you know that i liked you, jack

Vegan Jackfruit and Chickpea Curry

This week’s blog post got completely sucked into the vortex that was, well, this week, on account of my working on Saturday and Sunday at Laundry bar in a cameo role (since I no longer work there for real) during the CubaDupa festival. I couldn’t tell you with any real certainty what CubaDupa actually is but I do know for sure that it means Laundry becomes about as crowded as a mid-level Balkan EDM festival except in a small licensed Wellington premises and as such my brief return was both required and, I hope, welcomed. I was also cat-sitting for a friend at the time and am now cat-and-dog-sitting for another friend, it’s all just been comings and goings and that’s why I completely missed writing a blog post, although to be fair it’s somehow already halfway through Friday and yet! I still have traces of a heat rash on my neck from dancing for many hours after my shift finished on Sunday while wearing a $2 shop choker? So I’m really no clearer on how linear time works at all.

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I made this curry for Jason and I – Jason, who also has a dog and cat but who is simply allowing me to stay at his house between other pet-sittings and heat-rash-gatherings, just to be clear – on Tuesday night. I’ve been finding myself drawn, of all things, to idle scrolling across the ebbing and flowing tides of Pinterest, I’ve also been oddly transfixed by sped-up faceless cake decorating videos on Facebook, even though the results all look inedibly dry and packed with fondant, there’s something strangely soothing in their anonymous competence. I think it’s a bit simplistic to surmise that in difficult times we seek the reassuring – true though it may be – I think it’s really just that I’m a bit weird and get obsessively hyper-focussed upon the most pointless things, and it’s the intense focus itself that’s calming, the subject doesn’t matter. But it just so happens that I found a recipe for a butter chicken-esque vegan curry while I was in one such state of tunnel vision, and while what I ended up making was different, I appreciate the jump-off point that it provided. Much as I feel like Stacey in that scene from Gavin and Stacey where she’s like “Gav, will you laugh at me if I get a korma”, I freely admit that butter chicken sauce is like…completely delicious. It just is. And I was genuinely delighted at how much this recipe evoked it.

Vegan Jackfruit and Chickpea Curry

Jackfruit and Chickpea Curry

Inspired by this recipe from earthchick.com.au.

  • 1 can young jackfruit in brine
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 can coconut cream
  • 1 can tomato puree (or tomato passatta)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons rice bran oil (or similar)
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1cm thick slice of fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 teaspoons ground fenugreek
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons mustard (wholegrain or dijon or American or whatever)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons ground almonds
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (or lemon juice)
  • salt, to taste, but like, plenty
  • cooked long grain rice, fresh coriander, and cashews to serve

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the onion till lightly browned, then add the garlic, ginger, and all the spices. Drain the can of jackfruit and – cutting up any larger pieces if need be – tip the entire thing into the pan. Follow this with the drained chickpeas and the tomato puree. Let it simmer away for fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally. Finally, stir in the vinegar, mustard, and sugar, followed by the coconut cream and ground almonds. Allow it to come to a simmer, taste to see if it needs anything more – salt? sugar? cumin? fenugreek? – then serve over bowls of rice, sprinkled with cashews and coriander leaves.

Feeds 2-3.

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I think the most important things in this recipe are as follows: firstly, if you don’t have fenugreek then go out and buy some, because it has this beautifully sweet-savoury flavour that is difficult to replace. Secondly, don’t leave out the sugar. If anything, add more. The sweetness gives balance and depth and ties all the spices together. Thirdly, try to let the tomato puree really caramelise in the saucepan, this will give you intensity and richness of flavour. Next, just keep tasting. Maybe it needs more salt, maybe more sugar, maybe more cumin, maybe just rakishly empty some more fenugreek into it. Finally, if you can’t find canned jackfruit then I would add an extra can of chickpeas but I love their textures together – the gentle fibrousness of the jackfruit with the grainy nuttiness of the chickpeas. Jackfruit is often incorporated into vegan recipes as a meat substitute because of that texture but here I’m not too fussed about whether or not you think it’s chicken, it just tastes really good smothered in sauce. Finally-finally, you may notice that there’s not a lick of chilli in this – I was pleased by the notion of an aggressively mellow curry with warmth from the spices but that otherwise did not put up a fight: feel free to add chilli of your choosing at any and all stages of cooking it. As it is, it’s so creamy and full-bodied and richly sweetly flavoured and comforting and I think I’m going to be making this a lot over the coming winter. And leftovers are, I assure you, fantastic cold, from the fridge, eaten standing up, out of whatever container you stored them in.

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(Since Ghost the dog has had such a presence in the last few blog posts, I thought it was Ariel the cat’s time to shine.)

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(Come back, Ariel!)

title from: JC, by Sonic Youth. I love its crunchy chewy droning guitars and the sullen urgency in the delivery of its poetic lyrics.

music lately:

Secondo Coro Delle Lavandaie by Roberto De Simone, I heard this during TV Disko’s set at CubaDupa and I have been obsessed ever since, it’s so pulsating and makes me feel like I’m running through a jungle, like, you can feel the pupils of your eyes expanding as you listen to it.

Everything Old Is New Again, by Peter Allen but specifically as it’s used in the film All That Jazz. I read an extraordinary article about Bob Fosse today which got me onto watching this, I’d always known – of course! – how influential he was, but I really wasn’t across how he was a real piece of work. In his film extremely thinly fictionalising his own life, Ann Reinking, his real life partner at the time, plays the thinly-veiled-Fosse character’s girlfriend and performs with his character’s daughter in this sweetly touching yet expansively leggy piece of classic Fosse choreography. It’s so meta it almost leaves a bad taste in the mouth but nevertheless Reinking was just born to dance, wasn’t she? (Also this film is amazing! Jessica Lange as an angel of death? Leland Palmer? A young John Lithgow? Wallace Shawn? Cliff Gorman playing a thinly-veiled version of Lenny Bruce in a film-within-a-film based on a film that Bob Fosse really did work on starring Dustin Hoffman based on the Broadway play that starred Cliff Gorman? Ben Vereen?!)

30 Century Man, Scott Walker. I already talked about this extensively last week but I’ve nevertheless listened to this song specifically so many times. His Sinatra via, I want to say, Dean Jones voice just slides right into my amygdala like a missing jigsaw piece.

Next time: I’ve already got another recipe up my sleeve so no matter how much pet-sitting or dancing or working I do this weekend I won’t end up losing half a week again, or at least that’s how I presume it will pan out.

PS: Thank you to those who have been supporting me via Patreon! If you like what I do and want me to be able to do it more, then indeed please consider signing up. A couple of dollars per month from you not only stokes the fires of my ability to write but also gets you exclusive content in return, such as a review of every book and movie that I consumed in January or an essay about what star sign I believe each character from Gavin and Stacey is.

blaze a blaze galangalangalang

I’ve been feeling sorta dispirited the last couple of months, a bit “mehhhh”, like time is sliding by so fast and I haven’t been able to get a grip on the days and suddenly it’s August and, I don’t know, maybe this strikes a chord or maybe it makes no sense whatsoever.

I think, hypothesizingingly, this could have something to do with the fact that I have made almost no stews or casseroles or soups this winter. Nigella’s Slow Food chapter in that seminal text How To Eat has been unstained with ingredients, there’s been no brisket becoming meltingly soft as it cooks in stock over time, forcing you to wait for it, or kumara simmering with spices and all those other romantic things that you think about when you are, well, hungry and frozen. I guess I’ve just been busier lately, had more going on…anyway I’m trying. I made Nigella’s Beef with Stout and Prunes for the first time in more than a year over the weekend and it was SO good. Luckily in Wellington it’s winter for about 85% of the year anyway so even though it’s nearly September, there’s still plenty of scope for making up for lost time foodwise.
Me: I’m going to make Penang Beef Shin Curry for dinner tonight.
Tim: Woohoo!
Later

Me: I’ve decided to use tofu instead of beef.
Tim: Woohoo..?
Luckily, Tim does like tofu. Actually, I take back that ‘luckily’. It’s not some great magnanimous concession to like tofu, the sort of thing you discuss later with starry eyes (“he doesn’t complain when I cook tofu and he puts the toilet seat down! What a catch!”) It ain’t luck. Tofu just tastes good. At least, when I cook it. Witness: tofu balls!
This not-beef Penang Curry was a recipe I found in an old Cuisine magazine – July 2004 – and while using tofu makes it significantly faster, it still has that involved, pestle-and-mortar, simmer-till-tender vibe going on. The list of ingredients might look a bit stressful, and I guess I’m lucky I live in Wellington where stuff is a bit nearer to my fingertips, but it’s not so bad -suss out your local markets, check out the local Asian Supermarkets, explore your neighbourhood or even the next ‘hood over…or just improvise with what you have. Shallots can become spring onions, dried chillis can be fresh glossy ones, and the gently fragrant galangal of my blog post title could just be plain ginger…but you might want to call it “Penang-ish” curry instead, I guess I should, too considering how much I’ve changed it up already.
Penang Tofu Curry

Adapted from Cuisine, July 2004

Penang Curry Paste

4 long dried chillies, deseeded and soaked in hot water for 20 minutes
Pinch salt
3 shallots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons chopped coriander root and stalk
1 tablespoon chopped galangal
1 tablespoon chopped lemongrass stalk
A little grated fresh nutmeg
3 tablespoons natural peanuts, boiled for 25 mins, drained and cooled (I have to admit…I didn’t boil them for 25 minutes. Maybe five. And I didn’t let them sit round and cool either.)

Either blitz everything in a food processor, adding the peanuts last and pulsing to a roughly textured mixture, or go hands-on with a pestle and mortar. I did the latter, not because I’m all superior but because sometimes in my backwards mind, bashing away at herbs with a ceramic thingy is easier on my nerves than washing the food processor after using it. Either way, refrigerate until you need it.

2 square ‘fillets’ of fresh, firm tofu, sliced (or as much as you want, really)
1 can coconut milk
2 tablespoons grated palm sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce (I used soy sauce instead – you could too, to make it vegan)
2 cups loosely packed spinach leaves
4 kaffir lime leaves, torn in half
1 small, hot chilli, cut in half
2 tablespoons Thai basil leaves (didn’t have any of this)
5cm fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin batons (I just used more galangal)
1/4 cup coriander leaves

Bring half the coconut milk to the boil in a heavy saucepan. Reduce heat and add the curry paste, stirring as it cooks. Add the palm sugar, the fish sauce, and the tofu slices. Simmer for a few minutes, then stir in the spinach, lime leaves, galangal, chilli and basil. Serve in bowls with the coriander on top, over hot rice. This served two, but all you’d need is more tofu and more coconut milk to feed four.
Soul-restoring stuff – the gentle coconut flavour harshed up by the roundhouse kicky of the chilli, fragrant with the delicately gingery galangal, the incredibly good-smelling lemongrass and lime leaves and the coriander, all of which is absorbed into the fresh, delicious tofu. If you like what you see, maybe try making triple the curry paste, covering it with some oil and refrigerating it for the next time you need some midwinter zing.
Okay, I’d just like to point out that I initially typed “zingage” instead of just ‘zing’, and it didn’t get a little red spellcheck underline…weird. Sitting here typing, I can tell you that “flavour”, “harshed”, and “chilli” all are spelled wrong according to the red lines underneath them, but “zingage”, as in what I imagine to be “possesses zing” is apparently a legit word? Weirdage!
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Title via: M.I.A’s very cool song Galang from her album Arular…gah I love this woman’s music. And also her dancing. Even if you start listening to Galang and feel like this scoop of spluttery, slangy excellence is not your thing, the constant dancing, graphic art, and colourful jackets in her music video are awesome (as is the harmonising towards the end).
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Music lately:

I bought Liz Callaway’s Passage of Time online recently and it took soooo long to arrive, finally landing on my desk last week. Have been thrashing it ever since. Youtube is painfully lacking in Liz Callaway tracks but here’s a recording of her singing Make Someone Happy/Something Wonderful from this album – devastatingly good stuff.

Speaking of devastatingly good, Neil Young’s Tonight’s The Night from the album of the same name. I heard a song from this album on the radio over the weekend and it reminded me how much I love this collection of songs. My favourite album of his, hands-down.

Still speaking of devastatingly good, check out the late, wonderful Lena Horne’s take on Rocky Racoon with the musical assistance of Gabor Szabo. Over on our blog 100s and 1000s, Tim and I shared our thoughts on some of the good Beatles covers out there, and Mum commented asking if anyone had every covered Rocky Racoon. Well here it is. And I only wish we’d found it sooner. Cheers Mum!
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Next time: Apart from wanting to slow down and make more old-timey casseroles, I’ve also had the urge to make some cookies but haven’t had the time or energy. When you don’t have the energy for cookies you know it’s time for some stern self-talk. Find the energy, Laura! Make the time!

it’s all grand and it’s all green

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Overheard in our kitchen…

Tim: Imagine if all this time, tofu was actually made out of meat.
Me: All those vegans. All those people being good to the environment by eating tofu.
Tim: And it takes…four kilos of pork to make one block of tofu.
Me: What if there’s an actual tofu beast out there? Literally an animal made of tofu?

two days later

Me: So if there’s a tofu animal, what do you think it would look like? I’m thinking an oblong block of tofu with four little legs.
Tim: What kind of noise would it make?
Me: It would go “soy, soy, soy”
Tim: Maybe it calls out “tofu!” and that’s how it got its name.

Lengthy discussion over whether this is plausible ensues, because there aren’t even that many animals named for their animal call.

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So the best place to buy tofu as far as I can ascertain is the vege market on a Sunday. I branched out this week and went for soft tofu instead of firm; the name doesn’t lie. It near on falls to pieces if you look at it sideways. I guess it’s kind of the minced beef to firm tofu’s rump steak.

I ended up with a whole lot of root vegetables that needed eating on Sunday night. Usually my fallback option in this situation is some kind of pseudo-Moroccan would-be tagine-esque thing, which is seriously what I thought I was cooking last night until I realised it had actually shifted direction altogether into a curry. It’s a fine line – all that cumin, tumeric, coriander… suddenly I found myself wondering whether I should add more tomatoes and feta cheese or biff in a can of coconut milk. Coconut milk won out and I suddenly had this rather gorgeous vegan curry on my hands.

I defrosted some unshelled soybeans (I go through bags of them these days) and popped the beans within into the stew for a little colour contrast…to stop it being overwhelmingly like a braised curtain from the 70s (or, in fact, the curtains I remember us having at home while I was growing up – I have distinct memories of some yellow and brown floral motif…Mum?) The soybeans were awesomely elphaba-green against the earthy vegetables, their colour softened by the coconut milk.

While licking the lid of the coconut milk tin, to catch the sneaky extraneous cream that gathers there, it occurred to me that chocolate ice cream made with coconut milk could potentially be mindblowingly nice. Especially with chunks of milk chocolate and toasted coconut shreds, like a posh version of the Choc Bar ice creams of my youth (and occasional nights in town – for some reason I always crave ice cream if I’m out and about of an evening, you can keep your kebabs and pies thank you). If you haven’t had a Choc Bar it’s basically the above but in a $2.50 icecream-on-a-stick form and laced with palm oil (yeah, I went there. And while I was there, through rigorous testing, discovered that Whittaker’s white chocolate is comparitively amazing.)

The recipe for this suddenly-curry is chilled out, the only thing I measured out with any strict attention to detail was the rice. Nevertheless I’ll tell you exactly what I did in case the idea takes your fancy. It made a fantastic relaxed Sunday dinner. Warming and hearty, the creaminess of the coconut milk soaking into the ridiculous amount of vegetables (seven veges – eight if you count the tofu, which you might as well.) You basically can’t get it wrong which is also nice.

Root Vegetable Curry with Tofu and Soybeans

1 Onion
3 garlic cloves
1 swede (is Swede a root vegetable?)* diced
1 carrot, diced
1 parsnip, chopped
1 kumara, diced thickly
1/2 a cauliflower, chopped into small florets
Good handful soybeans

2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons tumeric
1 teaspoon ginger
1 red chilli, seeded and chopped (optional if it’s not your thing)
Zest and juice of a lime
1-2 teaspoons of honey

1 tin crushed tomatoes
1 tin coconut milk
As much tofu as you like

Chop onion and garlic finely and gently saute in a wide pan. Once it has softened a little, add the spices, chilli, honey and lime juice. This will caramelise the onions slightly, you want to keep stirring it so the spices don’t char.

Add the vegetables at this point and stir thoroughly to coat them in the spicy onion mixture which by now will be quite dry. Tip in the tin of tomatoes, half fill the tin with water and swish it into the pan. Stir, cover and allow to simmer till the veges are tender (the swedes are the slowest to kick into action I’ve found).

Stir in the podded soybeans, tofu, and as much coconut milk as you like. Allow to simmer for ten minutes or so. Serve over rice (or ree-cheh if you will)

Serves 4

This was delicious. The vegetables (and inevitably, my entire face) all stained yellow by tumeric, the coriander seeds providing bursts of subtle citrus to complement the lime, the strident warmth of the spices cutting through the creamy coconut…the emerald-bright soybeans doing no wrong as per usual…
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Further hopelessness overheard in our kitchen…
Me: Do fish bleed?
Tim: …………………..Yes.
Me: Yeah, but when you cut into them…there’s no arteries…they’re not like, say, sheep, which are basically built like humans in that they’ve got leg bones and muscles and…
Tim: They’re just like sheep. They bleed.
Me: Yeah, but you cut open a fish and there’s the skeleton, but it’s just…surrounded by fish fillets.
Tim: I was thinking more like fish fingers.
Me: Yeah. Tightly woven fish fingers.

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Tim and I went to see Wizard of Oz at Embassy cinema yesterday afternoon. It was wonderful seeing it on a big screen, partying like it was 1939. The technicolour made me gasp and the Wicked Witch was still as terrifying as I remember from my youth. But, this is the first time I’ve watched this film since reading the jaw-dropping Wicked and making a connection with the musical of the same name. And it was impossible to remove that context, to view it without that lens. Why does no one show sympathy when the Wicked Witch’s sister has died? Why did the Wizard get away with lying like that? How is Glinda so ‘good’ when, let’s face it, she appears to be on valium? She can hardly connect with Dorothy’s feelings of fear – although let’s also face the fact that the film wouldn’t have been so satisfying if, 23 minutes in, Dorothy was safely assisted back to Kansas.)

I actually cried during Somewhere Over The Rainbow (Judy Garland – so tragic! And it’s a beautiful song). And again when the Witch dies – it’s an emotionally fraught moment! I couldn’t help but imagine Glinda somewhere behind a curtain or pillar watching it happen a la the musical. Or the Witch being frantic by lack of sleep and an inability to communicate effectively a la the book. And I might have cried again when Dorothy said goodbye to the Tin Woodsman, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion. (Who, in retrospect, are deeply camp, yes? Also: Fiyeeeeeeeroooooo!) I really never cry in films or books or things like that so I’m always a bit interested to note when I do. And…I really want to see Wicked now. I know, it’s so done by all the cool people already but as I’ve said many times, it’s not as easy when you’re in New Zealand.
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On Shuffle whilst I type:

Die, Vampire, Die by Susan Blackwell and the rest of the cast of [title of show] from the cast recording of [title of show]. Had a slight epiphany Monday morning while unable to sleep (I woke up at 5:00am! And remained awake! It’s not fair!) that I could so do the role of Susan Blackwell. It’s like it was made for me (except it was made for the real Susan Blackwell. Confused? Maybe you should be. But if you’ve made it to this segment of the blog unsullied by confusion then you’re doing pretty well, all things considered. Also, Wikipedia it, my children.)

Rez, by Underworld, from INCredible Sound of Jo Whiley. It’s this compilation from the nineties that I found. I don’t know why the first letters of Incredible need to be emphasised. I would have preferred it if it was iNCRedibLE just to mess with people trying to pronounce it. I wish I’d had this compilation back in the actual 90s because it would have made life a lot easier. Instead I lay awake at night with my ear pressed to the radio and its hopelessly crackly signal, waiting for Flagpole Sitta – back in the days before the internet when I didn’t even know what the song was called, but the lyrics “the agony and the irony they’re killing me” seemed so meaningful to a 13 year old – or something by Radiohead to come on. Anyway Rez by Underworld is incredible – like what I imagine the fairies from Shirley Barber’s beautiful picture books would dance to if they went to a rave on a lily pad. See? Also, who knew Jo Whiley had a biography? Not I.

Galang by MIA from Arular. Have been a fan of hers since I saw the video for Bucky Done Gun in a hotel room in Germany in the summer of 2005. Didn’t realise music was capable of sounding like that.

Is it bad that I have this urge to make some kind of dish (probably ice cream, my default flavour-carrier) heavily featuring galangal so that I can use galangalangalang as my blog post title?
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The title for this post is bought to you by: One Short Day from the musical Wicked, where Glinda and Elphaba travel to the emerald city for the first, fateful time…pausing only for a kicky song-and-dance number.
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Next time: Considering this post bears little resemblance to what I promised would be happening I’m not sure if it matters what I write here. Truth be told I’m a bit terrible at snappily rounding things off so this is like an ‘out’ for me. Like on Whose Line Is It Anyway when Colin Mochrie would pretend to faint so that he didn’t have to come up with a verse in an impromptu hoedown. Does anyone remember the vastly superior British version of that show? Whatever happened to it?

last of the summer whine

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I can’t buy cherries. They don’t exist. They are neither on the shelf at the corner shop or on the stands at the vege market. Their season has passed. And it’s probably just as well, because had my addiction to them been allowed to continue, my future children would never enjoy things like shoes, or a university savings fund. All financially debilitating fruit-eating habits aside, it was my lack of cherries that really made it clear that summer is fast melting into autumn, like an icecream inadvertantly dropped on a hot, concrete footpath. The mornings are darker, the evenings cooler, the cardigans emerging from the bottom drawer. Waah!

Having thrown all that bleak imagery at you, I should point out that this weekend has been absolutely gloriously sunny. Yesterday Tim and I, along with my godsister Hannah who has started university down here, took advantage of said weather and bussed out to Lyall Bay to the Maranui Surf Cafe. They hardly needs my endorsement – it was absolutely packed and there was a constant stream of people through the door. We had to wait for a table, which made me feel a little nervous – after all, it was my idea to shlep all the way out there in the first place – but it really wasn’t that long before we were seated. Somehow, even with my chronic uselessness riding against us, we ended up with the best table in the house – in the centre of a huge picture window, gazing out over the sea.

There’s a reason why it’s always packed – the food was fantastic. I had the big vegetarian breakfast and Tim had the regular big breakfast (I gave him some of my avocado and he gave me some of his kransky), and I kid you not, it was the best of its type that I’ve had in Wellington. Every cafe under the sun has some form of “Big Breakfast” and they can be anything from boring to meanly portioned and soggy. But this was incredible – generous amounts of avocado and pesto, large, glossy mushrooms, softly poached eggs, wonderful grainy bread and tomatoes that were so delicious I could have eaten a kilo of them on their own. I mean, I’m actually considering ringing and asking where they got them from. I wish I’d thought to bring my camera. Personable service and not-entirely-terrifying prices means I’ll definitely be back but with my 9-5 job the weekend is my only option, so maybe try to go on a weekday if you can when it’s likely to be more chilled out.

One more thing – the big breakfasts are really, really filling. I mean, I’m quite the horse when it comes to appetite size but was forced to concede bitterly that I didn’t have any space for one of the many enticing cakes on the counter. In fact, several hours later Tim and I still didn’t really feel like much for dinner. Unusual. So while Tim did his readings for Honours, I flung together something fairly light that wouldn’t be burdensome on our constitutions.

While brown rice was on the boil, and a foil-wrapped beetroot was roasting away in the oven, I assembled feta cheese, capers, sliced preserved lemon (made by my godmother), walnuts, and grated carrot. The beetroot was chopped into chunks and along with everything else, spatula-d into the drained rice and piled into two bowls. Delicious, and the sort of thing you can basically eat a vat of without feelings of self-loathing and regret arising after. While the making and eating of dinner was going on, we listened to a greatest hits CD of Joe Cocker. I’d just like to point out that on the whole I hate greatest hits compilations, and I wasn’t entirely committed to listening to J-Cock all evening, but as it turns out I’d somehow forgotten how much I love the old so-and-so. Every song was pure gold. The man’s a genius! Who else on earth can cover the Beatles so lavishly and not only get away with it, but sound brilliant? I also like how the album ended with killer song She Came In Through The Bathroom Window, and not, like many other artists’ greatest hits albums, with an ill-advised late nineties hip-hop disco remix collaboration track.

I found this recipe on Scrumptious blog for Eggplant and Tomato Curry. It’s easy to make and tastes fantastic – I can see it becoming a regular fixture so long as the ingredients stay cheapish at the market.

Above: I added cauliflower because I had some kicking round and thought it might bring a bit more substance. I guess if you wanted you could add some coconut milk or use different vegetables, even adding meat of some kind – it’s quite a nice starting point recipe for tinkering round with. Speaking of tinkering round, I received a bottle of passionfruit vinaigrette for Christmas from my brother and apart from drinking the stuff straight from the bottle because it’s so delicious, I’ve been trying it in all sorts of things, including as a marinade for chicken breasts. If you don’t actually have the Wild Appetite vinagrette like I do, I’d use a mix of pineapple juice, olive oil, a pinch of tumeric and a splash of cider vinegar. I cooked the chicken on our George Foreman Grill, which caramelised the sugar in the marinade, imparting a smoky deliciousness.

I sliced the chicken into chunks and served it with roasted beetroot, spinach, and brown rice. I’m not sure what I was really going for but it seemed to work, and I can highly recommend the vinaigrette-as-marinade route…I’m sure Paul Newman’s dressing would be incredible!

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Overheard in our kitchen:

Tim: So really, capers are just like really small olives?
Laura: Yeah, more or less. So why is it that you like capers but not olives?!?
Tim: Maybe if you cut the olives up into tiny little pieces?
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Next time: I get old-school with Girl Guide biscuits, and bake a cake with only four ingredients, none of which are butter or eggs. Yeah, I’m suspicious too, and I haven’t actually tasted it yet so if it has all the flavour of a well-boiled sponge I’ll probably just conveniently forget that I said I’d blog about it…if it turns out well then you’ll just have to wait for the next post to see what these four mysterious ingredients are!

Still Hungry and Frozen

I was highly excited anticipating the one-year-anniversary of my blog. I invisaged all manner of things – maybe some kicky new features, or a photo essay dedicated to the cat, or some kind of conceptual baking, or maybe a video, something new and fun to try and make our relationship last beyond the honeymoon, “hey this blog is mildly diverting” stage and into full-on commitment. But then I had to hand in a 3000 word essay, and if that were not enough we exceeded our 20gb internet limitation…by a lot. We lack the technology to make a cooking video happen and I was not feeling telegenic in the slightest. So, a few days late, I apologetically offer you this post, like a bunch of wilted flowers and slightly melted chocolates purchased at the last minute from a petrol station.

But really – it is exciting to me that this blog has existed for a whole year. I remember having the epiphany to make one, I don’t remember when, it was just an idea that made so much sense to me. I’d read blogs and thought “I’d like to do that,” and I read other blogs and thought, hubristically, “well I can definitely do better than that.” Little did I realise that my badly lit photos taken on auto were not going to cut it with fickle blog readers. I rather naively assumed that my terrible photography would be seen as charming and positively daring, but actually it was just…terrible. And as I learned new skills (helloooo macro function) I gained more readers. But I’d like to think it’s the content and recipes as well as the photography that makes people stick around, especially because my photos still have a long way to go. Indeed if you have a little time on your hands and you’re up for a laugh, why not peruse my very early archives? I truly thought that all I had to do was put my opinion out there and the adulation would pour in. I love my blog wholeheartedly and with complete bias though, it has been a haven, a diary, a self-indulgent soapbox, a recipe file, and a record of my life for the past, swift-moving year. I look forward to seeing how long it lasts.

I went to the vegetable market on Sunday and gamely trudged back up the hill with my spoils, (sweating like a donkey all the while, as is the nature of Wellington hills) but it wasn’t till I got my breath back and stopped perspiring that I realised how utterly gorgeous the vegetables were. They made me want to don a voluminous cape and floppy beret and paint them in a still life. Fellow food-bloggers, tell me I’m not the only one who thinks food is really preeettyyy.

I mean these would not look out of place in some medieval, suckling pig feast. I’ve honestly never purchased shallots before (don’t faint, but I’ve always used onions instead when a recipe asked for it, well I am a student) which is probably why I’m so embarrassingly enthusiastic, but they were cheap and rather beautiful so I grabbed a bunch.

Oh asparagus how I love you. Especially when it’s two fat, healthy bunches for $3, that can last for four separate dinners. I used the shallots and asparagus in an intriguingly delicious recipe from Simon Rimmer’s excellent, inspiring cookbook The Accidental Vegetarian. It was so monumentally good that I considered making the whole thing again the next night, or perhaps eating the whole lot on my own and pretending it never existed. I’ve altered the recipe a bit as Rimmer’s version was more coconut-happy than I go in for. It’s a little fiddly but not difficult, and makes the kitchen smell completely fabulous.

Rendang Shallot and Asparagus Curry

50g butter
75g brown sugar (yes, it does sound like a lot and yes, I used less for the two of us)
20 banana shallots
400g asparagus

400ml tin coconut milk
3 T toasted dessicated coconut
Coriander to serve

Melt the butter in a pan, add the sugar and when it starts to dissolve throw in the shallots, peeled but left whole. Turn down the heat and cook slowly for at least 20 minutes, (he recommends 45 but they were more than fine with less). Blanch the asparagus and refresh in cold water. I sliced them into two-inch lengths.

Curry Paste:

1 onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
3 red chillies, or however much you desire
1 tsp ground coriander
1 T tamarind paste (or substitute lemon juice)
1 t tumeric
1 t curry powder
1 stalk of lemon grass (which I left out because I didn’t have any)
pinch of salt

Whizz the lot together in a food processor, or chop and mix everything well like I did using my mezzaluna. This results in a chunkier but no less flavoursome paste. Heat a little oil in a pan and gently fry the paste, carefully, and stir in the coconut milk, letting it bubble away and thicken slightly. Add the now magically caramelly shallots and the blanched asparagus, letting it simmer for about ten minutes. Finish by stirring through the toasted coconut and chopped coriander. If you like, add a handful of frozen peas to beef it up (as it were) quite easily. This should serve four-six.

The combination of flavours were so perfect – zingy, spicy, earthy, fresh, sweet. I truly could have eaten this whole thing surruptitiously by myself. And shallots – oh my! Rich, mild, gently oniony, what have I been missing out on all this time!

My blog’s one year of existence coincided rather bittersweetly with the closing of [title of show], one of the most exciting new shows on Broadway…I, of course, make this statement without having seen it at all, such is the nature of being a theatre fan from New Zealand. Rice Krispie treats are referred to in one of the songs, and I’ve had a distinct hankering for them ever since hearing it for the first time. Nigella has a version made with melted marshmallows which indeed sounds delightful, but I opted for an old Edmonds recipe for what we in New Zealand call Rice Bubble Cake, using honey and butter to bind the cereal together in sugary squares.

Rice Bubble Cake

125g butter (incidentally, one year ago a block of butter was $2.70 from the corner shop, now it’s $5)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon each of honey and golden syrup

Melt the butter and sugars together till gently bubbly. Once it has bubbled away for a little while, remove from the heat and carefully stir in 4-5 cups rice bubbles. Spread this into a waiting square tin, and allow to cool. The butter-sugar mix will be very hot, so don’t go sticking your face into it or anything.

Rice bubble cake makes me reminisce twofold; I remember making this with mum as a child, wanting to eat the buttery sugary mixture so bad and not thinking it would be enough to cover all those rice bubbles. It also reminds me of my gap year in a boarding school in England, where the kitchen would serve up cakes of some sort for afternoon tea with soothing regularity. One of the mainstays of afternoon tea was rice bubble cake, sometimes it was sublime and sometimes it was crumbly and oily and weird. We never knew what happened behind the scenes to make it so, and frankly I don’t want to know. But for those of you who’ve never tried this before, I know it looks a little odd, but just try and stop at one piece. Or three. Crunchy, texturally delightful, caramelly, buttery – it’s great stuff.

To paraphrase [tos], let my blog be the Rice Krispie Treat?
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Overheard in our kitchen: (in the throes of discussing what we’d do if we won the $30 million lotto this weekend)

Me: I could fund my own cookbook and get it done next year. Then I could create my own stage show around it, where I bake stuff and tell hilarious anecdotes and feed the audience and…maybe sing and dance
Paul: You mean like an infomercial?
Me: NO! Like a proper stage show! But with baking, which I’d give to the audience! And it can promote my book but also be a fantastic piece of theatre in its own right!
Tim: So…it’ll be an infomercial.
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Well, I do have plenty of hilarious food-related anecdotes (particularly involving grapefruit and Jersey Caramels as friends and family will know from the many times they have been told). But that’s the thing about imagining what you’d do if you won the lottery, especially if you have a particularly vivid imagination like me – your mind bounces from concept to concept and then you get overexcited and your heart starts to thump wildly with the very fullness of your own potential excellence and then you remember that you haven’t won $30 million at all.

As I said earlier in this post, I handed in a 3000 word essay – well it was my final essay for uni. I have an exam on the 4th but my lectures, assignments, etc, are over for good. Luckily I’ve finished on a relative high, getting A’s on two essays (on the social influence of Idina Menzel and the subordination of female Beat poets respectively) and loving all my papers. I started this blog while still in the middle of uni, now that I’ve come to the end of that time it’s a little sad, but also exciting to think what might be in store for me next. Hopefully you, the reader will stick around with me – I’d flatter myself that this is kind of a fun read – and not just come here if Tastespotting tells you to.

In the words of Rent: “How do you measure a year in the life…how about love?”

In the words of the always inspiring Nigella Lawson: “I have made the most of being a food obsessive. For good or bad, it’s my life, it’s me and I don’t see anything changing.”

And appropriately, in the words of [title of show]: “I’d rather be nine peoples’ favourite thing than a hundred peoples’ ninth favourite thing.”
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So true. Quality over quantity any day. And ah, maybe next year I’ll do something more exciting to mark the occasion.

Rainy Day Woman

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Today – Saturday – was just as wet and miserable as last weekend. Luckily I love rainy weekends – cosying up with a blanket, becoming engrossed in a book, lazily browsing the internet…However with breakfast and lunch lamentably comprising only of Chocolate Guinness Cake, I forced myself to leave the house to get some fresh air, and found myself at Moore Wilson’s. Wherein I bought some organic buttermilk, some feta, a tub of white miso paste, and two quinces.

Above: Oh! You pretty things. I love quinces. In New Zealand now is the time for them, so grab one if you can. They are impossible to find year-round, absolutely rock hard and have to be cooked very slowly but their incredible fragrance and sweetness makes it worth the effort. Nigella has a whole swag of recipes for this particular fruit so I look forward to trying something new.
I got back to the flat in an advanced state of saturation. My $4 Kmart white canvas sandshoes (that are now rather fashionable and you can’t get them cheaply anymore) are on their last legs, and were completely filled with water. So, after getting out of my miserably drenched clothes I decided to make a warming curry for dinner, filled with vegetables and even some soul-soothing lentils to counteract the day’s cake-eating. (That’s a little misleading actually – I assure you, I did put some more clothes on before starting on the curry. I think the world only needs one Naked Chef…)
Pumpkin Curry For a Rainy Saturday

This is a very gentle and mild – no chilli at all, come to think of it – so if your tastebuds are made of stronger stuff than mine, by all means add as much chilli as you dare.
1/2 a pumpkin, chopped into large dice
1 T butter
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 red capsicum, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
2 T tomato paste
1 t ground cinnamon
2 t cumin seeds
1 t ground ginger
1/4 cup red lentils
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 t garam masala
Melt the butter in a decent sized saucepan. Stir the onion, garlic, cinnamon, cumin seeds, and ginger together over a gentle heat till the onion is soft, but not browned. Add the tomatoes and paste (or if this is too much of a pain, just half a tin of chopped tomatoes) and the capsicum, and let this cook for a bit. Tip in your orange chunks of pumpkin, and then add 250mls water to the pan. You might need more depending on the size of your pan, you want the pumpkin pieces half-submerged in the water. Bring this to the boil then lower the heat and simmer till the pumpkin is nearly tender. At this stage add the lentils, and a bit more water – about half a cup. Simmer till the lentils have disappeared into the sauce. Finally add the coconut milk and the garam masala. Don’t let it boil at this stage. Serve over rice. This will feed 2 or three people. Just add a bit more of everything if you have more people over.
Above: I served it over brown rice, which is not so hard to cook as people think. This is the method I use: bring a pot of water to the boil, tip in a cup of brown rice, boil the living heck out of it for about 15 minutes or till it’s soft but firm, then drain. It barely takes longer than white rice. The curry itself was warm and inviting, the perfect thing to be eating by the greedy bowlful with this inhospitable rain beating against the windows.
Above: I made this quick pizza for dinner the other night, using a recipe of my paternal grandmother’s that I found whilst browsing through a folder of recipe clippings that I compiled as a teenager. I don’t think she was that much of a ‘foodie’ – for all I know she may never have actually made this recipe – but it is still meaningful to me that I got her cookbooks and bits and pieces. This particular recipe involves melting butter and frying in it garlic, diced tomato and sliced courgettes, and I assume it is supposed to be a side dish. Well I made it one night, and was so taken with the simple but delicious flavours, that I had to make it again, and soon. On Thursday night, having made it for the second time, I spread it thickly over a scone dough base (the recipe of which I found in Alison Holst’s Dollars and Sense, which my brother got me for Christmas) topped it frugally with cheese, baked it, and ate it whilst watching Coronation Street on telly, which Katie has got me back into. I see that Gail Platt is as depressing as she was last time I was into this show -rather comfortingly, some things never change.
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We are having something of a David Bowie Renaissance in the flat – his songs are just so densely brilliant that they don’t lose any gloss with repeat (and I mean repeat) listenings. Just try not to hug the next person on the street you see after listening to Modern Love – possibly the greatest song of all time (along with all the other greatest songs of all time.)
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It is just Tim and I in the flat tonight – Paul is in town, Katie and Stefan are in Napier, and Emma has trotted down to Dunedin. I’m trying to convince Tim that watching Rent would be the perfect way to end a rainy Saturday…but I think we might end up compromising with Green Wing, Season 1. Eh, either way I win!
Update: We actually watched some Black Books instead. Whenever I watch this show…I sort of wish I actually was Bernard Black, just for a bit.

Let It Bee

Apologies for the yawning gap between the last post and this one, but there were extenuating circumstances: (a) uni is incredibly stressful (okay, so it’s mostly photography giving me grey hair and wrinkles but everything is full-on) and (b) our other goldfish, also called Laurim or Taura, died yesterday and I didn’t really have it in me to blog, especially after a particularly draining photog class where my pictures were largely slated by the teacher (who, in all fairness, was most likely correct, but it still stings.) I guess loss is the risk of loving something, but it still saddens me that we are completely goldfish-less now.

Speaking of stings…there’s not much that can’t be fixed by the sight of marzipan bees.


Above: It was Ange’s birthday on Monday (and it’s Kieran’s birthday today – hoorah!) and she requested that I make her the Chocolate Honey Cake from Nigella’s Feast. It was quite easy to make, and in keeping with Nigella’s suggestion I fashioned wee bumblebees out of fondant icing and slivered almonds. Aren’t they sweet!

Above: The cake is not only cheeringly adorable, it is also delicious – the honey gives it an unexpected depth and complexity, while managing to avoid being viciously sweet.

A bunch of us went to Satay India to celebrate Ange’s coming of age. There was seven of us, and we ordered eight curries (they have a two for one deal) and absolutely soaked ourselves in the stuff. I’m not even sure if the photo can adequately convey how much we ate.

Above: As well as all that curry we also got roughly forty-seven pieces of naan. But we managed to dominate the lot. And the cake. Somehow.

Above: Told you we did it!

Other stuff we’ve been consuming lately:

Above: I seriously love making bread, and this particular recipe was very rewarding. At the Kelburn Fair on Saturday I picked up some Cuisine magazines abandoned stupidly, for only 50 cents! Result! And within one of them I found a recipe for Simit Bread, which is a Middle Eastern ring-shaped bun. (Not a bagel though!) I also found an unintentionally hilarious Cosmo from 1975 – full of nudity and innuendo!

Above: These were delicious. I sprinkled them with sumac and sesame seeds, and served them with meatballs, couscous, roast beetroot and brocolli.

Above: The recipe for the meatballs also came from Cuisine and had a ton of different herbs and spices in it, making for wonderfully flavoursome, er, balls. As I mentioned, the Kelburn Fair was on Saturday. As well as the magazines I also got a cool pair of green and blue t-bar high heels for $2, and a brioche tin for 50 cents. It was only Tim, Paul and I in that day because everyone else had travelled to Ohakune for a 21st. So we had…Rod Steward Appreciation Day. Instigated by Paul, this involves sitting in the sun, drinking, and listening to Rod Stewart. I can’t pretend I’m the biggest fan of The Rod – I mean, he has his place and all, and I quite like that “Wear it Well” song, but has anyone actually read the lyrics to “You’re In My Heart” without throwing up? Well have you? But it proved to be a novel way of passing the time.
Speaking of novel ways to pass the time, do look up David Bowie and Mick Jagger’s Dancing In The Streets on Youtube if you ever wanted to know what the greatest music video of all time is. Even better than the ones Michel Gondry did for The White Stripes. To watch this is to truly witness brilliance.