be glad my eyes weren’t caught by the peanut brittle recipe at the bottom of the same page of this book, which lists 16 inches (!!) of paraffin wax in the ingredients; but then it did win a prize at the Tulsa State Fair…

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Chocolate-Nut Fudge Candies

You need to pay a little bit of attention here but these aren’t too arduous and they make, needless to say, an excellent edible gift. With their simple chocolate flavour they’re very kid-friendly, but maybe keep them out of the way while you’re boiling the sugar. Recipe adapted from the Favourite Recipes of America: Desserts book.

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup golden syrup (or light corn syrup for the Americans)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • salt, for scattering over
  • dehydrated plum powder, to serve (very optional)

1: Roughly chop the 200g dark chocolate and set aside. Just leave it on the chopping board, no need to decant it into a separate bowl. You might as well rip off a couple sheets of baking paper and lay them on baking trays for later, too.

2: Place the two cups of sugar, cup of brown sugar, 1/4 cup golden syrup, 1/2 cup water and teaspoon of vinegar into a large heavy-based saucepan and cook over a low heat for about fifteen minutes, stirring constantly without letting it bubble up, until the sugar is entirely dissolved, or near enough. You’ll see it on the back of your spoon — it’ll look clear and shiny rather than gritty — and you should be able to feel it as you stir as well.

3: Once the sugar is dissolved, turn up the heat and let the sugar mixture boil, without stirring, for three minutes. The second three minutes are up, remove the pan from the heat, and once the bubbles have subsided, throw in the chopped chocolate and stir energetically.

4: Once the chocolate has entirely melted and incorporated and the mixture has thickened considerably, let it sit for ten minutes to cool a little. While this is happening, roughly chop the 1/2 cup of roasted salted cashews and boil the jug for the water. Stir the cashews into the saucepan along with the 1/4 cup boiling water — the chocolate mixture will go from quite dry and crumbly to shiny again — and drop tablespoons of the mixture onto baking trays lined with baking paper. Sprinkle over a little salt and, if you like, shake a little dehydrated plum powder (or any other red fruit, plum is just what I had in the cupboard) through a sieve over the chocolate candies.

Allow the candies to cool and firm up, then store them in an airtight container in the fridge. Makes around 30 – 35.

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music lately:

American Teen by Ethel Cain, a fitting song to go with this recipe. Whether its an indictment of my age or just the fact that I genuinely prefer very old music, I’ve hit a point where I struggle to care about or resonate with much of anything that hasn’t already existed for many years, but this song broke through my walls and defences. Possibly because it has a distinct 1994-ish energy, but probably because it’s wildly beautiful and exhilarating with the kind of lively guitar riffs that make you want to raise a can of Pepsi-cola up a flagpole and salute it.

The Nitty Gritty by Shirley Ellis, the way this song perambulates and syncopates is so immensely satisfying, as is Ellis’ gorgeous voice, though little is as satisfying as the ludicrously sincere dancing in the video with it, I highly recommend clicking through.

(Birds Fly) Whisper to a Scream by Icicle Works, just the song you want playing as you run through concrete back alleys in the rain wearing a scratchy wool jumper while charmingly and cinematically coming of age circa 1983. Those drums — those drums!!

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours every month. There’s no better time than right now — your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Nigella’s Chocolate Pistachio Fudge [vegan]

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Between the unrepentant 100% humidity and anticipating Christmas and finally emerging from lockdown (only to find that having people expect things from me again can be as overwhelming as the numbing nothingness of the last three months), I have been witless, utterly witless. I had great intentions to achieve things this week but kept blowing all my energy and acuity on relatively innocuous activities—the Succession finale, sending one single email—and with them, my battery life would plummet like a six-month-old smartphone. I suspect I’m not the only one in this hole-punctured boat, so this is not going to be a long blog post, nor is it an emotionally taxing recipe.

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And fortunately I have the reason for the season—Nigella Lawson—to be the one set of footprints in the sand carrying me through with her boundless enthusiasm, knowledge, and reassurance. This recipe for Chocolate Pistachio Fudge couldn’t be easier—melt and stir, that’s literally it—and the results are so luscious, so elegant, so immediately celebratory and generous, you can practically tell just by looking at it who must’ve come up with the recipe.

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Somehow the simple combination of dark chocolate and condensed milk produces a flavour of immense, complex richness, almost as if there is a liqueur involved, or at least a significantly longer list of ingredients. I haven’t done anything particularly clever here in making Nigella’s recipe vegan; the sweetened condensed oat milk is very easy to find nowadays (and condensed coconut milk, even more prevalent) and the refined coconut oil is an easy replacement for butter. The pistachios sprinkled across the top (modestly, since it’s near-on double figures for a very small package of them at the supermarket) provide mellow, buttery crunch and visual opulence, their bright green almost neon against the moody chocolate backdrop.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan chocolate pistachio fudge 🍫 inspired by Nigella 🍫 recipe at hungryandfrozen.com #vegan #chocolate #christmas #homemadegift #recipes #foodblog

♬ Sugar Rum Cherry – Duke Ellington

It goes without saying that this fudge makes an excellent gift. Just make sure you keep it in the freezer (or at the very least, the fridge) both before and after it’s received. And of course, if you’re in the mood to make edible gifts for people this year, there’s my recipe list/round up at your service, and I’d also like to draw your attention to my 24 Hour Party Seitan if you’re after a main course idea for the day itself. I hope everyone out there has a Christmas that’s as peaceful and mellow as is feasibly possible, whether it’s a great big deal or just another day of the week, and I’ll see you all in 2022—a year whose repetition of numbers makes it feel impossibly futuristic, but apparently it’s coming, and it’s real! (Also It’s Coming, It’s Real by Swans was my most-listened to song on Spotify this year. You know what they say, the medium is the message!)

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Nigella’s (vegan) Chocolate Pistachio Fudge

This is almost shockingly simple, for how delicious and elegant the results are. It’s not the traditional kind of fudge—more of a general rich confection—but who cares, it tastes amazing and looks gorgeous. I’ve simply swapped the condensed milk for condensed oat milk and it works perfectly, you could also use condensed coconut milk, both are usually next to each other on the shelf and both are made by the good people at Nature’s Charm. I’ve also reduced the pistachios to a mere sprinkling on the surface, because they’re so expensive at the moment. If this isn’t something that bothers you, by all means add more. Recipe adapted by me, from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Express.

  • 375g dark chocolate (50% is good here), roughly chopped
  • 1 x 320g can of sweetened condensed oat milk or sweetened condensed coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons refined coconut oil
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons pistachios, roughly chopped

1: Place the chocolate, condensed milk, (making sure to spatula out every last precious, sticky drop) coconut oil, and salt into a heavy saucepan. Stir constantly over a very low heat until the chocolate melts, turning everything into a glossy, thick brown liquid. This only took a couple minutes at most for me.

2: Line a 23cm square tin with baking paper (or, as Nigella suggests, use a throwaway foil tray) and spatula the chocolate mixture into it, spreading it gently towards each corner in an even layer. Sprinkle over the pistachios and refrigerate till firm. That’s all there is to it!

Makes 64 squares if you slice it eight times vertically and horizontally, which seems like a magically enormous quantity to achieve from such a small amount of ingredients, and definitely justifies the cook trying a few pieces.

Store the fudge in an airtight container in the freezer (I re-use the baking paper between the layers of slices) where its texture and flavour only improves. This does soften quite quickly, or at least in this vicious heat it will, so if you’re going to give this as a gift, still keep it cold.

Notes: 

  • If you need this fudge to be gluten-free, use the condensed coconut milk instead of the oat milk
  • Refined coconut oil, specifically, doesn’t taste at all like coconut and won’t impart any such flavour to your fudge. If you get regular/unrefined coconut oil it will probably give a distinct flavour to your fudge, but will behave the same otherwise 
  • Because our tins of condensed oat/coconut milk are smaller than the dairy condensed milk tins, I increased the quantity of chocolate a little to compensate 

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music lately:

Have Fun Go Mad by Blair—just when I think I’ve excavated every possible memory, something will appear that I haven’t considered since the turn of the century and I’ll suddenly be flung back in time. The title of this song and artist may not ring any bells but click through and if you’re of a certain age you, too, can experience this backwards-flinging towards the mid 90s. This song is so uncool that it comes full circle and is in fact the coolest thing I’ve ever heard, and I’m glad to have heard it again after so long.

O Holy Night by Mahalia Jackson. It simply isn’t Christmas without Mahalia, her voice rises up to heights we can only see by telescope without even breaking a sweat.

Cherry Cherry by Neil Diamond, look, he’s not a man to whom I’ve ever given the time of day (to the point where I had to search for this song by typing “what is that one Neil Diamond song that I like, you know, that one that slaps”) but this song! It unequivocally slaps! He really pulled a rabbit out of a hat here! I’m not ashamed to say it!

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

The Annual HungryandFrozen Edible Gift Recipe Round-Up 

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To egregiously paraphrase Dickens, though I’m sure he’s quite used to it by this point: you there! What day is it? Why it’s my annual edible gift recipe round up! 

In case this doesn’t make any sense, let me explain: each December I gather a list of recipes from my prior blog posts here on hungryandfrozen.com which I believe would make ideal edible gifts, in case you want some kind of prompting in that direction, despite having the entire internet already at your disposal. It’s a self-serving action, yes, but hopefully helpful in some way – and all I ever really want is to be useful, but to also draw attention to myself in the process. I’ve kept a lot of the text in this post the same as last year’s as there’s only so many ways you can launch into this thing, and appreciate your understanding.

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This time last year I was naively hopeful that once 2021 drew to a close COVID-19 would be behind us but instead, it’s managed to get on top of us in new and innovatively terrifying ways. Just last week, after a quarter of the year spent in lockdown, I was (somewhat dramatically) not sure if Christmas would be happening at all, even now it feels like a bit of a mirage and I’m somehow overthinking it yet entirely unprepared at the same time. All of this is no reason not to cook though, if that’s what you like doing. If you’re confined to a relatively small circle of people, there are still neighbours, the postal service, any number of people nearby who might be cheered by a small jar or box of something in their letterbox, or on their doorstep (perhaps also with a note reassuring of your vaccination status if they’re a stranger that you’re giving something to). But even just you, alone, are reason enough to bake a cake.

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As for the financial pressure of this time of year – I won’t lie, between the ingredients, time, electricity, storage and wrapping, homemade edible gifts aren’t necessarily that cheap, and there’s no moral superiority in making your own jam. It is undeniably delightful to receive something homemade – but if this is too strenuous, stick with the food concept and do your Christmas shopping at the supermarket. Chocolates, candy, olive oil, fancy salt, spices, peanut butter, curry pastes, hot sauce, olives, a complicated shape of pasta – even just food you know someone eats a lot of. They love beans? Get them beans! I guarantee they’ll be pleased. Basically, we cannot escape capitalism but giving an edible gift of any kind has so many upsides: it’s delicious, it has immediate application, it will eventually cease taking up space in the receiver’s house, it makes you look like a really great person.

I realise to heaps of people Christmas is – quite reasonably – just another day of the week! But generally, there will be some point in your life where giving a gift is required, and almost all the recipes listed below work beautifully year-round (though I personally can’t eat candy canes out of season.)

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Anyway, let’s get to the list. I’ve grouped the recipes into three categories, and have also included some of the recipes I wrote for Tenderly over the years.

Two caveats: some of these recipes are from absolute years ago, as will happen when you have a fourteen-year-old food blog, but while details and contexts and locations and motivations have changed, the deliciousness remains constant. Also, I feel like it’s worth pointing out that anything involving an ingredient that either could melt or has been melted, should be stored in the fridge rather than under the tree.

Also – all these recipes are vegan.

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The Annual HungryandFrozen Edible Gift Recipe Round-Up 

Category One: Things In Jars

No matter how uncertain the world we live in, you can still count on Things In Jars. From relish to pickles to the unsinkable salted caramel sauce, it’s always well-received, looks like you’ve gone to arduous levels of effort, and makes an ideal gift for everyone from your most marginally tolerable of coworkers to the most highly specific love of your life. For added personal flair – although this could just be my neurological predisposition for over-explaining – I suggest including a gift tag with recommendations on ways to use the contents of the jar.

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Savoury:

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Sweet

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Category Two: Baked Goods

They’re baked! They’re good! While biscuits and cookies are more commonly gifted, don’t rule out a loaf, perhaps wrapped in baking paper and then brown paper – the banana bread and ginger molasses loaf below keep well (especially the latter) and would make a charmingly convivial offering. At this busy time of year, having something to slice and eat with a cup of tea or a snifter of whatever weird liqueur you can find in the back of the cupboard is nothing if not a stroke of good fortune. I’ve made the first three (four, technically, since the Christmas Stars and Hundreds and Thousands Biscuits are basically the same) cookie recipes in this list a LOT this year and recommend them the most enthusiastically out of the biscuits on offer.

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Category Three: Novelty, No-Bake Sweets, and General Sugary Chaos

The best category, let’s be frank. Whether it’s dissolving candy canes in bottom-shelf vodka or adding pink food colouring to white chocolate for the aesthetic, sugar is the true reason for the season. And since dentists wildly overcharge us for their service, you might as well make them really earn it. Note: unless you can find overproof vodka, the passionfruit and mandarin liqueurs won’t be ready in time for Christmas; either give the intended receiver an IOU, or save it for their birthday – or next Christmas.

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music lately:

Turkey Lurkey Time from the 1969 Tony Awards performance of the musical Promises, Promises. If you’ve been here a while you’ll know that I have a small tradition where I wait till December and then watch this extremely grainy video of a very goofy song being performed and CRY. (Here I need to really emphasise that this is absolutely not a song you’re supposed to cry at.) It’s Donna McKechnie’s rubber spine, it’s the diagonal thing they do at the end, it’s the anticipation, it’s Christmas, it’s everything.

Fun Lovin’ Criminals, by The Fun Lovin’ Criminals. Why am I consistently drawn to rap rock? Because it’s fun and great, that’s why!! (When does rap rock become nu metal? Not here, but I’m very happy on either side of course.)

The Only Heartbreaker, by Mitski. Anxious and beautiful and synthy! I don’t know what it is about synths, specifically, that makes me all “this song sounds like it has already existed. How can this be a new song” and here I am again saying that this song sounds like you already know it. I don’t mean that it sounds derivative of anything – I mean that it sounds like it was your favourite song from a long time ago and you’ve only just heard it again for the first time in forever. I guess the obvious answer is that synths sound like they’re from the eighties and it tricks my brain into thinking I’ve already heard it but I think it’s something more in the neon yearning quality of synths themselves? Anyway, I love it!

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Three-ingredient Vegan Chocolate Caramel Hearts

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You and I both know that the “three-ingredient” bit of this title is doing a LOT of heavy lifting and lede-burying, but if I’m going to get you to cook a can of condensed milk for hours on end with a potential boiling explosion of caramel hanging over you like the Sword of Damocles, I’ll try to at least make life easier for you elsewhere. Are these chocolates fast? Absolutely not. Are they easy? Not exactly. Are they messy? To an unhinged degree! But do they require only three ingredients? Yes, I can legally confirm that. Is it possible that the most strenuous part is reading my overly-talky, explanation-heavy recipe, and these actually aren’t that bad, especially if you’re not trying to make the chocolates, photograph the chocolates, and film the process for a TikTok video that no one will watch at the same time? Yes, that is also something to consider!

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Three things will make this all a lot easier for you: firstly, just make the chocolates and don’t try to involve a camera while you’re doing so. Secondly, do not use a brown silicone chocolate mould as I did, thus making it impossible to see whether the chocolate had sufficiently coated its surface. And thirdly, make peace with the fact that you’ll have to set aside some time to cook the can of condensed coconut milk in a slow cooker (much easier) or a pan of water (risky, but also the way it’s been done for generations by people of stouter courage than I).

@hungryandfrozen

vegan chocolate caramel hearts ♥️ recipe at hungryandfrozen.com ♥️ #chocolate #vegan #christmas #nz #caramel #homemadegifts #fyp #whittakerschocolate

♬ Sweet Love – Anita Baker

Now that I feel content that I’ve thoroughly briefed you with all the information, let me reassure you that I wouldn’t make you do all this for nothing. These chocolates are REALLY delicious, with burnished caramel barely contained by a delicate, bittersweet chocolate shell, and each bite releasing a wave of toffee into your mouth. Condensed coconut milk is a miracle of modern invention for the sweet-toothed vegan about town and it’s really opened up a world of possibilities for me, cooking-wise. Heating it over a long period of time in its little can concentrates the sugars even further, giving you a rich, dark-golden caramel which ably emulates the fillings of the sort of chocolates which always disappeared first in the sampler tray.

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We all know Christmas is less than a month away, and while it’s hard to plan for, between our still being in lockdown (day one hundred and…something?) and persistent anti-vax nonsense and general confusion, there’s no denying that these chocolates would make an excellent gift, and I’m definitely not going to coyly act like I wrote about these for any real purpose other than to put that thought into your head. (I mean, I always want caramel-filled chocolates, but lies do not become us.) Make sure you give them to someone you genuinely love, given the effort involved – but if plans remain uncertain, you could also simply, and serenely, and justifiably, make a tray full of these handsome, gleaming little hearts all for yourself. Should you wish to really push the boat out you could tint the caramel with instant coffee powder, or peppermint essence, or orange extract, but as they are – just chocolate, caramel, and salt – well, there is no finer combination.

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Three-ingredient Vegan Chocolate Caramel Hearts

These vegan filled chocolates are fairly messy to make and involve some significant legwork between acquiring a silicon mould and caramelising the condensed milk but the finished chocolates are delicious, gorgeous, and make a wonderful gift. And there really are only three ingredients. Despite all the instructions here there’s nothing unexpected: just melt, fill, and chill. And whether you’re keeping these for yourself or wrapping them up, store them in the fridge at all times. Recipe by myself.

  • 1 x 320g tin sweetened condensed coconut milk, caramelised (see notes)
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • a pinch of salt
  • equipment: 1 x 15-heart silicone chocolate mould, clean and completely dry

1: First, sort out your caramelised condensed coconut milk (see the notes below). It’s best to do this the day before you plan on making the chocolates, to allow time for the cooking and the cooling and so on.

2: Melt your chocolate – I do a sort of half-assed attempt at tempering by melting 3/4 of the chocolate in a metal bowl resting on a pan of simmering water – without the water actually touching the bowl – stirring fairly vigorously, and once it’s hot, removing it from the heat, stirring in the remaining 1/4 of the chocolate, and returning it to the heat for a few moments once it’s combined and fully melted. Does this make any noticeable difference instead of just melting the chocolate all at once? I don’t honestly know, but I’ve committed to this bit and can’t back out now.

3: Use a teaspoon to ferry chocolate generously into each heart indentation of your silicon mould, and use a toothpick or a small, clean paintbrush to make sure all the sides are coated in chocolate. Now, upend your silicon mould over your bowl of chocolate and shake it gently to allow any excess chocolate to drip out. It’s very hard to do this without being messy and I am sorry! Place the silicone mould on a small tray and put it in the freezer for about five minutes to let the chocolate set.

4: Meanwhile, tip out roughly half the tin of caramelised condensed coconut milk into a small bowl and stir in the salt (see notes). Now, the easiest way to fill the chocolates is by fashioning a piping bag out of a sandwich bag, sitting it in a cup and carefully pouring the condensed milk into it. Remove the silicone mould from the freezer and then – and only then! – snip the very end of one of the corners of the sandwich bag. Carefully fill each chocolate about 3/4 with the caramel, carefully lifting the sandwich bag up and perhaps using your finger to stop the caramel dripping as you move between chocolates (again, messy, but if you come up with a better method please let me know). Return the mould to the freezer for another ten minutes – the caramel won’t freeze, but it will firm up slightly. Keep the remaining chocolate in its bowl sitting on the pan of water, turned off, and it should stay malleable.

5: Remove the silicone mould from the freezer once more, and spoon the remaining chocolate generously over each heart, thus sealing the caramel inside. Use a flat-bladed knife or bench scraper or something similar to scrape off most of the excess chocolate, and return the mould to the freezer one last time. Ten minutes later, eject the chocolates from their moulds – they should pop out easily and cleanly from the silicon – and store them in an airtight container in the fridge until required.

Makes 15 caramel-filled chocolates. If you want to make more – and there’s certainly enough caramel leftover for at least two more batches – I recommend only melting as much chocolate as you need each time.

Notes:

  • If you have a crock pot/slow cooker, caramelising the condensed milk is a snap – simply remove the paper label, place the tin on its side in your slow cooker, cover it with freshly boiled water – and really cover it, make sure there’s plenty of water submerging it – place the lid on top, and cook it on high for four to six hours, then let it cool completely, removing the can only once the water is cool to the touch. I recommend doing a couple of cans at a time since caramelised condensed milk is useful to have on hand and it feels less squandering of time and resources to turn on the slow cooker for more than one tin.
  • If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can simmer the can for three hours – label removed, on its side, fully and generously submerged in water – in a pan on the stove, with the heat on low and keeping a careful eye on the water level. Top up the water level frequently, and rotate the can occasionally to stop it scorching. Not to sound dramatic but if the water level drops enough so that the can is no longer submerged, the pressure could explode the can, sending boiling caramel everywhere. Please don’t let this happen!!
  • If you really don’t want to/have the energy for caramelising your condensed milk in its can – entirely reasonable!! – you can simply empty the contents of the tin into a small saucepan and stir it over a low heat till it darkens and thickens slightly, then allow it to cool.
  • If you don’t want to unnecessarily get a bowl dirty just to stir the salt into the caramel, you can either sprinkle the salt directly into the opened can of caramel or attempt to mix it in once the caramel is in the piping bag, and to be honest if I wasn’t filming it for TikTok, this is probably what I would’ve done, too.
  • Finally, the brand I used, and the one that your supermarket probably also stocks, is called Nature’s Charm, it tends to be hidden away in the dank corner where the vegan food is hidden instead of being next to the condensed dairy milk, or at least it is in my local supermarket. 

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music lately:

Stephen Sondheim died yesterday, aged 91, and I am grieving. You know that scene in Derry Girls when the 97-year-old nun dies and Granda Joe is solemnly like, “struck down in her prime.” That’s how I feel! His impact on me – let alone his impact on musical theatre – let alone on the world – can’t be overstated, it just can’t. We spent yesterday honouring his memory by listening to wall-to-wall recordings, and his is the only music I want to share with you today, so. This is just four songs that I love, it’s not meant to be a definitive cross-section of his work.

Move On by Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin, from 1984’s Sunday In The Park With George. If you only listen to one song, let this be it. “The choice may have been mistaken/the choosing was not” – the harmonies one minute and thirty-five seconds in – I’m crying already.

Ladies Who Lunch by Elaine Stritch, from 1970’s Company, my favourite Sondheim musical – I had to lie down for an hour the first time I watched this video, where she’s singing directly and menacingly into the camera. One of the many things I love about Sondheim is that he wrote songs and roles for women who were old, who had lived, who had been around, songs that make no sense unless performed by a person of significant experience. This is inarguably one such song.

Could I Leave You? from 1971’s Follies, as performed by Dee Hoty in the 1998 My Favourite Broadway concert. Sondheim’s songs were so funny! His little internal rhymes, and the arch, conversational tone they suggested, and the way he kept you guessing – and the way that a song would become bleaker the funnier it got – no one did it like him. This isn’t necessarily his most humorous song, but it’s one of my favourites, and I love Hoty’s rendition.

No One Is Alone, from 1987’s Into The Woods, as performed by Norm Lewis – one of Sondheim’s most reassuring and comforting songs, yet it doesn’t patronise you for a second. Norm Lewis with his rich voice is just who you want to hear this from but there’s not a version of it I don’t love, and each is a classic in its own right.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Vegan Cookies and Cream White Chocolate

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For someone who adores recipes, it’s rare that I’ll follow them to the letter without making some sort of tweak – whether this is informed by suspicion or ingredient scarcity or a general heedlessness. And I’ll still think, “what a great recipe, can’t wait to make that again.” And instead of depreciating from overuse, like a pair of cheap trackpants that immediately give at the crotch after little more than some vigorous couch-sitting, these recipes grow stronger and more anchored in your life.

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This includes my own recipes, which I simply love to write and then ignore forevermore! In this case, it’s a vegan white chocolate recipe – which started off last year as a cashew-cacao butter creation, and which was incredibly delicious – in no way requiring fiddling, you might think – and that turned into my Raspberry Rainbow Slab a few months later. Recently I tried replacing the cashews with their much cheaper cousins, the sunflower seed, and the results were astonishingly good. From there, further meddling ensued: what if I add crumbled up chocolate cookies? What if, indeed: it’s so good.

I love being vegan, but sometimes I want sweet food that isn’t super worthy and made with powerfully bitter dark chocolate. I want the okay stuff! The dollar mixture foil-wrapped corner dairy stuff! This chocolate: it’s that stuff. The inspiration was those Cookies ‘n Cream Hershey’s bars – overpriced, tiny, gone in seconds, and a dizzyingly satisfying meeting of creaminess and crunch. The Hershey’s bars are not a gourmet product – in fact, I’d say comfortably that even the best American chocolate is probably on par with the worst of New Zealand’s – but they’ve had such a hold over me.

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Turns out, sunflower seeds are the key. They’re mild, and not at all overpowering – but the resulting chocolate is definitely not as elegant as the cashew version, with a flavour somewhat akin to Easter egg chocolate. And of course, adding seasonal-based elusiveness to food only makes it seem more delicious (I’m quite sure they also use Easter egg chocolate in Advent calenders and nowhere else) so you can imagine my delight when I tasted this and realised I’d made a decent dupe of that once-a-year flavour. Add some cookie crumbs and it becomes a vegan-friendly dupe of those Hershey’s bars, with plenty to spare too. The way your teeth slide through the dense, buttery chocolate into the scattered crunch of the cookie crumbs: it’s spectacular. Hershey’s who?

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Vegan Cookies and Cream White Chocolate

This vegan white chocolate uses sunflower seeds which are much cheaper than cashews – it also makes this nut-free. It’s creamy, vanilla-y and so good, with crunchy pieces of chocolate cookie throughout – but you can also leave out the cookie and just have delicious white chocolate. (Or add cocoa to it for milk chocolate! It’s so versatile.) Recipe by myself.

  • 3-4 vegan chocolate-flavoured cookies (or see recipe below)
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 tablespoons refined coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste (I usually add a little more)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (roughly 250g) cacao butter, finely chopped
  • 1 and 1/2 cups icing sugar

1: Crumble the cookies into small pieces with your hands and scatter them across a brownie tin lined with baking paper. I didn’t have any cookies so made my own, by mixing 1/2 cup flour, 3 tablespoons cocoa, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, 1 tablespoon rice bran oil and enough milk to just combine (about 2 and a 1/2 tablespoons). Pat it into a circle-ish shape about 1cm thick and bake at 180C/350F for ten to fifteen minutes then leave to cool and crumble into pieces. You might not need all of it: I just ate whatever I didn’t use. The cookie dough will get crisper as it cools but if it seems to be staying soft, bake the crumbs for another ten or so minutes at 180C/350F.

2: Using either a food processor or a stick blender and a bowl, blitz the sunflower seeds until they form a fine, oily rubble, then add the coconut oil and continue processing into a paste, it should resemble tahini or peanut butter and be fairly smooth. The stick blender is my preferred method – it feels a bit ridiculous at first, shoving it into a pile of sunflower seeds, but you can use it to incorporate the melted cacao butter and it makes for smoother chocolate.

3: Add the vanilla extract and salt and blend again to combine.

4: Rest a metal bowl on top of a small pan of simmering water – without the base of the bowl actually touching the water – and tip the finely chopped cacao butter into the bowl. Let it slowly melt, stirring often, and remove from the heat when it’s mostly liquid. It’s important not to overheat the cacao butter or it’ll go gritty, and the heat of the liquid will melt any remaining solids.

5: If you’re using the stick blender, slowly add the melted cacao butter to the sunflower butter, blending to combine. If you’re using a food processor, tip the cacao butter into the blender bowl a little at a time and process to combine.

6: Add the icing sugar – it’s easier to stir this rather than blending as it sends clouds of sugar-dust everywhere. Taste to see if it needs any more salt.

7: Pour this chocolate mixture evenly over the cookie crumbs in the brownie tin – no need to stir, but give it a bit of a wiggle if need be to spread it across. If you have any leftover cookie crumbs, it looks nice to sprinkle some over the chocolate, but it’ll all taste the same in the end so no worries if you don’t. Bang the tin a couple of times on the bench to expel any air bubbles, and refrigerate for a few hours or until solid.

8: Slice into squares and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Note:

  • To make regular white chocolate, just leave out the cookie crumbs. You can also add a tablespoon or two of cocoa to make milk chocolate.
  • I’m starting to see cacao butter in supermarkets – it’ll probably be either in the baking aisle or in the weird corner where they shove all the vegan and gluten-free stuff. If you have a Binn Inn nearby I recommend looking for it there as it’s usually cheaper.

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music lately:

Death Ceremony by Grace McLean from the Off-Broadway musical In The Green, which McLean also wrote and orchestrated. This song begins with a kind of leafy, zingy Neko Case energy with the most astonishing coda about 1:50 which I have listened to on repeat easily thirty times – the way the syncopated vocals slide over each other before joining in harmony, the way McLean’s voice goes from crisp and lilting to chewy and howling and Alanis Morrisette-esque, I have chills just writing this and you should totally listen to it even if the words “musical” put you off. Like, it would obviously never put me off, but I just really want as many people as possible to hear this.

Raat by Aurat, gothic and ethereal and spooky and beautiful. Aurat incorporates the language of Urdu into heaps of their songs and you can listen to more of their music on their BandcampOh My Love is also gorgeous, joyful yet gloomy at the same time, the best kind of music.

Blinded By The Lights by The Weeknd. Despite referencing him on here I hadn’t actually listened to any of his music and somehow heard this song properly for the first time this year? Despite it being probably the biggest song of 2020? Anyway, when I heard it I assumed it must be an old song from the 80s that I’d missed but no, it’s very recent and it’s shockingly addictive! It’s the sound of neon lights in the rain, of Take On Me going backwards while Young Turks goes forwards at the same time, it’s unreal how much this song gets in your head and takes over every other possible option.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

The Annual HungryandFrozen Edible Gift Recipe Round-Up

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Once more Christmas lurches purposefully towards us, engorged with expectation, and emotion, and the hopes and fears of all the years, and capitalism. Which means one thing, round these parts: it’s time again for my annual list of edible gift idea recipes, gathered from my prior blog posts over the past thirteen years. It’s a self-serving action, yes, but also hopefully helpful in some way – and all I ever really want is to be useful, but to also draw attention to myself in the process.

Time is forever a strange and fluctuating thing – and never in such a collectively experienced manner as this year with COVID-19. We all felt how it was March for six months, now next March is inexplicably three months away – and I know for many, this Christmas is not going to take its usual form. If you’re confined to a relatively small circle of people, there are still neighbours, the postal service, any number of people nearby who might be cheered by a small jar or box of something in their letterbox, or on their doorstep. Even just you, alone, are reason enough to bake a cake. I also realise to heaps of people Christmas is quite reasonably another day of the week! But generally there will be some point in your life where giving a gift is required, and almost all the recipes listed below work beautifully year-round (though I personally can’t eat candy canes out of season.)

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As for the financial pressure of this time of year – I won’t lie, between the ingredients, time, electricity, storage and wrapping, homemade edible gifts aren’t necessarily that cheap, and there’s no moral superiority in making your own jam. It is undeniably delightful to receive something homemade – but if this is too strenuous, stick with the food concept and do your Christmas shopping at the supermarket. Chocolates, candy, olive oil, fancy salt, peanut butter, curry pastes, hot sauce, olives, a complicated shape of pasta – even just food you know someone eats a lot of. They love noodles? Get them noodles! I guarantee they’ll be pleased. Basically, we cannot escape capitalism but giving an edible gift of any kind has so many upsides: it’s delicious, it has immediate application, it will eventually cease taking up space in the receiver’s house, it makes you look like a really great person.

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To the list! I’ve grouped the recipes into three categories, and have also included some of the recipes I wrote for Tenderly over the last year.

Two caveats: some of these recipes are from years ago, but while details and contexts and locations and motivations have changed, the deliciousness remains constant. Also I feel like it’s worth pointing out that anything involving an ingredient which either could melt or has been melted, should be stored in the fridge rather than under the tree.

Also – all these recipes are vegan.

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Category One: Things In Jars

No matter how uncertain the world we live in, you can still count on Things In Jars. From relish to pickles to the unsinkable salted caramel sauce, it’s always well-received, it always looks like you’ve gone to arduous levels of effort, and it’s an ideal gift for everyone from your most marginally tolerable of coworkers to the most highly specific love of your life. For added personal flair – although this could just be my neurological predisposition for over-explaining – I suggest including a gift tag with recommendations on ways to use the contents of the jar.

Savoury:

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Sweet

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Category Two: Baked Goods

They’re baked! They’re good! While biscuits and cookies are more commonly gifted, don’t rule out a loaf, perhaps wrapped in baking paper and then brown paper – the banana bread and ginger molasses loaf below keep well (especially the latter) and would make a charmingly convivial offering. At this busy time of year, having something to slice and eat with a cup of tea or a snifter of whatever weird liqueur you can find in the back of the cupboard is nothing if not a stroke of good fortune.

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Category Three: Novelty, No-Bake Sweets, and General Sugary Chaos

The best category, let’s be frank. Whether it’s dissolving candy canes in bottom-shelf vodka or adding pink food colouring to white chocolate for the aesthetic, sugar is the true reason for the season. And since dentists wildly overcharge us for their service, you might as well make them really earn it.

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music lately:

Supervixens by AR-Kane, I love this song so much, the way the woozy vocals slide over the melody, the way the melody slides over the beat, in fact this whole album (“i”) is exhilaratingly glorious.

Brooklyn Blues, by Clifford Gibson. Okay so I love early blues, but if I’m honest, I only initially got into Gibson because I found him on Wikipedia under the list of people who have the same birthday as me (April 17.) Fortunately this rather vain curiosity was highly rewarding because he was a wonderful musician (of course!)

Irma La Douce, by Shirley MacLaine from her fantastic Live at the Palace album. This is the English version of the title number of the French stage show on which the film of the same name was based, in which Shirley MacLaine played the title character – Irma La Douce – very straightforward. It’s one of my very favourite films and I love her performance of this song, from its wistful, introspective beginning to its unhinged, full-throated conclusion.

Also – I was genuinely heartbroken to learn of the passing of Broadway legend, icon, star, Ann Reinking. I could say SO MUCH about her, and Fosse’s choreography, and Gwen Verdon, and the way they all worked together – but instead I’ll just link to this clip of her dancing in a dream sequence in All That Jazz – a film I could watch every day and never tire of. It’s a deceptively simple number, but her precision and ownership of the movements is astonishing. Everything she does – even just lowering her eyelids in a blink at 46 seconds in – is a dance movement, on a level the rest of us can only dream of.

PS: if you enjoy my writing and would like to support me directly, you can do so by joining my Patreon. It’s like a cordoned-off VIP area, where you can access content written just for you: recipes, updates, poems, short stories, all for just $2 a month.

Vegan Raspberry Rainbow Slab

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While, generally, no one wants to hear about the dream you had last night – which took me well into adulthood to grasp, as you are probably unsurprised to hear – I believe the exception to this rule is today’s recipe for Raspberry Rainbow Slab, which appeared to me in a dream and which I made come deliciously true. Whether this strikes you as whimsical, or a sad indictment of our current content-churning, always-on gig economy in which being asleep is still a fruitful opportunity to keep working, either way it tastes, in real life, every bit as good as it did in my head. (Side note, I really could taste it in my dream. Is that weird? Is that a sign of genius? Surely?) Coming up with recipes from dreams is nothing new for me, although my brain is getting slightly better at it – the first time this happened was in 2003 when I woke up and, still mostly asleep, wrote “steak with Baileys??” on a piece of paper beside my bed.

This is essentially a riff on my Vegan White Chocolate recipe, which is not something I thought could ever be improved upon – and superlative though that is, something about this bigger, thicker, creamier, baby pink confection is even more delicious, if not, possibly, the most delicious thing I’ve ever made. It tastes like the tops of those pink iced buns from the bakery – like the sort of birthday parties you’d read about in Enid Blyton books – like, well, a dream.

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You really do need to use the raspberry flavouring here instead of freeze-dried raspberry powder or something – that’s the point, that giddy, bright red fizzy drink flavour. Even the sprinkles add something – visually, obviously, but also a pleasant gritty crunch before your teeth sink clean into the chocolate below. Somehow, with all that icing sugar, it’s not too sweet – or too rich. It’s just perfect, raspberry-tinted white chocolate. However, between the cashews and the cacao this is not a particularly cheap outing, unfortunately, so I would only make it to share with someone you think will genuinely appreciate it, and indeed, you.

I know it’s really all I’ve said in this post but I just need, for my own peace of mind, to make sure that you really understand me when I say this is probably the best recipe I’ve ever invented. If, however, it still seems like too much of an outlay or too cutesy or something, why not start by making the original vegan white chocolate and work your way up.

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Raspberry Rainbow Slab

Raspberry-flavoured, pink-toned vegan white chocolate studded with rainbow sprinkles. The food of my dreams. Recipe by myself.

  • 1 and 1/2 cups roughly chopped cacao butter
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (refined or regular is fine)
  • 3/4 cup cashew butter
  • 2 and 1/2 cups icing sugar, with more just in case
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons raspberry essence/flavouring
  • couple drops pink food colouring
  • a pinch of salt
  • hundreds and thousands/rainbow sprinkles

1: Prepare a 20x20cm tin by lining it with baking paper. Slowly melt the cacao butter by placing it in a heatproof bowl and sitting that bowl on top of a small pan of simmering water – the bowl should rest in the mouth of the pan without the water touching the base of it, if that makes sense – stirring occasionally and removing from the heat as soon as it’s melted. Be careful not to overheat the cacao butter or it will seize up.

2: Alternate stirring the melted cacao butter and icing sugar into the cashew butter a little at a time. It will probably look gloopy and unpromising, but it will come together. It should be really quite thick but still somewhat liquidy once you’ve added everything – all that cacao butter will make it set, so don’t worry, but if it appears split and as though the oil and cashew butter aren’t making friends, just stir in more icing sugar till it behaves.

3: Fold in the vanilla, raspberry essence, a couple drops of pink food colouring, and the salt. Add more food colouring if need be, and taste to see if it wants more raspberry.

4: Turn this mixture into the lined tin and press out evenly, giving the tin a couple of taps against the bench to prevent any air bubbles and to even out the top. Sprinkle over a layer of hundreds and thousands, and put the tin in the fridge for two to three hours, or until it’s set.

5: Slice your raspberry rainbow slab into squares, and then store in an airtight container in the fridge. I find it helps to let the slab sit, uncut, on the bench for a minute if you want more even squares – what you can see in my photos here is what happens when you’re impatient and slice it straight from the fridge. Similarly, while you need to store this in the fridge, it tastes best when it’s not quiiite freezing cold, so let it sit for a minute before eating if you can help it.

Note:

  • If you don’t have cashew butter, blend one and a quarter cups raw cashews in a food processor or with a stick blender till they’re an oily rubble, then add the coconut oil and blend again till it’s a smooth paste.

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music lately:

It’s Coming, It’s Real, by Swans. I love songs which have an air of starting very far away and slowly but determinedly approaching you before they wash over your head and sweep you away and you think you’ll drown but it turns out you can breath underwater. This song belongs firmly in that genre, and also in the genre “I will listen to this on loop until I black out.”

Don’t You Think I Ought To Know, by Hadda Brooks. Her beautiful voice is somehow enhanced by the atmospheric crackly noise from the 1947 record still present on this.

Let’s Kill This Love by BLACKPINK. I watched the documentary about them on Netflix and while it wasn’t particularly enlightening and clearly entirely done in the name of promotion I guess it worked, because here we are. But it also makes sense: the tempo changes every five seconds, the costumes change even faster, there’s a lyric about crying tears of blood, they have a terrifying work ethic, of course I love it.

Next time: I am working on a seitan recipe which is worthy of Christmas day. I also made butter out of oats.

PS: If you enjoy my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

Vegan White Chocolate

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It’s with no qualms that I admit I’m far more likely to name a problem and then complain about it ceaselessly rather than do anything about it. But every now and then my rare sense of initiative materialises and I become briefly solutions focussed. In the case of this recipe, I’d already spent a long time complaining about the price and flavour of vegan white chocolate in New Zealand, but then – I tried making my own – and it tasted AMAZING. Capital letters and italics level amazing and, I believe, extremely white chocolate-y.

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Before we go any further, here are the drawbacks: first you have to get your hands on some cacao butter and cashews. As I’ve said before, it pains me to my soul to recommend key ingredients which are potentially expensive or difficult to find, and who knows, perhaps one day I’ll devise a white chocolate recipe comprised solely of flour, water, and air. Till that blessed day comes, there’s no getting around the fact that cashews give this body and heft without any obtrusive nuttiness and the cacao butter gives it authentic texture and richness. The second drawback is this is really just an eating white chocolate – you could chop it up and use it in, say, brownies, but it’s not a melting-and-dipping type creation, or at least, I haven’t tested that aspect of it enough to encourage it with any confidence. Once you’ve got that out of the way it’s fairly straightforward. There’s a lot of blending involved – the near-unavoidable hallmark of vegan cooking – but not much else.

So this is just an eating chocolate, but what an eating experience! It really captures that flickering vanilla creaminess of regular white chocolate, the way it slides across your tongue and dissolves in your throat and the way it tastes better than any other chocolate. I do regret that I can’t approach naturally vegan artisanal dark chocolate with any of the enthusiasm I still hold for cheap non-vegan white chocolate but alas, this is how I am. At least now I can go into the world with my head held a little higher, rallied by the deliciousness of this fake white chocolate.

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It’s been a real week for showing initiative (which presumably means my faculties are spent and the coming weeks will be completely devoid of any resourcefulness.) Specifically, for the first time since I tried fifteen years ago, failed, tried again, got it, freaked out at the responsibility and let it lapse and expire – I have my learners license! It’ll sound like exaggerating to describe how hard I resisted anything to do with driving, instead choosing to be fruitlessly angry at this country’s abysmal public transport and over-reliance on cars, and also at the way learning to drive and ADHD are not immediately compatible. But after fifteen years of that, a different approach was required. I forced myself to focus, and memorise every practice question in the road code, until it was all I could think about, and certainly all I could talk about, and just when my brain was about to explode, I sat the test. And got it. 100%. What a singular rush. Getting my learners means I’m legally allowed to get driving lessons, which will involve a whole lot more wrenching of focus and determination, but I think I’m finally ready, second time around, to take less than fifteen years to achieve this.

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Vegan White Chocolate

Creamy, delicious, and amazingly similar to the memory of white chocolate. The recipe may look wordy but it’s just a case of blending everything thoroughly. Recipe by myself.

  • 70g/half a cup cashews (raw/not toasted)
  • 1 cup roughly chopped cacao butter
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 and 1/2 cups icing sugar + half a cup extra just in case
  • 1/8 teaspoon (as in, a tiny, tiny pinch) cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
  • freeze-dried raspberry powder for garnish (optional)

1: Soak the cashews in recently-boiled water for at least two hours, around four hours is optimal.
2: Place the cacao butter and coconut oil in a heatproof bowl and rest this bowl on top of a small pot or pan of simmering water (as in, the bowl rests in the mouth of the pan but the base doesn’t actually touch the water.) Let the heat from the water melt the cacao butter, stirring it occasionally (the bowl itself will heat up, so be careful.) Once the cacao butter is melted, turn off the heat and leave it till required.
3: Drain the cashews and place them in a medium sized mixing bowl. Using a stick/immersion blender, begin to blend the cashews until they are very smooth. It may help to add a little of the icing sugar at this point to give the blender more to grip on to. Add the cocoa and blend again to combine. You can leave out the cocoa if you want, but I feel, psychologically at least, that it adds something.
4: Add the icing sugar and melted cacao butter mixture to the cashews alternately a quarter cup or so at a time with the blender still running.
5: If the mixture looks like it’s not quite coming together, add the extra half cup of icing sugar a little at a time.
6: Once you’ve added in everything, switch to a spatula and fold in the vanilla and salt. I found that this folding motion also helped to incorporate any final visible cacao butter. Spatula this mixture into a 20cm square tin lined with baking paper (or whatever tin you have, it doesn’t matter if it won’t fill it completely) and leave to set in the fridge for about an hour or until firm. Sprinkle with the raspberry powder, if using. In all honestly I only added it because I thought it would make the photos look better, but it did taste lovely.

Slice into squares and store in the fridge.

Note: thank you to this recipe at glutenfreeonashoestring.com – our recipes are not the same but mine is inspired directly by reading theirs. I have not tried making this using a regular food processor – I’m sure it’s possible, the important thing is to make sure the cashews are thoroughly blended smooth before adding the melted cacao butter.

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music lately:

Mary Anne by Boytoy. This song is featured in the monumentally charming new Baby-Sitters Club series on Netflix, which I implore you to watch, and then to read the expression of adoration about it which I wrote for Tenderly. This song is wonderfully sixties in that sunny, Turtles/Monkees fashion, and disarmingly catchy.

I Know The End by Phoebe Bridgers. It starts like (this) and ends like THIS which is the ideal way for songs to progress! I also love Salt in the Wound by Boygenius, a group which Phoebe Bridgers is in, another excellent example of going from small to huge, this time with amazing harmonies, it’s real hardcore swoony stuff. I have my dear friend Charlotte to thank for introducing me to Phoebe Bridgers (or at least, for making it clear that she wasn’t Kasey Chambers, when I inexplicably thought they were the same person) and also for making me watch the Baby-Sitters Club series, which you should also watch!

Next time: I used cacao butter to try making ice cream and honestly? It didn’t really work. But I feel like I’m getting closer.

PS: If you enjoy my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

old fashioned vegan fudge

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It’s 2020! Hasn’t this year got off to a smashingly awful start? Aren’t we doing well, at being terrible? I wasn’t even sure how to articulate all of this and then fortunately – and I mean fortunately on a minuscule scale – I ended up writing a poem that was published on The Spinoff, about how everything feels right now. The thrust of the poem, and indeed, how I feel about 2020, is that it seems like all the bad things are global-scale, and all the good things are only small and anecdotal. Hence its title: Anecdotal Happiness.

Who knows what this murky new decade will bring, but I’m starting it here providentially with a recipe for fudge – proper, old fashioned fudge, with that dense, granular texture like hard-packed wet sand, where you can feel the sugar softly exfoliating your teeth as they slide through it. Creamy and rich with no particular flavour other than that of caramelised sugar – the very best flavour there is. Tiny squares that burst into dissolution in your mouth and almost make you cough from the throat-burning sweetness.

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This recipe tastes just like the fudge that I used to make as a child, despite having not quite the same ingredients – since this is vegan fudge – though I suspect you might detect a fluttering taste of coconut from it, especially the longer it sits. Fudge is, frankly, quite a stressful undertaking, with all the magma-hot boiling sugar and careful timing and so on. But even if it all goes wrong it will still be incredibly delicious. The first time I made this – as you might be able to see in the photos – I both boiled and beat it a little too long, giving it a slightly crumbly dry texture. The second time I was more cautious and was rewarded with perfection.

At any rate, if you go in confidently you should be fine – I feel that food, like horses, can sense your nervousness and reacts accordingly, but even as a child I managed to make this without any mishaps. Although when I was a kid it was always microwaved fudge, poured into a buttered upturned Pyrex lid, perhaps with a little cocoa added in if I wanted to be extra fancy. I think – unless you grow up in a particularly moneyed and permissive environment – those occasional childhood moments where you’re allowed to experience such pure sugar rush end up sticking with you in a more emotional way, and is probably why, now that I’m vegan, I’m always trying to recreate such recipes (like the lemon curd) because, without butter and cream and so on, they’re now further out of reach culinarily as well as just from the passage of time and so it makes that emotional pull feel stronger.

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Does that make sense? What I’m saying is: this fudge tastes wonderful, you should make it.

With the dawn of a new decade comes changes. When I started hungryandfrozen.com in 2007, in the decade before last, I thought it would be super cute to have all my blog post titles be the lyrics of songs that related somehow to the recipe, rather than just the name of the recipe itself. It was indeed pretty cute. Initially. As the blog enters its thirteenth year I have decided to finally retire this quirky notion. My motivation is partly mercenary – I honestly shudder to think what these song lyrics titles have done to my site’s SEO, and what might have transpired had my recipes been slightly more easy to google. But it’s also motivated by sheer exhaustion – I was actually, genuinely, running out of songs to plunder for lyrics. That might sound like exaggeration, but I’ve written nearly 700 blog posts so far. The whole thing was honestly giving me anxiety every time I had to find a new title, which is stupid, since only a small number of people even read this blog, probably because of all the obtuse titles making everything so hard to find! So from now on the blog posts will just have the title of the recipe – which feels strange, though perhaps not quite as strange as it feels for you reading this mini-essay breaking down my feelings about this inconsequential aspect of my blog.

Also – as well as reading Anecdotal Happiness, you may also wish to read my recent essay, that I’m very proud of, about Dawn Schafer, the teenage vegetarian from The Baby-Sitters Club. She was not necessarily the most loveable of the cast of babysitters, but looking back, she was remarkably ahead of her time.

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Old Fashioned Fudge

  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup coconut cream*
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 4 tablespoons golden syrup*
  • a solid pinch of salt, plus more to taste

* Use full fat coconut cream, and look at the ingredients list to make sure there’s at least 85-90% coconut extract. If you are in America and can’t get golden syrup, try using light corn syrup or even maple syrup instead. The flavour of golden syrup is spectacular though, it’s worth hunting for.

1: Get a sheet of baking paper and place it in a regular sized oven dish – the sort you’d bake brownies or a slice in. That said, because the fudge sets so quickly you can really turn it out onto anything – even just a baking tray. Whatever it is you end up using, just make sure there’s baking paper on it and it’s ready to go.

2: Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve. Continue to let the mixture bubble away for seven minutes (set a timer if this helps.) You may need to occasionally reduce the heat to stop it bubbling over – hence why a big pan is useful – but ideally it will be properly bubbling the whole time.

(Seven minutes should do the trick but for peace of mind you can also try carefully dropping a spoonful of the mixture into a glass of very cold water, if, once it’s dropped to the bottom, you can pick it up and it holds its shape between your fingers, then the fudge is ready. If it dissolves into the water then you need to keep boiling it.)

3: At this point remove the fudge from the heat and start stirring it vigorously – but carefully, this stuff is HOT – with a wooden spoon or similar implement. The timing of this stage is quite crucial – you want to stop just as it starts to thicken up and lose its gloss – the very second this happens, quickly spatula it into your prepared tin and use the back of a spoon to press it out into an even layer. Wetting the spoon first helps.

If you beat it for slightly too long it’ll seize up and suddenly feel like cement, it’s still very edible but will just be quite crumbly.

4: Allow to set in the fridge for a few hours before slicing into small pieces – about an inch squared works for me. Store the fudge in an airtight container somewhere cool.

music lately:

Pull Back The Bolt by Minimal Man, from their 1984 album Safari. This has a kind of Gary Numan fizziness to it and this incredible combination of urgency and dizzy exhilaration. I just want to listen to it over and over and over. If you’re sitting around glumly all like “it’s a while since I’ve become completely obsessed with a song,” this could be the one.

Werkin Girls by Angel Haze. I was obsessed with them in 2014 and this song – from 2012 – still has the impact of one freshly-baked this morning. I love the way that whiplash-speed rapping slides into the swagger of the chorus.

Next time: I am prosaically but understandably keen to make the most of summer food while it’s still summer.

PS: Consider truly starting your decade correctly by supporting me and my writing directly through my Patreon. It’s like a cordoned-off VIP area where you can access content written just for you: recipes, updates, poems, reviews, short stories.

it’s time to face facts and not mince a word

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When I was a kid, it felt like every day from December 1 onwards was basically Christmas Eve. As an adult working in the hospitality industry it’s like, literally every day is just another shift to clock on and I might start idly organising Christmas-related things at 11pm on the 23rd if I’m feeling sprightly. This year I’m instead occupying the odd world of freelancing, where you’re always working but it never looks like it, where no thought can go unexamined but for the question, “is this content?” Working for yourself means no Christmas parties and a very biased HR department, but on the upside, most of the toil can be done in track pants on the couch. Nevertheless even with all this sitting down I still find myself astonished at the haste with which this month has moved.

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Even with the big day itself getting precariously close it’s not too late to make one last objectively unnecessary but subjectively delicious thing, and this Rhubarb Vanilla Christmas Fruit Mince from Nigella Lawson’s wonderful book Feast easily fits the bill. Fruit mince is confusing on so many levels – why does it sound like meat, why would I actually want to eat a bunch of sultanas, how is it overly sweet yet rudely flavourless? Not this stuff though. The inclusion of rhubarb, sour-sweet and fragrant as it collapses in the heat, and lush vanilla, makes for a wonderful rush of flavour. It’s hefty and plummy and wintery yet somehow lively and vivid. The dried fruit absorbs all the intense flavour as it cooks, and it all tastes immensely luxurious. Plus it’s incredibly easy to make.

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(I freely acknowledge that I went slightly overboard with these photos, like, you can barely even see the jar in this one, but the decorations were just sitting there on the table! What was I to do! Be tasteful? At Christmas?)

Rhubarb Vanilla Christmas Fruit Mince

Adapted just slightly from Nigella Lawson’s Feast

  • 1kg rhubarb, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced into 5mm pieces
  • 300g brown sugar 
  • 2 vanilla beans*
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 250g raisins
  • 250g sultanas
  • 250g currants
  • 2 tablespoons brandy (or similar – I used dark rum)

* I only had one vanilla bean, so added a couple of teaspoons of vanilla extract at the end. Vanilla beans are also sometimes called vanilla pods. I also just did double sultanas because I don’t really favour raisins. 

Place the rhubarb, sugar and mixed spice into a good-sized saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla beans into the pan and then slice up the beans themselves and throw them in too. Turn the heat to medium bring it to a good simmer, stirring to prevent the sugar burning. After five minutes, add the dried fruit and simmer for a further thirty minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat and stir in the alcohol. Transfer into clean jars.

Nigella reckons this makes 1.25 litres, I got a bit less but still heaps so by all means have some jars on hand.

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Obviously you need to choose your audience here but a small jar of this would make a lovely gift. It can also, of course, be made into slightly untraditional pies, or stirred into cake batter, or heated up and spooned over ice cream. Nigella recommends spreading it on toast like jam, I think it would work particularly well on a toasted bagel. I do enjoy marinading myself in Nigella’s Christmas-related material – nothing else quite makes me feel so resolutely contextualised in the season.

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Meri Kirihimete! Whether Christmas is something you delight in, politely acknowledge, or have no connection to, I certainly hope either way that the 25th is a nice day for you.

PS I absolutely recommend my last blog post where I rounded up a ton of edible gift idea recipes. The day is still young!

title from: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Love by Barbra Streisand, an unreleased song of hers that would be otherwise a standard workhorse pleasantry if not for the remarkable D5 belt at the end that she holds for ages, truly one of the queens of possessing vocal chords.

music lately:

Pop A Top by Andy Capp. This early reggae track from 1968 is joyful and mellow at the same time, just what we need at this frantic time of year.

Thursday Girl, by Mitski. This song was my number one most played track on Spotify for 2019, which could be partially to do with my making a playlist consisting only of this song on a loop and spending many hours playing it while staring mournfully into space. It’s just devastating.

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! by the sadly late but never forgotten Elaine Stritch. If everything is feeling too comfortably sugary this Christmas, there’s always Stritch to reinvigorate your senses, her singular, matter-of-fact bark is like a cold bucket of lemon juice to the face. In a good way.

Next time: I did make some amazingly good fudge that I’d like to share with you, whether this happens before the end of the year or not is in the hands of Fate (and nothing whatsoever to do with my own diligence.)

PS: What is the true meaning of Christmas if not directly supporting me through my Patreon? It’s like a cordoned-off VIP area where you can access content written just for you: recipes, updates, poems, stories, the opening sentences of the novel I wrote.