Vegan Chocolate-Nut Fudge Candies

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

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

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

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

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Chocolate-Nut Fudge Candies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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music lately:

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

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

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

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

Vegan Pistachio Toffee Cookies

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Since losing half of October to Covid I have struggled to get a grip on time, space, concepts, activities, et cetera, it’s like I’m trying to run underwater, (or, honestly, given my running abilities, trying to run on land) or get to the airport on time in a dream, everything feels liminal and indistinct. And it’s nearly November! And, let’s face it, pre-Covid I was not exactly a paragon of organization and grip-getting. However, these cookies appeared to me in a piercing moment of lucidity and the rush of coming up with a recipe again reminded me that just because my brain is still a bit out of reach, it does want to come back to me.

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The cookies themselves are delicious enough, but when you add the bumpy, glassy toffee-coated pistachios like molten gold and emeralds poured over each cookie, it suddenly feels like an artisanal bakery has sprung up in your kitchen. I can’t even begin to impress upon you how excellent the texture is: crunchy, splintering toffee, firm and buttery pistachios, and dense cookie, all yielding to each other in every mouthful.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan pistachio toffee cookies • full recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com • #cookies #pistachio #toffee #foodblog #vegancookies

♬ Central Reservation (The Then Again Version) – Beth Orton

Pistachios aren’t cheap, I know, but I guess the upside of everything being stupidly expensive right now is that the price of pistachios isn’t so shocking, comparatively (and by “upside” I do not at all mean “I accept this current state of things”, to be clear), and this recipe makes a modest quantity go quite some distance. The cardamom and coffee flavours in the cookie dough below are subtle yet entirely essential, together they give a kind of mysterious, almost gingery flavour profile (and as I note in the recipe, if you don’t like cardamom you could use ginger instead) and lend a sophisticated note to balance all the rambunctious sweetness coating the cookies.

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And go big or go home, right? If anything, I’m touched that my brain thought I was capable of monitoring the caramelisation of sugar and then rapidly transferring spoonfuls of the aforementioned boiling sugar from a saucepan to a tray of cookies, and I, in turn, believe you can do it too. Yeah, it’s a bit of work, and mildly treacherous, but the result is undeniably charming.

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Pistachio Toffee Cookies

To make it easier you could just fold the chopped pistachios through the dough, but truly, it’s all about that crunch of pistachio-studded toffee giving way to spiced cookie below: worth the effort. Recipe by myself.

Cookie Dough:

  • 1/2 cup rice bran oil, or similar neutral oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur (see notes)
  • 3 tablespoons oat milk, or similar

Toffee Topping:

  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
  • a pinch of salt

1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a cookie sheet/tray with baking paper.

2: Stir together the 1/2 cup oil, the cup of brown sugar, and the two tablespoons of golden syrup. Add the remaining cookie dough ingredients (and I tend to sieve in the baking soda because I live in fear of lumps of soda in my baked goods) and stir together to form a stiff dough. Add an extra splash of milk if it’s too floury still, but this should be just enough liquid to make it all come together.

3: Roll heaped tablespoons of cookie dough into balls and place about 2 inches apart on the paper-lined tray. Bake for 13 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack, carefully as they’ll be a little fragile while they’re still hot, and then repeat this step with any remaining dough.

4: Once all the cookies are cooling on the rack (and not a moment before), you can start on the toffee. First, briefly chop the pistachios, so that some are left whole and some are in pieces. Rest the rack of cookies back on top of the paper-lined tray — as per the picture above — so it can catch any toffee drips.

5: Slowly dissolve the 3/4 cup caster sugar and 3 tablespoons of water together in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring occasionally. Once the sugar is dissolved — and you can check by dipping your spoon into the syrup and seeing if there are visible gritty sugar crystals on it — turn up the heat and bring it to a boil. Let it bubble away without stirring at all, until it turns from clear, to light gold, to a deeper amber-honey colour. As soon as it hits that point, remove the pan from the heat and tip in the chopped pistachios. Don’t be tempted to move away from the stove at any point, as it can quickly go from underdone to burnt, and will carry on cooking even when the heat is turned off.

6: Using a dessert spoon, and working quickly but not frantically, spoon the toffeed pistachios over each cookie. Don’t worry too much about uniformity or whether each cookie has an equal number of nuts, the haphazard, dripping vibe is part of their charm. Once you’ve done this, sprinkle juuust a little salt over the cookies.

7: Let the toffee coating cool completely, then remove the cookies from the rack (happily eating any crunchy toffee-droplets that fell through the rack to the baking paper below) and store them in an airtight container.

Makes about 18 cookies.

Notes:

  • If you don’t have coffee liqueur or don’t wish to use it, dissolve 1 teaspoon of instant coffee in two tablespoons of water, and add a splash of vanilla extract.
  • Just in case it’s not clear, by “shelled pistachios” I mean pistachios with their shells removed. If you can only find pistachios with the shell still on you’ll probably need twice the amount to make up 1/2 a cup of shelled nuts.
  • If you hate cardamom or just can’t find it, replace it with the same quantity of ground ginger or cinnamon.
  • Though the saucepan of toffee might look scary to clean, just fill it with boiling water from the kettle and let it sit for a bit. Once it’s cooled down, cold running water should dissolve any remaining stubborn toffee.

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music lately:

I Never Know When by Elaine Stritch, from the 1958 Broadway musical Goldilocks. Not, as the name might suggest, a depiction of the fairy tale, but a musical comedy about the silent film era, also starring Don Ameche and Margaret Hamilton, aka the Wicked Witch of the West. I tend to associate Stritch with more brassy, acerbic numbers rather than torchy, wistful songs like this, but even when wistful she radiates weary steeliness instead of mere sentimentality, and it’s really quite beautiful.

Dig It, by The Coup, while rewinding repeatedly to the “how now brown cow” verse because it’s so satisfying is probably not the listening experience the group intended, I can’t help it! It’s so satisfying! The rest of the song obviously rules, too.

Up on the Sun by Meat Puppets. We all have those songs, where you look them up on youtube and scroll through the sincere, superlative, breathless comments below, and instead of sneering you’re like “yeah, I would absolutely say that unprompted about this song to a stranger on the street”. Cannot overstate the effect that the long moan leading into the discordant and downbeat yet oddly uplifting chorus has on me.

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

Vegan Cardamom Thyme Chocolate Puddings

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

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

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

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Cardamom Thyme Chocolate Puddings

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:

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

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music lately:

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

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

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

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

tomato couscous with cinnamon, peanuts, and coriander

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Another day, another “x ingredient global shortage” or “why is x so expensive” google search, and although being unable to find bulgur wheat is hardly cause for sympathy, the increasingly combative nature of supermarkets has become, little by little, folded into my cooking process. Make a shopping list, search for missing items on the shelves, weigh up your commitment to the audaciously priced cabbage or garlic or whatever mundane ingredient you dared to hope for this week, regroup your plans, and so on and so forth. Not that I’m much of a planner, mind you, it’s more that I leap from fixation to fixation on a single recipe, in this case a bulgur wheat pilaff from Deborah Madison’s book Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and I’m damned if I can find any bulgur wheat. But I also can’t shake this fixation. So I regrouped.

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Couscous lacks the granular heft of bulgur wheat but it does have the advantage of literally existing in my supermarket. As a last-minute understudy in the recipe it worked, deliciously so, although you have to bear in mind that this is a very soft, almost porridge-like rendering of couscous, each grain waterlogged with stock-infused tomato juice, but I see that softness as an asset rather than something to apologise for (at least, I don’t have any other option since that’s just how the texture is.)

@hungryandfrozen

tomato couscous • fast cheap and comforting🥲 • recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com #vegan #recipes #comfortfood #foodblogger #nz

♬ Pure Shores – All Saints

Despite its humble ingredients — a can of tomatoes, a stock cube — the finished dish is somehow rich and layered in flavour, aided by a garnishy flourish of coriander and crunchy toasted peanuts. The peanut and the tomato are an underrated couple, with the former’s uncomplicated nuttiness and the latter’s acid sweetness blending beautifully. Coriander adds a lively pop of freshness, but for the inevitable haters a scattering of basil or parsley would work fine instead. This dish is soft, speedy, satisfying and — if you’ll permit me one more alliteration — a swiftly soothing balm, the kind of food that you want to eat from a knotted up position on the couch when it’s raining outside (or in your heart). But then to me, anything with cinnamon is instantly comforting.

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Tomato Couscous with Cinnamon, Peanuts, and Coriander

Fast, comforting, cheap, delicious. I adapted this from a recipe in Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone by Deborah Madison.

  • 1 red onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1 mushroom stock cube, or flavour of your choice
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 x 400g tin diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 cup/250ml water
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons raw peanuts
  • small bunch coriander

1: Peel and roughly dice the red onion. Heat the two tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan, and saute the onions, and the crumbled stock cube, over a low heat. (The first time I made this I added the stock cube with the water, but I find it’s easier to disperse it this way.) Keep stirring until the onions have softened but not browned, which shouldn’t take more than five minutes.

2: Tip in the couscous, stirring it into the onions, then add the can of tomatoes, 250ml water, and the teaspoon of cinnamon. Give it a stir, let it come to the boil, and once it does, clamp on the lid, turn off the heat, and let it sit undisturbed for five minutes, in which time the couscous grains will absorb all the liquid.

3: Meanwhile, roughly chop the peanuts and toast them in a dry pan until they’re just golden brown and fragrant. You could also chop or tear up the coriander and have that ready for serving. Once your five minutes is up, remove the lid from the pan, carefully stir the couscous with a fork — it’ll be more soft and porridgy than light and fluffy — then divide it between two bowls, pour over more olive oil, and scatter over the peanuts and coriander.

Serves two, although I made it just for myself, and can report that it reheats well in the microwave and tastes oddly great cold from the fridge.

Notes: If you can get hold of bulgur wheat, instead of turning the heat off when the liquid comes the the boil, lower the temperature and let it simmer for ten to fifteen minutes with the lid on. You can also use a regular onion instead of a red one.

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music lately:

Cowboys by Sad Lovers and Giants, love post-punk, love the way those guitars tumble and scatter at the start of the song like grains of couscous cascading into a pan of sauteed onions!

Licking Cream by Sevendust featuring Skin, extremely a time capsule but still so timelessly sublime, their voices are riveting together and apart, just the power of her verse alone makes me want to lie down with a cold compress draped over my eyes.

Could We Start Again Please, by Margaret Urlich and Tim Beveridge, from the 1994 New Zealand cast recording of Jesus Christ Superstar. I was heartbroken to learn of Margaret Urlich’s death last week, her voice is so beautiful — like falling pieces of silver — and I have no words to express how much her performance of Mary Magdalene meant to me, and affected me, as a kid. RIP.

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 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!