c’mon everybody and rock with me, I am the one on the Christmas tree

2aead-download28629

I love this time of year – no, not Christmas, I mean this precise moment, where I do my annual round up of recipes from this blog that I believe would make ideal potential edible gift ideas for the season ahead or indeed any time (which also coincides with my annual struggle to convey this concept in a concise manner.) It’s not just that it gives me a break from devising content, and it’s not just that it’s an opportunity to be self-congratulatory and self-serving in equal measure – actually, that’s more or less precisely it – but I also do love being useful, and I’d like to think this list is, in fact, of use to someone out there.

6e5b3-p1180017

Sake Pickled Radishes

Whether or not you subscribe to Christmas at any level there will still probably be an occasion throughout the year where a gift of some kind is required from you, and personally – second to flagrant quantities of money – there’s no better gift than something you can eat. By its very nature the space it takes up in the receiver’s home will be temporary and receding, it’s thoughtful, it’s fairly low-level as far as rampant consumerism goes, and you can completely personalise it. Giving food also lowers the fear of accidentally getting a person something they already have – as far as delicious food goes, more is more.

1_aAxMFU-NrngCRv-gUzg3tQ

chocolate-dipped pumpkin spice lemon pistachio cookies

This year I’m also going to be including some of the recipes I contributed to Tenderly, since the only thing I enjoy more than calling attention to myself is doubling down on calling attention to myself. They’re all separated out into helpful categories, and you should know that some of these recipes are from years ago, but while details and contexts and locations and motivations have changed, the deliciousness remains constant.

1_UUog_FjFsoNKmwB8raLpqA

salted vanilla brazil nut butter, coffee cinnamon hazelnut butter, cumin and paprika spiced pumpkin seed butter

The HungryandFrozen Inviolably Unimpeachable List of Edible Gift Ideas For Life, Not Just For Christmas, But Definitely Also For Christmas

Category One: Things In Jars

Seasons change, fickle trends come and go, but still jars abide. Put some stuff in a jar and you’ve instantly got a simple, elegantly rustic benefaction which no one can deny looks as though some considerable effort was made. It’s also what we in the business (that is, show business) call a twofer, because as well as getting something delightful to eat the receiver also gets a handy jar for their own future shoving of food into.

Savoury:

2f097-p1160137

Berry Chia Seed Jam

Sweet

p1180838

Vanilla Chocolate Macarons

Category Two: Baked Goods

Baked goods! It’s right there in the name! They’re good!

dea3f-p1110508

Peppermint Schnapps and Coffee-Orange Liqueur

Category Three: From the Unbaked to the Unhinged

This is everything else, the kind of thing that comes from such lines of thought as “what if I dissolved candy canes in vodka?” The results are remarkably almost potable! Some of these items have a fairly low melting point, so use your judgment when it comes to packaging and storing them.

Oh yeah, and all these recipes are vegan.

title from: Master-Dik by Sonic Youth, a sprawling and loquacious song where the less of a point it makes the better it sounds.

music lately:

Do You Love Me NowDo You Love Me Now by The Breeders, I just love this song so much, there’s something about it that evokes running through an airport frantically but also trying to wade through syrup, like it’s on fast-forward and in slow motion simultaneously.

The Look, Roxette. RIP Marie Fredriksson. This is just literally one of the best songs in the world – that chord progression in the chorus that almost makes me feel carsick with its urgency, the fantastic devil-may-care bizarreness of the lyrics, the drama of the synths, the muffled 80s production making it sound like you’re running down a corridor trying desperately to find the locked, padded room that it’s being recorded in.

Paradise By The Dashboard Light, originally by Meat Loaf, as performed on Glee. I realise that is an extremely cursed sentence right there but hear me out. I genuinely hate all of Meat Loaf’s music and by all accounts the man himself is a Republican; I also realise Glee covers of songs do not necessarily represent the highest form of art. Nevertheless, this performance is incredible and it makes my heart ache to watch it, because it was really the last time things were good on Glee, on and offscreen. The cast looks like they’re having a ball, and there’s so many little moments – I love Santana resting her head in Brittany’s hand at 1:25 – but it’s Lea Michele’s entrance at 1:40 that kills me, I swear my achilles tendons nearly snapped when she growled “I gotta know right now.” I genuinely can’t stop watching this video. On that note you should definitely read this piece I wrote about Glee and Rachel Berry (Lea Michele’s Glee character) for Tenderly – it’s one of my favourite things that I’ve written this year.

Next time: Back to business as usual! Like I don’t know what it will be specifically, but it will be business as usual.

PS: if you enjoy my writing and would like to support me directly, you can do so by joining my Patreon. It’s like a cordoned-off VIP area where you can access content written just for you: recipes, updates, a short story, the opening sentences of the novel I wrote.

which definitely is as exciting as pudding

P1180439

Christmas is approaching with all of the endlessly slow then suddenly in-your-face manner of, oh, to pluck an allegory from the air, the Golden Bangkok pre-amble to One Night In Bangkok from the musical Chess, you know the one, you’re like “oh nice, an overture to open the second act, that’s reasonable” and then after a while you’re like “they’re really just … going to repeat that third movement again” and after a while it’s like “look, when will we ever get to hear Murray Head attempting to rap somewhat incongruously in the middle of this sung-through musical?!” and then suddenly there’s a flurry of violins and there he is rhyming “oyster” with “cloister” and then it’s over! With all this in mind, I made up a pudding recipe for Christmas Day.

But first: I have not been feeling entirely like myself lately, I would say in fact pretty definitively that it has been, in fact, what would appear to the casual observer to be something approaching a depressive episode; the casual observer might follow up by saying “but Laura? Why? Everything appeared to being going fairly wonderfully, perhaps more wonderful than you’d ever dared to be possible and full of more possibilities than you could ever dare wonder, how on earth could you be feeling so down?” And I would reply “well that’s more of a fervent observation than a casual observation but I relish the attention nonetheless.” I would then say, “I’ll tell you why it is so, that I’m feeling kind of blank and absent and not inclined to do much other than lie in bed and watch Frasier. I’ll tell you exactly why.”

P1180430

The reason is: you just cannot predict when it’s going to happen, no matter how much trust and faith you put into your current situation, no matter how tightly you hold onto that handful of sand, no matter how long the overture to One Night In Bangkok goes on for, sometimes it just surprises you by not being that thing anymore with all the speed and subtlety of a brick thrown into a bowl of jelly. Now, what I am not saying is that you should go through life with your trust dried out and hardened like an old piece of bread just in case you start to feel down. Please, continue to enjoy a moment without suspicion. I’m just saying, sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down. It is what it is. And while it is what it is, I found myself also feeling like, completely furious about it. I went from never better to better never and I didn’t want to cook or write and that was so infuriating to have these two things that are so crucial to my existence not available to me.

But anyway – because (a) it’s Christmas and I would like to bring this jingle-bell curve upwards and (b) because there is more to the story than me being intermittently subdued or incandescent with rage: I came up with a recipe! Which I believe is absolutely a sign of getting better. And now I’m writing about it! Cooking and writing! And indeed, before you get too worried (another thing I’m mad about: now I have to worry people? That’s so far down the list on my preferred forms of attention!) I genuinely am on the up and up and have been doing lots of good good things to augment my festiveness: my best friends Kim and Kate came over and we drank bubbles to toast 2/3 of us finishing work for the year; I’ve been watching Christmas episodes of my favourite television shows; I’ve been listening to the Christmas albums of various Broadway stars; I’ve done my Christmas shopping; I went to my work Christmas party and danced in the sun for roughly yet literally four hours straight and it felt really, really, really good.

P1180434

AND there’s this Christmas Sticky Toffee Pudding! Which I made up out of nowhere! And it’s unbelievably delicious! It’s also a pretty straightforward concept: just regular sticky toffee pudding but with some Christmas elements added to make it aggressively seasonal, yet I cannot express how much of a crowd-pleaser it is. By way of illustration: on the day that I made it last week, a friend had come to visit on her way to therapy and we sat there just looking at it and I was like “tbh I’m too depressed to eat, do you want some?” and she was like “honestly I’m too anxious to eat, no thanks.” And so we carried on looking at it. But then, bolstered, united, and probably with a sense of friendly obligation on the part of precisely one of us, we decided to share a slice and agreed that it did indeed taste fantastic! That’s how good it is. So caramelly and butterscotchy and (*checks thesaurus*) caramelly! So dense and rich! So (*checks Nigella*) redolent of Christmas! (Nigella uses that word a lot, that’s the joke.)

Christmas Sticky Toffee Pudding

A recipe by myself

  • 1 cup dates, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup prunes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup/250ml boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (or neutral vegetable oil)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon allspice (optional tbh)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or similar)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 and 1/3 cups plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa

Toffee Sauce

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 3 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk (look for one with 80% or higher coconut extract)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons custard powder (or cornflour) mixed with two tablespoons cold water

Set your oven to 180C/350F and lightly grease an oven dish, you know, one of those standard sized ones that you might bake a pudding or brownies in?

Place the dates, cranberries, prunes, baking soda and water in a large mixing bowl and allow to sit for five minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients, with the flour and cocoa last (and consider sifting them, I reckon) and spatula the lot into the baking dish. Bake for 30-45 minutes – it will depend on your oven – until the centre springs back when you press lightly on it and a knife or skewer inserted comes out clean. Cover the edges with tinfoil if they seem to be browning too much while the centre is still uncooked. Again, depends on your oven.

While the pudding is in the oven, get started on the sauce. Tip the coconut milk, brown sugar, golden syrup, salt, and cinnamon stick into a saucepan and bring to a good solid simmer. Allow to bubble away very gently over a low heat for half an hour, swirling occasionally and scraping down the sides with a spatula if need be. Once the time is up, remove the pan from the heat and discard the cinnamon stick. Stir in the custard/water mixture. When the pudding comes out of the oven, stab it several times with a skewer or knife – whatever you’ve been using to check its done-ness – and pour over roughly a third or so of the sauce. Transfer the rest of the sauce to a jug for people to pour over as they please.

P1180437

Obviously cranberries are super Christmassy, I also feel the warmth of cinnamon drifting through the toffee sauce and the intensity of all the spices in the pudding itself offer that let-it-snow cosiness which I somehow feel impelled to conjure up despite the sweatingly intense heat of a New Zealand mid-summer Yule. Now, the prunes, they’re honestly just there because I happened to have some; you could leave them out and up the cranberries, or you could include some raisins or sultanas for a more fruitcake buzz. You could consider a splash of brandy or rum in the sauce, or the cake, or your mouth, to add to the general festivity, and you could also consider not worrying at all about the fact that this recipe happens to be vegan: it tastes fulsome and rewarding and abundant and like pudding should.

This morning I, the prodigal son, the fatted calf, am flying up to stay with my family and spend Christmas with them for the first time in a few years, and I am honestly extremely excited to cook this for everyone, and! To relive the traditions of a Christmas at home: seeing the tree decorations from my childhood, listening to the old Disney and Tin Lids and Bing Crosby albums, being studiously, ruthlessly ignored by the cats. As for you, I hope you also have a wonderful time however you observe the holiday: casually or fervently.

P1180442

title from: Sam, a mellow ballad as lethargically slow-moving as toffee sauce from my absolute favourites, Meat Puppets.

music lately:

I started watching this musical TV show called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and while I tend to be cautious in terms of receptiveness to parody musical numbers the absolute homework that went into this show is genuinely extraordinary, it’s like, scholarly when it comes to musical references. The title refrain from West Covina, the song the lead character Rebecca sings about deciding on a whim to move cities in the hopes of running into a guy she used to date is really very beautiful. (I also recommend the impeccable Marilyn-ness on The Math of Love Triangles. and I think I also learned some maths from it?)

Mudhoney, Into the Drink. Good energy.

Velvet Underground, Heroin. As utterly bewitching as it is useful as a unit of time to sternly instruct yourself to clean your room for the duration thereof.

Next time: I’m going to try to blog again before the end of the year and also just generally continue hurtling ever upwards on a one-horse open trebuchet!

sometimes I think you’re just too good for me, every day is Christmas, every night is New Year’s Eve

2aead-download28629

With last week’s post being absolutely enormous I thought I’d make this one fairly low-key, calm, brief. But then I watched classic Christmas film Die Hard for the first time ever and it’s really hard to not feel seasonally hyped up after that, right? So instead I decided to do the absolute opposite and give you something high-key, vast, yet still fairly calming in its own way: my annual round-up of recipes from this blog that I think would be worth considering if you’re wanting to do the home-made edible Christmas present thing. Whether or not Christmas is something you acknowledge, be it for religious reasons, self-preservation reasons, or something else entirely, there’s no denying that it’s going to literally happen this very month and besides, you could use this list at any time of year that you have a person for whom a gift is required. I for one think there’s nothing more delightful than the tangible and consumable result of a person’s concentrated time and effort as a gift, not to mention the joy of stomping on the delicate, exposed foot of capitalism by DIY-ing it yourself. (That said – and look, no one is out here defending capitalism, don’t worry – I’d also like to throw my voice to the chorus urging you to consider shopping local/small/ethical/indigenous/gay/generally independent this season.)

1879f-p1170969

THE HUNGRY AND FROZEN MODERATELY INDISPUTABLE LIST OF EDIBLE GIFT RECIPE IDEAS FOR LIFE, NOT JUST FOR CHRISTMAS

Caveat 1: Because this goes so far back through the archives, the majority of which I spent neck-deep in butter, well, there’s going to be some butter. I’ve marked accordingly whether a recipe is vegan, also gluten free if applicable – I see you!
Caveat 2: Because this goes so far back through the archives the continuity/life details on display in any given post might be kind of jarring and this is what happens when you write about many details of your life for eleven years! But if we can handle our TV characters like, changing haircuts and so on throughout the course of a series, so can we handle such things here.
Caveat 3: (And just know that I couldn’t help but hear “O CAVEAT THREE-EE-EE” in a superloud, third-time-round, “O come let us adore him” vibe in my head) I moved my blog over to WordPress halfway through this year and all the formatting completely fritzed out, so just know, every single individual blog post that I’ve linked to here that does have, y’know, line breaks, has had its individual html edited by me, and I haven’t quite managed to catch them all yet. This caveat is more of a weird flex, but.

35333-p1120705

Category 1: Things in Jars

Too easy! Jars make everything look pulled together and clever, whether it’s the unsinkable salted caramel sauce or some pickled-into-submission vegetable. To ease any anxieties – which you admittedly might not have even considered having, but that’s why I’m here –  on the part of both giver and receiver, I advise including a gift tag with some recommendations of how to use the stuff within the jar ( and “consume in one go in bed” is entirely viable here.)

Subsection A: Saucy Stuff

Subsection B: Stuff stuff

eefac-img

Category 2: Baked Goods

As easy or as hard as you like, whether it’s some cookies in a takeout container with a ribbon around it (and honestly: those takeout containers – you know the ones – are always useful to have around so it’s not a cop-out) or whether you go full out, make someone an enormous Christmas Cake and find a tastefully yet jaw-droppingly stunning plate to serve it on and make that part of the gift too. To maximise on tis-the-season seasonality I recommend embarking on all baking projects late at night with some kind of liqueur by your side, it just feels right.

 

d4de8-img

Category 3: No-bake Novelty!

This is (a) lots of taxing recreations of candy you can get for like forty cents at the corner dairy, (b) lots of stuffing existing products into other existing products and (c) nevertheless the most fun category.

And one more for luck:

P1180424

Almond Butter Toffee

a recipe by myself

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) water
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3 heaped tablespoons crunchy almond butter
  • 250g dark chocolate
  • sea salt

Line a baking tray or tin with a large piece of baking paper.

Place the sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a saucepan and slowly bring to the boil over a medium heat, without stirring at all. Let it continue to bubble away for five to ten minutes, until it just starts to turn golden – even though it’s boring for a while, don’t walk away or lose focus or it WILL burn, it just will – and as a pale gold cast creeps across the bubbling sugar, at this point immediately remove it from the heat. I hate to be harsh but if the sugar has turned a dark golden brown this means it’s caramelised too far and will taste harshly bitter and burnt; better to start over with more sugar and water than to try to forge ahead, I promise (I speak from much experience.)  Stir in the almond butter, and, working quickly and carefully, tip the lot onto the sheet of baking paper, coaxing it around with a spatula if need be to make it an even shape/thickness. Sprinkle over a good pinch of sea salt. Allow to set and get completely cool, then break it into pieces. 

Melt the chocolate however you prefer – short bursts in the microwave does it for me – and dip each piece of toffee in the chocolate before returning to the baking paper lined tray to set again. Sprinkle over more sea salt if you wish. Store refrigerated in an airtight container.

P1180409

This stuff tastes not entirely unlike those magical Daim bars (or Dime bars as they’re known in the UK) with a buttery, snappish crunch that is somehow sweet enough to taunt the teeth with impending fissures and yet mellow and balanced enough for you to eat an alarming quantity without giving it a second thought. As is or chocolate-dipped: novelty perfection. (And especially delicious if kept in the freezer, for some reason.)

I guess humans make traditions to give us something to cling on to in a harsh world, something that marks the passage of time other than the time itself, and making this list has become something of a tradition for me so it’s nice to visit it again, even as my eyeballs throb from all that painstaking hyperlinking. Even if you don’t make a single thing on the list – and you’re under absolutey no obligation to – the fact that you’re reading this far means you’re part of my tradition too. Sentimental, yes! But as I said: I watched Die Hard for the first time, so, you understand.

title from: Sade, The Sweetest Taboo. The sultriness! Ma’am!

music lately:

The Pure and the Damned, Oneohtrix Point Never ft Iggy Pop: “Someday I swear we’re gonna go to a place where we can do everything we want to, and we can pet the crocodiles.”

Turkey Lurkey Time, from the 1969 Tony Awards performance from the musical Promises, Promises. Another tradition! Every year on December 1st and not a moment sooner I rewatch this and every year I am breathtaken anew! Michael Bennett’s audacious choreography that cares not for your chiropractic bill! Donna McKechnie (in the red dress), triple threat, rubber-legged, spinal chord cracking like a whip! The lyrics which are SO STUPID! The final minute which every time makes tears spring to my eyes at the sheer magnitude of it!

Whack World, the album by rapper Tierra Whack. Every one of her songs is precisely one minute long (which is just perfect for me) with its own precise personality. I particularly love Black Nails and F**k Off.

Next time: less REALLY will be more, I promise. 

don’t have a cow, man

P1180394

I’m warning you right now, this blog post is long as HELL due to the fact that I was tinkering around with ideas for Christmas Dinner recipes and somehow ended up making three recipes at once in an absolute fugue state of proficiency and perspicacity: Brined and Roasted Whole Cauliflower with Pesto Glaze; Roasted Whole Pumpkin with Herb and Onion Stuffing, and Eggplant Roulade, AND Mushroom, Walnut and Red Wine Gravy. It’s suddenly less than a month till Christmas and whether or not you observe the holiday in an official capacity there’s no denying that this time of year calls for an excess of abundance and an abundance of excess so I was like why not just … write about this all this at once. So whether you’re the kind to settle in with a glass of port to scrutinise this from top to bottom or you’re already flexing your scrolling finger (or indeed, whichever body part you use to scroll downwards through large swathes of text), here we go.

I’m not one to not boast, but I just want the record to state that I made every single one of the below recipes all at once in just under two and a half hours. Why? You know and I know, because I bring it up a lot, because it happens a lot: I’m quite all or nothing. At times an inert snake lying in bed unable to finish, well, even this sentence; at times I’m like “Uh I wrote an entire violin symphony in twelve minutes” (to everything, turn turn, there is a season, turn turn) and while the presence of Ritalin in my life has helped to both enable activity on the inert-snake days and to moderate the high energy hyper-focus, that’s still just how I am. And I guess this week’s blog is precisely an example of that hyperfocus in action: I had all these ideas for recipes that might be cool for Christmas dinner, or indeed, any celebratory food-eating time, and I just put my head down and made the whole lot at once without really thinking through what I was doing and suddenly two and a half hours later there was an enormous meal just sitting there. (This is how I know I’ve made personal growth/consumed some Ritalin though: I actually wrote down the recipes as I was making them. Yes, this is what counts as personal growth for me.)

P1180379

Somewhat hilariously, none of the friends that I messaged to come help me eat it were available, leaving me alone at the table with this massive feast and wondering ruefully whether perhaps you really cannot, in fact, win friends with salad. I’m not saying I like, threw it all in the bin or anything, I had a delicious plateful of everything and have been eating leftovers gleefully ever since, but what I am saying is that you’ll just have to take my word for it that these recipes are good.

My aim for these recipes was to create a sense of lavishness, intense deliciousness and layers of texture and flavour, so that there was no sense of being without, that you would feel and indeed taste the effort and care taken. I wanted food that was somehow inherently Christmassy – which is a little weird, I grant you, because in New Zealand Christmas falls in the middle of summer but so many people still have a very traditional English style full roast meal. By which I mean, even though we’re all sweating uncomfortably, the food is resolutely winter wonderland because that’s just how it is. So that’s what I was going for.

P1180381

1: Brined and Roasted Whole Cauliflower with Pesto Glaze

A recipe by myself, but inspired by the title of this one on Food52.

  • 1 whole cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Brine:

  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick, snapped in half/into bits
  • 1 inch or so slice of fresh ginger (or 1 teaspoon ground ginger)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced in half (no need to peel)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

Pesto:

  • The leaves from 1 of those supermarket basil plants (roughly two cups loosely packed basil leaves)
  • 1 cup loosely packed rocket leaves
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice (can be from a bottle)
  • Plenty of salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup water, optional

Remove the leaves from the cauliflower and trim off as much of the stem as you can manage, so that the cauliflower is able to sit on its haunches, so to speak, without anything protruding from the base.

Place all the brine ingredients in a large mixing bowl, fill partway with cold water, and give it a stir just to dissolve the maple syrup and salt somewhat. Sit the cauliflower in this and top with water till the cauliflower is more or less submerged. Cover – either with plastic wrap or simply by sitting a plate on top – and set aside away from any heat for an hour, although if it’s like an hour and fifteen minutes because you forgot or something came up that’s honestly fine.

Get on with the pesto while the cauliflower is brining – throw all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz to form a rough green paste. Add a little water to loosen it up a bit, it can absorb it without making it watery. Taste for salt, pepper, or more lime juice, and set aside.

Set your oven to 200C/400F and get an oven dish ready. Once the oven is hot and the brining time is up, remove the cauliflower from the brine, shaking off any bits that have stuck to it, and place it in the roasting dish. Drizzle with the two tablespoons of olive oil and roast, uncovered, for about 40 minutes, or until it’s evenly golden on the surface. At this point, spoon some of the pesto over the cauliflower, using a pastry brush to spread it down over the florets, and return to the oven for another ten minutes. Serve with the remaining pesto in a dish beside for those who (rightly) want more.

P1180389

2: Roasted Whole Pumpkin with Herb and Onion Stuffing

A recipe by myself

  • 1 good-sized buttercup pumpkin (roughly 900g I guess? But I personally relate more to “good sized” than weight for accuracy)
  • 1 can white beans, often sold as haricot beans
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 small ciabatta or similarly hearty bread roll
  • 1 tablespoon English Mustard or wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • Plenty of salt and pepper, to taste

Set your oven to 200C/400F. Cut the ciabatta in half and sit it in the oven while it’s heating up for about five minutes, the aim being to lightly toast it and dry it out (just don’t forget that it’s there.)

Using a small, sharp knife, make incisions in a circular fashion around the stem of the pumpkin so you can wiggle it out and reveal the insides. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon – set aside to roast them if you like but this level of sustainability was unfortunately too much for me, and I simply binned them. (This might be a good time to check on the state of your ciabatta in the oven.)

Dice the onion and gently fry it in the olive oil till it’s softened and golden. Add the pumpkin seeds and give them a stir for a minute just to toast them a little, then set the pan aside off the heat.

Drain the can of beans and roughly mash them with a fork, it doesn’t matter if some are left whole. Roughly slice the ciabatta into small cubes and add this to the mashed beans along with the thyme, rosemary, mustard, maple syrup, cider vinegar, nutmeg, plenty of salt and pepper, and the onion/pumpkin seed mixture.

Carefully spoon all of this into the waiting and emptied pumpkin, pushing down with the spoon to fill every crevice and cavity. Place the stem on top like a lid. Sit the pumpkin on a large piece of tinfoil and bring the tinfoil up the sides of the pumpkin so it’s mostly wrapped but with the stem still exposed (did I explain this right?) and then sit this in a roasting dish. Roast for an hour and a half or until a knife can easily pierce through the side of the pumpkin, thus meaning the inside is good and tender. Serve by cutting the pumpkin into large wedges.

P1180384

3: Eggplant Roulade

A recipe by myself

  • 2 sheets flaky puff pastry (check the ingredients to make sure they’re dairy free, if this is of concern)
  • 1 large eggplant
  • olive oil, for frying
  • 1 cup bulghur wheat
  • 70g walnuts
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • plenty of salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons almond butter

Set your oven to 200C/400F. Place the bulghur wheat in a large bowl and pour over water from a just-boiled kettle to cover it by about 1cm. Cover with plastic wrap or similar and set aside for about ten minutes for it to absorb.

Meanwhile, slice the eggplant as thinly as you can lengthwise. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the eggplant slices a few at a time on both sides till softened and browned, adding more olive oil as you (inevitably) need it. Set aside.

Fluff the cooked bulghur wheat with a fork and stir in the walnuts, cranberries, rosemary, cumin, cinnamon, and plenty of salt and pepper.

Set the two sheets of pastry side by side with one inch overlap on a large piece of baking paper, and press down where they overlap to kind of glue them together into one large piece of pastry. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the almond butter over the pastry – soften it with a little olive oil if you need to. Place the eggplant slices on top of this in one layer starting from the left side, with the long side of the eggplant parallel to the long side of the pastry – I had six slices of eggplant so there was two sets of three laid horizontally, if that makes sense. If it doesn’t, let me know and I’ll try to explain further. Now take the bulghur wheat and spoon it in a thick column on top of the eggplant, roughly an inch in from the short side on the left. Carefully but confidently roll the pastry from the short side over the bulghur wheat and continue rolling, sushi-like, till you have a fat cylinder of pastry coiled around the eggplant and bulghur. Tuck the edges down and pinch them together, and carefully place the pastry into a baking dish. Make a couple of slashes in the top with a sharp knife and brush the surface with olive oil, then bake for 30 – 40 minutes until the pastry is puffy and golden brown. Serve in thick slices.

(There’ll be heaps of bulghur wheat leftover but it’s delicious reheated and drizzled with lots of olive oil the next day, however reduce the quantity if you don’t want leftovers.)

4: Mushroom, Walnut and Red Wine Gravy

A (vague, I admit) recipe by myself

  • 1 onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 7 brown mushrooms (if you have like 9 this is not a problem)
  • olive oil, for frying
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 70g walnuts
  • A pinch each of ground nutmeg and cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

Roughly chop the onion and garlic. Make sure the mushrooms have any dirt brushed off and roughly chop them as well. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and fry all of this over a low heat until the onions and mushrooms are softened. Sprinkle over the flour and stir for a couple of minutes, before raising the heat and tipping in the red wine. Stir till the wine is absorbed into the floury oniony mushrooms, then tip in the walnuts, the nutritional yeast, and the cinnamon and nutmeg. Slowly add water – around 250ml/1 cup – and allow it to come to the boil, stirring continuously till it’s looking a little thick. You’re going to be blending this up so all the ingredients will naturally thicken it, so it doesn’t have to be too reduced down. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before blitzing it carefully in a high speed blender. I tipped it straight back into the pan to reheat it, but by all means strain it if you want it to be super smooth. It may need more water added at this point if it’s too thick, but up to you. Finally add the soy sauce to taste, and serve hot over EVERYTHING.

P1180397

With all that in mind, let’s assess them individually.

1: The concept of roasting a whole cauliflower is, as I noted, an idea I got from Food52, and the idea of brining it first is something I got from a Nigella turkey recipe. I love the idea of treating a vegetable in the same way that you’d treat meat and while cauliflower is more or less going to look after itself in the oven this does come out sweet and tender with its crisp pesto-crusted exterior. It also looks rather wonderful in the roasting dish because it’s so big and whole. On the other hand, because one must be critical: even with the brining and the pesto, this is still just like, a cauliflower alone on a plate. My verdict: this is delicious but I would want it as well as something else, as opposed to being the only thing, otherwise it’s like “wow cool thanks for my slice of damp vegetable really appreciate this.” You of course personally might be more than satisfied by this! But this is how I feel.

P1180405

2: The whole pumpkin looks really cool, somehow splendid yet storybook-adorable at the same time. The stuffing has, somehow, and I mean this in an entirely positive and non-innuendo way: a certain sausagey-ness to it. Something in the way the vinegar and mustard play off the rich thyme and the mashed beans and the texture of the bread, it’s all very cured-smallgoodsy and hearty and traditional tasting. My verdict: I am super pleased with this, however I would recommend leaning further into the luxuriousness by making the pesto anyway to have alongside, and perhaps consider adding some pistachios or something else treat-y to the stuffing so that the vegan in your close proximity feels particularly loved.

P1180399

3: The eggplant roulade was my favourite! There’s something about pastry that makes anything feel like an enormous effort was made (which, if you managed to make it through my attempts at instructing how to roll the pastry up, is entirely true) and also tastes of true opulence. Happily, it’s very easy to find ready-rolled sheets of puff pastry at the supermarket which are incidentally vegan because they use baker’s margarine or whatever they call it; and it still somehow tastes exactly like it should, probably because it’s what’s used in all commercially made pies and pastries and so our tastebuds are used to it (depending on how many times you’ve fallen asleep with a half-eaten gas station pie nestled beside you on your pillow, I guess.) The eggplant is rich and fulsome and the cinnamon and cranberries in the bulghur wheat are merrily Christmassy. Again, you could consider adding more to make this more, well, more: pistachios, almonds, that ubiquitous pesto, but as it is this is just wonderful. My verdict: Yes.

4: Gravy is so important and I refuse to miss out! This is pretty straightforward, layering savoury upon savoury upon savoury. My verdict: absolutely necessary.

P1180404

Because this is already sprawlingly enormous I’m going to wrap it up but overall I’m delighted with everything and with myself. I mentioned last time that I was sick with something flu-like, I thought it had gone away but then halfway through Friday night at work my voice started to disappear, unfortunately I skipped right over sexy-husky and went straight to useless (whispering “hello…welcome” in a strangled modulation as customers blithely walked by, not hearing a single thing I’d said) and seemed to be regressing back into glum sickness. Fortunately I managed to harness the one burst of high-octane energy that I’ve had all week to hoon through making these recipes; I also managed to update my Frasier food blog (Niles and Daphne, sitting in a Gothic mansion!) and have spent the rest of the time when not at work in bed irritably lacking in voice, which is possibly why I’m luxuriating in talking so much on here. Whether it’s residual sickness or just sheer effort I now feel like I need a nap after writing down all those recipes and you may well too if you’ve managed to read this far: napping is the most seasonally-appropriate activity there is, let’s be honest.

title from: Initially I was going to make it “you don’t win friends with salad” from that Simpsons bit but then I thought the “don’t have a cow, man” Simpsons quote was even funnier, all things considered.

music lately:

Blackberry Molasses, Mista This was one of my favourite songs in 1996 and it’s still super sweet, but I am also so sure that the version we got on the radio was faster than this? Can anyone verify?

Laugh It Off, Chelsea Jade. I actually did 1 (one) other activity this week: I went to see local angel Chelsea Jade live at Meow. Her music is just incredible, floaty and dreamy but pinprick-sharp as well and it was so cool to see her again.

Two Dots on a Map, Russian Futurists. This song is so swoony and expansive and pretty much undeniable Laura-bait. While I’m here may I also recommend their aggressively enthusiastic song Paul Simon.

Next time: less is more, I promise.

PS If you wish to receive a version of this blog post before everyone else in your inbox, newsletter-style, every Sunday-ish, then consider signing up here. 

i see christmas lights reflect in your eyes

chocolate candy cane bark the herald angels sing
It’s less than ten days to Christmas and it’s times like these that one’s thoughts turn to…how it’s less than ten days till Christmas. There has been so much going on in my life and also in the lives of others that are plaited into mine and as such it has been a bit hard to blog with my usual aggression; or at least that’s what I assume it is that’s slowing me down? – every time I’ve sat down with my laptop and been all “hello old friend, we meet again, let’s tango” I’ve instead got really lethargic and rapidly blacked out with tiredness and woken up an hour later drooling lavishly into my own cleavage. Oh sure, it’s funny the first like, seven times! But now it’s nearly literal Christmas and I still haven’t got this blog post out. However, you are reading this, which I suspect means I have finally done it. 
So anyway, every year with charming self-absorption I present you with a list of recipes I’ve blogged about over the years which would also make excellent Christmas presents. And it’s that time of that time of year again! Oh sure, material goods are an unmitigated delight, but unless you’re surrounded by brats I am supremely confident that there is an impressive number of people in your life who want nothing more than to be presented with something completely delicious that they can tuck into with impunity, rather than, say, a small cow figurine or an earnestly hideous vase which they then have to pretend to feel joy about when in fact it is an insult to their carefully curated personal aesthetic.  
cornbread cookie squares with maple buttercream: aka found footage of heaven
Honestly though, say it with eat-y stuff. Whether or not Christmas is a thing that affects you or that you pay attention to, there’s no harm in having a delicious arsenal of ideas for things you can make for people at any old time to express your gratitude and selflessness. This is just a time of year where gift-giving is impressed upon us as being really important. And so, here I am to help. Okay, yes, the rise of the dawn of the planet of the Buzzfeed has rendered this entirely superfluous but what my list has that buzzfeed doesn’t is…me! So much me! It has actually been fairly unusual compiling all these old blog posts and reading through the million different people I have been, but the recipes still absolutely hold up (as does the writing, obviously) and there’s not one thing in this list that I wouldn’t love to be presented with, before presenting it directly into my own mouth. 
So here goes: the hungryandfrozen edible gift idea round-up.

Category One: Things in Jars.

We are no longer quite at Peak Mason Jar, and thank goodness tbh, but: jars will never die. Jars are gonna save you this Christmas. 

  1. orange confit (This is basically just slices of orange in syrup, but is surprisingly applicable to a variety of cake surfaces. And it’s so pretty. And so cheap.) (vg, gf)
  2. cranberry sauce (this is stupidly easy and you should make it to go with your main meal anyway) (vg, gf)
  3. bacon jam (Best made at the last minute, because it needs refrigerating) (gf)
  4. cashew butter (vg, gf) (just don’t drop your wooden spoon into the food processor) 
  5. red chilli nahm jim (gf)
  6. cranberry (or any-berry) curd (it involves a lot of effort but it’s so pretty. Just like me.) (gf)
  7. rhubarb-fig jam (gf)
  8. salted caramel sauce (gf, has a vegan variant) (Salted caramel is kind of the cockroach of food trends, in that it could still be popular in a post-apocalyptic landscape where we all eat dust that has been milled into varying levels of granularity. Salted caramel in a jar is a double whammy.) 
  9. apple cinnamon granola (vg)
  10. strawberry jam granola (vg) 
  11. Marinated Tamarillos (vg, gf)
  12. taco pickles (vg, gf)
  13. pickled blueberries (vg, gf)
  14. peach balsamic barbecue sauce (vg, gf)
  15. berry chia seed jam (vg, gf) 


berry chia seed jam: this is my jam

Peach Balsamic Barbecue Sauce: give a fusspot a pot of fussy stuff. 

chocolate dipped brown sugar cookies: oooh

Category Two: Baked Goods.

Make your house smell glorious, eat some cake batter, wrap the baked things you haven’t eaten in rustic-looking brown paper and tie it all up with string, then toast to your own productivity and excellence.

Also first of all, my Christmas Cake is amazing. It just is: deal with my lack of coyness. Even if you decide at the last minute to make it on Christmas Day itself, it will still taste so great. 
  1. christmas-spiced chocolate cake (Also a good xmas-day pudding) (gf)
  2. chocolate orange loaf cake
  3. vegan chocolate cake (It’s good! It’s easy!) (vg)
  4. chocolate chunk oatmeal cookies
  5. cheese stars (make twelve times the amount you think you need because these are addictive and also great to serve as blotting paper for the inevitable copious liquor that happens this time of year)
  6. coconut macaroons (gf)
  7. chocolate macaroons (gf)
  8. gingerbread cut-out cookies (vg)
  9. coconut condensed milk brownies
  10. salted caramel slice (hello again Salted Caramel! Your persistence is as admirable as your deliciousness!)
  11. fancy tea cookies
  12. chocolate olive oil cake
  13. cinnamon bars
  14. coffee caramel slice
  15. everyday chocolate brownies
  16. cornbread cookie squares with maple buttercream
  17. cranberry white chocolate cookies
  18. peanut butter cookies
  19. secret centre mini-pavlovas
  20. avocado chocolate brownies (gf, df)
  21. bobby dazzler cake
  22. chocolate-dipped brown sugar cookies
Also, if you click on the link to the Orange Confit above, you’ll see a recipe for the easiest, fastest fruitcake loaf. It makes an excellent present, for the sort of person who’d like to receive fruitcake. And it’s dairy free.

secret centre mini-pavlovas
peanut butter chocolate caramel nut caramel chocolate peanut butter slice caramel
Category Three: Novelty!

This is mostly either homemade recreations of things you can buy from the corner dairy for fifty cents, or sticky-sweet things where you melt one ready-made thing into another. It’s frankly the best category and you know it
  1. moonshine biffs (like homemade Milk Bottles!) (gf)
  2. raw vegan chocolate cookie dough truffles (vg, gf)
  3. lolly cake
  4. peppermint schnapps (vg, gf) (this is some harsh moonshine but also SO FUN. Weirdly, more fun the more you drink of it?)
  5. candy cane chocolate bark (No effort, vegan – well, I think candy canes are vegan – gluten free, amazingly delicious, just store it carefully so it doesn’t melt)
  6. white chocolate coco pops slice 
  7. homemade cherry ripe
  8. mars bar cornflake slice 
  9. chocolate cookie dough pretzel things  
  10. brown sugar malteaser cardamom fudge
  11. peanut butter chocolate caramel nut slice
Delightful Bonus Category: Stuff to bring! 

A brief list of things you could consider making and taking to the next seasonal party in which there are heavy implications that you need to bring a plate and that it should be something amazing that people will actually enjoy. 
  1. roasted kumara with feta, walnuts, thyme and breadcrumbs
  2. very easy coffee ice cream
  3. fried tomatoes with garlic
  4. double cauliflower salad
  5. fried green beans with chilli and garlic
  6. pasta salad with broccoli pesto, mint, feta and olive oil
  7. fougasse bread
  8. earl grey and maple syrup cake
  9. cinnamon-golden syrup roasted butternut squash
  10. fried potato burghal wheat with walnuts and rocket
  11. wasabi cauliflower cheese
  12. peaches and cream
Whether or not this list is helpful, I’m honestly just so glad that I got this damn blog post done finally so I really am beyond caring. (Kidding, I care ever so much, like, in a completely uncool lacking-in-chill kind of way.) I’m working as much as I physically can over Christmas and new years, and will be spending the day with work family eating and drinking and eating and drinking and so on in that fashion. I can’t wait, and while it would be lovely to be going up home to my family, spending my one spare day with people I adore and cooking a ton of nice food for them is something I am super looking forward to. However! Were money something I felt irritatingly mellow about, my Christmas list would look a little like the following: 
– a new leather bomber jacket (my current one is falling to pieces 100% literally)
– timberland boots (2003 called, and I’m ignoring it because I don’t care if they’re outdated) 
– Marc Jacobs Lola perfume (am never not cursing myself for using up all my supplies last year by calling it “baller deodorant” when I could’ve just used nivea roll-on) 
– a watch: either something very heavily masculine or something plasticky and stupid looking
– a set of pots and pans, preferably the kind that looks stupidly good in photos; I currently have very little in the way of anything 
– a handbag: my last one basically dissolved into the air within less than a month and I’ve since been lugging my earthly possessions about in a grubby tote 
– a candle that smells like cinnamon
– several bottles of fancy liquor so I can finally start my liquor cabinet: some nice gin, some sweet and dry vermouth, some fernet (it rhymes with cliche!), a campari and a bourbon…y’know, no biggie.
– A record player – nothing fancy, just something that I can literally play all my records on. 
Whatever it is you want for Christmas, especially if it’s world peace, I hope you get it. I’m definitely going to be blogging again before Christmas and that all sounded a bit final, but nevertheless: get what you want! Get it! Go on, now!
_____________________________________________________________
title from: 2005’s plaintive Athlete song, Wires. It’s plaintive but it’s still got legs, I reckon. 
_____________________________________________________________
music lately: 
Mariah Carey, Oh Holy Night, from her Merry Christmas II You album. That’s right, she has other Christmas songs, and this one is classic Mimi. She sounds so good. 
The Wombats, Greek Tragedy. Pop! So poppy! 
Idina Menzel’s Christmas album. She is my idol, and I am a completist.

Also: my dreamy summer playlist on spotify. Look, I could either list every song here or I could just link you directly to the playlist, but either way it’s very very good and feels like sunshine on your shoulders. 

_____________________________________________________________
next time: no sleep allowed! I made some roasted asparagus with burned butter hollandaise which was amazing, however I also haven’t made ice cream in ages and am feeling the need. 

and my friends i’ve returned to wish you a happy christmas

oh christmas tree, oh christmas tree, I hope you don’t fall down on me

Have yourself a very little blog post: this one. It’s Christmas Eve and for the first time in my life I’m not at home, I’m in fact all alone in Wellington. Well, this is not entirely true: there is also Ariel the cat, who I’m simultaneously looking after in the absence of her owners and also trying with zero chill whatsoever to befriend. The reason I’m here and not up home is because I have work tomorrow (another first) and while it’s not ideal to not be seeing my family, it is at least interesting seeing what this completely different experience is like.

one for you, three for me

I baked some cookies over the last couple of days, mostly just so I could feel like it’s Christmas, since baking is What I Do at this time of year, and partly because I wanted something to pad out a work Secret Santa gift. These cranberry and white chocolate cookies of Nigella’s are completely serviceable items for this time of year should you feel pressed to churn out some baked goods yourself, they are sturdy and durable and last for ages, they are delicious yet comfortingly unchallenging to eat; they are very easy to make; and the uncooked dough tastes brilliant. Dried cranberries, like sour little jewels, pair magnificently with sweet, buttery white chocolate, and the red and white has a kind of christmassy holly-and-snow vibe going on which is pleasing. If you want you could add pistachio nuts to really go all out on the colour theme, but going nut-less is way cheaper.

white chocolate cranberry cookies

adapted barely from a recipe by Nigella Lawson. A lot of white chocolate chips and buttons out there taste of absolutely nothing, just a vague waxy textural sensation, so try to get something that tastes like…something. Otherwise take a bar or two of white chocolate and chop it up. 

125g soft butter
half a cup sugar
half a cup brown sugar
one egg
half a cup oats
one cup flour
half a teaspoon baking powder
half a teaspoon salt
a slosh of vanilla extract
half a cup dried cranberries
half a cup white chocolate chips or buttons

Set your oven to 180 C/350 F, and line a baking tray with baking paper. 

Using a wooden spoon or similar, beat the butter and the sugars together in a large bowl till thick, creamy and light. And delicious. Beat in the egg, then fold in the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate the mixture for about 10-15 minutes. 

Take tablespoons of the cookie dough and place on the baking tray, an inch or so apart. Flatten slightly with the back of a fork and then bake for fifteen minutes, although check after ten minutes – they should be a significant, but not overly dark, golden colour. They’ll be really soft at this point but they’ll firm up on cooling, so carefully transfer them to a rack or plate of some kind and carry on cooking the rest of the dough. 

Makes 24 or so cookies, depending on the size you make and also how much cookie dough you eat. It’s really good cookie dough. 


Bonus recipe: Ginger Beer Shandy (or just Ginger Beer if you don’t like the word shandy for some reason.) Take ginger beer, take beer beer, make sure they’re both ice cold and pour half and half into a glass. Drink with utter joy! Any kind of lager or pale ale is good here, and even though I like the idea of the circularity of using ginger beer with the beer, it’s actually even nicer with dry ginger ale. This is also a Nigella recipe, from Forever Summer. Thanks, Nigella! You are the reason for the season. The season being “the concept of love and also the endlessness of time itself.” 

For christmas this year my wishes are simple and rustic as homemade broth. I simply want – a new pair of boots for work, something sturdy yet giving off a ‘sullen Victorian ward of the state’ vibe; a book deal from a publisher who truly cares about me (or at least pretends to) (or at least just a book deal to be honest); mighty and omnipresent fame in the field of food blogging and being a self-appointed food authority; someone to hold my hand and be nice to me; a bafflingly generous influx of donations into my Paypal; the makings of a killer liquor cabinet (beginning with fancy gin and a selection of vermouths); at least quadruple my current number of twitter followers; chunky black sandals for that summer goth look; something approaching inner peace; these shorts and these shorts; the eternal love of all neighbourhood cats; for all my family to be in excellent health, and lots of candy. Oh and also my own TV show would be rad.

If tomorrow is indeed Christmas for you (well, for many it’s just another day) and you’re kicking back with like, Buck’s Fizz and a laughably enormous feast and so on, maybe think a nice thought for those in hospo and other roles who are going to work as you recline and open gifts. I’m not even going to try and front like my job is as arduous as being in an emergency ward or being a taxi driver or whatever, but like, if you’re working and not in bed then you’re working and not in bed, you know? Whatever happens when the clock ticks over to the 25th, I hope it’s a truly swell day for you, but also that every single other day that follows is also excellent (getting into the same territory here as when I used to as a child make wishes with increasingly nervous caveats, like, I wish for a thousand dollars but it can’t fall from the sky onto my head and squash me.) Basically I want things to always be nice forever, that’s not so much to ask this Christmas, huh?

Finally, in case you missed it and feel like cooking up some last-minute trouble for yourself, my previous blog post was a list of recipes I’ve written up here which would make excellent edible gifts. These cookies are now a post-script to said list.

 Finally-finally, merry christmas to you from me. xx

_____________________________________________________________
title from: Sufjan Stevens, Sister Winter. When he’s not doing his usual material, this guy specialises in Christmas music that is aggressively plaintive and gently devastating, which is sometimes just what your ears need to hear. 
_____________________________________________________________
music lately:

Christmas Bells, from the original Broadway cast recording of RENT. I mean. This song is somehow ridiculous and ridiculously touching at the same time, and has to be one of the very few songs about Christmas that can claim to contain relationship exposition, drug deals, heavily layered syncopation, parodies of existing Christmas songs, and a reference to Steuben glass. It’s wondrous.

Robyn, With Every Heartbeat. This song just slays me, is all.

Taylor Swift, Out of the Woods. This is so dreamy and urgent and Roxette-ish and so perfect and I can’t stop listening.  

_____________________________________________________________
Next time: it might be 2015, but it might not, because I am sure I won’t let one last opportunity for pre-new-year maudlin introspection pass me by! 

if you are the ghost of christmas past then won’t you stay the night?

My own xmas cake recipe. Boozy and nostalgically delicious, just like your, um, favourite food blogger used to make.

Well, I sniffed a pine tree and it did make me feel more Christmassy. I also watched Love Actually and once I’d stopped ranting at how horrible it is to its women characters, many of whom are barely, at best, one-dimensional props who exist only to help a man realise something important about himself (and those things they realise are usually “I like this hot chick rather a lot”) I did notice that in said movie, everyone keeps going on like, “well since it’s Christmas I’ll tell you the truth/finally acknowledge that I love you/run after you in an airport/generally make an enormous sweeping gesture at great risk to my reputation in the name of love.” Far be it from me to suggest that we should be inspired by Love Actually as such, but I am an all or nothing gal who enjoys a good solid enabling every now and then. Since everything is so ridiculous and high-drama and fraught at Christmas, you might as well make things more like this if you’ve got the inclination, y’know? 


 Candy Cane Bark: for those who want to put candy crush where their mouth is
  
Unsure quite where I’m going with this, I guess I just have a lot of feelings about Love Actually and also Grand Gestures. I’m honestly not in a delightful headspace right now, which is just neat because it coincides with me doing little in the way of actual blogging and everything in the way of rounding up for you, curating, if you will, a list of recipes I’ve already put on here that would make great Christmas present ideas. Aren’t I wonderful! I’ve done this for the past few years and logically it grows every time. I happen to be a staunch believer in the joy of giving and receiving edible stuff as a present, and so, if you feel the same this list might be of some use to you. Oh sure, you could go onto Pinterest or Buzzfeed or even go old-school and make a Google search to find a zillion such lists, but none of them are going to be as self-absorbedly devoted entirely to my own content. For…for what it’s worth.

Berry Chia Seed Jam: it’s almost too healthy, and there’s always someone that you have to buy for who digs that kind of description. 

Worth noting that whether or not Christmas is a significant thing for you or passes you by completely, these are obviously all nice recipes for a present for anyone. For any reason, at any time of the year. Just because Christmas is the overwhelmingly unavoidable societal status quo doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy Candy Cane Bark in the middle of April. 

Category One: Things in Jars.

Jars are cute. Jars are everywhere. Jars are gonna save you this Christmas. 

Orange Confit (This is basically just slices of orange in syrup, but is surprisingly applicable to a variety of cake surfaces. And it’s so pretty. And so cheap.) (vg, gf)
Cranberry Sauce (this is stupidly easy and you should make it to go with your main meal anyway) (vg, gf)
Bacon Jam (Best made at the last minute, because it needs refrigerating) (gf)
Cashew Butter (vg, gf) (just don’t drop your wooden spoon into the food processor) 
Red Chilli Nahm Jim (gf)
Cranberry (or any-berry) Curd (it involves a lot of effort but it’s so pretty. Just like me.) (gf)
Rhubarb-Fig Jam (gf)
Salted Caramel Sauce (gf, has a vegan variant) (I knowww, salted caramel is so boringly pervasive these days but a jar of it all for yourself is still the greatest thing ever) 
Apple Cinnamon Granola (vg)

Peach Balsamic Barbecue Sauce: give a fusspot a pot of fussy stuff. And if anyone makes any calls about barbecues being the domain of men, kick them to the curb and enjoy some chargrilled goods in peace with this delicious sauce. 


Category Two: Baked Goods.

Make your house smell glorious, eat some cake batter, wrap the baked things you haven’t eaten in rustic-looking brown paper and tie it all up with string, then toast to your own productivity and excellence.

First of all, my Christmas Cake is amazing. It just is: deal with my lack of coyness. Even if you decide at the last minute to make it on Christmas Day itself, it will still taste so great. 
Cheese Stars (make twelve times the amount you think you need because these are addictive and also great to serve alongside the inevitable copious liquor that happens this time of year)
Coconut Macaroons (gf)
Chocolate Macaroons (gf)
Gingerbread Cut-out Cookies (vg)
Coconut Condensed Milk Brownies
Salted Caramel Slice (hello again Salted Caramel! Your persistence is as admirable as your deliciousness!)
Fancy Tea Cookies
Chocolate Olive Oil Cake
Also, if you click on the link to the Orange Confit above, you’ll see a recipe for the easiest, fastest fruitcake loaf. It makes an excellent present, for the sort of person who’d like to receive fruitcake. And ’tis dairy free.

Mars Bar Cornflake Slice. I have nothing funny to say about this. Its deliciousness requires seriousness.

Category Three: Novelty!

This is mostly either homemade recreations of things you can buy from the corner dairy for fifty cents, or sticky-sweet things where you melt one ready-made thing into another. It’s frankly the best category and you know it. 

Moonshine Biffs (like homemade Milk Bottles!) (gf)
Raw Vegan Chocolate Cookie Dough Truffles Candy (vg, gf)
Lolly Cake
Peppermint Schnapps (vg, gf) (this is some harsh moonshine but also SO FUN. Weirdly, more fun the more you drink of it?)
Candy Cane Chocolate Bark (No effort, vegan – well, I think candy canes are vegan – gluten free, amazingly delicious, just store it carefully so it doesn’t melt)
White Chocolate Coco Pops Slice 

Chocolate Cookie Dough Pretzel Things: I ain’t delivering them to you anymore so make your own! Everyone will love you eternally, and buying peoples’ love with gifts is what Christmas is all about.  

Because I am an actual darling, I also give you a bonus recipe which I made for myself on the hop when some plans I’d had fell through and I’d also had two large craft beers. I had more or less nothing with which to scrape together a meal, and then was all What Would I Do? in that same way that people might ask what Beyonce would do. After all, I wrote a cookbook with a chapter full of food you can make yourself when it’s getting late and you’re feeling seedy. And thus, with only three ingredients, was born the following: 


Spaghetti with Buttery Breadcrumbs.

Cook as much dried spaghetti as you wish to eat in a large pot of boiling water till tender. Meanwhile, take three slices of white bread from the packet and kind of crumble and rough them up in your hands till they have all broken up into irregularly sized crumbs and bits and general bready rubble. Melt around 50g butter in a large pan and once it’s sizzling, throw in the breadcrumbs and stir them around till golden and crisp and fried. Drain the spaghetti, stir in the crumbs, eat.  

I’ve heard of a similar method of topping your pasta dish with breadcrumbs referred to as Poor Man’s Parmesan but that is both ickily classist and misleading. Crunchy, butter-soaked breadcrumbs don’t need to be hidden by pretending to be something else. They’ll make your pasta taste utterly fantastic and so that’s why I’m calling them what they are. Plus all those carbs will both act as blotting paper to anything you’ve had to drink and will zap you into a calming, mellow stupor. Which is so necessary at this time of year and also always. Happy holidays to you all, but also just, like, happiness to ya too. 
__________________________________________________________
title from: the splendid Regina Spector and her song Ne Me Quitte Pas. It’s French, for don’t leave me! 
__________________________________________________________
music lately: 

Turkey Lurkey Time. DUDE. No wonder I wasn’t feeling Christmassy, I forgot to watch this! It’s a scene from the 60s musical Promises Promises and features a spectacularly rubber-limbed Donna McKechnie and also just the most stupid lyrics you’ll ever hear. But the dancing is incredible and I don’t quite know why but the end makes me all gaspy and faster of heartbeat every single time. 

Beyonce, XO. It’s a full year since Queen B simultaneously blessed us and messed with the music industry by dropping her actually perfect self-titled visual album. It has been the soundtrack of my year in many ways and this song still gives me that headrush feeling of giddy happiness that it did upon first listen. 

Oh Land, Sleepy Town. I’ve been listening to so much Oh Land lately, her music is so dreamy and yearning and poppy. 

Tove Lo, Habits (Stay High). It just gets to me. 
__________________________________________________________
next time: I don’t know what I’m gonna make but I will be blogging again before Christmas for sure. Fa la la la la!