fancy plans and pants to match: nautilus estate wines, part two

Bread and Butter Chicken

Well hello there, and welcome to another installment of Fancy Plans and Pants to Match, where I overexplain somewhat apologetically about how sometimes I get cool free stuff because I’m an amazing blogger and cookbook author, and try to write about said free stuff in a way that makes me seem charming and only minimally insufferable. The name of this segment comes from a quote by Jimmy James, a character in the brilliant 90s sitcom NewsRadio.

This is part two of a series of recipes I created for Nautilus Estate wines. Last time I wrote about lemonade pancakes with strawberry sauce and pasta with chorizo and feta and chilli butter, and this time I’ve got more deliciousness for you. I hate to repeat text I’ve already written verbatim but I’m gonna power through the pain anyway, because…everything I said last time is still relevant and I’m not going to try and think of a synonym for every single word I wrote when the original will do fine. But consider yourself warned that (just) the following two paragraphs appeared when I previously wrote about this stuff.

So here’s the thing: Nautilus Estate got in touch with me and asked if I’d like to develop some recipes for them to go with their fancy fancy wines. Oh my gosh yes, said I. I love wine, I love thinking up recipes, I love receiving a butt-tonne of wine in the mail, and honestly it’s just nice to be thought of as someone who could do this, right? And then a whole lot of stuff happened in my life. Finally though, I got around to actually completing my original task. So thanks Nautilus, not only for the wine itself, but for your infinite patience and your “hey it’s cool we can wait the wine will probably be kind of useful right now anyway” attitude.

The pitch: Nautilus Vintage Rose 2011 and Cuvee Marlborough NV Brut. Both fizzy and fizzing with deliciousness. All I have to do is come up with some recipes to complement what they’ve already got going on. Important note: I cannot format a swishy little accent on the ‘e’ in rose/cuvee for some reason so when you read it please pronounce it “rose-ayyyyy” and “coo-vayyyy” in your head

fancy pudding with a fancy wine for a fancy lady who needs a synonym for fancy

What happened: somehow these recipes to match the wines came to me pretty immediately and fully-formed, perhaps because that’s something I am very good at doing (in the interest of being a self-deprecating New Zealander I feel like I should match this boastfulness with one of my failings: I can’t ride a bicycle. Self-deprecation, the wine matching of personal self-esteem!) The rose’s delicate but definite berry sweetness could handle something rich and buttery, and I liked the idea of pairing such an elegant drink with something so hearty and cosy. Not that I wouldn’t serve this bread and butter chicken to people I was trying to impress – it’s still at that level, but also really very easy and plain and comforting. Chicken, butter, bread: all as wondrous as it sounds, and ideal with a sparklingly ripe-flavoured wine like the rose.

butter is really delicious: I’m highly qualified to tell you this

bread and butter chicken

a recipe by myself
recommended wine pairing: Nautilus Estate Vintage Rose 2011

four chicken thighs, skin on, organic and free range if possible because I don’t like to be prescriptive but oh damn they taste so much better
100g butter
three thick slices stale white bread, eg white sourdough, those Vienna loaves, that kinda thing 
½ cup walnuts
fresh thyme leaves, around a tablespoon.

Set oven to 200 C, and place the chicken thighs snugly in a roasting dish. Cube the butter and scatter evenly on top of the chicken thighs. Put the dish in the oven and leave for around 40 minutes. 

Meanwhile, tear the bread into very small pieces, allowing some of it to crumble into breadcrumb dust and some of the pieces to be more crouton-esque. Basically just rip it up and whatever you do will be correct. Either roughly chop the walnuts and tip them in, or just break them up in your hands – they don’t need to be too small. Stir in the thyme leaves. 

Remove the chicken from the oven – it should be very crisp and golden and the juice should run clear when you puncture the thicker end of the thigh with a skewer. Scatter the breadcrumb-walnut mixture evenly over the top, and spoon over plenty of the buttery pan juices (there will be plenty!) so they can absorb it all. Some of the breadcrumbs will stay on top of the chicken, some will fall down into the spaces between the thighs, but it will all taste incredible. Return to the oven for around ten minutes or until the breadcrumbs look crisp and golden. 

I’d serve it with lemon wedges and a salad that has lots of peppery rocket leaves and flat leaf parsley in it, but to be honest I just ate one of the thighs with my bare hands straight from the oven with a glass of wine and it was quite perfect. 

I thought the more crisp, full flavour of the cuvee could happily lift the bittersweet and majorly-sweet grapefruit and white chocolate curds. On that note, I thought making a lemon curd thing but with white chocolate instead would be super fun, and oh, how right I was. I use a particular technique that perhaps in time they’ll call HungryandFrozen’s Unclassic Method, where I just throw all the ingredients in at once and stir over a low heat till the butter melts and it somehow comes together. The white chocolate curd has a rich vanilla-custard flavour and the grapefruit curd has a gentle sharpness, which, with the thick, tart yoghurt, is all so good you’ll want to say “OH SHUT UP” to no one in particular after having a mouthful because you don’t know what to do with yourself. As well as tasting excellent, the texture of the cool, bubbly brut goes well with the thick, saucy sweetness of this pudding.

grapefruit curd, white chocolate curd, greek yoghurt

a recipe by myself. Serves two – four, depending on the size of your serving glasses, I recommend going on the smaller side all the same and eating the remaining ones yourself at another happy time if you’ve only got two people to feed.
recommended wine pairing: Nautilus Estate Cuvee Marlborough NV Brut

two grapefruit
four eggs
three quarters of a cup of sugar
150g butter
100g white chocolate chopped as fine as you can be bothered to
several tablespoons of thick, plain Greek yoghurt

In a smallish pan, mix two eggs and half a cup of the sugar. Squeeze in the grapefruit juice and stir again. Dice half the butter into small cubes and tip them into the pan. Over a very low heat, patiently, stir this mixture constantly till the butter melts and it all thickens. Once it has all come together and is looking thick and saucy, but not necessarily too thick – better safe than sorry – remove from the heat and stick the pan into a sink which has a couple of inches of cold water in it, stirring constantly to lower the heat of the pan’s contents. Spatula this into a bowl and refrigerate while you get on with the white chocolate: whisk together the remaining two eggs and the remaining quarter cup of sugar, then add the cubed butter and chopped white chocolate. Again, over a very low heat, stir it constantly till the butter and chocolate have just melted and it becomes thick and smooth. Stick this pan in a sink of cold water too, just to make sure it doesn’t carry on cooking in the hot pan. Transfer this into a bowl and also refrigerate – ideally for at least an hour, but you can make the two curds a whole day ahead. 

Layer up generous spoonfuls of the grapefruit and white chocolate curd and Greek yoghurt in small serving bowls (125ml or so but larger is fine) and serve. Some mint leaves or chopped pistachios might be nice here, but there’s plenty going on already. 

silkier than a silkworm in fetching silk stockings descending gently to the earth from a silk parachute

bread and butter chicken: still delicious, don’t forget

from a scale of 1 to the entire verse of Once In A Lifetime by Talking Heads: As with last time, still a solid eight – this is so much nicer than the wine I usually drink, and it was sincerely thrilling having so much of it, with my only task ahead something I already adore: developing recipes.

would I do this for not-free? again, as with last time, I mean, I’m not just going to give people content for nothing – wait, I write a food blog – oh you know what I mean – but I would definitely buy this wine off the shelf now if it was on special or I was feeling, oh I don’t know, employed. It tastes excellent and the people behind it are blatantly pretty cool, so go forth and seek it, I say.

earnest thanks for making me feel fancy to: Nautilus Estate! You rule.

finally, some slightly unrelated blog admin: my rent is not your problem, but I can so feel in my bones that there’s at least one eccentric millionaire who reads this blog and is fond of me in a monetary way. What I’m saying is, hi, this is a periodic reminder that you can totally donate to hungryandfrozen.com to help me continue to exist and to remain on the fringes of that fancy life. But also I shall not be fussed if you don’t. I’m kind of just trying to trick super rich people into Robin Hooding themselves to me. But also trying to pay rent and buy food and such. Anyway: consider it, if you like!

excuse my french but i’m in france

I’ve said before that I obstinately love winter. But I feel that above all, what really connects me to the nose-freezingly, spine-snappingly cold weather more than soft knee socks and duvets and watching dramatic, critically-acclaimed TV shows, and sitting by the heater, is the long and slow cooking of food. Casseroles, soups, stews, they’re the kind of thing that make me feel uncomfortably sweaty to consider in summer. But come winter, by putting some time into making meat fall from bones or dried beans swell and tenderise or, I don’t know, for other stuff to gradually turn into other stuff, I really feel at one with it all, like this is what I’m supposed to be eating and doing with my time. Despite these recipes usually being quite straightforward, making a casserole or soup from scratch over a matter of hours can feel like one hell of an achievement, and is the kind of food I can only properly enjoy this time of year.

The French, I posit sweepingly, know a thing or two about slow-cooked food. Coq au vin – which basically means chicken a la lots of wine – is excellently fancy but very old-world and rustic at the same time, and really quite easy. Or at least it is when I make it, more an homage than a strictly traditional method.

This recipe comes by way of Nigella Lawson’s important book How to Eat. Speaking of important…and a slight trigger warning here…I went back and forth and wrote and deleted things about what has happened to Nigella Lawson recently. I don’t want to write clumsily about domestic violence, but I don’t want to take her recipe then skate over other things brightly, politely. Much as I adore Nigella from afar, I don’t know her. But I do know that what happened to her, what happens to so many people, is not right. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, google carefully. If you’re about to pick up a newspaper or magazine that looks even vaguely victim-blaming or rationalising of this, or any similar story…maybe take that money and donate it to your local women’s refuge instead.

So. Nigella already went and made an easy recipe for this, adorably calling it half-coq au vin. Then I went and made hers even easier, lazy creature that I am.  I suppose I could call it quarter-coq, but I think it’s more like two-thirds-coq. Wait, but that’s more than half, right? Ugh, maths! I didn’t quit it in sixth form for nothing, so let’s just get back to the food. You still end up with this intensely savoury, rich, meaty stew with plenty of wine-heavy sauce for spooning over rice or mashed potato, dissolvingly tender chicken thighs, salty bacon, and densely earthy mushrooms. Fry it up, shunt it in the oven, and some time later you have dinner so comforting you could just cry, except there’s already enough sodium in there to crystallise all the cartilage in your body, and it probably doesn’t need any more. I say this as someone who loves sodium…and doesn’t really know much of anything about cartilage. Except that it’s creepily fascinating. I’m talking about sharks, yo. Deep-sea creature made entirely of cartilage. Nope, okay, definitely back to the food now.

Note: you could happily, depending on the size of your oven dish, double or triple this and then freeze portions for future good times. Also, there are supposed to be baby onions in this, but I forgot to buy some. Then I figured lots of people are allergic to onions, and I could just tell myself I was one of those people on this day. Note: you can also use 500ml red wine instead of half wine half water.

half-coq au vin

Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s seminal text How To Eat

250ml red wine
250ml water 
a sprig of thyme 
2 garlic cloves
75-100g (I kind of grabbed a handful, but my hands are tiny) streaky bacon rashers
6 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless. Although skinless is the bit that matters really.
1 heaped tablespoon flour
12 or so button mushrooms

Set your oven to 150 C/300 F. I used the enamel dish above, which can go on the stovetop and then into the oven. It’s joyous! But if you don’t have one, just cook everything in a pot and then transfer it to an oven dish before baking. OR you can simmer it in the pot slowly, but I think the oven does a better job of taking care of it – no need to stand around nervously hoping it won’t boil over or get burnt.

In a small pot, bring the wine and water to the boil with the garlic cloves and thyme floating around in it, then continue to let it bubble away till it looks like it’s reduced by about half. Fish out the garlic and thyme, throwing away or eating curiously, and remove the wine from the heat.

Meanwhile, roughly dice the bacon and fry it in your dish or pot till lightly browned and sizzling. Push the bacon to the side slightly with your wooden spoon or chosen implement, and place the chicken thighs in, allowing them to really sit there and brown on one side. It’ll take a while, but it will happen. Halve or quarter, depending on size, your button mushrooms and tumble them in once the chicken’s browned. Finally, stir in the flour – it will turn all rough and sticky at this point – allowing it to fry a little, then tip in the wine mixture and another 250ml water. Cover the oven dish firmly with tinfoil and place in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Uncover and serve, as you wish. 

I had the grand idea that, there being six thighs, and this being two-meat levels of extravagant, this could provide dinner for Tim and I on night one, and then lunch for us on day two and three. But then two of the thighs thwarted me by simply falling to small pieces in the sauce. Damn thwarting thighs! But still, two perfect meals out of this is not bad. While we enjoyed it served over rice, I get the feeling it would be sublimely good stirred into pappardelle pasta with some cream. Or spooned over creamy soft polenta. Or served with really crisp fries to dip into the gravy. This is just such superlative stuff.

The thyme really does make a difference, flavour-wise (okay, I will make a laboured joke about time making the difference here) but I don’t recommend fronds of it as a garnish like I did here. It got all tangled up sinisterly in the spoon every time I went in for more, like seaweed lazily but determinedly knotting itself round your ankles.

After an idyllically mellow weekend – Friday night drinks and living room dancing, Saturday brunch and knitting and the truly bizarre Mad Max 3, and Sunday morning coffee, afternoon scrambled eggs, and lounging with Luther and West Wing – this half-coq au vin was an wonderfully slow, methodical way to end the week. And after a fairly stupid Monday morning of forgotten things and spilled, badly-made coffee and bitten hangnails, it made for a wondrous lunch reheated in the microwave at work. 

Finally – if you like, but especially if you don’t like, you should definitely read my contribution to new site First Comes Love about my top five wedding locations, and my guest post for Holland Road Yarn about being a new knitter. What can I say, it’s a good time to ask me to talk to you about stuff! 

Okay, finally-finally: yeah, in case you’re wondering, I did make some deeply immature homonym-type jokes about coq the entire time I was making this dinner, and every time I referred to it thereafter. Cracking yourself up with utterly stupid wordplay is the highest form of wit.
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title via: the spiky, brilliant, Kanye and Jay Z collaboration …Paris. Ball quite hard.  
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Music lately:

Miley Cyrus, We Can’t Stop. Amazingly catchy-fuzzy pop. I do think it’s worth reading and acknowledging what Wilbert Cooper has written about this video also.

Metric, Help I’m Alive. Well, that’s a great song title. For a great song. I love how sinister yet low-key this is.
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Next time: More slow cooking? More cake? Will see where my whims take me, I don’t have anything specific planned yet. 

little lamb, little lamb, a birthday goes by so fast…

A big thanks to everyone’s cool responses to my last post. Made me glad I’d shared it.

When I made this dinner last night my camera battery went flat and before it obstinately shut down entirely, I hastily snapped some mediocre photos. The battery in my brain went a little flat too, which is really not the best timing considering after my last post I wanted something more sprightly and upbeat. As always though honesty is what I aim for here. When tired…I write like a tired person.

Surprise! It is my birthday today! Twenty-six. (I know. So old or so young, depending on how you look at it) For the last few years, my birthday has really snuck up on me, and today followed that pattern again. I don’t know exactly what kind of build up I was expecting – perhaps an ad campaign indicating that the nation of New Zealand are all meeting on a hilltop with candles and torches and counting down from 10 while a soft-rock song that got to #3 in the downloads charts plays in the background – but seriously, it properly snuck. I’m both a night owl and an early riser (it’s so great) (it’s really not) and so not only was I awake to see my birthday from the moment the clock ticked over, I’m also here at 6-something AM to greet it again before most other people will. But do you know what I woke up to? A kind and lovely email from the kind and lovely Kate who Tim and I stayed with, sight unseen, along with her husband, in Oxford last year.

I wonder if Redman, Victoria Beckham, Liz Phair and/or Sean Bean, bless his sword and sandals, are also going through this same thought process? Since Wikipedia confirms they too are born on April 17? Back in my day (ooh, just caught myself aging), I wore it as a badge of honour that Victoria had the same birthday as me, but depending on which unauthorised magazine or book you read – you know, the sort that referred to “the Fab Five!” or “Get Spicy with the Girls!” – she was also listed as being born on the 7th. Wikipedia, my eleven-year-old self thanks you for restoring the equilibrium.

This is a very simple recipe that I thought up earlier yesterday. It’s nothing revolutionary – just marinate some chicken and fry it and serve it on rice – but the combination of spices will definitely use up some of the spices just sitting there on your spice rack. They will also imbue the meat with warmth and depth and heat and, of course, spice. Chicken breasts are so boring – thighs all the way! – but Tim and I saw some Waitoa ones on special and so the decision was made. Spices like this embiggen the relatively less flavoursome and tender chicken breast, although if you’ve actually got some thighs to hand then you’re golden. You could always use this marinade for tofu or steak or lamb or whatever, depending on which end of the protein spectrum you’re feeling most like eating. The Coconut Spinach Rice you could always eat by its comforting self, the chicken could be turned into a salad, and so on and so forth, you know how to eat food.

Fried Chicken with Many Spices and Coconut Spinach Rice


A recipe by myself.


350g (or as much as you like) boneless chicken breast
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon sambal oelek (or some other form of chilli sauce)
Juice and zest of a lime (about 2 tablespoons juice)
2 tablespoons sesame oil


1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup long grain rice  
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
Handful spinach leaves


Slice up the chicken into small pieces, mix together the the spices and oil and marinate the chicken in it for about an hour, although you could cook it right away if you like. Fry the chicken pieces, scraping in the leftover marinade, till crisp and slightly darkened. And, of course, fully cooked through. Serve with the rice.


To make the rice – I recommend getting it going before you start frying the chicken – heat up the oil in a pan and tip in the uncooked grains of rice. Stir them around for a minute or two on their own, then add the coconut and mix well. As soon as the coconut starts to brown – it’ll happen fast – tip in 3 cups of water, a decent grind/pinch of salt, and clamp a lid on top of the pan. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes or until the water is all absorbed and the rice grains cooked. At this point, finely slice up a handful of spinach leaves and stir them into the rice.

(Instagram played the role of my camera in this performance. Next time, more proactive battery charging, I promise.)

This is so easy but so exuberantly and uncompromisingly flavoured – the earthy cinnamon and cumin, the compelling heats of the mustard, ginger and chilli and the necessary sweetness and light of the lime against the calm, simple rice is pretty perfect as far as dinner on a cold Monday night goes.

This is my bedroom. Kidding! It’s at La Boca Loca, where Tim and Jo and I went for the muy rico experience that was tequila tasting and tortilla-making demonstration to celebrate their first birthday. Jo herself wrote about it better than I just did at Wellingtonista.

On Friday we (Tim, myself, all our friends) went to an amazing under the sea themed party (specifically, it was named Atlantis to Interzone – not Alanis to Interzone as I initially misread) I was a jellyfish and Tim was a dashing Titanic zombie. I danced wildly with friends and then danced some more. I did wake up with that “oh no, I danced like that” feeling but have decided that there’s no changing who I am and people are going to have to deal with the fact that I’m either standing still or dancing for my life, taking my passion and making it happen, etc. Speaking of aging, the bouncer didn’t believe I was of age, but let me in anyway, probably based on shrewdness and the fact that everyone else in our group was mid to late 20s. “You don’t look 25” he said. “But I do look like a jellyfish,” I coolly replied. I know you’re supposed to love having to pull out ID all the time by this point in life but Tim and I, in the eyes of every gatekeeper in the nation, would seem to resemble a couple of cherubic toddlers dressed humourously in grown-ups’ clothing. So I wouldn’t mind eventually visually growing into my age. I also wouldn’t mind dressing up as a jellyfish again, it was so much fun.

Round of applause to Jo, Jo and Thomas for not so much throwing the party as hurtling it into space to watch it gently fall to earth showering everyone with meteors (I’m trying to say ‘it was good fun’); thanks to Kate who took the above photo.

On Saturday Tim and I paid a near-insurmountable sum ($25! For a movie! But I wanted to see it five times!) to see the filmed production of Company, one of my very favourite Broadway shows. Its cast had so many ridiculously great people in it that I was nearly crying the whole time, even though it was just a movie. Christina Hendricks as self-confessed dullard April had this kind of Marilyn Monroe quality, playing a ditzy character with intimidatingly good comic timing and realness. Anika Noni Rose was glorious and delivered one of my favourite lines in the show better than I’ve ever seen it done (which is once on YouTube and once in a student production of Company, so.) Stephen Colbert and Martha Plimpton had incredible chemistry and Colbert was plain cheek-pinchingly adorable in his turtleneck. Kate Finneran was perfect as Amy. Patti LuPone – who I’ve actually seen in concert – won me over as Joanne with her final flourish in Ladies Who Lunch. And I was so happy they kept the complicated Donna McKechnie dance in it from the original Broadway production, with the neatly full-circle move of casting Chryssie Whitehead who starred in the Broadway revival of A Chorus Line. If none of that made any sense, this movie trailer might help.

And now, to get used to how very twenty-six I’m going to be.
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Title via: Little Lamb from the musical Gypsy. Initially this was a song I always skipped for the more thrilling If Mama Was Married, or Rose’s Turn, but Laura Benanti’s thrilling soprano made me actually listen to it. It’s slow, but rewarding (especially the last bit.)
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Music lately:


Janine and the Mixtape, Bullets. This is a new song – the debut single, I think? – from local singer Janine, whose voice is super prowess-ful and whose enviable cheekbones deserve a round of applause of their own. The video’s an equal match for the song.

The Kills’ cover of Crazy. While part of me is all “Patsy Cline forever!” It’d be remiss of me to deny how deliciously cover-able this song it and how fantastically Alison Mosshart does it.

HOLOGRAM 2PAC.
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Next time: Fejoa. Ice. Cream. 

and what’s more baby, I can cook

Christmas christmas christmas christmas christmas christmas christmas!
Christmas christmas christm- I’m just kidding. But it is upon us once more. Which means it’s time for our 6th Annual Christmas Dinner and follow-up blog post! Back in 2006 there were five of us, I wasn’t on Twitter and I didn’t have my blog. What did I even do with my time? Six years later, there were at least fifteen people, the party went for 10 hours and there were intermittent twitter updates from nearly all involved, because that’s just how life is these days. In every sense: I never thought those years ago that we’d have a veritable family of so many good people. I’m not the best out there at making and keeping friends – to the point where getting referred to by someone as part of “my ladies” nearly brought me to tears the other day. 
But anyway, let the bumper Christmas Dinner edition blog post commence! The day goes like this: I cook a huge feast, everyone turns up and eats it. This is my idea of fun, so don’t imagine me crying in the kitchen while everyone else is whooping it up. Alas, not everyone that we love could be there on Saturday but on the whole it was pretty astounding that we got so many people in the room this close to Christmas. Or anytime. 

Involtini. I make this every year. It’s Nigella Lawson’s recipe, which for me has evolved and simplified into slices of eggplant, grilled four at a time in the sandwich press, with a spoonful of herbed, almond-studded quinoa rolled messily in each, covered in tomato sauce and baked. You’re welcome to feta it up or use bulghur wheat but I had some well-meaning half packets of quinoa that needed using up, resulting in this being not only entirely vegan but also gluten free. Hey-oh!

Keeping it Nigella I simmered vast quantities of pickled pork, or gammon as it’s known in the UK, in liquids till they turned into ham – in the foreground is the one I cooked in Old Mout Cranberry Cider, and in the hindquarter is one I cooked in Budget Cola. Both wonderful. Cola has a smoky cinnamon kinda flavour while cider has that distinctive musky fermented-fruit thing going on, both of which are excellent when absorbed into the fibres of sweet, salty pink ham. Pickled pork can be a bit of a misson to find but it’s worth it – I got mine from Preston’s butchers (near Yan’s on Torrens Terrace in Wellington city) and the people there were so friendly and it was so reasonably priced and I totally recommend them.

Didn’t have the mental capacity for gravy, so instead I made up a batch of the wondrous balm that is Bacon Jam, and then – as you might be able to make out here – sprinkled over some edible glitter. Christmas christmas christmas! Honestly, this is one of my favourite discoveries of 2011 – nay, my life. It’s jam, but instead of raspberries or whatever, there is bacon. It’s perfect, it tastes as dazzlingly sticky and sweet and salty as it sounds, and it gives the feast an insouciant Ron Swansonish air.

This Hazelnut, Cranberry and Mushroom Stuffing was a new recipe from Fine Cooking magazine – entirely vegan, with the ingredients being both Christmassy but also ideally suited to each other. I simplified it to suit my needs and budget. For a recreation of my appropriation (across the nation!) roughly cube a large loaf of sourdough or similarly intense bread, drizzle with oil and toast in a hot oven. Meanwhile, fry up a diced onion and a whole bunch o’ mushrooms – the fancier the better, but I used regular button types – the real important thing here is quantity, as they reduce down. Mix together the whole lot, add a large handful of toasted hazelnuts and dried cranberries. Pour over 1 cup of stock (I used miso soup – it’s what I had) and bake for about 40 minutes at 190 C/350 F. The rich, sweet hazelnuts and savoury aggro of the mushrooms plus the occasional burst of cranberry against the croutonesque bread is some kind of taste revelation, I assure you.  

I make this cornbread stuffing every year. Cornbread’s one of my favourite foods as is, but mixing it in with eggs, butter, and cranberries then baking it again is perfection achieved. There was a bit of trouble in making it this time though, and I’m going to write it in tiny, tiny letters so you don’t all go green around the gills and start crying instead of my intention of making you salivate like hungry Alsatians. (Three rotten eggs in a row. THREE. They had weeks before the “use by” date and I even did the thing where you check it in a glass of water. The utter depressingness of that dull, formless thud with which the contents of the shell hit the bowl combined with the smell which hits you straight in the back of the throat takes you to a dark place when people are turning up in an hour, but with some reassurance, some rescue remedy and some hastily opened windows we got through it.) Also, spot the peas – I heedlessly bought 2kg of them going cheap at Moore Wilson a while back and so their presence on this table, in order to cut down on my freezer’s crowded infrastructure, was non-negotiable.

Butter in cubes on a small plate with a proper knife: because I am turning into my mother more and more every day. I love that my friends who stayed for ages and required a late-night snack asked where this butter was so they could spread it on the leftover cold potatoes. 

“FLIRTINIS ALL ROUND”. Because of a few lines in The Mighty Boosh, and because increasingly it seems everything I consume has to have a pop culture reference attached to it, I made this drink. Increasingly come-hither was that Nigella Lawson herself recently put a recipe for it online, giving me even more assurance that it was meant to be. Flirtinis are fairly hardcore but divided amongst many guests and with lots of food as blotting paper it’s all good. In a large jug, mix one cup (250ml) vodka and one cup fizzy white wine (eg, Lindauer) and top up with pineapple juice – about a litre, depending on the size of your vessel of course. Stir with a wooden spoon like you’re Betty Draper and serve in plastic cups so you don’t have to do so many dishes. 

Oh, this pie. Coffee Toffee Salted Cashew Pie, to use its full title. Another revelation from Fine Cooking, which I adapted quite easily to make necessarily dairy-free. And, with all due respect to Fine Cooking, to be less sugary and to include cashews. I think American palates have a different capacity for sugar than ours, and also cashews make a cheaper – but still exciting – substitute for their choice of pecans. 
Into a pie plate lined with a half-batch of this cookie dough, (minus the spices, and you don’t need to blind bake it) tumble 1 cup of salted roasted cashews and pour over a whisked up mixture of 1 cup golden syrup, 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, 2 tablespoons rum (I used Smoke and Oakum’s Gunpowder Rum), 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder – yes instant, it’s useful for baking and it smells weirdly alluring, okay? Look for the blue packet by Greggs – 2 tablespoons rice bran oil and three eggs. Bake at 190 C/375 F for 45 minutes to an hour, covering with tinfoil if need be. You then need to let it cool completely. I didn’t see this instruction and it would’ve saved me a reckless moment of “We’ll just eat it now and if it’s not set it can just be sauce for the ice cream, dammit!” Fortunately everyone managed to talk me down in a chorus of soothing voices while we stashed it precariously in the freezer, and it really was better for a good chilling, especially as the cold went some way to soften the intense sugar hit. It’s an incredible pie, with salty creamy cashews in their pool of intensely dark caramel-caffiene filling. 

And finally, some ice cream, since that’s my kneejerk culinary response to the promise of people in our house. This is the only photo I got of said ice cream, but in the back is my own Chocolate Coconut Ice Cream – which I’ve made many times now since Christmas 2009. It’s beautiful and it’s dairy-free and I can now make it in my sleep almost literally, but should you be awake and trying it for the first time it’s not overly taxing either. In the front is Lemonade Sorbet (with a hard ‘t’) which started life as failed jelly; it was a little weird but refreshing, and the price was right. 
There were also two roast chickens – but no-one wants me to try and take a decent photo of their sorry hides, and beautiful canapes from Jo, and homemade bread rolls brought by Piona (that’s Pia and Fiona but don’t their names condense perfectly?) There was a moment where everyone became anxious and queasy during Barbra Streisand’s Jingle Bells (you think I’m exaggerating! Not this time!) there was a psychological skirmish during supercool boardgame Apples to Apples; there was an incredible reveal from Pia whose orange dress looked cool enough under her coat, but upon removal of that coat it turned out the dress sleeves were layered and ruffly like a flamenco skirt on each arm; there was candy cane whittling; there was imaginary Christmas cracker pulling; there was semi-unpremeditated singing of Total Eclipse of the Heart; there was a portrait of me etched in a pudding bowl; there were at least ten candy canes per capita, especially once I got changed into my candy cane-esque dress; and there was so much food brought to donate to the Downtown Community Ministry Foodbank that Tim and I will have to drive it down in our ute because it’s too much to lug down in our collection of environmentally conscious yet aesthetically designed shopping carry bags. We love our friends.

And now, mere singular days from Christmas I am typically underslept, however I managed to finally get a tiny bit of Christmas shopping done, including a small gift for myself of a flower hairclip. It’s amazing how when your personality and brainpower has evaporated due to lack of sleep, put a big flower in your hair and you can trick yourself into thinking you’re still an interesting person.

It makes me feel like this: Look at how zany and witty I am! There’s a flower in my hair! I have such a personality!
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Title via: Lea Delaria singing I Can Cook Too from On The Town. This challenging and excellently subject-ed song is especially good in her brassy growl of a voice.

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Music lately: 

Still Haven’t Got My Gift by The Goodfun. Hilarious. But also a really nice tune.

O Holy Night, Liz Callaway and her sister Ann Hampton Callaway. You may think you’re over this son but Liz’s silvery voice against Ann’s rich golden one is pure joy for the ear canals.

Julien Dyne, Fallin’ Down – the mellow, slinky antithesis to my Broadway dalliances.
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Next time: I was really convinced I’d have time to blog about the roast tomato-stuffed roast capsicums, but it just didn’t work out, no matter how I tried. So I guess I’ll change up that aim to see if I can get them done before Christmas now…

food beyond compare, food beyond belief…

Another year goes past, another flat Christmas dinner is planned for and cooked and eaten and then reminisced about. Our first was in 2006, before I even had this blog, and when we’d just moved into our then-flat. The second one was the day after the David Beckham game, 2008’s was when I’d finished uni and started full-time work and Emma our then-flatmate was stranded in Thailand. She got back to NZ just fine, by the way, but still. Last year was our first Christmas dinner in our current flat and was also the day that I was on the cover of the Sunday Star-Times Sunday magazine (which meant a lot of “oh this? Oh I had no idea that was on the table there lookatmeeveryone“) This year was a pretty low-key happening, with just seven of us, but it was an amazingly happy day. Partly because of the awesome friends and whanau who were there, and partly because…my first ever Baked Alaska was not a disaster.

I’ve made this Involtini from Nigella Bites for the last three Christmas Dinners and it’s one of the best Christmassy vegetarian recipes I’ve ever found. Basically it is spoonfuls of herbed, nutty cooked bulghur wheat rolled up into parcels with long thin slices of fried eggplant, which are then tucked in to a casserole dish, covered with tomato puree and baked. It’s incredibly good and can be done ages in advance, and while Nigella’s original recipe contains lots of feta, it’s easy enough to make this dairy-free or completely vegan as I did. Pistachios are even prettier than feta anyway…
This year I had the idea that I could cook the eggplant slices quickly in a toasted sandwich press brushed with a little oil. It totally worked! Didn’t look as sexy as Nigella’s glistening griddle-striped slices, but since it’s all getting covered in tomato sauce anyway, I didn’t really care, and it saved me from sweating over a hot oily pan.
The roast chicken was the only thing in the whole damn day that had dairy products in it, and that’s because Ange, our very good friend and ex-flatmate, is vegetarian as well as dairy-free. I poured cream all over the chickens before roasting them, inspired by a recipe of Ruth Pretty’s I read in the 2005 Nov/Dec issue of Cuisine magazine. It felt like an amazingly extreme thing to be doing, plus it made the birds tender, golden and crisp. Notice in the background the boiled potatoes and roasted capsicums…I don’t have the energy to photograph and talk about them individually: just know that they were there too and they tasted great. I didn’t plan for gravy but quickly boiled up the roasting pan juices (there was heaps, was a shame to waste it) with a little flour and, without any white wine to hand, threw in some sake instead. It smelled amazing and tasted just fine too.
(Sorry to keep putting you on the spot Ange) For the first time my favourite stuffing (Cornbread and Cranberry from Nigella’s Feast) was dairy-free, made with rice bran oil (what, you thought margarine? Pffft) and soymilk. Even though I really love the bit where you crumble the already buttery cornbread into a pan of melted butter and cranberries, it was still delicious, and in fact the soymilk made it almost spookily puffy and light-textured. Except I ended up baking it for too long so instead of a soft, moist stuffing it was more like a large savoury biscuit. Eh, still tasted good.
The cranberry sauce! I have to co-sign with Nidge on this one, it really is as redder-than-red as she insists. I didn’t even up the saturation in this photo.
Anyway all that was cool, but The Baked Alaska. Oh my gosh. I always like to use this day as an excuse to try out a challenging new pudding but this one had an element of stage fright to it. (In case you’re wondering, 2006 was Nigella’s Rhubarb and Mascarpone Trifle, 2007 was her Rugelach, 2008 I made her White Chocolate Almond Torte, and last year I did her Chocolate Pavlova.) The cake and ice cream I made in advance but the last bit – whipping up meringue, spreading it over them and blasting it in the oven right before serving had humungous potential for wrongness.
I used a recipe from the Floridita’s cookbook for the base and invented my own coconut-blackberry ripple ice cream for the next layer, partly because I had some blackberries in the freezer already. I know it seems unfair to recommend making your own ice cream when it’s only going to be covered in meringue. But the good thing about it is that without the preservatives and who knows what else that goes into a lot of commercial ice cream it’s way more solid and therefore a bit more forgiving when you shunt it under a blazing oven. I’d argue that it’s much more fun to make your own but that’s just me. I like making ice cream.
The ice cream was made by whisking together 4 egg yolks (the egg whites I put in a plastic container and refrigerated to use, plus two more, for the meringue) and about 150g sugar. I then heated a can of coconut milk without letting it boil, and quickly whisked it into the egg yolk mixture. All of that got returned to the pan and gently heated, while constantly whisking, till it thickened like custard. I stirred in a can of coconut cream and then began to freeze it in a shallow dish (the same one I baked the cake in actually). Then I defrosted about 150g blackberries (you could use any berry really) mashed them with a couple of tablespoons of sugar and the juice of a lemon, and drizzled it into the still-softish ice cream.
Tim took this photo and also put the ice cream and cake on top of each other on the tray while I whisked up the meringue topping. For which I’m seriously grateful, because it only occured to me halfway through making the meringue that I still had to do all that.
I made sure to follow my Nana’s advice to make sure the meringue completely covered the cake and ice cream – it provides a thick blanket of protection which allows the ice cream to survive under the heat, but if it’s not uniformly covered, the ice cream can seep out and then you’ve got a small crisis on your hands. I also followed some last-minute tweeted advice from Martin Bosley about warming up the sugar first before its beaten into the egg whites. It’s not every day that this kind of interaction comes my way so I thought I might as well try it – sat the sugar in a shallow metal bowl in the oven while it was heating up, enough to make the crystals warm but not enough to melt them into syrup. Cannot deny that my meringue whisked up in minutes with more volume and shine than a shampoo commercial.
But it worked, it worked! I felt a rush of happiness and pride just looking at it. Baked Alaska are generally supposed to resemble mountains, mine was admittedly more of a plateau, like a Baked Cape Town Table Top Mountain.
Look at the jelly in the background somehow managing to steal the show with its ruby-glow.
So on top of looking spectacular – like a pudding from a Dr Seuss book, or a Graeme Base book, or let’s face it, a Barbie film adaptation of a classic fairytale – it tasted wonderful too. It’s like having three puddings at once, all compressed into a handy cube. The radicalness of hot meringue against still-frozen ice cream. The sweetness of the topping and the creamy berry-sharp coconut ice cream against the dark cocoa-y cake. Stunning. I may have high-fived myself.
Finally: Cakeballs! So satisfying to say, make and eat. They came about because when I made the cake for the Baked Alaska and tried to turn it out of its tin onto a tray it…broke. Not so much that it couldn’t be more or less patched up, but it did leave me with a significant pile of cake crumbs. I could have eaten the lot in despair, but then I remembered Nigella’s recipe in her Christmas book for “Christmas Puddini Bonbons” aka…cakeballs. Mine were pretty simple – the cake crumbs mixed with about 125g melted chocolate and 2 tablespoons golden syrup before being rolled into balls and drizzled with more dark chocolate. What gave them that superfunk-Christmas look and transformed them from “hastily covered-up mistake” to “incredible bonbons that I will fight you for” was the judicious sprinkling of edible glitter. I’ve walked past the cupcake lady at the City Market nearly every Sunday asking how much her edible glitter is. Finally I decided that it wasn’t even expensive at all especially considering it lasts forever, and bought a small vial of it. Ohhhh how I love it. Had to hold myself back from glittering up the roast chickens.
Tim and I have been living off the leftovers ever since, which I love. We’re going up to my place for Christmas this time next week so we’re trying not to buy too much new food…just using up what’s there. I tell you, there’s nothing like standing at the kitchen bench, wordlessly eating leftover jelly off a plate to bring you closer together. (I grabbed two spoons from the draw, and then was like “Well I’ve got my spoons” like I was going to have one in each hand. Yeah, I gave him one of the spoons. But I think he believed me…I think I believed me for a second.)
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Title via: Les Miserables, Master of the House. Last night Tim and I saw the live recording of the 25th Anniversary Les Mis concert at Embassy Theatre. It was amazing – Norm Lewis (he of the faint-making voice), Lea Salonga, Ramin Karimloo, erm…Nick Jonas (he wasn’t awful per se, anyone would look useless next to Ramin). Matt Lucas of Little Britain was Thenardier, who knew the man could sing so well! I know Les Mis isn’t the height of pop culture awesomeness, especially in this post-Boyle, post-Glee time, but whatever, the music is still incredible, totally unashamed about the tears that appeared during Salonga’s I Dreamed A Dream and Lewis’ Stars.
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Music lately:
I’ve been listening to A Very Little Christmas heaps – it was put together by a whole bunch of local musicians, has some excellent seasonal tunes both original and familiar, and you can download it free, what!
Sideline, a new track from David Dallas with Che Fu. Woohoo! Is all I have to say. Because I’ve spent three days trying to write this blog and my sentence-forming ability is dissolving like sugar in a hot oven…
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Next time: Proper recipes…vegetables…

i’m miss world watch me break

You just don’t see elaborate dishes created in people’s honour these days. I mean, there are those so established that you forget – Peach Melba, Fettuccine Alfredo, Margherita Pizza, Beef Stroganoff… but nothing like the “Souffle Bowes-Lyon” from the QEII recipe book I once bought from an op shop, very 1980s with its tales of how much champagne they go through weekly and chilled gazpacho and colour plates of extremely tanned people with large hair.

A couple of years back Mum sent me a Hudson and Halls cookbook, and then this year at the library book sale I picked up another of theirs – a plastic-wrapped cookbook called Favourite Recipes from Hudson and Halls. Published in 1985, its black, dustjacketed cover has H & H in tuxedoes gazing solemnly at the reader, positioned in front of various items on a bookshelf and dresser – a clock, a lamp, a trumpet, ‘A Woman of Substance‘. Inside, their forward foreword breaks formalities with its “we have cooked together for nigh on twenty years, some of it good…some of it not so good!” Inside I found a recipe for Chicken Salad Lorraine with Peanut Cream Sauce which they named for 1983’s Miss World, New Zealand’s Lorraine Downes. I love a recipe with a decent backstory like that and I also really love peanut sauce…win win.
An often quoted line of theirs is “are we gay? Well we’re certainly merry”. With hindsight there’s sadness in that while the studio audience of their TV show would drink their wine and laugh at their comic timing, some kind of societal necessity prevented any actual openness at how this was a TV show fronted by two men in love with each other. At the time of the cookbook itself being published, the problematically worded, but comparatively progressive Homosexual Law Reforms were only just coming into effect in New Zealand. We don’t exactly live in a liberal wonderland right now, and I’m no expert on the history of NZ’s gay rights, but certainly leaps and bounds have been made since. As I’m privileged to have the world I live in and the media I consume largely reflect my own life, I can only guess at what it would have been like for H&H back then. I do know they wouldn’t have been the only ones in their position.

I’m not sure if it’s a mid-eighties thing or what, but H&H specified melons (oh my!) in the salad and much as I’m fairly adventurous, I wasn’t quite ready for it covered in peanut sauce…I figured the easier-found cucumber was within the same gene pool and along with some capsicum, would provide colour and juicy crunch. As I switched the required egg noodles for a lighter-textured pile of slippery, soft rice noodles, there’s nothing stopping you swapping the chicken for slices of fresh, firm tofu. And the more I think about it, the more it feels like peanut sauce on melons would have worked just fine…if you try it yourself, let me know!
There is on youtube an opportunity to see H&H in action which, apart from their merry chemistry, is a joy in itself as a slice of New Zealand television at the time – the giant electric frypan, the grey animated opening titles, the pinkly lit background of the studio kitchen. They snap and banter with each other, and burst into laughter. As Hudson spoons ingredients into a pan, listing them aloud, Halls interrupts offscreen with “Garlic?” to which Hudson responds “I haven’t got there yet, could you just mind your own business?” But then Hudson throws out the aside of “very good for the wrist action” while grinding pepper, which, while not as camp as Halls’ crying “Isn’t he wonderful!” while throwing his hands joyfully in the air, is still the sort of thing that continues to raise eyebrows when Nigella says it over 20 years later. I could go on and recreate an entire transcript but you might as well watch it – it’s wonderful stuff.
Chicken Salad Lorraine with Peanut Cream Sauce

With thanks to Hudson and Halls

300g good, free-range chicken thighs
1 stick of carrot, a few peppercorns, a bay leaf, coriander seeds and sprig of thyme if you have it
1/2 a lemon
1/2 a cucumber
1 yellow (or red or orange) capsicum
Peanut or sesame oil
Spring onions (optional)

Dressing

3 heaped tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup stock (from poaching the chicken)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
small piece of ginger, peeled and grated or finely minced
1 teaspoon sugar
Juice from the other 1/2 a lemon
Tobasco or other hot sauce
About 1/2 cup of cream or thick Greek yoghurt or sour cream.
Egg or rice noodles to serve.

Place chicken thighs in a pan and just cover with water. Add the carrot stick, bay leaf, peppercorns, seeds and thyme (I didn’t have any thyme but it still tasted all good) and turn on the heat, allowing the water to simmer and bubble away gently till the chicken is no longer pink and seems tender – around 15-20 minutes. Remove the chicken to a chopping board and get rid of the spices and things. Bring the remaining liquid to the boil and let it reduce somewhat. Shred the chicken or slice into bite-size chunks. Poached chicken thighs aren’t the sexiest to look at, but there’ll be plenty of distracting colour later on.

Set aside 1/4 cup of the stock for the peanut sauce, and top up the remaining stock in the pan with water, bring to the boil and cook your noodles in it according to packet instructions. Drain the noodles, toss with the peanut or sesame oil, and divide between two plates.
Slice the capsicum and the cucumber into sticks, and arrange on top of the noodles along with the chicken. Finally, whisk together the dressing ingredients (or you could blast them in a food processor) till very smooth. Drizzle the sauce over the two plates of salad, scatter with spring onions or coriander if using.

Note: I didn’t have a lemon or cream, but I did have some amazingly thick, tangy Zany Zeus Greek yoghurt which I figured would cover off both needs. It did, and how. Sour Cream would probably be great as well, or you could just leave out the dairy altogether and replace the stock with water (or vegetable stock).
Serves 2

Lorraine Downes’ name was not taken in vain here – this salad is stunning. Though, it was easier for me to arrange it between two plates rather than put it all in a bowl, so I’m not quite sure if it really even is a salad still. Oh well – the poached chicken is amazingly tender, the peanut sauce is thick but light, blanketing the crunchy vegetables and soft, deliciously bland noodles. I just love peanut sauce but even so, the mix of textures and tastes is wonderful and it’s a great dinner on one of those evenings that is hot, but not so hot that you only want to eat an ice cube for dinner.

There’s plenty to love in this book, especially the descriptions before each dish – some of it practical, some hilarious (“once met someone who was on a diet and was drinking rum essence in diet cola…it tasted abysmal.”) When you turn to the back cover, they’re on a farm, Hudson is wearing a bucket hat and sunglasses and leaning on a spade, while Halls wears tiny shorts and has a rifle casually swung over his shoulder while lunging against a fence – two large black dogs sit beside them. Hudson died of cancer in 1992 and Halls left pretty soon after him. Their books aren’t so easy to track down – while they might be due for a reprint sometime soon, it’s worth hunting next time you’re in an op shop or at a book fair. They’re a lesser known chapter of New Zealand history, not to mention there aren’t many other places these days you’ll find a salad named after a 1983 beauty queen.
Tim and I were at Wellington’s opening night of Rocky Horror Show at the St James tonight – it was an absolutely incredible show, I seriously recommend you go along if you’re even halfway curious. The staging, the quality of the acting and singing, and the sheer energy is all turned up to eleven and besides, watching an audience so joyfully receive music – it’s a beautiful thing. Obviously it was exciting to see the strangely ageless Richard O’Brien who created the show, star as narrator (the round of applause on his entrance brought the performance to a halt) and you gotta hand it to Kristian Lavercombe playing O’Brien’s original role of Riff Raff with such wicked aplomb. Special mention must go to Juan Jackson who played Frank’n’Furter; he barely needed acting ability with his charismatic muscle structure, but luckily he could emote realistically, sing like the great-grandchild of Paul Robeson, and skip carelessly in platform heels. Being a rock opera it maintains a cracking pace – it’s easy to forget just how many incredible songs are crammed into this one wonderful show.
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Title via: Hole’s Miss World from Live Through This. Have much love for Courtney.
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Music lately:
I’ve been trying to avoid Christmas songs but seeing as it’s December 1st (eeeeek!) I’ve indulged myself with the sublimely ridiculous Turkey Lurkey Time from Promises Promises. Seriously, just watch it.

As well as the seasonal stuff I’ve been listening to a fair few John Peel compilations lately – which means Buzzcocks, What Do I Get/Lion Rock by Culture etc etc…
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Next time: For some reason this blog post took me forever to get done, and I guess things are only going to get busier from here on in…but hopefully I’ll get another blog post in before the end of the week, it’ll either be something vegetable-based (woo!) or this amazing cake recipe I found which has mayonnaise (what!) in it.

puttin’ on the grits

Straightforward question: what’s your favourite food?


Me: ice cream and cornbread.

A while back if you’d asked this I would have frozen up and said “ummm chocolate?” but today I was sitting around daydreaming about how I might answer various questions on the offchance that some cool magazine wanted to interview me, and I managed to narrow it down to those two. Like Kenneth Parcell (“There are only two things I love in this world. Everybody and television”) I am a throw-my-arms-around-the-world kind of foodlover, but where “most edible things” is an adequate answer, cornbread and ice cream is more specific. That said, I’m also happy to call Nigella’s Chocolate Guinness Cake one of my favourite things to make. You would be too.



All this daydreaming about cornbread made me crave a slice of it like crazy. It’s just another cold, dark, early winter Wellington evening and I’ve got a sore throat. Who ya gonna call? Nigella, fool!

On Sunday night I bought a healthy, happy Waitoa Free Range chicken and roasted her up with white wine, lemons, butter and breadcrumbs. The cold leftovers in the fridge got turned into pasta last night with the roasting pan juices and golden sultanas soaked in sherry. Tonight I’m finishing off the chicken by going vaguely Mexican, inspired by a salad recipe from Nigella Express, with her cornbread on the side. Just saying it almost makes my sore throat better.



Mexican Chicken Salad

Adapted from Nigella Express

Dressing:

1 ripe avocado
1/2 cup sour cream (or good mayonnaise, to make this dairy-free)
juice of a lime
1 garlic clove, crushed
salt and pepper to taste

Either whisk the dressing ingredients together or blitz them in a food processor.

Salad:

300g shredded, cooked chicken
1 crisp apple, diced
2 spring onions, chopped
handful chopped coriander
125g shredded cos lettuce (I used cabbage)

Put all the salad ingredients in a bowl, spoon the dressing over the top.



Like a warm, buttery yellow mattress. I could actually lie down on top of it and fall asleep quite happily. Tim and I sat on either side of this, slicing off pieces and buttering them. What remains is kind of a wonky Z shaped bit of cornbread

Cornbread

175g cornmeal (or polenta, same diff so look for either)
125g plain flour
45g caster sugar
2 t baking powder
250ml full fat milk
1 egg
45g butter, melted
Set oven to 200 C. Grease whatever you’re using – a muffin tin, a 20cm-ish brownie tin, etc. Melt the butter. Stir in the milk and egg with a fork. Then tip in all the dry ingredients, mix till just combined – don’t worry about lumps – then pour into your tin and bake, for 20-25 minutes. I have made this with superfine cornmeal and the more granular stuff, and a mix of the two, anything is fine really although the granular stuff gives slightly more bite to your finished product.

It was such a good dinner. Even with all the crispness and coolness of the salad it worked in this colder weather, fresh flavours to wake you up on a dark evening. It’s amazingly rewarding to eat for the little effort you need to put in. You could replace the chicken with anything else – beef, tofu, chickpeas…you could leave the sour cream out of the dressing, use mayonnaise or yoghurt, double the quantities and drink it like a savoury green smoothie, whatever, really. The sour cream suits the avocado, their tanginess and richness going head to head like it’s Tekken 2 but instead of a nubile catsuited woman and the panda bear (my favourite character) engaging in combat, the flavours skip off hand in hand towards the sunset, singing in perfect harmony. I have a feeling, having just re-read that, that I gotta lay off the cough syrup before trying to blog, as it messes with my ability to throw down a decent metaphor.

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Title coming atcha via: Puttin’ On The Ritz, a song that I did a choreographed and performed a tap dance to at the 1997 (1996?) Combined Schools Choir Festival. While I may not have been up to the great Fred Astaire I’m sure in my own mind, at the time, I was well on my way.
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Music lately:

What You Know About Baltimore by Ogun feat Phathead from The Wire: “…and all the pieces matter” What do I know about Baltimore? Not much more than I know about, say, Fielding I guess. This song is awesome, the delivery of the titular interrogative somehow both menacing and blase at the same time. First time I heard this song I kept swivelling my head to look out the window – I swear it sounds like someone’s yelling “Laura!” in the background of the song at various points.

Buffalo Gals by the recently late Malcolm McLaren. A prosaic choice, but to be fair, I was never exactly a walking catalogue of his work. This song is sprinkled with all kinds of good things laid over a minimalist beat that was ahead of its time – thinking about how in the mid 2000s there was that trend for songs that were almost not even there at all. It must have been an exciting life he led, and while I can’t say I thought about him on a daily basis, it was sad news – he was in many ways a drop of bright red food colouring in the plain white icing of recent music history.

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Next time: I have some tofu in the fridge that needs using…although if this sore throat doesn’t sort itself out it might be a steady diet of chicken soup and Canadiol expectorant. Hopefully I get better soon because it’s my birthday on Saturday. Any suggestions about what I could do? As always, April appears suddenly and I’m caught short without any cool ideas. I’ll be 24. Hopefully still young enough to be interesting, goodness knows there is probably some seven year old out there who’s writing a blog about making cupcakes while interweaving Clay Davis quotes and referencing some obscure early draft of Evita…any suggestions about how a good birthday is spent are more than welcome.