Vegan Pecan Sandies

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I’ll speak freely with you: these cookies did not blow my hair back, and they are not the stuff of hyperbole (even though I like to maintain that I never actually use hyperbole, and only ever describe thing accurately.) But sometimes you just need a nice, calm biscuit. There is a place for them! We can’t all be pupil-dilatingly exciting like these Chocolate Rosemary Cookies (incidentally, adapted from the same author) or my Vegan Hundreds and Thousands Cookies. So no, these are neither hellzapoppin’ nor knee-tremblingly intoxicating but they do taste very good, and were born to sit robustly alongside a cup of tea at 10.30am or 9.30pm.

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Besides which I haven’t blogged in an age (no dramatic reason, I just haven’t cooked a whole lot this month) and I had to write about something and here these Pecan Sandies were, sturdy and stalwart and reliable and ready to step up to the figurative and literal plate.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan pecan sandies • easy and delicious cookies from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s I Can Cook Vegan • recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com 🍪 #vegan #baking #cookies #pecansandie #foodblogger

♬ Adagio / Spartacus – Josu Gallastegui

I’d never heard of these cookies before — although I understand they’re quite normal in America — and I admit the name put me off slightly (reading it made me feel like I’d suddenly got sand caught in my sleeves somewhere about the elbow, this is absolutely likely a me-problem and not the recipe’s fault) but they’re very easy to make, with a supple dough that comes together in minutes and a low oven temperature meaning you’re unlikely to overcook or burn them. The pecans, crucially, give it a little razzle dazzle with their rich smokiness and soft crunch, but if you are for some reason hankering after a very plain biscuit you could leave them out and increase the spices — maybe adding in some cinnamon while you’re at it — at which point you might consider half-dipping them in dark chocolate — but then we’re veering around to blow-your-hair-back territory again. In lieu of pecans, walnuts would be the most sensible replacement, with their similar almost-bitter softness. Whatever you leave out or add in, the biscuits themselves have a melting texture, a hearty flutter of vanilla, and despite my usual heavy hand in this regard, the modest amount of sugar gives just the right level of sweetness. Simple? Yes. Fantastic? Also yes!

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Vegan Pecan Sandies

A simple, not-too-sweet cookie studded with pecans, very easy to make and unsurprisingly, very easy to eat. Recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s excellent book I Can Cook Vegan, I’ve bumped up the allspice but that’s the only change I made. If you want to make these cheaper, you could use one of those little 70g packets of pecans from the baking aisle instead of a whole cup’s worth, just make sure they’re broken up well so you get plenty of pecan dispersed through each cookie.

  • 2/3 cup refined coconut oil, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup oat milk, or similar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup pecans

1: Beat the 2/3 cup refined coconut oil and 1/2 cup sugar together in a mixing bowl. Coconut oil is usually soft enough at room temperature, but if it’s a really cold day, giving it about ten seconds in the microwave (in a microwave safe bowl) is enough to make it pliant.

2: Beat in the 1/4 cup milk, followed by the two teaspoons of vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon of allspice, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir in the flour to form a thick, pale dough.

3: Break up the pecans into small pieces using your hands, and stir them through the dough. Place the mixing bowl in the fridge for twenty minutes, and while this is happening, preheat your oven to 165C/325F and get out a cookie tray/sheet and a large piece of baking paper to lie on it.

4: Once the 20 minutes are up, roll the dough into balls (using a tablespoon to scoop out the dough) and place them about 2.5cm apart on the baking paper-lined tray. Flatten them a little, gently, with your fingertips, and bake for about 18 minutes, or until just lightly golden around the bottom edges. Transfer the hot cookies to a cooling rack and continue rolling and baking the rest of the dough.

Makes 18 – 20 cookies (that is, the original recipe yields 18, but I got 19 out of this and I ate enough dough that I probably could’ve got about 21 cookies had I a little more discipline.)

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music lately:

Kool Thing by Sonic Youth, there is something comforting about listening to a song that is cooler than you or anyone you know will ever be, it’s like ok, thanks for shouldering that responsibility, guys.

There’s Always A Woman from Sondheim’s musical Anyone Can Whistle as performed — thrillingly! — by Bernadette Peters and Madeline Kahn at a concert in 1995, whoever thought to put them and their energies together on stage is a genius and I’m forever grateful. This footage isn’t very good quality but the sound is fine, and their tremulous voices by turns querulous and harmonising is something I wish we’d got more of before Kahn sadly passed a few years later.

About once every six months I medically have to listen to this — bear with me — isolated and looped sample of doo-wop group The Marcels’ song Heartaches as used in the song I’m So Humble by Andy Samberg’s character in the mockumentary film Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. It’s unbelievably obnoxious and yet I will sit there listening to it for a good six, eight, nine minutes flat. I can hear what you’re saying already, “If I had a nickel for every time I did that,” etc etc.

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!

Catalan Chickpeas and Spinach [vegan]

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I have come to realise that time — as a concept, as a thing that happens to me and as a heavyweight opponent with whom I must fruitlessly wrestle — is simply none of my business. There is no point trying to understand how “it’s night before it’s afternoon/December is here before it’s June”, as Dr Seuss put it. If I had a tab open on my browser since last October, intending to presently reference the recipe therein, and if I have only just returned to it now, in the following April, and feel as though perhaps a week has passed, a month at the most, who’s to say that’s not true? Who’s going to come for me? The time police? Even if they did exist, I do not acknowledge them.

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Back in October, when I first consulted this recipe, time was moving in a more comminuted way — we were partway through a hundred-plus day lockdown, and my family’s solution to making one 24-hour period even marginally different from the one before was to choose a different country each day, and cook its food (or an approximation thereof) and listen to its music. (We stayed in lockdown so long that this was just one of our various daily schemes, but it’s the relevant one to this recipe.) I made these Catalan Chickpeas with Spinach when we got to Spain, along with some other Spain-wards recipes, and it really floored me — for something so simple, starring two undeniably excellent but not terribly flashy ingredients, it’s just beautiful. Gutsy, earthy, mellow, layered, delicious.

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I feel that of all the ingredients I might need to reassure you about in a kind but firm manner, it’s the raisins. If you’re already au fait with raisins in savoury recipes then this doesn’t apply to you, but if you are feeling suspicious, let me not only put your mind at ease but request, specifically, that you don’t leave them out — the tiny, lightly swollen bursts of winey sweetness are absolutely lush against the grainy soft chickpeas and the dark leafy spinach, to leave them out you’d lose what makes this dish so elevated and spectacular. That being said, if your suspicion for raisins veers into sensory issues territory then this doesn’t apply to you either! But put it this way, I have never once been a person who would eat a handful of raisins, the thought makes me shuddery, but once there’s some salt and olive oil involved they suddenly become entirely welcome.

@hungryandfrozen

Catalan Chickpeas and Spinach • recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com • adapted from @gimmesomeoven #vegan #cookingtiktok #beantok #chickpeas #foodblog #fyp

♬ Sascha – Jolie Holland

Maybe I’ve got time especially on the mind because my birthday is approaching, and, well, we live in a society where interrogative introspection follows each blowing out of candles; currently I’m coping by declaring, at every opportunity, that turning 36 is “so chic”. If you’re also in the ballpark of my generation or older you’re most welcome to use this framing device yourself, it’s…kind of helpful. Anyway, these chickpeas: time may be none of my business, but nonetheless I do wish I’d made them again sooner in a literal way, rather than in a “soon, in my warped and debilitating experience of the passage of time” kind of way. You should make them, and then make them again, for yourself, for friends, as a bring-a-plate, should you be in a place where socialising is relatively chill again. It would be a charming light meal for two with bread alongside (or, alternatively, the promise of dessert after); or it could easily feed four when served alongside a few other dishes, and if you’re feeling hungry, it’s all yours and no one else’s.

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Catalan Chickpeas and Spinach

An incredibly delicious, hearty, and simple dish, and impossible to make just once. I found this recipe on gimmesomeoven.com and have toyed with it just a little; if I had pine nuts I would’ve obviously preferred to use them as the original suggests, but the significantly less expensive sunflower seeds are a fine substitute.

  • 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 1 large onion
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (or, 1 teaspoon ground cumin)
  • 1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained
  • 3 tablespoons dry vermouth (or dry sherry, or a splash of water)
  • 3 tablespoons raisins (or sultanas)
  • 3 large handfuls spinach
  • salt, to taste, and extra virgin olive oil, to finish

1: Toast the three tablespoons of sunflower seeds in a hot pan for a few minutes, until they go from pale to golden brown. Tip them into a bowl or plate and set aside.

2: Peel and finely dice the onion, then peel and roughly chop the six cloves garlic. Warm the two tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan — I used the same one that I toasted the sunflower seeds in — and fry the chopped onion and garlic over a low heat until they’re softened. Tip in the teaspoon of smoked paprika and half teaspoon of cumin seeds, and stir to coat the onions.

3: Turn up the heat a little and tip in the chickpeas, followed by the three tablespoons of vermouth (although, I generally slosh rather than measure, for what it’s worth), and the three tablespoons of raisins or sultanas, and let it simmer for about five minutes, adding a splash of water if the pan is looking too dry.

4: Roughly chop the spinach and throw it into the pan. You can simply stir the spinach into the chickpeas with the heat on, or you can turn off the heat, clamp on a lid, and let the residual heat and steam wilt the spinach. Either way, it shouldn’t take more than a minute or two for the spinach to flop into almost nothing.

5: Remove the pan from the heat, scatter over the reserved sunflower seeds, season with salt (and pepper, if you wish) and drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil. You could also consider a squeeze of lemon juice (especially if you used water instead of vermouth or sherry).

Serves 2—4, lightly, depending on what’s being eaten alongside, or one hungry person.

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music lately:

Forever and Ever by Demis Roussos, although this song evokes memories of Alison Steadman in the horror film (not in genre, but in vibe, you understand) Abigail’s Party, there’s something about those effortlessly gliding vocals and the full-hearted romance and proto-dream pop energy that is very loveable.

Persuasive by Doechii, I love how this is somehow quiet and loud at the same time. Utterly hypnotic, I can’t stop listening to it.

Forever, by Pete Drake. I was sent this video, along with the description that it was staggeringly Lynchian, and: I agree! If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s from 1964 I would have sworn on my own grave that David Lynch’s handprints were all over this tableau, it’s got that mix of heartbreaking comfort and looming, yet unidentifiable sinisterness and a general pervading Americanness. It’s almost hard to believe it’s real, but, somehow, it is.

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 Best Granola [vegan]

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I may be prone to exaggeration, but I come by it honestly; that is, I wouldn’t consider how I describe things to be exaggeration, merely accurate. So when I call this The Best Granola, it’s not to be cute, it’s just telling you exactly how good it is. In fact — honestly — it’s better than any granola I’ve ever made before, and I have put my name to a lot of granola recipes. The idea for this recipe comes directly from Rachel Ama, and her book Rachel Ama’s Vegan Eats; prior to that I hadn’t considered flipping the quantities of oats to nuts and seeds, now I will never make granola any other way.

This recipe is comprised almost entirely of almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, the oats are there but resolutely in the background, and the result is extraordinary — so light, so crunchy without being the slightest burden on your masseter muscles, rich and very filling, but filling you with the sense that you could take on the world (or at least pick up that sock from the middle of the floor, where it has sat procumbent for the past week) instead of immediately needing a nap.

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There’s no getting around the fact that this is an expensive recipe — although it does make a gratifyingly whopping five litres — but when supermarkets will charge you anything from $7 to $17 for a teeny-tiny bag of mass-produced granola, making your own pays for itself by the second bowlful, not to mention that in these times of alarmingly spiking cost-of-living, it’s one more way to avoid buying off the shelf from our tyrannical supermarket duopoly overlords. With that in mind, I obviously wouldn’t recommend using your local supermarket to buy the ingredients for this (unless wherever you happen to live isn’t currently experiencing the same price surges we are, coupled with an excellent range of products, in which case, good for you, and what’s that like?) If you have a Bin Inn or other bulk store nearby then this is the time to use them, if you weren’t already, otherwise, I recommend going to a smaller greengrocer or Asian supermarket, as they tend to have bags of nuts and seeds (usually on a small shelf above the fruit and vegetables) for significantly more reasonable prices than the supermarket, indeed, I recommend prioritising them over regular supermarkets as much as you can anyway.

@hungryandfrozen

babe wake up she’s making five litres of granola again • recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com • thanks @rachelama for the inspiration #granola #breakfast #foodblogger #vegan #fyp

♬ You Don’t Have to Cry – Emma Ruth Rundle

As for the ingredients themselves, I know it might seem pedantic to ask for both whole and slivered almonds, but both of them together are necessary for just the right texture, and I swear they do taste different somehow! So far I’ve kept the flavourings fairly simple: a generous hand with the cinnamon, the smoky sweetness of molasses and golden or maple syrup, and the muted sourness of dried cranberries. You can use whichever dried fruit you like, but for me the cranberries work well here, feeling like more of a treat than sultanas, but still relatively inexpensive, and their jewel-bright colour is a lovely visual contrast to the Sahara-golden toasted nuts and the subdued green of the pumpkin seeds. Such is my trust in this recipe that I know whatever you end up putting in it will still work, indeed, I’m looking forward to slowly working through all my existing granola recipes, keeping their flavours but changing the method to match this one.

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I do like breakfast in theory, and I like the idea of being a breakfast person, but committing to any kind of routine is where I stumble — and not just at breakfast — this granola, however, is so delicious that my day simply hasn’t started until I’ve eaten some, and if I have it in the house I will eat it every day for breakfast without fail, and all things considered I can’t offer any greater recommendation for it than that.

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The Best Granola

Make this once and you’ll be hooked on its superlight, crunchy texture and deliciousness. This recipe makes a LOT, and I find that it’s worth the financial outlay in the short term to do it this way, but I have included smaller quantities in the notes if that suits you better. This recipe is based on Rachel Ama’s from her excellent book Rachel Ama’s Vegan Eats, I’m forever grateful for it and am sure you will be too upon making this.

  • 500g whole, natural almonds
  • 500g whole, raw cashews
  • 500g slivered almonds
  • 500g pumpkin seeds (preferably organic)
  • 500g sunflower seeds
  • 200g whole flaxseeds (that is, not ground — they are also sometimes called linseeds)
  • 150g sesame seeds
  • 150g coconut chips/flakes
  • 250g rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons refined coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup, or maple syrup
  • 3-4 tablespoons molasses
  • 3-4 teaspoons cinnamon, to taste
  • a hearty pinch of salt
  • 250g dried cranberries

1: Set your oven to 190C/370F on fan bake. Set aside two large baking trays — I use the ones that come with the oven, which fit into it like shelves, making sure that they’re very clean first with no prior roasted garlic etc residue on them. Basically you want something with a broad surface area and shallow sides.

2: Roughly chop your 500g each of whole natural almonds and raw cashews, so that you have some smaller, rubbly pieces and some nuts left whole. Logic would dictate that the quickest way to do this would be to hiff them into the food processor and pulse a few times, but for some reason I feel compelled every time to chop them by hand with my mezzaluna knife, which takes significantly longer and tends to send bits of almond flying everywhere. Up to you; but either is fine and, more importantly, doable.

3: Get the largest mixing bowl you can find — otherwise you may need two separate ones — and tip your chopped almonds and cashews into it, followed by the 500g slivered almonds, 500g pumpkin seeds, 500g sunflower seeds, 200g whole flaxseeds, 150g sesame seeds, 150g coconut chips, and the 250g rolled oats. Give them a stir, carefully, and then tip in the three tablespoons of refined coconut oil, three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, two tablespoons golden syrup, three tablespoons of molasses, and three teaspoons of cinnamon. Carefully stir this together — it shouldn’t be overly sticky, but add an extra tablespoon or so of molasses if you think it needs it.

4: Carefully divide this mixture between your two roasting trays, spreading it into an even layer. Place the trays in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. This seems like a long time but it has never failed me, that being said stop and check once or twice — sometimes it needs stirring before the twenty minutes is up, sometimes it doesn’t. After twenty minutes, remove the trays from the oven and stir, making sure the granola from the edges of the tray comes into the centre and vice versa, and return to the oven for another five to ten minutes, or until everything is nicely browned. It pays to stay in the kitchen while this is happening, because it can only be a matter of moments between toasted and burnt nuts; but don’t be too cautious either, you want the granola to really get some colour on it.

5: Once you’re satisfied at the done-ness — and bearing in mind that it will get crisper and crunchier as it cools — remove the trays from the oven and let them cool completely. At this point, sprinkle over a good pinch of salt (it seems easier to disperse it this way than in the mixing bowl) and finally tip the 250g dried cranberries over the two trays and stir them in.

Makes about 5 litres. Store in an airtight container out of direct sunlight.

Notes:

  • If feeling flush or freewheeling I’ll sometimes add a small packet or two of pecans, roughly crumbled in my hands first, and while they’re not essential, they really do add a little something as you can imagine.
  • I say 200g of flaxseeds but I have never once actually measured these properly, I just start pouring and stop when it feels right, I trust you to do the same. And if you can find organic pumpkin seeds, get them — for some reason they just taste nicer. Don’t stop yourself making this if you can only find regular ones though.

Quantities for about 1.5 litres of granola, as you can see it’s not a mathematically downscaled ratio by any means, but it works:

  • 500g natural almonds
  • 250g organic pumpkin seeds
  • 250g sunflower seeds
  • 100g flax seeds
  • 100-200g sesame seeds, cashews, pecans etc, whatever you’ve got
  • 100g coconut chips/shredded coconut
  • 150g rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons refined coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup (or maple syrup)
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon, or to taste
  • a good pinch of salt
  • 150g dried cranberries

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music lately:

Wo de Schönen Trompeten Blasen, from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn, sung exquisitely by Jessye Norman in this 1972 recording. I’ve started listening to opera while I’m writing (there’s only so many ambient beats I can cope with before getting bored) and so far it’s working well, the inherent beauty of opera makes for a great creative backdrop, most of it is more or less unfamiliar to my ears, and generally it’s not sung in English so the words themselves aren’t distracting. Which is not to damn Norman’s singing by calling it background music; her voice demands to be listened to — and so I will, again, outside of the context of writing — and I found myself pausing my typing to gaze misty-eyed into the middle distance while this particular piece played.

There is precisely one song — Army — by Ben Folds Five that I like (admittedly I haven’t tried very hard to find more) but I REALLY love it, but even then I specifically want to listen to this stripped back live version with just Ben Folds himself — there is not much more satisfying than when the audience comes in halfway through to sing the part of the horn section in the original studio recording. That being said, this live version with the full band, providing their own vocals for the horns is very charming, and Ben Folds playing two pianos at once is very impressive, but it’s the simple live version for me, and not much else.

Tornado, by Minako Yoshida, from her MONOCHROME album, which I have listened to so many times; it’s the kind of music that makes you feel like a Sophisticated Lady Late At Night (and I realise that saying those words is very unsophisticated, but.) All the tunes are spectacular, but you might as well start with the opening track, it’s moody, neon-lit, with not a small hint of Steely Dan.

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 (including this one, two months ago) 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!

Coconut Oat Chilli Crisp

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We all have our little fallback phrases to mutter like a protective mantra, for me: “just gotta get through this week” is a phrase—if not a mood—that I return to frequently, and in February it’s gone into overdrive, no sooner have I said it, but it’s time to say it again. A month absolutely redolent of thwart but not in a cool way, more in a stupid, losing-things, splitting-my-favourite-trousers, leaving-everything-to-the-last-minute kind of way. And then I turn on the news and it’s like, okay, the week that I just gotta get through is pretty modest compared to the other options out there. But still, the sentiment stands: just gotta get through this week.

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This is my slapdash way of explaining why I haven’t blogged since the start of the month, and why I return with a recipe that I was missing key ingredients for and then managed to burn parts of. I figured if I said “just gotta get through this week” too many times I might psychologically yeet myself straight into March without realising it, or indeed, achieving anything, so I cut my losses, took some photos, and here we are. Even despite all these setbacks, this Coconut Oat Chilli Crisp is wonderfully delicious, and I can only but imagine, greedily, how good it will taste when I make it again at peak mental and organisational acuity, whenever that happy day might be. The recipe comes from Hetty McKinnon’s fantastic To Asia: With Love cookbook, the sort of collection of recipes that makes you slap the nearest firm surface and bellow “YES” as you read through them. Towards the end is this recipe, as part of a salad, I chose to make it stand-alone (and added the word “coconut” to the title just to emphasise what we’re in for) and despite over-frazzling my onions and not having the right ginger, I couldn’t be happier with the results.

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I’m a relative newcomer to chilli oil—in fact, truth be told, I’m a relative newcomer to chilli. As far as I can remember there was only cayenne pepper for dusting redly across devilled eggs, and then sometime in the late 90s sweet chilli sauce became A Thing (mostly poured, stickily, over upended tubs of cream cheese, to be gouged at with crackers), and as such I simply assumed my taste buds would be terrified of any real chilli experience and more or less avoided it for years. It turns out that I actually love chilli, and have a decent capacity for it—but it also seems that the only way to get your tastebuds used to chilli is to simply eat chilli. They’re not going to randomly do it of their own accord. A brief scan of my recent recipes will show my great latecomer’s enthusiasm for homemade chilli oil (the chilli oil beans; the bucatini with chilli oil pumpkin seeds; the sushi rice with chilli oil nuts, etc) and this recipe of Hetty McKinnon’s is my new favourite thing.

@hungryandfrozen

Hetty McKinnon’s oat chilli crisp is SO GOOD slightly adapted recipe at hungryandfrozen.com #cooking #chillicrisp #chillioil #vegan #recipes #fyp #nz

♬ Breathe Again – Toni Braxton

What really caught me was the clever use of oats as a crisp element in this oil, and their unobtrusive and nutty flavour and wafer-y fried crunch give marvellous texture and surprising richness, especially when paired with the waxy, sweet coconut. I added chopped roasted peanuts for extra crunch, and—I admit—to dilute the taste of the burnt green bits of onion. I was fully prepared for this recipe to be a wasteful disaster, fortunately, it still tasted excellent. This makes a large quantity of gloriously magma-coloured—although, not magma-hot—chilli oil, and with its versatility and long shelf-life, it would make an ideal gift.

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If you already like chilli oil, or have a jar of Lao Gan Ma chilli crisp perpetually near-empty, you won’t need me to tell you what to do with this, but the thing is, it really is versatile: it’s not so much a case of what it goes with, it’s more trying to find literally anything that can’t be improved by a glossy red spoonful of it. Rice and noodles, obviously, cold, sliced and bashed up cucumber, a ripe avocado, all friends to chilli oil; pouring this over savoury oats would be deliciously symbiotic, and, I suspect, symbiotically delicious. Or there’s always my number one summer meal, the meal that I would’ve been lost without this year, through humidity and record-high heatwaves and summer cyclones: a wobbly and pale slab of fridge-cold silken tofu, with chilli oil spooned over it. Perfection, and the kind of dish that makes you happy that you’re here, right now, and not barrelling towards next week.

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Coconut Oat Chilli Crisp

Coconut flakes and rolled oats give texture and richness to this delicious and versatile chilli oil. This is a very slight adaptation of a Hetty McKinnon recipe from her beautiful book To Asia, With Love, and the first of many, many recipes I’ll be cooking from it. The only real changes I made were to increase the oil a little, to add chopped roasted peanuts for even more crunch, and to specifically use gochugaru, the Korean red chilli powder, because I love it (and I also have a giant bag of it).

  • 3 shallots or spring onions, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 2.5cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely sliced (see notes)
  • 1 cup (100g) old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup (30g) coconut flakes (also called coconut chips)
  • 3 tablespoons gochugaru
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 and 3/4 cups neutral oil, such as rice bran
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt, to taste (or about a teaspoon of pouring/table salt)

1: If using spring onions, set aside the green parts (otherwise, you will end up with what I had: burnt bits of onion.) Place the three finely sliced shallots or the white parts of your spring onions, the two finely sliced garlic cloves, the finely chopped ginger, the cup of rolled oats, the half cup of coconut flakes, the three tablespoons of gochugaru, the three tablespoons of sesame seeds, and the cinnamon stick in a saucepan. Pour over the 1 and 3/4 cups neutral oil, and the two tablespoons of sesame oil.

2: Bring the pan to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and then set the heat to medium-low and cook for a good 25-30 minutes, until all the bits and pieces are crispy. It really will take that about that long, and you’ll start to feel—and hear—when the crispening is happening. If you’ve used spring onions, add the green parts in towards the end of this time, so they can get crisp without overcooking.

3: Pour (or ladle, which felt a bit safer to me) the contents of the pan into a bowl with a wide sieve sitting in it, so the oil can fall through to the bowl below and all the crispy bits are caught in the sieve. Let this sit until it’s cooled, which will allow the oats to get even crisper. At this point you can either mix it all together again, along with the three tablespoons of chopped roasted peanuts and the salt, and then pour that into a jar, or you can do as I did—which felt a bit more manageable—and stir the salt and peanuts into the bits and pieces in the sieve, spoon all that into your jar, and then pour the oil over the top. Whichever way you choose: make sure your jar is clean and sterilised first.

Makes around 450-500ml. The recipe book says that this can be stored at room temperature for several months. I am very slovenly about some things and nervous about others; garlic in oil is one of the latter, so I might be inclined to keep mine in the fridge—and in this current heat everything benefits from refrigeration.

Notes:

  • I hate to confess it but: I didn’t have any proper ginger and had my heart set on making this so used crushed ginger from a jar, obviously it’s not nearly as good and you should definitely make the effort to buy the real thing (and so will I, next time I make this)
  • The gochugaru brand I have is Wang. The bag will give you considerably more than you need for this recipe, which is obviously in its favour since I hoon through these mild and sweet chilli flakes pretty quickly.

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music lately:

What’ll I Do, by Janet Jackson. Obviously the entire album is a classic but I love how this song comes in halfway through to jolt you with that sixties-via-the-nineties sound, and highly intoxicating it is, too.

Ambition by Subway Sect, the kind of helter-skelter energy that I cannot get enough of (the opening riff sounds a bit like The Clean’s Tally Ho if it were run backwards) and whoever’s decision it was to have that faint bloopy bubble-pop sound in the background…thank you.

You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me by Tammy Grimes, from the 1980 original Broadway production of 42nd Street. This show is a great comfort to me—the music just is comforting, in that baked-in way very old songs can be, but also because it was the first ever musical that I saw at a very young age, and subsequently the cassette of the cast recording was played until its magnetic tape gave up. Tammy Grimes’ breathy voice is very particular, but I love it, and I’m not sure she’s ever sounded better – or more comforting – than on this album.

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!

Sushi Rice with Chilli Oil Nuts [vegan]

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This is quite obviously a gently reworked version of my Chilli Oil Beans recipe but we’re seventy days into lockdown and my concept of “my life” in general has been reduced to much the same level of control and robustness as the plight of the titular corpse in The Trouble With Harry, and my brain cells and general morale have all given up and lain on the floor howling, so you’ll forgive me for lacking flair. But! To say this does an unnecessary disservice to this recipe for Sushi Rice with Chilli Oil Nuts, which is wonderful and would be so in any context – even this one. (And here’s my disclaimer that I’m immensely pro-lockdown and pro-vaccination, I’m just massively frustrated and exhausted by our current frustrating and exhausting situation.) While this recipe’s origins are clear it also was tangentially inspired by one of my go-to struggle meals in Wellington when I was funnelling all my earnings into the particular unearned rent prices that city boasts, usually eaten in the dark at 4 or 5am after a shift – a hefty pile of toasted sunflower seeds mixed with olive oil, salt, and ground white pepper.

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The chilli oil already tasted amazing in its original format, but when I tutu’d with the proportions to make it more nut-forward (and I apologise for how weird that phrase looks on the page) as if the nuts were in fact replacing the beans as opposed to simply adding texture – well, it became even more delicious somehow. I had to march myself out of the kitchen to stop myself from eating all the waiting chilli oil nuts spoonful by spoonful as the rice cooked – and I realise this sounds like standard-issue blogger exaggeration but if there’s one thing you need to know about me it’s that I literally never exaggerate! And why would I exaggerate about food when it tastes good enough to simply describe it as it is?

The balance of flavours in these chilli oil nuts is quite exquisite – the jovial heat of the gochugaru, the aromatic fennel and star anise, the allium savoury vibes from the chives and garlic, the soft oil-pastel crunch and sweetness of the cashews and walnuts and the half-hearted yet welcome kick from the ground white pepper. You might think that all this, the sticky sushi rice and the taste detonation of kimchi would be enough, that you don’t need the richness of avocado along with the oil and the cashews and so on, but! Somehow even in these trying times an avocado still feels like a little treat, a surprise, like, surely it’s going to be a good day if there’s an avocado involved. Don’t leave out the avocado. That being said rice and the chilli oil nuts on their own would still be a great meal – and it can just be regular rice, not sushi rice.

In lieu of anything else going right, there’s one thing you can rely on to soothe and offer a brief, sanguine feeling of sanity: a perfectly composed bowl of rice.

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Sushi Rice with Chilli Oil Nuts

A very simple and utterly delicious solo meal (it is genuinely simple, the recipe just looks long because I like to talk!) – and despite its simplicity it also feels like you’ve really Done Something. Recipe by myself, with thanks to JustOneCookbook for their highly detailed instructions on how to cook sushi rice on the stove top, which I used as a reference.

  • 3/4 cup (or one rice cooker cup) sushi rice
  • 1/3 cup cashews
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons gochugaru (or whatever chilli flakes you’ve got)
  • 2 tablespoons snipped chives (I did not actually measure this and nor should you)
  • 1 fat garlic clove
  • hearty shake of salt and ground white pepper
  • 3 tablespoons neutral oil, such as rice bran
  • a tablespoon or so of sushi vinegar, if you have it, or a splash of apple cider vinegar and caster sugar mixed
  • together with a little salt
  • Kimchi and sliced avocado, to serve

1: Place your rice into a medium-sized saucepan and partially fill the pan with cold water. Briskly rinse the rice, swishing it around with your fingers and tilting the pan to drain the water out, without letting the water sit too much between rinsing. Repeat twice more. Once this is done, fill the cup measure you used for the rice with water and add it to the pan, and then repeat – perhaps placing your finger on top of the rice and checking that the water reaches your first knuckle, which means you’ve got the correct quantity of water – and then place the lid on top and set it aside for 30 minutes.

2: While the rice is waiting, get started on the chilli oil nuts. Roughly chop the cashews and walnuts and tip them into a small heatproof bowl. Add the star anise, fennel seeds, gochugaru or whichever chilli flakes you’re using, and the chives, then grate in the garlic clove (or slice it finely, up to you) and shake in the salt and pepper.

3: Heat the oil in a small saucepan until it seems hot – you can check by sticking the tip of a handle of a wooden spoon into it, and if small bubbles cling to the surface, it’s ready – and then carefully pour this hot oil into the bowl of nuts and spices. It’ll sizzle and bubble but it should settle down quickly. Set aside.

4: Place the pan of rice over a high heat, until the water comes to the boil (a pan with a see-through lid is obviously ideal here) and as soon as it does, turn the heat as low as it’ll go and cook for ten to twelve minutes. Then, remove it from the heat – with the lid still on – and let it sit for ten minutes. It’s best to not remove the lid at all during this entire proceeding but every time I’ve cooked sushi rice I’ve very quickly lifted the lid to swipe a small spoonful to test for done-ness and nothing bad has ever happened – make sure you’re quick about it, though.

5: Use a rice paddle or spoon to carefully stir the sushi vinegar (or ACV/sugar mixture) through the rice. Spoon your desired quantity of rice into a serving bowl, top with sliced avocado and kimchi, and then spoon over the chilli oil nuts.

Serves 1, but this makes enough rice for two – if you’re making this for two you could probably get away with just adding half as much of the chilli oil ingredients again rather than doubling it but I, personally, would want more.

Also – I especially like cashews here, but you can obviously use other nuts and/or seeds – peanuts, pecans, pistachios and pumpkin seeds would be great in particular. And if you really, really aren’t into fennel-y/aniseed-y flavours then leave out the fennel and star anise but for what it’s worth, liquorice is one of the few sweets I cannot face – it is the personal enemy of my palate – and yet I love the hint of it here. It’s not overpowering at all, and just adds a little ping of complexity.

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music lately:

Rave On by Buddy Holly, maybe it’s because I have only left the house twice in the last seventy days and both times was to get vaccinated but this song, my god! There’s something so wildly subversive lurking beneath its vaguely square surface – if not hiding in plain sight – every now and then you get hit by a wave, for just a second, of what it must’ve been like to hear a song for the first time, and as soon as he sings “we-he-he-he-hell” that wave crashes down upon me.

Venus In Furs by the Velvet Underground, this is definitely more of the subversion hiding in plain sight variety of song, from the moment it drops you headfirst into the molten hot wax of those opening violins to the laugh in Lou Reed’s voice on “bleed for me”. This is probably my favourite VU song – not an easy selection, nor a necessary one, really – and I was charmed to hear it right at the start of Todd Hayne’s elegant new documentary about the band.

I’d Love To Fall Asleep by Muriel Smith – you know what, considering this was sung in the post-Hayes-code era of films showing married couples in separate beds, this song is kind of subversive in its own way, too. Smith’s contralto is gorgeous and rich and the fuzzy crackle of the vinyl this song is playing on only adds to the comfort.

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!

Chilli Oil Beans [vegan]

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For all that the instant and the fast and the promise of the fifteen-minute feast in seven ingredients or fewer have had a persistent hold on food writing directed at all people from around the age where they’re able to operate a toaster unsupervised; there is joy to be found in the circuitous route, in taking your time, in being present and looking your food in the eye (metaphorically, speaking as a vegan) and saying “I see you”.

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This is – you could say – a circuitous route to describe a recipe that is actually pretty instant, but I wanted to set the scene in case you glance over these Chilli Oil Beans and think “why would I do this when I could just open a jar of Lao Gan Ma chilli in oil instead?” Well, first of all, that would be a valid and delightful decision and I’m not going to talk you out of it! My recipe merely involves spooning sizzling hot oil from a pan into a bowl of aromatics, and this gentle yet decisive incubation process creates a stunningly fragrant and rich spice-jewelled condiment, absolutely lush stuff, and sheer magic against the creamy mellowness of the beans.

The road to this recipe was many-pronged – first, I was struggling to find kimchi online during lockdown, so I ended up ordering gochugaru (Korean chilli flakes) to make my own, and the bag that arrived was roughly the size of my head, so I had a significant quantity leftover. Second, several TikTok videos involving chilli oil entered my peripheral vision (including this one by Chef Priyanka and this one by TiffyCooks) and the notion of pouring hot oil over spices really stuck with me – and I know I keep bringing up TikTok but I’ve been in lockdown since mid-August, I live in the middle of nowhere and I’m 90% unemployed, so my reference points are going to be fairly narrow and repetitive, and that’s a personal guarantee! Besides which, TikTok can be a brilliant culinary resource, especially in the case of these creators. Finally, I’d been thinking about this chilli oil and how it would be wonderful stirred through beans or lentils – the dense, grainy legumes and the crunch of chopped nuts and quick-toasted whole spices and the crackle of hot chilli all together – and so, here we are.

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(every now and then I break my personal rule of never photographing food with ingredients scattered impractically hither and yon; but it’s my understanding that people like this kind of photography and the algorithm is a vengeful god who must be appeased with occasional sacrifices)

Whether or not you’re in lockdown this is just the kind of food that makes you feel free and glorious both in the making and the eating – and despite my opening paragraph, I really must reiterate how straightforward it is. Although I presume you know how to deal with a bowl of beans, this can be more than just a snack in and of itself. It would be excellent piled onto rice or stirred through pasta – short, I reckon, like orecchiette or ditalini – or wrapped in something burrito-adjacent; that being said I just kept sneaking more and more spoonfuls of it while standing up at the bench taking photos until there remained nothing more to photograph but the bowl and the spoon and a thin film of red-flecked oil. And of course, the oil itself can be used on literally anything! Even if I didn’t have a bag of gochugaru the size of my head to work through – a blessing, rather than a hardship! – I would definitely be making this again soon.

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Chilli Oil Beans

Fast, simple, delicious. So simple and delicious that I completely forgot to add fresh ginger and garlic and it still tasted amazing? Please consider adding a few chopped garlic cloves and sliced coins of fresh ginger; please don’t consider leaving out the aniseed flavourings, they’re important! Recipe by myself.

  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • a small handful of chives, snipped (around two tablespoons, it really doesn’t matter)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1-2 teaspoons gochugaru or regular chilli flakes (adjust to your tastes, of course)
  • a hearty shake of ground white pepper
  • 2 generous tablespoons rice bran oil or similarly neutral oil
  • 1/4 cup cashews, roughly chopped
  • 1 x 400g tin cannellini beans
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • dash sesame oil

1: Place everything up to and including the white pepper into a small, heatproof mixing bowl. Heat up the rice bran oil in a small saucepan until you can dip a wooden spoon into it and tiny bubbles start to gather – at this point, remove the pan from the heat and tip the oil into the bowl of spices. Add the cashews and let it sit for a minute.

2: Rinse the beans – and if you want them heated, you can take this opportunity to warm them through in the same pan that you heated the oil in. if you’re happy with room temperature beans, then hooray, one less dish to wash. Carefully remove the cinnamon stick and star anise from the mixing bowl, then tip in the beans and stir to coat them in the spiced oil. Stir in the soy sauce – adding more if you like – and a dash of sesame oil.

Serves 1, but depending on its application, (eg served on rice or stirred into pasta) this could serve more. If you are not a dolt like me and remember to include ginger and garlic I would leave the garlic in but fish out the bits of ginger. Obviously, you can use lentils, chickpeas, borlotti beans, anything you like, and you’re more than welcome to cook them from scratch rather than using canned. 

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music lately:

Spaceman by Babylon Zoo, I don’t know who greenlit this chaos but good for them, I still remember hearing it on the radio for the first time in 1996 and it felt like I was flying in a dream, the kind of song that makes a small-town youngster look out the window and say damn, this is living.

Caught Up In The Rapture by Anita Baker. Smooth, stunning, and it bears repeating: so smooth, so stunning!

Disappear by INXS – look, if you’re still within a strict lockdown level I don’t entirely recommend listening to this, it’s too exciting and too powerful. Cruelly, it’s on my mind – but then, it always is, lockdown or not.

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 Gochujang Bokkeum

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I’ve been vegan for about three years now, and comfortably so, but I’m only human and despite my claims, it is not just white chocolate that makes me occasionally question my every last firmly-held conviction. It’s Folu’s Unsnackable newsletter, it’s the memory of a filet o’fish – not that I think it would be hard to make a vegan dupe but a recipe for those pillow-tender steamed buns as yet eludes me – and it’s all the Korean food creators that I follow on TikTok. This recipe for gochujang bokkeum – a fried gochujang sauce with onions and beef – by Johnny Kyung-Hwo Sheldrick algorithmed its way onto my phone, and it looked so delicious, and I was sure I could make it vegan easily enough without squandering the vibe of the original recipe. (More so than the person who commented “is it vegan” to which Johnny gamely and politely replied, “without the beef it is”, such is the state of critical thinking these days.)

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Far be it from me to suggest that the food of a cuisine that isn’t mine needs me to meddle in it but as it stands, I don’t eat beef but I wanted to eat this. I’m delighted with my variation and I’m delighted that I found the original recipes that inspired it; I wouldn’t have come up with this without them. Rather than use a fake meat as a replacement I decided a rubbly mixture of blended up peanuts and sun-dried tomatoes would be ideal, and they were – the peanuts give texture, protein and nutty mildness; the sun-dried tomatoes add concentrated, near-meaty dark red savoury flavour and stickiness.

So far this gochujang bokkeum has been delicious on cold noodles, on hot noodles, and mixed into stir-fried vegetables with fake chicken; I know in my near future there’ll be a big spoonful of this on a bowl of rice with fried mushrooms, and I feel like it would work beautifully with a creamy texture as well – like these coconut chilli tofu noodles.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan gochujang bokkeum 🌶 SO DELICIOUS thanks @johnnykyunghwo for the inspiration🌶 #vegankorean #recipe #gochujang #veganrecipes #foodblogger #fyp

♬ Rumble – Link Wray & His Ray Men

All the peanuts and tomatoes spread that chilli heat out a little, but eating this is still a vigorous experience, and the gochujang, a Korean fermented chilli paste, is definitely pretty fiery. But it’s not only hot. It’s got these shadowy layers of flavour and depth and, as Nigella Lawson said in her book Kitchen, an “almost liquorice intensity”, a description that dances in my mind whenever I eat it. Besides, heat tolerance is a moving target and the only way to get used to it is to eat more. I don’t consider myself even close to being able to handle a lot of chilli heat and yet I keep sneaking spoonfuls of this; after a while your tastebuds do adjust – eventually you’ll be spooning it onto your breakfast cereal.

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Vegan Gochujang Bokkeum

This Korean fried chilli sauce is seriously delicious and versatile. I’ve replaced the usual meat with peanuts and sun-dried tomatoes, but the star ingredient is, of course, gochujang, a Korean fermented chilli paste. My vegan version is both inspired by and based on this recipe at Racheerachh Eats and this TikTok by Johnny Kyung-Hwo Sheldrick.

  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 and 1/2 cups raw peanuts
  • 10 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used rice bran)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mushroom soy sauce (or regular soy sauce)
  • 1/2 cup gochujang
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1: Finely dice the onion and roughly chop the garlic. Place the peanuts and tomatoes in a food processor and blend them into a chunky paste; the peanuts should be in small pieces but not in any danger of turning into peanut butter.

2: Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy frying pan and gently fry the onions and garlic till they’re softened. Spatula in your peanut and tomato mixture and fry for another five minutes, stirring often – don’t expect it to brown or change appearance considerably – then stir in the sugar and soy sauce and keep stirring till the sugar has melted into everything.

3: Add the gochujang to the pan and continue to fry and stir for another couple of minutes, it will be a fantastic dark red shade and quite thick. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and sesame seeds, and transfer to an airtight container or clean jar. Store in the fridge.

Makes around 2 cups.

  • Gochujang is more readily available in chain supermarkets these days but since most of my favourite ingredients come from Asian supermarkets anyway I tend to just get it there; either way, I’m afraid to say I go for the one labelled “mild”.

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music lately:

Mijn Droom [I Dreamed a Dream] by Pia Douwes from the 1991 original Dutch production of Les Miserables. I love finding the people in non-English speaking countries who are the go-to for theatre roles (like German powerhouse Willemijn Verkaik) and though I’ve heard of Pia Douwes I’ve never investigated her singing before, it was after watching a TikTok by BroadwayBob that I simply had to. She has this gutsy yet vulnerable voice that is made for the stage; I also highly recommend her Sally Bowles in the Dutch language Cabaret, it is, as you can imagine, quite powerful.

Legend of a Cowgirl by Imani Coppola, it’s the most 1997 sound imaginable and yet still so fresh and arresting and irrepressible and she should’ve been a megastar off the back of it.

It Hurts Me Too by Karen Dalton, one of those songs and voices that just makes you tearful the second you hear it. Good crying, not crying-crying, but after a while who can even tell!

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!

Lentil, Radish, Avocado and Fried Potato Salad

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The one area in my life where I have a confident surplus of initiative is cooking – when nothing makes sense and the increasingly burdensome administrative tasks involved in being an adult are gleefully multiplying like the broomsticks in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, I can still invent a recipe or be delighted by a hypothetical combination of flavours. July has been a taxing month and these reliable instincts fell somewhat dormant, but I was jolted back to life by seeing this Lentil Salad TikTok by food writer Bettina Makalintal – suddenly I felt excited again because making this recipe was in my near future. And besides, I gain as much joy from outside inspiration as I do from coming up with my own ideas (okay, maybe it’s more of a self-satisfied forty/sixty split), and it takes initiative to recognise someone else’s initiative, right? (As you can see, I may lack initiative, but at least I’m constantly worrying about it!)

Lentils and tofu are usually first under the bus when non-vegans discuss vegan food but as I always say, this is an issue with cooking ability, not the meal itself. Unseasoned, poorly cooked food is gross whether the protein source grew in the ground or walked the earth. You have to give the lentils some flavour and texture to cling onto otherwise they’re left stranded and bland. This superb salad – it does right by the lentil.

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My recipe takes key elements of Bettina’s salad – the lentils, obviously, the peppery pink crunch of the radishes and plenty of lemon – along with my own added extras. There’s resiny thyme leaves, a diced avocado since I had one kicking about and it’s impossible to be sad when there’s an avocado involved, a generous quantity of mushroom soy sauce because it’s my current obsession, toasted pine nuts with garlic because to me pine nuts are just so classy – which I realise makes me sound more Kath Day-Knight than Old Money but I know where I’d rather be – and golden cubes of crisply-fried potato. The latter concept was inspired both by Nigella Lawson’s fried potato croutons in her Caesar Salad and a recipe by Rachel Ama for lentils with crispy new potatoes. It truly takes a village to make a salad!

This lentil salad is so delicious – leaving no adjective behind, it’s a perfect balance of oily, salty, sweet, earthy, peppery, crunchy, creamy, and tender. And it’s pretty, too, something the lentil doesn’t always get to boast – not since Elphaba and Galinda has pink looked so good with green. As is the nature of this kind of recipe you can add or subtract ingredients to your heart’s content, and despite being wedded to the classy pine nut, next time I’d definitely make this with the fried walnuts in Bettina’s recipe for a more pronounced crunch. There’s also lime juice or cherry tomatoes and basil to consider, or fried leeks, or olives, or rosemary, or pecans – the amicable lentil can handle it all. I’m slowly working on a newsletter where I plan to review various fake meats (the slow part is because CMS makes my head cave in on itself) but I enjoyed being reminded of the stalwart legume and its merits. It’s rather shamefully been years since I blogged a lentil recipe, and this salad will keep them on my mind from now on.

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Lentil, Radish, Avocado and Fried Potato Salad

A simple but lush vegan lentil salad, ideal for lunch or dinner in its entirety but also very bring-a-plate friendly. It looks like there’s a lot of steps, but you’re really just mixing a bunch of stuff together, and ingredients are pretty loose, quantity-wise – feel free to add or subtract depending on your taste and needs. Recipe by myself, inspired by this salad by Bettina Makalintal.

  • 1 and 1/2 cups dried brown lentils
  • 8 small radishes, trimmed
  • 1 spring onion
  • 2 lemons
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for frying
  • 2 tablespoons mushroom soy sauce (or Maggi, or light soy sauce)
  • a generous pinch of white pepper, or to taste
  • 1 large floury potato
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 ripe but firm avocado
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

1: Rinse the lentils in cold water, then place in a bowl and cover with cold water and leave them to sit for an hour. You don’t actually need to soak them but it reduces the cooking time and I think there are some health benefits to it in terms of mineral absorption but don’t take my word for it.

2: Drain any water from the soaked lentils and tip them into a large saucepan with enough fresh water to generously cover (about the length of your index finger when prodded into the pan.) Bring the water to the boil then lower the heat and simmer the beans until they’re tender – this shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes. Keeping the heat low prevents the lentils from breaking apart and turning mushy, I was only semi-successful in achieving this but it still tasted fine. Strain the lentils, rinsing briefly in cold water to take some of the heat off, and set aside in a mixing bowl.

3: Cut the radishes into quarters and finely slice the spring onion. Make the dressing by zesting and juicing the lemon and mixing this in a small bowl with the mushroom soy sauce, olive oil and black pepper.

4: Scrub the potato clean if need be and dice it into small cubes. Heat another tablespoon or two of olive oil in a heavy frying pan and fry the potato cubes until golden and crisp – make sure they’re in one layer and give them about five minutes on the first side without moving them before turning over and cooking for another five minutes.

5: Turn off the heat, remove the potatoes from the pan with a slotted spoon and add them to the lentils. Peel and roughly chop the garlic cloves and add them to the pan with the pine nuts, and stir them in the residual heat until the nuts are lightly golden and toasted. Even though this isn’t happening on direct heat be sure to keep a close eye on it as both pine nuts and garlic burn easily.

6: Finally, tip the radishes and spring onions into the bowl of lentils and potatoes, then scrape in all the pine nuts, garlic, and remaining olive oil from the pan. Dice your avocado and add that to the bowl along with the dressing and the thyme leaves. Gently stir everything together and taste to see if needs more salt, pepper, or lemon.

Best served either immediately or after 24 hours in the fridge, by which point the potatoes will have lost their crispness but the overall flavour will have developed fantastically. If you’re making this ahead of time, either accept your uncrisp potatoes or fry them up at the last minute and stir them in. Finally – this is best at room temperature as opposed to fridge-cold.

Serves 4 generously as a light lunch, or 6-8 as a side dish as part of a larger meal.

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music lately:

Son of Birds by Dip In The Pool. The whole Aurorae album from 1991 is a sublime dreamscape from start to finish and that’s how I’d recommend listening to it, but this track, with its watery beat and film noir horns, is a charming entry point.

Don’t Leave Me by Blackstreet. A classic! The silky harmonies! Was there ever anything as poignant as that DeBarge sample! This song makes me feel like I’m wearing a cable knit sweater and slacks and a floor-length coat and pumps with a square toe and a square heel and I’m on the brink of divorce but in an aspirational, cinematic way!

The One by Limp Bizkit. Oh, I could pretend that watching the Woodstock 99 documentary with my brother is what made me nostalgic but the briefest scan of my timeline shows I’ve been enthusiastically listening to Limp Bizkit of my own volition for a long time. And even though this song is genuinely quite glorious with a similar downwards-diagonal intensity that you’d find in Shout by Tears for Fears or In Like The Rose by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and I honestly love it so much and will play it five times in a row, we all know I’m going to play Limp Bizkit’s critically-reviled cover of Faith five times in a row after that – say what you like but I came of age with this band and none of us can deny the way Fred Durst’s voice soars in the bridge.

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!