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!

Vegan Cardamom Thyme Chocolate Puddings

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Every time I think I’ve Done Something by adding a pinch of cardamom to a recipe I hear Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly saying “florals, for spring? Groundbreaking”, but as I favour known deliciousness over needless striving for innovation (or worse: striving for virality) I can calmly tell this fictional character onto whom I’m projecting that yes, cardamom is wonderful, and here’s more of it. Obviously people have been using cardamom for centuries — it’s referred to in ancient Sanskrit texts, was beloved of Hippocrates, part of the Song Dynasty economy — and it’s pleasing to know, as I tuck into this chocolate pudding from the comfort of my bed, that I’m participating in the noble continuation of a grand culinary tradition.

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Sometimes the right answer isn’t where you’re looking for it. This recipe started off as an ice cream, and very fine it was, but the wistfully cardamom-tinted richness of the unfrozen mixture stuck with me more, so I made it again and dialled it back a few steps. Both cardamom and thyme have a kind of resiny, oily fragrance that’s wobbling just on the precipice of lemon without actually being lemony; together they lift the chocolate’s heavy curtains while still emphasising its richness, adding an air of mystery without being intrusive. Now, the first time I made this I let the coconut cream sit with its bashed cardamom pods for six hours to infuse, the second time I was in more of a hurry and it only sat for half an hour; it was still good but the cardamom didn’t make itself so known. If you end up in this same position, put ground cardamom on your shopping list and add as much as you need to the chocolate mixture till the flavour pops.

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This recipe is, I grant you, kind of annoying: first I ask for cashew butter (what are we, squillionaires) and second it requires two separate saucepans, but at least you don’t have to use a blender? And after a certain point of streamlining and cutting corners we have to accept that cooking food does involve being in your kitchen. For your efforts and sink full of dishes, however, you get a chocolate pudding of astonishing lusciousness, so dense and dark that you half expect a curious hippo’s nostrils to emerge through its surface; wildly sophisticated thanks to the individual portions and fragrant cardamom (and my fairly low bar for what constitutes sophistication), and yet inner-childishly comforting with its yielding softness and vague evocation, as you drag your spoon through the chocolate, of being given a scraped-out bowl of cake batter to lick. (Also: no tiktok video this week, my phone has suddenly decided it has all the capacity and power of a 125mb thumb drive from 2006 and as such I was up till 3am last night trying to clear storage space so I could edit one single video of chocolate melting and was thwarted at every turn. I have about 1000 fewer photos on my phone but it’s still being all “no x” whenever I try to edit that one video. Can’t wait till I try this again next time!)

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Cardamom Thyme Chocolate Puddings

Velvet-rich chocolate kissed with cardamom and fresh thyme: it’s a little messy to make and requires some advance planning, but every spoonful is a reward. And if you don’t have time to let the coconut cream infuse, add 1/2 a teaspoon ground cardamom — or more to taste — as you’re mixing it into the chocolate. Recipe by myself.

  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 x 400ml tin full-fat coconut cream
  • 1 cup/250ml water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 3 heaped tablespoons smooth cashew butter
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • Extra thyme leaves, for serving

1: Split the cardamom pods with a knife to release the black seeds within, and place the seeds and pods along with the two sprigs of thyme and the tin of coconut cream in a small saucepan and gently heat it, stirring, till the coconut cream is just too hot to touch, with a couple small bubbles escaping to the surface, but nowhere near boiling. Remove it from the heat — if you have the time, let it sit for about six hours in the fridge to soak up all the cardamom and thyme flavour, if not, just set it aside while you get on with the rest of the recipe, and add some ground cardamom to taste when you mix it into the chocolate later.

2: Roughly chop the 200g dark chocolate and set aside. In another saucepan, stir together the cup of water, the 1/2 cup brown sugar, two tablespoons golden syrup and three heaped tablespoons smooth cashew butter. Bring to a boil, stirring regularly with a whisk — it’ll look very unlikely at this stage but with a little heat (and a lot of chocolate later) it will all come together. Once it’s reached the boil, by which point it should resemble caramel sauce, let it bubble away for two minutes, stirring constantly, and then remove from the heat.

3: Let the cashew syrup sit for a minute till it stops bubbling, then tip in the chopped dark chocolate and briskly stir till the chocolate has melted. Now, take your initial pan of coconut cream, and strain it into the chocolate mixture through a sieve, so it catches the leaves and bits of cardamom. Whisk the two mixtures together, adding ground cardamom at this point if you feel like it needs a boost, and divide this mixture between your chosen serving bowls. Refrigerate the puddings for about two hours (though they can happily sit in the fridge overnight if need be) and serve scattered with extra thyme leaves.

The number of servings depends on the size of your ramekins/bowls etc, but this makes roughly 700ml of pudding mixture, and I divided it between six different receptacles, which made for a comfortable serving of pudding: enough to feel like you’ve really eaten something, but not enough that you feel like you’ve overcommitted. It would look lovely in martini or other cocktail glasses, I also liked how they looked in the base of the capacious stemless wine glasses that you can see in some of the photos here. And you could always test how it will look by filling your glasses with the same amount of water first, eg if you have seven glasses then pour in 100ml water.

Notes:

  • I haven’t tested it either way so I couldn’t say for sure but if you can’t get cashew butter, I imagine you could replace it with smooth almond butter; you could possibly leave it out altogether, bearing in mind the effect this will have on the finished texture and richness. I periodically order cashew butter from Revive, it’s the best I’ve ever tasted, it keeps for ages, and they regularly put it on special.
  • If your cashew butter is unsalted, add a pinch of salt when you’re whisking the chocolate and coconut cream together; you could also sprinkle over some sea salt flakes to serve.
  • If you’re serving this to fusspots who don’t like cardamom and thyme, subtle though they are here, leave them out and add a couple teaspoons of vanilla extract when whisking everything together at the end.

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music lately:

Kid by Steve Lawrence (aka Mr Eydie Gormé) from the 1968 musical Golden Rainbow. Apropos of nothing I’ve decided to work my way through every Broadway flop mentioned in the song Monkeys and Playbills from [title of show]; Golden Rainbow is second on the list and there’s something charming about this song, about that cavernous late-60s sound, and about Lawrence’s throaty, Scott Walker-esque voice.

It’s Like That, by Run-DMC and Jason Nevins. Simply cannot overstate the effect that this music video had on me in 1997! I require an oral history of it right now!

Seagull by Ride, the sort of song that makes you feel like you could run vertically up a gust of wind onto the roof of a tall building, perhaps following it up by leaping from rooftop to rooftop as you run from one end of the city to the other without any danger of falling.

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 Chocolate Rosemary Cookies

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One of my favourite things to do with rosemary, in a prior life as a bartender, was to garnish drinks (most specifically, a blackberry daiquiri made with halloumi-infused rum) with a sprig that had been held over a lit match — a brief singe from the flame made the rosemary’s already heady fragrance positively dizzying. I love rosemary in all its smoky, haunting richness, and use it as often as is practical, but like an absolute dunce, it never occurred to me to pair it with chocolate. But that’s the joy of reading cookbooks, isn’t it? Someone else does the thinking for you, and you get to enjoy the delicious results of their creative toil. While reading Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s book I Can Cook Vegan I landed upon her recipe for Chocolate Rosemary Cookies, and immediately knew I would love them and, more pragmatically, that I had to bake them.

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Of course it makes sense: chocolate is sweet, sure, but there’s all that cocoa bitterness; and rosemary, while associated more with dinner than dessert, has just the right level of robustness to match the chocolate’s dominance, and its woodsy fragrance is very amenable to sugar.

Grateful though I am for this recipe, I ended up adding quite a bit more flour to get the dough to a workable consistency, curiously, however, it still made the same quantity of cookies as stated in the book. (Actually, this is not so curious; I did eat some of the dough as I was rolling the cookies, it’s very good and consider yourself warned.) Aside from that, the recipe is a breeze; one bowl, a wooden spoon, that’s all you need.

@hungryandfrozen

chocolate rosemary cookies • recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com 🍪 #vegan #nz #baking #chocolate #cookies #foodblogger

♬ So Long, Marianne – Leonard Cohen

And the taste? So good! The rosemary gives both herbal delicateness and elegant intrigue (I was about to call it a cookie of mystery before realising that’s veering into Austin Powers territory), and the double action of both cocoa and chunks of dark chocolate makes these meltingly intense.

If you’re not already a fan of rosemary then I don’t seek to change your mind with these; they’re also possibly — despite the chocolate, and without wanting to generalise about children’s palates — not the most immediately child-friendly biscuit. Rather than being a workhorse tin-filler, these cookies are incredibly chic and would be perfect after a dinner party with coffee or liqueurs. These would also be an excellent gift, so long as you know the person likes rosemary — you could even consider fixing a sprig of rosemary to the package with some rustic brown string; I offer this suggestion as someone who is dreadfully uncoordinated at wrapping presents, and it may or may not work. Nevermind: the cookies, delicious as they are, speak for themselves.

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Vegan Chocolate Rosemary Cookies

Rich, dark and melting, with a pastoral scattering of rosemary through the dough — let me assure you, having eaten many of these cookies now, that chocolate and rosemary are an excellent match for each other. This recipe is adapted a little from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s book I Can Cook Vegan.

  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 cup refined coconut oil, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup oat milk, or similar
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds (or, you can use ground flax seeds)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 and 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup good cocoa powder (see notes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 120g dark chocolate

1: Line a flat baking tray/cookie sheet with a piece of baking paper. Finely chop the two tablespoons of fresh rosemary leaves, and, while you’re at it, you might as well chop the 120g dark chocolate into rough chunks and small pieces (although keep them separate, the rosemary is added at the start; the chocolate at the end.) Because I let the cookie dough rest in the fridge for a bit, I tend not to preheat the oven at this early juncture, but just so you know I haven’t forgotten about it and it will happen.

2: Place the 1/2 cup of room temperature refined coconut oil, the 1/3 cup each brown and white sugar, and the chopped rosemary leaves into a good-sized mixing bowl, and beat briskly with a wooden spoon for about a minute. Pour in the 1/4 cup of oat milk, the tablespoon of chia seeds, and the two teaspoons of vanilla and beat again.

3: Sift the 1 and 3/4 cups of flour, the 1/3 cup cocoa, the 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda — and don’t skip the sieving bit here, neither cocoa nor baking soda is something you want lumps of — and stir to form a thick dough. Fold in the chopped chocolate from step one, and then put the bowl of cookie dough into the fridge to rest while you heat the oven to 180C/350F.

4: Use a tablespoon — as in, a measuring spoon, not a large serving spoon — to scoop out the cookie dough, gently rolling it into balls in your hands before setting them out on the awaiting, paper-lined tray. I laid them out four by three, they don’t spread much but it’s good to give them a little room to breathe. Use the back of the tablespoon to flatten the dough balls just a little, then bake for 10-12 minutes (bearing in mind that the cookies will continue to firm up as they sit out of the oven) before transferring them to a cooling rack. Repeat with the remainder of the dough.

Makes around 24 cookies although, if you don’t eat any dough — and I’m warning you, it is really nice — you could probably get at least 26. Keep them in an airtight container in the fridge, although if your kitchen is cool, they should be fine just in the pantry.

Notes:
Regarding cocoa — if the nutritional information states that it contains anything less than 20g of fat per 100g cocoa, then it’s not worth your time or money. By which I mean, look for cocoa with 20g fat/100g and above. There’s not much I’m really fussy about in the kitchen but this is important!! You deserve good chocolate.

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music lately:

A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow, by Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, in character as Mitch and Mickey in the film A Mighty Wind. The music to this satirical film is so GOOD it’s UNREAL, you know when a dog gets overexcited and runs around in circles chasing its tail, well that is me thinking about the music to this film. This song, the emotional heart of the film, also makes me so emotional, and this specific iteration, where Levy and O’Hara, in character, perform the song at the Oscars, where — abhorrently! Reprehensibly! — they did not win the award for best song, undoes me every time. I literally cannot sound normal when talking about the music to this film, and for that I apologise; and also for the fact that I’m not done yet; as I also urge you to listen to When You’re Next To Me, written by Levy himself for the film; the way he and O’Hara’s voices were made to harmonise together — the way the last chorus builds to a cavalcade — there’s nothing parodic about this, it’s just purely, breathtakingly beautiful.

Breathe Again by Toni Braxton. A perfect song, and Braxton is such a master of her vocals — the way she goes from her deeper register to that gorgeous “breathe again, breathe again” refrain gives me the chills every time.

Then Comes Dudley by The Jesus Lizard. My second-favourite band with “The Jesus” in their name; but it’s not a distant second by any means, not with songs like this!

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!

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 Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread

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Getting used to something and being enthusiastic about it are two different things, but the absence of hatred is a start – of course, I’m talking about margarine, which I’ve resigned myself to using in various cooked and baked goods to the point where it’s done without thinking, and certainly without self-flagellation. I’ve been vegan for long enough now that I no longer appreciate the concept of consuming large quantities of dairy – that milk is none of my business! – but…it would be nice if margarine companies at least tried to emulate butter’s undeniably good flavour. Humans are capable of untold scientific endeavour, where’s that energy in margarine? I understand there are great vegan butters out there – and by “out there” I mean selected pockets of America – but here in New Zealand it’s margarine or nothing, and, well, I refuse to have nothing, so the margarine has to work for me.

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In the case of shortbread, where butter is the main event, the star, the biscuit’s reason for getting up in the morning – you’d be forgiven for assuming that a margarine-based recipe would be a failure, tinged with that tongue-lingering nastiness that only strong flavours can mask. First of all, you have to find the margarine that’s least vexatious, the most tolerable – for me, that’s Olivani (not Nuttelex, as I initially assumed when embarking on this highly-committed whim). Second of all, you have to believe me when I say – and I’m genuinely astonished by it – that this shortbread doesn’t taste like margarine. It doesn’t! It tastes softly buttery and mildly sweet and very reassuringly shortbready. It does, however, lack that final convincing push of flavour that butter enjoys; hence the helping hand offered by the regionally unorthodox yet highly recommended chocolate dip over half of each shortbread.

As well as bringing the obvious to the table – delicious chocolate flavour! – the firm shell of chocolate, especially when fridge-cold, has this fantastic contrasting bite compared to the fine-grained shortbread below, which melts in your mouth like sand disappearing into seawater. You can leave these plain if you don’t have any chocolate or you’re severely disapproving of any variation on this traditionally Scottish biscuit, but if you’re up for it this chocolate step comes highly, if not strenuously, endorsed.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan chocolate dipped shortbread 🍫 recipe @ hungryandfrozen.com 🤠 #vegan #chocolate #veganbaking #recipe #nzfood #foodblogger #fyp #plantbased

♬ Working for the Knife – Mitski

I had intended for these to be adorable chocolate-dipped stars, but I realised moments before starting the recipe that I had lost my star-shaped cutter somewhere in the fifty million times I moved house in the last five years; all I could find was a set of Christmas-themed cookie cutters which curiously did not include a star but did have a vague and formless shape that I could only assume was Santa with his sack upon his back or perhaps a slightly wonky and unsure-of-foot partridge. My aesthetic loss is absolutely your gain – this method is significantly easier and faster, scored and baked all at once in a tin then prised apart into rustic rectangular fingers.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, we’re in the frenzied grips of my mother’s lockdown project where we celebrate a different country that one of us has been to each day, in alphabetical order; I will definitely be making the Fijian Tarkari and the Česnečka from the Czech Republic again; my attempt at a vegan haggis is probably best kept a memory not to be relived. These shortbreads, however, will definitely be back.

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Vegan Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread

This vegan shortbread is simple, delicious, and made all the more palatable with a dunk in some melted chocolate. I swear to you, the recipe really is straightforward and super easy – I just couldn’t work out how to explain any elements of it in a succinct manner.
Recipe by myself.

  • 200g vegan butter/margarine (I used – and recommend – Olivani)
  • 90g icing sugar
  • 300g flour
  • 3 tablespoons custard powder
  • 150g dark chocolate

1: Beat the butter and icing sugar together in a large mixing bowl until light and creamy – which should only take a minute or two – then tip in the flour and cornflour and carefully stir it all together (I say carefully because it’s very easy to shunt large clouds of flour everywhere at this point). Push the dough together into a ball with your hands, then cover the bowl with a clean tea towel or lid and put it in the fridge for about twenty minutes.

2: While this is happening, set your oven to 160C/320F and line a 28x18cm baking dish/brownie tin with a sheet of baking paper. Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and press it out evenly into the tin – you can lay another sheet of baking paper over the top and gently press down on it to make it more even, removing it before baking of course. Jab the dough several times with a fork, which helps steam escape and makes it rise neatly; and then use a knife to score it twice horizontally and vertically several times, so you have about 24 similarly-sized rectangles. Apologies if this description doesn’t make much sense – basically you’re just scoring the dough as if you were preparing to slice it up, which makes it easier to slice once it’s actually out of the oven.

3: Bake the shortbread dough for 35 minutes – checking often – or until it’s lightly golden and the surface is firm. Remove the cooked shortbread out of the dish by lifting the edges of the sheet of baking paper. Use a knife to slice through the lines you scored earlier, then carefully ferry each individual shortbread to a cooling rack.

4: Once the shortbreads have cooled, melt the chocolate however you normally do it (I used a small glass bowl and 20-second bursts in the microwave, but if you put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and then rest that bowl on a pan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water, that works too). Carefully dip each shortbread halfway – so half of it is coated in chocolate and half of it remains bare – and sit them on a tray lined with baking paper, then refrigerate till set. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Makes around 24.

Notes:

  • If you don’t have custard powder or are simply disinclined to use it, replace it with the same amount of cornflour (or cornstarch for the Americans) and add a generous splash of vanilla extract.
  • In my experience, Olivani is the best-behaved and most mellow-flavoured margarine – better than Nuttelex for sure – but you use whatever you’re comfortable with.

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music lately:

Minority by Green Day – I don’t know what it is about them but whenever I’m like “I’m a fan of Green Day” I say it in this reverent yet apologetic voice like I’m revealing some great shuddering truth about myself (it’s very similar to the voice I use when I own up that I’m a bigtime show tunes kind of guy.) Anyway, I’ve always been very fond of this song and its jauntiness and year-2000-ness and the impenetrable Mairzy Doats quality to the lyrics. I’m especially fond of this live version at Milton Keynes in 2005, since I was in that very audience.

Working For The Knife, by Mitski – new Mitski! New Mitski music in 2021! I feel like Ebenezer Scrooge throwing open his windows on Christmas Day. This is very important! Also, I was super nervous, and put off listening to it in case it wasn’t exactly what I’d hoped, and then got anxious in case I was somehow letting Mitski down, or in case people were like “oho, a fair-weather fan, are we” but of course none of those things happened (or was going to happen) and as soon as she sang “I cry at the start of every movie/I guess ’cause I wish I was making things too” I knew she was BACK.

Hello Dad…I’m In Jail by Was (Not Was). Like the Sideshow Bob stepping on a rake scene in The Simpsons – truly the opposite of diminishing returns.

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 Chocolate Guinness Cake

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As a rule, an abiding principle, a personal boundary: I hate anything that suggests even the merest hint of “team-building exercise”, three words that make my shoulders immediately stoop earthwards in resigned anticipation of all the time I’ll never get back from my one wild and free life. That being said I also like to please and being in this endless (necessary! but endless) lockdown does strange things to all of us, in my case it’s that I’ve ended up kind of throwing myself wholeheartedly into Mum’s lockdown project of honouring a new theme each day. Which brings us to this Vegan Chocolate Guinness Cake.

You see, first we did a letter of the alphabet each day (for example on W day we listened to the Who and classical waltzes and I made a Woon Heng recipe for dinner) and when lockdown exceeded 26 days we hastily assembled the next ongoing theme: a new country each day, that at least one person in the family had been to, in – and bear with me here – alphabetical order, with music from that country and at least one regional dish or attempt thereof for dinner. We’re up to the letter I, which brings us to Ireland, which I visited in 2005, and The Cranberries/The Undertones/Thin Lizzy/My Bloody Valentine/Enya as the day’s soundtrack. I found a couple of cans of Guinness in my cupboard leftover from making last year’s Christmas Cake and before I knew it I was spontaneously and enthusiastically throwing together a vegan version of Nigella Lawson’s classic Chocolate Guinness Cake, like someone who enjoys activities and showing initiative. I don’t, but I do like hyperfocussing on a project and I love the opportunity for arbitrary culinarily decisions and in all honesty it has been a lot of fun – not a bit like team-building exercises, in fact.

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As I said, this recipe is inspired by Nigella Lawson’s cake from her book Feast, which I used to make all the time – because it was so incredibly delicious! – and while this version lacks that throat-coating full-cream dairy factor from the cream cheese icing, it’s a pretty fantastic tribute and I’m very pleased with myself. In case you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing this combination of chocolate and Guinness before, the bitter aggression of the Guinness provides an intense and dark backdrop to the cocoa and yet all its rough edges are entirely bevelled back and tempered by the cake batter and the sweetness in the icing. Curiously, despite the sugar in the cake exceeding that in the topping, the latter is much sweeter than the former, such is the black-hole abilities of Guinness to absorb everything that comes into its path. I’m not someone who can sit down and drink a Guinness with any conviction – it’s too blood-nosedly ferrous for me – but mixed with chocolate it’s quite spectacular, entirely palatable, and makes perfect sense – after all, dark coffee and chocolate are a go-to pairing, this just takes it one step further in the direction of bitterness.

Real hungryandfrozen-heads will notice that this recipe method doesn’t differ too much from my Incredibly Delicious Mocha Cake; that cake has never failed me and so I figured it would be a decent blueprint for this Guinness cake – and once more it came through. As well as being utterly delicious, dense yet light-crumbed, rich and celebratory yet unpretentious and comforting, this cake is a mere one-bowl situation and it leaves you plenty of Guinness leftover to drink from its tall can – if you have the palate for it – otherwise, I guess you’ll just have to make another cake.

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Vegan Chocolate Guinness Cake

A dense yet light-textured chocolate cake full of rich bitter Guinness – my vegan take on Nigella Lawson’s classic recipe. This is a one-bowl affair with a creamy, tangy frosting, and is just incredibly delicious. Recipe by myself.

  • 2 and 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 cup good dark cocoa (see notes)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain oil, eg rice bran
  • 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon malt vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup (or light corn syrup or treacle if you’re in the US)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 cup/250ml Guinness

1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and grease and line a 21cm springform or loose-based cake tin. Place the flour in a large mixing bowl, then sieve in the baking soda and cocoa and stir to combine. Make a well in the centre and add everything except the Guinness, and stir briefly – it will look thick and dry and unlikely at this point but we’ve still got the Guinness to go, so don’t you worry.

2: Pour in the Guinness and slowly stir everything together to form a thick cake batter, making sure there’s no lumps of flour caught in it. Spatula this mixture into your prepared cake tin and bake for forty minutes, covering with tin foil in the last ten minutes if need be. Allow to cool completely on a cake rack.

For the Icing:

This uses the sourness of citric acid and the fulsome saltiness of miso paste to emulate the vibe of the cream cheese icing that customarily goes with this cake; that being said if you can get hold of vegan cream cheese (or you’re happy to eat dairy) then feel free to use that instead in place of the coconut oil and coconut milk, leaving out the citric and miso and adjusting the lemon juice quantities as needed. I’ve included coconut milk here for its creaminess and because I figure you’ll have some leftover from the can you opened for the cake; you barely taste any coconut in the finished frosting. Finally, if you don’t have a food processor you can use a bowl and a wooden spoon to make this but it’ll take considerably more effort to get it thick and smooth. But, this is how people make icing for centuries so it’s not impossible.

  • 1 and 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoons soft refined coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon citric acid
  • 1/2 teaspoon miso paste
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1-3 tablespoons full-fat coconut milk

1: Tip the icing sugar into the food processor and pulse a few times to get rid of any lumps. Add the coconut oil, citric acid, and miso paste, and process to combine. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice and the coconut milk, one tablespoon at a time, and process until you have a very thick, very smooth, bright white frosting. If it needs more liquid add it a little at a time. Set the icing aside in a cool place until needed. (I put it in the fridge, which made it entirely too solid, but sitting the bowl in a second bowl of hot water and stirring it helped.)

2: Spatula the icing onto the top of the cooled cake and spread it evenly over the top, leaving the sides bare. Store in an airtight container.

Notes:

  • When buying cocoa, look for a brand that has a minimum of 20g fat per 100g – I try not to be fussy with you about ingredients but anything less than 20g is not worth your while and will taste weak and is false economy.
  • I accidentally overcooked my cake – it was fine, but the edges were a little crisp, so I just prodded it with a skewer and brushed it with a quick syrup of a few spoons of brown sugar dissolved in an equal quantity of hot water before applying the icing with a pastry brush, and I pass this along in case you find yourself in the same predicament.
  • You could probably use soy milk or something similar instead of coconut milk in the cake and still have it turn out fine; but Nigella’s original recipe uses sour cream and I wanted something particularly creamy and fat to offset the bitter Guinness, so I do think it’s necessary – the finished cake doesn’t taste anything like coconut, I promise.
  • If you don’t have miso paste or just don’t have any confidence in my decision making – and it’s true, we do ask a lot of miso paste these days, perhaps too much even – then leave it out and add a pinch of salt.

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music lately:

I Wanna Be A Cowboy, Baby! by CMAT – who, coincidentally, is from Dublin. My friend Jordan recommended her music to me and in turn, I enthusiastically recommend her to you (I also recommend to you to recommend songs to me in general, as long as you’re prepared for my candid evaluation.)

For Good from the musical Wicked as performed by original cast members Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel at the Tony Awards this week. Now – this is not something I say lightly – I don’t necessarily love this song in and of itself, it’s not the most exciting or lyrically dexterous, to me, but I will always drop everything to watch a live performance of it because what it does give you is four and a half minutes of Acting and Emotion and Unbearable Momentousness. To see Chenoweth and Menzel reunited here – a very rare occurrence in the eighteen years since Wicked launched on Broadway – at the first Tony Awards since 2019, to see them hold hands and perform this song with all the sincerity of their long-ago characters but also as themselves, to hear those gentle but defined harmonies where she goes low and she goes high – well, you already know I cried.

You Mean The World To Me by Toni Braxton, simply a perfect song – obviously you could take Babyface’s back catalogue to a desert island and never run out of hits but he and Braxton together are a match made in heaven – that “oh baby baby, baby baby, babyyyy” bit at the end of the chorus has to be up there with the various pinnacles of human creative achievement.

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 Chewy Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies

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Brevity is a rare treat round these parts but this week has munted my concentration levels – such as they are – so you’re spared my usual dissertation. The thing is there’s not a lot to say about these cookies anyway – they’re simple, they’re good, and they’ve got oats and chocolate in them.

These are a solid workhorse cookie, a stalwart, neither austere nor gilded, just the sort of thing you want to eat when the hand reaches half past the hour or when you hear water coming to the boil. In her most recent book, the excellent Cook, Eat, Repeat, Nigella Lawson says of a rice dish: “You will not get blown away by this. It won’t be the most electrifying thing you’ve ever eaten. This is not to disparage it…If I felt it weren’t worthy of your time or your table, I wouldn’t include it.” I appreciated her appraising description of the dish. Food-writing can lean all too easily on hyperbole, but when hyperbole is all you have, how can any recipe stand out – or stand up to scrutiny? (I like to claim that I never exaggerate – that my heightened language is simply the precise and appropriate response to whatever I’m describing – but I’m aware it definitely looks like a duck and quacks, hyperbolically, like a duck.)

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And don’t get me wrong, these cookies are delicious – with an almost custardy vanilla perfume and a modest scattering of chopped dark chocolate throughout their small round bodies. Importantly they’re as relaxing to make as they are to eat and behave beautifully – place a squat ball of dough on the baking dish with confidence that it will not spread, crumble, or cook too fast into an inedible rusk. Says Nigella of her rice dish, “there is just something quiet and lovely about it that seems to still the air around you as you eat.” Much the same could be said of these cookies. They won’t blow your hair back, and they’re not the sort of cookie to go viral, cruelly pulled apart and folded in half for the camera to reveal a dripping, uncooked interior. But they will make your life better in an unobtrusive fashion and sometimes that’s where your energy levels are at.

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Despite several hours of trying, and for reasons I cannot fathom other than everything these past few weeks has actively worked to thwart me, I couldn’t embed the cute TikTok video I made to go with these cookies, but you can view it here (or directly in the app of course.)

Vegan Chewy Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies

Easy, simple everyday vegan cookies, chewy from the oats and scattered with chopped chocolate. I genuinely don’t know how many this makes because I’m always eating the dough as I go, but from experience, if you only eat a modest quantity of dough and use a tablespoon measure to form the cookies, you should get 35. These cookies are loosely based on this recipe at Simple Sweet Vegan which I used as a starting point.

  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup soft vegan butter (eg margarine)
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil, I used rice bran
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 75g-100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped small
  • 2 cups flour

1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and line two baking trays with baking paper. Mix the chia seeds and water together in a small cup or ramekin and set aside for the chia seeds to swell.

2: Place the butter, oil, and sugars in a mixing bowl and beat with a wooden spoon till they’re combined and fluffy. Beat in the chia seeds, followed by the cinnamon, vanilla, baking soda and salt – although you’re not going to get a ton of aeration here as you would with eggs I like to mix it energetically for a few minutes as if this were the case, it probably doesn’t have much effect but it feels like you’re doing something worthwhile.

3: Fold in the oats and chocolate pieces, then stir in the flour to form a very thick dough. Roll tablespoons of dough into balls and place on the trays – no need to flatten – about two inches apart. They don’t spread out but I like to give them a little room to breathe. Bake each tray one at a time for fifteen minutes each, transferring the cookies to a wire rack to cool before storing them in an airtight container.

Notes:

  • I haven’t tried it but I’m sure you could replace the chia seeds with ground flaxseeds
  • I promise the end result doesn’t taste a thing like margarine, and I am still the hardest boss to beat in this regard.
  • The cinnamon is barely detectable in the finished product and simply adds a sheer backdrop of comforting warmth, absolutely add more if you want it to actually taste of cinnamon.
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music lately:

Dark by Gary Numan. There’s a stretch of time in the late 90s that produced a lot of stupendous industrial music like this, in my head I call it “GreggArakiCore”, music that makes you feel like you’re wearing pleather pants and dancing in a decommissioned asbestos factory, I was only eleven in 1997 which is why my impression of this music is very stupid and surface-level but even a child can hear this and know for sure that it’s the music of people who are living.

New Rose, The Damned. My brother gave me a drum lesson the other day so I could accompany him on guitar, and I was pretty decent, as I should be three generations of drummers deep, and I went back out to the drum kit by myself a few days later and was simply astonished to discover I couldn’t immediately play one of my favourite songs just by staring at the drums and imagining the song in my head. Maybe next time! Anyway, listen to this song – doesn’t it make you want to play the drums? (We did manage a serviceable Just Like Honey played by ear but obviously, that’s pretty entry-level.)

The Story Goes On by Lea Salonga and Liz Callaway – two of the most crystalline, gleaming voices in musical theatre – this was Liz’s song in the 1983 musical Baby and the presence of harmonies with Lea only makes it even more beautiful – the towering, mountainous ending is just glorious and worth sticking around for.

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.